The first thing he was aware of was the ache.
There is no way to know how long he’s been in this strange place, or how much longer he’ll be here.
Ventus was standing on a blank platform with a broken edge suspended in the darkness.
It was hard to focus around the hurt at the center of his being, but his gaze would drift over to the fractured edge. Something about it felt… wrong.
Shadows would move across his vision, objects would be placed in his hands. Without much thought he could follow simple directives, “Eat”, “Lay down, sleep.” After a few tries he could even wash himself on his own.
It had been months since Ven was unceremoniously dropped off at The Land of Departure by the Master’s peer, and improvement was slow.
The first time Aqua even had hope that he would get better was when she caught him outside at night, stargazing. It was the first thing she had seen him do on his own, without direction.
His gaze wandered slowly, but then would suddenly dart to an area of the sky to the northeast. Aqua noticed it and started pointing out the significant stars and constellations in that section of sky. She even was able to catch the rare hints of a smile from the boy.
Shock. Those were the first words the boy had spoken since he had arrived.
Ventus doesn’t answer. Instead, he sighs and lays back, continuing to gaze at the same corner of space as before.
There is something tugging at his heart. Not all the time, and not always as strongly as at other times. But from that empty hole where something should be, an incurable loneliness. Sometimes it would be subsumed by a feeling of disgust or rage, but the loneliness was always there, under the surface.
Sometimes the other end would jolt in fear or anger, causing the broken, jagged edges of his own heart to cut into him. It debilitated him for a long time, each physical movement driving the sharp edges of his heart deeper. He would cry out and help would come in the form of his peers, Terra and Aqua. They gave him strength with their presence when he was suffering and he appreciated it.
I need what?
Thoughts are murky, it's hard to focus.
It's so close. He can't move.
It's so close and he can't move.
The only thing he knows for sure is that he needs something, and he's so close to reaching it.
He drifts back into the dark.
Something is pressed into his hand. It takes a moment for his vision to focus on the object in his grip, a wooden keyblade. Ven’s gaze drifts up to the figure in front of him. “Terra.”
“Hey, Ven. Want to practice with me and Aqua? We could use a new sparring partner.”
He gets up and follows Terra.
Once they get to the training area, Terra instructs him into a defensive stance. “I want to see your form, so just take a few swings, okay?”
Ven nods and flips the wooden keyblade with a practiced ease, settling into his prefered reverse grip before giving a few practice swings. It feels familiar…
Without prompting from Terra, he steps forward into a lunge and follows the movement up with a combo.
“That's really good, Ven,” says Aqua as she walks over to stand near Terra. “Do you remember anything else?”
There's something there. Just out of reach. I can't remember, but everything is so familiar. The key in my hand. This one isn't mine. It’s not really a key either. I need my key.
There's a dull throb in his heart and a feeling of glass in his chest.
He jerks back to awareness and sees the worried faces of his friends. His free hand is gripping at the fabric over his chest and his breathing is ragged.
There is another throb, this time accompanied by a tugging sensation that tells him that the source is not himself.
“I'm okay,” he grits out.
The two older students trade concerned looks before Aqua starts to lead him back to his room and Terra sets about putting away equipment. “Why don't you rest a bit. I'm sure you'll be strong enough to be able to practice with us again soon. You've already gotten so much better,” she smiles.
Ven just nods absently and lays down.
He's back in that strange place. Standing on the blank platform in the darkness.
Just like before, he is drawn to the broken edge.
He reaches out to touch a broken piece. As soon as he makes contact though, a pain more intense than anything he's felt before rips through his chest.
He recoils immediately and drags himself away from the border, sobbing and curling in on himself as he rides out the waves of torment.
There’s no way to know how long he lays on the surface of his own heart but eventually the pain fades back to the clawing ache Ven is used to.
More cautiously now, he returns to the edge. He keeps a respectful distance from the crack this time and peers over the side into the darkness.
There’s something there, but it’s dark. Black on black. He squints against the darkness and can almost make out something attached to the side of the platform and stretching off into the distance.
He looks up, trying to see through the dark fog.
“I'm going to find you.”
The next day, Ven seeks out Terra for training again. After what happened the day before, Terra was hesitant, but Ven was determined so he relented.
For the first time in his memory, focus came easily to him, and he felt energy buzzing just beneath the surface.
“My keyblade- I need to remember how to use it.”
“Hah! I thought you probably were a wielder. Alright, let’s see what we can do. Here, take this again.” Terra offers the same practice keyblade they had used yesterday. “Just don’t hurt yourself this time. Sometimes it’s easier to call your keyblade if you’re holding something. Aqua could probably explain it better, but I think it helps to have something to focus on.”
The two boys train together until Ven is too exhausted to continue.
“Keep the practice blade, maybe it’ll help. It’s a little too small for me anymore anyways,” Terra says with an easy smile.
Ven gives his thanks and helps clean the practice area before returning to his room again. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he stares down at the practice keyblade and lets his frustration grow.
Why couldn’t he just call his keyblade?
He closes his eyes and thinks about what he can remember of it. The weight of it in his hand. The way it would glide through the air when he swung it. How his heart felt stronger when he held it…
When he opens his eyes, he nearly flings his keyblade across the room in surprise.
His heart soars and his smile doesn’t falter even when the other end of his heart responds with a surge of biting hate.
Outside, the sun it setting. Terra and Aqua should still be up but are probably busy either studying or relaxing for the evening.
It’s as good a time as any to sneak out.
Gripping his keyblade, too afraid to dismiss it incase he can’t call it back, he hurries down the halls and straight out the front door. Being extra careful, he travels down the path until he can’t see the castle anymore.
Hopefully the castle can’t see him either.
With a slap to his shoulder pad, his armor covers himself. Then he throws his keyblade while concentrating on his need to go. The blade responds easily to his desire and reconfigures itself accordingly.
There is no hesitation when he jumps on and angles himself in the direction he somehow knows he needs to go.
Go! he thinks again and the keyblade responds.
Following your heart is harder than it sounds.
There is only really a vague feeling of the direction he should go, and Ven often finds himself traveling in what he thought was the right direction for awhile before suddenly realizing that he’s overshot his goal.
The third time he passes the same world though, he figures that it might be the place he is trying to get to.
He touches down on the barren world and dismisses his keyblade and armor.
The closer he gets, the more eagerness he feels in his heart. Whatever he’s looking for is close.
He looks into his heart again to figure out what direction to go before setting off. It’s the same ordeal as it was when traveling through The Lanes Between. He would realize he had overshot his goal and turn around. Only, this time sometimes he would notice that what he was looking for would be in a completely different location than it was before.
Whatever he was looking for, it was moving.
Determined to find the source of the pull on his heart, he sets off in the new direction each time.
The sky is starting to lighten.
Desperate tears start to form in his eyes as he realizes that soon he will have to give up his search to return home.
Whatever it is he’s looking for is clearly avoiding him.
“WHAT’S GOING ON!? PLEASE! Somebody, ANSWER ME!”
Silence is the only response for a long time. Then suddenly-
“Why are you here, Ventus?”
I wrote down some questions I had while writing, I guess they're kind of plot holes because I couldn't figure out a way to resolve them within the story. So here's those questions and my sarcastic/handwavey solutions.
Where is Eraqus?
-Busy with administrative duties.
Why are the lanes between unlocked?
-Eraqus locked them once, then forgot he had done that and unlocked them about an hour later thinking he was locking them.
Who gave Ven his armor, when, and why?
-Horace Horsecollar, in a dream Ven doesn’t remember, because Horace is a demi-god and knew it would be an important component to the plot.
His other half has been becoming more active recently.
Of course he would recover and live a happy little life with his happy little friends in a happy little world full of rainbows and sunshine and frosted sugar cookies. Getting tucked in at night and kissed on the head and told what a good boy he is for finishing his dinner.
All the while Vanitas would be here. Trapped in his own personal hell.
Irritation slides down Vanitas’ back like ice water. He strikes it down, gritting his teeth against the bite of his own keyblade and the return of the emotion. As if his his heart is a sieve, the returned emotion drops right back out of him, this time accompanied by a dose of frustration. Again he runs them through and again they return with some added company. The cycle continues until the mounting delirium knocks him off his feet.
There's a surge of joy coming from Ventus so strong that it makes Vanitas retch.
He despises that his other half is so happy. Instead of letting the emotion out, he holds onto it even as it strains against his broken heart. Vanitas spent all morning destroying his emotions, just woke up a moment ago and would really like at least one stupid hour before everything starts all over again.
Well, that's interesting…
It hadn't been long since he had felt the overflowing joy from Ventus and Vanitas was starting to get bored. He was contemplating letting out some Loneliness and fighting it, just to have something to do.
A streak of light descends from the night sky. Too slow to be a meteor, it has to be a person.
Except that no one comes here. Well, Xehanort does, but he uses dark corridors. Also, he was just here a few days ago, meaning Vanitas was safe from that unique brand of suffering for at least another week or two.
A visitor was a much more interesting distraction than fighting the unversed. There would always be more of those revolting creatures later.
Vanitas jumps down from his perch and heads to the gorge where he saw the streak touch down. Night had already fallen so it doesn’t take much effort to stay hidden among the shadowy cliffs and canyons of the badlands while he investigates.
When he finally catches sight of movement directly in front of him and getting closer he melds himself into a nearby shadow and waits, ready to ambush the trespasser.
The figure steps out of the shadow of the rock formation he was passing and Vanitas freezes.
What the hell is Ventus doing here!?
In his shock, he doesn’t even notice when Ventus runs straight past him and keeps going. Vanitas gives his head a shake to clear it. Curiosity is burning in him, luckily that’s not one of the emotions that will claw itself out of him.
Vanitas turns to track down his other half, careful to stay hidden.
Ventus would stop every once in awhile to catch his breath. Once recovered, he would look around before setting off again, always in the direction Vanitas was hiding.
Is he tracking me?
That didn’t make any sense...
“WHAT’S GOING ON!? PLEASE! Somebody, ANSWER ME!”
Good question. Vanitas wanted to know too. He melds himself to the shadows so he can silently position himself behind his other half.
“Why are you here, Ventus?”
The boy spins around to face the sudden presence behind him and is met with a keyblade inches away from his face.. On instinct he summons his own keyblade and drops into a defensive stance. His stance is off though, the tip of his keyblade sagging towards the ground. Must be exhausted from staying up and running around all night. Weak.
“I don't want to fight. I-”
“No. You don't.” Venom drips from his words as he interrupts Ventus. But he doesn't strike. Not yet at least. He hadn't answered his question yet.
“I'm looking for something. A part of me, I think. I know it's here... somewhere. It's gotta be. I don't know exactly what it is, but I need it.”
“What are you going to do if you find it?”
“I… I don’t know.”
Figures, he hasn't thought this out at all.
Vanitas dismisses his keyblade and turns to leave without another word. Ventus wouldn't even be an entertaining fight as tired and inexperienced as he is. He is stopped though, not by the hand on his shoulder but the frantic desperation that overtakes him at the moment of contact. It doesn't bleed out of him like he expects it to. Even more baffling is that the baseline ache of his heart disappeared.
He spins and bats Ventus's arm away, the emotion of just a moment ago fading and the familiar ache returning as he does. “What the hell was that?” he demands.
Wide eyes stare frozen at him, his arm still held out. He must have dismissed his keyblade when Vanitas had turned away. “It's you.” He seems to recover and straightens himself out. “I was looking for you. I came as soon as I could.”
Vanitas was starting to have a strange suspicion.
“How long have you had your keyblade?”
Ventus is caught off guard by the question but recovers quickly enough to not get on his nerves. “I don't know. A few hours.”
“And the first thing you did with it was come here?”
“When I got the keyblade, I was so happy. Everything hurts, I think it's because I'm missing something. Something important. But with the keyblade I could go looking for it. I followed my heart and it led me here, to you.”
“Oh? But don’t you see? I'm the piece of you that kept all the darkness. You get to be the light that everyone loves so much.”
“I don't care about any of that! I just want to be whole… You're hurting too aren't you? Even just standing this close to you it's not as bad as it usually is and when I… it was almost like it all went away.”
This was not going how he had expected. He huffs out a sigh.
“Fine. So what are you gonna do?”
Ventus looks to where the sun has already broken past the horizon. “I gotta go back before they notice I was gone. I’m gonna come back though, as soon as I can! I promise.”
“Do what you want.”
Ventus nods before calling his keyblade and armor and returning home.
Vanitas watches silently, a foreign feeling in his chest.
How the heart telephone thing works: both Ven and Vanitas can feel the full range of human emotion, but unless they are in contact with each other only strong emotions that align with their nature is sent to the other. Ven feels Vanitas’ dark emotions, and Vanitas feels Vens light emotions. This is unpleasant for either party on the receiving end.
When they're together though, they share emotions pretty evenly. Since their hearts are in contact they can process what they're feeling together without it causing any extra supernatural pain.
Next chapter will be pretty much all fluff. Please look forward to it.