Sorry for the delay; here it is! I hope you enjoy.
"I never thought you'd return," Roxas' mumbled in disbelief, but his body betrayed relief as he embraced Xion, his eyes clouded in tears. Roxas didn't care why she was here or even how. She was back. It may have been unbelievable, but she was back and in his arms. That simple fact alone was enough for him to be joyful, to have his memories of her return, to have her return.
"Roxas," she giggled, returning the hug, "I'm glad to see you too." Roxas closed his eyes before nodding to himself, unable to process much more than his friend's warmth in his mind. They soon parted, but Roxas kept a hand on her shoulder, perhaps to convince his mind of Xion's existence. Roxas then realized that Xion had the same white Organization uniform on as he did.
Her too? This can't be a coincidence.
"What happened to Axel?" she asked before he could question her about her uniform.
"He became a Somebody again," Roxas smiled bitter-sweetly while speaking, wishing he could've been there with his best friend rather than stuck in Sora's body.
"So he finally became someone?" she joked, snapping Roxas out of his melancholy with a chuckle.
"His name's Lea. Got it memorized?" they both laughed at the fondness of the old memory.
"And you? What happened with you and Sora?"
Xion, now parted from Roxas, glanced around the room as she asked the question, realizing then that another in an Organization uniform stood behind Roxas, getting up from the couch weakly. At first glance, Xion was suspicious, but a flash of recognition crossed her face.
"Is that him?" she pointed towards him, wanting to be sure. Roxas turned to Sora, now fully awake, and nodded.
"That's him. Well, most of him," Roxas confirmed, "Unfortunately, he became a Nobody again. I'll explain later." Xion looked as if she wanted to question Roxas further, but refrained; now wasn't the time.
"Well, I'm glad I found you and Sora," she smiled, at peace now that she had found Roxas and Sora. Xion hadn't been awake long, but something in the back of her mind was screaming with urgency, as if she needed to desperately remember something. Xion tried to file through her memories, but her mind was still somewhat foggy, albeit not nearly as much as Sora's.
"But…" Roxas looked down, afraid to spoil the mood, "I didn't want to ask, but how did you come back? It's just…well…"
"Hard to believe?" Xion shook her head with a wry smile, expressing her lack of offense to Roxas' possible suspicions.
"Well, honestly, after I disappeared…" Xion didn't know how to put it into words, "For a while, I felt like I was just drifting in the darkness of the ocean, unable to talk, move, or do anything. It's as if I just became a thought tucked into the back of someone's mind. It felt as if I was asleep, unable to summon the will to move…but I still felt awake somehow. Everything was a blur…but then I heard someone call me and I felt myself getting pulled out. If that makes any sense…" she blushed, embarrassed to explain herself.
"Maybe…" Roxas didn't want to encourage Xion unnecessarily, but perhaps…
"Maybe your heart was awakened?" Roxas suggested, placing a hand over his chest, "maybe our hearts were inside Sora and were awakened when he plunged his Keyblade inside himself." Roxas turned to look at his chest and feel the thumping of his organs, his heart, inside him. Nobodies had the same anatomy as Somebodies, of course, but the heart was more than just an organ, more like a feeling inside that gave life to the soul. Roxas felt warmth inside him, less hollow than he did before.
"But…that's impossible," Xion shook her head and looked down miserably, unable to accept that, "Nobodies don't have hearts. That couldn't be the case…for a forgotten puppet like me to come back with a heart." Roxas hated to think about it, but Xion was a creation of the Organization. It begged the question of whether or not she even had a heart to begin with…or for that matter a body for it to return to. He destroyed the puppet body, but despite his efforts to free her and Sora's memories from that prison, here she was in the flesh. Roxas felt more convinced that there was something more to her than just a creation of the Organization.
"I think…I think we do have hearts," Roxas affirmed his belief, "After all, Xemnas was lying to us this entire time. He lied to us just so he could control us, the Organization, and collect more hearts. He said it himself right in front of Sora. Maybe Sora just gave us a little of his heart…perhaps just enough for us to come back, even if he doesn't know it. Maybe that's why he's weaker than we were near the beginning."
Xion looked towards the weak older teen, his brunette spiky hair drooping slightly as he leaned over his stomach. She recognized the symptoms – the zombielike behavior and nausea – of being a newborn Nobody, but they seemed worse somehow. Staring at Sora and thinking over it, maybe Roxas was right: maybe Sora did reawaken their fragmented, dormant Nobody hearts without realizing it. That would explain why Roxas never felt like a Nobody to her even from the beginning…why she felt so much emotion swell over her before she disappeared…maybe that was why they weren't acting like Sora over there, wanting to vomit from nausea from reawakening as Nobodies. Maybe that's why she felt more…complete.
At first, Xion was overjoyed at the prospect of being a Somebody, an honest to goodness person, but upon looking at Sora, she felt pity at the pain he must be going through. They needed to find and reunite him with his Heartless…with his heart, and get him back to normal.
Almost as if a trigger went off in her brain, at that moment she finally recalled the reason for the sense of urgency festering inside her. She looked around, seeing Roxas' friends near the other side of the room, then looked to the entrance she just came into. Her face darkened, returning to meet Roxas' eyes.
"Listen, there's something important I need to tell you," she looked at Roxas' friends, "in private."
"No matter what, the Organization cannot know this," she shook her head "No, I'm sure that Xemnas already knows."
"Look, Xion, I understand your urgency, but a lot has happened since you disappeared," he placed a hand on her shoulder, "The Organization's gone, but something bigger and far worse has replaced it and the worlds are in danger. Xigbar…I mean Braig…is hunting us down and Sora over there…" he pointed at the sick, absent Keybearer, his eyes unfocused. Xion got the point.
"Anyways, we need to figure out how to survive and get back to everybody else," Roxas breathed after getting everything out.
"I know, Roxas, but what I'm going to tell you changes everything," she shook her head, insisting on Roxas to listen, "Look, Ansem placed data into Sora's mind and I think whatever he put in there is slowly coming back to me," Xion looked away, "all I can say is that everything we thought we knew was all wrong. The keyblade, hearts, the worlds, everything is a huge mistake. I don't have everything yet, but we need to talk about this privately, just the three of us."
"W-what do you mean?" Sora voice was raspy and distant as he managed to get up from the couch, using his Kingdom Key to prop himself up. Xion looked at the Keyblade and backed away.
"Those…things," Xion pointed at Sora, "those things are…"
"Are what?" a lower voice emanated from the door. Everyone turned around to see Braig standing at the entrance. Roxas summoned Oblivion and Oathkeeper to his side, the gleam of his blade's fierce, his stance tense. Everyone else moved to their feet, except Sora who seemed barely capable of leaning. The man, however, raised his hands above his head, his usual cocky disposition gone.
"Hmm? So the runt is back," he noticed Xion standing among them, her eyes piecing his in defiance and hatred. "I guess that'll do."
"You," she growled.
"Look, I know what you're going to say, but let's not be hasty about pulling out your magic swords. I just want to talk."
"We continue as planned. We're going to Kyoshi Island." Kairi spoke. Every member of Team Avatar and Aqua were gathered in a circle at the Temple courtyard, sitting in a circle as they munched on today's catch…all except Aang, who settled with his nuts and berries. A small campfire was lit, flickering as the winds grew restless far up in the mountains. The stars, representing the many suns and worlds encircling this massive one – some sparsely placed, others collected into small clusters – gathered as if a crowd of spectators looking upon their faint, flickering light. Kairi's statement rattled them all, notably Sokka, who even put down his meat to speak up.
"But shouldn't we look into this more?" Sokka leaned in, sitting cross-legged, his arms leaning on top of his legs. "I agree that it's most likely a trap, but if what First says is true, it's better than nothing."
"But isn't Ba-Sing-Se pretty far away from the South Pole?" Aang asked. "What's the point of setting up base there? I don't think First is lying…heck I spoke with him. But I just don't get it."
"No, it actually makes sense." Sokka rubbed his chin lightly with his fingers. "If I understand this right, and forgive me for not understanding crazy magical things despite the years," this comment earned him an eye roll from Katara, "this Xehanort guy needs these shadowy blob spirits to do the dirty work for him and open up the Spirit Portal, right? Well, if they steal people's hearts to make more of themselves, then Old Nort would want to go where the greatest numbers of people are, turn them into Heartless and transport them via portal to the South Pole. This is forgetting to mention that Ba-Sing-Se also has plenty of underground tunnels and caves that would be perfect for setting up shop."
"Pfft…Nort," Aang grinned heavily as he held back laughter. Suki chuckled to herself alongside Sokka while Katara further exacerbated her eye roll. Aqua remained silent.
"Look, I understand that looking into this is important, and as much as I want to stop Nort," Kairi paused, hiding a grin before continuing, "…it's obvious that he'll be expecting us one way or another and honestly, I won't make the mistake again of trying to fight him unprepared. We need time and a plan."
"The refugees need to travel safely to Kyoshi Island anyways and we can formulate a good plan while not being too far away from the South Pole." Suki agreed. "I think Kairi has a point."
"And besides, what if something happens with the portals and we're already half way across the world?" Katara pointed out. "How can we get back here fast enough?"
"Hopefully, Riku will be there with Lea, too, even if I'm not too sure...I want to find with him and fill him in as well, but it'd be better to stay here for now until we're ready." Kairi suggested, taking a bite of fish. She still couldn't get over the weird taste of two-headed fish…but more importantly, she noticed that Aqua hadn't touched a bite of her food. Kairi debated saying something in her mind, but decided to wait for later.
"Now that I've thought about it, I think Kairi's right. Training might be the best thing for us to get into shape." Sokka took a quick bite of fish, gulping it down with some onion and banana juice. He cleared his throat. "Besides, we have eyes inside Ba-Sing-Se anyways. We can send a penguin-hawk to Zuko's uncle and the White Lotus to see if anything's up and maybe they can find your friend."
"Really? You can do that?" Kairi's eyes glimmered with hope. Finally, things were looking up for them!
"And if anything happens in the city, we'll be able to rush up there in a moment's notice." Sokka made a swooshing noise as he moved his hand, gesturing his point.
"Oh thank you, Sokka!" Kairi looked as if she were going to tear up from happiness as she gave him a sweet hug. Sokka nervously looked over at Suki, who nodded her head in approval, and he returned the hug. Katara smiled sweetly at her brother's kind gesture.
"Of course. We're not going to leave anybody behind." Sokka reassured her. "But I'd still like a better map of Ba-Sing-Se before we get there." Sokka added, drinking some onion banana juice. Aang eyed him oddly.
"Hey, Sokka…I've been meaning to ask you for a while now, but where'd you get that?" he asked.
"Oh this?" Sokka looked up at Aang. "Some old guy gave it to me. He was pretty nice, probably a refugee. Said he knew you, but then again, who doesn't."
"Can you tell me what he looked like?" Aang pressed, shoving his nuts and berries into his pockets, although not before Momo stole a few.
"He was pretty old, maybe as old as you, Aang. Kinda tall, tan skin, seemed like he hadn't eaten in a month. I think he said something about knowing you and maybe something about Aqua…I didn't really understand him, so I just shrugged it off." Kairi noticed Aqua looking up at Sokka, a mix of perplexity and irritation in the keyblade master's eyes. Sokka, on the other hand, didn't seem to notice and instead began inspecting the onion banana juice much to Kairi's confusion. Aang, however, lit up.
"It must be him. Guru Pathik!" Aang's airbending whooshed around him as he got up with excited effort. He looked around at everyone, but his eyes fell on Aqua, who seemed to still be brooding.
Instead, Aang turned to Katara.
"I should…probably go find him. It won't take long, but it's probably important."
"I understand. We'll be training hard until you return, then." Katara nodded a smile on her face. Kairi, on the other hand, was more than weary to let the Avatar go so quickly, shifting positions almost erratically in silent protest as her eyes shifted between each member. She was ordered by Master Yen Sid to track him down and ask for his aid. Considering that Riku was who knows where, Kairi felt more vulnerable without the Avatar on his side…and if he ended up taking Master Aqua with him…Kairi didn't want to think about what fate could devastate these people before Xehanort had his way. Kairi wasn't strong enough to fight Xehanort on her own and she knew that, which is why she was intent on training alongside the Avatar and developing a strategy instead.
At the same time, however, Aang did need to contact Raava, and if she could give them vital information or help with his Keyblade training, she couldn't just outright object to this. Who knows then the next opportunity for Aang to speak to Raava would be. Maybe they stood a chance, even if it was just Master Aqua at their side.
"Then the matter is settled." Aang got up, looking determined. "I'll need the time to look for Guru Pathik. If I can speak with Raava, then I'll be able to figure out a way to deal with the Spirit Portal…and if necessary, Kingdom Hearts itself."
"Aqua, I want you to come with me." Aang looked towards the Keyblade Master, who seemed less than thrilled, turning her body away from the group. "Whatever the Guru wants, it could help with…you know..."
"…" Aqua muttered.
"Please…Master Aqua." Aang bowed, his voice soft.
"…fine." Aqua agreed, but her words edgy and venomous. "It's not like I'm going to be of any use right now in this state anyways…not that it matters anymore."
"Master Aqua…" Kairi raised her objection, but her voice fell silent. It became clear to Kairi that she was being selfish wanting to keep her here. Kairi couldn't imagine the whirlpool of emotions the Master was dealing with after encountering First, after spending so long in the Realm of Darkness. It was clear that her former constitution has been stained with darkness; her words, her emotions…even her eyes failed to hide it. Even beyond her time in the Realm, Kairi could sense there was something more to her pain. Grief, perhaps…Kairi, of all people, knew how grief could destroy someone inside after nearly losing Riku two years ago and now Sora…
"I'm sorry I brought you into all this, Kairi," Aqua shook her head. Kairi's nearly recoiled in shock from her words. What…what did she mean by that?
"I'm too pathetic for words…bringing you into all this…letting Ven and Terra…and not being able to do a damn thing about it…" Aqua shook her head as she muttered on. "And that bastard thinks he can fix everything with a little information. Look at me, I'm disgusting. I've succumbed to the darkness and I let him get to me…"
"Aqua…" Kairi murmured, melancholy aching in her words.
"I…I should go…" Aqua nodded wearily, and then turned to Aang. "I…I need to redeem myself. I've lost my honor…my dignity…my right to be called a Master the minute I succumbed to darkness. If he can help me…it's my only option."
"…I understand. We'll leave in the morning." Aang responded, nodding his head and saying no more. The group grew quiet, with only the crackle of burning wood daring to break the silence. With overcast weather now claiming the sky, the campfire's light bobbed faintly in the night as if drifting in a sea of darkness.
"You mean you intend on betraying Xehanort?" Roxas looked wearily at Braig, his former companion.
"Well, not exactly. I'm still cleaning up the mess we started, but I'm working with a younger version of the guy, before he became who he is today," Braig explained.
"A younger version?" Xion seemed perplexed. Roxas was able to put together the pieces, but naturally, he felt skeptical of all of this. Why would Braig do any of this? What's to gain for working with a past and likely weaker version of Xehanort? Why is he here talking rather than capturing us? As Roxas thought this over, he could hear Sora's grunts as he tried to stand a little taller. Sora struggled to speak, but he voiced his raspy defiance.
"Why…change sides? And why sh…should I believe you?" Sora asked sternly, regaining composure gradually, "You've never been…the type to care..."
"As if. I never said I was changing to your side, runt. Rather, I'm realigning myself with my original intent. Well, my intent after I gave it some though, I guess."
"What is that supposed to mean? You've known him longer than I have, so how about you enlighten us?" Roxas shrugged dryly.
"Snarky ass kid…" Braig sighed. "You always have to glare at me like that, too…"
"I'll admit one thing, kiddos, so listen up." Braig's hands fell to his sides dramatically, as if involuntarily released. "I originally followed Xehanort because he offered me a job and I wanted the cash. Simple stuff, really. But when you spend enough time with the guy, he corrupts you a bit of his darkness, begin hearing this thoughts in your head and all that fancy stuff, you learn things…and I thought the old coot was right about something. That something took my goddamn right eye. Kingdom Hearts needs to be found…so it can be destroyed. More importantly, though, the Keyblade needs to go. All of them."
"What do you mean by that, Braig?" Roxas questioned.
"If you really want to know, ask the Poppet over there," he pointed at Xion, who jumped at the attention. Xion looked towards Roxas uncomfortably, shifting in her spot.
"I…I wanted to tell you in private, but it seems I have no choice…" Xion's eyes lowered to the ground. "What I'm about to tell you…was contained in Ansem's Research, stored inside Sora's head until now."
"The Keyblade…must not exist…"
I hope you enjoyed and Stay Golden!