Length: ~900 words
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Pairings/Characters: Vanitas and Ventus centric. This is basically gen but I write from the assumption of Terra/Ventus/Aqua and a certain twisted degree of Vanitas/Ventus.
Summary: Contrary to common belief, evil does sleep, and evil does dream.
Genre: Angst/Character study?
Warnings: SPOILERS FOR BIRTH BY SLEEP. Time-fuckery; inconsistencies. Sympathizing with Vanitas. A nonsensical narrative. Vanitas being a bit of a sadist.
Set: Ostensibly during Birth By Sleep, but I realize there are some problems with this.
diremption (plural diremptions)
1. (rare) A ripping apart; a forceful sundering.
Contrary to common belief, evil does sleep, and evil does dream.
Even Vanitas dreams.
Vanitas dreams of ice cream, of clock-towers and keyblades and hands in his. These are not his dreams and he knows it, hates it; leans in as Aqua kisses his hair with numb lips. Things feel real, in dreams, and the smile that stretches his cheeks is not his.
Some dreams are more difficult to place. There's a boy, for instance; a boy with silver hair and light eyes and a determination that mirrors his. The sea frames the edges of this scene, and the first time Vanitas looks into it, shoes and stomach wet as he forages for a pebble to skim, his heart leaps to see the face so close to his.
"Sora? What is it?"
Sometimes there's no water at all, and Vanitas slips asleep to a bird's eye view of some storybook city, buildings the colour of starlight and trains that glide over pavements strangely soundlessly. There's a simple magic to the place, but this particular dream-self aches and aches and aches in a way that is too familiar to make Vanitas want to stay.
Put an end to me.
When he wakes, he is sometimes sleepier than he should be, sodden and heavy-headed with the residue of some dreamt emotion, and the first time it happens, Vanitas is forced to explain, sullenly, the reason for his sluggishness. He is surprised, and not a little gratified, when his nightly excursions are greeted with intrigue rather than impatience.
"They are memories, not dreams, Vanitas."
Xehanort's voice is flat and firm and it makes Vanitas feel dull and empty. He is well beyond any initial delusions about the 'Master'; he is merely Xehanort now; to his face and in his head, for what does Vanitas care about a X-blade, a Keyblade War, the balance between light and darkness? For him there is only Ventus; Ventus and revenge, punishment for the scabbing fissure that itches away within his ribcage. He resents it; knows he owes his existence to it; wants something more that he cannot articulate but that Ventus in agony will surely provide. Meanwhile Xehanort talks on and boredom slides around his throat like a snake.
"We can use them against Ventus. They will lead us to his heart."
His heart, Vanitas thinks. Home. Light against dark; his heart against mine. Sometimes, he dreams he is someone with a hole where that heart should be, and now he finds himself wondering if he will still have those dreams when he and Ventus are one. His chest isn't empty when he wakes, but it's incomplete, and the similarities frighten him.
"Tell me everything," Xehanort says, and Vanitas does not hesitate.
Henceforth, their plans mature and begin to take form, and Vanitas's ambitions for more funnel into anticipation, impatience, preparation. But even while events around them slide into motion, Vanitas still sleeps, still dreams. Even more: he learns, and begins to distinguish his dream-selves by their companions. Aqua and Terra, of course, are familiar fixtures, and belong to Ventus; Riku and Kairi to his doppelganger by the sea, whose name is Sora; and then there is Roxas, the anomaly, with Axel and Xion like shadows behind him. At times, these latter two get confused, their faces overlaid with someone else's features, and Vanitas learns their names, too: Hayner, Pence, and a third person, Olette, who climbs into being beside them. Whenever this happens, the sudden asymmetry is always disastrous; Roxas disintegrates and drags Vanitas's heart along with him, this dream only big enough for three.
So many broken pieces.
Ultimately, Vanitas likes dreaming of Ventus the most, because he always wakes the next morning shaking with a beautiful bloodlust. The scenes that make up these dreams are comfortingly predictable, and Vanitas sits through them peaceably while his heart burns and burns and burns. Terra and Aqua coddle Ventus without even thinking; distracted, loving, but somehow absent; while Ventus's heart shakes under the strain of it, Vanitas takes it into himself like a long-delayed breath in. Hatred and hurt have become like air to him: nourishment, and relief.
And sometimes, rarely, Vanitas dreams his own dreams. He dreams of Aqua and Riku; Axel and Terra; and of course, of Ventus, his face the colour of milk in the moonlight. They are gathered in the training ground like they have every business being there, Axel setting fire to the practice rings while Ventus looks at him.
"What do you want?"
"Kingdom Hearts," Vanitas answers, unfailingly. "To dream without being asleep."
"Is that it?" Riku asks, disdainful and disbelieving. Across from him, Terra's eyes meet his and he places a hand on Ventus's cheek.
Vanitas watches and waits and wants to kill them. For all that he does not truly care for Kingdom Hearts, Ventus is wrong; all light and no darkness, and sometimes, when he dreams him, Vanitas thinks the other boy knows it. His limbs cast no shadow over the sandstones of home, and he watches Terra and Aqua talk with an emptiness jealousy should fill. Too much purity, too much brilliance. Ventus is difficult to look at, and Vanitas wants to take him apart, atom by atom, and put him back together again, the way he was meant to be. Broken, and hating, and in pain.
"You did this," Ventus reminds him, a glow against the horizon that speaks from Sora's heart with Roxas's lips.
"No," Vanitas says, and his words too, echo with a multiplicity of voices. They have fragmented into so many pieces, now; and each piece clings to its existence. Isolation and incompleteness and light without darkness; this is how the world begins, splinter upon splinter upon splinter.
They fight and fight and fight, but when they lie down to sleep, they share the same dreams.
A/N: This started off as an instinctive reaction to finishing the Final Episode of Birth By Sleep and the nagging sympathy I'd been experiencing throughout the game for Vanitas who, after all, cannot help being born evil and has a life of unbearable emptiness when compared to Ventus, with no one but Xehanort for company. In turned into a sort-of manifesto for a Neon Genesis-esque instrumentality. In my defence, theirs is an unbearable autonomy, and I have crossed every appendage I possess in the hopes that Kingdom Hearts III will see some of these glass hearts mended.
A/N 2: There's some time-fuckery around here. Specifically, with regards to Vanitas dreaming of Roxas; which shouldn't really be possible given that these dreams are set during Birth By Sleep and thus well before CoM and KH II. (Likewise Vanitas should not be able to "remember" Kairi.) However, this is Kingdom Hearts, so I'm not unduly bothered; and, what the heck, Vanitas's dreams are jumping ahead. He is dreaming all the selves he has been and will be, through time and space. This is the power of the heart and the self according to my head-canon. It transcends order and distance like magnets pulled towards a centre. So there!