When the Past Won’t Stay: KH3 Fanfiction

Word count: 2900 (7 to 22 minutes) | Rating: G | Note: Kingdom Hearts Spoilers | Characters: Ienzo, Even, and Aeleus


Recompletion offered various benefits and drawbacks that Ienzo had mostly finished discovering and categorizing after the defeat of the Real Organization XIII. Adjusting to them was another matter.

As Zexion, he had been almost tireless in his studies and lab work, retiring only when he noticed a drop in his performance. Ienzo was far more affected by the whims of his recompleted heart. Some days, he matched his pace as Zexion perfectly. Those were rare. Fortunately, so were the days when everything slipped through his mind like sand in a sieve. Most of his days were like this one: punctuated by a need for breaks that he was reluctant to take. Ienzo could force his way through to the end without stepping back, but he often paid for it mentally—with interest.

To avoid that state, Ienzo left the labs for the faded halls of Radiant Garden’s castle that still managed to appear stately despite its worn condition. He noted proudly that he could find his way around with ease despite his long absence.

It was voices from the kitchen that gave him pause rather than being lost.

“Too much time has passed since the originating incident.” Even’s voice was familiar, holding more depth than his Nobody. There remained a considerable amount of tension between them since everything that had occurred beforehand, no matter how Ienzo tried to put the past behind him. Some deeds were simply hard to let go even when one sorely wanted to. Particularly when they were not necessarily in the past.

“An excuse.” Aeleus. Resolute, matter-of-fact, but never cruel. The remarkable aspect of him was that he seemed to change very little as a Nobody compared to his recompleted self. If anything, his determination to protect had only increased with the loss of his heart. It could be viewed as strength of character or too little, too late. Ienzo knew how he preferred to regard it and, in the end, what else mattered? Aeleus was like family to him, and he wouldn’t lose that over one mistake.

Why did that not work for Even?

“I beg your pardon—” The sharp inhale that prefaced Even’s indignant response drew Ienzo closer to the doorframe to conceal himself just around the corner.

He should not do this. If there was something he needed to hear that Even was ready to share, the proper choice was for Ienzo to have patience and wait for Even to be prepared to disclose it on his own. But he held his place out of view all the same.

This decision didn’t come with the steadying feeling of choosing to do something against your better judgment for a greater cause, but entrapment as horrifying as if Ienzo had lost control of his limbs. Could he choose not to do this, or was he compelled to stay out of selfish interest? Ienzo didn’t know for certain. A numb chill seeped into his core that had little to do with the subpar insulation of the castle.

Sometimes, Ienzo could swear there was more Zexion to him than his original self… And how could there not be? He developed psychologically into a young adult while he was a Nobody. Perhaps there truly was no chance for improving himself after all. At least he might know the truth of Even’s return after masquerading as a member of the Real Organization, however dubiously gained. And so, he listened in secret.

“It is, and you know it.” Aeleus insisted, level-headed as ever. Based on the way their voices carried, Even had his back to the door and Aeleus stood beyond him facing the entrance. In that case, only one of them could potentially realize his presence if he moved. How convenient for Ienzo’s new moral low.

Even huffed in enduring offense, but it was the true sign that he’d yielded on a point of disagreement. The telling habit was as close as Even would ever get to admitting he was in the wrong.

“My apprehensions aside, there is validity to Ienzo’s perspective. He was only a boy and I was entrusted with his care.”

Ah, of course. They were discussing their collective deaths again. Ienzo had come across the discussion before several times, but he never could stay through it or step in. The pulse-pounding need to be as far from the conversation as possible usually overpowered him and eventually left him panting in a far-off hall to work through his borderline panic alone. As it should be—there was enough on everyone else’s plate that handling this unassisted was the least he could do. Perhaps through exposure and the supposed healing power of time, Ienzo felt steadier in this instance. He took a quiet, controlled breath through his nose and focused on listening.

“By allowing my curiosity to get the better of me, I as much as formed this rift between us myself.”

Ah. Even had sensed it. And here Ienzo thought that with his own second recompletion to process, his adoptive father figure would be too preoccupied to notice the façade Ienzo leaned on when he found bitterness far closer to the surface than forgiveness.

In truth, the divide between them troubled Ienzo as well. He tried to focus on memories of Even’s concerned irritability in hunting him down when he was only a boy, wandering off as he so enjoyed doing. To escape the overwhelming indignance lurking in his heart, Ienzo would dive so deeply into their more familial memories as to distinctly recall how large Even’s hands were in relation to his own being gingerly held for emotional comfort as much as physical security. He could remember tracing the wandering, geometric pattern of his favorite blanket as Even read him a bedtime story of some book well above the average reading level for his age.

None of it warded away the feeling of betrayal, so Ienzo kept a civil distance when he had to and gave it no more thought than that.

Until that moment eavesdropping in the hall, of course.

“It’s not always there.” Of course Aeleus saw his emotions whether Ienzo meant him to or not. He could sense Ienzo’s mental state with the accuracy of a barometer. As irritating as that sometimes was, it did have its benefits for Even’s guidance as well as Ienzo’s, apparently.

“That much is true,” Even relented, though not with any confidence. How odd it was, to hear his voice without the characteristic certainty. “But I would attribute that to the boy’s better nature rather than—”

“The boy?” He spoke without a thought as to if he wanted to or should, the words tearing from him almost as an accusation. When had his hands clenched into fists? Relaxing them open, Ienzo stepped into the warm light of the kitchen and still felt the same chill. Aeleus turned to him with a patient, open expression. He neither smiled nor frowned, simply waited for Ienzo to decide what he wanted. The unreasonable voice of his inner thoughts rebelled at even that, but thankfully for everyone involved, Aeleus wasn’t who Ienzo was concentrated on.

Even’s green eyes widened, his mouth contorting into a nervous grimace of someone who’d been caught at the worst possible moment. The steaming tea pot in the center of the kitchen island suggested he’d just been making tea when Aeleus came across him, so this could very well be the second time today he was caught by surprise.

Good.

He drew his hands up, rolling into a gesture as if he was going to speak. To explain it all away. Ienzo didn’t give him that chance and felt a surge of ravenous satisfaction at cutting Even off.

“I’m not a child anymore.”

Aeleus and Ienzo were used to the silence that followed, but it had to be unbearable for Even. Strands of pale blond hair fell forward as he angled his head toward a far-off point in the kitchen wall. He wouldn’t be speechless for long, but Ienzo didn’t know what he hoped to hear. Maybe it was nothing. An apology? A reason for everything? His own mind didn’t make any sense to him and Ienzo resented that too.

“Ah. Ienzo.” An obvious remark to stall for time in his search for the words to make this situation disappear. Ienzo scoffed on instinct. This was off to a horrid start. He logically knew he should be easy on Even. The time had come to see past their mistakes and heal, moving into the future with a clean slate. Especially Even, who tried to level the scales when he put himself in harm’s way as a double agent within the Real Organization.

Without as much as a note, leaving them all to believe he’d turned his back on their family for his own scientific aspirations until he deigned to alert them of the truth. Secondhand.

“Even.” Aeleus, ever the mediator, cautioned Even to proceed honestly using his intonation more than anything else. The level cadence pitched down at the end to warn Even that Ienzo was coiled tight and ready to snap. Any attempt at evasion would end in hurt feelings for everyone and only serve to widen the fissure between them. All that remained was for Even to take the hint.

“What is that tone for?”

“To answer your question,” Ienzo spoke down to Even like he was the child here, taking pleasure in that insult as well. He did force Ienzo’s hand by making him voice the concern Even was still trying to avoid. Hardly the behavior of the adult in this situation. Then again, petty aggression wasn’t either. “I heard enough to understand you are making decisions for me yet again.”

Even’s hands went up again instantly, readying to speak with his hands as he tended to. “Ienzo, you must understand, I—”

“ I understand more than you believe me to, evidently.” A thin frown set on his face, Ienzo felt caught up in the flood of his own repressed anger. The very act of speaking out of irritation opened the way and now it was too late to stop. “Despite your concerted efforts to make key choices that will impact me without the courtesy of including me in your plans, I can actually evaluate situations for myself.”

Even winced, just slightly deepening his grimace, but it felt good to see it. And that concerned Ienzo. He was going too far and soon, he would be unable to hold back at all. This wasn’t how he wanted to act or who he wanted to be. This was the past—why wouldn’t it stay gone?

“If this is about my sudden departure to the true Organization, I assure you, I only did so to shield you from suspicion.” The shield, his weapon… Subconsciously, had Even been guilty all that time? On his own momentum, Even continued as Ienzo’s frown dissolved to neutrality. “Primarily, you would be forced to feign ignorance and concern, and with your recent recompletion, the last situation you needed was additional strain on your heart.”

His one dark, sharp laugh didn’t register as his own at first. This conversation was taking its toll on Ienzo and it had only just started. “What, did you think I could not feign emotion?”

The implication weighed heavily between them. How could illusion and manipulation work if he could not maintain intricate lies convincingly? It was a skill so intrinsic to Ienzo that becoming a Nobody manifested that as his power.

“No, I—”

“I would have preferred to know you chose to be over there for us, not against us.” The breathless twinge to his words was a warning to Ienzo if not the two men in front of him: it was a matter of time before his guard dropped completely. How were emotions this volatile?

“When I went to the Organization the first time,” he pushed on, saying it as if he’d had a choice about going, “I focused on how we were tied together. Without my heart, I still considered us a family. And when I returned, I was… Uncertain.”

Ienzo’s breaths came in uneven tremors, however faintly. Perhaps it was subconsciously that he smoothed a hand over his ascot while he attempted to steady his breathing. One insecurity to poorly conceal the other.

“And you abandoned us. That was all I knew.” Again, someone he respected and cared deeply for had vanished without notice. The time spent in the dark about Even’s true motives was nothing short of perpetual raw vulnerability buried under the diversion of the more pressing tasks at hand. He felt certain everyone he spoke with could see his fragility under the patient benevolence he expressed and the shared wisdom that was beyond his years.

He struggled more in that span of time than he ever had as a Nobody.

“Ienzo, I did not—” A reason or an explanation or even a half-hearted excuse, it didn’t matter. Ienzo didn’t want to hear it.

“If you were concerned with how I felt, you should have told me the truth.” The anger completely gave way to what was evidently the true heart of the matter: Ienzo was afraid and it hurt to know that fear came from Even’s actions. Like the winding maze a heart always was, those feelings that Ienzo suppressed simply found another way out to be expressed as irritability and keeping his distance. Pushing those off led him here, to a kitchen in the heart of the castle having an argument over something he couldn’t properly define.

Aeleus was the first to respond, approaching Ienzo to place a hand on his back. He didn’t dare look at Aeleus in such a precarious state as this. But his presence did help and Ienzo’s next breath felt more level than the last.

“I… I have no excuse for my behavior. All I can say is that after my initial error in judgment,” Even phrased it carefully, his pride still a barrier to saying the word ‘mistake’ even when he clearly knew it for what it was. Fortunately for him, Ienzo appreciated the unspoken nuance more than an upfront declaration—it was another trait he and Even had in common. It did him good to know there was someone he knew that would understand why saying something outright was not always an option.

“I have done all I can to protect you now, Ienzo. I am your guardian, however inadequately so in the past, and I am proud of being trusted with that honor after I failed to appreciate it properly.” Properly, like there was a procedure… Ienzo caught himself smiling by just a small margin.

“Beyond furthering my scientific studies or advancements, beyond even my own attempts to restore balance after the chaos I’ve caused—” For the second time, Even struggled to find words. His gaze caught Aeleus’ and perhaps finding an answer there, he continued while his hands worried over one another just the same. “I have a responsibility to you, Ienzo. As—a father.”

An uncertain glance from Even signaled that his defense had concluded, and now it was up to Ienzo to decide if the argument was sound or not. The smell of over-steeped tea filled the kitchen, warm and bitter, a quiet calm settling in with it while Ienzo reflected on what transpired between them. A soft rattle of the pipes in the walls the only sound, and that was a comfort in its own way. The castle hummed with energy that reminded Ienzo how precious the life in this restored world truly was.

“…I can’t forgive you right away. I can’t even promise that forgiving you will be painless.” Stepping away from Aeleus towards Even, Ienzo stopped within arm’s reach and offered a sincere smile—long overdue on many accounts. “But I do want to forgive you. What kind of family would I be if didn’t at least give it my best?”

“…You have always been such a smart boy.”

“Even.” Aeleus had apparently followed him, his voice a close reassurance.

Ienzo glanced back to Aeleus, his bangs swaying with his nod. “It’s alright. For now.”

Following the pleasant impulse his heart finally offered, Ienzo reached out to Even and drew himself into a hug. A faint trace of earthy cologne clung to him, and simply wearing it was the return of a habit from the old life. It carried memories of lessons from Even in the labs, being woken up in the study to a lecture of how he should be in bed if he’s going to sleep, and hard candy passed to Ienzo in secret before dinner as a gesture of apology for some slight mistake Even made earlier that day.

Even gently returned the hug, tilting his head ever so slightly to rest on Ienzo’s. With a barely audible shuffle, Aeleus stepped up behind him to wrap them both in his embrace as the first tears fell onto the white of Even’s lab coat.

“I love you beyond measure, my son,” Even whispered, tender or perhaps afraid to break the magic of the moment. Ienzo took in a shaky breath, more tears coming with the exhale. He tightened his grip on Even and bit his lip to maintain some manner of dignity. Even’s arm came away to bring his hand to brush through Ienzo’s hair. “It is alright.”


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full moon through a window on a cloudy night

A Way Forward: Kingdom Hearts Fanfiction

Word count: 679 (2 to 6 minutes) | Rating: T | Note: Spoilers, nightmares, scarring, and canon character death | Characters: Ienzo, Axel, and Riku Replica


“He’s as good a place to start as any.”

He didn’t need a heart to feel the fear cut into him. “You can’t do this,” Zexion insisted, barely able to stand upright, never mind fight back. And yet he tried as the Riku replica slammed him into the wall as easily as if he were a paper doll. The magic channeled between them was searing and numbing all at once as the hand closed around his throat.

An exact recreation of the person he just fought and nearly lost to stared at him, smirking as darkness ate the edge of Zexion’s vision—and his form. His hands grabbed at the replica’s arm holding him above the floor and tightening on his neck as the magic continued eroding his body. Zexion could calculate the very rate of the energy transfer from his heartless body to that of the Riku replica, and he did not have long now. Yet his greatest fear was in not knowing what was to come after.

Would he be with Lexaeus and Vexen? Would this distant, aching pain endure into that next life? Smoke billowed around his hands, and his grip failed. Zexion could only barely make out Axel watching him die on his deceptive suggestion, eyelids fluttering shut while the last of him transferred to the replica.

Deplorable. What of the ties that held us together, Axel?

Ienzo jolted from sleep with a gasp, keenly aware of the cold Radiant Garden castle air. Perhaps because the faded navy blanket was on the floor and his grey sheets were tangled around his legs. Certainly, the sweat soaking his long-sleeved turtleneck sleep shirt didn’t help the matter.

“Just a dream,” he breathed, reassuring himself against the tingling, burning sensation around the scar on his neck and trying to slow the thundering heartbeat in his chest. How interesting that the sleeping world could follow him into the real one so intensely.

The first order of business was to free his legs, getting up from the bed to change his shirt. Whatever he chose to do next, he wouldn’t be comfortable in that. He paused for only a moment to calm himself further and took a moment to appreciate the silver-blue glow of moonlight washing over his familiar bedroom.

This room had been his before the Organization and fall of Radiant Garden, though all but the furniture was new. Well, aside from the bed. He didn’t grow to be tall, but he had indeed grown since he was a little boy.

Peeling his shirt off and into the hamper, Ienzo took a towel from his armoire drawers to dry off the residual sweat. He tossed that in the hamper as well and paused again, this time by the mirror. Even in the late evening light—or was it early morning?—the scars were too visible. Ienzo traced the path from his neck scar to the Lichtenberg-like scarring splintering out and down his torso and arms.

He had some muscle definition now, at least. Perhaps because he was slight as it was, but he preferred to credit the short exercise routine that Aeleus and Dilan devised for him at his request. Still, he did not look well. Pale with tired eyes, Ienzo felt only a glance would betray how truly fragile he felt in this life. And he resented that fact completely.

Everyone was recovering. He didn’t need to match their pace, but he refused to slow them down. Ienzo picked up his latest book from the nightstand along with his gummi phone, leaving his bedroom to warm up water for tea. Returning to sleep was not an option, not after a nightmare like that one. He had tried in the past with little success. More often, he was greeted with another nightmare if sleep came at all.

He would overcome this too, in time. He had to. There was too much on the line and more still to make up for. Ienzo may be haunted by the past, but he would find the path to this future in those mistakes.


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Ienzo and Demyx in Radiant Garden

Red String of Fate: Zemyx KH Fanfiction

The corridor came out on a wooded path dotted with large rocks and tall grass. Zexion read plenty in the past life and this one, so he had expected as much from The Land of Dragons.

 

“Hey, uh,” Demyx started up with his usual preface of needless words as his mouth caught up to his mind. After instructing him in recon over several assignments, Zexion had grown accustomed to the musical member’s many quirks. “What kinda trees are these? They’re like grass but sticks but trees.”

 

Giving his attention to the woods, Zexion examined them briefly. “I don’t recognize every species,” he explained, knowing there were others than what we would or could mention. Turning to Demyx, he continued. “But I believe you mean the bamboo trees.”

 

And as his gaze turned to the blond, he caught sight of a thin red cord. It was only for a moment, and the thread was gone when he simply looked. And yet… He did see it. Reversing his magic, Zexion tried to look through any illusions in place around Demyx or himself only to have the red string reappear.

 

It hung in a way that betrayed physics, almost appearing to float between its two anchors: one little finger on Demyx and Zexion respectively.

 

“Umm, whatcha looking at?” Demyx interrupted his thoughts. Zexion dropped the magic from his view and the string disappeared. “There’s a big monster behind me, huh?”

 

Zexion smirked. So he couldn’t see it. That made sense, given that his ability didn’t lend itself to seeing what was hidden. That made it all that much easier to mislead him and avoid questions that Zexion had no answers for—yet. “Maybe.”

 

And he turned around to continue down the path. After a small, nervous whine, Demyx followed a few paces behind. He was taller with a longer stride and easily could’ve gone ahead, but that would be work and his laziness was legendary.

 

…perhaps during their reconnaissance, Zexion might gain more information on this thread.

 


 

They gathered their data largely unnoticed, though Demyx was markedly less subtle about it… Zexion couldn’t deny that he at least got results even if he didn’t report on his findings properly.

 

“This world is threatened by war,” Zexion remarked out loud as he retraced their original path with Demyx. Thinking aloud was an old habit from his last life, one he’d yet to shed—to his own chagrin. “Heartless are sure to follow.”

 

Soon, this world would be a prime location for the dark power those creatures could offer the Organization. Xigbar would likely be sent in that case to recruit anything or anyone of value to their efforts. Though this did nothing to solve the red thread mystery, and it was irritating Zexion to even consider that they would RTC with that unresolved. And yet, he would sooner fade away than entrust Xigbar with that information.

 

“Super tough Heartless,” Demyx agreed. “Hope they don’t send me here when stuff goes down.”

 

Zexion sighed. Truthfully, he would be good in the field of he wasn’t… Himself. “What makes you say they would be tough?”

 

“The people,” he answered matter-of-factly. Zexion found that simply asking Demyx what he thought cut out most of the floundering and sputtering other members faced from him. “Gathering up their stuff, you can tell they’re used to fighting, and they got a culture packed with all kindsa gods and beasties.”

 

Glancing to him, Zexion finally started to take visual stock of what Demyx picked up. His arms were full of hastily wrapped up finger foods (entirely useless to the Organization) and some children’s toys and books that added only slightly more credibility to his work today.

 

In that these items were often designed to demonstrate the foundation of a world’s culture in an easily understood format, it would aid the next members assigned here in understanding how to navigate their society. Though this was undoubtedly not Demyx’s intent.

 

And still trailing between them was the mystical thread—almost as a mockery at this point in their mission.

 

“Plenty for Heartless to draw on,” Demyx whined, unaware he was being studied so closely. “So it’s gonna be a huge mess. Here, listen,” was the only warning he gave before jostling everything around in his arms to get to one of the books.

 

“The red string of fate,” he mused aloud. One he hadn’t read yet, then. “Huh. Where destinies meet,” Demyx started reading in a lilting tone reserved for material he actually wanted to look over, “an invisible red cord shall be tied by the gods.”

 

Demyx continued undaunted by the sudden tension in Zexion’s body language. If indeed, he noticed at all. He was a scientist, and Zexion believed in neither gods nor destiny. But he listened intently, incredulous that it would be Demyx who found the answers he was after while still in his training phase.

 

“Those found in the embrace of a single thread shall embrace one another as decided by fate, buh buh buh,” the musician trailed off to skim for something that interested him more. “Destiny shall guide them to unite as they are bound by true love. Whoa.”

 

“Definitely matters of the heart,” Zexion forced himself to answer levelly. And of course it worked—illusion was his specialty in more ways than one.

 

“Whatcha make of it, Zex?”

 

He sighed, turning to Number IX and catching the glimpse of the red string once again. It could not be. Even if it was the case and their match was inevitable…

 

“A meaningless legend, no doubt,” he dismissed. “Though one they must hold in high regard.” He examined Demyx one last time to be certain that, yes, the string between them was truly there. At the castle, it would disappear again and he could eventually forget this… Though he knew he wouldn’t. “Are we ready to return now?”

 

“Uhh, guess so. I’m all set, anyway.”

 

“Let’s see it, then.” Demyx was nearly done his supervised training and would soon go on recon alone. All the better for Zexion. He did not believe in fate. “You won’t always have someone to call on a corridor for you,” he teased as a distraction from the situation in his mind.

 

“Yeah, yeah,” the musician sighed, reaching out to help himself focus and amazingly dropping nothing. After a few seconds, the corridor swirled open. “Ha! Got it.”

 

“Not bad,” Zexion conceded. “But you will want to improve your speed. In an emergency, a hasty retreat may be your only option.” Without waiting, he went ahead to the castle to the fading sound of Demyx spluttering about what kind of emergency that might be.


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Riku, Sora, Kairi from left to right

Destined to Be: Kingdom Hearts Fanfiction

They had a rare free day, and Kairi suggested they take a break with it. Sora didn’t miss a beat and suggested San Fransokyo immediately. And who was Riku to argue? There were plenty of places Sora went that they hadn’t even heard of, never mind seen. He wanted a chance to see everywhere Sora had been and for Kairi to be at their side.

“Riku,” Sora broke through his thoughts, tugging on Riku’s sleeve and making the bags in his hand crinkle together. “Check it out!”

“What is it, Sora?” He didn’t explain, of course, just ran off into a massive toy store full of giant stuffed animals, blinking robots, and other things Riku didn’t recognize. He smiled, shaking his head, and waited behind. Kairi would be back any minute—someone should be here.

“He’s at it again?” Riku turned to Kairi’s smile, two bags in her hand from the shop behind her. Just putting together some outfits not made from fairies made her feel more at home, she said. Now that she’d thought of it, Riku was sure he’d do the same soon enough.

“Yep. You know him,” he answered warmly, nodding to the game store. Sora wouldn’t go far, he knew that without even looking yet.

And sure enough, Sora looked up from the toy train track just long enough to wave to Kairi with a big, boyish grin.

To both of them, actually. Sometimes it was so hard to believe they are all in the same space at last. Ready to face Xehanort together once and for all… But first, some time just… Together.

Kairi waved back, a broad wave with a bright smile in return. “I missed this.”

Years ago, back on the islands, he might’ve teased her. Expressing what he thought and felt seemed so impossible then. They’d all come so far since their childhood… “I know how you feel. It’s been way too long.” There was so much more to say, but none of it seemed to fit into words the way he wanted it to.

So he held out his hand, offering to take her bags too. Kairi just shook her head. “Oh, it’s alright! You don’t have to do everything yourself, you know.”

Teasingly, she nudged his shoulder and they both laughed—for a moment. Kairi trailed off into a sigh, turning to look out the large windows overseeing the city. Nothing like the islands he felt so trapped on, and so much more than he could ever have imagined. How weird was it that now, sometimes he wished he could go back?

“Being kids,” Kairi thought out loud, “We’re here doing what other people our age do all the time…” Finally turning to him again, her smile was steady.

But there was a trace of remorse in the ocean of her eyes. All those years, she waited without a complaint and only now did Riku realize she’d never talked to him about how that must’ve felt. “And together at last. Thank you, Riku.”

Caught off guard, his eyes widened. “Huh?” What did he do to earn that?

Kairi just giggled, leading him toward the toy store. “You helped him find his way back.”

Thinking back, she had a point… But they were the reason he had the strength to do that for Sora. Riku learned his lesson about being too prideful. “And you helped him see through to me when my face wasn’t my own.” He smiled her way, moving closer to keep together through the crowd. “We all fought for this, Kairi.”

Her smile softened, the sorrow vanishing from her gaze. Riku knew well that it just retreated to greater depths, still there and waiting for her to talk about it—when she was ready. He nodded to her. He would be patient, then.

“C’mon, you guys!” Sora rushed out of the store to meet them, practically bouncing with excitement. “You gotta see what they have!”

Riku had to chuckle at the sight. Sora really was incredible—he’d seen so many places, achieved so much, and that did nothing at all to his natural curiosity. To him, there really was beauty in everything. “Coming, Sora.”

Breaking out into a grin, Kairi matched his energy. “I haven’t gotten a toy in years! I wanna see all the best ones.”

Sora lit up, both of them feeding into each other. “You got it!” And he took her by the arm in a second, the two running ahead of Riku trailing with most of the bags.

“Right behind you!” He would catch up, that much was sure. In more ways than one. After all this time, Riku finally had the strength to protect what mattered.


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SoRiku: I Love You

Kingdom Hearts 3 Spoilers

Riku relaxed into the small sofa of his Traverse Town apartment with a content sigh. Yen Sid said he was always welcome at the Tower, but Riku felt better having a place of his own. Besides, when people came to Traverse, he could help them adjust to their new lives better if he lived there.

But today wasn’t about that.

He invited Sora over after their missions to just play games, watch movies, and be kids for a bit. They both grew up fast, but Sora didn’t have to. Riku made that necessary, and now he wanted to make it right.

His crush on Sora was part of that, selfish as that might be… But it wasn’t the right time to mention it to Sora. Not yet.

When his best friend first got there, dropping his sleepover bag next to the shoes he kicked off, he was all smiles and energy—typical Sora. Riku couldn’t help but smirk at the sight and tease him just a little. But now?

Riku turned to his sleeping friend resting on his shoulder, snuggled in close under his arm and muttering incoherently off and on. He never bothered to pause the movie, knowing the sudden silence could very well wake him up.

And how could Riku be anything but happy as long as Sora was there?

Sora deserved some rest after everything he carried on his own for all those years. He was under so much pressure—to be happy, to always be helping, to be exactly like he was as a kid but still a hero across the worlds. Ones he and Kairi hadn’t even seen, but Sora had saved.

Who else got the privilege of seeing him late in the day, napping away with the occasional murmurs of a dream about pirate life? Riku wanted to believe it was special to him. To them. That he could trust Riku now that things were different and like they were all at once.

Let everyone else see Sora as a dumb kid until they need something from him… As much as he resented that perspective of Sora, he couldn’t blame the others. They didn’t know him like Riku did. It was up to him to show them and Sora all he could be because it was who he already was.

Limbs in a tangle under the blanket that was once on the back of the couch, and the faint ghost of a smile on his boyish face… Riku caressed Sora’s cheek, lightly, as softly as he could to not wake him up and have to explain himself. “I love you, Sora. No matter what might change.”

For now, it was enough to just say it to him whether he could hear or not.

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?”

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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.”

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.”