A/N: If you don't already know the whole complicated story behind why this used to have a different title and used to be a multichip before I turned it into a oneshot, then don't worry, you don't need to.
Formerly "Asylum". Roxiri, AU, dark. Now a oneshot.
XxxThe Saltwater RoomxxX
"Is this everything?"
It was one of those nights that made horror films seem plausible. The moon and stars were hidden behind the same thick cloud veil that had announced the arrival of the last cold system of the season. They'd had an unusually late blackberry winter this year, but it had arrived with a vengeance, and now it sent gusts of cold wind down the little old suburban street, which rattled the shutters of some of the 1970's homes and tousled the dark red hair of the young girl currently loading one large and two small suitcases into the back of a new red Honda accord.
"I didn't have that much to begin with, Roxas," she told her companion, a tall blond boy of eighteen. She patted the largest suitcase. "That one's got all my clothes, and those two," she gestured towards the smaller two suitcases, which had been nestled among the suitcases and bags belonging to the boy, "Are practical things we'll need and sentimental things and such. I didn't have as much to put in that one as I thought I would. Mostly it's just my old journals and then pictures."
"Right," Roxas muttered absently, "So," he shook his head, before facing her seriously, "Kairi, I mean, last chance to back out. Are you sure you want to do this?"
The girl, Kairi, looked back at the small two-story house behind them, particularly the large window in the upper corner. "What choice do I have? After all the trouble you went through to get all your college money transferred into the new account without leaving a paper trail, we can't just go back to everyday life. And besides…"she trailed off and took a deep, shuddering breath, and regarded the upstairs window morosely, "I can't stay there anymore."
Roxas nodded. "I know the feeling. So," he held out his hand and Kairi took it, "off we go then?"
She turned away from the house and gave him a sad smile. "Off we go."
"Think we'll ever come back here?" he asked her, just before she got in the passenger side of the little car.
She looked back at the house one last time. "Probably. It may be twenty years from now and it may be of our own accord but we'll get dragged back here somehow someday. I always end up right back here."
"How long do you think it'll take them to realize we're gone?"
Kairi lifted her head from its position resting against the car window. "I don't know. My mom may never notice. It's not like she's ever noticed my absence before. As for your parents; well who knows? And anyway, they won't know how gone we are until the bank statements come back and your dad sees you've sold your Mercedes to buy this thing and stolen your entire college fund."
Roxas merely hummed in reply, Kairi having summed up all he could have said. Kairi turned her head and rested it against the glass again and silence fell over them. They'd foregone the radio as they were leaving town in the interest of remaining inconspicuous, and had simply neglected to turn any music on now that they had gotten on the interstate.
The road was nearly empty. They'd only seen a couple of other cars and then a few transfer trucks, but that was all one could really expect at two-thirty in the morning. Roxas set the car on cruise control and looked over at Kairi, and his attention was drawn to the way her hand was resting on her stomach.
"Are you okay?" he asked, his eyebrows knitted in concern.
She looked up. "I'm fine."
"No, I mean, well." He reached out and placed his hand on her own. Kairi looked down at her stomach and sighed.
"I'm alright. Really." But she couldn't quite meet his eye and there was something in her tone that didn't convince him. "And it was for the best, anyway. We're way too young. There's no way we could have handled it. I couldn't even take care of myself, that's why I had a miscarriage in the first place." Despite her feigned nonchalance she couldn't hide the way her voice shook as she spoke. "And I mean, come on, we'd have had enough trouble trying to take care of one baby, let alone twins."
"Yeah, but Kairi," he began softly, but she cut him off with a grin that didn't quite reach her eyes and a joking tone with an unmistakable edge behind it.
"And besides, would you have really wanted to explain to them one day how they came into existence in the first place? I mean, I believe the general practice is to fall in love before you procreate. You really wanted to tell our kids that they exist because mommy and daddy needed a way to kill the pain and sex was cheaper than drugs or alcohol?" She laughed bitterly. "In the end, it's best for everyone that it ended up this way." She turned her head back to look out the window and her hair fell to hide her face from him.
"Well, yeah, but Kairi…you were four months along, you can't tell me you felt nothing when—"
"I've told you before," she said harshly, "I don't want talk about this. So just drop it."
"But Kairi, we were going to keep them, surely you-"
"Roxas, for the love of God, just drop it!"
Roxas sighed and turned his attention back to the road.
The manager at the small motel where they checked in the next morning seemed more than slightly hesitant to hand the keys over to them. Thankfully, however, he seemed to regard them less like runaways and more like a couple of horny teens looking to get away from parent's rules and prying eyes. At the very least he didn't look likely to be contacting the authorities asking if there were any missing teenagers in the area, so they were thankful for that.
Roxas glared at the "5:49" glowing at him from the clock on the bedside table as he and Kairi collapsed on the hard bed in the little room. Normally this might be around the time he'd be getting up (or at least it would have been before graduation), now he was about to go to sleep. He'd been driving since half past eleven when they'd left town and he was utterly exhausted. Even Kairi was exhausted, and she'd managed to doze off for a while during the drive. They didn't even bother changing into their pajamas; they just burrowed under the covers and settled more comfortably into each other's arms and drifted off to sleep.
It was around 4:30pm when Roxas finally awoke. Kairi was already awake, but she was still curled up in a little ball in his arms.
"Hi," she said, and gave him a small smile. "I went out awhile ago and got us some food. I talked to the manager on the way out. We've got the room until eleven tomorrow, and he seemed a bit surprised that we intended to stay that long, especially after he saw me getting something out of the suitcases in the trunk and how big they were. Well, so then I told him that we on our way to Florida for summer vacation with some friends, and that we were going to meet up with them in Nashville, but that we were way ahead of them, and we had to wait until they were closer to Nashville as well because we'd already made reservations at a hotel there, but they had all the check-in information. So if you talk to him remember to stick to that story."
"Nashville, huh?" Roxas unwound his arms from around Kairi and sat up. "Nashville's still pretty far away. Couldn't have picked somewhere closer?"
Kairi shrugged. "We researched Nashville, remember? When we were trying to decide where to go. I could talk about Nashville as if I knew how to get there. I don't really know where we are now or what cities are near here. Besides, he bought it, so that's all that matters."
"Maybe we should have gone to Nashville," Roxas said sometime later, in between bites of the sub sandwich Kairi had brought back for him. "It'd be a lot safer than Atlanta, and probably cheaper cost of living."
Kairi shrugged. She was curled up around a book in an armchair in the corner. "I doubt we're going to be lucky enough to find such a cheap apartment in Nashville. Still can't believe we found the place in Atlanta for only $400 a month. Besides, we'd be much harder to find in Atlanta."
"Still," Roxas argued, "Nashville's a big city. We wouldn't be easy to find there either."
Kairi rolled her eyes. "We both know we're not going to stay in Nashville, so why are you still arguing about this?"
Roxas shrugged and said through a bite of sandwich, " 's somethin' to pass'a time."
Kairi stared at him for a moment before going back to her book.
"Just shut up and eat your damn sandwich."
He'd been on his laptop, taking advantage of the motel's free wi-fi and checking up on traffic conditions for their route when he'd realized that Kairi was staring at him. She was lounging on the bed, idly twirling a strand of hair around her finger, and just staring at him with an unreadable expression.
"I was just thinking about home," she said, "And wondering if Mom's noticed I'm gone yet." She breathed in deeply and then sighed. "And then I was thinking about how it's getting kind of late, and I'm not the least bit sleepy, but we're not leaving until morning and I just thought…" she trailed off as a mischievous smile unwound on her lips. "We've got the room until tomorrow…why not makes some use of it?" Roxas's eyebrows rose as he watched her settle more comfortably back onto the bed and stretch her body out languorously. "So," she cooed, "What do you say?"
He didn't say anything. He shut his laptop and pounced on her.
How had this happened? Roxas often wondered. How had his childhood best friend become the woman arching her back beneath him and softly moaning into his lips? Their relationship had always been strictly platonic, and even now he wasn't in love with her, and he knew she didn't love him.
And yet here they were, tangled up in the sheets and each other. It wasn't love, but it was more than mere lust. And part of Roxas knew why it didn't bother him that he'd lost his virginity at seventeen to his best friend rather than a girl he was truly in love with:
They were lonely.
When it came right down to it, they were just two achingly lonely people trying to compensate for the love that had been withheld from them from other sources. There was so much wrong with where he was now, moving between Kairi's legs with her hair twisted around his fingers. Her lips moved hungrily against his and her nails carved lines down his back (and it was wrong, wrong, wrong.)
(And neither of them cared.)
There was something of escapism in it: when he was with her he could lose himself in the rush of skin and roar of her gasps in his ear. When they were together he could think of nothing else; least of all the very reasons that had finally driven them to pack up and run away a week after they'd graduated high school. And he knew she felt the same. Some days she'd just be staring out into space with a faraway look on her face, and when he'd catch her eye she'd give him the most pitiful stare before pulling him down on top of her.
They were just two broken people trying to find asylum in a storm, and all they had was each other.
It wasn't love, but it was something.
(And whatever that something was, it was enough.)
Kairi was always so desperate to just be held.
Even after they'd exhausted themselves she'd curl up as close to him as she could and just cling to him. In everyday life she always played it off like she was fine, like she was independent and perfectly capable of taking care of herself. To some degree she was, but underneath it all there was still the neglected little girl whose mother never gave her the time of day. That was why, when she had his full attention, she wanted to hang on to it for as long as she could. He didn't ignore her. He'd wrap his arms around her and stroke her back and tell her how brilliant she was because no one else would.
It really wasn't love.
(But it was nice to pretend.)
After some time she came out of the ostrich hole she'd made of his neck.
"You ever think we should get married?" she asked, a small bland smile on her face. "I mean, yeah, so we're not in love, but we're running away together, we're moving in together, and we're certainly compatible sexually, so why not just go the whole nine yards and tie the knot?"
Roxas chuckled nervously and ran a hand through his hair. "I can't tell if you're serious or not."
She rolled over onto her back and regarded the ceiling pensively. "Neither can I. But we might as well, really."
"What happens when one of us falls in love with someone else though?"
Her frown only lasted a moment. "I think the phrase is 'open marriage'. And of course there's always divorce. So what do you say? We could drive to Vegas and get married there. By Elvis."
Roxas laughed. "We just drove five and half hours east! I am not turning around and driving God-knows-how-many hours back west so we can get married by Elvis in Vegas. We'll go to Memphis. Surely we can find an ordained Elvis there."
Kairi grinned and rolled over on to her side, facing away from him. "Great. Then it's settled."
"Wait," Roxas said, sitting up and leaning over Kairi so that he could see her face, "You're not actually serious about this, are you?"
Kairi looked up at him, scoffing. "Of course not. We're way too young to get married. And besides, we're classier than that."
He lays down laughing, and pulls her close to him again.
They set off the next morning after checking out. The original plan had been to travel at night when traffic would be the lightest, but upon researching their intended route they discovered that one road they needed to take would be under construction during the night hours, and so they'd need to travel that portion of the trip during the day.
They ended up hitting heavy traffic anyway.
Ironically, they do end up staying in Nashville.
Not permanently, mind you, but they'd stopped there for lunch at a café with free Wi-Fi, and upon checking his email, Roxas discovered a message from their landlady informing them that the man who currently lived in their apartment was sick and couldn't move out for a few more days. They then decided to find a nice hotel and relax for a few days until their landlady informed them the apartment was ready.
"They've realized we're gone." Kairi put down her book and walked over to sit down on the bed next to Roxas, who had his laptop out and was browsing the website of one of their hometown's news stations.
"Police are attempting to locate two teenagers suspected of running away from home. Last seen on Tuesday, 18-year-old Roxas Vauraus and 17-year-old Kairi Etonterre, both of the Morriston Hills area, are believed to be alive and well and together. Vauraus's parents report that most of their son's clothes and belongings are gone, and Lynn Arthur, Kairi Etonterre's mother, also told police that many of her daughter's possessions were missing as well, leading investigators to believe the two teenagers have run away. Then on Thursday morning, Roxas Vauraus's mother, Karina Vauraus, found a note in her son's bedroom saying that he had left town with Miss Etonterre. We are told the note makes no mention of where the teens are heading, only that they 'don't feel like we can stay here anymore.' While police are doing all within their power to locate the missing youngsters, there may not be much they can do to return the teens even if they find them.
'Roxas Vauraus is already eighteen, and Mrs. Arthur tells us that her daughter will turn eighteen on Saturday," Police Chief Annabelle Rawlson tells our reporter, "So they'll both be legal adults, meaning that even if we find them, we can't make them go back home if they don't want to." From the looks of things, they won't want to. Both teenagers left their cell phones behind and both have deactivated their Facebook profiles, and while police won't make the full content of Roxas Vauraus's note public, they say the note strongly insinuates that the teens are eager to make their absence permanent. Still, police are working to find the teenagers in order to make certain that they are both okay and to reassure their parents that this is not a case of kidnapping.
Vauraus's parents, Max and Karina Vauraus, declined to comment on the situation, but Michael Arthur, Etonterre's stepfather, had this to say: 'We just want her home. My wife is devastated and so confused. We just don't understand why she would want to run away. She was always such a happy girl and we tried our best to make sure she had a good life.' Kairi's biological father, Leo Etonterre, died in 2001 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Mike Arthur and Lynn Etonterre married this past December, and Mr. Arthur tells us that since becoming a part of the family he has tried to be a father figure to his step-daughter. 'I never had any kids of my own, and she'd been without a father all those years. I've tried so hard to be a father to her. I love her like she was my own, and I don't understand why she would do this to us. She always seemed so happy here. I can't imagine why she would want to leave.'"
"Lying bastard!" Kairi stood up and walked over to the window, her arms crossed over her chest. " 'Can't imagine why she would want to leave'!" She spat, shaking with anger, "Playing it all innocent like that! 'I mean, sure, I tried to rape her, but I'm sure that had nothing to do with it!'"
Roxas stood and approached her. "Kairi," he asked gently, putting a hand on her shoulder, "Are you okay?"
Kairi scrunched up her face like she was about to cry but then closed her eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath. When she opened her eyes her face was placid. "Yeah," she whispered, not looking at him. "It's almost seven. Doesn't 'The Big Bang Theory' come on tonight? Let's watch that."
Despite her nonchalance he still reached out and pulled her into a tight embrace. "Hey," he breathed into her ear, "In a few days we'll be in a new city starting a new life far away from all of that. He can't hurt you anymore."
"I know," Kairi said after he'd released her. She gave him a small smile. "Thanks."
She walked towards the bed but suddenly stopped. She wasn't facing him, but Roxas heard her inhale sharply as if she was about to speak, but then she paused, took another step forward and then stopped again. Still not looking at him and with her hands balled into fists she said, "Do you ever feel like there's—that you and me are-" she stopped and her hands relaxed. "Nevermind."
She dropped into a relaxed position on the bed.
Roxas raised an eyebrow. "What are you-?"
"It's nothing," Kairi cut him off. "Nevermind. Don't worry about it." And after that the TV was on and the moment had passed.
As Roxas first found himself swimming into consciousness, he couldn't identify what it was that had woken him. Some noise was wavering through the cool darkness around him. He finally found himself enough to open his eyes. He blinked at the wall. Whimpering. He shook himself awake and rolled over. Surely enough there was Kairi, huddled into herself in the overstuffed armchair by the window, crying. "Kairi?" he asked softly, but she didn't reply. He got up and approached her slowly. "Kairi?" she looked up when he knelt down beside her and put a hand on her shoulder. Her eyes were red and her cheeks were wet. Clearly she'd been crying for some time.
"What's wrong with me?" she choked, futilely blinking back tears. "Why wouldn't she love me? What did I do wrong?"
"Oh Kairi," Roxas murmured as she started sobbing again, and he brought his other hand up to stroke her face.
"She wouldn't believe me," Kairi wailed, tears streaming from her eyes and glinting in the light coming in from the moon and city lights outside. "When I told her what he did to me, what he tried to do to me…" She choked on a sob. "She wouldn't believe me! She took his side! She thought I was just jealous because she's been spending so much time with him, or that I was just trying to get attention or-" Her voice broke and she dissolved into sobs again.
"Oh Kairi," he said again, and gathered her in his arms. She said nothing as he carried her over to the bed and set her down gently; she just continued to howl into his shoulder. He lay down with her and pulled her close, using one hand to pull up the covers and surround her with warmth. After that there was nothing really more for him to do than hold her while she cried. She broke his heart at times like this. This was part of why he'd suggested they run away in the first place. He'd been furious when she'd told him what her stepfather had done, and even more so when he'd learned that her mother hadn't believed her. And then, when she'd told him what her stepfather had done when he'd found out Kairi had told on him…Roxas had had half a mind to get his father's gun out again.
But when it came down to it they had no proof. The man had made sure to hit in ways that wouldn't leave bruises, and with no physical evidence and only her word to go on, there really was no bringing him to justice. Roxas had already been contemplating suggesting they leave. He couldn't tolerate spending any more time in his own house, and while running away still felt like surrender, it seemed like a far better solution than attempting suicide again.
Kairi's stepfather's attack had been the final straw. Roxas had carefully transferred his entire college fund into a new bank account in his name, carefully working out how to get all the sizable chunk of cash into the new account without leaving a paper trail that could be used to trace them to their new home. They'd researched colleges (as they still planned to go; neither of them wanted this decision to ruin their careers, and Kairi was sick of being poor), and found one that could get them both a decent education without depleting their finances. He'd found a tiny apartment with a cheap rent that wasn't in a horrible and dangerous neighborhood, and had even managed to find a job at a local supermarket. (They must have been terribly short staffed to have been satisfied to hire a teenager over the phone who hadn't even arrived in the city yet.) After they'd worked out where they were going to live and how they were going to afford it they'd had to figure out how they were going to leave without being followed. The original plan was to leave after Kairi's birthday, but that had been before the landlady had told them she needed them to sign the papers before then, so they'd moved their departure date up a few days. Roxas had even sold his fancy sports car (Kairi was sick of being poor; He was sick of being rich.) and bought a much cheaper and more practical car. The money he saved would be enough for them both to live off of for a year at least. They'd decided to leave their cell phones behind; they'd buy new ones once they got to Atlanta.
"We'll contact home once we're settled," Roxas had told her when Kairi had asked if they planned to leave their parents behind forever. "Once we've dug in our roots there then they can't make us come back. They'll know we're fine but they won't be able to stop us."
So here they were now. They'd left behind their homes but not their problems. Would they ever really escape? Roxas wondered. Was there ever really any running away from it all? Every day he could still hear his parents' criticisms in his ears. "Why would you do that? Don't you think about how your actions affect others? How you affect our reputation?" "Photography? You're too good to end up as a starving artist. Only the really great photographers ever make any real money. You're going to a real school and getting a real career." "Well, I suppose she's alright…after all, you're just in high school. You'd never actually marry someone like that." And his personal favorite: "You need to grow up and stop acting like this. You're being ridiculous. And stop arguing with me. You're just a child and you don't understand these things."
That's how it had always been. He was expected to be an adult and think for himself as long as his thinking still fell in line with theirs.
"I'm pretty." Roxas broke from his thoughts and shifted so he could look at Kairi. Her sobs had quieted some time ago and he'd thought she'd fallen asleep. She was staring at his shirt with such an empty, defeated look. He knew that look. It was the look of surrender, the look of someone who had grown tired of running and simply lain down to await the oncoming stampede. "I'm really pretty," she mumbled brokenly "People always tell me so. And they tell me I'm smart. And funny. And wonderful." She trailed off as a sob erupted from her throat. "So what's so wrong with me?" she said in a strained voice. "Why doesn't anybody love me? Mom doesn't care. And no guy has ever wanted me for more than my body. Not even you." She pushed away from him and set up, pushing the blankets off as she wrapped her arms around her knees and sobbed harder than before. "Why doesn't anyone love me? Why? What did I ever do wrong…"
Roxas sat up quickly and put a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off.
"No," he breathed, tears welling up in his own eyes as he watched her; this broken girl who'd spent so many years holding him together while having no foundation to keep her own self from falling apart. "That's not true."
"Yes it is," she moaned. "It is and you know it."
"No, it isn't, because…" he faltered, but forced himself to continue, blinking away the tears that blurred his vision. "Because I think I do."
Kairi's sobs stopped and she looked up at him, her tired expression subtly surprised. "Y-you don't m-mean that."
Roxas shook his head and took her face in his hands, gently sweeping away her tears with his thumb. "Yes I do."
"You're just saying that," she murmured weakly before the words were even out of his mouth.
"No, I'm not," he whispered, "Because I've been thinking so much about this lately. And the conclusion I keep coming to is that you're really all I've got in this world. You were the only one there to pull that gun out of my hand and you're the only person who would've been." He stroked her face and gave her a small warm smile. "And what I've realized is that if you're all I've got in the whole wide messed-up world then that's fine by me 'cuz you're more than enough."
Her shock was beginning to melt into something like happiness. She wasn't exactly smiling, but she didn't look likely to burst into tears again either. And there was something in her eyes that he couldn't quite place; like relief mixed with joy mixed with some emotion that maybe they hadn't invented a name for yet. So he leaned forward and kissed her tenderly. He kissed her lightly and more gently than he ever had before, and for the first time ever, he kissed her innocently. It was a kiss that was meant to exist merely for its own sake, not as a prelude to something else. It held no passion, no lust, no expectations; just simple, sweet, honest affection.
When he pulled away she was smiling. She didn't reply to his confession; he hadn't really expected her to. But she didn't stop smiling as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her back into bed. They curled up together, both feeling much happier than they had in a very long time.
"Thank you," Kairi's whisper floated up from her nook under his chin. He didn't reply; he just smiled into her hair and continued to rub circles on her back with his thumb.
The next day was not nearly as awkward as Roxas had anticipated.
Kairi had yet to respond to his confession with any sort of definitive answer, but he didn't really expect that anything would change. Kairi needed his love whether she was capable of reciprocating it or not, and for the time being, their quasi-romantic relationship was better than nothing.
So far the day had actually been fairly good. He'd gotten an email from the landlady saying that their apartment's current owner was starting to feel better, and that they could come and sign the final papers and move in on Sunday.
They'd spent the majority of the day doing a lot of nothing. Kairi had done a lot of reading, and he'd spent a solid four hours building his Sims a new mansion. ("The bottom floor layout has the walls spelling 'BOOBS'? Real classy Roxas." "You just don't appreciate fine architecture." "Clearly.")
They'd talked about what they were going to do for her birthday, played hangman for an hour, and then had a fight about applesauce that had ended with sex.
All in all, a pretty good day.
That night he was once again woken up by Kairi crying. This time, however, he couldn't get her to tell him what she was so upset about. It wasn't about her parents, it wasn't about him; but he couldn't get an answer out of her as to what was making her cry. She simply refused to tell him.
So he did all that he knew to do: he held her and stroked her hair and whispered into her ear that he loved her and that whatever it was, he was there for her when she was ready to tell him.
The absence of a wonderful redhead in his arms was the first thought that entered his mind when he awoke the next morning. He rolled over to see Kairi watching him from her position leaning against the table in front of the window. Sunlight was streaming in through the window and shining off her tangled hair. She looked rather quaint today, he thought. Something about her posture seemed unsure. Her eyes were still a bit swollen, but she looked fairly happy otherwise. And she looked beautiful, Roxas thought, even though her hair was a mess and she was wearing one of his baggy t-shirts over what was probably a pair of his boxers. Not exactly glamorous, but still adorable.
Roxas sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Good morning," he mumbled.
She didn't answer. Roxas cocked his head to the side and grinned. "Happy Birthday." She didn't move. He momentarily entertained the absurd notion that she'd actually replaced herself with a cardboard cut-out. "You're officially legal. And what we did yesterday is officially not considered statutory rape anymore."
She didn't laugh. Roxas was starting to feel self-conscious. "Are you okay?" he asked, his grin fading.
Her expression never changing Kairi walked over to him and sat down. And then she leaned in and kissed him.
Never before had she kissed him that sweetly.
When Roxas opened his eyes after she'd pulled away she was still looking at him with that strange, unreadable blank expression. She took a deep breath.
"I think I'm in love with you," she said quietly. Roxas blinked at her in surprise.
A small smile crept onto her face. "Yeah. It's just…" she trailed off as her smile grew and she looked away shyly. "Here you are, the most broken boy I know, running away from all that's broken and messed up in your life. And here's me, probably the most broken and messed up thing in your life…" she grinned sweetly and looked up at him. "And you took me along."
Roxas reached for her head and drew her forward so that he could plant a kiss on her forehead. That made her laugh, and soon they were both grinning as they simply nuzzled their heads together as they wound their arms around each other.
"Let's go to the park," Kairi said as he pressed kisses to her cheek. "They've probably got a park in Nashville, don't they? Let's go for a walk in the park. It's my birthday and I want to go to the park with my boyfriend and get ice cream and a balloon."
"Boyfriend?" Roxas leaned back and looked at her, hopeful surprise evident in his face.
Kairi nodded, still unable to wipe the grin off her face.
So maybe it was love after all.
(Maybe it had been all along.)
They'd decided to leave Nashville very early on Sunday Morning in order to avoid any traffic and get to Atlanta as soon as possible. ("We'll get there probably about 5:30 or 6, so it'll probably be the quietest, don't you think? All the normal people won't have gotten up yet, and all the creeps and weirdoes and gangsters will have already gone to bed.") It was still dark out, and somehow the clear starry sky seemed to say, 'Leave the radio off, young lovers. Just enjoy each other.' They'd been driving for some time in comfortable silence; Roxas concentrating on the road, Kairi gazing out the window with her head resting against the glass.
"Genevieve and Georgia," she said quietly after a long time. Roxas looked over at her. She was still looking out the window, and her hand was resting against her stomach. She turned her head and looked at him with a small sad smile. "Ginny and Gigi when they were little. Seemed like good names. She leaned her head back on the headrest and Roxas saw tears begin to form in her eyes. "And the thing is," she said, her voice starting to crack, "They would have loved me. 'Cause that's how babies are. They're wholly dependent so they have to. They'd have loved me no matter what. So even though I was so, so scared when I found out I was pregnant…I was happy." A sob broke from her lips. "Because I knew a baby would love me. Even if no one else would."
She broke off then; she couldn't hold the pain back any longer. She bent over, sobbing into her hands. Roxas immediately pulled over onto the shoulder and took her into his arms. He'd always suspected that she'd been bottling up the pain over that whole sad fiasco. He should have seen it from the beginning, right from the moment she'd told him she wanted to keep the baby.
Because he felt it too.
It'd seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen when she'd said she was pregnant. All he could think about for days was what his father was going to do to him when he found out. They were only seventeen, and it was only January, and she was already five weeks along, so she'd be nearly six months gone by the time they graduated. They couldn't hide it that long. But then the more he thought about it, the more he pictured a little baby, his little baby…the more he thought it might actually be worth it. What might it be like for there to be some other human being on the planet that shared his DNA that didn't disapprove of everything he did or criticize every word out of his mouth?
And then there they were. In a hospital room with a kindly old doctor who even promised he'd help them keep this a secret from their parents. And Kairi had never shed a tear. He remembered how quiet she'd been after they told her. How calmly she'd told her mother it was just appendicitis. And then they'd gone home, and life had gone on, and Kairi had gone back to wearing shirts that weren't so baggy so as to hide her swelling stomach.
Roxas had always been of the opinion that men did not cry. They may rage and punch the walls of their bedroom but they did not sit and sob into their pillows like women. Women could get away with that; men couldn't. Twice in the past year he had sat down and really cried. The first time was the night before his suicide attempt. The second was the day they lost their unborn babies.
After a long time Kairi finally calmed down and they decided to set off again, feeling closer than ever.
"I'm gonna get off at this exit and stop at a gas station to pick up some things. You wanna come with me or stay here?"
Kairi shrugged. "I'll come with you. I kinda want some Reece's pieces."
They pulled off at the next exit and stopped at a gas station with a larger than average convenience store attached to it. They walked in, garnering a rather odd look from the middle-aged woman at the cash register. Did they really look that young? Roxas wondered. Why were old people always looking at them like that? For all they knew they could be a couple of responsible young adults on their way to their jobs so early in the morning. Kairi went off in search of a candy aisle and he went looking to see if he could find a party aisle.
"Balloons?" Kairi asked as they placed their items on the cashier's counter. "We've still got those helium balloons in the car that you got me the other day."
"I hear they're cheaper than condoms."
"Please tell me you're not serious."
"Of course I'm serious. They've got much more stretch than condoms do, don't you know how much trouble I have finding condoms in my size? They just don't make them big enough."
"Oh, ha ha, I get it, you're such a stud," she droned. "Besides, these balloons would be much too big on you. Look at how small that opening is; they'd slide right off."
"You're mean." He looked back at the cashier lady, who was regarding them with obvious disapproval. Roxas grinned at her. "Hi." He looked back at Kairi. "You don't really think of me like that, do you?"
She smirked. "I'll let you know later."
"Nineteen twenty-three," the cashier broke in, her tone distasteful.
"God, woman, you and your expensive tastes in candy," Roxas teased. He paid the cashier and they took their bag and headed for the door.
"Wait." They stopped at the door and turned to watch the cashier walk around the counter and take a small box from the shelf below the checkout countertop. She walked over and held out the small box of condoms to Kairi. "On the house."
Kairi, feeling too awkward to do anything else, just smiled and took the box. Once they were out the door she tossed it in the trash. "What'd you do that for?" Roxas asked, "I mean I know you're still on the pill and everything, but it couldn't hurt to hang on to them."
Kairi sighed. "You remember what the doctor said. My insides are messed up. They told me that it'd take 'advancements in infertility treatments that will probably have come about by the time I'm ready to start a family' for me to conceive again." Roxas was about to say something comforting, like that he'd be happy to do whatever they needed to in order to have a baby someday, but then Kairi was smiling again. "Besides, we don't need condoms. We've got balloons."
"You know," Kairi said some fifteen minutes later, "I never understood why they always taught us girls how to put on a condom. Guys have hands. Why can't you boys just put on your own damn rubbers?"
The sun was starting to come up, painting the sky with streaks of bright warm colors. They were driving through a series of farms, it seemed like, for there were stretches of flat green land to either side of the highway. The roads were still fairly empty. It was Sunday, after all. No one had a reason to be up quite this early on Sunday.
"Here's good," Roxas muttered to himself, and started pulling off on to the shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Kairi asked, looking around worriedly. "Something wrong with the car?"
"No, everything's fine. You'll see." He put the car in park and turned it off, then reached into the bag from the convenience store and pulled out the bag of balloons and a spool of ribbon. Kairi watched with mild curiosity as he grabbed the helium balloons from the backseat and started to get out of the car. He poked his head back in, smiling. "Well come on."
Kairi watched, eyes narrowed, as Roxas pulled two pink balloons out of the bag; he cut a small slice in one the helium balloons with a pair of nail clippers and carefully squeezed the helium out into the pink balloon. He did the same with the second pink balloon, and then tied a length of ribbon to each and handed one to Kairi. She took it rather hesitantly.
"For our girls," he said. "I don't know about you, but I need closure. And this seemed like a nice way to do it."
"Releasing balloons?" Kairi inquired, looking at the balloon in her hand curiously.
Kairi smiled. "Okay." She looked at him. "So, do we just…let go? Or…should we, I don't know, say something?"
Roxas shrugged. "If you want to."
Kairi took a deep breath and let it out slowly through her nose. "I don't really know what to say."
Roxas looked at his balloon. "Neither do I."
"I guess…" Kairi took a deep breath. "I hope maybe they're somewhere better. Maybe they're with my dad." Her smile widened. "That's a nice thought. Maybe they're with him, wherever he is. I don't know. He always believed in heaven. Maybe he's taking care of them there."
Roxas nodded. "Yeah."
Silence fell over them as the sun began peeking up more and more from beyond the horizon.
"So, you think-"
Roxas reached over and took Kairi's free hand in his. In unison they stretched out their hands and let the balloon strings slip from their fingers. They watched in silence as the two little pink balloons grew tinier and tinier, fading into the pink painted across the sky.
And somehow suddenly their shoulders felt as light as the two balloons floating up into the sky, as if those two little balloons carried with them so much more than their babies' memories. They seemed to carry everything: their lost youth, their pain, their hopes for a better future.
After the balloons had ascended out of sight the two broken (getting better) teenagers climbed back into their car and headed off along the highway.
Where exactly they were headed was of no importance. The really important thing is that they were going. They were going somewhere far away from where they'd come. For all their desire for rebellion, few generations ever really break from the sins of their parents, but these two were on their way to a better life than the previous generation had had in mind for them. They were going somewhere and doing something for themselves.
And most importantly, they were going there together.
A/N: Title comes from the beautiful song by Owl City. If you'd heard it, then you might know why it's an appropriate reference.
Edit 8/20/11: Deleted obsolete chapters 1 and 2, making this a oneshot, changed the title, and streamlined the author's notes, seeing as if you didn't already know the story behind the story, then it doesn't really matter because it'll mean you're new to the story anyway. I also went back and changed a few surnames and stuff.
According to Google Translate, 'Vauraus' is Finnish for 'prosperity'. 'Etonterre' is a name of my own creation with French origins; it comes from a translation for 'Wonderland' ('etonnement, meaning wonder or astonishment, and terre, meaning land), because this Kairi's character originally had ties to the title character of "Alice in Wonderland".