A/N: This is my first SoraxKairi one-shot. It's been a long time in the making, and I wrote it to help me get out of my writer's block in my other fic, Love Must Come: Rebirth. It's rather close to my heart, as the struggles Kairi are dealing with are struggles I deal with right now. So it was also sort of a self-therapy type thing. So yeah . . . Anyway, enjoy!

WARNINGS: This story is rated M for a reason. It contains an explicit lemon. There is also heavy subject matter in this story, including eating disorders and self harm. Everything is very descriptive and raw, so prepare yourself.


Eye of the Storm

Helpless. That was the best way to describe how I felt these days. Where once I had been a fearless hero of the multiverse, one girl had reduced me to just ashes of my former glory. There had been a time where I smiled and laughed, fought and rebelled; my only goal was to protect and serve. But now? Now my life consisted of worry, sadness, and sleepless nights. I didn't fight the Heartless anymore. The demons I now fought were much darker than Heartless, and they weren't even my own.

After all, it is within the storm's eye that one's pain is laid most bare.

I noticed there was something amiss when Riku and I had returned home from our Mark of Mastery exams. Kairi had seemed chipper at Yen Sid's castle, ready to face our next challenge as always. An ever vigilant anchor for me to grasp onto when I floundered, Kairi was always the strongest out of the three of us. Never once had she lost faith in me, even when we had both forgotten each other. She had always remained steadfast and loyal. Well, it was in the midst of my obliviousness that things began to change. Or rather, they had changed a long time ago, and now I was finally noticing it. Her smile was no longer bright, and eventually its light flickered and faded. Her cerulean eyes, once vibrant and full of fire and life, had dulled and become hard as flint. Her stance drooped, her hair went limp, her quality of life overall diminished. Something was wrong with my best friend.

How could I have been so blind?

It was a normal day at school. The crimson-haired girl had certainly grown, not only in maturity but in grace and looks, and it was hard to keep my eyes off her in passing. I can't tell you how many times I caught myself looking up from book work in English to watch her. Or when I purposefully fabricated a reason to ask her for help in Trigonometry. It wasn't hard to fool her into assisting me with my homework during Lunch and free periods either (Riku and I both had been extremely behind when we were finally given the chance to return to school for as long as we could before we were called back out into the line of duty. I mean, honestly, it was a wonder we had been able to catch up as quickly as we had, to be able to join the rest of our class as Seniors). She was as naive as I had always been, and always happily assisted me with whatever I asked her to.

Anyway, like I said: it was a normal day at school. A Friday in November, to be exact. We were sitting in one of our few shared classes: Current Events. The teacher had assigned everyone to read an article and write a short paragraph on our thoughts about it, and I had quickly found that my thoughts were nowhere near on the new mall they were planning on building on the Play Island. Apparently, there were mixed feelings about in on the other Islands, seeing as many people saw the Play Island as a landmark of sorts. Personally, I didn't care what they did, seeing as I probabaly wouldn't be here long enough to see the mall built (The life of a Keyblade Master is not so carefree, you see), so I saw this twenty minute of classwork time as an opportunity to pass notes with Kairi.

Most boring article ever.

I cast a furtive glance toward the teacher's desk, where he was diligently grading our last homework assignments, and leaned over to place the small piece of ripped notebook paper on her desk.

Tell me about it, she wrote back.

I sure could go for some Sea Salt ice cream right now . . . I drew a little smiley face, brushing my chin-length bangs out of my cobalt blue eyes. My once bushy chestnut brown hair had grown into soft, defined spikes that drooped a bit in some spots, giving me an overall bedhead-messy kind-of look. It could be a nuisance when I was trying to write, especially since it was so long.

What's that?

I realized that Kairi probably had never tasted or had any idea what Sea Salt ice cream was, and I was just about to write a detailed explanation about its awesomeness when I noticed something. I paused, a little bit alarmed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could clearly see Kairi's left forearm, her pencil in hand tapping a tune away against her desk in a bored sort of way. She was gazing almost dreamily down at her classwork, her eyes scanning what she had written. But it wasn't her pretty face that had captured my attentions. No, it was something vastly different.

Spanning the upper part of Kairi's forearm were three jagged little cuts, each different in diameter and depth. They weren't bleeding, and had scabbed over a little bit, but by the look of them, they had most likely bled a lot when they were inflicted. They hadn't been bandaged, though I doubted she had expected anyone to notice them, let alone me. Kairi wasn't one to go mucking about in places where she could get scratches, and the cat she owned was de-clawed, so how could she have gotten the wounds? I frowned and changed what I was going to write to her about.

What happened to your arm?

I carefully watched her reaction in my peripheral vision, and was surprised to see her freeze and abruptly stop tapping her pencil. She chewed her bottom lip and didn't move to jot down her reply right away. After a long wait with me listening to our many classmates writing away around us, she finally answered.


Nothing?! Was she kidding me?! I was eighteen years old, and I was not an idiot. I had been in more battles than she could fathom, and my Keyblade and I had seen some damn wounds. I turned my head to give her an incredulous look.

If it truly was "nothing," then why in the Hell would she feel the need to lie?

Just then, the teacher stood and continued class, leaving me to spend the rest of the period worrying and doing my best not to jump to conclusions.

Things seemed to return to normal after that, though. Me being the boy I had always been, by the end of class I had forgotten all about our note passing and what I had seen on her arm, and my thoughts had turned to the hang out session we were supposed to have with all of our friends that night. Tidus' parents were traveling to one of the other islands overnight for some reason or another, so he had invited the whole gang over for a get together. I was so stoked that I totally misplaced her wounds in my mind and could only talk to her about the party, if you could call it that. I was too into my own world to notice her subdued manner, lack of speech, and generally somber disposition—all characteristics most odd for Kairi, the girl who had years ago tried to convince me to "take the raft and go."

Fast forward to that night, and put everyone in the bedroom of Tidus: Me, Riku, Wakka, Selphie, Kairi, a couple girls from school named Melanie and Lilac, and the owner of the bedroom, Tidus. We were having a great time, chilling and eating some snacks that Tidus' mom had bought for us. Everybody was laughing and trying to talk over one another, each feeling as if what they had to say was more important than the person next to them. We ate and ate and ate, until Tidus had to go downstairs and rummage the cupboards for more food. Wakka and Riku were furiously battling away at a racing video game on Tidus; TV and PS3; Selphie and Melanie were sprawled out on Tidus' bed, painting their toe nails; Lilac was cheering the boys on as flirtatiously as she possibly could; and I was sitting at Tidus' desk, fucking around on his laptop, surfing the Internet.

Kairi, on the other hand, was a different story. Nobody had noticed, but she had found herself a corner of the room, where she was doing nothing but sitting on the floor, eating. I mean, seriously, the girl had a feast on the floor before her, which was probably why Tidus was currently downstairs gathering up more edibles. Her legs were crossed in front of her, and every time I looked at her, she was stuffing her face with as much of the food as she could. She had a huge bowl of Doritos, a plate of three pizza slices, a can of Pepsi, a smaller bowl of candy from Tidus's mom's leftover Halloween candy that she hadn't gotten to pass out like fun size candy bars and such, a couple of individually wrapped Hostess snack cakes, and an open bag of Chex Mix. While I waited for a game to load on Facebook, I glanced over at her and was shocked to see her grabbing different handfuls of each thing, alternating between chomping away and guzzling down some of the Pepsi. Her hair, which had grown out to the middle of her back, was thrown up into a messy bun. She didn't seem to see me staring at her in muted horror, and nobody else seemed to notice what she was doing either.

I continued to watch the girl binge massively for the next ten minutes, absolutely mystified as to how a girl that couldn't have weighed more than 100 pounds could put away more food in fifteen minutes than I could in a couple of hours without getting full or sick or anything. My hand was frozen over the external mouse that Tidus had plugged into the USB port for when he played World of Warcraft, my eyes glued to her face. Her cheeks were puffed out with the amount of junk she had crammed in there, only emtpying when she took a swig of her soda. Her eyes had glazed over, and to be quite frank, I don't think she even knew where she was any more—she was just so focused on that food. When it was all gone, the Chex Mix bag crumpled, the empty candy wrappers in a heap, the crumbs littering the front of her school uniform, she tipped her head back and downed the rest of the soda, not seeming to care that it was spilling a little bit out of the corners of her mouth. I didn't know whether or not to be disgusted, concerned, or scared. All I knew was that something was definitely off about her.

Just then, Tidus came rushing in, yammering on about a deer having shown up in his backyard, which of course made everyone lose their shit and go insane in their rush to go see it. We all went clamoring down the stairs to get a good look at the wild animal before it darted back into the woods behind Tidus' house and was lost ~forever~. Once again, were were all yelling and freaking out about nature and the girls were squealing at its cuteness, and before we knew it, it had gone. Throughly satisfied, we all turned to express to each other how "cool" it was. Then, being teenagers, we all somehow came to the conclusion that we should watch a horror movie, and then play Truth or Dare. Everyone agreed, as that was the logical thing to do at a co-ed high school get together, and we started to make our way to the living room to go through Tidus' family's DVD collection. It was then that I suddenly realized that one member of our group was missing.

"Hey, guys?" I spoke up. "Where the Hell did Kairi go?"

Riku shrugged before leaving the kitchen. "Fuck if I know; probably in the bathroom. Let's go help pick a movie, though, or else they'll pick something really shitty."

Not convinced that it wasn't something serious, I decided to forgo the movie choosing and venture back up the stairs to Tidus' room. Kairi had eaten so much food that I was a little bit concerned that she might be sick to her stomach or something, and hadn't even left the room when we all went to go look at the deer through the sliding glass window in the dining room.

"Kai?" I called as I came up into the hall. "You up here?"

As I passed the bathroom, almost immediately I heard the toilet flush and the sink run as if she were washing her hands. I stood in front of the door and turned just as she opened it and looked up at me in question. I narrowed my eyes. Her nose was red, and her eyes were bloodshot. The lower half of her face looked like it had been scrubbed with a towel, and parts of her shirt were dark with water that had obviously splashed onto it. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that something wasn't adding up.

"What were you doing?" I demanded, a little more accusatorily than I had meant to sound.

She crossed her arms over her chest. "What are you talking about, Sora?" she said, giving me a weird look that seemed strained. "I was going to the bathroom. Is that a crime now?" She poked me teasingly in the chest and I watched her put a smile on her face. It seemed fake, and I was too suspicious, so I fixed her with a stern look.

"Kairi, I'm not stupid. Whatever you were doing in there, it wasn't taking a piss, so fess up." My eyes trailed down to her arm, where those three little cuts were, and she hurried to place her hands behind her back.

"Silly, you're talking crazy," she said, her voice honey and sugar. She smiled up at me, all teeth and dazzling brilliance, and I felt somewhat trapped. "I'm being honest—I was just going to the bathroom."

I wanted to point out how odd it was that she had eaten like three pounds of food and then ran to the bathroom the second we all left the room, but her eyes . . . They were just so blue . . . And she was so cute, with her hair pulled up and her sideswpet bangs falling across her heart-shaped face . . . She definitely wasn't the Kairi I remembered her to be, that was the truth, but she sure was pretty . . .

"Now, come on!" she urged. "Let's go down and join the others . . ."

And so I did what she said, because I trusted her and because she was my best friend. I convinced myself that nothing was wrong, and that my imagination was overreacting. Kairi was fine—happy ,as she had always been.

Oh, how wrong I was. How very, very wrong.

The party went on as if Kairi and I hadn't even experienced our encounter in the hallway. We joined our friends and I threw myself into the picking of the scary movie, since Riku had been right: a shitty horror movie was no fun.

"It has to be something good, ya?" Wakka said with a mischievous smirk. "The better the movie, the better the rewards."

"Rewards?" Selphie asked. "What are you talking about?"

Lilac put her hands on her hips. "If you think you're getting some ass tonight by trying to scare us with a movie, think again, Island boy." She smirked, obviously pleased at having caught him in his trap.

Everybody laughed when Wakka whimpered and even his hair seemed to droop. We laughed because we were having fun, but I think we all knew that a few of us would be getting lucky with a make out sesh or two tonight. That aside, we eventually picked a paranormal movie and bounded back up the stairs to watch it. We all took our places on the floor by who we wanted to sit by: Tidus by Selphie, Wakka by Lilac, and Riku by Melanie. I took the bed, since I hated lying on the floor, and Kairi sat at the computer desk chair, pulling her knees up to her chest and remaining quiet, as she had been all night. We shut the curtains and turned the lights out, pitching the small room into darkness, and started the movie. Of course, only half of us were actually watching it, most of the couples were either conversing quietly with one another, or stealing kisses. I was watching it, though, and only peeled my eyes away when I saw Kairi leave the room. She came back a few moments later with—you guessed it—food.

The movie wore on, and Kairi ripped through a completely unopened, fresh bag of Doritos. Tidus didn't seem to mind, and he was busy necking with Selphie, and Kairi didn't appear to care that she was eating an entire bag of chips. I was perplexed. How the Hell did she have room for more food? And another entire bag of chips, no less! The girl was a bottomless pit. She finished it, though, and quietly got up and left with the empty bag again. My eyes traveled back to the movie, and when she came back in I barely noticed her clambering onto the bed next to me, as I was half-asleep. She laid—no, collapsed—onto the pillows to my left and groaned, curling in on herself as if in pain. That woke me up quick, and I rolled onto my side and propped myself up on one elbow.

"Kai?" I whispered in as low a tone as I could muster. "Kairi, are you okay?"

She was facing me, eyes squeezed shut and teeth bared in a grimace of pain. She was holding her stomach, knees drawn up, and I could see a couple of tears trailing down her cheeks. She didn't answer me, almost as if she couldn't, and continued to cry silently. Something was obviously wrong with her, but since I was a guy and had no idea how to handle womanly pains of any sort, I did the only thing I instinctually knew how to do.

I reached forward, brushed her bangs behind her ear, and kissed her temple gently. I hadn't meant anything by it, and honestly, I wasn't really thinking about much of anything save for the fact that she was hurt, and I felt bad about it for God only knows why. Nonetheless, it seemed to do the trick, and she relaxed visibly. She finally opened her eyes in the darkness, and looked up at me. Nobody else was talking, except for the actors in the movie, and the air was somewhat thick with curiosity, secrecy, and lust due to our exploratory friends on the floor below us. Somehow, it felt as if looking into Kairi's eyes, we were in our own little worlds, speaking and yet not speaking with just our eyes. I wanted to ask her why she had been in such agony, why she had run to the bathroom, why she had collapsed onto the bed and now looked so weak and frail, but I didn't.

She moved a bit closer to me, burrowing her head into my chest. Surprised and yet also relieved at finally being close to her like this, I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly. I closed my eyes, my thoughts transporting me back to the time in the World that Never Was, when we had finally come face-to-face on that platform within the castle. I hadn't expected to see her, and she had been desperately searching for me, as I had been for her. We had hugged, and it had been gentle and full of innocent joy at having finally found one another. But this hug . . . It was different. We weren't about to be destroyed by a group of people Hell-bent on ending all existence to fulfill their own desires. There weren't evil, demonic creatures of Darkness attempting to claw their ways into our homes and consume our hearts. And there certainly wasn't anything or anyone standing between us, trying to steal my memories or capture her Princess of Heart powers and claim them as their own. I had eradicated all looming threats, and it felt good to finally hold the person I had done it all for: Kairi.

I felt her fragile little body pressed up against mine, and something inside of me felt a little uneasy. She wasn't just my best friend anymore. She wasn't a little girl of only fourteen, excited about the future and traveling to see other worlds that she had no idea even existed. We weren't just kids running around in the sand with wooden swords anymore. I had done things for her—killed for her. We weren't the same people. I wasn't the same Sora, and she wasn't the same Kairi. Everything was different and yet, as I held her there in my arms, everything was the same. And now that I was noticing her odd behavior lately, I was scared to lose everything about her—the past, present, and future. What was happening to her? I had protected her from everything thus far, but could I save her from herself?

She was gripping the front of my school uniform shirt tightly, as if I would disappear if she let go, and almost as if on cue, she tiled her head upward just as I gazed down at her. In her eyes, I saw innocence and naïveté and pristine beauty: the Princess of Heart. But inside of me, it was a different story. I felt what was in the air around us—the carnality inherent in every human being that I had ignored since I left the Islands in search of Riku for that first journey.

It was an incredibly difficult physical struggle to stop myself from doing something rash. I tucked her head underneath my chin again and felt her nuzzle her face into my neck. Yes, this was nice. A chance to finally relax and hold her without fear of interruption. I knew it was selfish of me to think of her as a sort of "prize" that I had won, but it was hard not to. After all, I had risked my life multiple times to save hers. Did that not warrant reward? I felt her head move again, and I sensed that something between us had momentarily changed. As if a magnet rested betwixt our faces, I looked down at her again, the flashy lights of the television flickering across her upturned nose.

"Sora?" she murmured.

I couldn't take my eyes off of her lips. "Mm?"

I stifled a gasp of surprise when one of her hands sifted through the silken strands of my hair. Her nails grazed my scalp, feeling like heaven and massaging me slightly. I relaxed into her gentle touch, relishing in the feeling of her. It wasn't until a few moments later that my mind registered that our breaths were mingling, and she had positioned herself in such a way that one wrong move, and we would be kissing. I felt my cheeks heat up with embarrassment and astonishment.

"What are . . . What are you doing?" I whispered hoarsely.

Her body molded to mine, both of her hands going into my hair, and her lips brushing mine with the ghost of a kiss. She was breathing heavily, and a small sob escaped her lips; she was weeping.

"What's the matter?" I asked, worried. I wanted to look her in the eyes, but it felt as if my eyelids weighed one thousand pounds. She had her slender fingers on either side of my head, her body half on top of mine and half on the mattress.

And then she kissed me, her soft lips a fierce press against mine. My thoughts raced at a breakneck pace, and my first instinct was to freeze. I had never kissed anyone before, and I definitely hadn't expected to be kissing Kairi tonight. I couldn't understand why she was crying; I could feel her tears against my cheeks. Eventually, my body overcame its stunned, paralyzed state and one of my hands moved to her upper back. I followed my body's natural responses and parted my lips. She followed suit, and our tongues danced a tortured story of sadness, secrets, and hidden affections. We both inhaled sharply, and things grew instantly more intense. Desire pulsated between us, reverberating within our bones. I hadn't known that I was harboring such passionate feelings for her, and as fervor turned to desperation, I felt as though we would never have enough of each other. In this moment, we weren't Keyblade Master and Princess of Heart—rather, we were merely two teenagers flush with the curiosity and innocence of youth. Finally, we pulled away, hearts pounding and lips swollen.

By now, the movie was drawing to a close and everyone else in the room was practically going at it. Kairi and I just lay there, staring at each other as we caught our breath, both of us seeming surprisingly calm about what we had just done. I'm sure she had never expected to make out with me in a million years, and especially not tonight. I hadn't either, and it was a little overwhelming.

The credits rolled and before everyone else got up and started insisting on playing Truth or Dare, I cupped Kairi's cheek in my left hand and placed a long, slow kiss on her lips. She gasped into my mouth, apparently still riding the high from our previous actions, and arched up into my chest, kissing me back with languid desire. When we pulled away, she nuzzled her nose against mine, and I couldn't help but chuckle. I grinned, and was pleased to hear her giggle, a sound I hadn't heard from her in a while. She snuck a kiss onto my nose, and had us both giggling within seconds.

"What are you two laughing about?!" Selphie poked her head up over the edge of the mattress. Her hair was a complete disaster, and Tidus' was in no better condition. In fact, everyone looked worse for the wear—to the outsider, it would look as if we had all been in a bar fight. Clothes askew, make-up smeared, hair a mess. I couldn't believe that we had all equally used the movie as an excuse to get freaky.

"Oh. My. God." Riku's eyes were wide as saucers, his arms around Melanie, who looked somewhat sleepy (apparently, they had gone a lot farther than anyone else, which was definitely not a surprise, as Riku was somewhat of a horndog).

"What?!" Everyone turned to look at him, including Kairi and I.

"Did you guys make out?!" Riku whispered, obviously beside himself with shock.

I felt my cheeks turn redder than a radish and my mouth sewed itself shut. Kairi looked no better, and seemed even more embarrassed than I was. She hid herself behind me, a nervous titter escaping her lips.

"Oh my ever-loving God blessed Destiny Islands, you finally did it!" Riku cheered, which then caused everyone else to throw their hands and go apeshit. Kairi and I dissolved into laughter along with the rest of our friends. Leave it to Riku to throw light to every situation. He was our best friend, and he had been with us every step of the way since the day our journey began—he knew that Kairi and I were bound to kiss at some point, and maybe even get together. Who knew? All I knew was that I felt oddly satisfied and unsatisfied simultaneously, and I was glad that Riku had everyone cheering to take the attention off of us. Good ole Riku!

Unfortunately, the kiss that Kairi and I had shared had been genuine, but it had also been a tactic of distraction. Kairi had something she wanted to hide, and she had stopped at nothing to keep my mind off of my suspicions about her.

It wasn't until the following night that her plan for distraction failed, and I found out what she had been hiding from not just me, but everyone around us.

It all started when the next day, school had let out early due to a storm brewing out over the sea. The weatherman had stated that the storm would be closing in rapidly by two-o-clock, and that it was best for everyone to be inside their homes due to the threat of high winds. Everyone had poured out of their classrooms, elated at the chance to go home for an early weekend (it was Friday). Everyone save for me and Riku, who had a ton of homework. It was proving harder and harder for us to keep up with our other classmates, but perhaps this early weekend would give us the chance to make up some extra work.

"Man, I still can't believe you kissed Kairi last night," Riku said, shaking his head as he twisted open the lock on his locker. "Did you know that Donald, Goofy, and I had a bet going for when you'd do it? Ever since the Mark of Mastery exam."

I glared at him incredulously. Seriously? Man, I was going to kill Donald.

"Why are you betting on my love life?!" I grumbled, batting Riku's hand away when he tried to mess up my spiky hair. "And anyway, it's none of your business. You were a little busy yourself last night."

"I was, wasn't I?" Riku smirked, his aquamarine eyes twinkling. He threw his hair back and said, "Speaking of that, I have a date in the bedroom of the girl you're referencing."

I shook my head, thinking back to when we were kids and still building the raft. Back then, everything had been a competition between us. Back then, we had been in a silent struggle over the rights to Kairi's heart. But as time had gone on, it had become clear just who she had chosen—become clear as to who had made the greater sacrifice. I had a scar on my chest as a testament to that, and had fought a man who was a near carbon copy of me to boot. Even now, I could feel Roxas's heart stir within the depths of mine; proof that I had given my heart for Kairi once.

Then, the thought of Kairi, and her sparkling cerulean eyes and cherry red hair—the way her lips felt against mine—caused me to remember what I had been meaning to ask Riku since the night before.

"Have you noticed something odd about her, actually?" I asked curiously.

"Other than her boobs, no," Riku said, rifling through his binder for the homework he was bringing home that weekend. "Why?"

I rolled my eyes—leave it to Riku. "I'm not talking about that, I mean . . . In her attitude. She doesn't seem that, I don't know . . . Happy anymore."

"I'm sure you can fix that with your penis, Sora," he said absentmindedly, eyes skimming a History worksheet.

"Will you please stop kidding around?!" I suddenly snarled, slamming my hand flat against the locker next to his so loudly that the other students in the halls turned to look at us. I was pissed. Riku wasn't taking me seriously—as he had always done since we were kids. Kairi's well-being was not a laughing matter to me. I cared about her way too much to joke about her like she was just some girl on the street. I hadn't plunged the point of my Keyblade into my hear in Hollow Bastion for nothing, damn it!

Riku stared at me in shock, his face pale.

I growled, "Stop talking about her like that. Do you even pay attention to her as a friend anymore? Something's wrong with her, and I can't figure out what!"

Riku tucked a strand of his hair behind his ear and eyed me warily. "Okay, dude, sorry . . . I didn't mean to piss you off, or whatever. I'm just messing around."

"Yeah, well . . ." I leaned back against the locker, crossing my arms grumpily over my chest. I looked at the ground, my chin-length bangs falling into my eyes. "I think something's wrong with her. I want to help her, but I don't know how."

"Well, what makes you think she's in trouble?" Riku asked, tapping his fingers on the bottom of the inside of his locker. "Is she sick, or something?"

"No, not sick like that—not like a cold or the flu—but mentally. And not mentally ill. I mean . . . Well, what I mean to say is . . ." I sighed and rubbed the back of my neck. "It's the way she eats."

Riku deadpanned. "You're complaining to me that you think she's sick . . . Because she eats food?"

"No!" I protested, throwing my arms up into the air. "I mean . . . Yes! But . . . But not normally! She's . . . I don't know. I'm gonna try and talk to her about it."

Riku rolled his eyes. "Good fucking luck with that, man," he chuckled. "You really are a lazy bum. Anyway, I gotta go meet Melanie. I'll see ya later . . ."

I sighed. Great. I'd made a royal mess of that . . . Looked like I was just going to have to deal with this situation on my own. I was just going to have be careful how I went about it. Because if Kairi really was sick, then it was crucial that I didn't say the wrong thing. Saying the wrong thing could just make it worse for her.

My mind heavy with my dark thoughts, I left the school and headed home.

It was already starting to rain, a light drizzle dancing across my collarbones. I paid it no mind, so lost in thought about Kairi that muscle memory was the only thing keeping my feet on track in the direction of home. Bag slung lazily over my shoulder and azure eyes trained upon the sidewalk, I thought about everything that had happened recently—about the Mark of Mastery exam, Kairi showing up at Yen Sid's castle, the unexplained scars on Kairi's wrists, the strange eating habits that I had witnessed, catching her coming out of the bathroom with a red nose and tear-filled eyes, and finally the kiss we had shared. To put it frankly, I was overwhelmed. I had barely had time to rest after the War of 1,000 Heartless in Radiant Gardens followed by the final battle in the World That Never Was, and then King Mickey had sent me the letter that had summoned me to Yen Sid's castle. Where my hands had once been smooth and my smile bright, now my fingers were rough with calluses and my carefree spirit was diminished. All that talk of friendship and hearts and the Light over the years to all the people I had met had swirled into a twisted mess. To say that I had a little Darkness within me wasn't far beyond the truth, not to mention there was so much I still didn't know about just how many others' hearts actually resided within my own. Roxas was just one of many, apparently. And to top all of this off, the battle had yet to end. Riku, Kairi, and I were just sitting ducks, waiting patiently for another summons from the "Desk of King Mickey." Xehanort was still at large, his dark plot coming to fruition slowly yet surely, and with the reappearance of Axel—or "Lea"—and his ability to wield a Keyblade, I had suspicions that there might possibly be other Organization members hiding in the shadows.

And then there was this mess with Kairi. What in the Hell was going on with that girl? She had been instructed by Yen Sid that it was detrimental that she fight in this war, and had even been put through some basic training by Merlin in Traverse Town. Would she be able to handle it all? I had seen so much death, and I was barely holding it together. The Princess of Heart was strong, but Kairi was just a girl—barely seventeen, and obviously struggling with some sort of hidden demons that she had used her physical abilities to distract me from the discovery of. I wasn't stupid. Sure, there was a sort of "thing" between us, I guess you could say, so her kissing me wasn't out of place, but the timing was so off that I had no choice but to feel apprehensive. I found her attractive (a man would have to be blind, deaf, and mentally retarded not to see that), and I had risked my life trying to save her many times, but for some reason, her kiss just felt . . . Odd. I had enjoyed it, but it left me feeling guilty and betrayed. I knew she was only doing it to keep me from prying into her mind, and for some reason, it made me feel used. Like, I had stabbed myself in the heart with a sharp blade for her—she couldn't even trust me with her feelings? Had I done something to not deserve her trust? I remembered a time in the Castle That Never Was, where she had seen me battling some Heartless and I had attempted to morph into Wisdom Form. The amount of Darkness I had within me had rushed me and taken over, and instead, I had slipped into my Anti-Form, becoming a clawed, hissing, feral version of myself swathed in Darkness and shadows and tearing apart Heartless with bloodlust and voracious hunger. It had passed quickly, seeing as I had much more Light in my Heart than Darkness, but the damage had been done. She had looked at me in fear, but I was so fixated on getting us out of there that I don't think I fully realized it until later on. Could that instance have something to do with her misplaced trust?

I felt the rain come down harder, soaking my hair and I stopped in the middle of the walkway. A group of students that had been laughing and joking while they hurried home in the warm island downpour hurled a few curses at me, but I ignored them.

Could I have something to do with her . . . Hurting herself?

No. No way. My heart raced and I tried to calm myself down. I had always been a rather gun-ho, competitive type of guy, but that was mostly a mask. A mask hiding the vast amount of compassion I held for my friends, especially for Kairi. All I ever wanted to do was protect her and make sure she was safe. How could I do that if she was sad and self-destructive because of me? And what could I have done to cause it? Was it Anti-Form? Or was it something else? My palms were sweating, and I could feel my heart speeding up. I closed my eyes and worried some more. Just the mental image of Kairi intentionally hurting herself or her body because of me made me physically ill.

Ah, the secret I was hiding comes out. I had always been prone to random spurts of panic, but over the years, the anxiety had increased. It had started out as a small cloud and had turned into something worse—a disquieting tornado that swirled and coiled, tense and waiting to spring outward and eclipse me. The panic attacks hadn't started until just after our second return home. The pressure of school and feeling behind all the other students was enough to make my head swim, and sometimes I just felt like I wanted to sleep forever. I hadn't ever told anyone about my anxiety issues because I was afraid of what people would think of me. I was supposed to be a savior—the boy who had saved the multiverse and made sure his homeland was intact and safe. It wouldn't do for me to be viewed as a trembling mess sucking in air as I panicked and worried myself until I blacked out. Nobody could know—not the King, not Donald, Goofy, Riku, Kairi, anybody. I couldn't be weak where others needed me to be strong.

I resumed walking, playing a little counting game in my head. It was a little trick I found worked for myself when panic threatened to set in. When Kairi and I had first met, after she had first washed up on the beach like a lost doll, we had played for hours at each other's houses during the Winter. She had finally settled in with the woman the town had appointed as her guardian, and said woman had become fast friends with my own mother. We would be up in my room for hours, sitting at the windowsill and staring up at the grey afternoon sky, pretending that we could see "worlds" in the clouds. Each cloud held an entire civilization, and we would make up stories about its people and animals. The "counting game" part of it was seeing who could make up the most "worlds" by rating each cloud on a scale of 1 to 10 before creating the story of its civilization. Bigger clouds held bigger "worlds," and vice versa. So as my journey went on, whenever I felt panicky, I would simply look up at the sky and count clouds. Sometimes I'd even let my imagination wander, creating stories for the civilizations and pretending that Kairi was there to hear.

I kicked my shoes off when I walked in the front door of my house, my clothing soaked to the skin and my unruly spikes hanging limply about my face. I hollered a greeting to my parents, who were chattering amiably in the computer room about something work-related, and headed straight for the kitchen.

"Oh, hey, Sora," my mother said, poking her head into the room. "You got a phone call."

"From who?" I asked distractedly as I searched the refrigerator for an afternoon snack. I didn't want to talk on the phone. I wanted to grab some grub, rush upstairs to take a shower and put on some dry clothes, and then lounge about playing Xbox—the only normal teenage thing I'd gotten to do since my first journey off of Destiny Islands.

"Kairi's mom," she said in an inquisitive tone. "She said Kairi hasn't been home."

I grabbed the carton of milk and turned to give my mom a weird look. "So? The school just let out." I uncapped the milk and took a couple swigs, even though I knew my mother hated it when I did that.

"Sora, knock it off!" she scolded, hands on her hips. Her eyes blazed. "That's disgusting! Get a glass, or no milk! How many times do I have to tell you?"

I rolled my eyes and shoved the milk back into the fridge. I loved my mother, but I had done so many things these past few years that I kind of felt entitled to some things. Stupid things like disobeying my mom and drinking straight out of the milk jug. Or staying out past curfew. Or occasionally skipping class. I longed for normalcy, so my mother scolded, but there was love in her eyes. I knew she was just happy to have me home finally. When I had first come home, the reunion had been teary and sappy, and even my father had shed a tear.

My mother went on, "Anyway, what are you talking about? School let out an hour and a half ago—she lives right down the street. It should have taken her ten minutes to get home at the most. Where have you been, by the way? You should have been home a lot earlier, too."

"Nowhere, mom," I growled, suddenly worried about Kairi. "I was just thinking a lot while I was walking. But what else did Kai's mom say?"

My mother's eyes softened. "Don't worry, Sora," she said gently. "I'm sure Kairi's just fine—her mother just wanted to know if maybe she was over here? She said she's been coming her a lot actually."

"But she hasn't," I retorted.

"I know," my mother said. "That's why I was just a little concerned, and I thought I'd ask you if you'd seen her leave and go off with somebody else, or anything like that. Maybe to the Play Island, or to the mall . . ."

"I have to go," I said, hurrying out of the kitchen to go put on a change of clothes.

My mother caught my arm and our eyes locked. She was my mother—she knew how bad my anxiety was.

"Sora," she insisted. "Please don't get yourself worked up. I'm sure she's all right."

I looked away and exhaled loudly. "Yeah," I said quietly. "You're probably right." Then, I flashed her a quick smile. "Thanks, Mom."

She reached up to caress my cheek and smiled lovingly. "Of course, honey."

"Should I still go look for her?" I asked, even though we both knew I was going to do it anyway.

My mother folded her arms over her chest. "Well . . . I don't know. The news said this storm's going to be pretty bad. I don't really want you out in it, but then again, I wouldn't want Kairi out in it either." She worried her lower lip. "All right, go ahead. But promise me that if the weather gets too bad, you'll come home quickly. We can call her mother again then."

"Yeah, sure," I said, rushing up the stairs and into my room. I really was trying not to panic. What if Kairi was out on the Play Island? Or hurt somewhere? This storm was going to be pretty bad. She shouldn't be out there in the rain, let alone the high winds and lightning the Islands experienced.

I hurriedly changed into a pair of black skinny jeans, a maroon pullover hoodie with white drawstrings, and slipped a brown belt through the loops of my pants. I slipped on my black-and-white Vans, since they were dry, and pulled up my hood. As I bounded back down the stairs and toward the front door, my dad called out cheerfully after me.

"Don't forget your mom and I are going to my company dinner tonight at seven and won't be home till late! Make sure you're back before then, son!"

"Yep!" was all I said before I slammed the door and set off in search of the redheaded Princess of Heart. The rain was coming down in thick, warm sheets now, and the sky was almost dark. I could barely see, so I knew searching for Kairi was going to be difficult. I tried to call her cell phone, but she didn't pick up. I left a voicemail.

"Hey, Kai, where are you?" I asked, my free hand in my jeans' pocket and my head hunched against the fierce winds that had sprung up. "Call me back—don't get stuck out in this shitty weather."

I hung up and slipped it back into my back pocket and headed back toward the school. I was going to start out by looking in the nearest park, and then I was going to head to the nearby beach. Sometimes Kairi liked to sit in weird places, like the entrance of a playground slide or in the branches of a tree. I was never a good tree climber, believe it or not, so there were many games we played in our youth that ended when I chased her up a tree that I couldn't follow her into.

She wasn't in the park, and that only caused my anxiety levels to rise. My imagination went absolutely insane, imagining her in all sorts of crazy, compromising situations that were saturated in blood and torture. My rational self knew that was all ridiculous, though. She was probably fine—maybe she was out with Selphie? I resolved to check Selphie's house after this, regardless of if it was pouring. However, if I did find her in one of said compromising situations, I wasn't going to hesitate to use my Keyblade. I hadn't needed to draw it since returning to the Islands, but I would do it in a heartbeat if someone was hurting Kairi. Part of me worried that maybe someone else besides Lea or Axel or whatever he was calling himself was back, and they had taken her. What if they had? How would I be able to rescue her if I didn't know who it was that had captured her or where they were taking her? I hated feeling helpless, and if someone had taken her against her will, I would be beside myself.

Suddenly, my cell began to vibrate. I whipped it out and slide my finger across the touchscreen. I had a text—from Kairi!

Don't come find me.

Bewildered, I stopped on the sidewalk and quickly tapped out a reply.

Wtf? Where are you? Your mom called and she's freaking out.

Her reply was swift and cold. I don't care. Leave me alone.

I felt my heart skip a beat, remembering our kiss. Was it even genuine at all? Had I been totally and completely used?

Why are you being like this? Just tell me where you are.

Leave me the fuck alone, Sora.

My eyes widened. I was floored. Kairi had never spoken to me like that. I had half a mind to go home, but now I couldn't. She was obviously angry or upset for her to be acting like this, and I had to find her right away and see what was the matter. If I had done anything wrong, I needed to fix it immediately.

Are you on the Play Island? I asked her, determined to cross the choppy, angry ocean waters if I had to.

No. Just leave me ALONE.

Then you're on the beach.

I'm not, she replied.

Well, you're not in the park cuz I just checked there. And you aren't home. So you're at the beach in a fucking tree or some shit. I'm coming to get you.


I ignored her obvious rage at me, feeling slightly triumphant. She'd all but admitted to me that she was indeed at the beach. And she probably was in a damn tree. Seething, I headed for the beach. If I had to use Anti-Form to claw my way up that tree and drag her ass down, I was going to do it. She'd royally pissed me off—who was she to push me away? I knew I hadn't done anything wrong to her, and it was wrong of her to push me away as if I had. I was the closest person to her, and she knew it.

Still livid, I neared the beach and headed for the stairs that led down to the sand. I peered into the darkness and rain, looking for any trees that she was most likely hiding in. I didn't expect to find her on her knees at the base of one, though, with a blade poised over her wrist. Her hair was soaked through from the heavy rain and I could see that her forearm already had two wide, likely deep gashes in it.

"Kairi!" I cried, rushing to her side.

She shrieked in a mixture of surprise and pain, my sudden appearance having startled her into accidentally pressing the sharp edge of her knife into her wrist. Blood immediately welled up and started to travel down her porcelain flesh. Her eyes blazed as she glare up at me, clutching her arm to her chest.

"What are you doing here?!" she shouted angrily. "I told you to leave me alone!"

I drew back, my brow furrowing. I had never before heard Kairi scream at anybody like this—never seen this much emotion expressed upon her face. I looked down at the bloodstained blade that lay haphazardly in the sand and picked it up gingerly by the handle. I grimaced as I tossed it away from us, into the roiling sea. When I returned my attention to her, she was facing away from me, shoulders hunched.

I took a few steps toward her, cautiously so, and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"What . . . Are you doing to yourself?" I breathed.

The wind had started to pick up around us, lifting her hair and rustling through mine. She glared at me, and I saw that her blood was flowing even faster now.

"I told you to . . . I told you not to come find me . . ." She stammered.

"Are you kidding me?" I exclaimed, unable to tear my eyes away from her wounds. "I'll always come find you, no matter where you are. You know that. Now, can I please heal you?"

"Just stop!" Kairi shrieked, moving further away from me. "You don't understand anything!"

"Then help me to understand!" I cried in reply, reaching toward her. "Please, Kai, you're losing a lot of blood!"

She jumped away from me as if my hands were covered in flames and turned to leave, but fortunately for me, I had been in so many battles that I was quick and light on my feet. I caught up with her before she had run too far and grabbed her unhurt wrist. I noticed the boniness of it and how my fingers wrapped completely around it, overlapping, and I whirled her around to face me. Her cerulean eyes shone through the night, filled with anger and despair.

Before she could say anything, I threw my hand out to the side and summoned my Keyblade. Oblivion appeared in a flash of shimmering blue and white lights, leaving my arm tingling with tiny electric shocks. I cast a quick Cure spell on her arm, and together the two of us watched the flesh knit itself back together. I let Oblivion disappear, already missing the feeling of the cool metal in my hand—it had been what felt like years since I'd fought with the Keyblade.

I looked at her, then, keeping a tight hold on her arm.

"Kairi, you can't keep suffering alone," I said harshly. "I'm here, okay? I'm here."

"N-No . . ." She stammered. "That's not . . ." Her voice lowered to where I could barely hear her around the wailing winds. "Enough . . ."

"Kairi, why are you doing this?" I pleaded. "Why are you shutting me out?"

"I want to go home," she suddenly said, looking panicked. I knew that me finding her about to self harm was probably too much for her to handle—It was overwhelming. And let me tell you, it was a little overwhelming for me, too. I wasn't exactly well-versed in this kind of stuff. I knew three things well: Battle, the meaning of friendship, and piloting a gummi ship while sleeping (don't ask how I found out about this little talent). If there was one major thing I didn't know, though, was girls. The only girl I'd ever had on my mind was Kairi, and when I thought about her, I didn't imagine her looking as skinny as a rail, pale as a sheet, and scarred like a seasoned warrior. Worst thing about it all was that all of the negative aspects to her appearance seemed to be self-inflicted.

I trailed after her, watching her shiver, and wishing I had brought an extra jacket for her. We walked across the parking lot and toward the high school, the silence between us charged with unspoken words. What had just happened on the beach almost seemed like a dream. All of the "what if's" were bouncing around in my head, causing me to feel panicky again. Just thinking of what would have happened if I hadn't gone looking for her—of what she could have done to herself . . . Had she been trying to . . . ?

I shook my head, not wanting to think of it. If she'd managed to do it, then I would have probably lost my mind. The thought of her feeling sad enough to see no other way out of whatever she was going through made my heart ache. I hadn't been paying enough attention to her. I . . . I hadn't been there for her like I should have. Always off gallivanting about the multiverse, throwing myself into harm's way . . . How could I protect her if I was never there to keep her from causing herself harm? How could I be so stupid? So oblivious? So selfish?

Before I realized it, I had become so lost in my anger that I hadn't noticed Kairi starting to meander off the sidewalk and into the road. I barely snapped to reality and dragged her back onto the sidewalk in time to avoid a speeding car. I was so irritated and on edge that I snapped at her, gripping her upper arm tight enough to bruise.

"Pay more attention, Kairi!" I yelled angrily. "What the fuck were you thinking?!"

Still hugging herself, she hunched her shoulders and lowered her head in submission.

"I-I'm sorry," she said. "I won't do it again."

Instantly, I checked my temper and let her go. "No . . . I'm the one who's sorry. I should have . . . I should have protected you better . . ."

"You weren't here, Sora," she muttered absently. "There's no way you could have known that I was sad."

"That's the problem!" I said, shoving my hands into my wet pockets and irately kicking a random pebble away from me. "I wasn't there. There's entirely too much of that lately."

"Too much of what?" Her eyes were wide, but still sad.

"Me not being there for you." I looked at her with sincere worry blazing in my cobalt blue irises. "I'm not trying hard enough, and something's wrong with you. Kai, you're not eat—"

She immediatelycut me off. "Take me to your house, Sora!" she cried fervently, grabbing my hand and staring up at me almost manically. "Please! I . . . I don't want to go home and be alone."

I narrowed my eyes. I had thought so much about the night we had shared our kiss that I now knew exactly what she was doing. I had been about to voice her secret aloud, and she was trying to distract me from doing so. Just looking into her eyes told me all that I needed to know. That my suspicions were correct. That she really was hurting herself. That perhaps the girl was suffering more than she let on.

"Okay," I said slowly, knowing that my house was empty by now, and that it would be the best place to sit down and talk. "We'll go to my house . . . My parents aren't home anyway."

The walk to my house was heavily silent, and we walked about a foot away from one another. Something told me that she didn't want to be touched, even though my compassionate nature was yearning to hold her. We took off our shoes at the door to my house, but I instructed her to bring hers up to my room so that if my parents came home, they didn't know I had her over. My father was adamant that I never have Kairi home when they weren't there. I hadn't understood why, but ever since the kiss the night before, I was beginning to know exactly why he'd set that rule in place. Not that I would ever have followed it anyway, though.

Once we were in my room, I shut the door and leaned back against it, watching as Kairi flicked on the light and moved to sit on the edge of my bed. We stared at each other without saying a word, each with something different on our faces. I was about to start demanding some answers when all-of-a-sudden, Kairi crumpled in on herself. She leaned forward, buried her face in her hands, and began to weep unashamedly. Flustered, I jogged over and sat next to her on the bed. I hesitated before placing a hand on her upper back and rubbing it in soothing circles.

"Talk to me, Kai," I urged softly, somewhat revolted by how easily I could feel her spine through her soaked shirt.

She continued to choke out gut-wrenching, bone-wracking sobs that reverberated in the pits of my soul and succeeded in making me feel awfully sad. I watched her cry for a few minutes before she finally stopped for a moment and combed her fingers backward through her long, wet hair. It had darkened in color and now looked more black than red. Her face was splotchy and her eyes puffy.

"Can I borrow some clothes?" she asked meekly, voice thick.

"S-Sure," I said, standing up and going to my closet. I grabbed her a pair of my grey sweatpants and a big black tee shirt. I handed them to her and turned to face the door while she changed. Curiosity got the best of me, though, and I had to chance a glance behind me.

Kairi was standing there in naught but her uniform skirt, having just peeled her damp top off. Her bra was much too big for her, and her ribcage jutted out like the cliffs by the sea. My eyes traveled down her torso, viewing her concave stomach and ridged chest bone. The collarbones that sang a song of loneliness and internal struggle. This was bad. This was much worse than I had initially thought.

She caught me staring and shrieked, grabbing the shirt I had given her and holding it up to cover herself. She was crying again, panicking.

"Please don't look at me!" she wailed. "Don't look at me!"

I hurriedly turned back around, my eyes searching the floor as if some sort of solution to this problem would magically spring up like we were in Wonderland, trying to find a potion to make us shorter.

"I'm sorry," I said genuinely, my voice slightly strangled. I knew I had been right about my suspicions, but it didn't make me happier by any stretch of the imagination.

I heard my mattress and blankets rustle, and I turned to see her climbing under my covers and resting her head on my pillow. I frowned in disapproval. Did she really think we were just going to sleep after everything that had happened? We had some serious talking to do! I wasn't like the stoic and creepy Riku who ignored everyone's emotions. I was the goofy, lovable Sora who cared more about others than myself. And I wanted Kairi to be okay more than anything.

"Sit up," I snapped, crossing my arms over my chest and fixing her with a stern, scrutinizing glare. She did as she was told, though I felt a little sick to the stomach about it. I had a feeling that Kairi would do anything I asked her to do, innuendo intended, and that was not a good thing.

"What the Hell is going on with you?" I asked, not really knowing where to begin with her. I may have been lovable and goofy and compassionate, but I was no expert in girls.

"Nothing . . ." She looked down, hair covering her face. "I'm fine."

"Fine?" My eyebrows shot up. "Are you fucking kidding me? Kairi, I'm not an idiot! You're obviously not fine."

"I am, though!" she protested, still not looking me in the eyes. "I'm okay."

"You weren't okay at the beach, when you were cutting the shit out of your arm, were you?" I snarled, unable to contain my irritation. Kairi's eyes finally snapped to mine, and I could see that I hadn't helped her at all. I immediately felt guilty.

"It's not like I asked for that to happen!" Kairi cried, tears already filling her pretty eyes. "I just wanted to have some sort of control! I was so scared, but I . . . I'm just not strong enough to handle it anymore. I'm never strong enough for anything!" She fisted her hands in the blanket and I could see her eyeballs dancing about in her head as if she weren't seeing anything. "I'm just a weak, pathetic excuse for a human being and I can't do anything. I can't fight or help you and Riku, and I'm not good enough to learn. I'm worthless!"

I gazed at her. Shocked at the words I was hearing come out of her mouth. They sounded distant and hate-filled—as if Kairi didn't quite believe that she was in my room. As if they were words she spoke to herself so often that they transported her to a dark, awful place where nobody could touch her; nobody could help her.

It scared me.

"Those things aren't true, Kairi," I insisted. "Don't say that kind of shit about yourself. You aren't too weak to fight—why else would Yen Sid have Riku bring you to his castle for those training lessons?"

She snapped back, "But it's not like it matters, Sora! I'll always be a burden to you guys—never as strong. You'll always have to worry about where I'm at and if I'm okay. I'm a nuisance, and I'll only get in the way."

I took a slow step toward the bed. "Do you really believe all this?" I asked incredulously. "Honestly?"

She looked absolutely miserable and sorrowful. "Yes. I've believed it since you left. I'm worthless . . . Maybe if I wasn't such a waste of space, then you . . . Then you . . ."

I sat down on the edge of the bed. "Then I what?"

She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them. ". . . Then maybe you wouldn't have left."

I chose my next words carefully. "Kai, the reason why I left was not because you're a waste of space. I left because I wanted to . . . To protect the space you occupy. If that makes sense." Then, I added, "And because you're precious to me. I want you to fight with us, even if I have to protect you, because that's what I'll be doing until the day I die anyway."

Her cerulean eyes searched mine and she said nothing, so I took it as an invitation to continue.

I took a deep breath and steeled myself. "And you have to eat, Kairi."

She looked away. "Wh-What makes you think I don't eat? That's ridiculous, Sora. That's—"

"Don't try to deflect this, Kairi," I said accusingly. "I know you've been trying to . . . Distract me from it. But I'm not an idiot. And I don't know why you're doing it, but I don't like how skinny you look."

A muscle in her jaw was twitching, and I knew she was grinding her teeth. "You don't know what you're talking about, Sora. I eat all the time."

"How much do you weigh?" I demanded. "Come on, tell me. How much do you weigh?"

She threw the covers aside and tried to get off the bed, claiming that she "didn't have to listen to this." I grabbed her and wouldn't let her leave, though, forcing her to stay sitting down. She looked like a trapped animal.

"Kairi, when I ask you a question, you answer me," I growled, even though I knew I could be handling this whole thing better by speaking with my head rather than my volatile, emotional heart. "I did not plunge the Keyblade into my chest and lose my heart for you just to have you slowly kill yourself. How much do you fucking weigh?"

She looked thoroughly chastised and said dejectedly, "N-Ninetey-four pounds . . . But I'll gain weight! I promise, Sora! Just please don't tell anybody . . . And please don't be mad at me!"

"Ninety-four pounds?!" I jammed my hands into my hair, flabbergasted. "Christ, Kai, that's nothing! How could you think that you needed to lose weight in the first place?!"

"B-Because I'm fat," she spluttered, as if it were the most logical response in the world.

I shook my head. "That's it. We're going downstairs right now and eating something. You are not fat, and you've never been fat. This—this—is fucking ridiculous. Come on."

I grabbed her hand and yanked her out of my bedroom and into the hallway. She pulled against my hold, pleading with me, but I ignored her. I was being a stubborn male, I knew it, but I just couldn't believe what I was hearing. All the negative things she was thinking. How could she be feeling all of that, and me not know? And how could I fix it?

Part of me didn't want to admit that most of this was my fault, either. Maybe if I had paid more attention to her and her feelings, rather than my selfish need to keep her safe, she wouldn't weigh ninety-four fucking pounds and have been moments away from suicide. God, I was such an idiot. If anybody was worthless, it was me for being an awful friend.

"Eat this," I ordered her, holding out an apple from the fruit bowl toward her.

She shook her head wildly, eyes filled with terror.

"Eat it," I pleaded. "Kairi, please."

"No!" she cried, trying to wrench her hand out of my grasp. I held tighter, feeling my heartbeat quicken. It was just an apple. An apple. How could all of this have been going on right under my nose without me knowing? How could I have let this happen? How could I have watched her do this to herself without knowing?

"Just . . . Just do it!" I shouted, growing impatient and besieged by my own self-loathing. "Eat the fucking apple!"

"NO!" she screamed at me, tears spilling out of her eyes. "I WON'T!"

I tossed the apple across the room, so angry at her that I was seeing red. It crashed into my mother's China cabinet, and a plate splintered into pieces on the hardwood floor. I grabbed Kairi by the shoulders and shook her, practically hearing her bones rattle.

"What's wrong with you?!" I yelled into her face, barely registering what the Hell I was doing and how fucked up it was.

"Sora, stop!" Kairi sobbed. "Just leave me alone!"

I shoved her away from me so hard that her lower back slammed into the edge of the counter. She gasped in agony, clutching her back and sinking to the floor on her knees as she wept. I pushed past her and went into the living room, beginning to pace back and forth across the room. My anxiety was at an all-time high.

How could she do this to me? I cared about her so much and had done so much for her, and this was how she repaid me? By starving herself and attempting to ensure her death? If she killed herself, then what was the point of all my journeys across the multiverse? I turned, rage boiling over, and slammed my fists into the wall so hard that I broke through the paint and plaster, opening up a gaping hole. I stared at it, finding that it mimicked the void I felt in my heart. I felt anguish for every night that Kairi had starved herself, knowing that I had had a hand to play in her demise. I placed my hands against the wall and hung my head in shame.

What was wrong with me? My best friend was sick. She was sick, and she was lonely and hurt, and I had just flipped out on her and probably terrified her out of her mind. I had screamed at her and even hurt her. How could I have let myself become so blinded by my own self? How could I have . . . Have pushed her? The look of fear in her eyes . . . It was me who had caused that fear.

I stood there for a long time, unaware that I was crying until I felt the tears dripping off my nose and face. I touched them and looked at my glistening fingers, surprised. I hadn't cried since I was a kid. This was a sobering moment. I knew that I had done Kairi wrong and tackled the whole situation in entirely the incorrect way. I . . . I had to go apologize.

"Kairi?" I called out, entering the kitchen and finding a strange sight.

Kairi was nowhere to be found, but the kitchen looked like a tornado had been through it. There were food scraps everywhere. Empty packages and boxes . . . The refrigerator door was wide open, looking as if the food within it had been ransacked and empty . . . Tupperware had been tossed back in haphazardly . . . I ran my hands through my hair, astounded at the mess. What had happened here?! I quickly cleaned up the mess so that my parents didn't come home to it, and then left the room.

"Kairi?!" I called again, heading for the stairs.

I saw the light on in the bathroom and hurried up to it. I put my hand on the doorknob, hesitated for the breadth of a heartbeat, and then burst into the bathroom. I immediately halted in my tracks, my face contorting in horror.

The unbearably, impossibly skinny Kairi was standing over the toilet, one hand holding her long hair back and the other with its fingers jammed so far down her throat that it was sickening. I had walked in just as she retched, and watched a stream of chewed-up food spewing out of her mouth and landing in the toilet with a loud, disgusting plop. It was beyond my worst nightmare, and not something I ever in a million years would have thought I'd see Kairi do.

She stared at me, her face wet from crying and vomiting, and her hand covered in muck.

"You can't do this," I stammered out, my body shaking as I walked over to her and dragged her to the sink to wash her face and hand. "No more, Kairi. No more. You can't do this any-fucking-more."

"I'm sorry," she kept sobbing. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

She was crying and shaking so hard that I practically had to hold her up. She was also swaying a little bit, but I knew it was most likely from her eating so much and then vomiting it out. Now I knew what had attacked the kitchen cupboards . . . I had no idea what to do. This was a problem my Keyblade couldn't help me with, and my experience out in the multiverse was nothing compared to this.

Kairi kept apologizing, even as I led her back into my bedroom and shut the door behind us. She collapsed onto my bed and tried to curl in on herself, but I wouldn't let her. I forced her to look at me, holding her chin in one hand.

"Why are you doing this to yourself?!" I cried. "Stop doing this, okay?! Please!"

"I'm so sorry, Sora," she apologized. "Please don't hate me . . . Please don't hate me. I can't be alone . . . I'm so scared to be alone . . ."

Her words cut through me like sharp scythes, and I did the first thing I could think of. I threw my arms around her, one hand cupping the back of her head, and pressed her close to me. I rocked her slightly as her sobs worsened. She was so tiny and demure, and barely weighed enough to cause me any strain as I pulled her onto my lap and cradled her like a small child. I had been through so much for her, unaware of the things she was going through. I just wanted to hold her and protect her from all the bad things that had happened to her, whether she had caused them to herself or not. I let her cry in my arms for what seemed like hours, her tears soaking the front of my shirt. We hadn't bothered to turn on the light this time, so it was dark and I couldn't see her face. Outside, the storm was in full effect. The wind blew hard against the house, and the branches of the trees rustled anxiously, as if waiting to see how this night turned out.

Eventually, Kairi calmed down enough to allow me to lie down with her. Moonlight spilled in through the window behind my bed, illuminating our stretched out bodies. I caught Kairi's wrist in my hand and stared down at the scars. I traced them with my other finger, not even bothering to ask her about them. I didn't think my heart could take any more of this. It was as if I had stumbled upon a vast coulee of Darkness, and it was me who had widened the chasm.

"I'm sorry, Sora," Kairi whispered. "I didn't mean for it to get this bad. I . . ."

"Stop apologizing," I said, still touching her ridged forearm scars. "I'm the one who should be saying sorry. I . . . I shouldn't have tried to force you to eat. I shouldn't have shoved you like that. Did you . . . Were you throwing up because of me?" My voice was small, so small and wounded.

"I . . . I thought you hated me, and that was why you pushed me down," she whimpered, pulling her hand out of my own. "When my emotions get out of hand, I . . . I binge and purge. If I can't handle things, I do it to make myself feel empty. Because then I can't feel anything, and I can pretend for a second that I'm myself again."

I closed my eyes. "Kairi," I whispered brokenly. "Why didn't you tell someone? Why didn't you talk to me? I could have helped you . . . Or at least, I could have done better."

"Sora, this isn't your fault," Kairi insisted, rising up on her elbow so that she could look down at me. "It's just how I cope."

"Yeah, because of me leaving you behind," I retorted, lifting my hands to comb my fingers through my spiky hair in exasperation. "No matter how you look at it, I play a major part in why you feel this way."

"But it's not your fault that I starve and purge," she protested, sitting up so that all I could see was her back and her hair cascading down it. It shone ethereally in the moonlight, quivering slightly as her body began to shake again. "It's my own way of coping, and it's my choice. I wouldn't have to do it if I wasn't so disgustingly worthless. If I don't fix what's wrong with me, you won't . . . You . . ."

I could hear the tears in her voice again, and I placed a hand on her back. My eyes traveled to her lower back and I lifted the shirt I had lent her. I felt ill at the sight of the ugly, purpling bruise that had already begun to appear there. I had done that. Not some awful Organization member, or a vicious Heartless. Me. Her supposed protector. How could I undo my mistakes if they ran so much deeper than a purpling bruise?

I sat up, my fingers still tickling her lower back. I could see that tears were once again coursing down her face, and it killed me inside. I had been so blind all these years. Maybe if I had told her she was beautiful just once—just once—I could have prevented her sickness in some way. Because I did think she was beautiful and I always had. Why hadn't I just said it?

"Kairi . . ." I whispered, pushing her long hair aside and uncharacteristically placing a kiss to the crook between the base of her neck and her shoulder. I felt her shudder and I continued, "There is nothing wrong with you."

"Yes, there is," she insisted, her voice sounding breathy as I kissed her on the neck. I honestly didn't really know what I was doing—it was kind of just happening. Maybe part of me wanted to make up for all the times I could have told her how beautiful she was, and how there was nothing wrong with her. Maybe part of me wanted to make up for me leaving. Or maybe I was just through talking. I didn't know anything beyond my desire to touch her and be close to her, and show her what words could not express.

"No," I said as my kisses moved upward. I tucked her hair behind her ear and kissed her earlobe, hearing her let out a tiny gasp. "There's nothing. Absolutely nothing."

"Th-Then how come . . . Wh-When I look in the m-mirror, I . . ." She trailed off, her head lolling to the side when my kisses to the side of her throat grew heavier and more passionate. I was determined to prove to her that I didn't think she was repulsive or fat or revolting or worthless or any negative, horrible words like that. I was just a lazy bum who had never gotten around to admitting my true feelings until it was almost too late.

"Sora, what are you . . . ?" She turned to look at me, and I caught her lips in a kiss that was filled with too much emotion to be anything less than a message of declaration. Before she could think to pull away, I cupped her head with my hand and deepened the kiss with a tilt of my head, engaging her tongue in a battle of dominance until she submitted. She sighed into my mouth, and it sent my mind whirling—this was beyond what my brain could register. I was a lustful teenage boy, yes, but the history I had with Kairi was much deeper than the simplicity of most high school relationships. We had been through what felt like a lifetime in mere years, and this kiss was a long time coming.

I pulled away, our noses brushing, and looked into her eyes almost pleadingly.

"You're the most beautiful girl in the entire multiverse, Kairi," I whispered huskily, my hands stroking through her hair affectionately. "I would plunge my heart into the Darkness for you a thousand times if it would get you to see it. All right?"

I saw tears fill her eyes again, and was surprised when she rolled on top of me and straddled my hips, our faces remaining within centimeters of one another. My heart was racing wildly in my chest, and I was in slight disbelief of the words that had just come out of my mouth. There was a slight smile playing about her lips, but she didn't respond to me. She merely kissed me with an endless amount of desire that seemed to electrify the very blood within my veins and floor me. I was sitting up with my back against the headboard, so I grabbed her hips and, following my instincts, sort of pulled her downward against me so that I felt a shock of pleasure jolt me. I groaned in the midst of our heavy, burning kissing, and Kairi broke away to stare at me.

"Sorry," I murmured in embarrassment, blushing. "I got . . . I got a little carried away. I'm not exactly an expert at this."

"It's okay," she said, her fingers entwining in the soft locks of my hair. I thought she was going to lean in and kiss me again, but instead she planted her lips on my cheek, trailing down to my neck. The feeling of her soft lips on my sensitive flesh caused my eyes to roll up into my head, and I sighed contentedly.

Just then, there was a loud knock at my door, causing my entire body to go rigid and my heart to skip a beat.

"Sora?" my mother's voice called. "Are you home?"

Kairi continued to remain attentive to my neck, nibbling and suckling in a mischievous way.

"Y-Yeah," my voice wobbled out. I bit my bottom lip as my breaths came out raggedly. Kairi seemed to know what she was doing, and for a brief moment, I wondered just how experienced she was.

"Are you in bed?"

"U-Um, yes," I stuttered, digging my fingers into Kairi's hips as she curved her tongue around my earlobe. It was almost too much, and I could feel all the blood in my body rushing downward, to one place. What the Hell was she doing? My mother could walk in at any moment, and yet she continued her ministrations.

I wasn't going to stop her.

"Well, did you find Kairi?" My mother sounded annoyed.

"Yep," I squeaked out as Kairi's tongue hit the spot just below my ear. It felt so good that my mind was spinning. My hips twitched upward, pressing against Kairi's lower body, and I groaned low in my chest.

"Did you take her home?"

"Uh-huh . . ." I said, and then moaned lowly, "Shit." Kairi was kissing my neck again, her breath cool against my heated skin, and my entire body was on fire. I had never before felt like this, and almost didn't know what to think of the feelings she was awakening in my body. I was astonished at the turn things had taken, terrified that my mother might walk in, and completely overwhelmed at what Kairi was doing to me.

"Well, why did her mother call two more times?!" she demanded. "She left voicemails saying that she hadn't heard from you!"

Kairi kissed me on the lips again, and this time it was way different. I had to open my eyes for a second because I was so intensely attracted to her right now. My limbs felt like jelly. I kissed her for a moment, before finally answering my mother's incessant nagging.

"I don't fucking know, mom, I'm trying to sleep!" Kairi suddenly surprised me by running her tongue upward along the side of my neck while simultaneously grinding her hips against mine. I accidentally exclaimed, "Fuck!"

"Sora!" my mother cried angrily. "Watch your language with me! Do I need to get your father?!"

"N-No, mom!" I gasped again when Kairi repeated her hip movement, and I seriously began to hate the fact that I was wearing jeans. What the Hell was she trying to do? "No. Kairi's fine. I just . . . Want to . . . Sleep . . ."

My mother sighed. "Fine. Fine! Good night."

"N-Night . . ."

As soon as her footfalls receded, I rolled Kairi off of me, gasping for air as if I had just been underwater. I stared at her with wide, shock-filled eyes. She looked back at me innocently.

"What the Hell was that?" I demanded.

"Sorry," she drawled. "I got a little carried away."

It took me a second to realize that she was mimicking me in much the same way as the old carefree and happy Kairi would have done, and I couldn't help but become swept up in a wave of happiness. She obviously wasn't going to be better overnight, but perhaps I had gotten her to believe that I had meant what I said? Perhaps things were at least looking up?

"You . . . !" I laughed and grabbed her, pulling her close to me in an embrace. My heart was still racing, my body aroused, but I tried my best to ignore it as I tickled her sides. She laughed, and it was like music to my ears. I hadn't realized that I hadn't heard her laugh in so long that it was no wonder I'd forgotten what it sounded like. I'd forgotten what she was like when she was happy.

After things had settled down, we both lie down next to each other again.

"We still have a lot to talk about, you know," I told her, caressing the back of her hand languidly with my thumb. Her hands were so cold and dry . . . A likely side effect of her eating habits.

". . . I know," she whispered.

"So . . . When did this start?" I asked. "Was it when I left?"

"No," she murmured in reply. There was a long silence, during which I continued to massage her hand and along her incredibly thin forearm. I didn't know why I was doing it, but she just felt so . . . Off. When I thought of Kairi's skin, I imagined it would be creamy and soft as satin. Since she was sick, it was the complete opposite, and it was making me feel miserable.

"Was it while I was under Namine's spell?"

"No, Sora," she sighed. "It was . . . It started after you . . . When you brought my heart back from the Darkness."

I stopped touching her flesh, my heartbeat quickening. That meant that this had been happening for years. A little of two years, to be exact.

"Wh-Why?" I stammered.

"I realized that I wasn't strong enough to save myself, and so I just . . . Gave up. And then it only got worse as time went on and more things happened. And then when Axel kidnapped me and brought me to the Castle That Never Was . . . I had to face it even more."

"Face what?"

"That I'm useless." She sat up, pulling her knees to her chest and hugging them. Long sections of her hair fell to her lower back, and I stared at the way it shined. Her back was hunched slightly, giving me an unobstructed view of her spine. It was sharp, straining against her skin as if it wanted to escape. The more I gazed at her, the more I realize just how sick she was.

"You're not useless," I insisted.

"Then why was I left behind, Sora?" she demanded, not turning to look at me. "Why am I always the 'damsel-in-distress' that gets kidnapped and held for ransom? I don't want to be that girl. I want to be fighting alongside you."

"But Kairi, that's just . . . That's just how it all worked out, I guess. The more Light you have in your heart, the more the Darkness is attracted to it. You're the Princess of Heart—you have the most Light out of anyone. You didn't get left behind—you were thrust into the center of the danger. That's why I had to find you and rescue you," I said softly, trying my best to explain to her my thoughts.

"But that's the problem!" she said, her voice raising a bit. "You always have to rescue me. I want to be able to get myself out of bad situations. I want to be able to fight."

"Well, that's all well and good, but . . . Why would your wanting to fight and be able to take care of yourself translate into you not eating and hurting your body?"

"Because, Sora," she whirled on me, her eyes blazing. "That's the part you don't understand. You could never understand how much I hate myself. Never."

Her words struck a chord within me, and I had to sit up in order to fight back tears. She hated herself? That was a strong word. I don't even think I hated the members of the Organization. To hate oneself had to be a burden heavier than any other. And Kairi was my best friend. Maybe even more. To hear that she hated herself filled me with despair. I just wanted her to be happy. I just wanted her to be healthy. I just wanted her to be Kairi. My Kairi.

"Why do you . . ." I choked out, my eyes stinging. "Why do you hate yourself?"

She slunk back into the corner of the bed, far from me, and huddled in on herself.

"Because," was all she said.

"That's not a real reason, Kai."

"There's too many reasons to list," she said coldly. "Not that you'd understand if I listed them."

"Kairi, I'm trying to understand," I whined, feeling somewhat desperate. "Why else do you think I'm sitting here, trying to talk to you about it?"

"It doesn't matter, Sora. Even if I told you everything, it wouldn't fix anything. I'd still be ages behind you and Riku in my fighting skills, I'd still be a target of the Darkness, and I'd still be a waste of space."

I felt like we were going in circles. "But . . . How are you a waste of space? Life itself isn't meaningless. Even if we never had the powers that we do, even if we couldn't wield the Keyblade, we would still have life. That in itself validates our rights to a space on this world. On any world for that matter."

She stared at me for a second before looking away again, resting her head against the wall. "It doesn't validate it for me."

I clenched my fists in my lap. "Kairi, stop saying that kind of stuff. Do you truly believe that? That . . . That can't really be what you think."

"But it is. I've been telling myself that I'm worthless for years—for two years. Watching you fall into Darkness and bringing you back only showed me that—"

"So you bringing me back from the Darkness makes you useless?" I said through gritted teeth, my cobalt blue eyes narrowing. "It was a useless move to give me my life back?"

"No, Sora," she frowned. "That's not what I—"

"And I suppose you think that the fact that your very presence in my life is what's fueled me to fight the way I do is useless, too?" I got to my feet and walked over to the windowsill. I placed my hands on it and hung my head. "Kairi, I fight because I know that it will make you safe. I want you to be safe and happy and live your life. I fight so you can have the chance to live a full life."

"But what use is that life if I don't want it?" she cried.

I whirled on her, my expression one of shock. She had tears on her face again, and she was standing next to my bed, fists curled.

"I don't want to live anymore, Sora!" she wailed. "I can't handle any of this, and I don't want . . . I don't want it! I don't deserve it! I just want to die. I want to . . ." She trailed off, completely overcome. I watched her collapse on the ground with her face in her hands, rocking back and forth in her misery.

I, too, felt myself become overwhelmed with anguish. How could she be saying this? I fell to my knees beside her and pulled her trembling form, light as a feather, against my chest. I stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. She continued to weep, trying to pull away from me, but I only held on tighter. I wasn't going to let her go back to the Darkness—I wasn't going to let it win the rights to her heart.

"I don't want you to die," I whispered in a voice laced with emotion. "Please don't die, Kai . . ." And then the next words that slipped out of my mouth were odd, yet made perfect sense. As if I had said them before, in another lifetime, to a girl I thought I loved.

"Who will I have ice cream with?"

I felt a chill go over my body, and almost thought I felt Roxas stir within my heart. Kairi looked up at me, confusion in her teary eyes.

"Wh-What?" she said, her voice muffled. "What are you talking about?"

I cupped her face in my hands, and she reached up to hold onto my wrists. I wiped away her tears with my thumbs and kissed her tenderly, as if my lips could siphon all of the unhappiness in her tiny body. She kissed me back, adding an equal amount of pressure and ardor. We broke apart, our lips merely inches apart, and I spoke again.

"If you die, I won't have a reason to fight anymore," I whispered, caressing her face. "I promise you right now that if you leave me, I will follow you into the Darkness."

She gasped, her pretty eyes going wide as the weight of my oath settled into her ears.

"Sora!" she breathed. "You can't mean . . . ?"

I took her hand in mine and turned it so that we were both looking at the scars on her wrist—new and old. I kissed one of the scars gently, my eyelids falling shut against more tears that threatened to spill. She was so precious, so breakable. How else could I show her that she wasn't useless, but to tell her that we died together, or not at all?

"S-Sora," she said, starting to cry again. "I'm s-so . . . I'm so sorry!"

I tugged sharply on her arm so that she fell against me, our lips crushing together. We kissed with desperation and desire, mingled into one sweet and tortuous storm much like the one that raged outside. It was like we were trying to climb into one another, to be enveloped by each other's Light with no regrets and no fear. She could hide from her pain, and I could take it on. We could be one, and she could be safe. I tasted her yearning for happiness and freedom from her depression on her tongue, and it only made me crave more of her. The more I drank, the safer she would be.

Kairi straddled me and I scraped my hands down her back, letting them come to rest upon her thighs. I felt her hands in my hair, causing me to shudder as she murmured my name against my lips. This was all moving so fast, and yet, I was too scared to stop. Too terrified of what would happen if we did stop. Would she be okay? Would the Darkness come for her entirely? Would she . . . Die?

Okay, that was just silly. Kairi wasn't going to die if we stopped making out. But my mind was completely inside out right now. All of the things that had happened today had made me see that things were not always as they seemed, and even the brightest of Lights could be dimmed by the Darkness.

"K-Kairi," I managed to gasp between kisses, arching my back up into her chest as she began to kiss my ear and then my lips again. "Let's . . . Go to the bed. Not on the floor, okay?"

"Mm," she whimpered, hugging me tightly around the neck as if she didn't want to let me go.

I grabbed her around the waist and lifted her up, still appalled at how weightless she was. I felt as if this were my fault. How could I have allowed it get so bad? How could I have been so focused on the wrong things? I laid her down on the bed, tried not to think too hard about what we were doing, and rolled on top of her. I placed my hands on either side of her on the mattress and held myself up so I could gaze down at her. Her hair spilled out along the pillowcase, and her eyes were as clear a cerulean blue as I'd ever seen them.

"Sora, I . . . I'll really try, okay?" she whispered. "I'll really try my hardest to make you happy."

"No," I told her, shaking my head. My bangs fell into my eyes, but I ignored it. My hair was getting too long . . . "Don't do it for me. Do it for you."

"But I don't want to do it for me," she protested, her arms stretched up by her head on the pillow. "Me isn't good enough."

"You is good enough," I said.

We both stared at each other for a second before bursting out laughing.

"I mean you are good enough. Are," I corrected my grammar, still chuckling.

She laughed again, her dazzlingly white smile becoming slightly infectious. She bit her finger, eyes twinkling as she looked at me.

"You're still the same goofy Sora," she said quietly. "Don't ever change."

"I told you once, and I'll tell you again: I won't." With that, I leaned down to capture her lips again. Something about this kiss was vastly different from our previous ones, though. It felt as if every single nerve in my body was tingling, and my stomach was flopping about in an almost nervous manner. But believe it or not, I wasn't nervous at all. All I wanted was to keep kissing Kairi, to feel her lying against me like she was right now.

Kairi's slid her hands into my hair, pulling me closer. A small moan escaped her lips, and it threatened to undo me at the seams. The heat that emanated off of our bodies mingled, causing it to feel as if it were one hundred and fifty degrees in my bedroom. I moved my kisses to her neck and across her collarbones, relishing in the gasping noises she was making. Her nails dug into my shoulders and I felt her hips roll forward, digging into mine. I growled and slipped my hands around her waist, rolling us over so that she was on top of me, her hair tickling my face as she smiled down at me.

"What would Riku think if he knew we were making out right now?" she giggled.

I raised my eyebrows in mock-shock. "Lying in a bed with me in the dark, and all you can think about is another guy?"

"No, that's not—"

"Too late!" I pretended to cry. "Waaah, the Keyblade Master is so hurt."

"Tch-!" She sat up on my hips and folded her arms across her chest. "I could just not kiss you at all, Sora. How would you like that, lazy bum?"

I surprised her by suddenly sitting up as well. She yelped as I grabbed the front of the shirt I'd lent her and pulled her face close to mine. I smirked, my eyes flashing.

"Funny, because you don't get a choice," I murmured huskily before kissing her again. She moaned low in the back of her throat as my hands caressed her sides, pulling her body closer to mine. She slipped her hands up my shirt as our lips separated and mashed back together again, tongues warring endlessly. I tried not to moan myself when her slim fingers ghosted across the planes of my defined abs. Never before had I been touched on my bare chest before, and it was sizzling all the way down to my toes.

"Can I take it off?" I asked her tentatively. "My shirt, I mean?"

"Y-Yeah," she whispered, her eyes guarded and shy.

I hurried to take off my shirt, tossing it to the floor and kissing her again. Her fingers brushed my nipples, and the shock of the pleasurable feelings it caused made me cry out suddenly. She panicked, immediately removing her hands and ceasing to kiss me.

"I'm sorry," she said quickly. "I . . . I'm sorry, I was going too fast . . ."

"No," I panted, chest heaving. "It felt . . . Good."

She bit her bottom lip, which made my imagination go wild, and timidly lifted her hands to my naked chest again.

"G-Good?" she stammered, obviously nervous about what she was doing. She touched me again, flicking her thumbs a bit, and I couldn't stop myself from losing my breath.

"Uh-huh," I mumbled, clenching my teeth. My entire lower body was aflame with desire, and the fact that she was straddling me wasn't making things any easier. Not to mention, her cold touch on my heated flesh was driving me insane. She repeated her earlier movement, and much to my surprise, leaned forward and kissed my neck at the same time. My entire body went weak as her tongue curved around my earlobe and her teeth grazed the flesh, the pads of her thumbs rubbing my nipples repeatedly.

"K-Kairi," I groaned, my hips twitching against my will. "What are you doing?"

"You said it felt good," she whispered into my ear, and her words were a lot more seductive than she meant them to be, I guarantee it. And even as she spoke, her breath hit my skin in such a way as to send my heart a-fluttering all over the place. There was currently no blood left in my brain—it had all traveled South for good.

"Are you trying to d-distract me again?" I stumbled over my words as she started kissing her way down my neck and chest. I fell back against the pillows, wondering where in the Hell she'd learned to do what she was doing. I felt her tongue laving the peak of my nipple, and I moaned in spite of myself.

"Distract you?" she said innocently, moving to the adjacent nipple.

"Holy—" I exclaimed when she started making a path down my stomach, running her tongue along the trail. Just what was she planning on doing? This was definitely not what I'd had in mind, and this wasn't what I had expected Kairi to do to me. Ever. Was she trying to distract me? Kairi didn't seem like this type of girl; she never had. Had she really changed this much? I mean, honestly, I'd never been in this situation with a girl. My first kiss had been with her just the night before. Who had her first kiss been with?

All thoughts were wiped from my mind when I felt her hooking her fingers beneath the waistband of my jeans and starting to pull them downward.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" I hissed, starting to sit up. I was immediately pushed back down by one of Kairi's hands, and she held me there. She was nowhere near strong enough to keep me down, but something in her eyes told me I'd better not move.

"I just want you to feel good, Sora," she breathed, and I found myself staring at her lips. "You deserve that much."

"But not from you!" I spluttered out. I didn't want her to feel like she had to mess around with me or whatever. I wanted her to want to. We had so much history between us . . . Did she really think that I thought she "owed" me one, or something?

She looked a bit hurt and took her hand off of my chest. "You don't . . . Want me?" she said, the corners of her lips turning down.

"No!" I insisted, sitting up. "I do, it's just . . ."

"Is it because I'm fat?" Her voice sounded like she was about to cry for the millionth time that night.

"No!" I exclaimed. "God no. It's just that . . . Well, I don't want you to feel forced into anything. Just because I care about you, doesn't mean you have to do . . . That to me."

"But I don't know how else to show you that I care about you, too," she whimpered. "All I know is what Selphie has told me . . . She says that she and Tidus have . . . You know. And he likes her more because of it. I want you to like me more, too."

My eyes bugged out of my head. Just what the Hell had happened while I was gone? If our friends were telling her things like that, maybe it was safer for her to be off the Islands.

"Kairi, I'm not going to like you more if you have sex with me," I said incredulously. "I would like you regardless—nothing can change that."

"Even though I . . . I hurt myself?" She pouted, moving off of my hips to sit beside me on the mattress, in-between me and the wall. "You aren't mad at me for that?"

"Hell yeah I'm mad," I snorted. "I'm pissed as Hell. But that doesn't mean I don't care about you anymore, and that also doesn't mean you have to have sex with me to get me to stop being mad."

"Then what will make you stop being mad at me?"

I looked at her in disbelief. "Really, Kai? How about for starters, you not cutting yourself and starving. And not throwing up your food and contemplating suicide. I don't want to lose you, okay? Just because I'm mad about what you're doing to yourself, doesn't mean I'm going to give up on you."

"Please don't," she suddenly said, eyes wide and terrified. "Don't give up on me."

"I won't," I assured her, moving to brush her bangs behind her ear. "Don't worry. We've been through too much together for me to even consider it. Now, come on—let's just lie down and try to sleep."

"No," she said. "I don't want to go to sleep."

I looked at her sternly. "You need to sleep, Kai."

"Don't tell me what I need to do," she snapped, laying a hand lightly on my muscular arm. "Right now, I have no intentions of sleeping."

Before I could protest, she was kissing me again. My eyes widened, and I barely had time to start kissing her back before she was on top of me again, grinding her hips against mine. She laced her fingers with mine and pressed the back of my palms into the bed beside my head. I gasped, for it felt good to feel her warmth against mine, but at the same time, I was apprehensive. I wanted to mess around with her, but at the same time, I didn't. I didn't want her to believe that what Selphie and Tidus had told her was true.

I rolled us over so that I was on top of her, trying to gain the upper hand so that I could talk to her, but she wasn't having any of it. She seemed almost desperate, actually, what with the way she was kissing me.

"What can I do to make you want me?" she finally panted. "I just want you to want me."

"I do want you!" I said. "I just don't want to take advantage of you. You're sick, Kai—Really sick. I can't do this to you."

"But I want you to," she replied. "You aren't taking advantage of me."

"Why do you want to so bad?" I asked. "This is weird—it should be me trying to convince you. I'm the guy."

"Because, Sora!" she cried. "If we don't, then you'll leave again, and I'll be alone!"

My brow furrowed. "What? Kairi, you're coming with us the next time we leave the Islands. I'm not going to leave you alone."

"Yes you will!" she whined. "You'll find some other girl who's better than me, and skinnier and . . . Just better. I've tried to . . . I just . . ."

I looked at her in shock. "Are you . . . Are you starving yourself because you think I'll be more attracted to you?!"

She looked away guiltily, getting off the bed and walking to my bedroom door to stand there awkwardly, and my jaw dropped. I stood up and followed her, hands on my hips.

"Are you kidding me, Kairi?" I grabbed her chin and forced her to look into my eyes. "Stop this. Stop this right now. You are beautiful, and no other girl can take your place in my heart. Everything that I have done since our first journey off the Islands has been for you—and no one else. Skinny or fat, that will never change. Do you understand me?"

She nodded numbly.

"Honestly, Kairi, this is ridiculous. Starving yourself for me is just . . . It's pointless. I always thought you were . . . Thought you were perfect."

We were quiet for a long, long time, our thoughts belong to ourselves. Finally, I felt her eyes upon me from where she was standing, leaned up against the door, not saying anything. We gazed into each other's eyes, unspoken questions hovering, and as she moved my hair out of my eyes, I found myself attracted to every inch of her face. No matter how hurt I was at the entire situation, she was still the girl that I had risked my life for, and I would do anything to make her happy.

Our lips met briefly, and when she pulled back, it was only so we could look at each other in a much different way than before. Something had changed during our silence. Something was different. I think we'd said all that we could say, and now . . . There was only the two of us. We clutched at each other, kissing as if one of us were going to float away if we stopped. I coaxed her lips apart with my tongue, feeling a thrill in my veins when she sighed and granted me access. Our tongues met for a moment, and when we broke apart, it was only to get a good breath. The kissing began again, intensifying as longing took over us. I slid my hands around her waist and up her back, pulling her flush against me. My hands found their way underneath the shirt I had lent her, and she pressed her hips against mine.

"S-Sora," she breathed heavily when my fingers danced a path up her spine.

I closed my eyes to hide the despair that came over me. Her bones were so sharp, so prominent . . . She was so precious to me, and so fragile. I didn't know what I'd do if I lost her again, nor if I lost her for good. Just as the thought appeared, my desire for her body increased and I took my arms away from her so that I could place my hands on the wooden door, on either side of her head. I boxed her in-between my arm, teasing her by just barely ghosting my lips over her own.

"Wh-What are you doing?" she whimpered as I brought my lips to the side of her throat, pausing only to nip at her pulse. She moaned, and I placed my hand over her mouth.

"Shh, my mom will hear you," I murmured, running my tongue down to her shoulder. Her sounds were muffled, and she grabbed tightly to my shirt. I removed my hand from her mouth and threaded it through her silken crimson tresses, keeping my other hand on the door. When I kissed her this time, it was different. It was frenzied and passionate. Kairi was on her tip toes, trying to get as close to me as possible. She tangled her fingers in my hair and moaned in the back of her throat, causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand up. I ran my hand down her side, along the edge of her bottom, and to the back of her thigh. My mind was whirling. I didn't entirely know what I was doing—I was just following my instincts.

My fingers brushed over the warm area between her legs, and she cried out. I quickly stifled the cry with my mouth pressing her up against the door and engaging her tongue in a fierce battle. I stroked her core outside her panties, smiling in our kiss as she gasped. She broke away from our kiss and rested her forehead against my muscular shoulder as I teased her even more.

"Sora," she whispered huskily. "Sora, please . . ."

I tucked her hair behind her ear and kissed it heavily while I touched her. She was making tiny mewling noise, trying her hardest not to be too loud. Even now, I could hear my mother and father coming up the stairs, chatting about something or another.

"Shh," I warned Kairi as I pulled my hand away from her only to slip it beneath the waistband of her panties. I slipped my fingers between her moist folds, my heart beating erratically. Her head fell back against the door as I rubbed the small bundle of nerves the caused her entire body to quiver. She held onto my biceps tightly, digging her fingernails in almost painfully.

"Sora?" my mother's vice came from just beyond the door.

"Yeah?" I answered innocently.

"What was that thudding noise?"

Kairi darted forward and bit down on the side of my neck. My sensitive flesh reacted positively, and it was my turn to stifle my moan of pleasure. I moved my hand faster, until she was practically melting before me.

"N-Nothing, mom . . ." I answered her. "I, um . . . I dropped something."

"S-Sora," Kairi moaned into my ear. "So . . . So good . . . It feels so good . . ."

"I know," I murmured back, chuckling darkly. "Shhh . . ."

"Well . . . Okay," came my mom's reply. "Have a good night."

As soon as I heard her footsteps recede, I dragged Kairi back to the bed and pushed her onto it. I clambered on top of her, grinding my hips against her and kissing her deeply. She moaned again, clawing at the skin on my back desperately. My stomach twisted in an exquisitely pleasurable way as her fingers awoke a fire within me that I had never before ignited. Pulling us up so that she was straddling my hips and I was sitting up, I grabbed the hem of the shirt I'd lent her and pulled it up over her head. She froze, panic shining in her eyes.

"What? What's the matter?" I asked worriedly, ceasing to take of her shirt.

"I . . . I don't want you to see me . . ." she said quietly, tearfully.

"Hey," I said, "don't worry . . . I think you're beautiful. I always have . . ." I smoothed her hair out of her face and kissed her tears away, finally ending with her lips. I continued to kiss her gently, slowly removing her shirt in case she got too scared. Once it was off, my hands felt her body, cupping her breasts through her bra. My pulse pounded—this was the furthest I'd ever gone with her and it was exhilarating. I unsnapped the lacy material and pulled it off, tossing it to the side. I felt her delicate little apples in my battle-hardened hands, passed the pads of my thumbs over her twin peaks, and nipped her neck.

"Mm, Sora . . ." She whimpered, arcing up into me and biting her lip slightly. I rolled the buds between my fingers, enjoying the feeling of her soft, pliant flesh in my own. She ground her hips against mine, and I reached between us with one hand, feeling the wetness beneath her panties with my fingers. She grabbed my shoulders as I slipped one finger inside of her, then another. At first, she tried to move backward, but I grabbed her hip with my other hand and held her firmly in place. I pushed my fingers in and out of her, feeling her body tremble against me. She tangled one hand in the hair at the back of my head and placed the other one on my chest, mashing her lips up against mine in a sensual kiss.

"Don't hold it in," I breathed huskily into her ear, daring to slip one more finger into her. She gasped and her toes curled in the sheets. Her mouth fell open slightly and her hips jerked against my hand as I used my thumb to rub the area that gave her the most pleasure.

"O-Oh, my God," she moaned at my ministrations. I started to kiss her neck passionately, biting and licking and doing whatever I could to make her whimper.

"You like that?" I growled, scraping my teeth against her skin.

"S-Sora . . ." She said shyly, surprised at my boldness.

I ignored her, finding that Anti-Sora had somehow crept his way into the picture. The line between us had blurred—not so much as for him to take over, but just enough to give me the extra boost I needed to get what I wanted. He wasn't saying anything to me; he was just watching.

"Do you like that?" I repeated myself, moving my hand even faster.

She nodded. "Y-Yes . . . Ah~!" She started to move a bit faster, so I knew she was nearing her peak. I quickly withdrew my pant from within her and pushed her onto her back. She made a surprised meeping noise when I pulled her pants and underwear off in one swift move, leaving her completely naked for my eyes to see. She tried to cover herself out of modesty, but I grabbed her hands and pinned them to the mattress. I molded my lips over her nipples, laving my tongue against it. She trembled and pressed her breast closer to me.

Kissing all the way down her stomach, I allowed Anti-Sora to sort of . . . Take the wheel. Not entirely, just a little . . . I pushed her thighs apart, despite the fact that she tried to close her legs.

"Sora! What are you d-doing?" she beseeched, sitting up and trying to push my head away out of pure embarrassment and shock.

I ignored her and pressed my lips to her folds, and Anti-Sora chuckled wickedly when she cried out in pleasure and let her eyes fall shut. My tongue darted out to give her a long, slow slick, to which she crossed her legs over my shoulders and pressed her womanhood closer to my mouth. I became more explorative, spreading her apart with my fingers and circling her pearl with the tip of my tongue. She grabbed my hair and pulled on it.

"That feels . . . That feels so good," she whined.

That was all I needed to hear. I immediately set into her, lavishing her nether regions with as much attention as I could. Soon, I had her quivering beneath me, begging for me to stop.

"Sora, please . . . Please, stop . . ." She sounded scared and confused, and part of me wanted to stop, but the Anti-Sora part of me knew better than to.

I tightened my hold on her hips, so that she couldn't get away. I felt her toes digging into my back and her hips raise. Her breathing grew more and more ragged as she came closer and closer to the edge of the abyss I so craved her to fall into.

"St-Stop," she pleaded, trying to push me away. "Something's . . . Something's happening . . ."

"Mm-hm," was all I said, my voice humming against her core, and causing her entire body to tense up. I closed my lips around her pleasure pearl and sucked hard. She cried out one last time and collapsed into a convulsing, gasping mess, succumbing to the sweet release I had given her. I caught her lips before she could relax and cupped her bottom, rolling us over so that she was on top of me. She rubbed herself against me, pressing frenzied kisses to my neck as she pulled my pants down. I felt her hand against my arousal, and I bucked my hips.

All-of-a-sudden, she was positioning my member at her entrance, her palms flat on my chest for support. She had her eyes squeezed shut, terrified of what was to come. I sat up and placed my hands on her hips, kissing her with all the longing felt for her. I pulled back, nuzzling my nose against her and looking into her eyes.

"Are you sure?" I breathed.

"Yes, yes, just do it," she hissed, wiggling her bottom so that just the tip went in. I groaned at the intense warmth that awaited me, digging my fingernails into her flesh. It already felt amazing . . . I leaned forward and buried my face in the crook between her neck and shoulder ad I simultaneous pushed her downward and lifted my hips, sheathing my entire length inside of her. It was unbearably tight, almost painfully so, and it took the breath out of me. She too ka deep, shuddering breath and threw her arms around my neck.

"Are you okay, Kairi?" I whispered affectionately.

"Y-Yes," she stammered, nodding her head rapidly.

Holding her close, I rolled us over so that I was on top of her and began to move. I slowly pulled out and then thrust back in. My arms shook from the restraint at keeping myself from going too fast. It felt better than anything I had ever felt before . . . The very blood in my veins burned with the fires of desire, pooling in the pit of my stomach and preparing to grow. I moved a bit faster, hearing Kairi's breathy moans in my ears and losing myself in her. I propped myself up with one hand and used the other to hold her hips down on the mattress. My own breaths were coming in raggedly, and I looked down between us to watch myself moving within her.

"Oh, my God," I couldn't help but groan, overwhelmed by all the feelings attacking me. I bit my lip and thrust faster. "Shit, you feel so good, Kai . . ."

She lifted her head so that she could kiss my neck, running her tongue along the pulse point at my throat. It only served to add to the electric jolts of pleasure that were shooting throughout my veins. I moaned and my pace quickened, becoming less rhythmic and more erratic. It was so good . . . So fucking good . . .

"Sora, I love you," Kairi suddenly whispered, her voice sending cool chills down my spine.

I shivered and brought my lips down to hers, thrusting in as deep as possible, slowing down so I could heard her moan louder.

"I've loved you since you gave me Oathkeeper," I murmured against her lips.

"In Traverse Town?"


"Sora . . ."

I pulled out of her and flipped her over. She gasped delightedly as I grabbed her hips and pulled her bottomside up into the air. As quickly as I possible, I got to my knees and thrust back in-between her folds, the immense pleasure causing my eyes to roll up into my head. I leaned over her backside, one hand on her hip and the other on the bed, and restarted my earlier pace, feeling myself go even deeper than I first had with each and every thrust. She was trembling again, crying my name in-between moans and demanding I go faster. I straightened my back so I could watch what I was doing, moving my hands to massage her bottom.

I could feel myself nearing my climax, each and every thrust seeming to get tighter and tighter. I threw my head back and went as fast as I could, holding onto her bony hips and pulling her hard against me. She was whimpering now, moaning each time I hit her cervix. I was getting closer, I could feel it. I growled and dug my fingernails into the flesh of her rump, my eyes drinking up the sight. So close . . . Shit . . .

"Fuck," I couldn't help but groaned as my stomach tightened and my skin flushed red. "I'm . . . I'm almost there . . . So fucking close . . ."

All-of-a-sudden, Kairi cried out and convulsed in her second climax that night, arching her back and tilting her head back in ecstasy. I felt her muscles spasm around me, tightening even more, and it sent me completely into the abyss. I thrust one last time and felt the coil inside of my lower abdomen snap. I pulled out quickly and came shuddering onto her back, panting heavily and closing my eyes as I rode out the waves.

I got up and went to grab a towel from the hamper. I cleaned myself up and crawled back into the bed beside the Princess of Heart where she lay sprawled out. The moonlight spilled in from my bedroom window, illuminating her nude body. I slung an arm over her waist and pulled her close. Our gazes locked, and we were both unable to stop the smiles from curving our lips upward.

"What do we tell our friends?" I murmured.

"Which ones?" she giggled. "Riku, Selphie, Wakka, and Tidus? Or Goofy, King Mickey, Yen Sid, and Donald?"

"Well . . . Our Destiny Island's friends might appreciate it more," I laughed.

She pouted. "All you care about is impressing people?"


"You lazy bum," she scolded, shoving me playfully so that I rolled onto my back.

I smiled as I gazed up at my bedroom ceiling. This was what I had missed about Kairi, my Kairi. Her playfulness. Her smile. Her feistiness. A Princess of Heart with her Light diminished was no Princess at all. And as we laid there, relaxed in the calm of the eye of the storm that made up our lives, I realized that I truly was in love with her. Every aspect about her personality, her looks, her Light. No matter what happened to us tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, or even when we left the Islands to go off and defeat Xehanort . . . I wanted to be there to help her and make her believe that she was worthy of life.

"Hey, Kairi?"


"Remember what you said before? Well . . . I'm always with you, too." I said, the words nostalgic and heart-wrenching.

She sat up, her long hair falling back over her shoulders as she looked at me in astonishment.

"Sora . . ." she said softly, and I could see tears glittering in her eyes.

I sat up, our noses brushing, and caressed her face in one hand. I felt extremely close to her and so, so right. Everything was just where it was supposed to be. And even though we had much left to accomplish and yet another enemy looming in the Darkness just beyond our sights, we would be much stronger as we were meant to be: together.

Not even the most powerful and malevolent forces of the Darkness could steal our Light away.

"Don't ever forget," I whispered, looking deep into her eyes. "There's a light inside your heart that never goes out—not when you have people out there who care about you. So don't give up on yourself, Kai. Because I won't."

Kairi began to cry for the umpteenth time that night, but I merely kissed her tears away. I knew that they were not the heart-breaking tears of anguish and despair. They were the tears that I wanted to see—the tears that meant something to us both. The tears that proved to me that she wouldn't give up on herself, not so long as I was there to comfort and protect her.

And I would.

I made her a promise, didn't I?


A/N: Hope you enjoyed it . . . I know it wasn't entirely the best, but it's my first one-shot, so . . . Poop.