For Want of the Soul

Only once in the whole year does she go down to the room where Sora is kept, walking quietly as she can, hiding whenever a Nobody flickers past. She walks into the room and to the pod where he sleeps, reaching up to press her palms slowly to the sides of the unit. It feels warm, pulsing slightly, like the breath of a living thing.

He’s grown noticeably since she last saw him — the shorts that had reached his knees are now halfway down his thighs, his arms float slightly akimbo from his body. After a year of activity, he should have atrophied — should have withered into nothingness just like she was, but instead he remained solid, so much more real than anything Naminé has seen in her entire life.

She leans forward and touches her forehead to the warm glass. She wonders what it would be like to be his Nobody, instead of that of a Princess she has never known — theoretically, it could be true, a Nobody could be anything compared to its Other, the shadow and shell left behind …

And if that were so, she could simply open the pod and sink inside of him, vanish into that place where imagination and dreams go when they’re faced with the light of day.

She could go home. She could rest.

Riku finds her there hours later, curled with her hands and her face still pressed to the glass, and she’s slowed her breathing to match the slow pulse of the pod. He doesn’t say anything, but she knows he’s there — and he knows that she knows, and so they remain in tableau for a while longer, her and him and the sleeping boy in his glass coffin.

“We should get back,” Riku says finally. “DiZ hasn’t noticed you’re gone yet.”

Which means he will soon. Reluctantly, Naminé straightens and pulls away. She clasps her hands together, looking up at Sora’s face for a moment longer. He looks so peaceful, eyes occasionally flickering under their lids in his dreams.

She wonders what he’s dreaming of. By now, she’s already erased herself from his memories, but maybe he’s still dreaming of that island, of sunny skies and wide-open beaches and children whole and healthy. Maybe he’s lying on the beach and staring at the sky with a redhead girl on one side and a silver-haired boy on the other …

She’d like to draw that, she thinks; it would be nice.

Riku’s footsteps echo loudly on the stone floor. In the reflection, Naminé sees him lift a hand and let it hover over her shoulder. She’s not sure whether he’s reaching for her or for Sora — she’s not sure he knows, either.

“Come on,” he says quietly, and for him Naminé turns away and steps into the circle of his arm and the dark gateway he opens for them.

+++

Back in her room, Riku doesn’t leave right away; he paces the entire perimeter nervously, like a caged beast. Naminé watches him and rolls a crayon gently between her fingers and wonders if she would ever be able to capture him properly for Sora’s memories — this uneasy leonine quality so preoccupied with its shadow that it doesn’t notice its own light.

When he finally paces back past her at the table, she reaches out and catches his sleeve. Her fingers look so small and pale and fragile against the folds of his black coat.

“Riku,” she says.

For a moment he continues to move, pulling away — and then he relaxes back. His head is turned away from her, shoulders stiff. Something must have happened, she thinks; they must have come to a decision, he and DiZ, about the problems she’s been having with the restoration process.

She gets to her feet and wraps both her hands as best she can around his arm. There’s a gap the width of three fingers between them. She can feel how tense he is; her own body aches in sympathy and she wonders at that — a Nobody can’t feel its own emotions, but perhaps it can be a mirror, an echo, and maybe sometimes it’s enough.

“Riku,” she says again.

He turns and wraps around her, still stiff, still uncomfortable, and she puts her arms around him in turn, trying her best to support his weight. For a moment she thinks she’ll just buckle and they’ll both fall — but somehow she remains firm, her ear pressed over the rapid triphammer of his heart.

+++

Riku is gentle — excruciatingly gentle — but he’s so much bigger and heavier than her, and it still makes her catch her breath when he settles, like he could crush the fragment of a person she is with the sheer reality of him.

But it feels good — it feels like something rather than the vague sense of something-that-is-not. Naminé laces her fingers with his, both hands, then presses her hands back. It’s like he’s pinning her, but he’s more interested in holding on than down, so she anchors them both. His head bends low over hers as he settles. His long hair falls into and around her face.

It smells like the shadows of the World That Never Was, but a little of the sun as well. Even now, he doesn’t take his blindfold off, and in answer she closes her own eyes.

The whole thing feels so strange — detached, in a way; part of her always thinks that it should be more than this, more than — faint tension that expands into a pressure that makes her knees bend up in reflex, up over Riku’s hips. And when he moves, he shudders and he makes low wounded noises in his throat, small like he’s trying to stifle them and can’t quite; she can feel how it effects him, but somewhere inside of her, it still falls flat.

It’s not that it feels bad — it feels quite good, actually — but it’s still empty in many ways.

She is not even a vessel that can be filled, she’s simply … nobody.

But Riku sobs into her hair, dry heaves that are more than he’ll ever confess to when he’s not distracted, and his fingers leave bruises in the backs of her hands and she purses her lips and whispers to him, even though he can’t hear: hush, hush, husha.

She’s putting him back together as well, but they cannot afford to have both Keyblade Masters down, and sometimes she looks at him and sees how weak the links are, how easily he could simply shiver apart again. And she doesn’t want that — Riku has been kind, even if he sees another girl every time he looks at her, and for Sora as well, she–

Riku’s hips press down hard against hers, then keep moving. Naminé still doesn’t open her eyes, mouthing words into his hair as he rocks; for him, she spins an illusion — not a true memory, she’s done with those — the same one she pictured earlier, the beach and the voices of birds, the warmth of friends close by and the burdens finally off his shoulders …

He gasps something that might be a name, and her fingers ache with how tightly he holds onto them, but Naminé just kisses his temple, damp with sweat under her lips, and whispers fragments of a song until he rests.

+++

“I’m sorry,” he says later from behind her.

Naminé doesn’t look up from her drawing — Sora speaking to a purple-and-pink striped cat that carries its head under one leg. “Hm?”

“I’m sorry,” he says again, embarrassment strong in his voice. “I didn’t even — you –”

“It’s all right.” She very meticulously adds in the cat’s whiskers, twitching under its round mad yellow eyes. “You’re upset.”

Riku is silent for a moment, then says, “I’m going after Roxas.”

Her hand almost skips, almost gouges colored wax across the paper, which would have ruined everything. She stares at it, and her shaking hand, and says, “Him?”

“Sora’s Nobody,” Riku says, but she knows that, she knows who he is, she knows that she wishes she could be him, that she could fall into Sora and disappear– “The restoration’s going too slowly. DiZ is getting impatient.”

She adds in the keychain to Sora’s Keyblade. “Oh,” she murmurs.

“He thinks — DiZ thinks — it’ll go faster, if we have Roxas.” Riku’s voice is tight. “So I’m going to get him.”

“Oh,” she says again, because she can’t think of anything else; there is a tightness in her throat and a ringing in her ears, and she can almost imagine her heart pounding. “Are you …”

“I’m hoping he’ll come willingly,” Riku said. “… but I don’t think he will.”

She draws the first circle for Donald’s head. “What will you do with him, when you have him?”

Riku is silent for too long. Naminé adds Donald’s big eyes and starts coloring his beak orange during the pause. She switches to Goofy — she likes drawing Goofy, it’s a use for her black crayon that has nothing to do with darkness.

And then he says, “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

She pauses in the details for Goofy’s shield. Sora can’t remember which particular one he had at the time, so Naminé doesn’t add that part in. “Ah,” she says.

He waits like he expects something more, and then she hears him walk a few steps away, feels the sudden rippling chill as he opens a doorway.

“Riku,” she says.

He pauses. She looks at her drawing: a boy with a key, a duck with a staff, a dog with a shield.

“Be careful,” she says.

For a moment, he’s silent and she could almost believe he’s already gone, and left the portal open. Naminé selects a brown crayon and begins to sketch in the outlines of trees.

“I will,” Riku says abruptly, and her crayon does jump this time; she’s lucky that it went within the lines, where she intends to color in later. “I’ll bring him back, too.”

She wants to turn, but if she does, she’ll want to draw him, and she cannot afford to be distracted right now. She continues drawing trees. They were very strange trees in Wonderland, springy and always-changing and with knotholes that led into upside-down rooms–

And then Riku’s gone, and she feels suddenly even more alone than before, already counting the minutes until he would return.

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