Sickness of the Dark

He was used to pain. Master Xehanort’s training was brutal, relentless. It’s part of why Vanitas was as powerful as he was. No one was going easy on him, and he’d destroy them if they tried.

But this? This was hell. The fever had him coated in sickly sweat that clung to him, every muscle aching at the slightest motion. And Vanitas wasn’t making a secret of it.

“Quit whining,” Repliku teased, his footsteps echoing in the barren room over to Vanitas’ bed. A heap of warm blankets fell on him, and Vanitas pulled them around him instantly.

Glaring out of the blanket cave with watchful gold eyes, he bit back, “This is worse than death. Go to hell.”

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“You have the flu,” his training partner corrected, a smug smirk coming to his stupid face. He dropped a box of tissues and a steaming bowl on the upturned box by the bed.

Turning back and dragging a chair over to the bed, Repliku offered up a bottle with a tiny cup over the lid. “Take this, and you can stop being such a baby.”

“Bite me.” Vanitas still reached past the overlapping blankets to grab the bottle and pull it into his lair.

“Not a chance. You’re infected.” Repliku chuckled at his own joke, and Vanitas heard him take a seat in the battered chair as it creaked. He threw the tiny plastic cup out at the silver-haired loser; what did he need it for anyway?

“The hell are you doing?”

“Isn’t it obvious? Watching over you.”

He didn’t have an answer to that, not yet. Did he think he was weak? What was this supposed to mean? Vanitas scowled and wrenched the bottle’s lid off, almost breaking it more than removing it, and had a drink.

…Immediately coughing. He couldn’t shove the bottle out fast enough to Repliku. “This is nasty. You trying to kill me?”

His ally’s callused fingers brushed against Vanitas’ hand as he took the disgusting medicine back. “So sorry, princess,” he taunted with a laugh. “They only had cherry, not grape.”

“Gross,” he snapped back, like that wasn’t obvious enough already. What an idiot, remembering the flavor he liked just to not get it.

He wriggled his way to an opening in the blanket, frowning at Repliku. “That bowl better have something good to make up for it.”

“Already so demanding.” He still passed the bowl to Vanitas, who took it and nudged at the onions in it with a spoon. Why’d he keep bringing gross stuff? “You must be feeling better.”

“Whatever,” he muttered. “What do you want, anyway?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Vanitas rolled his eyes at that answer, not that Repliku bothered looking at him instead of the wall. No, loser, that’s why I asked. “I want my partner back.”

He felt the power of the Unversed pulling at him, eager to be called out. Vanitas learned to control them, so he held it back… The uncertainty. Or something like it, whatever. It’d been a while for that one, tch. What was he thinking, saying lame stuff like that?

“It’s boring, making fun of the others on my own. And no one spars like you. They cheat or don’t even try,” Repliku spat, his face contorting to a cutting scowl. “So.” His expression softened, a familiar grin taking over as he looked at Vanitas. “Now do you get it?”

riku replica kingdom hearts repliku chain of memories castle oblivion

Vanitas pulled back into the blankets, eating the soup in the dark there as his face warmed up. Maybe it was the soup or his breath heating up the blanket cave, there was no way he was blushing. He wasn’t weak, overcome by feelings all the time like Ventus.

“Yeah, yeah,” he shot back. “I’ll be fine in a couple hours. Then I’ll kick your ass.”

“Ha!” One sharp laugh, that was better than any stupid medicine. Finally, Vanitas had someone he could count on, not like any of those pathetic wimps.

He didn’t need Repliku, not like Ventus and his friends, and he wouldn’t turn on him for some dumb fake power play. They were both strong enough already. “I’ll hold you to it.”

Chapter 4: Secret Ritual

Hawke woke to incessant knocking with far too brief bouts of quiet between. He rolled in his bed, pulling sheets with him. “You’re just drunk, Sergius. Again,” he muttered, shooing away one of the neighbors packed in around Gamlen’s ramshackle home.

“Good morning to you too,” Carver grumbled.

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Ah, it was coming back now. Hawke sat up, stretching to loosen the tension in his shoulders, but there just wasn’t any getting rid of it. Andraste’s ass, this bed was a curse worse than any magic. A bit of morning light filtered down to Hawke, but hardly enough to wake him up. It was no Hightown, that much was obvious. Still— better than the Deep Roads.

“My own brother, here to fetch me?” Hawke teased, swinging his legs out of bed and approaching Carver at the door. Rather, through the slotted window in the door. “I’d been promised a rotating guard. And here I was, worried I’d start to miss you. Barely got a wink.”

“Don’t joke, brother,” Carver scolded, unlocking the door. “They don’t call it the Harrowing because it’s easy.” He stepped back with a scowl set on his face that really was going to turn him into Gamlen if he kept it up. And Hawke knew what that meant. He’d sooner die than admit it, but Carver was worried, and so the joking had to stop. …Alright, he’d just slow it down a little.

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll be alright. Lead the way, Ser Carver,” he teased with a smirk. It wasn’t a spritely dance to lift his spirits, but that was more of a Carver trick anyway. Didn’t have much of an effect regardless as his little brother turned without a word and they rounded a corner into another indistinguishable hallway of the Gallows.

Identical wall torches were all placed the same distance apart and slivers in the walls that were supposedly windows gave no hint as to where they were in relation to the outside. Dark doorways broke up the monotony of the stone halls, but even those doorframes matched each other perfectly.

The Harrowing would be easy for Hawke, no matter what Carver fussed over. What weighed on him now was the idea of Merrill travelling these halls alone at night in a couple weeks without getting lost. There would be no ball of yarn this time, not like in the alienage, and she couldn’t risk being late.

One step at a time. First, the Harrowing.

“They’re testing me, you know. That’s why they sent me for this.” Carver wouldn’t actually look at Hawke while he talked this over. Strangely, no one else was around, but at least it afforded them this moment for Carver to get this weight off his chest and onto his brother’s shoulders. After all, what were big brothers for? “I’ll be watching your Harrowing with Cullen. It has to be perfect.”

“It’s hardly my first visit to the Fade, you know that. Trust me! This won’t be much of a test for either of us,” he encouraged Carver. “I’ll be back before you can miss me.”

Carver scoffed, finally granting Hawke a glance. Barely. Walking up a set of stairs leading to another level in the Gallows, Hawke wasn’t sure which, Carver continued. “You’re not taking this seriously. If you get possessed, I’ll have to—” He cut himself off with a grumble and stopped suddenly on the landing.

Carver had an explanation ready before Hawke could even start to ask what this hesitation was about. “Right, before we get too far… After the Harrowing, watch out for Ser Alrik or anyone who looks like they don’t want to run screaming from him. He’s a nasty one, probably the worst Templar here.”

“Take the Harrowing seriously and avoid Alrik. I think I can do that,” Hawke answered brightly, flashing a smile to counter Carver’s scowl.

“Maker’s breath, just follow me.”

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At the Harrowing chamber, which may or may not be what it was actually called, few Templars in full armor waited with Cullen and Orsino. Hawke had a tendency to turn heads when he entered a place, but nothing like this. Andraste’s ass, it was like being at his own funeral.

“Hawke,” Orsino acknowledged him, sounding somewhere between exhausted and irritated as he usually did. At least he was consistent. Carver went to join Cullen while Orsino came over to Hawke, his back to the Templars almost as if they were scheming.

“I’m not certain what you’ve heard about the Harrowing, but it’s nothing like a normal visit to the Fade.”

“Of course not,” Hawke teased, smirking and already prepared for the worst. It’s not as though he lied to Carver before; he truly was confident that he could handle whatever came his way. It’d worked so far, why question it?

“This ritual sends you to the realm of dreams to contend with a demon with only your willpower to guide you.” Orsino, as somber as ever, looked up at Hawke with an intense, prying gaze. “Do you understand—”

“First Enchanter,” Cullen interrupted. “Each mage has to go through their Harrowing without prior instruction to prove they can shield themselves from the threat of demons.”

Orsino had instructions of a sort for Cullen, Hawke could tell that much even as the elven mage stepped back to stand a good distance away from everyone present. The stoup of lyrium in the center of the room couldn’t be more obviously for the ritual, so Hawke approached it with everyone’s stares boring into his back.

“Sirrah Hawke,” Cullen continued, his voice level with years of practice beginning this speech. Watching the lyrium swirl and glow, as if it were alive, Hawke kept his back to them all and listened. “Place your hand in the lyrium to enter the Fade and begin the Harrowing. If you fail, we Templars will uphold our duty.” The gravity of the pause told Hawke he wasn’t done and that he had nothing nice to say. What a shame. “You will die.”

So that’s what had Carver so worked up.

“Well, no one wants that.” Alright, a few people did. Hawke slipped his hand into the lyrium and felt the cold, lightning rush of the Fade overtake him.

Have a Good Scare

“Weeeird!” Demyx squeaked, twisting around and bending his arms to look at the fins sprouting from his limbs. Thin fog sat close to the ground in the graveyard and Jack o’ lanterns were skewered on wrought iron fence posts over the headstones. A grinning scarecrow pointed further into the world where Xigbar was assigned with Demyx to scope the place out. This was his first big mission without Vexen nagging him— or instructing, he called it. Not that it meant Xigbar was about to give blondie a break.

“Hey, ‘s no big deal.” Xigbar shrugged it off. “What, this your first transformation?” He nodded to Demyx, a smirk on his face. He could feel stitches pulling on his skin, but it didn’t hurt a bit. So he was some kind of Frankenstein’s monster and Demyx was a creature from a lagoon. If nothing else, at least the sneaky little slacker would get a chance to be scary for once in his life.

“Uhh… Yes?” Demyx frowned in confusion, but that got him standing still for a change. Sure, Xigbar recruited the kid for the cause, but even he had his doubts sometimes that he was really cut out to wear the cloak. Not that it mattered much in the grand scheme of things, anyway. And hey, Xigbar liked having someone fun around for once. The others were so uptight all the time, and when he ran out of munny to lose to Luxord (and steal back later), Demyx was always right there and ready to prank and be pranked.

“Ha! What’re you asking me for?” He shook his head, chuckling. “Don’t you know for sure?”

“Well, yeah, it’s just, couldn’t we go a place that’s less…” He tugged at the tattered, faded shirt hanging loosely over his scaled skin, eyeing the area now instead of dwelling on his new form.

“Less what?” Xigbar knew the answer, but he had to lead the kid on. Where’s the fun in not doing that? For a guy told all the time that he didn’t have a heart, Demyx sure gave the best reactions to his feelings. If people took him more seriously, that might’ve been a problem. Lucky for the both of them that he did barely enough to not be turned into a Dusk, then.

“Ah, y’know, it’s kinda…” Demyx dragged it out, leaning to look past Xigbar into the dark, shadowy town through the iron gate. “Kinda scary here.”

“Scary? As if!” Xigbar turned around, waving over his shoulder as he went ahead toward the town. “You don’t even exist, remember? Not like you can die again, Dem. What’s to be scared of, huh?”

Demyx groaned, shuffling along in awkward steps. He was never a graceful guy, but from the sounds of his steps, the transformation really screwed up his stride with all those fins made for swimming, not walking. “Fiiiine. Just a quick look, yeah? Then we run back and RTC?”

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“Nah, we gotta get the whole job done right.” Not his favorite thing to do either, but what can you do? “Check your little card— says we gotta team up, infiltrate the world, and get intel. Maybe you like Saïx yelling at you all the time, but I didn’t sign up for that.”

“Okay, okay,” he begrudgingly agreed, trotting to catch up with Xigbar. Demyx was even quiet for almost a full thirty seconds when he found his nasally voice again. “Do you, uhh… D’ya hear that?”

Xigbar stopped, focusing on their surroundings when he heard a tune in the air. “Singing?” Of course he noticed the music before Xigbar did.

“It’s our town, everybody scream,” shrill voices sang, but even Xigbar was running into trouble placing exactly where the singers were. “In this town of Halloween!”

Whisps of white blurred around them and Demyx let out a shriek, bubbles forming and dissolving as he realized the ghosts already took off again. What, was Xigbar s’posed to pretend he didn’t see that? Turn a blind eye? The bad joke to himself just made him laugh harder.

“C’mon, man,” Demyx whined, rubbing his arm self-consciously. He really was a terrible swamp monster. “You’ve been laughing like that forever…”

“Exaggeration, much?” It’d been, what, maybe a few seconds. Not Xigbar’s fault he was self-conscious about being a scaredy-cat. “‘Sides, you’re in for a lot worse than that. You hear them over your squealing?”

“H-hey, it’s not a squeal, it’s— Enngh, never mind.” Dem caught sight of his smirk and dropped it then and there. He knew a losing battle when he saw one, even if he always just ran away from ‘em. “They sang about a town of Halloween, so that’s gotta be here. I mean, just look at the place. Spooky.”

“Oh, so you do listen?”

“Huh?” He tried playing innocent, scratching his cheek absently and avoiding all eye contact. As if that was gonna make him more believable. “Umm. Sometimes.”

“Uh-huh, sure,” Xigbar dismissed with a sneer. He could taunt Demyx about that all he wanted on this mission, but they did actually have work to do before the day was out and Saïx had a fit. Xigbar outranked him and all, but he was easier to deal with once he had what he wanted. “Alright, time to dig up some intel. Fear’s a good emotion to keep folks in check, so I betcha Lord Xemnas will love hearin’ about this.”

“Yeah, probably,” Demyx agreed half-heartedly, kicking a pebble along the graveyard pathway. “He already scares me a lot, an’I… Xiggy?” When the musician kid wasn’t looking, Xigbar used his powers to teleport himself behind him. No harm in a little prank, right? ‘Course not. “Haha, reeaally funny, you… Ya got me.” Man, that nervousness was too real. The little water spout actually liked him, imagine that! He wasn’t gonna last long in the ranks at that rate.

Xigbar teleported himself behind Demyx this time and whispered, “Gotcha.”

“Eek!” Demyx elbowed him in the stomach, hard, and Xigbar coughed out a laugh.

“Look at you! Got some fight in you after all, just gotta scare it outta you first.”

“Wha? Me?” Demyx gestured to himself, panic in his amphibious eyes. This world really went all out on the transformation bit, not that it did a damn thing for the kid. “No, no, no, I just… It was instinct! C’mon, can’t we just look around and, I dunno, not scare me?”

“Ha! Not a chance. I’m just blending in, Dem,” he teased, empty friendliness and sarcasm giving his words an edge. “You really oughta do the same or they’ll find out you’re chicken.”

Demyx’s brow furrowed again and he stuck his tongue out, touching the end of it. “Ennnh, I bi’ my tongue!”

“Not even listening to me, what’re we gonna do with you?” He clapped Demyx on the back once, walking ahead. “I’ll show you how it’s done.”

“Really?!” Demyx brightened from his voice to his eyes, a light chuckle not far behind. So easily pleased, so easily scared. He had a heart, alright. Just a matter of time before he pieced that little fact together, but that was a problem for the future. As if he’d even act on it— this was Demyx, the king of lazing around in closets, the Grey Room, and anywhere he thought he’d get away with it. Even if he figured out part of their scam, it’s not like he was gonna do anything about it. “Hey, thanks, Xiggy!”

“It’s my job, Dem,” Xigbar reminded him drily. “Just be glad they sent me along to help you out and not cranky, old Vexen.”

Hearts’ Reunion: Zemyx

“I’m sorry you had to see me that way, Demyx,” Ienzo explained. It wasn’t much of a greeting for their agreed upon “chat” in the labs, but it had to be said sooner rather than later. Demyx seemed uncomfortable in the moment between Ienzo and Ansem the Wise, and it took Demyx speaking up for him to even realize that. Ienzo shook his head at such a serious oversight. And to think he believed he’d improved so much in understanding social cues since recompletion. He was proud of it, even.

“Nah, it’s no big deal,” Demyx dismissed with a wave, or as much of one as he could manage with two cups in his hands. Thick straws jutted out of the plastic film covering them and dark spheres sat at the bottom inch or two. Ienzo eyed the drinks, glancing up to Demyx questioningly. This was not part of their plans for this reunion and he couldn’t resist his curiosity.

A trait Demyx knew well from his regular visits to see him in the castle labs. He avoided his missions at all costs, but Demyx certainly always found time for social calls… Which led to their friendship and eventually evolved into something quite a bit more despite their lack of hearts. Pushing that thought away for now, Ienzo drew himself back to the present and willed his mind to stay on track.

“I just wasn’t really sure how to handle it. And, uhh, the others might’ve caught on if I dragged my feet.” After a thoughtful pause and a pout, he laughed. “Eventually. And Vexen, man, he is a terrible liar! He’d probably get me into more trouble with whatever story he cooked up.”

Ienzo chuckled at the thought. Even could keep his fair share of secrets, but it’s true that he had insufficient skills in impromptu lies. Given time to plan, at least, Even could deceive as well as any of them. But he had another question to address. “Demyx, what are those…?” He pointed to the cups and Demyx started as if he had completely forgotten they were there. Perhaps he had.

“Oh! Right!” He offered one to Ienzo, smiling from ear to ear. “You gotta try this! There’s a world out there with this stuff called bubble tea,” he answered with a shake of the cup he held out. The black orbs in the bottom jostled about to demonstrate his point that they were the reason for the name. Rather, Ienzo presumed that was the case. “I wanted to surprise ya, so I went with something I thought you’d like.”

“Thank you, but,” he trailed off, folding his arms as he examined the drink. “What is it, exactly? You’ve brought me a fair share of tea, but never anything like this.”

“I found it out—” Demyx cut himself off with a grumble, frowning. “Doing stuff.” Ienzo raised an eyebrow at that. Had Demyx taken up pretending his missions with the Organization didn’t exist? They were both well aware that he’d been deceived back into their ranks, so there was nothing to benefit from acting as though that wasn’t the case.

“It’s tea with some flavored milk, sugar, and they let you put a buncha stuff in it. I stuck with the classic chewy tapioca because the popping boba has this little flim that gets stuck in your teeth, and it’s just kinda weird. Still fun, though, you gotta try that next,” he ended through a giggle.

“Well, thank you,” Ienzo accepted, taking the cup from Demyx. “And now that we’re… getting to chat, I have some questions for you.”

“Huh?” Demyx fiddled with the straw in his cup, angling for the tapioca. “Umm, sure. Shoot.”

“The time at the castle… When we were both with the Organization, I…” Ienzo idly moved the cup around in his hands, busying himself to steady his mind. “Did it mean something to you?” It came out harsher than he meant it to. But what other way was there to ask and get an honest answer?

“You mean dating?” Demyx had a sip of his drink at the single worst time for Ienzo’s nerves, meeting his distressed gaze over the tea. “Aaah. I mean, sure. Even if it was in secret and all, like you wanted, I really lo— Sorry, sorry. I really like you.”

Ienzo sighed in relief, but it seemed there were more problems to resolve. “You can say love, Demyx. And I’m sorry I told you that you couldn’t before. Without believing I had a heart, I…” He shook his head, staring down at his untouched tea. “That was in the past, I suppose.”

Demyx watched him hopefully, brow furrowed but his smile intact. “Right, gotcha. I, uhh, I love you, so yeah, it, umm, it meant a lot to me, Zexion.”

“Please, call me Ienzo,” he diverted, not prepared for his confession even though he had prompted it. “I acknowledge that I am responsible for my actions as a Nobody, but I am using my human name now, and I… I love you as well.” To preoccupy himself, Ienzo finally had a sip of the tea. “Oh, this is delicious.”

“Ha! Called it!”

Pawns on the Board

KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2.8 FINAL CHAPTER PROLOGUE

Staring out the window at Kingdom Hearts and its pale glow, Xemnas reflected upon the current status of his plans— and the pawns in them. The greatest among them were a select few Organization members who believed they had greater significance on the chessboard. Those who aimed to prove their loyalty in earnest. Zexion, of course, was perhaps even more dedicated to Xemnas than Ienzo had been to Ansem. The thought brought him a biting satisfaction that could be likened to happiness.

Of course, Lord Xemnas knew they had an ability to regain their hearts should one pursue it. By convincing them that this was beyond their grasp without his aid, he controlled all the Organization members. A heart did not need to be complete to be receptive to seeds of doubt or empty convictions. Though they still lacked their final member, the certainty with which those already present held to this falsehood would be the only requirement to convince Number XIII of its veracity as well.

This fact brought Xemnas to consider his most determined pawn of all. Saïx was a relatively unexpected addition to their ranks, as was Axel. Unlike his former companion, Number VII instantly set to proving his worth within the Organization upon becoming a Nobody. Lord Xemnas saw it in his eyes— a resolute conviction so intense that its origins could only have been a memory from his old life. There was no finer motivation for Saïx himself to build his heartless non-existence around, and no better instrument for Xemnas to manipulate him with.

“Lord Xemnas,” the subject of his thoughts interrupted. “I have compiled the mission reports for your review.”

“As expected,” Xemnas responded, turning to face the self-appointed administrator of Organization XIII. It was convenient that he had done so. The members who had an inclination for order and paperwork managed to have even less patience for underachievers such as Demyx and could not be troubled to maintain the digitized filing system Saïx had arranged for their archives. Yet by far, the finest attribute of Number VII was his readiness to understand and excel at any expense.

“Before you begin,” he started, talking decisive steps towards his protégé— or perhaps project was the more suitable term. “I will impart another lesson to you. Though we lack hearts ourselves,” he stated to reinforce the myth, addressing both himself and Saïx in a fluid gesture. “Each of us recalls the memories of possessing one.”

“I understand,” Saïx acknowledged. His intense watchfulness fixated on Xemnas, the golden hue of his eyes and jagged scarring representing all that Saïx was willing to sacrifice for these fragments of knowledge.

“Your aptitude for injuring a heart,” Xemnas began, each word weighted and precise. “Will prove to be invaluable in realizing the future we desire.”

Saïx nodded, his grip tightening on the reports almost imperceptibly. “I would do anything to secure our goals.”

Lord Xemnas knew fully that this was not the whole of the truth. That meant little to him in the strategy for this piece on the board. Saïx’s blindness to his own readability that made his manipulation that much more rewarding. Every Nobody to don the cloak had been instrumental in creating the mental prisons they confined themselves within. Few were so rewarding to lead ever deeper into imprisonment as the Luna Diviner.

“Good,” he answered, pausing. “Bear in mind that you have tremendous power over those with hearts or even those who succumb to illusions of their former heart.” Lord Xemnas recognized a shadow of a smile in Saïx’s expression and continued on. “Pain, doubt, insecurity… Knowing which emotion will lead to which action will be of great use to us. How else would one direct the pawns to precisely where they must go to secure our hearts?” It was but a moment that Saix permitted his gaze to rest on Kingdom Hearts beyond Xemnas, and yet, it betrayed more still of his aspirations. Despite all his pretense in acceptance of the shattered void where his heart once resided, Number VII longed for its return. Truly, he was an ideal pawn that would sacrifice it all for hollow promises in return. “Refining your skill in manipulating hearts… This is the lesson I will impart to you time and again in preparation of what is to come.”

“Yes, Lord Xemnas,” Saix agreed without hesitation.

 

Guiding Light: SoRiku & TerraVen

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Returning to Ventus and Aqua was more than Terra ever hoped for. He truly thought he’d never be at their side again, never to train or sit beneath the same stars. But here he was after training with Aqua and Ventus, taking a seat outside the café in Twilight Town like any normal person would. They were there to get ready for the coming battle against Xehanort, but… Terra couldn’t resist a smile, however small.

“Terra,” Riku interrupted his thoughts. He had a hand of the back of the chair across from Terra and he gestured to it with his free hand. “Mind if I join you?”

“Of course not.” Seeing Riku grown up was… Time was hard to keep track of after all Terra went through. So he was careful to look at Riku as naturally as he could, not showing any disbelief he might be feeling.

“I’ve been meaning to talk to you, but it’s been—” Riku shook his head and Terra nodded. He knew all too well what Riku meant.

“Crazy, I know. It still doesn’t feel real some days.” He knew Aqua felt the same sometimes, but she worked through her troubles in her own way. And it didn’t work the same way for Terra. In the short silence afterwards, he had time to wonder why Riku wanted to talk— and he was sure it had to do with his own fall to Darkness. “I heard about what happened with you, Riku. I’m just glad you found your way back to the light. I took too long, but… I came back because of Ven.”

Riku breathed a laugh, a sure sign Terra hit the nail on the head. At least for one of the thoughts weighing on the younger Keybearer. “And Sora helped me.”

“The two of them are amazing, aren’t they?” He’d also heard of Sora protecting Ven’s heart while he slept and recovered, so he had to believe the bright-eyed friend of Riku’s was a lot like Ven. “Shining on everyone they meet like a million lanterns.”

“Or all the stars on a clear night,” Riku added, lost in his own thoughts for a second. A shadow crossed his eyes and his brow furrowed before he looked Terra in the eye. “When you were in the Darkness…”

“Every light I saw, I thought it was him.” In just a glance, Terra could tell Riku had the same experience when he was overcome by Darkness. They were alike in more ways than one, but to think he had to go through that alone across strange worlds, wishing he had the person he loved most at his side… It was all he could do to encourage Riku now. “Even when it wasn’t him, just the thought of him…” Terra trailed off, resting back against the chair. “I lost my body, my friends, and my home, but they couldn’t extinguish my heart.” He put his hand over his chest, continuing. “And it’s all because of Ven. I have him to thank for coming home.”

Riku smiled, propping his elbows up on the table between them. “We only met for a short time, Terra, but I knew we had a lot in common. I just didn’t know it was being lucky enough to have someone so bright to guide us home when we’d lost the way.”

“To have them love us.” Terra smiled at Riku’s surprise. He saw the moments Riku shared with Sora, and he recognized their bond as the one he shared with Ven. Even now, Terra was surprised himself that Ven asked him out. Maybe it was selfish, but he said yes because he couldn’t bring himself to say Ven could do better. “That’s another part that doesn’t feel real. But I’ll do my best to deserve it. To deserve him.”

A Way Out: KH Vanitas Drabble

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He’d learned that he existed, but not why. Just the simple act of having a face instead of being red-eyed darkness was so agonizing, Vanitas nearly passed out. “Weak,” he hissed to himself, pacing again on the dead sand of the Keyblade Graveyard.

Master Xehanort sent Ventus away, just as Vanitas insisted. He couldn’t even suppress his impulse to hurt Ventus or maybe even kill him for being the original heart he was torn from. And at the same time, he missed having the blonde boy nearby.

Stupid. Vanitas scowled, and a few Unversed appeared. He couldn’t control them either half the time. All the time. Was there anything he couldn’t mess up? He should be part of Ventus, back where he belongs, instead of — whatever passed as his miserable existence.

More Unversed appeared in swirls of darkness. “Tch.” Vanitas walked away, but they followed and tumbled over each other. Anxious. Afraid. Sad. Lonely. The stupid expressions right on their dark faces. If you could even call them faces.

A monster spouting monsters, futureless and worthless without Ventus. He wanted to be back with his brother in the Land of Departure. But Vanitas couldn’t be there, and he didn’t want to be here. Everything was so pointless.

“Stop it!” He called on the Keyblade and it came, one thing he could manage. Whirling around, he cut through the Unversed trailing him.

Vanitas felt every cut in his body, in his heart, and the pain and despair fed into more Unversed, and he kept going, he couldn’t stop, what else could he do? Exhaustion and agony finally caught up with him… Hours or minutes later, it didn’t matter.

The Keyblade disappeared and Vanitas dropped to his hands and knees. Sobs shook him, ragged breaths escaping, and he clawed at the sand. He hated this. Himself. This place. Everything.

“Vanitas,” Master Xehanort interrupted neutrally. “There is a way out for you.” Vanitas looked up, dirt and tears staining his face. “To achieve salvation, you must unite with Ventus and become the χ-blade.”

He smiled, and Vanitas dragged his tired body to his feet. “Don’t you want to return to him?”

“I can go back to Ventus?” He wanted to. Vanitas didn’t want to be alone anymore. He wanted to have a purpose. Most of all, he was done hurting like this. “I’ll do it.”

“Good,” Master Xehanort observed. “I will take you on as my apprentice. When you know all you need to, only then can you become whole again.”

Vanitas breathed shakily, a weakened tremor running through him. Of course — he was too weak to be with Ventus. Master Xehanort would break him in, make him good enough to go back. And this pain could all be over. “I’ll do anything. Just you watch.”