Eight Things (About learning to live with a heart)

1. It reacts in the weirdest ways

Not that this was particularly a problem even before he lost his heart; if some fat merchant found his purse slit and noticeably lighter and pitched a fit, Alex never lost any sleep over it. It’s a little trickier in a relatively small town where everyone seems to know everyone, but he doesn’t have any sort of job and it’s humiliating, having to live off Sora’s pocket money if he wanted a snack. His sleeves are just the right size to smuggle an apple or two, and with the way he sweet-talks the old woman at the fruit stand, even if she noticed he doesn’t think she’d protest.

The downside is that sometimes Roxas catches him and — it’s not like Roxas takes any sort of moral high ground, it’s just that he’s perfected this Look — the one where he lifts an eyebrow and says without a word, how the mighty have fallen. When allowed to elaborate, it sometimes adds, a king of nobodies, reduced to stealing apples from an old lady; that’s real smooth.

It pisses him off, though it doesn’t stop him from eating the apples anyway. They don’t taste any worse for it, either.

And if he’s stopped doing it as often, well, it’s not like there’s any lack of fruit growing on the island; he doesn’t really need the stuff from the old lady’s stand anyway.

2. It holds memories like a treasure-box

If he were to be one hundred percent honest, galling as it is, he remembers more than he wants and less than he likes.

He remembers being separated from the others as the first wave of Heartless poured atop them; he remembers their long and cold (cold and long) fingers digging into his chest; he remembers waking up to a cold dawn and a peculiar hollowness that no food or drink could satisfy.

He remembers little details: the ozone stink whenever Larxene was angry, Xigbar’s sharp laughter, the first glint of light off Roxas’ twin Keyblades. He remembers the exact moment when he decided to die, because existence wasn’t really living, and at least this way he could make it mean something.

But when he found his heart again, it came wrapped in a bundle of strange things that weren’t his own

(or maybe they were?)

of places he’d never been, faces he’d never seen. Though it beats solidly within his own breast now, a part of it remains cold and still, weighed down things Alex can only recall in faded dreams that fade as soon as he wakes.

3. It’s great for using as the butt of jokes

Because sure it’s a great and wondrous and touching thing, to have a heart, but just because he’s a little more sentimental now doesn’t mean he’s lost his sense of humor.

4. It’s noisy

And if he’s entirely honest, sometimes he thinks the gentle rhythmic beat in his ears is the strangest thing of all to get used to.

But every now and then (not very often, or else it’d be sentimental) Roxas will reach out from Sora and put his hand on Alex’s chest, holding his palm there for long, quiet minutes before he pulls away.

5. His instincts are not any sharper for it

Once in a (very great) while, he gets to tag along when the King asks Sora and his harem of two for help cleaning up this part of that world from these Heartless.

(“You could come more often if you didn’t burn everything else down in the process,” Roxas tells him once.

Alex rolls his eyes. “What’s the fun in that?”)

And the thing is, Sora’s fighting style is different from Roxas’: because Sora fights to win like he’s playing a game, but Roxas fights to win like it’s the only damn thing there is. He’s sparred with Sora enough to know this, but he still makes a wrong step at one point and takes a raking blow down his arm, and that surprises him enough that he doesn’t really notice the Heartless behind him till it’s practically on top of him, and it’s Way to Dawn cutting the thing in two before he can even turn to react.

(“Or maybe it’s because you nearly got your arm cut off, the one time,” Roxas says.

At this Alex flips him off. “I got better,” he says. “Roxas, Roxas, I’m still used to fighting with you.”)

6. He is not any more sentimental for having it back

Kairi, he has noticed, is not above using feminine charms to lull her boys into a false sense of security; it rarely ends well for them. And in recent months, Sora’s gotten a lot sneakier about using big eyes and a fat lower lip to get his way. Riku just has to look vaguely troubled to have them both fawning over him.

He sees all three of a semi-regular rotating basis. Riku’s funny in small doses (especially if he starts monologuing in the process) but irritating in larger quantities; Sora is cute though Alex has seen professionals hit harder with less. Kairi has some potential to be truly sneaky, only she’s just a little too good to live up to that potential.

Maybe there’s something different about a “heart with no darkness in it,” though Alex isn’t entirely sure he buys it.

And sometimes Roxas leans his shoulder against Alex’s own and mutters a few things about how — shadows are fading in one world but growing in another, how small bands of Nobodies have clumped together, lacking leadership and drive, and how sometimes even Sora’s unending determination quakes a little at the thought of how much more there will always be to do.

Times like this, Alex never says what’s actually on his mind, which is usually along the lines of: sucks to be them, it’s not his problem (it never was his problem), he’s retired and enjoying his tropical vacation.

So maybe the heart didn’t do much for sentimentality, but at least it helped a little for tact.

7. A lot of the mythologies surrounding it are bullshit

Maybe it’s just him, though — maybe somewhere across all those worlds, there are other people who snatched their hearts back from the kingdom’s collection, and maybe those people are living it up, happy as idiots because there’s a thump in their chests again. Maybe they hear a sweet voice that guides them to do good things, maybe they simply know things when the mysterious time comes.

Maybe there’s more to it than the simple strange intensity of feeling again.

But even if they have, Alex is an actor, and he puts his own spin on everything. It’s what he does.

So he’s not sure he gets it, and isn’t sure he ever will.

8. … But in the end, he refuses to give it up again

Because he can stand with his toes buried in hot sand and watch Kairi and Sora tag-team Riku into the water, and later Roxas might buy ice cream for them both without saying a word, and once in a while he even catches sight of the witch, pale and glowing and smiling a little at nothing at all, really–

And he thinks really, it’s all not so bad after all.

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