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a name on each wrist

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Everyone was born with a name on each wrist.

No one really knew why, it was just the way things had always been. On your left, you had the name of your soulmate. On your right, the name of your biggest enemy.

Of course, Aqua knew, the names weren’t always exactly accurate. Or at least, that’s what Eraqus had said, fretting over both hers and Terra’s right wrists. The name Xehanort was branded on both of them. Aqua had no reason to distrust her Master, though, and she thought he probably had a point. After all, Ven had the same name on both his wrists (whoever Vanitas was) and that seemed like such a silly, improbable thing. Your soulmate and your enemy couldn’t be the same person… right?

She worried sometimes, about the name on her right wrist. She was glad her clothing choices kept it out of sight most of the time—it was always uncomfortable to see Eraqus staring, with a look in his eyes she couldn’t place. He said the names weren’t always accurate, and she believed him, but the troubled look in his eyes worried her.

She knew who Xehanort was, too. Eraqus talked about him, from time to time. And she’d met him, once. She knew what his face looked like. She knew what his heart felt like, knew the shape of his darkness, pressed against her own light.

She worried.

How could she not?

 

xxx

 

Eraqus worried too, of course.

He wanted to believe the best of his old friend, but it was hard, to see his name on both of his apprentice’s wrists. (It was a relief not to see it on Ventus’s, but only something of one, given the puzzle that Ventus’s wrists contained.) He wondered if it was a trick, like the way he thought he sometimes saw his own name on his right wrist—even though that wrist should be bare, his enemy long defeated—but still… He worried.

Perhaps, in this universe, he worried enough that he did not invite Xehanort to the Mark of Mastery exam.

It wouldn’t matter, of course. Vanitas would still unleash enough Unversed to draw Yen Sid’s attention, would still show up to goad Ventus to leave his home. Terra and Aqua would both be sent to solve the mystery of the Unversed, and Xehanort would still step in along the way.

That would mean, in this universe, Eraqus denied Terra the mark of Master even without Xehanort’s prompting. But perhaps, he worried more about Xehanort, and worried more about the darkness he saw in Terra. (After all, with his old friend’s name on two of his apprentice’s wrists, you could not be too careful.) He didn’t want Terra to go down the same path, and how was he to know that by denying Terra the Mark he’d inadvertently start Terra down it?

(After all, even if it had been at Xehanort’s prompting, Eraqus had agreed. And he had tried to squash the darkness in Terra for years before the exam, on top of that.)

 

xxx

 

Sometimes, it took years for the names to appear, especially the one on your left wrist. Better to not give kids fantasies, some argued, though really it was just the fickle way of how fate worked. Names changed, sometimes, too. And sometimes, you never met your soulmate. It was just how it was.

The first time a name appeared on Sora’s left wrist was after he’d woken up from a year-long sleep he couldn’t remember starting. He noticed it one morning when he went through his semi-usual morning routine, showering in the cramped shower on the Gummi Ship. It was Kairi’s name.

Seeing it should have warmed his heart, and, it did, in a way. (Even if it also filled him with wistful memories and a pang of guilt).

But that night he dreamt longingly of silver hair and the shape of Riku’s smile.

When he woke up the next morning, it was Riku’s name printed on his left wrist.

That didn’t make his heart any warmer, just made him think of Kairi’s freckles and Kairi’s fire, the way she laughed and how much he missed her. It made him think of how much he missed Riku too, of course. His steady personality and sharp jokes, the way his eyes gleamed in reflected light.

The name on his wrist kept changing, back and forth, between the two of them (because this magic was not perfect, and had never accounted for someone having two soulmates). Sora wasn’t sure what to do about it, or what to think. (He didn’t dare mention it to Donald and Goofy, because they teased him enough about this, and they didn’t need more reason to.) He was grateful that his gloves covered the name, for the most part, so he didn’t have to look at it, didn’t have to think about it (except he was always, always thinking about it. It bounced around in the back of his mind even when he had more important things to worry about).

It struck a horrified Sora one day that maybe, terrifyingly, this meant he had to choose one of them.

He wasn’t sure which one he’d choose, and somehow, that was so much worse.

When the names finally settled, a year or so later, and it said both their names on his wrist, Sora felt at ease for the first time since the morning the names had first appeared. And he understood. He had to choose, yes—but both was an option. Both had always been an option.

And perhaps, maybe, this really was destiny.

 

xxx

 

Aqua’s left wrist was blank, had always been blank. At first, she thought maybe that should worry her. But then she thought of the way her sister Marin had Aiden’s name on her wrist since they were young, the way Aiden had Marin’s. She thought of the way they realized that and they looked at each other and blushed. She thought of the way her brother Eric had agonized when his had first shown up—just this past year—wondering who the named belonged to, and what they were like. And then, Aqua thought, maybe she didn’t mind at all.

She was content, as she was.

She was content, with her studies, with her future. She had her family—those here in the Land of Departure, and those on her homeworld—and that was enough. That was more than enough.

(Ten plus years from now, after walking through hell and facing demons of darkness and her own insecurities, she thought different thoughts about her blank wrist, though she still thought it was for the best. After all, who would want her—scarred and traumatized and terrified to show it—for a soulmate? She didn’t want to deal with the nightmares under her own skin, so why should anyone else? It would be unfair, to ask anyone to, anyway.)

 

xxx

 

Sora and Riku and Kairi had blank wrists for years, both of them blank, even though the universe knew their fate and could have branded their right wrist from the moment they were born. Perhaps it had wanted to wait. Leave them unburdened, for just a few years.

On that fateful night, when Destiny Islands slipped into darkness, devoured by its creatures—that was the night the name appeared on all their wrists. The same name. Xehanort.

Sora didn’t think much of it, caught up in other things, though eventually he started to wonder why it said Xehanort, and not Ansem. He discovered Donald and Goofy had the same name on their wrists, though, which was comforting and confusing both.

This also meant, a year later, when they were trying to help Tron out, and were retrieving the data buried in Ansem’s computer, when Mickey said the name Xehanort—Well, there was still confusion, because the whole “Ansem wasn’t Ansem just a guy pretending to be Ansem” thing was still a lot to digest. But it meant near right away, Sora pushed his right glove up enough to show Mickey the name on his wrist.

He could remember clearly, at least for the next few years, the way Mickey’s shoulders sagged at the sight, the way sadness filled his eyes. He showed the same name on his wrist, and he explained.

Not everything. But perhaps more than he might have, in another universe.

 

xxx

 

Nobodies didn’t have names on their wrists, on either wrist. That was something you lost, when you lost your heart.

Roxas was an exception, though. When he showed Axel Xion’s name on his left wrist, it having appeared suddenly one night (his right wrist was bare, because being a Nobody still messed some things up) Axel wasn’t sure what to think. It just meant his question, later “are you sure you don’t really have heart?” was a little more loaded.

Well, and it meant he had to explain the whole thing to Roxas, which was a trip. Especially since Xion’s wrists were bare, would always be bare—the names were not something science and data could predict, so no Replica would ever have a name on their wrist. Even the burgeoning heart in Xion’s own chest wouldn’t change that. (Much, much later in her life, she’d get Roxas’s name tattooed on her wrist to make up for it.)

Namine was an exception, too.

Her left wrist had Kairi’s name on it—and, not because Kairi was, in a very literal way, the other half of her. It was because later in life, Kairi was the only one she’d ever open up to, Kairi was the only one who ever understood her as well as she understood herself.

Her right wrist had Larxene’s name on it, even after Larxene had died. It was a terrible, terrible reminder of the pain she suffered, and perhaps—unfortunately—in this universe the memory of Larxene haunted her for much longer than it might have otherwise. The name only faded from her wrist years and years after all the trouble had ended, had only faded when she’d finally been able to confront the ghost of cruelty in her head and had been able to say she wasn’t afraid.

(Larxene’s name had not been on her wrist because Larxene herself was Namine’s worst enemy, but because the memory of her and the damage she left was.)

 

xxx

 

Riku got a name on his left wrist before either Sora or Kairi did. He thought sometimes it was because he was older. The reality was, he’d just realized it a little sooner. Whether that was because he was older, or because Sora was just slow (and Kairi scared to give into it, scared to face the terrible thought of having to choose) is another matter.

The name on his left wrist was Kairi—at least, in the months before they built the raft, and the months long after that, too.

He’d look at it, and he’d look at Kairi’s sleeping form, recovered with Maleficent’s help, and he’d think about how he’d give anything to see Kairi wake up again. It kept him going, a lot of nights.

After Castle Oblivion—a while after Castle Oblivion, admittedly—the name on his wrist changed. Somewhere in trying to fix Sora’s memory, in vowing to do whatever it took as far as Xion and Roxas were concerned to get Sora to wake up, Kairi shifted and then it said Sora.

Riku was ashamed.

Not only was a terrible friend, not only was he a huge fuck-up, but now he loved Sora more than he loved Kairi and that was unfair to her, and—he didn’t deserve either of them, anyway. He didn’t.

The Organization cloak hid the name, all the time, but when Riku bought new clothes to wear under the cloak, he’d made sure to get something to cover his left wrist. Now he didn’t have to look Sora’s name, now he didn’t have to be reminded of how awful he was and how much he didn’t deserve it. Of course, he had to make sure to not look at it when he was taking a shower or anything but, that was the only time it tormented him.

(His right wrist, he didn’t cover. Mickey had explained who Xehanort was sometime after Castle Oblivion, and Riku left that wrist bare as a reminder. So he could see the name, and see who he’d nearly become, and remember that he wasn’t going to go down that road again, even if Xehanort’s shadow lingered, lingered, lingered in his heart.)

His wrist would eventually say Sora and Kairi’s names both, but… it would be a while after that before he was completely sure he deserved them. At least they were patient with him.

 

xxx

 

Ventus puzzled often over the name on his wrists, often over the fact that it was the same name on both. When he was younger—more naïve, really, he would think later in life—he thought maybe that wasn’t so strange after all. Was it your biggest enemy, or your biggest rival, anyway? Your biggest rival could be your rival in nothing more than a competitive way, right? So maybe Vanitas—whoever he was—was just his rival in Keyblade training, or something.

(If he’d had any memories, he would have known it was not Vanitas’s name on either of his wrists before they had split.)

Vanitas’s destruction haunted Ven in any universe, every universe where Vanitas did not come back. In this one, it just hurt a little bit more.

Vanitas’s name faded from his right wrist, when Vanitas was destroyed. That was customary. When you defeated your enemy, their name would vanish, so you wouldn’t have to remember them any longer if you chose not to.

But your soulmate’s name never vanished after you’d met them. It was supposed to be a reminder of their love, if they passed before you. For Ven, it was something else. (But then, he was the only person in the entire universe in the position he was in.)

He’d known, before he’d returned to his body, that Vanitas was gone.

But waking up and checking—when no one was around, of course, because no one needed to know, and he hoped Aqua and Terra had forgotten—and seeing Vanitas’s name absent from his right wrist had hurt more than still seeing it on his left.

 

xxx

 

For the record: Vanitas had Ven’s name only on his left wrist. His right held Xehanort’s name, had held Xehanort’s name since he met him. He remembered, when Ven did not, that his left wrist had contained a different name before they were split, and that burned him in more ways than one.

Knowing how much he ached for Ventus hurt. So did seeing his old name—because it had been his name, before he got separated, before he got a new name, and he didn’t ask for any of that, and it wasn’t fair, why did Ven get to keep everything while he got nothing?

(In this universe, Vanitas had a few extra reasons to hate his life and everything in it.)

 

xxx

 

Xehanort’s name on her wrist was a weight worse than any of the scars Aqua acquired, in the Realm of Darkness. Xehanort’s name one her wrist was a weight worse than the darkness itself pressing in around her on all sides, worse than the visions and phantoms that plagued her mind.

She hoped beyond hope that it was just because time was weird, here. She hoped beyond hope that Terra really had beat him, and the only reason his name hadn’t faded was because she wasn’t in the right realm, and it wasn’t like she was aging, anyway.

But then she met Mickey. And he told her that… Terra hadn’t won, that Xehanort was still out there, somewhere, they just weren’t sure where. (His name on Mickey’s wrist was proof that he was still around.)

Aqua couldn’t say for sure whether she was more upset that Xehanort’s lingering presence on her wrist meant Terra hadn’t won, or that it meant her sacrifice had been for nothing.

(She’d had time, too much time, to think that—because she had reason to doubt Terra had succeeded, in this universe, where in others she had less—and so it was easy to be bitter, even if she didn’t want to be.)

 

xxx

 

It had taken much, much longer for any names to appear on Kairi’s left wrist. Part of that was because for a year she had no memory of Sora. Part of that was because she feared the same way Sora did (and the same way Riku did, under his certainty that it didn’t matter because he didn’t deserve their love anyway) that she would have to choose, and it was easier to choose neither.

When a name finally appeared on her left wrist, it wasn’t just one name, it was two. It was two from the very start, for her.

The names appeared after the three of them had been reunited again, after so so long. The three of them traveled the World that Never Was together, and Kairi had stuck as close to Sora and Riku’s sides as she could, and she thought desperately about how she never wanted to be separated from them ever again.

When she noticed the names on her wrist after they’d made camp to crash from exhaustion before continuing on to take the rest of the castle, she wasn’t surprised. She realized it before either of her boys did.

She loved them both.

 

xxx

 

The thing was: Xehanort had never had a name on either of his wrists. Settling down and becoming that close to anyone had never been on his agenda, so his left wrist remained bare. And his right wrist, well—

The universe knew, eventually, he would be defeated. But he changed destinies and made ripples everywhere he went, so it was hard to be sure, completely sure, who would defeat him in the end. After all, it had branded somewhere over ten people with his name. Any one of them could do it, and the universe really wouldn’t know which until it had happened.

(It was probably for the best, anyway. Xehanort might have acted very, very differently, if he knew the name of his biggest threat.)

 

xxx

 

When Lea woke up as a Somebody again, among some of the first things he did was check his wrists. Morbid curiosity, he called it. If you lost the names when you lost your heart, what was to say they’d ever come back? Him coming back was a fluke, as far as he was aware.

But... to something of his surprise, he did have names on his wrists.

Or, he had a name on one wrist.

His right one had been branded with the name Xehanort, and, hey, that was new. He couldn’t remember clearly what the name used to be, but it certainly hadn’t been this.

Also new was the lack of a name on his left wrist. An eternity ago, Isa’s name had been there. Did the lack of Isa’s name mean they were never going to work out—fair—or did it mean… something worse? Not seeing Isa in the lab along with everyone else certainly made him uneasy, and so did the implications.

He’d rather not think about it, though, so Lea simply pulled his sleeves back down to cover his wrists and decided to ignore it. He’d gone the past ten years (had it been ten years?) without thinking about the names or lack of them. He could go another ten.

There were more interesting things to do, anyway.

 

xxx

 

It was a relief, to all of them, when Xehanort’s name finally vanished from their wrists. It was a relief to know he was gone, for good, and that he wasn’t coming back, wasn’t going to hurt any of them again.

Aqua had never looked happier.