Disclaimer: if I owned it I'd have better things to do than write depressing stories. Thanks for that reminder.

Finished crappily to make up for taking so long to update BOT.

Now – angst. I will laugh if you cry. Remember that. :)


They told me once…

He who makes a beast of himself

Rids himself of the pain of being a man.

I won't be that.

--

It wasn't right.

Standing there, watching his two best friends as they shared sweet kisses in the moonlight, wishing he were anywhere but there. Leaning with his back on a tree while the other two exchanged murmured words down by the water. He didn't smile for their happiness, didn't show his sadness, nor even acknowledge the burning fury that was twisting down his spine, through his gut. He simply stared.

Sometime over the past few months he'd noticed the changes. He'd thought the three of them were drifting apart – they spent so long so far from each other, after all, and they'd all been bound to change. But in truth, it was just that they'd drifted further from him.

And now he saw why.

Then, without a sound, he turned on his heel and walked back the way he had come, ignoring the empty aching of his heart.

--

Don't look for me.

It'll be better this way.

--

His walk was silent, a swell of nothingness sweeping through every part of him. It was pushing all thought from his mind that kept him true to begin with. After that it was a question of his dedication, or lack thereof. Of what he would become, of what he would choose to be, and of whether or not he would be able to stave off the dark thoughts at the fringes of his mind.

If only long enough for him to get far enough away to stop them from becoming reality.

--

It wasn't until now that I realised-

I think I might have left a part of me behind.

--

You'll always be connected, Sora.

He twisted Kairi's charm in his fingers, staring at a white roof through a black room in which he would stay for some days after. It would not, he might have thought, had he payed attention, be long until he realised just how light the darkness could be. Without a thought he replied to Roxas's quiet words.

And if I don't want to be?

--

That, maybe, that part was everything I was.

Maybe that part was what kept me looking back to here.

Kept me wanting to look back here…

And maybe that part of me was what kept you waiting for me.

--

It was ignoring the persistent knocks on the door downstairs that kept him timeless.

He felt no inclination to move. Here in the darkness he was calm, he was at peace. There was nothing to eat away at him but the steady doubts of his past. Here, he was alone. Here, in the smallest cage he could have, he was free.

You make so many promises, Sora. Eventually you were bound to break.

Break, perhaps. But this, with a heart that ached and a mind that was torn in two, was beyond his once-fabled breaking point. The truth was, while he lay there in the middle of a room that had nothing, in a house that held nothing, he could avoid the pain and the heartbreak and the suggestions roaming in the back of his head. As long as he didn't move at all, he could simply decide.

This is your sanctuary for a time, Sora, was a stated fact from a part of himself. These little conversations with his other half came and went. Sometimes, in his mind, they meshed together, twisting into the fabrication of his eternity. Other times there was so long between them that he wondered how long had passed. But only for a time. Eventually, you will have to move again, Sora, and there are so many places you could be. But the question, then, is if you wish to stay here.

And it was that which settled in the back of his mind for some time after as he stared at his white ceiling from his place on the wooden floor.

--

But somewhere along the way…

--

Do you? he asked eventually, even his mind's voice quietened after so long. He was met with a feeling of questioning, and no more. Do you wish to stay here?

There was a contemplative silence before Roxas replied. A part of me, he started slowly, treading carefully. A part of me will always stay with you. I am a part of you, after all, Sora, and in that we will always be connected. He paused for another moment. And another part of me will always belong to Twilight town, with it's clock tower and it's sunset.

But you do, Sora thought simply. You wish to stay. Roxas seemed to sigh.

Naminé is here, he replied. Sora was silent. Enough had been said.

--

Something changed in me.

--

It didn't cross his mind, not even once, that he should have been feeling something. Hunger or exhaustion. Because, regardless of whether it had registered, the fact was that his body had slowed down. He was never hungry because he never moved. He was never tired because he was never truly awake.

In this time, his eyes were merely half open, his gaze locked on a blank ceiling.

In this time, he was no longer the only one who had lost hope.

--

Perhaps it was the part of me that I lost.

Maybe, even, it was the part of me that I still have…

--

It was another knock on the door that normally would have had Sora's brow furrowed.

If I wanted to see them I would have done so by now, he thought, feeling no more than a slight irritation. I would have moved. I haven't moved…

And if they truly wanted to see you, would they not have forced their way in here and dragged you from this place? Roxas asked him quietly, giving a slight tug at the back of Sora's mind. Perhaps, then, you are right, and this is deeper than a little deception.

Have you asked, Roxas? Have you questioned Naminé what she knows? Sora asked, a distance in his voice that was unlikely ever to go away. It's no mere deception, he explained. The depth of this betrayal stings like bullets to the bone. How was I so ignorant?

It wasn't just you, Roxas replied. It was me. It was them too.

--

But now I feel older than I should.

Now I feel a little empty, maybe a little lost.

And now I can sometimes see…

--

It was when he realised that he could count every inconsistency in the ceiling, even through the dark, that he began to come to a decision.

So you wish to stay, he stated faintly, and I currently wish to never lay eyes on this place again.

That is how it appears to be, Roxas replied slowly, clearly wondering at his intention. Sora sighed mentally.

Very well, he said.

--

That darkness and light are just two parts of the same thing.

That I've lost the part of me that kept me worthy.

--

"Sora!"

It was a low call from downstairs that had his mind whirling with mixed emotions. Everything he'd so far suppressed twisted into his gut and he ignored the boy's voice. Riku, he decided, could force his way into the house and yell around as much as he'd like, but until Sora so decided it, he would not move.

And he hadn't decided it yet.

--

Sometimes love and time are worth the pain.

And sometimes hearts can break in the oddest of ways.

--

It was the first knock on his bedroom door that alerted him to the fact that the rest of his lonely house had been breached. The second, some time later, was more tentative, not from the same person. After that, calls of his name and knocks on the door were more frequent, and thus more frequently ignored.

They'll come in soon, Roxas noted finally. And then what? What will they find here?

There was a short silence, something sad and venomous at the same time playing between them. Then Sora replied, an answer that had taken him far too long to decide on.

Nothing, he said quietly. Nothing at all.

And then, for the first time in some time, he moved.

--

But if I've learnt anything from this…

--

"I don't look like me anymore," he noted dryly, and he realised that his voice was different again, raspy for so long without use. His own reflection in the half-broken mirror seemed unfamiliar, too healthy for how he felt, too full for who he was.

Any trace of who he had been seemed to have been obliterated in his time alone- his hair was darker, almost black, his body more refined than before, and a light stubble spanned most of the lower half of his face, while his eyes lost the most of their old gleam. He was taller, he was older, and he was no longer all there.

He gritted his teeth for a moment as he stared at his reflection, at his ridiculously long hair, and at all that he'd become, and with that in mind he searched for some scissors on the vanity.

"If I'm finding another part of me, this is going to have to change."

--

anything at all…

--

It was standing in front of a shelf in the small equipment store that he was first recognised again, a short clatter of school books hitting the floor and a small shriek alerting him to the fact. Next he knew, he was turning from his dull stare at a small pack to meet Selphie's curious gaze. He barely even blinked before she was talking.

"Holy Jesus Christ!" she exclaimed loudly. "What the hell happened to you!?" He blinked again before she seemed to catch herself, backtracking and blurting out as many words as came to mind while she flushed bright red. "I mean, don't get me wrong, Sora, got a haircut and you're bloody attractive beyond reason, and all, but-"

"Maa, maa, Selphie-chan," he cut in softly, and she blinked, then cut herself off, taking a deep breath before exhaling tiredly. "Calm yourself down."

She grinned. "Yes, right," she replied, slower this time. "I was just surprised is all," she explained simply, noting that he merely nodded his head in reply. "We haven't seen you in near a month, and now you resurface with shorter hair, this rugged facial hair thing – that really works for you, by the way – about four inches taller, and with your entire body redefined," she started. "I'm trying to find a word that doesn't sound like I'm majorly hitting on you, like, but it ain't that easy." He blinked again.

"Is that how long it's been?" he asked himself softly, noting that she only gave him an odd look. "A month?"

"You didn't know?" she asked. "You've been away so long. Everyone was getting worried. And now look at you," she said, making an example and raking her eyes down every inch of him. He merely grunted. "I did mean it. You're… well… you're pretty amazingly striking, Sora," she stated simply, not seeming to care what she was saying exactly. "But at the same time…" she trailed off uncertainly, catching his eye in askance. He nodded slightly.

"You know me," he explained loosely, seeing the understanding dawning in her eyes.

"Sadder," she finished dejectedly, noting the mere acknowledgement in his stance. "Sadder and lonelier… I'm sorry, Sora. I'm really, really sorry," she told him softly, seeing the small grimace of his in reply that told her not to pass on the message. As far as anyone else was to be concerned, Sora was still going to be sunken into his disappearance. For once, she would tell them nothing.

"It was their secret to tell," he replied simply with a shrug. "And you? You have nothing to be sorry for…"

--

It's that following your heart doesn't always get you

where you want to go and where you want to be…

--

"What are you up to?"

He merely glanced at the young girl before returning his eyes to the computer in front of him, earning a small sigh from Selphie before she hoisted herself on to the library desk beside the screen. "Sending a message to the king," he replied quietly. "I'm asking him about a kind of dissection, among other things…"

"Other things?" she questioned curiously. "Like?"

He sighed. "Like whether or not they can come get me," was his answer, almost too quiet for her to hear. She frowned.

"You really need to get out, huh…" she commented, not asking. He glanced at her again, wondering why she wasn't sounding disappointed, only sad. She gave him a small smile, which he returned. "I don't blame you, you know," she continued simply. "If it hurts that much to be here. It strikes me that you might need to leave."

He stared at her for a moment. Then he grinned. "You know, Selph," he started, "there was once a time when I couldn't understand a thing you said. You make more sense than you realise sometimes." She chuckled.

"I know, I know…" she conceded, seeming slightly humoured. "Happened while you were away," she informed softly, immediately wishing she hadn't as he sobered up. He sighed.

"There's the problem," he told her quietly, fingers hovering over the mouse before he clicked the send button on the computer and sat back in his chair. "You all changed without me. I got left behind."

Selphie merely sighed.

--

And that sometimes love isn't worth the aching.

Because kindness and light can only get you so far.

And, sometimes, you can find happiness in the darkest of places.

--

It was a white room littered with black scrawl that had Roxas truly worried.

Think this'll work?

"Since when have I thought about anything?" Sora asked himself loudly, snorting slightly at his other's question. He ignored the shaky laugh from the back of his mind that he got in reply, settling to paint the last line of another array. The white walls of his empty bedroom were covered with writing, drawings, symbols, and various etchings of all sorts, sent by the king.

If it doesn't work, that's five hundred munny worth of black paint down the drain.

"Remind me again," Sora grumbled. "Exactly what am I supposed to use munny on anyway? There's nothing here, no point." Roxas merely sighed.

Very well. Let's go.

--

But really…

--

It was stumbling past the table in the hallway – the only furniture in his small house – that Sora decided to explain himself half-heartedly. He halted an inch or two from the front door, then turned around to stumble back to the table.

He dragged a piece of paper and a pen out of the small drawer of the table, placing them on the surface for a minute while he leaned heavily with a hand on either side. He stared at the blank paper, feeling the loose part inside him, not yet entirely severed.

What are you doing?

"What am I doing, Roxas?" he murmured softly in reply, breathing heavily at the mental strain of the working severance. "Killing myself, slowly but surely, so no one else gets hurt, I suppose."

An illusion you can't maintain forever.

"No, but I can try," he replied softly, picking up the pen and toying with it silently. "Fact is, if I diffuse this now, I won't be blank or spiteful. I won't. Not from this. If I leave, I'll save them, save myself. If I stay, I'll have doomed us all to hell. I know this, and I know that I'll ache. But either way, I know I'll never quite shine again."

Then tell them that, Roxas replied. Tell them they're all liars and fakes, and your light's dimming day by day. Tell them they've thrown this upon you without a care for your future, or your well-being. Tell them that whenever they've tried to save you hasn't mattered, because in the end they've failed.

"Huh," Sora replied quietly, flashing a small, twisted smile at the piece of paper in front of him. "Guess you could say. But it's my fault too, because I'm… afraid of not shining again, Roxas."

I don't blame you. It was what you were made for.

"Past tense, yeah," Sora said quietly. "But what am I made for now?" The following silence was all he needed as a reply, and he sighed, shifting his feet slightly before he placed pen to paper, taking his time. "Time for some reprogramming, I suppose," he commented quietly.

Then he started to write himself a letter.

--

in the end…

--

"You'll say goodbye to them all for me?"

"Damn straight."

"Give Wakka that new blitzball for his birthday for me?"

"Absotively."

"Make sure Tidus and that girlfriend of his don't break up?"

"Posolutely."

"And ask that what's-his-face guy out soon?"

"Ye- that's not for you, is it? Because that would just be weird," Selphie said quickly. Sora pulled a surprised face for a minute before snorting.

"No, no, Selphie-chan," he reassured quickly, waving his hands in front of him for a minute. "I meant for you. I want you to promise me you'll ask him out for you."

"Well, pssht," she replied sarcastically. "You could've just said so."

"Forgive me for having faith in your, clearly inadequate, powers of deduction."

"You're forgiven."

"…Well… good…" She gave him a look that clearly seemed to say 'yeah, that's right, I win', and he couldn't help but grin in reply. "Promise, though?" She rolled her eyes.

"Of course!" she assured him loudly, turning her eyes to the water from the tree house's balcony simply. "Now watch the sunset and enjoy it, wonder boy."

"Yes, ma'am!" he replied with a small salute.

"…Shut up," she joked, mock-grudgingly. He merely grinned, turning his eyes out to the sunset as she directed, and slowly sobering up again. After several minutes he spoke again, and she was disappointed to hear the now usual sadness in his tone.

"Ma told me once," he stated softly, still looking out over the water, "that one day she'd like to move to another island, y'know? As long as I could look after myself if I wanted to stay, but if I wanted to go we could leave whenever, and I'd get to reinvent myself. And I looked at her and said 'I'd never want to leave here – my friends are here, I'm happy here'. But when I was away, because she forgot me, she had nothing to hold her back here, you know? So she moved out to the Fringes – on one little island out there. Got her own little house alone on the beach. Best sunset there – besides here, anyway…"

He trailed off for a minute or two, and Selphie watched him curiously. "…I went to find her a week after I got back," he explained quietly. "Went out there by myself for a day. No one here knew where I was."

"Yeah, I remember that," Selphie coaxed gently, putting a hand on his shoulder while he examined the sunset.

"Walked right past her in the little town out there, and she looked right up at me, you know? But… she didn't… know. She didn't know me, or recognise me. Like she didn't remember me when everyone else did, or I was never here beforehand," he explained slowly. "So then I saw her, and I thought about when she told me there'd be a time when I'd have the chance to reinvent myself. When I told her I didn't think that time would come for me, I wouldn't ever need it – I had my friends and my family, all right here, and nothing could change that. There wouldn't ever be a time I would need to reinvent myself."

He paused for a moment, and he seemed to sigh a silent agreement to his mother's past words. Selphie felt a twisting feeling in her gut when he finished his explanation in his softer, emptier tone.

"She said there'd be a day when I'd want to."

--

if I have learnt anything from this…

--

Black words, a white room, a flash of white light. Then one faced the other and the once-silent conversations had to be said aloud.

"You look… good," Roxas commented slowly, tentatively. Sora chuckled to himself, a small, wry smile touching his lips.

"Awkward, innit?" he asked, and Roxas smiled similarly. "You look the same as you used to, just a little older."

"Nice to know," Roxas replied simply. Sora cocked his head to the side slightly and crossed his arms over his chest. "Forgive me, brother, but where stubble and definition work on you – they just wouldn't work on me. I'm blonde. I couldn't even pull off cutting my hair that little bit shorter like you have."

Sora grinned. "Touché, my friend," was his short answer. There was a small silence as they stared at each other, full reflections of different times. "Where do we go from here?" Sora asked quietly, and they both seemed to sigh.

"You go soul searching, like you need to," was the sought-after reply. "I'll grab Nam when she's realised that all of this," to which he motioned the white and black walls around them, the scrawl and the drawings, and the lines that made their separate lives possible, "separated her from her other, and we'll go. Wherever we want to, Sora – the beauty of making portals to different worlds. We don't have to stay."

"Good luck with that."

"Never been better said," Roxas answered dryly. "…Will we find you?"

"No," Sora replied curtly, and Roxas frowned. "You won't. No one will. I won't want to be found, so I won't be found. I can't be seen from miles away anymore – I'm so shadowed now… I just…"

He exhaled slowly, eyes closing.

"I'm not going to ache anymore," he said. "I don't want to, I refuse. Not because my best friend stabbed me in the back, not because my heart cracked in two for some girl, and not because I've been so thoroughly disillusioned about all my dreams and destiny, and eccentricities of the type. I won't. It doesn't matter that I've just been chasing fireflies. What matters is that I can still choose who I want to be now. Somewhat, somehow. I'm just going to have to change. A lot. And you won't find me, Roxas, until I've changed, until I want to be found."

There was a pause.

"Then I'll be different, Roxas. I won't quite be me anymore."

--

it's that it doesn't matter who you are…

--

It was the sparks that flew from the cave wall that satisfied the deep, animalistic feeling in the bottom of his gut. It wasn't quite what he wanted, no – but he knew he was supplying some sense of destruction, and he knew it would suffice.

The drawing probably hadn't meant anything to her for months. But once, way back when, it had. And it still did to him, clearly. So when he scraped the rock in his hand against the stupid, littered wall, he could feel those last caught parts of him falling away.

With a small, bitter smile, he dragged lines through the picture – his well-drawn face, hers, not so, and the two paopu fruit in the middle. It was only a joke now, a fake prediction of a future that would never be. But it still stung his eyes to see, and his heart to think about, because it was just another memory of an ill-conceived deception. And the scribbled lines through the scribbled pictures made the aching in his heart lessen, so it couldn't have been such a bad thing to destroy such an old memory, such an old part of himself.

He couldn't help the depressing, sadistic glee that brought tears to his eyes, a month too late, even as he pounded scrawled words beneath the now white mess that once was a childish work of art. He finished his words, dropped the rock in his hands, and leaned his head against the wall. Silent tears fell while the ache he'd felt for weeks got steadily louder. He clenched his fist against the wall.

It hurt to know that he was such a fool, so naïve. He always had been, though – they'd always known. And for that, a pained smile twisted onto his lips.

"Patron Saint of liars and fakes," he said to himself. "I know that now. I know I'm alone, and useless, and used. There are never more than two sides to a story. I was never really a part of theirs." He pounded one fist against the wall, and then turned to have his back against the wall. "Too little, too late, Sora," he whispered.

There was another moment, another pained expression, and he knocked his head back on the wall twice. Then he wiped the tears roughly from his eyes, sniffed once, and made his way to stumble out of the not-so-Secret Place, into the too-bright sunlight.

Moments down the beach, eyes shadowed and all signs of tears gone, he stopped. There was someone in his way – someone stiff, with his arms crossed and his eyes hard.

"Whoever you are, you shouldn't be here," came his voice, and a twisted smile made it's way on to Sora's face. He barely lifted his head to see him – Riku, the cocky traitor.

"Exclusive, is it," Sora commented dryly, and Riku recoiled. But the small smirk didn't leave the too-dark-to-be-brunette's face, because he realised some very big things about him and his ex-best-friend.

After years of trying, and wanting, he was finally the bigger one. He would've had at least an inch on Riku's hulking height – although that may have had something to do with Riku's slouch – and he knew he was stronger. Of course, he always had been.

And then, without wanting it, without trying for it, he'd become something else more than Riku as well – he'd become darker.

"…Sora…?" Riku asked quietly, a slight amount of shock evident in his tone. "…You… changed into…"

"Something dark?" Sora asked bitterly, and he still wasn't looking up far enough to meet Riku's eyes. "Not quite. More like something shadowed, you know?" He paused sourly, staring at the sand for several moments. Then his gaze shot up to meet Riku's, and he realised Riku's eyes were as bright as his once were – brighter, even – and opened wide with a lasting shock that this was Sora in front of him. He felt some sense of cruel satisfaction that he could have that effect.

"But you wouldn't," Sora revised harshly, and Riku took a step back as though stung. "You wouldn't know about being half and half – all shades of grey. Wouldn't know about tasting bitterness, and hating… everything… Wouldn't know what it feels like to be at war with yourself every single moment, Riku, would you?"

And it wasn't even a question anymore.

"I…"

"Can't find the words? Or can't find the reasons, maybe. Because you've never been this way before, and you don't know what to do about it. Try nothing," Sora hissed, and every word seemed like a physical blow to the older boy.

"How can we fix this, Sora?" he asked quietly, staring back at Sora unsteadily. And Sora smirked again, because there was senseless regret in those green eyes, yes, but there was no acceptance of the fault. For someone who was supposed to know more, he was remarkably oblivious to when something was his own mistake.

"It can't be fixed," was the simple reply, and Riku jerked his gaze away, almost as though he'd been hit with a vicious right hook.

There was silence, wind curling around them, sun starting to set on the horizon.

"…Are you cold?" Riku asked eventually, quietly, and there was no doubt to what he was talking about. Sora sniffed slightly.

"What do you think?" he replied dryly, and Riku winced again. They stared at each other – one examining, the other just watching – taking it all in through whatever time there was left. "Guess you wouldn't know, really, but when you spend so much time alone," he said bitterly, "you forget what it's like to be someone."

"It's just a matter of-"

"What is it that you dream of, Riku?"

"What?"

"That you dream of – what is it? When you close your eyes, and fall from reality, what do you see?" They trailed into silence while Riku thought it over.

"I guess…" he started quietly. "…I dream of a beach – this beach. On sunny days, like we always used to have," he explained, and he turned his gaze out to the water, crossing his arms with a soft smile on his face as he thought of it all. The soft look in his emerald eyes said everything to Sora that wasn't said outright.

"And I feel warm when I'm there – inside and out – with all our friends and family."

I feel happier than ever with everyone I care for.

"And of course there's you there – my best mate."

And you're not there at all.

"And there's this girl, too, vaguely."

Kairi's the most of it, you know...

"And I always feel… whole… and warm with her."

You'd never catch that we're dating. You wouldn't know.

Sora smirked bitterly. "Good luck with that," he said simply, and then he brushed past the older boy without a second glance and made his way towards the door to the cove, brushing off the resentment in his gut.

They only ever lied to his face.

--

betrayal still hurts…

--

It was Selphie's lack of attention that had her worried.

Sure, the girl didn't have the greatest attention span – never had – but this was ridiculous. Red had been talking to brunette for ten minutes now, but that girl's gaze was off towards the island, eyes vacant.

"Selph? You okay?" Kairi asked loudly, attracting the girl's attention quickly.

"Hm?"

"Is there something on your mind? You seem kind of…" she trailed off thoughtfully. "…Lost. Like you're missing something, or you're sad."

Selphie frowned. "You wouldn't know… anything about that, would you," she said, and there was a slight accusatory tone to her voice. "Been too wrapped up in your own happiness to think about it, but…" She lifted her hand to her chest – to her heart, an odd look of loss crossing her face. "Good friends can do that to you when they decide to go away."

Kairi's eyes widened, almost as though slapped, hoping in vain that Selphie wasn't talking about who she thought she was talking about. But even as she thought that, Selphie glanced towards the clock, checking the time in a moment.

Her next words would have Kairi out of her seat on the front porch and halfway down the road within seconds – bursting into Sora's house within minutes, and crying herself to sleep within hours. Because at Sora's place, she would find only an entirely empty house – bare walls, bare floor, bare everything – and the only signs that he had ever been there at all would be the envelop taped to the front door with her name in black ink, and the scrawl covering the walls of his empty, bare bedroom.

"He should be going soon…"

--

every breath reminds you that you're still alive…

--

It was slow footsteps down a quiet beach that marked Riku contemplativeness, his mind whirring over his recent conversation with a Sora who seemed to feel little. It had been a broken conversation, something small and seemingly pointless, something that really meant far, far more. But for the life of him, he couldn't grasp what.

What is it that you dream of?

Why wouldn't he dream of the islands? Of being with his friends, people who wouldn't judge him for his past? Why was the answer so important to Sora?

And then he was questioning why Sora was so different, why he was darker and quieter, why- in that one instance that they had met for the last time- he had seemed so alone. And it struck home far too late to help any, that this Sora was not the one he remembered so well.

Why was this, why had the boy changed? One month, he'd basically lost existence. One month since Riku had told the girl of his dreams he'd loved her down on the beach. And something in that clicked in his mind, telling him that it wasn't in any way a 'coincidence', or in any way natural. The third thought that came to his mind, of a month ago.

They'd been watching the sunset, him and Sora, talking about what they were going to do. Just talking. He'd been asked by Sora, "what are you going to do now?", and that had him sinking into his own head, barely paying attention to the younger boy's quiet words of 'I think… I think I'm in love with her. That's what I want my future to be. Reckon you can help me?' He'd heard it, but he hadn't really listened.

He'd merely grunted an acceptance.

--

and everyone is going to hurt you in some way, eventually…

it's a question of whether you can take the pain.

--

Knowing it was all his fault had driven him not to stop. Soon, with his eyes directed at his boots, he's walked to the end of the beach, only to stare down the wooden structure that separated one beach from the other. His gaze turned to a glare, and his anger at himself had him kicking the wood several times before he noticed the dull rattle of metal on wood that it was giving off in reply.

He immediately looked for the source of it, finding a chain and crown pendant hanging from a nail beside the small door. His fury quickly turned to sadness, hopelessness, as he stared at the pendant and the small, dark wooden plaque beside it, inscribed with glowing, golden writing.

This, he realised, was the last message for him from the Keyblade master, the last part of him that need to be left behind. Because of that he stepped over to the plaque, eyes scanning the golden words.

"I dream of a beach too.
Mine is different.
A different beach with water that sounds the same.
Here is where I'm aimless, lost, and hopeless:
twisting in the memories of my past.
Here is where I'm alone.
That is the difference between you and I."

He ran his fingers over the letters, feeling a sadness that wasn't his own filling his being. This, he realised, was the ghost of Sora's magics and everything he'd felt in the past month. Sadness, and anger, and a betrayal that purely stung, the last testament of a boy so broken he had to start over.

"Godspeed, Sora," he murmured softly, sadly, gripping the wooden doorframe tightly.

And it was all his fault.

--

Please don't look for me.

--

Bare feet crashed in sand while Kairi ran, unaware of the emptiness in the back of her mind through her haste. A crumpled letter crushed in her fingers, tears streaming from her eyes while she searched frantically for a mop of silver hair on the twilight-lit beach.

She wasn't disappointed.

She gave out a short shout as warning to him and he turned to see her, just in time to catch her in his arms before she went past him and into the wooden wall. She cried into his shirt for less than a moment before her hand, still clutching at the letter, grasped at his shirt and she let out a strangled sob.

Riku took the letter from her hand, proceeding to reading it quietly out loud for the two of them, and she stepped away from him, out of his hold that was once so desired and now seeming so wrong. Because of this, she caught sight of a chain and crown pendant hanging on the planks of the wall, between the doorframe and a small plaque of glowing letters, through her tear-stained eyes.

"They told me once," Riku read softly to himself, to her, echoing Sora's colder words. "That he who makes a beast out of himself rids himself of the pain of being a man…"

--

Because when you find me I'll have to face this.

I'll have to face myself.

I'll have to face these parts of me.

And maybe I should.

--

Two met two on a darkening, windswept beach. The cove was calm, sand patterned from an earlier take-off, the trees further up the beach leaning back from some dissipated force. Standing in the middle of the beach, the sand around the two of them entirely undisturbed, were Roxas and Naminé, staring up at the showing stars.

They were silent and calm, wishing Sora all they could as he moved further away from them all.

Riku and Kairi ran out to them, one grim and the other hysteric, following their gaze up for a moment before Roxas spoke to them, not bothering to tear his eyes away from the sky. A deepened sadness echoed in his tone.

"He left because of you, you know," he said quietly, barely raising his voice above the breeze. Naminé, in his arms, didn't move at all, appearing not to listen. "Because you never told him, and he found out on his own. When he told you, Riku, plainly and simply that his heart belonged to her but he was losing himself." He took a short breath, then turned slightly, releasing Naminé and turning his eyes to Riku. His gaze wasn't even accusing, just sad.

"You chose to ignore him," he continued softly. "Disregarded his fears and his nightmares and the things he may have wanted or needed in this world and what he asked of you, and took, instead, what you desired in the heat of the moment. You never wondered what this would make of him."

Riku opened his mouth to reply, only to have Roxas shake his head simply and smile sadly, turning his gaze back to the sky, while Kairi hung off his every word and processed every meaning in her mind, tears streaking down her face.

"I'm proud to be a part of him," Roxas said. "Proud. He could have taken his bitter feelings and twisted himself into something dark. But he didn't, he just decided to start over, to change. For that, I'm proud to be a part of him." He looked at Naminé for a moment with the same small smile, earning one of reply from her. "Although I was concerned for a little while there – he was getting awfully poetic in the end, talking about how he's been chasing fireflies from the beginning and how his destiny was, perhaps, not quite as he'd once thought."

Then he was looking back up to the sky again, after his other. "He said I'll never see him again – not this him. It's his mission. To be something better. I told him he was a fool. He just smiled at me. He said if he stayed this way he'd ache. He said he was sick of aching and he was sick of his 'eternity', whatever that meant. So he was going away to find out who he really was and where he really belonged. Because he doesn't belong here anymore, because he – master of light – lost his shine.All because you ignored what he might become."

"He just said he didn't want to ache anymore."

--

But I'll have to find myself first.

And in that, perhaps…

--

It was blue eyes staring off into the big black ahead of them that had Donald worried, glancing between the control panel and the teenager quickly before shooting a helpless look at the third companion. Goofy merely nodded in reply, turning his own gaze to Sora quietly.

"What was so important to drive you from your home, Sora?" Donald was asking quietly, not particularly wanting to pry, but not able to let this go. "What is it that keeps you from looking back."

"Whoever said it was home?" Sora asked softly in reply, not challenging and not taking his eyes away from the stars before him. Donald merely glanced at him sadly.

"That bad, huh?" Goofy asked gently, allowing a small silence to pass afterwards before Sora finally replied, though scantily.

"I think… Something changed," he said quietly. "When I was out here with you guys. They all forgot about me, you know," he continued. "And that… that made everything…" He trailed off, almost unable to continue, and his gaze dropped from the stars to his hands clasped on his knees. Goofy merely sighed understandingly.

"Different," he finished for him, accepting the answer as explanation for every action. He watched the boy for a little while longer, patting him gently on the shoulder for a moment before turning his own eyes out to the big black, thinking over Sora's predicament. His heart was clearly broken, and it seemed, so far, that he was truly alone, missing some part of himself. Donald, it seemed, had come to the same conclusion.

Whatever Sora was searching for, now, they swore they'd help him find it.

--

I think I may be better off alone.