It was a cold night in Radiant Gardens. Silently snow fell and coated the world in a layer of white, untainted purity. Street lights lit the path that two lone men walked every few meters. It was about 10:00 pm. Most people were home asleep by now. But not Even and Aeleus. They were trotting through the snow, leaving a path of steps in their wake as the only evidence of their travels. But those would surely be covered by morning. Even shivered and sighed.
"I can't stand the cold…" Aeleus raised an eyebrow.
"A tad bit ironic."
"Yes, yes, I'm gifted with ice magic. That doesn't change the fact that we're walking through a small blizzard to get back to the castle, and we're still not even halfway there." Damned Xehenort and his need for test subjects. They hadn't found any, however, and had decided to head home before the storm worsened. Aeleus stopped in his tracks, Even stopping a few feet ahead of him. The blonde turned. "Something wrong, Aeleus?" The muscular teenager pointed to an alleyway.
"A shortcut." Even followed his finger to said alley and smirked.
"A very good observation. Shall we?" Even walked in the alley's direction and Aeleus followed.
They were nearing the end of the alley. The entrance to the castle was already in sight. Then Even heard an odd sound. A weird hybrid of a sob and a groan. He raised an eyebrow and turned to Aeleus, who was sending him a questing gaze. "Go on without me, alright?" The younger of the two nodded and again proceeded to the castle's entrance. He knew better than to question Even. Everyone did. The blonde wasn't much fun when his patience was being tried. When Even lost sight of his fellow apprentice, he turned and glanced at the alley behind him. He quickly noticed that his and Aeleus's footprints had already been covered. The storm was picking up. The scientist looked around and saw nothing. "…Perhaps my ears are playing tricks on me…?" He was about to turn to leave when he heard the noise again, this time also accompanied by a small bit of movement. His eyes jolted in the direction of the sound. Whatever had been moving had stopped. But the blonde knew better than to dismiss it. For all he knew, it could be an Unversed or an escaped Heartless. But what he discovered was a shock, even for the scientist who was always prepared.
In a small alcove between two buildings laid an unconscious child.
"Well well well, this is quite unexpected." Even looked down at the child. It appeared to be male, with whitish hair, but the scientist attributed that to the snow. His face was red, but his lips were bluish. Even sighed and ran through his options. He could always leave the boy. But then he would most likely perish in the cold of the snowstorm. Not to mention, if anyone found out that he had left the boy, he would be labeled as the bad guy. Even sighed again. The white smoke swirled in the chilly air in front of him. The same puffs of smoke were coming from the child, but much shallower. There was really only one sensible possibility. The apprentice picked the boy up and carried him to the castle.
Even was walking towards the laboratory when Ansem stopped him.
"Ah, Even, may I speak with you?"
"Of course." Even followed Ansem into his office. Ansem's office was pretty big, well lit with a large desk and long sofa. Even saw that on said sofa was the child he had saved from a frostbitten death three days prior. He raised an eyebrow. Ansem cleared his throat.
"I understand that you rescued this child?"
"Yes sir." The child, who Even now noticed had naturally silver hair and eyes, looked up. He could tell that they were talking about him.
"Do you know who he is? His name or background?"
"No, sir, nothing at all." Ansem nodded.
"I have discovered that this boy is an orphan."
"An orphan?" Even looked at the silver haired boy. They locked eyes, and Even was overwhelmed. No child should have a look of such…empty sadness hidden behind emotionless irises.
"Yes, an orphan. I have decided to adopt him. And since you are, after all, the one who found him, I request that you be his guardian." The blonde's eyes widened.
"But sir, you must be joking! Having to regard a child would interfere with our research!"
"You have nothing to be concerned for. Our research can be temporarily put on hold."
"…Are you certain?"
"Yes, very. He has no living family to go to. I cannot help but feel sympathy towards him. The least we can do is make sure he is properly raised." Even starts to argue, but after seeing the 'argue with me and I swear I will kill you' look on Ansem's face, he decided against it. He sighed.
"As you wish, Lord Ansem."
"Splendid." The blonde begins to leave the office, motioning for the boy to follow, but Ansem's voice stops him. "Even. You can also see it, can you not? His eyes. He is haunted by the ghosts of his past. Whatever those ghosts may be, I believe they have made him mute."
"Yes. He has not spoken a word since you have brought him to me." No words in three days? Wow. If only Braig could learn how to pull that off. Even looked at the boy, now standing by his side.
"Yes sir, I understand." He and the boy leave Ansem's office, shutting the door behind him. Ansem sighed.
"If anyone can get the boy out of his shell, it's Even…"
Even and the unnamed child walked silently through the hallways of the castle. The blonde pointed out small details along the way. Which bedroom belonged to who, which doors led to the labs or kitchen or courtyards, and which areas were off limits. Even stopped in front of his bedroom door.
"I suppose you shall be staying with me until your sleeping arrangements are in order." He opened the door and ushered the boy inside. The "bedrooms" were more like small apartments. There was a living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a mini kitchen. The silver haired boy again sat on the sofa. Even studied him intently.
He could still see it. The glimmer of sadness, of hollowness, swirling beyond the silver eyes. Glimmers of pain and suffering. They all lied there, professionally masked by the child's calm and stoic façade. Even raised an eyebrow again. "Do you truly not speak?" The boy nodded in a silent confirmation. Even rubbed his chin. "Are you literate?" The silver haired boy assumed he was asking if he could read and write. Another nod. Even thought over his options again. It would be hard to deal with the boy if he knew nothing of him, not even his name. But how would he find out if the child was mute? He rummaged through one of his drawers, pulling out a sketchbook. He flipped to a clean page and handed the book and a pencil to the silver haired boy. "Will you answer my questions?" The boy shrugged, which Even took as a yes. "What is your name, child?" The boy wrote his reply in the sketchbook.
My name is Ienzo.
Even read the reply time and time again, being sure to remember the name.
"Ienzo. A lovely name. I am Even. I have been put in charge of you."
Yes, so I've heard.
"Lord Ansem appears to have taken a fancy to you." Even watched as the calm mask slipped for a few seconds, Ienzo's eyes widening before regaining his usual composure.
Taken a fancy to me, has he?
Even nodded. "Yes. So much so, he decided to adopt you."
"Correct. He somehow discovered that you are orphaned. Is that true?" The blonde watched the sadness in Ienzo's eyes slowly surface.
It is true.
Even sighed slightly. "You are like me then."
Like you? In what way?
The older man let out a humorless chuckle. "Both of my parents died in an accident shortly after my fifteenth birthday. It's odd, really. I had cursed them every day for making my existence seem meaningless. But I still grieved over their caskets at their funeral." A single tear streams down Even's cheek. He wipes it away before Ienzo can see it and clears his throat. "I cannot totally relate, I suppose. You being so much younger than I was at the time, it must have felt much worse. But I know the sensation of feeling alone and abandoned, even though there was nothing they, nor you, could've done to prevent their death. It's something I can never forget." Ienzo stares at the sketchbook in his hands for a few moments before writing again.
Your existence isn't meaningless. Not to me, at least. Without you, I would have been a popsicle by morning.
Even sighs again. "I suppose you would be. Forgive my pestering questions, but why were you there to begin with?" Ienzo stares blankly at the sketchbook again. He writes slowly this time, thinking out the words carefully.
I ran away from my foster parents.
Even raised an eyebrow. "Any why was that?"
Why would I stay? The 'father' was an alcoholic, the 'mother' was abusive both physically and verbally, and the 'siblings' were all conceited and cruel-hearted. I had no reason to be there. So I ran. Ran until I fell outcold, apparently.
'A runaway, eh?' Even thought. 'So by keeping him here with us…aren't we breaking the law?' Ienzo handed him the sketchbook again.
Will you turn me in to the authorities? My being here is a danger to you.
Even sighed. "I suppose we have no choice. By harboring you, we are going against the law of Radiant Gardens." Ienzo is silent again for several moments.
The blonde clenched his fists. He felt guilty, sending the boy back to the life that he himself had once known so well. Jumping from foster family to foster family, some good and some bad, but none truly wanting him around. It's a horrible feeling. Even wouldn't even wish it upon his worst enemy. But what could he do? "It is getting late. We shall discuss this with Ansem in the morning."
May I ask a question now?
Why did you save me?
The older raised an eyebrow. Why had he saved Ienzo? There wasn't anything in it for him except maybe a few reputation points. At the time, it was simply so he would not be scolded if anyone discovered that he had left him there to die. But it was more than that. Even saw something in the child that he had never seen before, even when looking into a mirror.
He saw himself.
Another sigh. "I couldn't leave you for dead, now could I?"
On the contrary, you could have. We had never met. You knew nothing about me. You hadn't touched me, so if I were to have died, your fingerprints would not be present. You could have very well left and gotten off Scot-free. Why didn't you?
"…I'm not sure, exactly. I am a rather stoic and introverted man. I suppose seeing someone with no purpose, just as I, made me feel a spot of empathy."
You do not seem stoic or introverted to me.
"We have but only just met. I assure you, you shall see my true nature sometime soon."
True nature my ass. What I'm seeing of you right now is your true nature. You rescued me because you knew that it would weigh on your conscience to leave me for dead. You are a caring man. But you hide that fact in fear of being labeled as weak.
Even's eyes are wide with shock. How had he figured that all out? And so quickly as well. It was true, he was more…sensitive than he led others to believe. But he just didn't want to be judged. Was that wrong? "Enough. We will speak afterwards. For now, just go to sleep."
Why do you continue to deny it?
"I'm not denying it! And even if I was, I refuse to be told about my own life by a young fool who knows nothing about me but assumptions and stereotypes! Now go!" Even points to one of the bedroom doors. Ienzo walks into the room, silently closing it behind him. Even sighs and slumps onto the couch. He lets out an emotionless chuckle. "Heh…Letting a child get to me in such ways…I'm going soft…"
Even awoke with a jump. He looked around and sighed. He had fallen asleep on the couch last night. The blonde felt stiff. He stood up and cracked his back, neck, and fingers. When he looked at the clock, he let out another sigh. Not only had he fallen asleep on the sofa, he had overslept. The scientist rubbed his eyes. Then he remembered the events of the previous night. He looked down guiltily. How could he had even thought of sending Ienzo back when he had made it obvious that he didn't want to be there? Even poked his head through the doorframe of the room Ienzo had slept in that night. In a way, he owed the boy an apology. Although in others, Ienzo is the one who should be saying sorry.
"Ienzo…? Are you awake?" Even was shocked to see that Ienzo wasn't there, or in any other room in the mini apartment. He internally began to panic, before catching himself. What was he doing? Why was he worried? He shouldn't be worried about the little brat. Even if he was young…and delicate looking…and still recovering from hypothermia… The blonde shook his head and left his room to search for the silver haired boy. There was no use denying it. He was worried.
Even wandered through the castle halls, peering into every room he encountered. None of them were occupied. He continued to search the castle until he ran out of places to look, eventually ending up outside. The blonde groaned and plopped heavily onto a bench in the courtyard, burying his face in his palms.
"Perhaps he went home…?" He muttered. Even shook his head at his own thought. "No…He'd never go back. So he ran away again?" It seemed pretty likely. Even had, after all, told Ienzo that he was going to go to Ansem and have him turned into the authorities. The blonde rocketed upright again, standing up and very nearly knocking the bench over. "Lord Ansem! Maybe he has seen Ienzo!" He ran back into the castle, nearly knocking over a confused Aeleus and Braig in the process.
"…The old coot finally snapped." Braig whispered to the teen. Aeleus shook his head.
"His paternal instincts." He said with a calm nod. Braig raised an eyebrow, but said nothing else as they continued into the courtyard.
Even ran into Ansem's office without even knocking, now starting to show his panic. His voice came out louder than he had meant it to as he questioned his teacher.
"Lord Ansem, have you seen-"
"SHHH!" Ansem hushed Even from behind his desk, putting a finger to his lips. Even raise an eyebrow at the silver haired man, who smirked and pointed to the sofa in the room.
And gods behold, there laid a sleeping Ienzo, curled up in a position much like the one Even had found him in.
The blonde's eyes raked over the quietly snoring form, eyes wide with shock. He looked back at Ansem, who shrugged nonchalantly.
"The boy was wandering the castle and got lost, so I let him sleep in here." He said calmly. Even nodded and looked back down at Ienzo. A small smile tugged at his lips. He looked at ease while he was sleeping. It seemed like a crime to disturb him, but Even knew the downsides of sleeping on couches. The blonde gently lifted the silver haired boy up bridal style.
"I will bring him back to our room." Even informed his superior without looking back at him. Ansem simply nodded understandingly as he watched the blonde carry the boy away.
When Even returned to their mini-apartment, he set Ienzo in his bed. The boy automatically curled in on himself. Even smiled again and covered him with the comforter. Ienzo rolled over onto his back, one arm hanging off the edge of the bed. A crumpled piece of paper fell out of his hand and onto the floor. Even raised an eyebrow and picked it up, quickly identifying it as a sheet of paper from his sketchbook. He uncrumpled it and found several things written in Ienzo's chickenscratch handwriting, only to be crossed out.
May I begin by saying that without you, I would be
I would like to express my immense gratitude towards
Although you may regret it, I am
Mere words cannot describe how appreciative
I will never forget the night you
Even continued to skim the paper, only to find several other incomplete sentences scribbled out until they were nearly illegible. Just as he prepared to recrumple the paper, a hand reached up and snatched it away. Even blinked at the boy, who looked back at him with the same emotionless eyes he had shown earlier. Ienzo ripped the paper cleanly in half and crumpled them again, tossing them into the trashcan beside the bed. The blonde watched in shock and looked back down at the silver haired boy. Ienzo shrugged and sighed.
"T-thank you…Even." He said in a voice that was surprising clear considering the lack of use. Ienzo was sick of trying to be formal. So why not a straightforward way of showing his gratitude? Even blinked, still in shock, and smiled slightly again. He patted the boy's head softly.
"You're welcome, Ienzo. Now go to sleep, alright?" Ienzo nodded and snuggled deeper under the covers Even had placed on him. Even stepped silently out of the room, shutting the door behind him and walking into his own. With a sigh, he laid in his own bed and stared up at the ceiling, still smiling softly. "I've become soft serve ice cream." He mused with a chuckle. It was odd how one kid could change someone so drastically. Make someone's tough demeanor melt. But that's what Ienzo had done. He'd made Even go soft. And the oddest part of that?
Even didn't mind.
A/N- I apologize if it's terrible. Honestly, I haven't played Birth By Sleep due to my lack of a PSP. I didn't have much to go on except descriptions from friends that have played it. But when a friend of mine mentioned that Ienzo was a nearly mute orphan adopted by Ansem and taken in by Even, I couldn't help but make my own little story to go along with it. So review and tell me what I did right or wrong and whether you liked it or not. I don't mind flames, but they will be given to Axel to burn Mansex's clothes. Or maybe I'll keep them and light Axel's hair on fire. :D Speaking of which, I have a popularity poll up for the KH characters on my bio. Please go take it. Cookies and love to all who review or take the poll!