For rokukami's challenge.

Hmm. Well, it's interesting, y'know. No idea if anyone will like it, or if I like it (not really), but I sincerely hope it's all right. Yes, here's my little Sora-centric, very depressing oneshot for you all, and please don't hate me. (And yay! It's another Kaiora...kinda)

Disclaimer: No.

-- - --

He wasn't proud of not believing.

The way he saw it, life was beautiful, and it needed respect. Nothing was quite so melodic as the crash of waves rushing the shore, so gentle and innocent as the tentative swish of palm fronds, so pure as the fragile blooming of paopu flowers; yet, once he was torn from his element, he was thrust into a hellish afterlife beyond the barriers of Destiny Islands, and he saw what true life was like, what true horror really was, and he couldn't help the tears in his eyes when a person mourned to high entities for some loved one whom he hadn't been able to save, felled by the claws and fangs of a heartless. He couldn't truly admit to himself that such a merciful power would let death strike down the innocents, and so he shoved notions of faith to the back corners of his heart, because he tried always to see the good in everything.

He himself was the herald that stood on the boundaries between life and death. With his blade and the light in the heart and his ever-compassionate eyes, he fought for existence, and he sullied his hands with bestial blood so that no more murders would be committed. No deity ever stepped onto the battlefield with him, and no celestial voice wrapped about him when he was shivering and shuddering and crying over a person he'd been too late to save, and so his open heart remained closed on the issue. His innocent mind just couldn't wrap around the concept that gods above could watch from above and not lend a hand, like he tried so hard to do every second he spared a breath. He fought for the downtrodden, for those who had no chance against the darkness, and as he struggled to purge the world of its darkness his thoughts lingered not on salvation and redemption but of home, with love and compassion in the forms of Kairi and Riku awaiting him. He didn't need faith, and so he didn't practice it, didn't force his dubious mind to tolerate such a fantastic notion.

It was perhaps one of his greatest regrets.

-- - --

Riku was the one to greet him when he took up his temporary sojourn at home, body weary from fighting, mind plagued by horrific scenes of broken worlds and crawling monsters.

Kneeling in the sand, slumped over as water dripped from his brown tendrils and trailed to his chin, the Keyblade Master, Sora, spread his fingers through the sand in a kind of welcome, sleepy smile on his face as he laughed weakly. He was happy that he could say hello to his home world for another time, and even happier that he could recount his adventures to Riku and Kairi. Riku, no doubt irked that he'd had to stay on the sidelines, would most likely be brimming with jealousy when Sora finished, demanding that he join him on his next recovery mission.

Sora wouldn't decline this time, he knew. He was lonely, being without his friends, and he could always use more company.

The sky was stricken with twilight, contorted from explosions of purple and rose and powder blue, when Riku came across him, face swimming in his tired vision as Sora remained on his back, hands interlocked behind his head, body sprawled out in the sand. Blinking, grinning lazily, Sora greeted him and apologized for being too sluggish to reunite appropriately, but at the hard, unchanging line of his best friend's mouth, Sora's smile soon fell away. Shifting, moving his arms, he dug his elbows into the sand and pushed upwards, forearms cooling on the ground's soft texture as he allowed his head to loll back, confusion predominant on his features.

"Riku…?"

It was all in a flash, but Sora picked apart everything. The regret in the lines by his eyes; the grief in the depths of his gaze; the anger in the stiffness of his lips – something had happened while Sora had been away, and it wasn't anything promising. Jerking into a stiff sitting position, hands delving through his hair in worry, Sora strained his gaze on Riku's, his eyes begging as the jingle of his chains calmed and quieted, the rush of the ocean instead filling the silence.

At his stare, the silver-haired teen glanced away unwillingly, absent-mindedly tugging at the tail of his shirt. Riku wasn't one for nervous habits, completely unpredictable in every movement, so it was a dead giveaway that things on Destiny Islands were less than ideal through that one gesture. Breath hitching, strength in his body draining away so that he was quite unable to stand, Sora shook his head hysterically.

"What? What? Was it heartless? Did they come here, too? How many were hurt? Oh God, it's all my fault, I should've paid more attention---"

"Sora." Gasping and choking over his words, the brown-haired boy quieted, too stunned to speak any longer. Riku's tone was sharp, strained, tired, and he looked like he was about to fly apart, hands clenched at his sides and shaking as the silver-haired teen continued to look away, proud line of his shoulders slumped against the darkening sky. "Sora," he tried again, voice wounded. "It's…Kairi."

At that, the Keyblade Master didn't give him a chance to say anymore. He was already running.

-- - --

It was at Kairi's empty house that Riku, looking frazzled and worn out from worry, discovered him again. The brown-haired boy was in hysterics when his best friend walked through the door, hands touching everything and flinging them about the house afterwards in anxiety, voice calling her name, words progressively thickening with grief. His vision wavered between clarity and haziness, tears coursing down his cheeks as his voice cracked and his frame shuddered. He knew she wouldn't be there the moment he stepped through the door, but he had to keep looking, even if she wouldn't answer. This was his try at believing, his attempt at faith, and as he continued he realized that it was failing, because he just knew that she wouldn't be there to smile and tease him and cling to him in greeting.

"K-Kairi-i!" he gasped, flipping a chair away as he battled towards her family room, tripping and sobbing and trying to call her back to his side with sheer emotion and longing. Automatically he'd assumed the worst, and so nothing mattered, his blatant disrespect of her house, his unstable rampage, nothing. All he was sure of was that she wasn't answering, and he thought that if maybe he made enough of a racket, if he did enough to irritate her, she'd somehow appear before him, and this nightmare would be just that: a nightmare and nothing more.

Two arms wrapped around his waist tightly when he was almost in the dining room, and Sora stopped immediately, mind snapping back to the present. As Riku held himself away from the brown-haired boy but still kept close enough to remain a reassuring presence, Sora doubled over and pressed his fists to his eyes, choking and apologizing that he hadn't made it.

Sure that his impressive rage had halted, Riku released the Keyblade Master, Sora falling to his knees as a result. Walking around to face him, too, the silver-haired teen knelt down, placed his hand upon Sora's hair, and hushed him, bowing his head as placed another hand on his shoulder. Studying the brown-haired boy's shaky movements, Riku assured the Keyblade Master that he was there; above all else, he was really there.

"Listen to me, Sora," Riku murmured, his voice somehow getting through despite the mournful sobs. Sniffling, Sora lifted watery, blue eyes, nodding innocently, tiredly, hopelessly. "Kairi…she's not dead. She's…she's barely living, but she's not…dead."

In his shock Sora gasped over his sobs and went completely silent, body trembling, tears falling still from his widened gaze.

"Come with me, okay? To the hospital. You'll see. She…she's still here, Sora. We both made a promise to not let anything…happen to her." The guilt was there, wedged permanently in Riku's tone, and Sora choked. "She's still with us. She's still…still here." His best friend's aquamarine orbs flashed as vehemence flooded through his body, tainting his words. Yet the emotion added a little strength to Sora, and the brown-haired boy nodded once, a small, almost imperceptible gesture.

Riku caught it, however, and flashed a very weak smile. "C'mon. I'll take you to her."

Getting off of his knees, Riku rose, wiped invisible dust off of his knees, and then extended his hand. And Sora took it without hesitation.

-- - --

At first glance, he'd cowered. Catching sight of the unnaturally pale complexion, the blaze of hair bleeding red onto sterile pillows, the limp hands resting palms down on the crisp sheets, he'd whirled on his heel, tripping right into his still-living best friend, fighting against the hands that pressed against his arms and forced him to stay. And in the expanse of time that a nurse walked in, mulled about, checked Kairi's vitals, and walked out, Sora had again burst into tears, blaming himself through incomprehensible words, wishing he'd just gotten back sooner.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Ever. Neither Kairi nor Riku should ever suffer. He was Keyblade Master. He was meant for hellish hardships. After all, he protected others from pain.

So why couldn't he save the girl he loved? Why? It just wasn't fair.

Riku pulled away from him after he was certain that Sora was in no more danger of collapsing, and in calculated, gentle impatience, he pushed the shaking boy to Kairi's bedside, gesturing mildly afterwards with a sweep of his hand that he could go on and just say anything to her. After a panicked glance at his best friend, Sora nodded, turned his head to Kairi, and then crouched down, placing his gloved hands over one of her limp ones and cringing afterwards, the lack of life in her limbs sickening his stomach. Swallowing his sobs, pressing his chest against the mattress, he pulled her hand close and brushed her fingertips against his lips, tears escaping his closed eyes as he struggled to smile, wanting to be Sora again for her, just in case she woke up.

At such a thought he whitened, jerked his head to the left, and caught Riku lounging in silence against the far wall, pained expression on his face. "She'll…she'll wake up soon, right, Riku? I mean, we're all together again, so…"

A shift of emotions Sora refused to identify flashed in brilliance across Riku's elegant features, and then his best friend bowed his head, silver hair falling into his vision and shielding him from Sora's pensive stare. "Y-yeah…Sora. She'll wake up real soon."

"Right," the brown-haired boy said emphatically, moving his gaze back to the still girl, the one whose heart wasn't with her but would return now that he'd returned, he was sure. Standing, leaning over her frame, he pressed trembling lips to her forehead, lips tipping up in an unsure fashion and wavering between a frown and an awkward smile. "You'll be okay, Kairi. You'll wake up soon."

Edging away, tilting his head, he squeezed her hand in his, ignoring the undeniable tremble of his arm as he fought to accept his words as truth.

-- - --

"No!" Riku roared, slamming the boy against the wall and panting in fear, wincing only slightly at the sharp clatter of metal and following flash of light. Sora, startled momentarily, stared back at his friend in confusion. Then, almost immediately, his emotions darkened aggressively, betrayal alight in his eyes and anger sharpening the line of his mouth as he jerked his shoulder away, summoning the keyblade again.

"It'll bring her back!" Sora shouted, voice shrill. "Don't you want Kairi back?"

"Of course I do!" Riku shouted in retort, fisting his hair in agitation and fear. "I love her, too, you unbelievable idiot! But committing suicide won't help!"

Shaking his head wildly, slightly reassured, Sora waved his hands and flashed Riku a hopeful smile. "No! No, Riku, listen! It was just like at Kingdom Hearts. I'll release her heart from mine, and then---!"

"No. No fuckin' way." Slamming the brown-haired boy back against the wall, Riku pinned the struggling boy away from him as his aquamarine eyes narrowed in masked terror, the shake of his arm not prominent due to the force he was applying to the brown-haired boy's chest. "That could've been a one time thing, for all you know. Too many things can go wrong. And…and…" Riku looked away, at the scuffed tiled floor, and clenched his jaw, expression grim. "And that's not going to revive her, Sora."

"It is!" he shouted desperately, fighting against the boy's hold. "Just like last time! The darkness got her heart, and all I had to do was---!"

"Don't you goddamn get it?!" Riku shouted, looking back. Sora hushed, eyes wide. "Sora," his best friend pleaded, tears flickering in his orbs, refusing to fall. "No. It won't…work. The heartless didn't get her this time, buddy. The darkness didn't win. She got…she got hit by a goddamn…goddamn car and…" Fingers clenching the neckline of Sora's shirt, Riku sobbed and fell forward, forehead resting against his chest as the strong line of his body trembled and shattered, the silver-haired boy sobbing uncontrollably as Sora stood, stunned. This wasn't happening. No way was this happening.

"…c…car?"

"I'm sorry," Riku pleaded, shaking his head, hands grasping at the Keyblade Master's shoulders in an attempt for repentance, forehead still pressed against his chest. "You trusted me to watch over her, like I trusted you. And I failed, Sora. I wasn't there. I wasn't there to save her from that…that drunk and I---"

"I don't blame you," the brown-haired boy said softly, eyes closed, tears rushing down his cheeks. And Riku lifted his head, Sora could feel it, and the single click of his shoe indicated that he'd taken a step back.

Blinking, opening his eyes only halfway, Sora stared at his guilty friend with a forced, feeble smile, hand moving subconsciously to cover his heart. He'd never noticed before, but his heartbeat was so much slower, so much weaker. That was Kairi's life within him barely hanging on.

Slamming his head into the wall behind him, tilting his head back, he laughed through his tears and then collapsed into sobs again, hands fisting the shirt that clung to his body so oppressively. Guilt was there, too, cloaking him, strangling his breath, and he wondered how much longer Kairi would be breathing, because right now it felt like he was dying.

And, as their hearts were connected, did that mean that she…was dying, too?

-- - --

Riku had dozed off long ago, vigilant to the point where he'd worn himself out from the effort. But Sora, unable to sleep no matter the weariness of his mind and weakness of his body, remained fallen on her mattress from his position in the chair he'd dragged over, hair just brushing over her blanketed hip, two hands clutching her accessible one desperately.

And his lips were moving, he just making up the words as he went along.

He wasn't one for faith. He wasn't one for prayer. But God, maybe if he had been, maybe if he'd just listened closer to those stories his briefly-known grandmother had mumbled about, instead of nodding politely and not listening as his mother had teasingly advised, he'd have the power to reach that being in heaven that so many were convinced existed. Maybe if he'd ever been interested, he could've convinced himself to believe now, and his pleas would actually reach that only-observant immortal reigning above the clouds.

Maybe if he'd been religious, he would've gotten what he'd asked for, just this once. But the bargains he was making, and the heartfelt words he was sparing to thin air, didn't seem to leave the room, and kept scraping against his continually-breaking heart, mocking him oh-so derisively.

He wanted to know how to pray.

Nothing else was working, after all. His own power was small, not nearly enough, and it killed him to realize that. He was the Keyblade Master, the savior of worlds, the hero, and yet he couldn't revive the life of the girl he loved with every bit of his shattered heart. It wasn't fair, and he felt cheated, that the one thing that could possibly bring her back was the one thing he'd never learned how to do. To him, truly believing was completely impossible, and so he would never bring her back because of such a mindset.

Dragging her hand to his lips, murmuring against her skin and choking against his sobs, he pressed a chaste kiss against her palm as he turned the limb over, shivering mournfully before her.

"Faith doesn't exist," he whispered at last, letting his head fall tiredly to the mattress, sleep viciously coming to claim him and drag him away from his beloved. "God doesn't exist. If he did, he…he wouldn't…take you…from us…so mercilessly."

Cheek pressed against the cold sheets, fingers intertwined with her loose ones, he listened to their weak heartbeat sound in his head, reassured that it was still there, still loud enough. She was still fighting, and he wouldn't leave her side until that fight was done. He sorely wanted to believe that she would defeat death, too, but he was incapable of such a thing. All that was left for him…was to wait.

And for an eternity he'd wait, if only she'd come back to them again.

-- - --

Please review, and thanks for reading.