Disclaimer: Don't own Kingdom Hearts
Sora slipped through half empty streets, hidden in his hood, hands in his pockets to hide their trembling. He felt so weak, empty. His magic, his Keyblade…all beyond his reach. It was like he had never learnt any of it, had never left home to save the Worlds. But if this was part of his punishment for saving everyone, for bringing Kairi back, then it was worth it. It was. He knew she was safe back home, Riku would look after her.
The empty feeling in his Heart was new, but he assumed it was because all of those he'd sheltered were gone now. Ven had been with him most of his life, was it really surprising he could feel his absence? Ventus was back with his friends now; he had his life back like he deserved.
Roxas and Xion were safe too, Lea would make sure of that. He hoped Isa was back as well, for Lea's sake. Surely the man was different when not a Nobody and Vessel, otherwise surely, they'd have never been friends in the first place.
Knowing everyone back home was safe, that they had peace, was all that kept him going in this strange new world he was trapped in. Without his Keyblade he had no way out, even if he could use magic, he didn't know how to travel without the Keyblade. He supposed there were worse Worlds to be trapped on but there were also much safer ones. He heard a scream nearby and flinched deeper into his jacket, no longer the one he'd worn when he arrived which he missed. He'd had to change clothes though, the magic in his had been gone and without it there was no point in wearing them, not when they weren't warm enough. He fingered the knife he now carried for self-defence but kept walking, head down.
He'd never realised how reliant he had become on magic and the Keyblade until he'd had to fight without them, he'd carry the scar along his ribs for the rest of his life. And it didn't help that his hands always shook now, tiny tremors, nerve damage from something? A reaction to losing his magic? He didn't know and it didn't really matter beyond it being dangerous. He couldn't afford to be seen as weak, an easy target, but standing out for any reason was asking for trouble, so he did his best to simply blend into the background.
All he wanted was to go home, to see them all even if only for one last time.
Riku collapsed, leaning heavily against Braveheart to keep from fully ending up on the ground. He fumbled for an elixir, feeling his energy and magic return, his wounds healing. Things were meant to be better once Xehanort was defeated and Kingdom Hearts locked…but they weren't. When not searching for any sign of Sora they were training and hunting down Heartless and Nobodies. For the first few months, their numbers had dropped as expected but in the last months they'd begun increasing, no matter how many World Hearts they sealed.
He staggered to his feet, breathing deeply, taking in the lingering scent of Darkness, relieved it was fading. If he had to fight again so soon…he rubbed his shoulder, still aching even after the elixir. He didn't like fighting alone anymore but they were being stretched thin and he had the sick feeling that that was the plan, to pull them in too many directions. But who could be behind it?
Riku had personally checked on Maleficent, he was the best choice since their relationship was…strange, less antagonistic than the others who had only ever known her as an enemy. He had never fully trusted her when he was with her, they had been using each other and had known it, but she had helped them against the Organisation the first time, though she had hidden her actions. She would likely never be even an ally, but she wasn't behind this.
Other than Hades, the other members of her group were long gone, and Hades was focused on his own World. Riku knew Donald and Goofy had sought out the god of the dead after Sora vanished, but he had no news, had even been surprised that Sora was gone. If Sora had been in his domain, he would have been gloating.
They'd dealt with the Organisation, the members either returning to their own time or being recompleted. Though…Marluxia and Larxene were unknowns, they had no idea where their Somebodies might be, so maybe a possibility? Demyx was still a Nobody but there was something going on between him and Ienzo that Riku was not going to ask about. But Braig, Xigbar's Somebody, was also unaccounted for. He'd been the first to join Xehanort, according to Terra and Aqua, he had fought them in Radiant Garden and the Graveyard that first time, and he hadn't been a Nobody back then. So, he was higher on the list of possibilities.
Riku just hated the time being lost from searching for Sora. He refused to believe Sora was lost to them forever, he couldn't be. It wasn't fair, Sora had done what he did to save lives, he shouldn't have had to pay for that. He'd ignored Mickey's attempt to warn Sora, had believed Sora could do the impossible again and come back, would it have been different if Riku had backed Mickey up?
"I miss you," he whispered before coughing. He probably should get that checked out but of course he'd catch any cold around considering how ragged they were all being run.
Sora wiped the sweat from his face, looking at the stack of boxes. It was boring, back breaking work, but it was work. So, he took a mouthful of warm water before getting back to it. He didn't know how long he'd been in this World, time passing in a blur of boredom and fear. It scared him, that his old life was beginning to feel like a dream.
It was hard now, to remember Riku's voice, Kairi's face, all he'd been through. No matter how he tried to cling to those memories, to keep them close. What would become of him when they were gone? Who would he be then?
Kairi picked up the picture of the three of them, relieved someone had been sneaky to take it. They were in Master Yen Sid's tower, before leaving for the Graveyard. Sora was grinning, his arms thrown around her and Riku. She'd been laughing at something and even Riku was smiling, expression soft as he looked at the two of them.
She hadn't seen Riku in months, too busy with prepping for her own exam when not fighting to protect the Worlds. They weren't losing but they weren't winning either. She missed Riku, she missed Sora.
It wasn't meant to be like that, they'd won, they'd beaten Xehanort. They were meant to have peace, to be together. While she was grateful Sora had saved her, she hated that he'd paid the price for it.
Sora kept walking, heart racing as he heard the footsteps behind him, following him. Just two streets and he'd be safe in his crummy apartment. It had been so stupid to be caught out so late at night but he needed the money an extra shift would bring. He was barely managing to live paycheck to paycheck as it was, only able to take very basic jobs due to his lack of education. The things he'd learnt the last few years were of no use now.
He turned the corner…and the footsteps kept coming. Don't run, don't run. He'd never wanted his magic so much, the ability to glide, to run up a building and escape. The street ahead was empty, everyone else safely at home, but he didn't know or trust his co-workers enough to accept a ride home, for them to know where he lived. No one was really safe in this World, and it hurt, he was used to making friends everywhere but here…
They began running and Sora had no choice, he broke into a run, hand gripping his keys and knife. He wasn't as fast as he used to be, no instinctive using magic to increase his speed, but he was still fast. But fast enough?
Pain exploded as he slammed into unforgiving concrete, already twisting on instinct, kicking up and out, knocking his attacker back. He gasped in a breath and then scrambled to his feet. There were five…he was dead. But he wouldn't go down without a fight, he wouldn't!
Ventus moved to stare out his window, the stars bright tonight. One of them, somewhere, had to have the key to finding Sora. Why hadn't he made time to talk to him? He'd been so focused on getting Terra back… Sora had done so much for him; how did he repay him?
He wanted to be out there, looking, but there was never any time anymore. Was someone…trying to make sure they couldn't find Sora? Ventus knew out of all of them, Sora was the biggest threat to any enemy. He had been denied the rank of Master but that didn't matter. It had been Sora who had saved them all, who had taken out the massive Demon Tide that none of them had been able to touch, even if he had somehow had help. Ven had seen the ghostly silver haired boy and something about him had been almost familiar. But Sora had been the one to face Xehanort, the one the old Master had handed the χ-blade to when he chose to pass on.
So, it'd make sense for any new enemy to not want to face him, especially if there was even a slim chance that Sora could call that particular Keyblade again. The rest of them were good, but there was just something about Sora. Knowing that didn't make the lack of time to search any better though. If someone didn't want Sora found, then they had to find him fast.
He stirred, sensing the terror, the certainty of death and raged at being unable to act. He was trapped, had been for years, no one aware of his presence. All alone now too. If the other died, then he would too. But what could he do?
Sora held the knife, his back to the wall. He ached but he'd landed some good hits. The problem with being so small though was that without magic his hits just weren't good enough. One of them was bleeding sluggishly, blackish blood on Sora's blade. It'd been a lucky hit, but a hit was a hit. Of course, all it'd really done was piss them off more. And now he was trapped.
Kairi…Riku…everyone…please. He wanted to go home. He didn't want to die…or worse. And it was going to be worse, he could see it in their eyes, they were going to make him pay for fighting back. He shifted his grip on the knife, he'd rather die than become like them. Would his knife do enough damage to kill him quickly enough though? Did he have the strength to drive it in to heart or brain that hard and fast?
"I'm sorry," he whispered, knowing they'd never hear him, would never know what happened.
And then he moved, driving the blade into his own chest, feeling the shock of pain as flesh parted beneath steel. It hurt! It hadn't hurt last time…he coughed, choking, blood bubbling up his throat. He collapsed back against the wall, feeling their rage battering at him, his vision beginning to fade.
The rage-filled roar had Sora struggling to focus but he was cold…so tired…
Riku stumbled, collapsing to his knees, eyes wide as he clutched at his chest, wheezing for breath.
"Riku!" Slender arms wrapped around him, supporting him, as he struggled to breath.
"Roxas!" someone shouted in the distance.
Riku crumpled against her as the truth hit him. Him and Roxas….no…Sora…
He stared in shock at the crumpled body, seeing the blood, the knife buried in the boys' chest. He turned to those who had attacked him, whatever they were, they weren't human, not that he cared either way. In a second a familiar weight settled into his hand and he launched himself at them, fire burning around him.
It didn't take long and then he moved, crouching over the body, fumbling to find any sign of life. "Come on," he snarled in frustration, but…there! A breath. He gathered the limp form to his own chest and then vanished, leaving the attack site before anyone or anything could investigate.
Finding the apartment took longer than he liked but he managed it, carefully setting his burden on the thin mattress. He gathered the few medical supplies, tore sheets into bandages. He wasn't good at healing, nothing of the Darkness was, which meant he wouldn't be able to fully heal the wound. He hesitated to pull the blade out, knowing it would make the bleeding worse, but he couldn't heal with it in there. Idiot, who stabs themselves in the heart, twice!
He hadn't forgotten the first time thank you very much. He had remained, even with the Heartless, and had always wondered if that was why his little brother kept something of his humanity, enough to follow his friends and let the Princess close enough to fix him.
Vanitas took a deep breath and gripped the blade firmly, Keyblade in his other hand, no way would he try casting healing spells without it. He would not let Sora die! Not like this. He pulled the blade out, blood immediately following, and then shaky green magic was sinking into the wound. It had to work, it had to.
He frowned as he read Aqua's message, closing his eyes. For both Riku and Roxas to have collapsed with Xion and Ventus having felt brief chest pain…there was only one possible cause. Sora. The chances of finding him alive had always been slim, he had warned them all, but they kept looking. He couldn't blame them but perhaps this would not be so painful for them if they had already accepted Sora was beyond their reach. And now he was truly dead.
He had always found Sora childish, his attention span severely lacking. But he had been the key to winning the battle with Xehanort. They could use his unpredictability and the way he could reach the good in others with what was happening now. He had known defeating Xehanort would not be the end, there would always be a need for Keyblade wielders so long as Darkness existed in people's Hearts. But it should have gone back to the levels from before Aqua and Terra had taken their exams. They had only a short reprieve before the attacks began and had lost two Worlds to Darkness, despite their best efforts.
He knew things would get worse now, at least for a time, as the others grieved for Sora. As much as he didn't like thinking it, Riku would need to be watched. He was Sora's Dream Eater and the two had always been rather co-dependant, he would take his death very badly. Bad enough to slip back into the Darkness? Yen Sid hoped not, but even if he didn't, he did believe he might grow reckless, not care if he died or lived.
Mickey stared at the picture taken before they had left the three teens on the Islands after they had beaten Xemnas that first time. So much had happened since then, so much pain and sorrow. And now Sora…it wasn't fair. He should have done more to stop Sora from going after Kairi the way he had. They could have found another way, even Master Yen Sid agreed with him.
So far, the Cornerstone was keeping their home safe, and Minnie was ensuring it remained strong. But other Worlds… maybe if they could find the other Princesses something could be done to beat back the growing Darkness but they hadn't found any others beyond those Sora had during his last journey. It was strange too, that Kairi was still one of them, why had she been the only one of the old group to remain among the new?
Whoever was behind this, they were even better than Xehanort at remaining hidden and that couldn't be good.
Warmth…he was warm…floating…there were fingers stroking his hair, a body curled against his own, warming him. He was always so cold now. He struggled to wake, something tugging his senses, memories just out of reach.
"Shh, sleep little brother. You're safe."
That voice…he should…
Vanitas watched Sora sleep, using his own body heat to keep him warm. He'd lost a lot of blood so being cold was bad, he knew that much. He was surprised he'd stirred so soon, had tried to wake, but sleeping spells were something he could do a lot better than healing. He checked the bandages, relieved to find less signs of continued bleeding. He'd made it through the night, so surely that meant he'd make it.
He smirked slightly, imagining the look on Ventus' face if he could see him now, his helmet on the rickety table, his bare fingers running through brown hair, trying to sooth Sora as he slept. It seemed he was proof of just how welcoming Sora's Heart was and how he could change people. He might be Darkness incarnate, but he had found he could feel things, or at least when it came to the others who had shared Sora's Heart. He'd like to meet Roxas properly, he thought they had a bit in common.
He knew they all thought he was dead, but the Vanitas they had faced had been pulled through time from just before he had merged with Ventus during their fight. That Vanitas had returned to the past even as he had rested within Sora's Heart. He had watched Sora's life; he had slept for long periods but the longer Sora travelled the more awake he had been. Everyone probably thought anti and rage forms came from Roxas' existence but he knew they had been because of him, his powers leaking through to protect Sora.
He just hoped Sora didn't panic when he woke and realised who had saved him.