Lae to Waste

BY : CloakedSparrowVI
Category: Final Fantasy VII > Crossovers
Dragon prints: 557
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Final Fantasy VII or Kingdom Hearts, nor am I making any money from this work of fiction.

At first, there was darkness, and Axel thought that this was what the others meant when they said Nobodies returned to nothing once they died.

Perhaps that was true for most of them, but the powers that be had something else in mind for this particular Nobody.

A light broke the darkness, and Axel suddenly felt as if his mind was being filled…or perhaps it had simply been reawakened. Images, sounds, scents, and feelings that had always been there, but just out of reach, suddenly came back to him in a pounding rhythm that matched the sudden beating in his chest.

“My heart…” Lae frowned, for with the return of his heart and memories, he truly was Lae once again, and a Nobody no longer.

Your heart has been returned for two reasons…

Lae vaguely wondered where the voice was coming from, but considering all that he had been through, it really did not surprise him as it would have years ago, before a non-being named Axel ever existed.

You have cared again, and for that caring, you made a great sacrifice…that should be rewarded…

Lae remembered giving all that he had -literally- to defend Sora…or, more importantly, the part inside of Sora that would always be Roxas…which the part of him that had been Axel had cared for...despite the fact that he should not have been capable of caring.

Axel had never understood what it was about Roxas that made him feel as though he had a heart. They had only known each other for little over a year, yet something in the boy’s fierce determination called to something inside him…something he never knew was there before he met the fiery little Nobody. He had the strangest urge to take care of Roxas, even though he knew the boy’s small form held a very strong spirit that truly did not need him to.

It had all seemed strangely familiar.

Suddenly, a particularly strong image came to Lae’s mind; a teenaged version of himself stood with a small redheaded boy with bright blue eyes and a ponytail. They had been happy together, even in a faraway place where the air was poor and the sun never shone past the upper plates, but now was a time for goodbyes…

“You’ll come back…won’t you?” asked the young boy with tearful eyes, which were hidden in part by his long bangs. “You won’t forget about me?”

Lae smiled down at the boy, “Of course I‘ll come back, Kiddo…we’re all we’ve got; how could I forget?” He pulled the goggles that he always had in his possession from his pocket and placed them on the child’s head, chuckling quietly at the look of surprise the action earned him. “There, tell you what…why don’t you hold onto those for me? Make sure you take care of them, though…they’re all I have of my dad’s, so I’ll want them back when I come to get you. Deal?”

“Deal, yo,” replied the younger redhead, pushing the too-big goggles up on his head and grinning.

Both pretended that the younger wasn’t crying as the older walked away a moment later, never looking back…

Lae gasped, “Reno…how could I have forgotten?”

Your heart was able to return to you, because it was kept alive in the heart of your brother. His love for you is what has allowed your continued existence all these years…

The green-eyed man felt a long forgotten pain in his chest when he heard this, as well as a churning feeling in his stomach. His newly completed mind immediately named these feelings as sorrow and guilt.

He chuckled sadly, “I guess I really owe the little bastard.”

This gift, however, has been taken for granted for too long…

The redhead blinked, “Crap, I don’t like where this is going…”

Your heart is not complete enough to exist on its own yet, and in your brother’s heart, his belief in you wanes as your promise remains broken. Soon, his heart will accept what his mind has known all along…

Lae looked around worriedly, wishing the voice had taken some sort of form for him to address, he felt a little crazy speaking to the still air around. “What do you mean, ‘my heart isn‘t complete yet’? What happens if he stops believing in me before it is? Where is he anyway…come to think of it, where the hell am I?”

You must find what is missing in your heart and heal what your unfulfilled promise has broken in your brother’s before his faith in you is lost. Only then, will you be whole, and be allowed to continue to exist as a complete being without depending on another to complete you...”

“Wait, how long do I have?” Lae questioned the light around him as it began to fade; “And what happens if I fail?”

Suddenly, Lae felt heavy, and only then did he realise that he had felt weightless before. His seemed to turn in the air, until he soles of his feet abruptly made contact with solid ground. The redhead stumbled, and knocked over something with a crash before he blinked his eyes open, wondering how long they had been closed.

The green-eyed man realised that he was in an alleyway, and that the object he had knocked over was a rubbish bin. Looking around, he saw that the area was dingy and dark, nearly devoid of colour, and the air was heavy with a slightly acidic taste to it.

“The Slums,” he murmured to himself; “I’m home.”

The redhead unzipped and removed his coat, exposing a dark green shirt before he un-tucked his pants from his boots, not wanting to draw any extra attention to himself by looking too distinctive. He could only assume that time had passed the same in his home world as it had in The World That Never Was. If less time had passed, or if certain people simply remembered him, then he could be in some serious trouble.

Seeing a puddle in the street just outside the alleyway, the tall man approached it and checked his reflection. He had almost forgotten about the slight changes in his appearance as a Nobody, but now that he was actually seeing himself, he realised that this felt so much more natural. His hair was still a shocking shade of red, but was a softer and more natural hue. His eyes were still green, but not the too bright acid shade they had been. His skin was less pale and his face was slightly fuller, the lines a hair less sharp. The kill drop tattoos were as they had always been; somehow, those marks alone had remained unchanged throughout his entire ordeal as a Nobody. He vaguely wondered what that said about him before he decided that he had more important things to contemplate.

Lae pulled a cigarette from his pocket, and swore when he discovered that he could not use fire in the same way as he had for the past several years. He would need to use spells and Materia again, but he quickly decided that he could live with that, after all, he had for most of his life. He tapped the unlit cigarette against his palm as looked up and down the street, trying to figure out his exact location.

Noticing a small pawnshop down the street, Lae headed in. If he were going to be hanging around the area, then he would need some sort of weapon and he had long since discovered that pawnbrokers and barkeeps were excellent sources for local information.

He smiled at the aging man behind the counter when he entered and draped his coat on the counter. “Hi. I want to sell this.”

The man looked him over quickly before smiling in return and inspecting the coat carefully. “It’s an expensive one, but I doubt you’ll get its full worth here.” The man’s voice was raspy and hard, but not unkind or unintelligent. “Actually, I’ve never seen one like it here…it imported?”

“Yeah, from pretty far too,” commented the green-eyed man with a smirk. He discreetly glanced at the items that were locked in the glass case, noticing several knives, guns, bottles of pepper spray, brass knuckles, some jewellery, and other expensive or dangerous items. “Say…wasn’t there another pawnshop near here? I think I recall one run by a guy named…what was it…Oh yeah, Hyde.”

The aging man eyed Lae over again, more carefully this time, his face suddenly expressionless. “You haven’t been here in a while, have you son?”

“Nope, I’m just in town for a little while,” replied Lae. There was something odd in the man’s tone that he could not place, as though he was not sure whether to sound apologetic or accusing. “I’m trying to find a kid who used to work for him. Hell, he might still…for all I know.”

“I don’t know which kid you mean, he went through a few,” commented the man, still using that odd tone and watching Lae’s every reaction closely, “But I can tell you that whichever boy it was, he isn’t there anymore. Hyde…his reputation went bad a few years ago.”

“How bad?” asked the redhead quietly; he suddenly had a very bad feeling about where this conversation was going. The aging man eyed him over even more slowly, clearly trying to figure out what Lae’s interest in the matter was; with a sigh, the green-eyed man decided that honesty truly was the best policy for once. “Look, I don’t know what happened or what’s going on, but I haven’t been here for years. I’m not looking to cause trouble for anybody, I’m just trying to find a kid I said I‘d take of. I- He was left with Hyde several years ago. He was supposed to work there until his big brother came to get him but…there were some delays.” Well, it was honest enough for starters. He tapped his cigarette again, “You got a light?”

The man nodded with a sad expression on his face as he handed Lae a cheap lighter. “This boy you’re looking for; was he a little on the short side, skinny, with flaming red hair and bright blue eyes?”

Lae had to reel in his excitement as the now lit cigarette nearly fell from his mouth, “Yes! His name’s Reno. I think he’d be grown up by now-”

“Yeah,” the pawnbroker interrupted, looking thoughtful, “He would be, I suppose.”

The redhead’s face fell, “What do you mean, ‘he would be’…? Did something…?” he could not finish the question.

Fortunately, the older man understood anyway. “I don’t know. No one knows exactly what happened to those boys. Somehow, I don‘t see little Reno going out that quietly though. I figure he‘s just managed to get himself out of this misery;” He gestured to the dreary streets outside as he said the last part. “I hope so anyway…that kid deserved better than the shitty hand life dealt out to him.”

“Yeah, he did,” Green eyes looked down remorsefully, and then rose to meet the other man’s gaze with a purposeful edge. “Can you tell me what you do know? I haven’t heard anything about him since he was left with Hyde.”

“Sure thing,” the old man sighed, and glanced at the door. “Turn the sign to ‘closed’; we aren’t going to want to be interrupted.”

Lae did as he was asked, and then returned to the counter. The man had pulled up a couple of barstools on his side of the display case, and motioned for Lae to take a seat in the empty one. The redhead nodded his thanks after sitting and had to put some effort into not tapping his foot against the floor as he waited for the man to gather his thoughts.

“Reno lasted longer with Hyde than any of the boys that tried to take the job afterwards,” the man began. “He stayed for nearly a year, thinkin’ his brother was going to come back for him, but finally, he’d had enough I guess.”

“Enough of what?” questioned Lae, frowning. Reno had never been one to quit without just cause and he was not deterred by any amount of effort or hard work when he set his mind to something.

“Well, Hyde didn’t treat the kids too well. He fed ‘em little and worked ‘em hard, but that’s not too unusual around here. He hit ‘em too, but that happens a lot in these parts. None of the kids would say exactly what was going on, not that I know of anyway, but it got around that beatin’ ‘em wasn’t the only time Hyde put his hands to those boys. No one knows just when that started though,” the man added to silence Lae when the younger man’s eyes widened slightly and his mouth fell open.

The redhead nodded for the aging man to continue and took a particularly long drag form his cigarette, his right foot tapping against the concrete floor nervously.

“Like I said, Reno left after ‘bout nine months, the next boy, named Billy, I think, lasted about six; the next boy disappeared after two. The rest never lasted more than a few weeks.” The pawnbroker seemed to note the way Lae’s hands shook slightly as he lit another cigarette, but he chose not to comment. “Reno didn’t stray too far at first though…he still thought his brother would come around. Then, he stopped hearin’ from him; only took a year for Lae to become the kind of scum their mama warned ‘em about.”

Lae frowned, and the man shook his head sadly, “I don’t know what you know about Lae, young man, but we knew he was bad news around here. It wasn’t always that way, but after he joined one of the local gangs…there was no stopping him from hitting bottom. Reno wouldn’t hear it though; he thought somethin’ must’ve happened to his brother and was determined to find him. Whether he ever did, I don’t know.

“Reno got into some trouble himself, but nothin’ too bad…nothin’ that can be avoided, livin’ down here anyway,” the man smiled slightly and shook his head. “He never joined any of the gangs; always seemed to prefer to go it alone. Wouldn’t stop searchin’ for his brother though and that led him into some bad situations. Wandered into the wrong territory more than once, got himself hurt pretty badly on a couple of occasions, but he wouldn’t stop lookin’ for Lae. We all heard the rumours about Lae; theft, drinking, murder, whoring, drugs, everything that the stiffs on the upper plates assume we are all down here. I guess you could say he became the worse the Slums has to offer.”

The redhead frowned again, but said nothing. He really could not argue and he did not want to give away his identity yet anyway. Therefore, he decided to turn the conversation back on topic, “So what happened with Reno? When did he finally quit?”

“I don’t think he ever did,” replied the pawnbroker. “He just disappeared ‘bout eight years ago. No one has heard of him since. He was seen talkin’ to a man in suit a few times over the year before. The guy looked Turk, so no one bothered him or asked after him. Anyway, wherever Reno went, he left no traces here, which is sort of odd considerin’ the way he wanted to find Lae. The kid must’ve found a better way to look…or he got himself killed off by that Turk or kidnapped and sold in some slave ring.”

The older man looked thoughtful for a moment, as though he were straining his memory. “One thing that always struck me as a little too much to take as coincidence though; A few months after Reno disappeared for good, a man no one recognised hung around for a few days…asking questions ‘bout Hyde and the boys that used to work for him. The man was young, but he had this air to him, I don’t know how to describe it. When he talked, you just felt as if you should shut up, listen, and answer anything he asked of you. He was clean and he held himself all regal like. He looked Wutain…had dark hair, a surprisingly deep voice, this funny little tattoo on his forehead, and eyes like the devil. I never heard any name for him, but the night he disappeared, Hyde’s pawnshop went up in flames with Hyde still in it. Officially, it’s down as an accident and he supposedly died in the fire. None of us who saw the man liked Hyde enough to make anything out of it, besides, like I said, he had this way to him…like a Turk.”

“What did the Turk seen talking to Reno look like?” questioned Lae, catching the man’s implication.

“Tall, dark hair and eyes, fair skin, and the suit was all anyone managed to catch,” answered the pawnbroker.

The green-eyed man nodded slowly, then narrowed his eyes slightly, “What about the Wutain guy’s tattoo? What did it look like?”

“Just a dot,” replied the aging man with a shrug, before pointing to a spot on his forehead, sometimes referred to as the ‘third eye’, “Right here. Didn‘t look gang related…seemed like some sort of spiritual or cultural thing.”

“Thanks,” stated the redhead with a slight, puzzled frown before he stood. “I guess I’ll ask around some more. Oh, about the coat…how much can you give me?”

The older man unlocked the glass case they were standing behind, and removed one of his nicest switchblades, one that Lae’s gaze had lingered on for a second when he glanced over the case’s contents earlier. He placed it on the counter, along with a pack of cigarettes, another cheap lighter, and one hundred Gil. “How does that look?”

The redhead grinned and pocketed the money and items, “Pleasure doing business with you.”

“Name’s Grey,” stated the man as Lae headed over to switch the shop’s sign to ‘open’. Lae waved over his shoulder and was about to leave when Grey spoke again, “I’m glad to see you cleaned your act up a little. Keep it up; you won’t do your baby brother any good like you were before. Smart not to give out your name though.”

The green-eyed man paused for a moment, and then turned back to Grey with a smirk. “When did you figure it out?”

“When you asked about Reno,” replied the older man with a small smile. “Well, that sealed it…you both got your momma’s crazy hair, not too hard to recognise. Makes me wonder how both of you managed to vanish like you did.”

“Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,” commented Lae before turning back to the door, and calling “Take care,” over his shoulder as he left the shop.

Once outside, the redhead started heading for his old neighbourhood. There was no home to go back to and apparently, questioning Hyde -as Lae had planned to do- was not an option, but he did not know where else to start looking. He hoped that someone else closer to their old neighbourhood might have more to say about Reno’s disappearance, or the Turk that seemed tied to it.

Lae shook his head as he lit yet another cigarette. The one good thing he would have to say about losing his heart and living as a non-being for a few years was that he had at least kicked some of his more dangerous habits. He quickly considered what Grey had said about his and Reno’s appearances, and wondered who else had noticed the resemblance since he had been gone. He just hoped his brother had not paid for his mistakes in his absence.

Another thing that bothered him about Grey’s account was that it sounded as if Reno had disappeared right around the time the Heartless has attacked and Lae had lost his heart.

All he could do was keep moving forward, and hope to find something that would tell him Reno was still alive and mostly unscathed.

Lae was not sure whom to blame if that was not the case.

He only hoped he had enough time to find his brother.

Reno…wherever you are…I know you don’t owe me a damned thing but I need you to keep believing in me, Kiddo.

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