Disclaimer: not mine

There's a KH poll up on my profile for either Changing Destiny or a new story, not quite decided yet. Please vote even if you don't read Changing, it'll be interesting to see opinions.

Chapter 16

Sora pressed against Riku, trembling at the overload of emotion…that wasn't his. The pod didn't really mean anything to him, not emotionally anyway, it had just been where he'd woken up. The anger and despair weren't his, it was Roxas.

"Sora…" Riku whispered, and Sora burrowed closer, not ready to deal with anything. A large gloved hand moved to rest at the back of his head, steadying him. If Riku being in a different form had one good point, it was how he could wrap around him fully, hide him from the world. "It's okay, I've got you. Just breath, nice and slow."

Sora closed his eyes, forcing himself to match Riku's breathing. Hesitantly, he reached out, into his own Heart, if Roxas was feeling that because of the pod, then he had to be awake and aware. Was there a way for them to communicate? He shivered as a wave of anger hit him, feeling it feed at….NO! He focused, making sure he stayed calm, he was not letting Roxas push him into Anti-form. He tried to reach him again and then the room vanished.

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"Sora!" Riku cried in alarm as he felt him go limp against him, slumping bonelessly in his arms. He moved his hand around, feeling for a pulse, there and steady. He supported Sora's head and Neck even as he eased him back enough to see his face, Sora's eyes were closed, face slack. He didn't look asleep…was this because of Roxas….could Roxas suppress Sora, take control?

"Sora? Come on, wake up," he begged, shaking him slightly, but there was no response. He stood up, cradling Sora's limp form close, before turning and running back to the control room. "Donald!" he called as he rushed in, kneeling down with Sora in easy reach of the duck.

"What happened?"

"He passed out after saying he could feel Roxas," he explained as Donald checked him over.

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Sora found himself standing on a stained glass platform similar to the ones he'd seen in that weird dream so long ago, back before the Islands fell. Standing across form his was someone dressed in an Organisation coat, everything hidden, but… "Roxas?" he seemed about the same height and probably a similar build, the coat made it hard to tell. "I'm sorry," he offered, shifting nervously.

The hooded head tilted slightly as if in question.

"It's not right, you're a person too. You deserve your own life," he told him.

Roxas shifted slightly before slowly reaching up to his hood, lowering it. Sora was surprised, he couldn't see any real similarity between them except for the spikiness of Roxas' hair. His eyes were blue but a very different shade and even a different shape. It was weird but…Sora had expected them to look more alike.

"You really believe that?" Roxas asked, arms crossed, disbelief clear.

"Yeah, I do. If you weren't then we wouldn't be talking, right? You wouldn't have your own emotions and thoughts. Maybe we were one person before I turned into a Heartless, but now we're different. You deserve to be able to live your life too."

"Even if that means you become a Heartless again?" he snapped.

Sora shook his head. "There has to be another way."

Roxas frowned, "maybe…"

"Maybe?" he grinned, and Roxas stared at him with wide eyes before scoffing and shaking his head.

"Ask your friend if he knows anything about Replica's. I heard Vexen and Zexion talking about them at one point, before they died at Castle Oblivion. Something about fake bodies just needing Hearts or memory data. He spent enough time spying on the Organisation he might have heard something."

Sora could tell Roxas didn't really believe him, but at least they weren't fighting? "I'll talk to Riku," he agreed. "And Merlin, he's a really powerful Wizard, he might know a way. And maybe…we can talk, without needing to do this? I won't shut you out." He took a step towards Roxas who just stared at him, so he kept going. Once he was close enough he reached out and took Roxas' hand, feeling familiar callouses from a Keyblade. Roxas tensed but Sora grinned at him. "I'd like to be your friend," he told him. "In a way…we're kind of brothers."

"Friend?" Roxas stared at him, before laughing, shaking his head. "Maybe it really does have to be you."

What?

Then Roxas gripped his hand back. "I've only ever had one friend before, Axel. Sora, if you see him…"

"I won't fight him unless he gives me no choice," he promised.

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Roxas stared at him, was he for real? He would stay away from Axel, for him? Was he really serious about finding a way to let Roxas out? Sora was…confusing. He'd wanted to hate Sora but seeing him…he couldn't. There was just something about him that made it impossible. He hadn't been aware the whole time since re-joining him, mostly snippets here and there of his journey. He risked everything to save strangers, even while longing for friends and home.

He summoned his Keyblade, seeing Sora's eyes widen, and then he pulled off the Keychain, holding it out to Sora. "Defeat Xemnas," he told him.

Sora took the Keychain from him and nodded. "We will," he promised as he began to fade away. "If I had to have an Other, you're a good one," he whispered as Sora vanished.

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Goofy hovered at Donald's shoulder, worried as Sora lay limp in Riku's arms. What could have happened to him? Why had he wondered off when they needed this room to get to the digital world. He knew Donald was just as worried, they were both so much older than he was. Donald had nephews and he had a son, it had been so easy to slip into the role of looking after Sora like he was family too. And yet it was different too, in some ways, he was their equal, a friend.

He was glad that Sora had found Riku, he accepted it was really Riku, how could he not with how gentle he was with Sora. This was the Riku that Sora had grown up with, before he was influenced by outside forces. It was obvious how much he cared about Sora and that was a relief. They just had to ensure both boys survived the coming fight and find some way to return Riku to his own appearance.

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Riku cradled Sora to his chest, rocking him slightly, stroking a hand through his hair, praying he'd wake up. As if in answer, he shifted slightly, beginning to stir. "Sora?" he called softly, eyes locked on Sora's face. Would it be him who opened his eyes?

"Mmm." He pressed into Riku's hand in his hair, and then his eyes fluttered open, revealing familiar bright blue. Sora blinked dazedly up at him and then began trying to sit up. Riku cautiously loosened his hold, a hand on his back to help him.

"Sora?" he asked, and Sora looked at him.

"I'm okay," he answered. He looked down at his closed hand, opening it to reveal an unfamiliar Keychain. "Two Become One," he whispered, smiling softly.

"Sora?" Donald called, and Sora looked up at them, grinning.

"I'm fine, really. I saw him, Roxas. We really don't look anything alike," Sora leant back into him, and Riku hugged him close, relieved. It was Sora, not Roxas. The Nobody had what, wanted to meet him? To talk?

"No, you don't," he agreed. He didn't know why Roxas looked the way he did but he was glad, he didn't want the memories of Sora tainted by Roxas wearing his face.

"I told him I want to find a way to let him out, to give him a body and life of his own," Sora admitted as the Keychain vanished to wherever they were stored.

"Sora…"

"He's not me guys, it's not fair that he can't have a life." Sora looked up at him. "Do you know what a Replica is?" Sora asked him.

"I've heard the term and…Naminé said there was one made of me in Castle Oblivion. That no one could tell the difference between us. He thinks a Replica could let him out?"

Sora nodded. "I promised not to fight Axel unless he attacks."

"They were friends," Riku sighed, "he helped Naminé get away, DiZ wanted her killed because she's a Nobody."

"A Nobody?" Donald demanded in alarm.

Riku nodded. "She's Kairi's Nobody, formed when Sora released her Heart back in Hollow Bastion. The organisation used her, threatened her, to get her to mess with our memories at Castle Oblivion but when given a choice, she helped us."

"So she's a good Nobody, like Roxas," Sora said, and Riku smiled slightly.

"Yeah," he agreed, despite his issues with Roxas. In the end, he felt sorry for the other, he didn't hate or even really dislike him. If Sora's waking hadn't depended on him, Riku would have left him alone, maybe tried to befriend him.

Sora pulled away again and stood up. "Kairi needs us," he said, and Riku stood as well. He activated the computer and soon they were in the digital version, where the computers had been destroyed by a Keyblade.

Riku stared at the entrance, he wasn't sure he wanted to go back to the World where he had faced Roxas, but there was no choice. They had to stop the Organisation, and find Kairi. But…if Axel had taken her then he wouldn't have taken her there. He hadn't had the chance to speak with him since before that must have happened so he wasn't sure of Axel's motivation; was he using her as bait for Sora…or had he stepped in to keep her from the others?

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Kairi spun around, eyes widening as a portal opened in the back wall of her cell, shocked when a girl her age appeared, dressed in a white dress.

"This way!" the girl called to her, waving her on, even as Pluto got up.

"Who…?" there was something oddly familiar about her.

"Believe in yourself. C'mon, hurry!"

Kairi hesitated, but in the end, what did she have to lose? Outside of the cell, she'd have a better chance of escaping. She walked over and took the girls hand, following her into the portal.

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Sora attached the new Keychain to his Keyblade, feeling it change, before he threw himself into the fight. As soon as they'd entered the strange place they'd been swarmed by Nobodies. "It's no use!" he panted after what felt like an eternity of fighting, Riku at his back.

"Don't stop moving, or the darkness will overtake you!" a voice called out. Sora started, staring with wide eyes as Axel jumped in and sliced at a few Nobodies with his chakram. "Get goin'!" he yelled at them.

"Why?" Sora asked, confused.

"Don't ask. Just do it!" he yelled even as he was pulled to the ground.

Sora rushed over and knocked the Nobodies away. "You okay?" he asked, even as Riku took out a Nobody behind him, watching his back.

"I kidnapped Kairi, but she got away from me. After that, Saïx caught her. He's a member of Organization XIII. Saïx. Got it memorized? Now go save her!" Axel explained, eyes moving to Riku. Did they know each other?

Sora whirled around and knocked a Dusk back. "Leave us alone!" he snapped, feeling the power build, but this time it was pulled into…a new drive form?

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Riku spun as Sora was swallowed by light. It faded and he stared in awe as Sora literally hovered above the ground, his clothing now silver and black, two Keyblades literally floating at his back. He felt…complete…powerful. He was…incredible, and Riku actually stopped breathing as he watched Sora almost float through the horde, before shaking it off as a Dusk nearly got him.

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Axel grimaced as he ended up back to back with Sora and Riku. "I think I liked it better when they were on my side," he admitted.

"Feeling a little...regret?" Sora asked, his strange transformation gone now. It had been odd, but…he could have sworn he felt Roxas while Sora had been like that.

"Nah...I can handle these punks. Watch this!" he smirked at the kid. He knew what he was about to do was the end, foolish maybe but…Sora was all that was left of Roxas, he wouldn't let him die.

He jumped into the centre of the Dusks and focused his energy. His chakram spun around him spouting fire which was neat. He wasn't sure what this would do, not like it was something he could practice after all, but it would have to be enough. He screamed, creating a gigantic torrent of flames, actually feeling the burn of the fire for once. He felt his strength draining away, barely felt it as he hit the ground.

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"Whoa!" Sora gasped as the Dusks burned to nothing. That was amazing! He grinned, turning to congratulate Axel, feeling a pulse of pride from deep within….until he saw Axel lying on the floor. Sora rushed over to him, dropping to a knee. "You're...fading away..." he whispered.

"Well," Axel coughed, "that's what happens when you put your whole being into an attack. You know what I mean? Not that Nobodies actually HAVE beings...right? Anyway, I digress. Go, find Kairi. Oh, almost forgot... Sorry for what I did to her," he gave a shaky smile.

"When we find her, you can tell her that yourself," Sora insisted as Riku joined them, checking on Axel who weakly grabbed his wrist.

"Think I'll pass. My heart just wouldn't be in it, you know? Haven't got one," he laughed weakly. "Don't waste your energy…" Axel told Riku.

"Axel, what were you trying to do?" Riku asked.

"I wanted to see Roxas. He...was the only one I liked... He made me feel...like I had a heart. It's kind of...funny... You make me feel...the same... Kairi's in the castle dungeon. Now go." He held his hand up, opening a Corridor for them.

"Axel..." Sora grabbed his hand, feeling Roxas' grief, a tear slipping from his eye, even as he leant in close, whispering to Axel.

Green eyes went wide, a small smile touching his lips before he faded completely away with the smallest flicker of flame.

Riku gently gripped his shoulder. "Sora, are you okay? Roxas?"

Sora turned to him, hugging him tight, and Riku hugged him back. "It hurts," he admitted.

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"The house is looking pretty empty, huh? I thought I'd get a little enjoyment watching Axel throw one last tantrum, but he went a lot quieter than I thought," Xigbar broke the silence.

"Perhaps he was ready for it. Perhaps he put his existence on the line and won what he'd been longing for," Luxord suggested, lounging back on his chair, shuffling the cards. Nothing had been the same since Xemnas had become rather obsessed with the Keyblade wielder. They'd lost so many of their members trying to control the boy, but was it really needed?

"Wait a minute. How would that even be possible? We don't exist, remember? What you're saying goes against the laws of nature," Xigbar denied his word, and Luxord shrugged.

"Then perhaps he bet his NON-existence. Either way, he came out a winner. Oh, Axel. A grifter to the end." He had liked Axel, he'd liked Roxas too.

He glanced at Xemnas and Saïx, who was staring at the floor. Hadn't they been the best of friends when human? Even as Nobodies they had remained close, sometimes he wondered how close, but they had begun drifting apart in the months before Roxas' appearance. There was something about Saïx these days that had Luxord wary of him now, had Axel seen something and distanced himself?

"That's absurd. He won nothing and is nothing. He couldn't stand the emptiness of being without a heart, and that led to his demise. He was foolish and weak," Saïx spoke without even attempting to fake emotion.

"But..." Xemnas spoke and Saïx finally looked up.

"Weakness has the power to awaken that which is dormant. It is clear that through his actions, however foolish they may have been, Axel has touched Sora's heart. Perhaps HE will soon awaken."

He? Roxas? Was that possible? They had all tried to rouse Roxas within Sora and yet nothing had happened, had it?

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Mickey frowned as he received a note from Master Yen Sid, he'd detected Sora in Twilight Town and now he'd vanished. He made his way to the World as quickly as possible, finding their trail, relieved when he realised Riku and Sora had been reunited. He'd known Sora would accept him! He knew what DiZ had down with the fake town and went there, finding the entrance to The World That Never Was. He just hoped he got there in time to help!

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They moved as quickly as they could between fights, reaching a place very familiar to Riku, the skyscraper unchanged from his last visit. He glanced at Sora, seeing him staring at it in a daze. He reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. Sora looked up at him, and he could see Roxas in him. "I'm sorry," he whispered, and the sense of Roxas pulled away, sinking back into Sora's heart.

"What happened here?" Sora asked, rubbing at his Heart.

"This is where I fought Roxas, where…" he couldn't say it, looking away, and then Sora was holding onto his arms, unable to reach his shoulders.

"This happened?" he asked softly, and Riku nodded.

"Roxas is as strong as you," he offered a small smile.

"Of course he is," Sora grinned back at him. "Come on, we need to get to the Castle and find Kairi."

Riku nodded, not complaining when Sora kept hold of his hand as they made their way to the bridge.

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Saïx stared at the empty cell, frowning. How had the girl escaped? She was proving to be rather frustrating, if he felt such emotions. Still, Sora had come for her, was she really needed anymore?

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Kairi huddled with Pluto in a corner, Naminé keeping watch. They'd had to stop to let her rest, being stuck in that cell had weakened her. They'd fed her but only the very basics and there hadn't been a lot of room to exercise. "So how do we get out of here?" She asked.

"We don't, not yet. Sora and Riku are here, looking for you and….there's something here you need," the blond girl answered.

"What?"

"Your Keyblade," Naminé smiled at her, and Kairi stared in shock.

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Riku paused as they made it into the Castle, frowning slightly as he sensed…Naminé? And behind them…Mickey? What was he meant to do?

"Riku?"

"Naminé's here, with Kairi,…and King Mickey is behind us," he answered.

"Okay…" Sora stared at him. "So we wait for the King to catch up and…and you go after Kairi and Naminé."

"Sora?" Riku frowned in confusion.

"Neither of them is a fighter and the Castle is full of danger. They need you," Sora smiled at him. "We'll wait for the King and catch up," he promised. "I…I recognise this place," he admitted. "I think Roxas is giving me the layout, so we won't get lost."

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They snuck down the hall and into the room, once they got the sealed door open. They walked inside the room, seeing what looked almost like a museum collection.

"Here," Naminé called, and Kairi approached.

On the table was what looked like some kind of keychain…like she'd seen on Sora's Keyblade. Naminé nodded at her so she reached for it.

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"You're sure?" Riku asked him, and Sora nodded.

He wrapped Riku in a brief hug, happy that he returned it. It seemed he was getting over his idea of infecting Sora with his Darkness which was good. He hated the idea of splitting up again, part of him terrified that this time Riku wouldn't come back. He tugged him down, seeing his confusion, and then he pressed his lips to Riku's. He'd been thinking of it since seeing Will and Elizabeth and yeah, it was a little weird with Riku in that form, but it was still Riku. He looked at him and saw the Riku he remembered, just a little older, his hair longer and…wearing a blindfold?

Sora let go and stepped back, staring into wide eyes. "Go, help them," he told him, struggling not to blush too badly, to meet his eyes, hoping he hadn't ruined everything.

"Sora…."

"Go."

Riku backed away, lifting a hand to open a Corridor, vanishing into it.

Sora was thankful that Donald and Goofy said nothing.

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Naminé and Kairi ran down the steps at Twilight's View, Pluto following behind. Naminé's form shook slightly and Kairi was worried about her. Naminé said the others were there, they just had to find them and they'd be safe. Just because she had a Keyblade now didn't mean she knew how to use it! They stopped running when they saw Berserker Nobodies and Saïx appeared at the bottom of the stairs.

"Naminé... There you are."

"Naminé...?" Kairi glanced at her, what were they going to do now?

"Kairi. I'm afraid leaving is not an option," he held his hand out to her. "I'll take you to see Sora."

She didn't believe him….well, no, he probably would do that, but not in a way that would be good for her or Sora. She shifted into a defensive stance.

"You don't want that?" he asked as if curious, withdrawing his hand.

"I do. More than anything. But not with you around," she spat at him.

"If I had a heart, this would be where I die of laughter." He then turned, and she looked passed him, to see the Nobodies vanishing, a figure fully covered by a black coat and holding a blade standing over them. "You... Didn't Roxas take care of you?"

"You can take it from here, Riku."

"Riku!?" Kairi gasped, looking from the figure to Naminé and back again as the blond faded away, like she'd warned would eventually happen.

The figure's blade vanished and he shot fire at Saïx. Saïx blocked with his arms, then jumped backwards. The figure grabbed him and slammed him against the wall. Saïx put a hand to the wall and created a dark portal. He smiled as he escaped into it and the figure started to enter.

Kairi bolted down the stairs, "Wait!"

Pluto ran up to him and the man backed away from the dog, but Pluto stayed with him.

Kairi walked towards him. Riku...you're really here..." she whispered.

There was something strange though…he was too tall, wasn't he? Too broad… but Naminé had seemed so sure and Naminé had come from her. That had been a big shock. She reached up for his hood and he went to pull away, freezing at her glare. She pushed it back and her eyes widened, even as he looked away.

"Riku?" she whispered. He looked like…like the one Riku had held back when Sora had been turned into a Heartless. She took a breath and forced herself to ignore his physical appearance….Riku…it really was him.

TBC…