a/n: For Loren's super-awesome icon challenge. Prompt was 'Everything looks perfect from far away', and the couple was Naminé/Roxas. Please bear with me and read this to the end. I swear it'll make sense… Okay, I hope it'll make sense… But please read it all the way through? Oh, and I can't thank Ana enough for all her patience and help. Much love sent that way.

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Mirage

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She tended to forget where she was. A memory lapse, you might say… or the fact that she was trapped in a nightmare.

As she lay awake but unmoving, she pictured a cold room of the brightest white spread out before her. Behind her fluttering eyelids, she saw herself sitting upon the lone metal, white chair, and Axel's acid-green eyes glaring from across the room. She could see Marluxia looming toward her, but she couldn't run away from him, no matter how much she wanted to.

Larxene was snickering in the doorway, her smile as frightening as a wolf's toothy grin. Marluxia gently tucked a stray hair behind her ear.

"You're such a stupid little girl," he cooed in her ear. Larxene rushed forward ever so agilely and slapped her face.

"Stupid little girl!" she repeated in a fierce scream, the fire in her eyes. "Why do you think you're special?! You can't feel, you can't dream, and you sure as hell can't love. You're a worthless nobody, just like the rest of us!"

Axel was grinning, but he looked worried at the same time. Maybe he was worried that they would actually break her this time around. His eyes flashed to greet hers. They could do it if they wanted. After all, she was just a stupid little girl. A worthless nobody.

She wanted her eyes to open. She wanted to escape. But no matter how much she tried, she couldn't even control her own body. So she endured the punishment.

Larxene kicked her in the side, and she crumpled to the floor. Her frail, bruised body was aching, and the tears slipped from her eyes before she could stop them.

Larxene sauntered forward, knives glistening evilly in her hand. She drew one up to her throat, and just before the blood was drawn, she woke.

Kairi stretched her arms over her head, oblivious to the torturous nightmare. Without a second thought, she wiped the wetness away from her cheeks.

She jumped out of bed and drew the curtains open, smiling at the beautiful new day. Just like everyday before this since they had returned to Destiny Islands, she would spend the day with Sora and Riku, lazing away on the beach, soaking in the sun and each other's company.

Right before she left, she glanced in the mirror for a second to check her appearance, and Naminé was shocked, like always. She was expecting thin locks of blonde hair, draped over pale shoulders. She was expecting those sad eyes of forget-me-not blue to be staring back at her.

But the reflection showed her vivid red hair and large violet eyes and a face so bright and beautiful, it could rival the glory of the rays of a summer sunset.

Kairi smiled at her pretty mirror image, and Naminé was coerced into mimicking the blossoming grin.

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He could see them. They were so crisp and clear, even though he knew his mind was playing those vicious tricks on him again. Figments of one's imagination shouldn't be so wonderful.

He slid his hand under the warm, wet sand. It dribbled through his fingers when he lifted his hand back up. He looked over and saw Hayner making a sandcastle, his favorite beach activity. He wanted to join him, but he couldn't force his body to stand.

"Dammit!" Hayner cried as the side collapsed for the fourth time. He heard the familiar click of Pence's camera as he took a picture of Hayner's disappointment.

"Gotcha!" Pence said laughing, and started running toward the sea. Hayner yelped as he jumped up and started sprinting after him. The water sparkled like diamonds in the sun as it reflected around them; it was a fountain of liquid gems.

Roxas smiled at the burning sun above.

"Hey, I brought you the biggest," Olette whispered as she plopped down next to him. She held two pieces of the juiciest watermelon in her hands, and a smirk bloomed on her face. "You deserve it. After all, you're not acting like you're ten!" she said, yelling the last part so Hayner and Pence could hear.

He laughed, and Olette laughed, and everybody was happy because this was it. This was the perfect life, and nobody could take that away.

"Sora, you lazy bum!" Kairi giggled, leaning over him. His eyes opened, and he saw Naminé's haunting eyes staring at him with a worried expression on her face. Sora bolted up, the sand in his hair flying every which way.

And before Roxas could whisper his melodic goodbyes, his friends faded from his sight. The pathetic mirage of his imagination disappeared, never to be found again.

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"Dare me?" Riku asked, balancing himself on the paopu tree. Sora jumped up onto the tree with him with one swift motion. Kairi was standing down below, the water splashing against her bare midriff.

"If you do, I will kill you," she said, trying to maintain all seriousness. Despite her best efforts, she cracked a grin.

"But he must jump!" Sora cried with the slightest of accents, whipping out a toy sword. "For I am Captain Hook, and you, Peter Pan, must walk the plank!"

Riku smirked and called down to Kairi, "That must mean you're the crocodile!" Kairi threw up a glare.

"The crocodile! No way, I should be…Whitney?"

"Wendy!" Riku and Sora both cried before they jumped down into the water. Their bodies made impact, and the water exploded from underneath them. Kairi giggled. They were getting much better at their cannonballs since they had come home.

When Riku emerged, she smacked his arm playfully.

"Sora's bad enough, and now you just encourage him!" she laughed.

"I think you encourage him just as much," Riku pointed out, pushing her shoulder back with the lightest of shoves.

"Since when have I needed encouragement?" Sora managed to sputter before Riku pushed him back under the water.

"That's right, you haven't," Kairi remarked in agreement. She glanced up at the sky and saw that the blue was just beginning to fade away. "Shouldn't we get going, guys?" she asked as she began making her way to the shore. The water lapped at her body as if it didn't want her to leave, as if it loved her as much as she loved it.

Sora shook his head, and glistening droplets of water flew off in every direction.

"Can't we at least stay and watch the sunset?" he asked, slightly whiny. He asked this same question every night. And every night, he received the same answer.

"Of course," Riku would say, "How could we consider this day successful without watching the sunset?"

So then the three of them would lay their soaking wet, sun-kissed bodies on the hot, hot sand to dry. And it was agreed that waiting for the sunset was almost as good as the sunset itself.

They would tell each other stories of their adventures. And no matter how many times they had heard them, they always loved to hear them again and again. Or maybe they had missed one another so much, that the simplicity of lying in the sand, basking in the sun, and listening to one another's voices was all they needed.

"And this one time, Donald and I were in a fight, and-"

"And that's when Maleficent first showed me the darkness, and-"

"And then Pluto and I ran as fast as we could away from him."

But one of them would finally realize that the sun was setting, and make the others sit up to watch. They didn't know why they did it. Maybe it was that they refused to miss the sunset, or maybe that they refused to miss a moment with each other.

But either way, they always watched the sunset together, forever entranced by the painted spectrum of the evening sky.

Kairi pulled her knees up to her chin, eyes soaking in the spectacle. Riku leaned back against his elbows, and Sora sat with his legs crossed. His fingers drummed against his shoes in an unrecognizable beat.

"It's beautiful," Kairi muttered, her voice taken away by the warm summer winds. Riku nodded in agreement, his speech stolen from him completely.

Sora stared longingly into the sky, his fingers still tapping along. The orange blended perfectly into the pink, and the hints of purple streaking across made his heart ache. It was too stunning for words. It made him think of all the sunsets they had watched together. It made him think of all the sunsets in the different places he had seen over the past year, alone. And it made him think of the perpetually gorgeous sunset of Twilight Town.

"Sora, are you okay?" Kairi asked, putting her small hand on his shoulder comfortingly. Riku turned around, his protective aquamarine eyes wide with concern.

He hadn't realized it until then. Slowly, he lifted his hand up to his cheek. Hesitantly, he wiped the sparkling tears away.

"Yeah…" he said with a steady voice, "I'm fine."

Kairi and Riku continued shooting furtive glances his way, but Sora just ignored it, focusing on the display of vivid colors instead of the tears rolling down his face.

And before they knew it, the oranges and pinks had melded into a mysterious dark blue, and the stars were winking down on their unmoving bodies.

"I missed you guys," Sora said softly, eyes weary with sleep.

"I think I missed you more," Riku challenged, his voice barely audible.

"Stop it. We all missed each other the same," Kairi yawned, refusing to argue.

And slowly, slowly, one by one, they drifted off to sleep on the warm sand.

They were together, and nothing could change that. It was perfect. The summer made it perfect. But then again, everything looks perfect from far away.

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His chest was rising and falling as if he were in a deep sleep, but Roxas was wide-awake, suffocating. He was suffocating underneath the magnificent beauty of the night stars. The stars made him think of angels smiling down on them. The stars shed their never-ending light, but he hated them.

He hated them so much.

His very own angel was less than a foot away from him, and he was forced to stare at the raw splendor above.

He wanted to growl and scream and throw a fit because she was so close but so, so far.

He tried clenching his fist in anger, but Sora's fingers remained splayed out over his stomach. Forced immobile, he stared at the stars.

He hated the stars and he hated living this nightmare and he hated how it was such a reality. And what a reality it was.

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Naminé was crying. Her tears flowed freely, silently, perfectly down Kairi's beautifully peaceful face.

She could see him struggling, trying to close Sora's fist in a gesture of pure rage. But he just couldn't do it. He could do nothing.

And she was so, so sorry.

She was sorry for lying. She was sorry for all her deceit. She was sorry she didn't love him as strong as she could have while they still had the chance.

She wanted to grab Roxas' hand and squeeze it tight. She wanted to hold him close, so close he could hear the reverberations in that empty place she liked to call a heart. She wanted to run her fingers through his hair and kiss his lips and plead for forgiveness.

But she just couldn't do it.

It was… impossible.

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Roxas was getting restless.

With a jolt, Sora woke, sitting up. He glanced around at his surroundings sleepily and rubbed a bit of the sand out of his hair. His heart raced so fast. He thought of waking Riku to ask him about it, but his eyelids were getting heavier, heavier, heavier.

He lay back down, tossing and turning to get the perfect position. Finally he settled, knees drawn up to his chest, head facing Kairi.

He took a deep breath and floated back to dreamland.

And there she was, ever so radiant and wonderful and- wait, those were tears flowing from those eyes of forget-me-not blue.

She looked to him, and her very presence radiated the guilt she harbored.

They locked gazes and infused so much passion into that single stare that Roxas felt tingles through his whole body. He could feel it; he could feel her guilt. She was guilty and he was guilty and his words stopped short on Sora's tongue.

Please don't cry. Please, please don't cry.

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"Please don't cry. Please, please don't cry."

His pleas were frantic. He didn't know what to do. Her face had been rubbed raw, and dark bruises covered her legs. A thin line of red stretched across her neck, her blood slowly staining her white dress.

"Naminé…"

She collapsed on the floor, her light blonde hair a wild tangle. Despite Roxas' requests, the tears slipped from her eyelashes and dripped down her nose, making small splashes on the marbled floor.

Roxas kneeled, and with fingers placed perfectly under her smooth, white chin, he lifted her gaze to meet his. Her soft blonde lashes sparkled with tears.

"I'm so, so sorry they did this to you," he whispered, leaning his forehead against hers. She sniffed, but grabbed at his thick black jacket anyway, pulling him closer to him.

"I had to tell them that they were wrong," Naminé choked out. "They're wrong, they're wrong." She kept repeating it over and over, her voice steadily getting louder. Roxas pulled her into his chest, muffling her voice against his shoulder. His fingers ran through her hair soothingly.

"Wrong about what?" he asked ever so quietly.

"About us," she said simply, her voice so strong and confident, it seemed as if it didn't belong to this broken, bruised body. Roxas remained silent, stroking her hair, her neck, her back. "They said we couldn't love. But I… I love you so much. So much it hurts."

Roxas stopped, letting the emotion crashed through his body. He gently leaned forward and kissed her pale lavender eyelids, still wet with tears.

"Nobody will take you away from me, Naminé. I promise."

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Kairi moved her body closer to Sora's, almost snuggling, but not quite there. Her hand barely grazed against Sora's, and-

Roxas shivered as the sparks coursed through his body. Naminé tried to stretch her hand out, to entwine her fingers with his. Roxas was yearning to touch her, to hold her, just like he used to do. Naminé's eyes were bright with fervor, bright with hope and-

Sora shifted away, bringing his hands above his head.

And their single moment of passion and love and bliss was ripped from them as soon as it had been given. Naminé blinked and another tear rolled down Kairi's face. Past Sora's gentle features, she could see Roxas' face scrunched in pain.

It was as clear as it had been all along.

They weren't meant to exist. They weren't meant to feel. They weren't meant to love.

No more would they kiss. No more would they whisper sweet confessions in each other's ears. No more would they hold each other close as they drifted to dreamland.

After all, they were just worthless nobodies.

So while Sora and Kairi and Riku lived out their perfect lives with their perfect friendship in their perfect world, Naminé and Roxas were trapped... forever together, forever apart.

And there they would remain, cold and lonely, constantly wishing, begging, asking, yearning, hoping, wanting, praying, pleading…

For each other.

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& everything looks perfect from far away

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fin.

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disclaimers applied. reviews are much appreciated.