A/N: OVER 100 REVIEWS!!! I am ecstatic. I've never had over 100 reviews on a story before! Thanks to GoodnessKnows, loki lee, Teh Cynical, shadowknight66 (my 100th reviewer! Yay!), Hyperactiveice, Lavender341, LawlietxRinoa, xAkuRoku., Kotaro362, Mitsuku Aki, Insanecat6, VanillaJewelz, Lanamax Kurosaki, Zexion Llama, Revolution Remix IX, Aindel S. Druida, Carmenliana, nextstopparadise, Lady Shisou, and everyone who faved and alerted and reviewed at any point in time on this story! All of you win my life completely.
So this, Chapter X, is the last real chapter. Do not despair, there will be an epilogue! Truthfully, I feel so sad leaving this story; I love it to pieces. It's not perfect, but it's become my baby. It'll be so hard to see it go...
Ah well. Enjoy chapter ten, and thanks a bunch for reading!
"So," Riku said. "What did you want to tell me?"
He and Sora were sitting under that old oak tree in Marluxia's garden. Sora thought that was appropriate. He'd met Roxas here, he'd met Riku near here, and now he'd probably have to say goodbye to Riku here as well. It couldn't be avoided now. He didn't want to hurt Riku's feelings anymore than he had to. And if what Riku had said was true, and he'd been woken up through true love's kiss…
…it was going to hurt. A lot.
"Um," he said slowly. "Is there time? I mean, Axel and Roxas might need us back there soon. You know, for the final confrontation."
Riku grinned. "I don't think they'll need us for awhile. You saw what they were like. They probably don't even realize we've snuck off. They were that busy."
Sora did indeed remember how busy Axel and Roxas had been. The memory almost made him want to blush. Or maybe that was just brought on by how wonderful Riku looked there with the sunlight playing in his hair, and how Riku was holding his hand. It was funny how such a whirlwind relationship could have such sweet and simple moments, moments like this one. After all, Sora'd only just thought Riku was attractive in the beginning. He hadn't known him at all, really. Not when he'd taken him to the ball. And the initial attraction could have just faded when he'd woken up in the garden. But it hadn't. He felt right with Riku. He felt like he fit with Riku. He didn't really want to lose that.
"Then…maybe I should start from the beginning?" Sora asked.
"Beginning's a better place to start than the end." Riku ran his thumb over the back of Sora's hand. "Why do you look so sad?"
Sora breathed in. "Well, see, it's like…I can't…take you back home with me."
Riku raised an eyebrow. "Why? Am I too much of a bad boy for your parents? I don't have to wear black, you know. I could easily change my clothes. Just because I'm in touch with my dark side doesn't mean I rely on it completely for fashion sense."
"Stop!" Sora wanted to laugh, or scream, or cry. He ended up doing some mix of the three all at once. "Stop trying to cheer me up! This is serious!" He realized that he was shouting, and lowered his voice. "I just don't want to leave you."
Riku wrapped his arms around Sora's waist, resting his chin on the younger boy's shoulder. "I don't want you to leave either. Maybe we can work something out."
Sora sighed, or sobbed, or some riff on the both of them. "I don't think so. It's like…I'm not from around here. At all."
"Do you…" He didn't trust his voice to hold up. It was getting softer on him with each passing moment. "Do you want to try to guess where I'm from?"
"Is it bigger than a bread box?"
"You're so evil."
"I know." Riku looked up at the thick, healthy branches of the oak tree. "Let's see…you're not from Mongolia, are you? I always thought Mongolians would be hairier."
Sora shook his head. "I'm not from Mongolia."
"Good. The Huns never seemed like a nice group of people. Hmm…the Underworld? Dead people aren't quite my cup of tea either."
"Closer," Sora said, completely meaning it. "I still don't think you're taking this seriously. I'm pouring my heart out to you, you know."
Riku grinned, running his fingers through a bit of Sora's hair. "Sorry. Look, before I continue, can I tell you something?"
Sora felt like he was trying to talk down a brick wall. Maybe if Riku had a chance to talk, he'd be able to collect his nerves and actually get somewhere. "Anything."
"You know that I don't believe in magic, right? We had that conversation last night in the carriage."
Nodding, his heart pounding, Sora said, "I always thought not believing in magic seemed sort of boring. I was sad for you."
"Yes, well, you've changed my mind. Just a little." When Sora said nothing, Riku added. "I don't mean I'm about to believe that unicorns or gnomes are going to come waltzing up to us. But—and I know how stupid this sounds, trust me—when I first saw you yesterday, I did feel something right off the bat. I wasn't about to drop on one knee and begin reciting sappy love poetry, because, let's be serious, that whole concept is pretty damn embarrassing, but I did feel something. And I thought it would go away, you know, maybe after the night. And it didn't. I'm not going to call it 'love at first sight' or anything, but it was something I hadn't ever felt before. That's the type of magic I'm willing to believe in, Sora. The magic of—of whatever we have. Do you know what I mean? It sounds ridiculous, but I'm not sure what else to say.
"The point is, whatever you're going to tell me, I won't care. You won't shock me. You've turned just about everything upside-down for me anyway. I haven't always been this easygoing, this good. You're some kind of incredibly positive influence, and I love you." Riku squeezed him. "So just say what you need to say."
Sora paused. Then, after a moment, he said, "I rode a unicorn once. It wasn't that exciting. It threw me off."
"No," Sora said. "We have a herd of them at home. My—one of my old teachers, Aerith—she likes them, except for when they eat the flowers in her garden. Sometimes…" He swallowed. "Sometimes there are gnomes in her garden, too. She doesn't like them at all. I don't blame her. They're pretty ugly."
Sora felt Riku sit up a little straighter. "What are you trying to tell me?"
He sighed. "I'm not…from around here, Riku. Um…I'm not even from a real country. Maybe…can I show you instead?"
Riku nodded against his back, so Sora stood up and walked a few paces away. Squeezing his eyes shut, he took a deep breath and conjured up a little bit of magic, just enough to revert back to his normal appearance. He shook a bit as he felt his wings sprouting out of his back, wondering if Riku was repulsed. If he were Riku, he would be repulsed. When it was over, he couldn't bring himself to turn around.
Sora waited for Riku to make a sound. Finally, unable to stand one more second of silence, he asked, "Well?"
"Those have to be the girliest wings I have ever seen," Riku said.
"Sh-shut up!" Sora stammered, turning around. "They're not girly! They're graceful and—and—they'll change in a year or two—"
He hadn't been paying very close attention to what Riku was doing until he felt the hands on his shoulders pulling him foreword. Riku kissed his forehead. "I think they're very pretty," he said, grinning, running a hand along the edge of one of the fragile, translucent wings. "Pretty in a very girly way."
"Riku!" Sora exclaimed, trying to bat the offending hand away. "Stop! That tickles! You're not supposed to touch other people's wings; it's bad etiquette."
"Hum," Riku said, studying Sora. "So they are real. A few people at my old school had these, but I always thought…" He flicked the tip of one of Sora's wings. Sora flinched. "You felt that?"
"Of course!" Sora exclaimed. "You bully, that hurt."
"Hum," Riku said again. "This…changes things." He blinked. "What would you say you are?"
"A fairy," Sora nearly whispered. "Riku, I'm so sorry I didn't tell you before, I just thought you'd think I was freak, and you didn't believe in magic or anything, and I was afraid, because I liked you so much."
"I do think you're a freak. But…" Riku drew him in and hugged him. "You're my freak, and whether you have wings or fins or—God forbid—cat ears, that doesn't change anything. I'll have to learn to live with it." He thought for a minute. "This makes a lot more sense, actually. I was struggling to rationalize how that key of yours worked, and was coming up with nothing. So it's…"
"It's a wand," Sora said. "A magic wand."
Riku scratched at the back of his neck. "Ah."
He shrugged. "It's going to take some getting used to. But we have time."
"We don't!" Sora blurted. Goodness, he hadn't even thought about how to bring this conundrum up, but it seemed to be coming of its own free will. "Riku, I have to go back to Fairyland tonight to report to my tutor and some other high-ranking fairies about how I did on this mission. And I can't…I can't bring you back with me." He hid his face in Riku's shirt. "I'm so sorry."
Riku didn't quite know what to say to that. "Stop apologizing," he said eventually. "We'll think of something. I don't know what, but we'll think of something together. Alright?"
Sora nodded. "Alright." He managed a weak smile. "I'm glad. I thought you were going to reject me."
"I'm not that fickle." Riku tilted up Sora's chin so that the younger boy could look him in the eyes. "You're glowing."
"Yeah," Sora said softly. "I do that."
Behind them, someone coughed. "Sorry, I don't really want to interrupt," said a girl's voice, vaguely familiar. "But we were wondering if you could lend us a hand for a minute? We could use some help."
Riku released Sora, who staggered a few steps backwards in surprise. He blinked, wondering why, right in the middle of Marluxia's garden, stood… "Naminé?"
Naminé, whose gown this morning was blue satin, and who had a small tiara in her hair, sighed. She looked very pretty, and a bit agitated, wringing her hands. "I'm sorry, I'll explain in a minute. Axel and Roxas have agreed to help us, and they said they thought you would be around here somewhere…Sora, Roxas said you might be particularly useful." She looked from one of them to the other. "Will you come with me?"
They glanced at each other. "Well," Sora said, "I don't know about Riku, but I certainly can't refuse a damsel in distress."
"I'm in if he is," Riku said. "Why not?"
Naminé nodded. "Good," she said. "Follow me."
And they did.
Roxas and Axel reentered the sitting room hand-in-hand, expecting to face a deafening explosion from Marluxia, Larxene, and whichever members of the Council of Five happened to be there.
What they saw was much more scarring.
"Axel," said Xemnas, who was sitting on one of the sofas, a cup full of tea set in front of him, "Meet your new stepmother."
Marluxia smiled at them most deviously.
Axel looked at Roxas. Roxas looked at Axel. They both felt the same strange urge to double over with pained laughter and die. Death would have been easier to bear than…this. For heaven's sake, anything would have been easier to bear than this.
"Only a diversion," Axel muttered under his breath, softly enough that only Roxas heard. "We're only a diversion. We just have to keep them talking."
"Um," Roxas said. For the life of him, he couldn't think of anything to say. What? Why? How? "Uh. Congratulations? When's the wedding?"
"What the hell are you talking about, my 'new stepmother?!'" Axel cried. The Council of Five—all of whom were present, and standing behind the sofa—blinked at him in confusion. As if, Roxas though with amusement, marrying Marluxia were the most natural thing in the world. He noticed vaguely that Saïx was holding a red cushion in his hands, on which a very familiar object rested. But he tucked that thought away for future use.
"It means what it sounds like," Marluxia said mildly. "Don't raise your voice at me, young man."
Axel gawked. Roxas, on the other hand, wondered if Axel would receive the same treatment that he had received from Marluxia, and got a mental kick out of imagining Axel in a maid outfit.
"Your Majesty," he said, addressing his soon-to-be step-stepfather, "If I may ask, I'm somewhat curious as to how this came about. Um, your engagement. And so soon."
"Too soon," Axel groaned.
Xemnas regarded Roxas thoughtfully, and Roxas felt that he had been recognized, at least to some small degree, that the King was trying to puzzle out where he had seen this strange blond boy before. Curiously enough, Xemnas didn't seem angry that Axel was holding hands with a boy. Well, he had other things on his mind. "It was a matter of politics," he said, his voice unexpressive.
"Politics, your Majesty?"
"Yes. Your stepmother and I were having a conversation about this situation with Axel. She pointed out to me that, instead of going to all of this trouble with Axel, I could simply remarry and produce another heir. And Lady Marluxia was glad to volunteer."
"We have a lot in common," Marluxia said. "We graduated from the same secondary school."
"Why am I not surprised?" Roxas sighed.
"Um," said Axel, who did not fail to see the error in the Marluxia-bearing-children logic. "What—"
"Of course, if your father and I have no children, he can adopt mine," Marluxia said smoothly. "And the people will be in such terror of them ever ruling that they will insist your father keep his throne until the end of his days. It would be a perfect arrangement. The Council agrees."
The Council nodded, each member looking a bit bleary-eyed and strangely unfocused. Roxas wondered what the cause was. Surely the men would have enough common sense to object to this marriage?
"I don't think royalty works like that," Axel said, shell-shocked.
Roxas nodded. "Marluxia put something in that tea," he whispered fiercely. "I'm sure of it. The moment he marries your father, he'll force him to declare that Marluxia is royalty as well, then probably poison him. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if that was what happened to my father…sneaky bastard."
"Just keep talking?" Axel asked, looking rather pale.
"Yes. Until we make sure that the whole situation is under control." A pause. "And don't drink any tea," Roxas added.
"You don't have to tell me twice." Axel turned back to Marluxia, Xemnas, and the rest of the Council, to whom Larxene was dispensing more tea. Vexen was nowhere to be seen. He had probably used the welcome distraction to flee the sitting room and change into some real clothing. "Well, Dad, and…Mom," Axel said, wondering how such small words could feel so difficult, could make him want to choke with laughter. "Since you won't need me around, I guess I'll be able to get out of your hair. Roxas and I were thinking of taking a nice vacation."
"But that's ridiculous," Marluxia said. "Roxas is the best maid I have."
"What? No! Dad, tell my, um, stepmom that I can take Roxas with me on a cruise. It'll be much easier than keeping him around here." Axel nodded, placing his hand on Roxas' shoulder. "You know, one less mouth to feed. And he'll help get rid of me. You've always wanted to get rid of me, right?"
Xemnas merely blinked. Well, from what Roxas had seen of him, he never had been that expressive. This, however, was a bit much. "I'm sorry, son, but I must do whatever the Lady Marluxia says."
"Um," Roxas said. "What?"
"I'm sorry, son, but I must do whatever the Lady Marluxia says."
"Excellent," Axel muttered. "Just peachy. She's turned my father into a zombie. Although…" He scratched his chin. "I kind of like him this way. He's always nosing into my personal affairs when he's normal. This is a good change."
"Axel!" Roxas hissed.
"Ah, right, right." Axel looked back at Marluxia and said, "Well, then, I want to buy your maid."
Marluxia raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"Buy your maid. Got it memorized?"
"I'm afraid he's not for sale," Marluxia said coolly.
"I'm right here, you know," Roxas piped up. But he was ignored. Marluxia and Axel were staring at each other with open disdain. "Hello? Anyone listening?"
Roxas sighed. "I suppose I'll have to take matters into my own hands," he said, shrugging Axel's hand from his shoulder and stepping forward. Only Larxene seemed to notice that he had moved at all, but she was serving Lexaeus tea and didn't seem to care.
Ordinarily, Roxas would be a bit frightened, nervous at being so bold. But he did not. He knew exactly what he needed to do, and how he needed to do it. He just wasn't sure if it would work.
When he stepped in front of Saïx, the Prime Minister looked right through him, and Roxas supposed he had to thank Marluxia for that. Saïx was much less intimidating when he was staring into space. But Roxas wasn't concerned with Saïx himself, and he directed his attention instead to the red velvet cushion which the Prime Minister was holding.
Whatever Xemnas' original intent had been in coming to the mansion—chasing after his wayward son, no doubt, although Roxas supposed they might never know—the Council had assembled here for only one reason: to slip the glass slipper on the eager feet of the maidens of the house, only one of whom was actually a maiden. Roxas had worried, before, about how he would get his foot inside that slipper, and now it was sitting on the cushion, waiting for him, sparkling in the sunlight which flooded through the sitting room windows. Roxas lifted it easily off the cushion and turned to the King.
"Your Majesty, you've been looking for the girl who ran away from your son last night at the ball, is that correct?"
Xemnas, stoic as ever, nodded.
"And that you believe that your son really loves this girl?"
"Roxas," Marluxia said, a warning. He was getting edgy. Roxas must be on the right track.
"In fact," Roxas continued, "You think that it might be…true love?"
"True love," Xemnas repeated, as if the words were strangely familiar. "It does have a certain ring to it, yes."
Axel, too, was looking at Roxas with curiosity. "What are you doing?" he asked.
Roxas drew a breath, then smiled. "I learned something," he said. "From two friends of mine, when I was trapped in the cellar. They showed me that love—real love—breaks all sorts of boundaries, magical and otherwise. So, I think…" He looked down at the slipper. "You don't just have to be in love to have it affect you. If you see it…it moves you, somehow. Love does that. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Sort of," said Axel. "But go on."
He shook his head. "No. I'm afraid I'm not going to make anymore sense than this. I just want to know one more thing. You'd say that you fell in love with the person who wore this slipper last night at the ball?"
"Would you swear it? Here? In front of your father and everyone?"
Axel's green eyes shone, and he looked up at Roxas with a smile. "Yes," he said, his voice ringing in clear, confident tones. "I would."
"Then," Roxas said, "That might be enough."
And, worming his foot out of his shoe, he slipped the glass slipper onto his foot.
It fit perfectly.
Roxas breathed a sigh of relief, and he felt Axel wrap his arms around him from behind. "I knew that," he murmured in Roxas' ear. "What did you need to go through all that trouble for?"
"You knew that," Roxas said. "But they didn't. And I didn't think they'd trust you if you just said you loved me. It worked better that way. The shoe itself had a bit of magic. Sora made it, after all."
And, indeed, Xemnas blinked again. It wasn't much of a change, but he did seem a bit more lucid. He shook his head, as if to clear it, and his eyes scanned the sitting room. Although his face betrayed no emotion, Roxas thought he looked rather like he was trying to figure out where he was, and how he'd gotten there. Many of the other Council members were trying to figure out the same thing, if a bit more expressively than the King was.
"True love," said Vexen from the doorway. Roxas blinked. It was the first time he'd ever seen his stepbrother in trousers. "Exposure to it can overpower the strongest of potions. Unfortunately, there is no scientific remedy." Vexen offered Marluxia a thin lipped smile. "I'm sorry, Mother. It looks like they've thwarted you."
"Lies," Marluxia snarled. "It will still be a few minutes before they've fully recovered. Larxene, more tea. Now."
"A few minutes?" Axel echoed. "Well then. Roxas, what do you say we—"
"Already on it," Roxas said. "Sora! Now!"
It was hard to say what happened in those next confused moments. Sora, brandishing his Keywand, entered through the doorway, yelling "Don't move!" Of course, he wasn't allowed to use magic on any of the people in the room, but the only ones who knew that were Axel and Roxas. Riku had leapt out behind him, brandishing what looked like a coat rack. But the sudden appearance of a fairy and a random teenage boy, though surprising, was the least of their troubles, and, after a moment of shocked silence, everyone who wasn't Axel or Roxas was rather preoccupied with the sudden influx of black-suited guards who had rushed into the room when Roxas shouted.
"Dude," said Xigbar, who found himself rather befuddled and staring at the wrong end of a sword, held by one of the mysterious guards. "Not cool."
That particular guard pulled back his mask and gave Xigbar a puppyish grin. "You can say that again," said Demyx, former slave boy. "Hello, Xiggy."
Roxas didn't understand what was going on, but it was rather amusing to see the one-eyed Council member's jaw drop. "You," he managed. "What?"
Demyx scratched his head. "See, it turns out I actually am a spy," he said, still smiling. "Head of intelligence. I had you fooled pretty well, though, didn't I? It was fun pretending to be a slave. And when I saw that King Xemnas had no better use for his advisors than to send him chasing after his son, well…we figured the time was ripe for a coup. Seems like we were right!"
Xigbar didn't seem able to wrap his head around it. "Head of intelligence? For whom?"
"Me," said a deep, sonorous voice.
All eyes turned towards the front entrance of the sitting room. In the doorway stood a regal man with light blond hair and flowing red robes. The way he stood practically emanated power. One of his hands rested on Naminé's shoulder, and they both wore a look of equal determination.
"You," Xemnas said, his voice laden with hatred. "Ansem."
"Yes," said Ansem. "It is I, Ansem the Wise, come to reclaim the throne, which, I might add, is rightfully mine."
"You," Xemnas repeated, a bit louder. "I exiled you!"
"You did," Ansem the Wise agreed. "You exiled me for eighteen long years. However, you could not get rid of me completely. I traveled the countryside under the alias of DiZ, gathering followers, waiting until the right moment to exact my revenge, relying on trusted aides like Demyx—" Demyx nodded. "—and my daughter, Naminé." Naminé inclined her golden head. "And these young men for their remarkable diversions," Ansem added, indicating Roxas, Axel, Sora, and Riku, who had joined them.
"Nice distraction," Riku said to Roxas, setting his coat rack aside. "It bought us time to get into the house. But why did you break Marluxia's hold on Xemnas? Wouldn't it have been easier to capture him like he was then?"
"Easier," Roxas said. "But not nearly as satisfying. Right, your Majesty?" Xemnas glared at Roxas. "I mean, your real Majesty."
"Quite right," Ansem said. "Revenge is sweeter this way." He raised his hand and commanded, "Take them away."
The guards went about restraining Xemnas and the Council of Five, who tried to resist but were, unfortunately, outnumbered and still partially in a tea-induced stupor. Even Saïx could not completely recover his wits, and the most he did was snarl at some of the guards who got near him. Xemnas was outraged, and he wasn't the only one.
"But, oh!" Marluxia cried, flinging himself forward and latching onto Ansem's arm. He raised the pitch of his voice to sound slightly more feminine and gave the most pitiful look he could possibly manage. "You would take my fiancé away from me?"
Ansem looked skeptical, and rightfully so. "Your fiancé?"
Marluxia stood and brushed his skirts off. "Yes. Xemnas." He paused, and offered Ansem a most charming smile. "Unless, of course, you want some tea."
"I'll pass." Ansem stroked his beard. "However, you have given me an excellent idea, er, Lady Marluxia. Xemnas shall remain in this mansion with you for the rest of his days."
Marluxia shrugged. "That's very generous of you, your Majesty, but are you sure you wouldn't like some tea?" He motioned Larxene forward. "It's hot."
"Very," Larxene added, with a wink.
Naminé looked positively traumatized. "Father?"
"I'm sorry. Naminé and I must be going. We have a country to rule." He gave Marluxia a stern look. "You are staying here, Marluxia. Unless you want to share the dungeon with your fiancé."
"No, your Majestly," Marluxia said mildly, although Roxas could tell he was not thrilled by this turn of events. "Your Majesty is most kind. Since it seems I am losing my current maid…"
Xemnas, who was only just coming to terms with his current situation, let out a low groan. It surprised everyone, because this was the most emotive their former king had ever been. Ever. Perhaps in his lifetime. The collective Council almost fainted.
Ansem then turned to Axel. "As for you—"
Axel held up his hand in a gesture of surrender. "Woah, woah, I helped you out, didn't I? I'm not about to take your throne." He thought for a second. "As long as, of course, you pay me a tidy sum per annum. You know, just to make sure I don't run off and raise an army and come back. Being a prince was kind of fun, maybe being a king would be…"
Ansem sighed. "Fine. The demand is reasonable, and you did help me reclaim my throne."
Roxas grinned. "Good deal. You should have gone into politics," he said to Axel. "You know, actually."
Shrugging, Axel put his arm around Roxas' shoulders. "Not my cup of tea, er, so to speak. I'm much better off spending the rest of my days with you, doing positively nothing."
"I can live with that," said Roxas, leaning into Axel's arm and looking up at him. "It's the good life."
"Well," said Naminé, offering them both a smile. "I'm glad to see that everything has worked out so well."
"Almost everything," Riku added quietly.
Sora's eyes widened, and he looked out the window of the sitting room, where the sun was fast retreating behind the jagged line of the far away forest. "Oh my gosh, it's almost sunset!" he exclaimed. "When did that happen? I…" He drew a long breath. "Alright. We have a couple of things to get out of the way."
He looked at Roxas, who had been busy staring at Axel and was not happy to be interrupted. "What?"
"There's something I'm supposed to tell you before I go," Sora said, fidgeting a little. "Something which I can't imagine you'd be interested in, but which I need to tell you anyway. See, only certain people can summon fairies. Usually, these people find some kind of magical object. In your case, the Keywand."
Roxas nodded, not quite sure where Sora was going with this.
"Well, someone has to be a bit magical themselves to be able to find one of these objects. Meaning…" Sora paused again. "You have the potential to become a fairy, too. That is, if you want to, you could come back with me. It's the ultimate escape plan we have—in case the fairy in charge of your case happens to mess up, they can take you away to somewhere much nicer."
Grinning, looking up at Axel, Roxas said, "I think I'm fine here with true love, thanks. And don't worry, Sora. You were an excellent fairy godself."
This consolation seemed to do very little to cheer Sora, who turned back to Riku with a sigh. "Riku, I'm sorry, I know it's not fair…I wish there were something I could do…"
But Riku didn't look at Sora. Instead, he stuck his hand in his pocket and rifled around for something. Roxas couldn't see what he pulled out, but it was small and black and sparkled a bit in the fading daylight. "Does this count?" Riku asked. "I found it in Vexen's lab and wasn't quite sure what it was, so I decided to hang onto it. I know it's a bit of a long shot, but…"
Sora stared at the object in Riku's hand in shock. "But this is…" He lunged forward and hugged Riku, who was taken aback but didn't mind one bit. "Riku, you're incredible! But why didn't you use it to get out of the cellar?"
Riku blinked. "Is it a Keywand? I didn't know…I mean, it didn't look like a key, although I hadn't really thought about it before. And it's so small."
"Well, yeah, they tend to stay in one size until they're activated. But I can take care of that for you right now." Sora was grinning so hard that Roxas was afraid his face might split in two. "Here, hold it. And give me your hand."
Puzzled, Riku did as Sora said. Sora offered him a reassuring smile and laid his hand on top of Riku's, then closed his eyes and muttered something.
Roxas, Axel, and the rest of the room watched in wonder as a golden glow enveloped the two boys. Sora didn't change at all, and stood there, still grinning at Riku, but Riku, his face twisting in surprise, began to hover an inch or two off of the ground. Something bright unfolded from his back, shining and growing and looking very uncomfortable. Riku seemed frozen as the transformation took place. The object he and Sora held lengthened as well, glowing even more brightly than what Roxas assumed was Riku's new wing.
Then, as quickly as it appeared, the glow vanished, and Riku fell forward into Sora's arms, his new Keywand—which, Roxas thought, looked more like a bat wing than a key—clattering to the ground. His fingers dug into Sora's back as he tried to regain his balance.
"Guess I better believe in magic now," he said, smiling despite his sudden weakness. "What does it look like?"
"It?" Sora said, looking over Riku's shoulder. Then, realizing, he exclaimed, "You only have one! Riku, you only have one wing!"
Roxas, who had been temporarily blinded by the glow, blinked and realized that Sora was right. Riku's one wing fluttered behind him like a banner, black and feathered like the wing of a bird. It was amusing to watch Riku crane his neck to catch a glimpse of it. "What does that mean?" Roxas asked. "Don't fairies usually have two wings?"
"Usually," Sora said, unable to prevent himself from reaching out and touching it. "But in special cases…I'm trying to remember…it either means that you're a mix of dark and light or…or that you're really, really dark, and your true nature just isn't showing yet. I think it's the first one for you, but it'll take some time to figure out. Most fairies are predominately one or the other. Actually, there's only one other one-winged fairy, and everyone thought he was pretty much alright until he went completely berserk one day. But I'm not worried about you." He brushed Riku's wings again with the tips of his fingers. "It's an adult wing, too," he muttered enviously. "I'm so jealous. I won't get bird wings until I turn eighteen. Cloud said so."
"My tutor. Oh, you'll get to meet him. Riku, you'll get to meet everyone. I'm so—" Sora didn't seem to be able how to express how he felt with words, so he kissed Riku instead, and Riku wrapped his arms around Sora, and it was completely obvious that the two of them had completely forgotten that anyone else existed.
Ansem the Wise coughed in a very dignified manner.
"Oh," Sora squeaked, pulling away. "Um."
"Kids these days," Axel chided.
Roxas elbowed him. "Hypocrite."
Riku, however, looked satisfied, not embarrassed. "We'll be off, then."
"Be sure to write," Axel said.
"And take care of yourselves," Roxas added. "Alright? No more crashing balls."
"Will do," Sora said. He took Riku's hand, closed his eyes, smiled one last glorious time, and muttered something in another language. The two boys promptly vanished, Keywands and all, the only trace that they had ever been there at all a single black feather, slowly floating towards the ground.
Which was promptly snatched up by Vexen, who held it between his thumb and index finger, studying it in the fading daylight. "This will require further study," he announced, and turned on his heel to return to his basement laboratories.
There was about a minute where no one was sure of quite what to say. "Well," Naminé managed finally. "Now I'm glad to see that everything turned out so well. Shall we go, Father?"
"Yes," Ansem said, snapping his fingers. He swept out of the room, and the guards followed behind him, some with Council members in tow.
"I wonder if Ansem will let me keep you," Demyx was saying to a still-confused Xigbar as they passed through the doorway. "After all, it would only be fair…" And then they, too, were gone.
"Well," Marluxia said. "Now that that horrible man is out of our house, I believe I have some outfits which would look wonderful on you. And, of course, we need to start planning the wedding, and how to take back your kingdom."
"Wedding?" Xemnas repeated glumly. "I never agreed to this."
"Yes, you did," the pink-haired transvestite insisted. "Won't it be wonderful to have a father again, Larxene?"
"Wonderful, Daddy," Larxene said, a terrifying smile on her face.
Xemnas attempted, without much success, to splutter a reply.
"It seems like he's forgotten all about it," Marluxia said, frowning. "It seems more tea is in order. Larxene, if you would help me with your father—he is a very stubborn man, but there are ways of fixing that."
And, together, mother and daughter dragged a miserable Xemnas into the kitchen, forgetting completely about the two other occupants of the living room.
Axel took the opportunity to flop down onto the couch. "Alone at last," he said most dramatically. "Thank goodness. I thought they'd never leave." He patted his thigh. "Come here, you."
Roxas went over, sitting down in Axel's lap as the older man wrapped his arms around Roxas' waist. "It looks like we did get a happy ending," Roxas mused. "After all of that."
"Mhm." Axel nestled his head on Roxas' shoulder. "Well, what do you want to do now?"
"Sleep for ages, I think," said Roxas, yawning. "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night, and it's been a long day. And then…maybe eat something?"
Axel squeezed him affectionately. "Boring. Although, honestly, that does sound like a good plan. I'm starving."
"Yeah. There will be time for other stuff later."
"There better be." Axel grinned and kissed Roxas' cheek. "But I meant…after we get out of here. What do you want to do? I was thinking we could go to Italy, or Greece. I think you'd like Greece. It's warm. Sunny. Maybe we could get a boat and sail out into the Mediterranean. Just the two of us."
"We deserve a vacation, I think."
"And you'll never have to clean anything for the rest of your life, Roxas. Roxas? Are you listening, Roxas?"
But Roxas had already drifted off to sleep, warm in Axel's arms. But Axel didn't mind. Instead, he picked Roxas up, kissed him lightly, and carried him out to the carriage, which was waiting by the gates of the old mansion, waiting to take them off on brand new adventures, none of which would involve maid outfits, or cleaning, or tyrants, or glass slippers, or anything that complicated at all.
The glass slipper sat on the coffee table, forgotten. No one needed it anymore.
Because a happy ending is all that anyone can ask for.
A/N: IT'S OVARRR. Well, no, not really. There is an epliogue. But I had known it was going to end like this since almost he beginning. Okay, that's a lie. Since chapter six. Ansem the Wise is the Fortinbras of this story!
Keep an eye out for the epilogue, and let me know what you thought! Lovee and many cookies.