disclaimer: Roxas and Riku are from Kingdom Hearts, a Square Enix and Disney game. Some ideas mentioned here are also property of their respective owners. See note for more details.
Riku had seen the sky, once.
It was a hazy-old memory wrapped in worn oily wrappers and frayed woolen mittens. He had been part of a world that wasn't filtered moonlight and darkened storefront eaves.
But the sun is just a ghost of a taste at the back of his dry mouth, now. And all he ever was, was cold. Even with the coats and ripped shirts he'd foraged, over the remains of his old clothes and dove gray gloves that covered his palms. Even with the fey that traipsed past him, giggling in nothing but gossamer and green skin.
The faeries flirted with elves, half-dancing in the twilight, but always hurrying on, deeper, to the lit square at the very heart of the floor. The Night Market has but begun and nobody ever had any time to waste.
Shuddering, Riku passed by a flutist, her instrument a long affair of stained, carved bone. She wasn't playing anything, simply staring around with black beetle eyes as another man with an alligator's snout fussed and hawked, pulling on the coat tails of passersby. There were bottles around them both, dark dark clouded glass with green smoke and red-blue lights.
"Bottled Jigs! Stoppered Waltzes! Decanter Dances! Dance 'till you die!"
The next stall sold pies, dark honey crusts and latticed syrup, something dark, red, and oozing sliding down the table to splatter on the immaculate white tile of this night's department store. The haggard black-cowled woman selling leered up at him, all goggle eyes and thin white bone arms. Her hair was salt-white, but she had the look of a one-time beauty- before the magic took her.
It took a lot of people.
A flash of blonde to the right and he turned. But it was only a lost little girl, crying for her mother, dressed in blue and rat whiskers.
Riku breathed and let his eyes wander past. Just like the others did. It was almost second nature. Almost. Behind him, the mother, a skeletal thing, hooked a less cunning passerby into her trap.
Stuffing his hands into the deep pockets of a coat he'd taken from a dying man, Riku turned his thoughts to another night just wandering. There were all too many nights of the same. He hoped it would be different, tonight. It was a taste that's frayed around the edges, lost with the rest of the things he had almost forgotten.
Riku was about to go deeper into the Market when he saw him, in a corner behind the escalator that led to the upper levels.
A boy sat a little apart from the rest of the stalls on a dillapidated, high-backed wooden chair. One of the rabbit ears on the back was broken off, hanging forlorn by splintered wood. His fair head bowed, the boy cut a striking figure in black the deepest stain of night, all polished silver buttons and soft, graceful rabbit ears poking through flaxen curls. Black gloved hands handled a fine bone needle, the length of a finger, the width of a hair. Silver thread trailed the length from the needle eye to the floor, like a spiderweb train, inviting hapless flies.
His hands were a black blur as he stitched a man's arm back into the socket, snapping off the trailing edge of thread with a flash of sharp, animalistic teeth.
The man grunted, dropped a black rubber flashlight into a cardboard box by the boy's side, and got up. He lumbered away on clawed feet, swiping a hat from a stand with his newly-stitched arm.
The Stitcher barely paid attention, stretching pale arms out instead. The blood on his black gloves glistened and faded.
Riku had been looking for him. Twelve months, three weeks, and six days. A name he'd heard from cracked lips, a rumor of a silent stitch, a promise of days gone by.
Roxas' eyes, when they look up at him, were as bright as he remembered.
"You're still alive." Roxas' slender ears twitched in the amusement of a Denizen of the Underground. Riku stared at the ears, wondering if he'd sewn those on, as well. He'd never been able to ask.
"I need you to stitch me."
Roxas glanced at the tatty layered coats, the fragile remains of a scarlet cravat, then at the heavy silver vials that appeared in Riku's hands, stoppered with blood crystal drops.
"It'll cost you."
"I'll pay." Had been ready to, since he'd first sold his humanity.
Roxas smiled and slid a coiled loop of silver thread from a niche in the cuff of a glove. "Sit." He jerked a hand towards the far wall, next to a rack of faux fur coats, far from the ghost-lights of the market fair.
The floor at the Market never felt like it was real. Just hard and cold. Riku flinched slightly as he sat down. His muscles protested, too long used to being on his feet.
A black velvet finger tucked itself under Riku's chin, tipping his face up. "Look only at me." He didn't need to ask.
And Roxas' eyes, really, were far bluer than the sapphires bloodied in a gambler's hands, far more bottomless than the cavernous pools where the dead were cast.
"And what will you pay me with, Ri-ku?" His name sounds odd on Roxas' tongue. Like a whisper and a curse and the chink of ice on gravel. He started to push off Riku's coats, unhurriedly divesting him of each. Light fingers paused briefly to sneer at amateur stitchery, before pushing on. Finally, Riku's skin was bare, but for the thin pants and gloves. All the ivory and the tiny scars looked pallid in the half-dark. Roxas ghosted a hand up his shoulder, pressed the thin ice-metal needle against his neck, hard.
"I'm waiting for an answer."
"Y-you can keep the vials," Riku said dully, flinching as the tip of the needle pressed into delicate flesh. It didn't hurt. Or not as much as it probably would if he were still Someone from Above. Now he was just a Nobody, like the rest of them.
The Stitcher snorted. "I don't have any need for those." He pressed close, warm lips murmuring against Riku's neck. "Try again."
Riku had figured as much. He took a little breath. "Then, you can take what's left." There was not much. Not much left in him that would interest a Stitcher. He had already sold his humanity. His shadow lay pooled in one bottle, and his dreams in the next. There wasn't much left when you Slipped Through the Cracks.
Roxas smiled a little smile and threaded the needle, pulling it taut along his arm to the elbow before snipping the end. Deft fingers twisted the loose ends into a tiny knot. "So be it."
The blonde opened the first bottle, sliding out something dark and light; oozing and immaterial, shapeless like fluid black gauze. His shadow.
Bracing one hand against Riku's chest, Roxas placed the slimy substance over his skin, hummed a little note to himself, and slid the needle under Riku's skin.
It was pain. It was numb. It was a tiny prickling consciousness like walking on chopped ice. Riku gasped and barely kept himself from twisting away, the heels of his hands pressing hard against the floor.
"Be still, or this will go in places I'll have to pull out of your dead body."
Nodding stiffly, Riku bit his lip and tried to ignore the sensation. It didn't quite hurt, but it wasn't pleasant. The needle, heedless, wove in and out, fluid and swift. As each silvered stitch settled neatly into place, the thread vanished, leaving not even a single mark upon the ivory skin.
If Riku had been twelve months newer, he would have marveled at the magic, the utter unreality of the skilled needlework, embroidered poetry upon skin. He would have laughed at the tangible proof of something he had been told to give up on. But he was too tired to wish for any other worlds but his own, now.
It was a small, butterfly touch, at first. But Roxas' other hand was moving steadily before the path of the needle, light, caressing touches that seemed to sense out the flesh. Riku frowned. Roxas had never made it too much of a secret that he could see in the dark. And he was not so poor at needlecraft that he would need to map it out.
He ignored the touch best as he could, shivering when Roxas brushed a careless hand over sensitive spots. The touch at the insides of his wrists, the casual slide down the slope of his hips, the feather tapdance down his spine… Deep even breaths, the lulling and dulling of constant pain. Who had taught him that? Riku thought he could remember a too-red smile.
Roxas abruptly pulled the thread tight somewhere up his thigh, provoking a small yelp. The Stitcher's lips curved into a small smile as he pressed his gloved hand between Riku's legs.
It took Riku's breath away.
It scared him witless.
"You…" weren't supposed to do this.
Roxas leaned up, the dusky blonde hair falling into his eyes. Hot breath gusted over Riku's ear, heavy with an undefinable scent."You should have learned, Ri-ku, to consider what offers you make."
"There isn't any reason for you to want this." It was a flat sort of statement. And one that begged questioning. As he cursed himself for poor wording, Riku prayed Roxas wouldn't know, wouldn't guess that one last little thing, so battered and torn… But then, Riku had stopped believing in any gods long ago. Roxas' long rabbit ears slanted on either side of his face, flicking up slightly when Riku tensed.
"What I do want, I think you already guess." The fabric on Roxas' hands was not leather, it was far softer and smoother, like night water or watered night. It flowed its way up Riku's chest, tracing around the skin that lay tensely expectant above his beating heart.
"I…" can't won't don't want to give you that. "see."
A finger gracefully traced the arch of Riku's brows, smoothed at the darkness under his eyes in almost-wonder. "With your sea glass eyes," Roxas murmured, the very tip of his finger brushing past dark lashes.
"Although… Should you break a contract under Market- I won't need to tell you what happens after that." The stitching resumes, in-out deftness. "At what price do you put these things? Your dreams to carry your soul and your shadow to wrap around you in the night."
Teeth tug at his ear, a warm tongue at his jaw. "Or would you rather be a not-dead thing in a not-there world forever more?"
"It's not a fair trade." It was half a bluff. Sometimes half was enough.
For a moment, Roxas seemed to stop, the fine down of one of his long ears resting against Riku's cheek. Then he laughed, and snapped the thread. With it came a sudden awareness of weight and warmth. Of the shadow Riku hadn't felt since he first Fell. Like a cloak, it fell around his shoulders and slithered underneath him, pooling at his feet.
"So Alice has stumbled in the dark and learned." Sharp blue eyes looked at him. "I wonder if she knows what else lurks at the bottom."
Slowly, Roxas twisted his hand in Riku's hair, forcing his head up, and placed his other palm on his chest. Riku raised his arm instinctively. The blonde paused and brushed it away. "What other you would pay with, though…" A wickedly knowing smile, a dare.
This… or that. It really wasn't a choice. Riku spread his legs mutely, looking away. Cheeks coloring with some pale forgotten shame when his pants slid away, over the curve of his ass and onto his ankles. The floor seemed too hard under his thighs and knee-length boots. He could still hear the noise of the Market from here, fainter, but still clear; a passing thoroughfare just a few yards away from the dark nook.
Fingers touch his lips, slide down to the hollow in his throat. "You need not turn your head. This is a place for whores."
Jerking his head up and down, Riku didn't protest when hands guided his to deceptively slender thighs. It was the work of a moment to unsnap latches, buttons, the tiny metal zipper before the rustle of sliding cloth. A moment more of hesitation at the warmth beneath it.
Roxas made a small sound that might've been dissatisfaction or impatience and pushed Riku's shoulders down. Riku's arm caught on one of the fur coats, the soft material falling with him to the floor.
Then the dance of spider-quick fingers on his chest, drifting and tilting and sliding over his skin. It was only when he felt the burn of the needle that Riku knew Roxas had started again. He'd opened the bottle of colorful dreams- green like the moss, red as blood, blue like a bird's fragile egg. Each one stitched in a different place. Like a patchwork quilt. Each bright patch shimmered and sank beneath his skin, dye soaked up by a sponge, sealed beneath the flesh. The dreams felt like feathers, light, airy, a tickling sensation that made you laugh and weep.
Riku shuddered, half delirious while Roxas worked, a hand fanned on Riku's hip, thumb moving in slow downward circles. He could smell the tang of sea air and the spray of a dew-laden wind, the warmth of a sun beating down his back and the sound of uneven laughter, his friends'. He could taste Roxas in his mouth when he leans in to kiss him; vision lost in the vividness of his gold wind-combed hair and deepwater eyes. As blue as…
And then the memories were gone, leaving only an impression like sun-warmed brick and Roxas. Just Roxas.
"It's done," the Stitcher said, snicking off the end of the last knot.
Riku stared at him, scarcely able to believe it. The weight of his dreams wrapped tightly to his soul. His hearted skipped a beat as Roxas took off his black gloves, sharp-rounded teeth tugging at the fabric. The hands are snow white, graceful with the effort of a hundred hundred delicate stitches. One of them reached between Riku's legs, a sharp nail digging a line from base to tip of his flushed length. It only emphasized the way his hand was soft, the tips roughened and tapering, perfect for sewing and torturing flesh.
He took Riku's hand by the wrist lightly, pressing the back to his mouth. His lips slide intimately over knuckles, gently mouth the thin, sensitive web of skin between his fingers.
"Time is ticking by." The gloves fell on the floor, abandoned.
Fluidly, Roxas caught up one of Riku's legs, pushing it up and towards Riku's chest. He leaned his shoulders on the back of Riku's thighs, pressing forward with his mouth tilted in corner-smile. Riku couldn't, wanted to look at him, hands clenched in the fur coat as the blonde pressed a slender, all too deft, naked finger inside him, the heel of his bare palm resting against the curve of flesh. And something, something flapped at his heart, a bird straining.
"You're crying," Roxas said succinctly, the tips of their noses bumping. Hot warmth had collected at the corners of Riku's eyes, trickling down to his neck.
"Shut up," Riku choked. The next finger slipped past, thrusting in and out lightly, shallowly, Like the in-out of a needle.
"I just think it's... wasteful." Roxas' ear flicked against his cheek, wiping away the wetness. He craned his head down and licked Riku's throat, sliding down to a dark nipple and nipping. Long rabbit ears trailed in his wake, brushing against sensitized skin cruelly. Riku bit his lip, wishing Roxas wouldn't tease like this.Wouldn't play with him like this. His fingers were still inside him, scissoring, stretching, indifferent to the way his body strained.
Reaching for him, the silver haired boy tangled his hands in Roxas' hair, wrenching it up to meet his lips. Surprised, Roxas let him, opening his mouth when Riku darted a tongue past their lips, teeth sinking into his bottom lip. Roxas took his fingers out, shifting forward to deepen the kiss, hands on either side of Riku's head. Then, he broke the kiss, nibbling on the other boy's throat and nuzzling, his breath warming chilly skin. Riku looped his arms around Roxas' shoulders, slipping down his back. Into the light, soft fur of his tail. Riku grasped it uncomprehendingly, fingers clenching.
For a moment, Roxas stiffened, his eyes flashing. Then he bit down on Riku's shoulder and shoved Riku's thighs harshly apart, pressing them all the way onto Riku's chest and nearly slamming him into the wall next to the coats. There was barely enough time for Riku to know, to realize, before Roxas canted his hips back and sank inside him, one, slow, smooth and agonizing thrust that pierced and burned its way in unrelentingly.
And the bird chirped, a lonely sound in the rain.
"Ahh…ah," Riku gasped, feeling his body stretch all at once, trying to accommodate, his thighs shuddering. His hips writhed on Roxas' lap, trying to find a way to ease the sting. Hot tears forced their way out of his eyes again, glinting in the half light. Riku turned away, back arched and hands fisting in the coat, trying to get used to the feel of Roxas inside him. Moving inside him.
The noises in the dark sound like hungry mouths, lewd and wet and squelching. Any number of things at a Night Market. Things you learned to ignore, even in the half light, at the corner of your eye.
"Haven't I told you? Look at me," Roxas' voice was rough, the hand that turned his head just as abrupt.
Riku looked. At the way his hair clung to his face, the uneven tempo of his breathing. The barest flush on Roxas' face, the way his lips parted and his eyes veiled in dark lashes.
Riku pressed his face into Roxas' chest, closing his eyes, his lip bleeding under his teeth.
Did he even need to anymore? The image in his head was so bright it burned.
Riku would never tell him, but sometimes, Roxas' eyes reminded him of that Above sky. Or how it would look at witching hour, after a city sank beneath the sea.
And then he's pulling himself onto Roxas, skin upon sliding skin, head tucked and breath short. Riku's fingers tangled in sun-bright hair and his hips rolled into Roxas' thrusts at a pace almost frantic. Trembling, he clamped himself down on Roxas, ignoring the slowly dulling ache reaching deep inside him before a spark jolted its way up his spine, making him tighten convulsively around Roxas inside him. His body tensed, he could barely bear the next thrust slamming into that spot with pinpoint accuracy. A low moan escaped from his throat, half choked.
It must be his dreams, some part of him whispers, whirling about and scraping his heart. It must be his dreams, so hard bought, that made him want him so much. The sky in his eyes and the curl of his mouth.
"I don't know why you bothered," Roxas murmured, his palm cupping Riku's cheek, "Dreams and a shadow won't make them see you." He paused and twisted his hand in the long silver hair that fell down Riku's back. "You're ours, now."
A hand on the nape of his neck, tilting his head up. "Mine, now."
Like the sky at witching hour, after a city sank beneath the sea.
It was with sickening despair, like the bubbles before a drowning man, that Riku realized he never would see it again. Not the way he used to. Back when he was Riku and Something instead of Riku and Less. Before he was Riku alone.
Riku alone was all night and corrupt flesh. Riku alone had his shadow and his dreams. But his heart was already twisted in the cage of a boy with midnight sky eyes, deep in the bowels of the Underground.
Where everything of nothing was absolutely chimerical.
Poor Riku. He should remember that bunnies and bunnyboys are always in heat.
Credits and Refs:
The idea and muse for bunny!stitcher!Roxas goes to Ren and her wonderful wonderhell fic. I wanted very much to play in that world again and Ren was gracious enough to allow me some usage of her muse here. Although he seems to prefer to leave no trace of his stitches on Riku for this verse. I only hope to not discredit.
The Night Market is a mix of many things, and not an original idea by any means, as it's part of old folklore in many cultures. However, the Night Market as conceived as a traveling, once in a while thing, and London Above and London Below (Above and Underground, here) was taken from Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
The idea for shadow stitching wasn't spawned by Peter Pan, in the sense that I didn't think of Peter Pan first. But I did realize it was similar. And since we're talking Disney, the old hag selling pies is based on the wicked witch-queen in Disney's Snow White.
Thanks to Nikki/Zebbie for looking it over quickly.