A.N. This is a continuation of Chapter 3 – Across the Stars. I suggest you read that first (if you haven't already) before reading this. Also, Roxas' side of things takes place in the village of Kakariko in the Hyrule of Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Yeah, he ran out of the KH/Disney/FF universe altogether and into the Nintendo universe to avoid being found by Sora and company. I tried to keep the references at a minimum for those unfamiliar with the game, but the other characters ended up having a much greater role than I intended. And FYI, this story is also slightly AU. Hope you enjoy it anyway.
Dark Side of the Moon
Nestled in a deep gorge between two cliffs, Kakariko was a village locked in a strange mix of light and shadow. The dozen or so buildings were well worn by the elements, built up into the cliffs themselves to conserve what little space there was to be had. Despite its desolate appearance, though, it was a warm and very friendly place. Unlike many of the other worlds he had come across on his flight from the Kingdom, the residents here welcomed him with open arms. As far as any of them knew, he was nothing more than a simple traveler, albeit one who happened to be both male and pregnant. It had been quite an adjustment at first, getting used to all the attention the people of Kakariko gave him.
Setting his things on a rock besides the hot spring, Roxas breathed in deeply as he looked out over the still sleeping village, dawn having only just broken over the horizon. It had been five months almost to the day since he had come to this world, and six months since he'd abandoned his old world and the greatest of his life, all for the sake of a child he would have to raise alone, a child that continued to grow in his heavily swollen belly even now. Renado said it should be any day now, and though the gentle healer had advised Roxas not to strain himself by going up to the hot springs above the inn every morning, as had become his custom, that he could be a parent at any time now was all the more reason for Roxas to do so. Though he couldn't submit the baby to such extreme changes in temperature, the hot water refreshed him and lying down in the shallows greatly helped to soothe his constantly aching back and ankles.
But, perhaps most of all, Roxas cherished the time alone with the quiet and the newborn sun, to sort out his thoughts. He may be a foreigner here but Roxas was determined to learn to live in this world and become one of its people. This would be his home now. It was a good world with good people, for the most part, and as fine a place as any to raise a child. It was also so far and remote among the roads of worlds that not even Sora would be able to find him here.
While Roxas did not regret his decision to leave his beloved and his old world, and was fully prepared to face this new future alone, he could not deny that the closer his due date approached, the more his thoughts turned to the one who's child he carried.
Deep in his belly, Roxas felt the baby stir and he placed his hand over the spot soothingly. 'You miss him, too…' he thought, 'don't you little one?'
Deeply honest with himself, Roxas admitted that he was frightened and missed the man who had been both his lover and his best friend. But he did not allow himself the small indulgence of fantasy anymore, where somehow Sora managed to find him, declared his love for Roxas for all time, for all the worlds to know, and they lived happily ever after raising their child together. It was a fantasy, one that must not come to pass, and deluding himself into believing otherwise would only serve to further injure his already wounded heart. Roxas had to remain strong and would not give in, not even for Sora. Roxas had chosen his path, and now he would follow it.
Roxas had enough on his mind already. He had plenty to do yet to get ready for this baby. Renado had kindly allowed him to remain in the village until the baby was born, so he had taken it upon himself to pitch in where he could. Though he used to help Colin, Talo, and the Gorons on patrols, that was no longer an option this late into his pregnancy. So now Roxas made himself useful by taking up some of the domestic responsibilities, namely looking after the children from Ordon who were staying in Kakariko until the current political crisis was resolved, cooking meals, and such. Speaking of cooking…
The sun was fully up over the horizon now and the scent of the kitchen fire pulled Roxas out of his thoughts. It seemed someone (Luda or Ilia, probably) had beaten him to making breakfast. Hmm, he must've been up here longer than he'd thought. Oh well. He'd contemplated enough for the morning; now his new life demanded his attention. Gathering his things, Roxas decided he may as well get some food before the rest of the children woke up and ate it all. Talo alone could practically eat his weight in one sitting. The thought brought a smile to the young man's lips. 'Just like Sora.'
But then his smile faded, leaving only sadness. Roxas had sworn to give his son or daughter a happy childhood, regardless of whether Sora was there or not. These last few precious days of his pregnancy were all that he would allow himself to mourn the loss of his lover. After that, his child's and his new lives would begin.
But as he gingerly made his way back inside the inn and down the hall to his bedroom to change (male hips were not designed for carrying babies, even walking was becoming increasingly difficult, so progress was slow) Roxas cried out as he felt a sudden intense ripping pain deep behind his abdomen. The sensation ceased as suddenly as it had come but lingered, leaving Roxas trembling and weak, and he collapsed to the floor.
Sora woke so suddenly it was as if he'd been slapped in the face. But the bedroom was quiet, the only sounds being the wind whispering through the curtains and Kairi's steady breathing beside him. Sora gazed down at his still sleeping wife. A sliver of moonlight peeking through the window illuminated her soft features as she dreamed untroubled dreams.
Getting out of bed, Sora stole across the room and let himself out onto the balcony. Beyond it, the entirety of his world lay sleeping before him, a kingdom to which he'd been prince for half a year now.
Half a year since he'd married Kairi.
Half a year since Roxas had run away.
Roxas. He was never too far from Sora's thoughts these days, it seemed. The blond up and vanished into thin air without a trace, without a word to anyone, not even Namine. Roxas had also fled while Sora was on his honeymoon, the time when the one person who could have stopped him, or at least followed him, was away. Sora remembered well his shock when he'd first learned of his former lover's disappearance, outright refusing to believe it, even returning from the Islands a full week early, desperate to disprove it. And then he saw Roxas' apartment completely gutted from top to bottom of all furniture and decoration and personal possessions. Where there was once life and laughter and love was now empty, glaring white walls, erasing all evidence of Roxas and the memories they had created together in that place.
Sora never thought he could despise a color so much. But then, he never thought he'd be so angry with Roxas, either, angry and hurt. Sora had tried hard to track Roxas down, to find him and demand an explanation. But Roxas had covered his tracks well. Though he'd drawn much attention to himself by crossing worlds through the corridors of darkness, the sentries on duty had assumed the user was trying to get into their world, not escape it. Roxas had also timed his exit to coincide with the changing of the guard as well, adding to the confusion. By the time Riku had reestablished order and tracked the interloper to Agrabah, Roxas had already jumped worlds again.
Of course, Riku only realized it was Roxas he was trying to track after the blond keybearer failed to answer his summon to aid, and when they checked his apartment…
Riku had been loath to call Sora back to the palace from his honeymoon of all things, but he was left with no choice. By the time Sora arrived on the hunt, Roxas' trail had gone cold, finally dying completely in Deep Jungle. For an entire month, they had scoured that one tiny place, looking for any trace of Roxas at all, only to come up with nothing. Sora then tried to track Roxas through the Keyblade, only to discover it had been left behind in the palace all along. Not even Namine, with all her power, could find him. It seemed that Roxas had outsmarted them at every turn.
It was so like him. Sora smiled bitterly.
Clever, clever Roxas.
Awakened by his cries of pain, Talo ran to fetch Renado from the Goron village up the mountain while Ilia and Luda helped Roxas down the stairs and across the road to the shaman's hut. It was slow and painful going. Even the slightest movement sent spasms racing through his body. By the time they reached the dwelling, it was all he could do not to scream.
As Luda eased him down onto the birthing mat, Talo burst in followed closely by Colin and Beth.
"That was quick. Where's Renado?" Ilia asked them, wiping Roxas' brow with a damp cloth.
"We just send a message by hawk. He should be here soon," the boy explained.
Roxas cursed under his breath. This baby wanted out and wanted out now. Soon couldn't come soon enough.
Realizing that he would sleep no more this night, Sora quietly dressed again before slipping out of his and Kairi's bedroom.
He wandered aimlessly, not really caring where he was going so long as his feet continued to move. He needn't worry about running into anyone. The long halls of the palace were all but silent this time of night, servants and courtiers and advisors having long since retired to bed, though Sora did pause to not his approval to a lone guard still faithfully standing at attention outside the armory. The guard nodded back courteously, for this wasn't the first time they had run into each other at this ungodly hour. Indeed, it seemed to Sora that he had taken to wandering the halls late at night quite often lately. But then, he'd had a lot on his mind lately, too.
'Why, Roxas?' he implored in his mind. Of all the things that had happened, what Sora couldn't understand was why. It didn't help that he was still furious with himself. Dammit, he'd known something was wrong that day in the dressing room. He should have trusted his instincts then, should have demanded the blond explain himself.
But then, that probably wouldn't have made any difference. It was obvious now that Roxas had been planning to leave for quite some time. He'd arranged for all of the furniture and such to be taken away beforehand and the walls to be repainted so his apartment would be all ready for a new tenant. He even thought to open the corridor of darkness in the palace gardens, away from the residential areas (which would have been easier) so that the sleeping people wouldn't be disturbed by the resulting commotion from the royal guards. It was a real blow that the blond had accomplished all this with Sora being none the wiser. But the fact that Roxas had willingly abandoned him so completely still stung bitterly.
'Why not?' a little voice in the back of his mind sneered. 'You abandoned him first, remember?'
Something in Sora's heart clenched painfully. No, he had not abandoned Roxas. They'd both known the entire time they were lovers that someday Sora would have to honor his betrothal to Kairi and their relationship would have to come to an end.
Sora just hadn't expected it to have to end so soon. He loved Roxas in a way he did no one else. Letting go of that bond would be beyond difficult, but it was a sacrifice he would have to make for the sake of his kingdom. By law and tradition, the master of Kingdom Key always married the princess. Ever since it was discovered when he was five that he was the keybearer, Sora had been raised to one day be a king. It was a duty he was honored to have. It wouldn't be so bad. He and Kairi got along well, they would be a good couple. And he could even still be friends with Roxas, just not lovers.
He thought Roxas had understood. The blond himself had sacrificed much to betray the Organization and bring Namine and himself to the Kingdom.
He thought Roxas understood that… even if Sora did marry Kairi, and already loved her as a dear friend, his heart would always truly belong to Roxas…
Roxas was in agony by the time Renado finally arrived. He was certain he had already bitten through his cheek trying to withstand the pain. The baby leapt inside of him, desperate to be born.
Kneeling down beside Roxas, the shaman gently placed his large, warm hands on the younger man's stomach, carefully feeling for the baby. "It is time," he said at last. "Are you ready, Roxas?"
Tears streaming down his cheeks and mouth too full of blood and bile to reply, Roxas nodded. The healer's gentleness and calm helped to ease his panicky nerves, but a part of his soul still cried out, frightened and desperate for the warmth and comfort of his former lover. 'Sora…!'
No, Roxas did understand, wherever he was. The blond had said as much many times, even when they were alone in the dressing room the day of the wedding. There had been no resentment in his blue eyes then. Pain, certainly, but even if they couldn't be together the way they wanted to be, Sora and Roxas had sworn to always love each other.
Sora's body burned faintly as he remembered the night they had made that promise.
Some three months before the wedding, he'd gotten cold feet with all the chaos of the preparations and had fled to the one place where he could always find comfort and solace; Roxas' apartment. It was selfish of him, seeking reassurance like that from his former lover, but Roxas had let him in with an understanding smile nonetheless. They talked, one thing led to another, and they'd ended up in each others' arms again.
It was the first and only time in a year that Sora had failed to honor his upcoming vows of monogamy to Kairi. He and Roxas had been lovers for years but that one coupling had held more weight than any other for the simple reason that they knew it would be their last.
They knew that this was good bye.
But afterward, they'd promised that, even if their destinies lay along different paths, they would always love each other and would always be there for each other.
Sora had meant every word of that vow and in his heart he knew that Roxas had, too.
So why did he leave?
It was this one question that he always came back to, the one that haunted him in the back of his mind and the real reason why he paced the halls at night.
He couldn't help but feel like there was something else he was missing, like there was something else in his lover's disappearance that he wasn't seeing. There had to be! Roxas wouldn't just up and leave him like that!
Roxas had always been very good at keeping secrets, but Sora had thought he'd known him well enough to tell when the blond was lying or trying to hide something. Had he been blind all along?
Sora clenched his jaw and fists tight, his heart rebelling what his mind was daring to suggest. He thought he was doing the right thing! Roxas, beautiful, loving, tender, generous, wonderful Roxas was gone, perhaps forever, and the thought that it could have been Sora's own heartless, selfish ignorance that could have driven him way, he couldn't bear it!
His heart leapt up into his throat and Sora froze dead in his tracks. He whipped around. "Roxas?"
Lost in thought on his midnight stroll, Sora had somehow wandered outside, into the heart of the palace gardens. But there was no one. The grounds were empty and, except for the wind through the trees, silent. And yet, for a moment, Sora was certain that he'd heard Roxas calling him. Had he imagined it?
It was impossible, Roxas had been long gone for months now, but Sora couldn't help but look around anyway.
Glancing around at his surroundings, Sora confirmed that he was in fact alone, but he spotted something just up ahead. In the courtyard before him were three statues. In the center stood one of Sora himself with another of Riku on its right. But on the left…
On his statue's left, its back to the real Sora, stood a sculpture of Roxas. Sora moved past the other two to look directly into its face. Though he often claimed to dislike his own statue, Sora had to admit the sculptor had been a very skilled artisan indeed. The craftsmanship of Roxas' face was nearly perfect, its expression alert, intelligent but calm and, Sora noticed for the first time, just a little bit sad.
Standing there gazing at the stone image of Roxas, all the memories Sora possessed of his former lover flashed before his mind's eye. Training and sparring together. Sharing an ice cream. Sneaking away from a ball for stolen kisses. Just lying together in Roxas' darkened bedroom, exhausted but content after a night's love making. The scent of Roxas' hair, like vanilla and honeysuckle. The tenderness of his touch and the sweetness of his kisses. The depth and passion of his love. How the longest and most grueling of days were softened by just a smile from his Roxas. His heart beating against Sora's own…
He let the memories wash over him, bittersweet as they had become. They were all he had left of Roxas now. It was too much for Sora to hope that the blond might someday return.
"I'm sorry, Roxas," Sora murmured, reaching up to touch the statue's face. His hand brushed against the sculpture of himself.
The world tilted. Sora suddenly felt light-headed, almost faint, and he wobbled on his feet for a moment before the sensation ceased and he righted himself.
Sora found himself still standing in the courtyard, but something had changed. He wasn't alone. A figure was approaching from up ahead, silent and almost completely indistinguishable from the shadows. Sora watched them, trying to see who it was, but then the figure stepped into the enclosure.
It was Roxas.
Sora tried to speak, tried to call out to his love, tried to run to him, but found he couldn't move at all. He could only observe as Roxas came to stand before him, his face was partially concealed by a dark hood. For a moment, Sora thought Roxas was wearing the long black coat of Organization XIII and his heart froze. He wouldn't…! But no, it was only a simple traveler's cloak…
But how could Roxas be here? Sora could see that they were still in the gardens, but the blond had left the Kingdom months ago. So how…? Unless…
Unless this was a vision…
Riku had determined the gardens to be the place Roxas had opened the corridor of darkness, although he had been unable to pinpoint the blond's exact point of exit. Sora could just barely make out two tall, pale figures on either side of him, and he realized he was standing in place his statue in the courtyard. Was this a view into the night Roxas left?
Vision or no, it certainly felt real enough to Sora when Roxas reached up and brushed his fingertips across his cheek. It was one of the little gestures of affection that he'd done countless times during their time as lovers and Sora felt his heart constrict painfully. It wasn't only him. Roxas' own composure was faltering, his lovely face quivering briefly with emotion. He bowed his head to rest it against Sora's shoulder, seemingly torn against himself.
Sora longed to reach out to him, but was held immobile, trapped in this view of the past. Nonetheless, he was surprised when Roxas suddenly straightened and kissed him.
For an endless moment, all Sora knew was the softness of his former lover's lips, and the warmth of them almost broke him. But then Roxas pulled away, his eyes sad but focused. "Good bye, Sora," he whispered. "I love you."
'Then why did you leave me!?' Sora cried in his mind, but he could only watch as his lover turned from him. Summoning a corridor of darkness, Roxas disappeared into the whirling blackness and was gone from the world, to be lost somewhere among that endless sky of stars where Sora could not follow.
Then the world tilted again, and Sora collapsed to the ground in front of the three sculptures, released from the postcognition.
The look in Roxas' eyes as he'd said goodbye… Sora knew that look. He'd seen it once before, that day in the dressing room, when Roxas admitted there was something wrong but said there was nothing Sora could do to help him. It was a look of sadness and apology, but not regret. Instead, there had been determination and also, a protectiveness?
But what did it mean?
Roxas was very good at keeping secrets, Sora knew. Was it a secret that drove Roxas to run away? What kind of thing could be so powerful to force him to flee from everything and everyone he knew? And (it hurt like hell for Sora to consider this) was it him that Roxas was keeping it from? Or was it pure heartbreak, that despite all of his proclaimed love for Roxas, Sora had still pledged his life to someone else?
What was it that had driven Roxas to the stars?
Sora didn't know, and it was tearing him apart.
He looked over at the statue of his former lover, standing silently beside him with sightless eyes so sad.
"Why, Roxas?" Sora implored to it, his voice thick with emotion. "Where are you, beloved? What aren't you telling me?"
But the Roxas before him now was only sculpture made of stone and could not answer him…
The sun was already sinking towards the western mountains by the time Luda emerged from the hut. She was covered in some sweat and much blood, but the girl didn't mind, for in her arms she held a tiny but healthy newborn baby boy. The other children gathered as soon as they saw the bundle of blankets.
"Oh, he's so tiny!" Beth cooed, making faces at him. Talo made a face too, but it wasn't in adoration. His only other experience with babies was his little brother Malo, and it was quite enough of an experience for him, thank you.
Luda just smiled and stepped past them down to the spring. By tradition, all newborns were bathed in the water of the Great Spirits' springs, to receive their blessing and protection.
Roxas watched her carefully wash his new son as Renado helped him down to the water. He was exhausted from the labor and slightly dizzy from losing so much blood and sore. But Roxas was ecstatic in a way he had never imagined. He quite happily put most of his weight on Renado as the shaman gently lowered him into the spring, and Roxas let out a small hiss of relief as the healing power of the water began working its magic on his battered body.
Finished cleaning the baby, Luda wrapped him in a fresh blanket that Ilia had handed to her before she waded over to his mother. Roxas took his son from her, cradling him gently in his arms, as if he'd never held anything so precious. And indeed, he hadn't.
The baby fussed in his blankets, clearly unhappy to be woken from his light nap by the cool water of the spring, but didn't cry. Roxas carefully rubbed his back to calm him. The boy gazed up at him with tiny, soft gray eyes. Already he had a small plume of light colored peach fuzz growing on his head.
"What'cha gonna call him?" Colin asked, bouncing on the balls of his feet a little in excitement.
"Kokoro," Roxas told him. It was true, for this baby truly was his heart, his son. This perfect, beautiful baby was his son, a living, breathing symbol of his and Sora's love. Gazing down at this new, tiny life, Roxas felt his heart swell up with love and pride until he honestly thought it would burst, or else sprout wings and simply fly away.
But never had he been so torn about leaving Sora and their kingdom behind. Well, leaving Sora, yes. Leaving the Kingdom, no. But Sora was prince there now, and he and the Kingdom were now all but one and the same. Had Sora been just another keybearer, Kokoro's existence might have been overlooked, but a child between a prince and a Nobody, even a former one, was forbidden. The Organization no doubt would have schemed to use him somehow for their own malicious ends. If they had tried to keep his birth a secret, someone could easily have found out and used him to blackmail one or both of his parents. If they'd been public about him, Kokoro would have grown up scorned, ridiculed by his own people.
He might have even been killed.
Kokoro could not have stayed in the Kingdom. Any knowledge of him there, even by Sora, would have been far too great a risk. Sora deserved to be here, and it broke Roxas' heart that he wasn't, even if his lover's absence was his own doing. But to do so would place Kokoro in untold danger from all sides, and that Roxas would not allow, not even for Sora.
Kokoro started fussing again, and Roxas wondered if his son knew what he was thinking. He began to hum a lullaby that Sora had sang for him many times before, called Dearly Beloved, and the baby settled down again. Now, more than ever, the thought of any harm coming to this sweet life horrified Roxas until the thought he would vomit.
Their baby would be safe here. Roxas swore it in blood the moment he gave birth.
But there should have been another here. It should have been Sora kneeling here beside him. Roxas could practically see the love and pride shining in those too blue eyes. Sora would have loved Kokoro so much, would have delighted in watching their son grow and teaching him to walk and run and swim and climb trees. Roxas could just see the two of them sitting on a dock in a few years, fishing together.
Yes, Sora would be a great father. Roxas wished him well with the children he would inevitably have with Kairi.
Holding his own son, his little Kokoro, and taking him in, Roxas felt the shards of his heart begin to fall back into place. And yet, he knew then that a part of him would always remain broken, knowing the three of them as a family could never be.