FANDOM: Kingdom Hearts
SUMMARY: 'Riku wanted to spit; anything to remove that metallic, harsh taste from the back of his throat but it was all he could do to push through mechanized doors...
PAIRINGS: Riku + Roxas (eventual Riku/Roxas), Riku + Sora, anything else will be added as it comes
WARNINGS: Angst, gore, violence, mature themes, eventual citrus, some AUishness
SPOILERS: Spoilers for all three of the games
ARCHIVED: Onion Girls, Fallen Icons
FEEDBACK: Is welcome.
THANKS: To amet for taking the time to read over this for me and encouraging me to go on.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Oh man, I actually got something finished and put up here. It seems like... forever? Anyway, thanks to ReCom, Kingdom Hearts has now well and truly eaten my face. XD;; I'm not sure what compelled me but this idea took hold and refused to let go unless some of it was written out. It's the first act in what will probably be several and something of an AU in that it takes place in the general timeline of the 'verse in the beginning and then -- goes into it's own little world which will probably be apparent by the end of this chapter. At least I hope it is. Hopefully it won't be so far off the beaten path.
And hopefully it won't be so rusty sounding. XD;; This is what I get for not working more on my fan fic writing. Any mistakes are entirely my own and I apologize in advance. I've tried to read over it again and catch errors but I'm sure I've missed several. =__=;
I hope you enjoy!
A Kingdom Hearts story
The room was frigid, sterile air biting into his skin and making the ache in his already throbbing lip jump another notch, dried blood cracking on split lips. Riku wanted to spit; anything to remove that metallic, harsh taste from the back of his throat but it was all he could do to push through mechanized doors, hissing at him as they closed behind him, the elevator lurching into controlled descent. The laboratory was three floors down and his knees were shaking, leaving him standing by – well, he'd like to think of it as his own implacable will but Riku had learned to recognize dumb luck. It was too much his constant companion these days and there was little reason to think that was going to change any time soon.
He sure the fuck hoped it didn't. He could only imagine how much deeper shit he'd be in otherwise.
The lights flickered on the side of the elevator, all smooth motion and low level humming, Riku wanting nothing more than to lean against the back wall, every muscle in his body a riot of protest. He could catch his breath here but found he didn't want to, didn't want the time taken to catalogue the blood gumming up his hair or the slow leaking head wound that caused it, also the reason for the blood pooling in the junction of his neck. Concentrating wouldn't help anything, it rarely did and really, all he wanted was to just get on with things. There would be time later to take in each contusion and abrasion or the way his left arm was hanging, useless and numb from shoulder to fingertips.
Riku felt old, heavy and tired as with his burden slung precariously over one shoulder, sweat dampening from that too warm, too real body into his robes. Between them lay sweat and blood and dust, Riku tasting it, tasting the taint of his own dark overlying it and he shuddered, grip tightening or attempting to, weak as a half-drowned kitten.
He'd carried this burden for so many worlds, chased it and felt his shoulders threaten to buckle under its weight but now that it was physically in his arms – arm, he –
Didn’t know what to do. Which was pretty stupid because of course he knew what he was going to do but –
It was hard not to hate that word, not to despise the void it opened up and how the weight of everything teetered on it's small girth. It was hard not to hate a word which more than acknowledged that despite everything, despite despair and encompassing guilt, Riku was still very much afraid. Of everything and nothing, of this working, of it not working. Afraid of a moment beyond this long year where he had ceased to exist, becoming an invisible guardian and slave, a tool for a destiny he knew he would never escape. An executioner and if that wasn't bile now rising to the back of his throat, he'd be damned. He was damned. Had been. Funny that he was getting around to worry about that again now.
The lift groaned as it slowed, then halted, another hiss-spit of sound and the doors opened, Riku stumbling through them, listing to one side as the body over his shoulder threatened to slip. There wasn't much to do but follow it then use the momentum to right himself again, catching a flash of white out of the corner of his eye where his blindfold loosened, threatening to fall away completely. White and blond and now she was on his left side, attempting to help but there wasn’t a lot she could do but tug at nerveless fingers, Riku grunting as the weight settles again, more heavily now against his throat.
She seemed like such a child sometimes, Naminé did. All wide blue eyes and lower lip caught between her teeth, looking for all the world like a little girl who just discovered her favorite toy was broken. She grabbed his hand again, using it to tug him, the jolt of her pull making him grit his teeth against the pained howl that wanted to scrabble from between clenched lips. It took her a moment and then he felt her against him, an arm around his waist as if that would steady him, would help him with the weight he carried and keep them all from toppling. He chuckled as his blindfold slipped further, caught on one ear and falling off his nose, Naminé's pert features screwed up in a worried pout, lips now trembling and if he didn't know better, Riku would think she was prepping for one hell of a tantrum.
Riku wasn't so deluded to think he was a favorite anything. Not after watching how she'd treated her last toy, the memory of dashed hopes and insanity engraved in his memory, peering at him in the back of his mind with an almost reptilian stare, full of judgment and condemnation.
The response that wanted to come, he quashed. It was rude and whether deserved or not, he just – didn't care. This wasn't a conversation that interested him.
"Where is he?"
He gave up, summoning up what strength he could scrape together and flinging himself forward again, towards the lab, listening to the scrabble of feet behind him, a soft unhappy noise. She might be crying and Riku would almost feel sorry about that but it was hard to forget that Naminé could turn those tears that hurt so much off and on at will. He didn't begrudge her that; his own selfishness had contributed to this as much as hers but there were times when he couldn't bring himself to pause long enough to let himself care.
There was only so much guilt that even he could carry.
DiZ was waiting for them, a mountain of a man swathed in scarlet buckles and broadcloth, glowing eye narrowing as he took their measure, Naminé dancing just ahead of Riku's procession, hands fluttering around her. Probably getting ready to say something, Riku surmised and now he really wanted to laugh.
"Is he damaged?" DiZ interrupted, waving towards the bundle over Riku's shoulder, his voice rumbling with cold aggravation.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking," Riku rasped, "Oh wait, that's right! You weren't, were you?"
It served no purpose, trying to get under DiZ's skin, knowing what the man thought of him and just how much he despised rudeness. He could feel Naminé suck in another breath but what did it matter? Neither of them meant anything, not to DiZ. Riku had forfeited his humanity and Naminé...well, Naminé had never possessed such a thing to begin with, at least in the old man's eyes. If he was rude, DiZ chalked it up to his being worthless from the get go. The way he had from the second they'd crossed paths. Nothing was going to change that now, not if an entire year of running around at the other's beck and call, of bleeding and nearly dying for this cause, hadn't.
"He's," Riku wanted to roll his head to indicate the body in his arms but couldn't, "fine. Not too ... damaged."
Nothing that a little Curaga wouldn't heal, Riku thought. It wasn't so much that there hadn't been time for that (which there hadn't been really) but – Riku had him now. At a cost to them both but given that the playing field had been decimated, there wasn't really much point in fixing things up before they got to where they needed to be.
Besides, he'd learned the hard way about giving Roxas any sort of quarter. The kid had this amazing ability to take an opening and run with it. Just not usually before giving Riku a concussion and several broken ribs to contend with.
He wondered if Sora was like that, if he could just take an insurmountable situation and turn it around. Riku wished with all his heart that he could remember, that the blank space where Sora had once been wasn't so gaping, his memory shattered against what was now a vortex. What was left was – impressions, fragments of feeling and a shipwreck of thoughts. It was a lot less orderly than a giant NO TRESPASSING sign might have been, more glaring, and maddeningly, a constant sore that he couldn't help but probe. The memories were just out of reach, his feeling of loss deepening as the chain Naminé was repairing continued to grow and sometimes – sometimes he could almost see, could almost hear Sora's voice and remember the way he moved, chest tightening as Riku wondered how Sora would smile.
Roxas didn't smile. His mouth lifted, grimacing or it did this half-quirk that might have been charming if he hadn't been so damned sardonic. Watching Roxas in action never failed to steal his breath and not simply for the grace of his movements, the proud bearing with which the Nobody carried himself as if he were twice Riku's size and a prince to boot. No, watching Roxas hurt because Riku felt something, indefinable and just out of reach, a sense of longing but for what he wasn't sure. Riku felt and those memories, those links that Naminé had so callously broken became almost complete when they were near each other. Not that there was ever very much time to contemplate that before Oathkeeper came arcing towards his head.
Roxas made Riku ache, made him despair and try again but Riku seemed to alternately interest and infuriate the Nobody, depending on the night or the moods Roxas claimed not to have despite the fury he held in abundance. After almost a year, this chase had taken on something of a pattern, a well-timed dance where both partners kept step by precarious step with the other. It was familiar, never predictable except that neither of them walked away satisfied from the encounter, Riku's attempts to bring Roxas back frustrated and Roxas left with more questions to throw at him when he tired of his Keyblade.
Frustrated until now.
He wasn't sure what to make of that, this entire situation just surreal. The weight on his shoulders, the warmth of Roxas', his scent, and his solidness made this real, not something his mind cooked up as a suitable punishment but he – Expected more? Expected something else? Which was pretty damn hilarious when you got down to it. He was pretty sure he had a concussion, some teeth knocked loose and his arm could barely function but Riku felt as if he'd been left off easy.
Hell, who was he kidding? He'd gone into things this evening expecting to lose, to finally have to make the decision of whether it was more important to drag this out and protect what was left of his dubious honor or finally take the gift Ansem had offered him so long ago in Castle Oblivion, embracing the darkness and everything it could give him for just a chance, just one, to set things right. The King had long been opposed to such a thing, chastising him when they saw each other about two wrongs not making a right and if they were just patient ...
DiZ never said anything. DiZ didn't have to; his silent disapproval and his attitude said enough. They were running out of time and it was all on Riku's shoulders to set things right. His penance for tearing worlds asunder in the first place, Riku supposed. If they failed, Riku was pretty sure that DiZ wasn't going to be beating himself up for not dirtying his hands, not when there was Riku himself provided a more ready, deserving scapegoat.
He could see the man studying him and the slight form slung over his shoulder, probably trying to decide if he wanted to dispute that and Riku wished that he'd hurry the hell up if that was the case. His knees were starting to tremble and pretty soon they were going to become uncooperative about this whole standing upright thing.
Maybe he was just having an exceptionally lucky night, DiZ snorting softly before waving his hand towards the lit alcove to his left, dismissing all of them as he turned towards the massive computer screen, leaving Naminé to slip around Riku, quick hands catching the slip of black ribbon that finally fell free. His face felt naked, vulnerable for the first time and he tipped his chin downward, eyeing the dais rising out of the floor and wondering how the hell he was going to get Roxas on it without either dropping or throwing him. Naminé must have realized that too, thin hands reaching and Riku chuckled again because if anything she had less upper body strength with two arms than he had with the one. It was kind though, kind of her to try and help though he couldn't help but wonder if the kindness was meant towards him or Roxas.
His chuckle died as sparks flared in his vision, pain flaring outward from his stomach where a knee had unexpectedly and sharply found purchase, Riku's legs buckling as he gasped for air. Roxas was already moving, his feet touching the floor as the flat of his palm slammed into Riku's face, using the momentum to send Riku sprawling. His head cracked against the floor, those colorful spots deepening as they danced before his eyes, bile rising to the back of his throat. Naminé was making another one of those breathy sounds of hers, alarmed and inarticulate with concern. DiZ was silent, at least from the sounds of it, Riku still trying to get his vision under control as he lay there, chin pointing upward and back arching with the effort to try and move which – quite frankly seemed like too goddamn much to do. All those aches had returned with a vengeance, pain screaming along every nerve ending, a slow scald of sensation that threatened to make the dark edging along his vision rise up to swallow him whole.
"Roxas," He muttered, tongue thick and stupid because of course, it was Roxas. Who the fuck else would it be aside from fucking Roxas who had probably just managed to break those ribs Riku had manage to save from their little fight earlier?
Riku pushed onto his side, teeth cutting into his lower lip as he grunted against the way that jarred taxed muscles, booted feet drifting near his line of vision, the razor edge of a keyblade finding his chin, lifting it. Oathkeeper, Riku catalogued, willing his eyes to focus, Roxas making the move from a blond blur to something more solid, tufts of gold hair taking on a weird greenish tint in the lab's lighting. Roxas' eyes darkened, the pupil contracting as Oathkeeper dug into Riku’s skin.
"Stay down," The warning was low, heavy with promised violence if Riku chose not to obey. Which, yanno, was pretty damn likely and they both knew it.
Riku relaxed, watching Roxas in much the way he was being watched, both of them looking for an opening and Riku using the time to martial his waning strength. He really wasn't in the best place for another slugfest with Roxas, who wouldn't, couldn't, pull a punch to save his freaking life. Unlife. Whatever it was the Nobody called it.
That was Naminé though Riku couldn't see her, all awed, hushed tones with just a hint of pleading, something Riku had never truly heard from her. With Roxas, he could almost believe that it was more than just a ploy to get her way.
Roxas wasn't interested in her though, Riku could see that much as he watched him from the corner of his eyes. No, his attention was torn between Riku on the floor and DiZ who could be easily reached in a few rushed steps, radiating scarlet serenity, his gaze unreadable. Naminé wasn't the most visible threat and in that respect, Roxas was making a huge error in judgment considering how much damage she could and had caused.
"Do you have a name?" Roxas interrupted, his free hand sweeping towards DiZ, "After a year of running interference with your lap dog here, I think I'm entitled to that much."
Lap dog.... Right. That would be him, Riku grimaced, gaze dropping down to the blade digging into his Adam's apple.
"Do you? What an amusing sentiment from someone who doesn't truly exist."
Riku hadn't expected DiZ to dignify that half-snarled demand with a response, the older man's voice nonchalant, dismissive in that way that Riku was only too familiar with and Roxas wasn't likely to appreciate. He recognized the set of DiZ's shoulders, the disdainful set of his mouth which coupled with his tone usually heralded a lecture.
"Do you hope that if you wave the keyblade around enough, I'll grow fearful and tell you what you wish or are you proposing to beat the answer out of me?" DiZ continued and damn, did he enjoy tempting fate?
"If I have to."
"Ah, then you are little better than the rest of your Organization of thugs and yet you believe that I owe you answers," The derision was clear in DiZ's voice, Riku wincing as he caught sight of Roxas' thin features, pale and tight, his mouth a thin slash.
At this rate, Roxas was going to kill DiZ and while the old man might have it coming, especially with all this taunting, it wasn't going to solve anything. It wouldn’t' save Sora. It wouldn't set things right. It'd just be more blood on his hands.
"Why me?" Roxas asked, "Why are you after me? Why do you keep sending him after me? Why? Because of the keyblade?"
"Your egotism knows no bounds."
"Why not the others?" Roxas pressed, Oathkeeper wavering in his hand and Riku kept an eye on it, trying not to swallow. "Why me? What do you want with me? Why do you keep coming for me?"
If he closed his eyes, Riku could swear he heard something else behind those impatient words, lost and bewildered, searching for an answer that DiZ wasn't going to give him. At least not yet. In the end, the need to know must have been enough to cause Roxas to throw their earlier fight, to draw things out and injure Riku enough that he could convincingly feign having lost consciousness. That need to know had drawn him here and now DiZ would deny him that. Riku was certain of it, almost as certain of the malicious pleasure the older man was taking in having thrown the Nobody off-kilter.
"How sad," DiZ mused, "I might almost believe you had a heart. That it actually bothered you but – what you are, what you think you feel is only a pale imitation of him. Everything you are is a mistake, a botched echo that has no truth but the fear for its own existence."
"So this is it?" Roxas asked after a long moment, voice flat and contained, an awful stillness in the set of his head and stiff shoulders, betraying to Riku if no one else, the fury that was contained in that slight form. "This – this freak show is where you've been trying to drag me for the last year?"
It took a second for Riku to realize that Roxas wasn't talking to DiZ anymore, cold blue eyes still fixed on the older man. Having failed to get an answer one way, Roxas was regrouping, searching for another vulnerable point of attack. "I ..."
Riku trailed off, at a loss and wondering that unlike DiZ, he did care, he did feel defensive suddenly at the accusation in Roxas' voice, a trickle of sweat or was that blood? dripping down his temple. After a year of constant battles, of long nights and having everything stripped down to the moments where he existed in fighting Roxas, in tracking or being with Roxas, and then drifting, waiting for those moments to come again, it was impossible to divorce himself. It was impossible to pretend that Roxas wasn't someone to him, as much of a someone as --
"I had to," Riku floundered, the words soft, threading out into the barest whisper, "I had to."
For Sora who lay sleeping in the next room, unaware and unprotected, Naminé edging backward and Riku wanted to berate her for that, for the movements that were going to draw attention. Did she want to draw Roxas to Sora? Riku felt panic rising in him at the very thought, knowing that neither of them was ready for that meeting. It was just as likely that Roxas would attempt to kill Sora if he were to find the chamber, much the way his own replicant had tried to kill him in Castle Oblivion. What were those terms DiZ liked to throw around? Matter and anti-matter and if the two occupied the same spot...
Could Roxas feel Sora? Riku wondered. He kind of thought Naminé must be wondering, too and he didn't dare look at DiZ to see if the same fear was mirrored in his burning eye. If DiZ would even care beyond how Sora furthered his plans for the Organization. If Roxas mowed down Naminé and Riku in the process ... well, maybe he'd chalk that up to being casualties of this war they were engaged in.
Not. Good. Enough.
Riku clenched his teeth, throwing himself backwards into a clumsy half-roll, feeling the tips of Oathkeeper's points nick his throat, skin tearing with it as he summoned Way to the Dawn. The air wavered and dissolved before the heavy hilt found his fingers, bringing it up as Roxas swung again, Oathkeeper hammering towards his face. The jolt carried itself up his arm as Riku lay flat on his back, taking another arcing slam of Roxas' blade before his wandering feet found what they were looking for, tangling in Roxas' ankles and yanking him downward. Oathkeeper swung wildly as Roxas fell, the star-blade slicing through one of DiZ monitors, open wires writhing in a shower of sparks. Alarms began blaring, dousing the lab in shades of orange and yellow but there was little time to do more than stagger to his feet, Roxas doing the same, dragging his keyblade through another line of now smoking equipment.
The space here was more defined, enclosed and there was no sea of Heartless separating them now, DiZ and Naminé having flattened themselves against the walls. It wouldn’t do them a lot of good if Riku couldn’t contain Roxas, the Nobody pissed off enough that he might decide to end this little farce once and for all. Or worse, open a portal and disappear, sending Riku on another bloody, violent chase to find him again. They were close here, so much so that Riku could taste it, a desperate knot settling in the back of his throat. If Roxas left, if he escaped, there was no telling how long it would take to reclaim him. If the Organization didn't come crashing down on their heads in the first place.
There was no good way to do this, not without destroying the room, computers and all which – would more than suck. It would make everything meaningless, set them back whole months, and fuck if he knew what they were going to do with Roxas in that time. How they were going to contain Roxas if the plan fell apart. There were only so many times the Nobody was going to let him close enough to continue this drawn out war of theirs, maybe not ever again after today.
One chance then. Just one. Riku squared his shoulders, leaning forward so that his keyblade was just over his head and then –
He darted forward, banishing the Way to the Dawn as Roxas lifted Oathkeeper into position to block the blow he expected, Riku diving to crash into him, arm closing around the other boy's slim waist. Roxas had no time to react, the widening of his eyes in outright surprise comical in those few seconds Riku had time to glimpse them. They fell together towards the dais DiZ had raised out of the floor, Riku shouting one word.
It was a monumentally stupid thing to do, to trust that DiZ would just know and understand. Or that he might have anticipated Riku's actions. Mickey would probably say it was just having faith in his friends though it felt a damn lot closer to sheer desperation than anything else.
DiZ must has been prepared, a dull roar opening around them as a wall of opaque tiles rose from the floor to surround them. Oathkeeper vanished as Roxas screamed, Riku's ears ringing with that horrified, enraged sound, tightening his hold around the Nobody and using his weight to topple them both as the machine around them whirred, spitting sparks and smoke, gray infecting frantic blue light. The tiles hovered in unsteady configuration, fading in and out as shimmering light pooled from the floor and then deflected upward, filling in the spaces between each honeycomb-shaped tile. A net, Riku realized, a cage and they were both caught in it, two unwitting butterflies caught in a technological hurricane. Roxas bucked, beating those metaphorical wings and Riku grunted as his back smacked into the bars of their prison, the air sizzling, leaving him to wonder if something other than DiZ’s machines was burning. The pain was receding, leaving in it’s place the same numbness that had incapacitated his arm earlier. The creep was slow, steady as he felt rooted into place, Roxas too, no longer kicking him, possibly because he wasn’t able to now. Small mercy that one. They were rooted to the spot, his vision frayed around the edges, darkness rising and he fought was hard as he had ever fought anything, fearing what would happen if he surrendered to that dizzying wave.
Intellectually, Riku knew what was happening; they were being broken down into what DiZ called component parts, molecules and atoms digitized, transformed into data that would be beamed into a program DiZ had set up. A means of containing the uncontainable, DiZ had once explained with a peculiar, pleased inflection to his solemn voice, as if he were aware of some joke none of the rest of them could quite comprehend. Riku wasn’t sure how it worked, wasn’t sure he wanted to know all the ins and out aside from whether it was safe enough to deposit Roxas in, if Roxas would be safe while they waited for Sora to wake up. Real or not, Roxas deserved that much; it wasn’t his fault that his entire life was time borrowed for someone else.
DiZ had never said if it would hurt and Riku was angry at himself for not asking, Roxas panting in his ear, screams gone hoarse and he lifted his head, the other boy’s blue eyes wide, the pupils pinpricks. Afraid. Roxas was afraid and if Riku had ever had any doubts about what he was doing -- He leaned as best as he could with the rest of his body frozen, lower half disappearing into sparkling bits of information, his cheek resting against Roxas’, wishing there was better comfort he could offer as they dissolved together. Roxas twitched, quieting, leaning forward, warm breath tickling Riku’s ear, full of restless despair as he murmured.
“I just wanted to meet him.”
He had no mouth, Riku felt it melt away, that slow tingle of sleepy numbness starting to settle behind widening eyes. He had no voice, no way to whisper an apology as they burst in a shower of light and shadow.
Naminé lowered her arm, starting as another spark snap-exploded near her, the machine behind which she’d taken refuge, smoldering, filling her nostrils with the acrid scent of burned wiring where Roxas’ keyblade had exposed its inner workings. She hesitated, crouched down low and then crawled around the side, hesitating as she poked her head out, coughing as smoke billowed.
The laboratory was a mess; several of the monitors were destroyed and there were bits of machinery everywhere from that brief fight. Her ears hurt, the sound of claxons screaming over and over again, signaling that something was doing more than just sparking and she wondered about the sprinkler system. Shouldn’t it be on? Once DiZ had overtaxed one of his machines, causing it to explode in what used to be the South Wing, Naminé dancing around in the ensuing spray of water and sterilizers as the men around her sought to contain the conflagration. Such a beautiful sight, all those reds and golds licking up impersonal white walls, water made silver-blue as it streaked downward. She would have liked that now, the feel of rain soaking her plain shift and squelching between her toes like. Not like an ocean wave just … wet and soppy. Pure animal sensation and after being sequestered for so long in Castle Oblivion, Naminé could not get enough of sensation.
She half-turned, checking the still intact monitor over her head, hands bunching at her chest as her heart skipped. The readings from Sora’s chamber were erratic, a frantic jerk-jerk of rising triangles where there had been calm valleys. His breathing was wild and at this rate --
“Be quiet, Naminé.”
She could barely make him out through the haze, trying again, “But Sora --”
“Naminé, please. I am attempting to work on quieting him again but I need all my concentration.”
She shut up, rising to her feet, taking a couple of steps before she slid, waving her arms around to steady herself. Catching her breath, she glanced downward, red staining the edge of her shoe. She stared, leaning down and dipping her hands in the smeared puddle, lifting it to her nose and then rubbing her thumb against it thoughtfully. Blood. Riku’s from the smell of it.
Hmm. Sora wouldn’t be pleased about that.
Careful not to wipe her hand against her dress, she sidestepped, hands clasped now behind her back as she sauntered over to DiZ, watching him bend over an intact keyboard, gloved hands moving with furious purpose. She studied him, holding her tongue as she glanced over her shoulder at the charred ring where Riku and Roxas had been, air wavering still from their dematerialization.
This earned her nothing, Naminé rocking on her heels, fingers sticky as they twisted together. “Riku was hurt.”
DiZ didn’t sound worried; exasperated but not worried, at least not about Riku. Naminé wasn’t sure what to make of that or of DiZ’s general attitude towards Riku. She understood his dislike of her. She was Nobody and DiZ had made it clear that made her somewhat lower than the ground on which he trod. It was his way and she accepted that. Their alliance was one of necessity and if Axel had taught her anything, it was about biding her time and holding her tongue when needed. In a way, she deserved his poor opinion after what she’d done to Sora and his companions. Riku though…Riku was human, he was real and made of true flesh and blood. When he bled, it meant something, didn’t it? The beat of his heart meant more than the hollow echo of hers and yet, DiZ treated them both very much the same, as if he were saddled with Riku rather than Riku having approached him, sensing through the destruction of his memory that DiZ was important. That this place would lead him back to Sora even if he no longer remembered who Sora was.
She trudged over, careful not to step too close to the data encoder, the machine not so much humming as whining, Naminé running her fingers along the wall nearest as if to comfort it. The atmosphere was much warmer here , Naminé wetting drying lips as she peered at the chamber.
“Riku can fend for himself.”
DiZ hadn’t turned, still hunched over his work but he sounded almost soothing, half-talking to himself.
“For a little while,” DiZ continued, “I think he would agree that the most important task is stabilizing Sora. It is unfortunate that half the lab had to be sacrificed to capture Roxas but -- we have what we needed.”
Roxas, they had Roxas and that was what mattered, yes? That this wandering part of Sora had been found, brought closer to him. All of this was for Sora and Naminé knew that DiZ was right. Riku would tell them to take care of his sleeping friend and he would play the hand he was dealt as best as he could.
But -- Roxas wasn’t likely to be too happy and they were trapped together.
“I wonder where they went,” Naminé murmured, her eyes straying back to bloody fingertips.
DiZ surprised her by actually answering that one. “Twilight Town is half-finished but it was at the top of the program queue. I would hope that the computer decided there was enough of it to send them there.”
“And if it didn’t?”
That incessant typing stilled for a second before increasing in tempo, Naminé returning to her contemplation, toeing the floor as she bit her lip.
Landing was like nothing Riku had ever experience, light streaming past in streaks of rainbow-like lightning against the darkness, burning into his vision. He screamed. Was screaming or thought he might be save there was nothing to confirm that beyond the simple fact he could hear again, his first inkling of true awareness that of painful sound threatening to shatter his ears.
The rest of him jolted into reality with an almost sickening crunch as the world tilted, the panicked shriek of what sounded like a whistle giving way to a more heart-stopping sound, one of metal rending, splitting apart as the ground rumbled underneath like a carnival ride now out of control.. Underneath that sound was a more macabre chorus, human voices lifting, notes of terror threading in the air around him as Riku cringed, trying to curl into himself, taking refuge in the solid weight of a head against his throat and softness tickling his cheek just before --
-- everything ---
-- pitched forward, Riku aware more than feeling that he was being flung, tumbling in a never-ending circuit that left him in freefall, flailing and seeking something to ground him, something he could cling to when nothing presented itself. Colors streamed again, this time in pale yellows and whites, spots exploding anew behind his eyes as the shuddering in this place grew louder, an angry wail of thwarted machinery and inevitable gravity. When it stopped, it was again without any signal, Riku not so much hitting the ground as he was sliding out of the air and forward, listening to the rattle-rattle of wheels coming to a grinding halt.
He was grateful for those few precious seconds of numbness before the pain invaded, worse than anything he’d ever felt, gagging for air as his chest seemed to collapse, blood racing to the back of his throat. Oh. Oh God. It hurt. It hurt worse than any wound Roxas had ever given him. It -- it …
Roxas. Riku started, tears streaming down his face as he opened his mouth, screaming again without sound. Or maybe there was sound and it was just lost in the rising cacophony, his voice one of many damned souls, cracking his eyes. Light was more normal now, almost gray as it stuttered, glinting around shards of glass from a broken window directly above his head. He tried to crane his neck, groaning as he discovered where the rest of that glass was.
Where the fuck was he? Where was Roxas? He swallowed, drawing in another ragged breath, aware that tiny shards were slicing into his throat as Riku sought to roll his head in the other direction. He thought -- thought he detected a faint outline lying not far from him, one with light colored hair and he tried to summon his voice, croaking, “Rox--Rox--”
He coughed, spitting blood as his back arched, wounded sounds dragged from his voice. There were other whistles in the distance, whistles and horns, followed by the sound of bells, a dissonant harmony forming with the dying chugging and faint cries. Squeezing his damp eyes shut, Riku tried to pull himself together enough to take stock of the situation.
He was in a narrow car of some kind, doors half a-jar as light sputtered from outside, upholstered leather seats lying on either side of him. Coupled with the giant squealy wheels and the whistle he’d heard -- a train? That would explain some of the rumbling though why the fuck DiZ had programmed a simulation with what had to be a train crash wasn’t worth the time to flail about though and Riku smiled as best as he could, lungs heaving up another volley of blood, he might have to have a long conversation with the Old Man when he got back. Possibly punctuated by a few well-placed shakes and a keyblade upside his buckled head.
Whimpering in the back of his throat, Riku tipped his head back, swallowing, adding several broken ribs and a punctured lung to his running tally of injuries and damn, this day sucked. He gulped, throwing what strength he had into trying to sit up, immediately wishing he hadn’t and falling backward. Canting a glance to the side, the other passenger (and that was Roxas, right? It had to be because where else would he be?) wasn’t moving either, lying facedown in pooling shadows. Really not moving and for someone so fluid, so restless, that stillness without fury to fuel it was unnatural to behold.
This was -- really not good.
No help for it. He’d done this and he was going to make it right, going to get them both out of here. Somehow. Riku blinked, trying to clear his vision before attempting to turn, to roll over onto his side --
There was no time to react, nothing to stop the agony that flared through every muscle in his body, even the ones he’d thought long past such things and wasn’t that funny? The room blinked and then faded as he lost his grip on consciousness once more.
Feet crunched against glass, a soft crunch near his ear and Riku’s eyes fluttered, vision cloudy, blobs floating across his vision. The angle changed or maybe the world was doing another one of those turns on its head, vaguely aware of a warm hand passing under his chin, searching and he huffed, not able to muster much beyond that half-hearted attempt. Not really understanding the need to bother really.
It was enough though. Fingers stilled and then -- “Oi! We’ve got a live one down here.”
“I SAID --”
A shadow passed overhead, another shape taking form, leaning down from the sky, “All right, all right. ‘S no need to shout. Been enough of that for one day, hasn’t there? God, what a fucking mess.”
“Tell me about it. I’ve got one -- no,” There was a pause, Riku drifting as boots hopped across the short space, “Two of ‘em down here. Alive.”
“Not by much if the looks of that one are anything to go by. Is he as bad as he looks?”
“Well, it’s sure as hell not good, is it? The little one is in better shape. I can probably pull him out with me. We’ll need the machine for the other one.”
Little one. Riku stirred, muttering, “Roxas. Rox- “ His lungs caught fire, choking and he felt pressure on his arm.
“Steady, lad. We’ll have you up and out of here as soon as we get the engine going, don’t you worry about that.. Throw that rope down here and we’ll get little lad out. Might want to have the doctor come down here. I don’t want to move this one without supervision.”
The blot receded, the sky pale, gauzy now that it was visible and try as he might, Riku couldn’t focus, tired and slipping again. “Roxas.”
“It’ll be all right now. You’re safe. You can rest. Where the hell is that rope?”
***End Act One