OK! So I know this is the first one shot in a long time, but hopefully it's worth the LONG wait. I hope you enjoy it!
Disclaimer: Don't own KH. Never have, never will.
"Time heals all wounds," they smiled as they spoke, ignoring the pain that gripped their hearts. "Leave the past behind you."
Proverbs are good at conveying the truths that humans cannot follow.
If time healed all wounds, why was it that when he walked through his home town people glanced at him out of the corners of their eyes? Why was it that they could not meet his gaze?
I don't want to leave the past behind me, he thinks. I am what I am because of what I was. And if he forgot what he was, then he might become that person again. He might become a person filled with greed and malice, overflowing with pride and arrogance. He might become cold again. He might forget to take life one day at a time and rush off into some new adventure, leaving his heart behind.
His weak, infantile heart. It had just learned to breath, and he was already afraid of smothering it.
Was that why he was here?
Riku walked down the most crowded street in Radiant Gardens, gazing less than intently at the cobblestones beneath his feet. Was the heat of Destiny Islands smothering his heart? Or was this another one of those foolish adventures he rushed into, leaving his heart behind in the form of two special friends.
But no, if he had left his heart behind it wouldn't be pounding painfully in his chest. If he had left his heart behind there wouldn't be warm, sticky tears pooling around his eyes.
So why was he here, so far from where his heart could love? There was an answer, he knew. It was deep inside him. It was what caused his heart to beat painfully in his chest; it was how he knew he had needed to leave the islands just one more time.
He had been forgiven: by Sora, by Kairi, by the King, but not by himself.
Riku had never been good at sorting through his emotions. It was why, even though he seemed collected, a deep pain raged within him. He didn't know how to identify it, how to pull it out of his chest and dissect it. He didn't know what to do to fix it, so he had run away from it.
That was why he was here.
Focused on himself instead of the outside world, Riku didn't notice the similarly distracted man until they bashed against each other and both stumbled backwards. Riku couldn't find his balance on the cobblestones and he fell backwards, landing straight on his elbow.
Pain shot up through his arm and into his shoulder, and Riku marveled at the fact that physical pain could feel so different than the pain inside. Physical pain was a quick flash followed by a low throb, one that he knew would eventually fade, while his mental torment increased steadily in intensity, until it was crushing his heart. Riku didn't know if that would ever go away.
"Sorry," it was a deep voice, but Riku couldn't see the speaker through his bangs. He pushed himself up with both arms, ignoring the pain in his right elbow.
Riku shrugged in a manner he hoped suggested that it was no big deal, and kept on walking.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and he tensed. His fingers curled at his side. His heart rate increased. He wanted to yell at the man for touching him. Two years ago he would have already had his blade in hand, and he would have threatened the man until he backed away.
Riku was a different person now, though. The boiling anger in his blood had cooled, and he had neither the energy nor the conviction to pull out a weapon that was best forgotten.
The hand pulled away and Riku walked by quickly, his muscles knotted and tense. It wasn't until he was far away from the stranger that a thought hit him.
The man had pulled away like he'd been burned. Perhaps he was as uncomfortable with touching as Riku was. Riku turned around, uncertain as to what he was doing. He wouldn't recognize the man even if he saw him. Riku never was good with faces.
Not that it mattered. By then the man had walked away.
He turned at a corner with no real destination in mind. The area was less crowded. He could hear his footsteps echoing throughout the alley. A tear slipped from his eye, trailing down his face and landing on his jacket.
For what wasn't the first time, Riku felt terribly alone.
His hotel room window overlooked the old, decrepit castle. The first day he was there he'd closed the curtains and tied them securely. Not even the moonlight had drifted into his room that night.
Riku hadn't been able to sleep.
The next day the tie had loosened, and Riku could see a bit of one of the turrets. He hadn't bothered to close it. He didn't seem to have the energy.
The third day, just as Riku came back from his walk, he noticed that the curtains had fallen away to reveal the castle in all its sinister glory. Riku walked up to the glass and touched it. He could see his reflection in the glass, over the castle but not hiding it.
Riku didn't recognize the expression on his face. His skin seemed to be a different shade than he remembered. His hair was nearly down to his waist, and the choppy layers weren't nearly as pronounced as they had been.
He looked like a completely different person, except for his eyes. In those eyes Riku could see himself. He could see who he was now, and who he had been.
He looked at the castle. There was no doubt that one day it had been grand. Riku wondered what could turn a peaceful palace into a decaying citadel.
He didn't know.
Turning around, Riku walked back outside. It was nearly sundown. The buildings were casting shadows over the streets. Around him, people bid farewell to their friends and closed their restaurants or shops for the night. Radiant Gardens was still haunted by shadows. It wasn't safe to be out after dark.
Riku walked up the stairs, past the odd circular house he knew to be the wizard Merlin's and up some more stairs. There was a stone partition that separated the town from the great chasm. Riku sat on top of it and gazed down into the endless pit that separated both ends.
Was there any way to cross this pit except to fly? If the castle represented this town's past, then shouldn't a bridge be made to cross the gap? After all, how could a person remember the past if they weren't connected to it?
"It's late," the voice was deep. Riku started and almost fell into the chasm. A hand on his shoulder steadied him.
He tensed, his hand curled against the stone. He was uncomfortable with people touching him.
"I can take care of myself," and it was true; not a single creature of the night could defeat him.
There was a sigh. The hand retracted from his shoulder and the man backed away. Riku stubbornly stared at the chasm between the town and its castle. He refused to turn around and stare at somebody he didn't even know.
Beneath him, a small amount of the Earth crumbled and fell into the chasm. Riku waited to see if he could hear it hit the bottom. He waited all night. He never heard a sound.
The next morning, weak and tired, Riku turned around to walk back to his hotel room. It was day break and people were coming out from their houses, opening their shops and chatting amongst themselves.
Riku carefully rotated his arm. His elbow didn't hurt at all. The pain had faded.
The restaurant was hopelessly crowded. Riku didn't know why he decided on that restaurant. He didn't particularly like crowds. They made him feel pathetic. There were so many people in the world, and Riku was still alone.
Footsteps plodded past him, so many that Riku barely noticed when a pair of feet stopped.
He looked up, staring at the crowd, but he couldn't make out who stopped. Why had they stopped so close to him?
Had they stopped for him? Riku doubted it. Nobody in the world would stop moving for him, not when he was constantly propelled forward.
Riku got up and pulled the correct amount of money from his pocket. He left a generous tip. He didn't know why. His food lay nearly untouched on the table. It had tasted bitter, and the taste lingered in his mouth.
The chasm looked more menacing during the daylight hours. Riku stood at the stone ledge, his hair waving back and forth, propelled by the wind. It blocked his view sometimes, but Riku did not mind.
The chasm had to be unnatural. Even the light of the sun failed to make it any less dark.
"You shouldn't be over there. You might fall." Riku kept looking at the chasm, transfixed. He leaned further out over the wall.
The chasm was so dark, so empty. It made his heart ache. He felt like the chasm was a more accurate reflection of him than the stranger he'd seen in the glass. He was like that. He was a pit of darkness, of shadow, so impenetrable that even the light of the sun couldn't heal him.
There was a strong gust of wind. Riku's hand slipped on the edge and he toppled over the ledge.
There was a moment of fear, then regret, before someone grabbed him around the middle and pulled him away from death.
He landed with a grunt on top of his savior. His head had smacked the stone ledge and it hurt. Blood dripped down into his left eye. His right hand, the one that had slipped, was bent at an unnatural angle. Every part of him was in pain.
It was good to be alive.
"Are you okay?" It took Riku a few seconds to realize that the question was directed at him. He paused. Was he?
"I'm alive," he answered, getting to his feet. His legs couldn't support his weight and he fell back on top of the other man.
His entire body lay against the other man. He was shivering from cold, and the other man was warm.
"That's the most any of us can ask for," the man responded. Riku blinked. It took him a while to understand the response. When he did his face rearranged itself into a grin and he laughed.
Then he fell unconscious, sprawled against his savior. He never saw the other man's face.
Radiant Garden's hospital didn't have white walls. It was the first thing Riku noticed when he awoke. It had brown walls of a friendly, earthy shade, with painted vines and flowers. It was like they went out of their way to defy the stereotype. Riku would have preferred white walls. Somehow, the friendly colors made him feel alienated, like he didn't belong in this place, a world where the doctors cared enough to paint their walls.
Being released from the hospital was simple enough. A blushing nurse had made him sign a few papers. She kept staring at his face. Before he left, she told him he had the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen.
Riku hadn't said anything but an empty thank you. He was used to complements.
He wanted to ask who had brought him into the hospital. Then he had stopped himself, unsure. Finally, he asked, and the nurse told him that the man hadn't told anyone his name. He had just brought Riku in and left.
Riku felt angry. He didn't know why. He clenched his good hand and walked outside. The cast on his right arm was blue. The woman had asked him his favorite color and he'd imagined the color of Destiny Island's sky.
They hadn't had that color, so Riku settled for their annoying bright blue cast. If he had known that this was the only shade of blue they had, he would've gotten a black cast.
He remembered the time when Sora had gotten a cast. The only color they'd had left was neon pink. Riku had laughed at Sora for days until the boy had taken a black sharpie and colored over the entire thing. It had looked horrible, and Kairi had to buy a silver sharpie so that everyone could sign their names.
A small smile appeared on Riku's face. When he got back to his hotel room the curtains were pulled back, but Riku didn't look at the castle. Instead he looked at the sky.
He hadn't noticed before, but it was the same color as the sky back home.
That night Riku slept easily, despite the pain in his arm. The pressure around his heart had loosened a bit.
One Sky, One Destiny.
The next day, Riku didn't go to look at the chasm. Instead, he went back to the crowded restaurant. He ordered the same thing he did last time without thinking about it.
When he realized what he had done, he tentatively took his first bite. It didn't taste as bitter as it had before.
Riku shrugged. Perhaps they had gotten a new cook. Riku paid for his meal, leaving a generous tip. There wasn't a single crumb left on his plate.
A week stretched by. Riku had seen a purple scarf in one of the shops. It had reminded him of Kairi, and he bought it. He looked down at the scarf and smiled as he imagined how much Kairi would like it.
Riku stopped focusing on the cobblestone street. Instead he focused on the people. They were so different. Some were wearing broad smiles while others were scowling. Some had pudgy noses, some skinny noses. Some had dark skin, while others were pale. They all walked down the street, so different, yet so together.
Riku started to put a small hop in his step. For some reason, he didn't feel quite so alone.
He headed to the hospital. The doctors needed to take a few X-rays to make sure that the bone was healing properly.
The nurse from before smiled at him; he nodded back. It was weird, privately communicating with someone else. They had shared a gesture that others weren't privy to. Deep inside Riku's heart, something started to shift into place.
It was a start.
By the time he left the hospital, the sun was setting. Riku stretched. It had been a long day. A heavy yawn escaped him before he could control it. Riku looked around at the street. He hadn't been out at night for at least a week. He couldn't find his way back to the hotel. It scared him.
He could feel his heart beating in his ears. A light scuffling sound assaulted his senses. Riku whipped around, his body summoning the energy necessary to call the keyblade to him.
It was only a shadow Heartless, yet Riku could swear he'd never been more afraid in his life. Its beady eyes stared at him in mindless hunger. Its claws scraped the cement, Riku's only warning before it lunged.
With the metallic shriek of a sword being pulled from its sheath, the keyblade appeared in Riku's good hand. With movements so practiced that they were more instinct than anything, Riku brought the keyblade up and cleanly sliced the Heartless in half.
It disappeared into milky shadow. Riku's heart rate returned to normal. He picked up the bag with Kairi's scarf—he hadn't realized he'd dropped it—and started to walk.
"So it wasn't just all talk." Riku stopped. For some reason, even though he knew the heartless was dead, his heart began to pound in his ears again. There was a strange feeling in his stomach, as if there was something brushing against the edges of it.
The man seemed perturbed at Riku's silence. "Are you okay?" He asked, all traces of humor gone.
Riku's hand twisted the straps of his shopping bag. "I'm alive," his voice sounded far too soft; however, the man seemed to have heard him.
"That's the most any of us can ask for," the man replied. Riku heard him shift, and he knew the other man was about to leave.
He spun around and stared, gazing into blue-grey eyes. Somewhere in his heart, something finished shifting into place, and the pressure around Riku's heart dissipated. There was still a low throbbing, but somehow, Riku knew that just like the pain in his arm, it would one day disappear.
Riku took a step forward, relieved that the man hadn't run. His heart was still pounding in his ears, and his stomach still felt odd, but Riku felt better than he had in a long time, and he wondered why he just hadn't opened his eyes before.
It took over another month before the pain in Riku's heart had dulled enough for him to even consider returning to Destiny islands. He stood at the stone ledge, gazing over the edge. Leon stood behind him, ready to catch him if he should fall. Only they both knew that he wouldn't.
"Are you ready? The Gummi Ship will be here soon." In his right hand Leon held a suitcase. He wasn't permanently moving, just taking a vacation and seeing where things would go from there.
"Yeah, I think I am." Riku's voice had its old strength back. When he could sense Leon stepping closer to him, he felt that weird feeling in his stomach again. Butterflies, Riku had learned to call them.
Riku took one last glance at the chasm before he turned and followed Leon. Down below, Radiant Garden's construction workers were building a bridge to the old castle.
It was nearing nightfall, and the dying sun was casting long shadows across the town. People were chatting and window shopping, eating and playing games, completely unafraid. Shadows no longer haunted Radiant Gardens.
Riku sat beside Leon in the small Gummi Ship. Turning, he looked out the window. He could see his reflection in the glass. He had regained a little color and there was a rosy tint to his cheeks that had been absent before. He had gotten his hair trimmed and layered, and his bangs no longer fell completely over his eyes. He was completely different than he remembered, and he barely recognized himself, except for his eyes. His eyes were still the same, a reflection of who he was, of who he had been, and of who he could be.
I forgive you, it was an oath to himself, to fill the hole where even Kairi and Sora and the King had failed.
It was a start.