The Eleventh Hour

By Lynx (of Organization VI)

Rating: Uh, T for Teen, I guess.

Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or its characters; they belong to Disney and Squeenix, respectively. No money's being made, le cry.

Summary: For Riku, his future was the same as his past.

Notes: Basically, a much more lengthy expansion on a drabble I wrote a month or so back. A lot of the ideas, theories and reasoning I need to credit Rebmakash for, because she's the smart one and thinks up all the cool stuff. I just add a lot of words onto it.

There will be KH2 SPOILERS APLENTY in this fic, so be warned.

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Chapter Eleven – THE ELEVENTH HOUR

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TICK

Riku shielded his eyes from the light, and when the brightness burned away, he found himself in a vast desert. Hot winds whipped against the barren ground, kicking up dust and making it impossible to see far into the distance. He saw strange shapes on the horizon, but none of them were the replica. It looked like he was alone.

He cupped his hands to his mouth. "Ri—" No. His name was Riku. So what could he call the replica?

After a pause, he yelled again. "XEHANORT!"

The air left his throat as he felt hands squeeze around his neck. He struggled, trying to grab at the body behind him, while gasping for breath. His own voice hissed in his ear, "You shouldn't have come back, Real Thing."

In response, he stomped his boot down on the other's foot. The hands loosened, and he took the opportunity to wrench free and twist around. He grabbed at the replica's shoulders, trying to shove him off, but the replica pushed him and they went tumbling together into the sand. They rolled, and landed with the replica on his back, allowing Riku to get up. "I just wanted to say I was sorry!"

The replica snarled, wiped the dirt from his face and jumped to his feet. "'Sorry' won't cut it. Not this time."

He started to react, but the other threw up a hand, and a column of darkness shot from the ground and knocked him flat. He heard a ringing in his ears as his skull contacted with the hard ground. Just as he tried to recover, the replica was on top of him again. The ringing came back in full force as a fist pummeled into his face, and he tasted blood from his nose and lip.

"I'm glad you came back. I knew you would. 'Cause you know what I'm going to do?"

Riku staggered to his feet as the replica pulled back, and wiped the blood from his face. He saw himself grinning like a madman, like the pieces of Xehanort had always done. Destroying myself over and over—

"I'm going to beat you senseless. Then you can stay here and be Xehanort as much as you like. And I'll go back and live your life."

His fists clenched at the thought, and he tried to stoop down and get the other from behind. But in one swift motion, the replica kicked a clout of sand into his eyes, and he was blinded. "Don't you see? I have your abilities. I have your memories. Your friends will never know the difference."

He stumbled out of what he hoped was harm's way, wiping furiously at his eyes. The dust was sticking to the blood, assaulting his senses. He hissed back, "Sora and Kairi will know."

The replica's eyes burned, and Riku barely had time to block the first punch at his jaw. The second hit home in his stomach, his knees gave out, and he hit the ground again. "They'll never know. I'll make sure they care about me just as they do you. Do you know why?"

Riku struggled to get up, but the replica's boot hit his chest and he fell again. "Because I know you, and I know I'm better than you. I'll do everything and anything you won't." Another kick to his ribs. "All the things you'd never dream of but dream anyway! Maybe when I get back I'll taunt the magician until he can't see straight and makes a stupid mistake."

No. Another kick, this one in the stomach.

"Maybe I'll disturb the King who cares so much for you. Maybe I'll tell him all the secrets you never wanted him to hear."

No, no, I can't keep fighting myself! A rough kick to the side, and he was on his back.

"Maybe I'll steal Kairi's affections until her husband goes mad with jealousy!"

That forced his eyes open. He saw the replica...no, it was himself, all of himself that he hated, staring back at him with a mad grin and hateful green eyes. The other him held a large rock in one hand, and raised it above his head. "I'm stronger than you. I'm better than you. Because I do not let inhibitions hold me back."

And then he knew.

A sorry smile graced Riku's bloodied face. "Yes. Which is why you will become Xehanort and I won't."

The startled pause was all he needed. His Keyblade was in his hand in a flash, and the thrown rock merely bounced off its flat edge. His other self recoiled with a yell of pain as the shock echoed back up through his nerves.

His energy rekindled, he leapt to his feet and swung the blade at his opponent, who dodged. This time he sensed the dark blast coming, and countered it with a reflective spell from the blade. Gritting his teeth, he concentrated and fired dark aura. The spell hit home, earning him another painful cry from the replica.

The rest of the flight was a blur of wind and dust and movement. For all his other self could do, he couldn't seem to summon a Keyblade. He pounded him mercilessly, seeing only himself but destroying him anyway. You may be me, but I'll never be you. I have lost enough time to you...I have suffered enough because of you! And if I have to tear away pieces of myself to satisfy the dark, then I will!

The desert winds hushed into stillness at the last strike. The replica, his other self, Xehanort, was pinned to the ground, with his Keyblade at his throat. It was over.

He had won.

TOCK

He had lost.

He could not even lift his head to meet Riku's gaze. All of his great strength was drained from his limbs, and he couldn't move them.

He didn't move when he felt the Keyblade lowered from his throat. He didn't move when he heard the sound of footsteps fall away from him, growing fainter with every step. And he still didn't move when the footsteps faded away into nothing.

But once the wind picked up again, he suddenly seemed to realize what had happened, and that he was completely alone. Fear settled over him like a wash of cold oil. "N-No..."

His lips cracked, and he ran his tongue over them, trying to bring back his voice. "No...no! I didn't mean it!"

Panic brought him to his feet, and he scanned the horizon frantically. Nothing met his vision but the dirt and the blurry sky. "Come back! Please, come back!" He shouted to the empty winds. "DON'T LEAVE ME HERE! PLEASE, COME BACK, DON'T LEAVE ME!"

He began to run. The door had to still be nearby. Riku was compassionate, if he asked and apologized, maybe he'd let him live a real life; not sacrifice him to time itself...

But the more he ran, the more the desert looked the same. The winds tore at his clothes and skin; he could almost feel the sun bleaching his hair to white and burning his skin dark. There was only himself and the rocks and dust, himself and a thousand thoughts of hate and fear and despair in his head. Himself and—

Keyblades. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands, and almost all of them worn and rusted as if they were centuries old. They flickered in the sun as if they weren't really there, and perhaps they weren't.

But the two figures approaching him were.

They seemed to blur into the desert itself, but when they became visible, he saw their curved armor and long capes. The memories of Riku told him that they were Chasers, and that he was supposed to fear them, but he didn't care.

He fell to his knees as they surrounded him, gasping out his words through a dirt-choked voice. "You want Riku to become Xehanort. But I'm not him! I'm just a fake, a replacement! The real Riku's going back through the door!"

"We know."

"We've known all along it was you."

"It couldn't have happened any other way."

"You were always meant to become Xehanort."

His hands shook. The cold, creeping panic stole over him again, and became sounds in his throat. "No..."

The main Chaser hung its head. "We wish this had never happened. We wish Riku and you hadn't suffered."

The shorter female continued, "But you did, and you will. You must. For the sake of all worlds."

The Chaser lifted its massive Keyblade over its shoulder. "You will remember nothing. For that, you should be at least thankful."

He stumbled to his feet once again, searching for an excuse, any excuse. "But...wait, no! Vexen said that memories are the support of the heart! If all my memories are taken away, my heart will collapse!"

The main Chaser replied, "Just one memory is enough to sustain the heart."

"And we will leave you with one memory."

With that, the shorter, female Chaser lifted the mask from its head. He saw its face, and his heart sank into a deep anguish because it was all too clear now; he knew what memory would keep his heart and haunt him forever. He backed away from the sight until he bumped into the other Chaser, and it leaned down and spoke to him in a voice he realized he'd known all along:

"You're not Riku. You never were. You're just Another."

He felt the Keyblade strike his head, and then the world dissolved into a black nothing.

TICK TOCK

The clouds of sand parted, and Riku saw Merlin's door straight ahead, waiting for him. He suddenly didn't care about the replica or his predicament. All that mattered was that he was going home. He would study with the King again, and laugh with Donald and Goofy, and sit with Sora and Kairi by the beaches and gardens and grow old with them. It's my life I'm getting back.

But once he reached the door, he found one of the Chasers waiting for him. It was the tall one, with the massive warhammer Keyblade. Riku skidded to a halt before the door, suddenly furious with being reminded of why he was here in the first place. "I've done what you asked! There's a Riku in the past now; a Riku that will become Xehanort and end the time paradox. What more do you want from me!"

"Nothing," the Chaser quipped in its metallic voice. It swung the door open for him, letting the light of the future spill into the desert. "You made a selfish choice."

"I don't regret it," Riku shot back.

The Chaser suddenly burst into laughter, and it sounded strained and strange. "Always waiting until the eleventh hour to decide what you really want. You will never stop chasing yourself, Riku."

The dry and coppery taste of his own blood came back to him, and only seemed to intensify his fury. "How do you know? How do you know the past and present and future? How can you just barge in and know every detail of my life and how I feel?"

"Because."

Then the Chaser reached up and lifted the visor-like mask from its head. Beneath, Riku saw his face, with his green eyes and silver hair and his sad smile, but with ten and twenty and fifty and a thousand and no years upon it. It was like looking into infinite mirrors, like all his thoughts and feelings and deeds reflected back at him for what they really were.

"We chase time because we have none. We're what you become when your time in this life runs out."

Riku ran through the open door and never looked back.

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THE END

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I just wanted to give tons of thanks for all the comments and encouragements people gave. I enjoyed reading responses, and I had tons of fun writing this! XD

- Lynx