Sorry, Try Again
Title: Sorry, Try Again
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts/Final Fantasy VII
Disclaimer: No ownership implied, no profit gained. This is a fanwork.
Characters/Pairings: Kadaj, Full Cast
Rating: M Overall
Summary: What if Advent Children Aerith sent Kadaj off to start again in a place he comes to find is called Traverse Town? What if he found himself torn between a young man who looks like his brother, a brother who doesn't know him, a new chance at a mother, and an icy-eyed man who took him in?
Green eyes opened slowly, taking in unfamiliar brickwork as it slowly came into focus. His head hurt. It shouldn't have hurt. He wasn't really used to pain - not pain like what surged through his body as he tried to sit up.
"Yazoo?" he whispered, bringing a black-gloved hand up to his forehead as though the motion would somehow alleviate the pain on the other side of his skull. "Loz?"
He couldn't feel them. Everything was quiet. Other than the pulsing pain, even his head was quiet.
And then, even with his headache and joints aching, he laughed.
Leaning back against the cool brick wall, he looked at his hands as he held them out before him. Nothing. No power. No magic. He searched for what screamed within him before but he couldn't find it.
"Am I... human?" he asked the empty alley as he tried to stand. Weak and useless... He was tired, but he was whole.
Stumbling out into what looked to be a quaint little town, he paused to raise a hand to shield his sensitive eyes from the burning streetlamps.
"What is this place?"
"The last place in the multi-verse," a voice replied beside him.
Startled, he took a step back and crashed into a wall. His legs decided not to hold him and a moment later he realized he was being carried, carefully, by whomever it was that had found him to begin with.
"You're light," the man said, blurry through the silver hair blocking green eyes from seeing much of anything. "I'm sure you're hungry, too."
The world spun for a second as he found himself almost dropped onto a hard wooden chair, slumping forward to rest against an equally hard table.
"You're new," the man continued, his voice sounding half-concerned and half-disdainful. "I guess worlds are still being destroyed out there."
"Worlds...?" No... that didn't sound right. The Lifestream. The Cetra. They had... That beautiful woman... The warmth he had always wanted...
"Name's Leon," the man said. A sort of scuffling noise followed, which ended with two glasses of water being placed on the table. "What's yours?"
Water had never tasted so good, if he was even sure he knew how it tasted.
"Kadaj," he finally said, wondering if half the pain in his body was hunger. That and exhaustion.
"Kadaj," Leon replied. "This is Traverse Town. It's the last stop on the trans-world express. A dumping ground. Anyone who doesn't end up as a heartless ends up here."
Not caring much for whatever the word 'heartless' implied, Kadaj wanted to laugh again, even as tears formed at the corners of his eyes. The last stop. The dump. Instead of peace, he had this.
"Are you... okay?" Leon asked, reaching over to touch Kadaj's shoulder.
"I'm supposed to be okay?" Kadaj asked. "I'm... here."
"There are quite a few people here," Leon said, not moving the weight of his hand from Kadaj. The pressure. Comforting. He wanted to think that he liked it.
Something smelled wonderful.
He could hear a female voice, incidental and talking to Leon. He wasn't even entirely sure what was on the plate in front of him, save that it was some sort of noodle dish. He didn't care. It smelled good.
"I can help you get a room at the hotel, too," Leon said. Kadaj found himself missing the weight of Leon's hand on his shoulder. He'd liked the contact. "I have a friend about your age, too. She could show you around once you get some rest."
"Th... Thank you," Kadaj said, trying to shove as much food into his mouth as he could. The words felt foreign on his tongue. But he wasn't used to feeling so helpless, either. He wasn't used to being so weak.
"Some clothing too," Leon mused. "Quite an interesting outfit you have, though. I'd like to hear about your world sometime."
Kadaj nearly choked on his mouthful of noodles. He'd tried to destroy his world, yet he'd been allowed salvation.
"I don't think it was really my world anyway," Kadaj said once he'd swallowed. "I don't think I was real until now."
"It's complicated," Kadaj said in the coldest tone he could manage towards someone so genuinely willing to take care of him.
"That's okay," Leon replied.
Brushing his hair aside, Kadaj finally bothered to take a look at his benefactor. He swallowed hard. Not nearly as pretty as Yazoo, he thought, but close.
In silence, Kadaj kept eating, glancing up every few minutes to make sure Leon was still there. He wasn't used to being alone. He always had someone, even if that was only inside his head.
With food in his stomach, his body began to ache less and he actually felt as though he could walk without falling.
"Leon?" Kadaj asked, still watching the man closely.
"I've never been alone before," he said, trying to wipe his mouth clean from the sauce he knew he'd splattered. "Not... Not for more than a few hours."
"I'll take you to meet my friend, then," Leon said, leaving a pile of coins on the table. "Feel good enough to walk? I don't mind carrying you..."
"I can walk," Kadaj insisted, suddenly feeling a little ashamed that he'd had to be carried at all.
"She's usually in Third District," Leon said, gesturing for Kadaj to follow him. "There isn't much in Third District, so she practices her magic there."
"Magic?" Kadaj asked. It obviously had to be a different sort of power than he was used to. He couldn't feel even the smallest spark within himself.
"Well, not everyone can do it," Leon admitted. "There's a wizard living just past Third District too - he might be willing to see if you have any potential."
Kadaj froze. Already Leon seemed to be planning things out for him.
"This is forever, isn't it? The end of the line?"
"No," Leon said. "There's a chance that someday everyone will get to go back to their worlds."
Nodding, Kadaj resigned himself to silence. He'd failed on his world, defeated by the man he desperately wanted to love and call brother. But...
Leon pushed open the doors to Third District, revealing an open area and in one corner, a young woman balanced precariously on a giant shuriken.
"Squall!" she called, hopping down and kicking the weapon up to her hand, slinging it on her back as she ran across the square.
"Leon," Leon corrected, shaking his head.
"Leon," she repeated, laughing. "Sorry. Someday I'll get it right."
"This is Kadaj," Leon said, gesturing half-behind him at where Kadaj had slipped. There was something much too familiar about that girl. But she didn't seem to recognize him at all.
"Hello," Kadaj managed, wondering if he was going to die now that he'd finally been given a chance to live.
"Hiya!" the woman replied, holding out her hand. "I'm Yuffie, the best ninja in all of Traverse Town."
"The only ninja in Traverse Town," Leon corrected.
"Hey," Yuffie cried, pulling her hand back before Kadaj could extend his own and settling both hands on her hips. "I've got the duck boys to join my junior ninja guild, thanks very much!"
"And I need to finish the errands I had started before Kadaj fell on me," Leon said, waving as he slipped back through the district doors, pulling them closed behind him.
"That was really friendly, for him," Yuffie said, shaking her head. "I hope you don't think you're being dumped off or anything. I'll take good care of you. You just got here, right? I can show you around."
"Leon said you would," Kadaj commented. Yuffie seemed to genuinely not know him in the slightest. Whatever second chance he'd been given, it seemed absolute.
"So how old are you?" Yuffie asked. "I almost thought you were a girl, sorry..."
"Seventeen," Kadaj lied. He thought he could pass for that age. That had to be about the same age that Yuffie was.
"You'll still grow, then," Yuffie announced. "So will I."
"Almost seventeen," she replied. "Hmmm. Well, I guess I should start the tour here. This is Third District. There's a house up on the next level that gets rented out, and the passage to the swampy lake where this old magician lives. I don't like the swamp, but he's taught me to throw fireballs!"
Kadaj couldn't help but smile at her enthusiasm. His head wasn't hurting as much and without any other purpose, he was beginning to believe he could enjoy life in this place, no matter how fleeting it was.
"Fireballs," he repeated, thinking perhaps he'd like to learn as well. If he could. If all of his power hadn't been left behind when he was dropped off here, at the end of the line.
"Yeah. I'll show you later. They aren't that easy to do yet and I did a couple earlier to show off," Yuffie admitted. "Let's go to Second District. That's where the hotel is."
"I don't think I've ever slept alone," Kadaj said, trying to remember days past.
"Oh?" Yuffie said, stopping in her tracks. "Big family?"
"Kinda," Kadaj replied.
"They... Don't worry about them," Yuffie said softly. "Leon's sure that they aren't in any pain or anything, even if your world is totally gone."
He hadn't even thought about it. Yazoo and Loz. They were somewhere. He hoped they were together, if anything. Their bond was stronger. As much as they were one creation in three bodies, the two of them seemed to move still as a single unit, even as they prepared for sleep.
"As long as they're together," Kadaj said out loud.
Yuffie smiled. They kept walking.
"You'll need to meet Cid, of course," Yuffie said as they passed into Second District, past the house Yuffie had mentioned as a rental. Somehow, the thought of actually owning anything in such a place seemed awkward. "Cid is a pilot and mechanic and just about anything else anyone needs. He's great. His shop is in First District."
"Is it night?" Kadaj asked suddenly, realizing that the sky was black above them.
"Oh, it's always dark here," Yuffie replied. "You'll get used to it. And if you do need some sunshine, there's a place we can go - another world we can have Cid take us to."
"You can fly to... space?" Kadaj asked, still looking up.
"That's not quite it." Yuffie paused, apparently searching for wording.
"Think of this more like an island," Yuffie finally said. "And there are other islands."
Kadaj laughed. More doomed worlds. It was almost fitting. What was one when there could be many?
"That wasn't a bad explanation!" the ninja exclaimed.
"Not you," Kadaj said quickly as he glanced at that shuriken. "Just... I've never been without purpose. Or without... anything. Each second was for a reason and now..."
"You'll find reason all over again," Yuffie said with a grin. "You're already making friends."
Friends? Yuffie considered herself a friend? But she'd just met him. She didn't know him. She didn't know that her alternate self had wanted him dead.
"Oh, that's the Gizmo Shop," Yuffie said pointing. "It's kinda creepy since no one works there or anything but machinery keeps running anyway and the bell on top of it rings the hour even though no one ever admits to doing it."
Kadaj stared up at the huge building, wondering why the town would bother keeping such a place around. But perhaps it was just something they couldn't get rid of either for reasons long lost.
"Most everyone lives either here or in First District," Yuffie continued. "Right now, Leon and I live above Cid's Accessory shop. He owns it, but he usually has the dumbest clerk in the universe running it. Sometimes Leon works there for extra money, but he's a little embarrassed about it so I wouldn't mention it if I were you."
"You and Leon are..."
"Oh, nothing like that!" Yuffie corrected immediately. "We're just business partners. The sunny world has fighting tournaments and we enter together."
Kadaj felt a wave of relief wash over him, one he didn't understand the reasoning behind.
"And Cid's girlfriend who just happens to be my best friend in the world... she lives there too," Yuffie rambled, guiding Kadaj into first district. "Her name is... Oh, there she is!"
Yuffie ran ahead, towards a woman in pink who had her back turned. But before she could answer Yuffie's call, Kadaj knew.
And he managed to keep walking forward, wondering if this Aerith would have any idea who he was and if she, too, would pass judgment upon him.
"Hello," Aerith said, smiling as she handed Yuffie the bag she'd been carrying and reached to pull Kadaj into a warm embrace. "You poor thing. You've lost everything, haven't you?"
Kadaj nodded against her, not bothering to try to stop the tears that were now pouring down his face. Slowly, he reached to hug her back, wondering if he should even be allowed to touch her again.
"Um, this is Kadaj," Yuffie said in the background. "And Aerith."
Maybe, Kadaj realized, the end of the line wasn't the worst place to be after all.
Drink Lemonade! Tip Your Waitress!