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One Diagonal Scar

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Tin Angel

May. 24th, 2016 01:02 pm
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“Kairi!” The older woman’s voice came from somewhere in the house below. “Kairi, are you there?”

The girl kneeling in the centre of the room gave no sign that she had heard.

“Kairi?” The voice was closer now, almost at the door. “Kairi, sweetheart?” A gentle knock. “Are you resting?”

A shudder shook the slight figure on the floor, and she gave a sobbing gasp, as if she had been holding her breath. Resting..? Never again.

“Sweetheart? Are you there?”

“Okay, just give me a moment,” Kairi called softly, not wanting her voice to give her away. Don’t come in, please don’t come in. She looked around at the litter of boxes, bags and jars scattered across the floor; at the jumble of flowers, beads, letters and leaves strewn across the rug, like the stars in the night sky, or flotsam on the beach. All she had left of them; of him. Stars and flotsam. Please, don’t let her come in…

“Oh, darling…” the woman was behind her now, stooping, gathering her up in her arms and rocking her, singing soft comforting words into her hair as she sobbed uncontrollably; as endless tears poured down her face.

I feel as though I’m dying. Am I dying?

“There now, love; there now. It’s okay my sweet. Cry it out. I’m here…” Kairi let herself be borne away on the swell of gentle words as wave upon wave of sorrow broke over her. Will I ever be able to stop crying?

“But he’s gone! I’ve lost him!”

“Shhh, dear. Be still, now. I’m here.”

“I’ve lost him!”

The strong reassuring arms tightened around her, rocked her, but could not heal her.

“Where is he? Where has he gone? Where’s Sora?”

To that, there was no answer.

Later, her tears for the moment dried, Kairi sat again amidst the spread of stuff on the floor, picking up stray objects seemingly at random. She’d promised that she’d try and sleep, but when she did her dreams were dark and empty, and at least when she was awake it needn’t be dark. At least when she was awake she still had some connection with them both.

Destiny Islands had been a paradise. In the years she had spent here she had been almost entirely happy. Sometimes she had been troubled by the blankness that surrounded the edges of her memories, but always when she had felt the vague terrors of unknowing creep up on her there had been her friends to cheer her: carefree, madcap Selphie; imperturbable Tidus; courteous Wakka. Sora. Riku… But now, after all this, with the two of them gone, something had changed. No-one said anything, and everyone was still perfectly friendly, but an insurmountable barrier had grown up, a gap no-one could cross who hadn’t been where she had been. And the only other people who had been where she had been were…

Gone! She could feel the tears threatening to return, and dashed a hand angrily across her eyes. How could you do it? she railed silently. How could you leave me again? How could you let me be here on my own? Where are you, Riku?

Riku, who was bright and strange and fine, yet dark with darker moods that had sometimes almost scared her. She looked about her, at the painted stones, the eggshells, and pictures scattered around; at her keepsakes and mementos, and the letters she’d written to Sora but never sent. Letters in which she’d written I love you. To Sora, and yet so much of this was not him.

She picked up a leather box, one which Wakka had given her on her thirteenth birthday. The surface was tooled with intricate whorls and spirals, like the inside of a shell, or an ear, and Wakka had told her that they were secret powerful marks. She’d thought it very beautiful, and Wakka had been pleased, but she could never tell him why it meant so much to her. For within it’s satin-lined cavity she had laid a thing more beautiful than any she had ever seen, a necklace of coral beads, twisted into a pattern which had fascinated her eyes and fingers for months on end, and which – when she knew it as well as sight and touch could allow – she had put into her mouth, tasting the intricacies of the shape. Riku had made it, although he’d shrugged it off as a nothing, and for one blazing moment she had loved him more deeply than she had ever thought she could love anything.

The beads were as cool against her skin as her tears were hot. Setting the leather box carefully aside, she took up another, larger one, wooden this time, and filled with beautifully fitted trays which – as one lifted out – revealed another beneath it. This was her name box, and each tray was filled with the treasures of the sea; with brittle, dry starfish; with crystals growing like plants; with branches of natural coral; with driftglass; with sea urchins. He’d called her that, just once, when first the two of them had found her. Washed up out of the ocean, like a sea urchin, he’d said, fixing her with his questioning glacial eyes; before he’d even known her name.

After that she’d begun to find these things, placed in the hollow in the tree he’d shown her. Casually, almost off-hand, as if it were of no importance, but again and again over the years, there would be a thing, placed carefully in the middle of a bed of moss lining the cavity. And amongst the magpie jumble of things she’d found there, two kept recurring. Time and again, over and again, amidst the others, there would be shells, and there would be stones.

The shells were here, in the middle tray. Shells of every kind; fan-shaped and spiral; some marbled with mother-of-pearl, others as pale as rose petals; as crisp as ice; or heavy; or fine and feather-light. Each was a joy to handle, some large enough to lie across her palm, others so small they would vanish into the cracks between her fingers. She knew what these shells were – they were her, washed up from the water.

She lifted out the tray. And there, in the gloom at the bottom of the box, was Riku. Row upon row of stones, pebbles; moonstone and agate, amber and alabaster, quartz, marble and slate; all worn to their perfect shape as only the sea rolls them; each a thrill to touch, warm or cold, as smooth as glass or pulling on her finger like a kitten’s tongue. She had not understood the stones at first, but she’d taken them, and kept them, and cherished them, until one day Riku – fretting under the lash of one of his black moods – had teased and tormented and argued and fought with Sora, but had come to her quiet, and still, and contrite.

“It’s like there’s a storm inside me, sometimes,” he’d said, “and Sora just makes it worse. He can’t help it,” he’d added quickly, noticing her expression, “it’s my fault, not his. But you calm me down, Kairi. You take off my rough edges.”

Your rough edges, she thought, turning the smooth pebble over in her hand. Worn away by the sea.

She dropped the pebble back into place and closed the box. You were my anchor, Riku, she thought. Sora was my boat, but you were my anchor. Now we’re all just adrift.

Riku was her dark knight, Sora her golden prince. Laughing, head-in-the clouds, butterscotch sunshine Sora, who made her heart dance. While her love for Riku was deep and troubled, her love for Sora had always been a buoyant, innocent thing. Riku – if she were perfectly honest with herself, there had always been something unsettling about Riku, a look in his eyes, a curl to his lips, something ever-so-slightly provocative about him. Riku’s very existence seemed to be a challenge somehow, not to her, but to the universe. And while she loved him, in her heart of hearts she knew that there was something about him she feared as well.

Oh, Riku! I needed you!

And, she supposed, he’d needed her too. Otherwise why all this? Why all these things? Surely all this meant that… but what did it mean? Were all these just reflections of memories of a love that hadn’t ever existed? Was it real, or not? Sora had loved her, had lived for her, had kept her heart alive and had sacrificed himself so that she might live again. She had been alive in him and she knew. She knew his thoughts, the very fibres of his being. His heart. But Riku? Who ever truly knew what was in Riku’s heart?

With a sigh, Kairi began to gather up the varnished flowers, the wooden beads, the boxes, letters, leaves and bags. The enormity of what she was about to do weighed on her like stone, dragged at her heels, pulled at her, trying to keep her in the house, away from the sea.

Slowly, sorrowfully, Kairi made her way to where the small boats bobbed along the water’s edge. The distance to the small island – our island – wasn’t great, but the growing pain in her chest, the swelling knot in her throat made it difficult to row. But at last she stood on the jetty where – how long ago now, it seemed – they had all three stood and looked into the storm’s heart, into the darkness, and first lost each other.

I’m sorry, Riku! she cried silently.

I love you, Sora!

With her eyes screwed shut, she began to scatter the contents of the boxes, bags and jars, the jumble of flowers, beads, letters and leaves onto the water, where they bobbed like the stars in the night sky. All she had left of them; stars, and flotsam.

Come back to me, both of you!

When everything else was gone, she took up the tray of polished pebbles and began to remove the stones one at a time, kissing each one before casting it into the water, where it sank, along with her tears, into the swell of the waves which echoed with the beating of her blind, broken heart.

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At the end of that lifelong, unending, horrendous day, after all of the heartbreak and betrayal and empty victories, when everything that had been lost had been found, only to be lost again, and nothing seemed as though it could ever be right, eight words played over and over in his head.

Eight words that he carried cradled like spun sugar, afraid to breathe unless they melted away into the air and left him entirely alone. Eight precious words, worth more than all of the worlds.

Eight words, two voices, one promise.

“Take care of her.”

“I know you will.”

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Sora lay on his bed, hands behind his head, heavy boots propped on the footboard, staring at the ceiling, seeing nothing.

She kissed me…

The thought glistened and darted like a shoal of silver fish, scintillant, teasing, impossible to catch.

She kissed me…

The raft was finally finished, lashed tightly to the jetty, the few things she’d made them collect stowed away in readiness. He had wanted to leave there and then, and had run laughing and wide eyed into the foam, shouting and waving, but Riku had pulled him back, saying there was something he needed to do first. He’d trudged sullenly back out of the surf, head hanging, and Kairi had laughingly mussed his hair and told him they all needed a good night’s sleep. He hated it when she did things like that – like she was his mother or something – but then she’d dropped her hands onto his shoulders and

She kissed me…

Just once, a simple kiss, fresh and precious like a child. The fleeting pressure of her lips against his, gone almost before he’d felt it, like snow falling or a gloved hand against the wind. The memory of it glistened and darted, a trout in a stream.

She kissed me…

“Good night, Sora,” she’d said. And then, turning away, “Goodnight, Riku.”


“Sweet dreams, Kairi,” Riku had said, and she’d dragged the toe of one shoe slowly through the sand behind her as she reached out timidly to take his hand in both of hers. Sora had tried to look away, to not see, but his stupid eyes wouldn’t close and his stupid brain wouldn’t turn his stupid head and now the angle of the wooden sword propped against the foot of the bed was the tilt of her head as she raised her face ever so slightly to him and the shadows under his jacket hanging on the door post was the darkness under Riku’s hair as it fell forwards and the curve in the small of her back under Riku’s hand was the sliver of moon in the window and the starlight dancing on the ocean was the look in her eyes when finally she broke away.

…like a child.

Outside the window, a storm was coming.

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It was Riku who had noticed her first, just a shadow moving through shadows, dogging their steps as Leon moved them through the ruins of another shattered town. When they pitched camp that night, Leon had broken his own rule and taken morning watch himself, slipping out from under Riku’s arm, creeping away quietly to avoid waking him up. Riku was afraid of the dark.

And it had been around five a.m., when the little fire he had lit in the hollow of rocks outside the camp had burned down to a low glow, that she had appeared. Leon didn’t know how long she’d been there, watching him from the encroaching gloom beyond the fading firelight, and it was only when he had clambered wearily to his feet and stooped to place more wood on the embers that he had seen her, motionless behind six feet of steel that glinted softly as the flames began to lick along the log.

Her name, it turned out, was Cloud, and her story was a fair echo of their own: returning home after the Devestation to find the people scattered and the place destroyed. Unlike them she had stayed, living among the ruined buildings, waiting to see what happened, and they were the first thing that had. She’d wanted to know about them, who they were, where they were going, what they hoped to find, and Leon – usually so taciturn – had found himself wanting to tell her, about the guilt he carried and about his failure and about how he had promised himself that he would take care of everything from now on. She had looked at him for a long moment and asked him who was taking care of him.

Dawn was lightening the horizon. Leon took her back to camp with him, and when they moved on that day she went with them. Only Riku didn’t like her. But then Riku didn’t like anybody.

She learnt their ways quickly, and whatever she thought of the rag-bag of waifs and cast-offs she kept pretty much to herself. More and more, Leon found that whenever he glanced up from whatever he was doing he would find Cloud watching him, and whenever she saw him see she would hold his gaze for a moment, not smiling. Leon knew that she wasn’t fooled when Riku wandered nonchalantly away from the camp and Leon slipped off in a different direction; that she saw Riku come limping back alone; heard him cry himself to sleep as Leon held him under the blanket. More and more often, when Riku would wake up in the night, wide-eyed, all hands and mouth and fierce desperation, Leon would feel Cloud’s eyes on him.

He had forgotten how quietly she could move. Like normal, Leon had arranged the watch rota so that it was Riku who relieved him. At first it had been another opportunity for them to fuck, but pretty soon it had become apparent to Leon that Riku couldn’t spend four hours in the dark on his own anyway, and the only way of making the others think the boy was taking his turn was if he stayed with him.

“Can’t carry no dead weight!” Barrett had snapped, and everyone knew that that was pretty much what Riku was. Good at your back in a fight, but other than that the boy was a liability. Cracked, and the cracks were showing.

“Thinking about him again, huh?”

Leon looked up with a start. Cloud was standing a few feet away, leaning on her sword, watching him in the pale light of the dying fire.

“Mind wandering?”

Leon nodded. “I guess.” He paused, waiting for the woman to speak, but she stayed silent, staring at him.

“Did you want something?” He said at last.

“It’s a shame, you know,” Cloud said, and squatted down on the ground in front of him. “And a waste. A man like you. The things I could do with a man like you.”

“What are you….?” Leon started to say, stuttering into silence as the swordswoman placed the flat of a hand against his belly.

“You and me,” she muttered into his ear, leaning her weight against him, breasts flattened against his chest, fingers tangled in the belts draped around his hips.

“Wait!” Leon protested, but the belts had fallen away under her fingers and she had slipped a hand into his trousers, long fingers curling around his stiffening dick. “Wait,” he said again, weakly, as Cloud pulled him free of his clothes.


“Such a pity,” she murmered, dragging her fist up his dick as she pulled her lips away from his ear and hunkered down over him. “The things I could do for you.”

Leon groaned, the slow drag of her gloved palm almost unbearable over his exposed glans. “Don’t…”

“Don’t?” Cloud raised an eyebrow, the motion of her fist not slowing. “Is he that good? What does he do to you, then, that you think I can’t do better?” She glanced up momentarily, grinning, saliva’d lips gleaming in the firelight. “Tell me.” Bent forward, ran the tip of her tongue across his balls, up the underside of the shaft.

“He n… ah!” Leon gasped as Cloud took him in her mouth, tonguing him as she sucked. “Needs me to look affffuck!” as she slid forward down him, burying her nose in his hair. “After him,” he whispered.

Cloud came off him, kneading him again in her fist. “And what about you? Who looks after you?”

Leon shook his head. “I can look after myself.”

“You’re doing a good job of pretending not to care,” Cloud grinned. “But,” and glanced down as his straining dick, dark with his driven blood, silvered with saliva, “you’re full of shit.”

“He needs me,” Leon said again, bucking his hips involuntarily into the rhythm of Cloud’s hand.


“He…. ah! He does!”

“He’s using you to punish himself.” Somehow, she’d shrugged her way out of her top, still wrapped in the ragged red cloak she always wore. She was – and Leon hardened as he saw it – lean and strong, long muscles honed by hardship, boyish but for the swell of her breasts. “Like that, huh?” a little smile twisted at the corner of her mouth as she felt him stiffening under her hand. “Here’s something he can’t do.”

She placed the tip of Leon’s dick against the underside of her breasts, letting the weight of them rest there for a moment, grinning again as Leon strained involuntarily upwards. Taking hold of herself in both hands, Cloud leant forward, pressing together and down.

“Ah….. shit…..” Leon gasped, his breath hissing out between his clenched teeth. “Fuck! That’s … Ah! Fuck, that’s…”

Once – not so long ago in months and years; a lifetime ago in his experience – when he had been just a boy, there had been a girl, and he had thought the strange troubling sensations in his belly and throat when she was nearby might be love, and once when his friends had pushed him blushing and reluctant onto the floor and he had had to ask her to dance with him she had said “Oh! Yes!” in a little voice that sounded surprised and happy. She had leant against him as she reached up to peck a little kiss on his cheek and her breasts had pressed against his bare forearm and he had almost recoiled in surprise at the strange alien feeling of them, so unlike any part of his own body, soft and firm and yielding and heavy and cool. And they had danced and she had kissed him again and run off laughing, and later that night Leon had lain in his bed, remembering the press of her breasts against his bare forearm as he jerked off, strange and magnetic and repellent and incredible.

“Fuck!” he groaned again, as Cloud began to move more quickly, moving her heavy breasts up and down the length of him.

“You like that?” She tucked her chin in against her neck and drooled a long chain of saliva onto the head of Leon’s dick as it thrust out between her breasts, glancing up at him from under her hair, smiling at the sight of him with his eyes tight shut and head back, pulse jumping erratically under the curve of his jaw.

“Fuck, yes!” Leon muttered, “fuck yes!” He was trembling now, his hips jerking spasmodically as he thrust without rhythm. “Fuck…. Fuck… F…uh! haahh!” Three gouts of come splattered across Cloud’s face as Leon bucked wildly under her.

“See” Cloud said, clambering to her feet and wiping at her face, “it’s not so bad is it? Being the one being taken care of every once in a while?”

Wordlessly, Leon shook his head. Behind him, he could hear the sound of someone making their way towards them through the trees. Alarmed, he turned towards Cloud, but the swordswoman was already gone, melting into the darkness. Hurriedly, Leon cleaned himself off and lay back, waiting for Riku to arrive. It was going to be a long night.

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~Prolegomena To Any Future Redemption~

Afterwards, Riku lay on the mattress staring into the beam of dust and sunlight that was the bare room’s only illumination.

That’s us, he thought. Dust and sunlight. Even now, it still felt wrong, thinking of himself in that way, as a part of something. Me, You. Always me, and you. But us? How can we be us?

For nearly a year now, Riku has been alone, a me without either a you or an us, and he had quite deliberately set himself apart from the world, apart from everyone and everything that threatened him. Alone, he could be strong. Apart from the world, no doubts could assail him, no ties of friendship could trick him into weakness; into failing; into darkness. And now this.

Propping himself on one elbow he looked down at the silhouetted figure sleeping beside him. Through the gloom he could only see the long tangled hair where the light caught its gloss, sparking in the dark. Brown, in this light it was raven-dark.

Can it be real? Riku sighed, and glanced back into the stream of sunlight. Is it really you making me feel like this? Like a million motes of dust dancing in a beam of golden light? Squinting, he pushed the silver hair out of his eyes, shaking his head. What did you do? How did you do this to me? I should hate you…

The figure on the mattress shifted and sat up; a thin sheet falling away from a shoulder blotched with red crescents. Riku stared at the fading marks, aghast.

Are those my teeth? What was I doing?

“You bit me again.” Knowing blue-green eyes; hollow eyes; sharp-faced; eyes that darkened now in the presence of pain; of Riku’s pain.

“Riku.” A strong hand closed on the boy’s shoulder, raised like a shield between him and whatever this was. Riku gave a start.

“Riku, please… let me try… I really think you should…”

“Shut up!” A sudden savage kiss silenced the speaker. Shut up! Don’t make me! Don’t! Just do what I need and shut up!

The ferocity of Riku’s need was frightening, and for a moment Leon fought against it, but only for a moment.

“It’s okay,” he murmured, “it’s okay”. But the wire-taut, breaking-point tension in the boy told him it was anything but.

Afterwards, Riku dreamt of yellow-eyed, empty-eyed faces; lush-lipped; the taste of rot in their mouths; empty, darkened, shadow creatures; heartless.

“It’s raining again,” Leon turned away from the window, tightening the straps around his forearm. “They’ll be out soon.”

“I know.” Riku shrugged. “I’ve been smelling them for an hour now.”

Leon frowned. “You really smell them?” He reached out towards the scowling boy, taking the thin chin in his gloved hand and tilting it back, peering into the glacial blue eyes that glowered from under the silver hair. Ice and ice and ice and ice; a mantra tied into his heartbeat.

“No,” Riku shook his head, shuddering as he felt the rough drag of the gloved hand slide across his cheek. “Not really. It’s not a smell.”

“Then how…?” Leon dropped his gaze. Let me in, Riku; let me help you. Had his eyes always been this colour? Leon tried to remember the first time he had seen the boy – it seemed like an eternity ago. Had his eyes been this cold then? But rather than how the boy had looked, Leon remembered the feeling of encountering him. It had been as though a vast and powerful machine had suddenly begun spinning; as if the two of them were standing in the silent eye of an insane shrieking hurricane; like a maddening electric charge building up in the empty air. A sound so loud it could not be heard, but which numbed the senses, silenced the senses; a blasting turbine roaring.

“How do you think?” Riku sneered, and yet again Leon was reminded of another boy, scarcely older than this one; an emotionally deadened, introverted boy, whose only goal was to go through life alone, and free; a boy called Squall. It had taken the love of a soul greater than his own to show him that his detachment, his defence against pain, was not a crutch but a shackle, and now – faced with this distorted mirror of his younger self – he wanted desperately to help Riku see the same thing.

“I don’t know.” Leon shook his head.

“Because they’re here!” Riku jabbed an arm towards Leon, catching him with stiff fingers in the pit of his stomach. “And here!” His other hand shot forward, but this time Leon was ready, and caught him around the wrist. “And here,” Riku poked himself between the eyes, “and here”, whispering now, and thumping himself over the heart. “Because they’re inside me, Leon. Because I was weak and stupid and… and I tried to use them and they took everything from me and took hold of me and they ate my heart!”

Still holding onto Riku’s wrist, Leon pulled the boy towards him and held him trembling against his chest. “But you beat them, Riku,” he murmured. “They took you and they tricked you and they used you, and you beat them. You, a boy, against the whole lot. They thought you were weak – all of them – and you beat them all. They tried to control you and use you and defile you, and despite everything they did to you, you survived. You survived, Riku.”

“Do you think you know about it?” Riku muttered, and pulled away. “Used me? I let them! I wanted them! I wanted to know that there was more than that island and I was so stupid and jealous and hurt that I believed everything they told me. I believed them! How could I have listened to them, Leon? Even then I knew they were lying, but I wanted what they said they could give me, so I believed. And do you know what? When they had me, I enjoyed it! When I wasn’t me, when that was me”, he spat the word out, as if it tasted of filth, “I felt more alive than I’ve ever felt. The darkness, Leon… oh, you can’t imagine how it feels. To have that in you and to know it and to use it, it’s like nothing else you could ever know.” Except… the unspoken thought… dust, and sunlight… “And imagine… imagine knowing that you have to give it up, whether you want to or not, and then… oh, then, when you finally decide to be rid of it, come what may… imagine learning that you can’t! I can’t get it out of me, Leon!”

“It doesn’t matter.” Leon looked at the boy, who was shaking with a pent-up fury and despair. “So what if you can’t? Who can? The important thing is that you beat it. Even though you wanted it, and asked for it, and enjoyed it, you learnt from it, and rejected it, and beat it.”

Riku stood looking at him in silence for a long moment. “No. You don’t get it. There’s no going back now.”

“So let’s go forward.” Leon picked up a long black coat from the untidy heap of clothing on the floor and held it out towards Riku. “Come on. There’s still Heartless to kill.”

Utter silence. A deserted city, illuminated by a thousand lighted windows and the neon reflecting off the relentless, senseless rain. A dark city, flat and colourless in the steel-grey glare of light on water. Nothing moving except the rain falling. And then, a figure.

A dark figure; hooded, silent, centred. Blindfolded. Walking out into the silent soaking streets.

A world without you.

A small, quiet smile, of infinite regret. A movement like lightning, and in the same instant the empty streets were full, the darkness roiling into life from out of the dancing water.

Above him, images he could not stand to see and could not hope to forget projected on screens that brightened the night. Images that taunted and accused him; that took the tattered remnants of his heart and twisted them into choking knots; acrid, bitter knots of guilt and loathing. Around him, the hate and emptiness made manifest; a hundred thousand hollow dancing fragments of what he was, what he chose to be, mocking him with vacant yellow eyes.

The eyes will close.

And so, again, on night after endless night, a savage ballet, the choreography of his self-loathing and redemption. After months without feeling, or of feeling only pain, he had discovered a way to a new sensation. A delirious abandon that came from slaughter, that came from giving himself utterly to the acrid joy of destruction. Blind and blindfolded, uncaring, made untouchable by his scorn. Night after night, carving a path through the rain. Through the heartless. A path towards…

Behind the Darkness, a door to the Light. The secret place. A world between. A forgotten world. The End of the World. Maybe our journey meant nothing after all…

His voice… it’s left me. This time… I’ll fight.

This time, someone else was there.

After an unguessable time alone, Riku – blinded still by hate, and blindfolded – had sensed someone there among the emptiness. At first it had appeared to him only as an absence, or rather as a lack of absence. He knew where the emptiness was, without seeing it, for it was a part of him, and in him, and all around him. And it was all there was. Until this new thing appeared, this shape, moving through the darkness. An unthinkable thing; a forgotten, almost undreamt-of, unbelievable thing. A heart.

He’d fled from it. A heart! He had embraced his own emptiness; chosen to live with his own sacrifice; had learned to feed on the guilt and pain. He had become resolved to never again not being alone. And now this. This heart, this beating, living heart. Leon.

And once he was there, Leon seemed to be always there. Alongside him, killing with him, as if he too came with the rains. And although Riku ran from him, wherever he ran, there was Leon. Never coming near him, never acknowledging him, never speaking. Just, there.

What do you want from me? Riku screamed silently into the rain, as more and ever more heartless fell beneath his need to feel something other than pain. The scoriating drive of killing was a euphoria; but beneath it a new feeling was growing.

Beneath the emptiness, Riku knew that Leon was there for him. Almost never did he allow himself to hope that this strange unlooked-for protagonist could feel his pain; that he would be able to understand it, lead him through it, succour it. For admitting to that hope meant risking opening a door that he had thought sealed forever. Admitting the possibility of healing meant loosening the chains he had bound about himself; meant allowing the chance of friendship, and with it the chance of loss. And he was not sure that loss was a thing he could bear again.

And yet, far more than he dared to hope even in his most desperate of weak moments, Leon’s thoughts were of Riku. Ever since he had found him, blinded by despair and blindfolded, Leon knew that Riku needed him, and that he needed Riku. Beyond anything, he wished that this tormented, anguished boy would accept him as his friend; would sense in him his opposite and completion. Leon longed to see into Riku’s heart, to heal it, and to lead him out of the darkness.

Many things held him back. Most of all he recalled those who had tried to make a favourite of him, their pupil and novice. Often enough, in the academy at Balamb Garden, he had felt the longing eyes of older men upon him, and had countered their proffered friendships with dumb rejections. But he knew that he could help Riku; could bring him some relief from his rage. How can it be wrong? Leon could not still the doubt, but neither could he silence the imagining of Riku’s never-heard, almost unimaginable, clear, untainted laughter, nor the never-felt sensation of his moonlight hair under his hand.

Until, almost inevitably, without either of them having planned it, they stood face to face in the silent soaking streets, surrounded by the still shadows of the heartless they had slain, Riku’s blindfold dancing in his trembling hand like a blackened flag of surrender, tears staining his cheek.

“Don’t be afraid. Weep, it’s alright.” Leon held out a hand to Riku who, unable to reply, fell to his knees. Leon sat on the wet street beside him, holding Riku against him as he shook and sobbed, one arm around his shoulders, the other cradling his head. Riku’s arms encircled his waist, his cheek pressed against Leon’s chest.

Utter silence. Until the roaring of his own blood in his ears and, beneath it, the beating of a living heart. Only then did Riku know what Leon felt for him; that he loved him, and had him in his thoughts; him, the abandoned, vagabond boy. And Riku wept before him, exposed, shamed, unable to speak.

On a whim, Leon took a strand of Riku’s hair and very gently began to twine it into his own, raven-dark in the rain. Riku’s silver lay amongst his like the play of sunlight across water. He felt Riku shift against him, and then his breath against his neck. The muscles of Riku’s back had become rigid, and both of them were trembling. It was, Leon knew, both fear and desire. Slowly he lowered his head and as he felt Riku’s mouth rise and trail across his jawbone he shuddered and then their noses came gently together, and then their mouths opened against each other. For the first time, Riku’s face became wet with another’s tears.

Afterwards, as Leon lead him along the empty street, Riku glanced up at the skyline. There, high above him, where he had not been able to look for so long, the pale flickering images of his lost companions gestured to him, not in censure, as he’d thought, but in entreaty. “I’m sorry, Kairi,” he whispered, and felt Leon’s fingers tighten momentarily around his own. Behind the image of the girl, the first pale beams of sunlight were beginning to break through the clouds.

~The Blind Shall Lead the Blind~
Leon awoke very early from a troubled sleep. He had been dreaming – of what he could not recall – and the dreams had drained him so that he had gained no rest. And now he lay awake in the blackness, trying to breathe the stifling, foetid air filling the room.Lifting himself quietly from the bed he padded across the room, to where the heavy shutters were fastened across the window. Everything about this place was overdone – the concrete walls too thick; the many-windowed buildings too tall; the lights in them too bright. Everything grandiose and looming and portentous, as if plucked from the mind of a narcissistic depressive. It’s the kind of place Squall would’ve loved, he thought, but then he’d be telling me to go talk to the wall.

Freeing the bar, he lifted the shutters to the ground and leaned into the opening, straining for the coolness of the early morning air beyond the room, hoping for some breeze to find its way in and stir the dank stillness. He was already hot, and could feel the sweat beginning to gather at his collarbone. Lifting the shutters had been enough. Waking had been enough. Beyond the window, the rain fell.

Drawing a hand across his chest he turned from the window towards the chair where he had thrown his clothes the night before. Picking through the pile he discarded one by one the black leather things he habitually wore, shuddering at the thought of the thick stuff against his skin. Cursing, he threw the clothes to the floor. His temper shortened daily, as his desperation to escape this heat grew.

Returning to the window he leaned again into the lightening air. The stone sill beneath his hands was damp and warm, as if the room itself were sweating in the oppressive heat. Pressing down on the ledge, he lifted himself over the sill and sat with his legs hanging over the emptiness, gazing over the town spreading below him. A thought came to him: if I were to jump, then there would be a wind. He ran a hand through his tangled hair, feeling a vague irritation at its unfamiliar length. I need to get this finished. I need to be me again.

The wrongness of the place oppressed him. When he’d been a child, in the orphanage in Centra, his one escape had been to wander in the pouring rain; to sit by the pounding ocean staring into the teeth of the storm, and to feel the lash and sting of the gale-driven water cleanse him. Always Edea would find him and scold him, but she knew his name and nature almost better than he did. Exasperated and at once afraid and proud for her dark, brooding charge, she would tell him that he had the breath of spirits in him; that base flesh was no vessel enough for the soul he bore. Cid, hearing this, would pace the floor, worry twisting his face, and tell his wife not to fill the child’s head with such nonsense. He’d just had a rough time of it, he said, and would settle down when he was grown.

Gazing now over the soaking, steaming city below him Leon shuddered, the longing for the cleansing blast of the storm strong upon him. The scouring rain had become more than a comfort for a solitary, moody child: as he grew older and left the orphanage to train in Balamb Garden, he had come to need it as others needed far-off places, or women. And at times like this, times when he was trapped in a place where the air did not move, where the rain just fell, he would fret and rage at himself, feeling the grime and sin of the world about him like a shroud. On occasion he would run until he collapsed, or fight, savage and insane, until, bleeding and sore, he would limp away to nurse his anger in solitude. At these times the names he was called would be terrible, and most of them came from his own mouth.

And now here he was, grown, but not settled, and still the yearning to be out of the room – out of the stillness, into the storm – began to beat in his ribcage like a second heart. A bead of sweat swelled and broke at the base of his throat, coursing slowly downward between the muscles of his chest. Angrily he dashed it away, cringing at the feel of his own slick flesh beneath his fingers. For too long he had been here, in this place where the water just fell from the sky, and where the air never moved.

Suddenly he drew his legs up and turned on the window ledge, dropping lightly back into the room. For a short while he stood motionless in the half-light, his chest rising and falling in rapid, short jerks. Then, crossing to the bed he pulled back the covers and saw what had woken him. Riku was gone.

Cursing himself for a fool, Leon grabbed the coat hanging on the back of the door. His cloak… Even in his anxiety for the boy, Leon was momentarily taken aback. Why would this be here? Surely…

He was surprised at the feel of it. It looked so heavy, like oiled wool, and yet it weighed nothing, as if it were silk. Pressing it against his face, Leon inhaled a great lungful of it’s scent – of Riku’s scent – and pulled it on. The cool cloth brushed against his naked flesh as if there were wind woven into the fabric.

What are you doing? he scolded himself. This is hardly the time to be getting off on his coat! Crossing to the door he pulled it open and hurried from the room.

Descending the dark staircase at the end of the passage, he began to move more carefully, wary of disturbing any of the building’s other occupants. He actually had no idea if the building had any other occupants, but if it did, the chances of them being friendly were rather slight. At the foot of the stair he hesitated, as if uncertain of how to proceed, before crossing to the thick door guarding the front entry to the building. As he pushed it open, the wood clung to his fingers momentarily, before peeling free with ugly slowness. He hands were, he realised, still drenched in sweat, although beneath the coat he was dry.

Stepping out into the street, Leon glanced quickly around. At the feet of the buildings shadows massed, and any of them could be Heartless. But of Riku there was no sign.

But then, there, at the end of the street, a flurry of movement and the flash of neon on steel. Leon’s heart quickened at the sight of the familiar dark figure, the lonely boy surrounded by hordes of squat black shapes, the ringing song of blades.

Wait… blades?

Suddenly Leon was filled with panic. That wasn’t Riku. How could it be Riku? For one thing, he had two keyblades. For another, he was wearing the coat.

“Odd, isn’t it?”

Leon span around. Riku was sitting on the wet ground by the side of the doorway, his back to the building.

“What? I mean… who?”

Riku looked up at him, grinning. “It suits you,” he smirked, “but you can’t keep it. Sorry.” He stood up, and Leon saw that he was naked, and dripping wet.

“What are you doing out here?”

“Watching him,” Riku gestured to where the figure had been. The street was empty again, and there was no sign that anyone had ever been there. “He arrived just before you did. We fought together once or twice. I don’t know who he is.” He looks just like…

Riku’s expression was unreadable, but suddenly it began to crumple, and tears slid down his already wet cheeks. Leon took a step towards him, but the boy shook his head.


Leon hesitated, uncertain.

“You’re pleased I’m like this.”

It was a statement, not a question, and for a moment Leon was dumbstruck. Riku glanced towards him quickly, a small cruel smile twisting at one corner of his mouth.

“What? No! I…” Leon began to protest, but Riku wasn’t looking at him, wasn’t listening.

“You think I deserve it.” Riku’s voice was flat, totally without malice or hurt. “You think that I did it, and that I deserve it. You think it makes me weak and you like it because you think that you can control me because of it. You’re just like everyone else. You’ll abandon me, too.”

“No!” Leon reached for the boy’s shoulder, but Riku shook him off. “I don’t think that! I hate that you feel like this!”

Riku turned away, scowling, and Leon let out a long sigh. “Riku…”

“What?” The boy span around, eyes wide and blazing with glacial intensity. “What, Leon? What do you want from me? Why are you here? I didn’t ask you to come.”

“No.” Leon shook his head. “But I came anyway.”

The small smile flickered again, and this time Leon saw it, and flinched.

“You’re quite the hero, aren’t you? Make a habit of it, do you, saving poor, defenceless, kids from themselves? Does it make you feel better?”

“So what do you think? Do you think you’re the only one who made mistakes? Who can’t forget?” Leon was pale-faced and trembling now, struggling to keep himself under control, wanting more than anything at that moment to drive his fists into the grinning face, to eradicate the challenge and mockery in the smile. “I gave up my name, Riku, because of what I couldn’t do when I was him. When the Heartless came, and took Radiant Garden, I failed, Riku. Everyone who depended on me, I failed, and we lost our homes and our lives and our loves.”

A head of violence was building up in him. All the impatience and rage that he felt, all the guilt and bitterness, was about to spill out of him. In front of this boy, who he thought he had come here to help. Maybe it’s not him that needs helping.

Riku had glanced back to the floor, and was edging uncomfortably forward. “I’m sorry, Leon, I know you’ve been through a lot. But I just don’t understand why you’re here.” He was shaking now, with cold, and emotion.

For you, idiot! Because you make me feel like there’s a future worth building as well as a past to avenge. I love you! Are you stupid? “I’m trying to work out how to make things better.”

“That’s simple though, isn’t it? Don’t we just kill the evil guys?”

We… “It’s more complex than you think. An enemy that’s pure evil only exists in children’s stories. Right and wrong aren’t what separate us and our enemies; it’s our different standpoints, our perspectives that separate us. Both sides blame one another. There’s no good or bad side. Just two sides holding different views.”

Leon paused, and shook the sodden hair out of his eyes. “And I can’t believe that you’re doing this to me now! We’ll catch our deaths out here. Are you trying to get us killed?”

Riku grinned. “No. I just like seeing you in that coat.”

Leon shook his head. “Well, I’ll wear it for you, then, but you’re going to look very odd in my jacket.”

“Oh, I don’t know. You’re not that much bigger than me, old man.” Riku dodged the backhanded cuff Leon aimed at him. “And I’ve got to warn you, I don’t know what they were thinking when they had those made. Black shows everything and they’re an absolute pain to get clean.”