…and it's quiet. The waves no longer count as noise because they're part of this world and its people. It would be deafening without them. Everything else is quiet. Riku can't even hear Sora or Kairi breathing.

The sky is so blue he feels like he might as well be underwater, but then a curious little wave comes to lick at his foot, reminding him where and who he is.

He can't really say he misses the darkness.

He reaches over and takes Sora's hand into his own. He hears Sora chuckle and then shift. Kairi's hand is added to their chain.

"This is never going to get old," Sora grins. Kairi's sharp little laugh breaks out and a gull cries and…even when it's noisy it's the best thing ever. Riku looks back in time at himself, the one who was discontent with…with this and curses him a fool.

The world settles back into comfort and silence and the sun goes down in a spray of pink and gold wonder. All those days spent in Twilight Town and he'd never enjoyed it this much. He squeezes Sora's hand, and Sora squeezes back.

Eventually Kairi gets up because,

"Unlike you two slackers, I have school in the morning," she smiles and gives them the look that means she's not really going to mind too much if they stay out here together all night, as long as they tell her if they do finally end up kissing…He doesn't know how to explain that properly without it sounding three different kinds of wrong. There'd been too much jealously in the past, they all know that they just had to accept now.

She leans down and kisses them both on the forehead. Long minutes later, they hear the splashing of her boat and oar.

Quiet. The darkness saps the sands of their warmth and he shivers once. He gives Sora's hand another squeeze, thinking to suggest they go inside or home, or wherever they're going. Sora squeezes back.

Hard.

And harder until Riku sits up and looks at Sora's face and it really isn't Sora at all. It's Roxas and his hair is so much lighter, yet his eyes are so much paler and this really only happens when Sora (Roxas) is sleeping. (You won't disappear)

"Roxas." He says because Roxas is Sora just as much as Sora is Roxas and he doesn't really know why that matters. (He does, it does, so much)

It startles Roxas to be called by that name and he turns to gaze at him. His face his drawn tight and his lips are pursed and his eyes are wet.

"I…"

"Roxas." Riku doesn't know why he says it this time because he's already done so and it is his name but maybe he would like it better if he called him Sora. (Seven different kinds of wrong but…)

"Didn't mean to come out."

"When he sleeps." Riku knows because he's there at night. Sometimes Kairi is there too but they sleep like the dead, both of them do. "It happens" He shrugs, because he doesn't see the problem, but Roxas really obviously does. Roxas is trying to close off his face so there isn't any of the distress showing and it isn't working because this isn't his face. Riku thinks his head is going to cave in because Roxas is Sora and Sora is Roxas…except in all the ways he isn't, they aren't.

"I used to be…different." Roxas murmurs. It's quiet and then there's the sound of the cannon fired at midnight. Shattering the night. Riku images a tinkling (The castle that never was…stairs appear…) sound.

"Things change."

Roxas looks hurt and maybe a little insulted by the comment. "I used to be my own person. This is so uncomfortable and wrong and…" Roxas lets out a breathless little gasp and stops talking. "Your identity is a hard thing to give up," he says at length.

Riku smiles. "Sora doesn't expect you to stop being yourself."

"He's kind of an idiot."

The words startle a laugh out of him. "Yeah, he kind of is, but…"

He's interrupted abruptly. "I miss Axel." Roxas turns his head and stares right at him.

Riku feels weird and then stupid because it couldn't have been more obvious. "You loved him."

"No…heart. Is this one mine?"

"Are you being obtuse?"

"Do I have emotions now?" Roxas wonders, tears start to drip down his face. "That's…that's fantastic. I…how many of them are mine? Am I allowed to be? Y-y'know, DiZ told me Nobodies don't have the right to even be, am I still a Nobody?"

"You're—" He really had almost said Sora. But that's, oh God, he doesn't know what that is.

"I thought it was going to be okay. Sora's naïveté must be…I thought we would, I don't know, assimilate. But I feel more out of sorts than before and,"

"And?" he prompts softly when Roxas trails off.

"I…" Roxas chokes on his tears. "I miss Axel."

There's one second where they both hold still and the entire world narrows in scope. The entire world is suddenly just Roxas crying and some bugs chirruping. Then Riku opens his arms and Roxas dives in. (Sora is Roxas and Roxas is Sora)

His shirt collar feels wet already, but he holds Roxas tighter. He'd done this he'd…(his fault) but Sora and they were the same but they were so different and this hurts and this is confusing and Roxas is crying (sobbing) on him because he isn't a person anymore and never was a person and doesn't know if he can even remember being a person. All Roxas has are two big empty holes where lives used to be.

"I was supposed to be whole!" Roxas protests in anguish. "He's me! Why doesn't it feel like I belong in this body?" His (the) body is shaking with the force of his misery. It's cording and thrumming with energy, tighter and tighter, waiting to be released or swallowed or ignored or something. (Do something with it!)

Riku kisses his forehead, soft and dry.

"Roxas." Riku loves him. He loves Sora and Sora is Roxas and he can't keep forcing himself to actually believe in that flawed piece of logic. If Roxas really is Sora he should love him, just like Sora does. Riku feels a short-lived flash of envy. (Jealousy, anger, rage—feelings he'd sworn off)

"Naminé is almost gone," Roxas mumbles around his snuffles. "She's almost entirely Kairi…why isn't it…"

"You're stronger, Roxas." Riku has to keep saying the name. He has to make sure it's clear. (As crystal…shatter, pieces, disjointed, too much so.)

The body in his arms gives a humorless laugh. "I'm stronger. Wonderful. Never wished I was weak before."

"What would…"

"Please don't say help."

Strong people don't need help, except for when they do but Roxas has never been the strongest he's just been detached and that's so hard when he's inside a brain like Sora's where everything is open and free and Sora has actually asked Roxas how he's doing before. (He's not supposed to be separate why don't they understand?)

"What hurts you hurts him, he's like that and you know it." Riku sighs and strokes Roxas' hair even though it stays in rigid little spikes and actually sort of pricks the pad of his hand.

"I miss Axel," Roxas says again.

"I don't know if I can get him back for you."

"Where would we keep his soul, anyway?" Roxas mumbles and he's stopped crying somewhere along the way.

"With Ansem gone I'm an open—"

"Please don't say receptacle."

He was going to say that. Sora can read his mind like that and Roxas is Sora…

"I would do it for him."

"You mean us?"

"I mean you."

Then the implication has nothing to do but hang in the quiet air.

(…creatures without hearts. They are leftovers…existing as merely the body and soul of people who lose their hearts to Darkness…)


Disclaimer: Game Rights to Square Enix