A note from the Hime no Argh herself–


Hello all, welcome to my first-ever Kingdom Hearts fanfic. I wrote this shortly after beating KH for the second time, mostly to explore the characters of Riku and Sora. This isn't yaoi, though I suppose you could take it that way if you want. It's really just about friends and their devotion to one another. I call this a one-shot because it's shorter than my work usually is, but there will be about three or four chapters.


Title: There Will Always Be

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts or any related characters and concepts. In all other aspects this fanfiction is solely my property and may not be used without my permission. Copyright 2003 to C.L.F.

Rating: PG for mild violence and language.


Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy!


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There Will Always Be


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Part I


Night had long since fallen, and silvery stars sprinkled the velvety blue curtain of night over a land rich with vivid green fields and deep forests. Sora lay on his back in the rich grass and stared at the sky, counting the stars as he waited for sleep to come. Goofy was snoring loudly on his right, and a little apart from Goofy's stretched-out form, Donald's legs were motoring through the air as though he were running and he was muttering softly to himself. Sora had to grin, because the sight of those yellow duck legs going faster and faster was just funny, but at the same time he wondered what sort of dream Donald was having.


Was he dreaming of the girlfriend, Daisy, that he was always talking about–perhaps chasing her playfully around the courtyard of his home castle? Or was he was in the throes of a nightmare, the kind that plagued them all occasionally, full of ravenous shadows ready to devour their hearts?


Before Sora could decide whether or not to wake Donald, just in case he was having a nightmare, Goofy gave a loud snort and an involuntarily jerk, his foot connecting squarely with Donald's backside. Donald squawked indignantly, only half-waking, then rolled over and sunk into a more peaceful sleep.


Sora went back to gazing at the stars, knowing it was only a matter of time before sleep claimed him, for days spent wandering through this endless country were fairly exhausting. But he knew that sleep, when it came, would hardly be restful. He would dream again–of that he had no doubt–his own personal nightmares that had plagued him for months, the ones where his loved ones were in danger and there was nothing he could do to help them.


And there was an awful truth to those dreams. Kairi, at least, he knew was safe on Destiny Island. He missed her with a constant, terrible ache in the pit of his stomach, but he never worried for her safety. Riku, on the other hand, was sealed in the eternal pit of shadows that was Kingdom Hearts, the heart of all worlds, the birthplace of all Heartless. He and Mickey, Goofy and Donald's mouse-ish King, had been there for nearly two years.


Kingdom Hearts is light!


Sora smiled ironically as his own former words came back to him, the words he had spoken just before Kingdom Hearts opened. For Kingdom Hearts was not only the heart of all words, but it was a place that existed deep inside the hearts of every living being in all the universe. And Sora knew, without a doubt, that this place was light. There was light in even the blackest of hearts, and from Kingdom Hearts it shone.


Yet Kingdom Hearts was a paradox, being not only light but also shadow, the birthplace of Heartless. And it was there that Riku and Mickey were imprisoned, with thousands of Heartless who had no hearts to devour save for Riku and Mickey's own. Sora refused to believe that even after two years, Riku and Mickey's hearts were gone. They were still fighting. They would never stop fighting. And he, Sora, would not rest until he found and freed them from their prison.


That was the problem.


When they'd finally caught up with Pluto and gotten the king's letter, Sora, Donald, and Goofy were sure that their troubles were over. But it was not to be.


"Sora," the letter had said, "we've never met, but I know well the task that has been laid before you. You've been chosen as the Keyblade Master, and as such it's your job to seal Kingdom Hearts, the heart of all worlds. It's my hope that we'll meet before the end, but if not, let me just say this–the heart is the strongest weapon that any person holds. You'll come to realize this, if you haven't already. Cherish your heart and those of your friends; they're always with you. Believe in them, and believe in yourself, and you can do anything. There will always be a door to the light. Sincerely yours, Mickey."


Encouraging, but not very practical. Yes, there would always be a door to the light, Sora knew that. If only he knew how to find it, to open it, because once he did he knew he would see his friends again. Anything would be possible. So he, Donald, and Goofy had searched endlessly for some clue that might help them open the door to light. And in two years of wandering, they had nothing to show for it.


Sora's eyes fluttered shut. He was drowning in the blackness of sleep. His limbs felt as heavy as lead; he was too tired to even move. Try as he might to resist, sleep claimed him and he fell into dreams.


There were shadows everywhere. He was in the blackest of places and could not see a thing. Claws scrabbled and grasped at his arms and legs; Sora shook himself free of them and began to run in a blind panic. He had to escape the shadows! He had to find the light!


He tripped over something he couldn't see and sprawled face-first on the ground. Then they were on him, hundreds of them, like a pack of ravenous wolves ready to devour their prey. Sora tried and tried to summon the Keyblade to him, but the mystical weapon would not appear. Claws plunged into his chest and Sora gasped in pain, then agony, as the invading shadow wrapped itself around his heart.


Then he was the shadow, holding a heart aloft in triumph. The heart still shone with a piercing light, and as Sora prepared to devour it, he saw at his feet the body of his victim.


It was Riku, lifeless and limp, his eyes blank and staring into Sora's very soul.


"No!" Sora shrieked, bolting upright and clutching at his chest. Goofy too came awake with a start and Donald flew several feet into the air, a cloud of white feathers molting from his body. The duck landed on his backside and stared around blankly for a few moments before his eyes found Sora.


"DON'T–SCARE–ME–LIKE–THAT!" Donald bellowed.


"Gwarsh, Donald, I don' think he meant to," Goofy offered, gazing with concern at the pale, trembling Sora. "Were you havin' a nightmare, Sora?"


Sora felt his heart pounding wildly in his chest and knew that it was still there; knew that he was not a Heartless who had just devoured his best friend's heart. "Y-yeah."


Donald sighed, waddled over to Sora, and plopped down in front of him. "All right, let's hear it."


Sora shook his head. "I don't think I want to talk about it."


"Donald's right, Sora. Telling us about yer dream'll make ya feel better," Goofy pointed out.


"Maybe," Sora admitted. "Maybe not. But I'd still rather not talk about it."


"Y'sure?"


Sora nodded.


Donald sighed again, impatiently this time, and returned to his spot in the grass, rolling over with many an indignant mutter. Goofy looked at Sora for a few second longer, then laid back in the grass as well.


Sora looked at the lightening sky; dawn was not far. This realization sent a chill down his spine. He didn't relish the idea of spending the whole night with Heartless.


Riku spends every night with them, a voice whispered in Sora's mind, and every day.


I know, Sora told the voice in frustration.


He's suffering more than you ever have.


I know!


Sora climbed to his feet and went to the stream a little way from their campsite to wash up. The others wouldn't be up for a few more hours, and he was still tired, but there was no way he was going back to sleep now. He was too afraid of what dreams might come.

* * *


The next day they set out across the countryside again, with a notable lack of their usual amiable banter and good-natured joking. Sora was exhausted. He felt as though he would like to collapse in the middle of the road and go to sleep right there. He probably would, if he thought his sleep would be at all restful.


He sensed Donald and Goofy both watching him and knew that his friends were worried, but he said nothing to alleviate their concern. He was angry. Angry because they had been wandering through the same world for nearly two years. Angry because in all their travels they had not once found a clue that would help them. Angry because they were enjoying the warm sunlight while Riku was suffering unthinkable horrors in utter darkness. But most of all he was angry at himself, because he could not muster the will to believe that they would find the door to light.


So he was the Keyblade Master. So what? That didn't make him invincible to all of life's trials and tribulations. That didn't mean he could do anything he wanted. He couldn't wave his Keyblade like a wand and magically summon Riku and Mickey from the depths of Kingdom Hearts.


What if they never found his friends? What if they just kept searching, and Riku and Mickey just kept fighting, until one day they lost the will to fight altogether? What if they already had?


These questions plagued Sora until he wanted to knock his head against something hard just to be rid of them.


That night they pitched camp, as usual, and cooked dinner while Goofy checked the map they'd acquired in a town some hundred miles back. "I reckon we're about another day's walk from the city," Goofy said, scratching his head as he turned the map this way and that. "Maybe we'll find something there, huh?" he added hopefully.


Not likely, Sora wanted to say, but instead he nodded moodily.


Usually after dinner they stayed up talking and joking and swapping stories from their home worlds, but Sora was obviously in no mood for that tonight, so Goofy and Donald went to bed early and were happily snoring before long. Sora sat in the grass, leaning against a rock, and stared silently into space as he fought a hard battle with fatigue. He was determined not to give in to sleep. He wanted no part of the nightmares.


Sora glanced up and saw Riku sitting atop his rock.


His mouth fell open, and he blurted the first thing that came to mind. "I'm dreaming this, aren't I?"


Riku glanced down at him and gave his trademark smirk. His eyes were strangely bright and greener than Sora had ever seen them, his silver hair aglow as if reflecting the light of the stars, and his body was more solid, more real, than anything around him–it was as though everything but the very essence of Riku had been stripped away, and his soul was bared defiantly for the world to see.


"You're not dreaming, dummy," Riku said lazily in his own unique drawl that was at once condescending and affectionate. "This is the only way I can speak to you."


Sora blinked. "I don't understand. If I'm not dreaming, then how the hell are you here?"


Riku shrugged. "Mickey calls it 'incorporeal projection' or some crap like that. My body is still in Kingdom Hearts, but my heart is here with you, and has created a temporary physical presence for me. See?" He smacked Sora upside the head.


"Ow!" Sora jumped to his feet, rubbing the back of his head.


Riku grinned. "It works. Cool."


Sora gaped at him, openmouthed. "Riku–you–you're actually here?"


But Riku shook his head. "Uh-uh. Like I said. Here in heart, body back in Kingdom Hearts. Mickey said he'd guard me for a while so I could talk to you. I've been trying this for a long time. Finally worked."


Sora continued to stare at him. There were so many questions, so many things he wanted to know, that he didn't know where to start. "Are you...are you okay, Riku?"


"I'm fine," Riku said with a dismissive wave of his hand, but Sora heard the hard edge in his voice and saw his sea-green eyes darken briefly.

"You're not fine," Sora said flatly, hating himself for his utter inadequacy. Here in spirit or not, Riku was still trapped in Kingdom Hearts, and there wasn't a single damn thing he could do about it.


"Doesn't matter," Riku said shortly, his eyes darker than ever as they locked on Sora's. "What matters is that you stay the hell out of Kingdom Hearts."


Sora blinked at this astounding statement. "What in all the worlds do you mean?"


"You know what I mean," Riku snapped, his eyes flashing. "You think I haven't seen you? Brief flashes of you, there and gone before I can even say a word? Are you crazy, or what? If you ever managed to do what I'm doing–to project your heart there–it wouldn't matter if your body was out here! You'd still be in danger!"


Sora shook his head, more to clear it than to say no. Brief flashes of him in Kingdom Hearts? Did that mean that the nightmares he had were partly true, that he was somehow projecting himself into Kingdom Hearts without even realizing it?


His heart began to hammer in his chest. Could he project himself permanently into Kingdom Hearts?


Riku looked at his hands. They were literally fading, flesh turning transparent, and the effect was spreading throughout his body. "Shit. I knew this wouldn't last long." His eyes met Sora's again, flashing wildly. "Don't come back, Sora! Stay out! You don't understand what sort of d–"


He was gone.


Sora stared at the spot where Riku had been. You don't understand what sort of dangers are in Kingdom Hearts. He was sure that was what Riku had tried to say. So Riku and Mickey were in danger, as Sora had suspected all along.


He had to help them. And he'd just figured out how.

* * *


To be continued.