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Never Again

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 Never again

 

Demyx fell to his knees, exhausted, dehydrated, out of breath, staring at the rocky stone ground of the keyblade graveyards desert valley.  “No... No more...” He toppled to the ground as he cried out in his whiny tone.

 

“We’re almost there.” Saïx shouted over his shoulder to the rest of the group, consisting of Marluxia, Larxene, Luxord and Xigbar. They’d been forced to stop their wander through the land at least five times because of the musicians childish and stubborn attitude, and he was this close to leaving him to starve on the spot.

 

“I can’t walk anymore. I have sand everywhere...” He lifted his arm to empty the sleeve of his cloak of small corns of dust.

 

Xigbar appeared at his side and offered him a hand. “You were the one who made the choice to come back, remember?”

 

Demyx pouted. “Only to be with you.” He mumbled, and as a response Xigbar chuckled.

 

“Well, here I am. You’ve gotta hang in there.” When no response came from the blonde, the freeshooter sighed. “I’ll let you hold my hand the rest of the way if you be a good boy and walk without complaining.” At which point Demyx shot up like a bullet and scurried over to Xigbar’s side, wrapping his arms around the older mans and purring sweetly with a sweet smile.

 

“Keep moving.” Saïx glared at the two, making the older roll his eyes and the younger stick his tongue out.

 

“Ugh, who died and made you the fun police?” Larxene muttered from his left. She’d been extremely vocal in her complaints as well, as she despised being in a 100m radius of Demyx and his antics.

 

“He’s always been the fun police, Larxene.” Marluxia added from underneath his hood. His hair getting ruined by the large sandstorm was something he’d been going on about for a while now. We all can’t look like Quasimodo with third degree burns around here, he’d said and pointed at Xigbar’s scar riddled mug. Strangely enough he didn’t seem to take too much offense. His boyfriend was the one who’d gotten angry at his expense.

 

Out of all the members to offer themselves to Xehanort again, it had to be these four piles of garbage. Xigbar had been optimistic in claiming that who the vessels were wasn’t relevant, only that they were fully numbered, but Saïx wasn’t keen on listening to their endless chatter. They’d been to Twilight Town to collect the new nobodies and was now heading to the skein of severance for the first official meeting. Since the area isn’t one that exists in a vacuum, teleporting there wasn’t an option unless you controlled it’s position and knew where it was. They were forced to follow the presence of Xehanort they all felt within themselves to look for directions. And from the feeling’s increased presence, they could tell they were approaching the location of the gathering.  “Not even his dear sweet Axel could make him smile.” Luxord added, including a patronizing tone towards the end of his sentence.

 

Saïx froze in his tracks.

Lea.

It was sort of an unspoken rule at this point not to talk about him when Saïx was present. Even the slight mention of his name would cause an irrational reaction of anger to occur from him. He was overly defensive of Lea in his head, but letting that show in front of the others would be out of place and very suspicious, so instead he reached for the excuse that Lea was a traitor and traitors don’t deserve our time of day. But he knew that the others had their suspicions. The former members knew all about their previous relationship, and even though the three chosen highest didn’t, their power far outweighed anything he could ever imagine so it wouldn’t surprise him if they knew full well and had already taken the precautions necessary to keep him stuck here.

 

That’s what he was. Trapped. He dug his own grave trying to get close to Xemnas, and suddenly Lea wasn’t there to pull him out anymore. Permanently bound to Xehanort, doomed to serve him until... Well, from the looks of it, his death.

 

It was over. And coming to terms with that was... Easy, actually. Maybe it’s because he’d secretly always known.

 

From the moment Lea first ran off with Roxas.

 

 

 

Miles and miles away, in a different world, one of endless forest and plains of grass, it was night, the moonlit sky reflecting the stars as they lit up the endless black sky. It was silent, the only noise to be heard being the light breeze blowing through the trees and rustling them, and the creaking of the greenery as a pair of feet wandered on the damp ground through the dark. The hooded figure, having left the building he currently resided in along with his younger female friend and training partner, treaded carefully along the soft ground, unsure of where to go or what to do. All he knew was that slumber was no longer an option, after having laid still for nearly three hours but being unable to find peace.

 

 

 

“Luxord! You can’t say those things!” Demyx hissed and hid behind Xigbar’s back in fear of what Saïx would do. “He’ll kill us all!”

 

“Calm yourself Demyx. If he is to follow his own logic, he’s a nobody. This sort of talk shouldn’t affect him.” Luxord obviously meant to pull that as some sort of gotcha card, and Saïx didn’t like to admit this but it had worked.

 

Fortunately;  “We’re here.”

 

Massive pillars of rock stand on the ground before them, placed in a circle, their peaks reaching almost as high as the clouds in the sky, carrying a striking resemblance to the round room in the Castle that Never Was. The resemblance in the chilling feeling it gave you was still there was well. Xehanort’s presence was so strong it almost overwhelmed him as he looked up. He was right there in this moment, high in the sky, the sandstorm blocking the view but it would soon be called to a stop by his magic.

 

Xigbar gave Demyx a kiss and shoved him through a portal before he had time to complain. Larxene and Marluxia disappeared instantly and Luxord followed suit after a brief chuckle at Saïx expense. But the bluenette remained. His hair and the black coat over his shoulders blew in a steady rhythm along the sharp wind. But no matter how many breaths he took, he felt himself choking. Things were starting to get serious now. This meeting was what would set everything into motion. Meaning it wasn’t long before he would see him again.

 

“I need a minute.” He said to Xigbar who still stood behind him, waiting for him to move. He kept his voice steady and strained his lungs to calm his heavy breathing.

 

“Don’t keep us waiting.” It’s like he could feel the one-eyed mans wide, unsettling smile stinging his neck. When he pressure let out and the man was gone, Saïx released a distraught sigh he didn’t know he’d been keeping in.

 

He wrapped his arms around his shoulders and toppled to his knees, feeling every weight pushed upon his back slowly slide off and give him room to breathe. Finally. These moments were what kept his body still motion. Allowing himself to be vulnerable like this was all he had left. He needed breaks like these. Breaks to think, to feel. To miss him. To miss Lea. Without them he would be forced to constantly shove everything aside, and he couldn’t do that any more than he already did. That guard, that glare, that uptight attitude, those cold words. In order to keep that act up, he needed to be honest every once in a while.

 

 

 

The previously silent night of secret forest was now bombarded with loud crashes and the sound of a sharp blade cutting through wood. One by one the beautifully flourished spring trees fell in nothing short of a rampage of the forest. He sliced his enemies into pieces one by one, naming them after ones he’d soon be facing on the battlefield.

 

“Ansem.”

Cut

 

“Xemnas.”

Cut

 

“Young Xehanort.”

Cut

 

“Xigbar.”

Cut

 

“Larxene.”

Cut

 

“Marluxia.”

Cut

 

“Luxord.”

Cut

 

“Vanitas.”

Cut

 

“Demyx.”

Cut

 

“Vexen.”

Cut

 

“Xehanort.”

Cut

 

All of them. No hesitation.

 

Until.

 

“Saïx.”

Isa

 

Lea’s muscles came to such a screeching halt he stumbled and toppled over his feet, hitting the ground face first and dropping his keyblade. He let out a loud cry of pain as he rolled over to his back and hissed out profanity. The taste of blood filled his mouth, his head was spinning and in tremendous pain and his vision has turned blurry. His knees burned as he laid still in the wet grass, gasping desperately for air, his heart racing extremely fast, his body aching. Any attempt to move and his veins would start screaming at him to stop. The whiplash had shaken him to his core.

 

His keyblade vanished as he lay there, bruised, dirty, sweating profusely, and his eyes trailed to the tree still standing to his left. All around him were the remains of what previously were his enemies. But there’s one he can’t cut down.

He won’t cut them down.

And he won’t allow anyone else to do it.

 

Don’t hesitate

Not with anyone

When it comes to Xehanort

 

He’d kept it all a secret from day one. Even now he hadn’t told any one of the keyblade wielders he was allied with of his past with... Him. Of their friendship, of their love, of their relationship. Not one soul knew anything. Other than that there was something small there. But they didn’t ask. And Lea would never tell. Therefore his hesitations to fight weren’t known either. It probably should’ve been addressed by now, but no . He couldn’t. He couldn’t tell anyone. Maybe if he did he could get help, support, and his friends would aid him in rescuing him. But going to that place, crawling back into that hole to rediscover every last ounce of suffering he’d endured wasn’t something he could do. The only way to end it was for him to do it himself. To save him. It had to be that way.

After all.

 

I’ll always be the sun to your moon

To light you up and give you strength

To protect you

 

He was afraid. So horribly afraid. Of the fight that was bound to come. Of what would happen. To his Isa. His allies were so incredibly powerful. Sora could take on anyone. He had already taken Isa’s life before. Who’s to say that wouldn’t happen again? Seeing him hurt would break him. Hurting him himself was something he knew he could never do. But worst of all, he didn’t know if he felt the same. Is he also hesitating? Doubting? Or had Xehanort already forced that out of him? They could very well be forced into a confrontation, but he couldn’t say for sure what Isa would do. It really could be either one, as much as he hated that thought.

He didn’t want to believe that he would hurt him. More than anything he wanted to be sure that nothing bad would happen but he couldn’t be. And so it scared him. All of it. Every last thought.

 

War.

War with them on opposite sides.

 

Isa wasn’t his enemy. He refused to paint him up as one and from the looks of it, so did his body. He wasn’t like the rest. He wasn’t just another tree to chop down. And regardless of what Isa thought, that wasn’t going to change. Even if he disagreed, even if he tried to attack him, or Sora, or Riku, or Kairi, or anyone else, he wouldn’t be able to hurt him.

 

It’s just

The way it is.

 

“I guess you still have a soft spot for me, huh?”

 

 

 

Saïx did everything he could to not cry. Every single day. As the clock ticked down further and further, approaching the fated war, he just got worse and worse. His anger became harder to control, his objections to plans became harder to hold back. This entire image he’d built up of himself being the ruthless, most  “nobody-like” nobody became harder to uphold. But he never allowed himself to cry. No. Breathe in. Breathe out. Swallow. Blink. Repeat.

If he broke down he would never be able to shake it off. If he cried over Lea he wouldn’t stop until he was in his arms again. If he showed any emotion, any at all, he would never be able to stop. He knew that much.

 

The sands the wind carried irritated his skin and eyes and made it even harder to not let them water.

“Take it easy okay?”

Saïx let out a strained laugh between his deep breaths. Now he was hearing things too? How far was this insanity going to go?

“Don’t overdo it. I love you.”

He loved him too. So, so much.

 

But something caught his attention. A presence behind his back. He froze in nothing short of dread. The person behind him could only be one of the Organizations. They were alone in the desert. In a secret, remote, almost  non-existent location. The fear immobilized his body, preventing him from rising to his feet and greeting whoever was there. He tried to think but his mind was blank. An excuse was what he needed. He was wounded? He’d fallen over? He was merely inspecting the rocks on the ground? Lost in thought? Fuck. Every last option sounded so hastily slapped together there was no way in hell his coworkers would believe it, much less his superiors. But sitting here completely frozen was even more suspicious, wasn’t it? He had to choose something. Quick. Wounded was the most believable option, but they hadn’t been in any fights as of yet. Maybe acting like nothing was going on? If this were Xehanort or any of his variants, they wouldn’t question him if he acted like nothing. That’s not what they do. They judge in silence. And that silence can be ignored. Were it some lesser member they would most likely just laugh at him, and he could deal with that.

 

So yes. He had acquired a plan. And with that he started slowly rising from the concrete ground.

 

But upon seeing the outline of the person through the thick sand in the air he quickly began to realize it was something else entirely he was looking at. Something familiar, yet unexpected.  There was someone standing about 20 feet away from him into the valley, a boy from the looks of it. He had a familiar height, familiar slim body structure, wearing a familiar red vest and a pair of familiar brown trousers. Around his neck a yellow scarf was wrapped, one dusty and torn and yet... Familiar. He had bright red spiky hair, almost akin to a young lions. As opposed to the long firey mane Isa was so used to.

 

He wasn’t startled or surprised, or even scared. The boy that stood in his view was familiar after all. He was the one who’d always been there. But he didn’t understand.

 

“Why are you here?” He asked and squinted his eyes. As the winds picked up and sand spread everywhere through the air, it struck him this might be an illusion by one of his superiors. Were they making him see this? His hand was ready to summon his claymore just in case.

 

The boy shrugged and let out a smile. One that melted Saïx’ hollow body. “You looked like you needed some company.” He spoke softly.

 

Saïx scoffed. It was a reflex. But still the first time in forever he’d done that.  “Pathetic, isn’t it?” He waited for the boy, who knew him better than himself at this point to agree, but of course he didn’t. “I’ve hit rock bottom.”

 

The redhead tilted his head to the side and shook it lightly.

“No you haven’t.” He said casually, in an almost sympathetic tone. “I’m still here aren’t I?” Saïx felt this movement inside of him with every motion of the boy’s lips. Hearing his light upbeat voice speak so calmly to him again was... Too much, somehow.

 

Saïx turned away. He tried to keep his brave face up but it was shattering. He couldn’t look at him without wanting everything he could no longer have. His lungs were squeezing him until he couldn’t breathe. He was undoubtedly starting to shake. The pressure was increasing every moment, from the air, the sand, the boy. He couldn’t stand it. Everything hurt. Everything was throbbing, inside and out. “The only version of you that is.” He managed to force out between his uneven breathing. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling but it was bad. Anger or sadness or fear, whatever it was it pushed at him. He only wondered how long it would take to reach his breaking point.

 

“I never left Isa.”

 

“Then where the hell are you, Lea?” He spat out that name viscously back in the boy’s face. Gesturing to his surroundings he went on to speak in a frustrated tone. “I don’t see you anywhere. Where are you? Where were you when this happened?” He regretted getting so angry. Much as he mad, it wasn’t his fault. Looking at him now he realized just how much he missed that Lea. The one that was always at his side, and happy to be there. The one that never left. The one that-

 

“I’m here now.” He said.

 

“Why?”

 

“I already answered that.”

 

“Your answer wasn’t very specific.”

 

The boy let out a little sigh. His mouth hinted of a smile again. “I didn’t want you to be alone.” He said, that genuine sweet voice coming back to him again. He looked at him with eyes that shimmered of concern and care. Ones that Lea always used to give him when they were young. He was so protective of him. He remembered it pissing him off. Like he thought Isa was weak and needed him or something, when in reality Isa could  bring him to the ground screaming in pain in less than a minute flat. “Whenever you are, your mind tends to wander off into dangerous territory.” Saïx could neither agree nor disagree so he kept quiet. The boy paused, finally moving his body a little more than some shoulder rolls. He turned to his left and stared off into the distant silent but windy desert. It struck Isa as he inspected him just how real he was. He could clearly see his contour and not one part of him was see-through. His hair, his clothes, his voice. Everything was spot on. From the color to the sound to the feelings to the attitude. Like he was...

 

Really there.

 

“After all... That’s why we’re here isn’t it?” He chewed on his lower lip and looked down at his red sneakers. “I left you alone and you started thinking and thinking and thinking. Until you came to the conclusion that you didn’t matter to me anymore.” He looked over at Saïx briefly before starting to play around with his feet.

 

“You can’t criticize me for thinking that when you-“

 

“I’m not.” Lea interrupted and kicked the ground, watching the dust from it fly off into the air. As he turned back to Isa there was no longer a smile, but still a kind gaze. “I’m only doing what I should’ve done from the very beginning.” He lifted his arm and stretched it out towards the nobody, making Saïx subconsciously back off. Opening his hand and holding it out to him, he said;  “I’m here for you.”

 

 

 

Lea had jumped into a sitting position on the grass, screaming at the top of his lungs upon seeing the sight before his eyes.

“Shhhh! Relax!! It’s just me.” The other crouched down at placed their finger over their lips to hush him. “Try not to wake up the whole forest, will you?”

 

Lea swallowed and nodded with a suppressed squeak. He looked at the person from top to toe in awe. He couldn’t believe the sight in front of him. Wearing a pair of black shoes, white pants and a long navy blue shaded hoodie, it’s hems colored after the sky. With short sleeves that ended at his elbows and left the rest of his arms exposed and the symbol of a crescent moon stitched on his chest. His short blue hair brushed back and spiked upwards, and eyes marine-colored. The appearance was identical to that of...

 

“Isa...?”

The boy smiled and nodded.

So he wasn’t wrong.

 

Lea was struck with nothing short of shock. He sat there trying to let his head fully wrap around the situation but he found himself being unable to.

How

What

Why

What in the actual fu-

 

“Come on.” Isa titled his head towards the right and gestured for him to follow. “Let’s talk.”

 

He wandered off, leaving Lea there on the ground expecting him to follow. He didn’t at first, so frozen in shock he could not move his body. But after Isa disappeared from his sight he jolted to his feet and sprinted after him.

 

They entered a small area akin to a cliff where the forest cleared up a little. He sat there often with Kairi to relax between sparring matches and training. Seeing it at night like this was something else however. The stars shined beautifully onto the patch of grass, lighting it up as the still soft wind flowed through his long red locks and the black coat he still wore. Isa was already sitting at the edge of the steep, dangling his feet over the edge and letting them hang in the air as he kept his eyes on the moon, high in the sky. Hesitantly, Lea took a seat by his side, crossing his legs on the grass just before the ground came to an end. Looking at him again, he looked so real and true to form. He wasn’t sure what to feel right now. Too many questions plagued his mind and he couldn’t make sense of a single thing.

 

He did however come to a decision on what to ask first.

“So... Like,” He started, breaking the silence of the air around them. “What are you? Are you real? Have I gone crazy?”  The last question was rather pointless. He seriously doubted that if he were crazy, he would find that out by asking the illusion of a younger version of his long-lost lover.

 

“I am whatever you want me to be.” Isa paused, looking down at his feet, still dangling freely in the air. He turned to Lea and cupped his hands on top of his lap. “I’m either what’s left... Or... What has already been lost.” He smiled a little but as he did, Lea’s eyes trailed off. He had to swallow and blink away a slight sting of sadness that had hit him when he wasn’t quite ready. “Of the connection you had with him. It’s up to you to decide.” Isa’s head was tilted slightly to the side, as if he was awaiting an answer. But Lea couldn’t say anything back. Aside from his throat running dry and his voice just not coming to him- what was he supposed to say to that? He’d always been close to Isa. Physically as well as emotionally. So when that closeness eventually translated into romantic feelings it wasn’t surprising. Back then it was simple, really, not just in hindsight but in his memory it was as well. But it only was because they were inseparable. Now that they’re miles and miles apart, it was much harder to tell.

 

Not one answer came from Lea. The silence was so long, it almost became unbearable. The boy’s gaze trailed off.  “I expected as much.”

 

That disappointed tone of his rubbed Lea all the wrong ways and he felt his blood spike.

“What am I supposed to say?! I don’t know!” He burst out, his irrational side shining true. “What about Isa, huh? Have you asked him the same question?”

 

“I am Isa.” The bluenette replied with a calm tone.

 

“That’s not-“ Lea paused, letting out a frustrated groan. The boy merely tilted his head to the side and blinked with a curious gaze. If he could stop getting so irrational at every turn that would surely help. But it was always hard controlling his anger in Isa’s presence. Even when he did nothing. Like now.  For the longest time, and even now, he didn’t really want to think about it. Thinking about Isa always hurt, regardless of how or in what context. He didn’t want to dig into everything. To search his feelings. To rediscover all that pain and suffering. It was too much to just have it in his memory.

 

“You haven’t changed at all.” Isa giggled softly.

 

“That’s not what you said a year ago.” Lea stubbornly mumbled. That was the reason all this started. This constant bickering back and forth of who changed and when. Was it Isa that became cold, or Lea that grew distant? Did Isa push him away or did Lea leave him? In the past he certainly had his opinions about this, but in time he began to agree more with Isa. He shouldn’t have given up. If Isa really was that important to him, he should’ve suffered through it. The fights and the rude words and the pettiness from both of them. In the end it would’ve been worth it. It would’ve meant not ending up where they were now. And he would do anything to change that choice.

 

The way Isa looked at the moon was awfully reminiscent of how he’d always stared at it when they were young. They didn’t know much more about his powers then, only that it caused him to loose control and go on rampages, but never why or what to do about it. Isa would always keep a close watch of it, every night. He inspected it closely every time he saw it in the sky, just to make sure it wasn’t full. Just to make sure Lea would be safe with him that night. He’d said that, more than anything, he was afraid of the moon. It was always there in the back of his mind when he tried to sleep, reminding him, like a ticking clock that soon, eventually, he would loose it completely.

“I’m running out of time, Lea.” He said, silently gazing down at the forest below them. “Xehanort is so deeply infused with my being at this point, I’m not sure if what remains of me can even be saved.” His small knees pressed together and his little hands pulled at the grass straws around them. “I know you don’t believe that, and it’s sweet of you to be optimistic, but-“

 

“Don’t.” More than anything he was sick of Isa’s defeatist attitude. In the round room he expected Isa to resist. To see Lea, and attempt to brake free from Xehanort’s clutches. To not do his bidding. But he attacked. Seemingly on auto-pilot, without a word from Xehanort. And the look in his eyes, the gaze he gave as he faded away, told him everything he needed to know. He made him this way. And now it was too late. Of course Isa would come to that conclusion. His stone cold view of reality only ever eased itself off when Lea was present and his optimism spread everywhere. Without that he won’t even try. Perhaps he was right, that it was too late to attempt, but Lea refused to admit that. He refused to admit an ending where they weren’t happy. “I’m going to get you out of there.”

 

Isa responded with a slightly condescending grin. “Of course you will.” He breathed out between a sigh. “Good luck with that.”

 

 

 

Saïx squeezed the small hand within his palm tightly, as if to check if the young one was still there, and hadn’t faded into the desert like the illusion he most likely was. The redhead had taken the lead, guiding the older as the distance to the meeting place began to grow with each step they took. “Where are we going?” He asked as he slipped his hood on to keep his blue hair under control and to hide his identity whilst they weren’t in a hidden location any longer.

 

“Doesn’t matter.” Lea was turned, staring ahead and dragging Saïx with him from behind, their hands tightly locked together. The sensation of touching Lea again has shaken him a little at first. It made him feel to such an extreme extent, every emotion on the entire map. At first it was almost unbearable. But the warmth and the bond that attached itself to their point of connection almost locked him shut in that grip. For better or for worse.

He couldn’t let go.

But even if he could, did he want to?

“I can go anywhere as long as it’s with you.”

 

That statement was dangerously close to a sentiment the two of them used to echo a long time ago, and it sent a chill down Saïx’s spine. They constantly moved around as kids, going wherever the weather was the least foul and where the food was easiest to come by. Their mentality was that home followed them wherever they went, and that it could be a rooftop as well as the slums. Where didn’t matter. The only thing that did was that they didn’t have to wake up after a nightmare and have no one beside them, they didn’t have to be on their own in a fight and they didn’t have to fear dying alone. It sounded crazy to him now, but when that was all they knew it rationalized itself without them noticing.  They had each other. And nothing else. And they made the most out of that.

 

Saïx halted.

That was a long time ago. Those days were over now. He was no longer a child, running after his best friend endlessly to find the means of happiness and survival. He was a nobody. Seeing Lea had almost made him forget that.  “We can’t go further.” Lea hadn’t turned around still. He remained in his place, gaze locked at the horizon like it always was. “I have to stay in the area, or... They will know.”

 

“Then, right here is perfect.” Lea said, nodding to himself. Saïx gave him a confused look from behind. The place looked identical to the rest of the valley. Nothing but sand and dirt and dust covering every last inch of... Everything. The pillars were out of sight now and he would’ve been afraid, if it weren’t for the fact that he wasn’t supposed to be as a nobody. His superiors wouldn’t get mad. They were not able to. As long as he wasn’t a traitor, he had a decent amount of flexibility when it came to his movements. Not right before a meeting of course, like in this situation, but still.

 

“Why here?” Saïx looked around for anything of note in this area but there really was nothing.

 

“This is it. The edge.” Lea said. Their hands still remained in contact, and the bluenette was starting to sweat under the fabric of his glove. He didn’t want to let go though. “As far as you can go. The closest you can get to me.”

 

“I don’t... Really understand.”

 

“...Isa. If you had the chance... Would you go see me right now?”

 

Saïx raised a silent but judgemental eyebrow at him. “...You’re in a hidden location and the Organization has no idea of your whereabouts.”

 

“Answer the question.” Lea stepped closer, taking Saïx’s other hand and squeezing them both simultaneously.

 

Saïx swallowed. Lea was shorter than he remembered, only reaching up to about his chest, and that’s including his quill-like red hair. He’d always been taller than Lea as kids, but upon entering adulthood he got a massive growth spurt and surpassed his height, which was something the redhead never ceased to remind him. He found that to be frustrating as hell back in the day, but in recent times he’s come to miss it. He was so grateful for the moments with Lea that weren’t occupied by fighting. Sleeping next to him every night, having to wake him up every morning he overslept, refilling his purple marks, sending him on missions and seeing him return to the castle bruised and with a bad temper because “you didn’t tell me how dangerous that would be, i could’ve died”, helping him write proper mission reports so that they were actually useful for Saïx, having his eyes in the back of his neck as he waited for him to finish his paperwork so they could spend a few precious hours together before it was all repeated again. Lea always complained about the amount of work he did and how he wanted more time with him, but he was perfect willing to sit still for hours and wait in silence as Saïx did what he had to. He didn’t understand it, but Lea seemed to somewhat enjoy being there, smiling whenever Saïx turned his way and continuing to watch him without complaint. And it was worth it for the payoff. Whether it was just simple cuddling or something far less innocent.

 

He was conflicted about these memories now. They were really only best suited for specific situations. They could bring him pain, and make him feel lonely, as well make him happy, feeling loved and relieved. As for Lea’s question... “I... Don’t know.” What would happen if he went to see Lea now? More fighting? Perhaps. What would they talk about? He couldn’t say for sure. Maybe he would just insult him and watch his reaction as he got mad.

 

Asking himself what he wanted to do, he found the answer to be muddled. His body craved for Lea. His love, his fire, his affection. More than anything he wanted to touch him. Feel him. Brush against his shoulder with his own, run his fingers through his hair, rest his head against his chest, hold his hand and even... Kiss him. Sometimes it became so unbearable he had to fight his own limbs to calm them down. But he really had nothing to say to him anymore. Nothing mattered. It was too late. Too late for “I love you”s, too late for “I’m sorry”s. He didn’t want to say he was sorry either way. Apologizing for the fights and the bad way things ended wouldn’t change anything. His fate was sealed. He was doomed to be here.

Oh right.

This was the attitude Lea didn’t like, wasn’t it?

This constantly negative one.

Or rather.

Realistic one.

 

He found himself wanting Lea’s body, his presence, his love. But going to him to claim it and work things out was not something he saw as appealing. Or meaningful.

 

“You don’t know? Really?” Lea sounded saddened, but not surprised. He must’ve expected that answer.

 

“If I went to see you, you’d only tell me not to loose hope.” Saïx retracted one of his hands, and their link loosened a little. “Which is easy for you to say when you’re not the one alone in the hands of a monster.” His hand landed in Lea’s hair, giving it a slow and affectionate pat. A smile crept its way onto his lips, and his gaze became soft.

 

Lea’s hair moved along the movement of his hand between his fingers, as a response to the act from the older.

“Do you want me to go then?” His tone neutral, and not meant to guilt him in the slightest. His head tilted to the side and looked at him with a silent gaze.

 

“No. Of course not.” He ruffled the boy’s hair a little harder this time, and squeezed his small soft hand with his large one. “Please... Stay.” He sounded slightly more desperate towards the end. Lea answered with a smile. A small, adorable, teeth flashing smile.

 

 

 

“The marks are gone.” Lea was confused at first, but when Isa pointed to his left cheek it struck him.

 

“Oh... Right.” Lea touched the area that was now empty of purple eyeliner. “When I woke up, they were gone. And you weren’t around to draw them on anymore.”  Isa gave him a soft smile to light up his saddened expression, and it seemingly worked but only a little. He himself lacked a noticeable feature on his face, the cross shaped scar on his glabella, but Lea was almost relieved not to have to see it on him again. Lea always hated it. Not because it made Isa ugly, but because it made him think that he was. Too often he’d caught him staring at his reflection with distant and disparaging eyes. It wasn’t something he said openly, but these small, seemingly sarcastic comments always seemed to find their way into their conversations when laying in bed, exposed and alone. He should’ve told him then and there how beautiful he was. Maybe he had, but clearly not enough. He should’ve told him that regardless of that wound, that mistake, that action he’d taken to protect Lea that ended up marking him forever, that he was still the most stunning person he’d ever laid eyes on. That his hair was gorgeous and with the most enchanting color of blue, that he could look into his graceful bright green eyes for hours admiring their color, and that holding his body close, breathing in his fresh scent, kissing his soft and sweet lips, listening to his peaceful voice as it spoke of rubbish, and having him so very near all the time was... Heaven. Had he done that. Each and every day. Maybe the scar would only be that. A scar. And not the end to his all his beauty.  “Could use them right about now though.” Lea said after a long pause, making Isa turn his way again. “Maybe then I wouldn’t be kept up at night.”

 

“I didn’t draw them to stop you from feeling, Lea.” Isa’s hands slipped into the pockets of his hood, as his legs rocked back and forth in the air. “I wanted to make you strong. Stronger than you were already. We thought that was what you needed to survive, and that you wouldn’t make it otherwise.” He closed his eyes, looking down with a smile and shaking his head. “It was stupid.”

 

“It worked.”

 

“Did it?”

 

“Yes. I’m a mess now, without them.”

 

“You’re you. Like you should be.”

 

“That’s not good enough.”

 

“Good enough for what?”

 

“Helping you.” His tone became sharp and vicious. He snapped his words back at the other, but in reality his eyes were watering. His voice was cracking. “...Saving you.” He muttered out a silenced swear under his breath. His chest felt slightly heavy. Tingles, up and down his skin, either anger or sadness or disappointment or grief. He didn’t know which.

 

Silently licking his lips, the bluenette went on. “Why did you do everything you did in the Organization, Lea? What was it all for?” The question was rhetorical. Isa answered. “To feel again. To “be” again. To get here. Where you are. Aren’t you-“

 

“No.” Lea interrupted him coldly. “Not “you”, Isa. We. We did it for us . To be what we were again. To love each other once more.” He let out a shaky breath and felt his body convulse. “It was for both you and me. And you know that.” Setting his hand down on the ground, he felt a hard rough surface under his hand. A rock. He clenched it tightly in his palm, so hard, like he was almost trying to shatter it. “But I was the only one that made it. Don’t you dare call that a success.” He blinked and wiped the tears away just before they fell, sniffling to himself and turning away to hide his face. “I failed you. I chased after Roxas instead of you. And for what? For him to throw me away again, like I was nothing. For him to willingly disappear and go back to Sora. And now you’re stuck. And there’s nothing I can-...” He had to stop. He had to.

 

Isa let out a little sigh and shifted his sitting posture, bringing one leg up on the grass and letting the other hang over the edge to his right now that he was turned. He waved his hand for Lea to scoot closer to him and with very hesitant movement, he did just so. They turned to sit face to face for a few moments in silence, Lea staring at Isa with a very puzzled gaze. Isa silently nodded, as a way to comfort him, but it only made Lea even more confused. The boy began reaching out towards him, his arm stretching out and approaching his chest. Lea was tilting backwards, away in fear, as Isa’s left hand was put on his knee and the other continued forward. He was scared. Of what his touch would do. His heart raced faster for every inch closer his fingertips came and when they finally made contact he shivered with his entire being as a feeling of... Warmth entered his body. It felt nice. It was comforting. The affection spread through his every vein, rekindling the flame that always burned within him and helping it grow. Isa’s tiny hand was somehow able to... Heal him. With that small motion. He feared that he might be enjoying it a little too much, but that thought dissipated as he drowned in Isa’s touch through his black coat.

 

His hand slid forward onto the center of Lea’s chest, his palm pressed entirely against the point where his heart raced the most. He saw the way his clothes moved and became wrinkled around the pressure point. And the weight of him pushing at his chest was there too.

The touch was so real.

He couldn’t understand.

How was this-

 

“Lea.” Isa called his name, attracting his attention back to his eyes. “What do you feel? In here?” He smiled, tilting his head to the side. Lea was still in awe, too worked up to concentrate his thoughts. His face was burning, his heart beating in his ears and if he didn’t close his mouth soon and breathe through his nose he would surely start to drool. He had no idea how lonely and cold he’d been feeling up until this point, but now that Isa’s touch was upon him he wasn’t sure if he could ever shake it off. “Now that you have a heart, what is it making you feel?”

 

“I... I’m...” He almost gasped those letters out between his heavy and relentless breathing. Everything was flaming inside him. Every last feeling. His insides were on fire, even more so than usual.

 

“You’re not getting excited, are you?” Isa suddenly asked and looked down between his legs with a blank stare.

 

“What?! No!!” His words ripped Lea out of his train of thought in a second. His arms darted to the area between his legs, covering it quickly despite him having nothing to hide. Isa’s mere statement made his entire body feel violated in a way he couldn’t bare. He jolted into a proper sitting position and shuddered with disgust. “Jesus Christ, you’re like ten! Why would I-“

 

“Technically, I’m 14...”

 

“Still gross!” The redhead’s entire body convulsed multiple times in utter repugnance.

 

“I was just messing with you.” Isa giggled softly. Lea didn’t find it funny. At all. After firmly telling Isa not to joke about those things, he seemed to catch his drift and quieted down. “Anyway...” His hand hadn’t left Lea’s chest yet. It’s warmth had gotten so intertwined with Lea that he found it easier to digest now. “What do you feel?”

 

He felt...

Alive.

Now, more than ever.

Compared to before, this was...

Such a strong sense of fondness and life was flowing through him.  Because of Isa. Because of his touch and closeness. Everything was warm, and flowed peacefully within him.

Having a heart never felt too different from being a nobody to him. Was that because Isa wasn’t there anymore? Because he couldn’t touch him. Because he wasn’t close to him.

Is this... Love?

He hadn’t felt this before, even when they were kids.

 

...

 

No.

He had.

He felt it every day. Every day he spent with Isa. He was alive. He was surrounded by him, and he felt alive.

 

“I... I miss you...” Lea said. “I miss you so much..” He spoke the words his heart were screaming at him. It was in pain. It wanted Isa. Lea shot up like a bolt of lightning, taking Isa’s small hand in a tight grip and pressing it harder against his chest. He’d found it. The answer.

“I love you.”

 

 

 

Saïx and Lea were headed back to the pillars. He’d been out for far too long, the meeting had surely already started and he couldn’t ignore it any longer. He wasn’t sure what all this meant yet. It felt too real to be a work of Xehanort’s. Lea knew too much about him for that to be true. Perhaps he had lost his mind. But that thought wasn’t as unappealing if it meant he got to see Lea, and hold him again. The warmth and the affection and love that came from the boy was something he could easily get addicted to if he didn’t watch himself. He had to move on. He had to collect himself. To return to normal. Preferably even forget this entire ordeal, but that one part of him, deep inside, didn’t want to. Nothing good ever comes from wishing for things you can’t have. But even so. Keeping the knowledge and the memory with him couldn’t hurt. As long as it was limited to that, a memory, and he didn’t go overboard. Or forget his place. He could hold on to this experience. He could silently hope. Deep, deep inside. No one will know. Not even Xehanort. He could keep it from everyone. He could keep Lea here. To make him strong. Until he saw him again.

 

He rolled his eyes and sighed.

It seems Lea’s frustrating optimism had rubbed off after all.

Fuck.

 

That’s when he’d heard something coming from the boy behind him. He didn’t quite catch it and asked the boy to repeat it. He turned around to hear him better, and upon doing so a fierce grip was wrapped around his gloved hand. He was pulled down to the boys height as he said it again. Something that struck his muscles and bound them shut. Something that rang in his ears and forced him to stare deeply into the boy’s eyes. They’d... Changed somehow. He felt something as he looked into them. No... He saw. A... Reflection of...

“I love you, Isa.” His voice hadn’t changed, but the way it rubbed off the membranes in his ears made his entire being weaken. It crushed him. He was utterly immobilized by the sound.

 

Isa suddenly carried an expression of sheer dread and horror. His face white as a sheet, lower lip trembling as he asked for a clarification. Lea took a hold of his arms and said it again. He stared out into the abyss. In a second he’d gone from the mysterious and warm boy that came to comfort him in the night, to... What was it he was holding? Who ? He looked and sounded like Isa but the feeling was different. But also not at the same time. It was Isa. It felt like Isa. But not... This Isa.

 

“Why... What...” Saïx worded out breathlessly at the boy, his throat not allowing him to fully speak. He couldn’t process this. Much less respond. Tears were falling, breathing had stopped. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t think. The feeling was there. He knew exactly what it was. Who it was. It wrapped itself around him, shutting everything down. Unable to understand, to speak, to breathe, to handle all of this. He could only stare at the vision before him. Sobbing. Desperate look in his eyes. Memories flooded him. He felt so much, too much, all at the same time. “Lea...” The name slipped out between his gasps. “You...”

 

“I never stopped. Ever.” Lea nodded, placing his hand on the boy’s cheek, now looking into his teary eyes. But they weren’t the same anymore. He wasn’t the same. Lea knew. He understood. “Isa.” His tears soaked his black glove. He heard it. He felt it. Him. His Isa.

 

Saïx dropped to his knees as Lea nodded. He sobbed silently into the hand caressing his face. Lea’s touch was even warmer than before. Even more alive than before. Bigger, perhaps, was the right term.  “Lea...” He couldn’t say any other word in this moment. His mouth hung open as he breathed loudly and he stared into the boy’s eyes, seeing and hearing and feeling someone else. On the other side. Lea.  But despite that he couldn’t smile. Or feel relieved, or happy. He wasn’t sure what he felt besides confusion. His adrenaline was high as a kite, fists clenched until they throbbed, the heart he didn’t have probably beating right in his eardrums. It was Lea. The Lea he hadn’t seen in so long. The Lea tried to kill last time he saw him. Lea loved him. Still. In spite of everything.

Lea was smiling. His beautiful... Beautiful...

He touched his hand. And though it was not present in the image he saw, he felt his black glove, wet with tears underneath his. His rough and uneven knuckles, yet still rather slim and bony.

Lea. Like he was. In the flesh.

 

Isa squeezed him back. His eyes were wide and swollen and he looked paralyzed still. But he squeezed nonetheless. Lea didn’t know what to do at the moment. Where to start. What to say. He had no idea how long this would last. As much as he wanted it to be forever, he knew it wouldn’t be as such. And every second that passed could be the last of this connection between them. He had so much to tell him. So much he needed said. But looking at Isa. Feeling how cold and hollow he still was. Hearing his weak sobs. That broken and barely recognizable voice ringing in his ears. He knew. Isa needed this chance more than he did. “Talk to me...“ He said. He wanted to know. He needed to know. Anything. Everything.

How are you?

Is everything okay?

What’s going on?

Where are you?

What did they do to you?

Have they hurt you?

Are they forcing you to do things?

Do you need anything?

How can I help you?

Can I see you?

Anything.

 

Lea wanted him to speak. To say something. But Isa trembled and was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t vocalize a single word. Tears still leaked from his eyes and the meaningless whine-like sounds that escaped his throat didn’t aid the situation. Lea tried to calm him. Rubbing his skin, smiling softly, looking at him with a look of nothing but love, but it wouldn’t help. He still had no idea what was going on, much less what to actually tell him. It was clear that to Lea it didn’t matter, but what was there to say? He’d already made his mind up. There was nothing to tell.  Now that he was here he was beyond relieved. Despite his earlier statements, having Lea here was something he needed. Something he always knew he needed, but had told himself he didn’t. He convinced himself that he didn’t. Somehow he didn’t notice that until...

Lea waited patiently. Looking deeply into his eyes, their gazes locked in a inseparable embrace. Until Saïx’s wide and shocked eyes softened a little, his head tilting down, hand sliding off Lea’s wrist and body sinking together, only held up by Lea’s grip on his shoulders.  If he had nothing to say, maybe he should tell him that? But Lea wouldn’t be satisfied with those words. There was no way. What was he to say? He couldn’t lie, or Lea would know. He didn’t want to give him hope that he perhaps wouldn’t be able to deliver on. He wasn’t that kind of person. So what then? He didn’t know what Lea was doing, where he was, why he’s here now. He didn’t know what Lea needed to know. Or hear from him.

“What do you want to... Hear...?” He almost mumbled, watching the water from his face drip to the ground.

 

“The truth.” Lea said. He wanted no games. No petty insults. No vague language. No words riddled with pride. No rude glares, or tones, or attitudes. He could tell him anything. As long as it was the truth.

 

The truth

Saïx could hardly tell what that meant anymore. Nothing ever seemed to be, in his eyes, what with this ever changing environment of evil and good, and new revelations appearing on the spot. Maybe truth was only temporary. And it depended on your current situation, and the current turn of events.

So then.

Right now...

What was the truth?

 

Saïx breathed in slow, and out. His head tilted up, now looking at Lea again, the tears in his eyes having seemingly multiplied by a thousandfold. Letting the lower lip he’d been chewing on loose, he spoke, speaking the only truth he knew was... True.  “I’m... I’m scared, Lea.” More and more water streamed. Lea stared at him. Wide eyed. Mesmerized. “I’m so scared...” Searching his non-existent feelings, the only thing he found was the fear. Despite its renunciation by everyone around him, it was powerful. Powerful enough to paralyze his body and weaken it to the core. “I’m all alone. Here, in the dark.” He whispered between weak sniffles, throat pushing to its limit, feeling suffocated and strangled. “I’m scared and lonely- I just... I need you right now...” The sobs were getting louder. Loosing control. Letting go. “But you’re not here...” He cried. Loud and clear. “Why aren’t you here...? I need you... I need you but you’re not-...” Loud, uncontrollable cries filled the air. Cries, sounding almost like the ones of a lost child. One who lost the person to always guide him through the dark. And now he was in it alone. With no way out. He cried and sobbed with every ounce of pain he felt slipping out between his tears.

 

Lea was speechless. He watched the boy cry and cry and cry, like he’d never seen in his life, clinging desperately onto his coat and letting out sounds of despair and agony. He followed his first instinct, which was to wrap his arms tightly around his back, and push him closer. Closing his eyes, pressing his hand against the back of Isa’s head and holding his against his shoulder, the other tightly locked around his waist, pulling him over to him and letting only his ears listen. Isa was cold. He shook, and whimpered and whined and Lea rubbed his back, furrowing his brows and straining them as to not break down himself. They remained shut, as fingers pulled his hair, and he rocked his body back and forth, the sting of guilt in his heart burning more than ever before, the knowledge that he’d let this happen crushing him. The embrace continued, lasting for an unknown amount of time, but neither of them were willing to end it. The world faded out in the background, sandstorm coming to a halt, and the wind of the forest no longer upon Lea’s back. They existed only in this current moment. Right here, right now, there was no war, no keyblades, no Xehanort. There were no stakes, no expectations, no missions. Just Isa’s tears. And Lea’s coat, that absorbed them, and wiped them away. It went on and on. They would not allow this to end.

 

Lea noticed what he was holding felt different. Bigger, heavier. Isa’s hair was longer and running through them with his fingers took much longer. The fabric within his grasp felt thinner and more plastic-y than the one from before. He pulled away a little, hands on Isa’s shoulders, and opened his eyes.

He was met with...

The most beautiful sight.

He saw him. His love. Not 12 years younger. Not a child, or a fading memory. Isa. Long haired, amber eyed, scarred, tired, sad, defeated. His Isa. He looked at him, eyes wide with shock. He saw him too. They saw nothing but each other. They focused on nothing but each other’s eyes. They felt nothing, but the contact of their bodies. Lea’s hands slipped up to Isa’s neck, running his thumb along his cheek. Isa watched from a downwards angle, his shorter height showing itself once more.

 

Again, they were at an impasse. For a second, and only a second, they both doubted what to do. But when Lea’s eyes trailed down, perhaps as if by reflex, Isa’s did too. The movement was slow, but what followed was from it. Lea darted forward, closing the gap between them, pressing his lips against Isa’s. The bluenette didn’t shy away from it, and returned the kiss immediately, just as desperate and hungry as the other. The redhead dove into his mouth quickly and grasped Isa’s tongue, rubbing them off one another in a motion that took his breath away. Lea’s grip on Isa’s neck and face had become tougher, almost digging into his skin in a way that would surely leave bruises, but Isa wanted it just so. His elbows landed on Lea’s shoulders and crossed themselves behind his head, forcing it closer and deepening the kiss. His mind was going blank. He breathed hasty and quick, kissing Lea over and over and over until all he could hear, feel and smell was him. And he wanted more. Lips parting and rejoining repeatedly, fast, deep, like starving animals who hadn’t eaten in weeks, they fiercely scooped up and treasured every trace of the others taste they could get their hands on. Isa’s tears still fell, but neither of them were observant enough to notice or wipe them away. Lea’s right hand slipped behind Isa’s back and pushed him even closer, as if he couldn’t stand the fact that there was a single centimeter between them. Their chests pressed together, the kissing continued with no sign of an end.

 

Not since the last night before Lea left the Organization had they done this. They spent it together. Lea had already planned his leave, but he stayed behind one more day, just to receive the proper send-off from Isa. They did their thing, and laid down together once the fun was over. It was a night that Isa would never forget. As he fell asleep in Lea’s arms, and woke up with the other half of the bed empty. By then, he knew. He was gone. He didn’t say anything about his plan that night. He fucked him and left. He was beyond hurt. Beyond disgusted. That same night he’d contemplated apologizing to Lea. For everything. Just to see if it meant these moments they shared wouldn’t end. But he fell asleep before he got the chance to say it. And once Lea had made sure he was out, he kissed him goodbye and left. After a quick search of the castle to no success, Lea was branded a traitor by Xemnas and then the nightmare began. If he’d been quicker with the apology. If he’d said it immediately. If he hadn’t forgotten it, and blacked out against Lea’s warm chest. Would things be different now? He couldn’t count on it, but it was something he always wondered.

 

He knew for a fact he couldn’t live without Lea. He could live without this. Without touching him, without kissing him, without feeling him. People don’t die from a lack of sex. It’s love. You die without love. You need it. Whether it comes from your friends or your family. But Isa didn’t have that. He only had Lea. Without Lea’s love. There was no way he could ever live with himself or anything in the world.

 

Slowly.

Slowly but surely.

It came to a halt.

Lea gave him one last peck on the mouth, one Isa could barely feel from his swollen and paralyzed lips.  Their heads leaned back, away, but only a little. Instead their foreheads touched. Quickly their arms wrapped around each other’s bodies in a motion of panic, almost. It was ending. This moment. It was coming to an end. They felt it. They didn’t want to go. They wanted to stay here. They never wanted to say goodbye. Never again.

 

“Wait for me.” Lea spoke quietly through closed eyes. His warm breath touched Isa’s skin one final time, and the nobody breathed in its smell, letting it imprint his lungs. “I’ll be there. Soon.”

 

Isa hadn’t said it yet. He had this one chance. And he took it.  “I’ll always love you.” He whispered, letting his eyes fall shut, knowing that when they opened again, this would all be gone. “Always.”

That was how it ended. With that simple word.

 

 

 

Lea was back on the cliff, just outside the forest, sitting in the wet grass just where he’d previously been. The sky had not changed. The stars and the moon and the trees and the wind. Still the same. The boy however, was gone. He let his arms fall to the ground. Arms that had been wrapped around another, just moments prior. He still felt the sting upon his mouth after his lips, mouth carrying the taste of his saliva. Clothes were wrinkled after his touch. And it was the confirmation he needed. That this was real. And it did, really, happen.

 

He yawned, standing up to leave and approach the building he rested in alongside Kairi. Maybe he could ask her for some lip balm in the morning. He sure as hell needed it.  But looking over the pitch black horizon, the place where the mountains ended as the sky began, he decided to stay. Taking a seat on the rock he’d sat on multiple times now, he waited, and watched, the sun slowly making it’s way onto the sky. But more importantly, he watched the moon. And stayed with it. Until it left the skies of the Secret Forest. Left, to rise elsewhere.

 

 

 

Saïx’s knees sunk back into the sand. Lea was gone. Both of them were. He was alone. In the storm again. It was almost worse now. He couldn’t see anything in his surroundings, and the dust irritated his eyes to an ungodly extent. The pain of Lea’s nails digging into his throat remained, and he raised his hand to touch the parts that hurt. They were real. He hoped now, more than ever, that they would bruise. To mark him. To tell Xehanort, that despite everything, he did not and would never belong to him.

The tears on his cheeks had dried, and only then did he have the thought to wipe them away. He sat still however. Not quite having the ability to stand restored. He wanted to stay like this as long as he could. Until he would be dragged back by those monsters again.

 

Low and behold. He felt someone behind him. A spell was casted. The sandstorm came to a sudden and unexpected halt, and vanished in a matter on seconds, seemingly sucked in, like dirt in a vacuum cleaner. He heard a footstep. Two. Three. Four. And yet he did not stand up to address the person coming to him. He sat on his knees, just like before. And he would. Until the order or command came his way.

The person now stood directly behind him. He felt their powerful presence. But his head did not turn yet. A word was not spoken yet. Not until the figure placed his large, cold, dead hand on his shoulder. His eyes turned hollow once the touch entered his system, and he stood up again. Seemingly on autopilot. The hand left once he was up, and Xemnas turned, walking back from the direction he came from. Towards the meeting place. Saïx turned too. Following his superiors footsteps. Just as dreary. Just as cold.

Except that wasn’t true. Because within him there burned a fire. One that was hidden, but one that kept him going. One that made his hollow body not quite so hollow.