Phantom Touch

Note: This is the last installment of this universe, and I'm pretty happy with how this finally came out. It took a while to take shape like I wanted, but I'm glad it finally came out and was finished. I want to thank everyone who's still reading this, and for being patient as my life took a thousand turns since this story was started (two years ago!). My life is in a completely different place than it was when this story was started, and the outcome reflects that. Regardless, I hope to see those who float through fandoms in my future stories. Please enjoy this final chapter!

Epilogue: Redemption

"I leapt across three or four beds into your arms, where I had hidden myself somewhere in your charm. Our golden handshake has been smashed into this shape, it's taking magic to a primitive new place." –The New Pornographers, "The Bleeding Heart Show"

It was unseasonly cold in Destati the day of the funeral, and between the nature of the man being buried and the icy rain pounding the dirty pavement, there were very few mourners in attendance. Sora had, at the last moment, changed his mind and decided to come to the funeral with a grim frown firmly planted on his mouth. Riku had offered to go with him, but Sora had immediately refused the favor and left Riku at their apartment with assurances that he would absolutely be fine.

Roxas had been the first to arrive at the cemetary where his father was being buried, long before even the body arrived to its final resting place. He stood by the open hole, black umbrella keeping the rain at bay, and stared into it, as though it held the answers he had been searching for. When Sora trudged up the slick hill, he paused for a moment before interrupting the quiet bubble Roxas seemed to have closed himself within.

"It's hard to believe he's really gone." The words weren't sentimental, but held a hint of the sour taste stuck in Sora's mouth.

Roxas smiled bitterly. "Bastard just didn't know when to give up and go," He offered his umbrella to his twin, who stepped underneath and sloshed mud at the hole.

"I just… didn't think it was possible." Sora looked ashamed at this confession. "It always felt like he was a dark shadow that couldn't go away, no matter how far we got away from him. I didn't want to see him again because of that… Like he could get hold of you and I again if we went back."

"But we did, and he's gone. This is…" Roxas trailed off, reliving the months since his reunion with their father. "This is how we heal, I guess."

Sora was quiet for a long time, comfortable in leaving Roxas in silence, before he sighed. "Are you healing? I mean… You've been trying really hard to pretend like you weren't hurt when Axel finally left."

Roxas wanted to tell Sora that it wasn't the right time or place to talk about that particular aspect of his personal life, but he wasn't sure there would ever be a right time and place as far as he was concerned. "I suppose."

Sora's frown deepened. "That doesn't sound promising."

The blond handed off the umbrella to his brunet counterpart and stepped out into the rain, looking for any others arriving. Axel had come to visit Destati exactly twice since their last real interaction, and in those visits they had only seen one another in brief passing. "It takes time… just to put myself back together; figure myself out. So much of my life was rooted in the feelings I had for him, in being hurt, that it's hard to sort out who I am underneath all that."

Sora gave him a reassuring smile. "That's evasive…" He held the umbrella back over his brother. "I suppose it might be safe to say that you still have feelings for him?"

He was answered with a frown. "It's not the same as it was before, Sora. He's different, I'm different… So I don't… but I do. New ones," He paused, catching sight of a small group of people trudging up the hill. "Ones I can get over."

The twins stepped away from the grave and waited for the arriving coffin. Sora reached over and took his brother's hand. "Just like we'll get over this."

The ceremony was unremarkable, with few tears and fewer kind remarks. There wasn't much anyone could or would say about the dead man, and everyone but the twins and the man to bury their father left immediately. The slow progress of burying the coffin was steadily observed by Roxas, while Sora shook in rage and witheld tears. After the work was done, the man bowed slightly and left with his shovel, and Sora released his rage.

"It's over…" The tears that fell hot from his eyes contrasted with the cold rain on their faces as he screamed at the mound of dirt. His words had started quiet, but now rang across the hill, ignoring the rain's attempt to muffle his pain. He picked up a stone and flung it at the dirt and Roxas gently touched Sora's shoulder, who was still shaking. "That son-of-a-bitch…"

The umbrella lay forgotten on the ground when the brothers embraced, holding onto one another tightly.

"He's gone, Sora." Roxas reminded him.

"He didn't pay enough for what he did… Our lives… We could have been so different. We could have been happy all those years." Sora was calming down; the panic in his voice had faded with only a slight indication that he might be hoarse the following morning.

"And we will be happy." He picked up the umbrella and led the brunet down the hill, away from the hated grave. "We'll come back in a year, and in five years, and we'll see how far we've come from where we were… We'll show him that he couldn't keep us from that."

Slow progress through the rain helped Roxas deliver a much calmer Sora to Riku at their apartment before he headed home. Riku had offered to let him stay until the rain let up, but Roxas had declined with a smile and a parting wave. The truth was that he wanted Riku to take care of Sora's anxiety, because it was the only way to make sure Sora knew that there were people other than his brother who would ensure his happiness.

For a long moment, he considered visiting Demyx over going home, but ultimately decided that he would be imposing on such a dreary day. He headed home alone, steeling himself for a long day of lonely silence, and more weeks of "healing".

He had started up his stairs with a dejected air, pausing halfway up to look out at the cold rain on the concrete streets. This, he decided, was the start of something new. He'd done everything he had wanted with the problems that had plagued him for so long, and it was time to move past the obstacles which had stalled him in the same place for years.

"Time to move on…" He murmured to himself before heading up the rest of his stairs.

What was waiting outside his apartment door was not what he had been expecting, least of all on a miserable day on which he was burying his past.

Axel didn't smile nervously, as he had thought he might. He didn't beg forgiveness, or throw himself at the feet of his former lover. Instead, he shifted away from the wall he had been leaning against. "Demyx said your dad was being buried today."

Roxas struggled for a moment between screaming as Sora had and crying like he never did before nodding. "Yeah, I just came from Sora's apartment," He paused a moment, staring at the key that now sat cold and wet in his hand. "Riku's taking care of him today."

"What about you?" The question fell from Axel's lips before he had the chance to stop them.

An awkward silence threatened to settle over the pair before Roxas stepped forward, toward Axel and the door. "No. I was planning on… well, staying in today."

Green and blue eyes both stared at the ground.

"Well, I… wanted to make sure you were okay."

Roxas looked up, trying to determine why Axel looked so awkward and uncomfortable. It was, after all, he who had come to see him and not the other way around. "I appreciate that."

Axel looked up, meeting his eyes and staring at him for a long moment. "I didn't lie."

Roxas felt his stomach twist, wishing Axel hadn't chosen this particular day and moment to do this to him. "I know. But you're still here." He took another step toward the door, and Axel hesitated before stepping away from the door—toward Roxas.

"I didn't want you to be alone today." Was all he managed, but Roxas understood. Axel hadn't really loved him when they had lived together, but he did love the person he was.

He looked away. "You know it's not that easy, Axel."

"I know…" The pause didn't last long before Axel stepped forward again, leaving no more than a foot between the two. "One step at a time, until it is that easy again."

Roxas was weary of fighting, of being alone with his struggles, and he wondered if that wasn't why he opened the door to his apartment, but later dismissed the notion. "I'm not sure I want to be alone today."

Axel stepped through the doorway. "You don't have to be." Was what he said, but he meant to tell Roxas that he wouldn't have to be so lonely again.

He didn't have to: Roxas understood.