I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But it's feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone,
The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour
And I started staring at the passengers who're waving goodbye
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?
Really, I was kind of wondering if the world was going to spontaneously combust anytime soon. I'd realized at some point I'd mimicked Axel's defend-the-young gesture and hooked an arm around Suna's shoulder and pulled him in to lean on my shoulder. Which he had, and he seemed to be resting there comfortably.
My baby. I will kill you if you look at him funny. Though, Axel was more…guyish about the whole thing. I don't know, it was like a 'bro-hug' more than…well, what I was doing.
Twenty-five minutes in, and we hadn't gotten much further than the "Yeah, really, guys, we're all being civil," and my "Yes, Axel, I did try to find you so I could get you clued in, but I couldn't find any trace of you."
Marluxia and Larxene weren't present, at least not within my line of vision from the windows on either side, so I assumed they weren't interested in banding back together with everyone else. Which, you know, I could understand, and Xemnas had said pretty much the same thing.
"Okay, look, dudes," I sighed, the fingers of my free hand splayed across my face at odd angles to avoid my glasses, "Really, I think all of you have screwed someone else in this room over at least once, I know why you're all cautious, you all know why you're all cautious. We all get it. But chill. Seriously."
Zexion tilted his head, and both of his eyes came into view. "If this is going to work," he said, "we need to know why we're all here."
It felt odd, to know I'd spoken more than Xemnas the entire time. But the thing was, everyone was addressing me, and whenever someone started getting riled up by someone else, I was the one stepping in (aside from Kody, who had stamped directly on Axel's toe in an attempt to redirect his attention once the redhead had started in at Saïx regarding…well. You guys know).
But Zexion brought up a valid point, and I knew it.
"This was your plan," he continued, "from the very beginning, this was your goal. To establish contact with as many of us as possible, individually, and bring us together." His posture straightened. "Now you have as many of us as you are going to get."
I scoffed. "You make it sound like I'm some creepy collector." And, of course, it occurred to me then that there were probably creepy obsessive and insane fans that might have tried just that.
Axel crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. "What do you want, you deranged little fangirl?" There was a careful amount of humor in his voice, but it was humor nonetheless. I snorted. "Since you're not going to, you know, erase us all for good."
Suna shifted uncomfortably.
"This is all I wanted," I stated, gesturing with a simple flick-roll of my wrist to regard the entire room. "I know what the lack of trust within the Organization did last time. I wanted to establish safety. I know how today ends won't be the end of this, and I know you guys are still going to be tiptoeing around eggshells for a while after this, but I need everyone here, especially you, Axel, to know that this place—this house, my home—is a neutral zone. A safe place. Nobody is going to stab anybody in the back—don't snicker at that, Xigbar, I heard you—because I'm watching you. And I'm not the only one."
I twitched my head towards Demyx. "Ly's got his back, she's not just clinging because she's scared. She's been here for half an hour and I can already see that. Kody isn't just an idle participant in this, he's with you. Leah's been hiding Xigbar and Vexen in her closet, and even if not every Nobody has a Somebody looking out for them here all the time, I don't want anyone to have to look over their shoulder all the time."
I hesitated to add this last part, because it was an odd thing to say for me. "And…I trust all of you not to do anything stupid. I don't think any of you are going to go after anyone else for petty revenge, because nobody's dead yet. But if there's ever a time you guys just don't feel safe, you can come here." I tapped the back of my foot on the floor once, hard. "There's an old basement—all cement and sometimes it's a bit chilly, but there's a table down there and some chairs. Good for playing cards. There's the living room here. We can watch movies and play games and more stupid stuff if anyone wants to hang out that long."
And then I pointed upwards with my thumb. "My big brother lives upstairs, he's out with his friend right now. Beth's recently moved into my older nephew's room now that he's out of the house most of the time—she's my older sister, and if any of you mess with her or make a pass at her I will kill you. My younger nephew is also upstairs. My mother is currently in the bedroom she and I share. If you guys feel sociable, she'll probably chat a bit.
"We have lots of pets. It runs in the family. If anyone here has a job and can support one of our kittens, please, for the love of God, say something if you want one. We are trying to give them away. But anyways, dogs, cats, birds, mice, if anyone is allergic to those, I'll try to keep as many of them in the bedroom as I can if you decide to visit."
There was an odd amount of silence, and as I looked around more and more I understood—there were two or three people who seemed confused.
And I'd be lying if I didn't understand why.
I hadn't named terms beyond no killing each other.
"…I really have no ulterior motive." There. I said it. "I'm just a bleeding heart. Things are rough around here a lot, but I always feel safe here. I can't imagine living without that. I can do hungry, sick, claustrophobic, but the very idea of feeling like I might get knifed in the back at any possible time horrifies me. I don't want you guys to feel that way."
Safety, I realized, had always been a constant. I couldn't remember clearly a time when I had been beyond uncomfortable in my own home. Even if it was awful and extreme and scarred me for life, I had never feared for my life.
Now to diffuse that unsteady tension.
"…okay, so I'm also pleased as heck I have most of the Organization in my house. I mean really. I'm the only person in the world who can say that."
Most of them chuckled—Xaldin, Xigbar, Luxord, Xemnas, Suna (who actually more of giggled), Axel (I was relieved, very, very relieved that he had relaxed enough to do so)…and Saïx, Zexion, and Vexen were all smirking.
Leah looked rather pleased, and Ly looked like she was having a hard time not smiling. Kody had ducked his head, and it looked like he might have been trying not to laugh, given the trembling of his shoulders.
"Alright." I leaned back again, and Suna sagged more heavily against me. I glanced over and tapped Xemnas on the arm. He glanced at me, eyebrows lifting, eyes so open and curious it made my stomach twist. I smirked. "I told them about everything I can for now but Xion," and I didn't miss Axel's head whipping back around to me from the corner of my eye, "Floor's all yours. Talked more'n I have in a month today."
His hand came to my face, going from my cheek to my hair, resting along my ponytail—the entire gesture was strikingly affectionate, and comforting, though…PDA wasn't really Xemnas' thing.
Was he deliberately doing it to show that he was fond of me? I supposed it made sense, if he was as tense as I thought he might have been—yeah, the way his gaze had shifted from thoughtful to determined but mostly blank, he was making it clear to everyone that he was protective.
…in an odd, touchy-feely way that bordered on uncomfortable once my brain caught up and took a tally of everyone in the room who had been watching.
As he took his hand off my hair, I lay my other cheek on top of Suna's head and cuddled.
And then, bam: it clicked.
Xemnas was doing with me what I was doing with Suna, but with much less physical contact.
Platonic or no, it thrilled me. Because when Beth showed that sort of protectiveness, it was usually obnoxious and publicly humiliating. When Robert did it, he didn't even need to be in the same room to project the promises of violence should I be harmed. Xemnas was…
"Very well, then."
Soothing, exciting, and terrifying all at once.
Always, always safe.
Xemnas began with a fairly simple statement; something about as straightforward as anyone could expect from him in this situation:
"During my time here, I have spent a number of hours trying to understand our…rather fortuitous placement not only in this world, but so close to those who could not only understand us, but accept and help us."
In other words, I gathered that he was saying he had no idea why I was the one who found him and Suna, or why Leah had found Xigbar and Vexen, or why Em—Ly had found Demyx, or Kody with Axel.
Although, I wanted to point out that I hadn't just helped Xemnas and Suna. It had been entirely mutual. Leah probably needed a couple of friends around, and I couldn't be there for her in the flesh. I couldn't say anything regarding Ly and Demyx yet, but I had gotten the impression that Kody and Axel were taking care of each other.
"I…admit I have been rather distracted, and I may have been unable to devote my full attention to my calculations throughout my time spent here."
Considering the wide-eyed look on almost everybody's faces—even Lexaeus', apparently I wasn't the only one who heard Xemnas admit that he may have made a mistake regarding something scientific.
Vexen was the only one of the Nobodies who didn't look absolutely stunned.
"If I may, Xemnas, I have theory."
Xemnas' gaze slid to Vexen and he nodded, then added as what seemed like an afterthought; "Please."
And now Vexen looked surprised—pleasantly so. Hah, yes, Xemnas had even better manners now. Most of the time. "I have no definitive proof, of course—not yet. However, during my time in Castle Oblivion," he hesitated for a moment—something had twisted in his tone, and I understood why. "…As Zexion and Lexaeus also witnessed, shortly after Sora's arrival, Riku, too, appeared in Castle Oblivion."
I rubbed Suna's arm gently. I felt a strong urge to kick the real Riku for some reason.
"It was due to their emotional attachment towards each other, Sora's heart likely acting as a light through the darkness, you seem for Riku to follow." Vexen nodded to me, then. "I have seen that Victoria is hardly a shining beacon of light—in fact, according to your own words, Xemnas, she was much like a candle moments from flickering out."
A heavy weight rested in the pit of my stomach again, unsettled at verbal confirmation from a Nobody at how close to emotionally dead I was. That, and I was a little…unhappy knowing that Xemnas and Vexen had been speaking about me.
"However, when she did feel, she felt strongly—and that dying fire became more or less a roaring fire," Xemnas spoke slowly, carefully, and I lowered my eyes to the floor, more and more unsettled for some reason. It might have been because of the careful neutrality of his tone.
"How very poetic, Xemnas."
I nailed Axel with a glare. There was no humor in his tone or in his eyes. Just pure sarcasm.
"You did not know her when I did." Xemnas' voice was no longer as neutral, but a little firmer, spoken quickly like a dismissal. He was going to say something else, but clearly thought better than to take Axels' bait again, and instead he looked to Vexen again. "Please go on. I apologize for interrupting."
Vexen snorted—at what, I didn't know—but continued. "Magic is almost entirely dead in this world, and very few people would even be capable of using it even if they knew how."
Oh…oh. I glanced down at Suna, and his eyes were a little wide, but unreadable, as he looked right back at me.
You know where he's going with this, too.
"And I am unsure as to whether she has discovered this or not, but, I believe that Victoria has the capability to use magic—to be more specific, she could tap into the darkness in her heart and use it, were she given instruction."
That darkness is still there, then.
"…I see." Xemnas was thoughtful, nodding almost imperceptibly.
"…Can I ask something?" I piped up, lifting my cheek from Suna's hair. The question was more or less directed at Vexen, but I figured anyone could answer if it they so chose.
"If I was a dying candle back then, what am I now?"
Silence. Vexen frowned, and looked at me hard—like I had confused him. Either that, or he thought I was stupid and should know that myself.
"Perhaps a comparison to a lighter wouldn't be too far off," came Axel's voice after a second. "There's some potential for some real fire there," he continued, reaching into a pocket to withdraw a lighter pretty much similar to the ones my mom had for lighting cigarettes. (I figured he could use a lighter if he didn't want anyone to see him using his powers, but I really hoped he hadn't gotten into the habit of smoking… ) "But you've got control over it. You decide when that little spark happens-" he lit it, very briefly. "—but if you hang on too long, you'll get your finger burnt." He lit it again, letting the flame continuously touch his skin until he very quickly released it, and shook his finger. "Like that." He looked frustrated. Like he hadn't actually expected to get burnt.
"…are you okay?" I asked then, "Do you want some ice?"
"Nah, no, I'm okay."
I looked down at my left hand, considered lighting a Dark Fira, and decided against it.
"…Anyways, go on, Vexen." I shook my head. "Sorry for all the interruptions."
"We have time for it all, it seems," Vexen was staring out one of the windows thoughtfully as he spoke, before looking at Xemnas again. "So as not to draw it out, however, when you appeared in this world, we other Nobodies did as well. And of course-" he gestured towards us, "Suna, too."
"…and so instead of a beacon of light, you were more or less a guiding power," Leah said to Xemnas, her tone something I wasn't quite sure of. Leah and I IMed more than we video chatted, so I hadn't mapped out all the little changes in her voice according to her mood. But she sounded pretty confident in what she was saying, in a way I wasn't while I had been more or less rambling to the audience of Nobodies.
"We haven't quite figured out why the little guy showed up yet, but I don't think those to are complaining," Xigbar tossed in, gesturing animatedly at Suna and I. I straightened up a bit more, and so did Suna, so we weren't so…snuggled up together. "Yeesh. You guys are enough to give an old man cavities. It's disgusting."
"You're just jealous because Leah won't cuddle with you and she has you stuck in her closet whenever her parents are home."
"As if! I'll have you know, I—I—" and it seemed like Xigbar's brain caught up and finally registered what exactly Suna had said, and he broke off into chuckles. "You little twerp. You think you're cute, don't you?"
"No, I know I'm cute."
Even Robert thought Suna was a cute little bastard. Everyone loved Suna.
Aside from cute, though, even with strictly platonic feelings towards him, I could say that Suna's pretty sexy, too. I was worried if Suna went into public much more he'd have girls that I'd have to beat off of him with a stick following his shadow.
"We seem to have gotten off-track again," Xemnas stated in a very even tone, even though the side of his mouth was trying to twist into a smirk.
Vexen pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "Yes, yes we have. My point is, everybody, that while Xemnas may or may have not appeared in Victoria's relative location because of her own situation at the time, he acted as a guiding power for the rest of us, even if we were somewhat scattered. After constructing a timeline with those of you I've already spoken to, he was indeed the first to appear in this world."
"I personally find it incredibly curious that while several of us wound up on our own, the exceptions to that were located shortly after their arrival." I looked at Xaldin while he spoke, but I offered no commentary.
"The answer to that is incredibly simple, but I think most of us are too arrogant to admit anything," Axel said. That earned him a confused look from Kody. The redhead saw it but only chuckled and added, "Hey, Nobodies can be arrogant too."
"Maybe it's cuz we needed it?"
Everybody looked at Demyx. He seemed to shrink down a little under everybody's gazes.
"I mean," he continued after swallowing audibly, "I-I was terrified when I woke up. I came into this world drowning, youguys. Do you have any idea how wrong that is? I nearly died in my own element." For a Nobody, Demyx looked rather…distraught and emotional. "After I washed up on the beach, I walked around looking like a drowned rat for about a day 'til Ly found me. At that point I'd all but worked myself into a panic. Day one, while looking like a drowned rat, I came across a Kingdom Hearts poster when I passed a GameStop. So yeah, one freaky revelation after another, and the worst part is the type of society this is—people like me are sharkbait for the masses."
Demyx had almost drowned, and Axel had burnt his own finger. What's next, Xaldin getting caught up in a tornado?
Demyx looked over in the direction of the couch looking ready to make a run for it, and he was struggling really hard to do it, but he made eye contact with Xemnas. And that was a pretty epic moment right there. "And…you're not like me, Xemnas, you're not all weak and clingy, but-" he swallowed again, fidgeted with a piece of hair, and started back up. "—but I think you needed Xiactorvi, and from what Zexion told me-"
Zexion glared at Demyx, and I glared at Zexion for a moment, but didn't say anything.
Ah, well. Demyx cringed something awful, it was kinda cute. And then Zexion wouldn't look me in the eye.
"—you've done a lot for her emotional state."
Xemnas sighed after a long moment of silence, and I tried to figure out the look he was giving Demyx, whose eyes were boring into the floor like he wanted to fall into the basement.
"You would have made it okay, I guess, if you'd been on your own, but dude…you gotta admit, you've really wound down a lot."
More silence. Xemnas' eyes flickered away for a moment, and when he caught me looking his eyes went down to his lap, and off to the side again.
I wasn't sure whether to jump in and give Xemnas a chance to get his composure back or give Demyx more of a chance to get this off his chest, because damn.
"Don't you feel better?"
He put emphasis on that.
My eyes darted between Demyx and Xemnas, and it got a little harder to breathe when I saw everything just sort of fall from Xemnas' expression.
Just when I was starting to feel a little twitchy and anxious, Xemnas' face softened, and he smiled, and rolled his shoulders in a shrug that was a little more shruggy than strictly necessary.
"I am content."
"I would like for everyone else to be capable of saying the same, but the absence of two people speaks volumes regarding their ideas on the matter."
With that, Xemnas stood up. "Axel, Demyx. I'd like to speak to the both of you, your…friends, family members?—can come as well. Xigbar, we need to have words later tonight."
"Mhm." Xigbar was smirking, but he sighed through his nose.
Demyx looked uncomfortable, but relieved that he and Axel weren't going alone at different times. Ly had taken his hand, while Kody and Axel simply walked together.
Axel looked more or less neutral on going, but as he followed Xemnas past Saïx, I saw the blue-haired Nobody's lips move for a moment.
Axel grinned and broke eye contact with him.
"It's always the stray puppies with you."
Hugging Leah was a lot more awkward-feeling than it should have felt at first. Because I really felt like I should been saying something witty or making a crack about her preference in Pokémon.
Cracking the Mudkips joke in front of half a roomful of Nobodies seemed kind of lame though.
So I just hugged Leah without a 'so we finally meet' comment. She hugged me back, so I figured things were cool. We always said what was necessary plus all the random stuff in our online conversations. What would be so different here? Aside from physical contact and proper conversation.
It felt like hugging someone I hadn't seen in a couple of days, rather than the planet-aligning first meeting with someone who would become your best friend in the future.
Leah and I hadn't had a great first meeting to begin with, actually, but look where that went.
I pulled back, one hand still on her shoulder, and looked at Xigbar. He was staring out the window at our neighbor across the street mowing his lawn.
I hugged him before he had a chance to see me coming and move.
"Wha—huh? Oh. Oh, fine." I got a pat on the back. Xigbar obviously wasn't the huggy type, but everyone had to get one before anyone else left.
That was when Luxord decided to portal out with a polite goodbye. Bastard.
Oh well. I was disappointed, but there would be other chances.
I held out my arms to Vexen, who looked pretty suspicious and skeptical and just generally unenthusiastic, but he sighed and nodded after a moment when I didn't give up. Hugging the Chilly Academic wasn't as oddly cold as I thought it would be. He wasn't cold, he was just kinda…not warm.
When I let him go, I turned around and found Zexion with my eyes.
To my surprise and delight, however, he opened his arms to me and smiled.
I made a slightly fangirlish "eeeee" noise and took advantage of his good mood by attempting to lovingly snap his spinal cord in two. He made kind of a garbly groany noise when I smushed the air from his lungs though, and his feet swung a little in the air when he came off the ground.
To his credit though, he was hugging me back.
Hugging Lexaeus was an awkward experience though, and it was a bad follow-up to a successful hug. Lexaeus clearly wasn't the huggy type. Which, I already suspected.
And then, Saïx.
"I'm here all the time," he sighed, petting my head as I attached myself to his torso with my arms. I was inwardly delighted and feeling a little like I was getting away with something.
"I know," I replied in an oddly cheerful tone that he didn't hear from me that often, "But nobody killed anybody today!"
Xaldin managed to be surprised when I approached him with my arms out, but he even leaned down to hug me back. He was used to mom and Beth's hugs, not my own.
Behind me, I heard Suna make an odd noise, and when I pulled back from Xaldin to look (Xaldin was chuckling because he already saw it, so double the confusion for a moment) and saw that Leah was squishing Suna much like I had done with Zexion.
Leah wasn't a huggy person, oddly enough.
But like I said before: Everybody loves Suna.
Well…to be fair, Zexion—
I looked at the Schemer and found him watching me with an oddly neutral expression. I made a face that clearly asked him what he was thinking about, and he shrugged.
"I am still lightheaded from lack of oxygen."
I grinned though.
"I will be by sometime tomorrow," Xaldin said behind me, and I looked at him and nodded. "Someone's waiting on me, though."
My grin came back full force and I flipped my eyebrows up at him.
Xaldin raised an eyebrow at me, patted me on the head, and left without another word.
I turned around and faced everyone else.
After left, the rest of the day was kind of quiet. Xemnas came back after a while with the Axel and Kody behind him. Apparently Demyx and Ly had left, because Ly something she needed to get done at home.
I hugged the two that hadn't left though.
By the time they did leave a couple hours into the evening, I'd been left with the distinct impression I'd met Kody somewhere before.
And that was entirely impossible, so I didn't understand why.
Xigbar came back at about ten, and even though it was dark, he and Xemnas went outside and I didn't see Xemnas again until well into the early morning hours.
Once Xemnas said goodnight and left for bed, I asked Leah if Xigbar made it back in one piece. He had, and he was asleep and snoring, apparently.
I hadn't actually feared for Xigbar's life or anything, but…Xemnas had left awfully abruptly with Axel and Demyx, and then wanting to talk to Xigbar alone later?
I wasn't suspicious. I was curious.
Even more so when Leah explained Xigbar was acting normal, just a little thoughtful before he went to bed.
"I won't leave."
But he'd hesitated. Should I be worried?