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A Mirror Dimly
by Edmondia Dantes
Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts is not mine.
AN: Remember Subtle Grace, Uniforms, Better Than Worse, Concept of the Land, and most importantly, this untitled ficlet by RM? Because they make this make sense.
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"Did I wake you?" she asks softly, gaze flickering up though her hands never stop moving, and he exhales slowly, watching the soft rise and fall of her chest, not bothering to try and disguise his interest in the way one bra strap is slipping down her shoulder.
"Not really," he says, because it's true, because the shift in scent that he'd noticed an hour ago was light and familiar, because for all that's she's moved around, dug out pencils and paper and drawn the soft filmy curtains that drape around the bed, it's so easy to stay relaxed with her that waking had been slow and gradual, because for all that they're similar, Naminé is rarely like Kairi, especially in moments like these.
"Good," she says, soft and warm, and he watches the curve of her fingertips, dusky with charcoal, the new medium a gift from Kairi, like the watercolors and the oils and the expensive pencils, now that the art is just art, now that her drawings are for herself and no one else. "Did you sleep well?"
He knows she knows he sleeps much better when he's with them, any one of them, so he's not really sure why she asked the question. "Yeah..." he agrees quietly, "am I bothering you? I know now's your drawing time..."
She glances back at him from underneath her lashes, a tiny smile curling her lips, and tilts the page down, just enough for him to see. The rush of warmth to his face isn't unexpected, exactly, because he knows it isn't the first time she's drawn him, but he can't quite look her in the eye anymore as he clears his throat and says "Uh... hide that one really well from Kairi's dad, yeah?"
Not that Kairi's dad isn't going to be planning to kill him and Sora anyway once they come clean, but he needs to never ever find that picture just in case. In terms of sheer influence his own family has few rivals on the island--well, none, really--but then again her father is still the mayor and a little bit high-strung when it comes to his lately-missing and even more lately returning daughter.
Naminé giggles, clear and sweet like a bell, and reaches out one slim hand to lightly shove at his shoulder. "Get back into position, silly, you know I work better with a model that doesn't wiggle."
Riku kind of wants to pull the sheets up a little higher, but she'd swat at him for it, so he leans back again and tries desperately not to feel like he's as naked as he is. It's nothing she hasn't seen before, hasn't touched before, and she's barely wearing anything at all, but she wasn't drawing him when they were last like this, but it's not like he'd ever want to say no to her, and if it's a little embarrassing, well... "You know I feel really stupid when you do this."
She glances back up again, then grins, sweet and sly and a little mischievous, not quite like Kairi, not quite unlike her. "But you're doing it anyway."
"I guess," he murmurs, and lets the statement trail off because he's got no idea what to say. He's never forgotten how much he liked it when she was like this, bold and playful in her own quiet way, and it makes him want to lean closer, reach out, because he already knows how nicely she fits in his arms, and how clean and soft her skin tastes underneath his tongue.
He wonders if he's allowed to touch her like this, if they could curl together in Kairi's bed and not have the joining be awkward and strange, if Sora would mind. If Kairi would mind. This thing between them is still delicate, new and uncertain, and he's not really sure what's allowed, but she's beautiful to him, especially like this, flooded in light from the warm soft glow of Kairi's heart finally filling that aching void inside her.
"You smell nice," he blurts, because he's an idiot and always feels a little clumsy around her, like she might break if he pressed too hard even though he knows that's ridiculous, "I mean, you always smell nice but right now is really nice. Um."
Her smile is radiant, this time, and she puts down the pad of paper and the charcoal and lifts one slim hand to her chest. "Because I have a heart now?"
Sort of, he thinks, and then wants to unthink it, because he's not sure why but the thought seems unkind.
"It's all right," she says softly, "I don't mind that it's because of that. I wanted to be with her to be whole again."
He looks at her, at the soft curve of her lips, the gentle sweep of her fingers across the paper, smudging charcoal into soft shadows, and thinks about scribbles left lying still on a gleaming white floor, thinks of empty spaces on empty walls where old memories used to hang. "...are you happy?"
"...I can be happy now," she says, soft, a little wondering, a little unsure, "but it can hurt more now too."
"...yeah," he breathes, because he knows. He knows. "It can."
Her hands still on the paper, and she tilts her head up, a little hesitant, but a little bold, the faintest of smiles curving her lips. "...can I...?"
He doesn't quite know what she's asking, but the only times they've ever disagreed were over Roxas, and this isn't anything like that time. "Okay...?"
She sets the paper and charcoal down on the floor, careful and delicate, and rubs her fingers free of the dust. Then she scoots back onto the bed, settles down next to him, and reaches up a careful hand and slides her fingers lightly through his hair.
Riku exhales on a sigh and closes his eyes, because it's been months since she's done this, and up until this moment he never realized he missed it.
"You've been neglecting it again," she murmurs, not quite scolding, "you know it grows too fast for you to just ignore it."
"I ignore it just fine," he says, pleased when she giggles, "and Sora's the only one who complains about getting it in his mouth, and he deserves it anyway since his hair always tries to stab me in the eyeballs."
"Still," she says, sounding wistful, and he leans a little further back into her touch.
"If it bugs you," he says, deliberately casual, "I guess you could trim it again."
Her hands still for just a moment, and for a heartbeat he forgets to breathe, because he's not sure what's allowed anymore, if he has the right to ask this of her, if it's okay to even be doing this, and Sora's never seemed jealous of the girls, of either of them, and he doesn't have any idea of how things work between the two of them either, what they share with each other and what they don't.
Naminé is not Kairi and Kairi is not Naminé, and the needs of a Nobody are very different than those of a proper human being, and he's known and understood both, but they're girls, and girls... girls are strange regardless of what kind of girls they are, regardless of whether or not they're actually girls or just girl-shaped things with nothing else on the inside but the memory of what it's like to be one.
"I'd like that," Naminé says, soft, an undertone of silver and steel and chains unwinding, and Riku rolls over onto his stomach and watches as she slips off the bed like a ghost and slides open the bedside drawer.
He doesn't really know why Kairi keeps scissors there, but there are some things mere boyfriends were never meant to understand, and the logic behind Kairi's bedroom is one he's not even going to try to figure out. He's never been able to figure out why the bed has curtains when they're transparent, because he's pretty sure that transparent is exactly what curtains aren't meant to be, or why she's kept so many scraps of their childhood out on her shelves and walls where they're vulnerable, or even why almost everything she owns is softly colored, when most of the kids on the island have always preferred bright bold things, splashes of color brilliant enough to be seen even through the lushness of their surroundings.
When Naminé turns back again, there's a glint of silver in her hand and mischief in her eyes, and when she says "Sit up," it's with a touch that reaches straight underneath his skin to memory and heartbeat beneath. He doesn't startle because it's not unexpected, and if it's a deeper intimacy than he thought it would be, well, it's not her fault that she's still hungry, and maybe having a heart doesn't feed everything, even if it belongs to a princess.
It's easy to sit up, to lean back and tilt his head up, close his eyes and stay still, and he doesn't think Kairi will mind the mess on her sheets, not when it's been given for this, sweetness and silence in the stillness of a slow-waking morning, because Kairi loves Naminé like a sister or herself or a lover or all three at once or maybe none of them at all, and even if he can't quite explain it in words that make sense in any language beyond that of the shadows, he knows exactly what it is.
Naminé's fingers are soft and light as they smooth down tangles and trim down ragged edges into something that falls a little smoother, and he breathes in the scent of her, layered in everything that is Kairi, and thinks that emptiness might go on forever after all, and that's okay as long as there is darkness and light to buffer it, to make the endlessness bearable.
Everything comes in threes, he knows, and breathes in deep the scent of Kairi and the faintest traces of Sora, up and out already in the cool gray moments before dawn.
"All done," Naminé says softly, setting the scissors down with a gentle 'clink,' but her free hand stays in his hair, and he leans back into her arms with deliberate pressure, tilts his head back and brushes a kiss against the soft hollow of her throat, where Kairi's heartbeat should be racing. Her skin is cooler and softer than Kairi's, and her heartbeat now is a soft muffled thing draped in gold and silver shades of light, slow and steady and serene.
Her breath skips a beat, and maybe this isn't allowed, but when he starts to pull away, both of her hands settle in his hair, and the kiss she presses to his lips is much softer than any of Sora's kisses, than any of Kairi's.
Maybe it's not fair to her that he can't love her the way he does them, or maybe it's unfair to her that she can't have someone that's all her own, or maybe some things just aren't meant to be, not for people--beings--like them, even after everything has ended.
She looks like a girl and smells like a girl and feels like a girl and tastes like a girl and is part of a girl, but that doesn't really make her one, but she wants to be one, and for that, he thinks, the wanting is enough.
When she pulls away, her head is bowed but her eyes are bright, and when she nudges him over, he scoots to the side and watches her carefully as she brushes away the last of the trimmings and drops them to the floor.
He likes the way she bites her lip, the way she looks at him from underneath her lashes, the way she shifts her weight and slides the sheet back and asks, "Can I...?"
"Okay," he says without knowing what exactly it is he's agreeing to, because he's got a certain weakness for pretty girls in their underwear, and he likes the way she stretches out, likes the way she tucks her toes underneath the sheet and slides down, likes the faintest hint of a blush on her cheeks, when she never would have blushed before.
Her touch is just as soft as he remembers, and if her skin's a little warmer than before, if her eyes are just a little brighter, it's because she's whole now, because she's right where she belongs, and she's the one who wanted it most, to find Kairi and be with her, no matter what the cost was.
She still fits against him just the way she should, the way Kairi does, but her grip is gentler, her scent softer, her hair a soft pale halo against the lavender sheets and her eyes the same clear blue, and there's a melancholy to her that has never gone away, not really, and he's never been the best person to comfort others, but for her, he's willing enough to try.
She presses a fingertip to his lips when he parts them to speak, though, and says "Just let me stay like this for a while, okay?" and he knows he doesn't deserve whatever trust it is that she's placed in him, but he also remembers those long slow days when she was the only one near who remembered the crash of the waves against the shore and the bright flash of Sora's smile, the way she brightened when he brought her strange flowers and stranger food, the way she laughed on their one long day beneath Twilight Town's endless sunset, and if having a heart has changed her, he doesn't think it's a bad thing, not really.
"Okay," he whispers back, and curls an arm around her waist, pulls her closer and tugs the sheet up over the curve of her hips, and she giggles softly, settling her head on the pillow next to his own.
"It's nice being in a real bed," she says softly, a hint of a laugh in her voice, and he grins back at her, because there's steel underneath the sweetness, a stubbornness and fierceness that held her together for so very long, and she's so pretty now, so close to being real that there's barely a tug on his heart from the void that's still inside her, now that it's so nearly filled by Kairi's brightness, and if they aren't quite okay, if this isn't quite real, it never was before, either, and that doesn't make it wrong or bad, it's just not a happy ending, but it's not like either one of them deserve that, so it's good enough.
"Better than the floor," he agrees, and his breath catches just a bit as she slides a little closer and slips one slim pretty leg through his own.
"Much better," she says softly, and reaches up a hand to push back his bangs.
"What is it with you guys and doing that, anyway?" he asks softly, and she shrugs in ways that are completely fascinating. He kind of hopes he isn't staring, because it's easy to laugh about it with Kairi, because Sora will turn bright red but stare right back, but Naminé makes him want to be gentle, reminds him of all the proprieties that got jammed in his head when he was a kid that he's been ignoring since he started dating them, and he knows she could know if she wanted to, or maybe she already does, and that's okay. It's okay that she understands him better than they do--he's not sure he ever wants Sora to understand that well--and she's allowed to keep her own secrets from anyone she wants, even from Kairi.
"Your fault," she says softly, gently teasing, a little too self-aware of all the things he's not saying, "no fair hiding from us."
"Nosy," he accuses, and she laughs lightly, pokes him in the chest and curls an arm around his waist, and he wonders if he should feel guilty, or if she should, but he can't really imagine Sora getting jealous--"I'm glad," he'd whispered once, tangled up in the sand on the play island sometime well after midnight, rough and low like a secret, "I'm so happy she was there to love you"--and Kairi is Kairi is Kairi.
She feels soft in ways that Kairi doesn't, harder in others, and having Sora and Kairi has been amazing, wonderful, still leaves him a little bewildered and dizzy and breathless, but this is nice too, soft and familiar and light, not so thickly tangled up like it is with them, not so full of nervousness and tentative joy, not so heavy, not so much like drowning, just gentle and content, and if it's underlined with longing, with a soft sort of ache, he can at least give her that much, he can at least let her take what she needs from him, even if he's not allowed to give her what she wants, even if he never could.
It's probably not fair, any of it, but he knows now to cling to whatever he can, and if he's what she's chosen, he can only be grateful.
"What are you thinking about?" she murmurs, and he slides her a smile, gentle and rueful.
"Don't you know?" he asks, and there are no barbs in it like there could be, nothing but honest inquisitiveness, because even if no one can quite forgive her trespass, not even Kairi, of all the beings in all of the worlds, he knows he's the one best made to understand her.
Maybe that's arrogance, he thinks, but only the penitent can understand how hard it is to try and find redemption, and so he stays quiet as he watches her consider how to reply, watches the her fingers curl and the way her hair spills down the curve of her throat. She looks delicate, fragile, but it's a lie as much as it's a truth, so he smiles when she looks up and says, clear and even, "I could know. But I want you to tell me."
He wonders if she would be this straightforward with anyone else, wonders if anyone but Sora would understand why it's so easy to lie here with a witch that could shatter his heart, wonders if Kairi can understand her. He hopes she can, doesn't doubt the strength of her heart, but seeing's not the same thing as understanding, and Naminé is cast in shades of light, but they shift and waver, shimmer and fade, and if the lie is the truth then the truth is a lie, and Kairi burns a little too fiercely, like they all do, and if she didn't have a molten steel core he thinks she could have melted away beneath her.
"...freedom," he says, and watches the dawning realization in her eyes, the sudden downward sweep of her lashes, the way she curls in just a little bit tighter on herself, because getting what you want is terrifying, even if it's not quite right or real, even if it never could be.
"It's a good thing, isn't it?" she asks, soft, but her grip just a little too tight, and he wonders why they always cling so hard, why they're so afraid that he'll go when he's already agreed to stay, breathed it out in a soundless whisper against Kairi's skin and murmured it low and slowly enough so that even Sora could understand, but he's not sure that either of them believe him, and it hurts a little every time Kairi lingers with a hand splayed against his chest, every time Sora swallows down a flare of nervousness with desperate heat, every time their nails and teeth dig into his skin hot and deep like the brand that's already burned into his heart, even though he doesn't really know why.
It's not a lie even when it's her, because it might not exist but that doesn't mean it's not real, after all, and those memories are hers, and always will be.
"Yeah," he says softly, and brushes another kiss against her lips, not a promise because he could never promise her anything, not a promise because she could never accept it. But almost. Almost. "It's a good thing."
"Even with these restraints?" she asks, and there's something fragile there, and he's not sure what reassurance he can give her, because he's the one who broke it all in the first place, he's the one who couldn't stand being chained, and maybe all those glances from their parents mean something, maybe they really are just too terrified to ever let each other go again.
Terror teaches you things, Riku thinks viciously, remembering the uncertainty in his father's eyes, and lets his arm drape more heavily around her waist, digs his fingers into soft fabric and thinks of a day spent drowning a parting into a lingering goodbye.
DiZ told him to kill her even after all that, when he'd left the mansion with the taste of her skin still lingering on his tongue and her scent threaded through his clothes and hair, when he'd dropped Roxas at her feet and left him to her magic to be sewn back together, tucked back under Sora's skin where he belonged, and he thinks that maybe adults just don't understand, or that too much darkness makes you choke, makes you gag on the scent and taste of it until that's all that you can feel.
It's not. You just have to learn how to breathe, then there's no fear of drowning, and jealousy and fear will only make you sink deeper, make it easier to fall farther in, and clawing back out again gets harder the longer you linger in it.
In the end, DiZ died for them. He thinks it's a little bit fitting.
"This is what we chose," he says finally, instead of whispering soft dark things about the dead, instead of murmuring a truth she already knows, because he's here now, lying in his own body, and she's safely tucked away inside Kairi, and the worlds that survived are still standing, "so that makes it okay, doesn't it?"
"...yeah," she says, and her smile is soft and her mouth is softer, but there's a flash of shadow in her eyes, and her nails graze down his skin with the memory of mirror-polished floors and the calm cool certainty that desire doesn't make one deserving, that regret doesn't make it right. "Yeah, it does."
She's not starving anymore, but he's not surprised when she pushes him down, and it's not desperation, and it's not a lie, and it's not wrong. It just is, and that, he thinks, is what makes it okay.
They're allowed to be selfish now.
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When she wakes up again, she's Kairi, and she looks at the papers scattered on the floor, the tangled sheets and her missing bra, and she reaches out a hand and slides her fingers through his hair.
"Better," she says decisively, and kisses him in the deep rich glow of the dawn, and he guesses that means she's okay with it after all.
Later, safely secreted away on the roof during lunch, Sora completely abandons his previous no-making-out-at-school stance in favor of an embrace that's more of a tackle and a kiss that's more of an attempt to suck out his soul via his mouth, so Riku guesses that means he's okay with it too.
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