Disclaimer: don't own KH
I know, another one.
"Roxas?" Riku asked in confusion, what was going on? Then again, Roxas was Sora's Nobody so maybe he needed to help wake Sora? Not like Master Yen Sid had given him an instruction manual on how Diving into Sora's Heart was meant to work and…he probably wouldn't have been willing to wait long enough anyway, not after seeing Sora slumped against the wall, unable to wake.
He'd beaten that strange Nightmare armour and hadn't been surprised when Sora's sleeping body had been released from it, but he hadn't been able to keep Sora from being swallowed by a pool of Darkness. Now he was being faced by Roxas who didn't seem angry at him or anything despite their last meeting.
"What is it that you're so afraid of?" the blond asked, confusing Riku further. Was it actually Roxas?
"Huh? Hmm... Losing something that's important," he finally answered, surprised when Roxas simply faded away. Okay then. Definitely still in some kind of dream, which of course he was since he appeared to be back home. He'd remember if he woke up in the Tower and then headed back to the Islands after all. Riku shrugged it off, walking to the beach.
He paused, staring in confusion. "Roxas?" he looked closer, the boy looked like Roxas but the clothing was wrong and he held himself differently…and was that armour on his shoulder and under his shirt? "No, wait..."
"What is the one thing you care about more than anything else?" the stranger asked, and there were differences in his voice too. What was with the questions though? Some kind of test? Did he have to pass for Sora's Heart to wake up?
At least this one was very easy. "My close friends." And the stranger vanished as soon as Riku answered. How many of these would he have to face before finding Sora? "What is going on?" he called but there was no answer. He…he couldn't sense Sora and that scared him but he had to trust that it would work. His back was itching again too
He looked over to the tiny adjacent island attached by the bridge and gasped, seeing someone with darker hair sitting on the bent tree trunk. "Sora!" he rushed up onto the bridge and then across it only to slow as he got closer. It wasn't Sora but a black-haired girl wearing an Organisation coat. "Who are you?" he asked, she wasn't at all familiar...was she?
"Riku. What do you wish?" She asked as she faced him and he was shocked by her resemblance to both Kairi and Sora. How was that possible? She seemed to know him too.
"More questions..." he shook his head, sighing. "All right... I wish...to recover something important that I lost."
The world flashed and for a second he reappeared back on the beach, an adult on the shore in the distance, before he screamed as something unseen latched onto him, pulling him in every direction. It hurt! Worse than being possessed...than Xemnas' blow…he was being torn apart. "SORA!" everything went black.
He made his way carefully along the bridge, no one used it anymore and it was shocking how fast it was falling apart. Then again, the storm that night hadn't been the only one to hit the place over the last few years, or so he'd been told. Their home had really taken a battering and now it looked like there was to be trouble there again. At least that's what he'd been told before being sent back to take a look. Frankly, he couldn't find anything out of place. He was dreading having to go over to the main Island to check, too many chances of running into someone who would recognise him – old friends…family. How would he explain being missing for years, surely they thought all three of them were dead by now?
He ducked, throwing up a barrier, Keyblade appearing in his hand as magic exploded nearby before everything went still again. Where once he would have run headlong towards it, now he was more cautious, approaching slowly. And then he was running as he saw a body hit the water, hard, slipping under the waves and not coming back up. He kicked his shoes off before moving into the surf and beyond, diving under the waves to get through quicker. He dove deeper, chasing the sinking body, getting an arm around them, kicking back to the surface to get some air, missing his mer-form as he did, it'd make it so much easier. He took a moment to breath and then began towing them back to shore, working to keep both their heads above the waves. The magic had agitated the water around the Play Island to storm levels, but he'd swum in worse…just not weighed down by someone else.
He heaved them onto the shore and caught his breath, before leaping to his feet and summoning his Keyblade as he got a proper look. It couldn't be…why would he come back? Then again that entry hadn't been controlled at all so maybe he hadn't meant to come to the Islands?
The body on the beach moaned, eyelids fluttering, before the body jerked, coughing up seawater. Slowly, his eyes opened, struggling to focus, and then of all things…he relaxed.
"S'ra…" he coughed again before seeming to pass out, and Sora stared down at him in shock.
He…he'd sounded…relieved? No, it had to be a trick or something, some new ploy. Or he'd seriously messed up and hadn't meant to crash in the sea, and so was actually able to feel some level of gratitude that Sora had kept him from drowning…Sora tightened his grip on his Keyblade. He should do it now, while he was unconscious and unable to fight him, but something stayed his hand…some last tie of friendship? He stared at Riku lying on the beach and then he frowned, something wasn't right.
He moved closer and nudged him with his foot but Riku remained seemingly unconscious. He kept the Keyblade ready but then crouched, looking him over before his eyes widened in shock. What? He shakily reached out and carefully pulled back an eyelid to find no trace of gold but how was that possible? While so close, he checked his pulse, steady if a little fast, so he wasn't likely to up and die on him.
It didn't make any sense and Sora didn't know what to do but…if it was at all possible…he released his Keyblade and then got his arms under Riku, lifting his limp body up and carrying him to the hut. He was too light and too short; he'd caught a glimpse of him not even three months ago and he'd been taller than he now appeared. He lay him down inside the hut and then reached into his magical pockets for the restraints they'd been given in case they could take a Vessel alive, attaching them to wrists and ankles. He wasn't going to do something stupid no matter how confusing the afternoon had become.
He ducked back out to get his shoes and then sat down opposite the unconscious form, wincing when he began shivering likely due to his soaked clothes. What was he wearing anyway? It was nothing like anything he'd seen Riku wear since those first months away from the Islands. A carefully controlled Aero spell dried them both off and Sora settled in to keep watch and wait for him to wake. He wanted answers...but how could he trust anything Riku might say?
He looked him over again, taking in the very short hair compared to what he remembered, he hadn't seen him with such short hair since…since before they hit double digits. This wasn't the same Riku he'd seen recently across a battlefield…this Riku was a teenager. But how? If his eyes were back to their natural colouring then did that mean…was Riku free? But what would that matter? His eyes had changed long before Xehanort had claimed him as one of his. Even if somehow losing the part of the old man's Heart had regressed him back to the age he'd been when taken over it wouldn't remove Riku's own Darkness. Hesitantly, he reached out with his senses to confirm that, shocked to find a core of Light within Riku's Heart. Just what was going on?
He was jolted out of his spiralling thoughts when Riku groaned softly, coughing, and Sora was glad he'd laid him on his side. There might still be some trapped sea water, hopefully not in his lungs. Hopefully…was he really hoping that Riku would live? After everything he'd done to them? Cyan eyes opened a sliver but appeared unfocused which wasn't good. "Wa…ter…"
Sora stared at him, wondering if Riku recognised him or not, if it was just a ploy to get him closer, but in the end he took out a water bottle and knelt beside him, lifting his head and holding the bottle to his lips. "Slowly," he warned, but Riku gave no indication he'd heard him. He drank the water, seeming to slip in and out of conscious afterwards.
Sora settled in to watch, frowning as Riku continue to cough, the sound becoming wetter as time passed. He didn't know what to do, it could all be part of some plot, he wouldn't put it passed Xehanort to be able to make a fake Riku or alter him like that. Even…even if Riku had seemed relieved to see him on the beach, there was no way to know that was real. But...what if it was? What if somehow Riku was back to the boy he'd known so long ago?
He could see Riku deteriorating before his eyes, his breathing laboured, sea water must have gotten into his lungs and…he had muscle but he was too skinny under that which would make it easier for him to become sick. His short hair was sticking to his face, his face flushed with fever. His head was moving restlessly, eyes moving wildly beneath closed lids.
Sora pulled out his medical supplies, wetting a cloth to wipe him down with, but also giving him a Panacea, just in case he'd been poisoned or something. He didn't know what to do. He knew most of the others would say to just leave him to his fate but if there was anything of his best friend…of the boy he'd known…he'd never forgive himself.
It was hard to make anything out of the delirious mumbling but his name was the easiest. He listened closely and it seemed…it seemed like he was worried about him? He tried not to let hope take root, but it was hard as Riku moved agitatedly, restricted by the restraints, but seemingly unaware of them.
He couldn't take him to the Tower or Land of Departure, but it had to be somewhere that would be secure…he sighed, running a hand through wild spikes. He carefully lifted Riku into his arms, feeling Riku shift, face pressing to his shoulder, body relaxing some as he did. He could feel the heat radiating from his body and he carefully summoned his Keyblade, opening a portal.
Ienzo turned in confusion as a Light portal opened in the lab, who could be coming? Most of the Keyblade wielders had no interest in them…and Sora stepped through, a trembling body in his arms. It was obvious with just a glance that whoever it was, they were ill, but why bring them to the Castle? He frowned in confusion before the hair colour registered, but that was ridiculous.
"I didn't know where else to take him," the Keyblade Master admitted, setting him down on the nearby examination bed, revealing his facial features.
Ienzo stood, watching warily, Sora's eyes were bright blue as normal but his expression was…troubled. "Sora is that…"
"Riku?" he asked softly, and Ienzo nodded. "I don't know," he admitted, confusing Ienzo even further, but he moved in and began attaching sensors to the unconscious form. Hmmm, his body temperature was rather alarming. He listened as Sora explained what had happened…and all the differences between the ill boy before them and the Riku who was with Xehanort.
"That is very puzzling indeed." It explained why he had brought the teen to the Castle though; they would not immediately kill the boy and may be able to discover the answers.
He pressed the alert button to summon the others and soon they had rushed in, all on alert with weapons in hand even before they saw the body in restraints. Sora backed away but it was comforting to see the Keyblade resting against his knees as he perched on the top of a bookshelf, ready to come to their defence should the appearance of illness be a trap. He didn't think it was, and he was hard to fool thanks to his own powers of illusion, they may be weaker since he'd regained his Heart but he still had them. They all did, another reason for Sora to have come to them, they could defend themselves unlike any hospital or most healers. It felt…nice that Sora would be willing to defend them considering everything that had happened in the past, for some reason he had never held their actions as Nobodies against them once they had been recompleted.
Sora told the story again for the others as they worked to diagnose the boy and also ensure he would be unable to harm anyone, Even smirking slightly when he tossed the previous restraints back to the young Master who rolled his eyes. "Hey, I'm not dumb enough to leave him unrestrained when it could be a trap."
"Of course," Even agreed.
Sora watched as they worked on Riku; Dilan and Aeleus keeping close watch and helping with the heavy lifting. He knew that while they trusted him, they felt better guarding the others as well, and he was fine with that. His grip tightened on his Keyblade as Riku went into some kind of fit, the monitors screaming with alarms, Even rushing to inject something into him, and then Ienzo was easing a tube down his throat. Slowly everything calmed, the maybe-Riku utterly limp, and they continued their work. Eventually Even moved off to the computers with what looked like a blood sample.
"His clothing is magical in nature," Ansem commented with a frown, "but the magic is not Dark in nature. In fact…it matches the signature in your own."
"What?" Sora stared at him in confusion. "But mine comes from the three fairies, all of ours does. They'd never…" another question. He studied the pale face, ignoring the tube taped into place in his mouth, helping him breath. "His scar…"
"Sora?" Ienzo called.
"There should be a scar on his face, but it's gone." He would never forget that scar because he'd been the one to put it there. It had been the first fight where he'd truly tried to kill Riku, when he'd finally forced himself to accept the Riku he'd known was gone forever. He'd seen the shock in yellow eyes and the next time they met the wound had healed into a nasty scar…left purposely as a way to get at him, to make him feel guilty for marking him.
"I cannot detect any sign of this boy ever having such a scar," Ienzo admitted after a while.
"His eyes aren't yellow anymore either," Sora admitted, and that definitely got their attention. "But…Riku's a year older than me."
"And this boy is not," Ansem shook his head. "Even?"
"The samples are being tested and analysed; we will have the results tomorrow. I can tell you that he is dehydrated and slightly malnourished, that appears to be a long-term condition, I'd say at least two years. If the idea is to bring him back to health then we will need to begin treating that. This is more than just inhaling salt water; his body is showing signs of massive trauma within the last few days and yet there are no wounds."
"Let us remove the clothing to be certain," Ansem told them, and Sora shifted but remained quiet as they went to work removing the clothing from Riku's unconscious body.
Aeleus sat Riku up to help the vest and shirt being removed and then his eyes went wide, visible even to Sora on his bookshelf. "You need to examine his back," the ex-Nobody stated and soon everyone was looking.
Sora dropped down to join them and could only stare dumbly at the marks literally burnt into Riku's skin. It was a symbol of some kind, covering his entire back, and the skin was even coloured slightly within the burn lines. "What is that?" he asked, he supposed it lent weight to the theory that this wasn't the real Riku, was it a Replica? But they made Replicas so it shouldn't have been a shock…so what else could the symbol mean?
"I do not remember every seeing such a mark. We will need to search the database," Ansem answered, and Sora grimaced, but nodded. The database was linked to several worlds which meant there was a lot of data in it, thankfully the computer could handle the searching.
"Is he human?" Sora asked.
"As far as we can tell from a basic examination. The test results will prove either way."
"I suppose offering you a room would be pointless?" Ansem smirked at him, and Sora shrugged. "Dilan will bring you a cot and you will sleep. He is well restrained and sedated; it will be several days before he is well enough to attempt waking."
Everything was foggy, his body heavy. His chest ached with every breath and he slowly became aware of something hard in his mouth and throat. He tried to reach for it but he couldn't lift his arms…couldn't move. He began to panic, unable to remember what had happened. Where….Sora! He had to save Sora!
"Hey! Hey, take it easy. Don't try and fight the tube, let it breath for you," the words took him what felt like forever to understand, a tube breathing for him? And then the voice registered, Sora! But there was something different…
He struggled, trying to open his eyes, only to whimper as he was blinded by the lights before something blocked them. His eyes didn't want to focus and he blinked tiredly, Sora slowly coming into focus but there was something…he jerked, eyes wide. That wasn't Sora! He began struggling, terrified.
"Easy," the Sora shaped stranger held his hands up, showing they were empty, "you've been very sick. Do you know who I am?"
So they picked up long term very mild malnutrition cause let's face it, Riku was a mess and very unlikely to be eating three proper meals a day while with Maleficent or DiZ.