Rating: R for the mansex even if it's not graphic.
Disclaimer: Disney and Square Enix own it all, though I wouldn't mind “renting” Xehanort for a while. He's just so cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute – even when he's summoning his keyblade and yanking out hearts with it.
Summary: This is an alternate ending to Despair, in which Ansem saves Xehanort as he's falling into the Rising Falls. *waves Angst Mallet in warning*
After dinner, Sonora returned to check on Xehanort, and she was very happy to hear that he was eating at every meal.
"If you keep this up, Heir Xehanort," she told him. "then I will pull the feeding tube tomorrow night, but only if you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Understand?"
Xehanort nodded and gave her a wan smile. She returned it and stood up. "I'll be back tomorrow night, and I want to hear that you've eaten at every meal." She then showed herself out.
"Ready to take a bath and go to bed?" Ansem asked once she was gone, and Xehanort looked at him and nodded. "I'll go run your bath then."
He sat outside the bathroom door and let Xehanort take care of himself, though he needed some help getting out of the tub.
"Will you stay again, Master Ansem?" Xehanort asked quietly as Ansem helped him dry off and dress for the night. "I don't.. I don't want to be tied down."
"Yes, I'll stay if you makes you feel better." Ansem said with a gentle smile. Xehanort returned it and allowed himself to be walked to bed and tucked in without a word. "I'll be right back." Xehanort smiled again and closed his eyes, while Ansem slipped out of the room to get ready for bed himself and turn off the lights in the rest of his apartment. He then returned to the bedroom and laid down beside Xehanort, who curled close to him. He pulled the blankets over them and brushed Xehanort's remaining hair out of his face. "Goodnight, child. I love you."
"Mmmm, goodnight Master Ansem. Love you too."
To Ansem's surprise, Xehanort slept long and deep throughout the night. With all the napping he had been doing, had had expected him to wake up early, and after the conversation that they had just had, he had also been expecting nightmares. Neither problem manifested itself however, and Xehanort was still sleeping soundly when Ansem woke at his normal time of 7 am.
Ansem had a quick breakfast, and then he once again left Xehanort under Even's care and took a trip down to the castle dungeon's to speak with Braig. Dilan showed him to Braig's cell, where Aeleus was keeping guard by the door.
Though he had done terrible things to Xehanort, (And Ansem had no reason to believe that Xehanort was lying to him.) Braig had been given nicer accommodations than most, as per his status as one of Ansem's apprentices. A quick peek through the barred window on the door showed him relaxing in a chair with a book under the room's only light with a partially eaten breakfast on a tray nearby.
"Are you sure that you wish to go in there alone?" Aeleus asked. "There is no way to know how he might react."
"I will be fine." Ansem said with conviction that he didn't really feel. "He's refused to talk about Xehanort since he was locked up here. This may be the only way to get him to talk."
"We will be right outside the door." Dilan insisted. "If he tries anything, we will come running."
Ansem couldn't help but be touched by their concern. "Thank you boys, but I doubt that you'll be needed."
"Just the same..." Aeleus added as he unlocked the door.
Ansem smiled slightly at them as he walked in, but that smile vanished once he was inside the cell with Braig.
Braig looked up from his book. "What do you want?" he asked, sounding annoyed at the interruption.
Ansem sat down on the cot. "I want to talk to you about Xehanort."
"What has the little slut been saying now?"
"I heard his side of the story last night; now I want to hear yours."
"Nothing to say." Braig said as he looked back down at his book. "Would it be possible to get something else down here? This book is getting old."
"Talk to me, Braig. I want to know. I need to know. I don't want you to receive an unfair punishment. What happened between you and Xehanort?"
Braig shrugged. "I asked if I could fuck him. He agreed, so I did."
"Did you at any point offer something in return?"
"Did you at any point act as if you knew who he was before the memory loss?"
"Why in the hell would I do that?"
"Did he ever ask you to stop?"
"Did he at any point try to get away or act as if he was in severe pain?"
Braig lowered the book. "Why the hell do you want to know? What's the little fucker saying about me?"
"What he is saying is not important. What is important is what you say. Why did you ask him for sex, Braig?"
"Because I wanted a piece of his ass. Why else?"
"It seems as though you got more than a piece. I've been reliably informed that the sex needed to cause the injuries that Xehanort suffered would had to have been very violent and very painful. Why Braig, why did you do that to him?"
"If he didn't want it, he shouldn't have agreed to it."
"You didn't answer my question."
"What do you want me to say?"
"I want you to say why you did that to him."
"I already told you. I wanted some, and he agreed to let me have it."
"Did your agreement include beating him, slapping him, and kicking him?"
"What? I didn't do that to him. Maybe the slut found someone else after I was done with him."
"You forget, Braig, that I caught you with Xehanort in Xehanort's bed. Xehanort was tied up, and his face was so battered that he could barely open his eyes. No one else was in that room, only the two of you, so answer my question."
"The slut tried to renege on our agreement, so I taught him a lesson."
"So he tried to get you to stop." Ansem said flatly, though he could feel his temper beginning to rise. "And the day I caught you in the infirmary? Why did you not stop when Xehanort asked you to?"
"Same as before."
"So you raped him."
"It's not rape when he agreed."
Ansem swallowed the rage that boiled up from within him and abruptly stood up. He walked out of the cell, and Aeleus securely locked it behind him.
"Master Ansem?" Dilan asked hesitantly. "What did he say?"
Ansem sighed and shook his head. "Send for the Questioners." he said heavily.
"When would you like them to come and question Xehanort?"
"As soon as they are done with Braig. I want this done and over with quickly."
"It will be as you say, my lord."
"I will be with Xehanort if anyone needs me."
'Yes, my lord."
Ansem practically stalked his way back to his quarters, but once he reached the royal wing, he forced himself to calm. It wouldn't do to take his anger out of Xehanort again, especially since Braig's words had proved to him that his son had been guilty of nothing worse than bad judgment.
When he stepped through the door into his living room, he found Even reading a book while occasionally flicking his eyes up every now and then to check on Xehanort, who was still sleeping.
"Did he wake at all?" he asked as he shed his coat and scarf.
Even closed his book. "No," he replied in a quiet voice. "he slept the entire time you were gone." He looked up at Ansem. "How did it go? What did Braig say?"
"I sent for the Questioners to speak to him. He all but admitted to me that he raped Xehanort frequently. They'll question him and then come speak to Xehanort."
"I hope they don't upset him too much."
"It might be unavoidable; he cried when telling me everything. I'm sure talking about it again will cause a similar reaction."
Even sighed. "Especially when speaking to someone that he barely knows. You know that you won't be able to stay in here with him during the questioning, but he's going to want you to."
"I know. I'll explain it to him once he's up." Ansem pulled out his pocket watch. "Which will have to be sooner and not later, because I expect them before lunch, and I would like for him to eat before then - if possible." He hastily added at Even's look.
He heard Xehanort shifting in bed then and looked up through the open door to see him sitting up and rubbing his eyes tiredly.
"I'll show myself out." Even whispered as he stood up from the couch. Ansem nodded absently as he walked into the bedroom and sat down on the bed beside Xehanort.
"Good morning, Xehanort." he said softly.
Xehanort yawned. "Good morning, Master Ansem."
"Ready to get up for the day?"
Xehanort yawned again and nodded. "I'm hungry. What's for breakfast?"
Ansem tried not to shout for joy at the question. "What would you like?"
"Whatever everyone else is having is fine."
"I'll send for breakfast for you then. Why don't you get ready for the day while I do that?"
"Do I have to get dressed? None of my clothes are up here."
"Just having a robe on over your nightgown is fine. Later, I'll see about having some of your clothing brought up."
Ansem leaned over and kissed Xehanort on the forehead. "I'll be right back."
Xehanort smiled slightly and pushed the blankets away as Ansem wandered back into the living room to call a servant about breakfast. When he returned, he found Xehanort standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at his mostly bald reflection. Without the scarf, it was possible to see the new hair that was growing out, but it was very short, and it looked as though it would be a few years before Xehanort had his full mane of hair back.
He walked up to the boy and hugged him. "It will grow back, Xehanort."
"I know," he said quietly. "It's just... did you have to cut it off?"
"It was too knotted up to save, so don't worry about it. Your breakfast will be here soon."
"You're not eating?"
"I ate earlier, before you woke up. Now come along." He slipped a robe over Xehanort's shoulders and led him out into the living room, and a few minutes later a servant appeared with Xehanort's breakfast.
Ansem waited until the boy had eaten most of what was on his plate and pushed it away before he brought up the questioning that was due to come soon. He walked him back over to the couch and sat down with him and waited until he was comfortable before he began to speak.
"Here soon, people that work in the courts are going to come and talk to you about Braig." he said gently.
Xehanort paled, and Ansem felt him stiffen beside him. "What?" he asked in a small voice. "Why?"
"They're talking to Braig now, and once they've gotten his side, they'll come talk to you to get your side."
"Can't you just tell them what I told you?"
"No, child. They need to hear it directly from you."
"But, I don't... I can't, Master Ansem."
"I know, child, I know, but you have to do this. I promise they won't be harsh with your or anything, but you have to tell them everything, even if it's embarrassing or upsetting. They need to know the entire truth before we can proceed."
"You'll be with me, right?" Ansem winced slightly. "Right? Please tell me I don't have to do it alone!"
"I'm sorry, Xehanort, but to prevent it from seeming as though I'm influencing you in any way, I cannot be in the room with you."
"No, no, I want you there!"
"I can't, child. I wish I could stay, but it could be seen as me coercing you, so I have to stay away."
"What about Even then? Can he be with me?"
"No, Xehanort, no one but the Questioners can be with you."
"I will be back as soon as they are done. Just tell them everything that you told me, and it will be over before you know it."
Xehanort laid his head down. "Do I have to?"
"Yes, you do. They won't be harsh with you, they won't judge you, and they won't hurt you. They just need to know what happened between you and Braig."
"I don't want to."
"I understand, but you have to do this. As soon as they are done, I will come back. I won't go far, so I'll come back as soon as you've told them everything."
"Do you promise me?"
"I do. I promise that I'll come right back."
Xehanort closed his eyes and tightly grasped Ansem's shirt in both hands, but the moment was interrupted by a firm knock on the door. Xehanort sighed, let go of Ansem's shirt, and sat up.
"That's them." Ansem said quietly, to which Xehanort hung his head and said nothing. "It will be alright." He stood up and went to the door to answer it. On the other side were three Questioners, and Ansem gestured for them to follow him down the hallway a few steps.
"Xehanort is very fragile right now." he warmed them. "Do not raise your voice to him. Do not act in any way that can be taken as threatening, and above all, do not in any way insult or harass him. He's finally starting to settle down, and I don't want a repeat of the suicide attempt. Understood?"
The two men and one woman nodded. "Yes, m'lord." they said in unison, and Ansem nodded in satisfaction and led them back into his living room. Xehanort was still on the couch, and he looked up when they walked in. Ansem walked over and knelt down in front of him.
"I have to go now." he said gently. "I will be back as soon as I can."
Xehanort nodded faintly and reached out for a hug. Ansem wrapped his arms around him and realized that the boy was shaking slightly. "No one will hurt you, Xehanort." he whispered. "Just tell them everything, and it will be over before you know it."
Xehanort nodded again, so Ansem squeezed him before he let go and stood up. He then walked out of the room and shut the door behind him, while he tried to ignore the ache in his heart. He forced himself to walk down the hall while he tried to think of a distraction. He needed to go to his study and check up on things with Even, but that would require going into the castle basement, which was too far from Xehanort. He needed to stay in the royal wing for when the questioning was through. So what could he do in the meantime... ah!
He paused in front of a door that was at the opposite end of the hallway from his own and pulled his keyring out of his pocket. A quick turn of a skeleton key unlocked the door, and he stepped into a large suite that occupied one of the castle's towers. The rooms were larger, and occupied different floors, connected via a spiraling staircase. The suite was intended for a large family, and while Ansem didn't think that Xehanort had any interest in marrying and fathering children, it was close to Ansem's own rooms, which is precisely what he wanted. Later, once Xehanort was better, he could move if he wanted.
Drop cloths covered the furniture, and a heavy layer of dust covered everything else. Even the windows were obscured by a heavy layer of dust and grime. Yes, these would do perfectly for Xehanort once they were cleaned up, so he walked over to the call box to summon the servants.
Three of the maids arrived in response to his summons, and he set them to work cleaning the suite, while he dispatched two others down to Xehanort's apartment to pack up his personal effects. Ansem stood back out of the way and watched them work, and soon the rooms were clean and ready for use. Of course, it would be some time yet before he felt comfortable letting Xehanort out of his sight, but a servant could keep them dusted until then. The two that he had sent to fetch Xehanort's personal items arrived, and he frowned when the saw the single box that each was carrying.
"That can't be all of it." he said.
"It is, my lord." one replied. "He doesn't have much."
"Just his clothing, a few books, and his writing materials." said the other.
Ienzo has more possessions than that. Ansem thought as they carried the boxes into the room and set them down on a table. They could sort through them and put them away later, when Xehanort was feeling better.
"Lord Ansem?" Ansem turned to see one of the Questioners standing in the open doorway. "We are finished."
"How did it go? How is Xehanort?" he asked as he stepped out of the suite and set off at a brisk pace down the hallway.
"It went well," the man responded. "Heir Xehanort is quite upset, but he did what was needed. Now," the Questioner readied a writing board and a pen. "I have a few questions for you."
Ansem felt his heart drop, but he kept it off of his face. "Go ahead."
"When did you first become aware of what was going on between Heir Xehanort and Apprentice Braig?"
"I became concerned about Xehanort about four months ago when I noticed him acting strangely and..." Ansem told the Questioner of his concerns, Xehanort's reaction, of catching Xehanort and Braig in bed together, and his own reaction the following day.
"So you did not give him a chance to explain?"
Ansem sighed heavily. "To my eternal shame, no, I did not."
"I honestly cannot say. I assume it was because I have known Braig since he was a child and couldn't picture him doing anything like this, not until I saw it with my own eyes."
"You realized there is a good chance that this will come out during a trial."
"I understand that, but I don't care. Whatever it takes to keep my son safe."
"So the suicide attempt made you change your mind?"
"No," Ansem flushed in embarrassment. "I still believed that Xehanort was the guilty one then. It wasn't until the next morning that I caught Braig in the act, after Xehanort had asked him to stop multiple times, that I realized that I had been wrong."
"Did at any time before the suicide attempt did you become alarmed as Heir Xehanort's behavior and physical condition?
"Not until the night he tried. I had gone to check on him because his behavior earlier and been very worrying, and I found him as he was heading in the direction of the Falls."
"Why didn't you stop him sooner?"
"At first, I was simply curious as to where he was going, but when we were in town, I lost track of him for a few minutes after someone hurled a rock at him. I stopped them from throwing a second, and by then Xehanort had already vanished down the stairs to the Rising Falls."
"So you stopped the attempt, and then summoned the guard to take Heir Xehanort back to the castle."
"No," Ansem looked at the Questioner in confusion. "I didn't call them. They just arrived a few minutes after I pulled Xehanort out of the Falls."
The man made a note. "We'll have to speak to the guards then. Who all appeared down there?"
"Dilan, Aeleus, Kasen, Harold, Sela, and... Braig." A thought occurred to Ansem them. "Do you have anymore questions for me?"
The Questioner tucked his writing board under his arms. "Not at the moment, my lord. If we have any more questions for you or Heir Xehanort, we will let you know. Good day, my lord."
The man walked away, and Ansem continued on his way back to his own rooms, his mind awhirl with thoughts. Had Braig known that Xehanort was going to attempt suicide? Had he been watching him somehow? The hallway was relatively short, but Ansem was running by the time he reached his door. He needed to see Xehanort, to make sure that he was all right, to see that there was no one in there with him. He yanked his door open and stepped in, heart hammering, to see Xehanort alone in the living room, curled up in a ball on the couch, rocking himself. He looked up when Ansem came in, and his eyes were red, swollen, and damp with tears.
"Master Ansem," he whimpered as he reached out, and Ansem covered the distance between them in an instant. He sat down on the couch and gathered Xehanort to him, and the child curled close to him and began to bawl. Ansem could feel the tears soaking into shirt as he rocked Xehanort in his arms and rubbed his back.
"Did you tell them everything?" he asked after a moment, and Xehanort sniffled and nodded. "Then you did well, and I am proud of you." Xehanort only sobbed in response. "I am here with you now, and I love you."
Xehanort only cried, and Ansem shoved thoughts of Braig to the side for the time being. Xehanort was safe in his arms, and that was enough for now.
The following morning, Ansem was once again up before the dawn, and Even arrived not long after he dressed himself. Ansem then sent for Sonora, and the three of them shared a quick breakfast while they discussed plans for Ansem to speak with the townspeople later in the afternoon.
Ansem's main concern was for Xehanort. "Is he well enough to stand up there with me?"
Sonora shook her head. "I wouldn't recommend it, Lord Ansem."
"Oh? I figured that seeing him and his poor physical condition would help change some minds about him."
Sonora shook her head again. "He is not ready, my lord. First of all, I believe that he would not be able to handle the crowd and all of the judgmental eyes on him. Second, he is still very frail, physically and mentally. Standing up there with you would exhaust him quickly, and he just tried to kill himself only days ago. Do you wish to run the risk of a heckler in the crowd upsetting him and making him want to try again? Third, I am unsure as to whether it would really make the message sink in any better. I understand what you're trying to do, but I rather doubt it would do anything good and would likely only cause harm, so it's probably better for him to stay back from that."
Ansem looked at Even. He trusted the head of the castle's medical staff, but he still wanted Even's thoughts. "Even?"
His Senior Apprentice didn't hesitate. "I agree with her fully, Master Ansem. Xehanort does not need to be a part of it."
"Part of what?" came Xehanort's sleepy voice, and they all looked up as he walked into the room, wearing one of Ansem's robes over his nightgown and rubbing his eyes sleepily. He wandered up to the table and sat down between Ansem and Even and began to fill a plate without having to be prompted. Sonora smiled at the sight.
"I am going to speak to the town later." Ansem explained. "I was thinking about having you up there with me."
There was a clang! as Xehanort's fork slipped from his nerveless fingers and clattered to his plate. He shook his head vehemently. "No! I don't want to do it!"
"It is alright, Xehanort." Even said soothingly. "You are going to stay in here with me."
"I don't have to go?"
"No," Sonora assured him. "You are to stay right in here with Senior Apprentice Even." Here she leveled her gaze at Ansem. "I've already made my opinion known on this."
Ansem conceded defeat. "No, Xehanort, you don't have to go." he said. "Now finish your breakfast." Xehanort gave him a weak smile, picked up his fork, and began to eat.
Xehanort was content to stay close to Ansem as the hours ticked by, and Ansem was content to let him. After lunch Even came by with some clothing from Xehanort's new rooms down the hall (That Xehanort didn't yet know about.), though Xehanort was happy to lounge around in his sleep clothes.
"I'll just go back to sleep soon anyway." he said, and Ansem couldn't fault his logic. Sure enough, just after lunch, he curled up on the couch and dozed off. Ansem longed to stay with him, but he had a town to visit and a speech to give. Instead he only patted the afghan around Xehanort's shoulders, kissed him lightly on the cheek and turned his attention to Even.
"I will look after him, Master Ansem." Even said firmly. "You don't need to worry. I'll take care of him."
Ansem sighed. "I know that you will, Even. I just wish I didn't have to leave him at all right now. My child is sick, and here I am, leaving him in the care of others."
"You are ensuring his future; think of it that way. Now you had better get going. The people are waiting."
Ansem sighed again and nodded. He lightly touched his fingers to Xehanort's cheek and then walked out of the room. Once out in the corridor, Dilan and Aeleus fell into step on either side and just behind him. As two of his apprentices, they also acted as his escort when needed. Just days before, Braig would have walked directly in front of him, but it looked as though that would never happen again. He knew that after speaking to him, the Questioners had spoke to Sonora and that discussion had left them feeling queasy over the severity of Xehanort's injuries. They had also spoken to the guard members that had arrived at the Falls that night. Ansem didn't know what all they had learned, and he wouldn't find out until Braig's trial. He hoped that there were no unpleasant surprises that would result in Braig going free. Granted, as the absolute authority in the world of Radiant Garden, Ansem could personally see Braig imprisoned for life, but that wouldn't go over well with the people if Braig was declared innocent in court.
There would be no questioning of the servants that had ignored Xehanort. Since they were servants of the royal family and no actual crime had been committed, it was up to Ansem to handle that matter. He would take care of that in the next day or so, after speaking with the people. As to the ones that ignored him when he was in obvious danger while in the infirmary, those would require other measures.
Accompanied by Dilan and Aeleus, he walked through the castle entrance, and down the long, winding staircase towards the town center, where most of the townsfolk were gathered. He mounted the steps to the platform and stepped up to the podium, while Dilan and Aeleus stood behind him. He raised his hands for quiet and winced inwardly; this was not going to be good in any possible way. He knew that news of Braig's arrest and Xehanort's poor health and attempted suicide had reached the town, but he wasn't sure what, if any, kind of impact the news had made.
Once the murmuring crowd had fallen silent, he steeled himself, took a deep breath, and began to speak.
"I am sure that most of you are aware of the rumors swirling around about Heir Xehanort and Apprentice Braig, so I will address those rumors one at a time.
"Yes, Apprentice Braig has been arrested on multiple counts of rape and causing severe harm to a member of the royal family. The Questioners have done their work, and they have informed me that we have enough to proceed with a trial, which will take place three days from now.
"Yes, Heir Xehanort attempted to take his own life six days ago, and he is in poor mental and physical health. He is under a doctor's care, and he is slowly improving, though it will be some time before he is well enough to venture outside the castle." He raked his gaze over the crowd. "Let me make this clear. No matter what the outcome of Apprentice Braig's trial, I do not want to hear anyone referring to Heir Xehanort as a slut, whore, or any other such derogatory term. If you do not like him, then that is your business, but the cruelty shown by everyone around him was enough to drive him to attempt suicide! It will not happen again! Am I understood?" There were nods from the crowd. "Good."
"On to my next point," he continued. "Many servants admitted to ignoring Heir Xehanort's orders, and they will be dealt with appropriately. Still others are accused of ignoring his cries for help when he was in distress, instead running off to start more rumors. Again, they will be dealt with when the time comes. For those among you that have family among the castle staff, you will hear the results of that tomorrow sometime."
"What about Braig?" someone shouted out, and Ansem zeroed in on the source: one of Braig's older sisters.
"What about him?"
"What if it becomes known that the slu-, Heir Xehanort had been the guilty one? What then?"
Nothing, Ansem thought, since Xehanort has yet to actually accuse Braig of anything. "If that is the case, then Heir Xehanort will be dealt with."
"But you don't think that that's the case." someone else shouted.
"No," Ansem stated simply. "I do not."
"I have my reasons, reasons that I will not disclose here. All will be explained at Apprentice Braig's trial in three days. Until then, please do your best to quiet the rumors running around and let Heir Xehanort recover in peace. Thank you."
Ansem stepped back away from the podium and turned to Dilan and Aeleus. "Let's go."
They walked back up the stairs to the castle, while Ansem thought about the short speech that he had just given. It had gone better than he thought it would have, but only time would tell if it would actually have any effect on anyone's opinion. He was glad then that he had listened to Sonora and Even; he didn't want to think of how Xehanort would have reacted to Brag's sister. He likely wouldn't have handled Ansem's reply well either.
Dilan and Aeleus left him at the door to his rooms, and he stepped through to find Xehanort still asleep on the couch, with his head on Even's lap.
"That was fast." Even commented without looking up from the book he was reading.
"It went better than expected." Ansem replied as he hung his scarf and lab coat on the rack by the door. "Did he wake?" he asked as he gestured in Xehanort's direction.
"Only long enough to crawl over to me and lay his head down. Though I suppose there are worse things then being a pillow."
"Oh Even, that means he still trusts you."
Even looked up from his book, blinked, and then smiled. "I guess you're right. If it is alright with you, I will stay here until he wakes. No sense in disturbing him."
"That is fine. We wouldn't want to take his favorite pillow away, now would we?"
"No," Xehanort mumbled sleepily. "I'm comfortable."
Even and Ansem laughed quietly. "Go back to sleep, Xehanort." Even said with a chuckle. "I'm not moving any time soon."
Xehanort settled back down and went quiet, and Even and Ansem shared an amused glance as he drifted off.
That night, Sonora made good on her promise to pull Xehanort's feeding tube. Her duties around the castle had prevented her from doing it the previous night as she had intended, but Xehanort didn't complain.
Neither did Ansem, who took the removal of the tube as another step forward in Xehanort's recovery. The two of them had dinner, and Ansem regaled Xehanort with tales of his grandparents and great-grandparents. Xehanort was enthralled, and he begged to hear more when Ansem called a halt to the stories late in the evening.
"Just one more story?" he pleaded as he was coaxed into bed.
"Not tonight." Ansem said firmly as it occurred to him how childlike Xehanort could be at times. "It's late, and you're tired. I will tell your more tomorrow, after I've dealt with the servants."
Ansem couldn't help but smile at Xehanort's eagerness. "I will. Now lie down and go to sleep. I love you."
Xehanort laid down on his side and smiled when Ansem patted the blanket around his shoulders. "I love you too. Goodnight."
"Do you want me to stay again tonight?"
Xehanort shook his head slightly as he closed his eyes. "No, I'll be okay."
"Are you sure?"
"Mmhmm," He opened one eye and peered up at Ansem. "Are you going to tie me down?"
"No," Ansem said after a moment of thought. "I think I can trust you not to hurt yourself, can I?"
"I won't do anything."
"Swear to me?"
"Alright then, we'll leave the restraints this time."
Xehanort smiled again and closed the eye that he had opened. "Goodnight, Master Ansem."
He still needed to talk to Xehanort about that. "Goodnight, Xehanort."
Xehanort slept soundly throughout the night, though the same could not be said for Ansem. While his mind believed that Xehanort was no longer a danger to himself, he found himself unable to relax, and his heart kept compelling him to go check on him. Each time, he found the boy sleeping peacefully, and he would go back to bed, but barely an hour later, he would find himself wandering back over to his bedside to check on him again.
By the time sunlight began to shine through the windows, Ansem had barely slept at all, but he forced himself to leave his comfortable bed and go take a shower. The hot spray woke him up enough to get dressed and ready for the day, and he walked out into the living room to see Xehanort was already up and in the process of ordering breakfast. He was also dressed, in a pair of black pants and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His feet were covered with socks, and as always, a scarf was tied around his head, with a few hairs poking out from under it here and there. He was still so very thin, and he was shaking slightly by the time he cut off the call box and wandered over to the couch to sit down.
"How are you feeling?" Ansem asked as he joined him there, and he smiled slightly when Xehanort inched over and nestled close.
"Just tired still."
"It will go away as you regain your strength."
"I figured as much." Xehanort laid his head against Ansem's shoulder and sighed. "I just... don't like feeling so tired all the time."
"No one does, but trust me; you'll feel better in good time."
"Time needs to hurry up then. I don't like being mostly bald either."
Ansem laughed quietly. "It will grow back." He put an arm around Xehanort's shoulders. "Now, I have something I would like to talk to you about."
He couldn't miss the fear that flickered across Xehanort's eyes. "What?"
"You are my son, yet you still call me 'Master Ansem'."
"Is that wrong of me?"
"No, no, no, no, you can call me whatever you want, but I apparently neglected to tell you that it's perfectly okay for you to call my something other than Master."
Xehanort looked at him in confusion. "Like what?"
"Like one of the many words that children use to address their father."
"Y.. you mean...?"
Ansem nodded. "You don't have to if you don't want to."
"But you would like me to?"
"I would, but only if you want. I don't want to pressure you into something that you don't feel comfortable with."
Xehanort looked away. "I'll think about it."
Ansem tried to prevent the hurt from showing on his face, though he knew he wasn't completely successful. "Take all the time you need." A knock sounded at the door then, so he squeezed Xehanort lightly and stood up. "That's probably breakfast."
His guess proved to be correct, and within short order the meal was laid out on the table. Xehanort was quiet while he ate, despite Ansem's attempts to draw him into conversation, and seemed to be deep in thought. He was still thinking when Even arrived to stay with him while Ansem dealt with the servants. It was until he was preparing to leave that Xehanort said anything.
"Master Ansem?" he said hesitantly.
"The servants that didn't help me in the infirmary... What are you planning to do with them?"
"Since they refused to render assistance and allowed you to be hurt, that makes them an accessory to the rape. They will be dismissed from their posts and then tried in the courts. Why?"
"I think..." Xehanort swallowed heavily and seemed to be gathering his courage. "I think that they hate me enough. Can't you just leave them be?"
Ansem blinked in surprise. "I cannot let that go unpunished, Xehanort. Instead of trying to help you, they saw what was happening and ran off to blab to anyone that would listen that you were whoring yourself out. I have to discipline them."
"I don't want them to have any more reasons to hate me."
"I can suggest that they go easy on them. That is all I can do."
Xehanort looked down at his lap and nodded silently, and Ansem lightly touched his fingers his shoulder before he stepped out.
Over the next few days, Ansem never left Xehanort's side. Once the servants had been taken care of, he stayed in his rooms, close to his son's side. Xehanort seemed to crave the contact, though he still kept calling his father "Master Ansem," much to Ansem's disappointment.
The night before Braig's trial, Sonora came by before bed to check on Xehanort as she had been. Once she had checked him over and said that he was still slowly improving, he went off to bed, and she pulled Ansem aside for a private word.
"They wanted Xehanort to speak to the court." she said quietly, and Ansem felt icy fear wrap around his heart.
"He is not ready for such a thing." he said firmly. "I won't allow it."
"It is not a concern, however. As his physician, I declared him medically unfit for it on the grounds that his physical and mental health are still too frail. They will have to go on the words of others. He wouldn't have handled such a thing well at all."
"I agree. Thank you for doing that."
"I do what I must. They are going to call for the two of us to speak, and likely Senior Apprentice Even as well."
"I will have to find someone to stay with him during the trial, because they will probably also call Aeleus and Dilan, since they were the first ones in the infirmary that day."
"I think it would be best if I were to hospitalize him under the watch of a few of my assistants. I still don't think it's safe for him to be left unwatched."
Ansem didn't bother to tell her that Xehanort had been sleeping alone without any restraints for the past few days. Instead he nodded in agreement to her suggestion and saw her to the door.
Xehanort was already asleep when he went in to check on him a few minutes later. He tugged the comforter up to his chin, brushed a few hairs out of his face, and lightly kissed him on the cheek. Xehanort stirred at the touch, but didn't wake, and Ansem forced himself to leave the boy's side and and seek out his own bed. The dawn came early, and he had Xehanort's future to see to.
In the morning, Ansem rose from his bed, showered, dressed, and sent for breakfast. While he waited for it to arrive, he roused Xehanort.
"M'still tired. " Xehanort mumbled as he tried to pull the comforter over his head.
Ansem pulled it away. "I know, but you have to get up and get dressed. After breakfast, I'm going to take you to the infirmary."
"Why? I don't want to go back there!"
Ansem pulled Xehanort up into a sitting position. "We don't want you to be alone while everyone is at Braig's trial, so you're going to stay in the infirmary with Sonora's assistants until it's over."
"Can't I just stay here?"
"No, we still don't think it's safe for you to be left alone right now."
"But I don't -"
Ansem cut him off. "Xehanort," he said firmly "You have to do this. You won't be in any danger, and either Even or myself will come back to you as soon as we can." He softened his tone. "We're doing this to ensure your future and to make sure that Braig can never lay his hands on you again. So please Xehanort, do as you're told."
Xehanort looked away, but he nodded.
Ansem smiled faintly. "Come now, breakfast will be here soon."
Xehanort sighed in defeat and stood up. He dressed himself without any difficulty and ate his breakfast without complaint. Ansem reached over and gently placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and realized that he was shaking. It dawned on him then that it was the first time that Xehanort had been outside this suite of rooms since Braig had attacked him in the infirmary nine days ago.
"No one is going to bother you." he whispered as they walked to the door a few minutes later to leave. "No one is going to hurt you. You are safe."
Xehanort leaned into him for a hug. "I don't want you to go." he whispered. "I don't want to be alone."
"I am doing this for you. I'll come back to you as soon as I can, I promise."
Xehanort nodded again and stepped back. "Let's go then."
The walk to the infirmary was silent, and Sonora was waiting for them when they arrived. The two of them settled Xehanort in one of the private rooms, and Ansem then had to pry Xehanort's hands off of his coat so they could leave.
"I need to go, Xehanort." he said gently. "You'll be safe here while I'm gone."
"I don't want you to leave." Xehanort said desperately. "I don't care about Braig. Please don't go!"
Ansem sat down beside him on the bed and allowed Xehanort to nestle close. "You may not care about Braig, but I care about you, and I do not want to see him hurt you again."
"Please don't leave me."
"I have to go, child. This needs to be done. I swear that, as soon as I can, I will come back. I have to stay through the entire trial, so Even will come and get you and take you back to my rooms. I will join you there as soon as things are settled. You will be safe here; no one will try to hurt you." He carefully pulled his coat out of Xehanort's grip and stood up. Xehanort looked up at him with eyes that were beginning to tear up, and Ansem leaned down and kissed him lightly on the forehead. "I love you." He then turned and walked out of the room and tried to ignore the ache in his heart as he went.
Dilan and Aeleus were waiting for him outside the infirmary, and they fell into step behind him. They walked silently out of the castle and to the town hall, where the trial would be held. Normally, Ansem would sit in the highest seat in the front of the room along with four others from the courts, and together they would act as judge and jury, but today was different. Since the accused was one of his apprentices, and the victim was his son, he would sit to the side and act as witness only.
The four remaining judges were already seated when they walked in, and Ansem nodded at them as he, Dilan, and Aeleus walked over to the box where the witnesses sat and took seats. Even was already there.
"How is Xehanort?" he asked quietly over the babble of voices as the townsfolk filed in to fill the gallery.
Ansem shook his head. "Not well. He didn't want me to leave him."
"I imagine not."
"I told him that you would likely be done here first. When you leave, I want you to take him back to my rooms and stay there with him until I get back."
"I also want Dilan and Aeleus to join you as soon as they can. No matter the outcome in here today, I wouldn't put it past someone to try something. Either someone from Braig's family or -"
"Lord forbid, Braig himself." Even finished. "I understand."
Ansem turned to face Dilan and Aeleus. "So as soon as you're done in here, go find Xehanort, and stay with him. Don't leave his side for an instant."
"Yes, Master Ansem.", "Yes, m'lord." came two replies, and Ansem turned back to face the rest of the room just as the side doors opened, and Braig was brought in.
His former apprentice looked calm and collected, and he even grinned at the gallery, like he was a popular actor greeting his fans instead of someone about to be put on trial for harming Radiant Garden's heir. Two guards walked him to stand on a small platform in the center of the room and shackled him to the floor by his ankles. They then stepped away, and the judges called for silence.
Ansem took a deep breath; it was time.
One of the judges addressed the court. "Today, we have a difficult case ahead of us. Braig Hickman, former apprentice to Lord Ansem Hart, stands accused of rape, multiple counts, against Heir Xehanort Hart. He also is accused of physical abuse against the heir on multiple occasions." The judge looked down at Braig. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
"Not a damned thing." Braig said easily. "I didn't do anything other than what the slut wanted."
"He wanted me to fuck him."
In the seat beside Ansem, Even growled under his breath.
"According to what you told the Questioners," said another judge. "You approached him, not the other way around."
"What's the difference?"
"A great deal. Now did you approach him, or did he approach you?"
"Fine, I'll admit it, I approached him." Braig replied easily with that carefree grin of his.
"For what reason exactly?"
"I'm sure you already know that."
"Answer the question, Braig." said the third judge sternly. "You've been accused of a serious crime. Being flippant about it will only hurt you and your case."
Braig's eye flashed, but then the quick burst of anger vanished as quickly as it had appeared. "Okay, okay, I wanted to fuck him. I just wanted a one night stand though. I didn't expect him to flop down on his back and spread his legs every time I looked at him."
Now it was Ansem's turn to growl quietly, which prompted Sonora to lay a hand on his shoulder in warning. Losing his temper here wouldn't help Xehanort any.
"So you took him multiple times despite only wanting a 'one night stand' as you put it?"
"No way in hell was I not going to take what he was offering. He was a good little fuck, meek and compliant with just enough of a struggle to spice it up."
"So he struggled. Did he ever try to get away or ask you to stop?"
"Did he ever cry or act as though what you were doing was hurting him?"
"He cried all the damned time, but he never gave me a clue as to why."
"According to Heir Xehanort's testimony via the Questioners, that very first time he screamed and tried to get away, but you wouldn't let him. He also said you left him, injured, crying, and bleeding, when you were done and did not attempt to render him any aid."
Braig shrugged. "I got what I came for."
Ansem closed his eyes and clenched his fists as the judges continued to speak to Braig. How could have not seen it? Braig did not care at all for the harm he had caused to Xehanort, and he firmly believed that Xehanort's initial agreement exempted him from the law. The gallery was mostly silent, though there were some murmurs off and on as people quietly discussed things that Braig had said.
"When Heir Xehanort refused you, what did you do?"
"I did what I wanted anyway. He agreed to let me fuck him after all."
"The instant he told you no, any agreement you once had with him was no longer valid."
"What was the original agreement, exactly?' one of the judges wanted to know.
"Just that I could fuck him."
"Yet he told the Questioners that you acted like you knew him before the onset of his amnesia and that you promised to tell him about himself in exchange for sex."
"The little slut is lying then! I never told him that!"
"He told the Questioners that you told him that he had no family, his homeworld was destroyed, he was a master swordsman, and that he had an apprentice of his own that had died. Need I go on?"
For a split second, a black aura flared to life around Braig, but it vanished when Ansem blinked. "I never told him anything like that! I don't know what that whore has told you, but he's lying!"
"I see. Care to explain the events in the infirmary nine days ago?"
"You were caught by several witnesses, including Lord Ansem, having intercourse with Heir Xehanort. All of those witnesses say the same thing; that Heir Xehanort had asked you multiple times to stop, citing pain and an unwillingness to continue. You refused to do so, and it wasn't until Lord Ansem pulled you off of him that it was brought to a halt."
Braig shrugged nonchalantly, with no trace of the anger he had shown just a few seconds before. "I already told you. He agreed to let me fuck him, so I did."
"That seems to be your answer for everything."
"It is the truth. What else do you want me to say?"
"Whatever made you believe that you were exempt from the law? The moment Heir Xehanort told you no, any agreement you may have had with him before was nullified. Why did you continue to pursue him?"
"I already told you that? I wanted to fuck him."
"That doesn't explain why you seemed to think that it was acceptable to touch him after he had told you to leave him alone."
Braig shrugged without saying anything, and one of the judges sighed.
"We're getting nowhere," he said before he fixed a stern glare on Braig. "This is your last chance. Do you have anything else to say in your defense?" Braig simply shrugged again and grinned, and the judge nodded. "Very well. Let us have the next witness."
Two guards moved Braig from the docket in which he had been standing over to a small enclosure by the judges' stand. He flopped himself down in the provided chair while he was shackled to the sturdy railing that circled it and leaned back lazily.
"Lord Ansem Hart." called out one of the judges, and Ansem stood up and walked to the docket. He stood in the center of the platform and tried to stop his hands from shaking. It wouldn't do for the crowd to see just how nervous he was at the impending questioning. His refusal to support Xehanort had been the reason that things had gone so badly for the boy, so he had much to answer for.
"Lord Ansem," one of the judges began, "after reading what the Questioners learned from you and Heir Xehanort, we aren't even sure where to begin. Your behavior towards the son that you agreed to love as your own was questionable at best, abusive at worst. However, as you are not the one on trial, we will start with when you began to suspect that something was wrong with Heir Xehanort four months ago. Tell us what happened."
Ansem took a deep breath and faced the judges. "I became concerned about Xehanort when I noticed a change in his behavior. He yet normally very outgoing, attentive to his studies, eager to work, and fine with working in a large group or alone, yet I had noticed that he had become very shy, distracted, and fearful of being alone. When he missed breakfast one morning, something that he hadn't done since his recovery two years ago, I pulled him aside and asked if anything was wrong."
"What did he say?"
"He simply said that he was tired and refused to say more."
"Did you believe him?"
"No, I did not."
"So what did you do then?"
"Nothing at first. I believed that if didn't wish to tell me what was happening, then it was his business, but I was still very concerned, and that night, I went to check on him."
"What did you see?"
"I found Xehanort in his bedroom with Braig."
"Describe the scene to us."
"Xehanort was face down on the bed, with his nightgown hiked up past his waist, and his face was turned away from me. His legs were spread apart. Braig was kneeling between them, and he was dressed, but his pants were pushed down some. I realized immediately what they were doing."
Ansem sighed. "Having sex."
"Then what happened?"
"I heard Braig tell Xehanort that this was the agreement that they had had and that he couldn't back out. He also said that Xehanort was just a whore and that no one would care if they found out."
"Did Heir Xehanort say anything during this?"
"No, he only screamed twice."
"What happened then?"
"I slammed the door open and went in. I ordered Braig off of Xehanort, had Dilan detain him, and then Aeleus carried Xehanort to the infirmary."
"Xehanort spent the night in the infirmary, and I stayed with him. In the morning, Dilan informed me that Braig has stated that Xehanort had been a wiling participant. I asked Xehanort if that was true, and he admitted that it was. I... didn't react well."
"Yes, you called your own child a whore and told him he deserved what had happened to him. Is that correct?"
Ansem hung his head. "To my shame, it is. I didn't give him a chance to explain, and I stormed out without letting him speak. I ordered Braig's release from the dungeon and left Xehanort to fend for himself. I told the others that Braig had committed no crime, and they followed my lead."
"So you abandoned your son just when he needed you the most?"
"Yes," Ansem whispered without raising his head.
"What did you do after that?"
"I carried on like normal and paid scarce attention to Xehanort when I saw him. I barely noticed when he stopped speaking to everyone and stopped joining us for meals."
"Did at any time did you become concerned? Did you ever ask him if he was all right or check on him?"
"No," Ansem hung his head, "I just ignored him. I figured that since he had gotten himself into such a mess, then he could find a way to get himself out of it. It wasn't until one of the maids told me that something appeared to be seriously wrong with him that I went to look in on him. I found him on lying on his living room floor. I'm ashamed to admit that ignored his poor physical condition and lectured him for his behavior and lack of hygiene. I told him that I wanted him bathed, dressed, and ready to work in the labs the next morning, and then I left him lying there."
"Did he say anything to you?"
"Not a word."
"What did you do then?"
"I finished my day and went to bed, but it was then that I really began to think about his behavior, and it worried me enough that I went to check on him."
"And you found him as he was walking down the castle halls."
"Yes, I followed him, curious as to where he was going. I followed him out of the castle and through town, but I lost him when someone hurled a rock at him." Behind him, Ansem thought he heard a nervous cough in the gallery, but he ignored it. "By the time I had stopped the person from throwing a second rock, Xehanort had already gone down to the Rising Falls, which is where I caught up with him."
"Whereupon he tried to kill himself."
"Yes, I caught him and pulled him out, and a few minutes later a few members of the guard appeared, and we took him back to the castle."
"So he was hospitalized over night, and you stayed with him."
"What happened then?"
"I had gone to take a shower, leaving Xehanort tied down to his bed. When I came out of the shower, I found Braig with him..."
Ansem took another deep breath. "I clearly heard Xehanort ask Braig to stop, and I heard him say that what Braig was doing was hurting him. I also heard Braig refuse, citing that they had an agreement."
"Just to be perfectly clear, what were they doing?"
"Braig was having sex with Xehanort, though I daresay that this time, Xehanort was in no way willing. It was clear that he had tried to get away, but the restraints meant to protect him from himself had prevented that. I pulled Braig off of Xehanort and demanded to know what he thought he was doing. Braig only grinned and said they were having fun -" Here he heard a snort from Braig. "- and when I pointed out that it didn't seem like that to me and that I wouldn't have a rapist under my roof, harming my son, he said that we didn't care before, so why now?"
"What happened then?"
"Aeleus had to stop me from hitting Braig, and it was then that I noticed all of the people in the room, many of them servants. Even was in the room as well, and he had Xehanort in his arms. I took Xehanort to my rooms to get him away from all the gossip and stares."
"And he has been in your care since then."
"Where is he now?"
"He is in a safe place, under watch."
"Thank you, Lord Ansem, you may be seated."
Ansem nodded and went back to the witness gallery, and the judges called for Even. His testimony mirrored Ansem's in many places, though he admitted that he had been worried about Xehanort and had tried to talk to him a few times. Each time though, he'd been unable to find Xehanort, or Xehanort had refused to speak to him. The greatest difference was that Even had seen more of what had happened in the infirmary that morning, including the various servants that had been alerted by Xehanort's cries but had done nothing to help him. Many of them had either stood by and watched and laughed, or ran off to tell anyone that would listen that Heir Xehanort had been whoring himself out again. Even was then dismissed, and as planned, he left the hall to go back to Xehanort.
A few members of the castle guard were then called, including Dilan and Aeleus. They all spoke of seeing Xehanort's deteriorating health, with many of them attempting to get him some help, only to be foiled by Ansem's refusal to believe that there was anything wrong and by Xehanort's refusal to stay visible for more than a few seconds. It was almost as though he had rendered himself invisible, one of the guards said. Once they had spoken, Dilan and Aeleus also left to go stay with Xehanort and Even.
Finally, Sonora was called to the stand, and she carried a thick folder that was stuffed full of Xehanort's medical records. A small table was set up on the docket for her, and she laid out her papers before looking up at the judges to signal that she was ready.
"Doctor," one of the judges began, "You have been looking after Heir Xehanort's health since his arrival here, is that correct?"
She nodded once. "It is."
"Please tell us of the injuries he had sustained when he was in your infirmary four months ago."
She nodded and picked up a sheet of paper to read off of it. "Heir Xehanort was brought to my infirmary while unconscious, carried there by Apprentice Aeleus. An exam revealed severe bruising and swelling of his face, with his right eye swollen nearly shut. The right orbital bone was cracked in two places, and bruises clearly showed a pattern that matched Braig's knuckles perfectly. Heir Xehanort's wrists had suffered severe abrasions and were raw and bleeding as a result. Burn marks that were consistent were fighting against restraints were plainly visible, as well as grooves dug into his skin from the tightness of the thin rope that had been used to bind him. Rectal bleeding was also present, and I found two large anal fissures that had to be sewn shut, as well as a rectal tear that also needed stitches."
"In your professional opinion, what are those types of injuries consistent with?"
"Rape," Sonora stated succinctly, "It was clear to me immediately that Heir Xehanort had been the victim of a violent sexual assault."
"Did you find anything else of note?"
"Please tell us what that was."
"I found anal and rectal callousing, scarring, and healed tears, some of which looked fairly recent."
"What did that tell you?"
"That it wasn't the first time he'd experienced anal sex, and that it was at best, uncomfortable, and at worst, extremely painful."
"How long was he hospitalized?"
"I wanted to keep him for a few days, but after Lord Ansem refused to support him, he fled the infirmary later that evening."
"Did you try to find him?"
"I tried. I even sent the guard out to look for him, but he was difficult to find, and when he was found again, he refused to come back. I had no authority to force him, so I had to hope that he would come back willingly."
"Which he never did."
"So you did not see him again until after his suicide attempt?"
"That is correct."
"What kind of state was he in when he was brought to you?"
Sonora picked up another sheet of paper. "Heir Xehanort was exhausted, severely underweight, suffering from vitamin D and C deficiency, which caused scurvy and a weakening of his bones and muscles. He also had welts, scarring and bruising all over his back from shoulders to knees. Obviously severely depressed and suicidal, and again, multiple large fissure and tears, with some appearing as thought they were only hours old."
"Again, in your opinion, what did that tell you?"
"That Heir Xehanort had been subject to frequent physical abuse, as well as frequent, violent, sexual abuse, and that, combined with his adopted family's refusal to support him, caused him to suffer severe depression."
"How would you judge his physical and mental health now?"
"Slowly healing, but still very fragile, on both counts."
"Thank you, Doctor, you may be seated."
Sonora nodded, gathered up her papers and files, and returned to her seat, while the judges conferred with each other.
After a few moments, they faced the court. "We have come to the conclusion that we do not have all the needed information, thus we are calling Heir Xehanort to speak."
Ansem was on his feet in an instant, protesting, as was Sonora.
"I made it clear to you that Heir Xehanort was in no condition to speak in front of the court." she said firmly. "So why are you calling him?"
"There is information missing, and to make sure that we know everything that we need to know before passing judgment, he must speak and tell us his side of the story."
"Was his testimony to the Questioners not enough?" Ansem demanded. "My son has been through so much, and you wish to subject him to this?"
Someone – one of Braig's siblings, Ansem thought – jeered from the gallery, and one of the judges held up a hand. "Enough. Our decision is final. Either Heir Xehanort speaks in front of the court, or we will be forced to pass judgment with what information we have."
Ansem growled quietly but conceded defeat, and he dispatched one of the castle guard to fetch Xehanort. He then returned to his seat and tried to ignore Braig's grin and the gossip running through the gallery. Sonora sat down beside him, and he could hear her muttering to herself about the idiocy of the judges.
It was about ten minutes later that Even walked into the hall, and he turned back towards the door to coax Xehanort in. Xehanort was dressed in his normal outfit sans his lab coat, and his weight loss was plain to see as the clothing seemed to just hang off of him. He walked timidly into the room, eyes on the floor, and Dilan and Aeleus came in behind him. As they passed where Braig was seated, Braig grinned, reached out, and gave Xehanort a hard pinch. Xehanort whipped around to look at him, shrieked in fright, and darted into Even's arms.
"Restrain him further, please." one of the judges ordered, and Braig soon found his hands shackled to the railing in front of him, but it didn't seem to bother him any.
Xehanort kept his face hidden as Even walked him to the docket, and it took a minute or so of whispering in his ear before he would let go of Even's arm and allow him to walk away. Xehanort let his arms drop to the side and kept his eyes on the floor, shaking as he stood in place. Ansem had to fight the urge to get up and go to him, but doing so could potentially hurt their case. Xehanort had to do it alone.
"Heir Xehanort?" one of the judges said gently. "Do you know why you are here?"
"Even said you wanted me to speak." Xehanort said softly, and even with the enhanced acoustics of the room, his voice could barely be heard.
"Heir Xehanort," said the second judge, "we know that you are not well; it's plain from looking at you that you are ill. We will try to keep this brief so you can rest, but we need you to look at us, not the floor, and answer our questions. Can you do that for us?"
"I'll... I'll try." Xehanort replied as he slowly raised his head to look at them. He seemed to notice all the eyes on him then, and he shivered as his shaking worsened.
The third judge nodded. "You told the Questioners that Apprentice Braig seemed to know you. Can you explain why you believed that?"
Xehanort went to look down at the floor again but caught himself. "He always seemed so familiar with me." he said quietly. "He treated me like we had known each other, and he was always asking me if I remembered anything, more than everyone else did. Sometimes he called me Mr. Master and said that he had my back."
"Did you ask him about this?"
"I did. He always refused to answer me."
"But you kept asking him?"
"I had to know if he knew anything about me."
"Then what happened?"
"He got tired of me asking him, and one day, he hit me."
"He hit you?"
"He punched me in the mouth and knocked me down."
"What did he do then?"
"He walked up to me, and I thought he was going to hit me again, but he knelt down in front of me and said 'So you want to know?' I nodded, and he said that he would tell me, but asked if I was going to pay the price." Braig snorted then, which caused Xehanort to flinch and fall silent.
"You told the Questioners that when you agreed, he took you down into the lower levels of the castle, is that correct?"
"We won't ask you to relive it, Heir Xehanort, but it was after that that he began to come onto you frequently, correct?"
"Did you ever try and refuse him?"
"Not at first."
"But you did eventually?"
"When and why?"
Xehanort swallowed. "A few months after... things started. He stopped telling me things, and I got tired of being hurt, so I told him that I didn't want him to touch me anymore."
"Did he obey you?"
"No," Xehanort's voice was barely a whisper, "He said that I was his to do with as he pleased."
"How long did this continue?"
"Can you give us a more precise time frame?"
"It started about six months ago."
"So he held up his end of the agreement for how long?"
"Maybe a month, I think."
"And from then on, you told him no."
"But he ignored your refusals."
"Did he give a reasoning for this?"
"He said that since I had agreed in the beginning, that I was his to play with. He also said that no one would care if they found out, because I was just a whore."
"So just to be clear, for the past five months, you were not a willing participant in any of this?"
"You lying little bitch!" Braig snarled as he tried to get up from his chair. "You never once refused! All I had to do was look at your and you'd flop down on your back and spread your legs, so don't you fucking say that you didn't want it!"
"No!" Xehanort wailed as he began to cry. "I didn't!"
"Enough, Apprentice Braig!" one of the judges barked, "You had your chance to speak!"
Braig subsided, muttering to himself, and Ansem looked back at Xehanort to see him scrubbing at his eyes with his shirt sleeve, shaking harder than he had been before.
"I didn't want it." he sobbed quietly. "I just wanted to know who I am."
"Heir Xehanort," said one of the judges, "We're almost done here, but we need you to tell us what happened in the infirmary nine days ago. Can you do that for us?"
Xehanort hiccuped and nodded. "Master Ansem had left me to go take a shower. I went back to sleep, but I woke up when someone pulled the blanket off of me."
"Who was it?"
"It was Braig. I tried to get away from him, but I was tied to the bed, so all I could do was scoot up against he headboard. I told him to go away, to leave me alone, but he.. he just grinned at me." Xehanort looked down at the floor and fell silent.
"Heir Xehanort, you do not have to give us details, but we have to know one fact. Did he rape you?"
"Yes," Xehanort's whispered reply could barely be heard in the otherwise silent room.
"Bitch!" Ansem blinked and suddenly Braig was there beside Xehanort. How had he gotten -?
"Let go!" Xehanort wailed as Braig grabbed him by his collar, and he tried to pry Braig's hands away. Ansem vaulted over the railing that separated the witness box from the rest of the room as Braig began to drag Xehanort down from the docket towards the door. He saw Dilan and Aeleus moving quickly towards them as well.
"Let go of me, Braig!" The gallery sat in shocked silence as Braig twisted Xehanort's collar in his hand, and Xehanort choked as the constricting material began to strangle him.
"You lying little fucker!" Braig snarled as he dragged Xehanort, still struggling to get his breath, across the room. "I never fucking raped you!"
Aeleus and Dilan reached them then, and they pried Braig's hands free of Xehanort's shirt just as Ansem reached them. Xehanort fell into his arms, which sent the two of them tumbling to the floor. Xehanort gasped for air as Braig was dragged away from him, and Ansem tilted his head back to look at him.
"Xehanort?" he asked. "Are you hurt?"
Xehanort looked up at him, his eyes dazed and unfocused, and then he fainted as the gallery behind them exploded with noise. Shouts and yells echoed through the room as Ansem shook Xehanort in an attempt to wake him. "Xehanort!"
Sonora appeared beside him then, and she waved a small vial of smelling salts under Xehanort's nose. Xehanort coughed, and his eyes opened a crack. "Master Ansem?" he mumbled.
"I'm here, Xehanort."
"He does not need to be here any longer, Lord Ansem." Sonora said seriously over the loud conversations behind them. "He needs to be someplace quiet."
"Then I am taking him out of here." he said firmly as he looked up at the judges, and they all nodded in apparent understanding. "Dilan!"
Dilan approached them from where he had been standing guard by Braig, once again restrained in his chair, with Aeleus standing behind him. "My lord?"
"I need you to carry, Xehanort; we're getting him out of here."
"Even?" Ansem looked around for Even for a moment before he found him standing nearby. "Stay here and report to me about the verdict later."
"Yes, your lordship."
Dilan carefully gathered Xehanort into his arms and quickly walked out of the hall with Ansem close behind.
It was a quick, quiet walk through town back to the castle. Many people were back in the hall, and those that had opted not to attend went about their business without saying anything. Xehanort, exhausted form his ordeal, fell asleep in Dilan's arms as they walked up the winding steps to the castle, though off and on, Ansem noted that his eyes were open a tiny bit, as if he was checking that they were still with him. By the time they rode the lifts up the Ansem's rooms, he had stopped checking and was sleeping soundly when they walked through the door into the living room. Dilan gently laid Xehanort down on the bed and went to stand guard in the hallway without having to be told.
Ansem made Xehanort comfortable: he pulled his shoes and gray vest off, untied the ascot and put it aside, and unbuttoned his collar. Xehanort curled up on his right side with a quiet sigh as the comforter was pulled over him, and Ansem sat down beside him to watch over him as he slept.
It wasn't until a few hours later, that there was a soft knock at the door. Ansem looked up from Xehanort's sleeping form and stood up to go to the door, but before he could reach it, it opened as Even stepped quietly into the room and closed the door behind him.
"How did it go?" Ansem asked quietly as he walked into the living room.
Even sighed heavily. "They found him guilty." he replied, and Ansem released the breath that he hadn't even realized he'd been holding.
"However," Even continued, "they did take into count Xehanort's initial agreement, so they didn't sentence him to death. Instead they sentenced him to spend the rest of his life in the dungeon."
Ansem sighed and gave a slow nod. "How did the gallery take it?"
"Surprisingly well. After seeing Braig loose his temper, I overheard many questioning his story. His attitude that he could do whatever he wanted because of the initial agreement, despite Xehanort's later refusals, didn't help his case any. His family were a bit upset, but I'm not sure if that was due to the verdict or to his actions."
"At least," Ansem sighed again and wiped at his suddenly damp eyes. "At least Xehanort can relax now. Braig will never be able to get his hands on him again.."
Even nodded, and the two of them stood there in silence for a moment before the sound of Xehanort shifting in bed fell upon their ears.
Ansem turned and walked back into the bedroom to see Xehanort sitting up in bed and rubbing at his eyes.
"I'll show myself out." Even said quietly, and Ansem nodded as he walked back into the bedroom. He sat down on the bed beside Xehanort, and then he reached out and enfolded his sleepy eyed son in his arms.
Ansem didn't answer; he only held Xehanort tight, and he blinked away the tears that appeared in his eyes. It was done; it was over. Xehanort was safe.
Xehanort sat up and looked at him in confusion. "Why are you crying?"
Ansem smiled a faint smile. "I'm just relieved, that is all."
"The judges found Braig guilty."
"They did? Why?"
He still didn't believe it; he still didn't understand.
"Because he hurt you, Xehanort. As I told you before, the instant you told him no, any agreement you may have had with him was rendered null and void. That, Xehanort is rape, which is not only a horrible thing to do to someone, but it is very illegal, especially against you."
Xehanort blinked. "Oh," he said quietly.
"He's going to spend the rest of his life in the dungeons; he's never going to touch you again."
He felt Xehanort begin to shake slightly. "Really?"
"Really." Ansem smoothed Xehanort's wispy hair back from his face. "You're safe, Xehanort."
Xehanort looked at him in silence for a long moment, and then his face crumpled as tears began to run down his cheeks. He leaned into Ansem's embrace and laid his head down on his shoulder and cried. Ansem rocked him, hummed a quiet lullaby to him, and stroked his hair.
It was done.
Ansem turned away from the hand painted vases he was looking at at the sound of Xehanort's voice. His son was standing behind him, and he gestured in the direction of where the food vendors had set up their stalls.
"I'm going to get something to drink? Do you want anything?"
Ansem smiled at him. In the year since Braig had been found guilty of abusing Radiant Garden's heir and imprisoned in the dungeons below the castle, Xehanort had slowly recovered from the months of abuse and depression. He was once again a healthy weight, and his soft, shiny white hair reached halfway down his back. His brown eyes had noticeable light to them, and his sharp wit and quick mind was once again in plain sight.
He went through his work in the labs with enthusiasm, but he also enjoyed quiet evenings with Ansem, where they discussed the ins and outs of running an entire world. He had been reluctant to go out and mingle with the people again, but Ansem, Even, and the others had finally dragged him out of the castle about a month after Braig's sentencing. Many people had stared openly at him, but thankfully, none of those gazes had been hostile, and no one had said anything to him. Apparently, Braig's behavior at his trial had made it clear to people that Xehanort had been a victim in the entire mess. Slowly over the passing weeks, the people had warmed back up to Xehanort, with some wishing him well, and others telling him that they were glad to see him healing. Without any anger of hostility to frighten him, Xehanort had slowly opened back up to everyone around him, though he still wouldn't leave the castle alone.
"Master Ansem?" Ansem shook off the memories as Xehanort spoke to him again. "Do you want anything?"
Ansem smiled again at his beautiful, healthy son: whole, unhurt, alive. "No, Xehanort, I'm fine."
"I'll be right back then." Xehanort walked away, though the crowd of dancers that filled the outer gardens for the annual spring festival. Dilan, who had been standing nearby, nodded and followed him. Ansem watched them go with a slight smile on his face.
No matter what, he knew he would never forget how close he came to losing his son. The guilt had faded slightly over the months as he slowly nursed Xehanort back to health, but he knew it would never completely go away. And truly, he hoped it wouldn't.
He turned back to the pottery vendor. No, the guilt served as a reminder to never turn on his child again, to always listen before passing judgment, to always put Xehanort ahead of everyone else. He would -
A scream cut through the noise of the crowd, followed by a gun shot, and everyone stilled as Ansem whipped around to stare in the direction the sound had come from. His heart hammered away in his chest; that had been Xehanort's voice. A second scream came from the direction that Xehanort had gone, and people began to murmur in confusion as Ansem began to move through the crowd. He started out walking, but his walk increased until he was running to where he had last seen his son. Aeleus ran right behind him, and soon they came upon a large number of people, standing in a circle.
"Let me through!" Ansem ordered, and the circle parted so he could step through. "No..."
In the center of the circle was Braig, dressed in his prison garb and grinning like all was right in the world as he held a gun to Xehanort's head. Xehanort's eyes were wide with fright, and Ansem could see him shaking in Braig's grip. Dilan was down on his hands and knees nearby, glaring at Braig while holding his hand over a bleeding wound in his side.
"Well hello, Master Ansem." Braig said with a cheery grin. "Sorry to interrupt your day, but the slut -" He tightened his arm around Xehanort's neck, which prompted a pained whimper. "- and I have some unfinished business to attend to."
Ansem stepped forward. "Let go of him, Braig."
Braig laughed like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard. "Let him go? Why would I do that?" He pressed the barrel of the gun harder against Xehanort's temple. "After all the trouble he's caused me, letting me use him to put on a show is the least he can do for me."
"Haven't you hurt him enough? When will it stop, Braig?"
Braig leveled his single yellow eye at Ansem. "When he gives me what he promised."
"He did give you what he promised." Ansem slowly stepped towards them, with Aeleus right behind him. "But you did not give him what you promised, and when he told you no, you took what you wanted anyway!"
Braig laughed again. "You think that's what this is about? Don't make me laugh! He promised me before he ended up here, and he has yet to deliver on that promise! If he doesn't hand it over, then I'll just have to take my payment some other way."
Braig stepped back and dragged Xehanort with him. "Don't fucking do it, Ansem! I'll kill him, I fucking swear I will!"
"Let go of him, Braig!"
Braig laughed again, and everyone, including Ansem and Aeleus, stepped back when a smokey, black aura flared to life around Braig, and his single yellow eye began to glow. Xehanort cried out, and Braig laughed as he dragged him back into a black hole that appeared behind them.
"Xehanort!" Ansem ran forward to grab his son, but Xehanort vanished into the black hole along with Braig, and then the hole vanished as well, like it had never been there. "Xehanort!" Ansem screamed his child's name, and the crowd around erupted with noise. He looked around, and he saw Even tending to Dilan as the people talked excitedly about what they had just seen. Where was Xehanort? Where had Braig taken him?
Then he knew.
"Even," he ordered, and his Senior Apprentice looked up at him, "Get Dilan to the castle." He saw Even nod, and he turned to Aeleus. "Come with me, quickly." He then ran out of the Outer Gardens, with Aeleus right behind him. The crowed parted to let him go.
It was a short distance to the entrance to the Rising Falls, but for Ansem it seemed to take forever. The entire distance he begged Xehanort to hang on, to be alive when they reached him, and he refused to entertain the thought that the would be too late. So it was with relief when he heard Xehanort's screams over the roar of the water as they neared the hatch. He and Aeleus ran down the steps, just as Braig spoke.
"Stop screaming, you damned slut! This is nothing that you haven't had before!"
Ansem felt his heart skip a beat, but as he and Aeleus reached the bottom of the steps, he was relieved again to see Xehanort lying on the edge of the falls, pinned under Braig's weight, but still fully dressed. His pants were undone, but they were still on, and he was struggling against Braig's attempts to undress him. Aeleus ran forward to grab him, but Braig looked up, saw them, and he snarled something as the black aura appeared around him again, plainly visible even in the dim lighting.
"Get off of me!" Xehanort shouted, and Braig looked down at him just as Xehanort pulled his legs back and kicked him in the chest. Braig was knocked off of Xehanort by the blow, and he stumbled back towards the ledge as Ansem ran forward. Braig teetered on the edge for a moment, and then his foot slipped, and he seemed to fall straight down towards the water. He growled something, and then he dragged Xehanort by the ankle just before he disappeared from view.
Xehanort screamed as he was pulled toward the edge, and he clawed uselessly at the stone as he slipped over. Ansem was hit by a strong feeling of familiarity as he leapt forward once again, and he just barely was able to grab Xehanort's wrist. Once again, he found himself lying on the ledge, holding onto his son, the only thing stopping him plunging to his death in the vortex below.
"Master Ansem!" Xehanort wailed over the roar of the vortex. "Pull me up! Don't let me fall!"
Ansem felt himself sliding forward, and he looked down past Xehanort to see Braig hanging onto Xehanort's ankle. The two of them were too heavy, he would never be able to pull them both up!
"I don't want to die!"
Ansem felt someone beside him then, and then Aeleus reached down with his strong arms and grabbed Xehanort's other wrist.
"Bitch!" Braig's words could just barely be heard. "If I'm going to fucking die, then you're dying with me!"
"No! Let go of me, Braig! I don't want to die! Don't let me fall!"
"Let's get them up." Aeleus said, and Ansem nodded as the two of them began to scoot backwards away from the ledge, pulling Xehanort, and Braig, up away from the water. Xehanort's hand slipped out of Ansem's grip, and he screamed as he dangled from Aeleus' hands alone.
"Papa! I don't want to die! I don't want to die! Don't let me fall!"
Ansem reached for Xehanort's flailing hand, and he saw Braig grin and yank with his entire weight on Xehanort's leg. Xehanort screamed again as he slipped a little closer to the water.
"I don't want to die, Papa!"
"Give me your hand, Xehanort!"
"Papa, I'm slipping! Catch me!"
"Reach for me, Xehanort!"
Braig laughed again, followed by another yank on Xehanort's leg.
"Paaaapaaaa!" Xehanort screamed as he slipped down another fraction, as Ansem missed grabbing his hand again. "Papa, please!"
Braig pulled on Xehanort's leg a third time, but then, with the hiss of fabric across skin, Xehanort's pants slipped down over his hips and down his legs. Ansem finally caught his hand in his own, and he saw as the boy's pants, pulled on by Braig's weight, slipped down over his boots and off of him completely. Braig screamed as his grip slipped along with the fabric, and his scream continued as he fell down, down, down into the water. There was a splash, and Ansem closed his eyes and looked away as the scream abruptly cut off.
Without Braig hanging onto him, Ansem and Aeleus were easily able to pull Xehanort back up onto the ledge, and like he had a year ago, Ansem found himself sitting on the ground away from the edge, holding his crying son in his arms. He ran his fingers through Xehanort's damp hair and pressed his lips to his forehead. "I've got you, Xehanort. You're safe. Shhh..."
Xehanort curled close to him and hid his face, and Ansem rocked him and felt his own eyes fill with relieved tears. Xehanort was alive, safe, and in his arms. "Xehanort," he said after a few minutes had passed, and Xehanort's cries had quieted into hiccups. Xehanort looked up at him. "You called me Papa." He smiled, and Xehanort faintly returned it. "You called me Papa." He held Xehanort tighter. "I'm so, so happy to hear that." He nudged Xehanort off of his lap and stood up, before pulling him to his feet as well. He was suddenly glad that the lab coats they wore were long enough to cover Xehanort's bare legs. "Come, let's go back to the castle. No doubt Even and Dilan are frantic with worry by now."
Xehanort nodded, but as they began to walk toward the steps, he paused and looked back towards the falls. He stared at it in silence for a long moment, and then he turned and walked up the steps to street level, with Ansem's arm around his shoulders.
Ansem sat silently in front of the library window, book in hand, basking in the warmth of the sunlight that shone down on him. He looked up from the words on the pages to look out the library windows. Below, in the castle town, he could see the townspeople setting up for the upcoming festival to celebrate Xehanort ascending to the actual position of ruler of Radiant Garden. He had been unofficially running the world for the past year, and Ansem had decided that it was time to finally step down and let the boy have it for real.
Boy, Ansem smiled. Xehanort was 31 years old and had a wife and child of his own, yet Ansem couldn't help but sometimes see that lost, frightened teenager that he had taken in, and the lonely, abused young man that Braig had turned him into. It had taken him years to fully heal, but Xehanort was strong again, and Ansem knew that he was leaving the world in good hands.
He had to admit, though he and the others had done their best to help Xehanort after Braig's death, it was someone completely unexpected that had helped the most.
He had long known that Even had two younger siblings; a brother six years his junior, and a sister that was born when Even was eight. After he'd been taken to live at the castle, Even had cut them out of his life like he had his parents and refused to knowledge that he had relatives around. His sister, Evangeline, had been four when custody of Even was given to Ansem to get him away from emotionally and verbally abusive parents, so everyone had been surprised when she had appeared at the castle one day as a young woman, asking to see her oldest brother. Even had rebuffed her at first, but soon he had come to enjoy her visits and company, and he apparently hadn't been the only one.
Xehanort had married Evangeline when they had been 26 and 24 respectively, and a year later, their son, Ansem's first grandchild, had been born. With a devoted wife and a loving child in his life, Xehanort had blossomed in ways that Ansem had never though possible, and it did his old heart good to see his son happy and living, despite the stubborn resistance of his amnesia, and the haunting specter of the pain he had suffered at Braig's hand.
And speaking of his grandson...
"Grampa!" a small voice squealed in glee, and a second later a brown haired blur streaked across the library floor and leapt up onto Ansem's lap. His grandson, four year old Terra Hart, grinned happily at him, and the grin was reflected in the child's bright blue eyes. "Grampa, Papa asked me to see if you were sleeping, but I knew you wasn't! And I was right, see?"
"Did he now?" he asked. "Well, you were certainly up to the task, young Terra."
"Yes, he certainly was." Xehanort said as he walked into the library, and Terra squealed again and leapt down off of Ansem's lap.
"Papa! Grampa's not sleeping! See?"
Xehanort scooped his bundle of energy up into his arms. "Yes, I see, Terra." He smirked at Ansem. "At least, he isn't now."
Ansem laughed and put his book aside before standing up from the chair. "It's fine, Xehanort. It wouldn't do for me to be late for my own son's coronation, would it?" He stretched and groaned in pleasure as his old joints popped and cracked. "Is everyone ready?"
"Waiting on you." said a new voice, and Evangeline came into the room, carrying her and Xehanort's second child, their eight month old daughter Lassiera, in her arms. The green eyed, white haired infant looked around the library, and then she yawned and stuck her fist in her mouth. The library was old news to her; she had seen it multiple times already in her short life. "Even and Ienzo are waiting for us in the square, and Dilan and Aeleus are, as always, waiting to escort us there."
"Where is Tenner?" Ansem asked as they began to walk out of the library. Tenner was Dilan's six year old son.
"He is with Ienzo and Alendra." Xehanort replied.
Evangeline laughed quietly as they left the library and walked down the corridor, with Dilan walking in front of them and Aeleus walking behind. "Can you imagine it? I never would have picked Ienzo for the one to get married at only eighteen."
"And then have twin girls a year later." Aeleus commented. "Who knew he had it in him?"
"Even's over the moon that he and Alendra named him grandfather to Carlita and Gemma." Ansem said.
"Though he'll deny it if you ask him about it." Xehanort said dryly. "He thinks being a grandfather makes him an old man."
"He has no problem with being an uncle though." Dilan said as the walked out of the front doors, and the group laughed as they walked down the long winding steps to the square.
"That's Even for you." Xehanort added as they neared the square, and he set Terra down and let the child run the rest of the way over to Even, Ienzo, and Alendra. Even scooped the giggling child up, and Ansem smiled as Terra excitedly pointed them out of his uncle. Ienzo and Alendra, each holding a baby girl in their arms, smiled widely as they approached, and Ansem gave Xehanort a small push from behind. Xehanort stopped to look at him, even as the rest of their group kept going.
"Go on, Xehanort." Ansem told him gently. "This is your day. I just get to sit back and be proud of you."
Xehanort said nothing for a few seconds, and then he suddenly pulled Ansem into a hug, and Ansem smiled and returned it. He didn't think it was possible to be any more proud of his son, or to love him any more.
"Thank you, Papa." Xehanort whispered. "Thank you for everything. I love you."
"I love you too, Xehanort." Ansem let go of him and stepped back. "Now go out there and show them that you're the lord and ruler of Radiant Garden."
"Walk with me?"
They turned back towards the square, and Ansem smiled again as Xehanort's arm slipped around his shoulders as they walked down the rest of the steps. Their family was waiting.