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Thus Passes the Glory of the World

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“These stupid fucking roses,” Vanitas swears as a thorn slices through his palm. Every damn time. He licks the blood from his hand and keeps climbing. It’s not much farther now…

The window at the top of the trellis silently slides open. Riku leans out of it, and even through the dark of night and hood of long hair, Vanitas can see the smirk tugging at his lips. He must’ve heard Vanitas complaining about the roses. He holds out his hand once Vanitas is close enough to reach, and hoists him the rest of the way up.

Vanitas lays over the windowsill to catch his breath. “Every time,” he whispers. He swipes more blood away with his tongue and climbs completely inside into a heap on the floor. “Never fails.”

“Maybe you wouldn’t get hurt if you took your time for once,” Riku snorts just as quietly. His parents must be home. They’ll have to keep it down, unless they want to face that drama. He takes up Vanitas’s hand and presses a tissue onto the cut.

“I don’t have the time to give.”

“Fair enough.”

“What time is it, anyway?”

“Around 1:30.”

Vanitas just nods. There’s a decent amount of time before he has to head back. He could even get some sleep.

Riku carefully removes the tissue. The bleeding seems to have stopped. “Did you have any trouble getting out?”

“Nah. The Old Man drank himself stupid tonight. He’s sleeping like a corpse.”

“If only,” he grins.

Vanitas doesn’t claim to understand it, but for some reason, Riku casually wishing death upon Vanitas’s dickhead of a grandfather fills his chest with fireworks. He’s on Riku in a second, lips hungry and hands desperate.

Riku laughs softly in the quiet. “Hey—you’re gonna bleed on me.”

“I thought you were into that sort of thing,” Vanitas challenges.

He makes a sound, like a groan or another laugh, but he doesn’t refute it.

Vanitas pulls him in by the neck, snickering because he knows he’s right. His lips eventually find Riku’s throat and shoulder, while Riku rediscovers the cut on Vanitas’s palm with his tongue. “Hah. I fuckin’ knew it.”

“Shut it.”

It takes all of his energy to not burst out laughing right there. He decides to make it worse instead: “Make me.”

Riku moves more forcefully at that. Of course. Vanitas knows every trigger. Every last button that could possibly be pressed. He does his best to keep his laughter under control while Riku makes good on his promise to silence him. He lifts Vanitas off of the floor like he’s nothing and throws him onto the bed.

“Dramatic asshole,” Vanitas cackles. Riku climbs over him with that same proud smirk. His hair is soft through Vanitas’s fingers. Their movements are silent. The sleeping house would never know. There’s only the rustling of sheets and the still-open window.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Pft. Why are you making such a big deal about it?”

“Because it is a big deal, you prick.”

“Well excuse me, I didn’t realize you were so damn soft.”

“I swear. You’re not the only one with problems, you know.”

“I never said I was!”

“Then why do you always act like it?!”

“I have enough trouble dealing with my own shit.”

“Hah! Don’t I know it!”

“None of this would’ve happened if you’d just kept your damn mouth shut!”

“So now it’s my fault?”

“It’s always been your fault!”

“You’re fucking impossible.”

“Here.” Riku hands him a box. A smartphone?

“What’s this?” Vanitas asks, turning the device over in his hands. The back is covered in a simple red case. It’s not even turned on.

“It’s yours.”

“Wha-?” His mouth drops open. “You’re serious?”

Riku smiles, so proud of himself. “I worked my ass off to buy it, so you’d better use it.”

“Wait, wait,” Vanitas stammers. “This is really mine? You’re giving this to me?”

“That’s what I said, dumbass.” He pokes Vanitas’s forehead, where the surprise must be showing. “I got it for you.”

He… This is… Vanitas starts laughing. “You’re fucking unbelievable.”

That smug grin is still there. “You’re welcome.”

Vanitas pulls him down into a kiss. His chest is going to burst apart. He never thought, with the life he’s lived, that he would ever have something as normal and mundane as a cellphone. Normal… Can something in his life be normal for once? Vanitas whispers that he loves him. Words he rarely says aloud—his pride too big to allow such sentimentality. Such vulnerability. Cold fear prods at his heart as soon as he says it. Coward.

Riku crushes him against his chest. Vanitas can hardly breathe, but he doesn’t care. “Happy birthday, Van.”

Oh, shit. He forgot. His own fucking birthday. He almost laughs. What a failure of a human being.

Somehow, Riku seems to hear those thoughts. He buries his face in the mess of black hair. “It’s alright,” he murmurs. “I’ve got you. I’ve always got you.”

And after all they’ve been through, Vanitas believes it. He knows, without a doubt, that they’re each other’s only tether to this stupid world.

“What do you fucking know!? It isn’t your life!”

“It might as well be!”

What.

“Who do you think has been taking care of you all this time? You certainly can’t do it yourself.”

Fuck you.”

Lea’s basement always smells like pot smoke. Vanitas is sure that the stench will never come out of the old, musty couch that sits down here. The curtains, too. It’s just a part of this place now.

The fact that Lea continually lights up down here doesn’t help. This is also despite the constant disapproval of his boyfriend Isa. Lea always grins at the sharp glare on Isa’s face whenever it’s brought up, or whenever Isa finds a new burn mark on the upholstery of the couch. Lea’s smirk is remarkably close to the one Vanitas gives Riku when he’s just trying to get on his nerves. Neither of them are above being annoying for a cheap laugh.

Vanitas lays sprawled out on an inflatable mattress on the basement floor. He idly checks the time on his phone and stretches his arms above his head. He’s not planning on going back to the old man’s house tonight. A huge weight is lifted from his chest. He can put off the consequences for later. Shove them back into the far reaches of his mind. In the meantime, he can actually enjoy hanging out with Lea and Isa in the half-finished basement with a dumb cartoon playing in the background and the ever-present hint of marijuana smoke.

“Hey, Isa,” Lea mumbles from his spot on the old couch.

The other boy is currently nestled against Lea’s side, reading a worn paperback. Looks like sci-fi. “Hm?”

“My arm’s asleep.”

Isa glances up from his book. The two are sitting close, with Lea’s arm wrapped around Isa in a half-embrace. They haven’t really moved for a while. Isa’s expression doesn’t change as he goes back to his book. “And how is that my problem?”

Vanitas laughs through his nose.

Lea’s jaw falls open. “What if it falls off, huh? How am I supposed to hold you if I only have one arm?”

“I’m sure you’ll manage just fine,” Isa shrugs.

“Come on, ya nerd.” He squirms, but Isa doesn’t move. Lea has to pry his arm out from beneath his boyfriend’s weight like a sword encased in stone. Isa falls back against Lea’s side once it’s free, a thin grin creasing his face.

Hah. Looks like annoyance is a two-way street.

Lea is muttering about Isa being an “asshole,” but still dropping his numbed arm across his shoulders, when Riku finally descends the basement stairs.

“What took ya?” Lea jabs.

“Your mom kept me locked in conversation for twenty minutes.”

“Oh, yeah,” he chuckles. “She likes you. For some reason.”

“It’s because I’m fucking delightful,” Riku retorts, and flops onto the air mattress next to Vanitas. The sudden displacement of air almost sends the smaller boy into orbit.

Lea is trying his best not to laugh, but his best isn’t much at all.

Vanitas settles back against Riku’s side—partly because he wants to, but mostly because gravity gives him no other choice. The dip in the mattress has the pull of a black hole.

Lea’s voice is still bubbling with mirth: “Nah, you’re just a good source of town gossip.”

Riku shrugs. At least his local, after-school job has some added entertainment value. The monetary value certainly isn’t much. It must’ve taken him ages to scrape up the money for that phone. “You’d be surprised at what passes through the store at 11pm.”

“I’ve already heard the stories. I’m ashamed of this place.” Wow. He doesn’t even dignify their small town with the usual ‘town’ descriptor. But it’s hard to think of it as such outside of tourist season, which has its own list of annoyances.

But for Vanitas, it’s more than annoyance. This town is rooted in despair. He can’t wait to leave. To get out. Somehow. He glances up at Lea. “You gonna get out of here?”

“Fuck yeah, I am. I’m getting out as soon as I can.”

Isa hums, “That’ll never happen if you don’t go to university.”

“What? No way. I can make it work. Just watch me!”

“Speaking of which, I’ve scheduled a campus tour in Twilight Town next weekend,” Isa steamrolls the conversation forward. “We need to be there by noon.”

Lea just nods along. “Yeah, sure. I—” and then his face falls as he actually processes the words. “Wait—next weekend?”

“Yes…” Isa levels his stare.

He groans into his hand. “Shit. Isa, I already told Roxas I’d go with him to the music festival.” Isa simply stares at him. Lea waits for a reaction that never comes. “Which means I can’t go with you.”

A blink. “You can’t?”

“No. I already have plans.” No answer. “With Roxas. My friend.”

Vanitas has heard this argument before, or at least a similar one. Isa does not like Roxas at all, if only because of how often he hangs out with Lea. The couple bickers back-and-forth for a while, and Lea begins to raise his voice.

And then Isa scoffs: “Are you more concerned about that sort of friendly relationship, or a real one?”

Lea is rendered nearly speechless. “Isa, they’re not even remotely comparable. You know they’re not.”

“So you’ve made your choice?”

“I shouldn’t have to make one!” he shouts. He stops himself and takes a calming breath. His voice is like a knife: “Look. I already promised Roxas. I’m not going to bail on him just because you want me to.”

“Lea—”

“So tone down your jealousy. My time is first-come first-serve.”

“You—” That glare sharpens so quickly. Isa claps his book shut with way more force than necessary.

Oh, shit. He’s gonna go berserk.

His eyes turn, and he sees Riku and Vanitas sitting there. He suddenly remembers their existence, and reels himself back. He’s way too proud to let them see him utterly lose his shit. So he stands and stomps towards the stairs. Maybe he’s hoping Lea will follow and they can have it out in private. Vanitas doesn’t know. But he does see Isa glare at Lea one last time like he could melt him with heat vision.

“Wait—Isa!” Lea calls, but he doesn’t turn back. The door slams shut at the top of the stairs, and Lea runs a frustrated hand through his hair. He doesn’t get up. He doesn’t follow.

The silence lasts far too long. Vanitas looks up to find an interesting spot on the ceiling. “Wow.”

“Awkward,” Riku mutters from beside him.

Lea hears it, of course. “Fuck off. You two are the poster boys for dysfunction.”

Riku brings a hand to his chest like he’s been harmed. That wide, innocent look makes Vanitas laugh out loud. It’s such a fraud.

Then they both raise their middle fingers in Lea’s direction, the tandem motion sending them both into a raucous fit of laughter.

“You see? How could you say such a thing?” Riku deflects, snatching Vanitas’s hand and bringing it to his lips. “We clearly have the perfect relationship.”

“For now,” Lea snorts. “Lemme ask you again next week. Or tomorrow.”

They just laugh again. They don’t need Lea to tell them—they already know. At this point, they’re just glad that they keep coming back to each other. Whether it’s a bad habit or an actual need, they’re not quite sure.

After huffing on the couch for another thirty seconds, Lea gets up and jets after Isa.

Vanitas’s fingers tighten over Riku’s hand. His chest is full and burning. He doesn’t want this feeling to ever go away. This lightness in his chest—like he could float away.

Riku keeps him tucked against his side, and Vanitas feels safe.

“Why are you mad?”

“I’m not mad.”

“What’s your problem? Go ahead.”

“I said: I’m not mad.”

“You fucking are. You think I can’t tell!?”

“I’m starting to get mad…”

“What is it? What did I do to displease you this time, Your Highness?”

“Will you just listen to me!?”

“Fuck you, and fuck this! Fuck all of it! You want balance?! Fine! Take it!” Vanitas throws his phone onto the street and it bursts into a million shards of glass and plastic. “I don’t need anything from you!” The words tear out of his throat. It hurts. His voice… “I don’t owe you anything.”

Riku’s voice is low and cutting and filled with such anger that he can’t get the words out fast enough.

But the blood is rushing so fast in Vanitas’s ears that he can’t hear any of it. He stuffs his hands into his pockets and storms down the sidewalk.

“Van!”

No. He won’t.

He keeps going, until even the ghost of Riku’s voice is long gone. And then he goes even farther.

It can’t catch up to him if he keeps moving. He can’t stop. He can’t ever stop.

Will it ever stop?

No, that dark voice is back. The undercurrent of his thoughts.

It would be so easy if everything would just stop.

But it won’t. It’ll never stop. He’ll be trapped in this hell forever. Nothing will ever change. Nothing will ever get easier. Nothing will ever shut up and stop. Xehanort will always be there. Ventus will never care. Riku will always find new ways to tear him apart.

He's such an asshole. He finds the deepest wounds and twists . Vanitas confides in him. Trusts him. Fucking loves him. Only for Riku to take all of it and throw it back in his face when it’s convenient.

Vanitas clenches his teeth so tightly that his jaw aches. This always happens. This is always how it goes. He’s so fucking tired of it.

They can’t keep going like this, falling away from each other over any little thing. A strange look. A tone of voice. Riku gets frustrated over the stupidest shit, but Vanitas is trying. He’s trying, and it’s still not enough. What is he supposed to do? Can he try harder? Is that possible? Isn’t he trying as hard as he can already?

And what about Riku? How hard is he trying? He keeps asking Vanitas for so much, but—

No. Vanitas can’t even pretend that’s true. Riku gives just as much as he asks for. More than that. He gives far more than Vanitas will ever be able to reciprocate.

But that means—

Vanitas presses his palms against his watery eyes. It’s all his fault.

He’s walked all the way to the fishing pier. It’s deserted. There’s no one out here this time of year. The walkway stands high above the rolling surf. Vanitas ventures to the end and stares out into the horizon.

He imagines himself sitting on the railing and tumbling into the sea.

The cold ocean would swallow him whole, and everything would finally, finally stop.

His hands tighten over the rail. The water is so far below, if he aims it just right, it could be instant.

What is he thinking?

He stands on the first rung of the railing. Don’t. The wind roars fiercely against him. No one will find him at the end of the drop. There’s no one left to worry about him now. His breath hitches in his chest. The dark voice assures him: No one will worry. It’ll be one less burden.

A burden. Right. That’s all he is. Riku deserves better than that. Vanitas wanted to give him better than that. But nothing ever changes. It can only end.

He wants to be better.

How long will he have to wait, before he’s good enough? How hard will he have to try? Is it even possible? He doesn’t want to be perfect, he just wants to be enough. It’s so far away from him now.

If only he weren’t so broken. If he could just put himself together—!

Jumping won’t mend this. Dying won’t fix him. What would Riku think if he saw him now, about to give up?

He has to be better than this. Tears drip from his chin and down into the sea. He’s aching for something. He wraps his arms around himself. The wind is cold. He has no mass nor muscle to fight against it and shivers. His only buffer is gone now. He wants Riku to be the one to hold him together as they fall back into their cycle. Their stupid, dysfunctional cycle that they’re both too afraid to break for good. The highs are soaring, but the lows are here with Vanitas standing on a shaky metal rail above the final, freezing maw of the ocean.

It would be so easy.

No , Vanitas resolves. It has to end. It doesn’t have to stop. He’ll put himself back together somehow. He has to. He can’t give up, or he’ll never be good enough.

Vanitas curls in over himself as sobs fight their way out of his chest like serrated knives. He falls back onto the pier and cries into his knees until he can’t breathe. The horrible, sinking feeling in his chest doesn’t go away, but he won’t let it win.

When his energy finally sputters out, and the clawing in his chest turns cold, he forces the tears back inside. The wind dries his cheeks until they’re crusted in salt. He wipes his nose on his sleeve and he feels like such a child. It’s a long walk back from here. He needs to get going.

He has no idea what time it is without his phone.

He sniffs and starts walking. Two blocks, then four. Then the winding streets of the suburbs. He leaves his breakdown buried in the sound of the roaring waves, never to be heard from again.

He’ll do it himself. He’ll keep going. He won’t rely on anyone for this.

His fists clench tightly at his sides. He has to hold his fraying edges together, otherwise he’ll fall completely to pieces again. No. He’s not some project for Riku to figure out. It’s not Riku’s job to fix him. He has to do it himself or it won’t mean anything. He’ll just end up taking Riku down with him, and he’d never forgive himself for that.

Riku finds him, like he always does. He follows Vanitas’s march, first in his car and then on foot. Vanitas seals his own mouth shut. The pleas of reconciliation melt his shattered heart. He wants it so badly. He wants to return to those arms and be warm and safe and hastily stitched together. The seams are weak but comforting. He wants it. Oh gods he wants it so badly it’s making him dizzy.

But when Vanitas continues to say nothing, Riku’s voice falls apart. “Van, you—” his steps falter, and he stops walking.

Vanitas continues down the sidewalk in silence.

“Vanitas.” It’s so hollow.

Tears climb down his face, but he doesn’t shake. He doesn’t turn around. He can’t let him see.

“You want to let it go like this?”

No. He doesn’t want to let go at all. His wounds are torn open again, but Riku is not his bandage. He’s in no position to be, no matter how hard Vanitas wishes it were true. He can’t save Vanitas, and Vanitas can’t save him. They can only save themselves, or they’ll both go down.

Vanitas is sure he’s never felt more alone in his life.

Love can only fill a broken glass for a short time, before it all slips away through the cracks.

Vanitas is going to fill the holes in himself. He’s got to. Then, he can hold all the love Riku can pour until he overflows, and he’ll never have to ask for another drop. He won’t have to bleed him dry anymore. And maybe, Riku will be able to mend himself as well. Seal up all the cracks Vanitas only worsened with his own jagged edges.

Maybe.

Vanitas can only hope.

Riku has stopped following him now, but Vanitas can’t bring himself to turn around and see. He can’t look back.

The house, Xehanort’s house, is covered in shadows. Fear grips his heart in a vice at the sight of it. How long has it been dark? When did the sun set? He completely lost track of time.

His curfew. Oh fuck. What will it be this time?

The thought of sneaking in his bedroom window crosses his mind, but honestly, Vanitas has lost all ability to care. He decided to live. He won’t run away.

Bring it on. It can’t be any worse than this.

The old man’s boot meets his chest and two of Vanitas’s ribs snap. He’s slammed against the dining room wall and sinks to the floor in a pathetic heap.

His eyes water, but he can’t feel the pain. It’s muted against the rest of his agony.

Xehanort leaves him there. Vanitas is exhausted. Physically and emotionally worn. He can’t get up. He can’t even move. The room fades to black as he loses consciousness.

Then cold water is poured over him. It reeks of whiskey. Like melted ice cubes in a glass of residual alcohol. Xehanort prods him with the toe of his boot and orders him up. He tells him to go to school. Ventus stands on the other side of the doorway, gripping the straps of his backpack and watching it all happen with empty eyes. He doesn’t offer to help Vanitas. He doesn’t tell Xehanort to stop. He doesn’t do anything.

Hatred bubbles up for only an instant. Vanitas is too tired. He can’t blame Ventus for not getting involved. Part of Vanitas doesn’t want him to. He’s not sure if Ventus would be able to take it. Vanitas will take the blow for him.

That’s right... isn’t it? That’s always been why... When did he forget that?

Vanitas slowly raises himself onto his elbows. Then his hands and knees. He braces himself against the wall and climbs to his feet.

It’s only once he’s standing that Ventus leaves the house.

Vanitas takes a shaky step forward. Another. He can’t feel anything. Is he moving at all? The room changes, so he must be. The overbearing sun hits his face and he almost throws up in the driveway.

Just keep walking. Keep going.

Not much longer. He just has to make it.

He’ll never get better if he doesn’t try.

It’ll never get better if he doesn’t live.

The sidewalk is an endless corridor. The edges of his vision are dark and blurry. In the far distance, or maybe just up ahead, Ventus is walking without looking back. The sun is so bright. The stench of whiskey is overpowering. His stomach fights to purge contents that simply don’t exist.

The sidewalk is warm beneath the sun.

“Vanitas?!”

Ven’s voice. It’s so far away.

“Hey... Get up!”

Is he not? Wait...

“C’mon...!”

He hears clothes and shoes scrape against the concrete as he convulses. He’s getting nowhere. This feeling like sleep is so heavy over him. It’s pulling him down. Was he ever really awake at all?

Ven’s voice is still here with him. “Vanitas, just hang on.”

He’s trying. He’s trying so damn hard.

But he’s losing his grip. The world slips away.

“That’s the last thing I remember,” Vanitas murmurs. Riku’s hand presses against his waist through his shirt. “There was too much blood and fluid buildup. They had to relieve the pressure somehow, so...” he guides Riku’s fingertips in a semicircle, just beneath his ribcage, along the clean, white line of the incision. His newest scar. It’s five years old.

Riku grimaces. “Van...”

“That’s the only scar you don’t know.” A new landmark on the map of his body. The only fracture that hasn’t been sealed by Riku’s touch.

Until now. Riku’s hand slips under his shirt, thumb gently tracing the mark of raised skin. “I had no idea.”

“I was in the hospital for a while,” he speaks against Riku’s shoulder. “And that’s when Ven broke down. He told Aqua everything, and by the time I was discharged...”

“You were already gone,” Riku finishes his thought. His arms hold on tighter. They stand twisted around each other in the quiet of the apartment. “It’s no wonder I never found you.”

“That’s just our luck,” Vanitas scoffs. He tucks his head against Riku’s neck. Vanitas can faintly feel his pulse.

“But I’m glad.” That voice is nothing but breath. “I’m glad you made it.”

“Yeah...”

“You didn’t give up.”

“I almost did.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

“Doesn’t it?”

“No. You walked away. That’s so hard to do, Van.”

Vanitas laughs like a cough. A shaky breath forcing its way out. “I walked away from you, too.”

He hears Riku smirk. “Was it hard?”

“One of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

“Do you regret it?”

Now that he’s standing here, between these arms again, as whole as he’s ever been? “No way in hell.” He plants a kiss against Riku’s throat. Arms tighten, and bodies shift. No more words, just lingering touches.

Riku’s hands hesitate at his waist. Vanitas laughs against his mouth. What a dumb habit. He can hardly believe Riku still has it.

“Go ahead,” Vanitas offers, and Riku lifts him off the floor. Some things never change. Muscle memory takes over, and Vanitas’s legs wrap around him as well.

“You’re heavier,” Riku remarks.

“That doesn’t sound as sexy as you think it does.”

“That’s not what I mean,” he sighs. “It’s... healthy.”

Vanitas rolls his eyes. “Eating more than one meal a day will do that to you.” That sly grin of his. Vanitas always liked it. He could kiss it right off of his face. In fact…

Riku adjusts his balance. “Which room is yours?” he asks during their fleeting moments of separation.

“Straight back.” ‘Down the hall’ is implied, but it’s hard to speak while his mouth is otherwise preoccupied.

Riku moves, and Vanitas knows what’s coming. Another stupid habit. An over-the-top thrill of his. But... Vanitas doesn’t hate it. He never did.

He loosens his grip as Riku hesitates yet again. “Do it already,” he groans like it’s such a bother. But really, the anticipation is too much. His heart is aching for it.

Riku hums. A laugh. He already knows. Cheeky asshole. He turns, braces himself, and tosses Vanitas onto the unmade bed with nothing but certainty.

Vanitas bounces high. Too much strength this time. Riku must be overcompensating. It has been a while, and Vanitas isn’t skin and bone anymore, but he still bursts out laughing. He always laughs. He can’t help it. It’s too ridiculous.

Riku watches him laugh with a dumb smile on his face. He’s probably thinking of something lame and sappy, if Vanitas had to guess.

He snorts at the thought alone. “You dork.”

Riku’s grin widens. “I haven’t even said anything.”

“You don’t have to,” Vanitas leans up and reaches for him. “That dumb look on your face says it all.”

He rolls his eyes, but lets Vanitas pull him onto the mattress anyway. “Then I won’t say it.”

“So it was lame.” He snickers through another kiss.

“It was romantic.”

“Laaaame.”

“Shut up,” Riku’s laugh betrays him. “What do you know?”

“That you’re a huge dork,” Vanitas sneers.

“You’re lucky I love you—” “But I love you anyway—” Their voices overlap. Then there’s silence.

They do nothing but stare at each other. Did that really just happen?

Vanitas’s face is burning. That lameness must be rubbing off on him. He can’t stop grinning.

Riku is gaping at him. What’s he so shocked for? Did he actually forget how Vanitas really felt? How Vanitas never stopped feeling it? No, he’s just... Riku’s hand cups his cheek. His eyes are so soft.

Vanitas is a little surprised. Riku has calmed down a lot since their high school days. Back then, he would’ve been so ecstatic and overwhelmed that he’d hold onto Vanitas like he was trying to crush him. To destroy him right then and there so the moment could last forever and no one could take it away from them. But now, he’s completely melted. He’s happy to let the moment simmer and build; and Vanitas is happy to let him do that.

Vanitas is also happy to reaffirm his feelings so Riku fully understands. Something Vanitas never would’ve done while he was young and broken and unsure. “Yeah,” he says, fingertips glancing over Riku’s wrist. “I always have. I never stopped.” The way Riku is staring at him makes his chest swell. That warm gaze is just as safe as he remembers. Maybe he can finally allow himself to have this. He already feels like he’s about to overflow. He could turn into such a glorious mess. How did Riku put it? ‘Useless.’ Right! He could be useless!

Riku kisses him, slow and gentle, and Vanitas’s laugh is manic as he spills himself everywhere.