MANDATORY AUTHOR'S NOTE: OH MY FLIPPING GOD I AM SO SORRY FOR HOW LATE THIS IS. It was a combination of horrible writer's block and a sudden depression and man just, my life has been hectic this past month. Anyway, I should be back now, and I really hope you enjoy this chapter!

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 violence and death in it.

ENJOY!

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Chapter Twenty-Five

~x~

No more than a few days passed before Kairi realized that she was growing restless. Namine was okay after a short surgery, recuperating in the hospital, Roxas watching her dutifully every night. Sora and his brother were preoccupied with school, so she didn't see too much of them, and Tidus never stopped by the beach house unless she was cooking his favorite (deep fried Pizza Rolls). Kairi spent her days obsessively cleaning, as usual, and watching the only thing that came in on the TV—Korean soap operas with no subtitles. Whenever Sora came home from school, if he didn't bring Vanitas over so they could play video games on the Xbox, he sat down on the living room floor in front of her and did his homework at the coffee table. It was a quiet existence, borderline boring, and that was why Kairi was restless.

Looking at the picture in her hand, the picture of the redheaded woman and the young Roxas, Kairi bit her bottom lip. She'd been wondering and wondering who this woman really was for days now, but was no closer to finding any answers. She'd searched every box, closet, and shelf in the entire house, but she hadn't found any more pictures of this woman. If this woman was really Roxas's mother, then why weren't there anymore pictures? Kairi had thumbed through every single family photo album that had been left in the house, but all she'd found were ripped out pages, empty spaces, and a whole lot of nothing. She knew she could probably ask Roxas or Sora about it, but she was too afraid to be rude or sound crazy.

Kairi put the picture back into the back pocket of her black skinny jeans and walked back into the living room. Sora was due home at any moment, and then she was forcing him to take her to the store. She figured it would be okay, since it was just a local market on the corner for the people who lived in North Shore. Destiny Islands was huge, and if Riku and his minions hadn't found out about the beach house yet, then it was probably okay for Sora to drive here ten minutes to go get a freakin' soda. Ooh, and a Reese's. Kairi was in some definite need of chocolate.

Sora walked in about five minutes after Kairi had slipped her feet into her combat boots and pulled on one of Sora's much large V-neck shirts. He paused in the entryway, narrowing his eyes in confusion at the fact that she was dressed and ready to go somewhere.

"Over fifty percent of the time, I come home and you're wearing my clothes," he said.

Kairi smiled sweetly, knowing that she had to convince him to take her to the store still. "Better than you coming home over fifty percent of the time to me wearing someone else's."

Sora's smile slowly widened. "To be honest, I'd rather come home over fifty percent of the time to you wearing no clothes, but then we can't have everything, can we?"

Kairi fixed him with a stern yet playful glare and then pranced over toward him. "Come on—you're taking me to the store."

"To the store?" He looked bewildered, his keys jangling in his hands as he turned to watch her breeze past him. "What's at the store?"

She grinned at him. "Candy! Come on, let's go!"

"Whoa, Kai!" Sora cried incredulously, grabbing her hand tightly to stop her. "You can't be serious . . . After what happened at the show last week? You want to risk going out?"

"Awwww, come on, Sora," she pouted, holding his hand and swinging it lightly. "I'm hungry for chocolate."

Sora eyed her carefully. "Why do I feel like there's more to this than just candy cravings?"

"Because you're delusional," she giggled. "But you're a cute delusional. So let's go!"

Kairi let go of his hand and left the house, expecting him to follow her out to the car (which he, of course, did). The two of them climbed into the car and put on their seatbelts, and soon enough, they were on the road.

As they drove, Kairi barely noticed that Sora couldn't put his cell phone down. He usually texted and drove (like a reckless idiot), so it wasn't out of place for him to be doing what he was doing. Instead of berating him, she occupied herself with looking out the window at the shoreline, commenting on how pretty the waves looked this late in the afternoon.

"Sora, let's go night swimming!" Kairi suggested excitedly. "Shit, that'd be so fun!"

"Sure," he mumbled absentmindedly, his thumb flying across the touchscreen on his cell while his other hand controlled the steering wheel. He was wearing a black V-neck and black skinny jeans today, causing his spiky chestnut brown hair to look longer and spikier, and his cobalt blue eyes to sparkle like sapphires.

"We should invite everyone over and barbeque tonight, too," Kairi went on eagerly. "Oh, please, Sora? Can we?"

"Sure," he repeated.

Kairi narrowed her eyes. Now she knew he wasn't listening to her. Seriously—how suspicious would that look if every single person who lived in Sora's old house was gone all at once? Riku and his little minions would increase their search for her tenfold. They might even find them, and do something terrible. Why in the Hell would Sora agree to such a stupid thing?

Deadpanning, Kairi pointedly said, "And then, after barbequing and swimming, we can have an orgy with the band while we're all high on heroin."

"Sure, babe," Sora answered automatically. "Whatever you want."

"Really?" Kairi sneered in disgust and then pushed the limits. "After the orgy, can I put a dildo in your butthole?"

"Sure, babe. Whatever you . . . WHAT?!"

Kairi screamed with laughter, her stomach aching and tears streaming down her face. "NOPE!" she shrieked. "You already agreed to it! Now it's gonna happen!"

"What?! What the fuck?!" Sora roared indignantly, eyes wild. He dropped his phone to his lap and, while half-paying attention to the road, he reached over to tickle Kairi's sides. "Take it back! My answers don't count if I' not really listening!"

"No, no, no!" Kairi sang, batting his hands away and giggling madly. "You already said yes, so now it has to happen."

"No way!" he whined, pouting the adorable little pout he used to use with her when he was a child. "I don't want you to put anything in my butt."

Kairi, still laughing, said, "Okay, okay. Since you're so adorbs." She reached over to tug on a strand of his spiky hair playfully.

Sora grinned wickedly. "But since you were so mean to me, that means that I get to put it in your butt."

Knowing he was only playing, Kairi wrinkled her nose and shook her head. "Mm . . . Nah."

"Yeah-huh," Sora said. "By the logic of the time-space continuum and all that."

"By the logic of . . . ? Sora, what the fuck?" Kairi laughed incredulously, turning her attentions back to the scenery outside. A faint smile played about her lips. She loved this, this playful banter and joking around. It reminded her of when they were younger, and everything was fun and games.

The car was comfortably silent, and Kairi had long since realized that Sora had driven past the corner store. She didn't really care to ask him why he hadn't stopped, though. Perhaps he just wanted to spend more time with her? Who knew? All she knew was that this was Heaven.

"I'm really glad Namine's going to be okay," Kairi said after awhile.

"Hm?" Sora was back on his phone.

"I said I'm really happy about Namine," she replied, brushing her bangs behind her ears. "That she's going to be okay."

"Oh . . . Well, remember what the doctor said?" Sora said softly. "Her condition is unstable. She's all right now, but she could get worse at any moment."

Kairi blinked rapidly, trying to make sense of what he had just told her. She stared at him in utter shock. He had some nerve . . . Why was he being so pessimistic? She glared out the window and fought back tears. She knew that it was possible that Namine's condition could worsen at any moment. She knew that it was all her fault. How could Sora talk about it like that? How could he remind her of her sins? She was speechless, and couldn't find words for what felt like hours. She could feel Sora's eyes burning into the side of her face from time-to-time, and the silence in the car wasn't so comfortable anymore.

"Please don't say that stuff," Kairi finally said quietly.

Sora sighed eavily. "I'm . . . Look, I'm sorry. I didn't . . . I just . . ." He reached over and took her hand, rubbing the back of her palm affectionately with his thumb. "I just want you to be realistic."

"I don't want to be realistic," Kairi whispered. She stared at their clasped hands, tears slipping silently down her cheeks. She hadn't cried when Namine had gotten shot, but she was crying now.

"Babe . . ." He sighed again. "I . . . I know."

"Then why did you say that?" she wailed, letting out a sob and covering her face with her hands.

"I didn't . . . Aw, come on, Kai!" He squeezed her hand. "Don't cry. Please? I just—" He was cut off as his cell phone began to ring, and he let go of Kairi's hand to answer it.

Kairi sniffled and wiped her eyes, trying her best to stop crying. She didn't even know why she was crying, to be honest. Sure, there was always a possibility of Namine's condition taking a turn, but who in their right mind wanted to think that way? Kairi just wanted Namine to be okay. She didn't want to be sitting around, waiting for her to get sick. What the Hell?

"No," Sora was saying. "Not right now."

At the tone in his voice, Kairi couldn't help but look at him. Her brow furrowed in confusion—why did he sound so quietly enraged?

"Because I'm fucking busy," he snarled into the receiver. "Now, I told you not to call me unless it was-Yes, I—No—But—Fuckin' . . . !" He tilted his head back and scowled. "Where? Fine."

Kairi frowned. Sora was turning the car around and looking at her strangely, in an almost worried sort of fashion. What for? Were they going back home? Why was he so angry and agitated?

"Sora?" Kairi asked curiously. "Where are we going?"

"Don't talk right now," Sora ordered sharply, causing Kairi's heart to skip a beat.

Why was it that every time they were together, things went from happy to sad to angry in a matter of mere moments? Kairi sighed and sat back in her seat. She didn't even care that Sora was being rude—she just wanted this to be over with so she could go back to her bed in the beach house and go to sleep.

The tension in the car was nearly unbearable as they drove and drove and drove, all the way to the heart of North Shore. Sora pulled into the parking lot of an old, run-down motel with the kind-of sign that constantly flashes Vacancy in the middle of the day. He parked at the far end and sat there for a long moment, glaring out the windshield.

Kairi gulped. "S-Sora? Why are we at a motel?"

Sora lowered his head and clenched his fists around the steering wheel. "Stay in the car. Under no circumstances are you to come out, you hear?"

The bemused redheaded girl blinked and stared at him. "What are you talking about?"

Sora looked at her, then quickly looked away—as if it pained him too much. He pointed to one of the doors (Room #201), and then spoke.

"I'm only going to be in that room for five minutes tops. Any longer, and you get in the driver's seat and get the Hell out of here, got it?" he instructed her.

Kairi gulped. "Okay, but what are you going to be doing in there?"

He opened the car door and got out, completely ignoring her question. He ran his fingers through his spiky, unruly hair, and then headed across the lot to Room #201. Irritated, Kairi unbuckled her seatbelt and crawled across the seat to his side of the car. She watched him walking, watched him throwing furtive glances around willy-nilly, and she realized just what the Hell was going on here.

"He's doing a drug deal?" Kairi whispered aloud to herself. "Is he fucking serious?"

It was a well-known fact to her by now that Sora dealt drugs for Riku and his gang. And it was also a well-known fact to her by now that Sora hated this part of himself. He hated this part of himself, but he was stuck doing it because if he didn't, Riku had threatened to kill the people he cared about most, including Kairi (though Kairi was on a separate hit list of Riku's all on her own now). It was frustrating to watch him do these things to himself, though. He was never "this" kind of guy. It was almost horrifying to think of who he had become.

Kairi sat up straight. She had to go after him. She just had to. She didn't care how dangerous it was, and she didn't care that he had specifically told her to stay. She loved him, and she wanted to protect him. She couldn't let him go in there alone.

Bolting from the car, Kairi dashed across the parking lot. Her heart was pounding quickly, for she had no clue what awaited her on the other side of the door to Room #201. Taking a deep breath, she placed her hand on the doorknob, and prepared for the worst.

Kairi burst into the room, and all Hell broke loose. She saw Sora exchanging hands with the boy that she'd seen outside the mall and the house, Xigbar, and then all-of-a-sudden, her face was slammed against the wall. Someone's body pressed fully up against hers, pinning her against the plaster with her hands up above her head.

"Fuck, Yoshimura!" Xigbar snarled, producing a gun from nowhere and using it to force Sora into the same position as Kairi. "We said no witnesses! Those are the fucking rules!"

Kairi gritted her teeth as she felt hands squeezing at her breasts, a voice hissing in her ear that he was "checking her for weapons." She didn't even bother to struggle, knowing that it could mean Sora's life if she did. She turned her face so that she was looking at Sora, and her heart skipped a beat.

The look on Sora's face was terrifying.

"Get your fucking hands off of her, Luxord," Sora snarled, his hands held up by his head and Xigbar's gun digging into his throat. His cobalt blue eyes flashed, seeming more threatening than any weapon could ever be, and Kairi gulped.

"No deal," Xigbar said. "You tell your boss we said no deal."

Sora turned his malevolent glare upon Xigbar and sneered. "Don't give a fuck. Let her go."

"You really don't care?" Xigbar sounded incredulous. "That bitch matters so much to you . . . ?"

Kairi bit her bottom lip, half-expecting Sora to say no. After all, what was so special about her? She really had fucked up this time. She'd interrupted a legitimate drug deal, put the both in terrible danger, and at any moment, Xigbar could snap and shoot them both. Now that they were staring Death directly in the face, Kairi couldn't even remember what had possessed her to come into the hotel room after Sora.

Xigbar chuckled darkly at Sora's silence. "That's what I thought. Still cowering in your shoes, afraid of Riku. You always were a fucking weak punk, just like when you first joined up."

"Fuck you," Sora spat, earning himself a vicious knee to the gut that forced him to double over in pain.

Kairi felt herself being physically dragged backward and thrown onto the bed. Her first instinct was to cower away and curl up into the fetal position, but then she stopped herself. Why was she so afraid? She'd already been through every horrible trial and tribulation possible, and she'd overcome them all. Sora was here in the room with her—he wouldn't let anything bad happen to her. That, and she was strong. She would fight back.

Xigbar placed the barrel of his gun against the back of Sora's neck and used it to force Sora onto his knees in front of the bed. The brunette stared at Kairi intently, every trace of anger giving way to intense concern.

"What do you think we should do about this, smartass?" Xigbar sneered, jabbing the back of Sora's head. "You're the one who thinks he can order us around, tell us what to fuckin' do."

Sora remained silent, though there was a nerve working in his jaw that showed just how livid he was at the moment. Kairi kept her eyes on his even as Luxord climbed onto the bed and started to pull off his shirt.

"Go ahead," Sora said softly, darkly.

"What?" Luxord and Xigbar said simultaneously. Xigbar was still aiming his gun at Sora, and Luxord's body was hovering over Kairi's.

"Go ahead and do it." Sora's smirk was bone-chilling. "See what fuckin' happens."

"Says the idiot on the other end of a gun," Xigbar snorted. "You really think you have any sway here?"

Kairi swallowed, feeling a bit scared. Xigbar was right—Sora didn't really have the upper hand. Luxord's hands were suddenly all over her, and no matter how hard Kairi tried to push him away, it only seemed to excite him more. She remained calm though, knowing that the worst had already been done to her. Nothing Luxord had in store for her could be worse than the pain she had endured in her past.

But really—was this seriously going to happen to her again?

"So here's what we're gonna do, while your little girlfriend is busy over there," Xigbar went on. "You're gonna leave the money on the dresser, and then you're gonna leave. Got it?"

"Without the stuff?" Sora arched one eyebrow, his fists clenching in his lap. He was clenching his teeth, watching Luxord struggling to undress Kairi with blazing blue eyes.

"You pissed me off, so no deal. But you're gonna leave the money anyway, and then you're going to fucking leave. Do you fucking got it?"

"Not without Kairi, I'm not."

"The girl stays until I'm through with her. You leave the money. You get the fuck out of the room." Xigbar knocked the barrel against Sora's neck again for emphasis. "Comprende?"

"You can go fuck yourself," Sora said incredulously. "No fucking way am I leaving my girl in here with you. Last chance, Xigbar—let us go, or you're gonna regret it."

Kairi tried not to be physically ill as Luxord started to kiss her neck. She looked down and saw that somehow, a small switchblade had mysteriously appeared in Sora's hand, and nobody had noticed it yet. He was still smirking, and somehow, Kairi knew that this was going to end in bloodshed.

Suddenly, Kairi screamed as Luxord's fingers found their way inside of her without much warning or prediction. It was more out of surprise than pain, though, but it was enough to incite Sora's rage. His face twisted in ire and in one swift movement, his hand darted up and slashed a gaping hole in Xigbar's wrist. Blood rained down upon Sora's head, but he was on his feet in an instant. He managed to grab the gun from Xigbar, who was roaring in agony, and the gunshot that rang out was enough to cause Luxord to stop.

Luxord fumbled for his gun on the mattress, but Sora was too quick for him.

Kairi felt her blood run cold as she stared at the two dead bodies that littered the room. Nausea threatened to overwhelm her, but there was no time to be weak. Sora grabbed her hand and pulled her off of the bed, half-clothed, and cupped the back of her head.

"Are you all right?" he asked huskily.

The redhead could only nod, and she couldn't tear her eyes away from the unseeing gaze of Xigbar, blood pooling on the carpet beneath him. Behind her, Luxord's own life force was drenching the comforter of the hotel bed, and no sound was issuing from either man's mouth.

Sora had changed, and Kairi wasn't so sure if it was for the better.

In the car, Kairi could barely speak. She couldn't wrap her mind around the fact that Sora could so easily waste two lives. Granted, they weren't the greatest of people, but . . . Had they truly deserved death? In her seat, she pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, staring ashen-faced out the windshield as Sora made a number of phone calls to all sorts of different people, known and unknown.

"Won't the police be looking for you?" Kairi whispered after a time of driving in silence.

Sora was holding the wheel with both hands. "No," he said softly. "What we do is beneath the law."

"What you 'do'?" Kairi was horrified. "You've killed before?"

Sora was pale. ". . . I have."

Without really meaning to, Kairi burst out into violent, gut-wrenching sobs. She hadn't truly cried in what felt like ages, and she hadn't wanted Sora to see her so weak again, but this new information was information that she just couldn't handle. Hearing that Sora—her Sora, the math nerd who was more worried about her scuffing her shoes than he was about his own health—had taken lives? It was official. Her life was a nightmare. A living, breathing nightmare.

"Aw, Kai . . . I'm sorry, I . . ." He reached over to touched her arm, but she smacked is hand away.

"Don't touch me," she hissed through her tears. "Don't even touch me."

"Kairi, I—" He was cut off by the sound of his phone ringing. He looked at the caller ID. "I have to take this—it's Rox."

Kairi didn't move to acknowledge his words. She felt dirty and disgusting. She was in love with a murderer. Sora had changed so fucking much, and this was overwhelming her so much that she almost wanted to cut again.

Almost.

"Hey, man," Sora sighed into the phone, sounding subdued and upset. "Wait . . .Wait, slow down. What's going on?"

Kairi immediately turned to look at him, wiping her tears away. Something wasn't right. Something didn't feel right.

Sora listened to whatever it was Roxas was saying, and Kairi watched as his eyes went as wide as saucers. Her heart skipped a beat. Things were getting worse by the second, she just knew it. Sora was turning the car around and getting onto the freeway now, heading out of North Shore.

"We're on our way, man," Sora said. "Just stay calm—we're coming."

"Sora!" Kairi cried as soon as he dropped his phone into his lap. "Sora, what's going on?!"

"It's Namine," he said, refusing to look her in the eyes.

"What about Namine?!" Kairi's voice was seedy and high-pitched, wavering with more tears that had yet to be shed.

Sora's knuckles went white on the steering wheel. "Her condition suddenly took a turn for the worse, and . . ."

"And what?!"

". . . She's slipped into a coma, Kai. She's slipped into a coma, and they don't know why."

~x~

A/N: Good dear Lord. I hope that chapter was good enough to make up for my absence. Again, I apologize and hope to update more rapidly in the future! Until next time, dear readers!