Author Notes:

Based heavily off the song "Goodnight Moon" by Shivaree, and other things. For those who've read my other work, you'll notice that this fanfic is quite different from what I'm used to working with. Disclaimers and other information will be at the end of this three-part fic, so I won't ruin any of the fun.

Enjoy, and keep in mind that this is the FIRST part, so if you're wondering where this fanfic is going, good. :D

"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
-- H. P. Lovecraft

Part One of Three: what if the lights go out?


"This your first weapon, Sora?"

Polished metal gleamed sharply in the dying sunlight as I delicately turned my new purchase over, studying it. My blue eyes reflected up from the small, shiny blade, like staring at myself in a piece of broken glass. The image was clear, just slightly distorted because of the angle. It made me look... younger.

"Unless you count those plastic shurikens Tidus got for me last Christmas..."

I didn't have to raise my eyes to know that Riku would be giving me a skeptical look, but I did anyway, flashing him a broad, joking grin to mollify his distrust. He was worried about me again. He always worried.

He returned the grin with a teasing smirk though, his hands tightening around our shopping bags with a crinkle of plastic. When he spoke again, his voice was lighthearted and easy. "You know, even if you knew how to handle it... a butterfly knife won't do much good against the boogeyman."

My mirth vanished with his words. He may have been joking, but... I knew exactly what he was implying. And he was right, in a way.

I slowly folded the knife and thumbed the clasp closed, tucking the thing into my back pocket as the two of us continued to walk back to my place. The weather was slightly gloomy today, not a hint of blue in the sky beyond the gray clouds overhead, making everything seem a little... hushed. Soft and surreal. Even my red hoodie looked a little dim in the strange afternoon light. Because the temperature was cool, many people were outside enjoying the oncoming winter season, just mowing their lawns or walking their dogs, or heading to the store for some milk.

With so many people around, one would think I would feel a little safer, but...

I could feel them staring at me—us—as we walked together. Feeling vulnerable, I moved a little closer to Riku.

Amazing how one flippant comment (about the boogeyman of all things!) can remind me of the thing that's always in the absolute threshold of my mind, just waiting for the opportunity to take over my thoughts again. Sometimes I wondered if he did it on purpose, just to pull me out from under my protective masks. He knew me better than anyone else.

He knew exactly what I was afraid of.

It's really true, what they say. The ones who love you the most can be the most cruel. Riku tried to help, but... He can't help me because he doesn't understand. I don't think he'll ever understand.

No one does.

"Hey Riku..." My tone was soft, hardly disguising my suddenly grim mood.

And as usual he grew concerned. "Yeah?" he said, but I knew he really wanted to ask what was wrong.

"Remember... when we were little...." I began slowly, watching the sidewalk, "...people used to wait behind corners to jump out and scare me because they knew I'd scream every time?"

Riku's arm brushed against my shoulder as we walked. He shifted his shopping bags into one hand, using his free one to briefly ruffle my hair. "And I would beat them up every time, yeah," he replied with a hint of a smile in his voice. "Why?"

I managed a small smile, grateful for his touch, his tone, his ability to make me feel better without trying, his... everything. "I think you're the only one who ever stood by me," I said, aware of the subtle burning in my eyes. I lifted a hand to scratch at my forehead, my oversized long sleeve hiding my face just enough. "Everyone called me such a scaredy-cat back then... But now they just think I'm crazy."

Riku's hand slipped out of my hair and he sighed heavily, almost guiltily. Oh yes, he thought that of me too. Everyone thought I was nuts.

"Sora..." he breathed, searching for words. I cut in before he could find them.

"Anyway, you can't always be here with me, right?" I said as I lowered my hand, long sleeve draping past my fingers again. I sounded too cheerful all of a sudden, too fake. "I just need something that's always here, just... to make me feel that much safer."

Even if the mood had been forced, it worked. Riku returned to normal.

"And this dingy butterfly knife is supposed to take my place?" he asked with mock incredulity, his free hand suggestively squeezing my ass where the knife was securely tucked into my pocket. He ignored my little yelp of surprise and leaned in close, throwing off our straight walk. I felt him smirk into my neck, right below my ear, his breath warm against my skin as he spoke honey-voiced, deep. "We'll see about that."

I shivered, my heart pitter-pattering in my chest as I gave a jittery smile. "Tease."

Riku quickly nipped at my earlobe before drawing away with a low chuckle at my red face. He was still laughing when he failed to dodge my playful bop on the head.

Satisfied enough to grin at him, I moved a little away and wiped at my ear to try to ease the tingling in it. Even if it had just been a little touch, it had the power to completely undo my worries. Only Riku had the ability to do that. To make me forget.

"So how was yesterday?" he asked, cutting into my thoughts. "I didn't hear from you last night."

Unfortunately he also had the annoying habit of making me ­remember.

He swung his free arm over my shoulders, drawing me back to him so that we were walking in an awkward line again. I smiled up at him and met his longer strides so that we were walking almost normally instead of like a three-legged monster.

"Well, I didn't do much really," I said. "Got home from work and had a run in with you-know-who."

"Your so-called crazy new neighbor?" Riku asked, and I knew from his hesitant tone of voice that he didn't buy my mistrust of the middle-aged misanthrope that lived next to me.

"I swear he's stalking me!" I insisted. We'd had this discussion two nights ago and he hadn't believed me then either. "Yesterday I saw him nailing his windows shut. If that's not suspicious, I dunno what is."

"Nailing his windows shut?" he echoed.

"Yeah, and sometimes when I go outside I see him watching me through his curtains. It's so creepy..."

Riku laughed, loosening his hold on me. "There's probably a good reason. You're just being paranoid again."

"I'm not imagining this though!!" I persisted, a sad whine slipping into my words. God I hated it when Riku of all people tried to reason with me. "You've seen him! He looks like a child molester, and he has that scar on his face—"

"Leon has a scar on his face," he pointed out, smirking briefly down at me before looking straight ahead again. We were getting closer to my place.

"But Leon isn't stalking me!"

A soft sigh was the reply I got, Riku slowly shaking his head. "Sora..." And despite the smile that was still on his face, I had a feeling he was about to give me one of those dumb lectures everyone else gave me.

Riku had always been there for me when everyone else got tired of my supposed illogical fears. He'd always hold my hand and say it was safe, that I had nothing to worry about because he was there too... that he'd make the monsters go away. Now that I was twenty-one though, I knew he was thinking it was about time I grew up.

He didn't believe in closet monsters or ghosts in the attic anymore, but since I did, something had to be wrong with me.

Believe me, I wish it were that simple.

That was his logic nowadays, though. He rarely said it aloud, but he always wanted to... and I always could tell. It's what everyone else told me, or implied. You're crazy, Sora. I was used to it by now. But since it was Riku finally thinking it, it really hurt. He was the last person I had, the last person who could put up with me. If he gave up... then I would be alone.

I didn't want to be alone.

"Riku..." I said quietly, lowering my gaze to the overgrown grass along the sidewalk.

"What's wrong?"

Damn. I must have had a tone. This time he'd actually asked it.

"Nothing's wrong," I said. "Not really... It's just..."

What was I trying to say? Riku had heard it all already, so... what was I trying to explain to him to make him understand?

I frowned, raking a hand through my messy hair, trying to form the right words.

"It's just... Haven't you ever just had that creepy feeling at night that, as you walked to your room, there was something following you in the dark?" I asked carefully, but moved on quickly so he wouldn't actually answer. "Or... haven't you ever just leapt into bed after you turned off the light, just in case something really was waiting under your bed to grab your ankles?"

Biting my lip, I paused, already feeling that familiar sick eeriness start to take its hold on me. Great, now I was scaring myself. But just thinking about those things, the things that were so tightly wound up in my daily routine... it made my skin prickle, as though some dark specter was now breathing down my neck.

"A-And haven't you ever walked through your house when all the lights were out, and passed by a window, just expecting to see a scary silhouette outside against the moonlight?" I continued, already losing control of my voice.

It felt like bugs were crawling up my arms, the way the goosebumps were forming, and I shuddered because of it. Riku felt it and gave me a quiet, concerned look, but I didn't want to be comforted. He didn't make a move to, his arm remaining stationary around me.

Swallowing thickly, I forced myself onward. "Or during a thunderstorm... laying awake in bed, curled up, praying that when the lightning flashed again, you wouldn't see a figure hovering over you, just for that split second..." I hesitated, drawing in a long, steady breath. "Haven't you ever just felt someone staring over your shoulder when nothing was actually there? How about on the street...?"

Casting a quick, anxious look behind me, I moved a little closer to Riku again. His arm tightened around me.

"Hiding in your car..." I continued. "Sitting in the tree outside your bedroom window... Your swimming pool, your bathroom, the dark alleyway by the convenience store."


I cut him off without thought, narrowing my eyes as I lifted my gaze, staring down the street ahead of us. "Maybe that thing you thought you saw in the corner of your eye was actually there. There's just so many places a nightmare could hide," I said. This time I actually turned my head and glanced at him. "Haven't you ever wondered, Riku?"

He was giving me a look I didn't understand.

Very gently he unwound his arm from me and used his hand to scratch at his silver hair, giving a contemplative sigh. He seemed to be searching for the right way to tell me something... like he didn't want to hurt me by whatever he was going to say.

"Sora... how many years have we been together?" he said at last, very gently.

I puckered my lips, wondering where he was going with this. "Two..." I replied. "Almost three."

He shook his head, smiling a little fondly. "No, I mean... how long have we known each other?"

"Oh." I fell silent, trying to think of a time when Riku hadn't been present in my life... and I couldn't. "Um... Since forever," I said.

"Right. And how long have you been scared of monsters and stuff in the dark?" he asked.

I was beginning to understand what he was doing, and I didn't like it. With a small sigh, I played along. "Since I can remember."

"And how many monsters have I seen?"


"Right. And how many have attacked you?"


He nodded, reaching over to muss my hair again. "You understand, right?" he asked, his voice rational and sympathetic. "They're just your imagination playing tricks on you. Always have been."

Had he actually given up on me? Is that why he was telling me all this? I'd heard it a hundred thousand times from other people, but... it sounded so much worse coming from him.

Well... at least he hadn't given me the usual loony bin recommendation.

"Are you sure you don't want to get checked up on by a professional?" he added carefully, cutting my hopes short.


"I'm NOT crazy, Riku!" I cried, half-surprised at my sudden outburst. I never raised my voice at him like this, but... hell, if no one else was going to defend my sanity, I was!

"Sora—" and there was that damn gentle tone of his again! "—No one else I know has had these problems. No matter where you are, you find something to get scared of. You hear or see or sense something unusual and you immediately panic. It's not even a sensible level of fear—sometimes you get so upset you start shaking! I'm sure I don't even see the worst of it!"

"But Riku—"

"Sora," he interrupted, his voice sharp, "something is wrong with you. I've done some research on the internet already, and—"

"Well the internet doesn't always give accurate information, you know!" I cut in. Okay, so it was a weak statement, but I was getting frustrated. My voice was clouded with growing distress, treading the threshold between upset and crying. Undoubtedly Riku noticed it too.

"When you know where to look it does," Riku replied a little more patiently, backing down a little. "These were case studies done by professionals." He fell silent for a moment, and though I kept my hard eyes staring straight ahead (they were watering again), I still saw him turn his head to briefly glance at me. "Sora, stop playing games," he said, and though he had every right to scorn me, his tone was still gentle, almost imploring this time. "You know I worry about you."

My eyes slid shut and I breathed his name, feeling frustrated and angry and loved and grateful all at once.

It's not like I enjoyed being so fucking weak...

"I'm serious," he said quietly.

"So am I," I replied.

When I opened my eyes again, I quickly wiped them with my long sleeves and looked up guiltily, knowing he'd seen me. But he was smiling again.

"You're pouting," he noted.

"Am not."

"Sure you are. Your bottom lip is sticking out."

I glared up at him for a moment, knowing it was only proving his point, before I returned my gaze back to the sidewalk. "Sorry," I sighed. "For... you know..."

"Me too," he replied. I felt his fingers touch the small of my back—just a slight comforting gesture—before he dropped them and switched his shopping bags to that hand. The shuffling of plastic was an awkward song in our silence.

We didn't speak again until we reached the gates of the small housing community I lived in. Creature of habit that I was, as soon as we were past the entrance, I cautiously glanced around. The old lady who lived across from me was outside walking her mean rat terrier. I could hear the jingle of its collar even from this distance. I liked the lady fine, but she had the disturbing habit of dropping by unannounced when Riku was around, and liked snooping into my business... and she was awfully friendly with our new neighbor, the aforementioned creepy child molester type next door.

Mr. Creepy had moved in a few weeks ago and though I've never actually caught him doing anything incriminating like looking in through my window when I'm getting dressed, I knew he was watching me, keeping tabs on me... And I feared the reason why.

"Hey Riku..." I said, glancing up through my bangs at him.


"Maybe... Maybe we should think about moving in together."

His step faltered a little and I had to adjust my own just so he wouldn't fall behind. He knew what I was implying with this proposal.

"I mean, Mom got me this place and it gets lonely," I explained quickly, even though I knew he knew what I really wanted. Protection. "...and you have that dingy old apartment. It'd be so much easier if we just... y'know..."

We were at my front porch now, and Riku's hand on my shoulder stopped me half-way up the steps. I slowly turned, my gaze finding his solemn stare, and I had a moment of sad uncertainty that made me consider taking back the offer—what was that look of his supposed to mean? He continued to studied me for a minute, his fingers lightly fidgeting in my unruly hair as I squirmed a little nervously, and then...

He smiled.

Leaning up to kiss my jaw, he teased, "As long as I don't come home and you've put glass in the lawn, or nailed the door shut, or put tacks on the floor to keep the monsters out."

My lips pulled into a happy grin. "Deal!!"

His fingers tightened slightly in my hair as he continued to smile a little fondly, just a soft curve of his mouth. The green of his eyes was so clear at that moment, and I knew he was telling me the truth. He really did want to move in with me. Something warm squeezed at my heart—overwhelming love?—and I felt my eyes tingle with oncoming tears again. Riku saw the look, though, and his smile took on a more reassuring expression.

"Hey... You better open the door before I decide to ravish you right here in front of your crazy neighbors."

I choked out a laugh—a real one—and nodded, swiping at my eyes again with my sleeve as I continued up the steps, Riku close behind me. Ever since I could remember, I'd always been easily worked up, prone to crying in public or passing out if things got too much for me to handle. My mom had always called me delicate, but... I'd always considered it more of a weakness. And Riku had always been my spine whenever mine gave out.

As my shaking fingers fished out my keys, I felt his hips press against my back and remain there, my own shield against the elements as I hurried to open the door.

Whenever I'm alone I usually scare myself into a frenzy of unlock-the-door-FAST-or-die, just to see how fast I can, in case one day I really need to race to get inside...

But Riku's support calmed me and I usually didn't have to worry about that routine whenever he was around.

The door unlocked easily, the key in and out in a clash of steel and brass and the solid sound of my knee pushing against the wood to urge it open as I turned the knob. Riku impatiently rubbed up against my backside as I creaked open the door, the song of denim on denim and rustling bags an insistent promise behind me.

He didn't get to ravish me right there, however, for just as I was putting my keys away, the happy metallic jingle of a collar alerted us to a new presence. A large golden retriever came bounding down the hallway, nails clicking against the stone-tiled entryway floor as the silly dog barreled towards the door—and us.

A brilliant smile crossed my face and I stretched my arms, squealing, "Pupu!!"

My dog reared up, planting his paws on my chest and pushing me back into Riku, who held us steady.

I giggled, letting the strong dog tongue lap my cheek raw. "Aww, there's my Pa-o-pu!" I cooed, scratching my blunt nails into the doggie's scalp as he panted into my neck.

"I still can't believe you named a dog something like Paopu," Riku commented from behind me, his lips near my ear.

I smirked, moving my fingers to rub Paopu's chin. "I was hungry at the time," I said, and after pointedly nudging Riku with an elbow, I added, "and besides... You gave him to me, hehe."

A soft whine was the dog's remark, and Riku laughed in response, reaching around me to pet him. "Hey Paopu. You've been a good boy and've been protecting Sora when I'm away, right?"

Paopu gave a sharp bark and I winced at the sound, still grinning as my boyfriend moved a hand to rub behind the dog's ears as well.

"You're so cute I could eat you up," he crooned softly in a voice he reserved especially for my dog and occasionally myself.

I glanced over my shoulder and gave him a slightly disturbed look. "Maybe if my dog was actually made out of fruit, you sicko."

"You're just jealous," he smirked, patting Paopu's head as the dog's tongue lazily lolled out.

God I loved Riku.

And as I returned his grin, I wondered just how he could possibly love someone like me as much as I loved him, because I knew he did... But after all the stress I put us through, I honestly didn't know how he could stay with me and put up with it all, my routines and fears...

After a last head-rub, Paopu lowered himself back onto all-fours, tail swishing excitedly as he paced in front of us. I found myself laughing again, previous thoughts chased away by the light-hearted atmosphere.

"Yes, yes, we'll feed you, silly dog," I assured him, and he gave a sharp bark in reply and bounded off down the hallway.

Riku moved past me to follow the dog, shifting and lifting the bags into his arms with casual grace. I turned back toward the front door with a tired little sigh, noting how the cool AC air of my home was escaping into the warmer outside breeze that kept wafting in, tickling messy hair against my cheeks. As I rested a hand on the doorknob, I peered down the lawn and scanned the street once more, this time from the safety of my own place. I wasn't really expecting to find anything, but—

There he was.

A jagged brown scar stretched completely over his right eye, rather like a mountain range on one of those colorful maps found in high school geography books. White was creeping into his roughly-cut black hair and chin stubble, and his one good eye gleamed darkly over at me, murky brown swirling with mysterious intentions. A long, heavy-looking pair of branch cutters was held in only one of his large hands, his strong fingers easily carrying its weight up as he stood in his driveway, black muscle shirt wet and clinging to him from whatever it was he had been doing.

Immediately recognizing the slightly panicked, nervous flutter inside of my gut, I tore my gaze away from my creepy neighbor and quietly closed the front door. The dead bolt's metallic slide was a reassuring sound, as was the jangling chain and the click of the other locks being pushed into their proper places. But even then, a locked front door didn't seem like enough... I could practically still feel him staring at me.

Riku's words from earlier came to me, "You're just being paranoid again," and I forced my suspicion down again, for now, and moved away from the entryway. My eyes darted up to check the ceiling—nothing there as always—before I hurried down the empty hallway, eager to be in Riku and Paopu's company again.

The bowl of dog food was already filled by the time I made it to the kitchen and Paopu was digging in, his collar clacking against the side of the plastic bowl almost desperately as he chowed down.

Riku, who was now pulling out things from the fridge to make lunch, had already unpacked his new purchases and set them out on the table. He was the type of guy who, as soon as he got his paycheck, would spend all his money on crap. Fun crap, but still crap. Today he had binged on videogames, namely his new obsession—DDR, or Dance Dance Revolution. One of the things that always irked me about Riku is that he had the uncanny ability to be great at almost everything he tried, whether it was cooking, debating, wrestling... videogames.

Not that those things separately weren't great, but Riku managed to beat me at everything and it got rather irritating sometimes. Anyway, DDR was getting to be one of those things that I'd discovered first and he quickly surpassed me in. It's probably a good thing I loved him so much, otherwise I'd hate him for being so damn perfect.

Then again, it's a really good thing he loved me so much. He spent almost every night at my place not just because I asked him to, but because he wanted to. I knew he loved staying up into the wee hours of the morning making loud racket with me. I hated silence, so I usually tried to keep myself occupied with loud things like music on the highest volume, noisy action movie marathons, videogame competitions, Very Good Sex...

He liked to claim we were scaring the monsters away when we did those things, but I knew Riku was doing his best to keep my mind from wandering. It worked well, that's for sure, and because of that I was really looking forward to Riku moving in. Whenever Riku's unavailable to stay the night with me, it gets too quiet and I end up scaring myself too much to sleep. With Riku here, living with me... Things would be so much better.

"Do you want Muenster or those packaged squares?"

I glanced up, realizing I had zoned out staring at the stuff on the table. Riku had a slightly amused smile on his face as he watched me; various food packages and bottles were cradled in one arm as his other hand remained stuffed in one of the refrigerator drawers where the cheese was kept. Oh, right. Riku was making lunch.

"Muenster," I replied, moving past the kitchen's island to stand next to him. In the still air of my home, I could smell Riku's subtle, rich cologne, and it filled me with such a warmth that I couldn't help a wide, goofy smile as I leaned against him, inhaling more of his scent.

"You okay?" Riku laughed as he tried to move away, only to have me lean with him, making both of us stumble into the nearby counter. He put a hand against my shoulder to push me away a little so he could kick the fridge closed. "I do need to make lunch, y'know!" he pointed out

My smile spread and I wrapped my arms around him, leaning my chin into his clavicle. "Love you."

"And you'll love me more after you get about four sandwiches in you, I know," he smirked, untangling an arm to reach into my back pocket. He pulled out my newly-purchased butterfly knife and brought it forward as he set all the lunch items on the counter. "Mind if I use this?" he asked.

"Nah," I replied as I let him go, curious. "Know anything good with it?"

He shook his head as he wiped the blade on a nearby towel. "Not really. Just one move. Ice pick drop or something."

"Show me?" I asked, moving to lean against the counter adjacent to him.

"Well..." he began, pausing to study the knife for a second. A serious look crossed his face as he held it up. "First you have the blade, duh. The curvy part under the blade is the guard..." He moved his fingers to show me. "This area between the handles is the tang, and the end of the handles are called the pommels. And of course you know what the latch is."

I nodded, not really knowing why I needed to know the different parts of my new knife.

"Right." Riku looked up at me and smiled. "The ice pick drop. When the knife is closed, like this, make sure the tang faces down and the latch faces you." This he pointed out to me. "Hold the knife in your hand in a sort of thumb's up position..." Which he was doing. "Flip the latch with your thumb, let the handle swing free..." The latch flipped down, the handle swung free, and all of a sudden Riku snapped his wrist, sending the handle flying with a sharp rap of metal on metal— "And then you catch it," he finished smugly, brandishing the open knife with a proud air.

I gave a sheepish grin. "It'll take some practice."

Barking out a laugh, Riku shook his head and returned to making out sandwiches, using the knife to slice meat, vegetables, and bread. "It cuts really well," he commented after a while, turning to flash me a warm smile. "Maybe it'll be able to nick off the boogeyman's toe."

"Care to try it out with one of your own?" I replied wryly.

"I thought you liked my toes though?" he said as he planted two large sandwiches for me onto a plate.

"I do." I took the plate and leaned close into him as he began to suck ranch dressing off his fingers. "So what's the plan for tonight?"

He casually pointed to the dining table where his new purchases sat. "Exercise."

And I knew he wasn't joking this time.


"You know you're supposed to wait like twenty minutes after eating before doing any strenuous activity?"

"Oh, come on, Sora! Don't tell me you're giving up already!"


We'd been 'dancing' on Riku's squishy-foamy-crinkly new DDR pads for the past hour and a half after we had finished lunch. I'd set up the Playstation in my room the other day, so that's where we were playing... and while he was happily daring to try the harder songs, my feet were starting to refuse to move when I wanted them to and I was beginning to royally suck at this game. The flashing arrows drifting up the screen taunted me with each Boo and Almost that I was getting for my slowing reflexes, but Riku was just dancing away without care, bare feet moving with inhuman ease to a song called Max 300. I was beginning to hate the sound of drums and feet sliding on plastic. Maybe I should have cut off one of his toes after all.

Just as I collapsed onto the pad, feeling as though I couldn't move another muscle, the song ended and the game's annoying announcer congratulated Riku on his amazing dancing skills.

"I think I have a cramp," I groaned, throwing an arm over my eyes as I flopped onto my back, feeling my heart pounding in my chest as I sucked in sweet air. My face was on fire and hair thick with sweat clung to my cheeks; I had removed my red hoodie earlier, and the shirt I'd had under it was now soaked, only slightly cool against the flushed skin of my chest and stomach.

After checking our grades on the song—A for Amazing!Riku and D for Dead!Sora—Riku glanced down at me, smirking. "We've been playing for nearly two hours now. You can't blame your cramp on food anymore."

"I can blame it on you though," I muttered.

His smirk widened. With the kind of elegance only Riku had, he stooped over and grabbed a bottle of water he'd been using. "Drink some," he said, dropping it next to me before tapping his foot on the pad to pick a new song.

I chugged the slightly warm water down gratefully before relaxing completely. The empty bottle rolled lazily out of my grasp and I released a heavy sigh, swinging my twiggy limbs out with lethargic grace, pointing my chin in Riku's direction to watch him.

Silver hair clung sweetly to his sweat-dampened neck, the flush on his cheeks reminding me of something I'd rather be doing. The bass of the dance music thrummed in a mesmerizing rhythm between us. My eyes traced every movement of his animated body and admired every curve and dip of his chest, his abs, his lean back, and every ripple of muscle as he moved from arrow to arrow, the gleam of his intent green eyes reflecting the vibrant light of the game from the TV. Even the way his chin was set in concentration... Even the way his own shirt stuck to him with perspiration... Everything about him that moment was gorgeous.

A lazy, pleased smile stretched across my lips as I watched without really watching, my thoughts drifting off into more licentious things. I didn't really notice when Riku finished his round of songs, but I did notice when he suddenly pounced on me.

I jerked out of my daydreaming with a loud squeal of laughter, immediately falling into a mad squirming frenzy as Riku's hands attacked all of my sensitive spots, tickling stomach, neck, armpits, thighs, everything as I tried desperately to fend him off with my feet. Unfortunately he was used to my weak fighting and knew how to get around my mean kicks. Through the mess of tangled limbs and hair and clothes, I saw his pretty green eyes glittering with amusement, and I was laughing right back... at least until he tweaked a nipple and I managed to elbow him in the ribs for it.

Giggling, we rolled around together on the DDR pads, and somewhere in between the game's demo cycling through once or twice, our playful wrestling turned into something a lot less innocent. Somehow, as always, he managed to top me. The soft plastic of the DDR pads crinkled under my shifting weight, my body refusing to stay still under my boyfriend's insistent hold.

"Cramp gone?" he teased as his hips rolled down into mine, rasping our denim prisons together.

Through gritted teeth I managed a strained reply. "What—do you—think?"

He simply smirked, green eyes gleaming with evil intentions.

Sometimes Riku got into Uber-Dom mode and he won't even warn me before he attacks and has his way with me, and when it's all over I'm left boneless and giddily pleasant wherever it is he ravished me. Right now he was getting there, and despite my better judgment, my body was already responding to his damn dominant male antics.

It was too late though. I briefly wondered how comfortable these game pads were going to be as bedding... and that's when Riku just dove in and helped himself. In two seconds flat he had my jeans undone and down to my knees, one of his hands already shoving my shirt up to expose my boyish chest. A wide, delighted smile pulled at his lips as he admired me for that second—it was the kind of look a giggling Siren would give a guy before bashing his head on a rock.

I swallowed thickly. Riku licked his lips and arched his back, dipping his head in low to thrust his tongue into my mouth, proceeding to rape it thoroughly, though it was actually pretty consensual considering I fought to meet every wax and wane of his rhythm with my own, our wet kissing noises only being outdone by the damn DDR announcer.

I abruptly pulled away from the kiss with a long whine. "Riku—I can't make out with that guy yelling in the background!!" He tried ignoring me, his teeth nibbling my bottom lip with strange affection, so I decided to try negotiating. I slid a knee up to nuzzle the inside of his thighs. "Riku. TV. Now."

He released a slightly annoyed growl and bit down on my clavicle as he pushed himself up just slightly to scan the room for something. With the laziness of a cat who'd been fed an entire can of treats, Riku stretched a long leg out and wiggled his toes against the remote control not too far away. Somehow he toed the power button and the television snapped off with a hiss of static.

His green eyes regarded me with a new level of smugness.

Oh yes, he was in one of his moods and I was going to be tortured for it.

I kissed the smirk off his face and our hasty tumble on the game pads continued.


Click. Whiiirrrrr....

The Playstation's mechanical song startled me awake, a foreign sound in my large room that easily sang like a monster's purr in the darkness—and dark it was, the sun having sometime set after Riku and I had collapsed together on the bed (after two rounds on the floor and one on the mattress). Across the nearly dark room, the electronic green eyes of the entertainment center stared at me, and aside from their glow the only light in the room came from the ribbon of moonlight falling through the window nearby. It stretched across the pillows and over Riku's pale face, a little sign of hope against the ghouls of my imagination that were beginning to awaken as well.

It was cold. That may have been due to my lack of clothing at the moment, but something about my home at night... unsettled me... even more than usual. Even with Riku's warmth wrapped comfortably around me and his whispering snores tickling my ear, I still felt vulnerable.

The little swirls of colorful shadows dancing before my sight were writhing ants, making every obscure silhouette in the darkness a frightening figure in my mind. The shadowy stack of DVDs across the room, precariously leaning to one side like a mini Tower of Pisa, looked as though it were swaying on its own. Articles of clothing strewn about the floor and furniture deformed whatever they lay on. The papasan chair twisted into a monstrous blob, the towering bookshelf became an ideal place for a murderer to hide by, the shimmering square of light on the opposite wall was actually a spirit's face watching me, waiting for me to close my eyes again...

I shuddered, my thin frame feeling so suddenly delicate against Riku's. Carefully I pulled away from my boyfriend's hold and moved to the side of the bed, cautiously glancing over the mattress edge. Only a stray sock lay crumpled there—nothing was waiting to grab my ankles. Nonetheless, I was always wary of the large empty space between the bed frame and the floor. When my feet touched the cool, cushiony carpet, I quickly danced away from the bed, feeling my heart flutter in my chest as I glanced behind myself just in case there really was something there.

From his resting spot on the game pads, Paopu lifted his head with a jingle of his collar, nose pointed in my direction as though silently telling me there were no monsters in the room. Just in case, I glanced up, seeing only the lazy spinning of the ceiling fan, its dangling chain a swaying garden snake in the darkness. The closet door was also still closed tightly—a reassuring sign even though I knew it was silly to be wary of something like that.

Shivering again, I lowered my eyes and quickly moved to a pile of clothes on the floor, bending down to sift through it, praying that nothing was making a nest of it and would suddenly bite down on my searching fingers. Thankfully I found what I wanted quickly—a loose pair of sleeping pants, dark, drawstring, and Riku's—and even though my mind was warning me that I'd spent too long with my back to the open room, I slipped the pants on anyway, albeit quickly. Not even gracing the dark room with another glance, I hopped over a pile of books on the floor and hurried to the bathroom, wanting to wake myself up a little more so my mind wouldn't play as many tricks.

But I paused in the threshold as I creaked the door open.

Oh God, how I hated my bathroom at night. The overhead vent and small, confined space made it the coldest room in the house, but I always felt like I was being watched in there, as though a spirit really did dwell in the bathroom and was waiting for me to take too long to turn on the lights. It didn't help that the room had a second door that led out into my small backyard—I kept that door locked and dead-bolted at all times, with a heavy laundry basket sat in front of it just for extra precaution. Though, at the moment, that tall rectangular shape in front of the door looked a bit like a person squatting...

Another thing I absolutely hated about the bathroom was the large mirror bolted to the wall perpendicular to the door. I always focused on it when I entered the bathroom, recalling jokes about Bloody Mary that my junior high friends used to tell each other just to scare me. I'd never tried saying anything one hundred times to see if any ghastly specter would appear in my mirror and kill me, and I wasn't about to try, that's for sure.

Nevertheless the mirror was there, and through the pitch black inkiness of the room I couldn't see my reflection yet. For a moment I imagined what I would do if I heard the kind of rattling breath straight out of one of my nightmares, or if I saw those hollowed black eyes, long twiggy hair, wide split jaws, and sickly grey-green skin of the dead in horror movies, fading out of the darkness right before my eyes...

What would I do, if I encountered that kind of hell?

Urgh, I already felt the icy creepiness squeezing at my gut.

Sucking in a deep breath, eyes gazing apprehensively at the mirror—I switched the light on.

My eyes focused on my reflection and saw—


My body sagged with relief as my heart continued to thunder in my chest.

I was alone... as always. Thankfully. No matter how many times I went through these nightly rituals, I always managed to get myself riled up for nothing.

"There's no such thing as monsters and ghosts, Sora," I breathed to myself.

The deep, despairing groan of old pipes answered me as I twisted on the tap, welcoming the spitting hiss of water in my trembling hands. The water was icy against the skin of my face, the perfect therapy to clear my head of the sleepy fog haunting me. I glanced up quickly through wet bangs to study myself in the mirror, frigid droplets crawling down the curves of my face.

Still nothing behind me.

It was habit to check, always, just in case. I ­hated mirrors. I hated the unsettling chill I got whenever I stared at myself in them, whenever I looked over my own shoulder and expected something to be standing there, in the reflection or not.

Shuddering, I snatched a nearby towel and wiped my face, never tearing my eyes away from my own blue gaze.

Something felt off... and I didn't like it.

I winced when I heard the bathroom door click shut—it was a normal occurrence for the doors in my home to swing close on their own, but that didn't make it any less disturbing each time it happened. Dropping the towel and shutting the tap off again, I pulled the door back open and hesitated just in the doorframe, shakily turning my head to study my reflection one last time.

I always had to turn the light off while facing the mirror, just to reassure myself I was still alone when the lights went away.

My fingers touched the cool plastic light switch and flipped it down, and the bathroom was plunged into the thick darkness once again. I stuck my foot out so the door wouldn't close on me, and, with a lingering sigh, I turned away from the mirror and reentered the bedroom, pausing a second to let my eyes adjust.

The closet door was still closed.

Nothing was on the ceiling, just the fan and the steady clink-clink of its dangling chain.

For a brief moment my heart skipped a beat, something pale moving in the moonlight out of the corner of my eye—a ghost? But it was only Riku stirring on the bed, his soft silver hair and pale skin reflecting the incandescence of light from the window. His hand touched the space where I was supposed to be laying and he slowly raised his face, eyes blinking blearily open to see where I had gone.

Paopu gave a lazy, breathy yawn before resting his head back on the game pad, crinkling the plastic. It reminded me of what Riku and I had been doing a few hours before.

Carefully I made my way through the room, feeling safer knowing Riku and my dog were present and awake, and I stopped in front of the entertainment center, reaching down to switch the Playstation off. It gave a sad, soft whirr as its light went out.

Now would be the right moment for an evil spirit to show up behind me. Wasn't that how it happened in movies? When the main characters were just beginning to feel safe?

My back straightened and I turned, holding my breath.


I released a sigh. Riku was sitting up in bed now, one hand scratching languidly at his messy silver hair.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Left the Playstation on..." I replied easily.

"Come back to bed," he said, voice soft. "It's cold."

"I know..."

I stepped over Paopu and some clothes, leapt onto the mattress over the monster under my bed, and crawled towards my spot next to Riku. Shuffling back under the covers, I turned towards Riku who was casually reclining back into a laying position, looking confused. I felt his warm hand touch my bare chest.

"You're so cold... and a little clammy..." he noted, threading his fingers in my hair and pulling me closer. His other hand pulled the comforter up to our shoulders, enveloping me in a cloud of warmth and comfort. "Did you see or hear anything?" he wondered.

I shook my head. "No... Just a bad feeling."

His arms curled around my waist and I moved closer, resting my head under his chin, liking the way his breath tickled my eartails. "Just try to get some sleep, okay?" he whispered. "I'm here."

But despite his comforting presence, I still wished it were morning already. I wanted to see the sun peeking through the window, not the moon's pale face. Even as he drifted off to sleep again, my eyes remained open, watchful and wary, regarding the shadows of my room with a stirring imagination.

No, it wouldn't be too soon until I said goodnight again.

To be continued...