Standard Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts. I do own a shiny new copy of the Red Album. But this has nothing to do with anything.
Warnings: Language, violence, boy/boy situations (up to and including sex), spoilers for KH, KH2 and probably CoM as well.
Pairings: Axel/Roxas, with some Riku/Roxas that is really Riku/Sora, and also some actual Riku/Sora. Par for the course.
Casey would like you to note: Final chapter. Thank you all for reading! If you have a few minutes and some words to say, please let me know what you think.
I'm aware that some of this doesn't line up with canon, particularly the parts revealed by Final Mix. I made this discovery after the fic was in progress and I already had the whole thing worked out. It concerned me for a while, but ultimately I decided to stick with the story as I originally envisioned it. Changing it would have compromised the integrity of the story, and that should become clear once you've read it. It just wouldn't have been the same. So—please forgive my willful ignorance.
On the first day, Roxas didn't know anything aside from a sand-shaded town in a perpetual state of sunset. He didn't worry about things that didn't involve skateboards or ice cream or avoiding the barest mention of school while the air was still warm and heavy with summer. He didn't ask himself questions like "Why?" because everything was the way it was supposed to be. Or "How did I get here?" because he'd always been here, he was born and grew up here. He skinned his knees when he skated down that hill the first time, and he and Hayner had given themselves cold headaches with an ice-cream eating contest on that sidewalk when they were nine, and he met Olette for the first time in that corner of the tram common and he'd always thought she was cute, and one summer when they were thirteen he and Pence had the uncommon fortune (or misfortune) of having swiped Seifer's beanie and they hung it from the big hand of the clock on the station tower.
He was fifteen years old, and he lounged on the roof of a tram car while it lazily circled the marketplace, melting popsicle stuck in his mouth and watching the world pass with a quiet disinterest.
"Hey." Hayner shifted against his shoulders and elbowed him in the ribs, voice tilted and somewhere above and behind his ear. "Wanna go skate on Sunset Hill?"
Roxas shrugged slightly, disrupting the body leaned back against his, pushed at the heat bearing down on him that didn't really come from the sun, low and unmoving on the horizon. He didn't want to move at all. "Nah."
"Eh, me neither. Wanna head back to the usual spot?"
"Olette'll make us do homework or something."
Hayner made a suitably disgusted noise at this prospect and resumed devouring his own ice cream, content to sit in the heat and offer no further ideas on possible things to do. There was no necessity to do anything.
He wondered, then, why there was always a thrum somewhere under his skin telling him to move. Sometimes... sometimes it screamed at him to run. And he'd wonder what it was that he wanted to get away from, what made the hair on the back of his neck prickle and made his tongue wet his lips, waiting. Waiting for something to happen.
"You're quiet today, man." Hayner shifted again, and their combined sweat from the heat of the day and the metal roof of the car was making a damp spot where their backs met. "I mean, it's fucking hot and hell if I want you to talk my ear off or anything, but seriously."
Had a weird dream last night, Roxas thought, and wondered why he instantly didn't want to voice it. "Got a lot on my mind."
"Yeah, right." Hayner's head knocked backwards against his, mostly painless, then it dropped to rest heavy on the curve between his shoulder and neck. His hair was itchy, and the heat didn't help.
Roxas wondered why he thought that was familiar, and frowned. "Shut up."
"Hey, if you're a deep thinker, I should go out for the chess team. And then Seifer'll start wearing polo shirts and volunteering at the old folks' home. And you'll grow the stones to ask Olette out before Pence does. And--"
"And," Roxas interrupted, mouth curling into a grin around the popsicle stick, "why is it that you never factor into this supposed love triangle?"
Hayner scoffed. "I don't require a female to point out my flaws and demand my obedience. I have you for that."
Roxas laughed softly, batted a gelled curl away from his nose and made a low, whipcrack noise through his teeth.
"Damn right." The voice rumbled against his back.
The station tower chimed to inform them that day was wearing into afternoon. Roxas chewed on the empty popsicle stick, still faintly sweet and salty from the ice cream. There were things he could be doing, probably, some more productive way to waste the summer than lazing it off in relaxed intimacy on the roof of a tram with his best friend, but despite the lure of skateboards and skirmishes in the sandlot and whatever new video game Pence might have and even Olette and her quiet smile and reprimand that yes, really, they needed to finish their summer homework before there was no more summer to finish it in--he found that he preferred the lazing. Even with the hum in his bones demanding movement, or at least alertness.
It was at this point that Hayner's presence at his back disappeared, leaving him to sprawl backwards onto metal, unexpected and nearly choking on the stick in his mouth.
Hayner was perched on the edge of the car, posture tense and coiled with a hard light in his brown eyes. Staring back as the tram passed a small knot of people who were pointing at them. Some word being tossed around.
"Something's up," Hayner muttered, reaching over to jerk him up by the elbow, and that was the end of lazing. At least for that day.
On the second day, Roxas stood alone in the back alley and held a stick in front of himself. He scowled at it, waved it in the air, scowled harder and willed it to spark. To shift and transform into the gold and silver key he'd held before.
He was supposed to know how to do this. The twinge in his muscles, the instincts that urged him to stay alert, to be on guard, to fight and run--they told him this. He knew how to do this. It was his.
He ground his teeth in frustration and flung the stick away, trying to dismiss the entire idea. It was stupid, it was pointless, and the key and those... things, they were some kind of aberration. A moment of strangeness in a normal town.
Why was it, then, yesterday in front of the mansion with that thing, when it spoke to him--he'd wanted to scream at it. Fling one arm out in a cutting motion and tell the stupid, stupid monstrosity that this wasn't what he'd told it to do.
A noise behind him startled him out of his thoughts and he turned just in time to see the flung stick bouncing off of a black hood--and the instincts startled and coiled, tugged harshly at him, and for some reason he thought of his dreams.
What the hell...
Somehow, he should have known. Later, he thought this--that he should have known that stick would appear out of nowhere when he least expected it. Flung back at him in a childish sort of retaliation. It was exactly the sort of thing that he would do.
Roxas didn't know who 'he' was supposed to be, anyway. He tried to dismiss it. He tried to dismiss everything but it just kept piling up. All the questions without answers.
On the third day, he met Namine.
She was like a breath of wind, cold and fleeting and colorless and she left him ruffled and uncertain of the way he had been before she mussed his composure. He was never quite sure if she was really there or if she was a product of the collective Wrongness that had invaded his normal existence over the past few days.
He watched these developments with increasing dislike, even as he reached to protect the wind-breath girl with the sad, pursed smile and wheat-shaded hair.
She was Wrong, he knew it with that instinct that he was starting to trust just a little more, just slightly. He knew she was Wrong, but he also knew her. Somehow.
He wanted to dismiss all of this. Wanted to shove it away and go back to his summer, his friends and his casual lethargy and ice cream and skateboards with no further knowledge of zipper-mouthed white things that spoke in his mind and strange-familiar men in black hoods who threw sticks at him and stole his munny and wind-breath girls who smiled and said his name like it was the saddest thing she'd ever heard.
He wanted his life back. He'd even take school starting early if it meant that everything would return to normal.
He wanted the dreams to stop, because he didn't know Sora and didn't know why his life was playing itself out behind Roxas's closed eyelids each night. Each night going a little further, and each morning he had to pause a little longer before climbing out of bed to remember who he was.
The thrum in his bones was telling him to run more often, now. To run, run far and fast and never look back.
When the Keyblade appeared in his hand when he called, he wanted to fling it away and do just that.
On the fourth day his assassin arrived.
He was tall and thin and angular, with hair the color of tomatoes that frizzed and stood on end like the hackles of something that was living in its own right. His eyes were green and wide and punctuated by thin diamonds of black on his cheeks, and for a moment while he was staring at Roxas across the empty Struggle arena, spectators frozen in time all around them, he had this look--
--but then it was gone and replaced by a wicked grin, a voice that was test and tease at the same time. His eyes never quite matched his expression or the words he was saying.
"I don't know you," Roxas said, and something in his stomach curled on itself.
This had to stop. It had to stop, now. He didn't want this, the cold metal key in his hand or the guy with the red hair and green, green eyes or the other man, red bandage-wrapped, who spoke with the pompous authority of one who truly and honestly believed that he was in complete control of everything and everyone.
He wanted the green couch in his back-alley hideout with red bars of sunset arching through the slats above. He wanted ocean-blue ice cream and Pence with his white tooth grin beneath a perpetually present camera. He wanted Olette to smile at him and tuck her hair behind her ear like she did, because he never remembered whatever it was she said after she did that. He wanted wheels under his feet and the roof of the tram car and he wanted to notice that Hayner's eyes were the color of coffee when the sun angled through the pot just enough to make the liquid inside glow.
He was missing something important. There was a lie, somewhere, but he couldn't find it. Couldn't tell which voice was speaking it--so he used his own to drown them out.
If nothing else was true, Roxas himself had to be. If nothing else, he knew that he himself existed. He was real.
On the fifth day everything collapsed--splintered, shattered, exploded in a kaleidoscope that by all rights should have shredded him to bits.
"You were never supposed to exist," Namine said, pale and colorless in her pale and colorless room, and he thought the utter sadness in that phrase was going to shake her apart.
He was starting to feel the edges of everything breaking. Unraveling. The fabric of the universe was coming apart, like all the bizarre machinations on Sunset Hill and the train that no one else could see. Maybe the world was ending. Maybe he was the catalyst.
He was starting to wonder if Sora was real, and he was the dream. The strange and confused dream of the Keyblade Master, hero of the worlds, straining to reach the red-haired girl on one side and the silver-haired boy on the other like he couldn't decide which one he loved more. So he dreamed of Roxas in a town where it was always sunset and never night, wavering eternally on the edge of light and darkness.
Trapped forever in the split between black and white.
On the sixth day, he remembered that it wasn't the sixth day. It was the four hundred and thirty-eighth. One year, two months, and thirteen days.
When he woke that morning he could feel himself fading in and out. When he stood in the center of his back-alley hangout he could feel the soft, delicate whoosh of air as his friends ran through him. Toward and into and past like nothing. He was substantial as a ghost and just as present.
He was the dream.
He laughed when he remembered. He laughed, and he laughed, and then he screamed and summoned the gold-and-silver Keyblade that wasn't his to smash the computer monitors and the console that operated them to bits, glass and metal flying around him and scratching blood across his skin and he kept swinging. He kept screaming.
Because he knew, now.
The truth was, he would never find the answer to Why, because Why didn't exist. It never had.
The truth was, everyone he'd ever known had used him in some way. Everyone.
The truth was, his life was nothing but a tragedy of remembering only to forget again. A slow repeat over and over. His own identity destroying him.
The truth was, there was no point. There was no reason. There was no purpose and no explanation. There was just him and the borrowed half of his existence that had kept him alive up until now. There were no lies because he was the lie and he always had been, from the moment he screamed himself to life on the blasted-out stone floor in Hollow Bastion.
The truth was, there had never been a Roxas, just a shadow and a thought of Sora that walked around by itself.
The last time Axel appeared before him, his heart would have broken if he'd had one to begin with.
He wasn't sure why they fought each other with such ferocity, except that maybe if it went on long enough they might have destroyed each other at the same time. Everything might have ended then, in the quiet of a burst of light and the flare of flames, darkness fading up and away like smoke pluming. The way that Heartless disappeared into nothing on the tip of a Keyblade.
It would have been a good death.
"Guess you're not gonna come back with me," Axel murmured, clutching himself around the stomach and curled on the floor, then chuckled, self-effacing. The sound was broken. "You were never gonna come back with me."
The corner of Roxas's mouth curled up, a half-smile like the ones he used to wear, to betray the clawing in his stomach. The way his senses were slowly dying. "You knew that when I left."
"Can't blame me for trying." Axel chuckled once more before his expression dropped, pulled down into wide eyes and a tight mouth, the same one he'd worn when Roxas first met him.
And he knew, now, what it was that wasn't being said.
You're going to kill me, Roxas. Fuck, you're going to kill me but I love you anyway.
But he'd already said it was over, and maybe if he'd known he never would have left. Maybe he would have stayed in his prison where he was safe from all this but maybe that would never have protected him. He'd never know, just like he'd never know what might have happened if he'd stayed in the Old Castle--in Hollow Bastion, with the people there. The people he remembered now. Sora's friends.
He thought he could leave without regretting anything. Nothing, except maybe that unopened book.
But Axel disappeared into the darkness of a portal before his eyes, and he found that instead he regretted everything.
The pulse started in his fingers when he opened the door to the corridor lined with empty pods--all but two, a duck and a dog snoring away blissfully in each. Axel had laughed at him about that, his memory-dreams of giant talking animals. Yet here they were, just as he remembered them. Just as he remembered Sora remembering them.
It was faint at first. A low thrum that slowly moved up his limbs, down from his head. A slow beat.
When he stepped into the white room with the flower-bud behemoth in the center, it shuddered through him like a blow to the chest.
Heartbeat. It thudded in his ears, pulsed through his body and echoed in his chest. The edges of the world turned as sharp as razors and he didn't need that flower to burst into bloom to know what was inside.
Sunlight and waves.
The man in the red bandages stood before him, coldly malignant in the shadow of Sora's prison, cold walls and false words and whether it was kindness and sincerity that kept him there didn't matter. It was real, sure as the Castle that had held Roxas within it for so long even when the boundaries were no longer marked. It still owned him, and even now he would have returned to it if only it meant he wouldn't lose any more of himself.
"You should be happy," the man said and Roxas wanted to strangle that voice until it cracked and broke and died slowly. "As happy as one such as yourself can be, at least. You've finally found a use for your meaningless existence."
"No." Roxas said it and knew bone-deep that he was right. He had to be or the pieces of everything that had ever been his scattering around him like so many fragments of wood and glass had never even been there to begin with. Something had to have been real. Something had to have been his. "This is my life. Mine."
"It's never been yours, Roxas." The man laughed and it was emotionless and cruel, and surely it must be he who had no heart. Roxas could feel his own beating a bare span of inches away. "You borrowed it like a jacket to stave off the cold and now you must give it back."
"It's my decision!" The gold and silver key jumped into his hands and that, at least, was like an old and familiar friend but it wasn't his, either. His key was two, sleek black and silver-white. Something must still be his. "I have the right. It's my right to make it."
"You have nothing of the sort. You don't even exist."
He swung and missed, impossibly, but the man had never been there to begin with. Just a projection, just data, just the same artificial life Twilight Town had been built of, ideas crowded together into false comfort. A lie for him to live among. A lie, now, in front of his face to beat himself against with no possibility of ever winning.
There was nothing left. Nothing, only himself and the idea of whatever he might have been standing in the face of that flower as the petals slowly fell open, golden light washing over him like the memory of a small gray room in a large white castle with a lantern that danced false stars across the walls and a warm voice that nuzzled his ear and murmured things he'd never understand.
Sora hung there, suspended and limp. Sleeping. It was strange, how still and peaceful he was. Roxas wondered, for a moment, if it wouldn't be kinder to leave him here, quietly dreaming and free of the world. All the worlds. The light and the darkness.
"Why," he murmured through the pounding in his ears and the curl of fear in his stomach and the tears that were sliding down his cheeks only now, because he'd never been close enough to his heart to cry before. "Sora. You have to tell me Why."
But Sora was sleeping, and he couldn't respond. Couldn't explain anything, why Roxas was there to begin with and why he'd lived all this time only to lose everything and stand here empty-handed under the sleeping eyes of the boy who created him. "This is my life," he told Sora because Sora might actually listen and because Roxas still wanted to believe it. His voice was shaking around the tears. "It's my life! It's my decision!"
He was on his knees in front of the blossomed flower, collapsed on himself and curled over, but when he blinked--
--he wasn't anymore. There was no white room, no pod, no cold-stale air and no echoing pulse to overwhelm everything.
It was warm. His legs were dangling over the edge of a wooden platform, over slowly lapping crystal-blue waves. The air was red and purple with sunset, salt tang met his lips and the slow pull and release of waves rumbled around him. The world was snoring.
"I know this place," he murmured.
"You'd better." And there was bright laughter at his side. Brilliant like the sea under the sun. "Just because I lost all my memories doesn't mean we both have to forget."
He lifted his head and there was Sora, right by his side, tan and yellow sneakers and spiked chocolate hair and blue, blue eyes staring back at him. Like he'd always been there and all Roxas had to do was turn his head to look.
"So," Sora said, legs swinging over the edge of the dock and his smile was rabbit-fur soft. "You're what I lost."
He didn't know, anymore, whether he loved Sora or hated him. Whether he wanted to scream at him Why Why Why did you do this I hate you how can you smile at me like that or if he wanted to fall forward into his arms, clutch him tight and never ever let go again.
Sora didn't give him time to decide. No one did, ever.
He'd expected some kind of reproach, maybe. An explanation that it's time to do this, now. We have to be one person again and go save the universe and etcetera, so come on already.
What Sora did, though, was lean forward and frown in contemplation, then reach up and poke his cheek.
Roxas jumped slightly from the sudden contact, which felt perfectly real although he was fairly sure the place they were in wasn't altogether real. He wasn't sure, in fact, that Sora was altogether real. He might just be a representation of their heart. A construct of his memory. Something.
"What?" he demanded, and Sora sat back and laughed.
"You look so serious," he tittered for a moment, then pulled a face in mockery. Narrow eyes and a deep-set scowl. Roxas paled at how similar it looked to his own.
"That's not funny."
"That's not funny," Sora echoed, voice eerily similar, then the mock-scowl broke into a grin. "You're cool, Roxas."
"And you never take anything seriously."
"Course I do." Sora countered this with folded arms and a mock pout, and then the soft smile returned to his face. "I'm glad you found me."
Roxas shook his head slowly, turning to face the sun as it melted into the ocean. "It wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be on my terms." His fingers curled against the edge of the dock, clutching the wood until it creaked, until a cool hand uncurled one of them. Twined their fingers together and squeezed gently. He could feel the pulse between their palms.
"I'm not ready," he stuttered around the lump reforming in his throat. The tears threatening to form in his eyes again and he wasn't sure what he was even crying for. For himself, maybe. For all the things he wished he'd done. "I don't even know if I want this."
There was silence and heartbeats for a moment, and then Sora murmured, "I'm sorry." And he knew the last door had closed. The last path was blocked and only one remained.
"You can't do this," Roxas hissed and his hand tightened around Sora's until he was sure it was painful. "You made me. You killed yourself for that girl."
He thought Sora's look would have been angry, maybe, or at least sad, but it wasn't. It was tender and reproachful in a way he never really thought Sora could be. "You still don't understand."
"What am I supposed to understand? You're the one who did this!" Roxas jerked their twined hands up between them, holding them in front of Sora's face in accusation. Then, pitifully, he coughed against the lump still in his throat and buried his face in the tanned skin of Sora's wrist, squeezing his eyes shut against the beach scene and the boy before him that held his past and future precariously on a fingertip.
Sora's voice was soft, laced with memory and old pain and a brightness that never really left. Not completely. "I didn't do it for her. I mean, yeah I wanted to save Kairi, but that wasn't all."
Sora pushed him back upright, hand on his shoulder and his eyes were cool, blue and calm like the clear sky. "Everything."
He made it sound so simple. So easy. Roxas shook his head but Sora was lifting their hands, holding them steady and then twined they were grasping the Keyblade, gold and silver and reflecting red in the sunset.
"You know what this means?" Sora asked like he didn't expect an answer; rhetorical, voice slow and even. He was all beach, sky and water and the movement of the sun. "This means we belong to the world. Servant, savior and sacrifice. It means we can't be selfish, even when we want to be. Even when it hurts. Even when it means we have to give up everything. Because if we don't, if we say no, everything ends." Sora studied him for a long moment, then laughed softly to himself. "I think you're the part of me that never wanted to be the hero."
And he was right. Roxas didn't. He'd never wanted this, but it was there and it was his anyway, whether he wanted it or not.
"It's not so bad, you know," Sora murmured hesitantly, dismissing the key and returning their hands to the warm wood of the dock, still twined gently. "Being me. I mean, I've been doing it for fifteen years now and it's been pretty great."
He should have been angry, but he wasn't. He should have been sad, even, but all he could feel was cold resignation. He should have been screaming at Sora that this wasn't fair, it wasn't fair to even ask Roxas to give up and lay himself out on the altar of the universe so the Keyblade Master could continue being the hero of the worlds. He couldn't, though, because even his own tragedy was just a reflection of Sora's.
Sora already knew all his arguments, all the pain and regret and the desire to continue on, to live--because all of that had been his to begin with.
"Sora." Roxas said his name in a sigh and then chuckled softly, shaking his head. "Your home was destroyed and you were saddled with the task of saving the universe, your best friend fell to the darkness and your other best friend went without a heart until you killed yourself to give it back, in the process producing me, who you never even knew about until now. And then you lost all your memories and slept in cold storage for a year. How do you define this as 'pretty great'?"
Sora laughed and shrugged, rubbing the back of his head. "Everything worked out okay."
"I try." He hummed thoughtfully, releasing Roxas's hand and leaning back, pulling his feet up and climbing upright. He stood and stretched for a moment, hands falling crossed on the top of his head and staring out over the sunset, darkening now to maroon and violet.
"Just tell me one thing." Roxas swallowed hard around the lump and looked down at his feet, the shoes he'd worn in Twilight Town hovering over Sora's beach in a bizarre paradox. Maybe they connected him to something, and for a moment he wondered whatever happened to Riku's shoes. If they had just fallen into the void with everything else. "Just... tell me Why."
Tell me that there was at least one thing that was mine.
Sora was silent for a moment, hovering above him. "Why what?"
"Why am I here?"
"You mean, like, the meaning of life and all that stuff?"
He nodded slowly, watched a fish circle under the ripples below.
"Roxas..." Sora spoke slowly and his voice wavered like he was trying not to laugh. To be polite. "No one actually knows that."
He stilled, abruptly. Considered this. Then the hand that had been entwined with Sora's reached up to cover his eyes and he barked a laugh. It caught to much against the lump for him to do it properly. "So it really was meaningless."
"I didn't say that!" Sora nudged his hip with a toe, yellow sneaker on his foot, until he looked up, and Sora's eyes were wide and bright with the purpling sky behind him. He really could be serious, sometimes. "No one knows the answer because everyone has to ask the question themselves. There's no universal explanation. You've been alive... what, a little more than a year now?"
"Four hundred and thirty-eight days."
Sora smiled faintly, not the ungodly soft one but a small one that was so true it almost hurt to look at. "Did you have a good time?"
Roxas blinked at him and considered that. Thought about those first few days of running and wandering and wondering, and the days after that of doing pretty much the same in a different location. Then sometime after that there were Heartless to fight, missions to go on. There was the city and the boy in black and Demyx and Xigbar and the clay pigeon trap on a random balcony and Axel. There were memories that were pleasant sometimes and even later, even those six days in Twilight Town that were never even real--
He smiled just a little, and realized it was a mirror image of Sora's. "Yeah. I guess I kind of did."
Sora brightened visibly and he could have replaced the sun. "And did you make friends?"
His Other cackled intently and leaned over him, hands on his hips and eyes narrowing. "And was there someone you lo-oved?" Sora drew the vowel out to incredible length, eyes glittering almost like he knew.
Roxas leaned away from him. "Maybe."
Sora laughed again, bright as sunshine and retreated back into his own space, rocking on his heels. "See? That's more meaning than lots of people have. And it's all yours to keep forever, no matter what. I'll keep it safe." Sora tapped himself on the chest with one finger, silent promise. "Here."
Roxas closed his eyes and let his head drop, silent and breathing the warm salt air for a long moment. He heard two footsteps receding along the dock before Sora stopped and turned to look back at him. He sucked in a deep breath, squeezing his eyes before opening them.
"No slacking off," Sora chuckled, reaching a hand down for him. "I'm a busy guy, you know. People to find, worlds to save, Heartless to kill, etcetera. I only wish I'd found you sooner, we'd of had a blast together. You think?"
It was true. It was regrettable, but Roxas didn't think Sora had any room in among all his light for regret. "Yeah. It would've been fun."
He reached up. He took Sora's hand, warm clasp and a heartbeat between their skin and then Sora was pulling him up to his feet--
--and he was standing again before the opened pod, flower petals spread before him in entreaty. The lump in his throat was still there. The tears were still wet on his cheeks.
His story was over.
The last thing he saw was Sora, suspended and sleeping and blissfully unaware and he knew that he wouldn't remember their conversation. That it had been for Roxas's benefit and not Sora's. He knew that Sora would never get his letter because Dusks really were stupid creatures and there was no telling where the envelope with the only written thoughts Roxas would ever leave behind had ended up.
The paper with his name written a thousand times had vanished, too. His only mark on the world were memories and he knew better than anyone how easily those were forgotten. In a moment, there would be nothing left to prove he had ever existed at all.
That, Axel, he thought, is what happens when a Nobody dies.
A trickle of golden light spilled out from Sora's heart, a trail of sparkle that glowed and grew and sighed when it approached him, and embraced him tightly.
It was warm, not like sunshine or summer but like a pulse underneath fingers. A hug. A kiss. Comfort. It threaded through him and around him and the last thing he was sure he felt with his own body was the water-warm shiver of disintegrating into it.
Oh, the light said in Sora's voice but it was more than that, and it was love and longing and sorrow and joy all at once. I missed you.
And then his heart thrummed in his chest for the first and last time and he felt everything. Fear and happiness, sorrow and despair, anger, hope, despondence, hatred, joy and discontent and love--
His last thought was: I never told him, not even with a look or some silly phrase like 'six weeks and two days'. I never told him.
He supposed, now, that he never would.
He knew he was still crying, but his own emotions were going to vanish soon, anyway, even as he'd only just found them. The last thing he felt with the heart that had always been his but had never been with him was a cool, slow sadness that would settle into an ache that never quite left. He supposed that would be his legacy.
His last wish was to hear someone call his name. Anyone at all, just so long as they said it and cried it loud. But, as there was no one else present to grant the only desire left of a boy who never existed, with his last breath he did it himself.