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The white halls and corridors haunted him as he walked through them. Everywhere around him, the essence and smells of antiseptic and cold anxiety followed him like a cloud. It reminded him horribly of the past, and as he tried to convince himself otherwise, a new painful thought was brimming in his mind.
This feels like empty, white, death.
It was a horrible feeling and it made him feel clammy and uncomfortable inside. As he passed closed doors with shuttered windows, a group of nurses clattered out with a rolling bed as they bustled through the narrow doorway.
A single blonde-haired nurse, with a slight, rounded face caught his eye.
He gasped. "Namine!"
Blue eyes darted in surprise; she glanced suddenly, then averted her gaze and walked in the opposite direction.
"I'm sorry for running off on you, like that," she whispered, "But the managers don't like it if I stray away from work." She gave a small, wavery grin. "I almost don't recognize you anymore, Roxas."
He sighed, massaging his forehead. "You look different as well."
"This world has both changed us so much."
They exchanged mutual grimaces. Namine had found him after her break, wandering the hallways and motioned him to come. They were hiding in a tiny un-used storage room, catching on old times since the last time they saw each other – before they both disappeared. Namine's eyes had now lost their youthful luster and her skin was blanched, giving her a hungry look. Roxas was taller, with broader shoulders and a gentleman-like complex he had developed during the course of years.
"Why are you here?" she asked.
Roxas shrugged. "I don't know. Just visiting nearby areas. I could ask the same of you. Why are you here? What are you doing here?"
Namine suddenly looked down, her eyes traveling from her pale fingers and starchy white gown to Roxas's clean and well-tailored business suit.
"I'm tired of hurting people. I'd like to help them now."
They both remembered too well what happened in the last life.
"I see," said Roxas. "That's very noble of you."
Namine made a sound, like a cough or a laugh that sounded almost as if she hinted otherwise. "Well, what about you?" she asked in return. "That's a nice coat you have on. What are you doing here?"
Here as in relating to this world…
"Marketing," he said. Namine looked up. "I help advocate for new patents for the military. They like my voice, I think, and the way I talk, so they gave me a job to talk about their products. It earns a lot."
He gave a blithe, hollow laugh. "Beats the old times when I used to do odd jobs, toting around things with my skateboard."
She chuckled. "Remembered that one time I stopped you when you were going to the beach?"
"Do you remember that time you talked to me in that white room?"
They both glanced around them for a moment.
They had been conversing for a while when Roxas brought up the topic he had meant to address.
"You can stay with me."
Namine looked at him with pure surprise. "Roxas--"
"Just get out here," he exclaimed. "Don't stay in this…this horrible place anymore. You can leave with me if you want. You don't have to be caged up like this anymore. Things are different now."
She shook her head. "You don't have to help me, Roxas."
"But I want to!" He cried out desperately, his voice rising. "I want to help you, Namine!"
She started to say something, he interrupted. "L-look!" He took a wadful of money from the pocket of his coat. "I've got this and I've got a lot of it. So it's not hard for me! You can stay in my house and no one has to know. This isn't like how it was before, Namine, you don't have to be afraid anymore. I can help you now." His voice broke off, remembering how pathetic he was before.
This time…this time, I can really help you.
She shook her head. "I can't accept your help."
"But why not?" he demanded. His vivid eyes were flashing indignantly, and Namine's tired abuse-clouded ones only stared back sadly.
"I'm not like that, you see. I don't belong, especially not as a burden to you. I have never belonged anywhere."
"You're not a burden to me, Namine!"
She shook her head. "No. I'm nobody."
The word stung like a needle, tempering old suppressed memories at the back of his head.
"NO! You're not one--we're not like that anymore!"
The door suddenly clattered open.
Roxas gasped. He recognized him too, but looked straight ahead to the kneeling nurse. The color drained from her face, and her knuckles whitened as she clutched hard onto the white folds of her skirt.
He growled, his yellow eyes glinting with discontent at his employee. His strong, dark hands muscled into fists as he forced them down with control.
"I thought I heard voices!" he barked. Roxas gulped.
"Nurse!" She flinched, and then lowered her gaze. "Yes, Mister…"
"This is no time to be socializing with old friends! We have lives to save. We're in the midst of a war and by shirking off your work--" His voice grew hard and gripping with bitterness. "You are helping no one at all."
Namine's eyes widened, and her shoulders drooped. She said nothing. As his hand focused around the doorknob to leave, Roxas stood up, not being able to take it anymore.
"You--" said Roxas. The manager glanced at him as Roxas pointed at the familiar face. "You're the one who--"
For one second, the manager flinched as Roxas blurted out his old aliases. Within a moment, he regained composure and stared him down in the eye. Roxas couldn't help cringing.
The manager's grip on the doorknob tightened. His anger simmered, but his voice slit like a knife through the tension-laced air. "If you nobodies want to become somebody…go help out this world instead of dredging up the old past."
He slammed the door, the glass shuddering, and his footsteps trailing away.
There was a deathly silence, as both of them said nothing. Then, Namine slowly stood up and made her way to the door.
She stopped and glanced back and Roxas, who had grabbed hold of her sleeve.
"You don't have to," he begged.
She glanced at his arm, following it up to the shattered expression on his face.
"I have to, Roxas," she whispered.
And with that, she shook him off and followed her manager into the white hallways.
The door slammed opened.
"It's all your fault, it's all your fault!"
Namine burst into heavy sobs while Roxas led her out of the building.
Veins and wrinkles contorted the manager's face as he roared at them in anger. "You pathetic excuse of a nurse! You're useless, absolutely, useless! And don't ever come back!"
"What happened?" Roxas whispered, as he led her into a quiet spot.
She blubbered, her voice hardly audible under her agonized waver. "He's been wanting to get rid of me for years, and now he finally has! I knew it, I'm just a failure, no else liked me and he especially didn't!"
She sobbed into her hands, her body convulsing and chest heaving.
"Namine. It's okay." He put his arm around her to comfort her. "Not everyone understands you and he's just getting on your case. It's alright, don't worry."
"No, you don't understand!" she gasped.
"What don't I understand?" he asked gently.
"I killed someone."
Roxas's hand dropped, and his mouth flew open. Namine relapsed in sobbing again at his response.
"Wha-how? I mean…"
He waited for Namine to calm down.
"He made me operate on a sick man," she whispered. "It was so horrible. His skin was yellow and peeling and his eyes kept staring at me. I never knew what to do, I didn't learn yet. They just…they just…" She moaned. "I didn't know what I was doing…One moment, I was trying to get myself together and continue with the task…and then, all of a sudden, people were screaming, and he started hitting my head and telling me that I had killed him."
She wailed miserably, in a way that scared and broke Roxas into pieces. He felt angry. What could he do?
Namine sniffled and wiped her eyes. "I wish I had my old powers back," she confessed. "It hurts too much. I could save that man, and I could run away. But most of all…I want to rearrange my own memories. So that I don't feel anything anymore. I don't want to remember anything anymore. No matter where I go, I always fail. I'm so sick and tired of this that I just want to forget…"
Roxas gripped her shoulders hard. "Namine, don't."
"I can't, remember?" Her voice was almost hysterical. "I can't anymore. I'm not a witch anymore, I'm just a…just a…"
"You're not a witch!" he cried out. He let go of her shoulders and she buried her head in her arms.
"He's right. I'm hopeless. I can't do anything right, and I won't be able to. I'm just a failure. I should stop helping people altogether and just lock myself into a room where I can't hurt anyone anymore. Even in this world…I'm nobody."
"Don't talk like that, please," he begged. Suddenly, Roxas had an idea, just a tiny glimmer of hope of a solution he didn't know if he could execute properly.
"Why do you believe in me at all, Roxas? Why are you even here? You should just leave me and make a good life for yourself. You can do that, you have the chance. I'm just a failed nurse-they won't want me elsewhere, either."
"No, no," he said. Namine began to speak, but he quieted her firmly. "Listen to me," he said empathetically. She listened, her red eyes blinking away tears at him.
"I know a lot of stuff has probably happened…and happened before, but that's all going to change now. You can put all that behind you, because none of it matters anymore. Look, Namine. I don't care if you're a nurse, an ex-nurse, or the old Namine that I remember. You're still the same to me. You're not a nobody, and we're together now, so things can be different. We should make the best of it, since we weren't able to do that before. And you know…but…"
He gulped before continuing. "You're very special to me." Namine looked at him with wide eyes. "Namine," he said again.
"You spend all your time trying to heal other people. I think someone should heal you."
He wrapped his arms around her shaking body and hugged her tight.
"I'll heal you."