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Returning, Resuming

Chapter Text

The more similar the original and the copy the more important it is for one to be real
and the other to be fake.

 

How could you, Roxas?

 

He woke up strangling for air.

Roxas shoved the window sash up and flung himself outside, needing to get away from Sora's room, Sora's house, Sora's life, all those things that almost looked like the lie he'd had once.

He fell to the ground before remembering he'd been on the second floor. Roxas stayed crouched for a moment, unsure what to do next.

He could still see the look on Luxord's face, right before he disappeared forever. He could still hear him--Luxord had been like the one decent guy to him in the Organization, him and Axel and Zexion and her and they were all gone now.

The Roxas I knew is long gone now.

Silence, traitor.

Roxas ground the heels of his hands against his eyes, trying to get the images out of his mind, and then took off barefoot for the beach.


He didn't know what to do when he got there, either; but at least the sound of the ocean drowned his thoughts out. Some. Kinda. If he forced it.

Roxas was still trying to figure out if it would be better to take Sora's boat over to the play island or if it would be worse to be that close to the Door and know he couldn't open it without Sora waking up and stopping him, when he heard her coming across the sand.

She was wearing Kairi's dress, but it was her. She still looked like Kairi, the same way he still looked like Sora--the way he would always look like Sora from now on--but he knew it was her.

"Hi," Naminé said.

"Nn," Roxas managed.

She folded her hands in front of her. "...Is everything okay?"

"No," he snapped.

Naminé half-smiled faintly, that soft, regretful expression that always made him--that he was pretty sure made all of them--feel like he needed to protect her from...something. "Can I help?"

"...Sorry," he muttered, and then turned away and dropped down onto the sand. "No."

Naminé settled down a short distance away, smoothing Kairi's skirt over her legs. "Okay."

Roxas glanced over at her, and then hunched in further.

"...Are you sure?" she asked, a few moments later.

"Yeah," he said shortly. "It was just a bad dream."

"Oh," Naminé replied.

"Why are you up?" he asked, trying to head off any more questions.

"I was drawing," she explained, and held up a hand. Roxas glanced over long enough to see the traces of colored wax on her fingertips from the crayons. "And then I just felt...like something was wrong."

"With Sora?" Roxas asked.

She shook her head. "I got the feeling something was wrong with you."

He knew he was being a jerk, and didn't like it; but he didn't want to be here and he didn't want to try and explain that to someone who felt the complete opposite about all this. And he didn't like the way being around Naminé sometimes made him think about Castle Oblivion, because every time he thought about that place all he could remember was a pounding in his head and Axel's hands on his shoulders and a horrified look on someone's face, and it all jumbled up into colors and memories and aches that weren't his and he didn't want.

Roxas ground the heel of his hand against his forehead, which didn't do anything useful.

Naminé shifted, turning a little more towards him. "What's the matter?"

"You wouldn't understand." Roxas scowled out at the ocean.

It was a harsh thing to say to the last Nobody like him, capable of speech and sentient in a way the Heartless would never be, and he couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice.

Naminé shifted beside him, and adjusted her skirt again. Kairi's skirt.

"I can't," she said quietly, "unless you let me try."

He exhaled through his teeth, and had to look away again. Naminé waited.

Eventually, Roxas raised a hand and stared at it. He thought about calling his keyblades, because he could feel them waiting--it had been a long time since he'd trained, too long since he'd used their body to run through attacks or spar or fight, but there wasn't anything on this world to fight, not right now, except for Kairi and Riku; and Roxas didn't like the way their body responded to the two of them even when Sora gave him full control.

--Their body. Sora's body. He didn't have one. He didn't even have a facsimile any more.

Roxas resisted the urge to press his hands to his face again, and instead laughed tiredly.

"'You won't disappear,'" he muttered. "'You'll be whole.'" He propped his head in one hand and looked out at the ocean again, that old familiar and unfamiliar sight, made worse by the fact that Kairi-but-not-Kairi was sitting next to him. Roxas thought of a dock, a place where Sora and Kairi had sat countless times before as kids, and said, "I think I liked being half better. At least then I wasn't fighting someone in my head all the time."

"...That's not the way we're meant to be," Naminé said a moment later, and Roxas had to look over at her pained tone. "One part of your self can't go without the other. We can't. Terrible things happen then."

"I didn't do anything that bad," he said, defensively. It was probably a lie, because he'd been a part of the Organization, but it wasn't like he remembered enough to say for sure.

"I did," Naminé replied.

Roxas wasn't sure what to say to that.

She drew her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them, and for a moment Roxas totally forgot about the conversation at hand and stared at her thighs and the crinkles in her skirt where the motion had rucked it up.

Then he shook his head, and looked away again.

He wished he could know whether this feeling was his own, or if it was an echo of Sora's affection for Kairi. He could trust it more if he knew, one way or the other.

His heart was supposed to belong to him.

"I thought I would be gone," Naminé said, so quietly it almost wasn't audible over the waves; and then Roxas was focused again.

"But you said--" he started, and couldn't finish over the sense of betrayal clogging up his throat.

She smiled, faintly. "I...didn't lie. Or I didn't mean to," she said, toying with the edge of her skirt. "I didn't know what it would mean to rejoin with them. I thought maybe there would be so much of Kairi that I would just...seep into it, color it a little maybe with what I went through. But it would still be 'her,' not 'us.'" Naminé folded her hands over her heart. "They say Nobodies are half a person, but how could I be a half when Kairi had a body and I didn't have a heart?"

Roxas looked away, and dug his hand into the sand.

Naminé let her hands drop, and folded them on her knees. "Maybe I did lie," she acknowledged. "But I didn't see it the way you did. I thought it still had to be better to be a part of her than to stop existing all together."

"What?" Roxas asked.

"I was supposed to be killed," Naminé said. "DiZ told Riku to get rid of me. Kairi wasn't like Sora--she didn't need me, not the way he needs you."

"What?" Roxas demanded, scrambling onto his feet.

"She's a Princess of Heart," Naminé explained, even though that wasn't what he'd meant and she had to know it. "They can't really be halved; they don't have darkness in the first place. But Sora...." She shifted. "In Hollow Bastion, after Kairi changed him back, he still wasn't right. He wasn't a Heartless any more, but he was just a heart. She pulled a veneer of skin around him, but it wasn't a real body." She looked up at him. "It couldn't be, because it wasn't you. Without you, he's just a heart."

"What do you mean destroyed?" Roxas clenched his fists, and shifted on the sand, hating the feel of it as he did. He wanted something solid under his feet, tarmac and blacktop or concrete or at least bricks.

Naminé shrugged again, faint and delicate. "Kairi didn't need me to exist, and Nobodies are an abomination. Disappearing is their fate."

She said it without inflection, like a recitation, and Roxas's fists tightened.

"That bastard," he hissed. "Who was he to say anything like that? He's the one that started all this!"

"He tried to make up for it," she offered.

"Who cares?" Roxas snapped. "Nothing makes up for being like that!"

"He wasn't any worse than Marluxia," Naminé said, and Roxas stopped short and stared.

"How can--they're not--" He shook his head. "They weren't the same at all. Marluxia was one of us!"

She half-smiled again.

"One of you," Naminé corrected. "I was never a real Nobody. I was just a witch."

Roxas stared down at her for a long time, and finally loosened his hands.

He looked around the beach for a few moments, trying to think of something to say, and eventually dropped onto the sand.

"You were real," he muttered. "You were always real."

She shook her head. "I was an imitation. No," she said, looking away, at the water. "I wasn't even that. Even an imitation knew how to feel. He didn't even have a name, but he was more real than me. I was like...like a paper cutout." She lifted her hands and looked at them. "Like a washed-out reflection of her. No wonder they hated me. My existence was even more fake than theirs."

"A fake thing is just a real thing pretending to be a different real thing," Roxas said savagely, because the more she talked the more he remembered that static buzzing in his ears as he'd woken up each morning in Twilight Town, and the way his friends had frozen along with the rest of the world. "You listened to DiZ too much. We were real. They were real. They existed. It doesn't matter how, they still existed!"

Naminé just looked at him, and Roxas thought that maybe she was right; maybe she never had been a true Nobody, because she should've known this. If you stopped holding onto your existence for even a second, the world would wipe you out like you'd never been. You couldn't ever let it think it was right, or that was the end.

He looked away, and kicked the sand.

"Maybe that's why it's so hard for you and Sora," she said, a few moments later.

"What do you mean?" Roxas scowled.

"The memories you had, the relationships--they mean a lot, to both of you," Naminé said. "That's why Sora went to sleep in the first place; he didn't want to lose anyone." She shifted, tucking her feet to the side and bracing herself up with one arm. "And you both think they can't be combined, without losing them."

"They can't," Roxas said flatly. "He killed half of them."

"You still have their memories," she offered. "You can't lose those."

"Sora's got his own memories of them," Roxas muttered. "If I don't hang on to mine, what's to keep his from eating them up? Until that's the only thing either of us remembers?"

She shook her head. "It doesn't work like that. Memories can disappear, but feelings don't. You can break the chains, but you can never melt the links."

"You can make it so they can never be reached," Roxas retorted, because he'd seen Sora's memories of Castle Oblivion scattered in the depths of his heart, almost invisible below all the restored memories, permanently out of Sora's reach; and she didn't have a response to that.

"What about Hayner and Pence and Olette?" Naminé asked, and he winced.

"He met the real ones," Roxas said, glaring down at the sand. "The living ones. According to you, that's the true memories. Mine can't hold up to that."

"I'm not trying to hurt you," Naminé said, reaching out a hand. "I want to help."

"How?" Roxas demanded, pulling away, and hating how his voice cracked. "How?! You don't understand. You've got everything you should've had now. You and Kairi get along. Sora doesn't remember anything, but you're still his friend. You've got Riku now, don't you? --He took you, he took her," Roxas slammed a fist on the sand, "he took me." He dug the hand in deeper, since it was the only way to keep himself from summoning the keyblades, because if he did that it'd bring Riku and if he saw him now Roxas was going to tear into him for all he'd done. "Maybe it was bad for you, maybe it really sucked, but it doesn't anymore! But I don't have anyone left. They're gone, forever, and Sora carries that keychain around with all the others like it's nothing and I'm never going to see them again, and if I let him have those memories I won't have anything left at all."

Roxas hunched in on himself, because he couldn't stop shaking and he wasn't going to cry and he didn't want her to see him like this.

"Maybe it was horrible," he finally whispered, because it wasn't like he'd liked all of them, and he remembered being so angry right at the end, at Xemnas and Saix and everyone, and even if he didn't remember why there had to be a reason for it. "And you wanted to get away. That makes sense. But I didn't want to change."

He dropped his head onto his knees. "I didn't want any of it to change."

Naminé didn't say anything.

Eventually he heard her stand. Roxas figured she was leaving, because it wasn't like there was anything else to say and he'd been a jerk; so he jolted when she suddenly wrapped her arms around him.

"I'm sorry," Naminé said quietly. "I didn't know it would be so hard. I thought you would be happy about it, but you were both so different from me, and I didn't realize until too late. It wasn't supposed to hurt like this. It was supposed to make everything right."

She pulled her legs up, pressing against his side, and dropped her head on his shoulder. "I'm so sorry."

Roxas shuddered and pushed his head harder against his knees.

At last, he pulled his hand free of the sand and shook it off. Naminé shifted a little so she wouldn't get sand up her skirt, and then pulled her arms away and scooted further back.

"I'm sorry," she said again.

"You did what you had to," Roxas replied, even though he didn't think that was what she was apologizing about this time. "The worlds needed him."

She interlaced her fingers and stared down at them. "I could have tried a little harder. Or...I don't know." She shook her head. "I really did try, when I realized. But nothing was enough, not without you. I was afraid that without you, if it was just his heart, he wouldn't be strong enough to face it. That he'd break on his own."

"Face what?" Roxas asked, and Naminé drew in a breath.

He blinked, and then wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and looked over. Her own eyes were slightly widened.

"I shouldn't have--I can't," she said. "He's not ready yet."

Roxas frowned and shifted around enough to face her. "For what?"

Naminé shook her head. "I can't say."

Roxas's frown deepened, and she looked away, at the ocean again. "I'm sorry."

"...I don't think he's listening," Roxas told her, after a moment. "He's not asleep, but he's not talking." He tried to scowl, but it came off more tired than anything. "He doesn't like hearing me say anything bad about Riku."

Naminé glanced over, and then twisted her fingers.

"...There are some memories," she murmured, "inside Sora's heart. They're important, but they're dangerous."

"Dangerous?" Roxas started to ask; and then he recalled that that was exactly what he'd called that feeling that'd drifted up when Kairi was describing Aqua.

"They're too painful," Naminé said. "They could damage his heart. ...They could break it."

Even with Riku pulling the shadows away, that loneliness had been opening up underneath their heart like the ocean, ready to engulf it. It had been like standing in that room in Twilight Town after Axel set it on fire; it was going to consume everything.

"I did what I could, to prepare him to face it," Naminé continued, still looking at her hands. "But I don't...he's not ready yet. You both aren't, not yet."

"Who is it?" Roxas demanded.

She shook her head. "I can't. I shouldn't have said this much, not yet." She looked up at him. "Please, trust me. I don't want to hurt either of you any more than I have."

Roxas realized he'd pressed a hand against his chest without noticing, and forced it down. ". . . All right."

"Thank you," Naminé said, and then hesitated.

"...Is he really not listening?" she asked.

Roxas glanced at her, but checked. Sora was awake, he knew that; but he was wrapped up in his own thoughts. Roxas didn't actually ask, or get close, but he figured it was a pretty safe bet that Sora was too distracted with whatever he was thinking about to be paying attention to anything outside, too. "Yeah."

Naminé unlaced her fingers, and tucked her legs underneath herself. He didn't know how she could keep fidgeting on the sand so much.

"I understand," she told him. "A little."

"Huh?" Roxas said, because that wasn't what he'd been expecting.

Naminé looked over with a faint smile. "I don't want things to change, either. Not now. But...."

Roxas frowned. "What's wrong?"

Naminé ran her fingers through the loose sand.

"Kairi isn't just a Princess of Heart," she said. "She's Radiant Garden's keybearer." She smiled faintly, and lifted a hand to let the sand trickle down to the beach. "She's asleep. She hasn't thought of this. I don't think Sora or Riku have either."

"Wait," Roxas said. "You mean...."

"She made a promise that we'd see each other every day," Naminé said, looking over at him. "Her and Sora, and you and me. But what happens when they goes back to Radiant Garden? Maybe they don't need a Princess, not with the restoration committee in charge, but what's going to happen when the world finds out she's the keybearer that was taken from it? Especially now that her power's woken up."

Roxas didn't know what to say.

But then he thought of something. "Wait. We can travel. That's what they used to do, isn't it? Travel between the worlds to protect all of them?"

Naminé nodded.

"But how long can they do it without ever returning home?" she asked. "Months? Or years?" She looked over her shoulder, not at the ocean, but at the island behind them. "I know it probably wouldn't have to be for long, but I don't want to be separated from you and Riku and Sora. I don't want her to be, either. I wish things could stay like this. No, like this, but happier."

Roxas wanted to rub his head, but remembered all the sand on his hand when it was halfway up. "What about that book Kairi got from Wakka? How often did it say Xehanort came back? He couldn't do it without anyone seeing him," he rationalized. "He'd have to eat and sleep somewhere."

Naminé shook her head. "I don't know."

"Hasn't she read it yet? Riku was chomping at the bit."

"There are pages cut out," Naminé said, and Roxas blinked. Then he finally did rub his head, hard.

"Arrrgh!"

Naminé nodded. "She actually cussed."

Roxas snorted at that, and dropped back to lie on the sand.

"There's that creepy wizard," he suggested, a little later, staring up at the stars. "Yen Sid. Maybe he'll know. Or the king."

"Maybe," Naminé said.

". . . I hope it's not long," Roxas muttered.

"Me too," she agreed.

"Or ever." Roxas held a hand up, feeling the keyblade waiting just beneath his palm. "I don't know what world these are from. Nothing ever happened on any of the ones I went to with them."

"Maybe they're from worlds that don't exist anymore, except that little bit," she suggested. "Or ones that haven't woken up yet."

"Arrrrrrrgh," Roxas repeated, and bonked his head against the beach.

Naminé started to draw in the sand. "...It's not the same, I know; but I understand a little." She tried to sketch Sora's spiky hair; but the medium was all wrong, and she went back to aimless doodles. "...All my happy memories are with people here," she murmured. "I don't want to have to go away again."

"We'll figure something out," Roxas said. "We always do. There's gotta be something."

Naminé smiled faintly, and nodded.


After a while, Roxas realized that the stars had shifted enough that it was probably going to be dawn soon. Maybe. Sora would know for sure; The World That Never Was and Twilight Town hadn't had days that changed like this world did.

When he told Naminé, she said they should probably head back so that Kairi and Sora didn't pass out in class later. Roxas didn't see what the big deal was, because there wasn't much better to do in class; but he agreed anyway.

"...Thanks," he told Naminé, right before they separated on the road.

She looked down at the sandals she was clonking the sand out of. "I haven't done anything to deserve that."

"Yeah, you did," Roxas replied. "Thanks."

". . . You're welcome," she said, and smiled. Naminé slipped the shoes back on, and told him, "Thank you."

Roxas nodded, half-turned, and hesitated. Naminé smiled again and turned toward the path; and he started down his own, the one back to Sora's home.

He was barely out of sight of the ocean when Sora said, Hey, Roxas?

He stopped. It was almost tempting to ignore him, or just drop his hold on their body; but Roxas thought of that gaping loneliness again, and decided it was a good reason to call a truce. If it was worrying Naminé that much. If it was that dangerous.

Yeah.

How can I help? Sora asked.

--What?

How can I help? Sora repeated. There's gotta be something I can do.

...Why do you care? Roxas demanded, and then stormed in to meet him face to face, because what the hell. "Seriously. Why are you even asking? Didn't you hear any of that?"

"Yeah, but...you're not alone. You don't have to carry all that on your own." Sora rubbed the back of his head and gave him a worried look. "I didn't realize it was so bad. What can I do?"

Roxas was silent, dumbfounded by the unfathomable absurdity that was Sora and by the sheer amount of it, too big to be summed up or responded to. How could anyone think they were supposed to be one person? They weren't even alike.

Sora waited, still looking kind of confused and kind of like he didn't understand why Roxas didn't understand. "I mean it," he said. "I know I...I guess I'm not the best other all the time, but I can carry some of it." He grinned. "We've got a better chance of getting through if we share, right? Like a limit break. ...Or not. But still," Sora told him, "you can rest easy. Your hurt can be mine now."

Roxas stared at him, at that doofy 'let me help' expression; and he surrendered.

Maybe it was okay. Maybe he really wouldn't be losing himself, but just gaining some of Sora. Naminé was still herself; so maybe changing some didn't have to be the same thing as disappearing.

He wasn't as fragile as a Nobody anymore. He had a heart now, even if it was second-hand and had a personality of its own.

"...I don't like Riku," Roxas said, and watched that flash of irritation cross Sora's face despite his sincerity. Then, because words hadn't done any good before, he stepped forward, pressed a hand to Sora's forehead, and remembered losing.

Sora flinched, and Roxas belatedly recalled that the guardian had broken his ribs. He'd forgotten that; they'd probably dumped a hi-potion or a Cura on him before sticking him into the virtual world, and anyway, the physical pain hadn't been much, had been nothing compared the feeling that everything he had was being stripped away piece by piece, to thinking he'd had friends only to learn it was a lie, or seeing Axel for the last time when he barely remembered him, or having to fight her--

Roxas remembered that there was something in his memories Sora couldn't know.

If he learned about--them...someone, some...thing, what he and Naminé had been talking about....

Who he and Naminé had been...?

"Ow," Sora hissed, and Roxas jerked his hand away.

Sora was still clutching his head, eyes squeezed shut; so Roxas said, a little too loud: "I don't like him."

Sora blinked.

"So stop trying to make me," Roxas said quietly.

Sora blinked again, but let his hands drop. He shook his head carefully; and then he straightened up and looked at Roxas and said, "Okay."

"...Move Bond of Flame where it won't get scratched up or fall out," Roxas added, in a mutter.

Sora nodded and reached for his pocket, then seemed to realize that that was kind of pointless inside here and just sort of stood there.

"...Anything else?" he eventually asked.

Roxas stared down at the stained glass under their feet, and thought of the million other things he wanted that weren't possible any more. That would never be possible, because even if they got along like Kairi and Naminé, it was still Sora's body, and Sora's life and Sora's friends and Sora's world and Sora's keyblade, ultimately. He wouldn't have been able to use his if he weren't Sora's Nobody.

But he wasn't a Nobody any more.

And he hadn't disappeared.

He had a heart now. The world couldn't wipe him, or his memories, out so easily.

"You're hopeless," he said, and shoved Sora into control of their body. Just get us home.

But what about--

Do you want your mom to wake up and freak out because she thinks you disappeared again? Or assume you're out having sex with Kairi and Riku? Roxas asked, and that got Sora moving.

Too easy, he thought, and then snorted at Sora's "Hey!"