Author's Note: I've recently been crawling around the deep, dark corners of the internet and stumbled upon some Lex/Zex fanart. The pairing caught my eye, wormed its way into my heart, and made a lovely nest of shipping it so hard. Then my dear friend came up with the Roxas inspiring emotions idea, and this little one-shot happened.
It's a little different from my usual random smutty nonsense.
I'd like to thank my aforementioned friend and beta, abovethenightsky, for both the idea and the betaing.
To all the 4.2 LexZex fans out there: please enjoy.
Zexion had noticed that there was something very odd about Number XIII, Roxas. Each of the Nobodies had their own little quirks and habits, of course – Zexion, for one, loved to read, Vexen loved his little chemistry sets and Luxord would never say no to a game – but there was something else very odd about Number XIII. Actually, come to think of it, there were several very odd things about him.
For one, Roxas needed food, drink and sleep to function properly. The new addition to the Organization would actually collapse from exhaustion during the first couple of meetings, especially when they were held at odd hours after long missions. Certainly, the other members ate and drank and were affected by the food and drink, but they did so for their own enjoyment, not out of physical need.
There was another thing that wasn't quite as prominent when one simply looked at Roxas. To uncover the second oddity, Zexion needed to both watch the kid and study him for a lengthy period of time. He spent many hours watching the halls of The Castle That Never Was over the security systems, particularly the rooms around wherever Roxas was. The more he watched, the more Zexion noticed an odd trend in behavior of the others around him. Whenever Number VIII, for example, spent time around Roxas, he acted differently. Axel seemed to—No, it was a ridiculous theory, no matter how much evidence there was.
One time, however, when Number IX was in IV's lab, and XIII walked past, IV found it necessary to explode on IX, although Demyx had been doing nothing wrong. Another time, when XIII had spent the day around III, Xaldin returned to The Castle That Never Was and baked for the remainder of the day. Xaldin. Baking. It just wasn't natural.
As reluctant as Zexion was to believe it, it seemed that Number XIII inspired feelings in the rest of the Organization.
That was not right. It could not be.
They were Nobodies for a reason, after all. They had no heart, none of them had a heart, thus, they did not need to eat, drink or sleep, they could not bleed, and, most importantly, they could not feel. There was no happiness, no sadness, no anger, no jealousy, no any-damned-thing. Even the older six members of the Organization could still remember the lives their Others had led, thus still remembered what certain emotions felt like, they still had echoes of feeling, but all of the others did not, could possibly not. Of course, the others could still want and dream, they could still lust after generic things like power and hearts, but they did not feel.
Number XIII inspired what looked a lot like feeling in members that should have none and somehow it all made sense. Number XIII had spawned from Sora, and Sora had had the strongest heart that Zexion had ever seen.
The same Sora survived through countless hordes of Heartless, this Sora had risked everything he'd ever held dear for his two friends, that Sora had stabbed himself through the heart for one of said friends, creating a Heartless of himself that he later overpowered. No one, no one had previously done that. In theory, Roxas was not supposed to exist at all; he was a mistake, a freak accident of nature. No one could explain how Roxas existed.
Yet, he was made from one of the strongest hearts, one of the strongest people anyone had ever met, and it only made sense that Roxas kept more attributes of his previous self than the others, against all previously set patterns.
And Number XIII gave Zexion a very interesting idea. What if he could create something, something that had previously never existed, something totally, utterly new, that could recreate the feeling of, well, feelings? What if he could create a temporary burst of whatever it was Number XIII must excrete to mimic emotions? Even an illusion would be enough for some of the Organization, particularly the members who did not remember what it was like to be human. He would, in essence, be creating a drug, unless he could somehow make the effects permanent. Anything was possible, after all.
Before he did anything, however, Zexion had to be sure that his theory was correct. There would be no use in dragging Roxas into any of his wild theories if the several instances Zexion had caught on camera were mere coincidences. No, he had to experience first-hand the semblance of feelings he'd previously only witnessed. If his suspicions were correct, it would be nice to feel again; if not, he had nothing to lose.
Zexion found Roxas in the kitchens, eating a muffin and drinking from a mug. The entire place was filled with the warm smell of coffee. He stood by the door, watching the short blond eat, and could only wonder what it was Number XIII was thinking during moments like these.
When asked, Roxas would admit to wondering how and why he existed, who he was, and, largely, why he didn't remember anything from his former life. Everyone remembered something, everyone had at least some little thing to cling to, but that was just another oddity about Number XIII. He was the unlucky, or perhaps otherwise lucky, one to forget everything about being Sora. Of course, this also meant that the rest of the Organization could not discuss Sora in his presence, but that was simple enough. A small smile curled on Zexion's lips while he watched the back of the boy's head, his arms crossed. Minutes later, the muffin was finished and Roxas brushed the remnants of the crumbs off his lips, turning around and almost pulling back with a start at the sight of his fellow Nobody.
"Hello," Roxas said simply, and Zexion nodded in return, reforming his smile to look a touch less sinister and a touch friendlier.
"Enjoying," Zexion was forced to check the clock on the wall, "breakfast, I suppose?"
"Yes, thank you."
This small talk would not do at all, not for the sort of experimentation Zexion had in mind. This was the sort of small talk that might give him a touch of boredom, but Zexion wanted something more than that. There were certain feelings he missed so much more than others. Empathy, compassion, curiosity, even love. He'd retained the memories, but, more prominently, he'd also kept his illusions of annoyance and sullen lack of caring for others.
Then again, Zexion had been a little odd back when he was known as Ienzo. He was always the quiet kid with the book at the back of the classroom who would read through the entire lecture and still get every single question posed at him correct on the tests. He was the one who would skew the entire class average with his one one-hundred percent. He was the one who was known to be above everyone else, no matter what challenges were thrown at him. That was the way he'd liked it, though. He had his little circle of friends, certainly, everyone did. No one was truly utterly alone in high school, but he preferred the company of older individuals. Ienzo would much rather discuss the works of Faust and Donne with his professors than the last fashion trends or football scores with his friends. He enjoyed the alienation, and he adored the company of learned individuals.
That was precisely how he'd initially found his way into Ansem's little group of apprentices. The others – Braig, Dilan, Even and Aeleus – had all been previously employed as scientists and had successfully made their careers. They were all significantly older than young Ienzo, who, at the age of twenty-four, was fresh out of college without a significant degree. Yet, he was brilliant and Ansem himself clearly approved, taking him on as his youngest apprentice to date.
They had been precisely the sort of people that Ienzo loved being around.
It was not quite love for the people Zexion now missed, but that close friendship he'd had with them.
Their Others had been much better friends than their Nobodies. Hell, Nobodies could not be friends with anyone, not like Others could, not really. He missed that friendship the men used to share more than anything else. Zexion had been, after all, still young and still painfully alone in the world; he'd still needed friends as Ienzo. Now, he was a Nobody, incapable of that need.
He almost laughed out loud at himself then, but remembered that Roxas was still present in the kitchens and laughing at silence would not make Number XIII think any higher of him. It would have to me more small talk now, unless either of them wanted to discuss the inner workings of a muffin or a cup of coffee.
"How are you, Roxas?" he inquired, leaning against the doorframe, his arms still crossed in a casual manner.
"Fine, thanks," Roxas replied, shrugging. "What's it to you?" Of course, there was that question that Zexion should have actually been expecting, but did not know quite how to answer. He mentally cursed at himself for asking it at all.
"Curiosity, Number XIII. Has that become a crime?" Curiosity. Was that an emotion? A feeling? It could be, depending on the way one looked at it, Zexion supposed, tossing the word over soundlessly in his mind. Curiosity. Perhaps it was something, if he hadn't blatantly lied with his reply. He could not honestly care less for how well Roxas was doing. Frankly, he knew Roxas was not doing as well as he liked to let on, but Zexion was not one of the privileged few – was not Axel – and, therefore, did not get to personally hear about Roxas' problems.
"No, I don't think so, Zexion." Roxas sighed, turning the mug around in his hands and glancing down at it, then back up to meet Zexion's stare. "What do you want?"
Straight and to the point. Lovely. It wasn't exactly how Zexion had planned on going about the encounter, actually, but it might work, it might do something. "Nothing," he answered, taking several steps towards Roxas only to have him step away in the other direction, "I just wanted to have a little friendly chat, that's all. We're coworkers, if you could call it that, and yet we hardly see each other at all."
Roxas looked suspicious, but shrugged, taking several more steps back and taking a seat up on the counter behind him, setting the mug down by his left hip. "A chat? 'Bout what?"
"How about," Zexion paused there to go through the metaphorical files in his head, trying to figure out exactly what the boy was likely to talk the most about, "how about the last mission? I missed that one on account of needing to finish something else for the Superior. How did you like Wonderland?"
His conversational companion shrugged again, evidently not eager to open up to someone who was only little more than a newly introduced stranger. Zexion rarely left his labs in the basement and even more rarely did he care to come up to the top floors of The Castle That Never Was for the chance to speak to one of the new members. When they wanted something, they came to him. This was not going at all as planned and Zexion would be feeling frustration if he was not still a Nobody or if his experiment was beginning to yield positive results. No such luck for Number VI this morning, however.
The moment of dragging silence was long enough for Roxas to stand back up, giving Zexion a long look-over. "I, uh, have to go meet Axel. He said he wanted to show me something… If you don't mind?" As a superior rank to the kid, Zexion could always order him to stay and force him to talk, but he believed that that was not the best way to go about an experiment like this one, not the best way at all. If Roxas felt forced, if he knew about the experiment at all, maybe there was something he could do to influence the results. Experimentation was always better done on unknowing victims.
Zexion inclined his head, giving Roxas a smile, and the blond left the room.
Test number one had failed. There was something else Zexion desperately needed before he could do anything conclusive with Roxas personally and that would not be easy to achieve. He needed to gain the blond's trust; he needed to become his friend, so to speak.
Sighing, he stood and left the room as well, heading in the opposite direction. There had to be another way, another something to do about his theory. He could always ask Axel about the kid, but Number VIII was prone to stupid errors and hastily made conclusions. That certainly did not make Zexion want to trust him with anything this important, not now. If there was any way to destroy a potential experiment, it was giving it to Axel to play with. This was one idea Zexion did not want torn apart by recklessness.
Zexion did not bother to look away from his notes at the sound of a portal opening and closing.
There were only three people who would bother to disturb him at this hour and two of them were currently otherwise occupied, of that he could be certain.
"Lexaeus." Nor did Zexion need to turn around to be sure that Lexaeus was smiling then, as he was identified. He knew this man, he knew him so well. If there were any two who'd retained their friendship through the darkness and lack of feeling, it was these two. Ienzo and Aeleus were once friends; Zexion and Lexaeus were close to friends, as close as Zexion ever thought possible to get to anyone else until Axel and Roxas proved him wrong.
"You missed poker," the intruder informed him, crossing the room to stand over Zexion's chair.
"Luxord played," Zexion retorted, finally tilting his head up to meet Lexaeus' eyes, "and he won."
"Of course," the other confirmed with a small nod. "It gives us something to do either way, something to waste time and munny on."
Zexion's gaze returned to his notes, his pen beginning to move once again. He was writing down everything he could possibly think of, everything even vaguely related to what he was now calling the Roxas Case before anything was lost inside his mind.
"What have you been working on, Zexion?"
His pen stopped moving mid-word. Could Lexaeus be trusted with something that could, if used correctly, destroy the entire Organization; else it could turn them all into helpless addicts of feeling? Everything pointed to yes. If he could not trust Lexaeus, who could he trust?
Zexion certainly had not yet told the Superior about his ideas, nor was he planning to until the drug was ready and the Superior could not easily dismiss it as the ramblings of a young man who missed something he used to hold dear. What the Superior did not know would not hurt him terribly much while it was still in the works.
He turned around very slowly, his eyes locked on Lexaeus' face, studying it for any slight hints of anything at all. "I think our dear little Roxas is something very different," he said, pausing to let the initial idea sink in. When Lexaeus did not actively deny the claim, Zexion continued, "I've been watching the others and it seems that Roxas has an odd, but different effect on each of them. Xaldin turned to kindness, Vexen to anger, Axel to friendship…" He let that thought hang heavy between the two men, until his companion inclined his head in understanding.
The silence lingered as Lexaeus looked to Zexion for more information and Zexion looked to Lexaeus to speak his mind. Zexion finally broke it, looking back to his notes at the same time, with, "Do you understand what this means?"
Lexaeus chuckled lightly, bringing a hand down to rest on Zexion's shoulder. "If I understand you correctly, Zexion, you are implying that Number XIII has been inspiring select emotions in the Organization members at random?"
Zexion nodded slowly, unsure of whether to interpret the chuckle as disbelief or comprehension. "I have yet to experience it myself, as I see very little of Roxas," he clarified, "but I think that it might just be possible… We've never seen anything like it before." He penned one more word and flipped his notes back to the first page, holding them to his chest. "Don't you see what we could do with this? Don't you get it, Lexaeus? We could feel again. Of course, not feel, not completely, but we could…we could get more than we do now." He paused, covering Lexaeus' hand with his own. "Do you even remember what it was like, being human?"
They were all human once; they could all bleed, feel, eat and sleep, drink and get drunk… They could all live! All of them wanted that back without a doubt. That was exactly what their search for Kingdom Hearts was all about, wasn't it? That was why the Organization spread the Heartless, wasn't it? The Superior thought that if they could find Kingdom Hearts, they could each regain their hearts, they could all feel again. What if this was the other way? Or, conversely, what if Roxas was their key to Kingdom Hearts?
"Yes, I do," Lexaeus stated simply, his low voice breaking through Zexion's frantic train of thought. His grasp tightened on Zexion's shoulder, his fingers digging into the skinny younger man's skin. "I remember. I remember love and hate, sadness and joy, all of it. We all want our hearts back, Zexion, but implying that Roxas… It seems ridiculous, I'm sure even you know that."
"But," he protested, grasping Lexaeus' upper arm, "I'm not imagining this!"
I can show you the tapes and I can show you the differences in everyone first hand, particularly Axel. He's still old Axel, of course, but I've noticed something very different about him. Xaldin too; have you ever seen Xaldin – or Dilan for that matter – in the kitchen, baking cookies for Number XIII and whistling?" The only answer was no. Zexion didn't even wait for Lexaeus to react. He grabbed at the tall man's hand, dragging him towards the door and out into the hall. "Let's find Roxas and…and I'll show you."
Hopefully, he really was not imagining anything.
The first place to check was Axel's room, partially because it was closer than Roxas' and partially because it was where the blond kid spent approximately half of his time. He was just as likely to be there as he was to be in his own room.
To Zexion's great disappointment, however, neither Roxas nor Axel was in Axel's room. A pity, too, as he would have very much enjoyed to watch the two interact without them knowing of it. They mostly did so in one of their rooms and cameras in rooms were considered an invasion of privacy, therefore, forbidden. A pity indeed. Zexion could only hope that they would be fortunate enough to stumble across the two friends elsewhere, preferably together.
Logically, the next room on the list was Roxas'. Zexion realized that he'd never actually been to Roxas' room, not since they began using it as an actual housing area instead of just another empty room to keep around. He didn't know what to expect now. Not that any of the Nobodies had very much taste or spent too long decorating, but each of them had their own little somethings to remind them of their so-called homes. The older ones had their labs, the younger ones had personal possessions or decorative styles. He was certainly curious as to what Roxas had used to decorate his own quarters – judging by the patterns already observed; he would not be surprised if Roxas' room was covered with homely little trinkets he'd managed to pick up somewhere. No doubt there would be little sketches of places he'd been, Axel's little candles too, but what else? What else described Roxas?
Zexion could not know what to expect.
As the two of them approached the rooms, Lexaeus was the first to notice a change in the air. There was too much eagerness bubbling over in Zexion to pay much attention, he wanted to get to the room itself a little too much to pay attention to the surroundings. The tall man reached out to grab Zexion's shoulder, stopping his fellow in his tracks.
"What, Number V?" Zexion asked with annoyance, whirling to glare back at Lexaeus.
"I'm surprised at you, Zexion. You haven't noticed?" Lexaeus smiled down at the closest thing he had to a friend. "The air is different. It feels…somehow warmer here; somehow…it's hard to explain."
Zexion inhaled sharply, running a hand through his blue hair and licking his lips, as if tasting the air around them. "My, my… Lexaeus, it appears that you are correct." This odd new taste to the air was something that Zexion had never noticed before, no matter what Roxas was doing. It was, however, just another oddity that he attributed to the boy. It was not unusual for the Castle That Never Was to fill up with random gasses at times, but it was a much more common to happen down in the labs, sometimes in the gardens too, if XI was up to something, but never, never in this hallway. Plus, there was no warning out; thus, it must be normal.
It had to be Roxas' doing.
They approached his door slowly and the air became stranger and stranger by the moment. There was something in it that Zexion recognized, but could no longer identify clearly, could not be sure about. The smell was different in this world than it was in any of the real worlds where it existed, although, perhaps, in slightly different forms. It was unique in every world. Lexaeus reached a hand up to knock, but Zexion stopped him, placing one hand on his arm.
"No," he said firmly, "we enter unannounced. Whatever is happening in that room, it's causing this effect in the air around it, even out in the halls. It must be something. It would be most unwise to announce our presence and give Roxas time to stop."
Lexaeus nodded in understanding, taking a step back, away from both the door and Zexion to let the smaller man, the man in charge, open it instead. One of Zexion's hands remained on Lexaeus' arm, his own arm bent at an awkward angle as the fingers of his free hand wrapped slowly around the doorknob. He internally begged the door not to creak.
He was the first to take a step into the room, somehow not surprised by what he saw, but slightly more surprised by the fact that neither Axel nor Roxas noticed. Then again, that second thing should not have been surprising either, as the two were against the opposite wall and likely utterly disinterested in what was going on around them. Axel at least, he knew, did not care who heard or saw him, as long as he was having fun. Roxas would likely be a touch more modest, but the kid was probably too enamored by his friend to notice.
But of course, Zexion wondered how he could possibly have mistaken that scent in the hallway for anything else, how he had not identified it on the spot. It was familiar to him when he'd still been Ienzo; he'd been a college student, after all, and, all myths aside, hardly any college students actually retained their virginity after graduation. Ienzo had certainly not been one of those odd little ducks who wanted to do something like that. In fact, he hardly took emotional pleasure from his comrades, but he was quite the fan of the physical pleasure they could provide. Hell, he remembered the smell in this world too, particularly from the moment when Larxene was first brought in. The first thing that woman did was pick out those Organization members she thought would be "most fun" and sleep with them, among a number of other things.
He should have known when Lexaeus first pointed out the smell to him. Lexaeus probably should have known too. Maybe he did. Zexion's upper lip twisted into a small smirk. He had less than a second to watch the two of them and wonder what was running through Axel's mind – particularly what emotions were present there – before Lexaeus yanked him out of the room by the arm and shut the door.
"Wha--" The redhead's lips cut off Zexion's indignant inquiry. He…He was interrupted from scientific voyeurism for this? If Zexion had emotions, he would definitely be angry over it. Instead, he shoved the taller man off of him, looking absolutely incredulous. "What the hell are you doing?"
Lexaeus looked just as confused and could only justify his actions with a quick, "I have absolutely no idea, it just felt…oddly right. Like something to do, you know?"
"No. I don't know," Zexion retorted, narrowing his eyes at Lexaeus. "It wasn't something to do at all. The air is filled with the smell of sex; it must be getting to your head." The other Organization members could sleep around with anyone they damn well pleased, but Zexion was not one of those people. He did not need sex to remain happy, as much as he enjoyed it. Even then, he fucked Larxene every once in a while and she, with all her violent kinks, turned him off of even the physical pleasure for long periods at a time.
The thing about people who are angry, however, is that they often take very deep breaths. Zexion, while not necessarily feeling, not quite at that state of emotional possession, was still annoyed. He could be aggravated with people, even without a heart, he could want them to leave him alone or desist from whatever they were doing. This was exactly one of those moments, to be frank. He wanted to study Axel and Roxas, and Lexaeus was preventing him from doing as thus. This was reason enough to want not even the closest thing he had to a friend around him at the moment. He should have never brought Lexaeus in the first place, he should have considered that something just like this could happen – Lexaeus could be overwhelmed by the emotional aura – but he could not have known for certain. This was only Lexaeus' fault; the feelings were so strong and Lexaeus had never stuck him as a character who'd experienced very much of sex as Aeleus. Yet, the thing about people in mild states of annoyance is that they took very deep breaths.
Zexion was one of those people.
His nostrils were already filled with the smell and he could taste nothing but the hot and the sweat and the feelings associated. Zexion's mind moved of its own accord as he reached up, placed both his hands on Lexaeus' shoulders, and kissed the man. Then, it was his turn to pull away, confused and slightly disoriented. This was not at all like either of them, and they both damn well knew that.
Lexaeus was the first to break the imminent silence, looking more uncomfortable than all the previous times Zexion had ever seen both Lexaeus and Aeleus uncomfortable put together. "I have two things I suppose you should know. Aeleus was attracted to, not that this really matters actually as I am not him anymore, but I suppose it might…somehow…but," the uncomfortable look was laced with lust, "he was attracted to Ienzo."
Zexion's lips twitched at the corners, as if he wanted to smile, but could not quite manage to do so. It would explain why Aeleus hung around him so much at the start, when the other scientists continued to look down on him for being younger and less experienced than them. Ienzo had always assumed that it was largely just out of the goodness of Aeleus' heart, but this newly provided explanation did make more logical sense.
His eyes drifted halfway down Lexaeus' figure, an amused smile finally figuring out how to form on Zexion's lips. "It seems that part of his feelings carried over, at least in purely ideological form," he commented, stare caught not far below Lexaeus' waist.
"I—I suppose so…" Lexaeus let out a laughing snort, his own gaze drifting to Roxas' door. The aforementioned smell still lingered, but it was no longer as notable, they'd gotten more used to it, it had gotten into their systems. There was a long moment of silence, but they both knew what was going to happen next, what logically followed next, especially as their eyes met and Lexaeus began with, "Can we—"
"Yes," Zexion interrupted, half-way to his own surprise, wondering what exactly he was doing. He hadn't ever…not since Larxene, really. He hardly cared for how 'good' he was, but he did wonder if this was the proper thing to do. While they were both intoxicated by this aura, the proper thing would be to return to the lab and perform tests, not…not fuck like bunnies. Against his better judgment, he grabbed Lexaeus' wrist and pulled him into the nearest room, glad to find it completely empty. The thick, previously noticed smell lingered inside it too.
If the Superior knew, he would not approve, not in the least, although Zexion found it very, very hard to care as Lexaeus pushed him up against a wall and kissed him on the mouth once more.
"We shouldn't be," Zexion muttered into the kiss, a small part of him hoping that that would be enough to ruin the moment. No such luck.
"When have we ever cared?" was the reply, breathed heavily across his mouth and accompanied by another deep kiss. Lexaeus had a point. Every single member of the Organization, new and old, had committed some awful crime that the Superior would not approve of if the Superior ever found out; the thing was, no one bothered to tell him of any such crimes. Only Zexion had ever cared to monitor the labs and halls through the cameras, and only then in the name of science.
Lexaeus' lips left his, moving instead to his jaws and then his neck, where Lexaeus let his teeth graze along Zexion's skin, making the blue-haired man groan and take another gasp of the intoxicating air. His hips bucked forward almost against his will, wanting more, needing more from his companion. In theory, Zexion should have wanted to be inside something, but he found that it could not matter less to him at the time. He didn't have romantic feelings toward Lexaeus, but neither did he have them for Larxene or, for that matter, any other female they may have come across in their travels around worlds.
He wanted the finished product; he wanted pleasure, simple as that, and it didn't matter what gender the person providing it happened to be.
Lexaeus, apparently, agreed with the sentiment as he hitched up his own cloak to unzip his pants and drop them, then doing the same with Zexion's as his tongue pushed for an even deeper kiss. Zexion felt the other man's hands around his hips, resting just beneath the small of his back. Zexion's own hands were wrapped around Lexaeus' shoulders, as, while standing on his toes, it was the best way to actually be able to reach Lexaeus' mouth. Each kiss was met with a similar one from the other man.
They both knew exactly what the other wanted, they both wanted the same thing, they both wanted it hard, fast and over as quickly as possible. Not that, of course, it would be a troublesome thing they would rather not be doing, but… There was that unimaginable, unmanageable lust in both of them and, had Zexion had a heart, it would have terrified him. They not only wanted each other, they also wanted the other to enjoy the moment; this seemingly mindless fuck session was a whole lot more on the inside for the both of them. Zexion felt something for Lexaeus, something like friendship, something like an emotional attraction, a mental attraction. He had no idea how to explain it, but it felt…it sounded like feeling inside his head.
Yet, Zexion wanted to keep thinking scientifically, thinking logically against any influence from the illusionary emotions he knew he did not really possess, against the screaming protests of his mind. He wanted to keep analyzing the situation and putting numerical guesses to—fuck that, frankly, it was too late to think, it was too late to reconsider, no matter how much part of him longed to.
And, to his great surprise, he found that there was approximately half of him that wanted nothing more than to continue. This part, this half, it wanted Lexaeus. In fact, it would not have been too much of a stretch to say that he loved Lexaeus, as wrong as the idea sounded to the other half of him. He was not supposed to feel, and yet here he was, feeling. It was so wrong, but he was enjoying it too much to let it go now by resisting the situation.
The red-haired man pulled him up, holding him between the wall and his chest, holding him high enough for his feet to not reach the ground. Zexion wrapped his legs around Lexaeus' waist, kissing the taller man deeply and pulling himself closer.
Lexaeus then pulled away, glancing around the room as if looking for something.
"What?" Zexion asked impatiently.
"I-uh-don't want to hurt you," Lexaeus replied, looking back at him. "We need…something."
"Let it hurt," he growled, pushing himself against Lexaeus. "I don't care."
Likely, not like this, not ever like it would hurt after this, but he just wanted the sweet release at the end. If he could not walk tomorrow, he would deal with it when it came. Zexion had nowhere too pressing to be anyway.
"I don't--" Zexion cut off any further protests with a kiss, although Lexaeus continued trying to speak for a few more moments before giving in. Still, the older man moved painfully slow, was more careful than he'd likely been with anyone else.
Zexion thrust his hips forward, against Lexaeus, and the man finally pressed inside of him, slowly and painfully. He cried out, closing his eyes, and tossing his head back against the wall. His breath came in gasps when Lexaeus pulled out, pushing back inside and muttering an apology against Zexion's lips. Every little move both hurt and sent little tremors running up Zexion's entire body, it was a mixture of pain and something Zexion had not felt for a very, very long time – desire, love, pleasure and attraction.
"Don't you d-ugh-dare apologize for this," he muttered against Lexaeus' lips. Zexion's hand drifted lower on himself, his fingers shaking slightly as he moved them. He gritted his teeth to keep from crying out again, more and louder, as Lexaeus quickened a touch, close to the end. The last thing Zexion wanted was for Roxas and Axel to find the two of them in a room across the hall. Axel would never let him live it down if the obnoxious twit knew of something like this.
A few hard thrusts and stifled moans later, he drove himself to the finish, and Lexaeus followed not long after, pressing him up, into the wall a final time before pulling out and letting go.
And oh, fuck, did he notice the pain the moment the other man was gone. Nobody or not, incapable of emotions or not, he was still perfectly in tune with his ability to feel physical things. Zexion winced noticeably, but remained upright against the wall, keeping his palms pressed firmly against the cool, flat surface. It would end. Right now, there was something else, something slightly more important to take care of. Still, it took him a couple moments to regain his bearings, pull his pants back up and smooth out his robe around his waist. No one would know. When he next looked up, Lexaeus was standing a couple meters off, looking a mixture between embarrassed and utterly uncertain of how to react now.
"We should get back to the lab," Zexion announced, half- sure that there would be nothing more to learn from Axel or Roxas tonight. Those two were likely asleep, or at least Roxas was, and Zexion could just imagine Axel sitting over him, watching him, relishing those strange sensations that Roxas inspired. How he wanted to know more…but now was definitely not the time to do it. Both he and Lexaeus looked properly disheveled anyway and VIII was one to ask too many questions.
This little incident was the last thing he needed to become the new gossip subject of the entire Organization. There would already be questions as to why Zexion was reluctant to walk around and Lexaeus was more silent than usual around the closest thing he could call a friend.
Yet, curiosity mixed with his scientific way of thinking drove Zexion to stop in front of the closed door to Roxas' room against his better judgment, wrapping his hand around the handle once again. The silence hung heavy for a few moments before he turned the handle, opening the door slowly and moving to look into the room through the tiny crack. The light from the hallway lit up a path across the floor and directly onto the bed, lighting up Axel's face. His eyes met Zexion's and the short man instantly shut the door, taking off down the hall in the direction of the labs.
Lexaeus followed in silence.
The mere idea of both Heartless and Nobodies was still too new for there to be any information gained from any amount of research on this particular subject, no matter how extensive. Zexion knew Ansem's notes by heart, he could likely recite them in his sleep if he needed to, and there would be no use in looking through them again and again for the tiny chance that something like Roxas had happened in the past. It hadn't. Roxas was a completely unique case among all the previous instances and all the newly discovered types of Nobodies around.
Sora was to blame for it. That kid was a unique case across the worlds, possessing one of the purest hearts that Zexion had ever seen, and had he not seen the kid for himself, he would have considered Sora's existence a lie. It only made logical sense that his Nobody would be different as well. He made a mental note of one day physically meeting Sora, just out of pure, simple curiosity. It couldn't hurt, after all.
The rest of that night passed with Zexion looking through his own recently made notes on the behavioral patterns of the Organization and what had changed since Roxas' appearance. He made more notes in the margins on what he'd observed and, at last, what he appeared to have felt just hours ago. The feelings were gone now, replaced by a sort of awkward emptiness inside. Zexion could remember that well enough too, as long ago as it was. There was a heart at one point in that empty space, but now there was none and there would not be one unless, by some unnatural miracle, the Organization managed to find a way to replace their hearts.
That was, after all, the point, but it had been ten years without progress now.
If whatever chemicals Roxas emitted could create even the illusion of emotion, he would be willing to take it, except that Zexion knew that the chemicals would become a drug for the members, himself included. The temporary high would be enough to feel like they had a heart, to close their eyes and pretend with very close to accurate, but still purely fictional feelings. For some of the members, perhaps that would be enough to forget their search for Kingdom Hearts. Without the drug, however, they would feel just like he felt now: empty.
It was unpleasant at best.
That night he spent in near-perfect silence, exchanging a word or two with Lexaeus every time he came across an observation he needed to cross-reference. His coworker did the same and neither appeared to actively mind the silence, although there were several times when Lexaeus drew a deep breath, as if to speak, but then promptly let it out again. Zexion paid it no attention.
Morning came and went. Zexion had put his head down on the desk to think things over in peace for a few moments, but his eyes must have closed in the process, as he was woken up by the jolt of a familiar hand on his shoulder. Sitting up, he brushed the long strands of blue hair from his eyes and stretched before folding his notes carefully back into the book they had come from. They were, right now, the most precious thing he owned. He could not leave them laying around where they could potentially be found by another member, one who had no right knowing anything about his theories or, god forbid, the Superior himself. Besides, some of the things he'd taken note of did not belong in anyone's mind but his own.
With the papers safely folded up, he decided it was time to pursue the research he had in mind before the unfortunate incident of the night before. He still needed to question Roxas in depth and personally experience a side-effect caused by something other than the particularly potent feeling of pure sensual lust. Something more subtle would have been a lot better for the sake of clearer proof of cause and effect. He needed something more definitive.
That afternoon, he found Roxas in the kitchen, flipping through a book of recipes for a variety of sweets. Zexion was relieved to find the blond alone, that is, without his regular redheaded escort. He had a sickening assumption that that very redhead had seen him the night before and, judging by the knowing smirk on Axel's face, it was likely he'd heard Zexion too. He very much did not wish to deal with any of that at the moment.
Today was a day for merely questioning Roxas in the most neutral way possible.
"Good afternoon," Roxas interrupted Zexion's train of thought, looking up from his book at the blue-haired man and startling him slightly.
"Hello XIII," Zexion said simply, crossing the floor to sit at the table across from Roxas, watching him with mild curiosity. "How are you?" It was a neutral enough question, one that could just as easily be written off as small-talk conversation as research should anyone ask about it. They were, after all, coworkers, and they had the right to communicate, didn't they?
Roxas shrugged in response, looking back to his book. "Not bad, just wondering what to make for dinner." Generally, one of the Organization members would be stuck with the chore of cooking for a week and it would circle around between members, so food was greatly varied. However, after the one incident with Vexen and a strain of fever deliberately spread via salad to study the effects on Nobodies, the members preferred to do their own cooking. There was, at least, much less of a chance of coming down with some terrible disease no one has the cure for as of yet.
"In a book on desserts?" he inquired casually, tilting his head as if to read the title on the spine. Roxas held the book up for easier viewing.
"Yes. Heard something about chocolate making people happy and wanted to see if it actually works," Roxas stated before pausing to look up at Zexion, as if slightly confused. "Wait, that won't work, will it?" Zexion smiled at the younger Nobody, inclining his head. "Since we don't have hearts…or feelings…"
"I'm afraid it won't work, no," he confirmed, reaching across the table to pull the book from Roxas' hands and flip through it with vague interest. "Although it is an interesting idea. What gave you the thought?" The boy might be a new Nobody, but he was also the only one who, as far as Zexion could see, did not remember anything from his Other's life. While it logically made sense from an observer's point of view, he didn't understand how Roxas could remember emotions and feelings and nothing else. Either the memories were very selective or there was something very important Number XIII was keeping from them all; Zexion was determined to find out which it was.
"It was just something I heard from Axel once, but you're right. It was just the expression, I think. We don't have feelings, after all, right?" But Roxas had taken a few moments to think his answer through before speaking and it only spurred on the curiosity in Zexion's mind.
"What was it he said?"
"Nothing important, something about me being moody and making him sad. He can't have meant it literally."
"Of course not. I wonder though…" He let the sentence die on purpose, the remnants of a smile remaining on his lips as he tore his eyes away from the book to watch Roxas' face. The kid didn't have a poker face, if he was thinking something important enough, it would shine through. To his delight, it did. There was a tiny spark of hope that flashed through Roxas' eyes before he looked away from Zexion, towards the book in Zexion's hands and Zexion lost sight of it.
"You wonder? You think it might be possible?" he asked, incredulity in his voice. Without hearts, it wasn't possible to actually feel, to actually have emotions, everyone knew that. If it had been, the older Nobodies would have found a way already in the past ten years.
It was Zexion's turn to shrug as he closed the book and pushed it to the middle of the table. "I don't know, Roxas. We don't know everything about what we are yet. It's a possibility." He paused for effect, watching Roxas carefully. "Have you noticed anything? If you happen to, perhaps we can look into it…find feelings…" Roxas remained silent for too long and Zexion had too much time to think. If he were to get anything out of Roxas, he would need to convince Roxas with something he wanted. "Maybe emotions would help us find out more about our Others – the things that we've forgotten," he added on to the end, leaning forward slightly in his chair.
Roxas looked up at that, clearly curious. Zexion only shrugged again, gesturing vaguely in the air with his hand as he threw the idea out there for picking apart. As far as Roxas knew, it might just be plausible. As far as Zexion knew, he could not have cared less. He remembered everything that was important from Ienzo's life and that was enough for him, personally. If anyone else wanted to know about their Others for their personal amusement, that would be up to them.
"I," Roxas began, stopping, looking down at his hands, then back at Zexion and beginning again. "I don't really know. Sometimes Axel—"
He was interrupted by a voice behind both of them, a voice both of them knew well, a voice that had snuck up and was now leaning against the door-frame, looking smug as ever. The voice said, "Talking about me behind my back, are we, Roxas?" with enough of a playful tone to not be taken seriously. "And to Zexy no less…" Axel strolled across the room as the two watched him in perfect silence, he took a third seat, pushing the chair back and kicking his feet up on the table. His green eyes rested on Zexion with that same carefree expression Zexion found to be ridiculously obnoxious and ridiculously idiotic. "Jealous, Zexy? Asking Roxas about his feelings for me?"
"We don't have feelings, VIII," Zexion replied calmly, narrowing his eyes. "I can't be jealous and number XIII certainly cannot have any sorts of feelings for you."
Axel snorted. "Of course, of course. Is that what you tell V when you kiss him goodnight?" Roxas stifled a laugh.
Zexion was suddenly very, very glad that Roxas was the only other person in the room. Axel would keep his little joke to himself if he knew what was best for him, but he wouldn't have been able to trust someone like Larxene or Marluxia.
Which he wouldn't have been able to trust them? Axel? Zexion?
Zexion's eyes narrowed dangerously at the tall redhead and he opened his mouth, as if to speak, but found that there was nothing more to say.
"What?" Axel prodded, "do you have something to add, Zexy?"
"Not at all," he replied, a distinct chill to his voice, standing up and snapping his fingers for a portal. He'd been looking forward to speaking with Roxas, but this would have to be enough for the day. He needed to find Roxas alone, without that redheaded pest following him everywhere he went. Zexion was in absolutely no mood to deal with Axel's little jeers. Throwing a polite smile in Roxas' direction, Zexion stepped backwards through the portal into his own rooms.
For now, there was everything he had already observed that needed to be written down and analyzed. Roxas could feel, Zexion was almost sure of the fact. Perhaps selectively and rarely, but Roxas could feel.
If he could come up with something, synthesize the effect through chemicals, the drug created would be like heroin for the Organization. The Superior would, no doubt, approve, if it was used carefully and correctly.
He wasn't entirely sure how much time had passed since he'd locked himself in his room and ignored the outside noise. Notes piled up, notes of observations, notes on what he smelled around Roxas, on the little bit of something that wasn't the usual darkness around Nobodies, notes on his feelings, and notes on the night with Lexaeus.
Something had happened then. Zexion himself knew that he'd changed; he'd been influenced by the mysterious agent in the air, erupting from Roxas and poisoning everything around it. That night, less even, that hour, he'd been different. He hadn't felt, but he'd come so desperately close to real feeling after years of nothingness, that it was close enough to the truth.
Zexion realized that he wanted it again.
It had nothing to do with the sex or the physical release – that, he could have whenever he wanted – but it was what he'd felt for Lexaeus. If they had had hearts, he could have called them friends, very good friends. He wanted that again.
Looking down at his notes, he leaned his head wearily on his palm, scratching out the last few words.
Zexion could be absolutely certain that this was no illusion created by the boy – he would have seen right through it if it was – but a chemical imbalance. For this, not only did he need physical tests on the boy that he would, no doubt, find hard to perform with Axel's ever-present self hovering over him, but he also needed to take a look at Vexen's chemistry sets.
His thought process was interrupted by the whirl of a portal opening at the other end of the room. Lexaeus: the only one who felt comfortable enough with Zexion not to knock before entering. He smiled knowing that their little encounter had changed nothing between them.
"Coffee," Lexaeus announced, setting the cup down by Zexion's paperwork. "You could use some."
Number V leaned over his shoulder, resting one hand on the back of Zexion's chair to skim through the latest pages of notes on the tabletop. "I think it's biological. There's no need to get Vexen involved. All we need is a sample."
"That's the problem, Lexaeus," he said between sips of the sweetened drink. "We need to take it when he's feeling something, when it's strong, but that doesn't happen too often. When it does, we have to be nearby. The air, of course, is a necessity. However, I think it would also benefit us to get something of his, something personal."
"We'll do our best."
Zexion turned his head to look up at his almost friend and the smile remained when their eyes met. Lexaeus leaned down, brushing Zexion's hair away from his face and kissing him on the mouth. Then, without another word, he left through the same portal he'd appeared from.
The two of them spent every moment of their free time watching Roxas on the cameras. When he was alone, either Lexaeus or Zexion would portal to a hallway near him, hoping to catch the youngest member of the Organization feeling. Their attempts were largely unsuccessful. Once, Lexaeus caught a hint of joy from him, another time Zexion found a trace of melancholy, but neither of the emotions was particularly strong. They didn't have that overwhelming effect the mixture of friendship, love and lust had had that one night.
Zexion was convinced that, eventually, if they waited for long enough, they would have it. And eventually they did.
One night, Roxas disappeared into his room as the two of them watched. As natural of an occurrence as this was, curiosity drove Zexion to suggest that his companion temporarily appear outside of Roxas' room, just to be absolutely certain. He couldn't afford to take any chances with this experiment.
Moments passed as he watched his closest companion take readings of the air on camera and the suspense was heavy in the air. Lexaeus was taking much longer than usual to check the air quality; something must have been different. Seconds turned into minutes and the short man leaned into the computer screen, one finger carefully hovering over Lexaeus' form. They must have finally found something!
Lexaeus returned with readings and a trapped sample of the air, a faint blush coloring his cheeks. His breath fell heavier than it usually did, but Zexion ignored all the physical signs of exactly the same thing that had happened several nights ago. Zexion's interest lay completely in the air quality and that intoxicating smell he knew it bore.
When the redhead slipped his arm around Zexion, he pushed him away, aware of how Lexaeus felt, so to speak, but disinterested.
"Zex—" Lexaeus began, but was cut off by a sharp "No" from Zexion. Lexaeus knew better than to try again.
Several hours later, Zexion had come to only one conclusion: this would be a lot harder than he'd ever imagined. Even with the readings in the air, the now isolated chemicals trapped on a slide and easily seen under a microscope, and a stolen gift from VIII to XIII, they were still left with nothing more than what they'd had at the beginning.
There was nothing to be done.
When the meeting was called with the strict orders to not breathe a word to Roxas, Zexion was worried that the Superior had found out about his private little research plan. He would lose favor with Xemnas if that was the case, definitely lose some privileges he held as one of the masterminds behind ever strategic plan of the Organization. He didn't want that. Because of this, Zexion was reluctant to finally put his research aside and report to the place Where Nothing Gathers.
He was the last to arrive, taking his seat on his throne, crossing his arms and staring blankly at Xemnas, just like the rest of them.
While the Superior rambled on, a beginning speech was a necessity for every meeting, Zexion let his mind wander, listening with only half an ear. It was mostly the usual information on their progress with Kingdom Hearts and Sora, the Keybearer, who had recently become a Heartless. Thus far, the meeting had nothing to do with either feelings or Roxas' biological imbalance and Zexion could breathe a sigh of relief. It would seem that no one else considered the matter of enough importance as to bring it to Xemnas' attention.
Leaning his chin on his palm, Zexion suffered through the endless babble of the Nobody who led them all. Xehanort had never been one for concise speech and it seemed that losing his heart only made matters worse. When the speech came to a close, the only one still listening intently was Saïx, which came as no surprise.
"…and thus, I declare another mission aiding our quest for Kingdom Hearts," the Superior at last announced. "Six of you will be sent to the renown Castle Oblivion, along with a recent discovery of XI's, a little Nobody girl named Naminé. We all know that the Keybearer is key to our eventual rule of Kingdom Hearts and the Keybearer, it seems, can be controlled through this little girl. As XI was the one to discover her," Zexion watched Marluxia sit up a little straighter in his throne, "he will be leading the mission this time. VIII and XII are to accompany him directly. IV, V, and VI are to come with them…"
Initially, Zexion wondered if he'd misheard what the Superior had said. Marluxia being in charge of a mission didn't irk him so much as the fact that he had to be in it and he had to leave little Roxas behind. He didn't want to abandon his own research, not now, not when he was so desperately close to finishing it, or at least so he hoped. There would be absolutely no way to monitor Roxas' affects on the other members of the Organization if he was away at another castle where he would, no doubt, have other menial tasks to perform. No, he wanted to stay here.
Letting out an angry hiss, Zexion closed his eyes, his face half-covered by his hair, the other half visibly displeased. This would bring all of the progress he'd made to a screeching halt and that, heart or not, annoyed him. From another throne, Lexaeus shot a sympathetic glance his way.
There was no arguing with the Superior.
"You will be leaving as soon as possible."
That was it. That was goodbye to his research and his pseudo-feelings that he'd grown so interested in over the past few days. He wished he could take Roxas with them, and he was certain that no one else would protest – Marluxia and Larxene enjoyed tormenting him, Axel enjoyed Roxas in general, Vexen would, no doubt, be similarly interested in the research if Zexion explained, and Lexaeus had been strangely affected by Number XIII. Perhaps it was that Zexion generally sent his taller companion out to watch Roxas first hand while preferring the cameras himself, but it seemed that Lexaeus had gotten a lot closer to Roxas and was affected more. He'd wanted to study this too, it would be a lot easier to study Lexaeus, after all, but it was too late now.
They were leaving The World That Never Was in favor of Castle Oblivion, where they would quite fittingly forget all of their feelings once more. They were to remain there until they were finished with their mission, and not even the Superior knew how long that would take.
His research was put on hold indefinitely.
Zexion placed the pages of notes carefully into a drawer in his desk, locking it. It would prevent prying eyes. Maybe not completely, as Xigbar could still reach right through the drawer, but Zexion honestly didn't think II was so interested in the assorted things he had buried in there. While he was taught not to speak poorly of his superiors, Xigbar was honestly not the most interested in actually doing his work in a timely fashion.
Sighing, he carefully pushed the chair in behind his desk, took a last look around and decided now would be the time to see Lexaeus. Roxas had affected Number V in very much the same way that Roxas had affected Axel – Lexaeus was more attuned to his emotions, his feelings, everything about him, and Zexion assumed that if Axel and Roxas were currently saying goodbye, then Lexaeus would not be his happiest. He laughed to himself quietly as the expression 'have a heart' came to mind in the context of comforting his friend. If he had a heart, he'd sympathize with the sadness. Pity he didn't.
Opening a portal outside Lexaeus' room, he paused, holding his hand out to knock, and then dropped the idea, simply pushing the door open instead. He was already being less informal than usual by not opening the portal directly into the room. He caught Lexaeus sitting on his bed, fiddling with a small metal thing and looking rather more sullen than usual.
He would hate to admit that something did stir inside him at the sight of his friend like this, something very small, and something he surely wouldn't have noticed if he hadn't been looking for it – the smallest twinge of sadness. Zexion attributed it to giving up his research project rather than giving up what he shared with his friend. It was both, but the first was a lot easier to accept, being the man he was now and the boy Ienzo was. He'd never been much for other people, the mere thought of a relationship worried him, and he'd never had close friends, but he'd been perfectly happy with that. Now, this pseudo-friendship between two people who could not possibly be friends, two people who had no heart, was more worrying than it would have been otherwise.
Yet, Roxas would miss Axel, Zexion knew that, Zexion could smell it in the air, and Zexion would miss this pseudo-friendship with Lexaeus. They would go back to being simply coworkers with the memory of feelings as soon as they stepped out of the World That Never Was.
Zexion hadn't realized how caught up he was in his thoughts, that he'd wandered into the room and crossed his arms, leaning against Lexaeus' table and staring at him through a curtain of hair until Lexaeus moved. He put his hands on Zexion's shoulders and Zexion rested his on Lexaeus' waist as the latter pulled him into a prolonged kiss, the last they'd share that meant something. For too brief a moment, he closed his eyes and enjoyed the last of those feelings that never existed. Then, he pushed the other man away, looking down and off to the right as he did so.
"This means nothing, Lexaeus." The hypocrisy made him laugh on the inside. Even that one kiss meant more than he would admit to, and it would all be gone in less than an hour. "We don't have hearts and we don't have feelings." It was a fact and, as a scientist, he could only look at facts to find the truth.
After all, it hardly mattered what a scientist felt about his experiment, it was the cold, hard data that led to a published conclusion. He could feel and think whatever he damn well pleased, it meant nothing at all.
If Lexaeus had a heart, Zexion knew he would have hurt it.
Meaning to preserve the silence, he turned fully away and walked to the door, letting his hand hover over the knob for a moment too long. Half-way out of the room, Zexion looked back at Lexaeus, a small smile on his lips. "Besides," he added, "we're not saying goodbye," and was gone.