AUTHOR: Amet (amet)
FANDOM: Kingdom Hearts, American McGee's Alice (ph34r the crossover!)
RATING: PG-13ish for now
SUMMARY: Just because you saved the worlds doesn't mean they stay that way.
PAIRINGS: Riku/Sora(Roxas) and variations thereof, brief Kairi(Naminé)/OC for this chapter
WARNINGS: Boykissing. ♥ Vaguely suggestive situations if you squint.
SPOILERS: Play through KHII first if you're spoiler phobic.
ARCHIVED: Onion Girls
FEEDBACK: Makes the world go 'round! ^.^
THANKS: To sephyelysian. ♥ I wouldn't get anything done without her.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the beginning to a behemoth of a fic that I've been dying to do for a couple of years now and finally just gave up and started in on. It's a crossover, but you really only need a familiarity with Kingdom Hearts to follow it—all you need to know about American McGee's is that Alice went insane when her parents died in a fire and as she grew up Wonderland warped into a nightmare landscape reflecting her neuroses. This fic takes place after Alice saves Wonderland and sets things to right, and after KH2. I figure it'll be Jossed in short order by the new KH games, so we'll just call it an AU.
" Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!! "
~ Lewis Caroll; from "Jabberwocky"
Sora hit the ground running, sneakers slipping in the loose sand beneath his bedroom window. He was too tired to do much more than teeter until he caught his footing, luck keeping him from kissing the pavement when those wicked reflexes the guys liked to rag on him about failed. He managed a decent recovery, the momentary lapse didn't slow him down anymore than the two story drop, landing in a half crouch before he sprinted forward, putting on speed he knew he couldn't keep up.
It didn't matter, all that mattered was the movement, putting a little less distance between there and here. Sora figured he'd work the rest out later. He couldn't rest until he saw, knew, reassured himself and that probably made him weak—girlier than Kairi, Roxas whispered in the back of his mind like Sora didn't know he was edgy too—but his Heart ached and he knew it wouldn't stop until he was sure.
It was only three doors down, but the distance felt stretched like entire continents stood in his way and he couldn't move fast enough, ghosts of terror and desperation clawing at him, clinging with the last vestiges of sleep. If he could just move a little faster he'd have been there already, hurtling forward with a single-minded intensity most of his friends still joked he wasn't capable of, tangling in brambles and clipping his elbow against the hideous monstrosity of a flamingo mailbox made entirely of garden trowels standing sentinel over his neighbor's yard.
He was pretty sure that should have mattered. The muzzy sensation of stinging pain shooting up his arm should have given him pause, but he willed it away, dredging up a years' dormant battle instincts to stuff it down until he had time to pause and take stock of his injuries. He could hurt when he got there.
He was being reckless again and he was going to get yelled at for that later, but he couldn't quite bring himself to care, joints just beginning to burn with exertion as he slammed into the side of the building, bouncing off ivy trails and weather beaten siding Riku's dad kept insisting they were all going to get out and repaint one day soon. He turned as soon as his vision stopped swimming, rubbing his arm with a pained grunt as he scraped it further but that was okay, a small ache that wasn't worth the time it would've taken to halt his momentum.
Getting up to where he needed to be wasn't a problem. He'd scaled waterfalls, mountains, skyscrapers and one little palm tree wasn't even worth a game plan, hands scrabbling against rough bark as he locked his knees around it and shimmied upward towards a conveniently open second story window.
Riku said he expected this crap from him these days.
In the morning he'd apologize—again—for being such a nuisance, but now it was all he could do to grab the ledge and haul himself up, grateful he didn’t have to think too hard to get over, landing in a heap beneath the windowsill and slamming his calf against a bookshelf. He was lucky that was the extent of the damage given the war zone Riku called a room, when he should by all rights have landed the wrong way on a stack of video games or tripped on a stray blitzball and gone flying. It looked almost like Riku had cleared the area, which after Sora's last spectacular wipeout at 2 A.M. was a godsend even if the idea of Riku taking the time out to play safety inspector for someone trying to break into his room was kind of surreal.
It wasn't hard to make Riku out, pale skin and paler hair stark against a darker backdrop of bedclothes turned gray in the dim light filtering in from outside. Sora could see most of his back, covers rucked up somewhere around his waist and that left a lot of skin exposed, still smooth despite the insane hits Sora knew Riku had once taken on a regular basis during their tour of duty through the worlds by the power of curaga magic, scars erased as though they were never there.
Riku didn't look hurt. That was the important thing, the thing that made it easier to breathe again, the dreams a little less real.
Edging closer, Sora studied the pale expanse of skin for a moment before he laid a careful hand against Riku's back, waiting as the older boy stirred just slightly at the touch before subsiding. Riku shifted, turning towards him in his sleep, snuffling into his pillow in a completely undignified way that made Sora consider bringing a camera next time for blackmail material if he was with it enough to remember, absently reaching to pet fingers over the length of hair fanning across Riku's pillow. He felt suddenly foolish, shifting to flop down on the floor, pausing to grimace and pull what looked like a model boat out from under himself, tossing it into a pile of knickknacks by his foot.
Riku was fine. Riku was actually sleeping, and here he was in boxers and a ratty old tee shirt, halfway down the street on a not-so-warm and toasty night freaking out about a nightmare like he was eight years old and possibly a little girl. He could feel Roxas shifting on the edges of his consciousness, annoyed that they'd come this far for nothing, Sora'd gotten them all torn up now and he wasn't even doing anything so what was the point again? Was he planning on babysitting Riku for the rest of the night in case someone else decided to break in through that unlocked window the idiot left open like an invitation to be murdered while he slept?
Sora shrugged, settling more comfortably against the side of Riku's bed, watching his boyfriend settle into sleep with a private little smile on his face.
It was as good a plan as any.
The Jabberwock moved like a great cat, sinuous and purposeful as it stalked through the underbrush. Alice wondered faintly whether Cheshire would find that insulting, then ruthlessly dismissed the thought—it was ridiculous and she was too old for such foolishness. Instead she concentrated on the sway of the creature's massive tail, the curious way it lashed without disturbing a single blade of grass, skin oozing mint-colored slime as it stalked forward with nary a sound, quite contrary to what one might expect of such a hulking frame.
It was a stealthy, silent menace that left little trace of its passage. It was a wonder she could track it at all.
Alice wasn't quite sure why she was seeing this. She hardly dreamed of Wonderland anymore, not since she saw it safely restored and now her land was certainly not hospitable to a creature such as the Jabberwock. It was a wonder Gryphon hadn't already pecked its eyes out after last time—he had the power now, she'd seen to it herself. There was some relief in that, the knowledge that the Jabberwock's hours were numbered. Alice knew well that there were only so many times one could retread old guilt before it grew stale and since she'd already faced the main manifestation of that guilt and defeated it, seeing its little pet again was a mystery.
The Jabberwock paused at the craggy entrance to the Vale of Tears (the place the Mock Turtle insisted on calling the 'Flow of Joyous Saline' now that the inhabitants of Wonderland had won their revolution), mechanical wings creaking and bobbing tunelessly in the wind as it ground to a halt quite literally, the gears visible beneath the musculature of its shoulders stilling, waiting. For what, Alice didn't know, and after a moment she was impatient enough to break cover, striding forward to confront the confounded creature before it could cause more harm than it likely already had, posture rigid and straight, projecting more calm than she felt but she would not let it make her cry this time.
It shifted impatiently, giving her a very good view of the portal that opened before it, a wall of darkness unlike any of the usual warps in Wonderland, and this was cheerlessly indicative of some unsavory outside influence Alice knew she had better get a handle on before the Jabberwock put whatever harebrained scheme it was plotting into motion.
She didn’t think twice before following it through.
Riku was beginning to suspect he was turning into a sap.
It pained him, and he would never admit it out loud anywhere in the vicinity of his friends (who would then make it a point to murder his rep just to watch him squirm), but there was no other explanation for the goofy grin that worked its way across his features as he woke to find Sora half-slung across the edge of his bed, a hand splayed across the small of his back. He dimmed it down to a smirk as soon as he realized, craning his head over his shoulder to get a better look at the dork, rumpled and sleeping peacefully despite the agonizing position he'd contorted himself into to be close.
Probably another nightmare, the ones Sora'd been having for over a week now and thought he'd oh-so-slyly hidden from Riku like his barreling in via the palm tree outside at 3 A.M. every morning wasn't a tip off something was wrong.
He'd hurt himself again, too. Great.
Riku tried not to be a girl about it, but it galled that Sora never seemed to make it into bed when he showed up, despite the fact that Riku had made it clear in every way but outright asking to cuddle that he'd really rather not wake up to find his boyfriend sleeping on the floor like he was afraid Riku had cooties or something. He'd have dragged the little punk in with him if Sora bothered to wake him when he blundered in, but Sora thought that was inconsiderate and wouldn't hear otherwise, made it a point to waste hard earned stealth skills sneaking in without setting Riku's reflexes off.
It made Riku uncomfortable knowing how easy it was for him to slip in, compounding a load of insomniac issues he'd been nursing since Kingdom Hearts, where sleep wasn't so much about the rest as it was that thing that took his ability to defend himself away and he'd learned to guard against it. It was a lesson he couldn't seem to unlearn now that he was back and pretty much safe from intruders beyond Sora's late night fits and his Dad's sporadic just making sure I still have a son spot checks. He wasn't sure how to tell Sora to shove all his stupid notions of fairness, that it might actually be comforting to have someone he trusted to watch his back around at night. He felt better letting go with Sora wrapped around him.
Sora didn't want to talk about it. Riku was pretty sure that was just the doofus missing the point entirely, too wrapped up in his own fear that Riku was looking for a way to segue into a talk about the dreams. Riku could have told him it would have been pretty pointless to bother when he already knew where this was going, the way Sora was acting it wasn't hard to put two and two together and come up monsters, not with the nightmares or the way Sora always seemed to be checking him for injuries that weren't there.
If this kept up much longer he was going to have to tell Kairi what was up and let their friend work her magic—she'd always been better at blackmailing Sora into compliance. Never mind that it would mean admitting he couldn’t get Sora to talk to him like he needed that insecurity.
But first he had to put Sora's arm back together before the kid glued himself to the bed sheets by coagulation. Getting out of bed without waking Sora wasn't much challenge, unlike him Sora had never learned to be wary and still slept like a rock, murmuring something unintelligible into the wadded up sheets in his good hand as the bed dipped with Riku's movements before he was out again. Riku shook his head and resisted the urge to mess with Sora's hair, padding over to a cupboard set into the wall over his desk to examine a row of bottles inside, potions and ethers kept from his last trip off-world he kept around for emergencies and Acts of Sora.
Sora spoke up quietly behind him just as he settled on a vial. "He messed up our arm."
Riku turned, found an expression on Sora's face that didn't fit him, a little too mournful around the eyes as Roxas held up Sora's battered forearm, frowning at it like he could fix it through willpower alone.
He looked like a little kid, hair half-squished against his face where he'd fallen asleep on it. The fabric indents on Sora's cheek made Riku choke back a laugh he knew Roxas wouldn't appreciate, little furrows from sleeping on messy folds that were too undignified to do anything but tip Roxas into a rant. The Nobody had always been more intent, more serious than Sora and Riku was well aware how much his Other's carelessness annoyed him, most of their conversations these days were all about the here and now and Sora like they didn't have a history of their own.
Riku didn't really want to push it. He was lucky the kid would talk to him at all.
"Yeah, he's been doing that a lot lately," he answered, holding up a potion. "You want to do the honors or should I?"
The arm was unceremoniously shoved at him as he settled on the bed, jaw clenching as Roxas shifted close enough that ducking his head to work put them nearly nose to nose.
"Aren't you going to ask what happened?" Roxas asked, watching fluorescent liquid dribble in rivulets over the bruises.
"Is there a point?" Riku reached to rub the numbing liquid in. "You're not going to pull that Nobody-Other confidentiality crap on me?"
"No, I am," Roxas said matter-of-factly, ducking to catch Riku's gaze where he kept it firmly centered on the work at hand, "But it wouldn't kill you to ask."
Roxas was giving him that look, the one that said all playing aside, he was missing something important. The Nobody liked to push it, dancing just on the edges of all the things they didn't say, whether to get a reaction or just for kicks Riku wasn't sure. He knew he was supposed to be playing twenty questions to get some idea of what Roxas was driving at, but those hadn't gone so well in the past and Riku wasn't awake enough for an argument, shaking his head and reaching out to mess up Sora's hair instead.
"It's good that you can still have fun in there," he replied dryly, trying to kill some of the building tension. "Otherwise I'd be worried."
He could skirt the issue too, probing an old wound with offhand comments just to see if it'd bleed. The Darkness in him bred all sorts of fun masochistic impulses.
Roxas stared at him for a long moment before he spoke. "You're being stupid again."
Riku's brow furrowed, biting back the insult he'd almost flung on automatic. He studied the tanned fingers wrapping around his own, pulling the bottle from his fingers before he could rally to lodge a protest that would sound anything more than completely lame.
He cleared his throat instead and said, "Was that a 'thank you for fixing me up, dear'?"
Roxas laughed. "Fishing for pet names now? And you know exactly what I'm talking about, Ri, stop playing dumb."
"Explain it to me anyway."
"I'm right here," Roxas said, patting the space just over Sora's heart for good measure. "You didn't kill me. Stop sucking on guilt like it's candy already, it's painful to watch."
"Look," said Roxas, patting Riku's hand and nearly rolling Sora's eyes, "I'm not Sora. I mean, I am kinda, but not… y'know. So if you're waiting for me to forget everything like it never happened? Don't hold your breath." He cocked one of Sora's eyebrows as Riku's jaw worked soundlessly, shifting closer to quickly add, "But that's not important. You remember what you said to me when I woke up before you took me to DiZ?"
Riku swallowed around the hollow feeling in his gut and nodded.
With a private little smile stretching Sora's face that would have warmed Riku if he hadn't felt so nauseous, Roxas said, "You told me you'd stay with me if I let you slap us back together. That I might not see you, but you'd always be with me." He paused, grin widening. "Which pretty much makes you a total sap, by the way. I didn't believe you at first when Sora couldn't find you anywhere, but when we ran into you in the Land of the Dragons I realized you'd been shadowing us the whole way. You were with me then, you're with me now and I'm actually starting to trust that you always will be. I don't care if you're sorry. You're always sorry, you're a freaking bleeding heart. Actions speak louder, man."
Riku wasn't sure what to do with that. He wanted to laugh, he wanted to punch something, he really wanted to kiss the kid but there was a firm line in the sand between fraternizing with the enemy (that was then, when his memory had been reduced to neurological Swiss cheese and Roxas had a body of his very own) and touching Sora when he was still technically unconscious. Having an ex living in he body of his boyfriend was beyond complicated sometimes.
"Sorry, I know. Don't be. Just promise me you won't go anywhere without telling me. Us. Sora and me." His nose wrinkled. "Personal pronouns are fast becoming my new arch nemesis."
"Is that what this is about?"
"The pronouns? No. Them I can handle. But..."
"Just spit it out."
"Why do you have so many potions, Ri?"
"Expecting a cataclysmic disaster?" Roxas pushed, waggling the little bottle in his face. "You've got enough in there for ten people to bash themselves against your house for a year, not even Sora's that clumsy."
Riku snorted, eying the incandescent liquid. "Your faith in him is touching. Really."
There wasn't much to say on the subject, not that Roxas was going to take that for an answer. He didn't really know what had possessed him to keep the stupid things, stockpiled to give to Sora during that last battle with Xemnas and when Sora figured out he'd held off giving them to himself the whole time they'd had one serious fight. It was just—insurance, maybe. Against what, he couldn't say, but Riku moved more on instinct now than he ever had. Or maybe he was just trying to remind himself of the days when he'd needed enough potions for ten people, running through them at a pace that seemed unreal now that he was home, living his old, sedentary life again. Trying to make amends by keeping his head down and his nose out of trouble.
"I love this place," Roxas said, changing tracts, glancing out the window into the rising island sun with a soft smile, seeming almost surprised at the thought. "I really do. I'd stay here forever if I could, but—" He shook his head, letting the sentence dangle, turning to meet Riku's gaze head on. "Riku, you know we're not meant to stay closed up here forever. You've always known it. There's too much going on out there for us to be sitting on our hands, letting the Keyblade languish in obscurity."
He almost laughed. Some detached, reflexive part of his mind wanted to mock Roxas for being so grandiose first thing in the morning, but the meaning of the words sunk in too quickly and the rest of him went cold.
"It's really bad, isn't it?"
Roxas sighed, reaching out to take his hand, thumb smoothing over the back of it with a tenderness that did nothing to allay Riku's fears. "Watch your back."
The light in Sora's eyes that signaled Roxas' presence dimmed and flickered out before he could protest or ask any questions, leaving him facing off against an owlishly blinking Sora, still half-asleep and rubbing gingerly at the back of his neck.
"Morning," Sora mumbled with a sleepy smile before he winced, pulling his potion-sticky hand away with a grimace. "I think I broke something important in my neck last night."
Riku scoffed, handing over the rest of the potion in his hand as he said, "Good. Saves me the trouble of throttling you."
There was an undertone of 'we need to talk' there that made Sora's head snap up fast enough to cause another wince. Riku would've laughed, but he was suddenly hard pressed to find anything about the situation funny.
"So I was surprised that you came out with me today."
Kairi jerked her gaze away from the crowd passing by the little café, forcing a smile that didn't do much good with the way her boy…something was staring at his drink, swirling his straw around.
He looked up, swept a hand out to encompass the tables around them. "In public. Where anyone could see you."
It took more willpower than she might have liked to stop herself from rolling her eyes at the look he shot her, the kind of puppy-eyed expression that might have held more weight if she hadn't spent most of her life building up an immunity to Sora's patented don't you love me pout. She'd thought (mostly under the influence of one of Selphie's interventions) that having a secret boyfriend would be fun, maybe add a little adventure to her otherwise excruciatingly dull life and hey, if her friends didn't know about him Sora and Riku couldn't possibly scare him off trying to make sure he was 'good enough for her'. Win-win, right?
Too bad the fun wore off when all the intrigue turned into whining.
She crossed her arms over her chest and tried not to look as annoyed as she felt. "Fastest way to make sure it never happens again is to be a jerk about it."
"Your boy Riku's legendary for his attitude problem."
"I don't see you getting all up on his case, is all I'm saying."
It was awful of her, but Kairi wasn't sure this was worth the argument she knew was coming. She was getting good at it now, the almost anonymous date picked up off the blitzball team via Selphie nagging at Tidus until he agreed to help out with what Selphie affectionately called her mission to find poor, beleaguered Kairi a love monkey of her very own. It was always good for a while, a free meal here and there and some entertaining getting-to-know-you conversation, but there was always a point where her "date" wanted to graduate to "boyfriend" and that turned into the same ridiculous discussion about her feelings and why she wasn't telling her boys they were an item. Weren't men supposed to be more insensitive?
"O-kay," she said, sitting back in her seat, running an agitated hand through her hair, "What are we really talking about here? Did Riku threaten you or something? Or Sora? Because I told them that was not cool."
"They don’t have to," he huffed, "They've talked enough trash at enough guys that we all get the picture—no messing with the sister figure unless we're serious, and even then there might be broken fingers if you get your heart broken. I knew that going into this." He set his drink down, leveling a stare at her until she looked away. "I actually care about you, Kairi. Enough to lie to one of my teammates day in and day out so I could keep seeing you, and we both know what Riku's going to do to me when he figures it out. So what I need to know here is, are you serious? What are we doing here? And God, doesn’t it bother you that you're sneaking around like a cheater because your best friends are too uptight to let you live a little?"
She shrugged, shredding corners off the soggy napkin beneath her lemonade.
"Well yeah, it does a little," she admitted, "But they mean well. They just want me to have what they have. They don't understand that not everyone can grow up perfectly in tune with a conveniently available soul mate." She looked up, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as his expression just sort of… froze. "Some of us have to play it by ear."
"Yeah, some of us," he agreed, drumming a finger against the tabletop for a moment before he sat forward, gaze hardening. "But let's be honest, Kairi. Your problem is that you thought you had that in like two guys until you realized they weren't making a move because they were too busy screwing each other."
Kairi jerked back, away on reflex before she caught herself, breath catching at the nerve it took to hit that particular panic button and really, she hadn't thought he had it in him to be so cruel. She couldn't quite bring herself to be angry, not when he was poking at an open sore that wouldn't have hurt her if it hadn't been there to be prodded in the first place, but everyone had been so nice when it hit the school grapevine that Sora and Riku were together that she hadn't ever had to deal with someone pointing out how stupid she'd been to assume that either of them felt that way about her. They all felt too sorry for her to pry.
They didn't have to. She wasn't sorry, she wasn't, because that would make her jealous and that just wasn't fair. So why should anyone worry about her?
Kairi hugged her arms tighter around herself and looked away. "If this conversation is about to take a turn for the homophobic, you might as well just consider yourself dumped. This goes a long way beyond the usual pity me whining."
"It's not homophobia," he insisted, "It's practicality. I don't want to date someone who's all hung up on someone else, let alone two someone else…es. And they're always threatening to beat the crap out of anyone who goes near you. Kairi, you're never going to have a life of your own at this rate. They like keeping you close by when they want your attention, don't you see that?"
"Because it's so wrong that my friends want me around?"
"It is when it keeps you from having a normal life!"
There was a long moment where they stared at each other, Kairi's mouth working silently as she struggled to find something to say that wasn't unforgivable, choking on all the things she could never say. It was always like this at the end, when they started pushing and made her face the fact that she was never going to love them (cute, funny, totally dateable guys, what was wrong with her?) because there was too much of herself she could never share without sounding like she was off her nut. Forget everything she'd seen or being a Princess of the Heart, she had another person living inside her, one with feelings who couldn't love someone who couldn't even see her, who'd accepted long ago that the person she wanted was in love with someone else and was perfectly content to revel in the loss.
It left half her heart out of the equation whenever she tried to draw away from Sora and Riku (and Roxas, Naminé liked to remind her), when they'd already drawn away from her. What was she supposed to do with that? She wasn't even sure whether to be sad or lonely or just really angry that they'd forgotten her.
"You don't understand," said Kairi, mostly to herself but she could see him tensing up across from her, preparing to argue. She didn't give him the chance, digging her wallet out of a pouch to leave some money on the table beneath her glass for the waitress, scraping her chair back. "It's not about finding the courage to stand up to them to save my perfect existence from the taint of what might have been, or whatever you think I'm avoiding here."
She turned to go, pausing at the gate that separated café tables from sidewalk. "It's about what I want. And maybe I don't want a normal life."
She wasn't sure she'd ever had one anyway.