Author Notes:

Yes, you read the title correctly. This is only the first part of the chapter. The second part will come soon, hopefully. I know what I want to write... I just need to do it. ^^ Actually, the next two chapters are sorta sketched out. Go me! Weird chapter. It's full of humor, actually, which is really odd for me.

Thanks to Yasha for the awesome gift art!! ^___^ It inspired me greatly. And of course, thanks to Lane for reminding me that I have yaoi-craving readers (and for drawing for me), and to Fumi for tolerating my obsessive e-mails and fangirl-ish squealing (phwee! thank you!!). Ah, and thanks to Sey for asking all those wonderful questions that made me get my brain back into gear. All of you are so wonderful to me.

I've made a website!! ^^ Finally. Check my bio for the link. It's all about Stygian Solace. Maybe now I'll get more attention. Wee. I need submissions. I'm interested in kind of SS-related stuff you guys will come up with, so please submit. ^^

And don't mind me. This chapter was done in a hurry, so there are probably typos out my ears (which I will fix later), and there are probably some scenes that I totally screwed up because my brain is dead (please forgive me for my randomness!). You see, I'm going through a Spiral -Suiri no Kizuna- stupor because I overanalyzed it and I was right in the end, and when things like that happen, my brain dies for a few days. Kanone...! Why?? *cries*

A look ahead:

A dream within a dream. Who's whose darkness or strength? Hot damn!! Has it really been nine years?

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Chapter Twelve: Gemini's Cruel Fates -- part one



The song came in a carefree tone, without a beat and without real meaning, like a lullaby crafted carelessly by a young girl dancing in her new sundress on a cloudless afternoon. The notes were pitched high and broken by small giggles, but even then the song had something about it that entranced Riku.

"Tendi la ma~no. E'giunta l'o~ra, de-sta-ti..."

But no little girl was singing this song, nor was it sung under the sun in a field of white and yellow flowers. This setting was grey. Dark and wet and industrial. Neon lights lit the way along the cobble-stone street, archaic statues of demons looming from the terraces above, the rain giving their bodies an eerie glistening effect. The rain, however, seemed to have no dampening effects on the singer's spirits.

"Le porte verra~n~no schi-u-se."

A flutter of black feathers caught Riku's attention and he turned to stare at the dark-winged Sora as the boy effortlessly leapt from scaffold to belvedere, his wings spread as he gracefully landed each time, always remaining on the terraces above Riku. The boy paused to giggle in the break of his song, blue eyes winking down at Riku before the dark angel turned to spring onto a closer building, drops of grey water sprinkling from his wet feathers as his shadow passed over the silver-haired boy.

"Su rime~mbra tu tre-pi-da... Su sveglia! E~hi ri-cor-da."

Sora momentarily passed out of sight behind a line of tall gargoyle statues, his song floating in the wet air behind him. Intrigued, Riku found himself standing before the statues, and not really concerned about how he had gotten on top of a roof without actually doing anything.

This was only a dream after all.

He stepped up to the stone beasts and raised his head to glance upward, squinting as the rain poured down onto his cheeks. Sora was now draped across a gargoyle's back, humming a sweet tune and bobbing his head to its rhythm as he stared down at Riku, a smile spread over his lips.

Finally. He had a chance to speak to this strange apparition of Sora.

"Sora?"

The winged figure tilted his head curiously at being addressed so directly. Wet chocolate-colored hair framed the sides of Sora's face as he stared down at Riku with those distant blue eyes, his strange black clothes soaked and clinging to his figure and those wings drooping from the weight of the rain water.

"Ri~ku."

"Why do you always have black wings in my dreams?"

Sora sat up, straddling the statue's hunched back as he gestured down to Riku. "Even though the dream hurts me, I...." There he paused, his wings shifting impatiently as he pondered for a short moment. "I... don't change anything."

"My dreams hurt you, Sora? How?" Riku asked, suddenly shivering. Something felt off... Wrong.

"I opened a new door."

"W-what?"

"I continue into the expanding world." Sora's smile faded a little, turning a bit sad as his arms slipped around himself and he lowered his wings so that they draped over the statue. "I could embrace this body until it hurts. I could hurt myself... in order to become just a little bit stronger..."

"Sora, you don't need to do that. I said I would protect you, remember?" Riku said, managing a shaky smile as he slowly extended his hand upward.

The winged Sora hesitated a moment, his blue eyes focused on the hand. And with a soft sound of wet feathers, Sora dropped to the surface of the roof in front of Riku, the gargoyles towering behind him. He shifted his feet as his wings arched outward, his eyes carefully studying Riku.

"I just.... keep walking on the endlessly continuing road," he said softly, taking Riku's hand. "Tell me, Riku... Have you arrived to give strength to those who have forgotten to be brave?"

Riku closed his eyes, taking in Sora's words, but his thoughts were almost immediately interrupted by the boy speaking again, only this time, it was more real. Gone was the rain and coldness, replaced by a warm bed and sleepy eyes.

"Mmmm... is lil Riku having a bad dream...?"

Riku's eyes fluttered open from his dream to find a familiar chocolate-haired boy lounging on top of him.

That normally wouldn't have been a surprise to Riku, but this time Sora was naked, a completely sated look on his face as though he had just had the best sex of his life. And, judging by the way fatigue was settling over Riku's muscles, and the soreness in the lower half of his body, Riku had just had it too.

Wait.

Sora. On top of him.

Did that mean...?

Had he just...?

Sora saw the confused look on Riku's face and grinned down at him, pleased with himself. "I told you being on bottom wasn't going to be as bad as you thought it was going to be. You were positively squirming in pleasure," Sora cooed, his fingers teasing Riku's inner thigh.

A dark blush stained Riku's cheeks as realization set in and Sora's nails traced over the curves of his abdomen, muscles tight as the caress trailed upward. His lips parted, a sigh escaping from deep within his throat.

Sora leaned down to whisper in his ear, nose brushing against silver strands and lips just barely touching the skin of his earlobe. "You're everything I wanted, Riku. Your love, your body...."

He paused here, inhaling deeply as he tilted Riku's face toward his. Apprehensive green met cunning blue, and Sora hungrily took his mouth in his, his fingers brushing over his lover's navel to come to a stop over his chest. Then he continued, his next words explicitly emphasized with his soft voice.

"...your heart."

They struck a chord somewhere deep within Riku's soul, their true meaning slipping past his awareness as the elder boy watched Sora through eyes narrowed in lusted exhaustion. Naively smiling, he wrapped his legs around Sora's hips, relaxing as he closed his eyes, completely submitting himself to the one who had now claimed possession of his heart.

Sora's hand began to press into Riku's chest, slowly at first until he felt the pulse against his palm. Riku shifted at the strange feeling, brow slightly furrowing as he lifted his hips toward Sora's, who took this to mean approval of his actions, and further continued pressing his hand until the skin and flesh of Riku's chest parted between his fingers to allow access to his heart. Riku felt his body arc, his breath stuttering as his warm skin rubbed against the coldness of Sora's body.

What was this feeling...?

He whimpered, without words telling Sora to continue.

"That's right..." Sora purred, running a nail over the glowing flesh of Riku's heart and causing the body under him to shudder in masochistic pleasure. "Open your heart to me, Riku." With his free hand he caressed Riku's cheek, slipping fingers into that silver hair to comfort his lover. "Love me and our bond will never be broken."

"Sora..."

Riku's voice came out in a breathy sough as he raised his hand to Sora's chest, trying to feel the pulse of the boy's own heart to reassure himself.

But he found nothing.

Nothing except cold skin.

Sora suddenly withdrew his hands from Riku and sat back, clutching at his chest as Riku's eyes flew open to assess what was wrong, all pretense of their earlier actions now forgotten. Pleading blue eyes momentarily flashed yellow and Sora opened his mouth to speak, his words strung with desperation.

"Riku, please don't let me fall..."

What was wrong? Why didn't Sora have a heart?

"I won't!"

Riku was already sitting up to pull Sora into an embrace, but when he reached a hand out to grasp the boy's shoulder his fingers slid completely through Sora as if the boy was made of cold air. Like he wasn't really there.

Sora lowered his head, almost shamefully, his pretty face contorting with grief.

"I'm scared, Riku..."

"Don't slip away from me!" Riku cried, his voice wrung with desperation as he tried to hold the boy again, only to pass right through him. A familiar black void was forming behind Sora, tendrils of darkness beginning to snake out and slip around the boy's limbs--the limbs that Riku couldn't even touch.

This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening!

But it was, Riku realized, and the darkness was reaching for him too. He reached one last time for Sora's hand, his green eyes pleading with Sora's, but again his fingers slipped through nothing. A vine of darkness shot out and grabbed hold of Riku's wrist, trying to pull him in with Sora, and both boys cried out.

"Riku, don't leave me!"

"You have to fight it Sora!"

Riku jerked his wrist free and spun around to find Sora slipping into the abyss, hands spread out, waiting for Riku to pull him free.

But Riku pulled away from the darkness' reach and turned his head so that he couldn't watch as his lover sunk into the black embrace. A lost sob was the last thing he heard before he drifted back into the world of the living.

He was awoken by an arm suddenly flopping into his lap and five fingers unconsciously trying to grasp at covers, but only managing to dig into his indigo pants. After carefully easing his eyes open, it took the silver-haired boy a few seconds to orient himself and remember just why a softly snoring Sora was sprawled lazily across his chest, one of the boy's hands clutching the pillow that sometime during the night had been snatched from under Riku's head and was now dangling over the side of the bed.

Oh yes. He remembered now. Sora had climbed into bed with him and they had decided to snuggle all night.

Well.

Riku should have remembered that Sora slept like a drunken dog with fleas, meaning he usually changed positions every five minutes and generally spread himself over as much bed space as he could. Of course, Riku had been in his way, so now Sora was trying to spread himself over as much Riku space as he could.

Aside from the pillow-clutching hand hanging off the side of the bed, Sora's other arm was still draped over Riku's stomach and his groping hand was positioned unnervingly close to the crotch of his pants. The boy's head was resting on Riku's chest, chin tilted to the side and lips parted as he peacefully snored, the corners of his mouth occasionally twitching into a grin in response to a dream. His hair was oddly droopy (and when it brushed against Riku's stomach, it tickled like hell), both of his feet were sticking out over the edge of the bed, and the covers for both boys had mysteriously disappeared sometime during the course of the night (probably kicked to the floor). And with an amused smile, Riku did not fail to realize that, thanks to Sora's shifting around all night, the boy's loose undershorts had somehow slipped farther down to expose more than just hip bone--yes, Riku had a nice view of Sora's disappearing pudgy belly and the line of his thigh bones. Any further down and it would almost have been obscene.

Almost. Riku doubted he could take offense to any part of Sora's body.

Though, as Sora's hand suddenly clamped down on his hip, Riku reconsidered that. He tensed, but not before letting out a soft chuckle, stirring Sora awake for a brief moment.

The brown-haired boy raised his head to blink sleepy blue eyes at the source of the noise before letting out a short yawn. Swinging his arm back onto the bed and clutching the lost pillow tightly to himself, Sora shivered, snuggling close to Riku while managing to nearly completely cover him.

There was a pause in movement, and Riku was beginning to wonder if Sora had slipped back into his catatonic state, when the boy suddenly shot up into a sitting position. He looked around, made a dive for the covers, and then jerked the material over to cover both himself and Riku, letting out a content little sigh before settling back in next to Riku, slipping one arm around him.

"Good morning to you too..." Riku murmured, and Sora made a soft humming noise in response to confirm he had heard his boyfriend. "Sleep well?"

"Mm.. Five more minutes?" came Sora's muffled voice from being nuzzled somewhere in Riku's neck. "I was having such a good dream..."

Dream. Riku could still see his own dreams in vivid memory. The dark-winged Sora humming so freely, eyes full of sorrow. Then the content, cunning Sora-demon trying to burrow into Riku's heart... And lastly the scared illusion of Sora who didn't want Riku to leave him.

"What kind of dream?" Riku asked, burying his fingers in Sora's soft brown hair, thankful that his Sora wasn't just another apparition of his mind.

The boy shifted slightly against Riku, pulling closer to him. "I could fly..." was his mumbled response, and Riku felt his heart contract, fearing that they had somehow dreamt the same dreams. But relief filled him as Sora continued. "I flew home and everyone was okay. Mom, Kairi, Tidus...."

Riku managed a smile at Sora's innocent dream, his fingers continuing to caress Sora's soft spikes of bed-hair. "Was I there too?" he asked quietly.

"Mm. We made out in your house. On your parents' bed... to make a statement."

This brought out a light laugh from Riku. "We did?"

"Hai..." Sora raised his head to smile up at his boyfriend. "You were on top though."

Riku's eyebrows rose. "Really? Imagine that... I bet my father was furious."

"Riku...."

"Hm?"

"I miss them."

"My parents? Can't imagine why..."

"No. I miss everyone else. Mom, Kairi, Tidus, Selphie... even Wakka, though I'd rather live without his Blitzball." Sora rose onto his elbows and stared down at Riku, who was still running his fingers through the boy's chocolate hair. "Don't you miss them, Riku?"

"Some more than others," Riku admitted, gently stroking Sora's cheek and managing a sad smile. "Your mom or Tidus would have been great on this adventure, but I like it the way it is... The two of us, alone, without anyone we know here to tease us..."

"Do you think what Cid said is true? That they're all either dead or have become heartless...?" Sora asked, his voice so full of concern that it almost cracked.

Riku's gaze softened as he studied the boy's worried blue eyes. "Sora... I really don't know..." he said, pulling Sora back down to rest on him. "Try not to think about it."

"Funny," the boy muttered, letting Riku comfort him, "coming from a person who used to always spend his days thinking, daydreaming while sitting on the paopu tree."

"Paopu tree..."

Riku sighed, knowing what was coming next, and dreading it.

"Riku...?"

"Hm?"

"About what Yami said... about us being opposites... You know it's true."

Silence. Riku did know it was true, but he could only imagine just how it was affecting Sora. What would Riku do if he were in Sora's shoes? Would he be as calm as Sora, knowing that he could possibly be consumed by the darkness?

Or would he even know at all?

"What does it feel like?" he finally asked, his voice soft with shy curiosity.

He felt Sora immediately tense at his question, the boy obviously uncomfortable with the idea of discussing it. To comfort him, Riku slipped his arms around Sora's waist, holding him close. It was a few quiet moments before Sora gathered the courage to answer.

"I'm always cold now..." he slowly said, one of his hands tightly clutching the covers. "Always shivering and getting goose bumps... Sometimes I think I hear whispers in the dark, and sometimes it feels as though my chest is hollow." He paused here, taking a deep breath and curling closer to Riku. When he continued, his voice was withdrawn. Sad. "Or that I don't have control over my own body. A lot of times I think things I normally wouldn't think... Like everyone hates me, or that you're ignoring me on purpose."

Riku opened his mouth to speak, feeling an overwhelming sense of pity for Sora--ignoring him on purpose? he didn't have control over his body any longer?--but Sora spoke again before he could.

"I know none of it can be true, and I'm doing my best to separate reality from... whatever it is that's in me..." he whispered, burying his face into the crook of Riku's neck and shoulder. "But lately... I don't know what to think anymore. What's real."

The shuffling of feet in the doorway caught Sora's attention before Riku even had a chance to assuage the boy's fears. Both of them sat up to acknowledge the newcomer's presence, but when Riku saw who it was, he immediately positioned himself in front of Sora to hide his nearly nude body from sight.

Yami managed an amused smile. "I hope the two of you had a nice evening together because Leon and the King's messengers are already prepared to leave. They sent me to discover your whereabouts, but..." Yami hesitated, raising a single eyebrow and giving Riku and Sora's bodies a twice-over. "But it seems as though neither of you are even dressed. What would you like me to tell them?"

Before Yami had even finished speaking, both Riku and Sora had sprung out of bed and started gathering their things, pulling on random articles of clothing and giving each other hurried commands and advice.

"Your other shoe is over there, Sora!"

"Ah, thanks! It's hard to find them now that I don't have my big yellow ones anymore. Oi! Those are my gloves!"

"Ack. Sorry! Catch them!"

"Urgh... I need a shower. How late did we sleep? I thought we went to bed early!"

"I hadn't had a decent night's sleep in a week, and your wet dream probably wore you out."

"I-It was not a wet dream, Riku! Now where did I put Einlanzer?"

"It's by your dresser. Hey Yami, how late are we?"

The amber-eyed boy studied Riku with a smile as the keyblade master slipped his shirt-vest on. Yami managed to hide the amusement in his voice as he replied, "Cid had enough time to teach Leon how to maneuver a gummi ship."

"Shit! That long? Hurry up, Sora!"

"I'm almost ready! I just need to finish packing my new clothes."

"What? You don't need to bring those!"

"But Yuffie and Aerith told me to--"

"As long as he leaves his bag in the ship, I do not see why it would be a problem," Yami politely cut in, and both Riku and Sora turned to blink at him.

Silence reigned for a moment before Riku glanced back at Sora. "All right. You have three minutes to finish packing. I'm going to run across the street and buy us something to eat."

And no more than five minutes later the three of them were sprinting for the Accessory Shop to meet up with Leon and the others, Riku carrying Sora's bag and Sora carrying their large bag of breakfast. Leon, Goofy and Donald were already outside of the shop waiting for them, disgruntled looks on both the warrior and the duck's faces. Goofy on the other hand fell into a wide smile when he spotted them.

"Uh-huck! Nice to see you again!" the strange dog-human exclaimed, pulling Sora into a hug as Riku dropped the boy's bag onto the floor.

At the sound of Goofy's voice, the rest of the team filed out of the shop to "fare thee well" Riku and Sora and Leon (and Yami too, though they weren't sure why). Aerith and Yuffie pulled Sora to the side to give him a few words of advice, leaving Riku at Cid's mercy. The middle-aged man slapped the boy heartily on the back and gave him a crooked grin.

Riku mentally groaned, hoping against all hopes that Cid wasn't about to give him a lecture.

"Ahh... Riku? Shit, I dunno how to word this," the man began, scratching at the back of his head. "Hell, I'll just say it. I know you're the savior 'n all, and ya think you're hot shit... but that don't mean you're invincible. Watch yer back and Sora's, and use protection when ya have sex."

Riku managed a thankful smile. "Heh... er... thanks, Cid. I suppose this is coming from experience, old man?"

"Hey, I'm not an old man!" he retorted, pushing Riku away from him. "Try thirty-four."

From behind Cid's back, Yuffie mouthed the age forty-two and winked before turning her attention back to Sora.

"And you, Squall, keep yer hands to yerself!" Cid grunted at the solemn man, who in turn glared at Cid until the blonde man retired to the Accessory Shop formerly owned by him.

"It's Leon," Leon muttered under his breath, his eyes momentarily lowering before raising to meet Riku's green gaze. "We should leave now."

Riku nodded in agreement. "Yeah. Hear that Sora? We're leaving!"

Sora pulled away from Yuffie and Aerith, a bright smile lighting his face. "To another world!" he laughed, throwing himself onto Riku, who caught him and managed to steal a quick kiss. Sora was the first to pull away, now grinning. He twirled around, pumping his fists into the air in excitement. "Finally! No more boredom!"

"Nice view?" came Yuffie's voice from near Riku's ear.

The silver-haired boy glanced up, confused at her words. But after he realized where he had been staring as Sora had begun doing his "excited" dance, Riku gave a small laugh and nodded, knowing full well she had been referring to the brunette's butt.

"Very nice view," Riku admitted with a knowing grin. "You'll take care of the streets when I'm away, right?"

"Ya!" the ninja girl replied, mussing his hair a bit.

"And we will keep watch over your household," Aerith added quietly, gently smiling. "You will take care of Sora, won't you?"

"And take care of yourself!"

Riku waved a hand at them in dismissal, nodding to get them to stop talking. "Yeah, yeah. I just heard this from Cid. You going to tell me to use protection as well?"

"Well, now that you mention it-"

"I think it's fine as long as Sora prepares you first," Aerith said calmly, cutting Yuffie off.

Leon brushed past all of them, muttering, "If all of you are done, now..."

And before Riku could register what Aerith had said, and that it had actually come from her, the clueless Sora (chattering animatedly with Donald and Goofy, Yami trailing silently after them) was dragging him away into a new adventure.

~~~

After about a minute of excited bouncing around in his seat once the two ships had finally left Traverse Town and entered the pathway between worlds, Sora had gotten bored and had decided to stare out the window at all the colorful shapes of gummi blocks. After about a minute of that, Sora had gotten bored again and had decided to ask Leon if he could try driving the "rocket ship," but the man flat-out refused to hand the controls to anyone else.

"No. Never. Not when I'm here," he had said, his voice still managing to remain stone-like as he spoke to the fourteen-year-old.

So Sora had settled into his seat, whining about how he wanted to drive. Leon sent him a death glare to silence him, but the silence lasted about five seconds, for Sora had spotted strange ships approaching them. Leon had then explained what Cid had told him: that the heartless had begun to use gummi blocks to create ships to patrol the pathway between worlds, and that this was why no one traveled any longer. And then Leon had engaged the "heartless ships" in some pathetic battle that he was undoubtably going to win.

Sora turned in his seat so that he was sprawled out over the arms of the chair, his feet dangling over one end and his head resting against Riku's shoulder, who had pretty much said nothing since he had taken his seat next to Sora. The brown-haired boy sat up, leaning over the small space separating them so he could study Riku's face. The keyblade master seemed to be deep in thought, though his expression never changed from a quiet frown as he stared straight ahead at Leon managing the controls of the ship.

"Ne, Riku?"

"Hm?" was Riku's reply, immediately shifting his green eyes to glance at his boyfriend, only to find Sora inches away from his face.

"Leon won't let me drive and I'm hungry."

Ah. Right. Breakfast. Riku had almost forgotten about the food he had bought when Sora had still been packing. Breaking into a smile of agreement, Riku nodded, reaching forward to grab the bag of food.

He should have seen the glint in Sora's eyes because as soon as they had unpacked their food, Sora had climbed into Riku's lap and decided to make Riku hand-feed him, who, of course, lovingly complied. This only proved to further irk Leon.

"Say aaahn, Sora."

"Aaahn....!" Sora said sweetly, opening his mouth wide so that Riku could pop in a piece of chocolate pastry. He chewed it slowly, making little moaning noises of satisfaction as a smile spread over his face.

"Is it good?" Riku asked, smiling back as Sora slipped his tongue out to clean his lips of sugar. "I take it you want more."

"Mmm... More, Riku."

Leon, in the driver's seat, visibly twitched.

"Alright," Riku said, tearing off another piece of pastry. "Open up for me again."

"Aaahn....!"

This time Sora leaned into Riku's reach, savoring the taste of Riku's fingers in his mouth. Riku smirked as he pulled his hand away, bringing his face close to Sora's.

"There's some chocolate....."

"Ne~~! Get if off, get it off!" Sora quietly squealed, bouncing in Riku's lap as he spoke.

Riku leaned in to suckle the substance off, slowly slipping his hands over Sora's neck to ease the boy into tilting his chin upward for easier access. Sora complied, giggle-moaning as Riku's lips made a trail down his throat, pausing here and there to tease the skin with his teeth and tongue. But as Riku hit a certain sensitive spot, Sora's hands clamped down on Riku's hips and he groaned, pressing closer into the older boy's body.

Leon managed to sneak a peek over his shoulder to see what they were up to. He immediately felt his face flushing.

"This is the last time I ride in the same ship as you two!"

~~~

"Well... They couldn't have been that bad, uh-huck."

"You're talking about two boys who, immediately after leaving the gummi ship, threw each other into the sand and began feeling each other up!" Leon nearly growled, his stony composure momentarily broken. "I refuse to ride with them again. I'll teach Yami how to maneuver it."

Donald and Goofy exchanged looks before glancing over at Yami, who was waiting in front of the double doors to the Coliseum and staring at Riku and Sora, who were cuddling in the sand after wrestling with each other for a minute or so.

"Fine. Yami rides with them on the way back," Donald huffed, waddling past Leon and not even bothering to turn his head as he passed by Riku and Sora. "And you two! Get up and try to look normal."

Riku rose both eyebrows and grinned at his boyfriend. "Sora, we just got told to be normal by talking duck."

And with a loud *crrrack* in the air and sudden electricity shooting through his body, Riku discovered that Donald was a short-tempered magic-user with very little sense of humor, and that he knew how to cast thunder spells.

Inside the actual Coliseum, after persuading the local man-goat (named Phil) to let them enter the tournament (he had refused until Leon had given him a death glare), the six of them found themselves standing before a small entryway with a rope strung across it.

"So how many teams are going to enter?" Phil asked gruffly, and for some reason, he reminded Sora of Cid. With less hair on the head, but more hair on the arms. "Some of the groups participating in this tournament are much larger than usual, but they don't seem very experienced."

"Much larger? How so?" Riku asked.

"Ah. They just appeared one day. All ugly and creepy. Some call them the heartless."

Leon and Riku glanced at each other before Leon nodded solemnly.

If there were heartless here, then there was a keyhole somewhere. It was Riku's decision. He had picked who he had wanted to accompany him, so it was his choice to break up the six of them into groups.

"Donald and Goofy are in one team," Riku began, giving quick looks at the dog and duck, who nodded in agreement. Phil jotted the names down as Riku spoke. "Sora and Leon will join as another team with me," he continued, and then quickly added, "My name is Riku," when Phil looked at him expectantly. Leon nodded again to acknowledge his decision. But then they all paused, sensing something missing. Riku simple finished with, "Yami enters alone."

"What?" Sora asked, his brow knitting. "Isn't that a bit unfair?"

"Yami doesn't have to enter if he doesn't want to. I think he's well capable of making his own decisions," Riku calmly stated, waving a hand in Yami's direction.

The yellow-eyed boy smiled at the statement, not letting Riku best him. "I will join the tournament alone," he said quietly, his smile spreading as he glanced at Sora.

"All right. Let me close the sign-up and tell the boss to start the tournament," Phil said, tapping over to another entryway and disappearing into a long hallway.

"Sora, Riku."

Both boys glanced up at Leon at the sound of the man's voice.

"No fooling around. This world has a keyhole," the man said, his deep voice level and serious. "Winning this tournament isn't a must, but I will not forgive either of you if we lose to the heartless."

Sora held up the sheathe to his Einlanzer and grinned. "Yes, Mom."

"Oh, don't worry. The heartless are the least of our problems," Riku said, pulling Sora close to him. "I'm more worried about what kinds of fighters have made it through the pathway between worlds just to get here."

"Still, Leon's right," Donald spoke up. "Don't underestimate the heartless."

"Some of them may be weak, but in large groups they can be really dangerous, uh-huck," Goofy added.

"Aa, we know, we know," Riku sighed, waving his hand nonchalantly. "Just be sure you're there, Leon, Sora, if I need help."

"All right Mr. 'I'm fighting alone' Hotshot," Phil said as he tapped back into the small entryway. "You're up first." Everyone turned to glance at the goat, who gave Yami a once-over and sneered. "You sure you're ready?"

Yami simply nodded.

"Right. The rest of you can watch above and come down when your names are announced, or you can stay in here and prep."

Before Riku could say anything, Sora grinned, grabbing his hand and pulling him to the stairs that led to the stands above. "C'mon, Riku!"

~~~

Yami's first fight lasted a total of two minutes, almost exactly. Sora was bouncing around in his seat, cheering for the white-haired boy at the top of his lungs as Riku just sat there, intently studying Yami's fighting style. Unfortunately for Riku, there hadn't been much fighting to study.

Just as Riku and Sora had made it to their seats, a male voice other than Phil's had rung out to announce the beginning of the tournament. A few introductions were made, one or two badly-constructed jokes, and then the first fight was introduced as Yami versus Twin Mirage.

"A difficult opponent for a beginner, and that's what our first challenger is. This is his first tournament, but don't let his inexperience, size, or appearance fool you. The kid's got the eyes and audacity of a heartless! Ooo, I get the chills just thinking about it."

Riku idly wondered what that was supposed to mean, and then decided to ignore the announcer for now and focus on Yami.

Yami entered the field quietly, his back straight and his chin held high, no sign of worry or anxiety anywhere in his body language. Just one foot in front of the other until he came to a stop a fourth of the ways towards the center of the fighting arena. Curiously he glanced up to see how many spectators there were--not many--and with a satisfied smile, his attention focused on the empty space in front of him where his enemy was to appear. Slowly he raised one hand, fingers together, and held his arm across his chest, almost like he was ready to swat an annoying fly.

"Weird fighting stance," Riku mused quietly, but Sora heard him and replied, his boyish voice filled with excitement.

"Yeah, but he looks so cool like that!"

But where was the opponent? Riku narrowed his eyes, following Yami's gaze and studying the air in front of the boy where the other team was supposed to be. Twin Mirage. Just what kind of opponent was that?

"All right! Let the games begin!" the voice from above crowed. "Ready...? Go!"

The last word reverberated throughout the open-aired coliseum, signaling the beginning of the fight. Riku turned his attention back to Yami, but the boy hadn't even twitched.

But there was something. Yami was staring at something.

And slowly, the air shimmered. Yes, shimmered. As though something invisible was moving through it, but was having trouble staying unnoticed.

Actually, there were two somethings, and they were both very large.

The sound of rough skin--scales?--against sandy stone filled the silence in the air as the invisible creatures moved, blurring the empty space before Yami and revealing where they stood.

Yami lifted his hand, spread his fingers, and then made a wiping gesture. The space above the creatures darkened and static electricity filled the air, and Riku, having felt the effects of a thunder spell before (thanks to Donald), knew what was coming. He wasn't surprised to discover, however, that Yami's version of the spell was much more advanced and powerful. Lightning struck the creatures and an ear-splitting screech rang out to confirm that the boy's spell had hit its intended targets. Then slowly they faded into existence, their dumb round eyes rolling in primal anger, reptilian tails thrashing madly and their clumsy talons grasping for nonexistent tree trunks.

They were overgrown lizards.

Well.

Yami wasn't impressed, and neither was Riku.

One of the creatures hunched up, preparing to lash out, and the other reared up onto its hind legs to prepare for a charge. Riku watched as Yami took a quick calculation of their distances and what their velocity would be when they moved in the next split second, and then the white-haired boy thrust one hand towards the hunched lizard, sending a wave of fire spells crashing into it, just as the second creature leapt at him. As the first lizard was collapsing onto the ground, defeated, Yami turned to face the remaining one that was almost upon him, its talons stretched forward and its maw open to reveal a jagged jaw and a long pink tongue. The boy casually waved his hand through the air before lunging towards the lizard, a dark sword now grasped in his hand as he ducked under the beast, slicing upwards.

At almost exactly two minutes, Twin Mirage was defeated, and the first battle of the games was over.

Yami had won, leaving Sora cheering and whistling at him. But Riku had won as well. Now he knew for sure that Yami was holding back, and that they had truly known nothing about the boy with the eyes of a heartless--until now. Riku was learning his fighting style.

However, neither of the boys had time to congratulate Yami on his win, for their names and their opponent's were called, and they were climbing down the steps to begin their first fight in the tournament.

Riku knew, without a doubt, that this was going to be a very long day.

~~~

Their ninth fight. And Sora was just now feeling the effects of the tournament on his body.

Sora dug the blade of Einlanzer into the hard stone floor of the coliseum, using it to keep himself upright as he struggled to breathe, brown hair damp and clinging to the sides of his face as beads of sweat rolled down his cheeks. But his eyes remained on the fight before him as the heartless swarmed around the three of them. Leon, he saw, had noticed his sudden absence in the fight, and had worked his way over to where Sora was now to keep the creatures from reaching the boy. The man failed to realize, however, that Sora was still in no danger, that the heartless were only after Leon and Riku--especially Riku--and that Sora's exhaustion had nothing to do with fighting so hard, nor anything to do with the heartless, for they had not touched him, and would not.

No, this exhaustion stemmed from something much more serious--something he was afraid to mention. The darkness was slowly eating away at him, and while its power made him stronger so that he could fight along side Riku and the others, he could feel himself slowly succumbing to its sullen embrace. As these fights dragged on, the darkness only seemed more tempting. While he still refused to use it to enhance his power, dark thoughts had begun to entertain his mind, jealousy and greed surrounding his love for Riku.

Riku... who, even as Sora remained stooped over his blade to hold himself up, was still dancing among the heartless--dancing, swirling around them, wielding his keyblade of the light, disposing one creature after the other, even as they endlessly kept surfacing. Leon barely had to fight any more, for Riku was everywhere, and when he wasn't, his weapon was twirling and slicing through the heartless like a dolphin through water, always returning faithfully to his hand when he reached for it and dove in for another attack. He looked human no longer, with his silver hair fanning out behind him as he leapt and spun through the air, tossing the creatures with him using that keyblade.

And soon Riku had even Leon standing there watching him in an awe-filled daze, the man now beside Sora, his gunblade settled against his leg.

"Has he always fought this well...?"

Sora barely heard the question, blue eyes distant as Riku waltzed through the horde of darkness, the shining keyblade almost an extension of his hand as he plunged and swiped it through the black demons before leaping into the air to inscribe the blade into another beast. When he landed, it was gracefully, keyblade crossed over his chest, his silver hair shifting with his movement, bright green eyes fluttering closed as the heartless surrounded him on all sides. And then he was spinning in a wide arc, shoulders rolled forward and arm extended to lead the keyblade through the crowd of heartless, swiping completely through them as if they were made of spider web and Riku was the hand to brush them away.

So he did.

"He's like a demon," Leon commented quietly, grey-blue eyes fixated on the sight before them. "The way he moves so effortlessly... Like life has no hold on him."

Sora slowly shook his head, gently smiling as he straightened his back. "Nn. You're wrong," he said, brushing at his wet bangs a bit. "Demons have things to hide, so they move cat-like, quietly, only exposing their true powers when they're desperate. No, Riku fights without boundaries. He's an angel."

But a guilty angel. Beautiful, without boundaries, but not pure. Riku still kept holding his strength back, and fought his worries away instead of rectifying them.

Yes, Riku was an angel... but then what did that make Sora?

____________________________________________________________________________________

Hai, hai. The next part will come soon. Sorry this took so long. ^^;

Yes, I used Destati in this chapter (and will reuse it again later), and I disclaim it. Also, Gackt owns the Lapis lyrics that Sora said in this chapter, but Mina-P translated them. What? You can't tell I used them? ^^ Hehe. I know nothing about songs in languages I don't know (like Italian or French), so forgive me if I broke the syllables up incorrectly.

I keep getting a lot of questions about the FF character's ages in Kingdom Hearts. Just visit the official website--it has all the character's ages except Aerith and Sephiroth, so I assumed they were around Leon's age. Now, I hope that cleared up confusion. Yuffie is 16, Leon is 25, Cloud is 22, Cid is 42, etc etc etc.

Other than that, I hope you enjoyed the first part of chapter 12. Hee! And I hope you all enjoyed the random things I inserted in here (all the fluff and hints and such). Some of them I could have lived without, but they were too tempting to delete. Remember, this is the first part of the chapter, so the Coliseum is the entire second part too--so expect to read many new interesting scenes--and more hints about who Yami is (thought it's obvious). The dreams were especially fun to write, with all of their imagery and symbolism (I happen to like my dark-winged Sora!). Wee. And I can't wait for the next two chapters because that's when everything starts happening. XD

See that review button down there? Click it. Clickclickclick. You know you want to inspire me. You know you want the next part of this chapter faster. Ne~~! Feed the starving writer!