AUTHOR: Amet (amet)
FANDOM: Kingdom Hearts
RATING: PG-13 (for now)
SUMMARY: This is your mess, boy. Now it's time to clean it up.
PAIRINGS: Riku/Roxas(Sora) Confusing enough?
WARNINGS: Angst, I suppose. More warnings as the story progresses.
SPOILERS: If you don't know who Roxas is, maybe a little.
ARCHIVED: Onion Girls
FEEDBACK: Yes please! ^.^
THANKS: To sephyelysian, because duh. ♥
AUTHOR'S NOTES: When last we left our heroes they were being emo. Nothing's changed, except that there's more Riku and crew in this chapter, and a Disney cameo. Next chapter should bring us back to Roxas.
If you haven't seen The Three Caballeros, this is Panchito and José Carioca (and again with their buddy Donald), who are the first of the Disney cameos in this piece. I should also note that Riku's still calling his keyblade Soul Eater because he still seemed to think of it that way in the cutscenes late in KH2. I'm going with it.
| back to 0; The Shell
Name der Rose
A Kingdom Hearts Fanfiction
1; The Herald
The portal opens to a desolate landscape, the charred, skeletal remains of what was once a quaint little forest village buried under a thick layer of ash and debris. Dawn is just beginning to broach the horizon, a fan of pastel pinks and oranges casting shadows over the rubble, random shapes as meaningless as the wreckage itself. Both tell him nothing he needs to know. There are no bodies here, just ash so steeped in darkness the stench of it burns its way down the back of Riku's throat with every breath.
Some savior he is, just in time to watch the last embers of fire die out among the rubble.
His movements are clumsy, every crunch of his boots against the gravel or tinkle of ornamental beads against the front of his robes shattering the silence and it feels disrespectful, faltering his progress as he searches. For what, he isn't sure, but the keyblade is whispering, sibilant little hints of things to come that tell him something is still left unfinished here.
The Heartless have taken a hundred other towns just like this, but the ash scattered across the ground here is just as much the remains of the Heartless as it is the husks of burned homes. It seems as many of the monsters died not soon after ripping the inhabitants of this place apart, possibly the inhabitants themselves once they gave in to darkness, so where are the footprints of the survivors who would have slain them? The ash is everywhere, so unless these people can fly (and great, now he's going to have to check on that before he leaves) something else is going on here.
Not that he knows what. Shouldn't he have had some kind of training before DiZ booted him out here to play junior sleuth?
He finds his answer half-buried under the remains of an old-fashioned country cottage, what's left of its thatched roof caved in over a scattering of charred supports, debris scattered across the ground. The man's face is so caked with soot it takes a moment for Riku to recognize him as a person, barely conscious, barely alive, but as Riku's luck would have it the man still somehow finds the wherewithal to wrap fingers blistering with burns over the hilt of a broken sword and sneer at him.
He kneels, gets right up in the guy's face with as neutral an expression as he can manage to put a stop to any idea that he's going to take on a cripple like he's an actual threat, almost reaches out before it occurs to him that any contact will only aggravate the man's injuries, bring more pain than comfort. It's a sobering thought, and it leads to a moment of awkwardness that leaves a little too much time for Riku to flounder. He's never been good with this supportive stuff, sure as hell not with a stranger.
"Come to finish me off?" the man sneers, trying to affect disdain that doesn't quite come out right in a near inaudible croak, making to draw away before it becomes obvious that the rubble crushing his chest doesn't bend that way.
"Who do you think I am?"
Riku already knows the answer. These are Organization robes, after all, a guise the king hoped would allow him to move more freely through the darkness without being recognized at every turn. Sometimes they work a little too well, and all Naminé's speculations about his worth as a denizen of light are useless, when one unsuspecting soul looks at him and sees him for the monster he is.
"Disgusting," the man is saying, ignoring his question, deformed features pinching with anger, "That a man would betray us all to fight alongside those creatures."
His hair is gone, which looks all the stranger as Riku takes a long, hard look at the features beneath the soot and dried blood and realizes the guy can't be that much older than him. The left side of his face is eroded away, melted off in the heat of the fire that destroyed this place, a mess of burns and gore. He won't last long, which is probably the only reason he's still alive, messed up and buried as he is he's of little use to the Organization or anyone else. Riku's almost grateful for that, it means his witness doesn't have time for bullshit platitudes before they get down to business, that he won't have to pretend he feels really, really bad for the poor bastard's suffering when all he really feels is impatient to get on with it already so he can get back to his real assignment.
He wants to sit with Naminé, to watch Sora. It's peaceful in the white room, sterile, so far removed from this insanity sometimes Riku can't decide which reality is real. He knows which one he wants, anyway.
"You're wrong," he tells the man, correcting to be contrary and Naminé would accuse him of pouting for not getting his way, but he doesn't care right now. "The Organization is made up of powerful Nobodies. They only look human."
He receives a blank stare for his trouble.
"Nobodies," he repeats, trying not to be his usually charmingly impatient self at a dying man. "The white creatures with the zipper mouths? Would've been harder to fight off than the Heartless, they think about more than just the hunger."
Still nothing. He wonders for a wild moment if the man is dead.
"I'm not one of them," he adds for good measure, just in case.
The man finally looks at him, eyes bright and more lucid than Riku expects of a man in that much pain. "What does that make you, then?"
"The schmuck who's trying to stop them," he says, crossing his arms over his chest defensively before he remembers that Naminé says that only makes him more imposing. He tries to soften his voice a little and asks, "What happened here?"
The man considers this, considers him for a long moment, weighing and measuring. Riku hates this part, always feeling wanting and depending on strangers to find him anything but to continue on. He feels dishonest in the worst sense, but this is what it takes to make a difference and that difference will matter to Sora in the end. How he feels about it is irrelevant.
"We'd never seen them before," the man finally explains, voice strengthening until it's almost like they're having a casual conversation about the end of his life. "The... Nobodies?" He looks to Riku for confirmation, continuing on when he gets a nod of encouragement. "The Heartless have been bolder in recent months, attacking in broad daylight, in swarms the likes of which we'd never imagined. We thought when they came again that it was nothing more than the hunger driving them forward, armed ourselves to defend the town. We've been beating them back for months now, it was nothing to us. But last night—"
The man's face pinches. "Last night, the white creatures followed. There were only a handful of them, but they seemed to be driving the Heartless forward, bolstering them when they faltered. And when we tried to defend ourselves, they protected the creatures, set fire to the town to drive women and children from their beds to be devoured."
He pauses, hand tightening on the hilt of his useless weapon. "We thought when the men came that they were our salvation. They fought the Heartless. I saw one destroy more than a dozen in less than a minute, he was so fast, but then he turned to a woman trying to thank him and he—he just shoved her away into the arms of the Shadows and then calmly cut her down when they'd turned her. It seemed as though they were trying to make more Heartless before they destroyed them, but why?"
Good question, Riku thinks. Aloud, he says, "I don't know, but I'm going to find out."
He will, not that it matters to this guy. Riku figures he's got maybe half an hour, max, unless—
"Do you want me to heal you?" he asks, because they're done here, and there's no use in pretending the man is anything but not-so-walking wounded when they both know the score.
"No," the man says, with a voice that brooks no argument, though Riku's not entirely sure he knows what a good curaga can do. "Please... I have nothing left."
He doesn't think about it, doesn't need to, shouldn't really be getting this hands on with the locals when it technically counts as meddling in otherworld affairs, but he's already knee deep in it, so what's a little assisted suicide between total strangers? Once the man's Heart is decided it's out of his hands, anyway. Soul Eater is with him before he's conscious of the will to summon it, a burst of light to rival the sunrise as it coalesces in his hand and then it's arcing down to sever the man's spinal chord, an impact that reverberates up Riku's arm with a finality that would be frightening if he hadn't done this a hundred times before.
Then nothing. Which is ironic, in a completely not amusing sort of way.
"That was kind of you."
He almost rolls his eyes as he stands, turning to face Naminé as she steps around a particularly foul pile of ashes. Trying to be sober after a line like that almost isn't worth the effort. He'd like to think it was a Nobody thing, that because of what she is Naminé just doesn't get that he's just killed a man, but the truth is she's so sensitive he has to hold his tongue just to keep from crashing her entirely.
He doesn't know why she's so dependent on him of all people, why she clings and acts like his opinion is the only one that matters, but he supposes when he's honest with himself that he needs that attention, a little. It reminds him of home, and isn't it messed up that he needs an admirer to feel normal?
He arches an eyebrow at her. "Decapitation? Not really about helping the helpless, but whatever."
"It was quick," she murmurs, falling into step beside him as he moves away from the body. "That's more than the Heartless would grant him."
"I'm a giving soul."
"You're ashamed of what you do to protect them," she says, ignoring his feeble attempt at humor, reaching out to take his hand. "Don't be. The creatures sense the light receding, with the king missing and Sora asleep. These are dark times. To protect ourselves we must do things that should be unconscionable."
"Yeah, yeah," he grumbles. "To defeat the monsters we need to walk in both the realm of light and darkness, blah, blah, blah. I get the pep talk every morning from the old man, Naminé. I don’t need the redux from you."
He spares a glance her way as they reach the edge of the rubble, noticing as he always does how untouched by her surroundings she seems, hair un-tousled by the wind howling through the trees, dress as clean walking through a fog of ash as it is in the white room. She doesn't seem terribly offended by his words, busy picking her way around more dangerous chunks of rubble and using it as an excuse to lean heavily into his side. He's grateful for that. He doesn't do so well when she cries.
"Headless guy recognized the jacket," he tells her, staring out towards the horizon, across the river where smoke is curling into the air, another settlement hidden beyond a line of trees. "The Organization took this town. Herded the Heartless in and let them have the townsfolk, then spent the next hour destroying the leftovers. Why would they do that? For fun?"
He doesn't get it, and that pissing him off in a way little has since this whole mess began, tugging at long neglected heartstrings attached to places and people and memories he can no longer feel. The apathy he drapes around himself is difficult to cling to in the wake of this much suffering, when he's the one stuck wading through the misery and chaos left behind after the Organization kicks over another anthill. Because even as he tells himself it's not his problem beyond the time it takes to track the freaks back to whatever hidey-hole they've crawled into, he knows he should care. Sora would care.
Sora would do something about it.
He wishes he could remember why he's so certain of that.
"Riku..." Naminé's hand tightens in his.
He spares her a glance, tries not to wonder if the note of concern creeping into her voice is real or just some fabrication of what Naminé thinks concern is, looking far too aware of his thoughts for his liking.
"Don't worry," he assures her. "I'm not going to take these guys head on until I know what they're planning."
He knows he's reckless sometimes, but he's not a moron.
They wade across the river. There isn't much choice, seeing as the only bridge in sight is a singed pile of tinder at the bottom of it. Riku finds himself hip-deep in freezing water before he thinks too closely about it, sorely missing his waders and the temperatures back home that would have made this all so much less uncomfortable. Naminé holds her sandals high above the waterline and giggles, squishing her toes in the mud, unaffected by the temperature as she pauses to pick a rose from a bramble tangling out of the embankment on the other side with a delighted smile.
She cuts her hands on the thorns, lets the blood drip down over her forearms and onto her dress as she examines the flower she's chosen like she's unaware of it. When he points it out she only shrugs and says, "It's for Sora."
And that's all right. They all bleed for Sora.
She takes his hand as he hauls himself out of the water, the rose and the blood forgotten, vanished like the sketchbook she uses to cast her spells when she doesn't need it. He doesn't like to think about it, the magic she weaves without thinking, turning his attention to the cool, dry hand in his. It's an odd counterpoint to the squelching his boots make against the footpath winding its way into the woods as they start towards the other town, Naminé hopping a little beside him as she stuffs her feet back into her sandals and tries to keep pace at the same time.
The Heartless are on them before they're past the first line of trees, grasping hands rising from a pool of darkness spreading at their feet. A handful of Shadows isn't a big deal, not much more than an annoyance as Naminé backs away to give him room, Soul Eater's eye snapping open angrily as he lunges forward—
Into a cloud of already disintegrating darkness.
Riku only just manages to hop back a step as another projectile slams into the ground beside him, kicking up thorns from nearby thickets as it narrowly misses an advancing Neo Shadow. He hops back again as another, and another thuds into the bark of a nearby tree, a shrill war cry echoing through the woods around them as he backs up far enough to cover Naminé, feeling delicate hands on his shoulders as she stands on tiptoe to look over his shoulder at the ensuing chaos.
He's not expecting the explosion of color that blunders onto the scene, a whirl of feathers and challenging screeches, the thundering echo of what looks like a pair of antiquated pistols as a fire engine red rooster-person-thing cackles and shoots another Shadow down. It cocks and fires wildly into the small clearing, missing half a dozen times before it finally succeeds in blowing the creature to bits. Its companion is only slightly more in control, a green parrot in an oversized helmet that hides everything but its curved beak and a herald's tabard that sports a very familiar insignia—the big eared profile of His Majesty, King Mickey—swinging a rough pike at the creatures inching towards him with a cackle of laughter.
"Onward, Panchito!" the parrot crows in a surprisingly deep voice, whooping as its weapon sweeps out to destroy another handful of Heartless. "Las Sombras, they will learn not to cross the messengers of the king!"
Riku tries not to cringe, wondering what in the hell Mickey was thinking hiring these jokers and half-waiting for them to do something to prove themselves worthy of their title all at once. He's gotten to know Mickey well in the past few months and the king isn't one to suffer fools lightly, not with so much at stake.
Behind him Naminé giggles, a delighted sound at odds with the pandemonium around them. Riku swings an arm back to move her as a bullet kicks up dust at their feet, scrambling away as another hurls debris from the thicket beside them. The shots are wild and reckless, somehow doubling back as they ricochet off rocks in the pathway, boomeranging into their intended targets when they manage to hit at all. 'Panchito' seems not to notice, hollering and pushing forward, back to back with its—his, Riku thinks—companion as they destroy the remaining Heartless in a flurry of feathers and bilingual curses.
When the dust clears the Heartless are gone and the bird-men are staring none too kindly at Riku. He doesn't have it in him to be shocked.
"You!" the parrot bellows, the blunt end of the pike stabbing at the dirt in punctuation as his companion ambles up beside him, holstering his weapons.
"Me," Riku agrees, nodding amiably. He hasn't decided whether to consider these two a threat yet, if they mean him harm or just woke up on the wrong side of the bird's nest this morning, but it can't hurt to needle a little. At least if they're angry they'll get sloppy enough to tip their hand—wing, whatever—one way or the other.
"You will tell us where His Majesty is!" Panchito insists, voice higher pitched than the parrot's, exuberant and proud as he straightens himself up to his full height and takes a step forward that wants to be menacing, the effect lost in the fact that he's only waist high on Riku.
"Will I?" Riku asks, throwing a glance over his shoulder just in time to catch Naminé's shrug. "What makes you think I know anything about your king to tell?"
The parrot jogs his head at Soul Eater, jostling his oversized helmet as the keyblade's eye flickers lazily toward him. "You are the Master of the Keyblade, no? His Majesty King Mickey left us to seek you out. Surely he has succeeded."
There's a particularly empty pit opening in Riku's stomach at that, the idea that these two can look at him and see—no.
"I'm not—" he starts, shaking his head violently, wanting to back away, but Naminé is still a solid presence at his back, observing quietly and doing her very best impression of an immovable object. "You've got the wrong guy. I'm no hero."
He's the ruin of one at best, a stupid boy with too much and too little power all at once—enough to destroy the worlds but not enough to put them back together, who should have wielded the ultimate weapon but lost it because he was too busy whining about how bored he was to pay attention to the darkness eating away at his Heart. He doesn't remember much about those days, most of his childhood and a good chunk of his journey through other worlds is a complete blank. He knows he grew up in a place called Destiny Islands, that his father is an overprotective geek who drives him insane. He knows that he has a dear friend named Kairi who played a vital role in dragging him out into the worlds beyond their little sanctuary, and he knows he did something unforgivable in some stupid, childish attempt to save her. He gathers from some of the other fractured memories he can scrape together that he was saving her from himself, at least in part. He remembers Kingdom Hearts—perfectly, in fact, no matter how hard he tries to forget—and King Mickey, who is far too kind to him when he deserves every moment of suffering the worlds hand down as punishment for his crimes.
But he can't remember why. Why he didn't care if the darkness overcame him, his world, all the worlds. Why the hatred and despair hit so hard and so fast, what made his life seem like a trivial thing that wasn't worth fighting for.
He can't remember Sora, the real hero who put the worlds back together and no one knows.
It's enough to make his half-dead Heart ache.
"That is the keyblade, is it not?" the parrot is asking, expression pinching. "And you would use it to drive las Sambras back into the darkness?"
"Then I say we have the 'right guy,'" the parrot declares, leveling his weapon at Riku. "Tell us where His Majesty is or—" he pauses, nodding to his companion as the rooster steps forward again.
"Or Panchito will shoot you."