~*Out of Memory, Out of Mind*~
Sentiments were doomed to wander lost until no one could recall their names. Nobodies and Heartless were alive in comparison. They were alive.
The Dark Meridian. The Dark Realm. The Tides of Oblivion. The Infinite Blackness. The Moonlit Sea.
Aqua had known that this place had many names, and when she was herself enough to remember, she always recalled sitting—curled up, naturally—in a chair within Master Eraqus's library, eagerly flipping through page after page, volume after volume, of pure literature.
Of course, much of this world was only theoretical in the books. It was so hard to get here and back out, but it seemed that there had been old folklore and legends about the shadow ocean and its sunlit counterpart that existed just opposite of it, in the Realm of Light.
Aqua had long lost track of the years. She knew it was far past one, but not quite four. Somewhere in-between there, perhaps. The blue-haired maiden had her legs drawn to her chest, resting her chin on her knees, arms wrapped loosely around her thin frame. Time hadn't moved, she hadn't changed a bit, ever since first falling into the Realm of Darkness.
It should have frightened her, but it didn't.
The Keybearer was far too valiant and strong of heart to ever give in to insanity. She felt it, dangerously close, but she stubbornly fought against its sucking embrace. It was a fight she simply would not lose. The moment she did, she'd lose all hope of finding Ventus's heart or Terra. So, the hours would tick by, but that would be all that would be lost. Time. And she wondered how much of it she had.
The silver sea roared up to the tips of her metal boots, brushing their edges gently before retreating with a tired whoosh, only to surge up once again. Aqua was right above the tide line, and therefore, safe from the ocean. She wondered what kind of creatures were in there. She didn't have to eat, or drink, or even sleep—she could, but there was no urge to. It had been strange at one point, but no longer.
The Dark Meridian's horrible, relentless monotony--from the black starless sky to the moon shining down on the water--was definitely the worst part of her stay. Aqua didn't even mind the loneliness so much as she did the terrible unchanging, time-lost feel that the realm generated as its natural atmosphere. The deep gray sand and its accompanying shadowy, glowing, blue lichen covered boulders dotted the shore at random intervals, their sizes varying.
Aqua was about to slip into unconsciousness, since sleep at least freed her from her thoughts and she could submerge herself in warm dreams, but then she heard the most impossible sound.
Someone had inhaled sharply. And it hadn't been her.
The girl opened one eye, lifting her head and staring with a sort of disinterested, zombie expression at the person in front of her. A muscled, lean form was only ten paces away, a quick leap if she—or he—wanted to bring their weapon out and slice the other down the middle. Aqua was very tempted to do so.
Her eyes traced his eerily organic looking suit, examined the red and black material, took in every aspect of the boy-Unversed that should have been dead.
Aqua rose, slowly, her sense of self not quite establishing itself yet, so out of it was she. "Why…are you here?" Her voice surprisingly didn't crack, though it was a little faint from disuse.
Vanitas, for of course it was he, reached up and slowly removed his helmet. When his wild mane of black hair and yellow eyes appeared, staring down at her, Aqua was hit with a barrage of grotesque memories from her last encounter with the monster. She recoiled in reaction to his face.
She tensed; waiting for a snarl from him that would signal the beginning of his attack. She waited for some kind of lurch, some twist of his pale face that would give away his intentions.
Aqua let her breath out in one tired whoosh, lowering the Keyblade she hadn't even realized she had summoned. Master Eraqus's skeleton-key styled weapon…a fresh wave of sadness washed over her, like the ocean, and she almost felt as if she was drowning in her sorrow. She had still failed…that was why she had almost let those huge shadow creatures take her when she had first arrived in The Dark Meridian.
Vanitas just…stared. He didn't blink, didn't smile, didn't gloat or laugh or speak in cryptic threats. His golden eyes just looked at her, unmoving, unwavering, as if he was trying to silently convey a message.
"I'm insane," the girl declared, sitting down with a soft bump in the sand. She had just noticed something very important.
The boy-Unversed was transparent. He didn't glow or anything, he just had the creepy appearance of a watching specter.
"You're here to haunt me? Go ahead. Doing me a favor." Aqua sighed and rubbed at her forehead, fingers kneading the skin in a vain attempt to reduce the headache she felt pounding at her temple. It wasn't magic, which was all she knew. As a magic-caster, she could recognize any strain of magic, feel it in the very air. There was no sorcery here.
There was a pause, a long one. Several hours could have gone by. Even though, at first, she had been only putting on the illusion of ignoring him, she really did get to the point when she honestly forgot he was there, though Vanitas never did leave her mind for long. She clenched her fists, wondering if she should just strike him down now, even if it was only for her peace of mind whilst she slept.
"I thought you'd ask by now."
Aqua started, leaping to her feet and summoning her Keyblade in a gleam of ivory light. She glared at Vanitas, staring though his body—was he more transparent now?—and waited for whatever else he would surely do.
He cocked his head to the side, his helmet dropping from his hands to land in the sand without disturbing a single black grain. His yellow eyes moved with their usual reptilian sharpness, outlining her figure once. Something was…missing.
He's not…cocky. There was no arrogance in the tilt of his head, the set of his mouth…even his steady gaze was without any of his regular emotion. Vanitas's stance was relaxed, as it had been since he had first shown up, contemplative.
But, he was capable of speech. He had just addressed her, hadn't he? Yet, wasn't his voice more…haughty and mocking?
Silently, Aqua looked into his eyes. Beyond them, she saw the sea moving behind his silhouette.
"Your spirit is almost broken. If I knew it only took darkness and the ocean to drive you to the border of insanity, I would have sent you here." Ah hah, so he did talk. His voice was strangely distant, but his mouth formed the words, so obviously Vanitas just hadn't felt the need to speak to her.
"It's not the location. It's just what happened to my friends. Which, I don't need to remind you, is your fault." Aqua glowered at him, clenching her teeth, trying to shake herself back into reality. Her mind was reluctant to leave the sheltered stupor that had been her mental state for the last year or so.
Vanitas tilted his head, still oddly relaxed, the barest hint of a smirk on his thin lips. His shaded tawny eyes bore into hers with a ferocity that she returned tenfold. "I didn't imagine…you would actually…" Talking seemed to take him an effort. He dragged the words out with a tired grimace. "Turn up here. This is where dark beings go. You burn with the light."
"Why are you here? Aren't you…didn't you fade?" Aqua pointed her Keyblade straight at him, and he moved his attention to its tip. He didn't look bothered at all, and for the first time, he blinked. Once. Very, very slowly.
Taking a measured, deep, breath Vanitas exhaled. "Ventus…defeated me…"
An exultant smile turned up the Keyblade Master's lips.
Aqua almost felt pity for the poor specter, his form slouching over slightly. But she reminded herself who she was talking to, and didn't offer him a hand as he swayed on his feet.
With a shrug of his shoulders, Vanitas straightened up and said so faintly that Aqua barely heard, "I'm a Sentiment. Or so it would seem. Beings doomed to wander the earth, their emotions tied to the landscape, but I cannot understand…"
She waited, her arm falling to her side again, and with it her Keyblade, curious despite herself.
"My Lingering Sentiment would be anger…or hatred…but I feel nothing. I don't know what emotion of mine is staying, and why I wandered to you. I've been here for a while…"
Aqua thought about it, hesitant, cautious of a trick or trap. "No, obviously not anger or hatred." A thought occurred to her, but it was somewhat improbable. Despite herself, she found it worth mentioning, after a few heartbeats of debate. "Are you guilty? Was there something inside of you that was even the littlest bit sorry?"
"Pure…Darkness." Vanitas muttered, sitting down beside his helmet. The waves rushed up suddenly, as if intent on claiming him unawares. The substance passed right through him.
"…Maybe, not all Darkness is evil." Aqua replied slowly. After everything she had gone through, it was hard to believe that she could even think that about the force that had stolen Terra from her, and Ven. But she had had plenty of time to think over her past, plenty of time to look under every rock and think about what was so dangerous about the shadows underneath. She had come to the conclusion that it was the monsters that hid in the black, not the black itself.
"If that's the case," scoffed the boy-Unversed with a touch more energy than earlier. "It's a very weak emotion. Lingering Sentiments can cause physical and psychological damage, if they are strong enough. I cannot even hurt you."
Aqua slowly sat down across from him, not dismissing her Keyblade. Vanitas made no move to summon his own, if he even could. She pondered over his words. Maybe his own pity was just weak. "But, it's still there."
He dipped his head, touching his helmet and turning it over and over in his gloved hands, yellow eyes unreadable. "What are you waiting for?"
"A miracle," she sighed heavily, tilting her neck so she could see the moon. The only light in the Dark Meridian came from its ever present glow.
"Has it not occurred to you, to use Darkness to escape this world? It brought you here. It can take you out." Vanitas suggested, not lifting his gaze.
"Never. I couldn't, anyway." Aqua leaned back on her hands, and she began to think he was telling the truth. He was so see-through, so ghostly, that it seemed a gust of wind would hurl his visage away. Vanitas could not harm her. Physically.
"Why not?" His tone carried a hint of bitterness.
"It…hurts. Darkness is cold."
"The Light hurts…it sears."
Aqua couldn't imagine the Light actually hurting her. She shrugged, exhaling loudly. Another question emerged from her heart, and she let it balance on the tip of her tongue before letting it drop. "What are you waiting for?" She asked softly.
Vanitas stopped rotating his helmet, and his eyes slowly drifted closed. "To be forgotten."
Once more, the ghost of a smirk appeared on his pale young face, but it was only a shadow compared to the real thing. "Perhaps, if no one remembered me, I would finally escape this world. If I am truly a Sentiment of Guilt, if I know you are well, maybe then…I will disappear. It conflicts with what I know to be the truth, and yet…"
Aqua privately thought that it really messed up his normal speaking pattern. Or maybe, if he wasn't so cocky all the time, he would be more amiable as a…friend. But she would not accept the Unversed as a friend. She would not.
"Is that what you want? Do you want me to forget about you?"
"…I want you to find your friends. Then I want you to forget about me."
She looked at the boy, his eyes opened again to the world as only golden slits, and this time, he was staring right back. She couldn't believe that this was the same troublemaker that had possessed Ven and worked for Xehanort as his apprentice.
Aqua couldn't believe it at all.
And yet she did.
"Will you wait with me?" She inquired suddenly.
Vanitas simply blinked.
"Until someone else comes along, will you wait with me?"
"…I will. On one condition. You must forget me once you leave here. I never existed."
Aqua didn't want to forget the only part of Vanitas, no matter how small, that was good. She frowned, unhappy with his requirement.
"If you think I will be unhappy down here, you will be too. I can't feel…sadness." Vanitas looked slightly regretful. "I doubt I ever could."
"Okay," she agreed reluctantly. "And…" She let herself force the words from her throat, words she thought she'd never say. "Thank you, Vanitas." His name was foreign and peculiar on her tongue, though not unpleasant for once.
For the first time, he smiled. A real one, that made her forget for a second that he was a Lingering Sentiment of Guilt. Or perhaps Pity. He said nothing else.
Aqua closed her eyes and let herself drift away in the sea of her memories, re-examining each one, replaying her favorites like movie clips. She let herself forget the boy beside her, acted as if he wasn't there.
Because, maybe when she next opened her eyes, he wouldn't.
This super random one-shot was inspired by my insane love for Vanitas. Hehe. Don't ask why I like portraying him as a good guy, I just do, impossible as it is.
Want to drop a review? I know Vanitas is horribly OOC but that's sort of the point, don't you think?