MANDATORY AUTHOR'S NOTE: I SEVERELY APOLOGIZEEEEEE. THIS IS A WHOEL WEEK LATE ALMOST, OH DEAT LAWD. Please forgive me. I hope this super long, super epix chapter makes up for it! I'll hop right to it. Enjoy~

DISCLAIMER: This disclaimer applies to the entire story. Kingdom Hearts and any and all things having to do with it do not belong to me. However, the plot and plot events are entirely MINE, along with the band Destiny's Embrace, the use of the word Hikari as a name, and the characters' personalities.

NOTES: This story is rated M. This chapter has an explicit lemon. Yes. It is finally here. What you have all been waiting for.

ENJOY!

~x~

Chapter Twenty-Three

~x~

Kairi slowly picked up her things and packed them, knowing that Sora could walk in at any minute and yell at her for moving so sluggishly. They were due to leave in less than an hour, but she just couldn't find the energy or the drive to move faster. The truth was . . . She didn't want to go into hiding. She didn't want to have to worry about strange men coming after her with guns, or coming after Sora and her friends either. She just wanted to be able to live her life so she could figure out what her next step toward her future was.

"Hey," Roxas said from the doorway. His tone was subdued, and he had changed his clothes since cleaning up the horrifying sight that was Memory's last resting place. His facial expression was one of concern, and it made Kairi feel a little better about the fact that her entire life had turned completely upside down in the past year.

"Hi," Kairi murmured, stuffing some of Sora's clothes into a bag with him (he was coming with her, right?).

"You about ready to go?" Roxas asked, brushing his chin-length bangs out of his azure eyes.

"I guess," Kairi replied begrudgingly. "Are you coming with us?"

"Yeah, but I'm probably not gonna stay—Sora thinks it's best if I stay here, so they think we're all still in town," Roxas explained.

"Hmph," Kairi grunted irritably. "That's it, huh? 'Sora thinks' this. 'Sora thinks' that. What about what I think?" She grabbed the last of her clothes from Sora's floor and stuffed them in the duffel bag forcibly, as if she had some sort of personal vendetta against the bag.

Roxas sighed. "Look, I know this is hard to understand, but . . . You just gotta trust him. Sora knows what he's doing."

Kairi whirled on him angrily. "Oh, really? Sora knows what he's doing? You think he knew what the fuck he was doing when a car full of gang members rolled by our house and shot at me? What the Hell, Roxas?!"

Roxas bit his bottom lip. "Kairi, you know it isn't as simple as all that! Seriously . . . You just gotta trust that Sora's going to protect you."

"Yeah, well, he wouldn't have to protect me if he hadn't dragged me into all of this," Kairi muttered, grabbing the bag and shoving Roxas aside on her way out of the room. She felt bad for being mean to Roxas, especially since he'd gone out of his way to help with Memory, but she was at her wit's end.

A broad, muscled chest blocked her way, and Kairi glared up into Sora's cold eyes.

"Get out of my way," Kairi snapped icily, adjusting the strap of the bag on her shoulder.

"You wanna know how you got dragged into this, Kairi?" Sora snarled, and his voice was like needles straight to her heart. "I'll tell you how the fuck you got dragged into this."

Kairi gulped and tried to keep a poker face on. Sometimes, Sora scared her just with the look he had in his eyes. Sometimes, he scared her with the way he said things. And sometimes, he scared her with the way that he touched her. But right now, he was scaring her with his words.

"You got dragged into this because I care about you, okay?" Sora hissed, pointing at her chest. "You got dragged into this shit because I care about you. And as long as I fucking do, they're going to keep coming after you. Riku's never going to stop until he's fucking dead, and until that day comes, I'm going to make sure you're safe. Got a problem with that?"

Kairi was speechless. Was that . . . Was that really true? Was that really all there was to it? There was no way that could be true! Could it? God, this was so frustrating. She had told Sora before that she trusted him, but now it was becoming more clear to her.

"Sora, I don't trust a word that comes out of your fucking mouth," she growled, pushing forward and leaving him behind in the hallway with Roxas. She went into the kitchen and stood in the open sliding glass doorway. Vanitas was outside on the patio with a lamp, scrubbing the last of the blood and gore away. He had no gloves on, and his clothes were stained crimson.

"Hey," Vanitas said anxiously when he noticed her staring. "You shouldn't be out here. What are you doing?"

"I wanted to see," Kairi said, her tone muted.

"Well . . . It's all cleaned up now," Vanitas said, slowly rising to his feet. His brow furrowed with worry as he looked into her eyes. "So . . . It's gonna be okay, all right?"

"Yeah," she said softly, tearing her eyes away from his to look down at the place where Memory had once played, slept, and eaten on. Kairi would have loved to have lived in this house with Sora and the rest of the band, playing the part of a "domesticated girl." She would clean, cook, and do their laundry while they were out at work and school, and when they got home, after dinner, they'd all sit in the living room and watch movies until late at night. Memory would get to be inside during those times, and slowly, ever-so-slowly, Kairi and Sora could rebuild their friendship. Kairi could just imagine it—cuddling with him on the couch during movies like she used to, only this time, they'd be an official couple.

Kairi shook her head to rid herself of her frivolous, ungrounded thoughts and sighed. Memory's death and narrowly missing being shot in the chest had addled her brain and made her feel nearly delirious. If Sora was going to pile her into a car and drive her all over the island in the middle of the night, then they'd better get going before she passed out and never woke up again.

"Stay safe, okay?" Vanitas said as she turned to go.

"You're not coming?" Kairi asked glumly.

He shook his raven-haired head. "Too dangerous. We need them to think you're—"

"Still in town," she finished, waving a dismissive hand. "Yeah, I get it. I'll see you later, Vani."

Kairi ran into Tidus by the front door, and he hugged her so tightly that she saw stars and couldn't help but mile. Leave it to Tidus to always be the one to make her laugh, even in the face of hardship.

"I'll see you soon," he said, holding her at arm's length.

"You will?" Kairi frowned. "I was under the impression that I couldn't come back until Riku was dead. Seeing as he's in his early twenties, that won't be anytime soon."

Tidus ruffled her hair, and she didn't even bother to fix it. "We still have our show coming up. Sora's gonna have you come to that so they think you're still in town."

"Wow, okay," Kairi said sarcastically. "Sounds great."

"Aw, come on, Kairi . . ." Tidus pouted. "I know it's difficult, but you have to realize that it's for your own safety, right?"

"That's not what I'm pissed off about," Kairi quipped. "But it doesn't really matter. My feelings don't matter. I don't fucking matter in this entire fucking situation, and I'm just a stupid ass pawn on the chess board of Sora's life." Kairi scowled and looked him up and down. "See you later, Tidus."

Slamming the front door behind her, Kairi stormed up to Sora's car and threw her bag into the backseat. She was so sick and tired of this. All the secrets, all the using, all the lies. She had thought she would be okay, but now with the death of her dog and being completely uprooted from any semblance of normalcy that she'd had . . . She was starting to wish that she had succeeded when she'd gotten into that bathtub.

So much for the hero and the angel, right?

~x~

A road trip with Sora? Not exactly what Kairi expected to be doing in a million years. It wasn't exactly unbearable, but it wasn't exactly bearable either. Of course, Kairi was sure that if she wasn't pissed off as all Hell at him, she probably wouldn't feel so uncomfortable, but that just didn't happen to be the case. She had no idea where they were going, and Sora had yet to tell her, but she didn't care. She was occupying herself staring out the window as the mountainous landscape of the inner island.

Sora finally leaned forward and grabbed the aux cable, plugging his iPod into the speakers. He selected a song, and then "POS" by Death of an Era began to blare out of the speakers. He turned the music up until it filled Kairi's brain, relaxed back in his seat with one hand on the wheel, and then rolled down the window with the other. Kairi watched in shock as he opened the center console and withdrew a cigarette from a hidden pack within.

"You smoke?" Kairi asked loudly, over the heavy guitar riffs and raucous screams.

"Yeah," Sora said quietly, sticking the cigarette into his mouth and lighting it. He drove one-handed, his left elbow resting on the sill of the window.

"When did you start that?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.

"Last year," he shrugged. "I dunno. Xi smoked a lot, and I just picked it up out of habit."

Oh yeah. Xion. Kairi had forgotten about her. She couldn't help but pout, crossing her arms and staring pointedly out the window beside her. She still didn't know why Sora had sunk so low as to date a girl like that. He claimed to care about her more than anything, yet he had so easily given her up and dated Xion for the year she'd been MIA? Perhaps that was why Kairi couldn't really trust him—because he was so quick to date some random girl, like he had been so desperate to have a girlfriend that he'd picked the first one who had pretty eyes.

"What?" Sora asked, turning the music down a little bit.

Kairi shot him a weird look. "What do you mean, 'what'?"

Sora looked at her sidelong, blowing smoke out of the open window. "You're pouting."

"So? What do you care if I pout?" Kairi muttered tetchily. "I can pout all I want. It's a free country, stupid."

Sora looked at her sharply again, smiling a little half-smile. "I'll admit, it's cute as Hell, but let's hear it."

Kairi flushed bright red and glowered out the windshield. "Hear what?"

"Why you're fucking pouting!" he exclaimed, laughing slightly. He blew more smoke out the window, and his eyes glowed in the darkness of the car.

Kairi remained silent, clenching and grinding her teeth. Sora was so infuriating, and all he was doing was calling her cute and asking her a question. Well, fine then. Just fine. If he wanted to know why she was pouting, then she was going to tell him.

"I'm pouting because you're stupid," Kairi whined.

"What the Hell?" Sora asked incredulously, flicking the butt of his cigarette out the window. "I'm stupid?"

Now she couldn't stop it. It was about to come tumbling out, and Kairi didn't know if she felt relief or regret afterward.

"I'm pouting because you dated that girl! Xion, or whatever! She's literally a terrible person, and you let her treat me like crap!" Kairi whined piteously. "I was already going through so much other shit, and then you let her talk bad about me. You even laughed when she insulted me! I just don't see how you can say that you care about me so much, yet you date a person as dumb as her. So yeah. I'm pouting. I'm fucking pouting, and I don't care what you think about it."

The silence that stretched between them was more than awkward, but it wasn't so much so that Kairi wanted to take her words back. She did feel relieved. She felt relieved to finally be able to say that she'd gotten one of the many burdens off of her chest. Maybe Sora wouldn't give her a straight answer (as usual), but at least she could say that she'd spoken her mind.

"You seriously want to know why I dated Xion?" Sora arched one eyebrow.

"No. Yes. I don't know—I guess." She crossed her arms again and looked at him. "Why did you date her?"

Sora sighed heavily and shrugged. "I dunno. I thought she was cool at first, and she was into me, so I asked her out. It went from there. There's not like, some magical reason behind it. I liked her, and that's it."

'But what about me?' Kairi thought miserably. Xion was so pretty that it made Kairi feel inadequate. Was it really only because he had liked her? Or was it because Kairi wasn't good enough? She blinked rapidly, fighting back tears. Tonight was more than overwhelming. Beyond overwhelming. She didn't know if she could handle any other problems.

"Where are we going?" Kairi asked softly, after fifteen or so minutes of them driving in the quiet.

"Hm?" Sora sounded tired, finally. He yawned. "My uncle's old beach house on the other side of the island—it's past the mountain. No one really knows where it is, so it's the safest place to have you hide until this all pans out."

Kairi nodded slowly, asking, "Why did those guys shoot at me, Sora?"

He looked out the window briefly, then back at the freeway. "I already told you—Riku wants you dead."

"Yes, but why?" she asked. "Why does he want me dead?"

"He's afraid you're gonna tell."

Kairi looked at him. Could it really be possible?

"You . . . You know it's true then, don't you?" she asked softly.

Sora still wouldn't return her gaze. ". . . Does it really matter now?"

"Yes!" Kairi cried. "Of course it matters! Sora, the entire reason why we're in this situation is because you didn't believe me when I went to you for help!"

"Um, no it most certainly is not," he retorted, as if she had no idea what she were talking about. "You have no idea what you're talking about."

"Well, I would know if you would fucking tell me," Kairi snapped. "Like that'll ever happen."

"Kairi, I have told you numerous fucking times that I'm not going to tell you, so shut the fuck up, and leave it alone!"

Kairi stared at him in shock, having not expected him to yell at her so suddenly and so vehemently. He looked enraged, and the combination of the shouting, anger, and Memory's death completely eclipsed her. She immediately burst out into tears, covering her face with her hands and sobbing. Sora swerved to the right and pulled over. Kairi continued to cry even as he got out of the car, leaving his door open, and came around to her side. He pulled her door open and dragged her out of her seat. She tried to fight against him, but in the end, allowed herself to be pulled into his arms. He held her as she cried, stroking his fingers through her hair and enveloping her in the strongest net of safety that she'd felt in a long, long time. No matter how angry she felt toward him, at the end of the day she loved him, and that was all that mattered.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there," Sora whispered into her ear. "I'm fuckin' sorry, all right?"

Kairi buried her face against his chest and sobbed, "I can't handle this anymore, Sora. I can't handle all the yelling and the fighting and anger, okay? I just want things to go back to the way they were."

"They will," Sora replied. "They will—I promise. You just have to trust me."

"I can't," she wailed.

"You have to," he insisted. "Look: I'm sorry I yelled at you, I really am. I'm just frustrated, and I'm scared."

Behind them, cars were zooming past them on the highway, honking their horns angrily for Sora leaving his car door open. Neither Sora nor Kairi cared, however, and the two of them stood there, looking into each other's eyes as if they were the only two people in the entire world. Hearing that Sora was scared was quite possibly the first truly honest thing that she'd heard from him in months.

"You're scared?" She sniffled and passed the back of her hand across her eyes to wipe them free of tears. "What of?"

Sora hung his head and looked away, looking so much like his old self that it was everything Kairi could do not to throw her arms around his neck.

". . . Losing you," he whispered, dragging his gaze back to hers. "I don't want to lose you to them, Kairi. I already let them get to you once, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. And then you . . . And then when I found you, in the bathroom, I . . . I just . . ." Kairi gasped—there were tears in his eyes.

"Sora . . ."

"Kairi, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." He was full on crying now, waving his hands about in distress. "I treated you like shit this year. I wanted to . . . I wanted to be there for you, but I couldn't, and it just . . . It just killed me."

"I don't understand," Kairi said, her eyes filling again. "Why didn't you just do it?!"

"Because I couldn't, okay!" He threw his arms out. "There. There it is. The secret you wanted to know so badly. I couldn't."

"What do you mean . . . You couldn't?"

"Literally that." He put his hands on his hips and turned his face away, his tears slipping down his cheeks like cracked diamonds. "Riku told me that if I talked to you . . . Then he would kill you."

Kairi's heart skipped a beat and her eyes went as wide as saucers. Was he serious? Was that really why Sora had treated her so badly? But . . . But why didn't he just continue to ignore her? Why did he feel the need to go out of his way to be cruel toward her? Just . . . Why?

"He said that you were his," Sora continued, sounding forlorn. "He said that you belonged to him, and—as cliché as it sounds—he said that if he couldn't have you . . . Then nobody could."

Kairi's brow furrowed and she turned, plopping down sideways into the passenger's seat of the car. She sat with a hunched back and a blank stare, trying to make sense of what she was hearing. No wonder Sora had fought so hard to keep this information secret—Kairi had basically had a hit out on her head from the moment she'd told her mother about the pregnancy and the abuse. She slowly looked up at Sora, who was still silently weeping and staring at her beseechingly—he wanted her forgiveness.

"So you . . . You really were trying to protect me?" Kairi asked meekly, balling her hands into fists on her thighs.

Sora knelt down in front of her, grabbing onto those hands and holding them tightly. He gazed up into her eyes sincerely and said, "Of course, Kai. I promised you I would always keep you safe, didn't I? I wanted to make sure we could never be friends again—I wanted Riku to know for sure that I was following his rules. And it destroyed me inside, but . . . I felt that it was necessary for your safety."

"My . . . Safety?" Kairi was looking through him, rather than at him. This was it. This was all that she could handle. She felt completely and utterly drained, and she just wanted to sleep. Her own brother, adoptive though he was, had threatened her very best friend with her life. Riku had taken every single last thing from her, ensuring that she was alone.

Well, he had succeeded.

"Let's go," Kairi said, taking her hands out of Sora's grasp. "I want to go."

"You . . . Are you . . ."

"Mad?" Her voice was monotone as she faced the front and buckled her seatbelt. "No."

Sora stood up and prepared to shut her door. "So you . . . You understand, right? What I had to do?"

Kairi knew he was confused and scared and worried and felt terrible, but she literally did not have the energy inside of her to forgive him. She didn't have the energy inside of her to feel anything. She felt empty. She just wanted to go wherever it was that Sora was taking her so she could lay down and go to sleep. She had cried, yelled, and fought him tooth and nail to drag this secret out of him and now that it was out, it felt awful.

Sora got back into the car, but before he restarted the car, he made sure to reach into her lap and grab a tight hold of her left hand.

He didn't let go for the rest of the car ride.

~x~

The beach house was more of a super nice condo on beachfront property, with grass that sort of melted into the sand. It was white and blue, and looked rather expensive. Kairi got out of the car and stared up at it while Sora gathered their bags from the backseat. Knowing that it belonged to Sora's mysteriously deceased uncle only made it look that much more foreboding to her. She swallowed her fears, though—she was going to be staying with Sora, and if there was one thing she now knew for sure, it was that he would put his very life on the line to protect her.

Kairi followed Sora inside. It smelled musty and unused, and when Sora turned on the in the entryway light, there was so much dust on the lightbulb that it was slightly dim. She stood up on her tiptoes and slapped her jacket against it to clear it, instantly brightening the area.

Sora was so tall that he had to duck a little as he went into the rest of the house, and then it was all high, arched ceilings and impeccably furnished rooms. Kairi wandered aimlessly through the house for a while, studying things. There was pictures on the walls—pictures of Sora's uncle, Roxas, and other various family members. There were a lot of oddly empty spaces on the walls, but Kairi didn't think too much of it. She headed into a random room and sat down on the bed, looking around at the little boys' toys that were strewn about the floor.

It was almost as though time had literally stopped in this place.

"This was Roxas's room," Sora said softly from the doorway. "When he was little—they used to live here, but they turned it into their vacation home."

"Oh," Kairi murmured, looking at the Legos, toy trucks, and various Star Wars toys.

Sora slowly entered the room and came to sit next to her on the mattress.

"I know it's gonna be hard to lay low for a while, but . . . Just trust me," he said. "It'll be over soon."

Kairi grew alarmed and turned to face him on the bed. "What are you going to do, Sora? Kill him? Don't be stupid."

Sora chewed on his lower lip and carefully averted his gaze. "For you, I would."

"For me, you would . . . You would kill someone?" Kairi jumped to her feet, scared out of her mind. "Sora, are you kidding me?! No! Just . . . Just no. I don't like this. I don't like who you are now. The old Sora never would have—"

"The old Sora is gone," Sora snapped, cutting her off midsentence with a cold gaze. "He's gone. He left when he had to tell his best friend he didn't believe her when she came crying to him in his front yard."

Kairi opened her mouth to argue with him some more, but frowned as she noticed something. There was blood on Sora's shirtsleeve. She darted forward and lifted the sleeve, gasping in horror at the wound there. How had he gotten it? Had one of the bullets hit him earlier? How had she not noticed this before? She placed a hand over her mouth in distress. He may have been the one to blame for many things, but this . . . This was all her fault. If she hadn't dragged him into her mess with Riku, then he wouldn't have purposely put himself into the line of fire.

"It's no big deal, Kai," Sora said, the use of her nickname causing her heart to flutter. He pulled his sleeve back down. "Bullet just grazed me—I've had worse."

"One more inch," she started, choking on her words and finding herself unable to finish. She bit her knuckle to keep from breaking down and stared so hard at his bloodied shirt that her eyes began to blur. "One more inch, and it would have gone right through your shoulder."

"So what?" He looked uneasy. "If I hadn't stepped in the way, you might have gotten hurt."

Kairi turned and hurried to the bathroom to look for a first aid kit. She couldn't let this happen again. If Riku wanted her dead, that was her fault. Not Sora's. He didn't deserve to be hurt for her. And even though he had shown her nothing but cruelty all year, he didn't deserve to get shot.

She snatched the kit out and threw medical items all over the counter, searching for gauze, bandaids, cotton balls, and rubbing alcohol. She wasn't an expert on cleaning out wounds, but she had to do something for him. She had been so quick to believe that he would throw her away for no reason that she felt horrible. Why hadn't she known sooner? Sora had only been that way towards her to protect her from Riku. He wouldn't have done that for no reason, yet she'd thought he had.

When she found the items she was looking for, she gathered them up and hurried back into Roxas's old room. Sora was getting up, and when he saw her, he sighed heavily.

"No, Kai, I'm fine. Really," he said, putting his hands on her shoulders and gently pushing her away. "I don't need all that."

"Just sit down!" Kairi shrieked almost manically. Her hands were shaking. "Just sit down and let me help you."

Sora slowly did as he was told, looking almost chastised as he did so. Kairi ordered him to take off his shirt as she wet the cotton balls with the alcohol. She stepped closer to him, refusing to look him in the eyes as she gently began to wipe away the blood from the edges of the wound. He winced a little, and looked at her.

"You really don't have to do this," he insisted.

"Yes, I do." Kairi continued to clean the wound, wondering to herself about how best to go about things with Sora from here on out. Now that she knew the truth, that is. She almost felt shy around him—like a little girl with a crush on a classmate.

Sora was looking at her again, and Kairi was becoming painfully aware of the fact that he was shirtless and muscular and toned and just . . . Oh, dear God. Today had been a ridiculously long, emotionally trying day. She tried her best to focus solely on cleaning his gashed open shoulder, but it was so hard when she could smell his cologne and feel those endless cerulean depths boring holes into her damn face.

"Will you stop staring at me?" she asked sternly, glowering down at him.

"I'm not staring at you." The ghost of a smile played about his lips as he reached forward and picked up some of her waist-length crimson hair. "Your hair's crazy long, Kairi."

"Yeah, so?" she challenged, remembering that he had always like her hair cropped short. "What do you care? You like short hair anyway."

Sora's eyebrows shot up. "And you care what I like?"

"Well, yeah, I . . ." she trailed off in embarrassment, pausing in her actions. God, why was she suddenly feeling so modest? "I don't. I just . . . I thought you liked short hair, that's all."

"For the record," he teased. "I like you, not your hair. So it doesn't really matter what length it is."

Kairi very nearly dropped the bottle of rubbing alcohol onto the carpet at his words, her eyes widened in stages. Had he just . . . Had he just admitted to liking her? She stared at him, stunned and at a loss for words. It wasn't anything crazy, like a month ago when she'd confessed her love for him in her bedroom on a stormy night, but it was something.

After setting the bottle and used up cotton balls neatly on the dresser, she grabbed the gauze and looked up at the clock. Almost midnight. Man, today had been long. She was still terribly depressed about Memory, but she didn't know how to show it or feel it. She wanted to cry, but she'd cried so much in the past couple of months that she didn't think she could manage any more tears unless they were dragged out of her by forceful means.

"Hey," Sora said quietly as she placed the gauze on his arm. "Do you remember when we went on that camping trip when we were twelve?"

"Um . . . Sure," Kairi said, putting the bandaid on over the gauze.

Sora laughed a little, scratching the back of his head and causing his spikes to get even more unruly. "I tripped over that fallen log and scraped my knee, and you insisted on putting on the bandaid. This is just like back then, isn't it?"

"Haha, I guess," Kairi chuckled, making sure the bandaid was snug. "There. Done. We can change it out tomorrow if it gets any worse. I—"

"Kairi, listen to me." Sora placed his hand on her forearm, and Kairi felt as though his skin were burning her flesh. She blushed bright red and eyed him carefully.

"Y-Yes?"

"I never want you to feel afraid that somebody's going to hurt you again," he said quietly. "Not Riku, Zexion, Axel, Demyx, or anyone else. I'm not gonna leave you again—I'm gonna be here to put the bandaids on your cuts and scrapes, too."

Kairi quickly withdrew her hand and turned away from him, trying her best to quickly gather up the things she'd grabbed from the bathroom .

"The last time you told me that, it was just a lie to get me off your back," Kairi whispered, her voice shaking.

Suddenly, she felt his presence behind her and she froze. He was so close that she could feel his breath on the back of her neck, and all of the hairs on her body raised up. He placed his hands on her shoulders and he slowly pulled her back against his bare chest, wrapping his arms around her in a hug. His skin was on fire.

"Well, I already told you what you wanted to know," he said quietly, his voice right next to her ear now. "So there's no reason for me to lie, is there?"

"Sora, you're missing the point." Kairi made as if to turn around, but he tightened his hold around her and she was forced to relax her arms by her side.

"No, I'm not," he retorted. "You're upset because I lied to you—I get it. And I understand that you may hate me and never want to forgive me. Do you think I never thought of that when I made the decision to push you away like I did? Kai, it was the hardest decision I ever made in my life, but I had to do it or Riku would have killed you."

"Stop saying that," she whispered, shuddering with fear. "I don't like hearing it."

"Okay," he sighed. "Just know that I'm not asking for you to forgive me overnight. I'm telling you that I apologize for every wrong I've ever done you. Every lie, every insult, every time I've yelled at you or scared you . . . I'm sorry. And when you want to forgive me, I'm still gonna be here. Can you promise me you'll give me a chance?"

"A chance . . . ?" Kairi closed her eyes. All she'd wanted from the moment he rejected her was for him to give her a chance, and now he was asking for her to extend the courtesy he hadn't extended to her. She had two choices here. Either she could deny him any further opportunities with her; she could call him a prick, distance herself, and never trust him again. Or she could forgive him because she loved him and move on to learning how to trust him again so that she could be safe from harm and, most of all, happy.

"Yeah . . ." Sora whispered, and his voice had taken on a strangely husky tone. He nuzzled his nose into the side of her neck, and she felt his hair tickling her skin. She tried not to gasp in surprise. "A chance. That's all."

"I . . ." Kairi couldn't find her words. His lips were just barely brushing her sensitive throat and she was rapidly losing control of her breathing. Her eyelids fluttered shut and tilted her head to silently give him better access. After all, this was Sora. A Sora that now, finally, had no secrets. A Sora that didn't hate her and never had hated her—he'd just been pretending to keep her brother from killing her. Did he know if Riku would really shoot her? At the time, no. Now? The wound on his arm and the fact that they were alone, three hours away in a secluded beach house that belonged to his dead uncle was all the answer she needed.

"What are y-you doing?" Kairi breathed after the first press of his lips to her skin. He was kissing a line along the curve of her neck and shoulder, sliding his hands lightly down the length of her arms, and it was sparking a fire in the pit of her stomach that she had no intentions of putting out.

"Proving that I'm not gonna leave," he mumbled, his fingers gently gripping her hips beneath the hem of her shirt. The sudden skin-on-skin contact caused Kairi to jump and exhale sharply, leaning forward to grip the edge of the dresser in front of her. Sora's hands pulled her backside against his lower body, and all Kairi could think about was the fact that they had gone from zero to sixty in terms of their friendship or relationship or whatever it was in about five seconds flat. That, and the fact that her heart was pounding its way out of her chest while his hands were starting to wander.

Sora's kisses on her bared throat grew heavier as his right hand began to travel under her shirt. He splayed his fingers out on her abdomen, stoking the fire within her to full flame. She wanted him to touch her more and more, until he owned every inch of her, but she felt too shy to ask him. She had never been shy with anyone else before, but something about the atmosphere and the revelations of that night were making her feel like her innermost personality was coming out. Because she was shy. Her false confidence in public was all a façade. A carefully placed façade that helped her cope. But with Sora, right here and now, she didn't have to fake it.

That frightened her.

"Kairi?" Sora said, his voice quiet and breathy in her ear.

"Y-Yeah?" Kairi said just as softly.

"What do you want me to do to you?" He kissed her ear, nibbled on the lobe and sent an electric tingling shooting down to the raging liquid fire that had grown in her loins. His hands were still in the same places: one on her bony hip and the other on her stomach.

Kairi's face turned about five shades darker than the crimson color of her hair and her heart came to a full stop. She wanted to turn around and ask him if he was insane, but she knew she wouldn't dare shatter this moment.

"What did you . . . What did you say?"

"Whatever you want—I'll do it," he murmured. "I just want you to see how much I care about you. How scared I was when I was holding you in my arms and you were bleeding out. How sorry I am for how I treated you. So . . . What do you want me to do to you?"

Kairi closed her eyes. If that wasn't an invitation, she didn't know what was. Before he could react, she whirled around in his arms and grabbed his face with trembling hands. She gazed up into his eyes and pulled him down to her level.

"Kiss me," she whispered in a rushed out breath, pressing her lips to his briefly. "Just kiss me like you mean it."

He smiled, and it was the first genuine smile she'd seen on his face since his last performance on stage. "Gladly."

And then, like a light switch turning on, Kairi was on him. Literally. She threw her arms around his neck and hopped up, wrapping her legs around his waist and kissing him with every last fiber of love for him that she had in her tiny body. He cupped her buttocks and kissed her back, both of them laughing slightly as he stumbled back and fell onto the bed. It was small, since it was Roxas's old bed after all, but neither of them cared. Kairi no longer felt shy, either. Sora's words had undid the clasp on that lock, reminding her that this was Sora. Her best friend since they were eight. Her protector. Her healer. Her . . . Her Sora.

Kairi sat up on Sora's hips and tore her own shirt off. His gaze traveled over her upper body hungrily and he sat up as well, kissing her with wild abandon as he cupped her bare breasts. If there was one upside to having a small bust, it was the fact that Kairi didn't have to wear bras. This was coming in handy. His fingers and palms, calloused from years of guitar playing, were doing wondered on her skin, raising goosebumps all the way down to her legs and causing her thighs to start trembling. She could feel his arousal beneath her, and she just knew that this time was different.

This time, he wasn't going to leave and she wasn't going to push him away.

Kairi kissed Sora's jawline, earning herself a rather heavy sigh from his lips as she allowed her fingers to roam all over his hard, muscled chest. Her fingertips brushed his nipples a few times and she grinned into his flesh at the quiet moans he was making. Before she could do too much more, he wrapped one arm around her waist and flipped them around so she was lying underneath him. He didn't do anything for a long moment, and when Kairi opened her eyes to see what was going on, she was surprised to see that he was simply staring at her face.

"What are you looking at?" she asked somewhat nervously. Did he think she was ugly all-of-the-sudden? Was he rethinking everything, as silly as that sounded?

"I never told you this, but . . . I think you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen."

Kairi blushed and she had to swallow back tears. Hard. Hearing those words from Sora . . . They meant more than anything else in the whole entire world.

Sora leaned down to capture her lips in a much gentler, much more passionate kiss, and Kairi's body began to quiver with anticipation and desire. She moaned into his mouth from the sheer excitement, and their tongues tangled in a dance of lust that rivaled no other. He petted her sides heavily, massaging her hips bone and causing her lower body to tingle. She wanted him. She wanted him badly. And when her breasts touched his chest, her skin was so sensitive that it made her cry out. A sound such as that seemed to be the key to awakening the animal that lie dormant inside of Sora, and he tipped over the edge, into carnality.

Kairi felt his kisses starting to headed down past her chest and along her abdomen and she panicked a little bit. She automatically tried to pull him back up to her, but he grabbed both of her hands and pinned them to the mattress beside her hips. She got the message, and tried to lie still while he slowly unbuttoned her skinny jeans and pulled them off of her.

"You're shaking," Sora remarked in-between kisses to her hip bones and pelvis.

Kairi couldn't speak, because in the next second, her panties were flying across the room and he was kissing her in her sacred spot—something she had not expected him to do. She gasped and her legs fell apart to accommodate him as he pleasured her, sending her mind off into a completely different universe and rendering her vocal chords useless. His tongue and lips worked in unison to bring her to the edge, his hands gripping her hips and holding her body down letting her know that he had all the control. She could do nothing except enjoy it, curling her fingers into the blankets as if they could anchor her against the storm that was raging inside of her.

"Sora, I'm . . . Oh, God . . . Sora," was all she could say, over and over until he flicked his tongue against her pearl one final time. Stars danced behind her closed eyelids and she arched her back, her entire body convulsing violently as wave after wave of ecstasy washed over her. Sora held onto her hips tightly, keeping her in place to ensure that he consumed every last drop of her essence, and Kairi nearly lost her mind. It felt beyond good—it was pure bliss, everything she could ever have hoped for with Sora.

Sora had his pants off in five seconds flat, and then he was hovering over her. He grounded is hips against hers, one hand on one of her hips and the other placed flat on the mattress beside her head. His body was so hot that he could have had a fever, and his hair fell forward to shadow his face even as he gazed down into her half-lidded, hazy eyes.

"Ah, shit," he cursed when she bucked her hips up against his hardness. "You're so beautiful, Kai. God."

Kairi reached up for him, pulling his lips to hers. She reached between them and tugged at the waistband of his boxers. Her heartbeat was erratic again; this was it. This was the moment. Doing this would not only mean that they could never go back to being just friends or even best friends again, but it also meant that she forgave Sora. Because would she really be doing this with him if she didn't love him enough to forgive him, after everything that they had been through? And frankly, even though she'd attempted suicide, had been shot at, and had lost her puppy, she needed this, needed Sora. She needed to feel some sort of comfort, and she wanted Sora to chase away the pain that was sure to attack her at any point in time.

"Are you sure you want this?" Sora whispered, his breaths coming in short when he pressed his hardness against her womanhood. The hand of his that was on the mattress was curved so tightly into the sheets that Kairi could see his knuckles going white out of the corner of her eyes. She could tell that he was trying his hardest not to ram himself into her to the hilt, waiting for her permission.

"You said you'd never leave me without my wings," she breathed, raising herself up on her elbow and tangling her fingers in the hair at the back of his head. She looked into his eyes, azure meeting cerulean, and smiled a small smile. "So help me fly."

Sora stared at her for a split second before he kissed her, long and slow and deep. His tongue searched every inch of her mouth and then, he was inside her, filling every inch of her body. She gasped and moaned, digging her fingernails into his upper arms as the pleasure of it threatened to drown her. God, she loved this man. He was her everything, and now, they were close in the way that she wanted most. It was perfection.

"Mm, ahh~" Kairi gasped when Sora began to move at a quick pace, delving deep with each thrust. Her fingernails bit even deeper into his skin, almost hard enough to draw blood, and she tried not to scream. It was like her own little slice of Heaven, and she was going to go mad from the sheer beauty of it. Her hips met his in the age-old dance that proved your love for the one you chose, and Kairi knew that she never wanted to let him go again.

"Fuckin' . . . Ah, shit," Sora panted, his eyes scouring her body possessively as he slammed into her repeatedly, changing pace and rhythm as he pleased. He was breathing heavily, and to Kairi, he looked more handsome that she had ever seen him look. She bit her bottom lip to stifle her moans, each movement he made sending her body veering off into space. Planets, stars, galaxies—she was seeing them all, intertwining into a beautiful masterpiece that spelled out her love for Sora.

The next thing she knew, he pulled out of her and rolled her onto her stomach. He stroked her thighs tenderly and pulled her rump up into the air. At first, she tensed with a bit of fear, but when she felt him sliding back inside of her womanhood, she relaxed and embraced the immense amounts of pleasure that Sora was giving her. He was growling animalistically, thrusting erratically as he neared his own peak. He leaned forward slightly and reached around between them to touch the bundle of nerves that was hidden at the top of her folds, massaging it in order to bring her to the same end for the second time that night. Kairi spread her legs a little wider and ground her hips against his hand, no longer finding herself able to hold in the noises that were coming out of her.

"Nnh, fuck, I . . . I'm c-close," Sora gasped, moving faster and faster, hitting the same spot inside of Kairi repeatedly—the spot that made her scream.

"Ah~ Please, Sora," Kairi groaned, burying her face into the pillow. "Please, I-I'm . . . Please . . ."

It happened: Sora obliged, and then the floodgates opened wide for both of them, and they joined each other in the land of bliss, leaving behind nothing to chance. Sora pulled out at the last moment and released into his discarded boxers, tossing them aside when he was done. Kairi's muscles spasmed as her second orgasm hit her, and she bit her tongue in her desperate attempt not to be too loud. It was the first time Kairi had ever felt so close and so in harmony with Sora; she could hear that his heartbeat was the same as hers.

They both collapsed beside each other on the bedsheets, Kairi molding her body to fit against Sora's side as he embraced her. They took a moment to catch their breath, each with their own thoughts about what had just transpired. Kairi felt elated and complete in a way—like every goal she had ever worked toward, she had succeeded in. Or like a thousand birthday wishes had come true. She was so happy and relieved that she began to cry, even though she had thought she couldn't cry anymore.

"No, shh, babe, what's wrong?" Sora asked soothingly.

Kairi blushed at the nickname, but continued to cry. "I'm just . . . I'm really happy, Sora."

"Then why are you crying?"

"Because I'm happy," she sobbed, placing a wet kiss to his chest and wrapping her arms around his waist. The light was still on in the room, but neither of them seemed to care. It was plain to see that they were both exhausted. And while there was still a lot more things to worry about in the morning, right here and right now, Kairi was exactly where she wanted to be., She was content, she was happy ,and she was in love.

"Hey, Kairi?" Sora said sleepily just before Kairi drifted off. He was completely wrapped around her, his face buried in her hair.

"Hm?" she managed to mutter.

"Love you . . ." he mumbled.

Kairi eyes shot open.

What had he just said?

~x~

A/N: I did the thing –sheepish smile- I hope the lemon was awesome enough for you guys to love it! See you next time~ You may think the secret has finally been told. But you're wrong. There's always a little something else that Sora has to hold back. But this time, it's something huge. MUAHAHAHAHA later gators!