It was like staring a phantom in the face.

Sora couldn't breathe. The two were hardly paying attention to him, instead talking to one another frantically, walking just ahead of him. His feet only followed them out of habit; his mind was very far away. Of all the things he'd been hit with recently, this took the cake.

So what is this? He asked himself, pushing through the thick crowd of people. Is this heaven? Is it hell? Is the heart of the universe the place you go when you die?

"Maybe this is part of the plan, maybe it's supposed to happen..." Tsuki murmured to her sister, hand on her shoulder.

"Tell me how it is you open a door from the inside? Shit, this is just our luck..." Hinode ignored the comforting gesture, stomping through the crowd with an angry grimace. They came to another train station and filed on, Sora right behind.

I wish Riku were here, he thought. More people came on, then the doors slid shut and Sora instinctively headed to a nearby window, letting his forehead fall against the glass with a clunk. The two girls glanced at him.

"Did we take coming here this badly?" Tsuki wondered to herself.

"Shut up and think of a plan. The universe is gonna go in the shitter if we don't stop it."

Riku always has a clear head. He'd figure this out; he'd keep to the plan and not have any emotional breakdowns like I did. I guess he gets that analytical side from his dad...

With a soft lurch the train began to move, and Sora's thoughts wandered. He remembered the train from Twilight Town, feeling a foreign sadness that had been Roxas's, not his own. He thought of the train ride from Radiant Garden to the conference, before the Organization had come back. It seemed like his life consisted of train rides, of transitions from one world to the next. He never stayed in one place for very long.

Sora thought of when he'd last seen the sisters, in the World that Never Was. He remembered that last battle, remembered setting Axel free. It all seemed so far away, in this strange hell.

The train stopped, the girls got off, and Sora followed like a trained pet. He didn't pay attention to where they were going or what they were saying, until a while later he looked up and saw a parking lot.

"We parked in Minnie, didn't we?"

"Yeah, number three, I think."

Sora followed the girls down the rows, until they turned and walked to a blue Volkswagen beetle that needed a paint job, and maybe Cid's touch, too. Hinode got in the driver's seat, Tsuki got into the front passenger's side, but Sora stood there.

When they noticed he hadn't moved, Hinode stood back up and tapped the car's roof. "Come on, kid, no time to lag. Hop to."

"What's going on?" He whispered. His fists were clenched, his stomach churning. The blonde sighed as Tsuki turned a sympathetic glance his way.

"I understand your confusion, but this really isn't the place." She glanced about, almost as if she was afraid someone was watching. "Please come with us."

Sora let out one last sigh before shaking his head. "The doctor's here. I can't leave him."

"Your doctor friend isn't worth a lick in the face of all of creation going kablooey." Hinode gestured again. "Get in." Then she followed her own advice and slammed the door shut.

Sora still felt nervous, but gave in, getting into the little vehicle with a very bad feeling.

-=-=-

The Kingdom Hearts world was even bigger than Sora could've imagined.

The little car left the parking lot, driving out down a long highway, passing towering forests that looked akin to the ones from Deep Jungle. They kept driving... and kept driving... Sora was pretty sure they had driven the whole length of the Olympus Coliseum five times before they finally came to a gate.

As they passed under it, Sora turned to read it, but only caught a glance of "Welcome To Disney," before it disappeared from sight. The car turned right onto another rode, and kept driving.

Eventually they came to civilization, and Sora's eyes became glued to the window. Palm trees leaned over the crowded streets, hotels looming the distance. Cars lined the roads, roads that kept going and kept going forever. The highway system was probably bigger than all of Radiant Garden. Buildings kept getting bigger and bigger, and every time Sora asked what they were, he got the most ridiculous answers:

"It's a bank."

"Oh, that's the mall."

"Apartments."

Huge buildings, which seemed to repeat and repeat themselves. More banks. More malls. More apartments. How many people could live here that all of this would be needed? Sora's mouth fell open and didn't close for about an hour.

When they finally turned down a side street and into a neighborhood, Sora gawked at the houses. The suburban homes were bigger than most of the shops in Twilight Town. The one Tsuki turned into was closed up, and looked worse for the wear. It was tucked into the far back corner of a Cul-de-sac, hidden by large trees and shrubs. The little car pulled up into the driveway and disappeared behind the foliage. They got out, and Sora followed Tsuki and Hinode up to the door. It was nail shut by boards, with a sign in the front yard reading "foreclosure".

"Been abandoned for a while. Not even the bank can sell it in this economy." Sora wasn't listened as he watched Hinode turned the nob and step over the boards into the house. Tsuki followed suit.

Nervous, the boy took a step forward and glanced inside. The room was too dark to see; Sora stepped over the boards and entered a dusty mess.

"Shut the door would you?" Tsuki asked. He did so, as he watched her light a lamp in the back corner.

"You guys live here?" He asked incredulously.

"Not legally, no. But even if the cops find out, we don't legally exist either. We've escaped them before, we can do it again." Hinode said. Sora glanced around the room; it had pillows and small tables, with a few pieces of makeshift furniture, and futons lined the walls. Everywhere else was crowded with books, magazines, and such, with a laptop plugged into a wall, sitting on the floor.

"Fabulous place wouldn't you say?" Hinode chuckled. "It's all we can get, since people who don't exist can't exactly get a loan, huh? Not to mention all our jobs have to be under the table, paper free." Sora wasn't really listening; he was examining the books. Pride and Prejudice; Interview with a Vampire; U.S. History; Steppenwolf. It was a myriad of titles. He set them back down and turned to the girls, his eyes imploring them.

"Please." He begged them. "What the hell is this place?"

"Hell is one word for it." Hinode muttered. Tsuki glared at her.

"It is not as bad as my misanthropic sister would have you believe. Our life is hard because of the circumstances, but... it's not always that way."

"It's not paradise, that's for sure." The blonde stalked off with a shrug, leaving her sister to do the explaining.

Tsuki shook her head, before motioning for Sora to approach her. He stepped forward and sat down next to a big pile of pillows.

"I guess we skipped the hellos didn't we?" She chuckled. "Been a while."

Sora nodded. "Yeah. So, you guys ended up here?"

"Yes. Us and many others. We make a strange sort of family." She smiled. "You know them. Orpheus, who worked for Vexen's estranged brother," Sora's eyes lit up with familiarity and he nodded. "Also, Ansem's... well, whatever he was. Another form of some sort. The two children, Tidu and Mari."

"Why?" he asked.

"You know as well as I do." She sighed and scratched her head. "Some of us died before coming here. But I think we were just lost, and ended up here. I really doubt we were supposed to come here. Unless this is some plan on Fate's part, to bring us here and then bring you to us."

"It's a half cocked plan." Hinode walked back into the room, popping open a soda with a hiss. She threw one to her sister, who caught it. "Want one?"

Sora realized he was kinda thirsty, getting hungry too. He caught the red can that was thrown to him, opened it, and took a hesitant sip.

"Whoa, that's sweet!"

"High fructose corn syrup, my friend, nothing like it on the Other Side." Hinode grinned and sat beside her sister.

"Other Side? You mean back home?" Sora asked. The looks of the sister's dimmed then.

Tsuki sighed. "Yes, that's what I mean."

Hinode finished for her. "But you shouldn't call it home, Sora. You're gonna have to get use to calling this place home instead."

The boy didn't really respond to her words. "So... there's no way back?"

"Not that we've found." Tsuki sighed. "Trust me, we've tried."

"Dr. Komyou can help!" Sora told them, setting the canned drink down. "He's the one who showed me how to get here. I lost him in the park... but if we find him, he can send us back!"

"Hold up there, partner." Hinode gawked at him. "Did you say show you? You didn't die and end up here?"

Sora shook his head. "No. I walked through the door."

The two sisters shared a stunned look.

"Maybe we aren't screwed after all." Tsuki grinned brightly. She turned to the keyblade master, and he matched her grin.

Hinode rushed to the door. "I'll find this doctor of yours. If he's from the outside, then he'll have a different aura from everybody else. It won't take long." She turned in the door and waved. "Everyone else ought to be here soon. Have fun mingling Sora!" Then she was gone.

Tsuki gave him one last smiled, and then pointed up. "If you're tired, there's a bed upstairs. Orpheus and the kids are out shopping, they'll be home soon." Then she waved. "I need to do some work, you're free to look around." Walking over to the computer, she sat down and pulled it into her lap.

Sora watched her start it up, and then glanced back up at the room. The books caught his eye again. Maybe it was time for a little research...

-=-=-

The battle still raged on. On the side of light, the warriors continuously struggled to keep fighting, despite wounds and exhaustion. Every time they were knocked down, they crawled back up. But it was easy to see they would not last much longer. The forces of darkness were too far reaching, and too many.

Leon raced through the hordes, slashing and hacking with newfound purpose. Instinct led him on this fight, for his mind was preoccupied with memories. Images of the little apartments his group had started in... how, at first, it had just been him, the ninja, and the healer... moving into the bigger house, watching the brunette beauty warm it up with motherly affection.

"It could use a few flowers, don't you think, Squall?"

Cloud, meanwhile, crushed the enemy with empowered rage. His voice was hoarse from screaming. Mostly, he was reliving a nightmare from years past, a feeling of failing someone he loved, of not making it in time... watching the silver angel descend from above...

Cid... Aerith...

"AURAAGGGGH!"

The battle lines had been drawn and expanded by Demyx's show of power. The light warriors were doing a good job of keeping them, but the darkness continued to swarm. There was no end to the amount of shadows that rose to envelope them. It was a hopeless battle that, without the Keyblade bearer, couldn't be won.

Kairi, returning from the hospital ward to the battlefield, wondered where he beloved could be. What was keeping him in the castle? Could he make it back in time?

A hand came onto her shoulder, and she glanced up to see Riku. He smiled wanly, seeming to share her thoughts. Too tired to speak, Kairi nodded. They ran back into the battle together, powered by their faith that Sora would return.

At that moment, the darkness seemed to swell suddenly. The many forms of Heartless coalesced, becoming one dark shadow. They flew into one another, growing bigger and bigger, making one giant bubble of shadowy doom.

The warriors, finding nothing left to fight, halted their advance, staring in horror at the new enemy. The giant shadow began falling back, painting the horizon in darkness, until everything around them was shadow.

Then the enemy appeared, cackling, golden eyes promising death.

"Time for the real fun to begin." Anti Sora smiled. "Are you ready, Marina? Ready to watch my revenge!?"

"Why do I have a really bad feeling despite the fact that the enemy just became one person instead of one million?" Axel muttered.

Luxord, beside him, had a look on his face as if he'd almost had a straight flush, but instead of drawing the last needed card, he pulled a 2. "Now might be a good time to make amends for any guilt, because you may never have another chance."

Xigbar just laughed at that. "Make amends? I'd rather kick this guy's ass!"

"Sounds good to me." Axel chuckled. Then his chakrams flamed to life.

-=-=-

Many hours later brought three changes to Sora: he read more than he ever had in his life; he had the worst migraine imaginable; and he knew hardly anything more about this strange Kingdom Hearts world than he had in the beginning. The books were hardly any help. Sure, they were good, about life and death and love and all that stuff, but none of it explained why Kingdom Hearts had darkness, or why it was so... weird.

The household was now full of people who all greeted Sora happily. Orpheus, Tidu, and Mari were ecstatic to see him, and asked him all sorts of questions about what was going on outside. Ansem's shadow, who was now going by the name Andrew, was a bit more reserved in his happiness, greeting Sora with a handshake. Hinode hadn't come back by this time, so the group spent an hour catching up.

"Damn, I wish I was over there..." Orpheus muttered when Sora had finished telling about the final battle against darkness. "I wouldn't mind busting some Heartless heads. I kind of miss it."

Tsuki shoved his arm. "Somehow that doesn't surprise me."

"I need to get back, and soon." Sora spoke with a somber tone, bringing down the mood a bit. "The longer I'm here, the more danger my friends are in. One already passed away... and there are others about to follow her. I've got to get back, but I can't until I figure out this stupid place!" Sora spat.

"Someone... died?" Tidu wondered. "It wasn't Yuna, was it?"

Sora shook his head. Tidu didn't seem relieved, but he nodded. "I felt Aerith pass away a few hours ago." Mari gasped, hands over her mouth, and Tidu put an arm around her shoulders.

"Oh, god..." Tsuki put a hand over her eyes.

"She was a good woman. I'm really sorry Sora." Orpheus muttered.

"I know. I just want to get back before anyone else... dies."

"What is it you have to do?"

The boy stood and began to pace. "I'm not sure. The doctor knew. I had to pass through Kingdom Hearts to get out to the other side and finally destroy the darkness. Kinda like passing a trial before I'm allowed to move on, or something. But I don't know how to get out. I don't understand this place!"

"It's definitely confusing. I remember first showing up here... it blew my mind." Orpheus nodded. "A lot of people from the outside world are like celebrities here, but everybody thinks it's just a book, or a movie, or a game, something like that. And there are so many people! This place is bigger than any world I've ever seen."

"Not to mention how complex it is. The science is incredible... hardly anyone believes in magic though, so its difficult to find." Tsuki told him. "Cure magic is about all I can do now, and the others can't manage any magic at all."

"They don't believe in magic?" Sora blinked.

"Yeah, these guys are real skeptical bastards." Mari said. "I learned that from Aunt Hinode!"

Tsuki's eyebrow twitched. "Remind me to have a talk with 'Aunt' Hinode..."

"There's a lot of problems." Tidu said. "Way more than even Radiant Garden had. It's all so complicated... half the kids I know hate going to school."

"Well, I mean, I did too." Sora told him.

"Yeah, but... these schools are like prisons." Tidu told him. "I don't think I'd want to go there."

"He's actually right. Schools around here have..." Orpheus began counting on his fingers. "Metal detectors, security cameras, security guards, tons of rules... and having an opinion about anything is a big no - no."

"This place is crazy!" Sora shook his head. "How do you guys stand it?"

Tsuki shrugged. "It's not all bad. Takes some getting used to, but its got its perks."

"It's really beautiful!" Mari said. "I love the big ocean!"

"What about the big fireworks?" Tsuki added. Everyone began adding their favorite things.

"All the books! And the artwork!"

"The festivals, and the carnivals. Parks like Disney."

"The music is my favorite. And bagpipes! There're so cool!"

"You are so weird."

"The people too, most of them are pretty cool."

The boy watched the excited looks on their faces as they thought of the good things this world had to offer. Still, Sora couldn't believe that such an odd, horrid place existed. Just then, the door came open. The two kids turned towards it.

"Aunt Hinode!" Mari shouted.

The woman grinned and stepped into the room. Then, she gestured to the outside. A moment later, and Dr. Komyou stepped in after her.

-=-=-

"This can't be good."

Demyx and Yuffie stared up at the wall of darkness, and the small yet intimidating form standing beneath it. Instinctively, the ninja's hand searched for his. She found it, and the boy squeezed hers tight.

"Where is he?" The Anti form shouted. "Where's the boy who would try and kill me!? Where's the Keyblade Master!?"

Silence reigned; a few of the warriors glanced around. Leon gripped his blade harder, and cursed under his breath. This is bad...

"He's not here!"

The crowd parted and Riku stepped to the front. Anti form smirked.

"Aha... the fallen one. The one who could've been Keyblade Master, but instead chose to give his heart to darkness. Here to join me?"

The teen gritted his teeth, glaring at the jovial monster. "Never again."

"I remember your heart. How it thirsted for power. And I gave it to you... the Heartless became you. You made a good warrior of darkness." Riku did his best to ignore the words.

"Sora's on his way to kill you... until then, you'll have to do with me!" Then he raised his blade and aimed it at the Heartless.

The enemy laughed. "Nice try boy... but Destiny says that the Keyblade bearer and I shall fight... and we always listen to Destiny don't we?" With a snarl, he added. "Even if it means the sacrifice of innocents to protect everyone else..."

Once again the crowd parted. "Does killing everyone with darkness make up for the loss of those innocents?" Yuna appeared at the front, dressed not in her usual garb, but in the blue flowery dress of a summoner.

"What would you know, child?" The heartless turned on her. Riku's heart skipped a beat. Yuna, no!

"Killing to avenge those who were killed does not end the cycle of death!" Yuna told him. "It only prolongs suffering!"

The Heartless grinned. "Well then. Shall I end your suffering? Rather than letting you live with false hope?"

Yuna's eyes widened. In a sudden instant, a spike of darkness sprung from the shadows behind her, aimed carefully at her heart. She turned, shock on her face, to see a blur of red leap into its path.

"SIR AURON!"

"You BASTARD!" Riku righted his blade and raced at the Heartless, who merely disappeared. Riku followed his example, disappearing into shadow, neither of them reappearing.

"RIKU!" Kairi screamed, and raced forward. She too, was suddenly engulfed by shadow.

"Dammit!" Many warriors raced forward when the children disappeared, arms raised. The Anti Form appeared floating above them, with Kairi trapped in tendrils of Darkness. She struggled to no avail.

"I think I know a way to make the Keyblade master appear..." The thing grinned. One of the tendrils sharpened to a point.

"NO!" Demyx screamed.

"KAIRI!"

-=-=-

Laughter echoed in the family room of Tsuki and Hinode's "home". Sora, however, was not there; he was wandering the second floor of the house with a lost expression.

He was in the bedroom, where a mattress was on the floor, and a small lamp on the floor across the way. Blankets were thrown haphazardly across the room. The boy sighed.

This is no way for them to live...

A knock came at the door, and Sora glanced up to see the doctor.

"May I come in?" Dr. Komyou asked. Sora nodded, and the older man stepped inside.

"I'm so confused... I don't get this at all. Kingdom Hearts is supposed to be the Light, all the goodness in the universe... not this!" The boy gestured to the messy room, to the dirty window.

The doctor chuckled. "I was, like you, taken aback at first. But I took advantage of our time apart to study what I was seeing. I believe, in conjunction with my past research, that I may know what... all of this is."

The boy glanced up at him with awe. But he said nothing. The doctor came to stand next to him by the window, looking out as drizzling rain began sliding down the panes.

"What is it?" Sora whispered.

The doctor smiled. "It is the source of all light, just as we've been told. But perhaps, not in the way we imagine." He put a hand on Sora's shoulder. "I think... it might be best to show you."

-=-=-

The two said goodbye to the others and headed out, with Dr. Komyou in the lead. After a while, they came to a game store. Sora glanced at the door, with the giant stand up poster of a new game, and posters in the window. It was mostly empty. The two stepped inside.

The doctor glanced around, and then grinned when he saw three girls standing in the back corner. He beckoned Sora to follow him.

Inconspicuously, they came to stand near the girls, pretending to examine the shelves of games. Dr. Komyou whispered to Sora, "Listen to them."

A little confused, he nodded, and focused on what they were saying.

"Thank you so, so much for this!"

"No prob. I mean, half the fun of the game is battling friends anyway, and I can't do that if my friends don't own it." The taller girl grinned at her friend.

The third girl looked confused. "But why are you buying it for her? Are you free loading again, Ashley?"

Ashley laughed. "No, I'm not Renji! My parents just won't let me 'waste' my allowance on video games." She sighed. "So... my lovely, bestest best friend ever, Sammy dear, is buying 358/2 Days for me!" Then she latched her arms around Sammy's shoulders.

"Hey, hey, I can't buy it if you suffocate me!" They shared a laugh.

"Your parents won't let you buy games at all? That blows."

"Yeah, they're all stuck up about it. They hate anime too. Well, mostly my Mom does, Dad's not so bad unless Mom's pressuring him."

"My parents are pretty cool with my hobbies. Mom takes me to conventions a lot."

The three, with the new game, headed to the counter. Once it was bought, Sam handed it to Ashley, who hugged it to her chest with glee.

"Thank you so much!" Ashley grinned.

"Consider it an early birthday present. I'll wrap it up and give it to you a few weeks from now. Then your parents won't know the difference!"

"Oh, your so devious~"

"What does this conversation have to do with anything?" Sora whispered to the doctor. Dr. Komyou winked and whispered,

"Close your eyes."

Huffing, Sora did as he was told. For a moment nothing happened.

Then he saw light. There were three lights growing from within the hearts of the three girls. As they talked of the video games, the lights grew brighter and brighter... and then, suddenly, part of the lights burst off, and flew off into the sky somewhere... Sora opened his eyes and turned to the doctor.

"What the hell was that?"

Dr. Komyou motioned for them to leave. They walked outside and took a seat on a park bench.

"It's a complicated system derived by the universe to keep the balance of light as perfect as possible." He paused for a moment. "Have you ever wondered why it is everyone has light within them? Even the darkest and most evil of beings?"

Sora nodded. "Sure. I mean... it is kinda weird."

The doctor motioned to those around them. "It's because of these people." Sora glanced out to the street, looking at all the strangers passing by.

"Them!? How?" The doctor chuckled at his shock.

"It's a well thought out plan." He began explaining. "You see, this world, at the very center, is the largest of all of them. It has more people and more land than any other we can imagine. It has its own universe, sprawling across light years. It is a complex scientific marvel, with millions of life forms."

He gestured to the stars, which were starting to appear from behind the gray clouds. "On the outside are our worlds. In comparison, most of them are small and simple, but there are millions of them, with all kinds of people. But the biggest difference between the inner and outer is this:" A dramatic pause came then, with Sora gripping his knees tightly.

"The people on the outside are born with light inside of them; the people here are not."

"Why's that?" Sora wondered.

"I'm sure you saw the different likenesses of people who exist in the outside. There are video games all about your adventures. Those stories are the secret of the light." The doctor stood and began talking with vivid hand movements. "The people here love stories, movies, and books. They practically swallow them up. They become attached to the characters in the stories; even come to love them."

Sora still had no idea what this had to do with anything. But he listened, though not very patiently.

"That love becomes light." The doctor turned and waved his hand at the sky. "That light leaves this world and enters the other, giving light to the people who live there." He came up, kneeling by Sora, and poked his chest. "The light in your heart was given to you by people who love you, your "fans"." He said. "The light grows as you live happily in the light, with your family and friends. You go on great adventures, and in this world, those stories become video games. These games make people happy, and creates within them a light. That is the cycle."

"Cycle? Wait..." The boy put a finger to his chin. "So... people play the game and their my ... 'fans'... and that gives me light... and then I go kill Heartless and these people make video games... and that gives them light? How does a video game give light?"

The doctor chuckled. "It is strange. Think of it as... an escape. The games make them happy because they can leave their life behind for a while."

"Why is this place so bad? I mean, there aren't any Heartless but... they still have war, and all these problems... how?"

"Because they have no light in their hearts when they are born." The doctor explained. "The light must grow within them. But it doesn't always grow; and it can fade. Unlike us, they don't have a steady stream of the light giving them strength. They are easily susceptible to darkness. There is war, poverty, and suffering because the darkness exists within people. There are not Heartless hunting them, but the people can be just as heartless. Do you understand?"

Sora tried to absorb it all. "Kingdom Hearts emits light... but it doesn't have any of its own. It has to grow light, but it doesn't always work."

The doctor nodded. "A child raised in a kind and loving home with grow up with love and light in their heart. But imagine a child with a home that is not so good. They struggle in school. The family is poor. Others make fun of them. There may not be a happily ever after for them. That situation does not bred light. Do you see? This world can be cruel."

"But, the stories make people happy?"

He nodded. "It breeds light more quickly than anything. The people are allowed to forget for a while what problems they live with. They can enjoy a simpler life, where evil is easy to see, and goodness always triumphs. Because, in this world, that is not always the case. Evil can appear kind. Goodness might fail. But it has to be that way, because that is the flow of light in this universe."

Conversation over, the doctor sat back down by the boy, and they sat in silence for a while. The stars became clearer and the clouds melted away.

"Why did I have to know this?" Sora asked. "Why'd I have to come here?"

The doctor glanced at him. "Because you are the Keyblade Master. And in the end, all of the Light depends on you. Them, too." He nodded to those around them. "If the outside world dies, the creative light of this world will diminish. It would destroy this place."

The boy nodded. "I get it. I had to see what I was protecting, right?"

Komyou nodded.

A mother and her children passed by near them.

"Which one will it be tonight, kids?"

"I wanna see Transformers! Transformers!"

"We saw that already! I wanna see Kung Fu Panda!"

"Transformers! Optimus Prime!"

Two teenage boys came by on skates.

"No way. Jiraiya all the way man."

"Come on, if Itachi used his..."

Sora listened to the myriad of voices.

"Did you see the last episode of..."

"They're splitting the last Harry Potter movie into two, I think..."

"I didn't really like that game, but my brother said..."

He listened to the voices and closed his eyes.

"They really like their stories..." He muttered.

A sudden pain grabbed his chest, another image, just like before with Aerith: a red headed girl, moments from death, fear over her face. Sora's heart stopped in his chest.

"Go." Sora spun around and saw the peaceful look on the doctor's face. "Your heart knows the way."

The boy looked at him one last time, and nodded. Before he knew it, he was running, running somewhere, eyes closed, with voices from all places ringing in his ears.

"Come on, don't let her die too, you gotta save her!"

"I can't wait for the next game, I gotta know what happens!"

"Sora's my favorite, he and Kairi are cute together..."

"You can do it!"

He kept running, and running, into the stars.

-=-=-

The crowd watched in horror at the scene before them. Some were itching to do something, to stop standing and waiting around. Others hesitated, fearing what could happen to the girl. Others, crowded around the injured and fallen, could hardly keep it together.

Something seemed to change in the air suddenly. There was a thickness, an added air to it... Roxas lifted his head, eyes wide.

"Is that...?" he turned, a small smile forming on his face. It sure felt like it...

There was a light on the horizon, as tiny as a faraway star. It seemed to flicker, and surge, like a lightbulb. Others began to notice it, turning to the darkness. It was the only light in all the shadows.

Kairi felt what Roxas had; the familiar heart, the return of a dear friend. Tears came down her face and she smiled despite her situation.

The light was coming closer, until someone commented... "Is it running?"

In fact, it was someone, running at incredible speeds, surrounding by the brightest, most enveloping light. A stream of it flowed behind him, as he came closer and closer.

Roxas grinned. "Sora!"

The boy sped past him with the speed of a cheetah, flitting between everyone, racing to the front of the crowd in mere seconds. Anti Sora could hardly understand what this enormous sun was, spiraling towards him, until it was an inch from a his face, blade drawn, about to cut off his head. He disappeared into shadow.

As he did, the glowing boy dashed to Kairi, cutting the darkness down and setting her free. Then he thrust his hand towards the darkness; tendrils of light spread out into it, revealing a moment later an unconscious Riku.

Anti Sora reappeared a moment later at Sora's immediate right, claws extended, ready to sink them into his skin. The sharp claws were blocked by Sora's blade, and the two flew headlong into a fast paced battle, trading blow after blow at speeds that were impossible for ordinary humans to see.

A minute later they stopped, floating in midair yards apart, one in an aura of darkness, one of light.

"Finally decided to appear. I was afraid I'd have to kill all of them to make you show up." The dark one grinned when Sora gritted his teeth.

"You're not taking any more lives, not here, not ever!" He pointed the Keyblade. "This is where it all ends!"

Anti Form sneered. "It will take more than that to get rid of me forever."

Sora grinned. "I know."

A ethereal form seemed to appear around the Keyblade; suddenly, a ghostly form floated with it, the Keyblade protruding through its heart. The Anti Form gasped silently, its black colored suddenly fading; for a short moment, it was a human being, a dead one, with brown eyes.

"Marina..." It whispered. The ghost smiled. Anti Form stepped towards her.

"We can be at peace, Cero... just stop fighting..."

Suddenly the darkness was back, with the yellow eyes. Anti form hissed. "Never! It will never be over, not until everyone pays!"

The shadowy realm shook with his anger, cracks and crevices appearing at random. The warriors scattered, rushing away from the epic battle.

With a scream, Sora flew at the enemy, summoning another blade in his other hand. With both he pummeled the enemy, who blocked them with his claws. One touched his forearm, and the darkness there screeched in agony, like a burning wound.

The fight raged but did not last long. They sped across the emptiness at one another again and again, but there was no doubt who would win. True light was there again... this light the warriors saw emanating from Sora was unlike any other. And it was easy to see that Anti Sora was tired: tired of fighting a battle of vengeance for millennia.

It was not surprising when the end came. The Anti made one misstep, one false move, and the widening of his eyes showed that he knew it. He let out a grunt, unable to parry the thrust Sora had aimed where his heart once was. The Keyblade pierced him through, and he let out a soft sort of sigh, in a way only darkness can. His knees gave, though Sora kept the blade straight. He watched his other half, the source of all Heartless, begin to fade.

"I'm sorry." He said. "Not for stopping you. But that you ever had to start in the first place."

The dark being chuckled, his voice shifting from the dark gravel tone to human and back. His eyes were clouding over and he didn't seem to know Sora was there anymore. "Tier... do you think she's waiting for us? Today... would be a nice day to go out with her... we can sneak her out together, can't we?"

Slowly, his weak head lifted, and his faded eyes widened a little. Another weak gasp escaped him. His lower limbs were only shadows of shadows now. His vision was trained just over Sora's shoulder. A hand weakly lifted and extended to a pale ghost that stood a few feet away, hands clutched, smiling with tears on her face.

"Ma... rina..." He fell forward, through the blade, his body disappearing with her name on his lips.

Once it was gone, Sora turned. His own eyes were somber. The ghost stood only a foot away, smiling sadly.

"They used my heart for the blade." She whispered. "When the darkness finally started to come in... they decided the best idea would be to use all the Princess's hearts... one for each blade. But my blade... that was the one that hurt him. The one that struck him down. Because it was me." Her voice trembled. She paused to pull herself together. "Now it's finally over. Kingdom Hearts can truly be at peace. The Heartless are all gone."

"They'll never come back?" Sora asked. "The darkness is gone forever?"

She shook her head. "Darkness is never gone. But the Heartless will never return. The source was the evil of this place... Cero's tortured heart. He's at peace now." She lifted her head to look at the sky. "I wish..." The most forlorn sigh escaped her lips. The sigh of a lost lover. "I wish could be with him."

"You can't?" Sora almost tried to reach out and console her, before remembering she wasn't really there. She shook her head.

"This is my duty now. To protect. To stand ever ready. As I always have. As I did millenia ago. This is our duty."

Suddenly six other ghosts appeared. Each was a likeness of one of the Princesses of Heart... each was one of the girls charged with looking over Kingdom Hearts in the Forgotten Kingdom. Within their ghostly formed floated the blade they existed in. They all smiled at him.

"There are many keyblades... all of them are different incarnations of us." The Jasmine princess explained.

"We will be ready to chose the chosen wielders, when it is necessary." This princess, the Alice look a like, had Kairi's blade floating inside her.

"Until all of creation is gone, and darkness is no more." The Belle princess (who had Riku's keyblade within her) said.

"Then we may rest." Cinderella princess murmured; King Mickey's blade rested with her.

Sora couldn't believe it. After all this, the injustice of the Forgotten Kingdom still existed...

"Don't look so sad." Snow White smiled.

"We do not mind our fate. We are happy to protect."

"Don't forget Sora." Marina smiled, tear lines still on her face. She did not bother to wipe them away. "You, through some strange twist of fate, are a kind of incarnation of him yourself." She smiled sadly. With light, little footsteps, she came to stand by him, and put a light kiss on his cheek. "I will always be with you..." She, and the other princesses, began to fade. "Cero..."

They disappeared, the blades with them, but for the one that was clenched tightly in Sora's fist.

-=-=-

He was greeted like a hero when he descended from the sky to join those on the ground. A swarm of blood soaked men and women greeted him warmly, while others began treating to their wounds. Everyone let out cheers that the battle was over; they had won, the darkness had been stopped. They had saved the universe!

When his feet touched the ground, the golden light that had been floating around Sora finally dissipated. Voices swarmed him, but he did not hear them. He heard other voices, in his mind.

Words swarmed around these people: these people who didn't even know. Didn't know that they had thousands, maybe millions of people cheering for them. Laughing and crying with them. Loving them. One look at the face of one, and he could hear the voices, the support, the echoes. The thoughts that encompassed the light that gave these people strength.

Even the darkest ones, like Alucard, Sephiroth, and the like; thoughts of love and admiration swarmed them too. Both of them stood far from Sora who, despite the glow having dissipated, was still too full of the Light to be healthy for them.

He continued through the crowd, letting the voices of those from faraway float through his head. Then, he came to the end: to the hospital. And he saw her: he heard the voices, their sobs, game controllers soaked with tears. They felt pain for someone they had never known.

Aerith was still beautiful. Death had done nothing to her ethereal light, her angelic appearance. Tears formed in his eyes.

But he couldn't linger. The light could do nothing for those already gone, but the living could still be helped. Sora went to Cid first.

"Come on, old man, you've got a wife to go back to..." He whispered. With his hand over the deepest wound, Sora poured light into it, weaving the skin and tissue and muscle together.

In mere minutes Cid was back to normal, and on the cusp of waking up. Sora moved on to the other injured, Rinoa being next. As he healed those who were worst off, everyone else worked on healing the others.

An hour later and the living were back on their feet again, and it was time to mourn the dead.

Cloud, to anyone who didn't know him, appeared to be a broken man. Kneeling by the fallen flower girl's side, he clutched her pale hand tightly, but shed no tears. Those he knew him well could tell that, despite the grimace on his face, he was somehow at peace.

Sora approached him slowly, his heart aching for his friend.

"I knew this would happen." The blond murmured. Sora sat beside him, ready to be a shoulder to cry on. Cloud hardly noticed him, but he did keep speaking. "I wished her back."

"Wished her back?" The boy asked.

Cloud nodded. "On my home world... she died. I failed to protect her. So, when Gaia was destroyed... when I ended up in the Underworld... that was my wish. To see her again. Bring her back."

"So that was why you were working for Hades?" Sora asked him. "Because he promised to bring her back?" The blond nodded.

"He kept his promise... but he sent her across the universe. 'Never said where I'd put her', he said. So I started looking for her. When I finally found her... when we were together again I was so happy. But there was... there was this gap between us."

"A gap?" Cloud fell quiet. Sora placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, squeezing lightly.

"Aerith had been happy were she was. And she was happy being alive too... but she was waiting for the day she could go back. Back to her family, her friends... back to Zack..." He sighed. "That was the problem. I'm not Zack. Not... not anymore."

Sora didn't really understand what he was saying, but he listened, and consoled, and Cloud shed a few tears. When it was done, Sora stepped away, and Cloud stood with her body cradled in his arms. He turned, nodded to the boy, and the boy nodded back.

Two others stepped up: Leon and Barret, who had Auron's body between them, his arms slung over their shoulders. He was still alive, barely. Sora, eyes wide, rushed over to heal him -

"No." The man whispered. Shocked Sora stared. "I'm ready... to go back."

A few others joined the procession: There was a man dressed in all armor who had passed away, being carried by what appeared to be his twin and one other. The tall man in red, named Vash, was cradling in his arms a friend dressed in the outfit of a Priest. Somehow, the emotional man had kept his tears at bay. Lastly, the young man who had a tail walked up, holding a very beautiful man, who had passed during the battle.

"Are we all set?" Leon asked. After a moment, a murmur of agreement passed through the crowd. The leader raised his voice. "The way out is through the Door to Light, which holds Kingdom Hearts. Once we open that door, the universe will be returned to normal, and we'll all go home." No one cheered or laughed, but the mood lifted somewhat. "Let's go."

And so they walked, through the darkness. It was no longer a realm of darkness, just a place very far away from the sun, with an enormous city looming in the distance.

-=-=-

The city, though decrepit and dust covered, had its own kind of beauty. Slowly, the group migrated within its walls, a quiet procession of tired, humbled warriors, standing in the origin of all things. They began to separate, wandering the city with awe filled eyes, keeping a look out for the Door that would lead them home.

Before they found that, Sora and Riku opened a large pair of doors which led into a beautiful cathedral with the tallest domed ceiling they'd ever seen. Light shimmered through the colored glass windows, and a beautiful crystal stood at the far end.

The two teenagers shared a somber look.

"You think?" Sora murmured. The older boy nodded.

"Yeah."

-=-=-

The entire army was gathered in the cathedral, and the bodies of the fallen were placed at the front, side by side, on five different tables, arranged with their hands over their chests.

Standing behind these tables with serious expressions were the people who had been closest to those fallen. The group started at the far left, reciting names and giving a little information on the fallen.

"My brother, Noah von Rosenburg, was a great many things. He betrayed many, but was loyal to a cause; he suffered much, and caused much suffering. I loved him." The man, Basch murmured. "I love him still." He lowered his eyes.

The next, Zidane, still had tears in his eyes. "Kuja was my brother.. I didn't know he was my brother for a long time. When we first met he tried to kill me. But he... he just needed a second chance. Somebody to believe in him. I just wish that it had come sooner. I'm sorry bro." He squeezed his fists, shoulders shaking.

In the center was Sir Auron, who was fading fast, and not very capable of speech. Yuna still held his hand, her shoulders shaking. Rikku was right beside her, along with a few other of their friends.

"Sir Auron was a great hero in my home world... He fought alongside my father to protect our land. When that battle cost my father his life, Sir Auron made sure I was safe. He has been my guardian and my friend since I was a little girl. He... he is the best a person could ask for!" She choked up, falling into sobs, and her cousin squeezed her shoulder. Sir Auron, somehow, squeezed her hand. "Thank you... thank you so much..."

Rikku, looking down on him with sad eyes, smiled. "You were a meanie sometimes... but that was just your way of showing you loved somebody. So, thanks for being mean to all of us." She smiled, and wiped away a few tears.

Vash was next. "Nicholas D. Wolfwood..." he muttered. "He was my first, and my best friend. He guided me, and I guided him. We fought each other, and we fought together. If it weren't for him... I wouldn't be where I am now, standing here. Thanks, Priest man." He smiled, and tears then covered his cheeks.

The last person left was Cloud. The audience became focused on him, and he did not raise his head. His eyes remained trained on Aerith.

"I'm not crying for you today." He whispered. "I did that once already. Your entire family and the man you love are all waiting for you back home... so I'm not sad for you. I'm crying for everyone you're leaving behind." Then he lifted his head. His eyes scanned the crowd, looking for help. His eyes found his friends; Vincent and Tifa, side by side. Cid, still weak but recovering. Yuffie, Leon, Sora, Riku... all of them.

"Aerith Gainsborough has died once before. She sacrificed her life to summon a spell that saved our world from being completely destroyed. She was only nineteen, the last of her family and the last of her race, trying to fight against a force that no one could understand. I can't imagine how frightening it was... but somehow she was brave enough to do what had to be done."

"Then, a few years ago, I made a deal with a God of Death. He promised to resurrect the woman I loved, and in return, I became his Angel of Death. But, when I disobeyed him, he threw her soul out into the cosmos. I thought Aerith was lost to me forever."

"When I finally found her again... she smiled just the same as when I first saw her. When I first saw her... she had been standing in a dirty, nasty side street of a dirty, disgusting city where only filth and madness could be made. She was selling flowers, with a smile on her face. Surrounded by evil and cruelty, and she was selling flowers. She was... the only light in that place."

"I wanted that light. I loved it. But I know not that she's not mine to have. I can keep my memories..." Memories of fireworks, of theme parks, of churches, of flowers, and flower girls... "but I can't keep her heart. So I'm letting her go, now. I'm gonna stop dilly dallying. And I'm gonna move on."

The room fell silent. A few sobs were heard, and some prayed. Yuna whispered to Sir Auron, who whispered back. Hearts were heaving.

"Yunie..." Rikku whispered. The taller girl nodded.

"I know." She whispered. "It's time."

It's been a long year

Since we last spoke

How's your halo?

The others watched as Yuna lifted her staff. Those standing stepped a bit further back. Sir Auron closed his eyes, and let out a quiet sigh. Eyes full of unshed tears watched as the dance began. Droplets of water formed on the ground, coming together beneath Yuna's feet. She hesitated before beginning. She didn't... didn't want to...

Auron, eyes still closed, smiled. "Your father would be proud." He whispered. Yuna let out a breathy sigh, and knew she had to start. Her staff came over her head, and the dance went into motion.

Just between you and I

You and me and the satellites

I never believed you

Sora and Kairi clasped each other's hands. They watched as more water flooded the stage, pouring down the stairs, flowing under the rows of pews. People lifted their feet, watching as Yuna was lifted into the air by a pillar of water.

"What does death have to do with all of this?" Sora whispered. Kairi leaned towards him. "Why is it there?"

"There's light and darkness..." Kairi whispered back. "And there's life and death. A good side and a bad side." The two kept their feet in the shallow water, sitting with their hips touching. The girl turned to him, speaking with her lips near his cheek. "Life and light are a lot alike actually." She murmured.

The boy turned to her and asked, "Why's that?" Their lips were just touching.

I only wanted to

Before all of this

What did I miss?

"They both managed to come through, in the end." She told him. They looked into each others eyes. They felt the need to lean closer, but the mood of the situation kept them from doing it. A few tears fell down Sora's cheeks. Kairi, who had managed to keep hers at bay, smiled, and finally set them free. She leaned forward and placed a light peck on Sora's cheek, just as Marina had done.

Do you ever get homesick?

I can't get used to it

I can't get used to it

I'll never get used to it

I'll never get used to it

The bodies began to glow. Gabranth, Kuja, Auron, Wolfwood, and Aerith, began to turn into light. Their loved ones watched on in awe as their forms faded away, and their spirits flew into their air. Yuna's dance continued, and the crowd watched as something utterly astonishing happened.

The spirits, which had floated into the sky, became form again. A bright light appeared in the large double doors at the end of the room. It was soft, welcoming. The ghosts looked at it without flinching, but those alive had to cover their eyes.

From this light came forms. They were pure light, walking from the afterlife, entering the room with soft footsteps. They approached the newly dead, whose eyes lit up at the sight of them.

"What's going on?" Leon whispered in awe, just as shocked as everyone else.

"It's Kingdom Hearts. We're so close to the light..." Rinoa whispered. "That we're actually watching them pass on."

I'm under that night

I'm under those same stars

"Mother? Father?" Gabranth took small steps towards the forms that approached them. When their appearance was revealed, the man grinned. Behind him, Basch's heart stopped. The armored ghost embraced his parents together, laughing for perhaps the first time in a very long time. Despite the fact that he could not join in the family reunion, Basch smiled, and shed no more tears.

Auron chuckled when his shadows approached him. One put a strong hand on his shoulder.

"Took you long enough!" Jecht laughed heartily, and pulled Auron into a one armed hug.

Braska, the other, smiled at him. "It's good to have you back."

Auron grinned at them, something no one alive had ever seen him do, before glancing back. Braska and Jecht followed his example. They could not see the living, but knew they were there.

"I am proud of you, daughter." Braska murmured. Yuna, who had finished her dance, clutched her staff with white knuckles.

"Me too, kid." Jecht gave her a thumbs up. The three, all grins, headed into the light together.

The Priest heard laughter coming from the doorway. A myriad of young children raced to great him, as he smiled brightly. Wolfwood kneeled to their level, their little hands clasping his, chattering happily, pulling him to paradise.

We're in a red car

You asleep at my side

Going in and out of the headlights

Aerith glanced around, as if looking for those she loved. A shout came from nearby. "Heeeey!" She suddenly grinned, turning to the light.

A tall, male form raced out of the bright light. Aerith giggled, hand over her mouth, as the form hurried toward her, arms open, face split with a grin. The spiky haired man pulled the woman into a bone crushing hug, lifting her off her feet and spinning her about before lifting his lips to hers.

Cloud, despite knowing that Zack would come for Aerith, could not believe it was true. Echoes of past memories flew through his heart. The man who had been his greatest friend... the reason he was still alive... and there he was, laughing and smiling with the love of Cloud's life, another of his closest friends. Cloud felt no regret, and no loss. A strange sense of serene joy filled him. This was what he had to look forward to. When his time came, these people would be waiting for him.

Could I have saved you?

Would that've betrayed you?

Zack set Aerith down, and they stared at each other with content smiles for a moment. Then, he glanced up to the place where Cloud stood. The blond's heart stopped. The man walked through the room, hand extended, searching blindly for the person he knew was there. He came up the stairs, arm out, until his hand lightly touched apon Cloud's chest. Zack grinned; Cloud stood shocked.

The two stood there, Zack unable to see him but smiling brightly, Cloud looking as if he might have a heart attack. After a moment, Zack lifted his hand, searching again. He found Cloud's spiky hair and ruffled it. Cloud didn't feel a thing, it was as if a wind had tossed his hair about. Zack gave one last smile, and whispered, "See you, spiky."

He turned, and Aerith was waiting for him. She reached out: he took her hand, and they walked side by side into eternity.

Cloud stepped towards the aisle, almost as if he might follow them. But he didn't. Instead he watched them go, the way a child in a moving van would turn their head to watch their old home fade into the distance. The blue eyes of the warrior were no longer tear filled.

The ghosts all faded into the light.

I wanna burn this film

You alone with those pills

What you couldn't do I will

The funeral was over. The light was gone, and reality returned. It descend upon the mass of people all at once; a kind of "did that really happen" sort of feeling. Some seemed to look to their neighbors, and one glance at the shocked looks on their faces made them realize, yes it was real. It was very real.

Cloud's eyes searched the room again as everyone else tried to make sense of it. This time, his gaze did not find the eyes of a friend. Instead, his found the eyes of someone who had once been closer than a friend - a hero.

He stared at these green eyes, remembering the pain they had caused him. The eyes stared calmly back. He remembered the suffering and loss. Before any of that happened, he remember peace. Tranquility. Adoration.

And with those thoughts he finally did what had been many years in the making: he said three words.

"I forgive you."

As soon as these words were said the eyes and their owner were gone. But Cloud knew he had been there, and he knew the apology had been heard, for a black feather floated on the wind.

I forgive you

I'll forgive you

I'll forgive you

I forgive you

-=-=-

After the service, the group split up again, searching once more for the Door that would lead the way home. The Organization, acting as a mad mob traversing through the halls, stayed mainly on the ground floor, messing around with what they found.

Eventually the group came to a library. "Right up your alley, pipsqueak." Axel nudged Zexion, who frowned and shoved him off. The group meandering into the room, some actually interested in the history, the ancient artifacts, the artwork. Others were more interested in picking up said ancient artifacts and wearing them upon the head for shits and giggles.

"Xigbar! That is a priceless piece of history from the universe's oldest civilization!" Vexen shouted to the Freeshooter, who simply ignored him and continued to dance around with the vase on his head.

"Don't be so uptight! Today's a day to celebrate! We won! And Demyx got his powers back!" Xaldin put an arm around the boy's shoulder; the blond grinned sheepishly.

"Congrats, Demyx." Luxord smiled. Everyone seemed genuinely happy for him. The door opened again, and Marluxia and Larxene came in.

"What kept you two?"

"Doing something dirty in a closet somewhere?"

"None of your damn business."

The others joked and played around; Demyx didn't really hear it. When the other members had opened the doorway, something had caught his eye across the hall. It caught hold of his heart, and held tight. He had a sudden urge to go to it, immediately.

As the other members continued their conversation, Demyx slipped away quietly into the hall. The door closed behind him, and he glanced up at the enormous door across the way.

A part of him shivered suddenly, for unexplained reasons. Why did this place seem so familiar? His hand touched the doorknob and electricity tickled him. Slightly nervous, he took in a deep breath, and opened the door.

Inside, the room was long and narrow, framed by tall window panes. At the end, in the center, was a throne. On the throne sat a crown.

A feeling of nostalgia hit the teen as he approached the crown. Slowly, nervously, he touched it. Nothing happened. Demyx picked up the crown. On it, in the ancient language of the people who lived there, it said "Taishite zakaichou mai Munesanzun". Demyx had no idea what that language was or what it meant. But somehow, his heart knew what it really meant.

For the melody of my heart.

Images bombarded him, strong images, from a life he didn't remember living. Was it his life? He wasn't sure. There was a woman, a beautiful woman... a Queen? No... a Princess. A red headed princess...

He was... he was a prince, and he wanted to be with the red headed princess, to stay with her, but no one was allowed near her. She wasn't allowed to have friends, wasn't allowed to love. Then one day, he awoke and found a new crown waiting for him, with a letter from her.

You are not allowed to have a place in my heart, and I am not allowed to love you as a little brother, though I do. Instead, you shall be the melody of my heart.

He remembered... he remembered sneaking into her room, to play chess with her... staying up late with her and the brown haired boy... they were the best friends... and then... he remembered the day...

Tier gave one last short breath. "One who knows nothing… can understand nothing…"

Xehanort turned to the boy. Tier fell to the floor, his eyes dark, sitting in a mix of blood and darkness.

Xehanort kneeled beside him. "And now… has my plan worked? Perhaps I have been mistaken. But I have doubtlessly created a connection that will last through the ages."

"The boys will be tied together, for all eternity. I have no doubt… at least that ambition has been decided."

Suddenly, he turned his head. He was being watched.

In the corner of the room was a crack in the wall, a path that had been created in a strange accidental explosion. It led to the throne room, but no one had ever found the path. Until today, it seemed.

For behind the crack watching him were two blue eyes. They grew wide when his red irises gazed at them, and whoever it was turned and fled into the darkness.

...

Sighing, Marina turned to walk back into her room, when suddenly a young boy raced into the room and tumbled into the red head.

"Oh – Myende?" She said, surprised. Marina helped the blonde to his feet. He was a young boy, younger than her, and he looked terribly frightened.

"I know where Cero and Tier went!" Myende gasped, breathing hard. "But we have to hurry!"

"Why? Myende, what happened?" The girl insisted.

Tears came to the boy's eyes, and he sniffled.

"I – I think they're dead."

...

Chaos had become the city. The darkness had come from within, not without - it was the end of days, the death of all. From the deepest shadows of the castle came death.

Myende and Marina, hand in hand, raced through the palace halls, running back to the place where Cero and Tier had last been seen. They were intercepted by the City Guards.

"Princess, you have to come with me." The head guard stated. "It is of great importance."

"I can't right now, please excuse me!" She and Myende tried to get past them.

"It is an order, Princess, all of the Princesses of Heart are needed in the Weapons Laboratory now!" The man shouted violently.

"Leave her alone!" Myende shouted.

The guard turned his weapon on the boy - with one charge, one shot, his little body was pierced. Marina's screams shook the ceiling as Myende's body fell to the ground. The guards were upon her even as she reached out to save him, to hold him.

The boy was left in the hallway, still alive, slowly bleeding out. Then the darkness came. He was still alive when it swept over him, drenching him. He became encaged in darkness. Inside, his death slowed to a halt. He was alive, but was not alive.

From this fading corpse came a little white form - a squiggling little creature. It grew to the size of a cat, and took the form of the first Nobody. It was not strong enough to take human form yet. It did not even remember what human form was. It drifted into shadow, eventually falling back to sleep, never awakening until millennia later when its power grew strong enough.

Demyx remembered a great castle... he remembered a sad little town, with helpless people, and helpless princesses... he remembered a song Marina use to sing... a song about a Prince of Light... and as he remembered, he clutched the crown so tight, and his eyes stung with tears.

Then, he heard sobs. But they weren't his. Surprised, the man spun around.

A few feet away, curled up on the ground, was a little girl in a white dress. She was ethereal, a ghost; chains connected her limbs to a seal in the center of the room. Her sobs broke the silence. Demyx, concerned, glanced from her to the crown. He set the crown back on the throne, and approached the girl.

"Hello?"

The girl only slightly lifted her head. "H - Hello." She whispered. Demyx kneeled near her.

"What's wrong?"

She wiped her eyes, but didn't look up. "I - I lost my big brother. I lost everything. And - And - and I'm all alone. And - And - I'm stuck here. It's just - just so - I just want my big - big bro - brother..."

"You miss him?" Demyx frowned sadly. The little girl nodded and kept wiping her eyes furiously.

"I - I want - I want my brother -"

Demyx then reached over and put a hand on her intangible shoulder. And suddenly he remembered something else. The vague memory of having a family. Of having a mother, and a father, and a little sister.

The girl looked up at him with the same bright eyes that he had, with the same dirtiest blonde hair. A sudden grin came to the boy.

"You... you've been waiting for your brother for a long time, huh?" He whispered. The little girl stared at him. And stared.

"Uh huh."

"Do you remember what he looks like?"

She shook her head. "But he was really nice. And really dorky. I - I thought this other guy - this guy was my brother. But he wasn't. He left." She lowered her head again.

Demyx leaned down, and she met his eyes. "How would you like to have a family?"

The ghost blinked. "A family?"

Nodding, Demyx smiled. "Uh huh. A big one. With lots of brothers and sisters, and a mom and dad." I wonder if Xemnas or Xigbar is the mom... gotta be Xigbar. He's the overly affectionate black mom. Demyx laughed at his own joke, and the little girl smiled.

"I - I - I want a family. With a big brother. Who's nice and dorky."

Demyx let out a big guffaw there. "I think I can definitely do that." The little girl laughed too. They both laughed, harder and harder, though they hardly knew what for. But it felt good. It felt right. It felt like something they might've done in a past life, in a shared bedroom, during the night when they were already supposed to be asleep.

"But..." The girl's laugh ceased. "I can't leave." Demyx blinked. The little girl pointed, and he turned to see the chains that connected her to the seal. Demyx looked at it. He thought of an idea.

"Be right back!" He leapt to his feet and ran across the room.

Slamming the doors to the library open, Demyx glanced around. Vexen had his hands around Xigbar's throat, who was holding an expensive painting high above the other's head. Saix was currently holding Zexion back from killing Axel, who had lost a bet with Luxord and, consequentially, set fire to a few irreplacable, ancient books.

Demyx grinned at the madness, eyes searching for one person. He cheered when he saw him.

"Lexaeus!" The large man glanced up to see the blond's smiling face. "Can I ask you a favor?"

-=-=

"This is strange." Sora glanced around the room. "I thought the Door was in the basement... that's where I went into it."

Aime walked up beside him. "This is different." She told him. "I've researched it. This ought to be the source of light that will bring Kingdom Hearts back to us."

Sora sighed, but nodded. "All right then. I guess I'll get to it. Tell everyone else to gather in the hall outside."

The girl nodded. "Will do!" She rushed out to pass the word around.

Sora, meanwhile, glanced at the strange, round little room. He scrutinized the walls, and noticed the far one looked strange. He approached it quietly. There was an indentation. Sora touched it, and then, looked to his Keyblade.

Stepping back, he lifted the blade. The tip touched the indent and fit. Then, the rock in the indent disappeared. Confused, Sora lowered the blade.

The new hole was full of light. The boy watched in awe as the light began pouring out of it like a liquid. The fountain of light-water made a sound like a softly ringing bell, and when Sora touched the "water", it felt more like vapor. the golden liquid filled the indent in the floor, which was a long cut that flowed out of the room, through the castle. The golden light rushed through all the floors, through the entire building. A city that had been dead for millennia returned to life.

A feeling was born then, a good one, that filled Sora and everyone else's heart with peace. It was similar to a child needing a ride home, fearing they'd been forgotten, suddenly getting a call from Mom saying she was on her way. It was a feeling of being rescued from the brink, of the underdogs making it through. Kingdom Hearts was back. The light and the dark were balanced. All was well.

Sora glanced down at the little fountain and smiled. He then had a feeling... he kneeled and looked through the hole.

He could see that strange Earth world on the other side. Sora wondered how the doctor was... how they all were. Would they make it back through? Would they come home? Sora would hate to give everyone hope, only to find they couldn't come back... he decide not to say anything, and to simply hope for the best.

-=-=-

"Come on! Time to go home!"

Everyone ran through the halls like crazy, as if they hadn't waged war for hours. They were eager to get home. The Organization members followed suit, heading out of the library, into the hall, following the crowd down the path. They came to a fork in the road, where everyone headed upstairs. On the other side of the stairs was another hall, much darker than the others. The path of light which had just started illuminating the castle didn't extend into this hall.

Demyx stared down the hallway.

"I guess that's where the first darkness came from. Shouldn't go in there." Someone said.

"Could be millennia old corpses in there, trapped in darkness." Another said.

Demyx stared. His feet couldn't decide whether to go down the hall, or follow his friends. He hesitated.

"Hey, kid!" Spinning around, Demyx saw a familiar face; Kenpachi Zaraki grinning at him, with little Yachiru on his shoulder.

"Nice trick out there. Finally manning up, huh?" The man grinned.

Yachiru giggled. "Kenny had a lot of fun fighting! Did Demmy to?"

Demyx couldn't help but chuckle at them. One more time, he glanced at the dark hallway, and then the stairs, and he chose the future. He came to stand next to the captain and assistant captain, and they climbed the stairs together.

-=-=-

"Yunie?"

Rikku approached her cousin nervously. The taller girl was standing by a window, staring out in to the dark nothingness with keen eyes. The longing look on her face was strange, something that seemed strange on her face. Rikku put a hand on her shoulder. Yuna turned around suddenly, as if woken up from a dream.

"It's time to go home." The Al Bhed girl said. Yuna smiled.

"Be right there." She promised. The other girl hesitated, before finally leaving the room. Yuna turned back to the nothingness, where thousands of souls rested somewhere, in the light.

"You're there somewhere aren't you?" Yuna whispered. "If Sir Jecht was here... you're here too."

She stood in contemplation a moment more, until her name was called again. Yuna's eyes explored the horizon, and then she turned and ran into the hall.

-=-=-

"So, the door is a little keyhole?" Yuffie murmured. "How do we get home then?"

Sora smiled. "I'm pretty sure that's as easy as wishing for it. Now that Kingdom Hearts is back in working order, it'll take us home, if we ask."

"Then why the hell did I climb all those fucking stairs!?" Cid cursed and pulled out a cigarette.

The group shared a laugh at that.

Sora's idea proved true; once the entire army was joined, Sora made a short speech to them explaining it.

"Hey, guys." He said. The cheered in return. "I'm sorry I wasn't with you there, the whole time. I really wanted to be. But I wanted to thank you for fighting. I know its not really my place, because you weren't fighting for me. You were fighting for your homes and loved ones. But I wanted too anyway." The boy ended with a smile. "So, this is it. I hope we meet again, but now we're going home. All you have to do to do that is imagine you're there."

The group didn't seem to taken aback by this. Everything to that point had been rather magical, why not one more trick? So, people began closing their eyes. In a spark of light, they faded away. One by one the crowd thinned, as sparks of light took people home. Sora watched, wondering... Which home am I going back to now?

But he didn't worry about it. Sora simply closed his eyes, imagined peace, a warm bed, and home.

-=-=-

One month later

Hogwarts castle was bustling with life. The school grounds, beautiful expanses of green grass and trees, were covered by make shift tents and campers. No one was in the tents, or the school, currently. They were all heading towards the lake.

Demyx careened down the hill with nervous butterflies flying about in his chest. Even with the time he'd had left after returning from the war, he hadn't been able to figure out what the Second Task was.

The first had already been completed before the War; somehow Demyx had miraculously, without his powers, fended off an enormous dragon and retrieved the egg. He had come in last place, but had at least survived. This might have had to do with, in part, the fact that Kenpachi had been in the crowd, and had become so pissed off at Demyx running away like a chicken shit that his intimidating aura arose, scaring the living piss out of the entire stadium, Demyx, and the dragon.

But now it was up to him. He had his powers, and the next task had begun. Thing was, the clue the egg gave him had been no help. Demyx still had no idea what he was supposed to be doing today. Still, he thought optimistically; it can't be another dragon!

The boy headed down the hill towards the boats, which all of the children were heading towards. But he wasn't really watching where he was going, and bumped into someone along the way.

"Oh, excuse me - Oh! Professor!" The boy turned red when he realized that it was the one and only Prof. Dumbledore he had stumbled into. "I'm so sorry!"

The man smiled with his twinkling eyes. "Quite all right." He chuckled. "Your little mishap was a blessing for me, for now I know these old bones have not quite given out." He and Demyx shared a little laugh.

"Well, Demyx, today is the day." The boy sighed.

"Yeah... I'm really nervous. I... hehe... never did figure out the clue." He chuckled. Dumbledore gave him an incredulous look, but it didn't look genuine.

"Hmm? Well, I suppose you'll have to rely upon ingenuity then." The teen shook his head.

"I think I'm all outta that... I'm not really one for these kind of things." Demyx swallowed nervously. The boat was getting closer and closer...

"These kinds of things?" The Professor asked with a quirked eyebrow. The boy nodded.

"You know... winning. Fighting. Actually doing something right." He sighed heavily, shoulders drooping. Dumbledore watched with wry amusement.

"I think you are better than you know. I heard that, recently, your powers returned to you?" The Prof asked, and Demyx's face lit up.

"Yeah! I have those at least."

The older man laughed. "My boy, your powers never left you." He stopped walking and Demyx followed suit. "Demyx, you are just like everyone else: in that everyone has a power unique to themselves, that only they may put to good use. Being victorious, and winning battles may not be your forte, but that does not mean you are powerless." The elder man inclined his head, catching Demyx with a sharp gaze that could pierce the strongest of hearts. "Do not forget that."

The blond nodded incessantly. "I promise!"

A whistle blew nearby, and Demyx's head spun around. "Oh, sorry, Prof, I've really gotta - go?"

When he turned back around, the elderly Headmaster was already gone.

-=-=-

Demyx stepped off the boat with sea legs, which was entirely from his nerves. He lined up with the other nearby champions, who eyed his school uniform with disbelief. They obviously knew something he didn't. Demyx didn't heed it; it hardly noticed anything. The professor's words were ringing in his head.

The champions stood, waiting, for a few minutes more. Then, the challenge was announced. The audience became silent, and Demyx broke out of his reverie.

"Today, our champions will have to face the monsters of the deep! Hogwart's lake..." Demyx listened to bits and pieces. "Breathe underwater for an hour... traverse the water... save the one most precious to them..."

Water...

Demyx would've danced if he hadn't been so self conscious. Water! Of all the challenges, they gave him water! How could he lose? The Melodious Nocturne? Breathing underwater was a synch for him. He wouldn't even break a sweat! All these thoughts careened through Demyx's head as his excitement grew. He was giddy.

Water! It was really water!

The countdown to start began. Demyx couldn't believe it. He thought about maybe giving the others a ten minute start. It would be only fair. He grinned as the cannon fired, and everyone else leapt in to the water. He didn't; he decided to show off. Demyx made the water come to him.

Dumbledore's thoughts drifted through his head then... everyone has a power unique to themselves...

Maybe the old geezer was right.

Meanwhile, miles below the surface, Yuffie Kisaragi had already awoken from the sleeping spell which was not as affective as a sleep Materia would've been. She was wet, surrounded by ugly sea monsters, and mad as hell.

Perhaps Demyx winning first place would cheer her up.

-=-=-

Cid Highwind wished he were flying. He wished he was working on something; a ship, a bike, a blueprint, something. He even wished he was at home with his nagging wife. Anything but this!

"I've been through some creepy shit but this is the creepiest fucking shit I've ever been in!" The man cursed and lit another cigarette.

"Could've been worse. Your life was saved y'know." Tifa told him. The blond had to give her that, so he grunted.

"Still... have you looked at that guy!? Creepy as hell. Even Vince ain't as bad as him, no offence, man."

"Hnn."

The door to the bar opened, and Cid groaned. A tall man dressed in red, wearing a fedora, stepped towards him. "Well? Are you ready, fledging?"

"I'm not your fucking baby vampire, dammit!" The man screamed.

"But you are dependent on him, since he gave you a lot of his blood to survive." Tifa happily pointed up.

"SHUT THE FUCK UP!?"

"Come now, Captain," Alucard muttered darkly. "It's not so bad is it? A few more weeks and your body will be strong enough to exist without my constant presence."

Cid twitched, his whole body freezing. "A few... more weeks?"

The vampire merely grinned.

Cid wished he had beer. Lots and lots of beer.

-=-=-

Sora walked lazily through Twilight Town, heading through the streets to his friend's house. It was much homier now that the giant convention was at Hogwarts castle and not the little town. Sora had decided to stay there a while, adjusting to some of his new... well, his new look on life. His newfound philosophy.

As he walked through the little town, he whistled a tune. Then, a familiar voice caught his ear. Glancing up, Sora saw the train station. Three familiar young women stood at the ticket booth, bags in hand.

Sora approached them. The girls glanced up, saw him, and waved, and he returned it.

"Heading back to Hogwarts already?" When the army who'd fought the last Heartless wished to return home, many were simply teleported to Twilight Town, which was sort of in the center of the worlds. Over time, the people had begun heading back home, or in most cases, to Hogwarts Castle for the convention.

Yuna shook her head. "No, actually." She smiled at Sora's surprised look. Rikku giggled, Paine smirked.

"Why's that?" The two girls behind Yuna shared a knowing look. Yuna just smiled. Sora smiled back. "You going back to treasure hunting?"

Behind her cousin, Rikku muttered, "He's certainly a kind of treasure! Tee hee! Oww!" Paine elbowed her. Yuna ignored them.

"Something like that." She said. Sora nodded, and opened his arms. They shared hugs all around.

"Good luck guys. Hope we see you again soon." Sora told them.

"You too Sora. Take care!" The girls began heading back towards the trains. Rikku hopped up and down as she waved.

"Bye! And tell Yuffie bye for me!"

"See you later."

"Bye!" Sora waved vigorously, until he couldn't see them. He stared at the door they disappeared behind. The voices had died down a bit, but they were still in his head, voices saying, "X2 was the worst sequel, ... I loved the outfits! XD, ... I'm so glad Tidus and Yuna got a happy ending..."

"Happy ending huh?" Sora murmured. "Good for you, Yuna." Then he turned and left.

He continued down the path, through the town, to the forest. The large mansion came into few quickly. Sora stepped through the gate, greeted Larxene, who was reading in the garden, and Marluxia, who was watering as usual, and continued through the door.

The mansion was much cleaner than usual when he walked in. Sora glanced at the center of the room at the new coffee table - and laughed.

"Nice decoration." He said to Namine, who walked up beside him.

She giggled. "It was the best we could do with it. We can't destroy the seal, even though we got rid of the chains."

"So as long as she's around you have to keep the rock?" Sora chuckled. Suddenly there was a ghost floating in his face.

"Sora!" The little ghost cheered. "Welcome back!"

"HOLY - I keep telling you not to jump in my face like that!"

"Sorry."

Namine giggled. Then, she turned to the ghost. "So, have you thought of one yet?"

The little girl shook her head. "Can't decide. There are so many!"

Sora blinked. "So many what?"

"Names!" The ghost put a hand on her chin. "I can't remember my old one, so I'm picking a new one. But I can't decide..." She hummed as if thinking.

Sora thought about it too. He stared at her, but the voices didn't say much. "How about..." he tapped his chin. "You could be..." An idea hit him. "How about Marina?"

The ghost blinked. "I don't know..."

"Let's shorten it." Namine offered. "How about Rina?"

The little girl thought about it. She smiled. "Okay! You can call me Rina!"

Sora smiled and put out his hand. "Nice to meet you, Rina."

-=-=-

The Organization was celebrating in their tent and disrupting the peace five times over. Somehow, despite the fact that technology was inoperable on Hogwarts grounds, Xigbar had managed to fill the tent with what appeared from the outside to be hundreds of strobe lights and flashing colors. The music was insanely loud, and many people had abandoned the area, or gone in search of help.

Kairi had been invited to the celebration but didn't feel like going. She was happy and all... she was happier than she'd been in a long time. With Kingdom Hearts back she felt whole again. She just needed some time alone to think. Actually, she really wanted some time with Sora, but... that would have to wait. He decided to remain in Twilight Town... she was eager to finish her school year at the magical Hogwarts.

Footsteps broke her reverie; Kairi spun around to see a familiar scarred face. She smiled at Harry and motioned for him to come stand with her.

"I'm no stranger to saving the day, but... saving the universe was really different." He chuckled. Kairi chuckled too.

"I guess it is. I'm kind of used to it by now." She joked. The two stood in peaceful silence, other than the booming chaos from the tent behind them.

"Your friend... that died..." Harry began.

"Aerith." Kairi murmured. Harry nodded.

"I'm really sorry."

"It's all right." She smiled, and Harry could see it was true. "It's like Cloud said. She was ready." The girl reached up and tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear. It was then Harry noticed something. Instead of the school uniform, Kairi was wearing her old pink dress... and her hair was pulled up into a ponytail. Harry hadn't known Aerith for long, but the resemblance was uncanny. Kairi noticed him staring.

"You changed your look." He said. Kairi nodded.

"Yeah. I uh..." She shrugged. "I don't know. It just... seemed like everyone else was growing up. Sora's changed a lot since the war. And Riku's always been grown up. So... I'm trying to be different. Trying to be wiser and stronger."

"You admired her?" Harry asked. Kairi nodded.

"Yeah. Aerith was everything I wanted to be." Kairi said whimsically. "I wish I'd told her that. Well, now I've decided that's who I'm going to be." She turned and smiled at him. "Brave, kind, loving, and truthful. Never giving up. I want to be as strong as she is. So whenever those I love need me, I'll be ready. Whenever..." She turned back to the sky. "When Sora needs me, I'll be there."

Harry followed her gaze. "I think you're already all those things, you're only just realizing it." he said. Kairi giggled and nodded.

"Maybe you're right." She turned to him. "You and the Prof have something in common."

"Prof?"

"Dumbledore." Kairi told him. "You both can see right through people. And you've always got the best intentions at heart."

Harry's face flushed and he cleared his throat. "Uh, well then,... uh, thanks. For comparing me to the best wizard in the wizarding world."

"Welcome!"

-=-=-

Radiant Garden was bustling with life. Cloud carefully maneuvered his bike through the crowded streets, heading towards the lower streets where he could ride out into the Maw.

"Heading somewhere?"

He turned and saw Leon nearby. The man waved, and Cloud nodded. The brunette approached him.

"I've got some unfinished business." Cloud explained. The older man looked worried.

"I hope its not your usual 'unfinished Sephiroth business'." He muttered. Cloud glanced away.

"Kind of... but its not what you think." Leon waited for the blond to explain. Cloud let out a sigh. "At the funeral... I forgave him." The elder looked surprised. "But now I think that's not enough. I think I ... need to talk to him. Maybe... settle all of this without our swords. I know that there's a lot of darkness between us but there was light there once. Maybe it can come back." He glanced up at Leon and the elder man saw that Cloud's eyes were, for once, light and free of worry.

"The light does have a tendency to sweep all else away." Cloud nodded in agreement. "I just hope Sephiroth doesn't decide to skewer you on sight."

Cloud rolled his eyes. "I'll be fine." He pulled his goggles on.

"If you don't call every day, I'm coming for you." Leon promised. Cloud waved over his shoulder, revved the bike, and headed down the street, passing through the last crowd of people, before getting onto the road.

Leon watched him go and remembered a time when he had been young and jaded. He tried to remember when it was he had let the wounds and the anger go. He wondered if he had looked as free and happy as Cloud did when he let go.

"It's good to know we won't all be angst ridden teenagers forever." And with that, Squall took his leave.

I forgive you

I'll forgive you

-=-=-

Riku escorted Aime to the Train station when it finally came time for her to go home. He glanced around the station: across the way, he saw Inuyasha and his brother, heading to board a train, either going to Hogwarts or going home. Near them was a large group of people, at the center two young woman, an orange haired buxom girl and a shorter dark haired girl. Riku remembered Ichigo Kurosaki, who stood right next to them. They looked happy to be back together. He smiled.

"It's good that's its all over, isn't it?" Aime whispered.

"Yeah."

"Then why does it feel like we've lost something?" The woman asked.

"Well... when the conflict is over, the story ends. Everyone goes their own way." Riku told her. "But every ending brings a new beginning."

"And let me guess... more conflict?" Aime asked. Riku smirked.

"You can bet on it."

"Guess I will have to enjoy the peace while I can." She smiled. The two felt their hands brush. They did not reach out and hold them... but each burned with the desire to do so.

They came to the booth. Riku stood with her as she bought the tickets. He followed her to the platform, through the crowds. Aime's leg brushed his. Riku got a whiff of her shampoo. Lilies?

They finally came to the train. The goodbye couldn't be stalled anymore. Aime turned to him and smiled, and Riku set her luggage next to the other luggage being loaded on. Despite the noise surrounding them, the room seemed almost silent.

"I guess this is it then." Aime said. Riku glanced down.

"Uh... yeah."

"Well... it was wonderful working with you... Captain." Aime held out a hand.

The boy looked at it, looked at her, and smirked. He shook her hand. "And you, Assitant Captain." The grinned at one another, and the handshake, though it slowed, seemed to last a bit longer than normal handshakes.

"Well then." She said. Riku nodded.

"Yeah..."

"Uh..."

They shared a look. A sad, I don't want to leave but I need to, look.

"Goodbye." Aime whispered. She smiled and without waiting for Riku to say anything, turned to go. The boy watched hands clenched.

"W - wait!"

The girl immediately stopped and spun around, hope on her face. Riku faltered. But he managed to spit it out.

"Would - would you... would you like to meet someplace, uh... some... time?" He muttered. The atmosphere grew tense.

Aime let out a giggle, shaking her head as she approached him. Her hand slipped a piece of paper into his pocket as she pecked his check.

"I'd love to, mon amie,"

Then she waved, and spun around, racing onto the train that would finally take her home. Riku, meanwhile, put his hand in his pocket and pulled the paper out to make sure it wasn't a joke. No joke; it had all eight digits.

All he could do was watch the train go and smile. Once it was gone, he pocketed the paper, and headed to the Mansion.

I'll forgive you

I forgive you

-=-=-

Sora, Namine, and Riku sat in the corner of the large living room of the mansion, talking over Namine's latest paintings. She was getting very good, and had even auctioned off some of her work. As they chatted over cans of soda, the rest of the room buzzed with life.

"This place is too quiet with everyone at Hogwarts." Riku murmured.

"Yeah, it kinda gets lonely. The only members who decided to stay here were Marluxia, Larxene, and..."

"Yo."

The three turned and saw Axel walk into the room. "Hey."

"You didn't go back?" Sora asked him.

"Hell no! That place was hell!" Namine giggled as Axel pulled a chair out and sat down with them. He glanced over the artwork. "Whoa... nice job, Namine."

A few prints were on the table, each one of a different member of the RGRC or the Organization. "I'm trying to paint a picture of each person who fought in the war. So far, I've got all our friends down." She said.

"Cool." Axel picked up one that had two teens painted in it: Sora and his sister. "How is your sister doing?"

Sora forced a frown onto his face but inside he was smirking. "And why do you want to know that, huh?"

Axel's face became the color of his hair, and he set the painting back down. "N - No reason."

The other three shared a knowing look. They decided to be nice and play dumb. The door to the room opened again, and Marluxia poked his head in. "Hey, Namine, Axel. We got a call from the boss, he wants to talk to all of us." The two Organization members nodded.

"Be right back." Namine smiled, and headed through the door.

"Peace!" Axel sauntered out after her.

Sora and Riku watched them go.

"And then there were two." Riku smirked. He and Sora shared a small laugh. They sat there in silence.

"It's weird... being back." Sora admitted. "I mean, it's been a while since we just hung out together, y'know?"

"Yeah." Riku nodded. He was collecting the paintings and putting them back in their protective cases. "It's been even longer since you, me, and Kairi went back to the island."

"Oh, man." Sora let out a deep sigh and sank down in his chair. "I really, really, really, miss home." Riku chuckled, and nodded.

"Me, too."

"The fort."

"The races."

"Swimming."

"Fighting on the beach."

"Paopu fruit." Sora grinned at that. "Heh. To think I wanted to give Kairi a stupid fruit..." Riku understood his meaning and laughed.

"When you were already tied together from the beginning." Sora nodded and laughed too. "Guess I never had a chance."

"Sorry." Sora said sheepishly.

"No prob." Riku, reaching into his pocket, pulled a piece of paper out. "I'm not hung up on that anymore." He smirked as Sora's eyes went wide at the sight of the eight digit number.

"Holy crap! Who'd you get it from?" He grinned ear to ear, ready to leap over the table and embrace Riku in a death grip. The older boy laughed and put the paper away.

"Nonya."

"Nonya?"

"None of ya business." Sora looked baffled, until Riku burst into laughter. After a moment, the other followed suit, until the room rang with it.

The voices that echoed in Sora's mind came back for a moment as he laughed with his friend. They spoke of Riku, of everything they'd been through together, of the friendship they had that people envied. Riku's badass, ... Riku is really sexy! Okay, Sora could've done without that one.

Wait a minute... the voices still had more to say. Some... disturbing things to say. Hold his hand! Lean closer!

What? Why would he do that? Images started to come to him. Very bad, bad images. Images of things Sora and Kairi would have fun doing that he would NEVER NEVER NEVER do with Riku. But the images were with Riku. And things were happening. Very bad things.

The people... those people liked this!??!?!?

"Sora, what's wrong?" Riku saw the jaw drop on Sora's face, the absolute horror.

He's concerned about you! Awww! Go hug him!

Sora leapt to his feet, stumbling over his chair, backing away from Riku. The older boy stood. "Sora? What the hell?"

Don't hurt his feelings! He loves you!

Without another word, Sora ran screaming from the room, leaving a baffled silver haired teen behind him.

For blue, blue skies

For blue, blue skies

For blue, blue skies

For blue, blue skies

I'll forgive you

-For Blue Skies, Strays Don't Sleep

-=-=-

Outside of Twilight Town, walking through plains of grass, was a small group of people in traveling cloaks, holding large bags on their shoulders. They looked a bit worse for the wear, but the smiles on their faces made it seem like they were glowing. Two children raced happily through the tall grass, laughing and laughing.

Two sisters watched them play with big grins on their faces. "Be careful Tidu, Mari!"

"Yes ma'am!"

Behind the two sisters came three men: a handsome young man, a older professor, and a tan skinned man with white hair. They watched the children run towards Twilight Town with the largest smiles.

"What are you gonna do first?" Mari asked her friend.

"Skate boarding! I'm gonna skate with Roxas and his friends!" Tidu cheered.

"I want ice cream! Sea salt ice cream! The other place didn't have any at all!" The ran faster, pushed by their wishes.

"We can go skating, and then we can all get ice cream!" The boy offered, running ahead of her.

"And then we can go to the beach!"

"Then we can ride the train to all the worlds, all of them!"

"Yeah! I wanna see all of them!"

"We'll see every world, and we'll tell em all about the other place!"

Mari looked at her friend with a quizzical smile. "Think they'll believe us?" She asked.

The boy grinned broadly. "Not on your life!"

Just like the good old days

Even when all the old days are done

Here we are with unlimited ways

To spend these last days under the sun

-=-=-=-

The End

-=-=-=-

I can't believe this is really happening.

I kept writing more and more of this chapter in an effort to stop it but that didn't work of course. There's always an end to everything.

When I first started writing this trilogy, I wrote it with this chapter in mind. I came up with the idea that maybe Kingdom Hearts was Earth. I ran with that idea, and started the trilogy, which was just going to be one story. I wanted the Organization to come back, Sora to find the door to light, and learn the revelation of what Kingdom Hearts really was. But apparently it took more than one story to accomplish that.

This story is the first one I wrote on a serious, almost every day basis. It was the first one I focused on, the first that I am proud of. The practice that I got from the writing it, and the support I got from readers, is what made me the writer I am today. Thank you everyone.

To all the readers, some of whom have been there since that first chapter I wrote almost four years ago. I was thirteen then; I'm now on the cusp of seventeen. I've changed, and so has my life. In the beginning I updated almost every day, now my life keeps me so busy that updating monthly is a lucky break.

The fact that this is over means an ending for me too. I wrote this as a child, and I'm not a child anymore. I look back at some of the things I've written here and think, "What the hell was I doing?" But it was part of the learning process. I forgive myself for my mistakes, and I hope you can too.

Thank you all, once again. This wouldn't have continued without support. The reviews I got gave me confidence that I was a good writer, and that made me keep writing.

There will be no more sequels; I may, at some point, write a one shot that is in the universe of this series, but that will be a long time away and I don't know if I ever will. I want to but life gets in the way. I can't keep adding to this series knowing that I'll never finish what I start because I hardly have the time.

THANK YOU. I can't say it enough.

Thank you, and goodbye.

SULHADAHNE