A/N: My longest fanfiction yet… 25 pages. Geeze. Well, this story has been in my mind and thumb drive for a very long time. I started it sometime before the summer and actually finished it, but it didn't end the way I wanted to. So I deleted that ending and rewrote it so that it fit to my ending. For some reason, I imagine the ending before I write the story.

So, the first fanfiction I uploaded in… how long? Omigod! Almost a year! o.o

Well, I'll stop rambling now. On to the story!


What I'm Looking For



Riku and Sora gazed at the blonde boy they had successfully managed to free from his prison within Sora. A girl with similar hair gnawed worriedly at her knuckle as Kairi checked his vitals.

"He's… alive." She said slowly as she knelt in front of him. Dark blue eyes gazed vacantly at the ground as she waved a hand in front of him.

"Something's wrong… Naminé wasn't like this." Riku said urgently, circling the unmoving boy.

Kairi took a flashlight from Sora's desk (although it was small and you had to hold down the button to make it shine properly) and shone it into the eyes that dilated correctly. Worry crossed everyone's expression, even that of the girl who went through the same experience.

"Is he broken?" Sora whispered harshly, fearfully. "We did something wrong, didn't we. What did we do wrong? Why didn't it work right?"

"No, we did it right!" The petite blonde girl cried, rushing to the boy standing in the middle of Sora's bedroom. "I know we did… Roxas," she attempted to gain his attention as she grabbed his elbows and shook him lightly. "Roxas!"

Dark lashes drooped over blue irises and brushed against pale cheeks. When they rose again, it was as if nothing changed. The boy was void of emotion and expression.

"He blinked!" Sora shouted, excited. There was nothing to be excited about. No progress had been made through a single blink.

Chewing his lip, Riku surveyed the still boy. What would happen if… Riku grabbed him roughly by the elbow, cries of protest and reprimands followed. The blonde stumbled backwards, but made and effort to keep himself upright before looking up at Riku. He really looked at Riku.

No change in that expression, but there was something there… life.... Riku brushed hair out of the young Nobody's face and took him by the chin, forcing him to continue looking at Riku and the older boy examined him.

Then, those eyes no longer focused, but gazed at Riku, like he wasn't there. No life was held by the doll. "Maybe some sleep will do you some good."

Riku turned, leaving the boy to hold himself up on his own (he had been doing that splendidly) and threw back the made sheets of Sora's bed.

"Riku, what are you—"

"We can't just leave him like this. We need to find a way to snap him out of it. He's in there, Sora." Riku told his friend, as he coaxed the Nobody to lay down on the soft downy sheets. He pulled off his shoes and socks before throwing a blanket over him. "We just need to find out how to get him out."

"I hope your right, Riku."

….

Three months had passed and Roxas made little progress. It took two weeks to teach Roxas to eat and drink, which he only did when food was placed in front of him. Sora and Riku would watch with gloom as Roxas would mechanically lift a fork and shovel small amounts of food at a time. When everyone finished eating, so did Roxas, even if he only ate a quarter of his food.

Riku found a common pattern once when he found Sora eating a bag of chips and Roxas sat, dumb, on the bed. Roxas moved his hands like he was eating a bag of chips while Sora was distracted, reading his new comic book.

If Sora ate, so did Roxas. Sora was so excited by the discovery; he decided to test it out that night. Inviting Riku over for dinner to help prove the theory, Sora ate slowly and Riku explained to Sora's parents what they might have concluded. Sora took more helpings then he could possibly eat, complaining that he was so full he could burst. His mother insisted that he should stop, but Sora continued to eat until Roxas's plate was clean. Desert came around and Sora ate none of his ice cream (though he looked at it longingly, for the sake of research and his health) and Roxas did not even bother to touch it.

Explaining Roxas to Sora's parents was a whole other story. Of course, Sora explained who he was before they decided to split them, but when he actually came into being, his parents gained the full weight of the situation. Now they had two sons, and one was practically comatose. Although they were stunned and shocked, they accepted the boy and Sora's mother instantly claimed they should take Roxas to a doctor.

Protests from Sora stopped her. He asked for a few days in order to "wake him up" and days turned to weeks and weeks turned into a month and a half before she told Sora they were going to the store and he could pick out what they wanted for dinner and tricked him into taking Roxas to the ER of the nearest hospital.

Thankfully, Riku had tagged along and only on the way in (Sora tugging at one of Roxas's arms as his mother pulled the other; now Riku understood where Sora's liveliness came from) did Riku think of a way to convince the boy's mother the hospital was a bad idea. But it was too late as a passing doctor saw Roxas and instantly decided to give him an MRI, thinking he might have gotten a concussion. Even to outsiders, Roxas looked as if something were wrong with him.

The three of them were in a check up room (the doctor wanted to look for other symptoms before they gave him the scan) when Riku leaned in to whisper in his friends' mother's ear, "Sora didn't want to tell you this, but Roxas doesn't have a heart. He'd be considered dead or a medical mystery."

The small woman squeaked, causing Riku to cringe and jumped to her feet just as the doctor took out his stethoscope. The doctor froze and she leapt at Roxas, pulling him to his feet. "Sorry! This was a mistake! Goodbye!"

The three of them ran, carrying Roxas, out of the hospital and out to the car. On the way, Sora's mother scolded him for not telling her sooner.

"I didn't want to scare you." He replied quietly, looking down at Roxas as he laid limply over his and Riku's laps.

Two weeks after that, Roxas stunned everyone as he said his first word. Naminé, Kairi, and Sora were talking about ways they should try to bring Roxas back to life and Riku sat in front of Roxas, just staring at him. Riku hadn't noticed how pretty his eyes were until that moment. They weren't like Sora at all. He always assumed they were the same shape and color, but they were a deeper blue, although they had no light to them, unlike Sora's eyes, which always had light shining in them.

"What are you looking at?" Sora asked, peeking over Riku's shoulder.

"His hair," Riku lied. Why did he feel the need to lie to Sora? Sora was his best friend. Maybe it was because the subject was weird. "I was just thinking about how it doesn't defy gravity like yours does. What do you think, Roxas? Maybe his mom dropped him on his head as a baby and it deformed his scalp."

Sora punched his shoulder hard enough that Riku rubbed the sore area tenderly. "You're always talking to him. It's not like he can respond."

"He's a person, Sora." Riku waved his finger philosophically. "He just needs help developing his social skills. Am I right, Roxas?"

There was a tug on his shirt and Riku looked down. He hadn't been paying enough attention to Roxas and missed when the boy had pinched his shirt and pulled it to grab his attention. Riku looked up into the pale face as it focused on him for a split second.

"Riku."

"HOLY SHIT!" Riku jumped back almost fearfully as Roxas fell back into his empty state.

Sora jaw fell to the ground and the girls looked over as Riku's freak out caught their attention. They instantly darted to the three boys and asked what they missed. Sora explained, stuttering all the while, what happened.

From then on, Sora spoke to Roxas every day. Eventually, there were snippets of words heard from Roxas and they were always names. Sora spoke to him every day and there were some times when Sora would call Riku and tell him excitedly that Roxas spoke. It was like Sora was an excited mother of a child learning to talk.

Something the two of them noticed was that Roxas would say Riku's name the most often. Sora even said that Roxas spoke most often when he was talking about Riku.

"I think someone has a crush on you!" Kairi said in jest, giggling after the boys told her and Naminé. As Riku opened his mouth to protest, another voice spoke.

"Kairi."

The four of them turned to see Roxas with a pleasant, serene and warm smile on his face as he looked at Naminé. Although he was speaking of the redhead, he gazed at her Nobody before falling back into a daze.

Needless to say, everyone roared to excited life. He recognized two people at once, although they were technically the same person. He knew Kairi by name and acknowledged Naminé.

At the three months mark he still stayed completely silent except for those nice, rare occurrences. Sora's mother still worried over him and there was still very little progress, considering.

"I don't know what to do anymore, Riku," Sora confided in the boy, away from Roxas and away from Kairi and Naminé. He was visibly distressed. "I've done everything you've told me to do, I've tried my hardest to get him to do something and he won't move unless I move him! He's like a doll! What went wrong? Something had to. Wait, no, nothing was wrong, we did it right. Naminé turned out just fine. We did everything perfectly. It must be me! I've thought it over for a long time and something has to be wrong with me! Roxas is broken because of me. I'm broken! I'm—"

Riku suddenly threw his arms around his best friend, holding him tightly to his chest, feeling the tears that streaked down the brunette's face soak into his shirt. A sob wracked through his body and his speech became incoherent. Riku did not understand as Sora continued his fit, but whether the words were self-bashing or not Riku shushed him. Sora clutched his shaking hands into the back of Riku's shirt, shaking his head, sniffling, and sobbing.

Riku hadn't seen Sora cry in years. The last time he could remember was when Sora was nine and Riku had been ten. Sora skinned his knee as they were playing and began crying about how much it hurt. Riku remembered calling Sora a baby and Sora gave him this look… Riku could not describe it, but he knew he never wanted Sora to look at him in that way ever again. It made Riku think Sora would hate him for the rest of his life.

After that, Riku quickly apologized and helped Sora to the docks where his father worked. The man was helping to fix the sail of one of the fishing ships when Riku called him down, saying Sora had been hurt.

After proper first aid had been applied, Sora sat before his father, sniffling and quiet.

"Am I a baby, Dad?" he asked.

Riku rarely heard the man talk. His was a silent, but strong man and every time he opened his mouth, something gentle followed. "No, son. You are a young man."

"Men don't cry." Sora stated, looking away from his father. The man's calloused hands led his son's chin to face him sternly.

"Only the strong cry, Sora. The weak hold their feelings deep inside because they cannot cope. The strong face their situation head on and unafraid. Son, you are a very strong person."

The words struck Riku, although he never acted on them. He felt himself to be weak after that and continued to feel like that, even now. Holding his feelings deep within, afraid to touch them.

Riku thought of the words Sora's father said at this moment and made an attempt to be strong. Face his feeling he buried deep in his heart and held Sora even closer to comfort him. Sora began to calm down and Riku rubbed his friend's back. Nuzzling his face into the brown spikes, they were much softer then they looked. He brushed his lips subtly along the scalp of the weeping boy.

"Sora…"

"Can you take him, Riku?"

A beat of awkward silence….

"No."

"Riku—" Sora looked up at the firm tone in Riku's voice, shocked as more tears spilled down those crystalline eyes.

"Absolutely not! Roxas is not some… toy you can throw away if he's broken! He's a person—he's you. Sora, don't you dare ever ask anyone to take some person off of your hands! I don't even know how you found it in yourself to ask that! Sora I'm—"

"I just don't know what to do!" Sora wailed, pulling himself away from Riku. "He's just so lifeless, I'm afraid he won't be normal! I'm scared for him and it seems like you're the only person who he reacts to! I mean his first word was your name--!"

"The first word we actually heard." Riku corrected. "We don't know if he talked any time before that. We might not have heard him. I mean, he is really quiet."

"That's not the point! I think Roxas likes you or something!"

"I don't see why, I manipulated him…" Riku said quietly, remembering when he challenged the boy and forced him into a fake Twilight Town to help Sora wake up.

"Whatever! He reacts to you the most! Don't tell me you don't see it."

Riku had seen it. Riku was the first person Roxas focused on. "Riku" was his first word. And there were times when Riku would find the boy just staring blankly in his direction.

Riku sighed heavily, ruffling his hair in frustration. "I'll take him for tonight. You need to get your head on straight. We'll have a sleepover or something."

Sora, who was rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand, looked back at his friend, blinking. "R-Really?"

"Just for tonight." he annunciated. "You need to relax. Sleep it off or something. Roxas is going back tomorrow."

"Thank you! Thank you sooo much, Riku! You're the best!" Sora threw himself into Riku's arms unexpectedly, surprising the older boy. Riku felt his cheeks flush as he awkwardly patted Sora's head.

"J-Just for tonight."

Riku helped pack a bag for Roxas and Sora sat in front of his Nobody, explaining what they were going to do. The blonde had no reaction; he didn't even blink. Sora wasn't doing anything wrong. Riku would have done the same thing.

"It only takes time, Sora." Riku said quietly. Sora nodded sadly, understanding.

When preparations were complete (Toothbrush? Check.) Sora escorted Roxas back to Riku's house and patted his Nobody on the head like a puppy, looking into those lifeless eyes. Roxas had no reaction.

Now that Riku thought about it. Sora hadn't really been apart from Roxas since he was reborn. Sure, they were maybe separated by a room or a floor, but they had never actually been apart.

As Sora began to walk back down the street, towards his house, Roxas made a mechanical attempt to follow him. Riku grabbed him by the elbow (he focused on him again!) and smiled kindly, leading him into the house and up to his room.

Riku spoke to Roxas—more like babbled. He didn't know what he was saying anymore. He told the Nobody whatever came to mind and the Nobody made absolutely no reaction to what was being said. At one point, though, Roxas made a very Sora-ish move: he flopped carelessly onto Riku's bed. Riku laughed and laid down next to him. He began to talk about the similarities between the two of them, speaking with his hands and his body (he needed to show Roxas how to speak properly) and soon ran out of things to talk about, which he voiced to the boy as well.

"I'm not like Sora…" Riku sighed apologetically, looking at the limp boy. Hazy eyes gazed at the ceiling and hands rested on the blonde's chest and stomach while his legs fell over the edge of the bed. "I can't rant. I can't talk forever. Sora could go on for hours. Y'know… I never actually had a conversation with you, and when I saw you in Twilight Town, you were kinda quiet. I wonder if you ramble like Sora or… if you just say what you need to say and that's it. I don't think you'd be like Sora like that…."

"Riku."

Riku looked at the boy and his eyes widened as glazed eyes focused on his own. His heart speed up as Roxas opened his mouth—

"Do you love Sora?"

Riku, stunned, slipped off the bed, but still unable to take his eyes off of Roxas who sat up and continued to look at him.

"R-Roxas?"

"I wish I could love…"

Roxas turned away from Riku wistfully and blinked slowly before his body simply slipped back into a flaccid doll and he dropped back onto the bed.

What… the… hell.

….

"He said something?!"

"Yeah…"

"He actually said more then one word?!"

"Yes."

"What did he say?!"

…Was the conversation that occurred the following day. This was the part Riku was dreading, but he knew he had to tell Sora everything.

"He… He asked if you loved Kairi."

The awkwardness of the conversation grew tenfold through Riku's lie and his cheeks burned brightly and he absolutely refused to look at Sora.

"I-I must talk about her a lot…" Sora replied quietly… shyly.

"Y-Yeah," Riku nodded. "But… he said more. He also said 'I wish I could love' and he actually looked sad about it."

"Wait… he looked sad?" Sora asked. Riku nodded. "He… showed emotion." Riku nodded. "Do you know what this means?"

Riku looked at Roxas. He was staring blankly at one of Sora's manga, as if he were copying what his Somebody would do. Riku leaned forward and hissed into Sora's ear, "You aren't gonna try to dump him on me again, are you?" Not that he cared or minded… it was just… weird. After Roxas had spoken, Riku hadn't said another word to him. He didn't know what to say. What if he came out of the daze again? What if he wanted an answer? How was Riku going to answer that?

"Riku," Sora held his friend at arms length, looking excited. "You draw him out! You wake him up! If spending one night with you does that, imagine what a week would do!"

"Did you learn absolutely nothing Sora!?" Riku clenched his fist, resisting the urge to deck that flapping jaw of his at the moment.

"Okay, just try one more night!" Sora looked from Riku to Roxas and back, light twinkling in his eyes. Riku was tired. He didn't know how to argue with Sora. He didn't feel like it.

"One more night," Riku sighed, shaking his head and rubbing his temples. "But remember, he isn't a toy."

"I know he isn't, I'm just experimenting."

Riku sighed again (waaay to much lately), running a frustrated hand through his hair. Looking back at Roxas, he watched the blonde turn a page in the manga, continuing on like he didn't hear the conversation. Did he know? Did he really hear, comprehend, and understand his surroundings like a normal person would? Or was that a random spurt of words with no meaning flowing like a rapid river out of Roxas's mouth last night?

Riku didn't know, and he'd give anything to know what went on inside of the vegetable's head.

"What are we doing today?" Riku asked wryly, still looking at Roxas.

"Going to Kairi's place, then the Island." Sora replied shortly. Riku grunted a response.

Still, none of them made to get out of the house.

"So…" Riku finally returned his gaze to Sora, fixing his teal eyes with bright sky-blue hues. Riku could sometimes swear he could see clouds and the sun shining through them, especially when Sora smiled, "do you love Kairi?"

Silence pressed long and hard between the two of them, broken only by the autopilot flipping page of the manga.

"Yeah," Sora said slowly, a serene smile, very unlike any smile Sora had smiled before, crossed his face as he looked at Riku and the sun was shining brightly in those orbs. "I do. I really do."

Riku forced (wait, why was he forcing?) a grin and pat Sora on the back. "'Bout time you realized it. I think even she knows by now."

Sora punched Riku's arm and Riku kept on grinning. His chest hurt… a lot. His heart had been ripped in two, even if he already knew the answer. He knew this would happen, but it was all a matter of time for Sora to pluck up his courage and ask Kairi out.

After much teasing and a silent heartbreak (both on Riku's part) Riku, Sora, and Roxas went to Kairi's house for lunch. Riku ate silently next to Roxas, who didn't eat (which didn't concern the others, for he did that occasionally). He wanted an escape at the moment—he wanted to get out. Go home, leave town, leave the islands… something!

Something cold and limp fell on his still hand. Another pale one caught his attention as it hid his knuckles. Roxas gazed into the empty eyes of the owner. "Riku…" Roxas said sadly before releasing his grip and hanging his head. Was Roxas sad about something? Did he sense Riku's sadness?

No one else seemed to notice this subtle gesture of comfort from the mannequin-like boy.

After lunch, they sat on the island, Riku sat on his palm tree as Sora and Kairi jabbered away and Naminé, inserting her opinion every now and again, drew a detailed sketch in her magical book. Roxas sat before the bend of the tree with Riku as the older leaned against the upward curve, taking in the sun and breeze, trying to wash away his aching heart with each draft.

A particularly noisy gust blew somewhere near Riku, he heard it, but did not feel it. How odd… it was almost like a sigh. Riku, curious, opened his eyes and looked around. Sora and Kairi were still animatedly talking and Naminé's grin stretched as she drew. The silverette's eyes landed on the blonde by his feet.

A hand rose and ran fingers stressfully through straw spikes. Dark blue eyes were rubbed with the heel of that palm and a sigh escaped those lips once more. Riku just stared. An awakening…?

"Roxas?"

"Yeah?"

Riku didn't know what else to say as he sat up and scooted closer to the Nobody. Roxas looked up at him, light shining in those oceans that reflected—very much unlike Sora—the moon and stars.

A soft smile graced that so long still face and Roxas touched Riku's bicep gently. "Are you okay, Riku?"

Riku flinched away from Roxas, causing him to slip off of the tree with a yelp. He had to learn to expect this, now. Spasms of humanity, reaching the long dead boy.

Three cries of "Riku!" met his ears as well as a humorous laugh that was unfamiliar and suddenly Riku's fall didn't seem that important.

"Roxas?" came Naminé's gentle voice as the laughter died.

Riku, rubbing his sore shoulder where he fell, looked up as Roxas to see twinkling, knowing eyes.

"Naminé." He addressed her simply. The petite girl lunged at him, crying happily, and folded her arms around him. She was laughing and sobbing at the same time and Riku noticed something sad in those new eyes as Roxas patted Naminé on the crown of her head.

Sora, suddenly bright with excitement, began to question Roxas (Did he know why he was like this? What made him "wake up?" Would he stay like this?) when Roxas slumped once more, relinquishing Naminé from his hug and his eyes became lightless once more.

Naminé backed away from Roxas with a trembling lip. Clutching her sketchpad, she ran off with Kairi close behind her.

Sora, though, kept his bright grin as he approached his Nobody. He took Roxas's hand in his and looked up with hope at the boy.

"That means it wasn't a one time thing. Maybe it was a spasm? I don't know…. He's really in there, though, right? I was really starting to doubt you, Riku, but you're always right. Always… Maybe nothing triggers it? Did he say something to you?"

And again, Riku couldn't find it in himself to tell his best friend the truth. "He asked what time it was… like he was waking up, y'know?"

Riku looked at Roxas and Sora looked at him and a flash passed through Roxas's eyes; liar. Mocking. Riku wanted to punch him, though he wasn't sure if he would feel it.

"Sora." Roxas caught Sora's attention and the blonde focused on him with dull eyes. His hand raised and pointed to the center of Sora's forehead. The Somebody and Nobody were both still for a moment before the Nobody's arm dropped and his gaze fell to the ground. Sora furrowed his brow, obviously not getting it.

"Maybe we should find Kairi and Naminé and go home…" Riku suggested as he saw the sun was much lower then the last time he noticed it. Sora nodded, still grinning as he pulled Roxas from the tree and helped him land on his feet.

"What are you trying to tell me?"

….

Weeks had passed, and there were only two other times when the real Roxas broke through. It lasted very briefly and he couldn't get more then a phrase or two in before he was sucked back into the dull, unresponsive mindset.

Both of the times when Roxas came through, Sora was there or they were talking about Sora. The one time when Sora was absent, Roxas had been with Kairi and Naminé. They had taken turns with sleepovers, seeing how Roxas interacted with the others.

From their story, Kairi and Naminé were reminiscing, talking to Riku and Sora and how they would spar when Roxas suddenly laughed at one of the funnier spills Sora took when he lost to the silverette. He grinned at them; said, "That was actually really painful," and slipped back into oblivion.

Riku found each time he had been around Roxas have been oddly profound. He was surprised each time and each time, fallen, tripped or hurt himself in some way (walking into the corner of the table left a rather dark bruise on his hip). Roxas said and did more then he had done since he had been separated from Sora.

He would eat on his own now, without Sora there to guide him. Once, he picked up a book and read the title in a soft whisper. He would get their attention when he needed something ("Sora. Drink."). He even gave a small smile once when Naminé showed him a sketch of the five of them.

Riku sat next to Roxas often, hung around the boy, away from Sora's rambunctious nature. He never liked big crowds. It was always just the three of them and two more was like a party. Yeah, Riku loved all of them like siblings, but he preferred to be the one sitting in the corner of the party, listening to the music and hidden from view.

Roxas was like the music at the party. He was a presence, but a slightly ignored one.

Sitting in Sora's room, Kairi, Sora, and Naminé had their party, and Riku listened to the music at the window seat. Roxas leaned against the wall like he was tired as he watched the three others laugh and smile. Riku lounged against the opposite wall with the window open behind them.

"You never answered my question."

Riku looked over at Roxas. He was looking at him and, though his expression did not change, his eyes shone with the moon and stars.

Riku had to steady himself so to not fall out of the window. He wished there were some kind of warning or timer for when Roxas was ready to talk.

"Uh… huh?" Riku grunted stupidly.

"Are you okay? With Sora loving Kairi, I mean. You've gotten a lot quieter since then."

"You were listening?" Riku asked, awestruck.

"I'm always listening. Whether or not he does, even I don't know."

"'He?'"

"Please don't change the subject. I have very little time." Roxas leaned towards Riku, placing his arm around him and invading the older's personal space. Riku was extremely uncomfortable with the act. "Are you okay?"

"Of course I am. Why wouldn't I be? I'm glad for him." Riku glanced around the room. They were alone. When did the others leave? The door was still ajar and he heard the faint yelp of joy from Sora.

"Ice cream!"

Riku wondered if they would get a sea-salt ice cream for Roxas.

"Maybe… I'm asking the wrong question. Are you upset that he loves Kairi?"

"Roxas, that's ridiculous. I'm happy for Sora."

"Yes, of course." Roxas leaned ever closer and Riku scooted away, straightening his back against the wall. "You're sad. Not because Sora loves Kairi. No, it's not so that you can get to her. You're sad that Sora doesn't love you."

"Stop it!" Riku pushed Roxas away and the boy, who was not expecting the abrupt shove, fell harshly to the floor. He glared up at Riku and Riku glared back at him.

Then, it dawned on him. Roxas was once Sora. Roxas knew everything Sora had. "Sora knew…"

"No." Roxas said quickly. "He doesn't think he knows. He's aware, but only slightly. I'm the part of him that completely understood."

"I don't get it…" Riku furrowed his brow, biting his lip. He heard heavy footsteps bounding up the staircase and he wished desperately for Roxas to go back inside his shell. Roxas turned as Sora hurdled through the door (followed closely by Kairi and Naminé) with two ice creams: mango and sea-salt. Riku and Roxas's favorite. Instantly, Roxas put on a bright façade, jumping to his feet, grinning.

"Ice cream!" He took the sea-salt ice cream from Sora's hand and put it into his mouth, smiling around the cold treat.

Sora stood, stunned for a moment before feeling came back to him along with common sense. He walked over to Riku, staring at Roxas as he grabbed a magazine, flipped through the pages, and tossed it aside, as if thinking if he read it or not. Lather, rinse, repeat. "Riku, what did you do to him?"

"Nothing!" Riku said quickly. "He just woke up and started talking! It looks like he's attached to your hip either way," Riku explained, making a reference on how Roxas was always with Sora or wanted to be with the boy, "He just started talking about you. Nonstop. I think he's got a crush on you."

Sora's face burned and he shoved the mango ice cream bar into Riku's face.

"I cannot love." Roxas said loudly from his place by the bookshelf as he made his way to the closet. "Haven't I told you this, Riku?"

"You aren't gone yet." Sora said slowly as Roxas sifted through the closet that held all of Sora's things from when his mother asked him to clean his room. Instead, he shoved everything on the floor into his closet. Roxas picked up a carelessly tossed manga and examined the front and back cover, detesting Sora's taste in comics under his breath.

"I never actually left. I'm always here."

"I mean—"

"I know what you mean." Roxas said as he jumped to the floor and looked under the bed. It seemed like he was looking for something. After he crawled out, he sat on his heels and scratched the back of his blonde head. "I'm always here. Listening." He tapped his temple. "I just can't get out."

"What do you mean?" Kairi asked.

"Think of it like… before we were separated." Roxas explained, licking the bar of ice cream enthusiastically. "I was inside of Sora's consciousness. I could think on my own and I could talk to Sora. My body… he's different. He doesn't have a consciousness. He just… is."

"How… what went wrong, Roxas?" Naminé asked softly from beside Kairi.

"Nothing went wrong; you all did your parts perfectly. It's just… Sora's consciousness was so strong I had trouble getting out. I got my body, but I didn't have my mind. Instead, I was locked in my own consciousness."

"So it's my fault?" Sora said quietly, hanging his head. Roxas was quickly in front of the boy. He lifted his chin and looked into his eyes. The moon met the sun for the first time and Roxas shook his head with a steeled expression.

"It was not your fault, Sora. It's not even a bad thing that you have a strong mind. In fact, it's a very good thing. Don't ever think my battles are your fault. Got it?"

Sora, tears welling in his eyes, nodded and Riku resisted the urge to grab him and hold him tightly. He, instead, busied himself with trying to unsticky himself from the ice cream.

"But… why are you here now? Why have you been here before?" Sora asked as he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.

"Well, I'm looking for something to tie me here. I don't have much time, I don't know when I'll be sucked back into my head." Roxas restarted his search as he spoke. "And, I've been trying for a while to push him back. You guys have seen me every day. Think of me as a defense system. Or, rather, the mind you think was developing. I've been keeping us alive. Eating, drinking, talking, excreta-excreta…. He doesn't learn. He doesn't move. He does nothing. Now, I have all this stored up energy with no where to go after three and a half months of doing nothing."

"Defense system?" Riku repeated.

"Yup."

Riku silently summoned Way to Dawn with a grin and pressed his finger to his lips as Sora, Kairi, and Naminé reacted. This was something they haven't tried before. Riku lifted the Keyblade and swung down at Roxas. The boy turned around and Oathkeeper and Oblivion crossed to block the attack. Roxas smirked.

"Hey, if you need to talk to me, that might work." He grunted as he pushed Riku back and dismissed his Keyblades. "But while I'm actually here, I don't want to waist my time."

"Maybe," Riku replied playfully, withdrawing Way to Dawn.

"Well you're—" Roxas suddenly fell forward, Naminé and Kairi crying out to as Riku caught him. Riku turned him over to see the stars and moon were blotted out by a fog. There was no expression. Roxas had withdrawn back into his mind.

"Roxas?" Sora inquired. The boy didn't move and Riku panicked. He was limp in his arms. He shook the boy slightly and his head lolled.

"Is he okay?" Naminé asked.

"I think so…"

"Wait!" Something suddenly occurred to Riku and he looked at Naminé. "Roxas has two consciousnesses… right?" Naminé nodded and looked away as she seemed to know where he was going. "And he can overpower the useless consciousness…." Naminé nodded again, biting her lip. "That means… you and Roxas…"

"We could have taken over Kairi and Sora."

Silence pressed between the four of them. Kairi and Sora stared at Naminé with shock and horror.

"Not that we would have actually done it! Kairi's mind is so complicated, you would have noticed what I was doing before I actually got through and you could have easily pushed me back. And, from what Roxas said, Sora's mind is incredibly strong, it would be extremely hard—maybe even impossible for Roxas to overtake Sora." Naminé explained quickly. "Not that we would have!"

"But it's possible." Sora clarified.

Naminé reluctantly nodded. Just how powerful was the mind of a Nobody? Riku wondered.

….

It had been several days since the full ten minutes that Roxas had been present—no, not present—forward. He had not eaten or moved in any of those days.

There wasn't much they could do. The "defense system" Roxas did not work. Riku had tried to gain some reaction when he made to hit Roxas with Way to Dawn once, but the boy was unmoving and Riku was so close to hitting the Nobody.

The boys were getting frustrated. They were worried about Roxas's health. There was no water in his system and the last thing he ate was the sea-salt ice cream. Sora had taken to tilting Roxas's chin back, forcing his mouth open, and pouring water carefully down the Nobody's throat. He was cautiously hydrated, but still was starved.

Even Riku was at a loss. Riku, who had discovered the most from Roxas, was at a complete loss.

Sora had been oddly down since then. Riku was sure it was because of the situation with the body that just laid on his bed, motionless.

"Riku…" Sora whined as he sat on the floor beside Roxas's bed, his head resting on the mattress. "What should I do…?"

"I don't know, Sora."

There was a pause before Sora got up, mentioning something about getting another glass of water before he left the room, closing it behind him.

Riku could still feel his friend's gloom, even after he was gone. Riku sat on the bed beside Roxas, held the boy's face, forcing him to look at him, and gazed into the fogged eyes.

"Roxas… c'mon, wake up." He begged. "You're in there, we all know it." He sighed heavily in defeat, releasing Roxas's chin. "Whatever… let yourself die. Starve, see if I care. I'd be more worried about Sora then anything else." No, he wished he could take it back. He really would care if Roxas died. After all, Roxas was a part of Sora and that would mean a part of Sora died, too. His lie became evident when he felt a tear roll down his cheek. His vision was blurred and he felt himself flush. He wondered if Roxas could see him.

Something cold touched his face. Riku flinched at the object to see it was a hand. Roxas's hand. Riku looked down at the boy with a weak smile.

"How come you only react to me?" he asked Roxas quietly as he held the hand to his face.

"You help give me strength." Roxas whispered his eyes still misty and unfocused.

"Do you love me?" Riku asked only half joking.

A small sigh as the hand fell and his eyes closed. "I cannot love."

"That doesn't answer my question."

It was a long time before Roxas replied and Riku thought he might have gone back into remission.

"Don't worry about me. I'm just resting. There was a lot of mental stress in what I did. I'll be up by tomorrow."

"Roxas—"

"Well, I won't be me, but the defense system will kick in again, I promise. I'll eat extra for us."

"Roxas don't go." Riku begged, gripping his hand tighter. The arm had gone limp once more and Roxas was gone.

"I didn't mean it…" Riku whispered as he released the hand and touched the soft, cold cheek that glowed an unhealthy pale color.

"Riku… are you crying?"

Riku flinched as he heard Sora's voice from the door. He forgot about the brunette. Looking over slowly, he tried to hide his tears with his silver hair, failing in the process as it stuck to his face. He swallowed hard as a lump formed in his throat. Just when he thought he was done, another wave of tears coursed down his pale skin.

Tears shone in Sora's eyes and Riku strode over to him. He captured Sora in his arms and felt the boy stiffen. Riku buried his face into the crook of Sora's neck to hide his emotion.

"He said he would be alright. He promised he would be back tomorrow." Riku said quietly. "He said what he did put a lot of strain on him. He needed to rest."

"Tch. Rest my ass." Sora replied darkly and Riku repressed a sob. "His 'rest' could kill him." Riku didn't respond to Sora's accusation. Sora awkwardly pat his back as Riku tried his hardest to stop crying.

It was several minutes after the boys had stopped their flow of tears and decided it was time for bed. As Sora carefully poured a glass of water down Roxas's throat (the muscles in his esophagus rezoned accordingly) Riku set up an air mattress in silence. They had taken to sleeping on the inflatable mattress in Roxas's room during the night.

They climbed in together and turned out the lights. Silence left them both feeling uncomfortable and Riku turned away from Sora to face the underside of the bed. Neither boy knew how to comfort the other—they rarely cried in front of each other. Laying in the awkward silence, it was several hours before Riku found himself able to drift to sleep.

That's when Sora said something. "Riku… do you love Roxas?"

There was still a connection, still a thread that kept Roxas and Sora the same person, through and through. Riku's stiffened at the question that was the very same as the one Roxas had asked him. He wondered what made the two think the same? Was Riku a readable person? No, he was pretty good at hiding secrets, it was lying that he had trouble with.

"What makes you think I love Roxas? I tried to kill him to wake you up, there's no reason for me to love him." Riku replied, leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.

"That doesn't answer my question. Do you love Roxas?"

Did Riku love Roxas? Riku knew he loved Sora, but Sora and Roxas were the same person. If he loved Sora, that meant he loved Roxas, right? No, Roxas was his own person now. But what about Roxas enticed Riku? The idea that he was a piece of Sora? Was that the only reason that he could ever think he loved Roxas?

If that was the answer, then no. Riku did not love Roxas.

"No, Sora, I don't." Riku said softly. "He's just a friend." Yet, it felt like a lie. He was glad that his back was turned to Sora. He was sure his eyes would have betrayed him if he were looking at the other teen.

It felt like a lie because Roxas was Sora and Riku loved Sora, more then he would admit to anyone. But Roxas was still Roxas.

"Why?"

Sora shifted on the mattress and mumbled something incoherently before properly responding to Riku's question.

"It just seemed like it. 'Cause, you know, you're always with him instead of me anymore. You know him better then I do. I was sleeping for a year."

"That's not true, Sora." Riku turned to the boy, "You know him better than anyone. You are him."

Sora was silent for a moment before he hummed thoughtfully, turning his gaze downward. "Then I guess I don't know myself very well, do I?"

Riku frowned and reached up to pat Sora on the head. Sora pouted at the gesture and swatted Riku's hand away, causing the older to laugh.

The two settled back into the inflatable mattress and Sora repeated his earlier good nights.

"Your dad lied, by the way." Riku commented lightly. Sora looked at him confused. "Crying… it made me feel the weakest I've ever been."

Sora held the perplexed expression before it dawned on him what Riku was talking about. "Oh…" he said softly. "Yeah… I guess so. But our strength is the ability to show our weaknesses, isn't it?"

"Is it?" Riku questioned doubtfully.

Sora opened his mouth and ended up stifling a yawn. "I-I say… we settle this debate in the morning."

"Alright." Riku smiled gently at his yawning friend. Sora turned his back to Riku and soon, soft snores were heard from the younger. Riku chuckled and turned towards the bed that was on the other side of him and noticed a limp hand, dangling off the bed. Riku looked up at Roxas, who was still quite dazed, and looked back at the hand. The fingers curled and uncurled minutely, as if searching for something, or rather, asking for something. Riku settle back into the bed and stared at the hand that craved attention as he thought of what Roxas could possibly want.

Riku touched the palm and the fingers furled around his own. Oh. Riku clasped the hanging hand. It's grip tightened and Riku knew he wasn't going to get his hand back anytime soon. So, he got comfortable and allowed himself to drift to sleep, watching the hands that intertwined, thinking about how the clammy hand actually felt sort of nice in his and (dare he think it) it looked like it belonged there.

"You're such a brat, Roxas." Riku mumbled before sleep overcame him.

….

Riku woke up on a very hard surface. It took him a few moments to remember where he was and paranoia grew until he realized the mattress had deflated. He rolled onto his back and looked at the ceiling, trying to recall if he dreamt or not. The only thing that came to mind was Roxas's hand in his and he felt his ears burn at the memory. Why did he hold Roxas's hand? Didn't the boy hear Riku? He didn't like him like that. Yet, he wanted to hold his hand. What was up with that kid?

Riku assessed his surroundings. He was alone. On a deflated mattress. In a room that belonged to a Nobody.

Riku decided it was time to get up and stretch out his sore muscles (and maybe kill a certain brunette when he got his hands on him). Making his way downstairs, he smelt something good, mixed with something else that was good, as well as another thing that might be good. Food. And lots of it.

As Riku entered the kitchen, he noticed Roxas eating (more like shoveling) mouthfuls of whatever breakfast feast Sora's mother set up and Sora, watching the Nobody with some fascination. Sora's mother turned to Riku and greeted him brightly, which Riku returned with a little less enthusiasm.

"Hi Riku," Roxas's voice was muffled by the food shoved in his mouth. He didn't even look at him.

Riku hit the blonde upside the head, causing the Nobody to glare at him. "Wha wush that fer?"

"Don't talk with your mouth full. Didn't the Organization teach you any manners?"

Roxas forced the food down before holding his fork to Riku's nose. "My best friend was Axel, remember that."

"How could I forget?" Riku grimaced. "I guess he didn't bother with manners, either?"

"We trained ourselves to multitask when we were in a rush. Which also means going over the next mission while eating." He pointedly forked the hash browns on his plate and ate them.

Riku looked up at Sora's mother who bustled as she made more food for the other two boys while Roxas ate the buffet before him.

"Are you sure you're going to be okay, Roxas, sweetie?" she asked.

"Yeah, Nobodies don't die that easily, Mom. By the way, you're an excellent cook."

Wait… "Mom?!" Riku repeated, dumbfounded.

"Well, whut da yoo sup'ose I call her? Sakura?" Roxas gulped. "She is my mom."

"I just… well… assumed… uh…"

Roxas gave a smirk. It was a strange kind of smirk that was jesting as well as hurtful. "Don't assume, Riku, you know what they say about that."

"What… What is wrong with you?" Riku asked.

Roxas shrugged. "Nothing." He brushed off, as if giving up his end of the fight.

Riku frowned, folding his arms. "Do you think you should be pushing yourself this much, Roxas?"

"Worried?" Roxas asked before shoving a large piece of pancake into his mouth.

"Well, I'd rather not have to take care of you for the next couple of days." Riku grumbled, sitting across the table.

"Riku does have a point…." Sora added softly, as if ashamed that he was siding with his friend. Especially since Riku sounded so cold.

Roxas gulped down what was in his mouth and grumbled something about not being wanted. Riku felt a string of his heart being tugged at the expression Roxas was making. Sad… lonely… unwanted. Riku sighed, reaching across the table to take Roxas's hand. It was always so cold… unlike Sora, who was always warm.

"We are worried. All of us. It's not like we don't want you with us. We want you to come out so much. But don't push yourself."

Roxas looked Riku in the eyes. Riku admired those stars that sparkled so brightly. Roxas pulled in hand away and broke eye contact, nodding. "This is just so I can eat. To make up for the lack of nutrition and stuff."

Sakura placed a hand on Roxas's shoulder with a smile, "I'm happy you want to take care of yourself."

Roxas smiled. It was a different kind of smile that Riku had never seen on him. It was kind. Grateful. Loving. " Thanks, Mom." He put his hand on hers. "Sorry to worry you."

"Just eat up. Don't forget the apples and orange juice." Roxas laughed, grinning brightly at her before looking back at the buffet before him and taking a glass of orange juice, chugging it. "Careful! Don't drink too quickly!"

Roxas wiped his mouth, smacking his lips, satisfied. "Good stuff." Sakura laughed and ruffled his hair. He squatted at her hand playfully. "Don't do that!" he laughed.

"What? Don't like that?" She smirked. "Then how about this?" She pulled him into a headlock, giving him a noogie. He struggled, they both laughed, and she kissed his cheek.

This behavior wasn't odd for the woman, she always doted on Sora in a similar manner, but I was very strange to see Roxas acting so lighthearted. Riku glanced at Sora to see if he was just as surprised, instead he looked on, rather relieved. Like he was afraid his mother wouldn't accept Roxas like she accepted Sora.

Riku looked back at them. It looked as if Roxas had been there the whole time. He belonged there. Suddenly, Sakura teasing Roxas didn't look so strange anymore.

….

The five of them were on the island later that day, as usual. Roxas had withdrawn and stayed close to Sora, although the brunette looked slightly distracted and nervous. He muttered something to Roxas, who gazed forward in a daze. Sora kept talking to him in a low voice that Riku couldn't hear as he sat with Naminé, watching her draw the shore and the ocean. Kairi smiled at her Nobody.

Riku tried to listen to Sora and Roxas without actually looking like he was paying attention. He couldn't hear anything his best friend was saying. What was he saying?

"Go." He heard the blonde say. Riku glanced at them and suddenly Sora looked happy, excited even. He got up and walked over to them and Riku looked like he was busy, watching Naminé.

"Kairi, want to take a walk?"

Naminé gave Riku a sly look that he returned with a smirk. They were both thinking the same thing: 'Bout freaking time. Sora took Kairi's hand and helped her stand before they walked away and the two of them scooted towards Roxas.

Riku knew now what Sora was talking with Roxas about. A plan he made up to ask Kairi out. Now there was absolutely no chance for Riku. Who was he kidding? There was never a chance. His love has and always will be unreturned.

He felt broken.

"Want to spy on them?" Naminé grinned, twiddling her pencil between her fingers.

"Do you even have to ask?" Riku chuckled, moving closer. Only one person knew about his affection. And it will stay that way.

Naminé drew Sora taking Kairi to the Secret Spot, sitting with her where a door used to be. They looked at the modified pictures where they were offering each other stars. They smiled at each other. Sora took out a yellow star fruit, breaking it in half. They shared it. Their lips touched. They kissed.

Riku looked away from the sketchbook. Something cold touched his hand. Roxas gripped his tightly.

His chest hurt. So much. He was going to cry—no, he couldn't! Not in front of Naminé! He forced a smile. He acted normal. Like his heart wasn't completely shattered into tiny pieces.

Still, that cold hand held his tightly behind Naminé. And, since Naminé was preoccupied with drawing the next scene, Riku held Roxas's hand back, intertwining their fingers.

He didn't feel so heartbroken. With their hands together and their fingers tangled, he felt... loved.

….

"Can I borrow Roxas for tonight?"

Sora blinked. Riku never asked to put the Other up for the night, he was always just sort of handed off. "Sure. Why?"

"I… I just want to do a little experiment." Riku replied, looking away from Sora. He hoped the other didn't see the lie. It wasn't a complete lie… but it was an experiment for himself, not for the Nobody.

"You think it will work?"

"I hope so…"

That night, he and Roxas sat in his room. Roxas sat on the bed, in a daze. Unmoving. Not speaking.

Riku suddenly envied Roxas. He wanted to crawl into a shell and never come out again. He sat on the floor at Roxas's feet, leaning against the bed. Sullen. Unmoving. Not speaking.

"Don't cry." Riku looked up. His vision was blurred. When did he start crying? Roxas looked at Riku without seeing him. It seemed as if he hadn't even spoken. Was Riku hearing things?

"I… I want to ask you something." Roxas blinked, as if to say go on. Riku wiped his face and faced him, sitting on his knees. "Can… can I… you…" How was he supposed to ask this? How could he word it? "I… I want to love you."

"That's… not a question."

Riku shook his head. "Can I… can I try to love you? You won't hate me, will you?" he folded his arms on Roxas's knees, looking up at his desperately. "I can't… I need to stop loving Sora. I… I don't know how. I don't know what to do."

"You… want me to replace him?"

"No! You could never replace Sora… I just… I can't…" Riku was at a loss for words. Because, in reality, it was true. He was asking Roxas to replace Sora in his heart.

Stars started to sparkle in those lifeless eyes as Roxas offered Riku a sad, but understanding smile. "You know I can't love you in return."

"I don't care. Pretend to love me. I want you to be my world. I need you, Roxas. You… help me. I don't feel sad when I'm with you."

Roxas brought his hand to Riku's cheek and Riku leaned into it. He realized he was crying again. "I can't replace Sora. But I can help you love again."

Riku gazed into those stars. What did the sun look like again? He raised himself, trying to look deeper into them, trying to find the soul behind them. They disappeared behind closed lids.

Roxas leaned forward and touched his lips to Riku's, lingering there for a moment. Then they were gone. Riku sat, stunned for a moment. He wanted those lips back. They were warm. Soft. He wanted to feel them once more. Roxas smiled warmly, as if understanding what Riku was craving and held Riku's face with both hands, bringing, kissing him once more.

Somehow, Riku thought Roxas found what he was looking for.