Disclaimer: not mine

My new book is out! The Crown of Tannenley is available in paperback on Amazon, available as ebook from the 12th. On other sites it'll be out on the 13th.

Chapter 12

"RIKU!" He didn't know which he was screaming for…in terror for the young man now slumped limp or in rage and disbelief at the smirking elder version.

He let go and Riku dropped to the hard floor, unconscious…or…no, he didn't want Riku dead, he wouldn't have killed him.

"What…have you…done?" he felt so weak, speaking took too much effort.

"When he wakes, he'll understand," Riku smirked and the barrier that had kept them separate vanished.

Sora had no strength to fight when Riku yanked his head up by his hair. "Why?" he swallowed. "We…were fri…ends…" blackness was eating the edges of his vision, unconsciousness beckoning.

"You destroyed that, traitor," Riku hissed in his ear. "Don't worry, he'll wait till you wake to kill you if he wakes first," he purred, and Sora moaned, unable to speak. "I wish I could stay and see it, but sadly Xehanort is calling. Don't worry, I'll take good care of Selphie."



Drowning…falling…cold…so cold…

A limp body appeared, floating apparently lifelessly, before dropping down onto the glass surface. Ever so slowly glassy cyan eyes fluttered open, staring out into endless Darkness. It may have been seconds or centuries before he slowly began to move, gradually getting to his hands and knees before pushing upright. He looked around dully, numb, mind blank.

There's a noise in the distance, even as he doubles over, hands clutching at his head, the Darkness moving ever closer in waves. Images…sounds…thoughts…all crashing into him, jumbled. And then there was warmth and slowly he raised his head…so bright and warm.

They pressed close and Riku gasped, slumping between the Komory Bat and Ryu Dragon… his…his Dream Eaters. Riku…he was Riku. He staggered to his feet, the two helping to steady him, making soft noises of concern.

Riku shivered, arms crossed for warmth, as he looked around, where was he, what? He gasped as he remembered the pain…the madness in his eyes, Sora's desperate cry. He looked around and then down, eyes widening as he took in the glass platform…but it wasn't the same, it wasn't the one from when he'd gone to save Sora. No, this one…was him. He was sleeping, Way to the Dawn held in one hand, his clothing those he had worn in the exam. There were other images too, one of his Dream Eaters, Kairi…and two Sora. One the boy he'd known all his life and the other, older, the Sora he was getting ever closer to, that he wanted to be closer still, no matter how crazy it was.

Before he could consider it more, the Darkness lapped over the glass and he leapt up, Komory and Ryu following to avoid the Darkness, even as a figure grew from it. Him…this realms Riku… Riku summoned his Keyblade even as the other him smirked, eyes glowing in the Darkness.

It didn't take a genius to work out what it planned now but Riku would not let that happen.

"Give in fake, become me."

"Never!" he didn't hesitate in launching an attack, he had to beat this copy of the other Riku or whatever it was. He remembered now, the hand plunging into his chest, the threat of making him kill Sora, and he would never let that happen. Never! "You're nothing more than a nightmare," he stated, it wasn't a real person, wasn't a Heart or Nobody even. "And I'm what Nightmares fear."


Mickey frowned, unable to help pacing, feeling Minnie's worried gaze on him. They had been gone too long; something had gone wrong. Where were Sora and Riku? They shouldn't have let them go back to the Islands alone. He knew Aqua and Yen Sid were assuming the worst, that Riku was behind it, that it was proof he'd been a spy the whole time. But Mickey, Terra, and even Ventus had denied that.

No, what Mickey had seen growing between them, even if the two didn't realise themselves, it was real. Riku would never betray Sora. Break his heart by going home to a World where he was accepted, likely, but he would not betray Sora or them. Whatever they'd found then, they'd likely walked into a trap.


Waking up was hard, but Sora eventually managed to open his eyes, with no idea how long he'd been out. The room was silent and he knew Riku and Selphie were gone. Riku was still sprawled a few feet away on the ground, chest thankfully moving with breath…but Sora flinched as Darkness wafted from his skin. No…

"Riku?" he croaked, coughing briefly. He didn't feel as weak, able to get his feet under himself to a point, taking some of the strain from his arms. "Riku please, whatever's happening…fight it. Come back," he didn't care that he was begging. He'd lost one Riku…he couldn't lose him again.

He yanked futilely at the chains, too weak still and even if he wasn't, he doubted he could break them, he wasn't Terra. All he could do was watch the Darkness rise from Riku's limp body, the teen not reacting in any way. If he couldn't see him breathing…he'd think Riku was dead. Riku used Darkness, said the Organisation had targeted the other Sora because he was immune…but would he be immune to Darkness introduced by himself? And even if he wasn't, that didn't mean he'd kill Sora so there had to be more to it than just infecting him. He trusted Riku, he'd never willingly hurt him, he wouldn't. So why had the other Riku been so sure? Because he was mad and thought any version of him would want to, or something more?

He choked back a sob as the Darkness around Riku deepened, more and more rising from his body, until Sora could barely see him. Sora had no way to tell the time, didn't know how long he'd been unconscious either, but it felt like forever. The Darkness billowed out from around Riku, darkening the dank dungeon they were in even further and then it vanished and he could see Riku again.

He swallowed as Riku stirred ever so slightly. "Riku?"


Riku knelt before Xehanort, chest throbbing in agony. But there was glee too, he didn't know! They knew he'd taken Selphie for fun but nothing else. And there'd be no reason to connect him to it even if Sora's body was found. The fake would do its job and then 'vanish', he'd made sure it would keep hidden and get things ready for when Riku could get rid of Xehanort's Heart.


He slammed hard into the now Darkness covered glass, bouncing slightly before a heavy boot landed in his stomach pinning him, a blade resting dangerously at his throat. He'd lost…he couldn't lose. He heard the cries and then the other was knocked back by an enraged Ryu Dragon. He felt his magic surge and then the Dream Eaters glowed, vanishing, linking with him.

Riku rolled to his feet, feeling his wings shift and stretch, Darkness tipping his fingers with claws. He saw the elder's eyes widen at his transformation, Soul Eater gripped tight, the blade Darker feeling than it had ever when he'd wielded it. He took a deep breath and then launched into the air, moving fast, links had a time limit after all. Rising Wing was his favourite for a reason though and he'd honed it against not only Dream Eaters but that Anti Black Coat and Ansem as well. And as good as this older Riku was, he wasn't Ansem.


He collapsed to one knee; this wasn't meant to be happening. How could a fake have so much power? Time travel existed, but even if they'd yanked a younger version of himself through time, he'd never side with them, but this one had. Somehow, he could use the Darkness and Light as well, which actually made him a more difficult opponent. If he'd just give in then they could get it over with, once he absorbed him it would be done and they could kill Sora and be done with it.

He hissed in annoyance when sharp claws sliced through what passed for flesh for the spell created copy of the true Riku, placed within the Heart of the fake. He feinted, smirking when the other fell for it, grabbing his wrists, wrestling the Keyblade from him, slamming him into the glass again, enjoying the sight of it covered with Darkness.


Riku struggled wildly, fully pinned by the older, larger, version, the link having run out of time, his Dream Eaters exhausted. He stared up into cruel golden eyes, at the smirk that looked scarily familiar and then he gasped as the Darkness moved over his body, holding him down to free the older.

"Don't worry, everything's going to be wonderful," the insane man told him, and Riku screamed as his head was grabbed, feeling something burning cold.


Sora watched, heart in his throat, as Riku twitched again. Then he began to actually move, very slowly, like an old man. "Riku?" he called shakily, looking for any sign. "Riku please."

He fell silent, watching as Riku shakily crawled across the floor, collapsing after a little, only to start dragging himself across the cold stone…towards Sora. But that didn't mean anything either way, his Riku would be trying to reach him to help or for help and if what the other had been trying worked…he'd be trying to get to him to kill him.

"I'm here Riku," he whispered, "you're going to be okay." He saw a tendril of Darkness rise from pale skin and felt sick. "Please Riku."

Riku reached him and Sora held his breath even as trembling hands gripped his pants, using him as leverage.



He pushed himself up slowly. Riku? Was he…Riku? He was cold, so cold, it hurt. Thoughts, memories, were flitting through his mind. He couldn't think, couldn't remember…

"Riku please."

That voice…enemy…friend…enemy…what…what was happening to him? He got moving, towards the voice, but he was so weak. He dragged himself across the ground.

"I'm here Riku…you're going to be okay…Please Riku."

Above him…he reached shakily up, weakly gripping at cloth, trying to pull himself up. He sagged against something warm, moving…breathing. He inhaled, the scent familiar, loved…hated…loved…he whimpered, head pounding. He pressed closer, Light…so much Light, warmth…he rubbed his cheek against warm fabric, whining softly.


Sora barely dared to breath as Riku managed to get to his feet, slumping against him. But when he heard him whimper…he could feel Riku rubbing his cheek against his shoulder. Sora managed to turn his head, pressing to Riku's hair, able to barely reach enough to rest his forehead against Riku's. So far Riku wasn't acting violently, he seemed to be in pain more than anything.

"It's okay Riku, I'm here, you're safe," he whispered, wanting to do more but he couldn't. He was at least able to stand better now but with the manacles sealing his magic there wasn't anything he could do.

Riku was whining now, trembling, more Darkness wafting from his body. Sora needed and feared seeing his eyes, he'd gotten so used to warm cyan, the thought of them being the yellow of Darkness…at least they wouldn't be gold, not without a piece of Xehanort inside him. But Riku and Terra had proven that Darkness didn't have to mean evil, unless whatever had been done to him…destroyed the real Riku and rewrote his mind and Heart. Please no.

The way Riku was acting…what if it had totally destroyed his mind and this was how he was now? What if… no…he would be fine, he had to be.

"Riku please, say something, anything," he murmured, keeping his voice soft, not wanting to stress Riku further.

He felt Riku's hand tangle in the front of his shirt, was he…smelling him? Riku could smell Darkness, maybe he could smell Light too? And he seemed to be wanting to be close to that Light. And then Sora's eyes widened as cold lips pressed to his, Riku pressed right up against him. Riku was…he was kissing him and Sora let him, following whatever Riku wanted, whatever he had to do to keep him with him.


Couldn't think, too much pressing in his head, but that Light…so bright, warm…he was so cold. He pressed as close as he could to that warmth, acting purely on instinct. He didn't know what he was doing as he kissed the Light, just needing to be close.


Ven stared up at the stars, worried for Sora and Riku, they all were even if not all for the same reasons. He…he didn't think he could stay with Aqua much longer, not with her even firmer in her beliefs about Riku now. He knew the teen wouldn't betray Sora, he wouldn't.

He rolled to his feet and opened a portal, slipping away, grimacing as the other nearly jumped out of his skin at Ventus' sudden appearance. "Sorry Ienzo," he offered, and the scientist nodded.

"Is everything alright?" he brushed his hair where it was hanging over his eye like normal.

"Aqua," he murmured, jumping up to sit on a bare bench as Ienzo went back to work. No one knew he sometimes stopped by just to talk with the youngest of the scientists, there was no reason for anyone to know they were friends. "Why didn't you tell me about Riku?"

"It wasn't my secret to tell," Ienzo answered absently, and Ventus nodded, accepting his word. "If you don't want to live at the King's Castle, you could stay here. Sora basically moved in while Riku was here, no one will complain. And…we've been detecting more Nobodies and Heartless around."

Ventus grimaced at that. "Thanks." Staying for a while could be helpful in multiple ways it seemed. "Don't suppose you've had any luck?"

"We can't find any trace of any of them. Sora and Riku are excellent fighters though, I am sure they will make it back."


Sora couldn't help the soft moan as they kissed, wanting to move, to hold him. He wanted this…now that Riku had kissed him, he couldn't deny it. It was crazy and probably going to break his Heart one day but at the moment he didn't care. He was panting when Riku stopped, still shaking, grip weaker than Sora would like, his head bowed as he panted as well.

"Riku?" he murmured. "Can you understand me? It's me, Sora. Please, give me a sign you're in there."

Riku shook against him, gasping, hand bunching his shirt right over his Heart hard enough he could actually feel his fingernails digging in. More Darkness drifted from his body, even as he moaned…in pain. What was happening in his head…and Heart?


SSsssora? Kill…protect…love…hate…he moaned in pain. Conflicting thoughts and emotions ripping at him, unable to make sense of them.

"Riku…can you get the manacles off me? We need to get out of here, get you help."

The words were mostly noise, but he was Riku…help? Help who? What? Slowly, he moved, shifting his grip, managing to raise his head until he was staring into bright blue. Blue…scared, why was he scared? He lifted one hand to touch warm skin, so warm, soft…


Sora stared into mismatched eyes, scared because Riku was still silent but…he seemed more confused than anything, so maybe that was good? And then Riku lifted a hand and Sora held still, not like he could really resist being chained to a wall of bars. Gentle, curious, fingers touched his lips and then traced over his face.

"Sss…or…a" it was stuttered and slurred…but it was his name! Riku recognised him.

He smiled softly at Riku. "It's me," he murmured, even as the fingers moved back to his lips, tracing the shapes they made as he spoke.

"Hhhh'rts," Riku mumbled, slumping against him again.

"What hurts?" what had that attack done to him?

He whined, rubbing his head against Sora in answer. Okay, his head hurt, not great but it could be worse. Probably explained why he was acting the way he was. It better be healable though. If it wasn't…well, he'd do whatever it took to help Riku adjust.

"It's okay," he whispered.

Riku managed to lift his head again, eyes not fully focused. One was the familiar cyan but the other was yellow, almost glowing, even as the occasional wisp of Darkness continued to rise from his body. But Riku wasn't acting like someone consumed by Darkness. Maybe some would see kissing Sora as a sign since Sora hadn't asked him to or agreed to it, would see it as Riku taking what he wanted without a care, but Sora had understood what Riku was doing, what he was looking for. Comfort, warmth, familiarity…

In his current condition, he wasn't sure if Riku would be able to call his Keyblade and unlock him. Unless there was another way to undo them, not like Sora could see to check himself with the angle he was being held at.

And then Riku kissed him again, hands moving to brace on his shoulders.


He blinked slowly, looking up into worried blue eyes, he felt groggy…strange… "S…" he coughed. "Sora?"

"Riku?" Sora asked quietly, hope clear.

Riku looked around in confusion and then he remembered, staggering back, hands pressed to his head.

"Riku!" Sora called, alarmed, but Riku fell to his knees.

He struggled to take deep breaths, gagging, trying not to be sick as the stench of Darkness filled his nose…coming from him.

He heard the rattle of chains and managed to look up through tearing eyes to see Sora, he was chained to the bars…and then Riku doubled over, throwing up.

"Riku? It's okay, just breath through it," Sora called, keeping his voice soft which was nice cause his head was pounding.

Riku coughed and spat, shivering. He looked up at Sora and felt a flash of blinding rage, the need to see him…NO! He wouldn't do it; he wouldn't hurt Sora. Memories, not his, were jammed in his head but they were jumbled, insane…

"Riku?" Sora sounded worried, wary…good, Sora needed to be wary of him now.

He wasn't in full control and he knew it. He took a deep breath and staggered back to his feet, looking Sora over, he didn't look hurt thankfully. He remembered the gas, Sora unable to move, coughing badly but he seemed okay now. Seeing him chained up like that, totally vulnerable…part of him screamed to hurt him, kill, but he wouldn't do it. He closed his eyes, trying to find the calm he'd worked so hard for in Castle Oblivion and after. It was so hard but then he felt his Keyblade materialise, raising it. Sora stared at him; blue eyes wide…there was hope but also caution, wariness. Riku couldn't blame him, not when he utterly stank of Darkness, probably even enough for anyone to smell. He aimed at the manacles and chains and a beam of light lanced out, a click sounding as they unlocked.

Riku lunged as Sora's legs buckled, barely catching him in time, wrapping his arms around him, feeling Sora return the embrace, felt his arms trembling with the effort. His arms had to be aching from the position he'd been held in for who knew how long.

"I thought I'd lost you," Sora murmured. He pulled back to look Riku in the eye, lifting a hand to stroke his cheek, and Riku leant into his touch, soaking up the warmth.

"So cold," he was freezing, he knew the feeling, from the Darkness… and Sora tried to pull his closer, hand running up and down his back, Riku pressing into the touch.

"You're like ice," Sora sounded alarmed now. "What did he do to you?"


Sora ached all over, was fighting the urge to keep coughing, but Riku was really like ice, pressing close as Sora held him. But Riku was acting like himself mostly, he'd seen the flash of rage but he'd also seen Riku fight it. Riku had freed him and Sora could feel his magic coming back, casting a weak Cure over both of them as soon as he had enough magic to do it. It helped him, but he wasn't sure if it did anything for Riku.

He held still when Riku reached up to trace his lips again, he got the feeling Riku didn't really remember what he'd done after waking. He licked his lips and Riku gasped softly, okay so maybe now he remembered.


"It's okay," Sora smiled at him, his hand had moved up Riku's back to play with the short hair at the nape of his neck and Riku shivered, mismatched eyes wide.

Sora knew he was risking their friendship but he thought Riku felt more…or had. Who knew what the other Riku's attack had done to him, but he was acting mostly the same. Riku was strong, had he defeated whatever had been done?

Riku swallowed but moved one of his hands over Sora's back cautiously, watching him. Sora slowly leant in, giving Riku plenty of time to stop him, but he didn't. This kiss was different, both of them very aware of what they were doing. Riku's lips were frozen but soft, a little chapped, moving hesitantly against his own but gradually gaining confidence. Kissing Riku…just felt right.

"Help me," Riku half sobbed, and Sora held on tight.

"Always, anything," he promised. He couldn't lose Riku to the Darkness, to the madness the older Riku had been lost to.