Synopsis: Once, many and many a year ago, she was a child and I was a child, and we had a love that even the winged seraphs above coveted.
Disclaimer:
I do not own Kingdom Hearts, or Poe's Annabel Lee.
Notes: This very AU and very Kairiku one-shot is inspired, obviously, by Edgar Allen Poe's poem Annabel Lee, and, in part, by Maurice Sendak's book Outside Over There. Oh—there's a little Romeo and Juliet going on, too.
Thanks to:
namikun masaki, my wonderful beta! Thank you so much!

In a Kingdom by the Sea


…It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea…

Salty wind stings a young woman's rosy cheeks, whipping blood-red hair across her face, blinding soft violet eyes. She cries out, softly, and raises one hand to shield her face, to comb back those straying locks until they hang once more to her shoulders.

The wind has stilled and died, and now it is only she that stands there on the ocean-ravaged crag. She waits there, hopeful fingers locked above her breast, on the edge. Far below her, pointed rocks and the rough cliff face pound the angry waves into foam. A far-off storm rages on the horizon. Lightning flashes and the young woman swears she hears thunder.

"Kairi?"

The voice that calls out for her is gentle, and she turns toward it automatically, a smile dancing on her dimpled cheeks. The young woman named Kairi abandons her place by the sea, turning away from the sea wind and embracing the newcomer warmly.

"Naminé," she whispers, overjoyed as she takes the other's hands in hers. "How fares our mother?"

This Naminé, blonde and blue-eyed to Kairi's contrasting red and violet, shakes her head and smiles sadly. "Ill," she confesses to her twin, leading Kairi from the seaside cliff and through a dense patch of grey-brown wood. "She wants you home at once."

"Does she wait still in the arbour?" There is a tone of exasperation in Kairi's honeyed voice, and Naminé knows without turning around that her brow is drawn, and her mouth has tightened into a thin little line of annoyance. "Papa will return no quicker if she watches for him every day. She only gets sicker and sicker, and refuses to see!"

"Who do you wait for, then?"

They have emerged into the grounds of their estate, but the question catches Kairi off guard, and she says nothing.

Naminé shakes her head, taking her sister's hand and leading her into the gardens. "I take it you are not waiting for Papa," she says, even as they approach the arbour where their mother sits and waits, her blonde hair—Naminé's hair—cropped short, emerald eyes shining.

Kairi hastens to hush her twin with a finger to her lips, violet eyes alight and pleading—Mama doesn't know, they say, and Naminé wonders, Know what?

…That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee…

"Mama," Kairi says, her long dress fanning out behind her as she approaches her ailing mother, who glances up at the voice.

"Kairi," she whispers, sitting back in her swing, one hand falling to caress the head of the dog sitting at her feet. It barks contentedly and rubs against her hand; the rare smile that she gives is more for it than her daughter. "Where were you today? Naminé awoke alone. Do not worry me so." There is malice in her tone, and it does not go unnoticed.

The young woman looks at her toes, wilting under her mother's stern gaze. "I was watching the sea," she says eventually. "Like you, Mama."

Green eyes narrow, and Kairi's mother crosses her arms across her chest. "Young women have no time for such things," she declares, and bids her children away, wishing to be by herself.

"She knows Papa will not return," says Naminé to her twin as they mount the first set of stairs leading to their rooms. The redheaded girl does not answer, and it is only because of this that the blonde child remembers: "Oh, yes! And just who do you wait for, Kairi?"

She does not answer until they reach their chambers. There, she leaps upon the four-poster bed, grabs her sister's hands, and says in a conspiratorial whisper, "For him. My Prince Charming, of course!"

Naminé scoffs and accuses her sister of wishful thinking. "Always one for faery tales," she teases good-naturedly, quite unaware that a Prince Charming is not so far off, but there is no happy ending in sight.

…And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me…

In the next week, several new servants come to the house—all three are boys. One has beautiful silver locks and a stern aquamarine gaze; he is taller and older than the other two—they are twins like the girls; one a blond and the other a brunet, both with eyes like the sea.

Kairi and Naminé find their new playmates fascinating.

"I'm Sora," are the first words out of the brown-haired one's mouth. He is slender and round-faced, his marine-blue eyes hiding nothing. The young man sticks out a hand for Kairi to shake, but the young woman shirks back, too distracted by his platinum-haired friend. Confused, he follows her gaze and then laughs heartily. "That's Riku," he says, choosing to add playfully, "He always gets all the attention."

The other boy—the blond—shakes his head and turns to Naminé. "I'm Roxas," he says. "Sora's my brother, and Riku's our friend."

The twin girls, brought up in a sheltered background with maids at their beck and call, have never heard people speak so casually before. And they smell of the sea, Kairi notes. This prompts her to ask, "Where do you come from?"

Riku glances up from where he is unpacking his bags. "The ocean," he says, speaking for the first time. His voice is beautiful, Kairi thinks despite herself. "My father is a naval officer, as is theirs. But we got kicked off the boat." He shrugs. "I guess we were too young for the job, or something."

"Oh, the sea!" Kairi exclaims, fighting down her blush as Riku turns toward her. "What is it like?"

He smiles, softly and with a kindness that seems beyond him, and the red-haired girl can't help but wonder if it's a smile just for her. "It's nothing special."

And she falls in love.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea…

"Oh, Naminé," Kairi confesses in a whisper as evening falls over their kingdom. From where the girls sit, they can see their mother sitting in the arbour, and their new friends still moving their luggage into the servant's quarters. "I think I've found my Prince Charming."

The blonde looks up, a smile blossoming on her face. "That Riku?" she guesses, and her sister can do nothing but blush and nod. "Oh, but you've barely known him a day," Naminé chides, even though her gaze is stolen by the boy with hair so much like her own.

"I can see right through you," Kairi teases, pointing out their window to where Roxas is carefully carting a large wheelbarrow out of sight. Naminé merely giggles in response, and the twins sink into their respective beds and talk until the fire burning in their fireplace sputters out and the darkness grows cold.

Daylight is pushing the nighttime away by the time they finally fall asleep.

But we loved with a love that was more than love—
I and my Annabel Lee…

It is not too long after the boy's very arrival that Kairi takes Riku from his work and leads him through the dying wood. "Come, come!" she insists, and, despite his confusion, he follows, ducking under branches and barely avoiding scraped knees.

Her experienced feet lead her down a well-trodden path, and still she calls, "Hurry, Riku!"

He does not question her, and merely grabs for her hand when she is near—her face, turned away from his, darkens to a cherry red—and then they walk together, out to the crag where she once had waited often for her Prince Charming to arrive.

"Isn't it beautiful?" she gushes when the land opens up before them. Her small hand is still encased in his, and she smiles beautifully and leads him out to the edge of the cliff. "Look, Riku—the sea! Do you miss it?"

The silver-haired boy scratches the back of his head and shrugs noncommittally. "Yes," he says eventually.

By that time, Kairi has already smoothed the wrinkles in her gown and sat down in the dirt. Beaming, she beckons for him to do the same. "Sit next to me, Riku," she exclaims, and reaches up to grab one of his arms.

"No, I'm fine," he says, and resumes staring out at the calm sea. Thus, it catches him off guard when her small fingers curl around his forearm and tug him down beside her. Like a fool, he loses his balance and ends up knocking her back into the dirt, pinning her beneath him in a flurry of arms and legs. Despite his stuttered apologies, the young woman is almost too concerned for their welfare to notice the way Riku's eyes flicker between her mouth and eyes.

Almost.

With her back pressed against the moist dirt, she watches his aquamarine gaze until she can stand it no more. That is when, with a soft, exasperated sigh, Kairi let her arms twine around his neck and pull him close, until they are nose-to-nose.

Riku is shocked at first, but then a little smile appears on his lips and the hand that isn't bracing him against the ground comes up to cup her cheek.

"You're beautiful," he whispers, and she can do nothing but smile as he strokes her matted carmine hair away and kisses her sweetly.

…With a love that the wingéd seraphs in Heaven
Coveted her and me…

"Riku, you lucky dog," complains Sora, snug in his hammock at the back of the servant's quarters. He glares out jealously from under the covers, but there is no real anger in it, and he soon sits up again. "You kissed Kairi?"

Roxas, just walking in the door after an afternoon of work, happens to overhear these words. Predictably, he stops dead and gapes at the silver-haired man—who is currently wondering if there was any possible way to sink through the very floor. "Wait, wait," says the blond, pulling up a nearby chair and sitting back in it with one eyebrow raised. "You what?"

"I fell on her," Riku admits with a short little laugh. "And then… well…"

Several floors above him, Kairi grabs her sister's hands and gushes, "And then he kissed me, Naminé!"

…And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea…

"Riku," Kairi murmurs as they walk through the wood one afternoon—it has become a common hide-away place after that first afternoon on the cliff. Weeks have passed since then, and she seems a little distracted, upset maybe, not even comforted when the boy wraps one strong arm around her shoulders.

"What's wrong?" he says, his free hand coming up to play with her wind-tossed hair, combing free a couple of stray leaves and twigs.

"It is my father," she confesses. "He is away at sea, and my mother is so worried about him…"

Riku sighs deeply, shooting one gaze out toward the cliff, where the sea rages far below. "So that's why she's always in the arbour," he muses, his half-smile kind. "I was starting to wonder."

With a soft sigh, Kairi presses herself against him, burying her face in his warm jacket and wrapping her thin arms around his chest.

"What is this?" shrieks a voice from afar.

…A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee…

Riku and Kairi turn with deliberate slowness, the former wondering why she is out here and what will happen now, the latter praying that this is all a dream, just a silly dream, and she'll wake up any second now…

But it is no dream.

The lady of the house stands at the entrance to the woods, her sun-coloured hair bedraggled, her green eyes bright with fury. One hand rises up, shaking, to point an accusing finger at her daughter and the servant boy. "What is he," even her voice is rattling, "doing here, Kairi?"

"Mama," the young girl says, at a loss for anything else, her hair snapping about her in a sudden wind. She does not break the embrace with Riku; instead, she holds to him tighter and turns her face away from her disbelieving, ailing mother. A foolish choice. "I—"

"Get away from him, stupid child!" the lady snarls, and suddenly she is there beside the lovers, taking hold of Kairi's thin arm and wrenching her away from the silver-haired boy before either can utter a word. "He is dirty! A disgrace, banished from his own ship! You would do well not to associate with such disgusting rabble."

Kairi's tearful eyes dart from her mother's angry face—she has never looked so old—to Riku's bitter gaze; he is powerless in such a situation.

"But, Mama," she protests, but her mother will have none of it.

"You are coming with me!" the lady snaps, tugging her daughter away with only a fleeting glance spared for Riku. "And you, boy, remove yourself from this place at once, else my guards' swords find you!"

…So that her highborn kinsmen came
And bore her away from me…

Riku can only watch in stunned silence as Kairi is dragged, struggling all the while, away. He wants to deny the separation, race after the two and bring his love back, but he is powerless to do so, and merely returns dejectedly home.

"Where's Kairi?" are the first words out of Sora's mouth the instant Riku arrives back at the estate. "Didn't she go out with you this morning? I thought you'd at least bring her back so we could talk with her a little."

"I don't know," the boy admits, shooting a glance up at her room. He can see Naminé, worried face bright against the dusty glass of the window, staring down with anguished eyes. They tell him, She is here no longer—talk to me, and I will explain everything.

Thus Riku leaves without a word to his two companions, and secretly scales the wall of the mansion—a simple task for one raised on a ship—until he has reached the right room. Naminé lets him in, as promised, and he sits down beside the fire, knowing instantly that all of Kairi's possessions are gone.

Naminé smoothes her dress, pushes blonde locks out of her face, and sits on a cushioned stool. "Kairi," she admits, her lips trembling and her eyes glossy in a way that suggested oncoming tears, "is gone. Mama took her from here before I could even protest—she did not even tell me why Kairi had to leave so suddenly!" The girl's back begins to shake, and Riku slings an awkward arm around her shoulders in comfort.

"Don't cry," he says, wholly unhelpful. The young man glances around, seeing that even Kairi's bed is stripped bare, and all of her ornaments gone; the trinkets that once adorned the mantle have been knocked onto the floor and most have broken. Frowning, he picks up a small, ivory elephant—a gift from her father, he remembers Kairi telling him—and sees that its trunk has snapped off, and lies forgotten somewhere on the carpet. "Where did she take her?" he asks then, because he knows that Naminé will tell him.

The twin is silent for a long time, but then she points out her window. Just off shore, under a blanket of cloud, lies a small, secluded island, with one miserable tower sticking up from the centre. "There," she whispers, but Riku is already gone.

…To shut her up in a sepulchre,
In this kingdom by the sea…

That very night, Riku steals a fishing boat and vanishes to that island. The walls of the fortress are high, but he is well prepared to scale them.

There is but one window at the very top, but it is foolishly left open and unbarred, and to climb in is easy work. He jumps over the sill in the pitch black of night, his whole body soaking wet and freezing from the driving rain. Only a small, dying lantern lights the room, and there is no sound in the room other than his footsteps on the stone floor, and the soft crying of a broken heart.

Kairi lies on her bed, facedown, her pillows sopping and her fists raw from pounding the wooden door all day. She does not hear Riku come in, for the sound of her own shattered heart drowns his stealthy movements across the room.

It is only when his hands wind around her waist that she realises there is an intruder. With a scream, Kairi strikes the silhouette harshly, scrambling back in her haste to get away.

Riku stumbles and nearly falls with the force of her punch. Before she can shriek again, however, he rushes forward and covers her mouth with his hand, whispering into her ear, "Kairi, please, it's me. It's Riku."

"Riku?" she echoes, violet eyes blinking into the darkness, trying to make out her lover's features.

Just then, footsteps can be heard hurrying up the stairs, and Kairi's mother calls, "What is it, child? Why did you scream?" There is the sound of a key turning in the lock, and the young woman desperately pushes Riku off and under her bed with a rasping hiss of, "If it is truly you, go—hurry!"

He complies, and just in time, too, as Kairi has barely sat back up and adopted a comfortable position when her mother comes in the door, eyes suspicious.

"Oh, Mama, it is nothing," the young redhead laughs, trying hard to disguise the nervousness in her voice. "I just had a horrible dream."

The woman still does not look convinced, but merely casts her daughter a black look and backs out of the room without a word.

When she is long gone, Kairi leaps over her bed and takes a fistful of Riku's shirt in her hands, almost dragging the boy out from underneath. Through a break in the clouds, the moon shines in through her open window, and Kairi spots long silver hair and warm aquamarine eyes.

"Riku, it is you," she gasps, and throws her arms around his neck, sobbing with relief and joy.

Grinning, he sweeps her up in his arms and kisses her lovingly. "You're beautiful," he whispers against her lips, and she only holds to him tighter.

…The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me—

"Oh, Riku," Kairi whimpers, nestled in her love's arms and wiping her tears away. "What shall we do? My mother has trapped me on this miserable isle!"

"She must return to the manor to sleep," he says breezily, shaking his head and absently stroking her crimson hair off of her forehead. "Late at night, when she is dreaming—that's when you can escape! Run to the docks and take a fishing boat to the main island—meet me at the crag."

The young woman still looks doubtful, her wide violet eyes bright with worry. "But what if she catches me?" she says, shuddering at the thought. "She'll be furious—Riku, she'll have you killed!"

He frowns and shakes his head dismissively. "Don't worry," he exclaims in a sorry attempt to be comforting. "Few men can catch me, no less kill me."

"Fine," Kairi sighs, and then straightens up in Riku's arms, sharp ears catching the sound of footsteps ascending the tower. Hurriedly, she hisses, "Go, hurry! Lest my mother find you!" and pushes the boy toward the window. As he clambers over the sill and holds fast to his rope, his anguished sea-green eyes catch hers in the darkness.

"I'll find you," she promises. "I'll meet you by the crag—tomorrow night."

He nods, one hand tangling in her long carmine hair as he kisses her one last time and is then gone, slipping down the tower's stone wall and vanishing into the gloom. Kairi barely has the chance to look up at the moon as the lady of the house storms into the room.

"Your dinner, child," she snarls, throwing a tray of inedible food at the foot of her daughter's bed. Emerald eyes twinkle in suspicion, and she stalks over. "What are you looking at?"

Kairi points up into the sky. The moon, a bright eye in a dark face, shines down on them both.

Her mother does not look convinced. Staring down into the darkness around them, she mutters without bothering to hide her menace, "I do hope that dirty sailor boy has not been to see you."

Kairi adopts a horrified look. "Of course not, Mama," she assures her, and turns back to the heavens.

…Yes!that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)…

The pretty redhead pokes her head out of her bedroom door nervously. The dark tower is silent, and the chilly stone halls are dusty and windblown—a storm is raging outside. Her mother is nowhere to be found, and Kairi dares take a step forward.

Her way lit only by the candle that she holds to her breast, the young lady begins to descend. She passes only a few rooms on her way down—she knows they hold her mother's guards, and tries her hardest to be completely silent as she passes them.

No one stops her, and she safely reaches the bottom floor. Letting out a shaky breath of relief, Kairi extinguishes the candle and flees out the tower door, into the wet, moonlit night. Ignoring the freezing rain battering her, she follows the stars' radiance and runs in bare feet and a thin nightgown down to the docks, where she finds an empty boat complete with oars. And though she's never used them, the girl steps into the vessel and determinedly pushes herself off into the water, knowing that Riku is waiting for her on the main island's crag.

Due to the storm, it takes her twice as long as normal to cross the short channel. She is shaking, soaking, and scared by the time she arrives home, and abandons the boat as quickly as she can. Kairi makes her careful way up the steep hill to where her estate waits, dark and foreboding in the moon's glow.

Though she glances up at where she knows her sister is fast asleep, the young woman puts aside her wish to see Naminé and heads for the woods. She is grateful for the shelter from the rain that the trees offer her, and slumps against one trunk to catch her breath. Gooseflesh rises on her arms, and she shivers, eyes watering from fright as she coughs weakly.

"Oh, I hate storms," she wails to herself as thunder booms overhead. But then Kairi thinks of Riku, and pushes on despite her fear. The path is slippery and treacherous, but that does not stop her, and she runs far too fast out to the crag where her love promised to be waiting.

He is nowhere to be found.

Kairi feels tears slip down her face, from the cold and the disappointment and the unfairness of it all. "Where are you, Riku?" she whispers, hugging herself and looking around. The moon supplies her only light, and she takes a trembling step forward, toward the edge of the crag.

I will catch my death of cold, she thinks miserably, leaning forward to glance over the cliff. The ocean rages below, white foam stark against the darkness of the rocks. Shivering, she ponders what it would be like to slip and fall off this very edge.

Has he forgotten me?

The thought comes rushing at her like a gust of salty wind that nearly blows her over and onto the cold stone. She shakes her head emphatically, violet eyes glaring up at the weeping sky. "Of course not," she says to herself, so determined she is nearly angry. "He promised me."

…That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee…

Kairi takes another step toward the edge of the rock face, longing to catch another glimpse of the ocean.

Her knees knock together as a particularly loud peal of thunder echoes overhead. She falls to all fours, her thin blue nightgown turning brown in the mud. She shivers violently as the rain pelts her, mumbling to herself, "Riku, where are you?"

"Kairi!"

He is here! The young woman stands up and whirls around, the joy on her face all too obvious. There he is, rushing through the barren wood toward her, his arms held up over his head to protect him from the downpour. He is soaked already, and his face betrays his apology as he calls out to her once more.

Excitedly, Kairi takes a step forward—and slips on the wet stone. Her violet eyes go wide with fear as she feels herself falling backward. Her arms pinwheel madly, scrambling desperately for a handhold. There is nothing but air, and Riku's horrified cry falls on deaf ears as she silently turns and stares down at the raging sea below her, crashing against the rocks. She wonders if they will pound her into foam, just like one of many waves.

There is nothing beneath her feet now, and she is falling, eyes still glued to the water. It is too late, and by the time Riku reaches the edge Kairi is dropping like a stone, mouth open in a silent shriek of terror, snatched away by the storm's wind.

He screams out for her, one hand stretching out to catch hers, but their fingers only brush each other before she vanishes into the darkness.

…But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we—
Of many far wiser than we—

Screaming hoarsely and not caring if anyone heard, Riku rushes down the rocky hillside to the ocean's shore as the rain begins to slow, aquamarine eyes searching desperately for his love's wave-ravaged form.

He runs into the water, arms pawing desperately in a useless dog paddle. "Kairi!" he bellows, harsh wind whipping his hair around his face. He doesn't care, nor does he take notice of the tears that have begun to stream down his already wet cheeks, mixing with the rain and the sea. Riku thinks he spots a flash of red and bone-white skin and wades deeper, his cries turning incomprehensible, her name fading into hoarse prayers.

The sand falls away beneath his feet, but he just keeps swimming, streaming eyes fixed on a patch of crimson colour a few metres away.

And there she is.

Lying limply on the surface, beginning to sink slowly under. Her eyes are wide, glassy amethysts bleeding into the seawater, and her mouth is still open, filling steadily with brine.

The young man begins to tread, arms stretching out to catch her before she vanishes from his sight. He brings her close, cradling her lolling head in his arms. He doesn't want to see how her chest doesn't rise and fall anymore, and so he lets the salt in the ocean blind him as he turns toward the shore. "Kairi," he whispers, his voice a pained hiss of disbelieving heartbreak as he begins to paddle forward. "We'll be all right. You'll be all right."

Constantly, she slips from his grasp and the current pulls her far from him. Riku always tugs her back, his own tears choking him as he struggles to stay afloat. It seems like an eternity until they wash ashore, the platinum-haired boy pulling her up onto the cloggy sand and collapsing himself to his knees, coughing up water as he struggles to stay conscious.

The rain has stopped.

His whole body is exhausted, but still he forces himself over beside Kairi and throws himself atop her, his hands pinning her shoulders to the sand as his mouth closes over hers in a sick imitation of the kisses they once shared. He tries his hardest to breathe life once more into her, but it is too late, and he is soon forced to abandon the idea.

Stifling his sobs, Riku hugs her close, nestling her head in his shoulder and only now feeling how the back of her skull is dark and sticky with blood. His eyes blur with tears, and he combs slender fingers through her long, carmine hair, untangling it and freeing the seaweed that had entwined itself in it.

"You're beautiful," he whispers, weeping desperately despite himself. "Kairi, you're beautiful, now wake up, please…" His breath hitches and his voice catches in his throat, stumbling over even the simplest of words. He runs his tongue over his lips, trying to bring his voice back. "Wake up, Kairi," he urges hoarsely, sitting up and cradling her head in his arms. "Please…"

…And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea…

She does not wake.

Stiffly, he forces his exhausted body to rise, and envelopes her limp, bloated form in his arms. He smoothes her dress and fixes her hair, running a gentle finger over her full lips, once pink—and now a sickly blue. Her once vibrant violet eyes are empty now, a glazed black through which nothing is visible.

With one arm under her knees and the other wrapped around her back, with her head nestled in the crook of his neck, he stumbles back through the woods. Silently, Riku carries her into the courtyard of the estate and drops to his knees, burying his head in her hair—and finding that she no longer smells of lilacs; just of the salty sea which she had so loved (and he now hates) and of death.

A light switches on in the servants quarters, and, a few moments later, Sora and Roxas stumble out, rubbing their eyes and yawning.

"Riku," the brunet calls, a smile spreading across his face. "What're you doing out here on a night like this?" He stares up at the sky and shrugs his shoulders. "Well, it's not raining anymore. Did you go out for a walk?"

Roxas is serious, more observant than his brother. "Riku, what's that in your arms?"

The boy responds with a choked curse, tugging Kairi's body close and shaking his head. "No, no," he whispers as his two friends approach, worried now. "She'll be fine, you'll see."

Roxas reaches out for the lump in the silver-haired young man's arms, and then jerks back as he realises what it is. "Kairi," he gasps, and his sea-blue eyes go wide with fear and confusion. Riku doesn't like their colour anymore. "What did you do to her?"

The boy jerks back as if burned. "Nothing," he whimpers. "I didn't do anything! She's all right!"

"Riku," says Sora, obviously startled. He takes a nervous step forward, bright eyes flitting from his twin, to Riku, to the limp, redheaded bundle in his arms. "You've been crying!"

"What's wrong with Kairi, Riku?" Roxas asks, voice soft. He reaches forward, and it takes all his strength to pry his friend away from the girl. She tumbles to the hard stone ground, and the blond boy staggers back, taking in her pasty skin, her once bright eyes dark and soulless. His questions die in his throat, and the only thing he can manage is a choked, "Is she… is she dead?"

At this, Sora finally steps forward. "Dead?" he exclaims, so loud that Roxas is afraid that he will wake everyone. "What do you mean, dead?"

Riku takes Kairi in an embrace once more and backs up, away from his friends. His eyes take on a panicked look, like a trapped animal. He looks as if he is on the verge of fleeing the estate with the girl in his arms. "She won't wake up," he says dully, and turns to leave.

"Where are you going, Riku?" There is a note of alarm in Roxas' voice now, and steps up, placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. "Hey, listen—"

"Away," whispers Riku in response, and sets off at a run.

He doesn't get far before the guards that Sora and Roxas alert catch him hiding in the wood with Kairi's body in his arms.

…Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee…

Riku is not allowed to go to Kairi's funeral.

He and his friends are exiled from the seaside kingdom on pain of death. The last thing Riku sees out of the carriage window as he is carted away is Naminé's tearstained face as her twin sister is locked prematurely inside the family mausoleum.

The three boys are left to die on a distant shore, leagues and leagues from the estate. When he awakes to being thrown forcefully from his former mistress' coach, Riku can't help but wonder as he stares at the sea if it's the same ocean that his love drowned in, or if they have traveled so far that everything that connected him to Kairi is long gone.

With a hole in his chest where his heart used to be—that heart shattered and was tossed to the winds on that fateful stormy night—Riku walks with Sora and Roxas until the days run together and all he knows was the sound of his own footsteps crunching in the sand.

After an eternity, the young men stumble upon a small fishing village on the seashore. They are welcomed like long-lost brothers, and soon find themselves roped into everyday work once more.

But Riku never forgets Kairi.

…For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee…

"Riku?" Sora's voice is tentative as he steps out onto the small balcony of the house that the boy's share. "You'd better get some sleep. We have to wake up really early tomorrow, remember?"

The silver-haired boy starts slightly and tears his gaze away from the moon, glancing back at his friend. "Yeah," he agrees, and walks into the humble dwelling. He lies down on his thin little mat in the centre of the floor, throwing his arms up behind his head and staring at the patched ceiling thoughtfully.

After a few minutes of silence, Riku turns to the sleepy Sora, lying beside him, and says over the dull, familiar rumble of Roxas' snores, "Do you think I'll ever be able to find my way back?"

The brunet knows exactly what he's talking about. "Riku," he sighs, "you ask me this every night."

"And?"

"I don't know," Sora admits truthfully. He shoots his sleeping brother a sidelong glance filled with amusement. "I know Roxas wants to find his way back to Naminé, but," he hesitates, "what's there for you?"

The room is completely still for a moment, and then Sora hears the other boy shifting on his mat, turning away. "Everything," he says, voice muffled.

The next morning, Riku is gone. All that's left of him is a note on the counter, telling Sora and Roxas not to worry, and nothing more. But the twins know without a doubt where their friend has disappeared to, and can do nothing but wish him their best.

…And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee…

By day, Riku follows the ocean, which Kairi had so loved. By night, he follows the stars, shining replicas of her twinkling eyes, leading him home again.

The journey takes countless days and nights, and by the time he arrives he is thin and worn; his luxurious silver hair is greasy and brittle, his aquamarine eyes dull, and his lithe body bony and emaciated.

The first thing he sees is that the lady of the house is no longer in the arbour; she hovers by the entrance to the house in the arms of a man he can only assume is Kairi and Naminé's father, back from the trip to sea that he was never expected to return from. He has Kairi's hair, bright red and beautiful, but with a narrow face—all angles and sharp edges—and bright green eyes, that is the only resemblance he bears.

Riku slips in through a back entrance that Kairi showed him, and makes for Naminé's room. He has barely approached her door when the it flies open to reveal the young blonde girl, first looking distraught for a reason that he does not know and then shocked as she takes in who stands before her.

"Riku!" she gasps, ushering the boy inside. "Come, quickly, lest Mama see you!"

He obeys without complaint, throwing one last glance behind him before rushing in and collapsing in a cushioned chair. She immediately brings him water, and he gulps it down gratefully.

"My God, Riku," she whispers, her eyes taking in his gaunt, once beautiful face as she struggles to hold back all the questions that are threatening to overwhelm her. "What happened to you?" When he doesn't answer, she presses, "When was the last time you ate?"

"I stole some fruit a few days ago."

"What about rest—when was the last time you slept?" Naminé asks, her voice rising in pitch as she struggles to keep calm. "Are you insane?"

"I needed to come back," he whispers in response, slumping forward in his chair. "I couldn't stay away…"

The young woman avoids his gaze. "Your return will not bring back Kairi," she murmurs, and flinches a little when he looks up with furious aquamarine eyes. "And it would mean your death should Mama find you," she adds quickly.

"I don't care," he replies, and tosses a glance out of her window. In the courtyard, he can see her mother and the man he assumes is her father. "Naminé—that man, is he…?"

She shakes her head violently. "That is not my father," she whispers in a voice full of hate. "He may have been once, but he is no longer. He barely even glanced up when Mama told him that… that Kairi was…"

She doesn't need to go on.

…And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride…

Riku refuses the offer of food that Naminé presents, and instead has her show him in the dead of night to her family crypt. Though she is doubtful and afraid at first, his desperation moves her, and she leads the way deep into the barren forest where Riku and Kairi went walking so many times. He loses track of the twists and turns they make, but soon they are standing before the humble mausoleum. She takes out a rusted bronze key and slips it in the lock; the huge door opens reluctantly and with a loud creak.

"Pay your respects," Naminé tells him, pressing the key into his hands, "and leave."

Riku nods and smiles. "Of course," he lies, because the poor child has no idea what his plans are, and she never will. He waits until she and her candlelight are long gone to turn to the tomb and walk inside.

He finds Kairi's coffin in the light of the moon shining in the still open door. The young man kneels before the casket and forces it open with all the strength that he still possesses. It comes free, eventually, and slides back to reveal his lady—embalmed so well it is as if she is still living. But Riku knows better.

"How are you, love?" he whispers, one thin hand coming down to trace the contours of her pale cheeks. The roses in them have long since faded and died. "I've wanted to see you for so long." He pauses then and retracts his hand, the other fishing in his coat pocket to pull out a small, sharp knife. "We'll be together soon."

Riku knows that when he dies, he will reunite with Kairi and they will be happy, forever. This is why the silver-haired young man eases himself into the coffin, cradling her corpse in his arms as he did the night of her death. Tenderly, he presses the lightest of kisses onto her cold forehead and holds the dagger high above him. For a moment, it glitters in the heavens' ethereal glow.

And then the knife vanishes into shadow and there is only the dim ivory glint of Riku's smile, stained by a drop of blood turned pearl-white in the moonlight.

…In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the side of the sea…

Author's Note: Jeebus. That was a lot of angsty Riku-Kairi lovin', huh? OF COURSE, they both die. It's Annabel Lee. It's Romeo and Juliet. It's tragic, damn it! And it took, like, a week to write because I'm damn lazy. Plus, I was banned from the computer for a while, which didn't do much to help.

Oh yeah! The first one to guess who Kairi and Naminé's mum and dad are correctly—it's not exactly hard; at least not with the dad and all (speaking of which, I do not support that pairing)—gets a cookie and a giftfic. Gimme a prompt word and a pairing and we're good to go. Yes, any pairing—from Mariku to Saïxiku to KairiNaminé to, like, ZexionMarluxia or whatever. I'd rather it be a serious fic than crack, though.

Review. For this one-shot and it's near 7000 word count.