Author's Note: I haven't died yet (for those who thought I have). School's just been a time whore, so has life. Plus I had things in my mind that distracted me from actually writing. I was also grounded. Again...

So this is the update that you guys have been waiting for. Thank you for the loving reviews; I read them and I felt much better from all the drama around me.

LOVING YOU GUYS FOREVER!

So far: Riku's arrived in Traverse Town, questioning everything around him: his part of the paopu fruit destiny, Sora's part, Leon and Cloud's strange behavior and other things. Sora's trying to adapt with living with new people, who seem to hide many things from the young male. But they can't be all bad, right? How can they if they brought someone from Sora's old life...?

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Suffocating in the Darkness
Chapter Three, Part Two: One Who Was Never Loved

"MOM!" shouted Sora. His frantic voice echoed the room as he ran to his mother's broken body on the bed. Tears were already on the verge as he hugged Saya's body close to his, burying his head on her shoulder. Her scarred face only lopsided, her lips parted to allow some lone blood to fall away.

Sora didn't care if other people were watching him as he cried; they didn't understand how his heart now had broken again.

Who could have done such a thing?

As if he was reading Sora's mind, DiZ said, "The Keyblade Master..."

Sora's blue eyes shot open. Anger was boiling deep inside him. Riku...

Riku...

Kill...

Riku...

Riku couldn't just leave Sora's life, couldn't he? He supposed maybe ruining the brunette's life was going to be fun, as if Sora wouldn't do anything about it...

Well, Riku was dead wrong...

Dead...

There was no point to ask Saya why Riku had attacked her; she only stayed still as Sora laid her back on the pillows, gazing sadly at her state.

Her clothes were bloodied and shredded in many places, her hair was frizzy and looked singed, and there was a large scar above her heart.

"I wonder how the Keyblade Master could do such a horrible thing..." whispered Devi, looking at Saya's scarred face. "I thought he was supposed to help people, not hurt them..."

But Sora was not staring at his mother's face. He was more interested on the mark on Saya's heart.

It was a Heartless symbol, half of it with black thorns and a white overlay, the other half with red thorns and a black overlay. A red wing accompanied one half as a gray wing accompanied the other.

Sora parted his lips slightly; some words that he didn't understand slipped out. It sounded like a very ancient, but sweet song.

A strange light commenced from his hand. The blood that was still flowing from the deep cuts eased; instinctively, Sora used the sleeve of his robe to wipe the residue from Saya's face and repeated the incantation again. The wounds then seemed to be knitting themselves with an invisible thread.

DiZ watched intently as he did so.

When Sora had chanted his spell one more time, he suddenly collapsed backwards. A pair of strong arms came out just in time to catch the falling boy.

Lucifer looked gravely at Sora's exhausted face.

"Lucifer, send him to his room..." was the only thing DiZ said before walking up to Saya's now healed body. Her chest heaved up and down, signaling that she was still alive.

But barely.

DiZ narrowed his only amber eye that was shown. He turned to see Lucifer stepping out of the room, Sora's limp body in his arms.

o-o-o

Riku was snoring quietly. He had been sitting beside the window of Leon's apartment for the past two hours, staring out at it after coming back from Merlin's place, and had finally fallen asleep with one side of his face plastered against the cold windowpane. Silver bangs hid most of his face as his mouth moved to let out a sigh. A misty fog formed from his breath was left on the window, sparkling from the orange streetlamps of Traverse Tow. He stirred a little, allowing the wooden chair he was sleeping on creak and the maroon blanket on his sway.

The room he was in was bare and neat. A large bed lay in the middle with a bedside table on one side and a desk with a pile of books and papers on the other. A closed wooden closet stood on the wall, staring at the sleeping boy.

But all was quiet except for the hush voices coming from not far away in the kitchen.

Three people sat at the round wooden table in the middle of the room. Steam came from the cups of tea before them with finger sandwiches in a silver platter.

One of the three, a man with shaggy brown hair with a scar above his nose and with grey eyes, spoke.

"So Ansem did cast a part of his heart for an experiment, eh Merlin?"

Another man, oldest of the three with sweeping silver hair and beard and sparkling blue eyes nodded as he took a sip of his tea.

"Indeed, Leon," said Merlin at once. "Ansem had cast his heart to a young boy who has his resemblance."

Leon frowned.

"But what does this have to do with Riku or Sora?" asked the man with spiky blonde hair and blue eyes. Merlin smiled.

"As I've told Riku, this has everything to do with him and Sora. And also," Merlin's eyes softened, "it might help us to know how to get Sora back."

A long awkward silence could not be helped. After all, the boy with the spiky brown hair and blue eyes was the one they were all worried about.

How could someone so pure be brought down to everlasting darkness?

Both Leon and Cloud questioned Merlin about it, but the wizard only smiled sadly.

It was then the front door opened. There stood a creature that resembled a dog wearing a green sweater with a tan vest and tan pants and hat to match stood at the entrance with a duck wearing a blue top and hat tapping its feet on the floor, scowling.

"Ah, well hello Donald and Goofy." said Merlin, getting up to shake their hands.

Goofy grinned and took Merlin's hand. "It's nice to see ya again, uh-huck!"

"Yeah, what he said." said Donald.

Leon and Cloud only glanced at the duo to acknowledge them. They would have said something, maybe a "hello" or another greeting when they heard a soft cough behind them.

They all turned to face a yawning Riku, who was standing by the door. His hair was a mess, but there was no mistake that it was Riku who was walking to their direction, yawning and taking a seat. The other watched as Riku yawned again, blinking at everyone's stares.

"What?"

"Nothing, Riku..." sighed Leon, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Anyways Goofy, Donald, what are you guys doing here?"

"Uh-huck! Came to take Riku with us to find King Mickey," replied Goofy, giving Riku a smile. But his companion looked very distressed.

"Goofy! How are we going to find the King if the gummi ship can't work?-!"

Gummi ship? What the hell is that? Riku glanced at Leon and Cloud, who looked as stumped as he was, but for a different reason.

"Why can't the gummi ship work?" asked Cloud.

Donald opened his mouth once, but closed it quickly. He even looked puzzled. But Merlin helped him out.

"Their transportation can't work because of the Heartless and their evolving."

Riku didn't have the faintest idea what the old man meant.

"Evolving?"

"Yes, Riku." said Merlin, raising his wand. A hot cup of tea appeared in front of Riku with a pop. "The Heartless have evolved enough to tamper the old ways of traveling; in this case, the gummi ship won't be able to work."

"Why?"

"Well, gummi ships are powered by the happy emotions from the people riding it, correct Donald?" Donald nodded before Merlin continued. "But, somehow, the Heartless are able to use that power to fire back at the ship, thus malfunctioning it."

"So, we can't use the, er—gummi thing to find the King?" asked Riku quickly. "But how are we going to find him with nothing to use? Air?-!"

"We will find out how later, Riku," said Merlin calmly, unaffected by Riku's outburst. "It is late and you need to rest from a long day." Merlin gave a smile. "I bid you all a goodnight." He turned on his heel and with a swish of his cloak, he was gone.

"Well," said Goofy happily after a strong taciturn moment took place. "I guess Donald and I will sleep in the gummi ship."

"Ah, phooey!" exclaimed Donald. It seemed he didn't like the idea of sleeping in a crammed contraption, but there was no other option. Leon's apartment only had two bedrooms, and surely one was already for Riku to sleep in. Without any further discussion, the animals left, closing the front door behind them.

Riku stretched. He looked over the clock that was perched on top of a pile of sheets in the washing basket at the right of him. By the look of its two hands, it was very late into the night.

"I'm going to bed..." said Cloud, getting out of his seat and walking to Leon's room which was at the far right down the hall. Leon quickly followed Cloud before muttering, "'Night, Riku."

Instinctively, Riku walked to the room he was previously sleeping in. As he reached for the doorknob, he heard voices down the hall. Riku turned to find the door to Leon's room creaked opened, revealing a stream of light coming through the crack. Walking up to the door to see what Leon was still doing up, Riku peered through the sliver.

"Leon, stop..."

Cloud, shirtless, was staring ahead at a mirror; it was cracked, as though someone had punched the glass before. His black wing twitched when Leon placed an arm around his waist. Leon placed a chaste kiss on the blonde's naked shoulder.

"Leon..." Cloud's voice seemed strained, afraid. He turned to face the brunet, his blue eyes searching in Leon's own grey ones.

"Cloud, what are you so afraid of? You didn't act so worried, until—"

For a second, Riku was almost sure Leon's eyes landed on the broken mirror, Riku's apprehensive face looking back at him.

"It's him, isn't it?" said Leon quietly. Cloud's mouth remained shut, although it trembled a little.

"No..." whispered Cloud. "It's not..." his voice was shaking, as if he was lying.

And Leon could very much tell.

He wrapped his arms around the younger male, placing his face next to Cloud's. Cloud's fingers hesitantly found Leon's back, curling into his white shirt.

"Cloud, I don't care what others think, especially him. We've gone through this for over a year..."

"Almost two in less than a week," corrected Cloud quietly. Riku saw a small, rare smile on Leon's lips through the mirror.

A finger stroked the black wing, caressing it. Cloud slowly closed his eyes, as Leon's lips hovered his own pale ones. Riku couldn't help but watch the two indulge in a passionate kiss.

He knew he wasn't supposed to be here, to witness something in which only two people share with each other.

Something Riku may never share with Kairi ever again. He missed her, and he vowed to find her.

If it was the last thing he'd do.

Riku slowly went to his room, closing the door behind him. A pale hand ran through his silver hair, a sigh escaping his parted lips.

He would find Kairi, dammit!

Riku sat on his bed for a long time, absentmindedly fiddling with the edge of his pillow. The lights outside the window began to dim, allowing an eerie, ominous feeling wash over the room.

Riku hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep until an unfamiliar sound reached his ear.

squeak...squeak...

It was very dark. He was standing alone, before his eyes landed on a speck of light.

squeak...squeak...

Riku broke into a run, wondering what the thing was in front of him. Then, the darkness seemed to have ripped and was replaced with what looked like gray water.

But Riku could still breathe and walk normally as bubbles swayed with his moving legs. He ran faster, reaching his hand out, when...

Someone was to his reach. She stood with her long ebony hair flowing with the bubbles that were surrounding her. She didn't turn to face Riku when he stopped right behind her.

squeak...squeak...

The girl finally turned, but Riku didn't see what could have been her face.

He saw Sora.

He smiled sadly at Riku, who tried touching him, only to have Sora move farther from him. Riku knew Sora was trying to tell him something, but it sounded like it was in a very different language. Riku screamed for the brunette, tried running as fast as he could.

Sora disappeared as more bubbles came to conceal that sad smile. He was lost to Riku. Riku screamed again, running blindly as he felt being pulled deeper in the gray depths. It was then something tight wrapped around his wrist.

Why hunt for something that can never be obtained but wants to be obtained?

And, slowly, Riku as being pulled out of his fears, his sorrow. He then felt being gingerly pulled onto cold stone. His whole body shook from the cold, the frustration. He was quite alone, he knew that, but where he was, he had not the slightest idea. All he could tell was that he was standing on one of the many stone platforms that floated midair in the dark.

squeak...

And there, not far from him, was a large iron cage, a swing hanging from the top. Someone was already sitting on the swing, swinging back and fro.

squeak...

Riku felt the cold stone move closer to it allowing him to jump from the previous platform to the next with the cage. Riku's eyes suddenly widened.

Kairi was staring at him through the bars of her cage. She gave him a pained look, as though she was distressed that the one she loved was here.

"Why?" asked Kairi.

"What?"

"Why are you here?-!" She was now on her feet, shrieking through her bars. She was sobbing as she continued. "Go away! You don't love me!"

"Kairi..." began Riku, curling his fingers around two of the iron bars. Kairi began to back away from him.

"I do love you! Believe me, I do!"

"No..."

"Please, Kairi," said Riku quietly. He was feeling the same way when Sora acted strangely. "Please come back..."

He stretched a hand through the iron cage. Kairi covered her face with her hands and turned to the opposite side. She screamed.

As though invisible strings were tied to Kairi's stomach, neck, arms, and knees, blood sipped through her body, like red ribbons. Riku watched, petrified, as Kairi began shrieking, the scars deepening and widening. Then, her body ripped to pieces.

Her head fell, blood spewing from her neck, auburn hair sweeping after her, to the bottom of the cage; her violet, teary eyes stared blankly at Riku's own appalled emerald ones. He couldn't speak, couldn't breathe normally.

Half of her body lay headless next to the bars, part of her arm hanging loosely. Parts of her insides spread out on the bottom with her disembodied limbs. Blood lay in pools, its stench flaring Riku's nostrils.

It began to bubble, churning. Riku had not been paying attention, only letting his eyes stay on his beloved's face, until the blood had formed into a crimson phoenix, its eyes black and empty. Riku's insides felt like they had tightened into a thousand knots as the bloody phoenix lunged at Riku's head when—

Someone slapped Riku hard.

"Wha—?"

A long, looming shadow quivered in front of him for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the bright light outside; he blinked and Leon came into focus, drops of water dropping from his naked chest, a towel tugging around his waist.

"Wake up; we got a long day ahead of us." said Leon in a monotone voice.

Riku rubbed his cheek, pushing the covers with his feet. He yawned.

"What time is it?" he asked.

"Noon. Go take a quick shower; there's some extra clothes on the bathroom counter when you're done."

Riku shrugged and left the room. He looked at Leon's tired face as he left, and blushed. There was a red hickey on his neck.

Leon and Cloud could have—

ARGH! NO WAY!

His face still burning, Riku was about to open the bathroom door, when Cloud opened it before him.

"Oh, hey," said Cloud, wrapping a towel around his wet hips. "Leon told me he'd wake you up. He said that we'd be going with you, Donald, and Goofy." And all the while he spoke Riku kept staring at Cloud's neck: the same red hickey.

Riku only nodded.

Cloud blinked at the gazed look form the younger male. He walked past him, giving Riku a quizzical look. Riku quickly shut the door behind him. The bathroom had a marble sink, counter and bathtub, with a white shower curtain. The walls were tiled and blue. A folded white shirt, blue jeans, and a fresh pair of underwear lay atop the marble counter.

So Leon and Cloud were really lovers... Did that mean their love was the same as Riku's love to Kairi, or maybe something far different? Whichever, Riku busied himself by turning the faucet; hot water pounded his shoulder and down his pale back. Wincing once or twice because of his scars from the half-black, half-white Heartless that attacked before he came to Traverse Town, Riku grabbed the lone soap and scrubbed himself.

After Sora said he hated him.

Riku stared ahead at the blue tiles on the shower walls, watching the water from the shower head drip and fall. He didn't care that his eyes were being clouded by the water.

Why did it hurt so much?

Probably you—I don't know—LOVE HIM?-! said Riku's (annoying) conscience. Riku gritted his teeth. His fist slammed against the tile wall; it didn't hurt.

Riku closed his eyes, picturing anything that might push his conscience out.

His first thought was Kairi—the girl with long auburn hair wearing a white sundress. But before he had even started placing a beautiful smile on a dream-Kairi, a simple, more elegant, image came floating to the surface of his mind...

A blue sky above, cloudless, rushing waters echoing around...a boy, spraying water on his heart-shaped face, grinning. ...Spiky brown hair, blue eyes... A slender, lithe body, kissed by the sun's warmth...wearing blue shorts that were carelessly hanging from his hips, showing a very creamy pelvis...

Already fantasizing...

Fuck off.

Tell that to your problem.

Riku's eyes went wide. Taking a deep breath he looked down. What he saw nearly made him pass out, mortified. His cheeks were flaring.

Told you... Now are you going to fix it, or let it poke out from your pants?

Riku could hear his conscience laughing aloud inside his head.

Cautiously, his hand went downward until his fingers grasped a certain, very sensitive, part of his anatomy.

The slight touch made Riku use his other hand to hit the wall to stop from falling. It made him moan incoherently. He bit his lip to quiet down any other noises.

Like that's going to help you. And to think you said you didn't like him like that...

The water roared, as if it was the only sound that existed in the world. Riku took another slow breath. He took a firm grip—and squeezed.

Time seemed to have stop as Riku cried out.

But it wasn't from pain. Oh no; it was from pleasure.

Goddamn pleasure...

And as much as he wanted to contradict the idea, it wasn't Kairi's name he screamed sinfully.

His forehead found the tiled wall; it was now cold from having the water on too long. He took another breath as he squeezed; pearly white fluids shot out, splattering onto the floor of the shower to only worm in the small puddle swirling around the drain.

It'll all end soon, he told himself. It'll end...

Just imagine these weren't your hands...but Sora's...

"Nngh..."

He bucked his knees when he, for the last time, brought pressure upon his erection; he screamed, he moaned. Hot sweat mingled with cold water feel down his face. Water cascaded down his shoulders. He stayed like that, holding to himself and leaning against the wall with his back, allowing water to splash on his eyelashes over his high, red cheekbones.

Why did it hurt so much?

A knock came at the door. Riku froze, eyes wide; he grabbed the faucet and turned the knob.

"Hey..." came someone's worried voice. "You okay in there? I heard screaming..."

"Soap got in my eye!" Riku said quickly.

"Oh... Okay then. Hurry up in there; Goofy and Donald are already here. We got to go to Merlin's."

And it was quiet after that, excluding Riku's ragged breathing and the drip, drop of the faucet.

Riku slowly stepped out; his legs felt like rubber. He took a grab for the clothes. While he struggled to pull the shirt over his head (most of the reason being he was frustrated for what he did in the bathroom), the picture of Sora came to his mind.

Wasn't it wrong to think about his friend like that?

Wasn't it...an abomination?-!

Such thoughts were, weren't they? Fantasizing about a boy like that when you're a boy, too. It was—Riku couldn't think of any other word—yuck.

Best choice of words, Riku thought.

He opened the door to reveal Cloud, dressed wearing a black turtleneck with jeans, and holding a worried expression on his face. "You look flushed..."

Riku blinked. "Er—"

"Never mind about that; Merlin's already here."

"I thought we were going to his place?" said Riku, closing the door behind him. He and Cloud began to walk down the hallway to the living room. Like Cloud said, Merlin was already waiting there, sitting down on the cozy brown armchair from the left of the bigger couch that Leon was sitting at, arms crossed. Donald and Goofy were both standing, examining the living room to occupy themselves. A fireplace stood against the wall, unlit and ashes covering it. Merlin smiled at the sight of Riku.

"Good morning—or should I correct myself—good afternoon, Riku,"

"Yeah, 'morning."

Merlin stood up. Leon did as well and walked up beside the old wizard. Merlin was wearing another set of robes—dark green. Leon wore his usual white shirt with a leather jacket over it. Riku had realized—for the first time (he was too busy to protect himself when he first met Leon)—a silver chain with a lion's head dangled from his neck. Merlin reached inside his robed to pull out the familiar wooden stick—his wand. Riku wondered what Merlin was going to do this time with his wand.

Merlin noticed the look on Riku's face.

"No, Riku; I'm not going to use my short-cut again: Too many people to do that. I'll," Merlin swished his wand, making a flowerpot drop to his gnarled hand, "be using Phoenix ashes to transport."

He offered the flowerpot first to Leon.

Leon, without hesitating, took a handful of the crimson dust of the flowerpot, and was about to throw it to the fireplace, when Merlin placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Almost forgot." and he tapped Leon's head with his wand, muttering incoherently. Riku couldn't tell if Leon's face read "bloody murder" or just plain annoyance. But, before Riku could decide, Leon had already thrown the phoenix ash in the fireplace, and, to Riku's horror, ran in headfirst.

He was gone in a roar of red flames.

"What the...?" was all Riku could stammer out of his lips. Merlin only smiled, and held out the flowerpot to Cloud, after he tapped his head as well with his wand. Cloud too jumped into the flames. Goofy and Donald did the same, until Riku and Merlin were the only ones left in Leon's apartment.

"Ready?" asked Merlin, offering Riku the flowerpot. He stared at it for awhile before taking a handful of the red ashes. Merlin rapped his wand smartly on top of Riku's head. Glaring and rubbing his head with his free hand, Riku threw it to the fireplace. He took a deep breath, and ran to the red flames.

He felt his navel was hooked and jerked inside, making him woozy. He tried keeping his eyes opened, although it was hard with the swirling red in front of him made him sick—he was spinning fast, too.

Until he felt an arm roughly grabbed him and pulled him out.

Leon's face was the first thing Riku saw. Then Merlin's hut came into view, looking the same as ever, only the silver basin called the Memory Holder was gone from the table. Riku blinked, hoping the dizziness would go. Merlin popped up beside him, brushing off access ash off his robes. Riku got up to his feet, his legs regaining feeling.

"Now," said Merlin, walking up the stairs to the platform in the middle of his hut. "Mushu, will you come out from your hiding; it's only Leon and the others."

Riku saw the small dragon crawl out of hiding from behind the many books Merlin owned. He sighed when he saw the group of people.

"Took you long enough." said Mushu.

"Sorry to hear that, Mushu," said Merlin calmly. "But they won't be here for long. They'll be going to Twilight Town."

"Twilight Town?" said Cloud. "Where's that?"

"And why are we going there?" said Goofy.

"It's the place the King was last rumored to be." Merlin replied, walking down the stairs and towards to something that was shining for the first time behind a pile of books in a far corner. "Since we can't use the gummi ship, I suppose the save point would be better."

"Save point?" it was Riku's turn to ask the question.

"It's another method of transporting; trickier than a gummi ship."

"And how?"

"You have to think, concentrate of the place you want to land in, or you won't be at your destination." Merlin was now standing before the circular green light on the floor. It made shadows darken Merlin's wrinkles. The others walked up to it too.

"So we can go now?" asked Cloud. Merlin shook his head, making everyone give him quizzical looks.

"First, when you arrive to Twilight Town, you all need to see a friend of mine; she'd like to speak with the Keyblade Master," his blue eyes landed on Riku. "Now," Merlin pointed at the save point. "Who'd like to go first?"

"I do."

Everyone's stares now landed on Riku. Riku looked determined, but he didn't know why. Maybe he wanted to hurry up and save Kairi?

Merlin stepped to the side to allow Riku walk up to the glowing green. "Don't forget, Riku: Concentrate on the place—Twilight Town. The save point will guide you after that."

And that was all that was said before Riku felt the familiar feeling of his navel being jerked.

o-o-o

Someone was screaming, screaming inside his head...someone he knew too well...

"Riku, what are you doing?-!"

"MUSTKILL!"

"No, Riku! STOP!"

A numbing darkness was filling Sora's mind... What was he doing? Why was he just standing there? He needed to help her... She was going to die... She was going to be slaughtered.

And it was all his fault.

"Riku, NOOOOO!"

A shrill shriek echoed the room. Lucifer quickly ran to Sora's side, the boy squirming underneath the sheets. His eyes were wide open; his breathing was ragged, as if he was struggling with every breath.

"Sora..." said Lucifer very quietly. Sora turned over to his side to find Lucifer looking at him worriedly. He was in his room again, in that place where he was led by the girl Star.

"What...happened—" but Sora didn't need Lucifer to answer for him. He knew what had happened; Saya, his mother was attacked by who Sora thought was his best friend, Riku. Sora got up in a sitting position, Lucifer sitting on the edge of his bed.

"You okay?"

Sora only nodded, covering his face in his hands. His head throbbed; he didn't want to talk at the moment with anyone, but... He was alone with Lucifer. A person whom Sora had taken a great liking ever since he met him.

But why? Didn't Sora like Riku? Or had liked?

"Lucifer...I—"

"You need rest," said Lucifer, getting up to place a hand on Sora's shoulder so he could gingerly place the boy to lie on the bed. "Rest is what you need."

Sora watched intently as Lucifer pulled the covers over him. Something came tumbling out of his lips before he knew it.

"How did you come here?"

Sora felt Lucifer's hands stop. He was afraid maybe Lucifer would get angry at such a question, since there was a long silence.

But Lucifer only shrugged. He supposed it was alright to tell the innocent boy whatever; it wasn't like he'd understand. Besides, Lucifer had nearly forgotten what it felt like to just sit and talk with someone. "Something I must do made me come here. Anyways," he looked at Sora with piercing dark blue eyes, "you shouldn't ask those kinds of questions to people around here; they get very offended. They don't trust anyone."

Sora moved to his knees, pushing the covers away from him, and reached for both his hands. "Just so you know, I trust you."

"You shouldn't," said Lucifer automatically. Nevertheless, he found himself no longer wanting to punish the boy for his faith in him; although he did with others. Instead, he wanted to be worthy for it. He wanted to be worthy of something, like he use to be. To someone he wanted to love...

Sora averted his eyes to his hand on Lucifer's. He took a slow breath, perhaps wanting to start more conversation. Lucifer could not bear it any longer.

He leaned forward before he might think to do otherwise and pressed a kiss to the brunette's lips. Sora's reaction was not what Lucifer had suspected; he opened his mouth with a rush of warm breath, and his arms ran over his shoulders to rest lightly, almost hesitantly, at the naps of his neck.

His tongue swept inside the younger boy's mouth, searching for some escape from the demeanor inside himself. It felt so good, and familiar, it made his teeth hurt.

"You're my number one."

Not again...

He jerked his mouth back from his. Sora looked a little dazed, blushed, and ran his tongue over his lower lip, but said nothing.

That's the way Lucifer wanted. But he did want to know what the boy was thinking about; probably that he was some desperate man to get a boy to kiss the twenty-two year old.

It was only a kiss, nothing more.

Sora moved slightly from him, getting out of the bed. "I-I don't think I should be doing this..."

Lucifer rubbed a hand over his face, giving a short laugh. "That's right; your heart still lingers towards that boy..."

Sora didn't need to ask whom he referred to.

"N-no..." he said, a little more than a whisper. This made Lucifer let out another chuckle. Lucifer pulled himself to his feet, marched to the door, and heaved it open.

"You can lie to others Sora, but you can never lie to your very heart." He closed the door behind him.

Sora glared at the closed door for awhile. Anger was boiling more than the other emotion he couldn't name. Lucifer thinks he knows more about Sora's heart than he; he was truly wrong.

And to have thought he had a crush on the older male.

Without thinking, Sora ran up to the wooden doors and flung them opened; the corridor was empty and bare, the torches on the walls flickering ominously. Sora shrugged; he could pass the time prowling around. No one would notice him.

And so Sora began to walk down the dark corridor, trying to remember the rooms he had already been. He would have liked to go to the library—the room in which Star and him entered on his first night here. Passing the familiar gargoyles attached to the wall, Sora stopped at the door, which was opened ajar.

The candles flickered when he past them. He was still fascinated at how many books this one room contained and the ceiling above him—it was whirling with dark gray clouds. Shelf after shelf after shelf was filled with many colorful books. He was about to pull a book out of the shelf, when his eyes landed on the picture.

The man who looked like Ansem, with white hair and amber eyes.

Sora walked up to the picture. He placed a hand on it—the one with the Heartless symbol on it. His eyes just stared at his hand absentmindedly.

"Cut me and I weep tears as red as my flesh, yet my heart is made of stone. Pray tell, mortal, what am I?"

Sora jumped at the voice. It seemed as though it was coming from in front of him?-!

Sora's eyes lingered on the picture, but nothing happened. The man's face remained grim as always. But Sora could have sworn he had heard someone speak a riddle. Was he supposed to answer it?

As if it was the answer to his question—and riddle, Sora heard a soft thud behind him. He turned and looked down. A large, black book lay there upside down. Its edges were brimmed with metal and it looked locked. Sora apprehensively picked the book up. Unlike what he suspected, it was very light compared to its size. He turned it over to reveal the same red and black thorn-heart with wings on the cover. He opened it eagerly. The inside of the cover was inscribed in curly, fancy writing Sora did not recognize. They reminded him of the writings he'd seen in that one white room.

Finally budging the old, rusty lock, Sora flipped through the pages; they were all blank. Not even one scribble or smudge in them.

Sora frowned.

How boring...

Sora couldn't explain to himself why he couldn't just throw away the book over his shoulder. The fact it was blank was sure enough not the reason why Sora just absentmindedly stare at the book, as though something might pop up. Then, at last, something smeared over the book.

It spread until it began writhing, making words appear in red ink before Sora's very own eyes.

Hello, Sora. What made you pick me, The Book of Heart, up from my slumber in a dusty bookshelf?

These words faded as quickly as they came. Sora didn't know what to do. He looked around the library to find some ink, which he found none. More words appeared.

No need for ink, mortal. Just tell me like I was a person.

It would have been very silly of Sora to talk to an object, especially an old book that made words appear like it was written by an invisible hand, but Sora did nonetheless.

"How do you know my name?"

He waited patiently for an answer.

I know many things, Sora. I know many things that should be kept in the dark; things that should never be concealed and forever secluded from the outside world. But—

The words paused, Sora sucking in some air.

I can trust you to keep a secret, can't I?

"Yes," said Sora hastily. "Tell me more."

This time the words were very untidy, Sora had to quickly decipher them before they vanished like the other messages.

The people around here use me to lock away memories they forever want to forget and to be never known. They have terrible, terrible secrets, Sora. They are all terrible; I think that must be why they want to forever forget. Do you know what that feels like Sora: to forget something very painful in your life?

His first thought was the moment when Riku had told him he was disgusting for kissing him and confessing his feelings. Sora glared at the book before mumbling, "Yeah..."

Then you must know what it's like if someone found out about that memory? You'd be very angry, wouldn't you?

"Yes..."

Then do you want to risk finding out about someone else's past? For I can show you...I can show you everything...

Sora stared at the page. How could a simple book show him someone's memory? Sora had experienced going inside a book once, but it wasn't a memory; it was a story, and it was much fun as Sora recalled it. This was far different. Sora hesitated, looking around the library to still find it empty. The candles swished and swayed in the dark, creating moving shadows all around.

When he looked back down, Sora saw new words forming.

Trust me.

Sora gulped.

"OK."

His hands trembled as the book vibrated; its pages were flipping this way and that, until it stopped mid-way of the book. A whirl of color and shadow wormed out of the book, sucking Sora in. He could feel his feet leaving the ground, his insides tightening. He could have screamed, but his voice had left his throat.

He felt his feet land on ground as the colors came into more focus.

The place was unfamiliar to the brunette; it was a room with one window lit brightly by the moon, ripe and huge in the inky black sky. Interesting boxes were stacked in corners, papers spread out everywhere. Then his eyes fell on someone—a boy wearing a white nightgown—stood, his back facing Sora. Sora looked over the boy's shoulder to see a horse, and he forgot all the rest.

It was magnificent—gleaming pearl white and covered with tiny pieces of glued-down mirror. Its face was painted with red and purple and gold, and he even had a bar of white teeth and a painted pink tongue. It was obvious it was on the floor, neglected—his legs on all four sides and part of his tail had been shattered. Splinters hung down from where his legs used to be. Pieces of wood littered the dark floor.

Sora looked back at the boy. His face was heart-shaped and he held a morose look. His blue eyes twinkled by the moonlight. Spiky blond hair poked out from his head, making him look very young—probably no younger than seven.

He seemed to be crying.

"I'm sorry," said Sora shakily. "I didn't mean to interrupt—"

But to Sora's astonishment, the boy paid no heed to Sora. It was as though Sora did not exist. That's right; this was a memory, nothing more.

Sora watched the boy just stand there, tears falling down his chubby cheeks.

"Aros...?"

Sora jumped at the voice. He turned to see a silhouette of someone standing by the doorway, the light from outside piercing through the dark room like a sword. The newcomer ran up to the boy, dropped to their knees and wrapped their arms around him. Sora's stomach lurched.

It was Lucifer, but a younger him, a boy of ten years. His dark hair was tied up in a ponytail, making him very sophisticated, despite his large white shirt and shorts. He had buried his head against the younger boy's neck.

"Its okay, Aros; it was never real, just a wooden horse."

But Aros still cried, if not, louder.

"B-but it was real to—hic—me!" Aros finally faced Lucifer and flung himself to him, burying his head in the white fabric. Sora didn't know what to do; something was boiling inside of him.

"It was so beautiful!" continued Aros. "How did they find it?-! They—hic—broke him, they broke him—hic—they hurt him! Now he can't run anymore!"

Sora thought his hearing had gone bad. Why did the boy think that the wooden horse could run? And who were "they"?

"Shh..." cooed Lucifer, stroking Aros's hair in even strokes. "I'm so sorry, Aros..."

"No...—hic—"

"Shhh... Sleep, Aros; that's what you need. Sleep..." Lucifer began to rock back in forth on his knees. Sora watched as Aros's blue eyes began to droop then close, his soft snoring mingled with Lucifer's incoherent mumbling.

"Destati..."

Lucifer got to his feet, Aros still in his arms. His arms dangled from his shoulders, his lips parted slightly as he muttered in his sleep. With one more look at the broken carousel horse, Lucifer walked out, Sora close to his feet. Lucifer wasn't paying attention to the brunette as he walked down the spiral, dusty steps; he hummed once in awhile, a song in a different language. Sora saw Aros stir in his arms, but didn't wake. When they were at the bottom of the stairs, Lucifer's voice began to fade; the atmosphere was disappearing, like it was dissolving to nothing. And before he knew it, Sora was swirling in blurry colors again.

And then, the surroundings became clearer, revealing another place, this time Sora thought it looked familiar. He was in a lush forest. Sora was standing on a cliff, a water fall pounding against the rock at the watery bottom at his left. Vines protruded from the many rocky cliffs around him. This place...

It was the jungle where Sora had met the man raised by gorillas, Tarzan.

But, Tarzan's long brown hair and muscular physique was not in sight; instead there was a burly man with a rifle in his arms, his bushy mustache making him unruly. Sora's eyes went wide.

It was Clayton, the man who wanted to hunt the gorillas, attracting the Heartless to that world.

And there was another person, someone who could pass as the devil with her black horns. She was cloaked in all black, a staff encircled with her bony fingers embroidered with pointy red nails, with an emerald orb on top of the scepter. She was very pale, almost a color of icy blue. She had spider eyelashes, high cheekbones, and very red lips. Sora remembered this woman vividly: Maleficent.

She gave a sickly sweet smile at Clayton. "Are you sure your heart's desire is to capture the gorillas?"

"Absolutely!" was Clayton's hasty reply. This made Maleficent's smile widen. She held a hand out towards Clayton, and black mist commenced from her fingertips.

"Then so shall it be granted."

Something near Sora's feet began to stir from beneath; to his utter horror, monkey-formed Heartless danced their way to Clayton, swinging their primate faces in a jig to their new master. Even if this was just a memory, Sora could feel the cold dreading up his spine.

There was a different façade on Clayton now, one of greed and thirst of power. He bid farewell to Maleficent and ran back to the direction out of the cliff area. Maleficent watched with dissatisfaction.

"You know what's going to happen to his heart, Maleficent?"

Sora turned his heel. The skies around him darkened, allowing no light to surpass it. Then, in a pool of black, a young dark boy in robes of black, who looked no older than fifteen stepped out. He had his long white hair in a loose bun, making him look feminine and sophisticated at the same time. His amber eyes were narrowed in disdain, his lip in a thin line.

Maleficent didn't even turn around to acknowledge the boy. "What do you care; you don't mind if one person loses their life from their foolish ambitions."

The boy snorted. "He's going to die."

"I know that." she snapped.

"Who sounds apathetic now?" his voice laced with smug.

Maleficent turned around to face the boy, glaring daggers at him. She spoke in a low hiss, "That tongue of yours will get you in more trouble than you want..."

"I've heard that many times, it gets boring and I can't really hear what people are telling me. But keep on talking; I love the way your lips move."

She must have heard the true meaning behind this statement, for she raised her free hand and slapped the boy hard on the face. An awkward silence followed after. He stayed the same position of which the hand's force made him stand, his bangs secluding his either angry or expressionless face. But he laughed at her futile attempt, his cold laughter that rose out of his throat like scattered birds.

"Tut tut, Maleficent; such abrasive, and predictable, attacks will never let you achieve victory. I suggest you try something less original."

Her red lip twitched, but she said nothing. And if she had said something, Sora would never find out about it; Sora felt someone tugging at his shoulders.

"Hope you enjoyed that trip," said a quiet voice close to Sora's ear.

And he was being pulled back to the library, falling backwards on his bottom. The book lay opened, a few feet from Sora. And there was Kakyo towering over him, his eyes narrowed dangerously.

He was wearing a black long-sleeved with buckled leather pants with matching boots. There was little color on his face. Sora blinked.

"So, you like to just snoop around in someone's own business, Sora?" said Kakyo coolly. "Like to let the old saying 'curiosity killed the cat' not have any heed on you?"

Sora slowly got to his feet. He stared at the book what was beside Kakyo's shadow, maybe thinking that the book would slip him back into Lucifer's private memory. It would escape Kakyo's rigid face and his dangerously flashing violet eyes.

"Answer the question, Sora."

Sora remained silent, until he felt himself being turned and hurled to the nearest bookshelf. His head made a loud crack! against the books, creating many dust-filled books fall beside him to the floor. Sora cautiously opened his eyes to meet with Kakyo's. He had Sora's wrists beside his head, making it impossible for Sora to escape from his cage made by Kakyo's strong body.

"Let...go!" he stammered, the pain around his wrists becoming unbearable.

"Answer the damn question!"

"I don't fucking have to!" he said, twisting in the older male's grip. Surely he would let him go, Sora told himself, since Kakyo had to protect him from harm, but that didn't mean that the older male had to protect him from himself.

Kakyo glared at the brunette. "You're lucky that I'm not Lucifer; he'd rip your limbs if he found out that you"—his eyes flickered by the candle lights—"accidentally went inside his memory. No, he wouldn't appreciate that..."

He abruptly let Sora go. Sora released a long breath that he didn't know he'd been holding.

"Don't you dare touch me—ever!" Sora hissed.

Kakyo's eyes darkened at that, and his voice dropped very low. "And you don't dare open that book ever again, Sora. Some things need to be left alone and never found. Or..." Kakyo inclined his head, smiling smugly at Sora, whose indignant glare vanished from his face. Kakyo whispered very softly, "The old curious cat might die."

Sora shivered. Kakyo fell silent, though still surveying the brunette with satisfaction—Sora's face was burning. He smirked.

The door burst opened, revealing Devi, who was panting for what seemed that she had just run a mile to get to the library.

"DiZ—wants Sora—in the white room—NOW!"

"Then we should be going," Kakyo said softly, grabbing Sora by the wrist.

This time he pulled away rapidly, not letting Kakyo take advantage of him again. Instead, he twisted his hand out of Kakyo's grip and sprung beside Devi. She raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. She led Sora out, giving Kakyo a quick glance over her shoulder.

He only smirked to answer her rhetorical question.

o-o-o

His head throbbed like hell when he tasted stone in his mouth. Riku felt as though his body had left him back at Merlin's place. Shock and exhaustion kept him on his stomach on the ground, waiting for something...anything...waiting for someone to help him up...and all the while, the place on his body where his heart was supposed to be was giving out a dull pain...

He tried getting up with his arms, but he stayed put, screwing up his face from the pain on his chest.

Then a pair of hands roughly grabbed him by the shoulders and turned him over on his back.

"Oh God—it's Riku!"

He opened his emerald eyes.

They were met with a pair of blue eyes. Sora? But the person did not have spiky, messy chocolate hair; blond spikes going one way in curves were the first thing that made the new person different from Sora.

His outfit was also different from what the brunette would wear: it was mainly black and white, consisting a white vest with black designs over a black zip-up turtleneck, a fancy letter X as the metal zipper; black pants with large sewed up patches of gray and black shoes with red straps.

Riku raised his hand to the boy's face, which was swimming in and out of focus.

"Who—" he whispered hoarsely. "Who are you...?"

Footsteps were heard from a distance; Riku could feel the stony ground reverberating by the moving feet. Someone was coming.

"Your Majesty, is this who she was talking about?" said someone who sounded the age of sixteen. Riku felt someone kneel beside the previous voice.

"Yes, Aros; it's Riku."

They knew him, thought Riku. They knew who he was. He tried blinking, hoping that their faces might become clearer. He saw what looked like someone—a mouse?—cloaked in black. Could it be—?

"Mickey?-!"

Aros, the blond haired kid, bent down and raised Riku up to his feet, despite that Riku was a almost a head taller than him. He swayed. His head was still throbbing, and so was his chest. His heart was beating against his rib cage like mad.

"She told us that Merlin would transport them inside her house, not out here in the middle of Twilight Town!" Riku heard Aros complain loudly.

"He probably didn't concentrate that hard on his destination."

"The stupid bastard."

"Aros!"

Somewhere under Riku's numb state he felt a ripple of anger. Stupid bastard?

They both were now half pulling, half carrying him through the town. Riku heard the bustling of people shopping, gasping as Aros and Mickey were pushing him a path through the people, taking him to a large building. Riku dropped his eyes when they entered inside. He was still able to answer their questions as they walked.

"What happened, Riku?" Mickey asked as he lifted Riku with Aros's help up some stone steps.

"I don't know," Riku said as they walked up and up. He opened one eye idly to find himself walking up stone steps, torches on the sides flickering, being the only source of light. "I just walked to the save point, and that's all I remember."

Up the stone stairs...

"Anything else?"

As they went up, up to the highest room in the tower, Riku told them the previous events that took place for the past days; the whole ordeal with Sora (his stomach lurched while explaining everything to Mickey), the fight he was in with the half Heartless before he arrived in Traverse Town (he skipped mentioning seeing Saya's face), his trip to Merlin's house, including what happened in the Memory Holder. He skipped all the parts that dealt with his dreams. When they arrived at the top of the stairs, a silver ladder descended in front of them.

"Come on," said Aros, helping Riku climb up the ladder first. Mickey followed right after, pulling the ladder up after they entered the room.

The first thing Riku did was cough; his lungs were filled with strong perfume: it was coming from the incense in the fireplace. The room was lit by many lamps or glittering glass hanging from the window that was draped mostly by dark curtains, allowing only some light to reflect the colors from the glass. Many shelves were surrounding the room, with many peculiar items set on each shelf, such as crystal balls, jars of misshapen hands or other body parts, and much china.

"Rayne?" said Mickey.

A voice answered suddenly from a dark corner, sounding very misty.

"Your Majesty," it said. "I didn't think my prediction would come that quickly? Is that why you have returned?"

The person who spoke came out of the shadows, and Riku thought she was no older than seventeen. The girl had very dark skin, mid-long black hair with red streaks tied in a low ponytail, and she was wearing a black V-shirt with fishnet stockings covering her arms and black baggy pants. Innumerable chains wrapped around her dark neck, and her arms and wrists were also encrusted with many chains and colorful beads. She had a pierced eyebrow.

"And this must be Riku?" said Rayne, approaching Riku, who was just standing there. He was too woozy to care if Rayne began to walk around him, observing every inch. She tapped her chin with a black polished fingernail. "Not what I expected of him..."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" said Riku softly. His head was beginning to regain its composure.

"I mean to say, there will be great anguish put upon you." Rayne whispered. "Most of it self-inflicted..."

As long as Riku could remember, he hated fortune tellers; he had always believed they were frauds that only wanted to let people hear what they want to hear. He glared at Rayne but said nothing.

Rayne began to walk up to Aros, taking his hand that had a checkered black and white wristband around it. She carefully traced a line on his palm, clucking her tongue disdainfully.

"You have a troubled past, according to this palm line," she said, not seeing that Riku rolled his eyes. "And that you wish to never speak of it; am I correct?"

Aros did not answer.

"Rayne," said Mickey, breaking the long awkward silence. "Have you met anyone else yet? Merlin said—"

"They'll be coming." she said, turning around to stare at the empty corner. "In three...two...one..."

Soon enough, a gap appeared from the ground she was staring at, a green light ripped right through it. Then Leon, Cloud, Goofy, and Donald all sprung out of it, landing on a pile.

"Welcome," said Rayne, as though they had just arrived normally. "I am Rayne the Inner Eye, fortune teller of Twilight Town. May I hope that my assistance will help your wandering spirits."

Donald was the first to get up (being the one on top of the pile of people), quaking loudly. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?-!"

Riku was already lost. Leon and Cloud seemed to be as lost as he was. Goofy only waved at Rayne. "Uh-huck, it's been awhile, Rayne!"

"Er—you know her?" said Riku.

"Rayne use to work at the castle," explained Mickey, now trying to calm down the royal magician. "This was before the Heartless invaded and my disappearance to find the Keyblade. We asked her stay with us since her world was one of the first to disappear. But," he faced her, "she left, telling us that she needed to look for something to do in life."

Rayne nodded.

"I had always loved to touch my powers of the Inner Eye; I had a knack of predicting things that were always correct (she ignored the snort that came from Riku). So I moved here, where I met Aros," she jerked her head towards the boy who was now leaning against the wall. He had a dark look on his face. "He's not much of a people's person." she informed in a low voice. "More of a lone wolf, if you ask me,"

"Shut up, Rayne."

"See what I mean?"

She chuckled. Aros didn't say anything else, but walked up to a corner, in which a ladder similar to how they got to the room fell down to his feet. Aros climbed in the room above, and closed the door behind him. It seemed he was really a lone wolf like Rayne said.

Riku turned back to face Cloud, who was glancing at the figures in the jars on Rayne's shelves. His face was expressionless, as if he wasn't affected by the grotesque objects swirling in the green liquid.

"Rayne," said Mickey. "Why is it that you wanted to see Riku?"

Oh yeah, thought Riku. Why was he here?

Merlin had said he had to see her, but for what?

Rayne shrugged. "I guess I wanted to see if he was going to come. Plus, the Heartless here are becoming restless. It's scaring me shitless."

"Heartless?" said Riku. "Heartless are here too?"

"They're everywhere," stated Cloud quietly, not even turning around. His wing twitched as he continued. "Every world has a heart; Heartless are attracted by the darkness in people's hearts. That's why they come, to take the hearts to grow stronger. Don't you remember, Riku?" Cloud had finally faced Riku's confused façade. "Don't you know all this?"

He had, but everything had slipped from his mind. After Kingdom Hearts, he wanted to forget. Everything.

Because some things need to be left forgotten.

Riku only nodded. Slowly, but ever surely, he nodded.

"Anywho," said Rayne, impatience lacing in her voice. "Since the Heartless are attacking, and since"—she glanced a look at Riku—"you're here, we can defeat them and find the Keyhole here."

"Those things that are like the heart of the world and look like a keyhole? There's one here?"

"Uh-huh!"

"Then I suppose we should find it," said Leon in his monotone voice. "I don't want Heartless coming up my ass."

A crash erupted through the silence. It had come from above. Rayne rolled her eyes.

"Not again..." she groaned. "Aros!" she yelled, "WHAT THE FREAK ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?-!"

"Screw you!" replied a voice. Rayne narrowed her eyes up at the ceiling.

"Fine! No dinner for you!"

"You can't cook worth crap, so no lose!"

"ARGH!"

And all the while, Riku just blinked at how the pair could fuss at each other for over nothing. Well, nothing compared to the crap Riku got mad over Sora.

Sora...

Not again...

The boy was just too adorable to hate forever. Riku had to learn that.

The hard way.

"You broke my wooden sword!" screamed Riku in the top of his lungs (not much affect for being only twelve years old).

"I said I was sorry!" cried Sora, tears spilling from his closed eyes. He was on his knees, the sand tickling his bare legs.

They had been doing their usual sparring, trying to disadvantage the other, when Sora, incredibly, swung his wooden sword so hard with Riku's, it went to splinters.

The broken wood pieces laid scattered, the big chunk with Riku's name scribbled carelessly upon it.

His cries echoed all around the island, attracting a very upset Kairi running up to Riku.

"Hey, that's horrible, Riku!" she screamed, raising her fists up in the air. She had stepped over the broken wood, allowing it to snap to another half. Riku glared at her.

"Sora's horrible!" He pointed at his friend. "He broke my sword!"

"A sword?-! Just a stupid sword?-! What about Sora?-!"

The sun was sinking before them, telling them inaudibly that they were to leave soon. But they were oblivious to the fact.

Sora was still on the ground, his head on his knees, crying. Kairi looked like she was going to murder the pouting (yes, pouting) Riku, who looked the other way to ignore her useless bickering.

"Sora did it on accident! I know he did!"

"Oh yeah...he's always jealous of me winning all the time..."

She huffed. "Riku—you're just so—so—if I say it I might get in trouble for saying something like what I'm thinking!" She held her hand out to the brunette, whose head had looked up. She smiled at his wet face.

"Come on...let's go." With one more nasty look towards Riku, Kairi began walking, hoping Sora would follow. But the boy stayed put, staring at Riku. A nice breeze ruffled his spiky brown hair, making Riku's own silver hair sway gently with the wind. He gave Riku a small smile, although his mouth had tasted the saltiness of tears. He knelt down to pick up his own wooden sword and flung it to Riku. It landed before his best friend's feet.

"Take it. Do whatever with it. I don't deserve this; you made it for me. So, since I broke yours, you can keep mine, okay?"

Riku didn't look up to face him. He just stared at the wooden toy, the thing he had constructed for Sora's birthday.

And now Sora was giving it to him.

How...caring?

Sora sighed. "It's not much; I was stupid to put my name in big letters like that...you probably can't even erase it. I'm such an idiot—"

"No."

The statement was short, but clear. Sora blinked.

Riku looked up, his face looking serious and more mature for a boy such his age. He now had a clear look at Sora's very cute, chubby face, his smile, his innocence, everything about him was just, so...so...

Sora.

Yeah, Sora.

"You're not an idiot... You're way too kind to be one..."

Sora smiled.

"Thanks."

"And you're forgiven."

"Thanks, again."

"Nah," said Riku, picking up Sora's old wooden sword. He stuck it out like it was real and if he was really going to attack Sora right now. "Thank you, you scurvy!"

Sora's and Riku's laughter rung around the paradise for children.

And Kairi shook her heads at how her two friend's could make up so fast. Thirteen seconds in total.

"HEY!"

The yell made Riku come back from deep within the darker part of his mind, bringing back that he was still in Rayne's place. Donald rolled his eyes.

"Stupid..."

Riku only glared at the duck. "Where's Aros?" To answer his question, singing was heard; coming from above their heads. This time, though, Rayne smiled sadly up.

"He's thinking about them..."

"Who?"

"Nothing..." she said automatically. She seemed to not want to tell them about the boy above, singing his heart out.

And without hesitation, Riku ran up to the ladder and climbed up, reaching his head through the opening.

The room was very small, only lit by an oil lamp sitting on a wooden table, flickering dark shadows around the place. Riku slowly got up, entranced at the many things around him. Trinkets, porcelain-like objects, books, and pictures lay all around, some on the floor, some around a small bed made of hay and a gray blanket.

Aros was sitting on it, his back facing Riku. He was still singing, oblivious that Riku was trying to hear each word of the song.

"...Torn by this pain, I paint your name in sound
And the girl of the dawn, with eyes of blue, and angel wings
The songs of the season are her only crown...

"Broken mirror, a million shades of light
The old echo fades away
But just you and I can find the answer
And then, we can run to the end of the world
We can run to the end of the world..."

He seemed to be holding something; his arms kept moving with the rhythm of his beautiful, but sad song.

He sounded out of tune, but it felt like it fit with the feeling of the song. It sounded perfect.

"...We met in the mist of morning, and parted deep in the night
Broken sword and shield, and tears that never fall
But run through the heart
Washed away by the darkest water
The world is peaceful and still..."

Riku slowly closed his eyes, thinking of nothing, nothing at all...

"The old echo fades away..."

And then, far away, he heard screaming, terrible, shrill, pleading screams. He knew, he needed to help whoever it was, but he couldn't...the pitch black drowned out any hopes, anything—

The singing stopped suddenly.

Riku opened his eyes. Aros, facing Riku, was in disbelief.

"You... You...heard...me?" his voice shook, either from his singing or his fear of someone knowing he had sung.

His rather dull face was almost bright red. Riku stood very still, contemplating whether he should wait for Aros to kill him, or if he should just walk off and pretend he didn't hear anything.

But why did he feel so very cold?

Aros was on his feet. His hands were twisting together, holding what Riku thought was a picture frame. And it was: it was wooden, carved and skill-crafted. Riku, from the dim lights, couldn't see what the picture was about, but he did see a glimmer of someone's face on it.

A woman with long blonde hair tied up with a blue ribbon.

Riku pointed at the picture. "Who's that?"

Aros eyes went wide with shock. His lips trembled but held his tongue.

It was better to never tell that person who she was. She was gone; no need to go to the details...

"You're mother, huh?" suggested Riku. Aros averted his eyes to the floor. He supposed that was a yes.

"Is she...?"

Aros only nodded, not needing to be told what Riku was asking. Too many people asked the same damn question, over and over.

"Oh. Sorry to hear that..."

"Don't," he said automatically. "I don't want it. Your sympathy...I don't need it. I hate it."

Aros placed the picture face-down on the floor, and took a seat cross-legged on his bed. Riku followed pursuit. Aros said nothing as the older male took a seat beside him. But he did feel uncomfortable this close to another human.

Riku was not like him.

No, nothing at all like him.

"What about you?" the words seemed to have just slipped from his lips without a mind's thought. Riku gave him a quizzical look.

"What?"

"Your mom, what's she like?"

Riku stayed silent for the longest time. He gave Aros an indignant look, hoping the boy might get the message.

Whether he did or not, Riku couldn't tell; Aros repeated the question.

"Well?"

He knew he had to answer it, the only way to escape those piercing blue eyes that stared at him, through his body, to his soul. He wanted to stop the chill that was unfolding inside him, spreading from his chest, felling him with trembling longing.

Why did they look familiar?

Riku slowly licked his cracked, dry lips and answered slowly, "She's a terrible bitch."

And this was the bitter truth.

She would have never cared if Riku had drowned. She was heartless, cold, and vain. She only kept Riku to 'uphold the fucking legacy'. The same could go for Riku's dad.

Horrible things, his parents were.

Yes, horrible.

Aros was unfazed by Riku's chose of words when talking about his own mother. He could tell from those emerald eyes that he wasn't joking. Even in his voice it held no sarcasm.

"Ah, I see." was all he could muster from his lips.

Riku sighed. He ran his fingers through his hair, mussing and then smoothing it down again.

"That song you were singing..." he began. "Where did you learn that? It was really pretty."

"The song or my voice? I know it isn't my voice."

Aros cracked a smile at his own joke. So did Riku.

It had been awhile since he was able to smile. It seemed to be very hard for him, for quite some reason...

"Well, who taught you it?"

"...a friend of mine."

"Oh. Did they...?"

Aros simply shrugged. "I don't know what happened to them, really." He commenced to pull out strands of hay from his bed. He twirled it around his forefinger and thumb then tossed it over a corner. "I don't really remem—"

WHAM!

They jumped at the sudden blast. Shuffling from beneath them came closer, and closer, until—

"RIKU, AROS! THE PLACE IS SURROUNDED! THE HEARTLESS ARE HERE!"

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CLIFFHANGER!

Awful 'tis I am, awful yes I am. I am not Sam I am.

Okay, that was really random but, yes, that was a cliffie. And so you can kill me again for writing so much, then leaving you guys hanging...

Is this delaying my reviews?

I hope not!

Afterthoughts:

SC: Reminds you a lot of Harry Potter, doesn't it.

Cheekon: For those who haven't found out yet, Sara loves the Harry Potter books. She even has a bracelet to prove she does.

Alter Ego: It says July 16, 2005, meaning the date of when the sixth book came out. WHOOT!

SC: That's basically the reason why you see many of Harry Potter references in this. I might even throw in some Lord of the Rings too. Just because...

Cheekon: Let's take a vote: Should we put a Pirate's of the Caribbean in this story, some elvish people, and a pinch of The Hutch-back of Notre Dame; any Final Fantasy places; or just use the same worlds they used in Kingdom Hearts I?

Alter Ego: The other worlds are surprises!

SC: Yep... The story was just 11,289 words, while the whole thing is like 12,245 for those who wanted to know. And I disclaim the lyrics for 'Small Two Pieces' from the game Xenogears.

Cheekon: And you fans could always give SC some ideas. She might not take them all, but she'd appreciate them. It'll show you want to contribute to this story.

Alter Ego :nods:

SC: I'll throw a lot of Disney characters and plots to this story, to make it more interesting.

Cheekon: Better...

Alter Ego: There are going to be tournaments too, right Sara?

SC: ...Yeah...

Cheekon: With no further ado, we'll put up our farewell, for now.

SC: I don't wanna...

Alter Ego: Then, no belated birthday presents for you!

SC: I hate you!

Cheekon, Alter Ego, SC: REVIEW WITH LOVE!

Alter Ego: COOKIES! OOPS! Forgot about the other things too...

Random Crap: You're all probably wondering what's with Lucifer and his past. And why the heck are all those people in the Organization anyway?-! And what's with blonde-haired kid's attitude? And why does Riku call his own family such horrible things? I know; the suspense is killing you guys. You're not alone. So don't worry; just sit back and watch as the plot unfolds (very slowly to your dismay), creating more questions while answering some. Things from other anime series like DN Angel might pop out of nowhere, so watch out! You can always ask questions about this fic if you want, but most of them won't be answered until later so don't think I've ignored your important questions. I just don't want to spoil you readers (that much!).

I hoped you enjoyed this update as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

Other Things That Might Go Unnoticed: BHK's name: for those who have the brains to figure it out, BHK's name in my story, Aros, is Sora spelled backwards. Like I said, DN Angel effects! And for those who paid attention to the detail in this story, you'd have noticed that the Heartless that attacked Riku in the second chapter—the one that was half black, half white—was actually Saya. She was momentarily turned into a Heartless when Destiny Islands vanished, so that's why Riku saw a glimmer of her face when he fought the heartless.

Flashback:

Did he just see a glimmer of Sora's mother, Saya in the monster's eyes?

See what I meant? Foreshadowing!

Cheekon: ...REVIEW WITH LOVE! And yes, since Sara is being considerate, she'll be posting all the parts for this chapter before anything else... Yeah, I persuaded her... :smiles evilly:

SC: ...

Alter Ego: YOU'RE FINALLY 14!

SC: ...don't remind me...

Cheekon: So say happy birthday to the loser over there...

SC :glares:

Alter Ego :huggles: HAPPY BELATED B-DAY! This is a very late present from Cheekon and I :huggles SC and throws confetti:

SC: ...Kill me... Don't forget to check out the sites that are on my profile after you review for this lovely chapter. There's an actual photo of me on my dArt for those who wondered what I looked liked. Bye; until the next update!

CONTEST:

I never really put the answer for the riddle, "Cut me and I weep tears as red as my flesh, yet my heart is made of stone. Pray tell, mortal, what am I?", so if you want to guess, put your answer in your review. A surprise for those who get it right!

SURPRISE:

I DANCE IN A CHICKEN SUIT! Nah, I was just messin' with ya. I really don't know what the surprise would be; maybe an appearance in one of the afterthoughts or author's notes? Or ask me what you want if you guess the riddle correctly. So please try to participate in the other activities that I do for this story.