Disclaimer: I do not own anything from the Kingdom Hearts games except the games and a few merchandise. :3 Also don't own this "Needs More Love" Story Challenge… Nope, that belongs to Fruity-Fruit-Cups!
A/N: Finally back on track after a long hiatus… Oh wow! To those who've been following the story, I really do apologize. With the small trailer of KH2.5, I've been revitalized to continue after my KH motivation disappeared for a while. :) I know I've made goals before, but I intend to keep this one by finishing this story before KH2.5 comes out in English (yes, I know I have others to complete too, but this one I find is priority at the moment). I've started this story with canon theories in mind, so I can't afford to put this off any longer now that KH3 is a real thing. XD This story will still be canon AU, but I want to try and keep as close to canon as possible before a whole bunch of new canon material arises by the end of the year. =P Chapter is long again, so I'm hoping it'll make up for things, but I don't know! Oh, and if you're curious, google "Damon and Pythias" because I referenced it as a theme for this chapter (and probably the next one too).
Anyways! Thank you so much to people who are still reading my stuff and waiting for things to be updated. I mean that really… Thank you! And for those who are new to this story, welcome! I hope you enjoy. :)
.: Legends :.
~ They tell stories and lessons to keep ~
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
"Legends?" Sofia blinked, looking upon the rows of books within her father's large study. "Well, yes; father collects all kinds of books. It's possible he has that 'legend' you speak of."
"Good." Xehanort casually pulled a thick book out of its perch after running his fingers across the spines of each tome. Flipping through the pages, he began skimming through the information, ignoring how Sofia stared at him with hands behind her back. "I've had little to no luck finding this legend in the castle library."
The brunette knit her eyebrows together; her lips pouting. "So then…you came here to read books?"
The underlying answer was yes: Xehanort was not truly here for her, but her father's library. If the Keyblade apprentice was going to learn anything at all about this 'Keyblade War' Yen Sid mentioned, then it was best to start with written accounts. Xehanort was being honest when he told Sofia that scouring the castle library was a fruitless endeavor. This would be a long shot, but perhaps there was a chance other worlds had accidentally taken records of a…phenomenal war.
"Xehanort." Sofia sighed, sitting down at the window couch as the sun's setting rays hit her pale skin with an orange glow. Neatly tucking her sundress underneath her as she sat on her legs, Sofia continued. "This is the first time you've come to see me, uninvited, and I was so thrilled…but you're only studying."
Putting away his current book and pulling out another, Xehanort replied making eye contact. "You aren't suggesting studying is a bad thing?"
"Of course not, but…" Sofia bit her bottom lip, struggling to voice her thoughts, but the silver-haired male didn't need to hear her request to know what she wanted. Sofia wanted him to spoil her—shower her with affection and acknowledgement. Such is what a princess would want, but Xehanort only saw her as a brat. The brunette clicked her tongue; hazel eyes on the high ceiling above. "Well, I was hoping to spend time with you; chat."
"Unsurprisingly, we are—"
"I was also wondering about Eraqus." Sofia played with a lock of her hair as she wondered; Xehanort unconsciously ripped his eyes away from the book to glare darkly at the bookshelf. Unaware of Xehanort's growing displeasure, Sofia rambled on while stacking the small collection of books scattered on the space beside her. "The last time we spoke, you said Eraqus was getting along well with your guest; the new young Master—"
"There is nothing interesting to say about Eraqus today. We do not need to talk about him." Xehanort replaced the book on the shelf with more force than necessary. "He's the same as always."
Sofia slowly blinked before tilting her head. "That…may be true, but—"
"My dear, you needn't worry about him." Xehanort insisted, hoping a more aggressive hint would cease her incessant babbling. "I assure you, Eraqus is doing well without your constant mothering. A stalwart like him will always get by just fine."
She was usually silent, but a foreboding feeling swept through his mind. Xehanort refused to turn around to face her and persisted to search through the books in the study, pacing to each end of the bookshelves lining the wall of the mansion's impressive library collection. Sofia shifted on the window couch; her voice dancing in his ears when she hummed. It was a playful sound, but there was an underlying hint of concern that she failed to hide.
"Something's bothering you," she started. "Please tell me. It isn't good to keep it to yourself."
Xehanort rolled his amber eyes. Even if he did, Sofia wouldn't understand since the logistics of the problem was beyond anything she could ever comprehend. What could Sofia possibly say to make things better? Her words would be covered in sympathy that Xehanort did not need and pity was the last thing he wanted from her. "It's a miniscule problem."
"Tell me anyways," she insisted. "Xehanort—"
"Enough." Exhaling coarsely, Xehanort pinched the bridge of his nose. He wanted time away from the castle, but his choice of finding tranquility was sorely misplaced when he decided to spend it at Sofia's manor. He believed the girl would be docile as he studied… How wrong he was. Shaking his head once, Xehanort pulled away from the bookshelves with arms crossed, cooling down before his emotions got the better of him. He heard Sofia clear her throat and, throwing her an unamused glance, Xehanort saw that naïve smile on her face as she pat the seat beside her on the couch. Did she want to comfort him? Surely she jests.
When Sofia remained firm on her decision, Xehanort decidedly humored her; if only to save himself of her whining in the future. He moved towards the couch, taking the seat she offered, though consciously avoiding physical contact. The distance between them wasn't big; just enough to warn her that he didn't want to be touched. Xehanort wondered if his body language revealed his true feelings prematurely when Sofia remained quiet.
She brushed down her dress; eyes on her lap when she spoke with a tame, inquisitive tone. "…Are you and Eraqus fighting?"
That caught his attention fairly quickly, though Xehanort refused to openly show it. Slowly, he glanced at Sofia with an unreadable face, locking his hands together and resting his elbows on his knees while leaning forward in his spot; premising Sofia to continue.
"You've been quiet all morning. I believed you to be tired—and perhaps you are—but then I noticed something else was bothering you."
"And what," Xehanort drawled out; slightly irritated, "alludes to the opinion that I'm having trouble with Eraqus?"
Sofia let a smile paint her lips. "Haven't you noticed? We're always talking about him when you come over because Eraqus isn't physically here with us." Gauging his perplexed expression, Sofia giggled. "Normally, I bring him up—as I just tried—but you suddenly didn't want to speak of him."
Looking away, Xehanort absorbed the brunette's musings. Was he disheartened by what happened that night on the mountain summit? Impossible; how could he be when Xehanort always backed up his claims without guilt? How was Eraqus's confrontation on the use of darkness any different? If anything, his brother pupil merely overreacted in believing Xehanort to be—as the saying went—giving into the 'greater evil' of the worlds. Preposterous! Eraqus needed be the one to apologize to him; not the other way around.
…When had he gone into the subject of apologies of all things? Xehanort did no such thing (except on occasions where it concerned manner and etiquette) for something so…sentimental. What did Xehanort have to feel sentimental about? Eraqus would always be there anyways as both his fellow apprentice, friend, and…
Hmph. I've gotten soft, Xehanort mentally berated himself. He soon felt a weight resting against him; Sofia's hands squeezing his tense shoulders. It was ridiculous how the brunette enacted those scenes found in her romance novels or even mere fairy tales, but Xehanort kept his mouth shut. It was easier to deal with Sofia when she fooled herself into thinking he appreciated such acts of affection.
"Whatever has happened, I'm sure you'll both make up. Eraqus isn't one to hold grudges," she offered. "And with you avoiding him, surely he's sulking in a corner by now."
Xehanort raised an eyebrow in perplexity. Eraqus didn't sulk; at least…not upfront. The raven-haired apprentice was always so hard-harded whenever they fought; even about the silliest things! If Eraqus sulked, as Sofia rightfully claimed, then Xehanort simply hadn't been paying attention. Eraqus was expressive when challenged…sulking didn't fit him at all.
"You two are so similar." Sofia hummed in amusement.
"We are not—"
"Yes you are!" Her laughter only irritated Xehanort further, causing him to look away before the brunette took notice. Sofia continued after sitting properly again, though one hand slipped down to Xehanort's lower arm. "Whenever Eraqus is upset, he tends to move a lot and he tries to control the expression on his face as well. The way you're acting now, it's a lot like him."
"…That is nothing more than coincidence." Xehanort reasoned.
"Perhaps, but it says something about your relationship," Sofia replied. Looking at the wall of books, she continued her (unneeded) enlightenment. "They say that when you spend a lot of time with someone you really care about, you unconsciously begin to mimic and synchronize each other's habits. The time you wake in the morning; the niches you form in the presence of the other… Things like that show just how strong your bond is."
The Keyblade apprentice was expecting many things, but Sofia's explanation was not one of them. Had she always been this insightful? Then again…the problem 'given' to her was not for her to dive into. She could make theories, run ideas until they've been tested through trial and error, but that would be the extent of her efforts. Sofia hadn't experienced any of it; only through hearsay. So then why is it that parts of her rambling unnerved him? Xehanort never shared the dilemma, but Sofia only needed to know three things to come up with a shaky solution: his behavior at present; the mention of Eraqus in any form; and the bond both Keybearers shared as companions. The mysteries surrounding this woman blinded Xehanort yet again.
"If I were to say you're both stubborn when it comes to arguing a point, how accurate would I be?" Sofia teased with a tilt of her head.
"If I am to be honest, then you're quite wrong, my dear," he deadpanned with a bit of snap. Running a hand through his hair, he decided to force a conclusion to the topic Sofia so whimsically invaded. Before he could, however, the brunette fell back against the large window, picking and opening up one of the books at her side; holding it in the air with both hands. What was she up to?
"…You are being stubborn. So I was right."
"Sofia, I tire of this game you play."
"Then shall I come out and say it? You can't afford to lose Eraqus."
His irritation with the brunette ebbed slightly when he turned his head in her direction again. Her hazel eyes remained on the book she lifted above her, but the smile plastered on her seemingly innocent face piqued his interest in subtle waves, causing a frown to touch his lips. Was Sofia attempting to manipulate him?
Bringing down the book to hide the bottom half of her face, Sofia stared across the study again; as if she had a secret to tell. She would not meet his eyes even though another airy giggle escaped her. "Although he's more than capable, Eraqus has a tendency to trust without consequence. It's one of the reasons why I worry about him."
Sofia placed the hard-covered tome on her lap, revealing the pages she had pretended to read. However, when the silver-haired apprentice took a swift glance at the contents, he was taken by surprise: Sofia had opened the book to an ancient legend from a faraway country. It was a tale he himself had read in passing in the castle library; one that detailed the undying loyalty and conviction of a friendship that was put to the test, winning the heart of a king in the end. Xehanort couldn't help but stare at the open book before trailing his amber eyes back to Sofia's waiting smile.
"He trusts you to the point that whatever you've done—whatever he has said—Eraqus is willing to make amends because he believes in your friendship; your brotherhood," the brunette explained as her voice grew soft. "You know that, Xehanort… That's why you've escaped here to buy time in finding the right words to say to Eraqus because he's a person you highly respect… Am I wrong?"
Xehanort blinked, retaining his calm façade before lowering his gaze forward, sitting with a slight, uncharacteristic drop of his shoulders. He always presented himself with an air of confidence and authority, but the girl sitting to his left has exasperated him endlessly. From her need for attention, to her unnecessary pestering, and finally to her unexpected voice of intellect, Xehanort had a difficult time (no, he was merely overrun with stress) maintaining the mask that hid his every intention.
"Do you study people, Sofia?"
"No, not at all." Her tone returned to its bright persona; almost void from how she acted only minutes before. So it seemed that the brunette was also fickle when it came to choosing a personality for herself: observant and beyond her years or fleeting and childish in spite of her age? Yes, Xehanort was becoming frustrated with a woman who needed direction at every turn. Sofia closed the book on her lap, leaning forward just enough to view Xehanort's expression behind silver bangs. "Is something the matter?"
When he looked up, the Keyblade apprentice intimidated her with his hardened stare, but it was of little consequence; especially when Sofia continuously puzzled him time and time again. What would it take to finally undo her at the seams? Someone so naïve, so…ignorant, was not a person Xehanort hoped to ever deal with. And yet, here he was, trying to find that which Eraqus found so appealing about Sofia: a tiresome frame of guesswork.
Sighing, Xehanort did something unexpected: he collapsed part of his body on Sofia's person and closed his eyes in an attempt to relax. Sofia's frozen response spoke words: the brunette didn't know what to do—what she could do. At the back of his mind, he laughed. The moment he gives her an opportunity to fulfill her romantic desires and she acts like a deer caught in the headlights.
…Strange. Despite his disdain for her, it was rather satisfying to overwhelm Sofia's senses with unpredictability. Adjusting into a more comfortable sitting position, Xehanort found himself resting the side of his head against Sofia's chest. The quickening of her heartbeat entered his ears, and though distracting, it was as relaxing as the lapping waves from his boyhood home.
Eventually, the brunette found the strength to move; her arms wrapping around him and, very hesitantly, Xehanort could feel Sofia's fingers gently brushing his hair. Any tension that she felt moments prior were all but gone; she embraced this rare moment of physical contact. Leaning back against the window once more—he, subsequently following the flow of action like water—Sofia took a deep breath and surprisingly enough, let the silence linger in the air instead of prattling. Sofia was reverent today; how praiseworthy.
The stillness persisted before Sofia finally broke the spell; as if this moment were a fragile existence (perhaps it was). "So you were tired because of such an ordeal, hmm?"
The only response he gave her was none at all.
"When you see Eraqus later," Sofia advised, "you needn't overthink on what to say. He's forgiven you already; that I am sure of…"
Still Xehanort remained quiet, feigning slumber and letting the spoilt princess run her mouth. Nothing she could ever say would fix the problem between him and Eraqus as that was something between them and only them. However, for entertaining him for the most part despite Sofia's misguided efforts, Xehanort would give her this 'treat' of acting as a support she could never be to him. There was no way the silver-haired male would willingly act vulnerable around Sofia after all.
…And yet, for all his reasons against her, Xehanort still found himself in Sofia's arms when he woke up an hour later.
:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::
The dark corridor closed behind him, but unlike the dismissal of the cold portal, Xehanort's outlook remained frosty; evident even after his armor dematerialized.
How could he have possibly fallen asleep in the arms of that woman? It was demoralizing! The more Xehanort thought about it, the more his foul mood increased. Forget his strife with Eraqus; the witch took advantage of his weakened state of mind to place a curse on him. If Sofia believed she could ever enchant him—entice him—then she was in for a very rude awakening when he was finished playing with her.
Xehanort trekked through the forest towards the castle a short distance away, catching sun as it neared the horizon and the reality of his problems came crashing down once more. The Master would expect his apprentices to train together in the morning… However, was Xehanort still privileged that if his brother pupil hadn't already exposed him for playing with Hellfire?
"Whatever has happened, I'm sure you'll both make up. Eraqus isn't one to hold grudges."
Why of all times does he remember the careless words of a woman who knew nothing? Such words of encouragement are meaningless to him. Nevertheless, the silver-haired apprentice couldn't help but evoke them; actually feeling a sense of relief if he came across his brother today at all. Accepting her guidance with a little less prejudice, Xehanort recalled the empathetic expression Sofia gave him as she talked. Her touch, as he realized, had not been without reason and that ever-present smile donning her pink lips…
A snap of a twig interrupted his thoughts and Xehanort immediately guarded the dazed expression he surely (and foolishly) donned. The Keyblade apprentice suddenly realized he had reached the fork in the path leading to both the castle and the mountain summit. However, it was the latter path that caught Xehanort's alarm when he noticed the Master's second apprentice glancing at him; Eraqus's white haori hanging loosely off his shoulders.
It wasn't dark enough to view the stars and Eraqus was almost always within the castle walls at this time in the evening. Xehanort carefully eyed his younger brother for a reaction (cautious not to give away his own) until Eraqus's shoulders visibly dropped with a shallow exhale. Closing his eyes before revealing grey hues, Eraqus eventually walked past Xehanort towards the forest with a small request:
"Will you accompany me off-world, Xehanort?"