Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts is in no way mine. I don't own the universe, the characters or the storyline. This story is written for entertainment purposes only (and to appease my muse who has taken the evil form of my demanding best friends) and I am making no money in the writing.

Author's Note: This is dedicated to Hex, who sees the same things I do when I play the game and always wants a story to keep her entertained, Regi who supports me in everything I do, and Hood, who is my inspiration since I like seeing him turn red.

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Riku's eyes were the coldest that Sora had ever seen them, hard as turquoise gems that shot ice to chill the length of his spine and make gooseflesh appear over his arms. Dressed nearly entirely in black, it set off his silvery hair and made him look otherworldly as Sora faced him. "Get this through your head, Sora…I've already forgotten all of those losers we spent time with." This was wrong, but Riku continued talking, his voice pounding the ice deeper into his mind until Sora wanted to cry out beneath its attack. "And they have already forgotten you. Can you remember what they even looked like? Can you remember what their names were? You forgot Namine, and you forgot them. Your friendship is worthless."

Sora could feel himself paling beneath the onslaught of accusations….accusations that made him want to straighten, to yell out the names of the people he fought for, the people he wanted nothing more than to see again. Like ghosts he saw them for a moment nearly out of the corner of his eye, a girl in a yellow dress with a sweet smile, a tall redheaded boy holding a ball, a blond boy with a cocky smile and screwy shorts, one leg longer than the other. Their names floated through his mind and were gone, vanishing into the fog that filled his brain. If he could see the pain in Sora's eyes, Riku only smirked. "You can't remember, can you, Sora?" His voice was taunting, reminiscent of a tone he had used as a boy, always pushing and teasing Sora, challenging him. Still in its familiarity was an ice that made his whole attitude terrifyingly alien.

Sora searched for a single sign of his friend, a single thaw in the hard turquoise ice. Nothing. Wherever Riku was, it was somewhere that Sora was not sure he could follow…or even if Riku WANTED him to follow. "Riku, we both remember Namine. We have to rescue her, can't we just stop fighting and go after her?"

"Together?" Was there the slightest pause in Riku's voice when he thought of the two of them fighting side by side? Sora felt his heart skip a beat, and though he tried to stop it, his eyes brightened, pleaded with the silver haired boy before him to give into the pause, to remember what they had been to each other. Slowly he nodded.

Riku's face didn't change and his eyes only grew harder, turned into gemstones that gleamed at him with crystalline brilliancy but held no warmth, no fire. "Trying to break into my heart again." Riku whispered and lunged forward. His sword, a wicked blade gleamed black, sucking in all light that touched it and making the air around it darken with shadows as it arced toward him. The keyblade rose defensively in response, but not fast enough. Not nearly fast enough. "Stay out of my heart, Sora. You don't have a place there." Riku's whisper reverberated in the strange white room as his blade pierced flesh.

0 0 0

Riku Yamani wasn't surprised to see Sora Hikari crossing the bridge that connected the two small islands together. He crossed his arms over his chest and watched Sora scramble up the trunk of the paopu tree to sit beside him, dangling one tanned, lanky leg over each side. "I was wondering when you were going to show up."

Sora threw him a disgruntled look that was half scowl and half pout, a cute, puppy dog look that made Riku want to laugh. He held his impulse in check, certain that his reaction would hardly be appreciated by his companion. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Riku chuckled and glanced at Sora out of exotically tilted blue-green eyes the color of the ocean on a clear day. His long silver hair framed his face, cascading in straight layers to brush the bottom of his shoulder-blades. His eyes traveled over Sora's lanky frame and one eyebrow rose. The spiky haired brunette wore only a pair of loose black shorts, his chest bare save for the crown pendant that he went nowhere without. "What did you do, roll out of bed and come out?"

"Something like that." Sora crossed his arms over his chest, shadows darkening his face. He turned away to keep Riku from noticing.

Riku sighed softly. Shadows were things he understood. Darkness loomed in every heart, even in the heart of the keyblade master…especially in the heart of the keyblade master. The shadows that Sora tried desperately to hide, that he struggled to keep from darkening the hearts of the people connected to him. Riku was both impressed by his strength of will and irritated enough to want to shake the short brunette until his teeth rattled. Instead he slipped out of the light jacket he wore and passed it over, draping it over Sora's bare shoulders. "It's going to storm, brainless." There was no bite in his words, and he squeezed Sora's bony shoulders lightly before releasing his friend, watching as Sora slipped his arms into the sleeves and pulled the zipper up to his chin. They sat in companionable silence, listening to the thunder of the storm strengthen from a gentle roll to ominous booms. Neither moved though the storm loomed toward them, and Riku suspected that their thoughts were on the same thing, on the memory of the last storm they had seen from this island. "Kairi came to find me today." Riku broke the silence and watched Sora stiffen ever so slightly out of the corner of his eye. "She says you've been avoiding her."

He watched many emotions cross Sora's expressive face, pain, guilt, anger and fear. Riku felt his heart clench at the sight of the last emotion. Fear was what darkened Sora's expressive sky blue eyes, fear was what brought the brunette out to sit on a tree half naked in the middle of a storm. Riku could count the number of times he had seen Sora genuinely afraid on his fingers and he wouldn't have to use both hands. Fear wasn't in Sora's nature…Sora faced all of the darkness with the same optimistic good humor that he faced the light. Failure didn't exist for him, if something was to happen, Sora would defeat it, would keep the people he loved safe. It was not so much a defiance of fear, but an acknowledgement that it didn't really matter. Sora would do what needed to be done, would vanquish the monsters that lay in the darkness and keep them all safe because he had no other choices. This was different, this was a gnawing terror that darkened the light of his heart and threatened to break the keyblade master. "She's right." Sora finally said, not looking at Riku, staring blankly out at the thunderheads racing with the wind to loom above them. "I HAVE been avoiding her." Riku didn't demand an explanation, waiting. His patience was rewarded instantly as Sora, taking his silence as a prompt to continue drew a worn picture out of his pocket. Four teenagers stood in a tight group, grinning happily at the camera. Three boys and a girl. Riku recognized the picture instantly. A drawing of a redheaded man crossed the picture next, creased as if it had been folded. The man smirked out of the drawing, his emerald green eyes gleaming wickedly at him. For a moment in a flash of lightning, the eyes almost seemed to be alive, staring at Riku, who had to look away. Just as fast the illusion was gone and a red keychain lay on top of the drawing. "I don't know what's real anymore." Sora whispered.

Riku's mouth opened to answer but he was cut off as the skies opened above them with a crash that shook the skies and rattled their bones. Swearing, Riku leaped from the tree and onto the ground, reaching up to drag Sora after him. They ran for the shack as rain began to pour down on top of them, drenching both boys thoroughly before they even reached the door. Gasping, they collapsed inside of the shack, Sora slamming the door behind him and plunging both into darkness. Riku laughed in spite of the worry Sora's words had provoked in him. He had always loved storms, loved getting caught in the wild tempest that howled and raged but always remained pure, untamable and free. Wiping away water from his eyes, he sat down on the top of the staircase and heard Sora somewhere to his right settling down on the floor of the shack.

Silence fell save for the drumming of rain on the roof of the shack, thunder roaring defiantly above them. Finally Riku spoke, watching Sora as his eyes became accustomed to the murky light. "Why don't you tell me what you think is real and maybe we can work from there."

Sora's hand tightened on his belongings before sliding them back into the pocket of his pants. "I don't know, that's the problem. In the daylight I remember it all. I remember the worlds I visited and the people I met, I feel their hearts connected to my own, I know that they are there. But my dreams…" he let out a shaky breath. "They're filled with faces I shouldn't know, places I haven't ever been to."

"Like what?" Riku frowned and inched closer to his companion, extending one leg out and hugging his right knee to his chest.

"Axel. Members of the Organization I never met before. Namine, decks of cards, endless rooms in a ever winding staircase leading up. A you…that wasn't you." Sora sounded shaky as he spoke. "I have memories of the two of us playing with NAMINE, not Kairi as children. Vivid memories. I remember a promise I made her…but that can't be true because it never happened!" Sora sounded frustrated. "Then there's you. I remember you after we defeated Xehanort's heartless but it wasn't YOU. It wasn't you like it was you after I woke up from that…thing I was in. I remember you telling me that I had no place in your heart."

Riku went cold. Namine had told him once that Sora would have no recollections of what had gone on in Castle Oblivion. Sora would believe he had been asleep for a year and that was it…this shouldn't be happening but it still was. As if a dam had broken, Sora was talking quickly, babbling really in an effort to get his feelings out. "I hear Aerith's voice in my dreams telling me not to trust my memories, I hear Axel telling me that if I remember…I might not be myself. I see white staircases." Sora sighed. "I sound crazy, I know. But I remember them in my dreams…and it gets worse when I spend time with Kairi. I saw her yesterday for just a little bit at school and I dreamed about that place again."

"You don't sound crazy, Sora." Riku slid closer until they were sitting side by side, not touching but connected. He could feel Sora relax ever so slightly.

"Maybe I'm not crazy. Maybe something happened, maybe the things I sort of remember happened…and that's why everyone else forgot." Sora sounded lost suddenly and Riku looked at his friend sharply. Sora's face was very serious in the dim light, briefly illuminated in flashes of lightning as the storm raged above them. "Leon and the others forgot me, everyone did. They would see me and not know who I was for a split second, and then their faces would fill with recognition. They all forgot me, everyone. Selphie, Tidus, even Kairi and…my mom." Sora looked away. "And I forgot them. He taunted me with it, the other Riku. I forgot them all."

Riku's hand slipped out into the darkness and covered Sora's, tightening. It had been a nasty blow to Sora to find that he had saved the island only to lose his mother. In the year when Sora's memory had disappeared, his mother had moved away, had moved to the mainland. She had yet to return, even now that they were home. Sora put on a carefree attitude during the day when he sauntered through school, was always polite to Riku's own mother, helping with the chores. He put on a brave face and a characteristic smile during the day, but Riku knew that the loss ate away at him…and as it had always been, Sora's pain was Riku's as well. Riku couldn't forget his own memories of Castle Oblivion, that he had been the one to let the darkness into their lives.

The islands had been unchangeable to them both during their adventure, and in many ways they had not changed at all. This was their home, their sanctuary. In other ways…their home was terrifyingly alien. Maybe it hadn't changed…but they had…and maybe they didn't belong anymore. For Kairi it was okay, she hadn't spent much time away from the islands, but Riku found himself withdrawing from the people he considered friends to sit by himself on the paopu tree because HE felt alien. It hurt knowing now that Sora felt the same way and hadn't said a word until now. "I didn't forget you."

Sora smiled slightly. "I know that." He said simply with a little of the carefree good nature that Riku was used to hearing in his voice. "I didn't forget you either. I was still looking for you." He turned his hand so that their palms pressed together, squeezing. Riku saw him close his eyes and sighed softly. "Whose memories do you think they are?"

Riku could think of a few different answers to that question. Finally he shrugged a little. "Namine's." He could feel Sora's eyes on him in the darkness but didn't look over. "Sora, some of them are real. The staircase, the Organization members, the fake me…they're real. The Organization tried to use you as a weapon, picking apart your memories and putting new ones in. Namine had to fix them while you were asleep."

Sora's slumber. The memories still filled Riku with a cold terror. Sora slept in the cocoon while Namine pieced together his memories, memories that Roxas suffered through the same way that Sora now suffered…through their dreams. Why? What made them so damn responsive to things that were supposed to be hidden? The heart couldn't be controlled and it couldn't be reordered. Sora wanted to remember, Roxas had wanted to remember. Riku was awed by the strength of that desire, by the strength of that heart, a heart now being badly bruised as it searched for something it didn't even know how to describe. "Do you ever want to go back?"

It had been nearly fifteen minutes since either of them had spoken and Sora might have been dozing, because he jumped a little as Riku spoke. "Hmm?" He paused. "Go back…where?"

Riku motioned outward at the wall of the shack. "Out there. Do you ever want to go back? Leave the islands?"

Silence stretched for so long that Riku almost believed that Sora had fallen asleep. Finally Sora spoke. "The rain stopped. Let's go back outside." He released Riku's hand as he stood up and cautiously opened the door, stepping out onto the bridge. The ocean below churned onto the beach in a shower of spray and foam, the air salty and fresh as it pushed against them. Sora crossed the bridge and stood beside the tree, leaning against it as he stared out over the water. "Do you think that there are mermaids out there?"

Riku had no idea how Sora always made these mental leaps, WHY Sora made these mental leaps. What was he TALKING about? "…Mermaids?"

"Yeah." A slight smile had crossed Sora's face. "I know a mermaid. Sang with her. I can't really sing but I sounded better than Donald." He grinned and cupped the back of his neck with both hands, leaning back against the wet tree trunk. "That's an ocean…I just want to know if there are mermaids down there."

Riku paused and gazed reflexively out over the water. "Maybe." He said finally. "Maybe that's how we're connected. Mermaids down there and a beach somewhere in the murky sunset, a beach with nobody on it."

Sora smiled at him. "One sky, one destiny." He said lightly, looking more at peace than Riku had seen him look in weeks. "So maybe so." He studied the horizon again, both boys watching as a star valiantly struggled to shine through the clouds now racing away. "Sure, I want to go back. I miss Donald and Goofy, I miss the king. I want to see my other friends and find the people that the nobodies are missing."

Riku frowned. "What?" He looked at Sora uneasily. Sora's face was serene as he gazed out over the water.

"You know, like Roxas is in me, and Namine is in Kairi. It doesn't seem fair that the fate of a nobody is only to wait for oblivion at the end of my keyblade." Sora made a face at the thought. "Not when I knew them. Maybe they are just emulating the feelings they should be feeling, but they had personalities, Riku. Roxas wasn't me. The Hayner, Pence and Olette he knew weren't the ones I met….but he knew them still. He cried when we left for the first time and they remembered him too…somewhere, even though they weren't real in Roxas' reality? He keeps their pictures near him always. Can you have a personality without a heart?" He sighed. "They deserve something else, deserve help if I can do it. I want to try…and then I think I'm a real jerk because Kairi brought us back, I shouldn't want to leave, it hasn't even been 6 months. I think that my mom will come back and everything will go back to normal." He held out his right hand and with a soft flash of light a blade appeared, the hilt large and golden with a gold keychain dangling near his wrist. The blade was silver in the ornate shape of an oversized key, thrumming softly with hidden power. "But maybe things can't be normal ever again."

Riku held out his own hand. A blade somewhat like Sora's appeared, though both the hilt and the blade itself was a gleaming black which, in the light if you held it just right lightened ever so slightly. "This place doesn't change."

Sora smiled sadly. "No. It doesn't."

Riku looked at him cautiously. He didn't know what he would do if Sora freaked out and rejected him now. "…But maybe WE did."

Sora turned slowly to face him and Riku found himself not wanting to look into his eyes. He stared resolutely at the star that now shone brightly in the patch of sky the clouds had not managed to cover. "What are you saying, Riku? Are you leaving?"

Riku finally looked over and found himself instantly pinned by intense blue eyes the color of the sky on the clearest of days. "Not without you." Riku said finally, opting for a neutral response.

Sora tilted his head ever so slightly as he took in what Riku said and measured it mentally against what he imagined Riku was not saying. Riku waited, his eyes on Sora's face as the spiky haired brunette studied him intently. "Do you regret coming back here?"

Riku sighed. "No. Yes. Sometimes." He admitted. "When we were out there all I wanted to do was come back. Hear the ocean when it hit the beach, feel the sand beneath my toes and taste the salt in the air. I wanted to hear Tidus complaining about his dad and Wakka beg us for one more Blitzball game. I wanted to hear Selphie's really annoying giggle and see if she could make it to 100 in those dumb jump rope rhymes she used to do. I wanted to come back and find out that nothing had changed."

"It didn't." Sora frowned as he studied Riku in a way that made him feel as if he was naked beneath the keyblade master's gaze.

"Yeah it did." Riku said with a sigh. "Look at them. Selphie doesn't jump rope anymore and Tidus is the most popular guy in school, a jock like Wakka. They don't have time to do the stupid kid stuff we all used to do every day. Kairi's taller and her hair is longer and SHE is different."

Sora echoed his sigh and finally released Riku from the intense blue stare, turning to look at the churning water below their little island. "You're right." He said after nearly ten minutes of silence. "The islands didn't change, but the people did. They changed. We changed. It's not the same anymore." He turned back and Riku gulped as Sora fixed him with an intense look which he recognized instantly as Sora at his most stubborn. "Do you really think that we wouldn't feel this way anywhere else though? We're NOT the same as everyone else, Riku. We're different."

Riku rolled his eyes. "Sora, they don't remember. They don't remember the heartless coming, they don't have a clue what we are and if you showed up waving that thing around," He motioned to the keyblade that Sora still carried, then held up his own. "They'd either laugh or arrest you for carrying a dangerous weapon. Maybe we can't ever be happy, maybe there isn't a home for the keyblade masters. I don't KNOW, Sora." Irritation and exhaustion had crept into his voice. "Except that I miss them too. The people I met on our travels, the places I saw."

Sora's jaw tightened. "Don't be silly, of course we have a home." Sora sighed. "But maybe you're right…maybe it's not here. I don't know. I don't know anything anymore. But we have a home, Riku."

Riku smiled tiredly as he saw the look on Sora's face. "Together."

"Right." Sora agreed quietly. The keyblade vanished from his hand. "Together."

0 0 0

Sora felt like he wanted to throw up as he saw Kairi running toward him with a bottle in her hand. For a moment her form shifted, flashed and he saw a blonde girl running toward him, and then there was only Kairi, Kairi whom he had known since she had arrived and had been adopted by the mayor, Kairi who had been in his thoughts constantly for nearly two straight years. "Sora, Riku! It's a letter, it's a letter from the King!"

Sora glanced over at Riku who stiffened, straightening quickly as if he had been stabbed. Frowning, they walked up next to Kairi, leaning over her shoulders in order to get a good look at the bottle she held in her shaking hands. It gleamed in the sunlight, reflecting the light back at them. They waited impatiently for Kairi to draw out the letter within, sealed with King Mickey's crest.

"Sorry to bother you when you only just got home, but there's some new trouble brewin' and we need your help. Donald and Goofy are comin' to get you tomorrow."

The letter was not signed, just had the stamp of the king as a signature. Kairi frowned as she glanced between them. "Are we going to just go? We only just got home!"

Sora paused and studied her. He had dreamed about her, had thought of Kairi and Kairi nearly exclusively for the last two years. He had wanted to share a paopu fruit with her, had wanted to marry her. He had actually had most of it all planned out. He would go home after defeating the darkness and she would be there waiting for him, they would dance the way that Belle had danced with the Beast and things…but they hadn't worked out like he had planned. Instead he found himself avoiding her company whenever possible and it wasn't entirely because of the memories that came back to him in his dreams, but because she wasn't the same Kairi that he had pictured when he had seen their future together. He still loved her, but she had changed…or maybe Riku was right and THEY had changed. All of them. He didn't know anymore. "Sora and I are going." Riku said bluntly and Sora rolled his eyes. Never one to beat around the bush, Riku had pushed the battle right out into the open without preamble.

Kairi scowled at them both. "I told you before, you can't go anywhere without me, it's the three of us…it's always the THREE of us."

She was dangerously close to crying, and Sora threw Riku a reproachful look as he slipped his arms around Kairi's waist. Riku looked for a moment as if he had been slapped before he looked away, his eyes distant, his jaw tight. "Kairi stop." He soothed. "We'll come back." He smiled at her. "You need to stay here and keep your heart connected to ours so that we can come home again. We'll be home in no time, you'll see."

Kairi looked at him fiercely. "I can fight now, Sora." She said with a dangerous note in her voice.

Riku looked bored. "So call your keyblade."

Kairi held out her hand but nothing happened. She looked about ready to cry again and Riku finally relented. "Kairi, it's not your fault. Sora's right, we'll be back. I'm sorry. I was being mean. We'll come home again." He slipped his arms around the two of them, all three connected the way they had been in the past and would in the future. Riku closed his eyes. "Tell you what, let's make sure of it."

Kairi threw him a hopeful look. "How? Are you going to give me a keyblade again?"

Riku raised one eyebrow. "No." he said bluntly and she flinched. His tone softened. "We're going to share a paopu fruit, all three of us." Sora met his eyes over Kairi's head and Riku smirked, winking at him. "Unless you're afraid that the legends are true, Sora."

Sora stuck out his tongue. "I thought that was the point. All three of us…our destinies intertwined."

Kairi looked excited at the prospect. "Together forever."

"All for one and one for all and all that jazz." Riku smiled slightly at them both. "It's stupid but if it'll make everyone feel better, let's do it."

Kairi frowned at them. "Why would it be stupid?"

Riku's smile disappeared and a wistful look crossed his face. "Because we don't need a fruit to tell us that our destinies are intertwined, Kairi…our hearts do that for us….but if it'll make you feel better I don't mind. Sora needs you to remember that we're coming home, and I need you not to be mad at us when we leave. We'll be home again."

Sora tilted his head and studied Riku. He seemed to mean it, but Sora could hear his words on the night of the storm. Was this still their home? Yes. Home was where Kairi was, home was where their futures and their pasts all connected. Home was where the heart was, and Kairi held one string in their hearts the same way they held hers. There was no escape from that. Sora wasn't even sure he WANTED to escape from that. A warm feeling filled his chest and he grinned at them. "Let's go get the paopu fruit. Remind me to get another one while we're at it, Selphie wanted one to give to Tidus."

Riku snorted. "That aught to scare him into next year."

They all laughed and Sora smiled as he tilted his face to the sky and settled down into the sand near the dock, Kairi joining him. Riku stood over them both, raising one eyebrow. "Who says I have to get the fruit?"

Sora smiled peaceably at him. "This was your idea."

Riku muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath, making Kairi laugh as he stalked away, coming back nearly ten minutes later with the yellow star-shaped fruit under one arm. Sora studied it, remembering vividly the friendly rivalry they had shared which had turned into something not quite so friendly. Sharing a paopu fruit with Kairi. They had both wanted to, had raced for it. It had been more than just a race, Sora could remember his heart pounding as Riku had crossed the line first and had regarded him with his arms crossed over his chest. Why hadn't Riku claimed his prize then? Why? Not that it would have made much difference, but Riku had been so serious, why hadn't he done it? The thoughts gave Sora a mild headache and he looked away from the fruit as Riku dropped into the sand on his right side.

Without fanfare, a weight dropped onto Sora's stomach and he opened one eye to look at the piece of yellow fruit now in his hands. Kairi held a similar piece, looking at them both impatiently. "Okay, as one we bite in. I'll count to three and we bite, okay?"

"Right." Sora smiled at her, then over at Riku who regarded them with unreadable blue-green eyes. "Ready?"

"One…" Riku murmured.

Kairi stuck out her tongue at him for starting the count and took over quickly. "Two…three."

Sora bit into his fruit and his eyes closed as the sweet juice filled his mouth. He sighed softly in utter satisfaction and felt himself pinned by two pairs of eyes. Slowly his eyes opened and he glanced between them expectantly before bursting into laughter. As if this was a dam, his friends joined him, laying back in the sand. "I feel stupid." Riku said with a grin. "I don't know what I expected, but nothing happened."

"Don't feel stupid, I half expected something would happen too. Like some visible magic tying us together."

Kairi giggled. "But we ARE tied together."

"Course." Sora replied carelessly, finishing his piece of the fruit before extending his hands. Riku took his right and Kairi his left, the three of them linked, mind, body and heart.