By Chronic Guardian
Written for Twelve Shots of Summer: Hexa-Code Kernel, Week 12: Close()
When Kairi comes back, the door is already closed.
She knows where it leads, and that Sora is waiting somewhere on the other side, but there's no handle, and her Keyblade won't open it. Neither will light magic, or fire for that matter. She's even tried breaking it down by sheer brute force, for all the good that might do against a portal to their world's heart. None of it does anything. The door just stares back, sitting in the island's hollow by the picture—the promise—she carved with him.
Hugging her knees to her chest, she crouches by the stone walls lining the hollow and rests a hand on the star shaped fruit etched in white. Outside, the sun shines. New children discover the island and old friends move on with their lives. Everyone else tells her this chapter is over, and for some of them it is. But not for her. Because her story is entwined with his. So even if this door is closed, she won't stop until she brings him back.
She stays there as the soft crunch of footsteps echoes up the tunnel to the beach. She knows she set the meeting up, but part of her just wants to stay like this a while longer, resting in childhood memories.
When the footsteps finally stop, though, she breathes in and draws herself up, preparing for another long and possibly fruitless argument about what can be done.
"You know..." the girl behind her begins hesitantly, "it doesn't have to be this way."
"I'm not giving up," Kairi says flatly. "We're not giving up."
"...I suppose I should have expected that," the other girl—her Nobody—sighs. Kairi can practically see her steepling her fingers as she calculates a tactful way to handle this conversation. Naminé has always been more intellectually oriented in her problem solving, that's part of why Kairi is trying to recruit her. If they work together, she'll have more to go off of than just following her heart and waiting for destiny give her a break.
Unfortunately, that's also what's putting them at odds right now.
"So what are you planning, then?" Naminé asks.
Kairi does her best to ignore the resigned exasperation in her Nobody's voice and turns around to face her. Naminé watches back with a quiet, concerned frown—like a parent trying to talk her daughter out of an exceptionally poor life decision.
Kairi swallows and goes ahead anyway.
"We're going in after him," she says. "Just staying here isn't good enough. Just trying to pretend everything is okay… it's stupid. And I'm not doing it anymore."
"Well I hope you're not planning on going by Gummi ship," Naminé replies, glancing down at the sketchbook she has clasped in face-down in front of her. "With the world order reestablishing itself, Gummi travel is mostly restricted to officially sanctioned business right now."
"And no, that doesn't include personal crusades into the depths of darkness."
Kairi closes her mouth and just fumes for a moment. Naminé is right: Now that balance has been restored across the worlds, nobody wants to risk unleashing the Heartless again. Even if she's doing it with the best of intentions, reopening a portal into the darkness kind of risks exactly that.
"Okay, fine, so no Gummi ships," Kairi allows, crossing her arms. "That's okay, we're not looking for a physical place anyway. Do you think you could send me to sleeping realms?"
"Well…" Naminé levers her sketchbook up against her stomach and presses her mouth into a thin line. "Yes and no. I can technically suspend your consciousness, but I can't consciously send you deep enough to make sure you'll get there."
"Mmm," Kairi hums her understanding, then looks back towards the door behind her again. "Do you think Yen-Sid might—?"
"Yen-Sid told you not to try anything dangerous," Naminé cuts in. Usually she's more polite, but the repeated reminders are wearing her patience thin.
"And you agreed with him, yes, I remember. I was about to ask if he had any books on sleep magic we could borrow."
"He'll know what you're up to."
"Well maybe I'm just having trouble sleeping."
"And maybe he knows you could just have me fix that if you were really serious," Naminé counters firmly. "He might not remember who you're after, but he's not dumb."
Kairi sighs, drumming her fingers on her elbows. This isn't the first time they've had this conversation, and it certainly isn't the first time it's started to feel stale, but with things as they are she can't really talk to anyone else.
After all, Naminé is the only other one who really remembers Sora.
It was their memories of him that he used to bring her back. She hasn't ever gotten a full explanation on how it all worked, but the best Yen-Sid could offer was that Xehanort—in addition to killing her—had erased the ties between her heart and everyone else. That way, their hearts wouldn't be able to call hers back from the brink when he cast her into darkness. The only reason the same hadn't been true for Sora was because of the Paopu fruit they shared before the final battle. And yet, when he came for her, Sora's one connection wasn't enough to drag her back.
So he gave her his own instead.
Sora stayed in darkness, forgotten by everyone else, so she could live.
And she hates that the most she can do about it now is bang her head against a wall, having an argument with a girl that is more or less just a more intellectual version of herself.
"You can sense him too," Kairi says finally, appealing to their shared ground. "I know you can. You have to have some idea of what we can do."
"I told you my idea."
"You told me an idea," Kairi shoots back. Her hands clench and drop to her sides as she looks at Naminé again. "Forgetting Sora is an..." she squirms her way through a grimace before grounding out the next part, "...option. Not an inevitability. You should know better than anyone what it's like to be forgotten. Sora didn't give up on you when you were in the dark!"
Naminé stares as an empty smile forms across her face. "I know what Sora did," she says quietly.
The blonde girl shrugs. "I've lived with this pain my whole life. I was born alone, lived as a puppet, and tore apart the only hearts that ever cared for me. I've made mistakes; My whole existence is bound together with regrets."
"But that's why I can deal with this: Because I'm used to it."
"Why you can…?" Kairi feels her breathing slow down as she finally realizes what her Nobody is saying. "...You think I'm not strong enough."
Locking eyes, Naminé nods. "And that's why I'm asking you again: Do you want me to close this door in your heart? To stop this hurt until I can find a way to end it? Because if we don't, and you end up doing something we'll regret, it's going to be my fault for not stopping you."
Emotions swirl in Kairi's chest like a smeared pallet. Anger mixes with hurt and confusion and fear. She knows Naminé is right to worry. She knows exactly how useless she's been in the past. But that's why she can't back down now.
"So that's all you think I have left," she says quietly, "to seal my heart or succumb to darkness..."
Naminé sighs, brushing her hair back with one hand and hugging her sketchbook to her chest with the other. From behind her ear, Kairi sees her lift a pencil. "I know it hurts. Really, I do. But I also know what we might do when we feel like we have nothing to lose. I know what we're capable of and it isn't good. Please, Kairi, you have to understand: I've been through this before."
"But that time you were alone."
The Nobody freezes, pencil in hand, as she realizes Kairi isn't actually giving up just yet. Kairi stares. She's heard enough about the girl to know she works her magic through her pictures. And while it's heartening that Naminé isn't just preemptively blocking out her memories, a chill still runs down her spine at how close she just came to losing Sora completely.
She smothers the feeling before it hits her stomach. This won't be where her part of the story ends. She'll prove she can keep going.
"Close the book," Kairi says. "I'm not sealing my memories. I'm not leaving you to do this alone again."
For once, Naminé loses her balance. Her flaxen eyebrows furrow and her mouth gapes for words. "That's… the one door still open to you," she says haltingly. "Don't you understand? That's your way out."
"I know," Kairi assures the other girl. "And I'm closing it."
As she does so, she smiles. Because she now knows even if she left, Naminé would still fight. Her Nobody hasn't actually given up yet. And if Naminé can do that much for Sora, the least Kairi can do is make sure she doesn't have to fight this battle alone.
She matches eyes with Naminé and she can feel their hearts slowly come together as they come to understanding. A tear spills down the other girl's cheeks and she smiles too, despite herself.
"It doesn't have to be this way?"
Naminé nods and wipes at her eyes with her palm.
"But I'm glad it is."
"Yeah..." it's funny to say. She's no closer to opening the door and finding Sora, and if anything Naminé has only confirmed this is the easy part of her journey.
But now, she has someone to share it with.
Reaching out, she takes the hand just like hers and closes her fingers around it.
And so ends Twelve Shots of Summer 2019! Yes, I'm just as surprised as you are that I ended with a KH streak. Apparently I needed to get some things out of my system and save the Gunslinger Girl homages for a not-a-one-shot format. Oh well, c'est la vie…
That said, I'm aware the characterization here is a little harsher than usual and I've taken some… *ahem* "creative liberties" with interpreting world mechanics for the ending. I'm sure the other characters cared on some level that Kairi was gone, but to me it felt like everyone was more or less cool with just letting the subject drop until the next convenient moment. And then, seeing as Sora somehow brings Kairi back without coming back himself (or at least staying back) I can only assume that part of bringing her back involved an equivalent exchange. Perhaps even one that would make others unaware of his sacrifice and thus able to HAVE A FRIGGIN' BEACH PARTY DESPITE THE TRAGEDY—
*Ahem*, pardon me, I seem to be experiencing video game franchise PTSD.
Anyway, suffice to say, I found the ending unsatisfying and found this as good an opportunity as any to vent both those frustrations AND my general feelings about how Kairi should be more active and less useless. Who knows? Maybe this will lead to that fabled Kairi Hearts fan fic certain individuals seem to believe I will write someday. If I did, just know that the characterization would be about as sloppy and poorly planned as it is here.
But I digress.
Thank you for reading! And although my summer vacation is over, I pray our hearts will meet again.