This ficlet was inspired by the prompt "biding time with crows and sparrows" at 31 Days on LiveJournal. Prof. Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective (a lesser-known Disney movie) makes an appearance here, as does Zack Fair from FF7 (extra special thanks are due to LuckyLadybug for letting me use KH Zack in this story). Disclaimer: I don't own these characters.

Riku watched in silence as Sora sealed the clock tower keyhole.

"He's probably forgotten all about Kairi already," he thought, derisively, as Sora, Donald and Goofy were waving their goodbyes to Peter Pan and Wendy. "Maleficent was right; I was crazy to ever trust him. What made me think that he could be counted on?"

Riku glanced up upon hearing the cries of a familiar raven.

"And speaking of Maleficent…" he mused, and then spoke aloud to the creature. "What does she want now?"

The raven perched on Kairi's shoulder; the girl didn't react in the slightest. Riku wasn't too keen on the idea of Kairi going back to Hollow Bastion now, especially when he felt that he was coming ever closer to restoring her to normal. Sora, of course, had been no help at all. It was almost embarrassing to think that he once considered Sora a friend. And yet Sora seemed to think that they were still friends. How typical of him…

The shadows surrounded Kairi before Riku could say anything, and she and the raven vanished. Riku growled in frustration; Maleficent was trying his patience. She may have been right about Sora, but she wasn't providing any help for Kairi, either, except for granting Riku extra powers. But there was more that she could have done; she had eyes and ears everywhere, but seemed more interested in finding the seven Princesses. Clearly, Riku was on his own.

"Fine," he said aloud, as he traversed the city streets. "I don't need her help, or Sora's, either…"

The shadowy raven's presence had not gone unnoticed; a well-dressed rodent had noticed the creature, and recognized it immediately as Maleficent's messenger.

"Well," thought Ratigan. "That certainly accounts for the recent increase in the Heartless population. Maleficent and her endless quest to find the Princesses of Heart… what a colossal waste of time…"

He found the Heartless to be exceptionally annoying. Even the smallest ones were enough to frighten his henchmen into hiding; so many of his grand plans had been cast aside as of late, and he was decidedly not happy about it. Of course, no one would dare say a word to Maleficent, though Ratigan had often considered doing so on several occasions.

He was about to return to his hideout when he caught sight of a human boy speaking to the raven. So… the sorceress had taken another fool aboard, had she? Perhaps Ratigan would be able to put Maleficent in her place by pulling a few of her puppet's strings.

As for Riku, he did notice the rodent climbing upon a window ledge that placed the two of them at eye level. Riku had intended to walk by without saying a word, but the rodent spoke first.

"A friend of Maleficent's, I see…" Ratigan said, as Riku approached. "I don't think I've seen you before."

"I'd say the same; I suppose I would've remembered seeing a rat," Riku replied, curtly.

Ratigan's teeth clenched involuntarily at the mention of the word "rat," but he forced himself to remain calm.

"I suppose, then, that you know something of the Heartless?" asked Ratigan. He recoiled slightly as Riku made a small Shadow Heartless appear. Before he could say another word, Riku was already walking off, with the Heartless ambling off aimlessly in the other direction.

Ratigan growled in frustration. He drew out a small golden bell and rang it, intending to summon his well-trained cat, Felicia. He would be able to keep up with the boy, who was proving to be just as annoying as Maleficent was.

From ahead came the screech of a cat, followed by a startled yell. Out of nowhere, a young raven-haired man crashed to the ground in front of Riku; he had tripped over Felicia as she had been running by him. Felicia meowed angrily at him before approaching Ratigan.

Riku glanced at the young man with a silent glare, as if to say, "You're in my way." Perhaps the unfortunate man sensed this, since he grinned apologetically as he rose to his feet. Riku was not amused, but that didn't seem to ruin the young man's cheerful mood.

"Wow, I guess it's true what they say," he said. "Cats really do end up at your feet when you're trying to walk."

Riku ignored him, moving on, but the other man was still talking.

"Hey, what's the problem?" he asked. "I was the one who got tripped, not you! You'd think I'd have the right to walk around with a glare--"

"Don't bother, Boy," said Ratigan, as he and Felicia walked past him. "He talks to no one."

The young man glanced at Ratigan, eyebrows arched slightly, and then attempted to speak to the still-retreating Riku.

"Zack's the name," he said, running ahead of Riku to extend his hand. Riku walked right by him. "Hey… you fit the description of someone a certain kid was looking for… does the name Sora mean anything to you?"

Riku glared at Zack.

"The name Sora reminds me of a certain thick-headed Keyblade Master who can't even remember who his real friends are," Riku replied. "Other than that, the name means nothing to me."

"The Keyblade Master!?" thought Ratigan. "Of course; that explains why Maleficent is in such a hurry to find all of the Princesses of Heart. So this is all one giant power struggle… and I intend to have my share of it…"

He and Felicia pulled ahead of Riku.

"It sounds to me that you'd be looking for a chance to teach this Sora a lesson, wouldn't you?" asked Ratigan. "I can arrange it."

"No, no, no," said Zack, waving the suggestion aside. "That's not the way to deal with this at all! You have to give that friend of yours a chance! Sora's been looking for you and Kairi."

Ratigan glared at Zack.

"He doesn't care about Kairi or me!" Riku retorted. "Maybe he did once, but now he's just obsessed with his own little quest!"

"Exactly," said Ratigan, trying to regain control of the argument. "You have to--"

"Listen… it's Riku, isn't it?" asked Zack. "I know what it's like to have friends acting like they aren't friends. In fact, I'm looking for a friend of mine right now who hasn't been acting like himself lately. But I believe that he's acting that way for a reason, and that everything will be explained once I find him. And I'm sure Sora is acting this way for a reason, too."

"Are you blind?" asked Ratigan. "You're too trusting. Riku can't afford to listen to your wishful thinking!"

"And he can't afford to listen to your bitterness!" Zack countered. "Listen, Mr. Rat, I'm sure you may think--"

"It's Professor Ratigan!" the rodent snarled in reply.

"OK, I'm sorry!" Zack said, trying to avoid further ill feelings. "I was just saying that Riku should try giving his friend a chance…"

Riku, in the meantime, stood by to watch the two argue for an instant. With a roll of his eyes, he walked on. Felicia noticed him walking away, and she meowed to let Ratigan know. Ratigan, however, was deep in argument with Zack, who was trying to make peace with the ill-tempered rodent.

"What is it now, Felicia!?" Ratigan quipped to the cat.

The cat meowed a reply, pointing.

Ratigan and Zack glanced up in time to see the shadows surround Riku as he vanished. Ratigan slapped his face with his paw and stalked off, grumbling under his breath. Felicia meowed haughtily and also stalked away.

Zack, in the meantime, scratched his head in bemusement. Reminding himself of his own quest, he silently wished Riku luck and hoped that he would reconcile with his friend. Zack walked on, whistling a cheerful tune as he continued his search for his own friend.

Riku, in the meantime, appeared back at Hollow Bastion, recovering from the expenditure of energy. He wasn't sure if he could believe that Sora still cared for him and Kairi. And yet, a part of him wanted to.

"You can't believe it, even if it is true," he chided himself. "Maybe it is true. But Sora has to prove it. Saving Kairi is the most important thing."

And she would be saved; he would see to it. And maybe even Sora would see to it, too. And after Kairi was safe, maybe then he could try to repair any other broken friendships.

He didn't seek the memories, but the recollections of the happy, carefree days on Destiny Islands returned to him. Sora may have been a basket case ever since Riku could remember, but he couldn't deny that he had been a friend, as much as he wanted to believe now that Sora never cared.

The future would be hazy, Riku realized. He couldn't afford to be either vindictive or carefree at the moment. He couldn't afford to take any advice, either. But he would find a way to save Kairi, no matter what.