A/N: Inspired by The Brightest Hour by The Submarines.
He was always so hard to figure out.
She stared at him from the corner of her eye, watching his steady hands rifle through the various pieces of her artwork. His eyes, too attentive and serious for his young face, scanned each portrait carefully, scrutinizing like his life depended on it. She made sure that her hands were distracted too, so he would not suspect her watching him.
"...this one." His voice was emotionless, but not stony. She turned her head to see him holding up a creased sheet of paper; the top of the page was frayed and torn, indicating that it had been ripped out of a sketchbook. She craned her neck to look at it properly, her brow furrowing.
"Why?" She frowned, not understanding why he chose it. She watched him flatten the portrait onto the floor in front of them, his blank expression unchanging.
"The detail in this is so precise," He murmured, his fingers tracing the jagged outlines of Axel's hair; his hand slowly moved towards Demyx's sitar. "it's almost like the real thing."
"You think every one of my pictures is detailed, Roxas." She reminded him, a teasing smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
He blinked at her for a few seconds, and the seriousness in his expression caused her smile to slip away. "Oh. Right." He bent over the pile of artwork once again. "I'll keep looking, then."
Her frown deepened as he fell back into another period of silence, moving his hands around the pages of art that were scattered around them. She knew that he was the type to keep his emotions in check, but not to the point where he was practically a stone statue; he was known to smile every so often or even crack a bad joke. He was never this withdrawn, especially around her, and that was probably why her chest was contracting uncomfortably at the moment.
"What about this one?" He was pinching the top two corners of a messily painted landscape of an unfamiliar beach. "It's very colourful."
Her ashen brow scrunched together again. "I don't know…"
He exhaled sharply and neatly placed the portrait on the floor, on top of the one he was examining earlier. He threw his hands up in defeat. "You ask me to help, and when I try to help you reject every one of my suggestions!"
She winced at his sudden flare of temper; his raised voice and hardened stare always made her feel like she could not do anything right. "I-I'm sorry," She stuttered, afraid of what to say next, "I-"
His expression instantly softened and he ruffled the back of his hair before reaching out to her, tightening his arms around her upper body and rubbing comforting circles on her back. Her hands tightened into fists, gathering handfuls of his black shirt and she closed her eyes, breathing in his scent and listening to his voice rumble deep in his chest. "No, I should be the one apologizing. You didn't do anything wrong." He briefly paused to kiss her forehead, "It's been a long day for me."
The affection in his voice made her smile, but he also sounded exhausted and frustrated. Her fists relaxed into open palms and she pushed a few inches away from him to stare up into his blue depths. "Do you want to stop, then?" An uneasiness twitched inside of her as she waited for his answer; she did not want him to leave just yet.
He shook his head, much to her relief; the small smile on his face was not the one she was accustomed to but it was better than showing no emotion at all. "No, no - we have to keep going. This is important." He released his hold on her, albeit reluctantly, and she shivered slightly when she no longer felt his warmth embracing her.
"It's not that important," She said, returning to her stack of paper, "it's just something I'd like to know, that's all."
"I'd like to know too," A shadow of the shy grin she loved so much ghosted across his face, "so let's keep looking."
They lapsed into another silence, but it was a comfortable one this time; his arm found its way around her waist and he pulled her closer to him. She pressed her head against his shoulder and reached for a couple of papers. Her breathing fell in step with his and she had to fight to keep her eyelids from drooping.
As the minutes passed she began to notice that he handled the artwork in a gentler manner than she did; she would merely toss the rejects to the side while he neatly stacked them in a pile in the corner. She grabbed each piece of paper with her fists, while he held them by the edges with only a few fingers. She giggled when he accidentally smudged a pastel work; he looked at her with alarm but she only laughed some more, insisting that she did not like that one anyway.
"Why do you treat them like they're worth something?" She finally asked, looking up from underneath his chin.
He tilted his head to the side. "Because they are."
He said strange things sometimes.
After another short round of pleasant silence she felt his lips brush against her ear; his blond spikes tickled her skin and she squirmed. "Let's stop for tonight."
His words caught her attention and she gaped at him in disbelief. "You're leaving now?" Her voice was softer than it usually was.
He shook his head and took her smaller hands in his. "No," He stood up slowly, pulling her up with him, "I want to take you somewhere."
Somewhere? She hardly left her room, in case Xemnas was prowling about nearby. Biting her lower lip, she cast her eyes downward. "But-"
"This is your room, Naminé, not a cage." The seriousness in his gaze returned and he squeezed her hands. "I figured Xemnas would be smart enough to be able to differentiate between the two, but I guess not." He stepped closer towards her, relinquishing his hold on one of her hands to cup her cheek. She tilted her head upwards and closed her eyes as she felt his lips graze her own, pouting when he pulled away unexpectedly. "Don't worry - I won't let anyone hurt you." Then he leaned in to kiss her.
She was caught up in a heated flurry; thousands of tiny embers spread throughout every corner of her body, igniting her fingertips and toes. A warm bubble began to swell in the pit of her stomach and she could not feel her head, only the movement of his lips against her own and his soft hair poking out in between her fingers.
If this was how kissing felt without a heart, she wondered how it felt like with one.
He broke apart from her - too soon, like always - and pressed his forehead against her own. She sighed and opened her eyes slowly, gazing into his; they were a smoldering blue, a raging storm in the middle of a bottomless ocean. He gave her one last peck on the lips before releasing her completely to grab his cloak that hung over one of the white chairs. She bent over to pull her sandals on; when she was done she joined him by the door.
"Where are we going?" She asked as he draped the sweeping black coat over her small shoulders. She stared down at her covered self in confusion. "Huh?"
He reached for her hand again. "It's not very far. Come on." He opened the door and gently tugged her outside.
They descended the spiraling staircase all the way down to the very bottom; he continued to pull her forward down the hall, not saying a word. Her eyebrow was raised the entire time they walked, wondering just exactly where he was bringing her to.
Suddenly she felt a pair of warm hands over her eyes. "Keep walking forward - careful, there'll be a couple steps just up ahead." She could hear the smile in his voice.
"Okay." A cool breeze skimmed across her skin; they were outside. She stepped cautiously, slowly walking down the steps he warned her of. She smelled something sweet in the distance, but she could not figure out what it was. It felt like they were walking for a very long time until he spoke again.
"Keep going," His breath fanned her cheek. "we're almost there." He lightly nudged her forward, his hands still preventing her from seeing anything. The sweet fragrance was overwhelming now. "Stop." The ground felt plush under her feet; blades of grass brushed her toes. "Sit down."
"Roxas…" She laughed softly, but she did what she was told; the moment she settled into the soft grass he pulled his hands away from her face, and she gasped in shock.
They were sitting in a circular grassy area, surrounded by row after row of red roses - that explained the smell. Naminé leaned back on her palms to gaze up towards the sky; it was pitch black and twinkling with thousands of stars.
"Marluxia's garden?" She guessed; the wind billowed a little harder this time and she wrapped the lapels of his coat around her slight frame - that explained why he put it on her in the first place. She eyed his simple v-neck t-shirt and frowned. "And aren't you cold?"
He shifted around so that he was sitting behind her, pulling her back towards him and resting his chin atop her head. He laced their fingers together and placed them on her lap. "You're right, and I've been through worse, so don't worry about me. When was the last time you've been here?"
She nestled in his arms, pressing her back against his chest. "I don't know, but I remember it being different last time. Bigger."
He chuckled for the first time that evening. "It was bigger at one point - until Axel nearly burned everything down. Marluxia's given him strict orders to never step here again."
He fell silent after that, but she had no desire to break it; she felt that one wrong move, a simple movement or even a breath would ruin the moment. Instead she sat still, leaning casually against him with her head craned slightly upwards towards the star-mottled sky; at some point he wrapped both of their arms around her small torso and nuzzled his head against the back of hers. She heard him take a long, deep breath.
"What are you thinking about?" She asked, her voice barely above a whisper. It was a question she always wanted to ask him, but she knew she would never get a straight answer; Roxas did a lot of thinking, and judging by his strange behavior he had been doing way more of it recently.
"You, of course." His tone did not seem at all convincing. "I'm always thinking about you."
"Except for now." She smirked; his lack of a response confirmed her suspicions and she glanced upwards at him, "Tell me what you're really thinking about."
He heaved a sigh and pressed his cheek against her hair. "You don't remember anything of your...other life, right?" His voice was slightly muffled against her wisps of platinum blonde, but she heard him correctly, and it gave her navel an unpleasant jolt.
She was expecting this to happen, but not so soon.
"No," She finally said after a few minutes of silence. "why?" She forced her gaze forward, staring ahead at the roses.
"Well," He uncrossed their arms and brought one of them up to his mouth to kiss her knuckles. "haven't you ever thought about it? I mean, everybody else seems to remember who they used to be...except us. Don't you think it's a bit strange?"
A painful lump formed in her throat and she tried to force it down. "Of course I do, but I don't think there's anything I can do about it." I already know. "What's passed has passed, right?"
"I've been thinking about a lot of things lately." His voice was conveying an emotion she could not decipher, "Why did the Keyblade choose me? What was I like before, and what was my name? Did I have any friends, a family, a home?" He released one of her hands to run his fingers through his hair. "It's been bothering me for a long time."
"That's why you've been so quiet lately." She mumbled, staring at their intertwined hands. The uneasy feeling she felt inside was not going away, and the lump in her throat was growing. Xemnas had mentioned this once or twice before, but she never took him seriously. Now she felt stupid for not believing him - of course Roxas would question his past; who would not?
After a strained silence, she spoke up again. "You're leaving, aren't you?" Her voice came out weaker than she wanted it to be, and she cursed herself for it.
This was why Xemnas had tried so hard to prevent them from meeting. This was why she was never allowed out of her room. It made sense now, and it killed her to accept it.
"I know I won't find any answers if I stayed here." He replied after what felt like years later, "I need to find out, Naminé. I want to know." He squeezed her hands affectionately. "Who knows - maybe we were together in our other lives too."
His last sentence caused her chest to contract painfully again; the irony of his words pierced her, and she wondered if it would hurt any worse if she had a heart. She wrapped their arms around herself and closed her eyes; she desperately wanted to just turn around and tell him everything, but she knew she could not - she knew that the truth would only result in more questions. The truth would be too much for him, like it had once been for her; if he found out now, his inclination to leave would only increase. Regardless if she told him or not, he would leave, but if she held the truth from him perhaps he would stay a little longer. If she left him in doubt for a few more days, maybe she would be able to steal more time with him, but she knew it would not be for long.
"Naminé?" He sounded alarmed; he untangled their fingers and grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to roll around so she would face him. "Are you crying?"
"Huh?" She swiped at her eyes; the chilly breeze skirted across her wet skin. She did not even realize she was crying; she had been too lost in her despairing thoughts to notice anything else. "Oh…" Was all she managed to say; her voice was even quieter than before.
His expression changed again; it was a look of pain, a longing to be forgiven. He opened his arms to her and she leaned in towards him, clutching the front of his shirt with one hand and holding onto his shoulder with the other. The tears streaked down her pallid cheeks, dripping off the end of her nose and chin. She felt his hands massaging her back and she extended her arms so that they wound around his neck. "I'm sorry," He whispered, his voice heavy with despondence, "I'm so sorry."
It always felt awkward to cry; she was not used to the ache that throbbed in her throat and chest, and the burning in her eyes was bothersome. She had always regarded herself as sort of weak, but when she cried she felt completely helpless. She shook her head fiercely, refusing his apology. "N-no, it's not your fault." She choked in between her sobs, her shoulders heaving, "I-I don't know why I'm d-doing this." That was definitely a lie, and she was sure he could see through that.
"People cry when they're sad," He spoke softly; he brought one finger under her chin and tilted her head upwards. He brushed his thumbs under her eyes, wiping away the copious tears. "I can't stay here, Naminé. You know that."
Her crying eventually ceased and her shoulders stopped trembling. "I know." She whispered brokenly, tightening her arms around him.
"Why don't you come with me?" His tone lightened a bit, but it did not change her mood. "We can find everything out together. You don't have to be cooped up in that room anymore, and Xemnas won't be around-"
His hopes were admirable, but completely unrealistic. She had a job to do here, and she could not afford to run around different worlds. She had memories to chain together - his memories. "You know I would if I was able to, Roxas," She murmured weakly, "but you and I both know that I can't leave."
"I don't understand," He cried out suddenly, "why does Xemnas need you so badly? Why does he keep you in that tiny room all day long, forcing you to draw pictures? Whose memory are you tampering with?"
She hated lying to him, but she knew it was necessary if she wanted him to stay longer. "I don't know exactly what Xemnas is having me do, but what I'm certain of is that I'm needed here. Besides, it would only cause more trouble if I left."
He was quiet for a few moments. She took advantage of the silence, drinking him in; she relished the warmth his body gave her, and the strength of his arms as they held her close to him. She breathed in his scent, embedding it into her memory. One of her hands wandered towards his hair and she tried to memorize how it felt as she weaved her fingers through it. He leaned backwards a bit to look at her, and she took in the blue of his eyes and the depth of his stare. She took his face in her hands, studying his taut jawline, the planes of his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose. She slowly pulled him to her, reveling in him as their lips came in contact; he reacted instinctively, pressing her body against his and closing his eyes. Their thoughts on everything - Xemnas, the Organization, their past lives, Oblivion and Oathkeeper - melted away as they lowered onto the grass, focusing only on each other.
When they broke apart she was on top of him, smiling serenely despite the fact that she knew she only had so much time with him left. The tips of their noses bumped against each other as he reached upwards to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
"Why can't I have you?" He asked quietly, downheartedly. She brushed his bangs out of his eyes, ignoring the aching that was threatening to consume her.
"You do," She whispered, "you always had, and you always will." She lowered her lips to his again.
The kiss was much shorter than last time; when they broke apart she rested her head on his shoulder, closing her eyes as she felt his fingers combing through her hair. Sometime later - she was not sure how long exactly - he rose to his feet with her in his arms. "It's getting pretty late; I'll take you back."
The walk back up to her room was slow, as if both were trying to milk as much time as possible together. The plain white room was much warmer than outside; she shrugged off his coat and handed it back to him. She pressed her hands against his chest and opened her mouth to say something, but he pressed a finger to her lips and smiled - it was her favourite smile this time, the sheepish, crooked grin that always caused her chest to swell. "I'll come back tomorrow," He promised, nodding towards the mess by her bedside, "we still have work to do, remember? Sleep well." He kissed her one last time before disappearing behind the door.
Sighing, she spun around and headed back to the floor by her bed, straightening the loose leaves of paper into stacks and pushing them to the side. The fact that their time was so limited put a great weight on her shoulders, and she hated how she could not predict when their time together would run out. She would have to go through every day hoping that he would walk through her door and dreading the day when he would not. She did not want to play guessing games.
It was getting late, but she did not feel tired. She crossed over to the long white table, grabbing her sketchbook and a box of coloured pencils along the way. An idea popped into her head as she overturned the box, watching the pencils slide out and gather on the table in front of her; if they could not find the right picture, then why not make one? She pulled her pencil out of the sketchbook binding and flipped to a blank page, envisioning the picture she planned to draw; she was sure he would agree on this one when she was finished with it.
She spent hours bent over the table, her hands moving skillfully over the page as she sketched and coloured the image in her head. By the time she was sure she was finished night had already waned and the first rays of dawn began to peek in through the wide window, casting a sharp glare on the ashen furniture. She held the paper up by the top two corners, grinning triumphantly. This was definitely the one; she felt it. She looked over her shoulder, staring longingly at her bed, but at the same time the heaviness of sleep had already got the best of her; her eyes were half open and her shoulders sagged with fatigue. She was not sure if she was going to make it, and she did not want him to walk in later on with her passed out on the floor.
Instead she turned back towards her drawing and rested her arms on top of it, yawning as she pressed her forehead against them. In an instant she dozed off, dreaming about nothing in particular; she never had dreams. Being was a memory witch, she had enough of them when she was awake.
"Naminé?" A familiar voice coaxed her eyes open, and she waited a few moments for her bleary vision to clear up. The room was brighter now; how long had she been asleep for? She looked up and saw him towering over her, his eyes flashing with concern. "Did you sleep at all last night?"
"I think I found it," She shook off the remnants of her drowsiness, leaning back in her chair and motioned towards her drawing. "look."
He leaned over her shoulder a little bit more, examining her latest work; he was silent for a long time. She glanced at him hopefully, patiently waiting for his opinion. Finally, he turned to grin at her; he planted a quick kiss on her cheek before speaking. "You're right," He reached out to run his fingers down the paper, tracing the stars and the roses. He stopped on the two figures in the centre of the portrait, their arms around each other; only their backs were visible. "this is definitely the best one you've done so far." He knelt down beside her and kissed her fingers. "It's perfect."
She smiled brightly, happy that they finally agreed on something. "So it's settled, then? This is my best piece yet. No more rummaging through that-" She jerked her head towards the forgotten stack of papers by her bed, "-because this is obviously our favourite one?"
"Yes," He stood up and pulled her with him; he enclosed his arms around her waist and smiled against her lips. "it's settled." He kissed her, and the world began to fade away again as she dissolved into his embrace. It was right then and there that she accepted the fact that their time together was running out, and that he would eventually leave her someday, but that did not mean that he would be gone forever. It was in the cards for them to be together, as it was for their Others. Nobodies lacked hearts, but not destinies.
"So," He smiled her favourite smile again when he pulled away from her, "now that that's solved, what do you want to do today?"
When she thought about it, only one answer came to mind. "Let's go to the garden again."
He raised an eyebrow. "But what about Xemnas and-"
She shook her head and smiled. "They don't matter anymore." And she took his hand and led him out of her room.