Hayner stared at the blue confection with a scowl. He twirled the sweet within his fingers, inspecting every nook and cranny for a reason to deny it, but as I expected, he found nothing. He raised his brown eyes to mine, expecting an explanation for this unexpected treat.
"It's a peace offering," I explained. He raised an eyebrow in response. "For everything I've put you through. I'm sorry."
He twirled the ice cream in his hand again. "Are you… you know."
I sighed in defeat, the thought of seeing a psychiatrist already had me tired. "Yeah, I start next Saturday." I confessed.
He bit into his ice cream, his face impassive. "That sucks bro, but," he raised up his arm, the very same arm that had broken when he tried to catch me from the roof. "I'm glad you're getting help."
We bumped our arms together—it was Hayner's way of greeting nowadays. We continued our trek toward the Usual Spot where the others waited for us, when Hayner suddenly remembered something.
"Oh, by the way, I have something important to show you."
He stuffed his hand into his pocket in search for something. He fished around for a moment until he pulled out a crumbled up newspaper clipping from the local newspaper.
"Here," he handed me the article and continued walking ahead of me.
I unfurled the crumbled sheet, straightening out as much as I could and began to read. My heart nearly stopped at the photo that stared back at me. His cold calculative gaze remained present on his face despite the fact that his whole world had crashed around him in a matter of days. His picture hadn't changed, not that I expected it to. Marluxia would always be cold and heartless no matter how many years went by.
"He's been convicted," I said. It was more of a statement rather than a question.
Hayner stopped walking and turned to me, his frozen treat nothing more than a stained stick in his hand. "Yeah, on charges of illegal firearm possession and four accounts of rape."
I tore my eyes away from the article in an instant. "Four?"
Hayner nodded grimly, his face slightly squeamish. "Larxene confessed." He began. "She said she was the first and you were the last. There were two others in between. It's all in the article. She took pictures of the, uh, you know. She said they were meant to be kept as prizes but… well… guess we know how that turned out." He shook his head, his body rigid with disgust. "A-anyway, Roxas, I'm sorry too about… how I reacted to everything."
I shook my head, crumbling the article in my hands. I tossed it aside, no longer wanting to read it. It no longer mattered to me what would happen to Marluxia or Larxene. It was time I lay the past to rest.
"Don't worry about it. It doesn't matter."
"If you say so." He shrugged, a smile suddenly crossing his lips. "So, you still owe me thirty more days' worth of sea-salt ice cream."
I snorted, not at all surprised he remembered our deal. "Fine. I hope you get cavities afterwards."
"Was breaking my arm not enough for you?"
Later that day, Sora and I walked together, hand in hand. He held onto my scarred hand, the one he seemed to favor the most lately and spoke animatedly about something that happened during lunch. He glanced my way when I didn't say a word and tugged me closer to him so that our shoulders brushed the other.
"You're quiet today. Something on your mind?" he asked.
I shook my head, for once at peace with the world. "I'm just happy."
"Good. You deserve happiness."
I stopped walking, pulling Sora to a stop beside me. He gazed into my eyes quizzically.
"Remember in first year, when you asked me to join you for breakfast? Why did you ask me?"
Sora tilted his head slightly, as though I were asking him something he didn't understand. And who knew, perhaps I was.
"You don't remember, do you?"
"Remember what?" it was my turn to give him a puzzled look.
"In third grade." I gave him a look that screamed of sarcasm which only made him laugh. "I figured you wouldn't remember. It was in third grade, Dad dropped me off a little too early for class so I sat outside the classroom waiting when you and Naminé showed up…"
I saw it unfold before my eyes as though it were happening for the first time. We were eight years old again, my sister and I, with our pink and blue back packs strapped around our shoulders and our uniforms cleanly pressed. It was a time when our mother cared, when she was there to watch over us and feed us… when she was still Mom.
Sora sat in front of the classroom, his lunch box on his lap and a pout on his face. He saw us arrive just as we saw him and his face lit up like a thousand watt bulb.
He threw out his hand toward us in greeting and said, "Hi! My name is Sora. I'm new here starting today. What's your name?"
Naminé shifted behind me, her wide eyes fearful as I stared at him with an expression void of emotion. Sora retracted his hand, a little saddened by the cold reception and a little embarrassed that his overly cheerful display of friendship was shot down so quickly. His look of hurt and embarrassment brought a wave of guilt into my heart so strong, my conscious chose to rectify our mistake without a second thought.
Sora turned his gaze to me in confusion. "Huh?"
"Roxas. My name is Roxas and this is Naminé, my sister." I gestured to Naminé, who scuttled back further behind me so that her blue eyes were barely visible from behind my blue back pack. She gave him a very timid wave before her face broke out into a bright blush and she hid herself behind my back pack again.
"Roxas," he said, trying the name out as it rolled off his tongue. His face suddenly lit up once more. "We have the same name! That's so cool!"
I scowled at the thought, unable to see the connection but Naminé giggled behind me. I shook my head and turned away, already too hungry to deal with someone like him so early in the morning.
"Where are you going?" He asked.
I glanced over my shoulder. "The cafeteria. I'm hungry."
We stopped walking just as he sat back down on the floor, his attention now focused on the lunch box.
"What are you doing?" I asked, grabbing his attention again. "If you're hungry too then come with us."
"Unless you want to stay here by yourself."
A bright smile split across his face. "No, I'll come!"
I snapped out of the memory, surprised to see we stood in front of the train station that held the clock tower.
"I never got the chance to thank you for that." Sora went on, oblivious to my flashback. "It's because of you I met Riku and Kairi that day. My only regret was that I couldn't be your friend until now."
I frowned. "How is it that I didn't remember that until now?"
Sora's face screwed up at the question as though he remembered something painful. "That's probably because Riku shoved you into the garbage can after the lunch ladies threw out last night's pudding during lunch. It wasn't pretty." He grimaced.
I snorted. "And because of that, he suddenly became your best friend. Nice Sora. Thanks for the memory."
The brunet shook his head with a laugh. He pulled me toward the building, his eyes bright with joy but not from the memory I had no idea we shared until now. "I tried to apologize but your brother wasn't happy with me when I came to see you. He chased me for a good three blocks on his bicycle afterwards."
I couldn't help but laugh at the image in my head. It must have been a time before Cloud became friends with Leon. I wonder if my brother ever confessed to Leon about chasing an eight-year-old Sora three blocks down the street.
"Anyway, c'mon. I have a surprise you." He pulled me into the train station and led me up the familiar staircase that I had once taken. Up the flight of stairs we went, déjà vu enveloping my senses the further up we went. We reached the top in minutes, the twilight just as beautiful and breath taking as that day I stood out here alone. But today, it seemed so much more beautiful than ever before and I quickly understood the reason why.
Riku, Kairi, Naminé, Pence, Hayner and Olette sat on the edge of the clock tower, their feet dangling over without a care in the world. They greeted us with happy smiles and passed around a cooler filled with sea-salt ice cream until we each held one sweet confection in our hands. Sora and I sat at the very end of the row, gazing out into the vast horizon.
"Thank you… for everything."
He shook his head, his expression serene. "You don't have to thank me. There's nothing to thank me for."
"Hmm…" I took a bite out of my ice cream, my gaze still fixated on the setting sun. "Hey Sora?"
"Hmm?" He mumbled again, bringing the ice cream close to his lips for a bite.
"I love you."
He turned to me just as I turned to him and our eyes met once more in an unwavering gaze. He smiled, his body leaning into mine. Our lips met, as they always had done on countless occasions for a thousand different reasons, but somehow this time felt different than all the rest. This time, his kiss was not done out of worry or concern or fear for my well-being. It was not done out of reassurance or to keep a promise. This time, it was done purely out of love.
I'm not perfect and neither are you, but that's OK because I love you and you love me too.
That was all that mattered.
Nada: Oh my god you guys, I had such a fantastic experience writing this story. I really didn't think it would get the reception it did since it's a sequel and all that, but thank you, thank you so much! And I have to apologize for any requests given that didn't make it into the story. I lost my notes on this story about two times during the duration and when I finally found them again, I could only incorporate the ideas that didn't obstruct the flow of the story. Hope no one minds too much.
Thank you to everyone who's ever reviewed, followed and put this story on their favorites list!
It was such a blast despite all the angst that went on in the background to get this story out.
Thank you all. Honestly, I can't even begin to express my gratitude (lmao)
So now that the story is finally complete, final thoughts?
Any loose ends?
I'm all ears! (Eyes, technically, but whatever)