Disclaimer: I, DestinyCrusader, do not own any part of Kingdom Hearts. That said, read on if you dare. :)

Note: Fixed some typos, edited some stuff out.

Updated: A big thank you to my beta, Mystics Apprentice


Bête Noire

Chapter One: Hell

I ran my hand through my hair, preparing myself for hell.

In other words, high school. Of course, everyone called it hell, but it was a different kind of hell for me. I was good at tuning out the constant blabbering of teachers; it was the sound of the motorbikes outside that really got me going. I always watched them pass by, and it took all my self-control to stay in my seat instead of bolting out the classroom doors, screaming at the guys to take me with them.

One of these days, I'm pulling one of those guys off, laughing and pointing at him as I ride off into the sunset.

I wanted one of those bikes. Badly.

Sighing, I tried not to stare at the gleaming seniors' motorbikes in the school parking lot as I adjusted my tattered backpack for the thousandth time. I hated the damn thing. If I could have my way, I'd tear it to shreds and dump it into the Atlantic Ocean. But unfortunately, I didn't have it my way. And I had to lug the thirty pounds of crap to school whether I liked it or not.

"Vanitas!"

I didn't have to turn around to know who'd called my name, and sure enough, Terra caught up to me as I trudged through the school doors. His brown hair was neat as always, his eyes warm but distant.

"Past the gateways to hell," I muttered, and my taller friend rolled his eyes.

"You at it again, huh?"

I shrugged. "I won't stop, you know. It's always gonna be true."

Terra nodded silently, and I felt a slight pang of guilt. He'd grown used to my "in hell" attitude, and yet he still hung out with me despite my disheartening personality. Must have been rather annoying.

"So guess what? You won't believe this," Terra always spoke calmly, but he at the moment, he still managed to sound excited. But, the brunet rarely got excited, so his tone surprised me.

I raised an eyebrow suspiciously. "Yes...?"

"Dude, calm down, don't get so enthusiastic!" he joked sarcastically, rolling his eyes again. "It's just that Riku joined Circle of Life."

My eyes widened. "Riku did what now?"

Terra burst out laughing. "Okay, really?" he finally managed, "I meant the band."

I paused for a moment. "Is that what they're calling themselves now?" The band had the weirdest habit of changing its name every two days.

He nodded seriously. "Yeah."

"Really, now?"

Terra narrowed his eyes. "Is it just me, or are you ending all your sentences with 'now'?"

Leave it to Terra to notice something like that. This time I was the one rolling my eyes.

"Terra... You're a lost cause."

"Don't push it, Vanitas. I'll leave right now and then you won't know we had math homework until we're in Trigonometry class and Mr. Stevenson calls your name."

I did a double-take. "We had Math homework?"

Terra sighed, but started to shrug off his backpack nonetheless. Unlike me, who would've rummaged around random junk until I found it, he had his notebook out in seconds. That neat freak.

"Thanks, man," I was actually relieved. I didn't need another annoyingly awkward meeting where Mr. Stevenson went on and on about my future, and then Mrs. Caramel, the principal, gave me yet another long lecture that rang through my head until I got home and remembered that none of it really fucking mattered.

Terra seemed to sense what I was thinking, like always.

"Give it back to me during lunch," he warned, but his eyes told me a million other things.

And he didn't need to say any of them.

"Okay."

Terra, having already zipped up his backpack, turned to leave when someone blocked his way.

The blond figure gave Terra a hard shove. He stumbled backwards but caught himself before he fell on top of me and possibly crushed me.

"Hey, you." Seifer didn't bother with names. "I heard that motherless brother of yours was hangin' around my girl last night."

He was referring to Lea, Terra's adopted brother. Including his stepbrother Riku, Terra loved both his brothers with a passion. And even though he hated meaningless fighting, I could tell things were going to get ugly if I didn't step in.

"Let's break this up, shall we?" I tried, standing between Seifer and Terra.

"How about I break your face?" Seifer responded.

At his words, I felt the anger boiling up inside me, and I knew I had no control over it.

"Seifer's got style, you know?" Rai piped up from behind Seifer's tall figure.

I shot him a glare. "Seifer's got no dick, you know?"

The entire hallway fell silent, and the air suddenly felt ice cold. The nearby kids started to crowd around in a circle, and although no one made a sound, I could tell they were all anticipating a fight. Well, they were going to get one.

Seifer smirked at me. "No dick, huh? Let's see who's got no—"

He didn't even manage to get the words out before my fist came in contact with that ugly face of his.

Oh yeah!

There was a loud cheer somewhere in the crowd, along with some boos (they were probably meant for Seifer).

Seifer scrambled to his feet, wiping his bleeding lip with the back of his hand. His smile was gone, replaced with a sneer that easily suited his angered expression. Before I could dodge, he launched himself on top of me, knocking me onto the cold marble floor.

And then everything went black.


I fell in and out of consciousness. The first time I was aware of anything, I felt a small hand on my forehead. I opened my mouth to say something, but everything faded again.

The next time I woke up, there was a rather large animal standing by my bed. I jerked backwards, hand on my heart, before I realized it was the nurse. She chuckled, oblivious to the fact that her monstrous size had startled me.

"You awake, huh?"

No, of course not. I'm dead. Of course, I really would die if you decided to sit on me. Please don't.

I nodded slowly. "I guess. Uh..."

The nurse guessed what I was thinking. "You're in the school infirmary. A friend of yours carried you here after some fight."

Terra carried me here? My heart felt heavy all of a sudden. He really was a loyal friend; and I couldn't have asked for anyone better.

I swung my legs over the bed and stood up, stumbling suddenly at the sudden dizziness and pain.

"Get back in bed!" the nurse scolded. I winced at her loud voice but complied, getting back under the white sheets.

The nurse shook her head, muttering, before placing her hand on my forehead. It covered most of my face.

I felt a sudden flash of a recent memory. The hand before had been smaller—and it had been shaking.

"Uh..." I started uncertainly. "Was there someone else here when I was... out?"

The nurse removed her hand and stared at me strangely. "Not that I know of," she said in a sickly sweet voice that didn't suit her at all.

I tried to get up again but cringed and fell back. "What the hell happened to me?"

The nurse's eyes widened. "Watch your words, mister. You had a concussion. We had to patch up your head, alright? Now, can I get a home phone number so your parents can come pick you up?"

It sounded more like a command than a question. I caught a glimpse of a name-tag on her oversized chest.

"I don't have all day," Nurse Meyers urged, a notebook and pen in hand.

Did she pull those out of…? I'll try not to think about it.

I tried to shake my head but flinched again. "I don't have any," I managed.

"No phone." The nurse jotted something down. "Can I have your address then? We'll send someone."

"I...I meant... I don't have any parents." I choked on the last word without meaning to.

The nurse looked up in surprise, and her blank expression melted into one of pity that I hated. But everyone looked at me that way when they found out.

"Oh... Oh dear. I'm so sorry." She fumbled with the notebook before setting it down awkwardly and giving me a misplaced smile. "You'll...just have to stay here for a while then, I suppose?" She shook her head. "Of course, can't send you home alone. Um, rest, why don't you?" She nearly slammed into the door on her way out but managed to pause long enough to open it before leaving.

Wait… How did she fit through the doorway?

I sighed. Why did something like this have to happen every freaking day?

I closed my eyes in annoyance. I must have fallen asleep because when I opened my eyes in what felt like seconds later, it was dark, even though the window was wide open. My first thought was that I was in my room, but that didn't make any sense because I didn't remember walking home. And then everything came rushing back along with an annoyingly raging headache. It was hard to understand how they were letting me stay at school overnight. Seeing my record, I supposed it must've been a hard decision. But I guess pity forces people's hands, and sympathy is given a new meaning—again.

"Argh, stupid life!" Suddenly I wanted nothing more than to die. Just lay there and die. It was so easy just to close my eyes and then never have to open them again, never have to face the messed up reality of broken promises and endless pity.

"Gee, thanks."

My thoughts melted away at the sound of his voice, and I turned my head to see Terra sitting on the bed beside me. I suddenly felt ashamed.

"Nice thing to say to someone who saved it," Terra commented along with one of his famous eye rolls.

"Sorry, I..."

Terra sighed.

It kind of made sense now. They trusted leaving me with one of the top students of the school with the clean record and the flawless grades.

"Never mind. Vanitas... Why did you punch him?"

I shrugged. "He pissed me off."

He shook his head, his fingers pressed against his forehead. "That's not a good enough reason."

"It's not?" I got out of my own bed. My head was throbbing, but only slightly now. "Whatever then. So what happened after I got knocked out like an idiot?"

"It was a mess. You were bleeding, and there was all this blood everywhere. Dude, I thought..." He trailed off, then continued, "This redhead came running, crying, saying she called the principal."

"That Kairi chick?"

"Yeah, and then these kids started running in random directions, slamming into each other. You almost got trampled, man. Like, seriously. And Seifer was staring at you like..."

I raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"

Terra shook his head. "I don't think he really meant to hurt you. Like me, I bet he thought... you know, I don't think he's really all that bad."

I stared at him.

"I'm not kidding. I know he was dissing Lea... but inside, he isn't that bad. It's like... he's suffering."

The comment hit home. I lost every single argument that had risen to my lips. My eyes widened, and I could barely breathe. The image of my burning house swam into view.

"Vanitas?"

I blinked. "Uh. Sorry. Um, maybe."

Terra looked at me suspiciously, but thankfully dropped the subject. "Anyway, do you wanna go home now, or... something?"

I nodded. "I'll walk home. Aren't your parents waiting?"

He shook his head. "I called and told them I might not come home tonight. Because, well... you know..." He shrugged, smiling slightly. I wanted to thank him, to apologize for being an idiot. But the words wouldn't come.

Before I knew it we were parting ways outside the school.

"Uh... Terra?" I finally managed.

He turned, already at the corner of his street.

I tried to find the right thing to say. "I... uh, I... Today..."

"Vanitas."

I stopped.

A smile broke across Terra's concerned expression. "I know. G'night."

Relief flooded through me, and at the same time, I was mad at myself— ashamed. Ashamed that I couldn't say a few simple words to my best friend and he still understood.

My hands were stuffed in my pockets but they still felt cold. I wasn't sure how long it had been since I'd wandered like this, or how much time had passed since I left school. Two hours, three? I remembered wearing a watch in middle school. Wondered where it was now.

I glanced through an open window at a wall clock, but found it too dark to see anything. I finally gave up on figuring out the time and dropped down onto the grass, lying in the endless blades of green. Only a few more days, and then it would be snowing. Stupid winter was just around the corner. I hoped it would stay there. Winter brought back bad memories.

I closed my eyes. I wasn't tired at all, but sometimes, behind closed eyelids, I could live in a better world. A better reality.