Nothing quite prepares Naminé for the day that Riku comes back to the mansion with Aqua’s keyblade.
She’s been through all of Sora and everything inside him by now. At least twice. She spent a week once just picking through that strange knot of memories over and over, idly scribbling with a new blue crayon she’d never used before. They were stable. They weren’t his. Ten years old, and watching them was like looking through a warped mirror. Roxas’ face grinning in reflection. The little king, young and unsure. The Superior, pale and brown-haired and somebody else entirely; the man who loomed over Riku on that beach all those years ago, that odd little memory in the vast heap that she’d unraveled, copied, annotated, stitched into his replica.
Sora, his yellow eyes burning.
Naminé hadn’t entirely been sure it was real. Even though it felt real, painfully so. Not until Riku sits at her table with a faint frown, laying the gracious steel-blue geometry of Rainfell on the featureless white.
“There’s this secret room in Hollow Bastion,” he says. “I’d thought the Org had some connections there, I was following Xemnas’ scent. It was this white place with symbols I’d never seen before on the walls, and this empty suit of armor lying on the floor, along with this. I set off alarms, so I grabbed this and ran.” He frowns, tracing one finger over the hilt. “I don’t know why Xemnas had a keyblade hiding like that, but I don’t like it.”
“Do you know…whose it is?” Naminé asks slowly. Aqua’s, of course it’s Aqua’s, and Ventus had never known what had happened to her, nor Terra. He thought he’d saved them. She…has doubts.
He shakes his head slowly. “It’s not Roxas’.” He makes some short, bitter noise. “Xemnas could have given it to Xion, rather than letting her struggle along with that fake, but he’s not a very good leader, is he.”
“No,” Naminé says quietly, and they both know why Riku won’t give it to her. The time is drawing close. A book the side of a postage stamp lies carefully enshrined in a white bowl.
“Do you think Xemnas can use a keyblade?”
“No.” Naminé shakes her head. “He wouldn’t bother with Roxas at all then.”
“You can’t use it?”
“Not…properly.” Riku sighs, bowing his head, hair falling even more over his blindfold. “It lets me carry it, but it doesn’t let me call it to wield it.” He shrugs, and then his voice takes on that slightly hard-edged quality it does when he’s teasing, or testing something, or messing around. “Want it?”
Naminé laughs a little, sudden and soft. “It’s not really my style.” But she reaches out to touch it anyway. All these memories of keyblade wielders, but she’s never actually felt one, and she’s a little, guiltily, curious. It feels bright and warm under her hand, steel-hard and feather-light and alive.
“In your hand take this key,” Riku murmurs, and Naminé almost hiccups, and draws her hand back—she shouldn’t, she doesn’t have the right. “So long as you have the makings, then through this simple act of taking, its wielder you shall one day be. And you will find me, friend—no ocean will contain you then. No more borders around, or below, or above, so long as you champion the ones you love.”
She didn’t entirely realize he remembered. It was one of those old memories, blurry, dull-edged, floating deep in his heart at the end of the tenuous chains of childhood. Subliminal. Maybe it had sharpened when she touched it, or maybe Riku has always just held things very tight.
She doesn’t want to tell him yet. About Ventus’ memories. They’re both too caught up in things, and it’s too huge to explain, and there’s nothing he can do, and he might worry about Sora. She feels a little bad about lying, but not very. So she just laughs softly, and folds a hand over the ache in her empty chest.
“Hah,” Riku says, voice lightening a little, and tucks it back into his inventory with a flash of light. “Well, at least Xemnas doesn’t have it anymore.”
Naminé feels a chain snap in her own mind.
She jolts awake with one, bare, breathless noise.
She’d fallen asleep at her table, head pillowed on her sketchbook, and for a long moment, she just sits up, fingertips on the thick laid paper warm from her cheek, and stares wide-eyed at the wall, eyes prickling. It’s the strangest sensation, feeling memories slip from her own mind. One link after another, pulling free.
She’d never explained anything about Ventus. Xion’s gone, and Riku’s off to collect Roxas, a grim clench to his jaw. There’s nothing she can do. Not her, not Riku. It must…it must happen…
In her mind, she grabs at the raveling chain, and it scrapes her hands bloody, and something hot spills down her cheek.
She pushes her chair back and runs on shaking legs.
DiZ is in the basement, as always, deep in his preparations, and seems confused that she’s asking him for a match, but he also doesn’t care much what she does as long as she restores Sora, so he doesn’t think twice about telling her where they are in the shabby kitchen.
She gets them, and a bowl, and a toothpick, and scampers back to her room with dead leaves crunching under her sandals and something in her chest burning.
And then she draws. She draws and draws and draws. Xion, every bit she can still remember. Roxas who will not be Roxas anymore soon. Axel who will be lost without them. Ventus and Terra and Aqua. There’s nothing she can do. Except this. Except leave a message.
Sora. Sora’s special. Maybe, just maybe…
“Their hurting will be mended,” she whispers, over and over, crayons scuffing across the page. The smell of wax fills the air. Her hands are smeared with rainbows. “When you return to end it.”
He needs to be strong enough, she thinks, and almost hates herself for doubting him, but…but she might need to. Roxas, she thinks distantly, would like to test him. Roxas is angry in a steel-edged, cold-hot way, but he likes the truth, even when it hurts, and Sora might not. Still. She and Riku can only hurt people, they’re alike, but Sora, if he’s willing to face it all…
She lights up the whole stack over the bowl when it’s done. Watches it burn to ash. There’d been a girl, she thinks suddenly, a girl with black hair. There was something important. Had she remembered…?
Flames lick at the blob of black filling in a drawing of Roxas and Axel.
Then there’s nothing but charcoal, and she pulls the bowl close with shaking hands, spits in it, stirs it with the toothpick. Then wipes her hand on her dress and very carefully, with a fingernail, opens Jiminy’s tiny journal.
It’s magic, after all. She can tell. Deeper magic than maybe even she knows, like whole worlds of knowledge and memory can be laid inside it. Or unlaid. She hadn’t erased the words from its pages in Castle Oblivion.
But if there’s any place she can leave a message…
Thank Naminé, she writes with the toothpick, carefully limning over each curl of Jiminy’s handwriting with the ashes of her will. It glimmers, sinks deep.
When she puts the accent on the last letter of her name, Roxas falls unconscious in a street that never was, and so too there never was a fourteenth member of the Organization, not in all the memories in all the hearts in all the worlds. Nowhere but in black powder smeared on a little page.
By the time Naminé puts down the toothpick, she’s not sure why there’s a bowl of ashes and a burnt-up match on her table.
Weeks later, Kairi’s small, warm fingers first touch hers, and Naminé’s empty breast fills to bursting.
in your hand, take this key
They can’t let go of each other. They don’t want to. Naminé can feel herself draining into Kairi, a sweet slow trickle of bliss and relief and something that hurts, it’s so intense, and she only just realizes that it’s happiness. Her memories, her knowledge, her flickers of light and shadow, pouring like water. Kairi turns, somewhere in the maze of empty white-steel hallways, and wraps her arms around her, squeezes her tight, just once, the only chance they’d have. Kairi’s trying not to cry. “I’m sorry,” she says, voice a little strained.
“Don’t be,” Naminé whispers. “Please don’t be.” Some bitter stab of memory—Sora, so earnest even with his shattered mind, begging her not to cry. “I’m happy. I’m so happy. It’s okay.” She hadn’t been able to test Kairi. No preparation for the cascade of Naminé’s pain and grief and memories. But why was she thinking of testing…?
Kairi’s strong, though. Kairi rests her forehead against hers and squeezes both her hands tight. “I didn’t know. Anything. I wish I could have met you sooner. I’m sorry.”
so long as you have the makings
Naminé doesn’t quite have a body anymore when Riku, tall and strange and perfectly recognizably Riku, reaches back into his inventory and pulls out Aqua’s abandoned keyblade, gold and flowering and perfectly recognizably Aqua’s.
And holds it out to Kairi.
Naminé gasps, and is almost, almost sure that Riku knows she’s there, finally come home.
then through this simple act of taking
Naminé pulls open her chest and shoves the memory of that moment—the bright steel humming under her hand, Riku’s careless invocation of the ancient rite—into Kairi. You’re me. You’re me. In your hand, take this key. Kairi deserves it, she’s sure. Kairi’s just as bright and beautiful as…
its wielder you shall one day be
…as Sora, who struggles against the Heartless below, warm and living and awake. Sora. Kairi had reached for him across the shattering worlds, sand sliding under her feet. Naminé had never seem him awake since the pod had closed on him in Castle Oblivion. And he’s right there—
and you will find me, friend—no ocean will contain you then
Kairi’s hand tightens on the warm shining hilt, and Naminé thinks, Sora, Sora, because she isn’t real enough to speak anymore. But Kairi’s heart beats for her, and their wills move together, a single wave, reaching for the sky.
And Kairi jumps right off the balcony, heart hammering in their chest.
no more borders around, or below, or above, so long as you champion the ones you love