Wheee, another fic! With vampires. The product of a demented mind, supplemented by reading too much KH stuff and watching too many Buffy reruns.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Chars all belong to Squeenix. Loosely (and I mean super loosely) based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I also don't own. Le sad. :(

M for language (probably), possible gore and violence, and future yaoi-ness. If you can't handle part of that, then don't read, little buddies!

"Leaving, as the moon releases

Twig by twig the night entangled trees,

Leaving, as the moon behind winter leaves,

Memory by memory…"

--Archibald MacLeish, Ars Poetica

Sora strode through the graveyard, humming to himself lightly. In one hand he held a sharpened wooden stake, and in the other, a Snickers bar. The chestnut haired boy wore long baggy shorts, fingerless gloves, and a tight black shirt-- what he had deemed his 'Super-Ultra-Fantastic-Slaying Outfit'. He perched himself on the edge of a raised tomb, sighing in boredom.

"Well, Sora, how was your night?" he asked himself with mock enthusiasm, all too aware of how pathetic this would seem to a passerby. "Not so good, Sora. I spent at least three hours wandering around in the dark, I stubbed my toe twice, my stake gave me a splinter, and I only have one dead vamp to show for it," he answered himself with a frown. He took a large, angry bite out of his candy bar and chewed it slowly, slouching over with a sigh. He swung his feet back and forth slowly, scraping his heels along the smooth side of the tomb.

"Look on the bright side," a smooth, accented voice from behind him whispered. "At least you're not dead."

Sora whirled around, pushing himself off of the grave and turning to face the man in one fluid movement. His sapphire blue eyes narrowed, tinged with anger and a tiny, uncontrollable amount of fear.

"Yet, I mean," the voice continued, a sneer evident in the tone. The speaker edged his way from the darkness into the moonlight, a confident smirk lighting over his features. "I suppose you might as well be pessimistic. I wouldn't blame you for it, with you constantly being on the verge of death and all," he said with a soft smile, placing one hand against a crumbling grave marker and leaning casually against it.

"Well, if it isn't Riku," Sora said shakily, trying to hide the nervous anxiety in his voice. "Again." He recalled his memories of the unpleasantly familiar figure in front of him; inhuman aqua eyes that nearly glowed in the night, a lithe, muscular body that was well adapted for fighting and killing, a silky voice that had lured innumerable victims to their deaths, and a set of lethal teeth that now shone tauntingly at the Slayer.

"You remembered my name," the vampire smiled, his cold eyes glinting in the pale light. "I'm flattered. But, unfortunately for you, that doesn't change my cause for coming here. It's been a while, Slayer."

"Not long enough," the brunette said sullenly, alternately tightening and loosening his grip on the stake. He shifted anxiously in place; Riku's actions --or lack thereof-- unnerved him. The first time they had fought, the silver haired vampire made a showy entrance and a hasty introduction before attacking him suddenly with ferocity unmatched by any others that Sora had faced. It had taken the brunette over a week to fully heal. The second time, Riku had crept up behind him, coming dangerously close to succeeding in ripping out the Slayer's throat. Both times, Sora had ended up the worse off of the two; it was only fate (and a conveniently timed sunrise once) that spared him. Riku wasn't usually so leisurely.

"Really? I rather missed you," Riku said innocently. The effect was marred by the ivory fangs that were displayed in his smile. "Other humans aren't near as fun. Besides, you know what they say-- the third time's the charm." He winked.

"Perhaps I should introduce you to Mr. Pointy," Sora said flatly, sticking one hand into the oversized pocket of his shorts and withdrawing an equally oversized stake. He brandished it menacingly.

"That looks like part of a picket fence." Riku straightened himself and brushed his hands against his creamy white shirt-- its sleeves did little to hide the muscled biceps that they covered. "If you really think a bigger stake will help you this time, go for it. I'll still have my fun."

"Yeah? Like I haven't heard that line before. Puh-lease. You vamps just say that to cover up your intense fear," Sora practically shouted, waving a stake wildly in each hand. The poor Snickers bar had been abandoned long ago, and now laid forlornly in the dirt. "Mr. Pointy is not to be taken lightly."

"Mr. Pointy, hm? Well, they may not be as big, but I've got two Mr. Pointies that are just as deadly," he murmured, running a pale tongue slowly over his teeth. "But I think you already know that, yes?" Riku's spectral eyes flitted from Sora's face to his left shoulder, where he had once managed to bite the boy. He knew that the scar must still be there. He smirked, his upper lip just barely exposing the sharp teeth behind it.

Sora snarled at the verbal jab. "Don't think you'll get that lucky again."

"It wasn't luck. God knows Lady Luck's never been fair to me. It was skill on my part, and lax defense on yours," Riku seethed. "I wouldn't chalk it up to chance, if I were you. That kind of ignorance is precisely why wars are lost."

"Then you should be happy; it's to your advantage."

"Happy? That you would ruin a wonderful fight against me with your stupidity? No. I don't want to beat a weakling. There's no sport in killing a Slayer that way." Riku took a step forward, thumbs hooked in his pockets. Sora took a startled, stumbling step back.

"Scared, Slayer? Where'd that delightfully cocky attitude go?" the vampire stalked his way slowly toward Sora, his lustrous eyes catching the faint light and reflecting it in the darkness. "No idiotic quips? No snide remarks? My fondest memories of our earlier fights all included your constant chatter. Even when you were broken, up against a wall, clawing and struggling for escape, you still managed to make conversation. I found it pleasant and enjoyable, Slayer."

"Maybe that's why I'm not doing it now," Sora said lowly. He shifted his weight forward, ready to attack at a moment's notice. "You're not going to get anything pleasurable or fun out of me."

"I highly doubt that," Riku whispered, his voice tinged with dark amusement. He pulled his hands out of his pockets, letting them hang limply at his sides. Sora tensed at the movement, preparing himself for the strike he felt was imminent.

"Two teenagers, alone in a graveyard at half-past midnight. What's going on here?" an authoritative voice boomed. A flashlight was aimed in Sora's face, then in Riku's. "Gang fight? Destruction of public and private property? Drug deal? …Prostitution?"

Sora could have died.

"Oh, no, not at all, sir," Riku purred to the police officer, slowly tearing his eyes from the brunette. "We were just talking. We're friends. Right, Sora?" The vampire arched an eyebrow and grinned.

Sora bit his lip, despising the sound of his name on Riku's tongue. "That's right," Sora muttered to the officer, nodding. First and foremost, he wanted that cop out of here. Riku was strong enough and fast enough to kill the man in the blink of an eye. The officer would never know what hit him, unless Riku decided to draw it out for his own personal enjoyment. Sora grimaced. "We're friends. W-we were just talking… in a cemetery. At night. Like... normal kids. Y-yep, just talking."

"About what?" the cop asked suspiciously, shining the flashlight directly in Sora's eyes and making him wince.

'Stupid, stubborn idiot. Could he possibly screw me over any more?' Sora thought with agitation. He spared a quick glance at Riku, who was watching the proceedings with infinite amusement. He leaned against a tree, his ashen arms crossed and his head tilted curiously. The wind ruffled his hair and clothing, pulling at the hem of his milky, spotless shirt; his dark, clinging pants let his lower half mesh with the thick darkness.

"About… s-school," Sora lied. Badly.

"School? He can't still be in high school," the officer grumbled, now shining the light in Riku's face.

The vampire flinched slightly from the intense light, only keeping one eye slightly open. "He's right, sir," Riku said mockingly. "I failed a few times, that's all."

"How many is a few?"

"Three," Riku lied, not missing a beat. "Is there a law against that?"

"No, but there should be," the man muttered under his breath. The officer continued cursing quietly about brats that wasted his tax money, unaware that both of the boys in front of him had exceptional hearing and were listening to every word.

"Is that all, officer?" Riku asked politely. Sora thanked God that the vampire hadn't snapped the man's neck yet.

"Not quite. Something smells fishy about this. I don't trust you," the policeman said accusatorily, pointing at Sora. "Get in the car. We're going downtown."

The brunette's jaw dropped. "You! Me? I-I-what do you mean? What for? I can't go to the police station! They'll put that on my school record!" He flapped his arms at the injustice. "What about him, huh? Why doesn't he have to go? Look at him! He's evil!"

"I resent that," Riku said indignantly, looking affronted. It was an act-- Sora sourly noted the smile in the vampire's glowing eyes. The Slayer watched him from over his shoulder the entire time he was being led to the back and white police car.

Riku smiled at him, revealing the teeth that he had kept carefully hidden from the police officer's sight. He leaned forward and made a show of slowly licking his lips as Sora stood next to the car.

'If Riku had wanted to kill me, just now would have been the perfect opportunity,' he thought, puzzled. 'The cop meant nothing. That would never stop him from doing what he wanted.' Sora had the distinct feeling that he was being toyed with.

"See you soon," the vampire whispered, his voice carried to Sora by the wind. The words made Sora shudder; it was as if Riku was beside him, his breathy whisperings right against his neck.

The officer opened the door and held Sora's head down as the boy clambered in, blocking his view of the smiling vampire. When he looked back to the dimly lit graveyard, Riku was gone.

Sora let his head fall forward onto the shiny, Pine-sol scented desk. A loud crack resounded through the classroom, causing heads to turn. Sora was almost certain that if it hadn't been for his superhuman strength and resilience, his skull would've fractured. Luckily, the bell had already rung and most of the students were on their way out of the room, so he didn't draw too much attention.

"I take it you're staying in here, Sora?" Cloud asked softly from behind his rickety teacher's desk when the room had emptied. He sifted his fingers through his blonde spikes, trying futilely to make them orderly and conforming.

"Yes, yes, Mr. Strife. I thank you kindly for letting me sleep in your classroom. Ah, sweet, blissful, sleep," the boy mumbled, folding his arms under his head and letting out a thankful sigh.

"No problem," Cloud said with a smile. He popped open the bag of barbecue chips he'd gotten from the vending machine in the teacher's lounge two periods earlier and nibbled on them as quietly as possible. No matter how hard the blonde man tried, every bite of the chips and every crinkle of the bag seemed to make as much noise as a freight train. He put the chips away in his desk and brushed his hands off against his khaki pants.

'What to do, what to do,' Cloud thought impatiently, drumming his fingers against the lacquered surface of the flimsy wooden desk. He stared at the young man snoring lightly three desks away from him; Sora was one of the few students he genuinely enjoyed having in class, even if he mostly slept through the lessons.

Cloud sympathized with Sora; his own high school years had been lonely and hard, and he knew that his student had it even worse.

'Admitting you're gay in high school… that takes stones,' Cloud thought grimly. 'But look what it got him.'

The high school body, on the whole, was not accepting of people who were different in any major way. Sora was the antithesis of everything that was normal and approved of at Destati High School. Cloud Strife watched the boy morosely and pensively from the sidelines, offering what help he could; that included giving the disaffected youth a welcoming place to stay and the opportunity to discuss any problems he had. He liked to think that he had forged some kind of bond with Sora, something akin to the corny, uplifting student-teacher relationships in the movies-- and definitely not a creepy, perverted, sexual relationship. No, that was most certainly not the case.

Cloud just liked to study people. The more he studied Sora, the more he noted the parallels that their lives ran, and the more similarities he found between them, the sadder he was.

Sora shifted in his desk, contorting himself in an effort to get comfortable. He let out an aggravated moan before sliding out of the desk and onto the floor, where he curled up into the fetal position and squeezed his eyes shut.

"Having sleeping problems?"

"No, this is how I always sleep," Sora grumbled sarcastically from the floor. "The people in the next class are talking really loud," Sora explained a few seconds later. "I wish they would be quiet."

Cloud listened intently for a moment, frowning when all he heard was silence. "If you say so. Damn, I don't know how you hear half the stuff you do. By the way, you need to keep that incident between the principal and his secretary that you overheard to yourself," he warned. "Oh yeah! Hey, do you know what I've got in my desk?" Cloud asked temptingly, a bright smirk tugging at one side of his mouth.

Sora sniffed. "Barbecue chips? I like barbecue chips."

"How do you always know?" Cloud frowned again, reaching into a drawer and pulling out the crinkled bag. He tossed it to the brunette, who snatched the bag midair, only a split second after it had left his teacher's hand. "Relax, Sora. No one's going to steal them from you."

The warning was in vain; Sora had already managed to cram every last chip into his mouth, making his cheeks puff out like a chipmunk. Tiny reddish crumbs flecked his cheeks. "You don't know that," Sora protested. His words were muffled by the densely packed food in his mouth.

Cloud shrugged. "Whatever. It's your windpipe. I don't care if it gets blocked by barbecue flavored potato products. That would make for an interesting obituary though…"

"You're so depressing."

"Yeah, well, you're not exactly a ray of sunshine yourself."

"I know," Sora pouted, crawling up to the desk and peering up at Cloud from its surface. "I wish I was, though. Then maybe I'd have more friends. Or friends period. I'm happy, really, on the inside. There's just so much crap I have to deal with right now, and it's hard to be bubbly when you're tired all the time."

"School getting tough? Are you overworked?" Cloud asked concernedly. "If you need help with another subject, I can--"

"No, no. Thanks, but no. It's more of a--a… an extracurricular activity," Sora said carefully, folding his hands and putting on his best 'This-is-totally-serious-and-I'm-not-being-deceitful-at-all' face. "It's like… soccer."

"Soccer? You play soccer? That's great! Team sports are great."

"Not so great, actually. See, there's this one guy-- a really strong, fast, uber-scary showoff named Riku-- and he's been giving me problems lately. Before, I could beat just about any guy on my rival team. Now he's joined up with them, and no matter how hard I try, I can't win. We're too evenly matched; if I score a goal, he gets one right after me. I can't win, but I definitely can't lose or give up."

"But aren't there ties in soccer?"

Sora waved his hand impatiently. "Ties are the same as losing. And I hate losing."

"Hm," the blonde supplied, obviously at a loss for advice. "Well, you know that cliché-- if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Right?"

"I don't think that's an option," Sora pouted. He was proud of the soccer team-vampire analogy he'd devised, and it had gotten him nowhere. What a waste.

The bell rang shrilly, jolting the two from their conversation. "Sorry I couldn't be of more help," Cloud offered. "I'm not very big on sports."

"S'okay, don't worry about it. I shall see you tomorrow!" Sora grinned as he collected his books and headed for the door. "Make sure you buy some extra chips-- I have a strange ESP-like feeling that tells me I will be extra hungry tomorrow, but I won't have any money for lunch."

"What an amazing sixth sense you have, Sora Kirsch. At least it would be amazing if every single day wasn't already like that."

Sora stuck his tongue out at the teacher as he walked into the hallway. "Be careful, Mr. Strife. Don't stay out too late," the boy warned, real concern edging into his voice.

"You don't need to worry about me, Sora. It goes the other way around," he laughed.

Sora gritted his teeth and smiled. "Right. Got it."

"Now, remind me again-- what the fuck am I doing out here?"

Sora threw back his head and groaned. "You're helping me, Axel. I told you, Riku is up to something. I need to figure out what he's doing. And you're going to help me." He hacked at a small tree with his machete, clearing the path for the redhead behind him.

"What the hell am I? Your sidekick?" Axel said furiously, awkwardly pulling himself through the overgrown woods. His lengthy limbs had an annoying tendency to get caught in the underbrush.

"No. Unless you want to be. Then we'd have to give you a cool name, since we'd be like a team."

"I think Axel is already a cool name."

"It is," Sora agreed, "but you need to have an alias thing. Like how Batman has Robin, and Sherlock has Watson, and Mermaidman has Barnacleboy, and Rocky has Bullwinkle. You need a heroic name that's at least as cool as mine-- I mean, I'm the Slayer, after all."

"Yeah, yeah… you're our generation's Chosen One, who will stand alone against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. Like I haven't heard that enough. So what am I? Your Slayette? Slayerboy? The mini-Slayer?"

"You're the Stake-Holder," Sora smiled, handing the redhead a bagful of the sharpened sticks. "Don't hurt yourself."

"Gee, I feel important," Axel muttered, digging through the bag. He yelped as one of the stakes poked his hand. "I can't see anything, Sora. If I fall, and these things stab and kill me, I will freaking haunt you."

Sora snickered and continued along the overgrown trail, cutting through vines and saplings that blocked the path. He was oddly comforted by the sound of Axel behind him, snapping twigs and cursing as he stumbled over rocks. The redheaded bar owner was one of a very small number of people that Sora actually felt comfortable talking to-- he was also the only one Sora would truly consider a friend. Axel was the only living human that knew his secret, and therefore the only one he could openly discuss his unusual problems with.

"I'm losing business for being out here, you know," Axel muttered from behind him. He cursed as a bent sapling was sprung back up at him, whipping him hard on the leg. "My clientele don't like it when I close down early."

"I'm sorry, Ax. If they give you any trouble, I'll straighten them out."

"Don't do that! Then they'll be scared to come back," he gasped. Axel's bar was unlike any other in the city. For one thing, it catered to the living and the dead alike. It also included a unique menu-- he served everything from ordinary beer and drinks to blood and various magical concoctions. "I can't have them thinking that I'm on the Slayer's side."

"But you are on my side," Sora pouted.

"They don't need to know that." Axel also served as Sora's informant, listening to drunken vampires and demons as they complained about romantic troubles, car troubles, and their plans for mass murder.

"Okay, we're here," Sora said, stopping abruptly. Axel stopped abruptly as well, but only after running into the smaller boy in front of him. "Dammit, Ax!"

"I can't see, Sora! We can't all be amazing, uber-fighters with night vision! I'm a plain old human, kiddo. No superpowers here."

"Don't call me that," Sora said, punching Axel lightly on the arm.

"Damn, Sora. You hit harder than you realize," Axel complained, rubbing his arm. "But let's get on with it. Where are we and why does it matter?"

"We're at the crypt of--" he paused to look at a crumpled piece of notebook paper "-- of the old church of Michael the Archangel. This is what you heard that rumor about, right?"

"Guess so. But that Chaos Demon was pretty messed up when he started blabbing about it," Axel said, his mouth drawing into a grim line. "He said there was a vamp, not from around here, and that he recently started digging around in all the local crypts. You think it's this Riku guy?"

"I have a hunch," Sora whispered, running his fingers over the cracked, stone door of the crypt. The church above it had long ago been sundered by time and nature. Low, wrecked remains of walls and columns endured, covered by creeping ivy; tall grass and small saplings filled the area, overrunning the small clearing.

Axel stood behind him, taking in what details he could see with the poor light of the waning moon. "Wow. I bet it was nice back in the day, eh? It's weird how things like this happen-- something's great and magnificent one day, and then it's nothing but a shell later."

"I guess so. Well, it's time to go in. Look out," Sora warned him, pushing Axel back. "I'm gonna crack the door in half."

"You can't do that! Isn't it sacrilegious or something? A violation of the dead?" Axel asked hurriedly.

"Well… maybe." Sora looked thoughtful. He faced the crypt door and bowed. "Sorry, guys. No disrespect meant." Axel flinched as Sora hit the wall with enough force to bring it crumbling down. The cocoa haired boy dug through the rubble, making it low enough to step over. "Alright, Ax. You ready?"

"What? No. There's no way in hell I'm going down there. There are dead people!"

"Ax, you talk to dead people on a regular basis. Vampires are dead."

"It is not the same. Don't even try and tell me that's the same," Axel huffed, crossing his arms.

"Fine. You can stay up here, alone, in the dark, in the middle of the woods, completely vulnerable. Or you can come down with me, where I will be able to protect you." Sora hummed impatiently, arching an eyebrow as he waited for Axel's decision.

"Okay. I'll come with you. But I get to carry the battleaxe," he said stiffly, digging in Sora's backpack for the weapon. He pulled the double bladed axe carefully from the pack and scrubbed ineffectively at a dark bloodstain that shaded the edge of the pallid metal.

"Whatever makes you happy," Sora smiled, clambering over the remnants of the door with Axel following closely behind him.

"Going home would make me happy."

"Shhh." Sora quieted him as he withdrew a flashlight from his pocket. He flashed the light on the ground in front of him as he descended the stairs. The further down they went, the darker and dirtier it got. A cloud of fine, silvery dust was kicked up by their feet as they disturbed the previously untouched floor at the bottom of the stairs.

Axel coughed on the dust. "Let's get it over with. What are we looking for?" he asked, taking the flashlight out of Sora's hands and scanning the room. High arches supported the ceiling above them; statues of angels and saints lined the walls of the large room. The far wall was honeycombed, each of the holes filled with a coffin. A series of stone tombs were set in two even rows in front of them.

"Creepy," Axel shuddered.

"They're dead, Ax. Nothing to worry about," Sora said rationally, trying to reassure himself as well as Axel. "I doubt Riku's looking for a body, or a person. Maybe… a thing. They used to store stuff in crypts and mausoleums, right? Important stuff?"

"God, Sora. I dropped out three years ago. Do you really think I remember any of the shit I learned in high school?"

"A lot of help you are," Sora sighed. He snatched the flashlight and used it to check the walls. "There we go," he whispered upon seeing a set of small doors set in the wall across the room.

"You seriously think the thing Riku is looking for is in there?" Axel questioned, putting a hand on his hip and looking at Sora incredulously.

"Yes, do you?" Riku said from behind Axel.

"Holy shit!" Axel shouted as he turned to face the vampire, the battleaxe in his hand forgotten. "You scared the hell out of me, vamp."

"I would hope so," he said softly. Riku smiled at Sora. "I have to hand it to you, Slayer-- you made things a great deal easier for me," he laughed, walking past them and putting a hand on the handle of the door. It was locked, and remained shut at his light touch; he pressed harder, snapping the handle and yanking the doors open.

Sora waved at Axel, urging him to get outside. Axel shook his head, whispering furiously about leaving no man behind. Sora glared at him threateningly and pointed up the stairs. The redhead tossed the axe to Sora before heading up, pausing to give the brunette a thumbs up and a concerned smile.

"Your friend is leaving you? How supportive," the vampire said without even turning to face the Slayer. He rifled through the shelves, knocking over bottles, statues, and amulets. Riku found a long, gold chain set with rubies. He held it up and ran his hands over the jewels as he examined it, then tossed it to Sora. The brunette caught it instinctively. "You should keep it, Slayer."

"It isn't mine. It belongs to this church. To its people."

Riku turned to face him, meeting his eyes for the first time that night. "What church? It's nothing but broken glass and gravel now. What people? The church's people are here, they're all around you-- dead and gone. What good will gold do for them now? Take it, Slayer. I've seen your house. You could use the money."

Sora dropped the golden chain on the dirt covered floor. "First you try to get me to steal, and now you insult my house. A little discourteous of you, don't you think?"

"If you think that's discourteous, then just wait until I kill you." Riku smirked and then turned back to the set of open doors. He swept a hand along each shelf, pushing the contents out onto the floor-- rosaries, jewels, urns, and elaborately carved crosses were unceremoniously cast out. He chuckled to himself. "I had fun last night, Slayer. With you and the cop. You really are a horrible liar. Did you know that?"

Sora rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know. I can't help that I'm bad at lying through my teeth, unlike certain people… Riku."

"I can't help that I'm good at covering my ass. It pays off, you know. But the look on your face was priceless! I loved every second of it," the vampire exclaimed, the hint of a pleased smile still on his lips. He frowned as he glanced at the now-empty cabinet.

"I guess it isn't here?" Sora asked, idly swinging the axe back and forth like a pendulum.

Riku's eyes followed it carefully. "What, no stake this time?"

"There's more than one way to kill a vampire."

"Indeed. But I was hoping you'd brought Mr. Pointy again," Riku smiled. He edged his way toward the wall opposite of the tombs. Sora followed him with the flashlight, unease creeping into his stomach. The light made eerie shadows over the statues behind Riku, making their eyes empty hollows. The vampire himself looked like a statue when he stopped moving. His hard, white flesh and smooth, marble skin made him ethereal and inhuman.

"So what are you looking for? Was it supposed to be here?" Sora asked again, aware that Riku was trying to dodge the question.

"And why would I ever tell you, Slayer?"

Sora frowned. "Good point. But then again, I am the one with the axe," the brunette reminded him innocently, looking up and whistling as he continued to swing it to and fro. "It should get me some answers."

"That old thing? You think I'm frightened by it? Please. I'm insulted that you would think so little of me." Riku waltzed confidently toward Sora, stopping a mere two feet from him; he had to give the boy credit for holding his ground. The vampire ran a finger along the sharpened edge of the axe. "That won't stop me," Riku whispered, leaning in to let Sora see him better. "You won't-- no, can't-- stop me. I could kill you so easily right now, and you know it."

"Then why don't you?"

Riku smiled enigmatically. "It's complicated." He glanced up at the ceiling. "Your friend's getting worried. You should go, Slayer."

Sora didn't move.

Riku smirked at his hesitation. "Chop chop, Slayer. If I get above ground first, your little sidekick won't have a chance."

"I'd pull your insides out if you ever touched him," Sora threatened, brandishing the battleaxe. He saw Riku flinch at the action, though the vampire tried to hide it.

"Fine. I wouldn't mess with the bar owner anyway. He's got the only dead and demonic friendly establishment in the city. His patrons would go insane if anyone hurt him. Anyway, neither of us wants to stay down in this filthy crypt, so let's go. You go upstairs first."

"Hell no. You go first."

"I'm not going first, Slayer. You'll stake me."

"Well, if I go first, you'll bite me!"

"Will not."

"Will too!"

"I will not!"

"Yes you will, you lying vamp."

"Uh, here's a bright idea," Axel interrupted from the top of the stairs. His voice echoed, letting his annoyed, disgruntled tone be heard repeatedly. "You both come up the stairs at the same time. Brilliant, no?"

"I think I might end up killing him anyway," Riku muttered jokingly, smiling as he looked at Sora. The brunette was tempted to smile.

"Not worth it," Sora sighed. "You learn to deal with him."

"I can hear you," Axel said in offended tones. "And if that's how you really feel, Sora, you can kiss your discount at my place goodbye."

They ignored him. "So… together?" Sora asked the vampire unsurely.

"Yes, together." Riku stood at the bottom of the stairs and waved for Sora to join him. They took each step in unison. Sora watched the silver-haired man from the corner of his eye, though his mind kept wandering back to the scar on his shoulder, to their previous meetings. He could hear his own anxious breathing, his own racing heartbeat, but Riku was dead silent.

"It's about time," Axel complained when the two finally emerged. "A bat nearly got caught in my hair while you two were having your little discussion down there." He ran a hand nervously through his red hair, as if still worried about furry, flying mammals getting trapped in it.

"Right, Axel. I should've been more concerned about you," Sora said sarcastically, throwing his arms in the air. "I mean, it's not like I was confined in a small, dark room with a deadly vampire or anything. I can't believe I'm so callous and uncaring."

"I'm no stranger to sarcasm, Sora. You just called me callous. And uncaring." Axel frowned as he twirled a stake absently in one hand. "So… where'd our little vampy friend run off to?"

"Huh?" Sora asked dumbly. He looked at the clearing around him-- empty. "What the hell? Where did he go? That damn vampire! Every time I think I've finally…"

"Finally? Finally what?" Axel asked.

Sora avoided the question and looked down at his silver watch. "It's almost six."

"Oh God, you're kidding me. Don't tell me I spent all night wandering in woods and crypts with you," the redhead moaned, covering his face.

"Yup, you sure did. And my guess is that Riku knew sunrise was coming and got his ass out of here as fast as possible."

"Smart man. Let's do the same," Axel grumbled, standing up from the rock he'd been sitting on and popping his back. He stretched each long arm out over his head, turning his wrists and twisting his fingers. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon."

"Fine. You owe me breakfast though."

"Whatever gets me away from this hellhole," Axel sighed. "This is so… freakish. You know, three years ago I would've thought that vampires and monsters were just the delusional fantasies of paranoid people with overactive imaginations. Wait, are you sure I'm not crazy? Maybe I'm really locked away in an asylum somewhere, and this is all just an illusion, a figment of my imagination. Sora, are you real?" the redhead asked, poking Sora in the ribs.

"Stop it," Sora chided, slapping away the offending hand. "I am one hundred percent not imaginary. Even someone as twisted as you couldn't make all this up, Ax. It's real, unfortunately."

"Damn. Oh, well. It's time to visit the Waffle House!" the redhead said with far more excitement than was healthy.

"The Waffle House? Ew. Like half of the stuff you consume there is lard or grease," Sora said disgustedly, scrunching up his nose and frowning.

"I happen to like greasy food," Axel admitted. He picked up Sora's machete and hacked at random pieces of tall grass. "And the thought of some fried eggs and hash-browns with some coffee is all that's keeping me from having a breakdown right now, so just let me fantasize, okay?"

"Alright, I'll try to be a little more sensitive about your dietary choices, Ax. But in return, you can no longer make fun of me for eating peanut butter and cheese sandwiches."

"It's unnatural! Peanut and dairy products should never mix, except in ice cream," Axel said matter-of-factly. "Now let's go. Those buttery, fried, lard eggs are calling me. 'Axel! Axel!' they say. 'Come eat us, for we are good for your soul, good for your spirit'."

"I notice you didn't mention your arteries," Sora grinned. He followed the redhead as he eagerly followed their trail from the night before back to civilization (which included the nearest Waffle House).

"Don't you bring me down, Sora."

By the time they were out of the woods, the sun was rising spectacularly. Sora watched it, having one of those rare moments where natural beauty seemed to overpower the problems of his life, of the world even, leaving him feeling small and in awe. He felt endless optimism as he saw the light breaking over hills and trees. It made him wonder, idly, how long it had been since Riku last saw the sun rise.

Thank you for reading! I'm assuming that those made it this far actually read it. I know it's kind of starting out slow, but I plan on building it up, so… just hang on, I guess. It'll get better, I hope. Forgive me if the breaks in the story didn't make sense or flow or whatever.

A vampire fic! I couldn't resist. Plot bunnies have just been going at it in my head for forever now, breeding all kinds of little ideas.

Reviews make me happy! Tell me what you liked, what you didn't, your thoughts, inform me of typos (which there may be a good deal of), or anything, really. I'm not picky.