DISCLAIMER: I do not own Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Disney or anything Square Enix.

Apologies: For the massive delay. The next chapter will not take as long, I promise.

Thanks to: My reviewers and my awesome beta, Mystics Apprentice.

Also: Happy belated VanShion day everyone!

Warning: A mind in a state of chaos can be very hard to understand.


Bête Noire

Chapter Fifteen: Whys and Wildflowers

All my life I've been chasing things. Things just out of reach, things so far away I couldn't even see them anymore. Ever since Xion wrote her own name on that whiteboard in English class, ever since she'd barged into my life up there on that rotten roof, I'd been chasing things even more than before.

This time, I didn't chase Xion. I watched her go, running, running, running…

Gone.

I couldn't chase after her.

I couldn't because I was sure now, of a truth I couldn't run away from anymore.

I'm just like my father.

"What's going on?"

Who would have thought a police officer would break up a high school fight? And I knew this one too. He was the same one I had delivered that package to, the one with the scary wife. The dot on his forehead was still just as weird.

Kids shuffled out of the way so he could see what had happened. Some of the more wimpy ones were already leaving, fleeing the scene before they could be questioned for doing absolutely nothing.

I could tell that the police officer recognized my face; his eyes widened when he saw me, his mouth opening slightly. But he didn't say anything, just pressed his lips together and walked past me towards the twins.

By the time he and Roxas had pulled Ventus (I remembered him telling me it was "Ven") back onto his feet, almost everyone was gone, off to their own measly little homes with their measly little problems. I didn't think once about running when the officer wasn't looking—he would catch me eventually. There was no point…

No point in running away from myself.

Together, his brother and the officer dragged Ven down to the school infirmary, which was a place I kept coming back to somehow. I followed them, hands shoved into my pockets, and waited for the inevitable.

Once they'd gotten Ven into a hospital bed (the nurse had a massive heart attack at the sight of him) the officer turned to me. There was almost nothing in his eyes, just an eerily stern look; the same look he'd been wearing when I handed him that package the day I crashed into Lea.

"So you're the culprit?"

Evidently, Roxas had told him everything.

Then again, maybe it was so obvious that no one had to tell him anyway.

I nodded.

"Follow me."

Sure will. Not looking back at Roxas hunched over his brother's semi-conscious body, I followed the unnamed police officer out the door. I really thought he was gonna take me straight to jail, but instead I found myself heading towards the principal's office. Seriously?

I braced myself for another drawn-out lecture from Mrs. Caramel, but she was too horrified to speak. Only when the officer stepped forward and introduced himself as Tseng did she get a grip on herself.

She couldn't suspend me again, she told me. If I missed any more days of school I'd have to repeat the year. I told her she could just go ahead and expel me, that I didn't care, and she got all quiet again.

"You…don't care?"

I shrugged. "Not really, no."

Mrs. Caramel swallowed loudly. Tseng stood beside me, as still as a statue, and I suddenly wondered if he was there to make sure I didn't attack anyone else.

I laughed. So I was a public threat now, huh?

Mrs. Caramel looked deeply troubled. Her brows furrowed and she stared at me, eyes trying to see me, to understand me. Why was it so hard for her to just kick me out? I obviously didn't belong here. I was going to voice that thought when Tseng spoke up with an idea.

I ended up with community service. Curse that Tseng for coming up with something like that, and curse Mrs. Caramel for being too soft, for being too idiotic. Fifty hours, she told me. Fifty. Well, fuck. "I contacted Sephiroth," she told me. Brilliant. So now I had to do some boring shit for all those hours or I was gonna get stuck back in penitentiary (I mean, the orphanage, of course) for the rest of my life.

I headed for the infirmary. I knew I wouldn't be welcome. I just wanted to see how he was doing. I hoped Ven wouldn't become the second person I'd thrown into a coma. It couldn't be that bad, could it? But I did hit him pretty hard. He'd been bleeding from a lot of places.

He hadn't resisted. Why didn't he resist? Why didn't he fight back? There was so much I wanted to know, so much I had no right to ask.

"Vanitas?"

I stopped. Looked up.

"What… What are you doing here?" Terra asked.

Did he already know what had happened? Raising a hand in greeting, I didn't answer his question and kept walking. He 'd just exited the infirmary, and was now standing right in front of it. Of course he already knew. And I bet he knows who did it, too, even if no one bothered to tell him.

Terra was at a loss for words. I thought he'd been visiting Lea today? I guess he came back. But school had already ended. `Nothing was making sense!

"Vanitas."

His voice was steadier this time. He crossed his arms, glaring at me. What did he want me to do, apologize? About Ven? About Lea? Well, he was wasting his time. I wasn't gonna do any of those things.

"Why did you do it?"

Oh yeah, I forgot how damn annoying Terra was. I looked him straight in the eye when I answered. "He pissed me off."

"That's not a good enough—"

"Shut up, Terra! Can't you see where this is going? We've had this conversation fifty fucking times already!"

Terra hesitated. The sudden spark of that anger had already melted from his face. He learned to control it a long time ago. "Look, Vanitas. I was wrong before. About—"

"I don't wanna hear any of your bullshit." And without even glancing at him or the infirmary door again, I stalked past him. He was admitting he was wrong? Was he trying to be friends again? I couldn't stick around.

I wanted to kick myself once I got outside. I was losing control of everything. What would have happened if I hadn't left? I had nearly asked him to forgive me. I almost did. But I couldn't.

Because at that point, I didn't want him to.


I'd forgotten I didn't ride my bike to school. Did I have work? I wasn't sure. I hadn't talked to Cloud ever since he gave me back my keys. Maybe that told me something. Maybe I was overdue for another conversation. Then again, I had new things to worry about. Fifty hours of community service, right? What was I supposed to do about that? What counts as community service?

Shifting through question after question, I was home. So fast. I stared at the front door, remembering what I'd been thinking the first time I saw it; my father had yanked me by the elbow because I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go. Why didn't I?

Someone was singing. No, humming. A memory floated to the front of my mind, pulled from a mess of recollections, things I had tried to let go of so many times: the same tune, the same humming, but at a different time, a different place, a different life.

I turned around.

And there she was, making her way down the sidewalk with a bouquet of flowers tucked inside her arms. So many colors. There was yellow, and white, attached to green stems and leaves. And there was blue. I liked blue; they were the color of her eyes.

I didn't know if she ever wanted to see me again. She said Roxas's name, not mine.

I didn't care. I backed away from my door, putting it off for just a little longer. It would be hard (I could admit that now) but it was about time I ended things with Xion. Ended what? It was just another one of my pathetic desires—the desire that these past few days had meant more to her than they actually had. Ridiculous games of charades, midday chases, a few seconds in a dark closet and heart-to-hearts on roofs—I'd spent more time with her than I'd realized, and maybe they meant something to me after all. Why did they? I didn't know. But I had to end it, whatever it was. For her sake.

Xion didn't look up at me when I fell into step beside her.

"Hey," I said.

She didn't answer. Maybe the fact that she had said something didn't matter, maybe she had gone back into her shell once more. Maybe she wasn't gonna say anything else after all.

"Why?"

Or maybe she was.

"Huh?"

Really, I knew exactly what she was talking about, but I didn't answer. I just didn't want to answer. And even more, I wanted to hear that voice again, a voice I hadn't heard until today, a voice that I wanted to love but somehow hated, all at once.

The flowers in her hands were shaking. She stopped walking and finally looked at me. "Why did you fight them?"

I stared at her, watching her lips as they moved. It was hard to believe that words were coming out of that mouth, that she was capable of making sound, of saying what she was thinking. It was hard to believe that the constant searching for answers, the mysteries hidden in that silence didn't matter as much anymore even though I had the means to gain them, now that I was completely sure of who—what—I was. Her lips stopped moving, had probably stopped moving a while ago as she waited for my answer, my explanation. It was funny how the simplest action of staring at the slight curve of her mouth made me want to lean in and—

"Va— Vanitas?"

The sound of my name on those perfect, perfect lips prompted an answer, the same answer I'd given Terra. "He pissed me off. I couldn't help it. And that Roxas kid just decided to butt in. He should've known he was being a total idiot—"

"He was…protecting his brother!" The anger in her voice was very real, but like always, it was her pretty blue eyes that made me feel truly guilty. "You…were going to…"

"Kill him? I guess I was."

Her eyes widened, and she dropped her head to look at the cracks in the sidewalk stretching into infinity. "I just…thought you were…different…" She paused often, choosing each word carefully. She was still getting used to speaking. Her voice was soft, the words shaking themselves into a broken sentence. It was pitiful.

"Well, you aren't the first person."

Xion didn't say anything more. Maybe she exhausted herself by saying so much. She didn't start walking again either. I waited.

And then she reached out and took my hand in hers. And I was too shocked to say anything even when she looked up again. There was a small, sad smile on her lips. Her hand was soft.

"You can…stop holding back now."

I pulled my hand out of hers. No, this wasn't working. This wasn't ending. Why wasn't it ending? "What the hell do you mean, loser?"

Xion didn't react to my sudden name-calling. She just smiled at me, sadly, sympathetically. Pity? No, it was something else. Something warm. Damn it.

"Sometimes...we just have to…let it all go."

No. She couldn't know. But somehow, she did. She reached for my hand again, but I pulled it back, moved away from her. "Don't touch me! How can you still talk to me if you know?" I was losing it, I was losing it, I had to control myself. But I couldn't. "I'm not normal, Xion. There's something wrong with me! I have no fucking idea why I hit that kid! I was mad, sure, but it's not like I haven't been mad before. Do you know he didn't even fight back…? And I… I—"

"Do you…want to walk?"

It felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach. I blinked, trying to breathe. "What?"

Xion shrugged at me. The smile was gone, but her expression was still gentle, welcoming.

I stared at the flowers in her hands. "Where are you headed?" What did I mean? No. I was supposed to turn around. Walk away. But I didn't move.

I was only greeted by familiar silence. Instead, she started walking again so that I had to follow, and I inwardly praised her cleverness. Even when I questioned why she still spoke to me, even when all I wanted to do was run away and lock myself into my house forever, I wanted to be around her. I was being selfish. And stupid. I had to leave. This has to end!

But it didn't end. Xion didn't say anything the rest of the way. Halfway there she started to hum something soft and sad, and I remembered again that night I had brought her home. She'd been humming the same thing.

"Shut up."

And she did, holding the flowers closer to herself. She still hadn't told me where we were going, and I still didn't turn around and leave. Why, why, why? I was sick of the questions.

And then we were there: A graveyard, a cheap little patch of ground with a broken gate. Xion breezed through the dangling metal entrance without pause. This wasn't the first time she'd been here. Of course, I'd seen her with flowers before. Not a lover after all, then.

Something strange was happening. Xion was pausing every few seconds and moving on. She wasn't looking for someone specific. She was just staring, shaking her head, drifting through the graves like she belonged there, like the only difference was her solid form still existing above the ground. I shuddered.

"What are you doing?"

Her silence was back, apparently. At least for now. I dragged myself after her, a magnet being pulled from both sides. I wanted to leave. I wanted to stay. I wanted to die.

"This one." Hey, two more words. Progress. Xion knelt down to place flowers in front of the gravestone. I moved to stand beside her. Pence Victus.

"You knew him?"

She shook her head, but refused to elaborate. She didn't know him? Then what the hell was she doing?

I stared at the bright-colored wildflowers she'd so carefully placed right under his name, and I was seized with the sudden desire to trample on them and kill that small fragment of beauty that dared exist on something that marked his death.

No more. I had the power to end it now. The only way was to forget the goodbyes and the would-have-beens and just leave. So I left the graveyard. But not before noticing that there were a bunch of wildflowers, the same exact ones, on her grave too.


Staring out the window wasn't enough anymore. Maybe I should have said goodbye. Is that why I was staring out the window, waiting for her to pass by? I had to get away from here.

I found myself standing at the foot of the stairs that led to the attic. It had been so long since I'd been up there that I'd forgotten what it looked like. For a moment I stood frozen on the first step, caught between indecision, for an eternity. Finally, I started to make my way up, unable to stand the idea of spending another hour staring out the window. I had to get away from everything. I would definitely lose my mind if I hadn't already.

The steps creaked under my weight and I climbed faster. I wasn't exactly prepared to fall through fifty inches of cheap floorboards to my death. What would happen if the floor suddenly gave way and I did fall? Where would I land? I suppose I'd fall all the way to hell, where I would fit right in. If that didn't happen, I guess I would just lie there, splattered with blood and cuts and nails, until I rotted to death. And no one would ever notice me gone. The options? Let's go through them. Not Terra, after our brief conversation today. I was pretty sure all our ties from any sort of past were severed, which was a good thing.

But maybe…Xion would. Or I just wanted to think that. Reaching the attic, I turned around to gaze back down the stairs I just scaled, wondering when my thoughts had turned to such meaningless things. I'd been great before. None of this nonstop-questioning shit. Maybe I had just been oblivious to that true nature inside me. Terra was at fault for that one. He hadn't been the perfect kid either (jeez, we'd pulled a lot of things together) but eventually he'd changed, and I guess he'd left me in the dust and it just took me this long to realize it.

Now, where was I? Falling into the depths of Tartarus? Oh, wait. The attic.

And there was the bell. The doorbell? Who was it, Cloud? If he'd come here to ask me to work for him, I would have to punch him or something so he never wanted to see me again. Maybe Ventus? No, of course not. Right, I'd beaten him senseless today.

I left the attic behind me again, descending the steps three, four at a time. Why was I answering the door again? I could just ignore the doorbell. I could pretend I wasn't here. I could pretend I was dead.

But no, I was already at the front door. I already knew who it was. She wasn't going to let me say goodbye, was she? I almost smiled. I would be the death of her.

I opened the door. There she was, looking sad and happy all at once, like always.

She cleared her throat.

Oh, gonna say something again?

"Can I…" She tilted her head and tried again, just a little louder. "Can I come in?"

She held out a single, golden wildflower. A tribute.

Why?


Review Responses:

OmegaStarShooter14: "Why must you characters get in the way of my happy ending?"

I can totally imagine them laughing at our misery. Believe me, I don't have much control over them either.

Guest: "This is one of the best stories that I've read in a long time."

Aw, thanks so much. I feel terrible for not updating more regularly. But tomorrow is my last day of school (finally) and so I promise updates will be more frequent now.

Zack1187: "…way to take possibly the saddest moment in kingdom hearts history and make it sadder."

Why thank you. I wasn't sure how that worked out and I didn't want things to sound repetitive or out-of-place, so I'm glad it was effective.

Inmate XIV: "Sorry it's been so long, by the way. D;"

Hey it's no problem! I'm not gonna say I don't love reviews, but you should not feel bad about not reviewing once in a while, hehe. Life can be tough, so read fanfiction and sally forth!

The Dismotivator: "My three favorite chapters of this story so far (listed in chronological order) are Lament, Icing on the Cake, and this one, Loose Cannon."

Not sure I'd necessarily list them in that order, but those are some of the chapters I had most fun writing. I think that says something doesn't it? It's often said that the chapters you yourself enjoy writing generally turn up better.

"If I were about to do what the letter suggested (trying to keep reviews as spoiler-free as possible, here) then I'd keep it a secret until I succeeded."

I was hoping that the fact the letter was there implied that Xion had already tried and ultimately failed, and someone had eventually found the note.

"Is Xion right-handed or left-handed in this story, by the way?"

This never occurred to me and so I have no idea. Let's say she's a leftie for the sake of the whole Xion being a reflection thing. This may or not come up in the future. And haha, papa Roxas. This needs to be real. *Eyes glaze over*

"I'm wondering how Vanitas was able to come up with something like that when, as he said, he never experienced it himself."

I'll just graze this lightly here because it will come up later, but over the years Vanitas's bitterness has made his life worse, and has simultaneously affected his memories from the past. The fact that he can imagine something as such is evidence that he has to have experienced something similar. I hope that was at least a little clear, xD As for other things… For spoiler-free-ness's sake, I will not comment on your awesome theories just yet.

"Next we have Relena. Personally, if I were to give Larxene a human name, it would be Arlene, because it sounds more plausible and slightly French."

I think the reason I went with Relena was that the structure of the name "Arlene" was too similar to Larxene, especially with the "ene" at the end. Everyone thought Saix's name would be Sai and it ended up being Isa, so I just wanted to follow that same line of thought, I suppose. Then again, it could easily be Arlene.

"But does Sephiroth work at an orphanage or something? Like, caretaker Sephiroth? Isn't he kinda too creepy for that? *shot by Sephiroth fangirl* Of course, he might not be. :/"

Ooh, thanks so much, this brings up an important point that I didn't realize was worth mentioning. The Sephiroth in this story is based on Pre-Final Fantasy VII Sephiroth, or (slight spoiler here…) Crisis Core Sephiroth. In Crisis Core, it's learned that Sephiroth was a very admired, honorable and even amiable hero. I sort of automatically adopted that character rather than the one after, when he pretty much goes insane after finding out who (or what) he really is.

"...Kids, don't play with matches and lighters. You might end up chasing questionably-straight people down hallways later in your life if you do."

I must thank you again with all the wonderful laughter you bring me with your reviews :)

"Which reminds me, what voice did Vanitas read Xion's letter in if he'd never heard her speak? O_o"

Now this is a very debatable question. What sort of voice do you hear when you read things? As you read this now? Your own voice? It might me, but mostly (at least for me) it's this strange voiceless whisper that may or may not resemble my own voice. On the other hand, Vanitas could have easily read the letter in a voice he assumed was similar to Xion's depending on her character.

And yay! Cyber-cake! A hundred reviews sounds lovely, really. And believe it or not, we still have much to go, so look out for the next chapter.

I swear it'll be earlier this time. I will never make you guys wait over two months again. But you know, I hope you guys weren't two bored in my absence. Because guess what? KINGDOM HEARTS III KIDDIES! OH YEAH! If you don't follow me on tumblr already…

destinycrusader. tumblr(dotcom)

Until next time, everyone! Thank you for all the wonderful reviews and your continued support. As for this chapter, I'd love feedback on how the style of rambling thoughts and broken phrases worked with Vanitas's mind and the overall tone. Things are finally starting to work out between Vanitas and Xion, don't ya think? Hope it wasn't too slow ;) LOVE YOU ALL!

(And guess what? KINGDOM HEARTS THREEEEE)

~DestinyCrusader