The Castle that Never Was underwent a phenomenon which is best described as endless night. Due to Kingdom Hearts serving as the only light source for the world, no 'daytime' was ever established. The lustrous moon was rivalled by no other star, as it shone in solitude, holding its place in the sky as a constant. Its light was filtered into the castle by regularly spaced windows, all long and thin; the glass pure, holding no blemish. What it revealed was a pale, whitish surface which lacked dust, despite the size of the structure. It smelt of nothing and was smooth in texture. It was cool to the touch, and its rooms produced no echo. Truly, it fulfilled its namesake, for it lacked all conceivable presence, floating atop dark clouds -that is, if a building can be said to hold presence-.
Roxas stirred in his bed. He had fallen asleep disturbed, mostly because he had yet to write a single word for his newly established report system. How could he, when he couldn't even begin to comprehend his own feelings himself? He felt lost, not only for words, but in person as well. He knew one thing though, and that was that he couldn't get a certain black-haired maiden out of his head. Perhaps that was why the words weren't flowing as he would have liked.
The blond raised his head from his position. Sleep had taken him with pen still in hand, as he had been unwilling to allow his writers block to get the better of him. Staring at the blank sheet before him, there wasn't much else he could do but accept that it had. He blinked twice in an attempt to remove the blurriness from his eyes. Unsatisfied, he lifted himself from his lying position, and proceeded to his sink. Noting the disheveled state of his coat in the mirror before him, he collected the cold water in his hands, and splashed it on his face: once, twice, three times. He rubbed the liquid away with a towel that hung nearby in slow circles, still lethargic from his late-night endeavors.
It was safe to say the thirteenth wasn't exactly a morning person.
Irritated, he dragged his feet to the door and -following a deep breath-, the boy began walking towards the Grey Area, thoughts still lingering on his self-assigned project. Determined to surpass his own limits and document his experiences while they were still fresh in his memory, he vowed to return to his work as soon as possible. "I'll be damned if I don't write the next time I sit down..." He declared to himself weakly, a croaky texture tainting his voice, and he suppressed the oncoming urge to cough.
Roxas really wasn't a morning person.
A solo mission in Wonderland hadn't seemed so bad at first, especially with the aim being simple heart collection. He could manage to defeat a few weak, emblem heartless, even if he was half asleep; or at least, that was what he had thought. In actuality Wonderland, being the most disorienting of all the worlds he had visited, did not receive virtually sleepwalking Nobodies very kindly. I guess the bright side is that Demyx isn't with me…
Being only half conscious, Roxas's mind tended to wander more than usual, which was quite the statement, considering Vexen had labelled him as a mild case of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder after the barriers of his initial amnesia had been overcome; perhaps the influence of the Somebody he couldn't remember. In any case, all the growing and shrinking and mazes and disappearing cats weren't helping him focus, -not to mention all the heartless which made him jump off various forms of vegetation to hit them-, and the boy wished he had taken a few more hours of sleep after all. Cursing his own stubbornness, Roxas reached what he believed was the final group of heartless in the area. Fortunately, their spawning point was a relatively restricted, open area. Summoning his Keyblade, the blond unleashed a flurry of attacks for what he hoped would be his final exertions for the day.
With the end in sight, Roxas allowed his mind to wander to what awaited him; a relaxing afternoon with his two closest friends. If he wasn't awake by then, he was sure Axel would 'assist him', or burn him to death trying; it was more a matter of what came first. He recalled Xion's frantic reactions when Axel had first activated his elemental abilities around them, and smiled at the memories. Xion…
His cheerfulness faded, and his grin reversed. He had hoped that by the next time he saw her, he would have sorted out his thoughts a little more effectively. As it was, he was still as confused as before, and had no words to show for his efforts which had left him burdened by the lethargy that plagued him even still. Maybe he wouldn't go to the clock tower after all. Of course, he did have some reports to write anyway…
A stray assault caught him flat-footed, and he was brought back to reality with the abrupt wake-up call. Wincing slightly, the thirteenth activated his limit break, surrounding himself in a bright blue light, and releasing a flurry of strikes against his already weakened adversaries. Short work was made of the heartless from there, and the young Nobody summoned a Dark Corridor. He walked towards the vortex, and hesitated, wondering whether he should RTC immediately, or proceed to his usual meeting-place. Recalling his former declaration, he decided that the former was more appropriate, and the youth walked through the portal, which receded into itself.
Axel hadn't minded being alone with Xion, that is, until recently. Before, it had proved to be more peaceful. The young girl was less talkative than her blond associate, and often made more… intellectual observations. As experience had shown true, she was also slightly more knowing, and one would say, more mature. However lately she hadn't been herself. She had shown what would seemed to be, to a casual onlooker, more emotion. The red-haired Nobody obviously knew that she was incapable of such a thing (or at least, he assumed replicas were much the same as Nobodies), and thus he found the situations provided varying levels of discomfort, especially when she managed to -intentionally or not- put him on the spot.
Xion sat in silence, thinking of how she was going to phrase her next set of questions. Xigbar's suggestion of experiencing things for herself, although answering a few of her inquisitions, brought many new problems into the already confusing topic. Unwilling to allow understanding of human affection to escape her, the girl had decided that she would in fact, despite her response to Roxas the other day, quiz their older acquaintance on her recent experiences. Gathering herself in a drawn-out breath, she casually initiated conversation.
"I wonder what's keeping Roxas." She said, her gaze directed forward, unfocused. The older Nobody shrugged, glad that her words equated only to small talk.
"Maybe he's tired?" Axel suggested absent-mindedly, taking another bite of his favorite dessert. Xion, who had been planning how she would steer the topic to where she wanted it to go mirrored his actions and decided she would have to take a more straight-forward approach.
"Hypothetical situation…" She began, breaking the silence that had settled. The pyro frowned, unsettled by the tone she had switched to. He turned to her, brushing off the slightly unnerving feeling.
"What would you say if I kissed Roxas?"
Axel Chuckled. He didn't really like where this was going, but against his better judgment he provoked her. Supposedly the jester within could resist in making a witty comment whenever the opportunity presented itself. She had spoken in an awfully nonchalant manner, and the knee-jerk reaction was to respond accordingly.
"Why? Are you considering it?" He replied with a smirk, but secretly he was bracing himself.
"Actually, I kind of…" A pause. "I kind of already did."
Axel coughed and spat, he would never be prepared for that answer. He looked over to her quickly to see if she was calling his bluff, but she shyly turned away, confirming his assumptions. Sighing, he resigned.
"Then I assume you have some more things you'd like to ask about?" She nodded, and he sighed again.
"Alright then, go on."
"I don't understand it at all… There were too many new… sensations."
Axel grunted. "Like what?"
"Well, there was an initial gnawing pressure from the back of my mind," she began, thinking while she spoke. While searching for the most appropriate words, her eyes habitually drifted to look skyward. "And then, a really satisfying feeling." She licked her lips unconsciously and Axel flinched, but she was too busy trying to collect herself to notice. "And then, something else…" The girl trailed off, lost in her own thoughts, and the eighth had to make a noise to get her attention back.
"Well… that's all part of love, or maybe 'symptoms' is the word you'd use. Although, for someone who doesn't have any memories, it's awfully strange that you can experience this to such a degree…" The older Nobody spoke, drifting off into his own musings and worries.
"Is there something wrong?" Xion asked, worried.
"I'm not sure…" There was a short silence, as both turned their attention. Though, this could prove troublesome for…
"Say, Xion," Axel started, his tone unreadable, "Would you do it again?" The girl gave him a strange look and -after a moment of deliberation- averted her gaze, embarrassed. She adjusted her posture to a more formal sitting position, straightening her arms and closing her hands into fists that rested on her lap.
"M-maybe." He laughed openly at her shyness, earning a glare. Honestly, he wasn't sure what to do from there. The eighth decided there were two options from that point; the first was to try and break a possible relationship, in order to prevent conflict with their superiors. He frowned at this, but noted it to be the more pragmatic option, for he also worried that Xion had started to question the ramifications of her recent experiences. Who knows where it could lead, and who could know what she would do if she discovered her true origins? The second course of action would be… A bit more entertaining…
He noted her gaze, but said nothing, allowing the awkward stillness to envelope them again. "Well, I can't really help you sort out your own 'feelings'…" He trailed off. But what I can do...
Xion shuddered lightly, but she wasn't sure why. Perhaps she was cold? In any case, she hoped Axel hadn't seen her, lest she die a fiery death in his attempts to raise her temperature. Despite his typical level-headedness, he could really go overboard with fire-based magic, although she supposed it came with the title, 'Flurry of Dancing Flames'. It seemed, to her fortune that the man was dwelling on far too many things to notice such a minor reaction.
"I think it's better for you two to talk to each other." He decided, nodding in concluded. "Generally that's what Somebodies do as well. They like to find some time alone to settle their positions." Admittedly, he never had any experience with romance, and from that point on he was simply pulling loosely from various dramas and the like that he had seen when he still spent his time in Radiant Garden; it seemed so long ago now.
It was just a matter of the blind leading the blind.
"But if we both don't understand what… what it is, then how are we supposed to resolve anything together?" She had to wait for an answer. It was quite the broken conversation. Exhausted, Axel sighed.
"You know Xion, neither those with nor without hearts can answer that."
Roxas's frustration grew with each minute that passed. He began to understand a little more why back-breaking, manual labor earned a lot less by the hour than more intellectually taxing jobs. The page before him remained as white as ever, and he had never felt more helpless. Although, he supposed that was partially his fault, despite his continuous chanting of, 'it's not my fault I'm easily distracted'. Nevertheless, the boy had perseverance, at the very least, for even after many hours of futility, he still pursued his goal of documenting what he decided he would refer to as 'emotions' for simplicity.
He concluded that his loss for words was only attributable to his decision to omit all breaks from his schedule and thus, subsequently reset himself by taking a walk through the drab corridors of the castle. The temperature never changed. It remained at a cold standard that was low enough to feel chilly, but not enough to warrant any alterations. His footsteps echoed through the hallway as he proceeded: a gentle noise that broke the eerie silence. Therefore, he was surprised when a large, gloved hand landed on his shoulder and, startled, he stumble forward very slightly. Despite the subtlety of the reflex, it did not go undetected by his company, evident from the short chuckle that sounded from behind.
Only slightly fazed, the blond Nobody turned and found himself greeted by a mischievous grin held by none other than the Freeshooter of the organization. The man ruffled his hair -to his extreme discontent- laughing more openly at the swift batting away of his hand that followed. Although second by rank in the organization, Xigbar truly was second to none in the art of provocation.
"So I hear you and poppet really hit it off." The man taunted, raising an eyebrow. Roxas wasn't sure what to make of this, but he felt he might have to maim a certain musician in the near future. Of course, it wasn't very fair to write off all other possibilities and credit the assumed leak to his brown-haired associate, but Roxas wasn't thinking much about justice and righteousness at that point. All he could see was blood on him hands; the red fluid drying in his palms as he cackled over the body. He needed a scapegoat, not a verdict. He licked his lips inadvertently in wicked anticipation, and it was now Xigbar's turn to flinch, unaware of the boy's internal thought process. What kind of hormonal monster did I release in this kid..?
Deciding that playing innocent would prove to be the most fruitful course of action from there, Roxas tilted his head to the side and raised an eyebrow of his own. He tried to put on the most believable, confused look that he could, but he wasn't exactly adept at fabricating facial expressions. Recovering, the crafty nihilist continued.
"C'mon Kiddo, don't be like that! Your secret's safe with Uncle Xigbar here." He pointed to himself and blinked.
…Or was it winked? I wonder if he realizes that he's wearing an eye-patch… He does this far too often…
After further assessment, Roxas figured that his façade was fooling none, and changed his approach to reaching a conclusion as quickly as possible. Nodding, he turned to walk away, but it seemed Xigbar wasn't letting him off easy.
"Whoa, easy boy, we've got a little talking to do." Roxas cursed inaudibly and halted reluctantly, however he refused to turn and face his superior. It was enough to satisfy his senior, in any case.
"How about you start? Talk to me about it…"
"What do you mean?"
"Y'know like... Describe the experience or something." Xigbar shrugged, and was evidently no longer trying to mask his intentions of making the conversation awkward, much to Roxas's ire.
I wish I could you inexorable bastard…
"Don't be like that, Kiddo. Just do it again then." Roxas brushed off the latter end of the comment and continued, unconsciously picking up speed.
"No really, I can't put it in words."
"Here, why don't you tell me how you felt?"
"We're Nobodies, we don't feel anything." A curly grin broke across the elder male's sharp features.
"That wasn't the question Kiddo, just think about it a little." The boy turned and shouted.
"I have been! For the last three hours!" Silence followed, and Roxas found his hands jumping up to cover his mouth. It was a little late for that now. Xigbar rode the momentum, seizing full advantage following their stalemate. He allowed the moment to set in a little longer, driving the words back into Roxas. Heartily, he chuckled and resumed his game. Advantage, Xigbar.
The situation that followed was exactly what the second lived for: broken prey, vulnerable to his words and -as long as he played his cards right- perfect follow-ups.
"I didn't expect this from you, Kiddo. A little more interested than you initially let on, hey?" Roxas covered his rose-tinted cheeks with his hands in a pathetic attempt to hide his reactions. He knew it only fed the sadist more.
"N-no you misunderstand…"
"Do I? From what I can see our little thirteenth over here is head over heels. Your age finally catching up to you?"
"It's not like-"
"Face it Roxas, I think someone's in love, and it sure as hell isn't me." The Keyblade wielder's eyes glazed over, and his expression turned more neutral. His strength left him, and he felt open, exposed to the man in front of him, as if he had been read like a book again and again, front to back, back to front; once, twice, thrice. He was transparent, he was trapped, and it was just him and the grinning maniac before him, but right now Xigbar held all the aces. Game.
"Love..?" A weak echo, his voice failed him. Set.
"Kiddo, you and Poppet are going to have a little talk for me, very, very soon…" Match…
Each footstep reverberated in the hall off every item. The rhythmic tapping ringing in his ears as the Freeshooter walked up to him, a cold statue, and patted him on the head. Xigbar departed, leaving his presence, the beat, and his wily grin…
Edit: Sorry. Breaking all promises is bad but (this thing is worse), unfortunately I feel I have to in order to move forward. Was going to delete, but that was too much like running away from problems. For those that it may bother, I apologize again. Discontinued. Sorry for your time.