Actions

Work Header

When a Tempest Meets a Landslide

Work Text:

They came to him a few days after he woke up. Sora and Riku snuck into his room late at night, bags already packed.

Sora looked apologetic, “She didn’t want us to tell you.”

Ven furrowed his brow, “Who?”

“Aqua.”

Immediately Ven shot out of bed. “Aqua?! You know her? Where is she? Why isn’t she here?”

Riku held up a hand, signaling for him to quiet down. “She was there when you woke up Castle Oblivion, but I you were really out of it....”

 

“Are you sure about this?” Riku asked, for perhaps the thirteenth or fourteenth time.

“Riku...” Sora trailed off, knowing that Riku was just stalling because he was losing confidence in himself. “You can do this.”

Riku sighed, but nodded. Sora nodded in return and closed his eyes. Across the way, Aqua stood ready by Ven’s side to help guide the blonde boy’s heart back into his body. Riku was in charge of releasing the boy’s sleeping heart, and Sora, as always, just had to be himself.

Riku held out his Keyblade, trying to focus on releasing just the sleeping heart inside Sora’s. The tip of his keyblade began to glow pure light, then shot straight for Sora’s chest.

After a heartbeat, a glowing red heart began to float from Sora’s chest... and then another heart. For a heartstopping moment, Riku thought that he had failed and released Sora’s heart as well. But then a third heart floated away, and Sora remained standing, eyes hesitantly opening, and body very much intact.

The brunet glanced over to where Ven slept, smile on his face as Aqua quickly guided the heart back. Then he seemed to notice the two other hearts floating above them. “Huh? Who are...”

The hearts dropped slowly to either side of Sora, and much to Riku’s astonishment, they began to glow brighter as images of two people began to form around them. One had blonde hair, and looked remarkably like the boy in the chair, even down to the similar clothes. The other wore the black coat of Organization 13. Sora ran over to the blonde, kneeling down and shaking him gently.

“Roxas?”

The blonde groaned and his hand twitched before he moved to get up, Sora helping him.

Riku hesitantly walked over to the figure in the dark cloak. They didn’t move even as he approached, and he gently turned them over, the cloak’s hood falling off as he did so.

It was a sleeping girl who looked like Kairi, but with dark hair. As Riku gently picked her up, he was struck by the feeling that this had happened before. Just as the feeling slotted into place, memories began to resurface. Riku grunted in surprise, but it didn’t hurt. It just felt like the memories were just putting themselves back.

“-ku! Hey, Riku!”

Riku shook himself out of his daze at Sora’s shout. Looking back, he saw Sora looking at him with concern with a still woozy but mostly upright Roxas. The blonde was looking at the girl - Riku’s memories supplied the name Xion - with the same sort of surprise Riku had.

“Sora!” Aqua called, distracting all of them. Sora ran over and took Ven from her arms.

“Is he...?” Riku called.

“He woke up for just a second,” Aqua responded as they regrouped by the door, “but then he...” she trailed off when she noticed Roxas and Xion. “What--”

“Uhh...” Sora trailed off. “Well... Roxas was my nobody...and...” he trailed off.

“Xion was.. Is... I think she’s a part of you too Sora... She was made from the memories of Kairi they took from you,” Riku explained.

“We can talk about that later!” Aqua cut in sharply.

“Huh?” Sora asked as he and Riku turned.

They had company.

Two tall figures in black coats appeared behind them. Both thad their hoods pulled up, concealing their identity, but two red energy beams materialized in the hands of one one, Riku instantly knew it was Xemnas.

“Aqua look out!” Sora shouted

Aqua turned and deflected a Keyblade aimed straight for her as a third figure in a black cloak materialized.

“They knew we’d be here!” Aqua shouted.

Riku was torn. He wanted to pass Xion off to Sora, but he knew the brunet wouldn’t be able to defend Xion and Ventus while Riku and Aqua took care of the figures. Roxas, while conscious, was still unsteady. They were outmatched and unprepared.

Aqua had done the math too. “Sora, Riku! Get everyone back to the gummi ship.”

“But what about you?” Sora called out, even as he cast his own reflect magic to stave off the attackers, but it wouldn’t work for long.

“Go!”

Riku understood what she was trying to do, but he also knew Sora would want to stay behind with her. Heck, he wanted to stay behind too, but they would need two people to get everyone to the ship. He looked back to where Sora was maneuvering Ventus onto his back so the brunet could use his keyblade better.

“We’ll get the ship started while you catch up,” he shouted to Aqua. He glanced back behind him. Roxas had managed to summon his own keyblade, but the moves were slow and uncoordinated, focusing more on bolstering Sora’s defensive moves.

“I won’t be coming,” Aqua stated, focusing her attention on the Organization XIII figures. “You’re going to need to get all of them out of here as fast as you can. You don’t have time to wait.”

“But, Aqua--”

“Go!” She shouted again, anger and frustration lacing her voice. She cast a barrier wide enough to encompass them all. “I can’t hold this for long. Just get Ven and those other two out of here.” She glanced back to where Ven was still unconscious on Sora’s back. “Don’t... don’t tell him what happened... He doesn’t need to come back here...”

“Aqua, if you just---”

“Riku!” Sora called, struggling to hold off a couple of nobody fighters that had sneaked around behind them.

Riku turned back to Aqua, “I--”

“Just go...” Aqua stated, launching herself back into the fray and out of earshot from Riku.

 

“We managed to get back to the ship... but Aqua didn’t make it,” Riku’s voice trailed off, staring down at his hands as if he wished he was back at the gummi controls, trying to wait out just a little longer.

“But you couldn’t just leave here there,” Ventus couldn’t hold his anger back. He understood their choice, just as he understood Aqua’s choice to stay behind, but he didn’t have to be happy about it.

“Riku doesn’t like the choices we had either,” Sora placated. “So... that’s why we’re here now!”

Ven looked at him. “What?”

Sora gave a small grin and tossed him a small sack. When Ven opened it, he saw it was full of potions and elixirs.

“We’re going back for her,” Riku stated.

Ven stared at the sack, then back up at them. He nodded once and followed them out the door.

They didn’t even make it to the gummi ship before a voice rang out:

“And where do you three think you're going?”

They turned and saw Kairi a few steps behind them, hands on her hips and sending all of them glare of disapproval. Ven didn’t have to turn around to know that both Riku and Sora were withering under it.

“I think they’re gonna take a little adventure without us, Kairi,” another voice said.

Ven looked back at the door to the tower. Lea leaned against it, arms crossed and a smirk on his face.

“And they’re gonna take the only gummi ship we have,” yet another voice called from behind them, in the direction of said ship.

Sora turned around and Ven could just imagine the sheepish look on his face. “Roxas...”

“Seriously...” Roxas stated, “You could have at least asked.”

“You’re supposed to be recovering,” Riku argued. Then he turned back towards the other two, “And you’re supposed to be training.”

Lea let out a huff of disbelief, “Yeah well, Kairi and Roxas want to go so you know I gotta keep an eye on them.”

Sora let out a nervous laugh, “You guys don’t have too--”

“Just start the ship, Sora!” Kairi interrupted, pushing him towards the gummi ship. “You can’t talk us out of it so just accept it and move on. Riku! You too! C’mon!”

Riku let out a long sigh before nodding in acceptance. “It’s gonna be a bit crowded.”

“Not if you and Sora share a chair!” Axel chuckled, catching up and ruffling Roxas’s hair. “Roxy and I can share another one!”

“You can sit on the floor,” Roxas stated, ducking out of the hand and running to catch up with Kairi and Sora. Ven brought up the rear.

Indeed, it was a tight fit, but they made it work. Once they were settled, Sora turned to Ven. “Can you open a portal? We don’t know if Aqua stayed at Castle Oblivion, or Land of Departure or whatever, or was taken somewhere else. If you opened a portal straight to her, it might be faster.”

Ven nodded, summoning Wayward Wind. As he pointed it, focusing on a portal, he remembered the first time he had gone through a portal, chasing after Terra. Now he was chasing after Aqua. He hoped one day, the chasing would end.

A light shone from his keyblade, opening up a lane to another world. Ven hoped it would open to the Land of Departure, if only because that meant that Aqua had won her fight and returned their world to how it was, and was now resting before making her way back to Yen Sid’s tower.

His hopes were dashed as soon as Sora piloted through the lane, exiting not into the bright sky of Ven’s Land of Departure, or even the eternal night Castle Oblivion had been set in.

It was much worse.

In shock, Sora had nearly lost control of the gummi ship, trying to stop an unexpected nosedive through desert sand and strange rock formations. Ven just caught glances of the landscape as it raced past them. The rock spire that looked like someone took a chunk out of the middle of it. The three impact craters that reminded him a bit of King Mickey.

They were at the Keyblade Graveyard.

“Hold on to something!” Sora shouted as the gummi ship continued its semi-controlled fall from the sky. Sora had tried to aim for a rather large flat area, but it wasn’t going to be anything close to a smooth landing. Ven quickly grabbed onto the seat next to his place on the floor and tried to brace for the rough landing. Kairi, buckled safely into the chair he was holding on to, grabbed on his hand hand in what he was presumed was an effort to keep him grounded. Next to them, Lea had braced himself against Roxas’s chair. Riku had one hand braced against the ceiling, the other on Sora’s shoulder, more giving the brunet some strength than bracing himself for impact.

True enough, the gummi ship bounced a few times on the ground. Next to him, Kairi let out a few surprised grunts as the safety harness prevented her from bouncing too much but probably also giving her more than a few bruises. Ven had a hard time holding on, and was grateful for Kairi’s surprisingly strong grip when he nearly bounced to the ceiling.

Finally, the bouncing ceased and they slowed to a stop. After a moment of stillness, Ven groaned and tried to stand, though his legs felt like they were still shaking.

“Is anyone hurt?” he called out.

More groans answered him as everyone assessed their bruises.

“Physically, I think I’m fine... though my dignity’s a bit bruised,” Lea let out a chuckle before groaning lightly in pain, clutching his ribs.

“Nothing new there then,” Roxas stated dryly.

Ven glanced over to Riku and Sora. The silver haired young man was talking quietly to his boyfriend, gently trying to pry Sora’s hands from the gummi controls. Evidently, the brunet had taken the loss of control worse than Ven thought. He tried to maneuver his way over to the front. As he approached, he heard the soft words Riku murmured to Sora, one hand wrapped around Sora’s as it still clenched the wheel.

“It’s okay, we’re all okay...you can let go now. You got us here safe and sound...”

Sora’s eyes were still wide with shock, looking at Riku but not really seeing him.

Kairi let out a groan and Ven turned to look at her, watching as she untangled herself from the safety harness. “Hang on just a moment,” she stated shaking her head to clear her thoughts before summoning her keyblade, Destiny’s Embrace. “Heal!” she shouted as loudly as she could.

Instantly, Ven’s legs stopped shaking and he felt his bruises fade. He heard Lea and even Roxas let out sighs of relief. Glancing back over to Sora and Riku, he saw the brunet blink for a moment before finally unclenching his hands from the controls, only to wrap his arms around Riku and hold him just as tightly, hiding his face in the taller boy’s shirt. For his part, Riku wrapped his own arms around Sora, content to have this moment of comfort.

Not for the first time, Ven wondered about the exact nature of their relationship.

“That was some Cure spell,” Lea muttered as he rotated his shoulder, distracting Ven from his thoughts.

“Yeah... Aqua was teaching me the fifth tier spells before she... uh... left. I don’t think I can do another one for a while though so don’t get any more bruises!” Kairi stated with a small smile, though Ven noted the strain behind it. Kairi had probably depleted her mana completely and it would be awhile before it returned.

“I have an ether in my pocket, I think...” Sora said, unwinding his arms from Riku. He patted is pocket and pulled out a small bottle. “But you probably shouldn’t do anything else too high level till you build your mana up so it doesn't drain you every time.”

“Yeah, yeah, mom,” Kairi muttered but took the ether, her smile widening when Sora spluttered for a moment. “But seriously, where are we? I don’t think this is where we meant to go, right?”

“It’s the Keyblade Graveyard... it’s where... well... it’s where Aqua, Terra, and I fought Xehanort. Where we were all separated...” Ven answered.

“Is that what this place is?” Sora wondered aloud.

“Sora, what’s wrong?” Riku questioned.

“I think I’ve been here before... I fought a ghost,” Sora muttered looking warily out the glass at the open landscape.

“You... what?” Roxas questioned.

“Remember when Goofy, Donald and I left really quick from the World that Never Was to return some things to Hollow Bastion and to get some supplies?” Sora turned to Riku when he asked the question. Both Riku and Kairi nodded. “Well, on our way back, Chip and Dale asked that we check something out at Disney Castle. There was this dark portal thing. When we went through it, we landed here.... And a ghost came to meet us. It was dressed in this armor... and his voice was more of a whisper on the wind, but he was strong,” Sora flinched at the memory. “Maybe it’s a sort of guardian for this place...”

“And you’re just mentioning this now?” Riku questioned.

“Well... then I got back to the Organization 13 castle and we kind of got distracted with Xemnas! I didn’t think it was that important,” Sora stuck out his tongue.

“I wonder why we landed here, then...” Lea muttered.

“Ven? What were you thinking about? Right before you opened the portal?” Kairi questioned.

“Hmm?” Ven thought, “Well... Honestly, I was thinking about the first time I went into a portal, trying to catch up to Terra.”

“So... you were thinking of Terra?” Riku asked, frowning when Ven nodded. “It still doesn’t make sense though... why would that lead us here.”

“Well... I don’t think we can go anywhere else till we assess the damage,” Lea stated, already opening the door and stepping out into the strange world. Riku and Sora followed him down the ramp, Kairi close behind.

“Hey... you gonna be okay?” a voice behind Ven asked. Jerking in surprise, Ven turned and saw Roxas staring at him in concern.

Ven shook his head, trying to clear the negative memories of the last time he was here. “Yeah... I’ll be fine.”

Roxas let out a small grin. “Don’t worry... we’ll make sure that you don’t end this visit with another ten-year nap.”

Ven huffed out a laugh, “Yeah...”

“Hey, anytime blondies!” Lea’s voice shouted.

Roxas rolled his eyes, “Sometimes, I don’t know what I see in him...”

Ven huffed out another laugh.

They made their way down the ramp and looked at the ship. From what little Ven knew, he thought it was in relatively decent shape outside of a few scrapes and a scattered piece or two.

Lea picked up a gummi block from the ground. “Well... the good news is, the blocks that fell off are primarily aesthetic. I think Sora should be able to fly us out of here.”

“How would you know, Lea?” Kairi questioned.

“I am a man of many unknown talents and untapped knowledge,” Lea stated, tilting his chin up with pride.

“Didn’t Leon say you and Isa used to steal from Cid’s gummi block shop?” Sora laughed, “At least until Cid caught you one day and put you both to work to keep you out of trouble.”

“Leon is a buzzkill. My unknown talents and untapped knowledge are supposed to be part of my charm.”

Ven huffed but refrained from saying anything, instead looking out into the landscape. It felt like the wind was picking up, swirling dust all around. Suddenly, the dust got thicker, centering around a place less than a hundred paces from where their group had gathered.

“What’s that?” He asked, pointing at the dust cloud.

“It’s the ghost!” Sora shouted, running so he stood beside Ven, keyblade flashing in hand. “This is what happened the last time.”

Ven saw another flash of light, and he saw Riku coming to stand on Sora’s otherside, keyblade already in hand and ready. Ven summoned his own keyblade just in case.

Just as suddenly as the wind picked up, it settled, the dust dropping to the ground revealing a figure in armor.

In very, very familiar armor.

“Terra?” Ven whispered.

The figure was kneeling on the ground, both hands placed over a keyblade - Ends of the Earth, Terra’s keyblade -- and his head bowed.

Who...are you...

The words came as more of a whisper of a voice than actual speech.

“What do you want?” Riku questioned, keyblade high in the air.

Are you... the one I chose?

“Huh?” Ven glanced back at Riku. Suddenly, he realized where Riku gained the power to wield the keyblade. Sora had essentially, and mostly accidentally, become Ven’s apprentice when he opened his heart to share with the older Keyblade wielder’s. But Ven had a feeling that Terra had shared the power with Riku through the more traditional route.

No... you’re different.

Suddenly, the figure moved, standing and pulling his keyblade from the ground.

Xe...ha...nort...

“Get ready!” Sora cried, “Lea, Kairi, Roxas, get back to the ship...”

“No way!” Kairi cried, summoning her own keyblade.

No! Ven thought, You're just making it worse!

The figure moved, faster than Terra had ever been Sora moved to block but before he could Ven ran out in front of him, spreading his arms wide.

“Terra! Stop!” Ven cried out, only vaguely hearing the gasps of surprise behind him. He closed his eyes, hoping that whatever part of Terra that was still inside the armor could hear him.

There was a gust of cold wind against his face and then the feeling of an armored hand pressed to his hair. Ven blinked his eyes open.

It appeared that the figure was staring at him through its helmet, its gloved hand moving down to haphazardly rub the tears from Ven’s eyes.

Ven...

“Terra....” Ven answered, grabbing onto the armor pressed against his cheek and holding it there.

The wind picked up again, some dust swirling into Ven’s eyes. He tried to blink it away, but between one blink and the next, Terra’s armor and keyblade were gone. Ven was left clutching empty air.

Ven’s eyes burned, and he was sure it wasn’t the lingering dust in his eyes. He felt his breath catch in his throat, and he tried to hold back the sob that was working it’s way up.

A hand on his shoulder startled him enough to look up. Sora looked at him in a mixture of sympathy and understanding, squeezing his shoulder in comfort.

Ven tried to smile, wiping his eyes free of tears. “We should... we should find Aqua. She’ll know what to do...”

“Yeah...” Sora agreed.

“I don’t think we’ll have to look far...” came Kairi’s voice.

They both looked over and saw her pointing at bursts of light in the distance, like fireworks, or flashes of lightning. The sky lit up in a rainbow of colors, and Ven knew that Aqua was here. Ven ran ahead, not really checking to see if the others were behind him, but having faith that they were.

They heard the battle before they saw it, Aqua’s offensive magic lighting up the sky. Then they heard a loud crash and a figure fell from one of the taller rock pillars. With a pain in his heart, Ven realized it was Aqua.

She landed on her feet, but quickly fell to her knees, running out of strength. Two more figures in black cloaks chased after her, ready to strike with both magic and their weapons

“Reflega!” Sora, Riku and Kairi shouted together.

Beams of light showt out of their keyblades and towards Aqua, creating a strong barrier that threw her attackers a fair distance away.

Ven saw Aqua’s head shot up and look back at them as they came running up, both relief and anger passing over her features in equal measure.

“I told you not to come back for me!” She berated Riku as soon as they were close enough.

“Yeah, well, we decided that was a stupid order and elected to ignore it...” Riku blocked yet another cloaked figures attack and threw him back with some dark firaga. “Sorry... but we’re not leaving you behind again.”

Ven nodded and quickly gave his friend a hug. “Why would you do that, Aqua?”

He felt Aqua hesitate for a moment, before her arms encircled him, squeezing tightly. “I’m sorry, Ven. I thought it was for the best.”

“Well... now we’re together again,” Ven pulled back, summoning his own keyblade. “So don’t go disappearing on me.”

Aqua let out a small huff of laughter and summoned a keyblade. With a shock, Ven realized it was Master Eraqus’s keyblade instead of Aqua’s own.

But he didn’t have much time to dwell on that, as more cloaked figures appeared.

Sora and Riku had taken on the attacker that wielded some sort of red lasers, while Lea and Roxas held their own against a man with long blue hair. Kairi ran between both fights, casting defensive and healing magic where she could.

Suddenly, a shiver ran up Ven’s back and he turned, keyblade flashing in his hand with barely a thought as he blocked a sudden oncoming strike. Ven retaliated, countering the strike with one of his own, forcing his own opponent on the defense.

Like most of the others, his opponent had his hood covering his face, but he wielded a keyblade. The design was familiar, like clock gears, but the colors were off, black and grey instead of the black and red Ven had become used to. A painful feeling settled in his gut, and thinking quickly, he cast aeroga to see if his suspicions were correct.

The sudden burst of wind startled the cloaked figure enough that his hood fell off. Though he had his suspicions, Ven was still shocked at the spiky black hair and golden yellow eyes that emerged.

“Vanitas?”

His former dark half didn’t reply, unusual for him, instead going back for an relentless attack that put Ven on the defensive. His golden eyes were blank with indifference, another aspect of Vanitas that put Ven on edge.

It should have been impossible, but from what Sora and Riku explained to him shortly after he woke up, Xehanort’s past self was taking aspects of Xehanort out of their proper times in order to assemble them as the 13 Seekers of Darkness. With as much time as Vanitas would have spent with Xehanort, Ven realized that it was entirely possible his dark half was turned into a vessel.

Aqua was struggling against her own opponent, a cloaked figure wielding another keyblade. It wasn’t until Ven through Vanitas off long enough to run to Aqua’s aid that he realized it was Master Xehanort’s keyblade.

As soon as he threw a quick reflega spell to block Aqua’s attacker, the cloaked figure turned on him. Ven struggled to evade the attacks, both the man’s speed and the keyblade itself sending painful and uncomfortable flashbacks through his head. He remembered the last time that keyblade had been turned on him.

“Riku!” he heard Sora shout, “We can’t hold them off for much longer!”

Between Lea and Kairi’s inexperience, Roxas’s brief recovery, and Aqua’s exhaustion, they were ill-equipped and unprepared for this fight.

“Leaving so soon?” the cloaked figure fighting Riku and Sora asked. “But there are now seven of you... seven guardians of light to fight the thirteen seekers of darkness on the ancient battle ground.”

“The [chi] - blade will be forged...” Aqua’s cloaked attacker stated.

“Yeah, well,” Lea shouted even as he struggled to hold his attacker off. “It appears you’re a few members short, so if you don’t mind,” he threw his attacker off him him and quickly summoned his chakrams, slamming them in either side of his attacker’s cloak so the man was pinned to the ground. “We’ll be leaving now!” Lea then turned, swinging Kairi up and over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, taking off towards the gummi ship, Roxas hot on his heels.

Despite her protests at being “manhandled” Kairi used her position of facing the battle to cast enough defensive magic to cover their retreat.

“Good plan,” Sora shouted, “C’mon, Riku!” Together, the two of them took off running, casting their own magic.

Ven quickly grabbed Aqua’s hand. “We’re not leaving you behind again!” He’d drag her to the gummi ship if he had too. But Aqua merely nodded and together they took off running, quickly catching up with their friends.

They had almost made it to the ship when Ven tripped over a rock, landing hard in the dirt. Groaning, he tried to get back up, but cried out when his wrist gave a sharp pang when he put pressure on it. He must have sprained it when he landed. His shout drew Aqua’s attention, and she realized he had fallen behind. She had just turned around to go back for him when the cloaked figure that carried Xehanort’s keyblade teleported in front of them, launching a quick attack.

Aimed at Ven.

Ven barely had time to even think about blocking before the attacker was upon him, instead he shut his eyes and braced for the inevitable impact.

It never came.

Instead, Ven felt a cool breeze in front of his face, and heard the loud clang of metal meeting metal.

He opened his eyes, expecting Aqua to have blocked the blow, or even Sora.

Instead, the armored figure that had greeted them stood above him now, blocking the strike meant for him and pushing the figure away. The impact had lowered the figure’s hood.

Ven gasped in recognition.

In what had to have been the cruelest twist of fate, the figure wore Terra’s face, but the hair, eyes and vicious expression were all Xehanort.

“So... you still think you can reclaim your body?” the man with Terra’s face asked, “You already tried once, and your heart already ran off, what makes you think you can win this time?”

“Cause he’s not alone this time!” Ven said, quickly getting to his feet and summoning his keyblade. Behind the dark version of Terra, Aqua was quickly running to his aid, while Sora and Riku hurried Lea, Roxas and Kairi back to the ship.

The armored figure raised took his fighting stance, like Ven had seen Terra do so many times before, and launched into battle. Ven quickly followed, with Aqua launching magic attacks from behind.

Ven wasn’t sure how long they battled, but he was forced to take a brief reprieve when an unexpected attack knocked him back, almost straight into Riku and Sora... who appeared to be having some sort of argument.

“You have to do this!” Riku was shouting.

“But I’m not...” Sora trailed off.

“You can do this,” Riku repeated, a little softer. “You just have to trust yourself.”

Sora seemed to steady himself before nodding. Then he turned to Ven, “Hey! Can you somehow distract him? Get him to hold still for just a moment? We only have one shot at this

“One shot at what?”

“Well...” Sora trailed off.

“It’s hard to explain, but we think we can put Terra’s heart back... make him Terra again.”

Ven’s eyes widened. “What?”

“It’s a long story, but you remember when Ansem... the bad Ansem... the heartless guy!” Sora tried to rush his explanation tripping over his words. Ven glanced back at the battle, where Aqua and Terra’s armor were holding their own, but Ven could see the other cloaked figures making their way over... and it seemed that there were more than before.

“Anyway, when that guy took full possession of Riku’s body, he cast Riku’s heart out, causing it to end up in the realm of darkness. But since the Ansem, Xehanort’s heartless... guy! Was really a possessed Terra’s heartless, he might have cast Terra’s heart out too....”

“Sora thinks I may have accidentally provided shelter for Terra’s heart, like how Sora did with you...” Riku finished.

“You think?” Ven glanced back hurriedly, anxious to get back in.

“Point is, if we release Terra’s heart, and whatever is left of Terra inside that armor attacks at the same time, we might be able to kick Xehanort out,” Sora said.

“But we only have the one shot,” Riku reiterated.

Ven nodded. “I’ll see what Aqua and I can do!” Quickly he ran back in, blocking an attack meant for Aqua and retaliating quickly. Terra’s armor took over and Ven used the quick distraction to explain things to Aqua. Which, considering the short amount of time he had to do so, basically amounted to “We think we can put Terra back.”

“How?!” Aqua cried, casting a quick barrier to protect them from fallout from a spell.

“Too long to explain,” Ven shouted, “Can you distract him and keep him still for just a moment.”

Aqua seemed to think before nodding. “It may not last long though, but it should keep him still.

“Good...” He glanced over where Riku and Sora were preparing to cast their spell. “We'll have to be quick though, before those others show up.”

“Right.”

Terra’s armor had managed to slam his attacker to the ground, and Aqua appeared to realize her chance. Ven watched in amazement as chains surrounded in an orange glow sprung from the tip of Aqua’s keyblade, wrapping around Terra’s body.

Xehanort must have realized their plan, but it was a second to late. A cry from Sora sent a beam of light from his keyblade, straight towards Riku’s chest. Ven heard a faint unlocking sound before a red/pink heart surrounded in light was released. As the heart sped towards the body trapped in chains, the light faded. Riku looked no worse for wear, though a little shocked by the experience.

An orange colored light came from Ven’s left. Looking over he saw Terra’s armor start to glow as the armor rushed towards the bound figure.

Xehanort had managed to yank one arm free and appeared to be trying to summon something. With a sudden burst of realization, Ven realized that he was trying to summon his armor. He had seen Xehanort do such a thing when he was still under the older man's tutelage. Whereas Terra, Aqua, and Ven still needed pieces of their armor exposed for it to be called, both Xehanort and Master Eraqus could summon it with their keyblade alone.

If Xehanort’s armor covered him before the heart or soul reached Terra’s body, it was likely their plan would fail. Ven got up and began running, hoping he could do something to stop Xehanort’s armor from appearing.

All three: the armor, the heart, and Ven appeared to reach Terra’s body at the same time, just as Xehanort’s armor started to appear. Terra’s face twisted into a cruel smirk, but Ven ignored it, instead grabbing the man’s hand and pulling. There was a sound of the armor collapsing behind him and the heart had disappeared, but when Terra landed in his arms, his eyes were closed, he was in the clothes Ven had last seen him in, and his hair was the same brown Ven had remembered. Quickly, he glanced back where an afterimage of the Xehanort possessed Terra still smirked at him before the armor’s helmet covered him completely.

For a moment, no one moved. Then the armored Xehanort drew his keyblade. Ven cried out, trying to cover as much as Terra’s body as he could, preparing for the blow.

“STOPZA!”

Ven blinked jerking back when Xehanort’s attacked stopped inches from his head. He looked around, finding the various members of the true organization XIII frozen in various stages of attack.

King Mickey stood in front of him, keyblade out, “Everyone, back to the gummi ship. Now.”

Sora and Riku rushed over, pulling Terra out of Ven’s arms. He was reluctant to let go, but Riku gestured behind him.

“We can get him, go help Aqua...”

Ven turned and saw Aqua struggling the stand. Evidently the constant battling over the past few weeks plus using so much magic in this battle had taken a lot out of her. He rushed over, swinging her arm around his shoulder and helping her to stand.

Ahead of them, Riku and Sora had Terra between them, that taller man still unconscious, feet dragging along the ground.

He heard Aqua chuckle tiredly beside him as they jogged back to the ship. He turned to look at her in question.

She smiled thinly, “You are all so much older than I remember you. Sometimes I forget that. Makes me wish I could just stop time so I can protect you for a little longer.”

Ven shook his head, “Never again.” He held her just a little bit tighter. “You’re so important to all of us Aqua, we want to protect you just as much as you want to protect us. You have to let us try.”

Aqua’s smile wavered, but she nodded all the same.

They made it to the ship just as the King’s spell was wearing off, Lea at the controls, ready to fly as soon as they were all on board. Mickey quickly opened a portal, and Lea few them through.

Once they were in the lanes between worlds, Mickey turned to them. Ven had set Aqua down on the floor, next to Terra who was still unconscious, leaning against the back of the control room and sleeping. Sora sat next to him, also leaning back against the wall, with Riku cradled between his outstretched legs. Their hands were tangled in each other’s clothing, evidently not letting go anytime soon.

Ven could relate. His hand had not left Aqua’s and he had grabbed Terra’s as soon as he could.

“I’m very disappointed in all of you.”

Mickey’s tone was solemn and they all looked down, not able to meet the King’s eyes. Even Axel had his head bowed as much as he could while still navigating the lane.

“You’re actions were reckless, and you could have ended this trip with serious injury, or worse.”

“What would you have done?!” Sora shouted, his anger and frustration radiating. “I won’t leave anyone behind ever again.” Riku squeezed his hand in comfort, but made no effort to quiet him.

“You could have asked Yen Sid and I what we were planning.”

“It had been days at that point!” Ven broke in. “Aqua had been out there on her own for too long.”

“It’s okay, Ven,” Aqua tried to shush him.

“No, it’s not,” Ven turned back to the King. “I remember a young king who stole a star shard so he could help save the world when he felt it was in danger. He was following his heart, which is no different than what we had done.”

After a beat of silence, Mickey’s glare softened. “Aw, gee. I guess you’re right.” He let out a long sigh. “Yen Sid has been so concerned with planning, trying to keep one step ahead of Xehanort, that I guess we forgot that the most important thing is to let our hearts be our guiding key.”

He then turned to look at Ven, Terra, and Aqua. “Besides, I guess your hearts have led to the return of Terra...” He looked at Aqua, “Speaking of, how did that happen?”

Aqua shrugged, “Don’t look at me, I just provided the distraction.”

“His heart and soul were together,” Riku murmured from his place in Sora’s lap. Sora had been stroking Riku’s hair, the action evidently lulling the older boy to sleep. Teal colored eyes blinked for a bit before Riku sat up a little more. “I think Terra’s soul was still trapped in that armor. That’s why he had words... but no voice. It was just his will to continue on.”

Sora broke in when Riku let out a yawn, “And then when Xehanort had said that Terra’s heart had ran off... it made me wonder about when Xehanort’s heartless possessed Riku. The reason Xehanort’s heartless needed a host body was because he cast his own away in order to travel in time. But his heart was still technically Terra’s. Xehanort was just... overshadowing it... right?”

Mickey nodded, and Sora continued. “So, when Xehanort’s heartless completely possessed Riku, Riku’s heart remained strong enough to survive on its own in the realm of darkness. What if, when Xehanort did that, he tried to cast out Terra’s heart at the same time. So Riku may have accidentally shielded Terra’s heart.”

“I thought I would have felt something if that were true, but Sora pointed out that he had held Ven’s heart for years without ever realizing it,” Riku broke in, still leaning against Sora’s chest. Ven supposed he used more of his energy than expected, or the shock of having his heart unlocked was getting to him as the silver haired boy seemed to be having trouble staying awake.

“Right...but then Riku wanted me to try to unlock Terra’s heart right then and there and I panicked!”

Riku chuckled. “You did great.... Knew you could do it.”

“I’m more surprised that Sora is the one who figured all that out... and that quickly,” Roxas said, turning in his seat to see them all better. “Seriously... Sora?”

“Hey!” Sora stuck out his tongue while Riku laughed leaning up and kissing his cheek, before leaning back against the brunet and drifting off to sleep. Sora’s cheeks reddened, but he tightened his grip around Riku.

Well... that answered Ven’s question about their relationship.

“I suppose some good came of all this then,” Mickey stated, “We managed to get one up on Xehanort. And we know one more thing.”

Ven furrowed his brow, “Huh? What’s that?”

“Xehanort’s getting desperate,” Mickey said, “Before, he was willing to wait years while Vanitas and Ven became his perfect light and darkness. But today...”

“He was willing to take us on just because seven of us were there...” Ven finished. “He’s not waiting around for perfection anymore.”

“Nope... but it also means that he must have found a 13th vessel.”

Ven nodded. Again he thought of Vanitas, unusually quiet and unresponsive, only fighting without any emotion. The thought made Ven uncomfortable and felt pity for his former enemy. Even if his emotions tended to range from “pure annoyance” to “full out rage,” there had been no denying that Vanitas had been an emotional person, much like Ven himself. For Xehanort to have possessed in in such a way that he made the boy both lifeless and silent... Ven felt sorry for Vanitas.

He decided to keep quiet about that for a little longer. At least until they got back to the tower.

The solemn atmosphere suddenly shifted when the gummi ship jerked to the right. Poor Mickey had nearly been launched into Kairi’s lap.

“What the--?!” Lea sputtered from the wheel. “Who the heck has a blue box out in the middle of freaking nowhere?!”

Much to Ven’s surprise, the King began to laugh, even as he righted himself and smiled at Kairi apologetically.

“For all our sakes, let’s hope it stays out there.”