Hello and Merry Christmas to all! This is a little one-shot from me to anyone who wishes to read it. It focuses on Riku, of course. What else do you expect from me? :) It's set as he's trapped in Kingdom Hearts, and it completely ignores Chain of Memories, just so you know. And it has nothing to do with A Fragmented Tale, either. So read and enjoy and don't forget to review! I don't own Kingdom Hearts.
It's all I see now. It's all that exists. Here in this world that is a mix of darkness and light, gray is all that can be seen. It stretches in all directions, limitless and intimidating. I walk through it, as I have for months, but nothing ever changes. King Mickey said that there's a door to the light somewhere, that we can escape from this realm through that door. But how do I find anything in this changless place when I'm quite sure that every step I take sends me in another revolution around a great, useless circle?
There is no day or night in this place, a fact that makes it hard to measure time. I've learned to count the days by sleep cycles; every time I wake up, I use my sword to carve another mark into my arm. Call me sick if you want, or even masochistic. It's probably true. Hey, it's not like I have a calendar handy. I never bothered counting up the days until about a week ago, and then, after sitting down and figuring out all the months and their days, I realized something. It's that time of year, the time that used to be my favorite.
Today is Christmas Eve.
And here I am, spending my favorite holiday with the Heartless. Not that they're much of a bother. For some reason, they calmed down when the doors closed, separating into groups and scurrying off into the gray. Every once in a while I see some of them, but they don't bother me at all. They don't even acknowledge my presence. I guess they found whatever they need here in the Heart of All Worlds. So I ignore them as well as I continue my fruitless journey to find the door to the light.
It would be a nice gift if I found it now, but that's a little too much to ask of Fate, I'm sure.
My thoughts spiral back through the years as I push onward. This will be my first Christmas away from the islands, away from home. I won't have presents waiting for me in the morning. I won't have Sora coming over around noon, arms full of his new gifts so we can try them out for the first time together. I won't see Kairi at the Christmas party tonight, looking radiant as always. This time of year seems to bring out the best in her like no other. I love seeing her that way.
Where did it go so wrong? Why did I have to screw up so badly? I should be there with them. I should be with my family now, helping them prepare the feast we hold every year for the whole town. Sora would be helping us, or pretending to help, rather. He never did do anything; he always stole a bit of cranberry sauce or a finger's helping of icing. He claimed he was the "sampler." Sometimes Kairi would be there, too. She'd be laughing as my mother kicks Sora out of the kitchen for the fiftieth time.
Maybe this would have been the year for us. Maybe I would have finally worked up the courage to tell her how I feel about her. Of course, she knows now. She has to know. Everything that happened, everything that I put myself through, I did for her. I thought that if I was strong, I could use the darkness without it affecting me. I could use it to save her, and then I could cast it away. If only I could have known how wrong I was. Then I wouldn't be having the conversation with myself now.
I guess I've finally gone crazy. It's what I get for staying too long in a realm of nothing but gray. Gray, gray, gray, as far as the eye can see. If ever I make it out of here, I never want to see the color gray again. I feel like I'm bleeding into it, that all my color is fading, too. I look down at my hands to make sure they're the same, but I just can't seem to tell anymore.
I try to imagine the colors of my islands. The turquoise of the ocean, the deep blue of the sky. Red bows on doors and green Christmas trees. Festive, colorful lights wrapped around all the palms near the beach and hanging from the eaves of all the roofs in town. The roses and golds and violets of the sunset that's sure to paint itself across the sky tonight. Red and green...red and green...the colors of the season.
They mix together in my mind and fade to gray. I can't hold on to them.
Will all my memories fade this way? Is this only the beginning? I remember my mother...I see her trying to reach the top of the tree so she can put the angel up there. I must be five in this memory; the tree looks tall and intimidating. Finally, she gives up and hands the ornament to me. "You try, little angel," she says, and she picks me up. I can reach the top of the tree easily as she lifts me high.
Sora comes over one day. Now I'm ten, a little taller, a little wiser...maybe. Sora is carrying his newest present, a remote control boat. "Let's give it a shot out on the beach," he says with a grin.
"You'll lose it in the ocean," I reply in no uncertain terms. Sora merely shrugs and grins as if he either doesn't believe me or doesn't care. It was a fine little boat, and I was rather jealous of it. Two weeks later, Sora left it on the beach, and it was swept away during a surprise storm, never to be seen again. I wouldn't be surprised if he's forgotten he ever had it.
Kairi...she's been here for about six months. She seems surprised that we celebrate Christmas on the islands, that it's even that time of year. "Isn't it supposed to be cold on Christmas?" she asks in her innocent voice as she pats another handful of sand into her castle. "It's not cold at all here."
Sora and I only exchanged a confused glance as she speaks. "Cold" is an unknown concept on our islands. It got chilly in the mornings sometimes, especially around this time of year, but as soon as the sun comes up, the air warms up quickly, and the usual summertime clothes are required for comfort. Cold on Christmas? What kind of place was Kairi from, anyways?
I still have my memories, my precious memories, and I am relieved. Yet I am also worried, for the color seems to drain away from them even as I recall them. What's happening to me? Am I truly becoming a being of darkness now? I thought I had cast away the darkness when I came here. After all, I couldn't pass through the doors to darkness, where only darkness can pass. If I couldn't cross over, doesn't that mean that I no longer have the darkness? Yet Ansem's shadow lives on inside me, I can feel it. I'm not rid of him yet.
Am I even worthy to celebrate such a joyous holiday anymore?
Gray, gray, gray. Everything is fading to gray. All emotion is draining from me. I feel it leaking away with the color, as hard as I try to hold on to them. Happiness, anger, sadness, content...they're all precious to me. But they're going away, and I'm beginning to feel so empty. Soon, I'll be left with nothing. Nothing but colorless memories.
I have to get out. I have to escape before that happens. I can't live my life that way. Never caring about another person, never wanting to sing another carol, never feeling that peace that comes with the holiday I love ever again. Sure, I've been hurt, and badly. There are things I'd rather forget, lots of things. There are times when I wish I didn't care, that I was empty of feeling. But now that I feel it happening, it scares me. I'd rather be hurt, if it means being able to smile when I see the first set of Christmas lights glimmering on someone's house. If it means feeling that same giddiness every time Kairi grins at me. If it means feeling the pride that comes with beating Sora at another round of sword fighting.
I see something...something impossibly marring the eternal gray. I begin to walk faster, and then I break into a trot. The trot turns into a run as the something draws nearer, a dark something. It gets taller and taller, and finally I come to it.
Doors...tall black doors with stained glass windows. They look just like the doors to darkness, except that they're black. The doors to darkness were white. So these must be the doors to the light. It's weird, but I choose not to think about it. Who cares if the doors' colors are switched, anyways? At least I can see those colors and remember them. What's more, I've finally found my way out.
But how to open them? And what about King Mickey, how will he fare? Will he be able to find the doors when they've opened? I've forgotten how long it's been since we were separated; it's not like I marked that day any deeper than the rest or anything like that. I only know that it's been a long time. He thought it best that we split up; that way it would be easier to find the way out. "It won't matter if we're not together," he had said. "If one of us opens the doors, the other will know about it." I guess I just have to trust him about that.
...But how to open them? There are handles, but they are too high for me or any other human being to reach. I know that the doors to darkness were truly closed by the Keyblades, so I guess that the doors to light would be opened by them. Great going, Mickey. How am I supposed to open this door without a Keyblade?
As soon the thought crosses my mind, a flash of soft light brightens the gray around me, and there is a sudden weight in my hand. I look down in astonishment to find that, as if hearing my plea, a Keyblade has come to my hand. It looks just like Sora's Keyblade; silver, with a golden hilt and an end that's shaped like a crown. Maybe it is Sora's Keyblade. Maybe it sensed my distress and decided to return, just for a minute, to its original master. Or maybe Sora's letting me borrow it. At any rate, a Keyblade is a Keyblade, and if it opens these doors, then I don't care where it came from or why.
I raise the weapon, pointing it at the doors, and a soft beam of light shoots from it. The light hits the doors, and they begin to glow slightly. The glow gets a little brighter, and brighter still, and then they crack upon.
I'm vaguely aware of dropping the Keyblade, even aware that it vanishes before it hits the ground, but I don't care.
The doors open wide, spilling brilliant, pure, white light into Kingdom Hearts.
It's so bright...
The light hurts me.
I can't stand it.
I fall to my knees, clapping my hands over my eyes, but it does no good.
It's blinding me...
It's burning me...
...Kairi...Kairi help me...
...I'm so afraid of the light.
Suddenly I feel a presence behind me, but I don't turn to see who it is. The pain is too great. Gentle hands pry my own hands away from my face, and something soft is wrapped around my head. Cool darkness washes over my vision, and I sigh in relief. The pain is gone.
"Don't worry, Riku," says the familiar, squeaky voice of the king. I guess he was right about knowing that the doors were open. "You'll be able to stand it again someday."
Someday...but not until Ansem's shadow is gone, I know. Until then, the light will continue to burn me. But still, that can wait. I have far more important things to think about.
Sora, Kairi, be sure to save some presents for me. I'll be home for Christmas.