Disclaimer: KH belongs to Disney and Square.

Haaahaa, I'm so out of it right now, I'm not sure what's going on. I passed out earlier and I'm still kinda light headed, but I can't seem to fall asleep so I'll just write for you guys.

To the reviewers: Or more specifically iamfinalfantasy, the reason why Kairi has cursed the story so is because I myself have been 'knocked up', and I find it easier to focus on my writing when I have something in common with the characters. I'm sorry if you don't like it, but that's how the original storyline was set up.

And to my faithful Gerbil X, thanks for all the support, I actually dragged my poor ass out of bed to write this one for you.

To Rubyfruit Pixie and Mistress-Arisu, thanks for your reviews, and I'm really sorry this chapter took so horribly long! And thanks to any other reviewers that I missed, I love hearing from you guys.

Ansem slammed a book down on the dining room table in the middle of lunch. "Here it is, I can't believe I didn't think to open this book." He pointed at a large picture of a bright city. Everyone abandoned their food to crowd around and take a look.

Tidus wrinkled his nose after reading the title of the photo. "Zanarkand? Never heard of it.." The group ignored him.

"Cid, we're going to need a gummi ship. There should still be some broken down ones in the waterway below the castle, can you see if you can fix one up?

"No problem, I'll get right on it." He replied casually, heading for the door.

"Hold on," Ansem stopped him, looking around the room seriously. Cid stopped halfway to the door and turned around to look at him. Faces turned around the room.

"This is going to be really dangerous. This will be nothing like anything any of you have ever faced before," He said slowly, looking pointedly at Cloud. "Sephiroth is a killer, he does not know what mercy is, and he won't hesitate to extract whatever revenge against us he thinks he deserves. We can't take everyone, if anything happened I would be responsible. It's way too dangerous for this group work to continue, so we're going to have to break up the team." he looked around at the eager faces staring back at him, Sora giving him a confused glance and Squall nodding understandingly.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Selphie piped up, putting her hands on her hips and frowning.

"It means you can't go." Squall said shortly.

"Whaaat!" Selphie looked about ready to kill him, shaking her fist and glaring at the men in the room. "Just because us little girls can't fight so well doesn't mean we're useless! You think you're so big and bad, but we're the ones who are gonna have to come rescue you once it's all said and done!"

"Selphie." Cloud's deep voice broke through the tension, cutting her off in her rant. Her hands slowly fell to her sides in defeat as the blonde man rose from his seat to stare her down.

"This is not a game. If you go, you could endanger us all. You would most likely be used against us, tortured, turned into a heartless and left to die. Sephiroth is not an enemy to sneer at, he's a general, he knows the tactics we will use, and we have no idea how powerful he is. For the sake of this mission, you will stay here with Aerith and Arashi."

An awkward silence fell over the room as Selphie fumed silently and returned to her seat. Ansem stared around nervously, he had hoped it wouldn't have turned out like this, but leaving the girls behind was necessary. He contemplated whether or not leaving Kairi behind with them was not a bad idea. But then again, she had a special keyblade for a reason, and he was sure that that reason would present itself once they reached Zanarkand. He watched sadly as the men filed out of the room after Cid, all intent apparently on helping with the gummi ship.

"She's alright, just so you know." Sora said quietly as the rest of the team pulled away up the hall.

"What?" Squall looked over at him questioningly.

"Yuffie, she's okay. I know you've been worried, but she's okay. Riku's with her now, he wouldn't let Sephiroth hurt her. No matter how evil he turns." He smiled at the older man. It was very rare to see Squall relaxed, but Sora was sure he came somewhat close once he heard that Yuffie was alright.

It took the boys the rest of the day to mark what they needed and drag it up to the shop above the Waterway. Cid was so busy directing where to put certain things, what to remove from what, and what to put into what, that he almost completely missed the fact that Tidus and Sora weren't actually helping, but installing laser cannons wherever they felt they might be necessary.

"At what point do you actually expect us to need cannons on the ass end! We're the ones doing the chasing! Why don't you two do something useful and go learn how to cook! Better yet, bring me some fuckin' tea!" He threw various tools at them until they got busy moving things wherever Squall told them they needed to go.

The shop was a mess by the time Cid decided that his new workers were so incompetent that he needed to pull out a chalkboard and give them a crash course on gummi block installing. It was dark outside by the time his "crash course" was done, and Sora was sure that any knowledge he had previously had about gummi ships had long since vacated his brain.

He was just about to stand up and sneak away went the door creaked open and Kairi sulked in. She raised a weary hand at Cid and quietly told the room full of men that dinner was ready. Once the stampede had subsided she approached Cid and smiled sweetly. She didn't know him very well, but she helped him clean up for the night anyway. She just didn't want to be with everyone else right now, not even Ansem.

Cid eyed her suspiciously as she worked, cleaning off chalkboards and putting away papers and blueprints. She had just pulled the heavy toolbox over to the gummi ship to put the tools away when Cid sighed and put his hand towel down.

"What's wrong, kid? You don't belong out here, can't even be close to your comfort zone." He put a hand on his hip and watched her as she wiped a dirty hand across her face.

She just shrugged. "I just wanted to get outside and do something different for a change. That castle is big, but not big enough…"

Cid nodded absently, flicking his spent cigarette into a trash can. "I know what you mean, how do you think I feel in there? Standing around with all you kids. I'm too old to baby sit." She couldn't help but laugh as he gave her a half-hearted dirty look.

The breath caught in her throat as she panted from exhaustion, sweat dripping down her forehead onto her shirt. Her legs ached, but she felt like if she stopped running there would be no chance of escape, she was lucky enough to have slipped away from Riku while he was giving the Heartless new orders. Skidding around a corner she nearly slammed into the wall, catching her balance only to have the carpet slip from beneath her feet and send her sprawling across the floor. She didn't move for a moment, just rested there with her eyes closed panting and wheezing. How big was this fortress anyway? She groaned and rolled onto her back.

"So you've heard then? Your little friends think they're coming to rescue you." Riku sang from above her, making her scream in surprise as her eyes flew open.

She screamed again and tried to throw herself to her feet, only to find Riku pinning her arms to the ground and leaning over her. Throwing her weight side to side she tried to break free, biting at him and cursing him. He just laughed at her efforts and hauled her none to gently to her feet.

"Sephiroth says it's time for you to learn your place." He growled into her ear.

"Are you okay?" Ansem's deep voice woke Kairi from her thoughts, she shook her head and looked up at him in surprise. She stared at him blankly for a moment while she tried to fight back her nausea. He gave her a sideways look and swept his long snowy hair to the side as he kneeled next to her. "Are you sure you want to go? I could ask Cid to turn around now and take you back, it's not too late."

She quickly shook her head, giving him a forced smile. "No, I'm fine, just kind of shaken up. I mean, you know. I want to go… I want to help." She trailed off, lost in her tangled thoughts about Riku and Yuffie.

"Okay, if you're sure." He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead, running his fingers through her shoulder-length red hair. "Just promise that once we get there, you won't leave my side. I will protect you, from anything."

She smiled honestly now and nodded, grabbing the hair he had neatly tucked behind one shoulder and scattering it. He just smiled back and kissed her soft lips, stopping only when he noticed Sora sitting two seats back glaring at him. He ran his fingers through her hair again and took the seat beside her, nearly jumping when she leaned her head into his shoulder. Catching his breath he mentally scolded himself, there was really no reason why he should be so jumpy around her, despite the years of solitude spent in the darkness…

It wasn't long before her breathing evened out and it was obvious that she was asleep. Ansem looked around the ship, going over tactics and plans once again in preparation. He knew Sephiroth and he knew they would have to be well prepared to have any hope of defeating him. Though at this point he wasn't so sure that defeat was necessary, if he could only regain control of the Heartless then the battle would be won. But that would require returning him to the darkness, and he wasn't sure how to do so without destroying what he had built on his already mangled existence.

He sighed, placing a gentle hand on Kairi's soft hair and gazing around the cabin at the others. Cloud sat on the floor with his huge buster sword in front of him, it almost looked like he was meditating. Leon stood in his trademark pose against a wall, staring vacantly at the floor. Tidus was asleep, Wakka was rolling his blitz ball against the wall, and he knew Sora was still seated two seats back, glaring at the back of his head. Well, he couldn't call them well prepared, but he knew they could fight, and that was what really mattered.

But then there was the matter of Kairi. She was a great fighter, but they had never actually seen her in action. None of them knew what she could do, and he wasn't willing to risk letting her go into battle without knowing if she could handle it. Of course, he had enough experience with women to know that babying her would only lead to her disappearing to fight alone, or even worse, she might be convinced that her Keyblade was the key to winning the battle, and she might try to face Sephiroth alone. He would probably be so insulted at being faced by a little girl that he wouldn't even bother fighting her. None of the options were particularly appealing, he just hoped she would work with the team well enough that they wouldn't have to see how good she could be.

"I hope you kids are ready back there, we're here!" Cid hollered back from the front of the ship. Ansem jumped and grabbed Kairi as the ship jolted out of warp. Kairi shook her head and looked around.

"We're here already..?" She asked groggily, getting to her feet and shuffling toward the front of the ship.

A new planet could be seen out the window, a dark blue mass covered in flickering lights.

"Woooow, it's really beautiful…"

A/n: Sorry it was so short, I'll try to write the next one soon to make up for it. Had some problems with everything lately, and things are calming down finally. I'm really sorry it took so long. I hope this turns out okay, it only wanted to let me post half of the chapter at first, so I had to paste in the second half. If it's screwy can somebody let me know? I'm too tired to try to fix any problems right now.