Don't kill me for this, please. The idea had been entertaining my thoughts for a while now, and so I wrote it. Forgive me if I was too lovey-dovey with the Kaiora pairing - it's one of my weakness, I know - or dramatic, but I thought the event called for it. And sorry for my use of an original character (if it bugs you), but he's not used that much, I find him cute, and I don't anyone can accuse a three-year-old of being sickeningly perfect. (Oh, I guess I can say that I own my OC, then, huh? xD)
Sorry about the OOC-ness in advance. They are older, after all.
Inspiration and lyric use from Yellowcard's song, "How I Go."
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts or Yellowcard's lyrics and ideas.
-- - --
I am not everything you thought that I would be.
But every story I have told is part of me…
-- - --
People thought he was fearless.
They were wrong.
He was so frightened of the darkness. It had a mind of its own, it preyed on the weak, it stole friends and loved ones away. And it was immortal, so that even if the light he wielded cut through one shivering body, yellow eyes disappearing in a smoky cloud, more leapt up from the hidden reaches of the ground, trying to get him while his guard was down and his strength was waning.
It was merciless. It was relentless. It was everlasting.
And he had too much to live for to not be afraid of it.
Closing his eyes, he smiled weakly, arms behind his head and foot swinging weakly against the planks, childhood memories swirling around in the dusk as the whispering ocean spoke in the silence. If her heart wasn't breaking his was for her, because he wanted this to be over but knew it never would be. There was no end to a legend. It lived on even after its death.
But first, death had to come. There was no retirement. There were no excuses.
Blinking, he met the horizon sadly, the colors melting and swirling in an explosion of light, another farewell spent and another day melting into twilight. It occurred to him that for yet another mission he would have to protect this very horizon and all stretching and yawning away from it, including the grains of sand and waving palm trees and comfortably-settled houses further on. All that his feet touched, all that his eyes chanced upon, was in danger once more, and he was again responsible to protect it all.
He suddenly felt so painfully lonely standing there, thoughts and fears exposed beneath the beautiful glow of the dying sun.
"I'm sorry," he whispered, turning his head and offering the small curve of his mouth to widen into a smile, hand moving to touch her shoulder. She flinched beneath his touch, hands clenched before her and head bowed submissively; a tear rolled down her cheek from beneath the veil of her crimson hair.
Features pained at her sadness, he slid his hand down her arm to touch one of her clenched ones, he leaning forward to chance a glance into her face. She looked away, sniffling softly and waving him off, and he smiled weakly, turning her reluctant form to look at him, taking her face in his hands. The wedding band glinted in the sun and he cringed once, quickly shaking it off afterwards when she slowly opened her eyes glazed over with tears.
"Isn't war supposed to end, Sora?" she whispered harshly, hands shaking at her sides as she tried to bow her head again to hide her pain from him. He wouldn't allow it, of course, and kept her gaze on his as he wiped his thumb across one of her cheeks, forcing cheer into his smile as he offered the smallest of laughs.
"Most of the time."
"I'm sick of this, you know." Her voice was sharp with accusation, but he knew from much experience that she wasn't blaming him. And he smiled weakly, waiting for her to continue. "I'm sick of not being able to fight with you. I'm…I'm sick of dreaming up these horrible enemies that even you aren't able to fight. I'm sick of…of telling myself to grasp the concept that, one day, you might not come back. I'm sick…I'm sick of preparing for that day when…when…"
He drew her to his chest and wrapped his arms desperately around her, eyes glancing over the sand hollowly as she sobbed, his own body shaking from her words. He remembered the days when he would come back from his journeys, stumbling out of the ocean and into her arms, swinging her off of the sand as he twirled her about, nearly dancing as he told her of his adventures. And Riku would be stumbling onto the sand soon after, nonchalantly shaking his head free of water and beckoning with his hand for them to follow, because they had so much to catch up on, he said, and there was only so much time for reliving the past.
He was right, as he was always right, Sora knew. And as he held Kairi to him now, fighting – always fighting – to hold back his tears so he could be strong for the girl he'd always promised to protect, he felt the past slipping away and the future speeding his way, where heartless and enemies and blood and pain awaited him with eager apprehension. And he wanted to go back to when he was fifteen, when he'd found Riku again and he wasn't evil and they'd gone back to Destiny Islands to greet Kairi with all of the hope and happiness youth could grant them. He wanted to go back to laughing under the sun and dancing about in the wind and knowing that he was home, that this was only temporary, that soon war would pass and they would defeat all of the darkness in every heart and the world would be good again so that they could grow up together in a utopia of a place.
But he was fifteen, and, though wise beyond his years, he still had barely any grasp on the world at all, a world where hope was nothing but a word and had no bearing on lives that were plagued by heartache.
Sighing, he closed his eyes as his vision misted over and just reveled in her warmth, promising himself that he would come back, because the promises he made to his heart were the only sure things anymore. Promising so many people was too hard now, because he was that more acute to the realization that he was a hair's breadth away from lying, even if he meant it, and he couldn't do that to those he cared about. So he filled his mind with images of her and filled his senses with the smell and warmth of her and pushed away, taking her face in his hands and smiling sincerely, a trait he hadn't lost thankfully, no matter that he'd been fighting for eight years straight.
"I love you," he said firmly, smile brilliant because he never had to force himself to be happy when it came to those words. "Promise," he added playfully, pressing a kiss to her lips.
"You'd better," she laughed softly, tears slipping down her cheeks as she clung to him, burying her head quickly into his shoulder as she exhaled and composed herself.
Hands trailing through her hair absentmindedly, he felt his lips tip up. "I'll never change completely, you know."
How long ago had it been, when it had just been them and the world, fourteen and hopeful and sharing their desires on a dock that looked out onto the sunset? It felt like multiple lifetimes.
How could it be not even one?
"I know," she said gently, pulling away and smiling brilliantly at him. "You'll always be Sora before you're the Keyblade Master."
He grinned, nodding his head.
"Now," she said, attempting to be stern with him as she placed one hand on her hip and pointed at him with her other; he smiled sadly at the pride and firmness reminiscent in her actions, dimmed by the tears in her eyes and strain in her shoulders. "Go tell yet another wild story of your adventures to your son while I go cry my eyes out saying goodbye to Riku." She attempted a weak smile, but suddenly such a painful look of sadness swept over her features he almost stumbled over his feet to embrace her. Another tear slipped down her cheek, and she inhaled shakily. "Naminé wants to say 'bye, too."
Wincing, finding it difficult to know that the woman who loved him was part of a woman who loved his best friend, he nodded shakily and rubbed the back of his head, grinning uneasily.
Eyes softening, she leaned on her toes and kissed him fondly, and then she was leaning back and giving him a wave before he even knew it, tripping desperately over her feet and running before he saw her break down again. Sending a hand through his hair, he clenched his jaw tight and smiled as best as he could, one tear slipping from his eyes before he slowly brushed it away. Whispering goodbye under his breath, he walked back home, where Selphie was acting as the responsible babysitter, unknowing that Sora wasn't going to be back for some time after this and that Kairi was going to be taking frequent trips with her son away from their home as many times as she could.
It was better that so little people knew, though. Fewer farewells were spent, that way.
And that way, they still expected you to come back. They didn't know obstacles were blocking the pathway home. They didn't have to envision your death with every passing moment.
"Kairi…" he whispered brokenly, footsteps behind him acting as the last reminder of his presence for some time.
She put up with so much pain.
Twisting the ring on his finger, he closed his eyes and wished not for the first time that he wasn't the hero. Instead of honor and glory, he wanted a normal life, full of ignorance and bliss and little, everyday dramas. He wanted marital fights and days just being sick and tired of the incessant whining of a three-year-old son. He wanted drinking his sorrows away at a bar and talking about bachelor life with other guys, saying those were the good 'ol days and God how he missed them.
Because as horrible as those things were, they were normal, and they were what all of his friends on Destiny Islands – save his best one, Riku – had. Those things represented life as it should've been, a life he should've had.
A life he didn't have.
Grinning ruefully, he nodded his head, pocketing his hands and trudging forward, his senses acute to every sway of palm tree and crash of wave that followed in his wake. Still, he wouldn't give up the life he had, even if normality was offered to him and someone else was made Keyblade Master. One, he wouldn't wish that heartache and horror on anyone. And two, he had everything he wanted waiting for his return.
It was a perfection no utopia could grant.
-- - --
"Oh, only a couple of hours? Is Kairi all right with that? I thought you were gonna be longer…"
He arched an eyebrow. Was she insinuating something?
Suddenly she gasped and whirled on him, jabbing her finger into his chest. "Did you guys fight?" When he didn't answer, a look of horror flashed in Selphie's green eyes. Momentarily, he felt Roxas think of Olette as that happened.
Lowering his eyes, he sighed sadly. How hard it must be, for him to let go.
"You did, didn't you?" she moaned, tone full of woe. "Oh, what did you do, Sora?"
Groaning, Sora raised his hands in a defensive action, staring at her tiredly. "Selphie, we're fine. She went to talk to Riku."
She gaped at him, apparently horrified that Kairi was talking to an (oh my God) guy that wasn't her husband. Her eyes narrowed in scrutiny as she took in his appearance, the tear stains on his face, the tiredness of his features, the melancholy in his eyes, and her expression softened, she apparently believing the worst.
But, as she was a hopeless romantic, she would probably turn Kairi's supposed adultery into a tale of unbridled passion that he just wasn't able to satiate.
He could do without the details, really. So he shoved her out the door, bidding her goodnight with munny on hand and a following slam of the door.
Dragging his hand over his face, he laughed softly, shaking his head at the irony. It really was funny, that a girl who believed in the power of the paopu fruit and that Sora and Kairi were destined soul mates could believe that the redhead could leave him out to dry so quickly for another man.
Apparently he wasn't the ideal pick of the litter, then.
Well, he did leave Kairi alone for sporadic, long periods of time.
Shaking his head, he shrugged off his jacket and ran his fingers through his hair, heading off towards his son's room. He was leaving an hour or so after midnight, when no one would be around to see the strange occurrence of a gummi ship land on their small island, and he wanted to say a long goodbye while his son was still wide awake.
Smiling, he mounted the steps, knowing that Selphie had been lying through her teeth when she said he was sleeping quite peacefully. This was his son, they were talking about. And Sora had been known for rebellion and recklessness when he was younger.
Feet scuffing against the carpet on the second floor, he walked to the second door on the left, stopping before it and knocking. As he listened, the creak of the bed and faint whisper of bed sheets being tugged close sounded, and he laughed softly, edging the wood before him open so that light spilled into the darkness of the room.
"Laex, buddy. What are you still doing up?"
Sora received no answer, but the form twisted surreptitiously under his cover of blankets.
As he crossed the room, smiling fondly, he recalled Kairi's look of horror when he'd proposed the name Axel. It had been decided that Olette would be the girl's name, considering she had been such a nice friend of Kairi's and Roxas had always favored her most out of the trio of Twilight Town, and they'd rather expected a girl, too. But when their son was born, and they were at a loss, Roxas insisted that he be named Axel, since the redhead had been his best friend and had always protected him.
Sora hadn't many qualms about that – the Nobody had been a good guy, overall – but Kairi had appeared scandalized. Apparently she hadn't gotten over him kidnapping her.
Sighing, Sora had collapsed into his chair, going over the boys names she had rejected. Riku, because there would only ever be one Riku. Hayner, because he was nice but she didn't want her son to grow up to be a short-tempered rebel. Pence, because, well, frankly, it didn't fit. And Leon. And Cloud. And on and on and on until he was at a loss for what to name their boy, and Roxas was still impatient with him and Kairi was growing desperate.
And that was when Sora, who had been rearranging the letters in Axel's name the whole while, had decided that Laex sounded the most interesting, and so proposed it. It was strange, foreign-sounding, and meant nothing at all, but it was reminiscent enough of Axel that Roxas was satisfied and was not Axel so Kairi was satisfied.
Plus, she always had been one for originality.
Hand falling on Laex's shoulder as he crouched down at his bedside, he grinned playfully when the boy peeked out, fingers grasping the covers sheepishly and deep blue eyes searching for any signs of anger. When he found none he giggled and sat up, reaching over and wrapping his arms around his father, Sora swinging the boy in the air as he stood and then holding him close as he sat on the bed, ruffling the spiky locks of auburn hair on his head.
"Guess what?" he said, grinning as the boy giggled rebelliously and looked around, realizing quickly that he really should be in bed.
Eyes snapping back curiously, a look of innocence dawned on his features. "What?"
"I'm going on another trip," he replied, fighting his hardest to maintain the grin on his face.
Immediately his son understood. "Going to fight more monsters?" he asked in excitement, ever thrilled at the concept that his father was some kind of supposed superhero who could vanquish every enemy for the cause of good.
Oh, how he wished he could live up to his sons fascinations.
With a nod and a smile Sora further settled on the bed, ruffling his hair once more in absent content, eyes falling on the clutter of the room. Gifts from Hollow Bastion he'd brought back, trinkets and charms he'd received as gifts for his help in other worlds, copied pictures from Jiminy's journal. Kairi had scattered them about everywhere, maintaining Sora's spirit by allowing the disorganization to remain and probably hoping that spirit would be picked up in Laex's nature.
He smiled as he realized that Kairi had succeeded.
"So. How about a story?" he asked, bouncing the boy on his knee as he looked down to see a wide grin spread across his face. When he smiled like that, so innocent and full of love, he thought he resembled his mother most.
Kairi begged to differ, complaining that he was too much like his father for his own good, but that was just Kairi, modest and bossy at the same time.
Wrinkling his nose in good humor, he grinned. "How about the time I first met your mom? You know, I was about ten, really, really young. When I saw her, I froze in the moment and she changed it all---"
"One about you fighting those monsters!" he chirped, hands moving to clasp the material of his pajama pants as he waited eagerly for Sora to start.
Eyes softening, he sighed, smile playing still on his lips as he rested his hand on the boy's head. He winced, one eye closing, and then smiled, no doubt unknowing as to why his father was being so affectionate but appreciating it all the same. Laex just didn't get how much of a hero his father wasn't, nor did he know that superheroes were nothing but exaggerated myths. He just had blind faith that good would conquer evil and the wrong would be righted so easily. He believed in a way Sora couldn't, and he envied him that slightly, wanting to believe in the general good again and that light, an infinite source of goodness that couldn't perish, could heal all wounds and destroy all pain.
But the world was not so simple.
And he was not some immortal savior gifted with flight and capes who had to conceal his identity to protect those he cared for. No, he was a mortal with a key, with the power to flip in the air and slice through shadows that hungered for his heart and others', and all whom he loved were in constant danger because, as he was Keyblade Master, his name was known throughout the worlds and most details of his life were common knowledge.
Pulling Laex's head to rest on his chest, he closed his eyes, wondering if the boy was aware of how fast his heart was beating. He was so afraid. So, so afraid.
"How about when I was fifteen, and that army of heartless invaded Hollow Bastion?"
"Yeah!" he cheered eagerly. "And Leon and Cloud and Donald and Goofy and King Mickey were there, and Yuffie and Aerith and---"
Laughing, he nodded. "Yeah. All of them were there. And I had promised Leon that I would help, no matter if Kairi – your mom – had just been kidnapped and Riku – your godfather – was still missing, so I ran down the hillside and ran into the king…"
Laex sat, completely enraptured, and Sora wondered if this was the appropriate goodbye, he filling his son's head with tales of his youth instead of telling him how much he loved and how much he'd miss him, which he meant more than any retelling past battles or victories. But he decided that if this was the scene he left, with his son falling asleep in his arms with a look of happiness still alight on his features, he could live with it, ingraining it in his mind so that it would be with him throughout his journeys.
The knock on the door an hour or so later had him glancing up to see Kairi looking in, Riku at her side. His silver-haired friend remained outside as Kairi walked in, smoothing the hair on her son's head as she sadly wiped free the tears on Sora's cheeks, whispering that it was all right, Laex knows he loves him, and he's very proud of his father.
Bowing his head, hugging the boy desperately, he felt Kairi shake his shoulder and he nodded, breath shuddering past his lips as he stood, spun gently with the three-year-old comfortably in his embrace, and then placed him back into his bed, drawing the covers up to chin. As he straightened, Kairi took his hand gently, silently conveying all that she felt to his heart connected with hers. And then he was kissing her on the forehead, eyes closed as she bowed her head and fell against his chest, saying she'd miss him and she would kill him if he didn't come back. He smiled ruefully and promised that he'd do his best.
She choked on her tears and said that wasn't merely enough.
Smoothing his hand over her hair one last time, he left her standing at their son's bedside, waving brokenly and fighting to smile so that he could remember what it looked like. And then, inhaling sharply, he turned about and ran from the room, flying past Riku until he was down the staircase and out the door, hands on his knees as he fought to catch his breath and reign in his tears.
"They won't forget," Riku murmured as he stepped beside him, finally caught up. He leaned against the doorframe, tilting his head toward the dark velvet of the night sky, eyes pensive as always, silver bangs sliding out of his vision. Sora noted that he still towered over his medium build, even after eight years.
"I can't help but fear that they will."
"Yeah, I know," Riku murmured, taking a sweeping glance of the moonlit horizon resting far from where they both stood. "We both have irrational fears now, huh?"
"It's not irrational."
He scoffed. "Fear is never rational."
Straightening, he opened his mouth to argue but found himself agreeing as the words tripped forward. And then he sighed, burying his hands in his pockets as he eased his strained features into a lighthearted smile, one still only a memory of his childhood one. Such was to be expected, however.
"Besides, you live on through your son, Sora. Even if you…" He grunted and Sora glanced at him, smiling weakly that his normally straight-forward friend couldn't speak plainly of his death.
"Die…" Sora supplied gently.
"Yeah. That," he grumbled, crossing his arms over his chest. "Even if that happens, Kairi will always have him. All of your adventures, all of your spirit, everything about you rests in that boy. So you really will never change."
Closing his eyes, Sora smiled brilliantly. "You're a good friend, you know, Riku? I couldn't do this without you."
He smiled back hesitantly. "I'm the darkness to your light."
"Nah. You're not all dark, and I'm not all light."
"Yeah," he scoffed, pushing off of the doorframe. "Just keep telling yourself that."
Laughing softly, Sora cast his glance through the house he and Kairi had made together, again bringing the memories into his heart so it would all be with him at every moment. And then, closing the door, he jogged after Riku, prepared to reunite with Donald and Goofy and write another adventure to make his son proud of him.
After all, it was nice to be a true, immortal superhero every so often…even if it was a lie in the long run.
-- - --
I leave you now, but you have so much more to do.
And every story I have told is part of you."
-- - --
"I froze in the moment and she changed it all." Besides the beginning and end chunks - you know, the "Son..." stuff - that line was taken from the Yellowcard song I mentioned above, "How I Go." And it's a phenomenal song, I think; I'm so addicted. It's so innocent and child-like (not childish) and beautiful, and so unlike Yellowcard's other songs. I love it. Seriously.
Ahaha, anyway. Please review.