So, this fic needs some explanation. A few of you know about the Kingdom Hearts Kink Meme, right? I watch it for interesting stuff and found a prompt that immediately tickled my bunnies. The prompt:
"riku/roxas (or roxas/riku, either way would be great)
stockholm syndrome, please? and stalking, if you can work it in"
Thus this was born. There are spoilers for Days, so read at your own risk, but none that I'm aware of for Birth by Sleep. This is also a crossover with Tales of the Abyss because I like the silenia flowers and they play an important role in this story.
Warnings: Um... does mind rape count? Only it's sort of mild and stuff.
Pairings: Riku/Roxas, implied Roxas/Axel and Riku/Sora
I don't own Kingdom Hearts or Tales of the Abyss. Be nice to me, Square-Enix and Bandai Namco! I want to work for you guys some day.
That's the first thing that registered in Roxas' senses when he began to surface from a strangely heavy sleep. For him, a creature of the light, the lack of his element was as jarring as the thing that had sent him to unconsciousness in the first place. He took a few breaths to steady himself, trying to think back, to remember what had plunged him into the horrible emptiness that was his current predicament, but no matter how he tried he couldn't think of it. He last remembered being in Twilight Town after... and he couldn't really remember after what, but he remembered crying. And then he was sitting on the station top being sad and miserable, and then…
He flailed around in the dark mentally, aching for just the briefest touch of light, but there was none. He remembered someone saying that no matter how deep the darkness there would always be light. Where was the light for him now?
He'd started to breathe harder, a panic attack just around the wings, but he forced himself to take deep, slow breaths. After a moment, where he was sure he wouldn't lose control of the emotions he wasn't supposed to have, he steeled himself and opened his eyes.
He wasn't really surprised that he couldn't see. Without light there couldn't be sight, although a darkness elemental would probably be right at home, he mused. Setting that thought aside, he turned his attention to trying to figure out where exactly he was and what sort of condition he was in.
He moved his hands and legs experimentally, twitching his fingers to be sure they still worked. There was no pain and he wasn't bound, though his fingers traced across threadbare cloth. There was a soft blanket covering him and he ran the material through his fingers, exploring the strange material. It didn't feel like anything he'd seen before, though he'd be the first to admit that his experience was limited.
He shook his head to get the distractions away and became aware of the headache threatening to split his skull in two. Hands gripping his head he gritted his teeth and tried to banish the pain by sheer force of will. No matter how his skull was trying to fall apart, however, it still wasn't as horrible as that sense of emptiness. He felt like he'd been lost on Agrabah without water, though the water for him was light.
He stayed where he was, waiting for the pain in his head to subside, staring out into blank darkness, wondering once again how he'd gotten there. After a moment he dared to sit up, the pain flaring up again before returning to its previous levels, and began feeling around in the black for some kind of identifying marking. Every world he'd been to had been different, the clothes and the atmosphere and other little things that he wouldn't have noticed at first. As he'd gone on missions and been to each world more and more often, though, he'd gotten acquainted with the oddities of the various worlds.
The first thing he explored was the bed. It was thin, a sheet covering the thing that didn't seem to be more than cotton and skin, with the odd blanket on top of it. It was as he was lifting up the mattress to feel around under it that he noticed the lack of something else and he felt his own clothes. He wasn't wearing his Organization coat anymore, instead a jacket with soft material at the top and more rugged stuff for the main part. The zipper was right at his throat, at least he hoped it was the zipper. It was large and metal and automatically he tugged it down a few inches, uncomfortable with something that could be a potential weapon at such a vulnerable sopt. The pants were tough, denim he decided after rubbing the material between his hands for a moment, and he was barefoot. He wasn't exactly sure about how comfortable he was with the idea that someone had undressed him but given that he hadn't had a choice he put his mind on other matters entirely.
The mattress was pretty much the only furnishing in the small room. He fumbled around in the dark and traced peeling walls, a light switch that did nothing, and a door into a room that he finally identified as the bathroom. There was another door, too, but it was locked. After a small moment where he thought he'd kill himself tripping over what he identified after a few moments as shoes he flopped down on the bed, wondering to himself what to do now. With no light he wasn't sure he could summon the Keyblade. His sense of it was so weak inside him, he didn't want to do something that could cause that small comfort to leave.
Trapped in the dark with no way to escape, Roxas began to despair.
He didn't know how long it'd been. He had slept after it felt like it'd been long enough, his headache fading when he awoke, but all he could do was sit in the dark and remember.
He remembered meeting Axel that first time, being called a zombie and going to eat ice cream after learning to hunt for Organization-relevant treasure. He hadn't been much of a partner on that hunt, operating on a week's worth of memories and pure fighting instinct, but there had been something Axel had liked about him. To this day he didn't know what it was but it was a comfort to think of his best friend. He imagined that Axel was tearing apart the worlds to look for him, hoped that the redhead would find him.
The worst part of sitting in the dark wasn't the boredom or the waiting. It was the dark part. He couldn't know how long he'd been sitting there, not without even the rise and fall of the sun to let him know the hours that had passed. He just slept when he felt tired, waking to an anonymous meal that mysteriously appeared while he slept. It smelled like chicken soup, he thought as he sipped the warm but not scalding broth. That and a hunk of bread was what he lived on, but the aching hunger wasn't nearly as bad as feeling like he was suffocating in the dark.
He'd slept eight times before something changed. When he woke his senses immediately latched onto a frail sense of light. After so long in the dark he immediately shot upright, gaze landing on a blue flower glowing into the dark abyss that was his prison. It wasn't much light but it was like a breath of fresh air and he hurried towards it, cupping the fragile blossom with gentle hands and letting his skin soak in the blue glow. He breathed a sigh, burying his face into the flower and inhaling the scent deeply. After a moment he reluctantly set the flower aside and took his usual meal.
With the flower as the only light in the room he was able to explore more thoroughly. The peeling walls he could now see were a muddled blue-green, though he chalked the blue up to the flower he was holding, the soft blanket on his bed was probably red, and the floor was a nondescript probably-grey. The bathroom, with its shower that he had learned to use in the dark and the toilet it took him forever to learn to aim into without looking, was a plain white with a butterfly-covered curtain protecting the floor from wayward water.
Once he'd confirmed that there was indeed no way out he settled onto the bed, flower still cupped in his palm, and soaked in all the light he could. It was far too soon, though probably many hours later, when the flower dimmed, his soul crying out for more light even as the room was plunged into darkness. The emptiness returned in full force, though he clutched the blossom to his chest regardless of the petals that scattered around him.
He fell into a fitful sleep, aching and empty.
The next time he awoke was to another blossom. This one he put in the soup bowl after he'd drained it, the cut end of the stem soaking in water. It lasted a bit longer, he thought, even with him treating the frail blue light as most would a campfire, huddled over it with his hands bare inches from the fragile petals. The light was pitiful compared to what he was used to drawing on, but it was so much better than the emptiness that otherwise pervaded his existence.
When this one died he couldn't help shedding angry, helpless tears.
The next one was two sleeps later, the day between an unbearable pit of dark. Roxas spent it curled up in a ball on the bed, aching and cold and wondering, once again, where Axel was. He'd lost track of how long he'd been in the black, but certainly Axel should have found him by now. He couldn't help the anger at his friend, his best friend who wasn't here to help him. For the first time since he'd left the Organization he felt truly alone.
He cried when he woke up to the blue flower, trembling fingers cupping the fragile light.
Thus he fell into a routine, such as it was. He'd wake up to a blue flower more often than not and spend his days curls up around it, soaking up the frail light to soothe his slowly unraveling soul. The days he didn't have a blossom he spent wrapped in his sinfully soft blanket, shivering and feeling like he was dying. He could feel his muscles softening, the lack of activity turning him from a combat-ready warrior to… he didn't know what. But it grew to the point where his sole reason for waking was that touch of light.
One day he awoke to two blossoms. His usual one was on the tray, where it always was. The second was held in the hands of a boy clothed in black, silver hair cascading around his shoulders and a black blindfold hiding his eyes. Roxas barely controlled his customary lunge towards the only thing keeping him sane, instead glaring at the one he knew was keeping him captive.
"You're the imposter, aren't you?" he asked, voice cracking from disuse. "The one running around in the Organization coat."
"Have you liked the flowers?" the boy asked, twirling the blossom in his fingers. Roxas felt the ebb and flow of light and couldn't help the hand that reached for it. The other smirked, evidently seeing the motion despite his obvious handicap.
The Keyblade master snatched his hand back as if burned. "What do you want from me?" he demanded, voice closer to normal this time.
"I want you," the boy answered. "Just you, as you are now." He held the flower out, patiently waiting until Roxas couldn't stand it and snatched the light from his hand, cradling it to his chest and soaking in every drop. The boy grinned at his reaction.
"You've behaved, so you get a reward," Roxas' captor continued, gesturing to the tray. "Keep it up and this could be a regular occurrence."
The blonde couldn't help his greedy stare, fingers twitching, aching to feast on his element.
"Now come here."
Roxas almost refused. He was still a Keyblade Master, he still had his pride, even if he thought he was wasting away. But the other saw his action and reached for the flower, roughly gripping the fragile petals, and the imminent loss of the light hurt so much that he scrambled out of bed. He stood in front of the nameless boy, finding himself to be shorter than the other, hands clenched to keep himself from grabbing for the flower he yearned for more than anything.
The silver-haired boy smirked again, reaching to trace his face with cool fingers. "Good." The flower was placed in the collar of Roxas' white jacket, the light pulsating at his throat almost painfully. "I'll see you soon."
And Roxas, who had only just made one routine, fell into another. The blue flower now was held by the silver-haired imposter when he awoke, the tray on the floor ready for him. Roxas, the first few days, tried to ignore the boy and went into the other room, even if it took him from the light. However, the boy would always take the flower with him when he left, leaving Roxas empty and cold and bitter.
He couldn't stand it, the fourth day. Not that he could tell if "day" was the right unit of time. He awoke to the now-customary touch of light on his frazzled senses and, still in the haze between wake and sleep, he tried to pounce on it and wrestle it away. Weakened as he was he was easily repelled, coming to full wakefulness when he hit the wall.
The silver-haired boy tsked and gathered up both tray and flower, vanishing through the door as if he'd never been. Roxas sat against the wall, cold inside and aching with hunger, and thought he was going to die.
There was no flower waiting for him next day, or the day after that. The only food that greeted him was hard and stale, nothing to soften it save the water he drew from the tap. He tried to be strong, to brace himself against the emptiness clawing at his soul and show his mysterious captor that he wouldn't break.
He thought he lasted for weeks. It certainly felt like it. The days blurred together, punctuated by the showers he had to drag himself out of bed to take and the hard food he was given to eat. He stopped waiting for Axel to come, giving into the despair that crawled at the edges of his sanity. If his best friend couldn't even find him, he thought, curled up in the corner in the dark, who would bother to look for him?
After a while he gave up. The darkness was too oppressive, drowning the smallest hope he tried to make himself feel. One day he woke up and didn't move from the bed. Hunger gnawed at him, his insides roiling painfully, but he didn't get up. There wasn't any point, he thought, pressing his face into his thin pillow and pulling the blanket over his head. There was no light, no hope, and all there was left for him to do was lie there and pray that maybe he'd find Sora after he died.
Sick to his stomach he fell back into a fitful sleep.
He might have been dreaming. He never remembered his dreams, only ever waking up with a lingering impression of salt on his lips or feeling as if he'd spent all day in the sun. Maybe if he remembered those light-soaked dreams he wouldn't be so depressed right now. All he knew was that he woke up disoriented, strong arms wrapped around him protectively and tears streaming down his cheeks. A voice was murmuring in his ear, telling him not to worry, but just waking from sleep he couldn't identify the speaker. It felt nice, though, and for a moment he shamelessly indulged in the most comfort he'd felt since the ordeal began, burying his face into the anonymous shoulder with a sigh.
They sat in silence for a long time, Roxas not wanting to do anything to disturb the peace. A hand was stroking his hair, tracing his damp cheeks, but the keyblade master couldn't bring himself to protest. If he said anything the other would move and he'd be alone again, drowning in the dark.
His stomach growling finally broke them apart. The anonymous other let him go and stood, Roxas listening intently as he crossed the room to where the door was. He didn't hear the door open or close but he was sure that he was alone now. Sinking back onto the bed, he gathered his blanket around him and prepared to wait out another day.
He was surprised, then, when he smelled something meaty and rich and delicious wafting towards him without warning. He sat upright and sniffed, inhaling the wonderful scent, his stomach turning over on itself in want. He didn't want to move, though, didn't want to get up and make himself hope again.
Footsteps startled him, softly stepping over to the mattress and bringing the mouth-watering smell with them. He turned his head automatically, trying to see futilely into the black, as clothes rustled and a familiar tray thunked to the ground.
"Eat," the faceless visitor commanded softly, and then the smell was right under Roxas' nose. He could feel the warmth from utensil in front of lips and he had to swallow, hard. But he didn't take the proffered gift, for now he knew who it was that was being so kind to him.
"Leave me alone," Roxas begged, turning from the Organization imposter and wrapping his blanket around him. "If you're not going to let me go then just let me die."
A gentle hand gripped his shoulder, warm and solid and Roxas at once wanted the other to leave and never let go. He didn't resist the force that turned him back around, distracted by the conflicting emotions swirling around inside him. He wanted to hate the person in front of him, hate him and kill him until there was nothing left but ash, but even as he'd been keeping Roxas prisoner he'd been kind. The flowers, the food, what he was doing now, all that warred with the keyblade master's visions of a cruel captor and it left him at a loss for what he should be doing. Should he fight against the other boy until he lost his mind, drowned in the darkness, or should he take what he offered, give in?
"You can't die," the boy said, voice still quiet and kind, even as he pressed the same spoonful of food to Roxas' lips without any real force behind it. A bit of it trickled down, following the curve of this lip until it reached the corner of his mouth, and automatically his tongue darted out, cleaning the wayward bit away. Flavor exploded on his tongue, beef stew unlike anything he'd ever tasted before, and it was so good that he moaned, a quiet sound that stayed deep in his throat.
Still he stayed strong, turning his head away. Voice shaking he asked, "Why? What do you want from me?"
"I want you," the boy said, the same answer he'd given before. "So please, eat."
Roxas shook his head, knowing that despite the dark the other would see him. "I can't keep doing this," he said, voice breaking halfway through as a sob tried to break through. "It's too much, I'm drowning, there's no light. I thought there was light anywhere but there's not, there never is, and I can't take it. I need the light, I need it, I'll die without it." Tears were streaming down his face as he voiced the emptiness in his soul, and at the end he buried his face in his knees, ashamed and not wanting the other to see.
The spoon dropped into the bowl with a wet thud. "I'll be right back," the boy promised.
Roxas didn't move, listening to the footsteps wandering away from him, and had to clench his teeth to keep from calling after the other. He didn't want his company, he told himself fiercely. He just wanted to be left in peace to fade away, even if his stomach was twisting itself in knots and promising him it and he would never again be friends if he didn't take the food sitting bare feet away from him.
It couldn't have been very long before the boy returned, hands full of the familiar blue flowers. The stew still smelled sinfully good as Roxas watched, torn between hate and joy, while the boy placed blossoms in every crack he could find. For the first time since his imprisonment the room was lit in its entirety and the sheer amount of light was a shock to his deprived system. It was a good shock, however, and Roxas closed his eyes and enjoyed the light.
After a moment he felt, once again, the spoon at his lips and this time he didn't resist, opening his mouth and accepting the food. It was so good that he chewed slowly, savoring the flavor, his stomach louder in its demands for the wonderful in his mouth to get down there. He obliged it, finally opening his eyes to regard the silver-haired boy. "They're going to die," he said, pointing to the closest flower.
"I'll bring more," the boy promised. "Just please, keep eating." He held up the bowl, Roxas staring at it for a moment before resignedly taking it and beginning to eat. He had to force himself not to inhale the stew, but it was easily the best thing he'd ever eaten and it was gone far too soon.
They sat there for a moment, Roxas gnawing his lip and feeling confused, but finally he asked, "Who are you, anyway?"
The boy might have smiled, but it was a pained thing and gone in an instant. "You don't know?"
Roxas shook his head.
"I'm Riku," the boy introduced.
The name was familiar but it was from the memories that were and weren't his. After trying to puzzle over that for a moment he dismissed it, instead asking, "So what now?"
"I have things to do," Riku replied, "but I'll be back."
Roxas was torn, not wanting Riku to go but at the same time knowing that it was Riku who was keeping him prisoner here. "Do what you want," he muttered, flopping onto the bed and curling up towards the wall. He heard Riku stand, preparing to be left alone and thus shocked when fingers brushed through his fringe, tucking it back behind an ear tenderly. It caused a funny feeling in his now-full stomach, one that he didn't dare explore.
"Sleep well," Riku whispered.
The next day Riku was there when Roxas awoke, his tray bearing a breakfast of steamed vegetables and grilled fish. A bouquet of the blue flowers was in an actual vase full of water on the floor by Roxas' head and he took a moment to enjoy their mild scent and bask in their light before turning to Riku.
"Thanks," he said reluctantly, knowing that it was the polite thing to say but not wanting to say it regardless.
Riku stayed until Roxas finished all of the food and had gone to take a much-needed shower. The blonde-haired teen was touched at Riku's concern, beginning to wonder if he was such a bad guy after all.
Riku wasn't there every day when Roxas woke up. Food was there, however, delicious food from a variety of worlds and a full bouquet of the blue flowers. In the vase they lasted nearly a full day and, despite his circumstances, he found them relaxing.
When Riku was there he usually sat and watched Roxas eat. Sometimes he would, as that day, wake up cradling him gently in bed, but most of the time he was content with just watching him. Not many words were exchanged between them so there really wasn't any reason Roxas could find to justify his sudden… fondness for his captor.
In the shower sometimes he thought it over, wondering why he was finding it harder and harder to hate the silver-haired boy. He would stand there until the hot water was gone and he was shivering and shriveled in the chill, trying to remind himself that he was a captive and that Riku was keeping him prisoner. Nevermind that Riku had kept his word and continued to bring him light. Ignoring the fact that since Roxas had accepted his help the food was getting better every day. And the way Riku treated him… it seemed as if he really did care.
He spent most of his days confused, wandering between the two rooms, in and out of the light that the flowers provided. Each time that he awoke in Riku's arms it was harder to pull himself away. Each time Riku touched him with those gentle fingers, brushing his lengthening hair out of his eyes, Roxas found himself minding less and less.
One day he awoke to Riku but no food, only a single flower cradled in his palm. Fear shot down his spine as he took in the sight, wondering what he could have done to anger the other boy.
"Take a shower," Riku told him. "I have a treat for you."
Roxas nodded, taking the flower and doing as he was instructed. He stared at his clothes once he was done, not really remembering the last time he'd tried to wash them in the bathtub. His fears were alleviated by Riku's appearance, the boy opening the door and standing in the doorway, face turned away.
"These are for you," he explained, holding up a bundle of cloth. Roxas recognized it as an identical set of clothes to what he'd been wearing, his Organization coat draped over them. "I'm sorry you didn't have any other clothes, I didn't think about that."
Roxas stayed crouched on the floor and reached for the clothes, hiding as much of himself as he could from the other's covered eyes. "Thanks," he said quietly.
Riku turned and left him in peace, though he left the door open. Roxas dressed as quickly as he could, dumping his other clothes in the bathtub to wash later. He saved the coat for last, shrugging into it and wondering at how big it seemed on him now.
Riku looked him over and nodded approvingly. "Good. Now close your eyes."
Roxas did as he was told, tensing when he felt a strip of cloth settle over his eyes. Riku tied the blindfold snugly, but not tight, and then took his hand. "I won't let anything happen to you," he promised. "So don't take the blindfold off."
They weren't traveling very long. Roxas followed the tug on his hand, out of his room and into a dark corridor with the faintest hints of light at one end. He couldn't see, of course, but he knew when there was light, especially after so long in the dark. Riku led him down the corridor and into the unique darkness of a portal, holding tight to his hand during the journey, only letting go once they were through.
The first impression Roxas got was that of the same diffuse light the flowers gave off. There was so much more of it though, a dizzying amount, and he knew then that this must be where Riku was getting his flowers. He smelled them next, the sweet scent that he'd begun to associate with the light. There was a breeze blowing across where they were, bringing with it the faint smell of recent rain and grass. The air was chill but not overly so, his jacket protecting him without overheating him.
He felt something messing with the blindfold and it suddenly fell away. He blinked, clearing out his eyes, and gasped at the sight before him. Blue flowers coated the ground in front of him, glowing underneath a starry sky that looked so different from the Organization's light-drenched night. Beyond the flowers was the ocean, glittering from the light of the pale crescent moon. It was a beautiful sight and so full of light that he had to look away before a few tears escaped.
"Come on," Riku said, tugging on his arm and leading him to a square devoid of blue flowers. Roxas followed without complaint, finding that a picnic had been set up. Sandwiches and fresh fruit were wrapped up on the blanket just waiting for them, a bouquet of the flowers in the middle despite all of the flowers around them.
Riku let him unwrap the food and start eating, watching him with a smile at the corner of his mouth. Roxas was too in awe of their surroundings to notice, eating and taking everything in with a childlike wonder. After the food was gone he stood and wandered through the flowers, finding a nice place to flop down among them and just absorb everything. Riku joined him a few minutes later, taking his hand and threading their fingers together.
"Thank you," Roxas said after a minute, looking over at Riku and smiling genuinely. To his surprise the other wasn't wearing anything over his eyes and he could see them clearly for the first time, a pale green with flecks of amber among them. He took in the sight and found himself liking them.
They stayed like that for a long time, until the flowers' light began to fade and a sliver of gold appeared in the sky. Roxas sat up finally, looking around and feeling the coming dawn.
Riku stirred as well. "It's time to go," he said, standing and going to pack up their picnic items. Roxas watched him, waiting patiently, until he spotted a flash of red at the entrance to this field of flowers.
Roxas stilled, staring at where he'd seen the red, wondering if he'd been mistaken. But there it was again, red hair amongst the green and blue, and suddenly he remembered. Axel! He'd forgotten all about Axel, his best friend. He looked back over at Riku and suddenly felt a bit sick. What had he been doing? He wasn't on a date with the other teen. He was his captive. But… there was a way out.
With Riku still occupied Roxas wandered over to the edge of the cliff, calculating if he could safely fall. There were plenty of jagged rocks, but the water below was clear. If he could just jump far enough away…
"Roxas?" Riku called, dragging his attention away. The boy had his blindfold back on, his unique eyes hidden from the world again, but his expression around the strip of black was concerned. "What are you doing?"
And it hurt, to think that he was going to run away from this boy. He had kept him prisoner, deprived him of the thing he needed most, but he'd been so kind… Roxas couldn't help the tears that gathered in his eyes.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, turning back to the cliff. "But I have to get back to Axel. I have to find Sora."
"Roxas!" Riku's shout behind him was panicked and it broke his heart. Despite that, despite the way tears were falling down his cheeks and his limbs froze in fear, he jumped.
Hitting the water was like hitting a steel plate, but he had his feet together to break the water like Demyx had told him once. He plunged underneath the surface, going down deeper and deeper and wondering if he'd be able to make it back up. Once he stopped falling he kicked his feet, drawing on another's memories of times spent in the sea to make his way back to the surface.
He didn't see the rock lurking in the dark just above the surface. By the time he realized it was there it was too late. There was searing pain in his skull… then nothing.
He thought he was dead. He knew he should be dead. He remembered jumping off the cliff, swimming to the surface, and then nothing. Eyes closed, he dreaded what he would find when he decided to open them. Would he be back in the dark, trapped, with Riku upset at him?
He then realized that there was light. Proper light, not the washed-out light of the blue flowers, and it warmed him right to the bone. It didn't hurt, not like he'd expected, and he wondered just how long he'd been out, if he was once again used to a normal level of light.
Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes.
Sunlight angled into the room from the open window, lighting up the plain room. The walls were made of wood, a painting here and there to add some color to the cool brown. He was so relieved and disappointed that he had to take a few deep breaths to steady himself before daring to sit up.
His whole body hurt. His shirt was off, folded on a chair next to his bed, and he could see bruises fading from angry purple to mottled yellow across his chest and arms. Based on that, he mused, he'd been asleep for at least a few days.
The door opening caught his attention and he looked to see a woman in the doorway, a basin with a washrag in her hand. She looked about as old as Xigbar, dressed in a plain brown dress with a white apron. Brown hair gone grey at the temples was tied back in a high ponytail, kind brown eyes staring out from a face with hardly any wrinkles. "Oh, you're awake!" she observed cheerfully. "That's good. The doctor said you'd be waking up today. How're you feeling?"
Roxas thought about it for a moment. "Like I was run over by a tram," he confessed, recalling the thing trundling around Twilight Town. "What happened?"
The woman set the basin down on the table by the bed and dipped the cloth in water. "You washed up on shore a few miles from here. A hunting party sent to the Cheagle Woods found you and brought you here. We had to keep you asleep, sorry, because you were feverish and kept trying to leave."
"I see." Roxas reached for the cloth but had his hand batted away, the woman turning him so she could start cleaning his back.
"So what happened to you? How'd you end up in the water?"
Roxas told her what happened, faltering when he spoke of his time in the dark, hands clenched to keep himself grounded. It was still so fresh in his mind that he could recall all the details, and the woman's movements grew more and more still until she was no longer pretending to work.
"That's horrible," she whispered when he was done. "Who could do such a thing to anyone?"
Roxas shrugged. He'd left out the bits about being from another world, being a member of the Organization, even being a Keyblade Master. He didn't know why he'd even told her about what happened, someone that he didn't even know, but he'd had to get it off his chest and he was better able to sort through his feelings.
"He thought I was someone I wasn't," he guessed, picking up the cloth without looking at the woman. He dipped it back in the water and wiped down his arms and chest, wincing when it touched the bruises.
"Still, that's no excuse. You can stay here as long as you need to, and if you see that horrible person around you let someone know," the woman told him firmly. "My name's Marie and this is my home. We don't have an inn in our town or else you'd be there. You're in the small village of Rotel, just outside Engeve, in the Malkuth Empire."
Roxas nodded but really had no idea what she was talking about.
"I'm going to get you something to eat," Marie decided, standing up and smoothing her skirt. "When you're finished washing you can leave the basin. There's an outhouse outside, I'm sure you'll need to use it, and while you're eating I'll call the doctor to come look at you. Is that okay?"
"Great. I'll be right back!"
The teen found the outhouse, and by the time he was finished Marie had set a plate of food on his bed and was nowhere to be found in the house. Roxas ate the odd dried meat and fresh vegetables greedily, finding the meat to be pleasantly seasoned, if a bit stringy. The vegetables were much like he'd eaten back in the Organization, though there was an odd stick of something green he'd never seen before.
Once he was finished he took the plate and the wash basin and located the kitchen. The house he was in was quite small, just two rooms. The kitchen and the living room shared a room, a pallet on the floor speaking of where Marie had been sleeping while Roxas had been in the other room. In the kitchen area there were dried meats hanging from the rafters, a wall of cupboards, and a cooking stove. In the living area was a couch. All over the walls were small trinkets, pictures and beadwork and scraps of cloth, giving the room a lived-in feel that made him instantly at home.
There was a small pail of clean water next to the cupboards and Roxas took his plate to it, rinsing it in the lukewarm water to get the crumbs off. He then took the basin and pail outside, dumping them next to the outhouse. He didn't know where to refill the pail so he didn't, instead taking them back inside and setting them where he'd found them.
That done he curled up on the couch, his bruises aching pleasantly. He hadn't had the freedom to move around that much in a long time and it felt nice. Plus the sun was hitting the lone window in the room just right, bathing the couch in a golden light. It was so comfortable that he closed his eyes and basked in it.
He heard the door open before long, cracking an eye open to see Marie and a younger man with black hair walk in. He looked about as old as Axel, his hair cropped short on his head with blue eyes scrutinizing him closely. He was wearing a plain pair of brown pants stained with what looked like blood and a white shirt that was smudged with dirt. There was a bag slung over his shoulder with a white bandage trailing out of it nearly to the floor.
"Should you be up?" Marie asked worriedly, walking over to him and feeling his temperature. The doctor set his bag down next to the couch and placed two fingers on his wrist. Roxas was a bit uncomfortable until he realized that the doctor was taking his pulse.
"It looks like the fever is completely gone," the man said, motioning for Marie to stand back. "I'd just like to take a look at those bruises, if you don't mind."
Roxas nodded, slipping his shirt off once again and looking away as the man poked a few of the more healed ones. The doctor placed a hand on either side of his ribs and explored the bones that were clearly visible through his skin, then sat back and nodded.
"It looks like you didn't break any ribs, like I thought. There's no pain?"
Roxas shook his head. "I've had broken ribs before," he recalled. There'd been that mission on Neverland with the King of the Sky, where it had knocked him into the water hard enough to do serious damage. "It doesn't feel like then."
"Good. Then I think it's okay for him to be up. All you need to do is make sure he puts some weight on and don't let him lift anything heavier than the water buckets until he does." The doctor grabbed his bag and nodded to Roxas. "It's good to see you awake. I'm sorry for having to keep you asleep for so many days."
"Thanks for taking care of me," Roxas said in return. "How long was I asleep?"
"A week," Marie answered, getting up and going to see after the basin and pail. The doctor quietly took his leave. "Your fever broke yesterday morning and the doctor said you'd be okay for today. Before that, I don't know how long. It sounded like you were in Tataroo Valley, and that's a few days from here. You're lucky to be alive."
Roxas nodded, not really surprised. He was tired without really knowing why, probably because of his recent illness he decided. "I'm going to go take a nap," he said, standing and heading for the bedroom."
"You go right ahead, I'll wake you for dinner."
Roxas stayed in Rotel for several months. Once he'd put on enough weight he went to work in the fields of Engeve with the others in the village. He found, listening to conversations, that Engeve was the food capital of the world of Auldrant. While Engeve took care of much of the preparation and sale of the food that was farmed and hunted, it was the people of Rotel that did much of the work. There were other villages scattered around the enormous farmland, 20 or 30 people in each of them, that were each responsible for a certain area. When harvesting time came around all of the villages banded together, sending workers to where they were needed in order to get the harvesting done in time for the market. While the crops were growing the villages hunted, skinning the beasts and ensuring they would get to Engeve for preparation and sale.
Overall, Roxas mused as he worked, it was a nice system. Engeve ensured the villages got their cut of the proceeds and the villages ensured Engeve would get its food.
Working in the fields helped him put back a lot of the muscle he'd lost. The first few weeks were bad, with him flopping into bed every night groaning in pain and rising stiffer than he thought a person could be and still move. Soon enough his muscles stopped protesting so much and he got his strength back. His skin gained color, too, giving him a healthy glow in contrast to the pale white that he'd become without access to the sun.
The villagers noticed the change in him, too. They'd been wary about him at first, what with the impending war against a neighboring country called Kimlasca, but as he worked and proved he was trustworthy they began to confide in him. Roxas didn't talk much, but he listened, learning that the woman two houses down from him was having an affair with the man who came from Engeve to receive the meat shipments and Marie had lost a son to the Score. He wasn't sure what the Score was, exactly, but it was an important part of everyday life and he couldn't exactly ask about it without giving himself away.
One day he, along with the doctor named Timas and the chief hunter named Feris, was sent to Engeve proper to get news from the outside world and trade for cloth and medicine. Feris was a giant of a man, his shoulders almost as broad as Roxas was tall, with a shaved head and keen brown eyes. He went around shirtless most of the time, his pants leather and tough.
Roxas was interested in the bustling town, far larger than the small village he was in but not as big as some cities like Agrabah. He followed the elder two without really paying attention, looking at everything he could. It was because of this that he noticed the redhead coming into the village. He stopped, falling behind, when he saw the bright shock of red hair amidst a motley group of people, suddenly wondering where Axel was. The redhead wasn't Axel, he could see, but he reminded him so much of the fiery man that he felt a pang of homesickness.
The redhead saw him staring and raised an eyebrow, as if daring him to say something. Roxas turned away and hurried off to find Timas and Feris, ignoring him.
He realized that he'd gotten complacent on this world. He'd almost forgotten that he was a Nobody, forgotten what he'd left the Organization to go do. After the harvest, he decided, catching up to his party and falling into step behind him. After he helped Engeve get the fall harvest ready he'd quietly take his leave in the night and search for Sora.
They were almost at their destination when he saw something that sent a shock of terror down his spine. Instinctively he grabbed for Timas' arm, needing a solid hold on the present to assure him that he didn't just see Riku staring at him from across the marketplace. But he did see him, he did see Riku in his black coat and blindfold looking at him from the shadows of a tent.
"What's wrong?" Timas asked him, dragging his attention away from the visage of his tormenter.
"Riku," he stammered, breath catching in his throat and adrenaline coursing through his veins. "I just saw Riku over there."
Timas looked, scanning the crowd. "I don't see him. Are you sure?" He knew what Riku looked like. Marie had told him, with Roxas' permission, everything that she knew about what had happened.
Roxas nodded, taking a few deep breaths to calm his racing heart. "I'm sure. How did he find me?" he whispered to himself.
They found the redhead from before and his party at the mayor's house. They were speaking urgently to the woman in charge, faces serious.
"What's going on over there?" Feris rumbled, his deep voice echoing out of his giant lungs.
"Only one way to find out," Timas said, making his way over there. Feris and Roxas shot each other a look before following.
"- the armies are getting closer," the redhead was saying as they walked up. "Engeve's going to be overrun in a matter of days. We need to get everyone out to Chesedonia before that happens and the land falls."
"What army?" Feris demanded, startling everyone. "We've heard no news of this."
"Luke, this is Feris, the head of Rotel," the mayor introduced him impatiently. "Feris, Luke fon Fabre of Kimlasca. War broke out a few days ago, no one bothered to tell us. Plus apparently there's going to be an earthquake like you wouldn't believe. We're sending hawks out to the villages now, getting everyone together. They're going to help us evacuate to Chesedonia."
"It's going to take us right through the combat zone," Luke said grimly. "The Albiore can evacuate the women and children, but some of us are going to escort the rest through."
Roxas didn't understand half of what they said but he nodded. "How can I help?" he asked.
They looked at him like he was crazy, which he supposed wasn't too surprising. No one in Engeve had ever seen him before.
"This is Roxas, a refugee," Timas explained. "He's been helping in the fields."
They sent him to help the elderly pack their belongings and get onto the Albiore, which he found out was an airplane. After he was done with that the sun was on its way down and he found the redhead's group planning their next move.
They stopped when they noticed him standing near them. "I got everyone I could on board," he reported, fidgeting a bit under their gazes. "The pilot said she was going to go on ahead and make the first trip."
"She'll be back in the morning, then," the blonde woman in the group nodded. Roxas thought he remembered her being called Natalia earlier. "You should get some sleep."
Roxas shook his head, even as he felt the sun slip below the horizon. "I want to help."
"There's nothing more we can do tonight," Natalia said. "You should stay at the inn, Feris and Timas went back to Rotel to help pack up."
Uncertainly Roxas nodded. Instead of going to the inn, however, he retreated to the throng of people milling around and settled someplace that was in easy view. In the middle of strangers he wanted to be able to see everyone, make sure that if Riku came for him, he'd see him in time.
He didn't sleep at all that night.
When dawn broke Roxas was up, shutting away the fatigue from a sleepless night and heading for the redhead's camp. The Albiore was back, parked just outside the city, and more people were climbing on.
"Everyone who's coming over land is ready," he heard Feris say. "All of the villages came in overnight and are ready to march."
"Good. We'll leave in a few minutes. Make sure everyone knows." The redhead looked over at Roxas. "You should get on the Albiore."
"I'm coming," Roxas said determinedly. "Let someone else take my spot."
They left shortly after, setting off across the plains towards Rotelro bridge. Roxas stayed on the outer edges of the group, walking silently and listening to the chatter of the rest of the villagers. It was a boring walk, in his opinion, but he saw no sign of Riku and that made it all the better.
They didn't get into a battle until the sun was almost down. Soldiers burst from the underbrush without warning, leaping at the three who headed their party. Roxas darted forward, Keyblades appearing in his hands, and deflected a blow meant to bisect Luke's midsection. He was a bit startled by the appearance of the second Keyblade but he didn't have time to think on it. Oathkeeper in one hand and Oblivion in the other he attacked relentlessly, driving the soldiers back and allowing the man named Jade to strike them down with a well-placed spell. There were so many, though, and they'd already been driven back almost to where the civilians were cowering.
Teeth gritted against the soldier pressing down on him, Roxas decided that he'd had enough of being pushed around. Light gathered around him and he unleashed it in pillars, each swing of his Keyblades directing one to a soldier that was staring in shock at him. The rest of the people were staring at him, too, as he brought both Keyblades together and called down one last pillar to take out the last few. The silence was oppressive for a few minutes after that, everyone staring at him as he dismissed the Keyblades and turned to survey the damage.
Jade broke the silence, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "I must admit I've never seen a technique like that."
"That was awesome!" Luke cheered, punching Roxas in the arm lightly. "Where'd you learn to do that?"
Roxas shrugged, not really wanting to tell them that he'd learned it on another world. "I just made it up. I really like light."
"I'm glad you came with us," Luke grinned. "Come on, let's get a few miles away before making camp."
They made it to Chesedonia within a few more days. They only got into one other battle, this one ended without Roxas needing to use his light abilities. During the trip Jade quizzed Roxas on his abilities, to which the blonde gave halfhearted replies to the questions he could answer. The other member of the fighting party, a woman named Tear, stayed out of the conversation, instead talking to Luke about things that Roxas knew nothing about.
The desert was hot, as hot as Agrabah, and Roxas unzipped his Organization coat in an attempt to let the breeze through. His white clothes were going to be heck to get the dust out of, he sighed.
"Thanks for your help," Luke said to him, patting him on the shoulder. "Wanna come with us? We could use your combat skills."
Roxas thought about it before shaking his head. "I have to find Sora," he explained. "He's out there somewhere and I have to find him." He didn't really remember why, exactly. He had an odd feeling every time he held Obliivion, like there was someone he'd forgotten, but it was a passing feeling and he had to focus on fighting each time.
Luke shrugged. "Well, I hope you change your mind. Good luck!" He jogged over to where Jade and Tear were waiting for him, the woman giving him a small wave and the other man shooting him a questioning look. Roxas slipped out of sight and opened a portal back to Twilight Town, pulling the hood over his head to brave the darkness.
It had been a while since he'd been there, he reflected, looking up at the clock tower. He shrugged off the coat and draped it over his arm, wondering where he was going to start looking for him.
"Hello, Roxas," a voice he'd never heard before greeted behind him. Spinning around and half expecting to see Riku the Keyblade master instead found a blonde girl about his age. "I'm glad you're safe. I was worried about you."
"Hi," he greeted cautiously. "Do you know Riku?"
"Yes, but you don't need to worry." The girl smiled. "I'm here to take you to Sora."
"You know where he is?" Roxas asked dubiously.
Without any other leads Roxas followed her. She led him through the town and to the abandoned mansion where he'd been born so long ago, past the gate and into the basement. Roxas could only stare at the machinery he never knew existed, humming quietly in the depths of the manor.
"This is amazing," he admitted, looking over the computer. He wasn't any expert but it looked high-tech.
"There's a whole other Twilight Town in there," the girl explained. "Riku's mission was to capture you so we could put you in there and reunite you with Sora. But instead he took you and kept you hidden from everyone for six months, until you escaped. I'm supposed to put you in the virtual Twilight Town and give you completely new memories until you reunite with Sora but I don't want to do that. You want to go to Sora, right?" She looked up at him, her blue eyes seeming to see right through him.
Roxas nodded. "But I don't really know why. I just know that I have to find him."
The girl smiled, a sad little thing, and said, "There was someone who was important to you who told you to find him. You won't remember her because she was never supposed to exist."
"So how do you remember her?" Roxas asked, following her from the computer room down a short hallway.
She shrugged. "I can manipulate memories, remove and remake them. I did that to Sora, which is why he's asleep. All of his memories ended up inside of you, which is why you need to reunite with him."
Roxas nodded as they emerged into a white room, a flower-shaped object in the middle of it. "He's there," the girl said, gesturing to the middle of the room. Roxas glanced at her but walked up to the flower anyway.
When he looked in there he forgot how to breathe for a moment, so many emotions coursing through him that he got dizzy and had to close his eyes for a moment.
"What's your name?" he asked, looking back at the blonde girl behind him.
"Namine," she replied. "Are you ready?"
Looking back up at Sora, the brunette boy suspended in sleep above him, he nodded.
The first thing he was aware of was coolness against his skin, a miniscule breeze stirring the air around him. His feet didn't seem to be touching the ground, which struck him as odd.
The next thing he knew was voices calling him name. Familiar voices drew him out of the depths of sleep, prompted him to open his heavy eyes and peer blearily out into a grey twilight. His body felt like it weighed a hundred extra pounds, drawing a groan from his throat when he tried to raise his hand and rub his eyes.
He heard a rumble around him and light hit his face, making him squint his eyes against the brightness. The voices got louder, yelling for him to wake up.
"I'm awake," he moaned, feeling his feet touch the floor at long last. He shook his head to clear the cobwebs away, blinking rapidly to clear his eyes and bring himself fully awake.
Finally able to see he looked around, seeing Donald and Goofy looking at him expectantly, happily. A grin spreading across he face he jumped down into the white room before him, glomping the giant duck and dog.
After talking with each other, trying to figure out how they'd all fallen asleep and failing miserably, they shrugged and set out to figure out where they were and what to do next. Donald and Goofy left the room first but something prompted him to stay behind for just a second. It was a feeling, the briefest touch of something, and, interested, he searched out the source.
Hidden behind the flower thing he'd been sleeping in was a vase. And, inside the vase, a blue flower glowed softly into the brightness of the room. He reached for the flower, touching the soft petals, feeling the frailest sense of light captured within them, nearly drowning in the harsh white light of the room.
He'd never seen the flower before, he was sure of it. But, bringing the bloom to his nose, he couldn't stop the tear from rolling down his face.
"Sora!" Donald's voice cut the room, breaking the spell that had fallen over him. Startled he jumped backwards, the flower still in his hand. "You coming?"
"Yeah!" Sora called, wishing there was a way for him to save the flower. He tucked it into the neck of his jacket, hoping maybe to find a couple of books to press it in, and followed his friends out of the room.
Unbeknownst to him a figure in black watched him, strands of silver hair escaping from under his black cloak.