A/N: …missed me? Sorry for those whose reviews I didn't reply to...I promise I'll reply to the next ones! My week...so freaking full...

About this chapter: Poor Riku. Honestly. The angst in this fic. Oh, and don't smoke. Smoking kills, people. Seriously. And dying is not sexy.

Disclaimer: I DISCLAIM ALL.


I'm branded.

They'd given me a tattoo. If I ever got caught in one of Xehanort's schemes, I'd be identified as one of them.

Kairi and I are still…

My fists clenched on locks of my wet hair as I remembered what I'd done to her. I knew I couldn't go back. I couldn't face her. I couldn't face anyone, really.

And I'm given a choice.

"I am going to give you a choice. You work for me until you're debt is paid, or I destroy you."

Chapter 27: Too Late

He looked different. Like, seriously different. And I'm not just talking about a growth spurt either.

Okay, so his hair wasn't exactly spiky. It was more windswept now, like Roxas'. He'd finally gotten a haircut, and it was styled professionally, making his face look more chiseled, if that was even possible. He'd gotten a tan as well, and he looked…well, not beefy muscular, but comfortably sturdy. Like the models in underwear commercials in Oblivion Magazine.

It was kind of intimidating.

So many things were going on in my head at that moment. Sora…what was he doing here? Had Kairi already told him about what happened? I half expected him to explode any second, and I braced myself for whatever was about to come my way.

We just stared at each other. He looked genuinely surprised I was there. I waited for his face to contort into a frown, and for him to start yelling at me, or something like that.

I honestly didn't expect him to smile at me.

Tifa broke the silence, giving Sora a confused glance. "You know Riku?"

"U-Um…" He scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "We go to school. And we're…sort of friends."

Tifa nodded, slowly glancing between the both of us. "Oh. That's weird."

She left momentarily to go take someone else's order, and Sora took a seat next to me. He gave me a half-smile. He smelt of expensive perfume. "Didn't expect to see you here."

"I could say the same for you." I tried to seem casual. I still couldn't believe Kairi hadn't told him…or maybe she had but he was waiting before he launched into a tirade. I didn't really know. I didn't exactly get why he was at Seventh Heaven, or how he knew Tifa.

"So…how do you know my stepmom?"

Wait…what? "Stepmom?" I didn't get it. I struggled to process this information. It did explain why he was here but… "Wh…the…what?"

"Hehe, well she's not actually my stepmom, but half-mom sounds too awkward…" He shrugged, resting his arms on the table.

Everything suddenly made sense. Sora was one of the half-sons she always referred to, though she usually called them her 'nephews', for the same reason Sora called her his stepmom. And if Sora was related to her, that meant Roxas…

God. I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed it sooner.

And Xion? Did that mean Sora and Roxas were related to Xion…?

It made my head hurt. I decided to give up and conclude that Sora's family was huge and leave it at that.

"I've known your buddy Riku here since he was a kid," Tifa said, filling another order. She raised an eyebrow at Sora. "What—he didn't tell you?"

"I didn't think I needed to," I explained. "I mean, if I'd known you two were related…"

"Oh, well this all works out, then. I was thinking of introducing you guys soon anyway."

Tifa left us to go take another order, leaving us two alone. I felt the air growing awkward, fast. I felt guilty just sitting next to him.

"Long time no see, huh?" Sora was in a particularly jovial mood. It became pretty obvious he had no idea what had happened to Kairi.

"Hm." I brought my glass to my lips, so I'd have an excuse not to talk. I couldn't bring myself not to comment on his drastic change in appearance. "You look…different."

He sheepishly wiped at his spiky fringe. "Um…yeah. I guess you could blame my idiot brother for that." He continued when he saw the expression on my face. "Yeah…he's the one who forced me to get a haircut, completely transformed my wardrobe, and made me work out more."

"You say it like it's a bad thing."

"That's cause it kind of is. I was totally fine with my old lifestyle." He shrugged. "Sorta."

I rolled my eyes at that before taking another gulp of my drink. We sat together in a sort-of-awkward silence for a while, before Sora broke it.

"So, uh…how's your break been?"

I took a long drink, trying to figure out how to answer that. I couldn't exactly tell him what was going on. I didn't want to drag him into my messed up life. It was bad enough that I'd told Kairi. "It's…it's been good." Lie.

"Hm. Done anything worth telling me?"

"Not really. Just hung out with my friends and…stuff." Complete lie.

"Cool." He grinned, like he actually cared. "How's Kairi? I haven't seen her in weeks…"

I had no idea how to answer that. "She's—"

We were interrupted then, thankfully, by a dark-haired guy who joined us at the table. His hair was almost identical to Sora's previous hairstyle, and he looked like the kind of person who you'd see on Jersey Shore. What hit me the most about his appearance, though, was the color of his eyes. They were a glowing amber color, just like…

"It's time to rock the house, little—" He stopped immediately when he saw me, eyes narrowing, and immediately it crossed my mind that he might be somehow related to Xehanort, and that he knew about me, and who I was… "Wait…what're you doing here?"

My breath immediately hitched in my throat. My palms felt sweaty and I felt like I was about to throw up. I immediately brought my glass to my lips again, trying to give myself another excuse not to talk.

"This is Riku, the guy I told you about, the other guy who'll be singing tonight," Tifa explained, appearing out of seemingly nowhere once again. Apparently Tifa was chummy with this…guy. "He and Sora are apparently friends."

"No shit." The dark-haired guy was still glaring relentlessly at me, like he was struggling to hold himself back from punching me. He leaned closer to me, his eyes narrowing to slits. "What are you really here for, Riku?"

"Hey, Van, leave him alone," I heard Sora laugh, from a distance. "He's my friend now."

I was wondering how much Sora had told this guy about me to make him hate me so much when I remembered I used to throw Sora in the dumpster and steal his things and generally fuck up his life.

I suddenly remembered that day in Drama when Sora had told me a little about his family. Judging from the striking resemblance, he was obviously related to Sora…somehow. I remembered he'd told me he had a brother…so I decided to roll with that.

He was obviously irritated by my presence. I cleared my throat, deciding I'd better take my leave before he did anything drastic, like rip out my hair or something. "Um…well if it's really gonna be a problem I could—"

"No, Riku…" Sora protested, giving the guy—Van was his name, I guess—a glare. They seemed to have some kind of telepathic conversation before he gave in, sighing.

"Fine. We're getting ready to start, though, so you'd better hurry the fuck up."

"Sure thing."

He gave me one last hard glare—as if to say 'I'm watching you'—before turning on his heels and disappearing back into the crowd.

Sora gave me a nervous glance. "Excuse him, he's…"

"…your brother?" I finished off. It was kind of touching, to be honest. I'd never really been the sappy type, but the protective look he'd had in his eyes when he'd looked at Sora… "You're lucky, you know. To have a brother who sticks up for you like that."

"Sticks up for me?" He laughed. "Yeah. Right. You have no idea how much a douche he can be. Everyone else in my family thinks he's a waste of space, and, honestly, I can understand why."

"He seems okay to me."

He was better than my brothers at least—I had to give him that. I was pretty sure none of them gave a fuck about what happened to me.

Sora gave me an 'are you serious' look, and I couldn't help but chuckle slightly. Sora shook his head. "Well, I guess we'd better get going…"

We slipped off our seats and headed into the crowd. Sora was obviously slightly lost, so I let him follow my lead. I'd been coming here for years, so I knew my way around, even in the dark. The smell of alcohol wafted through the air, and I felt several people press their bodies against mine as we pushed our way through.

We eventually made it 'backstage'—not that there really was a stage in the first place. Several guys I vaguely recognized were working with electrical wires and speakers. They passed us each individual mikes—one for me and one for Sora. Tifa had apparently just headed onto the 'stage'—the crowd had gone wild, the way they usually did whenever Tifa came on.

"Hey, everyone! Hope you're having a crazy night!" The crowd cheered, and she continued with a laugh. "I'm Tifa, as most of you should already know, and welcome to Friday Night! Today we've got something special planned, so don't go anywhere!"

To be honest, I was kind of excited to be performing. I'd always liked performing; being the center of attention was always my thing…but that wasn't exactly the reason this time around. I guess I just felt like it would help me take my mind off things.

I absently glanced at Sora, who was standing next to me, his fists clenched way too tightly around his guitar strap. His eyes had that same look they'd had when he'd finished his audition for the school play and realized everyone had been watching him. Even through the tan I could see the blood draining from his face.

Sora was nervous.

"You okay?" He nodded, but I wasn't buying it. I decided to ask the obvious. "You're nervous?"

He tried nodding again, but stopped, lowering his head. "I don't want to do this…"

"What?" I hissed incredulously. "You can't be serious."

"Well I am," he persisted. "I don't want to go up there on that stage and sing stupid party songs in front of a crowd of people I don't even know—"

"You never let that stop you before."

He looked at me, eyes widening a little. It was true—I'd seen how Sora was when he was determined, and it was intimidating, really.

I swallowed. "What do you mean…"

"Remember in the Drama auditions, for the school play? You were a whole lot nervous that you are now, and you still went for it. And look what came out of it." I gave him a smile. "We somehow ended up becoming friends."

He smiled, so I guess it was working. "True. But back then I was acting on impulse."

I was about to say something in protest, but Tifa had almost finished her introduction. We were running out of time…and I kind of needed Sora up there with me.

"Give it up for Sora and Riku!"

Suddenly, I had an idea. "Impulse, huh?"

Before he could say anything in protest, I pushed him onto the stage.

He let out a yelp, obviously surprised, as he stumbled onto the stage, and I followed suit. The crowd immediately broke into whistles as I took the stage, which wasn't that much of a surprise. Sora glanced at me, looking like he was about to pass out, and I gave him an encouraging smile.

He nodded, rubbing at his forehead, trying to calm himself down. I felt slightly bad for forcing him onto stage, but it was too late now. "Um…hey. I'm Sora…"

"…and I'm Riku," I finished for him, deciding to take over for him until he was comfortable enough. "And we're gonna be taking over for the DJ tonight."

I motioned for Sora to begin his song. He nodded, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. He always did that when he was on stage, so I figured that helped deal with his nervousness or something. He seemed to relax, slowly strumming the first notes of the guitar. I wondered when he'd learned to play…then I remembered Roxas.

"You guys know what it's like to love someone who doesn't love you back, right?" He started walking, slowly making his way across the stage. "You've all probably met this one person—your soulmate, or whatever—who you swear you'd do anything for. Well…I met someone like that…and her name was Kairi."

Shit. I couldn't believe him.

"When I was with her, I could barely think of anything else apart from how amazing she was, or how much I wanted to kiss her…seriously, in my eyes she did nothing wrong." He chuckled, still strumming the guitar. "But I eventually came to realize that, no, she wasn't perfect, and that she did make mistakes, and that I was just so love drunk to see it."

He turned to the crowd with a blinding grin, and I figured he was finally about to start the song. "So that's what my first song is gonna be about. This is Love Drunk."

Sora…he was just…wow.

His voice seemed to be even stronger. He reached all the right notes, he never seemed to lose breath, and he left me in the dust. Eventually it became pretty obvious that all I was there for was to be the guy singing the echoes, singing in the background, while everyone kept their attention trained on him.

He had amazing stage presence. He became a completely different person—suddenly he was confident, witty, and all-round likeable. He had the crowd on his fingertips, as he shared his story with everyone there.

I suddenly felt strangely guilty, standing on stage next to him, when I was that guy. The guy who'd taken her away from him. And the way he was talking about her, and smiling when he said it…it was like I was seeing a side of Sora I'd never seen before.

We launched straight from the first song into the second one—a break-up song, to be more precise. It was pretty weird, since Sora and Kairi had never actually been legit dating, but…well. No one really needed to know that.

It worked. It was an excellent crowd-pleaser—it got everyone on their feet, everyone dancing and whooping and cheering. Everyone seemed to have their own 'Annabelle' somewhere in their own private lives. And for a whole three minutes and fifteen seconds, I got to pretend I did, too.

After that song, though, we had to drop the guitars, since neither of us knew the chords for any other song. I got to take a lead in a bunch of them, mostly because party songs were more 'my type of music', according to Sora.

After about thirty minutes of nonstop singing, we finally needed to take a break. The crowd was not amused, but I managed to get them to calm down by saying we were going to be back after a few drinks. They took my word for it.

Sora wiped his damp forehead with the back of his hand as we headed off the stage. "Wow…that really takes a lot out of you."

I slipped off the coat I'd pulled on before taking the stage. I was sweating like hell, and there were huge dark patches underneath my arms. "Ugh…I need to change this shirt…"

Tifa was clapping for us when we arrived at the bar—after pushing through throngs of partiers. "Well, well, well. That was quite a show."

Sora raised an eyebrow at her. "Thanks…and thanks for not telling me in advance."

"Oops. Sorry about that."

I was about to ask for a drink when we were interrupted by an all-too-familiar high-pitched yell.


Xion slammed into my chest, crushing me in a hug. I patted her head in salute, awkwardly trying to get her to lessen her grip. "Hey, Xi-chan."

She beamed up at me, seemingly glowing. She was in her natural look yet again; her cropped black hair was in its usual style, she'd put a lot more makeup on, and she was wearing a tiny black dress that made her look a lot older than fifteen. I was about to comment on that when Sora spoke up again.

"Riku-kun? Xi-chan?" He looked confused, and slightly disgusted. "…what the hell?"

Xion decided to explain. "Yeh…I've known Riku for a while now…he's almost like my best friend."

"I thought I was your best friend." Roxas seemingly appeared out of nowhere, looking slightly miffed. I'd figured he'd be here, but I'd always been freaked out by Roxas, so his random appearance made me jump a little.

Apparently he was just kidding, though Xion seemed to be the only one who got the joke. She kissed him on the cheek, which confused me, since I'd figured they were related, and I'd seen Roxas with that blonde chick who was Kairi's sister (…I couldn't remember her name), and…whatever.

"…you guys were pretty good," Roxas said finally.

"Thanks." I patted him on the shoulder. "And it was all thanks to you."

Roxas obviously didn't like that gesture, glaring at my hand like I was poisonous or something, so I immediately pulled my hand away. Xion nudged him, frowning. "Quit being a jerk, Roku."

Drinks came then, thankfully. We all got a glass, even though half of us were underage. Xion was obviously used to drinking, downing her drink professionally, like she'd been doing it for years. She scrunched her face up as it got to her head, and then she let out a tiny burp.

For some reason that made me burst out laughing.

I was still chuckling when Van arrived, looking slightly buzzed, though I wasn't sure whether he was always like that or if it was just part of his personality. "My brudda from anudda mudda! That was some serious shit, man!"

Sora grinned. "I was that good, huh?"

"You've got a hella lot of admirers, no joke." He turned to me then, and I willed myself not to flinch. "And I'm talking about the both of you. I mean, you were on fire!"

I felt my face heat up at the compliment, though I wasn't sure why. He patted me on the head…and I realized how nice it felt.

I stole another glass from the tray and downed another drink.

"I know

That you

Are something special…"

The night dragged on. A bunch of girls had dragged Roxas to the stage to sing some song they requested, and Vanitas had disappeared to 'hunt down some pussy' or something, so Sora and I got some more time to relax.

The silence took over for the conversation. We didn't really have much to talk about, and it didn't matter. It just felt…nice.

Well, there was the guilt that was slowly wringing at my insides, but the drinks sort of helped mellow that down.

I didn't think it was possible for a club to be so peaceful. Everyone seemed mesmerized by Roxas' voice. He was a good singer, I had to give him that. And Xion was sort of charming too, and since she was standing on stage with him, they all had something to stare at.

I glanced at Sora, who was slowly taking a sip of his drink. I was on my third glass, and Sora had barely finished his first. I figured he wasn't really the partying type. He gave me a small smile, and that guilty feeling got even stronger.

Sora had been too nice to me, honestly. It was like he'd truly forgiven me for 'winning' Kairi. After all, in the beginning it had been a competition. Before it became so much more than that.

Suddenly I remembered the conversation on the beach, when I'd promised never to hurt her. That damn conversation that had been replaying over and over in my mind ever since the moment I hit her.

Kairi…she hadn't told him. Call it a stroke of luck, I don't know. I knew someone up there had given me a chance, to tell him myself. Because I knew if he found it out from her, he'd never forgive me. Ever. I knew how much she meant to him.

"Sora…there's something I need to tell you."

"Hit me."

My throat felt increasingly dry, all of a sudden. "…it's about Kairi." I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. "I'm—"

He shook his head, cutting me off before I could continue. "It's okay, Riku. You don't need to apologize about it…I'm over her." He paused, smiling. "Okay, so maybe I'm not, but if she's happy, then I'm happy."

I couldn't believe him. I didn't know how he did it. Go on living when he knew the girl he was in love with was taken. I wished I could act like she wasn't everything and that I could live without her, and sing revenge songs and get some kind of wicked makeover and magically forget how every passing second spent without her was killing me inside.

But I couldn't. I just…

I might have blurted everything out right there. It was too much. It was like there was this huge weight on my shoulders. I honestly might have confessed, if we weren't interrupted.

It was this blonde guy. Spiky hair, high collar sleeveless shirt that obviously cost a fortune, thick black pants and boots. He was obviously related to Sora; they had the same nose. Half the girls in the club were staring at him.

He looked like a legit model.

"Hey." He slipped in next to Sora, looking me up and down before coming to a conclusion. "You must be Riku."

"Yup, this is him," Tifa confirmed, appearing from seemingly nowhere with a tray of empty glasses. "Riku, this is Cloud. My husband."

"And my Dad," Sora finished.

It took a while for this to register. I vaguely remembered Sora telling me something about his parents being divorced…and Tifa being married…and having a son…which was probably Van, since he was Sora's halfbrother…

Whatever. I'd stopped caring.

I stretched out my hand to greet him. I remembered his name. Tifa talked about him every chance she got. I wasn't sure how to act around him. He was the ex-SOLDIER she'd always went on about. The guy who'd 'been through a lot'. Her 'high-school crush'. It kind of made sense. He didn't look his age. I wondered if it was the drug all the SOLDIERS got. I'd heard some rumors.

I cleared my throat. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr.…Cloud."

His smile was blinding. It hurt just to look at him. "No need to be so formal with me." He shook my hand anyway. I had a feeling it would take him hardly any effort to break my spine. "Tifa wasn't kidding—you're eyes really are unique."

I didn't really know how to answer that, but thankfully I didn't have to. Cloud obviously had a ton of admirers. I had a feeling I'd seen one or two of them at the Shack once or twice.

"Sing a song for us, please?" One of them pleaded. The rest of them seemed to agree with her, murmuring along with her with beseeching eyes. Cloud looked like he was trying hard not to yell at them. It was sort of amusing. I wondered if I looked like that in school.

Tifa seemed totally cool with the idea, joining in with them. "Come on, Cloud. Let's give them what they want."

He groaned, but obliged anyway, and the groupies broke into cheers. Roxas' performance had barely come to an end when they pushed Cloud onto the stage, though Roxas seemed more than happy to leave.

The crowd cheered as he and Tifa took the stage, Cloud with a guitar in arm. Of course he can play guitar. He adjusted the microphone so that it was right in front of his lips when he sang before clearing his throat and grabbing everyone's attention. He sighed. "Well…since you begged, I guess."

They started singing. It was apparently a very familiar song, cause some in the audience started mouthing the words along with them. It was kind of moving; they really seemed to be in love. Whenever he looked at her, it was like he never wanted to look away. I wondered if I looked at Kairi like that. I was pretty sure I did.

I took another shot, feeling it burn the back of my throat, trying to distract myself. I was probably on my tenth glass now, or something. I wasn't sure. I was starting to lose count.

It was then that I noticed how off Sora looked. Something was bothering him. He was gripping the sides of his empty glass like it'd run away if he let go. Naturally, I decided to ask what was wrong. "Sora?"

He tensed, looking like he was about to suffocate. "I…I need some air…"

He disappeared into the crowd before I could stop him.

Cloud and Tifa finished their song not too long after he'd left. Xion came and joined me, claiming Roxas had run off as well.

"Anything I should know…?" I asked, slightly curious. "About…their relationship. Or whatever."

Xion hesitated, before eventually sighing. "Yeah…Uncle Cloud and Sora's Mom…" She made a face. "They're not…"

"They got divorced?"

She nodded. "How'd you know?"

"I just…figured."

She shrugged, absently playing with her bracelets. "Well…yeah. Roxas…he took the divorce the hardest. I was only five when it all happened and I didn't meet him until two years later…"

I noticed the way her eyes got soft whenever she talked about Roxas. I cleared my throat. "Um…you and Roxas are cousins, right?"

Xion nodded fervently, before she stopped suddenly, as if realizing something. And then she smirked. "What—you think I'm in love with him?"

"No," I lied.

She giggled, poking my cheek. If it were anyone else, I might have suspected she was flirting with me, but this…this was Xion. I took another gulp, trying to hide the fact that I was kind of embarrassed.

She brushed at her fringe. "No…Roxas and I, we're just really close. He's…he's the only one who really understands me, you know?"

She seemed like she was about to go on, but she shook her head at the last minute, taking my hand. "Come on; don't want to keep the crowd waiting!"

She pulled me onto the stage, grabbing a microphone and calling everyone to attention. "Hi, it's me again! Um…Sora's stepped out for a little bit, so Riku's gonna keep you entertained until he gets back."

She passed me the mike, urging me to continue. "Um…right." I motioned for one of the sound guys to pull up the piano for Xion, and Xion seemed to catch on. "This songs going to be a little different…it's not a party song either, so don't get your hopes up." A few in the crowd groaned, but I took no notice. I didn't really care if they didn't like it…I just felt like I needed to sing. I took a seat on the bench next to Xion. "I made a mistake. And this…this is…an apology."

"…I'm staring at the mess I made

As you turn

You take your heart and walk away…"

I wasn't sure if it was just me being a melodramatic loser, but honestly…at that time, it felt like I'd become the song. For a second it was like I wasn't singing in front of a crowd of drunken partygoers, and it was just me and the song…if that made any sense.

To put it simply, it was probably one of the most emotional performances I'd ever given, and everyone cheered when I was done. Sora came back almost immediately after I'd finished, and Xion pulled him onto stage to sing a song with her.

He'd apparently come prepared, and Xion seemed to immediately recognize the song he was going to sing. I decided to go and take a seat while waiting.

"…um…well, there's always this part of a relationship where you realize something: maybe you're just not meant to be together. Well…I think it's about time I realized that about Kairi, don't you agree?"

I stared at him as he began singing. It was a ballad about a resolution, about letting go of someone you loved, because you know what's better for them. The lyrics were poignant and uncannily fitting for my situation. Or his situation. I didn't really know.

The thing was, I didn't really know if I wanted to let go of Kairi. I knew Sora was undoubtedly better for her, now that I was being manipulated by Xehanort, but that didn't mean I wasn't still in love with her. I felt like she was, honestly, the only good thing I had going for me.

Sora seemed to have everything. He had friends who liked him for who he was—not just for what he had, or what he could do for them, or because they were scared of what would happen if they weren't. He had Kairi. And he had a family—a real family—with a mother, and a father, and a brother, and Xion as a sort-of sister, and Tifa as a sort-of second-Mom, and a big brother who cared about him…

I didn't have any of that, and it was partially Sora's fault I didn't have Kairi anymore. I should have hated him. Really.

But I couldn't. It had become impossible for me to hate Sora.

And it pissed me off. I wanted to hate him. It would be so much easier for me that way.

After the two relatively boring songs, we decided to get back to singing party songs, to 'pump up the crowd a little', as Sora put it. We sang for about one more hour before giving the DJ back his job for the night.

Sora seemed to glow. I wasn't sure what it was. His Dad said it was because he'd finally learned to move on. It wasn't that he wasn't an attractive person or anything, but…I don't know. That night, he just seemed a lot more radiant than usual.

I only wished I had the ability to get smashed as quickly as Sora did. He'd barely had five drinks and he was already drunk. Van and I had to follow him around to make sure he didn't do anything stupid, like accidentally lose his virginity or something like that. Sora had a lot of admirers, apparently.

Sora was one of those crazy drunks. He spent the first few minutes dancing with pretty much everyone in the crowd, and then he went around giving everyone a kiss on the cheek, and then he almost got dragged off by a stripper and her friend. Van took it on himself to record everything that happened, mumbling something about using it for blackmail.

He decided he wanted to sing a few more songs, and I couldn't stop him. He was way too fast, and if anything the crowd was getting thicker.

He actually seemed to remember the lyrics, even in his state, and he got the crowd cheering him on. I wondered if anyone realized how drunk he was, or if they were just too drunk to realize.

I'd had about ten drinks, and my head was starting to spin, but I still had a grip on my sanity. I was still pushing through the crowd when I felt someone's hand on my shoulder. I turned around, and had to stifle a gasp.

It was Fang.

I immediately started to panic. What was she doing here? How did she…how long had she been here? Was she here with anyone else? Was Kairi…?

"Weird meeting you here, Riku!" She seemed to be smiling, though it was hard to see. "Wanna dance?"

I was about to shake my head when she interrupted me. "Don't worry—I'm the only one here!"

I hesitated for a second, before I decided a little dancing couldn't hurt.

Before I knew it we'd danced through ten songs, and Sora had disappeared from the stage.

"Shit…" I cursed. "Um…really sorry but I've gotta…"

"It's okay." Fang shrugged. "And thanks for the dance anyway. See you around?"

I nodded, feeling slightly awkward. It seemed like ages since I'd talked to her…and I'd always remembered her being a bit of a mega-bitch—even after we'd settled our differences—so it was weird seeing her acting all nice for once.

She disappeared into the crowd, finding another guy to dance with, and I decided to go and search for Sora. I found him sitting around a table at the back between several girls, playing a drinking game I assumed to be a mix of Never Have I Ever, Strip Poker and Spin The Bottle.

Most of them were half-naked, and Sora was in nothing but his underwear, so I decided to save him before it was too late.

"Riku~!" Sora whooped, forgetting he had a drink in his hand and spilling it on the girl next to him. She yelped in protest, but she was obviously shitfaced as well because she burst out laughing…which just ended up making Sora and the rest of the girls do the same thing.

"Sora…we gotta go home now," I explained—well, more like yelled, since the music was so loud.

"Home? But we're playing spin the bottle have I ever poker…strip…" Sora frowned, and then he just started laughing again. "What am I saying?"

"I-I don't know!" The girl next to him started laughing even harder.

"Seriously. NOW."

"Fine…" Sora muttered, trying to get to his feet.

The girls started to whine.

"You ruin everything," one of them complained.

I ignored them and picked up his clothes before motioning for Sora to follow me. I had almost made it to the door when I realized he wasn't following me, and when I got back to the table he wasn't there.

I swore, about ready to rip out my hair. "Where the hell did he go?"

The girls said they didn't know, and I immediately feared the worst.

After searching in vain for about ten minutes, I managed to find him liplocked with this random girl in the kitchen.

After a lot of pulling and scratching, I managed to separate them. I glared at the girl, who was obviously not drunk. "What the hell?"

She shrugged, smirking impishly. "What? He's in his underwear. I saw an opportunity, and I took it."

I gave her a disgusted look, and threw Sora his shirt and jeans. He looked slightly dazed, but remained silent. "Put this on, we're leaving."

The girl gave me a weird look. "What? Is he your boyfriend or something?"

I decided not to answer; there really wasn't any point. It was better she thought that anyway.

I decided to hold his wrist so he wouldn't run off anywhere, and went to look for Vanitas. I found him and Xion by the bar, and informed them of Sora's situation.

"Wow, he really is wasted, huh?" He waved his hand in front of Sora's face. "He can't even see straight."

Sora grinned goofily at me. "You have really pretty eyes, Riku."

I sighed. "Yeah. Yeah he is."

Xion let out a loud yawn, rubbing her eyes. "I'm tired."

Van chuckled. "Well. I've got enough blackmail material, so we can go now."

I nodded, handing Sora over to Van. "Well…I'll see you guys around, I guess."

Van seemed to be debating something over in his head. "Mmm…you know what? Why don't you crash over at our place for the night?"


"I'm serious. You helped take care of this kid for the night, and he seems to really like you, so…yeah."

"No, I can't—"

"No, I insist." He tapped my forehead. "You're drunk; Tifa's never gonna let you leave the club like this. She's gonna kill me if she finds out I left you here."

I realized there was no way out and, plus, I was kind of tired. And even if I didn't feel like it, I was pretty buzzed. "Fine."


Sora spent the whole car ride home singing Ke$ha songs with the three girls Vanitas brought along. Xion had to squish in the front seat with me while the rest stayed in the back. I only realized Vanitas was also drunk when we'd all gotten in the car and he'd started driving and it was too late to back out. Call me paranoid, but I kept expecting a police car to pop up out of nowhere, arresting us all for driving under influence.

We got home safely, though Van almost slammed the car into a tree. I assumed it was Tifa and Cloud's house, and I was right. The house was a simple but obviously expensive, and classy. Cloud Strife, former war veteran classy. I wondered how Sora felt, having someone as cool as him as his Dad.

The foyer was decorated with pictures, most of them of him and Tifa, though a few of them had Sora and Roxas in them. Vanitas was in none of them.

Xion seemed to know her way around, because she disappeared upstairs, probably going off to bed. Van led us up to the room we were going to stay in, saying he and the girls would stay downstairs. He told me to call him if I needed anything, before leaving Sora and I alone.

I ripped off my sweat-soaked shirt, used to sleeping shirtless anyway. I tied the bandage tighter around my forearm, yawning. All that dancing and chasing Sora around really got to me.

Sora was jumping on the bed. "Come on!…Riku!…you've gotta…try this!"

"Sora, we need to go to sleep."

He groaned but complied, but not before pulling me down next to him. I tried not to think about how awkward the situation was.

"You're a nice person, Riku. Nice friend. Nice nice nice."

"Good. Go to sleep."

"…hmm. Kairi's nice. You're nice. You're both nice."

My body stiffened at the mention of her name. God. Every time I tried to forget…

"Go to sleep, Sora."

"…take care of her…"

The room went silent. Sora started to snore softly, and I assumed he'd gone to sleep.

I slipped my hand out of his, sighing. This was it. Sora was going to find out eventually, and this was pretty much the last time I was going to be able to speak to him like this.

I was going to have to head back the next morning. They'd all probably be wondering where I was. I'd switched off my phone before going into Seventh Heaven, and I'd probably gotten loads of calls. They were all probably searching for me. Being here…it was so wrong.

Sora was so damn lucky.

"Sora…" I heaved a sigh, getting ready to go to sleep. "I'm sorry…for everything."

He said nothing in reply. He was long gone.

sorry for the late update. This is at least one week late, right? Of course it is…I thought my Mardi Gras break would be free, but it turns out it wasn't. I was booked for every single day. I did pretty much all of this chapter today. Meh.

I also partially blame this late update on One Direction, for being so damn beautiful and time-consuming. VERIFIED DIRECTIONER RIGHT HURR.

Sneak Peek:

"…there's something you should know about her."


"This is exactly what I was afraid of…"

"I'm trying to help you!"

"I've made my decision."

Songs? Sora: Love Drunk by BoysLikeGirls, Annabelle by A Rocket To The Moon, Resolution by Nick Lachey, Feel Again by Taio Cruz (as random party song). Riku: The Mess I Made by Parachute. Roxas: Beautiful Soul by Jesse McCartney (acoustic). Tifa & Cloud: I Need You by Tim McGraw & Faith Hill. And then there's the average party songs from singers like Taio Cruz, Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, Enrique (particularly Tonight I'm (Lovin') You lol), Kesha, Rihanna…you name it. I'll leave that to your imagination.

Read, review! And most of all, enjoy! Catch you guys next time!

Word Count: 7,626