Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts, or any characters, places, or items appearing in the Kingdom Hearts game series, nor do I own any lyrics to songs used here, and I do not receive payment for the use of these materials in this fic. The four lines in italics underneath the title are mine.

"Bei Mir Bist du Schoen" ("To Me You're Beautiful") as performed by the Andrews Sisters. Lyricist: Jacob Jacobs. Composer: Sholom Secunda. From Yiddish musical "Would if I Could" (Yiddish: "Men Ken Lebn Nor Men Lost Nisht," "You Could Live, But They Won't Let You") in 1932.

"Close to You" as heard in Dave McKean's film "Mirrormask" (2005). Jim Henson Company, Samuel Goldwyn Films, and Destination Films. "Close to You" was written by The Carpenters, released on their album, "Close to You," in 1970.

Pairing: Riku/Sora

Summary: It was at the carnival that something caught Riku's nocturnal eye. Then, a playful chase through the fun house and a teasing dance around a carousel before he got to Sora's sweet lips and the flowing red beneath his skin. RikuSora Oneshot

Enjoy. Pleasant dreams.

Starlight, Starbright

~*~

'All those lovely nightlights;
My favorite sighs, my favorite sights.
They smile tenderly upon me now—
How to make one fall in love with me?'

~*~



The sun had set; the cooling air was free to crawl into one's bones and the deepening shadows were allowed their greatest delight: to elicit shivers and cloak whatever lurked within their darkness.

The Kingdom Carnival rolled into town a few days ago, a long caravan of truck, tractor, and other machines that curled like a snake. And it might have been a snake, too, for how the townsfolk were drawn to it. They came as soon as the Kingdom Carnival's little world was set up, and then children, parents, and sweethearts felt dreamy enough to exchange their lifelong nationality for the fantastic, other reality of the Carnival. But with the crush of their bodies, other things tiptoed in with the growing dark—things no one wanted to think about. They were too used to having relative power over their lives and when their lives ended; after relishing the powers brought by modern science after an eternity of powerlessness and fear, who wanted to know that they were still vulnerable? These modern people blissfully buried themselves in candied apples, the clear evening sky, the little stars winking themselves into being one by one, and the excitement of the speedy rides or the romance of the Ferris Wheel. The men and women, girls and boys, tumbled into the Kingdom Carnival, brushing off that shiver, that sudden jolt, as a tease of the wind. They never stopped to think that someone was looking at them with longing; that someone considered the sight of that child or that young woman especially poignant.

It was a beautiful evening. It was so in part because it was the middle of Autumn, the loveliest season, the only one to possess such perfect, cool air, enchanted scents, a change in the light, and the unknown visitors at one's door, or those who shyly lurked on the edges of one's vision, hoping for a dance. Those were the old creatures who remembered the simpler bliss of the old days, when people were more trusting, and one could make a lass or lad a sweetheart in a single evening. When one could earn kisses from warm, sweet lips, glistening faintly with apple cider, with the life of Autumn buzzing beneath the skin.

It was also a beautiful evening because the sun had died for the day, allowing persons like Riku to step forth and enjoy the world. Riku was a young man of medium build, sleek musculature, and appealing stature. His shoulders were broad, his hips narrow, and his face handsome; he was the sort of man that sent shivers down one's spine and caused one's chest to fill with smoke. His aquamarine eyes were like polished gemstones, shining with dew, his hair was a glossy, thick length of silver threads that put jewelry to shame, and his smile was the sort that made one feel as though one's heart was being drawn out through the mouth. Riku's eyes danced when he was happy and his smile was gentle, giving his face a sweet, somewhat boyish appearance. His wistful sigh was a calming "hush, hush" that put even the hummingbirds to sleep.

Riku approached the entrance of the Kingdom Carnival dressed in a loose, thin blouse and a handsome silk vest, both of which were mostly covered by a fitted jacket. His dark slacks were tailored and his dark boots were hard-heeled. He was a somewhat exotic picture to those who looked close enough, and he would depend on the growing darkness to obscure him. In the minute or so he spent in the ticket line, he felt stares of admiration and glares of envy. Riku smiled a little to himself; there was more than one woman nearby who just forgot she had a husband and kids. He paid these admirers no mind, and moved on when he received his admission bracelet.

The silver-haired male gazed around at the rides and colored lights of the Kingdom Carnival. In the onslaught of information—girls giggling, children crying, lovers kissing, energy buzzing, the scents of joy and cotton candy—he smiled softly. The cooling air caressed his face gently, like a mother to her beloved child. This air was bliss, this darkening world was bliss; he felt peaceful and content, surrounded by all of these people who had lives interconnected with other lives. Their existence was fleeting but never in want of friendship or loved ones; so unlike his isolated existence. He felt a little lonely, but this night was better than most, because he enjoyed fairs and carnivals; he sorely liked seeing people bustling around, looking happy. Riku greatly appreciated the stimulation of this change of pace even if they were comparably more exciting in years past. Riku closed his eyes briefly and recalled a time when women would be baking pumpkin and apple pies in the hearth and men would be busily hitching up horses for the hay ride. Years ago, fairs caused lasses to twitter over who they hoped to dance with during the night, and lads distracted themselves in the field with dreams of pretty locks of hair tied with silk ribbon from their sweethearts.

It was too bad, Riku thought, that the carnival would only last for one night. It was worse, he decided, that he would spend this night alone.

Riku wandered over to a small theater erected for the little kids. There were two clowns parading around on the stage. The children in the audience were leaning forward with rapt attention while their parents sat beside them, grateful for the chance to rest. There were puppets and sparks and bad jokes. Yet another smile tugged at Riku's lips before the clowns lost his attention and a feeling of disappointment settled over him.

(xox)

Another young man was seated on a crate to the side of the children's theater. He was of lithe, agile build and agile mind. His skin was slightly tan, his eyes were blue, and his soft, spiky hair was a deep, warm brown. He liked a lot of things, old and new, and he loved being chased. It made his heart a thrilling calamity in his chest when someone worth having pursued him. His blood turned to a perfect, adrenaline-fueled fire in his veins and his diaphragm forced his breaths in and out of his lungs with the self-assured power of a machine.

This young man's name was Sora. He came to the Kingdom Carnival alone and expected to leave it the same way. He was wearing worn jeans, a pair of black leather shoes, a jersey-knit t-shirt, a light jacket, his silver crown necklace, and a vintage fedora. He loved that fedora, especially since it wasn't some cheap reproduction off a modern assembly line; it was a gift from his mother who found it while visiting a vintage textile show. Sora wished he could afford to buy things like this fedora for himself.

Sora also loved his silver crown necklace and almost never removed it. Under his care, it was still as shiny as the day he got it.

Oooh, would you look at that?

Sora gazed interestedly at the blindingly handsome, silver-haired man over yonder. The brunet straightened up on his perch and craned his head, trying to get a better view. Silver hair—how rare! He hoped it was natural.

Look over here, handsome, look at me—oh, crap, he looked!

Sora ducked his head down and tilted his head away so the man he was just ogling couldn't see his blush or sap-happy grin. That guy was so good-looking, it made his lip muscles switch to autopilot—he couldn't stop grinning. He nervously giggled a little, embarrassed, hoping the guy was looking elsewhere. Sora waited a few moments before hazarding another glance at him.

The silver-haired male was looking right at him. Sora glanced down and noticed the crown pendant—it was catching the light of the nearby lamps and reflecting it brilliantly. The brunet quickly covered it with his hand, effectively extinguishing the reflected glow. His love for that necklace remained steadfast, even if it did attract the attention of a guy too handsome for words, a guy who Sora would never have the courage to approach.

Sora glanced up again; the silver-haired guy was still gazing at him. The brunet felt his facial muscles going on auto again and he fought to keep them from turning his casually indifferent expression into an idiotic grin. He never wanted to show this perfect stranger a look like that—that is unless he liked the flustered idiot look in a guy. Sora doubted it. He thought of the man's face again and his chest started filling up with butterflies and bunnies. The edges of his lips were trembling, threatening to turn upwards again. To save himself from further embarrassment, the brunet hopped off the crate and strode away, far away from the silver-haired man.

He wrestled with his feelings of giddiness, disappointment, and longing, trying to reason with them that it just wouldn't have happened anyway. Sadly, emotions were not logical, and they never seemed to understand the expression "way out of my league."

(xox)

Riku was looking wistfully after the young man with the brown hair. There was something there in his eyes—all blue and pretty, reminding Riku of starlight against the blue-black silk of the night sky—and that something gave Riku a spark. He suddenly felt like he had a connection to someone; their brief, distant interaction made Riku feel like he truly existed.

Though color never rose to his cheeks, Riku was blushing furiously inside; he was acutely aware of how embarrassingly starved his social life was. Not to mention his love life…

But the silver-haired male swiftly steered his thoughts away from that path—recounting the last time he'd had dinner with someone was going to give him the droop. That was one of the things he never needed.

Riku took one last look at the clowns in the theater—they were making balloon animals—and turned away. He wandered farther into the Kingdom Carnival, around rides, through crowds, and over heaps of wire. He had no particular destination in mind, although he was hoping to see that brunet with the silver necklace again. Riku tucked his hands into his pockets and drifted through streams of laughter and the smells of soft drinks, funnel cake, and fried dough wafting from the food stands. The sky was continuing to darken but the Carnival lights seemed only to grow brighter, distorting face and figure of those around him. He passed a monolithic contraption—it had a thick, cylindrical base, a top like a large, round cookie tin, and from the top hung many brightly-colored chairs on chains. The sight evoked in Riku memories of ladies' chokers; black velvet ribbons or metal bands accented with gemstones dangling from delicate, silver chains.

The silver-haired male gazed up at the contraption, somewhat bemused, and started when the top began to rotate. Suddenly, there were people seated in those colored chairs, and they were giggling and twittering excitedly. The chairs swung clockwise, slowly at first, then gradually picked up speed until the chairs were at an obtuse angle, like the hem of a woman's skirt when she spun quickly. Riku sensed tumults of excitement and fear, spastic energies that collided into his inner workings and tangled with them; he felt the same as the young people riding the Chair-O-Plane for the first time even though his feet were firmly planted on the ground. Riku's perspective was spinning, just like the patrons'.

The silver-haired male tore himself away, fearing that this swimming world would live, untiring, undying, for three hundred years, like the mermaids. It was so disorienting that his steps swung left and right as he moved away until he managed to untangle himself from the peoples' sensations. When he felt certain of his center of gravity again, he found himself in line to enter the Hall of Mirrors. Not thinking, he stepped forward when the attendant opened the gate for him and handed him a fragment of glass. As Riku walked into the dimly lit entry corridor, he peered curiously at the fragment—it was about a third of the size of his face, unmarred except for a single, faint fingerprint. Riku supposed that the attendants rubbed off markings on these glass fragments at some point during the night. That one fingerprint was barely noticeable; hardly substantial enough to not be forgotten.

A sudden movement caught his aquamarine eyes and he jerked up from studying his glass fragment. But it was only his reflection in the mirror—or some of it, anyway. His reflection was quite translucent, even when he drew close and touched the mirror with his hand. Only the reflection of his eyes seemed real, but they could only peer into a ghostly visage. Riku swallowed, thinking that this Hall of Mirrors was a bad idea. What would happen if someone else noticed?

He couldn't escape the way he entered, however, so he swiftly moved forward. Despite the line outside of the Hall of Mirrors, Riku found himself alone. He progressed through geometric myriads of mirror panels, feeling with his hands for the hidden openings. He felt curved surfaces sometimes; convex, concave, and even rippled mirrors, but his insubstantial reflection remained undistorted. Riku sighed—he was quickly growing tired of this "amusement" and wanted his escape. He didn't need a hundred cheaply produced mirrors to show him how little he affected the world.

Riku noticed more movement in the corner of his vision. This was no trick, as the quiet footsteps told him, and he followed the sounds. Unfortunately, he found himself in yet another room of mirrors. Unlike the rest, however, this room's mirrors only covered the walls. There were eight mirrors for the eight angled sections of wall. Riku circled the room with his had sliding lightly over the smooth, reflective surfaces. He found the opening and was about to step through it—he could see the glowing "Exit" sign ahead—but stopped short. His eyes were locked onto another opening, and through this opening was a another person. Riku glanced back at the glowing sign, then moved through the other opening.

It was the brunet from earlier, he realized.

The blue-eyed male also had a fragment of glass in his hand; he was holding it at eye-level and peering through it at the mirror in front of him. He seemed to connect with a very real reflection of himself.

There were only two mirrors in this room, and both were missing a piece.

The brunet noticed Riku and turned to him. Riku thought he detected a faint blush in the dim light, but kept his eyes from lingering. He raised his glass fragment to his eye as well and peered into the mirror in front of him without luck; no change in his reflection. He sighed, effectively disenchanted with the Hall of Mirrors.

"Here," the blue-eyed male said suddenly, holding out his glass fragment to Riku. His crown pendant caught the little light in the room. "Try looking with this one."

Riku hesitated, then took the piece while offering his in exchange. The silver-haired male looked through the glass piece half-heartedly. Initially, he only noticed dozens of fingerprints on the glass fragment, but then he thought he saw a change in the light, or movement, he wasn't sure which. After a long moment, he realized that he was staring at a definite, opaque reflection. Riku gaped and drew in a long, steadying breath. He hadn't seen himself that clearly in a long time. Incredulous, Riku turned back towards the last room at one of the convex mirrors—through the brunet's glass piece, he saw his distorted reflection.

The brunet, noticing his reaction, grinned and laughed. He peered through Riku's glass fragment, frowned, and looked speculatively at the piece. Riku turned back to him in time to see the other male decisively chuck Riku's glass fragment over his shoulder with a look that clearly meant, "this is junk."

"Thank you," Riku breathed, his eyes wide, the light in them dancing a little. The brunet smiled at him and shrugged.

Riku watched his perfect lips as the brunet said simply, "Sometimes it helps to see yourself the way others see you."

On a whim, not caring for the moment if this was too forward, the silver-haired male stuck out his hand and said, "My name is Riku, what's yours?"

The blue-eyed male seemed surprised, but he smiled and shook his hand. He didn't answer Riku's question, but for the moment, Riku didn't care because he was realizing that those blue eyes had a powerful, mind-lulling gravitational pull, and he was falling headlong. They remained like that as though frozen, both gradually relaxing in the chaste contact of interlocked hands and what was becoming a fenced-in, private road between their eyes. If they'd been birds, this moment would have been like two cranes flying past each other to their separate lives, the edges of their wings just touching. Neither of them wanted to separate.

The brunet's eyes shone like shooting stars. They entranced Riku; he desperately wanted that starlight. And as the silver-haired male succumbed to that longing, his lips parted more than they should have in such company.

The blue gaze slipped—not to the floor, the side, or anywhere Riku wanted them to go, but to his mouth. The easy grace that traced the mulberry lips faded and his eyes widened in recognition. Riku felt the moment falling away. His brows furrowed in disappointment, frustration with himself, and a little fear. He would have hit himself if that would help anything—just when he needed to, why he couldn't keep his mouth shut?

"Hey," Riku called gently, wanting his voice to sound soft and safe, wanting to save this. The cute brunet with the perfect eyes and figure was going to run from him, he knew it. "Hey, please, tell me your name, we could go have fun—I mean, the rides and cotton candy and all, not…"

But the brunet's hand was already slipping out of his. If Riku pursued him, it would only confirm the fear in those blue eyes.

No, no, no, no, no…

The shorter male drew away from him, but not before snatching the glass fragment out of Riku's pale hand. He darted over to Riku's mirror and fitted the piece in the gap.

"So it'll stay," he said, eyeing the silver-haired male warily before backing towards the white, glowing "Exit" sign Riku noticed only then. He was on the threshold when he finally turned away.

"Wait!" Riku called again, knowing better than to move towards him. "What about yours?"

The other mirror was still incomplete. Riku glanced around for his glass fragment—he found its faint glint in the darkest corner of the dimly lit room. Riku glanced at the blue-eyed male and slowly moved to retrieve the piece. When he stood up again, he turned the fragment over in his hands, somewhat helpless for what to do or say next.

"Well," Riku said at last, looking up from his sad glass piece. He moved towards the incomplete mirror. "I guess I should—"

"No!" the brunet said suddenly. The urgent tone in his voice startled Riku. "Don't try to complete the mirror with that piece—it'd never work."

The silver-haired male heeded his words, but at that moment neither male was clever enough to say something to break the rapidly progressing feeling that some unannounced time limit was coming to an end. A hurt, apologetic silence grew between them. Despite the fear present in the brunet's eyes, he remained in the room with Riku while the seconds bunched together and collapsed into minutes. Eventually, however, the younger male turned to leave. He paused with his left hand on the doorframe and seemed to consider something. Riku took the moment of hesitation to try again.

"I haven't…been with anyone in a long time and…seeing you, talking to you," Riku said slowly, "It made me happy."

"What do you really want to say?" Sora asked quietly. His tone was that of a person carefully guarding a sizable gem of disappointment. He was one second from leaving Riku's life.

Riku hesitated.

"I'm saying that I want you to stay. I don't want us to part ways."

The brunet looked over his shoulder to peer sadly at Riku.

"And how can I trust you?"

Riku was at a loss, and spoke honestly. "I guess you can't. We met only minutes ago and I would give you my word, but that would be no good." He paused, thinking.

"This," he continued, his tone more hopeful, gesturing to the walls of the Hall of Mirrors. "This would be the perfect place for me to harm you; it's isolated, dark, and difficult to escape. But I haven't harmed you! Does that count for anything?"

The younger male considered this.

"I'm sure it does, but you could have planned this, or you might change your mind later."

Riku sighed, defeated. When the blue-eyed male saw that he had nothing left, he turned to leave. He placed his hand on the doorknob, then stopped.

"One thing I hate," he said quietly, staring straight at the door, "is being considered stupid or foolish. Would you think I was either of those if I took such a risk?"

"No," Riku replied honestly. "I'd think you were young and romantic."

The brunet hid a small, soft smile. He suddenly turned back to Riku and met his aquamarine gaze with his starry eyes. He made up his mind.

"Do you…" he began and faltered. He swallowed and licked his lips nervously.

"Do you like to chase?"

(xox)

After the "yes, yes, and yes" that tumbled out of Riku's mouth, there was a flood of light as Sora opened the door and swiftly passed through it. Sora sprinted away from the Hall of Mirrors and melded with the first crowd to which he came. Sora was close to bursting with excitement; he was already starting to feel a little light-headed, but no, no, no, he couldn't afford that, he needed to run! His skin prickled suddenly and he knew Riku was following him into the open air of the Kingdom Carnival. The cold, wet shiver that passed over the back of his shoulders told him he'd been spotted and targeted by those perfect eyes.

The crowd was moving towards the Hall of Mirrors, so he tore himself out and darted through a line for the Bumper Cars and threw himself behind some crates. His heart was already doing the quick-step in his chest. He tried to organize the mess in his head into clear thoughts, but moony visions of his pursuer kept waltzing through and destroying his attempts. Sora groaned with frustration; he needed to decide where to hide while he constructed the rest of his plan.

I wonder what he would have done with me had I not seen his fangs.

Sora grimaced and tried to push that train of thought back, but it was no use. Riku was brilliantly handsome, seemed sweet, and smelled like fresh, Autumn air after the leaves fell. Sora was excited that Riku was chasing him, but tonight he had cause for real fear. This had the makings of the best and possibly worst chase of his life—it would depend on whether the silver-haired male's choice: to end their acquaintanceship tonight, continue their relationship with Sora as a trusted donor, or use Sora as a single-use snack packet.

Sora was pulled back into the real world by the ring of his cell phone—he dug the phone out of his pocket, flipped it open and slammed his thumb on the power button. A catchy, attention-garnering jingle was out of his price range at the moment. Sora didn't care who was calling, anyway, even if it was important, like his mom calling to ask if he was being chased around a dark carnival by a handsome vampire.

Sora glanced around. He sprinted past a foul-smelling food stand and ducked behind it. He had a better view from here. He ignored the stares of the other Kingdom Carnival patrons and considered his phone while scanning his peripherals for silver hair.

Good thing he's easy to spot.

He would know when Riku was approaching by the scores of swooning women. Sora grinned to himself, though the anxiety gripping his wrists was screaming at him: move, soldier! March or die!

He turned the red, glossy phone over in his hands before finally, irreverently, chucking the thing over his left shoulder, possibly into the gears of the Spinning Teacups behind him. Anyone watching Sora understood that this toss was a silent but adamant declaration of "fuck it."

Sora hunkered lower to the ground and scanned the area around him. He could use shelter, an enclosed ride, to make things more interesting. And more difficult for Riku, hopefully. Plus, there was the fun of the exit; the not knowing whether one's pursuer was standing just outside or not. Sora concluded that a Dark Ride was what he needed. He looked hopefully for a sign.

In Sora's opinion, a carnival wasn't worth the price of admission if it didn't have three things: a Dark Ride, Fun House, and most importantly a Carousel.

The brunet moved around the side of the Spinning Teacups' metal fence and was met by the magnificent, glowing, colorful sight of at least fifteen other rides. He faintly heard the looped pipe organ music indicative of a Carousel. In the distance, he saw a towering, rainbow giant that was definitely the Fun House. And just across from him was the entrance to a creepy-looking building with a sign that read, "Ghost Train."

The Kingdom Carnival was worth every cent. Sora made for the Dark Ride just as a head of shining silver hair entered the corner of his vision.

(xox)

Riku trotted swiftly through the crowds of patrons. He cast his bright, alert eyes about purposefully. Though he'd glimpsed the brunet only once since the Hall of Mirrors, he was on the right track. He passed the Spinning Teacups and came to a halt. Riku was standing at the juncture between four paths to different quadrants of the sprawling Kingdom Carnival.

He sampled the air for the brunet's scent. It was difficult to identify, tangled as it was in a myriad of the other odors, but it was fresh. He knew Sora had been here very recently. Riku started forward, but then the invisible trail dissipated. The silver-haired male frowned, disappointed. He spun around, looking for anything, any clue to aid him. He winced as he found himself staring directly into the glaring lights of the Tornado—he promptly dropped his gaze. Riku's eyes stung. He covered them as he waited for the pain to subside. When he removed his hand, he flinched at the sight of the brunet's face reflected in a passing woman's eyes.

Riku glanced into the eyes of many other patrons he passed. He kept his gaze moving, careful to avoid eye contact. These people had recently seen the brunet. That was somewhat helpful, but mostly jarring.

Riku wandered to the left. He passed between the Spinning Teacups and the Twin Flip. He noticed the blue-eyed male's face floating in more foreign eyes—it made Riku think of his reflection in the Hall of Mirrors. If anyone looked into his eyes, they would only see stars. It had been that way for a long time.

The faint question of time took his mind like a horse by the reins to fields under clear twilight skies. There was laughter, a soft breeze, and gentle, constant motion in the fair shafts of wheat. He remembered other chases, other smiles, other times when his boyish heart beat so wildly he thought he would die. But those ended badly. It was always his fault; he'd open his mouth too wide, or he'd smile too broadly at the person who made him feel this way, and then that sacred laughter would turn to tears. Riku hoped this night wouldn't end like that—he'd already made his mistake, and the blue-eyed male was still in game.

The silver-haired male returned to the true time to stare at the open space between the Ghost Train on his right and the Gravitron on his left. He considered them for a moment. An echo resounded from the deep darkness behind his eyes: young girls singing, 'Ring around the roses, Pocket full of posies, Ashes, Ashes—' but he shook those haunting whispers to sleep.

The sign over the Ghost Train gleamed wickedly at him. He smirked in silent reply.

He lowered his head to count his steps as he stalked towards the Ghost Train.

There you are, There you are; We all fall down.

(xox)

It was unsurprisingly dark within the Dark Ride. Sora showed his wristband to the attendant and hopped into one of the yellow plastic seats of the Ghost Train. There were two seats per row; the seat on his right was vacant. A cold draft of air passed over him; he shivered and gripped the guard rail nervously. He felt the ride's gears electrical energy pulsing behind him like a hyped up heartbeat. The other patrons were buckling into the other rows, mostly children accompanied by one or more of their parents. They giggled and squealed when the lights suddenly dimmed and the Ghost Train lurched forward. In the midst of their raucous exclamations, there was one sharp gasp, and it came from Sora as he realized his mistake.

Sora couldn't see in the dark—Riku could.

But it was too late to get off the Ghost Train; the first row of seats was already entering the first room. The doors ahead snapped open with a sickening crack against the walls that made Sora jump. He removed his fedora from his head, placed it safely in his lap, and hunkered down as best he could. As his row entered the first room, a shaft of red light erupted in his face as a blast of cold air nearly blew his fedora out of his hands. Sora yelped and curled closer to the guard rail. His vision was spotted with shiny red dots, winking at him like ornaments on a Christmas tree. He carefully tucked his crown pendant under the neck of his t-shirt and blinked several times to clear his sight.

The last row of the Ghost Train received the blast of cold air, judging by the squeals behind him. Sora scanned the room though he didn't expect to see much; what gave the Dark Rides their name was their strategic use of light, not a complete absence of light. When the ride was set up, the attendants changed the lighting to hide the mechanisms that caused corpses to fly towards the track and rabid hounds to snarl, hackles raised, as the train passed. The design of the ride allowed for many places to hide and Sora wouldn't see Riku coming until it was too late—not that he could run anywhere, anyway.

The resin walls looked like stone. They glistened faintly with some sort of oil. The track curved and brought the train close to an emaciated, bleak-eyed man, chained to the wall. Or was he hanging from the wall? His ribs stuck out as he heaved and leered at them through his stringy hair. Sora stared into those deep, black eyes longer than he should have. They drew him. The chained man turned his head to preserve their locked gaze. Sora's heart started jumping in his chest, like it was trying to get his attention. His stomach curled in on itself and something ran down his lower back. Sora shivered, but couldn't bring himself to move his gaze.

He was vaguely aware of the imagined sensation that someone, his guardian angel if he had one, was shaking him, shouting at him that it hadn't wasted seventeen years of its time to lose him at some stupid carnival. In his peripheral vision, Sora dimly noted the wide-eyed stares of the passengers in the rows behind his. They were looking forward; they saw way lay ahead.

Sora was about to turn—either the angel or the stares finally got to him—but then the chained man smirked. His lack eyes glimmered with triumph, and Sora felt like he was dissolving into vapor. It was a strange but strangely pleasant feeling, like he was falling, like something was obviously wrong but the sensation was too fun for him to care.

Sora felt too suddenly solid when a pair of cold, muscled arms grasped him from behind. He shrieked and simultaneously jumped and spun around in his seat, slamming his crotch into the guard rail as he reacted. His eyes squeezed shut, he grappled with his captor. Sora swore and grunted with the force he exerted, but Riku was silent, barely trembling to meet the brunet's strength. Sora forced himself to open his eyes—he didn't want to face defeat just yet—and

It was a guy in an executioner's costume.

The man, or possibly machine, released Sora in good time for two things: to grab the next unlucky victim, and for Sora to thoroughly feel like a dolt. He slid down in his seat, trying to make himself as least noticeable as possible. The floor, or the machinated dog snarling at him, could have eaten him right then. No one else was screaming like him, not even the little kids.

Sora panicked when he realized his fedora was no longer in his lap. He anxiously felt about for it in his row and found it on the seat next to him. He released a relieved sigh. He grasped the rim of the fedora, and as he did so he felt something light and silky, like hair, caress the back of his hand. Sora jerked back, shuddering, and clutched his hat tightly. The brunet smelled fresh air and leaves—was the ride almost over or was Riku…?

Just think of Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland performing "Lucia di Lammermoor."

Sora wanted to get this prickly, trembling sensation out of his chest, and he sorely wanted to distract himself. "Chi mi frena in tal momento" was his favorite song from that opera. He was itching to get to the pleasant, powerful, lilting voices. He let out a frustrated sigh. His ipod earphones were almost positively in a giant knot and he needed to be able to listen for any clue of Riku's whereabouts.

All he could do was cling tighter to the guard rail.

(xox)

Sora trudged out of the Ghost Train with his head down and his hands shoved into his pockets. He was really excited to get away from the little kid in the yellow shirt who kept asking his mom why Sora was screaming so much.

Thank you, Riku, for never even showing up. My girlish screams were spent in vain.

Sora got a little ways away from the Ghost Train and scanned his surroundings. He decided to move for the Fun House next. He could see its tall, red roof in the distance to his right. He pulled his beloved crown pendant out of his shirt and, once again, it caused him to lock gazes. Sora flinched.

Riku was leaning leisurely against a pole in front of a shooting game, smirking broadly at him. A cold shudder jolted through Sora's body. Sora spun on his heel and sprinted for the Fun House—full throttle, as fast as he could, because Riku was fast. In the second it took for that shudder to move from Sora's chest to his stomach, the silver-haired male had halved the distance between them.

Sora still had quite a ways to go: the Orbitor, Scrambler, and Ejector Seat still stood between him and the Fun House.

The brunet dashed around couples and small groups and melded with crowds, silently cursing them. They slowed him down, but they delayed Riku, too. Sora felt prickles running up and down his spine as he passed in and out of his pursuer's sight. He didn't dare turn to look, as he half expected to find Riku was just an arm's length behind him.

Sora passed the Orbiter and was momentarily distracted—the occupants were screaming something nearly deafening and the world was starting to turn purple. He neared the Scrambler; it was in the middle of the pathway to the Fun House. He made to go around the left side. Sora glanced around, even spun around while running, but couldn't find Riku. He blanched—that couldn't be good, but he was not about to look again.

Sora darted between the line for the Orbiter and the line for the Tilt-a-Whirl. With the towering rainbow that was the Fun House in sight, Sora's heart leaped. The line was extremely short. He held his breath for luck.

But without his harsh breathing, Sora was suddenly able to hear Riku's. Sora yelped, feeling his pursuer's hand ghost over his wrist. The brunet pushed himself; he built up a quick burst of speed he didn't know he was capable of, and made a sharp turn. Riku nearly fell over trying to swerve after him. The brunet's maneuver bought him a second or so, which was thankfully all he needed to dive under the Fun House gate before the attendant closed it.

Sora scrambled to his feet, ignored the attendant's annoyed shouting, and winked triumphantly at Riku, who stood safely steaming behind the metal bar.

"Obey the nice employee, Riku!" Sora called, almost too out of breath to laugh. That would give him a few minutes to get farther into the Fun House's puzzles before Riku could continue the chase.

(xox)

Sora had a choice: the corridor on the left wall, the right wall, or the wall straight ahead of him. He chose the one ahead of him and took a running leap into the ball pit. The balls erupted in around him and he struggled for longer than he expected to get to the rope ladder opposite from him. Sora forgot how hard it was to swim through plastic balls, and he had little time, how much he couldn't be sure, before the attendant at the Fun House entrance let Riku through the gate.

The brunet knew Riku was watching him.

Sora reached the rope ladder and made a mad scramble for the top with half of his mind focused on properly gripping the ropes and half of his mind trying to sense the exact moment when Riku was released. Sora threw clambered onto the floor of the next room.

It turned out that the mirrors still had business with him; a small, low-complexity maze of low, glass-walled tunnels embellished by the occasional mirror lay ahead. Sora bent forward to get through the small passageway and took the next left and an immediate right. He passed a mother and young daughter, all smiles, as they moved in the direction from which he came. Sora entered a square room, still in the glass-wall maze, and yelped as the metal floor suddenly collapsed. Or seemed to—Sora recovered and discovered one of the floor tricks of the business. The floor tilted a few inches when he placed his weight on it. Sora glanced around his foggy, glassy world—still no Riku. He turned and scooted around two teenage guys and a girl to take another right. This was the longest tunnel yet, but Sora could see the entrance to another section of the Fun House at the very end. He didn't hesitate.

Once out of the glass maze, Sora had another choice. On his left lay the entrance to an rope web above a floor laden with peepholes and air jets, and on his right was the entrance to a room with a large, beige spinning disc on the floor. Sora chose the disc; it looked like more fun, judging by the squeals of the people on it.

The spinning disc slowed to a halt when Sora appeared. Sora couldn't see where, but the operator must have had some way to see if and when people were waiting. The brunet plopped down between a middle-aged man and his young son, opposite from two teenage girls. When the disc started spinning again, Sora grabbed his fedora, afraid it would be knocked off his head. They started squealing, even Sora, who was still ashamed of his behavior in the Ghost Train, and one by one they were all pushed off the disc by centrifugal force. Sora landed against a padded wall—not padded enough in his opinion—and rolled onto his back, laughing little. There was still no sign of Riku.

Sora landed near another doorway. He leaped through it and found himself in a series of very strange rooms. They were strange because their walls were comprised of padded bars through which there were gaps large enough for someone to stick their arms and legs. There were also horizontal bars crossing the vertical bars to allow for climbing. In the center of the room was a pedestal on which were four slots for four different objects. Two were missing from their slots, but a yellow block with a flat side and three points and a green sphere remained. Sora took the yellow half-star in hand. There were gates on the walls, each of which required the insertion of an object to open. It was another puzzle room; the gate in which one inserted the key might, as likely as not, be the gate that was caused to open.

There was a little light streaming from a few small bulbs on the ceiling high above, but these did little to combat the growing dark. These rooms were on the outer edge of some part of the Fun House. He could see the fairground outside, the trees, the sky, and the people milling about on the ground two stories below. The darkness outside the Fun House crept in through the many gaps between the bars. Sora felt ice sliding over his back and froze.

He looked around, squinting. After a moment, his eyes detected movement in the cage-room next to his. The person's movement was slow and smooth, and Sora knew who it was before he placed his pale hands through the scarlet bars.

But for the moment, Sora was safe. He untangled his ipod earphones. He was no longer in the mood for Pavarotti.

(xox)

Riku leaned on the scarlet bars separating him from the brunet. He slid his forearms over the horizontal bar in front of him, letting his hands dangle limply in the blue-eyed male's cage-room. He watched him fiddle with his ipod, happily ignoring him. Riku's ears picked up the tune from the one earphone the brunet left dangling against his shirt. He watched him pick up the yellow half-star block from the pedestal in the center of his room.

"Do I win if I grab you through the bars?" Riku asked with a sly look. He wanted to tease.

The brunet looked up at him, and Riku sensed the inward shiver that passed through his chest. He replied with a cheeky grin.

"No, you have to really catch me," he said and drifted closer to Riku's wall. The silver-haired male's eyes widened and he licked his lips, excited by his proximity. The brunet was the tease now: he brushed his fingertips over the back of Riku's cool hands, leaving tingles behind every inch of contact. Riku suddenly grabbed his wrists, though gently.

"What's your name?" he asked in a breathy murmur. His aquamarine eyes expectantly fell upon the brunet's.

The tan male considered him for a moment before answering.

"Sora," he said, throwing the name out like it was a gold coin for Riku to catch.

"Sora," Riku repeated experimentally, and again, "Sora." He liked it. So, starlight was Sora, he determined as he focused on Sora's sapphire eyes. He caressed Sora's captive wrists with his thumbs and warmed inside when he noted the brunet's faint shiver.

"How old are you?" the silver-haired male asked next.

Sora smiled at him. His eyes shone brighter when he did that, Riku noticed, as his heart suddenly leaped. Sora, Sora, Sora. He wanted that starlight.

"Seventeen," he said, and added proudly, "And a sophomore in college."

Riku's eyes widened. He hadn't attended a college in decades, but that sounded uncommon. Must have been. Riku gave the brunet the impressed smile he wanted.

Perfectly aged.

Riku let the blue-eyed male slip his hands from his loosened grip.

"And how old are you?" Sora asked curiously.

"Oh, eighteen, give or take a bit," he said with a toothy grin. His ears suddenly twitched as the lyrics from Sora's dangling earphone reached him. His expression changed to one of recognition.

'Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?'

"I know that song!" he cried. Sora looked a little surprised, but then he turned his attention to the locked gates in his cage-room.

'Just like me,
They long to be
Close to you.'

Riku did the same. There were two gates connecting Riku's room to Sora; both were closed at the moment. There was a pedestal in his cage-room, too, with three keys on it. The set matched the four in Sora's room. The silver-haired male spotted the remaining key—another yellow, half-star—currently occupying the slot of a gate that led away from Sora's cage-room. He quietly plucked it out of the slot and pocketed it. He and the brunet both jumped when they heard the loud, grating slam of one gate jerking open. Riku watched the momentary fear in Sora's eyes leave as the younger male discovered that the new pathway did not give Riku access to him.

Sora looked warily around at the gates in his cage-room. There were two gates on floor level and three higher up on the walls to which one would have to climb the horizontal bars to reach. Riku watched, predicting that the brunet would most likely choose either of the doors on floor level. The gate to Sora's left led to an immediate exit from this section of the Fun House, while the one straight ahead of him led to another cage-room, then to a gray staircase. Riku would wait to see what Sora would do. His muscles were coiled; he was ready to pounce.

The blue-eyed male glanced from gate to gate for some time. He chewed his lip absently, the sight of which caused Riku to shiver. Sora went to the left hand gate and placed the half-star key in the vacant slot. With a jarring clang, the other floor level gate opened to him. But then one of the gates in Riku's cage-room opened, as well, creating a path for him to traverse into the next cage-room, which was adjacent to the one ahead of Sora. Riku matched the brunet's pace into the next room and paced along his side of the new wall of bars that separated them. Sora was becoming a little nervous.

The silver-haired male tapped his fingers on his thighs, restless. He turned to face the impeding wall and grasped the crimson bars tightly. Sora was just on the other side…

Riku watched Sora try several keys in the various slots within his reach without luck. The only gates he opened were high on the left and right walls. The brunet gave a sigh; he wasn't about to climb up there, and it would take him in the wrong direction. He removed the brown square key from the gate that led to the staircase and replaced it with the half-star key he found in this room. Sora glanced around speculatively—none of the gates opened.

He wanted Sora to look at him again, to flash him those beautiful eyes once more, to pay him some attention—Riku was aching for it. In the back of his chest, little, cool water droplets were forming and pooling into puddles. They were cold, and they were filled with anxiety and fear that he'd lose his chance and Sora would leave him.

'Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?'

Riku dug his half-star key out of his pocket, called Sora's name, and tossed it to him. The brunet turned just in time to catch it. He gaped at it, then at Riku. He glanced at the yellow half-star key already in the slot and removed it. He held the two half-stars in his hands so their flat sides were facing each other. His brow furrowed.

"These look like…" he murmured to himself. Riku wanted to hear the rest of his thought, but the brunet went silent. He pressed the two halves together, and his face lit up when he heard a tiny click of two halves coming together. Sora tried to pull them apart again, simply curious, without luck. He placed the whole, yellow star in the gate slot.

'Just like me,
They long to be
Close to you.'

The two males looked up at the abrupt, scraping sounds of metal grating on metal. In Sora's room, the gate leading to the staircase opened. His face lit up and his sapphire eyes brightened immediately. But then another gate opened, this time in Riku's room. A gate on the wall separating his room from the brunet's opened; Riku slowly stepped into the gap, slowed by Sora's wide eyes.

(xox)

They stared at each other for a long moment, a very long moment, before Sora leaped through the open gateway and up the staircase. Riku darted after him; by the time he was at the foot of the stairs, the brunet was nearly three quarters of the way up them. He'd progressed so far only by virtue of his running leap—he cleared a number of the stairs, but as soon as his feet touched the stairs, the surface trembled and gave a mighty shudder. Sora yelped and was nearly thrown onto his side at the sudden motion. He regained purchase as quickly as he could, grabbed the handrail, and clambered up the stairs. The undulating stairs shook and shuffled, painfully knocking him in the shins. Sora yowled in pain, tripped, and fell hard onto his bum, facing Riku.

Strangely, the silver-haired male still stood at the foot of the staircase. Sora frowned, worried by his unprecedented choice.

"What's wrong?" he asked nervously. Riku shrugged and shook his head.

"I don't know whether to tell you to chase me properly or to stay there," said Sora. He swallowed and gripped the handrail harder. He pinched the brim of his fedora.

Riku was gazing up at him with a sweet smile, as though enchanted. His expression made Sora's stomach squirm and heat rush to his face. He liked the way Riku looked at him. If the silver-haired male pursued him, Sora was terrified of tripping and falling back against Riku, but then he wanted to fall against Riku's chest and be encircled by his arms. His cheeks flushed a little more.

As though he understood the thoughts mulling in the brunet's head, Riku held out his arms to him invitingly. His smile was charming, even more so than before when he hid his fangs, but that was probably because Sora wasn't so afraid of them anymore.

'On the day that you were born,
The angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true.'

Sora wiped his hands on his pants and grasped the handrail. He slowly stood, and after a long moment he took a step down towards Riku. Elation leaped into Riku's face; his eyes became supremely bright and his smile was enough to make a tiger swoon. Sora's heart skipped with excitement. He let out a rapturous breath at the sight.

'So they sprinkled moondust in your hair of gold
And starlight in your eyes of blue.'

He was about to descend the rest of the stairs between them, but the staircase gave a sudden, jarring lurch, and Sora was thrown against the wall. He didn't shatter, but his impulse to surrender did. The brunet turned tail and leaped up the stairs. He disappeared around the corner.

In his wake, Riku's expression fell with disappointment. He flew up the stairs after Sora, determined to catch him.

'And that is why all the boys in town
Follow you all around…'

(xox)

Proceeding through the revolving barrel tunnel with all of its air jets and flashing lights, was a challenge that made Sora's heart hammer madly in his chest. His quick footsteps echoed loudly in the passage, and so did Riku's close behind him. Sora shot out of the barrel tunnel just as he felt the silver-haired male breath on the back of his neck. The slide was ahead—he could see the exit two stories below. The brunet tore a burlap sack from the pile, tossed it down on the slide, and leaped onto it. He let out a victorious yell as he felt the distance between him and his pursuer grow exponentially. He threw his arms up as though he was accepting a trophy.

Track team and school bullies, I wouldn't be where I am today without you.

(xox)

Sora leaped out of the Fun House exit and into the dark world of the Kingdom Carnival. The sky was an inky black and the stars shone brilliantly above. The unnatural, golden Carnival lights lent his surroundings a skewed, otherworldly appearance.

Sora leaped clumsily over a metal fence, and stumbled into a swiftly moving crowd. He was then jostled into a line for another ride. Sora's world was spinning—his heart was beating wildly in his chest, he was high off of Riku's scent, his body was trembling with excitement, and his veins were saturated with adrenaline. The memories of the light dancing in Riku's eyes swam sinuously into Sora's mind and refused to leave, like a heady, addictive scent. In Sora's head, the silver-haired male's shiny, aquamarine eyes turned to serpents that slid smoothly through his inner world. They whispered sweet-sounding things in his head, persuading him to slow down because no one was chasing him—no one was going to catch him. In the brunet's dizzy haze, their little hisses coaxed him to lessen his pace to a dreamy sleepwalk, while Riku advanced upon him.

The brunet's right mind surfaced from the sea of serpentine sweet-talk in time to realize he was standing under a huge wheel. Golden light spilled down onto the rope of people, waiting two by two, for their turn. Sora looked around him and saw distorted faces: visages divided between the natural, caressing darkness of the growing night and the glaring, fairy-like light of the Kingdom Carnival's lamps. No matter where he cast his starry eyes, every face seemed to have lost the person held beneath the skin.

Sora heard music, though he couldn't locate its source. There were soft-voiced women crooning in unison about someone perfect, someone enchanting—someone beyond words.

'Of all the boys I've known, and I've known some,
Until I first met you, I was lonesome
And when you came in sight, dear, my heart grew light
And this old world seemed new to me.'

The line moved forward until there was just one couple separating Sora from a chair on what he then realized was the Ferris Wheel. He stood before the massive machine that was, according to general consensus, the most romantic ride of any carnival. But Sora was one of the dissenting few—his idea of romance lay elsewhere. He wondered how he would find it with the world looking so enchantingly unfamiliar. As the couple ahead of him stepped forward to take their seat, Sora froze.

'You're really swell, I have to admit, you
Deserve expressions that really fit you…'

Riku stood before him, within arms' reach. Under the Ferris Wheel's light, his silver hair glowed. The gentle breeze blew strands across his pale, handsome face. A gentle smirk graced his lips.

The game was over. Sora visibly deflated.

The elder male chuckled. "You can only enjoy this ride if you have a sweetheart, I've heard," he said, offering Sora his arm in a formal gesture of centuries past. "I'll give you a free pass on this one. We'll continue our game afterward, how does that sound?" the silver-haired male asked. He winked at Sora, but the brunet hesitated and inched away.

"Oh, come on, I know you want to try it," Riku said, still smiling.

'And so I've racked my brain, hoping to explain
All the things that you do to me—'

Sora, who could scarcely believe he was doing this, accepted the vampire's proffered arm. He twined his cotton-clad arm around the elder male's forearm and draped his fingers over the bare skin of Riku's wrist. Sora wondered how strange this looked to the other patrons in line.

'Bei mir bist du schoen—please let me explain:
"Bei mir bist du schoen" means you're grand.'

The brunet felt gravity ebb as they ascended the metal stairs and boarded the Ferris Wheel. Neither were looking where they were going; they were locked yet again in a 'til death do us part' gaze. It was like the look they shared before in the Hall of Mirrors, both feeling as though they were entrenched in each other's eyes. It was better by a thousand fold—they were sure that Aphrodite was floating somewhere nearby and Dionysus was wetting their eyes with drops of red wine.

You make it so difficult to breathe.

If the attendant gave them a look, neither noticed. Sora was falling into Riku's perfect eyes and soft smile; he was falling so quickly that it felt like a swan was stretching its glorious wings in his neglected, breathless lungs. Riku seemed just as entranced, without sign of intent to let Sora's arm fall from his or look anywhere else in the world.

'Bei mir bist do schoen, again I'll explain:
It means you're the fairest in the land!"

Their tiny world was shattered when the guard rail came down with a metallic clash. They looked away. Sora pulled his arm off of Riku's and filled his aching lungs with the cool, fresh air. He was still gasping when the Ferris Wheel started turning.

(xox)

Riku was trying to keep himself from closing the distance between them, but a flurry of desires burst through his head whenever he looked at Sora. His hand itched for that touch, that warmth, again. His sense of hearing was sharper than Sora's, so every breath the brunet took through his parted lips made Riku want to steal his breath once more. The silver-haired male gripped the guard rail tightly, trying to focus a little less on Sora and perceive the rest of the universe around him. He picked up a verse from a song streaming from some speaker hidden far below on the ground.

'I could say "bella, bella," I even say "wunderbar,"
Each language only helps me tell you how grand you are.'

The silver-haired male tried to compose himself. He cast a furtive glance at Sora, but his glance turned into another, half-lidded gaze as he saw Sora's eyes shining like stars. Riku felt like something inside was clambering just at the sight of those eyes. They toyed and teased with the workings of his inner world, made supremely tender by those stars, and Riku thrummed with longing to reach them.

'I've tried to explain bei mir bist du schoen,
So kiss me, and say you understand…'

Sora leaned forward a little to look over the front of their seat. Riku, unsure if he could control himself, reached out a shaky hand to tuck a strand of the rich brown hair behind Sora's ear. The gesture earned him a tender, heart-stopping look that made the paler male feel like he was melting.

Riku shook himself out of his daze and turned his eyes to the night sky. Its beauty made him shiver. He might have continued to gaze out at the diamond-like pinions in the sky, but the sounds of Sora's heartbeat and breathing moved him. Hesitantly, his eyes half-lidded, Riku moved his eyes as close as he dared to the brunet, which was a point next to his shoes on the metal floor of the Ferris Wheel seat. His bangs fell over his eyes. He slowly inched his pale hand over to Sora's, which was resting on the metal seat. At the first, light brush of contact, the brunet turned to fix him with his incomparable stare. Riku, suddenly shy underneath the starry gaze of Sora's starry eyes and the brilliant, watchful, celestial entities, couldn't meet his stare for more than a second without feeling heat rise to his face. He knew he was not blushing.

Riku's stomach flipped when Sora brushed his index finger against his hand. He glanced up again, feeling the brunet's fingers gently curl into his grasp. Suddenly, Riku felt like he was filled with fireflies and lightning bugs, and the feeling reminded him of fairy lights in the mist, of golden eyes gleaming from the tall grass on a cool evening. There were swans in his lungs, now.

Time would not stop for them: the Ferris Wheel rotated, bringing them close to the stars then far away again, but the celestial bodies looked on no matter the distance, and they were enthralled.

'Bei mir bist du schoen is such an old refrain,
And yet I should explain:
It means I am begging for your hand.'

(xox)

They waited for their chair to reach the platform. Sora and Riku briefly entertained the thought of riding the Ferris Wheel once more, but they dismissed the idea, knowing that this could not last forever. Sora grew nervous again at the thought of the impending chase. After the couple in the seat ahead of them disembarked, the attendant pulled the lever and brought Riku and Sora's seat to the platform. After the guard rail rose, the silver-haired male took Sora by the hand and helped him to stand. Riku clasped the brunet's hand in his until they were beyond the exit gate.

Sora reluctantly paused. He was undecided as to whether he preferred to let this contact continue or to finish the chase. In the second of his silence, he felt the pale hand cupping his move to intertwine their fingers. Sora suppressed a soft sigh as a new flutter swept through him. He felt Riku's gaze heavy on his skin, as though trying to press into him so separation would be impossible. The brunet shivered inside and reasoned with pleasure principle.

He finally met Riku's intent gaze, and gave him a playful smile.

"Can I have a twenty-second head start?" he asked, already slipping his hand out of his grasp. Riku's grip tightened harshly. His eyes narrowed as he raised the brunet's hand to his lips.

"Ten seconds," he growled, but he didn't let Sora go. Instead, he slowly kissed Sora's knuckles, then the back of his hand, and then his fingers. His kisses were deep—it felt as though Riku's lips were tickling something beneath Sora's skin, and the feeling made his blue eyes begin to glaze. At length, however, Riku pulled Sora's hand away from his mouth and released him.

It took the blue-eyed male a moment to realize what this meant. When understanding clicked, he turned tail and fled just before Riku grasped for him again.

Sora struggled to tear all the cobwebs out of his head. They were slowing him down and making it difficult to think. Fortunately, he already knew where he wanted to go. Sora tried to recall landmarks in the foreign fairy realm of the Kingdom Carnival. It was late and many of the patrons were leaving the Carnival. It was getting close to closing time; attendants drifted from their stations for breaks or shut them down completely. Sora passed the Dark Ride and knew he was close.

He heard the pipe organ music of the Carousel begin to quiet as the attendant cut the power and left his post.

'I've tried to explain bei mir bist du schoen,
So kiss me…and say that you will understand!'

(xox)

Riku felt like two ravenous beasts were tearing at each other inside him. He growled, bothered by the instincts turning his world to simple, mindless things like stardust and need; the raw, restless want that echoed through his muscles. Riku clenched his fists and contracted the coiled muscles in his arms, trying to relieve some of the incessant tension, but it was of little use. Riku believed that Sora was the sort of person who could light sparks in him at any time or place, and then those eyes. There was more than blood beneath Sora's skin, there was an entire inner world—there were other pleasures, like kisses and murmurs, things Riku believed Sora was willing to give him, and thatsoothed his instincts, if only a little. Sora was too good to release to the wind, because Sora was the sort of person who liked mingling the old with the new; he liked the old dances, candlelight, and proper romance, but he also liked good films, technology, and the freedoms of this new age. He liked exploring abandoned buildings in the company of a sweetheart, he didn't scoff at locks of hair as love tokens, and he knew who Boccaccio was.

The silver-haired male closed his eyes and counted the seconds by his faint heartbeat. He saw a pendulum swinging slowly in the dark beneath his eyelids. Almost time, almost—almost. Riku scented the chilly night air and found Sora's invisible trail: a natural musk that made him feel little electric sparks jumping beneath his skin. Three seconds, two seconds, and…for one moment, Riku hated his heartbeat because it seemed to pause deliberately to vex him. But the pause ceased with the last echoing murmur of his empty heart, soon to be filled.

Riku tore after Sora with the grace and speed of a panther. It was the Carousel, he knew, even before he followed the scent there. He knew because Sora was like him; the Carousel by moonlight was their romance.

(xox)

Sora leaped over the gray metal fence around the Carousel in a panic because he could hear Riku's footsteps behind him. Sora cleared the fence with his starry, blue eyes only on the midnight blue sight of the Carousel. The Carousel was love; the "romance" sides of the resin animals faced out at an entire world that gaped at their carved details—gleaming saddles and bright eyes, flowers and medallions etched into harnesses, the tiger's expertly rendered snarl and the docile face of the gentle doe. Life was a merry-go-round, and so was love—this one was a beautiful midnight blue.

The brunet sprinted into the dark carousel, nearly tripping up the stairs in his haste. The attendant was gone; no one was nearby, the lights were dim, and the music was fading.

It didn't matter. They were alone and the Carousel was perfect that way.

Sora moved past the first two rows of animals, putting a doe and a white horse between him and Riku. The elder male closed the distance quickly, but with an excited smile. The brunet darted around a bench with a curved back and met Riku's eyes with a challenging glare that melted above his bright smile. He was already breathless with giddiness, and Riku felt the same. Those aquamarine eyes bored into him like he was the light of the world, a light that his sensitive eyes could take. A very dear wish lay in the dancing light of Riku's eyes.

Sora dove under a unicorn to evade the vampire's next lunge. He winked at Riku, his eyes sparkling, as well. The silver-haired male smirked and rushed at the unicorn. Sora barely retreated in time; Riku's hand nearly caught his wrist. As the brunet darted around the mirror-laden center pole, the skin on his wrist tingled maddeningly where Riku touched it. Sora panted, feeling like he couldn't get enough air into his lungs.

Riku ran around the dividing pole, side-stepped a lion, and made to grab him. Sora saw him in time and threw himself over a black racehorse. He laughed, sprinting around the carousel deck again. He spun and clung to the brass pole piercing a tiger.

"Catch me if you can, Riku!" he taunted breathlessly, still laughing. Sora's eyelids momentarily slid shut as he tried to catch his breath. When he opened his eyes, Riku was standing before him. Sora's mouth dropped open and he stumbled backward onto a silver Pegasus. His pursuer inched closer to the cornered prey. Riku smirked darkly. The Pegasus' wings and head blocked Sora's escape. His fedora fell off his head and onto the Carousel deck by the Pegasus' shining hooves.

Riku slowly moved towards the Pegasus' rear, then smoothly slid onto the creature's back. He crawled on his hands and knees until his pale face hovered near Sora's. His silver hair tickled Sora's neck and face. Riku slid a little closer. He brought one hand to rest beside the brunet's head, where he could tangle his fingers with ease in the brown locks when Sora surrendered to him.

Sora was very quiet, gazing fearfully up at him with his wide, starry, sapphire eyes. When Riku inched closer, the brunet shrunk back. He shook his head gently, murmuring a soft, anxious, "No," while his hands slid up to Riku's chest as if to stop him. Riku cooed softly to him, now caressing the tan male's hair gently. The silver-haired male moved a little closer, and again Sora murmured, "No," but this time even softer, with his eyes half-lidded in hesitant resignation. His breaths were soft and shallow. He shook his head again as the distance between their lips shrunk to about an inch or so. Riku lowered his trunk onto Sora's. He slowly, softly pressed forward for a kiss. Sora hesitated for a moment, his head angled slightly away, then turned in and let him.

A feeling of tremendous pleasure spread through them, from their lips to their lungs and wrists and feet. Sora moaned softly and Riku sighed blissfully. It was a good kiss—a great kiss, slow and deep and tender. They felt veins of warmth growing inside, filling them while tingling sensations ran over their skin like ocean spray. That first kiss slowly melded into another of the same caliber, the same sort that was turning their hearts to water and tickling their bones with little tremors.

Riku slowly pulled away so he could look at Sora. Their eyelids were half-lidded, both pairs of starry eyes still lost in the pleasant night sky they saw within. The pale male moved to have another kiss, but the brunet suddenly rallied.

Sora grinned and shook his head, giggling, "No!" He tried to push Riku off but Riku would have none of that—he laughed, not caring to hide his fangs, and cuddled Sora fiercely in his arms. He turned them onto their sides and clutched the brunet tightly. He pressed his face into Sora's and nuzzled him teasingly as Sora laughed and tried to squirm away. Riku, smirking, tried to get at the mulberry lips Sora was so selfishly keeping from him—Sora kept angling his face away from the paler male's lips. Riku placed many of his missed attempts on the brunet's chin and cheeks. Eventually, he caught Sora's lips with a quick peck, then he quickly supplied another and another until Sora softened, melted, and began murmuring for more.

Riku secured him with a long, deep kiss on the lips. He twined his pale fingers through the brunet's hair to keep him from moving away again. He would have left his hand there, but soon Riku found he couldn't keep his hands still—he grasped Sora in any number of ways, as though he couldn't hold him securely enough. Riku wanted Sora to stay and just—just kiss, just stay, and just stop time.

Sora sighed: a soft sound, a pale sound if it had a color, and it inspired Riku with an even greater need to hold him tighter. Sora was finding it difficult to breathe as Riku pressed his lips against his, coming hard then soft, from one angle then another. He liked the eager strength thrumming through Riku's muscles. Sora tried the satisfy the hands that wanted him as close as possible: he curled closer, he tangled his hands in his silver hair, and locked one leg around Riku's. Riku moaned in response, now pressing his hand against Sora's upper back. They were melting inside. They poured onto each other in a seemingly endless bliss of perfect lips on perfect lips, and the perfectly nonexistent space between them. Sora pressed back with the same force as Riku. It made the elder male moan. Soft, sweet sounds rose in his throat as Sora returned his kisses.

"Sora," he murmured against the mulberry lips, then, "sweetheart," wanting to be able to call him that. His breath was a faint plume of white against the warm, tan skin. He opened his bleary aquamarine eyes to meet the two gleaming sapphire stars of Sora's face and moaned again. Riku rose onto his hands and knees and pulled the brunet underneath him. He ran his hands up and down Sora's sides then coursed his fingers over his neck and cheeks. His pale fingers descended again into the rich forest of Sora's hair and he brought their lips together again.

They were both trembling inside, like some timorous beast was arching its back within them, shuddering as though the world was falling down upon its back. They felt very tender inside, like they were filled with the warm, heady smoke of incense. It made their kisses tender and sweet: soft, slow presses mixed with sighs and answering squeezes. They were the sort of kisses that pulled at heartstrings and made a body feel molten inside until tenderness transcended into beasts that needed more.

Riku kissed Sora with greater insistence because something new was bubbling up inside of him. He nibbled at Sora's mulberry lips and remembered what else he could do with his teeth. He was thirsty, and once he dimly realized that, he was very soon fully aware of that. His jaw muscles threatened to open wide of their own accord and his fangs wanted room to lengthen. Riku tried to distract himself with Sora's lips again, and it worked, if for only a moment. Riku's mind swirled—it realigned itself in time for him to realize that his mouth had strayed a dangerous inch towards the pulsing artery in Sora's neck. Riku backed up and pulled away again. He could forget; when he was thirsty, his subconscious could make grabbing someone's wrist and tearing a sleeve off seem a lot like waltzing, or that the bare neck of a stranger was actually a peach and there was really no reason not to bite that.

He could think he was kissing Sora's lips when he was truly about to sink into his neck. Riku shivered inside.

Riku stared down at Sora. Their open mouths exhaled gasp after gasp. The silver-haired male temporarily lost himself in the brunet's enrapturing eyes until the thirst roving insistently in his body lured his gaze lower. He poured his aquamarine eyes over nose and lips and chin, and then to the visible pulse on the younger male's neck. Between Sora's enchantingly starry eyes and the telltale sign of the ruby red beneath his skin, Riku's expression lapsed. He growled; he dearly wanted the person underneath him—and he sorely wanted that, too. He cleared his throat and tried to think clearly. Riku could try to let him flee, but Sora had little chance of escaping him when he was this thirsty.

"Sora," Riku said softly, gently, not wanting to scare him. He slowly lowered his face to Sora's neck and lightly nuzzled it, deliberately clenching his jaw shut. He didn't want to alarm Sora, though the scent of his blood through his skin was making his world shift violently.

"May I have a little?" he asked hesitantly, kissing Sora's cheek beseechingly. He nuzzled his cheek and placed soft, little kisses there, intending each affection as a humble offering for his favor.

Sora's hands nestled into his long, silver hair. Sora trembled nervously.

"Can you stop in time?" he asked, staring up at him with his big, blue eyes.

"Yes," Riku breathed—and sincerely, because he would do anything for those eyes. Any vampire would.

"O-okay," Sora said softly. He gently pulled the silver-haired male closer, though he was trembling more. "But—careful," he reminded him.

Riku caressed him tenderly, trying to soothe him. He whispered soft, sincere things into his ear and held him a little closer, if that was possible. He sighed and hushed Sora.

"I'll take care," he whispered honestly, placing a gentle kiss on the brunet's mulberry lips. "Shh, I promise." He caressed Sora's hair comfortingly. Sora nodded against his lips.

He filled Sora with good feelings—warmth and tenderness and welcome—before his lips trailed downward. He placed light pecks from Sora's chin to his cheek, following the line of his jaw. Then Riku nuzzled his neck again. He stilled for a moment to steady himself before pressing his lips to the thin layer of skin separating him from the flowing red beneath. He sucked at the skin, eliciting gasps and moans from Sora.

Riku pulled away to gaze lustfully from Sora's rapturous face to the demure, skin-swathed pulse below his pale lips. He swallowed and lowered his head. To soften the skin, he licked the patch over the artery once, twice—then smoothly sank his fangs into Sora.

Sora tensed in Riku's arms and let out a cry of pain. He could feel Riku stealing from him: an insistent, sharp-edged ache that stemmed from the side of his neck and fractured into stinging rivulets in his face and chest. It felt like jagged sheets of metal were scraping against his arterial walls. Sora tried to hold back the few tears rising in his eyes and choked down a trembling, wet gasp. He felt Riku pull him closer and stroke him comfortingly. A sad sound rose from Riku's throat.

The blue-eyed male felt the vampire swallow and readjust his angle of entry. Sora winced and tried to brace for more pain, but instead found himself dissolving in a soft wave of pleasure. His eyes grew wide and his lips parted in surprise. He gasped when the wave came again. It broke over him gently, like the first sleepy wave onto the cool shore before the sun rose in the morning. He felt like his skin was dissolving, letting everything inside disperse into a hot, bubbling bath. Sora's head filled with warm steam and he sighed, relaxing. Riku's drinking of him now felt like a pleasant, pervading thrumming. Sora cooed and moaned softly. He was very relaxed, and starting to feel very sleepy. His eyelids were too heavy to hold open, so he let them fall and sank into the sensations stemming from those two pinpricks on his neck.

Then the sensations ceased. The world shifted to something less thoroughly blissful and the softened, blurred edge that separated and defined who he was and who he was not became definite again. Sora was no longer sleepy. His eyelids were light again, and he opened his eyes to stare into Riku's face. Riku was breathing heavily as he wiped his mouth for stray droplets of blood and licked his fingers clean. His other hand was pressed firmly against Sora's neck to prevent further bleeding.

Riku lowered his head as if to kiss Sora, but he stopped himself. His aquamarine eyes hesitantly flicked over the younger male's face, searching for reproach. Sora smiled a little and caressed his pale cheek. A sweet, boyish smile broke over Riku's lips and the light in his eyes began dancing again. He leaned in and gave Sora a long, deep, heartwarming kiss, which Sora returned wholeheartedly. Riku changed their positions so the brunet was laying on top of him. He held Sora's slim hips and purred against his mulberry lips. He felt Sora pulling away, so he pressed forward to maintain their contact, placing one hand behind the brunet's head to block his retreat. They had known each other for two or three hours, but already Riku was quite sure that Sora's lips belonged on his. Sora managed to break the kiss—he teased Riku with a sly wink.

The silver-haired male growled and grasped Sora's wrists. He turned them over so he could pin the brunet with his weight. He successfully stole more kisses despite Sora's squirming. The silver-haired male at last released his lips so he could laugh triumphantly.

Riku glanced around; the Kingdom Carnival was dark and empty. Above, stars glimmered down at him. They caught his eye for one moment, and then Riku found he had not the desire nor will to look away.

He returned to earth when he felt Sora gently shake his shoulder. Then, Riku nearly lost himself in Sora's eyes. Riku could already tell that future conversations might be difficult.

"Are you all right?" Sora asked, rubbing his shoulder gently.

"Yeah," Riku said, blushing faintly. "It's a…common trait." Riku grinned a little sheepishly.

"May I see you again?" Riku asked hesitantly. He released one of the brunet's wrists to trace the curve of his jaw. "Please?"

Sora stared up at him, seeming momentarily at a loss, then smiled.

"I'd like that," he said, nodding.

Riku gave him a wide grin and kissed him again. This one made shivers erupt in Sora and tendrils of pleasure snake their way beneath his skin.

"You can, um," Sora mumbled clumsily against Riku's lips, "you can do that again sometime."

The silver-haired male chuckled, gave him another peck on the mouth, then dismounted the Pegasus. He lifted Sora off the resin creature's back and deposited him onto the Carousel deck. Sora plucked his fedora off the deck, dusted it off, and replaced it on his head.

"When?" Riku asked eagerly, taking Sora's hand in his. They arranged to meet one night later that week at a restaurant in the downtown area. Directions were difficult, as either Riku or Sora would be compelled to break from the conversation for kisses or to dash away and hide behind some ride or crate. They tried to stifle their laughter, failed, and wound up fleeing several security guards. It was past one in the morning, but Sora still wanted to play, and though Riku was more than happy to continue their game, he decided they'd better save it for another time. The brunet was most uncooperative about finding the exit, and in the end, Riku only managed to get them out of the Kingdom Carnival by throwing Sora over his shoulder and carrying him into town.

He released Sora after they reached one of the main streets.

"May I walk you home?" he asked.

Sora gave him a wry look. "Why? In case there's some big, bad vampire stalking me?" he asked, snickering.

"Or so I can get one last goodnight kiss before you open your door and I behave like a gentleman and refrain from following you inside to have my wicked way with you," Riku declared with an undignified expression.

Sora smirked, nodded, and started walking. Riku matched his stride but kept a little distance between them. Their time together that night was too soon coming to a close, and Riku wanted to preserve that fresh shiver he felt when Sora so much as glanced at him. He wanted the pleasure of holding his hand or nuzzling his soft hair, but he knew the pleasure would be multiplied if he denied himself now.

However, if Riku learned anything from Sora that night, it was to speak clearly without words. He decisively grasped Sora's hand, and anyone who saw would have known that it was a silent declaration of "fuck it."

There were warm silences between them, laced with smiles, and sometimes broken by laughter when they couldn't contain themselves. Unfortunately, they did, eventually, reach Sora's apartment. He lived in the basement of a small brick building in a nice part of town. Riku escorted Sora to his door, where he placed his pale hands firmly on Sora's hips and gave him a long kiss. Afterward, they maintained that pose, only with their foreheads resting against each other, staring at each other. The distance between their faces was filled with soft, tender smiles. At length, Riku managed to disengage himself from every perfect thing that was Sora and put a few yards between them. In other words, he stood on the sidewalk in front of Sora's apartment building to give Sora one last look before heading home. A light turned on in one of the windows, and he saw a spiky-haired figure pull the blinds to wave at him.

Then, their goodbyes said and last glances had, Riku turned on his heel and tripped into a gutter. He swore, stood, wiped his stinging palms on his pants and looked up at Sora's window. He had an audience. This time, Riku's cheeks turned pink. The brunet was laughing, but his smile didn't mock him. Riku laughed it off, blew him a kiss goodbye, and went on his way.

Later that night while he was still wandering home, a police officer stopped him. He questioned Riku if he was drunk and shoved a breathalyzer in his face. Riku submitted easily and passed. He was intoxicated, but on a drink that would never show on a breathalyzer test. He didn't blame the police officer and drifted home, as dreamily as before. He hummed a favorite tune.

'Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?'

By the time he reached his apartment, Riku was still smiling brilliantly, and his smile gave his face a sweet, boyish appearance. He placed his key in the lock, and turned to glance at the starry night sky. The stars winked down at him. Riku sighed blissfully, and it was still the same "hush, hush" that put the hummingbirds to sleep.

'Just like me,
They long to be…'

The End