Author's Notes:  Finally, I'm starting my Kingdom Hearts fanfic!  I've been promising several of my friends this practically since I started the game, and I've finally finished it (I know it can be beaten very quickly, but I like to take my sweet time with video games), so I can at last start my fic.  I noticed that the secret ending just screams sequel, and was more of a preview than an extension of the normal ending.  That shady-looking character with the blindfold looks suspiciously like Riku! *wink*  Anyway, I'm not going to try speculating what it'll be about, or I'll drive myself crazy.  This fanfic will just have to deny the events of any sequel(s) made, and you can go so far as to call it an alternate sequel, if you wish.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I've already discussed major plot points with some of my friends as I straightened out what I wanted to happen, so those few already know what this will be about.  I ask that, if you're one of them, please don't spoil it for anyone else.  I want to keep an element of surprise for the majority of the readers.

Kingdom Hearts does not belong to me.  It and the characters therein belong to Disney Interactive, SquareSoft, and any other copyright holders in the United States and Japan.  This story, though, is my own unique creation.

Separate Destinies By Annie-chan Chapter One:  Returning Home

On a high balcony in the central castle of the Hollow Bastion, a lone figure stood silently, contemplating what he was seeing.  The castle, dead and bleak under Maleficent's command, had come back to life, just as it had been when Ansem had ruled, before he had let the darkness take him.  The courtyard below him, a favorite gathering place, was alive with activity again.

This was happening all over the universe.  The worlds that had been consumed by the Heartless had been restored, and the worlds that had been taken over but not destroyed were returning to their original state.  Unfortunately, the walls between the worlds had also been reinstated, making interplanetary travel impossible again.  Still, the knowledge that other worlds existed was a step forward from before the Heartless began attacking.  Perhaps a way to travel to other worlds would become possible again, but for now, it was beyond the reach of modern science or even magic.

Not for my people, the man thought.  Not if we have the strength and skill to do so.

Squall, Aerith, and Yuffie were almost directly below him.  Those three were often together, and he had come to count them among his friends.  Several other friends and acquaintances were down there in the courtyard.  He probably would have joined them, but he had other things to do right now.

A much older friend was here.  He had appeared out of nowhere and asked for his help, a sense of urgency in his voice and manner.  The very fact that he would ask for help at all indicated just how grave the situation was.  His friend was right now in a secluded room deep in the castle underground, even deeper than the waterway, and he was getting ready for what he needed help with.  It wasn't terribly complicated, but it needed his full concentration.

The man turned and walked from the balcony, toward the front of the castle.  His friend was actually a blood relative of his, but they were very distant cousins, making the familial bond quite faint.  Their acquaintance was more through friendship than a sense of family.  They weren't even that close, but they had a mutual respect for each other.  Sometimes, they were more rivals than friends, and their competition could be very serious indeed.

It was an ever-changing relationship.

He looked out toward the Rising Falls.  They were a very strange phenomenon, even on a magic-saturated world such as the Hollow Bastion.  The sight of water falling up instead of down was a source of wonder, even for those who frequented the place.  The floating boulders that dotted the area were more commonplace than rising waterfalls.

Come, a voice echoed in his mind.  I am ready.

The man took one last look at the Rising Falls, then disappeared, teleporting from the High Crest to the deep chamber where the other man waited.

"Good, you're here," the second man said with a smile.  "Go over there.  There is a seeing device."

"So, you just need me to find them and tell you what's going on?" the first man asked.

"That's right," the second man nodded.  "I'll take care of the rest."

The first man walked over to the seeing device, which was a small bowl of water.  The bowl was enchanted so that, if there was water in it, those with strong wills can see wherever and whatever they want in the water's surface.  After a few minutes, he spoke.

"I found them," he said.  "What is this boy's name again?"

The second man gave a half-smile.  "Riku."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Riku was sitting on the stone floor, his back leaning against the smooth rock wall that had once had a large, white door set into it.  It was just a wall now.

Kingdom Hearts, the heart of all worlds, had him and King Mickey of Disney Castle trapped inside it.

Said mouse came scampering out of the twisty rock formations on the other side of the small enclosure.  He could fit into the small spaces better than Riku could, and was less likely to get stuck.

"Well?" Riku asked.

Mickey sighed, his round black ears drooping a little.  "Nothing.  I can't find any way out of here.  Not even a bug tunnel."

"Great," Riku said blandly, leaning his head back.  "I guess we're stuck here."

"You don't regret it, do you?" the mouse asked.  "I had to stay to close the door for good, but you could have slipped out and helped Sora close it from the outside."

"No, I don't," Riku replied.  "I decided to stay to atone for my sins.  I helped the darkness along so far, and I almost killed my friends and destroyed all worlds by being gullible enough to let Ansem take my body over.  Staying behind to make sure the darkness was sealed was the least I could do."

"You have a good heart, Riku," Mickey said.  "I like you already!"

Riku smiled.  "Thanks, Your Majesty."

"Aw, just call me Mickey," Mickey said.

"Okay," Riku nodded.  He leaned his head back again.  "I don't regret staying here, but now I realize we have no food or water, and there's no seeable way out.  What if we starve to death here?"

Mickey shrugged.  "Well, if we do, I guess it's the price we have to pay for entering Kingdom Hearts.  Don't worry, though.  We made sure the darkness was defeated.  We played our part in all this, and…"

Riku was no longer listening at this point.  He was looking up at the soft white glow coming from the back of Kingdom Hearts, as if mesmerized.  He was listening instead to another voice, and it was speaking directly into his mind.

I can get you out of here, it said, though Riku was more aware of the idea conveyed than the actual words.  Both you and the mouse.  Just concentrate and follow my lead.

"I know…" Riku said quietly.

"Huh?" Mickey asked, confused.

"I can get us out of here," Riku replied, his voice a little slurry, as if he was in a light trance.  He finally looked directly at Mickey, and the mouse finally got a good look at his eyes.

Mickey's eyes widened.  "You're a—!"

Keep it a secret, a strong voice suddenly interrupted, and Mickey swore he could see a dark figure of a man standing behind Riku, though Riku was leaning against the wall.  The figure's sharp eyes were the most prominent feature.  I will tell him when the time comes.

Bright, pure-white light suddenly started shining from Riku's body, as if his skin had lit up from inside.  He made no sound, but the light spread until it washed out the sight of everything else.  Mickey felt like he was weightless, floating in midair…

…and he was suddenly lying in grass, looking up at clear blue sky.

A joyful bark split the air, and a weight landed on him.  He found himself staring straight into Pluto's face as the dog half-stood on him, panting happily over seeing Mickey again.

"Pluto!" Mickey laughed.  "Boy, and I glad to see you!"  He pushed the dog off and sat up.  Before he could say anything, though, a splash of yellow and blue in the green grass caught his eye.

Riku was lying several feet from him, and though he didn't look ill or injured, he wasn't moving at all.

"Uh-oh!" Mickey gulped, reflexively fishing around in his pockets.  He always kept paper and a pen with him for emergencies like this.  He scribbled out a short note on a piece of paper, folded it, and put it into an envelope with the royal seal on it.  He was lucky he had it, since it was the last one in his little supply.  He gave it to Pluto.  "Go get help, boy!"

Pluto sped off.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"They've gotten out of Kingdom Hearts and landed in the outskirts of the Disney kingdom," the first man told the second.  "Riku's unconscious, though."

"I expected as much," the second man nodded.  "His body isn't really ready for the strain of interdimensional or even interplanetary teleportation."

"Are you sure he can do it again, then?" the first man asked.  "It could severely damage or even kill him."

"He can," the second man said, conviction in his voice.  "Just remember who his father is."

The first man paused, then nodded.  "Right."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Man!  Just how long does this road go on for?" Sora panted as he ran after the dog in front of him.  "Slow down, Pluto!"

The dog did stop, but he turned around and looked at Sora, anxious to go on.

Sora's two companions were also tired.

"Stupid mutt!" Donald quacked.

"But, we're almost to the edge of the kingdom!" Goofy said, in higher spirits than the other two, as he normally was.  "We gotta be close!"

"All right, all right!" Sora said.  "We walk, though!"  Again, he set off after Pluto, ignoring Donald's complaints that they should rest for longer.  He trudged up the next hill, his enthusiasm to follow the dog considerably less than it had been to begin with.  What kept him from giving up for another day was the fact that Riku was likely with Mickey.

At the top of the hill, he looked out over more grassy terrain.  Just how close to the edge did Goofy mean?  It wasn't until he looked down at the base of the hill that his spirits leapt.

"Oh!" he cried, taking off in a run again.  "Riku!"  Gravity tripped him up, and he rolled the rest of the way down.  After coming to a stop, he scrambled over to Riku as fast as he could, calling his motionless friend's name.  "Riku!  Riku!"  He looked up at Mickey.  "Is he okay?!"

"Oh, he's fine," Mickey nodded with a smile.  "I checked him over after I sent Pluto for help.  Seems he's just plain tuckered out.  He was the one who got us out of Kingdom Hearts."

"He was?" Sora asked, perplexed.

"I'll tell you about it later, but we should probably get him to the castle," Mickey replied.  "I could be wrong about why he's sleeping."

Sora nodded, gently lifting Riku's top half, putting the silver-haired boy into a reclining position.  Even by not picking him up, he could tell he was a little too much for Sora himself to carry.  Riku wasn't much taller than him, and Sora was a pretty strong boy, but Riku's muscle mass was considerably more than his, making him a good deal heavier.  He was sleek and slender, not big and bulky, but he was still noticeably bigger than Sora the Toothpick.  It was a nickname Riku often teased Sora with.

"Hey, Goofy," Sora called to the bigger of his two companions, who were just now catching up.  "Give me a hand here, will you?"

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Sora has found Riku," the first man said.

"Good," the second man smiled.  "This is going smoother than I feared."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Someone was pouring water down his throat.  That was the first clear sensation Riku was aware of, and it startled him.  He reflexively, and unwisely, gasped, inhaling some of the water.

"Ack!" Sora yelped as Riku suddenly convulsed and coughed.  He jumped and lost his grip on the bowl of water, dropping it on Riku and soaking the white hospital gown the royal physician had put on the unconscious boy.

"Sora!" Riku spluttered, still coughing.  "Thanks a lot!"

"Sorry!" Sora cried, still managing to hold Riku in a sitting position.  He was happy he hadn't dropped him, which would have been even more embarrassing.

"Jeez," Riku sighed, his coughing stopped.  "What a way to wake me up, Sora."

"I didn't expect you to wake up so suddenly," Sora said, a little guiltily.

"Where are we?" Riku asked, looking around.  "How long have I been out?"

"We're in the hospital wing of Disney Castle, and you've been unconscious for about four hours, according to King Mickey," Sora answered.

"Have you been watching over me?" Riku asked, looking at Sora.

"The whole time," Sora nodded.  "I was scared you were worse than you seemed."

Riku felt a grateful smile tug at his lips.  "Thank you, Sora."

Later, a voice said suddenly.  I can lend you the strength to get you back to the Destiny Islands, but I've kept my connection with you for a long time.  I may not be able to hold it for much longer.

"Riku?" Sora asked, puzzled at Riku's sudden blank look.

I'm sorry for rushing you, the voice continued, but please save your happy reunion for later.  The link is beginning to weaken.

"Sora," Riku said, "we have to go now."

"What?" Sora blinked, even more confused.

"I can get us back to the Destiny Islands, like I got Mickey and myself out of Kingdom Hearts, but we have to do it now!" Riku explained, urgency in his voice.

"B-but," Sora stammered, surprised, "I haven't said goodbye to Goofy and Donald!"

"Then, hurry and go!" Riku shouted.  "Now!"

Stunned, Sora ran out of the room.  As he watched him go, Riku heard the voice in his head chuckle at the sudden rush in the boy.

"Who are you?" he asked.

You will meet me someday, the voice answered, and I will tell you then.  But, it may not be for a long while yet, so be patient.  For now, get ready to go.

The voice wouldn't answer any more questions, so Riku finally jumped up, stripped, grabbed his clothes off of a nearby chair, and quickly dressed again.

He felt warm energy gathering in him, just like right before he blacked out in Kingdom Hearts.

"Wait!" he cried.  "Sora's not back yet!  Don't leave him behind!"

I cannot keep this connection any longer, the voice replied.  Even with my considerable strength, mental links that cross the voids of space are very hard to maintain.

"But, Sora—!"

"Riku!"

Riku whirled around.  Sora had just burst back through the door, and was stunned to see his friend glowing like a beacon.  Without a word, Riku lunged at the smaller boy and tackled him.  Sora gritted his teeth, expecting a hard impact with the floor, yet it never came.

That was odd.  He was weightless…

…he was FALLING!

SPLASH!

Sora found himself underwater, and he reflexively relaxed, allowing himself to float up to the top.  When he broke the surface, he immediately righted himself, coughing out salty water.  Riku was floating a few feet away from him.

"Aw, man!" Sora groaned.  "He's unconscious again!"  He held Riku so his head was above the water, and then realized how familiar the hot sun and warm seawater felt.  He looked around them, and felt his heart leap with joy when he saw they were less than fifty yards offshore a small island.  It was the tiny islet that the kids of the Destiny Islands came to to have fun.

Sora eagerly swam toward shore, pulling Riku along behind him.  Oh, it had been so long since he'd seen these beautiful beaches!

"Kairi!" Sora called.  "Selphie!  Wakka!  Tidus!  Everyone!"

"Sora?" a soft, feminine voice replied, and Sora saw a tiny redhead emerge from a wooden shack near the water.  "Oh, my gosh!  SORA!"  She dashed down the beach and splashed into the water as Sora found it shallow enough he had to hoist Riku up to keep him from dragging on the sandy bottom.  She threw her arms around him, laughing and crying at the same time.  "How did you get here so quickly?!  It was only a little while ago that you promised to come back!  I thought I'd have to wait forever!"

Sora was laughing as well.  "You wouldn't believe it!  I don't even know what happened!  Riku could probably explain much better than I could!"

"Riku?" Kairi asked, then looked down at her unconscious friend, his hair swirling lazily in the shallows.  "Oh, no!  What happened to him?!"

"He's okay," Sora assured her.  "He's just really tired out.  Can you help me get him into the shade?"  A few minutes later, they had Riku laid out in a shady, grassy area under some palm trees.

"Mm…" Riku muttered, and he began to stir.  His eyes cracked open, making the other two grin at seeing him awake.

Riku blinked.  His eyes were very unfocused, but he could swear that the two darker blobs in the blur of colors that he saw were two people bending over him.

"Welcome home, Riku," he heard Kairi say.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Sora and Riku have made it home," the first man told his companion.

"Good," the second man sighed, visibly tired.  "I hate these interplanetary connections.  You think you're doing fine, then you're suddenly feeling your strength melting away."

"You kept it up much longer than anyone else could, though," the first man said.  "You are the strongest among us, after all."

"Yes," the second man nodded.  "My son is showing very high promise, though.  Given time, he may even surpass me."

"It will certainly be quite impressive if he does," the first man agreed.  "I just hope he takes to the training well.  You know how he's…different."

The second man shot the first man a scathing glare.  "His mother's inferior bloodline has no holding over his potential!"  The words were laced with bitterness and regret.  "I'll never forgive myself for mating with that slattern, but my son was the result!  I will not look down upon him for my own mistake!"

The first man held up his hands in concession.  "I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to anger you."

The second man let out his breath slowly, calming himself.  "I thank you for your help.  I appreciate it."

The first man shrugged.  "You've done plenty for me.  I should pay you back whenever I get the chance."

"If you want to," the second man said.  "You can go now.  I'm sure your friends are wondering where you are."  He picked up the seeing bowl and it vanished, disappearing into whatever place he kept the items he kept with him.  "I will see you again sometime."  He lowered his head in a quick, slight bow, then vanished from sight.

The first man disappeared a second later as well, returning to the high balcony above the courtyard, hoping no one below noticed his unconventional entrance.

To be continued…

Author's Notes:  This prologue got much longer than I anticipated, so I decided to make it chapter one instead.  I probably won't have any regular update schedule for this fic, since I can never follow them even if I try.  I'll just write chapters when I feel like it, which will hopefully be often.  Chapter length is also up in the air.  Since I write things as they come to me, they may be long, they may be short, or they may vary in length.  We shall see.  Again, if you know what this story is about, DON'T SPOIL IT FOR ANYONE!  That includes not saying anything spoilerish about future events or characters in feedback.  I want the other readers to be surprised about who these mysterious two men are, what their connection to Riku is, and who the second man's seemingly illegitimate son is.  The significance of the title will eventually be explained, as well.  I hope I have plenty of people wondering.  I also hope you all like this first chapter.  Let me know in a review or an email to mangareader@hotmail.com, onegai shimasu!