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Phantoms of the Dark

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It was cold--a biting cold that seeped into his skin, past muscle, chilling the bone. Riku wasn’t really sure of how long he’d been walking. It could have been minutes, or hours...or longer. It felt like years. A harsh breath left his lips, and he stumbled to a stop as he bent forward to rest his hands against his knees. Once he’d caught his breath, he pushed himself up straight, eyes narrowing into the dark. Was this all there was here? Cold, and unending darkness?

It’s all you deserve.

Riku stiffened as those words seemed to echo around him. He whirled, trying to locate the origin of the voice, but it seemed to come from...everywhere, and yet nowhere. His chest felt tight and his heart was pounding painfully as he struggled to breathe. That voice...sounded so familiar. Silence settled around him again, and it seemed louder than any noise could ever be. Riku’s eyes dropped, to stare at the only other thing in all this darkness besides himself: the white path he’d been following, because the only other choice was to wander off into the dark. Was it right? That voice? Was this what he deserved? After what he’d done...he swallowed, lifting his eyes back up to the endless blackness.

Yeah, it probably was.

“Riku!”

“Sora?” Riku spoke, whirling around. His eyes widened slightly at the spiky-haired boy that stood down at the end of the path. Wait, end? Had there been an end before? He couldn’t remember. The darkness was like a fog, and it was hard for him to remember anything except the last few minutes...or what felt like the last few minutes. Riku’s feet started to move before his mind had even caught up with them, carrying him closer to Sora.

“Sora?” Riku called again, lips curving into a frown as his brows creased in confusion. “What are you doing here?”

“Looking for you, you big dummy!” Sora answered, that same cheerful grin on his lips that he always had. It used to bring him comfort, and then it annoyed him. Now? Now, it was both wonderful to see, and terrifying. Why was Sora here? How did he get here? As Riku slowed to a stop in front of the shorter boy, he opened his mouth to answer, but was cut off when Sora took hold of his face. Riku’s expression softened, and his lips curved into a smile. He reached up to place his hands over Sora’s, his lips parting once more to speak, before he was cut off again.

“Now that we found you, we can go home.”

Riku turned to look over his shoulder at the second voice, his brows raising in surprise. Kairi? What was she doing her? The last time he’d seen her was when he’d stopped Ansem from getting his hands on her. He swallowed as her arms came around his waist, and she leaned against his back, blue eyes bright before she closed them with a happy sigh. A shuddery breath left Riku’s lips, and he closed his own eyes. He expected to feel warmth, the same light and warmth he had always felt around his two best friends, but instead the cold only seemed to grow stronger. It took his breath away, and his eyes snapped open in panic.

Dark tendrils had begun to snake around him, flowing from Kairi’s arms around his waist. Riku’s gaze snapped up to look at Sora’s, and the cheerful grin had been replaced by a cold, calculating smirk. Gone were the blue of his eyes, replaced with gold.

“Did you really think we’d forgive you? After what you did?” Sora hissed, voice cold. Riku struggled to get away from their hold, but it was like a vice grip, digging into his skin. His chest was tight with fear, and each breath felt like shards of glass in his throat.

“You deserve to be here.” Kairi’s voice joined Sora’s, her breath like ice on the back of his neck. Riku’s fingers dug into her arms, clawing in an attempt to get free, but she held him tight with a strength Kairi had never had. He choked as the same dark tendrils flowed from Sora’s fingers, forcing their way down his throat, choking him.

All at once, air filled his lungs, and Riku stumbled forward, falling to his knees as he coughed and sputtered. His fingers curled into the ground beneath him and his eyes burned with unshed tears. Strands of his hair stuck to sweat coated skin, and he trembled as he pressed his forehead against the cold ground. The familiar sound of waves on the shore reached his ears, and he slowly raised his head. He had expected to see only darkness again, but the sight before him caused him to jerk back, and he fell back on his backside, his heart pounding. The island? It was...but it was wrong. Destroyed--a broken remnant of his home, the world he had grown up on.

“See Riku?” Kairi cooed, her cold voice breaking through his thoughts. Riku’s head snapped around, and he scrambled backwards on his hands. The redhead smiled at him, clasping her hands behind her back as she started towards him, as calm and leisurely as she’d ever been, though something was sinister in her gait. Her eyes were as gold as Sora’s had been. “We’re home. This is what our world has been turned into. Because of you.”

“You did this.” Sora’s voice echoed in his ear, and Riku’s head snapped around to stare at the boy who was now crouched down behind him. His arms circled Riku’s neck, and he jerked in an attempt to get away from him. It wasn’t real. This wasn’t real! But it felt real--terrifyingly, impossibly real. Sora’s cold breath against his ear, the weight of him against his shoulders--the only thing that was missing was the warmth.

“You’re not real!” Riku gasped, his voice cracking. He felt Sora laugh against his back, heard him answer, but he wasn’t listening. His fingers came up to curl into his hair, digging into his scalp. Silence fell around him once again, and Riku’s eyes slowly fluttered open. He was alone again, nothing but the crash of waves against the shore. His hands fell to his side, shaking as he stared out at the blackened water.

This is your fault. You did this. This is what you deserve.

What made it all the worse was that he couldn’t deny it, couldn’t defend himself. All of this was his fault--he’d allowed the darkness in. A choked sound like a sob left Riku’s throat, and he pulled his knees up to his chest. He wrapped his arms around his legs, burying his face against his knees.

“Sora...Kairi, I’m sorry,” he gasped through tears.

Riku? Can you hear me? I’ll be there soon.

Riku’s head jerked up and he blinked away tears. “W-Who are you?” He was back on that white road, surrounded by nothing but darkness...and that voice was one he had never heard. It caused a strange warmth to start in his chest, spreading through him.

I have the other Keyblade--the one that belongs to this world.

“What?”

I’ve been trying to get through to you, but the darkness in your heart kept me away.

“Who are you?” Riku asked again, no longer a tremor in his voice. He pushed himself to his feet, rubbing his hands along his side as he turned in a circle. He didn’t know who was talking, and yet he felt comforted by it. “...what’s happening to me?”

Your heart won the battle against darkness, but it was too late for your body. Don’t believe what you see. The darkness will try to trick you.

Riku swallowed, his chest clenching. “Are Sora and Kairi okay?”

You already know the answer to that. Look in your heart.

Riku frowned, looking down at the ground. He closed his eyes after a moment, concentrating on his heart--and then he felt it. Warmth and light, and he could almost feel Sora and Kairi next to him--the real ones, not the phantoms conjured by the darkness. A smile curved his lips and he opened his eyes finally with a nod of his head.

“What can I do?”

The door to darkness will open soon. Sora will need your help. Follow the light, it’ll guide you.

Riku swallowed. Follow the light? Was he even worthy of being near the light? No. He couldn’t let doubt cloud his mind and heart. If Sora needed him, then he would be there. Turning, he squinted down the road, at the light burning at the end.

“Hold on Sora,” he murmured, “I’m coming.”