Chapter 1: Moving In
Roxas sighed as he finally dropped his duffle bag on the concrete walkway. He looked down behind him at the seemingly hundreds of steps he had just climbed. He was clearly out of breath, and had to make as least two more trips for the rest of his stuff. He was not looking forward to that. The concrete pathway ahead led to a three-story building, the red brick face emblazoned with silver symbols, an upside-down heart-shape and a notched cross extending from it.
"This must be the place," Roxas sighed. With a grunt of exertion, he slung his duffel bag back over his shoulder and moved toward the doors.
Immediately to his right a sound caught his attention, a sound like the hiss of steel across stone. Sitting beneath a tree was a man, rather tall with black hair pulled back in dreads. His gaze met Roxas' and a brief moment he thought there was sure to be trouble.
"Can I help you?" the man asked, setting his whetstone down in his sharpening kit and rising to his feet. In hand, the source of the hissing steel was a lance. Roxas sucked in a breath and nearly choked on his tongue. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded paper. He held it out for the man, who took it and read after flicking it open. His eyes flickered between the lines and then to Roxas.
"I-I was told I'd meet someone…?" Roxas asked to stem the tension between him and this man. He thrust the paper back to Roxas who folded it back and replaced it in his pocket.
"Follow me, then," he said, picking up his sharpening kit from the grass and the lances leaning against his tree. Roxas saw no reason to refuse, and followed him inside.
"I also have more bags at the bottom of the hill," he said quickly.
"I will have them seen to."
Roxas, despite his anxieties, entered the door held open for him. The interior boasted a spacious lobby with a high ceiling and large wide-screen TV held securely on the wall right of him. Several comfortable-looking chairs and couches were arranged in a staggered semi-circle pattern. The man led Roxas to one of the chairs, sitting upon it another man, this one larger with broad shoulders, a square jaw and short scraggly brown hair.
"Lexaeus," said the man. "Our newest tenant has arrived. Would you take his bags at the bottom of the hill to his room?"
"But Xaldin—" the larger started to protest.
"Your show will still be on when you're finished, my friend," he replied. "What you see in these...ponies, I'm not sure I will ever understand." The one called Lexaeus grunted in disappointment, but obeyed. Roxas watched him go and followed some more.
"So your name is Xaldin?" he asked.
"You catch on rather quickly Roxas," he replied. Roxas swallowed the lump in his throat. He quickly averted his gaze elsewhere, spotting a younger, smaller man in a chair with open book in hand. He swept strands of his cobalt hair aside and looked up at Roxas, only briefly, and resumed his read. Sitting beside this person, and looking rather bored, was a girl. She looked about Roxas' age, but with short black hair. She noticed him staring and drew her hood up around her face.
"Come along, Roxas," Xaldin called to him, and he hurried after.
It was the climb up the stairwell that Roxas realized he hated stairs. A moment's break on the landing at the third floor was all he needed to regain his breath. Xaldin held the door open for Roxas, and he gratefully entered first. The third floor, from the stairwell was a hallway, two doors on either side and at the far end a fifth door. Xaldin walked past Roxas and led him down the eerily silent corridor. He glimpsed only the doors on his right, the one closest to the stairwell having VII on its front, and on the other side the number II. Xaldin stopped in front of the door at the end, this one having a large, more ornate I on its front. To Roxas's left, he noticed the door closest having III on its face and next to it being VI.
"So where are the other rooms?" he muttered to himself, curiously.
"You say something, Roxas?" Xaldin asked.
Roxas looked back at the taller man. "I was just noticing the doors here," he said. "One, two, three, six and seven are here. Why?"
"The third floor is only for the inner circle of the Organization," Xaldin explained. "The other rooms, and yours, are on the second floor." Well that made sense. Xaldin knocked lightly on the door with the I on its front, and a muffled voice from within answered. Xaldin turned the handle and swung the door inward for Roxas, ushered through first.
The room was luxurious. Shelves of books lined adjacent walls, with openings for the windows to spread warm light through. Before Roxas was a large and extravagant-looking desk of heavy and lacquered wood, at which someone was seated and writing longhand.
"Xemnas, Number XIII has arrived." Was all Xaldin said. The one behind the desk, who answered to the name, stopping writing and looked up at Roxas. He was scary-looking, with a thin face and pointed chin and long silver hair spilling over and behind his shoulders. He stared coldly at Roxas, and then smiled, not sinisterly, but perhaps in an attempt to show warmth and welcome? Roxas wasn't sure. But his anxieties subsided, at the least.
"Thank you, Xaldin, you may go," said Xemnas. His voice was deep, but fluid. "Send Axel up on your way back, would you?" Xaldin nodded silently, turned and left. Roxas was alone with Xemnas now.
"So, Roxas," Xemnas began again, "I suppose you're wondering why you're here?"
"It's… been on my mind, sir," Roxas hesitated at first. There was a chuckle, light and airy from Xemnas as he gestured to a chair of wooden and green leather before the desk. Roxas nodded and took a seat. The chair was a welcome thing for him, it was a chance to get off his feet.
"There's no need for that here, Roxas," Xemnas said. "Superiors are nothing without someone to support them. And as such, here we are all equal."
Except you're the highest seat looking down on all of us, Roxas thought with a little cynicism.
"To the point," Xemnas continued, "We were made… aware of your current situation. Many of us in the Organization have lived as you do now; drifting from shelter to shelter, living day to day. Like us, you are a Nobody. You do not exist in anyone else's presence. We know that pain better than you think, Roxas."
Roxas tightened a fist in his lap. Xemnas' words shook him. He hated how true those words really were. Ever seldom did he have a roof over his head. The cruel loneliness of the streets nearly broke him. How long ago was that?
Xemnas spoke again. "That is why we have invited you," he said. "We offer you a home. A place to live. A family."
That word struck something in Roxas' chest. His eyes blurred with tears at the very word. Were it not for his stalwart pride and stubbornness, he probably would have broken down then and there. But he fought through the tears, shaken from his thoughts as a knock sounded on the door.
"Enter," Xemnas said clearly, the door opening.
The new man that entered was tall. He was well-built, but thin, not as big and bulky as Lexaeus. The most notable feature were the long wind-swept spikes of fire-red hair. He was dressed in a blue T-shirt under an open button-down plaid shirt, and loose-fitting black jeans.
"You called for me, Boss?" he asked. He spoke in a rather nasal tone, but it was subtle.
"Axel, good that you're here," said Xemnas. He gestured to Roxas. "This is Roxas, our newest tenant. See him to his room, won't you?" Roxas looked up at Axel, staring into those fiery sea-green eyes of his.
"Axel," Roxas repeated the name.
"Keep it memorized," he said, poking Roxas in the forehead. Roxas swatted at Axel's hand and missed. "Oh ho! We have ourselves a feisty one."
"You may go now," said Xemnas finally. "And Roxas? Welcome home."
The words shook his heart. His hands began trembling as he thought of having a home finally. Tears flowed visibly, especially after his stubborn resolve not to cry in front of people—total strangers even! Xemnas had to have noticed, and smiled comfortingly. Roxas wiped his eyes with a hand.
"Come on, save the waterworks, would you?" said Axel.
Roxas stood from his seat, shouldering his bag, only for Axel to snatch it up and sling it over his shoulder. "I'll take that for you," he said. "No more burdens for you anymore, right?" Roxas nodded. His shoulder was starting to go numb. Roxas followed Axel to the door. He turned to face Xemnas one more time.
"Thank you," he said after a moment. Xemnas's smile was genuine. He closed the door behind him, and followed Axel down the hall he came.
The merit stairs had that Roxas appreciated most was being able to go down them. He and Axel descended the stairwell to the second floor, and entered the corridor. The two walked past a number of doors, one of them, numbered XII, swung open. The tenant was a scary-looking woman, with short blond hair and two strands sticking a little higher over the top, but still swept back. She wore a loose black tank top and ripped black denim shorts.
"I thought I told you to piss off!" she shouted angrily, startling Roxas. Axel looked up at the woman.
"Oh hello, Larxene," said Axel. The woman looked left and right down the hall then back to Axel.
"Just you, Axel?" she asked. She looked at Roxas on the floor. "Who the fuck is this?"
"Our newest tenant, Roxas," Axel replied. "He'll be in room XIII." Roxas got to his feet. Larxene looked him over, walking around him, looking over his face and features. It didn't seem thorough, but it was enough to keep Roxas uneasy about this young woman being so close to him.
"He's pretty scrawny," she said. "Just be sure he knows not to come in my room unless I want him to."
"I don't think that'll be a problem," said Axel. "Come on Roxas." Roxas started walking, fixed on Larxene for a few steps.
"Nice to meet you," he said quickly, turning away to look at Axel's back as he strode down the white-washed hallway.
"Whatever," Larxene answered, almost inaudibly, as she returned to her room.
Axel stopped in the center of the floor, two more hallways branched in opposing directions. Axel looked between both hallways, for a moment, then went down the leftmost way, stopping at second door on the right. A brass XIII adorned the front of it, with a key hanging from the lock. Sitting beside the door were the rest of Roxas' bags.
"Here you are, room XIII," said Axel. He un-slung the bag he took from Roxas, and handed it to him. "Now to go over some of the rules: breakfast is at 9AM, lunch is on your own time, dinner is at 6PM and it's first come first serve. You're free to come and go to town as long as you're back before 10PM, You're responsible for your room, meaning you keep it as clean as you're comfortable with. Don't enter another's room unless you're invited or get their permission. Also, Lexaeus likes to be put down for naps, and we take turns for that. Get all that memorized?"
Roxas looked at him blankly like he wasn't paying attention whatsoever.
"Could you write them down for me?" he asked with a little uncertainty.
Axel chuckled. "Sure," he said smirking. "I'll have it for you tomorrow morning. You just get yourself unpacked for now, alright?" Roxas nodded. Axel smiled back and turned down the hall.
"My room is just down this hallway," he said as he walked off. "Room VIII. Come to me if you any questions. Got it memorized?" He looked back at Roxas one more time and he nodded in response. Axel resumed his heading and went out of sight.
Roxas was alone now. He looked back to his door, his focus now upon the key. He turned it, and the lock clicked. The door swung inward, and he saw his new room. Clicking the lights on, Roxas looked to his left at the small fridge and the empty cupboards set into the wall. He traced clockwise to the next wall to one door, along the next wall where a small TV set sat with a remote on its top. Beside that was a window overlooking the city, quelled by the imminence of twilight. To Roxas' right, standing from the room's entrance were two doors, the closest to the hallway a walk-in closet and the one left of that closer to the window went in to the bedroom. The door closest to the TV led to a bathroom, as Roxas found out.
It was sudden overwhelming feeling for Roxas, standing in his apartment, surrounded by these four walls. A feeling that weighed down on his shoulders, that made his heart tremble. This was his apartment.
This was his home.
He was home.
Author's commentary: I had a plan for where this story was going to go when I started writing it. This, believe it or not, was originally going to be about the Organization being a kind of gang war that fought a crime family. It was going to be very action-oriented, but when I got around to Roxas meeting Xemnas, the explanation for Roxas being called to join the Organization didn't make sense to me. So I thought, "how could I keep this concept of Roxas living with the Organization members and still make it interesting?" Because this story was more or less inspired by 358/2 Days, which was a great game. So I decided to take it a different direction, of Roxas being out on his own for as long as he had, only to be invited to live among other people who have been in his position. I wanted to give the term Nobody a new and different definition for this story and I feel it works.