Hi all! Story number two post-hiatus is up. Special thanks to Hito Me Bore for putting up with me and my complaining. I have a few special notes and warnings. Please bear with the tl;dr author's note.
Warnings: Firstly, though this is intended as an overall light-hearted piece, due to the nature of the plot, character death does have to happen at some point. If that sinks your ship of happiness, I'm truly sorry. Keep in mind though that everything that I write usually has a happy ending—let's face it, life is already hard enough without me adding fictional badness into the mix—so without giving too much away, just know that your sunken ship will probably be patched up by the end of the story…depending on how you look at things…maybe.
Secondly—also relating to subject matter—certain discussion about death occurs here as well. This story is not out to make a political/religious/societal/psychological stance on anything. Mention of religion is nonexistent, and any reference to ghosts and the afterlife are intentionally neutral and nonintrusive so that it shouldn't have any impact on your own personal perception of life and death. READ: This isn't that deep of a story, people. It is my intent that you are free to read without having to worry that I'll offend you.
All that said, we're ready to roll.
Disclaimer: The characters used in this story are the property of Square Enix, The Walt Disney Company and their affiliates. No Copyright infringement intended.
Chapter 1: Frozen Peas
Death was the unwelcome outcome to an unfortunate circumstance, Riku thought with a bitter taste in his mouth. More than he hated the strange tingly sensation in his limbs, and the uncomfortable coldness that crept up his spine every time he looked over at his lifeless body in the corner, Riku hated that Sora was right.
Grumbling as best he could, not even sure if he was making a noise, he spared another glance at himself in the corner; he was a motionless heap with unkempt hair, unsightly bruises and blood splatters, a face as blank as the white of his skin. The cold sensation returned, and he chose to look away. This had certainly ended differently than how he had anticipated. Sora was going to lose it…
He flexed his fingers, and found that despite being unattached to his physical body, the movements were the same. They moved as if there were bones—notably unbroken bones—beneath the skin, and blood flowing through his veins. He was tingly, possibly still suspended in the apparition-version of shock, but he could move and that was all that mattered.
There were boxes around, two or three big enough to keep shipments of whatever was supposed to be inside from spilling out. Riku hoped with all his might that they weren't fruit bins. The last thing he needed on top of being dead was to become the host of a writhing, buzzing nest of fruit flies and their maggots. His pride simply would not allow it. He flexed all ten fingers once again and made the decision to try something.
He half walked-half floated—that was new—to a nearby stack of the crates and attempted to pick one up. He remembered that he would now actually have to concentrate on picking up objects that were distinctly more physical than himself, so he did so and lifted the crate with relative ease.
He wondered what this might look like to a passerby. Would someone see a crate floating in the air? Would they see some poor muck with a broken face and the body to rival a limited-edition holographic trading card awkwardly shuffling around a graveyard of shipping crates? He chose not to think about it and settled on his task at hand. Whoever dragged him here had gone through the trouble of making sure that his body would remain completely hidden. All Riku had to do was improve the job.
The crates were moved, and within a matter of minutes his body was completely obscured by a tower of them. He felt a twinge of sorrow as he saw what was left of his face disappear behind the slotted wood, but he knew that this was best. He had a job to do, and if he had any hope of getting back to life, he was going to need to make sure that at least this part of the secret remained…secret.
With a final glance at the body he knew was well-hidden, he forced himself to look away. His first task may have been complete, but the hard part was far from over. Somehow, he needed to find Sora.
"You really need to stop this," Sora said quietly from his seated position on his couch. This was the day before Riku decided his friend was just being too over protective.
Right before everything was ruined.
Riku tried to shrug as best as he could, but his dislocated shoulder protested. "Yeah, yeah," he said, hiding the grunt. "You sound like my mother."
"Pfft, if I sounded like your mother, you'd listen to me. Now hold still. This is going to hurt."
Riku nodded and waited, trying not to tense as Sora put one hand on the back of his shoulder, and the other around his bicep.
Riku closed his eyes.
His arm popped.
Riku felt tears at the corner of his eyes as the joint slid back into place, sending fire through his body, and a brief flicker of regret through his mind. He shook out the limb and held in any potential sound, mainly because he didn't want to admit that it hurt.
Sora rolled his eyes.
"Don't ask me what. You know exactly what."
"I assure you, I have no idea what you're talking about."
Sora snorted and pushed himself off of his couch. "Whatever. Sit here, I'm going to get some frozen vegetables and what's left of my first aid kit. Sit still, and don't talk."
"Why can't I talk?"
"Because every time you open your mouth, I start to hate you." Sora sent him a glare that could quite possibly have ended the world, so Riku sat quietly.
In the dark.
In Sora's living room.
Riku rolled his eyes and allowed himself to change places from sitting on Sora's coffee table to the couch. It had been a long night. He didn't think he could stand much more than this quick patch-up job before crashing to sleep. Changing positions had actually turned out to be a bad idea, mainly because the shifting of his body lit his muscles on fire, but the soft material actually made him even sleepier. He knew that if he fell asleep though, that Sora would punch him awake, and that would hurt more than getting his shoulder pushed back into place.
He had endured more than enough punching for the day.
Sora returned moments after Riku felt his eyes droop anyway, and offered him a hearty slap on his uninjured shoulder. "You don't get to sleep."
"Mmhmm. Here." He offered Riku a bag of frozen peas.
Riku just stared at them in his hand.
Sora mirrored the stare for a collection of seconds then rubbed his eyes and groaned. "Are you serious?"
"It's not that bad this time. I promise it isn't fractured, just a little out of place."
He scoffed and took Riku's wrist in his hand and not-so-gently examined it. "Are you sure it's not broken?"
"Hmph, you would know."
"I resent tha—Ouch!"
Sora snorted and popped the joint back into alignment, rubbing the area to reduce the pain, despite how much he thought Riku deserved it. "I'm not even kidding. I'm running out of frozen food. I'm going to starve."
"Yes, but look at how much munny you can make as a nurse!"
"I don't want to be a nurse, Riku. I want to go to sleep, preferably without worrying about my idiot friend, doing idiotic things!" He took the bag of peas and placed it over Riku's wrist, then shuffled off to get another few bags of various frozen foods. "What else do I have to fix?"
"Eh, how much tape do you have?"
"Enough for three fingers."
Sora shook his head. "Riku, you have no idea how much munny you're going to owe me in medical bills alone. Good thing I don't charge you."
"Is it because you like my face?"
"No, it's because each time I patch you up, I get to deduct more charity work off my taxes. I thought I told you to stop talking."
Riku did sit quietly as Sora finished up taping, icing, and patching up the rest of his admittedly battered body, but it was difficult. He wanted to say something to get the concentrated frown off of Sora's face, crack a joke, start up a conversation, whistle. Anything would do.
Sora sent him a glare every time he opened his mouth to do so, so he did his best and managed to stay quiet for the duration of the job. Silence was bothersome, but upsetting Sora had the potential for danger.
"There," he said at last, sitting back to admire his handiwork in the dark room. "That should hold you together until the morning at least."
Riku tested his limbs and agreed. Though he was still sore, he would indeed be fine until the next morning, quite possibly until the next time too. "Thanks, Sora."
"Yeah, yeah." He glanced at the clock behind him. It was well after three in the morning. "I suppose you'll be wanting a place to crash for the night, too?"
"Nah, I can walk back."
"And let you ruin all of the hard work I just went through? Forget it. Stay here, I'll get a blanket and a pillow."
Riku sighed and nodded, outwardly frustrated, but secretly grateful. There weren't many constant things in life, but he was thankful that at least for now, Sora was one of those rare things that stayed so. No matter how many times this happened, how many times he crashed on his couch, how many times he used up his first aid kit, made self-admittedly stupid decisions, Sora hadn't bothered to kick him out.
For the third time, Sora returned, this time with a pillow, blanket, and another ice pack, probably for his eye. "Will this be enough?" He asked, his frustrated voice a stark contrast to his words. "Do you think you'll need another blanket tonight?"
"No, this will be fine."
"Good. I grabbed the most uncomfortable blanket I could find, and this pillow smells like moth balls. Enjoy."
Sora made a motion to throw the items at him, but thought better of it, then arranged them neatly on the couch, even taking care to throw the blanket over Riku's body.
"Don't die in the middle of the night. Wake me up if you need anything."
"I'll be fine."
"I'm sure. Go to bed. I've kept you up long enough."
"Of course you did," Sora huffed, jabbing his finger in his face. "You always wake me up. You always pick the most inopportune times to get yourself in these messes, and then you expect me to wake up in the morning and be in a good mood about going to work. Some of us sleep at night, Riku. Some of us like to wake up in the morning without troublesome little miscreants like you always hogging their couches. Some of us like to sit on them and read the paper! Some of us—"
"I get it, I get it," Riku said trying his hardest (but failing) to hide the chuckle in his voice. "I'm sorry, it won't happen again."
"Ugh, you're even worse when you lie!" Sora threw his hands up and stormed off towards his bedroom. "Just stop talking and go to sleep."
"Don't 'yes Sora' me. That's talking!" He stomped off in the direction of his room. Riku noticed that he didn't hear the door close.
He smiled despite himself as he settled into the itchy blanket and stiff pillows. The uncomfortable material was welcome.
This apartment was welcome.
Sleep was welcome.
The next morning, Riku awoke to too much light struggling to slip through his eyelids, and the faint smell of breakfast wafting off somewhere in the kitchen. He cracked open an eye and scanned the room to make sure he hadn't accidentally fallen asleep at the harbor again—or worse, fallen asleep off the harbor—and let out an audible sigh of relief when he realized that he hadn't dreamed crashing Sora's house the night before. There was a chair beside him, what was left of a frozen bag of peas sliding off of his brow, and to his left in another adjacent chair was a stack of towels with a note on top.
He sat up and stretched, then abruptly stopped as the memory of his recently dislocated shoulder suddenly made itself very apparent. It would be another uncomfortable morning, he knew. He gingerly peeled the blanket off of his stiff legs and hissing joints.
If the brightness of the sun was any indication, he had slept well past Sora's morning exit, and if he remained at the apartment longer than necessary, he was afraid his fiery friend might just have his head on a silver platter. With that thought nestled in mind, he willed himself off of the couch and grabbed the stack of towels.
The bathroom was a few paces away and to the left, he remembered, the familiarity of the apartment a relief to his bruised muscles and tired bones. He had to remember though, that even though the trip was familiar, Sora's house was still like an elaborate maze of objects peppering the floor. There was a jacket and a pair of shoes just behind the couch, and in the doorway, a stack of papers. Sucking in a breath, he weaved his way around the obstructions and made it to the bathroom without tripping.
He tossed the towels onto the counter and turned on the water, stripped and waited for it to heat. As he did so, he reached for the note that had been hastily written and deposited atop the towels. He grinned as he scanned the text.
Shower. You smell like the harbor and bad decisions. You had better not be here when I get back. When you go, remember to lock up in the morning. If someone breaks into my house to finish whatever it is you started, I am not kidding Riku, I will hunt you down and end you.
Riku's smile widened as he folded the note. It was more than mildly threatening, and he didn't want to test just how much patience Sora had left in the reserves. It would do him well to make sure his apartment stayed in the same order, he thought with a nod. He wasn't sure how Sora would even be able to tell the difference between an errant towel and the rest of the clutter, but he knew it would be better safe than sorry.
Careful of his fingers, he pushed his clothing into a pile as far away from any potential water splatters as possible. He still had to make it back home in that outfit, and since he was already fresh out of dignity with the blood and dirt stains, he was sort of desperate to keep from looking worse.
Then came the moment he was sort of dreading.
The water had reached a decent temperature, but he knew his cuts and scrapes would react violently to the introduction of new substances. The ice and tape had been bad enough, but going through the process of avoiding his injuries while still scrubbing himself clean was going to be an…interesting venture to say the least.
As he thought, his skin did not like the hot water, and threw an absolute tantrum when it came into contact with the soap. He hissed into the steam, knowing that pain in this case was good for him, and if he backed out now from something as simple as a shower, he would never respectfully be able to enter another brawl down at the harbor.
To distract himself, he looked down at the impressive welts and bruises that bloomed across his shins, chest and arms. If it weren't on flesh, he would possibly confuse the patterns for an art project by a third grader.
A third grader who liked the color purple.
And to stab things.
And…was slightly sadistic.
He wrinkled his nose and finished washing, the soap bubbles curling around his taped up fingers and bleeding knuckles. At some point soon, he was going to have to pick a less self destructive lifestyle.
At some point, but probably never.
Pleasant images of the festivities from the night before filled his head, and he actually reached up to was his hair with a grin on his face.
Riku knew that accepting a job down at the harbor would probably get him into trouble. To be fair, getting a job anywhere outside of a padded cell with constant video surveillance—maybe— would get him into trouble. But he needed munny, and the job was easy.
He worked as a stocking man. All he had to do was load the boats with cargo that was being exported, or load the dock with imported cargo. He didn't even have to spend time figuring out where to put it. It was straightforward, and had few rules; as long as he showed up on time and never inquired as to the content of the boxes, he was paid quite handsomely with little to no hassle…in cash. The job had the added bonus of requiring little interaction with people, which meant no social skills were necessary, and if he worked the frequent late shifts, this lack of interaction only ripened. If was a simple job, a simple life, and he preferred it that way. He could afford a relatively decent place to call home, put food on his table, and, on occasion, replace his shirts and jeans when this simple life became too simple.
Riku winced as he rubbed a tender spot on his arm with the clunky soap bar. Lifting heavy crates was going to be a very interesting venture that night, he could tell.
It wasn't that Riku was a particularly reckless person. In most cases, he was logical, even tempered, and down to earth. He liked the quiet. He liked sitting, and fishing, and sleeping, and other low-energy tasks. Maybe it was because he liked these things so much that he sometimes liked to shake things up just for his personal amusement.
Which is where the harbor came in.
He often worked at night, and as anyone around the islands knew, it was seedy at best during the daytime. This is why it was the perfect job. He was strong, capable, and was not often easily shaken. He also possessed a reliable set of muscles that could be successfully used to do more than open a jar of pickles. He often ran into some strange people. Some were garden variety gangsters, some were thieves. Some liked to do undercover exchanges at the harbor and brought along hardened criminals to keep their exchanges quick and easy. And then there were some people who just liked to start trouble.
Riku would be lying if he said that he didn't enjoy it when those particular people tried to bother him while he worked. He would also be lying if he said he didn't egg them on a little bit, make a few comments here and there that may have been slightly threatening; poke a nerve that encouraged them to throw a punch or two. Riku was many things, but he certainly was not a liar, which is why he was bruised, battered, and ready to repeat the process again the next night.
There was something about fighting that made him feel whole. It made him feel like he was on fire—in a good way—and that if he punched the other person hard enough, the little victory dance he did later would somehow make up for the black eye and busted lip. Sometimes the fights would be quick, sometimes they would drag on for a few hours. Sometimes the fights lasted the course of the week, and he would get a nervous, excited feeling every time he pulled on his boots to go to work the following days.
He knew he could have found somewhat less personally destructive outlets for his loose energy, but the harbor was readily available, and better still, free. He could take on fights, punch people for a few hours, make munny if he was still on the clock, and rest easy knowing that no one would ask questions. There was something about these informal brawls that brought out the best in him. They were refreshing and energizing, and…and…
Easy. He liked to fight people. It didn't take a lot of thought, and it was fun.
Sora had thought Riku had completely lost his mind, Riku remembered the day after his first fight on the harbor. His nose was broken, and Sora acted as though he had just been hit with a semi-truck and was still lying on the side of the road. He remembered the look on Sora's face when he saw the bruised appendage.
He remembered the look on Sora's face when he admitted that he kind of liked it.
It was like a trophy. He had won that fight alright; it was a small scuffle with a thin, wiry kid who thought that Riku had mixed up the boxes. Riku may have gotten out with a broken nose, but the kid had to hobble away by the time Riku was finished. He knew it was wrong, but he enjoyed winning, the adrenaline coursing through his veins, the raw feel of his knuckles against flesh. The small taste he had developed into something of an obsession very quickly, and the rest was history.
He picked the dirt out of his fingernails and finished cleaning himself up. He was thankful that the late shifts hid him from view of the public who by and large frowned upon people who looked like they just hopped out of a gang war movie, but that didn't mean that he wanted to look at himself in such a state either. He was a proud man after all. Even if he didn't actually come out of a fight unscathed, he was certainly going to look and act like it.
Shower finished, he stepped out, dressed back in his old clothes, and put Sora's bathroom back together as best he could, despite a few troublesome water puddles. He hoped with all his might that they would evaporate before Sora returned home. Sora's fury was unmatched when it came to his direct orders, provided of course he even noticed.
He decided that before he headed home he might as well rummage about and see if there was anything left from the scent of breakfast he had caught earlier. Sora wasn't the best cook, but anything was better than trudging back home on an empty stomach.
He rounded the corner from the bathroom and wandered into the kitchen.
Riku wrinkled his nose and considered retracting his thought that anything would be better than heading home hungry. There were dirty plates in the sink and stacks of paper all over the dining room table. If he didn't know better, he'd say that there was about a month's worth of newspapers just sitting there on the floor, but he did know better and was confident Sora hadn't started reading about the world on any regular basis. A closer observation concluded that they were probably about four months worth of comic sections neatly extracted from the paper. The counter wasn't much better since it seemed to be cluttered with random toys Sora had collected from somewhere; even the cookie jar was filled with them.
It had just occurred to him that maybe, just maybe he didn't want to eat in the kitchen at all, but then he noticed a bright orange sticky note on the microwave.
Sora had taken care to write down explicit instructions not to mess up anything in the kitchen, and if there was so much as a spoon out of place, Riku would have to pay for it for the rest of his life as part of his punishment. There was something written about even cataloging fingerprints and scuff marks on the floor, too. He had even scribbled an angry face onto the letter to punctuate how serious he was, and beneath that at the very, very bottom was a brief message about there being food in the microwave.
Riku rolled his eyes. Sora probably wouldn't even be able to tell if he decided to start a bear wrestling club while he was gone, so he highly doubted a misplaced spoon would be noticed. He decided that he might just go ahead and do the opposite: clean out the sink to both demonstrate his appreciation for the hospitality and his rebellious side.
He turned on the water and filled the sink with soap, hoping that the outpouring water wouldn't be some putrid color, and simultaneously fished around in the microwave. Sora had done his best with toast and orange juice, but even the bread looked sad, as its back was dark, and its front was soggy with cold butter. Riku was grateful though, so he ate the toast in two bites and drained the orange juice in just as many seconds. He would have to make up the hospitality to Sora at some point in the near future. Maybe he would come over and cook him some real food. He owed Sora a lot these days, it seemed. His tab was getting longer and longer.
He washed out the glass, and let the plates soak for a bit before wiping them down and putting them on the drying rack. Brushing away his own crumbs, he decided that it was time to make his leave. He would need to go home, change, sleep some more, and hopefully get himself in better shape in order to make it through the night's shift. If he knew anything about the way things worked at the ship yard—and he knew everything about how things worked at the ship yard—it was going to be a long, arduous process loading the boats, and even more of a pain since he knew that somewhere, someone was probably waiting for part two of the fight.
*Worthy of note, the use of "Munny" over "money" was intentional, as this is the spelling of the currency within the Kingdom Hearts Universe. Just thought I'd clear that up for those who are not familiar with the fandom. Chapter 2 will be up shortly. Please remember to share your thoughts!