Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.


Author's Notes…

A special thanks to hesteen for beta-ing this chapter for me! You're the best!

Sorry for the delay again. All the working had kinda… gotten me in a place where I didn't feel up to writing very much. But the bug has bitten me again! Thank the Jesus. Haha, I hate it when I have all this inspiration running through my head, yet no desire to sit down at my keyboard and type it out. The only reason this chapter got started was because I opened up my writing journal at work one day and went to town. Sometimes putting things on paper is easier to get the flow of things. Don't ask me why. I really don't like my hand cramping up.

Music I listened to while writing this chapter:

Unhappy Endings – Mark Isham; Once Upon a Time

I only mention this because that track is beautiful.


The Trigger

Chapter Six

Hopeful

When Riku got to his front door, he was bombarded with a whiff of Fierce cologne, and then arms were around him. He clutched the doorframe to keep himself upright. Stunned, he looked down, only to be greeted by the sight of cinnamon spikes. He wanted to tense—he wanted to shove Sora off him, because his heart was still ravaged by the hurt of their last few years… but in the end, he couldn't do it.

"Sora—what's wrong?"

The smaller boy shuddered against him. Sora sniffled then, and Riku's heart clenched even tighter. His arms safe at his sides, he turned his eyes away. He could feel his nails biting into the flesh of his palms. The effort of not holding Sora was laborious. It was taking all he had to stand there and do nothing.

Sora tilted his head back to see Riku. His eyes glistened. His voice, on the other hand, was steady when he spoke. "Tell me about your dreams."

That made Riku take a step back, perturbed. He didn't get very far—Sora was already after him, his hands fisting themselves back in Riku's shirt. The sunlight was making the gold in Sora's spikes glow like a halo around his head, a sight that no longer matched the soul within. Sora was tainted, by what Riku didn't know, and he fiercely missed the boy he'd fallen in love with so long ago.

"Riku, I—I have to know," he said hoarsely now, his eyes as blue and huge as they'd ever been when he was vulnerable. Riku couldn't remember the last time Sora had done this: turned to him, confided in him, needed him. Because Riku could see that need now, raw in Sora's gaze. Ghost-like feelings rose up in answer within Riku… the urge to comfort him, to tug him closer for an embrace.

But those days were long gone. And as much as Riku wanted to get to the bottom of the dreams, he couldn't just forgive what had passed between them in this life so easily.

"Know what…?" Riku replied guardedly. He lifted his hands to where Sora's rested against his chest, disentangling them. Sora fought him on that, though, making Riku's heart skip in surprise, then Sora was taking advantage of the moment to push him further into his apartment, kicking the door shut behind them.

The sunlight faded, and so did Sora's halo.

Before Riku knew it, he was grunting as Sora shoved him none too gently on his couch. That made his bird squawk in protest, as she could see them from the kitchen. Sora's eyes lifted in curiosity. To Riku's misfortune, it was only momentary. Just as he was rising off the couch with plans to knock Sora onto his ass, the other boy placed his hands firmly on Riku's shoulders and straddled his hips.

Shit.

Riku closed his eyes, his throat working. "Sora. Get off me."

"No! I want to talk to you about this!"

"Sora…" Riku said, more firmly. His limbs were starting to shake with the effort of not shoving Sora violently from his person. He felt he had a right to it, but what good would violence do at this juncture? As much as he resented Sora's behavior toward him in the not-so-distant past, he knew he had to get to the bottom of the dreams. "Get. Off. Me."

"Ri, come on, please, right now I just need to—"

"SORA, GET THE FUCK OFF ME!"

Sora stared, his mouth hanging open. Then his brows knitted over his nose, and his lower lip jutted into a familiar pout. It quickly segued into a growl, and before Riku could digest what was happening, Sora leaned forward and pushed their mouths together in what was possibly the clumsiest, yet somehow sexiest kiss Riku had ever experienced. Clumsy because their teeth knocked together. Sexy because it was, well… it was Sora.

To hell with it, Riku thought. He had wanted this too long, and even though Sora had been nothing but a source of pain these past few years, Riku had always had trouble resisting temptation. Besides, maybe it was time to give Sora a taste of his own medicine.

He knotted a hand in Sora's hair, his tongue thrusting against that full lower lip and then forcing its way into that mouth that Riku loved to hate. He heard himself groan, but that was fine. Maybe if Sora got singed by the fire he was playing with, he'd back the fuck off. For once. Then again, maybe not. Sora was just too damn stubborn for his own good.

But whatever Riku expected, Sora's enthusiastic reception wasn't it. Although he had started the kiss—no doubts about that—Riku had known it was a way to get his attention, nothing more. Except… Sora was echoing his groan, Sora was tangling his tongue hungrily with Riku's, Sora was pulling him closer, putting his arms around Riku's shoulders, Sora was… making Riku lose his damn mind, if the dreams/memories hadn't done that already.

It made Riku grab Sora by the biceps and jerk him roughly away. "You don't even want this, so why are you doing it?"

The smaller man's eyes were a deep, bottomless blue. Those long lashes of his were hanging low, and his lips were stained a dark red from being kiss-bruised. It took all of Riku's willpower and then some not to lean in and claim those lips again.

"You weren't listening." Sora's voice was nothing more than a husky murmur. It made Riku swallow, his pants suddenly too tight.

"So you kiss me?"

Now Sora's eyes flashed with the first threads of anger. Good. That shade of lusty cerulean had been doing nothing good to slow Riku's heart rate. "You kissed me back," he said defiantly.

Riku couldn't exactly argue with that. "So I did."

The two glared at one another in silence.

And Riku got to thinking. "So how's that revenge plan against Professor Leonhart working out?"

The man on his lap flinched. Perhaps if Riku couldn't get him off his lap by a display of intense arousal, maybe reminding Sora of the constant hurt that was no doubt gnawing at him from the inside would work better. It was definitely worth a try, and Riku was a big believer in if at first you don't succeed…

"I didn't come here because of that." Sora stayed firmly rooted in his lap, which was growing quite problematic. Time to be blunt, then.

"Sora, if you don't want to feel my dick pressing against you, it might be best to get the fuck off my lap."

Plan A and B hadn't worked. So maybe Plan C would triumph where they had failed miserably.

That Kiss-Me-Senseless shade of blue was back in Sora's eyes. A crafty smile tilted up one corner of his mouth, and he nudged his nose against the line of Riku's jaw before he cupped a hand over Riku's straining crotch. It made Riku curse, but all attempts to remove his hand ended in not doing a damned thing, mostly because Riku's body wasn't obeying his brain.

Shit. Double shit.

"Now, now, Riku," Sora purred. "We haven't even gone on our first date yet."

Riku had been trying his very best to be cool and not dump Sora on the floor. To not be violent. But the brunet left him with no choice. Riku rose, since that reaction was probably the furthest from Sora's mind, and since Sora wasn't hanging on to anything, he landed flat on his ass.

"Look—Sora… I know you want me to be your pretend boyfriend. But it's just that: pretend. You don't have to…" torment me "…kiss me or grope me to make it more 'authentic.' We don't have an audience here."

The younger man smiled faintly at him from his position on the floor. "You really think I'm not attracted to you, Ri?"

He had lifetimes of memories that were screaming that Sora was, but it was this lifetime that Riku found himself in, and he'd just go even more insane if he tried to convince himself of something that had never existed here, where it was more important.

"You tell me, Sora. I told you I loved you, that I wanted to be with you. You told me you weren't gay, avoided me like the plague, then, a few years later, you fuck our creative writing professor and get the not-so-brilliant idea to try and use me as your vengeance plot. Considering how little you care for my feelings… Yeah, it's a bit hard to believe you're attracted to me now. And I refuse to be rebound." Riku used a rubber band from his pocket to tie his hair back. "I put on a public face for you—it doesn't mean you get to harass me in the privacy of my own home… So beat it."

"Damn it, Riku! Why won't you listen to me?" Clearly miffed, Sora got to his feet. He dusted his cargo shorts off, smoothed down his short-sleeved plaid button down. Considering how many wrinkles were in it, as if he'd dug it out from under his bed that morning in lieu of something actually washed, Riku wasn't really sure what the point of that had been. It didn't matter. He hadn't helped Sora with his wardrobe in far too long.

"Because everything you say just winds up pissing me off." Riku jerked a thumb at the door. "Get. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Don't you want to know about the dreams?!"

Riku's heart thumped uncomfortably. He'd been trying to avoid this topic. "I've been having them since I was fifteen…" He looked away, because the intensity in Sora's eyes was making him way too nervous. "You already told me the other night that you—"

"I had one today. While I was driving. I was suddenly in—a memory or something, I don't know, it's crazy!" Sora began to pace, alternatively grabbing fistfuls of his spikes and making agitated gestures. "When I came to, I nearly got in an accident. But it was like days passed in a span of maybe sixty seconds." He shuddered. "And there was someone there… His name was Vanitas… He didn't say that was who he was, but for some reason, I just know…"

His brows bunching over his nose, Riku frowned. "Vanitas?"

His friend mirrored his expression. "You don't know who that is?"

"No…"

Sora's shoulders slumped. "Great…"

"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Riku hedged, since Sora's disappointment was like a blow to his heart, like he had caused Sora this great upset. It was annoying, considering how little Sora had thought of Riku's feelings since the Confession.

"Well, yeah. That's kinda why I'm here…" Sora shook his head. "But—if you don't know who Vanitas is…"

"I don't know a lot of things about the dreams, Sora. And I've been having them for years. But… I might be able to help you. And maybe if both of us are starting to have them, maybe we'll be one step closer to figuring them out."

"You talk about them like this whole thing isn't crazy…"

"I've just had a long time to get used to this particular brand of craziness."


Once upon a time, Riku and Sora would have climbed up to Riku's bedroom and they would have had their important discussion there. Afterward, they would have undoubtedly tossed themselves on the bean bags Riku previously possessed and played video games until Aqua called them down to dinner. She would have invited Sora to stay the night, and either Mr. Shiozu would have made him come home to do homework, or the two boys would have stayed up the entire night, trading stories about their favorite comics.

Now, of course, Riku wasn't going to let Sora anywhere near his bedroom, especially after that rather aggressive display on his couch. So he led Sora to his kitchen, where Namine was perched in her cage, eyeballing Riku's new guest with her head tilted. At least she wasn't screeching her head off, as she had done with Lea. Instead, Namine seemed very intent, as if she didn't know what to make of Sora.

"When did you get a bird?" her subject asked.

"It doesn't matter." Riku didn't want to tell Sora anything personal about himself if it didn't pertain to the situation at hand. He gestured to the small breakfast table. "Do you want anything to drink?"

"It's weird that you're playing host," Sora observed as he sat himself. "What's his name?"

"It's a she. And her name is Namine." Overlooking Sora's rudeness, Riku waited a tad impatiently for Sora's drink order. But the other man was too busy gawking at the cockatoo's brilliant white plumage.

Scowling, Riku went to the refrigerator and worked by route, thinking that what knowledge he had of Sora's tastes was stale at best, and if Sora didn't like whatever Riku came up with, then he could just eat dickholes, for all Riku cared.

"Here," he said after a moment, placing a Dr. Pepper and a glass of ice in front of his mostly unwanted visitor. He had to admit—though never out loud—that he was rather looking forward to the fact that finally, after all these years, he could talk to someone about these dreams, and that someone would understand… And furthermore, that someone was Sora

Sora's face brightened. "You remembered!"

"No. I just like Dr. Pepper," Riku said gruffly. Sora didn't seem to care—he only continued to grin at Riku like the complete idiot he was until Riku could feel his insides start to turn a little gooey, like the ice encasing his heart was beginning to thaw, and—

And that just wouldn't do. Riku forced his eyes away. It took more effort than he would have liked. "So you had a dream about some guy named Vanitas?"

"Yeah! And the weird thing was, he looked just like me! Well… Except he had black hair and these creepy yellow eyes, but other than that…!"

A silver brow rose. "Like some kind of doppelganger?"

Sora's spikes bobbed up and down. "He said that he had, uh—" Here, the brunet paused, mouthing words to himself before his face became very serious and his voice dropped a few octaves, now carrying somewhat of a sinister note. "'Formed from my angst through all the different realities.'"

Across the table, Riku's heart thumped again. Now that… That sounded familiar. Riku thought of his chart upstairs, in the room directly above them. He thought of all the realities he'd mapped, all the notes he had for each one…

In every single reality, things never wound up good for either of them, but most especially Sora.

"He told me that ever since I shared, uhm, the paopu fruit with you—"

Riku held up a hand, and Sora stopped immediately, his eyes wide in concern. It reminded Riku so painfully of the old Sora, and how innocent he used to be, that Riku felt his throat close up. A heartbeat of silence passed, in which he reminded himself of why he had just interrupted him.

"He said that? That we shared a paopu?"

Sora blinked. Once, twice. He licked his lips. "Yes?"

It would explain everything, Riku thought as his mind began to race frantically. Everything and then some. At least, it would explain why they shared so many realities—why they had dreams of these realities. In theory—or legend, as Riku was choosing not to look at it—if two people shared a paopu, their destinies would be intertwined forever. And that seemed to be exactly what had happened.

Only…

It didn't account for all their misery—or Sora's misery. Riku didn't think his share of it was that unusual, given his disposition, which tended to be more personality than circumstance.

"Riku?"

He looked up.

"You've been quiet for, like, ten minutes…" That he found it unnerving went unsaid.

"I was thinking."

"You sure are Captain Obvious today," Sora said wryly.

Riku supposed such an asshole remark was significantly better than Did it hurt? so he decided to let it go. Just this once. For the sake of not getting sidetracked, and where Sora was concerned, that was always a distinct possibility. "It's a lot to process."

His companion took his turn to arch a brow.

Riku clarified, though he hadn't thought it needed. "What you've told me."

Sora's sigh bordered on impatient. "Yeah, but what were you think about eeexactly that you ignored me for so long?"

Oh. "The paopu."

Blue eyes flared, along with nostrils. Riku couldn't recall a time he had ever seen Sora look so miffed. "Are you being deliberately obtuse?"

Riku chose that moment to steal a swig of Sora's soda. "I'm not sure you're ready for my prognosis," he said, just because if Sora could randomly throw out Big Words, then that more than meant Riku could, too.

"I wouldn't be here if I wasn't!" Sora puffed up, the air around him almost visibly sizzling with his ire. In contrast, Namine stood tall, thinning her body out, her pupils dilating and shrinking rapidly.

"You're upsetting my bird."

"God damn it, Riku!" Sora swore viciously. "I get that you hate me! I get that!" He was on his feet now, the chair three feet away from his abrupt change of position.

"I don't hate you," Riku said, privately commending himself as he did so for how calmly that came out.

"But you brought up the dreams to me first! So it stands to reason that when I start to—" He cut off, digging in his pocket. A slim, white phone was produced a moment later. Sora frowned. He was completely tense, moreso than five seconds ago. "It's Squall."

Riku no longer felt so tranquil, or what constituted for that since Sora had shown up on his doorstep. "Maybe he heard about our relationship." He needed something in his stomach stronger than soda. He briefly contemplated going to the cabinet for the scotch, but just as quickly discarded the impulse. If he got up from the table right now, the more likely he would be to smash something. And it'd probably be Sora's phone.

"I've got to go." Sora's Adam's apple bobbed up and down as he swallowed. "I've got to take this."

"If we shared a paopu, it means that there's a reason why there's hundreds of different realities between us," Riku said.

Sora, finally, looked up from his phone. It continued to buzz incessantly in his hand. "Hundreds?" he said weakly.

Riku nodded. "If not more."

The other man sat. He no longer seemed to notice his phone or the asshat waiting on the other end. "That's… that's—"

"Insane?"

"Well…" Sora blinked owlishly again. "Y-Yeah…"

"Why do you think I see a shrink?" Riku massaged his brow. He was getting a headache, and that scotch was beginning to seem more and more like a great idea.

"Good point." The lithe brunet had the grace to blush. "But—I mean… Say we really did share a paopu in some reality—why are there so many of them? And why did someone like Vanitas show up? Gaining power from my 'angst'?"

"Look—I… I don't…" Riku's throat tightened around the lie. The truth was, he had some suspicions about what had started this snowball effect. And with how earnestly Sora was gazing at him right now, it was kind of hard to pretend otherwise. "Sora, I'm just not sure if you're ready—"

"You keep saying that! It's total BS, by the way! When would I ever be ready for something like this?! I mean, c'mon, it's like we've stepped into the Twilight Zone…"

Sora's phone had stopped buzzing, setting Riku a little more at ease. When Sora remained oblivious to the fact that he had ignored Squall's call entirely, Riku event felt his mood lightening a bit. Much as he didn't trust Sora, it didn't make it any easier to have to contend with the fact that someone had slept with Sora… someone who wasn't him

"If I tell you…" Riku paused, leaning back in his chair. He needed to choose his words carefully. "Do you promise not to run?" He looked Sora dead in the eyes for the first time that afternoon since his personal space had been invaded. He was well aware that what he was asking now completely contradicted how he'd been feeling for the last hour. By asking Sora not to run, he was committing himself to dealing with his mostly unwanted presence. But he meant the question to be taken at more than face value.

Across the table, Sora's lips pursed. At least he was thinking it through instead of answering impulsively as he was prone to doing. Riku took that time to get his scotch, putting it on the rocks with a splash of water. He leaned against the kitchen counter after that, one hand braced on the sink and the other bringing the alcohol to his lips as he stared out the tiny window in front of him. The nice thing about his apartment was that it was really more like a small house. To be technical, it looked like one from the outside, but on the inside, it was split in half. It wasn't quite a duplex, wasn't quite a townhouse, wasn't quite an apartment.

It suited him perfectly, as few things did.

"Why make this so mysterious?" Sora asked after a long moment. His voice had barely risen above a whisper. "If you and me are experiencing the same thing, we should be in this together—"

"Because it's not the same thing," Riku interjected.

"How?!"

"Because—I'm the reason this happened to you!" Riku set his tumbler down with a hard thunk on the counter, its ice rattling. He licked his lips, tasting his scotch, a whiskey blend. "Damn it, Sora… You're just—you're not ready for this… Just go—call… call Professor Leonhart back…" He waved a hand without turning around. "Go do whatever you want."

"What I want is for you to explain to me what the hell is going on!"

Riku stayed mum. Sora wasn't going to get another word out of him, not if he could help it. And he could very well help himself where it concerned this. Riku wanted to tell Sora everything… he always had. But Sora had already proved he couldn't handle it, years ago, when he had thrown everything he'd had with Riku away because he couldn't deal with the burden of Riku's feelings. And Riku simply wasn't going to put himself in that position again. It would hurt so much worse this time…

Damn him, but Sora lingered. Riku could feel those amazing blue eyes boring twin holes into his back. If this had been before all the hurt, the grief, Riku would have caved like a ship being pulled under a tsunami, his empathy toward Sora had been that powerful. As it stood now, he lifted his scotch for another sip.

Though he was loathe to admit it, Sora's phone ringing again saved the day. With a growl, Sora snatched up his keys and phone and stormed out of the apartment. The front door slammed behind him hard enough to rattle the whole frame of the building, and Namine squawked in protest.

Riku didn't set down his glass again until his fingers had stopped shaking.