A/N: This story, born from daydreaming in Calculus one day, has morphed into a rather lengthy (for me) oneshot. By all means, I hope this ends up better than my last failed attempt. But anywho, I hope you enjoy it in the end.

Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts, its characters, themes, and other whatnot do not belong to me. Shocker, ain't it?


"Lea, are you ready?" a young blue-haired boy murmured to his friend standing next to him. Both were hiding in the shadows of the gate surrounding the dwelling of Ansem and his six apprentices. Strangely enough, the two guards that usually watched over the gate were missing. Or rather, they had been missing for the past several weeks.

"C'mon Isa! Of course I'm ready! Just think, if we manage to get inside the castle, we might finally find out what Ansem's been up to," Lea replied exasperatedly. "It's about time we've figured out what they've been doing up there all this time. Nobody in Radiant Garden has seen hide or hair of King Ansem or his apprentices for weeks now!"

Furrowing his eyebrows, Isa couldn't deny that he felt a definite curiosity at the subject. About a month ago, King Ansem had ceased to wander outside his castle. The gates leading to his castle had been locked, and had long since started rusting. His apprentices had assured the populace that nothing had happened to Ansem; simply that he was consumed by a new experiment. However, Lea and Isa dismissed the claim as soon as they heard it. Never before had the king locked himself in the castle for the sake of his studies, and he wouldn't begin now. So where had he gone? What was he doing that was so important?

Attempting to hold in his laughter, Lea smirked as he could practically see the thoughts flying across Isa's eyes. While most found difficulty deciphering Isa's subtle expressions, Lea could read him like a book from the moment they met. Maybe that's a reason why they became friends so quickly?

"Now remember, don't set off any alarms this time," Isa said.

"Hey! Do I look like the kind of guy that would do that?"

"I don't think you want me to answer that," he smugly replied as he hoisted himself on top of the gate. Once that was accomplished, he offered a hand toward Lea.

"Some friend you are," Lea chuckled, taking the hand that Isa offered him. Once he was on top of the gate as well, he turned toward his friend with a smirk on his face. "Well Isa, are you ready?"

"... You're buying us ice cream if we get caught again."

"Fine, fine. I've got it memorized, happy? Now, are we going to sit here all day, or are we actually going to do some investigating?" Rolling his eyes at Lea, Isa promptly jumped down from the gate and landed nimbly on his feet. Looking around the courtyard of the castle, he was surprised to find that the garden looked severely unkempt. The pathway that led from the gate to the castle doors was nearly hidden by the sheer amount of overgrowth. It was as if no one had even bothered to walk about the gardens in months, let alone tame them.

"This is definitely peculiar," Isa mumbled underneath his breath.

"I'll say," Lea murmured. "The old man always made sure this place was sparkling. Wonder why he suddenly forgot all about it?" However, something was kept unsaid between the two. Both noticed it, but refused to say anything about it. It was probably a trick of the light or something. After all, there was no way the shadows could move as freely as that… could they? The shrubs and trees that once seemed so peaceful and beautiful in the sunlight had now become gnarled in their lack of care. The silence that had once seemed so peaceful now seemed sinister and menacing.

"…Lea…"

"Yeah? What is it, Isa?"

"Maybe we should just go back? There's something… off about this place."

"We've already come in, Isa. Might as well see what the hell's going on," Lea scoffed as he sauntered across the seemingly abandoned garden. Sighing, Isa followed his friend with a guarded pace. The doors to the castle were already before them, its ominous countenance almost seeming to dare them to enter. Standing before the enormous double doors, the two of them began to wonder how they were to enter the palace. They had no keys, and the lowest window was at least two stories high. Climbing a tree would be useless as well, seeing as none of them grew close to the palace itself. But before either of them could voice an idea, the doors creaked open with an ominous air. A cold wind blasted from inside the castle, ruffling their hair roughly in its wake. For a moment, both boys simply stood there, as if suddenly overcome by the castle's omnipresence. It was almost as if the fortress itself was taunting them with its secrets.

Suddenly snapping out of their reverie, Lea and Isa looked wordlessly to each other for support before cautiously entering the residence of King Ansem and his apprentices. The sound of their footsteps bounced off the walls and seemed to travel down the corridor that led through the castle. Goosebumps trailed down their arms as the earlier wind continued to creep down their necks. In contrast with the castle's garden, the interior seemed to be in better care. But, that is to say that it was not the splendid immaculateness it was known for. The shadows they had glimpsed out of the corner of their eyes earlier, now seemed more… alive. In the darkness, orb-like lights silently slithered towards the two of them. However, as Lea suddenly turned around, the orbs quickly flickered out.

"Isa," Lea murmured, eyes swiveling at the slightest noises. "Maybe… you were right. Something in here doesn't feel right. Let's turn back."

"Good idea," he replied anxiously. However, as both boys turned to exit the palace, the doors slammed themselves shut with a foreboding clunk. Almost immediately, the boys bounded towards the doors and desperately grasped the handles. Tugging and pulling as hard as they could, the door would not open back. Feeling an icy touch suddenly slide down their necks, Lea and Isa recoiled and quickly stood back to back from each other.

"Damn cold," Lea muttered, cursing underneath his breath as the room slowly grew chillier. "Where is it coming from anyway?"

"I don't know…" Suddenly, the lights hanging on the sides of the walls began to sputter out, one by one. And with each light, the shadows seemed to crawl closer and closer to them. But soon, another sound accompanied the whispers of the shadows. It almost sounded like… footsteps?

The apprentices! They must still be alive! And if anybody could get the two of them out of the castle, the apprentices could.

However, that icy touch abruptly returned, fiercer than before. While the first time had been a brief skim, this one felt like a punch to the back of the head. And if Lea's cursing was any indicator, he had felt the same frigid energy again as well. Struggling to retain his consciousness, Isa felt another icy slam to his lower back, then his stomach, followed by several aimed toward the back of the head. Hearing Lea collapse behind him, Isa soon followed his friend as they both succumbed to unconsciousness.


It was cold. Why was it dark? Had everything been a nightmare?

"This one snuck in…"

His hearing muddled, Isa struggled to understand the voices floating around him.

"… Purebloods almost reached them… Put the other in…"

Stirring slightly, Isa recollect what had happened before he fell unconscious. The doors had locked behind them… they had been trapped inside… the cold… and Lea. Lea! Where was he?

"… Save them for testing… Set it up…"

That voice… it sounded horribly… familiar, yet alien. Before he could wonder anymore, a blinding light flickered on. Wincing, Isa rapidly blinked his eyes to adjust them to the sudden change in lighting. Pushing himself up, Isa saw that the room was completely empty save for the slab of steel he was laying on. He could now see that the very table had thick leather buckles placed (but thankfully not strapped) near his wrists and ankles. The room had no carpeting, let alone tile. Instead, the floor consisted of slick marble, while the stainless steel walls gave a harsh glare in the artificial light. His teeth chattering wildly, Isa surveyed his icy surroundings with a sense of apprehension. Suddenly, a daunting thought struck him with the force of a load of bricks.

Perhaps it wasn't the apprentices he heard earlier with Lea. Perhaps it an intruder had managed to catch them as well. That would explain the disrepair the castle had fallen under. After all, it was no secret that the apprentices retained a great pride in keeping the castle in its pristine order.

However, before Isa could give the apprentices any more thought, the sound of precise footsteps echoed across the room, approaching him. The rational part of his mind screamed that he should run as far as his legs could carry him, but some irrational fear kept him where he sat. Then, from a previously unnoticed corner of the room, a figure began to separate himself from the shadows. His shoes clacking across the floor in precise movements, a sadistic smirk crawled across his face in anticipation. New subjects always merited some interest, after all.

"Who are you?" Isa growled out.

In response, the cloaked being stepped into the artificial light, removing the hood that obscured his face.

Impossible.

"… Even?" Isa whispered, unable to believe what was before him. Relief as well as a twinge of apprehension flooded Isa. There was something… off about Even. His eyes, once a furious green, now seemed wider and almost appeared to pop out of his head.

"Even?" the figure murmured in confusion. "Ah yes, that was my name, wasn't it? "

"Where am I, Even? Where's Ansem?" Isa asked with a touch of anxiety.

Ignoring the boy's questions, Even began to scribble something onto a clipboard. "You wish to escape, correct?" he inquired. "Then you may leave."

What? What was the scientist rambling about this time?

"Go ahead. Run." Shocked beyond words, Isa gaped at Even. Looking up from his clipboard, the man glared at Isa with calculating, cold, eyes. "I am not going to come after you, so I highly suggest that you take this opportunity while it lasts… After all, we're not precisely sure how much longer your friend will hold out."

His sea green eyes widening, Isa sprinted out of the room as quickly as he could. However, in his haste, he failed to notice the malicious smirk that crossed Even's face.

"My,my," he murmured, absentmindedly. "It seems I have already forgotten how easy a heart is to manipulate. Perhaps this requires more observation than I originally thought…"

Panting desperately, Isa sprinted through the maze of hallways that made up the castle's basement. Or at least, what he hoped was the basement. He didn't dare slow down. How could he when Lea could be suffering unspeakable things at this very moment? He could be strapped down to a table, watching his would-be murderers select their method of torture. 'Lea,' he thought, eyes burning. 'You had better be alive when I find you.'

But he ran through the countless corridors, Isa began to slowly lose hope.


When Lea had regained consciousness, he found himself alone in a wide room that resembled a prison cell. His first thought had been to look for Isa. But naturally, the sound of heavy footsteps suddenly began to echo through the door. And naturally, he had rushed toward the room's only exit, only to find the door locked. Perfect.

And the footsteps were coming closer.

It was at that moment, as adrenaline and dread began to creep through his body, that it suddenly struck him that he wasn't alone in the cell. Slowly turning around, Lea saw countless shadows with yellow, lamp-like eyes observing him from the corners of the room. For once in his life, Lea was at a loss of what to do. Usually it didn't take much to confuse the Unversed enough to run away, but there was no telling what these creatures could do. If anything, they seemed far worse than any Unversed.

Slithering across the floor, closer and closer to Lea, the creatures reached out with jagged talons, almost as if they wanted something from him. Clawing, grasping for something within their reach. Something they knew he wouldn't give up without a fight.

Slowly backing up against the locked door, Lea felt perspiration trickle down his face as they drew ever closer. And with every second, the footsteps reverberated through the walls. Then, when the closest of the shadows were just about to sink their claws into him, the door suddenly flew open. Flying through the exit without sparing a thought toward the strange occurrence, Lea dashed through the halls without having the slightest idea of where he was going.

Darting past room after room, Lea eventually ducked behind a corner to catch his breath. Leaning against the cold wall, he gradually began to utter a slight snigger. They thought it would be that easy to catch him, did they? Well, he proved them wrong. And for a moment, Lea allowed himself to forget what he was up against. That is, until those same footsteps sounded once again. A sensation of unadulterated dread crept down his neck as the noises, deep as drums, began to approach him. Without a moment's hesitation, Lea continued his sprint through the maze of passageways. But no matter how fast he ran, the sounds only drew closer. All the corridors were beginning to look the same now, and slowly but surely, Lea was beginning to tire. Eliciting one last burst of speed, Lea dove around/behind a corner that hopefully led to a different section of the passages.

Only a few seconds later, the footsteps came within feet of Lea's last-ditch attempt at hiding. It was then that he felt a hand suddenly draw itself over his mouth. Struggling wildly, Lea ceased as soon as he saw Isa glaring at him from his place on the ground. Giving him a look that distinctly told Lea to shut up, Isa removed his hand and pressed himself against the corner, hoping against all odds that the figure had not heard their scuffle. Abruptly, the footsteps came to a halt, almost as if Isa's thoughts had jinxed/doomed the two. Neither even daring to move, let alone breathe, they remained absolutely motionless. Mere seconds seemed to stretch themselves into hours, until finally, the figure resumed its pace and walked past their rather poor hiding spot merely inches away. Both releasing a sigh of relief, they slumped against the wall. Looking toward each other, they gave a smirk, which quickly grew into a quiet laughter.

"That was… probably one of our closer moments," Lea murmured, shaking his head.

"Nothing we couldn't handle though," Isa casually replied.

"Oh, I wouldn't say that just yet," a dark voice chuckled. Suddenly, a cloaked figure suddenly stepped out of a black void that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

"Braig?"

"Not quite. I go under a different name now," he said, removing his hood. Braig -or whatever he was now- now had a face full of scars to his name, along with eerily yellow eyes. "But don't worry, you'll understand yourself soon enough… if you're one of the lucky ones."

"What the hell is this guy talking about?" Lea muttered underneath his breath to Isa.

"You kids should really pick better places to hide. No offense, but you made it all too easy," he said, choosing to ignore them. "Honestly, we tried to go easy on you, but Zexion was convinced that this was as far as you would go. Eh, either way, Vexen's gonna have a conniption."

"Look, I don't care what you're talking about, but just point us toward the general exit," Isa said exasperatedly.

"Too late now, kiddo. The only way out is through that door over there," he said, gesturing toward a passage that had not been there before. Peering around the corner, they saw that the hall closed in a dead end, with only one door leading out of it. "You go through that, and you should end up back in the gardens."

"Let's not waste any time then," Lea said. Without another word, both immediately began to dash toward the door, managing to exit the passage without any difficulty.

For a moment, Xigbar stood where he was, foot tapping on the ground and his face scrunched up as if he were trying to recall something. Suddenly, he snapped his fingers in recollection. "Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention... That wasn't an exit. It was an entrance." Summoning another void with his hand, he added with a smirk, "Oh, and Vexen also reminded me to place a few hundred Heartless in there, so best of luck to you." And with that, he disappeared into the darkness.


The room was black, with the exception of the lamp-like eyes.

They had willingly fallen into the trap.

And the darkness engulfed them without delay.


Number VII, Saïx.

Number VIII, Axel.

They didn't know how long they had remained in the darkness, just that they had eventually emerged.

Although their hearts had perished, they themselves remained. Their bodies were stronger, faster, and more durable than their past selves had ever been. However, their hearts had served as recompense. And for that, they had Ansem's apprentices to thank. Who would have ever dreamed that their gluttony for knowledge had led them here? Apparently, their names had changed as well. Also, according to them, the only reason the two of them had survived was because of their strong friendship. Fat lot of good it did them now, without hearts to feel it.

But there was a way out.

The goal of the "Organization" was to create "Kingdom Hearts." Xemnas, the apparent leader, claimed that this very object would restore their hearts.

So be it.

Saïx and Axel would both wait. They would wait for the day when the six were at their weakest, when Kingdom Hearts was in their grasp. Then, they would seize control for themselves and regain their hearts. Until then, they would give the perfect act of obedience. Of course, they were not searching for vengeance. Rather, their aim was to make the others pay for their thievery. Now, it was only a matter of time.

But as time wore on and as the Keyblade Wielder and his Nobody arrived, it became clearer and clearer to the both of them.

From the very beginning, from the time they actually possessed hearts to their deaths as Nobodies,

They were fools.


A/N: Yeesh, I never get tired of writing about these two. Anywho, hope you enjoyed!