For my girls, cause they inspire me Every. Day. Dee, Twi, Ana, Arisu; this fic is for you.

Title: Piece By Piece

Rating: PG-13, the rating will go up

Pairing: eventual Sora/Roxas

Summary: His vacation may be over, but there's a lot more to life than fun in the sun. If he took it step by step, piece by piece… maybe he could pretend it was okay.

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He'd never really thought about the End before. Even during the start of his life, when the only fake parts had been himself and the people around him, there had never been a thought in Roxas' mind for what would happen when he pushed himself a little too far, when he got cut down and learned what it was like to die. True, this was mostly because he'd hadn't understood the concept, but even after he'd learnt what death was, there had always been this part of him determined to strive on, sure that at the end of the day, there would be some benefit to his existence. Ice cream with Axel, or simply one step closer to achieving Kingdom Hearts and finding Sora.

But now he was here, called to the mansion to erase himself from the universe even more firmly than DiZ had already done, and the door is right in front of him. The door to the End. He's trying desperately not to look at Donald and Goofy sleeping in their pods; their presence isn't needed to know what lies beyond that cold metal.

"I guess you got what you wanted, Riku." Roxas mutters; he really shouldn't stop, not with the door, the End, right there, but he can't help it. He doesn't want to disappear, doesn't want to End, and so he's stalling. "You win; I'm going to disappear now."

His voice wavers and cracks, and Roxas swallows down the lump in his throat. Unfair; this is all so…unfair. He never asked for this. He never asked to exist at all. No one did, and yet it was his life that didn't have the right to proceed.

"Are you happy, now? Because from what I've been told, I wouldn't know." His only answer is silence. Roxas can't help the small, bitter laugh that bubbles in his throat; however, it's not actually real, is it? None of it; not the sweat on his palms from nerves or the bile in his throat from fear; none of it is real. He has to know; in the end, it's the only thing that keeps him going forward. That one, final need of his own.

He gives only the smallest of looks behind him; towards the door where he left Axel. Donald and Goofy can be seen from the corner of his vision, and he shudders. They look like corpses in glass coffins, open for the rest of the world to see. All he can do is hurry on.

Inside the door is different, a little more altered from the state of the last room. Completely white, with only the metal of the door behind him to be seen. A room of light for light's champion, as if the reality of what makes a room; the nuts and bolts, isn't good enough for him. He has to wonder what sort of person could feel comfortable here; there's no sense of life, nothing but a sterile white that reminds him far too much of his days within the Organization. They would feel comfortable here. Of course, his real answer was right across the room.

And it wasn't Sora.

"You took your time, getting here." Its idle commentary; pointless, and yet the red cloaked man continues to speak as he approaches. Roxas wishes he wouldn't. "I trust you had no trouble opening the door?"

"You're getting what you want, so why don't you just leave?" Roxas narrows his eyes, stance ready.

"Not until I see your joining in its final elements. If a hole is left, I'm sure a being such as yourself would find no pause in squirming out of it. Such is the nature of darkness. Sora is the final piece needed in order to take down the Organization; a severed piece, just waiting for its completion." Yellow eyes gleam. "I'm sure you can understand why your compliance is necessary."

"You think you can just use people as toys and get away with it?"

"On the contrary- I know I can do as I wish. All under the servitude of the greater good." A pause; this constant focus on him makes Roxas want to squirm. Unbelievably, the man starts to laugh. "And if I am but a lowly servant, it's no wonder that your purpose is of a tool, at best."

"…Are you kidding me? After all you've done; you think you can just stand there and look down on me?" Maybe, just maybe, his anger and indignation aren't real- but that just spurred him further. He doesn't bother with the keyblade; just lunges for the man's throat. He didn't need a weapon to do damage.

To his shock, Roxas falls right through, barely maintaining his balance before he skids to a stop, looking over his shoulder with wide eyes. The red cloaked man- DiZ, he recalls. That's what Riku shouted at him- doesn't even bother to turn around, but his voice is sadistically amused when he speaks.

"I do admit some regret in not being there myself; however, a data based projection will have to make do, despite some small inconvenience."

"Small?" He shouts it; screams it. There's a hysteria building, a desperate hold on life falling further and further away, and its' all his fault. The keyblade is summoned with mindless abandon, and he hacks, slashes, tears at skin and cloth that isn't even there. If he could cry, he surely would; yet Roxas doesn't remember a single time he has, and it further cements Riku's point. DiZ's point. He wasn't meant to exist at all.

DiZ fades, slowly but surely, until his last blow falls on simple air.

"We have little time to waste on your childish tantrums; come now." The voice comes from behind him; Roxas wheels around, face settling into a scowl at the sight of DiZ in front of that pod; in front of Sora, his inevitable future.

"You're a monster."

"On the contrary; that would be you, had you not had some small usage. But even monstrous tools must find their end. That being said-" A low, thoughtful tone. "You should share some of that hatred with Sora; he's far too accepting of other's faults."

"The only thing I'll share with him is a hatred of you!" It's a rush, this whole conversation sinking into his brain and the space in his chest with hammer-like blows. There's no peace to be found here, not when he dashes forward once more- anything to make the man shut up. Not when he simply disappears. Not even now that he's alone, for as soon as he is, a hissing sound fills the room, and the pod begins to open.

Can you feel Sora? At the time he hadn't understood the question. To feel a person he didn't even know, someone who as far as Roxas was concerned was merely a fragmented dream, made absolutely no sense.

But now, it was like the floor was pulsing; a deep vibrant throb that only intensified as the pod continued to open, a lucid mist pouring into the room and inexplicably causing him to relax. A drug; it was some sort of drug. The more he relaxes, the easier it is to feel, to see. The pulsing, a constant vibration; not through the floor but through himself. The easy rise and fall of Sora's chest, the way that it matches his own to a key, the immediate recognition, as if he was simply viewing the sleeping face of a well known friend.

The vibration. The heartbeat. It's settling into every piece of him, into his very core, and there's no responsive throb from within. The only heart in this room lies upon a pedestal, simply waiting to awaken and jump back into a world watching with readily open arms.

There's no room for him here.

"Sora…" How many dreams had he seen now, how many instances of Sora's life did he hold? It's hard to think about it, staring up at the seemingly normal boy, for all appearances calmly lost to his dreaming, and Roxas can't…look away anymore. "You're lucky."

He shakes his head with a whimsical smile before clambering upwards, till there's less than a few feet between them, and all those familiar details are clearer than ever before. Maybe he resents him; just a little, but neither of them asked for this. Roxas might disappear, but Sora would go on, finding the answers he'd always wanted, finding Kingdom Hearts, and just maybe, figuring out how to use it for the good of everyone.

"Remember to take a vacation soon, alright? We…we missed out, this time." There's nothing else to say, even that gentle reminder simply futile, and Roxas stares for a moment longer, memorizing this; the pulse, the beat, Sora's visage. It's the last new memory he'll make for a very long time…something to take with him as he falls away into nothing. He isn't particularly sure how this is supposed to go, so he simply shuts his eyes, and rests a hand on Sora's chest.

And finally, there's an answering throb from within his own chest; a reflection of Sora's heart truly recognised, before the sound of wind- waves?- is heard in his mind before the room around him is simply gone, and there's utter blackness.

Despite this, Roxas feels calm, for the first time in days. So, this- this is what the heart was like. A forever blackness that spanned further than a lifetime, where one could simply stay in the perpetual glow of themselves…and wait. If he had to stay here forever, he was thankful at least, for that peace, no matter how long it seemed to last.

"Sora?" It was his voice, his call. The darkness seems to waver, and a voice is returned, one that follows from behind his positioning.

"Who's there?" Roxas turns; but not soon enough. Sora's visage flickers and dies, and he smiles. Finally awake- just like everyone had wanted. And he was out of the picture. Maybe that was what was right.

It seems like forever before he begins to walk, and the first step he takes cause another ripple. One that is returned in a sudden wind that speaks of wrongness. He blinks, startled out of his peaceful state by a sudden wariness. That's not right- Sora's awake, and he should be the only one in here. He doesn't know why, he simply does; something's not right within his other's heart.

He stills, staying where he is and listening. The wind dies down- and then he can hear it. A scurrying noise, the clatter of claws on stone floors that don't really exist. All goes quiet- for a moment, a minute, forever- then there's a breath upon his ear.

"I found you."

Even in Sora's heart, he has to fight for his existence. Claws rake along his side, and Roxas yells out, stumbling blindly in the dark as he searches for his attacker. He has no weapon; no stick to summon the Keyblade, and so he runs, shouting more as a swipe catches along his jaw, and he can feel the warmth of his own blood dripping down his chin. It feels so real- it is real, and it's nothing like he expected. Too wrong for something like this to be capable in Sora's heart; far to wrong-

"That's enough of that." A hand closes over his wrist in the darkness, and Roxas groans, shutting his eyes against a burst of light which seems to send everything far, far away. It's only when he's resting against a solid- solid?- chest, a hand gently carding through his hair that he realizes he's shaking.

"W-what-?"

"It's not safe for you here, Roxas." The voice is warm, friendly and soothing; the same peace that he was feeling before. He relaxes in those arms, because it's safe. He's fairly sure the feelings from the start are all thanks to this person. "Not safe at all…I think it's time for you to go."

"But-"

"Go. Live. I'll take care of everything in here." A bright burst of the most positive laughter he's ever heard. "I'll take care of you, too. I promise." That wasn't what he'd wanted to ask. Who are you, came to mind. Why are you here. But there's no time for questions, not even a glimpse of the other's face before he's being carried away with the most important question of all on his lips.

Why do you sound so familiar?

"Time to wake up."

"…Wake up!"

"Roxas!" He recognizes that voice. After all, it had only been a minute, a day, forever since he's heard it. His body feels agonizingly heavy, and he shifts, face twisting at the pain. His side hurts. His face hurts. He can smell blood.

"Hey! C'mon, open your eyes!" He recognizes that voice. And through it's urging, his eyes slowly open till the outline of the world around him comes into focus.

Blue. For a long time, that's all Roxas can see, and think. Sky. Azure. It's right there in front of him, and for the first time, Roxas' look is getting returned. Lying on the floor of the pod, Sora's arms around him, as if he's being trying to shake him awake; Donald scowling to the left, Goofy staring in dumbstruck shock to the right.

Through a year of manipulation, of callous usage of his person, being told he shouldn't exist, couldn't feel- he'd gotten what he'd wanted, in the end. He'd found his other, and together, the two of them stared in twin surprise at the others visage.

It all felt worth it.

"Who…" Sora's voice has broken in the time he's been asleep; Roxas knew this already, but it seems to be a surprise to Sora. The brunette clears his throat, withdrawing and uncomfortably tugging on a now far too short sleeve. "Who are you?"

"I'm Roxas." It's all he can think to say, his mind a definitive blank. Sora nods, and Donald and Goofy exchange looks over the boy's shoulder.

"Gawrsh, I thought Sora already knew him…" It's a whisper, but in the silence it's loud and clear. Sora jumps, looking almost guilty as he rubs the back of his head with a sheepish grin, one that's cut off all to quickly as he looks down at Roxas critically.

"What happened to your face?" Roxas raises a hand, hissing as his cheek stings with even that gentle touch. His hand comes away with partially dried blood- so he really was there. That just raised so many questions, ones that were pushed aside as he tried to sit up, the erupting pain in his side from the prior action causing him to curl over with a grimace, pressing down on the wounds in an attempt to stem the feeling. Hands flutter over his own, gently prying them away, and it's Sora's turn to hiss with undisguised sympathy as he makes out the gouges in Roxas' skin through the torn jacket and shirt.

"Heal." It's the first time Donald has spoken throughout this, and Roxas looks up at him gratefully as green light washes over him, sealing the cuts and leaving almost non-existent scars. He wonders if the cuts on his face have left their markings, as well.

But things are all too awkward as he stares into the duck's beady gaze. Right there- there's someone who doesn't trust him. And the idea of being distrusted, of having questions asked with no answers to give causes Roxas' mind to race and his breath to quicken.

"You woke us up, didn't you?" It's Sora who breaks the silence, a godsend if there ever was one. The real answer is yes- technically, that's exactly what was supposed to happen, and so Roxas merely nods, looking towards the tears in his clothes with an almost astounded expression. He'd been healed before, of course, but the way those cuts had been created…

"I guess we owe you then; right, Sora?" Goofy doesn't sound at all bothered by it; quite frankly, he's the most cheerful of them all, with that one fact cleared as if it's the only thing that matters. And maybe to Goofy, it's all that does- the only stranger in the vicinity proven to be an ally in his mind as he looks around the room with simple minded wonder. Donald snorts, clearly unsatisfied, though Sora simply looks relieved.

"Yeah… you got hurt trying to help us, right? I'm Sora. That's Donald, and over there's Goofy." He jerks a thumb at the two of them, showing off a beaming smile that Roxas has seen a million times before, just not directed towards himself. "You probably know the way out of here, huh."

"Y-yeah…" He never was much of a speaker- in front of these three, however, it's like any thought to open his mouth is simply washed away. All for the best, he supposes- he still doesn't know how to answer any of the questions they'll surely have.

"Great! We can tag along with you, then." Sora actually appears to be excited by the prospect; but then, after his initial fright over the islands being destroyed, he'd always seemed very eager to go on a new adventure. The problem isn't going to lie with him, nor with Goofy, who was already nodding his head in acquiescence to Sora's idea.

It lies with Donald, who gives a loud, irritated sigh before dragging Sora away without a word to excuse his actions. All part of his personality, Roxas knows- but its one thing to see it, and another to be on the receiving end. He picks himself up from the ground, standing in the pod with shoulders hunched and hands in his pockets as Sora and Donald have a quiet, hissed out debate, Goofy plodding over to join as Jiminy Cricket makes an appearance on Sora's shoulder to give his own piece of mind.

All over him. Whether or not they should partner up even momentarily, and a strange feeling rises within Roxas as he continues to not so subtly watch the proceedings. It feels like anger; a bit of nostalgic panic and sadness, and it takes Roxas a minute to realize- it's not his own emotions. Just like the thrumming of Sora's heart before, it comes in waves, lapping through his core and sending that hole where his heart should be right up into his throat. He was feeling… what Sora was feeling?

"Roxas can show us the way out." Sora's voice is loud and final; he turns away from Donald, who is gawking in infuriated silence as the Key bearer makes his way back to the pod, storming up the ramp and grabbing onto Roxas' arm before tugging him towards the door, not even waiting to see if they're being followed.

Past the pods where Donald and Goofy had lain still as the dead, through the room where he had seen Axel for the final time. He stumbles a bit when they reach the computer room; there's the mainframe, completely intact and pristine…unlike how he'd left it before. He really was in the real world, then. His throat constricted at the thought, even as he opens his mouth.

"Are you alright?" There's a short silence, afterwards. They're staring at each other again, a pause in their footsteps as they search each other's eyes. Speaking the same thing at the exact same time- it's a little creepy.

"I'm okay." Sora's grin is rueful as he lets go of Roxas' arm, the two beginning to walk again, moment of confusion past. "I guess you could say it's a really old argument. Donald doesn't trust people. The last time he refused to let a friend of mine come with us-"

He'd almost lost Riku. He gets it, far more than he should.

"Difference being I'm not someone you know; he may have a point, you know."

"Yeah but- you woke us up, right? I think that gives you the benefit of the doubt." There's that grin again, like seeing the sun. Roxas picks up the pace just as Sora does, suddenly eager to be outside. It feels like it's been forever. "You even got injured…who did that to you, anyway? You were just lying there when I woke up- I almost thought you were…you know…"

Dead? Close enough, considering what was supposed to happen.

"I'm not sure." He keeps his eyes on the stairs as he answers. He doesn't know, really. But it still feels like a lie. "There were a lot of Nobodies around before, though."

"What's a nobody?" Sora's voice is confused, though Roxas is simply glad to come out into the brighter space of the library; dusty, with the entrance of the lab still showing, but its normal. Decaying and normal.

"Think Heartless, only white. I guess you could say they're opposites." Sora frowns at this, glaring ahead of them as they head out the door, Sora first.

"I guess we didn't fix as much as we thought." The look doesn't disappear, and Roxas grabs onto Sora's arm with a jolt of- something when he bypasses the steps and heads towards the opposite end of the upper floors; towards Namine's room. He can't let Sora see the drawings; none of it. Especially that specific one, burnt into his mind as clear as Namine's words.

He needs you, Roxas.

"Not that way." He mutters hastily as Sora throws him a confused, almost indignant look. "The way out's down the stairs. This place is- really old. You might get hurt if you wander." Sora's look goes from suspicious to understanding, at that- Roxas can suddenly breath easy.

"Yeah, I guess you're right…you know, I really want to see the sun. It feels like it's been forever." Roxas simply nods at that, keeping his face straight as they finally make their way out of the building.

The air is as fresh as it's always been. Around them, he can hear the sounds of birds and other animal life; the rustling of the leaves, sounds of nature that he's used to…and never appreciated as much, until this moment. Just like that, he was starting to realize how much he'd almost lost- absolutely everything. He owed that person a lot, whoever they were.

Sora still didn't seem to be in the mindset to speak, though that earlier anger seemed to have cooled down to the point where Roxas couldn't feel it, anymore. The blond simply closed his eyes, tilting his head back and enjoying the sun as he chose not to break the silence. He could feel the sun warming his skin, and that-

That was indescribable. For a moment, the world was more beautiful than he'd ever imagined it could be, simply because he was alive to enjoy it.

"So now whaddo we do?" Donald's voice broke the silence with a petulant, rebellious tone; Roxas refused to sigh in exasperation, though Sora did.

"We've gotta look for Riku and King Mickey." His voice is decisive; the same positive determination behind it as there had been the very first time he'd said it, and every time after that. Did Donald and Goofy know he blamed himself for what happened with Riku; for all of it? How many times he'd seen memories of Sora crying after meeting Riku in Hallow Bastion…that was their secret, even if Sora didn't know Roxas was keeping it too. "And we can start right now by going towards- uh-"

"Twilight Town. " Roxas offered helpfully, ignoring the way Donald's eyes shot over to him. "It's just through the woods."

"Right. And stay sharp, guys. Those 'Nobodies' might still be about."

"Nobodies?" The question seemed to fall on deaf ears, Sora leading the way even though Roxas was the one with the directions. He seemed to have no problem navigating, however, and so Roxas was left dealing with the discomfort of being in the middle of the group, keeping his eyes on Sora and trying to ignore the prickling sensation in the back of his neck- it was only Donald, keeping an eye on him. Whatever he'd faced in Sora's heart was stuck there, for now.

They passed through the misshapen arch that connected the mansion and Twilight Town, and Roxas had to hide a grin at the way Sora gaped, like this was the largest town he'd been in before. Almost, rather- Traverse was larger, though Twilight Town certainly held more appeal in it's evening colors, the streets wide and spacious, friendlier to a key.

A small town where everyone knew each other… his stomach fell at the idea of the people they would have to pass by. The old lady in her shop, the weapons dealer who also announced the very same Struggle he'd won- Hayner, Pence, Olette.

He wasn't sure how to deal with that.

"Hey, Roxas." A blink. Sora's right in front of him, once again looking concerned… but there was no feeling to carry across between them from his side, was there? "I was thinking we'd look around, but… are you gonna be okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay." It's hard to get the words out and Sora obviously isn't convinced; but there's nothing else to say. He just needs to get away from them and sort things out- like where he's going to go from here. "How about you guys look around, and I'll head to the station? You need a way out, so I can see about tickets…"

"Really?" Sora doesn't look so enthused, but Goofy's beaming at his apparent thoughtfulness and Donald clearly wants him to go, even waving his hands in a shooing motion behind Sora's back. "Well- okay but, where do we meet up?" Donald grumbles under his breath as he pointedly walks away, Goofy plodding after him with a small wave in Roxas' direction. Sora makes no indication that he's noticed, though his eyes narrow slightly. Another small flash of anger.

"Just follow the hill up to Station heights; no matter where you go from here, you'll find it." Sure, there were a ton of small alleys to traverse, not to mention the subway, but so long as Sora remained within this section of Twilight Town, it was impossible not to notice the uphill slope that steadily increased its incline.

"Are you sure? I mean, you just seem…" Sora looks troubled, like he can't quite find the words. "Sad."

Sad? He supposes, if he could feel, that's what this would be. This heavy weight on his shoulders and chest, that sinking feeling- sad is certainly the general description for it. But instead of letting it show, he simply smiles. Not point in holding onto an emotion he can't really feel, right?

"I'm fine; we'll meet up at the station, alright."

"The station, right." Sora nods slowly; even appears to want to protest, but a glance at Donald and Goofy in the distance seems to change his mind. They are, after all, the people he'd been with throughout the entirety of his adventures. Roxas can't blame him for choosing them over him. "I'll see you there."

"Okay." A quiet answer that Sora doesn't even hear; already jogging over to Donald and Goofy and disappearing in the direction of the Sandlot. He's glad not to be going with them; he needs this time, just to himself. So much to think about…

His feet carry him towards the station, knowing the way with the intimacy of one who's lived in the town their entire life, even though he hasn't. There's a fine line between his real memories and his old ones; wandering through with the Organization and lazing about with his digitized friends, and by the time he's reached the station, he has a throbbing headache which receives little respite when he slumps to the ground in front of the stairs. There's still holes there, still many questions in regards to what is real and what is not, but if this keeps happening to him he's going to be completely useless on his own…

I'll take care of you too. I promise.

It was hard to trust someone when you didn't even know what they looked like; harder still, when every person beforehand had turned out to be someone he couldn't trust. Even Namine. He was out on his own with no idea where to go, and eventually, the Organization would be back on his heels once they realized DiZ's plan had fallen through. Axel would be positively gleeful… but he couldn't go back to that.

He couldn't stay here either, not with the memories, or the people… not with Sora. He had to make his own way somehow, and pray that it was okay. Perhaps waiting for Sora wasn't the best idea. As much as he wanted to see him at least one more time, there were too many things he couldn't explain. For Sora's safety. For Axel's safety.

And selfishly, even his own.

Gritting his teeth, Roxas stands, a hand braced against his forehead as he tried to shake off the last vestiges of an immense headache. He had some items; potions, his ability ring; even the Struggle Champion's belt, which was sure to bring in a hefty price in a place like Twilight Town. He could pay his own way and leave some tickets for Sora. Maybe he'd go to the Coliseum; Phil would put him to work. He could go on from there.

The sun is beating down the back of his neck, but his entire body still goes cold at the sound of a gargled, threatening hiss. Roxas doesn't look behind him. He merely darts for the door, yelling in surprise and pain as he runs smack into some sort of field; and then he can see them. Nobodies, in force- how did they find him already?

"I'm not going back, so forget it!" He yells it out even as he crouches down, snatching a stick off the ground and watching in fascination as it changes forms. Keyblade- not the plain silver he's used to in this sort of situation, but the black beast he'd used to beat Axel down. Even six to one, with the blade in his hand, he felt more than strong enough to take them all on.

That proved to be wrong. Completely and utterly wrong. He did his best; hacking and slicing, dodging out of the way of all but the least threatening attacks- but for each beast he brought down, death cry ringing in the air with a chilling clarity, two more would take it's place. It wasn't long before he was completely overwhelmed, Keyblade falling from his hand as he was knocked into the retaining wall at the side of the stairs.

"So this is how it Ends, huh?" He hadn't even had a chance to get started- hadn't even seen Sora, at least the one time before he went. A laugh, and he simply hangs his head, far too tired to fight further. He's fought enough today, and it's always come down to nothing.

"Roxas!" A panicked cry, and the Nobody in front of him, claw raised to strike, goes down with a screech in a blaze of searing fire. Roxas simply blinks, staring upwards as Sora races over and pulls him to his feet. Since when did he get here..?

I'll protect you.

"Don't just stand there! Fight!" He's screaming it right into Roxas' ear; unappreciated and yet, effective. The black blade fits into his hand as if it's been there the entire time, and Sora merely gives it one quick, questioning glance before he's throwing himself into the fray, Donald and Goofy already fighting their hardest as the hoard of Nobodies escalates into a frenzy.

Once again, he's safe at the nick of time. It takes another yell from Sora before he can push aching muscles into gear, slicing into the nearest Nobody and listening to its screams of pain with something close to grim satisfaction, Sora taking up the space at his back and continuing to fight from there, the simple Keyblade Roxas is so used to turned into a deadly whir in his hand.

Another fight, right after the last battle. Roxas is pushing himself as hard as he can, but in the time it takes for Sora and the others to wipe out a dozen, he's only taken out one or two. The sun is now a cruel mistress, beating down on them and making them sweat, panting harshly with dry throats and shaking arms. And still, the white and grey beings, all with that same symbol, keep coming. Roxas isn't surprised he's the first to go down, Sora standing over him protectively and fighting with a skill made from experience only, no training given.

Donald is next, then Goofy. And then its only Sora, protecting them all despite his exhaustion, heavy handed movements and wild, dangerous blows becoming more and more frequent as he gains more damage, simple scratches and bruises to deeper blows.

Eventually, Roxas simply can't bear to watch anymore. He reaches out with one hand, pulling Sora down to the ground, urging shaky legs to collapse and letting Sora lean against him, pulling the Keyblade out of his hand.

"It's okay." It's all that needs to be said, ignoring the Nobodies in favor of looking at his other, unsurprised, somehow, when his hand grasps his own. Maybe, just maybe, this is finally the End. But this time he isn't alone anymore. It's a cold comfort, one that Sora seems to be seeking as well.

"This can't be how it ends- I need to find Riku! Kairi's waiting for us!" A fierce and suddenly desperate determination; it's all it comes down to, in Sora's head. Finding his friend. Getting home. All he has, all he's ever had, to drive him. Roxas doesn't have the heart to tell him otherwise.

The End…he's been waiting for it, but of course- this isn't it. He almost laughs; hysterically, frustrated at waiting for something that never happens, when movement from above catches his eye.

"You're right. It's not." A whisper; all he has time to fit in before that figure's on the ground, the fight over in seconds. He envies that grace, the way it takes one hit, and then the Nobodies are crumpling silently to the ground, exploding into darkness that dissipates in the humid air. A cloaked figure, with round ears- of course it would be-

"Your Majesty?" No time to speak, especially when his face is being smooshed into the ground. Sora's down too; grumbling, but good naturedly, with relief and excitement. He tilts his head to peer at the King himself, who simply makes a shushing gesture as he surveys the area with a rushed sense of urgency. It's clear to Roxas, at least, that he won't be staying long. Not with them.

"You need to leave town, and fast. Take the train and go."

"That's what we were going to do." Sora explains hastily, sitting up and ignoring the indignant squawk as Donald rolls off his back. A soft, apologetic 'hyuk', and Goofy backs off as well. Roxas straightens with a sigh of relief, Sora shooting him a grin that turns into yet another concerned look as Mickey pulls something out of his coat, holding it out for Sora to take.

Olette's purse. The one she made herself- the very same one that had been stolen directly from his pocket, only several days before. There's a long pause, Sora staring directly at him, waiting for a motion, a sentence to magically pop out of his mouth, before hesitantly taking the purse from the mouse's hand.

"Your Highness…have you seen Riku?" Once again hesitant, and fervently hopeful. The mouse stiffens before giving a quick shake of his head, and not once- not once has he looked towards any of them.

"Later Sora; right now, you gotta catch that train." And just like that, he's dashing down the street, ignoring Sora, Donald and Goofy's cries as Roxas stands silently beside them. He's not dead- Olette's wallet is right in front of him. Which makes it as clear as day; Riku was the one who stole it, no doubt at all. He clenches his fists and leaves Sora and the two humanoids behind as they chat excitedly between each other, stepping into the station and taking a seat at one of the benches with a tired sigh full of pent up frustration. He's exhausted, overwhelmed- and irritated. How much more did they expect him to take?

"Hey, Roxas." Sora sits down beside him, and they watch the station bustle with life in silence, until Sora finally breaches the air with his voice again. "So… you can wield the Keyblade too, huh?"

"I can." He answers evenly- it's the only answer Sora expects, so he won't go any further. He doesn't know why he has it, nor does he have a full understanding of the powers it's given him. Those are questions that only Sora could answer for him, and questions that are no longer an option to ask.

"And you-"

"Knew you could already, yeah." A pause, and he adds in an almost guilty tone "Finding you at the mansion wasn't an accident either."

"I kind of figured. Listen, Roxas- you should come with us." Finally he looks over at Sora, completely startled by the suggestion. This is the point where they part ways, isn't it? He'd never expected Sora to ask him to stay around; to be eager to keep him around. "You came looking for us; we owe you for that. And you can wield the Keyblade. No matter what Donald says, having another person around will make things a lot easier. You fought really well against those Nobodies."

"Oh." Well that made sense; another person in his group who could use the Keyblade…would take a lot of pressure off Sora. He wasn't exactly wanted in the sense he would like, but maybe that was as good as it got. "Well, an extra hand would be good for you guys, I guess."

"…That came out wrong." Sora groaned and buried his face in his hands, before turning to Roxas once more, face earnest. "I don't want you to come with us just because you've got the Keyblade. I mean, yeah that's important and maybe it's the only reason I got Donald to agree, but it's more because-"

"Hey, Sora!" A loud, abrasive shout, and Roxas' mind shuts down. No, no no; this is exactly what he'd been trying to avoid, and why is he here now?

Stomach rolling, he looks up weakly, and there they are. Not just Hayner, but Pence and Olette as well, rushing over and circling Sora like they've made a mad dash straight from Sunset Hill to here. Maybe they have. Hayner claps a hand on Sora's shoulder, giving him one of those rare, brief smiles that always seems to end in a scowl. Roxas' breathing stops.

"What are you guys doing here?" He's throwing glances at Roxas, but Sora's surprised and obviously interested as to their sudden appearance.

"We came to see you off, man!" Hayner always seems to speak about everything in a snarky tone, or a boastful one. It was in his nature, just like the way he held his free hands during fights, something Roxas had constantly teased him for. Never happened.

"It just felt like the right thing to do." Logical, sweet, caring. Olette had never been entirely girly; there was a streak of tomboy in her that was needed to keep up with Hayner's leadership, but she'd always been…a mother; helping him with his homework, listening to his problems. Never happened either.

"Are you sure we haven't met before?" Pence as well; all the photos, ice cream, lazy days. It never existed. And right now, when it's his last chance to get to know them, say goodbye and face the future knowing that at least, at least they're real-

They haven't even bothered to notice he's there.

Quietly, as to not draw attention to himself, Roxas stands. Donald's waiting by the train, and so he walks towards him, eyes stinging.

"You have the tickets, right?" Donald looks him over, clearly still distrustful, but the look on Roxas' face obviously convinces him that this isn't the time to talk. Roxas just wants to get on the train and never, ever look back. At the ducks nod, he steps inside, wiping his cheeks in tandem with raised, alarmed voices from outside.

"Hey, you're crying!"

Looks like it does go both ways, after all.

Eventually, Sora boards as well, looking worse for wear and slumping down into the seat beside him. None of them are particularly doing okay; they're all tired, and half their party, as far as Roxas can tell, is overemotional as well. When Sora grips his hand again, and he doesn't voice any complaints. Donald and Goofy don't even seem to notice, as caught up as they are in the scenery outside the windows.

"You know," Sora whispers, eyes upon Donald and Goofy, making sure their attention stays averted. "I'm sad." Blue eyes are watching him, taking in the tear tracks drying on his cheeks, the exhaustion written all over his face. "And so are you."

Roxas licks his lips, knowing that he has to choose his words carefully. He can't begin on the why, so he merely says whatever comes to mind for Sora's sake.

"We can come back, you know. And you can see Hayner and the others again." Sora doesn't even bat a lash at the mild slip, humming in agreement before sliding down further.

"I don't think I want to, after the way they treated you."

"It's okay; I'm used to being invisible." A dull reply. He's not, not even when he was in the Organization, and being invisible was his job. There was always someone there he was visible to, at all times. But travelling with Sora would mean standing in the boy's shadow, and unlike Riku, he had to learn to take that gracefully.

"No, it's not." Sora squeezes his hand, and sighs. "I never got to finish what I was saying at the station. I didn't ask you to come along just to fight with me, Roxas; I asked you along because I want to be your friend." The grin on Sora's face just grows wider at Roxas' dumfounded expression. "So you're just going to have to get used to me seeing you."

He doesn't know how to react to that, how to respond. No matter how Sora had seemed in his dreams, how accepting- there was no expectation of receiving that same treatment. No time to even think about it. So what does he do now, when that's exactly what's being given?

Sora's smile changes, from weary to delighted, as Roxas squeezes back.

"I guess I could live with that." It's more than he'd ever expected.