Okay, so, this little story was based off of a dream I had, in which I watched a house burn down through someone else's eyes. That's it. But the detail of it all, combined with the utter feeling of dread when I woke up, compelled me to write about why it happened. Scenarios and characters plagued my mind for nearly a week, and I eventually gave in and wrote it. The original version was composed of characters I created, their personalities made to work with the plot, and in the end I was more than satisfied with how it turned out. In order to share this with you all, I had to replace my characters with KH and FF characters, but the ones I chose match the originals so well that I still find it hard to believe. The only exception seems to be Roxas, but if you think of him as the Twilight Town Roxas, then it's all good. He's just a little more naïve and a little less violent than some of you might be used to.

I'm extremely proud of this work. I hope you enjoy it, as well.


Screams of the innocent swirl around and deafen all. Burning rafters fall and crush their final breaths, drowning out the only method they had to save themselves. As the final bricks crumble and ashes fall like snow, only one person walks away from the blaze alive. It's…

…me.

Lulu, my psychologist, told me I have amnesia. Traumatic events can trigger it, she said. I don't remember my house burning down seven years ago, nor do I remember my mom or my dad or my kid sister. To me, they never existed. Why should I believe in what other people tell me is the truth? If I can't even remember what they looked like, then they can't have been all that important. So what if they saved pictures from the fire? That boy isn't me. He's smiling with his family. I can't remember the last time I truly smiled, and I don't have a family. Well, I do, but…we're not related by blood. They adopted me three weeks ago from the agency, where I'd been for a whole year after the last family had had enough of me. I still don't know what to think of them.

I made friends with some of the boys from school. It's strange how easily we got along; most kids my age leave me alone or taunt me for being emo. I'm not emo; I don't have black hair or wear eyeliner or cut myself. I have short, messy blond hair, blue eyes, and I like to go for walks and hang with my friends like everyone else.

Sora called me earlier and asked if I wanted to go camping for the weekend with him, Tidus, and Riku, and of course I said I was in. Actually, we're in the woods right now. Whenever I gaze into a fire I get distracted by all the information Lulu tries to cram into my brain every time I go in for an appointment. More than anyone else, she tries to get me to remember a family and a life prior to seven years ago, tries to make me remember the flames closing in around me. What I mentioned earlier about a burning building collapsing…that's just what I assume it'd be like. I don't actually know what it would feel like to be trapped within an inferno; all I have is a small burn scar on my right hand to prove anything happened at all. But if I did have a family, and we really were as happy as we look in the photographs, then…

...Why can't I even remember the sound of their laughter?

"What about you, Roxas?" Tidus asked.

I blinked and pulled my gaze away from the fire. "What?"

He rolled his eyes and laughed, "I said, what do you want to do tomorrow?"

I didn't have to think long. "I wanna go swimming some time," I said, leaning back in my chair and kicking my feet up in front of the campfire.

"Dude, you can do that at my house," Riku said. "We've got a pool, remember?" He reached for the marshmallows, and Sora immediately asked for one. He was pretty lazy sometimes.

"Yeah, but there's a lake out here," I replied. "I'm not entirely sure where it's at, but don't you think it'd be great having so much space to swim around in?" Swimming was one of my favorite activities, and I wasn't about to skip over it just because we were out camping.

"He's got a point," Sora said through a mouthful of marshmallows. Riku was glaring at him and mumbling something about cooking them first.

"Sounds good," Tidus said. "Any other ideas, just spit 'em out. We only have one day left."

"Aye aye, captain!" Sora saluted him, acting like the complete dork he was. The rest of the night passed similarly, with the four of us shouting out whatever came to mind and not caring if anyone heard us.

When I got home the following afternoon, my mom, Aerith - I always called my foster parents by name - greeted me with a warm smile. "Did you have fun?"

I nodded. "I fit in here a lot better than I did in the city."

"I'm glad. Fresh air does people wonders, and we get a lot of it, living down here in the valley. All the trees help, too."

"Yeah. I feel almost…at home." Aerith's expression saddened for a moment, but soon enough she was smiling brightly again.

"Well, go on upstairs, then, Roxas. I'll call you down when dinner's ready."

"All right." I lugged my overstuffed backpack up the steps and into my room…actually, the room I shared with my foster brother. No, better yet, my foster brother's room that I was apparently invading, and by doing so he'd chosen to almost completely ignore me the entire time I've been here. And let me just say that three weeks is an awfully long time to ignore the person sharing your living space.

It wasn't that Axel was a mean guy. As it was, I didn't know enough about him to tell whether he was good or bad. All I knew was that he was two grades above me in school, and he loved music. The latter was obvious, going by the band posters on his walls and the guitar resting at the foot of his bed. When Aerith asked me how I was getting along with Axel, I told her it was good. Just good. No need to make her worry.

The moment I tossed my dirty clothes in the hamper, Axel walked into the room. He spared me a single glance before going to his bed, plugging in his ear buds, and drowning out the world with what I assumed was heavy metal. I just watched him for a little while. We rarely spoke, but I knew his features by memory. I wasn't trying to be creepy; it's just that he was far more interesting than the posters on the wall. He was almost 18, so he was tall - unlike me; I was short even for a sophomore. He had intense mint green eyes that almost looked unnatural, they were even slanted like a cat's. His hair seemed to explode from his scalp in long, unruly spikes that were red like a scorching summer sunset. The girls in my grade had already asked me a ton of questions about him, so I guessed he was pretty handsome. I tilted my head and stared harder at him. What did they see in him? I mean, he wasn't ugly, but he gave off a callous aura. Every time I saw him, he was glaring at one thing or another, and I had yet to see him smile. At least I had an excuse not to smile.

He turned his head and glared at me. Big surprise there. "What am I, an experiment?"

I shook my head. Assuming he had turned down the volume or paused his iPod, I said truthfully, "I was just thinking about you."

His brow furrowed. "So you're gay?"

My eyes widened in shock. Where the hell did that come from? "No."

"You're such a freak."

Before he could go back to his music, I blurted, "Why do you hate me?"

Axel pulled out his ear buds and turned on his bed to face me. "Listen - you may not understand, but I'm an only child. That means I'm an attention whore, I'm spoiled, and I don't like to share." He crossed his arms. "You were a surprise. Mom never said anything; she just brought you home one day without asking how I'd feel about having a brother. On top of that, she put you in here with me. Now think about it."

I didn't have to. I knew I was an outsider. But everyone else had opened up so easily to me; it seemed strange that Axel wouldn't even try. Even with as rude as he was, though, I still couldn't bring myself to get angry with him. "…I had thought about that. I'm sorry if I'm not good enough to be your brother…but your mom was so kind as to take me in despite my amnesia. And even if it's a lie, I like to think that you're capable of that kindness, too."

To my complete disbelief, he smiled. "You're due for a serious reality check." And then he went back to his music.

School passed by peacefully as always; I never had to work too hard, and I was able to spend time with my friends. I got my homework done quickly, and since it was still light outside, I decided to go for a walk.

I didn't have any particular destination in mind. I followed an old dirt road behind my house, going wherever it planned to take me, and in less than ten minutes I came upon an overgrown driveway. Curious, I walked it, and at the end was a dilapidated house on an oddly barren plot of land. It had clearly been uninhabited for a number of years, as the windows were busted out. The dull paint was peeling so badly it looked black from a distance…

…No, it was black.

The original color of the house had seemingly melted away, leaving curling brown and black shapes to define the exterior of the building, and the roof was caving in on itself. The hinges on the front door were rusted, and it was nailed shut, probably the work of the local police. I turned around, taking in the empty landscape. Only one thing could have happened.

This house had caught fire. And from the look of it, it was a big fire.

I wouldn't know if it had any connection to my past, but I doubted it, because the odds of a foster kid being adopted back into their hometown were slim to none. But that didn't matter to me; I could use this for inspiration. I liked to paint, believe it or not, and lately I'd been wanting to draw something beautiful yet imperfect. This was it. I'd go home today, but tomorrow after school, I'd bring my large sketchbook and watercolors and sit right on the charred tree stump in the front yard, and I'd paint the delightfully broken home. Lulu would probably call it self-destructive behavior, but I didn't care.

I took one last look behind me as I walked away, and something in the broken window on the second floor caught my attention. Crazy as it was, I swore I saw a little blonde girl up there in a white sundress staring down at me. I blinked once and she was gone, so I blamed it on the lighting and kept going.

Beep beep beep. I reach for my alarm clock. Beep beep beep. I reach for it again, but even after I press the button, the beeping continues, driving me crazy with its incessant chirping sounds. Finally, I open my eyes, prepared to throw the thing across the room, but then I smell the smoke. It burns my nose and brings tears to my eyes; how close is the fire? Where is my family?

I throw the covers aside and jump out of bed. Black smoke is curling up the wall, making it more difficult to breathe with every passing second. I pull my t-shirt up over my nose before running to my bedroom door and flinging it open. Glowing ashes and intense heat invade my senses. I run down the hallway to the next room, panic-stricken.

"Namine! Namine!" She's locked herself in again. Silly girl, trying to be independent when she's only six years old. I pound on her door, my eyes watering. Did the flames engulf her already?

I woke in a cold sweat, my body trembling. What was that? A nightmare? Who was Namine? So many questions flew through my mind at once, but all went unanswered. I squinted across the room. Good; Axel was still asleep. He didn't need to see me like this. Trying my hardest to forget the terror pulsing through my veins, I fell back asleep.

I went back to paint the house. Painting helped calm me down, even though most of my works were dark and full of agony. I don't know how long I was there, but I didn't start to gather up my stuff until it was too dark to see what I was painting. I finally took the time to really look at what I had done. Before I'd even started I'd decided to draw in the flames as I saw them in my nightmare, and now I was glad I did. The scene looked so much more alive with fire bursting through the windows, blazing across the front lawn and destroying everything. But…I also included the girl I had seen the day before. Surely I'd have noticed that before, but as I stared down at her delicate image painted within the flames of the second story window, all I could say was, "That poor girl."

The next day Axel found my painting. I walked into our room after supper and he was holding my sketchbook, which I must have accidentally left open before going downstairs. His face had gone slightly pale, and he looked up at me and asked, "What is this?"

"It's a painting of a house down the dirt road out back," I said, walking up to him.

He shook his head. "You couldn't…"

"What?"

"Nothing." He shoved it into my hands. "You're…talented."

I stared at him. Why the sudden kindness? Had he actually taken my words to heart? …Nah. Not him. Axel's words sounded forced, but I was glad he was making an effort to be a little bit nicer. "Thank you."

"I'm just stating the obvious."

"I know."

He tilted his head and smiled at me in what could almost be described as amusement. "You're strange."

I smiled back at him, strengthening his theory. It was a step up from being called a freak.

The lock clicks, and Namine runs into my arms, sobbing. "Brother, there's a fire…"

"Ssh, I know. We need to calm down and find Mom and Dad now, though, okay?" She nods and we go to their bedroom. I try to open the handle but it burns my hand and I pull away, hissing in pain.

"What's wrong? We need to save them!" she says. I know right away that we can't. My heart drops when I see the fire spilling out through the crack at the bottom of their door. The scent of burning flesh invades my nostrils. It's too late. They're gone. But I won't tell her that.

I go into a coughing fit from the smoke. Namine looks around helplessly. "We need to get downstairs," I say.

"But Mommy and Daddy…"

"We'll find them," I promise, and I feel my heart break because I know it's a lie. I run for the staircase. It's already weakening from the fire. I turn to Namine and say, "We're gonna have to jump. Can you do that?" She nods, and I turn away. I grip the wooden rail and push myself forward, gaining enough distance to bypass the ember-strewn stairs. I land in a painful heap at the bottom, but I manage to stand up. I turn back around. "Jump, Namine!"

She starts to, but stops herself. I freeze. She can't do it. I should have realized. She's only six years old; no way can she jump down a crumbling, fiery staircase. "I'm sorry…" She turns around and disappears from my sight.

"Namine!" It's no use. She's not coming back. Knowing her, she probably went to hide under her bed, wrapped up in a blanket and pretending it's all a dream. Maybe I could pretend, too, if these flames weren't so hot. But it's all real. And because of me, my sister's…she's going to…

I fall to my knees and scream.

"No…no! NO!"

"Roxas, hey, calm down…shut up!"

My eyes snapped open, and I saw Axel hovering over my bed, looking more worried than when he'd seen my painting. "…Axel?" I asked, sitting up. He had turned on the lamp by his bed, casting a dim glow throughout the room that made his hair look like a flaming mane.

Was that…my family?

He closed his eyes and let out a sigh. "'Bout time. I was afraid you were gonna wake the whole neighborhood."

His concern affected me more than I though it would - I felt a single, hot tear slide down my face, then another, and another. I couldn't stop. Axel started freaking out, well, he looked really lost and confused, and then he sat down beside me and pulled me into a hug. I was at a total loss of what to do, so I leaned into him.

"What's gotten into you, bro?"

I stared at him. Why had he been acting so friendly lately? "I had a nightmare," I said. "It seemed so real…" The scar on my right hand was tingling and burning painfully…like when I had grabbed the door handle in my dream.

"Maybe it was real," he said. "I mean, you've got amnesia, right? So maybe you're just starting to remember things."

"Remember…" I remembered the last few days. The burned house. The little girl in the window of what was probably her room. The scar on my palm. "Lulu always tried to make me remember that I lost my family in a fire. I never wanted to believe her, because I thought not remembering them meant they weren't important, or they never existed. But if she was right…then that house I painted was my house seven years ago." I faced Axel, whose expression had turned to one of shock. He must have been as surprised as I was. "And the little girl in the window was my sister…Namine."

He shook his head once, twice. Then he looked back at me. "I liked you better when you were clueless." Before I could make sense of his words, he was kissing me slowly, gently, and I was too dazed to respond. My heart was beating a mile a minute; I could feel every little movement of his lips on mine. When I didn't resist he pushed me on my back and deepened the kiss momentarily, then finally he backed off. I lay there, staring up at him while he sorted out his emotions. "…Aren't you going to hit me? Push me away? Call me a fag?"

"Do you want me to?" I asked automatically.

His glare hardened, but he backed off so he wasn't pinning me down anymore. Glancing away from me, he said sadly, "I want you to do something. Don't just sit there and leave me hanging."

I don't know what compelled me to do what I did next. Maybe I was craving attention; not the kind Aerith and Lulu and my friends gave me, but something sweeter and more fulfilling. Or maybe I just felt bad for Axel, hiding his true self every time he hung out with his friends. I would even go so far as to say that I was just being nice to him. My point is, whatever it was, it made me reach for his shoulders and pull him back down.

I didn't think I was gay. I didn't care, either. All I knew was that Axel's weight on top of me was comforting, and his kisses held all of the emotion he'd been withholding since I'd arrived. He slipped his hand under my shirt and rubbed his thumb back and forth across my hip, kissing my neck and whispering kind words into my ear. His attention was focused entirely on me. He kissed me over and over and over again, and all the while I responded with eagerness, if for no other reason than to make him happy, because it made me happy, too.

This went on for at least ten minutes straight, and when Axel stopped himself, the first thing I noticed was that I wasn't sad or scared anymore. He kissed the top of my head and went back to his bed, then turned the lamp off, and soon we both were sleeping soundly.

All I could think about during school the next day was going back to my old house. It was weird calling it that, instead of the burned house, or the haunted house. But it was actually all three. I was so desperate to look for Namine that I turned down Sora's offer to go swimming at Riku's place. He couldn't believe that. Me, the kid who begged to go swimming in the lake, ignoring the pool for a walk in the woods.

But that's what I did. I went there and waited, looked up at all the windows, tried the back door. Nothing. She was nowhere to be found. I probably shouldn't try to break the door down, but even if I wanted to, I'd need Axel's help. He wasn't as interested as I thought he'd be about me remembering my old home. If anything, he was wary. I figured ghost stories weren't his thing, and he was making the right decision not to explore a rickety, old building. Still, I'd have liked him to come along, even if it was just to spend time together.

I hadn't thought about him in a romantic or sexual way at all, only a brother, but now that I'd experienced this new side of him, I wanted more. No, I didn't want to have sex with him, but I liked kissing and feeling secure. He hadn't tried anything this morning, just the usual routine of waking up, eating breakfast, and leaving for school, but I could tell he wanted to by the way he kept looking at me, rather than into his bowl of Frosted Flakes. But since Aerith was already up, he didn't.

I let out a sigh of defeat and turned to leave, but I felt something pull at my cardigan. I turned around and gasped; Namine was standing there, transparent and sad, in the same white sundress as before. "Don't leave yet," she said, and her voice was light and airy, as if she were speaking through a long tube.

I tried to touch her hand, but I went right through her, and I wondered how she'd grabbed my cardigan. "You're…my sister," I managed to say.

A wide smile spread across her face. "Uh-huh. I didn't think you'd come back for me, Brother. It's been a long time." Seven years, to be exact.

"Namine. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" Tears stung my eyes, and I was reminded of Axel.

"What for?" she asked, tilting her head. Her soft blonde hair fell over her shoulder, but she didn't push it back.

"I expected too much of you. I thought you could jump. But…God, I feel so selfish…" Why did I deserve to live? All I did was run. I didn't even wake up in time to save my parents.

"Don't say that! Don't feel bad for me. That's why you forgot."

"Forgot?"

"Yeah. Forgot your family. You blamed yourself for what happened, and that's why your memory went away. But it's not your fault, Roxas." Her face darkened, and the scowl tainted her young, beautiful face. She suddenly appeared menacing.

"Not my…who's fault was it? It was the circuit box, right? Something went wrong, and…"

"Roxas?" I jumped at the sound of Axel's voice. Looking down, I was sad to see that Namine had disappeared. I still didn't know what had started the fire; I'd barely been aware of it for a day. But most house fires originated from the circuit box or a fireplace; it was completely out of our control.

"What's up?" Axel walked up to me, then stopped and stared at the burned house. He looked uneasy.

"Nothing. I…I wondered where you'd gone after school, but then I remembered you were keen to come back here."

"Of course I was. But you'll never believe it - I just talked to Namine! I wasn't going crazy when I saw her ghost before! She's…still so young, and…" I didn't know what else to say. My buzz from meeting her again was suddenly overpowered by the sadness of realizing she'd been here for the past seven years, never aging, never calmed…but I still had a burning question for Axel. "Why aren't you shocked by any of this? I mean, I've overcome most of my amnesia, and I just talked to a ghost…"

"Believe me, I'm shocked. I just don't show it."

"Why not?"

"Why bother?" That was Axel, all right.

I turned back to the house. "Axel…I want to go inside. But I don't think I'll have the courage to look around without you there, too."

"…Not now. Maybe tomorrow, though." He sounded pained.

"Okay. Tomorrow. I think…everything else I can't remember…will come back once I look around inside."

"…Yeah…"

I can hear Namine screaming up in her room. I start to scream, too, because I'm only nine years old and I've let my whole family burn to death.

I stand up and run through the living room, knocking pictures and trinkets off the walls and letting them shatter into innumerable pieces. There's only smoke in here, I notice. The fire must have started at the back of the house, where my parents' bedroom is at on the second floor.

I make a beeline for the front door and unlock it as quickly as my shaking fingers will allow. Running out into the cool September night, I take long, deep breaths of air, but the moment I turn around and look at my home, I fall to my knees and vomit.

There my once-grand house stands, lit up like a beacon as flames pour through the windows and scald the paint. The trees out back are burning, too, and the fire spews through the living room I was just in and lights the front garden aflame. I stumble back, afraid, staring wide-eyed at the terror before me.

It's your fault. You could have saved them. THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO DIE!

"Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP!" I scream to the heavens, to the voices in my head, and finally they listen to me. They quell their angry words, but now all I have left is the silent buzzing of my thoughts and the sound of crackling flames.

I hear leaves rustling nearby. I pivot around, searching for the person, the animal, the anything else I could hand the blame off to. But I'm surrounded by shadows and firelight and fallen leaves, nothing else, and soon the vertigo kicks in, and I fall down once more, never hoping to rise up again.

By the time the firemen and police arrive, I'm out cold, my memories and heart frozen by the agony of that night.

I remember everything.

With the final piece in place, flashes of my childhood, of my life before the fire, come back to me. My mom and dad, much younger, are smiling and laughing at who knows what. It is a beautiful sound. Namine can barely form a full sentence, but her eyes are bright and overflowing with hope. I see myself trying to look cool in front of three other boys, and then I notice that they're my friends now, too - Sora, Tidus, and Riku.

Mom points a camera at us on Christmas, then runs over and hugs us before the timer goes off. We smile warmly into the lens, and then it clicks briefly before flashing - a photo worth remembering. She frames it and keeps a second copy in with our birth certificates and the marriage license and other important things, because she says that love makes the world go round. And Mom's always right.

I woke up with tears streaming down my face and a warm body pressed firmly against my back. I didn't know how Axel could tell I was upset, but I was happier than ever that he was there with me. I grasped his hand in mine and fell back asleep with a smile on my face, unaware that this would be the last time we'd be together like this.

Axel got caught up at a friend's house for a birthday party, but he warned me ahead of time, and I told him I could wait. I found Aerith sitting at the kitchen table, doing her daily Sudoku, and decided now was as good a time as any to tell her that my memory had returned.

She gaped at me, then smiled very widely. "Roxas, that's wonderful. Do you know how it happened?"

I pulled up a chair and sat backwards on it, straddling the seat. "I went for a walk and found my old house. At the time, I just wanted to paint it, you know, in my sketchbook, then I started having dreams and wanted to see the little girl again…one thing after another kept me going back there." I paused for a moment. "Just last night…I remembered my childhood, too. Before the fire."

Aerith closed her Sudoku book and set the pen down. "I'm sorry…I knew everything, living here as long as I have. But no matter what we tried, me, Lulu, even your friends…we couldn't jog your memory. Don't get me wrong; I'm truly happy for you, but…I feel as if I haven't done much to help you."

"That's not true. You've given me a home and accepted me. If it wasn't for you, Aerith, then none of this could have happened." I smiled. "Thank you."

"Roxas…"

"Yeah, I know, stop with the sentimentality before I reduce you to tears." For some reason she cracked a smile at that. "…What?"

She shook her head, still grinning. "You're coming out of your shell."

I smiled back. "Maybe a little. I blame Axel."

"Oh?" Her curiosity raised my suspicion. "And what has he done?"

I struggled for an answer. I couldn't just tell her that I was pretty much dating her son…my foster brother. Instead, I tried, "He's been very kind to me." This time, I meant it.

I started for the door, but Aerith called after me, "Where are you going now?"

"I'm gonna go wait for Axel, and then we're gonna visit the house again."

Her motherly tone kicked in. "Don't you go and do something stupid, you hear me?"

"Of course not." It was completely, utterly, irrationally insane.

By the time the party was over, twilight was spilling into the sky. "You still wanna do this?" Axel asked as we stood out in the backyard, at the edge of the dirt road that would lead us to my childhood home.

"Yeah. I'm certain. There's still something Namine wants to tell me, and I get the feeling her spirit won't rest until she says it."

Axel sighed and twirled the crowbar in his hands, but he didn't complain, and we started down the road.

When we walked into the clearing, I had to stop. The similarities to that night were eerie, and it didn't help that it was about the same time of year, when the leaves were turning and falling and ripe for burning. The house stood ominously against the scorched trees that had never been uprooted and replaced. I steeled myself and stepped forward. Axel followed behind me, and he effortlessly pried the front door from its squeaky hinges and let it fall to the ground. Taking a long, deep breath, we walked inside.

I couldn't believe it. Everything was exactly as I remembered from my dreams. It was as if the firemen doused the inferno and left everything to sit. Nothing had even been stolen. Either nobody knew where the house was, or…Namine was protecting it until I came back for her.

Broken glass from the windows and picture frames crunched under my boots as I walked through the living room. Axel was being oddly quiet, but then again, so was I. We were technically trespassing, in a haunted house no less, and it could collapse at any second. But it had lasted for seven years; surely it could last another fifteen minutes.

Everything was so much blacker on the inside. The wallpaper, the furniture, the floor, the ceiling…all peeling and broken and teeming with loneliness. I stopped at the foot of the stairs I had jumped down, the stairs that had denied my sister her life because they were crumbling. Looking at them now, I felt all the more guilty, as they were still intact. She wouldn't have had to jump, but I told her to anyway…and even if I hadn't she'd want to look cool in front of me…

"Are we going up?" Axel asked quietly, but I still jumped. "…Sorry."

"No, no. It's okay. We are." I took the steps one at a time, just in case they weren't as stable as they looked. They were perfectly fine. At the top of the stairway, things weren't looking any better. The door nearby leading to my parents' room was hanging open, and through it, I could see the ever-darkening sky. I didn't go through; though the bodies had been removed, I could still clearly see the flames licking at my feet and smell the burnt flesh. Repulsed, I continued.

I didn't bother going to the end of the landing; Namine wouldn't be in my room. She'd be in hers. I had a feeling she was waiting for me, so I walked right in, Axel right behind be. He stopped by my side, looking a little uneasy. I put a hand on his arm and said, "Hey. Calm down. Nothing's gonna happen, got it?"

Axel nodded, but he wasn't looking at me. I quickly realized he was looking at Namine, sitting on the edge of her bed and swinging her feet. "I knew you'd be back, Brother. Who's your…friend?" She jumped down and approached us, and for some reason Axel flinched back when she did. But he stood his ground.

"Namine, this is my foster brother, Axel. Do you know what that means?"

She smiled up at me with that angelic face of hers. "I do. It's your new family, right? So you don't have to live alone."

"That's right. You're a smart girl." She beamed.

"But…I didn't get to finish talking to you," she said, circling around the room until she was at her vanity. She gazed at her reflection and ran her little fingers through her pretty blonde hair. "I told you it wasn't your fault that we died."

I took half a step toward her, but Axel held me back. "It is. The stairs are fine, Namine, you wouldn't have had to jump. You could have lived."

She turned around and smiled impishly. "But Mommy and Daddy could have lived, too, if the fire had never started in the first place."

"What…? But it was an electrical thing. It was unavoidable. Isn't that right?"

Namine shook her head slowly, still smiling. Axel's body tensed. "Why don't you ask your friend? He's lived here a long time. And his dad works at the station, so he must know how it started."

I didn't know much about Cloud; he was never around. But it made sense that a policeman's kid would know something. I turned to Axel now. "Did your dad ever say anything about the fire?"

He swallowed thickly. "He can't just hand out information like that, but…in the newspaper it wasclassified as an electrical accident, faulty wiring, that sort of thing. I was only ten at the time, so I can't remember everything perfectly."

"Go on, go on! Tell him more, Axel!" He didn't say anything and settled for staring down at the blackened floor. "If you don't, then I will, and who knows what will happen then?" She giggled and walked closer to him until she was almost right underneath him. He remained silent, and Namine backed away, grinning. "Well, Roxas, I'll tell you something interesting-"

"I started the fire," Axel cut in, and his words seemed to echo all around us.

I took a sharp intake of breath and started at him. "Axel…you…?" No. I refused to believe it. I had heard leaves rustling, yes, but that was only my imagination. There was no one there. Someone as nice as Axel, as caring as Axel, couldn't possibly have started the fire that destroyed my family and my life.

"Ooh!" Namine added in an unnecessary sound effect.

"Yeah. Like I said, I was only ten years old. And I…I had a fascination with fire. A real child pyro. I wandered out back one night so I wouldn't get caught, and I was certain I was far enough away that nobody would see me…but I didn't know there was a house just beyond the trees. The wind picked up, and the leaves I had lit blew away…" He looked up at me, but all I registered was the deafening click of the final piece snapping into place. "I'm sorry, Roxas. Namine. I never, never meant for anyone to get hurt, let alone die…"

"Then why didn't you tell your dad?" Namine asked, looking smug.

"Are you kidding me? I was a child that burned down a house and most of its inhabitants. I couldn't even sleep for months, let alone fess up to it."

I fought back tears. This couldn't be happening. Why? Why did the only person I love so much have to turn out to be the origin of my pain? It wasn't fair. It wasn't. "Axel, I…I don't even know what to say." I started to cry, and as I expected, Axel wiped away the tears. The action only made me cry more.

I felt a sudden chill, and to my horror, the waves of anger were radiating from Namine. "Don't touch him," she said in her ghoulish, distant voice. "You hurt my brother so much already. You have no right to do that!" The chill instantaneously rose in heat to a blistering temperature. I knew then what she was going to do.

She wanted to burn Axel, and to do that she'd catch the whole house on fire, myself included. She was going to destroy everything.

"Namine, no!" I reached out for her, but the heat was too intense. My scar throbbed angrily, but right now I had to get out of the house, and so did Axel. I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the door. As soon as I walked through the doorway, it slammed shut and locked, likely bruising my wrist and cutting me off from Axel. Leaving him alone with Namine.

I started pounding on the door to her room, much like I had seven years ago. But the fire outside wasn't the danger this time…it was the fire inside. Namine's rage, swelled up over seven long, painful, and lonely years. "Axel! Axel!"

I heard his body slide down the door until he was sitting. "Don't worry about me, Roxas," he said, his voice slightly muffled. "I've had this coming for a long time. I'd go for walks sometimes…and I'd pass by here. Every time I did, your sister would be watching me. I saw her. She didn't see me that night, but she knew."

"Like hell I won't worry! Open the door! Get out of there! Let me in!" I continued pounding on the door, screaming at Axel to let me in, at Namine to stop and calm down. But neither of them were listening to me.

"I really am sorry, Roxas. If I'd known I could have grown up with you happily, instead of causing you nothing but pain…I'd have jumped at the chance."

"DAMN IT, OPEN THE DOOR!"

"Tell Mom and Dad I'm sorry, too. Tell them what I did."

I saw firelight glowing under the door, and my heart dropped. I fell to my knees for the millionth time in my life and let out a sob. "Please, Axel…please…don't leave me…"

"I love you, Roxas."

I punched the door as hard as I could, not caring that I split my knuckle. "You know I love you, too, Axel…just, please come out, you don't have to die…"

"I do if your sister ever wants to…move on. This is for both of you…to be happy…long after I've made up for my mistake." His voice cracked; either he was crying…or burning. "Get out of the house, Roxas…and never forget me."

"I won't," I whispered, and the flames inside the room grew louder until they sounded like the angry roar of a hundred flamethrowers, deafening and deadly. I stood up shakily, shed one last tear outside the door, and sprinted out into the night.

I returned just after the fire had been calmed. Two police cars and a local fire truck were on the scene, as well as an ambulance from the clinic. But of course it was too late. By the time the fire had been extinguished, the entire house had burnt to the ground, and many of the town's 600-some population were standing by. Aerith stood by my side, watching, crying with me as Axel's body was carried out on a stretcher, a pristine white sheet covering his undoubtedly charred flesh. I couldn't bear to even think about what Namine had done, and so I excused myself to empty my stomach in the bushes nearby. I stayed right there, out of sight from everyone else yet still able to see everything that was going on.

Namine materialized beside me in the shadows. Both of us faced forward, watching the ambulance drive away with Axel's body. She looked up at me and said, "I made the mean boy go away. Aren't you happy now?"

"Yeah," I choked out through my tears. "You can finally rest in peace, Namine."

She grinned widely. Then, she slowly faded away into the sky, this time forever. I cried even harder. I had lost both of them in one night. My kid sister who I thought was long dead, and…my foster brother, my friend, my lover. I had known Axel for just over three weeks, but he turned out to be so much more than I thought he was. He was kind, understanding, strong, witty…and now he was gone forever, just like everyone else I loved. My mom and my dad, who I never even got to see that night. Namine…so cute, so protective of me that she was bound to this Earth for seven long years. Even after what she just did, I couldn't hate her because I knew she only wanted to help me. She was far too young to know how wrong it was, and Axel was far too guilty to run away again.

All those people I loved. The pain that gave me amnesia for seven years. And…remembering them. Oh, the happiness I felt when I finally remembered their faces, their perks, their laughter. I missed their laughter most of all.

Axel. The envy he dealt with that caused him to spite me. The feelings he held back because of it. And the dreams…the comforting…his warm embrace…his love. My heart had just opened up again, and now that hole could never hope to be filled.

An awful lot happened these past few days, that's for sure.

I told Axel's parents…our parents…that he admitted to burning my house all those years ago. Of course they didn't believe it. Even the total destruction of that very same house last night was blamed on a series of short-circuited wires. Leave it to Namine to draw electricity back into a house that hadn't seen a speck of it in seven years.

Axel's funeral was in one week. I was given time off of school to mourn, but I went back anyway because I couldn't afford to fall behind in my classes. As it was now, I'd taken over our room - it would never be 'my' room - and though I'd suffered a lot of pain in this sleepy little town, I'd decided to continue living with Aerith and Cloud. I was only sixteen years old, so I still had plenty of time to spend with them as their son, whether by blood or not.

The morning after everything that happened, I opened up my sketchbook to a new page and painted Namine, smiling up in Heaven with Mom and Dad. And just off to the right of them was Axel, relaxed as can be because he was a lazy guy at heart, and now he could lie about and be happy for eternity. It was the first painting I've ever done that wasn't depressing and malevolent, and I knew Lulu would be proud of me for it.

And, as I promised Axel and Namine and my mom and dad - I would never forget them.


To clarify a point one of my friends brought up - Yes, you, the reader, are supposed to figure out that Axel burned the house down. I tried to make that plainly obvious, while emphasizing that Roxas never had a clue. He truly believed Axel was a good guy (and really, he was), so he never doubted him in the slightest. And Axel did not just 'give up on life' in the end. He dealt with the guilt for so many years, and he felt that death was the only way he could help Namine and Roxas. Sheer stupidity or martyrdom…interpret it as you will.