Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Theme: [077.] Pride
Word Count: 4,167
Summary: Riku makes a pit stop in Hollow Bastion.
Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing related to the Kingdom Hearts (or Final Fantasy) franchise. I’m sure it shows.
It was mid-afternoon when Riku opened a portal from the darkness into the Hollow Bastion Restoration site just outside of market. Knowing Leon, he was hard at work somewhere in this world, and now all Riku had to manage was finding him. After a brief consideration and short look around the area, he headed for Merlin’s.
“I thought we’d be expecting you!” said Merlin as Riku walked in. Cid and Aerith, the only other house occupants, turned to see just who Merlin had been expecting.
“You could tell us when we’re expectin’ someone once in a while, ya know?” said Cid. He threw his hand over his shoulder in a short wave and turned back toward the computer screen. “Hey, kid. How ya doin’?”
“Hey, Cid,” said Riku. “A little shaken up, actually, but otherwise fine.”
“What happened?” said Aerith, walking over to him. She leaned forward and peered at him. “Are you okay? I heard from Tifa that Cloud’s doing well.”
“Yeah,” said Riku, breaking eye contact and looking to the floor. “No, everything’s good with Cloud. I just...Organization stuff. I was hoping to speak to Leon. D’you know where I could find him?”
“Leon just cracked into Ansem’s study over at the castle,” said Cid. “He’s been holed up in there all mornin’ tryin’ to find something useful.”
“I can take you there if you like,” said Aerith. “Leon should take a break and I bet he’d like the company.”
“Yeah,” said Riku, looking around the house. He nodded at Aerith finally. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
“I’m going to take him over and then I’ll be back,” said Aerith. Cid nodded and gave another half wave to her. They left the house and headed toward the bailey. “You seem tense,” said Aerith, once a decent distance from the house. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just...having a bad day and I wanted a friend.”
“So you came to see Leon.”
“Yeah. Well...he’s like the best friend I have right now besides Cloud, but Cloud’s got his own things to worry about.”
Aerith lightly laughed. “I talked to Tifa yesterday. She says Cloud’s been working hard in Edge on their own restoration. Against his will, naturally, but Zack dragged him into helping.”
Riku snickered. “Well at least when Cloud’s irritated about construction he isn’t brooding or anything so that’s good.”
“Did you hear about what happened with Sephiroth?”
“Yeah. I think it sucks he got away, but it’s really great how close Cloud was. I don’t think it’s anything Cloud should be hard on himself about, anyway.”
Aerith nodded. She peered at Riku as they walked and swung her arms. “So, what have you been up to? Anything new?”
“Not really. You know me...stalking Organization XIII, not wanting to help DiZ...that kind of thing.”
Aerith pressed her lips together and nodded. “Hm...yeah. You know, you and Cloud are very well suited for each other.”
“Oh, yeah?” said Riku. “Why’s that?”
“Because neither one of you ever tells the whole truth,” she answered, smiling. “But that’s okay; I understand.” Riku frowned, and then opened his mouth to say something, but Aerith cut him off. “Oh! Here we are! It’s this entrance to the castle. Let me take you directly to the study, though you’ll probably hear Leon before you see him.”
Aerith hadn’t been kidding. They winded through a few, vaguely familiar hallways from when Riku had been living here under Maleficent when he heard a low, pounding sound and Leon’s voice unleashing an unholy string of curse words. Aerith smiled and gave him a look as if to say, ‘I told you so.’
“Leon,” said Aerith, opening a door. “You have a visitor.” She stepped to the side and allowed Riku to enter.
“What?” said Leon, scowling as he turned, and then his eyes fell on Riku and the sneer melted. “Hey. What are you doing here?”
“Riku wanted to see a familiar face,” said Aerith. “Well, I’ll leave you two to...whatever it was you were doing. I’ll be with Cid if you need me.”
“Okay,” said Leon, nodding. Aerith slipped from the room and once she was gone, Leon looked to Riku. “So what’s up? I wasn’t expecting you back here so soon.”
Riku shrugged and looked around at the room’s state of disarray. “Eh. I think I should be asking you what’s going on. What the hell happened in here?”
Leon rolled his eyes and motioned his head toward the wall. “I’ve been going through Ansem’s—the real Ansem’s—notes and stuff. So far I’ve discovered he has a secret computer room...”
Riku scowled. “No,” he hissed. “The secret computer interfering with our system over at Merlin’s?”
“Could be,” said Leon. “And if it is the system that keeps causing ours to fail, I’d really like to get to it for more reasons than one. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out how to get this wall open.”
“How do you know the computer room is back there?”
“This wall sounds completely hollow compared to the others, plus it’s the only one without tons of stuff shoved in front of it. I can’t seem to get through, though, so...I don’t know. I’ll figure it out later.” Leon ran his hand over the wall once and then sat on the edge of Ansem’s desk. “I guess that makes it your turn. What’s up?”
“Eh,” said Riku again. “Nothing, really. I just...I guess I just bailed on DiZ or something.”
“It was only a matter of time,” said Leon, nodding.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You’re not very good at following his orders; that’s all. Why’d you bail?”
“Well the last couple of days I’ve been trying to find Axel, but then last night he came into the World That Never Was and then this morning...I ended up following him to Destiny Islands. He was trying to get Kairi to go somewhere with him so I had Pluto take her to Twilight Town and came here. It’s really close to there, by the way. Destiny Islands. It’s like a hop, skip, and a jump.”
Leon raised his eyebrows as Riku shrugged again. “So you were on your home world, saw your other estranged friend for the first time, and discovered that both were closer than you could have imagined this whole time.”
“Yeah,” said Riku. “You know...No big deal.”
“Right. So you bailed on DiZ?”
“I didn’t feel like stalking Organization guys just yet. Felt like harassing you instead. Okay, actually, I felt like harassing Cloud, but I don’t know where Gaea is, and it’s low on places I’d like to go, so I chose to harass you instead.”
“And Cloud has no phone right now,” Leon added.
“Right, yeah. There’s that, too.”
“Want to hear something funny?”
“Yes, very much.”
“Picture what Cid’s face must have looked like when I told him Cloud needed a new phone made for him.”
Riku snickered. “As if he doesn’t have enough to do.”
“Right. But I guess after everything Cloud was doing between fighting monsters and having motorcycle chases he was bound to lose something.”
“Can I tell you a secret?”
Leon frowned. “Uh...okay. Sure. What?”
“I think the fact Cloud has a motorcycle is kind of hot.”
Leon snorted. “You would. I think it’s hysterical.”
“You would,” said Riku. He looked away, smiled, and then looked at Leon. “I think I made a good choice in coming here. I feel better already.”
“Sometimes you just need to shoot the shit,” said Leon, shrugging. “Get your mind off of things.”
“So...you feel like helping out around here while you’re visiting and ditching your other job?”
Riku laughed. “Sure. Why not?”
“That’s a good man, Riku. I knew I liked you. Now let’s try to find this computer room, huh?”
Ansem the Wise—the real Ansem—reminded Riku strongly of DiZ. The way he organized things, documented them, and was so strategic and detail-oriented just reeked of the Twilight Town mansion’s computer room. Even his blueprints and diagrams were similar to the ones DiZ had just shown Riku of the strange heart contraption yesterday morning.
Riku and Leon spent two hours in the study before they found the latch that opened the wall and led into the computer room. Riku spent two more hours with Leon looming over his shoulder as he attempted to crack into the system with no luck.
“This guy’s security is tighter than DiZ’s,” Riku told him at the end of the two hours. “I think we should call it a night and I’ll give it another try tomorrow.”
“You’re staying tonight?” said Leon. “Don’t you have to get back?”
“Eh, eff them. I’ll go back when I feel good and ready to go back.”
Leon laughed. “You aren’t kidding when you say you hate it there, are you?”
“Not even a little. Yeah,” Riku said as he shut down the computer. “I’ll take a look at this again tomorrow and maybe give Cid a hand over at Merlin’s. He seems badly in need of a break and so am I.”
“The Hollow Bastion Restoration is a break for you, huh?” said Leon. He pushed away the chair Riku just vacated him and followed Riku back into the study.
“Anything that doesn’t involve Organization XIII is a break. I long for that computer over at Merlin’s.”
“Well it’s all yours tomorrow,” said Leon. “I’ll let you have the honor of telling Cid at dinner tonight.”
“Is everyone coming over?” said Riku as they headed out of the study and outside.
“Yeah, pretty much. I mean, Cloud won’t be here, but that’s kind of obvious.”
“Right. He’s in Gaea.”
Leon nodded. “Yeah. I don’t know when to expect him back again with him being hurt and all.”
“Aerith said Zack roped him into an Edge restoration.”
“Yeah, so I expect it’ll be a short time before he comes running back here, sick of Reno, desperate for a phone, and actually willing to work here again. As much as he hates our restoration, I bet you anything he hates the Edge Restoration more. Not to mention Tifa drives him up a wall. The second he starts feeling healthy again he’ll be on his gummi ship; I promise you.”
Riku laughed. “You’re probably right. That’ll be nice, though, when he gets back and I can see him again.”
“You really miss him, don’t you?”
Riku sighed. “Oh yeah. A lot. It feels like forever since I’ve seen him and I don’t even have the time or energy to call him everyday.”
“I’m sure he misses you, too.”
“Oh I’m not worried. I just miss him. I mean, it kind of freaks me out that he actually died and everything...’cause, you know, I almost lost him...but everything’s okay so...and the Geostigma’s gone already so that was kind of never anything to worry about, huh?”
“I told you things would work out.”
Riku nodded. “Yeah, you did, but it’s kind of nice how things are working themselves out, too. Mostly right now I’m thankful he’s alive and that things are going smoothly with the Organization. I’m not sure how things are going to turn out, but I’m confident that whatever happens, things are going to go up from here.”
Leon nodded, the hint of a smile tugging the corners of his lips. “It’s nice to hear you say that.”
“It’s nice to feel it, too.”
They rounded a corner in the bailey into the borough and headed for the house. Dinner passed in its usual way in Hollow Bastion with lots of craziness originating from Yuffie and Cid was considerably better company after Riku informed him of his quasi day off. After everyone went home for the night, Riku spent an hour just talking with Leon and smoking at the kitchen bar before retiring to bed.
Riku fell into the comfortable state of monotony that life was as part of the Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee the following day. He dealt with any and all computer problems Cid was still working on by early afternoon and then headed back over to the castle to work on the computer in Ansem’s secret room again. Leon was already there when he arrived, but after several hours and he got nowhere again, they decided to head back to the house for the evening.
It was the second night in Hollow Bastion after dinner that Leon confronted him. Riku just finished cleaning up the kitchen and took a seat in the living room for a breather when Leon dropped into a seat across from him, stared him down, and said, “Okay. Talk.”
“What?” said Riku.
“You haven’t said a single thing about why you’re here since you arrived, and for you that never means anything good. I was trying to give you time instead of pressing the issue, but you seem to have forgotten there was one, so talk.”
“What are you talking about? I told you why I was here.”
“Yes. You went to Destiny Islands, saw Kairi, and realized that your home world is insanely close to Twilight Town. You told me that. You just haven’t talked about why you needed to come here just because of that.”
“Well that’s kind of obvious, isn’t it? I wasn’t aware I had to actually put it out there.”
“If you don’t put it out there, you’re going to go back to DiZ with it still fermenting in that pretty little head of yours until you crack. Avoidance isn’t healthy. Trust me, I know.”
Riku sighed, threw his head back, and shrugged. “I don’t know. It was just...I was so close to home. And it hurt so much to see everything, but it was such a relief to know it was all okay after everything I’d done to it. I don’t know. It got to me. And seeing Kairi. I wanted to take her to Twilight Town myself but...Both of them—Destiny Islands and Kairi—I can’t touch any of that again until I’m me again. She can’t see me like this, and...I know it’s my stupid pride, but I guess I just wanted a friend to talk to and a few days to pretend everything was normal again.”
Leon raised his eyebrows. “I didn’t expect that.”
Riku frowned. “Expect what?”
“That you would call hanging out around here normal. Shouldn’t it be that seeing Destiny Islands and Kairi again were normal?”
Riku considered. “I guess. Yeah. And it was, but...It’s weird. You know...Part of wanting to go back to Destiny Islands now...most of it, really...It’s not that I want to go home, anymore. I don’t know.”
“What do you mean? ‘Cause this is home now?”
“Yeah. I want to go back because I want to know I didn’t ruin everything. I want to see my family. I want that familiarity of home—to see my friends and just the islands themselves and everything. But when I want the comfort of home...When I don’t want to worry about what people think of me and I can just relax, I guess I want to be here. You...well, everyone, but you especially...and of course Cloud...You’ve really made me a part of everything and made me feel welcome and this is my home now. Destiny Islands is my childhood home, this is my new home, and...It’s rough. It’s rough because I know I can come here, but my pride and my shame and everything...I was so close. I was in Destiny Islands but I just couldn’t go just wherever I felt like because of everything I’ve done. I couldn’t go after Kairi and it was all right there, so I’m not longing for home or anything. I just want to be me again. The person I used to be.” Riku clasped his hands and stared at the carpet for a long while, listening to Leon breathe as the statement sunk in. He raised his head. “Did you know I used to be a pretty collected, chill kind of person?” Leon cracked a hint of a smile. “I didn’t really stress out about much of anything. Even when I stressed out about being gay. It wasn’t something I really thought about every second. I wasn’t really intense or anything. It’s actually kind of hard work worrying all the time. I’d like to be chill again.”
“I’ll take partial blame, but the rest goes to Cloud,” said Leon. “We’re both pretty intense people.”
Riku smiled and shrugged. “If you’d like to take the blame, I won’t stop you.”
“Hey, if you think this is the first time I’ve been called that, you’d be surprised.”
“I’m honestly not.”
They stayed up for another hour before, still slightly sleep deprived and exhausted from the Axel incident, Riku headed for bed. Leon woke him the next morning at the usual hour for coffee and breakfast. After dressing, Riku grabbed his phone and the two set out for the castle’s computer room again.
“I’m never going to get into that system,” said Riku as he and Leon walked.
It was close to lunchtime and since all attempts to get into Ansem the Wise’s computer were a bust, Leon and Riku decided to have lunch over at Merlin’s. They already left the castle and were about to enter the bailey when Leon stopped walking and stared out across the spectacular view of Hollow Bastion. Riku stopped and looked back at him.
“What?” said Riku. “What’s up?”
Leon waved a hand to motion Riku over and then he pointed out toward the Dark Depths. Leon lowered his head a little. “You see that?”
“See what?” Riku said. He stared across the area Leon had pointed in, and then he saw it, far out in the distance, close to the castle. “Who do you think...?”
“Come on,” said Leon.
Leon led him back toward the castle and then along rock ledges higher up until they were above the area where Riku had previously seen the outline of a person. Leon took a few more steps and then crouched and motioned for Riku to come down to his level. Riku lowered onto his heels and peered forward.
“I knew it,” Leon whispered. “This is fucking unbelievable.”
“What?” Riku whispered back.
Leon pointed hard again and Riku swiveled his head until his eyes landed on a figure walking through the dark depths. He was tall—probably half a head taller than Riku. His figure appeared broad and strong. He had extremely long, silver hair and was dressed entirely in black. The sword he carried was the longest sword Riku had ever seen in his life. Riku swallowed.
“Who do you think he is?” Riku asked.
Leon looked at him, blinked, looked at the man, and then back at Riku. “You’re kidding, right?”
“No. Why? Do you know him?”
Leon’s eyes bugged and his eyebrows rose. He pointed again. “Yeah, I know him. That’s Sephiroth.”
It was now Riku’s turn to look shocked. He looked back at the man—Sephiroth—and his stomach rolled over. This was the guy Cloud had been looking for all this time? This was the guy—and that was the sword—that had skewered Cloud more than once and he lived to tell about it? That guy—the one Riku had just kind of been cursing Leon for taking him near because never wanted to cross blades with him in his life—was the guy Cloud had just almost finished off for good?
“You’re kidding, right?” Riku now asked.
“Nope,” said Leon. “We have to tell Cloud.”
And now that Leon said it, Riku felt stupid. That was why Leon had taken him all the way back here to get a closer look. He thought he saw Sephiroth and needed to confirm because Cloud was looking for him and Riku had just been thinking that, too, but he completely forgot that step where telling Cloud as soon as possible was very important, too. Especially since Cloud was just fuming himself to death over the fact Sephiroth got away when they fought in Edge. Riku nodded.
“Yeah, okay. Let’s go.”
They were back in the borough before either one dared to speak again.
“You seriously haven’t seen him before?” said Leon.
“No. I was in the realm of darkness last time Cloud fought him,” said Riku. “Well, the last time before this time in Edge, I mean. He told me that Sephiroth kind of looked like me, but...I don’t know. I think I pictured him...shorter or something. Not like...He’s a little intimidating. I don’t look like him at all.”
“Kind of hard to believe Cloud’s killed him before, huh?”
“Kind of,” Riku replied. “Not that Cloud isn’t awesome, but...yeah. I’m also having a hard time believing he’s the guy that keeps trying to take off with Jenova’s head. But then again I keep picturing Jenova’s head like an actual head, and Cloud keeps telling me it doesn’t quite look like that. Anymore.”
“I try not to listen to Sephiroth story sometimes,” said Leon as they entered Merlin’s. “It’s too weird.”
“What’s too weird?” said Yuffie, bouncing up to them.
“You,” said Leon. He pulled out his phone. “Do you want to do it or should I?”
“Do what?” said Aerith. “Is something going on?”
“You can do it,” said Riku. “I want to just sit and collect myself first.”
“Okay,” said Leon. He pressed a few buttons on his phone and then held it to his ear as Yuffie slid in the seat across from him at the table. She looked between Riku and Leon. “Hey, Tifa, can I talk to Cloud?”
“What’s going on?” said Yuffie.
“Not while I’m on the phone,” said Leon. “Be quiet. No, not you, Tifa. It’s Yuffie.” He paused. “Well I would have called Cloud directly, but he doesn’t have a phone right now, does he?”
Cid made an irritated, huffing sound as Leon paused again.
“Tifa,” said Leon, “I’m very sorry I called your phone just to talk to Cloud, okay?” He paused again. “Fine. Then what’s Zack’s number? Could someone give me a piece of paper or something?”
Aerith grabbed a paper and pen off a nearby shelf and shoved it Leon. He took down the number, said goodbye, flipped the phone shut, and opened it again.
“What’s going on?” said Aerith. “Why do you have to talk to Cloud?”
“Hold on,” said Leon, holding up a hand as he held the phone to his ear. Yuffie huffed; Aerith sighed. “Zack, it’s Leon. Is Cloud there with you?” He paused. “Can I speak to him for a second?” Everyone stared at Leon as he waited, and then he said, “You’re a hard asshole to get a hold of, you know that?”
Riku laughed. He knew it just as well as anyone.
“Yeah, well, I was just calling to let you know that Riku and I were out at the castle this morning...Yeah, Riku’s here...He’s been here since the day before yesterday. If you called your boyfriend you would know these things. It’s not like he can call you without your damn phone, but you know, we’ve already been through how hard you are to get hold of.” Leon sighed and listened as Cloud replied. He looked at Riku and rolled his eyes. “He came because he wanted to talk about some stuff and...geez, Cloud, this isn’t the point of why I was trying to call you. Let me tell you what I need to and then you can talk to Riku all you like.”
Riku smiled, straightened, and looked around the room. “He loves me.”
“He must,” said Yuffie. “He never wants to talk to us this much.”
Leon shushed them, waved a hand, and turned his back to them. “Okay, so Riku and I were up at the castle this morning and decided to head back to Merlin’s for lunch and you wouldn’t believe who we saw out in the Dark Depths on the way back.”
“Who?” said Yuffie, and presumably, Cloud.
“Sephiroth,” said Leon.
On the other end even from across the room Riku heard Cloud’s voice go off into a string of unintelligible syllables.
“You’re kidding me,” said Aerith. “He’s here?”
“Yeah,” said Riku. “Leon and I were walking back and Leon saw him. He had to point him out to me because I’ve never seen him before...”
Leon shushed them again. “Yeah, okay. Cloud. Cloud?” Leon flipped his phone shut. “He hung up on me. He also said he’d be here as soon as he could sneak away.”
“Sneak?” said Riku.
“I don’t know,” said Leon. “He wasn’t even making sense. Something about Reno and Tifa and...I don’t know. He said he’d be here and he hung up on me. Whatever. So, Aerith, what’s for lunch?”
Pluto showed up just after lunch and Riku bid a hasty goodbye to Leon before opening a portal into the darkness and following Pluto all the way to Twilight Town.
(Prompt Table) for previous installments. 77/100 Complete.