Sora and his shadow, dreams and memories. Post-KH2. Spoileriffic for the game, contains shounen-ai references.
I don't usually write fanfiction, but plotbunnies ate my slippers upon finishing KH2. Piece a bit rushed and probably guilty of purple prose, clichÃ©s, tense breaking, and enough metaphors to drown an elephant.
Even after the adventure was over, the echoes of those frightening, exhilarating days remained. The journey across so many worlds had given him experiences and friendships he had never imagined; they had also given him a set of shadowed memories that were not quite his, which only made themselves felt when Sora dreamed.
He walked down pale white halls, and they were halls in a style that were familiar to him, that he sometimes could still find in his nightmares. But he didn't know these halls the way that Roxas did. Sora remembered the empty spaces and cold walls, flights of stairs rising into blackness and transparent bridges over the void. He remembered the faceless specters that rose out of the floors and walls, creatures that hungered for the warmth that wouldn't make them whole.
Roxas remembered the laughter that rang to the rooftops, riding on the tormented strains of some cheery Christmas tune that had never been meant to be rendered on a sitar. He remembered the same walls splattered with vermillion and midnight blue, yet another one of Vexen's experiments gone horribly wrong, and the impromptu tree constructed out of green chiffon wrap, tin foil, and a couple of spears. Xaldin hadn't caught on for quite awhile.
Sora remembered the huge stained glass floors of a space connected by winding stairs and magical doors, sparkling tapestries that depicted princesses all regal and innocent and warm. It was there that he'd first found his strength, and there he'd first glimpsed the windows into so many other worlds. It was also there that he had first learned to walk alone, because the brightness of Kairi's laughter had disappeared into the night, and Riku, who had always set the pace for their competitions and games, had been swept away by the waves.
They all had their own spaces a-float in nothing, and decorated them as they pleased. Roxas' had huge skylights of tinted glass, but in place of princesses they depicted worlds; he could pick them out in his mind's eye in all their lush detail, even if he hadn't known their names. And the times when all the weight of the worlds that he couldn't really see got to the sentimental side of him, when the spinning starlight got to be too lonely and cold, he would exit his room and skip a few tombstones over, because Axel's world was anything but.
Competitions with Riku had been the focus of Sora's childhood for as long as he could remember. As they grew older the innocent games turned more competitive and aggressive, and what used to end in friendly chatter sometimes drifted into a sullen resentment that Sora seldom noticed. Now that he knew why, he also knew the things to say and times when a simple word or gesture would defuse the tension and bring a smile back to Riku's face. Riku had walked in darkness long enough, and nothing in the world would make Sora push him down that path again.
The overwhelming color was still white, but it wasn't the forbidding white of the rest of the castle or the sterile, methodical white of Zexion's library. It was white the way that a dove's wing was white, full of movement and life. Lamps and candles of all shapes and sizes glimmered with warmth, and whirling globes of colored light formed a dance of sparks and shadows that played against the pale walls in a perpetual fireworks display. Axel's world had a bed, a table, chairs, even a pot of dandelions perched precariously on the edge of a trampoline. More importantly, it had Axel, whose irrepressible mirth and disastrous pranks made them both forget for a moment the emptiness outside.
Lost and confused, Sora had found companions and friends in the most unlikely places. The dim city of drifters and neon lights had been the crossroads, and beneath the sign of a common cause gathered those who were willing to try to reclaim what they'd lost. And that was only the beginning. Walking from world to world, Sora had become that legendary hero of his picturebook stories. He had climbed the tallest mountains and dived beneath the ocean waves, helped fight demons and monsters and save lovely princesses; even if the journey was over now, he remembered all of the dear friends who had walked with him, and knew without doubt that they remembered him.
Roxas remembered another lifetime of summer, sharp and real even if the world those memories belonged to had never been. An afternoon spent running circles around pompous Seifer and his oh-so-serious posse in practice for the tournament, then sitting with Heine and the gang, their trophies of the day held to the afternoon sun, gathered on the clocktower they weren't supposed to have climbed. He remembered the girl he should have known, telling him things that he hadn't wanted to hear. Her voice had remained in his mind even after she herself disappeared into light and air, and he couldn't help but think then that she belonged somewhere out on that mythical seashore with the gulls and waves and wild things, not trapped in a silent house of mysteries.
Sora remembered holding hands with Kairi and passing her a Paopu Fruit while the grown-ups were distracted, the scribble on the cave wall embarrassingly clear in his mind. Their hearts pounded fiercely with the excitement of something forbidden when they stole a kiss behind the raspberry bushes, Riku strolling just a few paces beyond the hedge. Her bright blue eyes were shy beneath long lashes, and her voice sweet with promises of tomorrow.
Sora would have blushed, if he could, when it was his shadow's turn to reminisce about love. Roxas remembered running curious fingers through fine red hair and exchanging much more than looks and kisses. It had been a good, long day full of scheming and deviousness of the usual order, with an invasion of Heartless to spice things up. Tired, worn, and not a little giddy from post-combat euphoria, they'd stumbled to bed fully intent on collapsing into much-needed rest. Until he'd pressed his friend down into the pillows and given in to instinct with all the awkwardness and enthusiasm that came with being fifteen years old. Axel hadn't minded, even if he had teased Roxas mercilessly for weeks afterwards.
Sora's dreams of Kairi were like a photo album of dearly beloved family portraits, full of soft focus and gentle smiles. He couldn't really remember anymore when Kairi arrived on the islands, only that it had been himself and Riku, and then suddenly they were three. He also couldn't recall when simple affection had taken an unexpected turn, just that eventually the mere presence of Kairi on the edge of his vision had the unfortunate effect of turning his ears an embarrassing shade of red. It had been even longer before he could summon the courage to look closely enough at her face to notice the faint flush of rose. Sora's first sight of love had carried the clean scent of wildflowers and sea salt.
Axel had been all sharp edges and spice, like his gleefully mischievous mind or that ridiculous hair that had nearly blinded Roxas on several occasions. The surprisingly gentle touch of his gloved hands, the sound of his voice whispering secrets best left untold into Roxas' ear, the lazy light in his brilliant green eyes looking up at him when they made love were all the proof of existence that Roxas needed.
When the nameless, skittering things invaded his dreams, Sora fought them off with all the might of his dear friends, one bright and one dark. The feel of the keys were so familiar to his hands that a year ago had never held anything more threatening than a stick. He'd saved the world - all worlds - twice by now, and couldn't really imagine what it was like anymore without the familiar weight of the two blades that would come to hand if he called.
Even if the trick was something that Roxas had first discovered. The weapons that he had instinctively summoned and kept upon awakening were Sora's memories and promises, though he hadn't realized it then. Roxas' weapons of choice were different now; one was the key that had started it all, the one he'd tried so hard to throw away that summer, its simple, clean lines of gold and silver flashing bright in his hands. The other was all circles and spikes, warm to the touch like the element for which it was named. Because out of all of the weapons that had been made for Sora, only this one had been made for him.
Sora battled his demons in dreams because the waking world was now the one he'd fought so hard to return to, free of threats and shadows and quiet with the simple joys that he'd never take for granted again. There was something in him that felt guilty that this didn't entirely satisfy him, but that was alright, because in dreams he could still step from world to world and entrench himself in wonders. When the dreams turned dark or frightening, or when he began to miss the sea, he would wake and listen to the soothing melody of wind and waves. Kairi's bright laughter and Riku's sharp wit, the murmured voices of parents and neighbors always called him home.
After what seemed like an eternity in the white castle, Roxas kept expecting that he'd still wake up to Larxene's shrill soprano berating Xigbar for the stink of cheap beer permeating the common rooms, or Lexaus calling them to audience with the Most Holy Superior. The same confusion was sometimes reflected in the girl who used to be called a witch, who had spent all of her short existence in isolation so that the world of color and sound seemed alien and unbelievable. And Sora - Roxas - would smile and take her hand, and draw her down to the beach where the waves that lapped at their bare feet and the sun-warmed sand were solid and real. Looking out at a world of peace and joy, through eyes not quite his own, Roxas stood in the sea breeze free of nightmares, and waited for the night when he could walk in dreams again.