Title: Of Unbelievable Proximity
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Theme: [075.] Hurt
Word Count: 4,660
Summary: Wherein Riku is both relieved and can’t believe how incredibly close it was all this time.
Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing related to the Kingdom Hearts (or Final Fantasy) franchise. I’m sure it shows.
Author’s Note: Here’s that week that goes by really fast because when I first planned I forgot that where Sora is in his own timeline is important, too. –smiles sheepishly- Oops.
The week following Riku’s trek into Olympus Coliseum after Demyx passed in a blur. He woke on the first day on his own to Pluto sprawled at the end of his bed, half-laying on his feet. Riku was immediately confused. He had expected to be woken by DiZ at an ungodly hour because Demyx or Xigbar or even Saïx was off to start trouble and Riku would have to be the tag-a-long. Instead it was almost eleven according to his cell phone and even last night’s instant noodle cup was still atop the shabby table. DiZ hadn’t been in here at all. Slightly concerned, Riku shifted his feet out from under Pluto, pocketed the phone, grabbed his garbage, and headed downstairs. He found DiZ in the kitchen.
“Did you get enough rest?” he asked before Riku made it to the trash can.
“Yeah, sure, but what happened? No one left this morning?”
“Xigbar and Luxord took off late last night so I followed them on my own. I only just got back.”
“Oh...Well, thanks for not waking me. I really needed the sleep.”
“Yes, I know. You’ve been whining about it ever since you arrived. Don’t be too appreciative just yet, though. I thought now that you were well-rested it might be a good time for you to consider tracking down Axel.”
“Oh, yeah. Him.”
“Yes, him. He’s going to be a problem and he should have been eliminated, but since you couldn’t find it in you heart...”
“I know. You’ve reprimanded me for this before, remember? I’ll find him.”
“Yes, soon. Okay? So what happened with Xigbar and Luxord?”
“They went scouting around a few worlds, summoned more Nobodies, but that’s it. They left The Land of Dragons in quite a rush, however. Now the remaining Organization members have holed up in one room of the castle. I believe they’re having a meeting.”
“And how do you know that?”
“I followed them, of course.”
“Isn’t that a little risky, going into the castle?”
“I didn’t stay for the meeting.”
“We’re going to need to go in there eventually. Especially now with this meeting. All that time Saïx and Xemnas have spent in the castle makes me nervous.”
“Oh yeah. Them.”
“Yes them. Do you refuse to think about anything other than your need to eat and sleep?”
“I think about things, okay? I’m just unsure of what we’re supposed to do about anything if I’m not actually supposed to fight anyone.”
“This isn’t just all about fighting. Take a look at these blueprints I’ve drawn up and tell me what you think.”
DiZ turned away from what was left of the island counter separating them and grabbed large rolls of paper Riku hadn’t noticed there before. Turning back, he unrolled one long sheet of paper and then unrolled two more on top of it. Riku stared at the drawings of what appeared to be some kind of machine he’d never seen before.
“Not to sound ignorant, but what is it?” said Riku.
“I’ve been working on the mechanics of the heart for some time,” DiZ explained. “This machine is intended to counter the Organization’s efforts by releasing the hearts trapped inside Kingdom Hearts.”
“Will it work?”
“In theory, it should.”
“The human heart is an unpredictable thing.”
“So you have no idea,” said Riku. “Okay. That’s all you needed to say.” Riku paused as he lifted the top drawing to look at the one under it, and then he took a look at the bottom blueprint. He looked up. “So say this does work. It released the hearts from Kingdom Hearts so that the Organization can’t collect them. What happens then? I mean, don’t hearts go to Kingdom Hearts in the first place after Sora kills the Heartless? Do they become people again or would they manifest as Heartless?”
“The device should reclaim Kingdom Hearts and encode it as data.”
“Haven’t we had enough problems with data universes already?”
“The encoding should keep the hearts safe for study and the retrieval will shut off access from the Organization. It’s the only way I can find to keep the hearts safe. I had other plans, but now that Sora is awake and an acting force...I can’t control him. This is the only effort I can make.”
Riku stared. “If it’s the only plan you’ve got...”
“The Organization can’t get hold of those hearts. If they try to reclaim their own and become whole again, there’s no telling what they’ll do. They need to be destroyed.”
“This is about revenge again, isn’t it?” said Riku. DiZ didn’t answer. “Fine, but I already told you I’m not helping you with revenge. I’m getting something to eat and then I’m going to go look for Axel with Pluto. Maybe I’ll try Twilight Town or something. Let me know if anything changed while I was gone.”
DiZ didn’t reply. He remained silent, staring at his blueprints as Riku scoured the kitchen for something to eat, and once fed headed back upstairs. Pluto was still sleeping on the bed when he walked into the room and grabbed the cloak from the floor.
“Hey, boy. Feel like hunting for Axel today?” Riku asked as he shrugged the coat on. The only reply he received was a long yawn and a bark. Pluto bounded off the bed, Riku opened a portal, and they were off.
The day was a bust. He neither saw nor sensed Axel or Naminé in Twilight Town, though he did have an unhappy reunion with Seifer and the Twilight Town Disciplinary Committee. Riku considered popping back into Hollow Bastion just for kicks now that he was away from DiZ’s watchful eye, but reconsidered. If he went to Hollow Bastion, he was just going to get stuck there for hours—maybe even overnight—hanging out with Leon who wouldn’t want him to leave and Riku would want to stay, and then tomorrow DiZ would be unbearable. He made it back to The World that Never Was in the early evening just as his phone rang. Instead of heading to the house he shared with DiZ, Riku stopped in the house he’d shared with Cloud while prepping for the fight with Roxas and checked the display. His stomach dropped; it was Tifa’s number.
His hands shook as Riku flipped open the phone and held it up. “Hello?”
“Riku? Oh thank Shiva, I thought you might not answer.”
Riku paused and his stomach twisted at the voice that was most definitely Cloud’s. He could’ve cried. “Cloud? What...?”
“It’s a long story,” Cloud said, hurriedly. “Or a short one. I don’t know. Leon called Tifa this morning and ripped her a new one for not answering for two days. He also said I needed to call you because you were worried so...I’m calling.”
“Oh. Well...yeah. I hadn’t heard from you and I tried calling a few times but you either didn’t answer or it went straight to voicemail so...And then Leon called to ask me if I’d heard from you because he couldn’t get a hold of you or Tifa so that worried me...”
“I lost my phone,” Cloud said, huffing. “That’s why I had to call you from Tifa’s. I don’t know when but it’s just gone so I have to get a new one whenever I get back to Hollow Bastion.”
“Oh...okay. Well, I’m glad you’re okay...Are you busy or something? You’re talking really fast and you sound kind of irritated.”
“No, I’m not busy. Just...I had him. I had him and the son of a bitch got away.”
“Wha...Huh? What do you mean? You had who?”
Riku perked up, eyes widened. “What?! You had Sephiroth?!”
“Yes! And the son of a bitch got away!”
Cloud took a breath as if trying to calm himself. “Okay, so it was two days...three...yeah, it was three days ago ‘cause I slept through yesterday. So three days ago...”
“What do you mean you slept through yesterday?”
“I’ll get there; just hold on. So three days ago these kids start noticeably disappearing from Edge so me and Zack went out with Reno and Rude to try to find out something about it. So we’re asking around and everything, but I passed out from the Geostigma...”
“Oh, wait. There’s more to that, too. Anyway, I wake up with Reno, Rude, Zack, and Tifa all crowded around me back at Tifa’s and the very first thing they do is yell at me for not telling them about the Geostigma. Then they tell me that Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo took the kids to their base at the Forgotten City and that Marlene and Denzel are with them.”
“Yeah, I know. So I get elected to go out there after the kids, which is kind of a long ride, but Tifa backs me into a corner so I don’t have a choice. Reno and Rude take off and Zack stays with Tifa so I have to go on my own. When I get there, Kadaj has all the kids brainwashed or something and then he, Yazoo, and Loz attack me. So I have to fight them all off, right? But I’m outnumbered and I pass out from the Geostigma pain...again...”
“Luckily, they sent Vincent after me and he scared them off enough that they took all the kids and went back to Edge. Marlene, however, is still hanging around so I take her back to Tifa’s. This is two days ago, now, because I spent all night in the Forgotten City and driving from and to Edge.”
“Okay. So when I get back, Edge is being attacked by Bahamut...”
“Think flying monster beast capable of taking out Hollow Bastion market in one attack.”
“Yeah. And because I had to take Marlene home and everything, everyone I fought with last time—except Cid and Yuffie, of course, cause they’re in Hollow Bastion—”
“Yeah. Everyone’s already there. Even Vincent who probably just flew or something, but anyway...I join in. We kill Bahamut, but then Rufus Shinra and Kadaj are going at it over Jenova’s head.”
“You do realize how crazy this story sounds.”
“It gets better. After I see them fighting, I get back on Fenrir and try to get over there, but I only manage to get there after Rufus Shinra, Kadaj, and Jenova’s head all come falling from the roof. Kadaj grabs Jenova’s head, gets on his bike, and takes off, so naturally, I followed him, and naturally, Loz and Yazoo followed me.”
Riku nodded. “Fun.”
“Right. So now I’m part of this motorcycle chase across Edge fighting off Loz and Yazoo while trying to keep up with Kadaj and just as I manage to shake them off and get close to Kadaj, Reno and Rude blow up fucking Midgar Highway about half a second after both Kadaj and I passed them. So we both get thrown from the blast, he ends up in the Sector Six Church and I’m nearby so I head over there and guess what happens?”
Riku, already feeling like his eyes were going to pop out of his head, gaped. “He turned in Sephiroth.”
“Not yet,” said Cloud, his voice raising to a point of near hysteria. “Nope. He starts attacking me with materia...you remember what materia is, right?”
“Yeah. Wait, though. This is in the church now?”
“Yes, we’re in the church. I avoid his attacks, but he blows huge craters in the floor. And then water springs up from the cracks and me and Kadaj completely forget we’re fighting with each other because the water starts spreading out on it’s own, running up the walls, and falling down from the rafters like it’s rain. I get soaked...”
“And my Geostigma just...goes away...”
Riku frowned. “Huh?”
“I don’t have Geostigma anymore. No one in Edge does. This water in the church just heals it. So, you know, you can stop worrying about that, but the story doesn’t stop there.”
Riku stared and tried to focus so he could pay attention to the rest of what Cloud had to tell him, but the elation of one weight lifting from his shoulders was so great he could feel the tears of relief welling in his eyes. He released a small cough. “Right. Cause Kadaj...”
“Yeah. I don’t have time to really understand that the Geostigma is gone because then Kadaj blows an effing hole in the wall and takes off again. So I go after him over to the Shinra building and we start actually fighting now. Like real, hand to hand combat, until I back him into a corner and he blocks my attack with Jenova’s head and like a crazy son of a bitch fuses it into his body and that’s when Sephiroth decided to take over.”
“So you fought Sephiroth.”
“Yes! And you should have heard the crazy bastard, too, going off about how he was going to use Gaea as his vessel to sail the cosmos because he just can’t use a gummi ship like a normal fucking person. And he’s telling me he’s going to give me despair for a gift...I mean, he’s really talking crazy this time...”
“Did you say ‘sail the cosmos...’?”
“With the planet as his vessel, yes. But anyway, I could feel it, you know? How I can feel Sephiroth’s state in my heart because of the darkness tying us?”
Riku nodded. “Ye...Yeah. So?”
“Well I could feel it that if I got him this time it was going to be over. So after he skewered my shoulder with Masamune...”
“He got you again?”
“Yeah,” said Cloud, as if he were dismissing it. “It hurt, but...Anyway, he started talking crazy again about taking away what I cherished most, so I take the opening to pull his sword out of me and throw Omnislash at him. And just as I feel he’s about to die for good, he disappears. Not like died. Just disappeared into one of those dark portals you use and left Kadaj’s body behind to take the entire brunt of what I’d just managed to do to him. So the bastard got away and Kadaj died and from what Zack and Tifa told me, then I died.”
“Yeah, I died. Yazoo shot me in the chest and killed me while I was fuming about Sephiroth.”
“Same as Zack. It wasn’t my time and the Lifestream chucked me back out in the Sector Six Church so I’m not really clear on the details after that. Just that Loz and Yazoo are now dead, too, the Lifestream started raining and healing Geostigma, and at some point that day Zack and Tifa and everyone found me all passed out, partially healed, and alive in the church.”
“The Lifestream threw you out, too?”
“Yeah. Zack’s calling us the Lifestream Reject Twins. So I died, but I’m alive, and that’s that. Everyone took me to a hospital, they heavily sedated me but I kept asking to go home and complaining that I hurt so I woke up here today at Tifa’s and Zack had to tell me the whole story again. Apparently they’ve already told me everything but I was too out of it to understand. Then Leon called, I discovered that my phone was lost in the ordeal, Zack and I tried to figure out what to do next, and I called you.”
“So you died, and Sephiroth got away, but your Geostigma is healed and everything’s okay?”
“Pretty much, except for that Sephiroth part. Bastard.”
“I’m glad you’re alive.”
There was a hesitation on the other end and then Cloud said, “Me too,” his voice considerably softer than it had been for the duration of the conversation thus far. “Sorry I haven’t called before now.”
“Sounds like you’ve been too busy to get the time. It’s okay. I’m just relieved you’re alive and that you’re going to be okay.”
“And I’m Geostigma free.”
“Yeah. That’s...that’s fantastic.”
“Any exciting news from your end?”
Riku paused and the relief welled in him. He burst into tears and laughter. “No! Nothing! I’ve been stalking Organization members but it’s been ridiculous and boring. I mean...I saw Sora, okay, but...it wasn’t even bad! And Demyx...He’s one of the Organization guys...He has a mullet, Cloud. I’m not even kidding.”
On the other end, Cloud laughed. “That bad, huh?”
“I mean, I’ve hardly had any sleep. King Mickey came and left Pluto with me. I guess he talked to DiZ very briefly about what he was doing as far as the Organization, but Mickey is kind of weird about DiZ, too, so...Maleficent is back, but she’s currently shopping for real estate so there’s no real threat there...”
“Did you say...”
“Shopping for real estate, I know. Well, you know, she lost her castle in Hollow Bastion so she needs a new castle to take over. Um...I followed Xigbar—another Organization guy—and it was so boring. And then I followed Demyx yesterday to Olympus Coliseum, which bummed me out because it reminded me of you and I was worried, but I guess you were asleep yesterday safe and sound, huh?”
Cloud snickered. “Yeah, I guess. What happened besides Demyx has a mullet?”
“Cloud, he fights with a sitar. And all he did was steal a stone and stare at it until Sora showed up. Then he called him Roxas a few times and...Cloud, he pulled out a piece of paper and read his instructions out loud and then goes to himself that they picked the wrong guy for the job. Even Sora thought he was nuts. I thought I was going to give myself away because Sora looks at him plain as day and tells him he’s bizarre.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear you’re okay,” said Cloud, laughing.
“Yeah. Just bored. I tried to track down Axel today because DiZ knows now that I let him go and it’s my job to find him and make sure he doesn’t do anything but I haven’t been able to find him yet. Oh, and DiZ is working on some machine to encode hearts into data so he can retrieve the hearts from Kingdom Hearts and reverse the Organization’s efforts to collect them. That’s about it.”
“Well not everyone can have a story as exciting as yours.”
“So now what are you going to do?”
Riku shrugged. “Head back to the house, I guess. Figure out where I should go tomorrow to look for Axel. You?”
“Zack and I are planning to head out to the Forgotten City tomorrow with Reno and Rude to see if we can find that materia Kadaj, Loz, and Yazoo were using. From there it’s all figuring out where to go to find Sephiroth. Fun, huh?”
“Its like old times except I’ll be looking for Axel instead of Sora.”
“Hn,” said Cloud. “Yeah. That’s true. Well I’m gonna go ‘cause I’m starting to get tired again. Getting shot in the chest does that.”
Riku smiled a little. “I wouldn’t know. Really, though, I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Me too. I’ll talk to you soon, okay?”
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Riku waited for Cloud to hang up and then closed his phone. He stared at Pluto sitting by his feet, rolled his head back, and sighed. Cloud was okay. He didn’t have Geostigma anymore. He had died, which was a somewhat terrifying thought, but the Lifestream threw him out and now he was okay again. There was still Sephiroth to contend with, but Cloud had been so close and Riku could do nothing but think everything was going to all be right.
The following three days passed without much event. The day after his conversation with Cloud, Leon called to complain for a half hour about how he had accidentally told Yuffie about the Underdrome and now he was in Olympus Coliseum for the Pain and Panic Cup tomorrow. The only positive part about this, Leon said, was that Sora would probably hear about the Cup and show up for the event. Now that they were speaking on the phone and Riku had nothing to rely on but Leon’s voice, his interest perked at the way Leon said the last statement, as if seeing Sora would be something very exciting. Then again, he had also sounded excited about Sora coming to Hollow Bastion for the sake of some book. Riku made a mental note to investigate the upbeat tone Leon’s voice took when talking about Sora the next time he was in Hollow Bastion.
Riku spent the day after Leon called following Xigbar and Demyx around (who went off together to Agrabah) and the following two days looking for Axel and Naminé. Nothing proved productive. Xigbar and Demyx merely walked around the day he followed them and then holed up in the castle again for more Organization meetings.
It was on the fifth day after he went to Olympus Coliseum and sometime in the evening while he sat in his room contemplating making a call to Cloud that he felt Axel move into The World That Never Was. Naminé wasn’t with him. Shocked that Axel might come to him instead of the other way around, and that he’d come to The World That Never Was considering his current relationship with the Organization, Riku could do nothing but look at Pluto. It was DiZ that broke him out of the trance-like state.
“I already know,” Riku said as DiZ walked into the room. “What do I do?”
“Stand by,” was the only thing DiZ could offer before he left the room.
So Riku did. He stayed up all night and felt nothing with Axel but his movement around the castle as if he were spying on the Organization or wanted to confirm that Roxas hadn’t reappeared in his absence or anything. At the same time Saïx’s aura changed—became darker and more alert. In the early morning hours, he led Pluto outside for a walk. He couldn’t take just sitting in the room anymore, waiting, wondering what Axel was up to, nerves frayed and jumbled from the change in Saïx. The man himself made Riku so nervous without the way his heart had just darkened and now Riku’s own heart was racing. Saïx was too calm to be normal, tightly strung as if he could snap at any moment. Axel wasn’t exactly the most subtle person he’d ever met. Saïx knew he was there and Riku didn’t want to know how this was going to pan out if Saïx wasn’t acting. If he was allowing Axel to sniff around the way he was, then whatever he planned to do about it was worse than anything Riku could imagine.
Just as they were walking back to the house Pluto’s head jerked up and Riku felt it, too. Axel was coming this way. Together they crept forward and then Riku paused at a distance and watched as Pluto tailed him until Axel turned a corner and disappeared through a portal. Riku considered going back to let DiZ know he was leaving, but then remembered DiZ would feel it anyway so he opened a portal of his own and whistled for Pluto to follow. Together they entered the corridor and followed Axel.
The walk was so much shorter than Riku could have ever expected. They were only in the darkness for close to an hour and Axel had taken no detours. According to Riku’s senses, they were right by Twilight Town, so close Riku almost swore they were actually in Twilight Town, but even from inside the portal this world felt distinctly different. Then Axel stepped out into the open space, Riku opened a sliver, and his stomach clenched; he froze where he was standing. Riku couldn’t think, couldn’t comprehend, couldn’t believe it was so close all this time, couldn’t believe he was really standing here and that all he needed to do was step out of the portal. He stared.
Axel stood on the beach at a reasonable distance from Kairi and near the water. The sounds, the scents of Destiny Island invaded his senses even here in the darkness. He heard Kairi’s voice clearly; Riku noted that her hair had grown. Out in the distance was the play island and the familiar shape of his favorite paopu nagged his peripheral vision. Riku just knew without going there that just farther up the beach was a dock that rented boats for pocket change and beyond that, the dock where the kids in the neighborhood kept their own boats. Pluto rubbed up against his side and Riku’s hand absently fell to the dog’s head as Kairi stared Axel down.
“Who are you?” she asked with some trepidation. Riku’s heart seized.
“Axel,” he replied. “I happen to be an acquaintance of Sora’s. Why don’t we go see him?” Axel held out his hand.
“...Sora?” Kairi echoed.
This was what Riku had been concerned might happen, but he hadn’t expected it so soon. Axel was trying to use Kairi to get Sora. Unsure of what to do, Riku just stood there, but then Pluto barked and bound out the portal. Pluto ran over to Kairi and circled her, wagging his tail and barking happily. Kairi, broken from her own trance, turned her attention to Pluto and then back to Axel. Noticing what had just happened, Axel summoned a group of dusks and they surrounded Kairi. She backed away and pulled into herself as Pluto snarled at the Nobodies. Riku snapped back to attention, opened the portal fully, and whistled. Pluto bound back toward him, stopped, and then turned to bark at Kairi.
“We’ve got something in common, Kairi,” Axel tried. Riku held his breath. “You and I both miss someone we care about. Hey, I feel like we’re friends already.”
“You’re not acting very friendly!” Kairi yelled back as the Dusks started to close in.
She turned and ran in the open portal. It became considerably lighter with her presence, probably because she was a Princess of Heart, but Riku had no time to think of that. As Kairi looked around and wondered aloud where she was Riku had to act. He opened a portal into Twilight Town, it being the closest world, and whistled, hoping Pluto would understand to take Kairi there and that Riku couldn’t go with them. He couldn’t see Kairi like this. Not yet. Thankfully Pluto took the hint and ran through the portal into Twilight Town. Kairi ran after him, stepped through, and then as if something were nagging her, looked back and right at him. She stared, transfixed, and it was with pain that Riku closed the path separating them. Kairi disappeared from his view.
His heart hurt. For a long while and long after he felt Axel disappear from his senses Riku just stood there in the corridor of darkness alone. Part of him wanted to race into Twilight Town after Kairi; the rest of him wanted to race into Destiny Islands and run like mad in the direction of home. Both parts of Riku knew neither was an option—not looking like this. Not before things were finished. Riku knew he should go back to the World That Never Was right now and do whatever else he needed to do and just not think about what had just happened or how much he hurt. He knew it was what he should do. He headed for Hollow Bastion instead. More than anything Riku wanted a friend right now and since Cloud was still on Gaea and Kairi and Sora weren’t options that meant Leon.
Six days after seeing Sora in Olympus Coliseum Riku walked away from Kairi and took the shortest two-hour walk of his life from Destiny Islands to Hollow Bastion.
(Prompt Table) for previous installments. 75/100 Complete.