A/N: orz I fail so hard. HAPPY LATE BIRTHDAY, MISFIT! D: I swear I originally intended for this to be up by then, but it wasn't, so now here it is as a...I suppose it's now a Halloween present. Go glomp CheshireMisfit, all of you; her writings deserve all that and more.

And now it's finally done...

Disclaimer: Oh look, a letter from Square Enix saying I now own the entire Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy franchise. That was massive sarcasm right there; yes, it was.

(Cue the lights.)


The entire thing started with that damn poster.

Well, no. Not true if Roxas were to be entirely honest. To generalize, it really began with whichever king deciding to start the whole feudalism shebang and build a kingdom. King Scott…or maybe it was King Gordon. Roxas had always hated history with a passion, even with all the other many tedious and superfluous subjects required of a prince to choose from. So, really, everything started with the first king in the world.

But we're not talking about him. So the entire thing started, not with the poster because that was actually a bit later, nor with King Whatshisface, but with oatmeal. Oatmeal with a stir of maple syrup and a dash of cinnamon lightly scattered across the surface. It had looked and smelled wonderful, sitting in a bowl on the table in front of him. It still smelled wonderful splattered across his face, but Roxas's mood that morning had definitely soured by then. Rikku stared at him, frozen still against his back. It took her a few seconds for all pertinent information to sink into her brain: that she had tackled her older brother in a flying leap at breakfast, smashed his face into his oatmeal, and that, never mind he was her brother and the Crown prince and all that, he was going to kill her. After that, it took her a quarter of the time to shriek and scurry back down the corridor she had just run up.

Roxas gave a long self-suffering sigh, causing little dollops of oatmeal gunk to drip onto the table. Under normal circumstances, he would have called for a servant to bring a basin of water so he could clean his face, but…well, this was humiliating. He could imagine the servants tittering in their quarters in the evening, and, oh, wasn't Rikku just precious and adorable, yes, immature, but she was still only seven, one must cut her some slack. And, understood by everyone, that it wasn't such a shame for Roxas to have suffered such embarrassment because it was the general (unspoken) consensus that Prince Roxas's aloofness was uncalled for and downright maddening.

"Rightly deserved if you ask me," grinned the cook's assistant.

"No one did, you impertinent ass," retorted the cook.

In his defense, it was particularly trying to be the only adolescent of his entire family, and that was saying something since his extended family included quite a few children. And any given day of the week, there would be cousins, and Rikku and her best friends, and once removed, twice removed, long-believed-to-be-nonexistent cousins, and even a handful of nieces, and more cousins. All under the age of twelve. It was either have an attitude or put up with kids climbing on his arms, legs, and head, and Roxas was not going to have any of that. Goodness, you'd think they'd never heard of a tree before.

So that was how Roxas ended up sneaking from dining room to bathroom in a series of complicated maneuvers and met the lizard. Yes, you, dear reader, heard right. A lizard. Who, if Roxas was to be fairer in assigning blame and only consider candidates that were actually somewhat sentient and still alive, started this whole affair.

"Watch your step, kid."

Roxas muttered a quick, "Excuse me," with all the politeness he could muster. Then he stared. Why, first off, was he apologizing to a lizard and why could a lizard talk anyways and with an attitude? "What, pray tell, do you think you're doing?"

"I'm a lizard. I get underfoot, induce panic among some of your more weak-nerved servants, and get a nice view up the dresses of the royal females. Your Highness." Roxas spluttered in customary indignation for a moment before his natural urge to laugh won out. He chuckled. "Fair enough." If only the other occupants of the castle could see him now: conversing with a reptile, and what's more, having his mood lightened by said reptile for the first time in…was it sad that he'd last track?

"I wouldn't call it precisely fair." In a swift movement, it darted from the floor to the wall and finally came to a stop at eye level with the human. The red speckled body twisted round until black-orbed eyes met Roxas's blue ones. If lizards could smile, the sudden stretch of the wide mouth could be deemed as such. "Running the risk of dying by pulverization isn't exactly worth it all. Granted, the amusement gained in this form is quite something. But death, well, that's rather permanent and life-altering, don't you think? Lean closer, your highness, if you would."

Roxas did so, eyes never leaving the tiny splayed form. "What do you mean 'this form'?" he asked quite carefully, controlling breath and possible spray in such close proximity to the lizard. It chose not to answer immediately and Roxas nearly flung himself backwards when the sudden black forked tongue uncurled and stung his nose briefly before disappearing back behind gleaming fangs. Only instilled princely dignity prevented him from doing so, but he did reposition himself several inches further away in a deliberate manner. He said nothing.

The lizard, to all appearances nonplussed by its sudden tasting of a human and, what Roxas thought to be, unnatural length of its tongue, stayed put. Its eyelids hooded. "Hm. Heh. Oatmeal. Now the cinnamon I can understand, the spice, sharpness. But maple syrup as well. Hm." Once again it did not allow enough pause for Roxas to formulate and express an answer. "This form? Not a believer in reincarnation then, I suppose?"

"That's not an answer." Roxas retorted bluntly. He was a cranky adolescent, prince or no prince; he had mastered the art of answering question with question enough to spot it when presented to him.

The tongue flickered out briefly again with the scaly mouth stretching into an amused line as well. "How entertaining. Go take a walk later, if you would take advice from a humble lizard." Right on cue, footsteps sounded from their right and when Roxas turned his gaze back to the wall, only grey stone meet his eyes. The servant girl caught a glimpse of him before he could make it completely inside his quarters.

He was certain the peals of laughter from the kitchen later were not auditory hallucinations on his part.


Roxas doesn't know why he went for a walk later that afternoon. Because he certainly wasn't taking advice from a lizard who spouted nonsense to him, then vanished and ensured he become the laughingstock of the castle for a time being. Nor did he care to admit to himself that a respite from the sniggers and, in general, utter boredom of the same routine day after day was a welcome change.

A welcome one in that the paths seemed strangely deserted. Which was fine by him; he hated the people gawking at him and then looking hurriedly away when he turned towards them. Then there were the giggling girls, looking to ensure their fortune by somehow attracting the heir of the kingdom. He had no idea what possessed them to think that tossing their curls about and fluttering eyelashes his way would attract him. And then that one time when one had actually tried to swoon into his arms… Roxas shuddered and shook his head violently in an attempt to clear the traumatic images away. Naminé's visage greeted his eyes when he lifted them.

The artist had painted her eyes too blue, her hair too blond. And her features. Roxas found it hard to imagine that Naminé could ever look that stricken. Even if…oh. KIDNAPPED BY THE DREAD DRAGON ROREK, the poster proclaimed. So that was why she had not visited recently. As a reward, the customary offer of, Roxas snorted, her hand in marriage and half the kingdom was being offered.

"The poor dear girl," came a voice neither sympathetic nor sincere. Roxas turned and nearly smashed his face against the crossed arms of the stranger. He started and would have backed up if there had been room to, which there wasn't. So he settled for a raised chin and, in what he thought was his most regal commanding tone, demanded, "Move."

To his chagrin, poisonous eyes brightened and the stranger laughed. Ok, so he did move back a step as requested but he laughed at a royal order. From the crown prince, no less. Roxas found his estimation and respect sliding reluctantly up a notch or three.

"So you're the famous crown prince," the man continued, once his amusement at Roxas's expense had subsided somewhat. "I've heard sooo much about you." He cast a darting glance at the person in question and his smirk twitched upwards at the corners. "I thought you'd be more regal in person."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

The man chuckled, features shifting within the darkness of his hood. "Whatever you want it to mean, your highness." He continued without missing a beat, "So what's she to you? Are you going to rescue her, slay the terrible dragon for her? Marry her and have hordes of heirs filling your castle?" His voice had taken on a more than venomous note with those last words.

Roxas glanced sharply at the stranger who offered no more words, but Roxas had the distinct notion he was returning cool gaze for gaze. Roxas turned away, studied the poster once more. No, Naminé would never look that pathetic and pleading.

"I am going to rescue her, yes." He heard the man snort, but pressed onwards, ignoring the noise of condescension. "She's my friend."

The stranger's head lifted ever so slightly at the emphasis. "No need for wife or land quite yet, little prince?"

Roxas felt no need to reply. If he were perfectly honest, he did not know what his answer would be. The man behind him said nothing more as well, letting the moments pass silently. And when Roxas turned from his blank scrutiny of Naminé's portrait, only the dusty road and air greeted him.


Dinner was a tortuous affair. The servants knew better than to titter in the presence of their royal majesties, but Roxas could still sense the amused looks directed at the top of his head whenever he bent over his plate. At least Rikku kept her reddened face strictly downwards and dared not look at her older sibling. Whether she would burst into laughter or tears if she did so, Roxas did not know. He also didn't know which would mortify him more.

So he waited for her excused absence from the table before speaking. In a lull between courses, Roxas remarked quietly, "Princess Naminé's been kidnapped." Mother and Father blinked, looked at each other before Mother replied softly, "We know, dear." Of course they knew; even if the Castle of Oblivion was several districts over, Naminé was still considered a possible betrothal candidate. It was their business to know. Roxas acknowledged the response, and moved from his introduction to the point. "I think I'll try to rescue her."

"More assertively," his father advised before the import of the words sank in. "Excuse me?"

"Roxas." His mother was always quicker on the uptake with these kinds of things. "Do you think such a hasty decision wise? You are sixteen years of age already; that is true. But to choose your bride so quickly from our list without further consideration…"

"Naminé's my friend," Roxas repeated, feeling very weary of having to explain this. At least, the hooded stranger seemed to have understood immediately. He held no such hopes for his parents. "We both wish to remain as such. But I also happen to know that Naminé would not want to marry just any random knight that happens to rescue her. So if I save her, then I can refuse the reward, still have seen to her safety, and fended off any chance suitors."

"Roxas, that is not the way things are done," Mother admonished.

He shrugged and his mother cast a despairing glance towards him. Roxas did feel a little sorry for her, but not enough to willingly submit to these ridiculous customs just because they were traditional. Hence the reason he also dreaded the inevitability of being the heir apparent. He wasn't cut out for this reigning affair; let one of his cousins step up for the crown. Odin knows there were enough of them to choose from.

"Dear," that was Father now, "let him set out as per his request. We can discuss his…unusual proposal once he has succeeded in his quest." He gave his queen a meaningful look that Roxas interpreted as I know how you feel but let's just put off this royal headache as long as is possible.

Roxas stared down at his roasted quail and unkindly thought that Naminé has better be grateful. It never occurred to him just how wrong he could possibly be.


Twilight Kingdom was only a few miles away from the Destiny Islands, but it was surprising how much faster the inpouring of information into the islands was. For instance, Roxas was surprised at how much this dragon had already accomplished that he did not know about. Which was a lot considering this was the first time he had heard of the thing. But it was just sad that Sora, of all people, knew infinitely more about this than he did.

So after the initial surprise of "Roxy, what are you doing here?", hugs, drinks because "you can't come all this way and not have a famous Paopu Fruit Delight!", they finally sat and Sora informed him of all that had been going on outside the sleepy kingdom of twilight. Apparently Naminé was not the first princess this dragon had carried off. To be exact, she was the ninth known one. And it was an established opinion that the dread dragon held some nefarious purpose for them, mark the words, boy. ("Shut up, Sora.")("Shh, I'm not finished yet.")

Four from Midgar already, one from Spira, two from Esthar across the river, and one from Destiny Islands.

"Kairi too?"

Sora nodded solemnly and gulped at his chilled drink. "About a month ago. Riku and I wanted to go after her, but…" he looked down, flushing. Roxas automatically understood. The Destiny Islands may have been just as isolated as the Twilight Kingdom, being smack dab in the middle of the Timeless Lake, but the noble families clung to very different ideals. His own parents preached honor and tradition. Sora's and Riku's just wanted to keep their sons safe.

"Tidus and Wakka tried, but they couldn't get through the forest." Sora's voice lowered. "They say the trees come alive at night and stalk the shadows…no, wait, stalk through the shadows for—"

"Sora, are you trying to help him or scare him off?" Neither of them had noticed the silver-haired boy lean against the doorway to listen, but he approached now, aquamarine eyes amused. Sora stuck out his lower lip playfully at him. "I'm trying to help."

"I can see that." Riku stopped behind Sora's chair and regarded Roxas with unreadable eyes. "Roxas."

"Riku." The relationship between the two boys was civil, but undeniably cool. It had always been Sora, Riku, Kairi as the Destiny Islands trio. Roxas had had Hayner, Pence, and Olette. Then Kairi met Naminé and Naminé met Roxas after his three friends had to move away. Everyone liked Naminé who was quiet, sweet, and sensible. Only the more friendly-souled Sora and the girls accepted Roxas, who was more sarcastic than sweet and tended to stay quiet in a less endearing way. Too much like Riku; it grated on both their nerves.

Sora leapt up, breaking what had begun to turn into a staring battle. "I know! I can get you a map!"

"You mean I can get him a map. You don't know where it is, Sora."

"Yes, I do!"

Roxas hid a smirk at the obviously softened manner Riku held towards his "best friend". See, his apathy was cured already. It had to be something about his home castle.


He ditched his horse. He had consulted the map, and yes, there was a long trek to be had on foot now. But there were first several hills conveniently placed by some deity, then the forest, then the actual mountain itself where said dragon was said to reside. Though her breeders may have been part of the large majority of the population that he considered rather dense, Roxas hardly faulted Pandora for that. So he left her behind with the equally animal-loving Sora.

He was really starting to regret having done that. Sure, thank Odin for enchanted food sacks, but they hardly provided him with seven-league boots now, did they?

"Not too experienced at this rescuing lark, are you?"

The only useful thing he seemed to have learned from his princely training now came into play. He looked down quite calmly. "As I recall, it was you who sent me on this foolhardy quest in the first place."

"I'd hardly call rescuing your darling friend a 'foolhardy' venture." The lizard leapt onto Roxas's boot in one fluid bound and began gripping his way up folds of cloth. "And I merely advised you to get some fresh air; you looked like you needed it. Not run headlong into the wild."

"Are you just visiting to criticize or coming along then?"

The lizard, by this time perched on Roxas's shoulder, let out a huff of breath. "Someone needs to keep you from killing yourself. Now turn more to the right."

"Does it make a difference right now which way I face?"

"It certainly provides me with more shade."

Roxas found himself reluctantly liking the insolent thing.


"How did you know I was going to rescue Naminé?"

He couldn't see the lizard, but he felt it shift on his shoulder, pulling little threads of fabric. "I hear things."

"What've you heard about this dragon then?"

"What, besides the dramatized rubbish your brunet friend told you?" Roxas raised his eyebrows at this, but the lizard continued in sibilant, careful tones. "Don't believe everything you hear, little prince. Let me see that map you've been so vigilantly consulting."

Roxas stopped in his dutiful trek across the Pride Plains and tugged the wrinkled vellum from one of his many pouches. Little pads fell across his shoulder, then uncomfortably close to the exposed skin of his neck. "Hmm…chin up."

A little awkwardly, with his head tilted to one side and throat stretched, Roxas muttered, "Thought you were going to tell me about this dragon."

"Patience, young grasshopper. I'm getting there. We-ell, would you look at that? They gave you such an inaccurate map, I'm surprised they didn't try to poison you first. Ok, look down now. See that lovely detailed grassy meadow smack in the middle of everything?"

"Yes."

"Pure poppycock. Ignore it. A cartographer's drunken fantasy. We're walking across the Pride Plains, which I hope you know."

"You mean I'm walking across the plains."

The lizard shot an extremely cold and forked tongue out. Roxas stumbled at the sudden touch on his neck and landed achingly on his hip. "Watch it!"

"Yes, you were walking across the Pride Plains," the lizard continued, unruffled. "Those meadows that don't exist would start half a league ahead of us. What we will really see are foothills. Densely packed and steep on the map. Lies. You won't even notice the slope until you stop and look. Up and at them, little prince. You don't want to be out here when night falls."

"Your fault if we are," Roxas retorted, but he climbed stiffly to his feet anyways. "What happens when night comes?"

He caught a glimpse of small, sharp teeth baring in a grin that caught the sunlight. "Nothing much, your highness. Just hyenas."

"Hyenas," Roxas repeated flatly.

"Werewolves. Malevolent spirits. Living shadows."

If Roxas's steps quickened, he said nothing about it. "You enjoy toying with people, don't you?"

"I'm lying. About the werewolves, that is."

Roxas's eyes stayed on the darkening sky.


"I offer you my congratulations."

"Shut up."

The lizard shut up, but remained chuckling quietly. And screw this, he was sick of calling it that.

"If you really must say something, give me a name I can call you other than 'that reptilian stalker I know'."

"You're quite witty today. How intriguing." The lizard opened one eye to reflect the dancing flames they faced, Roxas watched the colors move in the pitch blackness, mesmerized. Then a scaly lid descended and swept away the surreal fiery figures and stories that had flitted across the unblinking canvas. "You may call me Rorek."

Roxas started for once. "Ominous name."

"Think what you wish." The lizard…Rorek sounded strangely sullen now. Both eyes opened, but they did not look at Roxas. Obsidian stared into the heart of the fire Roxas had managed to scrape up.

He disliked the sudden silence. Roxas stared at the lizard until it was clear that Rorek was not going to return his gaze. Then he looked down the slope of the sparsely grassed dome they sat upon. Rorek was right; the grade was shallow to the point of being unnoticeable.

Shadows darted through the dry grass, crisp and whispery. Roxas's hand clutched at loose dirt, fell to his hip, and wrapped securely around the hilt of a small dagger. There was no comfort there. "Rorek?"

"Sleep."

"No! There's—"

"Sleep." Rorek's voice did not increase in volume, but the hiss drew out for several frozen moments. Roxas stayed very still and, for a second, he was truly frightened for the word had contained behind it command, assurance, and dangerous power. A heady and paradoxical combination. Then he finally mustered the will to turn and met the steady gaze of those glinting eyes. The foreboding digging tight fingers into his heart vanished. Voice taking on a more familiar, mocking tone, Rorek's eyes shifted from Roxas to the foot of the hill, as if he could see through grass and soil into the very core of the world. "Sleep, Roxas. Let the big, scary reptilian stalker take care of the bogeys in the dark."

"Ha." But irrationally and, extraordinarily recklessly, Roxas leaned back until his head touched solidity. His eyes struggled against the compulsion to close; his plans to brood had suddenly fled from this new desire to just rest.

It was years later that Roxas remembered this as the first time he ever heard his name spoken by that enigmatic creature.

And, yes, in the morning, the shadows were gone.


Remembering those days long gone took effort if he wanted to place correct detail to them. Individual conversations echoed disjointedly, out of context. There were quite a few of them; not much to do except talk when trekking across foothills, and then brushing damp tree branches aside upon entering the forest. Not far now, not far now. Each sunset brought the mountain closer.

And every night, shadows that should have stayed stationary did not do so. If not for Rorek's endless snide commentary and the exhaustion brought on by hours of nonstop walking, Roxas was certain he would have been driven mad. On this point, he brooded and berated himself. If nightly fears could unnerve him so, how did he, Roxas, angsty bitch extraordinaire, hope to defeat a dragon—for extra emphasis, a dragon—and return home safely with Naminé? This issue had not occurred to him earlier and that also became a point of torment with him.

"Young prince, if you continue to worry your hair grey about this dragon, I will tongue-slap you. Your angsting is boring to watch."

"Giving yourself the name of the thing doesn't help with the whole 'not-thinking-about-it' thing."

"Call it confrontation. I never said not to think about it. I said stop chewing your lips raw over it… Crazier things may occur than your defeating the overgrown lizard."

But mostly, he remembered the happiness. Oh, shut up, it was true. Despite the fact that a fire-breathing monster was waiting for him, despite the endless walking and bland food that his enchanted sack provided, despite it all, this was the happiest he could remember being in his sixteen years. Roxas had to attribute the state partly to the fact that there existed no irritating cousins within several leagues' distance. (Although, he conceded, he could very well have been wrong on that point. Long lost cousins tended to turn up with an alarming frequency.) But even more privately, if that were possible, he acknowledged that the journey would have descended into mindnumbing monotony alone. If not for the lizard. It helped that Rorek often 'heard things' and knew all the scandalous material about various persons that Roxas did not.

Midgar apparently had just survived a revolution gone wrong when rebels banded together and began overthrowing the Shinra family, until, that is, they all had to join up and defeat an anarchical general who had decided to finally snap and throw a wrench into all the works.

Then there were the rumors of a leviathan running rampant in Spira. Reliable word said that various noble people had sacrificed their lives to defeat the beast, but it always managed to resurrect itself.

"Please tell me you're not going to suggest I fight this thing next."

"Of course not. If people decide they're fool enough to build cities miles out in the sea, then they deserve all the sea monsters they get. Leave that to some other royal brat in need of excitement. You have your share."

"Oh thanks. Why did you have to remind me?"

"Confrontation, like I said. It's good for the soul. Although rather taxing on the hair…and hygiene if you didn't bring any spare trousers."

They neared the mountains now, Rorek assured him. A day's walk at the very maximum, and then they would be scaling the winding, rocky road that some magician had set in place. At which, he also added dryly, he would look forward to Roxas's whiny complaints about the long walk. Roxas snorted, heart still dancing with glee, inexplicable glee.

A crucial question he had never thought to ask until now. "Rorek, why are you helping me?"

No voice came in his ear, but he felt the shifting of cloth and pressure on his shoulder which meant an answer was in the making. Still, it was several minutes before Rorek replied, with a shade less of sarcasm, and a tinge of uncertainty, "Same reason you set off on this quest, your highness. Boredom. Take it as a compliment that you interest me."

They had less than a league left to the mountain when they stopped for the night. Roxas made up the fire, they taunted each other gently, and then Roxas slept. When he woke, Rorek was a blackened, smoking impression in the ground.

There were no words for the pain and horror that clenched in his chest. His heart pounded, so tightly constricted that he felt it might explode from the pressure. And when he finally spoke, it was in a croak, hoarse in forlorn hope and dismay. "Rorek?"

There were no more words to be said.


Perhaps…perhaps it was the shock of that moment that rendered all the joyful memories vague and indistinct. Maybe to counterbalance the extreme negative emotion, they had to be reduced to their pure form.

"A day's walk at most…"

It took Roxas most of the day to lift his head from the ground. If someone had told him just last night that he would be absolutely shattered over the death of a small reptile, he would have laughed skeptically. Rorek had seemed immortal.

The evening passed, the sun rose again, and Roxas spent the day and most of the next staggering numbly to the foot of the mountain. He did not sleep that night, sat silently by the small fire, and watched the shifting shadows with knife drawn. He looked up and coldly regarded the rocky path ahead of him as it wound its way out of view.

The walk did, indeed, seem long, even though it couldn't have been nearly as lengthy as the journey he had just made from Twilight Kingdom. His home castle seemed a distant memory, and was it really only a little over a week since he had met…Something about a dragon, dragons in general. Something to do with fire, they could breathe fire, sure, everybody knew that, but something else. Fire magic. Dragons had their own magic. None of the trees around him had been burnt.

Racing, jumbled thoughts in his mind settled into cold resolve. He didn't know how exactly, but that dragon would die. Roxas would kill him. Then he and Naminé would return to Twilight Kingdom, deal with his parents, she would return to her home, and then…?

The path seemed endless and too short.


"Face me, foul beast, and meet thy doom," Roxas deadpanned. His voice echoed, he noted. The cave carved into the stone of the mountain was properly dark and Roxas really would prefer not to have to head inside. Somewhere, water dripped. Then, there was more silence.

"Face me—oh for Odin's sake." Roxas plopped down on a very conveniently placed and shaped boulder, and absently twirled his dagger. A habit that entertained and one that his parents had tried to break to no avail, but hardly something that was going to help him kill any sort of legendary monster. He rested his head on one fist and called, with just a tinge of irritation, or so he'd like to think, in his voice. "I don't bloody care if you want the proper challenge or not. Just get your ass out here so I can kill you and get back to my boring as Hades life. This could've been nothing personal, but you had to go and kill the only. Damn. Person. Lizard. Who I could talk to. But nooo, you had to go and sear him into a little black smear on the ground so now I'll just be going back to a boringass kingdom that I'll have to run and sit very straight on the throne and grow old and white-bearded—why the hell am I telling you all this? Get. Out. HERE."

A very anticlimactic silence fell and Roxas was about ready to storm in and start kicking to pieces whatever he found in there when something rumbled. He froze and lowered his eyes slowly from where they'd been staring at the overhang of rock above him. A glimmer of white caught his eye and he found himself feeling his way through the darkness. And then, this time not white, but red and orange, the colors of fire and he froze again. Dragons breathe fire, first lesson of mythology, and ooohhh shit.

"Are you just going to stand there or actually come in?"

He wasn't dead. Nor burning alive in a veritable engulfment of flames. But the glow of an inviting fireplace led him to stumble in. Funny how he could bathe in the warmth of the very thing that had killed…Roxas turned around very slowly.

Naminé smiled at him from the corner. She hugged her sketchbook against her chest. "Hello Roxas."

"Naminé?"

And a hooded figure standing before what he remembered as the cave he had just stumbled in from, but was now a complete, untouched wall. Black leather lowered, bright red hair sprung free from the fabric as it brushed past, eyes the color of envy fixed on him. "Long time no see, Roxas," the man drawled.

Roxas stared.

"No need for wife or land quite yet, little prince?"

Poisonous eyes.

Red hair.

Fire mage.

Fire magic.

Roxas's fingers clenched and slipped on the dagger. Cold sweat filled the grooves on the ornate hilt and stuck against his skin.

"Roxas?" Naminé sounded worried now. She began to stand, sketchbook clasped in her hand and falling to her side.

The smirk was fading on the man's face, rapidly being replaced with confusion.

A hard cold lump rose in Roxas's throat. "You." He couldn't tell anymore how much venom his voice held, how he even managed to spit the word out. A little shuffle of noise came from Naminé, but he wasn't looking at her. He was looking at widening green eyes with fire reflected in them.

His hand tightened around the dagger, metal digging its way into his skin. Spasmodically, his fingers straightened and the weapon fell to the ground with a clatter. Roxas fell to his knees and began to laugh.