I Gave You My Heart

by Tenshi

Author's note: This contains none of the 358/2 Days retcon. The title is due to Last Christmas. Of course.

Sora closed his eyes, and Roxas opened his.

For the most part, he found the awkward edges of their reunion had been worn smooth with the passage of days, and the resentment had been replaced by a quiet sort of melancholy. But Roxas cherished the hours of Sora's dreaming. In that time, unconfined by active thought and the daily reality of the Key-bearer's world, Roxas was free to travel where he willed inside his prison. There was a vast landscape inside of Sora, the endless spiraling worlds of his memories and the people contained inside. It was no more or less real than Castle Oblivion or the simulacrum of Twilight Town had been, and Roxas found he didn't mind so much. The memory-phantoms that inhabited those places did not recognize him, or take much note of him at all, though sometimes they would look at him as though trying to place his face.

Roxas had tried at first to strike up relationships with some of them, or conversations at the very least. He had no prejudice against imaginary people; he was one himself. But it grew too frustrating when he would run into someone in an earlier or later memory and introductions had to be done all over again. Even imaginary people get irritated when a stranger insists that they've met before. Only Aeris ever seemed to know who he was in every memory, but she made Roxas uncomfortable in ways he could not explain, and he could feel his very being unraveling around her. Her presence seemed to push Roxas towards total wholeness with Sora, and Roxas had no intentions of losing himself entirely.

So he kept to himself, in the conjured streets of Traverse Town or the lofty walls of Hollow Bastion. He avoided Twilight Town, and all the shadows there. Even without a heart to call his own, some things were simply too painful. Roxas' favorite place was one summer evening just before sunset on the Destiny Islands, where he could sit and listen to the remembered sound of waves. But for the first time the place felt repetitive, the curious eyes of memory-friends too intent upon him. Roxas fled through clouds of darkness, from memory to memory, seeking solitude in some far-flung corner of Sora's labyrinth.

He emerged at last from a seething rent of nothing onto a silvery hill beneath a star-shot sky, the air as sharp as broken glass and his breath pluming in white mist. Snow crunched under his feet, and wind-blown flakes skated over the hem of his coat. Below him, in a valley of snowy hills, a tiny village sparkled like some music-box trinket. Sounds drifted towards him: bright, hammering industry that sounded like clock chimes, and cheerful snatches of song. Something smelled of pine and peppermint and cinnamon. It was not a memory he had visited before.

It was out of a sense of irony more than anything that he stomped down to the ring of cottages. He relished the contrast of his black coat against the gaily-lit houses, he made every footprint in the snow proof of his existence. He wanted to make them uncomfortable, confronted with the only real being inside of Sora, someone who was not a memory, the Nobody the only Somebody.

But the busy elves of Christmas Town were unfazed. They wished him Merry Christmas, they bustled by with toys, they pulled him off the street to ask his opinion on their new gingerbread recipe. Roxas wanted to feel superior and distant, but he found it a very difficult thing to do with a handful of warm cookies and new skateboard wrapped up in red satin ribbons. His tour of the town took him, as much by accident as design, to the largest of the houses. By that time his arms were full of treats and toys, as well as some carrots he thought someone had asked him to take over to Blitzen (whoever that was), and he ducked onto the porch. He had not intended to knock, only to stand out of the way a moment long enough to finish his gingerbread and eggnog. His skateboard wheel got tangled up in the wreath on the door, however, and in his attempts to free it he gave the doorframe several sharp taps. It opened up just as he was fishing a bit of loose holly out of his hair, and Roxas found himself nose to bowl-full-of-jelly belly with the Santa Claus himself.

"Sorry," Roxas said, attempting to back down off the porch. "Just passing through."

"Here you are!" Santa said cheerfully, as though Roxas was long expected, and long overdue as well. "I've been trying almost a year now to get your Christmas present to you, but you never stay still long enough."

"Sorry," Roxas said, but in a much different tone. He knew better than to think he had been recognized for himself; Santa merely took him for Sora. It was not the first time it had happened. "I think you've got the wrong guy." He piled Santa's arms full of the clockwork trains he was holding, as well as the cupcakes and cozy mittens and, with a faint twinge of regret, the skateboard. "You've got the wrong guy. I'll go now."

Roxas had barely taken a step before he choked, the zipper of his coat catching him right in the throat as Santa Claus hauled him backwards onto the porch by his hood.

"Oh no you don't! You think I don't know the names of all the boys and girls, good or bad? Hmph! The very idea. You're Roxas, and I've got your present, and after all you've done to help Sora you'd be foolish to think you're going to get coal and switches this year."

Roxas was inexorably drawn into the cozy firelight of Santa's den, which was cluttered with packages and lists. A passing elf noticed the Nobody's empty hands and promptly filled them with several pieces of peppermint bark. Roxas munched it, leaning on the scarlet-striped wallpaper and watching Santa Claus drift around the room like an unmoored hot-air balloon as he searched in trunks and boxes.

"It puts a knot in the whole operation," Santa said, pushing teddy bears and hobby horses aside. "Overdue presents. We've no room for storage here, no room at all. I really should expand the warehouses, but they have to hold all of this year's presents... Ah! Here it is." Roxas had no sooner dusted away peppermint crumbs before he found himself presented with a candy cane, oversized, heavier than most candy, and made up of silver paper wrapped in scarlet ribbons.

"I--" he started, but got no further, ushered outside.

"Now now, no need to thank me. You earned it, and I fear it's just been gathering dust here. Now run along and open it. I'd love to chat but there's so much to be done, so much indeed, now don't forget your stocking and your skateboard. Merry Christmas!"

Santa closed his door, leaving Roxas on the other side of it with his oddly-shaped package, his skateboard, and a red-and-white striped sock crammed full of candy. As far as Roxas' experiences with Sora's memory figments went, it was certainly one of the most bizarre. He tucked his presents under one arm and trudged back through the snow to his entry point, the large evergreen tree with the sparkling Jack-o-Lantern ornament. Once there he sat down on a snowbank, his wrapped present across his knees. The whole way on his walk he thought he should throw it away; what use were toys and trinkets to him? But the silver paper had grown warm under his hands, and he couldn't quite manage to cast it aside. Not without unwrapping it, at least.

Red ribbon unraveled to the crisp snow, followed by a flurry of shredded silver paper. A moment later and a weapon of steel and magic lay across Roxas' knees, its crimson spikes glowing with heat enough to melt the falling snow. Roxas felt a dull thud of impact inside his hollow chest, a pang of grief too great for even a heartless Nobody to ignore. It was Sora's keyblade, of course, one of the many he held locked up inside of him to be summoned at will. Some trick of constructed memory had caused it to be placed in Roxas' hands, but that did not soften the pain. Roxas was inside of Sora, and for that he could feel, and he could mourn. He curled himself around the smoldering warmth of the Bonds of Flame, and the sobs rattled out of him, as raw as a winter that had never seen Christmas.

Roxas did not know how long he sat there, a discarded toy beyond the boundaries of Christmas Town, hugging the bones of the only soul that had been his friend. Not imagined, not constructed, not some borrowed camaraderie of Sora's. Axel had been Roxas', and Roxas' alone.

And when his hand landed on Roxas' shoulder, bony even through his glove and slightly too hot to be normal, it very nearly put the thirteenth member of the Organization right out of his skin. "What's the matter, Roxas? Don't tell me you really wanted a jack-in-the box?"

Roxas tried to shout, stand up, turn around, back away, and brandish the keyblade all at once; he had very little success with any of them. He did, however, manage to make a rather impressive snow-angel in the drift behind him.

"What are you doing here?" Roxas demanded, knowing that the Axel in front of him was not--could not be--real.

"Hey, I've been here." Axel shrugged, his hair like a thorny bonfire against the distant northern lights. "I crammed everything I had into a final attack for that kid, and what's he do? Leave me here for you. Gift-wrapped. Sheeze, if I have to hear one more round of Jingle Bells I might have to burn this whole place right to the ground."

Roxas shook his head. Axel looked solid; he even smelled like he should, leather and heat and the faintly alarming hint of smoke in the distance. But he could not be himself. The grip of the keyblade bit hard into Roxas' hands, comforting and solid. It, at least, was real.

But nothing was real in Sora's memories, so if the keyblade were real--

"What is it? Reindeer got your tongue?" Axel shrugged. "Man. And here I thought you'd be glad to see me."

"You're not real," Roxas blurted. "You're just a memory, floating around in Sora's mind."

"Mind telling me what he'd be doing remembering me here? He's got no reason to. I'd be in Never-was or something." Axel tapped his temple. "Logic. You're doing it wrong, kid."

There were cold streaks on Roxas' face from the path of his tears, but all he could do was stare at the diamonds tattooed on Axel's cheeks, tears half-fallen, never wiped away. Roxas swallowed, but he could find nothing to say.

"What, you want proof?" Axel rolled his eyes. "Fine, here." He swirled his hand against the sky, and a vortex opened up beneath it. "Ever seen one of his memories do this?" Axel stepped into the gaping hole, then half a second later stepped out of it again, directly behind Roxas. "See? Memory can't do that. Just you and me."

"You could do that when you were real," Roxas said, brandishing the keyblade at him. "So if he remembered you doing it then--"

"I can do it because I'm here every bit as much as you are," Axel countered, his eyes flashing. "I came undone, and he took me in. He didn't even know what he was doing. He thought I was a damn keyblade." Axel flung out his arms in annoyance. "What, you want some other kind of proof?"

"Yes," Roxas said. "Tell me something Sora wouldn't know. Something about the Organization, or about our work, or about--"

"Wait." Axel dug around in his coat pocket. "I've got it. Just the thing." He brandished a tiny bit of greenery, dangling silver ribbon and clustered with white berries. "See?"

Roxas sighed. He should have known better. "That's just some Christmas Town crap," he said. "I knew you weren't real--"

Roxas got no further as Axel inverted the spring of mistletoe over Roxas' head. Roxas only had a second to look up at in in confusion before Axel grabbed the other Nobody by the front of his coat and hauled him up to his tip-toes, crushing their mouths together in a kiss hot enough to melt every icicle in Christmas Town. Roxas did not even notice as the Keyblade dissolved out of his fingertips in a cloud of bonfire sparks. He knotted his hands up in Axel's hair, knowing that Sora would not know just how it should feel in his gloved hands, any more than Sora would know just how Axel should kiss. He would not even know that Roxas would know, and that, more than Axel's embrace, was proof enough.

"Got it memorized?" Axel breathed, when they parted, his breath misting on Roxas' nose.

"No," Roxas said, leaning in for more. The lights in the village below had all winked out before they parted again, leaving only lone night-lights in the windows and the colored strings lining the rooftops.

"Hey," Axel said. "C'mon, let's blow this popsicle stand. Gotta be somewhere nicer than this to hang out."

Roxas laughed softly into the front of Axel's coat, wiping away at the water droplets that had beaded on Axel's shoulders, snowflakes that had melted on him before they even landed. They sparkled on the ends of his hair, in his eyelashes, on his cheek-marks. "Where do you wanna go?"

"I've heard there's a pretty good beach," Axel said, bending to pick up Roxas' discarded stocking and skateboard. "You want to go and scandalize some figments? They won't remember next time you see them, anyway."

"You know, I never thought of that," Roxas said, opening up a fold in space. Warm air breathed out of it, salty and and wild with the sound of gulls. The stars were just coming out over the Destiny Islands, and Roxas caught Axel's hand in his, and pulled both of them through the doorway and into their light.


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