Disclaimer: not mine

Chapter 26

Riku slowly opened his eyes, blinking in confusion, before pushing to his feet, looking around. "Am I in... Traverse Town?" he looked down at himself, seeing jeans, reaching to tug at the collar of his shirt. "My clothes have changed?" that was more than a little weird, he would have thought it even weirder if he could see the symbol emblazoned on the back. "Hey…" he turned only to find no one at his side.

His eyes went wide and he looked around for any sign of Sora, realising he wasn't just in Traverse Town…but the exact location where he had revealed himself to Sora, when Sora had been so happy to see him, had wanted to look for Kairi together, but Donald had said Riku couldn't go. It hadn't been easy getting over that rejection.

"Sora! Where are you?" he called, but there was only silence. Okay…so what had happened? "I remember we fell overboard after Ursula attacked...and then I think we opened a Keyhole. So...this must be one of the Sleeping Worlds. My Keyblade…it just sort of...popped into my hand when I needed it most," he spoke out loud just for the noise, staring at his empty hand. "Right. It's started."

"Wow! Where's your Portal?"

Riku gasped in shock at being snuck up on, looking toward the direction of the sudden voice. He spotted a blond-haired boy sitting on the arch over the fountain in the corner of the square.

"It takes something special to jump between grounds without one."

"Who are you?" Riku asked warily, he could see him but…he couldn't sense him…because they were in a Sleeping World? Wait…how could Traverse Town be one of the Sleeping Worlds when at this point, Sora should be arriving in it only to find Donald and Goofy. So what was going on?

"My name is Joshua," the blond introduced himself, legs swinging, as he studied Riku in return.

"What do you mean, 'Portal'?" he didn't seem to mean a Corridor, and Riku couldn't make those anymore anyway.

"Are we just skipping past the part where you tell me your name?" Joshua asked, smirking slightly.

"Riku," he gave his own name, earning a chuckle.

"Hello there, Riku. Portals are like gateways that link up our worlds. Apparently, the world you and I are standing in right now…well, there are two copies of it. It's been sort of split in half. Portals are what let folks like us cross between them."

"There can be two of a world?" he hadn't known that, was that how one version could be Sleeping while another existed?

"The world is as many things as people need it to be. The concept that we all live in the same world…that's just in our heads. Surely you knew? I'll tell you what, Riku. I've got a little errand for you."

"Sorry, I don't trust you," Riku denied, he'd learnt his lesson thank you very much.

"Aw, at least hear me out! I'm looking for a girl named Rhyme. She's the key to the Portal. And on the other side, who knows who we'll find? Maybe even your friend...Sora."

Riku froze at that, eyes narrowing. "You know Sora?"

Joshua laughed in response. "Now I have your attention." He dropped off the arch, landing as lightly as if he'd simply taken a step. "But, unfortunately, I don't know where he is. If he's not in this version of the world, I can only assume he has to be in the other one. Simple logic."

"Okay, you wanna find Rhyme? You got it. Let's go." He knew he was being rash, taking any chance at finding Sora again, but Joshua seemed to know something about what was going on. He'd help him, didn't mean he'd trust him. Of course that was when a group of strange creatures showed up and promptly attacked him.

Riku summoned his Keyblade, feeling the familiar weight but something was wrong, he felt…weak. He mentally groaned as he remembered what Yen Sid had said about unlearning what they'd taught themselves. Great. He ducked under a blast of fire, spinning on his heel to land a blow. He was fighting alone; Joshua having leapt back up on the arch to get out of reach. It was a more difficult fight than he was used to anymore but eventually the last one vanished. With that, Joshua joined him again, leading the way towards the Second District, Riku fending off more attacks along the way.

"Joshua, why don't they ever attack you?" he asked as they entered the lower courtyard. The place was empty, no sign of anyone even in the hotel above them.

"'They' being Dream Eaters? They won't go after you unless you're a dreamer. Which is funny because I've got plenty of dreams," Joshua shrugged.

"But they're definitely attacking me... So...you think I'm a dreamer?" Riku asked curiously, remembering Yen Sid telling them about Dream Eaters but it was strangely hard to do so.

"Every human being is a dreamer. I had a friend once who said he never dreamed of anything, but it turned out that his were the most powerful dreams of all. You sort of remind me of him. Why don't we give your dreams shape? In this world, they take form as Dream Eaters, which can become great allies," Joshua suggested, and Riku felt something strange, only for a bat like Dream Eater to appear, happily flapping its wings in front of him.

Had Joshua done that? Every human was a dreamer…and Joshua was never attacked. Did that mean he wasn't human? What else could he be though? He didn't feel like a Nobody.

"I gotchu now, Joshua!" A voice called from above. A tough-looking guy in a tank top and skull hat ran along the pathway in front of the hotel. He stopped in front of them and put a foot on the railing, pointing at his chest. "Once I take you down, yo, me and Rhyme is goin' back were we belong!"

"Beat," Joshua sighed, sounding mildly amused and frustrated. "How many times do we have to go over this? You've been tricked by that rogue in the black coat."

That definitely got Riku's attention. "What? Black coats? But that's..."

"I'm telling you you've made a friend of our enemy." Joshua leapt up to the walkway, apparently unafraid of the larger teen.

"Just can it, aight? Your inverse psychiatry ain't gonna work! Let's go, Dream Eaters!" He summons a Kooma Panda who happily walked over to Riku's Komory Bat…and how did he just know what they were? "What? Man, not cool!"

Joshua laughed but then ducked away as more Dream Eaters appeared, leaving Riku to fight them along with Beat's Dream Eater.

Beat sighed angrily. "You know what? Forget it." He sat on the railing in defeat. "This is stale, yo."

"Playing the tough guy 24/7? I'd be worn out too," Joshua smiled.

"I just...wanna protect the one person who matters."

"I know the feeling," Riku nodded only to stagger, a hand going to his head. He shook his head, vision swimming. "Why am I suddenly...so sleepy?" he stumbled, felt his legs buckle, unable to hold himself up as his eyes slid shut.

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Kadaj cradled his daughter in his arm, pointing out the stars to her as he rocked her gently. His son and future son-in-law were out there somewhere, taking an exam to become Keyblade Masters from what Riku had told him, and Cloud had confirmed when he came. Cloud had offered to take him to Radiant Garden where he could get a good replacement sword and continue working to get back into fighting form but he'd turned him down because he had no idea what to tell Donna. Cloud had left him a phone, very different to the ones they had used back home, but one that would reach Cloud.

He heard shouting in the distance and frowned, shifting his grip on Mia, slipping through the deepening shadows to see what was going on without anyone seeing him. Kadaj listened to the argument even as opinions seemed to shift to agreement…feeling sick and for the first time since he'd 'died' fighting Cloud he felt a flicker of the old power, pushing it down as the shadows shifted in response.

Kadaj turned and headed for Luna's, she needed to be warned, and perhaps…it was time for both of their families to leave the Destiny Islands. Getting Donna to leave may be impossible but if she remained it would be alone, he would not let Mia be raised with such small-minded views.

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Sora jolted awake, scrambling to his feet, confused. "Where is he?" he was completely alone, again. He really didn't like being alone, that was when things tended to go realty wrong. He pressed a hand over his Heart, feeling Roxas stir in reaction.

"They're both gone. Before I fell asleep, Neku said that he and that creep in the coat had a "deal." But what was the deal? Are the two of them in league? Was the whole missing partner thing just a trick?" he didn't want to believe that, Neku had felt trustworthy, but black cloaks meant Organisation nine times out of ten. But they'd beaten the Organisation…no, Master Yen Sid had said Xehanort had come back or would come back so maybe the rest had too? Ugh, it was all so confusing. Well, there was no point staying where he was so he headed back to the First District, keeping an eye out for anyone but only running into Dream Eaters.

The District was as empty as it had been before he met Neku and he sighed, leaning against the mailbox only to stumble as it moved. He blinked as a hidden entrance was revealed, well…that was new. He looked around, shrugged, and dropped down into it. it was fun flying along the various rails until he came out in a new District.

"Wow! Never been this way before!" He grinned, always excited to explore. Though he was very worried about Riku, he should have found him by now. He spotted a large stadium in the distance with balloons above it, it seemed like the kind of place he might find people.

He headed for it and grinned in relief when he saw someone younger than him talking to a Moogle.

"Hey, um...any chance you're Neku's partner?" he called as he approached.

"Huh?" the person turned; she really was just a kid. "Umm...I'm not really sure. All I know is that my name is Rhyme."

"You mean...you've lost your memory?" Sora winced; he didn't remember when he'd lost his but it couldn't be fun.

"Yep," she nodded.

"Oh. Sorry..."

"Aw, it's no big deal. You know what they always say… 'Sometimes memories just need a little help getting out'."

"Yeah...that's true. Huh, "a little help"... I've only seen one other person around… Maybe Neku can jog your memory?" he offered. Even if he'd been giving Sora to a black coat, that didn't mean he was bad, he could have been tricked. If Neku and Rhyme were the only ones there, they had to be connected in some way, right? "Come on, Rhyme, we'll find him and see.

"Right!" She smiled at him, trusting him, and Sora nodded. She was just a kid and she needed help. And protection, he summoned his Keyblade and Dream Eaters as they were attacked.

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Luna didn't want to believe it, but she'd spent more time around Kadaj in the time since their sons had left, they were the only ones who would accept their true relationship and it seemed Aulea was determined to turn the whole Island against the boys. Well then, fine, they apparently had other options. She would miss her home, miss the links to her beloved, but it was no longer a good place for her son or his love.

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Sora spotted Neku on the roof and helped Rhyme up there. "Hey Neku," he called warily, scanning for any sign of the black coated figure.

"Sora... What?" Neku stared at him. "What are you doing here? You know that I tricked you, right? That guy in the black coat, he said he could send me home - me and my partner - but I had to bring you to him first. Sorry," Neku hung his head.

"No big deal, they've tricked a lot of people. When it really mattered, you stood up for me. Want to start again, friends?" he offered. He could tell Neku was telling the truth, that he honestly felt bad for what he'd done. He couldn't hold it against him, he hadn't held Riku being tricked against him either.

"Friends..." Neku looked up at him and then slowly smiled, Sora smiling back.

"Oh, hey, Neku, this here is Rhyme. Is she your Game partner?" he asked, urging the girl forward from where she'd hidden in his shadow.

"No. Sorry. I'm teamed up with somebody else," Neku answered and then they both started as she vanished. "Huh?"

"What? Rhyme!" Sora leapt back, summoning his Keyblade as the black coated figure appeared in the centre of the rooftop. Neku ran toward the man, who knocked him away with ease. "Neku!" he yelled in alarm, turning to go after him only for a massive Dream Eater…a Nightmare to appear floating above him as the coated figure vanished into a Dark Corridor. "Huh? Hey, wait!" he ran forward but the Corridor closed and the Nightmare blocked his path.

"Out of my way!" Sora snapped as his Dream Eaters appeared beside him.

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Cloud was surprised when Kadaj contacted him so quickly but listened in growing concern to his words. "I'll come immediately, pack everything you want to bring. I'll borrow one of Cid's ships so there'll be room. Stay together till I get there," he warned before hanging up and heading to tell Cid he was taking one.

"Cloud?" Leon called.

"Sora and Riku's families are in danger," he answered, and Leon fell into step with him without needing to be asked.

The old Kadaj could easily have protected the group but he wasn't so sure he could anymore. Cloud could easily handle untrained civilians, but hopefully with backup, there wouldn't be a need to. He had to ask Cid to tell the others, including Tifa, and he felt bad about that, but they had to leave immediately.

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Riku staggered to his feet, blinking the sleep from his eyes. What had happened? had he…had he really just fallen asleep? He didn't remember Master Yen Sid saying anything about that happening. He glanced around but he was alone, where were Joshua and Beat? "Hello?" but there was no answer.

Seeing the doors to the First District he headed that way, hoping they were alright and had simply moved on.

"Hey, do you mind?" a girls voice cried out.

Riku turned and saw a girl running away from some Dream Eaters. He chased after them, finding them surrounding her at a closed-off door. He summoned his Keyblade and launched himself into the air, landing between her and the Nightmares. "Stay back," he warned her.

"Seriously, thanks. I'm Shiki, how 'bout you?" she practically chirped as soon as the last one was destroyed, and he turned to face her, Keyblade vanishing.

"Riku," he answered. He was trying to be better about talking to people other than family or Sora and Kairi.

"Thanks, Riku," she smiled at him.

"Sure," he shifted uneasily, turning to leave.

"Hey! That's it? You chat up a girl and then just say, "Sure," and walk off?" she yelled after him, and he turned back to her, taking a deep breath.

"I'm bad at this. Sorry. Look, it's not safe here. You should go home," he told her.

"If it's dangerous, how can you just leave me here? Aren't you my knight in shining armour?" She played with her doll while talking and winked at him. "Well?"

"Kn-knight?" he stammered, no, just no. He was not good at being anyone's knight. "You've got the wrong idea."

"Omigosh, I was so just kidding. You get out much?" She giggled, and he crossed his arms, looking away, feeling his face warm. "You remind me of this guy I know. Well, good thing we met."

"Yeah, great." And of course she insisted on following him as he headed into areas he'd never realised existed the last time he was in Traverse Town. Obviously, all the fighting was left to him, but that was good, he could feel himself improving with each one, though still nowhere near the level he was used to.

They eventually entered the Fifth District, seeing a big building with a lot of glass.

"Over there!" Shiki suddenly yelled, taking off.

"Hey! We should stick together!" he yelled only to hear her cry out in alarm. "Perfect," he sighed but then her doll landed at his feet. He summoned his Keyblade and took off after her.

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Kadaj finished packing up the nursery, taking the essentials. He left the furniture; he could hopefully buy or make whatever would be needed when they arrived. He even went up into the attic to get some of Riku's things, knowing he'd barely taken anything when he moved into Sora's. Anything left behind was likely to be destroyed or sold on so he was being careful to take everything with sentimental value. All the family photos, not that there were many from when Riku was young, the school awards Riku had won, even a silly trophy the boys had made themselves years ago.

"Kadaj? What are you doing?" Donna called, and he took a deep breath, she was not going to be happy.

"Packing," he told her as he walked downstairs, Mia in her carrier on his chest.

"Packing?"

"We're leaving the Islands," he informed her. "You should pack what you want."

"Kadaj you're not making any sense," she shook her head.

"Things are becoming dangerous and I am not bringing Mia up here. So pack and come with us or stay. Either way, Mia and I are leaving, Luna's coming too."

"Luna? This is all those brats fault isn't it?" she snapped.

"That is our son you're talking about Donna."

"You never cared about him before," she sneered.

"No, I let the past colour my reactions to him, but no longer. Riku is my son and it's likely that Sora will be our son-in-law once they're old enough."

"Never! I won't allow it!"

"I don't think they'll be asking your permission. I found one of my brothers' and he is coming to pick us up. Either come or stay here, alone." He headed back upstairs to continue packing, doubting very much she would be coming.

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Sora stared at the image of Riku running after a girl, they both looked almost see-through and that worried him. What was happening?

"Hold on Sora," an unfamiliar voice called.

He heard something and turned to see a portal, a blond teen appearing from it.

"Joshua," Neku greeted the newcomer.

"Hello, Neku. How long the days without you have felt," Joshua smirked at Neku even as Rhyme reappeared.

"Rhyme! I'm glad you're okay," Sora called, and she smiled at him. "Neku, do you know this guy?"

"Yeah. Joshua. He's my...friend," he didn't sound entirely positive about that.

"Okay... Are you the one who took Rhyme away? And...why do you know my name?" Sora asked, he'd shifted to stand out of reach of all of them, fingers half curled, ready to grip his Keyblade.

"If you'd like to settle down for a sec, I'll field your questions one at a time. Let's start with Rhyme, I'm hanging on to her dreams for her, they're my Portal," Joshua explained, and Sora frowned in confusion. "Let's just say, her dreams are a gateway between worlds. Next question - how could I possibly know your name, right? This town has a little secret, it only appears when someone out there has need of shelter. I'll spare you the details, but right now it's made up of my dreams. So of course I know you - I dreamed you up. I know your best friend, Riku, too." Joshua's smirk said he knew they were more than just best friends.

"Really? You know Riku?" he wanted to believe, but could he trust this stranger?

"Well, yeah. I'm kind of omniscient."

Omni what? "Then, where is he?" Sora asked.

Joshua turned toward the staircase, where Riku's image appeared again. "He's right inside this projection, in another imagining of this world."

"You mean...another Traverse Town? Can I get there with your Portal thing?" Sora asked hopefully. How could there be more than one Twilight Town and hold on…shouldn't his past self be in Traverse Town with Leon and the others? So how could it be a Sleeping World?

"Sad to say, it won't work for you. My "Portal thing" only opens for the one with Rhyme's dreams. In this projection, you're seeing another chain of events, in another world trapped by the Dream Eaters. As for how the world got split in two...I have a feeling you'll need to ask this guy," Joshua indicated the black coated figure pursuing Riku.

"Him again," Sora growled, hands balling into fists, wanting to be at Riku's side.

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"Hey, what is this?" Shiki asked in confusion.

Riku walked towards the image of Sora. "What are we...seeing?" he reached out to cup Sora's cheek but his hand went right through him, Sora not reacting.

"This is so messed up, man!" Beat knelt down to Rhyme's level. "She's right here in front of me and...I can't reach her!" he tried to grab her but like Riku, his hand went right through her.

"If your hearts are connected, you'll reach her," Riku murmured.

"Rhyme..." Beat moaned.

"Neku..." Shiki was standing before the third image of a teenage boy.

"Sora..." Riku wanted to touch him, to be assured that he was alright.

There was a flash of light and then suddenly Riku was alone except for Sora's image, and Joshua. This time though, Sora moved, tracking Joshua's movements. Riku waved his hand in front of Sora's face and his heart leapt into his throat as Sora lifted his hand in return, reaching for him.

"Sora…" he whispered, seeing Sora's lips move, knowing he was saying his name in return.

"In their world, something happened that brought their existence to an end. To keep them from fading altogether, I gathered up the very last remnants of their dreams and looked for a place to give them refuge. It was then this world appeared to answer my call, and Rhyme's dreams allowed us to reach it. Here, I thought they might have a chance - that the pieces of their dreams could make them whole again. Imagine my surprise when I realised dreams take bodily form in this world. It struck me - by linking their dream pieces back together, maybe I could make them exist again. Maybe I could give them another chance," Joshua explained, and it seemed Sora could hear him too.

"It can't be that simple," Riku frowned. Could it? Was that how Traverse Town could exist as a Sleeping World when he knew Sora was in the real one?

"Well, why can't it? By ourselves, we're no one. It's when other people look at us and see someone…that's the moment we each start to exist. All they needed was for someone to see them, connect with them. And the two of you were a big part of making it happen."

"Joshua, just...who are you?" he asked, there was no way a normal human could know so much and be in the two versions at the same time. And…Riku heard the whisper of Sora's voice asking the same question.

Joshua smiled at them both. "Let's say...a friend."

And Riku watched with wide eyes as two large white wings sprouted from his back Joshua flying up into the sky. What…how…?

A Keyhole appeared on the building in front of them and Riku glanced at Sora to find him looking at him. Something had gone wrong with the exam already; the Organisation was meant to be gone and yet seemed to have been reformed. They were interfering so was that reason to pull out? Would it work with them in separate versions of the Town? He held his hand up, signally, and Sora frowned but then nodded. They summoned their Keyblades and lined them up tip to tip. Riku grimaced when nothing happened, seeing Sora's worry too. He glanced at the Keyhole, looked like there was no other option, they'd have to go forward, for now. He looked at Sora who nodded, looking determined, and they raised their blades to seal the Keyhole and move to the next world. One down, six to go. As soon as he found Sora though, he was getting them out.

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Sora saw Riku grimace when their exit didn't work. He didn't blame him; something had gone really wrong already and now they had no way out. But if only Traverse Town was split then they should meet up in the next World, right? With the Keyhole sealed, hopefully Neku and the others would wake up or return home. Though it sounded like Joshua had brought them to save their lives, so maybe they couldn't go home. Would they wake up in the real Traverse Town? But then, shouldn't he have seen them at some point and he definitely didn't remember anyone who looked like them. It was all very confusing.

Light reached out, enveloping him, and Sora closed his eyes, letting it take him to the next World.

TBC…

So Sora's being a bit more wary than in the game, partially cause of Roxas.