A/N: For the 13fears community on LJ (as if they're really going to read this). Summary and pairing will change in every chapter, in accordance to the theme. Warning: The pairings are random. Some have no pairings at all. Random, I say, so expect shounen-ai and het somewhere there.
Note: SBW readers, the next chapter REFUSES to be written. This is like...um, writer's block dump. If you guys have any other ideas to cure this dreaded disease, I beg you, PLEASE, help.
Summary: Kairi steps inside the room and Sora screams. RiSoKai, implied SoKai.
Warning2: Extreme angst. Your eyes might bleed. Also, language. If you have your filter on, you'll have those asterisks dance across your page quite a lot.
Death in itself is nothing; but we fear
To be we know not what, we know not where.
Aurengzebe. Act iv. Sc. 1.
"Riku," Kairi scolds lightheartedly, auburn eyebrow traveling upwards in slight amusement. "We want to give him flowers, not a severe allergic reaction."
He gives a start as he realizes that he is practically picking Radiant Garden's flower field clean, and that yes, the normally-placid gardener by the name of Aerith Gainsborough will kill him. No, stare him down until he breaks down and weeps, castrate him with garden scissors, then kill him with a pair of trowels.
Directing a sheepish grin at Kairi, he carefully shifts the assortment of blossoms held cradled in his arms: chrysantemums, dahlians, a few stems of bright yellow crocus here and there, a delicate handful of baby's breath here, and the occasional white rose a blank spot against a canvas of brilliant color.
He reaches down for another stem, but a small hand intervenes and stops his fingers, intertwining in a firm but gentle grip.
"Riku," Kairi repeats, looking up at him with an unreadable expression on her face.
"What?" He replies absentmindedly, tugging his hand from hers. "It's not like Aerith would miss another--"
She giggles quietly, more of a tinkling of glass against shattered glass, light and bittersweet. "You're trying to pick sunflowers."
Riku blinks, and right there, a lone sunflower stares back at him innocently, nodding its head in the passing breeze. "Oh. Right. Sorry."
Sora was --is-- allergic to sunflowers, he remembers, with something akin to nostalgia but not quite. Those large, bobbing flowers with thin sunkissed petals spell certain death for the brunet Keyblade Master -- anaphylactic shock, technically, but Sora likes to term it 'a very lousy way to go, sneezing myself to my death', punctuated by a ringing laugh and a grin enough to power Christmastown all year.
It is a fortunate thing that Kairi has reminded him.
Riku would look back later and say otherwise. They all would and will.
He and Kairi silently tread the cobblestone path leading up to the castle itself, each caught up in his and her own reflections of what had happened years, long years past.
The auburn-haired Princess clasps a wicker basket of small, golden fruit, smooth fuzz trailing upwards into tiny crowns of bright green at the tips of starlike imitation. Riku stares at her sideways as they ascend the stairs and pretends not to see the sadness and regret (regret, oh regret, we cannot forget that) shining in the Princess' eyes.
It's a ritual they go through every second Sunday of the month, when life on the Islands slowed down into a leisurely pace, when if they wished all they could do was sit in the pristine sands and while the sunset away. King Mickey sends them another bottle filled with another roll of parchment, saying that this one Sunday, he'll come and visit with them.
Riku sometimes thinks, no, he knows the King would give everything to be anywhere else, but his is the King and he has to at least check up on his court sometime.
Yuffie greets them with a smile, waiting at the top of the stairs and waving hands giddily, as if she doesn't remember doing the same countless times before. Well, she doesn't.
They round the corner and Kairi stifles what might have been a sigh, hesitating slightly before a radiant smile blooms on her lips. In that white, sunlit corridor, the committee is waiting, scattered across the white tiles like chess pieces waiting to be moved.
Aerith looks up from where she is sitting and only offers a confused expression, before going back to crooning to the stems of white lilies twirling in her hand. The world to her is a flower, and her flowers are the world.
Yuffie dances over to her and starts singing jauntily, completely forgetting that he and Kairi had just arrived. Trauma has stolen her long-term memory and she no longer recalls anything that had happened more then five minutes earlier.
Leon broods over in the far corner, sparing them one fleeting look before metaphorically shifting out of reality and locking himself up in the shell he had been so famous for.
A black wing quivers over at the balcony, and Cloud looks back over to them, hastily rearranging his sleeve and miserably failing to hide the small red ribbon clenched in pale hands. Riku catches the imploring sweep of sapphire over the brunette whispering to her flowers on the other side.
Riku's staring at a perfectly restored vignette filled with perfectly broken people; sanity and emotion taken in exchange for eternal peace. The price they had to pay to win the Heartless war had not been a light one.
A door opens along the corridor, and Tifa cocks her head to the side, knowing full well what happens next. She motions to them with one black-gloved hand, beckoning forward with a patient, pitying smile. She knows how it feels to live in perpetual reminder of the sins on her hands and the buckets of Heartless-blood leaving no trace but are still there -- the scent of death still leaving its heady perfume on her cream skin.
She knows how it feels to lose her companions and still have them in a very different way; only she and Cid still see the world through clear eyes. Merlin's spells had done her and the temperamental mechanic well; they now stand as temporary guardians of a Garden that has only been radiant the first time and never will be so again. Rebuilt white walls and restored cobblestone can only hide so much.
Riku walks cautiously forward, tugging on Kairi, and as they pass the ebony-haired ninja she laughs giddily and exclaims how nice it is to see them, have you only arrived just now, and don't they ever surprise her like that again.
"Hi," Tifa greets them, drawing black hair over black clothes and regarding them with black eyes clouded over by something Riku doesn't even want to know. "King Mickey stopped by earlier. He's left me with this and asked me to give it over to you two."
Her other fisted hand opens and the Kingdom Keychain stares up at them, three linked circles mocking their memories.
He fights that something that has clogged his throat and takes it, knowing all the blood that has stained it like the back of his hand. Kairi shifts on her feet and turns away, pushing past them and walking towards the door at the very end of the corridor.
Riku forces his words, and cringes when he finds out he really means it. "Thanks, Tifa."
The fighter smiles in reply and wordlessly goes to gather her charges, hauling Aerith up rather ungracefully to her feet and bribing Yuffie with a promise of sugar and ice cream back in the Bailey. He follows Kairi and Cloud brushes past him, as so does Leon, a distinct air of coldness and just plain resignation in their wake.
"Stop by later!" Tifa calls over one shoulder, and is drowned out by Yuffie's confused exclamation of 'Riku? Kairi? What're they doing here?'. Riku waves back and moves on.
Kairi is already at the plain white door, hand on handle and basket slung over an arm.
"After you," Riku smiles mirthlessly, looking down at that one white rose -- blank, pure, innocent.
The girl opens the door (ha! opened the door! there was a time long, long ago that it would have meant the world to him and every Keyblade Master out there) and they both see, remember to see, sear into their mind's eye their best friend. What had remained of their best friend.
The room is streaming with afternoon sun, but there in the corner a small figure huddles in the shadows. (Tifa says he once woke up screaming, that one morning when she had drawn back the curtains one minute earlier than scheduled -- 'no no not the light get the light away from me it'll kill me again please the light no no no--')
Cerulean eyes regard them with a ferocity born out of fear and he trembles like a leaf in a spectacularly-cast Aeroga. He curls up on himself even further and starts whimpering pathetically.
Kairi steps inside the room and Sora screams.
Riku follows her and the brunet's hands start scrabbling in his corner, anything to get away, away, away--
The door closes like the soft slice of a guilliotine's blade against the chopping block and the fallen Keyblade Master stands up and presses himself against the wall, eyes wide and luminous in the cool afternoon shadow.
"We brought flowers," Riku says softly, and Sora squeaks. Skittering hands wander over the wall like desperate spiders, and when fingers brush accidentally against white curtains he squeaks loudly once again and backs away into the corner, eyes regarding the fluttering cloth with the same fear he regards Riku and Kairi with.
Kairi takes another step and Sora opens his mouth in another scream.
The flowers are set on the table and Riku ignores the cries and whimpers; the basket follows soon and there it looks like it's trying hard to look harmless. At least, that's what it looks like to him. Damnit. Baskets don't usually attack people, neither do paopu fruits, neither do dahlias and crocuses and roses.
But to Sora, all creation is out to kill him, take revenge, make him pay blood lost in his own blood. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, heart for a heart--
Because the war had broken the realm of light's savior, and there is no glue in the universe that can put the shattered pieces back. Sora is past the point of paranoia and well into the clutches of an irrational fear of every single goddamned thing that's around him.
Riku wants to paint the innocently-dancing sunlight a shade of something nicer with his colorful vocabulary, but for Kairi's sake he holds his tongue and watches as she tries, once more; she wields the glue of memories and unshakeable bonds, the metaphorical scotch tape of dedication and love. Hell, you can even call it the stapler of light's truth and some equally highfalutin shit. Same difference.
But he would like to point out his earlier statement and therefore conclude that there's nothing they can do; they had been trying for the past ten years and it's very unlikely that today would be different.
He remains silent.
This is not Sora. This is not how he'd actually like to remember his best friend, thank you very much. He'd like at least retain a spot of cheerful in his bloodstained memory lane, a bright, mundane ice-cream shop in the middle of the graves and broken crimson Keyblades.
Sora's screaming again.
There's that hopeless, failed look on Kairi's face, and she makes to reach out with a hand. But the boy yells and starts crying like he's being subjected to pure torture, and the hand falls to her side. She turns around and doesn't look back. She doesn't need to.
"Let's go," she says curtly in a voice entirely too unnatural for a twenty-five year old (because that voice belonged to war veterans who had seen death too many times -- oh wait; Kairi had), high in pitch and completely devoid of emotion.
He nods, and they sweep out of the door, closing it behind them and starting the short, rather scenic walk to the Bailey and a popsicle or two of sea-salt ice cream. Probably a new gummi model, hopefully non-tonberry (or any other creature) by Cid. Some barley tea by Aerith -- he'd just have to remember to check for fertilizer the next time (because organic fertilizer is easily mistaken for undissolved brown sugar in appearance but not in taste).
They take small, measured steps down the corridor, and for a minute Riku pretends it's the long, long stretch of beach back in Destiny Islands, where nobody remembers and nobody cares for the destruction and salvation of their universe a decade ago. Where things are mundanely routine and flowers don't kill, where shadows are just shadows and not Heartless waiting in ambush.
He just wishes that Sora's screams doesn't ring in his ears so much.
Next theme is Coulrophobia, with my cracktastic presentation of Akuroku. Yes. Shounen-ai.