There was a clock, with thirteen faces... these were but a few,.
Clockwork part one
This is rain, gloved hands closed over his own. Guiding him despite his is long past his clumsiness so he could touch the falling translucence, it traces down his wondering fingers to pool into his hands. He looks down into the span called his face, its’ a blur, that image, but it’s his own.
The wide smile he feels cuts a white line across the smear assures him of this.
Behind, little more than a whisper, that calm, cool voice murmurs.
“This is water, water falling from sky is the natural phenomenon called rain…”
Element to number, number to rank, that’s how it goes.
“Rain is the terrain of number nine.”
Nine was a man, reborn as nothing. Demyx is what he’s called now. Before is unimportant, insignificant. Nine is busy doing nothing at all. He lounges on a couch cat cornered farthest from the wall. The slight signs of scuffle show he’s dragged it from center to corner.
Lazy, he’s been called it, number nine. But moving the couch looks heavy and hard.
Was that lazy?
No, assured a voice, that voice, his. It’s not a lazy action, to pursue work is not to be lazy… But remember though this is a contradiction from what you’ve been told it might be best to find why that contradiction occurred.
Sitar gripped by flaccid hand, legs sprawled (robes stretched till they looked like a dress) the older was making a mess of his blond locks by tossing his head back and forth. Nine’s eyes are shut closed, despite the stillness to the rest of the lounging Nobody the man’s eyes are roiling behind clamped lids.
Sleeping, he was sleeping. He’d seen number Four sleep before, and though there was no whizzing croaks (snoring, warned the Schemer, though it was a smirk to soften scolding’s edge) something a Nobody didn’t have to do anymore.
But then, Nobodies did a lot of things that they weren’t supposed to do.
Having nothing to do was almost as tedious as being called nothing. So to better fill the tedious waiting that filled the span before he was called before the council of thirteen, he sat upon a chair. It wasn’t necessary, or even wise, -who knew who owned what- but it filed a little bit of time.
So he waited, thinking upon nothing at all, except that wasn’t quite the truth. Nothing was boring, after all. So, like he’d been taught, he mulled. Thinking about what he’d been told and taught and had drilled into him when his skull had proven a bit… thick for his mentors.
They tackled the tangible first. Flipping through numbers and elements until it could be recited forward, backwards, and roundabout. Once that had been surmounted complications and divisions had been added.
It was during their final lessons, on numbers, and people that weren’t, that the discovery had been made. Reflection, refraction, distortion, division. The later had turned into quite the colorful tangent. And yes, there had been some play, wiggling ears upon the wall via the twitch of the fingers.
“Elementary illusion is the side effect of light and expectation,” the slate haired nobody drawled, head tipped to the side, the second smallest Nobody considered his test subjects efforts. Observation made he dropped his speech to note. “How droll, is it a heartless with its antenna wrong way about?”
Recalling pages from the book, a book about animals and places he’d never seen –not yet, there’d been an unspoken promise that would change, and change soon- the younger Nobody shook his head. The boy who was not, nearly had his hair fly off when he denied the elder’s guess with vigor. To that Zexion snorted, holding his peace about how the younger’s hair became a different colored in the shifting illumination.
Because, though he was thinking bunny something in his head said “too girly” and he’d learned to listen to that half articulated instinct.
“Fair enough.” Hand fisted and set to his chin, fingers spread but curled just so –perhaps to better hide the smile that lit those eyes, one hidden, one not- the older Nobody sighed. “Now that we’re done playing, perhaps we could get back to the point, of light and shadow.”
“But I know this, Zexion.” The younger huffed, kicking at the table. “It’s sight. What we see is what we expect to see and… and… people can play with that. By playing with light, with dark, and sound. That’s illusion.”
“Read ahead, did we?”
“You left the book behind last night.” The younger grumbled; hunching into himself though perched upon his stool. It was a precarious position. “And it’s not like there was anything else to do but read.”
Hand pulled away, the older Nobody let his smile be seen, just for a moment, before the placidity that was as false as it was true slipped over his face.
“Not everyone would have read the book.”
It might have been a compliment. With all his elders might-have-beens seemed more substantial than actualities. Wondering why that was the younger set wandering hands over the table (one table… two chairs... one prism… two people… he’d mastered counting some time ago) and picked up the angular bit of glasswork. There was something about the lines of it, the edges, it set a fluttering under the skin of his hands and without thinking he pushed…
And there was light. Gold about his fingers, but it broke beyond monochrome under the lines of the prism. The walls were gorelessly slit into hues that he’d spent the earlier span of the day naming. Looking particular perched between orange and red, the older Nobody gapped for half a minute before gravity nearly toppled him out of his stool.
“Well… that solves… that…” The older stood, straightened, never mind the toppled stool at his back.
“Scared you, didn’t I?” The unnamed Nobody smirked.
It was a very Vexen smirk.
“Remind me to limit your access to number four.” Zexion sighed.
Promises and reminder aside, the next day went as all the others before it.
Aeleus (yes, he had a Nobody name, was known as a hero for some unnamed deed –hence silent- but he never went by it unless being formal) was the first face the unnamed saw every day. He commandeered mornings. Filling them with exercise and basic things that should have been instinct but were not due to the circumstance of the newest’s odd birth. It literally was into the large man’s arms he walked into one of those early days ago when shuffling had been eschewed. Furniture had been hauled out of the room –the older insisting he do the labor as he was bigger- and thus they’d began a series of efforts that graduated to evasive tactical training. Leaps and ducks, rolls and dodges. Those he learned from a man who at first glance seemed too bulky to pull them off.
“There’s always someone bigger.” The Silent half warned. “Now, let’s try that double jump again.”
So they did, again and again until he was about to drop.
Between lessons’ end and a shower Vexen would stroll in. He voiced no complaints about second shift. Basking in the luxury that seniority allowed him, he worked when he wanted and leisurely puttered about with his experiments until it was time to focus on the newest Nobody. It was after lunch (where manners were the key, manners manner and more manners) that he inflicted a daily physical upon the unnamed boy who wasn’t.
Once the medical brick-a-brack was ticked away books were pulled out of a crackling nothingness that smelled like frost. Green eyes would narrow and thus they would begin, books landing upon the lab table with a snowy thump. Silence was normal, respectful, demanded. There would be words later after the teaching’s end. Words were used to fill in the needed blanks of “questions and answer” or “summarize the previous”, the rest was pleasantries. And Vexen was adamant that they “eschew such meaningless prattle”.
Sliding upon the retrieved stool with a soft sigh the younger wound his legs about the stool’s because only undisciplined brats kicked the table’s leg. And he didn’t want to be an undisciplined brat, did he? Of course not. That was bad.
And bad little boy-Nobodies got half a supper and the supper was always bitter and green.
At least that’s what Vexen had told him.
Having a bite of something bitter and green on the first day. It was his strongest memory of his first day. And even thinking about how bitter and green it had been… The unnamed Nobody didn’t take any chances, he never kicked, ever.
No matter how bored he got.
Kicking the table top was also not allowed, nor was tipping it, or hiding behind the chairs
Unless Aeleus said otherwise and it was in evasion training. Then it was OK.
Vexen did “not” teach evasion training. It was not his per-og-a-tive, at least that’s what the scraggly blonde had grumbled when asked.
Recalling how confusing the first few days had been… the unnamed boy sighed. Loud enough that the older Nobody stopped in the act of laying books out in neat piles. Long fingers spread over the thinnest, there was droplet that were half frozen where his fingers touched down. Never minding the effects of his private winter the older raised an eyebrow and waited.
Only when waiting grew boring did he press.
Surprised at the “not lessons” chatter, the younger blinked up at the older.
“I have to call you something until you get a name.” An almost smile curled the older Nobody’s lip in one corner and the green of those eyes thawed just a mite. “Brat’s been taken, so…”
Tipping his head, the younger stared at his elder. This wasn’t “questions and answers” was it? Sorta. Maybe. There was something of a question to the start, but the answer wasn’t in a book and he didn’t know where to find it…
Revelation, recognition of the turmoil that flashed over the younger’s face, the older almost smiled again.
But almost, like actualities, weren’t, not really.
“You can talk… today there will be a change.” Vexen offered magnanimously. “Today we will spend some time talking non academia, we will space it out between facts and figures so you can actually participate in a real conversation.”
Blank confusion, the older’s lips thinned at the sight. Insulted, deeply, well he would have been had he had what they all lacked. Twisting the puzzle of a lacking intellect the academic twiddled bits and pieces of ideas until with a click and half start, inspiration struck. He twitched, might have crowed once upon a time ago, but this was not now.
So he twitched and set his green gaze upon blue.
“Lessons first, what did we study last?”
“Addition.” Came the crisp correction. “Your book, Zexion, the first man you met, told me that you read ahead. Did you perhaps bother to write down about what you read in my book?”
There was a bit of a smirk to the last. A bite of cruel that was more bitter than the greenest bitterest thing ever. But the unnamed didn’t see it. Only the smile. And because when he smiled Zexion sometimes did, and when he smiled Aeleus always did, the unnamed nobody tried to smile at the older Nobodies smile.
Smile and think.
“People…” He scrambled through conversations he’d overheard and explanations his developing mind thought he’d heard between sleeping and waking. “S… smart people… they write… write books.”
A short, almost, laugh. “Though a good attempt considering your experiences your hypothesis is flawed. Not all smart people write books, Thirteen, any blank page can be scrawled upon by anyone with a pen. A pen, which you’ve never had, and pages, which you’ve never seen, can be used by any who poses them. I think… that perhaps, we should take this conversation beyond mere repetition.”
The boy called Thirteen made a confused noise. Ignoring the babble, the fourth hummed and with a chilly flourish pulled a pen out of the void which he’d used to fetch the books. Picking up both pen and book he stood, wide blue eyes followed him as he paced around the table. The boy nearly toppling out of his stool to see behind him, where Vexen had stopped.
“Be still.” The older grumbled, settling once hand over the child’s shoulder.
At the chill the boy went as still as one with a nip running down his back could. Familiar with the shudder the lightest of his touches could trigger, the older spread the books before the boy, guiding pale hands in his gloved so they closed over the shaft of a pen. Once sure the boy was holding it steady he guided both their hands.
“Today we are working on subtraction, yes, I know we talked about it yesterday, but today we’re trying something different. While working on this review we will be writing. I will be talking while you write; you will write what I say.
As he spoke the older moved both their hands so that what he said slowly was scrawled upon the open, water rimmed edges of a notebook. The handwriting was rubbish, but then he wasn’t really holding the pen right for his slashing scratches to appear properly. Seeing the boy’s ungloved hands begin to pale he loosed his grip, there was a clatter as the pen skipped free.
Without prompt the boy went for it, an improvement from the placid watching he’d have favored the dropped item a few days ago. Once sure it was picked up, and the boy was in his place and the books set in front of the child as was proper the Academic stepped back.
“Write one minus five, formal numerals if you would, just the equation, not everything I’m saying. Can you even write letters yet? No, well that will be quickly remedied, but for now numbers, formal and layman if you would.”
In shaky jagged lines there appeared an oversized version of the required.
“v – i
5 – 1”
“You forgot the equal signs.” Came the grumpy reminder.
Once reminded the older cracked a smirk. The struggling boy noted, but didn’t smile, couldn’t. Holding the pen in cold hands was hard.
“Passable, you’re what… a week old? Not bad for a week’s old first efforts... After all, we must be encouraging, mustn’t we? So much better than say… encouragement at needle point…” A cackle, more crackle than mirth. “Now, the answers, write them slowly, I want to be able to actually read them. Slow and small. Like the numbers in the books you learn from, make it look like that.”
Face screwing up with the effort of getting it right, the younger tried, and failed. The answer while right was backwards. Opening his mouth, to snap something biting, the older closed it with a snap. Blue eyes locked upon green, the expression on the boy’s face was a rarity. Not proud, or condescending, as so many young things normally addressed their elders… but rather with something else…
To that something else, something that summoned images of a slate haired boy in an oversized lab coat, Vexen coughed.
“Reasonable… well… for.. an attempt…”
And to that scarcest of compliments the child’s eyes went wide, then that wide, catchy smile was unleashed.
It should be quarantined, that look. Checking the urge to indulge his lips in a small twitch Vexen coughed least he slap himself. Must not smile, unprofessional. And those were not valid puppy eyes being pinned at him. There was no requisite whining and the like preceding it, so those were not puppy eyes and he was not having flashbacks to the rare moments of sentimental indulgence a Somebody-hood ago.
No, he was not.
“Yes… not… bad… but you’ll do better, must do better, next time.”
Stop looking at me, like that, stop it. He wanted to scream the order. But he remained quiet and the words went unsaid and the frantic impulses beating in his non existent heart went unfulfilled.
“So,” licking his chill lips, the older nodded to the page. “The next equation, six plus eight, get to it.”
The boy scrambled to obey, turning his back to better pursue the pen across parchment.
To that trust number four closed his eyes. He couldn’t watch, least his very eyes shatter and tears leak out to trace slashed out paths across his face.