Chapter 2

(Surprises)

Riku opened the fridge, grabbed the orange juice carton, then took a swig from it. He was in the process of closing the fridge door when Vincent called, "Get a glass!"

Turning to look at his father, Vincent, who stood in the door of the kitchen. Swallowing, Riku reached for the cupboard and pulled out a glass, taking it and the carton of orange juice to the table. "Don't see why I need to. It's not like you drink this stuff."

"That's not the point," Vincent replied as he stepped in, once again not wearing his brass claw. He hadn't since the War of the Amplifier and the creation of the DIA – Department of Interplanetary Agents, and his installment in it. He was back to pushing papers, but not quite the same way he'd been doing before. He wrote reports, but for Laguna and Squall, and he handed out missions to the actual Agents of the department, which, currently numbered four Keyblade Wielders and several fighters of various other weapons, lots of scientists and some more paper-pushers and general investigators. Technically, Kairi was an Agent too, but her duties were different. She was a Princess of Light and, well, all that entailed. Also, those four special agents hadn't even gotten any missions yet. Currently, they were just working on compiling information on what they knew of Radiant Garden, trying to puzzle out what events happened when and how.

"The point is to needlessly dirty a glass that I'll have to wash later," Riku interpreted for Vincent. Vincent set the bowl he'd gotten out on the table, and followed that with a spoon, the cereal, and the decision to not comment.

Vincent sat down and poured cereal into his bowl, followed by milk. He was dressed in a button down shirt – tucked in slightly crooked, dark suit pants, and his polished shoes – untied still. His hair was combed at least. Riku decided to ignore his father's disarray for the moment. He'd get to it before Vincent left.

"Don't you have class today?" Vincent asked. Riku had graduated high school – managed to do it on time, when he was eighteen, too, due to intense studying and skipping some classes. Now he was taking classes at the SeeD academy, as had been threatened by Laguna two years ago. Kaiyou and Roxas had managed to get Sora up to speed and working in order to graduate on time as well. Kairi didn't need much help, due to her having not really missed that much class.

"Not till noon," Riku replied as he needlessly dirtied a glass. "Finals. My grades were good enough to exempt the first two."

Their relationship was weird, almost a mockery of what should have been there – what used to be there. On the surface, they were the typical father and son, even if Vincent only used one hand on a regular basis and was widowed. Underneath, however, Riku was still haunted by Kadaj's memories and Vincent was still a shape-changing ex-assassin. Riku had tried fairly hard to pretend to be the same person he'd been before the war. Vincent had been trying to act like he was normal and that Riku was normal, and all was well. The delusion was both nice and frustrating.

'At least he's not lying to me anymore,' Riku admitted to himself as he swallowed a gulp of orange juice, lost in thought. Only Kaiyou knew how stifled Riku felt. However, she really didn't have an answer other than: You should be glad you've got him. You could be like poor Loz and Yazoo. They've only got you, really. And you don't even want to be the person they knew.

"Then do the laundry," Vincent ordered between bites of his breakfast.

"I've got errands to run," Riku replied as he set his glass down, interrupting before Vincent could pile more chores on him. "I was going to go pick up some applications." While Riku was getting paid by Laguna for being part of the DIA, that still left him with nothing to do until he was given a mission. As a result, Riku decided he was going to look into getting some kind of job – something to do between his classes – something to keep him out of the house and away from Vincent.

Vincent paused, looking towards him, then nodded, "Put in a load before you leave."

Riku sighed then stood, emptying his glass in a large gulp before heading to the sink to rinse it out and set it down there before heading up the stairs to his room. Gathering his dirty clothes, Riku tossed them into the laundry room, then headed to Vincent's room to grab his basket. Being one-armed, Vincent had a tendency to be quite neat, everything had its place in his room. Riku's room wasn't that bad. It was neater than Sora's, but a pig-sty was neater than Sora's room. It only slightly bothered Roxas, since they were technically the same person, and frequently traded things between each other. Not like sisters did – not like Kaiyou, Kairi, and Olette did – but Roxas and Sora didn't quite have a borderline between sides of the room. Kaiyou's room beat them all out. Her side of the room hardly looked like it was lived in at all. She kept her clothes in their drawers, all personal items were hidden, and the only artwork on the walls were pictures Olette and Kairi had printed out from Kaiyou's camera and framed.

Catching a glance at the clock, Riku headed back downstairs as Vincent was finding his keys and wallet. "Your shirt isn't tucked in right," Riku said, stepping over quickly to take care of it before Vincent could say anything. He then knelt and fixed Vincent's shoelaces. If only they had fancy slip-on shoes... Finished, Riku stood again.

Slipping his wallet and keys into his pocket, Vincent reached out and pulled his son in for a hug, "Stay out of trouble," he said, the same thing he always said when he left.

'You can go back, but you can't ever go home...' Riku recalled the saying Kaiyou had mentioned, but he hugged Vincent anyway and headed back upstairs as Vincent let himself out.

Sorting out some whites, since that seemed to be the majority of the dirty laundry, Riku tossed them in with soap, then set the washer to start before heading back into his room to grab his boots and coat. He'd taken to wearing black jeans, a sleeveless tee, and a black leather jacket, as well as his boots the fairies in Yen Sid's tower had given him.

Sitting down on the top of the stairs, Riku pulled his boots on and buckled them, then pulled on his jacket. Clattering down the stairs, he headed to the front door. Stopping, he turned back around and headed to the kitchen to open the fridge, looking inside. "Groceries," he sighed and reached to the box set on top of the fridge, picking out the credit card left there for just such an occasion. Pocketing the card, he headed back out the front door, shut, and locked it.

Besides job applications, Riku had a few other things he was going to do, but, Vincent didn't need to know about that. One of those was going to the play island and making sure that that things were set up there. He had a little surprise planned out for Kaiyou – an early New Years gift. New Years wasn't for another few weeks, however, Laguna was taking his whole family on a trip. He tried to do one big thing a year for his huge family, which included Hayner, Pence, and Olette. He did his best for them and they appreciated it. Seifer, Fuu, and Raijin had gone back to SeeD, and gladly done so. They were still harassing people as the Discipline Committee.

First things were first, though, he needed – wanted – a job. It was a grasp at being normal, and one that Riku suspected he wasn't going to get another chance at. Something always happened, just when he started getting settled into things. Heading for the market district, Riku made a point to stop by every store that might be needing help. Afterwards, he would bring back the groceries and head out to the play island.


Riku sighed as he stepped in through the front door, closing it behind him as he kicked off his shoes. Despite his having good grades in a lot of his classes and having skipped those finals, the ones he had remaining were already looking to be rather brutal. He needed to change out of his clothes and into something he could wear over to the beach – where he was taking Kaiyou to give her the gift he had been hiding in his room for quite some time. She was going to meet him at his house, but she needed to change as well. She already had gotten a job at a coffee shop where she made cookies and cakes and coffee.

Inwardly, he sighed at that. From her first day at Destiny High, she had continued to foster the notion in most of the populace that she was male. Mostly she did this through body language and loose clothes, and that, combined with the slightly lower voice she spoke in, ambiguous hairstyle, and a million other little things she did, made it rather difficult to avoid being called gay. 'I wish she'd just... get comfortable with being a girl and stop this. I love her, but this is just starting to get on my nerves.'

Dashing upstairs, Riku stepped into his bedroom and began hunting for his swimming shorts. Pausing at a sound, Riku cocked his head to listen and identified the noise as the back door opening and closing. There was someone downstairs in the kitchen now, talking. 'Dad...shouldn't be home yet,' Riku noted and hurried to finish getting dressed, doing it quietly. Then, barefoot, he headed down the stairs, avoiding the one that creaked by stepping on the very edge of it instead of in the middle.

Putting his back to the wall beside the door to the kitchen, Riku held his breath and called his Keyblade – the one he had created from Kadaj's sword and his own Way to Dawn. They must have gotten in using the key Vincent always kept under the stone toad on the back step. That was for emergencies only, and only Riku and Vincent knew about it. So how had these people known to look? A scent reached him as he listened – one woman with a vaguely familiar voice – was speaking.

"I'll make some tea... I wonder where everyone is..."

However, Riku could not place the voice. Dismissing it, he leaned around to carefully peek into the kitchen in order to get a look at where the intruder was exactly.

The kitchen was relatively small with the stove and refrigerator on the left wall with a straight-shot view of the front door from the stove. The sink was on the far wall to the right of the back door, allowing a view of the slightly overgrown backyard. Riku's mother used to have a herb garden back there, but it was full of weeds now. Once, shortly after she had died, Riku had tried to take care of it, but he had been three at the time and had no clue about plants other than how to kill them. The yard was his fault. He had been too busy studying for his finals to cut the grass – after all, Vincent couldn't do it. In the center of the room was a small round table with four chairs – in case Vincent and Riku ever had guests – AKA, Sora, Kaiyou, and Kairi.

At the moment, a slender woman with long, straight red hair, wearing a light blue sundress, was standing at the cupboard, looking for a teapot that had been broken a long time ago.

Pulling back around the doorframe, Riku leaned against the wall, eyes wide, jaw dropped slightly as the front door was unlocked. Stepping in, Vincent stopped, staring at Riku.

"Are you sick?" he asked.

Lifting a hand to his lips, Riku made a shushing motion, then pointed at the kitchen.

"Oh, someone's home!" said the woman in the kitchen. Raising her voice, she called, "Vincent? Is that you?"

Possessing far more calm than Riku could ever have imagined, Vincent pushed the front door shut with his foot and set his briefcase down to lock the door again and pull his shoes off.

"Vincent?"

"How long has she been here?" Vincent asked Riku, voice lowered.

"Not long," Riku replied, "I think, I was upstairs changing and heard her come in."

At last, the woman stepped out of the kitchen, "Vincent, why didn't you answer me-" her words died on her lips as she caught sight of Riku in her peripheral vision and turned to look at him, "Who're you?"

"..." Riku closed his mouth, looked towards his father, then back at the woman that his heart recognized as his mother. His head, however, recognized that she had died quite some time ago, thus her standing there, demanding to know who he was, was not being computed properly. As a result, he said nothing.

"Vincent! He's got a ...what is that? A bat?" she pointed at Riku's Keyblade.

Lifting it, Riku looked at it, then sent it away. Putting a hand to his head, he pushed off the wall and headed for the stairs. "I think I'm sick," he managed to say finally.

"Vincent!" the woman shouted.

Closing his eyes and leaning back against the door, Vincent sighed, rubbing his forehead slightly, "No, I don't think you're seeing things," he said to Riku.

Stopping, Riku turned to look again, "So – you're saying that ... she's really standing there, harping at you?"

"Yes."

"Harping?" the woman objected, "Don't talk about me like I'm not here!"

Finally looking at her, Riku replied, "Sorry, but you kinda died. You're not a zombie, are you?"

"Zombie?" the woman asked in a small voice, shocked. "Who are you?"

"Akina," Vincent sighed, "That's your son."

"So I'm hers now?" Riku jabbed back, "I haven't done anything lately, what're you disowning me for?"

Eyeing Riku, Vincent replied, "Lately? Something I need to know about?"

"Why should I tell you? I'm hers now." Riku pointed at his mother who stood staring back and forth between them.

"Then quit being an ass and treat her respectfully," Vincent replied.

"I'm going upstairs to finish getting things ready. I've got somewhere to go." And as if on cue, the doorbell rang. Dashing up the stairs, Riku Kaiyou's inexpertly wrapped gift, then dashed down the stairs, still barefoot to grab his boots by the door. He was stopped when he found Vincent blocking his way still. "Come on! You knew I've had this planned for months!"

Giving an imperceptible sigh, Vincent asked, "Do you have school in the morning?"

"Yes."

Leaving it at that, Vincent stepped aside and opened the door. Kaiyou stood on the other side, hand lifted to ring the doorbell again. She looked... boyish as ever, and stared in at the scene on the other side of the door. Scurrying out, Riku hoisted her to his shoulder as he made a run for it. It was now or never, and Riku really did not want to be in that house. After the look Vincent had given him, he figured he didn't need to be privy to what was going to happen next. Let them sort it out and he would come back when it was safe, and maybe he would greet his mother properly. At the moment, though, he couldn't figure out what he should have been feeling and as a result, he was simply angry.

"Riku! Put me down!" Kaiyou demanded as they finally stopped at the end of the street.

Setting her feet on the ground, Riku sighed and sat on the sidewalk to pull his boots on. "Sorry, there was something really weird going on and I didn't want any part of it."

"So..." Kaiyou said slowly, looking down at him, "You ran like a pussy."

"Hey – I've had this planned for months," he defended, "You top any weird shit going on – since that kind of stuff happens all the time around us."

Cocking her head to the side, Kaiyou thought on that, then smiled slightly. He could tell by the warmth of her charm that he wore that she was flattered by his statement. He got to his feet and dusted his backside off. Once again, he was wearing the clothes he had worn that morning, with his shorts underneath.

"Well, you're right about the weird stuff," Kaiyou admitted, "Sora got a letter from King Mickey. It said we're needed urgently."

"Ugh," Riku sighed, "When does Sora want to leave?"

"Now. I told him I had a date with you and set Kairi on him. She's now got him 'gathering supplies' for us." She put quotes around her words with her fingers.

Unable to help it, Riku chuckled, "Yeah, sounds like her."

"Not to mention that Dad will need to know about Mickey's letter first before we go and stuff. Proper procedure and all."

Riku eyed Kaiyou for a second, "You really want to do this whole DIA thing right, don't you?"

She linked her hands behind her with a slight smile twitching her lips, "Come on, it's kind of cool. We're secret agents, working directly for the President, in an interplanetary affairs department destroying Heartless, Nobodies, and any other weird crap that comes up while opening peaceful negotiations with governments of other worlds and creating preliminary trade agreements! How many other nineteen year olds can say that?"

"I guess when you put it like that, it isn't something that happens every day."

"So where are we going?" Kaiyou asked as she walked beside him, nearly close enough to hold hands, but... they were in public and he knew she didn't like it when he displayed affection for her in public. She also knew that he didn't like being called gay.

"To the play island," Riku replied. "We'll have it to ourselves," he grinned at her. "I've made sure of that."

Kaiyou looked down at the ground as she walked, not replying to that, and Riku could not tell what she was feeling, or if she was feeling anything at all. Even if he had a piece of her heart at his throat, Riku still wondered at the total lack of communication between them. They understood each other, or at least he thought they did, and they had a lot in common.

"Who was that woman in your house?" she asked, completely throwing him off his train of thought.

"My dead mother."

Lifting her eyes, she stopped and stared at him, "And – you just ran out like that?" she demanded.

"Yeah? So?"

"She's your mother! You haven't seen her in – what – fifteen years?" Kaiyou replied sternly.

Shaking his head, Riku lifted his hands, "You're more important to me at the moment." Unfortunately, he felt like this was a losing battle and he wasn't going to win – and as a result, Kaiyou's mood would be ruined the rest of the night and he wouldn't be able to carry out his plan as he had intended. "Kaiyou," he said, lowering his voice as he stepped closer to her, "Please – she died when I was little – she didn't even recognize me. I think it's going to be a mess in there and I wouldn't have helped anyway."

"What if she's only here for a little while?" Kaiyou pointed out, and belatedly, Riku remembered how important family was to her.

Sighing, Riku shook his head, "I'm not sure what I could have told her that wouldn't disappoint her. Let her remember me as her little angel."

"And what about you?"

"I can't decide if I'm glad or angry," Riku admitted. "I just don't want to talk to her right now. If she's gone by the time I get back..."

"Avoiding the problem," Kaiyou pointed out.

"So?"

Sighing, Kaiyou folded her arms and turned away from him, "Go back home, Riku. We can do this tomorrow or something."

"No we can't," Riku pointed out, "Sora'll have us hauling ass for Disney Castle by midnight if he could."

"He's got more tests tomorrow. Mom would never let him skip those. Even if the universe is in danger again."

Riku sighed, "Kaiyou – please! Don't be like this?" Stepping forward, he put his arms around her, pulling her against his chest. "I have a feeling that my mom returning from the dead and what Mickey has to say are connected. If mom's not there when I get back... I'll...let you return my gift, okay?"

Kaiyou frowned, "The way you said that makes it sound like it's something I'd consider returning."

Snorting, Riku nuzzled through her hair to find her ear and nibbled it. Unable to help herself, Kaiyou tipped her head to the side, allowing him easier access. "You don't play fair," Kaiyou accused softly.

"Nope, I'm a rotten cheat," Riku agreed. "Do we have a deal?"

Sighing, Kaiyou turned in his arms to look up at him, "You're sure...?" she asked one last time and he nodded. Lowering her gaze to his chin, Kaiyou finally agreed, "Alright... But if she is there when you get home, you will hug her – and apologize for whatever nasty things you said." Snapping her gaze back up to his eyes, she said firmly, "And I know you did say something, because she was wearing that horrified expression most people get when you've opened your mouth around them."

Opening and closing his mouth, Riku huffed.


Sora was highly disappointed.

Here he'd been all set to go immediately, but then Kaiyou had gone and told Olette and Kairi about the note, and Olette had, of course, told Edea, who had then told Ellone, and now Laguna knew about it and there was a meeting scheduled tomorrow evening to discuss the note and some other things. Kairi had eaten up several hours of his day, discussing what they would need to take and who all was going to go, and then she'd moved the topic into quizzing him on his test in the morning.

At least it was an official meeting of the DIA. That much at least was heartening.

Tonight, Kaiyou was off on a date with Riku. She'd closed him and Roxas out, so Sora figured she was probably up to something he didn't want to know about. He just knew he trusted Riku with his life, and thus, trusted his best friend with his sister.

Roxas, on the other hand, didn't like it one bit and was sitting on the couch, glowering as he fought against Hayner in one of their racing video games; the point of this one being to cause as much collateral damage as possible for points, as well as reach the goal before the other player did.

"I can't believe she's dating him," Roxas said.

The cat decided to run past, then, bounding over the extended cords of the video game remotes. No one paid the two-year-old gray tabby any mind.

"Hey," Hayner replied, "She's a grown up, she can do what she wants."

Sora laid his head on the coffee table from where he was sitting on the floor near Roxas's feet. "I can't believe we got delayed!" The cat ran by the other direction. How such a small animal could make that much noise, no one knew...

"Your last tests are tomorrow morning," Roxas pointed out. "You should be studying. Quistis is going to kick your ass if you fail this class again."

Sitting up, Sora stared at Roxas, "Aw man – again?" he shuddered, "But I just can't concentrate! I wanna get going! People are in trouble!" The cat sprang out from behind the couch to attack Sora's bare toes. Turning, he pushed Mauxi over and waggled his fingers at her absently for a moment while she pretended to be interested.

"I'm not helping you cheat on the test this time," Roxas pointed out. "You didn't even take my suggestions last time."

"Sorry... Quistis was staring at me..."

"And you were staring at her tits."

Sora flushed, "I wasn't!"

Hayner burst out laughing, startling the cat, who then exploded off over the couch and up the stairs.

Edea drifted through the living room then from her room on the first floor, "Sora, you should be studying. Your father would be disappointed if you fail that class again."

"Oh, come on!" Sora turned to look up at her, "I've taken it three times already – I know the stuff. I'm just not great at tests!" He put his hands to his head, "And my brain is full right now, I can't study!"

She didn't look convinced in the least and finally Sora got up and went to his room to find his text book and returned to retake his seat on the floor. This flushed the cat out from under his bed – tackling his leg in passing before heading back down the stairs to post off the corner of the couch and bound into the kitchen, tail puffed and back arched. There was no one in there.

When Sora returned, he found Edea had gone to the library.

"You know," Roxas said, "It'd help if you took notes."

"I do take notes," Sora cracked the book open and turned to a random page. There were scribbles all down the margins of the page. "Right next to the text so everything's just right there!"

Hayner, who had won the race due to Roxas's distraction, leaned over, "Is that a sketch of Quistis?"

"No!" Sora winced, "...it's Kairi."

"You're sure fascinated with boobs," Roxas pointed out.

"And you can't draw," Hayner finished.

Sora stared up at his other half and his adopted brother, sky-blue eyes wide, "But... they jiggle," he explained. "Especially Kairi's when she's wearing a bikini. I just can't help but stare at the way they bounce – and how when wet, the water just glides–"

"Woah! Enough!" Hayner put his hands to his ears. "My brain is melting!"

Roxas sighed, "You don't share half a Heart with him," he replied, "He's got a surprisingly dirty mind."

"What?" Sora blinked in confusion.

"Now I'm curious," Hayner sighed.

Roxas rolled his eyes. "One time, he asked me if he slapped Kairi's butt, how long would it take for her tits to stop jiggling."

For a long moment, Hayner stared at Sora. Finally, he said, "I owe you a drink. That's awesome."

"I'll have a soda," Sora said immediately.

Roxas slapped his hand to his forehead. Neither of them bothered explaining. The cat, after deciding that there really wasn't anyone in the kitchen, came bounding out to jump the cords of the controllers again.

Further conversation was prevented by the arrival of Olette through the front door. "Hey Sora," she said and dropped down onto the floor next to him. She was wearing an orange camisole, and Sora stared at her. "Studying for Quistsis's class again?" she asked, then looked towards Hayner and Roxas as they burst out laughing.

She looked up at them and frowned, "What're you laughing at?"

"Sora," Roxas was quick to supply.

Sora was flushing and wearing that pouty scowl. "It's not that funny."

Hayner put in, "From you? Yes, it is."

Irritated, Olette got to her feet and headed into the kitchen, getting attacked by the cat as she passed the couch.

"So where's Pence?" Hayner called after her.

Looking over her shoulder, Olette replied, "Training. He'll be home in an hour probably." She used her foot to scrub the feline across the floor briefly, to the cat's enjoyment, then continued on her way.


It was past midnight, but past experience put Vincent in bed already, so Riku felt safe enough coming in after his curfew. Still, there wasn't any need to make a lot of noise. Kaiyou had accompanied him back to his house, mostly because she didn't want to part company just yet. Her hand kept lifting to touch the gift he'd given her.

For two years he'd been working on it, but now it was finished, he'd managed to break off a piece of his own heart and create a torque out of it like Kaiyou's. His had ended up turning into an angel wing and demon wing supporting a tigers' eye stone. Kaiyou obviously liked it.

Unlocking the front door, Riku stepped in, trying to be quiet, but his efforts were in vain, since the kitchen light was on and he got a straight-shot view of Vincent standing at the sink, refilling a pair of wineglasses.

"You're late," he stated.

Riku flipped him off, "I'm twenty and can manage my own time," he retorted.

"Oh Riku! Quit being a jerk," Kaiyou sighed, stepping in behind him. Shoving his shoulder she smiled at Vincent. "Don't worry, Mister Valentine, he's studied his bottom off for that test tomorrow!" She pumped a fist.

"Aros," Vincent greeted, then sighed and relented, "come in," he made a slight gesture with his chin.

Riku, wary of the invitation, looked Vincent over carefully – noticed how he was leaning against the counter – how his shirt was not tucked in and buttoned wrong.

Entering the kitchen, he found Akina, his mother, seated at the table, smiling happily. Kaiyou closed the front door and came over to take a seat next to Riku's mother. "Hello Missus Valentine."

"Hello," she crooned, obviously drunk. "What a nice young man, do I know you?"

"I'm Aros Loiri. We might have met, but I was really young then."

Akina thought on that for a long moment as Riku helped Vincent bring the wine glasses back to the table.

"How long have you two been drinking?" Riku asked.

Vincent looked at the clock, then squinted one eye. "Uh... since you left?"

"See?" Riku turned to Kaiyou, "They didn't need or want me around." Kaiyou rolled her eyes at him.

"Oh, coulda included you in things," Vincent replied in far too cheerful a voice.

Akina sat up, "Vincent! He's not old enough!"

Eyeing the wine, Riku shook his head, "I prefer screwdrivers anyway."

"Coulda stopped us from drinking three bottles then," Vincent said.

"More like stopped you," Akina retorted, "I've only had..." she blearily counted on her fingers then failed to come up with a number, "Not as much as you."

Vincent smiled again, slouching in his chair, "I've got a higher tolerance."

"Going to be just as sick in the morning if you haven't been having water occasionally," Riku replied, eyeing his father.

"Twice," Kaiyou muttered, "He's smiled twice, must be trashed. He probably won't remember this in the morning either."

"You suggesting we bang each other on the table," Riku replied with a slight smirk, "He'd probably think it's funny."

"I would not!" Vincent retorted, his indignant tone ruined by a distinct slur.

"Riku, honey, are you gay?" Akina asked, aghast.

Kaiyou mothered her giggle with a hand as Riku immediately denied, "I'm not gay!"

Amazingly, it was Vincent that came to Riku's flustered rescue, "Kaiyou is Sora's twin sister. You remember her, right?"

"Kaiyou?" She looked again at the girl sitting beside her, "You said you were Aros."

"It's 'Sora' backwards. Long story short, Sora named me that after everyone forgot I existed until two years ago. I prefer most people call me that."

Akina thought on that for a long hard moment, then nodded a few times, "I don't get it."

"We'll re-explain when you're sober," Kaiyou promised. "For now, I'd better get home, I just wanted to make sure Riku apologized for whatever mean things he said to you earlier."

Riku stared at her. Kaiyou stared right back.

Finally, Riku heaved a sigh and turned to his mother, "Sorry for being rude."

Akina, tears in her eyes, stumbled to her feet and around the table to Riku, throwing her arms around his neck. "My baby!" she cried and tripped, falling into Riku's lap, which was fine since that allowed her to brush his hair back from his face and kiss his cheeks.

Remaining where she was, Kaiyou watched for a moment before looking over to find Vincent, face-down on the table. When he'd dropped out, she wasn't sure, but leaving him like that didn't seem like a good idea. Getting to her feet, she collected his glass and the other one. "Sorry, I think we're cutting you guys off for the night," Kaiyou sighed and dumped the wine down the sink, plugged the bottle and put it in the fridge. She then got a glass of water and went to see if she could get Vincent awake enough to drink it – as well as assess whether she needed to get Riku to put him in the bathroom or on the bed in the Recovery Position.

Vincent roused rather reluctantly and drank the water before she got him to his feet. Finding that Vince was surprisingly steady, she helped him up the stairs to his room, "Think you need to hit the bathroom first?" she asked him.

"Nah. It was just wine." His arm around her shoulder tightened slightly as they stumbled along to the bedroom and she let him down on the edge of the bed. "Akina, on the other hand..."

"Right, recovery position for her, then," Kaiyou smiled at him.

"Don't keep Riku up too late," he paused, squinting at her, "Never mind."

Blushing, Kaiyou looked away, "We're responsible."

"I know." He pulled her in and kissed her forehead, then collapsed back on the bed.

Disturbed by the exchange, Kaiyou headed for the door, then stepped aside as Riku carried his mother in. Riku laid his mother down on the other side of the bed and Kaiyou got a garbage can. "Here, she'll need this."

Setting things up, the pair of young adults shut the door behind them and sighed as they exchanged a look in the hall. "He kissed my forehead!" Kaiyou blurted. "That was weird!"

"He likes you," Riku admitted, looking up at the ceiling as he scratched the back of his neck, "He might not ever say anything, but he likes you."

Heading for Riku's bedroom, Kaiyou dropped to a seat on his bed. "Still, that was weird. Never thought ... weird." She grinned suddenly, "We should take a picture of them."

"Nah, Dad's not that drunk."

"Yeah, he'd kill us in the morning," Kaiyou agreed, flopping back to stretch out across Riku's full-sized bed. Glancing towards her after removing his shirt, Riku took hold of her knees and pulled her closer to the edge of the bed where he could lean forward to kiss her. "Wow, again?" she teased.

"No," Riku sighed, "You just look sexy with your hair down."

She kissed him again to keep from having to say anything, and when she was done, she sighed, "I need to get home. It's past midnight."

"Damn test," Riku sighed.

"You'll ace it," Kaiyou retorted. She'd already finished her finals earlier on in the week.

"You always say that."

"And you always do."

"Past performance has no technical bearing on future performance," Riku replied.

A devilish grin crossed Kaiyou's lips, "Really? That makes me sad."

"Nympho."

She kissed him again, "I need a shower. While bathing in the ocean is romantic and all, I have salt and sand in uncomfortable places."

Reluctantly, he stood and helped her to her feet. "Get home safe."

Smiling, Kaiyou lifted her hand to touch the gift he'd given her, "You'll know right away if anything happened to me," she pointed out and kissed the corner of his mouth as he smiled. "You should get some sleep though."

Riku watched as she let herself out of his room and the house. She had a key, though generally she knocked whenever she came over. Riku never bothered knocking at her house, he knew he was welcome over there day or night.


Walking through town at midnight had once been a very dangerous prospect for Kaiyou back when she lived in New York. Now, however, Kaiyou took her time, her hand going to the shard of Riku's Heart she now wore at her neck. Closing her eyes, she smiled as she recalled how he had given it to her.

Just as the sun was setting – when his powers were at their best – he had turned to her and said, "I've been working on this for a while. I wanted to give it to you for your seventeenth birthday... but that didn't turn out quite as planned."

He held out the gift, wrapped in old, reused paper.

Taking it, Kaiyou hadn't had to unwrap it to know immediately what it was. Breath quickening, she carefully tore the paper to reveal the torque. It was an angel wing and a devil wing facing opposite directions, the longest points on each forming the part that went around her neck. Nestled between them was a large tiger's eye stone that shone tawny in the dying rays of the sun.

Admiring it for a moment more, Kaiyou had then put it on and felt Riku's warmth surround her.

Now, she could nearly tell exactly what he was doing – he was staying awake just a little longer to make sure she got home alright. Pausing on a corner, she closed her eyes and thought to him like she did with Sora. 'Testing?'

'Huh – Kaiyou?' Riku's voice returned to her, loud and clear.

She smiled, 'Love you.'

'Love you too. Get home so I can go to bed.'

'I'm going.'

Smile even brighter now, she practically skipped the rest of the way home and headed into the house her father had bought two years ago with enough rooms for his adopted children as well as the biological ones and their Others.

The house was dark, everyone having gone to bed at a decent hour, which was fairly predictable for her family. 'Alright, I'm home safe. See you tomorrow evening! Make sure to tell me when you get done with your tests too, okay?'

'Alright. Night.'


AN: (Aloria) Mauxi is named after my previous cat, however, her actions are taken directly from my current feline, Kaiko. ...yes, she DOES halucinate and bounce off walls. She also plays fetch and has a toy beanie baby monkey she hauls around the house.

Next Chapter: Awakenings in the dark and awkward moments! Saving Private Bibo!