It hurt….

He lay, broken and bleeding on the cold stone floor. His skin was torn as if cut by a sword. Thousands of swords. But these stung more than any blade wound. Tears built up in his eyes. It hurt….

The tears bled down his cheeks, stinging his wounds. He looked at his hand that lay in front of him. The skin was hidden behind crimson. The sight made him sick. It was all red…the blood…it was everywhere….

He couldn't move. He could barely think. His entire body was shaking, trembling. Pitiful cries, whimpers escaped from his lips. Cries of pain. Cries for help. Crying because it hurt so much…. But there was nobody was there to hear him.

How did this happen? Cold ate at his bloodied skin. How did he get here? How did this happen…?

He couldn't remember anything. Nothing of before. He didn't remember being getting hurt, coming here, perhaps he had been unconscious moments before. But no, he didn't even remember waking up. But how did he get here?

The cold of the room enveloped him. Closed in around him. His weak cries echoed around him. Help me…. This hurts….

It hurts….

---

Sora woke with a start and leapt for the bathroom, barely making it before he threw up. He sat on the linoleum floor, trembling as he struggled to fight the nausea down. That dream…. It had been so real. The pain….that indescribable pain…. He had felt it. He really had felt it….

He felt the nausea build up again and he choked, barely keeping from throwing up again. He put a hand to his mouth and an arm around his torso to keep him warm. Cold was creeping in on him, but not the same as in the dream. That had been dark…it had been like ice. Enclosing you, blocking off all hope, all signs of life. So deep it made your bones hurt.

Sora flushed the toilet and pulled himself to his feet using the shower, stumbling over to the sink. He washed off his face but didn't bother to dry it, just stared down into the basin, knuckles gripping the sides of the sink, watching the cold water drip off his nose and down the drain.

It had been only a few months since he, Riku and Kairi had returned to Destiny Islands. They had never forgot about their pasts, what had happened during those years they had been lost in other worlds. But this nightmare…. He had dreams during his journeys, a lot of them enough to make your skin crawl. But none like this. There had never been like this before….

Riku had said that when he was lost in the darkness he had had haunting visions. Both when awake and asleep. He said they had been so horrible…unbearable. Were they like this dream?

Sora shook his head. No. He wasn't having the same dreams as Riku. He wasn't being taken over by darkness. They had all been defeated…. Sure, there were still heartless out there. It was impossible to defeat them all, unless they cleared the darkness out of everyone's hearts. But there was no more Ansem, no more Organization XIII. No one to take him over by darkness….

Finally Sora straightened, grabbing a towel and wiping his face dry. He buried his face in the cloth for a long time, not emerging until his thoughts had been cleared. Until his worries had been dulled. He glanced up at the mirror with a sigh.

His breath caught in his throat and Sora froze.

In the mirror was Roxas.

Sora jerked in surprise, looking down at his hands. But they were still his own, not Roxas'. Looking up, still stunned, Sora met the image's gaze.

It smiled at him.

Sora held back a yelp of surprise as he stumbled back, heart pounding. What was this? A horror movie? First being torn to shreds, now ghosts?

Roxas laughed. "Sora, it's me. You don't need to freak out."

"B-But, how'd you get…?" Sora stammered stupidly, looking from himself to the mirror. Roxas laughed again.

"I'm you. Remember? I can talk to you this way. Now please, listen to me. I need your help."

---

Sora sat on the toilet lid, staring into the mirror at Roxas. Roxas stared at him hard for a moment, thinking. Sora waited, feeling himself starting to slip away into sleep. It must be at least two in the morning. But Sora struggled to stay awake and waited, seeing Roxas wanted to tell him something important.

Roxas closed his eyes. "I…I know that you've only been home for a few months. You've only been reunited to your family and home recently…."

Sora nodded. His parents had been terrified, not knowing where he had been. They hadn't seen him in two years. And everyone here didn't even remember him. It took a while of seeing his face for them to remember. But it was good to be home again.

"But…I need you to leave Destiny Islands."

Sora blinked. "What? But…."

Roxas didn't speak. There was guilt in his eyes.

"Roxas, why do you want me to leave Destiny Islands? Do you need help? What's wrong?"

Roxas still didn't speak.

Sora did his best to look concerned for his other self, but inside he felt anger starting to grow. No. He wouldn't leave now. Not after just getting home. But Sora fought down the anger. Roxas might need his help. He couldn't ignore him. Even if it meant leaving his family and friends again…right?

Roxas' gaze slid towards the ground, not looking Sora in the eyes. Sora waited, not sure what Roxas wanted. Why did he want him to leave?

"…Roxas?" He asked finally.

"N-Never mind," Roxas finally forced out, looking Sora in the face with a casual smile on his face. "Just forget what I said…okay?"

Sora looked into his Nobody's face. "Roxas…" he murmured. But Roxas shrugged off his stare.

"You should get to bed. You look like a wreck," he said.

Sora put a hand to his face as if feeling for abnormalities, but it felt fine. When he looked up at the mirror again, Roxas was gone. And his own reflection was staring him in the face.

---

Sora woke the next morning, sitting up and stretching his arms wide. He yawned deeply, looking out his window at the bright sun. Last night…it had all seemed so odd. Was it all a dream? But no, he could taste the vomit on his tongue. So it had been real…even that conversation with Roxas?

"Roxas!" Sora shouted, throwing back the covers and leaping for his bathroom. He looked into the mirror. "Roxas!" he shouted again. But all there was was his own reflection. He shouted again, but still Roxas did not answer. He was still curious…what had he wanted last night? Last night he had been too tired to pursue for answers, and now that he was awake Roxas was gone.

"Sora, wake up!" Sora's mom called from downstairs. "Summer doesn't last much longer, you don't want to waste it all sleeping!"

Sora called back to her to let her know he heard her and went to get dressed. He would try to find Roxas later. Today he had said he would meet Riku and Kairi at the island. They had set up a time, he was supposed to be there by-

Sora glanced at his clock.

"Oh crap!" he shouted and ran for his dresser.

Getting dressed is much more complicated when you're trying to do it in a hurry. When putting on his shirt Sora found himself with his head in his sleeve, and when he tried to fix the error while changing his pants at the same time he tripped on his half put on socks and hit the closet headlong. Sora yelled in agitation and pain and rubbed his head with one hand, still putting on his pants with the other.

In the end it took almost ten minutes and three trips upstairs to fix mistakes for everything to be in their right place. Sora groaned. He must be really tired from last night.

Sora blinked. Last night. That reminded him. Would he tell Kairi and Riku about his dream? Sora thought as he stole a piece of toast from a plate in the kitchen. He probably wouldn't tell Kairi. It might worry her. She was always making sure him and Riku were alright after being gone for so long, and this dream just might throw her over the edge and lock him in his room for life to make sure he would be safe.

But Riku…he might know what was wrong. If anything was wrong. But what if he couldn't explain? Would he be worried, too?

Sora shook his head, casting the thoughts from his head. There was nothing wrong with him. It was just a dream. A nightmare. There was nothing wrong with it.

So without a second thought on the subject, Sora ran hard towards the island.

"Hey Sora, think fast!"

Sora stopped short, whirling around, looking for Riku. Where was he this time? Every time…every damn time…. He always did this. Either pushing him, knocking him over, once he even threw him. But it always ended with Sora in the water.

Sora whirled again, but Riku was nowhere in sight. Sora tensed.

"You won't get me this time, Riku! I've gotten you before!"

"What're you doing, Sora?"

Sora turned, seeing Kairi. "Oh…hi Kairi. You haven't seen Riku, have you?" he asked, looking over his shoulder. Kairi laughed.

"You two still playing that game?"

"It's not a game!" Sora said defensively. "It's a deadly match between a bloodthirsty, cutthroat bastard and a helpless victim! It's an abuse of power and ability to pick on those younger and weaker than you! It's a-!"

The next thing Sora knew he was face first in the shallow water. He heard a laugh behind him.

"It's another thing that I can beat you at," Riku said proudly, looking down at him from the island above.

Sora pulled himself from the water, climbing the ladder that lead to the island. He glared at Riku. "I've beaten you before!" he pouted.

Riku laughed again. "It's 73 to 29. I'm clobbering you."

Sora's glare intensified, and he was glad that he had matured enough so that his glare wasn't as cute as his smile. He had hated that. Nobody would take him seriously.

Riku pulled him up the last of the ladder, helping him to his feet. He grinned at him from behind his long bangs, his green eyes gleaming. Ever since they had returned, Riku had been different. He had made sure to hide it behind his jokes and outgoing personality, but you could still see it in those emerald eyes. All those years in darkness had smothered his childlike innocence, replacing it with empty darkness.

Sora eyed Riku's outfit. "You're still wearing those clothes?" he said with distaste.

Riku grinned, showing his teeth. "You're just jealous that you don't look hot in clothes like these."

Sora frowned. "What? You look like you were dressed by a basketball player! You wouldn't catch me dead in those clothes."

"Because you'd be too busy wearing that awful red clown suit you used to wear. You flaunted your skinny chicken legs!"

"Better than those poofy pants you used to wear! They were three times the size of regular pants! They were huge!"

"C'mon, Sora. Don't be jealous. You know you think it's sexy."

Kairi laughed, watching the two argue. She knew they didn't mean it, they were just being competitive. Just like brothers. Kairi smiled. They were just like brothers…. Even as close as family.

But she hadn't even finished that thought before Riku had shoved Sora back down into the water, Sora grabbing Riku by the collar and pulling him down with him. She laughed out loud, almost falling to her knees. They were both such idiots, it was amusing just to be around them.

---

To this day I don't know why he did it. I don't even know if he was too sure himself. But I know that if I had a heart, it would have shattered that day.

Sora woke, hearing those words in his mind. He blinked drowsily. What was that…? He thought back on the words. They were still clear in his mind. If I had a heart…. What did that mean? Nobodies didn't have hearts…. But then why was this in his head?

---

That evening, when the sun was going down, Sora went up to their usual spot. Up on the roof of one of the shacks they had built on the island. You could see far from the top of the island, and it was a good place to forget everything and relax. But Sora had just set foot on the roof, stepping from the tree that he had used to get up here, when his eyes fell upon Riku. He was lying back, arms behind his head, staring up at the orange sky.

Sora walked up to him, sitting beside him. He put his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, sitting back and staring up at the sky as well.

"What're you doing?" he asked. Riku didn't answer. A pang of remorse hit him. Riku must be thinking hard…. He must be thinking about when he was in the darkness. Often Sora would find him staring off into space, a pained look in his eyes. It must be terrible for him to think about. All those years he had been lost in the dark….

Sora tried to think of something to say, trying to figure out how to phrase the words right.

"Riku…do you feel guilty? Do you feel bad for all the things you did when you were lost in darkness?"

No answer. Did he not want to talk about it? Sora almost stopped there, but he couldn't. He needed to help his friend.

"Me and Kairi don't blame you. Nobody blames you. After all, if it hadn't been for your help we would have never defeated Organization XIII."

Still no answer.

"Riku…" Sora murmured. Was he really that hurt? He looked over at his friend, trying to find the glint of green eyes behind the bangs. But there wasn't one. His eyes were closed.

He was asleep.

"What the crap?" Sora shouted, nearly pulling his hair out. Riku sat bolt upright.

"Whawazat?" he stammered, still half-asleep. He yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth. Then he looked over at Sora. "Oh, hey. When did you get here?"

Sora gaped at him.

Riku laughed. "Haha! What's with the face?"

After all that time he had just spent thinking of how to reassure his friend, he wasn't even awake to hear it. Sora groaned and turned away. "Nothing."

Riku shrugged and turned towards the sunset. "I remember we used to go up here all the time," he said. Then he gave a short, bitter laugh. "We'd always dream of different worlds we could go to. Different places we could see. But now that we're back, all we want to do is stay here."

Sora's conversation with Roxas hit him again. "Yeah," he said thoughtfully. "Too much of a good thing, I guess."

Riku gave another bitter laugh. "Good thing? Speak for yourself."

Before Sora could respond Riku stood, brushing off his pants. "I'm gonna head home. I've spent enough time thinking up here for one night. See you tomorrow."

Sora nodded and waved a farewell, not turning as Riku walked off. Too much of a good thing…had that all been a good thing? Sure, they met new people. They saw new worlds. Hell, they saved dozens of worlds and thousands of lives from being destroyed. But in the process…had they helped themselves at all? They were all so mature now…. Maybe even mature beyond their age. In the process of saving all those lives, had his, Riku's and Kairi's youth been destroyed?

---

My heart…if only I had a heart. If only I could feel this pain…. Because then I wouldn't feel guilty for forgetting him. If only this hurt…. I want to cry. I want to scream. I want to bleed. But none of these emotions come. It makes this seem unreal. Like I don't care. Like I never will care. But that is wrong. I will care forever. I cared then. And it tore me apart, leaving me in pieces on the floor.

---

Sora woke, sunlight grazing his face. He rose from his pillow, wiping the moisture from his eyes. He stared at them in the dawn's light, glinting on his fingertips. Tears. Tears? Why was he crying? Words…he heard them again. He felt their pain. Their loneliness. Their agony. But it wasn't his agony. Who's was it?

Again the question haunted him. Who is feeling all this pain?

Tidus and Wakka joined them around noon. They shouted a greeting, leaping down from the ledge and onto the beach.

"Hey, guys!" Tidus said, waving to them. Then he looked at Sora, who was soaking wet. "What happened to you?"

"Riku got you again, yah?" Wakka laughed.

Sora glared, not answering. That only made Wakka laugh harder.

"Where is Riku, anyways?" Tidus asked.

"He had to go somewhere today," Kairi said. "He left around noon."

"Darn," Tidus muttered. "I wanted to challenge him again today."

"Still can't beat him?" Kairi asked, laughing.

Now it was Tidus' turn to frown. Sora laughed.

"C'mon! Even I can beat him!"

"Don't give me that crap," Tidus scoffed. "You're the friggin' Keyblade Master. Of course you can kick his ass."

Sora laughed again.

Kairi sighed, smiling. "If all you guys are gonna do is argue, I'm going to look for Selphie. Do you know where she is?"

Tidus pointed behind him, not looking away from Sora for a moment. Kairi walked off in the direction he had pointed in.

"If you're gonna challenge someone, why not me?" Sora asked, grinning, showing his teeth. He put his hands behind his head arrogantly.

Tidus pointed his weapon, a carved stick at Sora's head. "You're on!"

But Wakka grabbed him by the back of the collar. "Don't even try it. You remember what happened last time, yah?"

"But I'm stronger this time!" Tidus protested. "I'll get him!" Tidus kicked, trying to lunge forwards, but Wakka didn't let go.

"That's what Sora says every time Riku challenges him to something, but you don't see him winning, do you?"

"Hey!" Sora shouted, frowning. "I thought you were complimenting me just a second ago!"

"It's just so fun to make you pout, Sora, we can't resist an opportunity," Kairi said, returning with Selphie. She laughed.

"Whatever, Kairi," Sora said, trying his best not to pout. It was hard.

Selphie giggled. Then she turned to the others. "Where's Riku?"

"His parents probably dragged him off to the doctors again," Kairi said.

"Again?" Tidus stammered. "Didn't he go just last week?"

"They think he's going insane," Wakka said with a laugh. "All that stuff about darkness, Nobodies, Heartless, they overheard Sora and him talking. Ever since they've been taking him to the doctors to check up on him."

"Why aren't you at the doctors then, Sora?"

Sora laughed. "My parents are less neurotic. I don't think they'd care even if I was talking to voices in my head. And besides, I'm not stupid enough to let myself be overheard by my parents!"

Kairi frowned. "Sora, it's not his fault. Don't call him stupid."

"Just because you think he's hot doesn't mean you can always defend him, yah?"

Kairi blushed. "I don't think he's hot!" she stammered.

Tidus laughed. "Yeah right!"

"Really! I just don't think we should laugh at him for something like that."

"And you think he's hot."

"Sora!"

---

Riku returned that evening. Sora, Kairi and Riku all went down to the beach for the last few hours, walking along the shores. They talked about random things, family, school, and often laughed at each other. And even more often where fighting each other. Riku and Sora were soon soaked and half drowned, and probably would have been unconscious as well if Kairi hadn't pulled them apart. But they were still laughing.

"Damn," Riku said, shaking his hair vigorously to get it dry. It made it even shaggier, his favorite look. "My parents are screwed up. When I get home they'll probably think I got wet trying to talk to the little mermaid."

"What? You told them about Ariel?" Sora laughed. He clasped his hands in mock excitement. "Oh, I just love that Ariel! I can just imagine if her little bikini slipped!" he teased.

"Shut up!" Riku shouted, shoving Sora warningly. He laughed. "They probably heard you talking about her. You're the one with the big mouth."

"What? My mouth isn't big!" Sora protested, struggling to keep his mouth small as he shouted. That only made Riku laugh harder. He turned to Kairi.

"What would you do for entertainment without us, Kairi?" he asked, flashing his white teeth.

"I'd probably be a lot more sane," she said, grinning.

"And what fun would that be?"

Kairi laughed, staring at the ocean. She yawned. "How many days until summer is over?"

"I forget," Riku said.

"Apparently along with your grammar," Sora laughed. Riku pushed him again.

"I hope we still have a while longer…" Kairi said, ignoring them. She stared, almost at nothing. As if she was staring out into the other worlds.

Finally she spoke again. "We had better get back home." She shot Riku a glance. "If we don't your mom might think you were out here trying to conjure heartless."

Riku groaned. "That's so true it isn't funny," he said as he walked off.

---

He got up in the middle of the night. It was just past midnight. He stood, walking to the bathroom. Turning on the light, he looked at his reflection. Just as it should be. Short, dirty blond hair. Clear round eyes. A determined expression.

Not Sora's face.

"Sorry, Sora," Roxas murmured. "I'll have to take over for a while…. There's someone I need to help."