Here is the epilogue. There isn't much to say, but I thought I'd write the disclaimer one final time, you know, for nostalgia's sake.
Disclaimer: I do not own KH or its characters. They are the property of Disney and Square Enix.
Sora leaned against the bent trunk of the paopu tree, his skin soaking up the sun and gentle sea breeze blowing against his face. It was a feeling he had really missed in his past misadventure and subsequent recovery. He was still having a hard time believing that he had somehow slept for three days straight after initially waking up.
It had taken some time, but slowly and surely, his wounds healed, and the memories of what happened while he was out also seemed to fade along with his injuries. Though such a thing should have bothered him, to be perfectly honest, he didn't really mind it that much. The memories that remained were like the foggy leftovers of a dream after waking up.
The others had told him what had happened while he was out, and in turn asked about what happened to him during all that time. After all they had gone through, who wouldn´t? Yet every time he tried to think about what happened, the memories just seemed to slip away. All that he could remember, strangely enough, were colours drowned in black and an intense white light.
Whatever the case, he was really just happy to be back. These islands; the ones that housed them as children and had seen them growing up, despite their small size, felt like heaven to him right now. After all, in all the other worlds he had visited, none gave of the same feeling of serenity like Destiny Islands.
´There´s no place like home I suppose.´ Roxas provided from within his head. He had really missed that as well.
´Guess you're right.´ Sora replied with a small chuckle as he closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy the warm sun.
According to Yen Sid he was well enough to start going on missions again, but it would still be best to take some time off to rest. He hated to admit it, but he could really use the R & R. The islands still needed some help in rebuilding from the storm, so he could at least be of some help here if things really got too boring.
Now there was just one final thing to sort out.
Sora felt his cheeks reddening at the thought, and he slowly reached into his right pocket. He hadn't had the chance to give it to her before, and it had been nearly a week since he woke up. He had gone through so much trouble just to get this, so it all came down to this. It was now or never.
"Hey sleepyhead! Earth to Sora, is anyone there?" A voice joked, snapping him out of his thoughts and making him jump.
"Kairi?!" Sora called out in surprise, though the redhead before him just laughed.
"Come on, Leon and the others are already here." Kairi said as she took his hand and attempted to drag him over towards the gathering of people near the small island´s only pier.
"W-wait, hold on!" Sora stammered. His feet digging deep into the sand as he protested against her surprisingly strong grasp. His cheeks were blushing intensely from the whole ordeal.
Seemingly noticing his distress, the redhead tilted her head in question, her brow furrowed as she took in his overall nervous appearance. Finally her hold on him relented, and she finally voiced her thoughts.
"Sora, what´s wrong?" Kairi asked and Sora let out a nervous laugh before reaching out to scratch the back of his head in an entirely nervous reaction. This only served to increase the girl´s suspicions.
´I'll just leave you two alone, then.' Sora heard Roxas call before retreating deeper into his mind.
´Wait what?! Oh, come on!´ The teen called out, only to be completely ignored.
Well, there went his moral support.
"Err, it's nothing really. I just, well, how should I put it?" Sora blurted out, his tongue suddenly slipping over his own words. Why did he have to mess up in a time like this? He had fought countless battles against fierce foes, but when it came to stuff like this, why was he so hopeless?
He looked around for something, anything to give him support. Perhaps Riku would be there for him in such a time like this, but then again, he'd probably laugh. He'd never had these kind of problems, after all. How he seemed so cool-headed all of the time was beyond him. Looking around, Sora couldn't see him anywhere, and now that he thought about it, he was probably helping set up the things for the party. In fact, he should´ve been doing the same as well, but that spot over at the paopu tree had looked so inviting.
´Oh well, too late for that.´ Sora thought.
"Sora?" Kairi asked, snapping him out of his thoughts once more.
The teen mentally cursed.
"Yeah, I, uh, wanted to tell you something." Sora said, fiddling with his thumb while cursing his lack of eloquence.
"Okay, but do you think you could wait a sec?" Kairi said as she turned around and looked at the arriving party with a small wince. "I don't think Yuffie is looking all that well. Is it just me or is she looking a bit green?"
Prompted by Kairi´s concerned tone, he glanced over at the arriving group and noticed that the ninja did look a bit under the weather. In fact, it looked like she was resting most of her weight on a rather uncomfortable-looking Leon. Now that he thought about it, everyone else minus the blonde pilot were looking a bit unwell, too.
"Oh, that's fine. She gets airsick easily." Sora said, wincing as he saw the girl throw up behind a bush. He didn't mention that the others were probably like that because Cid was behind the wheel. Kairi likely knew that all too well. "Look, Riku´s on it anyways."
Sora thanked his lucky stars as he saw the silver haired teen go greet the group and lead them over to the shady area near the waterfall so they could sit down at the large table they had set up this morning.
"Hey, we should go help as well, come on." Kairi said with a small smile as she turned towards the wooden bridge that connected the tiny island where the Paopu tree was to the larger chunk of land that formed Play Island.
Sora nearly jumped in alarm, and this time it was his turn to pull at Kairi´s arm.
"Kairi wait!" The brunette called out, his voice struggling against the knot that formed in his throat. He could practically feel the heat radiating from his face from embarrassment, and hoped that Kairi wouldn't bring any attention to it.
This was it; his one and only chance.
"I-I just wanted to say..." Sora said. swallowing hard.
Why did he have to get so nervous anyways? He had practically grown up with Kairi. They had known each other for so long, but suddenly, giving her this birthday gift just didn't feel the same. He didn't know how to describe it, but something about this particular gift just made it seem more important, or rather,meaningful than the conch shells they would give each other as gifts when walking around the island´s sandy shores as kids. Maybe it was because of all the effort it had taken to acquire the silver bracelet, or maybe the amount of thought that went into deciding what would be the right gift for her. Even more importantly, was the sheer effort that took him to recover from his previous ordeal. Though he couldn't remember much, he at least knew that he had come very close to not making it back.
Sora took a deep breath as he felt a bit of courage return. That´s right, he had survived that trial so he could come back and do this. Or rather, because he could do this, he had the strength to surpass the trial. Therefore, this should be easy compared to what he had gone through.
"I-" Sora began.
Strengthening his resolve, the teen gripped the bracelet in his pocket hard, his knuckles turning white under the strain. He looked at the redhead before him, trying his best to not lose himself in the indigo pools that were her eyes, a small part of him silently cursing the fact that he had forgotten to properly wrap his present. It was too late for that now.
"I should have given this to you before, but with everything being so crazy lately, I just didn't have the chance." The teen said, averting his eyes from her curious gaze as if it would somehow make it impossible for her to notice the rising blush on his cheeks, or the general aura of nervousness that emanated from him. "E-even though it´s a bit too late, I still wanted you to have this."
Sora frantically tried to calm himself down. This was it; the moment he had been waiting for.
The teen squared his tense shoulders before reaching his arm out, mentally wincing as he realized just how sweaty his palms were underneath his gloves. He held the item enclosed protectively in his hand out toward the auburn haired girl as if it were made of glass. Understanding the gesture with no little amount of curiosity, Kairi held her hand out to receive the mysterious gift still hidden by Sora´s hand.
"Happy birthday Kairi." Sora said softly as he took the girl´s hand and covered in it his other hand; the smooth metal bracelet dropping on her open palm. Noticing this, Kairi looked down in confusion, while Sora simply let go of her hand and stepped back, his stomach full of fluttering butterflies.
What if she didn't really like it? It had been with him during his adventure, so the charm bracelet had unfortunately been roughened up as well. No amount of care had been able to save the silver from being scratched, especially considering what he had been through. To be perfectly honest, it had been a miracle that the bracelet was still in one piece after all that, but it didn't take away the feeling of uncertainty and a bit of guilt that he could no longer give Kairi the shiny new bracelet he had gone through so much trouble to get in the first place.
The girl stood in silence, her brow furrowed as she looked at the bracelet. Sora felt his stomach flip as he awaited the verdict. Anxiety slowly turned to sadness as he realized that the overjoyed reaction he had been expecting from the redhead did not appear. Sora frowned as he started dejectedly at the ground. There was the distinct feeling of pain, as if someone had just struck him in the heart.
"If you don't like it, it´s okay, I can get you something else-" The teen began, but was cut short as he suddenly felt the wind rush out of his lungs as something barreled straight to his chest.
"Don't be silly!" Muffled cries called out, and the teen looked down to see Kairi holding him tightly in an embrace, her face buried against the dark blue of his undershirt.
'Huh?!' Sora thought in panic. Confusion and desperation clawed at him. His mind was working overtime to figure out what was going on, or rather, what exactly he had done? Kairi was crying so he must've done something to make her sad, right? Was his gift really so bad?
Mentally he kicked at himself for being so useless at this sort of thing.
"Er, Kairi?" Sora said faintly, not really knowing what to do in this sort of situation. His hands hovered awkwardly over the girl, unsure whether they should be comforting her or was sad so he should comfort her, but wasn't he the one that upset her in the first place?
"You didn't have to." Kairi´s muffled voice cut through his momentary uncertainty. He could hardly hear them, in fact.
"What?" Sora asked before even thinking it. For a moment he thought he had been hearing things.
The redhead stirred before him, before looking up slightly towards him. To his surprise, there was no anger or sadness in her expression. Though her eyes looked like they wanted to cry, there was a smile on her lips that almost seemed to reach out to him and fill him with warmth.
"You didn't have to go through all that trouble for me." The girl said, her warm, indigo colored eyes looking directly at his own azure colored orbs. Thin fingers began to brush away at the tears that were beginning to form in the corner of her eyes. "J-just being here with me, right here on this island, is all that I could ever ask for. We've always always been together, but last week I really thought about it. When I saw you laying there so lifelessly on that bed, your heart just hanging by a thread, I just couldn't imagine what life would be like without you. That´s why, just having you standing here, in front of me, makes me feel like my wish already came true."
Sora stood there, eyes wide, as he looked at the girl before him.
Was that what this was about?
Instantly he felt all his fears and worries melt away. In fact, he could feel his heart soar; the infectious warmth inside of it spreading all the way outside to form a bright, though somewhat silly-looking smile on his face.
"Wait so, does this mean you like it?" The teen asked, his eyes bright as he put his hands over the girl's shoulder´s.
The girl finished brushing away her tears and gave a small laugh."It's beautiful, I love it."
"YES!" Sora cried out in victory, before putting his hands over the redhead´s waist and twirling her high in the air, joyous laughter accompanying the both of them as the waves that crashed around them spun in their vision, the sun seemingly shining just a bit brighter than before.
"Hey, I hate to ruin the moment, but we're all waiting for you two lovebirds." A voice called out, making both of them suddenly freeze.
Turning around they saw a rather amused looking Riku, hands crossed as he studied the two now furiously blushing teens from where he stood on the wooden bridge.
"Uh, right! Coming!" Sora called out, his face still as red as a ripe tomato.
"Yeah, in a minute!" Kairi said as well, a noticeable blush still on her cheeks.
Riku gave a devious grin, before turning around and walking off.
"Alright, but you guys play nice." The silvery haired teen said, before jumping off the bridge and heading towards the center of the island.
"RIKU!" Sora called out in a mix of embarrassment and indignation, though the pale teen just lazily waved his hand as he walked. The blushing Keyblade wielder quickly went after him. "Hey!"
Despite her previous embarrassment, Kairi couldn't help but laugh.
"Hey Sora, wait." The redhead said as she caught up to the brunette.
"Huh?" The teen asked as he turned around, his head tilted slightly in curiosity.
"Do you think you could help me put this on?" Kairi asked as she motioned at the bracelet resting on her hand. If possible, Sora´s expression brightened even more.
After fumbling with the bracelet to finally put it on, the two teens headed towards the center of the island near the waterfall, where a large group of people waited for them; fourteen in total. Sora didn't recall ever seeing so many people in this small island, but even despite of its small size, it was as if the small world did its best to accommodate and welcome its visitors.
Everyone was there: King Mickey, Donald, and Goofy looking as bright as always. Chip and Dale as well, had left the gummi ship to join in on the occasion. Even the entire gang from the HBRC was there as well, many of them like Leon, Cloud, Tifa, and Yuffie looking slightly out of place with their mostly dark toned clothing. Only Aerith and Merlin didn't stick out so badly; the woman because of her pink dress, and the wizard, because strangely enough, he sported only a pair of starry light blue bathing shorts instead of his usual long robe. It was...shocking to say the least. To his great surprise Tidus, Wakka, and Selphie were there as well, mingling with the otherworldly visitors as if they'd been friends for years. Kairi told him about what happened here on the islands, but of course, seeing it for himself was an entirely different thing.
Cheers erupted when the two of them finally made their appearances, including some wolf whistles from Tidus that made the blush that had since faded rise once more.
"Was about damn time!" Cid called out from where he sat. His plastic chair leaning backwards dangerously.
"I suppose that means we can get started then." Riku said calmly, giving Sora a small knowing look before turning towards Leon and nodding. Sora sent a grateful look to his best friend, as he had just saved him from even more embarrassment.
At the brunette swordsman´s signal, Aerith, Yuffie and Tifa, came forward, only then making Sora realize that they had purposely been standing in the back of the large group. To his great surprise, the three woman then brought up what appeared to be a large birthday cake. It was three stories high with white and light pink frosting. Large sugary flowers like those that could be found around the island decorated the cake to give it an exotic feel. On the very top there, were fifteen lit candles.
"Everybody on three." Yuffie called out. "One, two...THREE!"
"You guys!" Kairi said in surprise as everyone gathered began to sing her a happy birthday. Sora would be lying if he said he wasn't surprised as well.
He knew what would happen since he was the one that mentioned Kairi´s birthday before Aerith, Yuffie, and Tifa decided to make it into a group celebration. Still, he didn't think the cake would be nearly as big or as elaborate as it was, since he was just told to relax as they would take care of things.
"Alright, make a wish!" Selphie said as she patted the redhead on the back. Kairi looked thoughtful for a moment as her gaze landed on the silver bracelet that was now around her right wrist. Clearly the others didn't miss the gesture since he soon received amused and some congratulatory looks from those around him, making his cheeks redden once more. Even Cloud gave him a small nod, his lips curving just the tiniest fraction into what had to be his equivalent of a smile.
'You know,what you did back there took guts.' Roxas' voice echoed within his mind.
'Well it would have been easier with a little help, you know.' Sora retorted, his blush still present.
The blonde's laugh rang within his head. 'And miss the fun?'
'Hey, it´ll be your turn sooner or later.' Sora replied teasingly, though this time the former nobody chose to remain silent. 'You have been acting awfully strange when you're with Naminé.'
The brunette felt a small rush of embarrassment, though this time, much to his amusement, it was not coming from him.
He had won this round.
There was a loud sound that snapped him out of his thoughts, and he realized now that Riku was trying to get his attention; a large piece of cake waiting for him on a plastic plate. Looking around, he realized that they had just started opening the presents.
"You know, those guys from Twilight Town actually sent a present as well." Riku commented as he saw Kairi and the other girls gather around the gifts.
"They did?" Sora asked in surprise. "How?"
"Moogles." Riku replied with a shrug. "It also came with a get well soon card."
"Wow." Sora called out in surprise. "Wait, where is it?"
"It´s in the ship in a large sac along with the others." Leon piped up as he walked over to the pair.
"WHAT?" Sora called out. If he was surprised before, he had to be completely shocked now. "Others?"
"You have been to a lot of worlds after all." The swordsman replied, eyes clearly reflecting his amusement.
"B-but, how did they all know?" The brunette keyblade wielder asked.
Riku let out an amused laugh. "Aren't you the one always going on about how our hearts are all connected?"
Sora's eyes widened as he thought about those words; his own words to be exact. Suddenly, he felt as if they held a newfound meaning, or rather, he had rediscovered something that he had long since forgotten. It was like the last fragments of a dream after waking up; so close and yet so far. There was just something about it that gave him the strangest feeling of deja vu, no, it was more than that. Hearing those words suddenly filled him with an inexplicable warmth.
"Hey guys, come on. Let´s all take a picture together!" Kairi called them over in excitement; a new camera already held in her grasp.
"Coming!" Riku called out, before turning towards Sora. "Come on, let's go."
"Uh, yeah... sure." Sora said, shaking his head at the strange feeling that had suddenly overtaken him.
"Huh?" Sora asked, his head quickly turning while his brows furrowed in confusion.
'Is something wrong?' Roxas asked, noticing his sudden reaction.
'Did you hear...' Sora began, but then quickly shook his head, a grin quickly forming on his lips. 'Nevermind, I just thought I heard something. Come, on let's go!'
With a bright smile on his face, the Keyblade wielder ran to join his friends. Though the past was painful and the future uncertain, for now the present was warm and bright like the sun that shone above him.
Above all, he knew he would never be alone, for no matter the distance that separated them, their hearts were all connected.
We'll always be here.
Canis: "Are you...crying?"
Crystal: "No, I'm cooing. I just love those forms. They're like big brothers watching over him."
Canis: "You don´t think I overdid it right? Romance isn't exactly my preferred genre, though I still operate under the belief that after so much fighting, the least i could give Sora was a happy ending.
Crystal: "I thought it would be, but you pulled back at the right moment. I like how it ended. Though I had mixed feelings when it did."
Canis: "What do you mean?"
Crystal: "Relief, pride, happiness, nostalgia, those things. But it's been beautiful and a lot of fun to work on."
Canis: "Yeah, they grow up so fast. It has been really fun, too. Which brings me to another point. There´s another project I've been working on alongside HH. It's much longer, though this time it´s a crossover (It´s not a KH crossover, unfortunately). It´s a rather interesting mix too, I'm not quite sure why it hasn't been done before (I´m a great fan of both series; let´s see if any of you can guess)."
Crystal: "On second thought... *cries in corner*. So long, sooo long! *bounces back* though it will be fun again hmmm."
Canis: "Yeah, I'll go MIA for awhile. I plan to upload the next project, only when I am positive I will be able to keep a steady update schedule."
Crystal: "Thank you all for the reviews! It was most appreciated! Hope you like the next story! And one last time for this story, Read and Review!"
Canis: "This last call goes out to all of you who bothered to read this. Seriously guys, I can't thank you enough."
Canis and Crystal: "Thanks, and goodbye (for now)!"