Chapter 2: Unpause, Restart, And Do Not Save
It was dark.
He honestly didn't expect to see anything else, but then, he didn't expect that he would ever see anything ever again. He didn't expect to feel anything again, not as himself anyway…was he still himself? He must be if he was still conscious to notice things like how dark it was and that his body was sprawled out on the ground. He must be to still feel the cold seeping up from the ground or the cough that compressed his chest for just a moment before the following gasp inflated it. He must still be….Terra.
He couldn't tell if his eyes were open or closed as he pulled his sprawled arms in and rolled over. The ground below him was slimy and gritty, and smelled of the rich scent of mineral earth. His hands quickly became coated in the substance that clung to his clothes, making them feel heavy.
In the darkness he could hear the faint echo of his voice, though he hadn't spoken that loudly. His limbs felt weak as he worked them, drawing blind hands over slick, uneven ground till they could run up the length of a rough wall. The wall reached higher then he could but he didn't stay standing for too long, scared in this black world. He could hear his breaths, heavy now not from physical labor but the labor that comes from working to keep fear at bay. Though it was likely he was in a wide open space, the darkness pressed on him from every side, and he felt like he was being swallowed whole.
"Aq-Aqua?" he called, voice shaking. "Ven? Ventus?" He was only met with the echo of his frightened voice. He needed light….
Holding his hands out before him, he called to the power of his Keyblade. When the familiar object did not show he felt his pulse quicken and called once more for it. Still, the weapon refused to materialize and without it, he couldn't channel any spells.
"AQUA!" he called out again. "VENTUS! ANSWER ME!" He thought he could hear something move. Listening, he could only hear silence. "Aqua?" he tried again. "Please be you…."
Then a terrifying thought overtook him and he froze. There could be Heartless out there. He seemed to become hyper aware of every sound that resonated around him then, convinced in the inability to see otherwise that he was being stalked. He really could feel his heart pounding away in his chest, a small comfort that it hadn't been ripped from him yet but surly it would if he stayed here. He had to move. He Had To Move.
In his panic he slipped in the slime and landed with a thud on his chest, the wind leaving him for a moment, yet fear spurred him to scramble forward and loudly he did so. But there was nowhere to go, nowhere that he could see. He felt along the ground, as he had done before, crawling till he nearly fell down a drop he wasn't sure would ever end. The resounding cry of surprise he let out when his arm slipped over the edge echoed back to him for a long time. To his left the wall of irregular stone still blocked him, and he was too afraid to see how far the chasm went out to his left.
"C'mon Terra," he whispered, willing himself not to freak out anymore then he already was. "Can't go that way, what do you do? Go around…go the other way…." Slowly, he backed up and turned around. And screamed.
What was that? Were those yellow eyes? Had he seen yellow eyes looking back at him? Just for a second? Just right there in his face?
A shaking hand he couldn't see slowly, hesitantly, reached out to feel that….nothing was there. He took a wide swipe, and only ended up hitting the wall, now to his right. Cursing against the pain that flared up in his palm as he held it, he sat and listened intently for sounds once more, and thought again that he could hear something moving. Was it toying with him?
"Move, Terra," he told himself. "Move forward, now." And he resumed crawling.
The rocky wall seemed to go on forever and not in a straight line either. There were stalactites and stalagmites that popped up in his way after a while, sometimes forming walls that he had to crawl round. It led him to another wall, this one padded by soft mud on a steep slant that veered up at a muddy, slippery angle. He looked up and could see the faintest hint of color, a dark midnight navy blue, dotted with the twinkling of tiny white starts.
He dug his hands into the slippery earth and made to crawl toward those faint glittering speckles, his whole body becoming coated with heavy, thick mud. If he moved too quickly the hold on the fragile ground would dissolve, leading him to slide back to the ground of the cave before he could even get another foothold in. If he climbed too slowly however, he would still sink faster than the progress he made. Three to four tries at it left him in a filthy state at the bottom of the wall staring up at those glittering fragments of hope, which had never seemed so impossible to reach until that very moment. He screamed his frustration then, slamming his fists against the sloppy slope, uncaring of the flecks of mud that rebounded from the collisions and spattered on his already dirty face. Tears eroded away some of the filth on his cheeks but it only served to dishearten him more.
Terra sat at the foot of the slope, in a puddle of the sticky mud he'd scraped off, and regretted the life choices he'd made to land him here. Funny how he hadn't really had a chance to do so at length before now, and it took the simple task of climbing out of a cave to make him break down. It wasn't that he hadn't regretted what he'd done before, but between being a know-it-all prick on a journey he shouldn't have taken to begin with and the final battle when he'd lost sight of himself, he hadn't really had a moment to stop and cry for the loss of his friends. He hadn't had a moment to really stop and comprehend what it was that he put them through. He had already begun to fade away between light and dark when Ventus was destroyed, when Aqua slipped away. He was aware, he'd been aware of it all, but it had felt like a faraway battle in the memory of a dream forgotten at the bottom of the toy box in childhood; he wanted to valiantly rush in to save the day, but he couldn't remember quite how the story was supposed to go anymore and with each moment a little more memory slipped away from him. Then he was alone and it was so dark, and he didn't want to be there anymore.
It was so dark in this cave. He didn't want to be here anymore.
He pulled back from reaching under the bed when his hand found something and sat back to get a better look at it. Sora was holding what was a small munny bag meant to carry small trinkets of the currency, but it was nearly empty. Thinking there was some loose change inside, he pried open the little drawstring and turned the bag upside down over his open palm. What fell out wasn't munny, but a small, blue, glass marble. Sora frowned lightly at the trinket, pretty in its own right, and turned it over in his hand as he tried to place where he'd seen it before.
"You almost ready?"
The brunette turned and looked at Riku, leaning in the doorway to the bedroom King Mickey kept for him on the occasions when they would return from battle to stay overnight. His friend cast aquamarine eyes over the messy piles of things Sora hardly bothered to put to rights and tried not to make a show of disapproval. Sora knew better. He knew Riku well enough to know that the disapproval wasn't even over the mess, but rather the packing Sora was doing.
"Sorta," the younger male replied. "I keep finding all these things I hadn't seen in years. Look what I just found now." He held up the glass marble for his friend to see and it caught the light, sparkling a new as if lighted a flame. "I don't even remember where I got this from."
Riku reached out and took the orb in hand, carefully rolling it over in his palm while he looked at it. "That's the marble from the trophy won in the Struggle Tournament," he said and handed it back to Sora. To clear away the confused look he received he added, "Roxas competed and won. King Mickey gave it to you after he fused with you again."
"Oh," Sora said, looking down at the marble. Suddenly the memories came back, a bit hazy and dusty but there all the same. "Yeah, I remember now…" He remembered opening the bag and finding the marble for the first time and the reaction he'd had to it. He couldn't stop crying for an hour. It had scared Donald and Goofy, but it had startled him as well for he couldn't wholly understand why such a tiny thing would have such a strong pull over him. Eventually the crying had subdued, though he wouldn't let Donald take it away and stared at the marble for the rest of the train ride before they reached the place they had been going.
Sora rolled the marble over in his hand again, waiting expectantly for the wave of tears to consume him again, but no emotion came forth. "So…this was meant for Roxas, right?"
"Yeah, guess so," Riku replied.
"Do you think I should take it?" Sora asked.
His friend shrugged a shoulder and pointed out that he'd left it behind for so long that taking it now seemed silly. Sora countered with the story of how it had emotionally impacted him, but he didn't have a retort for when Riku pointed out it wasn't emotionally impacting him now. The younger of the two men was still contemplating it when his girlfriend walked through the door. "Hey," she said with a smile. "Dinner is almost ready. King Mickey wants us to eat with him tonight."
"Okay," Sora said agreeably. Riku seemed willing to continue to pout about the whole ordeal. "We'll be there in a little bit Kairi." He let her kiss him before she left, sensing as Sora had that the boys wanted another few minutes alone. "What are you taking with you?" the younger male asked his friend.
Riku sighed as he sat down and started pulling objects Sora had tossed into a pile. "Just bare basics, I guess," he replied. After a few days, and much begging from Sora and Kairi, Riku had finally agreed to go along with what the king wanted for his Keybearers, though he'd maintained an air of haughty dislike for it whenever the subject came up. Sora looked away to hide the surprised look he knew graced his face at his friend's words; he half expected Riku to back down at the very last moment and not go at all. Riku didn't seem to notice or care as he continued to look through the mess that was sprawled around Sora's room. He stopped shifting and frowned at one particular item. "Sora, this pair of underwear has rocket ships on it." He wiggled a finger through a hole in the elastic band.
Blushing, the brunette snatched the offending garment away. "You know we hardly ever have to stay here for more than a few days; I never got a chance to throw them away!"
"Never got a chance?" Riku smirked. "Or just never wanted to? C'mon Sora, I know how you are, overly sentimental about things that you'd long since out grown." He tsked with mock disapproval until the underwear was shot back into his face by the elastic. Quickly, Riku swiped them from his face and gave the grinning Sora a disbelieving look.
"83,951 to 83,952 and I'm winning," Sora said. He scrambled to his feet. "Race you to the mess hall, Riku! Loser is a rotten egg!" Laughing, Riku got up and chased, leaving the rest of the packing till after dinner.
The first thing he was aware of was that he was breathing. Slowly, steadily, within and out. Inhale, exhale. Rhythmically his chest would rise, hover there for a moment, and then drop to rest. Then he'd repeat. This wasn't labored, it didn't hurt. It was just breathing, within and out. Inhale, exhale. Slowly, steadily, keeping him alive.
Rooooock a-bye baaabyyy, ooooon the tree toooop…
The next thing he became aware of were the words filling his head. Slowly, steadily, and deliberate. They entered his head and bounced off the empty space devoid of thought, repeating themselves again and again in the hollowness of his mind. Echoing the syllables, the tone, the voice that spoke them without emotion. Slowly, steadily, deliberate. Within and out. Inhale, exhale.
Wheeeeen the wind bloooooows, the cradle will roooock…
Then came the sensation of wind, gentle and calm. Steadily. Pause. No…where was the voice? Was it a voice? Within and out, inhale, exhale, slowly, steadily, deliberate. The cool sensation of a gentle caress blowing over him. Did his breath stop? Or was it the wind that was breathing for him? Steady? Deliberate? Within and Out?
Wheeeeen the branch breeeaaaks…
Then a violent gust and he coughed tasting sand. Something covered his face, solid and warm. He couldn't breathe. The singing stopped and the wind blew harder. The voice seemed closer…was it a voice or his own mind playing something back to him? Out, within, exhale…he could barely hear the next part, trembling and scared…
The cradle will faaaaall…
Then the gust stopped, he was let go. Inhale, shakily. The voice paused for a bit longer. A sound was made like a moan and reverberated the cavern that was his head. The shaky words did not come from him; they came from a voice not within his memory. Out. Exhale. Slowly, he tried opening his eyes…
And doooown will come baaabyyy…
It all seemed so very bright. The very center of these blinding bright rays was hidden behind the silhouette of someone leaning over him and very close. It took a minute for his eyes to refocus, concentrating on yellow spots before him, the lightest things he could see in the shroud of dark shadow that enveloped him without going completely blind.
Cradle and aaaaall…
He moaned again, the sound leaving less vibration within his head this time and carrying out to the person in front of him. Steadily, he kept breathing, faintly aware of the breath gently rolling over his face in such close proximity to this shadow person. Then they smiled, or grimaced, it was hard to tell when their face was so dark…"Morning sleepy head. Are you really awake this time?" Their mouth formed the words and calmly washed them over his face.
He blinked, unsure of what these new words meant at first when they didn't fit the pattern of the others. So he moaned again and blinked some. Another sudden and violent gust of wind blew over his face and suddenly the dark face was closer to him and something heavy was laid on his face. Realizing he couldn't breathe and panicking, he started to struggle but was quickly held down. The hand removed itself from his nose and mouth to grip his body and he inhaled a coughing breathe of dirt and sand. "Wha—What's going on?" he cried confused. "Let Go Of Me!"
"Calm down or you'll get us killed!" the other hissed. The threat of death subdued him, but only physically. "Heh, so I guess you're really awake this time. Good, I was getting sick of looking after you…" The other body pulled away when the gust itself subsided and for the first time he could see the face more clearly. If he felt like he couldn't breathe before, this knocked the very wind from him.
"Va-ah," his voice was merely a whisper at first, then more steadily, "Vanitus."
"Ventus," the boy leaning back from him greeted, more calmly, and nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Look, before we get into any squabbles with one another, I want you to take a good hard look at your surroundings and tell me what you see. CARE-FUL-LY."
Ventus furrowed his brow at the other boy's words but slowly sat up and took a look around, inhaling deeply at the sight. It was an all-encompassing skyline as far as he could see. The sky was the most perfect shade of blue and faded in color about an inch before it melded with the lush green tops of a million forest trees. The air was so clean. It was a wonder to behold. He turned his head to look around at where exactly they would be, and found that the two of them were sitting on a tiny ledge just below the edge of a cliff. Below their little ledge was a straight drop of a good mile or so, where the ground couldn't be seen through the thicket of trees. The ledge itself was big enough to hold them both comfortably, but there was no way to put a lot of space between the two of them which made it seem less cozy. Ventus turned a slightly frowning face back toward Vanitus. "Where are we?"
"Santa's workshop," the dark haired boy shot at him with little more than a glance out of the corner of his eye. He turned more fully when the blond scoffed and replied, "No we aren't because I've been there before."
"Oh, you can take it now and dish it back, how quaint." Golden eyes ladled themselves and the acquiring lips smirked in amusement. "On a more serious note, however, I do not know where we are. I woke up on this cliff with you in tow and have been stuck here ever since."
"Can't you teleport?"
"When I say stuck here, I don't mean I just sat down and twiddled my thumbs waiting for you to wake up. I've already tried that. And any other trick that Darkness gave me. Nothing worked."
"Ahhh, did being the bad guy not pay off like you expected it to? Poor baby."
"Alright smartass, let's see you do something amazing with your wonderful powers of light."
Ventus smiled a little smugly. "Alright then," he replied, cockily sure he could still do what the other could not. He summoned his Keyblade and…
No…wait….He summoned his Keyblade! And—
Ventus started at his empty hands. Why wasn't his Keyblade inside them already? He tried again, still nothing. Vanitus' lowly chuckles reached them and he rounded on the boy. He was about to say something, but the dark way the other boy's laughter was bubbling over unnerved him a bit. "Oh this is just wonderful," the raven giggled. He rocked a little and his laughter started to subside. "WE'RE FUCKING STUCK HEEEREEEEE!" Ventus jolted at the intense scream and a flock of birds scattered into the sky below them. The darker sighed and turned away, shaking his head slightly.
Ventus wrapped his arms around him in a hug. This was unnerving. Sitting on a tiny cliff with the one person in the whole world he hated being around with no way out. He willed himself not to cry or ventilate too loudly so that Vanitus wouldn't know how much fear the mere realization of that thought instilled in him. "Well," he said as calmly as he could. "We-well…let's th-think positively about this…We'll be o-okay…" Vanitus scoffed at these words, but Ventus pressed on. "I mean, someone will find us and they'll get help and help us…not…be stuck here anymore…"
"Riiiight," Vanitas replied, still not looking at the boy he was stuck with. "Because that's exactly what's going to happen to us."
"Well, what do you think is going to happen?" Ventus shot at him, a little angry. When golden orbs snapped around to glare at him he almost regretted it. Almost.
"You want to know what I know is going to happen to us? We're going to sit here and wait for someone to find us, because that's about all we can do. Only NO ONE is going to come because NO ONE is looking for us. Neither of us knows what world we're in and even if we did, we don't know if we know that world or anyone in it, therefore we can't be sure anyone knows we're here and therefore it is safe to say that there is no search and rescue team under way for us. Furthermore, as I've been awake a lot longer then you, let me clue you in on a little secret; what you see out there before you—" He indicated the overgrown forest below them. "—is probably all that you would see up there over that cliff. I have been listening intently for the last two hours and I can honestly tell you that I have heard a whole lot of nature, but nothing at all that sounds like other humans or civilization. Birds, yes. Bears, maybe. But no vehicles, no voices, nothing that's going to help us climb up over that cliff. So! Unless you have some magical princess powers to get cute little fuzzy woodland creatures to help us," Vanitus paused to give Ventus a glance over. "Good luck on that it's all I can say, we're pretty much FUCKED Venny-boy. We're going to sit here until we die. Die of starvation or thirst, die from jumping in desperation or being shoved because we can't stand each other, I'm not sure. But we will die. Here. Together. Because there is No. Way. Out."
Now he regretted it. Ventus squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his lips together. He held tighter to himself and forced air to enter and exit him slowly and deeply. His back leaned against the cliff wall and he lowered himself into a sitting position, fighting not to lose it altogether. Vanitus was right; there was no hope for them. A light nudge on his temple prompted him to look up through glassy eyes at the somber looking boy standing over him now. "Don't cry," he said plainly. Ventus took a swing at him, angrily.
"Whoa! Whoa!" Vanitus stepped back as far as he could, which was not out of Ventus' reach. "Hold on! Listen To Me!" He held his hands before him to fend off any more attacks, which hesitantly halted. For a tense moment they stared each other down, Ventus eventually being the first one to slowly lower his fist. "I meant, let's not overact," Vanitus told him. "We're stuck here…so let's just…agree not to kill each other while we are?"
The blond wiped at the moister collecting under his eyes. "Why?" he asked.
"Weeeeeell," Vanitas stated, like he was stalling for a bit of time. "The way I see it, we have two options; stay here and slowly die, or jump possibly breaking one or several bones in the landing; therefore incapacitating us and leaving us to die slowly and painfully. Provided some animal doesn't come attack us while we're still alive." He sighed looking at the forest below. "Not being a particular fan of pain upon myself, I think I like the option of staying here the best and need to be a little more deprived of basic needs before I try anything reckless, like trying to jump that."
"We could try going up," Ventus said, looking up behind him. "If one of us boosts the other, they might be able to reach the edge and pull themselves up." Golden orbs landed on him in an unreadable expression. "Then, you know, maybe they could find a vine to pull the other up."
"You honestly trust me to not just leave you here?"
"Well, I did, but since you brought that up now I'm chiding myself for thinking such a foolish thing."
"Well stop that and get up." Ventus looked at the other, confused by these words. "I've been thinking the same thing since I realized we could be stuck here. I just wanted you to be the one to propose that idea because I didn't want to fight about it with you. Get up; I'm not going to tell you again."
Ventus stood back up and almost started panicking when Vanitus grabbed him around his waist. "Wa-wait!" he cried. "What are you doing?"
"Boosting you to get us out of here, what does it look like I'm doing, idiot?"
"You trust me? I thought you hated me!"
"I don't. And I do. But if I have to choose between trusting you and dying, I think I'll go ahead and try to trust you. At least it does something, right? Now, quit your squirming."
Vanitus sighed and dropped the fidgeting boy the few inches he'd been barely able to lift him. The thud on their ledge made small blocks of the edge crumble away, though not enough to significantly reduce the size. It was then that Ventus noticed the cliff itself was made of crumbling rock not necessarily made for climbing. This also explained the gusts of sandy wind that picked up every once and awhile. Now Vanitus was pressed up against him and in his face, glaring in an irate way. "Promise what?" he said.
Ventus' blue eyes locked with gold and held his gaze. "I promise not to leave you here," he stated calmly. "If I get up there and can escape. I promise I'll get you out of here too. Okay?"
"Good to know," Vanitus replied in a tone that clearly told Ventus he already assumed this would be the case between them. Still, the blond felt it was good faith to have it said. Now at least he had his word to rely on. "Turn around," Vanitus said and the blond looked confusedly at him. "You'll be able to climb better if you're facing the wall here."
"O-oh," he said and quickly did so, ignoring that he felt like an idiot for not realizing this sooner. He felt hands glide up and down his sides for a moment, hesitantly brushing around his hips as the raven muttered things under his breath. "What are you—"
"Okay," Vanitus cut him off as his body seemed to disappear from behind Ventus. "I'm going to push you up by your feet, because that will give you the most height and it looks like we can use all that we can get. He pushed his knees between Ventus' ankles and tapped at them in turn to get the boy to step onto them, then he gripped the ankles tightly in his hands. "We're doing this in one swift motion, so don't pussy out. I'm going to push you all the way above me, and if you fuck up, you die, got it?"
"No pressure," Ventus said, steeling himself. As soon as he felt Vanitus lift, he scrambled up with his hands to keep them balanced and headed for the top. Surprisingly, their combined heights did get him high enough to peek over the edge, but he was still too short to pull himself over. "Okay, okay I can see over the top here…"
"Yeah?" Vanitus called up, strain evident in his voice.
"Yeah, but I don't think I can get up!" Ventus scrambled at the ground, which was loose sand with no foliage or significant grab holes for him. He lacked the strength in his upper body to push up and clawing at the dirt didn't help.
"It's nothing but loose gravel!" Then he was nearly jerked back when Vanitus' strength gave out under him. He dug in to stay up, but the lack of support underneath is what brought him sliding back down. Vanitus caught him from falling off the edge and they clung to each other for a moment while they waited to see of the ledge would also give out. It didn't, but again it shrunk. The raven let go first, muttering curses under his breath and turning away. Ventus pretended he didn't see him trying to hide the tears. "We're gonna be okay," he said.
"How do you figure?"
"I just do. I choose to, okay? And hey, I meant what I said about not leaving you. Whatever happens now, we're in this together, okay?" Ventus smiled lightly at the boy peeking over his shoulder at him. He held out his hand.
"Do whatever you want," Vanitus replied. He turned away again and silence fell between them. Ventus chose not to acknowledge the hopelessness in Vanitus' voice when he muttered, "we're going to die here…."
"Are we there yet?"
Xemnas twitched almost violently enough to veer the minivan off the road and into the ditch running alongside it. The words that had been asked had been done so periodically over the last three days that he was about ready to pull over and set an example with the body of the next person to ask them. The problem was, only one of his former underlings was even bothering to utter them at all anymore and that was Demyx, the lazy bastard. That, and, his newly acquired heart stopped him from inflecting any seriously lasting damage on another with sudden pangs of guilt if he so much as threw a punch. It was hard to say if Demyx was just stupid, because all of the other former Nobodies seemed to pick right up on Xemnas' sporadic twitching every single time the phrase was uttered and had taken to biting their own tongues about the matter, or if the blond was just testing to see how much prompting it would take for their superior to lose his heart again, revert to Darkness and slaughter the freeloader sitting in the seat directly behind him. Either way, he played the ignorance is bliss card well.
"No, Demyx," Xemnas replied through clenched teeth, "We. Are. NOT. There. Yeeeeeet!"
"How much longer?" the follow up question instantly replied.
A hissing sigh retorted. Most of the other passengers shifted uncomfortably.
"Two more days," Axel said. "Give or take. Or possibly three more at the rate this is going."
"How you figure?" Demyx asked as he looked over the seat at Axel.
"REST ROOM STOP!" Xemnas called and veered dramatically off the side of the road when the exit came up. Demyx gave his usual surprised scream and everyone braced so as not to go flying out of their seats. The leader pulled the car into the parking lot and quickly shut the engine off. "You all have 45 minutes! Get it out of your system!" he barked then unbuckled himself and jumped from the car. Immediately pulling up next to him, and barely missing running him over, was another minivan. Xemnas sighed and waited for Xigbar to get out and approach him.
"What The Hell?" the second driver yelled as he came around to get in Xemnas' face. "You've told me time and time again not to drive recklessly and here you are kreening off the side of the road just any old time you feel like?" He waved at their surroundings. "A little warning would be nice! Maybe something like a turn signal at least!"
"Can you take Demyx?" Xemnas interjected.
"In your car! Just take him! Get him away from me!"
"But…my car is full—"
"I know! Just…he's driving me crazy! I can't put up with this—"
As the argument continued between them, the others also piled out of the vehicles they'd been packed away in. Saix, being the designated navigator of Xemnas' car, approached the heated debate while Xaldin herded the others off toward the rest stop facilities where the yelling wasn't so loud.
"That's how I figure," Axel said to Demyx as he walked along with Roxas.
"Why do we have to dooo thiiis?" Demyx whined, lacing his hands behind his head. Axel was about to retort when the blond suddenly perked up, "Ooooh! Ice cream!" He darted toward a vending machine and Axel sighed with a shake of his head.
In the six days that they'd been given this new existence, and a few other things in the process, they'd all struggled to come to terms with what was happening to them in their own ways. A strange girl they still knew nothing about had ripped them away from the dreamless sleep of peaceful oblivion and forced them into a situation they all promptly realized hadn't been given quite enough thought when tidal waves of real emotions temporarily crippled each of them. After the 12 hour cry fest, she'd systematically gone down the line, starting with Xemnas, and stripped them of their Organization jackets to redress them in what she called "real" clothes. This mostly consisted of t-shirts and jeans, though there was an electrifying throw down between this strange girl and Larxene over getting the latter into a sundress; this fight alone is what perked up most of the former Nobodies. Then she fed them, then she coddled them, then she shoved each of them into two cars and told them if they ever wanted to see their precious black jackets again they'd get going on the road trip she had mapped out for them and enroll in the college they would find at the final destination, and then she laughed manically as she ran off into the night. Surprisingly, when she did this each of them felt compelled to obey her, though none of them could understand or explain why. None of them had seen her since. A man named Vegeta had just patted them each on the shoulder, and told them, "You poor bastards. Good luck. Now get the fuck out of my house."
There were a few of the Organization that seemed to cope better than the others. Apparently Larxene was going to be just as much of a bitch in a normal human body as she was in her Nobody form. Luxord was forcing himself to pretend that nothing happened at all, that he literally just woke up with strangers he somehow magically already knew the names of. Demyx, being the laziest and having done the least amount of actual damage overall, just came to terms quicker than most of the others, though they were still wondering if there just wasn't much room in his head to be deep about anything. Xemnas seemed to cope best by taking charge and the others let him because they needed someone to guide them. He ordered them to simply put away any negative emotions as they all made this trek across the country together. Then everyone simply stared at each other and pondered what the hell they were getting themselves into.
The only one not along for the ride, despite having come back into existence just the same as any of the rest of them, was Naminè. She'd shied away from seeing her old captors and hid behind the form of Goku, who made a point of letting Xemnas know that he wouldn't be forcing the girl to go along with them if she didn't want to. After much hemming and hawing about the matter, the writer reluctantly agreed to let Goku take her to the final destination via the nimbus cloud, and no one had seen the two since.
In any event, things were a little rocky. Tempters were fraying from being cramped in such close quarters the last couple of days. They'd only been given a small amount of money to keep them all fed, so they resorted to sleeping in the car when everyone was too tired to stay awake and washing up in rest stops the following morning. For whatever God forsaken reason he had, for he wasn't used to having to explain his plans in detail nor did anyone feel especially compelled to ask with Demyx already riling him into near murderous rages, Xemnas was refusing to let anyone else drive the vehicle he was in charge of. Xigbar only drove the other one because the writer believed he was the second in command in the Organization and had handed him the keys before anyone could tackle her to the ground and tell her NO. When the others realized what she had done, there was a scramble to get into the car that Xemnas would be driving, which ended with said leader trying to wrestle the car keys from Xigbar, but former Number Two of the Organization fought childishly until he got his way, mostly. In order to get anyone else to ride in the car with him Xaldin called shotgun indefinitely to check the blind spots and force Xigbar to relinquish the wheel to him when darkness fell for fear of the visually handicapped would-be assassin somehow crashing and getting them all killed. In actuality, it was better they had pulled off just then, because the sun was getting ready to set soon.
Axel rubbed Roxas' back as they sat at one of the concrete benches. He was beginning to worry about the young blond not saying anything since they got back. Of all the Organization, he was the only one who hadn't cried about anything. It seemed like he'd simply reverted back to the zombie-like phase every one of them had breezed through when they first became aware of themselves as Nobodies. Axel was currently resisting the urge to pin Roxas to the ground and press an ear against the boy's chest to see if perhaps there wasn't some sort of mix up or mistake made when they each got a heart. By now even Lexaeus had said more words then him.
"How are you holding up, Roxie?" Axel asked, trying to prompt a response from him. It took the blond a moment to look up at the red head, who smiled hopefully, but the only response he got was a blink and slight shrug before the blonde looked away again. Xion, who'd been lingering off to the side, sat down beside the smaller male with a gentle plop and hesitantly watched him from the corner of her eye.
Then there was suddenly three bars of ice cream shoved into their faces and with startled expressions the three looked up to see Demyx standing over them. "Xaldin says I have to share," he stated, and waved the packaged bars to show what he meant. "So Sea Salt is your guy's favorites, right? Eat up!" He smiled at them as two of three took the offered treats. "C'mon Roxas, it's good for you!"
The young blond shook his head.
"Axel, is Roxas stupid?" Demyx asked. He was met with a slight glare of green eyes, but nothing that would smite.
"No, Roxas isn't stupid," the red head replied.
"Then why won't he say anything?"
Axel caught on then, realizing Demyx was trying to help in his non-committal Demyx way. "I'm not sure. It's hard to know when he won't talk, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Demyx said. "Is your jaw broken Roxas? Does it hurt to talk?" He was answered again with a shake of blonde spikes. "Then take the ice cream! It's not gunna kill ya!" He poked the young man with the bar over and over. "C'mon! It'll melt if you don't eat it! Then we wasted seventy-five cents! And you get to tell that to Xaldin, which means you'll have to talk so start practicing!"
The bar was ripped from his hand then, tore away from its silicone wrappings which were thrown on the ground, and shoved nearly halfway into Roxas' little mouth. The dark blue eyes of the youth glared up a little more fiercely at the taller blonde still halfway grinning down at him. With a large chunk of the frozen treat sliding down his throat, a hoarse voice asked, "Happy?"
"That's the feisty Roxas we know and love!" Demyx cooed, then scampered off before harm could befall him.
Axel and Xion opened their bars more calmly and for a short while it felt like they were reliving the old Nobody days again, sans a giant clock tower with a gorgeous view of a sunset substituted instead with the view of Demyx running around trying to give every one ice cream from the pile in his arms. It was slightly more amusing to watch. Axel's consumption was interrupted when he noticed Roxas leaning forward, nearly doubled over on himself, and shaking. "Shit, Roxas," the red head said as he pulled out his own popsicle and reached around to comfort the boy. Xion had already beaten him there and was cooing soft nothings in his ear. "Roxas, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," the boy said a little suddenly. He straightened up and wiped at his face, harshly brushing away the moister that was collecting on his cheeks. "I'm fine, it's nothing."
"Roxas," Xion said gently. "It's okay to cry, you know. We all did when we…" she glanced at the other former Nobodies, "Reawakened."
"It's nothing," the boy said more firmly. Axel opened his mouth to argue a point, but a loud whistle pushed it aside.
"We're heading out!" Saix called. "Everyone get in! No Demyx, you're riding with Xaldin now."
"Why?" the blond asked.
"That's exactly why," Xemnas muttered darkly as he climbed back into his own vehicle. "XIGBAR! Stop screwing around and give Xaldin those car keys!" Slowly the others gathered around and climbed into either of the mini vans they were caravanning in and the reason for Roxas' slight emotional plight went overlooked, for the moment.
Terra growled in determination as he gripped the ground in fistfuls and worked his steady way forward. He wasn't sure how many times he'd gotten this close to the opening of the cave before slipping back by now, but it didn't matter. He was tired of sitting still. He was going to get out of this hell hole of darkness even if it was the very last thing he ever did, god damn it. Above him the sky had begun to lighten with the oncoming day and even though he knew it was still a while till sunrise, the growing light had given him hope.
His hands found their way into a tangle of roots and he gripped onto them as though his very life depended on it, pulling himself ever slowly more upward with every inch he could push under him. The roots lead up to a tree, and tired aching fingers clawed at it till he was more than halfway out of the cave. The ground was still muddy and now he could see where a very short way over there was a river running down the side of a mountain and a waterfall that pooled into an oasis. The spray from the water collected near the cave entrance, making the dirt slick. The gnarled tree he held onto was folded into the rocks, looking like it alone had held this entrance open for him.
Terra finished crawling out of the cave, not once wanting to go and experience that again. As the sun came up he took a look at himself as best he could, realizing he wasn't as bad off as he originally thought. Filthy, bleeding in some areas, and more tired then he'd ever thought he could be, but still in one piece. He could hardly believe it.
The water felt good and soothing against his skin as he washed away the grim on his arms that he'd been covered in. He splashed water over his face, and scooped handful after handful to his mouth to quench the thirst he hadn't realized was building up till he realized how good and clean and fresh water was. He stripped of his clothes and rinsed them piece by piece in the running stream, the current not too strong to sweep him away. The gnarled tree extended many stripped, thick branches and he laid his clothes out to dry over them before returning to rinse himself clean under the waterfall. There was a rock on the opposite side of the bank and he crossed the pool to climb up and sit on it, waiting for his clothes to dry and collecting his thoughts.
Aqua and Ventus hadn't responded to him in the cave. The chance of them having been there seemed slim, but he'd been unable to confirm how true this thought was as he'd been blind. He hated the thought of walking away from this cave if they were still in there somehow, but he didn't want to risk going back down to look for them and getting stuck again. He would have to go for help at least.
But somehow the thought of walking away didn't scare him at all. In fact, he nearly felt compelled to do so. He wanted to see Aqua and Ventus again, it felt like an obsessive need, but he was absolutely repelled by the cave. Then logically, he shouldn't go down there again, he reasoned and that was the end of it.
It took a while for his clothes to dry enough to a tolerable dampness, time which he spent sunbathing and working out how exactly he was to go about locating his friends or hell just what world was he in now. After a short while with no answers exactly present he waded back across the pool, put his clothes back on and decided to follow the stream along in hopes that it would at least get him to civilization.
"Is this everything?" Goofy asked. "You sure you don't want to take more?"
"Yeah," Riku replied, setting the larger of the two suitcases down. "King Mickey said he took the liberty of finding up a place that already came furbished, so I don't see why I'd need anything more than clothes and some personal effects."
"Gawsh, Kairi packed nearly everything but the kitchen sink," the captain of the guard said, turning to look at the almost full cargo compartment. "And Sora was hardly any better."
"Hey, a girl has got needs, okay?" Kairi said leaning out an open window of the gummy ship they would be taking. She smiled and then disappeared inside once more, shutting the window behind her.
"Just between you and me, Goofy," Riku said, helping him hoist his luggage in what little space was left for it "I don't intend to stay for very long. So I see very little point dragging out so much of my stuff, especially stuff I've learned to do without for so long anyway, if I'm just going to be moving it all back anyway."
"You seem awfully sure of that Riku."
"I talked with the king. He agreed to let me come back and resume my Keybearer duties if I don't like this school business. That's only four months. I highly doubt anything is going to come along to hold my attention so captive that I'd want to stay there in four months. But please don't tell Sora or Kairi; I don't want it to weigh on their minds. They were so thrilled at the idea of the tree of us being together again." Riku stopped outside the door to the gummi ship and sighed. "Even if I do intend to leave them again in such a short time, I can't deny that I want it to be the best four months we spend together."
A white gloved hand rested itself on his shoulder and the dopey dog chuckled a bit. "Well, you just remember not to worry about it so much either and you've got yourself a deal, alright? A-Huck." He opened the door and climbed up into the cockpit, leaving Riku to turn and look once more at the castle that had been his wayward home for more than a few years now. The queen and her lady in waiting stood by the drawbridge to wave them off and he wiggled his fingers at them in parting as well.
"C'mon Riku!" Sora whined as he pulled on the shoulder fabric of his friend's shirt. "Quit dawdling and let's go! Donald is getting worked up!"
"I am not!" the duck rasped from the front seat. "Sora, sit down and buckle up! I shouldn't have to keep telling you that!"
The silverette climbed into the cockpit as well, taking care to firmly shut and lock the door behind him before he sat down in one of the seats in back with his two friends. "Big smile," he whispered as Donald began the launch sequence that started up the gummi ship. "Like you mean it..." Though in actuality the grins on his friend's faces were probably big enough to power the ship there and back a few times over.
She moaned and rolled her head to the side, then back to center as it got wet. Groggily, she opened her eyes. They came in to focus slowly, but when she could see Terra leaning over her they snapped open. "Oh god," she breathed. Then Terra smiled and grabbed hold of her; she screamed and tried to push him off.
"Aqua! Aqua, calm down!" the older boy sat back as his friend struggled against him. He let her go to show he meant no harm and resisted the urge to grab hold of her again when she scrambled to her shaky feet and put distance between them. "Aqua, it's me! Terra!"
"Leave Me Alooone!" she screeched at him. He held off as she stumbled around, hyperventilating and blind with tears washing over her face. "The Terra I Know is Dead! He's Gone! They—they're bo…." She sobbed and dropped to her knees, splashing in the river she didn't seem to notice she was standing in the middle of. "Both…gone…" She curled up into a ball and started openly crying. From head to foot she was soaked now and the trembles that ran over her body were hard to determine if the source was from cold or crying. Terra approached very slowly and tried to touch her again. She pulled away. "What Do You WANT From Meee? You Took Everything That Mattered! Go Away! Just…Go! Away!" Her crying deepened.
He dropped beside her and hugged her again, this time not letting her go even when she tried to resist. "Aqua, it's me," he whispered against her. "It's Terra, I'm back…shhh, don't cry, it's me…I'm back…" She kept trying to fight him for a while longer, and he held her pinned against him so she couldn't. She wept and begged him to let her go but Terra held on determined to get through to her. Eventually the soothing words began to reach past the trauma and she tearfully looked up at his pain drawn face.
"Teh-Terra?" she murmured. She felt the air leave her and she grabbed onto him, like he would disappear at any moment and slip through her fingers again. "Oh God, Terra? Terra! Oh My God!" She had started crying again, but at least now she wasn't trying to push him away and for that Terra was so glad. He could've held on to her forever like that, but suddenly she pushed away to look at him. "Ventus?" she questioned. He tried to take her face in his hands to calm her down, but she pushed away again and stood up, more firmly this time. "VEEEENTUUUUUUS!" she screamed to the woods surrounding them. "VEEEEEEEEEENTUUUUUUUUUS!"
It's not that he didn't understand her reaction. After everything she had been through, this was probably the best way she could cope right now. To stand screaming in the middle of a stream and be a little irrational. Goodness knows he needed a moment when he came to over three hours ago. But this self-fueling panic had to be killed before she started going off a deep end. "AQUA!" he shouted over her cries. She whirled and he fought to keep his face neutral, for her sake. "Calm down. We're not going to find him like this."
"Where is he?" she asked, sounding defeated. New tears were welling up in her eyes, but now she was fighting to listen to his advice. "Terra, where is he?"
The brunette pulled her close for another hug. "I don't know," he told her honestly. "But you're here and I'm here, so he must be as well. Don't worry. We'll find him."
She wrapped her arms around him and drew her strength from his frame. After a few moments she finally seemed to be leveling out to her old self. She was still visibly shaken, but she was more calm now and that was a very good thing. "What do we do?" she said looking up at him.
"We walk." Holding on to only her hand, Terra led her from the stream. It wasn't very wide or deep, but it was keeping them wet and he wasn't sure how long it would be before night fell or how cold it would get once it was. "I've been following this stream and it led me to you. So maybe, if we keep walking along it, we'll find Ventus. Okay?" She nodded. It was all they could manage.
Zexion looked at the book choices he had to choose from; the entire series of Twilight, written by Stephanie Myer, The Ropemaker, by Peter Dickenson, Winnie the Pooh, by AA Milne, Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger, or a jump-up-and-scream-at-you orange one that only said The Little Orange Book in bold black letters, with no author and no description to be found anywhere on its bright paperback covers. Interest piqued, Zexion picked up the little orange book and began to flip through the pages. A blush crept over his face at a passage about five pages in, and at another only a few pages after that. He looked at his other choices once more and sighed. Aside from magazines about fishing, cars and Cosmo, this seemed the best choice, though a bit dirty. He'd already read Catcher in the Rye though so dirty he could handle. He'd also had the slight displeasure of reading both the Ropemaker and the first Twilight book, both of which left him feeling like his IQ had actually dropped a few points during that time, but he always made a point of never judging a book by its cover, or what others were saying about it, soooo…
The Little Orange Book didn't have a lot to say on the outside, and he'd never before heard of it from anyone else, but the inside held a story written in proper English with no errors in grammar or spelling that he could see. It was better than nothing, even if the story turned into nothing but blatant sex scenes. So Zexion approached the gift shop counter and handed the girl the book and the small allotment of money Xaldin had given him for the purchase, declined a bag, took back his change, picked up the book and made his way back out of the shop to find…
That he'd been left behind.
Zexion very calmly made his way to a bench outside the shop and sat down. He'd hoped the book would keep him preoccupied through the rest of the car ride, because Xigbar's horrid attempts at getting everyone to sing A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall were not helping him pass the time cramped up in the car very pleasantly, however now it looked like it would only serve to keep him preoccupied till his former comrades noticed he was missing. He opened the book and began reading, tears welling up in his eyes be damned.
Vanitus willed himself not to shove the boy off the cliff they both shared. While it was VERY tempting, he knew full well that if he did he stood a slimmer chance of getting off it. Not to mention, it would be somewhat lonely, but most importantly, he NEEDED Ventus to make a ruckus for them in the hopes that SOMEBODY had the integrity to come investigate the screams.
But by the GODS if that voice wasn't annoying as all fuck to him when it was straining so hard to reach those who simply would not yield to be summoned by it.
"AAAAAAAAQUUUUUAAAAAA! TEEEEEEEERRAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! AAAAQUUUUUAAAA!"
Ventus snapped his head at Vanitus, like he'd forgotten that the dark haired boy was there. "Just...Shut Up!" Vanitus reiterated. "Gawd, they aren't coming! Give it a rest for a little bit!"
"They have to come," Ventus said, his voice cracking under the use of his regular tone. "They're my friends. I know they will."
Vanitus scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Well, at least consider the possibility that they might not be in the vicinity right now and STOP. Your screaming is giving me a headache."
"You could help too!" Ventus countered. "Instead of just sitting there!"
"Really, Venny? Do you think I could?" the darker boy mocked in a fake surprised tone. "Why, silly me, I didn't think for one second that your friends, who must be so desperate to find you, would come looking if I called out to them too. Because, you know, they're just as likely to help a hated enemy as they are a friend." Then he glowered at the blond. Ventus just glared back. "Besides," Vanitus went on, drawing his knees closer to himself. "They're probably just off fucking somewhere and forgot about you."
"That's Not True!" Ventus snapped. "They Would NEVER Do That—"
"Oh, I wouldn't sound so sure of myself if I were you, Venny. Don't tell me that in all the time you spent with them you never noticed?"
A wicked grin seeped onto Vanitus' features. "You never did, really? You're such a child. Tell me, have your balls even dropped yet Venny?"
"Stop messing around," the blond attempted to growl, but his hoarse voice made it sound more like a mewl. "If you're just up to your old tricks—"
"Afraid I'm not this time, kid," the other said and unfurled his legs. "The feelings those two have for one another is real. They're in luuuuuuv." He clasped his hands and batted his eyes at Ventus with a cheesy grin on his face. When his would-be victim just blinked at him with a disbelieving look on his face, he went on, using his casual voice this time. "It's simple really, when you think about it. They're going to pair off and when they do, naturally, they're going to want space. Without you in it. And where does that leave you? Alone and friendless."
"You're lying! I know them, they would never do that to me!"
"Again with this 'friendship conquers aaaaall!' bullshit?" Vanitus' voice was harsh and mocking. "Wake up! You're lying to yourself."
"Quit living in that stupid fantasy world of yours and face facts."
"At least consider that they might not be in this world."
"Where EVER it is that we are."
The blond looked up at the sudden call of his name and smiled in pure joy to see Terra leaning over the ledge of the cliff looking down at him. "Ventus! Are you alright?"
"I'm fine!" the boy replied. He pressed his belly against the ridge and reached for Terra, but the older boy temporarily disappeared from view. Ventus began to hyperventilate, until he heard Terra's voice call out louder than before, "AQUA! AQUA, I FOUND HIM! HE'S OVER HERE!" Vanitus smirked at the blond but said nothing. Ventus selectively choose to ignore that he'd almost started crying about the lies the boy had told him earlier.
Terra's head reappeared with Aqua beside him and instantly they were both trying to reach down to grab him. "Oh Ven, Ven," Aqua kept whispering, stretching her arm as far as it would go and willing it to be long enough. It wasn't. "Ventus, Ven, please, please reach for me…Terra, I can't get him! Terra I can't get him!" She flexed her hand and blinked away at the tears forming from being this close to her friend and still not having him within her grasp.
"It's okay, Aqua," Terra said calmly. The very tips of his fingers could brush Ventus' and that itself seemed to calm the woman down. She still kept reaching. "It's all okay now, see, he's right there and not going anywhere…reach Ventus, c'mon…"
"I'm trying," the boy said. He stood on the very tips of his toes and tried so hard to get a grip on either of their hands. He pulled back for a moment, Aqua almost started crying, then leaped as high as he could against the cliff. Part of the ledge to the side crumbled and he dare not try it again, despite almost getting a grasp on Terra's hand. "Please," he whispered up to them, "please don't leave me…" And tears were in his eyes too.
Vanitus watched the trio reaching for one another and how two of them were basically reducing themselves to tears over the lack of contact. By the look of it, Terra was about to start losing it too. So far, they'd chosen to ignore him but they weren't getting anywhere the way they were going. So Vanitus grabbed hold of Ventus, effectively getting Aqua to start screaming at him things he simply chose to ignore right back, and hoisted him the extra foot he needed for Terra to snare his hands and pull the boy up over the ledge. Vanitus pushed from below and soon the blond was gone from view and all he was left with was the sounds of his reunion with his friends. Vanitus waited for them to reappear for him, looking up at the ledge hopefully.
Aqua grabbed Ventus up in a hug the minute he was safely on land and started crying. Terra hugged them both and rocked gently, murmuring soothing sounds to them both as Ventus just clung and shook, glad this trial of separation was at long last over. They were filthy, and sweaty, and tired, and hungry, but they had each other and for the moment that was all that mattered. Slowly, the blond nuzzled his head out to look up at the sky and saw that night was blanketing the land. Darkness…Vanitus…
Ventus began to wiggle in the grasp of the others until they loosened enough for him to wiggle out. Carefully he crawled back to the ledge and leaned over. "Hey!" he called down to the boy still standing there. Vanitus looked up, cold and calculating, at him. He had pressed his back against the cliff and had been looking out at the growing darkness. His golden eyes still seemed to glint some light though, making him appear predatory and wild. Ventus smiled weakly and held out his hand to the boy.
"Ven, what are you doing?" Aqua asked. She tugged at the back of the boy's shirt. "Let's go, please? Don't…" Her voice trembled and faded but she took a firmer hold of her young friend and didn't let go.
"Ventus, just leave him," Terra chimed in. "If the roles were reversed it's what he'd do to any of us."
"No," Ventus said simply. He stretched a little more and gave Vanitus a puzzled look. The boy wasn't even reaching for him, just standing there staring with those yellow orbs. "C'mon! I'll help you up, just like I said I would, remember? Take my hand, it's okay."
"He's not going to take it Ven," Terra said. "Let's go, it's starting to get dark."
"Then we'll camp here tonight. I'm not leaving him until I know he'll be okay."
"Ventus," Aqua said as soothingly as she could. "Please don't do this. We just found each other again…"
"This isn't going to tear us apart again Aqua, trust me. I'm your friend right?" The boy pulled back and turned to look back at both of the older former Keybearers. "You both trust me, right?"
"Of course we do," Aqua said, forcing herself to smile a bit. Ventus could see she was really struggling to hold her mental stability together and he felt a pang of guilt at knowing that his actions now probably weren't helping her cope. Terra, however, remained as stern as he was to be about anything on the matter. He nodded once, but didn't vocalize and Ventus knew that he'd already made up his mind not to help the other boy at all. Even knowing all this, Ventus took a deep breath and steeled his own resolve.
"Trust in me then, that's all I'm asking. Please, Aqua?"
The woman's emotions played across her face all too clearly. So badly did she want to believe in her friend and trust him, but what he was asking of her was almost too much. She looked back at Terra, the friend that spoke clear what she wanted at that moment, to just leave without looking back, and she wanted to agree with him. The dilemma she faced was that Terra had already once betrayed her and fallen to Darkness, Ventus simply asked her to do what she could not. She didn't know who she could trust and she wasn't even sure she could trust herself at the moment. From the very moment she had woken up to Terra's comforting words, she believed all of this was some delusion her mind was playing out for her. She had decided to play along because she couldn't seem to get "reality," the nightmarish hell world filled with never-ending Heartless where she'd been left, to come back to her. At the back of her mind was the notion that she simply didn't exists anymore, along with several other thoughts of near impossible things, but she couldn't bring herself to entertain any them at the current time. It was such a delicate state, this world before her was in. One false move and the whole illusion could be ripped away again and she'd be alone. Oh, the torments her mind was putting her through!
"Aqua, Aqua!" Terra was calling for her, where had he gone? Oh, she had doubled over at some point…she didn't even realize she had leaned forward. "Aqua!" She was trembling again, was it because she was still damp? Was she cold? Was she crying? "Aqua, answer me!" She couldn't tell, she couldn't tell. Nothing felt real anymore. Where had her friends gone? "Aqua, look at me! Please Say Something!"
"I'm right here, Aqua." Something warm and dry pushed against her face and nuzzled. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. Are you okay?"
"I got my boys back. We'll be okay now."
"We don't have time to be messing around!" Terra's voice hissed harshly. "Ventus, we are leaving, now! She needs help—"
"And so does Vanitus! I don't like it anymore then you do, but we can't just leave him to—"
"I certainly can Ventus! You just watch me—"
"Well, I'm staying right here because I—"
"NO!" Aqua sat bolt up and grabbed on to both of the boys. "No, I just got you back! Don't Split Up! I just got you back! What Ven? What do you need? I'll do anything, just don't leave us, please!"
"Aqua, it's okay," the boy said, his face sad. "I won't leave you either. I'm right here." He took her hand and squeezed it reassuringly then worriedly glanced at Terra. The older man was obviously upset at the state Aqua was in, and it was clear he was struggling to keep from yelling at Ventus for using it against him. He did not stop himself from shooting the boy angry glares every once and a while.
"Fine," Terra conceded. "I'll help you get the damn heartless bastard. But I want you to know I'm only doing it so we can get the fuck out of here, understand?"
"I do. Thank you Terra."
"Where are you going?" Aqua asked meekly when they leaned her against a tree and started detaching themselves.
"Aqua, it's okay," Terra told her. "We have to do something….good…but it will only take Ven and I a moment, alright? Look, we're gonna be right there, you can watch us the whole time, see?" He pointed where Ventus had scurried back to the cliff. "Just rest for a minute, okay? We'll be right there…" She slowly nodded her head and eased back against the three, accepting his words. Terra smiled as reassuringly as he could at her, than stalked off to join Ventus, scowling as soon as his back was turned on her. "Alright, what are we doing about this?"
"Done squabbling amongst yourselves, are we now?" Vanitus called up to the other boys.
"Hey, punk! I still have half a mind to leave you down there!"
The raven only shrugged and looked up at them. "Are you strong enough to lift me and Ventus? Because you're going to have to be." The blond nodded and got down on his stomach. Sighing, Terra dropped to his knees beside him. He reached for the boy's stomach but was stopped by a sudden flinch. "Terra…" Ventus' voice was weak for a moment as he willed himself to look up at his friend. "…I trust you…in my heart…"
"I know, Ven," the brunette replied. Carefully he took hold of Ventus and helped the boy lower himself back over the ledge as the reached for the darker haired boy.
"One shot," Vanitus said, reaching for Ventus' hands. "Don't pussy out."
"No pressure," Ventus replied.
Vanitus braced, then leapt and started scrambling up as soon as his hand was ensnared by Ventus. The blond pulled with all his strength and as soon as Terra could, he grabbed hold of the raven and dragged him and Ven as far away from the ledge as he deemed safe. As soon as all three were over they let go, and Terra and Ventus scooted away from the dark teen to move back to Aqua. She had closed her eyes and so missed the moment of awkward staring between the boys. "Alright," Terra said, being the first to break the silence that fell over them. "Everyone's even. Let's just go our separate ways and not cross paths anymore. Agreed?"
"Ah, but that's no fuuuuun," Vanitus said in a sing-song tone as he crossed his arms. "Venny, didn't you tell him about your promise?"
Terra snapped his head to glare at the boy who was unsure if he should look meekly up at his friend or glare in turn at the blabbermouth. "What. Promise," Terra growled.
"He got scared you were never gonna come for him," Vanitus went on, deciding for Ventus that what he needed to do was glare at the teen. "I think his words were 'we're in this together! No matter what, we'll see it through to the end!'" When he paraphrased Ventus' words, his voice became annoyingly high pitched and he ended with a mocking smile of joy that slipped easily into his smug little smirk.
"Fuck. That. I don't care if Ventus promised you his very BODY, you're NOT coming with us! Everything is clear from here, do you understand me? Get Out!"
Vanitus just rolled his eyes and scoffed at the irate brunette's words. But his gaze landed on the blond he'd been stuck with for the better half of the day and he waited for a response. The youngest boy fidgeted under the gaze that held him, seeming for once to hold only idle curiosity rather than malice or hate. "Terra," he said, finally looking up at his friend, "we need to get going. Let him do as he wants." Then he cast a sad look at the isolated male.
Terra looked up at the quickly darkening sky. It was already fairly hard to see his friends in the fading twilight and he sighed. "We aren't getting anywhere now," he told the boy. "I don't know these woods and it's no use trying to navigate in the dark." He shot a look Vanitus' way. "Though I suppose you don't mind it one bit."
"Word on the street is, you don't either," Vanitus shot back. He jumped into a fighting crouch when Terra made for him, even as Ventus grabbed his friend and did the best he could to call him off. Which didn't slow Terra down one bit, but the begging cries from the smaller boy to not do something foolish did waiver his resolve. "Get out of here!" Terra growled. "I'll beat your face in if I see it in the morning!"
"Promise?" Vanitus taunted, but skittered off into the shadows, where he seemed to disappear like he was so good at. In his wake he left the males tense and upset, both at their situations and a little bit each other.
"Sorry," Ventus murmured in the darkness of night. "When I woke up and he was the only one there…"
"I know," Terra said. "Believe me Ven, I get it. All of this—" He swept his hand at nothing that could be seen. "—Whatever is going on, it's unnerving. I woke up buried in a cave, and nearly went postal. At first I couldn't even remember what had happened, than I tried to summon my Keyblade and…everything just came rushing back…like a flood…I couldn't…" He sighed heavily, than inhaled sharply. Ventus picked his way back over to Terra and wrapped his arms around the man's waist once more, this time in a gentle hug. He was trembling and the boy sensed he was holding in his emotions. "I can't do this now, Ven…we have…other things we need to take care of first…" Ventus nodded against Terra's waist, then let go without letting the contact fade. He was pulled down by the older male to where Aqua still sat already resting. The two coiled around her protectively and waited, in silent darkness, for sleep to take them as well.
End Chapter 2.