At that very moment, I was just hoping that it was a very bad dream. That I’d open my eyes and I’d be back on the sunny, sandy beaches of Destiny Islands. I would even have taken accidentally spending the night there on the island and being late to school over this nightmare. But, of course, it wasn’t a nightmare, and being late to school was the least of my worries. My main concern right now was the blonde Organization member who stood in front of me, barely inches from my face. I could feel her hot breath on my cheek as she whispered cruel words into my ear, her pink lips curled upward into a malicious smile.
“You’re just a tool for the Organization,” she whispered, almost gleeful about delivering this news to me. As if I hadn’t already realized it for myself. “You’re just a silly little girl. Easily captured, and easily disposed of too, I’m sure.” She pulled back in order to gauge my facial expression, which I had tried very hard to keep passive and composed. I could already feel it twisting at her last words.
So, they were going to dispose of me, huh? I was going to help them with whatever sinister plan they had in motion, and then they were just going to get rid of me? I couldn’t die. I had a family and friends that would never know what happened to me. Kairi…she’d be heartbroken. I was all she had since Riku left. I couldn’t disappear on her too.
“Why would you want to dispose of something that could be useful to you?”
She laughed. A cold, harsh laugh that sent shivers down my spine. “And how would you ever prove yourself to be useful to any of us? You’re weak.”
“You don’t know what I’m capable of.”
The woman smirked. “You think we don’t know who you are? Just because we got the wrong girl doesn’t mean that we didn’t do some research after Axel made his little mix up. We know exactly what you’re capable of. Absolutely nothing.”
“That’s enough, Larxene.”
A look of annoyance crossed her face as she turned around. “Excuse me, Zexion. I’m just informing her of her place.” She stood up straight, her sickly sweet tone not matching the sneer that she was shooting at Zexion.
Curious to see my savior, I leaned around Larxene in order to see him properly. He looked fairly young to be a member of such an organization. But, then again, so did Roxas. He had deep blue-grey hair that fell stylishly over one presumably brilliant blue eye. The one eye that was uncovered stared at Larxene calmly, obviously very accustomed to her blatant rudeness.
“I think she understands perfectly now,” he replied smartly, his eyes flitting over to me. “Come, Yale’. You can wait with me until Axel and Roxas return.” Zexion turned on his heel and walked back over to one of the couches that he had been occupying.
I hurriedly joined him, desperate to get away from Larxene. I had already known that I wasn’t meant to be here, that I was useless except as bait. She didn’t have to remind me. But her words had lit a new fire in me. All of the sudden, I wanted desperately to be anything but weak. If I was stronger, maybe I could escape and return home. I just needed to figure out what I could do.
I plopped down onto the couch next to Zexion, who had already managed to immerse himself in the large book he had been carrying around.
“Um…thank you.” I muttered, low enough that only he could hear me.
Zexion nodded solemnly, not looking up from his book. We sat there in silence for the next few hours while waiting for Roxas and that idiot red head to get back from their mission. I leaned back against the couch, keeping my hands in my lap and my mouth zipped shut. Waiting for those two boys seemed like the longest hours of my life.
I hadn’t realized that I had fallen asleep until I felt a gentle hand shake my shoulder, and a soft voice mutter in my ear: “Yale’. Yale’, wake up!”
I jolted awake, my eyes snapping open only to find a pair of emerald green eyes looking into mine. It was that stupid red head, Axel. Oh, well. At least those two were back now. I was finally among somewhat familiar people. People who didn’t actually mind my presence. I sighed in relief as I gazed back into those familiar eyes.
“Glad you’re back.” I murmured sleepily.
Axel chuckled. “Of course you are. Ready to go?” he smiled. “I’m sure Xion’s already waiting for us at the clocktower.”
“Yeah, sure.” I grinned, dying to get out of that suffocating castle. I stood up and ran a few fingers through my hair, turning my head to look at Zexion who had watched over me all that time. “And thanks for everything, Zexion.” I smiled warmly at him.
“Yeah, thanks.” Axel echoed.
“Just find someone else to handle your babysitting job next time, Axel.” Zexion said coldly, not looking up from his book. “It’s not fair to us other members who have much more pressing matters to attend to. None of which involve taking care of a human. Or any other life forms, for that matter.”
Axel chuckled uncomfortably, probably wishing he had left me in more capable hands. Or taken me with them, at the very least. “Don’t worry, Zexion. I have it under control.”
Zexion looked up from his book at last, piercing Axel with his icy blue eyes. His silver spectacles, which had begun to slide further down his nose, were pushed up by a slim finger. “From what I witnessed today, you do not have it under control. If this level of incompetence occurs again, I will be reporting it to the Superior.” With that, Zexion returned to his book as if nothing had happened. I wasn’t sure who was scarier at this point. Him or Larxene.
Axel rolled his eyes at Zexion’s threat and reached out a hand to open another portal. A “Dark Corner”, Axel had called it.
“Let’s get going, guys.” He muttered, marching into the portal with apparent agitation. Roxas and I followed close behind, glancing awkwardly at each other. We didn’t know quite what to do about Axel’s mood, but didn’t want to let it ruin our own time out. Even though we knew that an irritated Axel didn’t bode well for us.
However, when we stepped through into Twilight Town, Axel appeared to cheer up considerably. I think just the atmosphere of the place could put a smile on anyone’s face. Even someone who was as annoyed as Axel had been.
The city was bathed in a perpetual Twilight, a pale orange glow washing over tall buildings and brown cobblestones. The sky was unlike any other, and I stared up at it with wild fascination. Unlike Castle Oblivion, the sky in Twilight Town reminded me of home. Kairi could be looking up at that same sky.
Roxas noticed my amazement and nudged me playfully, whispering into my ear. “Just wait until we get up to the clock tower. You’ll love the view.”
It was true that I had never seen anything more magnificent than the view from that clock tower. You could see the entire city on that little perch just below the clock. You could watch the orange glow of the sun sink below the pastel purples and blues of the clouds. Despite this, the town didn’t appear to get any darker. I wondered if it was ever truly dark here.
I let a tiny smile form on my lips as I plopped down next to Axel, letting my legs dangle over the edge of the tower. I liked the idea of a city with no darkness. Only light.
Roxas passed a strange blue popsicle to each of us. I looked at him with slight confusion. “Hey, what exactly is this?” I sniffed it delicately. It smelled salty, but sweet. An interesting combination.
Roxas laughed at my reaction to the treat. “It’s sea salt ice cream,” he explained. “The three of us always eat it when we come here. It’s like a tradition.” He smiled at the thought. They clearly had some very wonderful memories of this place, of being together. It reminded me of Kairi. Back home, alone on the island. First Riku, now me?
I took a lick of the ice cream, looking for something to distract me from my thoughts. “This is so good!” I exclaimed, staring at the icy treat in disbelief.
“We know!” The three replied in perfect unison, their ice creams already more than half eaten.
I savored the treat, and was the last to finish. Maybe it was because I didn’t know when I’d get to eat it again, or maybe it was because I didn’t want to head back to Castle Oblivion. Either way, I made sure to take slow, careful licks. I couldn’t remember the last time that something had tasted so good to me.
“We’re going to head back.” Roxas said, helping Xion up. “Are you two coming?”
Axel looked over at me and chuckled at what must have been the pleading expression on my face. “No, I think we’ll stay here for a bit. You two go on ahead.”
Roxas nodded and walked with Xion to the steps leading back down into Twilight Town. I let my eyes follow them until they were gone before returning to my ice cream. I just had a few bites left.
Axel leaned back against the hard brick, closing his eyes and sighing slightly. He was comfortable here; content. I could tell.
Of course, that being the case, I hadn’t expected him to break the perfect tranquility of that moment.
“Do you miss home?” he asked, his voice filled with more care than I ever thought possible from a Nobody.
“Of course,” I replied, licking the last drops of ice cream off the stick. “I had friends and family there….I imagine that they miss me as much as I miss them.”
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, covering his eyes with a gloved hand. “I was just following orders. I never intended…to hurt you, Yale’. I hope you understand that. I hope you can forgive me.”
I looked over at the red head in shock. Sure, I knew he was a bit different from the other Organization members, but I never expected him to apologize for anything. Especially not for this.
I placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, smiling slightly. “It’s okay, Axel. I know it’s not your fault. I don’t blame you. In fact, I like it here too. I’m so glad that I got to meet everyone. You, Roxas, and Xion. You’re all wonderful, and even though I’m being forced to stay at Castle Oblivion…I’m glad that you three are here to be with me. It would be completely unbearable without you guys.” I laughed.
He removed his hand, uncovering beautiful jade eyes. “I’m glad.”
Axel sat up abruptly, causing me to flinch back and relocate my hand to my lap. His green eyes locked with mine. He looked so serious in that moment, so determined as his hand carefully grazed my cheek. I gripped my popsicle stick tighter and tighter still as Axel leaned in, until finally I felt his lips press against mine. I was so shocked; I don’t think that I remembered to close my eyes. But it didn’t really matter. Time had frozen anyway.
I couldn’t bring myself to look at him once he had pulled away. I just stared down into my lap, turning my ice cream stick over and over in my hands. A small, wooden stick that said “WINNER” in pale yellow letters.