Disclaimer: Yeah, it's totally mine. That's why I'm still living with my parents and working part time at Wal-mart. Because I want to, not because I have to. Yeah...
A/N: For those who read the last chapter of 'It's Complicated' and also read this, too, then you'll know this was coming today. I'd written about half of it and I since I said I'd upload it today, I stayed up late last night, banging out the last half. This also happens to be one of the longest chapters for this story. I don't know, the words just kept coming, right up until about the last 500 words. Couldn't figure out where to go with that to a satisfactory ending. Hopefully you'll enjoy this chapter. Again, you guys rock, and I love you all. Every time you read it gives me a rush!
Suggested Listening: 'Home' by Girls Love Shoes
Chapter Four: The Part Where I Go Home
Naminé awoke in a tangle of sheets, the cotton pajamas riding up her legs uncomfortably, her hand pressed beneath the pillow. She hadn't woken up so well-rested in years. Her eyes blinked open, amazed at how long she'd been asleep. That was something else she hadn't done in a long while. Her body almost ached with it. It was all the more satisfying.
She worked her way free of the blankets, rising to her feet and nearly swayed back onto the bed as her head swam dizzily. Apparently, her body just wasn't all that used to good food and lots of sleep. Still, her equilibrium steadied soon enough and she got her feet back under her.
Naminé shuffled over to the dresser and peered into the mirror above it. Her cheeks were flushed becomingly and her eyes were hazy with sleep. She even looked better than she had in years, although, as she poked a cheek with one finger, she still looked thin and unhealthy. It was a step in the right direction, though, and all because she was willing to sell her womb.
That just sounded so… mercenary, though. Naminé shied away from the thought, unwilling to think about the implications of what she was doing. She would dwell on the positives only. She bit her lip, still looking in the mirror and turned her head to each side. Her hair was dull and stringy and the smudge of dirt was still on her collarbone. When was the last time she had showered? Surreptitiously raising her arm and sniffing underneath, Naminé decided it had been long enough.
Opening her door, she peeked around the jamb and looked around. Finding no one around, Naminé frowned. She couldn't hear anything, either. She walked out and then went down the stairs, still peering around. She finally found someone in the kitchen.
"Eep," she emitted as she scuttled out of view of Sora, who had his back to her and was talking to Roxas, who had definitely seen her, judging by the grin on his face.
"Hey, hold on just a sec, Sora," he said, skirting around his brother and ducking out of the kitchen.
"Hey, Naminé," he said, grinning at the thin girl trying to press herself into the wall.
"H-hi, Roxas," she whispered. "Um… I just wanted to know if I could take a shower," she continued, steadfastly refusing to look behind Roxas at the kitchen entrance. Sure, Sora had seen her in her pajamas just the night before, and Roxas could hardly know about that… unless Sora had told him. Oh, what if Sora had told Roxas? She'd die.
It was bad enough at night, seeing a gorgeous guy while she looked like she did, but it was at night and he could hardly have seen much, especially since he was more preoccupied with the wound she'd pretty much given him. Today was morning and light streamed from every huge window Roxas and Axel owned and she was sure the impression she was making was anything but sexy. She moaned a little in her throat.
"Sure, Naminé," Roxas said, unaware of Naminé's internal struggle, "The hall bathroom is just upstairs, two doors on your left. There should be clean towels. We don't have any clothes for you, obviously, but you can put your dress back on and we'll go get some of your other things later, okay?"
"Okay, thanks," she said, scurrying away as quickly as her legs could take her. Could that have been any worse?
And why was she even worrying!? It didn't matter, not at all. This was just terrible, absolutely horrible. Roxas would be so offended if he knew she was getting all squishy on the inside over Sora. She was not a teenager anymore: she could handle attraction perfectly well no matter how inexperienced she currently was.
Naminé continued to admonish herself all the way into the bathroom, closing the door behind her and dropping her pajamas in the little basket against the wall. Stepping into the stall, she turned the water on hot and sighed as the pulses of water sluiced over her hair and down her body. What was it about something as simple as a shower that could make a girl feel human in a way she hadn't felt in a long time?
She turned a curious eye to the bottles in front of her. She snorted when she saw that the shampoo and conditioner bottles were the tiny travel size editions left in hotel rooms. Axel and Roxas were hotel bottle thiefs! She never would have thought they'd be the type. She'd certainly never done it.
Still, that didn't stop her from grabbing a bottle, popping it open, sniffing and then dumping all of the contents into the palm of her hand. She'd need every little bit for her hair: desperate measures and all that.
Thirty minutes later, Naminé stepped out to a humid bathroom, every surface covered in a fine layer of dew and the mirror fogged over. She felt considerably better. Amazing, really. She stuck her head around the door and then ran to her bedroom, shutting the door quickly.
Staying in a strange home with people she'd met just the day before felt oddly surreal. She wondered over why she didn't feel more insecure. Considering she'd only known them a day, she felt safe around them, like they'd never do anything to hurt her. More than likely, they weren't, but to not trust strangers had been nearly the first rule she'd been taught. But she was jumping off the building and so far she hadn't fallen yet.
She'd just have to trust her instincts.
She slipped her sadly wrinkled white dress on and stepped into the blue wedge heels she'd worn, feeling a little bit more ready to face the day. She'd even managed to find a brush on the dresser table, so her hair was at least brushed, although still dripping wet down her back. But Naminé had long ago lost concern for how her hair looked beyond being brushed. Buckets of grease tended to keep it flat anyway.
Walking down the stairs, Naminé peered around, curious to see what Axel and Roxas' home looked like, since she'd been too tired the night before to do more than take a cautious peek around. Now, she felt a little more at home, a little more welcome and she didn't mind peering into doors, finding a study on the ground floor, as well as what could only be a formal living room and the dining room she'd seen the night before that went into the eat-in kitchen.
From there, sitting at the table, she found Sora and Roxas, both sipping from coffee mugs, although it obviously wasn't coffee they were drinking, since she couldn't smell any coffee roasting.
"Hey," she said, interrupting them. They turned to smile at her and Naminé couldn't help but think that it was just so unfair. They were prettier than her! Thick eyelashes that ringed the same shade of azure with spiky hair that looked as though it hadn't been brushed since they woke up but somehow seemed to work for them anyway; the only thing that seemed to set the two apart were their hair colors, Roxas with blond hair and Sora a dark brown.
"Well, hey!" Roxas said, Sora smiling beside him. "Feel more human, huh? You certainly look better."
"I feel better," she replied, coming over and sitting down across from the two. She smiled. "There's nothing like shedding a layer of dirt to make you feel better."
"I'll bet," Sora interjected, taking a sip from his mug. "You look like a decent breakfast might help you even more." He put down his mug. "What would you like?" he went on as he got up, moving over to the fridge and pulling it open.
"Uh, I'll take cereal, if you have any. I don't want to put you to work."
Sora waved off her concerns. "How about I make you some pancakes instead? Do you like chocolate chips?" he asked, pulling out a familiar yellow bag from the pantry next to the fridge.
She smiled. So much for her idea! "I love chocolate chips."
"Great! You know, Roxas didn't want me to make them but I'm craving them like mad, so you're just giving me a perfect excuse!" Sora said, pouring a few cups of flour into a clear bowl.
"I'm happy to be of service," Naminé said, smiling.
Roxas shrugged. "I'm not a fan of heavy breakfasts, myself. Give me some chocolate," he said, holding his mug up, "and I'm good to go."
"I like food," Naminé said. "I'll take whatever I can get, pretty much."
"Then you make my job easy!" Sora said, tearing into the bag of chips. Soon enough, he was placing a stack of steaming pancakes in front of her.
She stared at the huge stack. "Are you trying to fatten me up? I can't eat all of that."
Roxas snickered. "He likes to feed people and feed them well. Eat what you can: he'll probably polish off the rest."
"Oh, uh-uh, you eat that entire stack, Nami," Sora said, dropping his own plate down at the table. "You're too skinny; need a little bit more meat on those bones."
He'd called her Nami. She started at the name and almost dropped her fork. It was almost bittersweet. No one had called her Nami since her father had died. She hadn't wanted anyone to. But when coming from Sora's lips, it felt natural. She liked it.
"I think I should feel offended."
Still, it felt nice to have someone care. She'd been alone for so long, she'd forgotten what it felt like. Instead of being offended, some place in her stomach started to warm and thrum. She could get used to this.
And that thought dampened the warmth. She could get used to this, of course. Naminé knew that that wasn't a good idea, however. There were too many ifs, too many things that could go wrong. What if she didn't get pregnant? If she didn't, would Roxas and Axel even be okay with her staying? They certainly wouldn't pay her for something she couldn't deliver, literally. On the opposite side, suppose she did get pregnant. She'd be around for nine months, have the baby, and then would still have to leave.
The thought of having this family was nice… but it wasn't permanent and Naminé understood that all too well.
Sitting on Roxas' couch with her legs curled up under her, Naminé sighed in contentment. Her belly was full, her skin was clean and if she turned her head just slightly, she'd be able to smell the shampoo scent waft from her hair. She hadn't felt this good in years and it almost stunned her how human she felt now. When you lost something, it was natural to miss it and then become so used to its absence that you never noticed the difference.
But now she noticed and Naminé almost felt like she was glowing, she was so content. It was almost pathetic, she thought. Something so simple, something people often took for granted, and it made her light up like a Christmas tree. At least, she mused, her priorities were simple and straight-forward. Keep me clean, fed, and clothed and you shall have my undying loyalty; or, in Naminé's case, her unborn baby.
Again, Naminé shied away from that thought. All it did was cause her to doubt and she knew it was too soon to tell if anything would go as planned. Why worry before she had to?
Roxas pulled her out of her musings as he sat next to her, Sora settling down on recliner beside the couch she was on.
"So, Naminé, we need to grab some of your clothes. I figured today would be as good a time as any. There's a lot we have to figure out and it'd be better if you just stayed with us for now."
Naminé turned to look at him. "Well, I have no objections to that, but are you sure that's what you want to do? How do you know I'm not going to hurt you?
Roxas snorted in disbelief. "You're kidding, right? You look like a feather could knock you over; forget overpowering Axel or me. Besides, I have no reason to distrust you at this point."
"Plus, there's plenty of room," Sora interjected. "You'll like living here. I almost want to move in myself, but I did the whole living-with-my-brother routine for twenty years and I like not having to do it now."
Naminé laughed. It wasn't particularly funny, but there was just something about Sora's smile and the twinkle of his eyes that made a person want to join him and laugh, too. She couldn't resist.
"So, anyway, we've got some errands to run, yes?" Roxas said.
She smiled, painful tears threatening to rise in her eyes. She was so grateful, more than they'd ever be able to understand.
"Okay, I'd like that. Thank you," she answered, laying a hand over Roxas' and squeezing.
"Great!" he said, springing up and pulling her up with him. "Let's get going!"
Sora got up, too, and the trio made their way out to the car and got in, Sora relegated to the back in order for Naminé to give directions.
But the levity Naminé felt didn't last long before shame began to creep in. They were on her way to her crappy apartment. She knew it didn't matter; that Roxas knew how poor she was.
But Roxas wasn't the reason she was ashamed. She hated Sora seeing it, because Sora didn't have the first clue about her. What would he think of her when he saw her one room efficiency?
Would he gaze at it and judge her as he hadn't before? Would he pass a critical eye over the nasty grout in her counters and the tuft of cotton batting battling its way out of her couch? Worse yet, would she find her items dumped to the curb like the trash everyone thought she was? The landlord had made no secret of the fact that he hated her and he had evicted her without provocation.
Why wouldn't he get rid of her things? Naminé hated that thought, hated the burn of shame in her gut and the agony of the guilt clogging her lungs. She hated that she thought this way, hated that she didn't have better confidence in the person she'd become.
She knew she wasn't trash. Logically, she was able to tell herself this, able to ignore the deafening stares from people who thought themselves her better, but it was so much harder when it was someone she cared about.
Naminé didn't want Sora to judge her. Didn't want him to hate her or pity her or even just ignore it like he hadn't seen anything. She knew she wasn't being rational, though, because her wants didn't leave Sora many options and it wasn't like he could read her mind anyway.
They were able to tell she was tense, though, and soon the stream of chatter had trickled down to nothing, and they spent the rest of the trip in silence.
All too soon, the car had pulled up to a curb and Naminé stared at the building she'd reluctantly called home for two years. She let out a soft sigh. There's nothing like the present to get over an irrational fear.
Stepping out of the car, she hurried to the entrance, steadfastly refusing to look behind her to see Roxas or Sora's reactions.
At least luck was on her side and her things still looked to be in her apartment. It all could have been taken away all ready, but Naminé wanted to look at things on the bright side. Chances were in her favor this time.
She took them past the lobby, which featured peeling wallpaper and scuffed floors, into an elevator that creaked and groaned and down a threadbare carpet with flickering lights lining the walls, finally stopping in front of a door that held another eviction notice.
Naminé frowned, growling as she yanked the paper off her door. She crumpled it into a ball, before turning around and smiling forcefully at Roxas and Sora.
"If you guys want," she started, "you can stay out here while I gather some clothes."
Roxas looked around. "That's okay; we'll come in with you."
Sora just smiled. "Won't you need some help?"
She just smiled. She needed all the help in the world.
Letting them in took more than she thought it would. Opening the door and cringing at the draft of stale air that wafted out, she felt like running in and shutting the door behind her. Why bother coming out, too, while she was at it? Just crawl underneath her couch and stay there to rot. Surely the landlord wouldn't mind, right?
She pushed her shoulders back. Let them see. What was the worst that could happen?
Swinging the door wide, she stepped past the threshold and made a beeline for the dresser that also served as her TV stand. She still had the book bag she'd used in high school and she grabbed it from the coffee table as she moved past it. Opening drawers, she began to stuff all she could find in the bag, not bother to look at all she took out. She couldn't finish this fast enough.
"Hey, Naminé, what about this other stuff?"
She turned to Sora's voice; he was standing next to her couch, a sheepish grin crossing his face.
He was gesturing to her furniture. She looked around at the things that she had lived with. She didn't want any of it.
"No, let's just leave it. There's nothing here I want," she answered, going back to the dresser and the clothes.
"Are you sure?" Roxas asked. He was in her quasi-kitchen, rummaging through her cupboards. "We can rent a storage unit to put your furniture into while you stay with us?"
Naminé grimaced. She couldn't stand the thought of being in debt to him like that. Besides, looking at her things next to Sora and Roxas, she knew there was nothing she'd want to hold on to.
And then she spotted her VHS copy of Beauty and the Beast. Although her TV didn't work, and VCRs didn't exist anymore, practically, she couldn't bear the thought of parting with it. She'd never been able to sell it.
She grabbed it quickly and stuffed it in between the folds of her jeans. She also grabbed the bills from her coffee table, knowing that she had responsibilities, still, that she'd need to handle. She couldn't leave them behind.
"Well," she said with a lighter skip in her voice, "I think that's just about it."
Sora and Roxas exchanged a look she couldn't interpret then looked to her. "If you're sure?" Roxas asked.
Naminé sighed, touched by their indecision. "Yeah, I'm sure," she replied. "I've left that part of my life behind. It's better to keep it in the past."
They stepped out of the apartment and she closed the door.
"The landlord can trash it for all I care."
She didn't know where she was going to go after all of this, but she knew it wouldn't be back here. She was better than this and it was time she started to think that and believe it. All of this she could leave behind without a glance behind her.