Disclaimer: Not Mine. The end.

Hopefully not just ANOTHER Deep Dive story.

Ironically, I could write a whole piece explaining where this came from. Suffice to say it's just my way of getting some personal stuff out, and consequently I'm a little worried that Riku doesn't come across as Riku.

Comments are always welcome.

Behind, Before, Within

By, Nicole Silverwolf

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies with in us."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The true test of character is not how much we know how to do, but how we behave when we don't know what to do."
-John Holt

Under this overhang, with his knees drawn as close to his chest as possible, it was almost possible to be dry. It wasn't warm; but he appreciated being dry in a way he had never thought possible before.

The constant rain in Kingdom Hearts could do that to you.

As much as his friends had once teased him for them, he often wished for the "waders" he had rarely been without. At least they could have kept him marginally dry. He had lost count of the times that Sora, Tidus and Wakka had teased him about it, to the point where they had fought over it. How they had solved every argument they had ever had when they were kids. Since he had been the victor, the prize had been no more comments about his choice in clothes.

He guessed that at the time they just accepted it as one of his slightly eccentric quirks much as he accepted Tidus and Wakka's near manic devotion to Blitzball, or Selphie's love of jump ropes.

But the "waders" for lack of a better term (because they were NOT actual waders he assured himself) had been scorched in a battle by a Firaga spell he hadn't seen coming and they had nearly fused to his skin. If not for the normal cloth shorts he wore underneath them--they would have.

That incident and the remembrance of an experiment he and Sora had conducted with a plastic container and the microwave's power settings ended his wearing of those.

The shorts underneath had been salvageable, though they had become impractical eventually. At least they were long, and nearly substituted as pants, though he wondered how that extra few inches, made that much of a difference against a drafty wind.

The once bright yellow top was probably long gone. It hadn't been washed in he couldn't remember when, though it got wet often enough. He didn't know what had become of it, though the reason he lost it remained stark against bleak memories of time here.

Not a month after being locked inside this world, he had watched a fight of some sort between Heartless from the alley he had wisely chose to stay in. The victim had been one of the little ones--like ants those kind were--and when they were done, it had been left for dead in the street.

He had stood there for a long while, pondering over why exactly they had turned on each other, not too interested in doing anything about the situation. Less of the Heartless there were the better in his opinion. Made his job slightly easier. Besides, that one would have been hardly a threat even if it were uninjured.

But then it had started crying.

Obviously it was in misery--dying most likely--he reasoned in an almost detached manner. He could see where one leg was completely missing, an arm bent at too many angles to be normal.

It was going to die.

But still the fact remained that it was wailing, in obvious pain at that.

Unsure, and suddenly almost ashamed, he had crept out of the alley and over to its side.

Terrified, the creature had screeched and attempted to get away. But it was nearly dead, almost all of its fight gone and it only managed a few inches before collapsing in a heap. It cried pitifully, golden eyes wide and focused on his form as he moved cautiously forward.

Admittedly, he didn't have a clue what exactly to do. Putting it out of its misery seemed the most logical and even humane thing to do but with what? This was before he knew he still had a Keyblade and was unaware of anything else that could actually destroy a Heartless. The creature had collapsed by that point, sides heaving in the effort to breathe and body shaking.

Golden butter eyes stared at him and he wondered if he was doing more harm than good, scaring the hell out of it like that. Maybe he should have just left it be.

A strained cry, loud and coming from depleting reserves made him focus again.

Did these things have family? Or parents? Was this thing wondering where they were and why the pain wouldn't go away? Or why its comrades had hurt it? Abandoned it? Was it wondering if he would hurt it more? Was it scared?

It was cool, not overly cold out but the pathetic looking thing was shaking like a leaf, mostly from shock. His stomach twisted and he made a snap decision based on instinct. Guilt might have played a part in the decision, but he had never liked to see things suffer, wondered if anyone did. Even months later, his skin crawled and tightened in a shiver of the fleeting thought of just leaving it there.

Or doing nothing.

He shucked off the yellow tank top quickly, almost instantly regretting what warmth the garment provided, and wrapped the little Heartless in it.

Careful to avoid actually touching it--since he didn't know exactly what would happen--he pulled it into his lap. The gesture seemed futile at best, dangerous at worst, but it was the only thing he could think of.

The Heartless had watched him warily, and he was a little surprised to find that this thing had a heart beat or at the very least some sort of pulse. At least that was what it felt like. In any case, it seemed to ease some of this creature's pain. The shaking subsided slightly, and after a few moments of careful watching, the Heartless' eyes were not so wide with terror.

Normally, there was no doubt that the little thing would be trying to claw at his heart, or at the very least get away from him at the fastest speed possible. But it simply lay there, watching him, and dying in inches.

Riku hoped it was enough. However pathetically little it was. How long he sat there, he wasn't really sure. Time passed in the measure of a slowing pulse and eventually it became sluggish. Golden eyes slitted, but never closed completely. A few minutes later, the creature's body went languidly limp in the way that only things that have died can.

He barely realized that he had been almost rocking it during that whole time, though it had only been the barest of drifting from right to left and back again.

The absence of a pulse was starker than he would have expected.

It didn't occur to him until that moment, about how far away from home he was. How he would probably never see Destiny Island again, or Sora or Kairi or his parents. Only fifteen years old and suddenly aware of how in over his head he was. Kneeling in the street, utterly alone and holding something so pathetic…it was one of the few times he wanted to cry.

Badly.

And for some reason, he couldn't.

It hadn't felt right to take his shirt back after that. He didn't want to just leave it in the street, though he wondered why the little ball of shadow hadn't disintegrated like when they were struck with a Keyblade. He had gone back to the alley with it, and had tucked it as much as he could into a corner. It was inadequate, almost ridiculous, almost laughable but all he could offer the little Heartless. Honestly he wondered if he did it more to assuage his own guilt than to actually help the creature.

The rest of the night he sat there back against the brick wall, head resting on curled up knees. Miserable and unable to really sleep because he was shaking so hard from the cold. When dawn arrived it was signaled with little more than the temperature actually dropping more. There was no sun here. If he slept it was little more than dozing and by a little after seven in the morning, he knew he needed to find something warmer to wear and sooner rather than later.

Clothes that had once kept him comfortably cool on a tropical island could nearly cause him to die of exposure in Kingdom Hearts.

He found a shirt two sizes too big in a dumpster that afternoon after spending most of the day in search of something to wear. The next few days were spent cobbling together layered clothes that kept him warm at least for the first few months.

He had had to part with his sneakers last; the hole in the sole and their constant squelching squashing made his feet wet, and consequently cold.

The newer black boots always felt like a poor substitute though they kept his feet dry.

Rain started to appear more frequently however, and soon it was becoming necessary to find a coat or something like one. Damp clothes had led to one of the worst colds he'd had in a long while and he had started the hunt for something to keep him dry.

A week later, he had found what he was looking for.

On the body of a dead man.

Yes, there were people in Kingdom Hearts. Very few, solitary in nature and often very hard to find. They rarely interacted with each other, and he didn't know the man he'd found in the alleyway.

Probably, he had died in a Heartless attack. Not those little ones, not like the little one he still could feel dying in his arms, months after it had happened. One of the larger ones, that traveled in packs and stood to nearly his own height. Far more dangerous than the little ones had been and could ever be.

This particular man had a long coat on, black in color. He could judge that if he put it on it would drift just above his ankles. The only ornate thing about it was the brocade strapped across his chest, where a button might have gone on a less flashy coat. The tassels to the hood as well, had an intricately designed piece of metal on each end. It looked like some sort of leather polymer, as the falling rain beaded and ran off the dark material.

But there was something that kept him from even moving near the body, as clinically as he could say that in his mind. He hadn't particularly ever been that squeamish, at least he didn't think he had been. Death and gore in films, even the destruction of Heartless with his newly rediscovered Keyblade was so much different than seeing it up close. Or feeling it.

He didn't think about it all the time, but there were weird instances when his body would shiver and he felt a little dizzy and his hands remembered the death of that Heartless in the first few days of his time in Kingdom Hearts. To a point, it annoyed him that he was still so affected by it. It had been just one Heartless, and he had killed hundreds of them both prior to and after that particular incident. It was a way of life and his survival depended on it.

But that feeling, knowing that within the span of your heartbeat that something that was once alive was dead, stayed with him. Bothered him, not in that way that made him question what he was doing, just question why he was doing it…and what gave him that right.

When he had discovered that he still had a Keyblade, he had become nearly fanatically devoted to becoming more precise with the weapon. It hadn't hurt necessarily; in fact Riku had welcomed the chance to improve his ability. If he was going to take out Heartless, he was going to do it in the most efficiently humane way he could do it.

He had justified the taking of clothes and occasionally food for survival purposes.

But this was a person. Was it that different?

He was already dead. It wasn't like the coat was helping the man anymore.

He needed a coat, as he could feel the dull throbbing ache in his muscles that signaled another cold was fast approaching.

But he had needed his shirt too. And had left that behind.

Eventually, it had been desperation. He didn't know how he found the will to strip off the coat, just that he felt he should leave his shirt behind. Without thinking much about it, he used it to cover the man's face, like he'd seen in movies or on police dramas.

In no way an equivalent trade, it just hadn't felt right to take it.

And leave nothing.

He remembered that he had almost thrown up and had resolved twice during the whole event to just leave it and find something else. Though this had been the first person he'd seen for miles, and he'd never found a jacket in any of the dumpsters or abandoned buildings he'd searched.

Of course, he didn't actually dare to wear the coat for weeks after that. Kept it with him; but never put it on, used it for a pillow or anything of that sort.

He paid for it with a wicked cough and ache that didn't go away for days. But he couldn't do it.

Freezing rain however, soon changed his mind. Reluctantly, he had donned the coat, but took very little pride in the fact that it suited him and fit well. Made him look older and shrouded him in a powerful, almost commanding allure. Though he never saw it.

Maybe if he had looked more carefully, he would have seen that the alley he was walking from was a familiar one. Might have seen the scrap of dingy, graying yellow fabric, still stark against the grays of bricks covered in water and surrounded by puddles.

But by that time, he was already nearly blind, and had taken to wearing a thin strip of black cloth over his eyes in an attempt to keep them from aching constantly.

Consequently, it was difficult to tell if it was rain that slid over and down his face or not.

Owari

So comments, criticisms, praise, flames…anything you'd like to throw at me? Please do so now.

Thanks for reading!