Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.
Special thanks to hesteen for beta-ing for me! And thanks for all the kind reviews!
Buried in the Ice
It's All Confusingly Amusing
There were periods in his life where everything made sense. And then a moment would come along and so completely shatter that certainty that there was nothing left to do but pick up the pieces and try not to get cut.
Ever since the Accident, Squall had done his best to be by Sora's side. When he'd said that Sora had been despondent, the truth of the matter was that didn't even come close to what it had really been like. There were days where he wouldn't look at Squall, and Squall had thought those were the worst. Then, of course, Sora had woken up without a memory of anything but his own name—his previous name.
Absolutely nothing… watching Sora's head smash against the front of his windshield as his tires lost traction and his car slid forward into that tree… holding his hand tight in the hospital and hoping to whatever god out there who was listening that Sora would open his eyes again… the subsequent days where Sora stared hollowly out the bedroom window, curled up on the sill, wrapped up in a blanket and lost in his thoughts, and nothing Squall could say would reach him…
Well, absolutely none of that compared to the stab his chest had taken when Sora didn't know who he was.
"…along?" Sora asked him around a mouthful of scrambled eggs. It had been three days. Three days of sleeping on the couch and struggling with the fact that he couldn't touch Sora without the other man flinching away.
Squall tore his gaze up from his cold coffee. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Along." Sora gestured between them. He'd been doing that a lot lately. Like Squall wasn't familiar with the term 'us' or 'we.' "Did we?"
"Oh. Well…" Squall licked his lips, uncertainty slithering through him. While this was a chance to essentially rewrite the past and start over, what would happen when Sora's memories—he firmly did not believe in ifs in this matter—returned to him? He'd be furious that Squall had lied, had sugar-coated the difficulties of their marriage. "Most days?"
"'Most days'?" Surprisingly, Sora laughed. He'd been doing that a lot more often lately, though not quite as much as he'd used to. That was all right. Anything was better than that yawning chasm of silence between them.
"Yeah, most—" He stopped as Sora's head suddenly lolled forward, his eyes going back in his head. Concern was a hot razor's edge through him, and he leapt to his feet, going around the island table to grip Sora's shoulders and touch his cheek. "Sora? Sora!"
Oh, shit. Oh, shit. Oh, God. He didn't know what to do!
The younger man remained unresponsive, eyelids at half-mast, what blue that was showing completely void of any sign of life. He was breathing, albeit shallowly, but nothing Squall did could rouse him. He shook Sora a little bit, not too hard, just by the shoulders, because he was afraid that Sora's brain injury still hadn't completely healed itself. In the end, it didn't matter. Sora remained in that same state of lifelessness, if you could be breathing and still be lifeless.
He was missing something. A spark, something.
Squall fumbled for the phone, and since it was the landline, he had no idea what Cloud's number was, and that was the first that had gone through his head. But at the same time he remembered that not only was Cloud not a neurosurgeon, calling 911 would be safest.
He had just punched in the first two numbers when Sora made a soft noise. Immediately, he chucked the phone to the side and knelt in front of his husband, cupping his cheeks, searching his eyes. They were a deeper blue again, a rosy hue covered the line of his cheeks.
"Hey," he mumbled sleepily. "Why do you look so worried?"
Oh, shit. Oh, fuck.
Squall pulled Sora into his arms, holding onto him tightly, his nose buried right in those soft spikes. It only occurred to him afterward that Sora was likely uncomfortable, but he didn't care, not right at that moment. It was instinctive to do this, to keep Sora safe in his arms, protected from the evils and dangers of the world. He had never felt this way about anything before in his life. It was terrifying, had been terrifying since the moment he had met Sora, as he'd told him days ago.
But it was an irresistible pull nonetheless.
"Squall…?" Slowly, Sora began to sound more like himself, 'himself' being the self since he'd lost his memories. "What's wrong?" Tension hummed in his small frame. There was muscle in most places, but Sora would always have an undeniable slightness to him that anyone would be hard-pressed to ignore.
"You just—you blanked… I—shit, Sora, I didn't know what to do…"
"Squall… you're shaking…" Warm palms touched his back, right over his shoulder blades.
I'm shaking? Squall shook his head against Sora's hair. His arms had grown a mind of their own, not keen on letting Sora go anytime soon. But he made himself pull back, if only so he could push Sora's bangs out of his eyes, checking his temperature, fingers pressed to a forehead that wasn't any warmer than usual.
Sora bit his lip. "Squall." He reached up, taking Squall's hand in his own. "I'm okay. I'm okay, I promise."
His throat tight, Squall let him have his hand. Sora would be the first to drop the hold, anyway. He could enjoy the touches while they lasted. Words pressed at his throat, burning to get out. Sora watched him patiently, the sunlight that filtered in through the kitchen window making his hair look more red than brown. It gave his features a sweet innocence, a fact which was more pronounced now than ever, due to his predicament.
"Not to sound cliché or anything, but you look like you've seen a ghost." A smile tugged at the corner of Sora's mouth. He squeezed Squall's fingers. When Squall continued to say nothing, his eyes shadowed a little. "Hey…" He tilted his head. "Talk to me?"
"I think we should call your doctor," he said shortly. Sora blinked as Squall grabbed the phone off the counter where it had slid and skidded over papers that still needed shredding. "Just to let him know."
"What?!" Sora protested. "Squall, nothing happened!"
"You didn't see yourself!"
"I didn't have to! I'm fine! I just—I felt a little woozy suddenly, that's all!"
You looked dead, Squall thought frantically. He thumbed through the caller ID of the house phone, trying to find the right number for the hospital.
"Squall, come on!" His stool skidded across the hardwood as Sora got off it, grabbing at Squall's elbow. "Dude! Stop!"
"I'm not going to stop!" Squall was in his face, one hand thrust out to the side, the other holding the phone to his chest. His grip on it was so tight, the plastic creaked. "You almost died, Sora! Do you get that? Do you hear me?"
Sora stumbled back a step, his eyes widening. "You're overreacting. I just blanked out for a second—"
"YOU ALMOST DIED!" Squall roared at him.
"WILL YOU STOP FREAKING OUT ON ME!" Sora screamed back. "I CAN'T TAKE THIS RIGHT NOW!" His voice went up to an awkward, squeaky pitch to match the tears in his eyes, and Sora sniffled. He kept moving backwards until he hit the counter behind him. "Dude! Chill, okay?!"
Growling, Squall stalked out of the kitchen. It was taking all he had not to smash the phone into the wall.
Don't be such a sissy, Sora told himself as he sniffled. He hastily wiped his eyes, then looked listlessly over his plate of food, now probably gone cold. And it was mostly untouched, too. Such a waste.
Though he hadn't wanted to tell Squall about it, worry hadn't taken root only in the other man's heart. He hadn't just 'blanked out,' as they'd both referred to it. He'd gone someplace deep inside of himself. And in that someplace, he'd seen it again. The snow, the boy with the green eyes and silver hair. Except this time, he seemed to be calling him from somewhere far away.
Sora… can you hear me…? Sora…
It was weird, not to mention concerning. Losing your memory, only to zone out and see something about someone that your supposed husband hadn't a clue to was definitely not a good sign.
He shook it free for the time being, knowing he had other pressing matters to attend to, like Squall bailing on him a second ago. Gathering his resolve, he went on a hunt for the other man, finally finding him upstairs in his study, his hands braced on either side of the window of that room. The place was tidy, well-kept, with an old set of comic books in one corner, everything else occupied by books, books, and more books.
Some, Sora noticed, were Squall's works. Others ranged from looking ancient, as if he'd inherited them, to brand new, the spines not broken in any place except on a spare few. The only space left in the room was for his giant mahogany desk, and a laptop was closed on top of it, along with scattered papers full of red marks and a solitary picture frame.
It was this last that drew Sora, and he picked it up gingerly. It had such a simple frame, but in it was a world he couldn't reach, no matter how hard he tried. He was outside with Squall somewhere, autumn leaves all around them, Squall with his hands at Sora's waist from behind, his brow dark in its furrow. Sora, on the other hand, looked completely carefree.
He set it down with a light thump against the desk. "Look, um… I admit that I'm not exactly an expert in the marriage field at the moment… but I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to just—I don't know—run away whenever a prime moment presents itself."
Pettily, he'd been hoping the 'run away' bit would goad Squall into looking at him. Instead, the other man kept his back to him, the muscles in it ridged beneath his simple cotton shirt. Sora had to admit to himself, if no one else, that it looked good on him. Clinging to all the right places, accentuating his trim waist, the definition in his biceps. And just the acknowledgment of that—that he was ogling Squall—was enough to make his head spin.
Okay. So… the verdict…? He definitely liked men.
It was a strange, bubbly sensation inside of him, like he was half-elated, half-frightened. But what did it matter at the end of the day? He had no memories of discrimination to haunt him, and Squall, though definitely needing work with communication, was at least a dedicated spouse.
"Squall, just look at me?"
Silence reigned, ever present, ever slowly killing them. The few feet that separated them seemed wider than ever, until Sora was forced to cross it. His hands hovered above Squall's waist as he debated taking the dive by touching him, maybe even holding him. Would Squall want it? How could he not want it? For the last handful of days, he'd had to visibly restrain himself from touching Sora.
A doorbell rang, jerking Sora guiltily away from his alleged husband, his attention drawn to the doorway of the study.
Sora yanked his head back around to Squall. The two words had been uttered so… forlornly almost, but not quite. Sora didn't know how to explain it. All he knew was that he didn't like it, didn't like Squall sounding like that, as though darkness coated his thoughts and had slid over his words like sludge. Whatever was going on in his head clearly wasn't pleasant.
Somewhere deep within him, he got the notion that if he put his arms around Squall right now, he would be banishing some of that darkness.
The doorbell rang again.
And again and again.
Exasperated, Sora left Squall to head back downstairs. He wasn't sure what he was going to do if he was faced with someone who knew him and not the other way around. But he couldn't just not answer. His nerves were jangling, demanding that he get to the front door, get to the front door now, and it was so urgent that he didn't think twice about it.
He pulled open the door, and his heart stopped for all of two seconds.
A young man, around his age, stood before him. His silver hair was pulled into a loose ponytail, high up on his head, with bangs framing the sides of his face. At Sora's appearance, he took off a pair of Aviators, revealing the most startling green eyes, the color of grass in the springtime. He was tall, a little shorter than Squall but still towering over Sora, and his body was slender and muscular both, like a great cat, muscles poised beneath elegant fur, ready to spring at any moment, each step graceful.
"Hey," the guy said. "It's been a while, Sora."
"Squall's not around is he?" The man stuck his head into the doorway, his hands tucked into his back pockets. His eyes casually surveyed the area, and, seemingly determining it clear of Sora's aforementioned husband, he gripped Sora's wrist and pulled him outside.
The first thing Sora noticed was that his fingers were like ice.
He'd never felt more alive.
Not that he had a lot to go off of. His memory didn't extend beyond this week. But shivers darted up and down his spine, warming the pit of his belly, and he was helpless but to let the stranger drag him down the front walkway of the house. Sora only barely had time to shut it behind him. Then they were walking through the drifting snow flurries, and Sora didn't even mind that he wasn't wearing a jacket.
It only occurred to him later that Squall's study overlooked the front lawn.
"Where are you taking me? Who are you?"
"My name is Riku. And as for your first question, don't worry. You trust me, right?"
"Yeah…" Sora found himself whispering.
Here he was: the one person Sora remembered amidst the whiteout that had shrouded his mind. And, strangely enough, his voice matched the one that had echoed in his mind just a half hour past in the kitchen. It almost scared him, but it couldn't, not while Riku's hand was wrapped around his. Nothing could penetrate that feeling—that warm certainty.
But Squall was watching them, and Sora's sense of what was right and wrong warred with him. He didn't remember his marriage to Squall, yet that didn't mean they weren't married. "I can't—" Sora started to take his hand back, only for it to be gripped more securely by Riku. "I'm married."
Riku stepped close, and then the strangest thing happened when Sora met his eyes.
Nothing else mattered anymore.
Elation wafted through him, as fluffy as the snowflakes landing on his cheeks and catching in his hair.
"You good?" Riku asked.
"Yeah," Sora breathed.
"Good." Without releasing Sora, Riku pulled out a jangling key ring and pointed a remote at the shiny black Mercedes parked on the curb. Despite all the salt that covered the roads, his car wasn't even that dirty. "Let's go." He held open the passenger door for him. "There's something I need to show you."
Something was gripping hold of Sora, forbidding him from going. He shook his head quickly, stepping away, his fingertips barely touching Riku's as he retracted his hand. "I can't. I really can't."
"Because I—" Sora trailed off as Riku ducked his head so they were on the same eye level. A small noise escaped him, to which Riku smiled, and the other man reached up, playing idly with one of his spikes.
"Your morals are really going to be my downfall one day, Sora."
"Mmmm?" He was floating on cotton. He was filled with it.
"Get in the car."
"Okay," he mumbled, his body complying automatically. Riku shut the door for him and in seconds was climbing in on the driver's side. With a purr of the engine, they were off, and Sora found his eyes going up, as if drawn by magnets, to the window of Squall's study. It was dark, no silhouette there that he could make out.
He wasn't sure why that bothered him when everything was so nice right then.
"Where have you been?!"
Sora giggled, slumping against the kitchen counter as he toed off his snow boots. He didn't recognize them, and they felt new, stiff. "What do you mean?"
"Sora, it's—fuck, it's almost midnight!" Squall strode forward, gripping Sora's arm and tugging him close. Anger warred with concern on his face. "I've been searching all over town for you! And you don't have a goddamn phone—"
Sora pushed him off. All this drama was interfering with the fun he'd been having. "I haven't been gone that long, don't exaggerate." He went to move, only to stumble into the refrigerator, which unleashed another giggle. "Oh, shit."
"Are you drunk?"
"No!" He wasn't. Not on liquor, anyway. He wasn't sure what he was quite so high on, but whatever it was, it was nice, and Riku had been responsible for it. He licked his lips, still tasting the remnants of what he'd been given. Only, when he tried to curl his thoughts around it and focus on what it had been, he couldn't. There was a hole there in his mind. He shrugged it off. "Help me get to bed."
"Sora, what the hell—"
"DUDE! Just help me get to bed! You're ruining everything." Squall's voice was like a hammer knocking at the inside of his skull, and if he didn't stop that shit soon, Sora was uncertain of what he would do. He just knew it wouldn't be pretty.
Squall's fingers grasped his chin, and Sora growled, putting his hands on Squall's chest and shoving. The result was unexpected. What should have only been a couple of steps away resulted in Squall's back slamming into the counter behind him in a matter of maybe three seconds. Sora's thoughts were too muzzy to focus on that random burst of strength, and he stalked away from his husband, ready to curl into bed and keep thinking good thoughts.
From his place against the counter, Squall panted for breath. His eyebrow twitched. What the hell? His back hurt enough in that moment that he was sure he'd have to pay a visit to the chiropractor in a few days. How had Sora gotten that strong? Or was it from adrenaline? The latter didn't make any sense, mostly because Sora could barely walk straight, but then again, none of this did.
He followed after his husband, catching up with him with a slight hobble. Pain was radiating up his spine. His collision against the counter had been enough to clack his teeth together. "Sora. Please. I'm tired of fighting. I—I promise not to get angry if you just talk to me."
Harrumphing, Sora whirled to him, crossing his arms over his chest. A second later, he swayed where he stood. For all intents and purposes, he didn't even notice. "I'm an adult, Squall. I can go where I want. Do what I want."
Squall bit back his first response, reminding himself that he'd just got done saying he was tired of fighting. "Yes, but we're married, Sora. I realize I'm a—" no, don't drop the f bomb "—stranger to you…" He took a deep breath. "But the fact remains that we are married." He came close, since Sora didn't seem to be going anywhere, but he did it carefully. He was wary of that strength Sora had displayed. "Sora. Look at me."
The smaller man was pouting. "I don't want to. I just want to have fun. I was having so much fun. I—" He trailed off, placing his palm to his forehead. "Squall…" he murmured. His knees buckled, and Squall rushed to grab him, ignoring the protest from his spine.
"Sora! Are you okay?" Squall cradled him against his chest, cupping his cheek and soothing his fingers over it. Such tenderness didn't come naturally to him, but for Sora, he'd learned how to show many things in the course of their marriage. Sora suffered if he couldn't get any attention or affection.
"…time is it…?" Sora mumbled. His eyes slipped closed.
Squall exhaled, easing them to the floor. "Midnight."
"Not possible," the other man breathed. "It's morning… was just eating scrambled eggs…"
Fresh concern pinged through Squall. He opened his mouth, prepared to grill Sora on that, but a glance down revealed that Sora was snoring softly in his arms. He staggered to his feet. Normally, Sora's weight was nothing, and that still would have been the case if the smaller man hadn't fucked up his back. Resolving to put it behind him for the time being, Squall carried Sora to their bedroom.
This wasn't good. This couldn't be good.
He'd been upstairs in his study. When Sora had gone to check the front door, he'd decided to zip through his e-mails real quick. The front door had closed, silence had passed. Squall had called Sora's name. Intuition had prickled, and a quick examination had revealed that Sora had vanished.
Squall had about lost his shit after that. He'd spent hours scouring the neighborhood, the city, checking all of Sora's old haunts. He hadn't taken his damn phone, and calls to their friends and his parents hadn't turned up any information, either. He couldn't file a missing person's report. He couldn't do anything. Nothing but wait.
And now here Sora was, in his arms, acting strange, and unable to recall the events of the day. Was it another memory lapse? If so, he needed to call Dr. Ansem first thing in the morning. Strangely, something told him it wasn't that, that the issue ran deeper, and he didn't know why, because that was insane reasoning.
Sora's sleeping face held no answers for him.