azi: Keep Calm and Appeal to a Supervisor. (Default)
Title: Something Like Regret
Writing Date: Late 2009
Rating: General.
Warnings: None.
Fandom: Multifandom AU RP
Characters: Zexion, Lexaeus, Xigbar, Kuja, Marluxia, OC, Neliel.
Summary: Zexion didn't quite regret leaving behind The Thirteenth Order in light of what had been revealed, but there was a pang of something else, right in the chest, that made his resignation hurt.

Zexion sat alone in Clan Khamja's expansive library, bathed in the dim light of a desk lamp. The cloying, sweetish scent of centuries old books hung in the air around him and it was thick enough to dull his keen sense of smell. He wasn't yet used to the signature scents of those who called the hidden Desert Palace home and the fact that each one of them mixed with that of the musty books and dust didn't exactly help.

He sighed and leaned forward at the desk that he had commandeered. He rested his head on one hand and rubbed his eyes with the other. A leather bound volume lay open on the table in front of him, but he didn't look at it. His eyes ached. He had been reading for so long that his head was pounding. He didn't need to read so much -- he wasn't really in the mood for recreational research -- but it was a welcome distraction from thinking. When he started doing that, his idle thoughts wandered of their own accord to the events that had lead up to him being there.

Such memories kept him awake at night, unpleasant echoes replaying over and over and driving him to distraction. He turned his attention back to his book, but the pain in his head warned him off from the moment his eyes focussed on a word.

Sighing, he gave himself over to the unwanted thoughts surrounding his departure from the Thirteenth Order, and his induction into their enemy's ranks.

The walk to the Aerodrome had been harder than Zexion had imagined it would be. His steps had sounded light and lonely, for they had lacked the usual accompanying heavy footfalls of his preferred companion.

His legs had felt heavier and heavier as he'd closed the distance between himself and Rabanastre's Aerodrome. It wasn't a long walk, but his pace had been an agonisingly slow one, as though the weight of the world had been draped across his shoulders and was forcing his steps to become more leaden the closer he'd got. It had felt as though an iron fist squeezed his heart more and more tightly the nearer he got to his own forced freedom. It was a feeling he was unused to, one that hadn't even manifested when he'd had a hand in casting his own adopted father into the darkness between the worlds. That, after all, had seemed justified at the time. In retrospect, the idea of his actions made a sick feeling pool in the pit of his stomach, but back then he had ended up an obstacle in the way of his all-important research and that obstacle had been duly removed.

That despicable act had come more easily than leaving Rabanastre behind had turned out to be. Perhaps, by that point, he had already discarded the humanity that he had only recently reclaimed. With the darkness gone, conscience had crept in and the frayed edges of something like regret lingered around his thoughts.

Walking away from his new home town had stung. Leaving behind both those who had helped him when he'd first arrived on Spira and his old allies hurt, but nothing had been as hard leaving behind Lexaeus.

He had approached him not long after deciding what path he would take in light of recent developments. He, foolishly in retrospect, had not even imagined a scenario in which the answer to his request could be a negative one. It simply hadn't seemed possible, let alone likely.

"Lexaeus," he'd said, and that word and those that followed had been edged with dry-throated conviction. "I'm leaving. I refuse to remain within a group that knowingly allows a traitor to linger in its midst."

He had been referring to Saix. Once upon a time, he and five others had been deployed to a new Headquarters -- Castle Oblivion -- for a mission on the orders of their leader. One by one they had fallen, some to the enemy, but a number of them to the hands or orders of one of their own number. In the end, the only one remaining was Number VIII, a man who had turned out to be more of an effective assassin than the one of them titled such. Zexion alone had suspected Saix of foul play, but he had been eliminated before he could find the proof necessary to back up his theory or, perhaps, because he was seeking it.

Despite all of that, fortune had favoured them enough that they had managed to regain their lives and their hearts. A second coup was planned, but ultimately averted by a trick of fate that had cast them all, regardless of side, onto an alien world with no way of returning to where they'd come from. The ability to travel between worlds had been stolen from them and they had found themselves forcefully integrated into the one they'd landed on -- a world called Spira by its natives. Ivalice, if the region needed clarification.

The upheaval had pushed all of the sins of the past by the wayside. Some of them had formed a Clan of their own, The Thirteenth Order, named in near-sarcastic homage to their old group, though one or two of them were members in name only and spent more time away than they did with them. Others had joined the Clans of Spiran natives where alliances had been formed.

The formation of The Thirteenth Order had not been ideal, but it was something they could cope with. They had a place to live, a base of operations, a source of income, and very few suspected them of being out of the ordinary.

Then, during a Thirteenth Order meeting and, it had to be said, entirely unintentionally, Saix had revealed delicate information that he couldn't possibly have known without an informant -- the nature of Zexion's death back at Castle Oblivion. Axel, Number VIII, had been the only one present who could have possibly relayed such details, and Zexion himself had never spoken of how he'd been held firm by Vexen's corrupted Replica and drained of his life as he struggled helplessly in his grasp.

Though Zexion prided himself on being one, it did not take a genius to work out upon whose orders Axel was acting when that information came to light.

That little slip up had thrown the Clan into a state of turmoil. Trust in Saix waned and he lost favour with a number of them, even some of those not directly affected by his actions. Xaldin had taken on a notably colder attitude towards the Berserker than he had shown prior and even Demyx displayed doubt in him. Larxene didn't seem to care much about Saix's trespasses, but that was no surprise to anyone. She had done similar, but her involvement with Marluxia's own attempts at a takeover had been no secret, nor had she tried to conceal information about it. Luxord's opinion, if he had one, had been kept to himself. Lexaeus had been characteristically stolid about the whole affair.

Xigbar had decided, as the Order's defacto leader, that he wanted to keep Saix around to keep the group as a unit, regardless of what he'd done. It had surprised some of them and shocked others. Upon hearing the verdict, Vexen had left.

It had hit him the hardest. Since arriving on Spira, Vexen had married Saix. To find that Axel, upon Saix's orders, had immolated him with a click of the fingers and a cold 'goodbye' bothered him more than he seemed to want to admit. That he lacked a heart at that point wasn't a point of contention, but the fact that Saix had never told him of their plans even after certainly had been. That fact alone had made Vexen question his involvement with the man. After nearly a fortnight, he'd not returned, nor had he given anybody the details as to his whereabouts.

Zexion gritted his teeth whenever he thought about it. He had taken it personally then and still did now. The others had been eliminated because they had posed a threat either to Saix and Axel's plans, or to the Organization itself. He himself had been removed because he knew too much and had the very real potential to get in the way of Saix's elevation to second-in-command.

With that in mind, he found that he simply wasn't prepared to stay with the group if Saix was going to face no real punishment for his acts against some of their number, regardless of the state of their hearts in the present.

"Come with me," Zexion had said as he'd looked up at his long-time friend after the decision had been made. He had awaited what he'd considered an inevitable nod and a swift departure with only the time it took to pack to stall their journey.

The answer had stopped him cold and drained his confidence in his resignation.

"No. I am staying," had been the stony reply. Yes, there'd been hesitance, but Lexaeus's countenance remained characteristically resolute.

Zexion's shoulders had dropped at his refusal and he remembered that his eyes, one hidden by his messy fringe, must have widened in a rare display of confusion and disbelief. "B-but—" He'd stammered, faltering. "Lexaeus."

He hadn't intended to sound so petulant.

"You do not need me any more, Zexion. You are no longer the child I used to look after. You have matured and you have become as excellent an Alchemist as you are a scientist." He'd looked more and more disappointed with each word before his tone finally turned sad. "You've outgrown me."

"But..." he had let himself trail off in lieu of the 'I do need you' that he'd been too proud to grant voice to. "Please, Lexaeus, come with me." The memory of the coppery tang from his lip, bitten to stop it trembling, came back to him.

"I cannot," his former guardian had told him, and then closed his eyes with a single shake of the head. Somehow, despite his refusal, both that action and his voice had held an air of mournful regret.

"But... why?"

It had been difficult for Zexion to understand and he hadn't resisted the urge to press for an answer. Lexaeus had refused him. He had never refused him. He'd just needed to question.

"I cannot abandon the Clan," was all Lexaeus had offered by way of explanation.

That refusal signalled the beginning of the end of a long alliance -- no, a long friendship, between the two.

Zexion could tell that Lexaeus was torn between loyalties, but the diminished reliance he'd had on him in the past year or so had obviously contributed to his decision to act in the interests of the group instead of that of his friend. Perhaps he was hurt. Perhaps he felt more betrayed by Zexion's thoughts of leaving than he thought Zexion felt by the actions of Saix and the response of their Clan leader. He either figured that the ongoing well-being of the group as a whole was more important than the safety of Zexion as an individual, or thought that he was strong enough to make it by himself. Either way, Zexion didn't attempt to manipulate him into changing his mind – he had been a friend, not a pawn, and he was not about to walk away from him on a note any sourer than he already was doing.

Lexaeus had made his choice and Zexion had found himself lacking what it took to keep him beside him.

It was at that point that the prospect of heading into the world outside Rabanastre seemed less appealing than before. The feeling that Spira was much more empty and bleaker than he'd previously imagined had come over him quickly. He had not envisioned having to travel it alone and the idea was a daunting one. He had never been alone before.

Never.

His eyes had burned as the Geomancer pulled him into a warm embrace and, against his better judgement, he had clung to the fabric of his clothes until his knuckles turned white with the force of his grip.

"I'm going to miss you," he'd said hollowly, his words muffled. The instinctive feeling of betrayal that he'd suffered in light of Lexaeus's unexpected refusal had dimmed slightly in the face of their goodbye.

"You know that I will miss you," he had replied.

Zexion couldn't help but wonder if he'd been missing him for far longer than the time that had passed since Saix's misdeeds had been brought to light.

Leaving was hard, but he'd stuck to his convictions and given Xigbar his verbal resignation from The Thirteenth Order not long after that.

He had expected the response to be angry, but it had, instead, been mocking.

"You'll be back," the former Number II had said, attempting to goad him. "None of us can truly leave, kid. Not forever."

When informed that it was for good, he had been treated to a jovial 'As if.'

He didn't manage to avoid getting his hair ruffled a little too roughly and he hadn't missed the dangerous, underlying threat that Xigbar had carefully woven through his words. He had ignored it and handed him a short, sealed letter to Larxene, who he'd arrived on Spira with. To his surprise, he'd grown to almost like her, so he didn't leave without a goodbye, even if it was a mere penned one. The others received no such honours. Vexen would have, but he still hadn't returned from wherever he'd gone by the time Zexion's planned departure came.

He had left Rabanastre with a heavy heart. He didn't know what he was going to do, but he figured that he'd travel for a while and then perhaps enlist in the Galbadian military. It was, after all, home to an elite division made up solely of Alchemists. The pay for a State Alchemist was high and he could easily hide his talent for performing it without a Transmutation Circle in the fashion that he had been doing since Kakuzu had caught on to his unorthodox ability – marked gloves.

It was a loose plan that he had never got to pursue, for his journey had been cut short by circumstances outside of his control.

He had, at least, made it to Galbadia. The commercial airship he had caught had touched down in Deling City and it was on the streets there, during the dark hours between his scoping out of the area and his stays at an Inn, that he had been caught in an empty street by a man he had not anticipated seeing.

It was Kuja, of Clan Khamja, Spira's foremost Assassination Clan. Little was known of the Clan itself, or who comprised it, but Kuja was known to be high ranking within the group. He had looked remarkably out of place in Deling's darkened streets. Blue black buildings rose either side of where he stood illuminated by the deep orange street lights.

Zexion had raised his hands in preparation for battle, and weighed his chances of escape.

"My my, what is this?" Kuja had asked, tilting his head. His voice had been soft, yet dangerous. "A Ryoka, out all by himself? Like a little lost bird so far from its cage..." he'd purred, a vicious smile cutting across his face. "Well isn't that unwise..?"

Zexion hadn't said anything. He'd wanted to run.

His lack of reply had prompted Kuja to continue. "I believe we've met before, have we not?"

They had. Back when Zexion had first arrived, they had clashed in battle. Out of instinct, Zexion had been foolish enough to make an accidental show of his Alchemy to defend against an attack from an Ultima spell, Kuja's signature attack. He had not known at the time that such techniques were classed as unlawful at best. Kuja had not been alone then as Zexion had deduced from a recognisable mixture of scents, he wasn't that time, either.

There was no mistaking his accomplices even before they had stepped into view. It was Marluxia, and his hired help from before their arrival, a man named Lumi that Zexion wasn't at all familiar with. His knowledge stretched only as far as his barbaric habits in battle.

Zexion had thought at the time that there was no way that the meeting was an accident, and he still thought it now. He remembered thinking that Clan Khamja must have an informant close to the Order that was keeping a very close eye on both them as a whole and the movements of the individual members. It had seemed like the only way that they could know that he'd gone and where he would be without him telling anyone where he was going.

That assumption turned out to be correct.

The three Khamja members, with the threat of Lumi and the known danger of Marluxia, combined with Kuja's reputation, was worrying, even for a powerful Alchemist such as himself. He could probably take Kuja alone, but the other two? There was no chance. Thoughts of escape left him. He knew then wouldn't make it out alive.

Perhaps if Lexaeus was...

He had dropped his hands to his sides in defeat.

Kuja had given him two options: join up, or perish there at the hands of either of the assassins.

"I don't have much of a choice, do I?" He'd said, focussing entirely on Kuja.

The decision had an easy one, but that wasn't to say that he was happy about it. At least not at first. It would be a while before he was privy to certain information, but he was allowed into their base of operations, a Desert Palace reachable only from The Zertinan Caverns, from the beginning.

Some of the initial revelations turned out to be worth the press-ganging.

Clan Skite and The Arrancar, two overlapping groups who had gotten into various scuffles with Akatsuki, The Gullwings and The Order worked under a member of Clan Khamja. That member had turned out to be a rather famous man who kept his life within the group utterly secret from the public. He was Sōsuke Aizen, Captain of the Fifth Division of the Gotei 13. That was certainly a turn out for the books, but he wasn't the only one of their number that had shocked him. Dalmasca's own Gotei 13 Captain was also a member, as were a number of people that operated in the same underground way as Kuja. It was a shock.

Things had not gone well since his arrival. He was not trusted, for the obvious reasons. He wasn't even liked. He shook his head and leaned back in his chair, his aching eyes scanning the library that he'd already grown so familiar with.

Somewhere behind him, one of the doors opened and then closed. He didn't look around. It wasn't unusual for others to peruse the ancient books that lined the shelves. He half listened to the echoing footsteps as they approached. It was only when a warm hand touched his shoulder that he became alert again. He hadn't realised that the intruder had stopped behind him until that moment. He tensed reflexively and cursed himself for letting his guard fall so low.

"Are you all right?" A woman's gentle voice asked.

He relaxed slightly when he recognised who it belonged to. It was Neliel, one of Aizen's personal soldiers.

She was an Arrancar. Despite the fact that he'd been informed that she, along with the others bearing that name had been somehow artificially crossed with Hollows, she was ... nice. Kind, gentle and understanding, regardless of the fact that he'd held previous loyalties to the enemy. So nice was she, that she had come to the Library specifically to bring him a cup of tea. He glanced down as she placed it on the desk before him.

"Yes, I'm fine," he replied, his eyes following the curls of steam into the air.

She may have been kind, but it wasn't enough to stop him lying to her. The circumstances of his being there haunted him. The decisions he had made up to then hung over him. In an effort to escape the corruption of the Organization, of the Order, he had ended up in a far worse situation than he could ever have imagined.

The depth of Clan Khamja's darkness ran deeper than he had dared consider up until joining their ranks. The extent of their reach had shocked him.

"Just fine," he repeated, that lie as much for himself as much for her.
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Several days after the Archadian invasion, a terrible explosion reduced the once proud city of Nabudis to naught but rubble. Though the city fell in the space of a night, the Mist that now swirls where it once stood has transformed the land into a barren waste for eternity. Even now, the cause of this cataclysm is not fully understood.

-Sage Knowledge 03

March 2012

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