3,000 Experiments+2X=Two Hearts as One

Not a whole lot is covered about Organization XIII's studies and apprenticeships. What if there was another in their midst who did not choose to partake in studies of the darkness; a pure-hearted pupil of Ansem's? Who was she, and what did she mean to the fellow students? (Ienzo One-shot)

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1. 3000 Experiments+2x= Two Hearts as One

Disclaimer: I do not own All I Need by Within Temptation, Kingdom Hearts, nor anything associated.

Author's Note: This song was based on All I Need by Within Temptation.

 

Scratch, scratch, shuffle, shift. Scratch, scratch... Dark lines etched about the white parchment as equation upon equation was solved by schooling geniuses. Although it was required of them to be researching the heart's lighted extension, it was the bountiful desire of theirs to research the darkness in one's being. Yes, all of them found this much more interesting. That is, all...but one.

 

Hair tied up into a neat bun upon your head, you took on the appearance anyone would expect a young female apprentice-of-a-scientist to have. A white lab coat was your every day attire, accompanied by black pants, black boots, a black blouse, a gray overcoat, and a purple scarf beneath it.

 

Although you never wore makeup due to the busy schedule of the science lab, one could consider you pretty, you supposed. It wasn't as though you were repulsive, but with little extravagance, you looked a bit plain. Simply put, you blended in with your comrades quite nicely.

 

"Xehanort, have you made a conclusion on the riddle of the key yet?" came your questioning voice from a desk across the room. You were arched over your work, preferring to stand and work out the given problems. Typically, such actions would hurt your back, but you were far too used to it for it bother you.

 

The addressed man raised his burning amber gaze to lock it upon you. How clueless you were. It was only a matter of time until you found out, but for the time being, such secrets were best left alone. As Ansem's pet, it was doubtless you would let something slip, so the longer you were oblivious, the better. Hence, he lowered his stare and returned to his own work.

 

"I'll...take that as a no," you breathed, looking back down at your paper. The answer was so obvious, yet for whatever reason you could not piece it in your mind. Ansem had tipped you off that this information was vital for success. So why was it not making sense?

 

Turning to look at your table partner, whom had been smart enough to take a seat in a chair, you frowned and studied his paper without trying to seem obvious. However, you'd apparently caught his attention, for an aquamarine glare lifted itself into your direction. Evidently, this was a sign to back off.

 

"I just don't seem to be thinking correctly today, I'm sorry," you said hastily. Ienzo snorted and leaned over to your work, scribbling something underneath the question before going back to his. You leaned down to read it, realizing that he'd mindlessly answered the question for you. "Thank you..."

 

"Mind your stations. Ansem's on his way," called the steel-haired scientist, not glancing up from his duty. Papers were exchanged with others, answers hastily written. Narrowing your eyes, you watched them with high suspicions. What had they been up to?

 

Before you could question them, the large door to the hallway opened before your mentor stepped inside the lab. His fiery optics surveyed the area, making sure each one of his students was staying faithful to their vocation. Jotting down an answer to the final question, you moved toward the equipment. With your solutions, you should be able to make one of the hearts glow with their own luminescence.

 

Typing in a few things on the keyboard, you glanced up at one of the hearts. Inside its tube of preservative, a slight light emitted from within. This brought an accomplished grin to your face; you were finished for the day.

 

It wasn't as though Ansem did not know the answers to these problems already; it was that he was checking up to make sure his apprentices were up to date with their studies so they could begin the real experimentation. However, it seemed many of them were occupied with other things. Luckily for them, the teacher hadn't noticed a single detail.

 

With a smile and a nod to your tutor, you passed through the door and started to the sleeping chambers. Computers lined the walls even here, but it was the bookcase you were seeking. The novels Ienzo had collected in his spare time fascinated you; they were captivating, and an ideal escape from your schooling.

 

Just as you were reaching for a binding, a memory struck your mind; tomorrow was a day off. There was no need to get lost in a book just yet. Instead, you were able to retreat from the labyrinth and find a much more interesting activity to occupy yourself with. In all aspects, you were not going to venture out alone. Oh no, your best friend was coming with you.

 

He'd been there the moment you'd arrived, and he'd always offered a helping hand when you needed it. The two of you were classic pals. Inseparable. Speaking of which, the bookworm himself stepped into the resting cell, his blue stare upon the floor.

 

As usual, you snatched up his hand and pulled him right back out into the hallway. His startled gasp was all but shocking, for you'd done this many times before. As luck may have it, you were an aspiring young woman who wanted to see the worlds and rejoice in the splendor they had to offer...and Ienzo was dragged along for the ride.

 

"Not again," mumbled the illusionist as he struggled to object to your insisting pulls.

 

"Yes, again. We have the day off tomorrow, remember?" sounded your excited tone as you pursued to tow him toward the exit.

 

"Unfortunately, yes. Must we always spend the night before in town? The consequences from the last visit were deplorable."

 

"Do you think I care? That's half the fun!" Thus, your victim was forced against his will to accompany you to the brightly lit Radiant Gardens. Okay, so it wasn't as active as the two of you made it out to be. For the most part, you spent your time walking along the streets and discussing the latest experiments. Every once in a while, you were lucky enough to catch the boy in a good mood, and the two of you would chat about futuristic dreams that were way out of the question, usually resulting in fits of laughter, or converse about deeper things far away from science or aspirations.

 

These sessions with the man were exactly why you'd grown to care about him so much. He was like your brother, watching out for you and sharing life's surprises with you, then puzzling about them later in your presence. You adored him as much as you would any of your family members, although you had none left.

 

Your colleagues were your new family, and your 'older brother' was undoubtedly the best friend you'd ever had. It was unbelievable how comfortable you felt around him. So there the two of you were, wandering the alleys aimlessly, and talking nonstop.

 

"So...where to this time?" you questioned after a slight pause in dialect.

 

"Might I suggest something relaxing? A place without requirement for usage of the brain..." Laughing at this, you turned to your friend with eyes full of mirth.

 

"Did today's work wear you out?" teased a mischievous you, to which you received a light glare. "Alright, fine; how about a scenic view? We could...go to the top of the hill outside residential area."

 

"That sounds suitable," mumbled your companion in agreement. Thus, the pair of you moved between the buildings, soon ascending said mound. It overlooked all of Radiant Gardens, being at the near edge of the world. Ienzo took a seat, and you soon joined him, wrapping your arms around your knees and inhaling deeply. Lights were splendorous beneath you, stretching across for miles, all illuminating the citadel that loomed above them.

 

"It's beautiful up here..."

 

"Heh...just like you to always state the obvious," he taunted, a smirk toying with one of the corners of his lips. You gave him a disgruntled look before sighing and easily letting him win.

 

"Y'know, Ienzo, I wasn't always like this. In fact, I wasn't even a scientist until I met Ansem the Wise. I had my hopes and dreams just like everyone else, without a set as to how to reach them. And then...he found me, and I became an apprentice. Ansem's fantasies became my own whence we began the testing."


Gaze plastered upon the ground, you showed obvious remorse for what you'd given up. Although the path you'd chosen had the potential of leading to a prosperous and shining future, it certainly wasn't everything you'd wished for. Now you were locked within this fate; who would have a need for a scientist, other than the person you were already working for? It was the only talent you'd studied for so many years, and it was too late to stop.

 

"I sometimes wonder, though, if after all of this is over, I might escape his grasp. Y'know...be free again. I'm hoping that one day I could travel out of this atmosphere." With a small laugh, you stated, "I want so badly to see the worlds; revel in their grandeur. You'll come with me, right?" you added, turning your head to look at him, now having leaned back against your arms. The addressed man locked stares with you, a serious expression having overcome his visage. He frowned in thought before looking up at the stars.

 

"I will if I can. You and I both know that not everything goes as we sometimes hope." Ienzo was perfectly accurate on his point of view. There were many things that went wrong when experimenting, so why wouldn't life be the same way?

 

"You know as well as I do that I wouldn't leave without you. I mean, come on; you're my best friend. What in heaven's name would I do in another world without your company?" Flashing him a smile, you were pleased when he returned it weakly. Well, it was better than nothing, for smiles were rare coming from the young man.

 

"So...say you do manage to fly away. Where would you go?" Responding with a shrug of your shoulders, you followed his actions and stared up at the night sky.

 

"Well, to one of those, I would imagine," you voiced, pointing up a shimmering star. "Where else would I go?" There was a slight pause of silence before he whispered almost inaudibly, "I'm not sure."

 

Studying his face with concern, you leaned forward to capture his attention. Those piercing blue eyes met yours, a hint of malice beneath their warm exterior. Drawing back because of this, you briefly wondered what you might have done to deserve his hostility.

 

"What's on your mind? You seem troubled tonight," came a hurt murmur of yours as you settled back into your own separate position. He grunted and shifted to make himself more comfortable; back into a relaxing pose. His hands folded over his abdomen as his dark hair fell further from his face.

 

"Nothing worth talking about," was his blunt reply. This behavior was exactly what you didn't like about him; when he was upset, Ienzo wasn't willing to discuss anything. Perhaps Braig had been teasing him about his bookworm habits again.

 

"Well...I think it is..." You sighed and lay back next to him before rolling over to look at your partner. "Have you ever noticed that you never tell me anything about what's bothering you? What am I supposed to do about that, hmm? Allow my hair to grow gray because of worry?"

 

A smirk toyed with his lips as he turned his head to examine you. For whatever reason this was for, you hadn't a clue, but when he seemed satisfied, a smug grin had found its way to his orifice. A frown marred your face as you leaned up in curiosity.

 

"Sure. Then you and Xehanort can share beauty secrets of how you make your beautiful, pale hair truly shine." Smacking him on the shoulder, it only perturbed you to a further extent that he had the nerve to begin laughing. As though upon casual reaction, you settled your head upon the exact spot you'd struck, nuzzling your face into his neck. Hah, he hated that.

 

A hand pushed you away roughly in his attempt to get away from your affectionate snuggling. The two of you didn't have a serious relationship of intimacy; you just adored bugging him with teasing actions. What he didn't know, however, is that deep down there was some meaning behind them. Needless to say, his consistent rejections hurt.

 

"Always have to fight back with love, don't you?" he growled, shuffling away from you. It was futile, though, for you only pursued him with more determination.

 

"I have hopes that you will one day learn your lesson and keep your mouth shut in the first place." This time your head fell onto his chest. You hadn't done this on purpose, and perhaps that was why you had a startled expression that this is where it had fallen.

 

His steady heartbeat sounded in your ear, making you close your eyes and smile softly. If he even knew how much you truly cared about him, it was doubtless he wouldn't be allowing you to do this. In any case, he'd be doing whatever he could to avoid you in attempt to make sure you didn't love him. Luckily, he had no such notion as to what your heart told you, so he made no attempt to force you away this time.

 

"Ienzo?" Your reply was a gruff grunt. "If something were really wrong...you'd tell me...right?" After a few seconds passed, you felt a hand rest upon your middle back. You lifted your head and shoulders and stared at him inquiringly. His face was set into an expression you couldn't quite read, but it looked like a mixture of curiosity, frustration, and distress.

 

"What do you think?" he retorted in a somewhat irritated tone. You let out a gust of air and shifted, unintentionally pressing your entire body against his. The realization of this required you to fight down the color rising to your cheeks. Hey, all you'd wanted to do was move so you could get a better-concentrated stare on the guy.

 

"Well, I'd like to think you would, but you've been acting most anxious lately." When he didn't reply, you took this as an invitation to continue. "I...just can't shake the feeling that there's something you're not telling me."

 

"And now you want me to give you a play-by-play?" There was definitely an edge of anger in his voice now. He began to sit up, making you slide downward and off of him.

 

"No!" you pleaded urgently, in a stance upon your knees. You reached out and touched his shoulder, but he shrugged it off. "I...I just want to help." Even though your voice had grown incredibly feeble and quiet, it seemed to hold his attention with more affect than before. He turned to you, eyes softening as your words began to sink in.

 

Burly arms wrapped around you and pulled you against a broad chest. You snuggled into his warmth and closed your optics with worry. You knew why he was doing this. It was to make you happy; to console you to the point where you'd let it go. But you wouldn't; there was something he downright refused to let you in on, and there would be no proper rest until you knew what it was.

 

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A loud creaking woke you, making you start with panic. Oh, Ansem was going to kill you; it was late in the day, as you could see, from the fluorescent glow coming through the cracks at the door. He'd already turned on the lights, and that didn't happen until 7 am.

 

You heaved yourself to a sitting position so you could throw yourself out of bed, but stopped suddenly. The sleeping forms around you...what did they signify? Oh, yes! It was a day off of experimentation. The glory!

 

Falling back onto your bed, you bounced back into a comfortable position on your pillow and smiled. You loved days off, as almost everyone did. Wondering whether or not Ienzo was awake yet, you turned over to peer across the room at his bunk.

 

Generally, on any other day, he would be a silhouette from the very little light offered. However, in this case since the fluorescent luminescence allowed better sight, you could actually make out his facial features. The dark hair accenting his light tan skin perfectly, it gave him a mysterious appearance. Such a peaceful expression gave him a look of sheer innocence, making you blink and sigh in overwhelming exasperation; he'd never feel the same way about you, would he?

 

Rolling to the other side so you wouldn't be distracted, you focused on going back to sleep. Ansem allowed his apprentices to get as much rest as needed when they were allowed a break from work, but it didn't always work out that way. One had to be watchful that they didn't sleep well past Braig's awakening; he loved to make sure they had a bad start in the morning. The last time, and only time, he'd been able to pull such a thing on you, you'd found syrup all over your bed, as well as a nice wad of gum in your hair. That was a long time ago, and you were determined not to let him get away with it again.

 

When your shoulder was being shaken carefully, you discovered that you hadn't realized you'd drifted off to sleep. Turning over with a groan, you opened your eyes slowly. The blurred image of Ienzo came into focus. He hovered over you with a facial placement that you usually only saw when he was being careful to not be caught doing something.

 

"Whazgoinon?" you slurred sleepily, already noting that your hair was a mess. The sight you must be!

 

"Get up; Braig will be returning any moment from his morning shower." That would explain why he looked the way he did; should your comrade discover one of his cellmates waking another to make sure they weren't pranked, that individual that did the deed would be targeted next, sleeping or not.

 

With quick movement, you sat up as Ienzo made sure to make himself look as though he were minding his own business. He snatched up a novel and lay down on his bed, opening it to the page where he'd left off. The young man was good at looking as though he'd been comfortable for a while, you had to admit.

 

Rubbing your eyes with one hand, you reached for a hairbrush with the other. With much effort, you managed to comb out your _(color)_ mane and pull it up into its usual bun. Other than your red eyes, no one would be able to tell you had just been sleeping.

 

From a glance at the other cots, you were able to tell that Dilan, Even, and Aeleus were already spending their free day as they pleased. Their beddings were made neatly; smooth enough to bounce a nickel off of them. Sighing due to the fact that you knew you'd have to make yours look the same, you stood and got to work.

 

By the time you were finished, Braig had entered the room with a disgruntled demeanor. Apparently he'd been looking forward to giving you a nice arousing. You turned to look at him and gave him a lethargic wave.

 

"'Morning, Braig," you slurred yet again. It was evident that it took you a while to wake up when you didn't have a time limit to be on schedule. The man grumbled in response, grabbed a munny pouch, and left the room. This gave you the chance to talk to Ienzo as you pleased.

 

Plopping down onto your newly made bed, you faced your friend with a cheery grin. He glanced up at you in boredom as though this were a routine. Obviously, he took the hint that you weren't doing that just because you wanted to, because he closed his book and got up to place it back on the shelf.

 

"So...what do you want to do today?" you chimed, standing up beside him. He acknowledged you with an adamant stare.

 

"I would like to get some work done on my journal entries," came a dull reply.

 

"Oh, come on," you whined pitifully, bringing a small twitch to the corner of his lips. "That's so boring...can't you do that later? Perhaps during one of Ansem's lectures?" This had brought up a thought to consider. He let it sink into his mind before shrugging.

 

"I suppose. Why? What do you have in mind?" His tone was that of repugnance; inevitably, he had mocking fear of what you might have planned for the two of you to do.

 

"I thought we'd go to the fair. It's only open for another day, you know, and this is our only free day for a week." Ienzo sighed in vexation and wrinkled his nose in disgust. You knew he was just doing this to give you a hard time; he never actually cared what the two of you did.

 

"Well, in that case, why not accompany Dilan? I'll join Aeleus in whatever he's doing." You pushed him playfully, but by the frown he gave you, you comprehended that he was serious.

 

"What? Why?" No response. "Come on; please?" Your pleading look was clearly getting to him. At last he sighed and gave in. "Yay! I just have to get dressed and brush my teeth. I'll be just a moment."

 

You literally were just a moment; since it was break, all you had to do was grab some of your own clothes and hastily give your mouth a cleaning. Then it was off to the fair. Off course, you made sure to grab your munny pouch on the way out.

 

Dressed in a casual white spaghetti-strap tanktop and light blue jeans, you looked like a common young woman on her way to the boardwalk of a beach. Sure, this was Radiant Gardens, but couldn't you have some fun? However, there was one exception to your average attire- the neat bun on your head and a face void of makeup. Oh yes, there always had to be something that proved you were a nerd.

 

Ienzo had himself clothed in a baggy T-shirt and slacks. You eyed him warily before looking up at him. His gaze was quizzical, to which you raised an eyebrow.

 

"Don't get your clothing caught on any machinery," was your warning before you jogged up to the ticket booth. The fresh air felt wonderful, and the day was promising to be lovely. Paying the proper amount of munny, you returned with two wristbands. "As many rides as we want for the day!"

 

"Oh, I'm just thrilled," he drawled sarcastically. You rolled your eyes.

 

"Give it a rest already." Hastily taking his hand, you dragged him over to a roller coaster. That was one of many of the exciting rides he was forced upon. The entire time, he never even cracked a smile. Damn him. In fact, he made sure to keep an expression of pure boredom on his face. Or perhaps that was because he was concentrating on not getting sick; you weren't sure.

 

Stretching your arms high above your head, you yawned happily. Already the day had passed by quickly; the sun was setting, which made you wonder just how late he'd woken you that morning. The temperature was warm, the sky clear and now streaked with color.

 

"Well, that was fun," you chirped before your wrist was snatched. You looked at him warily as he nodded toward the Ferris Wheel. "Why do you want to go on that one?" Glaring at you, he began to steadily pull you over to the line.

 

"Please allow me one relaxing ride from this day of...er...fun, so to speak."

 

"Oh, yeah...you just want to ride the romance machine with me," you teased, knowing very well that this particular ride was well known for its romantic moments. An awkward glance was sent your way.

 

"Well, in that case, I suggest we get different seats."

 

"Nuh-uh! I don't care if you don't want to ride it with me, because I want to ride it with you." Linking arms with him, you threw him a grin before the two of you were ushered to a cart. The two of you took your seats before a worker latched you in.

 

The wheel began moving, lifting you upward before it stopped again. Luckily, you and Ienzo were the second to the last pair loading, so you wouldn't have to wait long. After the couple beneath you was set to go, the timed ride began.

 

Sitting in silence for a while, you played with your thumbs and enjoyed the scenery. It offered a great view of the horizon. However, this was not enough to entertain you for long.

 

"So...Ienzo..."

 

"So, _(Name)_...do you feel the need to shatter silence whenever it is present?" The words stung, that was easy to admit. Had it been in a teasing manner, you would have had no problem dealing with it. However, his gruff voice alerted you that something had him irritated...still.

 

"I...I just..." you sputtered in weak defense. He had a habit of doing this; whenever something was bothering him, he'd find a way to hurt your feelings. You weren't sure if he did it intentionally, but sometimes it sure felt like it. "Ienzo, please...I can't stand it anymore. What's on your mind?"

 

"What's on my mind is how deplorable it is that you won't leave the topic where it stands. Truly, can you not enjoy a moment of peace?" Your face contorted with anger.

 

"No, I cannot! Not when you're acting like this. Tell me; what's going on?"

 

"Why do you care so much?"


"Because I care about you!" His lowered eyebrows clearly indicated that you'd allowed too much meaning into your voice on that one. Damn him for his observational skills. Sighing, you knew it was too late to turn back now. He was asking questions without having to ask them. "Is it really not that obvious?"

 

"You care about me...no, I knew that." A rosy hue rose to your cheeks as you looked away from him. It was a matter of swallowing the lump in your throat before you could answer. And already a sick feeling was forming at the pit of your stomach.

 

"I...um...really care about you." The frown dug deeper.

 

"What are you saying?"

 

"Well...I mean..."

 

"How much are you referring to here?"

 

"I...er...um..."

 

"Enough to say you loved me?" he answered for you, still staring straight forward. Although you were stiff with horror, a feeling of relief washed over you; you wouldn't have to put that into words; he'd done it for you.

 

"Well...yeah, I suppose," you whispered, looking downward at your dangling feet. Ienzo grunted with thought and looked up at the sky. Whoa, why wasn't he reacting? What was he thinking?

 

"Interesting," he murmured after a long pause. Afterward, he moved his gaze to fix it upon you. In reaction, you looked up and gave him a weak smile. And that was as much as the two of you said for the rest of the ride.

 

With your heart still pounding from the anxiety of the situation, you walked beside him on your way back to the castle. He still remained silent, despite the fact that you wanted more than anything for him to speak. It was up to you, you supposed, to start the conversation again.

 

"I'm sorry I didn't say something earlier. I was just afraid that you would react poorly. I mean, not to be offensive, but you're terrible at handling situations like this."

 

"Did it occur to you that I might just choose not to handle these predicaments?" Looking up at him with wide eyes of horror, you already knew what was behind his dark tenor. He didn't feel the same way. You'd wasted your breath. "Student infatuations are not allowed; you know that just as well as I do."

 

"Yes, I do, but-"

 

"Case closed, _(Name)_. You need to move on...it's the best for the both of us."

 

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A dream had the potential of being just as wonderful as the real thing...well, until you woke and realized that it was just a dream, and it probably wouldn't happen again. That's why one should revel in the fantasies they have while they have them. That was exactly why you tried to remain in your blissful slumber for as long as possible.

 

You were back at the fair, only you and Ienzo weren't returning to the castle right away. Instead, he nonchalantly held your hand as the two of you walked on the beach. For the first time, you looked like a true woman of the common affair.

 

Your _(color)_ locks had been released from the everyday style, and they now blew softly in the wind. Colors matched accordingly upon your powder-painted face. To top it all off, you were smiling with glee.

 

Was this true happiness? Could it be even more fantastic than when Ienzo had pulled you close and kissed your cherry-tinted lips? Even the setting was perfect- the waves rolling onto shore, mixed with the hue of the dyes streaking across the sky. However, all good mortal things must come to an end.

 

The scuffling you heard around you didn't strike you as real. It just seemed annoying; pulling you farther from the now fading scene of the pair you could now see still kissing upon the beach. It was as though you were a friendly stranger looking down upon two lovers...a stranger whose eyesight was failing.

 

At last, your shoulder was shaken roughly, jolting you awake. Dilan gave you a hard blue-eyed stare before walking away from your cot. It was apparently time to get up.

 

Heaving a large yawn, you stretched and threw the covers from your body. The marble floor was cold to your bare feet, which was why you hurried to slip into your lab shoes. It was then grabbing a uniform and rushing to the bathroom to clean up.

 

The dull memory of your dream left a heavy ache within your heart. That perfect moment would probably never happen; you were a pitiful girl in her stretch of a futile, one-sided romance. Such a life only brought heartbreak, but at least it was better than not living at all.

 

Emerging from the bathroom in a cloak of steam, you marched down the hall to the workroom, your white lab coat suddenly feeling heavier than usual. The door handle felt cool to the touch after your shower, its smooth surface a strangely comforting presence. The door itself opened silently, and closed with a soft click.

 

You were late. The other apprentices were already at work, copying down equations from the whiteboard and working them into new specimens. Apparently it was true experimental duties today, rather than homework.

 

Hastily taking your station, you muttered a morning greeting to Ienzo before scribbling down your own given equations. Next came putting the right amount of one chemical into the next, then into the next, and so forth. Hardly anyone spoke the whole day, too wrapped up in their own observations to pay attention to each other's presences.

 

A late arrival wasn't the only thing putting you behind the others, though. As usual, there were a few complications that you needed to take note of to consider later in the entire project. Unfortunately, these were detailed notes. Hence, whilst everyone else was finished, you were still busy jotting things down and taking action with new trials.

 

It wasn't long before a group across the room had caught your attention. You were the only one not a part of it, excluding Ansem, and you weren't sure if this was due to your later duties or not. Either way, it certainly looked suspicious, as much as you tried not to pay attention.

 

The assemblage murmured amongst themselves, most of the time with Xehanort as the speaker. You couldn't make out what they were saying exactly, but their hushed tones made you uneasy. Even before you were finished, however, they split up and left the room. All except one.

 

Boots echoed in their rhythmic pounding upon the floors as they approached your lab table. Not even glancing up, you kept at your studies. Your lower lip was positioned between your teeth with anxiety; the stress that lay heavy within the room clearly stated that this would not be a friendly visit.

 

Once the footsteps ceased, you slowly and hesitantly looked upward, your hand having come to a stop with your pencil poised for writing. A cold aquamarine gaze was locked upon you, the meaning behind them unknown. You set down your utensil and stood up straight.

 

"Ienzo?"

 

"Need some help?" he offered, scuffling over to assist you in cleaning up the lab supplies. Your eyes followed him as you voiced your gratitude and quickly moved to finish your memos. Then, closing your notebook, you pushed it aside and snatched up the vials to the various chemicals, taking them over to the cabinets. "So...have you thought about how to escape yet?" came the familiar, smooth voice that you so adored.

 

"Have you?" was your reply as you looked over at him with raised eyebrows. He grunted in amusement and continued putting away the graduated cylinders one by one.

 

"I won't be leaving." This made your brows raised higher.

 

"Oh? Well then...neither will I," you stated matter-of-factly, closing the cabinet door and turning to face him with your right hand resting on the countertop. Ienzo laughed yet again, shaking his head and closing the cupboard he was working in.

 

"I figured you might say that." Glancing around, he frowned and stepped toward you with his stare fixed upon your hand. You looked down at it with confusion before drawing back in surprise. A container of acid had apparently broken, its contents spread across the surface. You had been lucky enough to miss it. "Go on ahead...I'll take care of it."

 

Glancing up at him, you nodded slowly, even though he wasn't looking at you. Walking around him, you left the room and headed down the hall toward the sleeping quarters. It was already getting late. You would dress for bed and rest in preparation for the next day.

 

Meanwhile, Ienzo swept up the harmful liquid with a cleaning rag, holding a dry corner of it before dropping the cloth into a metal garbage can. That was the end of that issue. He reached into the side of his lab coat and removed a manila folder. Walking over to your lab space, he flipped open your notebook and placed it carefully between the pages. Then, closing it once more, he left the workroom.

 

++~~~~----◊◊◊◊◊---~~~~++

 

A growl rumbled within your throat as you struggled to piece together why your analysis wasn't fitting right. Dropping your pencil onto the table, you stood up straight and breathed. Scrap paper was all you had right now; Ansem had taken your notes to overview them.

 

"Dammit! Can't we study something more interesting?" you snarled.

 

"_(Name)_, may I have a word?" The voice made you jump and spin around in surprise.

 

"Y-yes, Sir." Following Ansem to his office, you hoped that your comment on the current studies wasn't offensive. He closed the door behind you once you'd stepped in before he took his seat, pulling out a cream-colored folder from his desk.

 

"I found this in your notebook. It is yours and Ienzo's shared folder, is it not?"

 

"It is," you replied with a tone of curiosity. He opened it, revealing a fair amount of paper, divided by a provided colored paper built within the file. He then pulled on the dividing point, which was to access your side of the wallet.

 

"While browsing through your notes, I found a fair amount of memos on the door of all worlds." Amber eyes searched you with critical hostility. A look of shock struck your features as you felt your heart stop. He thought it was you that wrote those.

 

"Sir, with all due respect, are you sure they weren't misplaced in there? I haven't studied that subject at all..."

 

"They are in your handwriting. It matches perfectly." He pulled out one sheet of the notes. You picked them up and scanned the words, then lowering the paper to his desk in thought.

 

"I do not remember writing any of these."

 

"Well, _(Name)_..." Your mentor sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I will let you off with a warning. You know that studies of this matter are strictly forbidden. I am certain you will cease your searching, if that is the case?"

 

"I won't even begin searching. Master Ansem, I don't know who wrote those, but it certainly was not I." He nodded in thought before removing the rest of the papers from the folder. He handed your file to you and waved your dismissal. With a bow, you left the room and eventually returned to your work.

 

It was later in the day that it became apparent that you weren't planning on speaking at all. This was entirely new to the usual routine; normally you were the chatterbox of the study sessions. Needless to say, your sudden silence had Ienzo inquisitive. He ogled your features with a frown, and as much as you tried to ignore it, a twitch of your brow let him know that you were aware of his attention.

 

"What's on your mind?" he questioned in a low whisper.

 

"Nothing," you muttered, not bothering to look up.

 

"You haven't said a word since you got back from Ansem's office. Might I remind you that this is a record?" You sent him a glare before going back to checking your retained notes. "There is something wrong..."

 

"Ienzo-" You turned to look at him before sighing and shaking your head and once more returning to your studies. "Just forget it..."

 

++~~~~----◊◊◊◊◊---~~~~++

 

Things had gone pretty well the last few days. There had been no mention of the contents of the folder, although Ansem had been watching you like a hawk, even while teaching you a new experimental process. No one had brought up the topic of your mood swings at all, for your bright self had returned by the next day.

 

However, you hadn't expected to be back where you were. Having brought you back to his office yet again, Ansem seemed incredibly disturbed as he paced behind his desk. At last, after you had been standing in front of the closed door for about two minutes, he turned to address you.

 

"I assumed that after speaking to you, you might cease your research on the darkness of the heart," he drawled, voice dripping with disappointment. Your jaw dropped in astonishment.

 

"Master Ansem, I didn't even start researching that subject! What makes you think otherwise?" He whipped out a small stack of papers and dropped them on his desk to where they sat in front of you. Your neat scrawl was easily visible, describing in detail, in journal entry form, your discoveries of each day. "But...I didn't-"

 

"I am terribly sorry, _(Name)_..." he said slowly with regret. "I cannot allow you to make further studies in this laboratory." The world around you seemed to spin out of focus. What was that? You couldn't stay here?

 

"But...but I have nowhere else to go," you pleaded with panic.

 

"My apologies. It is too dangerous for you to remain a student here."

 

"But Master Ansem, I did not write those papers! I swear, I have no memory of doing so, nor do I have any spaces missing in my recollections." He sighed and shook his head.

 

"I'm sorry, but I cannot take any risks. You'll have to pack your things and find somewhere else to go. I can no longer offer you my teachings." Tears welled up in your eyes; what were you supposed to do? This was the only life you had ever known here, and there was nowhere else to take refuge. "You are dismissed."

 

Trembling, you took a bow for the last time and left his office. Your footsteps were slow as you traveled down the white corridor to the sleeping quarters. Once you got there, you began to pile things into a small sack in order to carry your possessions with you.

 

Ienzo, who was lying on his bed with a book in hand when you arrived, sat up and watched you in confusion. "What are you doing?" he voiced.

 

"I'm leaving," you retorted, voice breaking. He stood and walked over to you, an astonished expression upon his visage.

 

"Finally breaking free, are you?" That was when it became too much. Not only would you be forced into a world that didn't have use for you, but Ienzo would not be there with you. In other words, you would be leaving him behind. Turning to him with small trickles of teardrops streaming down your face, you dropped your bag and covered your face, taking a seat on your bed to steady yourself.

 

He sat beside you with caution, and you could just picture his face in your mind. Undoubtedly, he was looking at you with wide eyes of horror due to the fact that you were crying, when he'd never seen you cry before, even when struck with horribly painful chemicals when first experimenting. As it turns out, that was exactly how his features were arranged.

 

"My studies are over. Ansem's sending me away," you explained, calming yourself down little by little.

 

"What? Why?"

 

"There were these files in our shared folder. They were in my handwriting, and, even though I had never even researched the subject, were written on the darkness of hearts." Sighing and going back to resting your face in your hands, you let your shoulders slump with distress.

 

"So you're being forced out because of a little rebellion?" Your head shot upward as you stared him straight on.

 

"Ienzo, I swear I did not write those letters." He blinked, expression stern.

 

"I know. I wrote them," he stated calmly. Standing up instantaneously, you gazed at him with sheer mortification.

 

"What?" you yelled in horror. He stood as well, tranquil as a lunatic would be when explaining his masterpiece of work.

 

"I wrote the notes."

 

"But...why would you-?"

 

"About a week ago, I forged your handwriting into a written report of supposed 'recent studies' on the forbidden subject. I then placed them on your side of the folder in hopes that Ansem might see them. It seems my plan worked perfectly."

 

After a pause of digesting what he had just said, you screwed up your visage in confusion. "But why would you be so desperate to get me out of here?" Ienzo stared at you serenely, though his eyes hardened enough to almost reach a glare.

 

"You don't belong here, _(Name)_. I merely set you free." You stepped back in disbelief. Your own best friend had done this to you...but why...?

 

"But why now? Why like this?" came your further questioning. "I thought we were going to go together, and then you betrayed me by placing forbidden files in our folder in my handwriting. Where's the justice in that?"

 

"You need to leave here. Consider it a favor." Your jaw dropped in bewilderment. How could he even think of that as an act of kindness? He might as well have said he didn't want you, in any shape or form. The very thought of what he had done made your heart bleed with pain.

 

"And how does that help me when I haven't a home to go to?" you spat, optics cold with malice. "Is it your favor to starve me; let me die in the cold?"

 

"You're a smart individual. I am certain you will find a way to survive."

 

"Ienzo, what were you thinking?" you squeaked in a frail voice, which turned into a yelp of surprise when he shook your shoulders harshly. His eyes were fierce, burning with a fire you'd never seen within their depths before. Breath coming in a heavy but steady rhythm, he tried to understand just how blind you could be.

 

"Do you not understand? I'm trying to save you!" he growled deeply, lips curling upward in a snarl. Your expression was blank as you stared at him in bafflement. He sighed and let go of you, shaking his head with a frown. "We have been studying the darkness for months now...I'm surprised you have not noticed."

 

"Well...I knew something was up, but I wasn't sure what it was exactly." You blinked and refocused. "What does that have to do with my safety?"

 

"Soon we will be casting ourselves into the dark depths. And you..." He turned to you on cue, and you were almost struck with fear at the wild look he held. "...you would follow. I know you would. It isn't safe; we're not absolutely sure what we'll be going into. I had to make sure you were gone; secluded from me so that, should something go wrong, you would at least have a destiny of promise."

 

Taking this in, you stared downward in shock. Not only was he admitting to putting himself into danger soon, but also that he had been conspiring this whole time. Conspiring about forbidden study, as well as the ridding of your presence so they could carry forth those plans.

 

"So you're doing this because you want me safe...even though you don't care about me," you voiced slowly. Once more you felt his hands upon your shoulders, but they were with much more heed. You looked up at him, orbs shimmering with both pain and confusion.

 

"I do care. I always have. But in order to make it worthwhile, I had to push you away. You wouldn't believe how badly I wanted to tell you the truth when you admitted how you felt. How badly I wanted to hold you and assure you that I felt the same."

 

He exhaled loudly and closed his eyes before reopening them and continuing. "But I knew I couldn't. In hopes to make the passing easier for you, I had to seem cold and inconsiderate in your eyes so that you might believe I didn't want you, even though I did. More than anything," breathed Ienzo, gaze locked with yours. Your eyes searched his before you felt your knees grow weak.

 

Legs giving way beneath you, your body fell only a foot before burly arms caught you and heaved you upward. It was only a second later that they were around you, pulling you against a warm figure. And just like that, everything, all your problems and all the pain that had wrought your heart, faded.

 

You curled up against his chest, trembling from both incredulity and relief. Lids lowering, you reveled in his presence. His scent was intoxicating, flooding your senses and sweeping you to an entirely different place of mind. Feeling his arms loosen around you, you almost whined in complaint until his fingers lifted your chin and his lips found yours.

 

Blinking in astonishment, you stood there without the slightest clue of how to respond. Nevertheless, you acted accordingly by throwing your arms around his neck and kissing him back with a great deal of fervor. His arms wound their way around your waist, and for what seemed like an eternity, and hardly any time at all, the two of you shared one last moment together.

 

When you separated, a great deal of remorse was sent back and forth wordlessly as you stared at one another. There wasn't any good way to say goodbye, and in all honesty that was the best way to end it. With a final glance backward, you left the room, bag in hand.

 

++~~~~----◊◊◊◊◊---~~~~++

 

Four months later, you had finally found a somewhat settled life in another world. It was a long story as to how you got there, but the whole point of the market is that you now lived as a volunteer nurse (with no clue as to how you paid rent), who dwelled in a small apartment.

 

Unfortunately, the city was currently battling an epidemic. It was incurable, and its victims were doomed to die. Needless to say, there had been numerous deaths since it had begun, and the number was only growing larger. Hence, you spent much of your time in the hospital.

 

Checking the patients and making sure they were still breathing, you left the room and entered your office. It was about time to clock out and head to the home you barely managed to keep. Nevertheless, you made your living doing this; your knowledge was at least put to good use.

 

Shuffling a few papers into a pile, you brought a fist to your mouth as a cough exploded from your chest. Your skin burned with a steady fever, even though you looked as healthy as ever. Yes, you were sick. In fact, you'd known for a long time. Soon, you would make the same end as the pitiful individuals in the hospital cots.

 

Shaking, you steadily made your way into the hall and to the elevator. Then it was off to the subway, which you rode every day to get to the other side of town. Luckily, you'd struck up a nice friendship with the owner of the system, so he allowed you to ride for free.

 

Gripping the handle that hung from the ceiling, you stared out the window at the bricks that rushed past at high speed. It had seemed so long since you left your old life. You wondered how the others were doing, and if their studies had succeeded. That's when it hit you like a speeding train.

 

The memory of him...it still took your breath away to think of what you had left behind. His face in your mind made your heart pound when you considered the possibilities of returning to him one last time. Could you do it? Would you make it in your condition? There was only one way to find out.

 

After you had stepped out of the subway, you rushed home and immediately began to pack. There were only a few things to grab, and then you would have to make haste to get to a shuttle to Radiant Gardens, if at all possible. Every now and then someone would have a Gummi Ship at the station, and you could get lucky by offering munny for travel.

 

You were panting by the time you did reach the station, but with a determination far more powerful than the sickness that plagued your bloodstream. Handing over your savings, you leaned against a column and stared at the pilot with hopes that he might agree. To your amazement, he did.

 

Soon you were riding between worlds, gazing at the many different shapes of beauty that made up the universe. It was a shocker once you'd entered the atmosphere of Radiant Gardens, though. You'd forgotten how handsome it was, and just how much you'd missed it.

 

When you landed, you thanked the man and hurried off toward the castle. Prayers were sent that the apprentices weren't already gone, and that they were still in one piece. It was all you could do not to whimper with worry and anticipation once you'd reached the door.

 

It opened with a loud creaking, closing with a clang. The last time you'd heard that, it had been the worst sound in the world. Now it seemed like nothing compared to the panic that had your heart beating so quickly. Or perhaps that was the fever...

 

Sprinting through the halls, you skidded to a halt in front of the study room. You practically flew through the door, relief washing over you as the very person you sought came into sight.

 

Running at the same speed as before, you moved toward him, smiling at the shocked and half pleased expression upon his face.

 

A wave of dizziness swept over you suddenly, taking you while you were two feet away from him. You felt yourself fall, and the world around you spun in blurs of color. It was a few seconds later when you came to, realizing that Ienzo had caught you within his arms, and was now looking at you with a great amount of concern. Giving him a weak grin, you lost consciousness and drifted into blackness.

 

++~~~~----◊◊◊◊◊---~~~~++

 

Vision slowly coming into focus as you blinked and tried to wake yourself, you sat upright and looked around. Faces of concentration were in view, but there was only one you sought. Horrified, you stood rapidly and steadied yourself. You could see the darkness curling at their feet, taking them like carnivorous vines.

 

Dashing forward, you threw your arms around Ienzo. However, the moment you had touched him, you realized you hadn't felt anything at all. He had disappeared in a few wisps of starlight structures and blue dust. You gasped, staring downward at a small piece of evidence that he was once there.

 

A small creature with beady yellow eyes and antennae gazed up at you. Its body twitched with sudden cycles, and when you realized that this was all that was left of Ienzo, it brought hot tears to your eyes. Dropping to your knees, you picked it up in an embrace, despite the fact that it clawed your skin, and there was no resemblance to the man you once knew.

 

It was then that you at last felt yourself slipping. Your last few seconds of life...were you not supposed to have shared them with him? Where was he now? Where was the real Ienzo? Lost forever?

 

Lying down, you released the Shadow and took deep breaths. This was it...this was the end. Although it was meant to be peaceful, it seemed soiled with the pain your heart held captive. Then, when you thought that the last thing you would ever see would be the lab fading from view, a pair of familiar arms curled beneath you and heaved you upward into a bridal carry.

 

Beautiful aquamarine eyes searched you, the right covered with a large tuft of silver hair gifted with a blue sheen. Your breath caught in your throat as you reached upward to touch his magnificent face. He didn't change his expression...not once.

 

"Ienzo..." you whispered. "I want to say..." Your voice drifted off as your eyelids fell slowly over your irises. Body falling limp, you departed peacefully from Zexion's arms. Although he could no longer feel the pain of your passing, there was a pride within him of knowing he had set you off right. For as long as the memory of him, the last image of his face, rested within your mind as you left your mortal life, you would go in peace.

 

Eyes widening in surprise, he looked down at your body. Particles began to separate upon you, drifting upward and into the air currents. You were disappearing, just as he had when he'd submitted to darkness. At least he knew you were going where you belonged...where you always belonged- the light.

 

Ienzo...I want to say...thank you. All the pain, all the agony...it faded away...when you held me in your embrace. Thank you...you made my heart a better place.

 

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