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100 Steps Chapter 73 - DecemberSins
Whatever lies beyond this morning...
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100 Steps Chapter 73
Title: Seriously
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Claim: Cloud/Riku
Theme: [073.] Sad
Word Count: 5,742
Rating: R
Summary: Riku deserved a trophy or something for everything DiZ put him through. Seriously.


Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing related to the Kingdom Hearts (or Final Fantasy) franchise. I’m sure it shows.



This is how things were going to be now, Riku supposed. Saving a world from the Heartless and Nobodies would be just another day for Sora again and Riku would stalk members of the Organization in an effort to figure out just what they were up to. It was becoming a talent—stealth—and stalking Organization XIII members to assist Sora beat stalking princesses to assist Maleficent and Ansem who wasn’t Ansem. Still, following Xigbar through these long, isolated corridors of darkness was no joyful task. Once again he’d just have to put faith in DiZ even if he still didn’t understand entirely just what he was supposed to accomplish by trailing these insane psychopaths. Was he just supposed to stand back and watch while they destroyed the worlds or intervene and then hide if Sora came around? As usual, DiZ’s plan was nothing but a shoddy skeleton of a blueprint and it was up to Riku’s discretion to fill in the holes however he liked. Unfortunately, hell hath no fury like a DiZ whose holes have been improperly filled which left Riku feeling both lost and stressed. The only good thing to come out of this task was that it took his minds off other things like Kadaj, Zack Fair, and Geostigma. Until just this second, anyway.

The entire event was a waste of time, too. He spent the night making the long trek from the World that Never Was to a world he learned was called The Land of Dragons. While he appreciated that traveling through corridors was faster than flying on a gummi ship, it still took a long time going across what Riku assumed was a long expanse of worlds. Xigbar, too, seemed paranoid, making detours all over the place as if he knew someone was following him, and that made the journey even longer. Keeping track of someone by mere scent was no simple task, either, especially when the scent of a Nobody wasn’t that different from the sickening fragrance of darkness itself. By the time he was able to emerge into clean air he was tired, nauseas, and highly irritable that the real mission had only commenced just now. It had to be twelve hours since he left DiZ’s and over twenty-four since he’d last eaten and slept. He deserved a fucking trophy or something for the shit DiZ put him through. Seriously.

Careful to keep a safe distance from Xigbar and prepared to jump back into a dark portal should he become aware of Riku’s presence, he followed Xigbar through sprawling country sides and through small villages for much of the day. The only thing he managed to learn was that Sora had already come and gone (had to be Sora from the description Riku overheard one soldier give) and that Xigbar wasn’t satisfied with the calmed state of things Sora had left The Land of Dragons in. All Xigbar did to raise any concern was summon some Nobodies and leave a dark portal open to lure in the Heartless. Then he simply left, headed back to the World That Never Was. Riku didn’t know whether to be relieved or pissed.

He’d be back; Riku was sure of that. He’d have to whenever Xigbar figured out just what he wanted to do to stir things up back there. It wasn’t a fond thought with the day mostly wasted and Riku exhausted. What was the Organization up to? Xigbar came late as if avoiding Sora’s presence on purpose, and then he did nothing but leave another mess for Sora to clean up. He didn’t place himself in Sora’s path as if to stop the elimination of Heartless or Nobodies. Then there was that other nagging thing in the back of his mind that he just couldn’t piece together: What did the Organization really want with Sora? Had they wanted him awake or not? When he first met Saïx, he did nothing to stop Riku from taking Roxas, but then Axel showed up just as Sora was about to wake. He claimed he was sent to retrieve Roxas and called a traitor for failing. They had taunted Sora with Roxas’s name in Hollow Bastion, but now Xigbar was purposefully avoiding him. Did they want Sora or Roxas? Or didn’t it matter who they had for their plans as long as there was a Keyblade wielder running around? But if that was the case, what was the plan, because they sure weren’t trying to stop Sora from doing his Keyblade master thing, either. In fact, from what Leon reiterated, Organization XIII only spoke to Sora after he wiped out all the Nobodies they summoned in the bailey.

This was frustrating—having endless questions and not a single answer to any one of them. He thought maybe by following Xigbar he’d have a better idea of what his job was, but now he still had no idea what DiZ was trying to accomplish or what Organization XIII was trying to do. Riku wondered how his life had come to this point of uncertainty and allowed Xigbar to gain more of a lead ahead of him as he slowed his pace back to the World That Never Was. He was tired for fuck’s sake and he could find the damn world on his own. If DiZ knew what was good for him, he would have picked up some food on his travels because Riku hadn’t used any of the common sense he had to grab something to eat in the Land of Dragons before the walk back. He made a mental note to make a pit stop for food on all future Organization stalkings. Being hungry made him a miserable son of a bitch and being tired on top of it just made it worse. If he was going to be irritated over his lack of job description anyway, he really needed to take all necessary precautions to avoid additional annoyances. At least it was something normal to be annoyed about no matter how normal being annoyed by Heartless, Nobodies, and the Organization was becoming.

In a great deal of misery and with a tired, zombie-like tread, Riku reemerged in the shabby kitchen of the house DiZ decided to make their base over twenty-four hours after he left. There was a sandwich and a banana sitting on the table as if waiting for him. Riku wasted no time in snatching it up and gobbling the pitiful meal down. It was as he tossed the banana peel in the trash that he heard faint voices drifting in from the front room. DiZ had company and if the familiar, high-pitched squeak was any indication, the company was Kind Mickey. Feeling a little more awake at this development, he made his way to the source.

“Welcome back,” said DiZ as Riku stepped into the doorway. “You’ve been gone for longer than expected. Xigbar arrived almost an hour ago.”

“I took the scenic corridor,” said Riku. He glared.

“Well now that you’re back, you have a visitor,” said DiZ, motioning to Mickey.

“Hi ya!” said Mickey, waving. Lying on the floor beside him, Pluto looked up and gave a happy bark. “We didn’t get a chance to talk in Twilight Town so I stopped here as soon as I got the chance.”

Riku’s glare softened. He dropped to sit on the floor, looked at him with weary eyes, and offered Mickey a weak smile. He gave Pluto a pat on the head. “It’s good to see you.”

“Golly, Riku, are you all right?”

“Just tired,” he answered, and then it hit him that the king had just used his name. In front of DiZ. And Riku had just responded. He popped up in alarm. “I mean...”

“It’s no use,” said DiZ. “I already knew.”

“We were just talkin’ about your mission before you got back,” said Mickey.

“How long?” Riku asked. “I mean...”

“I’ve known since you first arrived in Twilight Town with Roxas,” said DiZ.

“And I’ve been here for about an hour and a half,” said Mickey.

“We’ve been trading information,” DiZ finished.

“Oh,” said Riku.

“I wanted to let you know what’s going on out there, too,” said Mickey. “So, pal, how did your mission go?”

“It was a freakin’ waste of time,” Riku said. “Sora’s already left The Land of Dragons. Xigbar didn’t do anything but ask around about what happened, summoned some Nobodies, left a portal to lure the Heartless, and left.”

“I just can’t figure out what they’re trying to do beyond collecting hearts,” said DiZ.

“Collecting hearts?” said Riku.

“Well that’s obvious, isn’t it? They took Roxas in to take out the Heartless with the Keyblade and collect the hearts. And now that Sora’s back they’re allowing him to go on his way to do the same thing. They’re trying to fill Kingdom Hearts with as many as possible. I just don’t know what they plan on doing with them.”

Riku stared at the floor. So that’s what the Organization was doing. It would have been nice of DiZ to mention this sooner. Maybe he had and Riku had just not listened. Whatever had happened, it still opened up a whole new list of questions that needed answering. He stared at Mickey. “Any more good news?”

“Actually...” said Mickey. He frowned. “Golly, Riku, I don’t know how to tell you this...”

Riku’s heart sank. He closed his eyes, took a breath, and then looked at Mickey again. “I can take it. Just give it to me straight.”

“One of my old acquaintances from Disney Castle, Pete, has been seen wandering around and summoning the Heartless. Last I heard he was looking for Maleficent.”

Riku snorted. “Tough shit there, buddy.”

“Actually...” said Mickey.

“Actually what?”

“She’s back, actually.”

Riku sighed and slumped. “Of course she is. Dead people are just popping up all over the place like a goddamn bed of roses.”

“I heard about Zack...”

Riku waved his hand. “Whatever. So what? This Pete guy is working with Maleficent or something in an attempt to take over Kingdom Hearts? I say we let them fight over it and then take out the victor. Make our job easier.”

“Organization XIII is still our prime objective,” DiZ said. “Nothing there has changed.”

“Maleficent and Pete don’t seem to be a real threat as of the moment,” said Mickey. “And I’m sure Sora will take care of their interference. Pete is determined to use the Heartless for his own gain, but he’s nothing Sora can’t handle. Maleficent has shown little interest in using the Heartless to take over any worlds. Instead, she’s using them in her search for a new castle to take over.”

Riku frowned. “Wait...What? She’s shopping for real estate?”

“Something like that,” said DiZ.

“I don’t think we need to worry about them just yet. So keep your focus on Organization XIII and let me and Sora take care of Maleficent and Pete,” said Mickey.

“Have you seen Sora again?” said Riku.

“Not since we met in Twilight Town. I sent him on the train to Yen Sid and then went to see how it went later. That’s when I found out about Maleficent and Pete. Sora met Pete outside the castle and then Maleficent arrived shortly after he left. She was considering Yen Sid’s tower for her new base, but he stopped her so she left to find another castle.”

Riku’s face twisted. “You’re kidding. She’s really shopping for real estate?”

Mickey, looking just as unsure of what had happened here, nodded. “Yes.”

“I mean...I don’t know. I guess she has to have some place to conduct her villain meetings...”

Mickey nodded again. “I’m not worried about it as long as she’s on the move. If she’s looking for a place to conduct business then she’s not actually doing anything.”

“Right. It’s if she finds a place to stay and starts working toward her crazy ambitions again that we need to worry.”

“That’s right,” said DiZ. “So in the meantime all you need to focus on is your Organization members. You said Xigbar did nothing in The Land of Dragons save for a few Nobodies and Heartless?”

“Yeah. It was like he wasn’t even really concerned with making a big mess yet.”

“They may have something else planned first. There are plenty of worlds out there to take advantage of and if their real goal is to collect hearts for some purpose, it doesn’t matter which world Sora is on.”

“But then why did they intercept him in Hollow Bastion?”

“Well surely it’s easier for them if they have Roxas and they’re in control of the situation. That doesn’t mean Sora doing the work for them has a negative effect; it’s simply less convenient.”

“What happened with Xaldin when you followed him? What was he up to?”

“He’s been loitering around the Beast’s castle lately...”

“The Beast?” said Riku. “That thing from Hollow Bastion that was all in love with that Princess of Heart?”

“You mean Belle, I presume.”

“Yeah, her. Xaldin went there?”

DiZ nodded and made an affirmative sound in the back of his throat. “Yes. It seems he’s been controlling the Beast and warping his heart into something dark, most likely in an attempt to turn him into a Heartless.”

“That means one more heart for Kingdom Hearts and one more Nobody for the Organization,” said Mickey.

“Right,” said Riku. “Well best of luck to him with that. That Beast followed Belle all the way to Hollow Bastion without a ship or dark powers.”

“On the contrary,” said DiZ. “He was doing quite the fine job. The Beast had locked up his faithful servants in a dungeon and was turning on Belle until your friend, Sora, arrived and brought him back to his senses. Xaldin was revealed to Sora, but instead of fighting him himself, he offered a more powerful Heartless to contend with.”

“Which Sora, of course, defeated.”

“Naturally. Sora was quite pleased with himself. Xaldin attempted to bring down the spirits by announcing that it wasn’t over...”

“He actually said that?”

“Not in those exact words but it was what he meant. Anyway, Sora did just fine and then took off for whatever world he needs to save next.”

Riku nodded. “Yeah. That sounds about right. So how are things going with you, Mickey?”

“I’m still trying to track down as much information as I can. I thought I’d check back in Hollow Bastion again to do some more research when I left here. Speaking of which, pal, I was thinking of leaving Pluto here with ya. Thought you could use a friend and he can be a great help with following those Organization fellas.”

Riku was taken aback. Mickey was trusting him enough to leave his dog with him? Riku knew people were weird about their pets and even the king was no exception. He hesitated, but then Pluto looked up at him, barked happily, and gave Riku’s hand a long, slobbery lick. He nodded. “Yeah, all right. I think we can make a pretty good team, yeah?” Pluto barked again.

“That’s settled then. And I ought to be goin’. There’s lots of work to do and you look tired.”

“I am,” Riku said, nodding.

“Get some rest, then,” said DiZ. “I’ve set up a cot in one of the upstairs bedrooms for you. I’ll wake you if I sense any Organization activity.”

“Don’t you even sleep?”

“Not well.”

Riku stared for a moment, face softening. He nodded. “Okay. I’m going to bed. I’ll see you when I see you, Mickey.”

“Good night,” said Mickey.

They both stood and Riku waved a short goodbye before heading for the staircase. Pluto barked and bounded after him as he headed up. The bedroom was small but Riku quickly shrugged off his cloak anyway and dropped it to the ground. Pluto circled it once before pushing it around with his paws and made a spot to sleep. Riku sat on the bed and pulled his phone from his pocket. There were no calls on the display. He sighed, pulled up Cloud’s number, and held it to his ear. It went straight to voicemail.

“Where are you, Cloud?” Riku asked the air. Pluto raised his head and nuzzled Riku’s empty hand. “I know. He’s okay. I’m just...overreacting. Probably.”

He pocketed the phone again and stared out the window behind him. Somewhere out there he prayed Cloud was all right.

-0-

DiZ woke him at an hour Leon would have found appropriate. Ordinarily, Riku might have, too, but he felt like the morning beast version of Cloud when DiZ shook him awake and shoved a bag of crackers and a water bottle in his hands before telling him to take off because Demyx was on the move. His hatred of both DiZ and Organization XIII grew as he crawled out of bed, sneering and growling, and attempted to grab his cloak. Pluto, still sleeping, seemed unwilling to move. Riku sighed. It was bad when the dog didn’t even want to wake.

“Please give me my cloak, Pluto,” Riku whined.

“That is truly pathetic,” said DiZ. He grabbed the edge of the cloak, yanked it free, and passed it off to Riku. Pluto, jerked awake by the rude way DiZ had ripped his bed out from under him, shook his head and looked around.

“Hey, boy,” said Riku, “want to go hunting for Demyx?” Pluto barked. “I’ll take that as a yes.” He shrugged on the cloak, dropped the water bottle in his pocket, and offered Pluto a cracker. “Breakfast?”

“Would you just get going?” DiZ said.

Riku rolled his eyes, sneered again, and opened a dark portal. He made a short whistle and motioned for Pluto to follow. Over his shoulder, Riku offered a pitiful wave to DiZ before the portal closed behind them.

Riku passed the time on the trip talking to Pluto and receiving small barks and happy pants in reply. It also went faster than the walk to The Land of Dragons even though he was sure they’d covered more distance and Demyx moved like a snail. That could only mean Demyx was taking the fastest path there, unlike Xigbar, who took more detours than was normal. Everything he’d heard from DiZ must have been true.

Demyx arrived first thanks to his head start before Riku was even awake, but the elapsed time until Riku arrived was shorter than expected thanks to Pluto’s nose and Demyx’s pace. His plan upon reaching their destination was to find Demyx and keep close just as he had with Xigbar—in dark corridors, opening just a sliver of a portal so he could hear and see what was going on without being noticed. Thankfully with Demyx, unlike Xigbar, Riku could probably do a bigger sliver than anyone should normally get away with because from what Riku understood, Demyx was kind of an idiot.

When Riku could sense Demyx’s presence on the world outside the dark corridors, he opened a portal and stepped through. Riku recognized the scenery almost immediately and his heart pulled with pure sadness. Olympus Coliseum. The place Cloud had stayed so frequently early in their relationship and the place where they’d first...well...you know. His mind wandered back to the previous night—how he hadn’t been able to get in touch with Cloud last night or the night before—but it was only three nights now that they hadn’t spoken, right? Nothing too monumental could have happened and Cloud was busy. He needed to focus on the task at hand—finding Demyx. He followed Pluto through the familiar roads in Thebes, past the entrance to the Coliseum, and into a door Riku was sure had previously housed a Gummi garage behind it. Now it was dark and dank with an acrid odor similar to the darkness but distinctly different. He descended the staircase there with Pluto at his side, looked around, and then he heard the most familiar voice he could have heard in a place where he should have been expecting it. He whistled and opened the portal again, slipping inside with Pluto on his heels before Sora had the chance to see him.

Riku never claimed to be the best employee DiZ could have asked for. Plan B. Follow Sora. He opened a bigger sliver back into the world of light than he would have even dared with Demyx just as Sora, Donald, and Goofy walked into the dank cave. To his great fortune Plan A merged with Plan B and a cloaked figure that must have been Demyx ran by and disappeared through a door.

“The Organization!” the bastard duck cried.

“Yeah,” said Sora.

Riku hung his head. He would never understand how Sora took Donald or Goofy seriously. With Pluto beside him, Riku followed Sora through the door Demyx had disappeared through farther into the cave. He held back, watched in awe as Sora fought his way through the Heartless with ease, and continued through the cave’s passageways. Sora got better every time Riku saw him, as if thirty or forty Heartless were of no concern for him. He was still in a slight sense of awe and full of pride when they arrived in an inner chamber and Demyx came running through again, this time screaming at the top of his head.

“Run! Run away!” he cried as he ran past and back the way he came, disappearing through a dark portal.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Riku muttered.

“Okay?” said Sora.

Riku snorted and then he glanced toward where Demyx had come from. This was starting to make sense. The only person Riku knew of in Olympus Coliseum that could make someone run screaming like that was Hades so this foul, disgusting place had to be part of Hades’ Underworld. He frowned, thoughts drifting to Cloud and how not so long ago he was working for Hades, probably spending much of his time in this place just hoping against all odds to find Sephiroth and finish things. Plan B abandoned, Riku went after Demyx. At the very least he needed to figure out what he was trying to accomplish by meeting with Hades.

It took some time to find him again. The speedy little fucker moved around Olympus Coliseum like a child with ADD. When he did manage to find him he was sitting patiently in a different area of the Underworld looking at a gold-colored stone embossed with a lighting bolt. That was it. Seriously. Sitting. Staring at the thing like it was going to do something magical because it had a pretty picture on it or something. Riku sighed. Here he had gone on despite all the negative energy coming from Hades’ chamber and ignored the snarling of what could only be the three-headed monster Cloud had told him about ages ago just to find this Organization fucker. But now Demyx was just sitting there. Looking at the pretty stone like he was waiting for something. Riku sighed and turned, taking the long trek back to Hades’ chamber. He passed Sora on the way, but naturally being in the dark corridors, he went undetected.

It sometimes felt like being a ghost, having the ability to slip through walls and barriers and across worlds undetected, overhearing things without being noticed, or walking right past your very best friend without him being any the wiser that anyone was even there. This feeling of insignificance slipped to the back of his mind, however, as he slid into Hades’ chamber to see the God of the Underworld and a fat, dog-like thing that could have been related to Goofy.

“Let me see if I got this right...” said Hades. “That brat’s Keyblade works on any lock?”

“That’s right,” Goofy’s overweight relative replied. He pulled himself up as if he were proud to be privy to such dignified knowledge. Hades chuckled.

“Have I ever told you about the killer coliseum we have right here in the Underworld? It makes the one upstairs look like an Olympic kiddie pool.”

“Then that’s the place we’re gonna put an end to Herc the Jerk’s winnin’ streak.” The dog-beast pounded the table causing Hades’ little lackeys to jump.

“Problem,” said Hades. “Zeus locked it tight.” Riku rolled his eyes, but the stupid dog thing didn’t get it until after Hades started one of his well-practiced, sinister chuckles. “Bingo...All we gotta do is swipe that key...and then reopen the Underdrome!”

“Hate to tell ya, but that key is kinda particular. It won’t work for just anybody. And that kid ain’t no pushover.”

Riku swelled with something frighteningly close to motherly pride. That was damn right. Sora wasn’t no pushover and Hades could just stick it...

“I think this calls for a woman’s touch...” said Hades, snapping his finger.

Riku sighed, immediately turned, and left the chamber before anyone noticed his presence. Hades was a scheming bastard and Riku didn’t know how Cloud ever managed to put up with him, disagreeable as Cloud was. He considered the options. Demyx, as far as Riku or Pluto could sense, was still sitting where they left him, probably staring at that stupid rock. Hades was trying to give Phil’s coliseum some healthy business competition. Who knew where Sora was traipsing around, and let it be said, Maleficent was in the market for real estate.

Had they always been this on crack and Riku just hadn’t noticed while infused with darkness and everything?

After some consideration, he decided he’d head back to Demyx just for kicks (and in case he headed off anywhere else). Riku made it halfway there before he heard the commotion aboveground. He considered, shook his head, and continued. Whatever was going on up there Riku was staying the hell out of it. He was supposed to be stalking Demyx, damn it, and if he had to run across the Underworld one more time just to keep this whole thing straight, someone was going to die.

It was, apparently, a good decision because he would have ended up here anyway. While Demyx stayed exactly where he was, Riku hid nearby, a minimal portal open to hear and see should anything happen. He put his phone on silent and traded obnoxious text messages with Leon while he waited. A half hour later, he’d added Yuffie, Aerith, Tifa, and Cid’s numbers to his phone and traded a few more obnoxious texts with Yuffie when Sora, Donald, and Goofy arrived. They hadn’t even made it into the room when Riku stashed away his phone and both he and Demyx rose to their feet.

“Huh?” said Demyx. “Ah! You!”

Riku rolled his eyes. He acted like he was interrupted staring at his stone as if it were something important. Demyx turned toward Sora. He pulled back his hood and Riku’s mouth fell. He had a mullet.

Seriously.

“Wait a sec...” Demyx said, shaking his finger as if he were trying to recall something. “Roxas?”

Riku already hated him.

“Excuse me?” Sora replied, bewildered.

Perhaps Sora was so thick Roxas didn’t even have a chance to try and split.

“Roxas?” Demyx tried again. “Oh, it’s no use.” He deflated and shook his head. He looked like someone had killed his puppy.

“Huh?” Sora replied. “What are you talking about?”

Demyx straightened up and pulled out a note, holding it high. “Let’s see, here...’If the subject fails to respond, use aggression to liberate his true disposition’...Right. Did they ever pick the wrong guy for this one...”

“You’re bizarre...” said Sora.

Riku had to clap a hand over his mouth to keep from outright laughing because he couldn’t have said it better and this was why Sora was his very best friend in the entire world. Demyx, however, didn’t miss a beat and pulled out that stupid stone again. Sora gasped; Goofy pointed.

“He’s gotta be the thief!” Goofy declared.

“Now that’s just plain rude!” Demyx replied.

Thief. What did Demyx do? Steal the stupid stone and then sit here all this time all proud of himself or something? And now he was offended? He even pouted a little before he held the stone up and it began to glow with light. Then he produced something that looked like a guitar and Riku remembered what DiZ had told him. Demyx controlled water with a sitar—that stupid-looking thing he was now wielding as if it were formidable. And just when Riku thought this guy couldn’t be any more of a joke...

“Dance, water! Dance!”

Sora killed the measly amount of water forms that appeared in seconds. Demyx looked pleased.

“Not bad, Roxas!” He squared his shoulders, and then as if pleading, said, “Roxas, come back to us!”

And with that he vanished into the darkness dropping the shiny stone on the ground behind him. Riku could do nothing but stare blankly. Silently he closed the portal, looked at Pluto, and blinked.

“I cannot believe DiZ woke us up for this,” he calmly stated, and with Pluto by his side, headed back to the World That Never Was. The fast way.

-0-

“He called him Roxas a bunch of times and said, ‘Roxas, come back to us.’”

“And?”

Riku shrugged. “He stole a stone.”

“And?”

Riku shrugged again. “That’s about it.”

“I see.”

“I’m glad one of us does.”

“How did Sora react?”

“He thinks Demyx is insane.”

“I see.”

“Once again, glad one of us does. I’m going to bed.”

It was close to nine when Riku left DiZ in the kitchen and headed upstairs with a Styrofoam container of instant noodles in hand. He just settled in, cloak sprawled on the floor and Pluto sprawled on top of it, when his phone rang. Riku practically spilled what was left of his broth in a mad attempt to get to it in time and huffed upon seeing Leon’s name on the display. Not that he didn’t want to talk to Leon, but...

“Hey,” said Riku, slumping. “What’s up?”

“What is with your preoccupation with licking ice cream cones?” Leon replied.

Riku snorted and set the instant noodle cup on a nearby table. “Oh, yeah. That. I don’t know. I was following this Organization guy today and I was just bored out of my effing mind so I needed something to pass the time.”

“So asking me for everyone’s number and sending me perverted messages about ice cream cones was the solution?” There was a dry but amused tone in Leon’s voice that made the corners of Riku’s mouth turn up a little.

“Hey, I sent Yuffie messages about buttering her bread if it makes you feel less special.”

“A little. But anyway, it was nice to hear from you.”

“You just saw me!”

“Whatever. That’s not the real reason I’m calling. First I wanted to let you know Sora was here yesterday.”

“Yesterday? I thought Sora was at the Beast’s castle yesterday?”

“I don’t know. It was later in the day. Merlin summoned him. Found Pooh’s book.”

“Who the hell is Pooh?”

“From what I understand, you don’t want to know. Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to see him, but I thought you’d like to know he was well.”

“Yeah, I know. I saw him in Olympus Coliseum today while I was stalking the moron that is Demyx. Got a few chuckles over it, too.”

“Oh...well...that’s great, then.”

“Yeah. So what else did you want to tell me about?”

“I have a question, actually. I was wondering if you’d heard from Cloud.”

Riku perked up. “No. Why? Did something happen?”

“Hell if I know. I haven’t been able to get a hold of him or Tifa for the past two days and when I said something to Aerith, she couldn’t get in touch with them, either. So then Yuffie tried, and no one answered, so I was wondering if you’d heard anything.”

“No. I haven’t.” Riku sighed and on the other end, Leon mimicked the sound. “That’s bad, right? I mean, with everything going on...”

“Ordinarily I wouldn’t say so because Cloud just doesn’t answer sometimes, but Tifa not answering is kind of unusual.”

“Yeah, right...So...?”

“I don’t know. I wouldn’t worry just yet. If no one hears from them tomorrow then I’ll figure something out. Fly back to Gaea or something to find out what’s going on. Don’t worry.”

“Well I’m gonna worry now.”

“I’m sure they’re fine. I’ll let you know if I hear anything, though.”

“Yeah, same here.”

“So your days sucks even more now, huh?”

“I didn’t think it was possible. Seriously.”

“That bad?”

“The only interesting thing that happened was I got to see Sora and he reminded me again why I love him so damn much. Oh, and Hades is trying to open up some Underdrome in the Underworld that’s supposed to be better than Phil’s. So let Yuffie know. I know how you love to enter tournaments there with her.”

Leon growled. “The only way Yuffie will ever hear anything about this from me is if she tries to fuck it out of me.”

“That scared of girly parts?”

“If they’re attached to Yuffie, you’re damn right I am.”

Riku snorted. “Well sorry to cut this short but I need to abuse myself thinking about how Cloud’s probably dead before I fall asleep and since I’m fucking exhausted, I better get on that.”

“Cloud isn’t probably dead.”

“He could be. You don’t know.”

“I told you not to worry. He’s probably busy or he ran over his phone charger with his motorcycle, borrowed Tifa’s, and then killed that with his brand new, ridiculously expensive sword.”

“Still sore over that, huh?”

“You don’t even want to know how much I paid for the parts to make that stupid sword.”

Riku chuckled. “Yeah. I know you’re probably right, I just...”

“Worry.”

“I love him.”

“I know. I’ll let you go. Sleep.”

“I’ll try.”

“Have good dreams.”

“Doubtful.”

“You have to. I demanded it.”

“You may be the boss of the Hollow Bastion Restoration, but you still ain’t the boss of me.”

“That’s what you think.”

“Thanks for calling.”

“No problem. I’ll talk to you soon. Good night.”

“Night, Leon.”

Riku flipped the phone shut and stuck it on the table next to his instant noodle cup. Crawling into the cot, he flopped on his side and stared out the window.

“Seriously, Cloud, where the hell are you?”



(Prompt Table) for previous installments. 73/100 Complete.
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