A/N: Well, here it is, the final chapter. I know it's a little later than usual, but I wanted to make sure it was as perfect as possible. I've also been spending some quality time with my mom the past week; doing things like remaking a dress, dying the ends of my hair fushia, seeing Indiana Jones; you get the picture. Anyway, I hope this chapter is up to everyone's expectations, and if not, PLEASE tell me so I can perfect it.
It's bittersweet to be finishing this up. I'm happy to have finished my largest fanfiction undertaking to date, but I'm also kind of sad that it's over. Endless thank you's to all my readers and reviewers for all your love and support. I wouldn't have had the determination to finish this without you. Thanks. Also, I have done an illustration/fanfiction cover of Namine in her wedding dress, if anyone would like to see it, there is a link to it on my profile. Please check it out. I'm taking a college-level art course next year, so obviously my art doesn't totally suck.
Disclaimer: Alas, nothing but the story and the almost-poem at the end.
Much Ado About Nothing
Epilogue: The Two Anomalies
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Naminé rolled over and pulled her pillow over her head. Seven-hundred and forty-three sheep later and insomnia still held her in its unrelenting grip.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
"Well, most of the time you don't really think about it. But you can always feel it beating. It's steady, like the beat of a drum, or the ticking of a clock."
Naminé tilted her head to the side. "How can you feel something like that? I mean, I understand how you can hear it, but how can you feel it?"
"Well…" Riku scratched his head. "Here." He gently took her hand and pulled it close, pressing her open palm to his chest. Her eyes grew wide as she felt the steady pounding of Riku's heart against her hand. It was such a curious sensation, and she missed it the second her hand pulled away from his chest.
Naminé pressed her palm to her own chest. She sighed as all she encountered was stillness. She'd managed to access some of her own memories through Sora's connection to Kairi, but she'd never been able to conjure the feeling of having a heart. What did it feel like to have that warm constantly pulsing through her body? What did it feel like to have a beating heart? The organ itself was still there, she knew, it was a part of the body, and therefore remained. However, it did not beat.
She rolled over to stare at her ceiling. What would it be like to have a heart? Would she ever know again? Roxas would. When Diz finished with him, he'd meld back into Sora, and then he'd have a heart.
What would become of her?
Naminé finally sat up, resolving herself to the fact that she wouldn't be getting any sleep. If Riku succeeded, Roxas would end up rejoining Sora. If Riku failed, Roxas would come and get her, and he would want to meet Sora. Such an encounter would probably end in Roxas rejoining Sora as well. The first thing Sora would want to do would be to find Kairi.
"It's not you. You aren't the person who's most important to me. It's her."
Sora would be in love with Kairi. He would find her, and they would return home to live happily ever after. And she, Naminé would simply fade back into darkness. Roxas would no longer be able to care for her once he was a part of Sora.
"But, what becomes of us if we don't find hearts? Will we just live this half-life forever? Do we die eventually? What happens?"
The tall redheaded nobody who'd introduced himself as Axel didn't answer. Naminé wanted to ask again, just to make sure he'd heard her, but she was too timid. She didn't know much about these Organization people yet; she wasn't sure if he'd hurt her.
"Please tell me. What happens if we don't find hearts?"
Axel sighed and gave her a sympathetic smile. "Eventually, nobodies who don't find hearts simply disappear. They just…fade back into darkness. Finding a heart is no easy matter. That's why the Organization works so hard. Because we know we're doomed to fade away."
There was no getting around it. She would disappear eventually, back into the darkness like all other nobodies. It was unavoidable, inescapable; it was the fate of a nobody. Meanwhile Roxas would be the one who would regain his heart. He wouldn't disappear. He would be whole.
Naminé smiled to herself. There was something almost comforting about knowing how inevitable the events of the future would be. That was simply the way it was, and somehow accepting that gave her such an overwhelming sense of peace. At least she knew what she had to work with.
Diz wanted revenge. The Organization wanted Kingdom Hearts. The Heartless wanted hearts. No one wanted Roxas, Sora, Kairi, or Riku as anything more than tools. Unless someone tried to help them for the sake of helping them, the forces surrounding them would tear them apart. Naminé already knew her fate. The least she could do was insure a better fate for the others.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Roxas pulled his coat on hurriedly and pulled up the zipper. Time was not on his side. He'd been given a mission tomorrow, and he had to be ready to leave in time for the Organization to think he'd simply left to complete it. That would give him more time to make a getaway before they began to question where he was. He wouldn't be missed until late tomorrow night. What was more, almost everyone had a mission, and the world would be mostly empty.
He wouldn't have another opportunity like that.
Roxas had few possessions to his name, but the few that were truly important he had swept through a portal into an abandoned apartment in Twilight Town.
Roxas groaned in frustration as his zipper caught on the black fabric. It was such a chore, putting on this coat. The zipper always got stuck, and after the zipping came the troublesome fastening of the chain around his neck. He'd be happy not to have to deal with it everyday.
Roxas looked in the mirror, facing his reflection and his decision. He was really doing this; he was really leaving. It felt…surreal. This was the only hone he had ever known, and although a good deal of the misfortunes in his short life had come about because of the Organization, he'd actually had a number of good times there.
He'd learned how to bug Larxene just enough to make her threaten dismemberment, but not enough to actually make her want to go through with it. He'd listened as Demyx practiced his sitar and composed music that displayed a level of emotion beyond what a nobody should have been capable of feeling. He'd pulled countless pranks with Axel.
Axel was his best friend; Roxas felt strangely guilty at the thought of abandoning him. But it was something that had to be done. Even if Sora had the keyblade, it didn't make sense for Roxas to have it as well. Was it Sora's keyblade? Was it a sort of nobody keyblade? Were there more than one? It didn't make sense.
The keyblade chose wielders who had strong hearts full of light…so why did he have one, nay, two, if he didn't have a heart? The Organization sure wasn't going to tell him. Still…it felt wrong to leave without saying goodbye…at least to Axel.
Axel stretched out his fingers. Finally, he was done with all of those reports. The hairs on the back of his neck stood as the darkness in the room condensed into a single point where it formed into the opening of a portal.
He turned to watch Roxas step through. The second his friend entered he could tell something was wrong. Axel frowned. "What's up?"
Roxas stared at the floor. "I'm leaving."
Axel blinked. "For your mission? Dude, you don't have to leave till tomorrow morning."
Roxas shook his head, reluctantly lifting his eyes to stare sadly at Axel. "I mean that I'm leaving…and…I'm not coming back."
Axel was silent for several minutes. Finally, "Why?"
Roxas took a deep breath. "I need to know what everyone's been keeping from me. If my other's still out there, then why am I still in the Organization? There's so much I need to know that no one here will tell me."
Axel didn't reply immediately. "You're the youngest member and the lowest ranked. Of course we aren't going to tell you everything."
Roxas's eyes narrowed. "There's more to it than that and you know it." Axel didn't reply. "Something's going on here, and I have a bad feeling it doesn't end too well for me."
Axel finally faced him. "So the higher-up's keep things from you. They keep things from all of us."
Roxas shook his head in frustration. "Oh really? Do they keep secrets from you about who you really are?" Roxas found himself glaring at Axel. It wasn't Axel's fault, but at the moment Roxas felt like blaming everything on his friend anyway.
Axel finally approached Roxas and put a hand on the young nobody's shoulder. Roxas quickly shrugged it off. Axel sighed. "Look…if I could tell you, I promise I would…and eventually, I promise I will." Axel groaned and scratched the back of his head. "How do I even begin to explain this one…" He sighed. "Look…eventually we'll be able to tell you everything. But for the time being it's the best thing for the Organization if-"
"Exactly!" Roxas shouted; Axel was taken aback by the sudden outburst. "I'm sick of the Organization! They don't care what happens to me as long as I'm fighting heartless for them!"
Axel glared. "You're sounding kind of selfish right now."
Roxas gawked. "Selfish?!" He gave a short, incredulous laugh. "This is ridiculous." He shook his head. "Look, the Organization wants hearts. That in itself really isn't that bad of a goal. But the extremes Xemnas will go to in order to get them…I don't want to be part of this anymore…Not like I ever fit in here anyway."
Axel grit his teeth. "Roxas," he took a deep breath, and then, more calmly, "Roxas, you do fit in here, and you are important to the Organization. Look, just, just stick around for a bit longer and things'll start to make sense."
Roxas sighed. "So, if I stay a little longer people will stop hiding things from me?"
Axel frowned. "Well, I think so…It's complicated."
Roxas rolled his eyes. "So there will still be secrets?"
"Of course," Roxas groaned. "I can't get a straight answer out of anybody." He shook his head. "Not even from my best friend." He sighed. "If I can't even trust you, then what's left for me here?" A portal of darkness began to swirl around Roxas, who refused to look at Axel.
Axel frowned sadly. "Just promise you'll reconsider?"
Roxas glanced up. "Whatever."
Roxas had no sooner materialized into his room when he slammed his fist against the wall. Just what he needed…one more reminder of how screwed up his life was. Axel was his best friend, and even he kept things from Roxas.
Roxas collapsed on his bed. Leave it to Axel to make him feel guilty about something this important. He knew leaving was not optional at this point-he couldn't tolerate staying here anymore; and now Axel had to go and make him feel like he'd made the wrong decision.
Roxas scratched the back of his neck. He paused, having discovered a piece of paper as the culprit behind the itch. He sat up, unfolding the note and glancing it over. The first thing he noticed was that the handwriting was almost his own. It was not his own, but looking at it Roxas was only able to tell because he knew he hadn't written it, and because there were a few miniscule differences.
The loops on his "y"s and "g"s were slightly more triangular than these, and the dots of the "i"s weren't quite careless enough. But for anyone other than himself, this would appear to be his handwriting. It didn't make sense-at least not until Roxas read what the note said.
"Okay, so I know it's really stupid, but tell me what you think-and please don't tell anybody I write poetry. It's just a silly hobby.
The bride with no groom
Walks the dark aisle
And waits for the hour the clock doesn't chime
Until duty calls her away.
Sucks, doesn't it? Anyway, I need this back by tomorrow. Thanks."
Roxas couldn't help but grin. She was a genius. Anyone who found this note before he did would assume that Roxas wrote poetry that was so horrible that he didn't even deserve to be teased about it. No one would suspect that it was a riddle-understandable only to Roxas.
It would be wonderful to see Naminé again-that was what the note conveyed, after all. She was obviously the bride, and "the hour the clock doesn't chime" had been how he had signed the card he'd included with her dress when he'd given it to her. The dark aisle was a reference to the city outside the Castle That Never Was, and she seemed to indicate that she could meet him there tomorrow. Roxas suspected that she had a fixed window of opportunity, since the final line "Until duty calls her away" had been added.
Roxas couldn't wait. Naminé would be happy to know that he was leaving the Organization. Well, either happy or petrified.
Roxas knew it was not as simple as handing Xemnas a two-week notice and cordially parting ways. The Organization did not respond well to traitors. Not like it mattered.
Door Number One: Roxas would set out to find Sora, meet up with Naminé, free her from Diz, and then he and Naminé would rejoin Sora and Kairi, and live happily ever after. Insert sarcastic laughter at the over-optimism here.
Door Number Two: Also known as the doorway to reality. He'd set out to find Sora, make it five steps, and be annihilated by the Organization. It was also possible that Riku could kill him. That jerk certainly didn't seem to like Roxas. One way or another, he'd be gone. Naminé would finish with Sora, who would awake feeling happy and optimistic and ready to go find Kairi. Of course, being the charity nut that he was, Sora would play the good Samaritan and insist on helping Naminé. They'd find Kairi, Naminé would rejoin her, and she and Sora would live happily ever after while Roxas remained nothing but a name in the back of Kairi's head.
Door Number Three (for Roxas was certain there had to be one): He suspected it also contained, in some form, his untimely demise, and Sora, Kairi, and Naminé living happily ever after.
That was all that mattered, really. Roxas couldn't help but feel that he was doomed, the least he could do was save Naminé, Sora, and Kairi from a similar fate.
Naminé's fingers tapped impatiently against her sketchbook. She was too anxious to draw anything. The perpetually dying sunlight streamed through her curtains and highlighted the dark circles under Naminé's eyes. She'd finally gotten at least a little sleep last night, but overall she was running on pure adrenaline and caffeine.
She dragged up what little conserved energy she had to turn her head to watch Riku as he entered her room. She might have yelled if she'd had the energy, but she had to conserve all her strength for her rendez-vous later. Riku stood there awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot.
"Hi," he said softly.
"Hi," Naminé replied, her voice barely a whisper.
Riku swallowed with difficulty. "I know you probably hate me right now."
Naminé didn't reply; not that Riku expected her to.
"I just-it'll help Sora." Riku explained simply. It sounded so childish and stupid when he said it aloud, but it was all he could think of to describe the situation.
"I understand," Naminé told him, honestly comprehending. "Not that I condone what you're doing, but I understand." She gave him a small smile.
"I can't save everybody, Naminé."
"I know. Your primary loyalty is to Sora."
Riku walked to her quickly, and collapsed on his knees in front of her. "Riku-" He shushed her, taking her hand and looking up at her through his blindfold.
"I'm sorry for the mess I'm making. I'm sorry for the trouble I'm causing for you and for Roxas." Naminé could glimpse the honesty and regret in Riku's eyes through his blindfold. She tried to give him a smile, but her lips wouldn't move. Riku took a deep breath and continued. "I'm afraid I'll have to be your enemy for just a little while longer. I promise, after Sora wakes up, I'll help you clean up this mess I've made."
Naminé felt the corners of her mouth tug up in a smile. "I don't hate you, you know." She whispered.
Riku smiled back. "Thank you." He slowly raised himself to his feet. "I have to go now." He said sadly. A portal appeared behind his back.
Naminé felt something lurch in the pit of her stomach. She had the most horrible feeling that this wouldn't end well for Roxas or Riku. Riku started to turn away, but Naminé leapt from her chair and flung her arms around Riku's torso. He was taken aback, but he hugged her back nonetheless. Naminé could feel the steady beat of Riku's heart as she buried her face against his chest. She was just glad to have her friend back, if only for the moment. She knew that for Riku, this felt like his only option. She couldn't blame him for that.
He released her and stepped back. "Don't hurt him," Naminé pleaded quietly, "For me."
Riku gave her a sad smile. "I'll try not to." He stepped backwards and was gone.
Roxas strode through the dark alleys of the city he had so long considered home. He turned a corner and something red caught his eye. He said nothing; he just kept walking. Don't say anything. If you start talking to him, he'll find some way to talk you out of this.
Roxas kept his vision trained ahead as he passed Axel, who was staring at his feet as he leaned against a building. "So your mind's made up, then?" Roxas couldn't help but pause.
"Why did the keyblade choose me? I have to know." He heard Axel move.
"You can't turn on the Organization!"
Roxas's eyes narrowed. "Watch me." He took a step, but paused as Axel called his name.
"Roxas!" Axel's shout held something like concern mixed with aggravation. "You get on their bad side and they'll destroy you!" Roxas immediately pictured Naminé in his mind's eye. He watched as her pale face faded into Kairi's. He didn't even look around as he answered.
"No one would miss me."
With that, he walked away, not even caring to listen to Axel's final words. "That's not true…I would."
Roxas was already out of earshot.
Let's cast away these masks we wear
And these lies we live,
And come, let's be
the Beautiful Anomaly
Naminé looked up as thunder echoed from the dark clouds gathered above the city. Even as she looked up, she saw a raindrop fall from the sky to splash against her cheek, soon followed by more. Within ten seconds it was pouring. Naminé shivered. She was already drenched. Her sopping hair clung to her face and her white dress was soaked through and sticking to her skin.
"…Naminé?" She turned and beheld Roxas standing at the end of the dark alley; his blonde hair soaked and his spikes flattened by the rain. So he had gotten her note.
Naminé rushed to him and threw her arms around him. He drew her close, shielding her from the wind and rain. Naminé broke down and started to sob into his black coat.
"Here this could be the last time I get to see you, and I'm a total mess…"
"No, no," Roxas pulled her closer. "And what do you mean this could be the last time you see me?"
Naminé looked up at him. "Riku's here."
"I know." Roxas's expression hardened. "Why?"
"For you. Diz has something horrible planned for you, and Riku will use any amount of force to bring you back."
Roxas took a step back, his keyblades appearing at his side. "I can take him. Once he's out of the way, I'll get you away from that Diz guy, and then you can finish Sora's memory in peace."
Naminé sadly shook her head. "I don't think it's going to be that easy. Riku's willing to go to any length to help Sora. If he thinks bringing you to Diz will help his friend, then he'll do anything."
Roxas frowned. "You think he can beat me, then?"
Naminé sighed. "I just don't think this is going to end well-for either of you."
Roxas cupped her cheek in his palm. Her sad blue eyes met his. "I can take whatever he's got to throw at me."
Naminé sighed again. "I was afraid you were going to say that." She reached into a pocket of her dress and pulled out a star-shaped charm. Her other hand pulled Roxas's hand up and she placed the charm into his palm.
Roxas examined it. "What is it?"
"It's a keychain," Naminé explained. "It's a replica of the one Kairi gave to Sora. I made it for you using Sora's memories as references."
Roxas smiled approvingly as he attached the charm to one of his keyblades. He grinned as his eyes swept over the keyblade's design. It complimented Oblivion quite well. "Thanks."
Naminé gave him a small smile. The rain had let up a little, but it was still a dismal downpour in which they were left to converse.
Roxas dismissed his weapons and sighed. "Naminé, I'm leaving the Organization. I'm going to fix everything. I'll get you away from Diz. This fight with Riku is where it all starts, I know it."
Naminé's smile faded. "Roxas-"
He put a finger against her lips. "Everything will be okay. Trust me." Roxas looked up at the hulking figure of Memory's Skyscraper, its neon glow blurred by the curtain of rain. "I have to go." He turned back to Naminé. She was shivering, and her eyes were filled with tears. He pulled her as close to him as he could, wanting to warm her. She was nowhere near properly dressed for the weather.
Naminé leaned her face so close to his that Roxas could see the individual raindrops suspended on her eyelashes. He smiled softly and closed what little distance divided their lips. Naminé's arms squeezed him even more tightly. She held him like it was the last time she'd ever touch him again; as far as she knew, it probably would be. She knew his mind was made up, and there would be no changing it.
Diz tapped his computer screen. Sora's temperature and heart rate were skyrocketing for no apparent reason. The boy seemed to be fine though; perhaps it was just a technical problem. The knight was also smiling in his sleep.
"Hm?" The redhead momentarily snapped from her daze; the teacher was waiting on her to finish her report. She tried, but for some strange reason her heart was pounding, her head was swimming, and she was feeling strangely happy for the first time in a year.
Finally, Naminé broke away and watched through teary eyes as Roxas stepped back and pulled his hood over his head. They faced each other silently for a few minutes, the rain ignored in light of their larger problems.
Roxas finally reached out and took Naminé's hand, squeezing it gently.
"I love you, Naminé."
He gave her a small smile. "I'll come back for you, I promise."
Naminé couldn't help but doubt he'd be able to follow through with his promise, but she also knew that she needed to be strong for him. She gave him a smile as his hand slipped from hers.
"I know you will."
and also the beginning
AN: So, how was the final chapter? Was the ending up to snuff? I explained why Roxas has Oathkeeper, and delved deeper into that cutscence with Roxas and Axel. I hope the ending didn't seem anti-climactic. We all know what comes after this, after all. This is how I've planned to end it since the beginning. Once again, thank you to everyone. If anyone has any suggestions as to how I can improve this final chapter, or any questions or anything, please drop a review and let me know. Thanks to everyone. Y'all have no idea how much it means to me that I've had so much support in this.
God bless. -Megs-