Fun fact: Ienzo, Larxene and Demyx weren't actually supposed to be there. They just kind of were, suddenly. Cue raised eyebrows.
Heeeeeeeey, guys! I am so so happy. Why am I so so happy? Reviews! Caitlinkeitorin, as ever, and now xx(dot)domino (stupid FF). Thank you so much for telling me your thoughts. I've been meaning to reply but life's a bastard that keeps getting in the way. Yes, I'll continue this. If only to hear what you have to say. You both made my day when I found those emails that said 'Review Alert'. And that's before reading! –grins stupidly-
And thank you, domino, for discovering the story 3 chapters in yet still reviewing each one. Not many people would do that.
The other POV's getting really obvious here. And yes, you're probably right. No, I'm not gonna go all original and have it turn out to be someone completely irrelevant. This is more fun.
Caitlinkeitorin! (I'd like to pretend I shouted that but your name is a bit of a mouthful. I KNOW! Can I give you a nickname? :D) Yes, there might be a slight overuse of that. the nickname thing, I mean. I'll keep that in mind. It just seemed more natural but I looked again and realised you were right. I still call my friend's their full names, though most of my family is 'Beth', 'Andy', 'Jo' or whatever. Also, you didn't look for mistakes. I'm gonna take that as a good sign ;D
Don't worry domino, I'm not used to Naminé/Vanitas either. But the idea refused to go away and Naminé best fits the character. You'll see why. 'Sides, I'm really lovin' this. It makes a change, you know? And yup, the family's supposed to sound bipolar. I love writing bipolar sibling/family things plus reading them. No idea why. Yes, the college is based off my college. I'm imaginative that way. I guess colleges are bigger than schools? Oh my God, you've given me such a good idea and I'm so mean I'm not gonna tell you what (8D) 'Blueyes' wasn't actually supposed to be any particular person (if you've read BLADE by Tim Bowler you'll get what I mean, but if you haven't it's just kind of like a second consciousness. Or an imaginary friend. But now I'm getting ideas).
You may also be starting to notice that the chapter titles are from a song. This is owned by All Time Low, peeps. The band, not the song.
Now that I think about it, I haven't disclaimed yet. Oops? Why do we do this, anyway? It's pretty the obvious characters don't belong to me. Anyway, Naminé and co. belong to Nomura, the guy who took an elevator ride that changed his life.
Wow, I'll stop talking now.
So No One Has To
Why did she do that, Blueyes? I don't get it. She acted like my friend. Apologized. Which is great, of course. Still. Gotta be careful with this. I'm tripping over her smile. Can't keep up with her. Too slow. Way too slow. But she's a winner, so I guess I should be proud. What d'you think, Blueyes? I know. I know. But I'll always be the loser.
The guys liked her, so I guess I can't complain. Eggshells. That's how it feels, Blueyes. Gotta light-foot around this one. Put all that dance into practice.
So I'm dozing there in that wide open room. Birds are singing past the noise of the microphone. Wishing I was in the music room. Strange sunshine. Should be cold soon, but weathers spazzed these days. Doesn't know what to do. Like me.
Can you feel that warmth, Blueyes? It starts right here, in my chest. I think it's gonna hurt, but it'll be nice for a while. A little sun on my heart. Wait for the burn.
I'm humming to myself but this tune's lost on me. Maybe I'll give it some words, y'know? Give her a song. Teach her a dance, perhaps. Who knows?
Today's assembly is emotions. I got some emotions, Blueyes. Too many sometimes. 'Specially when she's around. Now why's that, you reckon? Too full, Blueyes, I could burst. And there she is. Look at her. You see her, Blueyes? That's my angel, that is. I'm sure this time.
We both looked up. It was Hayner, waving madly, pointing at the seats behind him. Olette waved back slightly. I could see the blush on her face. I nudged her. She turned to me.
"What?" she said. I just smiled and shook my head. She was so into this guy it was funny, 'cause she still denied it.
We took the seats behind him and he turned so he was sideways on his seat, propping his feet up on the one beside him. "Hey, ladies." I got the feeling the seat next to him had been for Olette, but since I was there two seats were needed. I liked this guy. He could be sweet sometimes, but mostly he was a little… dumb. Like most guys, I guess (no offense, I mean. This is just with my experience of guys and what they're like and – ugh. Forget it). "So, Happiness. What'd you reckon?"
The assembly was about emotions. Or more specifically, Happiness. I don't know why. Maybe everyone was feeling a little miserable from exam stress, so they thought they'd stick us through half an hour of happy-promoting activities. Or something. The question on the big screen was, 'What Makes You Happy?' and I was trying to figure out what this meant. As in, what we'd be doing. But I had an answer for Hayner.
"Dunno. Friends, I guess." Well, gee. I love you too, Ollie.
"Maybe even y –" Olette shoved me to shut me up, making me bash shoulders with this random girl who then gave me a dirty look.
"Ignore her. She's crazy on caffeine right now." I should probably have protested to that. Pretty sure it was a slam on my intelligence.
Instead I said, "Ollie, I don't drink coffee. Or tea. Hot chocolate all the way."
"Hey, me too," Hayner grinned. "Coffee's for posers." Olette coughed, being a rabid coffee-fan and all. "I mean, for very sensible, mature and beautiful young people who…"
"Are generally healthier in that they avoid all the sugar?" I supplied.
"Uh, yeah. What she said."
The girl next to me, the one I'd shoulder-bumped, shoved a stack of scrap paper at me. I caught them, and then gave her a WTF look.
"You're supposed to pass it 'round," she hissed with a smirk that called me stupid and glinting eyes that shared the sentiment. I gave her back her own dirty look before taking a piece from the pile and passing it to Ol, who had been too busy flirting to notice the exchange. I explained it to her, and she just took one silently whilst laughing at what Hayner had just said. Now feeling left out and too lazy to be all 'what's the joke?' I decided to scan the room that had basically stopped filling with students. I found Ienzo sitting with some guys I didn't recognise, his blue hair really stood out. Selphie was with Yuffie and those girls from her sports class she hung around with now and then, drawing attention just with how loud she is. And before I could look further a guy stepped into the middle of the 'stage', that is, the floor space that all the tiered seats surrounded, calling for attention.
"Alright, guys," he said through the microphone. I didn't quite catch the name, something foreign, but that was one hell of a bald patch. He looked Chinese/ Japanese (I could never tell them apart) but had hardly any hint of an accent. "Has everyone got a piece of scrap paper? Yes? You have? Good. Now, I want you all to write down something, anything, that makes you happy. It could be your mum's pancakes in the morning –" here some people, predictably, laughed. "Or it could be playing basketball with your mates. I don't really mind what you write, just as long as it's appropriate. You have three minutes."
Hayner looked like he was having trouble processing this random task too.
"C'mon, guys," Olette said, already scribbling. "Quit your whining. It's not rocket science." I tried to peer at what she'd written, but she hid from me. I raised my eyebrows at her suggestively. "It's not like that," she argued, although her cheeks began to take on a reddish hue.
"It so is," I grinned. I looked at my paper. What made me happy? Payday. Sunbathing. Painting. Drawing. Being in the music room…
I shook my head. Crazy. I'd only been once. Yet… there was a certain atmosphere in there. It was so open. And, of course, the people… I sighed. Yup, completely crazy. I mean, I'd smiled and said 'Hello' a few times when passing them in the hallway, but hadn't really got around to anything else. Like, going back to the music room. Okay, I tell a lie. I did go again. Once. After endless amounts of searching for the room. But no one was there.
"Write something, Nam," Olette urged me. "They're collecting them." I looked up. A teacher was going around with a hat, making everyone put their pieces of scrap paper in. Shit. I wrote something down about getting paid and was ready when the hat came our way. The teacher smiled at me. I wondered why.
The papers were all tipped into a bag-less bin. Bald-patch plunged his arm in to the elbow and fished one out. "Okay," he said. "This person likes… chip butties after swimming sessions." Laughs. Someone shoved someone else in the opposite tier. Another scrap. "This one enjoys camping with their… homies." More laughter. "What're homies? Anyway." Another. "This one likes to ride their horse." Another. "Rambling?" Laughter. He looked up. "Finally, someone else who enjoys hearing their own voice." He grinned as some people giggled a little, before picking up another scrap. I wanted to say something about how rambling is also walking, but that would be embarrassing. Mostly for him, though. "Okay, for this person…" he stopped, staring at the paper. There was a brief silence. He looked up at us. "Is there anyone here called Naminé Sataski?"
What? Another silence. Some people looked at me. I felt like sinking down in my chair and hopefully through the floor. My heart pounded, adrenaline-fueled from the shock. How the heck did this guy know my name? Suddenly, Olette's hand shot up. "She's here!" she called, pointing at me. I felt like hitting her right then, but all I could do was meet Bald-patch's eyes as bravely as I could. He smiled at me, and I thought for a second it was almost warm.
"Hey, Naminé," he said. "According to this, you make someone else in this room happy. Congrats!"
Some people wolf-whistled. Others just laughed.
I wanted to die.
I mean, it's all well and nice, knowing you make someone happy. But publically? Really? He didn't have to read it ALOUD. He could have… taken me aside after assembly. Or something. I dunno. Just not humiliated me like that.
Assembly was held in Sandringham. We stumbled out of the darkened hall and blinked into the sunlight. A lot of people were still looking at me, even after half an hour of distracting activities. Someone patted my back mockingly as they past. Someone else met my eyes and wolf-whistled, their friends laughed. I turned away. Jealous. They were all so jealous! Yes! That would be it! They were just jealous that someone else was happy, and because I was the only connection they slated me! (I'm such a genius.)
Someone shoved past suddenly. It was that damn girl again, Shoulder-bump. God, could she hold a grudge or what? "Way to go, Sataski," she said sarcastically with a smirk. Another girl walking next to her said, "Yeah, nice one. Do you give him great blow jobs or something?" I came to a halt, my mouth open. The hell? They both hooted with laughter and walked off, casting looks over their shoulders.
Olette took my arm and pulled my out of the way of the doors. "Just ignore them, Nami," she told me. I shook my head, tugging myself out of her grasp. "Where are you going?" she called after me as I began to walk as fast as I could without running, heading further into Sandringham. I couldn't reply. I knew if I did I'd start crying.
For some time I just walked along both unfamiliar and familiar corridors, breathing hard and gulping to keep the tears at bay. When I came across a corridor I'd already walking along, I stopped. Dumping my backpack on the floor, I leaned against the wall and sank down next to it, pulling up my knees so I could hide my face from the world. Twenty-one minutes 'till the end of lunch, my watch told me. I wasn't hungry anymore. It was too long. Way way too long.
"Kiddo? Is that you?"
I recognised that voice. Wiping my eyes on my sleeve to try and erase any trace of tears, I looked up at Larxene. Her eyebrows rose.
"So it is! I was wondering when we'd see you again." I smiled blearily as my eyes began to fill with water again. My throat began to burn as I swallowed and struggled to stop it falling. I sensed her crouch down in front of me. "Why're you crying, little Nami?" I shook my head. "Don't wanna speak?" I did nothing. I heard her sigh as she straightened up. A hand plucked at mine, pulling it from my sleeve. "C'mon, upsies." I stood, obediently. "This way." I heard the slide of material that meant she'd picked up my bag and slung it over her shoulder. We began to walk. Luckily, it wasn't far. I only had to hide my face from one girl that passed. Larxene seemed to notice and I could imagine she rolled her eyes before saying, "don't be so vain. She hasn't got a clue who you are."
I wanted to say something like, don't be so sure about that. But I didn't, because then I'd cry. That was the funny thing about me; it was like my body said you wanted to cry so you are going to fucking cry. I'd be mute until I'd found somewhere completely solitary so I could release a few sobs and get it out of my system. But I'd had no idea where the toilets were. Apparently I'd been seconds away from one. Larxene led me in, pulling me towards the sinks. She dumped my backpack and told me to stay there. I stayed, mostly because I didn't know what else to do. She came back with tissues. "Here," she said. I pressed one against my eyes when the first sob escaped.
She waited whilst I got through the crying, patting my hair awkwardly and going, "s'alright, kidlet. Atta girl." She soaked the others with water and, once I'd finished wiping and sniffing, pressed them against my face. I was about to protest, but then I had to close my eyes and just thought, you know what? Let her do it. Once done, she threw the cold, wet tissues into the bin and turned to me, hands on hips.
"Okay. Now spill."
I sighed. "It's nothing. Stupid, really."
I looked at her. "It is."
"I never said it wasn't."
"Look," I said. "I just got humiliated in front of, like, half of the first years students. Okay? And they were all making fun of me and stuff. I was stupid to cry but I just can't help it."
"Quit beating yourself down already," she told me angrily. "What happened?"
I shrugged. "They were doing this thing in assembly."
"Thing? Be more specific."
"This… 'What Makes You Happy?' thing. And we had to write it on a scrap of paper, and the guy chose random ones and read them out."
"So he read yours out." The way she said it wasn't really a question. She was trying to pin down what happened, but she was way off course.
"No. 'Sides, they were anonymous."
I cringed internally. "One of the scraps he picked out… it had my name on it."
She stared at me. She didn't say anything. And neither did I, 'cause I really had no idea what would come out of my mouth. And 'sides, the look she was giving me was kinda creeping me out. I wouldn't have looked, but something about her eyes didn't let me look away. Those icy depths splintered deep inside of me, daring me to turn away.
"You're not serious," she flat out stated, finally.
I was silent. Her eyes widened.
"You are," she said softly, grinning. There was a beat, and then she was laughing. "Oh my God, you are. You really are. You poor thing."
I scowled at her. "Yeah, and? What's so funny?"
"Oh, nothing," she giggled. "Nothing." And she laughed all the way out, waving a hand idly at me.
For a while I just stared at the door, wondering what that had all been about. But it only took me a couple of seconds to smile, if only slightly.
She was wacky, but… I kinda liked that girl.
Since I was in Sandringham with time to spare, and was now (thankfully) composed, I figured I could try the music room again. I mean, why not?
But as I approached it, this nasty feeling grew in my belly. That something was wrong. Awfully wrong. Something in the air just felt… off. Too still. Too silent. Like the calm before the storm, the world holding its breath and waiting for something to happen. I couldn't explain it. Could hardly even begin to explain to myself how different and wrong everything felt. Mere steps away from the room's door, I could hear voices. Loud, angry voices. I struggled to catch words, but I was still so far away. So I quickened my step.
"– Where he is."
"No," someone said. A voice I thought I knew. My heart jolted from the simple thought, despite the fact that I couldn't attach a name or a face.
A thump. A groan of pain. My blood went cold, my body frozen. I couldn't even begin to describe how it felt to realise this person was being threatened, physically harmed. This person I knew. And it wasn't like it was a public brawl. No, this was secret. Secrets. A voice whispering to me in the dark. You know how I wasn't ill today?
"It might not be true," I whispered.
Another thump. A grunt this time. No, this was true. As real as the air and the floors and the walls. As real as this backpack digging into my shoulder. As real as me.
"You'll tell me," a voice hissed. Male, authoritative, cocky, confident. My God. Seifer. It was Seifer.
"I won't," said the familiar voice. Calm and collected despite the hurt. Decided.
"You fucking bookworm."
"Worm," said an unemotional voice that could only be Fuujin. Seifer laughed at the emphasis. I dropped my backpack. It made a loud noise on the wooden floor, but I hardly registered it. My hand had flown to my mouth. Was that - ?
"My name is Ienzo."
Ienzo. Ienzo, get out of there. What are you doing, Ienzo? I squeezed my eyes shut. Why did you let yourself be cornered in an empty room, you fool?
"Shit, someone's out there."
I opened my eyes. Footsteps. They were going to come out of that room. And I was here all alone. I mean, it's not like that had to mean something. Still. I didn't want to take the chance, so I bolted to the nearest corner, hid myself there. I heard the creak as the door opened. Couldn't help but hold my breath, be as noiseless as possible. Just hoped they wouldn't come this way. Hope. Hope. Hope.
"There's no one here," Raijin said.
"Thanks for stating the obvious, idiot." A sigh. "C'mon, let's get out of here. I have a pretty good idea where he could be, anyway."
Thank God, they went the other way. I peeked around the corner carefully. Going, going… gone. I waited a couple more seconds before I crept back to the music room and stepped around the open door.
I came to an abrupt halt. What the…? There was no one there. But then footsteps shuffled to the right. I jerked backwards involuntarily on a lightening-sharp jolt of adrenaline, thinking maybe Seifer had changed his mind and come back for round two, thus I should probably do something about being stood in plain sight. I breathed a sigh when rational thought reminded me that Seifer and co. would hardly be shuffling down the corridor (though Raijin's feet were more than big enough) and, besides, there was someone crouched behind the piano. Black converse, frayed white-blue jeans. For a second I just stared at those shoes. No more shuffling. Maybe they had the same idea – that it'd be Seifer in the doorway. Oops.
"Uh, hello?" I said brilliantly. Just to tell him it wasn't quite as bad as that, was just me, I guess (though perhaps worse in the sense that I walked in on his moment of… um. Not shame exactly… but whatever).
"Oh, it's you." Well, it's nice to see you, too! The shoes began to shuffle again. This time I noticed what was going on – he was crouched down, gathering bits of… paper. There we go! Bastard Raijin hadn't changed one bit. No doubt something important and A-graded had been torn up.
You know, I think he's jealous. Raijin, I mean. He tends to target possessions the most, mostly school work. He so wishes he were so smart.
I began to walk around the piano so I could help pick up. "Er… are you okay?" I asked. "He didn't…"
By which time I'd made it round and crouched down, reaching for the first paper.
"No!" Ienzo lunged for me, snatching at the paper. I dropped it like it was on fire and backtracked furiously, scrambling to get to my feet. I didn't quite find my balance and ended up on my backside, arms thrown back to catch my fall, eyes wide and lips parted slightly in shock.
Shock not just at his spontaneous flare of fury… but also the state of his face.
I tried to speak, to say his name like my voice automatically wanted to do, but I had no breath. I was too busy staring at the mess of his cheek, the raw reds, the violent purples, sickly yellow-greens… Raijin and his hard knuckles, rings on his fingers…
Finally, I mustered enough to breathe, "Ienzo."
He ignored me. Shoving the now blood-spattered scrap into his pocket, he re-doubled his efforts to gather everything up as quickly as possible. Was he trying to hide something? They looked like poems… short lines, lyrical titles, snippets of rhymes… at least what I could make out.
Suddenly I was over the shock. I pushed myself forwards onto my feet, but stayed crouched, at eye-level. "What happened?" I demanded.
For a few seconds it seemed like I wasn't going to get a reply. I remember thinking in that brief eternity that it was odd to see him so flustered and angry and desperate… that perhaps I'd been wrong to assume he was the kind of person to always be calm and collected. But then, perhaps I'd caught him off-guard.
Finally he said, "I'm fine. It's nothing."
I didn't say anything to that. It was so obvious that he wasn't fine, that it wasn't nothing, that even my silence screamed my disagreement. He couldn't have missed that. But he just finished gathering his things and made to walk out the door. I stood to watch him go, my brain working furiously for the right thing to say, when he paused in the middle of the room and turned to look at me.
"Have you seen Vanitas?"
I was stumped. "I… er… no, not today… not since – a while…"
He nodded slightly. "We need to find him. Can you help me?"
I was struggling to work out the relevance of this. What did Vanitas have to do with anything? But then – a flash of something – a ghost of a voice – where he is? Wasn't that what Seifer had been saying? I have an idea where he could be… didn't he?
"He's looking for Vanitas?" I didn't bother with a name. Ienzo would know. He nodded again. "What for? Has something - happened?" What was that hesitation? A little twist in my belly. Secrets. Wasn't ill today… may not be true…
But it is. It is. It's there in Ienzo's expression.
"I don't know," said Ienzo. "But it can't be good. Seifer's never been so hell-bent on finding him…"
"You gotta clean up first. People will ask…"
"I know," he sighed. "That's why I'm asking. I need… I need to go home and sort myself out. So…"
He smiled a little. Then he left, head ducked down to try and hide the worst of it.
I was panicking.
Lunch ended ages ago. I was missing Photography again – it was Monday, the same day last week that he'd offered his umbrella… Oh God. Please God. Don't let me be sick. Don't let Seifer have –
I stumbled to the wall and carefully lowered myself to the floor. What was I doing? I had to look, had to find – but one second. Just one second. I needed to breathe. I needed to think. I needed…
I leant my head back and closed my eyes. I needed a number. I needed help looking. Calm down. Breathe slow. How stupid could I get? Why hadn't I asked for a number? Why hadn't I gone to a teacher? They'd do something about it, wouldn't they?
I exhaled slowly and opened my eyes. No, they wouldn't. Not really. What would I say, anyway? Excuse me, but I think there's a guy who's beat up another guy pretty bad somewhere… No. Why was I so wound up? 'Cause I was afraid. Ienzo had been so sure, and there'd been so much anger and spite in Seifer's voice. And Vanitas didn't know. He didn't know Seifer was looking… or maybe he did now. Maybe he knew nothing at all, lost in black unconsciousness in some vacant corner of a room. Would Seifer really go that far? I didn't know. But what if he had? I had to be sure, if only for my own peace of mind.
Get up, Naminé. It might not have happened. Seifer probably didn't find him. He might be home right now…
Don't get so worked up. You're doing all you can. He could be fine. It wouldn't be your fault if he wasn't. It wouldn't.
Get up, Naminé. Keep on looking.
Down the corridor, around the bend. Another corridor, peeking in the windows as I went. I felt like such an idiot as the curious faces turned to me, watching me watch them.
Breathe in, breathe out.
And then – there! Bursting through the door along the corridor suddenly, almost colliding with me, blonde mullet, blue eyes, frantic face, frantic pace…
And then I knew something was wrong. Something was definitely wrong. He was white as milk and he looked like he'd just seen his worst nightmare. He grabbed my forearms.
"Have you found him yet?"
I shook my head.
"He didn't come to Music. He never misses Music, double Music… And then Ienzo called…" He was painfully squeezing the blood from my arms, but I didn't speak. I could only gulp in acknowledgement of the fact that this meant something really bad. "He couldn't get through to Vanitas. Neither could I. Vanitas never turns his phone off. He always answers. I don't know where…"
"It's okay," I whispered, not because it was, but because he needed to hear it. I took a breath and took hold of his elbows firmly, staring into his eyes with what I hoped was fierce determination.
"It's going to be okay," I said, firm and confident and as strong as I could make it. "Do you hear me? We'll find him, and he'll be fine."
After a hesitant nod from him we set off, speed-walking down the corridor. "Have you looked outside yet? Places where he normally goes?" I asked, taking control, trying to stay cool.
"No, I –"
"Then let's go. I haven't either; I don't know where he likes to go."
Dem looked at me with horror, as if he expected me to have done just that. What? I didn't even know the guy. That would have been stupid. And yet he was still staring, blank with shock.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!" I almost shouted.
He flinched, swallowing nervously. "I didn't think," he whispered. And then a few seconds later he must have come to a decision because, after grabbing my wrist, he took off like a bat out of hell.
Dragging me along for the ride.
We ran most of the way to the park. Being very athletically unfit, that bit of spontaneous exercise left me feeling like I was being ripped in two. I was panting for oxygen before long and attempting to nurse a burning stitch whilst still moving. I tried to ignore the pain when Dem got a burst of speed and pulled me into a run, but you can only ignore that kind of thing for so long. So once we'd gone a ways along the path in the park I tugged myself from his grip and bent over, gasping, waving my hand vaguely in encouragement for him to go on. But he didn't even miss a beat. He just kept on going, half walking, half running to his mysterious destination. I remember thinking, crap, I don't even know where he's going. I looked up. Thankfully, he was still in sight, but he wouldn't be for long. I straightened up and kept on going.
The path cut through the middle of the park, running slightly diagonally from one side to the other. For the most part it was a steady uphill climb, though not steep. Once Dem had crested the hill he began to disappear, going downhill. In desperation I broke into a sprint that made my stitch scream, but I made it to the top in one piece, scanning for Dem.
He was taking the momentum of the now steep path, tearing along like a bullet, like he was one step from launching himself into the air and taking flight. I could see where the path ended, one of those funny wooden gates where the second half is placed a little way behind the first, creating a kind of zigzag, marking it. And the glimpse of water through the trees… was that the canal?
Dem turned right after the gate. I panicked and threw myself down the hill, releasing a scream at one point when it seemed like I was close to falling flat on my face. I was going so fast I struggled to stop for the gate and ended up banging my hip when I tried to go around the first part. With a shriek (waaaay past attempting to hide any pain) I kept on going.
For a couple of minutes we hurtled along the canal. I caught up to Dem at the first bridge, wheezing. He'd stopped, as if reluctant to go on.
The only way forward was the tunnel.
I didn't feel like stopping, though. Still using my momentum, I bypassed him (ignoring a 'Naminé!' and the brush of fingers on my arm what?) and stepped into the tunnel.