Author's Note:

This fic contains tons of VIOLENCE, a lot of SPOILERS for KH1/2 and FF7, some NAUGHTY WORDS, a little SEX, and a smidgen of UNDERAGE DRINKING, depending on how you define the term. If such things offend you, you know where to find the back button. If things like plot or characterization offend you and you read fic only for the sex, you'll find it in chapter 11.

I've rewritten a lot of this to more fully flesh out the FF7 canon for those that have never played the game (and fixed typos argh), so if you're still getting lost, point me to the spot and I'll try to fix it. I will assume you've seen Advent Children, though, if only for the SHINY SHINY BISHIIIIIIIIIIES, all the shit that blows up, or Cloud's bitchin' motorcycle.


It was cold in Radiant Garden. Riku had been out doing salvage work on the castle for hours, and everything from his ears to his toes felt frozen solid. The sky hadn't been able to decide what to spit on him, and all day had alternated between freezing rain and very wet snow. Not for the first time, he felt a twinge of homesickness for the brilliant island sun. It had been almost a year since Sora, Riku and Kairi had unanimously decided that after all they had seen, the friends gained and lost, and the battles fought, that the sweltering monotony of Destiny Islands was no longer home. He liked it here, he really did, but months of slogging through cold rain and then sheets of snow under an unbroken gray sky were beginning to wear on his nerves.

Still, even these annoyances were rather comforting in their mundaneness. This cold could be easily chased away by a crackling fire and something hot to drink. It couldn't reach inside you to stroke your heart with needled fingers, or ice over any hope of returning to a place of light and warmth. Riku shivered a little, then, and it wasn't from the wind. His time spent wandering lost in Darkness still tormented him, but the more days he put between then and now the more his dreams were pleasant ones, the more he could sit in a darkened room without imagining hungry yellow eyes staring back at him, and the more he could get on with simply living.

By now his feet had carried him to the town limits without the input of his brain, he'd made this trip so often. Eyes fixed on ground ahead of him he stepped carefully around the ice slicks that covered the cobbled walkways. Really, he wanted nothing more than to run up and collapse in front of the fireplace in the living room, but running in this weather when night almost here was a recipe for potential disaster.

He was concentrating so intently on the icy ground, in fact, that at first he didn't hear the quiet scrape of boots that had been shadowing his path since he climbed the stone ramparts. The wind whipping through the streets drowned out most subtle noises, but even so Riku soon sensed the presence behind him, and, puzzled, turned to look but saw nothing. There hadn't been Heartless inside the town in months, and besides, if whatever following him was dangerous the defense system would have activated already. "Just a squirrel or something," he thought to himself, for small woodland creatures had started appearing in the area since Sora, Donald, and Goofy booted out Malificent and her minions.

He shrugged and shoved his hands deeper in his pockets, heading for the alleyway that contained the back door to the low, rambling apartment where he'd made his new home. As he turned the corner he thought he caught the sound of footsteps again, but when he stopped, they stopped. "Oh, whatever," he muttered to himself, and put his hand on the knob.

"You're not going to touch her," snarled a voice behind him that Riku didn't recognize. He whipped around and found himself facing a dark figure framed by the last of the ruddy sunlight, two truly enormous swords clasped in his hands. Before Riku could blink the man was almost on top of him, one of the steel blades arcing toward his neck. Riku yelped and dropped clumsily down before it could separate his head from the rest of him.

"What the hell is your PROBLEM!?" he yelled as he scrambled away from the man and tried to regain his footing. With a thought Way to the Dawn appeared in his fist, but against the two much longer, heavier blades he would have been in serious trouble in a straight fight. Of course, his attacker didn't know the Keyblade was not his only weapon, and he planned to nurse that advantage. With a speed that belied the heft of his weapons the stranger swung again, and Riku summoned the honeycomb energy shield to protect his left side. The two swords glanced harmlessly off with a ringing clang, and Riku took advantage of his assailant's momentary confusion to punch him in the face with the knuckleguard of his Keyblade. The man reeled backwards into a frozen puddle, sliding just a little—and Riku jumped on his chance and aimed a low kick at his opponent's knee. The two swords clattered onto the wet paving stones as his attacker suddenly found himself horizontal in a damp snowdrift.

Riku leapt to pin him down with a Keyblade to the neck. He got a good look at the man now, his hood having fallen back to reveal wild spikes of blonde hair and eerily luminous blue eyes which bored into him with a look of pure hatred. "Looks like I won," Riku said.

"No, you didn't," the man replied tonelessly, and Riku gasped as he felt cold metal bite through his coat and slice into the unprotected flesh between his ribs. The rest of the lefthand blade was still laying in the snow, but Riku could see now that what looked like one ornate sword was really made of a several interlocking blades of various sizes, the smallest of which had been separated from the whole.

They stared at each other for several seconds, unsure of the next move, until the impasse was broken by a female voice yelling at the top of her lungs from above their heads. "WHAT IS GOING ON DOWN THERE? HAVE YOU TWO LOST YOUR MINDS?!"

Both men turned their heads to the noise, and said, at precisely the same moment, "Aerith?", then looked back at each other and said: "how do you know her?"

After a few seconds of thumping the alley door opened and Aerith ran out into the dusky light. "Riku, let him up, and Cloud...I, oh for the love of...you're bleeding everywhere."

"This maniac tried to chop my head off," Riku said, gesturing with his chin. "I'm not moving."

"He's part of the Reunion…must have followed Tifa and me here, trying to strike where we wouldn't expect it," Cloud said.

"Riku, really, get off, and Cloud, it's wonderful to see you again, but don't start your visit by trying to murder my friends, " Aerith ordered crossly. "Brrrrrrrrr…we are not arguing about this in the snow. Come inside and clean up, and you can tell me exactly how this happened someplace where it's warm."

Reluctantly they withdrew their blades, Riku by releasing his into the aether from where it came and Cloud sliding his into the network of leather sheaths strapped to his back. Aerith took them both by the shoulder and applied a gentle shove in the direction of the doorway. Riku slipped inside first and took the stairs two at a time, followed more slowly by Cloud and Aerith.

Kairi was waiting for him at the top of the landing. "Hey Riku," she said, as he paused next to her peel off his wet coat. "I thought you might want some cocoa so I ma—why is there blood all over your shirt?"

"Ask that lunatic," Riku said, indicating with his thumb the figure coming up the stairs.

"Huh?" Kairi said. "Come on...I'd better dig out the first aid kit. That's not a paper cut."

After Kairi finished fussing over his injury—which actually hurt a lot more than he wanted to admit—and changing into blessedly dry clothes, Riku made his way into the warmth of the central kitchen. Kairi, Sora, Cid, Tifa, Aerith, and Leon were all sitting at the thick wooden table with mugs of various hot liquids in front of them (Cid was surreptitiously pouring something from an unlabeled flask into his), and talking animatedly. Cloud was slouched against a counter with a bloody handkerchief pressed to his nose. He eyed Riku suspiciously when he stepped into the doorway.

Tifa glanced up at the latest arrival and froze with her mug halfway to her lips. "Cloud…he's one of the…" she breathed.

Aerith cut her off by clearing her throat and smiling at the assembled residents of Radiant Garden. "Cloud, Tifa, this is Riku, a friend of our Keyblade Master. Riku, this is Cloud and Tifa, friends of mine from my hometown, Midgar, who just came in by gummi ship this afternoon. I assure you that whoever you think he is, he's not, but I'm still not really clear on who it is that we're discussing, so can you bring the rest of us to date, please?"

Cloud and Tifa exchanged significant glances, and Tifa spoke up: "there's a big problem back home. Three of them, actually. Sephiroth seems to be gone for good, but it looks he's still got friends ready and willing to cause us trouble."

"Sephiroth?" repeated Riku. "Am I supposed to know that name?"

"I've met him a few times. Creeeeeeeepy guy," Sora said, then coughed and continued in a smaller tone. "He beat me up. Twice. Man that hurt."

"The original you met is gone," Tifa continued, "but several clones were also made, which, replicas or not, are more than Cloud and I can handle by ourselves. Just like Sephiroth, they seem to be searching for what's left of Jenova. And to make things worse, the Heartless are flocking to their power like flies to honey. Midgar and the surrounding area is an unholy mess. That's why we came back here for help. We're in way, way over our heads, I'm afraid."

"That doesn't tell me why Mr. Cheerful over in the corner tried to behead me," Riku said huffily.

"I thought you were Yazoo. Long silver hair, green eyes, dressed in black…it can't be a coincidence," Cloud muttered, mostly to himself.

Tifa stood up and examined Riku's face for a moment. "The likeness is uncanny, yes, but not exact. Riku's pupils are round like anyone else's, you know."

Riku rolled his eyes. "Are you going to answer me or not? I've never met this Sephiroth, never set foot inside Midgar, and as far as I'm concerned "Yazoo" sounds like the noise you make when you yawn and sneeze at the same time."

"The three Sephiroth clones—Kadaj, Yazoo, and Loz, well, they look a lot like you," Tifa explained. "I haven't the faintest idea why, since no friend of Sora's could possibly be one of them."

Aerith opened her mouth as if to add something, but quickly shut it again and looked away. No one but Riku seemed to notice. He, Sora, Cloud and Tifa went back and forth over the implications of this observation for some time, not achieving anything particularly productive. Cloud was insistent that he was somehow connected to the clones, which struck Tifa as unlikely but possible and Sora and Riku as utterly ridiculous.

"Wait, wait, wait, everyone," Tifa said eventually. "I have an idea…Cid, do you think we could use that supercomputer in Ansem's lab to analyze a DNA sample from Riku and Cloud and settle this?"

"We could try. Beats arguing back and forth over cold coffee," he said.

-----

Once they had all piled into the lab Cid spent a few moments riffling through drawers and cabinets to find what he needed, which turned out to be two hypodermic needles, some gauze, and a half-empty pack of cigarettes.

"You're not smoking those in here, Cid," Leon warned. "Delicate instruments, remember?"

Cid grumbled something too faint to hear but probably rather rude and threw the pack back in the drawer. "Fine. You first, kiddo." Riku rolled up his sleeve and held out his arm without comment. Cloud paled visibly at the sight of the syringe slipping into Riku's vein and didn't move to put his own arm on the table when Cid handed Riku a small square of gauze to press against the puncture. Cid cleared his throat expectantly and looked across at Cloud.

"I don't like needles," he said flatly.

"Nobody likes 'em Cloud," Cid said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "Now give me your arm."

"No," he said. The fingers he had wrapped around the back of the chair were clenched so hard they were white and trembling, and his eyes had the glazed look of someone remembering terrible pain.

"For godsakes, I only need a little. Don't be such a baby."

"Cid!" snapped Tifa, her voice rising dangerously as she leapt to Cloud's defense. "Do you find what went on in Hojo's labs to be funny?" Sora, Riku, and Kairi looked at each other and shrugged. This was obviously a long-standing sore point about which none of them had the faintest clue.

"I…no, of course not…wasn't thinking. Sorry, Cloud. I didn't mean it like that. Um," he stammered, turning slightly red. "Hey Tron? Could you get the same results out of a cheek swab?"

"I believe so, but it will take longer to isolate since the sample would be contaminated with microbial DNA."

"We're not in a hurry," he said, and went back to the drawer for a cotton swab. "Say aaah."