Come And I Will Sing You

i. I will sing you one-o

At the Radiant Garden winter ball, the Princess tugs at Xehanort’s sleeve until he looked down.

“Your Highness,” he said. “Shouldn’t your first dance be with your uncle?”

She looked at Ansem, who watched them with benevolent good humor. She shook her head and tugged again.

Xehanort considered the situation: she hardly reached his knee, but she looked hopeful, like she could sense his resolve weakening, like he’d already said yes.

…Maybe, in his heart, he already had.

“Very well,” he said gravely. He bowed very low and got a curtsy in return, then followed her to the dance floor–

(what will you sing me?)

–which still holds echoes of its former glory; there’s still a lashing of rotten pine branches over the doorway. They leave an oily smear across his fingers.

Here are the ruins of the orchestra pit, and the throne of Ansem the Wise. It looks so very pathetic now; the Heartless cared nothing for the expensive woods and detailed craftsmanship that went into its making; it’s just a chair, now.

“Xemnas,” Saix says behind him. “What–”

He closes his hand around the branches and pulls them down; they make a damp ripping sound.

“There’s nothing here,” he said. “Let’s move on.”

ii. I will sing you two-o

“Freak accident,” Braig said. “Involved my sister and a boy jumping the trellis.” He pantomimed a punch staggered, covering his eye. “Take pity, girls, that never works.”

“Professor,” one of the girls protested through giggles, “I thought you said it was because of Professor Even and a fox terrier–”

“Only every other week,” said Braig. “Gotta keep up my air of mystery.”

Professor–”

“Right, right.” He held up a hand, his face solemn. They leaned forward, practically glowing with anticipation, bright enough to match the silly colored lights strung up all over. “I’m secretly an alien prince from another world–”

(what will you sing me?)

“–and that’s what happened.” Xigbar kicks back with his chair, leaning at an angle. He doesn’t like to sit with all four feet on the ground.

“Like that?” Demyx looks a little pale, but he doesn’t try to cover his eye, like most do when they hear the story. “Wow. Um. That must have really–”

“Hurt like a bitch,” Xigbar says cheerfully. “But it’s over now, and I ain’t dead.” He gestures with his glass, up to the glowing outline of Kingdom Hearts in the sky. “I’ll drink to that.”

All the best stories need to be shared, after all.

iii. I will sing you three-o

“You’re doing it all wrong,” Ellie complained. She grabbed the strings of popcorn and cranberry from him and tugged the needle from his fingers. “There’s a pattern.”

Dilan looked at his sister, bemused. “Is there?”

Yes,” she insisted, and stabbed her needle through a piece of popcorn. “See? Two white, one red, two white, one red. It’s easy.” She held it back out to him and scowled fiercely. “Try again. Be careful!”

“I’m always careful, Ellie,” he sighed. “I have to be.”

“Be MORE careful, then!”

He took a piece of popcorn from the bowl and slid the needle through–

(what will you sing me?)

–the tapestries and the garlands, tearing them apart. Most of the people scatter, shrieking, but one remains behind, sword drawn. Even as Heartless materialize out of nowhere, the man doesn’t flee, posturing madly.

There’s a pause as the mindless beasts realize what prey is left for them, and they turn to swarm the poor bastard. Xaldin watches in the eaves as the Heartless convene and rip their prey apart, so thoroughly that not even a shell remains.

Pity that, he thinks; they’d had hopes for this world before it fell.

He opens the gateway and leaves before the Heartless finish.

iv. I will sing you four-o

Even waited until the others were gone before he opened the orgel. The music hardly sounded like it was supposed to, but the tinny melody was at least close enough to be recognizable.

He worked hunched over his desk for hours with it playing in the background; when it wound down, he reached out blindly to rewind it. He didn’t even like the song.

But he continued to write to it for long hours, hunched over till his back ached and his eyes stung, lost in the work except for when the song stopped, and he reached out again–

(what will you sing me?)

–and tries to catch hold of the heart before it floats away to be lost in the ether of Kingdom Hearts. His fingers pass neatly through it, but he can’t be certain whether it’s because of the heart, or because of himself.

It would be better to think it’s the heart; he’s built cages of ice and metal without luck in holding the hearts back; they need a flesh prison, if they’re to stay put.

The heart drifts up and away through a wall, and he’s left alone. He makes his hand into a fist, and goes back to writing.

v. I will sing you five-o

Eleaus shut the door quietly behind him. Lydia was singing in the kitchen; she hadn’t noticed him enter. Without taking off his coat he followed the sound, watching as she fluttered from one end of the room to the other. She turned and saw him, and her song turned to a smile.

“You’re home,” she said.

“I’m home,” he said; for now, he didn’t.

“Oh, oh, good.” She brushed her hair back and laced her fingers together and then smiled shyly. “You’ll stay for dinner?”

He nodded, and put his hands on her shoulders, thin and fragile under his fingers–

(what will you sing me?)

–and crumbling to dust. Lexaeus dusts his hand off on his coat and looks up at Zexion, seated on a ledge above.

“You’re not hurt,” he says.

“Of course not.” Zexion shrugs. He brushes the hair from his eyes; it immediately falls back in place. “There might be more up ahead.”

He gets to his feet and jumps down to Lexaeus’ side. They walk together in silence. Here they pass destroyed trees, a broken stone tower, the ruins of a little cottage.

He wonders, for a single fleeting moment, how it would sound if Zexion sang.

He can’t remember why.

vi. I will sing you six-o

“I’m not going,” said Ienzo. He kept his shoulders up, staring straight at his master. “I’ve got other things that need to be taken care of.”

“More important than Christmas?” Ansem raised an eyebrow, though he looked more regretful than actually disappointed. “I see, then. That’s unfortunate.”

Ienzo shrugged. “Besides,” he said, “you’ll have enough of a time keeping Braig from letting the students get drunk.”

“There is that.” Ansem shook his head with an indulgent smile. “He does believe in sharing in the holiday with students.”

The unsaid so should you hung between them, but Ienzo just bowed, turned–

(what will you sing me?)

–and he thinks, Darkness should not be so vast.

The wind cuts through his hair, stinking of darkness and worse, like waves that could catch him and pull him to drown. Against the constantly shifting colors of the unreal sky, Castle Oblivion broods grimly, its doors standing open.

“It will not be so bad,” Lexaeus murmurs, so low the wind snatches his words. “With all of us watching, Marluxia’s mistakes will be caught. We’ll be home in time for–”

The rest of his words fall away. Zexion walks up the twisted stairs and through the doors with his head unbowed.

vii. I will sing you seven-o

They were dying.

His sister-daughter had succumbed weeks ago, and her mother would soon follow.

“I’m not afraid,” she whispered. Illness had not dimmed her brilliance. “I will be well. But Sai–” she looked at him sadly, “you will be alone.”

He shook his head. “I’ve nothing left here. I’ll come too.”

“No,” she murmured, her fading eyes deep with secrets, like the ones that had driven them from their village. “You won’t.”

She laid a finger across his lips just as something great and dark broke through the door, a monster framed by streamers of moonlight as it–

(what will you sing me?)

–shreds and dissolves into tattered slips of darkness around his claymore. He stays hunched as he is, staring at the crack his blade has left in the pavement from the force of the blow.

Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. His sister’s madness is still in his veins.

His fingers clench and unclench, and then he straightens, looks up at the face of the moon. The air smells of snow and wet, and wolves are howling in the distance.

He dislikes this world; even without the darkness, it stinks of something rotten to its core.

Saix lets his claymore vanish and returns home.

viii. I will sing you eight-o

Acting troupes do good business in the winter, especially when they’re crazy enough to keep moving. And they do, because a two weeks of hard traveling means at least a week of living like kings, with hot suppers and enough disenchanted heavy-eyed rich children to keep the beds warm.

Fire magic spins around the knives he juggles — his own little touch to his act — and watches the crowd watching him. He likes the look of the boy in the front, with tousled sandy hair and bright blue eyes that watch him, no matter how much the face feigns boredom–

(what will you sing me?)

–and explodes in a brilliant shower of sparks.

“Aw, c’mon, Roxas,” says Axel. He grins and spins a chakram. “You can do better than that, can’t you?”

A muscle in Roxas’ cheek twitches; it’s not a scowl, but it might be. If it was allowed.

“C’mon,” Axel says again, and beckons with the sharp edge of a chakram wheel. It’s all about the moment, and he can pretend that the snow on his arms and head doesn’t sting worse than the slice to the ribs he took earlier. It’s almost like being human and immortal both again. “Come get me.”

ix. I will sing you nine-o

As soon as the bell rings he was out and running as fast as he could till he burst out the doors, skidding to a stop. The air stung his cheeks with cold, misting his breath. Beyond the ridge, the entire lake had frozen over to a sheet of solid gray ice. Carefully he climbed over the fence and slid down, to walk as close to the edge of the frozen water as he dared, arms out for balance, humming under his breath. He’s skipping out lessons in order to play in the snow, but it’s worth it, worth this–

(what will you sing me?)

–single brief moment of exhilaration. It feels like having a heart again, or what having a heart again should feel like. He thinks. He hopes.

The Dancers seem to like it; they’ve joined hands and sway around him in a loose circle, roughly in time for his music. He ducks his head, frittering random notes, and for him they dance.

“Hey,” he says aloud, “that’s not bad.”

They don’t answer, but the Dancers turn their faces to him, waiting.

“Okay,” he says, and takes a deep breath. He cracks his knuckles and puts them back to the strings. “Okay, another.”

x. I will sing you ten-o

“–and the commissioner’s come knocking again, he wants a raise in his bribes. I gave him a chit and sent him away, though we may want to look into replacing him–”

Dulor waved a dismissive hand. “He’s powerless,” he said. “Over half of his force is in our pocket, anyway.”

His secretary eyed him. “Sir, with all due respect, this could become a problem–”

“It could,” he agreed. He gave a neat flick of his wrist, and presented her with a rose — ridiculously expensive for this time of year, but still a neat trick. “That’s why I’m trusting you to–”

(what will you sing me?)

“–come to a gentleman’s agreement with me.” He cuts the cards again, smiling pleasantly.

The gentleman in the top hat just smirks back, his white-gloved hands folded on the table. “I’m easily convinced,” he says. “I’m afraid I can’t bet much, though. The Millennium Earl would be so angry if I bartered away his blueprints.”

“How sad,” says Luxord. “I suppose we’ll have to find something else to bet with.” He selects a card, flipping it idly in his fingers.

His opponent smiles, white teeth flashing. On his shoulder, the little black butterfly stretches its wings.

“I suppose so.”

xi. I will sing you eleven-o

The storm pounded furiously at his doors, so that it shook and rattled on its hinges. He ignored it, braiding the sprigs of lavender with a single dried rose, to sell when the winter passed and the spring markets came again. Down in the village, they still called him warlock and worse behind his back, but they came eagerly for what he sold, like there was actual magic in his work, rather than common sense.

Let them, though.

He tied a thin white ribbon around the bunch.

Let them fear him, let them think him master and bow before him–

(what will you sing me?)

–and he thought, yes, it would do very nicely.

“It’s hideous,” says Larxene, crossing her arms. “They’re going to exile us here?”

“More or less,” Marluxia says. He’s still smiling at the thought.

“What’s so funny?” she demands. “They’re throwing us out here in the middle of nowhere! After we were so damn careful, this still–”

“It’s fine,” he says.

“We– what?”

“It’s fine,” he says again and she’s looking at him oddly and he doesn’t care. “This is perfect.”

“Perfect?” There’s a world of scorn in her voice. “That?”

He taps his fingers against his chin and nods. “Perfect.”

xii. I will sing you twelve-o

The prince is red-faced and smelled strongly of alcohol, so fat in the belly that he was wide as she was tall. His hand was sweaty, and she rested only the very tips of her fingers on it. It made her skin crawl, but she forced the smile on her face as they stepped out together.

The mindlessly adoring faces of the crowd made her stomach turn as sharply as her fiancee’s hand. To them, a king was a god and a queen was a puppet, and she wanted to scream, rip off her dress and shriek, because this–

(what will you sing me?)

–is ridiculous, it’s madness, but it’s a brilliant madness, like the unleashed fury of a thunderstorm. Of course he’s exaggerating somewhat, but there is enough strength in his convictions that she thinks yes, yes this could work.

She turns a page of her book. “Interesting,” she says. “You’ve got it all figured out.”

Marluxia bows. “I like to be prepared,” he says.

She lowers her lashes, watching him watch her. “But what’s in it for me?”

And he sinks down to one knee before her, head bowed. She can see the exposed nape of his neck.

“My lady,” he says.

xiii.

“I don’t remember a lot about it. They were fake memories, anyway.

“I sort of think I should, but when I try, it’s mostly a blur.

“I think I liked it, though,” says Roxas.

“… Cool,” says Sora, and he hangs the second stocking on the mantle next to his own.

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