For lunamaria's challenge. Afternoon Repose, by Maaya Sakamoto.

This is a really lovely song, first off. I listened to it nonstop as I wrote this Kaiora fic. (And, might I say, I am so thrilled that I finally wrote another Kaiora; I've been craving to write one for, well, ever) And second off, this might get confusing, so let me explain: it starts off with Kairi's present POV, switches back to flashbacks, reverts to the present, and keeps going along that cycle to end with Kairi's present POV. Umm, we clear? (haha, I hope so)

Anyway, I hope you like this, because I enjoyed writing it. Kaiora is love, for sure.

Disclaimer: I own neither Kingdom Hearts nor the lyrics or ideas of Maaya Sakamoto.

-- - --

The curtains rustled gently, distracting her efforts towards sleep.

Closing her eyes once, a sigh whispering past her lips as she curled closer under the covers, Kairi ran her fingertips gently along the material of her comforter, summer breathing in through her open window as she rested in the silence. The lull of the morning embraced her, and though she was alert she felt too calm to swing her legs over the bed, instead rather wanting to lay in the peace forever, eyes closed and ears listening to the whisper of his voice on the wind.

Blinking, listening to the curtains rustle again in the silence as she glanced about the room bathed in light, she smiled again, nudging her cheek gently against the pillow.

"Wake up to the morning sun, here comes another day," she sang softly, smile tilting her lips upwards. Memories flooded through her mind, making her heart stutter as she fixed the wall with an unwavering stare, red hair spilled about her head as she remained lying down, legs shifting once, one hand tucked underneath her chin as her eyes burned from sleep. "Yeah, Sora," she whispered, her gentle voice hitching. "I'm up."

Elbow crooking, eyes blinking slowly, she slid her hands over the mattress until her fingers curled over the edge, her arms pushing her body upwards so that she was sitting weakly; head bowed and red hair pooling over her shoulders, she stared at the floor, fingers twitching, as she lost herself for several moments, mind retreating elsewhere as the wind swirled around the almost-vacant room and his presence flickered like the shadows that were presently being cast against the walls.

She could almost feel him.

Legs curling closer now, Kairi sighed and shrugged her body out from under the blankets, slipping her feet onto the floor, twisting her hands so that they rested fully on the mattress. Her body straightened as she sat and stared off into nothing, indigo eyes trailing along the white walls. And she sighed again, bringing a hand to hold her forehead tiredly.

"I'm up."

-- - --

"Wake up to the morning sun, here comes another day," he murmured into her ear, shaking her shoulder gently as he laughed, lips brushing against her skin.

Groaning softly, curling away from his voice, she waved her hand in discontent, finally meeting his face with her fingertips. At his chuckle, she moaned again but smiled despite herself, turning over to bury her face in her pillow.

"C'mon, Kairi! The one day I'm not a lazy bum, and you sleep in."

"So go back to sleep," she mumbled softly, sighing into the gentle texture of her pillow. The day was so peaceful. Something in their little cottage was particularly calming that morning, and she didn't want to let it go.

Sighing affectionately, Sora leaned down and pressed his lips against her cheek, fingers moving to prod her sides gently. Jerking, Kairi flipped onto her back, glaring at him when he tilted his head and met her gaze with an innocent quirk of his lips, hands still resting in their previous position.

"Sora…" she warned, eyes narrowing. "Don't do it."

He tilted his head further, smile widening into a grin as he leaned down just slightly, palms moving to rest against her stomach. Kairi blushed in a pleased fashion at his attention, but she made sure to keep the stern look on her features, hardened eyes meeting his soft, laughing ones. "Do what?" he murmured, brushing his nose against hers playfully as he leaned down further, fingertips tapping against her ribs. "This…?"

Suddenly she jumped, shrieking as he began to tickle her, her legs flailing as she pushed at his chest. Laughter bubbling past her lips, she shook her head from left to right, the corners of her eyes tearing from mirth as he didn't let up, his chuckles mingling with her own. "Okay! Okay!" she cried, gasping desperately, hands gripping his bare shoulders in an attempt to keep him away.

Attack instantly halted, Sora beamed, brushing his lips against hers as he brought his arm under his neck, his fingertips brushing against her shoulder when she blinked her eyes open. Sighing, rolling her dark orbs in affectionate annoyance, she pushed upwards and met his lips when he only continued to stare at her, no doubt startling him from the way he stiffened.

"I'm up," she giggled, placing a quick peck to the side of his mouth as she pushed him away and jumped out of bed, twirling playfully in her nightgown as he stared after her, dazed smile on his lips and hand rubbing at the back of his head.

She walked to the door and hung on the frame, leaning forward as his eyes followed her every movement, the unkempt bed-sheets swirling around him in a sea of soft white. Winking once when his blue gaze caught hers, she turned around and skipped out of the room, hurrying towards as the stairs just knowing that he would be close behind.

-- - --

Hands trailing down the railing, Kairi smiled, the sunlight pooling at her feet as the tail of her white nightgown slipped up and down with every step she took. The stairs creaked from her weight, adding familiarity to the comfortable atmosphere, and she closed her eyes momentarily, letting the quiet lead her to the lower floor.

It was peaceful, in their cottage.

All too soon the sound left her, though, as her feet brushed against the floorboards, and then she was standing in an open room which split into the dining room on her left and family room on the right.

Distracted, Kairi remained in that same spot, staring out the window that was a little way's left from the door. Undulating in the breeze, an expanse of green grass rippled under the sun, reaching towards the open horizon to brush against the sky. She always loved meeting that sight, awed by the beauty every single time. It was one of the many things she adored about the cottage Sora had stumbled across. Not only was it secluded from everyone, nestled into the hills far away from busy island life, but it was stunning, settled in the middle of nowhere at the fringes of the forest's mouth.

Taking a few steps, she carried herself to the window, palms resting against the sill as she gazed outside, forehead pressing against the glass. Many a time she had stood there, losing herself in the scenery, awed by the magnificence found in such simplicity.

It took her breath away, even now, when so many years had passed. She'd been eighteen when she'd first been brought to this little sanctuary of theirs; now she was twenty-four.

The soft lullaby of twinkling wind chimes caught her attention as her gaze remained fixated outside, her head turning at the sound. Footsteps shifting across the floor, the soft dust tickling the bares of her heels, she clasped her hands behind her back and stepped forward, walking the several feet needed to bring her before the door. Leaning forward, smiling brushing against her pale, pink lips, she fingered the handle and stepped back as she pulled the door open with her movements, stepping around the wood to push against the screen afterwards.

A cool breeze met her skin as she walked onto the porch, the wind chimes jingling again, creating music that sifted across the open fields, sweeping outwards in every direction. Watching the handmade trinket sound, mesmerized momentarily, she dropped her gaze to the railing of the porch and caught the garden resting at the side of the house, her heart skipping slightly as her breath caught in her throat.

So, the wind chimes were calling her back there, then.

Brushing strands of hair out of her eyes, she bowed her head in acceptance, walking down the steps into the grass.

-- - --

"What's this?"

He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly as she stepped around the tilled earth, spring breeze toying with her hair as she lifted her gaze back to his in question. Shifting his feet, Sora leaned against the rake in his possession, smudges of dirt on his cheeks and clinging to his dark pants. She prided herself for not giggling at his adorable appearance, instead stopping her journey to lean back, hands clasped calmly behind her back.

"A…a garden," he mumbled with a smile, scratching at his cheek and subsequently spreading more dirt over the skin. Unable to help herself, she covered her mouth, soft giggle sounding against her hand. "For you," he continued, digging his toe into the grass in an embarrassed fashion as his face colored, his eyes cast downward. "You wanted to grow vegetables, right?"

Blinking in surprise, she stared at him clasped hands falling to her sides as she took it in, stare switching from his face to the rake in his possession to the carefully tended earth he'd worked on all day. Biting her lip foolishly, tearing up, she picked her way around the dirt, teardrops slipping down to her chin by the time she stood before him, brilliant smile on her features.

"Silly," she laughed through her tears, falling against him as she flung her arms about his waist, pressing her face against his chest. He started in surprise, waving his arms and thus dropping the rake, but then he hugged her back ferociously back, pressing his lips against her hair.

"So I'm not in trouble anymore?" he asked timidly, referring to the fight they'd had last night. It had been their worst one, and she'd fled to her sister's apartment, the one she shared with her boyfriend, Riku. The night had been painful, with Kairi sleeping on a bed empty of Sora's form.

She found she never wanted to spend another night like that, so after thanking Naminé she drove back, only to find that Sora wasn't anywhere in the house. Puzzled, she'd walked out onto the porch again, watching the chimes jingle merrily in the breeze, and then her eyes had trailed towards the house's side, where she caught Sora's shock of brown hair waving in the breeze.

And now she was holding him again, never wanting to let him go.

"Yeah," she whispered, pulling back and smiling gently.

Beaming, Sora pressed his lips against her cheek, laughing immediately afterwards as he gripped her wrist and pulled her after him. Walking halfway down the garden, he kneeled onto the grass, pulling her with him as he bowed his head and touched the grass with his hand, patting about until his fingertips landed on a packet of some kind. Pulling it into view for her to get a good look at, Kairi noticed that they were full of flower seeds, and ones that were her favorite kind.

"So you can make this garden your own," he murmured as he shouldered her playfully, pouring the seeds into his gloved palm delicately.

"Sora…"

He lifted one seed to his lips carefully, and then he turned his gaze to her, smiling as he extended the tiny thing. "Here," he murmured, and she gave him a quizzical look, not exactly understanding. "We'll kiss the seeds to grow and bloom," he offered, smiling. "So that even if the weather's bad, our love will be enough."

Blushing, she nodded her head and took his hand, brushing her lips first against the seed and then against his fingertips. Glancing up through her lidded gaze, she caught him looking upon her with the utmost affection, and she grinned as she pulled back, leaning down to prod the earth with her fingertips and make a small hole to hold the seed.

His hand came to rest upon hers once she'd patted the dirt safely over it, Sora leaning down to rest his head against hers as he laughed and murmured that this was going to take forever at the rate they were going.

But she found that she honestly didn't care, because even the smallest moments she spent with him were moments she would treasure forever.

-- - --

Feet brushing against the edges of the garden, she smiled brokenly, leaning forward as she nosed the brilliant buds with closed eyes. Her shaky inhalation of breath stirred a few tears from her eyes, so that she was watering the flower with her sadness before she straightened and moved on, slipping her fingertips under her eyes so she could wipe the teardrops away.

It had been a trial, but, even through the yearning, she'd learned to temper her sorrow. She'd never thought she would truly achieve such a feat, though. She'd loved him with all of her heart, in a way that completed her; their hearts had been intertwined, and she had never laughed so purely as she had when she was in his presence. His voice filled her when he whispered pointless things into her ear, his touch teased her heart when he would hold her in his arms on the porch, and his warmth embraced her when he loved her in the bed they shared. She would never forget something so true as what they had had; it was just something calm and strong, and she couldn't explain it fully.

It just was, beautiful and warm like a summer afternoon's breeze, and her heart ached for it still, no matter how much she had calmed her hysterics.

Fingering another flower's petals, Kairi lowered her eyes, the smile that she'd woken up with lost now. She'd dreamt of him last night, seeing him glancing up to smile at her, his arms casually moving behind his head as he said her name in that tone that always made her forget any anger she was supposed to be feeling; carefree and innocent as always, Sora had been standing there, waiting for her past the lines of reality.

Choking now, she laughed against her tears and bowed her head, trembling fingers cradling a rose of the rosebush they had bought and had planted a year after Sora had made their garden. He loved her now, even in death; it made her so happy, even when the thought of him not existing anymore tore her heart to shreds.

She just wished she could rescue him from that darkness, like he rescued her every morning. If only she could call out his name and bring him back to her arms, to hug him with all of her strength and rest her head against his shoulder, then it would be enough.

But life didn't play out that way, and she was without him every time she opened her eyes to a new day. And oh, did she miss him, her heart breaking every single time.

Because they were going to spend eternity together, and now he was gone.

-- - --

"Kairi?"

"Mm?"

Sora leaned back on the porch's bench, intertwining his hands behind his head as he tilted his head back, gaze focused on the ceiling. She lifted her head, cheek resting against his shoulder, and smiled against shirt, nuzzling against his arm affectionately as she squeezed his hand.

Looking down, Sora smiled back, lowering one hand to play with her bangs, the other falling around her shoulders. "You like it here, right?"

Smiling, she closed her eyes, nodding gently. "It's perfect."

Grinning, he trailing his fingers to tilt her chin upwards, resting his forehead against hers. As his breath tickled her skin, and the night breeze swept over their forms, she drew her legs up onto the bench and encircled his waist with her arm, squeezing his body tenderly as she giggled in joy.

"Good," he murmured, moving to kiss her nose softly, Kairi's lids fluttering to a close at the action. He moved to kiss the corners of her eyes, too, lips warm as the evening wind cooled her body. Heart stuttering within her chest, she pressed her hand flat against his back, enjoying the feel of his skin nuzzling hers as he moved to capture her lips gently, his mouth caressing hers as she arched her back only slightly, his hand tilting her chin farther back.

"Will you…" he breathed, words spoken against her lips when they broke away; her eyes remained closed, but she smiled all the same, pressing her face close to his again. "Will you…be with me here forever, then?"

Stilling, breath catching, she heard the wind chimes sing in the silence as she slowly allowed her eyes to open, gaze capturing melted blue as Sora stared back at her. Biting her lip, realization slowly blooming within her stomach in a burst of butterflies, she felt the corners of her mouth twitching, and then tears were burning a path down her cheeks as a smile broke out onto her face.

"You lazy bum…are you proposing to me?"

He hesitated, face flaring in the lamplight, and then he nodded gently. "Yeah, Kairi. I…I'd like you to marry me."

"Well, Sora," she murmured, pressing herself gently against his chest as she kneeled and moved her left arm to wrap around his neck. "I'd like me to marry you, too."

He smiled brilliantly, laughing as he cupped her cheek in his hand, and then he captured her lips once more, their hands soon finding a way to intertwine.

-- - --

Touching the marker with a sad touch, she knelt down slowly, knees melding into the grassing ground as she leaned over, forehead brushing against the gray stone as her fingertips embraced the name distractedly. Tears slipping down her cheeks, she sighed, her left hand holding a rose that she'd picked on her way to where his grave sat, just a few feet from the garden's end.

"I'll wake up to the morning sun – here comes another day – and somehow know everything will be okay," she sang in a whispered tone, pressing the rose down against the marker, her fingers stroking the grave that locked him away from her.

"Sora…"

Leaning back onto her heels, she lifted her fingers to her lips and then pressed them against his name, bitter smile tilting the corners of her mouth upwards. Her shoulders were trembling, and she was hurting so much; she missed her love, the boy whom she had met at age ten, whom she'd fallen in love with at fifteen, whom she'd moved in with at eighteen, and whom she'd married at twenty. She missed the love of her life, who'd made her existence so much better, and she wished he'd never grown so sick. She wished he'd never died, because then she would be waking up in his arms instead of his memory, and she'd be tending the garden with him, not several feet away from him.

"I wish you were here…" she said with a watery smile, wiping her eyes bravely as she bowed her head, laughing at herself. God, she really wanted Sora back, more than anything in the world.

Four years of being his wife just hadn't been enough.

Sniffling, she turned her head, gaze falling back onto the garden, and she smiled reluctantly, shoulders falling. "See that, Sora? It's our garden. And it's still blooming, you know. I tend to it every day." A tear slipping from her eyes, she felt her breath catch. "As long as it's living, you are, too," she whined, tears falling at an increasing rate as they fell onto her hands. "I promise you, I won't ever let our love die, Sora. Never."

-- - --

"Sora?"

Turning her head, she watched as Sora rolled over, propping his elbow on the pillow so that he could rest his cheek on his hand and look down at her. Smiling, he reached out and ran a finger from her temple to her chin, upper body bare, blankets swirled around his form. "Yeah, Kairi?"

Reaching up, she placed her hand on his, smiling brilliantly, eyes soft in the darkness. "Are you real?"

He blinked, confusion evident as he tilted his head, and then he laughed, body shaking slightly as he fell onto the bed next to her. Reaching out, he grabbed her around the waist, Kairi shrieking as he trapped her body against his. Blushing, pressing her face into his chest, she smiled as his fingers caressed her bare skin, circling patterns in her back gently. "What do you think?" he murmured in her ear, kissing the skin gently afterwards.

Giggling, lifting her head, she met his stare with a smile. "Yeah. This is real."

Beaming, Sora nodded, resorting to only watch her as his eyes lowered in exhaustion, his body relaxing as a soothing calm washed over them both. Shifting once, Kairi yawned and closed her eyes, sighing against his warm body as she made to follow him in sleep, comfortable now that he was holding her close.

"I love you, Kairi," he whispered, sleep thickening his voice. "I always will. I promise." She smiled, sleep claiming her senses, and whispered his name softly, the rest of the world fading away around the two of them.

-- - --

The door creaked behind her as her feet brushed against the dusty floor, her tired gaze trailing the walls. His photographs were still there, brightening the expanse of white, bringing a smile to her face without fail. Walking through the dining room, the curtains rippling gently, she walked past the table to a desk set against the wall, hands falling onto a picture of the two of them at their wedding, young and smiling and ready to face the world and all of its challenges.

Tracing his vibrant features with a trembling hand, she murmured his name, tilting her head affectionately. Always, she'd take the memories of him to tomorrow, because he was her everything, and he'd given his heart to her every day they'd been together.

So now she was giving it back, reminiscing in their love until they would meet again. She had faith that he would come back to her one day, and so that was all she truly needed.

Until then, she would be waiting, living each day in her little cottage, calmed by love's afternoon repose.

-- - --

I used a lot of song lines for this fic.

one. "I'll wake up to the morning sun, here comes another day...And somehow know everything will be okay"
two. "Wind chime, lullabies...Calling me into my garden...Where we kissed the seeds to grow and to bloom...Tenderly in the spring"
three. "Something calm and strong, I can't explain it...And it's embracing me"
four. "Past the yearning, I learned to temper my sorrow...Memories of you, I'll take to tomorrow"
five. "I'll wake up to the morning sun, here comes another day...Reminisce love's afternoon repose"

Yeah. Well, please review.