A thousand times, I apologize, yet not enough seem to satisfy the guilt wreaking havoc in my heart

I dropped out of Physics, finally, but now my challenge is Calculus.

Plus, D, J, K, L, and I have been doing quite a lot together—well, more so D and me—and it monopolizes my time. Severely. Especially when they drag me off to things I never agreed to in the first place… -sigh- But they're sweet anyway.

COOL THING! (minus cosplay)

My AMV was selected as one of three in my category for the New York Anime Festival's contest! If I win, I get a LOT of free stuff. Let's hope… my wish: Cowboy Bebop: Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

Following Thanks:

LiteraryMirage, Cheerful-Pessimist, coolgamer, AnimeDragonofFire, Wilixer, Koi-Bara, darkangelwings90, hanakitsunechan7 (it's you!), smudgeworthy, RkR, FaLlEn-AnGeL627, and shiki1696.

TheGreatHippoThief, you know why she flipped. (I being a tease again, but you got it right.) And I'll tell you. Yuffie Kisaragi is Sora's nurse.

You all flatter me so much! -giggle- I really am sorry I made you all wait so much. 'Specially since smudgeworthy offered to risk some kneecaps to beg. Sorry!

Remember to breathe. It helps.


To Create Something Tangible

Chapitre 4

affliction


He winced. The searing pain of leather striking his skin made him bite his lip to resist the urge of crying in pain, and he struggled to lift himself from the carpet. He wished he hadn't worn the socks, angry at how they made him slip to the ground constantly. Gripping the floor with his hands, he forced himself to his feet, but the belt cracked against his back and he collapsed again.

Pleading wasn't going to work, he knew. He had tried and he had failed, and he knew he could only move from here. He struggled to stand and glanced around calmly, seeking some form of shelter, anything which could prevent her from reaching him again. He made it to his knees again and, somehow, managed to stand despite the three cracks across his spine. The end brushed across bruising and bleeding skin as he took off at a run, keeping himself up by pushing against the carpet when necessary.

His room… Shoving the door open, he hurried in and tripped onto the concrete floor.

Sora's eyes opened quickly and he stared at the pale ceiling, damp strands of chocolate-colored hair clinging to his pale forehead. Hot… so hot… everything felt abnormally hazy for being this late, especially with the air conditioning blowing as much as it was. He figured he was running another fever—his temperature kept changing every few hours—but he wasn't sure…

With a soft sigh, he stood and stretched, tiredness slipping from him as he roused himself for the day. The sun wasn't up yet, but he didn't mind so much. Perhaps he would eat something and watch the sunset outside, or maybe even just from his bedroom window. He felt well enough to come out of his room right now; he just hoped he wouldn't run into his mother. She shouldn't be up this early anyway…

He headed out to a wave of heat which immediately made him dizzy. Now, this couldn't be just a fever… this had to be something else. Did his mother turn on the heat instead of the cool air? Biting his bottom lip, Sora tiptoed his way to the Central AC box on the wall and checked the temperature. 75°F… nothing abnormal about that. With a frown, he began to walk down the hall, the heat becoming almost unbearable the further he went. Something had to be burning, then… burning… kitchen!

Sora sprinted to the kitchen to find heat and smoke almost burning his skin. It was hot and uncomfortable and he coughed loudly, almost gagging on the air as his eyes squinted and searched for the source of the smoke. Smoke went burning, and burning usually meant fire… he began to wonder if his mother left something on the stove, then began to ask himself why she would've cooked to begin with. As he approached the kitchen, he realized it was, indeed, something from the stove or oven which had created all the smoke.

He approached with caution. Unsure where his mommy was or if she was even awake enough to deal with this, he took matter into his own hands, for her safety. Then, brazen or stupid in his next movements, he grabbed the stove's metal handle and yanked it open, to find a meaty substance singed black. He recognized the scent, faintly, as chicken. The stove was hurting his hands, but he knew he had to get the chicken out before it actually did catch fire.

So he grabbed the dishcloths and a paper towel and lifted the chicken from the oven. The paper and cloth protection did little to nothing to shield his hands from the burning metal pot, but he didn't let go until he had lifted it over the kitchen. It slid into the sink with an unhappy clank, knocking into a plate as it attempted to settle. From there, Sora shut the oven, and, fanning the smoke about so he could see, he turned the oven's temperature knob to OFF.

His hands… oh, how they burned. He had to bite his tongue to avoid crying out in pain, staring at the reddened and swelling palms. He wasn't even sure if he had saved his fingertips, but he had a feeling he hadn't. Sora turned on the cold water and quickly plunged his hands under the sink, waiting quietly as he wished for the feeling to leave.

"Why did Mommy try to cook?" he whispered softly to himself. She was going to cause trouble if she continued this, but Sora wasn't going to tell her that. After all, a good boy who knew not to speak out of line, and he didn't want to slip up and be punished for stepping out of line. That would be just so awful…

The kitchen door swung open and his mother's pale hand stopped it from returning to the frame. "You," she said calmly.

He looked up. "Y-yes, Mom?" he asked, eyes attempting to widen through the smoke. They watered immediately, and he could feel warm tears quickly drifting down his cheeks.

She sighed. "What the hell're you cryin' for?" she asked him as she entered. "I didn't hit you, did I?"

He shook his head. "I'm not crying," he replied. "The smoke… burns my eyes."

His mother glanced around the kitchen. "Why the hell is there so much smoke in here?" she inquired. "What happened, something burn?"

Sora nodded. "Chicken…" he told her.

He knew better than to ask if she put the chicken in the oven and merely looked at her quietly, and instead stood and stared at his hands. She gave him an approving nod, running a hand through his hair, and calmly left the room. Sighing, he checked his hands and pulled them from the sink, turning it off gingerly. They stung still, but there wasn't much he could do about them now. With a sigh, he went to the bathroom and struggled his way into bandaging them.

Once he managed to fix his hands, he sighed. He was fully awake by this point. Though everything was still hot and he smelled like smoke, Sora didn't think he could sleep again. He sighed and moved to the living room, sitting quietly on the couch.

Ten minutes of staring at the dark screen of the television and the walls around him had him pacing around the house. Another five minutes and he headed to the kitchen, propping the door open with a dining room chair to let the smoke leave the room. He figured he might as well check his temperature. Though he was going to school either way, he wanted to be sure he was getting better. He needed to get better so his mommy didn't have to worry.

With a frown, he struggled to open a drawer and pulled out a digital thermometer, washing it then sliding it under his tongue. Wait wait wait… he stared at the chicken, wondering if it was unhappy that it couldn't be eaten—but that was silly, Sora knew, though he was bored and this passed the time—the thermometer beeped. He slid it from his mouth and stared at it carefully, eyes squinting at the small digital numbers.

Down to 100.1. That was actually good. Sora smiled and looked up at the ceiling, hoping that maybe the burning chicken would be the only bad thing to happen to him today.


Thursday

8:16 AM

"Sora…"

Sora ignored Riku's pestering. It was early morning, and Sora was going to claim he arrived late by spending a little while in the library. He just didn't feel like running into any others, to be honest, and was fine just sitting here with a fantasy novel he planned on checking out later. He tugged his jacket tighter over his lithe frame and stared intently at the book in front of him.

Riku was asking about his arm-warmers. Sora didn't wear arm-warmers normally, but today, with the bandages secured tightly around his fingers, he needed to. They had been old gloves of his, black with silver knuckles and yellow along the center, and he merely cut off the fingertips. He would check them every few minutes to make sure they hid the bandages.

"Sora, what happened?" Riku asked.

"For the billionth time, Riku… nothing happened!" he whispered, then turned to his book.

Riku narrowed his eyes and looked at the book. "You're lying…"

Sora tugged at his jacket again, wishing that the fading black hoodie wasn't so big on him. It was warm and comfortable, though it hung from his shoulders very loosely due to his poor diet. Rolling his eyes, he focused on his book and flipped a page. "Nothing happened."

The silver-haired boy just wouldn't leave him. Sora had figured he wouldn't, but it didn't stop him from hoping that Riku's pestering would reach a conclusion. It wasn't, sadly enough. Sora knew he would be bothered until Riku either believed his lie or couldn't question it anymore. He was hoping they would happen within the next few minutes.

It didn't, unfortunately. Riku moved to sit next to him and withdrew a textbook. From there, he crossed his arms and dropped them on the book, leaning forward to look at him.

"What's wrong with you, then? If nothing happened, something's got to be wrong."

"Riku, please, I'm trying to read!" Sora whispered quickly, holding up his book. He quickly leaned forward, pulling himself closer to the page to focus on the words. Eyes squinted and widened to stare, but the letters sloshed about the page… or was it the page which moved? Or maybe… maybe it was the universe…

Riku frowned. "Your eyes are bloodshot," he said simply, sighing as he turned his eyes towards the library lights. "Why didn't I see that before?" His head turned down and he sighed softly. "You're still sick! What are you doing at school?"

Sora shook his head quickly, shifting back a little. "I'm not sick, I'm fine!" he insisted. "I walked to school just fine, and I plan on being just fine here…"

With a frown, Riku leaned forward, pressing his forehead against Sora's. Sora stared at him with wide eyes, his mouth open slightly in shock as Riku looked sternly at him. "Your fever's probably high still, isn't it?" he asked. "I'm going to take you to my house, okay?"

"Bu—"

Riku placed gentle fingers on Sora's chapped lips. "Look, my guardians are both working today. And you can stay in my room and they won't see you. But you don't need to be at school, especially sick."

The brunet frowned softly behind Riku's fingers, his voice coming out soft and muffled as he spoke. "But I'm not sick."

"Tell that to your fever." Riku moved away, pushing himself up from his chair. "Come on, we'll take the bus. It's too far to walk, and it's definitely not smart in your condition."

Riku immediately knew Sora would put up a struggle, but he had prepared quickly. Reaching over, he grabbed Sora by the arm as the boy began to climb from his chair, a stern look on his face reading one simple message: don't even think about it. And Sora knew he had to follow, defeat taking the form of a new sad expression on his face. Riku's thumb gently rubbed against his arm, and he leaned over gently.

"Don't look so sad, it'll be okay…" he whispered. "Come on…"

Sora took his time gathering his books, sliding them into his backpack and zipping it slowly. He slid it over his back and watched as Riku discretely grabbed hold of the strap's adjustment. As a precaution, Sora guessed. They began to walk from the library, Sora smiling brightly and waving to the librarians before they left. They soon headed outside and Riku found himself giving Sora his coat, helping him button and zip it up.

The smaller boy whined slightly as he fixed his sleeves. "Riku, how come you're making me use your coat?" he asked.

Riku gave him a slight smile. "You need to keep warm," he answered. "And I don't want to carry it."

"Don't you need to keep warm too?" Sora pressed, trying to fight Riku's hands from the zippers.

Riku firmly tugged the zipper up more. "I wore too many layers, and I like this weather," he replied. "Leave the coat on, okay?"

Sighing, Sora let his hands drop and looked at the sleeves. "Okay… Can we go now?"

"Yeah, let's go."


10:17 AM

Sora wasn't even sure when he fell asleep, only that Riku was gently nudging him back into reality. They had gotten seats on the fairly empty bus, after the driver gave them odd looks for getting on from a stop outside of the school, and Sora found himself squished in the coat. He liked the marshmallow feeling it provided, keeping him warm and contained in sheer soft, and he had merely closed his eyes to enjoy the warmth.

And before he knew it, he was being helped down the stairs of the bus onto the cold grass below. Riku was frowning slightly.

So he smiled. "What's with the long face, Riku?" he asked calmly, tilting his head to the side.

Riku sighed and shook his head. "It's nothing… come on…" He draped an arm around Sora's shoulders and led him from the bus stop, guiding his shoulders through a winding path of trees and grass and sometimes sidewalk, to a pale yellow house with an ash-grey roof and white shutters upon the windows.

Sora smiled at it. "It looks so happy!" he exclaimed as he took in the scenery.

From what he could notice immediately, the grass hadn't been mowed in a while. The mailbox was a bright blue, with three little faces painted on the side, along with a name stretched beneath it: HIGHWIND. Sora could recognize two of the faces as Shera and Riku. Mainly because Shera had a poof of brown hair and Riku's had an uncommon silver sheen. There was a blond with odd bug-eyes on his head and Sora had to stare for a moment. He was… smoking, yes, that was what that white line was.

Riku leaned over his shoulder. "That man is Cid," he replied. "He's Shera's husband… I think."

Sora looked over at him. "You think?" he asked.

A smile formed on Riku's lips as he took Sora's hand and began to lead him inside. "Well, they don't really act like they're married, and only Shera wears a ring," he answered. "It's kind of funny, actually. Cid's so mean to her. He's always swearing and shouting at her from some other part of the house, and she answers to his every beck and call, but then they're really romantic when she can convince him to calm down and sit with her." He looked up thoughtfully. "It's actually rather sweet. They're like my parents."

Sora had to smile at that. It was very cute. Not only the story but also the peaceful look on Riku's face, the soft, gentle glow in his usually piercing eyes. They were actually a very soft shade of aquamarine, and, when they hit the light at this angle, reminded Sora of those peaceful afternoon skies right before sunset, back when his mother was happy and took him to the park every Wedne—

Riku turned to look at him and blinked calmly. "Sora… let's get you inside, okay?" He waited for no response and pulled Sora towards the front door, holding his hand calmly as he fished through his pocket for his keys. Sora rested his head on Riku's shoulder for a little, his hand gently gripping Riku's sleeves as he waited for his taller friend to unlock the door and push it open. Riku looked over his shoulder and smiled. "Come on… my room's upstairs."

"Oh wow…." Sora's eyes had landed on a small table with a little circular plate containing a pile of sand and a few shells, as well as tiny pieces of a model rocket ship. "That's so cool, Riku."

And Riku only smiled. "Come on, Sora… when I invite you over properly, I'll give you a tour."

"Okay," Sora agreed.

Calmly, the two made their way upstairs, turning left as they reached the main hallway.


4:41 PM

Something was making noise.

Sora couldn't recognize it at first, only alerted by loud beeping in some odd, melodious tune, followed by loud grumbling. He didn't want to move, whining softly as he turned to his side to curl up closer to the warm body next to him. Riku sighed as he turned to his side, checking his phone.

"What is it?" Sora mumbled, burrowing himself under the covers. He didn't even want an answer; he just wanted the noises to stop, he wanted to sleep some more.

That was when Riku groaned loudly and pulled a cell phone from his pocket.

It continued to jingle.

Sora smiled as he recognized the tune, whispering the lyrics as he followed. "Simple and clean is the way that you're making me feeeeeeel…"

The song stopped immediately as Riku pushed a button on his phone. He frowned slightly and sat up. "Sora, we slept way later than I thought we would. Way later."

With a soft yawn, Sora sat up, rubbing his eyes gently. "What do you mean, Riku? What time is it?"

"Time for Shera to bust me," he mumbled as he running a hand through his hair. "Sora, school's been out for over half an hour. We didn't go back to school, and Shera's there wondering where I am." He sighed. "I don't want to lie to her…"

Sora frowned slightly. "Won't you get in trouble?"

Riku gave a slight nod, though his face had twisted into an unsure look. "Well… probably something little, but I don't know how Cid's gonna act."

"What are you gonna tell them?" Sora asked him. He was beginning to wonder what they would think of him. They probably thought he was trouble, skipping school with Riku. Maybe he was being a bad influence, driving Riku to such measures. Perhaps he was really a troublemaker, just like his mother said he was…

With a slight shrug, Riku turned onto his side and made himself comfortable, then let a hand rise to touch Sora's forehead. "Do you feel any better?" he asked. "You're not as warm as earlier."

The smaller brunet smiled and nodded. "Sleep is nice," he answered. "I'll have to wait until I'm more awake, though, I'm really tired still."

Riku nodded. "You should be, you're sick," he answered. "But before you go back to sleep, can you tell me why you have a giant cut on your back?"

"A… what?" Sora asked, looking over his shoulder. His hands found the edges of his shirt and he lifted gingerly, trying to see what Riku was mentioning. Riku ran a thin finger across the long, fading slash in the middle of Sora's back and Sora blinked. Lie… lie… what to lie… "Um…" He squinted at it. "Probably at the playground."

A frown immediately formed on Riku's lips. "A playground, Sora—"

The door opened and both boys turned their heads to look at a tall male in his mid-thirties, staring at them with a wide-eyed, confused and disturbed expression. "What the fuckin' hell, Riku?" the man asked.

Sora noticed the aviator goggles perched on the man's forehead and the unshaven chin and figured that this was Cid Highwind. He looked rather… for lack of a better word, pissed, to find Riku and Sora in bed. But Sora couldn't figure if it was because they weren't in school or because they were both male; and he could only stare as Riku tugged down Sora's shirt and began to climb out of the bed. How could this be explained?

"Cid, it's not what it looks like," Riku began, holding up his hands.

Cid held up a hand, signaling for Riku to silence himself. He fished into his pocket for a few seconds and soon withdrew a small white box. Turning it onto its side, he knocked it against the palm of his other hand and pulled out a cigarette. From there, he placed it in his mouth and looked up.

"This'll be rich," he grumbled. "Both o' ya. Livin' room. Now."

Sora jumped at the stern tone of his voice and quickly slid from under the blanket and onto the carpeted floor. He picked up his shoes and followed as Riku exited the room, staring up at Cid with worried blue eyes. Cid gave him a dull look and started searching his pockets again. …Cid, Sora decided, was probably unhappy and confused.

And Riku didn't say another word, grabbing Sora's wrist and leading him back downstairs, turning left and heading through a small passageway to the living room. Sora ended up staring at the floor as Riku pushed him towards the couch and sat down on one end with a dramatic sigh, and the most Sora could do was sit and look around quietly.

The room was small but homely. It had dark-wood floors and walls painted with horizontal stripes of off-white and pale yellow. There were pictures of rockets and newspaper clippings on the walls and a few photographs of Cid and Shera, though there were quite a few of Riku, along the mantle. Sora found himself staring at one of Riku with a bandage over his left eye, barely visible pass the mess of long, silver hair; in the photograph, he had a wide smile, standing in front of a fancily dressed Cid with Shera hugging him. The frame's decorations read 'This is Home.'

Sora nudged Riku and whispered, "When was that one taken, Riku?"

Riku looked up quietly and blinked, then let his eyes shut. "When Cid and Shera adopted me," he answered plainly.

"Oh."

"No talkin'!" Cid barked from upstairs.

And once again, they were in silence, minus the small, confused mumblings of Cid from upstairs. He yawned softly and let his eyes shut, unsure about what else to do besides 'think about what he had done'. But besides skipping school, which hadn't even been his idea, what had they done?

A door opened and Sora could hear hurried footsteps as it slammed behind her. "Riku?" a voice called out. Sora recognized it as Shera from earlier and he smiled slightly.

Riku sighed. "Living room," he answered dully. It sounded so routine by the unchanging tone in his voice, and Sora stared towards the doorway as Shera came rushing in, pulling Riku into a tight hug.

"Oh, Riku, you worried me so much!" She smoothed his hair down gently and pulled away, holding his face gently. Her eyes narrowed almost dangerously. "Don't ever scare me like that again!"

Riku blinked slowly. "Sorry. We were going to go back, honest."

She pulled back and crossed her arms, waiting for her husband as he walked down the stairs with a lit cigarette perched in his lips. Sora glanced at Riku, who was wrinkling his nose slightly in disgust, and Sora tried his best to ignore it. One of the poisons which clung to his mother… The moment the brunt of the smoky stench hit his nose, it assaulted his lungs and sent him into a small coughing fit. Through the soft, frail hacking, Sora could feel Riku's smooth hand on his back, patting him gently, and Shera fussed about the smoking before she hurried from the room. He finally calmed down in time to find Shera holding him a glass of water for him.

"Here, honey," she whispered. "I'm sorry about that… Cid has a bit of a habit."

Sora nodded slowly. "It's okay," he told her, reaching for the glass. "I'm u-used to it."

As his hands brushed the glass, Shera frowned and gripped his right wrist gently, holding his hand out. "Sora… what happened to your fingers?" she asked. "How did you burn your hands like this?"

Caught? Definitely caught. Lie… what lie could he explain with this? He frowned slightly and looked down, thinking…

A tiny cough escaped in the silence.

Then Sora looked up with a sheepish smile. "I was burning my dinner," he explained. "I was hoping I could surprised my mom by cooking—"

"And you didn't use oven mitts?!" Riku asked in disbelief.

Sora shook his head and sent his smile in Riku's direction. 'Please believe me, please believe me.' "I had been trying to decorate them, and I left them in my room," he answered. "And I didn't want it to burn."

"Sora…" Riku said lowly. "That… is… so freakin' stupid!"

"Riku!"

"Well, it is!" Riku yelled. "And Sora's always coming up with bullshit like this!" He turned in his chair and glared darkly. "I bet he doesn't own an umbrella, and that's why he always walks in the rain! And he came to school sick, and he sometimes shows up without lunch or even money, so Kairi and I have to feed him or he looks like he'll sit there and starve. And he's got a slash mark on his back from a playground. How do you get a slash mark from a playground? Explain that, Sora!"

Sora was speechless.

Riku hadn't believed a word he had said all semester. He was seeing through every one of Sora's lies and pieced things together so quickly. His aquamarine eyes which stared so deeply had completely seen through Sora, and Sora had nothing to say.

He collapsed into tears, crying and sobbing as he shook his head and weaved his bruised hands into his hair. "It's not true!" he squeaked, "It's not true! N-none of it! I-I'm f-fine, y-you're lying!" He leaned forward and doubled over to cry into his knees. Crying went from loud, upset sobs to hiccupping and coughing, and Shera was quickly rubbing his back again and trying to get him to drink some water.

From then on, Sora knew Riku was a threat.


Day 5

12:13 PM

The soft breeze against his skin was so relaxing, and the heat from the higher sources warmed him in a gentle manner. The sun… yes, he remembered the sun. Yuffie had given him shades to protect his eyes, as a precaution in case he looked up in curiosity. Everything roused his curiosity these days, if he could recognize it to be safe. Things warm and peaceful, in places where he knew he was normally alone.

The echoing of a sound from a grey structure in front of him. Something moving… glistening in the sun's light. Yet it wasn't yellow… actually, it seemed so pure, so white… yet a brighter white than he had seen, nothing like the four walls. He couldn't help but stare at it. Sometimes, green floated into the glistening white object of his attention, and sometimes he would watch where it floated, but he found himself staring more at the reflection of the sun.

Voices were drifting around him. He could hear them, only faintly, over the waves of air which passed him and cooled the skin heated by the light, though they didn't seem too important. They had been around him for as long as he had been out here, talking just beyond his scope of hearing.

Then one called his name. The lady from yesterday, from today, earlier…

"Sora, it's time to head inside now," she said softly.

He tried turning his head, but the most he managed to do was let his head fall onto his shoulder and he almost frowned. Gentle hands straightened the sunglasses and he could see the figure in front of him, looking at him. Dark eyes staring at him… smiling…

His mother's eyes were that dark…

Was she here?

She must have seen the worried look on his face, for he felt a hand on his cheek and she smiled. "Its okay, Sora, we're just going back inside."

He looked at her once again, then his head turned down as his eyes blurred once more. His thin arms wrapped around his shoulders and fingers gripped the sleeves of his pajamas as the contraption beneath him began to move. The movement… once again he was drifting beyond his control…

She sighed and began to speak, but he couldn't hear her.

"Sora… Sora! Come on, Sora, don't do this now…"

Softer hands touched his and the contraption stopped moving. He looked up emptily at the shimmering surface, which hadn't been disturbed. Only… shifted. A difference in perspective. Slowly, his hands let go and slid from her grip, back into his lap where he tugged on his fingers, though his pale orbs stared directly at the shining shape before his eyes. He didn't want to leave it, not yet.


end o4


So thar we go, my dearies! I don't know when chapter five will come up, since, well... I need to start it. Actually, I finished this chapter this morning. (Wah, I'm writing so slowly!) I'll try and get better at this, I promise!

:Darkness Princess.