An Organization XIII…romance. With a conspiracy or two thrown in. I can't believe I'm writing this, but I hope you like it.
What do you call it when someone who doesn't have a heart keeps staring at you from across the room during a meeting?
You could call it love, but that's impossible…we don't have hearts. We're incapable of love. You could call it creepy, but I kind of liked it. You could call it a crush…and that's the closest you're ever going to get.
I found myself staring back, a lot.
Later, I approached Marluxia. "I noticed you wouldn't stop staring at me," I said sternly.
"Well, sorry," he snapped.
"Can I ask why? Do I have something on my face?"
"No…your face is good."
Did he really just say that? Did he mean what I think he meant by saying that?
"All right," I said. "Just…stop the staring. It's weird."
"I'm just going to point out the elephant in the room…" I stated. "Do you have feelings for me? Is that it?"
"Would you mind?"
That took me a while to think about. To say I hadn't been watching Marluxia when his back was turned would be a blatant lie.
"No," I said, "I guess not."
We had painted ourselves into the proverbial corner; there was no way to avoid awkwardness. We parted ways without a word. I retired to my chambers with a copy of Jane Eyre…I just couldn't seem to get the idea of romance out of my head. Which was silly. There were more important things to think about, like my missing heart, our ultimate plan, and the way that the Organization, once a close-knit community, was developing rifts, the cracks of which could barely be seen but for my acute eyes for trouble…
I had no idea whether or not he would return my affections.
I decided to try something bold: I wrote "I love you" on a large sheet of paper. In the middle of the night, I taped it to his door. I signed it by doodling a daisy. I thought he would get the point.
I was sick of having to think only about what Xemnas called our "ultimate goals" and "greater good." He was beginning to scare me, more and more, and I wanted an escape from his constant propaganda. My sudden attraction to Zexion was a godsend. It gave me something else to concentrate on.
Xemnas called us all to the Altar of Naught to discuss "serious matters" with us. That usually meant somebody was in trouble. That usually meant I was in trouble, actually, but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what I had done this time. I was sure, actually, that I hadn't done anything.
Xemnas waved a note in front of us all. It read "I love you" in large letters.
Marluxia gulped, I noticed, and Zexion started blushing. I couldn't have cared less. I suddenly saw my own personal opportunity surfacing.
"Who is responsible for this display of affection which I found taped to Zexion's door?" Xemnas growled, his voice practically carved of stone.
"I am," I said.
The look on Marluxia's face was priceless!
"You are in love with Zexion?" Xemnas asked skeptically. I heard a few morons giggling—Saix, for instance. I really hated that man.
"No," I said. "It was dark. I put it on the wrong door. That note was meant for Larxene."
Blatant lie, but so what? I hadn't come up with any better ideas for confessing my feelings for Larxene. Why not just let someone else do the dirty work for me?
Larxene looked like she had just swallowed a lemon. A slight disappointment.
"I will let you off with a warning, Axel," said the Superior, "but let it be known to all that romance has no place in the Organization. We must put our greater good before our petty personal problems." He spit a little bit on all those P sounds. "The next person to show a display of affection will find their self suffering atonement."
"Okay, fine, fine." I dismissed my chastising with a wave of the hand. "No love allowed. No petty personal problems allowed. Got it."
Meekly, a hand was raised in the back of the crowd. "When you say no petty personal problems, do you mean…?"
"For the last time, Demyx," said the Superior. "NO. You may NOT have a hamster."
"There are other items of business which need attention," Xemnas continued. "For one, the decorative roses around the castle front must be gone by tomorrow."
"What?" cried Marluxia. "I spent hours getting that topiary right! Did you not notice that the rosebushes all looked like the Nobody symbol?"
"Your powers," Xemnas said, addressing the whole group though it was clear who he was antagonizing, "are gifts. They are your weapons, and not to be wasted on frivolity such as topiary."
The hand was raised in the back of the crowd again.
"YES, Demyx, frivolity includes water balloons."
"Also—" Xemnas started.
"But wait," said Marluxia.
"No arguments," growled Xemnas.
Heh heh. Marluxia got BURNED.
Of course, this wasn't something to just brush off. Marluxia had…well…what we liked to call psychotic tendencies. We'd started him on the topiary project for a REASON, you know. It was to give him an outlet. As long as he was chopping up the plants out front, he wasn't chopping US. Take that away, and…what was he going to do?
"Also, as for Operation Nebula, Larxene—"
"I am removing you from the Operation and placing you within the Castle Oblivion operation, upper floor."
HOW COULD HE DO THIS? I had been readying for Operation Nebula for a week! (If you've never heard of Operation Nebula, that's probably because the plan was scrapped after the Castle Oblivion incident.)
"Xemnas," I retorted, "why am I now unfit to take on the mission?"
"A woman," Xemnas said by way of explanation, "needs to know her place. And her place is in the home."
My fingers crackled with lightning bolts, but I held back. If I attacked Xemnas, he would deflect it with a shield spell and then reduce me to ash in one smite. Too bad. I really wanted to crush him. I would just have to settle for torturing Demyx more later instead.
Axel didn't look happy about the switch. At least somebody was on my side. Sorta.
But he said he LOVED me. And that was GROSS.
Xemnas announced, "You are dismissed."
Zexion slipped a note into my palm. When I was alone, I read it. He had written, "Meet me on the Altar of Nought at midnight. Come alone."
I folded the note and put it in my pocket.
Notes…clever. I would have to pass a similar one to Larxene, telling her to meet me in my chambers at ten.
"Have a chair," Marluxia offered me.
I sat in a fluffy white armchair without a word, arms crossed. Marluxia sat in a similar armchair across from me.
"I suppose you know why we are here," he said. "But if you don't, look about and see what we have in common. We were seriously disgraced by Xemnas today, and I feel that something should be done. I'm getting a little sick of him tyrannically controlling us all."
"Yeah, with his unbreakable rules and his sexist attitude and his Sick Circle of Six," I added.
The Sick Circle, of course, was the group of the apprentices that had formed the organization before us newbies. Xemnas showed great preference to Xigbar, Xaldin, Vexen, Lexaeus, and Zexion over the rest of us.
"What about Axel?" I remembered out loud. "He was chewed out today as well."
"Axel has proven his loyalty to Xemnas again and again," Marluxia pointed out. "He would report this gathering to him immediately. Thus, without him, here are all of us who were—"
"Dissed?" I offered.
"Except for—" Marluxia clamped his hand over my mouth before I could say it.
"Don't!" he said. "Do you want him to come poking his ratty little nose into this and ruining our meeting and being annoying in general?"
There came a knock at the door. I went to open it, motioning to Marluxia to be quiet. I pried the door just barely ajar so no one could see him. If it was Xemnas, we were so dead.
"Hi, Larx," said Demyx. "I just came to talk. I mean, you and I both got dissed at the meeting today, and I thought I could vent to you."
"I'm kinda busy right now," I told him.
"Good! I'll only be a minute." He barged past me into the room. "Hey, Marluxia! Why didn't you tell me we were having a Nobodies-who-got-dissed-by-Xemnas meeting?"
I looked to the side. Marluxia shifted uncomfortably before giving me the I-told-you-so glare. The reason we hadn't invited Demyx was because we didn't particularly want him there. He seemed to annoy everyone else in the Organization.
"Moving on," Larxene said, "I suggest we enact a plan of revenge."
"Just revenge?" Marluxia scoffed. "I say we overthrow him. It's time for his reign to end."
I gaped. "That's a little extreme, Marluxia—"
"I'm with Daisy-Head," said Larxene.
"Do you ever feel…" I started.
"This had better be going somewhere good," said Marluxia.
"I was going to say, do you ever feel like all this stuff we're doing…the destroying, the killing, the thievery, the Heartless and Nobodies…we wouldn't be doing it if Xemnas' weren't threatening us to? I mean, before you met him, how would you have gone about getting your heart back? Not like this."
We all thought about it. For once, Demyx had a point.
"All right," I agreed. "We shall find a way to overthrow Xemnas. Ideas?"
Then it hit me. It was so perfect…
"Oblivion," I said. "Castle Oblivion…I've been assigned to go there as well as you, Larxene. We have all the resources we need there…the Key Bearer, the memory witch…once we have the Key Bearer in our clutches, we can use him for our own purposes instead of Xemnas's…we can tear him down, and thus will come our freedom!"
"And I could tag along?" Demyx asked.
Larxene and I exchanged nervous glances. "Uhhhh…" We nodded.
And so a diabolical plan was born between the three of us.
"What about Axel?" Larxene asked again when we were done. "You know…he's been assigned to the upper floor as well." Was she blushing? There was no TIME for that!
"I said he would—"
"Rat us out, I know. But he said he loved me. Now, that completely grosses me out, but it means he'll follow me to the End of the World and back. If I'm in on this, we can get his power on our side."
"Larxene," I said, "I shall leave that decision up to you."
After coming up with my brilliant plan, I realized it was time for me to meet Zexion on the Altar of Naught. I shivered with excitement. I had to do something special for him when I arrived…as the others filed out of Vexen's room, I conjured up a bouquet of silver flowers with shining petals. They would match his hair perfectly. I hoped he would notice.
As I walked out into the corridor, my flowers were intercepted by Axel. "Thank you!" he said as he randomly passed by and swiped the bouquet from my hands. Frustrated, I created another bouquet, an even better one with petals laced in lavender. Why lavender? I just thought it looked nice against the silver, and hopefully Zexion agreed.
He stood alone on the Altar, gazing upward at the stars. He heard my footsteps behind him. He didn't turn around; he simply said, "So many stars."
"Each one is a world," I said, "with its own story, its own beings…"
"Its own molecular density," added Zexion. He turned to face me; he was smiling. I understood that it was supposed to be a joke, and laughed.
"You brought me flowers?"
I handed him the bouquet. He took the silver flowers; breathed deeply. The sweet scent traveled up his nostrils. "Thank you," he said.
"So why did you call me here?"
"To say I feel the same way for you that you do for me."
I shivered again. "What an honor." I had to admit that for the first time I could remember…I was nervous. I hardly knew what to say.
"An honor? Really? From little old me?"
"You're not any old person. You're special. You're intellectual, you're observant, you have that awesome hair that always covers the one eye…do you even have another eye, or is this just your way of upstaging Xigbar's socket-covering methods?"
Zexion brushed back his hair.
"Yes," I said, "you do have two eyes. Both beautiful, by the way."
"Not as pretty as yours, my friend."
We stood beneath the stars, speaking of matters small and large, until I figured it was time for me to say something. "Zexion…" I broke the news. "Larxene and I have planned to overthrow Xemnas. We are going to use Castle Oblivion as a rebel stronghold."
"What?" Zexion couldn't believe me.
"He's kept us in his grasp for too long."
"Not the Xehanort you remember, not anymore. Do you remember the last GOOD thing he brought upon us? Instead, he forces us to murder and plunder, and sends us to bad luck."
"I never would have thought you would have an objection to murder."
"Well, Demyx got to me—"
"Ah, that explains it." Zexion turned and watched the stars for a while. "Those worlds…we are tearing them down from the sky, one by one. Perhaps one day, there will be none left but this one. And it will be our doing." He looked back to me. "When are you leaving?"
"I wish you well. I hope for your success."
I kissed his cheek, then left him to his lonely contemplation on the Altar.
Axel was waiting for me at my door, bearing a sheepish grin and a bouquet of silver flowers. I had my suspicions about where he got the flowers, but…still…I had to admit, he looked kinda cute and all, just standing there and waiting for me.
What a total sap.
"Axel," I said, "what are you doing here?"
"Presenting these hand-picked [yeah, right…didn't I just see Marluxia with flowers like that a minute ago?] flowers to the loveliest lady in the worlds," he replied.
But still kinda cute.
"I want to ask you something, Axel." It was a risk, but I was willing to take it. "What would you do for me?"
"Anything, dearest woman of the galaxies."
"If I asked you to stop talking like the romantic I know you're not?"
"And if I asked you…to follow me…how far would you go?"
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"
"Just trust me. Know that what I'm doing, I'm doing for the best, and if it works, you'll be free."
"I honestly have no idea what you are talking about…"
He wanted to agree with me, but he wasn't sure of what he was getting into. I wanted to tell him, but I was afraid he'd kill me on the spot for treachery. That was fine. Whenever the plan was revealed to him, it was revealed to him. Maybe it never would be and we'd just kick him out of Oblivion. Some part of me, though…some part of me wanted him to fight alongside me.
I reached out and took the flowers. "Goodnight, Axel."
I hoped she liked the dang things.
As for this plan…I was suspicious. Very suspicious.
I did like her a lot, you know. I didn't want to have to kill her.
He left, taking Larxene and Axel with him, and I couldn't get it off my mind for days. But he knew what he was doing. It would only be a matter of time before I knew if he succeeded…or failed…and I would put on a brave face no matter what.
In Marluxia's absence, I found myself spending more time with Vexen, who I would say is the closest thing I had to a friend in the Organization. He was quite concerned with operating on a new replica he had made…a silver haired boy.
"What is that for?" I asked one day.
"The Castle Oblivion plan," he told me.
"I did not know you were in on it…"
"There are to be three of us working in the basement as well. Lexaeus and I have been chosen, but Xemnas seems to be debating. We were sure he was about to name Saïx as the third, but he hesitated…he has yet to make his decision and send us off."
"It all reeks of oddity, I'm afraid. But what is worse…I shall have to stay in the same building as the pink nuisance…"
"I'm sure that will be absolute torture, Vexen," I kidded.
Later that afternoon, Xemnas made his choice. And suddenly I understood everything.
"Zexion." He approached me in the hallway. We were alone.
"I have an assignment for you. I want you to work in the basement of Castle Oblivion as well as Vexen and Lexaeus."
"It…sounds like an honorable task, sir." At first, I was happy…I would be closer to Marluxia again…but I also knew that something was off about this request.
"What is more," Xemnas continued, "is that I have suspicions as to the true intent of those on the upper floor. I believe that Marluxia may be plotting revolution, and he may disturb the peace of the entire Organization. Zexion, I want you to stop him by any means possible. Kill him if you must."
"Superior, I have not always been one for getting my hands dirty…"
"I believe," said Xemnas, "in this case, you SHALL find an exception." His eyes glowed madly. That alone convinced me there was punishment for disobedience. "I shall be happiest if you bring back the news to me that Marluxia is dead. You should have no trouble counteracting his plans, as your lack of a heart SHOULD prevent you from feeling any sort of conflicting sentiment."
Two words ran through my conscious:
Of course he wouldn't send Saïx…not when he knew of my bond with Marluxia, and entirely opposed any sort of caring for one another within his Organization…
He wanted me to kill my own love. Or at least foil his plans and bring him back in chains.
"Remember, Zexion," said Xemnas, "I have the power for a reason."
And I knew it.
"Let us keep it that way."
And still I was silent.
When Xemnas realized he wasn't getting any more answers out of me, he turned and left.
Of course the lack of a heart meant I couldn't truly love…that much was certain…but I still had a mind. A mind knows that which it wants to destroy, and that which it wishes to thrive. A mind knows what brings it pleasure, and what brings it dissatisfaction. My mind was telling me that I needed Marluxia to live, but also that Xehanort and I…we had been the ones to begin the crusade of darkness in the beginning, we had been the ones to instigate the search for hearts when we realized what we had done, and it was about more than escaping his wrath…it was about protecting the cause we'd worked so hard for, the cause that Marluxia and Larxene wanted to tear down.
That still didn't change the fact…I needed Marluxia to live!
"Who's at the door?" I asked.
"Axel," said Larxene. "I let him in. He's standing outside the lair now."
I shot a look at her. She was blushing like a girlish fool. "Are you sure you know what you are doing…how to handle this?"
"I made my decision," she said defiantly.
"And as for…?"
"I told Demyx to meet us here, at a gummi launch angle of exactly forty-five degrees in the north-northwest direction based on the third star to the left from the World That Never Was."
"But this world is located at a seventy-two degree angle in the southeast direction based on the fifth star straight ahead."
"It is? Really? Oops," Larxene sarcastically quipped.
"Good riddance to bad annoyances! Now, Larxene, go and let in your…friend."
I stared him down as he entered the room. Yet he had no eyes for me. He was fixed on Larxene.
And she seemed to be staring back.
I only hoped that her decision was made based on intelligence and not hormones. I would find out later…when Axel either made our success or slaughtered us all.
"Sora approaches," I said, "rapidly. Larxene, stand at the ready. Axel…just…just help her, all right?"
In only a few short hours, the power of the Keyblade master would be ours to wield, and the Organization liberated of Xemnas' iron fist…
Well, that is, if Sora hadn't decided to take a nap out on the front lawn. That did us NO good.
Bored and waiting for word that he had awakened, I walked about the halls of the thirteenth floor alone, thinking.
A hand reached out from behind a corner and pulled me into an alcove. I found myself facing Zexion; he put a finger to his lips.
"Xemnas has sent the basement faction," he whispered.
"Lexaeus, Vexen, and myself."
"You…he let you come here…" I smiled at him. Then I caught one of the other parts of his sentence. "Wait. Vexen's here? Good Lord…"
"Marluxia, he knows. Xemnas knows about us, and he knows what you're planning to do. And he wants me to be the one to counteract you. Listen, if anyone else knew I'd been up here…"
"I won't tell."
"I have to warn you. I'm supposed to be the one to cause your downfall."
"Then why not join me? We could save them all…together…"
"And why not?"
"Because I've always taken Xemnas' word. I've never gone back on it. I've worked for so long with him on the investigation of the darkness, and I have promoted for so long the campaign to return our hearts…all the progress we have made in building Kingdom Hearts, I can't let go…and I won't turn on my fellow apprentice, who I've…known longer…and always trusted…not to mention my life is on the line."
I blinked, not sure if I was hearing correctly. When my ears finally decided to take it in, I said something I didn't expect myself to say: "I understand."
"And…I know why you must do what you must."
"We are set on different paths, then…and we must wait to see what happens…"
"Marluxia," Zexion whimpered, clutching at my sleeves, "I don't want to kill you! I need you to live!"
I pulled him into my arms, letting him think it over there. "If you do," I told him, "I won't blame you. If you don't, I would not want to live to witness how Xemnas would punish you."
"We have to stay away from each other. Let's…just not give me a direct opportunity. Please."
"Yes. We shall stay on our respective ends of the castle. And while you're at it, try and stop Vexen from coming up here and being a bother?"
He gave a strangled laugh. "So…you really forgive me…"
"I do. I wish it didn't have to come to this, but it does."
He gave me a long kiss on the cheek, then whispered, "Goodbye." He cast a portal, preparing to step back down to the basement.
"Before you go," I said, "know this. If Larxene and I accomplish what we wish, I shall personally make sure you have your freedom…and everything you could want."
He turned to me. "And…and I thank you kindly. If you could…do me a favor, and report to Axel that the basement faction has demanded to see him? That should get him out of your hair for a while, and leave you to talk over the plot with Larxene."
"It is appreciated…consider it done."
And then he was gone. It was the last I'd see of him within that castle, though we were but twenty-six floors apart.
I had alternate motives for wanting to see Axel.
He appeared in the basement lair, where I was waiting alone. "You rang?"
"Axel, you are the second most sentimental Nobody in the Organization, and that means I can trust you."
"Why didn't you go to the most sentimental one, then?"
"Demyx? First, because of convenience…you are here, and he is not. Second, because he's a coward. I need your strength as well as your understanding. I need…in fact…your cruelty."
"Promise me something, will you? If anything happens to Marluxia…if he dies…especially, if for some odd reason, he should die by my hand…" Was he choking up? "…come down here and kill me. However you can. No matter what, make sure I die. I may tell you to stop. I may scream and protest. I may even beg you for mercy, but once Marluxia falls…let me go with him. I don't think I'd be strong enough to do it myself. You, on the other hand…you could kill me without batting an eyelash…"
"You're sure you want me to do this? No takesies-backsies, now."
"Then I accept." Unfortunately, if this little operation was anything like I imagined it to be, Zexion had just signed his own death notice. What else could Larxene, Marluxia, Vexen, and maybe Demyx be doing over there but plotting something against Xemnas and the Organization? If that was true…I might even have the need to kill them all. Then, once Marluxia was down, I'd have to go for Zexion, because he made me promise.
I stood in the middle of a gray wasteland. I looked around. There were bones everywhere, and behind me, a massive elephant skull. The sound of hyenas' laughter penetrated the night. All in all, the place didn't look right at all.
"Darn it," I yelled to myself, "they got me again!"