Dale sat on the starboard wing of the newly repaired Highwind, his head in the palms of his tiny hands. He let out a long sigh as he gazed out into the fog. "Aw Chip, what're we gonna do?"
Chip appeared from around the bow, a rag in his hand. He had been buffing the window of the cockpit. "We just gotta keep waiting, that's all!" he answered, and turned back to the window.
Dale swung his feet back and forth. "But what if he doesn't come back?"
"He'll come back!" Chip's voice squeaked from the other side of the window.
"But what if he doesn't?"
There was a gust of wind and a burst of shadow like flame, and Dale nearly tumbled off the wing. A dark portal had appeared near the ship, and Dale looked on in a mixture of surprise and fear as dark tendrils swirled around it. Chip spring onto the bow of the ship, looking as fierce as a chipmunk in an apron possibly could.
To both of their surprise and Chip's immense relief, a familiar figure stepped through the portal, looking disheveled and confused -- Sora. Dale leapt from the wing and scrambled towards Sora. Sora looked back to see the portal disappear behind him.
"Sora! It's Sora!" Dale cried, leaping onto Sora's shoe.
"See! I told you!" Chip retorted.
Sora registered the squeaks of their voices. "Chip! Dale!" He bent down to scoop Dale off of his shoe and hold him up to his face, who hugged his cheek. "Oh man am I glad to see you guys!"
"Where have you been? We've been trying to contact you for hours!" Chip cried, picking his way across the dirt and gravel towards Sora.
"We got the ship all fixed up for ya!" Dale chimed in. "She's ready to go!"
"Really? You mean it works now?"
"Yeah, alluva sudden, all the lights came back on and the systems started runnin'!"
"But we did most of the work," Chip added.
Sora's smile faded. "That's great guys... really great," Sora said, placing Dale back on the ground.
Sensing the change, Chip frowned. "What's the matter?"
"Well... I don't really know how to say this... but Donald and Goofy aren't coming back with us."
"Whaddya mean?" Dale asked.
"I mean I... lost them... in the town," Sora replied.
Chip placed his hands on his hips. "They're not lost, Sora!"
Sora blinked. "Huh?"
"Yeah, they're right here!" Dale squeaked, and hurried over to the door. Out of the ship stepped Goofy, looking a little tired, but unscathed. He brightened when he caught sight of Sora, and became so excited he tumbled out of the ship onto the ground.
"Goofy?!" Sora cried. He ran over, helping Goofy to his feet. Goofy pulled him into a bone-crushing hug. "B-but... I thought you were..."
"I'm okay, Sora!" Goofy sobbed, fat tears dripping over his cheeks onto Sora's shoulder. "But I wasn't sure if we were gonna... see you again!" He let go and pulled out a handkerchief, blowing noisily into it. "Donald said you were still out there!"
"Donald?! Donald is here?" Sora pushed past Goofy to climb inside the cockpit. Donald was sitting in the captain's chair, arms folded, staring blankly out at the window. As Sora approached, he looked away. "Donald..."
Donald sighed and slowly turned to look at Sora, still avoiding his eyes. "Sora... I... I'm sorry about... about..." Donald shuddered, and flinched as Sora placed a hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay. I'm sorry too," Sora said. For a moment they just looked at each other, and Sora grinned, and Donald slowly relaxed his arms, and smiled. Goofy pulled them both into a sobbing, suffocating hug.
Dale climbed up onto the chair and jumped onto Donald's hat, hugging it. "Get off! Off! Off!" Donald yelped, flailing his arms. They backed away, Goofy blowing into his handkerchief, Sora wiping his eyes on his sleeve. Dale clung happily to Donald's hat and refused to budge.
Chip jumped into the cockpit, the door closing behind him. "So? Are we ready to go?" he squeaked.
"Yeah, let's get out of here!" Sora sighed, collapsing into one of the chairs. He heard a yell of protest, and jumped, pulling a flustered and slightly offended Jiminy from behind him.
"Well pardon me!" Jiminy cried, pushing out his hat, dusting himself off, and straightening out the page in his journal on which he had been writing.
"Jiminy! Oh... we really missed you!" Sora said, setting Jiminy safely down on the arm of the chair.
"Yeah, we needed your maps!" Donald added, taking the controls. Sora and Goofy laughed.
"I fell out in the crash! And look, look what happened to my journal!" he wailed, holding up a very tattered book. "This will take weeks to repair, weeks!"
"Well, as long as you're okay," Sora laughed.
The ship shuddered and hummed as the engines roared to life. Sora felt the familiar sensation of his stomach shifting as the engines pushed off the ground and they slowly rose into the air. He watched as they climbed through the fog, and the dark outlines of the town of Silent Hill faded into the distance. Soon they were pulling away from the world, back into the bruise blues and purples of space.
Sora settled into his chair. "So, how did you guys get back? Especially you, Goofy... I thought... well, Donald and I... we thought you were a goner."
Donald and Goofy exchanged glances. "Gee, I thought I was too," Goofy replied. "But when the light went out, and I was in the dark... well... suddenly the Heartless were gone, and I was in a dark corridor. I followed it, and it brought be back here. I waited, and eventually Donald showed up, too!"
Donald glanced back at Sora, but did not take his hands off the controls. He was concentrating on getting them as far away from that world as possible. "After I, uh... left... I fell, into a dark pit, like a tunnel. When I hit the ground, I was back at the ship."
Sora considered this. "It... it must have been Ansem," he muttered. "But why?"
"Ansem?" Goofy repeated.
"Yeah... the guy who brought me back."
"Not the Ansem? Or, Xehanort's Heartless?" Donald suggested.
"No... I don't know... something was different... why would he help us?"
"Don't know, don't care!" Donald snorted.
"So what do we do now?" Goofy wondered aloud.
Sora leaned back in his chair. "We gotta find a way to take down the Organization."
"I thought that's what we've been doing!" Donald sighed.
Sora laughed. "But this time it's our decision."
"What about Riku?" Goofy asked.
"Yeah, was he ever in that town in the first place?" Donald added.
Sora turned to look out the window. "I don't know... but... if he wants to be found... we'll find him."
In the distance, the sunset hues of Twilight Town rose from the darkness.
A glimmer of red light floated up through the night sky. It glittered and twirled towards an enormous heart-shaped moon. Kingdom Hearts, the source of all hearts, swelled against the stars, threatening to swallow them up in its power and magnificence. Below the light of the moon, Ansem the Wise -- or DiZ, as he was now known -- stood on a platform outside the immense and towering walls of a gray castle. Behind him sat the workings of a strange device, one he intended to use to the destroy the brilliant shape hanging in the sky. He sighed and turned away from Kingdom Hearts to return to his work.
A black mist appeared beside him and a portal burst from the air. He blinked, nonplussed behind the crimson wrapping covering his face, as a figure in a black cloak stepped from the portal. The dark portal disappeared, and for a moment the two regarded one another. The cloaked man paused and reached up to remove the hood from his head. DiZ blinked, and turned away to focus on his device.
"I see the Keyblade's chosen one has returned," DiZ remarked, nodding his head toward the sparks of red floating in the sky.
The man glanced up at the sky and back to DiZ. "It was his choice. He knows everything now."
DiZ reached for a sheaf of tools, turning the device around. "Does he? That's good, very good," he replied without feeling.
The man folded his arms. "You still believe he shouldn't know?"
"What I believe is of no significance. It was necessary for him to understand to achieve our goal. That is all. You have done well, Ansem."
The man sighed and started to pace around the parapet. "Are you still obsessed with your revenge?"
DiZ stopped, his hands paused over the device. "Revenge does not matter anymore," he replied. "What matters is correcting my mistake before this grows beyond all of us."
The man paused to glance down at the device. "And you think this machine will fix it? I think you underestimate the power of the heart."
DiZ said nothing to this, only returned to his work. "Did you tell him?" he asked after a moment.
"Tell him what?"
"About your true form."
The man looked away off the side of the platform at the tips of dark buildings far below. "This is my true form," he mumbled.
DiZ pushed the device away. "Riku," he began. "There is nothing more you can do for me. Return to Sora. He will need you in the end."
For a long moment Riku stared down at DiZ. Finally he turned away, summoning another portal.
"You will not always be like this," DiZ said. Riku paused in front of the portal, but did not turn around. "He will accept you regardless. He will see past the darkness." DiZ looked up to Riku's back. "It is not his forgiveness that you need. It is your own."
Riku looked down at his feet, then stepped into the portal. It disappeared with a rush of black smoke. DiZ gazed at the spot Riku had been, then turned back to his machine.
Soon... soon those doors we have tried so hard to keep locked will open, DiZ glanced up at the moon hanging in the sky. And perhaps, some can finally be closed.
A/N: Well, that's it... please see my profile for more information about goodies related to the fic (illustrations, fanart, soundtrack, etc.)! Thanks to all the readers who have stuck with me for the past couple years, and all the new readers who gave this a shot. I really enjoyed this project and hope you did as well. ~ Tigrin