"Hey, Ax- eh... umm... I mean, Lea?"
The redhead smirked, noting the slip up, but appreciating the effort nonetheless. "Yeah? What's up, 'o sleepy one?"
The brunette wrinkled his nose. "Oh, come on! Riku's bad enough- don't you start, too!"
Lea chuckled, tapping his temple. "Sorry, already memorized."
The younger boy pouted, folding his arms across his chest. "No fair."
Lea shook his head, amused by the other's childishness. The savior of over a dozen worlds, and he still retained the immaturity of a toddler at times.
"What did you want, Sora?"
The teen blinked, caught off guard at the sudden change in subject, but quickly recovered. "Well, you remember everything about the time when you were with the organization, right?"
The elder frowned, wondering where this was headed. "...right."
"Then... Can you tell me what you meant that time? About... making you feel like you had a heart?"
Lea sighed, running a hand over his face. "Oh... That."
He leaned against the wall, smiling wistfully. "You really want to know?"
Sora nodded, absently clenching his fists at his sides. "I want to know more about Roxas... try to understand him better... and that means I have to understand what happened then, and what it was about him that made you feel that way."
The redhead's expression softened. For all his overwhelming naivete and questionable intelligence, Mickey's golden boy would still surprise him with his thoughtfulness. He truly cared for others, and that unfettered emotion was the driving force behind his every action in this war. For someone as starved for friendship and acknowledgement as Roxas, Sora's kindness would prove invaluable.
"You really care about him, huh?"
The brunette raised an eyebrow. "Well, yeah. We're a part of each other, even if he's still his own person."
He frowned, bringing a hand up to his heart. "That's why I want to know. He's shared all of himself, all those painful memories..."
"You were friends once, but something tore that bond apart. Despite that, you did your best to help him, and to help me." Sora set his jaw, returning his gaze to the other. "So I want to know why. I think that, after all he's been through, you owe him that much."
Lea stared into the boy's determined blue eyes, so similar to the ones he'd once known. Closing his eyes, he nodded. "Fair enough."
He turned his gaze to the ceiling, allowing himself to recall the past. "Being friends with Roxas... it reminded me of what my life was like before."
Noting Sora's surprise, he shrugged. "Contrary to what Ansem and the others believe, most members of the organization retained memories of their former lives. The only reason Roxas didn't was because of you, since your own memories were all jumbled up at the time."
"...I see." The younger boy mumbled, "I'm sorry I caused him so much trouble."
Lea snorted. "Sora, you and Roxas share a horrible tendency to charge blindly into things. Giving each other grief is an inevitability."
The elder boy gave him a lopsided smirk. "Besides, trouble was what led to his existence in the first place, right? I doubt Roxas would disagree with that particular turn of events."
The brunette returned the smile with a faint one of his own. "No, I guess not."
The redhead winked mischievously, pleased that he had succeeded in cheering the boy up, at least a little. He returned his gaze to the ceiling, absently tracing the swirling runes that decorated Yen Sid's study.
"Anyway, Roxas reminded me of someone. The same stubbornness, blond hair, blue eyes..." He raised a hand to his face, tapping his chin. "Now that I think about it, even their clothes were pretty similar, though that was after Roxas had left the organization."
Sora cocked his head to one side. "So... Roxas reminded you of an old friend?"
Lea shrugged. "Kind of. I didn't really know him that well- only met the kid once, when I challenged him to a duel. Man, I was such a boneheaded brat back then..."
There was something sad about that- only making friends with someone because they reminded you of someone else. It felt fake, hollow. As if they were merely a replacement for a familiar face.
The younger boy frowned. "Then... why did you decide to be friends with Roxas?"
There was a pause, and Lea turned his face away. "I didn't plan to, at first."
"...what do you mean?" Sora's voice was shaky, filled with interposed emotion.
The elder sighed. "Xemnas put me in charge of looking after him. I wasn't supposed to get attached to the kid, but..."
He smiled wryly. "You two have a weird way of growing on people."
Sora scratched his head, a quizzical expression on his face. "Uh...is that a good thing?"
The redhead laughed, shaking his head. "Yeah, I'd say it's a good thing."
Lea reached out, placing a gloved hand on Sora's shoulder. "...thanks."
"For what?" The boy blinked up at the other, wondering at the softness in his features.
"For treating Roxas like a person. Not a tool, not an asset, not some flawed copy of you, but an actual human being. One with his own thoughts and feelings."
Lea smiled faintly, sadness in his eyes. "That's all he ever really wanted, after what happened."
The brunette nodded. He could definitely understand that, after all Roxas had been through. It still felt wrong to him when others spoke of the blond as an object, as just a 'nobody' that needed to be dealt with and contained. Roxas was his own person, just as much as he was. Roxas was Roxas, and Sora was Sora. Similar, but distinctly different from each other. It saddened him to think that others couldn't, or wouldn't, wrap their minds around that fact.
The redhead turned, heading toward the doorway. He paused, hand poised on the latch, and looked back over one shoulder.
"Give him a message for me, will ya? Tell him... that even if he's part of you again, his best buddy will never forget."
He raised a finger to his temple, tapping it twice. "Got that memorized?"
Sora grinned, a single tear slipping down his cheek.
"...got it memorized...Axel."