Set during: Sinister Sundown (Chapter 19)
Summary: Roxas makes a deal with someone who feels remarkably familiar to him.
A pair of clunky black shoes clunked across the stained glass ground, and a large Keyblade dragged behind them. The world had been gradually forming around him as he paced back and forth. Ever since that first sight of...
He didn't... loathe him, per say. Sora was hardly loathable. No, he just mostly found him in contempt. The guy, whether he had intended to or not, had stolen his livelihood. He hadn't noticed it, when it was first offered to him... Heck, he'd felt even a little Messiah-ish, sacrificing himself for a greater good that he didn't quite understand yet. But now... now he knew what he was doing.
He'd heard voices, in the early hours. Familiar ones. His best friends.
He'd called out, with tears streaming down his face, only to fail to be answered. He had screamed at them.
The memories, afterwards, had slowly drained back. The noises of the outside floated, turned into words that he soon realised he didn't understand the meaning of, and so ceased to really become anything useful. The hate, meanwhile, had soon flooded him.
All these people... he could've met them himself. He could've had a journey of his own. Why was it Sora who got to play?
Why was it this little kid of a teenager got to be the one?
He threw the blade down onto the ground and sat, legs hanging over the side of the station. He stared down at them and the black fabric that currently covered them.
Inside here, the Organisation coat had sort of... grown over him. At first, he'd been scared, but then he'd realised — it just came with the memories of being there, part of them. It'd crawled up his legs and around his body and then the hood had covered his head, and he was completely shielded in a time of pain and abuse.
Lost friendship too. He missed Axel. Even though the last thing he'd done was kill him. And the last thing he'd said in his right mind was that he didn't care. But that was just because Nobodies couldn't care. And that's what they both were... right?
It felt like a big lie.
And then, for the first time, Roxas heard something in this place: another's footsteps.
He lept to his feet, both of his blades appearing in his grasp this time, and charged down the centre, getting away from the quite frankly dangerous edge. There was something green in the middle, something armoured and green and something he somehow hated the look of-
He shot right through it and stopped just before he stumbled.
"Whoops! Sorry," a voice he vaguely recognised from outside responded. "Didn't quite see me there, didja?"
He turned again, and glared. There was a boy about his age standing there, decked out in a full set of plate armour. A pair of piercing green eyes were set in his pale face.
The stranger waved a hand smoothly. "Hi there."
Roxas adjusted his grip.
"You know, this is somewhat exciting," he rambled on. "I'm not all of him, but still. The joy of meeting a fictional character in the flesh and blood! Well, whatever passes for flesh and blood in here, anyway. And, don't mind me but, I'm not currently in it."
Roxas weighed the Oathkeeper in his hands, considering how easy it would be to throw.
"You see, I can't take form inside somebody else's heart all cleanly," he explained. "This is just a projection."
"Who are you!?" Roxas yelled.
The stranger took a bow. "My name is Joumae," he replied. "And I have a deal for you."
Roxas raised an eyebrow, but didn't untense his arms. "Go on."
The mysterious Joumae smirked broadly. "I can get you in contact with Sora. Maybe even for a fight. I have just two provisions for you." He held up his hand again, and the index finger first. "One, you have to let me wake you up." Then the middle finger. "And two, you have to fight somebody else too. My complete self."
There was something about Joumae that not only felt off, but familiar. It wasn't just the armour suit, which hit Roxas in more of a conceptual fashion rather than literally, but the guy... he reeked of darkness.
There was something oddly familiar about the concept of a man in armour who reeked of darkness.
But that wasn't quite the thing that he'd prefer to concentrate on at this moment. "Wake me up?" he echoed.
"Well, right now, you're not awake," Joumae replied.
The thoughts and possibilities hit him like a potato sack to the face. He wasn't awake? Was this dreaming, then? Was this whole situation not real? He used to have dreams, in Twilight Town, of Sora, garbled dreams that made no sense — was he in another of these? It had to be. The digital world, the pod, the Nobodies, even all of the memories currently attacking and consuming him. They had to be dreams. They had to be.
"...I can see that right now I'm gonna have to let you down," the green-eyed man said, glancing him over. "You're still inside Sora."
Roxas attacked the floor in rage. Joumae rubbed his forehead. "That's not the whole story. You see, you are stuck inside Sora, but you're stuck deeper down than you should be. You should be just as mobile as I am, just as conscious of the outside world. But yet, here you are, just hiding in the dark. That's not right. Do you even have access to Sora's data? Sora's memories? You're part of him, but you're closed off.
"That's where I can come in, luckily. You see..." He started to approach Roxas. "I have the key to getting you out of here. It's pretty simple - all I have to do... is work with your connections."
The blond was becoming understandably testy right now. "...Connections?"
"Right, right..." Joumae set his hand by his side for once. "Everybody forms connections. I'd say 'friends', but that'd require a heart, and we're — heh-" He tapped the chestplate of his armour. "-we're both kinda lacking our own."
"...Axel and I were friends," Roxas muttered, turning away and walking off to the edge of the platform again.
"Right, right, I know that. I know everything about that." Joumae coughed. "That's related to this whole thing, you know. Axel. He was a pretty damn important connection. Alex and I know that, of course."
"Alex...?" Roxas glanced back.
Joumae reached up to his helmet. "My complete self. He kinda looks like this-" He took it off, revealing a spiky mess of green hair, "-but less green. Kinda ironic - I'm a Master, but he's a total greenhorn. Kid should be easy to take down. I'll be joining you in this endeavour of course, but-"
"You ask a lot of questions, you know that?" replied the projection, and Roxas rolled his eyes. Of course he was asking questions. This guy was the one with all the apparent answers. "Look, you're not gonna be able to drag him inside this heart or anything on your own. You'd only be strong enough to pull Sora in at best. Alex is a whole different heart — I'm from it, and you're gonna need me to pull him in."
Roxas crossed his arms, and considered what he was seeing and hearing. This strange boy with the ability to project himself inside here, had jumped in here, told him he was dreaming, and wanted him to come out and fight Sora, with the caveat that he'd have to fight somebody else who he was being assured was not in any way powerful. And all he had to do was wake him up from the dream.
This fight was tempting. This person was not. The darkness was so bad he could almost taste it, and somebody like that would have to have some kind of ulterior motive for this. How was he really benefitting from this? Sure, he wanted a fight with this complete self of his, but it sounded like he was strong enough to pull that off any time.
What did he really want?
"...I accept," he said calmly. Being a Nobody had its perks, such as being able to drop all of your emotions. Or at least knowing how to sound like that.
Joumae clapped. "Excellent! Now all I have to do is wake you up, right?"
Roxas gestured to him. "It's your plan," he answered simply. "If you don't wanna go through with it, then don't come here making deals in the first place."
"Don't worry, this'll be easy," Joumae replied. "You already just told me about one of your most important connections, didn't you? Axel, Flurry of Dancing Flames. Outside right now, Alex and Sora should be talking to a girl named Kairi. Alex just saved her from being kidnapped by Axel."
The Oblivion's wrought metal tooth found itself at Joumae's throat. "Axel!?" screamed the thirteenth, pushing the stranger backwards via the stomach with the Oathkeeper. "Axel is dead!"
Joumae blinked, and roughly pushed the Oblivion aside with an open palm, before breaking into a laugh. "You honestly thought you were powerful enough to kill that guy? Kid, you're amazing!" he cackled. "Of course Axel's not dead! He bailed on the fight! Far as I can tell, you basically broke him!"
Roxas dropped the Keyblades, staring down at Joumae's feet.
"But yeah, you know what? Axel is alive. Axel just tried to kidnap a girl. Alex saved her. After, you know, the two of them had a bit of a talk." Some green hair was brushed away from his face by a pair of spindly pink fingers. "Axel's helping Sora. If only you could get out..." Joumae shrugged. "Then he'd be helping you instead, wouldn't he...?"
Roxas closed his eyes. There was something awful boiling inside of him. Crawling up him. Like the Organisation coat, but... somehow much, much worse. This wasn't guilt and pain... this was like fire, blazing out of control, threatening to burn him up.
"...Was that not enough?" Joumae mused, stroking his chin. "Why don't we continue with this, then-"
"This Alex... he's helping Sora too."
Joumae looked away. "Yeah... Sora's opening the door. Alex has gotta lead the way to it. Something like that. I dunno, something I'm fishing out of our shared memories."
"But..." For a second, the fire stopped. Roxas opened his eyes and stared straight at Joumae. "There are a lot of people helping Sora."
"So why is it him I've got to fight?"
Another eerie laugh that crawled up the back of Roxas' neck and made his hair stand further on end. "Okay, let's face it..." Joumae said in a low voice, "I... really have to play with him. There's some instinct in me that makes me want to hurt him... I welcome it. If I'm the darkest part of this kid, which — by the way this world works — means I'm the worst part of him, then I know full well the sorts of things he thinks when he thinks nobody is around to hear. I am those things."
'The darkest part'... that explained why he stank to high hell of the stuff.
"But, of course, that isn't your fetish," he continued, "so why don't I get to the good stuff? You know how those kids in Twilight Town were seeing Sora off?"
He remembered. It was impossible to forget.
"I think there's a section of Alex's memories that you really want to see." He held up what looked like a glowing bubble. It reminded Roxas a little bit of magic. "Take a look."
There were a few seconds of silence, and then Roxas reached out and grabbed it.
All of a sudden, his mind filled with images, noises, smells, feelings... eating ice cream on the tower with people his age, sharing photographs, running errands for munny, competing in the Struggle tournament, holding a blue orb to the sunset...
Memories almost exactly like the ones he'd made in the Simulated Twilight Town...!
"That fake life you lived? Alex really lived it. He did nearly everything you did. And those friends of yours? Were really his."
The fire raged again, climbing up his throat and nearly forcing him over.
He clutched at himself, as more visuals washed over him. He saw... people... Donald and Goofy... a girl with red hair - Kairi - and across from him...
"Rise and shine, Roxas..."