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The Night

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The Night
time is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep.
~Catherine O'Hara


 

            In Twilight Town, there's nothing on the planet that quite compares to their sunset. As one knows, it is a time where the sun disappears behind the mountains and leaves an artistic array of soft colors that tickle the clouds pink and envelope the sky in a Dreamsicle.

            However, Dusk City is a completely different story.

            It's a dark place where, if it's not raining, the city is heavily flooded with fog, or the tall buildings block the sun, which is a distant dream as there are few glimpses of it through the day aside from summer. There is the sunrise, the sunset, and then nightfall: a time of nearly pure darkness illuminated with alluring neon light.

            And with every dark space, something is surely lurking within it.

            As nightfall approaches, once a month there is the moon-rise, and the Dusk Tower bells sound; covering the whole city in a fearful outlook. In Twilight Town, the Twilight Tower bells signaled everyone to relax and let themselves slip into harmony. But here, it's the exact opposite. The clock tower bells meant to close up shop, get home, lock your doors, board your windows, and wait in fear the rest of the night until daybreak. The reason for this?

            The things that go bump in the night.

            Or rather, things that kill in the night.

            They feast upon the innocent to eliminate their hunger, they would battle their own sibling for a scrap of meat, and they howl at the presence of the moon. They are the werewolves. These creatures hide in the day, blended in with mortal society, then strike at night when people least expect it. When the moon is full, they frenzy; eating until nothing is left.

            But it's not just the werewolves that the city-folk fear… it is the real-life succubae and incubi—the vampires. They appear as regular people who show no harm by offering help to others so as to escape the damned labyrinth of Dusk City. But then, when the poor, unfortunate soul of a victim is not looking… they're drained and dazed. Sometimes dead.

            By now, the citizens were accustomed to this and routinely set out cattle or other large animals so the werewolves would feast upon anything instead of them. Blood banks would even sell packets of blood for a reasonable price to keep vampires satiated. Of course, it didn't always work.

            Humans don't tend to realize how delectable they are… especially fresh.

            However… rarely, but more often than not, humans are sought after for something besides their flesh and blood. Sometimes humans are more than just mortal, and the most satiating of delicacies can also have the most power. Over the lycans, the vampires, the ghouls, the gargoyles…

            They have power over all of Dusk City and the creatures of the night.

            However, my dear reader, this is just what the citizens of Twilight Town believe, and you may think this plot begins at this point… but to tell a good story, one must start at the beginning, and when one comes to the end, one stops.

            So we'll start back where the sky is Dreamsicle orange, bells are tolled for harmony, and where all these eerie rumors of Dusk City stem from: Twilight Town…

            BEEP, BEEP, BEEP, BEE—

            …just as Roxas slams his hand down onto the snooze button of his annoying alarm clock before groaning into his mattress.

            "Another day, another 24 hours closer to my demise…"


 "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop."

~Lewis Carroll


 Exeunt


 Happy Halloween!

 

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter I: Ophelia


 

 June 28th, 2024

           
At least the sky never lies, thought Roxas; his blue eyes caught the creamsicle daytime, ears humming. Midday at Market Street. On a Friday, of course: the one day heavy noise of foot traffic and obnoxious crowd chatter manage to reach this crow's nest of his—a tall building, it's top just out of sight. It's the perfect view of the heavy crowd trailing in from Station Heights and the Tram Common. At this time of the day, most are normally coming home from work, some are there to enjoy the weekend, and few are trying to escape the chaos… like Roxas.

            He leaned toward the edge of his vantage point, which is just above his room. The only access to it is through his window, or the fire escape reaching up from the Back Alley. Here, he was high above the masquerade wading beneath him. His fingers dangled over the edge like those of a whimsical puppetmaster—trailing his little hollow figurines across fake lives with scowls that are masked by fake smiles. Fake laughter. Fake everything.

            Beneath each shell is a core of hypocrisy and dark secrets. It's a town that has poisoned itself with judgment; no smart man here would divulge even the lithest of truths. Rumors drop like ink bombs and are seen by every eye, heard by every ear, and stain every surface—forever marring, unforgiving, life destroying. At least his watchtower is safe, and at least he can do as he pleases here without a worry.

            Roxas' other hand languidly rolled a glinting blue orb against a cemented crack in worn brick. It’s his prized possession. His gaze lingered on it, and a rare smile crept across his face. This is one of four orbs pulled off of a trophy he'd won in a Struggle match; the poisonous town's favorite sport. The other three are in possession of his only friends: Hayner, Pence, and Olette. Their grinning faces and hearty laughter resonated in the reflection of the object, and Roxas clutched it. Behind his own smile was pain, and quietly he reconsidered his plans to leave. The plan was to run away at the end of this summer and never return. Within an hour, every loose end could be tied up, and he would never have to look back again.

            But something in his friends' pure eyes drove him to regret the very thought.

            "Hey-o!" Came a sarcastic drawl from behind, "You waiting for Romeo, miss Juliet?"

            Roxas rolled his eyes, and couldn't help the chuckle that shuddered out of his chest. As he turned, he laid a melodramatic hand against his heart, and romantically cooed. "Where for art thou… Hayner." Roxas bat his eyelashes in the girliest way possible, and Hayner doubled over in laughter.

            "I'm sorry ma'am, I thought you we're my dude-friend!" His torso heaved in giggles, and Roxas shook his head at the lameness of the comeback.

            "What are you doing up here anyway?"

            After having regained his composure, Hayner stood upright with his signature cocky smirk smeared across his face. "Pence, Olette and I haven't seen you around all day, so I volunteered to sniff you out. I figured, this is your 'almost-as-usual' usual spot, so I might as well check here. Detective Hayner strikes again!"

            Roxas wanted to say something about getting away with it and meddling kids; instead he shook his head and leaned back across his ledge to watch the still-loud sea of people. It didn't take long for Hayner to join him, and they stayed there for a while: staring down upon the blob of townsfolk and standing close enough where Roxas could feel the warmth resonating off his friend. Slowly, the static of the noise was driving Roxas insane, and Hayner's proximity was making him slightly uncomfortable. When he forced himself to glance over to his friend, Roxas noticed how sullen the other teen was.

            "So uh," He blurted out with sudden concern, "Is something wrong?" Hanyer's response was a look of confusion and Roxas pushed himself to obey their regular social norms; tip-toeing across the guidelines that were internally set for his friend. "Er… you seem slightly less obnoxious today. That's all." He flashed a crooked grin to lighten the mood, but Hayner's sudden dimness did not falter.

            Leaning his back against the structure, Hayner sighed. "The real reason I vouched to come find you is 'cause I need someone to talk to." He turned his somber brown-eyed gaze onto Roxas' blue concerned one. "It's about Olette."

            Of course, despite their seemingly polar-opposite personalities, Hayner and Olette are the perfect couple. They communicate well, work together easily, and are so deeply in love that it not even a fool could deny it. Of course, in any relationship, all it takes is one doubt…. especially in this town of poison.

            "I love her, and I want to be with her past high school—Hell, past college!" Hayner continued, "But I'm afraid I'll get tempted. You know me, man; I've got a hair-trigger in my brain, dude… if I see something I like I go after it. What if I do it while I'm with her?" He ran his fingers through his slicked sandy-blond hair, "I just gotta stop being tempted. I wanna get a taste, and never have to need it again."

            "Wait, are you saying," The disgust in Roxas' tone was very evident, "you're going to cheat on Olette now because you're afraid you'll do it later?"

            Hayner picked up on it quick, "Whoa, dude!" He reached over to grip Roxas' shoulder, "Listen, I'm a horny bi teenager, alright? You know it, I know it… fuck, it's so obvious even Olette knows it. Thing is, I don't want to fuck anyone, I just… well maybe… I dunno. I mean…" The deep scowl on Roxas' face jarred Hayner to continue, "I just want to get rid of this carnal desire. Like, do some sexy stuff, get it over with, and let my desire finally center Olette."

            The pause that followed was more grating than the Friday bustle could ever be, but both boys bared it. Roxas heavily contemplated Hayner's words, and the only advice he could think to give was a punch to the face. Olette didn't deserve anyone going behind her back for any reason—and in this town, there really was no one Hayner could trust with his exploits without metaphorically shining a spotlight on himself and holding a flashing neon sign that says he cheated. At this point, he might as well post fliers across the Tram Commons with his scheme listed for the entire populous of Twilight Town to read.

            Seeing no positive outlook, Roxas hung his head, "You should really just keep it in your pants. There's no one here that you can really trust with something like that, especially in this awful place." He felt Hayner lift his chin, and his face got hot when he realized how close his brown-eyed friend suddenly was.

            "Well," Hayner said slowly, his smirking lips closer now than ever before. "I can trust you, can't I?"

            A ball of unease curled in Roxas' gut and rolled up his throat as he pleaded with Hayner to not put such a heavy burden on him, that this could ruin their friendship, destroy their lives, and that this town has unforgiving eyes. However, not a single word had actually passed his lips as Hayner pulled him in for a kiss. Roxas did not move or resist; how could he? After all, he wanted Hayner more than anyone else in this world. Most of his life he’d had a crush on the other man, but because he was tentative Olette had made a move before he could and he missed his shot.

            For the most part, he was able to put aside his feelings out of respect for the happy couple. Yet there he was, with Hayner's hands exploring him and delighting in every second of it. Suddenly, Hayner bit onto his neck while simultaneously grinding him; a low, surprised moan was Roxas' response as his eyes shut and his grip found the front of Hayner's vest for stability. A sudden agony filled him when he realized he was still holding the glinting blue orb, and in his head swam apologies as he imagined it dripping with ink. He pushed the pain down deep inside and somehow managed to pocket the object in the midst of Hayner’s rampant groping, using his now-freed hand to run his fingers through the other man’s hair; snagging locks to kiss him deeper. Hayner slipped his tongue between Roxas’ lips, and Roxas jut his own tongue to meet the advance halfway. It was all so much better than he ever imagined it: the taste, the feel, the sensation. He can taste the lingering bite of soda and sea-salt ice cream; it both revolts and entices him, like the flavor of innocence lost. It’s driving him mad. Hayner’s nails grip into his sides and, starving for more, he bites onto Hayner’s lower lip. The other man grinds their crotches together and he can feel Hayner’s hardness through his pants.

             Though Roxas was already sure of it, now he knew Hayner never wanted to just kiss. He surprised himself by sticking his hand between them to grab the front of Hayner’s pants, gently stroking the apparent bulge there; Hayner responded by grunting and rocking his hips into Roxas’ hand. His body was on a sort of fervent sexual autopilot now, so lost in the moment that he wasn’t really aware of what exactly he was doing. Maybe, just maybe, Hayner honestly wasn't planning on taking it this far... but Roxas was already lost to his own desperation as his fingers fumbled for the zipper on Hayner’s stupid-ugly camo pants. If there was some shred of conscience left in Hayner, it was probably gone once Roxas’ hand was pulling his rock-hard erection out of his boxers. Picturing motions he'd seen in various pornos, Roxas’ hand experimentally stroked the shaft once or twice as their lips continued to move together, though now Hayner had paused to moan audibly against his mouth.

            Roxas didn't realize what he was doing next until he was already getting on his knees—and just then he was completely terrified… of himself, mostly. He was riding a wave of pure adrenaline and suddenly he's staring straight at Hayner’s dick. At some point they must have switched positions as now it was Hayner pressed against the bricks, looking down at Roxas anxiously, his hands gripping tight on the roof's ledge as if a little head would blow out both his kneecaps. Roxas, trying not to stare too awkwardly at his friend’s erection, only let himself hesitate for a second, knowing that overthinking would derail the bizarre sexual momentum he’d fallen into.

              So, once more thinking back to what he's learned from porn, he clamped his eyes shut and carefully leaned forward to wrap his lips around the head of the member. He could taste the bitter hint of precum as he gently swirled his tongue in a spiral, eliciting a twitch and moan from Hayner. He slowly moved his mouth further down the shaft, careful not to make himself gag or snag any skin on his teeth. As he moved forward, he teased the underside of the member by wiggling his tongue in the cramped space. Then, he began to bob his head back and forth in a careful rhythm, still cautious of his gag reflexes. Roxas kept working away with his tongue too and, once he was more comfortable, started to do a flourish where he quickly flicked his tongue over the tip when he came back to it. All that laboring began to strain the muscles in his throat, but he continued anyway through the discomfort.

              Though he wasn't sure how, he could feel Hayner’s cock getting harder in his mouth, and occasionally it would twitch and tickle the back of his throat in response to certain stimuli. The other’s man’s fingers were gripping his hair and soon, Hayner was starting to mildly buck his hips into Roxas’s mouth; it was obvious he was practicing some serious restraint with how carefully he was doing it. Hayner was also groaning in a way that made Roxas’ own erection start to strain his pants, and in an aroused daze he gripped Hayner’s shaft, pumping in sync with his sucking. The response was more frequent and strained sounds coming from above, which only made Roxas go to work harder despite his sore jaw.

              Then, all at once, he felt Hayner pull him away. When he looked up inquisitively, he saw the wild look in Hayner’s eyes.

              “Can we fuck?” Hayner hurriedly asked, but before a Roxas could say yes, the merry jingle of a cellphone breaks them out of the moment. Roxas recognized it as Olette’s custom ringtone, and Hayner didn’t hesitate to answer it despite Roxas kneeling inches from his softening cock. Suddenly jarred from his state of arousal, Roxas realized all of what just happened... and wants to vomit.

              A few rooftops away, somewhere along the skirts of the Tram Commons, there was a devious grin beneath a set of binoculars.


July 2nd, 2024

            Roxas curls beneath his sheets, arm outstretched and hand still on the snooze button of his alarm clock. The touch screen readout displays 6:32 am, the buzzer having gone off about two minutes ago. Summer break or no, his alarm is still set for a normal school day; thirty minutes to shower, ten to make some food, another twenty on the tram to school. The train normally arrives at 7:20 am, but his father also wakes up quite some time before that; Roxas would rather stand in the station for a while than witness his hung-over dad pitifully lug himself around while using every spare breath to curse his son. Around sunset is when Roxas has deemed it safe to return home; by then his father is usually asleep on the couch, beer bottle in hand (hard liquor on a bad day), snoring to highlights of a professional Struggle match. Nights where his father is still up, glaring at the TV screen with glazed eyes, Roxas will fix him another drink and go to bed.

            Deciding he's better off getting out of the house as soon as possible, Roxas manages to sit up in his bed and ruffle his soft spikes. He gets up off of the mattress and out of the tangle of blankets; ignoring the fleeting lapse of dizziness caused by his urgency. He has a moment of pause before he kneels down next to his bed and immediately notices the shining object protruding from the underside of his mattress. He lifts the edge of the bed up, and counts the lustrous spheres of varying sizes; they cover every square inch of his solid bed base and reach a total of 21,050 munny. His heart aches at the amount; six summers of hard work that have crumbled away under the weight of life's expenses. His original goals for college seem further away every day. He remembers his predicted routine would result in 97,200 munny in his pocket; he figures it's better off this way because now he can graduate early, having paid for online classes that led to extra credits.

            He fits the mattress snugly onto the base and, after a quick check to make sure nothing else is poking out, looks underneath the bed. His hand disappears into the dark, box-filled chasm as he feels around it's contents: the backpack with his laptop hidden by extra clothes, the satchel holding his prepaid cell phone amongst train schedules and maps, and—

            Smooth, glossy wood greets Roxas' touch, and he sighs in relief.

            In the shower, underneath the rainfall spout, all Roxas can think of is Hayner and his antics. Massaging the shampoo suds out of his hair, he remembers Olette's sweet words and loving gestures toward the brown-eyed hooligan just hours after the rooftop incident. There's a terrible nausea attached to the memory of Hayner returning her gestures—Roxas smoothes conditioner onto his scalp—as if nothing had ever happened.

            Of course, the whole idea was to never inform Olette of her boyfriend's ridiculous misdoings, but it burrowed into Roxas' brain like some otherworldly guilt-worm. Roxas found out later that Hayner timed it the way he did because Olette was supposed to be busy for the entire day, and that last-minute cancellation of her plans came out of nowhere for both of them. But it was just as well, because once he had time to ruminate on the concept he realized what a terrible idea it would have been. The amount of regret he feels now would have been nothing compared to what he would have felt if they did end up having sex. Not to mention how difficult it would be to keep the truth from Olette… even so, his conscience was losing it’s metaphorical shit over the situation. He’d spent so much of his life trying to avoid becoming another charade of a person in this town. The feeling of contrition already hangs heavy in his chest, but there's something else that doesn't seem right about that day, something that he can't seem to shake. Glancing at the shower panel, Roxas curses; according to the projected screen he's off schedule.

            Sometime after toweling off and getting dressed—black shirt, white vest, cargos, sneakers—Roxas creeps his way down the stairs as quietly as possible. He's running late, and by now his father is most likely up and dragging his ass around the house. Surely enough, a slumped figure donning a stained bathrobe is reaching into the booze cabinet above the fridge. Taking advantage of the opening, Roxas briskly approaches the door across the hallway.

            "Good morning to you too, dipshit." His father's droning echoes down the hallway. Roxas can imagine the stinking breath and yellowing teeth gnashing in his direction. "Nice to see you're feeling so lively while your dad sits here dying, you ungrateful bastard."

            The words are hollow, and after all these years of desensitization, they stir no emotion in Roxas; all that's left of his father's voice is alcohol-scented white noise. There's a gulping sound, and Roxas chooses that moment to scoop up his skateboard and leave.

            As he closes the door behind himself, his father's biting words hiss through the crack, "I'm not done talking to you, ya little—"

            The shout is cut off by a combination of a slammed door and the skateboard clattering against the road. After a quick push, Roxas lets gravity do the rest of the work; his only objective to get as much distance between himself and "home" as possible.

            The wind blowdries his still-damp hair, Market Street passes in an orange-blue-yellow blur, and the faint bustle of the business day dissolves beneath his skateboard's rattle. The streets are empty with all the working townsfolk at Station Plaza, and all the students sleeping in for summer break. Stopping at the end of Market Street, Roxas contemplates his next destination. He considers visiting the Usual Spot, but his house sits right next to it and that goes against his initial plan of staying away from there. Plus, walking uphill sucks, and it's unlikely his friends are there this early in the day.

            Going to the Sandlot is out of the question, thinks Roxas with a look of disgust in it's direction; not at all worth the gamble should a certain guy somehow be there. That certain guy being Seifer: the most despicable person in a town full of despicable people. There should be an award for that. A smirk tugs at Roxas' lips. The image of a golden douche statue awarded to Seifer pops into his head, and he resolves to visit the Tram Common.

            Unsurprisingly, it's vastly empty with a few early-morning and weekday shoppers dotting the scape. Despite major technological upgrades and remodeling recently done, it's always a very lazy place up until the weekend. The tram that trolleys through the area is empty save for the conductor—who's probably pretty bored—and a happy-looking older couple sitting at the back. The lack of energy in the place is especially apparent due to unenthusiastic or asleep shopkeepers neglecting their jobs.

            Just as Roxas reconsiders coming here, he spots something familiar out of the corner of his eye; none other than Olette and Pence looking over a large holoscreen ad on a nearby wall. A three-dimensional explosion, followed by obnoxious shining text earns a loud scoff from Pence. He watches them fondly, memories of their past swimming in his head. He remembers the few weeks after they all turned sixteen (Roxas very last) where Pence hit a crazy growth spurt and now towers three inches over Hayner, four over Roxas, and five over Olette. They bickered and argued as Olette counted the tickmarks of Pence's height every week for a good ten months. The result was the once-chubby boy suddenly having a healthy weight for his height; driving Roxas and Hayner to insanity trying to figure it out, despite Pence's explanation that it simply happens to all the males in his family. He observes how tiny Olette looks next to Pence, feeling small himself even at this distance. Giving a light push, Roxas coasts in their direction and the prattling is recognized by the two as they turn to him almost instantly.

            "Roxas!" Olette's light voice hits his ears, and he can't help but smile at how sweet she always sounds. Her voice carries sunshine in an otherwise darker place, along with her always-helpful nature. Olette only ever looks out for the ones she cares about, as if bound to a selfless conquest. "Fancy seeing you here." Roxas ignores the oncoming heartache that sends a twang through his chest, and does his best to find solace in her kind green eyes.

            "Oh thank god," Pence groans, "Save me Roxas, she's been dragging me all over!" He reaches toward the blond with a melodramatic expression of pain. "Kill me," Pence chokes out, "Kill… me…" His ridiculous act makes Roxas feel grateful for such unique friends; they're almost like the maskless rebels who crash the masquerade… fitting, being the only ones with such causality in a town so rigid you could snap it like a dead twig.

            "Seriously Pence," Roxas laughs a rare, hearty laugh, "Shopping can't be that bad. Look how upset you made Olette!" They both look in her direction, and the ray of sun that usually surrounds her demeanor turns into a storm cloud with as little as a scowl. Her glare reads Pence's death wish eagerly, and said boy gulps. It seems funny how easily such a larger man can somehow shrink under Olette's quiet wrath. "Uh, but anyway," Roxas attempts to cut through the sudden tension, "What are you shopping for?"

            The almost-instant shift in Olette's mood surprises Roxas as she claps her hands together and chirps, "A new outfit for a date, of course!" The loving smile on her face spreads throughout her features, "Hayner and I haven't had one for a while, so we're going out to dinner tonight!"

            The thought comes through without Roxas noticing: I'm sure there's something he's making up for. There's that feeling again… Roxas swallows back the guilt and forces a small smile to his lips. He begs himself to forget, to let it go. You'll tear yourself apart. Hayner never kissed you, and you certainly never…

            His lies feel empty as he remembers twisting his fingers into Hayner's hair and kissing him back, grabbing the bulge in his pants, kneeling down…

            Pence lets out a sarcastic "D'awwwwww you two are just so cute." He rolls his eyes, "Where to now, mistress?"

            The combined pout-glare that is directed toward Pence is both menacing and strangely cute. "Actually," She huffs, "since Roxas has come to your rescue, I can leave you here while I do some lingerie shopping." The taunting smile that curls her lips tells all: this is the part Pence was looking forward to.

            "But!" He cries, "If I stare at all the 3D posters without a girl there people think I'm creepy! Olette!" The girl had long since said her goodbyes and trotted off.

            As Pence whines, Roxas' gaze meets the holoscreen where a large spoon points in his direction. The advertisement reads directions to a French café just around the corner as various confectionary items fill the three-dimensional space. There is a low growl, and while relieved his stomach is churning from something other than guilt, Roxas is eager to make up for his skipped breakfast.

            "Why don't we go to this place?" He asks Pence, and said boy follows his eyes to the ad. "I could really go for some sweets right now." Anything to take his mind off of everything, even if that means putting himself into a diabetic coma over those delicious-looking macarons…

            As his mouth waters, Pence lets out a sly chuckle, "Yes, perfect for your sweet tooth." He drawls.

            Roxas is too hungry to call Pence a hypocrite.

            The outdoor café is eerily empty due to the weekday morning lag; more so than most places. It was almost a relief to have that extra unexpected bit of peace in a place meant to be chaotic. Pence's good company was especially relaxing, as per normal. Even if their little group did have its own unique chaos, it was almost like oil on top of water compared to the town. They worked with a harmonic pace, never having to lie or keep things from each other.

            Roxas takes a hard gulp from his water glass.

            Or so it seems.

            At least being with Pence is like meditating in a quiet space. In that respect, Olette would be the scenery and quiet birds chirping in the distance… and Hayner would be the firecracker someone decided it would be fun to light under your ass. Being with each one was always a different experience, but together was best. In the middle of questioning his own symbolic place in the zen garden, Pence brought him back into reality.

            "They have creampuffs and crepes? Oh man," He lets out a dramatic sigh, more to himself than anyone else. "Life's tough decisions."

            Enjoying the previous silence, Roxas makes no comment: his heart still set on the macaroons projected by the holoscreen earlier. Still, it feels odd to have such a strange sense of tranquility settle like this, almost mirroring how it was when they were children… when they were naïve. Roxas' mother would sing him to sleep on restless nights, he and his brother would sneak outside at midnight to watch the stars, and his little zen group had no worries; as all children should never have to worry over anything except for things that go bump in the night.

            Bump? Roxas thought. For some reason that didn't sound right. The night? That's the only real time of peace he was used to, when all the masked figures retire and he's free from their cruel eyes and even crueler tongues—free to find the light in such a dark world.

            He's the first to notice the unenthusiastic waitress return for their food orders, but motions Pence to go before him anyway. Pence orders raspberry crepes and Roxas asks for the macaroon sampler. While she jots down the order, Pence speaks up to her.

            "Where are you based out of?"

            "Excuse me?" The waitress asks, with an unnecessarily offended tone.

            "Er," Is that simple of a question really so hard to answer? Pence taps his chin. "That is, I know this café chain has been around for some time, but this is the only one in Twilight Town. Where is the restaurant based out of?"

            The waitress' look changes to embarrassed. "Oh, I'm sorry," She says, "Uhm, the chain tends to move around, but I know the manager comes out of Dusk…" She looks off into the distance, and both boys follow her gaze to see another server making a zipping motion across his mouth. "…I'll go put these orders in for you."

            She trails off toward the server and they proceed to quietly bicker while throwing haphazard glances in Roxas' and Pence's direction. After some furious hand gestures, they both storm off in different directions. Roxas' stomach groans and he hopes she's still going to put in the order, granted she hasn't been fired.

            "Did you hear that?" Pence's voice is low, mischievous, quiet; it's the kind of voice used when kids whisper test answers to one another in class. It's a common delivery method for secrecy in Twilight Town, and Roxas almost feels shocked to hear Pence, of all people, using it.

            Shaking off his disbelief, Roxas humors him anyway. "What?"

            Pence leans in close—God, Roxas hates when people do that—and with a curt smile whispers, "Dusk City."

            The way Pence says it makes Roxas feel like they're discussing a haunted house or some paranormal phenomena, which is actually very fitting. Even this town's monstrous people pale in comparison to the actual monsters that lurk Dusk City. The horrors that routinely arise from the godforsaken city are never few nor far between; the all-ye-who-enter-here-abandon-all-hope title is an earned one. Only one train a month goes in, and whoever may be on it is likely to never return. Most people flee from the city to Twilight Town, and thankfully they've long since created a system to keep any and all inhuman creatures out: the train only comes during the day, a blood sample must be taken, and anything trying to come in is sent back.

            Of course, that is all speculation. In a place flooded with lies, even if the truth surfaces it will ultimately drown. Only those who've seen Dusk City, or have ridden the crazy train, know the reality.

            But, no matter what, it will always be Roxas' trump card—the card he plans on using at summer's end.

            "So?" Roxas scoffs, reaching over to his drink. "A lot of businesses move in from there. I'm pretty sure they don't get many customers in a city crawling with ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged beasties."

            "Well, would you ever go there? I hear this month's train is leaving Thursday."

            Roxas' clutch on the condensating glass tightens. If only he could tell him everything: every scheme, plot and plan he has toward his goals. He could spill it as easily as this glass of water, and release all this weight that's been built up for so very long. The pact he made himself long ago, every little detail he's hidden from each of his friends, each small step toward freedom…

            "No," He dries his hand on the tablecloth, "No I would not."

            He lives in the town of liars and he is a liar.

            Suddenly, before him appears a plate with macarons. The cascade of pastel colors is comforting on his gaze, and he feels his mouth watering once again. Courteously, he waits a moment for Pence to receive his plate and admits it looks pretty damn good: a glossy burgundy sauce drizzled over the near-perfect crepe only makes him hungrier. Unable to spare another second, Roxas picks up a rosy-pink macaron and takes a bite. The crunch rings in his ears as the sweet flavor of the ganache envelopes his palette.

            "Jesus Fuck," Roxas mutters, savoring the extraordinary confection. "This is fucking… wow."

            As Roxas eats his way to sweet confectionary oblivion, Pence also enjoys his treat with a contented smile gracing his features

            "So Roxas," He pipes up about halfway through his crepe. "there's been something I've been meaning to ask you about." Already done with his plate, Roxas leans onto the table—noticing just then how small it is—and nods for Pence to continue. "It's about the Hayner thing."

            Roxas' stomach drops, though no emotion meets his face. The regret of stuffing his face with those macaroons appears alongside the fear his body will suddenly consider rainbow vomit to be necessary.

            "…I have no idea—"

            "Hey, hear me out," Pence interrupts him, "I know about the Struggle match." He looks at him with knowing eyes, and tilts his head ever-so-slightly in Roxas' direction. Roxas probably wouldn't notice if he wasn't gawking at Pence, but the taller boy's eyes flit toward the distance, and Roxas takes that as a cue to look behind him. Sure enough, the waitress from before is wiping down an already-clean table near them with an agonizingly slow pace. "I just want you to know two out of three isn't so bad. Hayner said you were pretty concerned about your technique, so he asked me to give you pointers." The waitress, obviously disappointed, slumps her shoulders before turning to leave; placing the bill on the table as she passes.

            "Vultures," Roxas hisses, "Nothing but buzzards in a desert picking at everyone's sanity."

            "What's this I hear about a struggle match?"

            An agonizing crawling sensation meets Roxas' skin, and Pence sighs in annoyance.

            Of all days I don't accidentally run into him, Roxas grits his teeth. Seifer has to come to me instead.

            "I believe that's none of your business." Pence speaks up, "All there is here is friendly advice."

            Then, Seifer laughs. He laughs that awful, evil, breathy laugh that shudders in Roxas' head and makes him want to disappear. The rage pounding in his skull makes everything topsy-turvy, every part of him is screaming to wring the man's neck but every logical part knows he'd never succeed.

            "So Pudgeball is giving Rucksack advice on Struggling," He leans on the table between the two of them and grips the edge. "Seems suspicious to me."

            An unease creeps through Roxas' nerves, and Pence holds his ground, "Good job using old insults, Seifer. Plus, Struggling is this town's favorite past-time, I'm pretty sure I know enough to give some advice."

            Roxas has to give props, Pence has some serious balls. Of all people willing to stand up to Seifer, it's usually Hayner. Somewhere along the line, Pence must have taken up the mantle in the brown-eyed warrior's absence. Still, it hurt Roxas to not be able to step up after winning that Struggle trophy a couple years ago. Ever since then, it seems like Seifer holds a heavy grudge against Roxas; a constant pining to get even upon his undefeated winning streak being broken.

            But is that it? The thought feels strange in Roxas' head. Why would he agonize over something like that for so long? I'm not a strong person, I just got lucky. His heart sinks, I can't even stand up for myself, and I'm letting Pence defend me.

            "Whatever losers," Seifer's snort was overtly obnoxious, "Enjoy your date." He saunters off in his own trademark haughty way, but something feels off.

            He wasn't there very long…

            There is a pause filled with multiple "vulture" checks before Pence clears his throat and leans in close again.

            "Listen," Pence's voice is more sincere than secretive, "Hayner told me about everything: loving Olette, wanting to hook up with other people, and even the thing between you two."

            What happens next is more shocking than what was just said. Roxas feels Pence's delicate touch gracing his leg; the soft strokes of his thumb admittedly comforting, but all the while terrifying. The touch travels further and further up Roxas' leg and he is at least relieved he doesn't have to worry about a girlfriend or something.

            "Pence," he finally speaks up; in his head he can't stop thinking Not you too. "Why are you—"

            "Please," Pence's voice takes a soothing tone, "I just want to say, I'm sorry it had to come to that. He tried to make a move on me too, but I shot him down. It was just a kiss, right? Just try not to worry about it, okay?" His hand caresses Roxas' thigh, and the blond inadvertently shudders.

            “Just a kiss”? Roxas’ throat tightens, Hayner didn’t tell him the whole truth...

            His face feels hot, and what's worse is Pence motions him closer. Unsure, Roxas leans in as much as he can and right away feels Pence's lips on his ear. "Besides," Pence's breath makes gooseflesh out of Roxas' skin. "He'd never out you like that, especially not to save his own ass. He only told me because he knows he can trust me."

            Two painful thoughts flit across his consciousness: Apparently not, Pence… but I’m not going to tell you what happened either.

            Moving back slightly, Pence graces his lips over Roxas' cheek, and stops at the corner of his mouth. Their gazes lock, and Roxas is caught like a deer in the headlights; especially when Pence captures his lips so delicately it feels like one big, strange dream that lasts for only a few seconds. Pence leans back and everything continues its normal pace, as if it was all stuck in slow motion before. He gives Roxas' thigh a squeeze before withdrawing his hand and stretching in his chair.

            "How long does lingerie shopping take anyway?" Pence pulls out a cherry-red phone, "Might as well give Olette a call and let her know where we are."

            Shock floods Roxas' veins like an icy morphine and he feels a pseudoparalysis, gauged by his fleeting thoughts, envelop him. Why would Pence kiss him? They are both very comfortable with one another, and closeness is never an issue in their friendship…

            Abruptly, a strange batch of memories passes through Roxas' mind.

            While menial then, the memories reveal gestures and signs that seem obvious now: the way Pence sent gentle smiles when no one was looking, brushing skin with him very tenderly in passing, his lingering touch at the pat of the back… every little signal of affection that once went over Roxas' head is throbbing in his brain; all he can think of is every noncommittal kinesthetic he accidentally returned. Every smile he returned, every touch he leaned into, every possible scrap of misleading motion that could have sent the message of flirting. This social situation is strange. Only once has Roxas ever put forth his effort to show infatuation with someone, and that ended in…

            No, Roxas scolds himself, Don't think about that. Just forget it.

            His heart slowly begins to sink. It hurts to not be able to reciprocate Pence's feelings, as much as he would want to. What Roxas once perceived as love died a long time ago, but at least a civil kindness still exists.

            He looks up at Pence with glassy blue eyes and internally apologizes to his beloved friend: the friend who has changed more from so long ago than maybe even Roxas himself. He watches as Pence chats away on his phone so casually, despite the situation from moments before, and the scene reminds Roxas all too much of Hayner's lack of care just days ago. The burning sensation of bile accompanies his feeling of disgust.

            What's up with all his friends, anyway?

            "So, Olette's almost done and she should be here relatively soon." Pence returns his phone to its hiding place before continuing, "Meantime, I got the check. I know you're usually strapped for cash, so don't worry about it."

            Roxas envisions the underside of his mattress and thinks differently.

            A humble silence falls upon the two as Pence places munny on the bill, but Roxas' head feels noisy. What he wouldn't give to forget everything that happened over the past few days… it was supposed to be easy to step on that train next month, leaving behind only somber goodbyes and good memories. Now, leaving this place with so many loose ends will only make it all the more complicated.

            Was leaving the best idea in the first place?

            The thought left Roxas' mind hollow. It was an option he had never taken into consideration.

            He looked at Pence again, and imagined what life would be like if they were together. It was a brief image that brought a strange warmness to Roxas' heart.

            As if possessing some insane telekinesis, Pence very plainly, but hopefully, asks "So, maybe we should do this again sometime. Like, uh… just you and me. On a…" He bites his lip and lowers his voice, "You know… a date."

            Of course it has to get worse.

            Roxas' urge to repeatedly slam his head into the table is almost unbearable—this is almost too much to bear. He wants to say yes so very badly but August is encroaching fast, and if he wants to keep his initial plan he simply can't.

            But should I keep that plan?

            Another lapse of a hollowed mind. He can easily afford the Community College that Hayner, Pence and Olette are going to after senior year. It certainly is more affordable than the 67,101,720 munny a year he would have to pay for the initial college he chose. He can still skip senior year, like he planned on, and use it to work. Roxas could definitely make enough money over that time to cover the community college costs, on top of what he has left, and transfer the credits. If he can't make up enough money for his originally chosen college by then, there are numerous other ones that have already begged for his admission.

            But all that, just to go out with Pence?

            Ideally, it would be to stay with all of his friends, but what if things fall through? What if he regrets changing his plan? He'll ultimately have to stay with his dad for another god-awful year; he can't exactly afford getting another place if he'll be saving up for tuition, even though he's 18.

            Roxas glances over to Pence, and sees that determined gleam in his brown eyes. Roxas only sees that look when Pence is so set on something he can't possibly back down.

            Well, Roxas considers, I do have a whole month to decide whether or not to change my plans.

            "That…" Roxas mutters, "Sounds like a good idea." For once, he smiles at Pence first. Pence smiles back, and reaches over the table to grasp Roxas' hand—

            "Still here, ladies?" Seifer's hideous drone reaches Roxas' ears more aggressively than usual. Something seems different… more hostile… competitive, even? "You must be quite doe-eyed this evening." Seifer's grasp assumes its previous position, albeit more roughly than before, and Roxas' suspicions become more prevalent. There's something that's upset the tough blond; just about everything seems off with him today.

            "You really seem to need some context." Pence's gaze is unafraid, especially now that he can rival Seifer's height. "Two hungry teenagers waiting for a friend to show up decide to have some food and chill out." Pence slowly stands, unwavering. "Is that example better for your intellect?"

            Suddenly Seifer is upright and in his face; all illusions of self-satisfactory humor have vanished. The look in the man's blue eyes say murder, and Roxas swears he can see electricity shooting between them.

            "Listen here, Pence." Seifer's tone is more serious than Roxas has ever heard it before, "Know your place. You both should." A twisted, sickening smirk curls at the man's thin lips. "After all, there are plenty ways to decimate a loser… besides force."

            They stand there for a moment, and Roxas fearfully moves his gaze. He notices Seifer is holding something, but before he can further examine it, the tall blond turns and leaves without another word.

            Pence relaxes back into his chair with a sigh of relief. "Oh man, same height or not, that dude is still scary as hell."

            Roxas, feeling somewhat useless, mutters out "I'm sorry." When Pence throws him a questioning look, he continues. "I just feel like I can't stand up to Seifer like I used to. Suddenly he's much more aggressive, and I end up avoiding him rather than just facing him like you or Hayner can."

            Pence reaches over and grasps his hand, "Roxas, please," His voice is soothing, but encouraging. "Maybe now it's just better to avoid conflict. One day, when you feel like you can stand up to Seifer, I'm sure you'll kick his ass six ways from Thursday!"

            A warm smile adorns Pence's face, and it's contagious. "Yeah," Roxas responds, "One of these days I'll find that strength… but for now you just gotta be my bodyguard," He chuckles, "Or hiding spot, since you're so damn tall…"

            Pence laughs and pulls his hand away just as Olette is upon the scene, hands adorning various shopping bags.


            After that, Roxas had accompanied Olette and Pence on their shopping-spree across the still-nearly-empty Tram Common. Pence and Roxas resolved to keep their new "relationship" a secret, so as to avoid any backlash or problems. Pence had stolen a peck here and there, or even managed to get a hold of Roxas' hand, somewhat like a ninja; Roxas could have sworn the taller man had previous experience with this or something. It was almost fun being so sneaky, and the thrill of it brought a refreshing excitement Roxas had not felt for a long time. Never once did he kiss first, though, for fear his own lack of ninja skills would get them screwed over. The enjoyment he had felt slowly dissipated the negative emotions stirring in him, and the Hayner incident was nearly forgotten.

            A couple hours into their trip, Olette had stumbled upon a pretty dress for a low price. "In my favorite color too!" She exclaims, holding the creamsicle colored, halter strapped sundress against her petite figure. "It's perfect for tonight!" Her delight radiates around her, and her shopping companions can't help but feel happy for her.

            Now that their little adventure is over, Olette makes her way home to further prepare for her date, and Pence offers to walk Roxas to his house before accompanying Olette for even more help. They had stopped beneath the bridge beside the hole in the wall at the Tram Common.

            "No, I'm okay," Roxs responds, leaning his back against the brick, "I'll just cut through the Sandlot and take the Back Alley way home," This way he can use the fire escape to retire to his "almost-as-usual" usual spot, as Hayner called it. "Maybe after you're done helping Olette, we can hang out again." The words came out so easily, Roxas is almost surprised—normally he's never first to initiate social activities. Even Pence seems surprised at Roxas' notion, as his face reads slight bewilderment.

            After recomposing himself, Pence replies, "Well, I have a couple errands to run in Sunset Terrace where Olette and Hayner are having their date. If you're not busy, I'll be there until about nine o'clock, so feel free to come find me.

            Roxas couldn't help but smile in another short lapse of excitement. "It's a date th—"

            Suddenly he is cut off when Pence swoops down and captures his lips in an aggressive kiss. The taller man grips Roxas' hips and pulls him close while simultaneously pressing him up against the wall. Roxas is in a bit of shock, but finds himself kissing Pence back and resting his hands against the brunet's nape for some support; he forces back the sensation of déjà vu, and the guilty memories of Hayner are slowly replaced with new, enticing memories of Pence. The taller man's hands roam up Roxas' back and said blond grips eagerly at Pence's shoulders, letting out a soft noncommittal moan in the process. One of Pence's hands stray from the path and quickly snakes down to give Roxas’ ass a firm grope that makes him squeak in surprise. Roxas is disappointed when Pence breaks away, but the feeling quickly disappears when the brunet starts to leave a trail of nips all across the blond's exposed neck. Roxas sighs, and feels himself arching into Pence while running his fingers through the tall man's soft brown hair. Eventually, Pence pulls away, leaving Roxas clearly flustered and highly aroused.

            "Sorry," Pence smiles, "I had to get that out of my system while I still had the chance for today." He gives Roxas a pat on the cheek, and a quick wink. "I find you quite irresistible."

            Roxas laughs, "I don't mind, I enjoyed it."

            There's a bizarre chirp, and Pence takes out his phone. He groans, and Roxas immediately understands it's an impatient text from Olette. "I gotta go," Pence sighs, "but hopefully I'll see you sometime later, if possible."

            He gives Roxas another peck and quickly jogs out of sight. Still flushed, Roxas takes a moment to bask in the long-lost sense of serenity he thought was gone forever. After a peaceful moment, he begins his stroll through the Sandlot; feeling good enough to walk rather than skateboard. He's ready to enjoy the rest of this day, knowing it won't last, as he savors every last feeling of harmony.

            Stopping near the entrance to the Back Alley, he takes a moment to reflect. He mulls over his plans to leave, his newfound feelings for Pence, and the strange events that have seemed to follow him lately. It's all slightly bizarre, and he put into question the worth of his plan: skip senior year, flee to Dusk City, make some insane munny, go to the college of his dreams, and finally be free of Twilight Town's tyranny. The overview seems flawed, but each intricate detail he's placed between the lines over six years is nearly flawless. Work odd jobs every other day plus all weekend, save all money under mattress, buy a laptop that no one knows about, get a basic Wifi plan, take online credits to skip senior year, get a prepaid cell phone no one knows about, pack old clothing items for a quick leave, save all upcoming or current train schedules plus maps, make a keepsake box no one knows about, prepare a leaving note—

            He feels a slight drop in his stomach. Saying goodbye shouldn't be that easy; not even to his father, and especially not to his friends. He planned to make each note simple and relatively heartfelt, so as not to come off as a suicide note or something of the like. It had to be vague, so no one would go looking for him, but reassuring, to leave room for hope on his return. Roxas was never a writer… most attempts led to him making some sort of origami figure with his writing material. While it channeled his frustration, it still didn't get the job done.

            Roxas wonders whether he should write a collective letter for all three of his friends, or one for each individual friend. What would he say to Hayner? Would he chastise him for his dumb actions, or reflect on their better times? He would probably never leave such bitter words for such a great friend, so the latter seems ideal. What would he say to Olette? Would he divulge Hayner's infidelity? Definitely not, Roxas thinks, I don't want to leave them in such a bad condition… they'd probably think I'm even worse of a friend than they might already be thinking. Then there's Pence… going about the odd little "fling" they had would be the most difficult of all to write about. He didn't even know where to start—

            A cold chill runs down Roxas' spine, and a bad feeling pools in his gut.

            Suddenly, he feels a tight grip on the back of his head—strong fingers ensnaring his hair—and a hand presses against his mouth just as he yelps. Roxas is reeled back, and he watches in vain as his vision accelerates toward the wall closest to him.

            After an explosion of pain in his skull, everything goes black.


Exeunt


 

 A/N: I know the whole Pence and Roxas thing is a bit bizarre, but chill out and try to imagine Pence as this tall, attractive dude who doesn't look too bad with Roxas. Better? No? Well, shit. At least you're through it now right?

Final note for any confused readers: This IS a SoRoku fanfiction! At this point in time, I'm focusing on character and story development, so when you get to the point where Sora and Roxas meet, the plot focus can remain on them.

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Happy Halloween!

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Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

 

Chapter Text

The Night
Chapter II: Backbiting 


April 8th, 2023

            7 pm, and his odd job is done just in time for the sun to be sinking in the sky.

            The shopkeep turns the corner, just as Roxas hoists the last box into the delivery truck, and flashes a wrinkled grin at the teen.

            "Another job well done, my boy," He remarks in his old, kind voice. "In record time too! My stars, if any of my full-time employees worked as hard as you, I could be sittin' on the beach at Destiny Islands for my retirement even sooner!"

            Even though Roxas has heard similar compliments from the same man over the years, it never ceases to bring a smile to his face. Poor guy has been trying to retire since Roxas was a child, but his greedy kids have been keeping him far from it.

            "Thank you, sir. I'm glad I could help."

            "Such a polite young man! My stars, if my wife, God rest her soul, had the pleasure of meeting you—why, she'd go ahead and pluck you up and call you her son right on the spot!"

            Another oft-heard comment, but Roxas laughs anyway—the thought of belonging to a different family is a joy in itself. He has met this elder's wife before, back when he was about 15. He, Hayner, Olette, and Pence went on a rescue mission for her lost cat (who was actually sitting on the roof of her shop the whole time). Still, the joy in her withered face upon the feline's return was reward enough for their actions. She died about a year after that, an injury of some sorts, and her husband took over the business shortly thereafter.

            "Well now, Roxas, you better hurry home before it's dark." The man reached into his pocket, pulled out some munny, counted it, and then handed it to the teen with a gentle smile.

            When Roxas got it, he counted it himself: 700 munny.

            "Uh, sir," He looked up to the chipper man, confused. "This is 700, my part-time pay is only 300."

            "'All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them'," He croaked solemnly. "A wise man once said that. My boy, I can tell you have a dream that you are pursuing wholeheartedly. I can see that same spark in your eye my wife had when she opened this little shop, and just like with her, you have my support."

            A warmth crept into Roxas' chest, and he pocketed the munny without further complaint. "Thank you, sir. That means more to me that you can possibly realize."

            "Now! On your way, young man! You've done enough for this old coot, you needn't spend the rest of your night here!" He shooed Roxas off, and the teen waved goodbye as he left—grabbing his skateboard off the ground as he did.

            Aiming for Market Street, Roxas decided to walk rather than ride. The early summer warmth was nice, and the stillness of the streets was also something to be appreciated. It seemed utterly empty considering it's Saturday, but then, Roxas figured, all the action is around the Tram Common or in Sunset Terrace. Market Street is usually tame if it's not the early morning, after school, or 5 o'clock rush. Lazy, quiet days like these are what Roxas lives for, and they almost make living in this awful place tolerable.

            If only, is a consistent thought of his. If only it were that simple; this alone could be reason to stay. If only…

            But tranquility begets chaos, and liars beget corruption which begets ruin. A town of fresh paint over the rotting canvas that slowly eats into the vibrant pigments. You can paint this town in whatever light, or with whatever perspective, but that canvas will devour each and every stroke with the truth, no matter what you do. So Roxas stomachs the truth, but at least this temporary painting is pretty enough to enjoy while it lasts.

            That's when he sees it.

            A splotch of black that suddenly worked it's way into the portrait—literally.
           
            A lanky, hooded man in a long black cloak strides down from the top of the Market Place; each step taken as if he's stepping forth from the shadows themselves. Despite his graceful stride, he seems turned around—as if looking for something lost or forgotten. He certainly doesn't look like he belongs here, and Roxas is positive he hasn't seen this figure before. Hell, the guy stands out so much, Roxas is surprised he hasn't at least heard of such a sight—in this town of all places…

            So, of course, Roxas goes to investigate; more so out of curiosity than courtesy.

            A few feet into his pursuit, Roxas noticed the man is holding a small piece of paper toward which his head was tilted. About halfway up the street, he was merely a yard-and-a-half away from the stranger, who was still intent on their paper. The tall figure didn't seem to notice him at all.

            "Excuse me," Roxas called out, and the man jumped in fright. Suddenly, the figure seemed panicked, as his hooded head was turning in nearly every direction. Regardless, Roxas continued, "Are you lost? I don't believe I've seen you around here."

            "No, no, no," A suave, friendly (familiar?) voice drifted from the hood, "I'm fine, I thought I got this place memorized, and then—"

            "Wait," Roxas interrupted him; he recognized this strange man's voice somehow. "Do I… know you?"

            There was a long, awkward pause. Roxas' eyes looked deeply into the darkness of the hood to no prevail, but he was sure he knew this person from somewhere, even if the dark cloak was unfamiliar. There was something there, in the back of his memories, gnawing on his brain.

            And then, "Holy shit," the man chortled. "No way. Roxas?" Gloved hands pulled back the hood to reveal a shock of fire-red hair and grinning emerald eyes. "Is that really you?"

            Hit with a full wave of realization, Roxas' eyes go wide as the memories overload his brain—all but one. A name.

            "You're—" He splutters, "You… You're… uh…"

            "Talk about blank with a capital B—you really don't remember? It's me!" The redhead exclaimed, face alight with joy. "You know… Axel!"

            Roxas mirrored the look just then, and the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. He slammed his hand against his forehead, laughing hysterically. "How can I forget the kid who almost set our elementary school on fire?!"

            "So you remember that…" He chuckled heartily, "I'm so flattered!"
           
            "I guess I just committed it to memory."

            They both laughed, and Axel moved in to embrace him in a friendly hug, which Roxas returned wholeheartedly.

            "It's been so long," Axel's muffled voice floated from Roxas' shoulder. "How's my best friend been? How's Twilight Town?"

            Roxas pulled away from the hug, but both men still held onto eachother's elbows. "Too long, you mean. I've been just about as good as the town..."

            Axel grimaced. Though his childhood memories of Twilight Town were fading, he knew this was for certain: "That's not good at all."

            "You're telling me," Roxas shrugged, "And what about you? I haven't heard from you since you moved."

            It seemed like so long ago... much longer than it actually has been. Axel and his family left for Dusk City right at the end of seventh grade. After their leave they were deemed crazy for taking a child to what is otherwise considered to be Hell. Meanwhile, all the children just thought he moved because he nearly burnt the school to the ground with simply a box of matches and a stuffed Moogle plush. He was a hero in their eyes ever since, and Roxas was lucky enough to call himself Axel's best friend.

            "Yeah, I'm sorry about that," He broke from the grasp to rub his neck in shame. "My parents didn't let me contact anyone from Twilight Town. As time went on I just kind of... gave up. Moved on." He threw his arms up, smiling. "But hey! I'm here now! At least for a while."

            Roxas gave him a bemused face. He is about four years younger than Axel, but somehow they had a strong connection, and it was suddenly pulled from beneath his feet like a slick rug; that was very devastating as a child. Of course Axel's sudden presence didn't make up for years of wondering and absence, but Roxas was happy about it none-the-less.

            "Speaking of, how have your parents been?" Axel prodded him, still chipper.

            "Well my dad has hit the bottle pretty hard, and my mom-" Roxas suddenly choked. "My mom she... well..." The words caught on his tongue like a hook: everyone knew about his mother. In this place something like that is nearly impossible to miss. For a whole month after the incident, every conversation was filled with condolences but never did Roxas ever start them. It was always someone else sharing their grief, and since everyone knew, he never had a chance to really say it. Not to anyone.

            "My mom is... well, a year after you left..."

            "Deep breath, Roxas," Something familiar echoes in his head, "Breathe in… now out. Tell me what happened."

            Roxas sucked in a breath, and braced himself as if a tsunami was coming his way. "She's dead. My mom is... dead."

            Axel's face fell.

            "Holy shit... I think we need to catch up."

            They walked all the way from that spot to the Tram Common's hole in the wall; talking the entire time. Roxas filled Axel in on his life, and vice versa. It turns out Axel's family moved mostly because of a job offering for his mother, and partly because of the fire incident (a smart move, considering it's Twilight Town). Once Axel hit 16 he scored an amazing job and filed for emancipation from his parents. It was granted just before his mom and dad planned to move halfway across the world for the same reason as before, and he's heard little from them since. Meanwhile, he's been doing pretty good in Dusk City, has two roommates (one of which is his boyfriend) and came to Twilight Town as part of his job.

            "Is that your work uniform then?" Roxas asked, looking amusedly at his cloak. "Suit and tie just didn't work out or something?"

            Axel chuckled and leaned his back against the wall beside the hole. "Hey! For your information I do have a suit and tie. This is just my field uniform." From his pocket he uncovered a pack of cigarettes, Moogle 100s, and pulled one out of the box with his lips.

            "Smoking? Really?" Roxas rubbed a temple and chuckled at the taller man. "Fire really is your thing, isn't it?"

            "You have no idea," Axel cupped a hand over the cancer-stick and reached his other hand up as if he had a lighter. After a short pause, during which Axel glanced uncomfortably at Roxas, he let out an awkward laugh before reaching into another pocket. "Heh heh, ahh so used to having this thing in my hand all the time... so to speak..." He brandished a lighter adorned with-of course-flames and a little VIII scribbled in silver permanent marker across it's surface. "My boyfriend thinks it's sexy."

            "Oh really?" Roxas leans on the wall next to him. "Your boyfriend sounds odd."

            Axel made a smug face, and flicked the lighter on behind his cupped hand. "Well he is a musician."

            Roxas titled his head back in a bid to out-smug his old friend. "Do tell."

            Axel took a short drag before speaking through the smoke. "You should hear some of the music he plays, Roxas." He let out a longing sigh; granting the remaining smoke in his lungs freedom. "The way he strums those chords with those hands, and looks at me with those big, ocean blue eyes..." Axel hummed in content as he took another, longer drag from the cigarette. "So fuckable."
           
            "Okay, okaaay loverboy," Roxas laughed, throwing his hands up in defeat. "You got me. That's all the info I need."

            "Whatever you say, but you asked for it." He ruffled Roxas' hair. "So you said you're a senior next year. Got any plans afterward?"

            A sudden, strange feeling washed over Roxas: for the first time ever, he felt like he could tell someone about his convoluted plans for the future. Axel doesn't live here, and at the moment, his only ties to the Town of Terror are Roxas and that mission of his. This strange feeling felt so liberating and light... it was relief. It was so powerful Roxas was thankful for leaning against the wall earlier because he really could collapse from it.

            He took a nice, fresh gulp of air,

            "Well..."

            And he told Axel everything. Everything down to the raw detail, and with each little bit he shared he felt the weight on his shoulders slowly chip away. God it felt good, like escaping the grasp of a looming shadow that followed from what seemed like so long ago. Afterward, he felt like a ragdoll: relaxed, happy, free. He savored the moment because, like all good things, he knew it was only temporary... but fuck was it damn, damn good.

            "So you're thinking of making a great escape to Dusk City, huh?" Axel smiled down at his friend mid-drag, who looked overtly content. "You know it's dangerous."

            "Yeah, all those spooks. So scary." Roxas chuckled. However, Axel frowned.

            "I mean it, Roxas. Do you know what's out there?" Before Roxas could answer, Axel interrupted. "And there are no 'spooks', they've outlawed necromancy because of that a while ago. Do you know how long it took u-them to liberate all those souls? Plus the vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, and casters are nothing to scoff at."

            Suddenly, Roxas was less sassy and more interested. "Casters?"

            Axel sighed, "I don't even know why I'm telling you this-anyway, Casters are witches and warlocks. W-they, they cleared out the ghosts. They manage all the creatures of the night, for lack of better term. Keep them in line, bring them to justice, et cetera."

            "I see... well, if it's so structured, I should be fine then. Especially if you're on the clock."

            Axel pinched the bridge of his nose. "God damn-wait..." He looked at Roxas, plainly confused. "What?"

            "I'm not dumb Axel, I heard you almost say 'us' and 'we'. You're part of them aren't you? Is that your stellar job: waving your magic wand, bibbity-bobbity-booing all the monsters away?"

            Axel took a long, long drag of his cancer-stick, eyes never leaving Roxas', and it was clear that he was very obviously stalling. It was only after he let the smoke go in a slow, drawn out breath that he spoke.

            "I'll tell you what," His hand slipped into his pocket yet again, this time brandishing a business card. "Call me when you get to Dusk City. I'll put a good word in with the boss for you in the meantime; and if you land the job and make it to the city, you'll get to learn all about what I do. Got it memorized?"

            Roxas took the card, unsatisfied with the response. However, a job's a job, and if it's Axel who's recommending it, why the hell not?

            They parted ways soon after that; Axel, having nearly forgotten about his mission, disappeared into the hole in the wall to complete it. A few weeks later Roxas received a package in the mail. Inside was a coat, (just like Axel's, but tailored for Roxas) and a note. He stored them in his keepsake box, along with Axel's business card.


July 2nd, 2024

            It's all reeling.

            Roxas' vision betrays him with hordes of doppelgangers; everything in his sight is a copy of a copy of a copy. His pounding skull isn't helping matters either, as every step he's forced to take is a losing battle against his failing balance. His body jerks foreword, and that's when Roxas notices a rather large arm is the only thing keeping him from tumbling into either a crumpled mess or oblivion.

            He isn't quite sure of the difference.

            This big blurry mess has a familiar sense to it, as he finds himself subconsciously avoiding obstacles he isn't sure of, while wanting to take memorized steps down a particular path.

            It's the Back Alley, so close to home.

            He's way passed the Usual Spot now, and his captor is pulling him toward what he can only presume is the underground concourse. Originally intended for easier town maintenance, it has evolved into a student hideaway during the school year. In the summertime, it is virtually empty save for some morning commuters going for a jog or frisky teenagers looking to bang or toke at 3 am.

            Warily, Roxas makes an attempt to struggle by pushing the arm around his waist—lead limbed—to no avail. While napping seems ideal for his vehement migraine, Roxas can't bring himself to give up so easily. He tries to clumsily slip out of the tight grasp, and when that doesn't seem to work, he jabs his feet into the ground to act as an anchor. Everything he tries fails miserably, his body better off limp at this point, and the suddenly tightened grip his captor has reinforces that.

            Before he knows it, they're under the neon 3 sign hanging over the entrance of the concourse; the darkness of the tunnel becomes apparent against the fleeting sunset haze, and he blacks out again.


            Sensing awareness, Roxas is struck by another pounding headache with a vengeance—on top of that, the space beneath his side is cold, gravelly, and quite uncomfortable. Once more, a murky stupor fights his conscious, but at the very least he manages to struggle for a more comfortable position. Rolling onto his back, Roxas' head swims, and he lets out a groggy groan at the momentary vertigo. Is this a concussion? Roxas runs through a list of symptoms in his head, and deems it the likeliest problem.

            At least they aren't very serious issues… I'd rather not visit the emergency room today if I don't have to.

            He cracks open his eyes to the gentle yellow lighting of the underground concourse; the russet ceilings and brick walls surrounding him are clear, and Roxas is relieved to have his regular vision back. Blinking into reality, he does his best to piece together what happened—the only apparent fact that stands is him getting knocked the fuck out.

            "Deep breath, Roxas," Something familiar echoes in his head, "Breathe in… now out. Tell me what happened."

            I was on my way home when I stopped to think… that's when it happened.

            Who hit him, though, and why? After taking a moment to ponder this, Roxas curses as his hands fly down to check his pockets for missing items. Wallet, house key, crumpled up receipt and—a mint… Nope, his captor did not mug him, apparently. If they did, the best they'd get is a school I.D., a couple punch cards, or that mint. He allows himself a sigh of relief. Still on his back, he isn't sure what to make of this odd assault.

            And then he hears it.

            "Good evening…" A sudden venom fills Roxas' bloodstream as the sickening words slither into his skull like a cold snake. "…Rucksack."

            He sits up quickly, uncaring of whatever spinning sensation that may waver him, and stares into the cerulean gaze looking wickedly upon him. It is then Roxas takes into account the fact his legs are dangling off some sort of ledge—one of the large steps used to reach a maintenance panel in a more secluded part of the concourse.

            Cautiously, Roxas snarls, "To what do I owe the pleasure, Seifer?" He is on his guard now that he is aware of this newfound threat.

            "Quick on the draw, as always, Rucksack," Seifer chuckles, "I thought it'd take you even a little longer than that to respond. Nasty head injury and all, but hey, at least you didn't bleed."

            While Roxas' vision is swimming slightly, it has not stopped him from calculating his escape. He doesn't know these tunnels as well as he ought to, but he knows his freedom is neon; the entire place is scattered with signs indicating the different exits. Unfortunately, there are only two ways out of this particular alcove: above, where the steps lead to a small window, or the main opening that leads directly to the concourse… which is right where Seifer is standing.
           
            Fuck.

            "You know," Roxas tries to make small talk—anything to give him extra time to devise a plan. "If you needed to chat, there are more polite ways of getting my attention."

            There's no way Seifer would make such an extraordinary effort to just talk.

            Roxas is ready to pull some secret agent shit where he makes his awesome departure right after the villain reveals a crazy plot to take over the world (or something cliché like that). In this condition, he isn't sure he'll be going anywhere… pushing passed Seifer is a definitive no-go, and it's plausible the bully would reach him before Roxas could safely climb the maintenance steps. At this point, he would have to get on his feet to fully recover from this awful haze before any kind of mad dash to safety is attempted.

            "I've got reasons, you'll see." Seifer drawls, watching him carefully. "Meantime, you're probably clueless as to why you're here. Need me to elaborate?"

            Here it comes: the manifesto. Or is it the monologue? Either way, things seem to be falling into place, so Roxas decides to play along.

            "Yes, actually. It would make this predicament much clearer."

            He waits patiently for Seifer to distract himself—the opportune moment to slide onto his feet and take one step closer to freedom. But instead, Seifer just watches him; looking up and down his frame as if he were marveling a famous painting.

            "Shit, you've changed. Most guys get ballsier as they age, but you somehow devolved into some wussy."

            Then, Seifer takes a step.

            "I remember that struggle tournament where you stepped up to the plate like some galactic hero tryin' to save the universe. You were standin' there, all high and mighty, ready to take me down. Me, right above Setzer on the winner ladder." Step. "I remember the look on your face when you won—champion. Everyone's cheers: 'Roxas, Roxas'." Step. "I remember these three years where I've been the plague. I kept wondering where your spine had run off to, why you were off sulking and not rubbing it in." Step.

            Suddenly, Roxas' plan seems foiled.

            "Now, I'm going to remember your face at this moment. This is when I remind you of how desperate you were, Roxie." Step, step, step… "How simply pitiful you were, just before you finally confronted me. How your eyes followed me in the hallways, how desperately you sought me out in the crowd."

            Just then, the realization dawns on Roxas. While the details of why he is here are still fuzzy, a sudden pain in his chest makes one thing clear: this is pure scorn.

            "You're just so cute in all of your little secrets that you could hide from your friends, but not from the one you despise the most—me. The one you so adorably fawned over… and then that day. Do you remember what I did? I hit you so hard, you skipped school for a whole week." A sick, twisted smile is plastered on Seifer's smug face.

            The memory hurts Roxas too much. It was freshman year. He was only ever lightly picked on by Seifer then, and for some reason Roxas was struggling with emotions over the bully. But that one love letter he never intended on sending, that he was on his way to toss in the trash, plucked from his grasp like a glass slipper…

            His fate was sealed, like that letter had once been.
           
            "It was precious. You were under my thumb for so long, just because of that little fact. And I didn't share it—no, no—how could I just let go of my personal punching bag? And then you finally defied me, and thought you could scamper off with your tail between your legs and never hear from me again."

            When that struggle tournament came up, Roxas had his chance to finally wriggle from Seifer's grasp. After his defeat, Seifer's word, while revered throughout Twilight Town, would be looked upon as a spiteful lie against Roxas' victory. It worked. Roxas was mostly free from the man's physical cruelty, and after carefully planned avoidance, was nearly free of his verbal abuse as well.
           
            "Just what exactly do you want?" Roxas bites out, unsure of what this is all leading to. Revenge? A personal vendetta? If he's going to get beaten to a pulp, he's tired of the tension. He can take what is dealt to him. "I'm not getting any younger here."

            "Well, Roxie, I'm lettin' you know I've changed my mind." One more step, and now Seifer is only a couple feet away, and Roxas can clearly see the overconfident man up close in all his self-proclaimed glory. However, something seems off… "I want more power over you, more than I've ever had. So here's my proposal."

            Seifer reaches into his pocket, and it is then Roxas notices a pair of binoculars—an accessory revered by the Disciplinary Committee—clipped to his belt. Out from his pocket, the man reveals a small, nondescript device with a piece of tape hanging off of it.

            "What kind of a proposal is this?" Roxas tries to mask his confusion with sarcasm. "That's certainly not a ring box."

            Seifer's thumb clicks down on a button, and a short bleep is heard. There is silence.

            Roxas scoffs. "I'm still not getting the point—"

            "Whatever losers," Seifer's voice crackles from the box. "Enjoy your date."

            Déjà vu.

            A pause, then "Listen, Hayner told me everything: loving Olette, wanting to hook up with other people," Roxas feels a sharp twist in his stomach, "and even the thing between you two."

            It's a tape recorder. The memory of Seifer gripping the table in that peculiar way flashes through Roxas' mind, along with the object he spotted in the man's grasp shortly after, and suddenly he feels sick.

            "Pence, why are you—"

            "Please, I just want to say, I'm sorry it had to come to that. He tried to make a move on me too, but I shot him down. Just try not to worry about it, okay?" Roxas somehow manages to remember Pence's touches and wishes he would have just tagged along when he had the chance. "Besides, he'd never out you like that, especially not to save his own ass. He only told me because he knows he can trust me."

            Seifer presses the button again before taking on a disturbingly proud demeanor. Roxas is simply dumbfounded, and his thoughts don't seem to be cooperating with him.

            Seifer snickers. "I understand you enjoyed your little date."

            "What do you want?" Roxas mutters, eyes downcast. "What could you possibly want?"

            "Oh, but that isn't even the best part, Roxie…"

            Slipping a hand into his other pocket, Seifer retrieves several pieces of paper.

            Roxas' heart sinks, and he feels another sudden wave of nausea wash over him

            They're photographs, clearly depicting the rooftop incident with Hayner. Roxas’ eyes are drawn to the binoculars—remembering from somewhere the fact they have telephoto lens.

            "My, my, the way you two were going at it I could have sworn you were a couple. Oh, but wait…" Seifer bends over, leering into Roxas' gaze, "Doesn't Hayner have a girlfriend? It'd be a shame if she saw these… or heard what you and fatty were keeping from her. Why, I think these would just about destroy all four of your relationships."

            The bitter pinprick of tears sting at Roxas' eyes. What motive could Seifer have in all of this? What in this wide world does he want?

            That'd when it hits him.

            Everything fits into the puzzle, and that's when Roxas realizes…

            He's being blackmailed into submission once more.

            Knowing he's been defeated, Roxas lets the tears go. "You win, Seifer." He chokes out, "What do you want from me?"

            "Look up here, Roxas."

            Strangely enough, it's one of the few times Roxas has heard Seifer use his actual name. He obeys, humiliated that he's let himself shed tears—knowing the man doesn't deserve the satisfaction. Through a bleary gaze he watches as Seifer simply stares. He flinches when the man reaches toward him and brushes a hand through his hair.

            "Remember what I said?" His voice is low, calm… too calm. "How I've changed my mind? I've been struggling with this weird feeling, Roxas, ever since that tournament. What a coincidence, huh? I've been biding my time, waitin' for the next moment I could make you my silent punch doll. But something about seeing those little assholes all over you, watching you drop to your knees, almost like you were their property… it made me realize something. I want to own you. That feeling? Jealousy. I didn't have control over you anymore."

            Suddenly Seifer grips Roxas' hair, pulling his head back, and Roxas gasps. Seifer leans close, right next to his ear, and takes in Roxas' scent. Roxas begins to struggle, but Seifer hardly notices as he continues to relish the moment.

            "It took me so long to figure it out." He pulls back, and stares deep into Roxas' eyes. "God, you're like a little doll, you know? Your pretty little face, pretty pink lips," Roxas feels Seifer's fingers caress his lips and recoils. "Pretty little eyes, cute little body... I just want to tear you to pieces. You seem so fragile, but you're not. In fact, when I patrol with my binoculars I watch you. You sit on your roof like you're some kinda king, and fuck, it pisses me off every damn time. Your damn smug face, thinkin' you're better than the rest of us..." His grip tightens, and he grits his teeth. "But you're not. You're just like the rest of us, the same filth you tower over every day, just at a different height. And then I was doing my regular patrols the other day, and when I saw Hayner," He hisses the name, "all over you, then you all over him, watching you suck his cock… that's when I figured it out. I didn't want anyone else all over my property. I knew it'd require a lot to take you down, and this was my golden opportunity. I snapped those photos, and planned to get more dirt on you as soon as I could. I figured I'd get the photos, and get the spoken words, and everything would slide into place. And look where we are now."

            "So what?!" Roxas bites out, impatient from the proximity. "Am I your little pet now? Are you taking me from my friends? What do you want?!"

            Suddenly, there is a flash of light across Roxas' vision, followed by a painful stinging in his cheek. Seifer just slapped him, and while it isn't the worst hit Roxas has ever taken, it certainly caught his attention.

            "Don't you GET IT Roxas?!" Seifer grips the front of Roxas' vest, shaking him violently. "You got it when Hayner did it, you got it when Pence did it! So here's your fuckin' wake up call: it's YOU! I want YOU! YOU are MY property now!" Seifer pulls him close, and Roxas can feel the hot breath on his face. "And I get to do whatever I want with you. I will beat you, I will spit on you..." A cruel grin twists Seifer's face, "And I will especially FUCK you."

            The gravity of the situation finally settles on Roxas, and he is almost certain every organ in his body dropped into his stomach. This is what Seifer was planning? Roxas feels sick, more tears falling from his eyes, and he tries to pry Seifer's hands of his shirt. He needs to get out. If he's quick enough he could get up the stairs and out that window. Since Seifer is so close he could even escape onto the main concourse, though it's much riskier.

            But what about the pictures and tape recording?

            "Best part of all, you can have all the time with your friends you want. You can still laugh, and smile, and pretend like nothing ever changed. Then at the end of the day, when you've all parted ways, you're mine. And they wont know a single thing, because I can destroy all of you in less than a minute."

            Roxas imagines a metaphorical bomb being tied to him, but the thought is suddenly stripped away when he feels Seifer lick a tear from his cheek. It makes Roxas want to vomit, but at the same time, he gets an idea.

            "Okay Seifer. You win." He puts on his best defeated look, stomach turning, hoping what he will do next works. He stands, eyes cast elsewhere, as he lays his hands against the other man's broad chest. Seifer's hands fall to his sides in curiosity; Roxas knows Seifer loves being in control, so he plays the submission card as well as he can. He looks into his captor's eyes before pushing himself onto his tiptoes, supporting himself on the taller man's neck. Seifer watches Roxas with hungry eyes, licking his lips. "I'll be your... pet." Roxas whispers; it's sultry, but frightened, and Seifer is loving it. Roxas wishes he could just die right there before he continues with what he’s about to do.

            Roxas tilts his head up and lays a gentle kiss against Seifer's lips-face twisting in disgust. Everything is still for a moment, and after receiving no response, he pulls back in confusion. Seifer sees the questioning in Roxas' face, and smiles eerily.

            "I'm not convinced, Roxas." He sneers.

            Oh for the love of

            "Here's a thought... kiss me like you kissed them. I'll do you one even better: do it, and I won't humiliate you for today. Deal?"

            Roxas is taken aback slightly. His original plan was to get Seifer really into the kiss, hit him in the nuts, grab the evidence and run. While that still seems like the ideal action, Seifer's proposal might keep the pictures safe and give more time for ample planning. Still-Roxas feels his stomach churn againit seems too good to be true. It's really the only option so far that keeps him and his friends safe, but maybe once Seifer's guard is down he can take up the original plan. Some kissing is a small sacrifice for the well-being of his friends, even though Roxas will hate himself for technically cheating on Pence. Does that make him a hypocrite? He tries not to stress himself out with the details.

            Roxas takes a deep breath (it seems he's been doing that a lot lately).

            "Deal."

            Seifer looks down upon him smugly. "Go ahead then, pet."

            The word sends an unwelcome shiver through Roxas' spine, but he complies. He pushes himself back up to Seifer's level, closes his eyes and melds his lips against Seifer's once more. First he imagines how Hayner kissed him, and how he kissed back. Though the memory is painful, on top of the fact it's the reason why he's in this mess, he pushes those thoughts aside and focuses on his goal. He remembers the hands that explored him, how that bite brought him into the moment, and how...

            He slides his fingers into Seifer's hair beneath his hat, pulling him closer, his other hand gripping the taller man's jacket. He parts his lips, and flicks a tongue across Seifer's lips. It feels odd being the aggressor while Seifer is being purposefully unresponsive, so Roxas lets go of the jacket to drag his nails across Seifer's exposed collarbone; hoping to warrant a response. Seifer takes in a sharp breath of air through his nose before gripping onto Roxas' hips and kissing back. Feeling a little satisfied, Roxas scratches further and harder down Seifer's chest, and the taller man breaks away for a moment.

            "You wanna play rough?" Seifer growls, "Let's play rough."

            Seifer shoves Roxas back against the step and grinds into his hips. He maneuvers his tongue passed the smaller man's lips and Roxas grips Seifer's hair beneath his hat. Seifer grabs onto Roxas' backside to lift him onto the stair and force him onto his back. He breaks the kiss to drag his tongue from Roxas' chin up to his ear. Roxas can't help but moan as Seifer begins to bite at lick at his lobe while simultaneously roaming his hands across the smaller man's body. Seifer’s lower body is between his legs now, and he desperately tries to ignore the sensation of the taller man’s hips rolling hard into him. Seifer trails his mouth back up to Roxas’, biting and sucking at the bruised lips until Roxas parts them in discomfort for Seifer’s tongue, which is now hot and heavy in his mouth. Angry at the intrusion, Roxas maneuvers his hands under Seifer’s vestcoat to scrape his nails as hard as he can across Seifer’s shoulder blades.


            Inside, Roxas just wants this to be over with. More and more he feels ashamed and begins to question whether or not he can go back to his friends in good conscience; especially Pence. He feels a twang of guilt deep in his heart as he thinks of Pence, and wants nothing more than this whole ordeal to end.

            Just then, Seifer pulls back, and Roxas feels relieved it's over...

            Until he notices Seifer is unzipping his pants.

            "W-wait!" Roxas pleads, extremely confused. "I thought this is all we were going to do?!"

            "Changed my mind." Seifer sneers. "Plus, we didn't shake on it."

            Roxas feels his stomach drop, and a huge wave of panic washes over him. Going into fight-or-flight mode, he turns over and attempts to scramble up the stairs. He doesn't even make it halfway up the second stair before Seifer grabs him by the leg and yanks him back down. Roxas screams and begins to thrash for his freedom, but Seifer just continues to pull him closer, laughing all the while. Tears flow freely from Roxas' eyes as he feels Seifer yank down his pants. He's bent over the edge of the first stair now, ready to be taken.

            "PLEASE!" He screams, "I'M A—" He sobs, "I'm a..."

            "Go on Roxas. Say it." Seifer smiles, "I want to hear you say it: the best part about all of this."

            "I'm..." Roxas sobs again. "A virgin."

            He isn't ashamed of it, no... but to lose his virginity like this? To Seifer? To blackmail? To rape? He truly feels powerless, and that's exactly what Seifer wants.


            "I'm honored to be popping your cherry, Roxas." He feels Seifer's hands slither up his back, pushing up his shirt. The hands slide across his curves with lascivious intent, the touch hauntingly warm against the cool air. "Feels so good to finally break my little doll... my little pet..."

            Roxas can feel his boxers being pulled down, and he begins to shake in terror. He imagined this moment would be awkward, but fun. He wanted to lose his virginity to someone he trusts and cares about, and whofeels the same for him—not this scumbag. Roxas wishes so desperately that he could rewind time and take Pence up on walking him home. At the very least, he wishes he could go back to those heated moments with Hayner where he could have brought them to his room right away before silencing Hayner’s phone and losing his virginity then. They probably would have fucked all day if they could; sloppy and experimental and meaningless yet meaningful all the same. His deepest desires fulfilled while he got off on the disgusting thrill of secrecy as Hayner pounded him with wild abandon. At least that would be one or two less things for Seifer to torture him over… oh, how he would love to have seen the look on King Douche’s face when he spat out the words “You’re too late.” or “I’m not a virgin anymore.” It’s all just a daydream of hindsight now; he wants to fight, but what good will it do? He'll still get blackmailed, Seifer will still overpower him... if anything, the best thing to do is just wait for it all to be over.

            Still, he tries one last time.

            "Please stop," Roxas says, "Not like this..."

            His pleas go unheard, and Roxas hears Seifer spit into what he's certain is his palm. Shortly after, he feels Seifer’s cock pressing against his entrance, the tip warm and wet and willing. At least he lubed up first.

            He expects a sudden explosion of white-hot agony, but instead Seifer works his manhood in very gently, the tip stretching his hole a little more with each ministration. He would almost prefer Seifer ram in all at once so he wouldn’t have to bear the sensation of actually getting used to Seifer’s cock. It’s hard to breathe through the tightness in his throat as Seifer carefully rocks himself in deeper. Slowly, the intrusion begins to hurt, but the way Seifer is thrusting means he’s not even halfway in. Roxas tries not to let himself panic over how big Seifer actually is, and he can’t help the shuddering gasps as the painful sensation amplifies. Just then, Seifer leans down to whisper into his ear:

            "You're mine."

            One massive thrust leaves Roxas screaming, and he feels warm tears pour over his cheeks. He barely hears Seifer's groan of ecstasy as he begins to squirm beneath the taller man. Roxas is almost certain he's bleeding, the pain is so excruciating, but all he can do is hope it ends soon as he tries in vain not to think about it.

            "Fuck... so tight..." Seifer groans as he pushes in deeper, and Roxas feels an awful crawling sensation on his skin in response.

            Seifer is holding tight onto Roxas' hips and he begins to thrust deep at a regular pace. Roxas' isn't sure here his captor's cock begins or ends and his nails dig into the cold concrete below as he grits his teeth; making a pact with himself to not give Seifer the satisfaction of a response. As if on cue, a rather harsh thrust forces a yelp from Roxas' throat, and he sobs in frustration. The whole ordeal feels like an incredibly painful lifetime, and Roxas wishes he could just pass out or, better yet, wake up from this awful nightmare. He tries to shut out Seifer's groans and sighs, but they spin in his head like a tornado and won't go away.

            Now Seifer picks up the pace, and he grips onto Roxas' hair as he leans down to his ear again. "Say my name," He mutters huskily, "Say you want more."

            Roxas shakes his head the best he can under the conditions. Through gritted teeth he hisses out "Fuck you."

            There is a sudden, violent thrust, and Roxas cries out. "Say it." Seifer growls at him, "Right fucking now."

            "FUCK. YOU."

            Roxas feels Seifer's nails dig deep into his back before being dragged down painfully slow. Roxas groans in pain as Seifer forces himself in as deep as possible, gripping the smaller man's hair tightly.

            "You'll swallow my cum if you don't say it, fucker."

            Biting his lip, Roxas whimpers. As if this wasn't fucking humiliating enough...

            "S... Seifer," He whispers.

            "You know that's not good enough. Here Roxas, let me help you." The taller man starts going at an incredibly fast pace, and the pain shoots through Roxas like a bolt of electricity. "Say it!" He grunts.

            "S-Seifer!" Roxas cries out, "More!" He sobs, "More!"

            No more...

            After another few seconds, there is one long thrust and Roxas swears he feels a sudden warmth inside of him. His eyes go wide in realization, and his tears return without hesitation. Seifer pulls out, and Roxas is relieved up until he feels the cum dripping down his thighs. Pulling up his pants, Seifer lets out a satisfied sigh, and Roxas flinches when the taller man runs his hands over Roxas' backside.

            "Next time you'll be facin' me so I can see that pretty little face while I fuck you. Maybe I'll even grant you the privilege to suck my cock with your cute little mouth. Mmm, I almost can't wait... I want to see your pretty face covered in my cum." He gives Roxas' ass a heavy slap, before tossing his head back to laugh.

            Roxas hurriedly pulls his pants up, uncaring about the fluids running down his legs. He turns to leave, eyes cast at toward the floor.


            "Hey," Seifer stops him, forcing the smaller mans chin up. "The Sandlot. Saturday, 8pm. Be there." After a moment of hesitation, Roxas nods stiffly, and Seifer smirks before placing a rough kiss on the abused blonde's lips. "See you then, my little pet."

            Roxas wrenches from Seifer's grasp, and swiftly leaves without another word. He follows the neon signs through the Underground Concourse as fast as he can; he doesn't want to be around if Seifer a second longer than he has to. Finally entering the Back Alley, the first thing he notices is the strip of pinkish orange sitting on the horizon beneath the encroaching night sky. Quickly, he ventures through the alleyway beside his house, passing the fire escape before turning the corner to reach his front door. It's unlocked, of course; neither he nor his dad usually ever bother to lock it unless it's completely necessary.

            Is dad still awake?

            It is long passed the time where Roxas would have come home and either spent the rest of the night in his room or sneak out via the almost-as-usual spot. He isn't sure what his father does after that, since it always varies.

            Very gently, he opens the door and listens carefully through a small crack. All he can hear is the usual professional Struggle highlights. He mentally crosses his fingers, and enters the house as quietly as possible. Tiptoeing across the hallway, he peers around the corner to the couch. Sure enough, his dad is sitting there, watching the aforementioned program. Since Roxas can only see the back of his father's head, he isn't sure if he's awake or asleep. He bites his lip, knowing he could probably easily sneak up to his room since the stairs are right across from him.

            Instead, just to be sure, he calls out. "Dad? I'm home."

            His father twists around to look at him; surprisingly he looks more cleaned up than normal, and his eyes aren't as glazed over like they usually are.

            "Roxas, you're home later than usual." His voice sounds groggy, but strangely sober.

            "Yeah," Roxas steps out from behind the corner of the hallway, "I was just hanging out with my friends and the time got away from me."

            "Well, I'm glad you're home safe. I was a bit worried is all."

            Very confused, Roxas wants to ask if his dad is okay (perhaps make sure it's actually his dad, even), but instead he resolves to fall into the routine. "Is there anything I can get you before I go to bed?" he asks; a list of all the locations of his father's alcohol ready in his mind.

            "Water," his father says, "I'll have a water this time, Roxas."

            Curiouser and curiouser, Roxas thinks as he walks across the floor to the kitchen. He reaches into a cabinet, pulling out a glass before filling it with ice and water from the fridge. He returns to the couch, this time standing next to his father to hand him the glass.

            His father grasps it gratefully, "Roxas I want to tell you something." Roxas kneels down next to his dad, resting his elbow on the arm of the couch. "'This above all: to thine own self be true'. That was your mother's favorite quote. Shakespeare's Hamlet, I believe. I don't know why, I just had it on my mind. I wanted to share it with you."

            Roxas looks into his father's glassy eyes, searching for any signs of who the man once was so long ago. His eyes seem heavy with guilt and regret: a common sight in this poison-town. "Thank you, dad. That does sound like mom," Roxas smiles gently, "My favorite quote is 'All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them'."

            "That's a good one. Where'd you hear that?"

            "The old guy who owns that little shop in town. He said a 'wise man' once said that... I'm not sure who that 'wise man' is, but it sounds like an accurate description."

            His father nods, "You make a good point, Rox."

            How long has it been since he's had a conversation like this with his father? Years, it seems. Perhaps back from when he was a child: the days before his mother hid bruises with her makeup, before Roxas would crawl into bed with his brother because the shouting from downstairs frightened him, and when the only alcohol in the house was the fine wine his parents saved for their anniversary. He looked deep into his father eyes; seeing the shards of a broken man who knew his son was just as broken because of it.

            "Dad," Roxas starts, "I love you, and no matter what, I want you to always remember that." Strangely, the words seems familiar, as well as the feeling they bring. A sad nostalgia creeps into Roxas' heart, and his eyes well up with tears.

            His father sips from the sweating glass and, looking into his son's suddenly gentle gaze, mutters, "Roxas, I love you too. I'm sor…" he pauses, "I… goodnight, son. Thank you for the water." For once in a very long time, his father has a soft smile on his face. Roxas does everything in his power to remember that small instance in every detail.

            "Goodnight dad."

            Roxas stands and proceeds toward the stairs and up to his bedroom. Once the door shuts behind him, he locks it. Practically ripping his clothing off, he runs into his bathroom to take a long shower. Stepping under the spout, he sets the temperature on the display and lets the hot water rush over him. Grabbing a bar of soap, he vigorously scrubs at his body as if he were intentionally trying to destroy his epidermis. No matter how red his skin gets, he still feels dirty down to his very core. Memories of the whole ordeal flash through his skull. He can feel the concrete against his face, hands gripping his hair, and the searing pain in his now-throbbing backside, so he scrubs harder and faster as Seifer fucks him harder and faster-

            Roxas feels the tears in his sore eyes, and they disappear against the cascade of water from above. He lets out a strangled wail, and falls to his knees, still scrubbing away. He just wants to disappear. He never wants to see this place again. No one can save him now, and for the first time in his life, Roxas legitimately wants to die. Finally, he lets go of the soap and pulls his knees to his chest with a heavy sigh. At this point, it seems like the grave is his only escape.

            Then it dawns on Roxas.

            He still has Dusk City.

            Standing up, Roxas turns off the spout but doesn't even bother to towel off as he leaves his bathroom. What did Pence say? The one train for this month is coming on Thursday? Roxas reaches under his bed and pulls out the satchel. Checking inside, he takes out this month's train schedule and confirms the information: Thursday, July 4th, at 7 am. He reaches under again, this time brandishing the backpack containing his laptop.

            It's time to set his plan in motion.


            Through the whole night, Roxas had tied up all the necessary loose ends before his long-awaited adventure. He applied for early graduation online, and was accepted within a few hours thanks to his extensive credits and his high school's cutting edge online system. Shorty after, he received a follow-up, automated email declaring they would send him his student transcript and official high school diploma in the mail. Not a moment after that, he's signing his final letter: the one for his dearest friends. He takes the time to make sure his autograph is perfect, for whatever reason. Maybe it is for him to feel less bad about leaving, maybe it is to give his friends something to remember him by... but he choses to leave the thought up in the air. Now is not the time to second-guess himself. After skimming over his letters (one to his friends, the other to his father, both handwritten), he takes a deep breath and deems them satisfactory. More importantly, genuine.

            Checking the clock Roxas sees that it's already 8 pm. Writing these letters took all of Tuesday night into Wednesday evening, but they were certainly worth the effort. Looking over to his bed, Roxas stares at the cloak draped across it's surface. Beside it sits a wooden lacquered box, his backpack, and satchel. The coat is black as the night, and is almost foreboding; part of Roxas wonders if he would look like a shadow, similar to the way Axel did as the lanky man practically coasted around Twilight Town.

            He packs up his computer in the backpack, and includes his dirty clothes from yesterday in a separate plastic baggie. Touching them, even through the plastic, feels revolting, but there can be no evidence of the ordeal left behind if he wants at least a whisper of dignity left in his wake. He can dispose of them once he reaches Dusk City, and that can be his own personal baptism of the past.

            Roxas lifts the coat off the bed, and pulls it on over his arms and shoulders. Zipping it up, he immediately feels as if he is being held in a snug embrace. While form-fitting, the cloak is also very flexible and extremely comfortable, which is a definite plus. Roxas is not sure what this job offer entails, or what position he will take, but at least the uniform is cozy. Just for fun, he does a little spin and feels the coat swirl around him gracefully; very confident about the new "look" that will accompany his new life.

            Finally he feels he is ready to pack his remaining belongings. He arranges his clothes inside the main compartment of the backpack around his computer, and slides the satchel into an exterior pocket of the backpack after pocketing the prepaid cellphone in his cloak. Roxas opens the lacquered box-his keepsake box-to double-check it's contents. A framed portrait of his family from when he was a child, a polaroid of him and his friends from when he was 15, the blue orb taken from the Struggle trophy, a silver necklace in the shape of an X passed down through his family, Axel's business card, and the note that came with his cloak in the mail. He puts the card and note in his coat pocket before packing the box away. Next, he lifts the mattress to scoop all the munny into his backpack before returning it to the bed base.

            After leaving the letter to his father taped to his bedroom door, Roxas used his window to reach the almost-as-usual spot, then the fire escape to get to the Usual Spot. He pins the letter to his friends on the dart board with a dart, and after one last reminiscent look at the Usual Spot, leaves for Station Plaza with his hood pulled over his face.

            At Central Station, Roxas approaches the ticket booth agent, who is obviously drowsy and probably unused to the graveyard shift.

            "Good evening," The man drones, "What can I do for you?"

            "Can I get one ticket for the 7 o'clock train into Dusk City?" Roxas slides the required amount of munny into the glass opening, careful to hide his face. Just as he wonders if the man is too tired to notice or care about his destination, the agent sits up in his seat and takes on a ghostly pallor.

            "D-Dusk City?!" He splutters, suddenly much more awake, "I... um... of course sir!" He takes the munny and punches in the details on the register beside him. "Since you're going into the city we don't need a blood sample. Please note that if-" He coughs nervously, "when you come back, you will have to give a blood sample for our records and for the safety of Twilight Town." He prints out the ticket.

            "I understand," Roxas says, feeling almost bad for startling the man. At least he gave the guy an interesting turn of events after what appears to be a slow shift. Perhaps it'll be an interning story to bring home to his family, or to gossip about with his coworkers over the next break.

            "Good luck... and uh, goodnight, sir." The agent mutters as if solemnly bidding farewell to a dying friend. He slides the ticket toward Roxas, still visibly shaken. "Please hold onto your ticket and enjoy your ride."

            He takes the ticket and goes to sit in the waiting lobby adjacent from the train platform for the rest of the night. Central Station is always open 24 hours a day since the trains travel all over the world.

            With time to kill, and nothing left on his agenda, he decides to call Axel. He takes his phone and Axel's card from his pockets and dials the number printed neatly at the bottom. As the dial tone drones on, he takes a moment to look over the design of the sturdy paper in hand. Roxas grimaces.

            Flames.
           
            "Uh, hello?" Comes a groggy voice from the phone.

            "Axel?" Roxas answers, albeit more urgently than even he expected. His voice is somewhat hoarse since he hasn't spoken a word all day, and after clearing his throat, he continues. "It's Roxas."

            "Roxas!" Suddenly, Axel's voice is full of energy. "It's nighttime but you finally called! How have you been?"

            Glancing at the analog clocks hanging throughout the station, each noting the time of various places all over the world, Roxas sees that it's only been a couple hours since he last looked at the time.

            "I didn't call too late at night did I? Were you asleep?"

            "Just taking a catnap between shifts, buddy. Don't worry about it, I have way later nights than this. In fact, just the other day—"

            "Axel," Roxas cuts in, feeling impatient. "Sorry to interrupt but I don't have a lot of minutes on this phone. Something happened... so I'm on my way to Dusk City."

            There is a brief pause. "Which train?" Axel asks, voice far more serious now.

            "The 7 am one. It's the soonest I can get."

            "I'll be at the station waiting for you. See you then."

            "Okay. Thanks—" but the other man hangs up before the word goes through, and Roxas sighs.

            The next several hours Roxas spent in a trance. He listened to the light noises of the destination prompters, and practically memorized every detail of all the advertisements playing on the screens around him. Very few trains came, and very few people passed by, and not a single gaze paid him mind. Roxas would have let himself fall asleep if it weren't for terrible memories jolting him awake from his dreams. Roxas at one point even wished he would have visited the tower sitting atop the train station one last time, but he knew it would simply put too much strain on his heart.

            After one big blur of time and exhaustion, the destination prompter chimed and the electronic voice finally spoke the words he'd been waiting to hear: "Dusk City train now arriving for 7 o'clock departure."

            Stiffly, Roxas rises and watches the train pull up to the platform. Surprisingly, it doesn't look ominous or spooky, and he doesn't even hear the funeral march play in his head. It looks like any other train... at least from the outside. The only notable difference is the train only has two passenger cars, whereas almost all of the trains that pull into the station have at least six.

            The passenger car’s doors slide open and Roxas opts to enter the one closest to himself. As he steps on board, he finds himself in awe. The interior is far different from any train he had ever ridden before: red velvet stretched across ornate wooden benches sitting in rows, golden curtains draped over the windows, gothic sconces at every row, and even red carpeting lining the floors. This is certainly far from the drab, beat-up trains he's ridden over his life. Crossing quickly over to the end of the car, he looks through the glass in the door to see the other car is the same, but with flipped seats and matching tables between; plus what looks to be a bar sitting at the far side. A dining car.

            Glancing around, Roxas looks for an acceptable seat on the completely-empty train. Picking a spot up front, he huddles up close to the window. Taking a deep breath, he pulls the note he received with his cloak from his pocket and glances over it a few more times. After a few moments, the electronic voice announces the train is departing, and he feels his heart grow heavy. Solemnly, he watches the station with memories swimming in his head: he remembers running up those steps by the ticket booth to climb the clock tower, eating sea salt ice cream at sunset with his friends, the gross knot he would always get in his stomach if he looked down from that height, and the joy of being so far above all the chaos below. He shut his eyes. His favorite moment up there would have to be after the struggle tournament, when he pulled off the orbs of the trophy he won. Hayner, Pence, Olette, and Roxas, all holding up their little spheres, which glinted in the light of the setting sun.

            Freedom.

            It is then that Roxas is finally able to fall asleep. He doesn't stir when the train pulls out of the station, and doesn't have a chance to watch the building disappear from sight. All he needs in the wake of a new life are the happy memories in his head. The first step toward his future is in his hand; the note that simply reads

            Welcome to the Organization.


            7 pm, and Olette stiffly enters the emptiness of the Usual Spot, eyes hopeful. "Roxas?" She calls out, but she receives no answer. Hayner and Pence step out from behind the fading red curtain at the entrance to stand by her side. One good look at Olette gives both boys all the answers they need.

            "He's not here either..." Hayner sighs. "We've checked everywhere, where could he possibly be?!" Casting a frustrated green gaze at Pence, Hayner asks "Are you sure that's the very last place you saw him?"

            "I swear, he was heading home through the Sandlot. I've told you this like six times already!" Pence doesn't mean to raise his voice, but the hunt for Roxas is taking a toll on all three of the tired, upset teens. No one was answering the door at Roxas' home, nobody in town had seen him, Sunset Terrace had no leads, they'd checked the almost-as-usual spot twice... and yet there was no sign of him anywhere. This was their first check of the Usual Spot, but still nothing to be gained.

            "Let's just calm down, okay?" Olette chimes in, folding her arms and staring intently at her friends. Even her exhaustion is showing, despite her demeanor. "We can't turn against each other now, there are plenty of places we haven't looked. We could check the forest, for starters."

            "There's also the underground concourse." Pence adds, "Where else haven't we checked?"

            Hayner takes a shot in the dark. "What about the beach?"

            Pence shakes his head, "He couldn't afford a train ticket."

            "We can't rule out the possibility!" The green-eyed boy tosses his arms up in exasperation, "We should look there anyway!"

            "Don't you think if he were at the beach there would have been more people who spotted him?" Pence shot back, "Some of the people we talked to had just been there and they didn't see him."

            "Pence, unless I see or don't see him with my own two eyes, I don't care! We should go!"

            From of the corner of her eye, Olette spots something out of the ordinary. "You guys?" She attempts to pipe in, turning to watch the boys slowly closing in on one another.

            "It'll be a waste of time and munny, Hayner! We're better of starting small!"

            "What does time or munny matter in a situation like this?! We have to find Roxas!"

            "Guys..." Olette tries again, to no avail. She approaches a paper pinned to the dartboard while the other two are yelling in each other's faces.

            "What, do you think I don't want to?! We have to manage ourselves better than that, Hayner, and you know it!"

            "I don't care how we do it, we have to make sure Roxas is okay by any means—"
           
            Suddenly, the paper is between them, and both boys rear back in confusion.

            "Are you two done?" She asks gravely, "I want to read this letter. It's from Roxas." Hayner and Pence both fall silent, signifying their full attention, and Olette begins to read aloud.

            "To the greatest friends I could ever ask for, AKA Hayner, Pence, and Olette...

            I'm thinking of you, wherever you are. I pray for your sorrow to end, and your hearts to blend, but now I must step foreword to realize my own wish. For many years, a whole lifetime it seems, we've grown together through hardships and fun times. My life was made complete by this friendship and our unbreakable bonds. When my mother was gone, you three were there; when my brother was gone, you three were there; when my father was "gone", you three were still there, no matter what. My gratefulness is eternal, and I wish I could give back to you what you gave to me. However, it is time for me to go now. Twilight Town, this life of mine... I cannot bear it any longer. I cannot live in this state of constant fear and sadness; my heart is heavy with shame, regret, and betrayal. I have to vanish from this place, though my goodbye is sudden. Who knows? Starting a new journey without me by your side may not be so hard... by the time you read this, it has already begun. There are many worlds out there, but they all share the same sky. With one sky comes one destiny, and that destiny connects us all.

            Farewell,
            Roxas."


 Exeunt


A/N:  Yes, the letter is very cliche rip from the game, BUT I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A NICE THROWBACK SHADDUP.

This was probably the hardest chapter of them all to write because of that scene... I was debating whether or not to take it out, but it really is essential to the plot. For those of you who have been sexually assaulted or raped, I do apologize for any offence and I wish you the best. Hopefully you skipped to the end of the trigger warning, but please note I do not take any responsibility if you ignored the trigger warning—what you choose to read is your choice alone and I respect you for it. Sexual assault and rape can happen to anyone of any race, gender, and age; no one deserves to go through such trauma, and no one deserves to be shamed for it for any reason.  If you’d like more information about abuse, please visit my author profile and look under the Additional Resources section.

On a less societal note, in the next chapter we finally get to meet our second protagonist, and then see his story unfold. Excited!? I know I am!

In the meantime, I have a question for you guys: who do you think Roxas' parents are? Their identities have yet to be revealed (that comes way later), but for now I'm curious to hear your impressions.

Final note to any confused readers: This IS a Soroku fanfiction! We're getting to that soon, you guys. I promise! Please don't forget to leave a review or follow the story!

-+-

Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

 

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter III: Fairy Floss


January 21st, 2017

            It had been one month since Roxas' mother left with his older brother in tow.

            Or rather, his older half-brother.

            The last he saw of her was when she dropped him off for school. It was almost as if abandoning him hadn't even crossed her mind. The last glimmer of her gentle but exhausted smile bore no ill intent as she waved goodbye; she even wished him good luck on his quiz for that day. Her concealer hid the bruises Roxas knew were there, and she was like a porcelain doll with hair-like fractures across her delicate surface. In fact, everyone knew what was there but nobody ever said anything—it was just another mask on another person.

            Back then, Roxas was always worried for his mother… but after that day, he was only ever worried for himself.

            Roxas would have been on that train with his mom had it not been for his father's adamant refusal of signing custody over. It took a few years of violence for his mother to finally flee on a whim… leaving Roxas behind. His father was more than happy to hand over a son that wasn't even his to begin with, but the last spiteful stab toward his unfaithful wife was to never let go of Roxas. His father never even struck either boy simply so there could not be a case of child abuse weighing against him. In fact, since his mother fled to Dusk City of all places, nearly all of Twilight Town was on his father's side; he may have been a monster, but at least he wasn't a literal monster.

            One day, as per usual, Roxas had come home from middle school while his father was still at work (the prime example of a functioning alcoholic). On his way to ascend the stairs to his room, the phone rang, and something told him to it pick up. He didn't recognize the number, but he did recognize the voice.

            "Mom?!"

            "Roxas! Oh, my sweetheart… I'm so glad you picked up. Is your dad at work?"

            "Yeah I just got home but he isn't here yet."

            "Oh thank the Goddess I got you in time! Your father has been blocking every number I call from so I've been trying to get you right when you come home. Oh sunshine, it's so good to hear your voice!"

            Despite himself, Roxas suddenly began to weep uncontrollably; pent-up emotions from his mother's disappearance overflowed out into his words, "Mom, please, you have to come home," He desperately sobbed into the phone, "Please mom you have to—"

            "What's wrong, Roxas?"

            "H-he-he keeps saying," His throat felt tighter than a noose, but he continued on. "Dad, he says these things and I-I-I don't want to believe him, mom, I just—"

            "Deep breath, Roxas."

            "But mom...!"

            "Breathe in..." Unconsciously, Roxas followed her instructions, taking a long and deep breath. "Now out." He let the air go like a gentle breeze; that, along with his mother's soothing voice, was enough to ease him somewhat. "Tell me what happened."

            Shakily, Roxas muttered, "Dad… dad said that you were never coming back. He said you had a new family and I'd never see you again and… I just…"

            "Roxas,"

            He sniffled, "Yeah?"

            "He's lying. I'm trying so hard, my starlight, and it's going to take some time." Her voice wavered as if she was becoming upset herself. "I'm doing the best I can, and the best you can for me is just hold out a little while longer, okay?"

            "Y-yeah…"

            "Remember the necklace I gave you? The old family heirloom?" A crack of the voice and Roxas could tell she was crying very softly. "Always keep it close to your heart, because that's where I'll be. If you're ever scared or on your own, hold it close and think of me. Okay, Roxas?"

            Her deceptively assuring words felt so good to hear, and he replied without hesitation. "I promise."

            "I love you, and no matter what, I want you to always remember that."

            A few months later, another call came in during the middle of the night. His mother was gone. He was never told the cause and there was no funeral; there was only silent mourning and stiff apologies.

            So sorry about your mom, Roxas.

           
My mother abandoned me.

            I heard about you mother, Roxas.

           
Who fucking didn't?

            I'm sorry for your loss, Roxas.

           
Fuck you.

            Your mother was a wonderful woman, Roxas.

           
She left me here to rot in this town for the rest of my life.

            Then suddenly, it hit him. It started as a distant echo in the back of his head, then slowly as each day went on, it got louder and louder. It was the flicker of an inkling that exploded into a full-on epiphany:

            I don't have to stay here for the rest of my life. If my mom was able to escape to Dusk City then so can I.

            Thus, like a bird takes flight toward the blue sky, Roxas' ideas soared. It was 7th grade, and he had conducted the central part of his great escape plan: leave for Dusk City after senior year of high school.


June 11, 2025

            It had been almost a year since that train ride.

            When Roxas had gotten off the train at Dusk City's station, he was immediately greeted by the sight of Axel's flaming red hair, acidic green eyes, and fox-like smile. It was such a welcome sight after all the events that had just unfolded that, despite himself, Roxas fell into the man's arms and told him everything. He felt bad for unloading on Axel once more, but at the same time, Axel was the only one he could trust and talk to in this new place.

            There was even a point where Axel had offered to give Seifer a visit on his next Twilight Town venture, but Roxas had quickly declined. He wanted to vanish into thin air from that place; any trace of him that could somehow give his loved ones an idea of where to search was detrimental to his new life.

            However, at that point, Roxas realized he hadn't made a plan as to where his new life would begin. He tied up his loose ends and got on the train… but he only had 16,050 Munny left over from the train ticket. It was about enough for maybe a month and a half's worth of rent, but there was still no place to go right away.

            Or so he thought.

            It turned out Axel had scraped together some plans for Roxas a few hours before his arrival. Apparently the red-head's apartment had an extra room used for storage and was ready for an occupant. He demanded Roxas stay with him and his two roommates, who were also part of the Organization; there was even the assurance that he wouldn't have to pay rent or buy food for the first year as he got settled into the job. Since Axel was to be Roxas' "mentor" anyway, it was more convenient to just live together.

            Of course, Roxas couldn't pass that up. He could put up with just about anything for a roof over his head and food in his belly. In fact, Roxas was so elated he found himself enthusiastically greeting his new roommates later that day. There was Demyx, Axel's ocean-eyed boyfriend who had a charming smile and dirty blond hair styled into what resembled a mullet. There was also Naminé, a petite girl with steely eyes hiding behind wisps of vanilla bangs that framed her heart-shaped face.

            Roxas was able to pick up on their demeanors and personalities pretty fast; upon meeting them, Naminé simply shook his hand with a polite smile before he was ruthlessly pulled into a crushing hug by Demyx. These three seemed to totally contradict one another: Axel was fiery, Demyx was bubbly, and Naminé was serene. Somehow, this ragtag team was harmonious in a way, and a small twinge of sadness pulled at Roxas' heart as it reminded him of his old friends.

            For a second, part of him wondered what Hayner, Pence, and Olette were up to at that moment—but then he quickly buried the thoughts and emotions connected to his past under a thick layer of suppression. His old life was gone and he would rather be dead to everyone in that town than continue to heavily hang on their minds like a painful tumor. After all, there were more important matters at hand, such as Axel's mentoring.

            When Roxas' mentoring began, he felt pretty nervous. After all, he still wasn't sure what this job exactly entailed or even who "the Organization" was. At that point his only impression of the group had been black cloaks, amazing pay, and some underlying stuff nobody was allowed to disclose to him. Roxas was almost expecting there to be a terrifying gang initiation waiting for him at the start of his career.
           
            Of course, it was quite the opposite. Axel explained that new recruits always start as couriers for the first year. This is so they get to know the inner-workings of Dusk City, learn the dangers, navigate on the trams, mingle with the citizens, and slowly meet the other Organization members. That way, new recruits will be ready to go straight into the field after they're done "training as a spark" (Axel would not elaborate on what that meant, only saying that it was the process that came after the first year).

            A new recruit always has a mentor who helps season and protect them. Axel also mentored Demyx and, for whatever reason, Naminé mentored Axel even though she's around Roxas' age. After about eight months of seasoning and exploring the city, Axel eventually let Roxas do some courier missions on his own. In fact, that's what he was doing right now; he is on his way to meet Number VI for the first time and deliver a package that is currently sitting in his backpack.

            The tram Roxas is riding on is empty, which makes sense for this time of day. Roxas has come to find that the trams are busiest during commuting hours: right at the crack of dawn and around sunset. Right now, the sun is low in the sky, low enough to be obscured by the tall buildings and thick fog hanging above the cityscape… but there's still some time until sunset. The streetcars are electronically rigged to move along tracks hugging the sidewalks and make periodic stops, almost like unmanned buses. They're the quickest and most effective way to travel since traffic on the roads is always dense during daylight.

            Quietly, the tram rattles along and Roxas picks at a fraying edge on his hoodie as he gazes out the window. Since he's just a recruit, he isn't required to wear his uniform in the field so as to avoid unwarranted attention. This was slightly disappointing since Roxas has come to adore his cloak, but it's a small loss since he'd much rather avoid creatures of the night whenever possible.

            Of course, it's difficult to tell who's what in this coastal city. Like Twilight Town is a masquerade of liars, Dusk City is a masquerade of monsters, and it's still better to blend in than stand out. Instead of on a rotting canvas, the picture of this city was painted in the dark, so you never know what's going to pop out of the brushstrokes. With the thick clouds overhead, advection fog rolling in from the sea, and impossibly tall buildings consistently obscuring the sun, just about anything could be out there. While the creatures are mostly well-mannered and typically keep to themselves, it is still in everybody's best interest to stay on guard. A person passing him on the street could be a simple human or the most horrendous of creatures hiding beneath human-looking flesh.

            All ye who enter here abandon all hope...

            Roxas is disconnected from this thought when he feels the tram slow down to make another stop. He doesn't expect anyone to get on so he doesn't look toward the open door at first, but surprisingly enough, he hears somebody step onto the streetcar just before the doors close. He glances in the direction of the new traveler; a man who looks to be in his early-to-mid-twenties, panting as if he'd just been running to catch the train. Roxas tries not to pay much mind to him and goes back to staring out the window.

            He seems like the type to sit in the back.

            Not quite.

            Before he has time to notice, the footsteps suddenly approach him and Roxas feels a presence looming overhead, like shade from a tree.

            "This seat taken?" The man asks with a gentle smile. Unsure of how to answer, Roxas just shrugs, and the man plops down next to him with a pleased sigh before placing a beat up-looking knapsack between his legs. Roxas scoots closer to the window, feeling slightly uncomfortable with the other man's close proximity. "It's pretty busy today, huh?" The man says sarcastically, still somewhat short of breath, "This car is packed."
           
            Unused to such foreword interaction, Roxas hesitantly replies with an awkward smile "I know, I can barely breathe in here."

            The other man laughs. Strangely enough, even in a city where literal monsters live among humans it's still polite to make small talk.

            But this guy… Roxas thinks before taking a moment to look the man over. His oddly-styled hair is a deep caramel color, and his skin is tanned, almost as if he had previously lived on an island.

            The guy notices Roxas' curious gaze and flashes another smile."That's an awesome necklace, by the way." He gestures toward the X hanging around Roxas' neck.

            "Oh," Roxas touches it. He'd been wearing the necklace since his first courier assignment in Dusk City; it brings him a sort of peace and feeling of protection whenever he has it on, for whatever reason. "Thank you. Yours is cool too." He points to the crown necklace the man is wearing. "Is that silver?"

            "Platinum, actually. It's a family heirloom."

            Feeling slightly more relaxed, Roxas replies "Mine too, actually. It was made back in the late 1800s."

            "Hey! Same here! Check it out," he flips over the crown to show the numbers embedded in the metal. "1887."

            "That's such a crazy coincidence!" Roxas smiles, "You know what they say: it's a small world after all."

            The man laughs and leans in close—God, Roxas hates when people do that—and the blond feels nervous again. "I have to ask," The brunet says eagerly, "What's your name?"

            To Roxas' relief, the tram stops once more and this time it's his destination.

            Avoiding eye contact, Roxas mutters. "Um… this is my stop."

            "Oh!" The guy chuckles, sliding out of his seat, taking his knapsack with him. "It really is a small world. It's my stop too." For some strange reason, Roxas feels like that's a lie. After years of deciphering the truth from of the deepest of dishonestly, he just knows.

            Incredibly wary, Roxas feigns politeness and gestures toward the door with a fake smile. "After you."

            He isn't sure if the guy called his bluff… but the man happily gestures to the open streetcar door as well. "No, I insist. After you."

            At this point Roxas just wants to leave the man's presence, so he slings his backpack over his shoulders then hurries off the tram and onto the sidewalk.

            Of course there's nobody around. He thinks in defeat, glancing hopefully over the area. Still, Number VI's location should only be a block or so away, so he doesn't have to worry too much.

            He hears the guy step off the tram, and Roxas turns to face him. "Well, it was really nice chatting with—"

            "Stop."

            Suddenly, Roxas is paralyzed. His vision becomes rose-tinted, and it feels as if he's suddenly become incredibly high. His skin is fluffy bunnies, his body is a happy cloud, and his brain is swimming in the ocean with singing fish. The world feels lovey-dovey-wovey and he just wants to bask in the cotton candy happy-joy fluff-and-stuff around him.

            No. His thoughts break through the candy-coated surface of his stupor. What the fuck is happening to me? This isn't right, I've got to—

            "Now," The man speaks, and it's like a drug. Roxas wants to hear that voice more, and he clings on to every word. "Tell me your name."

            The words spill out of Roxas' mouth like melted chocolate out of a molten lava cake, "Roxas." He feels a drugged smile tug at his lips. "I'm Roxas."

            Why can't I stop myself? What the fuck is this?

            The man smiles, and Roxas wants to lick that guy's lips because they look so yummy all of a sudden. "Well Roxas, it's very nice to meet you." The brunet holds out his open palm for a handshake, and Roxas mirrors the action in tandem.

            Inside Roxas' head is a firestorm. Why can't I control myself?! Fuck, I've gotta get out of here…! Stop! STOP!

            Suddenly, Roxas slaps the hand away, gasping. He stares into the man's eyes, which are wide in confusion, and his breath hitches in his throat. He didn't pay much mind before, but he sees the deep blue depths and is almost lost in them.

            "How…" The man mutters, totally flabbergasted for some reason, "How did you do that?"

            Suddenly, Roxas turns and runs. Though he isn't fully recovered, he books it down the sidewalk toward Number VI's location.

            "Hey, wait! WAIT!" He hears the man calling out far behind him, "I didn't get to tell you! My name is Sora!"


            Zexion is leafing through musty papers in a filing cabinet behind a wooden counter when suddenly the door to his shop swings open; the attached bell chiming nosily in response. Startled, he flips around to see a young blond man quickly shutting his door while gasping for air.

            "…can I help you?"

            The boy looks at him with wild eyes before shifting slightly and standing upright. "S-sorry about that… uh…" He gestures to the door, "You're Number VI, right? You own this bookstore?"

            Zexion eyes the boy suspiciously. "Yes… and I presume you're Roxas, the new recruit?" The blond nods. "I thought I smelled something different…" He stiffly holds out a hand, "My book, please."

            Roxas looks at him in confusion—part of him wondering what exactly what the other man meant by "smell"—before realizing that Zexion was referring to the package. Clumsily fumbling for his backpack, Roxas mutters an apology as he's finally able to wrangle the rectangular object out from its hiding place. He steps close to the counter and hands over the parcel, leaving the backpack propped up on the floor.

            "Here you go Number…. Uh… what's your name, by the way?"

            "I'm Zexion," Said man replies nonchalantly, "and thank you for your service. Goodbye."

            "Wait," Roxas pipes in, unappreciative of the total apathy coming his way. "That's all? The other members I've met have at least held a partial conversation with me."

            Zexion pauses in the midst of tearing open the package and shoots Roxas a displeased look. Roxas momentarily glances over Number VI's appearance: piercing cyan eyes with the right side of his face obscured by long periwinkle bangs.

            "Oh?" Zexion sarcastically drawls, "And who, pray tell, have you met so far?"

            Agitated but compliant, Roxas begins to count on his fingers. "Axel, Demyx, Naminé, Luxord, Larxene, Xaldin, Vexen, Lexaeus, and…" He glances to the ceiling, the last name on the tip of his tongue, "…Saïx, I think?"

            Zexion wonders why, of all those bizarre names, Saïx was the one Roxas was unsure of.

            "Well, three out of those nine never stop talking anyway, and four are absolutely terrifying to talk to. Naminé is fine though, as timid as she is." Just then, Zexion smiles as he pulls the book from the tatters that once enveloped it. "There you are. See newbie, this is a beauty here." He shows Roxas the thick and ornate tome. "A Necromancer's Manual of the Fifteenth Century. It was all translated from Latin and it really helped us clean up the big ghoul problem from a couple years ago." He gently pats it, "This may not be going on my shelves, but I'm certainly going to keep it safe should such an incident occur again."

            Vaguely remembering an old conversation he had with a certain redhead, Roxas spitefully thinks, Axel, you fucking liar…

            "Well kid, there's your conversation." Zexion waves Roxas off while examining the textbook's spine, "The tram should be clear now that the evening rush is almost over."

            Fed up with Zexion's negative attitude, Roxas is about to happily turn and leave when the other man suddenly slams the book on the counter and snaps his head toward the door.

            "MARLU—"

            Zexion is cut off when the door to the bookstore flies open, the bell clanging noisily. The room floods with the scent of flowers, and in steps a tall man with pink hair.

            "ZEXION!" The man's booming voice bounces off the walls of the small shop like thunder in a valley.

            He stands menacingly in the doorway and glares at the far-shorter Zexion, who has taken a hostile stance in response. Roxas looks back and forth between the two; somewhat terrified but mostly confused at the situation. The three of them stand there in silence, and Roxas can almost imagine hearing the cheesy showdown music from a western flick he can't remember the name of. Just then, the pink-haired man relaxes his stature and playfully pouts at Zexion.

            "You didn't tell me the new recruit was going to be here today." He turns to Roxas before extending a hand with a chipper smile and, still mostly confused, Roxas shakes the guy's hand. "I'm Marluxia, Number XI. I own the flower shop just across the street."

            He releases Roxas' grasp to point out the large bow window behind Zexion and Roxas follows the direction of his finger to see a floral boutique on the other side of the road lit up by streetlamps. Tiers upon tiers of brightly-colored flowers sit under an awning with The Graceful Florist painted delicately across its surface.

            Sighing angrily, Zexion pinches the bridge of his nose. "Marluxia you aren't even supposed to meet him until he delivers something to you."

            "I know, I know," Marluxia waves at him in defiance, "You know how I get, I'm just too impatient for that. Besides, now we can forgo the formalities next time. Isn't that right…" He cocks his eyebrow at the blond, clearly searching his memory for a name, "…Roxas, is it?"

            "Uh, yes." Roxas responds, "It's nice to meet you, Marluxia, but…" He shifts his gaze to Zexion, who looks like he could tear the tall man's throat out at any minute. "How did you know he was coming? There's no way you could have seen or heard him."

            "Well," Number XI starts, "He smelled me of course."

            Zexion growls before abruptly circling around the counter, carefully avoiding Roxas' backpack. "Marluxia—"

            "Oh hush," Marluxia interjects, "He'll find out eventually, Zexion. May as well tell him now. You see Roxas, Zexion has this ability that gives him a hypersensitivity in his sense of smell."

            "Marluxia!" Zexion swiftly approaches the tall man, but once he's within arms-reach Marluxia grabs Number VI around the shoulders and pinches the smaller man's nose as if he were teasing a small child.

            "It's an ability best described as supra-naturalis olfaction; then again, that's just me mashing together the Latin word for 'supernatural' with the Latin word for the sense of smell. Basically, he can smell the scent of anything supernatural or otherwise. He can smell me coming especially because of my floral aroma, but that's why I ran over here so quick!"

            "More like a floral stench—!" Marluxia covers the wriggling Zexion's mouth without skipping a beat.

            "Once you start your training as a spark—" Roxas hears a muffled scream from Zexion at this, "Don't worry Zexy, this is the last thing I'll tell him. Once you start your training as a spark you'll start to understand your own abilities and what you're capable of. Trust me, it's going to be awesome."

            Intrigued, Roxas can't help but wonder aloud, "Do you have any special abilities, Marluxia?"

            Zexion glares at the man holding him, and Marluxia smiles. "Every single one of us does, Roxas, but we can discuss that once you deliver my package." He winks at Zexion, who grimaces in response. "Gotta leave some suspense, after all!"

            After some more squirming, Zexion is finally released, and he angrily jumps away as if he were a spooked cat and Marluxia was a rocking chair.

            "Wonderful, Number XI! If either of us get roasted at the stake it will be your fault!"

            "Will you relax? I didn't tell him anything that violates the rules!"

            As the two bicker like a married couple, Roxas seizes the opportunity to go over this newly acquired information. His original surmise of Axel's job—of the Organization—was correct: they were, without a doubt, spellcasters. Zexion's explanation of the necromancy book lined up with Axel's ghost-clearing story, and Marluxia's talk of supernatural abilities drove the rest of Roxas' hypothesis home; besides, it wouldn't make sense to recruit a mere human so willingly if they were anything else. To Roxas' knowledge, each caster has gone through the same process he's going through and therefore each caster was formerly (or is currently) human. The plausible conclusion is this: once his initiation is done, he too will join the ranks of his peers and obtain what he can only assume are magical abilities.

            But what are "magical abilities" anyway?

            Roxas leans against the counter, looking down at his hands in wonder. With only Zexion's example to draw from for now, Roxas is not sure how "magical" things will get. Smelling things seems very underwhelming, so there must be more to it. Or is there? Does becoming a caster grant you phenomenal cosmic powers or itty bitty power traits? Maybe both, maybe neither. Once he visits Marluxia he'll have more answers…

            "I swear Marluxia, the second I see Roxas coming down the street I'll be over there at your shop to make sure you don't continue your insensitive gabbing!"

            …Or not.

            Regardless, I guess I'll find out soon enough. Only one more month to go.

            Roxas returns his focus to the conversation (if you can call it that) between VI and XI, which surprisingly is still going strong. Marluxia just blankly stares at Zexion, who is making wild hand gestures in Roxas' direction.

            "…I mean look at him, Marlu, you probably scared the shit out of him! Look how confused he is! This is why we are not supposed to talk about that stuff before the training starts!"

            "Wait, did you just call me 'Marlu'? What's next, 'Marly'? Are we 'Marly and Zexy' now?"

            "Don't try and change the subject!"

            Finally, Roxas decides to intervene because at this rate they'll be arguing all night.

            "You guys!" He shouts with no intention of masking his disdain. The two men freeze in mid-conversation and shift their gaze toward him. "It's okay! This can just stay between the three of us. I'll be starting training next month anyway." They both blink, and Roxas can't help but compare them to fish staring at him from the confines of a bowl. "Besides, you didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know," He lies, "It's not that hard to get information out of Demyx and Axel. Right, Zexion?"

            "Aha! See, Zexy?" Marluxia smugly crosses his arms and looks down his nose at the shorter man. "There's nothing to worry about."

            Sighing, Zexion looks at Roxas very carefully, his nose wrinkled. He props his elbow up with one hand, and taps his chin with the other. His expression shows there is some kind of calculating going on in his head, as if he's making an important consideration. Roxas almost wants to vanish under Number XI's gaze, unsure of what the man is scheming.

            A somewhat satisfied smile curls at Zexion's lips, "Very well then," He says slyly, "I guess what's done is done. However, now Marluxia and I are almost as responsible for you as Axel is." At this, Marluxia whines, "That being said, I must recommend you come to us for any further information. You can use my bookstore for research whenever you please, and I'm sure Marluxia is willing to extend his own knowledge your way."

            Knowing he can't reject this, Marluxia groans and shrugs in defeat. "If you insist."

            "I'm sure there's nothing to worry about. Besides," Zexion's eyes flash impishly toward Roxas, "I can smell a liar."

            Roxas feels himself inadvertently gulp. Zexion knows his little white lie, and Roxas understands the look directed at him is more-so a warning than a threat. Right now there isn't any doubt behind trusting VI or XI; the two of them don't want to face any more trouble than he does, after all. Plus, the more resources he has, and the more peers on his side, the better.

            To express his cooperation, he lets himself smile. "Something tells me this is the start of a beautiful friendship." He looks straight into the eyes of Zexion, who smirks in response.

            "Wonderful." Suddenly, VI's face falls into a scowl. "Now, both of you get the hell out of my bookstore. I need to bury myself in a nice novella to rid myself of this foul mood."

            Marluxia doesn't even hesitate to get out the door, leaving with a quick "See you soon, Roxas!" and a jingle of the bell.

            Reaching down, Roxas picks up his backpack when he hears Zexion speak. "Goddess be with you, Roxas." Unsure of how to respond, Roxas just slings his backpack onto his shoulders and politely waves as he leaves out the door.

            Roxas continues down the street which is now dark, save for the illuminating glow of the streetlamps and some flickering neon lights over the shops in the area. It's been some time since the sun completely set, and he's almost thankful that he evaded the evening rush. When the soft rattle of thunder echoes through the sky, he looks up.

            "Rain again…." Roxas scowls. Fortunately, after being caught in the rain a few times too many, he learned to pack an umbrella with him and resolves to pull out when it actually starts to shower. A streak of lightning in the distance sinisterly lights up the sky, followed by more thunder. "This place needs to lighten up."

            On his way back to the tram Roxas ponders over his experience with VI and XI. Zexion was certainly apathetic, but also easily irked; on the other hand, Marluxia was smug and somewhat rebellious. Once more, the two seemed to be another example of opposing forces that somehow gravitated toward one another with the sheer strength of planets… although their bickering could show someone the opposite.


            Some time has passed and the rainclouds still hang threateningly in the sky, although no droplets have fallen to the ground. Standing at the tram stop he'd gotten off of a couple hours ago, Roxas continues to think about the day's events. Despite all the squabbling, Roxas felt a certain fondness for Marluxia and Zexion reminiscent of his friends back home. The consistent parallels Roxas keeps drawing between Twilight Town and Dusk City are both incredibly welcome and deeply painful. Being reminded of his old home was hard to think about, but it helps that the people he keeps meeting bring a sense of security he used to only know through his friendship with Hayner, Pence, and Olette. He's at least thankful his encounters have been mostly positive—

            There's a tight grip around his bicep and Roxas feels himself being forcibly turned around; the first thing he sees is deep blue depths. He'd nearly forgotten about them in the day's chaos.

            "Boo."

            "You…" Roxas hisses and, without thinking, swings a fist at the blue-eyed man.

            "Woah there!" The man jumps back just in time, "Just calm down!"

            "Calm down?! Fuck you!" Roxas aims straight for the man's face, but misses once more.

            "I'm just here to talk! I'm not gonna hurt you!"

            "What the fuck did you do to me?!" The man's face scrunches up in confusion so Roxas continues. "You made me see fluffy clouds and happy bunnies or some shit!"

            "Fluffy what?" The man is totally lost, "Roxas, what are you talking about?"
           
            The blond hears the man use his name and it reminds him of the incident from earlier that day. Now furious, he tries desperately to strike him a few more times, but the guy dodges every single hit with supernatural ease.

            "I can do this all night, you know." The brunet sighs and in one fluid motion catches Roxas' fists as they propel toward him. "Listen, I just want to know how you resisted my glamor. That's all!"

            This time it is Roxas' turn to be confused. Initially, he perceives the statement as something smug, but he still isn't quite sure what blue-eyes here is referring to. "Your… what?"

            The man frowns, more puzzled now than ever before. "It's the thing I used to make you tell me your name. Do you not know what glamoring is?"

            Roxas feels sheepish for a moment, muttering a "No, I don't actually…" before something clicks together in his head. "That's what I was telling you about with the clouds and bunnies! When you did that it was like you slipped me ecstasy because everything turned pink and…"

            "Wait, wait, wait…" The brunet releases Roxas' hands, "You're telling me that not only could you resist the glamor, but you could also see and feel it?"

            "I…" Roxas stumbles, finding no other details to add since the guy basically hit the nail on the head, "I'm not sure what else to tell you, blue-eyes."

            "Blue-eyes?" He scoffs, "I told you my name, remember? I'm Sora. And you can at least tell me how you did it."

            Roxas opens his mouth to respond, but no words come out. How did he do it, exactly? Thinking back, he remembers the alien sensations overwhelming his system felt almost like drowning in a sea of electric cotton candy (for lack of better comparison). As blissful as it was in the beginning, Roxas knew it was far from normal. He remembers screaming in his head to make it stop, but he isn't sure how exactly he broke free. He looks to Sora who is patiently waiting for a response.

            What are you, anyway?

            "Well," Roxas starts, still unsure of how to respond, "I guess the best way to put it is that I used my willpower. Nothing seemed right, and I knew I had to stop it somehow." He rubs the back of his neck. "At least, I'm pretty sure that's what I did. I really just don't know." Roxas sends Sora a bemused look, "Why does it matter to you anyway?"

            For a second, Sora's face takes on a frustrated look, but he quickly composes himself. "I almost forgot you don't know what glamor is… actually, I don’t even know how many people know what it is anymore, it’s such a rare trait." He laughs, and Roxas frowns.

            "Are you going to tell me what it is then?" The blond bites out, crossing his arms in agitation.

            Sora lightly taps his cheek for a moment, eyes cast skyward. "Well, it's a bit tricky to explain. It's like mind control, but usually it’s more of an influence, I guess. Depending on who you are, you can't have people do your bidding, but you can encourage their will or actions one way or another. Typically someone can feel the sensation of being glamored, but definitely not as extreme as your case. It's kinda like the feeling of trust or solace in a human's heart—you can suddenly confide in the one glamoring you, and everything they say makes sense." He makes a gesture to Roxas, "Like getting  someone's name. Some say the most powerful of vampires with the ability can completely bend the will of anything, not just humans." An honest and confident smile curls at his lips. "You're interesting to me because, through all my years of complete success in glamoring almost anything, not a single one has had the ability to resist like you."

            As Roxas takes in the new information, a sudden reality settles on his shoulders like the weight of the earth; his eyes go wide, and he feels his jaw go slack.

            One word rings through his head out of all the rest:

            Vampire?

            Both men are quiet, the only audible sound is the gentle buzzing of the streetlamp overhead and the distant rumble of thunder over the ocean.

            As if he fully understands what Roxas has just realized, Sora chuckles. "You really are new here…" Wickedly, he asks, "You wanna see 'em?"

            Without waiting for a response, Sora grins widely, and Roxas can almost swear the man's teeth are purposefully glinting at him. Within the Cheshire smile are Sora's canines, elongated and sharp as a knife. Then, Sora briefly holds his hand over his mouth before removing it. His fangs are gone, and the man runs his tongue over his now-normal teeth in amusement.

            "Neat trick, huh?"

            At this point Roxas is a mess of nerves and he cannot distinguish between his feelings of total terror and massive intrigue. Sure, he's probably come across vampires multiple times during his year in Dusk City, but never has he actually encountered one face-to-face. Especially not like this. He's never even seen the actual fangs of a vampire before. Roxas is so used to being an isolated entity that even the strange figures of Dusk City don't pay all that much mind to him. This is his first "real" interaction with a creature of the night, and he's conflicted between running away as fast as he can and staying to learn more about this blue-eyed vampire.

            "You're pretty odd," Sora says with a genuinely friendly smile, "I haven't done something like that in forever, I'm just so used to people keeping to themselves in this city. Are you okay, Roxas?"

            "Uh…" At a loss for words, Roxas just kind of shrugs. He figures it's a good neutral response to the question, since he doesn't quite want to express fear or curiosity.

            "I have an idea!" Sora chirps, "Let's see how well you can break out of my glamor!"

            "W-what?" Bemused, Roxas scowls, "I'm not an experiment! If anything you should be telling me more about all this vampire stuff since you've been giving me so much grief!"

            "Hmmm," Sora cocks a brow, as if in thought. "How 'bout this, if you break out of it at least once I'll tell you anything you want. Deal?" He holds out his hand out to shake.

            Roxas hesitates. Is he really sure he can pull off getting out of the glamor again? What if Sora tries something sketchy? Can this vampire really be trusted? Any of the information Roxas could learn from Sora can also likely be obtained via the Organization. Still… something deep inside of Roxas wants to explore what he's capable of; plus, if it means wiping the smug smile off this guy's face, that's an added plus.

            With a challenging smirk, Roxas reaches out and firmly shakes Sora's hand. "Deal."

            Sora lets go before stepping back a bit, looking quite pompous in his stature. "Fair warning, I was going easy on you before. Glamoring is my specialty… so I'm gonna give you all I've got."

            Taking a deep breath, Roxas braces himself before locking eyes with Sora. "I'm ready."

            It's a mere second after locking eyes with Sora that Roxas feels himself descending into Candyland, this time feeling as if he's falling into an orgasmic chute on the way. His vision is stained rosy-pink, and he feels his body relax considerably under his intoxicated stupor. The daze is far muddier than before, and his conscious flounders helplessly.

            F-fuck… He barely manages to find himself in the madness, Shit, he wasn't kidding…

            "Now Roxas," Against his will, Roxas feels himself eagerly looking to Sora, awaiting instructions like a loyal puppy. "Do you remember my name?"

            The vampire's name rolls off his tongue like a tart and mouthwatering lemon drop, "Sora."
           
            Damn it! That was pathetic… and Sora wasn't even trying! Roxas thinks hard to remember what exactly he said or done to himself during the first trip down lollipop lane. He focuses hard on not letting himself respond to the cocky brunet.

            "Tell me something about yourself, Roxas."

            This time Roxas stays quiet, though he's still trapped in the daze. Inside his head, he's pleased with himself.

            Better. Much better.

            "Please," Sora's words should be gentle, but they come out impatient. "Tell me."

            Roxas feels a wave of distorting bliss wash over his being and with only a moment's hesitation says, "I ran away from home."

            Son of a bitch! So close…!

            "Really? Huh, I didn't take you for the runaway type." Sora shrugs, "You almost got it, Roxas. Well, third time's a charm, right? How about we kick it up a few notches?" He smiles, and with one hand beckons the blond closer to him. The next words that leave Sora's mouth make Roxas' stomach drop. "Kiss me."

            MOTHERFUCKER! Roxas screams in his head, I KNEW SOMETHING LIKE THIS WOULD HAPPEN!

            His body moves very slowly toward the vampire as Roxas fights himself every step of the way. The overwhelming longing to lose himself against Sora's lips practically overpowers his consciousness as he drowns in skin-crawling arousal. It is a truly exhausting process, and he almost wishes he could just drop right there on the sidewalk rather than go on… but there's no way he's putting his mouth near Sora's if there is anything he can do about it.

            Like a cruel flash of lightning across the sky, his mind goes to Seifer. Roxas couldn't protect himself against Seifer, no matter how hard he tried. He had to run, run far away and never look back. This city was his only escape, and this is where he intends to become more powerful than ever before.

            I'll be damned if I can't fight anymore…

            His conscious surfaces.

            I'll be damned if I can't break free…!
           

            Roxas is incredibly close to Sora, and he looks deep into those blue eyes. The vampire is clearly struggling just as much as Roxas to keep control.

            No… no, no, no, no, NO…!

            Roxas feels their noses touch, and Sora smiles victoriously just as the rosy-pink begins to drain from the blond's vision.

            STOP!

            With one swift movement, Roxas strikes his hand across Sora's cheek with a satisfying smack.

            Déjà vu.

            The vampire's eyes go wide, and he's taken aback. Roxas stumbles backwards, wheezing loudly, before leaning on his knees with his hands. He is about ready to collapse from the serious mental exertion he'd just experienced. On his back, he feels the anticipated droplets of rain make their arrival. He looks to Sora whose face is puzzled; the blue-eyed man holds his cheek, which is slightly red from the force of the slap, and stares at Roxas in pure wonder.

            With a smug grin, Roxas breathlessly mutters, "I win."

            "I like you," Sora laughs, grinning widely, "You're spunky."

            Then the Dusk City tower bells clamor—the sound spanning across the city like a bad omen across the mind of a saint. Roxas' breath hitches in his throat, and he finally notices the giant orb hanging in the pure blackness of the sky. It was carefully hidden behind the looming rainclouds that are just now shedding their weight.

            A full moon.

            Oh no… He feels the fear rise through his chest, How could I forget?! That's why there are no trams coming…!

            On the nightfall of a full moon, the streetcar systems are limited to very few areas across the city. That way werewolves are less likely to make mass attacks on the trams if the only ones in operation are few and far between.

            All of a sudden, Roxas hears it. It's a sound that he's only heard from the safety of his apartment, and it rattles him down to the depths of his soul.

            A howl.

            He looks to Sora, whose eyes are cast elsewhere; on his face is an expression of recognition and Roxas watches as a few raindrops run down the man's cheeks and neck. "We have to go," The vampire says, "Right now."

            "Wait, why should I go with you?" Roxas asks in discontent, "Why should I even trust you after that stunt you pulled?"

            "I get where you're coming from Roxas, I really do," Sora pleads with him, voice low and concerned, "But would you rather trust me or a ravenous wolfman who will probably turn you into ground beef then eat you o n sight?"

            Roxas is about to carefully consider his options when he hears another howl, almost identical to the previous one, but far closer now than before. With nothing to add, Roxas simply nods at Sora, who grabs his hand in response. The blond notices Sora is trembling, but he's not certain if it's from fear.

            "Listen up, Roxas, 'cause I'm only going to say this once…"

            Roxas nods again, "I'm listening."

            "Run."


Exeunt



A/N: 3 and 6 are my lucky numbers.

This one was a doozy! I this one didn't make you crave sweets too much.

I'm sure former fans of Things That Kill… can appreciate all the references I hid in this chapter. How many can you find?

A lot of people have been wondering if I'll be giving Seifer a beating or incorporating my fanfiction Little Red into The Night. My answer is... maybe! You're just going to have to wait and find out. MUAHAHAHAHA! (In the meantime, Little Red might be gettting a makeover. We’ll see.)

References and Inspirations:

  • All the inspirations for the creatures of the night are drawn from multiple fictional universes, most notably Bram Stoker's Dracula and the 2011 Magic: The Gathering set "Innistrad".

-+-

Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

 

Chapter Text

The Night
Chapter IV: Horatio


August 23, 1860

            "Wait!" He shouted; his pace labored by the sand sinking beneath his footfalls. "Do not leave me behind!"

            "Perhaps you should try to catch up before asking me to wait!" The other boy shouted back, "Learn to run better, will you, Sora?"

            Sora laughed, ignoring the twinge of pain in his side. He watched his brother hastily tear his shoes off before running upon the wet sand of the shoreline. The sound of the waves became more prevalent as he got closer, and the humid ocean wind whisked at his face. Just before he caught up to his brother, he stripped himself of footwear as well. His feet smacked across the sodden earth and an icy chill from the cold ground rippled through his small body.
           
            "Perhaps," He gasped with labored breath, "We should trade places so I may have the same experience you do!"

            His brother could not help but smile, "Now that you're the age of 10, surely mother and father will let you join me on my journeys to the beach. Then you'll have plenty of experience for yourself. That is, if you stop hiding away your missal."

            "I hate those boring old things. I'd much rather read my history books."

            "Oh? The chaplain always speaks of God casting us into hell should be ignore the words of our missals."

            Sora responded with a loud scoff, "I am not afraid of God. Or hell."

            His brother laughed, shaking his head at the smaller boy. "Nor am I. God or no, we should be grateful that our name is noble enough to afford an education and books that aren't religious—"

            "Look!" Sora interjected, suddenly running closer to the water, "A ship! It must be a trading vessel."

            Floating along in the distance, a ship bobbed and weaved over the sea—its masts tall and its sails stark white against the light of the summer sun. Sora observed it with wonder, uncaring of the freezing water now lapping at his ankles. The ship seemed like a beacon in the dark waters of the ocean; a heavenly object shining to him, even as it encroached a wall of fog laying upon the horizon. He watched in silent awe as the vessel made it's way across the Black Sea.

            "You gaze at that ship with such earnest I fear you might jump into the water and start swimming to catch it."

            Joyously, Sora turned to his brother, "Had I the chance, I'd board a ship to-night! All I have ever wanted was to be a historian, sailing across the world, witnessing history." Sora sat down on the sand. "I could cross the sea, kiss the hands of maidens, bury myself in the libraries of the world. Father tells me history is made every day… so I will record everything that happens, and even see it with my own eyes." The boy let himself fall back, his shoulders landing against the wet ground. "I want to leave this place and see the world."

            Sora reached his hand out to the blue sky, fingers obscuring the sun…

June 10, 2025

            …and when he brings it back down, he sees the moon hanging in the night sky.

            Lazily, Sora examines his hand; slowly wiggling his tan fingers in the moonbeams, as if to re-energize his lost spirit. Lately the atmosphere feels thicker. There's a sense of foreboding settling off in the distance like thick smog.

            He could be getting fucked up at a club somewhere, wandering the streets, loitering on the tram systems, maybe picking up some money from an odd job somewhere… but the beach seems ideal. It always does.

            The soft churning of the ocean waves drifts through his head like a lullaby. The sand of Dusk City's beach is cool on his back, and so is the misty breeze on his face. He isn't sure what it is about this place, but Sora always finds himself coming here when there's nowhere else to go. Is it the smell of salt in the air? The soft sand sticking to his skin? Maybe it's his islander blood calling him there? Perhaps… it could be because it reminds him of the time before his "unlife", so to speak. Most of his memory of then is somewhat fuzzy and full of holes, but he does remember most of his time spent at the beach.

            Almost 200 years of life and, no matter where he goes or what part of the world he steps foot in, he always ends up like driftwood on the shore. It's almost as if some kind of ghost is haunting him, or there's an invisible string pulling him; before he knows it, Sora's walking upon the sand and looking upon the waves.

            He lays the back of his hand against his forehead and peers into the abyss suspended above. In the still blackness, faint hints of stars glitter weakly against the city's light pollution. There was a time where he would sit upon the damp wood of a ship and chart the stars—"keys to the world" is what his crewmates called them. Far back then, they shone like lighthouses to those on a ship drifting in the middle of the sea. But that was a very long time ago. Now, there's a sort of feeling of being lost without them guiding the way.

            Shutting his eyes, Sora once more tires to picture running across the beach as a child. Everything is practically crystal clear… all but one thing.

            The face of his brother.

            It's smudged and unrecognizable, like a pastel smear across a photograph. With all the memories that are important to him still intact, it seems so bizarre that one of the few people he ever truly cared about is missing; it's almost as if somebody purposefully plucked him out from Sora's brain. Stranger yet, it took almost 150 years for Sora to even remember having a brother. As more time passes, the more his memory returns—slowly filling up his head like sand in an hourglass. While these memories were precious, their loss wasn't worth mulling over, really. All those people in his distant thoughts are dead, as harsh as it sounds.

            Naturally, the true curse of immortality is watching those you care for wither away and die.

            This is the price I pay for becoming a keeper of history, Sora thinks, his dedicated apathy allowing no emotion to stir in his chest. It's easier to discover new worlds than witness people face their mortality constantly.

            Regardless of their great task, he and the other vampires had gotten lazy. With the integration of supernatural creatures into society being surprisingly smooth, all so-called "nightwalkers" found it less and less hard to stay secretive and alive. As more people wanted to become vampires (for whatever awful reason) the need for diligent recorders diminished as the population rose. On top of all that, despite widespread acceptance, few cities allowed creatures of the night in and even fewer cities had a major populous made up of supernaturals—Dusk City being the biggest of them all. At this point, vampires are known more for their awesome parties and great sex than for their work in history.

            Despite how awesome it is to live his unending days in a blur, Sora can't help but feel he's wasting himself, and whatever purpose he has, away. Somewhere deep down, he can't help but feel his dedication has been squandered by some bizarre need for a mid-unlife crisis. A large part of him wants to go back to how it once was, even though the rest of him has accepted that he simply cannot. Especially not with recent developments in the covenant…

            "If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart," Sora sighs, "Absent thee from felicity a while, and in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain to tell my story."

            "My first guess is right again." A voice cuts through the sound of rolling waves, "You're sitting on the beach muttering Shakespeare, as usual."

            Knowing the voice all too well, Sora doesn't bother opening his eyes. "Well! Now that you're here, let's play Wheel of Fortune." He lets a smile creep to his face. "You've got 50 thou in the pot. So far, the board says: 'I'm not going'. There's one word left in the phrase. Would you like to solve the puzzle or would you like to buy a vowel?"

            There's a laugh, "At least you're cutting to the chase," Sora hears the sifting of the sand as footsteps encroach him. "Also, you say you're not going back as if you have a choice."

            "Who says I don't? 'His Majesty'? Give me a break." He laughs a bit himself, "What a frumpy title, anyway. Royalty in one life and for some reason it carries into the next…"

            "You know that's not why he is who he is. We wouldn't be having this conversation right now if that was the case."

            Sitting up, Sora blinks his eyes open to stare at the tall figure next to him: the only thing clear in the blackness of the night is silver hair catching the light of the moon.

            "Riku, you're my best friend in this whole wide world… but you're wasting your time. You've been sniffing me out for weeks, but look—" He gestures to himself in amusement, "—I'm still here! Still AWOL. What makes you think tonight will be any different?"

            Riku watches as Sora stands and brushes the sand off his body, briefly glancing over said vampire's attire. Hooded leather jacket, red ribbed tank, tattered jeans, beat-up sneakers, infamous crown necklace… typical Sora. Shaking his head, Riku sighs. What a mess.

            "Maybe tonight won't be different." He mutters as Sora picks his knapsack up from the sand and slings it over his shoulders. "But tomorrow night is a full moon." Sora instantly locks eyes with Riku, feeling an expression of realization flash across his own face. The silver-haired man continues, "Then you won't be able to run or hide from me, and I can't guarantee your safety either."

            Sora can't help but let a chuckle out, "Doesn't that piss you off, Riku? 'His Grace' is turning you into his almost-literal foxhound."

            Suddenly Riku takes an aggressive step forward, but Sora doesn't budge; smirking arrogantly at the lycanthrope. "Did you ever stop to think that maybe this isn't about what he wants?! That maybe I just want you to come back and stop all this bullshit because I'm your friend and I care about you?" There is a long pause of unyielding eye contact, and Sora's facetious smile never fades. Under his breath Riku growls, "Kairi cares too, you know."

            That comment must have flicked a switch somewhere, because Sora's grin drops in an instant before the vampire abruptly tears his eyes away and cries out in frustration. "It isn't my fucking fault, okay?! THIS was never my choice! Never did I ask to be a MONSTER! Never once did I ask to be a 'Lamb of Dracul', or whatever the King calls it! Before fifty years ago, I hadn't even the knowledge the fucker was my Sire until my memories returned and they tested my blood to be sure." Noticing the slip in his dialect, Sora runs his fingers through his hair in an attempt to get a hold of himself. "My job was to record history. Out of this whole mess, that was the only thing I wanted. And now they suddenly want me running the whole shebang?"

            "You know it's not that simple, Sora. The King needs—"

            "What? A hero, right?" Sora laughs mockingly, "I'm no hero. I memorialize the heroes. Hamlet dies, but Horatio lives on to tell his story; just like the rest of my bloodsucking brothers and sisters and I." Sora gnashes his fangs at Riku, "So if you or anybody else still wants me to come back, you can fucking drag me."

            There is silence. Both men are still as statues; gazes transfixed on one another. The air around them is heavy with anticipation and sea mist, and Sora knows who will make the first move.

            In a mere blink, he watches Riku jolt forward with his hand out, aiming straight for Sora's throat—

            But it's not fast enough.

            Before Riku's brain can even register the pain, there are four pure silver prongs of searing heat ripping into his gut and he suddenly feels his body go rigid. Sora watches his friend drop to the sand from the 55,000 volts rocking the werewolf's system. Unsympathetic, he tosses the taser next to the convulsing man and takes off toward the city without a second thought.


June 11, 2025

            When Sora opens his eyes, the room is comfortably dark. Hanging in the air are the smells of bleach and lingering cigarette burns, with maybe a touch of cheap coffee. Fancy-looking curtains are drawn over the windows, and barely any daylight seeps out through the heavy cloth. He turns on his side under the stale hotel sheets, glancing at the hovering holographic analog clock on the bedside table: 4:37 pm. Not quite sunset, but it's a safe enough time to leave.

            Besides, the longer I stay the better chance Riku has to sniff me out.

            The night before, he was able to duck into some clubs and hop on a few trams to throw off the werewolf. So far, it's been the best scent-breaker since so many bodies (typically sweaty) in one place at one time are enough to overload any creature's scent trail. Riku has always hated such crowded places anyway, so it's always Sora's go-to option for both his freedom and as food for his outgoing personality.

            Sitting up in bed, Sora resolves to hop in the shower momentarily to help rid himself of his evening grogginess. Plus, there's plenty of stubborn excess sand still clinging to his skin somehow; not to mention the sweat of numerous other partiers. Crossing the crisp carpet of the still-dark hotel room, he drops his pants and boxers before entering the bathroom. Sora stands next to the tub and touches the hovering display to turn the hot water on; pondering briefly over the events of the night before. He's never tried tasing Riku before, and he genuinely hopes the charge stopped before the waves got too close.

            Once the spray is on he steps under it, uncaring of the extreme heat. While sudsing himself down with the lavender scented hotel soap left in the tub, he tries his best not to think about Riku, especially not about Kairi, and absolutely not about the King. As the days pass, it has become harder and harder to accept his newfound "responsibility" to the coven… the longer he runs, the more futile it feels. It's like a ball and chain that just gets shorter and shorter as time goes by; regardless, his feelings are unwavering on the subject.

            If I can't even figure my own life out, and if I could barely even be a sire to someone I care about, He rinses the bubbles from his skin, Then why should I have to wear a crown or be a warrior?

            There's a moment of deliberation, of careful wondering. It's loud in Sora's head, as all his thoughts attack him at once like a barrage of guilt and the unknown. Questions, so many questions, like a murder of crows pecking at his skull begging for answers. He grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes shut, feeling the stress rise quickly in his chest. However, as usual, Sora's positivity seems to break through the clusterfuck in his head and his care for the issue melts away with the thought: Ah, fuck it. It's a new day! I'll deal with all that later.

            Suddenly he feels his fingers begin to tremble, and shakes slowly creep up his body. He curses, remembering that he hasn't eaten in over 24 hours and now he's suffering for it. With a groan, Sora shuts off the shower and quickly darts out of the bathroom whilst drying off with a towel. He reaches for his knapsack with shuddering hands, and dumps its contents out onto the bed. Some weapons, mostly dirty clothes, blood-lancing devices, and…

            "Aha!" Sora feels triumphant as a blood packet and a few vials topple out of the bag, at least until—"…oh fuck."—he sees that they're all empty. He carefully examines the vials, noting that one has at least a tablespoon left and should be enough until he locates the nearest blood bank. He unscrews the small flask and quickly tips it back like a shot; allowing the bitter, coppery goodness to fully coat his tongue before thickly swallowing. As the intoxicating fluid coats his throat, Sora realizes just how tasty this stuff is once he's gone without it for a long time. The tip of his tongue searches eagerly for any excess sticking to his lips while he scoops back up the mess into his knapsack.

            He leaves out his last clean shirt, a black v-neck, and pair of clean boxers before making a note to stop by a laundromat after the blood bank. With his body slowing its trembling, Sora shoves in his old shirt and boxers and proceeds to clumsily dress.

            After leaving his hotel room and traveling to the lobby via elevator, Sora checks out with the nice young woman at the counter. As another careful step in covering his tracks, Sora glamors her into forgetting his face with a sly smile—but not before having her unbutton her top a little, which is one of his many favorite glamor tricks.

            Stepping out into the shady city, Sora feels pretty great. It is a beautiful day despite the fog hanging over the cityscape and the sting of lingering sunlight on his skin, there's a lot to do, and life is looking pretty wonderful.

            That is, before he notices a familiar face right across the street. He stares into seafoam eyes which bore into his soul like two hot stakes in his heart. Sora can't help but grimace as Riku silently scowls at him; watching the tall man pull last night's taser from a jacket pocket and crush it slowly in his grasp before dropping the crumpled mess onto the pavement. Stunned, Sora merely shrugs and awkwardly smiles in a sort of jovial, please-don't-brutally-murder-me manner.
           
            Without warning, an oncoming tram car passes in front of Sora.

            When it's gone, so is Riku.

            Well, fuck.

            Thinking swiftly, Sora dashes to catch the tram at its next stop—it's his only hope. With the streets mostly empty, there are few obstacles which is a good and bad thing: good because there's little in Sora's way, bad because there is also little in Riku's way. Not daring to look anywhere but forward, Sora feels the twinge of pain in his side and—

Go

Sand

Go

Sea

Go

History

Gogogogogogogogogogogogogogo GO GO GO GO GO GO

"Isn't this what you wanted, Sora?"

Gold?

What?

            Even though there's a sudden crazy blur of thoughts in his head, he doesn't stop. He shakes the bizarre… nostalgia? Reminiscence? Some kind of contact high? Well, whatever it is, he shakes it from his brain and sprints despite the protest of his body. A short distance away he sees the tram slow to a stop, knowing there are only a few seconds to spare. He feels Riku's presence upon him, closing in like a literal wolf on it's prey, so he reaches out…

            And just barely swings himself into the open doors of the tram, the door sliding shut behind him. Sora watches through the glass of the door as Riku's figure, which was merely a yard or two away from him, disappear as the tram glides along. He pants in exhaustion, his good mood returning without skipping a beat, before turning to look at the empty—

            Oh.

            Not empty tram car behind him.

            In the middle of the car there's a blond human sitting there, staring at the window all bored-like. Sora feels a strange, but not unfamiliar, flutter in his chest when he notices how cute this stranger is. Feeling confident, he smoothly strides up to the man; turning on the charm like a light switch in his head.

            "This seat taken?" He gently smiles, but his only reply is a shrug. Sora plops down next to the blond with a pleased sigh, placing his knapsack between his legs. He doesn't let the stranger's movement toward the window deter him. Here comes the quirky small talk. Still exhausted, he asks sarcastically, "It's pretty busy today, huh? This car is packed."

            The blond smiles politely, "I know, I can barely breathe in here."

            Sora lets out a genuine laugh, happy to receive both a smile and legitimate interaction. He notices the human is looking him over in a curious manner, so he himself takes a brief second to give the blond a closer inspection. Gorgeous azure eyes, a white cotton shirt, grey hoodie, a cool silver necklace in the shape of an X…

            "That's an awesome necklace, by the way." Sora comments, smiling once more.

            "Oh," The young man touches the jewelry, and Sora notes how dainty and soft his hands look. "Thank you. Yours is cool too." He points to Sora's own necklace. "Is that silver?"

            "Platinum, actually. It's a family heirloom." At least, from what he remembers. It was one of the clearer memories of his past: his mother proudly handing him the heirloom as a present for his 21st birthday.

            He sees the blond relax slightly, "Mine too actually. It was made back in the 1880s."

            Sora feels himself beaming at the other man, "Hey! Same here! Check it out," He flips the crown over, "1887." This date was something Sora was unsure of. He was 21 in 1871, and he technically "died" in 1873. What happened in 1887? He wasn't sure. He just knows it appeared on his most prized possession around the same time most of his memory had been lost.

            "That's such a crazy coincidence!" The blond smiles, and Sora feels that flutter in his chest again. "You know what they say: it's a small world after all."

            Laughing, Sora can't help but lean in close and eagerly say, "I have to ask, what's your name?"

            Just then the tram stops once more, and the now-nervous human seems relieved. Looking away, he mutters, "Um… this is my stop."

            Sora doesn't let the sudden (and very odd) panic show on his face. "Oh!" He chuckles, sliding out of the seat and grabbing his knapsack. He pulls an excuse out of thin air, determined to at least get a name out of the attractive stranger. "It really is a small world." He bullshits, "It's my stop too."

            The blond gestures toward the door, looking as if he's feigning politeness. "After you."

            It's not gonna be that easy.

            Calling the bluff, Sora enthusiastically gestures himself. "No I insist. After you."

            Sora watches the blond sling a backpack over his shoulders before hurrying off the tram and onto the sidewalk, noticing that the stranger is merely an inch shorter than him. With how nervous the guy seems, Sora decides he's better off saving some time by doing what he does best. He steps off the tram, and the guy turns around to face him. He focuses on those lovely azure eyes, ready to grab hold with his gaze.

            "Well it was nice chatting with you—"

            "Stop." He breathes, watching the stranger go still. The blond looks quite giddy, like a child who just received a lollipop, which certainly isn't a common side-effect of glamor but it's nothing to write home about. "Now," The guy perks up at the sound of Sora's voice, "Tell me your name."

            "Roxas," The blond affectionately sighs, smiling as if in a drunken daze. "I'm Roxas."

            Sora can't help the surprised smirk that tugs at his lips, finding Roxas' reaction both incredibly strange and quite honestly arousing. Still, he remains polite: getting strangers to unbutton their blouses or give their name is enough entertainment, even though Sora knows he's capable of much more.

            "Well Roxas, it's very nice to meet you." He reaches out his hand to shake, making Roxas mirror the action.

            It is in this moment when the most bizarre thing happens.

            Sora's hand is slapped away

            This human—Roxas—has broken free of Sora's glamor. In over 200 years of Sora's unlife and hundreds upon thousands of glamor subjects both human and supernatural, this has NEVER happened.

            What… Sora catches Roxas' gaze again, totally flabbergasted, …the fuck?

            "How…" Is the only thing he manages to splutter out, "How did you do that?"

            He's so shocked that he doesn't even budge when Roxas whips around and books it down the sidewalk.

            Realizing his own stupidity, he shouts. "Hey wait! WAIT!"

            Sora is about to go after Roxas when he realizes just which street he's on: the one with the two Organization members right across the street from one another. The last people he wants to fuck with are the Organization, and if he's spotted—rather, smelled—chasing a human, Lamb of Dracul or no, he could be done for.

            Unsure of his next move, Sora calls out to the fleeing mortal, "I didn't get to tell you! My name is Sora!"

            Knowing the blond was in earshot, he watches as his new acquaintance skitters away, still visibly rattled.

            A strange sense of reality settles on Sora then as he watches the rapidly fading back of the mortal. This is the first person Sora has known of who can resist glamoring since he studied the Salem Witch Trials. A wave of excitement flows through his veins; it's a kind of excitement he hasn't felt since the glory days of his travels. He has to learn more about this curious human… he has to learn more about Roxas.

            This is revolutionary.

            This is history.


           About half a block away from the Organization members' shops, Sora has taken refuge at a small bar with black bricks and dim lights. He'd glamored the bartender to allow him to stay as long as necessary, and to warn Sora if either Riku or Roxas are walking down the street. The bartender also has a clear look at the bookstore he knows one of the black-cloaks owns, so Sora is having him keep an eye on who goes in and out of there too.

            Once the evening rush was over, the bar was nearly empty save for the occasional stragglers here and there. As he waits for any sign of Roxas, Sora is lounging in a half-circle booth tucked into a secluded corner of the bar; as far away from the window as possible, just in case. On a positive note, Riku would probably never follow him down this particular street even if he did catch his scent since the werewolf knows the locations of the Organization even better than Sora does. While unsure where Roxas vanished to, Sora can surmise that if the human has a gift like that, he's on his way to join the Organization (if he hasn't already done so). Either way, the closest tram is the one they both stepped off of so he'll be heading in that direction regardless.

            Slumping in his seat, Sora lets out a long sigh and ponders over the situation at hand. What exactly does he know about the black cloaks—er… the Organization? Other than they act as the police for the creatures of the night… not a whole lot. Magical powers of questionable origin, freaky DNA, and snazzy jackets are the only facts he has. Everybody knows that they were vigilantes until appointed by the city, and some of them are even descendants of some really powerful spellcasters. Having only this knowledge in hand, Sora is disappointed in himself.

            "Some keeper of history I am…" He mutters.

            To be fair, the Organization was only formed a few years after the supernatural became a regular part of society and has done it's best to stay under serious wraps since. They're almost like a leap-of-faith en carnate: just trust that they'll keep you safe from the things that go bump in the—

            "Pink hair," The bartender suddenly blurts out, "Tall, no cloak. He's leaving the bookshop, crossing the street… and entering the flower shop."

            Sora nods in understanding, "Must be one of the members." Before Sora can contemplate this further, the bartender speaks again.

            "Shorter and younger man leaving the bookshop, no cloak… blonde hair."

            Sora can't fight the instinct to stand suddenly. He scrambles for loose munny in his pockets and slams the makeshift tip out on the table. On his way to scurry out the door he splutters out, "Thanksforyourhelpmuchappreciatedsorryforanytroubleyou'refreefrommyserviceforgetyoueversawmeandhavealovelynight bye!"

            As he leaves the bar, he spots Roxas heading back toward the tram and, after channeling his inner sneaky vampire, starts to tail the human at a comfortable distance.


            Some time passes and the rainclouds still hang threateningly in the sky, although no droplets have fallen to the ground. Standing at the tram stop he'd gotten off of a couple hours ago is Roxas, looking lost in thought as he waits for his ride. From the cover of an alleyway corner, Sora can't help but take a moment to watch. Now that he's encountering the human again, he isn't quite sure how to approach him. He clearly can't just glamor the mortal into staying, and at the first sight of the vampire Roxas would probably take off. He has to come up smoothly, in one fluid motion, and make sure he can't run.

            Fuck it, He shrugs, I'm overthinking this. Let's just roll with it.

            With one long deep breath, Sora swiftly strides up to Roxas, grips him around the bicep and forces him to turn around. Sora isn't prepared to be captivated by azure eyes, and his brain goes quiet. He feels a wayward smile appear on his face, and all he can really muster is a "Boo."

            "You…" The mortal hisses, and Sora sees a fist rocketing toward him.

            "Woah there!" Sora barely dodges it, "Just calm down!"

            "Calm down?! Fuck you!" Another failed punch.

            This is not the reaction Sora was expecting… though he’s also not sure what he was honestly expecting eiter.

            Unsure of how to deal with Roxas' rage, he attempts to reason with him. "I'm just here to talk," He assures, "I'm not gonna hurt you!"

            "What the fuck did you do to me?!" Roxas bites out.

            …huh? Sora suddenly finds himself incredibly confused.

            "You made me see fluffy clouds and happy bunnies or some shit!"

            …fucking huh? "Fluffy what?" Sora is lost as all holy hell. "Roxas, what are you talking about?"

            There's a brief pause, and Sora watches the interesting process of balking realization turn into utter rage on Roxas' face. The blond blindly swings toward him in vain as Sora continues to dodge the hits like they're butterflies catching a gentle glide off the evening breeze.

            "I can do this all night, you know." Sora sighs and in one fluid motion catches Roxas' fists as they propel toward him. He figures it's time to cut to the chase, as reasoning is getting him nowhere. "Listen, I just want to know how you resisted my glamor. That's all!"

            Now Roxas looks confused, head tilted slightly and lips pursed in a questioning matter. "Your… what?"

            Sora feels the frown on his face, more puzzled now than ever before. This guy is living in Dusk City and he doesn't know glamor? This is… an even stranger predicament than he realized. Sora attempts to clarify, "It's the thing I used to make you tell me your name. Do you not know what glamoring is?"

            Roxas sheepishly turns his gaze away, pouting and muttering a "No, I don't actually…" Just then, the blonde lights up as if he remembered something important and he looks back to the vampire. "That's what I was telling you about with the clouds and bunnies! When you did that it was like you slipped me ecstasy because everything turned pink and…"

            Woah. WOAH. FUCKING WOAH.

            "Wait, wait, wait…" Sora lets go of Roxas' hands, more baffled now than he has been in an incredibly long time. "You're telling me that not only could you resist the glamor, but you could also see and feel it?"

            "I…" Roxas pauses as if searching his brain for details, "I'm not sure what else to tell you, blue-eyes."

            "Blue-eyes?" Sora scoffs, both mildly amused at the nickname and slightly saddened his actual name did not stick with the human. "I told you my name, remember? I'm Sora. And you can at least tell me how you did it."

            After opening his mouth, Roxas's gaze drifts as he pauses in thought for a long while. Though the sight is somewhat silly, he's still fascinated to hear what his companion has to say and waits patiently for a response. Is it a spell? A magical ability of some kind? Does Roxas even know what he did? The guy doesn't know what glamoring is, so the likeliest result is that he just doesn't know how he resisted it. But does anyone know what it is any more? Now that he thinks about it, it is basically just mind control. In fact, he’s now realizing only he really knows it as “glamoring”. Sora feels like an idiot, but keeps a straight face. Fake it ‘till you make it, right? Still, this is a peculiar situation and it would be interesting to find out how Roxas resisted; perhaps an experiment would be in order? Roxas' eyes snap back to Sora's, and said vampire feels the eagerness swell in his chest.

            "Well," The human starts, "I guess the best way to put it is that I used my willpower. Nothing seemed right, and I knew I had to stop it somehow." He rubs the back of his neck. "At least, I'm pretty sure that's what I did. I really just don't know." Roxas sends Sora a bemused look, "Why does it matter to you anyway?"

            "Why does it matter"? Sora repeats in his head, incredibly frustrated, Fucking really? Then he remembers the situation at hand. "I almost forgot you don't know what glamor is…actually, I don’t even know how many people know what it is anymore, it’s such a rare trait." Sora can't help the laugh that sneaks through his throat.

            "Are you going to tell me what it is then?" The blond bites out, cutely crossing his arms and pouting in agitation.

            Sora can't help the thought, It's like negotiating with a cranky puppy, as he looks to the clouds and taps his cheek in consideration. "Well, it's a bit tricky to explain." He starts. He's never had to really explain this to someone, not since about 70 years ago. "It's like mind control, but usually it’s more of an influence, I guess. Depending on who you are, you can't have people do your bidding, but you can encourage their will or actions one way or another. Typically someone can feel the sensation of being glamored, but definitely not as extreme as your case. It's kinda like the feeling of trust or solace in a human's heart—you can suddenly confide in the one glamoring you, and everything they say makes sense."" He makes a gesture to Roxas, "Like getting someone's name. Some say the most powerful of vampires with the ability can completely bend the will of anything, not just humans." An honest and confident smile curls at his lips. "You're interesting to me because, through all my years of complete success in glamoring almost anything, not a single one has had the ability to resist like you."


            Sora watches Roxas' eyes go wide and jaw go slack. The human says nothing, only stares, and Sora is momentarily unsure of why the other man is so awestruck. Both men are quiet, the only audible sound is the gentle buzzing of the streetlamp overhead and the distant rumble of thunder over the ocean.

            Suddenly, it hits Sora.

            "You really are new here…" Sora can't disguise the mischief in his voice, "You wanna see 'em?"

            Uncaring of a response, Sora lets his fangs come down and grins widely. He can feel the fear and excitement through Roxas' gaze as the human gawks at him. Then, Sora briefly holds his hand over his mouth before retracting his fangs and removing his hand. He runs his tongue over his now-normal teeth in amusement, still enjoying the look on Roxas' face.

            "Neat trick, huh?" He refrains from adding something along the lines of 'I'd like to try it against your neck' so as not to be too forward and scare his new friend off too soon.

            There is a moment of silence, and the vampire isn't sure whether or not Roxas is going to hightail it right then and there. Feeling giddy, Sora genuinely smiles and says "You're pretty odd. I haven't done something like that in forever, I'm just so used to people keeping to themselves in this city." Unsure of the blond's current mental state, he asks, "Are you okay, Roxas?"

            "Uh…" He watches Roxas halfheartedly shrug.

            Satisfied, Sora thinks back to their conversation before and remembers his thoughts about experimentation. "I have an idea!" He blurts out, "Let's see how well you can break out of my glamor!"

            "W-what?" Roxas scowls and as if reading Sora's mind replies, "I'm not an experiment! If anything you should be telling me more about all this vampire stuff since you've been giving me so much grief!"

            "Hmmm," Sora figures a bargain on Roxas' terms may be in order. After all, this is historical and it is not to be ignored. It's been a long time since he's experienced something of this scale, so it's worth milking it. "How 'bout this, if you break out of it at least once I'll tell you anything you want. Deal?" He holds out his hand out to shake.

            Roxas hesitates, but Sora waits patiently for a response. He hopes dearly that Roxas will accept, and a fucked up part of him wants to push his own limits. His greatest talent as a vampire is his impeccable ability to glamor people, so if he really is a Lamb of Dracul, what is he capable of? Can Sora himself really bend the will of a human to his liking, especially one with such a powerful resistance?

            Maybe now is the time to test this.

            Sora is snapped from his thoughts when Roxas reaches out and shakes his hand with a cocky "Deal."

            Excited by the challenging smirk on the human’s face, Sora lets go and steps back a bit; allowing his own confidence to show. "Fair warning, I was going easy on you before. Glamoring is my specialty… so I'm gonna give you all I've got."

            Roxas takes a deep breath, bracing himself, before locking eyes with Sora again. "I'm ready." He says, and Sora doesn't hesitate to reach his conscious deep into those azure eyes. Down, down, down… he grips onto Roxas's free will like a malignant tumor, boring into the human's mind deeper than he's ever gone into anyone before. Sora waits until his soon-to-be mindslave looks high as a fucking kite before speaking.

            Let's start with something simple.

            "Now Roxas," Sora watches the eagerness in Roxas' face, "Do you remember my name?"

            "Sora." Roxas moans so perfectly, and Sora feels the heat pooling in his gut.

            I might have gone too deep… He jokes internally. Next request.

            "Tell me something about yourself, Roxas."

            This time the human stays quiet, and Sora somehow feels an unfamiliar struggle against the mental constraints. Though it’s a foreign sensation, it’s nothing too tricky to fix.

            "Please," He demands, gripping his influence on Roxas a little tighter, "Tell me."

            With only a brief hesitation and a quivering lip, Roxas mutters "I ran away from home."

            "Really?" Sora wonders aloud, "Huh, I didn't take you for the runaway type. You almost got it, Roxas. Well, third time's a charm, right?" Feeling wicked, and also with consideration from the earlier reactions, it may be time to try something a bit more… interesting. "How about we kick it up a few notches?" He smiles, and with one hand beckons the blond closer to him. "Kiss me."

            He feels Roxas fighting his glamor as the blond's body inches slowly toward him. Sora wrings Roxas' will with all his might, struggling more with simple mind control than he ever has in his entire eternal life. It's exhausting, but he won't stop until Roxas breaks free or he's kissing those delicate-looking lips. His sudden insatiable hunger plunges him deeper into Roxas' conscious, making him want to desperately ravage the human under his slipping control.

            It seems like a long while later, but Sora feels their noses touch and can't help the victorious smile as Roxas' lips close in—

            And a sudden slap to the face knocks him from his focus.
           
            Déjà vu.

            Taken aback, Sora feels his eyes go wide. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Roxas leaning on his knees and wheezing loudly. The human looks to him, and they share the gaze for a while as Sora feels a raindrop or two land on his head.

            Smugly, Roxas grins and breathlessly mutters, "I win,"

            Laughing, Sora grins himself while remarking "I like you, you're spunky."

            In the distance, the Dusk City tower bells clamor—the sound spanning across the city like a bad omen across the mind of a saint. Sora unconsciously looks up and he finally notices the giant orb hanging in the pure blackness of the sky. It was carefully hidden behind the looming rainclouds that are just now shedding their weight.

            A full moon.

            Well, fuck. No wonder the tram is taking forever… it’s not coming back tonight.

            Then, there it is: Riku's howl.

            It is unmistakable, as Sora has known that same one for so long that he cannot possibly be wrong. He knows who it's calling for, and Riku's words echo in his head:

            "You won't be able to run or hide from me."
           
            "We have to go. Right now."

            "Wait, why should I got with you?" Roxas spitefully asks, "Why should I even trust you after that stunt you pulled?"

            True, Sora could just leave the human behind as it could slow him down… but putting another's life—mortal, at that—in danger is simply not who he is. He could never abandon somebody like that, no matter what. It would be Sora's fault if any harm came to Roxas at the claws of Riku, and he simply will not let that happen. Plus, he almost made it to first base with the guy; it would be rude to just take off.

            Suddenly Sora feels his fingers begin to tremble, and shakes slowly creep up his body.

            Oh fuck. He hasn't eaten since he left the hotel. Not now… fuck…

            "I get where you're coming from Roxas, I really do," Sora pleads with him, voice low and concerned, "But would you rather trust me or a ravenous wolfman who will probably turn you into ground beef then eat you on sight?"

            Sora knows he's right, but all it takes is another one of Riku's howls to convince Roxas and the human sends the vampire a nod of approval. The howl sounded closer than before, much closer, so Sora grabs Roxas' hand.

            "Listen up, Roxas, 'cause I'm only going to say this once…"

            Roxas nods again, "I'm listening."

            "Run."


Exuent


A/N: I hope you enjoyed Sora's introductory chapter! I apologize that his chapter isn't too terribly different from the last… I just thought it would be interesting to get Sora's perspective of the whole thing rather than forgo it. Just in case some of you are wondering, it is NOT a coincidence (or me being lazy) that Sora has an incredibly similar thought process to Roxas. But more on that later!


References and Inspirations:

  • All the inspirations for the creatures of the night are drawn from multiple fictional universes, most notably Bram Stoker's Dracula and the 2011 Magic: The Gathering set "Innistrad".

-+-

Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

 

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter V: почемучка (Pochemuchka) 


The 18th Century

            Life became foreign upon the moment Sora’s brother was sealed in their family mausoleum.

            Beneath the shiny rosewood lacquer of a coffin, his brother’s body laid against silk throws of nobility with a visage that bore more living aspects than that of a corpse. It was as if the blood, no longer needed for the working on the heart, had gone to make the harshness of death as little rude as might be. (1)  It was also perplexing to Sora that the marks [Au] [Au] [Au]  vanished; [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] -[Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] strangely they were gone just moments before his brother’s death.

            However, his parents refused to question it so he simply stayed silent. They needn't frighten others with the auspicious legends that terrified them as children and worse in adulthood. To bring up such superstitions was poison to reputations, and as a family of islanders they were already somewhat out of place in Transylvanian society. It was simply better to forget from that point onward.

            The stone doors shut with a gentleness that somehow still left a resounding echo in Sora's skull. Empty like the air, yet loud and clamoring.

             Life begins just as life dies, so they turned away from the crypt without a wayward glance. [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] [Au] Especially Sora, who had so many dreams to chase and a life to live.

            It was his 21st birthdate that lonely year: his mother, so proud of her steadfast son for standing tall despite the weight of grief, awarded him the heirloom she had originally given to her eldest son. While receiving the shining item brought tremendous pain to his heart, it also brought a sense of undying pride. Sora was stepping in his brother’s footsteps while also making his own path for the both of them.

            After all, he was hell-bent on crossing the Black Sea at all costs. Many days of his youth were spent reading maps and history books until the early hours of the morn. In church he would sneak peeks at navigation manuals and astronomy notes between missals. One day the priest caught him, attempting to instill the fear of god in the young man. To the shock of many, he laughed at the notion and nearly got his family excommunicated—claiming god’s wrath could find him on the sea, and being dragged to hell was the least of his cares.

            His near-endless days of expressing a desire to seek the world was apparent to all who knew him. His late brother was incredibly supportive, but his parents pleaded with him daily to settle into a science or medical-related career—after all, they built their own fortune off of it. Even Sora’s fiancée, a girl from another wealthy family, thought it best for him to abandon his dream. In full honesty, Sora didn’t care for her opinion in the least bit; after all, their betrothal was simply arraigned by both their parents, despite his aggressive protest. Who was she, again? She meant so little to him that he doesn’t even remember her face or her name

            However, with too much pressure from multiple sides, Sora finally gave in to the demands.

            After nearly four years of studying, he abandoned his college courses on history and geography before taking up biology and machinery in their stead. Such a sudden shift in focus was truly grueling, and Sora felt himself become miserable. Still he had to please his family, and also his fiancée’s. A year of sorrow, depression, and the undying sense of soullessness…

            And then Sora took ill.

            It started with a sense of fatigue. Every time he stood, it was as if the world began to pirouette round his head and getting up was a monotonous chore. There were many mornings where he would have to force himself out of bed, looking pale as a ghost and just as gaunt. His neck ached, his limbs were weak; yet the lethargy seemed a suitable match to his emotional state, so he excused it as stress and did his best to keep an uplifted stride.

            One fateful morning he noticed the marks, tiny as can be, sitting perfectly adjacent to one another on his neck. He recognized them in horror and refused to look at his bare neck in a mirror from then on. Every day he tightly bundled his collar up so no one would take notice to the two small pinpricks of impending doom. Still, he tried his best to fake normalcy.

            While Sora would wake in his bed every morning as if everything were fine, his family and friends bore witness to odd behavior. At night, he would wander out of the house and travel all the way down to the beach where he and his brother once played as children. Since it didn’t affect his daily activities, Sora once more explained it away as more stress and leftover grief for his late brother… up until the memory loss.

            One moment he would be at the lecture hall in his college, the next he would be riding on a wagon heading back home. Witnesses claimed he seemed normal during these supposed haze-filled moments, but then there would come the constant drawing. All he would sketch was eyes, eyes, eyes; not a single sheet of parchment was safe when he entered these bizarre moments of hypnosis.

            As time crawled along, the more disturbing Sora’s symptoms became: mirrors reflected his deathly pallor, his skin was clammy to the touch, his eyes were sunken into their sockets, his breathing became labored, he was in a perpetual state of exhaust, the marks on his neck became deeper with raised, white edges… but no matter what happened, he refused help.

            Even when he woke up in his bed, after having passed out in the middle of the street, he still struggled to get up and continue with his life. Even when he found out it had been a week since he collapsed. Even when he wouldn’t admit to having forgotten up to two weeks prior.

            He demanded that everything was fine.

            It had to be fine.

            The doctor in the crisp-clean clothes talked about an issue with hypo-volo-something, and made a remark about his brother’s death. Sora didn’t listen, not even when they begged him to, not when he tried to desperately leap out of bed, not when they pinned him down to the bed and not even when they stuck the needle in him. He didn’t listen the next day when they searched for a specialist. When they failed miserably, his ears were off. When the doctor gravely announced that no more could be done, Sora was better off deaf.

            He remembers seeing his mother sobbing helplessly next to him on the bed. She wouldn’t stop saying “Not again, not again…” His father even cried with her. The last of their sons was not long for this world, after all. They’d have to bury him, just like his brother. They apologized profusely for making him miserable, but it really didn’t matter to him. He tried so desperately to make them smile; to see his mother’s beautiful grin and hear his father’s hearty laugh. He held himself even to the very end just for that, holding onto that one last goal.

            When he finally did it, when they chortled as well as they could through the tears, he fell asleep.

            Those nights he dreamt so vividly of walking along the beach, staring at the moon, wolves howling in the distance… but most of all, he dreamt of gold and eyes. Deep, piercing eyes, redder than the fires of hell, and hot honey-gold.

Gold, gold, gold

            Gold, gold, gold

                        Gold, gold, gold,

                                    Gold, gold, gold

            The space he was in was dark, but soft and warm, and it was the warmest he felt in a long time. Muffled but audible were the sounds of soft crying, prayers, his mother’s tearful goodbye, and his father’s solemn farewell.

            It was Sora’s funeral.

            How?

            He laid helplessly as he felt himself being lifted into what he surmised was the tomb, beneath his brother’s coffin in a space he was too soon to occupy. He found himself wanting to shout and struggle against the tightness of the coffin.

            I’m alive, He thought. I’m still here.

            But he was paralyzed. It was as if his spirit was somehow attached to his corpse: aware, but stiff as a board. The mausoleum doors slid shut once more, this time with him inside. Was this God’s sick joke? Was this his eternal punishment for laughing at divinity?

            Oh, how little he knew then.

            He merely screamed in his head, for it was all he could do. He screamed and begged, and the sounds vibrated in his skull like bellowing church bells.

            Hours passed, perhaps even days.

            Sora had fallen into another slumber, this time dreamless, when he was awoken bythe sound of his coffin lid being ripped open. The splinters of wood fell about him, and his gaze caught the moonlight pouring in from the stained glass window; blurry details becoming more apparent as his eyes adjusted. Standing over him was the figure of a man who was strong and tall, but lanky. Eyes, red as fresh blood, flickered down at him from the darkness.

            Sora opened his mouth to speak to no avail, so the strange figure spoke instead.

            “Caution, my fledgling. You are still weak.” His voice was thick and toned with a fine accent, but it flowed from his lips like a gentle breeze.

            Searching the strange man’s eyes for answers, Sora could only splutter hopefully in response.

            “Wh… who—” Curtly, the man hushed him, and Sora felt himself unable to say another word.

            With a sharp smile that glinted in the moonlight the man declared, “I am Dracula, and I am your sire.”


June 11th, 2025

            It feels endless. The running, the pounding rain... Roxas’ body is on the verge of collapse at any second. His feet are numb, his chest hurts, and he is mildly surprised neither of them had slipped on the wet sidewalk yet. Time is an uncertain concept as they journey onward, fear fueling each step and each breath. Streets and buildings are no more than a blur streaking across his stinging eyes; desperately he hopes Sora’s sight or sense of direction is at least somewhat better than his. Anxiety tickles his lungs, but he refuses to let a sense of helplessness fog his brain. The literal mist of the downpour is trouble enough on it’s own without doubt impeding their progress.

            Just when he thinks he can’t take the physical strain of sprinting anymore, Sora whisks him into a tight alley and down to the bottom of a short set of stairs. Their backs are to the wall of dampened brick, bodies shielded from the rain by a short tunnel.

            Winded, they both try to breathe as quickly and quietly as possible. Sora tries to listen for Riku but echoes of the pouring rain and streams of gutter water make it near impossible to be sure where the werewolf could be based on distant sound. A spewing drainage pipe beside them muffles the sound of Sora’s growling stomach.

            Sora can feel his tremors getting noticeably worse, and the hungry knot in his belly is also becoming apparent in his throat. The cold and wet sticking to his skin make his thirst especially tangible. His mind rests on an old Coleridge line that his shipmates used many a time out at sea: “water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” (2)

            Meanwhile, Roxas is quite obviously trembling solely from his drenched body. His jaw is fixed shut in a grimace meant to stifle his chattering teeth. Deep down he curses the Organization's rules that made him leave his black, likely waterproof, cloak hanging unused in his closet. So much for his umbrella, too.

            The two shiver in the cold for a moment, with Sora peeking out toward the mouth of the alley and Roxas attempting to brace his body tight against the weather. Absently he notices that Sora is shaking, though not nearly as much as himself.

            Sora's voice drifts from the downpour, "How far away is your apartment?"

            "From here? I'd say..." Roxas remembers that he really isn't entirely sure where his place is from here, and he’s a little annoyed at Sora for asking. Although he'd learned the city fairly well at this point, he is pretty lost considering he’s focusing on survival and not direction. However, what also caused him to stumble in his sentence is what he realized Sora was asking. "Wait, are you saying I should escort you to MY place? Do you not have some sort of secure and fancy abode that we can somehow escape to?"

            Sora normally would have laughed at this and be happy to give a proper explanation, but he’s too hungry to focus on the retelling of his personal drama.

            "Look, everybody hits hard times, including vampires. One of the reasons I don't have a fancy abode is currently chasing us, so please bear with me. Think about what I’m asking. You're part of the organization right? You must be living with other members. We'll be safe if we both get back to your place.”

            Roxas eyes him suspiciously. "How did you figure all this out?"

            Sora mulls words over carefully in his head, not wanting to give off too much of a creeper vibe. However daring he is with his promiscuity, his interest for following Roxas is purely based on scientific curiosity. Mostly, anyway. Well… Partly. He’s super cute, okay? It really came down to three things: Roxas is a historical enigma, he is incredibly attractive, and Sora would never forgive himself if he let such a peculiar person slip by and get mangled by his friend. Oh, Sora realizes, Make that four. On top of that, if the Organization found out he was the cause of Roxas’ horrific demise—and they would, those people are freaks—they would put a fitting end to his unlife.

            After going on this mental tangent, Sora wonders, Who am I even trying to justify this to?!

            "Simple reasoning," He ventures, turning his head to keep watch out the alley again. “I know where all the Organization members are in the city. You aren't wearing a cloak, so you're new… figured you were dropping of a package, because they have all newbies do that. Most of the members room together or near each other for convenience, which means we’ll both be safe at your place."

            Roxas is not easily fooled; immediately he assumes Sora is trying to tiptoe around the fact that he had followed Roxas earlier and was able to put the pieces together that way. However, Roxas' intuition doesn't peg Sora as any kind of stalker, and knowing the implications of what would befall the vampire if any harm had come to Roxas were enough evidence to pin that his intentions were somewhat pure.

            Annoyingly enough, part of him is even inclined to probe for more information about Sora and his backstory.

            "I could just go myself." Roxas jeers, "I don't have to bring you along with me."

            Sora turns his head back to flash a grin, his trembling even more apparent now. "Tell me honestly. Do you either know exactly how to get home or how to properly fight off a werewolf?"

            "...fine." Roxas dissents, before finding himself asking, "Hey, why are you shaking? I didn't think vampires get cold."

            Sora can feel his head throbbing and his stomach clenching tightly, causing him to grip his abdomen in discomfort. His cottonmouth is insufferable, his temples are in a vice. He curses himself for not having the forethought to get some blood while he waited for Roxas at the bar.

            "It's not the cold, it's uh... it’s hunger. I ran out of blood a while ago, and I haven’t had a chance to get any."

            Roxas can't ignore the physical discomfort apparent in Sora's body language: wracked with tremors, the man is now holding a palm to his forehead and breathing shallowly. Roxas fears that the delay of trying to find blood will get them killed for sure, and is uncertain what he can do to quickly help and get them out of there—

            Suddenly, an idea strikes Roxas; one that he never imagined would ever run through his head. Strangely the thought process doesn't make him feel sick with trepidation, but anxious with exhilaration. There really is no time for another solution.

            Gulping, he quickly mutters “Mine.” Sora turns a confused look toward him, and Roxas clears his throat. “I mean, my blood. You could drink it.”

            For just a moment there were no words.

            "I won't pressure you. You can say no."

            Looking toward the moon, Roxas notices the pale light pierces through the rain, floods into the alleyway, and hits them both with an almost coincidental drama. He holds his breath.

            “Are you sure?” Sora asks.

            "Yes. Just hurry, okay?"

            Without skipping a beat, Sora whips his knapsack around to his chest and goes digging through its contents. Not a second later he brandishes a familiar-looking metallic tube, no bigger than a cigarette.

            “You know what this is right? They advertise them all over and give them out for free to whoever they can. Hand please.”

            Roxas searches his memory, releasing the grip on his right arm to extend his left hand. “It's a blood-checking device right?”

            “Exactly. Never can be too careful.”

            Sora wastes to time in grabbing a finger and pressing one end of the device to the side of Roxas’ thumbprint.

            “This shouldn't hurt too bad.”

            Roxas feels what resembles the sensation of a papercut and his face involuntarily twinges as Sora gives his finger a squeeze. A few seconds later a smiley face made of blue light appears on the side of the tube, along with a check mark; confirming his blood is clean.

            As Sora stands before Roxas, his body gives off a warmth that surprises the mortal man and he unconsciously welcomes it against the cold. With one hand hand Sora gently tilts Roxas’ chin toward his right shoulder while the other hand pulls down his shirt collar. Slowly and with expert ease Sora leans down, lowering his lips to hover precisely over Roxas pulse. The blond can feel his heart start to pump wildly when hot breath drifts over his skin, teeth scraping soft flesh…

            Then Sora pulls himself off the boy with a chuckle. "Not your neck. We don't want your friends to see you've been donating blood to a vampire, right?" Roxas didn't have time to retort as Sora holds up Roxas’ arm to his face, tugging the sleeve up mid way. “This’ll pinch.”

            He bites down on Roxas’ wrist quickly, fangs popping into skin with relative ease. The feeling of blood being drawn from his arm in such a way boggles the mortal man and he cannot look away from the sight before him. Sora is somewhat baffled by how rich Roxas’ blood tastes. What would normally be cold water to a man stranded in the desert is more like the juiciest of steaks to a starved wolf. Sora chalks it up to his extreme hunger and drinks with haste; distantly he’s disappointed there isn't time to feast even more. Roxas feels a tongue swirl over the new wounds and nearly jumps.

            It doesn't seem like very long before Sora pulls away, hiding the fact that he’s thirstily licking any excess blood from his teeth. That should be plenty for now, though the lingering tang of deliciousness on his tongue is difficult to ignore. Still holding Roxas’ arm, Sora uses his teeth to break the skin of his own thumb before smearing a bead of blood on the fresh bite marks and muttering something.

            “What are you—”

            “Healing properties. This will help your wounds close faster and make them easier to hide. That small amount should last me a day, and I definitely have enough energy to get us to safety. Know your apartment’s cross-streets?”

            “Cobblestone Way and… 3rd. They’re the Sierra Octavia apar—”

            Sora doesn't waste a second grabbing Roxas’ hand again and torpedoing down the alley. Although their time in the alley was relatively short, it’ll be impossible to hear the sound of Riku encroaching. Especially after they both drew blood, however little, the smell will be apparent to a werewolf even miles away. The rain is their only hope to eliminate the scent. It seems that it was just in time too: as they reach the end of the long alley to turn, Roxas, out of the corner of his eye, catches the glimpse of a silvery mass at the mouth of the alley. He hears a howl, but isn't certain because of the rainfall.


            They continue their escape deeper into the city, and after luckily managing to come across an unmanned trolley they are now stopped on a street corner. Roxas is exhausted, and Sora’s head is snapping to and fro in search of something. The vampire knows this is the perimeter for most Moonfall patrols, so his eyes carefully scan the area.

            “Progress?” Roxas asks, hopeful.

            Sora says nothing but continues to look. Suddenly he smiles and points.

            “Friend of yours?”

            At first it’s uncertain where Sora is pointing as the rainfall is disrupting the landscape, but Roxas’ eyes lock onto a familiar cloaked figure walking in the distance. The silhouette is obscure, but unmistakable. They both go running toward the Organization member who, upon sensing their presence, turns toward them. As always, the hood perfectly hides the face, but a voice manages out against the downpour.

            “Well now! Roxas, my friend. It’s Moonfall tonight, I thought you knew better than to be out.”

            “Luxord!” Roxas happily gasps, “It’s so good to see you. You won’t believe the night I’m having.”

            Luxord turns his hooded head to Sora. “Is this vampire with you?”

            Roxas cocks his head, “How’d you know he’s a vampire?”

            “It comes with the game, Roxas.” Luxord puts a gloved hand on Roxas’ shoulder and the blond jealously notices how the rain slides right off the hydrophobic material of his cloak. “We can catch up another time. It’s especially dangerous out tonight because of the low visibility, but fortunately this is a safe zone. Get home quickly, I’m sure Axel is concerned.”

            Just then, Luxord’s grip tightens and his body turns carefully toward the road. Sora and Roxas turn their gaze there as well, and at first the image seems like something out of a nightmare. A short distance away is the hazy outline of a werewolf. It marches close enough that details of the body are somewhat visible. Upon the haunches sits a triangular torso with muscular arms that are almost long enough to touch the ground while the lycanthrope stands; slick claws barely scraping along the road as it encroaches.  The silver fur glistens in the rain and moonlight, and seafoam eyes glint murderously. It’s chest heaves, and a fog of breath creeps out from the monstrous jowls that are big enough to take a man’s head clean off his shoulders. The werewolf watches them carefully, rabid in appearance but clearly intelligent enough to realize the threat of the Organization member before it.

            Luxord is still, and Roxas is horrified. Though he had seen many an illustration or photo of such a beast, this is his first time he’s witnessed a werewolf in all of it’s terror. There is something sobering about the sight, and a sense of reality begins to creep up through his skin like warm needles. One day he’ll be in Luxord’s position, staring down a beast with no promise of survival, as if this were a fucked up game of rock-paper-scissors.

            Just then, Sora raises his middle finger at the beast and laughs.

            Mortified, Roxas braces for an attack, thinking Holy shit, we’re fucked!

            The wolfman snarls, teeth glinting... but he does not move.

            Luxord says, “Fun and games aside, time’s up boys. Go now! I’ll make sure this one doesn’t follow.”

            “He won’t.” Sora mutters, “Even like this, he knows better.”

            Sora and Roxas begin a more comfortable jog toward the apartment, the young blond still visibly shaken. The werewolf lifts his nose to the sky and lets out a mighty howl, one that rattles in Roxas’ eardrums and stirs his stomach. The eyes of the creature are burned into his memory, and he dare not chance a look back.


 

            It’s not much longer before the landscape starts to become more familiar to Roxas, which helps dissipate the fear of death significantly. Within a few moments they’re walking toward the Sierra Octavia complex; the red-bricked structure a welcome sight after such a grueling night. Roxas lets the feeling of relief wash over him, but Sora is still quite anxious. Though the vampire fully trusts the Organization patrols keeping Riku away, there’s no way to avoid an encounter if he’s out by himself again once the full moon is over. Riku has only gotten more agitated as the months have passed, and Sora has grown weary of running. There are so many things in his mind still left unanswered, and the appearance of Roxas in the picture has given him the long-lost sensation that he’s on to something. Considering this man is also on a path to join the Organization, being with him is the safest option right now. He heavily considers asking the blond to let him spend the night… realizing for the first time in about a hundred and fifty years that he has to ask and not tell.

            This certainly is a historical thing, Sora thinks facetiously.

            Now in front of the complex, they walk up a small staircase and toward the lobby door; Roxas fishes in his pockets for something.

            “Here you are, Roxas. Safe and sound.” Sora smiles and feins coolness, all while internally panicking. He isn’t sure he can bring himself to ask such a big favor when it was practically his fault that Roxas’ life was in danger in the first place.

            Roxas laughs, “Yeah… Barely!” then taps a keycard against a small glowing screen, which unlocks the entrance door. He pulls it open.

            Shit. It’s now or never… Sora gulps, blurting out, “Before you leave!” and Roxas stops mid-step to look at him. The vampire averts his eyes and scratches the back of his neck. Once again, he chooses his words carefully. “I, uh, I’m sorry to bug you more… but can I ask you to pretty please let me sit by your window? I’m totally happy to stay in the rain. I’ve done it before, plenty of times. If you could just leave it open in case Riku strolls by and I need to hop inside, I will be eternally in your debt.” He clasps his hands together, looking at Roxas with earnest. “And you know it’s eternal because I’m a vampire!”

            Roxas cocks an eyebrow, “Outside my window?” He scoffs, “That sounds incredibly creepy. Also, you know this complex has a lobby, right? I’m about to walk into it.” Sora immediately feels deflated, but before he can say anything, Roxas melodramatically sighs. “But I guess you did get me home safe, so I do kinda owe you one. Also I’d feel guilty leaving you completely soaked or without a pillow to sleep on. Come to my window, I’ll let you stay the night in my room. I don’t want any of my roommates to see you, for your own safety. Obviously.”

            It’s Sora’s turn to feel relief as he takes Roxas’ hand, holding it close to his chest. “Eternally in your debt.”

            The blond blushes, “Okay, okay, I get it. Eternally.” He shakes off the grip and points upwards. “I’m on the third floor, and my window is on the left side of the fire escape. Do not go into the window with the ashtray on the sill.”

            Sora smiles, “Aye aye.”

            Roxas enters the empty lobby of the complex and doesn't waste a moment going up the stairs, despite the protest of his leg muscles. On the short walk up, he questions his own sanity. Maybe this behavior is expected of most young adults; sneaking a crush into your room late at night for a secret sleepover is not a new concept. Except it’s a vampire he’s sneaking in, on a night where he was chased by a werewolf, under the nose of people who probably hunt these creatures as a job—

            Wait, Roxas thinks, Crush? Did I really just think that?

            He excuses the lapse in thought as mental fatigue. When he reaches his floor, he practically wobbles over to the door, tapping the keycard against the knob to open it. Not mere seconds after he enters the apartment, he feels himself being fully embraced by a tall figure.

            “What the fuck, Roxas?!” Axel shouts, squeezing the smaller man in his arms. “Holy shit, you’re completely soaked! It’s Moonfall, and you didn't answer a single phone call!” Roxas grimaces, realizing he didn’t once have the opportunity to check his phone during the night. “I was about to go out there and look for you myself! What if something out there got you?!”

            Definitely don’t want to tell him about Sora just yet. Roxas decides.

            “Sorry, Axel…” Roxas grunts out, “I got a late start and didn’t even realize what day it was. I was rushing home so I didn’t check my phone, but I managed to run into Luxord on patrol and made it back okay.” He already feels guilty, but it was then that he notices the musty smell of tobacco is hanging in the air, meaning Axel was breaking Namine’s rules and chain smoking in the living room out of stress.  He groans into the redhead’s shoulder, “It was… a rough night. I’ll tell you about it it the morning, I promise.”

            Axel releases Roxas, sighing. “I’m just glad this didn’t happen sooner. You’re safe now, your training is almost over… just learn from this and let’s call it a night. Got it memorized?”

            “You know I always do,” Noticing that his other roommates haven’t come to greet him yet, Roxas asks, “Are Demyx and Namine out on patrol?”

            “Yep. They’re more useful than I am when the weather is like this anyway. Besides, I had to stay home and make sure you made it back okay.”

            “Okay, papa bear!” Roxas says in a childish tone, gesturing mockingly with his hands. “Will you tuck me in and read me a story?”

            Axel laughs, “Absolutely not, you little shit! You’re grounded!” He ruffles Roxas’ hair, like he always does. “Love ya, dude. Get your ass to bed and get some rest! Don’t forget you’re meeting another member tomorrow.”

            “Thanks Axel. Love ya, too.”

            Roxas walks passed the kitchen, down the hallway, and over to his bedroom on the right side of the bathroom. He goes inside and clicks the door shut securely behind him, locking it. The moon, of course, is angled in a way that light fully illuminates the room, and Roxas distantly wonders if it’s been following him all night on purpose. He glances at his window and spots Sora sitting on the sill, leaning against the frame with his body turned partly toward the glass. When he locks eyes with Roxas, he waves happily. Roxas notices the vampire is still drenched and hurries over to gently unlock and open the window. As he does, he holds a finger to his lips, and Sora moves like a cat into the room without a making sound; closing the window silently behind himself.

            Sora takes a cursory glance around the barren room. On the right there’s a mattress and box spring covered with plain white sheets and a comforter, and next to it is a simple floor lamp. On the left is a hamper and closet with a sliding mirror door, which is already halfway open to reveal a small set of drawers inside. There are a couple articles of clothing on the floor.

            Roxas whispers, “My roommate is still up, but I’m going to put our wet clothes in the dryer.” He points to a corner. “The bathroom isn’t attached so we’ll have to change in here.”

            Sora winks, whispering, “Try not to stare,” before approaching the corner.

            Unable to hide his smile, Roxas rolls his eyes and walks over to his closet. He hears muffled footsteps in the hall and a door clicking as Axel goes into his own bedroom. The blond presumes that the older man will have a quick cigarette then go to bed, and once he starts his usual obnoxious snoring he and Sora will be fine to talk if they want to.

            Sora has already removed his jacket, so Roxas starts to take off his hoodie. In the closet mirror he inadvertently peeks as Sora, who is facing the mirror, starts to peel the shirt from his tan chest. Unbeknownst to the mortal, Sora is intentionally doing this very slowly, hoping to get Roxas’ attention… and it works. Against cold skin, Roxas feels his face searing with the reddest of blushes as Sora exposes a happy trail with a perfect V snaking into his jeans, which have barely slipped to reveal the dark line of his briefs. Then there’s the lean muscles of his abdomen, dampened from the rain, that reveal the vampire is incredibly fit. Roxas also takes note of Sora’s well-toned arms and barely manages to tear his eyes away as the brunet finishes shedding the top.

            “Made you look.” Sora coos gently from across the room, and somehow Roxas’ face burns even hotter.

            Roxas resists the urge to make a snappy comeback and waits until Sora has turned around to start taking his own clothes off. He ventures another glance in the mirror to see Sora’s back is just as attractive as his front, but quickly looks away again so as not to get caught a second time.

            Of all things, Roxas thinks, It had to be a hot guy in the rain, right?

            Meanwhile, Sora has tilted his head back in such a way that he himself can catch a glimpse of the blond in the mirror. Roxas has a skinny build with muscles that are just starting to become defined. His flesh is light, and the deep blush on his face is apparent against his fair skin. In the quiet of the room, Sora can distantly hear the sound of Roxas’ heart thumping rapidly and his mouth starts to water. He pushes the carnal thoughts away, but can’t help probing his tongue around his mouth for the lingering taste of Roxas’ blood. It’s been quite a long time since any blood he’s had was so savory, but he doesn’t want to ask for any more.

            I shouldn’t be a rude houseguest after all this.

            When the two are done changing, Roxas carefully rushes their clothes out to the dryer next to his room, which begins to moan and groan obnoxiously as it runs. When Roxas reenters, he locks the door and sighs.

            “There.” He says softly, moving toward his bed to snag a sheet and extra pillow off of it. “No need to worry about making too much noise. I have to go to bed but uh… make yourself comfortable I guess. There’s an outlet by the window near my closet if you need it.”

            “Thanks.”

            Roxas tosses the bedding to Sora, who catches it and places it by the aforementioned window. Roxas slides under the comforter, facing away from Sora, and snuggles into a comfortable ball under the heap of fluff. The brunet digs into his knapsack and unearths what looks like a rectangular piece of glass with a thin cord dangling from it. He settles down on the mass of bedding, plugging the cord into the outlet so it illuminates to reveal a phone screen. He unfortunately has a very expensive taste in technology, which has become quite problematic considering he’s constantly having to swap around phone plans any time his coven tracks down his new number. Yet he can’t bring himself to just get a cheap-o burner phone. He stares down at the illuminated rectangle, trying to this of something to do; the small amount of blood Roxas donated him gave him more energy than he realized, so he isn’t even slightly tired. He starts to idly flick his thumb across the screen, doing nothing in particular—he feels awkward just sitting in the room and isn’t sure how to pass the time.

            Meanwhile, although Roxas’ body is exhausted, he can’t bring himself to shut his eyes for longer than a blink. The light of the moon is still pouring into his room, and his mind is abuzz with the events of the night. Mostly he’s blown away with the fact that not a few feet from him is what fairy-tales describe as a bloodthirsty creature that skulks like a human in the daylight, but is ready to tear his throat out once the sun’s away and he’s asleep. That could partly explain the inability to keep his eyes shut…

            However, these fears are entirely irrational, especially considering that history has been aware of nightwalking creatures for many generations; spellcasters even longer. Although witchcraft has been present all throughout human history, there have been records of it as far back as King Arthur coming into power, with the most detailed accounts coming from Queen Aurora and Queen Snow White’s rule. All supernatural beings have experienced peaks and valleys of acceptance and discrimination, with the current climate representing a rising peak.

            Still, the concept just now seems to be finally settling upon him. He’s been wandering this city for almost a full year now, and it was only today that he had, not one but, two direct interactions with nightwalkers. Distantly, he hears the rumble of Axel’s audible snoring and feels some relief. Unable to quiet his mind, he gently flips himself under the covers and peeks over his comforter to look at Sora. He curiously watches the vampire for a long moment, wondering if he’s on his phone looking for a blood bank. In the moonlight and the glow of the phone, Roxas studies Sora’s eyes: they’re a blue not unlike his, but there’s something about them that’s... unnatural. The color is hypnotizing, and the irises almost seem to swirl like drifting whirlpools pulling him closer and closer toward the center. Thinking back, he remembers how eye contact was enough to pull him into the vampires “glamor”; wondering if the secret to the trick is in those supernatural eyes.

            Meanwhile, Sora wonders how long Roxas is going to stare at him before saying anything.

            As if sensing this, Roxas blinks rapidly out of his momentary stupor and brings himself to ask “Hey, Sora. How old are you?”

            Unable to hide the joy of being able to speak, Sora plops his phone down and happily turns his gaze toward Roxas. “Me? Well, if you count the years I was ‘alive’... 175.”

            “Wow! What age did you… you know…”

            “Die?” Sora interjects, unperturbed by the concept. “23. As you can imagine, I’ve spent 152 years being disliked.”

            Roxas chuckles lightly, “Good one. Um… how does it work anyway? Immortality I mean.”

            “Honestly? It’s still a very tricky subject. Nobody really knows… anytime my brothers and sisters—er, fellow vampires I mean—find an answer, something happens and sends things back to the drawing board.”

            Roxas was blown away by this. “Seriously? Even after all this time?”

            Sora nods solemnly, “We can predict, down to the millisecond, the death of a star. We have technology that goes above and beyond our comprehension. Yet we still do not know why a human dreams, or how a vampire can even exist. Our scientists are just as baffled as yours... probably even more, all things considered.”

            Roxas sits up, “Werewolves too?”

            “That’s right. Any immortal being is still partly an enigma to science for that reason.”

            “Wow. They never really taught us that in school.”

            “Probably ‘cause they didn’t want all their students running off and becoming immortal themselves. It’s like abstinence-only education, and that’s how you end up with teenage pregnancy or places like Dusk City having a nightwalker boom.”

            “I’m guessing that’s why you’re living in this city. It’s one of the few places nightwalkers are accepted.”

            Sora shrugs, “It’s a long story… the short version is that my friends came here about 50 years ago, and so did my family’s descendants, so I took it as a sign to come here too.” He rubs his neck, chuckling lightly. “You already met one of my friends.” Roxas ponders for a second before his mind flashes to the gnashing teeth of the silver-haired werewolf. His jaw drops, and Sora practically reads his mind. “Yep, that one. His name’s Riku and he’s been chasing me for a few months now.”

            Roxas throws the comforter back and scrambles down to sit on the floor across from the immortal man. “Seriously? Are you crazy?! Why not just leave the city if you're trying to get away from him?”

            This is an interesting game of 20 Questions. Sora thinks before further mulling the question over in his head.

            Honestly, Sora had thought about this himself many times while he'd gone looking for answers at the beach. Deep down inside he always had a strong intuition telling him exactly where he needed to be, like a basic instinct drawing him to any given destination. No matter how many times he tried to leave this damned city, something kept pulling him back. There is definitely something big about to happen, and he can feel it. Remembering being a disciple of Dracula and his mind starting to piece together imagery of his brother both began happening in this metropolis of monsters. Dusk City is the epicenter of something massive. Fifty years seems like an eternity of time for him to stay in one place, but it was building up to something.

            And now, there’s Roxas. For his entire unlife, Sora has looked into a countless number of eyes… and Roxas’ have a spark in them that are rarely seen in a mortal. There’s something waiting to be found there, and he can feel himself gravitating toward it.

            Finally, Sora answers, “Would you believe me if I said I was following my heart?” Roxas scowls at him, and Sora puts up his hands defensively. “Okay, hear me out. That’s why I wanted to talk to you today. Meeting you was the next huge thing to happen to me. I’ve been wandering this planet as a vampire for 152 years where not a single person or nightwalker has been able to resist my glamor since I fully mastered it—all except for three of my very dear friends, mind you. Then you waltz into the picture and you just so happen to be part of the Organization. Piled on top of all the other things happening to me, it’s gotta be a sign… this is historical levels of crazy coincidence.”

            Roxas has to give him that. Meeting Sora has also been the next amazing thing to happen to him after his arrival in the city, and the coincidence was indeed strange. Even Roxas can admit that his own heart feels strangely comfortable with the vampire, and none of his instincts are suggesting possible danger. Still, he doesn’t want to just let Sora completely win on intuition alone... he has to come up with some kind of leeway to balance this situation out.

            “Alright, how about this: I’ll help you avoid your werewolf friend… I’ll even keep giving you my blood if you want.” Sora does his best to stifle a hungry gulp at the words ‘my blood’. “However, don’t forget you’re still eternally indebted to me, even after that. What can you do for me that’s worth keeping you around?”

Sora grins, “Wanna hear about the time I was a pirate?”

            Roxas can’t hide his intrigue, “Wow, really?! Wait, wait. Huh. Well, maybe later… but what is in your vampire prowess that’s worth keeping you around?”

            Sora taps his chin, mentally building an interesting resume for the mortal. “As far as mind control goes, I’m basically a key to the city. I can find you the best drugs, get you into the best clubs, comp all your meals, get free rooms at all the luxury hotels… I also can get you any information you want.”

            This piques Roxas’ interest. “Any information? Can you find specific people in the city?”

            “Luckily for you, vampires take up most of the bureaucrats in the city so I don’t need mind control for that. I even know where the census bureau building is.”

             “Yes!” Roxas gasps, “Let’s go tomorrow—shit, wait… I can’t… I’m meeting the rest of the Organization this week.” He sighs. “But I do want to go with you. I need to.”

            “Well there’s a plus and a negative here. The negative is that I would go on my own but I don’t think the stunt I pulled with Riku will go over well if I run into him again. The plus is that one of the Organization members makes their bed near that area. Who have you met so far?” Roxas describes the current flock of members he knows, but Sora shakes his head at every single one. “That’s ten so far, right? That only leaves two, so it’s gotta be one of them. I’ll do some recon in the area with you from a distance to see what I can find.”

            “I’m just glad I’ve got somewhere to start. I don’t think the Organization has that kind of information, and nobody has been willing to give me any answers so far. Even Axel has been keeping me in the dark and he’s my best friend.”

            Sora is mostly just relieved that he can stay in Roxas’ company. Not only does it ensure safety for him, it also gives him time to study the blond and maybe even figure out what’s so special that destiny has brought them together.

            “Well Roxas! I’m glad to be of service, and I promise you we’ll get you that information.” He sticks his pinky finger out toward the blond, “Eternally indebted!”

            Roxas smiles, reaches out, and entwines their pinkies. “Eternally indebted.”

            “Now then, down to the other debts.” He releases their fingers, but grabs Roxas’ hand to pull him forward. “Let me take you out to thank you for all you’ve done for me.”

            There’s the heat in the face again…

            “Wait… Are you asking me on a date?”

            “Do you want it to be a date?”

            “I mean, you said comped meals and free hotels right?”

            Shit. I said that out loud.

            “For you?” Sora’s voice is low, and Roxas feels his gaze being pulled deep into those whirlpool eyes. “I’ll give you anything you want.

            Roxas’ heart flutters, and he jerks his hand away, averting his gaze. “If…” He desperately searches his head for an excuse, “If your story about being a pirate is cool enough, then I’ll consider it.”

            Sora smirks maliciously, knowing he has this completely in the bag. He raises his pinky again, eager to shake on it.

            “Deal.”

            Roxas is wary of the mischievous look on the vampire’s face, and he reluctantly engages in the second pinky promise.

            “Deal.”

            “Have you heard of Captain Barbossa The Undying?”

            Roxas gapes, dropping his hand to the floor. “Get the fuck out.”

            “That’s right. Who do you think helped keep the legend alive? This one day, we were being hunted. I can still clearly feel the sea spray on my face... and through the crashing waves Barbossa yells, ‘Soooraaaaah! Hoyst tha colouuuurs!’ I looked to the horizon, and there was an enemy ship approaching: it’s after us. There was a bounty out on our heads, and it was kinda my fault... Anyway: all together, the crew shouts ‘Hoist the colours!’” He clutches at the air, squinting upward, “My eyes stung with salt, but I grabbed the rope, and I hoisted the colors, Jolly Roger flapping wildly in the wind—”

            “Wait,” Roxas interjects, “How can you remember all that even if it was so long ago?”

            Sora blinks and drops his hands, “I guess they don’t teach you that in school either. Once you become a vampire, you remember everything. Every little detail of every single moment, as long as you’re alive. That’s why we’re keepers of history… we can’t forget.”

            Roxas stares, completely unable to fathom the idea. “Absolutely everything? Even before you were a vampire?”

            “Well… not exactly… it’s hard to explain.”

            “How about this,” Roxas says, as he shifts to sit a little closer. “Tell me everything, starting from the beginning.”

            Eyes wide, Sora responds, “What? Are you sure? It’s a really long story.”

            “And if it’s a really interesting one, I’ll let you take me out tomorrow night.” He smirks, “So lay it on me, mister ‘keeper-of-history’.”

            Sora grins, “Alright, you asked for it. The first thing I remember…”


Exeunt


 

A/N: Roxas is forever my tsundere waifu!!!

Anyway. Hi. This story is cursed. I swear. Every time I try to pick it back up, something bad happens. I’m not comfortable sharing the details, but I’ll tell you there’s been a lot of terminal illness, death, and cheating exes. It’s fucking bizarre.

I thought I might never finish The Night, and I gave up… but then it started to haunt me. It all started after I got a Kingdom Hearts tattoo. I started to have dreams about this fanfiction, and oftentimes I would randomly come up with things to add. Recently, it’s been a nonstop torrent of brainstorming and if I don’t get my thoughts down I go into panic mode. I read Dracula two more times and I now have three annotated copies of it. I realized if I can finish this goddamn fanfiction then maybe I can finally start writing an actual fucking original novel. I don’t want to be on my death bed with this story still floating around my head, demanding to be written.

In summary, I should not be this invested in a damn fan fiction… but here we are. Womp womp.

As I’m writing this, Kingdom Hearts I.5 and II.5 was just released on PS4 in celebration of it’s 15th year anniversary. I refuse to let this fanfiction become a decade old! I’ve decided I’ll let myself get my next tattoo ONLY IF I complete this monstrosity. The rest of the chapters will be posted every two weeks. Copies of it will be posted to Archive of Our Own, tumblr, AFF.net, and wherever else I can upload it. I don’t know if the wait will have been worth it, but damn it, I’m going to at least try.

References and Inspirations:

  • 1: Dracula, chapter XIII.
  • 2: From Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • It probably goes without saying that the vampire lore in this story has almost exclusively come from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with my own tweaks.
  • The term “nightwalker” comes from the anime Nightwalker: The Midnight Detective, one of my all-time favorite animes and one of the biggest inspirations for The Night (and Things That Kill in the Night, where Shido makes an appearance.)
  • Werewolves are based mainly off of those featured in the MtG set Innistrad.
  • почемучка (Pochemuchka) is the Russian word for “why”, but it’s also used to refer to “a person that asks too many questions.” It seemed fitting for this chapter and my unexpected hiatus…

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Happy Halloween!

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Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter VI: 15 Step


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             The first thing Sora remembered after meeting Dracula were the voices, whispering like the wind but soft as the sounds of a lute. They comforted him, though his pain was still terrible. His vision swam, he blinked back and forth out of scenery. The detail in everything was agonizing, and yet giant pieces are still somehow fully missing from his memory. Every facet in every crack of the room, the dust hanging in the air, particles in the sunshine pouring in from the window… he saw fractals, spiraling forth from every plane of existence. Space and time, once faraway concepts, were suddenly apparent to him on a molecular level. It was mind-destroyingly complex yet bafflingly simple all the same. His eyes were black holes of information, devouring every speck of light. His body convulsed and he wasn't sure when he would start or stop screaming.

              Then he remembered Dracula looking down on him, and for some reason it comforted him when the man spoke.

             “Hush now, do not scream.” He would say, and Sora would stop screaming.

             “Sleep, lamb of mine.” He would whisper, and Sora would sleep.

             The voices would come and fill him with knowledge of what he’d become. They confirmed his worst fear: vampirism. He was now of the living dead and cursed to roam the planet indefinitely. He’d been taken by the creature that all of his fellow Transylvanians feared.

             “Please kill me,” He begged, “Please let me die!”

             “Isn't this what you wanted, Sora?”

              “Not this way. Let me die. Let me DIE!”

             But on went the pain, Dracula’s soothing, and the horror.

             Yet over time the torture subsided, and a sense of relief began to envelop him. The more he learned of his fate the more he’d come to accept it. First he rejected blood, but then found himself guiltily loving the taste. He was told his power is that of suggestion: bending a person’s will to his own benefit, which would make gathering information and taking blood easy. His perfect memory would serve him well in the recording of history, just as it had served his kind before him. To be this way was to be powerful, to live life eternal was a blessed gift. His childhood dreams had come to fruition, and damnation was actually salvation.

            Then, all at once, it was over: All it took was a blink and was standing at a beach, wearing his family heirloom, and holding a ticket. For a long time, almost a hundred years in fact, this was actually the first thing he remembered after being entombed: standing is if trapped in a fog, clutching a ticket in one hand while touching his crown necklace with the other, whispers of who he was buried in his mind.

             “Ser? Are ye okay?”

              He looked over to see an old man, clearly a deckhand, carrying a small box of freight.

             “You comen un board, lad?”

             He knew the answer was yes, though he wasn't certain why.

            “Excuse me, friend. Where are we?” Sora inquired.

            The man eyed him warily, “Hit yer head, boy? This be the port of Varna. Do ye ’ave a map, son?”

            Without hesitation Sora reached into his coat pocket and unveiled a well-handled map; a route across Gaia was traced in bold ink across its surface. His eyes fixed on the edge of Varna, which was circled. His gaze absently followed the protruding line that cut downward through the Black Sea as if it were already memorized. From the smoke of his mind, a plan began to emerge.

            “How many days of travel until Constantinople?”

            Thus Sora’s journey began. His first objective was to travel down to Greece where he would study under great historians and hero-chroniclers of the time. There he learned the complexities of being a historian and various languages to aid him in his travels. A few years later, he sailed back toward the Middle East to explore the Arabian planes: visiting the capital trade city of Agrabah to sift through their records and meet their royalty. From there he zigzagged across Eurasia, toward the Land of Dragons, over to Nippon, and back again to Euro.

              He tracked a course over The Enchanted Dominion, which was said to be haunted by the spirit of Maleficent the Wicked. He met the descendants of Queen Aurora, whose lineage spread across the Engle Isles; though one branch of the family was presumably missing. Sora took a detour from his journey and sought after the Liddel family, said to have immigrated to Unterlund: a Germanic city connected to The Enchanted Dominion by the Looking Glass river. Once he found their whereabouts he was able to record the split and even found a distant heir to the throne: Alice. Sora was able to help reunite the family.

             From there he caught wind of King Mikaeus and Queen Mina: said to be vampiric royalty presiding in Paris’ Castle of Dreams, which once belonged to the great Queen Cinderella. He tracked down the King’s right hand and Captain of the Royal Guard (rumored to be a magician and werewolf, respectively). They were infamous through the surrounding town as raucous partiers and friends to the people. When Sora found them, they’d been thrown out of an inn during a drunken brawl and practically collapsed on top of him on their way out the door.

             Over the course of his adventure, Sora had gotten pretty good at his persuasion; he was able to convince most ship captains or crew members to let him board in exchange for work. On top of that, it was easy to take blood from them while they slept. He thought it would be an easy task in persuading these two to meet their king; after all, inebriated folk were the easiest victims to the power of suggestion.

             However, the shorter one took one look at him and, before Sora could even say a word, gargled out “George, this one’s trying to control our minds!”

             The tall, lanky man replied, “Gawrsh, Donald! Only His Majesty has that power!”

            Sora was taken aback. At the time, he thought he was the only one with this power. Still, he persisted: “Take me to King Mikeaus.”

             They both looked at him, unamused… then they began to laugh.

             “He thinks it’ll work on us!” Donald squawked.

             Sora was getting flustered, “I am fully capable of—”

             “We should take him to His Majesty, Donald,” George interjected, completely ignoring the fuming stranger, “He’s gonna want to hear of a vampire that also has mind control.”

             Sora was shocked. “Excuse me—”

           “Indeed,” Donald said, also ignoring Sora, “Though I would’ve just buried him alive. The nerve of some fledglings these days. No respect!”

            “Would you please—”

            The short one turns to Sora, cutting him off again, “Well now, young man. We’ll take you to see His Majesty, but not because you asked. If you change your mind, we’ll take you by force. I warn you, my spells of binding are not so gentle when I’m drunk. George here would also be happy to carry you… with his teeth, after he’s gotten into his wolf skin.”

            So the rumors were true. Sora unhappily complied, though he was pleased his request was still being met to an extent. When he did meet King Mikaeus and Queen Mina they were incredibly friendly and positively elated to meet another vampire with similar powers, though at the time Sora couldn’t remember who his sire was. From them he learned that Sora’s power of persuasion, which they very frankly called “mind control”, is an elusive form of vampiric black magick that can only be activated in the blood and passed from one sire to the next. They presumed his sire had to be part of the Scholomance; the “Devil’s” college where only a few gifted individuals at a time go to learn an even darker version of black magick. The Scholomance had been closed for years, and it’s rare any magicians, warlocks, or witches that leave ever remain in contact, so it was uncertain if Sora’s sire could be tracked down.

              This blood-activated magick was discovered during the original Witch Wars, where the rising Cult of Christianity attempted to wipe out all creatures of the night (spellcasters especially). The patriarchal Christians would kidnap the matriarchal witches or their warlock subsidiaries to be burned at the stake or drowned. However, they discovered that instead of dying, some of the spellcasters had only become more powerful than ever before; many even discovering their own immortality this way. A war broke out that the Christians ultimately lost, and since then their global numbers have been sparse, alongside those of the Crisis Goddess Jenova worshippers.

             Mikaeus himself was there to record the Witch Wars, witnessing firsthand the short rise and plummet of the religion. At the time, the tensions of all nightwalkers were high, and the fight had spread between the spellcasters, werewolves, and vampires. However, one fateful night, Mikaeus met Donald and George when the three of them found themselves bound to a giant bonfire set by the Cult of Christianity. Apparently, they were the most powerful of their kind at the time, and since Mikaeus was also royalty the Cult wanted to make a special example out of them.

             Mikaeus recalled the story:

             “We can’t just burn here!” He cried, barely audible above the jeering crowd surrounding them. His torso was tight from the chains binding his body. “If any one of us go, what will become of our kin?!”

             The smell of burning flesh was prevalent as light tendrils of smoke drifted from George’s seared chest. Despite the silver eating away his skin, he seemed unphased by the pain. “There’s no way I can change forms like this. And the moon isn’t out yet!”

             “Moon or not, I’d rather die than help either of you cretins!” Donald squawked, thrashing against the constriction. “I bet you both deserve to burn!”

            For a long moment, the only sound that came was from the crowd and Donald, who rattled the chains as he cursed. Prince Mikaeus was between the o ther two nightwalkers, staring at the setting sun, wondering if it’d be the last thing he’d ever see as he burned to death next to two strangers.

             He realized this, and couldn’t help but smile. “It’s seems rather rude that we haven’t been formally introduced. I’m Prince Mikaeus. Do you fellows have names?”

             From his right, there was a laugh: “Pleased to be your acquaintance, yer majesty! I’m George!”

             The rattling slowed, and from his left: “...Donald.”

             With great strain, the Prince shifted his arms beneath the chains to grasp the hands of both men. Neither of them flinched. “If we must die together, then so be it. But we shall die as comrades. We are creatures of the night, but we are also men. We love Gaia and the great Goddess like any other. Today, we stand in unison. Today, we are under one sky, with one destiny. All for one, and one for all!”

             Then, suddenly, the words came to all three of them at once: “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.

            King Mikaeus told Sora that, at that moment, there was a sudden flash of light: the three of them were able to escape the bindings, George was able to shift into a werewolf, Donald’s casting was amplified, and Mikaeus’s strength was greater that it’d ever been before. It was discovered later that they had activated an incredible and rare form of magick called a Trinity Spell, said only usable by three powerful people whose souls are perfectly in sync. After that, they forged a pact between the nightwalkers that ended the infighting: The Trinity Alliance. Since then, they’ve been eternal friends. Though their legend had faded, the Alliance stood strong.

             This information was incredible to Sora, especially considering his hometown was a Christian population, so these pieces of history were unknown to him. Nightwalkers were still feared there, and he assumed many creatures didn’t bother to tread anyway because of the hostility.

            Mikaeus and Mina invited him to stay so they could teach him to wield his persuasive power with precision. He was even able to control Donald and George afterwards, which impressed Mikeaus since he himself is unable to control nightwalkers with strong dispositions. Though it had been hundreds of years since Mikeaus had been part of the Scholomance, he and Mina still had much information to give. Sora learned the intricacies of vampirism, the history of witchcraft, and all that was currently known about the other creatures of the night. Mina also taught him a minimal form of magick available exclusively to vampires: using their blood to help disguise or heal others’ wounds.

            Sora stayed for some time, even befriending Donald and George and helping them do some work for the King across the country. Of course, after some time, he went back to his map to finish out his journey and parted ways with them.

            Resuming his initial journey, he trekked down through the Deep Jungles of Africa, and set sail to cross the sea toward Port Royal. The waters had been especially rough that day, the entire crew scrambling to maintain the ship. Sora stayed below the deck, helping people tie down various objects as the hull rocked.

            That’s when they all heard a scream.

            When Sora rushed up to see what was causing a fuss, he found the ship he boarded was being ransacked by pirates. Sora watched in mild amusement as the crew fought their enemies around him. He was never sure a ship he was traveling aboard would face such a threat; the odds were minimal since the age of piracy had ended long ago. Still, what luck! Some excitement!

            It was then that a larger man, prowling the deck with prevalent bloodthirst and loosely gripping a cutlass, spotted him from afar. Sora locked eyes with him; he realized there’s no way his voice could reach any of these people through the noise. He could not use his power to assuage them in such chaos. The pirate came barreling at him, the pounding of his footfalls vibrating the wooden deck. Sora quickly searched the ground below him, spotting a sword in the hand of a dead man. He darted for it; in one fluid motion he removed the sword from the crewman’s hand and swung upward with all his might.

            With a clang, the edge made contact with the pirate’s cutlass. Though the man was burly, Sora was able to shift his weight up and away so they were on even footing. He watched the man rather clumsily swipe the blade at him, crying out angrily with each swing. Not proper swordsmanship at all. Sora patiently blocked and parried, watching the pirate’s movements carefully—until the man made one fatal move. The sword was jabbed in the direction of Sora’s rib, and with an easy dodge he took the opening to ram his sword between the spine and shoulder blade of his opponent. Blood gushed from the wound and the large man gurgling a shout as he tumbled down; his body hitting the deck like the rest of the vanquished.  Sora removed his sword, flicked the blood off, and twirled the hilt in his hand, ready for the next fool to challenge him. He had only one question in his mind...

            When and how did I learn to sword fight?

            The blade had practically become an extension of his arm, as if it were his second nature… though, curiously, he had no memory of ever wielding one. Before he could ponder further, another pirate came swinging at him and they clashed; Sora wielding his sword with relative ease. He smiled as he fought, making a note to thank whomever had taught him this now-invaluable skill.

            One after another the pirates fell to his blade, and once Sora’s onslaught had reached a fevered pitch, a cackle cut through the noise. It was then Sora noticed he was the last one fighting: the remainder of the crew had  surrendered or been cut down, and the rest of the pirates were circled around him watching in awe. One section of the crowd parted, and the sound of boots stepping lively toward him was prevalent. His current opponent stepped back to stand with his shipmates, and all eyes were upon the opening of the circle. Out stepped a black-clad gentleman with a feather in his hat and a monkey upon his shoulder. The monkey chattered while the man smiled wide, showing off his grimy teeth from beneath an unkempt salt-and-pepper beard. What struck Sora most about him were his wild eyes: they were the eyes of a dead man, glassy and all-seeing.

            “Well now!” The man’s voice thundered, “If me eyes be sure, we’ve found ourselves a vampire, boys!”

            Sora was taken aback as the crew hooted and hollered. How could he possibly tell? Who was this man?

            Seeing the surprise in Sora’s face, the wild-eyed man approached him a little closer, still smiling, and began to pace around Sora in a small circle. Gently, he said, “I know an immortal whens I see one… it takes one to know one.” Sora is wracking his brain because this person seems incredibly familiar to him somehow. The man bellows suddenly, “So it seems that you’ve struck down some fearsome pirates today! Including that of me first mate.” He kicked the corpse of the burly man that first attacked Sora. Then, he turned to Sora and took a polite bow, “Cap’n Barbossa’s the name. Ye may ‘ave heard of Barbossa the Undying.”

            The crew cried, “The legend! Yo-ho!”

            The realization clicked in Sora’s head… Of course he’s heard the legend of the cursed pirate Barbossa! A man who should have died long before Sora was even born was still terrorizing the seas by supernatural means. There were always a few survivors of his raids who kept the stories alive, but Sora never expected them to be true; yet here was the man of the tales himself, fully matching the description of the undead captain.

            The cursed pirate reached out his hand. “How would you like to join me ranks? I could use a vampire at the helm. What do ye say, lad?”

            Feeling the excitement rise in his chest, Sora let his elongated canines pop down before smiling himself. The monkey let out a screech and some of the crew began to eagerly murmur while Barbossa’s grin only widened. Sora took the extended hand and gave it a firm, gentlemanly shake.

            “I would be much obliged, Captain.”

            The pirates around him cheered, and Barbossa crowed with glee. The Captain released the shake and laid a hand solidly on the vampire’s shoulder.

            “Have y’a name, boy?”

            “Sora. Just Sora.”

            “No last?”

            “None that would matter.”

            Barbossa nodded and gave him a knowing look; he fully understood that when you’re immortal you have no real need for a full name. Turning to his crew, the Captain bellows. “Men! Search the boat and while you’re at it, gather some of these here corpses. Your new mate Sora needs nourishment and it would behoove you to give ‘im a source of blood aside from your own necks. Bahah!” Without question, the men set to work ransacking the ship for supplies. “Now, lad. How be ye with navigation?”

            Sora swore on the Pirate Code after that, starting his many-year stint working under the legendary Captain Barbossa the Undying. It was as if the guiding hand of the Goddess herself brought them together, for through the Captain and the relics he collected, Sora was able to uncover hundreds of years worth of lost history. Events and creatures that were only perceived as myth had suddenly become reality—and Sora knew it was true, because Barbossa couldn’t lie to him under the vampiric power of persuasion. Over the course of his adventures, he’d practically written a library’s worth of information about the world that’d been lost and Barbossa’s life. Any time they were ashore, Sora would take accounts directly to the nearest historical society, journalist, or government official. Additionally, he commanded them to catalog it, distribute it, and under no circumstance allow the information to be tarnished. Often when they had pirated a vessel, Sora would command the survivors to write a detailed account of what had happened and disperse the information.            

            For many years, Barbossa was more than happy to help the boy keep his pirate legend alive. After all, his help navigating and persuading had been invaluable, especially for keeping his crew complacent. It took no time for Sora to rise in rank from Sea Artist to First Mate, and finally to Quartermaster; oftentimes juggling the three roles with precision. The fact he still found time to write so much was impressive and respectful to the Captain.

            However, since the legend of Barbossa the Undying had become much more widespread, it made sense that eventually their ghost ship would be hunted down for a reasonable bounty. Though they’d fought off their fair share of pirate hunters, there was one calamitous day that ended Sora’s pirating career.

            It was a day the sky and sea were angry with a rushing storm. Sora felt the spray of saltwater on his face, and through the crashing waves he heard Barbossa yell, “Soooraaaaah! Hoyst tha colouuuurs!”

            He looked to the horizon, and there was a dark mass bobbing on the grey sea—an enemy ship approaching. All together, the crew shouted “Hoist the colours!”

            Sora ran and grabbed the rope. His eyes stung with saltwater spray… but with a mighty heave he hoisted the colors, the Jolly Roger flapping wildly in the wind, when suddenly his whole body jerked forward. He was flung to the deck, and splinters were flying up around him.

            “Blast!” Barbossa cried, “They’ve already manned tha cannons. Men! We best be sinking this’un!”

            Though it was their toughest battle yet, they’d managed to barely make it out. Afterwards, Barbossa brought Sora into his cabin to discuss the damage.

            “We’ll ‘ave to go ashore for supplies.” The Captain declared solemnly.

            “The crew is upset.” Sora replied.

            “Aye… some of them think it best to maroon you and let you burn up in the sun. Fools can’t tell a myth apart from fact if it’s staring them in the face! Ye e’er hear of a vampire that burns in the sun?”

            “Not more than a normal man, Captain.”

            “Norm’l. Aye. What be normal in such a world, says I. Who gives a goddamn?” Barbossa chuckled.

            “I know it’s my fault, Captain.” Sora said, suddenly. “You and the crew have every right to maroon me. There may never have been a bounty if it weren't for me.”

            Barbossa was quiet for a moment, and he looked at the vampire carefully. “Lad, ye needn’t reserve such pity for yeself. We’d ‘ave been hunted eventu’lly. The age of piracy has long since been dead… but what is a cursed pirate to do but sail the seas? My only hope is to one day go down with me ship.” He flashed his signature wide-eyed grin and chuckled, “‘Cursed’ just don’t sound right in front of anyt’ing else.”

            They sailed their ship to the nearest port, which was Sora’s original destination so many years ago: Port Royal. Every night on their way there, Barbossa dictated more tales for Sora to record. When they reached shore, Sora assumed his normal routine of delivering historical information to the proper channels. However, when he had returned, the ship was gone. Sora unfortunately expected this might happen, and his first instinct was to look at his map to get his bearings… when he noticed a note scrawled on the back.             

            “Enjoy your marooning. ‘Twas an honor and a privilege. Cheers to the greatest Quartermaster a captain could have! May history be kind forevermore.

            ~Hector Barbossa”

            Below that was an address to an inn. Sora reread the note and scoffed. This was the first he’d known of Barbossa’s full name. In retrospect, perhaps it had been symbolic of the man accepting the possibility of his sudden mortality, as it was only a few years after that, news had reached Sora of Hector Barbossa’s demise; the ship finally sunk, the cursed-captain’s only hope had been fulfilled.

            Sora reached the inn, and when he went to get a room he found there was one already reserved for him… but for some reason there was a person guarding it. This person was a peculiar-looking man: tall, silver hair, and seafoam eyes. He leaned against the door with his arms crossed and a foot propped up. Like Barbossa’s eyes had seen through Sora so long ago, Sora himself saw through this man; he was not mortal.

            After a quick deliberation of whether to will the person away with his power or try to be polite, Sora chose politeness.“Um. Hello.” Sora greeted him, unsure of who or what the other person was. “This is my room. Can I get in?”

            The man cocked an eyebrow. “And you are?”

            “I’m Sora.”

            The man hummed. “A gentleman came to me and paid me very handsomely to guard this door, Sora.” He shrugged, “Said it’d ‘behoove’ me to help you since we’ve got ‘similar eyes’. Didn’t say why.”

            Sora knew exactly who the man was talking about. “I think I know why. Let’s go inside.” The man grunted in response and moved so they could enter the room. Inside were the few belongings Sora had from the ship, which he couldn’t help but smile at. Sora then turned to the man and showed his elongated teeth, ready for him to either run or attack. Unexpectedly, the man chuckled.

            “A vampire, eh? Well your friend was right, it’s good to be in shared company. My name is Riku,” They shook hands. “I’m a werewolf.”

            Sora gaped, “A werewolf! Here of all places!”

            “It’s a strange coincidence too. I was here on orders from His Majesty—”

            “Mikeaus?” Sora guessed aloud, in no way certain if he was correct. Riku blinked in bewilderment, and Sora continued. “He’s the only King I know that employs werewolves. I met him, George, and Donald a long time ago.”

            Riku suddenly began to laugh, and explained that when a strange pirate-looking fellow approached him out of nowhere, talking about a man named Sora, he agreed because he’d heard the name from King Mikeaus, George, and Donald. He was there on unrelated business and fate had suddenly brought them together under bizarre circumstances.

            That was how he met Riku, and they were practically inseparable since then. Once Riku had finished his business in town, he decided to travel with Sora under King Mikeaus’ permission. They followed Sora’s map to the western side of Gaia, toward Midgar then down into Spira, this time stopping along the way occasionally for work or leisure. They fought in wars together, spoke at peace summits, saw firsthand what conflict did for some societies, watched technology thrive, met many beautiful women and handsome men.

            Sora told Roxas everything about his travels… except for the last stop on his map: Destiny Islands, located between Nippon and Bikanel. Coincidentally, Sora and Riku’s families had both come from Destiny Islands, and it seemed fitting to end the adventure there for the time being.

            It was in the mid 1960s, one of his favorite time periods, when he met Kairi.

           After they’d been staying on the island for a while they went to investigate a local rally. A Christian official on the island had proposed the first bill banning same-sex marriage in hundreds of years. (It was struck down quickly, and the man was practically banished from the island afterwards.) They’d filed into the crowd to get a closer look when a young woman accidentally swung a hefty sign reading “My life, my love, my choice!” into Riku’s face. It was one of Sora’s favorite memories: Kairi kneeling over Riku, belting out apologies over the chanting crowd, the taller man sitting with a hand holding his throbbing face, and Sora laughing hysterically.

           She treated them to lunch afterwards, and it took no time for both men to become infatuated with her. They barely wasted any time revealing to her the truth of their immortality, and she was deeply intrigued. She opened her place up to them, and the three of them spent all their waking hours together as Kairi finished her last year at college. Sora and Riku both vied for her attention, acting blatantly like boys with a competitive crush, yet Kairi grew to adore them and their antics. She donated blood to the vampire and cooked heaping steaks for the werewolf as often as she could. It was Kairi who coined the term “glamoring” for Sora’s mind control power. Between themselves, Sora and Riku frequently joked about “proposing” to her: arguing about whether she’d choose to become a werewolf or vampire.

           Life on the island was perfect… until a few weeks after Kairi graduated, when she collapsed into a coma.

           It had become easy for both immortals to accept that most people they meet will die some day; after all, it’s the greatest caveat of eternal life. This time, it was different for both of them. They could not accept it… they refused to accept it.

           Medical technology was wildly advanced at this point, but horribly enough it was just short of curing Kairi. Sora and Riku wanted to take it upon themselves to save her, and their self-inflicted burden nearly destroyed their friendship. It was the first time they’d actually been murderously angry at one another, enough to physically fight and draw blood several times. Many horrible things were said, and days went by without either man speaking to the other.

           It was when Sora walked into Kairi’s hospital room one day that he ran into Riku again after a few weeks of avoidance. They stood next to Kairi’s bed as she lay comatose, and Riku revealed several terrible truths. Kairi’s condition had gotten exponentially worse, and she was likely to die within the week. Her adoptive father, the governor, was in Spira on political business, but he was going to fly to Destiny Islands to take her off life support in a few days.

           Turning to him, Riku said, “It has to be you. If I turn her that quickly, it will kill her.”  

           "I can just glamor the doctors and her dad once he gets here. We don't have to

           "That won't change the fact she’s going to die anyway.”

           Sora is still haunted by the look Riku gave him that day. It was completely without hope, yet determined. Unwavering. In love.  

           Though he wasn’t sure how, Sora knew somewhere deep down it was fully possible to turn a human into a vampire within a few days. With his glamor, he could easily keep people out of the hospital room. It was risky, but possible. They managed to get in touch with the King that day for advice, and he instructed Sora on performing the ritual.

            Each day that week, Sora drained her blood down to the absolute bare minimum. She was getting colder and paler, and it pained both Sora and Riku to watch it happen. It hurt Sora especially to distantly remember the same thing had happened to him, and for some reason he couldn’t shake the thought that he’d seen it more than once in his lifetime. Still, he pushed on: careful not to kill his loved one too soon.

            The night before she was to be taken off life support was when she’d been successfully turned. The quiet wail of the heart-rate monitor signified her pulse had stopped; the immortal men pulled the monitor plug before grasping both of her hands, waiting in silence. Any nurses or doctors that came in were beckoned away.

            Several hours passed, Sora worrying he’d made a fatal mistake when, all at once, it happened. Right around daybreak they watched as the color slowly came back to her face, her once lifeless form being restored to the glowing beauty they both fell in love with. At first, they wondered out loud if it was a trick of the daylight illuminating her features, or if their wishful thinking had simultaneously tricked them. They plugged the monitor back in, and the long tone resumed seemingly right where it left of many hours ago.

            Then, the wailing stopped, and a slow series of blips emanated from the machine. A couple hours later, her eyes began to open, and their once quiet gray hue was now a haunting shade of indigo. She took in the light, and Sora expected her to scream in horror… and she did scream, but with joy. She wrapped her arms around the boys, laughing happily while the monitor twitched and beeped with life. She kissed all across their faces in gratitude, and all their heartache melted away.

            They allowed the hospital staff in to witness the “miracle”, and when her father came he was overjoyed to find she was alive and happy. The doctors insisted she had to stay for a while to be monitored, but that night she had other plans.

            Riku, exhausted from the ordeal, was now practically comatose himself in the guest chair by the bed. Sora was dozing in his own chair when he awoke to the fledgling putting her clothes on.

            “We’re going to the beach!” She demanded, and as Sora glanced at Riku she added, “Just you and I this time.”

            Sora tried to protest, but she was already out the window and expertly creeping down the side of the building as if she’d been a vampire longer than Sora had. Fortunately, the beach wasn’t far, and when they got there she awed at the waning moon.

            “I’ve never seen anything so detailed before! If I’d known vampirism fixed short-sightedness I would have had you turn me sooner!” She laughed and ran across the sand, marveling at her newfound life. He watched her plunge her hands into the wet earth of the sore, staring in enchantment at the grains as they slipped through her grasp—utterly delighted by the influx of detail. He relished every second of seeing her so alive and happy, and he felt his heart completely breaking. After some melodious frolicking, wherein she reminded him of a happy sand-nymph dancing in the moonlight, she skipped up to Sora, threw her arms around him, and thanked him.

            Unable to bear it any longer, he pulled away from the hug, looked her deep in her eyes, and said it: “I love you, Kairi.”

            She smiled. “I know, Sora. I’m sorry.”

            It was evident that Riku was Kairi’s choice all along, but Sora had to tell her how he felt before it destroyed him inside. It was painfully apparent from the nights Kairi and Riku snuck off alone, or  the occasions he wasn’t invited to, even the way they looked at each other when they thought Sora wouldn’t notice. When he and Riku fought, it was a battle he’d already lost, and yet he still refused to let go…

            But that night, he was finally able to.

            The three of them stayed together for a few years until news reached them from the King that a coastal city in Spira was becoming one of the first places to fully welcome nightwalkers, and he asked the three of them to join him in helping get it set up. Sora chose not to go at first, instead deciding to track down the remnants of his mortal family… up until he found out one of his descendants ended up in the same city. So he went with the flow of destiny as it pulled him, and was happy to be reunited with the King, who by then was going by the name Mickey. His wife, Minnie, stayed at the Euro castle to keep things running there.

            Instead of a castle, a beautiful and well-secured mansion was built atop a hillside close to the city; it was the King’s official vampire covenant. As King Mickey showed him around, they came upon the “throne room”: Mickey’s residence beneath the mansion. It was rather gaudy as it was obviously based heavily on the Parisian architecture he had to leave behind.

            What struck Sora the most were the portraits: he’d recognised a painting of Mickey, Donald, and George from the Castle of Dreams hanging over the throne, but all across the room were dozens of portraits with unfamiliar faces. The King explained each of them as different infamous vampire lords through history, and it had been one of his recent goals to collect art of them all. One particular face seemed to stand out to Sora: it was a painting close to the throne. He approached it, and when he looked into the red eyes of the painted man, a searing pain ripped through his skull as if he were struck. He collapsed to the ground, wailing, as a memories came spiraling back into his brain: eyes like red hellfire, and hot honey-gold.

            “I am Dracula,” he heard the portrait say, “And I am your sire.”

            That was how they found out Sora was the Lamb of Dracul; the last living fledgling of Count Dracula. After that, the coven took his blood and spent years searching for others like him, eager to find out if there were any left. Sora learned the awful truth that Dracula and his kin were cut down by humans following the Cult of Christianity. It devastated him to realize he’d been so close to his sire that day he woke up at the port of Varna… he was so close, and he didn’t even know it. Over the years that followed, Sora began to remember bits and pieces of his mortal life that were once lost, including the fact he used to have an older brother.

            King Mickey was putting pressure on him to take up the mantle as the next “Prince”, so to speak. Since Mickey had no surviving fledglings of his own, the direct inheritor of his vampiric throne after Minnie would be Sora since Dracula was slain. Kairi and Riku were excited for him and also chided him to accept the role.

            He often very angrily wondered why vampires still followed a monarchy. However, the pressure was far too intense for him. There was still so much of his mortal life he didn’t know, and it felt impossible to go on with doubt haunting him. What happened to his brother, and why couldn’t he remember his face?

            So on July 3, 2024 he left the covenant to find his own answers.


June 12th, 2025

            The incessant beeping of the alarm stirs Roxas, but what really wakes him up is a combination of the sun laying a warm beam of light across his face and the happy commotion coming from the kitchen. He reaches out to wave his fingers though the holoscreen numbers on the nightstand and notices that he’s in bed, though he was certain he’d fallen asleep on the floor. A light groan floats from across the room, and he wonders if Sora had moved him last night once he nodded off. He looks over to the mound of blanket as it rolls into a tighter shape.

            “Five more minutes?” Comes the muffled voice of Sora through the fabric, and Roxas sighs himself.

            “That’s what we get for staying up so late,” He responds quietly, wobbling up and out of bed with serious strain. “I’ll get your laundry.”

            Roxas, in an act of kindness, offered to wash the vampire’s clothing after said nightwalker complained of how expensive laundromats had gotten as their technology improved during his story. The blond himself always kept a well-washed closet out of habit as, for many years, he was the sole person doing chores back in Twilight Town. Laundry is one thing he especially didn’t mind doing since clean, soft, fresh-smelling clothes are incredibly comforting for anyone.

            He came back into the room with a partially-full plastic laundry basket at the hip, sure to once again lock the door behind him. Sora had, in record time, already folded the blanket and left it sitting with the pillow on the bed.

            “I’m glad I didn’t fall asleep before I put your stuff into the dryer.” He hands the basket to Sora, who thanks him as enthusiastically as possible while remaining quiet. “I have to talk to my roommates and shower … It might be a while before I leave to meet the other Organization member.”

            “I’ll change and get my stuff packed then. Meet you downstairs when you're done?”

            “Works for me. You’ll be okay, right?” Roxas wonders out loud, “I know some vampires burn in the sun…”

            “Only the really unlucky ones.”

            Roxas nods before leaving the bedroom, and Sora sets to work on rearranging his things. He starts by changing into his now-clean red tank, briefs, jeans, and socks; noticing the flowery scent that permeates off the fabric and pausing to indulge in it. Though he’s glamored people at the laundromat to lend him detergent and fabric softener, rarely does anyone ever have anything of such good quality or nice-smelling. He sits on the floor and quickly folds the remainder of his minimal amount of clothes, laying them in a short stack by his side.

            After that, he opens up all main pockets of his knapsack and empties it onto the floor, annoyed at himself for not taking the time to put things back in their specified pockets. Sora looks over the collection of items and begins to sort, putting the various objects back in the corresponding pockets before packing his clothes into the main compartment, then putting his jacket and shoes back on.

            Looking out the window at the morning sun, he cringes. Yeah… the really unlucky ones...

            He slings the knapsack onto his back and, in a fluid motion, creeps out the window and down the fire escape without a sound. The summer sun for once is cutting through the clouds, and Sora can feel the fatigue burning deep into his bones. Where the sun touches his skin, it itches as if reacting to an allergen. It’s risky for him to travel in this much daylight as his powers are practically nonexistent, and confronting Riku in such a state would definitely doom him. Still, it can’t be helped… all he can hope for is Lady Luck to be on their side today.

            Slipping into the lobby from the front door, he’s relieved to be out of the daylight. He pulls out his phone, waiting patiently for Roxas to descend the stairs.


            “Pivot! You’re not pivoting—there you go!”

            Roxas exhales quickly as he strikes the focus mat with his bare fists. Though it’s ill advised to practice kickboxing without gloves, Axel always has him take them off at the end of their sessions to prepare him for real combat. Demyx and Namine observe from the couch as they eat breakfast; Axel and Roxas already having finished theirs in anticipation of practice.

            “Did Luxord seem pretty surprised to see you with a vampire?” Demyx inquires through a mouthful of food, and Namine shakes her head at the behavior disapprovingly.

            “Well—” Roxas bends his elbow as he strikes again. “Huff… I don’t know why… he wouldn’t be surprised.”

            “Pivot!” Axel reminds him.

            “I was wondering why I didn’t—huff—run into you two, actually.”

            “Now kick!” Axel commands and Roxas complies; swinging his right leg up in a swift motion to connect his shin with the mats.

            “If you did, I bet Namine would have slaughtered that werewolf for coming anywhere near you!” Demyx laughs and Roxas grimaces at the thought as he continues to kick. Even though the lycanthrope was the one chasing them, Sora certainly wouldn’t be very happy about his friend being brutally murdered...

            Namine sighs, “Our job is to protect, not to kill. I’m just glad Roxas got some help along the way from a kind stranger. It seems the werewolf was self-aware if he didn’t go past Luxord. If anything happened we’d have gotten a call, but I’m sure he’ll tell us more about it at the next meeting.”

            Axel smiles, “Did you forget? The next meeting is Roxas’ official initiation!” They all cheer as Roxas smiles and lands one last kick. “That’s enough for today. You should probably go shower and get ready for your next courier mission.”

            Roxas breathes heavily, giving a sweaty thumbs up as he heads toward the shower. Though he’s already certain of the answer, he asks “Who am I meeting today?”

            “Number XI.”

            Realizing who that is, Roxas barely stops himself as he whips around mid-step and says “But I already—” Shit, wait. “Er, I thought I was meeting Number II today.”

            Axel shakes his head, “Not sure where you got that idea. Anyway, Number XI is directly across the street from Zexion. Did you notice a—”

            “Flower shop?” Roxas drawls as he enters the bathroom. “Oh yeah. How could I miss it?”

            In the shower, Roxas curses himself for forgetting that he hasn’t “officially” met Marluxia yet, so of course it would make sense that he would go see him next. As he scrubs his arms he realizes he also forgot about the bite marks on his wrist from last night; on closer inspection he sees they’ve healed and look more like sunspots now. It’s a relief considering he didn’t think to cover them up at all this morning. He could have easily exposed the fact that Sora didn’t just help him last night. He blushes and goes back to washing himself in a hurry.

            After all, Sora’s waiting for him.


             Roxas rushes down the stairs, feeling the small parcel rattle inside his backpack with each quick step. He sees Sora in the lobby, and the vampire looks happy to see him as he waves.

            When he reaches Sora, he explains the situation, adding at the end: “You’re fully welcome to stay behind if you think it’s safer here. I can go by myself.” As much as Roxas would enjoy the company, he understands if Sora were to choose otherwise.

            “No way!” The vampire scoffs. “A promise is a promise! Besides, moonfall is long gone and so it’ll be a much easier journey there and back since we’ll be on a tram this time.”

            Roxas is uncertain, but before he knows it they’re on said tram, and fortunately this time there’s more people on it. Sora is chatting his ear off while keeping a watchful eye out for Riku, and even slings an arm around the blond’s shoulders. Roxas, though disinterested on the outside, enjoys every moment of it.


           When they get to the fateful stop where they met only a day before, Sora jokes “What if I ask you for a kiss this time?”

            Roxas just shoots Sora a cross look, disguising his smile, and stomps off down the road. Sora comes trailing after him, laughing.

            Halfway to their destination, Roxas says “I’m not sure how they’ll react to you, and I know for a fact Zexion can smell you, so you’ll have to hang back until I’m done. Is that okay?”

            Sora’s mind goes to the bar he waited at at yesterday. “I’ll think of something to do.”

            They cross the street at some point, exchange phone numbers, and part ways; Sora going into a bar with black bricks and Roxas beelining for Marluxia’s flower shop. Once there, Roxas enters without hesitation and takes a moment to marvel the expanse of blooms surrounding him: from simplistic to exotic, they pack the place tightly and it’s difficult to spot an inch lacking colorful plantlife. The floral smell is apparent, but incredibly pleasant. As expected, Marluxia is delighted to see him.

            “Well now!” He says, skipping over from a counter on the left side of the store. “Isn’t this a surprise! You must be Roxas, it’s great to meet you!”

            Roxas frowns at the tall man, slinging his backpack over to retrieve the box from it. “I thought we were skipping formalities this time?”

            “Oh, you’re no fun. Do you have myyyyyyy...”

            “Package. Yes.” Roxas sighs and, rolling his eyes at the forthcoming innuendo, hands the said parcel to him. “Here.”

            “Don’t handle my package so roughly Roxas. You might bruise it!” Marluxia jokingly scolds him, but then proceeds to roughly tear the box open. He extracts a packet of seeds. which he also proceeds to hastily rip open. He empties the packet into a nearby pot full of loamy soil before holding it out to the blond. “Zexion just saw you come in, so I have maybe a few seconds to show you… this.”

            Suddenly, several small vines stretch forth from the dirt and spill slightly over the edges of the pot. One massive stem with a healthy bulb rises from the center and unfurls into a beautiful multicolor flower unlike any Roxas has seen in his lifetime. The color seems to shift in the light as it’s aroma fills Roxas’ nose: fruity, then citrus, then floral, then crisp.

            “They call this a Fairy Rose, and it used to attract pixies before they went extinct.” Marluxia says, smiling, “Beautiful isn’t it?”

            Roxas is captivated, “How did you—”

            Suddenly, a glowing book of botany comes hurtling off one of the shelves behind Marluxia and clocks him in the back of the skull, nearly causing him to drop the pot in surprise. The shop door is flung open and it’s Zexion’s turn to fill Number XI’s store with the sound of his voice.

            “MARLUXIA!” He screams, lifting his hand, “VENI AD ME!

            More of the books start to glow and come flying off the shelf toward the pink-haired man. Roxas can’t believe his eyes when he sees several stems and vines shoot out from the flower pots around them to catch the bloodthirsty literature.

            “Zexion, please,” Marluxia says, “Calm down, he already saw. Did you even realize what you’re doing?”

            A look of recognition overtakes the rage on Zexion’s face. He flicks his wrist, muttering, “Redire unde venisti.” The books fly back onto the shelves and stop glowing while the tendrils retreat back into the plants around them.

            Both men look at Roxas who is dumbfounded. Finally he manages to say, “That was fucking awesome. So Marluxia can control plants and Zexion can makes things float?! I thought you could only smell things!”

            “The difference is Zexy needs to cast spells and I don’t!” Number XI adds, and Roxas’ eyes go wide.

            What?! Really?!

            Zexion groans, quickly trying to change the subject. “Speaking of smell things, why did you bring a vampire here with you?”

            This kills Roxas’ excitement and he glances around nervously. He didn’t think the smell could get stuck to him based on proximity, and there’s no reason nor possible way to lie to Zexion.

            “He’s my… friend. I kinda owe him one.” Roxas takes out his phone and texts Sora.


             Sora was waiting intently in the bar again, which is once more mostly empty due to the time of day. In his mind he is wracking his brain trying to figure out the best places to take Roxas on their “date”. Though he’d been flirting with Roxas the whole way down here, the mortal seemed very uninterested. The night before, he was totally into it! Sora was almost certain all the amazing stuff about his life as a vampire was mind-blowing. In fact, he saw the awe in Roxas’ face and was convinced the blond had fallen for him a little. Sora saw the blush when his shirt came off, he could feel Roxas’ heartbeat through his hand…

            Sora laid his head on the table, somewhat devastated. What if he was wrong? The adrenaline of last night’s danger could have tricked Roxas into temporary infatuation. Maybe he just felt bad for Sora being pretty much homeless. Then again, you don’t just do laundry for someone you don’t like… or did Roxas wash his clothes out of pity?

            Slammming his hands on the table, he throws his head up and shouts, “I refuse to give up! I WILL MAKE THIS THE GREATEST DATE OF YOUR LIFE!” It took him a short moment to notice the bartender and sparse patrons were staring at him in fear and confusion. He responded by chuckling a little bit and rubbing the back of his neck. “Sorry, it’s been an off day.”

            His phone chirps from his pocket and he scrambles to take it out, his heart jumping a bit as he reads a text from Roxas:

            [Busted. Come on over.]


 

            “...and I made it the apartment, safe and sound. It turns out Sora is super nice so I asked him to tag along with me today.” Roxas is careful to choose his words so he isn’t technically telling a lie. He didn’t want Axel, Demyx, and Namine to find out he’d been hiding a vampire in his room without their knowledge.

            Instead of Zexion being suspicious, it was Marluxia: “That can’t be the only reason,” He pressed. “Most people wouldn’t think to bring a vampire with them to meet Organization members of all people.”

            Without thinking, Roxas blurts out, “He’s taking me on a date tonight.”

            Just then, the door opens, and all eyes turn toward Sora who very sheepishly enters.

            “Hi there.” He says while carefully approaching the trio. “Beautiful shop you’ve got here.” He motions the the pot Marluxia is holding, “Is that a Fairy Rose? Those are crazy hallucinogenic. Like, chit-chat-with-the-Goddess trippy.”

            Blushing, Marluxia mutters “Pixies must really like to party,” before clearing his throat and tucking the plant out of sight.

            “Sora, is it?” Zexion asks.

            “It is.” He responds.

            “Well, thank you for taking care of our little errand boy here. We weren’t on patrol so we left here shortly after Roxas did, and it would have been a bother to find he’d been eaten so close to his official training.”

            Marluxia happily clutches Zexion, “That means he likes you, Roxas!”

            Ignoring him, Zexion continues, “I’m not sure what your affiliation is to the local covenant and I don’t care. I only request that you remain respectful to Roxas, and if either of us find out you hurt him in any way we will end your immortality without question.”

            Sora bows, “I promise you it will never happen.”

            “Good,” Number VI turns to Number XI, “I think Roxas has fulfilled his mission, but it’s up to you to turn him loose.”

            Marluxia pats Roxas’ head, “I quite agree, he’s good to go!” He gives the smaller boy a squeezing hug, “Nice job, Roxas!”

            Roxas struggles against the man until he’s freed. “Okay, okay geez! Please don’t tell Axel or the others just yet, okay?” He stumbles out toward Sora, refusing to make eye contact with anyone, “I’ll see you guys.”

            “Have a good night, okay?” Marluxia shouts after them, “We will see you again at your initiation!”

            One their way out the door, Sora whispers, “Did I just meet you parents?”

            Roxas chuckles and whispers back, “You know… I wish.”

            The door clicks shut behind them.

            “Now then.” Wiggling his eyebrows, Marluxia pulls out the Fairy Rose again and turns to the smaller man. “What about our date night?”

            Zexion cracks a rare smile, “Let’s at least wait until closing time, Marly.”


Exeunt


 This chapter is a little shorter because it contains a GIANT flashback (also a flashback within a flashback… bwaaaaa), but I think it’s incredibly important to the story and hopefully answers some questions people may have about the plot. Hopefully people understand the world I’ve built, please let me know how you interpreted it so I’ll know how well I did. Also you’re welcome to leave suggestions if certain things are unclear so I may either adjust this chapter or so I can be sure to include clarity in future chapters. Also I’m not super satisfied with how this chapter turned out, so I’ll probably be coming back to tweak it eventually. I might also have to fix the formatting on AO3 later... but I'm lazy and excited to hear what you all think! [edit: fixed]

References and Inspirations:

  • It probably goes without saying that the vampire lore in this story has almost exclusively come from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with my own tweaks. It may come as a surprise for many of you that the vampires in this story can go out in the sun when, in fact, Nosferatu was actually the first vampire in popular media that burned from sunlight. That’s right, my main man Drac could walk in the day time! In fact, in Bram Stoker’s book he is only put into a weakened state by the sun. More on that later.
  • “15 Step” is a song by Radiohead. (Also, I can’t come up with chapter titles for shit.)
  • Minnie being “Mina” is actually a dedication to Twisted-Wind’s “Count Mickey Dragul” comics, without which this story may not have continued. Please go read their comics! They are beyond amazing! Also, if you are reading this, Twisted-Wind, I adore you! Thanks for giving me my strange vampire-related passion back when I thought it was lost forever.
  • Major internet high fives if you can guess where I got the name “Mikeaus” from.

-+-

Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter VII: Nightlife


June 12th, 2025

            Sora spent the entire trip back to the apartment having an internal struggle on coming up with ways to impress Roxas, but he ultimately ran out of time once they reached their destination. So, as a last-ditch effort, he devises a quick plan to act cool and aloof in an attempt to impress the other man. When they finally make it into the building’s lobby, the vampire smoothly leans against the wall, looking off to the distance. Very impressive.

            “So,” he says casually, trying not to sound excited, “We’re still going out tonight, right?”

            Unbeknownst to him, Roxas has noticed this shift in Sora’s persona—considering it a rather obvious display of the vampire’s intentions. Though it is wonderfully amusing to see Sora attempting to impress him, he decides to play the game and act a little detached himself.

            He shrugs before crossing his arms and glancing elsewhere, “Let me talk to my roommates first.” So cool.

            “Sure!” Sora blurts out, then clears his throat and quickly dials himself back, “Yeah, sounds good. I’ll hang out down here.” Nice save.

            Roxas stifles his smile and ascends the stairs with only a wave and not another word. Smooth as butter .

            When Roxas gets back into the apartment, his roommates are all accounted for. Demyx and Axel are hammering away at a video game on two different systems hooked up to two separate holo-TVs. Namine sits lazily in an recliner, her lap full of pencils, legs dangling off one of the arms as she scribbles away on her sketchpad. If she’s sketching it’s likely that the two men are on a roll; drawing is a good way to pass the time as she waits for her turn to play.

            “Yo!” Axel greets him from the couch, eyes still fixed on the screen, “You’re back earlier than expected. Marluxia didn’t scare you too badly, did he?”

 

            Roxas walks behind the couch, “Only a little. He’s an interesting person, that’s for sure.”

            “I can’t believe you’re one mission closer to being a spark!” Demyx cries, “This year has gone by too fast!”

            Namine adds, “I’m sure Roxas is sick of delivering packages anyway. The first year is always the most boring.” She motions Roxas closer and shows him her sketchbook, “Check this out.”

            It’s a sketch of Axel and Demyx from Namine’s perspective. Though the drawing is rough, the realism is surprisingly near-perfect, and Roxas lets out an impressed whistle.

            “So what should we do, Roxas?” Axel asks, “We’re going to have to celebrate the end of your courier days!”

            Demyx interjects, “ Obviously we’re going to get completely shitfaced. We should get some champagne!”

            “Or a big-ass bottle of cheap liquor and do shots!”

            “Oooh! Or both!”

            “The hangover will be torture but it’ll be fucking awesome!”

            “Let’s get started right now! Day drunk, anyone?”

            While getting unholy amounts of intoxicated with his friends on their day off sounds fantastic, Roxas knows this is the time he should bring up going out if he wants to get any permission.

            “A-actually,” He interjects, “We should, uh…. Postpone the celebration until another night.” He shuffles uncomfortably where he stands. “I wanted to know if it’d be okay if I go out with someone tonight.”

            Immediately, Demyx and Namine look interested to hear more—but Axel is shooting him a chilling gaze that Roxas is unused to. The redhead backs out of the game lobby before hopping over the couch and coming to stand in front of Roxas.

            “I’m guessing we don’t know this person,” Axel says carefully, and for some reason Roxas feels nervous.

            “No… but you can trust him. You can trust me.

            There’s a pause… then Axel cracks a wide, knowing smile.

            “Well, Luxord told us he seems like a nice guy, and even though I don’t trust vampires myself we’ll just plan to brutally murder him if he does anything.”

            Of course, Roxas goes red in the face.

            “I nailed it!” Demyx shouts, “I totally nailed it! I knew Luxord wouldn’t call to tell us about Roxas’ vampire friend if he didn’t think it mattered. Pay up, ‘Ne!”

            Without skipping a beat, a scowling Namine reaches into her pocket and flicks a small munny orb at Demyx, who squeaks in surprise as it expertly nails him in the forehead. She lets out a pleased chuckle.

            After discussing the matter a little more (plus Demyx trying to give a hilariously abridged version of “the talk”) Roxas gives Sora’s phone number to Axel as an added precaution. He also promises to contact the redhead if anything seems suspicious, and to let him know when he’s heading home. With an excited tremor in his fingers, he sends Sora a text letting him know they’re on for the night. In his room, Roxas tears through what little clothes he has in desperation, trying to find something nice. Under a pile of garments, he hears his phone vibrate and, after unearthing the device, reads the incoming text.

            [Where would you like to go tonight?]

            His heart skips a little, and he thinks back to what Sora said about getting whatever is desired with that totally overpowered skill of his. Distantly, Roxas realizes it’s actually kind of awesome to have that benefit at his disposal. Since he doesn’t have to see Number II until tomorrow evening, tonight is pretty much fair game for whatever adventures await. He wonders for a long moment about what exactly he’d like to do, but the thing that sounds nicest to him is, in fact, getting shitfaced like Demyx suggested. Although, it would be poor form to get terribly wasted on the first official date of his life...

            Just then it occurs to him that, indeed, he has never been on an actual date with someone. With anyone . The thought amazes him; nearly a year ago he'd almost had that chance. Now here he is: about to go hit the town with a dude that he’s not only just recently met, but whom he harbored in his room as an overnight fugitive, and who just-so-happens to suck blood to stay alive.

            Bemused, Roxas wonders, Who the hell am I? And in his mind he resolves what he’d like to do before texting Sora back.

            [How about dinner and a club?]

            He stares down at his phone, anxious for a response…. then his phone vibrates with another incoming text.

            [Sounds awesome. Meet you in the lobby at 5? Wear something lightweight! :) ]

            Roxas texts back: [See you at 5.]


            Sora lets out a massive sigh of relief after receiving Roxas’ text. He was having a borderline panic attack on where to take Roxas when it suddenly occurred to him that he could simply text the blond and ask. He also remembered that he hadn’t showered since yesterday and didn’t want to go out without taking one first. Though it’s against his personal rules of glamoring, he was ready to fly down the first-floor hallway to bang on residents doors in search of a bathroom to borrow. Now with quite a few hours at his disposal, he can get a hotel room and actually freshen himself up. He sets to work on picking a restaurant, finding a clothing store to buy a new outfit, and getting a suite ready for the next few days so he doesn’t have to impose on Roxas.

            His phone chirps with another text, this time from an unknown number.

            [If you put a single mark on my little brother tonight I’ll skin you alive. Got it memorized?]

            Amused, and mildly frightened, Sora texts back: [Committed to memory.]


            Minutes before the date, Roxas is sitting on the couch anxiously fidgeting with his clothes. His roommates had taken him to a variety Dusk City’s nightclubs over the past year, so he knows club attire ranges from dressy to casual… but he still isn’t sure about his outfit. Unsatisfied, he scurries back into his bedroom to examine himself in the mirror for the hundredth time. He’s wearing the only button-up he owns: crisp white and black buttoned, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. Since he doesn’t own any slacks he went for the nicest-looking pants he could find, which are grey-washed jeans. In lieu of a tie he wears his X necklace and his last accessory is a checkered wristband to cover up any marks in case Sora gets… well… hungry.

            He rushes back out to the living room to shout, “Are you sure I look okay?”

            “ Yes ,” all three of his roommates drone in unison, noticeably agitated.

            “That’s like the millionth time you’ve asked… I can’t take it anymore!” Axel belts out, storming over to Roxas and proceeding to shove him toward the door. “Out! Out!” Once Roxas has been pushed into the hallway, Axel leans in and quietly asks. “Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

            Looking deep into Axel’s concerned eyes, Roxas responds, “Yes. I’m sure I am.”

            Smiling, the redhead mutters “Be safe, kiddo.” before slamming the door… and locking it. Muffled, Axel barks, “And stay out!”

            “I have a keycard, idiot!” Roxas shouts in response, and smiles when he hears laughter from beyond the door.

            He ventures downstairs, but at the top of the last flight he freezes when he sees Sora: black button-up with the top buttons undone, loosened red tie, slim-cut black slacks, and usual hi-top Converse. For once the vampire is without his knapsack and jacket. He looks incredibly suave, and Roxas feels his heart start to beat wildly in his chest.

            This is really happening.

            Sora notices the blond and can’t help but smirk, “See something you like?”

            This snaps Roxas out of his gaze and he continues downward. Embarrassed, he responds, “Those sneakers perfect that outfit.”


            As far as dates go, Roxas was expecting dining somewhere nice… but he wasn’t expecting being taken to one of the most expensive restaurants in the area. They walk in to see a cozy dining area with crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and a full bar situated in the center. There isn’t a single holoscreen marring the walls, which are painted the color of expensive merlot. The seats are made of plush-white cushions, and booths are set into intimate corners while the matching tables evenly dot the floor. It’s so fancy, in fact, the host is a dude in a tux with a handlebar moustache. Roxas feels that even standing in here is somehow dirtying the place with his unworthiness.

            When Sora comes to the host stand, he locks eyes with moustache-man and says, “I’m that special person you adore who never has to pay for meals here. May I please get a table?”

            Eyes suddenly wide with faux recognition, the man circles around the stand to give Sora a massive hug. “My friend! My dearest friend! Don’t you worry about paying for a thing tonight, I’ve got you covered. Let me take you to our best booth!”

            Sora shoots Roxas a cocky look as they are led into the dining area and the mortal finds himself astonished.

            The host leads them to a small booth in a quiet location. When they sit down, Roxas notices the tables are very small, which somehow multiplies the restaurants fanciness. The host leaves them with leather-bound menus, covers embossed with The Quill and Clover , containing about one page of food plus five pages of wine and cocktails.

            “Be honest,” Roxas inquires, “Did you pick this place just to impress me?”

            “No idea what you’re talking about.” Sora responds, but his grin tells all. “What matters is they’re vamp friendly!” He shows Roxas a menu page listing blood specials, and the blond feels his stomach turn a little at the “locally sourced” tagline. “Get whatever you want. It’s their treat.”

            Fortunately for The Quill and Clover, Roxas is a light eater and he only ended up picking the smallest dish on the menu, which comes to him looking more like an art piece than a meal. Sora, in the meantime, ordered the most expensive blood available, requesting they leave it in the bottle out of respect for Roxas’ appetite.

            Over the course of the meal they skipped small talk and went right into the interesting stuff. Though he kept quiet about his life in Twilight Town, Roxas happily shared the experiences he had in Dusk City: his first moonfall, the strange goings-on, the lively train rides, and even the peculiar personalities of the Organization members. They also discussed whether or not they believe in extraterrestrial life, and things that concern them about the afterlife. With a little prodding, Sora explained in more detail what it was like to watch the extreme technological shift during his vampiric life, which absolutely fascinated Roxas.

            At the end of the meal, Sora gestures to the restaurant around them and asks, “So Roxas. What do you think?”

            Roxas laughs. He has to admit the vampire has him thoroughly impressed and wondering what other amazing things he may be capable of. Not wanting to stroke Sora’s ego too hard, he responds with something a little mild: “Honestly, this is nice.”

            “Only nice ? Hm...” Sora grins as he leaves quite a bit of munny on the table as a tip, “How about we get the fuck out of here and go somewhere even more fun, then?”


            Their next destination, The Tonic, isn’t very far from the restaurant. This particular nightclub is a box-shaped building with various patios illuminated by strings of lanterns stretching out from the sides; the bass is heavy enough that it can be heard in the street. Nothing else is particularly interesting about the exterior, other than a line of people stretching around the block awaiting entrance to the venue. Roxas is fine with getting in the line, but he is surprised again when Sora takes him to the opposite side of the building where a sign reading “VIP” sits over a separate entrance. They wait in a short line next to a massive bouncer for only a few minutes before it’s their turn to approach the girl working the holocomputer.

            Sora makes eye contact with her and quietly says, “We’re on the guestlist. Would you kindly give us wristbands?”

            She responds sweetly, acting as if it were an original thought, “You’re on the guestlist. Let me get your wristbands.” before putting said wristbands on both of them. They go into a doorway, and the bass becomes magnified as they travel through a dimly lit and chicly decorated hallway. Sora flashes Roxas that cocky look again, and the blond responds by laughing.

            “I feel like of all things, this city should be more well-equipped for dealing with mind control.” Roxas sort-of shouts over the noise, “At least you’re polite with it!”

            “Surprising, right? I try to use it sparingly so I don’t get caught!” They start to climb a flight of stairs that reaches the dance floor.

            “Sparingly? You mean like when you want to impress someone?”

            Sora shrugs, “Well it’s working isn’t it?”

            They’re at the top of the stairs where the music is unrestricted and incredibly loud, so Roxas just coyly pretends he didn’t hear the vampire. Instead, he takes Sora’s hand and leads him onto the event floor. They dance side-by-side for quite some time, Roxas enjoying the visuals being projected from a holoscreen behind the DJ booth.

            Without warning, Sora leans down and his lips brush Roxas’ ear as he asks, “Want to get drinks?”

            Ignoring the sudden close proximity and tingling sensation darting across his skin, Roxas responds. “I’m not 21 yet.”

            “Don’t worry about it.” It’s Sora’s turn to lead Roxas by the hand, this time over toward a bar glowing with a rainbow of bright LEDs. He flags down the bartender, who approaches them after helping a couple different customers. “I need two doubles, and you can close the tab. One dark and stormy, and one…” He looks over to Roxas.

            “Uh… vodka Red Moogle?”

            Sora nods in approval and shows the bartender his wristband. Roxas, understanding the action, follows suit. The bartender shuffles off to mix drinks and Sora taps his wristband, which Roxas now notices has “VIP 21+” printed across it. He proceeds to facepalm and Sora laughs. When the bartender comes back Sora hands him munny and they take their drinks. Instead of returning to the dancefloor, Sora takes them onto one of the patios toward the back of the main level. They go to lean against the railing and sip their refreshments.

            “Sorry,” Sora says, “I hate having a drink in the crowd. Never know if some asshole is gonna bump into you and spill it!”

            “I don’t mind, it’s nice out here. I  guess I never thought about it, but I didn’t think vampires could get drunk.”

            “Immorality and sobriety?!” Sora guffaws, “We’d go extinct! Living forever, you run out of things to do pretty easily… I don’t know a vampire alive—so to speak?—that doesn’t party hard . Man, they really don’t want kids to turn into us, huh?” He chews the lip of his glass, “Now that I think about it, that alone is reason enough to become a vampire. You can get as fucked up as much as you want with no consequences, really.” Moving in a little closer, he whispers, “Speaking of, you just say the word and I’ll find you whatever you want to try.”

            Roxas jokes, “What, are you trying to get me fucked up so you can have your way with me?”

            Sora looks at him very seriously, “I swear to you, I will never touch you without your permission. This is just my way of saying thank you. I’ll give you anything you want, remember?”

            Roxas cocks his eyebrow and jeers, “So we’re not including yesterday when you tried to get me to kiss you… m’kay.”

            Grimacing, Sora ducks his head down toward his glass, fully at a loss for a response. Looking back, it was a terribly douchey move and he really has no excuse for his actions. “Er… this can also be my apology, then. I’m really sorry I was a dick, and the offer still stands. I dunno if it’ll make up the messes I’ve caused, but I owe at least that much to you.”

            Roxas can’t help but mull that over a bit as he sips his drink. What exactly does he want from the vampire anyway? They are here, on a date, and Roxas is actually surprised Sora had been this hands-off all night considering what he’s done before. It seems Sora truly is sorry for what happened, though… but in all honesty Roxas is getting a little impatient that the other man hasn’t been more forward. Yet, there’s a lot to be admired in the genuine respect being given. Roxas quickly makes up some ground rules in his head before presenting them.

            “Alright, I think I’ve decided. I’ll give you permission right now: whether I’m sober or high, you can touch me all you’d like. If I’m uncomfortable, I’ll tell you to stop.” He looks over to Sora, who is visibly surprised, “How does that sound?”

            Without hesitation, Sora reaches over and runs a hand down Roxas’ back, sending chills down the blond’s spine. “Thank fuck. I hate playing guessing games.”

            They continue to sip their drinks and talk, exchanging plenty of physical contact in the meantime. There’s a lull in the distant bass, and the air fills with idle chatter as more people file onto the patio while a set change occurs. Roxas looks over the crowd and hums into his glass, which is now half-full. Feeling a buzz coming on, he dreamily observes that these people all look normal from his perspective. No one is out of place, and they seem the same as anyone else you’d see enjoying the nightlife. He wonders how the Organization will teach him to spot the creatures hiding in the shadows, remembering Luxord saying “it comes with the game”. Just then, he feels an arm around his neck and his cheek being squished as Sora pulls him into a half-headlock.

            “What are you gazing oddly at, huh?” Sora jests, “You okay? Should I be worried?”

            Roxas giggles, but doesn’t try to escape the awkward position. “No, no! I was just wondering how I’m supposed to tell who a nightwalker is when I’m officially in the Organization. I have no fuckin’ clue how they do it. All these people look normal to me.”

            Sora releases Roxas to cross his arms and look skyward. “Well… I assume it has something to do with the eyes.”

            “The eyes?”

            “Yessir. It’s a trick I learned a long time ago; immortals have something particular about their eyes, something that seems off. It’s almost like the Uncanny Valley: your brain, by instinct, knows the thing you're looking at isn’t fully human, even though they seem human. Once you’re good at reading it, it becomes second nature.”

            Roxas thinks back to Sora’s whirlpool eyes and wonders if he could really see something like that in other nightwalkers.

            “Of course,” Sora continues, “there are other ways. Obviously, werewolves can track by scent, and I’m certain there are spells out there for detecting auras too. If you’re a vampire you can kinda scan for nightwalkers by their heartbeat.”

            “That’s crazy. You are just full of parlor tricks.”

            “Wanna watch me make my alcohol disappear?” Screwing up his face, Sora holds his glass with one hand while wiggling the fingers on the other… before tipping the whole glass back and finishing it it in a couple gulps. “Ta-dah!”

            Gasping, Roxas melodramatically clutches his chest in horror. “A witch! He must be a witch! We must burn him!”

            “No, you must dunk me in the river to see if I float or drown first!”

            They laugh to themselves for a moment before the music in the club begins to swell, and the crowd amassed on the porch slowly migrates back into the venue. Sora reaches his arm around Roxas’ waist.

            “Shall we?”

            Roxas nods before knocking the remainder of his drink back, and they venture inside.


            On the dancefloor, Sora and Roxas are standing front-to-back with Sora gently holding onto Roxas’ hips; they sway with the music, which has shifted to reflect the current artist’s downtempo style. The lights, which were once sweeping the crowd with blinking neon, are now maintaining a single drifting rosy hue that blankets the floor. The holoscreen behind the DJ booth displays a trippy animation that pulses in time to the music, sending extra ambient light bouncing in a rhythm off the crowd.

            Feeling a little looser from the alcohol, Roxas allows himself to groove along to the beat, fascinated by the spectacle before him. Sora, in the meantime, is beginning to panic again as he suddenly is at a loss for what further moves to make. It’s a very rare and unsettling feeling to be so worried about completely fucking up something, and even though Roxas gave him the green light to do whatever he wanted, he is still choosing to proceed with caution. Even moments earlier, after offering to get Roxas drugs, he wanted to punch himself in the face for being so forward. It’s so unlike the vampire to care about pleasing anyone other than himself… at least not since Destiny Islands. Sora notices his hands are just barely trembling over Roxas’ hips… Roxas’ hips… he wants to pull them back and grind into that sweet ass, let his desire take over, but he’s so damn nervous for once.

            Me? Nervous? No way.

            He just needs to act like this is anybody else he’s trying to hook up with… but Roxas isn't just anybody else. It’s baffling to him how fucking absurd he’s being over something that normally comes so natural to him.

            Fuck it! He finally decides, I’m overthinking this shit again! Rolling with it, round two… I’ve got this.

            Gripping firmly onto Roxas, Sora leans down and gently pecks the helix of the blond’s ear, sliding his lips down to just lightly bite at the lobe. Roxas flinches, but leans into the contact; tilting his head a little for easier access. Sora slowly, teasingly, starts to kiss down the back of Roxas’ neck as he pulls the mortal back to make the gentlest of contact with the vampire’s pelvis. Roxas lets out a noncommittal moan, which is just barely audible over the music, and Sora takes this as a signal to carefully gyrate his hips into the blonde's backside. When Sora’s lips brush the collar of Roxas’ shirt, he reverses his course back upwards as he sneaks a thumb up underneath the shirt’s hem to brush the skin hiding there—

            A sudden thump on the back startles them both out of their trance, and Sora hears the all-too familiar sound of a drink splashing into someone’s chest.

            He whirls around to see a visibly hammered guy (because how else could you bump into someone standing in one place if you’re even remotely sober?) holding an empty glass and wearing a soaked muscle shirt.

            “Heyyy ass hole!” The guy, presumably named something like Chad or Bryce, slurs, “Whach wherya gon!”

            Groaning loudly, Sora responds, “Yeah, whatever, sorry—”

            “You gon pay fa dis?!” Dudebro interrupts, “I’ll fuckin’ smash ya teeth in, lil bish!”

            Completely out of patience, Sora does some math in his mind and, with one quick motion, slams his forehead into the guy’s nose: breaking it just a bit without leaving a single bruise on the vampire. As the man wobbles away, wailing in drunken agony while clutching his bleeding face, Sora rushes Roxas off the floor and up the stairs. He leads them onto a darkened upper level overlooking the main floor, and they duck into a lounge area obscured by heavy black drapings before leaning against a far wall, laughing. The music is now thumping with grimy electro house, the curtains catching flecks of the lights as they streak across the venue with newfound enthusiasm.

            “I can't believe you just fucking headbutt that douchebag!” Roxas exclaims, nearly in hysterics.

            Sora grins wide, “Well, now you know why I think having drinks in a crowd is a bad idea!”

            They continue to laugh, and it takes them both a moment to realize how tucked away they are, or the small proximity they are from one another. They make eye contact, and Roxas suddenly has an anxious tension in his chest, spreading across his nerves and making him helpless to move. He tries to speak through his eyes, begging Sora to come closer, to finish what he started on the dance floor. Beneath the bass Sora can hear Roxas’ heart pounding wildly—can see the tension in the other man’s gaze—and suddenly his mouth is very dry.

            Sora moves to stand in front of Roxas, his fingers brush the mortal’s jaw and he finds himself asking, almost pleading, “May I?”

            Roxas mutters, “Please.”

            Without hesitation, Sora dips down to capture Roxas’ lips in the tenderest kiss, and suddenly the world goes out from beneath them. Their mouths meld perfectly together, the mix of absolute relief and amplified desire is almost too much for Roxas to handle—he’s desperate for more. The blond threads his fingers into Sora’s hair to pull him closer, tasting the spice of ginger beer and bitter rum on the vampire’s lips as he deepens the kiss. Their mouths part, their tongues meet, and Roxas is surprised to feel his tongue flick against Sora’s protruding fangs. One of Sora’s hands, smooth and warm, finds it’s way under Roxas’ shirt to grip his side as he grinds their hips together. They kiss harder and faster, bodies pressing closer. Sora pulls away for one second to press the mortal fully flush against the wall, sliding a leg between his, and Roxas responds by pulling the vampire back into another kiss with the red tie.

            The thrum of the bass, the taste of Roxas’ lips, the feel of their bodies pressed into a secluded space… Sora delights in every second of it. He can hear Roxas’ pulse throbbing through the skin —Roxas’ delectable skin… he imagines how fragile it is. How easily it might bruise from his grasp or bleed from his teeth. He digs his nails into flesh, using his other hand to reach down to grab Roxas’ ass, and feels the vibration of a moan from the mortal’s mouth.

            Their tongues glide together again, and once more Roxas can feel the fangs sliding against their kiss. Distantly, he wonders how it would feel to have those teeth in his neck, how painful it might be… how pleasurable it could be. He imagines Sora pressing him to the wall, sucking from the wounds languidly, his hands wandering all over. Dreaming up such a carnal scenario, along with the fact that he’s allowing himself to picture it, tantalizes him. The excitement of being tucked away where the music vibrates them and drowns out his sounds, where the light is too dark and too sparse to let them be seen… it’s almost overwhelming. He wants Sora to drink and drink and drink—then kiss him again in the haze. He wonders how his own blood might taste on his lips, and the morbid curiosity is causing him serious strain in his pants.

            “Bite me,” Roxas gasps between kisses, “On my neck.”

            This drives Sora over the edge, and he breaks their mouths apart to nip feverently over Roxas’ jaw and down his nape. It’s a strange deja vu of just the night before, except this time Sora is even hungrier. He slides his tongue along the flesh and feels the blond below him shudder. The pulse is there, practically screaming out to him; thudding from beneath the skin like a howling monster demanding to be freed. How desperately he wants to impale the flesh and suck the sweet nectar from Roxas’ veins… but like a little pinch, he remembers something that was committed to memory.

            Sora moves up to Roxas’ ear, “I can’t,” he sighs, “Not tonight. Not yet.” He pulls away and even under the poor lighting Roxas is visibly upset.

            “What happened to ‘whatever I want’?”

            Sora grimaces, realizing his own hypocrisy. He takes out his phone, pulls up the message he received from the unknown number, and shows it to Roxas. After reading the screen, Roxas shakes his head and smiles sheepishly.

            “You know, I completely forgot about Axel! Fine, fine… I’ll take a rain check for now.”

            Sora pockets his phone and leans against the wall next to Roxas. “Anything I can do for you in the meantime?”

            Roxas thinks of something the vampire said earlier.

            “What kind of drugs do you do at a club?”

            Sora’s face lights up, and he takes Roxas by the hand. On their way back down to the first level, Roxas ponders how ridiculous it is that, instead of being bitten by a vampire, he’s choosing to do drugs. What a life.

            On the dancefloor, they play a game Sora lovingly dubbed “‘Scuse Me”. The rules are simple: find someone who looks fucked up, see what they’re on, ask who they got it from, then go to find that person. Mostly, Roxas is just getting led by the hand as Sora ‘Scuse Me’s back and forth across the club. There isn’t much headway until they come to a sweaty girl with massive pupils smacking her gum so loudly you can hear it over the music. After giving them both squeezing hugs and sloppy kisses on the cheek, she points them downstairs near the bathrooms on the level they came in from. They made their way down and rin into a husky guy near coat check with an emo haircut and floral print sneakers.

            “‘Scuse me,” Sora greets the guy cheerfully, “I need a half gram of Molly.”

            In horror, Roxas looks around the area to see if anyone is nearby, but Sora seems completely carefree about his personal volume.

            The dude responds, in a voice that makes him sound far younger than he looks, “I got you, man.”

            “Where’d you get it?”

            “One of the top-notch labs in Unterlund.”

            “What’d it test?”

            “Black-on-black-on-black.”

            Sora whistles, “Hell yes. You’re not lying right? Punch yourself in the face if you’re lying.”

            The man remains still, a puzzled look on his face, and Sora continues: “Perfect! I’ll take it. How much?”

            “Uh… 2500 munny, I guess.”

            They make the exchange, all while Roxas is very unsubtly looking around for any signs of people, forcing himself not to panic too openly. After thanking the man for his service, Sora leads Roxas toward the bathrooms.

            “So you won’t pay for dinner but you will pay for drugs…” Roxas quips, “I have to admire your priorities.”

            “A fancy restaurant can handle an unpaid meal or two. A kid like that might not be able to pay rent without one sale.”

            Fortunately the bathroom is near-empty, so Sora quickly glamors the bathroom attendant and snags a water bottle off her table before they sneak into one of the empty stalls toward the back of the room together. Handing the bottle to Roxas, Sora pulls out a tiny baggie covered in an even pattern of Moogle faces giving the middle finger. It’s quite adorable, actually. Inside the baggie is what looks like a small, crystalline-looking rock; Sora crushes it up as best he can between his fingers, trying to measure a suitable amount by sight.

            Gripping the water bottle, Roxas has an excited knot in his throat as he watches the process. Of course, Axel and Demyx were heavy drinkers when they felt like it but they’d never done any other illicit substances… at least not to Roxas’ knowledge. They had a hinted rule in the house that pretty much all degrees of partying are accepted, if done in moderation. There was also a sort of “if you bring it home, you share it” deal. Still, this would be his first time moving beyond the realm of alcohol; not including the one time he smoked pot with his old Twilight Town friends in middle school. The four of them polished off roughly 30 sea-salt ice cream bars in total while having paranoid delusions that Seifer would catch them in the act and haul them to juvy. After suffering massive stomach aches and depressingly empty wallets, they decided it wasn’t the vice for them. They made a wonky-looking wooden chocobo with the leftover popsicle sticks and named it Mary Jane.

            “Alright,” Sora says in a hushed tone as he holds up a miniscule chunk taken from the bag. “This should be plenty to keep you going through the night. Eat this and then take a sip of the water as fast as you can ‘casue it’s gonna taste really nasty.”

            Nervous, Roxas bites his lip and unscrews the cap on the water bottle. Gingerly, he takes the rock and drops it onto his tongue before taking a mighty swig of the water. There’s an acrid taste that lingers in his mouth, and he drinks a little more to dilute it as Sora checks his phone.

            “Since I'm going to metabolize this a lot faster, I’m going to wait about 20 minutes before I take any.” He reseals the bag. “Normally I’d just snort it, but we’re dealing with massive rocks, and there’s no way I’m gonna bother trying to cut it here. For me it only takes about 20 minutes to hit but for you it might take up to 40 minutes.”

            Roxas nods in response, feeling his gut start to turn with anticipation.

 


            In the crowd, Roxas is trying his best to not think about whether or not he’s feeling something. For an uncomfortable amount of time, he’d been seriously fighting the urge to check his phone. It has to have been at least over 30 minutes, as Sora had taken his dose quite a while ago.

            Bobbing along to the beat, Roxas tries his best to focus on the activity in the venue… but he’s almost a little blown away by his own behavior, still. Now that he’s had some time to ruminate on these interesting circumstances, he wonders if he would have reached this same path any other way. Since he’s entered this city, and especially the past couple days, he’s had a sense of disregard for his personal safety.

            No, He corrects himself, That’s not it.

            What it really is, then, is knowing that the life he’ll soon be leading is fraught with danger, and he could very well die at any moment. It could happen looking down the gullet of a werewolf, or in a blink without a second’s notice. If he doesn’t live his life to the fullest now, then what’s the point of it all? Sure, he’s changed—that much is obvious. But he came to this city to do just that.

            Tick. Tick. Tick…

            Now there’s something. It’s uncanny how the feeling is. It’s moves the way a chill does, but instead it’s warmth. It spreads, not at the bottom of the spine, but from the stomach. Roxas breathes deep, and it creeps all the way up to the back of his brain, and all at once his neurons fire, spilling chemicals in his synapses.

            Boom.

            His pupils dilate so fast he can practically feel it. He’s back in Candyland, where colors are brighter and every sight is sweet to see. The music amplifies the sensation, shaking his body down to it’s core. He looks over to Sora, unaware of the biggest, dumbest grin on his face. Sora grasps his hand, and he notices his sense of touch is also intensified; Sora’s skin is like warm silk and he wants to cling to it.

            All he can manage to say is: “Holy. Shit.”

            “Perfect timing,” Sora laughs, and Roxas notices the vampire’s pupils are also massive.

            Earlier it felt awkward to dance, but now it feels only natural. Roxas’ body is practically moving on it’s own, gesticulating perfectly to a rhythm he’s certain is shuddering across the universe itself. Between that and the holoscreen visuals, Roxas is lost in motion as he parties along. The tempo slows just enough that Sora resumes his earlier position of grinding against Roxas, this time much more assertively; he gently massages the other man’s hip bones as they dance together, Roxas reaching his hands up to run his fingers through Sora’s hair. Sora continues where he left off last time, this time on the other side of Roxas’ neck, kissing more quickly. Each kiss sends an electric jolt through Roxas, and he feels his skin desperately wanting to be touched.

            They stay like that for quite some time, bumping and grinding to the music, lost in the heat and movement of the crowd. After a while, Roxas feels himself being turned around, and once he’s facing the vampire, Sora kisses him again. His brain is on fire with overwhelming amounts of signals, and his stomach is stuck in a limbo between excited and nauseous. His tongue urgently searches for those fangs again, allured by unresolved fantasies and interesting sensations. Sora gives Roxas both when his hand grips blond hair and he kisses harder, deeper—nipping at the mortal’s lips.

            Then, Sora pulls away with a smile. At first Roxas is ready to complain, until Sora asks: “Water?”

            Just then the mortal realizes how uncomfortably hot he is and how intense his thirst is, so he nods, and Sora leads them out of the crowd once again. They stop by the bar for a fresh bottle of water (the one they had from the bathroom had been long-since guzzled down), then venture back out onto the balcony to cool themselves down.

            As Roxas opens the bottle, he inquires, “What about you? Do you need any blood?”

            “Don’t worry about me, just rehydrate.”

            Roxas obeys, and takes a happy swig from the bottle. The cool liquid is intensely refreshing, and he pulls the beverage away from his lips with a satisfied sigh. Sora lets out a chuckle at this, and Roxas suddenly concentrates on the vampire with a new fierceness.

            “Sora, I’m curious,” Roxas says between sips of water, “You left your covenant, and I know you said it was because of Mickey—er, the King, or whatever. But I get the feeling that there’s something else that made you want to leave…something in your story you didn’t tell me.”

            At first, Sora feels this line of questioning has come out of nowhere, but then he remembers that ecstasy can make a person significantly chattier and definitely more honest. In retrospect, the massive Kairi-shaped hole in his story between Riku and Dusk City is terribly obvious… it was bound to get brought up eventually.

            Fortunately, the drug makes it easy for him to say, “Part of it was the responsibility… the other part was heartache.”

            “Oh,” Roxas looks away in embarrassment, clearly afraid he’s touched a nerve.

            In desperation, Sora adds, “Well, wait wait, let me clarify a bit! There was so much going on at once so suddenly that I felt really, really lost . Before, when my past was a mystery and all I knew was where my next destination was, I had less answers but so much more control. Then all of a sudden I have answers, but all they brought were more questions… then suddenly my control was slipping. The things I knew I wanted were all suddenly out of my reach, and I felt like if I didn’t get out of there my life would be taken over.” He leans his arms against the balcony, “On top of all that, I had this love that I thought I needed, that I was almost desperate for at one point… but all it brought me was agony. But I can’t call it a betrayal either, because it was never meant to be mine in the first place… but…”

            “Doesn’t mean you hurt any less.” Roxas adds, also coming to lean on the balcony. What Sora doesn’t know is how true this rings to Roxas. “Weirdly enough, I know almost exactly what you mean.”

            They share a long look, and Sora wonders if he should inquire about this new information for further details. Though he doesn’t honestly want to while they’re fucked up, as it seems like a serious enough issue for a long, sober conversation. Roxas, in the meantime, feels about the same and hopes that Sora will chose not to ask anything more. His mind is too abuzz to really nail down his story in his head anyway, and he’d rather focus on this moment. So he just smiles, which this causes Sora to smile too, and the vampire puts a pin in the conversation with a quick kiss.

            “Let me try something,” Sora says, changing the subject as he moves behind the blond. “Hold still.” Gently, he grips the other man’s shoulders and begins to carefully rub them—Roxas melting almost instantly at the contact. Expertly, Sora massages down Roxas’ back, working outward from the spine, and Roxas feels his neurons firing wildly with each rub; little noises of content noncommittally leaving his lips.

            After a few moments of absolute bliss, a chuckle shudders out of the mortal. “I bet it’s obvious we’re on drugs…”

            Sora’s hands make it to the lowest part of Roxas’ spine, and he glances at the minimal scattering of other people to see they’re paying them no mind. “If it is, nobody seems to care. Which means...” He brings his head forward to peck Roxas’ cheek. “Nobody’ll care when I start doing this.” Sora presses his groin against Roxas’ backside, then moves a hand forward to slip beneath Roxas’ shirt and over the blond’s belly button… then under his pants… then under the elastic line of his boxers—

            Roxas gasps, feeling the warmth of Sora’s hand come to a screeching halt over his happy trail. “What are you doing?!” He demands in a hushed tone.

            “Hmm… exploring.” Sora’s other hand comes up the shirt to slide across Roxas’ chest, and a finger manages to brush a nipple. Roxas squeaks in response. “Do you want me to stop?”

            Roxas chuckles again, whispering, “Of course not, asshole.” Then sighs when Sora kisses a sensitive spot between his jawline and earlobe. The hand in his pants slips down further, centimeters away from where his pubic hair begins, before it veers off to touch the topmost part of his thigh (much to Roxas’ chagrin).

            “You’re so soft,” Sora somewhat slurs into his neck, “I could fall asleep like this.”

            Though Roxas is also content to stay like that, there’s a sudden change pitch in the music from the dancefloor, and the venue vibrates with a new intensity—one that Roxas recognizes.

            “Oh my god!” Prying himself away from Sora, Roxas makes a mad dash into the venue. “I fucking love this song!!!”

            Laughing, Sora follows him in.


            They spent the rest of the night between fits of dancing, making out, and having talks about the meaning of the universe. They stayed until the club was closed, then spent the walk home chatting about this or that until they reached the outside of the Sierra Octavia apartments.

            Excited, Roxas asks, “So, you’re spending the night here again, right?”

            “I promise you that’s not a good idea.”

            “What? Why not?”

            “Dude… your roommates would definitely notice and kill me for sure!”

            “We can be sneaky! Please, please come up,” Roxas begs him, but Sora doesn’t budge.

            “Trust me, there’s no way you’d be able to stay quiet enough.” After a pause, Roxas wiggles his eyebrows melodramatically at the vampire, who responds with a laugh, “Not like that!

            In a fit of confidence, Roxas replies, “Good, cuz I don’t put out on the first date anyway.” In his head, he adds, Not that I would know…

            “Well I’m seeing you tomorrow, right? You don’t have to wait much longer.”

            Roxas groans, “I guess you’re right… I’ll let you off the hook this time.”

            Sora gives Roxas a kiss goodnight, and as he’s about to turn and leave, he decides to ask, “Hey Roxas. Would you say this was good date? Maybe even… the greatest date of your life?”

            Uh-oh. Roxas supposes now is as good a time as ever to reveal the truth. “Actually… I’ve never been on a date before tonight.” He giggles, “So, yeah… this is definitely the greatest date of my life!”

            Sora stares at him, mouth fully agape. “So our first date… was also your very first date. And you let me get you high ?!”

            “Yeah... and it was totally awesome.” Roxas coos, “Goodnight~!” before making an abrupt escape into the building, leaving Sora standing in complete awe.

            After ascending the stairs, Roxas comes to the door and realizes he never contacted Axel to announce when he was coming home. In a panic, he opens the door and is ready with a thousand apologies… only to find Demyx and Axel sprawled on the couch, completely passed out. The coffee table is littered with empty beer bottles, cigarette butts are overflowing in the ashtray, and a half-empty handle of Firaga Ball whiskey sits undefeated at the center of it all. Roxas cracks a smile and decides to leave them be—after all, they’ll need all the sleep they can get to combat the upcoming hangovers from hell. It’s probably for the best anyway, as Roxas comes to realize when he stops in the bathroom to brush his teeth: his pupils are still massive and he definitely looks tweaked. Sora would have been skinned within moments of them realizing Roxas’ hard-to-ignore state… though he isn’t sure if it would be because Sora got him drugs, or that the vampire neglected to share said drugs.

            In his bedroom, he strips himself naked and starts to slip beneath his comforter, pausing only to snatch the extra pillow from the foot of the bed where Sora left it. Once settled in, he proceeds to spoon the pillow to the best of his ability, nuzzling his face into it as he does. He lets out a delighted sigh, more comfortable now than he’s ever been before thanks to the ecstasy. Although at first he’s worried the drug will keep him from sleeping, it doesn't take long for total exhaustion to completely envelop him. Last night’s terror, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, getting up early, and tonight’s shenanigans all have him completely worn out. Before he even realizes it, he’s drifted to sleep.

            In his dreams, Roxas is standing at a beach watching the sunset, redder and brighter than anything he’s ever seen. The pink clouds take the shapes of spirals, spinning in and out of existence as they billow across the fiery sky. He picks up a blue conch shell, it’s surface twisting with unending patterns, as a drop of blood seeps out of it’s opening. He holds it to his ear, and cries a single tear when his mother’s voice drifts from it.

            “Dilly dally… shilly shally.”


Exeunt


Sora's Gerard Way cosplay is nearly complete, he just needs eyeliner! Also, no offense to any of those named Chad or Bryce... you can’t control what you’re named! Just don’t let it have the Jeeves effect. Fight destiny!

I know this chapter kind of counts as filler to an extent, but I think you guys have been waiting long enough to get some actual action in this story! I might also come back to tweak this one, who knows. It was pretty tough to write since there’s so little conflict, but I hope it's a nice break before shit really starts to pop off in the next few chapters… stay tuned!

The next chapter may be coming a week or two late because FINALS. Plus, I really want to do some extra work on it and make sure it's awesome. I appreciate your patience!

References and Inspirations:

  • Let me just say, I am completely in love with Cassidy from the “Preacher” comics, and even more so from AMC’s adaptation. He’s a vampire after my own heart! I’m glad somebody else had the idea of mixing vampirism with rampant drug use, because I was always curious about the concept myself. Initially the early drafts of this chapter were very tentative, but Cassidy helped me seal the deal on what I wanted.
  • Fingers crossed someone gets the joke in the summary...

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone the use of drugs, illegal or otherwise! Especially if you’re not 21 or over! However, I can’t stop you from living your life, so I simply suggest you party responsibly. If you or anyone you know would like more (and honest) information PLEASE GO TO MY AUTHOR DESCRIPTION AND LOOK UNDER “ ADDITIONAL RESOURCES” . Be safe and stay hydrated!

-+-

Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter VIII: Nymphatic


June 13th, 2025

            When Roxas’ tired eyes finally crack open to greet the day, it’s past noon. He must have shut his alarm off earlier while he was still mostly asleep, as he has no memory of it ever going off in the morning. He awakens feeling groggier and more tired than usual; not quite the familiar sensation of a hangover, but something that makes his brain feel like it’s been sunbathing all night. His body buzzes with residual effects from the ecstasy, and he finds himself almost painfully erect under the covers. When his skin brushes anything, the sensations leave him feeling warm and enticed.

            Might as well deal with this...

            He remembers reading or hearing somewhere that having an orgasm on certain drugs is next to impossible, but he’s pretty certain the chemicals have dissipated enough that he could if he tried. Roxas reaches down and grips his erection, enjoying the little jolt of sensitivity that rushes up through him as he pulls his foreskin back. Hours ago, the feeling would have probably been overwhelming, but now it gives him an extended line of pleasure. He strokes himself slowly, toying with this new sensation, feeling the pre-cum beading at his tip much quicker than it normally does. Roxas’ mind drifts into what he considers the abyss of shame: a place where he often found himself fantasizing of what could have been.

            The cunning face of Hayner enters his mind, looking down at him with that goofy, lovable face he came to adore; saying stupid one-liners before Roxas would shut him up with his lips. What might’ve happened if Olette never called, or if Hayner never picked up his phone? He pictures how they might’ve snuck back into Roxas’ room to spend the whole day fucking, riding their desire until the last ounce of energy was spent and they were left in a sweaty heap on Roxas’ bed. His cock twitches in his grasp, and he lets out a groan as he barely starts to quicken his pace. He also fantasizes about Pence, the tall form kneeling over him, glistening face twisted in pleasure. He’d bet anything that Pence would have been a looker during sex: maintaining eye contact as he fucks Roxas, watching to see the blond’s expression with every careful thrust. A little jab of pain pokes at his heart, so he squeezes himself a little harder to bury the sorrow beneath the pleasure.

            Then, like always, it starts to happen again. As if his fantasies are corrupted data, Roxas’ mind guiltily goes back to Seifer. Would he have been a gentle lover under different circumstances? Would he still have been just as rough and power-hungry? For years now, he pictured that lean body melding into his, wanted to be pinned down by those strong arms and kissed like the world was ending in a day. He wanted to hear Seifer moan his name as they shared moment after moment of pure weakness. Roxas’ hand slows down, stroking more intimately as he shamefully loves the sensations that the fantasy brings. Maybe that day he lost the love-letter, instead of Seifer shoving him into the bathroom to mercilessly beat him, he instead would have locked the door and kissed him breathless. Maybe they would have been pinned up in there as the bell rang, moaning amidst the sounds of their classmates roaming the halls while Seifer’s hands roamed Roxas’ body. If they’d been dating, he would have loved for Seifer to dominate him, to slide that massive cock inside him and make demands in exchange for pleasure.

            Roxas hates that fantasy so much, but it did the trick almost every single time he’s jerked off to it… and he would loathe himself afterwards for imagining the horrible person that ruined his life in such a way. It made him want to throw himself out the window for giving that monster never-ending power over his life. His trauma had somehow become his lust, and he hated himself for it.

            But this time, something else happens: his mind drifts elsewhere, a new place. There are lights, and music, and bodies, and heat… hands slide across his body, touching him with desperation.

            “Let’s take this downstairs.”

            And with the efficiency of a dream, they are suddenly there in the bathroom stall; the music above is muffled, but the bass is still vibrating them. They’re facing each other, lips are on Roxas’ neck, teeth on his skin, his cock free from his pants and in someone else’s grasp. He can feel the fangs in his flesh, his blood dripping down and staining his clothes.

            “Faster, Sora,” he whispers, stroking himself more quickly as the Sora in his fantasy does the same. He can feel more precum leaking out, imagining the pain as he creates the pleasure. He pictures Sora pulling away, and can see the blood dripping from the vampire’s mouth under the low light.

            “Let me fuck you.”

            Then, his pants are down in this fantasy and Sora is holding his leg up as he pulls out his own erection. Roxas pops two fingers into his mouth before repositioning himself beneath the covers. Still pumping his tingling cock, he slides his fingers into his ass as he imagines Sora sliding into him. Amplified by the lingering ecstacy, Roxas can’t help but quietly moan as this familiar routine is suddenly so much more intense. He multitasks pumping his cock, fingering himself and stimulating his prostate with ease; letting himself get lost in new levels of arousal. He thinks of Sora fucking him hard and fast in the stall, smiling at him with bloodied lips as Roxas holds on tight to the vampire. He begs for more as the all-too familiar signs of release pool inside him, the static sensation rippling through his erection. In his head, Sora kisses him hard, and his body quakes as the orgasm envelops him. He bites his lip in an attempt to stifle a loud gasp of relief as cum gushes out of him. Gently, he pumps the remainder out, shuddering slightly from the sensitivity.

            After removing his fingers and releasing his dick, he allows himself to lay in a daze beneath the covers. For the first time in quite a while, he doesn’t feel angry or embarrassed for masturbating. In fact, he’s quite satisfied with this new scenario that’s now available for him to picture. He’s just about to fall back asleep when he realizes he didn’t grab a towel or tissue to catch the cum, and the liquid is currently splattered across his fitted sheet. He curses himself for ruining a perfect opportunity to snooze some more. Going quiet, he listens carefully to hear if his roomates are up and about. After a long silence reaches his ears, he goes to clean up.

            One extra-long shower later, he felt a little more energized but still pretty groggy. His skin remained distantly tingly and he ended up spending part of the day wrapped in a soft blanket as he did an impromptu load of laundry and made lunch.

            It is around 3 pm when his roommates arrive at home, all carrying bags of groceries with their Organization cloaks slung over their shoulders. They are chatting as they enter, but when Axel sees Roxas he immediately drops everything—literally—and bounds over to the blond.

            “H-hi, Axe—” Roxas starts, but he is quickly muffled as Axel grabs his face and begins to move his head to and fro.

            “Neck is clear,” Axel releases him and pulls Roxas’ arms out from under the blanket. To his relief, the bites from the other night have fully healed and are unnoticeable on the skin. “No bites here, either.”

            Good call, Sora.

            Suddenly, Demyx is upon them, “Take his pants off and check his thighs!”

            “Wait… what?!”

            Axel snaps his fingers, “You’re right! I completely forgot about the thighs!”

            Their hands start to encroach him at rapid speeds, but Roxas manages to slap them away in fright. “Stop it! Please! I’m fine !” Upon saying fine , his voice crackles with laughter. “You guys are obnoxious. Are you really that concerned about me getting hot and heavy with a vampire?”

            Demyx and Axel share a look of bemusement. Then, in a low voice, Demyx says, “I think he just admitted that he totally macked on a vamp .” Their eyes turn to Roxas with an intense fury, and the blond feels himself shrinking under their gazes.

            “Both of you!” Naminé interjects from the kitchen, where she’s putting away some of the groceries. “He’s alive, right? Then it’s none of your business who or what he spends his time with. As long as what they’re doing is consensual, who cares?”

            Roxas is happy to chime in as he sticks his tongue out, “If Naminé says it’s okay, then it’s okay.”

            The couple shares yet another look, and Axel sighs obnoxiously. He puts a hand behind his back and uses the other to wave a little circle in the air. “Then it shall be so, so sayeth the queen!”

            Demyx pretends to toot a horn, “Hear ye, hear ye! The queen hath decreed all forms of fang-fuckery hereby LEGAL ! Frabjous day, callooh callay!”

            They lock arms and start do a merry little jig as Naminé and Roxas watch indignantly, when suddenly Axel halts. “Wait, wouldn’t it be ‘fang-bangery’, not ‘fang-fuckery’?”

            Making a sour face, Demyx stops too. “Shit! I didn’t even think about that!”

            Naminé shoots them both a glare, “Enough! Would you two please quit trying to get out of putting groceries away by dicking around?”

            Sheepishly, they both hurry over to help, and Roxas joins them… though he can’t help but smile to himself over Naminé uncharacteristically using the term “dicking around”.


            It’s only a couple hours later when Roxas meets up with Sora outside the apartment lobby. They greet each other, and Roxas notices the vampire is holding an unopened bottle of blue Gigasgatorade.

            “Feeling alright?” Sora asks.

            “Yeah, just a little… fried, I guess?”

            “Sounds about right. Here,” Sora holds out the sports drink. “Electrolytes! I promise you'll feel way better after drinking this.”

            Happily taking the bottle, Roxas thinks it's a funny coincidence how much the vampire has contributed to his hydration even though he himself has donated only a little blood so far. “Thanks. Do you need anything?”

            Sora waves his hand dismissively, “I should be good for another few hours.”

            They start walking to the tram stop, Roxas sipping the sweet beverage as he uses his phone to look up directions to Number II’s shop. Sora peeks over the blond’s shoulder inquisitively and Roxas mutters, “14th and Lancet.”

            “That’s a twenty minute walk from the Census Bureau.” Roxas feels a surge of excitement and he begins to jog, eager to catch the earliest trolley there. Sora notices this and tries to match the blond’s pace. “What’s the rush?”

            “No time to waste now!” Roxas shouts, gaining speed, “Dilly dally, shilly shally!”


            Outside Freeshooter’s Firearms and Ammo , Sora is waiting patiently for Roxas to emerge. He’s grateful for the evening sun being tucked away behind the cityscape, as it would be awkward for him to have to stand the shade for so long. Doing so might have made him look pretty weird—or worse, possibly menacing—to others, and that’s attention he definitely doesn’t want to deal with. In his head, he’s been charting the quickest route to the Bureau building, planning to quell Roxas’ radiating anxiety to the best of his ability. The entire trip there, short as it was, the mortal was eerily silent; no amount of idle chit chat seemed to lighten the dark mood hanging over him. At one point while Sora was prattling on, the blond silently reached over and grasped Sora’s hand, so he resolved to stay quiet too.

            A little pang of guilt grips his chest when he remembers he still hasn’t asked Roxas why he’s so interested in getting to the census building. In fact, after dropping Roxas off, he laid awake in his hotel thinking about that fact for the rest of the night. If his body hadn’t shut itself off from exhaustion, he might’ve laid awake thinking about it all day, too. It’s more than obvious the mortal is looking for someone in particular, and the only other fact he knows is that Roxas ran away from home… so who is this mystery person? Unfortunately, but also somewhat fortunately, he’s only been able to rule out a former lover so far… who knows, though? Although he trusts Roxas, humans can be tentative at times.

            It also distressed him to think about how he gave his own life story and yet still hasn’t asked Roxas about his… which feels terribly rude of the vampire. Even though he’s resolved to wait for the opportune moment, he desperately hopes Roxas doesn’t see it as a lack of interest, or even care. It was easy to tell the blond didn’t want to talk about it last night, anyway, so Sora hopes his reasoning appears sound. Upon closer reflection, he considers just how little he knows about the mortal’s past… and for some reason, he’s nervous about exploring it.

            A historian afraid to explore the past? What a positively silly thought. But he’s become so fond of Roxas he’s genuinely afraid to push any boundaries. These past few days have been some of the most meaningful—and interesting—ones he’s had in 50 years. He’d rather live a lifetime of not knowing than risk a day of apprehension from his new companion.

            Besides, I’ve got all the time in the world. Why not take it slow?

            As if on cue, Roxas emerges from the gun shop looking a little paler than usual.

            “Well that was terrifying. He kept waving a rifle around telling me what a good shot he is!” Roxas gesticulates in an adorable manner, “He sounded like a old surfer guy too. ‘Hey kiddo, you better be ready for some crazy shit! As if!’ What is it, the 90s or something???”

            “Did he tell you anything important?”

            “I mean… if he did, I missed it because he kept pointing a fucking gun at me.”

            Sora shrugs, “Coworkers, right?”

            “Right. Let's get out of here.”

            “Savvy that. Follow me.”

            Just as Sora said, it only takes them about 20 minutes to get to the Census Bureau, which is a muted little building nestled in the center of a bustling street. When they arrive amidst a crowd of passing pedestrians, Roxas can feel a tightness in his chest and has to remind himself to breathe. They enter to see what very well could pass as a lobby for a dentist’s office at first glance, as the atmosphere feels clean-cut and the reception desk is massive. Roxas was honestly expecting something much more massive, though this building is likely just a smaller branch of the province’s main bureau. Sora walks up to the desk were a bored-looking man is rifling through paperwork, and when the gentleman glances up to regard the new presence, he starts in his seat.

            “S-Sora!” He says, “What are you doing here? It’s been ages since I’ve seen you around the coven.”

            “Yeah, I’ve been sorting out some personal stuff, as I’m sure you’ve heard…” Sora gives an exaggerated “ go figure” sort-of shrug, “Anyway, there are some files my friend and I here need to take a look at. Mind if we mosey on back there?”

            The man takes a disdainful glance at Roxas, but doesn't seem terribly perturbed by him. Roxas wonders if the guy knows he really has no choice either way because of Sora’s glamor.

            “If he’s with you, I’ll trust him.”

            “There’s one more thing—”

            The man turns his head away, laughing, “Yeah, I got you. I swear I won't tell anyone you’re here if you don’t tell anyone I let an unauthorized person in here!”

            Sora smiles, “Thanks, man.”

            The guy hits a buzzer, and the metallic chunk! of a lock sounds from a door on their left. They venture through it into a library: half of it is filled with shelves stuffed with old paper documents, and the other half is made up of sleek-looking metal towers. Roxas goes to examine a particularly overflowing shelf.

            “I can’t believe they have this much paper in one place.”

            “Pretty low-tech, huh?” Sora replies, moving toward the metallic towers. “Can't rely too much on computers for everything, after all.” Just then, he stops and turns toward the mortal. He gives himself a second to observe his companion respectfully keeping his hands behind his back as he glances over the documents. Sora can sense the tension in the room, and detects the worry Roxas is very poorly trying to hide from his features. Finally, it’s time for Sora to ask the question that's been burning inside of him, and he’s certain the other man is anticipating this. “Roxas... who are we looking for?”

            Fully turning to him, Roxas makes eye contact for perhaps the thousandth time since they’ve known each other and, after a hard swallow, responds. “My mom. She brought my older brother here a long time ago. She’s…” He shifts his gaze to the floor. “She died in this city.”

            Sora’s heart drops, and he pulls Roxas in for a tight hug without another word. At first the blond is confused and a little taken aback, but after a moment he welcomes the embrace. He finds it incredibly comforting to have silence instead of verbal condolences in a moment like this. Sora strokes his hair and he lets out a sighs of appreciation.

            Maybe it was destiny that brought them there, or maybe their paths just happened to cross as a strange coincidence. Who knows if the stars aligned, or the wind brought them whispers of their fate, or the universe’s natural order of chaos swept them into that embrace. No matter what it was, Sora realizes, he simply wants to help Roxas in whatever way he can. He knows more than anyone else how cruel and unfair this world is. Of the millions of piteous inhabitants on it, here is Roxas: a man whose origins are a mystery to Sora, yet he feels compelled to support him. It was as if Eris, or maybe Aphrodite, herself descended Mount Olympus to make sure they found one another. He decides right then that he’ll stop questioning himself and, no matter how cheesy it sounds to anyone, trust his heart.

            When Sora finally pulls away, he quietly asks, “What’s your last name?”

            “Highwind. Spelled just like it sounds.”

            Tapping his chin, Sora says it out loud, delicately stressing the syllables, “Roxas Highwind… a cool name for a cool dude.”

            The vampire shoots him a silly grin, and Roxas can’t help but smile at the purposeful lameness of the compliment. Turning away, Sora approaches one of the towers and presses a finger to it’s surface, causing a bluish holoscreen to materialize. He begins to swipe his fingers around the screen with ease, occasionally making inquisitive noises as he searches. Silently, Roxas watches the display flicker with life, his teeth clenched tight in his mouth.

            “Nothing for Highwind… do you know your mother’s maiden name?”

            “Gainsborough.” He spells the name aloud as Sora scribes.

            It only takes a moment longer for the vampire to finally pull something up, and a heavy feeling settles in Roxas’ chest when he sees the discovery. It’s an identification card with a picture of his mother, and against the blue tint of the holoscreen her green eyes look incredibly striking. Roxas moves toward the device and gazes at her, his throat feeling tighter the closer he gets to the display. The only photo he has of her is in his keepsake box, and in it she’s so young. In this image, she has aged considerably and looks weary… yet also somewhat bright. He can almost see her cheerful demeanor through the photograph, the start of a new chapter creating hope in her distressed features.

            Breaking the silence, Sora asks, “What happened to her?”

            “I don’t know,” Roxas responds, “I never got to find out.”

            Frowning, Sora starts busying himself with the display again; the image of Aerith vanishes behind a cloud of text boxes as he digs through various files. Finally, he opens a box labeled Death Certificate and Roxas can’t help but cringe. They skim the information, and Sora taps a file at the end of the text reading Coroner’s Report . The form fills the screen and they read the text.

            External Injuries… significant bruising… lacerations… impaled through the chest… Internal Injuries… blood in lungs… heart removed… brain removed…

            Roxas shudders, his eyes flicking to the humanoid diagram on the form in disbelief. The labeled circles on the illustration confirm the massive, unimaginable damage. Sora scrolls down and they read onward.

            Medical Diagnosis… homicide… cause of death: harvested organs… Notes… signs of struggle… body brutalized…

            At the end of the report is a button labeled Police Report. Hastily, Sora opens the file and a screen asking for a login pops up. He only has to think for a second before entering a complex series of numbers and letters, leading them to a new screen with a photo gallery.

            Suddenly, there’s blood... and it’s everywhere .

            Though the image files are small, the flash of the camera has made the most gruesome aspects of the crime scene clearly visible. Sora curses himself for his impatience and hurriedly taps away to a different screen, hoping Roxas didn’t see too much.

            Meanwhile, it takes Roxas’ brain a moment to register the few seconds of horror, and when he does, he feels the color wash from his face. His stomach turns and he has to gulp back bile. There was so much reddish-blackish blood in the images, he almost wasn’t sure there was even a body there. Upon reflection, he can recall glimpsing the matting of his mother’s once silky hair in one photo, and the gaping hole in her chest in another… there’s probably a picture of her lifeless green eyes in that gallery somewhere, and it’s easy for his mind to imagine them now. Before his psyche has a chance to descend further into morbidity, Sora is hugging him again, much tighter than before.

            “I’m so sorry, Roxas… I’m so sorry… I shouldn’t have opened that so fast. I didn’t realize those pictures would come up that easily… are you okay?” Roxas is still for a moment, comforted once more by Sora’s embrace, and desperately trying to will numbness into himself. He has to see this through, no matter what happens and no matter what horrendous things he discovers. Remaining silent, he nods into Sora’s shoulder. “Are you absolutely sure?” He nods again, more quickly this time. Reluctantly, Sora pulls away and, after stroking Roxas’ cheek with his thumb, turns back to the screen. He very warily checks the next pages of documents, being careful not to accidentally pull up any more disturbing material. After scanning a few texts, Sora asks, “Do you know a... Zack Fair?”

            Roxas shakes his head “I've never heard of him.”

            “Apparently he filed a missing person’s report and identified the body once it was discovered.”

            “Does it say anything about my brother? His name is Cloud.”

            Sora goes back to tapping, and eventually a large file appears on the screen. “It looks like he entered the city with the name Highwind, unlike your mom, but changed it later. Let me try and find the paperwork…”

            Roxas feels another wave of apprehension wash over him as he watches the vampire go back to work on the screen. He finally has answers, but it also opens so many more questions for him… just like Sora was saying to him last night. His gut is on fire with uncertainty as his head spins with the possibilities, with the ambivalence of the situation. On the edge of crying out in grief, he focuses on the screen in a desperate attempt to try and dull the noise in his head.

            Just then, a hand clamps over his mouth and an arm comes around to grab him across the torso. He barely registers the crushing squeeze before it is already happening, and he begins screaming and thrashing to no avail. Sora hears the muffled sounds and turns, only to go pale in the face

            “Hi, Sora.” An icy voice bites out from above, “It's been a minute, huh?”

            In response, Sora chews his lip. “Hi Riku. Long time no see? Haha…”

            Riku? That’s…

            Roxas’ eyes go wide. With all his might, he frees his arm to whip his elbow back into his captor’s side—but instead of melding into flesh, the action sends a shock up his funny bone. Riku barely flinches while Roxas yelps against the taller man’s hand in surprise. It’s like trying to jab a brick wall.

            “I'm guessing you don't want to let go of my boyfriend there.” Sora says, carefully.

            Roxas is too busy struggling and panicking to notice the boyfriend comment, and Riku scoffs. “Seeing as he’s your biggest fixation right now—hey, stop that, I'm not letting go, alright?—maybe he and I could convince you to come talk to the King.”

            “You know the Organization wouldn't appreciate it if you kidnap one of their own. Am I really worth that much to you?”

            Roxas slams his foot down on Riku’s toes, to which the werewolf sighs in response. He re-adjusts his grip to wrap his arm around the blond’s neck in a vice.

            “Would you give it up alre—”

            A blast of light explodes from Riku’s arm and he screams in pain as the room suddenly fills with the ghastly smell of cooked meat. He crumples to the floor, and they see the flesh of his forearm bubbling with blood: the skin is freshly seared off, and still steaming.

            The mortal and the vampire share a look of shock, before Roxas turns and dashes to the exit with Sora on his heels. Glancing back once, Roxas unintentionally makes eye contact with Riku, and the inhuman seafoam eyes once again pierce him down to his soul. On their way out of the bureau building, Sora makes sure to shoot a menacing glare at the front desk person, who looks like he was mid-scramble to punch the lock buzzer and halt their escape.

            They hit the street and zig-zag through the crowd on the sidewalk, Sora touching people’s shoulders as he passes them to spread his scent around. The rumbling sound of a trolley approaches them from behind, and once it begins to pass them, Sora snags one of the back poles and jumps onto it. In one fluid motion, he grabs Roxas’s hand and pulls him onboard too. Bystanders fuss over the scene, and the people in the tram car also begin to mutter once the men’s presence is known. After the two catch their breath, they grin stupidly at each other and start to laugh.

            Roxas exclaims, “These last three days have been the scariest of my life!”

            Sora replies, leaning his head against the pole, “If you keep hanging out with me, I promise they'll get even scarier.” He rolls his eyes, “Can’t believe that asshole ratted on us… I knew I should’ve just glamored him right away. I guess it worked out, though? What was that blast back there, anyway?”

            Roxas shakes his head, “I have no idea. There was a flash of light and—”

            “Oh shit,” Sora interjects, visibly wincing, “Sorry to interrupt, but… you’ve got a lot of blood on you.” He motions to the splatters staining Roxas’ neck and upper torso.

            Roxas grabs the bottom of his shirt and pulls it outward to get a better look. “Oh fuck ! How am I going to explain this to Axel?!”

            After some consideration and Roxas verbalizing his anxiety using a series of expletives, Sora has an idea. He suggests they go back to his hotel so Roxas can shower, maybe get his clothes washed, and they can figure out what to do from there. At this point Roxas is so rattled that he doesn't really care about the idea of being alone with Sora in a hotel room, so he simply nods in agreement. They both pull out their phones, Roxas to text Axel and Sora to find them a ride.

            After the vampire taps around for a moment, he pauses once to glance at the ticker inside the vehicle announcing the tram’s destination. He notices the people inside are still gawking at them, though the conductor seems nonplussed about the intrusion. He gives a little wave to the onlookers and most of them turn away in embarrassment. Meanwhile, Roxas writes and rewrites an unsent text to Axel, trying to come up with something doesn't sound very suspicious.

            [I’ll be late coming home! Everything is okay, I promise!!!!!]

            Too obvious…

            [Gon out! Backson! Bisey, Backson!]

            Whoops! Typed that one a little too fast.

            After some scrutinization, he finally nails the perfect text:

            [Out for a bite. I'll be home pretty late.]

            On his way to pocket his phone, he feels it buzz with a quick reply.

            [WHO’S out for a bite?!?!!??! (OoO ) jk jk. But tell fang face I’ll set him on fire if he doesn’t make sure you’re safe GIM?]

            He chuckles.

            [lol okay. Thanks. Love ya!]

            Some time later, the tram car rattles to a stop and the men hop off. They wait on the busy sidewalk for a few moments in silence before a black car rolls up, it’s windshield adorned with a glowing blue disc emblem. Sora waves to the SolurSaylr and beckons Roxas to get in with him in the back. At first the driver is shocked at Roxas’s appearance, but Sora quickly makes eye contact: telling him everything is fine, to take them to the address, and to forget what he saw. At the hotel, they skitter over to the elevators as fast as possible and fortunately don't gather any other riders on their way up. They hurry down the hall and slip into the room as soon as Sora unlocks the door with his keycard.

            Out of sight from any possible onlookers, Roxas finally relaxes a little and takes in the hotel room, which is actually very nice. There’s a queen-sized bed, massive windows with parted red drapes, impeccably clean carpeting, two ornate armchairs sitting around a coffee table, and a big cabinet beneath a large holo-TV, which is displaying the time.

            “Sweet digs,” Roxas comments as he drops his backpack onto the floor, “Did you get your special mind-control rate or…?”

            Sora laughs, “Don’t worry about it, it’s an odd story. Go ahead and get in the shower so we can wash your clothes before the blood cakes up.” He picks up the room phone, presumably to call for laundry service.

            Nodding, Roxas glances around to see an ajar door next to the room’s entrance. He enters the bathroom to see it is also pretty fancy. There’s a big tub sitting beside a shower stall, the toilet is in a separate nook behind a door, and there’s a massive mirror on the center wall with a marble-looking sink attached. He takes a closer look at himself in the mirror only to be somewhat appalled, as a good section of his upper body is spattered with blood. He quickly removes his hoodie before gingerly pulling off his shirt, the cool silver of his necklace hitting his skin, when suddenly a cloud of vapor violently erupts before his eyes. He yelps and calls to Sora, who comes rushing in.

            “What is it? Are you okay?!”

            “I just took my shirt off, and my necklace…” He carefully lifts it and notices the spot it was touching is now clear of blood in a perfect X shape. He touches the corner of the silver to more blood, causing a puff of smoke to emerge again.

            Sora quickly steps to him and grasps the necklace. Could that be why Riku was injured so suddenly? “Even pure silver doesn’t burn lycanthropes that badly… this has to be enchanted. Family heirloom right?”

            “Yeah, my mom gave it to me.”

            “Looks like there’s a bigger mystery here than we thought.” He looks Roxas in the eyes for a moment, as if searching for something. He gently lifts the necklace off and places it down by the sink. “I’ll let you shower. There’s a lot we need to talk about before we keep moving forward.”

            As he leaves he takes the bloodied clothes, and Roxas finds himself in a mild state of shock as he’s not sure himself how to proceed. Numbly, he begins to run the shower before removing the rest of his apparel. Once the water reaches a suitable temperature, he gets in. He starts by rinsing his neck, watching the pink water swirl down the drain with unease and fascination. There’s a very unreal feeling to being where he is, where all these events have been quickly funneled into his life. It never really dawned on him until recently that this is, indeed, his new reality. The truth is suddenly breaking through the winter's ice like vengeful spring flowers. Who killed his mother? There’s gotta be a way to find more information. Who’s Zack? Where is his brother? Who killed his mom? There’s no way they’ll get anything else from the census bureau now that they know Sora needs something from there. Who killed his mom? Who else could they ask for help? Who killed his mom? WHO KILLED HER? WHY?

            Unable to hold back the tears, he allows himself to quietly cry. Her cold, dead body lying on the ground… impaled through the chest, the brain and heart gone, like someone was trying to dissect a zombie. Except it was his mom, skewered and flayed like a piece of meat. He can feel himself retching, but chokes on the lump in his throat when nothing comes out.

            Why?

            Once the last of the blood has washed away, he steps out of the shower and hurriedly towels himself off. Roxas takes a long look in the mirror, studying his reflection as if he doesn't recognize his own face… and it's true. He isn't the same person anymore. No… it's not that… he doesn't want to be the same. He wants to be stronger, to be able to protect himself for once instead of relying on everyone else. Even the best kickboxing lessons in the world can’t prepare him for what could be skulking in the shadows, for what possible threats lie outside of his current bubble. He couldn't defend himself from Sora at first, or Riku…

            ...and not Seifer either.

            His jaw hurts from clenching his teeth so hard, and his fingers are biting into his flesh from balling his fists so tightly. He slings the towel to hang loosely around his waist and leaves the bathroom, refusing to look at the spotless necklace on his way out.

            He peeks out to the bedroom and casts his eyes toward Sora, who is sitting on the bed facing away from him, on his phone. The shirt and hoodie are nowhere in sight.

            A thought crosses Roxas’ mind: Should I tell him about Twilight Town?

            For some odd reason the idea terrifies him, and he can't pinpoint why. Here is this immortal being that has seen over 200 years of strange shit and yet Roxas is uncomfortable sharing his past troubles. Not to mention Sora has already given him a pretty detailed autobiography of said strange shit, which makes his own baggage seem scant in comparison. So why does Roxas feel this way?

            He thinks about the life he left behind: the hopes, the dreams, the fear. His longing for Seifer, his lust for Hayner, his love for Pence, the hatred of his father, the abandonment of his mother, the missing space of his brother, the cruel townsfolk, the violation of his body and spirit… his heart throbs with the weight of grief. All of it, every shred of agony, should be gone now in this new life, and he is more ready than ever to throw away all that might remain. Recounting certain events from his past out loud means admitting they happened, and that they ruined his life… which is not something he’s ready to do just yet.

            The only way to confront what’s bygone is to become stronger… and that’s something he has to do on his own.

            Roxas fully steps out of the bathroom and approaches Sora, who perks up when he hears feet padding across the carpet. The vampire turns his body to face the blond, smiling initially—but when he sees the grim look on Roxas’ face, he grows outwardly concerned.

            “Roxas?” He says, standing up. There's no need to inquire as to why his companion is unsettled, that much is obvious, but he also isn't quite sure what to say. Consolation is not the strongest skill he possesses, but he hopes his empathy is apparent enough to make up for it.

            They stand there, and Roxas swears to himself that those whirlpool eyes are spinning. He watches as those nebulas twirl distantly behind Sora’s irises, and just wants something to feel right. Anything.

            So he leans forward and kisses Sora. He grips the front of the vampires shirt and pulls him forward, melding their lips together harder, faster. It dawns on him that this is the first time in his life that he has kissed someone first, completely of his own volition. The concept is liberating to him. . It’s finally his turn to be the aggressor.

            Help me forget. Roxas thinks, Help me become a new person.

            He sneaks a hand under the edge of the brunet’s shirt and moves it up to feel Sora’s torso, his fingers gliding along toned flesh. Sora runs his hands across Roxas’ still-damp back and pulls him closer. Breaking away for just a second, Roxas pulls off Sora’s shirt and presses his weight into the other man to push him down onto the bed. Roxas moves forward to continue kissing Sora, straddling the man’s waist as he does so, before moving his hands to undo the vampire’s pants.

            Sora pulls away, letting himself fall back onto the bed. “Wait, wait… Are you sure?”

            There's no hesitation in Roxas’ reply: “Yes.” He’s never been more sure of anything in his entire life. “I want you.”

            They sit perfectly still for a moment, a statue of uncertainty and certainty sitting upon a hotel bed. Sora wonders for a long moment if Roxas does actually want this, or if his grief is pushing him to behave erratically. And he’s right on both counts: unbeknownst to him, Roxas’ heart is full of numbness and agony, passion and pain, hate and love. His pale hands are paralyzed on Sora’s pants in mid-unbuttoning, as if he’s waiting for the vampire to encourage him onward. His tear-swollen eyes go from determined to pleading, and Sora can see desperate desire within them… but he doesn’t know if it’s there for the right reasons.

            So, Sora asks, “Why now? Why this soon?”

            He doesn’t expect the reply to come so readily, “Everything I want is out of reach… except for you.” Roxas smiles, “I’m tired of wasting time I might not have. Dilly dally, shilly shally.”

            Though the tone is wavering, Sora can hear the assurance in Roxas’ voice. He should probably ask Roxas to give him every detail, to tell him every reason he’s come to this place before anything else happens… but when he sees the tears start to slide down the mortal’s cheeks, all logic dies a hasty death in his mind. He pulls Roxas down toward him to capture his lips, wiping the tears away as they tenderly kiss. Roxas’ hands resume working the button on Sora’s pants, and he begins to slide them down off Sora hips. After the vampire kicks his shoes and socks off, he lifts himself up as best as he can to help aid the removal process. His pants slip onto the floor, leaving only his boxers, which Roxas sits atop. It is right then when Roxas notices how bare he is, as the towel has almost completely fallen off and is just barely covering his crotch. He’s stuck for a moment, realizing that if he goes to take off Sora’s boxers the towel will come off for sure and he’ll be completely exposed. As he deliberates, he hopes Sora doesn’t pick up on his sudden embarrassment… but the vampire already has.

            After putting his hands on Roxas’ knees, Sora begins to sensually run them up Roxas’ thighs, slipping his fingers underneath the minimal covering of the towel. The action gives Roxas goosebumps, and he feels himself yearning for what’s next.

            “Please be honest, Roxas…” Sora smiles politely, “Will this be your first time?” After their date last night, he figured this was a fair enough guess.

            Roxas’s eyes flick away for a split second, and he knows Sora notices. “Yes.” And he's not lying, because the awful thing that happened in Twilight Town doesn't truly count for him… and he knows it shouldn’t, either. “I've had plenty of… experience. But this would be my first time actually having sex.”

            Sora slides one hand all the way up Roxas’ pale torso, while his other hand tugs the towel away to fully expose the blond. Roxas tries not to make a sound in response, and he can’t help averting his gaze while Sora takes the sight of him in. Distantly, Roxas remembers the vampire remembers everything he sees, and he moves his hand to cover part of his blushing face.

            “You are gorgeous ,” Sora purrs... and he means it too. Roxas looks like a dream: his creamy skin is so incredibly soft, and dotted irregularly by a handful of perfect-imperfect freckles. The vampire’s eyes trail down to the minimal happy trail that ends in a small blond tuft above Roxas’ groin. Sora grips a thigh with one hand and runs the thumb of his other one over Roxas’ nipple, causing the mortal to shudder and his softened dick to twinge. Seeing this, Sora can feel a little jolt through his own cock below. He pulls Roxas down into him while simultaneously grinding up, feeling himself hardening beneath the fabric that divides them. He’s considering his next move when Roxas suddenly pulls himself off; he goes to kneel where Sora’s legs hang off the bed before grabbing the waistband of the boxers and yanking them all the way off with a swift tug. Roxas takes in the sight of Sora’s exposed manhood, visibly balking a little, and Sora hopes his size isn’t too intimidating for the mortal’s inexperience.

            Meanwhile, Roxas is worrying about whether or not he’ll be able to comfortably take his half-hard companion, as the length and girth are noticeably impressive even when he isn’t fully erect. Realizing he’s been staring awkwardly for a little longer than necessary, he decides to embolden himself and carry on with his task. He wills away his shyness and grips Sora’s dick: lowering his lips to take the head into his mouth, carefully working it with his tongue as he does. With each tease of the tongue, he moves his mouth down the length a little further and further, feeling the organ get a tad more stiff with each movement. Before he knows it, he somehow has most of the now-erect shaft in his mouth and can feel it poking the back of his throat. Using the hand gripping the remainder of the length, he strokes it as his head carefully bobs up and down. He gags a few times, tears stinging his eyes slightly when it happens, but it doesn’t bother him too much.

            After a moment or two, he pops the shaft out of his mouth to run his tongue along the underside, up toward the tip. He opens his eyes and catches the sight of Sora propped up on his elbows, looking down at him, face flushed and fangs just barely visible through his panting, parted lips. Almost immediately, Roxas feels himself slowing down as the heat of embarrassment rushes into his cheeks for the upteenth time. A little distracted by the arousing spectacle, he finds he isn’t quite sure what to do next. So, he pops the tip back into his mouth and begins sucking and licking the head, his hand simultaneously working the full length of the shaft. He maintains eye contact, unable to tear his gaze away from Sora’s interesting state of weakness. Curious, he moves his other hand to gently cup and massage Sora’s balls, delighting in seeing the vampire toss his head back to groan.

            After a few moments of experimental stimulation, he hears Sora mutter, “You said you have experience, but I didn’t realize you were actually a pornstar.”

            Roxas takes his lips off Sora’s cock and chuckles, “That’s quite the compliment.”

            Shifting his weight, Sora motions him back up, “Come here.”

            Blinking, Roxas lets go and crawls back up onto Sora, who pulls him in for another kiss. He feels himself being lifted, then flipped over to where Sora is on top and his head is now lying comfortably on a pillow. The vampire’s lips are upon him again, and Roxas can feel Sora’s dick, slick with spit, brushing his own erection; he can’t help but involuntarily flinch.

            “What?” Sora purrs again, rubbing them together once more and enjoying the sensation, “Doesn’t this feel nice?” He licks along Roxas’ lower lip.

            Wondering if his face can get any hotter, Roxas responds, “I’m just… you know.”

            “Yeah,” Sora whispers, reaching between them to grip Roxas’ member, which causes him to gasp. “I know.” The blond groans as Sora strokes him at a quick pace. “Do you need me to finger you at all?” A little lost in the feeling of the vampire jerking him off, Roxas only shakes his head in response. “Okay. Give me one second.” The vampire removes himself then, much to Roxas’ discontent. The blond instinctively wants to reach down and touch himself to make up for the lost contact, but he finds himself a little too self-conscious about it for now. He observes as Sora peeks inside the cabinet adjacent to the bed, which holds a mini bar and an assortment of colorful goodies. “I swear I saw it in here somewhere… aha!” He pulls out a nice-looking box that he wastes no time in ripping open. Roxas is about to inquire about the contents when he sees Sora remove several condoms and a travel-sized bottle of lube.

            He can’t help but laugh, “I have never heard of a hotel keeping condoms with the mini-bar!”

            “Convenient, right?” Sora tosses all but one condom and the lube onto the nightstand. He positions himself back between Roxas’ legs, tearing open the fancy-looking wrapper of a condom with his teeth. For some reason, Roxas finds the action incredibly sexy.

            After Sora very aptly rolls the condom on, the vampire dips down to kiss Roxas again. The blond rests his hands on the back of Sora’s neck, parting his lips and welcoming his companion’s tongue. He can hear the lube bottle cracking open, listens to the sound of Sora slicking himself up, and his heart is suddenly pounding in his ears. Fingers circle his entrance, and he practically melts against the warming contact. Then, the fingers are gone, and Roxas feels Sora pressing into him; trusting the vampire, he wills himself to relax instead of tensing up. Thinking quickly, Sora uses the discarded towel to wipe the lube off his hand without breaking the kiss. Their tongues slide together while one of the vampire’s hands slides along Roxas flank, his other hand gently gripping the mortal’s hip for leverage. Roxas’ lip is bitten as Sora eases the tip into him, the brunet pushing forward at a gentle, comfortable rate. At first he is worried Sora’s size might be be painful, but before he knows it, Sora is fully inside him and thrusting at a careful, slow pace. It was almost… a little too perfect, actually. Blinking his eyes open, he notices then that the vampire is watching him very intently as he moves; just now figuring out that Sora probably has immeasurable experience with this sort of thing. There’s nothing to worry about.

            Sora notices Roxas’ expression and checks in with him. “Feeling alright?”

            “I’m fine, just… impressed.” In any other circumstance he would be intimidated due to his own lack of experience, but he realizes this is actually the best-case scenario for him. He lets himself relax, enjoying the tender motion as Sora eases in and out of him.

            “Don’t hesitate to tell me if you’re uncomfortable, okay?”

            Roxas nods, letting his eyes close once more. It’s a pretty lovely feeling, and after a little while Roxas finds himself noncommittally whispering, “Faster.” Sora is about to ask him if he’s sure, but decides it’s pretty unnecessary at this point. So, he smirks, and begins to rock his hips at a quicker pace. A little shock of pleasure rushes up Roxas’ spine, and he gasps, “Harder…!”

            Sora obeys, now bucking at a fervent pace. Roxas grips onto Sora’s shoulders, fingernails digging into the flesh, as the pleasure hits him in waves. Without thinking about it, he’s reaching between them to stroke his throbbing cock, which is now leaking precum down his shaft; doing his best to pump in time to Sora’s thrusts. Sora delights in the noises Roxas makes, the little whines and whimpers that pass his soft, bruised lips. Roxas feels a prickling sensation, and immediately recognizes it as an oncoming orgasm.

            This fast? Fucking damn it, I really am a damn virgin… I don’t want to come this soon—! Roxas shouts, “Slower! Slower… please, I’m about to…!” Suddenly, Sora fully leans back and comes to a complete stop, moving Roxas’ hand out of the way to grab the blond’s cock himself. The sudden loss of pleasure makes him whine in torment, and he can’t help but look at Sora with pleading eyes… but the vampire just smiles down upon him like he’s hiding the most lascivious of secrets.

            “Trust me,” Sora whispers, and Roxas does. They stay like that for a moment, the sensation of near-orgasm is just beginning to fade when Sora begins to carefully, steadily, pump his companion’s shaft. Roxas tosses his head back against the pillow, gasping at the motion. Slowly, Sora starts to glide his cock in and out, shifting to poise himself at a slightly different angle every time. Noticing this, Roxas begins to wonder why… right up until the vampire finds his prostate. His eyes roll back into his head.

            There it is. Sora grins widely at the reaction, continuing to fuck Roxas from that angle so he brushes the prostate with each thrust.

            Roxas isn’t sure how, but Sora is managing to keep him completely on edge even though, by all means, he should have exploded all over himself by now. He’s completely blown away by the finess, and also overjoyed to be fully at the vampire’s mercy. A few moments of desperation later, and Sora halts his movements again.

            Roxas doesn’t expect himself to cry out, “Please! Sora, please... ” and Sora giggles at him from above, delighted to hear his name coming so wantonly from the blond’s lips.

            “Hold on, Roxas. We’re not done yet.”

            He releases Roxas’ cock, much to the man’s chagrin, and leans back down to kiss him softly. Roxas runs his fingers through the vampires’ hair, pulling him deeper into his lips. They kiss for long enough that Roxas can feel his dick becoming a little soft from the lack of attention. Sora is also still buried inside him, and when he realizes it, he pulls back from the brunet’s mouth.

            “Is your plan just to stay balls deep inside me, or are you going to… you know… fuck me?”

            “Oh… is that what you want?” Sora makes eye contact with Roxas, and when he hears the vampire’s voice, the plan becomes clear. “Beg me to fuck you, Roxas.”

            Feeling the rush of sugary bliss explode in his brain from the glamor, Roxas gasps out, “Fuck me, Sora.”

            The vampire pulls his length almost completely out, and Roxas whines. “Say it louder, and tell me what you really want.” Sora’s voice elicits another blast of syrupy sweetness inside Roxas’ skull.

            “Please, fuck me!” Roxas cries, “Sora, I want you to fuck me, and bite me …!”

            Sora grins at him with those elongated canines, and Roxas finds himself salivating at the sight of them.

            “As you wish.”

            Sora plunges himself back into Roxas before bucking his hips in a steady, heated rhythm. His cock slicks in and out of Roxas’ ass with ease, and the mortal groans; slanting his hips so Sora can pleasure him deeper. Gripping Roxas’ chin, Sora tilts Roxas’ head to the side and starts to lick and suck on the exposed neck. The action sends ticklish chills through the blond, and he feels his cock throb between them in delight. He grabs back onto it, stroking it intensely as Sora fucks him. Teeth aggressively scrape his skin, and finally, finally, finally ... they pierce his flesh. The pain sends a shock through his body: his hole involuntarily constricts around Sora’s cock, and the vampire groans at the new tightness gripping his member. A massive amount of precum comes dripping out of Roxas’ erection, his eyes roll back again, his jaw slackens, and his tongue lolls out of his mouth. It’s all too much… this is better than anything he could have ever hoped for or dreamed of.

            Sora removes his fangs to suck from the fresh wounds languidly. The long-awaited blood fills his mouth, sweet and infinitely satisfying, and he moans audibly against Roxas’ neck. Infatuated with the taste, he can barely maintain keeping his pace and lapping up the blood at the same time. His thrusts slow down, and he sucks harder, desperate for more, as Roxas starts gripping a fistfull of the vampire’s hair. He drinks and drinks, carnal hunger muddying his thoughts and shifting his focus to a dangerous place… so, with great effort, he rips himself away from the tangy nectar. He leans back far enough to look at Roxas’ face, which is lost in ecstacy. Blood drips from Sora’s lips, down his chin, and he licks it from his teeth. When Roxas notices this, the fascination becomes apparent in his lusty gaze, and somehow this pushes Sora nearly to his limit.

            “Tell me when you’re about to come,” He says between breaths, bringing his pace back up to it’s previous fervor and angling himself to hit Roxas’ prostate with expert precision.

            “Kiss me more,” Roxas begs, and Sora wastes no time in doing so.

            Their lips meet, and the blood tastes bitter in Roxas’ mouth. He laps it from Sora’s lips anyway, cock twitching in his grasp from the eroticism of it all. Once more, a prickling sensation creeps up through his erection as his tongue slides over Sora’s fangs.

            “I’m coming,” He gasps, and within seconds the feeling is crashing over him, almost painfully so. His mind goes blank, and he isn’t sure if he’s screaming or moaning or both somehow… but his cum is pooling on his stomach and with each stroke he feels more and more adrift.

            Roxas’ words allow Sora to let himself go, too, and the pleasure shoots through him as he unloads inside the mortal. He does his best to keep his eyes open, as the look of pure ecstasy on Roxas’ face makes his own orgasm that much more intense. When the last of the waves has diminished, his limbs give out and he collapses on the blond; his head laying upon Roxas’ shoulder, extremely satisfied.

            They lay like that for a second, lungs searching for air, bodies limp, completely and utterly dazed. Roxas’ sweat-slicked chest begins shuddering with giggles, and not knowing why, Sora starts to giggle too.

            “Was that a decent first time?” But Roxas just keeps giggling. With great effort, he lifts his head slightly to look up at the blond. “...Roxas?”

            “Hm? Were you talking to me?”

            “I asked if this was good for your first time.” Sora chuckles at himself. “Maybe like, the greatest first time of your life?”

            “Oh,” Roxas responds, then he starts laughing harder. “Sorry, I just have no words. I’m not sure if a simple ‘yes’ will suffice... and you called me the pornstar?”

            “Fair enough,” Grinning, Sora decides to count it as a major victory and musters up some strength to roll off so he can remove the condom. He ties it off, and lobs it in the general direction of the room’s wastebasket.

            Staring at the ceiling, Roxas dazedly paws around for the towel; somehow he manages to grab it without looking and uses it to wipe off his chest and stomach. When he’s done, Sora wordlessly takes it from him to wipe off the cum that managed to get on him too. Roxas cuddles up to Sora afterwards, wrapping his arms around the vampire’s shoulders and snuggling his face into his neck like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Sora responds by curling his arms around the mortal and pulling their bodies flush together. Roxas’ bite wounds are still leaking blood, and the scent entices Sora… but he finds himself too comfortable and far too lazy to do anything about it.

            They lay cuddled up for what feels like eons, Sora gently stroking Roxas’ back as the blond breathes softly into Sora’s neck. Roxas’ body is caught between a paradox of being tired enough to fall asleep but cognizant enough to stay awake, so he accepts his fate and lets his mind wander nowhere in particular.

            Once the haze clears, it seems like ages have gone by when Sora says, “Hey Roxas,” and the blond responds with a little noise to let his companion know he’s listening. “This is... maybe not the greatest pillow talk but… I’m really curious to know why you came to Dusk City, and how you became part of the Organization.” He gives the mortal a squeeze, “Actually, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to… again, not the best time to bring it up, I know.”

            However, Roxas wonders if there will ever really be a good time to. He’s been asking Sora for all of this help, and yet he’s barely been giving him much of a reason for any of it. There’s no real excuse to keep parts of it secret anymore. Sora deserves to know at least some of his story by now.

            “You know, I honestly don’t know where to start,” Roxas says, “I guess… hm. Well, I grew up in Twilight Town, which is this quaint little place full of all these fucking assholes…” and he tells Sora all about the horrible painted town. He talks about his dysfunctional family life, including his mother running away with his brother and leaving him behind. He explains that his mother’s death triggered the many-year plan to start a new life in Dusk City. He talks about how he ran into Axel by chance one day, landing himself a job and living situation. Uncomfortable with discussing his friends and the disciplinary committee’s head douchebag, he decides to skirt around that part of the story. Unbeknownst to him, Sora can sense the vagueness there in comparison to the rest of the retelling; Roxas’ comments on The Tonic’s balcony last night start to have a more developed meaning because of it. He decides not to push it, instead choosing to inquire in more detail about something else.

            “So, the last piece of the puzzle is your brother, right? If we find him, we can start to solve the rest of this mystery.”

            The word “we” settles on Roxas’ consciousness, and he can’t help but smile gratefully at the notion. It feels good to have such an intimate ally in this strange quest of his. “Yeah, I mean… if you’re willing to stick it out with me. I’m not sure where to go from here. I already asked Axel a long time ago if the organization keeps information like that, but it’s not in their jurisdiction, or whatever.”

            No… Sora responds in his head, but it’s still in the coven’s area of expertise.

            Although Sora was hoping it didn’t have to come to this, he supposes it really can’t be helped at this point. He’s been on the run for far longer than he thought was possible, all because he wanted to avoid a dreadful conversation like some kind of petulant child. He was desperate to carve his own path, not realizing he had dug himself into a rut instead. At least he’s pulling himself out said rut for a good reason. After all, he’s eternally indebted to Roxas, and the mortal truly does need his help. It’s simply impossible for him refuse. If he has to do this for any reason, then doing it for Roxas is better than any he can imagine. He can’t help but find it peculiar to be putting himself in such an aggravating position for a man he’s known hardly more than the average acquaintance. However, his heart hasn’t been wrong in guiding him so far.

            He glances out the window to see the city alight in the dark of the night and, ironically, it dawns on him what exactly is happening. Right at this exact moment, he feels the shifting tide of destiny pulling him to his next adventure. Sand in the waves. Driftwood on the shore.

            “I know what to do.”

            Curious, Roxas sits up on his elbows so he can peer down at Sora hopefully, “You do?”

            “Yep.” Solemnly, Sora nods, then gives the blond a pained smile, “I’ll go to the coven directly and find out where your brother is myself!”


Exeunt


A/N: Really fast, there’s a new poll on my FFN author bio and deviantArt. Please check it out if you have a sec!

Holy fuck, we finally made it to the gratuitous smut! Thank you, thank you! This is officially the longest chapter of The Night . Whew! That was probably way more work than was necessary, but I promised you all a good chapter, damn it! Please let me know if you enjoyed it!

Also I would like to apologize if Roxas’ fantasies of Seifer are a little uncomfortable considering what happened. However, my hope is that this chapter reveals more depth to Roxas’ psyche, showing a reflection of how his mind copes with trauma. It’s a terrible thing, but often our consciousness tries to handle psychological damage by confronting it in a way that almost normalizes it, which is why you often find victims of assault blaming themselves for their aggressor’s actions when they shouldn’t. If you’d like more information, please visit my author profile and look under Additional Resources . If you’ve experienced trauma, never be afraid to reach out! I promise someone out there is willing to help you!

I would also like to say how blown away I am with how many people correctly guessed who Roxas’ parents are, AND that Riku was gonna try and nab Roxas at some point. You guys are on top of it! I’m gonna have to adjust the story a bit as I go to tweak with the predictability, but I’m loving this attention to detail.

Hmmm… I wonder what Cloud is up to…

References and Inspirations

  • I was trying so hard to make the sex and masturbations scenes as real as possible, but being a female that has only had experience with other men and women, I was worried I’d fuck it up horribly. So I made sure to do extensive research on the matter, for your viewing pleasure! Massive thank you to Slasher’s Guide to Gay Sex for being clear and concise about the lovely intricacies of, well, gay sex. Also thank you to the awesome men of Reddit for similar reasons.
  • My favorite visual novel (right next to Katawa Shoujo, and now Doki Doki Literature Club), DRAMAtical Murder, also helped me work up quite a bit of inspiration. You might be able to tell in the beginning…
  • Like “Glamor”, “Fang-Banger” comes from True Blood, which used to be one of my favorite vampire franchises.
  • Yes, many hotels do actually have those little kits in the mini-bar, ESPECIALLY in Las Vegas. Also, side note: condoms are a very underappreciated kink. Remember to use protection, it’s sexy! [insert mew’s ahegao face here]
  • More inspiration came from Cassius’ “The Sound of Violence” (notably Tha Trickaz’ remix, which is fuckin’ deliciously dirty). Listen to it and I think you’ll know why. It was almost the chapter title, but I can’t name every chapter after a song title like the uncreative loser I am, now can I?
  • This chapter brought to you by VODKA! So much vodka. Спасибо детка~!
  • Fun fact: I was curious and Googled “how many words are there for dick” while writing this fucking chapter. It didn’t help at all. You’re welcome.
  • I would like to make it clear that Sora is hung because it’s CANON. That’s why he’s the Keyblade master, mmkay. The Keyblade obviously chose him because of he’s awesome but also because of his manly world-saving girth. ACCEPT NO OTHER EXPLANATIONS! Also I am far too drunk to be writing author’s comments, wowzers.

-+-

Please please PLEASE favorite, follow, review, send kudos, add bookmarks… anything!

When I was having the most trouble writing this chapter, I looked back at all of your comments and they helped me power though this. They mean more to me than you can possibly imagine, so please keep sending the positive vibes my way, even if it’s just a word or two of encouragement.

I’m still happily taking positive constructive criticism, too! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter IX: The Witched and the Welcome


 

June 13th, 2025

            “I'll go to the coven directly and find out where your brother is myself!”

            It takes Roxas good minute before he realizes exactly what Sora is saying. “Wait… you don't really mean what I think you mean.”

            Despite his smiling face, Sora can't hide the obvious discomfort in his features. “Well it seems like a straightforward statement to me. I'm happy to clarify, but I'm also trying real hard not to think about it too much...”

            “No, I think I get it… but, no way. I cannot ask you to do that for me—”

            “Good thing you're not asking me, then.”

            “What about Riku?”

            “He'll be delighted, I'm sure.”

            They both grimace a little at the statement.

            “You spent all that time avoiding your covenant, though… why go back now?”

            “I guess you gave me a pretty compelling reason to. Besides, I think you said it best yourself… I'm sick of wasting time. 'Dilly dally shilly shally,' right?”

            Dejected, Roxas casts his eyes elsewhere, “You can't just do all this for me…”

            “It'll be okay, Roxas. I promise.” Attempting to lighten the mood, Sora boops Roxas on the nose. “Eternally indebted, remember?”

            Though Roxas isn't sure he'll be able to forgive himself for putting the vampire through all this trouble, he also can't deny this incredible wave of relief washing over him feels pretty amazing. Tears sting his eyes and he finds himself hugging Sora without hesitation. He doesn't believe his life's mystery is worth anyone's freedom, but he's happy to have faith in his companion's incredible sacrifice.

            “Sora,” He says, voice somewhat muffled in the vampire's neck, “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

            As Sora returns the hug, he responds, “And hey! Look at it this way: now you know for sure I'm not doing it just to try and get laid!”

            Pulling away just a bit, Roxas chuckles. “You know, I was warned about you bargaining vampire types and your strange fuckery.” A thought flickers across Roxas' mind: Speaking of… “I should probably text one of my roommates and let them know I'm still safe.”

            Sora nods, “Please do. I kind of need to be alive to help find your brother.”

            Removing himself from the bed, Roxas crosses the room to his backpack and retrieves his phone from an outer pocket. His heart leaps into his throat when he sees a wall of notifications and quickly opens his message window to read them. All but two texts are from Demyx.

           [Roxas are you actually eating food right now, or should we make an extra serving of dinner for you?]

           [Since you haven't responded I'm gonna go with yes?????]

           [Well then again if you're getting laid I hope you were wined and dined first]

           [Wait no that was last night wasn't it?]

           [ROXAS HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU GOTTEN LAID SINCE WEDNESDAY]

           [Roxas what sounds better: fang-playa or vamp-tramp? I like vamp-tramp]

           [ROXAS ARE YOU GETTING LAID]

           [ROXAS]

           [ROXAS MAKE HIM BUY YOU DINNER CUZ WE'RE EATING YOUR SERVING ANYWAY YOU VAMP-TRAMP]

           [ROXAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS]

           [REMEMBER WHAT I TOLD YOU]

           [DON'T FORGET TO USE PROTECTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

            Then, from Axel: [Hey Rox, I'm sorry. I just found out Demyx has been blowing up your phone and while I find it hilarious I hope it doesn't scare ya.]

            Roxas rolls his eyes. Too late .

            From Axel, again: [Please just call or text with an update so we know you're safe. Love ya.]

            Finally, there's the last one from Demyx: [I got my phone back! Hey don't forget you're going to be a spark on Sunday so we're having a full day of partying you're not allowed to opt out of tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

            A thrill of excitement fires up Roxas' chest upon reading this.

           This Sunday?! His brain searches desperately for remembrance. Of course… how could I forget?

            He thinks about his roommates coming back home carrying their cloaks, and something Xigbar said while juggling a rifle suddenly rings clear as a bell in his head: “And on Sunday, you better be ready for some crazy shit!”

            Turning to Sora, Roxas says, “I'm going to become a spark in like… a day.

            Sora sits up on an elbow. “A what?”

            “It's what they call you after the novice stage is over and actual training begins. It's means I'll be officially full-blooded Organization.” Roxas approaches the bed again as he fires off an update text to Axel, coming to sit on the edge of the mattress. “I might even get some kind of magical power out of it.”

            It seemed like so much was happening over the course of a few days, but part of the reason he had to do so much courier stuff in so little time was because of Marluxia and Zexion. They had been out of the country for quite some time on “official business” supposedly, so they were gone when Roxas was initially supposed to meet them. They'd only returned a couple weeks prior.

            “Hey, congrats! You're moving up in the world! Maybe you can set Riku on fire with your mind for me or something if he gives me a hard time.” Sora moves to sit next to Roxas, and grows concerned when he sees the blond looks despondent. “Roxas? You don't seem very happy about this.”

            “Apparently once you enter the spark phase, they keep you at the Organization headquarters until training is over… so I might not see you for a really long time.”

            Sora frowns, “Well, if I'm honest with myself, once I'm back in the coven I don't think the King will let me leave for a while either. So I guess this is the best timing we can possibly have in this situation.”

            They gaze at one another, their forlorn expressions almost perfectly matching. Unbeknownst to either of them, they're both thinking the same thing: they'll miss the hell out of eachother. These last few days have felt more like years, and it's been the most fun either of them have had in ages. They don't want to stop seeing one another if they can help it.

            Just then, Sora has an idea.

            “Roxas, how long does this training of yours usually last?”

            The blond thinks about this, “They haven't told me much, but it sounds like no more than a year at the very most.”

            “How about this: you can come see me on Saturday—”

            “Uh, wait,” Roxas politely interjects, “Sorry… apparently I'm being detained by my roommates on Saturday. I actually just found out.” He would show the message to the vampire, but that would risk Sora seeing the string of embarrassing texts that preceded it.

            “That's completely fine. Let's make it Monday morning so I can check out of the room afterwards, and we'll see eachother one last time. Then, we'll just stay in contact over the coming months—obviously—and once it's all over, pick right back where we left off with...  you know…  us … but also finding your brother.”

            Smiling, Roxas responds, “I really like this plan.”

            “Think you'll be able to get away for the morning after your initiation? Check-out is at 11 am.”

            “I can certainly try.”

            “Excellent. We'll play everything by ear, though. It doesn't seem fair to risk your job just to see me. You shouldn't rush your training either.”

            “Yeah, that's probably for the best.” The blond can't help but glance sheepishly away. “So… 'us', huh?”

            Suddenly, Sora cups Roxas cheeks and pulls him deep into a kiss.

            Absolutely   'us'. I know it hasn't been long but… fuck it, why not? Life is too fucking crazy. The future is uncertain and blah blah, whatever else you wanna say about it.”

            “You might not even like me when I'm officially a monster hunter.”

            “Oh, and you'll like me when I'm all regal? The way things are looking, I might officially be a prince after Monday, you know.”

            Roxas laughs, “My boyfriend, the vampire prince! I guess we're both going to have an interesting change of pace pretty soon here, huh?” He throws his arms around Sora and their lips meet again. Between kisses, he says. “I guess we should take advantage of the time we do have. Round two?”


 

            Upon opening his front door the next morning, Roxas prepares himself to be bombarded by Axel and Demyx in search of marks, which should already be healing since Sora treated them before he left. His clothes were also returned to him with nary a stain, so all told, he probably entered the apartment looking the same as he'd left.

            However, even after stepping inside, nobody moved to grope his body for clues. In fact, Axel and Demyx were staring at him very intently from the couch, as if they were wild cats ready to pounce. Meanwhile, Naminé was poised daintily in the armchair, beaming at him.

            “Welcome home, Roxas.” She says, “Don't worry about the guys, they're not allowed to check you for marks. And you don't have to tell them about your day if you don't want to either.”

            He looks apologetically at the men, and though they seem like they have a lot to say, they remain silent. He decides to offer the best consolation he can come up with: “...day drunk?”

            Their faces light up, and without wasting a breath, they rush to the kitchen to make a loud clamor. When they return, they have four shot glasses full of inky-looking liquid. They distribute the chilled glasses to Roxas and Naminé and instruct everyone to stand in a semicircle.

            “A toast!” Axel shouts, gallantly, “To my little brother! Whom my love knows no bounds, and who is yet another step closer to achieving his ultimate destiny!”

            “Blessed be!” Demyx says, and they all repeat it; tapping the bottom of their glasses on the coffee table before taking their shots. The intense flavor of black licorice fills Roxas' mouth and he gulps down as best he can without gagging.

            And so it begins.

            They spend the rest of the day, night, and some of the following morning drinking liberally from all varieties of alcohol. More shots, mixed drinks, beer, wine, straight scotch… you name it. Roxas feels like he's on a tilt all day, as if the air is water and he's swimming through it with every movement. They play fighting games to pass the time, even get out a deck of cards and gamble their clothing. Naminé beats them, every single time, of course. Then, Axel cooks them a massive meal full of all the zesty, sugary, savory carbs any drunk person could ever want—and they can barely eat it because of the lingering nausea that comes with over-drinking. At one point Demyx gets out his sitar and plays them song after song, each of which they sing along to as best as they can. Eventually they move on to talking about everything. For hours, and hours, and hours, they just talk. Roxas even tells them a little bit about Sora, though in this state he's wise enough to choose his divulged information carefully. At one point, Axel shows him a trick: sending a fireball shooting out of his whiskey glass. Naminé is scolding Axel as she reaches for Roxas' face… but then she looks at her youngest roommate with a thoughtful expression, shrugs, and pulls her wavering hand back before muttering something about “soon enough” as she takes another drink. Roxas doesn't know what this all means, he just knows he can barely focus on the drifting walls, and licorice is burning in the back of his throat.

            What joyous company this is.


 

            “Roxas… time to wake up.”

            Displeased, Roxas curls himself into his comforter a little deeper. Albeit Naminé's voice is wonderful to be awoken by, the intrusion isn't welcome and he'd still rather sleep.

            “Come on Roxas, your ceremony is only in a few hours.”

            Though a dry mouth, he croaks, “Water?” He opens his crusty eyes to see Naminé already has a tall, ice-filled glass of it ready for him, along with a couple antacids in her palm. He takes them both happily.

            “You probably don't remember, and I'm not telling you this to keep score or anything, but I was in the bathroom with you while you were puking your guts out all this morning.”

            He grimaces, “Sorry… you didn't have to do that for me.”

            “And let you choke or die of alcohol poisoning right before your initiation? That would be just cruel!” She gives him a pat on the shoulder, “Axel and Demyx are just about ready to go, but take as much time as you need to get ready, okay? Don't overexert yourself.”

            She leaves, and as Roxas is chugging the water he feels the nausea surging inside him. That might be easier said than done.


 

            His cloak is still as lovely and sleek as it was when he first got it. Roxas gives himself another good look in the mirror. It'd been so long since he'd worn it last, it surprised him to feel how well it still clung to his features. In remembrance of a time long past, he does a little twirl and watches the material spin around him. He's often ruminated upon how far he's come since a year ago, but it still feels strange for him to think about. Standing cloak-clad in his room at Twilight Town, ready to leave under the cover of night… and now he's going to be living under that same cover. Though it hasn't been much more than a year, it's felt like ages have gone by. Part of him wants to wonder how the old town has been in his absence, but it's a part he's buried so deep inside that the thought passes like a blink of the eye.

            He finishes gathering the things he'd like to bring to the Orgainzation headquarters and makes them into a little pile on his bed, leaving his phone on the top of it like he was instructed. When he's satisfied, he leaves to stand with his roommates, who are waiting in the living room. When he gets there, only Axel and Demyx are waiting for him and they're both wearing their cloaks as well.

            “Hey! Look at you!” Axel coos, and they both give Roxas high-fives. “You now, I just realized… I don't think the three of us have ever worn our uniforms all at the same time until now.”

            “Wow! I think you're right! How awesome is this?” Says Demyx.

            “Pretty awesome,” Roxas replies, then asks, “Where's Naminé?”

            “She went on ahead to help with preparations. Are you ready to go?”

            “Yeah, I think so. Are we taking the train?”

            Demyx and Axel grin at each other.

            “Can I do it?” Demyx asks Axel, who nods in response. Demyx waves his arm and mutters something, and a sudden black void roils forth from the air between them. Roxas stares in awe and slight terror as Demyx steps through, waving avidly as he does, before his form fully disappears into the living shadow.

            “What just—Did he—Where did—How—” As Roxas continues to spew confused sentence fragments, Axel comes over to put a reassuring arm over his shoulder.

            “Come on, Roxas, it's totally safe. Well, as safe as a gaping maw of darkness can be, anyway.” This very clearly doesn't quell Roxas' fear… at all… so Axel quickly backpedals. “I promise you it's fine ! Let's go together.”

            The blond gulps hard, and allows Axel to inch him toward the dark mass. Before he knows it, he's stepping inside and is surprised to find it doesn't feel like anything special; it's almost like entering a dark room through a hole in the wall. They take a few more steps and another portal, this time a little oval of light, appears only a few feet away from them. They approach it, and Roxas wants to say something witty about “walking toward the light”, but he's too afraid to even breathe in this unknown space. In a few blinks, Roxas finds his vision is suddenly filled with bright white.

            “We're here!” Axel says, triumphantly.

            Demyx is standing before them, and he spreads his arms wide in a showcasing pose, “Welcome to the Organization headquarters, Roxas!”

            Once Roxas' eyes adjust to the scenery, he takes in the sight around him: they're standing in the lobby of what appears to be an corporate high-rise. Behind them are massive windows, and the gorgeous marble floors beneath their feet have been shined and waxed so studiously that you could check your reflection in them. There are two geometric fountains before them, plus a long red carpet that stretches down between two behemoth pillars that are holding up a ceiling. They venture forth and he realizes these pillars are actually four elevator shafts, once again similar to a corporate building. Demyx calls one, and they step inside; the interior of the small box is as ornate as a nice hotel elevator.

            When the doors open on the next floor, they're greeted by white walls and a short hallway that leads to a large entrance with a peculiar symbol over it. The symbol looks like a skinny, upside-down heart with three points coming out of it, and Roxas finds there's a creepy sort of elegance to it. Axel and Demyx lead him down the hall and enter the doorway to see what looks to be a meeting room, as there are a variety of plush white chairs sitting around an ornate white table. It's surprisingly empty.

            “This is the general meeting area. This is where we usually come to discuss official business.”

            “Where is everyone?”

            “They're in the initiation area. We'll get there, don't you worry.”

            They go through yet another door on the opposite end of the meeting room, where a massive lounge area resides amongst towering windows.

            Axel says, “This is the break room for periods between missions. You'll probably end up here pretty often for report management and stuff. The senior members are rarely here, so it might be a little barren.”

            “It also gives you a safe place to hang out when you're wearing your cloak so you don't have to worry about drawing too much attention to yourself.” Demyx adds.

            Roxas goes to look out the window, and sees they're surrounded by Dusk City. “This is just about in the middle of the city, right?” He asks.

            “Yup! We're hiding in plain sight!” Demyx says.

            The next floor up looks more like that of a minimalist hospital than an office building, and Roxas' roommates explain that it's the Organization's personal infirmary.

            “You know,” Axel says, “Just in case anything happens, you probably don't want to go to a real hospital for the kind of care you would need. Most of us generally avoid getting hurt since nobody wants to deal with getting poked and prodded by Vexen.”

            Roxas grimaces, having forgotten the unsettling man specializes in all things science-based, including medicine.

            His roommates show him the next few levels of the building, which range from nothing out of the ordinary to extremely peculiar. Temporary living quarters, bathrooms, research spaces, artifact storage, summoning chambers, and rooms stuffed to the brim with paperwork. Some floors are even completely empty. When Roxas asks what the point of all the wasted space is, his roommates explain they just couldn't find anything else to put in it. The building was chosen simply because it helps them blend into the scenery; to those on the outside, this looks like a regular office building. Roxas finds the most striking area is the floor where the library resides. It's the size of three whole floors surrounding a great atrium with a lounge at the bottom, and all the levels are linked by staircases. At the top of it all is Number I's office; the elevator leads directly there, but his roommates skip showing it to him.

            Finally, they reach the top level: the initiation floor. When the elevator doors open, Roxas is suddenly met with a blast of confetti to the face and cheering. When he manages to clear the offending stuff away from his vision, he sees it's Marluxia and Zexion holding confetti guns, but only Marluxia is actually cheering.

            “Woo hoo!” Marluxia continues to exclaim. “Yay, Roxas! Welcome to the Organization!”

            “Sorry about the confetti,” Zexion says as Marluxia sweeps the blond into a squeezing hug. “Marlu insisted and quite frankly I wasn't in the mood to argue.”

            Roxas squeaks out through the crushing embrace, “No worries!” He's honestly elated to have such a warm welcome, as it eases his nervousness just a little.

            Marluxia releases him, and the four of them lead him to his fellow Organization members waiting in the distance. When they reach them, everyone exchanges greetings, but Naminé is still nowhere in sight. In fact, neither are Xigbar and Saïx.

            Larxene, who Roxas hasn't seen in many months, lets her signature snark show with her icy words. “Took you long enough. Seriously, I didn't realize getting a new member means having to wait around for so long before they get dunked.”

            Roxas raises an eyebrow. Dunked?

            Vexen, who is standing near her, scoffs. “It's always been easier to round us up before bringing the recruit rather than after, but I still have important work to do and there’s really no time to dawdle.”

            “Come now, lovelies,” Luxord interjects, and Roxas is happy to see another friendly face willing to cut the tension, “This is a momentous occasion! Roxas is officially the youngest member to be inducted, after all!”

            Marluxia claps a hand on Roxas shoulder. “You're stealing the title from none other than Zexion!”

            Roxas turns a bewildered gaze to said member, “Is that true?”

            Zexion shrugs, obviously indifferent to the fact. “I suppose it is. Time really flies.”

            Luxord snaps a finger and points at Zexion, “That it does, my friend!”

            Zexion glowers at Luxord in a way that Roxas isn't quite keen to yet, but he can't help but smile at the silly interaction anyway.

            The massive door behind all of them creaks open, and Roxas can see Saïx poking his head out.

            He speaks in his usual dull tone, “I see Roxas is here. Are you all ready?” and most of the Organization answer in exasperation. He pushes the door fully open and everyone moves toward it without hesitation. Roxas follows the crowd reluctantly, unable to swallow down the tightness in his throat or the tension in his chest. A hand ruffles his hair, and he looks up to see Axel is still standing by his side.

            “I can't believe we've made it all this way. If we took one wrong step a couple years ago, you never would have ended up here.”

            Roxas chuckles nervously, “I honestly don't want to imagine the possibility.”

            Before he knows it, the crowd is parting and suddenly he's standing before a man with copper skin, golden eyes, and silver hair. Axel gives the blond a thumbs up, whispering “Be professional. Got it memorized?”, before moving away to join Demyx wherever he went off to. Roxas gazes up at the looming man, noticing that he's standing before a shallow pool in the floor, and takes a deep breath.

            “I take it you’re Number I?”

            The man cracks a smile, “That I am. My name is Xemnas, and I am the Organization’s leader, known as the Superior. I will ask you kindly to refer to me as such from here on.”

            Roxas bows slightly. “It's a pleasure to be of service, Superior.”

            “Excellent. It's good to finally meet you, Roxas. I'm certain you have many questions about who we are and what we do.” Roxas simply nods respectfully, so Xemnas continues. “The Organization is a league of spellcasters that protect the balance between all beings the great Goddess has created. We, and the other branches of our league, exist to keep the peace amongst nightwalkers as a vigilante force of justice, protecting the weak and innocent across the globe. It was only recently that our particular chapter was welcomed as an official police force in this city, which has been a fantastic development for our worldwide efforts. Our Organization has existed for many centuries, and though we've had many names, we've always been known as ‘The Nobodies’. Our founders are Ansem the Wise and the White Witch…” He eyes drift upward and he smiles. “Well, how about you officially introduce yourself?”

            Xemnas motions for Roxas to turn around, and when he does, he sees Naminé standing behind him wearing a pristine white version of the Organization's signature cloak; practically blending into the room around them. She comes up to him and pulls him into a hug, and despite his shock he hugs her back.

            “Naminé?” He can't believe it, “There's no way.”

            She steps back and a gives a humble curtsey. “Sorry if this is a bit of a shock.”

            “You founded the Organization?”

            She nods solemnly, “Once the Witch War was over, Ansem the Wise and I both realized humans and nightwalkers needed someone to protect them from one another. So we started to create branches of gifted spellcasters to uphold the Trinity Alliance.” She explains the Trinity Alliance and the Witch Wars, both things Roxas has prior knowledge of thanks to Sora. “When this city was created as a haven for nightwalkers, I knew we would be needed. So I found a suitable leader, Xemnas, and we created a chapter here specifically to look over this part of the continent.”

            “That's great and all, but I'm mostly confused about you. If you're an almighty witch, why live with Axel and Demyx?”

            “You can actually thank Axel for that. It was his idea that I come live with him and Demyx to live a normal life. You see, my powers have been fading, and maintaining my immortality uses up most of the magick I have. By giving the reins to Xemnas and living with you three, I can save my strength to make sure I'll be around for many more decades to come.” She giggles, “I didn't have to take Axel under my wing when he joined, we were already seven strong then... but something drew me to him. And here I am now.”

            “Wow. This is… a lot to take in.”

            Naminé walks forward and takes Roxas by the hand, leading him stand next to Number I at the pool. “Don't worry about any of that right now, we can discuss more later. Let's get started.”

            Seemingly from nowhere, Xemnas brandishes a clipboard and pen and hands them to Roxas. “This is your official contract and nondisclosure agreement. Sorry if it seems rather bureaucratic, but even we have red tape we must abide by.”

            “I understand.”

            Xemnas spends the next few minutes helping him find the places to sign, and when they're finished, Naminé takes the clipboard from them. Xemnas instructs Roxas to turn to and face the pool, and when he does, Roxas looks deep into the clear water before them. In it, he can see the rest of the Organization standing in a circle around the perimeter of the pool, staring at him. He notices just then that Larxene is now a little more than arms length from him, and Marluxia the same distance from her. Next to Xemnas is Xigbar, who's standing next to Xaldin, an so on in even spacing around the pool. It's eerily quiet as they all wait for the Superior's words, and Roxas almost feels like he's standing at a grave.

            Number I lays a hand on Roxas' shoulder as he speaks, “By swearing into us, you become part of a spellcaster bloodline that has been in existence for many a millennia. You become a link in a chain that helps bind the universe, that conducts the energy of the lifestream that flows within us—that will create a spark inside of you. When this spark has burned into a raging flame, you will become a Nobody.” Xemnas looks him in the eye using the water's reflection. “Roxas, will you shed your given name, accept the Goddess' great gift, and become one of us?”

            “Yes,” Roxas dutifully replies.

            “Will you harness the gift given to you as a force of righteous fury, but also extraordinary kindness?”

            “Yes.”

            “Will you stand with your brothers and sisters in unity on this day and all others?”

            “Yes.”

            “Then, it is time for you to see.”

            Xemnas holds out his other hand, and like clockwork, all the other members follow suit. Roxas scans each of them carefully, waiting in desperate anxiety for what might be next. Most of the members are smiling in anticipation, watching him very carefully for his reaction.

            Then, he hears it.

            He turns his head to see a ball of red light floating above Xemnas' hand, crackling with some kind of unknown electrical current. A few tendrils of the static zip up his wrist, and Roxas has to will himself not to flinch away.

            “Number I.” Xemnas says, “The Superior of the In-Between.”

            “Number II.” He hears Xigbar say, and watches as a ball of blackness materializes above his hand. “The Freeshooter.”

            They continue through the circle to Xaldin, The Whirlwind Lancer, and his cloak begins to rustle as if a violent breeze is shaking his body. Soon, everyone is holding some kind of element as they sound off their number and titles—all except for Zexion, who floats in place, and Luxord, who is holding a stack of cards. Axel and Demyx are grinning happily at him from across the pool, holding a flame and ball of water respectively. Roxas can't help but smile back at Axel especially, the two of them knowing full well Roxas was always conscious of the redhead's element. As he looks at each person, their element seems to reflect them perfectly, and it makes him even more eager to find out what's in store for him.

            Suddenly, all the magic in the air vanishes in an instant. Everyone lowers their hands as Xemnas speaks again. “Roxas, step into the pool.” Confused, Roxas looks up at the Superior, but sees reassurance in the older man's gaze. Slowly, he lowers his foot into the chilly water, and he finds a step about as deep as his ankle. He takes another step forward, Xemnas following his pace and holding him steady, as his other foot submerges up to his calf. One last step, and he's halfway up to his thighs in cold water, his body shivering slightly.

            Xemnas says, “Hundreds of years ago, our spellcaster siblings of days long passed were given their greatest power when they were brought to the brink of death. Often, this very unfortunately happened at the stake… but we have perfected the process through a baptism of sorts.” Gently, he turns Roxas in the pool to face him. “We allowed you to be part of the Organization because we sensed immense power in you. It will be painful, perhaps even excruciatingly so… but you will be imbued with the Goddess' glorious gift for it. It is but a small sacrifice for the amazing gains you will receive. Are you ready, Roxas?”

            Feeling the chill amplifying his nervousness, Roxas allows himself one last glance around the white room; taking in his final moments as a normal person. He will no longer be shackled by his weaknesses, no longer held back by the simplicity of the world he once knew. He locks eyes with Axel, and when he sees the determination in his friends' gaze, he finally feels brave enough to turn back to Xemnas.

            “I'm ready.”

            Xemnas instructs him, “Lay on your back.”

            Roxas complies, moving a little awkwardly as Xemnas assists so he's floating on his back in the water. He stares up at the ceiling, noticing it's emblazoned with the same heart emblem as before. He tries to ignore the cold of the water as he waits nervously for the next step; doing his best to reassure himself. He waits for Xemnas to say another long-winded thing, but the man just places a tender hand on his head and pushes him gently underneath the water, saying “Goddess be with you.”

            The cold rushes quickly over Roxas' face, and he shuts his eyes tight against it. Of course, he holds his breath, and he can't help but ponder if he's better off just attempting to breathe the water in to hurry the process. When he goes to try, his lungs (and likely also his unconscious mind) refuse to let him take in any water, so he allows himself to wait. He's just about to wonder what to think of to pass them time when a looming sense of panic very slowly begins to creep into him, like warm venom filling his veins. He figures this is his instinctual brain noticing the deprivation of oxygen, and soon he'll be sucking in water whether he wants to or not.

            He can hear his own heartbeat start to thump erratically in his ears. There's a sort of tranquility in this place, dancing between the line of rebirth and normalcy; where he'll emerge, reborn, from this achingly chilled womb. Soon, it's becoming harder and harder to focus on the many spiritual interpretations of this moment as he can sense his body is starving for oxygen. Without warning, his mouth tries to gather an involuntary gasp of air, and he immediately gags on water. His lungs, frantic for air, take it in desperately and his windpipe fills quickly with fluid. Even though he knows he must suffer like this, he still begins to thrash for survival... but Xemnas holds him down with relative ease. The water burns in Roxas' nose, throat and chest, an unimaginable agony wracking his body. He opens his eyes to see the figures of the Organization standing around him on the perimeter of the pool, Xemnas situated over him; looking for comfort in all the somber faces of everyone as they gawk at his flailing form. The water obscures his vision, the figures of his peers becoming a messy blur the further down his consciousness slips. Thoughts are turbulent in his skull, but he finally settles on something tangible.

           Accept it.

            He forces himself to let up on his thrashing, even a little bit, as the panic is making the process that much more painful. He watches the ceiling as a cloud of blackness creeps over him, wondering if it will rain, and if the rain will be warm. He drifts, suspended in air—

                        drifts—

                                    drift—

            His head splits in two.

            The smiling face of a woman—

            His own face.

            The edge of everything.

            Black.

            A scream, eternal, echoing across every cell in his body.

            A never ending spiral.

            He is everything.

            He is nothing.

            Horrifyingly simple.

            Bizarrely complex.

            T e a sw r w s al ay  her , b t o ly n w yo h v  th eye t se t.

            It falls away.

            A single pinprick of light.

            He reaches for it, but it reaches him first.

            A woman's face—

            Black.

            Air floods Roxas' lungs.

            His eyes fly open as he gasps desperately for oxygen. His vision swims as he returns from the depths of unconsciousness, searching with his eyes for something—anything—familiar, but his eyesight is foggy and unhelpful. His head is on something soft and warm, and familiar shapes loom in the haze above him.

            “Hold on, Roxas,” He hears Demyx say, “There's still some in you. This will hurt.”

            A sensation similar to feeling like he needs to vomit becomes apparent in his body, but instead, there's a sudden pain as he feels the water exiting his body; burning up through his chest and out his windpipe. The liquid comes pouring from his lips, but instead of soaking his chin, the evacuating fluid forms into balls before his very eyes, floating away to some unknown destination. He feels immensely better after this, and lets himself collapse against whoever is holding him. There are a dozen concerned voices around him and he watches in a daze as more water hovers up around him, only to bob away on an uncertain journey through the air. In no time, his clothes and the ground beneath him feel dry, and the chill that was gripping him down to his bones has dissipated. When he's finally lucid, he realizes he's laying in Axel's lap, with Demyx on one side of him and Vexen on the other, checking his vitals. He can also see Xemnas and Naminé kneeling as close as they can to him.

            When Axel notices Roxas is fully conscious, he speaks to him in a wavering voice, “Hey kiddo. Did you have a nice nap? Because you scared the ever loving shit out of us, got it memorized?”

            Roxas' throat still hurts a little too much to speak, so he responds by cocking his head a little in a questioning manner.

            Demyx chimes in, “There was a big flash of light, and suddenly we were all blown back… and you were invisible! There was just a you-shaped space in the pool! And a second later you were back, but you’d passed out...”

            Axel adds, “You should have seen Demyx. He used his power to lift you out of the pool and get the water out of your lungs as soon as you blinked back into existence.”

            Still unable to speak, Roxas tries to convey his gratitude by grabbing Demyx's hand and making a thankful face.

            “It's no problem, little dude. That's what family is for.”

            Just then, Xemnas brings himself closer to them. “Thank you both for your immediate action. Roxas, my sincerest apologies. We've never had such an extreme reaction to the imbuement process before. The powers that have been awakened in you… we know not the gifts you were given just yet.”

            Roxas nods in understanding, and Vexen says, “He seems stable enough, but I'd like to make sure his brain hasn't received any damage from the prolonged oxygen deprivation.”

            Zexion chimes in from somewhere, “I'll levitate him to the infirmary. Someone open a portal so we don't have to bother with the elevator.”

            Coughing a little, Roxas finally finds his voice again, “You don't have to… I think I can walk.” In just a few more seconds, he feels completely normal. He goes to stand up, and does it just fine despite the concern of the people around him.

            “Superior,” Comes Naminé's gentle voice, “Before he goes, why don't you give him his number and new name?”

            Xemnas nods wholesomely. “Yes, I believe that's the least I can do for our newest spark.”

            “Everyone!” Naminé shouts, and her kind voice is somehow enough to silence the chatter filling the room. “Your attention please!” She gives a knowing look to Xemnas, who beckons Roxas to him. Roxas comes to stand in front of the tall man, and he gently turns him to face his colleagues.

            “It is upon my honor, under the Goddess' guiding light and comforting darkness, to introduce you to the newest member of our Organization: Number XIII, The Key of Destiny.”

            The other members applaud him, and their expressions are a decent smattering of impressed. Marluxia, Demyx, and Axel, of course, start whooping in delight. Sheepish from the attention, Roxas smiles crookedly and gives them all a little beauty queen wave.

           What does “Key of Destiny” even mean, anyway?

            Vexen breaks the fold by coming up to Roxas and quickly opening a portal behind him. “Well then, XIII. Let us get you examined.”

            Although Roxas is thrilled to officially be called “XIII” by a peer, he can't help but feel annoyed it had to be Vexen who said it first. Instinctively, he turns to look at Axel and Demyx who seem to be on their way to join them.

            “Wait, VIII and IX.” The Superior stops them, “My apologies, but I must request that you both help us clean the initiation room, as you will both be most effective for the job.”

            “Sorry, Rox.” Axel sighs, “Duty calls.”

            Unable to stifle his disappointment, Roxas frowns. He's about to step into the portal with Vexen when suddenly, Zexion and Marluxia appear on either side of him.

            “We'll go with you.” XI says, smiling, and Roxas immediately feels relieved. He mutters a thank you, and they walk through the brief blackness until they reach the infirmary.

            IV leads him to one of the beds and begins retrieving equipment from various hiding places while Marluxia and Zexion pull up chairs beside him.

            “So,” Roxas says as he turns to look at his colleagues, trying to act as genuinely intrigued as possible, “Plants? And floating?”

            They both smile knowingly at him.

            Marluxia says, “VI will send a book flying straight at your head if you're not careful,” and Roxas has to bite his lip to stifle a laugh while Zexion elbows the taller man playfully.

            “Levitation comes naturally, but lifting certain objects at a distance takes a Voice. Meaning, I have to cast spells for it. My true specialty, however, is illusion.”

            Vexen returns to check Roxas' blood pressure in silence, so Roxas asks, “What does that have to do with your title?”

            Zexion sighs, “The Superior isn't amazing at coming up with the names on occasion.”

          XI adds, “Yeah, he named you the 'Cloaked Schemer'... but I mean, we all wear cloaks!”

            “See, that's exactly what I thought about it!”

            Quietly, Vexen mutters, “I think my name is perfect.”

            Ignoring him, Marluxia says, “I suppose the names only really feel like they fit later in your career. After all, I ended up being the Organization's top-ranking assassin before Larxene showed up.”

            Unintentionally, Roxas balks at this. That's right, Marluxia is the 'Graceful Assassin'.

            Though he was ready to hear about such a thing from his coworkers this is brutal work after all he still wasn't expecting XI of all people to be a master assassin. Although, he can absolutely picture Larxene stealing the title away without a moment's hesitation.

            Tapping his chin, VI thinks aloud, “I suppose I'm exceptional when it comes to my work in the field as well, setting traps or gaining insight.”

            “Don't sell yourself short, Zexion!” Marluxia demands, gripping the smaller man by the metal tassels of his cloak, “You've single-handedly taken down several crime syndicates with what you do! And you helped propel the work we did with the necromancer problem! Not to mention how much knowledge of magick and spellcasting you've found for us.”

            Swatting Marluxia's hands away, Zexion responds, “I feel as though you're more proud of my achievements than I am. It's just my job.”

            They start to bicker as Vexen comes to examine Roxas’ skull with a strange-looking device, and as he follows IV's instructions, he begins to feel increasingly more sleepy. He figures it's the day's stress and residual hangover wearing him down, so he tries to keep himself awake by speculating what powers he has, and what purposes are behind The Organization's titles and numbers.

            Roxas wonders aloud, “'The Key of Destiny', huh? I wonder how he came up with that.” He turns to Vexen, “Do you have any idea how the Superior decides our titles?”

            Without skipping a beat, IV responds rather bluntly, “Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you.”

            Roxas rolls his eyes, Well that's real fucking helpful.

            Marluxia suddenly cuts in, “They say the Superior has the power to see the future , and the ability to spy on us from wherever he wants…” He wiggles his fingers in the air to amplify the mysticism, “That's supposedly how he comes up with our names.”

            “Please,” Zexion scoffs, “All he would really need is a scrying glass, but nobody's seen one since the Witch Wars. Either way, only Naminé would know… and even if we found out, she'd fix that straight away.”

            “I hope it wouldn't have to come to that.” Comes a voice from around the corner, “The Superior has his methods, I can assure you.”

            “Miss Naminé,” Vexen greets the white figure with a friendly tone, though he does not smile. “What perfect timing you have. I was just about to give Roxas a clean bill of health.”

            She strides over to the bed, coming to stand next to Vexen. “What excellent news! We were all so worried, Roxas. Like Axel said, you really scared us back there.”

            “Yeah,” Roxas responds, “I wish I could tell you what happened…”

            “Don't worry about it for now, we'll find out what your power is soon enough.” She reaches forward to grab his hand comfortingly, “How are you feeling? You were up and walking pretty fast after all that.”

            “Honestly, I feel completely fine. Just really tired, I guess.”

            “Let me take you to your room, then.” Roxas nods in response, so Naminé helps him out of bed as she regards her other colleagues. “Thank you all for the help!”

            Roxas adds, “Y-yeah! Thank you guys.”

            Vexen scoffs, “Like those two helped at all.”

            VI and XI both make a face at Vexen, Marluxia going as far to stick his tongue out.

            Naminé says, “Everyone is free to go today if they'd like. The Superior and I decided we'll have our first official meeting as thirteen members once Roxas has had a chance to rest, so please expect to be back by tomorrow at the earliest.” They all make little noises of understanding as Roxas and Naminé turn to leave, and Roxas can hear the portals opening behind them. “We'll take the scenic route so we can talk a little more.” She leads him out of the infirmary, “Sorry if it's been an overwhelming day, Roxas.”

            Roxas gives a little shrug, “Hey, it's no big deal. It's what I signed up for, I wasn't expecting anything less. Well, then again… I definitely wasn't expecting you to be the immortal founder of this whole business.”

            “About that, Roxas…” She presses the button to call the elevator, “If it really is too much for your comfort… well, I suppose I should tell you what my greatest power is.” She pauses, visibly nervous as he takes a small gulp, “I can manipulate memories. I can look at them, change them, rewrite them, or completely destroy them. If I really wanted to, I could strip someone's mind down to absolutely nothing, leaving them a shell of what they once were.” This unsettles Roxas deeply, and perhaps even more so when Naminé turns to him with a weary smile, “They call me the White Witch because I simply choose not to.”

            They stand in silence for a few seconds, but it's broken by the little ding of the elevator's arrival. They enter it, standing side-by-side, and Naminé presses one of the buttons on the panel.

            She continues, “I guess what I'm saying is, if who I really am is too frightening for you, I can make you forget all about it. In fact, if you'd like me to, I could take away any memory you don't want if it causes you any pain.”

            A strange sentiment encloses XIII’s mind as he considers this. Everything from Twilight Town… it could all be gone in an instant if he asked. Nothing would hold him back any longer, and he could truly become a brand-new person. But Roxas realizes it's exactly the events of Twilight Town that made him want to move forward. All the good and the bad, it all contributed to the person he would one day become. It was the very foundation of his motivation, and taking it away could destroy who he is as a person. It would leave him empty .

            Even in the stillness, he can tell Naminé is terribly worried. She's stiff as a board, unable to face him, waiting for an answer that might break her heart.

            “Naminé, what kind of friend would I be if I didn't accept you fully for who you are?” She relaxes considerably at this, “It'll take some getting used to, but there's no way I'd ever ask you to make me forget about something like that.”

            She sighs in relief as the elevator stops and the doors open, “Good. I'm glad.”

            They start to walk through the grey halls of the Organization's temporary lodging, “As for my other memories, I'd prefer keeping them. They kind of make me who I am, you know?”

            “I think that's the best way to look at them.”

            They turn and reach another hallway with a line of doors on the right side, and a single set of gigantic french doors on the left. Roxas wonders how powerful Naminé's ability is; although it's not a physically strong power, it's incredibly terrifying in it's own unique way. However, he imagines all the people she could help with it… and has an idea.

            “Weird question, Naminé… say someone lost their memories somehow. Could you get them back?”

            “It's a little complicated, Roxas… but depending on the person, I might be able to. People with amnesia, absolutely. People with degenerative brain disorders… not so much, unfortunately. I can also give back any memory I've taken, as well. Only the person who stole or destroyed a memory can really give it back, though. So, unless I personally took them, I wouldn't be able to.”

            Still, this makes Roxas feel a little better. Maybe he can help find Sora's brother this way, while they attempt to locate Cloud. It might take a little convincing on his part, but it'd be worth asking Naminé to help. It's also interesting, Roxas finds, how many odd coincidences are lining up between him and Sora.

            They make it to the very last door in the hallway, and Naminé opens it. Inside is a simple bedroom and, since it's the corner room, there are two massive glass windows overlooking the city.

            Naminé grins, “Best room on the floor. And don't worry about being exposed, no one will see you.”

            XIII is amazed, “Really? Does this building have a magick shroud, or an invisibility enchantment, or something?”

            “Nope. Just two-way glass. Let this be your first lesson, Roxas: not all problems need to be solved by magick!”

            He laughs, and notices the room is pretty barren.

            “Since we aren't quite sure what your power is yet, we need to monitor you closely for the next few weeks while you start training as a spark. Axel is going to bring your stuff tomorrow morning, so focus on getting some rest for now. The bathroom and shower are in the center of this floor, where the big french doors are.”

            He nods in response and Naminé gives him a final hug and wave before leaving. Just then, the exhaustion completely washes over him. He'd been fatigued earlier, but now he's ready to absolutely crash despite the day not even being over. Using what little energy he has left, Roxas strips himself down to his boxers and crawls into the bed. It's definitely not as comfortable as his own, but it's not awful… and he passes out.


 

            He's having a dream about floating through space, touching little beams of starlight. They blink, and he blinks back as he glides passed them. He holds his breath as if he's underwater, and begins swimming languidly through the universe. Somehow, he can see the Milky Way, and he grows thirsty. He swims toward it, wanting to drink the light from it, as a woman's face peers at him from the back of his skull—

            Roxas feels himself being gently shaken awake, and he cracks his eyes open to see Axel standing over him.

            “Hey, Roxas. How are you feeling?”

            As Roxas stretches a bit, he wipes the sleep away from his eyes. “I feel better now that I've slept.” Then, he bolts upright in bed, gasping, “What time is it?!”

            Startled, Axel jumps back slightly. “Uh—it's like, 8am. Why?”

            He's slept for over 19 hours. “Did you bring my phone?” Nodding, Axel gingerly hands him the device, which Roxas snatches and immediately checks for missed messages from Sora. There's only one, and it's from last night.

           [There's a key waiting for you at the front desk if you can make it.]

            He texts back: [Just woke up, heading over there as soon as I can.]

            “Clothes?” He asks, so Axel dutifully hands him clothes, and he starts scrambling to put them on.

            “Where do you think you're going?”

            “I'm going to see Sora.”

            “Roxas, you realize you're not allowed to leave, right? We're supposed to be monitoring you here.”

            All of Roxas' movement comes to an immediate halt. Turning to Axel, he asks with pleading eyes, “Please, please tell them I'll be back by noon at the very, very latest.”

            “How do you think you'll get out of here then? We're all under strict orders to keep you on premises while your powers stabilize.”

            “What's there to stabilize? I feel fine.”

            “Do you remember floating out of bed last night?”

            XIII's confused silence is enough of an answer for him.

            “Axel, please… this might be the last chance I have to see him in a very long time.”

            With resolute intensity, Axel stares down at him, completely unwilling to budge. But then... he completely relaxes, groaning, “Where's the hotel?” Roxas looks it up on his phone and shows it to him. “What a coincidence!” The redhead says in a voice laced with fake surprise, “Xigbar has a Graviga ward nearby. It would be quite the conundrum if I were to open a portal and…” He pokes a finger at his lower lip as he summons some twisting blackness from the ether, “Whoops! I forgot something! Better turn my back on this nice portal here. I hope nobody goes through it, and if they do I hope they text me when they're finished so I can bring them back.” He turns away from the portal, whistling a tune.

            “Thanks Axel,” Roxas mutters, stepping through the dark doorway without a second thought. In only a few steps, he's in an empty, dead-end alleyway. He checks his phone for directions and finds he's a ten-minute walk from the hotel.


 

            In the elevator, he taps the keycard and goes to press the button for the corresponding floor, only to find it's already lit. Though this seems a little odd, he disregards it. It's not long before the elevator has reached Sora's floor, and he's standing before the same door as Friday. He doesn't waste time knocking, he only taps his card and hurries in.

            Inside, Sora is on the opposite side of the room lounging in one of the armchairs. He starts in his seat, getting up to stand quickly.

            “Roxas! You scared the shit out of me—”

            But he stops when he looks into the blond's eyes, noticing a wild look in them.

            Without considering what he's doing, Roxas lifts his hand.

           Come to me. He thinks, and suddenly Sora is quickly gliding towards him along the floor as if it were slick ice. Before either of them can register it, Roxas is gripping the front of Sora's shirt.

            “How did you—”

            Pulling the vampire forward, Roxas kisses him forcefully.

            Roxas imagines Sora shirt coming off, and just like that it's being pulled up without him needing to move a finger.

            Sora is about to halt the other man in search of answers, but their tongues collide, Roxas touching Sora over his pants, and common sense goes flying out of his skull like a roman candle in the summer sky. Something about being with Roxas tends to strangle the life out of any logic still breathing in his head.

            Sora grips the hem of Roxas' shirt, stripping it off in a fluid motion before sliding his hands up the pale arch of the blond's back. Unbuttoning and unzipping Sora's pants, Roxas reaches inside to tease the vampire's hardening member over his boxers. They break away for little more than a second to tear off their pants and underwear, before coming back together again.

            Between kisses, Roxas whispers, “Bed.”

            In a whisk of air, Sora is laying back on the bed with Roxas straddling him. XIII’s gaze finds the lube on the table, and he reaches a hand out to it. The bottle sails through the air and into his grasp. There’s really no time for adequate foreplay, so he hastily slicks Sora's erect member up and positions himself over it, ready to take it in bare. Sora is about to protest, but Roxas starts sliding his cock inside—the tight, raw warmth drags any words straight back down the vampire's throat. Closely watching the man below him, Roxas continues to slowly lower his hips… before stopping halfways.

            In a sultry tone, XIII says, “Beg me for it.”

            In the morning light, Roxas's eyes glint with an unknown mischief—a sense of newfound confidence—that sends heat pooling into Sora's groin, straight into his twitching dick.

            The vampire responds, groaning, “Please…” Roxas tilts his head silently, raising an eyebrow. Sora continues, “Please, please, please let me fuck you.”

            That's enough for Roxas, and with one heavy motion, he drops his hips the rest of the way; slipping the rest of Sora's member inside of him in one go. There's a quick shock of pain that tingles up his spine and grips his throat, but it doesn't linger long. A happy gasp escapes Sora and he grips onto the blond's thighs, as if holding on for dear life. Then, Roxas lifts his hips, Sora's dick gliding out, before settling himself back down again. Since this is brand new territory for him, he experiments a little with the position; arching himself to find new and exquisite ways to stir all the special places inside. Sora's hands slip up Roxas' thighs, onto his pale stomach; the vampire's eyes watching in amazement as the muscles flex with each movement. One hand trails up across his ribs, a thumb sliding over his nipple. Eventually, Sora starts to carefully thrust himself up in rhythm with the blond's movements, and this amplifies the pleasure for both of them. They eventually manage to reach a pitch where they come together perfectly every single time, the contact creating a variety of lewd noises from either man. Roxas takes the opportunity to look down at the vampire, breathing hard and loving the plastered look on Sora's face. The vampire is biting his lip, one of his fangs leaving a little cut where it's pinching the skin, and his eyes roll back a little more every time Roxas comes back down on his cock. Roxas lets his own eyes drift closed, tosses his head back, and revels the pleasure building up inside of him. It feels like he's drifting, far way, up into the air, flying away…

            Sora suddenly stops thrusting, “Uh, Roxas…”

            The blond's eyes blink back open to look down at Sora and see what the problem is—when he realizes they're up in the air, as if gravity has momentarily given up on them. He gasps, and they collapse back onto the bed, Roxas managing to fortunately slip off of Sora's member before sustaining any possible damage. Roxas is lying on Sora's chest, breathing heavily, not quite sure what just happened but conflicted by still being on his way to release.

            “We should probably talk about this.” The vampire says through his own panting.

            “Yeah, but first, can we, uh—”

            “Yes, absolutely.”

            Sora flips them over, sliding back into Roxas with one easy push. He begins pumping fast and hard, Roxas gripping his own cock and trying to match the pace. Sora leans down, their lips locking in a wet kiss. Roxas flicks his tongue over the small puncture under Sora’s lip; Sora notices the tang and is reminded of the sweetness in Roxas’ veins. His head creeps back down to yesterday’s marks, which are healed, and scrapes his teeth across them. He takes Roxas’ eager moaning as consent, his teeth stabbing back into the flesh like they belong there.

            Sora doesn’t expect the flavor to be different… but it is. It’s tart and sugary like the paopu fruit of his native island, yet acidic and bitter like MDMA on the tongue. It tastes like carbon, and caramel, and brackish water, and sunshine. It’s the flavor of sex and pain, of dirt and nectar. He didn’t think it could get any better, but the way it tastes is better than any drug could ever possibly feel. Motherfucking ambrosia . He’s worried he may not ever be able to stop, the mix of savory and saccharine blocking out all sanity in his brain—

            “I'm close…!” Roxas gasps, just barely snapping the vampire out of his daze. XIII is trying to focus on the pricking feeling of orgasm and not the floating sensation still lingering. Sora rips himself from the mortal’s neck, surprised he managed to keep thrusting all that time, and props himself up to look into Roxas’ eyes. He’s at his own limit when Roxas says, “Come inside me.”

            The taste of infinite pleasure on his tongue, Roxas’ face, and hearing those words sends Sora flying off the edge. The orgasm comes plowing through him, and he fills the blond up with his pulsating cock—but he keeps thrusting past his limit to make sure Roxas can come too. When the blond does, he howls in delight as his face makes that insatiably lewd expression from Friday, his cum once again gushing out onto his torso.

            The man goes limp underneath Sora, eyes misty and chest heaving. Sora stays inside for a couple seconds, enjoying the wet warmth around his now-sensitive member, before pulling out. He collapses next to Roxas, also trying to catch his breath.

            “If you get any sexier, that will be the end of me.” The vampire says, “Can we talk about what happened, now?”

            Although Roxas didn’t have many definite answers for Sora, he did his best to explain what happened at the headquarters and what he did know as they got cleaned up. Sora theorized Roxas was imbued with some kind of telekinetic powers, since he’s able to lift objects with his mind, but it was only a possible third of an explanation for Roxas’ new gifts.

            Sora is getting his things packed as Roxas sits in the room’s armchair; considering telling the vampire about Twilight Town again. Now that he's reached this point, he feels as though part of him is finally free. He now has the capacity to confront what he was, even though he still isn't quite sure what that capacity is. It wouldn't feel right to go on without Sora knowing.

           Fuck it, He decides, Worrying about it is a waste of my time. “Sora, there's something I have to tell you. About me... about my past.”

            The brunet stops what he’s doing, looking at XIII quizzically, before coming to sit on the ottoman in front of the armchair. “Roxas, please don't feel like you have to tell me anything you're not comfortable with.”

            But that's not it: he wants to say it. It's been almost a year, and he's more ready to move on now than ever before since that he's no longer Roxas Highwind. Enmagicked and reborn, he is now Number XIII, the Key of Destiny. He's decided this will be his final sacrifice so he may carry the Organization's title with pride.

            Roxas takes a deep breath… and tells Sora what really happened in Twilight Town. About his original plan to move to Dusk City to make enough money to go to his dream college; about Hayner, Pence, and Olette; about his longtime crush on Seifer; about his fleeting romance with Hayner and Pence; and about how Seifer blackmailed him.

            “And I didn't know what he possibly had to gain from doing all this to me…” Roxas continues, “but it was because he wanted me . He wanted me to keep living my life as if nothing happened, and then… then fuck me whenever he wanted to. He—” The words catch in his throat, and tears well up in his eyes, “He… fucking raped me , Sora.” The horrified look on Sora's face is enough to push him over the edge. Sobs start to rattle in his chest, and his head drops into his hands. Even though it was horrendously painful to talk about, he somehow felt so much lighter now. He hadn't talked about it out loud since Axel picked him up nearly year ago. It was pure catharsis.

            Sora pulls Roxas into an embrace, and lets him cry until his eyes are sore and his throat hurts. When his sobs have died down to soft, shuddering breaths, Sora whispers, “Thank you for being brave enough to tell me all of that.” Then, he says something that lights an elated fire in Roxas' heart: “You're not alone anymore.”

            He lets Roxas cry into him some more, feeling like he himself is holding a piece back from his new lover. The blond’s bravery inspires him, so he decides it’d be best to tell Roxas the truth as well. He waits for his companion to compose himself, and swallows his own nervousness.

            “I hope this isn't poor timing on my part but… maybe I should let you know that part of my story is missing too.”

            Roxas nods, “I'm listening,”

            So then, it's Sora turn. He explains what happened at Destiny Islands to Roxas: how Kairi inadvertently stolen his and Riku's heart; how she almost died; how he felt like a terrible Sire to her after turning her; and how the pain followed him all the way to Dusk City. For him, there are no tears, just a solemn sense of acceptance.

            For once, Roxas is put in the position of comforting and he doesn't really know what to do or say. He runs his fingers though the vampire’s hair, “Thanks for being honest with me. How about we both bury all of that shit together?”

            “Hell yes. Let’s move the fuck on. It’s a new day!”

            They move to go lay in one another's arms on the bed, enjoying the comforting sense of release hanging in the air above them. Sora gently rubs little circles into Roxas' back, as Roxas trails his fingertips along Sora's shoulder and arm. They kiss, gently and tenderly, letting themselves get lost in the moment… hoping the time will be gracious enough to pass a little slower for today.


 

            After checking out of the hotel early, Sora walks Roxas back to the alley from whence he came. Pulling out his phone, Roxas calls Axel; within a moment of the man answering, a big black oval of darkness appears on the wall before them. Sora is amazed by the sight as Roxas nonchalantly hangs up.

            “I guess I'll see you around.” XIII murmurs.

            But before he can step into the blackness, the vampire grabs him, and their lips meet in one last, long kiss. Sora pulls away, smiling sadly. “Good luck, Roxas.”

            Roxas mirrors the expression, “You too, Sora.”

            The vampire watches him vanish through the mysterious portal, almost wishing he himself could conjure up such an escape if he needed it, and it vanishes. He starts walking back out the alley, and part of him wants to enjoy what's left of this bizarre chase he's created for himself. Maybe there’s a bar he'll visit, or a place he'd like to see before night falls. If he meets Riku, he might even feign letting himself get caught so the lycanthrope can have a little pride left at the end of the day.

            He turns out the alley, feeling the morning sun in his back, warm and comforting…

           Wait.

            He braces himself for the itching pain of the sunlight to leech into his skin… but it doesn't. He holds his arms out completely to the rays, watching closely to see if his skin will split and peel… but it doesn't.

           What the fuck ?

            While Sora isn't a miracle-believer himself, he isn't quite sure there's a better word for what he's experiencing right now. Of course, just in time for him to return to the Covenant, his body decides to let him live with the sun again. He throws his head back and laughs. He laughs and laughs, and wonders happily what will come next. With a newfound pep in his step, Sora strides off for the day's next task: coming up with a way to break into his home.


 

            The Covenant's security has been the same for years. Though the vampires rarely found themselves in need of it, it was still incredibly efficient and practically impenetrable for anything or anyone. However, Sora wasn't just anyone… he'd snuck out of this fortress, and he could very easily sneak back in if he wanted to. However, sneaking is likely exactly what the security forces would expect of anyone trying to break in. Not to mention the staff had grown pretty complacent in the last few years, and their wits are not nearly as sharp as they once were.

            The Covenant is surrounded by a massive, but beautifully ornate, iron gate. On each of the four corners is a skinny stone watchtower with one rifleman and two small spotlights. The inside has three massive spotlights, which sweep across the courtyard in a set path, and the courtyard is full of motion sensors dotting the lawn. At the front is the main entrance that can only be opened by the person in the security guard office, which is attached to the gate by it's own special doorway.

            Sora sits in the bushes and studies tonight's staff, whose roster has remained unchanged since he left. They've gotten sloppy: two different guards have sat down and are dozing off, another is on his phone, and Kev, the booth operator, has guzzled so many energy drinks that he's frequently stepping out of the booth to take a piss. The guards all jump a little bit every time he announces he's leaving the booth, before going straight back to what they were doing. Unfortunately for Kev, he also leaves the booth open and the walkie-talkie inside every single time he steps out.

            Sora waits patiently until Kev takes yet another pee break, watching until both front guards have looked away from the booth. He slithers up to it before slipping inside the open exterior door. In one fluid motion, he snags the walkie talkie while sliding his entire body under the desk—a perfect blind spot from the front watchtowers.

            Sora puts on his best Kev impression, muffling his voice to distort the sound of it.

            “I'm in pursuit of a suspect! Target traveling west to north… around the building!”

            The talkie crackles, “Copy. Watchtower Charlie and Delta, eyes north! Watchtower Bravo, eyes east!”

            Sora can hear the men fighting the sleep from their bodies as they each respond, “Copy, Alpha!”

            Sora peeks from under the table to see the towers visible from his position are swiveling their spotlights away from the center of courtyard. He peeks up to the control panel, clicking a button that unlocks the door on the wall side of the booth. The courtyard has remained unchanged: a grassy, flowering lawn surrounding a giant, quadruple-tiered fountain with a loop of road going around it. Big statues of mythical beasts dot smaller roads that fork off into various locations. Then, there's the mansion: a behemoth of a structure that looks more like a Gothic-era fortress disguised as a frumpy manor. He takes a deep breath, eyes trained on the massive front door… and sprints. His vision scans the ground, and he leaps over the first sensor. He dodges the path of an auto-spotlight, not risking a glance at the watchtowers as it might slow him down. A few seconds later, he hops over the next sensor. He's maybe 10 meters away from the door when an alarm goes off, and the dogs start barking… those are new. This alarm is not the same as the automatic sensor alarm, meaning Kev must have made it back to the booth to find the interior door open.

            “Sorry Kev,” Sora whispers, reaching out for the touchpad by the door. He slams his hand onto it: the blue screen reading his handprint in less than a second and unlocking the entrance for him. Throwing the doors open, the sound of alarms flood into the banquet room and effectively halt the mass of people going about their business inside. All eyes snap to him, and he takes a heaving breath. “I'M HOME!

            And they all descend upon him.


 

            Sora can tell he's near the King's throne room when he hears the familiar door coming unlocked: one by one, in quick succession, each special bolt flicks from it's resting place. When the cacophony of locks seizes, he's pulled forward and within a few yards forced into a kneeling position on the cold floor.

            “Your majesty,” His escorts say in unison.

            “Fellas, come on. Is that really necessary? Take the blindfold off, please. And his restraints.”

            “My liege—” one starts, but Mickey is quick to hush him.

            “I promise he won't control you. Not while I'm here, anyway.”

            The black scarf made into a makeshift blindfold comes off Sora’s eyes, and he immediately locks eyes with Mickey for the first time in nearly a year. The short man is sitting on his throne, postured thoughtfully as he gazes happily down at the Lamb of Dracul.

            “Your majesty,” He mutters, bowing his head a little bit as someone unlocks the cuffs on his wrists.

            Mickey bows back, “Sora. It's good to see you home.” He waves at the men still holding Sora's arms. “You can let him go.”

            Reluctantly, they release their grips and Sora sighs happily as he relaxes his shoulders. “Much better. Thank you.”

            “You caused quite a fuss up there trying to get back. You didn't think of calling or maybe asking nicely to come in? Vampires used to be renowned for their politeness, you know.”

            “Figured I left too quietly, so I should come back as noisily as possible.”

            Then, he could hear it: heels, clicking on the marble with a very particular gait. One he'd involuntarily memorized the many times they'd walked the halls of this endless mansion. He fixes his eyes to the floor, staring intently at the shiny black marble beneath him. The heels come to a stop right next to him, and in the peep toes he can see the toenails are painted a light pink hue.

            Her voice drifts down to him, “Hi, Sora.”

            He refuses to look up, knowing those indigo eyes are the only thing powerful enough to control him. For the first time in ages, he doesn't have the desire to drag his gaze up those long, slender legs.

            “Hi, Kairi.”

            “I’m really glad you’re home.” She says, and the honesty in her voice stings his heart, “We were all worried you wouldn’t come back. I missed you.”

            Sora sucks in a breath, doing his best to ignore Kairi’s painful last comment, “I'm ready to take on my role.”

            Mickey sagely nods at him, “Figured that’s why you’d return, but nonetheless, it’s excellent news. To prove you're willing, I would ask you to stay in Covenant a day for each day you were gone...” Sora grimaces, but he knows there's no reason to refuse at this point. “However, I’ve seen the error in my own ways, as well.” Sora raises an eyebrow at his elder, and the King continues, “I heard you were searching for some information the other day at one of our bureaus.”

            Choosing to not give any information, Sora simply responds, “I was.”

            “Well, in an attempt to bring you back, we revoked all your bureaucratic privileges. If you allow me to train you, and accept responsibility as my heir, I’ll personally return your access once I deem you a proper scholomance. By the end of that time, you'll be a Prince in name, but also in power. Sora,” He extends a hand, clad in his favorite silky-white gloves, “Will you allow me the honor and patience of being your new Sire and mentor?”

            Completely dumbfounded, Sora can only gawk at the King. The man could throw him in the Covenant’s catacombs for his defiance, and the entire vampire population would be on His Majesty’s side. Did Mickey perhaps come to realize that the pressure was too much for Sora?

            He feels Kairi nudge him with her foot, and he blinks out of his daze to return the shake. He wonders if maybe Kairi was behind this bargain of mutual respect as he responds, “I dutifully accept, Sire.”

            Mickey releases his hand, flashing him a toothy smirk, “You know, this might have all been resolved a while ago if you picked up your phone when we called.”

            Sora is actually glad he didn’t answer the calls because it means he got to meet Roxas. And now, he has a burning reason to become stronger: he has someone precious to protect.

            There's a mad barrage of steps from behind them, and just as Sora turns his head, Riku's fist comes rocketing into his face. Kairi gasps, the blow hitting hard enough to strain Sora's neck—a back tooth flying out of his mouth. His eyes follow the little red trail left behind by his freed molar, and he swallows back the blood filling his mouth.

           That's gonna take a few weeks to grow back…

           “ Fucking prick!” Riku snarls, “Fucking time-wasting piece of shit!

            “Riku!” Kairi scolds him.

            “It's okay, Kairi. I deserve it.”

           I really am a time-waster, huh?

            Riku slams his fist into Sora's face again, and now blood is weeping out of his nostrils and mouth.

            Riku! ” Kairi shrieks, finally coming over to intervene, “That is enough!

            Sora falls forward on his hands and hacks glistening red puddles onto the floor; apologizing to Mickey under his breath. Said King groans, silently ordering a clean-up from the men still standing by.

            Taking a wheezing breath, Sora gasps, “Riku...” He turns his head to look at his enraged friend, his eye swelling from the blow. “I'm sorry.” He knew it was going to take a lot more than that to fix this, but it's the least he can do in the meantime.

            The taller man looks down upon him, eyes blazing with fury. “You're sorry? That's all you have to say to me? That's all you have to say to any of us?”

            Dodging around Kairi, Riku comes at him again. Tensing up and squeezing his eyes shut, Sora waits for the next blow to land… but all he feels is a the air shifting around his face. He waits a moment longer, and there's still nothing. He opens his eyes to see the King is now standing; both His Majesty and Riku are staring at him in shock.

            “...what?” He asks, “Why didn't you hit me?”

            Gravely, Riku responds, “I did. My hand… went through you.”

            Sora reaches up to touch his tender cheek, and Mickey looks down at him in wonder.

            “Looks like you came back at just the right moment, Sora. It's about time we assess the full extend of your abilities.”

            Balling his fists, Riku turns on his heel and leaves. On his way out, he crushes Sora's tooth with a mighty stomp. Sora rises to his feet and watches Riku's back as he exits, noticing the werewolf's arm looks marred before recognizing the wound's X shape.

            “Has nobody healed that scar for him yet?”

            Kairi shakes her head, “Many of us have tried, but nothing worked.”

            A deep ache throbs in Sora's chest, wondering how such a thing is possible but knowing it's completely his fault. Sora and Kairi’s eyes involuntarily meet, and Sora feels fear flicker across his consciousness now that they’re making eye contact… but she says nothing, leaving to follow Riku out the door. He looks at the King, who is now stretching lazily where he stands.

            Sora sighs, willing away the numbing ache in his face, “So! When do we start, teach?”

            “Well, dearest Lamb of Dracul,” His Majesty responds, smiling, “You get some rest for now. We've got a lot of work to do, but we’ll make you a scholomancer yet.”


 

Exeunt


 

A/N: Happy Valentines Day!

'Kay, I lied. THIS is officially the longest chapter of The Night !

Hello my darling readers! My apologies for this chapter being so late. A lot of stuff happened over the year's end and it was hard for me to get this chapter done with any semblance of timeliness. Not to mention, I ended up writing two whole chapters worth of stuff since quite frankly I'm sick of dragging you all through a single week of this story's progression. Also, I'd been waiting to write this chapter for so long that once I got to it nothing really seemed to properly reflect the vision I had for it, so it was an arduous process trying to get it just right. I think part of it is that I'm having trouble incorporating tangible conflict in some areas, which really helps progress a story faster.

It didn’t help that I had a random side project pop up… which is now also available to read! It’s called “A Midsummer’s Sabotage”! Please go check it out!

Let me say, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR AMAZING COMMENTS! They were such a fantastic Christmas present, you have no idea how happy they made me. I appreciate you taking the time to leave some kind words for me!

I’ll probably start using my tumblr for updates and such when stuff like this happens and I'm off schedule. I have all the chapters currently (finally!) uploaded there too! Let me know what you think.

Also, all the links are fixed on my author profile so if you’re 18 or older and haven’t read the uncensored version of these chapters, I highly recommend checking them out. I’ve been working my smut muscles… smut-scles?! Mus-smuts?! IDFK dude, just go read it.

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Once more, Please please PLEASE favorite, follow, review, send kudos, add bookmarks… anything! They help me more than you can possibly know! Please keep sending them!


 

EDIT 3/19: Fixed a bunch of errors, some sentence issues, and other mistakes.

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter X: The Interim


 May 17th, 2015

            The uproar in the kitchen was the same as it always was: yelling, slamming cabinets, the occasional shriek, heavy fists and open palms hitting countertops. As usual, he laid wide awake in his bed, eyes fixed almost painfully on the ceiling, nearly unblinking.

            The moon wasn’t out that night, so the only light in the room came from the street lamps in town. The intrusive glow may have bothered anyone else, but he strangely found solace in the golden hue blanketing him as he lay motionless. Any minute now his little brother would knock, ever so gently, on his door. When mom and dad got like this, the 8 year-old didn’t ever want to sleep in his own bedroom since it was the only room next to theirs. Cloud’s loft—which is barely a loft considering it’s just a third bedroom above the other two—is nearly as large as the master bedroom belonging to their parents. Cloud was always grateful for the privacy of it, as there was plenty of comfortable space to be away from baby brothers and stressful domestic disputes.

            He never really knew who would start the fight, but it always ended with his mother laying in a crumpled mess on the floor, a new bruise to cover up in the morning. It was rare for him to ever sleep on nights like these, laying awake and staring at the ceiling until his eyes were sore and his body shut itself down from exhaustion. This torturous routine kept going on because he couldn’t push away the feeling that these fights were somehow his fault. How did it end up this way?

            Cloud was almost grateful when those soft knocks came to his door, knowing his brother wouldn’t dare say a word until he was in the safety of his older brother’s room. Quickly, Cloud went to unlock and open the door. He saw his little brother’s face was wet with tears, as it usually was when their parents fought.

            Once the boy was safe inside the room, Cloud pulled him into a hug and said, “Hey, Rox, it’s gonna be okay.”

            “You always say that…” Roxas sobs, “but it’s never okay.”

            Cloud didn’t really know what to say to that. It had been a couple years now that their parents had been fighting, and the intensity of the brawls had only grown since then. He wasn’t sure how much longer it’d escalate until something horrible happened, and he would have called the cops by now if his mother hadn’t begged him not to. There didn't seem to be much hope in sight for any of them… he’d forgotten what his parents even still fight about.

            Doing his best to find some kind of comfort, Cloud said, “I’m going to go to college, and then I’ll find a way to come back and get you, okay?”

            Roxas only sniffled before dejectedly responding, “What am I supposed to do when you’re gone?”

            He didn’t really have a response for that either. His little brother continued to cry more silent tears, so he led the small boy over to sit on the bed. Cloud took a somber glance out the window, as if the light from below would speak the answer to him. He looked back to see the golden glow creating a silhouette of Roxas on the floor, and that was when the idea hit him.

            “How about this: when I’m gone, you can have my bedroom.”

            In no time, his little brother’s face lit up; Cloud could practically see the tears drying instantly. “Really?!”

            He nodded, “You bet. And that’s not even the best part. I’ll let you in on a huge secret.”

            He crawled across the bed and opened the large window, beckoning his brother over. Then, he began to lean out of it, pulling himself out to stand on the ledge. The action put a knot in Roxas’ stomach, but he crawled over the bed and peered out the window anyway. His brother was holding onto a perfect hand-hold in the sturdy wood of the window frame, and several bricks were jutting out of the wall enough to grab onto with ease. Cloud held out his hand, and Roxas took it with unease.

            “Don’t look down, okay?”

            Though Roxas’ first instinct was to indeed look down, he forced himself not to—fixing his gaze onto their clasped hands. His brother gave him a sturdy pull up to grasp the ledge.

            “Remember that summer we went rock climbing? It’s the same thing. Follow my lead.”

            After the brothers scaled the short wall, they ended up safely on the rooftop of their townhouse. The view was magnificent: nearly the whole town—practically all the way out to the forest—was visible and shimmered gloriously under the street lamps, lit windows, and distantly bustling nightlife.

            Cloud spread his arms wide, “Welcome to my vantage point! Once you have my room, you can come here whenever you’d like to get away from mom and dad.”

            Roxas’ elated smile was priceless, “Wooow!” He cried in awe as he peeked over the ledge, “This is amazing ! I can’t wait!” He suddenly turned and gave his older brother the best squeezing hug his small arms could manage, “Just don’t leave too soon, okay?”

            Cloud hugged the boy back, “I wont.”

            “And you swear you’ll come back for me?”

            “I promise.”


February 23, 2026

            His escape was imminent, but his captor didn’t know it yet. It would be a tricky slip, to be sure… but he’d succeeded a dozen times before. He was already past his greatest foe, the squeaky door whose hinges spitefully alerted all to the coming and going of any man; whose greatest power was to make all mortals forget it needs greasing exactly two minutes after it horrendously screeches. He was halfway down the stairs, whose creaks and moans he’d memorized like a pattern in his head. Light step to the left, tip of the toe to the middle, heel toward the back… he was nearly there.

            His captor would be in the back, likely prepping things for the restaurant to be ready for later in the day. The place was always dead on Monday mornings, and it wasn’t until the evening when the crowd began to emerge: zombified workers sick with a case of the Mondays looking for a few drinks to cure them before their trek home. Every now and again the lunch crowd would surprise them, but it wasn’t anything one person couldn’t handle by themselves. Since more and more people had gotten comfortable with living in Dusk City, his delivery service has mostly consisted of running food orders for the restaurant to make ends meet; even that part of his job is nearly nonexistent on a Monday, so he won’t be missed.

            Finally at the bottom of the stairs, he takes a cursory glance around the dining room and bar. The only patron is an old, comatose-looking man snoozing in his chair over a cup of black coffee. The bustle in the kitchen is audible, so now is his perfect chance to bolt out the front door. He begins his stride across the restaurant—

            CLOUD! ” He halts in his tracks, entire body wincing. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the old man do a little jump in his seat. “CLOUD, GET DOWN HERE,” The booming voice comes closer, “WE HAVE A—Oh!” He turns to see his captor is standing at the bar, looking pleased to see him. “I didn’t hear you come down the stairs. I just finished preparing a delivery for you.” She heaves the freshly-cooked goods, which are encapsulated in a large paper sack, onto the bar.

            Cloud sighs, “On a Monday?”

            “Hey, no sassing me. I don’t understand the customers sometimes either, but such is the life of food service.” Cloud stomps over to the bar, moving to gently cradle the package in his arms. He’s about to leave when she catches his eye, immediately freezing him to the floor. “You weren’t planning on sneaking out again… were you?”

            “Tifa, I…”

            But the words dry up on his tongue. He can’t bring himself to lie to her… but he can’t bring himself to admit the truth either. It’s Tifa’s turn to sigh as she circles around the bar to come stand before him.

            “Cloud… I know it’s been hard with your brother and everything… but you can’t keep sneaking off to go see that guy. You’re putting too much faith in him, and you’re endangering yourself because of it.” She reaches out to touch his arm, “You have to live your own life, you can’t keep chasing ghosts.”

            How long has it been, now? Ten years since his mother brought him to live here. Tifa’s mother, the original restaurant owner, was a dear family friend and let them stay there indefinitely. It was only a few years after Aerith died a horrific death that Tifa’s mother also passed away. Despite all this time, there still have been no answers… and it aches in Cloud’s gut. The questions have been eating away at him, every single day, like maggots under his skin. A million hot pokers of rage have been stabbing into his heart, leaving him desperate for the truth. Perhaps he and Tifa are both motherless, and even fatherless, in similar ways… but Tifa could never understand this agony. Tifa could never see the true reason he won’t stop moving forward. Too much has been taken from him to back down now.

            The heat of the package is beginning to permeate uncomfortably through his clothing, so he tries to give Tifa his most convincing smile, “Chasing ghosts is a good way to lose weight.”

            Though she seems unsure of his genuineness at first, she scoffs, “I’d argue the opposite.” before shooing him out the door, “Now hurry out! Dilly-dally shilly-shally!”

            Groaning, he leaves. Despite everything, it always makes him happy to hear Tifa using his mother’s favorite saying, as if it were a little way to keep her spirit alive. After situating the package onto his motorcycle and clipping on his helmet, he roars off. Uncaring of Tifa’s concern, he decides he’ll go see Leon on his way back from delivering this order.

            Back in the restaurant, Tifa is refilling the lonely customer’s coffee cup when the phone rings. Taken off-guard by two whole calls on a single Monday morning, she hurries to the bar to answer while still holding the coffee pot.

            “Hello! 8th Heaven Restaurant and Bar! How may I help you?”

            “Hi, uh… I’m actually looking for Cloud. Cloud Strife?”

            That’s oddly specific… She thinks. Most people just ask for the Strife Delivery Service, not for Cloud personally. “I’m sorry, he just left to make a delivery. May I ask who’s calling?”

            Not in a million years would she have expected the following response. At first, she thought it must be a joke… but how could it possibly be a lie? After all this time? The shock ran through her, just then, and the coffee pot went crashing to the floor as her blood ran cold.

            It seems the ghosts have come to chase Cloud instead.


 Exeunt


A/N: Hello my dears! I know this chapter is a little short, but I thought it might be a nice little addition to give you as I continue writing the next chapter. Initially, it was going to be quite some time before these scenes ever happened… but for some reason I felt compelled to write them now.

Obviously, I’ve taken a LOT of creative liberties with the Final Fantasy characters in this story, but I hope it fits just fine all things considered.

I hope you liked it and I can’t wait for you to see the next chapter!

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Please please PLEASE favorite, follow, review, send kudos, add bookmarks… anything! They help me more than you can possibly know! Please keep sending them!

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter XI: The Arcane and The Arts


 

July 17th, 2025

            Most members had very rarely used the library within their first year or so of becoming a spark, but Roxas had spent nearly every waking moment buried among the books, going days without seeing a single soul. Axel and Demyx had to come bring him food, then make sure he actually ate said food because XIII would often skip meals in favor of gorging on information.

            Upon first entering the atrium, Axel finds the usual sight: a steady stream of books floating through the air back to their resting places. Every now and again a book is violently tossed skyward, the magick just barely able to catch the object every single time. Zexion’s librarian-style levitation enchantment is really being put through the ringer by Roxas, and Axel makes sure not to linger too long under any books in case the spell gives out under the strain. He yawns a long yawn: tired from a long day of work, and also growing steadily hungry from the aroma of the plated food in his grasp.

            As usual, Roxas is sitting in a circle of books as if he were the Saturn of written text: one ring of tomes open around him with the outer ring stacked high with untouched books. In his lap balanced on one thigh is a notebook, surely filled to the brim with etchings by now, while the other has one of the library’s holo-tablets used for combing their online database. There have been times where, if Demyx and Axel had a free moment, they would come and watch the young man do his work in silence. They’ve observed that Roxas’ process of studying goes something like this: glance, scribble, glance, scribble, page flip, glance, scribble, chuck. Occasionally he would tap around on the tablet, especially if his pile of books ran too short and he needed to find more. After that, he would spring from his small tower of knowledge to jaunt back upstairs to the bookshelves, and yet another stream of books would come floating down to land gently upon the collection table a couple feet away from Roxas’ circle.

            Zexion’s magick was something else. His complicated enchantment (with some assistance from Xigbar) made it where the first time a book was thrown into the air, it would levitate down to a collection table in the middle of the library’s atrium. The second time it was thrown, it would find it’s way back home on the shelf. Speaking of Zexion, when XI discovered XIII’s sudden interest, he often spent his own free time in the library helping Roxas; even bringing texts from his own bookstore if he felt they would interest the younger man. Roxas talked with Zexion plenty, but when his roommates would try to have a conversation with him, he would remain mostly unresponsive unless they had food.

            Nobody really knew what he was looking for. It is like he’s transfixed by a never-ending spiral of information, caught in a limbo of endless seeking that not a soul could save him from.

            As much as Axel adores his little adopted brother, it’s been quite aggravating to try and interact with him lately. Normally when Axel greets him in this state, Roxas would maybe nod a little at the most, but if he had food Roxas would make a small sound to acknowledge him.

            That's why it freaks Axel out so much when Roxas looks at him and suddenly comes bounding up to him from over the pile of books.

            “Axel!” He shouts, and the redhead realizes just how long it's been since he's actually heard Roxas’ voice, “I need to show you something!”

            “Uh—” Axel responds, holding the plate of curry up as a timid offering. “I brought food—”

            “It can wait!” Roxas doesn't even give his roommate a chance to put the plate down as he drags him back to the elevator. Once the silver doors are shut, the blond starts rambling on about something so fast that Axel barely has time to register any of it. He's still mostly surprised Roxas is even talking at all.

            “And if my hypothesis is correct, I should be able to channel the energy and launch—are you even listening to me?”

            Axel scratches his head with his free hand, sputtering, “S-sorry... it's been a long day, and when you get this excited you can be hard to follow.”

            The elevator stops; Axel realizes they're on the summoning chamber floor, and Roxas doesn't waste any time zipping over to one of the four rooms. Each space is sealed with negation wards Namine and Xemnas perfected to dispel any stray magick, protecting the rest of the building from arcane experiments. Each room is a lab of sorts with bookshelves full of spellbooks, sturdy marble tables, herbs for mixing, and chalk for other alchemic ventures. When they entered the room, Axel was shocked to see it looked very lived in: yet another landscape of books was spread out among the usual summoning chamber things, which were also quite disheveled. It genuinely surprised the redhead to realize Roxas had been spending a lot of time here too.

            XIII began tidying the room, recounting his original ramblings from the elevator a little slower now. The books on telekinesis led Roxas to books on psychokinesis, which led to historical documents of witches with similar powers, which led to tricks on how earlier spellcasters used these techniques, and so on. In doing more research into the matter, he discovered a different variety of telekinesis, in which the user moves oneself as well as other objects.

            “There was a cult called the Vector Witches who used their power kind of like extra arms,” The blond said, flicking through the pages of a book he plucked from the floor, “and another cult that called themselves Warlock Knights who used their power as a force to push, pull, and hold themselves or objects.”

            Axel sighs, “I don't suppose you brought me all the way here to show me something in a book.”

            Roxas picks up some nearby chalk before clearing the rest of the papers and books sitting in the center of the room; revealing a scraggly, smudged circle. He touches up the lines, explaining, “I found this symbol in one of the books in here. It's supposed to amplify gravity and air-based magic.”

            Axel nods dazedly, watching Roxas ready himself for something.

            “What exactly was your hypothesis again?”

            “That if I can figure out those cultists’ techniques, I could basically push and pull myself at the same time—launching myself into the air like a slingshot.”

            Axel nods again, looking down into the slowly cooling plate of food. What an interesting concept. He imagines the distances Roxas could travel that way, and the enemies he could pursue with ease—

            Wait a minute.

            Roxas lobs the chalk onto a table and plants his feet firmly in the circle. “Now, like I said, this is a hypothesis… I haven't tried this yet, so it might get a little crazy and I need your help. Catch me!”

            These rooms have high ceilings and decent space, but there's no way a person could launch themselves inside of it without possibly killing themselves.

           “Roxas, wait— !”

            But before Axel can say anything else, he feels something shifting in the air, the remaining debris on the floor around Roxas begin to inch away from the chalk circle. Roxas crouches, stretching a hand out to the side of the room where Axel is standing, then yanks it into a fist toward his chest—

            Splat .

            The plate clatters to the floor, Roxas can feel the sting of turmeric in his eyes as he wipes the food from his face and neck. He barely manages to peek at Axel, who is staring dumbfounded and frozen in place; his arm up as if he were still holding the plate.

            Roxas sighs, “I guess I was hungrier than I thought.”

            Axel bursts into hysterics, “Oh sweet Goddess above, that was AMAZING!” But Roxas isn’t laughing with him, and when Axel notices the heartbreak on the spark’s face, he automatically goes into comfort mode. “For real, Roxas, if you keep practicing you'll have this down in no time.” He puts an arm around XIII’s shoulders, leading him out of the room. “Although, you should focus on the smaller things first… baby steps and all that.”

            “I guess you're right.”

            “Let's go get you some clean clothes and more food. You know, before you make another mess, poltergeist-style.”


 

July 17, 2025

            The greatest spot in all the courtyard, arguably across the entire mansion property, is the second biggest fountain. It’s main body is a great statue of Apollo: his lyre grasped in one hand as another points skyward, with his chiseled face turned in the same direction. Though the statue’s modesty is very historically inaccurate with marble drapings clinging his form, they still have a life-like quality as he looks frozen in mid bound. Water pours from hidden slots in the drapings curling around his legs, making him look as if he were jumping up out of water; perhaps springing away from Poseidon's grasp. It’s as if Apollo has been locked away here, forever reaching for the sun, which is always far out of his grasp.

            Sora lays there, resting flat against the wide rim of the fountain, retro square sunglasses on, and head poised to get the perfect angle. If you look at the statue just right, at the perfect time, you can see Apollo’s hand touching the setting sun as if it were nearly in his grasp or terribly blinding him. Sora never found out if the sculptor His Highness hired created this mini-marvel of art interacting with nature on purpose, but nonetheless it was a wonder.

            This place is special for him because of this magical little secret, but also because of that day so many months ago. In haste, he rushed out one evening to catch the marvel at its peak… but when he laid in the sun he could feel it slowly burning the flesh on his face, and once more on the hand that darted up to block it.

            Still, he was incredibly grateful to have this sight back: looking at the golden streaks as they poured between Apollo’s stony fingers. It felt like hours before His Majesty came to the courtyard, late as usual. Sora was long used to it by now, and Mickey knew he didn’t have to spout any excuses. Now that Riku is off sulking, the King is an especially busy man running the entirety of the Covenant with only Sora and Kairi’s help. Though it can’t be any harder than when Sora was gone, since Riku was out looking for him and the King only had Kairi’s help then.

           “What did you need to speak to me about?” His Majesty asks.

            Sora swings his legs over and sits up on the fountain’s edge, leaning his elbows on his knees. “Your Majesty—”

           “Sora, please.” Mickey says softly.

            “Er… Sire.” He corrects himself, “I feel like I have to tell you this.” He slips the shades up to sit atop his head, revealing his forehead by pinning his bangs beneath them. “One of the reasons I left the Covenant was because the sun was starting to burn me.”

            The King wet rigid, the color draining from his already pale face.

           “But you’re—how is this possible? Why didn't you tell me?”

            It was the great phenomena of vampire kind: those who burn in the light of the sun. Where most would simply become weakened by it—growing lethargic and powerless in the daytime—a small few would have their life force completely drained. Even fewer still were the ones whose skin would burn or, worse, ignite and fry to a crisp.

            There was no need for him to lie, so he gave the King the cold truth. “Between that and the Lamb of Dracul thing, I felt like I was completely losing control. I knew if I told you, or even Kairi and Riku, you wouldn’t let me leave. The weird thing about it is, the day I came back here was the day the sun stopped burning me.”

            Mickeys eyes went wide.

           “It stopped? Completely?”

           Completely stopped.”

           “So right now…?”

           “Absolutely nothing. I don’t even feel weak .”

           Mickey lunged forward suddenly; grasping Sora’s face quickly, but gingerly. He began to examine him, twisting his head back and forth, inspecting his eyes, and pushing his lips back to study his teeth. When the shorter man released his hold, he began to jog toward the mansion, beckoning Sora along and muttering something about “history in the making.”

            However, after hours and hours of testing, research, and ripping tomes from bookcase shelves, the results were inconclusive. Sora’s blood didn't seem any different from the records they'd previously taken, but those results don’t say much since they don’t have any blood during his burning stage for comparison. No evidence of this phenomena being curable existed in historical data, though there was some recent evidence of it being treatable. On top of all that, none of it seemed to have any answers for Sora’s sudden affinity for magick, which seemed to have lain dormant inside of him up until recently.

            By the end of all of it, Mickey was exhausted, but determined. He decided to forgo science for the original science: magick. Spell after spell, charm upon charm, and potion upon potion didn't tell either of them a single damn thing. Sora would choke down concoctions, then try to keep from vomiting as Mickey ran more tests. Late into the day Sora would doze off, then be awoken by the light of an aura enveloping him or the mild shock of an electric current twinging through his muscles. They weren't finished until Sora blinked his eyes open from a nap to see Mickey had fallen asleep on top of a thick spell book. He urged the King to bed and they both agreed this mystery would have to go unsolved for now.

            Some things simply don’t have an explanation.

July 24th, 2025

            Are you feeling anything?”

           “No. Nothing yet.

           “Really concentrate on looking deep within yourself.”

           “I am. There’s just… nothing.” Roxas heaves out a massive sigh, opening his eyes to look at the cross-legged Namine in front of him. He rubs his knees a little, his own legs starting to become numb from holding the same position across his bed from her. This session, like the many others they tried, simply had no headway. “I swear to you, if I looked any deeper I’d sever my third-eye’s metaphysical optic nerve... or however that works.”

            Namine hums, staring her roommate down with puzzled intensity. “Many have had visions in the Pool of Awakening that created the spark inside of them. Try thinking about that instead.”

            In all honesty, Roxas couldn’t really remember what he saw after he blacked out. The only apparent pieces he has are when everything went dark and, for a split second (But was it a split second? Or was it an eternity?), he lost a sense of… self. Every time he tried to explain it in his head, his thoughts became a jumbled mess—if he opened his mouth to talk about it, the words would die on his tongue before ever reaching the air.

           “I don’t think I can, but...”

            She continues, “Close your eyes.”

            Obeying the command, Roxas adds, “Can’t you just find the memory for me?”

           “What’s the point in that? You have to seek the vision for yourself, and me digging around your mind is just going to make us both feel awkward.”

            She does have a point there.

           “Now breathe deep… in… and out.”

            He sucks in the air gently, letting the stillness of the room and scent of the incense that Namine brought relax him.

            Namine’s voice drifts to him, “Think back to the pool.”

            He’s laying in the cool water, and involuntarily, he holds his breath.

           “Remember not being able to breathe, and fighting for air.”

            The symbol staring down at him on the ceiling, his colleagues in the blurry water around him. There’s the distant sting in his chest, and the blackness clouding his vision like a vignette over his reality. Cold water. Warm rain.

           “What do you see?”

           “Darkness.”

           “No…” Namine whispers, “Look harder.”

            He does his best to remember the feeling of being suspended in air, the world peeling away from him like a million sticky threads, the teeniest pinprick of white…

           “I see… light.”

           “Light?”

           “Just a little bit… a little dot of it.”

           “Concentrate on that. Try to grasp it will all your might; make it yours.”

            In his head, he tries to go toward it, but it’s like running in a dream—he gets nowhere. Frustrated, he sighs once again and opens his eyes. “I don’t think this is working, Namine.”

            She smiles, “That’s alright Roxas, we’ll get there eventually.”

As Namine gets her minimal ritual things packed up, Roxas can’t help but feel annoyed. Learning to summon his element to his hand has had slow—nearly nonexistent—progress. What’s more is that his experimentations with his other powers have stagnated as well. Just what exactly is “blocking his energy” as Namine might say? Although he understands this is an arduous process that will take plenty of time and effort, he can’t help but feel annoyed by it all.

            More than anything, Roxas is annoyed him room smells like patchouli again...


 

August 9th, 2025

            The wind whips around Sora’s face, the air cold as ice around him. The sky is an ocean of mist, the chill of the atmosphere gripping his skin as he tumbles down, down, down to earth. His eyes sting, and the breath is sucked from him as he goes to scream—

            He gasps, startling himself awake. Though he’s grateful to no longer be falling, when his consciousness begins to more aptly clear the sleep away, he notices his current predicament. Most of the upper-half of his body is hanging out of the ceiling of the room below his. It seemed he’d taken the blanket with him, too, as it is dangling around him. Using the arm still in his room, he feels around his unseen surroundings… hard floor, the rug his bed sits atop of… he must have fallen out of bed and subconsciously tried to travel through the floor.

            Carefully, he begins to use the wood floor to sort-of push/pull himself out of the floor and back into his room, trying desperately not to fall all the way through.

            When his body and blanket are all safely back in his room, he throws on a pair of boxers and sprints all the way across the mansion to Mikeaus’ bedroom, doing his best to concentrate on not letting his feet slip into the floor. The morning sun peeks in between the curtains, filling the familiar journey with skinny walls of light. When he makes it to the door, he goes to pound his fists into it… but instead ends up tumbling through it and straight into the King’s room. Fortunately, though, he lands on the floor instead of falling through tha as well.

            The King wakes with a start, and he might’ve sprung out of bed to attack had he not recognized Sora’s groans.

           “I can’t control it.” Sora says, muffled by the carpet, “I’m falling through everything. What if I fall to the center of the earth? Has that ever happened before?”

           “Don’t worry, there’s always a limit,” His Highness yawns, “Typically phase-shifting vampires can only move through an object as long as it’s shorter than their arm span.” Sora is relieved at first, then mortified at the prospect of “typically”, like it is indeed possible to go beyond that.

            The King hops out of bed and over to a nearby shelf. “I might have a charm or ward for keeping you from phasing through anything, but normally they’re used for protecting objects.”

            Sighing, Sora carefully pushes himself off the floor and sits cross-legged. In the hallway, he hears the padding of bare feet as they propel toward the door. After some beeping from the pinpad and several locks cracking apart, Sora flings himself out of the way just as the door comes flying open.

            “Majesty!” Kairi shouts, “Is everything okay? I heard a commotion...” She spots a panicked Sora sprawled on the floor, part of his body drifting into the carpet as he curses, while the King nonchalantly scans his bookshelf.

            Even though Kairi is draped in a silky négligé, for once in his unlife Sora doesn’t really care. If anything, he’s a little peeved that she’s even come to bother them when the King clearly has things under control. Hopefully. Maybe?

            “Please hurry, Sire.” Sora says, trying his best not to sound pitiful. He turns his head to Kairi, reaching out to her. “Give me a hand?”

            She does just that, pulling him back out of the carpet and into the room. As she does, Sora notices that her face is fixed in a desperate state of concern, even though he can tell she doesn’t find this situation particularly stressful. She’s seen Sora phase shift on accident many times now; in fact, she’s found it quite hilarious. This particular kind of concern, one that’s etched into his memory, is reserved for Riku.

            Skipping the formalities, he asks, “Worried about Riku?”

            Kairi sighs, “I’m wearing it on my face, aren’t I?”

            “You always do. I bet you couldn't sleep, either.”

            She shakes her head, “Never on a full moon.”

            Sora nods solemnly. Dusk City has a loose rule about werewolves: it’s ill-advised to be in the city for full moons. They ask all bloodthirsty lycanthropic beasts to kindly lock themselves up or venture out into the countryside where there are rolling mountains and thick forests to roam. People have even made decent bank opening up taxi or shuttle services to these areas, which are typically no more than a two-hours drive from the city. Others cashed in on custom-built 50% silver cellblocks that customers can install in their own homes (for the discreet lycanthropes). However, Dusk City was realistic with their expectations and instead created Safe Zones, little clusters of the city monitored by the Organization and police forces. Normally, Riku chose to go out into the wilderness to unleash the beast. When Sora ran away, Riku spent every full moon combing the city in his lycanthropic form despite the little success it produced. Ever since Sora returned, Riku still vanished into the city the day of a full moon for reasons uncertain.

             Though it was easy for her to surmise what was happening, Kairi still lingered in the doorway. His Majesty had produced a spell book with a calligraphy cover announcing it was for some kind of anti-phase passing, and was going back and forth between eyeballing Sora and flicking through the pages.

            Made uncomfortable by the silence and page turning, Sora blurted out, “I can talk to Riku if you want. I dunno if it’ll help, but…”

            As if on cue, Kairi lights right up, “Would you, really? I mean, I hate to ask—”

            “No, no need to ask. It’s my fault anyway.”

            What he didn’t tell her was that he’d already tried this… several times, in fact. Any time he knew Riku was on the premises, he was following him like a duckling, desperately trying to mend the fractures in their friendship. Riku simply ghosted him every single time, and was even spending far more time in the city to most likely stay away from the vampire. Sora found it to be a sad irony that their situations were reversed in such a way.

            After Mickey found a decent enough spell, he cast it on Sora and they all went back to bed. Sora waited patiently until sunrise, which was around when Riku had been returning from his recent werewolf jaunts. When he ultimately came up through the gate and into the main entrance, Sora attempted once again to speak with him. He followed Riku all to way to the werewolf’s bedroom, the door of which was unsurprisingly slammed in his face.


 

September 7th, 2025

            It’s the same pinprick of light, holding steady in the distance. This time, though, he feels himself pushing through the black as if it were tepid air. It swims around him, and he starts to notice the shape it takes: a restless, never-ending spiral.

            No… it’s not one point of light. It’s a star.

            The space around him starts twisting open, and he can see a million stars peeking through the blackness. The pinprick of white glows hot and bright, like a raging sun on the verge of supernova. The light seeps into him, filling his cells down to the nucleus, becoming one with the stars.

            He opens his eyes to see a glowing orb of pure light glowing like a white flame in his hands. He focuses intensely on that warm light, and in his head he pictures the molecules shifting in the air, twisting into billions of tiny mirrors. The light disappears, and so does his hand, then all the way up his arm… and in mere seconds, his whole body has vanished into thin air.

           Namine and Xemnas watch in awe, the both of them standing in Roxas’ bedroom as they witness his newfound power.

            Roxas exhales quickly, relaxing himself and allowing the magick to dissipate around him. “It’s gotten easier and easier to control. As long as I’m touching something, I can make it disappear too.” To demonstrate, he touches his bed and after a few seconds of careful concentration, it slowly begins to vanish.

            “Roxas, you haven just passed our element test,” Namine says, referring to conjuring a ball of whatever element an organization member possess in their hand, “You’ve also progressed it into something completely different.”

            “Dear Goddess,” Xemnas whispers, “My surmise was correct. You can not only wield light, XIII… you can bend it.”

            “With this, your casting abilities, and the rapid development of your kinesis powers…”

            “I can start field training, right?” Roxas says, grinning excitedly.

            Xemnas and Namine look at each other, completely dumbfounded.

            Roxas has broken a new record.


 

October 6th, 2025

            Sora’s knuckles rap against the glossy cherrywood of His Majesty’s mighty office door. Mighty… yet also not. The massive door that nearly touches the top of the vaulted ceiling is impressive, but it’s merely the King’s favorite decorative gag. The real door is just a regular-sized one that sits embedded in the larger one, like most of the other doors in the house. Sora, to this day, has never gotten a straight answer from Mickey as to why the King enjoys such an unnecessary thing. However, every guest thus far has found it impeccably quaint, so who is he to judge?

            The true door slowly swings open, His Majesty beckoning him inside. The office interior has always been the same: walls lined to the ceiling with books, a large marble desk covered in scattered papers on one side, a single lamp illuminating the room from next to the desk, and massive French windows situated perfectly so that the moonlight pours in from between the silky red curtains. There’s a red velvet chaise lounge and matching armchair duo on the opposite side of the room from the desk. The most striking thing about the setup is how starkly black and red everything is, like something out of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic feng shui wet dream. The only white comes from the marble desk and the paperwork sitting atop it.

            Plopping down in one of the velvet armchairs, Mickey pats the chaise lounge for Sora to come sit.

            Sora does so, asking, “So why did you call me up here?”

            As Sora situates himself to be more comfortable, Mickey leans back into the armchair, the thing looking comically large for his small frame. He plants his elbows on the armrests, lacing his fingers as he smiles like a Lovecraftian therapist.

           “I wanted to try something with you today. Often, witches have been synonymous with familiars, though it’s rare any spellcasters still have them. However, the scholomancers keep a particular kind of them around. Like my rats.”

            Sora’s face twists up as he remembers all the times they’d been summoned to Mickey’s aid in front of him. “How could I possibly forget your rats?”

          Ignoring the redundancy of the comment, The King continues, “The creatures that flock to us and are willing to lend us their strength are often the ones we feel a close attachment to in our souls.”

            Sora replies, rather bluntly, “So, a spirit animal.”

            Mickey sighs in exasperation, “I suppose you could say it’s that. Though it’s rare for a scholomancer to have only one. Your original sire, Dracula, was infamous for having several creatures at his beck and call. You make a blood pact with them, and say the incantation ‘in blood I give upon to thee, I seal our souls from you to me, so mote it be.’ If the creature’s spirit wants to be your familiar, it will accept the pact and it's brethren will follow.”

           “How do we start, then?”

           “I will guide you through some basic meditation. Don’t be upset if we don’t find all the answers today, just focus on clearing your mind and zeroing in on what your soul is saying to you.” Sora nods in response. “Close your eyes, and start breathing as deeply as is comfortable.”

            Sora does as he’s instructed, feeling a little abrasive but open to the experience. He lays on the chaise for quite some time, long enough that he becomes so relaxed that he could take a nap in the stillness of the room.

            Gently, Mickey’s voice drifts to him, “Imagine the place your heart is always drawn to.”

            That’s easy: he pictures the beach. The waves rolling in, the sun beaming down from the sky.

           “Imagine yourself completely immersed in it.”

             He pictures himself diving into the water, the deep blue swallowing him.

           “Wherever you are, think about looking around and seeing something in the distance—something coming toward you.”

            Sora does this, and sees a black figure speeding toward him in the water—but he’s unafraid.

           “What is it?”

            Sora opens his eyes, distaste apparent on his face. “A fucking dolphin. ” He groans, “Yeah that’s beautiful and all that, but what good is a fucking dolphin to me?!”

            Mickey stifles a laugh, and Sora stares daggers at him, “I think it suits you just fine. Also, a spirit animal isn’t always the same as a familiar. Let’s try again.”

            They start over, Mickey waiting an unknown amount of time as Sora deep-breathes himself into another semi-comatose state. Then, The King speaks again.

           “Imagine you’re in a wide-open space bursting with life.”

            Sora imagines a vast savannah, brimming with warm grass as far as the eye can see.

           “In your head, call out to this amazing space: tell it you’re here, and you’re looking for it.”

            So he does, his voice catching on the winds of the plains. He listens, and watches. There, the grass parts, a pair of glinting amber eyes peeking through the stalks as they observe him.

            He opens his eyes again. “A lion. Also very cool, but not super helpful.”

            Mickey sighs. “I’m sure it’ll come if we keep trying, but not with that attitude. I suppose we should come back to this another time. You take a short break while I run and grab something from the throne room so we can move on to other things.”

            He gets up and exists, and Sora is grateful Mickey didn’t send rats to do it instead. The brunet sits up on the chaise. A dolphin does seem to fit him pretty well, as they spend their time doing whatever the hell they want as they travel the sea. A lion also seems to fit, lazing about in the sun, quietly observing the world as it passes by, possessing power beyond compare. He stands up and stretches, going over to the window to look at the moon. He wonders how Dracula found his familiars, and what made the animals feels so attached to the mysterious vampire that he got to have so many of them.

            His gaze reaches across the iron gate, where the city can be seen in the distance as a sliver of light in the darkness. The ocean behind it glints with moonlight bouncing off the heavy waves, the gravitational pull making the water endlessly restless. His heart aches heavy in his chest at the sight; the days seem to drag on more and more, and he desperately wants back out. His eyes flick back to the moon, just in time to see a bird gliding across the sky it as if to eclipse it. He smiles as the creature circles the yard, and in the silver lighting he can see it’s a crow.

            Oh, how he envies crows. Such creative, intelligent creatures, free to come and go as they please. One of his few intact memories from childhood is that of rushing out to feed the neighborhood crows every day. His parents, terrified of the hobby (and rightfully so) tried to ban him from it. Like any other child, he disobeyed them and continued to do so. The crows even began to bring him presents: little shiny trinkets in exchange for food. He truly adored the creatures, their caws and tilting heads eternally delighting him.

            He smiles at the memory as the crow flies by again, and in the light of the moon Sora can swear he sees it’s eye glinting at him.

            Something deep down in his soul says, Open the window.

            Never breaking eye contact with the crow, he unlatches the lock and throws the windows open—the curtains billowing gently in the autumn breeze. The crow circles around and comes straight for him. He’s unable to move, watching in awe as the ink-black creature glides to him and soundlessly perches itself on the window sill. Sora can see it’s eyes clearly now, shimmering pools of blackness staring him down with curious intent.

            Sora lets his fangs out and bites his hand, creating two fresh wounds. “ In blood I give upon to thee, I seal our souls, from you to me …” He holds his hand out. “ So mote it be.

            The crow cocks it’s head at the offering, before giving Sora’s bloodied wound a little peck. It blinks at him… then makes a graceful leave out the window, crying out into the night.

            Sora groans, “Great.”

            He turns to go sit back down on the couch, wondering if birds can carry vampire-killing viruses, when suddenly he hears the rustling of feathers from behind him. He turns to see the crow has perched itself on Mickey’s desk. It warbles at him, and Sora’s heart does a happy little jump in his chest.

           “H-hey! You’re back.”

            Another rustling sound, and he looks to the window to see another crow is observing him from the sill. Another comes to sit by that one… and another one… and another...

           “Uh…”

            Cautiously, he moves to the window to see a whole murder of crows lingering outside, circling around the mansion as they occasionally caw in communication. He smiles at the one on the desk.

            Mickey is gonna be pissed.


 

October 6th, 2025

             They always told Xigbar that he’s too harsh on training new recruits. But Xigbar wasn’t harsh, he was just what he called “aggressively realistic”. Since the inception of the Organization, he’s been pushing new members to their absolute limits… because if he doesn’t, who’s honestly going to? The real world isn’t timed simulations and rooms packed with spellbooks. It’s harsh, and wet, and itchy, and uncomfortable—like the tag on your boxers on a hot summer day. Do they even put tags on underwear anymore? Kids have it so easy these days.

            Anyway, the “suicide missions” Xigbar takes the sparks out on is never an actual suicide mission because they’ve always survived, and become better casters because of it. As Xigbar always says, what’s the point of field training if you aren’t feeling the icy cold breath of death on your shoulder?

            Of course, Roxas is feeling that very thing right now as he glides through the air in pursuit of his target. As Xigbar’s tradition always entails, it’s a full moon, and though there are no civilians to bother with, the streets are exponentially more dangerous. Everyone’s powers are amplified to the extreme, and even Roxas is having trouble controlling his kinesis with the overflow of energy coursing through him. Though this would be his 27th field training (the volume as high as it is per his constant pestering), it’s only his first mission under a “moon-rise” as the Org lovingly dubbed it. The brighter the moon, it seemed, the harder it was to focus his energy.

            He’d been warned time and time again about Xigbar’s supposed “suicide missions”, but he figured that since whoever went on them is alive and well there wasn’t much to worry about.

            Oh, what a fool he was. He’s already had a couple close calls with this nightwalker he’s chasing, and his jacket is now ripped in a couple places because of it. He is very fortunate not to have gotten injured badly so far, and the healing spells Marluxia taught him for quick fixes have been working especially well on his minimal wounds.

            He comes to a stop on top of an apartment building, gasping for breath. Jumping across buildings with his kinesis has been especially tough, because his trajectory has been widely off. He has couple quick anti-gravity spells memorized in the unfortunate circumstance that he misses his shot… but he doesn’t even know how those will work under the moon-rise.

            A portal of blackness opens up above him, and Xigbar’s head pokes out from the underside; his ponytail dangling whimsically in the air. “Why are we stopping, blondie?” He drawls, “The target is that -ah-way.”

            Roxas scowls at him. Even in his short time of knowing Xigbar, he knows the man is just trying to rile him up and get him to admit that he’s struggling. He growls, “Just catching my breath, thanks .” He shoots Number II a look that twists the older man’s face up in a happy grin, “What if they changed again? The might already be long gone, how can I spot them?”

            “As if, ” The man laughs, “This is your mission, kid. But if you ask me, I don’t think you should worry too much. It’s not like there’s anyone else out here, anyway.” His head ducks down—or up?—and the portal vanishes.

            Groaning, Roxas creeps up to the edge of the building and scans the streets as best he can. He ponders his next move carefully, and closes his eyes.

            He whispers, “ Ostende mihi faciem tuam animarum. ” Against the back of his eyelids, he can see the flood of auras, just as he expected. The moon-rise may have amplified this spell, but seeing so many auras doesn’t actually hinder him.

           In fact... He thinks, noticing an orange-yellow blotch of light as it darts around amidst the rest of the colors, This helps me quite a bit.

            His eyes snap open and he vaults off to the next building, continuing his pursuit. Being careful not to fall, he keeps using the aura spell to track the target; tracing a map in his head of the approximate area that the nightwalker may be in. Quickly, he starts catching up—before he knows it, the nightwalker has hit a dead end in some alley. Roxas jumps in, a little shaky on the landing with his kinesis. This particular alley is pitch black thanks to the surrounding buildings, but that won't be a problem for him in a moment.

            “It’s over, shapeshifter.” He calls to the darkness, “Turn yourself in, or I’ll have to detain you by force.”

            There’s a brief silence, followed by what sounds like groaning. Roxas’ brows furrow, and he lifts a hand to light the alley. His energy overexerts itself a bit, flicking on almost like an orb of floodlight.

            His heart seizes.

            A hulking mass of silver fur breathes slowly over it’s prey. The shapeshifter underneath it has maintained their previous form, a hipster-looking man, but their face seems to be alternating between many variations as it writhes in pain. There’s blood seeping from their wound: a fresh group of claw marks.

            The werewolf looks over it’s shoulder, and Roxas catches the gaze of glaring seafoam eyes.

            “Riku.” He says. Despite all of his training, he completely freezes up. By now, he’s encountered a couple unruly werewolves so far, but none have ever been quite as terrifying—or large, for that matter—as Riku. He has wards and spells ready in his head, but he can’t bring himself to say the words.

            Were-Riku slowly turns to him, and Roxas notices an inconsistency in his silver coat: an X-shaped scar on his arm. Without thinking, he reaches to his chest and touches his necklace, which is hidden beneath his cloak.

            “That scar… it’s my fault.” Roxas says, not quite sure if Riku will even register what he’s saying. “Riku, I don’t know if you can hear me, but… I’m sorry. I know Sora has caused you a lot of stress, and I certainly didn’t help, but you’re his best friend . He loves you a lot and—I dunno, man. I’m just sorry you’ve had such a shitty fucking year.”

            “What the fuck are you doing?” The shapeshifter calls from the ground, “Are you trying to make small talk with a goddamn werewolf you goddamn idiot—”

            Were-Riku snaps his body around to roar angily at the injured nightwalker, and Roxas watches as he uses a clawed paw to pick the shifter up by the arm. The shapeshifter yelps in pain and Riku begins making his way toward Roxas.

            Panicked, Roxas shouts, “S-stop! I don’t want to hurt you!” He lifts his other hand, ready to use his kinesis to push both nightwalkers away if necessary. Under the moon-rise, however, he doesn't know much force will come out of it and if it’ll seriously injure them.

            He’s ready, finally, to stand toe-to-toe with Riku. Yet… Riku doesn’t seem like he wants a fight. The look in his eyes, which Roxas has come to know as murderous, are softened. Riku’s entire physique is relaxed, his ears are perky, and his facial expression is stoic. The werewolf stops at about two feet away and drops the shapeshifter at Roxas’ feet, earning a grunt from the other nightwalker. Roxas is still holding his defensive stance, ready to blow the werewolf back back, as Riku carefully leans down to sniff him.

            Then, Riku gives Roxas’ face a long, slimy, nasty lick… before dropping down on all fours and running off into the night.

            Roxas stands, absolutely stunned, staring forward in deep shock.

            A loud cackle erupts in his ear, making him spring away like a spooked cat.

            “Oh-oh my god!” Xigbar squeals, having appeared suddenly beside him, “That was hilarious! I haven’t seen a friendly werewolf in ages! I thought he was gonna bite your friggin’ face off and I was ready to drop him… but no! He gives you a big ol’ puppy kiss like you were just playing fetch! This is amazing!

            Number II wheezes, and Roxas uses his sleeve to vigorously wipe his face.

            “Can we just move along?”

            Xigbar sighs happily, wiping tears from his eye. “Fine, fine. Say the stuff and I’ll open the portal.”

            Roxas looks down at the shapeshifter, who seems pretty done with this whole experience. “You’re being detained for three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, several instances of identity theft, breaking-and-entering, data theft, illegal infiltration… you get the picture. We’ll be holding you until the city can process you. Buh-bye.”

“Just you wait, you piece of shit!” The shapeshifter growls, “I’m coming after you —” but before he can say anything else, one of Xigbar’s portals opens beneath him and the nightwalker vanishes from their sight.

            “We can go over the legal logistics of this event later. The night is young! We’ve only just started! Yadda yadda, inspirational messages… what-the-fuck-ever. Get moving!” Xigbar s;ips into another portal, and Roxas makes his way out of the alley.

            He tries his best to brush off the interaction with Riku, but it seemed so odd. Was the lycanthrope using the shapeshifter as some kind of peace offering? Did he accept Roxas’ apology? Does that lick mean they’re friends now? What does it mean for Sora? Moreover… how can Riku control himself so well under a full moon? He’ll have to ask Sora about it later.

            As he ponders these many questions, he neglects to realize his kinesis is mostly under control now, and he moves about the city with ease.


 

December 11th, 2025

            Sora approaches the throne room a little tired, somewhat annoyed, but mostly intrigued. Mikaeus had woken him with a start, demanding he get dressed and come down to the throne room immediately , as well as telling him to “wear something you don’t mind staining or throwing away!” This somewhat disturbed Sora, but he hurried down out of morbid curiosity; avoiding all contact with other covenant members as he was instructed. When he got to the door, he didn’t bother opening the complicated lock and simply phase-shifted through it. Even though the throne room door is the thickest in the house, it’s also barely a millimeter less than Sora’s arm span, so he can pass through it with ease.

            He expects the inside to be the same as it’s always been… however, this time, there’s a large stone slab poised before a blackened pedestal, what looks to be a surgical procedure tray, and a cushioned stool. The slab seems to have something like a drainage curvature that funnels directly into a slot where a silver bowl is sitting.

            Sora isn’t sure how he feels about this.

            He spots Mickey with a box of first-aid supplies and other assorted items marching happily toward the setup.

            “There you are, Sora! Come over here. Today is a big day!”

            Cautiously, Sora approaches the King as he preps the station.

            “What is all of this? It looks like you’re about to sacrifice a goat to the devil or something.”

           The King chuckles, “Close, but not exactly. You told me once that your travels took you through the Enchanted Dominion which, according to legend, the great witch Maleficent once laid a mighty curse upon.” Mikaeus dusts off the pedestal with a hand, then very unceremoniously wipes it on his pants to be rid of the char. “Legend also said she burned whole armies with her green fire into dust .” He mounts the box on the floor, digs around in it, and hands Sora a spellbook.

            The Lamb of Dracul says, “You know history lessons for seasoned vampires are pretty useless right? So what’s your point?”

            Mickey grins, “We’re going to give you this power.” He motions to the tome, and Sora proceeds to crack it open to the only bookmarked page. The pages are printed with scrawling text and alchemical circles that spiral into arcane mandelas. “Since vampires can't use most forms of magick, many of our kin dedicated their lives to finding workarounds… but they come at a price.”

            “You mean blood magick.” Sora replies. He’s mostly unimpressed, but still curious. “I know how it works—”

            Mickey holds up a hand to hush the younger vampire. Then, His Majesty begins unbuttoning his own shirt. He turns his back to the brunet, and lets the white shirt slip down to his elbows. The entirety of his back is scarred with spiraling manelas and alchemical circles. Other designs loop in concentric rings around his arms. To the untrained eye, these may just look like bizarre occult tattoos… but on closer inspection, every scar is painstakingly detailed, with symbols buried within symbols. Sora is completely blown away not just by the complexity of the markings, but the simple fact that it’s possible for vampires to scar.

            “How come you’ve never shown me these before?” Sora asks.

            “That’s because I’ve tried to keep it a secret for as long as I could.” He faces Sora, buttoning his shirt back up. “This particular kind of blood magick was taught exclusively to me in the Scholomance. The magick hidden in these scars, lying dormant in the blood, must be passed from one “carver”, as they call it, to the next.” He fishes an apron out of the box and fastens it to his body. “It’s similar to sires passing traits to their fledglings when they’re turned.”

            Sora grips the book a little tighter as Mickey moves off to rummage through an old-looking chest of sorts. “I’ve never seen a vampire with scars before.”

            “That’s because they mostly don't exist. I’ve been very careful to let the legend of this blood magick die, because the only spells you can inherit are too blackened even for the Scholomance.” He pulls two ornate boxes out from the chest and returns to Sora, dropping the larger one on the pedestal. “I was entrusted to these spells to keep them out of evil hands. With my Mind Control, it’s impossible to take them from me. With your Mind—er, Glamor as you prefer to call it—I believe it’s finally time to pass them on to a good suitor.”

            Sora winces. Being scarred so much for the rest of his own eternity seems tragic… but on the positive side, he’s always wanted to get a tattoo. No attempt he’s made has ever actually worked, and it’s a shame to waste so much money, pain, and time on something that fades in a week (much like a temporary tattoo does for humans).

            Mikaeus opens the case, revealing an antique-looking quill and ink set. “Now,” The King says, rather stately, “We don’t have to proceed if you don’t want to.  However, I feel your powers have escalated so rapidly and have advanced so promisingly that it would be worth it.” Before Sora can respond, the King plucks the quill from it’s home and extends the feather out in a cautioning gesture. “I will warn you! This process will be excruciatingly painful, and it could take hours. It’s not at all like a tattoo or scarification, as I will be removing pieces of your flesh as a sacrifice, and also to deeply embed the spell in your blood.”

            Sora gulps, “Why can’t I just be asleep for this?”

            His Majesy taps the spellbook with his quill, the tip landing on the only decipherable text on the page. “Because you’ll be reciting this spell the whole time, classic ritualism style.” Mikaeus must have noticed the hesitation on Sora’s face because he quickly adds, “I’ll only ask you to take the scars I think will benefit you. I plan to let the rest of them fade away with my existence, as the world is far too dangerous for many of these to fall into the wrong hands.”

            This does relieve Sora, although he isn't sure how worthy he is of such a burden. So far, all the magick he’s been trained to use has come easily to him, but this is obviously a ritual from far beyond his own lifetime. Is it really in his best interest to hold such powers? So far, he hasn’t had much of a choice in the matter… but now, it’s entirely up to him. He looks into the King’s dark eyes, sees the trust deep in his soul, and makes his decision.

            “I’ll do it.”

            Relieved, the King claps a friendly hand on Sora’s shoulder. “I’m glad to hear it. Now… where would you like it done? The location on your body doesn’t matter, but it helps if it’s a place that resonates with you, and maybe that can easily be hidden. After all, you’ll have it for the rest of your unlife.”

            Stepping back a bit, Sora takes his shirt off, glancing around his body to inspect the unmarred flesh. He could start with his back and upper arms like Mickey, or maybe even his legs. His upper chest might be too obvious a spot, so perhaps not there. Just then, he thinks about the place he’s attempted to get a tattoo, the one spot he wanted more than anything to get inked…

            He points to his right side, square in the center of his rib cage. “Right here.”

            His Majesty’s jaw drops. “Wha… are you sure? I’ll be cutting down to your bones…”

            “Doesn’t that just make it all the more worthy of a sacrifice?”

            “Well, yes, actually…”

            “Then it’s fine.” He hands to book back to Mickey and lays himself down on the slab, ready to read off the incantation from his memory. “I can take it.”

            Mickey sighs and plops down onto the padded stool. He puts on some medical gloves, then, using some sanitary supplies, begins to clean the area. He then takes the spellbook and grasps the quill at the same time. Cracking open to bookmarked page, he dabs the quill into the ink and begins to very carefully draw the symbol on Sora’s ribs. The nib scratches Sora’s skin in an almost soothing way, and he watches in awe as the King works without needing to really look at his “canvas” at all. He wonders why his Sire is training his eyes on the book, guessing that the elder vampire is trying to limit imperfection in the drawing as much as possible.

            Time passes, and before he knows it, the design is done and Mikaeus is gently putting the writing set back into it’s case. Sora looks down at his ribs and sees the still-drying markings: a geometric mandala with unknown symbols filling it’s spaces, plus what looks to be thorns curling out from the center. The King removes the larger box from it’s resting place, and he opens it up to reveal several antique, yet surgical-looking, silver cutting tools. He plucks them tenderly from their home, wiping each down with alcohol before placing them daintily down on the surgical tray. Once the last piece is done, the ink has set into Sora’s flesh and looks almost identical to a tattoo. Mickey takes one of the instruments into his grasp, the tip poised over part of the ink.

            “As soon as the blade touches your skin, you must say the incantation and you cannot stop until I’ve finished. Are you ready?” Sora nods slowly in response, suddenly very nervous. He swallows, hoping it’ll ease the dryness in his throat. Mickey’s voice is suddenly very low, his eyes perfectly locked on the design. “ In sanguine. In carne. In corde. In meam. Portare in. So mote it be.

            The cool edge of the knife brushes Sora’s skin, and without hesitation he recites: “ Draconis spiritus. Caligo somniabunt …” The blade sinks easily into his flesh, so sharp it’s almost painless, and his blood quickly warms the metal. “ Calamistri, vites. Lex Talionis trabem. Nigrum mortem. In viridi vitae. ” The pain grips him as the knife slips over his rib bone, and he has to push out the last two lines through gritted teeth, “ FUMO excelsis. Cordis glaciei.

            The ritual goes on: blood spilling out of his body, dripping down the slab, and filling the silver bowl below them. There’s a sickening plop as every now and then Mikeaus drops a piece of warm flesh into it, sliced elegantly away from Sora’s body. Although gore has never bothered Sora in the slightest (which really goes without saying since he’s a vampire), there’s something about sitting in a pool of his own blood and having bits of his body carved off that gives him a terrible case of the willies. And the pain… a horrific chill surges through him every time Mickey cuts down to the bone, every time his Sire peels a piece of sinew from his bloodied wounds like stretching a piece of taffy. He wishes he was high, no matter the drug. He wishes he hadn’t been such an ass and had chosen a less painful place for Mickey to butcher.

            He keeps a hand firmly pressed to his eyes, the other gripping a corner of the slab in a splintering vice—his only distraction is the incantation that now seems to drift from his lips as easily as breathing air.

            How many times had Mickey done this?! He counts at least 56 different designs in his head and feels nauseated. Still, he carries on somehow.

            Then, all at once, he finishes the incantation one more time and notices there are no more blades probing his flesh.

            “We’re done with the cutting, Sora.” His Sire says to him sweetly. When Sora peeks, he sees the King’s gloves are wrist-deep in blood and his shirt, despite the apron, has been stained beyond repair. “Go ahead and sit up.” Sora obeys, somewhat woozy from the blood loss. At this point he would also be absolutely starving after losing so much, but the general nastiness of this experience has him good on eating for a little while at least.

             The King stands up by the pedestal and begins repeating the spell as he dumps the bowl onto it. A split second before it hits the charred marble, a green-black flame erupts from it; devouring the sacrifice with a sulfurous gulp. Surprisingly, the room only smells of brimstone and not burning body parts.

            He says to Sora, “One last time, we must both say it. Brace yourself for more pain.”

           In tandem, they repeat the words: “Draconis spiritus. Caligo somniabunt. Calamistri, vites. Lex Talionis trabem. Nigrum mortem. In viridi vitae. FUMO excel.

            When the last of the mixture drips from the bowl, the flame vanishes in nary a puff of smoke. Suddenly, a searing pain rips through Sora’s side, and the sound of sizzling flesh makes it apparent what’s happening. He watches in agony as a small green flame cauterizes his wounds, leaving a nasty burn throughout the already tender flesh. In an instant, it’s over, and Sora slumps over in exhaustion.

            “The wounds look bad now, but your natural powers of regeneration will turn them into a normal-looking scar. Well, as normal as a scar like that can be.” His Majesty gives him a moment to shake off the shock, and once Sora is able to sit back up, he instructs him. “Hold out a hand, and picture the fire you just saw burning through your veins, connected to your soul.”

            Sora closes his eyes, extending his palm out. He feels a new warmth coursing through him, a warmth of the universe’s greatest parallels: life and death. A tendril of smoke curls out from his hand, swirling into a slow vortex, and when he opens his eyes a ball of green flame quickly gathers in it’s stead. He stares at the power in awe, giddy with joy. Mickey smiles down at him proudly, before quickly giving him a large blood pack and hurrying him to the nearest shower.

            When Sora emerges from the most painful shower of his life, Mikaeus has brought him a change of (rather fancy) clothes and bandages to help while his body heals itself.

            “I have a surprise for you.” The King says as they leave his throne room.

            “What is it?” Sora asks, but the King doesn’t answer.

            He brings Sora all the way across the mansion, to the top of the double staircase looking over the banquet room, where only a few months earlier Sora burst into. There seems to be a fancy party going on, as the covenant is packed into the large space: holding drinks, chatting, and dressed to their best.

            Bonjour! ” The King calls to his subjects, and a hush rushes over the room as they all quickly turn their attention to him. “My dearest covenant, I thank you for rushing to attend this very last-minute mystery party. As you all may know, I simply adore surprises! I suppose you’re wondering, ‘Your Majesty, I like any excuse to dress fancy and get wasted, but what the hell is going on?’” A polite chuckle bubbles from the crowd, before another silence of anticipation spreads. “Well, let me be frank. I’ve called you all here on behalf of Sora.” He extends his arm to gesture to said vampire, and the brunet can’t help but blush at the sudden attention. “Today marks a historic day that I think you’d all appreciate witnessing.”

            “Sire,” The brunet whispers, “What is this?”

            “Sora, please kneel before your King.” Normally Sora would scoff at a command like that, but with the entire covenant staring at him, he drops a knee without resistance. “I, Mikaeus Souris the First of France—Keeper of the Trinity Alliance, Keeper of the First Spira Covenant, and King of the Vampires—hereby declare you, Sora—Lamb of Dracul, and Heir to Mikaeus—the Prince of the Vampires. You may rise.” He winks at the flabbergasted Sora, who is now standing. “This is no traditional coronation by any means, especially because I do not have a crown to give you, so please take my blessing instead. May your reign be long and happy, Prince Sora!”

            Holding his hand up high, he casts a spell and a series of magick fireworks crackle from his fingertips, filling the room with bursts of multicolored light. The crowd cheers, and Sora turns to face them. Though he somewhat expected this, he still thought it would be a long time before he was actually named prince.

            “You crazy old bastard,” He whispers to the King, waving an uneasy hand at the clamoring audience. “You were planning for me to do the ritual this whole time weren’t you? And that’s why you put this last-minute coronation together. You know, I’m still very young and reckless. I could die any day.”

            Mikaeus whispers back, “You have all the power you need, and more, to survive. I trust you to turn this world into something even better than it is. This is only just the beginning.” Then, Mickey’s voice somehow booms across the banquet hall, “Ladies and gentlemen! Please treat your new Prince to whatever sinful delight he may prefer to indulge tonight!”

            Mickey leads Sora down the stairs, and the crowd happily swallows him. Drinks are being pushed his way, little baggies of crystal-somethings are offered, there’s already lines of shiny powder cut on the minimal table space, and people pull pastel-colored pills from their pockets. Somebody reaches an offering hand through the bustle, a small tab of acid pinched between their fingers, and Sora takes it into his mouth with little hesitation. Out of the corner of his eye he spots seafoam eyes, and he breaks away from the flock of partying vampires to approach Riku.

The taller man is holding two glasses of champagne, glowering down at him, and Sora has trouble finding the right words to say. “Riku, I—”

            But the werewolf stops him by handing him one of the glasses. “Congratulations.” He says, and they clink glasses. Sora takes a gulp, careful not to wash away the tab in his mouth by pinning it underneath his tongue. Then, Kairi emerges from the crowd to give Sora squeezing hug and many congratulations of her own.

            The rest of the night is a tailspin of delight, though Riku didn’t say another word to him all throughout it. Still, the werewolf stuck around all night, even helping Kairi carry their freshly-coronated prince to his bedroom when the party's over. It feels like progress, if only a little bit of it, and that is enough for Sora to sleep soundly.

            At least, as soundly as he could once the seemingly endless fractals, body shivers, and thoughts of Roxas subsided.


 

December 19th, 2025

            In the elevator ascending up to Xemnas’ office, Roxas is steeling himself for a rather difficult conversation. He’d requested the meeting a little hastily, but he didn’t want to let himself back down too quickly. When the elevator finally arrives, he steps out onto the landing that overlooks the library. The actual door to Xemnas’ office is down a long, carpeted hallway. After making the unnecessarily long trek down, Roxas starts to hear voices floating from the cracked office door. They are unintelligible at first, but as he creeps closer, they become clear as a bell.

           “...and I must say, I’m so grateful you graced me with your presence. I shall have one of my members escort you down—”

           “Xemnas, my dear friend. I will see myself out. Besides, you have a visitor.”

            Roxas balks. Sheepishly, he pushes the door open to Xemnas’ office—or chamber as the Superior preferred—and steps inside.

            The chamber, really though, is just an ornate office that seems stuck somewhere between a modern and classical style. The semicircular desk is a large polished marble slab sitting atop a modular base, covered in documents and more than one holo-tablet. Behind it is a large white throne-looking chair. Behind the chair is an entire wall stuffed full of books and massive hard drives, all whirring silently along in their homes. The opposite walls have a couple paintings and holoscreens that are constantly scrolling through diagrams or formulas of unknown subject matter. Like the rest of the headquarters, everything is plain white—all except for the novelty Moogle bobble-head sitting on Xemnas’ desk. Although the Moogle has no expression on its face, it always seems to be staring pensively out to the room, as if it is silently judging all those who enter the chamber. Other members always joke that, although Number I acts like he’s in charge, the Moogle is really the one who makes the decisions: an eternal symbol of affirmation for the so-called “Superior”.

            Standing before Xemnas’ desk is a man only a little taller than Roxas, wearing a nice pinstripe suit. When the man turns to him, he looks as if he hasn’t slept in weeks… but his faded haircut, bright red bowtie, and kind smile give him a ghoulish charm.

           “Hello, Superior.” Roxas tries to say maturely, attempting to erase his slight embarrassment.

            He approaches the desk and stares at the gentleman out of the corner of his eye. As he gets closer, he notices the man’s eyes, which seemed black at a distance, are actually a dark crimson. The realization must have made his heart beat faster, or the look on his face must have shown his surprise, as the gentleman raises his brows and his smile grows into a grin.

           “S-sorry to interrupt.” Roxas says, glancing away from the nightwalker as if he’d formally met scores more vampires than he actually has.

            The gentleman sees right through this. “New recruit, eh?”

           “He’s been with us for almost two years now.” Xemnas responds, “Hello, XIII.”

            “He seems like he needs something important from you. I’ll be off, then.” He and Roxas exchange a firm shake, “ Au revoir, XIII. Pleasure to meet you.”

            He shuffles smoothly out into the hallway, and before the door shuts completely behind him, Xemnas calls out, “Farewell for now, Your Majesty.”

            Roxas pauses. Your “majesty?” Is that…

            Xemnas shrugs, “He must have been in a hurry, he didn’t properly introduce himself. Roxas, that was the leader of our local vampire covenant, Mikaeus. As you may have guessed, he’s royalty… but we’ll talk about that later. What did you need to speak to me about?”

            So that was him. The Mikaeus he’s heard so much about. He thought he’d be taller, certainly more sinister, and perhaps have a more baritone voice… he was very spritely for a long-reigning vampire king.

            Rolling his shock off his shoulders, he faces Xemnas fully. Summoning the bravery from the depths of his soul, he says, “I have a proposition for you, Superior.” His elder nods for him to continue, going to sit down in his office—or rather, chamber chair. “As you are aware, I don’t have a permanent partner for when I’m officially in the field. Most of the other members are paired up or go solo.”

            Seemingly enticed, Xemnas says, “Go on.”

            “I think—I know I’ve found a suitable candidate for partnership. While I don’t necessarily have a fourteenth member to recruit, my proposal is this:” He sucks in a breath, “I would like a particular nightwalker to join me on my missions.”

            There’s a long silence, and just as Xemnas goes to speak, Roxas cuts him off, “With all due respect, Superior, even if you decline my request I want you to know that he will be joining me in the field regardless. There’s nothing in our contracts that says we cannot recruit nightwalkers to assist us if they are willing to help, but because I respect you as my leader I wanted you to know my decision.”

            Another long silence, and Roxas considers filling it with more ramblings when Xemnas finally speaks. “What’s the name of this nightwalker?”

            Roxas swallows, his throat suddenly very dry. “Sora.”

            The Superior nods slowly, twisting himself ever-so slightly in his chair as he considers. “Roxas, I will say this: you have impeccable timing. I find your proposition quite intriguing, but I’d like some time to consider it further if you don’t mind.”

            “Sir, I’d like to add—wait, what?”

            “I’m interested in your request and I want to consider it. Please don’t worry about it for now. You may return to your field preparations and I’ll give you an answer within a few hours.” He smiles kindly, “Although I suppose it doesn't matter either way does it?”

            “Wow, I…” XIII straightens himself back up. “T-thank you kindly, Superior. Thank you for your time!”

            He bows a little for added gratitude, then scurries out of the room as gracefully as he can; hoping the man won't change his mind suddenly.

            The whole truth is that Roxas had been texting and calling Sora for months now, the two of them comparing experiences they had in their prospective settings. The two of them weren’t sure what would become of them once their trainings were complete, and one day they began to joke about something over the phone.

            “I bet I could come be your fourteenth member,” Sora said with a laugh, “My Sire keeps singing your guys’ praises. It’s like he’s in love or something!”

            Roxas scoffed, “Doesn’t he have a wife?”

            “Yeah, and she better watch out! Your Superior may sweep him off his feet!” They shared a laugh, and Sora continued, “I bet we’d make a pretty damn good team though. With the shit we’ve been learning, we could be unstoppable.”

            Just then, a lightbulb went off in Roxas’ head. “We would, wouldn’t we?”

            What Roxas didn’t know is that Mikeaus had just been there with a similar proposal. He wanted to unite the powers of the covenant with the Organization to create an even safer, more effective taskforce. He even gave the name of his personal successor—the new vampire prince—as a good candidate.

            “Well, little friend,” Xemnas says to the bobble head, “What do you think about this?” He reaches over and gives the Moogle a flick, and it’s head nods vigorously in perceived agreement. Xemnas chuckles, “Very well then.”

            He rises from his desk and reaches a hand over to crank the bobble head counter-clockwise. He approaches the wall to his right and gingerly moves the painting of a cityscape out of the way. A small chest-height slat has opened up, and when he touches his hand to it, it begins to glitter. Another slot opens up at eye-level and a bulb pops out to scan his retina. A door-sized piece of the wall moves backwards, then slides off to the side to reveal a dark room covered in soundproof foam, with velvet drapes hanging off the furthest wall. He enters the space, the doorway automatically slotting shut behind him.

            He walks forward and carefully ties back the drapes: revealing an ornate oval frame filled with inky blackness that is shiny like an oil slick, yet still somehow perfectly reflects the Superior’s visage on it’s surface.

            Channeling the words, Xemnas addresses the object with a booming voice, “ Slave in the magic mirror, come from the farthest space. ” An unknown wind kicks up in the room, rustling the curtains and fluttering through Number I’s cloak. “ Through wind and darkness, I summon thee. Speak, let me see thy face.

            Suddenly, as though the mirror had become a pane of glass, a face appears behind it amidst a burst of flames. It responds, “What wouldst thou know, Superior?”

           “Magic mirror on the wall,” Xemnas says, curiosity laden in his voice, “Show me Sora.”


 Exeunt


A/N: Aha… ahahaahhahahahaa so much for every two weeks! Jeebus my dears, I am so sorry, this chapter was a long time coming. I thought it would be best to post it now since new information on Kingdom Hearts 3 was just released and I’m super excited about it!

So, an explanation: the biggest delay on this chapter was my work and school schedule for the spring. I normally ride the bus to school, but my classes were taking place at a time that the bus was super packed instead of super empty like last semester, so I rarely got to sit. Even if I could sit, I don’t want people seeing me write fanfiction in public… awkward. I was also taking a bigger class load so I had a shit ton of homework AND had to work on top of that. There just wasn't enough time. Now, it’s summer though! Even though I have a lot planned this season, I want to set a daily writing quota for myself. I hope I can get back to posting at least every three weeks.

This chapter was a real doozy, mainly because I really had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I have a basic timeline for my story, but every now and again I have ideas and stuff changes. In fact, I wasn't even going to write this chapter initially. However, I feel like it’s going to be an important stepping stone for the rest of the story, and it would be wrong and awkward to try and shoehorn the information.

I was thinking about giving Sora a tattoo in the same place I have mine, but I don’t think an arm tattoo would work for something you’d want to hide. Haha! Please let me know if everything in this chapter makes somewhat sense, or if some details seem unclear. More stuff is yet to be revealed, I just want to be sure I’m telling the story in a way that people understand.

This is by no means my best chapter, but I hope it brings you some joy.

If you want updates and even exclusive previews of upcoming chapters, check out my tumblr! You can also ask me questions and help me with my writer’s block! Find it at mewsomniac . tumblr . com (keep in mind you must log in to view)

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone the use of drugs, illegal or otherwise! Especially if you’re not 21 or over! However, I can’t stop you from living your life, so I simply suggest you party responsibly. If you or anyone you know would like more (and honest) information PLEASE GO TO MY AUTHOR DESCRIPTION AND LOOK UNDER “ ADDITIONAL RESOURCES” . Be safe and stay hydrated!

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Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter XII: Caffeine Daydream


 

February 22nd, 2026

           The snow in Dusk City was unlike any other. Due to the mixed climate, it would fall towards the earth as heavy, delicate flakes that would dissolve before ever hitting the ground. The air was moist and cold, and the snow would fall silently, but no evidence of it touching the earth was ever apparent. It was a beautiful kind of phenomena that made the city that extra bit of unique.

           In a quiet part of the city, Roxas is waiting in an alley. Wedged between nightclubs and industrial districts, this particular area is very rarely traveled by most due to the many possible dangers. However, to an extent, XIII himself is the danger. There is no fear here. He’d propped himself up against the cold brick: watching in silence as the snow makes it’s futile journey down from the clouds, his breath twisting in short-lived puffs of mist. Tonight holds the kind of warmish chill that leaves little clouds of steam drifting from the cement, as if to meet the snowflakes halfway in their battle for winter dominance.

           Beneath the glow of a distant street lamp, he’s waiting patiently for Sora to arrive. The meeting spot was the vampire’s idea, of course, as all vampires know about the city’s discreet hideaways by heart. He can’t help but think about how the air is dank with salty fog, a reminder of the ocean forever lingering nearby. He wonders about Sora’s silence for the couple months prior—the vampire hadn’t even called to wish him a happy Yuletide or New Year—as well as the sudden urgency for them to meet. The texts and calls that did eventually come ere fraught with Sora’s apologies and reassurances, but still no true answer as to why the vampire was behaving in such a way.

           When Sora does finally show up, it is as if he emerges from the shadows themselves—completely soundless. He simply steps into the light, the snow falling in a circle around him, as if he’d been transported from another realm. When they see one another, they both freeze in place.

           When Sora looks at Roxas, the vampire knows something is different. The uncertain individual he’d know before has vanished; in his stead stands a confident, calculating man with not a single shred of fear or doubt in his eyes. It makes Sora’s heart jump, and something carnal inside of him stirs. He wants to see what this new XIII is capable of, wants to smell the confidence on his breath, wants to taste the desire on his teeth…

           Sora’s mouth waters, but he remains still.

           Neither of them really know what to say, the silence hanging between them like a curtain of frost.

           Finally, Sora whispers, the mist of his breath quickly vanishing in the air, “Boo.”

           Roxas smiles, and it lights up Sora’s heart like the sun does the east. “Hi,” He responds, “I missed you.”

           Then there’s no space between them, and Sora’s arms are around him, and he is being pulled into a deep kiss. Roxas can feel a change in the air, an energy thrumming around them that hadn't been there before: an electric current lacing their molecules like a million tiny wedding knots. He kisses back.

           “I missed you so much.” Sora says, breaking away but coming back just as quickly.

           Their mouths part, their tongues meld, and Sora presses XIII fully against the cool brick. Lips are bitten, hair becomes interlaced in fingers, and mist drifts heavenward… as do moans, and sighs, and gasps.

           Without notice, Sora unlatches himself from Roxas and turns XIII around to face the wall.

           “What are you—”

           Sora’s breath comes hot and heavy to his ear, “I can’t help it… I need you.” The vampire's hands slide across his torso and down his hips. “Right here, right fucking now. ” Sora tongue slips along his earlobe, and the combined sudden warmth leading to a subsequent chill gives him goosebumps.

           “What if someone walks by?” XIII asks as a logical courtesy, eager for the vampire’s advances anyway.

           “You can turn us invisible, right? And if it comes down to it, I can always Glamor someone into forgetting what they saw.”

           Roxas bites his lip. There’s no way he can maintain invisibility under these circumstances… but in all honesty, he could not give a fuck. He’s just as desperate for Sora as Sora is for him.

           Roxas whispers, “We have to be fast...”

           But Sora is already bunching up the cloak around Roxas’ waist. XIII’s hands go to his pants to undo the button and zipper; glancing over his shoulder, he sees the vampire is holding a condom packet by the corner between his teeth as he works to undo his own pants.

           Suspicious, Roxas asks wryly, “Were you planning this?”

           Confidently, Sora smiles and talks around the packet. “I wanted to be prepared. Plus, it’s an easier clean-up.”

           XIII really can’t argue with that, so he plants his hands against the wall and awaits what’s next. Sora tears the package open and rolls the condom on with expert ease, being mindful to keep his manhood warm against the winter chill, and spits onto himself a few times as makeshift lube. He rubs a few sweet circles around Roxas’ hole with his spit covered fingers, probing inward.

           “You don’t need to finger me.” Announces Roxas, “I’m ready.”

           Sora chuckles, “Were you planning this?”

           XIII rolls his eyes. Of course, he has been preparing himself with every masterbation session for when a time like this arrived, but… “Maybe not this exactly…”

           Rubbing his cock against Roxas’ entrance, Sora gently eases forward; slipping carefully a little in, out, and back in to make sure it’s comfortable for XIII. Roxas bites his lip again, this time to keep from making any loud noises, while wishing Sora would just plunge completely inside him.

           The tight heat of Roxas’ insides wrapped around Sora’s dick in contrast to the cold winter air, combined with the thrill of being out in the open, leaves the vampire’s head spinning. Still, he doesn’t want to give XIII too much too fast… he wants to draw it out for as long as he can. Gripping XIII’s hips with one hand and part of his cock with the other, he continues his small, torturous movements. Roxas, desperate for fullness, keeps trying to back his hips into Sora’s, and the vampire delights in the little whines that emanate from the blond’s throat.

           When Sora is completely inside of Roxas, the blond growls at him. “Hard and fast.” The vampire only hums in response, so XIII looks back at him. “Fuck me hard and fast.

           No desperation, no whining, just pure confidence—perhaps a tinge of dominance? Sora drinks it right up, a wide grin cracking his face. He pulls himself out… and thrusts in forcefully. Then again, and again, faster and harder every single time. Roxas’ gloved hands grip tight into the brick, and Sora knows for a fact his lover is making that delicious ecstasy-ridden face. Reaching forward with one hand, the vampire’s fingers drift across Roxas’ cheek. His middle and index finger find XIII’s parted lips and slip between them, creating extra leverage for his thrusts. Roxas laps happily at the digits invading his mouth, moaning around them.

           Leaning forward, and doing his best to multitask, Sora unzips Roxas’ coat down to the end of his breastbone. Then, he grips it and yanks it over: exposing Roxas’ neck to the cold. Using the fingers in Roxas’ mouth, he turns XIII’s head away as his lips meet the exposed skin. He sucks and licks the space, barely waiting to plunge his teeth into the flesh and slurp the blood from the raw wounds. He can’t help the guttural moan that escapes him as the flavor of all that is divine coats his tongue and throat. He starts fucking XIII faster, having to remove the fingers from Roxas’ mouth to grab the blond’s a hip as his other holds the cloak in place for optimal feeding.

           Meanwhile, Roxas is beyond desperate to be touched. He bites the tip of a gloved finger and slips his hand out from the glove. He’s worried that his rock-hard member will shrink away once fully exposed to the cold, but is pleased to find that between his grip and Sora’s fervent behavior, his dick is completely fine. He begins stroking himself rapidly, almost violently. The precum drips in long milky strings down to the pavement below as Sora fucks and sucks his own way to pure bliss.

           In fact, bliss has just about arrived for the vampire. The combination of stimuli and how desperately he’s longed for Roxas has reached a crescendo in his body, and he unloads—hot, heavy, and thick—into the condom. Since Roxas hasn’t cum yet, he does his best to keep thrusting despite the white hot mix of pain and pleasure that continues to milk him of his ejaculate—and what seems like his soul? It’s quite possible with how wrenching the sensation is. The blond tightens around him suddenly, and there’s a cry through clenched teeth as Roxas orgasms as well: globs of cum splashing against the brick in a seemingly endless flood of pleasure from his cock.

           Pulling himself out, Sora’s body twitches as he flops his back against the brick; trying desperately not to completely fall over. They both stay there, exposed and panting for a few long seconds... before they remember they’re still technically in public. XIII quickly wipes his hand on his briefs before putting his glove back on and fixing his pants. Sora haphazardly discards the heavily-filled condom, knotting it off and flinging it Goddess-knows-where, before he also goes to fix his pants.

           Roxas casts a brief healing spell, and the wounds close up in a few seconds. Sora notices there’s still a little blood on the blond’s collarbone, so he pulls Roxas into him to gently lick it away. Roxas giggles a bit, and Sora mutters into his neck. “This is a pretty potent spell. That bite healed really fast.”

           “Is it?” XIII responds, “It’s just one that Marluxia taught me. I didn’t realize how powerful it was.”

           The vampire pulls away and the two make eye contact, a pleased look on both of their faces. Sora says, “It’s fucking cold. Coffee?”

           Roxas only nods, and they wobble their glowing selves elsewhere.


 

           They decided to wash up and sit at a nearby diner to escape the quickly worsening weather. 24-hour establishments are almost always busy and typically filled to the brim with nightwalkers, but this particular one was actually very quiet. They’d both assumed it was because of a concert going on in the area, which was sucking up all the local business like a black hole of rumbling bass. Once the show got out, the diner would certainly be stuffed with patrons and their severe cases of post-show munchies.

           With Sora’s help, Roxas ordered an Irish Coffee; the vampire got something similar with blood instead of cream, which they called an Irish Batty. Roxas finds it to be a little gross, but says nothing about it for the time being.

           As they catch up, Sora finds himself disappointed—almost repulsed, in fact—by the drink he’s politely sipping. Normally he loves all forms of blood beverages, especially as far as coffee goes, but something about it tastes sub-par. He ponders if it could be lackluster brewing, quality of blood, maybe even brand of whiskey… there’s a richness lacking there, a complexity of flavor completely missing from the—

           “Sora?” Roxas’ voice snaps the vampire out of his daze, “You okay? You’ve been taking a really, really long sip of your drink.”

           The vampire notices what he’s doing and quickly puts the glass mug down. “Ah, sorry… something about it tastes weird to me.”

           Roxas cocks an eyebrow, “As weird as blood and coffee can taste, I’m guessing.”

           “If you ever become a vampire and need your morning fix, I promise you won’t be complaining much then.”

Chuckling, XIII twists his own mug between his palms, looking down into the creamy mixture as if reading the foam for guidance. “Listen… if we really are going to do this… if we really are going to team up… there’s something I need to ask you.”

           “Shoot,” Sora replies, taking a begrudging gulp of his Irish Batty.

           “On the field, I want you to promise you won't use your glamor. Not unless our lives are on the line.”

           The vampire chokes a little on the thick liquid, stifling a surprised cough. “Wh… What?

           “I mean it, Sora. I’ve been really thinking about it... if we rely on it too much, neither of us will be able to get stronger. And what happens when word gets out that we have mind control at our advantage? Who knows what the consequences of that will be? When we need it, it’ll be our ace in the hole. Nobody will be expecting it.”

           Sucking in an unsure breath of air, Sora contemplates this. Roxas does have a very fair point: if they rely on his glamor too much they won't get very far with improving their new abilities. If they run into a situation where he can’t glamor anyone, they could be pretty fucked.

           “...okay.” The vampire says, “I’ll save it for tough situations—”

           “ Dire. ” Roxas corrects him, jabbing a finger in his companion’s direction.

           “... Dire situations. I promise.” Roxas thanks him, and Sora adds, “Now, onto more important matters.” The vampire fishes around in his knapsack and pulls out a holotablet. “I got my bureaucratic privileges back, so I’ve spent these last couple months doing some digging.” He hands the device to Roxas, beaming. “Happy belated Yuletide.”

           XIII is completely astonished, and he gingerly takes the device from Sora’s hands, treating it more like a fragile piece of glass than sturdy tech. “Is this…?”

           The vampire prince nods, “Your brother is a tricky man to find.”

           Feeling a sudden anxiousness grip him, Roxas powers the holotablet on and a hovering screen appears before him. He flicks through the digitized paperwork, warily scanning each page. “No photos?”

           “Either he or somebody else didn’t want him found. It looks like someone went in and removed the major information on him that could lead to his whereabouts or identification: photos, adresses, whatever. His taxes are up-to-date somehow, but there’s no real info attached to them.”

           XIII peers at him through the hologram, “How can someone be on and off the grid at the same time?”

           “That is an excellent question. I think we should go ask him ourselves.” Roxas gapes at him in unsure silence, so Sora continues. “The last lead I got was through his changed name: Strife.”

           Roxas scoffs, Strife, huh? That’s so Cloud.

           “There’s hundreds of different results for ‘Strife’ across various files, people, places, social profiles… but there’s only one Strife if you look for Zack Fair. Our mystery man is a dishonorably discharged Shinra veteran, who died a little while after your mom. There isn’t much information on him either… except a few things. Out of all the jobs he’s worked since his discharge, I found this.” He reaches forward and taps an application icon, and a website for a restaurant and bar comes up.

           “It’s just a restaurant.” Roxas says.

           Sora shakes his head, “That’s what I thought too, so I started looking for more information on the website itself. Wouldn’t you know, the phone number is the same…” He flicks to another webpage, “...as this?”

           Throat tightening, Roxas reads the website title over and over again in his head.

            Strife Delivery Service.

           “On your brother’s taxes, there are a bunch of business forms filed… but it’s all registered as self-employed.”

           “Which would make sense for a delivery service.”

           Sora nods, “It could just be a crazy coincidence… but it’s worth checking out at least.”

          “Sora, I… I don’t know how to thank you...”

           “It’s fine, Rox—”

           But Roxas is already clamoring out of the booth and over to him, melding his lips against whatever exposed skin is prevalent on Sora’s face, whispering his gratitude with every breath.


           Sora isn’t sure what he should feel as they ascend the stairs. After all, it’s been quite some time since he last stepped foot in the Sierra Octavia apartments, and they’ve both come a long way since then. Moreover, he realizes that he’s never actually scaled these stairs before, and approaching Roxas’ apartment door for the first time feels pretty surreal. Still, as strangely terrifying as this is, it’s important to Roxas; so he tries to walk with as much confidence as he can.

           The door unlocks, and XIII opens it to reveal the living room of the apartment, which was until now a mystery to Sora. Sitting inside are two lanky men playing video games and a petite woman doodling in an armchair.

           “I’m home,” Roxas calls, “And I brought a friend.”

           Nearly in unison, all eyes lock onto Sora and he feels himself shirking under the attention.

           “H-Hi. I’m Sora—”

           Roxas’ roommates scramble over to the door, wildly beckoning him inside, introducing themselves, and directing him to have a seat on the couch. Namine practically flings herself into the kitchen, saying something about fixing tea, as Axel and Demyx shove a controller into Sora’s grasp. They ask Sora all sorts of probing questions in between instructions for the game they’re playing and Sora does his best to keep up with the torrent of information. Eventually Namine returns with tea, and Sora’s cup is a significant shade of crimson in comparison to the others. When Roxas questions her about it, she happily tells him that she’s had this special blend since XIII’s initiation; foreseeing a possible future meeting with Sora and choosing to be prepared.


 

February 23rd, 2026

           Outside the apartment, Roxas stares down at his phone, a knot forming tightly in his stomach. The time reads 10:37 am, and a number is dialed out on the screen... but his hand hovers uncertainty over the call button. Sora watches from over his shoulder, trying to come up with worlds of encouragement but unable to decide on the right ones.

           “What if it’s not right?” Roxas says, “And I mean… what if someone else found him? You seemed to do it pretty easily after a little digging. What if we’re too late? What if—“

           “Roxas,” The vampire interrupts. “Call the number.”

           The blond pauses for a long second… then taps the call button. He puts it on speaker so Sora can hear, and they listen to the line ringing with bated breath. Roxas is in the middle of wondering whether or not someone will answer when a woman’s voice resonates from the phone.

           “Hello! 8th Heaven Restaurant and Bar! How may I help you?”
           Startled a little bit, Roxas sputters. “Hi, uh… I’m actually looking for Cloud. Cloud Strife?”
          There’s a hesitation… then, “I’m sorry, he just left to make a delivery. May I ask who’s calling?”

           After swallowing hard he says, “This is his younger brother, Roxas. I’ve been looking for him—” There’s an abrupt sound of something shattering, and Roxas’ heart jumps. “Ma’am?! Are you okay?!”

           There’s a pause, but both men can just barely detect shuddering breath on the line. “Oh… oh shit!” There’s a slight commotion in the background before they hear what sounds like glass scraping along wood. “I’m sorry, I just… is it really you, Roxas? It can’t be, you’re… but they never confirmed… oh shit, this is a mess…”

           “I promise, it really is me. I’m not sure how I can prove it to you, and I don’t know if you’ll believe me… but I have to see my brother.”

She takes a few deep breaths. “Listen, judging by the way he was acting this morning I’m not sure when Cloud will be back. If you are who you say you are, then please come over here as soon as you can.”

           “I’m heading there right now, actually.”

           “Good. I’ll be ready for you, one way or another. Also, I’ll try calling Cloud, but I don’t think he’ll answer. There’s a lot we need to talk about.”

           “What was your name?”

           “I’m Tifa. I’ll see you soon… Roxas.”

           The line goes dead.


 

            Outside 8th Heaven, Cloud kicks down the side stand of his motorbike and latches his helmet onto the front.

           A voice from behind him asks, “Are you absolutely sure about this? It sounds like Tifa hates me… she wasn’t exactly thrilled to meet me the first time.”

           “A little too late to back down now, Leon. Like I said, I’m sure once she gets to know you a little more and sees there’s nothing to worry about, she’ll warm up to you.”

           “Except she has everything to worry about.” Leon corrects him, swinging himself off the bike and putting his borrowed helmet down.

           “She doesn’t need to know that, she just needs to be put at ease. I promise it’ll make everything easier in the long run.”

           Cloud is a long-time friend and confidant, but the blond had questionable intentions for his mercenary status. Leon didn’t mind helping him, and they made a surprisingly good team, but this whole working in the shadows thing was becoming more of a pain than it was worth. It was hard to get anything done with Cloud leading a double life. Leon, whose birth name is actually Squall Leonhart, shows his disdain by pinching his brow.

           Cloud sighs, “Don’t pinch your brow at me, Squall.

           “Don’t call me Squall, Highwind .”

           The blond glowers at him, and Leon sighs. “I’m sorry. Look, you and I both know that you’re better off just telling Tifa the truth. No more sneaking around, no more lies, no more bullshit. If she has a problem, that sucks because it’s your life . Not hers.”

           “And not yours either.” Cloud adds, “Please, Leon. I know it seems ridiculous but I can promise you this is the best way I can deal with this situation right now. Just help me.”

           Leon groans in exasperation, “ Fine. But you owe me.”

           They approach the door, and Cloud notices the neon holosign is set to Closed instead of Open. A strange sensation creeps into him, and he suddenly feels the need to make sure Tifa is okay. Hurriedly, he pulls the door handle and it barely begins to creak open when Tifa comes barreling toward him from inside.

           “Cloud, I’ve been calling you nonstop! Why didn’t you answer your phone?”

           “I just—uh, what’s going on?”

           She ushers them in, seemingly innocuous to Leon’s presence. “You’re not going to believe me, but…”

           A voice drifts from the dining room, “Cloud?”

           His eyes move to where a young man clad in a cloak is standing. Completely taken aback, Cloud finds the man looks almost exactly like his little brother. He looks to Leon and Tifa, making absolutely sure they too can see the figure; finding himself unsure as to whether or not it’s an apparition that’s come to haunt him.

           “There’s no way.” He says, finally. “There’s no way it’s you. Roxas… Roxas is…”

The young man walks to him and reaches behind his neck with both hands. He then pulls a silver chain from out of his cloak and holds it in the air between them: the silver X shining in the morning light. Cloud has flashbacks to their childhood, the tears coming for the first time in ages, and he knows that it really is his little brother.

           “I’m here.” Roxas says, choking up, “I finally found you.” Cloud closes the space between them and scoops him into a crushing hug as they both release their tears. “You said you’d come back—“

           “ I did .” Cloud sobs into him, “I did, I came back for you but…” He pulls away, “Roxas, they think you’re dead. They said you killed yourself . You left a note and everything.”

           Shocked, Roxas can’t help but laugh. “They thought it was a suicide note? Actually, that doesn’t surprise me… those fucking people will blow anything out of proportion.”

           Cloud can’t help but laugh as well, “I was skeptical too… but dad… Cid, seemed pretty convinced. I didn’t know what to think.”

           “Wait, you talked to dad? Did you go to Twilight Town?”

           “I came to pick you up the day after your high school graduation. I promised I’d come back for you, didn’t I?”

           Roxas laughs, but those laughs quickly turn into sobs, “I can’t believe it… this whole time, all I had to do was wait. And I can’t believe you had to go through that… I’m so sorry.”

           Cloud hugs him again, “No apologies. I should have tried harder, but I’m just glad you’re alive and okay. How did you find me?”

           They break apart finally, Roxas pocketing the necklace and beckoning Sora, who was politely facing away from the scene, to come over. Sora looks to Cloud, but his gaze quickly snaps to Leon (who is also politely turned away) and he fumbles for his necklace. He slips it underneath his shirt, total disbelief etched on his features, both of which Roxas finds odd.

           “This is Sora. He’s my partner, and part of the local vampire covenant.” Leon’s head swivels to them, and Cloud seems surprisingly impartial. “He helped me track you down, and we found out what… happened to mom.”

           Collectively, the aforementioned three sag their shoulders in a somber manner.

           “Say no more,” Cloud sighs, “I figured you’d want to talk about that.”

           “Cloud,” Leon comes to him, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but maybe I should head out. I don’t know if you want me here for this.”

           The older blond crosses his arms, looking warily at the floor. “Actually, Leon… maybe it’s finally time.”

           Leon puts his hands on his hips. “Is this you officially admitting I’m right?”

           Pretending he didn’t hear him, Cloud says, “Everybody, sit. Tifa, let’s make some coffee.”

           Tifa mutters under her breath about having a blood packet somewhere and zips off to the kitchen. Cloud tails her as the remaining three sit down at a large table.

           “Sorry,” Roxas says to Leon, “I don’t think I caught your name.”

           “It’s Leon.” Sora makes a sour face at this, and Leon spots it out of the corner of his eye. “I’ve been Cloud’s friend for a long time now.” Squinting his eyes at the vampire, he lowly asks, “Do I know you from somewhere?”

           Sora, refusing to make eye contact, responds, “Nope, and I’d definitely remember it if you did.”

           Unconvinced, Leon responds, “... right.

Cloud and Tifa return shortly with trays of coffee-filled mugs, creamer, and sweeteners, then get the drinks situated around everyone. As Cloud sits, Roxas dumps creamer into his mug and his older brother nudges him.

           “Shit, kid, you want some coffee with that creamer?” They share a knowing giggle.

           Tifa asks Sora, “Does yours taste alright? We don’t get many nightwalkers, so I don’t have much blood on hand.”

           Sora takes a swig and nods, “It’s a little stale, but it’s just fine. Thanks so much!”

           Looking over the table, Cloud observes as everyone gets comfortable. The scene is an odd mixture of casual comfort and dread: like getting drinks before a funeral reception. He soaks up the last seconds of peace before he speaks, choosing to rip the bandaid clean off.

           “Leon’s been helping me find the Necromancer.”

           There’s a quick breath of shock, and Tifa slams a fist down onto the table—everybody shrinks away in surprise. Roxas is astonished she didn’t smash it with the intensity of her strike. “I knew it! Cloud, I was really hoping you were doing something else… anything else… I was even hoping you’d gotten back into the mercenary business...”

            ‘Mercenary business?’ Roxas thinks, casting a bemused glance at his brother.

Tifa continues, “But the Necromancer?! Are you completely out of your mind?!”

           “Who is ‘the Necromancer’?” Roxas asks.

           “Roxas—” Tifa starts, but Cloud cuts her off.

           “He murdered mom.” Looking down into his mug, he growls through clenched teeth, “He ripped her and Zack to fucking pieces , and they didn’t leave me a single clue to find him.”

           “They did it for a reason, Cloud,” Tifa says, “They knew you’d go after him, so they left you out of the loop on purpose. You have to understand—”

           “So what?” Cloud’s voice is low, “You’re suddenly the expert in all of this? Do you have any fucking idea how painful this whole thing has been for me? I lost my entire family in only a few years.”

           Tifa stands, hot tears rushing down her cheeks. “I’m your family too, you fucking idiot! You think this hasn’t been hard for me? Seeing how badly you’re hurting, but you won't let me help you no matter how much I try?! Living with your sorry ass every single day hasn’t been easy, you know?! I feel like I’m your mother, lecturing you on sneaking out and hanging out with weird guys!” She wipes her face, “Did you ever think that maybe I just want to be there for you? That I care about you because you’re the only family I have left?!”

           The room is covered with a heavy, uncomfortable fog of silence. Time seems to sit still, the only motion coming from everyone’s breathing and Tifa’s tears hitting the table.

           Quietly, Roxas shatters the fog with “I’ll do it.” All eyes turn to take in his determined face. “You don’t have to do it anymore, Cloud. I’ll find the Necromancer.”

           “Between the two of us,” Sora cautiously adds, “I think we’ve got a pretty decent chance.”

           Cloud shakes his head, “I was wondering why you were wearing an Organization uniform. After all...”

           “I help source their weapons.” Leon finishes.

           Tifa’s face twists in disgust, “You two—”

           “Tifa, wait,” Roxas interjects, “I know you’re upset at Cloud for doing this but… then you should be mad at me too. The reason I left Twilight Town and joined the Organization is  because I needed answers and I wanted to get stronger. I wanted to be able to fight my own battles, and solve my own problems. I think…” His eyes water, but his voice is somehow unwavering. “I think that’s just who we are because of my mom.”

           Tifa’s face softens suddenly, as if struck by a forgotten memory. The tears come back to her, and she covers her mouth with a hand. They can just barely hear her mumble, “That’s right. Aerith…”

           Abruptly, Leon stands, “It sounds like we all have a stake in this, whether we realize it or not. I say we stop trying to do this on our own. Let’s start working together.”

           Sounds of agreement circle the table, but Tifa remains silent.

           Cloud says to her, “You can help us, Tifa. You and I both know how strong you really are.”

           Holding out her palm, Tifa looks down at it and makes a stiff fist. Softly, she asks, “How much do you trust Leon?”

           As if on cue, the men lock eyes, and Sora immediately recognizes the look on their faces: trusting, caring, loving…

           “With my life,” Cloud breathes, and Leon cracks a smile.

           “Oh my Goddess …” Sora says under his breath, and Roxas raises an eyebrow at the vampire.

           “Roxas, I know you wouldn’t have brought Sora here if you didn’t trust him as well.” She sighs before crossing her arms in consideration and sitting back down. “...what information do you guys have so far?”

           Leon nods to Cloud who nods back, and the older blond gets out of his seat to journey upstairs. He returns a moment later with a large holotablet, which he powers on and sets in the middle of the table. Within a few seconds, he’s flipping through files in the air between them.

           “Some of the only information I ever got from mom and Zack was the nickname of the man they were after: The Necromancer. Supposedly, he’s been the cause for a lot of chaos across the globe, but nobody has been able to track him. He’s always one step ahead of anyone who tries to find him… from the records we’ve gathered, mom and Zack were the only ones who got close, which is why they were murdered.” He sighs heavily, “They never told me why they were after him. They never kept documents of their progress, they never talked about what they found… I only ever found out two things: his nickname, and his signatures.”

           “Signatures?” Roxas questions.

           Cloud pulls up an image of an ancient-looking parchment, which is scrawled upon with some old-world tongues. The page is signed with a very specific symbol .

           “It’s one of the only consistent clues we’ve been able to find,” Leon adds, “We’ve also found other documents referencing his work, but it’s all over the place. We just can’t seem to pinpoint where he is. But wherever he goes, whatever havok he causes, he leaves the same thing to signify he’s been there.”

           Cloud pulls up a series of photos, each with an identical alchemic circle. They range from neoclassical paintings, to illustrations, to grainy photographs, to crime scene pictures—spread completely across time and location.

           Sora speaks up, “How do you know it was the same person who killed your mother?”

           There’s a brief pause. “Sorry, Roxas,” Cloud mutters as he scrolls through the pictures. “We did a little… illegal digging around… and lifted these from a police report.” The pictures quickly become more gruesome; Tifa looks away in discomfort and Roxas recognizes the photoset, his stomach turning. As quickly as he can, Cloud chooses a photo where a scrawl of gore is next to Aerith’s body. Dacă mă cauți pentru mine, vei fi următorul is inscribed in blackish blood above the same symbol as before.

           Leon says, “As soon as I saw the picture, I knew it was Romanian.”

           “ ‘If you’re looking for me, you’ll be next’ .” Sora translates.

           Cloud nods solemnly, “When we started looking for the symbol, we began finding these documents. From there, we found that circle.” He pulls up side-by-side images of the symbol embedded in several areas of the circles.

           “Sorcerers and spellcasters haven’t used custom alchemic circles for hundreds of years, I’ve been told it completely fell out of fashion after the Witch Wars.” Sora says, tapping his chin. “And those symbols… this guy must have been around for ages. Why was your mom after him?”

           Leon sighs, “That’s where the trail keeps running cold. We have an idea of who this guy is and what he does, but that’s it. That’s all we’ve been able to find. I’ve even tried getting closer with the Organization to see if I could get any information from them, but I’ve gotten nothing so far.” He regards Roxas, “At least… not until today.”

           Roxas shakes his head, “I’m still a spark—er, a novice. I asked for Sora’s help because I’m still too new for them to trust me with information like that.”

          Sora crosses his arms, “Still, at least now we have a place to start. I think I know a guy who can give us some more information on the Necromancer.”

          XIII asks, “Can you send me all of this?”

          As they exchange contact information, Roxas can’t help but ask, “So… you’re a mercenary?”

          Cloud looks away and Roxas can see Tifa hanging her head in shame. “It hasn’t been a pretty side gig, but yes.”

          “It hasn’t been pretty for any of us,” She adds.

          “You do what you gotta to survive.” Leon says.

          Roxas asks, “All these years… Cloud, what’s been going on?”

          Cloud takes a deep breath. “The day mom and I left, she told me that she had to tell dad a lie. The biggest lie she’d ever told: that I wasn’t his son.”

          A surge of pain wells up in Roxas’ body, yet all he can feel is relief. He knew deep down in his heart that Cloud was his true brother by blood and soul, no matter how much his father chose to say the opposite.

          Cloud goes on to explain that it was the only way their mom could get him moved out of the house without being fought by their father. She didn’t want to leave Roxas, but she thought for sure that their father would give up custody of his younger son in the face of single parenting. Instead, it only stoked the fires beyond their imagination. She lived and worked with Tifa’s mother and Zack at 8th Heaven, which was built in Dusk City after the original restaurant—7th Heaven—collapsed in Midgar. Aerith decided she would keep trying to contact Roxas, and when he turned 18 and graduated highschool, they would come get him. Then, Aerith was murdered, Zack soon followed, then Tifa’s mother died… so, hurting for cash, they turned to the mercenary business. Cloud didn’t meet Leon until after Tifa quit to keep the bar afloat, and Cloud made Tifa assume he quit too since the business had fortunately become stable.

         “All this time,” Roxas says, “I thought mom just abandoned me. I thought you both gave up on me.”

         “I can’t honestly blame you for feeling that way. Dad made it impossible to get in contact with you, and it’s not like anybody else in the town was willing to help us either. We tried everything short of showing up at the house… but mom knew how dangerous that would have been for all of us.”

          Roxas chuckles, “She had a strange concept of danger if she wouldn’t come back to get me, but decided to go after this mysterious Necromancer.”

         “That’s why this whole thing has been such a damn mess,” Cloud admits, “What reason could she possibly have to pursue him? What secret did she have to keep to protect us?”

         “Maybe…” Tifa hazards a guess, “Maybe it was such a significant reason that it would have completely turned both your worlds upside down. I know it’s a given, considering who Aerith was… but maybe the pain of unanswered questions was less brutal in her eyes than the truth.”

          This deeply unsettles everyone in the room. Everyone has secrets… but is there truly one out there worth taking to such a violent grave? A wave of uncertainty rushes into the dining room, and suddenly each person begins questioning the value of this ambivalent quest.

          Standing, Roxas announces, “Well, mom isn’t here to tell us what we should do… so let’s just finish what we started. No more slowing down, no more questioning. Dilly-dally, shilly-shally.”

          A round of modest smiles grace the room, as do nods of agreement.

          Leon adds, “Can’t argue with that.”


 

          Sora and Roxas parted ways with the three and caught a SolurSaylr up to the Covenant mansion. On the way there, Sora was contemplating the situation aloud, and Roxas was trying really hard not to freak out. The excitement from finding his brother was still rattling around his brain, on top of the fact this will be the first time he’s ever visited the vampire mansion. It was all very stressful. Somewhat delightful, and especially worrying. Although it seemed the Covenant and the Org were on good terms, it felt somehow impolite to intrude on their turf with no warning; even the time King Mickey showed up to HQ was likely coordinated beforehand with the Superior. Sora must have noticed how rapidly Roxas’ heart was pounding because he stopped mid-contemplation to point out how rapidly Roxas’ heart was pounding.

         “It’s gonna be fine. Some of the other vampires may be a bit surprised, but they might also be totally stoked. We don’t get many visitors.” He trails his fingers through XIII’s hair, “You should pull your hood up, though. Vampires love a good mystery.”

          When they reach the wrought-iron fortress/mansion hybrid, Roxas was completely blown away. He was expecting big and bold, but this was massive and audacious. The SolurSaylr pulls up to the security box, and Sora rolls down the window to speak with the scowling attendant, known by his name tag as Kev. Unbeknownst to Roxas, Kev is actually pretty lucky to still have the same job on the property after the shit that went down many months ago.

          The gate creaks heavily open, and before he knows it, the car is pulling around the courtyard fountain. As they exit the vehicle and bid the driver farewell, Roxas almost feels like he’s in a horror film. The way the fortress leers over them, the burbling fountain glinting in the light, the giant maw of a door staring at them… it’s all pretty intimidating. Yet Sora eases him along, leading him up the short set of steps so the vampire can reach a glowing hand-scanning pad. The door unlocks, and Sora pushes it open to reveal a majestic foyer, completely drenched in black, white, and red; a double-sided staircase straddles the room, which is filled to the brim with busy vampires hustling to and fro. Some of them notice Sora and their faces light up.

          “Welcome home, Your Highness!” One chirps respectfully, which draws the attention of others.

          Sora glances around uncertainty at first, but then a look of realization crosses his face. “Oh! You’re talking to me! No need for formalities. Like, ever, if possible.”

          He hears someone mutter, “That cloak…”

          “Who’s your friend?” Another asks.

          “This is XIII.” He gestures to Roxas, grinning, “He’s in the Organization.”

         Much to Roxas’ chagrin, this small group of curious vampires starts clamoring to speak with him.

          “Are you really a spellcaster?”

          “Show us some real magick!”

          “What’s your pay like?”

          “Sick clothes!”

          “Who makes your coats?”

          “Can you put a hex on someone for me?”

          Sora’s voice cuts through the chatter, “Hey, hey, hey! We have important business to do, so everybody calm down! Besides, this isn’t the last time you’ll see him… after all,” Sora pulls Roxas in by the waist, pressing his face close and flashing a mischievous look to his compatriots, “He’s my lover.

          The fuss ceases for a long second… but then it quickly starts again as now the group is freaking out over this new information. Sora leads Roxas through the chattering crowd, waving them off dismissively, and brings him down one of the many hallways branching off from the foyer.

          “Seems like you caused quite the fuss,” Roxas laughs. “Was that totally necessary?”

          “I thought it’d be funny. I was right. They’re gonna be gossiping about it for weeks. Vampires tend to eat that shit up, it gives their unending lives a little extra pizazz. What kind of prince would I be if I didn’t bring a little whimsy to my subjects’ lives?” Sora guffaws at himself.

          Eventually, they reach an impressively tall cherry wood door with a tall man standing before it.

          “Hey!” Sora calls, “Riku!”

          Said lycanthrope responds simply, “Yo.”

          Sora feels incredibly proud because he’s made it up to 30 words with Riku as of late, which is amazing progress in his eyes. Confidently, he gestures to Roxas. “Riku, you remember Roxas. I know you guys haven’t formally-formally met, what with two times you being a werewolf and the other… well, you know.”

          Roxas pulls his hood off sheepishly, “Hi… Riku.” He gestures to the wereman’s scar. “Look, I’m still really sorry about—”

          “Roxas. It’s okay. I know you didn’t do it on purpose. Are you wearing the necklace now?”

          “Oh, um… no, it’s in my pocket, actually.”

          The silver-haired man leans down suddenly and pulls Roxas into a gentle hug. Completely taken off guard, Roxas only freezes up under the contact.

          “Thank you,” Riku says, “For making me realize what’s most important to me.”

          “Uh… you’re welcome?” XIII replies politely, stiffly giving the man a gentle pat on the back.

          Riku releases Roxas, and turns to Sora. “I know you’ve been counting the words I’ve said to you.”

           Make that 41. Sora shrugs, “Kind of hard not to.”

          Riku then grabs the vampire by the shoulders and pulls him into his side. “I’ll forgive you for running off if you forgive me for the cold shoulder.”

          Sora smiles, “It’s already forgiven!”

          “And no more secrets, alright? You’re like my brother. You don’t have to hide anything else from me. I can handle your bullshit, you know.”

          “Will do.”

          “Well, now!” A voice graces them from the hallway, and they turn to see the King approaching them, followed closely by someone else. “Glad to see you two are getting along again. And is that XIII I see?” He stops at the door to stand with the other three. Roxas notices the girl behind him has gorgeous ruby locks and striking indigo eyes, her pink dress clinging sweetly to all of her curves. “It’s good to see you again. I’m sorry I didn’t formally introduce myself, I have a penchant for the flighty and mysterious.”

          Roxas bows his head graciously. “It’s a pleasure to officially meet you, Your Majesty. My name is Roxas, but you can keep calling me XIII if you’d like.”

          “The pleasure is all mine, XIII.”

          “Hi there,” The girl coos at him, “I’m Kairi. It’s nice to meet you.”

          Roxas is so taken by her eyes, which have a similar swirl to Sora’s, that he barely registers her name. “N-nice to meet you.” He says, trying to sound as polite as possible despite how weird it feels talking to the woman who broke Sora’s heart. She only simpers at him, seemingly used to making men feel speechless.

          “Let’s step inside,” Mickey says, “Your message sounded urgent.”

          On their way to the mansion, Sora had called Mickey and left a disgruntled message when there was no answer. When he called Kairi, she didn’t answer either. Then, he called Riku to see if the King was in his study, and Sora’s word counter hit 29 when the werewolf answered with a single “no” before hanging up. He must have seemed frantic to all of them, because they all showed up at Mickey’s study to investigate.

          “How do you even open a door this big? It must be heavy.” Roxas says.

          Sora, Kairi, and Riku all roll their eyes as the King smiles with glee. “I’m so glad you asked!” He opens up the smaller door within the door, and Roxas gasps.

          “Wow, that’s amazing!”

          The King chuckles in a very unmodest manner, “It really is, isn’t it?”  They all step inside, XIII marveling at the room. “Now, then. What can I do for you fellows?”

          “We’re looking for someone,” Sora responds, “and I have a feeling you may be able to help us. Roxas?”

          XIII takes out his phone and within a few seconds pulls up the images Cloud showed them. He presents the device to Mickey, who takes it; a curious Kairi and Riku leering over his shoulders. His Majesty almost immediately recognizes the contents of the pictures, and he looks at Roxas with very serious eyes.

          “Where did you find this information?”

          “Through my brother. We have evidence that this man, The Necromancer… murdered our mom and her friend. They got really close to tracking him down.”

          The King lets out a long sigh. “I can assure you, this is no mere man. His name is said to be lost in time, and he goes by hundreds of different monikers.”

          “What, is he Rumplestiltskin or something?” Sora asks.

          “If he were, perhaps it would be easier to find him. How your mother was able to do it is beyond me... he’s like the boogeyman of history. You can find evidence of him everywhere, but he himself is a mystery.” He flicks through more of the photos, scrutinizing them as best as he can on the small screen. “Still, it seems that there’s a pretty detailed record of his activity here. I’m afraid there’s not much more information I could give you. I’m sorry.” Roxas takes the phone back, saddened but appreciative.

          “What can you tell us about personalized magick circles?” Sora asks.

          “It’s a type of magic called persona symbola . It’s very similar to carving magick, but significantly less powerful. In this case, you tailor your circle to your specific needs, or personality, typically using symbols in your name or that represent you. Then, you can seal the circle and use it as frequently as you please, but only you can use it.”

          “How can it be less powerful?”

          “It’s pretty much just a giant pain in the ass. Usually because there’s no one specific purpose for the circle, the magick becomes diluted to account for the variety of possibilities. The greater the variety of symbols and intentions you have for a circle, the less powerful it becomes. That’s why you’ll notice most magick and alchemic circles have very specific characters; it’s because you’re concentrating the influx of magick… kind of like holding a magnifying glass under sunlight.” The King shrugs, “That’s why it’s fallen out of fashion, it’s too much effort for too little of a return. The Necromancer must be using his as a signature more than anything else.”

          Roxas says, “Looks like we’ve gotta hit the books. Thank you for your time, Your Majesty.”

          Sora groans, “Well, back to square… whatever square this is.” Noticing Roxas looks a little crestfallen at their minimal progress, he slings an arm over XIII’s shoulders and begins leading him out of the study. “Come on, Roxas, I know what’ll cheer you up. Let me show you my room!”

          “I’m not sure if that—”

          “It’ll be great, I promise!”

          Riku and Kairi glance to the King, awaiting any orders. His Majesty waves them off, “I have some paperwork I need to file, I’ll be out shortly.” The two leave wordlessly, shutting the door behind them.

          Mickey drags his feet over to the chaise and slumps completely into it with a harried groan. He really hates lying to people, especially the ones he cares about, but it really is for the best. The Necromancer is too dangerous for anyone to go after alone, and he would know… he’s tried. He’s pursued the bastard for years, and had come close to death several times because of it. No matter what it takes, he can’t let them go after The Necromancer… not until they’ve become stronger, at least. Still, giving them a little nugget of information shouldn’t hurt… it took him fifty goddamned years to solve The Necromancer’s persona symbola circle himself.

          “One day,” He whispers to a distant memory, guilt anchored in his heart, “I will avenge you.”

          Then, he sighs wearily, mentally preparing himself for the difficult conversations he’ll have to have in the future.


 

          “Keep them closed! Are they closed?”

          “Yes, Sora, they’re closed…”

          “Good! Stay like that!”

          There’s a gentle creak (presumably as a door is being opened), a pause… and then a sudden mad commotion. There’s the sound of curtains being drawn, fabric rustling, a lighter clicking rapidly… Roxas isn’t sure what’s going on.

          “Uh…”

          “Keep them closed!” Sora shouts, his voice distant and the noises still going. “Almost… and… done! You can look now!”

          Roxas opens his eyes and takes in Sora’s room. The walls are all black, with a variety of different bookcases and display cases interlaid along the majority of it; all containing various books, baskets, and other miscellaneous items. Along the top part of the walls are what looks to be a sword from every possible era and location, ranging from rapiers to katanas. The floor is glossy dark wood, and a messy study sits against the opposite wall of Sora’s bed. Sora’s bed sits centered in a section of the wall atop a shaggy maroon carpet. The bedframe is iron, and the queen-sized mattress is wrapped in silky red bedding that looks suspiciously like it was just made. Heavy red drapes have been drawn over the massive windows, which would have enveloped the room in total darkness were it not for the scattered candelabras, tall and matching the bedframe, filling the room with a comforting glow.

          “This is romantic.” Roxas says playfully as he admires a ship in a bottle displayed nearby, “Why would you ever want to leave? Your room is awesome.”

          “Even the most interesting places can be suffocating. Put as much decor in a dungeon as you want, it’s still a dungeon…”

          Roxas crosses the floor to sprawl comfortably across Sora’s bed. He shoots a mischievous look at the vampire. “So, why did you really want to bring me to your room?”

          Wincing a little, Sora responds, “Was it that obvious?”

          XIII laughs, “You fucking lit candles.

          Sora makes his way over to Roxas; leaning over the blond, he grips XIII’s zipper and gently pulls it down to reveal a slit of warm skin down to Roxas’ navel.

          “I guess subtlety isn’t my strong suit.” Sora mutters, pushing the fabric aside to fully expose XIII’s chest. It’s the first chance he’s had to really take in the blond’s body, as their recent romps only left him with quick glimpses—flashbulb moments of detail with no time to admire. They were in such a rush to call 8th Heaven that they didn’t even get to really enjoy the morning together either. Roxas had become more lean, his muscles now defined and apparent within his flesh. Not nearly as ripped as Sora, but certainly on his way there. “You look great—” He stops himself, “Shit, no, you’ve always looked great… you look—”

          “It’s okay, Sora.” XIII chuckles, “I get what you’re trying to say.” Roxas pushes himself up, moving his hands to fuss at the vampire’s shirt. “And what about you? I barely got to see your new scar.” Working together, they remove the apparel and Roxas takes in the magic circle embedded on Sora’s ribs. “Does it hurt?”

          “Sometimes I get this prickling, burning feeling under it… the King says it’s just a side effect of the magic. Says he gets feelings like that sometimes.”

          “How many of these does he have?”

          “Well over forty.”

          “Holy shit. Do you think you’ll end up getting all of them?”

          “We’ll see. For now… what do you think?”

          With a ghost-like touch, Roxas traces his fingertips across the raised markings. “It’s… kinda sexy. Like a tattoo.”

          “That’s basically what I was going for.” Feeling sly, Roxas quickly leans forward and drags his tongue in a wet little spiral around the scar. Sora flinches away, laughing, before pushing Roxas back onto the bed. “Take off that damn coat, you little shit.”

          Roxas obeys, slipping the cloak off his shoulders and gingerly moving to place it in a safe heap on the floor. He resumes his position on the bed, curious to see what Sora’s next action will be. The vampire leans all the way down and gives Roxas a peck on the corner of his mouth, beginning a trail of gentle kisses across his cheek and down his collarbone. Without warning, Sora’s mouth drifts quickly down to take one of Roxas’ nipples between his lips. Roxas gasps as the vampire licks slowly around the nub, working on removing Roxas’ pants as he does so. The blond can’t help but squirm under the sensation, which is an odd mixture of pleasure and strangeness. Nobody, not even he, has played with his nipples before; with each suck and lick, an odd static seems to tingle across his body like a warm mist of delight. Without him even realizing it, Sora has his pants and underwear off and his mouth is moving again—this time in a steady path to his crotch.

          The vampire kneels down completely and suddenly, Roxas is filled with a sense of dread as he thinks about Sora’s fangs coming near his penis. The brunet catches his gaze and, seemingly able to read his expression of terror perfectly, chuckles.

          “Relax. You can trust me.”

          Sora’s breath is hot on his crutch, and Roxas realizes this will be the first time he’s ever actually received oral sex. His mind is slightly awash in panicked anticipation, but he does his best to will it away once he feels Sora’s tongue gliding along his shaft. The brunet works slowly, lovingly, up the length as if feeling around for sensitive spots. One hand holds Roxas’ dick in place as the other traces an index finger from his belly button down his happy trail. The vampire’s tongue laps over a spot that makes his dick involuntarily twinge, and Sora slips the blond’s member into his mouth. He works the length up and down, his tongue finding that spot over and over again whenever possible. Roxas practically shudders beneath the prolonged contact, not knowing these sweet sensations even existed for him. The more he reacted to certain stimuli, the more Sora would re-engage that pattern or those places; it left Roxas in a writhing pile.

          After a few more moments of bliss, Sora’s mouth pops off Roxas’ slick member and XIII can feel the vampire's hot breath tickling his inner thigh. One of Sora’s hands starts stroking his throbbing dick rhythmically, and in the haze he hears the vampire whisper “Sorry, Roxas… I can’t help myself...” There’s a sharp, tight pinch in his thigh—Roxas immediately recognizes the feeling. Sora laps and sucks the blood from the wound as he jerks the blond off, and Roxas’ conflicted brain is stuck between arousal and pain. Precum drips in a steady stream down his cock, and without thinking, he moans out.

          “Please fuck me .”

          Sora must have been teetering on the edge himself, because the brunet practically tears his own pants off, his manhood standing at full attention. He scrambles to grab a basket on the bookshelf closest to his bed, pulling out a bottle of lube. He starts slicking himself up when he pauses, looking down at Roxas in an unsure manner.

          “I—uh…” He mutters, and Roxas knows exactly what he means.

          “I don’t care,” Roxas responds, practically gasping, “Fuck me raw .”

          Not wanting to argue, and quite honestly completely on board, he reaches forward and presses two fingers gently—but quickly—into Roxas’ ass to lube it up. Roxas sucks in a quick breath of air, but the fingers are in an out in not much more than a beat. Within seconds, Sora is pulling Roxas’ legs up and easing himself in. When the vampire is fully inside, Roxas is about to reach for his own dick when he realizes Sora’s hand is already wrapping around it. The brunet begins thrusting, pumping Roxas’ cock in time with his thrusts. XIII begins gripping the sheets around him, his eyes already back in his head and the tip of his member drenched with precum.

          “I don’t…” He groans, “I don’t know how long I’ll last… like this…”

          Sora slows his pumping, but ups the pace of his thrusting. “Better?” He asks.

          Nodding, Roxas lets his eyes slide closed, doing his best to will away his quickly encroaching orgasm.

          Between breaths, he hears Sora chuckle. “I don’t think I can hold out much longer either…” He moans, “I want to fucking fill you up .”

          This sends an bolt of ecstacy through Roxas, and he opens his eyes to see Sora: eyes half-lidded, mouth agape, fangs out, breath escaping in ragged pants, the blood still trailing from his mouth, the scar, his body in the candlelight—

          Roxas cums. Hard.

          His mouth is wide open in a silent scream, and with each additional thrust more ejaculate comes spilling out of his pulsating cock. Like clockwork, Sora fills XIII up just like he wanted to, almost unwilling to stop thrusting as burst after burst of cum is unloaded inside the blond.

          There’s a long instance of stillness, both men holding their breath and relishing in the seconds of post-orgasmic bliss. Then, Sora pulls out—a bunch of ejactulate coming with him—and collapses on the bed.

          “I…” Sora mutters, “Literally… never want to stop fucking you. I am immortal, and I never want to stop fucking you. I want to spend my unending days buried inside you.”

          Laughing, Roxas responds, “Yes, okay, okay… fucking shit, should we wash your sheets? Is this real silk?”

          “Buried. Inside. You. Forever.”

          “Shut up, shut up…” He’s laughing harder, “We should rinse off. It’s still daytime.”

          “ Buried —”

          “Shut up. ” He’s descended into a giggling fit now, barely managing to ask “Where are your towels?”


 

          They shower in Sora’s wonderfully ornate bathroom, and after some serious effort also redress themselves. Roxas sits in Sora’s study chair as the vampire leans against the desk, calculating their next move.

          “We have no real leads still.” Sora says, “I feel like our next best step is helping your brother decipher The Necromancer’s circle, maybe do more research using the information we have. Then branch out from there.”

          “That works.” Roxas sighs, “I just feel like we’re missing something huge. Did that Leon guy say anything else before we left?”

          Sora scoffs, “Right. That guy.”

           There it is again, Roxas thinks. Sora keeps acting like he has some beef with this guy, and XIII has no idea what the hell his problem is.

          “Sora, what’s up with you and this Leon dude? You’ve been so weird about him this whole time.”

          Sighing almost melodramatically, Sora crosses his arms. “Roxas, your brother’s friend… his name isn’t actually Leon. His real name is Squall Leonhart. He decided to take his mother’s maiden name.”

Roxas shrugs, “So, he has an alias. It’s whatever, so do I.”

Sora takes a deep breath. “That’s not it, Rox. I’m going to tell you something I haven’t told anyone in many, many years.” Fixing his gaze to the floor, he continues, “My last name is Leonhart.”


Exuent


A/N: Hello all! Thank you for your continued patience. It seems if I’m not busy with school, I’m busy with work. Nevertheless, I promise I’ll continue to work hard on this story for you. All of your comments and praise makes me endlessly happy, and I’m so grateful so many of you are still reading!!!

Halfway through writing the second sex scene I realized THIS IS THE THIRD TIME I’ve written about a BJ in this EXACT POSITION. Due to my laziness, I will not be going back to fix it. But let’s be real, okay? This is one of the most comfortable ways to give head, at least in my experience. There’s no weird porno-esque feeling cuz the person isn’t standing, and it gives you plenty of options for maneuvering around. Try it yourself (if you’re over 18 and both parties consent, of course), you’ll thank me later.

If you want updates and even exclusive previews of upcoming chapters, check out my tumblr! You can also ask me questions and help me with my writer’s block! Find it at mewsomniac . tumblr . com (keep in mind you must log in to view)

References and Inspirations:

  • MORE ALCOHOL! Seriously, I have to be careful when I decide to drink while I’m writing because it makes it WAY too easy. The erotica just comes poruing from my fingertips. I finally understand the plight of alcoholic writers…
  • I know there’s a great debate as to why Squall’s last name is “Leonhart”, but the most accepted theory seems to be that it was Raine’s maiden name, so I’m sticking to that. Again, I’m taking a lot of creative liberties with the Final Fantasy stuff.

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Please please PLEASE favorite, follow, review, send kudos, add bookmarks… anything! They help me more than you can possibly know! Please keep sending them!

 

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter XIII: The Sharpest Lives


The 2000s

            Squall never knew his mother.

            At least… he never had a chance to.

            He did know that she was a skilled florist, her heart was full of love, and that she died giving birth to him. Sometimes, in his dreams, he would see his mother’s face, hear her voice, her gentle assurances… but that’s all he had of her. He always asked about her, but it seemed like the more he asked, the fewer answers he actually got.

            He knew she was a gentle, yet firm, person; always taking on greater responsibilities than were worth her time. He knew she had long flowing hair which was soft like the grassy hills of Midgar or the finest silks of Bikanel.

            He also knew the Leonhart name was haunted, as his grandmother (despite her growing dementia) would often lament the stories to him in her native Romani tongue. Once the family crest was changed, the predecessors of the name became haunted by a specter. While at first many of them thought it was a misplaced punishment for the horrible fate of their ancestors, they came to find the spirit was more protective than anything. The Ghost of the Leonharts was more like a guardian angel.

            Upon learning so much about this supposed guardian angel, Squall came to loathe it. What kind of cruel phantom would allow his mother to die before she was truly able to know her only son?

            His grandmother took ill and the young boy spent many years bouncing between the care of his family, absorbing their ghost stories and loathing them. None of them knew his father; many of them didn’t even know Raine was pregnant until she was already gone. She didn’t leave any way to contact his father either, so they all simply assumed she’d given up on the mystery man.

            Squall couldn’t stand the gall of his supposed family being so confident in their conclusions. One day, he’d be old enough to go out on his own and track down his father in demand of answers. This, despite his young age, he knew for certain. This one goal kept him going despite everything else.

            And where was the Ghost then? Still nowhere to be found. He’d gotten into his fair share of trouble in his youth, pushing his limits to draw the phantom out. He’d get into deadly scrapes, violent encounters, serious accidents… still, no guardian.

            One day, Squall’s hatred for the Ghost reached an angry crescendo, and in a boyish rage he did the unthinkable.

           If the ghost doesn’t come to me on it’s own, He thought, I’ll force it to.

            His first idea was to jump off a building, but he doubted even a specter could save him from such a gruesome fate. Oddly enough, the less brutal option to him was standing on a train track. At the last possible second he could leap away from the platform, narrowly missing the train. He waited at the nearest station, jittery with nervousness and fury all at once. When the train came warbling along in the distance, much to the horror of onlookers, he sprang onto the track.

            Of course, he realized his foolishness as soon as his feet touched down.

            The walls were too high for him to crawl out of, and when he went to make an exit his pant leg snagged on a jagged piece of metal. People were screaming at him, but he could barely hear them over the sound of the train barreling at him: brakes squealing, but completely unable to stop.

            He hoped wherever he went, he’d see his mom.

            But as he closed his eyes, a force unlike anything else ripped him from the ground. The wind was knocked out of him when his back hit something cold and firm. When he blinked back into reality, he was on the safety of the platform, looking up at the crowd and his savior.

            The man standing over him had piercing blue eyes, and wore the old crest of their family, just like the stories said.

            “Do not,” The Ghost hissed at him, piercing him down to his very soul, “ever do something like that again.

            Subconsciously, Squall committed to the instruction.

            “Why did you let her die?” The boy demanded.

            The pain of guilt washed over the Ghost’s features, and he knelt down to the boy. “I couldn’t save her. Nobody could. I’m sorry. I can’t ever ask for your forgiveness, but...” Their gazes locked, and Squall’s body froze as if taken by a windchill. “Forget this.” The phantom whispered, blue eyes twirling in a hypnotic spiral.

           No. I will remember, Squall said to himself, I won’t let myself forget.

            He focused everything he had into remembering the face of the Ghost… but the memory drifted suddenly, and even looking at the phantoms face distorted it in a way he couldn’t describe. Like someone used crayons to fill in the visage on a digital photo. Suddenly, he didn’t know why he was sitting on the local train platform with a dozen worried patrons clamoring over him. A fog had fallen over his mind, one that he recalled hearing about in stories from his family.

           The phantom…?

            Squall noticed a man easing his way through the crowd, and something about him seemed distantly familiar.

            “My Goddess. It really is you. Squall…”

            Squall responded, “How do you know my name?”

            The man pulled out his wallet and extracted a photograph of his mother.

            “A man brought me here to find you. My name is Laguna Loire. Your mother was my wife. You are my son.”

            Squall didn’t know his mother, but he also didn’t know that the Ghost of the Leonhart family did.

            The Ghost followed Squall’s grandmother from Romania to Dusk City, and watched over Raine as she grew up in the countryside. He protected her like many of the the other Leonharts, always willing their memories of the event away afterward. Her death came all too suddenly for him, and when he found out about it years later, he made it a personal quest to find the father of her child. He may not have been able to save Raine, but he was going to do his damndest to save Squall.

            Upon being reunited with his father, Squall realized that if this was the Ghost’s doing than maybe the Ghost wasn’t so bad after all. Not long after, this belief was solidified when he received a long, detailed letter about his mother’s life. For the very first time, between the letter and his father, he felt like he truly new Raine. He chose to keep the Leonhart name right then, but decided that one day he would forge a new identity for himself.

            Moreover, much to the Ghost’s near-endless annoyance, Squall would continue to live dangerously. What’s there to lose with a guardian angel on your side?


 May 30, 2026

           The rain came down around Roxas, and he found it ceaselessly annoying that it only seemed to do so when he didn’t have his cloak.

           Fortunately, the walk from the tram to the bar was short enough that it was only a mere jaunt before he was at his destination. This bar was the first of a stretch of pubs and restaurants lining this long street; dubbed by the locals as the Bubbly Mile. It was the city’s favorite bar crawl, and although today’s weather was atrocious, the mile was certainly still bubbling with action.

           XIII showed his fancy new ID, which he’d just gotten officially printed that day, to the bouncer. Inside, amongst the chattering crowd, Roxas could plainly spot the head of Axel poking up through the masses. He beelined toward the figure and came upon his roommates, Riku, Kairi, and his boyfriend, just like what was promised.

           “What?! No, here, let me spell it out for you…” Axel waves a finger in the air, “B-L-O—oh! Hey Roxas!”

           Once Sora notices Roxas, he swoops over to give him a welcoming peck on the lips.

           After greeting them XIII asks, “What are we celebrating?”

           “Seriously?” Sora responds, giving him a facetious look.

           “HAPPY BIRTHDAY ROXAS!” Demyx exclaims suddenly, wedging himself into the middle of the group. “I can’t believe you’re finally 21.”

           Sheepishly, Roxas ducks his face down. “You guys… you really didn’t have to have to do this for me. It’s just my birthday. It’s no big deal.”

           “Nonsense!” Axel exclaims, holding up a drink. “Here’s to Roxas, for being alive! Blessed be!”

           Everyone else shouts “Blessed be!” before taking a drink.

           A voice comes from behind him, “I’ll drink to that.”

           The blond turns to see the smiling faces of his brother, Leon, and Tifa.

           “You guys… what are you doing here?”

           Leon simply nods at him as Tifa leans to give him a hug.

           “You think we’d miss this for anything in the world?” She asks.

           Once she pulls away, he and Cloud share an embrace. Cloud whispers, just barely audible over the bar’s commotion, “I never thought I’d see this day.” And Roxas can feel tears in his eyes.

           “Me either.” They pull apart, smiling. “Hey, how can I toast if I don’t have a drink?”

           “Bartender!” Sora shouts, “Give me a shot to remember!”

           Roxas shows the bartender his ID, “And you can take all the pain away from me.”

           In no more than a moment, there are shots lined up for each of them on the bar. They clink glasses, shout “Blessed be!”, tap the counter, and down the burning liquid.

           Axel whistles, “Oh man, something tells me it’s gonna be a long night. So as I was saying, Sora... You’re a vampire. Know where I can get some good yayo?”

           A wide grin splits the brunet’s face, “Axel, my friend, let’s play a game I like to call ‘‘Scuse Me.’”

           They wander off and Cloud goes to order more drinks. Roxas notices that Demyx and Namine have gotten to talking with Leon, Tifa, Riku, and Kairi.

           For the first time in forever, Roxas feels like he’s made it back to some kind of ‘normal’. Or at least... whatever this feeling of contentedness can be described as. His life, over the course of a couple years, has done a complete flip, and he loves it. He has new friends, a new family, a new purpose… this is was dreams are made of. This moment right here, right now... is true bliss.

           Cloud approaches him while carrying two beers, then hands one to him.

           “You know,” Cloud takes a sip from his glass, then continues, “I feel... lighter. Maybe I’ve lost weight.”

           Roxas takes a long gulp of his own drink before responding, “You know… me too.”

           The rest of the night, they powered all the way down the Bubbly Mile. Their goal was to hit every single bar and have at least one drink or one shot. Between stops, they kept their buzz going with discreet snorts of cocaine. Eventually Roxas had tried almost every specialty beer on tap or house mixed drink that the Mile has to offer. Eventually Tifa and Namine dipped out, so it quickly became a couple’s night for the remaining eight of them.

           That’s when Sora suggested the molly. He’d been saving a set of pressed pills for tonight: Black Chocobos is what they were called, and he had exactly eight.

           “It’s destiny!” He proclaimed, and they had to agree based on that and their mutual obsessions with the giant birds.

           They were on a bender, and it showed. They rationed the pills into quarters to keep the night going as long as possible. They spent the night dancing, hit a couple clubs, ran in the rain, loitered on the trams, and talked nonstop the whole time. Roxas came to quickly adore Kairi’s company, as once he got to know her she shed her aloof personality and became lively and somewhat eccentric. Although Riku’s personality remained mostly unchanged, he and Roxas still had some very deep and interesting conversations. They discussed their interests, theories on science, and Riku even shared some of the adventures he’s had over his unlife. When Roxas asked why Riku was so bold to lick XIII’s face that one night, the lycanthrope gave him a suspiciously complex non-answer that left the blond wondering.

           Any time they were idle, Demyx would start scratching Axel’s head to the tune of “oooohs” and “aaaahs.” Sora and Roxas adored seeing Leon open up a few times to Cloud, getting all gushy to him every now and then. In the back of his mind, Roxas was worried that Leon would start questioning Sora in his state of inebriation, but the two shared a look of understanding and it seemed to help clear the air. Perhaps whatever Leon had to say would come eventually, but today was not that day.

           It was the greatest night of his life.

           Even when the night was over, even when he and Sora crashed on the couch fully clothed, even when he was puking his brains out the next morning… he was completely filled with bliss.


 July 14th, 2026

           The man watches the fog collecting ahead, grimacing at the shift in weather. The summer in Duck City was always thick with moisture: the wet kind of heat that sticks to your skin, rolling into the wet winters that stick to your bones. Still, he creeps along. It won't be long until he reaches home to his dehumidifier and air conditioning, then perhaps the air would stop taunting him… hopefully.

           A crow croons above and he eyes it warily. Lately it seemed like there was a surplus of them wherever he goes. Perhaps the city is amidst an infestation; or maybe now that he noticed one, he can’t unsee the rest of them.

           He didn’t know it was neither.

           He turns down a small street and observes it is decidedly empty, which is unnatural for the time of day. He takes a sniff of the air: brimstone?

           Peering down the road through the fog, he can see flames distantly licking around the edges of the road… but other than the fact there’s fire, something about them seems off. Three figures drift through the mist toward him, and although he would have loved to fight, he knows it’s wiser to run. He turns to make a break for it when a wall of green flame erupts before him. He twists around to see the three figures standing a safe distance away and automatically recognizes the coat on the shortest one.

           “Fucking Organization,” He snarls, “Figured it was only a matter of time…”

           One of the men standing beside the Nobody steps forward, and it’s difficult for him to get a read on any of them because of the burning smell.

           “Aldric Price,” The guy says, “You're under arrest for unlawful distribution of narcotics, six counts of bodily harm, voluntary manslaughter, murder, and tampering with narcotics. Under the rule of Dusk City, we have the right to extract your DNA and other evidence to be used against you in court.”

           Finally, Aldric catches a whiff of the one who stepped forward: a vampire. The rage builds up inside of him, and he feels his skin bristling.

           The vampire says, “You’ve been selling bunk shit to vampires for a while now. You’ve even killed a couple people in the process.”

           Suddenly, Aldric shouts, “DEATH TO ALL VAMPIRES!” before literally leaping from his skin.

           His werewolf form comes barreling at Sora, and Roxas is about to force-fling him away when a jacket and backpack hit the ground.

           The figure next to them darts forward, shifting into his own werewolf form and bounding ahead like a silver bullet. The lycanthropes clash, snarling teeth and claws flying all over the place. A gush of blood sprays in a fan across the ground, and Roxas can’t help but jump back; watching in anxious terror as Riku practically flings the other werewolf around like a life-sized chew toy. He’s seen Werewolf-Riku in action before, but never on this level. Sora looks on in mild amusement, clearly accustomed the sight.

           Mere seconds later, it’s over. Aldric falls the the ground and, in his unconscious state, shifts back to human form. Backing away, and just barely panting, Riku also shifts back. He has a few deep cuts, but nothing especially serious. After dispelling the flames, Sora is about to offer to heal the lycanthrope when Roxas rushes forward and quickly casts a healing spell; prattling on about how amazing the fight was. Riku shrugs it off as no big deal, and won't look Roxas in the eyes as he’s complimented.

           They heal Aldric and Roxas opens a portal for the criminal: his limp body falling into the abyss where a silver cell awaits him. Another job is done.

           “Thanks for coming along with us again, Riku.” Roxas says, “I thought Sora and I were doing pretty well on our own, but you’ve been seriously helping us kick ass.”

           Riku picks up his backpack and reaches inside for an undamaged shirt. On patrols, Riku usually kept a couple extra changes of clothes at the ready just in case he needed to shapeshift. Fortunately, he owned some ergonomic pants and underwear by the name of Lycan-Wear (“Designed by Lycanthropes for Lycanthopes” is the company’s slogan) that resisted tearing by stretching to fit. Shirts, however, were still being fine-tuned, so Riku typically just bought massive packs of cheap black ones and kept a few handy on nights like this.

           “It’s no problem, really.” The taller man replaces his ripped shirt, and Roxas politely looks away. “I’ve been itching for a fight. It’s actually been a lot of fun helping you both.”

           “At this point,” Sora chimes in, “We have a two more arrests than that Larxene chick and Marluxia had around this time.”

           Roxas shudders. “I… am both happy and terrified about this. But let’s keep going. We’ve still got a couple more calls.”

           Riku says, “I thought those weren’t even in our assigned district.”

           Sora smirks at him, knowingly. “Technically they aren’t… unless we can beat everyone else there.”

           And so they go, leaping into the night sky. Although Roxas is happy about their recent progress, he just couldn’t shake thoughts of the Necromancer chewing his brain. It had been months since they’d gotten a lead, and even then it had dried up right away. All the work they were doing was a great distraction, and excellent practice… but he couldn’t help the anxiety that continued to sit in the corners of his mind, taunting him. He couldn’t shake the sensation that they were sitting right on top of something massive, and it was driving him insane.

           He decides he will push these creeping thoughts away for just one more night. Just one more night of practice, and then they will find their next lead.


 December 14th, 2026

           The bass rumbles, and with it the crowd. The air is thick with musk and breath as bodies shudder along in the cramped space. The lights, a maroon hue, make the place feel raw and untamed… just how she likes it.

           Her sight meticulously scans the crowd, waning back and forth across sensible targets. Who’s too drunk? Who’s too comfortable? Who’s naive enough? In these situations, she has to time it just right… the night was a little too young for her to pounce just yet.

           She decides to get herself a drink, as in her experience an attractive lady carrying a glass is exponentially more approachable than one without. She slithers up to the bar, a makeshift little setup cobbled together in the corner of this basement rave, and orders something neon. Standing at the bar is a young guy, just the way she likes them: blond haired and slim-built. His heartbeat says he’s human, but there’s something special about his crystalline eyes that she can’t place. He’s gazing curiously at the crowd, transfixed by his own thoughts, and the light around him seems to shift as if compelled by magick.

           He looks like a positively tasty treat.

           Taking a dainty sip of her drink, she leers over to him, whispering in his ear, “Is this your first rave?”

           This startles him a little, and when he finds the source of her voice, he replies, “I’ve been to clubs before but this is pretty different.” He leans a little closer, “Do you know where I can find… you know.”

           She grins widely, her mental target locking. “Oh, I know . Come with me.”

           Abandoning her drink at the bar, she takes him by the hand and leads him out of the crowd. She notices there’s something off about the way his skin feels, more leathery than soft, but it’s too dark and crowded for her to see why. It doesn’t matter. This will be absolute cake. The ones looking for drugs are always easy; too eager and hopeful for their own good. They slip through the mass of bodies, up out of the basement, into the chilled night air.

           He asks, “Where are we going?”

           Smiling back at him, she dodges the question with her own: “Am I your type, sweetie? Something tells me you really like brunettes.”

           He laughs, in a genuine and hearty manner. “You have no idea.”

           “Almost there,” She says, leading him to a spot in some back alley she scoped out earlier into the night. Her plan for attack is already laid out in her head.

           He stops just then, bringing her excited gait to a halt with him.

           “Um, it’s this way—”

           But when she looks to her destination, there’s a man with brown hair and blue eyes standing there. His heartbeat says he’s a vampire. Her hand is released, and she looks back at the blond to see a cloak fading into existence around his body: black as the night. The Organization.

           Her fangs pop out and she hisses, springing at him in an attack—then the side of her body slams against the wall, cracking a bone in her shoulder. She howls in pain, not sure how either of the men could have thrown her without moving an inch.

            “Carmela Vaughn, you’re under arrest for several serial murders and now an attempted assault of a Nobody. Under the rule of Dusk City, we have the right to extract your DNA and other evidence to be used against you in court.” She attempts to pounce at him again, the force so strong in her leap that it cracks the cement below her… but she simply hangs in the air, held by an invisible source like a puppet on strings. “...make that two assaults, and resisting arrest.”

           The blond lobs something into the air: it looks like a ball, but it’s glowing. Before she has a moment to process the situation, the ball explodes into a massive flash of light. She feels the energy being sucked out of her, as if a vacuum has opened up inside her. He goes limp in the air, limbs suddenly heavy as brick and eyelids just as much so. Carefully, Roxas lowers her into a portal.

           “Nicely done,” Sora says, coming up to him. “It’s almost been too easy making arrests lately.” Roxas stares into the space where the portal once was, unresponsive, and Sora furrows his brows at the blond. “...Rox? You alive in there?”

           XIII nods a little disingenuously, as if half-listening to the vampire. “Hm. I suppose. Was there another call, today?”

           “I think that’s it for now—”

           “Then I’ve gotta head back to HQ. There’s something I need to do.”

           Before Sora can say anything else, Roxas gives him a kiss and force-flings away.

           It seems lately that Roxas has been stuck in his own head, and it was worrying Sora. They still didn’t have any progress on finding the Necromancer, and it was very obviously taking a mental toll on the Nobody. Even tonight, in the rave, his boyfriend seemed completely out of it and could have easily botched the mission. Readying himself, Sora leaps up and begins his own trek home via rooftop.

           Whatever is eating Roxas, he’ll fix it.


 

January 8th, 2027

           “I don’t honestly know how you’ll be able to help,” Axel says as he escorts Sora into the library’s massive atrium. “The last time Roxas was like this he didn’t leave this place for weeks.

           Even though Sora was the unofficial 14th member of the Organization, he still required an escort on premises at all times for reasons that were uncertain but understandable. Normally Roxas was his guide, but Axel didn’t mind subbing as of late. “Thanks, man. I’ll come find you if I fail miserably. Break room, again?”

           Axel nods, “Yessir.”

           VIII returns to the elevator, leaving Sora to gaze at the small fortress of literature in the middle of the atrium. He watches in awe as books float in a near-even stream all across the library, impressed by the powerful magick keeping everything in check. He approaches the stack Roxas has made in a ring around himself; the blond immersed in his research and completely unaware of the vampire’s presence as he scribbles away in a notebook.

           “Rox,” Sora calls to him, but there’s no response. Sora sighs, “Axel said you probably won't talk to me, so I have a plan. You probably won't like it.” He leans down over the fortress and with a fluid motion tears the notebook away from Roxas’ grasp.

           Completely taken aback, XIII blinks a few times out of his meditative state. Then, his head snaps up to regard Sora with fiery eyes. “Hey—”

           “We need to ask for help.” The blond only stares with a fish-like face, so Sora continues, “We haven’t been able to do anything on our own. Even with Commander Tifa and the Brood Boys’ help—hell, even with Silver Fox and Bloody Mary—we’ve made no progress. It’s time to ask for help.”

           Roxas has to force himself not to smile at this. He and Sora came up with those nicknames when they spent a lazy afternoon guessing what their friends’ band names would be, and it almost always sends him into a giggle fit anytime the vampire reminds him of it.

           Sora adds, “Think Water, Mind and Fire can help us?”

           XIII can’t hold back the pfft and subsequent laughter that escapes him, which brings a victorious smirk to Sora’s face.

           Amidst his chuckling, Roxas shrugs his shoulders, “Maybe you’re right.”

           He was worried this time would come… they were both genuinely hoping their circles outside the Org would have made some progress, but they’d been stuck in the same place for months now. That’s why he turned back to the library, because at least he can use the Org’s knowledge without having to interact with it’s members and possibly destroy their progress.

           After all, if the Necromancer is as dangerous and well-despised as he is, the higher-up Nobodies know about him and may try to prevent his pursuit. Who knows how many years it could take to earn their trust enough to gain their blessing? It’s likely that Xemnas wouldn’t be thrilled about the idea, and Namine… even though XIII trusts her like a sister, she could easily deem the quest too dangerous and strip everyone’s memories of it. Who knows if she would ever give them back, even if he became skilled enough to go after the Necromancer?

           “I don’t want to ask Water, Mind and Fire, though. I want to ask… er…” XIII taps his chin, “Rose…”

           “Rosemaggedon and Mysterio?”

           “Yes!” The blonde exclaims, snapping his fingers in recognition. “Wait, those were their band names? Those sound more like superhero names.”

           Before Sora can respond, the elevator doors slide open, and the sound of pernicious heels can be heard clacking against the marble. Sora and Roxas already know who it is based on this alone.

           Larxene encroaches upon them, distaste clear on her beautifully intimidating face. “You're still here?” She sneers, “Don’t your fucking legs hurt? There’s literally a desk right there.”

           “Actually, Larxene, we were just leaving.” XIII is standing up, legs unperturbed by sitting in such a manner, when he realizes something. “Actually, what are you doing here? I didn’t think the library was something that interested you.”

           She scoffs, “Well, since you little shits keep breaking my records I have to up the ante somehow.” Sora and Roxas share a split-second look of sly satisfaction. “I can’t just sit by and let you beat me as the most efficient Org member. Now get the hell out of here, I’ve got some…” She grunts in a sickened manner, “ Studying to do.” Then, she smiles, and her voice elevates to a cutesy chirp. “If you’re not cleaned up by the time I’m back down here, I promise they wont find your bodies.”

           Electricity crackles around her feet, and Larxene vanishes in a flash; she can be heard reappearing only a couple yards away, at the maximum distance of her teleportation ability.

           Both men, without hesitation, begin quickly chucking books skyward in pure terror.


            The bell over the door lets out a welcoming chime, and Zexion peeks his head out from behind a bookcase to irritably regard whoever has entered. He sees the friendly faces of Sora and Roxas, which softens his deposition significantly.

           “Oh, it’s you two. I haven’t seen you around here in a while. What’s up?”

           “We need your help,” Roxas responds, glancing around suspiciously. “But… the rest of the Org can’t know.”

           Zexion’s eyes narrow. “Why are you asking me and not Marluxia? He’s more of the rule-breaking type.”

           “Well, actually… he’s the one who told us to ask you. Said you owe him one?”

VI’s eyes snap to the bay window to see Marluxia peeking out of the flower shop. When their gazes lock, XI gives him an enthusiastic thumbs up. Zexion scowls.

           “What do you want, then?”

           “I need to look at all of your books on necromancy.”

           Zexion raises an eyebrow. “Hm… lock the door, please.” Roxas obeys, throwing the deadbolt on the shop door behind them. Then VI moves toward a scuffed up wall, waving his hand in an arc above his head. “Aperta.” He whispers, and the wall vanishes as if it were a mirage, revealing a steel sliding door. He pushes it open and snaps his fingers, “Veni ad me.” Glowing books come flying out, speeding over everyone’s heads, before landing in a neat stack on the store’s counter.

           “Do you have any chairs?”

           “No,” VI scoffs.

           “What about your customers?” Sora asks.

           “This isn’t really a store, it’s a place to keep my personal collection of books. When people come in, I want them to leave as quickly as possible.”

           Shrugging, Roxas responds, “The floor will do just fine then.”

           The couple sits down in front of the counter as Zexion goes back to tidying up some shelves.

           Hours seem to pass by in a blink as both men gorge themselves on information, but no clues are apparent in their research. Eyes strained, Roxas lets out a long yawn.

           “This is useless. There’s absolutely nothing here.”

           Zexion bee-lines to them suddenly, as if words were uttered in insult to his mother.

           “You are looking at a collection of master works curated from the world over. What you’re looking at is pure history, ” Sora’s heart does a little loving jump in response to this, “transcribed and packed neatly into the very books you’re desecrating with your touch. What about any of this is useless?

           XIII quickly backpedals, “N-no, Zexion, I am so sorry… that’s not what I mean. It’s just… we’re looking for something really specific—”

           “ How specific?” VI snaps.

           Roxas and Sora share a cautious look. If Zexion reacts poorly to the truth, Sora could just use his glamor to take the memory away… granted he’ll even get a chance to. They’d be betting their skill against a veteran member of the Org, and although their record has been rapidly expanding, they may not stand a chance.

           Roxas takes a shot in the dark.

           “Have you ever heard of ‘The Necromancer?’”

           A quiet blanket falls over the room, as if all three men are frozen in time…

           Then, VI relaxes his posture. “You should have said something sooner. Of course I’ve heard of The Necromancer. Here,” Working skillfully, he takes some books out of various piles and hands them down to XIII. “These should have everything you need.”

           “Th-thank you!”

           The lilac-haired man starts walking to the back of the store, but halts momentarily. Without turning to look at them, Zexion says, “The Necromancer is a very dangerous person, you know.”

           Roxas responds cautiously, “You’re not going to tell anyone… right?”

           Quietly, almost ruefully, VI responds, “I suppose now Marluxia is the one who owes me a favor.”

           He leaves them, and they get back to work.


           This place is familiar, but Roxas isn’t sure how.

           In a field of soft grass, he lays. The clouds drift slowly overhead, and the wind rustles the field, but it is silent. He looks to his side, sees a single white flower, and watches as it twists into an endless spiral—

           “Roxas?” Sora’s voice jolts him from his slumber.

           “Hm?” XIII responds, rubbing the sleep from his eyes.

           “You look exhausted. We’ve been at this all day, maybe it’s time to give it a rest.”

           Sora’s words breathe energy into the blond, and he quickly protests. “No, no! Look, we’ve only got a couple books left. We’ve gotten so much great information so far, there’s no reason to give up now.”

           Sora nods, “I guess that’s true.” Since Zexion sorted out the relevant books for them, they suddenly had heaps of information about the mysterious Necromancer and his reign of terror.            “I’m just worried, is all. How are we gonna look for this guy if you’re eyes are strained from reading?”

           Roxas laughs, “I’m fine, really. Here,” He hands two out of the last three books to Sora, “If you’re so concerned, you can look at these while I read this one.”

           The vampire happily accepts them before cracking open one to start scanning it’s contents.

           Roxas looks at the cover of his. A Necromancer’s Manual to the Fifteenth Century. He recognizes the name, but he wasn’t certain from where. Opening the book, he begins to skim the title page… when he notices something peculiar.

           On the list of contributing authors, one of them possesses a name bearing a particular symbol. The X is curved in a way that defies the ancient-looking serif font, dipping down to where it is level with the “e” beside it.

            Zay-ha… nort?

           “Sora, can I see the holotablet?”

           Without hesitation, the vampire reaches into his bag and retrieves the device. Roxas takes it, immediately flipping over to a picture of The Necromancer’s persona symbola which is labeled with everyone’s collective annotations. He zooms in on a consistent marking: a curved X. A note from his brother reads “ χ, Pronounced ‘chi’, Greek Alphabet.” Placing the tablet on the floor, he flips to that author’s section—titled Field Reports— and notices that only the X on the title page uses the χ symbol; even in instances of the name reappearing.

           “It’s him,” Roxas breathes, flipping the book over to show his companion. “Sora, this is the Necromancer. It has to be.”

           Sora skims the page, his face becoming more grave by the second. “Roxas… you did it. We finally found something huge .” He squints at the book, “Did Zexion leave a note in this?”

           The blonde flips the book back to check. The scrawl is gentle, a graceful flow of pencil in the margin. He’s seen it before: on notes taped to his lunch, in letters, on birthday cards… there’s no mistaking it.

           “Holy shit...that’s my mother’s handwriting.”

           Sora’s eyes go wide. “Holy shit … are you sure?”

           Roxas nods gravely while reading over the annotation in his head: Experiments? I know he’s there. What has he done?

           Flipping through the pages, XIII comes to find that it is indeed a series of field reports, mixed with some journal entries.

            Entry I: Much time has passed since I left the home of my youth behind, and in the myriad worlds I have visited, I have gained much knowledge. To divulge my secrets would be unwise, but to leave some of my discoveries unpublished even more so...

           The sections are very short, only transcribing parts of Xehanort’s travels, and his experiments in black magic. They also seem to skip entries, as if some reports were lost or couldn’t be found. Xehanort made vague references to certain events, but Roxas recognizes their occurrences from his brother’s research. Between entries, there are detailed sketches of creatures alongside figures and diagrams. Somewhere toward the end, he finds another one of his mother’s annotations: Ancient Magick Modern Myth… pg. 131.

           “Zexion!” Roxas yells, “Do you have a book on necromancy with ‘Ancient Magick Modern Myth’ in the title?”

           VI’s voice floats from the back of the shop, “It’s not about necromancy, but yes.”

           They hear him snap his fingers and mutter something, then a book comes floating out of his stash. Roxas plucks it from out of the air and looks over the cover: Ancient Magick and Modern Myths , published less than a decade ago . He opens it to the contributing authors page and his throat tightens. The name is right there, same as before:

            χehanort.

           Once more, the only χ symbol appears on the title page, even when Xehanort’s name comes up again. The recorded content is similar, including the missing entries. Sometimes, there are illustrations of normal-looking people, or places ranging from simplistic to exotic. Roxas reads some anecdotes aloud to Sora, including a section on Barbossa the Undying that the vampire likely contributed the research for. Finally, Roxas reaches Entry IX on page 131—

           His heart stops.

           There’s a sketch of a young man, hair spiked in a gentle wisp atop his head. It seems to be drawn from memory, as the visage doesn’t come across as focused on anything. The diagrams surrounding the haphazard portrait are full of indecipherable technical jargon, and the portrait itself is labeled Experiment 66.7: Destiny.

           “That’s…” XIII whispers, “that’s me .”

           “What?” Quickly, Sora leans over to take in the illustration. In disbelief, he mutters, “...what the hell is going on?”

           Roxas thinks long and hard about the two titles before him, slowly remembering one of the first things his coworker told him when he entered this shop. He turns his attention to the back of the store, “Did you ever find out who or what caused the ghoul problem, Zexion?”

           VI emerges once more, “No, we searched for months and got no answers. We had reason to suspect it may be the infamous Necromancer, but we had no real proof.”

           Opening the Necromancer’s Manual, Roxas holds it up and points to Entry I. “This was the section you used, right?”

           Zexion squints at him, “How did you…?”

           XIII cuts him off, “If this is what helped you, then it has to be him. You used his work to undo his work.”

           The lilac haired man crosses his arms thoughtfully, brows furrowing under his bangs. “I suppose that’s entirely within the realm of reason… though I never would have considered the possibility. Even if any of us realized something that should have been so obvious…”

           “Namine,” Roxas sighs, and VI nods in response. So XIII’s assumption was correct. “Who gave you these books, Zexion? Was it a woman with brown hair and green eyes? Or a guy with black hair?”

           “Those were donated by an anonymous source, and no more than three of each were ever published. All I know is that it was someone who worked closely with the Organization in the past.”

           Gripping the titles in his hands, Roxas shivers. They say there are six degrees of separation between you and everything else; a mere six things than can link you to anything in this wide world. Roxas remembers hearing that somewhere, and he didn’t truly believe it until just now.

           He and Sora snap photos of as much as they can, including the sketch, and quickly send them to Cloud. They use the graviga ward in Zexion’s shop to head back to Roxas’ apartment, where the blond’s roommates are already sleeping.

           “So, now what?” Sora asks, “As usual, more answers just lead to more questions…”

           Honestly, Roxas really isn’t sure what to do next. He never expected to come across his mother’s trail specifically, let alone end up standing right on top of it . He isn’t even sure how his mom got a hold of those books, and furthermore, how they ended up in the Organization’s possession. Although the publications gave them a better idea of who The Necromancer—this Xehanort person—is, there is absolutely no information as to his whereabouts. He could be halfway across the world and they couldn’t be certain.

           They’re closer than they could possibly imagine, and yet immensely far away at the same time.

           “If only we had a crystal ball or a scrying glass,” Roxas jokes, “That’d save us some time.”

           “Yeah, too bad they were mostly destroyed or went missing. And nobody has been able to create one successfully since then.” Suddenly, Sora looks quizzically at the ground, struck by a thought. “...maybe… maybe no one has been able to make one… but maybe we can find one.”

           XIII gawks at him. “Wouldn't have someone already thought of that? And if they did, wouldn’t they have already found one?”

           “It’s entirely possible, but at least we can try. Location spells require DNA, but scrying glasses have only ever needed a name and intent. It’s why they were destroyed in the Witch Wars, because they’re such powerful artifacts.”

           ,“Then how are we going to find one?”

           “I might have a workaround. We’ll need an overview of the city… let’s go to the roof.”

           They head up to the top of the building. Once they step into the brisk night air, Roxas plants his hands on his hips.

           “Alright, Your Highness. Plan?”

           The vampire searches the ground, answering his companion curtly, “Magick circle.”

           “Then, I’ll go grab some chalk—”

           “We don't need it.” Sora bites his thumb, “A long time ago, when I was exploring the Deep Jungles of Africa, I came across a very specific magick circle. Later, I found out that this kind of magick is called a ‘summon’.” He kneels and starts drawing on the rooftop with his blood. “I can’t use it because it’s white magick, but if we adapt it into a persona symbola using a combination of blood and white magick, we can use it to find a scrying glass.”

           “That’s brilliant… but what if the nearest artifact is on the other side of the world?”

           “Easy. We’ll do the summon right here, see where it goes, then keep resummoning it wherever we lose sight of it. It’ll be a pain in the ass, but it’s all we've got for the time being.”

           Sora keeps drawing as Roxas helps him choose symbols to personalize the circle. When he’s done, they go to stand on opposite sides of it. Kneeling down, Sora gingerly touches his fingertips to the drying blood, being careful not to smudge it. Roxas copies the action, waiting for instruction.

           “Like any other spell, we need to visualize what we want. When you have it in your head, focus on it, and say the first words that come to you. If we did this correctly, it’ll be the same words that come to me.”

           Taking a deep breath, Roxas closes his eyes. It’s peaceful night, so he’s able to focus quickly onto visualizing their goal. He imagines standing in an empty black space, and when he turns, he comes to face an endless mirror. In his vision, he says, Show me the Necromancer. The surface of the mirror ripples like water, twisting his visage into a spiral… in the distance, he can hear a mighty roar.

           The words come to him and Sora at the same time.

            “Creature of the earthshine,” They say in tandem, “Feel my wavelength. Our fates entwine. Give me strength.” The circle below them begins to glow, warming their fingers in greenish-golden light. “ Obey my command when I say your name; rise forth from the ground like a graceful flame.” They both open their eyes, shouting with all their might: “SIMBA!”

           A burst of light shoots up into the air from the circle, spinning to the heavens like a spiraling firework before plummeting back down to earth. The glow dissipates to reveal the ghostly form of a lion, it’s amber eyes perceiving them with interest.

           “Holy fucking shit,” Sora whispers, “It worked. ” The lion turns it’s head to look directly at Sora, staring him down in almost an astute way. “Uh… why is it looking at me?”

           Roxas stands, “Maybe it’s waiting for you to say something?”

           Sora wonders why the creature is so interested in him especially when he starts to consider that maybe his spirit animal was much more literal than Mikaeus had made it out to be.

           Still, how does one even talk to a spirit-lion?

“Simba,” He says to the apparition, “We need your help finding the artifact in our vision. Can you show us the way?”

           The lion examines him for a moment before turning around. It readies itself, then takes a massive leap off of the building. They run to the edge of the roof and watch as the spirit bounds across the buildings toward the center of the city.

           “I never thought I’d say this, but,” Roxas says, readying himself to leap, “Follow that lion!”


            A few miles of pursuit later, and it seems like Simba has no plans of stopping any time soon. Sora and Roxas are pretty exhausted from chasing it, but the further they can track it now means the less time they have to spend on repeating the spell later.

           “We could be at this for hours,” Sora calls to him in midair, “Think the Org might be concerned about ghost animals running around?”

           XIII is about to respond when he spots the lion laying in an alley.

           “There—!”

           He tires to quickly cross over, but misses his trajectory completely and ends up slamming into Sora. The two tumble from the air, their bodies clipping the edge of a building. Barely in the nick of time, Roxas is able to use his powers to soften the blow of their bodies hitting the earth; right in front of the nonplussed lion-ghost.

           Sora groans, rolling over on the ground, “What did you want to major in, again?”

           Picking himself up off the ground, Roxas sighs, “....Physics.”

           “ That’s right. Physics!”

           “Oh, give it a rest. No broken necks right? Then we’re fine. ” He glances around, “Wait a minute. I know where this is.” He runs out of the alley and takes in the sight of the Organization headquarters towering overhead. “Why did Simba bring us here?” He senses something beside him, and looks down to see the apparition has come to sit next to him. It stares up into him, almost knowingly, and a chilling realization creeps over Roxas’ shoulders. “...I think I know where the scrying glass is.”

           Sora appears on Roxas’ opposite side. “Where is it?”

           Crossing his arms, Roxas grimaces. “My goddamn boss’ office.”

           Sora visibly flinches, “What?! Are you absolutely sure?”

           XIII nods gravely. “If I’m wrong, then I might be out a bonus… and a few memories. I’m not even sure how we’ll be able to get in there without being spotted.”

           They stand in silence for a moment, brainstorming a plan. They can very well use graviga portals to get inside, as the area around the building has a ward that permits it within a certain distance. However, even if Roxas turned them invisible, the portals can be easily seen on the headquarter’s security cameras. Using the elevators would be out of the question too, and it’s not like mysteriously opening doors are a common occurrence in the building.

           There would also be no way to explain the fucking ghost-lion casuallying following them around like a placated cat. At least their spirit companion can just walk through a wall if need be—

           “That’s it! ” Sora gasps, “I’ve got it! Roxas, this may be the hardest thing you’ll do, but I think it’ll work.”

           Gesturing wildly, Sora explains that Roxas can use a combination of his force powers and invisibility to create a mock-ward over the graviga spell. If they timed it just right, he could cover the portal and then make a bubble over the three of them. To get into the office, all Sora has to do is phase-shift through the wall and disable the cameras in the hallway and office. Then Roxas can drop the invisibility and they can search the place uninhibited.

           Nodding along, Roxas says, “That just might work, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to maintain so much invisibility over a portal of all things.”

           “Well, you can always take a little time to practice. Simba, you don't mind waiting, do you?” The lion only stares at him blankly. “Er… I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’”

            Well, Roxas thinks, If I can make my clothes invisible, then a portal may not be too difficult.

           He reaches over to hold Sora’s hand, then places a cautious hand on top of Simba’s head; it feels like touching mist, and Simba doesn’t seem to mind. Focusing carefully, he shifts the light around them, making all three of them invisible. Easy.

           Next, he tries to expand his range by about three feet away from each of them… then four… then a full yard. Surprisingly, this is also pretty easy. In fact, it’s a little less difficult than trying to hold the invisibility so close to the skin. He carefully removes his hands from his companions and, much to his relief, is still able to maintain the field around them.

           Taking a deep breath, he opens up a portal inside the field, being careful not to open an exit just yet. He steps inside, the vampire and spirit following him into the darkness. He closes his eyes, focusing on maintaining the field and opening another portal at the same time. He struggles to visualize the ideal way to envelop the exit portal in his power… when finally, he imagines a glinting soap bubble. It sits shimmering in the dark, when slowly it seems to be getting sucked up by a pinhole of light in the abyss. He watches as the bubble folds itself through and around the pinhole. Then, they both expand as a portal opens. Roxas opens his eyes to see his visualization has taken form, and an exit from the darkness to a dimly lit hallway has appeared. Carefully, he carries his invisibility field into the hallway, his companions close behind. Safely out of the portal, Roxas closes it and quickly leads them to the wall beneath the security camera.

           “I can’t hold it too much longer,” He pants uncomfortably, sweat dripping from his brow.

           “Leave it to me.” Sora phase shifts into the wall, disappearing completely into it.

           Focusing intensely, Roxas does everything in his power to hold the field over himself and Simba. He gasps for breath, knees buckling; he can feel the field shrinking under the strain…

A hand pops out of the wall, giving him a victorious thumbs up, before vanishing again.

           He lets the enchantment drop, and subsequently collapses on the ground. Concerned, the lion leans down to sniff his face.

           “Good kitty,” Roxas mumbles into the floor, “I just need a minute, is all…”

           He flops onto his back and takes a few long, deep breaths. Just as he feels somewhat recovered, the office door clicks and swings open.

           “Step into my office, Number XIII, I’m about to give you a raise if you know what I—HOLY SHIT! ” He sprints over to Roxas, practically powersliding into a kneeling position beside him, “Are you okay?!”

           “Yeah, I’m fine.” Roxas sits up, “You were right, that was hard as hell. But we made it. Let’s finish what we started.”

           They walk into the room with Simba leading them. They start searching the room for clues, careful not to leave any fingerprints or shuffle things around too much. Then, the spirit-lion approaches a wall, before turning to them. His expression is somewhat unreadable, and he slowly begins to vanish.

           “What’s happening?” Roxas asks.

           “His task must be complete. I guess you were right about Xemnas’ office, Roxas.”

           They both say their goodbyes to the lion as it’s essence dissipates into the air, leaving them both a little lonelier than they were before. They stare at the wall, not quite sure what their next step is.

           “Think it’s behind there?” Roxas asks.

           “I guess we’ll find out.”

           The vampire walks forward and phase-shifts his arm into one side of the wall. It’s a little crude, but it’s not a bad idea at all. Sora keeps slowly walking forward, wiggling his arm in the walls and waiting to feel air. Then, he stops. He holds out his non-submerged hand to Roxas and the blonde takes it without hesitation. This time it’s Sora’s turn to concentrate his power as they walk forward, stepping into a small room covered top-to-bottom in soundproof foam. At the opposite end of the room, there’s a set of velvet curtains, and in the slit between they can make out a reflective surface.

           “We did it,” Roxas says in disbelief. “Sora… we did it.” He briskly crosses the small space and throws back the curtains to reveal an ornate mirror. Even though the surface looks black as midnight, it still perfectly reflects their images. “Where is the necromancer?” He demands, “Where is Xehanort?!”

           There’s no response.

           “Why isn’t it working?” He whispers, “We came all this way, it has to work…”

           There’s a metallic click.

           XIII and Sora’s eyes lock, and Roxas slides the curtains to their original position. Sora rushes forward, grabbing Roxas around the waist and pulling them into the closest wall just as Roxas turns them invisible. They cover each other's mouths, doing their best to breathe silently.

           Faintly, they can hear what sounds like a heavy metal door sliding open, but they can’t hear any footsteps due to the soundproofing. Roxas’ eyes flick up to Sora, desperately trying to convey a message. It works, as Sora begins to gently shake his head as if to say ‘no.’

Roxas ignores this as he very carefully leans over, pushing his head out of the wall and soundproof foam. He intensely focuses on maintaining the invisibility as Sora does his best to focus on the phase-shifting.

           He can hear the curtains being drawn… then, the unmistakable voice of the Superior fills the room.

            “Slave in the magic mirror, come from the farthest place.” He hears wind somehow blowing through the room, “Through wind and darkness, speak, let me see thy face.”

           Then, a mysterious voice responds, “What wouldst thou know, Superior?”

           “Magic mirror on the wall,” Number I asks, “Show me Roxas.”


Exuent


A/N: It’s all coming together, now…

I’VE WAITED SO LONG TO GET TO THIS CHAPTER. On that note… YOU GUYS. By my count, there are THREE CHAPTERS OF THIS FANFICTION LEFT! Three! YAAAAAAAAY! I keep trying to time my chapter releases to KH3 news but they always catch me at the worst possible time. Lol.

My goal is to be done with The Night by Halloween (I want to release the last two chapters together, like a couplet), so wish me luck in quickly finishing those off soon! I’m so excited. Thank you all so much for your continued support, and I can’t wait to dazzle you with the last three chapters! I think you probably know what’s about to happen, but I hope you’ll enjoy it anyways.

References and Inspirations:

 

  • This chapter is brought to you by my shitty little edgy middle-schooler self. The title comes from my favorite My Chemical Romance song, “The Sharpest Lives,” and is the original inspiration behind Blood Love (no longer available to read), Things That Kill in the Night, and now, The Night. That song is the main reason why you have this fic now, so give it a listen and enjoy!

 

If you want updates and even exclusive previews of upcoming chapters, check out my tumblr! You can also ask me questions and help me with my writer’s block! Find it at mewsomniac . tumblr . com (keep in mind you must log in to view)

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone the use of drugs, illegal or otherwise! Especially if you’re not 21 or over! However, I can’t stop you from living your life, so I simply suggest you party responsibly. If you or anyone you know would like more (and honest) information PLEASE GO TO MY AUTHOR DESCRIPTION AND LOOK UNDER “ ADDITIONAL RESOURCES” . Be safe and stay hydrated!

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Please please PLEASE favorite, follow, review, send kudos, add bookmarks… anything! They help me more than you can possibly know! Please keep sending them!

 

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter XIV: Destiny


Jan 8th 2027

            In that moment, Roxas swore his heart stopped.

            Possibly a million thoughts engulfed his consciousness in a split second, heavy and uncontrollable like an oil spill. He looks at Sora out of the corner of his eye, the vampire completely unknowing of their doom.

            There’s no way Sora can shift them any further, and where would they even go? It’s not like he can tell the vampire to do it either. Unless they could teleport far, far away from the headquarters, there’s no explanation. There’s no escape.

            Before Roxas can even comprehend another thought, the mysterious voice says, “As you wi--”

            Just then, a jittering chime screeches inside the room. “It’s a small world after all!”

            A ringtone?

            “Excuse me, Mirror. Allow me to take this call first.”

            “It’s a small, small wor--”

            “Hello, XI. ...yes. I put out the call because there were reports of paranormal activity and a ghost-like entity running across the city. ...yes, I’d guessed Roxas and Sora had been chasing it, but I’ve yet to hear a report. Normally they’re quick to call things in… were they? …certainly. Thank you, XI.” There’s a breif pause, then Xemnas says, “It seems I will not require your assistance tonight, Mirror.”

            “As you wish, Superior.”

            A moment later, the metal can be heard sliding once more, and with one last click it’s closed again.

            Roxas leans his head out just a little more to peek into the room. When he sees that the coast is clear, he gives a little nod to Sora. They come tumbling out of the wall, and now it’s the vampire’s turn to be rasping for air.

            “I guess…” He gasps, “This is good practice…?”

            Roxas adjusts their positions so he’s leaning over the vampire, balancing himself on one hand as the other pulls down his cloak to expose his collarbone. Sora sits up and his teeth easily sink into Roxas’ flesh. The vampire guzzles the liquid happily, his strength returning in an instant. When he’s satisfied (albeit he’s never truly satisfied with Roxas’ blood), he pops his mouth of the blond’s neck and leaves a string of kisses up to XIII’s ear.

            “Thank you.” He says as Roxas heals himself.

             In haste, the Superior left the curtains around the mirror drawn. Roxas steps up to it, reciting the incantation just as Xemnas had. Wind whips through the room, and a burst of fire explodes on the other side of the mirror, making it seem more like a window. A face that looks like a mask appears, it’s empty eyes staring endlessly ahead at them.

            “What wouldst thou know, Key of Destiny?”

            Said Key of Destiny blinks in surprise as many more things start to make sense in that moment.

            “Magick mirror on the wall... “ Roxas responds, “Show me the Necromancer, Xehanort.”

            “A thousand names but a face few know,” The mirror says, “A friend of none, but to all a foe. His tanned skin stays taught o’er muscle and bone, through his legend he has become infamously known; his golden eyes doth carry demise, his existence many have come to despise.”

            The mirror’s surface glitters as if a wall of water has begun cascading across it. A window to another place appears: somewhere, in a haphazard-looking study, a figure sits hunched in chair. They scribble notes, their hand twitching with an unsettling kind of movement stuck between urgency and focus. Suddenly, he pulls himself up from the chair. His head whips around his shoulder, and Roxas can swear the man is staring directly at him. His eyes shimmer with a golden intensity, in a similar way to Sora’s, but times a million. Xehanort smiles as him, and the image fades away as the blackness returns, the mask reappearing along with it.

            Rattled but determined, Roxas tells the mirror, “Show me where he is.”

            “Beyond the world thy know he dwells, a haunted tundra ‘tween the cold and fells.”

            The mirror glitters again, this time a winter-white landscape comes into view. Amidst the snowy hills and muted trees sits an ancient-looking manor. It seems dead to the world, an old relic of a time long passed.

            Sora asks, “Can you tell us the exact coordinates to this place?”

            The mirror obeys, reciting the numbers between a clever rhyme for Sora to remember.

            “I guess that’s all we really need.” Roxas says, “Although… Mirror, can you tell me what exactly happened to my mother?”

            The mirror responds, “I see what is now and some of what shall be; matters of the past are invisible to me.”

            XIII sighs, “Of course… well, at least that means you probably won’t tell Superior about this. Thanks mirror, that’s all.”

            “Hold, Key of Destiny standing ‘fore me. I have but one warning for ye.” It’s eyes narrow, the seriousness in it’s face amplified. It’s voice suddenly becomes very grave as is says, “Should thy journey to what thou seek, thine corporeal self may not return. I see thou amidst a blackness no true mortal has known; amongst the flowers, yet not truly alone. May luck be ye guide, as ye attempt to alter the tide.” Flames lick behind the mirror’s surface, and the face vanishes.

            XIII holds his breath, a chill of fear encompassing him.

            Sora looks over to Roxas, his heart sinking deep down into his gut. He has the overwhelming need to pull the blond into an embrace... and say something he’s been holding back. Three words; they’re hanging in his throat, dancing on his tongue, and ready to come tumbling out of his mouth.

            “Roxas…” Sora whispers.

            “I don’t want to involve anyone else.” The blond says, suddenly, “Even though I promised everyone… I didn’t actually mean it.” The tears prickle his eyes, but he won't let them fall.

            The vampire pulls him into a tight embrace. “You know, in all honesty, I figured you felt that way.”

            “I now know why my mom wanted to protect us. It’s this same feeling I have right now… I don’t want to put anyone at risk. If we do this, we’re doing it alone.”

            They stand like that for a long moment, Roxas’ words hanging in the air like windchill.

            “I’m with you, Rox.” Sora mutters, “I’ll follow you to the world’s end if that’s what it takes. I’ll protect you.”

            Roxas laughs, pulling back from Sora’s grasp, “ You’ll protect me? Give me a break! I’m the one who’s protecting you! I’m more powerful!”

            Sora laughs right back, “Okay, smartass. We’ll just have eachother’s backs, then!” He also pulls away, but then extends his pinky in the space between them. “Deal?”

            Roxas links his pinkie with Sora’s, “Deal.”

            “Now then, Number XIII. You and I are both fucking beat. If we’re going after possibly the greatest evil this world has ever known... we need to take a break.”

            Just then, a wave of exhaustion collapses on Roxas’ body. Taking a gander at Sora, he sees the vampire is in a similar state despite his recent snack. Even though he’s anxious to continue their journey, Sora is right: there’s no way either of them can continue like this.


 

            After undoing all their work and escaping the Organization’s headquarters, they drag themselves to the Covenant mansion to rest. After sneaking in as best as they could, they slip into Sora’s bedroom and lock the door behind them.

            As if in the comfort of his own home, Roxas strips all the way down and crawls into Sora’s bed. The vampire follows suit, slipping into bed so they’re laying side-by-side and staring at the ceiling. They close their eyes.

            Moments pass… maybe hours. Both of them toss and turn, twist and flip, groan an yawn… but sleep eludes them.

           Their quest is finally coming to an end, and although their bodies are sapped of energy, their minds are on fire with kindling questions. Why is there an illustration of Roxas in the Necromancer’s journal? How did Xemnas find the Magic Mirror? Is the Organization purposefully hiding the Necromancer, and if so, why? How are they connected to him? Will this journey lead them to their doom like Aerith and Zack? How did Aerith and Zack even find the Necromancer in the first place? And, most of all... What happens next?

           No matter how tightly they shut their eyes, or how desperately they attempt to shoo the swarm in their minds, they simply cannot rest.

           Eventually, Sora prods Roxas and says, “You awake?”

           The blond grumbles, “Of course I’m fucking awake. You realize what happened today, right? You were there. You saw.

           “Yeah. Holy shit, Rox, we are in some serious shit right now. I’m not sure if I’ll get another good night’s sleep for the rest of my unlife.” There’s a shift in the dark as Sora rolls over to face Roxas. “The Mirror… it really said all that stuff, right? I’m not just imagining things, right?”

           “You tell me,” Roxas says as he too rolls to face his companion, “You’re the one with perfect memory.”

“Yeah… I was hoping it’d be wrong for once.”

           Roxas can just barely make out the vampire’s features: the unsettled face, taught shoulders, worried eyes darting all over and searching for pieces of him in the darkness. He wonders if his own face shares a similar expression in the limited light.

           Sora can almost feel his lips trembling with the same feeling from before. In his mind’s eye, he can picture himself running his fingers along Roxas’ cheek, whispering those forbidden words into the darkness for only his lover’s ears. But, something else, something just a tad stronger, is telling him to wait. Soon, the right moment will come and he’ll know it’s perfect because the words will fall from his lips without hesitation.

           A quick fluffle, a snap, and a soft white light fills the room.

           “Sorry,” Roxas mutters, “I just wanted to see your face. Maybe it’s sappy but… it makes me feel better.”

           Sora feels himself blushing, his heart incredibly warmed by the comment. Then, he has an idea.

           “I know something that will help us sleep.”

           He presses his lips into Roxas’, his hands strategically traveling south.


 

January 9th, 2027

            Golden eyes are glaring at him through the dark. No matter how much he runs toward them, they seem to stay the same distance away. His limbs are heavier than lead, and the harder he runs the more difficult it seems to carry his body. The darkness whispers to him thoughts of doubt, but it doesn’t perturb him as he struggles forward.

            Roxas is woken from his desperate dream by his phone. The decide is rattling with life inside his cloak pocket, and he scrambles out of bed to fetch the device.

            “Hello?” He says, groggy from his deep slumber.

            His brother’s urgent voice comes to his ears, “I need you to come to the bar as soon as you can. It’s about the photos you sent.”

            “Can’t you just tell me what’s going on over the phone?”

            “It’d be easier to show you than try and explain. Please hurry.” Then, Cloud hangs up.

            Thanks to movies and television, Roxas knows that when there’s a worried “no-time-to-explain” phone call, then there is either a massive revelation or something terrible is on the horizon. More awake now than he’s ever been, he springs out of bed and bounds into the shower; yelling at Sora to wake up.

            When they arrive at 8th Heaven, an especially anxious Cloud drags them all the way up the restaurant stairs and into the room that belonged to their mother. Untouched by the inhabitants of the bar, all of Aerith’s things remain trapped in time and covered by a thin layer of dust. The only thing out of place is a wooden box, which was clearly drug across the floor and dusted. On closer inspection, Roxas realizes it’s the larger companion to his own keepsake box.

            Cloud opens it and they see it’s filled with drawings, all clearly illustrated by the Highwind boys during their childhood. Cloud carefully leafs through the papers before pulling one out and handing it to Roxas. On it is a crude drawing of Roxas and Cloud, depicted as two stick figures holding hands. The crayon text above them reads, “cOME hOmE NEw BABy BRoTheR!! To: MoM By CLouD

            Despite the intensely serious atmosphere, Roxas can’t help but giggle. “You drew this of us? It’s a masterpiece, Cloud.”

            His brother shakes his head gravely, “I thought it was us too, Roxas… but after you sent me a photo of that illustration… I remembered something. After I drew this and gave it to mom, she started screaming . Screaming like she was dying . Right after that, she and dad had their first really big fight. It scared me so much that I… blamed myself. And then I think I repressed the memory.” He points to the stick figures in the drawing, “I don’t know who else is in this picture with you, but it’s not me .”

            Roxas stares down at the parchment in his grasp, a sense of confusion clawing around in his skull like an angry beast. On closer inspection, the stick figures look… almost identical. The shape of the eyes, the swish of the hair… His hands start to shake, and he has to swallow back the lump in his throat for fear of choking on it.

            Gently, he puts the drawing back into the box before turning a wary smile to his brother.

            “I don’t know what this means, but I guess this is the last clue we have for now. You know, I’m starving. How about you call Leon and Tifa and we make some food?”

            This doesn’t convince his brother. Suspicious, Cloud narrows his eyes at XIII, “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

            Sora grabs the taller man’s arm, and when Cloud and Sora lock eyes the vampire says, “Forget about this for now. Call Leon and Tifa for dinner.”

            Cloud’s eyes do an odd little roll, as if transfixed by another plane of existence. “No--” He starts to say, struggling against the constraints of his subconscious. However, a split-second later, his eyes return to normal. “I’ll call Leon and Tifa for dinner.” He leaves the room.

            Roxas looks over to the vampire, who is stairing uncertainty at the place where Cloud was standing.

            “You glamored him.” XIII whispers, but the brunet does not respond. “But… did he…?”

            “I… think so.” Sora says, completing XIII’s thought.

            Both men had an idea of what this meant, but they somehow couldn’t bring themselves to say anything.

            They had an amazing dinner with Cloud, Leon, and Tifa. It was full of laughter and love, a purely present moment for all of them. When Roxas and Sora eventually left, Roxas made sure to give his brother the goodbye they both deserved. Cloud didn’t understand what Roxas was doing, but it didn’t matter. Sora looks into Cloud’s eyes and tells him not to worry, don’t come after them, to stop pursuing the Necromancer, and to take care of “Squall--er, Leon.” After a quick flash of prevalent resistance, Cloud obeys.

            Sora suggests they spend one last day with their friends, then leave their phones behind so they can’t be tracked. Roxas adds that they should leave a video message on their phones as a final goodbye. Sora and Roxas parted ways then: Sora going to the mansion to spend one last day with his friends while Roxas went home to do the same.

            A day later, they meet back up and took the first train north.


 

January 9th, 2027

            Black blotches circle the snow-encrusted land, dark eyes scanning carefully for any signs of life. Feathered masses glide seamlessly between the dead trees, crooning to their companions and scouting forth. A warble rings out, carried away by the gentle wind, and the other crows respond. In haste, one flies far back, swooping dramatically down to perch itself on it’s master’s arm. It caws at the vampire, and he gives it’s head a gentle pet.

            “Looks like they found the place.” He reaches into his pocket and produces a bag of cornchips for the bird. “Good girl, Diabla.” He says, giving it a treat.

            The creature takes it happily, crunching it up before taking flight once more. Diabla and the other crows form a small murder in the sky and show him the way. Occasionally, a crow will swoop down to pluck another chip from the bag.

            Sora and Roxas follow the cloud of black feathers until they reach a mighty hill. At the top, they can just make out the form of a decrepit mansion sitting within the snowy drifts. Both men swallow hard.

            This is it. Roxas thinks, We’ve finally made it.

            They stash their things nearby, and begin the long trek up the snowy hill. Roxas keeps them warm using light spells, but the cold doesn’t bother either of them too much. It’s fortunately a very still winter day, as there’s barely even a breeze kicking up the snow.

            The vampire suddenly stops, and he takes Roxas’ hand to halt the blond.

            “Rox, look.”

            XIII glances upward to take in the beginning of a brilliant sunset. A massive stroke of red covers the sky, highlighted by oranges and yellows underneath. The snow slowly becomes swathed in lovely shades of pink, glittering with golden flecks of drifting sunshine. They take in the sight, transfixed by the beauty hanging in the air around them.

            It’s too perfect. It’s too romantic.

            Sora gulps.

            If he’s going to say something, now is the time to do it.

            “Sora, you’re shaking. Are you that cold?”

            No, he’s really not.

            “Roxas, I can’t believe we’ve made it this far. I can’t believe I found you in this wide, magnificent world.” He looks over at XIII. “It took me 200 years, but I found you, and now we’re here to change history itself . Isn’t that fucking crazy?”

            He doesn’t wait for a response, he just leans down and presses his lips deeply into Roxas’. He cups the blond’s face with one and and pulls him close with the other. His companion steadies himself on Sora’s shoulders, pulling the vampire even closer. When Sora slowly pulls away from the kiss, he waits to see Roxas’s eyes open.

            XIII’s eyes open, and Sora says, “I love you, Roxas.”

            He’s eternally grateful he’ll never forget this moment.

            Roxas is surprised, but in the best way. “I love you, Sora.” A massive grin encompasses his face, and he pulls Sora into another kiss, muttering, “Damn it feels good to say that.”

            They kiss and kiss, warming themselves with each other against the cold.


 

            At the top of the hill, Roxas turns them invisible against the trees. Wary of their footprints, Sora sends his crows to scout the area in search of traps, security alarms, or even cameras. The birds search and find plenty of equipment hidden in the landscape; carefully taking them out for their master and stacking the destroyed tech in a pile before them.

            Roxas drops the invisibility, then Sora and Roxas conjure an aura spell that can make any present magic visible within a certain radius. Although nothing appears in the area, the house seems to be swathed in a blanket of it. Carefully, they approach the door. Their theory is that whoever is inside may not ever expect a reckless move like this, and for all intents and purposes the front door is the easiest way in and out of any building.

            Sora puts his hand on the door, attempting to phase shift through it... but his hand won't budge.

            “It’s definitely a negation ward, but it seems like there’s something else to it as well.”

            “We have to work fast,” Roxas reminds him.

            “Right…” Sora responds.

            The vampire pierces his thumb with a fang and gets to work on smearing a magick circle on the door. Essentially, this particular spell creates a double-negative that will make a hole in the ward for them to break through.

           The vampire finishes the alchemical drawing in record time. They place their hands on the circle and mutter an incantation to activate it. There’s a pause, both of them wondering if it actually worked, when a snapping noise rings in their ears. A large crack of light has formed in the ward, as if someone broke the glass in a spotlight.

            The ward shatters in an arc around them, falling to the ground in ethereal pieces that vanish into silent stardust upon hitting the ground. The true haunted mansion is revealed, a gothic-looking masterpiece that seems practically brand new. They stare in awe for just a moment: taken by their amazement of the wards power and the admittedly lovely view of the mansion. Then, the hole begins to quickly close back up, and the two turn their attention to the exposed door.

            “Now!” Sora shouts.

            They both channel a blast into their hands, Sora using fire and Roxas using a combination of light and his force. With a loud bang! the door comes bursting open, barely holding on by a single hinge. It seems to have been reinforced too, as chunks of the wooden frame and jagged metal go flying inside.

            Not sparing a second, they throw themselves into the mansion just as the ward closes up behind them.

            Around them is a ballroom-like foyer; the last rays of the setting sun peek through the brilliant windows above a single large staircase. The entire place is flocked with dark walnut wood, lacquered and shining. There are some staples like a magnificent chandelier, suits of armor, shields, and swords. The marble floors below them are practically glistening.

            Roxas looks back toward the door and notices a massive portrait of a man is hanging over it. His skin is tanned, his long silver hair slicked back, eyes cast to the side.

            That looks… He thinks, An awful lot like Xemnas.

            As he ponders this, he notices something out of the corner of his eyes: something  slick and black, like a shadow. He whips himself around to see it, but nothing is there.

            “What is it?” Sora asks.

            Roxas opens his mouth to answer when a black mist streaks past him, flinging him to the ground.

            Something shouts at Roxas as he tumbles down: “Get back!”

            Before Sora can react, the shadow takes a human shape in front of him, punching a heavy fist into the vampire’s stomach. Roxas watches the brunet fly across the room from the impact, skidding on the shiny marble.

            “Sora!” He cries, raising a hand to blast the figure back.

            The blackened form turns to him. “...you’re not—“

            But Sora’s body collapses atop the figure, having silently sprung from across the room like a tiger in pursuit. He pins the form onto the floor by what they both assume is the nape of the neck.

            “What are you?!” He snarls, fangs exposed and his own blood dripping from his lips.

            Just then, a massive door creaks open on the other side of the room. Sora and Roxas go flying to the nearest wall, face first. Both of them can just barely make out what’s going on through the corner of their eyes.

            Out from the door stumbles a worried man, seemingly startled by the commotion. His figure is familiar, but it’s hard to tell what he looks like since he keeps moving in an out of their blind spots. He sprints to the black mist, kneeling down next to it. His expression is plainly concerned, but he does not speak.

            The miasma melts away, revealing a man clad in black clothes.

            “I’m fine.” He says, “I can’t believe I thought that was you… I totally panicked.”

            The silent man looks at both of them with intense eyes, still pinning them to the wall. He gets up and begins to walk toward them… then, he sees Roxas. His eyes go wide, and he recoils; dropping his hand to his side.

            The two fall from the wall, grunting in unison as they hit the ground. Roxas gets back to his feet before the vampire does, and he observes the new threat…

            But what he sees is a mirror, reflecting him and Sora.

            Yet… it’s not a mirror. His reflected visage looks pale, gaunt, and completely disturbed; as if he’d seen the depths of hell then suddenly returned to this mortal plane. The reflection of Sora has black hair instead of brown. And the reflections aren’t wearing the same clothes, either…

            It’s like staring into a twisted looking-glass: four different people, two different stories, one reality.

            The man, who was once drenched in darkness, stands. He turns, and Roxas is suddenly taken by his gaze.

            “Go…” The mysterious man starts, and Roxas feels the prickling ecstasy clouding his brain.

            But Sora is upon the man again, his fist rocketing up to land a strategic punch. The man moves, practically faster than the speed of sound, and snags Sora by the front of his shirt--

            His eyes. They’re--

Go

Sand

Go

Sea

Go

History

            Gold.

            They bore into him, the hot honey gold unlocking a million secrets stored away in his brain. The pastel melts, the fog lifts, and the memories rush into his head like a tsunami.

Gold, gold, gold

[Au], [Au], [Au]

        Gold, gold, gold

        [Au], [Au], [Au]

                    Gold, gold, gold,

                [Au], [Au], [Au]

                                Gold, gold, gold

            "Do not leave me behind!"

            “Your eyes… they’re--”

            Eyes

            I am Dracula

            red like fire

            And I am your sire

            Hot honey gold

            “Please kill me. Let me die. Let me DIE!”

            Isn’t this what you wanted, Sora?

            It was all he could do not to scream in agony. Instead, he whispered the name that was trapped in the depths of his subconscious for over two hundred years.

            “Vanitas.”


 

Exeunt


 

A/N: I’ll take “Twists Everybody Totally Saw Coming” for $130, Alex.

AHA THERE IT IS EVERYONE. We are SO close to the end now, it’s almost painful!!! Sorry if it seems a little hurried of a chapter, I really didn’t want to waste anyone’s time by padding stuff out longer than necessary. I’m still planning on my goal of releasing the last two chapters on Halloween, which will officially be the 8th anniversary of this fic. How crazy is that?

The next chapter should explain it all, and I can’t wait for you to see it!

(Also: there’s a couple extra things I might have to go back and retroactively add to the previous chapter because I skipped over them in my notes. It’s nothing big. I also might add a sex scene to this chapter later but I’m not sure.)

I am so damn excited to get this monstrosity done. I even have it written in my will that if anything happens to me, my outline for the last chapters gets published so someone else can finish it for me. Let’s hope I don’t die…

Also… Marluxia Ex Machina?

References and Inspirations:

 

  • Don’t ask me why I decided to turn Sora into Maleficent. I just thought it’d be interesting.

 

-+-

Please favorite, follow, and review! I will also happily take positive constructive criticism! I am always looking to improve my writing. Thank you!

Chapter Text

The Night

Chapter XV: Stay Gold


 

August 23rd, 1860

           Sora reached his hand out to the blue sky, fingers obscuring the sun…

           “Vanitas, you were born mere moments before me. Why do mother and father trust you more than I, even now?”

           “Perhaps to mother and father, those moments were a lifetime. Perhaps it’s because I’m wiser, despite our age.”

           Sora guffawed, “If by wiser you mean that you haven’t gotten caught yet!”

           “Oh ho, ‘yet’? Perhaps a burial in the sand should teach you mock my cleverness!”

           Sora sprang up and they ran together, squealing merrily into the ocean wind.


 

1871

            Sheets of rain choked the landscape, as if the wrath of the heavens themselves where pelting the ground. In the lightning of the storm, the mysterious castle stood menacingly against the mist and flashes of light.

            Despite all of this, a figure approached from the road, steady yet determined. It flung its hands against the door of the castle, crying out.

            "Anon, monster! Open these doors! Let me speak to you, anon!" (1)

            Between the sheets of rain and thunder, there was but silence. In the distance, he could hear a wolf’s howl against the storm.

            Then, the door creaked open, a red-eyed man peering down from the shadows inside.

            "Are you the beast of this castle?" The figure asked, unperturbed by the menace leaking from the cracked door.

            "Child," the man replied, "Cursed beasts have not lingered in castles for many years."

            "Does that imply that you are no prince after all?"

            "Nay, child, for I am boyar. I am the count of Castle Dracula. You would do well to fear me like the townspeople do."

            "Let me in." He demanded, "I care not of your wretchedness."

            The Count regarded him with fiery eyes.

            “Your name, child.”

            “Vanitas.”

            He grinned wickedly. "My! A very demanding guest indeed. If you must insist to join me in my castle then it would be rude to turn you away. After all, the wolves can become agitated at night..."


 

The 18th Century

Life became foreign upon the moment Sora’s brother was sealed in their family mausoleum.

Beneath the shiny rosewood lacquer of a coffin, his brother’s body laid against silk throws of nobility with a visage that bore more living aspects than that of a corpse. It was as if the blood, no longer needed for the working on the heart, had gone to make the harshness of death as little rude as might be. (2) It was also perplexing to Sora that the marks on Vanitas’ neck vanished; the two small needle-like punctures embedded against his jugular that worsened over the course of Vanitas’ illness seemed supernatural, and strangely they were gone just moments before his brother’s death.

However, his parents refused to question it so he simply stayed silent. They needn't frighten others with the auspicious legends that terrified them as children and worse in adulthood. To bring up such superstitions was poison to reputations, and as a family of islanders they were already somewhat out of place in Transylvanian society. It was simply better to forget from that point onward.

The stone doors shut with a gentleness that somehow still left a resounding echo in Sora's skull. Empty like the air, yet loud and clamoring.

Life begins just as life dies, so they turned away from the crypt without a wayward glance. Vanitas would have wanted his family to move on. Especially Sora, who had so many dreams to chase and a life to live.


 

            Creeping in through the window, Vanitas acted as sly and cunning as a cat. He slunk through Castle Dracula’s halls, practically fading into the shadows themselves. The moon was half-full, casting just enough light to lead the way for him back to his quarters. He’d be back inside his coffin in no time, with Dracula none the wiser.

            Or so he’d thought.

            “Vanitas.” A voice hissed at him in the dark.

            He froze… carefully turning to see the figure standing in the light of the moon, fierce red eyes staring at him.

            He sighed, defeated. “Hello, Sire.”

            “You’ve been to see them again, have you not?” His elder chided him.

            Vanitas whipped his body around, teeth snapping at the Count. “They’re destroying his life! All he hoped for was to chase his dreams, and now that I’ve gone they’ve taken his freedom! I’ve doomed my only brother and there’s nothing I can do!”

            “Calm yourself, my fledgling. I’ve told you not to get involved in the mortal life you left behind. It will destroy you, do you understand? I am your family now.”

            Gritting his teeth, Vanitas responds, “But Sora—”

            “Vanitas, lamb of mine… your brother is mortal. One day, he will die and it will tear your soul to pieces. You must learn to distance yourself from mortal love so that you may become a stronger vampire.”

            Vanitas wouldn’t look him in the eye, and he knew exactly why. Although, even if he caught the young man’s gaze, Vanitas’ will was far stronger than his own. He could not control the fledgling in this way, which was a massive surprise on his part. Still, the fledgling would soon one day make a more than suitable heir for him.

            “Sire,” The other nightwalker spoke, finally, “I’m going to turn him. It may be the only way he can achieve his dreams. It’s a vampire’s true destiny to write history, is it not?” He turned on his heel to leave, “No one will make a better vampire than my brother.”

            “Vanitas!” Dracula shouted, “Halt this instant!”

            “Do not try and stop me.” He muttered.

            A mist appeared before him, and Dracula came into being from it.

            “Calm yourself and listen to me. I do not wish to stop you, but if you go to turn your brother you may very well kill him. The ritual is complicated and difficult. If this is your truest wish, allow me to go in your place.”

            Vanitas was taken aback. “You’d do such a thing for me?”

            Dracula stared down at him intensely. “Vanitas, never have I had a fledgling so willingly come to me. Even the sisters recoiled from my propositions at first… but you had no fear. You came to me seeking power. If this is what it takes for me to mentor you so that you may one day surpass me… so be it.”


 

           The screams seemed endless.

           Sora’s body thrashed with spasms, as if possessed by the devil himself. No matter how much Vanitas tried to comfort him, no matter how many times he explained all the wonderful things vampirism granted, Sora would twist and shriek until his throat was bloodied and hoarse… then it would heal and he’d pick right back up where he left off.

           “Sora, don’t you understand?” Vanitas asked him, exasperated, “You can travel the world now. You can become the great historian you’ve always wanted to be. This was your dream. I’ve made it come true!”

           His brother locked eyes with him, the absolute terror rattling Vanitas down to his very soul.

           “Please kill me,” He begged, “Please let me die!”

           For the first time since he was a child, tears came to Vanitas’ eyes. He gripped his brother’s shoulders, tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

           “Isn’t this what you wanted, Sora?”

           Sora shook his head, voice groggy and desperate, “Not like this. Let me die. Let me DIE!”

           Vanitas stared down at him, his own throat feeling full of needles. He laid a kiss on his brother’s forehead. “I cannot let you die, Sora.”

           He looked into his brother’s eyes, and commanded him to sleep. Sora’s eyes rolled back, head dropping onto the pillow in unconsciousness.

           Vanitas’ tears wouldn’t stop.


 

           He’d slept faithfully by Sora’s bedside, similarly to how his younger brother did for him when he grew ill. Count Dracula had explained to him that everyone reacts to turning differently: some people accept vampirism willingly and have little to no reaction, as others will sometimes have days of horrendous pain and sensory overload. However, this had been weeks for Sora, a massive phenomenon to the Count. Vanitas found himself feeling extremely guilty for burdening both his brother and his Sire. At least his Sire didn’t seem to mind all that much, treating it as an opportunity for learning.

           It also helped that Sora had finally stopped screaming. Now, he just slept or looked around like he was in a daze, which is apparently the typical reaction to turning. He was also finally accepting blood to drink, which was great progress, and Vanitas was grateful for that.

           He was laying his head on his arms, dozing on Sora’s bed, when the weak voice reached his ears.

            “Vanitas…”

            His head shot up to meet Sora’s tired gaze, “You’re finally awake.”

           His brother smiled at him warily, “I still cannot get over it. My older brother, alive all this time.”

“Well,” Vanitas reponds, “Not older any longer. You’ve outlived me by two years.”

A pained laugh shuddered out of Sora’s chest. “My, how fate has confounded us.” Then, he took a long look at Vanitas, expression struck with wonder. “I’ve been meaning to say… your eyes… they’re gold. They used to be—”

            “Brown?” Vanitas chuckled, “Yours used to be black.”

            Vanitas reached over to a nearby metal tray and lifted it to Sora’s face. The new vampire gawked at his reflection.

           “They’re… they’re actually quite beautiful.”

           “They’ll serve you well in your unlife, too. Count Dracula, our Sire, has passed on his power of persuasion to us. It allows us to bend the will of others to suit our needs.”

           Sora’s gaze shifted back to his brother. “Truly?”

           Vanitas nodded, “Truly. That is not even the start of what we are capable of as vampires.”

           Brows furrowing, Sora gently swallowed to ease the dryness in his throat. “Will you… will you both teach me?”

           “Are you able to sit up?”

           Sora paused... then, very carefully, he pushed himself up into a sitting position.

          Vanitas asked, “Can you stand?”

           “Certainly.”

           “Can you walk?”

           “Most likely.”

           Vanitas grinned, almost catlike, “Then let us begin today.”


 

            The blades came together, the room echoing with the resulting clang. A shift, a step, more weight… parry. Thrust. Footsteps padded ghost-like across the floor, and Sora tracked them. The blade sliced the air, coming straight for his left side. He ducked to the right, catching the blade mid-air against his. He twisted, felt the length of it turn with him as it clattered to the floor.

            Triumphantly, he extended his blade toward his enemy. “That’s match.”

            “Very good, Sora! You may sheathe your weapon.”

            He did so, sliding the blade neatly into his scabbard. “Vanitas, I understand your reasoning behind swordfighting… what I do not understand is why I would need to be blindfolded.” He removed the offending cloth, blinking into the room’s light.

            “This way, the art of the sword becomes a part of your subconscious. Like learning another language, it becomes part of you forever… you need just a push to activate the memory. In this case, it’s the physical action.”

            “You have a point. However, it still seems excessive to me.”

            “One day you shall be grateful for my lessons, I assure you.” Vanitas plucks the rapier from the ground and moves over to a large case where several other swords are displayed. “Now, you’ve just about mastered the rapier. But what about your cutlass skills?”


 

            Vanitas entered the library and almost immediately he spotted Sora hunched over a table. Books were strewn haphazardly across it’s surface, pinning down a massive map dotted with silverware, chess pieces, cups, and whatever else could be used as a makeshift marker.

            Sora looks over his shoulder, “Evening, brother. Back from your training so soon?”

            Though Sora did not mean this in jest, Vanitas still scowled and averted his gaze as if hurt by the question. So far, the only ability that’d manifested in him is that of persuasion and the smallest sparks of lightning-based magick. Despite the Count’s assurances, it’s been incredibly frustrating. “Never you mind that. What is all this?”

            “I’m planning a fantastical adventure across the world, of course!” Sora beckoned his brother over to explain the masterful plan he’s concocted, pointing up and down the map. “Even Sire has recommended some rather interesting places for my quest to take me.” He added.

            Vanitas hummed, “It looks like an incredible mess.” Now it was Sora’s turn to scowl, and Vanitas laughed. “How are you ever going to make your way with a map made for a giant?” He wandered off somewhere, Sora waiting and watching patiently for him to return. When he did, he brought a smaller map, the perfect size for traveling. “This one is printed on a sturdy woven fabric. It’ll remain intact even on your most extreme adventures.”

            Sora took it, rubbing the parchment between his fingers and admiring the strength. “Thank you Vanitas.”


 

            Sora wiped away the platinum shavings and twisted his hand to look at the crown necklace in the light. The new inscription he added was that of the current year: 1887. Vanitas suggested he dispose of the necklace to fully be rid of his life from before, but Sora chose to keep it. This necklace represents who he was, and now this inscription will represent who he will become. Today was the start of something new.

            Today, his journey began.

            He packed up the last of his minimal belongings and slung his knapsack onto his back. He checked his pockets for the map and his boat ticket. Then, he made his way downstairs. There, Count Dracula was waiting with a proud smile on his face. They shared an embrace.

            “My lamb… are you certain you must go on this quest? We’ve hardly had a chance to see what power you may possess.”

            “Sire, my true hope is to remember history. Supernatural abilities are not required for such a task.”

            They released one another, Dracula nodding sagely. “And that I know you shall accomplish. You may yet become the greatest vampire that e’er was.”

            Sora laughed, “I’d rather just the greatest historian, thank you.”

            “Fare thee well, my lamb. I hope to one day see you once more.”

            “Farewell, Sire. Thank you for everything.”

            Sora went to the front door where Vanitas was waiting. The disdain was apparent in his golden eyes, and something didn’t quite seem right with him. Sora stood before him, and they shared a long moment of silence before they also embraced.

            “This is it, then.” Vanitas sighed, “You’re finally off to chase your dream.”

            Sora laughed, “Brother, you say that as if we’re dying all over again. Of course I’ll see you again, someday.”

            “Someday. Yes…” The released one another, Vanitas still holding Sora’s shoulders as he spoke. “Sora… I’m so grateful I got to have this time with you; to help you find your purpose again in life.” A single tear rolled down his cheek, the last tear he’d shed for decades. “It is why I am sorry I must do this to you.”

            “Vanitas, what—”

            “Listen to my words without interruption, Sora.” The sentence burrowed deep, deep down into Sora’s brain; attacking his conscious and subconscious like a fast-acting and deadly virus. “You will go to the port of Varna and begin your journey. You will travel the world and absorb history to your heart’s content. You will leave this place, and never return. You will forget your brother Vanitas and your sire Count Dracula. You will know who you are but forget this time we spent together. Until we meet again, Sora.”

            Suddenly, Sora’s perfect memory became muddled. The face he was looking at was a fog, a pastel smear. His mind only had one destination: the port of Varna. His feet carried his body, but his mind remained trapped in a land of mist and mystery.

            Vanitas watched him leave, his heart a stone in his chest. Dracula came to stand beside him, watching the zombified figure disappear into the distance.

            “You didn’t have to do this, Vanitas. He would have understood my master plan.”

            “He’s been through too much, Sire. I couldn’t ask him to understand this as well.”

            “Then my plan for domination shall continue.” He put a reassuring arm across the young man’s shoulders, gently leading him back into the castle. “Come, Vanitas. Though today has been arduous, I now have a proposal for you.” Vanitas remained silent, so The Count continued. “Your power remains yet untapped, and in my focus I’ve not been able to properly train you. In the Scholomance, I met a great deal of fantastic warlocks and wizards who’ve mastered the art of dark magick and kept in touch with many of them. I would like you to train under my long time friend Master Xehanort. I believe it is he who will unearth your truest potential.”

            In his mind, Vanitas felt absolutely wretched. He’d just banished himself from his brother’s existence and now his own Sire wishes to pass him off to another’s hands. It was an arduous day indeed, to put it delicately. Yet still, it seemed that his own quest for ultimate power was heading nowhere, and he cannot be of much use to Dracula’s plan for domination at this point. He’s been more of a nuisance to The Count than anything else, though Dracula would surely promise him otherwise.

            Truly… He just wanted to be away from this place, from these 14 years spent with his brother, from the memories echoing in these halls and haunting his heart. It’d only been a few moments since Sora departed, and yet it felt like an eternity to his soul.

            “I shall go,” Vanitas said.

            “I warn you, it will be a mighty feat and no easy task.”

            Anything will be better than this. Is what he thought.

            Vanitas was never the same after that day.

            He left some time after that so Dracula could put his plans in motion. A solicitor was on his way to the castle to provide The Count with some legal advice… a one Mr. Harker, and Vanitas didn’t want to trouble the process with his presence. The Sisters weeped over him, and in the depths of Dracula’s eyes he could see the sadness there… but Vanitas was apathetic, and left in near silence.


 

            When Vanitas first encountered Master Xehanort, he knew there was something different about the old man as soon as he saw him.

            They met in a north-western city on a cloudy day at a nice little cafe. Vanitas was staring indifferently into the street, his tea still warm despite the chill in the air. Fashionably late, the older gentleman lowered himself into the chair across from Vanitas. Although he was clearly an elder, his body still seemed as agile and able as any other. The only hint to his age was the beginning of a slouch, likely brought on by enormous amounts of research, reading, or writing.

            However, that’s not exactly what piqued Vanitas’ curiosity. It was the man’s eyes: they were, for lack of better term, infinite. Similar in color to his own, they had an intensity that seemed to relentlessly suck in all the light around him like black holes. This was no mere man, no mere spellcaster… he was something else entirely. Perhaps mortal once, but surely something like a demon now.

            “Greetings, young man.” In spite of the demon’s terrifying presence, his voice was seasoned and jolly. “I take it you’re the Vanitas I’ve heard so much about?”

            “If you’ve heard of me,” Vanitas responded, “Then you’re either a man returned from the dead to exact your revenge… or you go by Master Xehanort.”

            The gentleman responded by chortling, “Your latter assumption is correct. Is that tea you have there?”

            “It’s only to ease suspicion and blend in. I cannot actually drink it.”

            In a smooth motion, Xehanort dropped something into Vanita’s teacup, and he watched as it bloomed with crimson.

            “That simply won't do. Wasting tea is a sin above all sins.”

            Vanitas took a cautious sip from the cup, pleased to find the iron of the blood enhanced the natural bitterness of the tea blend. Though he and his Sire enjoyed beverages like this plenty of times, he’d never been so bold as to do the same in public. He liked this man already.

            “Well then. Down to business,” Vanitas said, “What shall I foresee in this mentorship should I decide to join you?”

            Xehanort smiled then, a fire burning in his matching golden eyes. “My entire life’s devotion has been to seek power. I’ve traveled worlds over to and studied for countless hours to unlock the hidden secrets of this world, and all the magick that flows through it. The Lifesource, the Spirit, the darkness and light of this mortal plane…” His fingers begin to twitch, as if he could not control his excitement. “It’s all interconnected, like a carefully woven spider’s web, but stacked to infinity. Every single creature is on it’s own thread, it’s own wavelength… unlike your Sire, I can help you pinpoint that wavelength, and we can use it to channel your inner power.”

            Vanitas stares at him thoughtfully. “Interesting… so then what benefits do you gain from my apprenticeship? It seems strange that such a powerful person would be interested in such a thing as mentorship.”

            “Something can be said for what is learned when one teaches. Additionally, there are still many magickal abilities and skills I myself do not possess, and to have an ally with your capabilities would suit my needs.”

            Taking a long sip of his tea, Vanitas considers this. Then, placing the cup back down, he grins.

            And thus began their reign of terror.


 

            Black mist sifted through the doorframe, seeping into the cracks and out the other side. It crept along the floor, dancing like fine sand in the moonlight, before curling in a mass at the edge of the bed. The mist took on a human-shaped form, then melted away like warmed snow; revealing Vanitas’ body. He stared down at the sheets, where a woman laid in peaceful sleep. He crept to her, soundless and catlike.

            Without a moment’s hesitation, he bit into her neck and tore out her throat. She awoke in terror, but was unable to scream. Her breath escaped her bloodied throat in a panicked gargle, and when she attempted to fight off her attacker she found it was like trying to wrestle a marble statue.

            His practice had left him famished, so Vanitas slurped down her blood—even devoured some of her flesh. He drank and drank and chewed and drank until his face was bloodied, his stomach was full, and the woman went still. Then, he lapped up what last drops he could before his body became mist once more: his bloodlust satisfied.

            Having enough energy to maintain his ethereal self now, he drifted all the way back home to his Master. When he came back into being, he entered the study.

            “I’ve returned,” He said, “Moonlight is still the easiest to travel under. I should be content with this feeding for another week or so.”

            The Master turned to him, completely unphased by his bloodied front; on the old man’s lap was the purring form of Lucifer, reveling in the scratches Xehanort was granting him. Vanitas swore that, despite being his familiar, that damn cat adored The Master far more than him.

            “Excellent.” Xehanort said, “You’ve already mastered shifting your form at any time during the day, which is scores beyond what your Sire was capable of.”

            Though this fact pleased him, part of Vanitas wished Xehanort wouldn’t bring up the late Count so often. It’d been a very long time since news of Dracula’s untimely death reached them, yet the pain was always close by in his heart. He did his best to shut the emotion away; after all, it was Dracula himself who warned Vanitas not to let grief into his soul. He was at least comforted knowing that his surpassing of Dracula’s skills was the ultimate goal of his Sire anyway.

            “Yet my thirst is nigh insatiable. I feel as though I’m frenzied for blood more often than not.”

            “In time you will need less and less to maintain your magick. One day you will be unstoppable... and perhaps, one day, the prophecy will come true.” With this as his reminder, he lifted the Enchanted Mirror from the desk and, as he always did, said to it, “Show me Destiny.” It’s surfaced rippled… but nothing happened. “See? We must both have patience, my apprentice.”

            Vanitas rolled his eyes, “If you say so, Master.” Then he went to exit the study.

            As he left, he could hear Xehanort’s voice carrying after him, “By the way, we will have to move again soon. The townsfolk are growing suspicious of these rather gruesome murders.”

            This brought a coy smile to Vanitas’ face and he licked some of the still-wet blood from his lips. Somehow, the fear he carried into each town as he feasted brought him a lovely sense of satisfaction. Fear was his next greatest fuel alongside blood and, sometimes, a nice cup of black tea.

            He disposed of his bloodied clothes and drew himself a bath that night. He dipped himself into the water and watched happily as it turned pink around his submerged body. Then, as he relaxed into the warmth, his mind drifted.

            As of late, the old coot had been obsessed with this strange prophecy. He kept that scrying glass on himself at all times, every now and again asking it about “Destiny”. It seemed as though that was all he used such a powerful artifact for, asking it to no end about this mysterious Destiny. Truly, Vanitas did not actually care about it since it had no bearing on their lives together. In Vanitas’ mind, it was a total waste of a scrying glass.

            One night the old man stepped out suddenly to handle a personal matter, and Vanitas slipped into the study to examine the object. He held the Enchanted Mirror in his hand, staring down into its seemingly innocuous surface, and he nearly asked it to show him Sora. Yet, the words caught in his throat: did he really want to know where his brother was? If he was alive, Vanitas’ heart will ache endlessly with guilt. If he was in danger, Vanitas would want to seek him out. If he was dead, Vanitas would be completely devastated. His hand trembled, mind racing with the possibilities… so he laid the mirror back down and left the study.

            He didn’t want to think about the fact that the answer to all his curiosities is still sitting in the same abode as he. He let his body slip down to be fully submerged; sealing his heart off to the matter once more.


 

May 31st, 2005

            Chill clung to Xehanort’s skin as a gentle wind blew through the springtime morning. The babe cradled in his arms cooed in it’s sleep, and he clutched it a little tighter to his chest to keep it warm. Looking down at the infant, he couldn’t help but smile. Finally, after hundreds of years of waiting, his plan had finally come to fruition. This child was the key.

            The vision in the Enchanted Mirror came to him unexpectedly. He hadn’t checked the scrying glass in nearly a year, and at first he thought he’d imagined the woman that appeared. She had brown hair, green eyes, and was very heavily pregnant—more so than was normal for a woman of her size. He set his plan in motion, then quickly discovered that she was in fact having twins. This was a massive relief because it meant he wouldn’t have to kill anyone, just erase a few memories and rewrite some data. He would take the eldest child born and leave the younger twin so the family would be none the wiser.

            Using Vanitas’ blood and his assistance, they crafted a persona symbola (The Master’s specialty) based around mind control (Vanitas’ specialty). Once in possession of the infant’s blood and visage, they could dispel every and all memories of it. Then, using a series of basic cloaking spells, he simply took the child from the hospital.

            Vanitas knew nothing of this plot, and he didn’t care to ask any questions about it either; all he knew was that Xehanort’s plan was in motion. So, The Master left his apprentice at home. It was especially important that the vampire and this future spellcaster’s introductions come much, much, much later. For now, he was taking the small one to the care of his most trusted (and overly trusting) friend Eraquis. The wizard had a penchant for fostering or adopting stray nightwalkers and had already acquired two in this decade. In the past he’d been up to a dozen: and they were all some of the strongest Xehanort had ever known.

            Though leaving the child in Eraquis’ care posed some risk, he knew there was no better place to leave it for training. If he wanted the babe to efficiently wield it’s powers of light, it would be with a light-wielding scholomancer. Just like his dear friend Dracula entrusted his own fledgling to Xehanort, The Master would do the same for this small child unto Eraquis.

            Finally reaching the gate of Eraquis’ large mansion, he hit the intercom buzzer at the road entrance. The sun was just starting to come up, and if he timed this correctly his friend would be just getting up.

            “Eraquis!” He warbled, moving his face to be in full view of the built-in security camera, “It’s Xehanort! Please, it is imperative you let me in!”

            After a few seconds, a voice crackled from the speaker. “My Goddess, Xehanort, is that really you? Come in, come in!”

            The gate creaked open, and Xehanort made his way up to the front door. He twisted his face up to resemble a harried, terrified old man. Within a moment, the front door flew open to reveal a very concerned Eraquis.

            “My friend, it’s been ages... What are you doing here?”

            Silently, Xehanort shifted the bundle in his grasp to reveal the infant’s sleeping face. It was all Eraquis needed to act, and he reached over to gently lift the babe from his friend’s arms.

            “Goddess above… what has happened to this poor child?”

            Xehanort recited his lie so perfectly it would have fooled a fox: “The poor babe… he was born with untold power. I could sense it from across the country and had many visions of it’s massive destruction. His family…” He sighed, flawlessly prodding all of Eraquis’ soft spots, “The mother did not make it through the birth because of this. The father… chose to follow her into death. He was alone when I found him.”

            Xehanort knew he sealed Eraquis’ fate when the wizard’s eyes became glassy. The black-haired man looked down at the infant in his grasp with an intensity that even moved Xehanort’s cold heart. “You poor creature…” He whispered.

            Xehanort adds, “Because of your infinite heart, and because you trained your eldest to wield her powers at such a young age, I could not think of a better father and teacher for him.”

            “Does he have a name?” Eraquis asked.

            “If he did, I did not care to look… for I believe you can grant him a new name and a new life that will define who he truly is.”

            The gust picked up around them, and Eraquis smiled as the dawn light began to illuminate the child’s face. One child with difficult and unwieldy powers had already proven to be a challenge, but with time he knew he could succeed. The wind, too, was intense and unwieldy; yet, the energy harnessed from it was indeed powerful. He thought of his other two adopted children, and knew right then what to name the infant.

            Xehanort left many supplies with his friend for the baby and bid farewell. His next step was to simply bide his time, watch over from a distance, and wait for the day he would take the boy under his own wing.

            In the meantime, Eraquis carried the baby inside and locked the door behind him. He rocked the small one in his arms, and then called out into the still-darkened home: “Terra. Aqua. You can come out now, I know you were watching.”

            A pause… then, quietly, the two children crept from their hiding places.

            “We really have a new little brother?” Aqua asked in excitement.

            Terra’s face lit up when he saw the infant, “Pop, is that a baby? Can I hold him? Is he a wolf like me? Or is he a witch like Aqua?”

            Eraquis chuckled and knelt down so they could see the baby up close. “You are not just a wolf, Terra. You’re a werewolf, remember? And Aqua is a spellcaster, not just a witch.”

            Aqua said, “I still think witch sounds cooler, dad.”

            The older man laughed, “I suppose you’re correct, Aqua. Now then. Would you two like to know what I’m naming him?” The two nodded in delightful anticipation. “Ventus. It means ‘wind’.”


 

2017

            Xehanort traced his fingertips across the ground, almost elegantly. Whenever he ran out of blood to write with, he dipped his fingers back into the maw of the woman’s chest.

            He recognized her from the hospital all those years ago: plucking the baby from her grasp as the memory drifted from her glazed, doe-like eyes. It was so easy, too easy it seemed… was it easy? Why can’t he remember?

            Just as he feared, the natural resistance to mind control was something that had run in Ventus’ family. It was a risk he had been willing to take, especially since he never thought the family would ever be successful in actually finding his whereabouts.

            Yet, there she laid, a last-ditch effort to find her son after all these years. Her rage had overtaken her sense, and she’d fallen because of it. Her magick was not nearly strong enough to take him down; he wasn’t sure it would have been even if she trained for a thousand years.

            Still, how she found him was a mystery to him. Over the last century he’d been having infrequent issues with senility (Was it a century? Why can’t he remember?), but he was especially careful not to let his many well-known pseudonyms come into contact with his actual name. If they had, he could not honestly remember. He’d nearly revealed himself a few centuries prior when he assassinated Yen Sid, another scholomancer he was friends with. Then that damn apprentice kept coming after him… it took him a long time to wipe his trail clean after that. Did he wipe his trail clean? Why can’t he remember?

            Despite all of this risk, he simply couldn’t help himself with the ghouls sometimes. In a fit of novice excitement, he brought a scourge of them to Dusk City. They were dispatched in similar fashion to how he erected the spell, and he wondered how it was possible. He was sure he’d written that spell somewhere… he’d published books, written entries in massive editions… but he wasn’t certain. He lost the paperwork too. Paperwork was impossible for an immortal to keep, unless you’re a damn vampire.

            Vanitas… that’s right. He has to get back to him. They have much work to do. The next step of the prophecy is upon them in a few year’s time, and the vampire must be ready.

            At least there was one thing he could remember.


 

2024

            “That guy…” Ventus growled, rolling his shoulder and feeling the bruises ache, “He never fucking lets up.” He leaned up against the nearest wall, feeling his face getting hot.

            It’s gotten harder and harder to fight every time Vanitas has come over for combat training. Part of it is because the vampire is testing Ventus’ strength to its limits.

            Although... he can tell the vampire is a sadist. He can see it in his eyes. The guy really enjoys, maybe even gets off on, other people’s pain. Every time Ventus yelps or gasps, he can practically feel the Cheshire-like grin growing on Vanitas’ face. He can hear the sick joy in his laugh, in his endless taunts...

            Part of what makes it so hard to fight him is because, lately, Ventus can’t take his eyes off the damn guy. He’s so fast, and smooth, and when he pins Ventus down he just can’t think. He sees that grin, or hears that laugh, and it stirs something inside him. He hears those taunts and wants to shut Vanitas’ fucking mouth for him.

            He has to get better. He has to overcome this bizarre sensation that makes his mind dizzy. He has to wipe that stupid grin off Vanitas’ face.

            Sore, but determined, he carries himself to wherever Aqua and Terra may be. If anyone can help him get stronger, it’s them. In the meantime… he just won't spar with Vanitas. He’ll avoid him at all costs, train his body and mind… and then the vampire will be sorry.


 

            It’d been months since Vanitas had seen Ventus. He did what was asked of him by Xehanort: go to Eraquis’ place, observe Ventus, and train him to become stronger. Initially, it was the old man who would come to watch over the blond, but he was slowly starting to lose his marbles. Between bouts of paranoia and scribbling in his logs, Xehanort seemed to have little time for his prophesied protege.

            Although Vanitas’ questions remained, it was still fun toying with the blond. Every time they sparred, Ventus always thought he’d had the upper hand… but he never did. Strong as he was, he was still a novice compared to Vanitas. It was great fun since Vanitas had grown bored lately of the monotony that comes with immortality. Now that The Master’s prophecy was in full effect, and the man was going senile, there was little havoc for them to wreak. He’d gotten quite complacent, but these little training sessions with Ventus were quite entertaining. How the snake-tongued Master managed to talk Eraquis into allowing their rigorous training was beyond him.

            Recently, though, it seemed as if the brat was avoiding him like the plague. At first, he was fine with it; it meant less of a sweat for him to work up. And it’s not like the other inhabitants of the home were happy about his presence either, so he didn’t quite feel welcome there. He would show up after sunset (he had to be careful with his timing, as the light had begun to burn him these last few years), would be unable to locate Ventus, then he’d go off to the city to get laid or high.

            Yet, the more time went on without seeing Ventus, the weirder he felt. Slowly, he didn’t want to chase any tail. Slowly, the drugs were amplifying this odd sensation. Slowly, he couldn’t stop thinking about Ventus: that fire of defiance in his eyes, the way he grit his teeth when he swung his fists, and that weird look on his face any time Vanitas bested him…

            He could see it now. Red, and angry, but unmoving… glaring at him with fury, hiding what could possibly be confusion. Face slicked with sweat, mouth hanging open for air—

            Vanitas found himself tapping the intercom button, doing his best to hide his skin from the midday sun.

            A voice crackled out of it: “You’re here earlier than usual, Vanitas.”

            He said nothing, and the gate creaked open. He found himself opening the front door, then speeding through the halls of the house in search of his target. Vanitas found him quicker than expected; caught the blond in his room as he was on is way out, most definitely trying to avoid the vampire.

           “Where do you think you’re running off to?” Vanitas bit out.

           Ventus nearly leapt from his skin, “V-Vanitas! What the hell are you doing here?”

           “We haven’t trained in months. You’ve been avoiding me. I came to find out why.”

           “Look, if you want to spar with me, don’t bother. I’m not going to. I’ve been training on my own.”

           Vanitas cackled, “Oh yeah? Show me then, smart guy.”

           “No. Now get out of my room.”

           “Prove to me you can fight and I will.”

           Losing his patience, Ventus gritted his teeth and stepped up to the vampire. “VANITAS.” He growled, “FUCK. OFF.”

            Vanitas gripped Ventus’ face, looked deep down into his eyes and, with his fangs bared, commanded him: “FIGHT ME.”

            For a long second, Ventus felt his consciousness lapse. An eerie sensation of absolute bliss cascaded over his mind. All at once, he ripped away from it. Was that a power the vampire had that he didn’t know of? Shoving the hand away from his face, he shouted, “No! I’m not going to fight you!”

            Vanitas blinked in astonishment. Ventus... had actually resisted his persuasion. He never tried it before on the blond, so he didn’t realize such a thing was even possible.

            Shaking the shock out of him, he tried to taunt the mortal, “Why? Are you afraid you’d lose? Are you scared I’ll choke the life out of you?”

            “No. I’m not going to fight you because I know I’m stronger than you now. You act tough, and maybe you’ve been sharpening your talent your whole existence, but I know I’d win. It’s the truth.” He turned around and began to walk away, “Honestly, you don’t stand a—”

            Vanitas lunged at him, and any mortal very well could have missed it if they blinked. Vanitas’ hand went rocketing to grab Ventus by the nape… but he was halted midair, and slammed down onto the ground. Ventus didn’t even need to raise a hand to do it. He looked over his shoulder, lips pursed in a pleased little pout.

            “See what I mean?” He turned to face the vampire, leaning down in a taunting way. “I could crush you, and you couldn’t even lift a finger to stop me.” His smile faded into a cold expression. “ I could choke the life out of you before you even had a chance to say half a syllable.”

            For the first time in a very long time, Vanitas was terrified. He’d spent so long relishing the discomfort in Ventus’ training, and now a somewhat intimidating aura had fallen over the blond. He could feel the sweat beading on his forehead.

            “Ventus…” He muttered, voice betraying his poor attempt at hiding fear.

            Then, Ventus grinned, and began to laugh hysterically. “Man, you should have seen the look on your face! You really thought I was going to kill you, didnt you?”

            Vanitas felt the pressure lift from him, and he warily stood.

            “Vanitas, as big of an asshole as you are, I could never actually kill you.” The vampire stared at him with an unreadable face. “What?” Ventus asked.

            Vanitas leaned forward and kissed him. Ventus kissed right back, grabbing onto the vampire. He was pushed against the wall, then there was a tongue between his teeth and fangs scraping his lips. Vanitas’ hands grabbed at Ventus’ body relentlessly.

            “The door,” Ventus whispered between kisses.

            Vanitas shut the door and made sure to lock it, too. Then he practically flung Ventus onto the bed, stripped the blonde’s clothing away faster than the mortal could even take a breath. He felt the blond grabbing for his own clothing, and assisted in pulling it off.

            They were both rock hard. After taking a good look at Vanitas’ massive cock, Ventus felt this insane sensation of fear mixed with arousal washing over him.

             Then, the vampire’s teeth were on Ventus’ skin, fangs scraping against flesh.

            Oh, how badly Vanitas has wanted this moment. For weeks he pictured stabbing his fangs into Ventus’ neck, sucking the blood from his veins, taking a small piece to be with him.

He bit down, then was surprised to feel Ventus doing the same to him. Vanitas didn’t think the blond would bite hard enough to draw blood… but he did. And now they were two blood-sucking beasts wrapped up in eachother.

            Ventus tasted better than he ever imagined, somehow just a tad more delcatable than any other blood he’s had. He knew he’d have to pull himself off before he became frenzied; his mouth popped off Ventus’ shoulders, the sweet smell of iron filling his nostrils. He leaned back and looked down at Ventus, the mortal’s own mouth streaked with just a little bit of blood. Vanitas pressed their lips together again, licking his own blood clean off Ventus’ mouth.

            He pulled away to pop his fingers into his mouth, then he crept them down to prod at Ventus’ entrance. The mortal consciously relaxed below him, so Vanitas slipped a finger inside. Ventus gasped as Vanitas worked his fingers steadily, and within moments he was adding a second one. The blond was grateful to himself for his self-experimentation because it seemed Vanitas had no plans of slowing down. The third finger began stretching him, and Ventus was already writhing in pleasure as the vampire curled them slightly inside of him; nipping harshly at his lips all the while.

            Then, that precious chuckle slipped from the vampire’s throat.

            “I love watching you squirm,” He muttered, looking down his nose at the mortal, his fangs practically glinting in the dying daylight.

            Ventus loved that tone of voice. He wished Vanitas’ words were honey, so he could lick them from the vampire’s teeth. His hand drifted to his own member, and he began to carefully stroke it in time to Vanitas fingering him.

            Then, the fingers were out, and Ventus barely had a moment to react before Vanitas was pinning his arms above his head with one hand.

           He leaned down, whispering sharply into Ventus’ ear. “I’m dangerous, you know. I’ve killed a lot of people. I’m a monster.”

           Ventus was almost disgusted with the words that came tumbling out his own mouth: “I hope you fuck like a monster.”

            Then, Vanitas was sucking Ventus’ earlobe and guiding the head of his spit-slicked cock into Ventus’ ass. The blond knew Vanitas wouldn’t waste any time, so he exhaled quickly and relaxed his body as much as possible. The vampire leaned back and, with little resistance, Vanitas’ huge shaft was slipping inside him, and his jaw dropped open in a silent scream. The vampire’s cock stretched him further than he ever thought possible, and the bizarre mix of pleasure and pain had his cock and his insides twitching.

            Before Vanitas was buried to the hilt, he started moving back out, working in an expert way to slowly adapt Ventus’ ass to his length. He saw a bead of precum forming on the slit of the blond’s member, and he couldn’t help the need to speed up. Ventus grunted and groaned beneath him, twisting around on the sheets with each thrust.

            “Too rough for you?” Vanitas chided him.

            The blond locked eyes with him, “Not rough enough.”

            “Is that so…?”

            Vanitas smirked, and moved his hand to gently squeeze around Ventus’ throat. Then, he began to buck his hips quickly and furiously into the blond. The mortal’s face was graced in complete pleasure, his eyes rolling back as he gasped. A nice little stream of precum dripped all the way down his cock. Vanitas grabbed it just then, and began quickly stroking it in time with his thrusts. He eased up his grip on Ventus’ throat, listened hungrily as the mortal whined in ecstasy.

            Vanitas could tell Ventus wasn’t going to last much longer, so he let himself grow close to the edge; watching carefully for the blond to spill over.

            When Ventus did, his hands flew to his mouth to muffle a cry as his insides gripped around Vanitas’ shaft. Cum shot up the mortal’s chest and pooled on his stomach.

            Vanitas removed his hand from Ventus’ throat, whispering, “Tell me to come inside you.”

            Ventus complied, “Please… come inside me.”

            Vanitas let loose a few harsh thrusts, emptying his warm load inside the mortal. He pulled out slowly, head dizzy from the sensation. They laid side-by-side in a breathless daze. As soon as the fog cleared, Vanitas began to redress himself.

“Not bad,” Vanitas said, “For a virgin.”

Ventus’ face went red. “H-how did you…”

“Are you kidding me? It was obvious.” He went to leave, but stopped for a long moment at the door. “I’ll be back at sunset tomorrow.” He looked over his shoulder at Ventus, his warm golden eyes making the blond’s heart flutter. “No more hiding from me, okay?”

He didn’t wait for a response, he just left the mortal to doze; the smell of sex still clinging to the air.


 

2025

           “Hey, Ven.” Terra’s voice came to him from the kitchen doorway.

           “Hey, Terra.”

           “Wait… is that a cat?” Ventus turned a little bit so Terra could fully see the black cat cradled in Ventus’ arms.

           “Isn’t it cute? It’s the first cat I’ve ever met that likes belly rubs.” Using a free hand, Ventus demonstrated by rubbing his hand in a small circle on the cat’s stomach; the creature purred in response.

           “Interesting… where did you find this cat, exactly?”

           “It was just sitting on my window sill when I woke up. It hasn’t tried to leave yet either…” Terra moved a little closer and the cat, despite it’s compromising position, hissed at him. “Oh, don’t be like that.” Ventus scolded it.

           “It’s okay, Ven. Cats don’t seem to like me. I think they can tell what I am…” Ventus laughed at this, and just then Terra noticed how beat-up the younger man looked: he had scrapes and bruises everywhere. “Ven, maybe you should let up on the sparring for a bit. You look like a mess. Even though he agreed to it, Pop is really worried about you too.”

           Ventus had to duck his face down to hide his blush. Yes, the training had become more rigorous… but most sessions were being cut short by both him and Vanitas getting too worked up to actually finish them. Vanitas had very… rough tendencies, and Ventus was quickly learning he also had a penchant for them through the vampire. He was glad nobody in the house seemed to notice… at least, not as far as he could tell.

           “Yeah,” The blond chuckled, trying not to sound embarrassed. “I’ve been pushing myself a bit too hard lately.”

           “I’m not as worried about what you’ll do,” Terra responds, “I’m mostly just worried about that Vanitas guy… you should be careful around him. He seems a little…”

           “Twisted?” Ventus offered.

           “Yeah, twisted for sure. Aqua and I aren’t going to be around forever… we can’t protect you if something happens.”

           Ventus was pretty sure he knew what Terra was hinting at: the werewolf and Eraquis had been at odds recently, and it was beginning to sound more and more like Terra was ready to pack up and leave. He and Aqua were mainly sticking around for Ventus’ sake, as they tended to baby him even more than Eraquis did. It was really grating on his nerves, since now he almost matched Aqua in power. He wanted to figure out a place he himself could go, if only to free his family of his burdensome presence.

           “Well, I gotta go help Pop with some stuff in the city today. I swear that old man can’t let me have a moment of damn peace.”

           Just then, the intercom in the kitchen crackled: “Hey. It’s me.”

           Terra made a sour face. “Perfect timing, I guess. Want me to go let him in?”

           Ventus shook his head, “No, I’ve got it. I’ll see you around.”

           “Yep,” The werewolf muttered, taking his leave.

           Ventus went to the door, still holding the cat with one arm, and opened it.

           Vanitas went to greet him when he locked eyes with the cat. His normally deadpan facade was broken as a look of angry surprise graced his face. “Wha—-you damn cat! This is where you went?!”

           The cat looked at Vanitas with a face that almost perfectly said “ Oh, it’s you .

           “Vanitas, this is your cat?” Ventus asked, “He just showed up out of nowhere.”

           “Shit, I thought the thing went off to die somewhere.”

           Ventus was taken aback, “Wait, what?!”

           “Ah, it’s okay Ventus… that’s my familiar. Her name is Lucifer.” Vanitas said as he stepped inside, “You know what a familiar is, right?”

           “I’ve heard of them… I know they’re a creature that binds their spirit to someone, but other than that, I don’t know much.”

           Vanitas then explained that a familiar’s soul, when their current body fails, will simply reincarnate into another host of the same animal. For Lucifer, she would just wander off anytime she got too old or sick to function… then in a month or so, another black cat with golden eyes would show up on Vanitas’ doorstep.

           “Wow… I’m not sure if that’s kinda sad or really sweet.”

           “I think it’s pretty damn sweet. It saves me a fuck-ton of money on vet bills, that’s for sure. Isn’t that right, Lulu, you little shit?”

           Vanitas reached over to scratch the cat’s head, and the creature playfully bit his fingers. They started the walk to Eraquis’ training room, when Ventus stopped.

           “Actually… I don’t know if I’m in the headspace for sparring. I feel like I’m stuck.”

           Vanitas raised an eyebrow, “I swear, if you’re just being lazy—”

           “I promise I’m not. I just…  feel like I’m ready for a change. Because of me, Terra and Aqua have been stagnating, and the fact that they won’t leave is hurting their relationship with dad. I need to prove that I’m ready to be on my own.”

           Vanitas was suddenly very baffled. He was warned by The Master that this might happen eventually, but whether or not that was part of this ridiculous prophecy is uncertain. He was instructed that, at the first sign of Ventus having thoughts about leaving, to scoop him up and bring him to their home immediately. He personally wasn’t quite ready for the commitment—he enjoyed their delightfully sinful activities over the past few months, but moving too fast with a mortal always spelled trouble. Maybe… maybe he could wait a while longer until he brought Ventus to Xehanort—

           “Now that I think about it, a long time ago Master Xehanort told me that I could come live with him when I was ready to advance my training.”

           —or maybe not.

            Bastard, Vanitas thought as Xehanort’s creepy old face flashed across his mind.

           “I’d hate to put that burden on you, though, Vanitas. Although…” Ventus playfully poked at him, “We could mess around as often as we want.”

           Vanitas’ brow furrowed in thought. It would be rather convenient…


 

November 23rd, 2026

           Pinning Ventus down, Vanitas dragged his tongue up Ventus’ neck as a hand snaked elsewhere to grope him in his most sensitive places. Ventus groaned: the only movement he was able to do was rock his hips up into the vampire’s.

           Then, Ventus’ phone chirped in a peculiar way and he expertly wriggled out from beneath the vampire.

           “Just where the hell do you think you’re going?”

           “Terra promised he’d send me a SphereChat when he made it to Euro. Look!” He showed the screen to Ventus: a picture of Terra holding up a peace sign with the caption “ Made it safely!” In a transparent banner across the bottom. After Ventus had left home, Aqua and Terra were finally able to comfortably leave as well to go on their own adventures. They kept Ventus updated constantly, and it seemed their relationship with Eraquis had also improved considerably.

           Vanitas scowled at the picture, “Well, there goes my boner.”

           Ventus laughed, “It’s not like we have time to do anything, anyway. You’re supposed to leave in…” He checked his phone, “Oh shit ! Vani, you need to leave like, right now! You’re going to miss your train!”

           Vanitas sprang up and started grabbing his clothes, a steady stream of “fuckfuckfuckfuck” drifting from his lips.

           Ventus helped him stuff a couple more things into his backpack, and he followed the vampire downstairs to the door.

           “I lo—” Vanitas stopped himself, throat drying up suddenly. He hoped Ventus didn’t hear him start to say that, but the mortal’s eyes were wide with realization. “I, uh… take care of Lu for me.” He backpedaled, “I’ll be back in a couple days.”

           “Yeah.” Once Vanitas vanished in the distance, Ventus muttered, “I love you too.”


 

November 30th, 2026

           On the train ride home, Vanitas wondered how well Ventus’ next level of training was going. The Master hadn’t been very specific about what he had in mind for the blonde, and it made Vanitas a little uneasy to leave them alone with Xehanort’s failing mental health. But the old man kept reassuring him, and sent him off on this trip to gather some old tomes that a black market seller had for him. Despite his decrepit state, Xehanort typically went on these ventures himself, so it seemed a little off that he would send Vanitas to do it so suddenly.

           He just couldn’t shake the terrible feeling in his gut.

           Eventually, Vanitas made it back home to the Haunted Mansion as he called it. Why Xehanort felt the need to disguise the place with such an intense ward was beyond him. One day, a few years ago, they just left their old home without warning and Xehanort erected this fantastical mansion in the middle of fucking nowhere, then hid it beneath a disguise. Vanitas always assumed the old man was steadily becoming too paranoid and delusional for his own good, but he followed the guy along anyway.

           He’d grown increasingly apathetic in these last few decades. He felt so little joy in anything but drugs, fucking, killing, and time spent with Lucifer. Even the marvels of history and science had come to bore him. He’d already traveled the entire globe, so there was nothing else to see. His immortal life had lost meaning, and now that he’d found the power he sought… there was really nothing left.

            Nothing… He thought, then, he looked up at the trees.

           He could clearly picture the first autumn Ventus spent there with him. The maple trees surrounding the property began their lovely gradient into a fiery red, and Ventus would spend hours outside just laying beneath them. Lucifer would lay curled by his side or on his stomach, snoozing gently. Vanitas always thought it was silly how much mortals adored things like the sunset or perfect snowflakes or trees changing colors. After all, he’d seen it so many times that it lost its charm.

          Yet, seeing Ventus so wrapped up in the natural beauty of the season… it reminded him of something he’d forgotten, despite his perfect memory. That day, he came to sit with Ventus and cracked open an old bottle of Pinot Noir to share. They sipped the wine in silence, staring at the leaves and watching them fall as a gentle breeze would shake them from the branches.

           It was the very first time Vanitas realized that Ventus wasn’t just his fuck buddy.

           It rarely happened but, just then, a genuine smile graced his lips

            Maybe ‘nothing’ is too extreme. He thought.

           He bit his finger and used the blood to unlock the shield and door. When he stepped inside, it was quiet as always.

           “Hey,” He drawled into the emptiness. “I’m home.”

           Silence. Not unusual, but he did arrive home on time… at least Ventus should be there to greet him.

           He left his things in the foyer, climbed the stairs, and walked down to the long hallway. When he got to Ventus’ door, he knocked.

           “Hey, Ven?” He said, “I’m back. You in there?”

           Silence.

           The blond might be asleep or even just elsewhere, but he decided to open the door to be sure.

           He cracked it open, peering inside…

           And saw Ventus sleeping peacefully on his bed. The blond’s body was turned away, but Vanitas could hear his heartbeat.

           The vampire let out his breath, not realizing he’d been holding it in the first place. Why is he so nervous? Ventus is fine. He’s just asleep, that’s all.

           Just then, Lucifer’s head popped up from somewhere in the blankets. The cat sprang from the bed and began yowling at Vanitas as he trotted over.

           Something was definitely not right.

           “What’s wrong, Lu?” He whispered, and the cat crossed back over to the bed. Throat tight, Vanitas crept into Ventus’ room and approached the blond. Cautiously, he reached forward and gave Ventus’ shoulder a little shake. “Ven?”

           No response.

           Vanitas couldn’t help the nervous laugh that escaped him, and he shook a little harder.

           “Come on, this isn’t funny.”

           More silence.

           “Ven… please…” Vanitas muttered, kneeling next to the bed and gently pulling the blond over to lay on his back.

           He flinched back when he saw Ventus. The blond’s face was sallow as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks. His eyes were… dim. Dull, like a lake underneath a sprawling fog. Dark circles hung beneath them as if sleep had forgotten him. In a daze, he looked up at the vampire, and although he seemed relieved to see him, he obviously wasn’t completely conscious.

           Finally able to dig out the words from beneath the shock, Vanitas whispered, “What happened to you…?”

           Ventus’ chapped mouth hung open: gaping like he couldn’t breathe, yet no sound would leave his throat. He reached up to Vanitas with a shaky hand, and Vanitas took it without question.

           “Ah, Vanitas,” A voice crept up his spine from the doorway. “You’ve made it home safely.”

           Lucifer skittered under the bed, regarding Xehanort’s presence with angry eyes.

           “Master, what’s wrong with Ventus?!” He shouted, panic laden in his voice. “What happened?!”

           “Yes, yes… the boy. He’s fine. Rather, he will be fine. You see, while you were gone, I proceeded with the next step of the prophecy. The baptism.”

           “Hang your prophecy, you old fool!” He bit out, dialect slipping in his rage, “What have you done to him?!”

           Brushing off his apprentice’s anger, Xehanort replies, “It’s simple, my dear boy. I’ve unlocked his truest magicks. He is reborn into this world as an equal to us. He finally has the ability to become an unstoppable killing machine, just like you and me. I knew when I took that child from his mother’s hands he was the answer to all my hopes.” Reaching his hands up, he grinned wickedly, “Finally, the three of us will be able to take over this small planet.”

           Vanitas wanted to fly into a rage, wanted to scream and rip Xehanort to shreds with his bare hands…

           But something stuck to his brain like a vile paste.

           “You said his mother and father were dead when you found him. You said the spell we created was to protect what little family he had left.”

           The Master paused thoughtfully, realizing his own slip of the tongue. “Vanitas, I assure you I only misdirected you to protect both you and Ventus. If he’d stayed with that family, they never would have been able to unlock his potential—”

           “You kidnapped an infant from an intact family? He could have lived a normal life. And now he’s…” Vanitas looks hopelessly back down to Ventus, who has fallen into a trance. “You did this to him.”

           “I assure you, my young apprentice, this will all be worth it in the end. When we stand atop the peak of the world, looking down at all the ants scurrying across our feet, you will thank me. It was meant to be for both of you. It’s destiny.”

           Vanitas was silent for a long moment, still looking down at the dozing figure on the bed. Right then, he realized the obvious truth that was staring at him all these years: he’d also been part of this madman’s precious prophecy. Every action coordinated by Xehanort pushed him closer and closer to his grand plan. Before, he was merely a helper… but now, it was obvious he and Ventus were at the dead center of it all. All these years Xehanort had been so careful to not let this fact slip, and there they were now: the old man’s fading mind was bringing out all the truth and inhumanity inside of him.

           And now, on top of all that, Vanitas had a different epiphany. What’s the point of untold power? What’s the purpose of taking over the world? Life is worth living because of the unexpectedness of reality; watching as each day brings new change, as the sun sets or the leaves fall. To forever control the world would be, in it’s own way, a form of suicide.

           “Okay, Xehanort.” He says, finally. “I see now. As you wish, the plan will continue as intended.”

           “I’m so glad you realize my intentions, Vanitas. You’re probably exhausted from your trip, and certainly hungry too… why don’t you take a drink from Ventus?”

           Vanitas looked back to the old man to see some kind of scientific curiosity laden on his features. Obviously he wasn’t going to do that to Ventus while he’s catatonic and incapable of consent. The blond is clearly traumatized enough. Furthermore, doing it in front of the old man felt… wrong. Just wrong.

           “No, I… I’m not hungry.”

           “Nonsense, Vanitas. Ventus would want you to be at full strength after such a lengthy journey.”

           His patience running thin, Vanitas responded, “I said I’m not doing that to him!”

           With a few heavy steps, Xehanort was inside the room and reaching a hand down to grab Ventus by the front of his shirt. He flicked out an ornate thief's knife, pressing it perilously against the blond’s cheek.

           “Drink NOW. ” His voice boomed, “Or I shall force your nose to any number of gashes until you comply, you impetuous creature!”

           Vanitas was so taken aback by The Master’s actions that he was frozen in place, which was a beyond rare occurrence. He should have ripped him to shreds right there, and scratched the madman’s eyes out for even considering threatening Ventus. Vanitas’ eyes flicked to Ventus, and despite the layers of haze apparent on him, he seemed to be pleading the vampire to comply. Crazed or not, Xehanort was still far too powerful to take on alone. He’d have to cooperate for now.

           Gently taking Ventus’ hand, he leaned down and lets his teeth sink into the flesh of the wrist. The flavor that entered his mouth practically exploded with intensity. It was sweet and bitter and heavy and light… cold and warm, and disgusting and enticing. It’s not the same blood he’d been feeding on these last few years. There was no way to describe the addictive sensation that was enveloping him. He quickly pulls away, the lingering sensation making his stomach turn in unsated hunger.

           The Master laughed at him, dropping the blond back onto the bed. “Brilliant… brilliant! I’ll allow you two to rest. Vanitas, you might consider stepping into the sunlight soon. I think you’ll find the results surprising. And if you’re worried about sweet Ventus’ family… I’m afraid only his mother missed him. I made sure to take care of her myself.” He guffaws heavily, crossing the floor to leave the room… then, he stops. “Say… why was I in Ventus’ room anyhow? I thought I was in my study…” He enters the hallway, seemingly unaware of their presences. The vampire can hear the old man muttering “Vanitas should be getting home soon…”

           Moments pass, perhaps even hours… then Vanitas slammed a fist into the floor. He could feel the wood splintering under his strike, but he kept punching and punching until his knuckles were bloody and the boards were creaking, and Ventus was laying a tender hand upon his head to comfort him. Without looking up, he took Ventus’ hand.

           His thoughts were a blurry rage, like a maelstrom of fury spinning in his head. The only discernible string of consciousness centered around a plan.

           Alone, The Master would surely defeat him. If he stood a chance… he’d need Ventus. He has to pretend to comply for now, get the blond rehabilitated, and together they may actually be able to accomplish the impossible.

           They were going to kill Xehanort.


 

January 9th, 2027

            Vanitas releases his grip, dropping Sora back onto his feet.

            “No,” He says, “No, no… goddess-fucking-damn it, you were supposed to forget me .”

He doesn’t know how it is possible. With the power of persuasion, you have to be incredibly careful with your wording. He thought his command for Sora to forget him and Dracula was perfectly fine, but…

His eyes widen when he realizes something: the fatal flaw.

I said ‘until we meet again.’

           Meanwhile, Sora is stuck between wanting to cry, and laugh, and scream, and tear his own brother’s throat out with his teeth. He grabs the other man by his shirt, snarling fangs exposed and murder in his eyes.

            “TWO CENTURIES without a brother. And but five decades worth of agony I was in, wondering who you were. The chasm in my chest was INFINITE with the pain of suffering you’ve caused. I could not even picture your face! I could not even remember your smile … Why would you torture me like this?”

            Vanitas rips his brother’s hands away, laughing facetiously. “Precious little Sora… what I’ve done was to protect you. Because of me you suffered.”

           “Is this not suffering?”

           “You would have slowed us down. Dracula and I were to bring darkness—”

           “And how well did that go for you? He’s dead and here you are!”

           Vanitas snarls, but regrets the words as soon as they leave his mouth: “I should have just let you die when you asked me to.”

           Vanitas makes the mistake of blinking.

           In a fire-hot second, he is stepping back from the weight of a punch landing expertly on his cheek.

           Sora growls back at him, “Then why didn’t you?”

           Vanitas lunges at him, and Sora is ready to meet him halfway when they both feel themselves freezing in place.

           “Enough!” Roxas shouts, “We don’t have time for this! We have to find The Necromancer and kill him before he gets the drop on us!”

           “The… Necromancer.” Vanitas mutters, “Right, that’s what people kept calling Xehanort for so many years.” Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Ventus ready to counter. “Stand down, Ventus. I guess they’re on our side.”

           Roxas drops Sora, but leaves Vanitas pinned. “Is that guy… Ventus right? He’s my…”

           Vanitas sighs, “Estranged twin? Yeah, it’s about as crazy as it sounds. Let me go.”

           Hesitant, Roxas carefully releases his hold on Vanitas. Slowly, he approaches Ventus who still has his guard up.

           “I… uh… I’m Roxas.” He says.

           Ventus does not respond, but his face softens. “...can you speak?” Roxas asks.

           Ventus shakes his head.

           Vanitas steps in, “He can’t talk, and we aren’t sure if he’ll ever be able to again. Xehanort tortured him. He strung him up at the stake like a witch and…” He sucks in a breath of air through his teeth. “We’re going to fucking kill him.”

           Roxas looks to Ventus, who won’t make eye contact now. “Does he know about our mother?” Vanitas nods in response, and Roxas says, “Tell me where The Necromancer is.”

           Vanitas sighs again, “He’s not here. We don’t know where he went.” He was about to find out, though, as the Enchanted Mirror was tucked safely into his jacket.

           “Ah, Vanitas…” A voice drifts from the staircase, and all eyes turn to its source. “You are wrong. I never left.”

           It was him: Xehanort, The Necromancer. He practically floated down the staircase, golden eyes flickering with an intensity that shook Sora and Roxas down to their core.

           “I foresaw your arrival. I felt the eyes of a scrying glass on me for the first time in centuries, and I knew something was on the horizon. I’ve spent hundreds of years searching for power and purpose on this godforsaken planet… human life has become so pitous to me. Like a million grains in an hourglass, they pass by me. But this prophecy… this prophecy finally brought curiosity back to my life. It gave me hope, and visions for a grand future where I am finally atop the world, and not just amidst its endless spinning.”

           “‘Prophecy?’” Sora asks.

           The Necromancer nods, eager to recite it to them. “Power of ages creates life / Of whence the key of Destiny is borne / A mirror of fate envisions thy angel / Which maketh Heaven’s light pour from the skin / Of whence nightdevil will turn to air / Scarred from the Sun and cursed to the Moon / Eighteen years or little more / Maketh true the hearts entwine / As fate sees their love alive / Feast of blood and Baptism of death / Baptism of blood and Feast of death / Release the magicks which lay within / And so the devil will walk in the sunlight / and the Angel will drink blood in the night / and the world shall bow before them!”

            Sora looks at Roxas, “Key of…”

            “...Destiny?” Roxas whispers.

            Xehanort’s fingers begin to twitch in excitement. “Now then!” He bellows, “If you wish to kill me, I hope you try your best!”

            The floor beneath their feet shifts.

            “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” Vanitas screams, and everyone just barely has enough time to dodge as several pillars of marble and earth rocket toward the ceiling. More sections begin to rattle underneath them, and they nearly miss slipping away as more pillars jut out of the floor. Cracks start to form in the ceiling with the force of the impacts.

            Phase shifting through as much as he can, Sora sprints to the staircase and leaps from the bottom, a green fireball crackling in one hand. The Master smirks at him, and a rush of arctic air rushes passed him. He barely escapes it in time, falling back as the searing pain of frost rips through his arm.

            “SORA!” Roxas shouts, and his eyes lock with Vanitas’. Without a word, they share a single thought.

            “Keep those pillars down,” Vanitas says, and his body melts into black mist before darting toward his brother like a quick stream of smoke.

            XIII stretches his hands out and, summoning as much magick as he can, uses his power like a flooring to keep the pillars from jutting out of the ground. They start banging against the force, and every hit feels like it’s going to tear Roxas’ arms out of their sockets.

            Vanitas gets to Sora as the blue-eyed vampire is dodging ice strikes with his phase shifting while returning fire in kind. The ice on his arm has melted and the skin is healing extremely quickly. Out of the corner of Sora’s eye, he sees Vanitas’ mist form and creates a circle of green flame around the Necromancer. There’s a crashing sound and Sora looks up to see a pillar is speared through the ceiling and is now soaring upwards through the sky. Before Vanitas cloaks him in black mist, he turns to see Roxas standing with his arms outstretched and Ventus next to him; pointing a single finger in the air and eyes trained murderously on Xehanort.

            In a breath, he feels a bizarre lightweight sensation, similar to when he’s phase shifting, and within a few seconds the blackness dissipates and he’s back with Ventus and Roxas.

            “Nice going, you fucking idiot,” Vanitas hisses at him, “What were you think—”

            There’s the sound of cracking wood as the airborne pillar comes crashing back through the ceiling and straight into the circle of fire where Xehanort is standing; demolishing the wooden staircase and the floor beneath it as dust and dirt explode into the air.

            Sora, Roxas, and Vanitas turn their gaze to Ventus, whose finger is pointing down and whose cold eyes are glaring at the mess.

            Suddenly, a series of metal weapons comes shooting out of the walls and pulverized staircase. They coalesce into a cloud and shoot down toward the four. Ventus holds up a hand and the cloud of weapons splits in twain, stabbing into the ground in a triangle around them.

Across the room, Xehanort rather gracefully extracts himself from the gravel. His fingers twitch and twist in that grotesquely erratic way, and black pools begin forming on the floor. Ventus makes a graceful movement, and the swords lift themselves out of the floor and begin to impale the pools, inhibiting their growth. Long spiking tendrils jut out from the untouched blackness in a spiraling path toward them.

            As if on instinct, Roxas knows exactly what to do.

            “Shut your eyes!” He commands, and he throws a massive ball of light into the largest patch of tendrils. It explodes, filling the room with pure white light, and the blackness on the floor vanishes.

            Just then, a searing pain goes ripping through him.

            It’s a pain so unbearable that it takes the air from him, and his brain is unable to comprehend it. He watches the world around him at half-speed, sees Sora’s horrified face, looks at the black spear-like tendril stretching from the Necromancer’s hand and passing through his chest…

            And blackness takes him.

            Roxas is dead before he can hear Sora screaming his name.

            He’s dead before the tendril vanishes.

            He’s dead before his body even hits the ground.

            Xehanort’s next move is to take the XIII’s head off before the other three come out of their shock, but a booming command rocks through the room: “STOP!”

            Nobody can move. Even Ventus is compelled by Sora’s words.

            The blue-eyed vampire pulls Roxas’ limp form into him, sobbing desperately as XIII’s blood soaks through his clothes. He can’t find the words to beg, doesn’t know what incantation can will the living back to form, is hoping this is the part where he wakes up.

            Roxas’ lifeless eyes stare endlessly up into the exposed starry sky as Sora goes blind from his tears.

           His head splits in two.

           The smiling face of a woman—

           His own face.

           The edge of everything.

           Black.

           A scream, eternal, echoing across every cell in his body.

           A never ending spiral.

           He is everything.

           He is nothing.

           Horrifyingly simple.

           Bizarrely complex.

           A woman’s face.

           A woman’s face…

           Aerith’s face.

            In a field of soft grass and white flowers, he stands. The clouds drift slowly overhead, and the wind rustles the field, but it is silent.

            He can feel someone’s presence behind him, comforting and kind.

            “Oh, my sweet light. I was hoping I wouldn’t see you again so soon but… but I’m glad I don’t have to worry.”

            “Mom?” Roxas whispers, finding himself unable to turn toward her voice.

           “I hoped I could protect all of you. I hoped that keeping the truth from you, even if I failed, would save you. It was very selfish and foolish of me to think that. A mother’s greatest wish is for her children to be happy. But Roxas, I love you and Cloud and Ventus so much . I just need you to know that.”

           “I’m sorry I ever blamed you,” Roxas responds, tears in his eyes, “You did everything you could to help us and—and… now I’m dead right?”

            Aerith is quiet for a long moment. “The answer was always there, but only now you have the eyes to see it.”

           “Will I remember this?”

           “You haven’t yet.”

           “There’s so much I want to say to you… there’s so much I want to tell you.”

           He can hear her lovely laugh, “Maybe one day you will, but please don’t try to come back any time soon. Okay? You worry me. You and Cloud both.”

           He can’t help but smile at this.

           “What happens now?”

           “The same thing that always will.”

           He can hear her turning around, and feels her hand on his forehead.

           “You better hurry, my sweet light. Dilly-dally, shilly-shally.”

           It falls away.

           A single pinprick of light.

           He reaches for it, but it reaches him first.

           His mother's face—

           A woman's face—

           Black.

            What a strange dream.

           He must have passed out from the pain. That blow hit him pretty hard. He wondered if he had cracked ribs. It took him a moment to notice he couldn't breathe, but at the same time he didn't need to. It felt like his insides were sand, spilling into a hole like an hourglass. What a peculiar sensation. He wanted to reach toward his chest to examine the area but his body wouldn't cooperate. He likened it to sleep paralysis.

           Why was Sora screaming at him, anyway? He just needs a second to lay there and wait for his brain to remember how to move and breathe.

           Suddenly, air is rushing his lungs and he gasps out a breath, his body finally feeling unparalyzed. His eyes fly open and he grabs his chest to feel for any wounds—

           But there is only a hole in his cloak. He touches bare, unscathed skin, and his eyes dart up to meet Sora’s.

           The vampire is completely and utterly shocked, and desperately trying to blink tears from his eyes so he can see.

           “You’re… you were… how…”

           “SORA LOOK OUT!” Vanitas shouts, but Roxas is already on it. He throws a blanket of light across Sora’s shoulders, and the tendril of darkness forks around them like deflected lightning. Sora’s Glamor had stopped working once Roxas had come back to life.

           “I see you have your brother’s gift of life, young man!” Xehanort jeers at XIII, “My, how he screamed as he burned! I feared his body would never regenerate. When your mother confronted me, I made sure to take her brain first for this very reason. I shall not make the same mistake with you twice.”

           “You won’t get that chance, you fucker!” Vanitas responds, his hand reaching toward the heavens.

           Everyone’s hair stands on end.

           Nobody had noticed the heavy storm cloud forming over the broken ceiling. Thunder roars overhead, and Vanitas whips his hand down; within a split second, a purple streak of lighting explodes on the ground before them. The current crackles between each of the weapons impaled on the ground between Vanitas and Xehanort, forking in an instant to the old man and wracking his body with electricity.

           Suddenly, Sora, Roxas, and Ventus all share one feeling. Roxas and Sora stand, then all three of them lift their hands.

           The words come to them at once, even to the muted Ventus: “ Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.

           The last thing Xehanort is able to think is that all this time, maybe he’d been a little foolish about his beloved prophecy.

           Two blinding white beams cascade from Ventus and Roxas’ hands, spearing through Xehanort’s head and chest respectively and instantly killing him. A blast of green fire, hotter and brighter than anything Sora has created before, completely engulfs the Necromancer’s body. The flames don’t even leave a charred corpse; they completely swallow the corpse as if whisking it to another realm.

           Just like that, over the course of a few second, it’s all over.

           They stare at the rubble and ruin, air heavy with sulfur and hints of petrichor. The storm cloud overhead, instead of raining, begins to shed heavy flakes of snow into the open ceiling.

           “We actually did it. We really fucking did it. Sora,” Vanitas says, “Take care of yourself, okay?”

           Sora whips around to face him, but Vanitas was had already swung Ventus into his arms.

           “Vanitas, don’t—

           In a blink they dissolve: vanishing into the very dust that was hanging in the air.

           “Don’t leave me again…” The vampire mutters.

           Before Roxas could think to comfort the vampire, his vision becomes blurry, a sudden wave of exhaustion taking over his body. “Sor…” He barely manages to say as his body goes limp.

           The last thing he remembers is Sora catching him, and hearing the vampire telling him, “It’s okay, Roxas. It’s finally over.”


 

Exeunt


 

A/N: 11/11, make a wish.

I PROMISE THIS IS NOT THE LAST CHAPTER. I was planning on releasing this one and the last one at the same time, but I’m still not very happy with how the last one turned out so I’m going to keep working on it.

ALSO technically I DIDN’T miss my Halloween deadline because if you're a Nightmare Before Christmas fan, any time between Halloween and Christmas is still technically Halloween! HAHA my logic is flawless!

I’m sorry, I hope nobody is mad. If you are, here’s a cheesy joke.

Wanna know why vampires rarely get anyone pregnant?

It’s because they need permission to come inside. ;)

References and inspirations:

 

  • Aerith’s Theme
  • My Chemical Romance’s album “May Death Never Stop You.”
  • Fall Out Boy’s song “Golden.”
  • Adventure Club’s song “Gold.”
  • 1: This use of "anon" is in reference to it's oldest form, meaning "immediately" or "with haste".
  • 2: Dracula, chapter XIII.

 

-+-

Please please PLEASE favorite, follow, review, send kudos, add bookmarks… anything!

Chapter Text

The Night

An Epilogue that Sounds Just as Sweet


 

June 11th, 2027

            The sky still never lies, thinks Roxas.

           He and Sora look out at the creamsicle daytime from Station Plaza, the sunshine warming the bricks across Twilight Town with the early evening glow. The town is near silent save for sounds of departing trains drifting across the wind.

           “It really is beautiful here,” Sora says. “Where do you want to go first?”

           When Superior was initially planning on giving the next Twilight Town assignment, he intended to ask Axel like always… but Roxas insisted on taking on the mission instead. Their delivery to this DiZ guy wasn’t scheduled until much later, so they had plenty of time to kill. He had some unfinished business to finally settle.

           “Let’s just walk,” He finally decides, pulling his hood up. “We’ll let the universe decide what we come across today.”

           He made an invisible orb around them so as not to attract unwanted attention, and they started the trek down Station Heights with XIII leading the way. Sora had been worried about Roxas taking on this mission, and he and Axel nearly convinced the blond to not go. However, XIII insisted and they realized there was no way to convince him. He needed this more than anything else right now; being possibly immortal now, and with the future very uncertain, it was his greatest wish to finally confront his past.

           At several points in Roxas’ life up until now, he thought that there were steps he needed to take to be rid of the Roxas he was before. Yet now, he’s realized that his past self is just as important as his present self. The scars and memories one builds up over time shape one’s existence, and to deny experience is to limit growth. An eternity spent trying to bury the past instead of embracing it would be torturous.

           Although the Organization are now aware of his possible immortality, they don’t know he’d gone up against the Necromancer, and they intend to keep it that way. He and Sora still dodn’t know what the Org’s possible connection to Xehanort was, and the subject may have been too dangerous or suspicious to explore right after that chaotic night. Their next goal is to find a way to protect themselves against Namine’s memory-controlling powers so they can confront her later. They would just have to bide their time for now, and investigate in the future.

           And so, they stroll through the eerily quiet town, with the only real sound coming from the local birds and distant sounds of tram cars or train horns. It’s a quiet Roxas knows and loves all to well: the peaceful lull before noisy bodies fill the streets, dragging themselves to favored destinations after long days.

           To Sora, XIII seems like he’s on a mission despite the universe supposedly being their guide. Sora decides the best thing he can do is support him and not try to question it too much. Their goals would become clear as they unfolded.

           Eventually, they come upon the Sandlot.

           As soon as they enter, Roxas stops and takes a long breath.

           It’s empty, save for a man sitting at a bench. He’s smoking a cigarette; tar and oil-stained fingers depicting a hard worker, but habit-dependant to be sure. He’s in a cropped muscle shirt and dark jeans, which are covered in blotches of hardened paint and grease. His work boots look worn. His hair is unkempt, and his gaunt-but-tanned face depicts sleeplessness and hard hours under the brutal sun.

           Based on how Roxas is glaring intently at the man, Sora has a feeling in his gut that he knows who it is. What he doesn’t know is how enraged the sight truly is to Roxas. This man of disciplinary committee fame had been straight-edge for years, vowing justice on any and all who even mentioned ingesting some kind of subversive chemical. Of course, beatings and violence didn’t fall under this umbrella of righteousness.

           It burns up Roxas’ heart when he remembers that rape and sexual assault apparently didn’t fall under it either.

           XIII creeps forward and Sora follows. They position themselves where they’re standing behind the man before Roxas drops the shield.

           “Seifer.” He whispers, and they watch as the man jumps in fright.

           His head twists side-to-side, looking desperately for the source of Roxas’ voice. He turns slightly, and seeing the cloaked figure behind him makes his face go white.

           “That’s me.” He growls, obviously trying to supress the mild fear and confusion apparent on his features. “Who’s askin’?”

           XIII pauses a long moment… then, gently, he pulls the hood back to reveal his face.

           Siefer recoils, dropping the cigarette and fully falling off the bench. He scoots away on the concrete, his face laden with absolute terror, as if he’s staring at a ghost. He pats his arms, then touches his face with trembling fingers, pinching his skin slightly wherever they make contact.

           “It can’t…” He whispers, lips quivering, “It can’t be… you were...”

           Roxas steps over the bench and moves closer.

           “You thought I was dead, right?” XIII asks, voice flat. “Do you think this is a dream? Or that I’m a ghost that’s come to haunt you?” Suddenly, he lifts a fist and it connects with the trembling man’s jaw. “Was that real enough for you?” He hisses.

           Seifer is so paralyzed by his fear that he doesn’t resist the next punch, or the one after that.

           “I’m sorry—” Seifer is about to say, but then Roxas slaps him.

           “Don’t say it.”

           Carefully, slowly, Seifer stands.

           “Roxas, I’m sor—”

           “Don’t fucking say it.” Roxas steps back and holds a hand out. Seifer's body goes speeding to the far wall of the Sandlot; his back connecting violently against brick as a glistening wad of blood comes flying out of his mouth. XIII pins Seifer there, holding the taller man by the neck with his magick. He aggressively approaches the other man. “Do you have any idea what you did to me?” He bites out around the sudden lump in his throat, voice cracking but eyes refusing to shed tears. “Do you know what we could have had? We could have been together and you wasted it. ” Seifer chokes on his breath, and Roxas presses the force in a little harder. “I don’t want your apologies, you worthless trash… I want your suffering .” Then… he drops the man. “Let’s go, Sora. I’m done here.”

           XIII starts walking away, but the vampire instead approaches Seifer, who’s gripping his throat and gasping for air. The vampire makes eye contact with him, and commands him: “You will spend every day of the rest of your life thinking of what you’ve done. You are not allowed to kill yourself. You will only suffer every waking moment until you naturally die. Do not tell anyone about what happened here. Do not follow us.”

           Then, Sora also leaves.

           Seifer sits in the gravel and dirt as tears flood his eyes.

           What Sora and Roxas didn’t know is that Seifer had already been suffering.


 

           Roxas was waiting around the corner of the street he’d walked up. He was staring at a piece of fencing in front of a red cloth a few yards ahead.

           “Are you okay?” The vampire asks, but Roxas hushes him.

           They can just barely hear people talking behind the curtain, and for the first time in a while Roxas actually looks horribly nervous. In his head, XIII is debating whether he should leave his hood down or pull it back up. He’d gone through a thousand scenarios of this reunion in his head and yet he couldn’t remember a single one now. His heart was racing so fast he could feel it thumping in his spine.

           Then, Sora put a reassuring hand on his back. “Just go.” The vampire says, “I’m right behind you.”

           The blond takes a small breath, “Actually… you stay here for just a bit. I’ll call you in when I’m ready, okay?”

           Sora nods in response. Slowly, Roxas approaches the entrance and, without giving himself time to hesitate, slides the curtain open.

           It takes the three a moment to notice him, as they were in the middle of laughing when he stepped in. Then—one-by-one—Hayner, Pence, and Olette look at him. They freeze in shock, clearly unable to believe their own eyes.

           XIII takes a moment to look them over. They all seem about the same as they were before: their styles have matured, as they’re all wearing darker colors or less distracting prints. Olette’s hair is longer, cascading across her chest in delicate waves, while Hayner’s is cut a little shorter. Pence seems to have finally lost the very last of his weight as his body is much more muscular and defined, which Roxas can assume is due in part to the well-loved Struggle bat on the seat beside him.

           Just then, Roxas notices one corner where a burning candle is sitting: flowers are placed delicately in front of a series of pictures of him and his friends.

           Eventually, Hayner angrily chokes out, “Just… just who the hell are you?”

           “Hayner!” Olette scolds him, and he stands.

           “No! What kind of sick joke is this, asshole? Who the fuck do you think you are, coming in here pretending to be my dead fucking friend?”

           “W-wait! I’m not pretending,” Roxas pleads, “It’s really me, I swear . I can prove it!”

           “Yeah right, we know how it works in the movies.” Scoffs Haynerm, “You’re going to tell us a bunch of fun facts right? Any of the shit you think you ‘know’ is probably common knowledge by now. This is Twilight Town, or are you really that dense?”

           Shaking his head, Roxas reaches into his pocket and pulls out his prized possession. “When I pulled these off that trophy, do you remember what you said?” He holds the blue orb between his index finger and thumb, stretching his arm out to show them. “That it was ‘one more treasure for us to share.’”

            The room goes silent, his friends gawking at the sight…

           Then, each of them pull out the matching orbs from their pockets too, holding them up in the same way.

           Within seconds, his friends close in on him and pull him into their collective embrace.  Hayner babbles apologies profusely. They gush, and coo, and cry over him.

           “We thought you killed yourself!”

           “Yeah, I guess I should’ve made my note a little more specific… sorry…”

           “Where did you go?”

           “Dusk City.”

           “No way! Is that why you’re wearing such a creepy outfit?”

           “Haha, yeah, yeah… just don’t tell anyone, okay?”

           “Please! You remember who you’re talking to, right? Are you sure you’re the real Roxas?”

           A thousand more questions hang in the air, and he does his best to answer every single one of them. Then they tell him what happened after Roxas supposedly “died.” Hayner came clean to Olette about everything and they decided they wouldn’t date any longer. Although they were not on speaking terms for a long time, they recently rekindled their friendship. Roxas’ assumption about Pence was right, as he’d picked up Struggling in Roxas’ honor and secured a small scholarship from it. All three of them were going to Twilight Town Community College and recently graduated with their transfer schools all picked out.

           After they’ve caught up, Roxas makes an announcement. “There’s someone I’d like you guys to meet.” He moves back over to the curtain and gestures for Sora to enter. The brunet puts on his friendliest face, then comes inside. “Everyone, this is Sora. He’s my boyfriend and my work partner. Sora, this is Hayner, Pence, and Olette.”

           He grins, and shakes everybody’s hands. “Hi there! I’ve heard so much about you guys. It’s nice to finally meet you.”

            Roxas watches this carefully, and notices that although Hayner and Pence are being friendly, they’re also kind of subconsciously sizing themselves up to Sora. Though the two have changed a lot, he can still tell by the looks on their faces and their body language.

           Feeling a little mischievous, he matter-of-factly states, “Sora is also a vampire.”

           All three of them flinch where they stand, and said vampire turns a flushed face to him. “R-Rox!” He whines.

           But, instead of cowering in fear, his Twilight Town friends immediately start