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by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Squeenix and Disney.

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This is your child. You know that. This is your lost child, this is your boy, and this boy is a stranger to you. Your boy didn't have eyes like that. Oh, the color is right, that same bright startling blue, but this boy has the eyes of someone older, for all their brilliance and honesty, for all the sheer joy that they radiate.

This isn't the boy you've forgotten, and this isn't the boy you remember.

His clothes are dark and fierce and bright, his smile is wide and gleeful, and looking at him makes your eyes burn.

You remember this child as a blur of color, too-blue eyes and impossible hair, small clever hands and the scent of sand and sunshine. He was shorter than you then, a whirlwind of growing boy and stubborn independence, and you'd rejoiced at raising a child in a safe place, a community full of children his age with wide beaches to race along and cool shaded places to explore, and no need for a curfew or a lock on the door, no need for constant supervision and no need for fear. A place of life and light and laughter, and the children sparred on the beach and swam as soon as they could walk and ran and fished and gardened and planted and grew, ever-blossoming and brilliantly bright. It was safe here, it was small and protected and a little dull, the perfect place to raise a restless little boy.

This was your home, and this was your son.

This is not your child, and you are not his mother.

He calls you "Mom" and squirms in discomfort when you close your arms around him, and when he tentatively reaches to pat your back, his arms are whipcorded steel, rough with scars and exposure to sun and rain and a thousand unfamiliar elements. You ruffle his hair and frown at its hue, at the glint of metal at his ear and hip and throat, but the crown necklace is still the same, and even though he still smells like the ocean and the sand he also smells like something else that you don't recognize, a thousand somethings that you've never seen or felt before.

You don't recognize anything about him, this boy with eyes so blue and a smile so bright and hands that don't know how to hold you.

"Sora," you say softly, and he slips out of your arms and offers you an awkward smile.

"Yeah... I'm home now," he says, arms folding behind his head, and it's a gesture you don't recognize any more than you recognize the way his gaze darts over to the left, staring past trees and houses and long stretches of sand to where Kairi and that other boy slipped away, down the path and towards the best neighborhood on the islands, a path he'd run down a thousand times before in search of Riku, Riku, Riku.

That quiet intense thing can't have been Riku any more than this brightdark shining thing is your son, and sweet little Kairi has begun to move with a calm clear purpose in the time that they've been away.

You lick your lips and stare at him, eying the length of his arms and the careless grace of his stance, and you remember glancing out your front window to see him half-curled into a huddle on your front lawn, clinging between the boy that isn't Riku and the girl that Kairi became, heads together and fingers latched in a too-tight grip on cloth and skin and soft bright hair, a protective huddle where once it would have been a clever little circle plotting mischief and games and laughter.

"Why don't you come inside," you say, and you think of the emptiness of the room that once was his, toys put away and clothes neatly packed into boxes and stacked in the corner, because you'd forgotten how to say goodbye, and you don't remember when or how he left you, or why he's standing there and looking at you now like you're something he doesn't know how to handle, like you're something from a dream that he's long since forgotten.

"...sure," he says, and takes a step forward, hesitates, and waits for you to open the door.

Your son would have bounded through without a second thought, but this boy that isn't yours just watches as you twist the knob and push it open, then step back and hold it open. You're very careful to make sure that your fingers don't tremble as you do, and feel a flash of pride that he doesn't seem to notice that your hands linger a fraction longer than they should.

He walks through the door with a careless, purposeful step, and for a moment you're blinded by the sight of your child again, bright and breathing beneath this stranger's flesh.

But this boy's weight shifts as his too-blue eyes scan doorways and windows and every other thing in the room, and your fingers slip from the handle as coolness sinks into your chest, and your throat tightens until it's difficult to breathe.

He looks back and smiles at you again, clear and glittering, and so you smile back, taut and frozen with a boy you don't recognize standing in your front hall and wearing your son's face, and the world tilts sideways as you wonder if he even knows who you are.

"Come and have a sandwich," you say, and turn towards the kitchen so you don't have to look at him through the tears prickling in your eyes.

This is not your son, and you are not his mother, and this is not his home.

Sandwich-making is easy, mechanical, and the boy that once was Sora turns a chair around and folds his arms over the back the way he always used to, and you pull out his favorite bread and grilled fish and crisp lettuce and watch him watching you. It is quiet and calm and familiar, like a half-forgotten dream, and you can't quite read the expression on his face.

He smiles shyly when you put the plate down in front of him, mumbling a soft thanks and eying you through his lashes, and you sit down across from him at the little table. He smiles again, wider this time, and sits up a little straighter and reaches for his sandwich, and the echo of youth you see in his movements makes your fingers curl into your leg so hard that the nails bite even through the thick fabric of your skirt.

He grins at you the way Sora used to, the way his father used to, and you look at the scars on his arms and the gleaming darkness in his eyes and wonder how he murdered your child.

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