Notes: Oh god, I hope I didn't give everyone the impression that the last chapter was the last chapter of the fic. I sorta felt I did, so I decided to hurry up and post this final chapter. It's probably my fault; in the end notes, I actually had meant to say 'next chapter is the last', and when I went back to read it, I was like, 'last chapter is the last? No, wait, what?' Unfortunately, it still made sense in my brain (the last chapter is the last, right?) so I left it, which is really a sign of how damn lazy I am.

But in all seriousness, this really is the last chapter. It takes place after KH2. It's also pretty short, unfortunately, but have at it folks.

Please enjoy (grin).

Finale: Butterfly Kisses

"We did it!" Sora screams into his ear, despite the fact that seconds earlier they were sucking in copious amounts of seawater. Sora's ability to bounce back from adversity is really something to admire. "We're back! We made it! We… Riku, what's wrong?"

He blinks, realizing that he had been staring at the Islands as if he had been gone for years. He practically had, and it's so… strange to be back. To be with Sora and Kairi (and of course, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy too), back home, back… here.

Back home.

Riku breathes in, the salty air making him grin just as crazily as Sora had. The familiarity of it all is almost overwhelming, but in a good way. "Nothing's wrong. Nothing's…" and his voice trails off because… there is something wrong. There is something missing, even if it did not necessarily belong here. But it belongs in Riku's life, and that is enough, and he needs to fill up the hole left by its loss. "No. It's great. Really, it is. But… there's just something I still have to do." He turns to the king. "Your Majesty, can I borrow your ship?"

Everyone looks confused. Everyone, at least, except Kairi, and Riku finds himself grinning foolishly at Naminé. She nods slightly as Sora looks at him.

"But Riku," he says. "We finally came back. And you're just going to leave again?"

"Don't worry. I'm coming right back," he assures, looking at his friend. He thinks he can see Roxas. "I just have to-"

Kairi (Naminé) puts a hand on his arm, cutting him off. "You just go on ahead, Riku. I'll explain. Just make sure you bring him back."

"I will," he promises as he waves at the others. As he leaves he can hear Sora ask, "Bring back who, Kairi?"

"Well Sora. Sometimes people do crazy things when they're in love. For example-"

"Here," she points at the map that they had taken from the library. "I hear it's a quiet place."

He squints at it, trying to decipher the tiny print that indicates its name. "I don't think I've ever heard of it."

"Most people haven't. I heard about it from… from Marluxia," Naminé admits. "I think he might have come from there. Before." There is obviously no need to elaborate on that, and he isn't really sure he would have wanted to know the story anyway.

"But wouldn't that mean he had lost his heart there? If the place is overridden by Heartless…" he thinks about that for a moment. Well. Flaw in that argument. "Okay, so I guess that wouldn't really matter."

"It wouldn't. But I think Marluxia's situation had been… special. The world itself is probably free of the darkness."

"Would it still be safe, if one if its inhabitants became a member of the Organization?"

She nods, "I think so. The way he talked about it, I don't think he told too many people about it. And he definitely wouldn't have told the Superior about it. He hated him too much to do that. Well, as much as he could hate anyone," she amends quietly. Riku puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder, and she smiles at him. "But do you really think you can get there?"

"I can take the dark portals. I should have enough power now to take the both of us."

"What about after?"

"Don't worry," he replies. "I'm not going to just leave him there."

"I know." She smiles at him. "And I'm happy for you two. He's good for you, Riku. And I think you're good for him too, as much as he allows you to."

He blinks, not quite having expected the conversation to go there. It's another reminder of how different Naminé is from the other Nobodies, and he wonders if maybe that's because she's Kairi's Nobody. "Uh. Thanks, Naminé."

"You're welcome. But you should probably go soon. I don't think it's a good idea to let him stay here much longer."

"Yeah. Thanks again. I'll be back soon."

"Safe journey, Riku."

The world is bright and sunny. Judging from the expression on Zexion's face, he absolutely hates it; he probably finds it utterly deplorable, and the scowl is enough to make Riku grin as the guy stomps over to him. Bunnies and baby chicks take cover from the impending shit that is about to hit the proverbial fan. Even the sky seems to quiver a little, the clouds rushing away to find other places to occupy, but that just increases the sunniness.

"You're back." The words that could have been so loving, so very romantic and picturesque, come out as a barely contained snarl.

Oh yeah, he's pissed. And Riku has never been happier to see him.

"And you're still here. I thought you would have left."

Zexion shrugs, suddenly looking quite calm again. Apparently it's difficult for him to keep up the semblance of anger too long, no matter the circumstances or how deserving the situation. "And I thought you might have forgotten."

He hadn't really been gone that long, had he? Although maybe time passes a little differently in this world; he can't really be sure. Instead, he decides to point out, "Well if that's the case, then why did you stay?"

"Where else would I have gone? It is not like I have any means of transport."

"Is that the only reason?"

"What other reason do you want, Riku?"

"You can live your own life now," he replies with a slight smirk. "Shouldn't that have counted for something?"

"Are you trying to make a joke?" Zexion growls, but Riku just laughs and pulls him close for a kiss.

It doesn't make him shiver, as it used to. It's still as empty as the last, since the Nobody still lacks a heart. But he's prepared for it now, this coldness, the emptiness of the gesture. Because at least the sentiment—or an attempt at one—is there, and Riku finds that although it is not nearly as much as he wants, he is at this point willing to take what he can get.

"I see you found yourself again," Zexion says after Riku finally breaks away (oxygen is still a limiting factor, it seems). Zexion lets his hand dance across the light skin of his still boyish face before they tangle in his hair. "I do find this face quite preferable to the other."

"So do I. It looks like you were right."

"I usually am."

He laughs. "I missed you." He'd missed this.

"I wish I could say the same thing," is Zexion's frank response as Riku puts his hands over the other's. Riku frowns but doesn't say anything to that, and Zexion asks, "So what now?"

"Um." After having planned so much and saved a few universes in the meanwhile, it's kinda strange to think that he really, really doesn't have a plan. If anything, he feels like the teenager trying to figure out how to introduce his boyfriend to his parents. Oh wait, that's precisely what he is. Man, this is going to be a little hard to explain, especially after having disappeared for over a year. 'Hi mom, dad. I know I've been gone a while but look what I brought back? Can he stay?' Yeah, he has a feeling that this is going to be a tough sell, but at this point, it doesn't really matter as he screws on a confident grin. "I was thinking we could go back to my place."

"Destiny Islands, you mean." Zexion speaks the name as if testing it for the first time, with the knowledge that it may very well last a lifetime. Riku wonders if Zexion is also picking up on the irony that they may spend the rest of their lives on the islands after that hellish encounter back in Castle Oblivion's memory version. It still feels strange that he can just go back, to live his life in almost normalcy. But with Zexion.

It's a nice thought.

"It will be hot." The observation is said with definite disgust.

"Yep," he affirms.

"Sunny," Zexion adds, more to himself.

"Oh yeah," Riku grins. "But it storms sometimes. Rains a lot too, especially in the spring."

Zexion thinks about this for a few seconds before he says, "Rain is nice."

"I thought you'd like that."

"Well, either way it will be better than this place."

"Yeah," he agrees. "'Cause you'll have me."

Zexion doesn't reply to this, beyond that small smile. And Riku just grins and pulls him close again to kiss him, the warmth of the sun sort of making up for the coldness of those lips.

Zexion likes to watch the sun rise.

It's the little things, he explains in an off-hand sort of way. Or at least he starts to explain, but he never really finishes said explanation. His voice just trails off and he looks a little distant, and Riku can't find it in him to try and badger out a better clarification. And honestly, he doesn't really need one. He has a pretty good idea of what it is. After the eternal darkness of the World that Never Was and Castle Oblivion, followed by the never-ending sunsets of Twilight Town… well, suffice to say that if Riku was in his position, he'd also never take sun cycles for granted again.

Still, it would have been nice for a little warning. Riku remembers with vivid clarity the day he woke up to find Zexion not there, and he'd thought—seriously, seriously thought—that Zexion had disappeared. Had gone, left, was never coming back. His freak out had only been interrupted when his mother had come to investigate the sudden screaming, and informed him that his boyfriend was outside watching the sun rise.

It had taken him a moment to comprehend this, the blood rushing to his face. Then after a quick hug and a bellowed thanks, he'd jumped out the window and hightailed it to the cliffs.

Zexion had just given him a 'What the hell?' look when he'd shown up, and Riku had to resist the urge to push the Nobody into the water.

Riku quickly learns that this was not a once-a-time event, but a daily one. Every morning, Zexion slips out of the house to watch the sun rise, and more often than not Riku finds himself following in his example.

The times leading up are never really the same. Sometimes Riku will be groggy and Zexion will try to shove him back to bed, sometimes Zexion will have to forcibly drag him along, sometimes Riku will be as hyper as Sora on too many cups of coffee, and sometimes Sora and Kairi will even join them.

But no matter what happens before, the actual moment is always the same. The sun will rise, the light bathing their faces, and Zexion is always, always silent as Riku reaches over to entwine their fingers together.

As Zexion watches the sun, Riku watches him. Sometimes he wonders if it hurts Zexion's eyes, to stare at the sun so intently. He wonders if Nobodies can go blind. And sometimes his mind wanders to those mundane things, like if Zexion can be persuaded to make eggs or how to convince the guy that black is fine and all, but a little color never hurt anyone.

But most of the time, he thinks about them. That it will never be enough, what they have. That Zexion was right, and he will always want more. For Zexion, Kingdom Hearts was a dream that slipped out of reach, and for Riku… he now understands why it is so important. Why Organization XIII was willing to destroy so much to gain their hearts again. Because as much as he loves the other, as much as he cares… it will never be truly right. And Riku knows without a doubt that it will never be enough until Zexion can love him back the way he loves the Nobody. But he knows that such a thing simply is not possible.

He knows that all too well from the way Zexion never really reacts to his gesture, his fingers just resting there as cold as ever. How the kisses never mean anything. How when it comes down to it, Zexion will never truly feel anything for him, no matter how he tries.

But the fact that Zexion tries though… it means so much more than can be explained in mere words. He can never really forget that, no matter how much it still hurts. Because all he has to do is glance over at Zexion, see that small smile of almost blissful content, and…

He too can almost believe that maybe, finally, it will be enough for him one day.

End Notes:

… it's supposed to be kinda sad at the end. Really. Because what else could it have been?

As I said at the beginning, the point of this fic was not as much to explore Riku and Zexion's romantic relationship (which was oddly fun to write), but to show what could have happened in the period between Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II. It's partially why I chose to write all those mundane, domestic details, as well as creating an explanation for how Riku got his very own Organization coat. And not to mention how Riku figured out how to control the darkness by taking Ansem's form, although that wasn't part of my original intent. It just sort of happened.

I did, however, want it to be dark humor. In part because that was just what I wanted to write, in part because I find Riku to be annoyingly emo at times, in part because DiZ is a wee bit psychopathically obsessed, in part because the story ends up almost as a tragedy, despite the fact that Riku gets the, um, boy. Sort of, but not really.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it. Which was really quite a lot because… the characters surprised me. Maybe not Zexion as much, since I have been writing him so much that I'm starting to know him pretty well (what a scary thought)… but Riku, at least. And I wasn't sure how they would get together, but they did and… it never really felt forced. In fact, the argument in chapter three felt more forced than their relationship ever did! Which I guess is good, since the coupling seems pretty cracky….

In the end notes of long stories, I usually like to lay out my future plans, which works better in theory than reality because I never seem to follow through. But as of now, I'm wavering between three very different fics:Crow's Nest rewrite, which is Demyx x Zexion snark, a very dark Axel x Zexion fic, and the sequel to this fic which will… probably be more dark humor emo-ness. Again. There's also a very small one-shot I have started that will take place during this story—specifically between chapter seven and the finale—but the details of that will have to wait until the sequel is finished posting (laugh). Hopefully I get settled on something sooner than later.

Anyhow, enough of my babbling. Much thanks to you all, especially the White Raven013 and Someone2003 for your very lovely reviews. And much,much adoration to Coffee-Flavored Fate for beta-ing. I am very much obliged.

PM (January 26, 2008)