Actions

Work Header

The Fatal Drop

Chapter Text

“Do you think this would go well with these shoes?”

The question is moot because he already knows she’s mentally given herself an answer but Riku slowly lifts his head up so he can look down his body and check. “They clash.”

“You’re right. Crap.” Kairi dives back into her closet to keep looking for a date night outfit while Riku drops his head back down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, and wishing he were anywhere but doing this for the third night in a row.

“You’re already late,” he points out while he checks the time on his watch. Definitely late. “Meaning, we’re now late.”

“I’m almost ready!” Kairi dashes back out of the closet to check one final outfit. “There, this works, right?”

Even if it doesn’t, Riku is prepared to lie through his teeth while he sits up slowly. “Yeah, that works.” And it does but you can’t really lose with a pink dress and black shoes. “Ready to go? Please be ready to go.”

Kairi rolls her eyes and dabs on a final touch of lip gloss and fluffs her hair which she recently cut into a bob. It’s cute and he can still remember how she lit up when he complimented the cut. “Okay,” she says, grabbing her purse, patting his thigh on the way. “Let’s go.”

Riku grunts but rocks himself up into an upright position so he can follow her down the hallway toward the front door. The apartment is quiet and clean in an upscale neighborhood. Her parents were the owner of a nutritional company and owned more paopu fruit farms than any other family in the area which is the only reason they could afford the place even on his salary which isn’t the worst but not good enough for this area.

He’s still new to the personal training world and hasn’t completely made a name for himself but it pays the bills. Kairi’s still chasing her dreams of becoming a model and actress which he’s done his best to support since she always did well in college theater. They’re down to the car waiting on them which is a gift from her father but Riku is pretty sure is just a way to keep an eye on them. Kairi’s father had never really liked him despite his kind treatment of his daughter since childhood.

Riku assumes because he’s always been one to support Kairi’s dreams and encourage her to move away from the island and do something bigger and better than what this place can offer but she’s always been a homebody. Riku drums his fingers over the door while they’re driven from the apartment to where they’re going out for the night at some club he’s never been to but everyone’s been talking about for days.

Destiny Islands’ new hot joint and Kairi’s been begging him every weekend since it opened to take her there. He’d finally managed to score a Friday off so he’s able to take her and let her be shown off. He just wishes he could drive the car but he supposes having a driver enables him to drink, too, instead of always being the DD. The line is long but Kairi being Kairi, she’s able to walk right up to the front of the line and the bouncer lets them in free of charge.

Everyone knows who Kairi is and normally she doesn’t exploit it but there are times when it works in their favor. Like when they don’t want to wait in a line so long it wraps around the building.  

“This place is huge ,” Kairi says but Riku can hardly hear her over the music.

He’s been here for two seconds and he’s already looking for the emergency exit – literal and metaphorical. Clubbing can be fun – he likes to dance – but he doesn’t always enjoy the compact feeling and the room is too hot with all of the bodies packed together. Kairi wraps her hand through Riku’s and drags him through the crowd toward the bar. They order drinks and Riku hardly touches his own because he wants to stay sober to watch over Kairi.

There is a tap on his shoulder and he turns around from his spot on a bar stool he managed to snag while Kairi is standing beside him, leaning over the bar, talking to the bartender. He’s met by soft black hair and a softer face. He smiles a little at the sight of Xion; she looks pretty in a black dress and her hair freshly cut short.

“Hi, Riku,” she says in his ear so he can hear her.

“Xion!” Kairi eagerly goes around him and hugs her tight.

“Have fun,” he tells Kairi as they eagerly go off together. He rolls his eyes a little as she waves back but basically ignores him in favor of going to dance with Xion on the dance floor. At least, he has the bar to himself at the moment while everyone seems to dissipate in favor of dancing.

He sips his drink, which is honestly atrocious, but it gives him something to do with his hands instead of fidgeting or picking at his nails or skin on his fingers. He’s picked up bad habits over the years and he’s trying to unlearn them now that school and college are both over. He sighs and finishes off his drink only to order water afterward. He doesn’t need any more alcohol if he’s going to keep a casual eye on Kairi.

He turns on his stool to see her dancing with Xion and having a good time. The sight makes him happy but also feels his heart heavy with loneliness. Being in a room full of people and he’s never felt so isolated. High school had been a tumultuous time for him and he’d learned more about himself than he ever wanted to learn – complete with a breakdown in the locker room’s bathroom.

He can still remember how someone had sent Kairi into check on him. She’d found him panicked and having an anxiety attack; he remembers begging her not to say anything. The memories make tears burn the back of his throat but he angrily shoves them down. This is not the place or time to start crying over the past.

“Hey.”

The voice is like milk sliding over honey and makes Riku turn in his seat to see a pair of golden eyes surrounded by black hair. The guy is sharp-featured and his smile is toothy with too much pleasure as he leans casually against the bar. Riku’s eyes drop down over his outfit; leather pants, thigh high black boots and a shredded and torn black shirt which reveals too much and not enough in the same breath. Silver glints in his mouth suggest he has a tongue ring and for a moment Riku thinks his eyes are playing tricks on him.

This man looks just like his friend Sora if Sora were edgier and darker. He blinks a few times and tries to banish Sora’s face from his eyes but he can’t. They’re complete doppelgangers. “Uh…” Riku trails off but the man’s smile returns.

“You busy?” he asks.

“N-no,” Riku stumbles.

“What’s your name?”

“It’s Riku.”

“Riku,” the man purrs and tests his name over his tongue. “I’m Vanitas. People call me Van because they’re stupid and can’t pronounce Vanitas.” Vanitas taps the bar and orders a drink. “And one for him, too.”

“Oh- I’m good,” Riku says but Vanitas is already passing him a shot.

“Drink up, Riku ,” Vanitas purrs while tipping back the shot glass in his hand.

Riku turns his eyes to his own and decides to go for it – he’s not driving and Kairi is with Xion. It burns on the way down and he doesn’t like the taste at all but it’s over and done quickly enough. Vanitas orders them two more and he takes those, too. By three shots, he’s feeling looser and more relaxed which is probably how Vanitas ends up with his arm around his waist and he allows the contact.

“I’m going to rock your world,” Vanitas whispers in his ear and he can feel Vanitas grind against his thigh. Riku shudders as he pictures Vanitas as Sora feeling his heart flying in his chest at the thought.

The panic attack in the gym locker rooms had been over Sora. He’d realized it while watching Sora in art class; the way he stood at the desk so concentrated while trying to color and make his lines work while Naminé stood and helped him. His heart had shattered as he realized, too late, he was deeply in love with his friend and the feelings he had were no longer platonic at all. The gay panic had happened shortly after.

He’d fled the classroom and went to the locker rooms which were always empty at this time and he’d been right. He’d sat on the floor and wrapped his arms around his knees in a complete meltdown as he realized not only is he in love with his best friend but being in love with Sora meant he’s not straight. He’s definitely into guys and all of his curiosity in locker rooms post-gym class and track and field meets confirmed the idea solidly in his mind.

Ever since he’d agreed to pretend date Kairi as they both hid their sexualities from their families. Kairi being a lesbian had been a strange blessing in his life. Except now, here he is, with a guy wrapped around him like cling wrap. Vanitas’ mouth is on his neck, tongue tracing patterns over his skin, while his sharp teeth graze over his pulse so casually. If anyone were to see him like this, he’d never live it down. His arms immediately reach up to push Vanitas back which makes for a confused face from his new potential hookup.

“What? Don’t like your neck kissed on? That’s a shame. You’ve got such a pretty canvas to work with.” Vanitas licks his lips and looks so hungry Riku can feel his entire soul dying. This is what he’s always craved, secretly and only in fantasies, but now it’s here and he has no idea how to handle the feelings coursing through his entire body.

“I- I don’t know…” he mutters and takes a step back to put space between them but Vanitas keeps coming toward him. They back up until Riku can feel his back against a solid wall and Vanitas is crowding him with such eager lust.

“You’re nervous,” Vanitas says and his lips are back on Riku’s neck.

Riku’s hand rests on Vanitas’ back which he realizes is probably only encouraging Vanitas’ behavior while the other scrabble at the wall behind him desperately. His heart pounds fast and heavy and he can feel the bulge in his jeans pounding with the sudden blood flow. The feeling in his stomach is like fire and if he doesn’t find relief soon, he’s going to burst in his jeans which is definitely just a step under humiliation.

“I’ve never done this before,” he dares to admit in a quiet confession.

Vanitas’ gold eyes fly back up to him and Riku can see the calculation dilate his pupils like a wicked jungle cat. He smirks wickedly – the gesture strikes him all the way to the core. He feels as if he’s confessed in church and needs to pay penance and atone for being such a good boy throughout his life. Vanitas will be his judge and the club his confessional.

God , what has he stumbled into?

“A virgin, hm?” Vanitas purrs and Riku’s stomach recoils as he sounds extremely pleased. “I like that. Pretty guy like you looks like he should be fighting them off with a stick… and yet, here you are, single and with no experience. Usually, that’s a turn-off but on you?” Vanitas’ lips finally seek his and Riku feels his body submit to the hungry kiss.

His knees almost give out and he feels his body slide down in an attempt to become smaller. Vanitas, like Sora, is short and small but where Sora is wiry and thin, Vanitas has strong shoulders and arms from working out.

Riku’s hand slides up to grip the back of Vanitas’ head and pull his mouth back so he can take a breath and assess the situation. His eyes fly over to the dance floor but the room is too packed for him to see Kairi or Xion but he’s certain they’re still having a good time. Vanitas growls and tries for another kiss but Riku turns his face so Vanitas has to be satisfied with the side of his jaw and neck which he seems to have no issue sucking hickeys into his skin like marks of ownership.

“Bathroom,” Vanitas growls and the command sends a pulse down to his pelvis.

He’s really going to do this.

“Okay,” he says without thinking while numbly walking toward the restroom. His eyes strain the floor for signs of Kairi and eventually, he sees a flash of pink and his heart rests easier when he notes she’s still dancing with Xion.

She’s safe and you’re an idiot .

Vanitas is rough when they reach a more private space, shoving him into a stall and shoving two cold hands beneath his shirt to grope and drag his nails tightly into his chest and abdomen. He gasps and feels his stomach hitch and flex. Vanitas traces the outline of his abs with a playful smirk on his face.

“Fit boy, huh?” Vanitas asks.

Riku nods. “I- I’m a personal trainer,” he babbles even though he’s not sure why Vanitas needs to know this – probably doesn’t.

“I don’t care,” Vanitas replies as he starts to kneel. Riku wants to state the floor is probably dirty but Vanitas doesn’t seem like a guy who cares about the cleanliness of the room or floor.

“What are you doing?” Riku asks.

Vanitas snorts. “You’re joking, right? You grow up a Mormon or something, Silvy Locks?”

Riku rolls his eyes and decides the best policy is to keep his mouth shut. His eyes fly up to the ceiling and wall, trailing over evidence of vandalism while Vanitas makes quick work of his belt and fly. He takes in a sharp breath when Vanitas’ cold hands find what they’ve been searching for since they started kissing.

“Wow, Christ, Silvy Locks, where do you hide this thing?”

He says nothing and closes his eyes. He knows his cock is thick and heavy but he doesn’t like to draw attention to it or having other people do so either. His mind travels to Sora but as soon as Vanitas wraps his mouth, hot and tight, around his dick he’s moaning loudly and he flies immediately back into the moment.

“Oh, fuck,” he gasps, his eyes flying down to the top of Vanitas’ head and hair. He’s eager and enthusiastic, clearly knowing what he’s doing. However, with the rate he bobs and sucks, Riku almost wonders if his dick is going to be ripped off.

The wet sounds of the blowjob only make it more arousing. He moans and pants, completely lost in the moment. The pleasure floods and builds hot and tight in his stomach. Vanitas’ hands reach up to tug his hips and dig his nails into his stomach. When Vanitas ends up nose to pelvis, Riku almost yells and has to slam a hand over his mouth while his toes curl sharply in his boots.

He’s going to cum.

“Fuck,” he gasps. “Oh, fuck, fuck. I’m gonna cum, I’m gonna- fuck-.” Riku whimpers and feels his orgasm ride through his pelvis and cock until he’s making a mess down Vanitas’ throat.

Vanitas hums and pulls back, licking his swollen pink lips and casting golden eyes upward. “You taste good. You must eat well, don’t you? You’re just an all around good boy, right, Riku?”

The words should be a compliment but they sound a lot like an accusation. His face turns red when Vanitas stands up and walks out of the stall without another word, even leaving him unzipped and exposed. He stuffs his oversensitive cock away and hurries out of the bathroom, face burning.

What the hell did I Just do ?

 


 

 

“Where’d Riku go?” Kairi asks while she follows Xion toward the bar so they can buy some water and take a break. They’re both covered in sweat and Kairi is glad she’d finally cut her hair off. Been meaning to do it for years but her mother always commented about her hair being too short .

You’ll look like a boy, Kairi, don’t chop off your hair.

With Xion’s encouragement, she’d finally gone to the salon and cut it short. Not too short but short enough.

“I don’t know,” Xion replies, her hand still entwined with hers. “Maybe he went to the bathroom.”

“Riku?” Kairi snorts. “He’d rather cause himself a blade infection than just leave us out here alone.”

“Maybe he trusts you finally?” Xion asks and then they both laugh.

Riku has always been overly protective of her growing up. She’d been quick to put him in his place when they were older, reminding him she could take care of herself and didn’t need a man to protect her but she did appreciate his kindness. They’d been living together now since their sophomore year of college as a couple.

A fake couple but their parents bought the act.

“Are you going to tell him?” Xion asks and hands her an unopened water bottle.

“I need to, I know,” Kairi says slowly. “I just don’t know how to break it to him easy without upsetting him too much. I mean, we’ve been living together for a while . He’s been there for me for so long now.”

“Kairi, you’re twenty-five,” Xion points out. “You should be able to live the life you want, not the one your parents think you’re living.”

Kairi sighs and takes a long drink from the cold water, hand still holding Xion’s casually. She knows Xion is right; it’s time to tell her parents the truth and admit she and Riku are a sham. They aren’t on the way to marriage because she’s a lesbian and Riku has been a casual cover up for years. Riku’s gay, too, but it isn’t her place to explain that much.

Xion wants her to move in and Kairi is ready to take the step to move in with Xion, too. They deserve to live their lives. Travel, explore the world and their lives together.

“You know, you look really cute tonight,” Kairi comments, tracing her thumb over Xion’s wrist. “Your design?”

Xion smiles and nods. “Yeah! You like it?” She pulls away only so she can twirl casually to show off the new black dress she’d made.

“I love it. It’s so very you.” Xion has always been borderline between masculine and feminine in dress but Kairi always liked how Xion presented herself. The black dress is definitely the most feminine she’s ever seen Xion in a while.

“Thanks!” Xion pulls out her phone to take a selfie even though they’re both sweaty and worn out. “I’m putting #girlfriends on this, just so you know. A step in the right direction, right? Plus, it’s not that obvious.”

Kairi nods and rests her head on Xion’s shoulder quietly. “Right.”

“Oh, God, I forgot to tell you. Roxas said he’d love to have you in for a consult. He doesn’t mind.”

“Oh!” Kairi had almost forgotten in the hubbub of trying to find a new gig for acting or modeling she’d asked Xion to check with Roxas about a tattoo she’s been meaning to have done for years. “Okay. Great. Can we go in tomorrow to see him?”

“Yeah, I think he doesn’t get in until afternoon but if you have time, we can go. I don’t have to work.” Xion smiles and Kairi nods eagerly. “Great, I’ll text him.”

Kairi steps away so Xion can text, her eyes trailing over the crowd for any signs of silver hair but there are no flashes catching her eye. Worry pits in her stomach as she doesn’t see Riku at all. Pulling out her phone in desperation, she hopes wherever he went, he'll receive a text.

K: Riku, where are you? I left you at the bar last time I saw you. Are you ok?

“Texting Riku?” Xion asks.

“Yeah, I’m worried about him. He doesn’t usually just vanish.”

“He’s probably in the bathroom,” Xion insists. “Guys pee, too.”

She snorts and nods, even though worry eats away her nerve. Riku is a big and tough guy, he can definitely take care of himself but if someone had slipped him anything in his drink? He could be anywhere. Riku is big and tough but he’s also really pretty and Kairi knows men are taken advantage of, too.

“Kairi!” Xion points over to the crowd toward the bathrooms and her heart slowly relaxes as Riku appears. “There he is.”

“Thank God,” she whispers. He’s alone but his face is completely red and he looks nauseous. “He looks bad.”

“Yeah…”

The worry returns and she cuts through the crowd to reach him. “Riku!?”

Riku freezes when he’s confronted and she takes his hands to keep him from running away. He’s shaking and sweaty. “Kairi-.”

“Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

“Fine.”

“Liar. Come here.” She tugs his arm over to a corner where there are some booths left empty from people who are on the dance floor. She makes him sit down and checks his face. “Did you take something? You look so sick.”

“I’m fine,” he insists and shoves her hands away but they both know he’s lying. “I just, uh, was with a guy.”

Well, that wasn’t the answer she expected. “A guy?” she asks, her eyebrows flying up behind her bangs. “You were with a guy? Like… like in a gay way?”

Riku snorts and nods, rubbing the back of his neck desperately. “Y-yeah.”

“Oh.” Kairi grabs a chair to sit across from him and tilt his embarrassed face up. “How was it?”

“Rough.”

She laughs and then quickly slams a hand over her mouth to stop. “Sorry!”

“He was… uh… interesting.”

“Who was it? Did you know him?”

“No.”

Kairi laughs again but it’s more disbelief than humor. Riku is not the kind of person to hook up. In college, he’d gone to many parties but had always been the guy to protect the girls being preyed on by other creeps. They’d jokingly called him an honorary lesbian and protector of girls on campus. He would always offer to walk girls home late at night after class went too long if they didn’t feel safe. Every girl had trusted him. He’d never hit on anyone or be inappropriate. Always a chivalrous gentleman.

Of course, she knew part of this was due to his disinterest in the opposite sex.

He’d never been the guy to have one night stands or a rough one in the bathroom or under the bleachers. Not in high school, not in college, and not until tonight apparently.

“Wow,” she finally says. “You just hooked up with a random guy tonight. That’s crazy. How do you feel?”

“Sick,” he admits and looks so lost she wants to wrap her arms around him in a hug.

“Riku…”

“I didn’t know him and him just- he-.” Riku gestures at his lap. “His mouth was down there.”

She yelps and covers her face as it burns from secondhand embarrassment; that was definitely more than was need to know but Riku is on the edge of having a panic attack. “Riku,” she laughs. “I didn’t need that much information about what happened.”

“Sorry… I… don't know what to do now.”

“Well…” Kairi gestures at the bar. “Do you want to do a shot in celebration?”

“Of what ?”

“Your virginity is dead and gone?” she asks trying to lighten the mood. Riku does not look amused. “What? I’m just kidding… kinda… We could take a shot in celebration of new chapters in our lives! Being ourselves .”

“I’m not hooking up with him again!” Riku exclaims.

“Yeah but you did it once, you can find another guy-.”

“No. I won’t again.” He shakes his head and Kairi can feel her hopes die in a single stroke. If Riku could finally just admit to being a gay man, finally find a partner of his own persuasion, then they could casually come up to the same conclusion about “breaking up”.

Now, she had to be the bad guy eventually.

Eventually, soon.

“Riku, c’mon… You had one bad experience, it doesn’t color all of the others you could be having!” Kairi says and grabs his hands to hold. “Think of all of the guys who would line up at your door. You’re gorgeous!”

“Thought you liked girls.”

She snorts and rolls her eyes. “I’m a lesbian, not blind.”

“Heh.” Riku pulls his hands back into his own space and runs them over his face, rubbing his eyes a few times. “God. I can’t believe I did that.”

“Was it good, at least? I mean did you… you know…” She makes an explosion motion with her hands and Riku’s face turns red again.

Kairi !”

“Well? Did you?”

“…Yes.”

“Okay, good, at least it wasn’t bad.” She pats his knee. “You’re no longer a baby gay, Riku, you’re like a little fledgling instead. Learning to fly.”

“I’m going to leave you here,” he threatens but the words are empty.

“Speaking of, let’s get going. I’m tired.”

Riku nods and they both rise up to go and find Xion. She holds Xion’s hand on the way out and they kiss in front of Xion’s car. Riku stands guard quietly, his face still a mask of flustered shame before Xion climbs in her car to drive home. After she calls their own car and the driver arrives ten minutes later to take them home.

At least, with the flustered look on Riku’s face, the driver can think she put it there to report back to her father she’s being a good little straight girl.

“Have a good time, miss?” the driver asks. She’s pretty sure his name is Gerald but they go through so many she never really knows.

“Yeah, we did.” She says and slides her hand to hold Riku’s. “Didn’t we?”

“Yes,” Riku agrees quickly, while his eyes turn over to her. He leans into her space and they kiss lightly even though she feels his hand spasm at the gesture. No matter how many times they perform for the public and either of their families, neither of them are comfortable being affectionate.

Kairi reaches up to cup his face and forcefully deepen the kiss and make it believable. They’ve never slept together and she hopes they can continue to play it off as if they’re waiting for marriage. The problem comes down to her mother putting pressure on her to marry him before it’s “too late”.

Riku pulls back after a moment and his face is bright red, silver hair quickly sliding into his face to hide. He’d grown it out again from one bad haircut and, usually, braids it to lie over his shoulder so it’s out of the way but she’d told him to wear it down tonight. Someone once remarked he should cut it short and be masculine but she’d threatened him upon pain of death to leave it long.

“Well, you two have a good night,” their driver says as he pulls up outside of the apartment building.

“Thank you,” Riku mutters as he climbs out of the car and offers his hand as Kairi slides across. “Have a good night.”

Kairi offers him a soft smile but she notices he doesn’t return the gesture as they head inside. The doorman nods to them and security glances up as they walk in and then return to their usual monitoring. Once they’re safe in the elevator, Riku pulls away and immediately puts distance between them by standing in the opposite corner.

“I’m sorry, Riku,” she says softly. Kissing him without preplanned permission hadn’t been in the plan and she knows it makes him extremely uncomfortable.

“It’s fine,” he replies.

“It’s not- I… I should have…” She wants to say I should have asked but there hadn’t been time to ask. “Riku…”

Riku doesn’t reply and heads down to their apartment to let himself in quickly while she sighs and follows behind. Maybe he’s just overwhelmed from everything happening all at once or maybe she’s forced too much on him lately. Just a few days ago she’d been kissing him on the street because she knew her father’s company was nearby. Not even a quick kiss but they’d almost had to make out right on the sidewalk. Last weekend they’d gone to her parents’ for dinner and spent the entire evening attached at the hip and being affectionate.

“Riku,” she says while the realization hits hard. “Wait a minute, please.”

Riku pauses just before the hallway to their bedrooms. He’s never denied her a conversation which she appreciates how he will wait for her to talk before going away for the evening.

“I’m really sorry, honestly. You’ve been so… great the last couple of weeks,” Kairi says firmly. “Playing the boyfriend part and that’s really good of you. I know it’s a lot to ask all the time. I’m sorry about tonight.”

“I’m fine, Kairi,” he replies which is a default Riku response. Usually, especially, when he isn’t.

“Is this about the guy you hooked up with tonight?”

“No. I just want to go to bed.”

“Okay…. Did you get his name? Number?”

Riku doesn’t continue answering her questions and instead disappears down the hallway to his room, the door shutting firmly in his wake. Kairi sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. More than anything, she wants to tell Riku it’s time they talk about the living situation but not tonight.

It’s never tonight , she can hear Xion say but really tonight is not the night to bring up separating and finally living as separate people instead of a pretend couple.

She wants to be free and she wants Riku to be just as free to live his own life as himself .

“Tomorrow,” she whispers while setting her purse down. Tomorrow, things will change.

 


 

Vantias’ hickeys and tracks still burn with their memory on his skin while he slowly undresses and tries not to look too hard in the mirror. Vanitas left scratches down his thighs and over his stomach and bruised his pelvis with eager contact. The entire time he’d been afraid Vanitas would bite him but there had only been an occasional graze of teeth. Probably the threat is enough for someone like Vanitas.

The memory makes him blush but it also stirs something inside he’s never felt before in person. A deep hunger he wants to satisfy with further experimentation but his heart locks up immediately.

He can’t be gay.

His hands clench into fists but a searing pain running up his left arm makes him wince. The pain radiates up his arm and into his shoulder and a quick exam shows his wrist is slightly swollen. He hadn’t worn a brace in almost a week and is now paying the consequences. Muttering a few choice explicatives, Riku wanders over to dig around for a brace to lay out on his dresser. He’s undressed but decides it’s not worth trying to trip into pants and instead makes a quick rush to the kitchen to grab an ice wrap.

Kairi’s door is shut so he pulls the freezer open and sighs when he notes the freezer is packed and it’s going to take a moment to find the right ice pack. “God,” he mumbles and uses his useful arm to dig around.

The sound of a door opening makes him freeze, half bent over in the freezer, realizing he is definitely without pants. “Kairi?” he calls.

“Yeah?” she asks from the hall.

“Uh- I’m- not dressed,” he says, his face burning at the admission. He’s never walked around naked in his own apartment out of respect and now he feels like a complete idiot.

“You’re not what ?” Kairi asks and her voice is much louder meaning she’s walking over.

He jumps back from the freezer and puts himself between the counter and her line of vision just as she walks around the corner. “I said I wasn’t dressed,” he repeats, glad the room is dark enough to hide his blush.

Oh . God.” Kairi quickly spins around to give him privacy and laughs. “Sorry. I didn’t realize you… walked around naked.”

“I don’t! Usually… I need… my ice pack. I’m sorry. This will never happen again.”

“It’s okay.”

He can hear the laughter in her voice and he’s glad at least one of them finds this completely amusing. Ice pack located, he shuts the freezer and notes she’s still standing there, back turned. “Yes?” he asks slowly.

“Riku… You know I care about you,” she says.

“Yes… I know? Kairi, if this is a serious talk, I’d really like to have pants on.”

“Right- okay. Um, tomorrow? Morning?”

“Yeah, sure, tomorrow morning.”

“Okay.” She ducks her head and he can tell she’s fighting an urge to look back over her shoulder before going to her room.

Riku waits until her door shuts and then creeps over to the end of the hall, peering around the wall, and then running as fast as he can back to his room to shut the door before she decides to peak anyway. Maybe she’s curious if she’s actually attracted to him or maybe she’s just curious . Sometimes, he’s curious, too. Not even in a sexual way – he’s just curious about women in general.

The ice feels good and relieves some of the throbbing pain in his wrist and arm. He lies down on the bed, staring up at the ceiling, and realizing his mind is wandering back to the bathroom. Everything had felt so good – he’d never felt something so good in his life. Yes, he’s explored his own body but this pleasure had been so intense and he’d felt it all over.

Desperately, he wants to feel it again.

Maybe not with the same person because Vanitas had definitely been a little too aggressive for his tastes and he didn’t even have Vanitas’ phone number. However, maybe Kairi is right; maybe guys really would flock to his door if he just put himself out there.

A pair of blue eyes, the same color as the ocean, fill his mind’s eye and he lets his heart sink into the color, wrapping it around like a blanket. The soft eyes framed by long brown lashes belong to an even softer face with the sweetest smile he’s ever seen in his entire life.

Sora.

His best friend; the boy he’s been so madly in love with it feels like a personality trait. His thoughts always come around back to Sora no matter what he’s doing. Applying for jobs? He thinks about the approximation to Sora’s apartment. Picking out clothes? He wonders if Sora would like how something fits. Kissing Kairi in front of her family? Definitely trying to picture how soft Sora’s lips really are.

They’ve been friends ever since before they could walk and he’s never once seen Sora with someone on a romantic level. He always thought, maybe, Sora was interested in his other friend Roxas but he’s never seen them together in a relationship manner. They hang out and take selfies together but so do he and Sora.

Maybe Sora doesn’t date or maybe he’s never really found himself dateable. A depressing and sad thought all rolled into one. Sora’s always considered himself stupid and people always point out he’s below average in intelligence, even though Riku’s never agreed with anyone’s assessment. He will defend Sora until his dying breath.

Sure, maybe, he didn’t realize fire is hot.

And maybe he struggles on the computer.

And his smartphone.

And maybe reading is hard for him.

Maybe focusing on one task is extremely difficult and his marks in school had never been stellar.

None of those incidents, in Riku’s opinion, make Sora even remotely stupid. He sighs and rolls onto right so he can pillow his left wrist on a pillow comfortably while his mind wraps around Sora and pulls his memory close. It’s late, so he knows Sora is probably asleep but it doesn’t stop him from reaching for his phone to text awkwardly.

R: Hey : ) I hope you had a good night
S: Riku! Hi! You’re awake???
R: Lol I could ask the same of you. Shouldn’t you be asleep?
S: Yeah but I couldn’t sleep : ( Bad dreams
R: Oh : ( I’m sorry. Wish I was there to make it better

Wow.

Sometimes, Riku realizes he really is gay and needs to take a step back.

S: Awww that’s so sweet of you <3 Thanks
R: You’re welcome buddy
S: What are you doing up?
R: Kairi wanted to go out so we went out. I’m tired but my wrist really hurts so I can’t sleep
S: :O
S: Oh no!! Are you icing it??
R: Yeah
S: You shouldn’t text when it hurts like this
R: I want to talk to you though. I would take all the pain in my wrist to talk to you, Sora

Really. Really. He needs to stop .

S: Wow look at you being all sappy tonight. Did you drink or something?

He had several shots earlier but he feels fairly sober now but maybe it’s still making him a little loopy.

R: Lol I can’t just be nice to my friend? Or want to talk to you?
S: No! You can. You just don’t usually say stuff like that. I’m not complaining. I like talking to you, too. How’s Kairi?
R: Fine. I guess. She was just hanging with xion all night so
S: Oh : ( She does that a lot, huh?

Right. Sora still thinks he and Kairi are dating. He wants to spill the beans and tell Sora the truth, considering they’ve been lying to their friends for years now but he holds his tongue. He isn’t sure if Kairi wants Sora to know.

R: Yeah, she does but it’s ok they’re friends just like we’re friends and I hang with you a lot
S: Oh, am I taking up too much time? I can stop

No. No, no, no. He doesn’t want Sora to stop taking up his time.

R: Sora I love hanging out with you please don’t change that
S: Ok! I just want to be sure!
R: I appreciate that. You’re a good guy
S: Hey tomorrow is Saturday are you busy? Do you want to hang out?
R: God yes that sounds great
S: OK! What time?
R: Whenever you want. I know you like to sleep in ;)

Sleep in is an understatement; if Sora could, he’d sleep until noon every single day.

S: Hmm afternoon? I can always text u earlier if I get up
R: Sure thing just text me, I’ll be available all day
S: Cool! How’d you get Saturday’s off?
R: Uh I didn’t want them off but my usual Saturday canceled indef so until I get another client I’m kinda stuck for now plus I’m new so the other guys have dibs. I get shit hours I guess
S: idk Saturdays off are the best :) We can see each other then
R: True :) I should probably try to sleep and my wrist hurts
S: Ok! Please take care of yourself Riku
R: I will. Good night, Sora
S: Good night!!!

The wrist pain is worth every interaction with Sora.

 


 

Saturday’s are made for sleeping in but for Riku, having a Saturday off means he can run errands and do everything he’s been wanting to do all week but not had time for. He wakes early, wraps his wrist in a brace, makes a protein shake, and then rushes to the gym for a lighter workout so he doesn’t strain his already sore arm. A shower follows the workout and then he’s off to hit the store and buy a few grocery items they’ve been needing but haven’t bought.

The store is blissfully empty and he takes his time perusing every aisle but only leaving with what he intended to buy. Kairi can never seem to follow a list but Riku likes structure. After the grocery store, he has his hair trimmed since it desperately needs a slight trim and to make his bangs a little more manageable. His stylist is chatty and he lets her chat while he waits impatiently for Sora to text him. It’s not even 10:00, so he knows it will be a few hours before he hears from him.

Riku returns home in time to see Kairi leaving her room, looking tired, and her hair a wild mess which makes him smirk. Usually, she’s always put together but he’s seen her a complete mess more than once. He’s glad she trusts him enough to see her so vulnerable.

“Morning,” he says.

“Did you cut your hair?” she asks slowly.

“Just a trim,” he replies. “I can still braid it.”

“It’s not bad. Just wanted to make sure I wasn’t nuts.” Kairi shakes her head and goes to stand by the fridge.

He sets down the groceries he purchased and wonders what she could have possibly wanted to discuss last night. “You wanted to talk last night,” he says slowly.

“Oh!” Kairi spins around and looks torn between guilt and fear. “Yes. I… need to talk to you about something really important.”

“What?” he asks, his eyes on the groceries to unpack and put away the new fresh vegetables he purchased. There is a long pause where she says nothing and also hasn’t move from the fridge so when he approaches he raises an eyebrow and holds up the cucumbers.

“Right,” she says and steps out of his way. “Riku, you know I care about you and we’re friends.”

“Yes, I know this.”

“And you know that I would never purposefully hurt you.”

He pauses because this line of questioning seems treacherous. “…Yes, I know.”

“We’ve been together for a long time,” she whispers softly. “I mean we’re… adults now. Graduated adults with real jobs.”

He wants to sigh because she is beating around an unseen bush and he’s already tired. “Kairi-.”

“I want to break up,” she says quickly which is not where he thought this was going.

Her words surprised him so much, he drops the cucumber in his hands onto the floor and lets it roll away. They aren’t together in the sense of a real relationship but the prospect of a break up still completely panics his mind and makes his heart slam heavily in his chest harder than any workout. The world seems to fall out from under him and suddenly he’s hanging in the air on a tight wire without a safety net beneath. One wrong step and he’ll plummet to his death.

“Riku, I really care about Xion,” she continues quietly. “And I love her… I really love and I want to be with her fully. I can’t do that if we’re in a fake relationship. I know we did it to protect ourselves from our bigoted families and I am extremely grateful for all you’ve done for me but it’s time I come out… and it’s time I tell my family the truth about myself. I don’t have to say anything about you. I can just tell them we broke up because I’m a lesbian and I finally realized that.”

He keeps his back to her, staring into the white contents of the fridge, his mind racing faster than his heart. All of the thoughts feel like warning sirens and he’s unsure how to process anything. If she wants to break up she most definitely needs him to move out and he wonders if this is a two week warning. His job pays well enough, so he can probably find a place on his own, but it won’t be nearly as nice as this. Briefly, he thinks of Sora and wonders if Sora would let him couch surf. Of course, he would but how embarrassing.

“Riku?” Kairi asks slowly.

Right, he should probably say something. “Oh,” he manages, finally letting the refrigerator shut slowly.

“Is that it? I understand if you’re mad or-.”

“I’m not mad,” he says but he still can’t turn around. If he turns around, he may cry and that would seem like he’s trying to guilt her.

“You’re not mad?”

“No, I’m not mad… I guess I should have seen this coming. You and Xion are pretty serious for one another. Can’t stay in the picture forever.”

“I thought… after last night, maybe, you’d feel more comfortable being yourself,” Kairi says. “I mean, you let a guy… well, you know, and that’s a huge step for you!” She walks over to place a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Riku. I know this may be a shock, I’ve just been kind of putting it off and Xion is getting restless.”

“This my two-week eviction notice?’ he asks and the question comes out more bitter than he intends.

She flinches and withdraws her hand. “I mean, I won’t throw you out if you can’t find a place,” she amends. “I just think it’d be easier if you moved out. You don’t have to. Xion can stay in my room, obviously, and you can keep yours if it’s too much of a hassle for you to leave.”

Riku shakes his head and bends to pick up the cucumber, setting it on the counter, in favor of walking toward the hallway to his room. He can start packing now – he’s never had much. He can probably fit most of his belongings in a few duffel bags.

“Riku!” Kairi chases after him and stands in his doorway. “You don’t have to go right now .”

He doesn’t want to admit he feels dejected and rejected. He doesn’t want her to feel guilty for this decision. He’s a big boy, he can handle himself. “I’m fine, Kairi. Just want to pack.”

“I’m sorry!”

“You don’t have to be sorry. This is your life.”

“It’s yours, too,” she whispers. “I don’t want you to think this is me saying we can’t be friends because that is not true. We can stay friends. I want to be your friend.”

“I want to be your friend, too,” he agrees while packing his clothes into a bag.

“At least let me help you find somewhere to go.” Kairi looks saddened and he knows this must be hard on her, too. She’s taking a monumental step and he’s honestly proud. He wishes he could do the same.

“You know, I’m really proud of you, Kairi,” he says quietly. “You’re taking a big step in the right direction for yourself and that’s great.”

“Thank you… You’ll get there. You just have to keep fighting, Riku.”

The fight is tiring; in fact, he’s so tired, there are days he just wants to give up but then a goofy smile floods his vision and he remembers why he still fights so hard. “I’m tired,” he admits, staring at an old t-shirt he hasn’t worn since high school. He’s not even sure why he still has it but then the letters on the shirt bring back a memory of Sora decorating the shirt for him as a joke. Of course, he’d kept it.

Kairi crosses into his room and makes him turn so she can hug him as tightly as she can. “I love you, Riku,” she says. “I’m sorry you’re hurting. I wish I could help with that.”

“I’ll be okay,” he replies flatly. He has to be okay, there is no choice in the matter. “So, what about your sister’s wedding? Are you taking Xion instead?”

Kairi nods. “That’s the plan. I’m having dinner with them this weekend and bringing Xion with me… I’m scared.”

Riku rubs her back. “That’s good. I’m sure Xion is happy to finally meet your family.”

Kairi snorts. “She’ll change her mind. Trust me.”

He laughs because Kairi’s family is a handful but his is even worse. Growing up in a strict, military household, he’s always somehow been both the golden only child and the black sheep of the family. Their only son, he knows he’s one giant disappointment, despite how much he’s fought and clawed his way through the world. Good grades and being talented across a vast array of areas had never been enough for his family. When he brought Kairi home as his girlfriend, he remembers his father sighing in relief but they’ve been bothering him about sealing the deal, as his father says.

Now, he has to tell them they’re over.

“What do I tell my family?” he asks slowly.

“Just tell them I’m gay,” Kairi replies. “That way, you can protect yourself and they won’t be mad at you.”

He sighs and rubs a hand over his face. Everything is so complicated right now. “Yeah,” he replies.

“Please, don’t just run off right away. If you want to stay, you can stay. I like having you here.”

Riku sets the bag down on the bed and sighs. Maybe he doesn’t have to pack up and leave immediately. “I guess I can hold off for a while.”

“Good.” Kairi gives him another hug. “You have plans today?”

“I’m hanging out with Sora,” he replies which reminds him to fish out his phone to check the time and see if Sora maybe messaged him about meeting up. Still, crickets but Sora is a late sleeper when he has a chance.

“Good. Good .” Kairi pats his cheek lightly. “You should tell him.”

“Kairi-.”

“I’m just saying before he’s snatched up by someone else, you should tell him. He’s a catch, you know.”

Yeah, Riku knows how much of a catch Sora is even if he’s not sure the rest of the world sees him that way. Sora is a goofy guy and is basically a little kid trapped in an adult’s body. He knows how to have fun but is also naïve about some things. People don’t look at Sora and see someone mature enough to have an adult relationship but Riku knows Sora is worthy of so much love. No matter the circumstance, Sora always has room in his heart for light and love; he always gives people the benefit of the doubt, which has definitely bit him on the butt more than once but he only seeks friendship and acceptance.

“I know,” he replies and feels himself smile as he thinks on Sora’s everything.

Kairi snorts and kisses his cheek. “You are so gay,” he teases before leaving him with too many thoughts.

He sighs heavily and flops face first onto his bed, eyes on a blank phone screen he prays will light up soon. She’s right; he is really gay and he’s really , really gay for Sora. His heart aches at the thought of wrapping Sora into his arms and giving him the biggest and longest kiss. He’s carried this torch since they were kids .

He’s twenty-six years old and he has no idea who he is or how to live a life without pretending to be something he isn’t.

The sight of his phone lighting up makes him sit up in a hurry but the text message is not from Sora.

Mom: Riku, call me please

A frown pulls his brows together and he worries as to why she would want him to call. The relationship he has with his parents is fairly formal and perfunctory; they call each other on holidays, during emergencies, and if they’re planning on meeting up for some reason. There is no other time his parents ever feel the need to call or check on him. In fact, the last time he ever heard his mother’s voice had been last year around New Year’s.

Regardless, Riku follows her requests and calls.

“Riku?” his mother asks and there is an underlying panic in her voice.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” he replies, already on edge.

“It’s your father,” she says and now he can hear her crying. “He’s in the hospital.”

Nerves and anxiety smack him hard in the chest and he has to take a minute to remind himself to stay calm so he can handle the situation with finesse. “Why? What happened?”

“Something with his heart. He was at work and just collapsed. I’m here now, waiting. Can you come? I know it’s far for you-.”

“I’ll be on my way,” he says seriously, already mentally making plans on what he needs to pack and what time the ferry runs between the islands and the mainland. When he hits the mainland he’ll have to rent a car but that’s what the emergency credit card is for.

“Thank you,” she gasps.

“Which floor is he on?” Riku asks and stands to write all of the information down.

“We’re at the main hospital on floor six. The cardiac wing. I’m in a private waiting room. Once you get here, call, and I can find you. Just wait by the elevators.”

“Okay. I’m on the way.” Riku hangs up and then dials Sora, hoping Sora will answer even though he’s’ asleep. “Pick up, pick up,” he begs quietly.

“Hullo?” Sora grumbles.

“Sora! I have to cancel, I’m sorry,” Riku says and hopes Sora can wake up to listen to him.

“… Riku?”

“Yeah. Sorry, I gotta go to the mainland. My dad is in the hospital.”

For a moment, Sora says nothing and Riku’s worried he fell back asleep but then he hears movement on the other line. “I’m coming, too.”

“Sora-.”

“I’m coming too,” Sora says firmly. “I’ll meet you at the ferry.”

Warmth floods his chest and he knows as soon as Sora sees him, he’ll be receiving the best hug of his life. A smile and tears light his eyes on a burning fire but he quickly blinks them back. “Okay. Okay. I’ll meet you at the dock.”

The call ends but Riku suddenly feels less lost. Sora, forever his guiding light, will keep him afloat while he tries to keep his family from falling apart. He’s the man of the house when his dad is ill so he has to step up. Shoving down any tears or emotions he may have, Riku packs a bag for the hospital and changes out of his gym clothes to wear jeans and a t-shirt, throwing his leather jacket over top because the ferry is usually colder than people expect on the island.

Kairi is on the phone but quickly puts it aside when she sees him. “Hey, where are you going?”

“My dad is in the hospital, I have to go,” he replies while searching for his boots.

“Oh, my God. What happened? – Xion, hold on a sec- Riku?” Kairi hurries over to him, her face completely shocked.

“I don’t know. My mom called to say he collapsed at work. I have to go,” he replies and feels himself kick into serious mode.

“Do you want me to go with you?”

“No, Sora is meeting me at the ferry.”

Kairi pauses and smiles slightly. “He would do that. Let me know if you need anything . Okay?” She takes his hand before he can leave without another word. “Okay? I’m serious. Text me, call me.”

He nods but pulls out her grip quickly so he can head downstairs to his bike. It’s faster than the car and Kairi may want the car anyway. The ride to the ferry takes longer than he wants but if he could he would simply warp to the hospital and he knows the ferry ride will take even longer. Sora is already there, waiting, backpack over his shoulder, hair a wild bird’s nest from bed, and dressed in shorts and a t-shirt like a complete idiot. He’s going to freeze.

“Sora,” he greets while rushing up.

Sora turns and as soon as he sees him, drops his backpack and throws his arms around Riku in a long, tight hug. “I’m so sorry, Riku,” he says.

The hug is so warm and perfect, for a moment, he simply melts into it before managing to return the hug by squeezing Sora back. He used to joke with himself he only works out so he can give the kind of hug Sora deserves so he hopes he can deliver.

“Ready?” Sora asks after a moment.

“I guess, yeah.” Riku picks up Sora’s backpack and they head onto the ferry together.

“Did your mom call again at all?” Sora asks once they’re sitting down. The ferry is mostly empty so Riku feels okay with just talking without being worried someone is going to eavesdrop on anything they say. People on the islands are overly nosey.

“No, nothing.” He checks for a text message update but hasn’t received anything.

Sora sits beside him and immediately holds his hand; the gesture is casual and comforting and while Riku knows it means nothing, his heart still gallops and his palm starts to sweat. Sora always gives his everything and Riku has no idea what he did to earn a friend so good and kind.

“You really didn’t have to come,” Riku says softly. “I’m glad you did but you didn’t have to.”

“Of course, I did,” Sora argues. “I wasn’t going to make you face this alone, Riku. We’ll go together.”

The warmth and love return to his chest and he coughs in an attempt to stop from being choked up. Sora is the kindest person he’s ever met and the world doesn’t really deserve him. “Thanks, Sora,” he says quietly. “I appreciate you so much.”

“He’ll be okay – your dad. He’s a tough cookie,” Sora says with a bright smile. “Gosh, I remember that one time he found us in the kitchen sneaking all of the cookies. He was so mad but then I remember how he just… laughed when he saw how much fun we were having.”

The memory sparks in Riku’s mind and he can see it as clear as day. He hadn’t been feeling good for a few weeks and hadn’t been able to play for days. When he finally was feeling better, his mom had allowed Sora to come over and the first thing they did together was sneak down into the kitchen after bedtime to help themselves to the freshly baked cookies. His father had come downstairs for a nightcap and found them; at first, he’d been furious but then softened when he saw their sugar-coated faces.

He’d never seen his father laugh or smile in his life prior to that moment.

The memory makes him tear and he brushes them away on the back of his sleeve. Growing up, his father had always been hard on him and he never felt like he belonged in his family clan. He’d never questioned whether or not he was really their son because growing up, they’d always made it clear to him, he is adopted and his origins are unknown. Not that it mattered – he’s so different from his family, it would have been difficult for anyone to see him as a biological child of the Nomura’s.

His family all dark haired, dark eyed, and relatively short while he shot up like a weed, broadened out as he grew older, eyes the same color as turquoise seashells, and his hair grew naturally silver – he couldn’t be more different.

Sitting with Sora, hand in hand, staring at the wooden planks of the floor he feels just as lost as he used to feel like a boy. He hasn’t seen his family since Christmas which is really the only holiday they’ve ever celebrated growing up in their household. Another year, another pair of socks. He can’t even remember the last birthday he’d been allowed to celebrate. Why celebrate something simply given to you when you could achieve more?

“You okay?” Sora asks while the ferry makes its slow way across the water toward the mainland.

“Yeah, sorry,” he replies and tries to force a smile to his face but none comes.

Sora reaches up to brush a thumb over his cheek, collecting a shed tear he hadn’t realized had slipped past his defenses. “If you’re not, it’s okay to say that.”

“I- I don’t know how I feel,” he replies slowly. “I mean, he’s my dad and I’m afraid of what could happen to him.” Which is true; his mother will fall apart, for sure, and the rest of his family will mourn heavily if they lose their patriarch.

“But?”

“I… I don’t know,” he whispers. “I just feel like a stranger in their house all the time. Ever since I was a kid. Does he even want me to come?! Does he even like me? I don’t know.”

The words come out fast and without abandon which makes him feel guilty because he never meant to say them. He wants to reach out and shove them back into his mouth as fast as they tumble out but it’s too late. They’re out there, hanging in the universe. At least, his family isn’t around to hear.

“That’s… a valid feeling,” Sora says and squeezes his hand. “You’ve always felt like you didn’t quite fit in but your family loves you, Riku.”

“Wouldn’t know it,” Riku mutters in defeat. “They’re always on me, all the time about doing more, being more, nothing I do is good enough! And… and…” The thought of coming out alone is so terrifying he can’t even form the thoughts into words. Sora doesn’t know, either, and he’s not sure he’s ready to tell him.

What if he tells Sora and then Sora doesn’t want to be friends anymore?

An irrational thought, since Sora would never abandon him over something like his sexuality but he’s still too afraid to say anything. He can’t lose his best friend. He can’t lose the one person who matters most – who he loves most.

“And what?” Sora asks.

The sound of the ferry drawing in closer is a lifesaver and they both stand up so they can disembark toward the hospital. He debates on renting a car and calls a taxi instead. It’s cheaper and will take less time. The ride to the hospital is silent but he’s thankful for Sora’s silence. Upon arrival, Riku calls his mom’s phone as they head up to the eighth-floor side by side. A pit of nerves makes his stomach coil and nauseate.

“Riku?” his mother answers, voice not as frantic but still sad.

“Hey, I’m here- uh with Sora.”

“Sora is here?”

“Yeah, he wanted to come to show support.” They like Sora so he can only hope this is a good thing.

“Of course,” she says softly and gently. “He’s a good boy.”

Riku has to hold back a snort because she’s never even said that about him. “Yeah, he is. We’re at the elevators.”

“Alright, I’m coming.”

The first waiting room is empty so they go to stand and wait as his mother appears around the corner. She’s smaller than Sora which always makes Sora feel so tall and Riku feels like a giant in her presence. She’s all of four feet and three inches while his father stands just shy of five feet and five inches. He’s the tallest of the bunch.

“Riku- Sora .” She approaches Sora first and offers him a hug which isn’t unusual for her when Sora is around. Riku can count on one hand how many hugs he received growing up from his family but she always seemed to go in for the hugs when it comes to Sora.

“Hi, Mrs. Nomura,” Sora says and hugs back. “Is Mr. Nomura okay?”

“Yeah, how is Dad?” Riku asks.

“He’s in surgery right now.”

She links her arm with Sora, leaving Riku to carry their bags and follow her to a private waiting room where they’re greeted by a large chunk of his family. Cousins, aunts, and uncles yanked from different parts of the world he hasn’t seen in years. They’re all eager to meet and greet Sora since, in Riku’s opinion, he’s the favorite “adopted” son of the Nomura clan.

Riku sets their bags down and realizes there isn’t a lot of room for him here so he goes to stand in the corner, leaning back, and out of the way. He’s used to making himself smaller and trying to hide out of sight.

“Riku,” his uncle snaps and he quickly stands to attention. “Where is Kairi?”

Fuck.

“Yes, where is Kairi?” his mother asks and finally turns her attention on him while Sora sits to play with his baby cousins without even being asked. Always the grown-up kid in the room, Sora immediately fits into his family like the missing puzzle piece he could never be.

“She couldn’t make it,” he replies which immediately sends a ripple of displeasure around the room.

“Couldn’t make it?” his uncle asks in disgust. “Her future family and she couldn’t come?”

“We’re not engaged,” Riku replies heatedly. “She has a life-.”

“She’s basically family,” his mother argues. “I wanted her here.”

Riku feels his jaw set and his hands clench into brief fists. “We’re no longer together, okay?”

The room’s energy shifts and even Sora looks up from playtime with his mouth in a small, shocked ‘o’. His mother walks up to him, looking torn between grief and anger. He stands with his back straight and trying to keep from breaking down. The slap she delivers is strong and sharp and he feels his walls crack while his eyes tear up.

“You lost that girl?” she gasps. “Why do you always shame us like this?”

The rest of the room begins to mutter and whisper while he has to turn on a brave and stoic face, while his face stings and his eyes threatened to brim over. “I’m sorry,” he replies stiffly. “It’s my fault.”

“Of course,” his uncle snorts. “She probably found a stronger man for herself.”

Sora looks torn but Riku shakes his head at him. He doesn’t want Sora to pounce on any of his family in defense. They like Sora and he wants it to stay that way. His cousins all whisper and giggle to themselves; he knows they’re talking about him but he doesn’t call them out on the matter. His mother continues to look extremely disappointed but it’s his grandmother who stands up slowly, pressing hard on a cane, and she walks up to her daughter and Riku is shocked when she smacks his mother on the back with it.

Mama !”

His grandmother speaks harsh and cold Japanese, which he only catches half of since he hasn’t been using it nearly as much as he did as a child. She points to an empty seat and his mother walks off in shame while she wraps old, wrinkly hands around his bicep and gestures for them to step out. God, he hopes she doesn’t expect him to speak Japanese, he’ll never be able to catch up which is just another way he’s managed to shame his family.

“Riku,” she says softly while they go out to the public waiting room but it’s still empty. “Help me sit.”

Riku immediately helps her into the closest chair and then sits across from her, sure he’s in for some form of a lecture. “You look good, grandmother.”

She chuckles and shakes a small fist at him. “Don’t sass your old grandma.”

He chuckles back and there is a warmth returning to his cold, numb fingers. “I mean it.”

“Hmph.” She shakes her head but then reaches over for his hand which he immediately leans forward for her to take. “Listen to me, and listen closely, are you listening?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“You may have been brought into this family, not as blood, but you are still a part of this family. You have always been my favorite grandchild and I know I’m not supposed to have a favorite but you’ve always been the most respectful and the most kind. You always accept what people hand you… I am sorry for your mother’s actions today.”

“Grandma-.”

“No, you listen.” She taps his hand to silence him and he bites his tongue. “We are all upset about your father and while I am certain you have your reasons for ending a relationship with someone, you do not owe anyone in there an explanation. You never have. I never want you to live your life as an apology, Riku.”

His shoulders drop and he looks down as he tries not to burst into tears to tell her the truth. Out of everyone in his family, he trusts she will not judge him too harshly. “I care about Kairi,” he says slowly. “But it just wasn’t going to work out.”

“I know,” she replies which is confusing. He looks up and she’s smiling. “You care for someone else. I know and see all, Riku.”

Fear grips him hard but she holds his hand tight so he doesn’t pull away. “No- that’s not-.”

“It’s alright,” she whispers. “I know you care deeply for that young man in there.” She gestures back to the room. “I think he is a good young man and would do our family very proud, just as you do every day. I don’t care who you love, Riku, I only want you happy .”

This time, the tears do slip past his defenses and he presses her hand to his forehead while he cries. “Don’t tell anyone,” he begs. “Please. If they found out-.”

“I know,” she continues softly. “Your secret, I will take to the grave, but I believe it is in your best interest to admit your feelings, Riku. I know that is not easy in this family but I do not want you to live in secret and hiding. Times are not as they were when I was a girl… Please, do not take my same path.”

The tears slowly dry up and he glances to her gaze again, confused until it dawns on him what she’s saying. “Grandma… are you… saying what I think you are?”

She chuckles and winks. “Your grandfather was a good and wonderful man and we, of course, consummated our marriage but we only did it out of necessity. Neither of us wanted to be married when our hearts belonged elsewhere. I with a young woman named Yui and your grandfather with a young man. Neither of us was able to ever live the lives we wanted… I ask that you do not the same.”

Hearing his grandmother is actually a secret lesbian is so shocking he’s not even sure what to say so he just nods dumbly. She seems satisfied with that answer and he helps her stand up so they can shuffle back to the room. Everyone is still whispering together but they don’t say anything else to him about Kairi. He doesn’t expect an apology from his mother so he goes to sit in a corner to wait for news from the doctor.

More than once, his gaze flies over to Sora and he feels his heart surge. Watching him play games and read books with his baby cousins is so soft and sweet. Sora is the son they wanted and maybe, one day, they can call Sora their son, too.

 


 

Four tuckered out and tired kids later, Sora finally manages to wind his way over to where Riku has also fallen asleep, leaning up against the wall in his corner chair. He grabs a blanket, freshly warmed, and walks over to gently drape it over him but the motion makes Riku startle awake.

“Sorry!” he whispers. “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

Riku blinks sleepily and looks completely disoriented for a minute before realizing where he is. “Sora… Is everyone asleep?”

“Mostly,” he whispers.

“Let’s… step out then.” Riku stands and they head out to the waiting room together.

Sora watches as Riku stretches and walk over to a window to look down at the darkening parking lot. The sun is finally starting to set and bleed across the sky. Everyone is tired and he can feel his heart rapidly beating against his chest – he forgot to bring his medicine – but he’s not too concerned. His doctor told him he could miss a dose every now and again and it wouldn’t hurt.

“How are you?” Sora asks slowly. The events of earlier had been so harsh, he’d wanted to leap to Riku’s defense but had held back at Riku’s quiet behest. Seeing Riku hurting brings him such great pain, too. If only he could take it all away.

“I’m… here,” Riku replies slowly with a tired shrug. “Can’t believe he’s still in surgery.”

“Heart surgery can take a while depending on how much needs repaired,” Sora says expertly. He would know.

“Right- I’m sorry. That wasn’t… I wasn’t thinking.” Riku turns his back to the window and leans against it so they can face one another. “I guess no news is good news.”

“Yes,” Sora agrees, closing the gap until they’re standing close enough for a hug if Riku wanted. “You need a hug?”

“No,” Riku sighs. “Not right now but thanks for asking and thank you for being here.”

“Of course. You want to eat? I’ve been down to the cafeteria a few times so I know the layout.”

Riku chuckles and shakes his head softly. “Of course you do.”

“Hey, someone has to make snack runs and your family is really not a snack run group.” Sora stretches and pops his spine. “Wanna go with me? You should eat something.”

“Okay.”

“Great!” Sora grabs Riku’s hand to start pulling him toward the elevator. “Your dad will be okay.” He doesn’t know why he knows this but in his heart, Sora knows Mr. Nomura will pull through. “He’s got a strong heart.”

“Apparently not,” Riku mutters and his tone is cold and bitter.

“Riku…” Sora looks over at him. “I don’t mean literally.”

“Sorry. I’m… being a jerk.”

Riku doesn’t look at him and they ride down to the first floor in silence but he doesn’t want to push Riku’s anger too much. The cafeteria is mostly empty at this point but there are a few places to buy snacks and cold foods. Sora makes Riku buy a sandwich, soda, and a bag of chips since if Riku had his way he would just eat a banana.

“You need a full meal,” he says firmly and forces Riku to sit in a booth to eat his makeshift dinner.

“I’m not that hungry,” Riku replies but he pops open the soda and bag of chips to nibble on. “All I feel right now is my stomach cramping from being anxious and I have to piss.”

“You should have gone on the way down here,” Sora points out. “Thought that was my job to forget to use the bathroom.”

Riku snorts and laughs so hard soda comes out of his nose which makes Sora laugh, too. They both laugh for a good while, Riku laughing so much he has to drop his head on the table to gather his composure. Sora’s face splits into a huge smile as he watches Riku really laugh . He hasn’t seen Riku laugh like this in months.

Riku’s laugh sounds like bells and is so pleasant, he wishes it would happen more often. They eventually quiet down and Riku has to use napkins to wipe tears off of his face.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “But all I can picture is that time we went on a field trip to see that dinosaur exhibit and you didn’t go to the bathroom before we left. You ended up peeing yourself.”

The smile quickly fades as the embarrassment of the event immediately floods back. They’d only been in first grade but he can definitely remember the humiliation he’d felt peeing his pants because no one would let him use the bathroom while they toured reconstructed skeletons. Had Riku laughed then, too?

“Did… did you laugh at me, too?” he asks quietly, voice teetering on breaking.

“What?” Riku asks, still half laughing and trying not to go into another fit.

“I said, did you laugh at me, too? When- When it happened. Did you laugh?” He can remember how one his classmates – Brandon – had loudly exclaimed how Sora peed his pants and the entire class had erupted into laughter.

“I… I don’t remember,” Riku admits slowly. “Sora… I wasn’t trying to upset you. I just- it was funny.”

“It wasn’t funny,” Sora insists. “It’s not funny to bring it up now either.”

“We were kids! It’s not like you’re still out there pissing yourself now! Why are you being so sensitive about this? Maybe it wasn’t funny then but-.”

Sora angrily slams his hands down on the table which cuts Riku off. “It’s not funny now either. You’re one to talk, you know. You’ve been wetting the bed for years and I never said anything.”

Riku’s face goes from red from laughter to red in embarrassment and his hands clench into angry fists on the table. “I haven’t done that since I was a kid,” he snarls.

“You were fifteen and still doing it! You thought you could hide it but I knew. I never ever made fun of you-.”

“Yeah, well, that’s a little different, don’t you think?! You were a kid , I wasn’t a kid anymore and… God, why are we arguing about this?! My father is up there having fucking heart surgery and could die , and you’re mad I laughed at you one time growing up!? Just.. grow up , Sora.”

Riku’s anger reminds Sora of a storm – quick to come and then quick to fade but he stomps off, leaving his dinner behind. Sora sighs and drops his head on his arms because he hadn’t meant to embarrass Riku so deeply. Of course, wetting the bed as a kid is a lot different than still bed-wetting as a teenager. He can still remember the horrified look on Riku’s face when he woke up with soaked sheets. He’d been sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag that night and he’d watched Riku run around his room in a panic.

Grabbing up Riku’s pop and chips, he rushes after him but he’s nowhere to be seen. “Riku?” Sora calls down the hall but it’s quiet in the hospital as visiting hours are technically over. He reluctantly goes upstairs and finds Riku sitting in the empty waiting room, eyes on the window outside.

“Riku?” he says softly while approaching, offering the chips out. “You left these.”

“Go away, Sora,” Riku replies coldly.

“I’m sorry. You’re right. I was being stupid and I shouldn’t have embarrassed you like that. I just- you’ve never made fun of me so… hearing… hearing you make fun of me just hurt a lot. I’m sorry. It was dumb.” Sora sits down across from Riku and continues to hold the chips and soda helplessly.

Riku gasps and looks over at him in alarm. “Sora-.”

“No, it’s okay, you don’t have to say you’re sorry. I was being sensitive. You’re dealing with something really hard… I know better than anyone how hard it all is.” He pauses to touch his own chest where a scar marking his own heart surgery ingrains a memory of fear and pain. “I’m really sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” Riku amends quietly. “I’m sorry, too.”

They smile at one another and Riku accepts the potato chips to snack on while they sit together. They eventually migrate to a couch where Riku leans against him heavily until he’s stretched out, head on Sora’s lap asleep. He pets Riku’s hair softly and wishes he could keep Riku safe even in his dreams.

I love you, I love you, I love you his heart sings and hopes the sentiment reaches Riku wherever his mind dreams.

Chapter Text

Red lights, fast cars, and loud music the island transforms into a creature of depravity at night but he’s locked behind a glass door while he waits for the shift to blissfully end. There are nights when all Roxas wants to do is have Vanitas help him dive into the dark web, hire a hitman, and have him show up at work to take him out – either on a date or permanently, he’s not too picky on slow nights.

“You wanna go home, kid?” Cid asks him from where he’s organizing some shelves just to pass the time.

“Been wanting to go home since I got here, thanks for finally asking,” Roxas replies while gathering his sketchbook and pencils. The shop has been empty most of the day and he’d taken three power naps just to pass the time earlier.

“Get outta here then. Go out the back.”

Roxas salutes Cid on the way out and eagerly flees out of the back door to the parking lot. He doesn’t have a car because cars are expensive but rent is worse. Since he lives close by, walking home is usually how he lives his life unless Axel manages to remember to swing by the shop. The parking lot is fairly empty with no signs of Axel so he can only assume one of three things

  1. Axel is too high to pick him up
  2. Axel forgot
  3. Axel is asleep

He’s really hoping it’s option three if it has to be any of those options. The walk back to the small house he rents with Axel is a quiet one and he’s not bothered by anyone. They live a few blocks behind the tattoo shop and their neighborhood is surprisingly quiet. Their house is small and all one floor with an ugly plastic pink flamingo flock out front but Axel refuses to part with his flamingo collection.

The house is quiet and lights off as Roxas approaches so either Axel is asleep or out; his money is on the latter. A green door opens up on a front room which mostly houses coats, shoes, and miscellaneous items which have no other place to go. He can hear the TV in the living room and Roxas hopes Axel didn’t leave it on again since their electric bill is already higher than they can feasibly afford.

“Axel?” he calls and pauses to wait for a response. “Axel, are you home?”

No response only the soft mumblings of the television. Axel is a snorer, so he’s certain he would have heard by now if he were asleep on the couch. Rolling his eyes, Roxas goes to the living room to turn the television off and back through the house toward the kitchen. His heart leaps into his throat when he notes the stove is on and there is burnt something in the bottom of a pan which is now completely scorched and warped.

“Axel!” he yells but, still, there is no response. He shuts the burner off and yanks the hot pot and tosses it into the sink which is surprisingly empty. Usually, they have dishes higher than a mountain sitting in the sink because they’re both too tired to do anything about them.

No note and no sign of his roommate, Roxas climbs the stairs two at a time to see if Axel is in his bedroom asleep. The door is ajar so Roxas pushes it open to see if Axel’s lump can be seen in the darkened room but as far as he can tell it’s empty. Flooding on the lights, Roxas notes the room is definitely empty. The shower isn’t running so as far as he can tell, Axel isn’t on the premises.

No response only the soft mumblings of the television. Axel is a snorer, so he’s certain he would have heard by now if he were asleep on the couch. Rolling his eyes, Roxas goes to the living room to turn the television off and back through the house toward the kitchen. His heart leaps into his throat when he notes the stove is on and there is burnt something in the bottom of a pan which is now completely scorched and warped.

“Axel!” he yells but, still, there is no response. He shuts the burner off and yanks the hot pot and tosses it into the sink which is surprisingly empty. Usually, they have dishes higher than a mountain sitting in the sink because they’re both too tired to do anything about them.

No note and no sign of his roommate, Roxas rushes toward the bedrooms to see if Axel is asleep. The door is ajar so Roxas pushes it open to see if Axel’s lump can be seen in the darkened room but as far as he can tell it’s empty. Flooding on the lights, Roxas notes the room is definitely empty. The shower isn’t running so as far as he can tell, Axel isn’t on the premises.

R: Axel, where are you?????????????????? You are DEAD when you get home
A: Hiiiii
R: You left the stove ON
R: AGAIN
A: Oh I forgot
R: Axel, you are going to burn the house down. Where are you????
A: I’m out mom I’ll be home later :P
R: You’re not even going say sorry? Anything?
A: I forgot, get off my bus Rox

Roxas’ jaw pops as he tries to remain calm instead of chewing Axel out via text message. Cursing him out is really only effective in person anyway. Axel could care less about texting. He’s tempted to go into the bathroom and chuck all of the red hair dye so Axel has to live with crappy roots for a few weeks but he’s too tired to be petty.

R: If you wake me up when you come home I will knife you

The only threat he can think of which he hopes is good enough to keep Axel from clomping through the house with his platform boots in the morning when he inevitably returns home with his tail between his legs after a night of being nasty with someone he doesn’t know. Leaving Axel’s room behind, Roxas drags himself down the hall to his own bedroom to collapse onto the bed face first.

Axel is as charming as he is infuriating which is all part of the Axel package which Roxas has unfortunately subscribed to over the years. They’d met in college with Axel being the older junior and him the fresh-faced freshman. They’d met at some campus event and spent the entire night talking. Roxas can still remember how he’d found Axel to be one of the smartest and most fascinating people in the room. One night of conversation and they’d become inseparable ever since.

By his senior year, Axel had still been graduating as he’d screwed himself over a few times with failed classes so they graduated the same year. Axel had floundered in college, unsure what to major in, trying to find a right “fit” while Roxas had sailed through art as his major. His parents had never thought he’d make something of himself unless he majored in something “useful” but now he works for a tattoo shop and is slowly rocketing his career upward.

Axel, however, is still floundering with no real direction for his life.

Flitting from job to job, Axel has a difficult time fitting in anywhere even though he’s friendly and witty. He’s also off-putting by being sarcastic, unreliable, and with commitment issues a mile and a half long. Roxas has always been the stable one in their friendship – the one to bring home the steady paycheck and help Axel find a job and to keep him from burning the house down. He’s always been the more mature one and sometimes he’s tired.

Sometimes, he wants to throw the towel in and stop pulling more than his fair share around the house but then they would be homeless so in the end he keeps trucking forward and supports Axel’s habits. He never wanted to be an enabler and he blames himself for Axel’s addictive habits but if all Axel does is smoke out and go home with strangers, he supposes things could be worse. Sleep chases him down like a black dog nipping at his heels and his dreams filled with nightmares of smoke and candy-coated pills.


 

Roxas’ final text alerts to what little brain cells he has left in full function to Roxas’ bad mood but he rolls his eyes and turns his attention back to Saïx. Axel sighs as Saïx’s mouth trails down from his jaw to his neck and further down toward his chest. They left the club a while ago and are now busily making out in the back of a limo because Saïx likes to impress.

“You know,” Axel says while reaching for another piece of candy which Saïx had been feeding him because apparently, he didn’t have enough drugs in his system, Saïx wanted to shove sugar down his throat, too. “I think if you were poor, I wouldn’t find you attractive at all.”

Saïx snorts and nibbles his neck. “That so?”

“Yeah, because you are really insufferable, Isa.”

Saïx hums and pulls away in favor of pulling out a special looking pink pill. He recognizes the shape and color and he eagerly opens his mouth and holds out his tongue to have it placed there for fun. “This isn’t for you,” Saïx replies. “Why would I give you what you want after you insult me?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault you have the emotional range of a teaspoon, Isa.”

Saïx snorts and pops the pill before producing another to place on Axel’s tongue. “There, now be a good boy and put your noisy mouth to good use, hm?”

“No,” Axel mouths off as the drugs send him on an immediate rush. He tilts his head back to stare up through the limo’s window at the passing lights and feels a smile tugging his lips. He feels as if he’s flying.

Saïx makes a displeased noise but recoils back into his own space. “You’re a tease, Axel.”

“Nah,” Axel hums quietly, still watching the lights. They flash red and blue in his vision while the drugs send him climbing higher than the skyscrapers surrounding them. The blue lights make him think on Roxas’ eyes and how they shine in the sunlight brighter than any ocean water. A soft smile fills his face while he thinks on Roxas’ everything.

“Yes,” Saïx insists.

Axel sends him a choice gesture while he loses himself in the colors until his eyes drift closed and he fades away into Roxas’ eyes and arms. When he wakes again the image of Saïx levered over him should have sent him panicking but he’s so tired and everything feels so good. His entire body feels as if it’s floating away and he may never return to his mind again. Saïx says something but the world fades back into an inky black.

He wakes for a second time and everything is cold.

His body is cold and his heart feels colder. He’s without clothing and the bed is empty. There are dark curtains drawn across the windows but he’s pretty sure the lights outside are from the sun. He doesn’t remember coming to Saïx’s apartment and he doesn’t remember going to bed with him either but from the state of his thighs he’s sure, that’s exactly what happened.

“Ugh,” he grunts while sitting up and wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. It tastes and feels worse than rotten cotton. There are sounds somewhere in the apartment so at least Saïx is still around.

The bathroom is only a few feet away but it feels like miles as he stumbles over to stare at himself in the mirror. Hair a mess and probably too pale but at least he’s awake. The crash from yesterday’s night high is strong and he wants to climb back into bed but he needs to go home soon. He manages to find his strewn clothing all over the floor and pull them on before slowly walking down the stairs to where Saïx is cooking breakfast in a false show of being a gentleman.

Saïx is no gentleman.

“Morning,” Saïx remarks and sets down a plate of eggs and bacon. “Eat.”

“Not hungry,” he replies and finds his bag sitting on the table which he digs through for a specific baggy. He needs to focus and wake up. The best way is his favorite friend but his heart stops when he notes it’s empty.

“Axel, eat something,” Saïx says and his voice is stern and deep.

“Seriously, I’m not hungry. I need to go.”

“At least let me drive you,” Saïx says while he shoves some bacon in a baggy and throws in a toasted bagel, too. “You’re eating this or I’ll make you walk.”

Axel rolls his eyes but snatches the baggy of food from Saïx’s hands. He knows eating is for his own good but the only thing he’s craving is a small pill which he apparently no longer has anymore. “Do you have anything I can take?” he asks, knowing Saïx knows exactly what he’s asking for.

“No,” Saïx replies. “I’m out and so is the supplier so you’ll have to go without.”

Axel whines and thumps his head against the car window. Desperation is going to drive him into detox and he has no time or energy to even try to detox around Saïx or Roxas. “I’m gonna need something soon,” he mutters, while his hands jitter across the seat.

“You’ll have to figure it out on your own, Axel, I’m out and I can't’ get more right now.” Saïx takes the back roads to the right neighborhood to try and avoid traffic or maybe he wants to stay together longer.

“Is’…” He doesn’t want to whine and beg but part of him doesn’t believe Saïx is telling the truth or maybe he’s just paranoid. If Saïx had any Adderall he would give it up because it would mean Axel would stay around him longer. They pull up to the house and Axel slowly slides out, flips Saïx off one more time for luck, and then heads inside.

The house is quiet and he doesn’t even know the time. He walks back to the kitchen to drop the baggy of untouched food on the table along with his bag. Roxas’ text reforms in his mind so he tries to stay quiet or Roxas may actually try to stab him. Considering Roxas’ nasty attitude in the morning, he takes threats seriously.

“Axel.”

He startles at Roxas’ voice and spins around expecting to have to defend himself from a physical attack. “Holy fuck, you scared me so bad,” Axel gasps. “How long have you been down here?”

“I was in the living room, you idiot,” Roxas replies sharply and the words cut deeper than he wants to admit out loud. “You left the stove on again .”

“I know, I forgot,” he replies and glances down in shame. “I’m sorry, Rox.”

“Axel, this is serious. I understand forgetting stuff that isn’t harmful but we could have had a fire . Poof. Our house and stuff just gone .” Roxas gestures around at their belongings. “And then what? We’re just homeless? Because you can’t bother to remember something as simple as turning the stove off?”

“Hey! You know I have a problem,” Axel snarls in defense since Roxas is clearly ready for a fight. He’s too tired to fight hard but he’s not going to let Roxas take him down so easily. “I get distracted easily and then I forget things! You’ve always known that about me!”

“It was cute in college, Axel, it’s not so cute when you’ve almost burnt our house down four times now in the last four months,” Roxas continues, hands balled into fists. “I need you to set up an alarm system on your phone, something , anytime you’re using the stove so I don’t come home to nothing . What if you’d fallen asleep or something? Huh? What if you’d fallen asleep and started a fire, Axel. You’d be dead.”

The words are cold and leave him feeling small and stupid. It’s not easy to feel small when you stand at six foot four but Roxas has a knack for making him feel smaller than a mouse. He folds his arms across his chest in self-defense. “I said I was sorry, Roxas. What more do you want?”

“I want you to change your behavior and stop being so stupid! You’re a smart guy, Ax, why do you have to act like a complete moron all of the time?” Roxas shoves past him and picks up the pot. “It’s ruined. We have to throw it away and I don’t have money to go get a new one.”

“I don’t want to argue right now, Rox.” He can’t focus enough to argue and he’s crashing harder than a toddler post a sugar high – he needs to go to bed. “I’m tired, can we talk about this later?”

Roxas’ face twists into an annoyed scowl but he stops nagging. “Fine.”

“Thanks.” He drops his gaze from Roxas’ and leaves the kitchen to his room instead, shutting the door firmly behind and turning the lock. Somewhere, in the massive garbage pile that is his room, he’s positive there is more Adderall. There is no way he went through it all so quickly – he’d had a stash pile which he knows is somewhere .

He tears through piles of black clothing and trash which he makes a mental note to start cleaning soon but his mind is like a broken record as he searches for an orange bottle. His doctor refuses to prescribe the medication to him directly because he supposedly doesn’t need it to function but here he is, knee deep in a mess, trying to find the thing he desperately doesn’t need. He hasn’t gone back to the doctor in years.

Too expensive. Too judgmental. No open minds in the medical field.

He tears open his dresser and his hands fly onto a bottle but finds it empty. There’s another but again empty. The baggies are all empty, too. His hands jitter and shake while he finally digs out one final spot and hits gold. At the back of the junk drawer in a desk, he doesn’t use is a baggie with a few left. At least, if he plays his cards right, enough to last him for the next two weeks. Hopefully, by then, he can find a new supplier or Saïx can help him out.

He pops two and slowly sinks back onto his bed to stare up at the ceiling and wait for them to kick in. They’ll help him focus, wake up, and maybe he can clean the atrocity of his room today. In the distance, he can hear Roxas cleaning and move around in the kitchen. Guilt chews on his heels as he thinks on how he’d really messed up the other night. He honestly had forgotten about cooking when Saïx had called to ask if he wanted to meet up for some fun. He’d accepted and left the house without any idea he’d also left the stove on.

Roxas has always been there for him – ever since they became friends eight years ago. Eight years and they’ve been inseparable. Never once has Roxas given up on him or doubted his capability. They graduated four years ago and Roxas has been the support and life preserver he’s desperately needed. Without family and reliable friends, he’s always struggled but Roxas came along and changed everything.

Now, he has someone in his corner. Roxas would be disappointed to hear about the crippling addiction he has to pills; as far as Roxas knew he didn’t do anything hard and he wasn’t necessarily addicted to anything at all. He just liked to party and have fun. Shame burns through his system or maybe that’s the pills kicking in. Either way, he feels immensely guilty for being such a mess.

Without the pills, he can’t focus, and in the back of his mind, he knows he has a problem. Addiction and vices are the stages he stands on while he’s slowly fed to the lions and they ravage his body whole. He should seek help or at least try to cut the drugs from his life but every time he tries, something happens – a bad life event, drama with a friend, depression – and they drag him back into wanting to feel good again.

With energy starting to course through his system, Axel is able to stand up and start cleaning. He only goes out quickly to grab the box of trash bags and then he’s back to start shoveling garbage to take out. His clothes all need to be washed so he shoves every article he can find into the empty hamper in the corner. Time seems to slide by without any consequence and by the time he’s standing in a room with a visible floor for the first time in months he’s not even tired.

Roxas eventually wanders to stand in the doorway, his eyes trailing over the multiple garbage bags stuffed with trash. “Wow,” he says slowly. “You decided to clean.”

“It needed done,” he replies, wiping his hands on his pants. “Look, Roxas… I’m sorry. About being stupid.”

Roxas sighs and steps into the room to wrap his arms around his waist in a hug. “No, Ax, I’m sorry for jumping down your throat like that. I shouldn’t have called you stupid or a moron. You do have problems remembering things sometimes.  I still think we need to think of a system that works for you but I don’t want you thinking I think you’re stupid because I don’t .”

A soothing balm to his aching feelings. Axel eagerly returns the hug with a firm squeeze, lifting Roxas off of his feet completely. “I’ll start putting an alarm reminder on my phone to check the stove when I’m home. I don’t want to be the reason we don’t have a house.”

“Good.” Roxas grunts when he’s lifted but Axel sets him back down just as quickly. “I’m just concerned, Axel, you know that.”

“I know.”

“I’m glad you cleaned in here though. It smells bad, you need to open your window, though.”

Axel blushes and he hurries over to pull the curtains back and push the old window up to let in some fresh air. Roxas is right, the room smells musty and bad – probably has food beneath his bed rotting away but he doesn’t have the mental capacity to tackle that task, too. His dresser is still a mess and so are the bookshelves in the room but the floor is clean, the bedding is stripped off of the mattress for washing, and his clothes are all in the hamper.

Mission accomplished.

And all because of a little secret friend.

“Here, I’ll help you take the trash out,” Roxas says and together they carry the bags out to the curb and then both return to collapse dramatically in the living room. Roxas in the lounge chair and Axel draped over the couch.

The problem now is the incoming crash he can feel itching at his bone. Now that he’s stopped moving, he wants to sleep for the next twenty-four hours. His eyes are heavy and he can feel his mind drifting off but Roxas starts talking so he has to snap back awake.

“Where were you last night?” Roxas asks. “Or do I not want to know?”

“With Saïx,” he replies slowly which is a worrisome admission. Roxas hates Saïx and Saïx is no fan of Roxas. He hates having to choose his friends this way but he can’t dump either of them. More than anything, he’d kill for them both to finally get along.

Saïx ?” Roxas asks. “Ugh. Axel, you can do better than him.”

“We were just hanging out,” Axel argues while he thinks back to the limo ride where he’d popped X for fun. “It’s no big deal.”

“Just hanging out?” Roxas snorts in disbelief. “You check your underwear this morning?”

Roxas !”

“Just saying, I hope your birth control is good.”

The words cut, even if they are valid, and he glares over at Roxas from the haven of the couch. “He wears a condom,” he says sharply. Axel tries to think back to last night to confirm the statement but he can’t remember much of last night at all; he’s not even sure he said yes.

Of course, you said yes, Saïx isn’t that guy.

“Every time?” Roxas argues.

Yes . Jesus Christ, you’re not my mom, dude.” He wants to fling a pillow over at Roxas but he’s too comfortable to bother to move. He knows Roxas is only digging so hard because he doesn’t like Saïx and wants to be right but he doesn’t need to be mothered.

“You really like to hook up with him?”

Axel sighs. “Yeah, we’re friends who sometimes cross the line, so what? Jealous?” He has no idea what possessed him to ask such a question because once he says it, his face is burning red and he almost hopes the answer is yes . If Roxas is jealous of Saïx then that would mean Roxas likes him.

“Jealous of who? You or him?”

“Him.”

Roxas snorts. “You asking me if I like you?”

“Maybe. It’s a valid question – I’m a very attractive guy!” Axel sits up and gestures at his entire body. “I mean hello , I’m pretty delicious.”

Roxas does look at him then and there is a darker tone to his eyes. A lustful tone – or maybe it’s just the lighting. “What do you want me to say, Axel? Yes, I like you and find you attractive?”

He squeaks. “You do?” he gasps. “Are you serious?”

He hadn’t expected Roxas to admit anything or even have an inkling of a crush on him. Even if it was just sexual attraction – Roxas likes him? Roxas is gorgeous and he would be eager to find out what he’s like in the sack so he hopes this is where they’re headed.

“Whatever,” Roxas mumbles which is a definite Roxas way of saying yes .

A smarmy grin slithers into place on Axel’s face like the cat which ate the canary and is ready for its next course. “So, what do you want to do about that?”

“Nothing,” Roxas replies.

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t know where you’ve been.” Roxas gestures toward his crotch. “You go get a test and then we can talk.”

He wants to be insulted but considering the number of men he’s met on dating apps, Roxas is probably right – he really should be tested for STD’s just in case. He’d feel awful if he gave something to Roxas. Birth control doesn’t stop them and even though he’s pretty sure he’s always worn condoms in bed, he’s had too many hookups to even remember correctly.

“Fine, I’ll go get tested at the free clinic. Then..?”

“Then we can discuss it, I guess.” Roxas shrugs. “But that also means you would have to stop just hooking up with people. I’m not saying we’d be dating but I’m not about to catch something because you screw the wrong guy in a club bathroom.”

Axel rolls his eyes but Roxas is probably right about that, too. “We’ll discuss it,” he replies which is neither confirming he agrees with the statement or disagrees. Keeping his knees shut has never been an easy task for him but maybe if Roxas was good enough, he could tame his wild ways.

Saïx won’t like it.

No, Saïx won’t like it one bit.

 


 

“Can you have those designs finalized by the weekend? I know that sounds like an insane task-.”

“I’m almost done, so yes.” Xion forces a smile on her face and tries to shove down the anxiety of being asked to complete four designs by the weekend. Considering there is a dinner with Kairi’s family this weekend, their first debut as a couple, she knows it will be better to have the work done. Doesn’t stop the pit of existential dread from dropping like a dead weight into her gut.

Her boss hurries off and Xion turns her eyes back to the designs in question and slides a hand back through her hair in frustration. They’re just concepts for a new upcoming fall line but her boss takes concepts as seriously as complete pieces. She sighs and shoves her pencil away in favor of looking to her phone where Kairi has messaged her.

K: Hope you’re having a good day :)
X: Debatable
K: What’s wrong??
X: Just… I’ve got a lot going on at work and stuff on my mind
K: Like what?

Xion debates telling Kairi the swirling thoughts that have been going on in her mind for a while but everything is a mess and she has no idea how to handle talking about any of it. She’s excited to meet Kairi’s family, if not a little afraid, but she’s afraid of what might happen if she puts thoughts into words and action.

What if Kairi doesn’t want her anymore? Love her? What if they talk and things fall apart and Kairi runs back to Riku? She presses her hands to her forehead as a headache starts to come on and knows she won’t be able to finish these designs today and will have to come in tomorrow early to finish.

X: It’s just… work stuff. Sorry.
K: It’s ok? Pls it’s ok you can talk to me, Xion

Kairi really is the best thing to happen to her since landing this job – honestly, Kairi is better than any job. Xion fears to lose Kairi more than she fears to lose her job because Kairi has been a sense of stability ever since they met and started to make friends. She can still remember their first run-in with each other. Freshman year of college and the fire alarm had gone off while they were both in the shower. They’d wandered outside, in their towels, and froze to death until Riku had offered them to sit in his car while they waited to be allowed back inside.

They’d exchanged names and laughed about the predicament while huddled in a too small sports car with Riku leaning against the hood as a way of protecting their dignity. Xion had always liked Riku, too. He’d always been a quiet gentleman who made sure Kairi was well taken care of and protected. The protection had quickly extended to her, especially on nights she needed to walk home from the art department which was clear across campus. Riku would always offer to pick her up and take her home.

Her crush on Kairi had started early but she’d always assumed Riku and Kairi were an item until a drunken night where they were all cozied up watching a movie, things had heated up. Quickly. Her face burns as she remembers how Riku had been fast asleep and they’d been groping each other under the blankets while not even listening to whatever program they’d chosen to watch.

After that night, Kairi explained the situation about how both of their families were easy families to belong to and being gay in a difficult family is no walk in the park. A fake relationship had been born and Xion completely understood why they were doing it. She had no qualms allowing Kairi and Riku to be each other’s beards.

Until recently.

They’d been dating, officially, for five years and in Xion’s opinion it was definitely more than time to start living their lives together. She’d been asking Kairi to “end” her relationship with Riku for two of those five years and finally, things are lining up. Kairi had told her yesterday she’d explained the situation to Riku and of course, he handled it graciously.

I still think you should move in here so Riku doesn’t have to just find a new place by himself. It’s asking a lot of him to just up and move , Kairi had said which Xion supposes is true. Plus, Kairi has a better view.

The headache still thrums away at her temples, so Xion decides to call it a day, pack up, and head to Kairi’s for the evening. Maybe after a few glasses of wine, they can have a talk – maybe after a few glasses of wine, she can finally admit it to herself. The ride from the company she worked for, Organization Brands, and Kairi’s place isn’t far so she’s fine to walk. A few men whistle at her on the street but she walks with her back straight, head high, and a knife hidden in her coat sleeve.

She’s not afraid of strangers trying to hurt her considering her upbringing.

A flash of golden eyes make her shudder but she pushes them aside in favor of stopping by the local boba place to buy tea for herself and Kairi. Just a few more blocks and then they can enjoy each other’s company.

“Xion!”

Oh, no.

Xion keeps walking, not even wanting to turn around to face the intruder. She can pretend to not have heard them and just keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking. Keep walking.

“Xion! Wait, please.”

She wants to turn around and splash boba tea all over the intruder’s face but what a waste of good tea. She reaches Kairi’s building but before the doorman can open the door, the intruder is quick to jump in front of her.

“Xion – did you not hear me yelling your name for a block and a half?”

Xion slowly raises her eyes up to two golden ones – the ones she didn’t want to think about – and an x-shaped scar across a furrowed brow. Saïx. “What do you want?” she asks.

Saïx takes a step back to give her some breathing room but she really just wants him to leave. “I saw you and I wanted to see if you had those commissions done.”

“No, I haven’t had the time. I’m going to work on them after this larger project at work. I sent you an email.” Working for Saïx had never been something she wanted to do but he pays better than anyone else, including the company she works for, and so she hadn’t passed on the opportunity. The money could go toward a new car or a down payment on a house.  

“I see,” Saïx says slowly. “I apologize for accosting you on the street, I should have simply checked my email today.”

“Yes, you should have. May I go now, Saïx?” It’s not really a question and they both know it.

He pauses and his face is briefly a mask of hurt. “I told you, you may call me Isa now.”

“I don’t think so. Goodbye.” She steps around him and bustles into the apartment building, telling the doorman to not let him follow, before she hurries to the elevator. Once the doors shut, her cool exterior fades, and she starts to panic and cry. The boba teas both slip from her hands and spill all over the floor of the elevator and her shoes but she’s too busy hyperventilating to do anything about.

Saïx. On the street.

He knows where she lives now.

No .

She arrives at Kairi’s floor and barely manages to walk to the door, hands shaking while she stuffs the key into the lock. When the door opens, she finds Kairi on the phone but her face changes when she sees Xion.

“Mom, I have to go…” Kairi says slowly before rushing over. “Xion, oh my God, are you alright? What’s wrong?”

Xion shakes her head and realizes she can’t speak or form words right now and gestures for a pen. Kairi turns to grab a pad of paper stuck to the side of the refrigerator and hands it over. Hands shaking so badly, she can hardly write out his name.

Saïx

Kairi gasps. “Oh my God, did you see him? In person? When? Where?”

She holds up a hand for Kairi to slow down so she can process every question carefully. “He was outside,” she manages slowly. “He followed me here– I don’t think he… He just wanted to know about…”

“About what?”

Xion goes to explain and then realizes she never told Kairi about taking on Saix’s commission because she worried what Kairi would say. About her being foolish to take on a commission from a man who once abused her. “Saïx contacted me about a commission he wanted to be done for himself. Some clothing items. He pays better than anyone I’ve ever met and I took the job. I know it was stupid… I didn’t think he’d harass me on the street or figure out where I live .”

Kairi’s eyes widen and Xion can already feel the lecture brewing. “Xion, why would you do that even for money?!”

“Because money and exposure are important. He commissions me, he tells his rich friends–.”

“Xion, he’s just doing this to get into your head! He’s not a good person!”

“He’s Axel’s friend,” Xion tries to say but Kairi looks unimpressed.

“If Axel’s still his friend after knowing everything, then maybe Axel isn’t a good friend.”

Xion returns the sour look and immediately jumps to her friend’s defense. “I thought you liked Axel.”

“I do! But if he’s defending a man who hurt you over and over, then maybe he’s not such a good guy!” Kairi looks torn and Xion feels her pain. She’s never really considered Axel’s role in any of this but she knows, according to Axel, Saïx is getting help and shaking off the cold identity he had under Xemnas’ care.

Probably why he wanted her to call him Isa.

“Axel isn’t the bad guy here,” Xion insists. “Okay? He really likes you, Kairi. He wants to be friends.”

Kairi shakes her head. “Well, maybe I don’t want to be friends with him if that’s how he’s acting.”

“I should have just went home,” Xion mutters. “Instead of coming here.”

“Fine, then go home!” Kairi points to the door. “I’m just trying to help and you’re telling me how to feel!”

A further argument brews in Xion’s chest but she doesn’t have the mental energy to keep going. She’s one step away from a mental breakdown – with work, life, and now Saïx’s appearance, everything is falling apart. The official move isn’t until next month but if they’re already fighting…

“Fine, I’ll go,” she whispers. Apparently, they won’t be talking tonight.

 


 

There is a coffee shop just south of where Xion works which Roxas knows is a good place to stake out. Anyone who is anyone comes to this coffee shop to purchase their overly priced beverages, pretend to be up to date on current events, and socialize with their rich and important friends. Roxas also knows the person he is searching for is completely worthless in the mornings without coffee.

Saïx walks into the coffee shop after the morning rush which Roxas finds interesting but maybe it’s smart – if anything Saïx does can be considered intelligent. His eyes track Saïx from his spot in the back, watching him order some awful, sugary concoction, and then he goes to sit at a table near the window, phone in hand.

Part of him says to wait and bide his time but as soon as Saïx is seated, Roxas stands up and walks over to sit across from him uninvited. Saïx glances up from his phone and for a moment his face is surprised before he clears the look with his usual neutral expression.

“Roxas,” Saïx greets. “I didn’t realize you came here.”

“I don’t.”

Saïx pauses but then seems to connect the dots. “I see… and what did I do to earn such a visit?”

“I want you to leave Axel alone,” he replies, voice serious and quiet. Saïx and Axel have been friends for many years but over the course of those years, Saïx’s hold has turned poisonous and deadly. The longer Saïx holds on, the faster Axel plummets into darkness.

Saïx snorts. “You’re kidding.”

“Did I stutter, Saïx?” Roxas returns coldly. “I want you to stay away from Axel. He’s impressionable and he looks to you for guidance which in itself is a giant mistake but I want you to cut yourself out of his life. If you care about him, like you claim to do, then you’ll do as I say.”

Saïx’s brow furrows and Roxas sees his hand clench but he doesn’t move to strike which Roxas supposes is either because they’re in public or because Saïx really is relearning behavior. “Axel and I have been friends longer than you have been friends. I know more about Axel than you could ever know! How dare you suggest I stay away from him – that I am bad for him?!”

“You are.” Roxas can still recall nights when Axel would come crawling home from Saïx in a teary mess because he couldn’t understand what he did to earn Saïx’s cruelty or blasé behavior. He can remember how Axel sobbed on the bathroom floor, drunk, asking why Saïx didn’t love him. Now, to hear they are once again hooking up, spending time together, after the last time Roxas collected the Axel pieces and glued them together – he’s tired of Saïx ruining Axel’s life.

“I don’t have to sit here and listen to you,” Saïx snarls and stands up to walk out but Roxas follows him quickly, grabbing Saïx’s arm and dragging him in the alleyway beside the coffee shop. “Get your hands off me!”

Saïx may easily stand over a foot taller than him but he is not afraid of Saïx’s power. “The last time you two were “together”, I say that very loosely, you broke Axel so badly he wouldn’t get out of bed for a month! I had to glue him back together and help him day to day to at least try and live his life. You are a disgusting piece of trash and you can claim you’re going to therapy, working on yourself, unlearning all of your shitty behavior but I don’t buy it. You’re garbage. You’re abusive, manipulative, and cruel. Leave Axel alone or I will kill you.”

The last threat is solid and real. He’s not afraid of Saïx and at this point, he’s not afraid to go to jail in favor of keeping Axel safe. Maybe Saïx will take him out first but he will absolutely find a way to drag him down into the dirt.

Roxas expects Saïx to scoff or roll his eyes but he doesn’t do any of those things. In fact, his face changes from stoic to hurt. More manipulation. “I have no intention of harming Axel again.”

“Liar.”

“I know my behavior in the past hasn’t been honorable and I have apologized to him for the ways I’ve hurt him. I want to make up for what I’ve done.”

“I don’t believe you,” Roxas growls. “You’re nothing to me and I want you to stay away from him. You’re a bad influence.”

Saïx finally seems to snarl back but he still remains in his own space. “You’re jealous he likes me more than you, that’s all this is.”

The statement is so desperately transparent Roxas can’t help but laugh cruelly. Saïx would never ben his contender because there isn’t a competition for Axel’s attention. If anyone is jealous, Roxas knows the jealous one is Saïx. “You will never be able to intimidate me or anyone else again. Leave Axel alone or I will kill you. That’s all there is to it. I’m not afraid of you.”

Saïx goes to speak again but Roxas walks away to leave on the final word so Saïx has no further attempts to try and convince him he is wrong. Axel is vulnerable and falls easily to people like Saïx because he strongly wants to belong and be accepted – just like anyone, really. Axel craves attention more than he craves food or oxygen. Roxas is more than happy to give Axel exactly what he wants but he needs to help sever the remaining umbilical cord between Saïx and Axel.

If he can’t sever their bond he will never be able to help Axel the way he needs.

By the time he returns home, Axel is frantically going around the apartment in a frenzy he’s only ever seen Axel go into once. Back in college, he’d been in a frantic panic all night with no real goal in mind. He can still remember how hard the crash had been later the next morning.

“Axel?” he asks as the door shuts and Axel freezes, turning around in alarm. “What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” Axel says quickly.

“Nothing?”

“No. I went to the clinic and they’re supposed to know my results in a few days.”

“Good.” Roxas looks around the apartment and notes it’s no cleaner than usual so Axel’s frenzy is not cleaning related.

“Where were you?” Axel eyes, eyes narrowing with suspicion. “You’re never up this early.”

“Neither are you.”

“Don’t avoid the question.”

He sighs and rolls his eyes. “I went to see someone to deliver a message.” Hopefully, Saïx would take him seriously because while he doesn’t fear going to prison, he would like to avoid prison at all costs.

“Who? What message?”

Roxas heads for the kitchen and Axel is on his heels like a nosy shadow. He’s certain Saïx will tell Axel of their confrontation because he doesn’t truly expect Saïx would cut Axel off cold turkey. There would have to be motivation involved for Saïx to agree to something so drastic despite his personal hopes.

“Roxas.”

“I went to see your friend,” Roxas replies pointedly. “I went to see Saïx-.”

“Isa.”

Saïx , and I went to talk to him. I told him to leave you alone.” Roxas turns to face Axel sharply, looking up at him defiant and firm. “He’s not a good influence on you, Axel. I know you know that.”

Axel stammers in response for a moment, truly at a loss for words. “You- you threatened him?” he asks in disbelief. “ Roxas ! How is that any of your business? You can’t tell me who to hang out with!”

“I didn’t tell you who to hang out with. I told Saïx to not hang out with you because the last time you were hanging out with him, I had to come home and find you sobbing on the bathroom floor, high and drunk, because he “doesn’t love you”. Axel, I am tired of gluing you back together after Saïx puts his grimy hands on you. It’s time for you guys to go on different paths.”

Axel straightens his back to his full height and his large hands clench into angry fists while his chest pushes outward. The fury in the room is palpable like a frantic pulse. “Isa is my friend . He and I have been through a lot together. We’ve talked it out- what happened. We came to an understanding and I know where his heart is. He’s trying to better himself and I want to help him. You can’t keep me away from him, Roxas. This is not a you versus him game! Don’t make me choose!”

“You know he’s bad for you! You have to admit, the guy has a crappy track record. He abused Xion and you’re just out there forgiving him?!” Roxas shakes his head and tries to keep his temper tampered down but the anger is rising and he wants to punch a few things. Saïx included. “He treated Xion like trash, calling her nothing , tearing her down over nothing and you just forgive him for it? I thought Xion was your friend, Axel.”

“She is ! He apologized to her-.”

“So? I don’t believe him.”

“That is your choice then. Xion forgave him, too.”

“No, she didn’t-.”

“He commissioned her to make a personal line for himself. Do you think she would have accepted if she hadn’t forgiven him?” Axel demands and Roxas is surprised to hear of any commission. He hadn’t even realized Xion was back in contact with Saïx despite their sordid history. It pains him to think Saïx still has his nailed grip on Xion, too.

“She’s afraid of him,” Roxas replies quietly. “Of course, she said she would do something for him.”

Axel looks torn and seems to lose some resolve as he stands there, his defense quickly unraveling. The words are really Saïx’s words and Roxas know this – he just needs Axel to realize it, too. Saïx is good at manipulation, putting forth an image of a good person but beneath the mask is a heartless monster.

In reality, Roxas knows Saïx needs help. He needs to be put into immediate therapy and probably in a rehab program. Axel does, too, but they need to be separated first. The one-sided co-dependency needs to end now before Axel puts too much of himself into someone who doesn’t love him back.

“Axel, Saïx is a manipulative abuser. He hurts you, too. I know it’s hard to see that when you’re deep in it… Believe me, I know, but I’ve watched him use you and Xion for too long. He’s never been kind to me either but I can see him for what he is. This… Isa persona you think still lives inside him is gone – maybe it was never there. He could have easily manipulated you into thinking he has a softer, gentler side. You need to let him go before he kills you.”

Axel’s face is torn with pain and realization Roxas may be right after all. He doesn’t like seeing Axel in so much pain but it is time to face the reality of the situation before it grows into a tumor. Cut the cancer out and Axel can finally grow. He would talk to Xion later to see if he was right about her fear – he wants to help her cut the disease out, too.

“I need fresh air,” Axel mumbles.

“Okay. I’ll be here for you. Just like I always am, Axel.” Roxas reaches out to touch Axel’s shoulder but he pulls backward. “Ax… please. Let me help you.”

“Not right now, Roxas. I just- I need to go outside.” Axel turns and leaves the kitchen in a hurry and Roxas sighs. He already knows where Axel is going even though he wants to be wrong.

God, does he want to be wrong so badly.   


 

Conflict has never been one of Axel’s favorite events – in fact, he’s one to avoid conflict with people he considers friends at all costs. He doesn’t like to fight and he doesn’t like to be loud or harsh. He would rather hurt himself than hurt his friends.

His friends.

His real friends.

Roxas and Xion have been there for him through thick and thin. They would go after class, he would buy them all an ice cream, and they would encourage him to try harder, do more, be better. They would watch the sunset together and laugh on top of Twilight Town’s train station clock tower. They spent so many afternoons there, he can almost stitch a blanket out of their colors.

Xion helped him study so he could graduate on time. She helped him focus when he struggled and picked him up when he fell. She told him to rest and to let her help him. She guided him out of darkness when he only saw an empty void. He owes her more than she can ever really know.

Roxas has always been a solid force in his life. Roxas gave him feelings he never knew he had or wanted. He’d never really grown up feeling loved or wanted; especially when he grew up in a body he didn’t feel belonged to him in the first place. Roxas had been there for his first testosterone appointment and always rose to his defense when someone would dead name him. It’s Axel , Roxas would snarl and he always felt protected by Roxas’ ferocity.

They were the friends who helped him through the pain and darkness while in college and figuring himself out. They’re still the friends who help him – he knows Roxas would immediately throw down everything to help him seek help for addiction if he knew how bad Axel really had it. Xion, too. He knows they would go to great lengths to keep him safe.

He doesn’t know any of this about Saïx.

After Isa fell into Xemnas’ crowd, renamed him Saïx, and gave him a new purpose, he’d changed. He became cruel, withdrawn, and they quickly had a lot of falling out. Over the years, they had a begrudging respect for one another but in the end, Saïx was still a bad person. He enabled Axel’s drug addiction, fed it eagerly, and then abused his friends because he didn’t like them.

Isa became Saïx and no matter how hard Axel tried to pull Isa back, all he could do is fall deeper into darkness with him. He’d always wanted Isa to love him the way he’d fallen for Isa first but there was no real love between them. Maybe not even friendly, platonic love. Roxas was right and his heart aches thinking on how much he’s messed up by defending someone so dark.

Saïx can claim he wants to be different but the other night had been no different at all. Once again, he’s fallen for Saïx’s manipulations because he’s easy fodder. It’s pathetic to think how Saïx can wriggle his finger and he’ll come running back like a lost puppy. Makes him sick.

Saïx’s apartment building stands tall overhead and before he can stop himself, he storms in and goes right for the elevator to ride to the top floor. They need to have a talk.

Saïx answers the door on the first knock. “Axel-.”

“We need to talk.” Axel forces his way into Saïx’s apartment and stands in the midst of all of Saïx’s material belongings quietly. For the first time in a while, he can feel the glued wool peeling back off of his eyes. Saïx slowly joins him, his face confused and curious at once.

“What’s going on?” Saïx asks. “I don’t have anything for you.”

“I’m not here for that,” Axel replies. “I’m here because I want to know what is more important to you.”

Saïx sighs tiredly. “Please, Axel, I am too tired for riddles today.”

“Am I more important than your pride, Isa?”

Roxas’ words chase and haunt him – the ones from last night and the ones from today. His mind is still tainted by the idea Saïx may not have even respected his agency before bedding him the other night. Saïx had definitely been soberer than him and he’s not even sure what Saïx had given him for sure. He’d had more drugs in his system than most rock and roll celebrities that night. For all he knew, Saïx roofied him.

He doesn’t know what to call real anymore.

“Of course,” Saïx says. “What is this about really?”

“Roxas and I-.”

“Ugh.” Saïx groans and shakes his head He turns to walk away which feels like an insult; a brushing off as if this doesn’t matter at all. “Don’t bring up Roxas right now to me.”

“Saïx!”

Saïx pauses and turns back around. “I thought I was Isa to you now?”

“Roxas is my best friend and I care about him,” Axel says. “He’s more of a friend to me than you have ever been. Maybe we were friends as kids, close, but you changed. You changed ever since you fell into Xemnas’ crowd. You let him reduce you to… to garbage . I gave you the benefit of the doubt but Roxas is right. You are a manipulator and you abuse and hurt people. Myself included.”

Saïx’s face falls at the cold insults thrown into his space. “Axel…”

“What did you give me the other night? In the car?”

“What-.”

“What did you give me? I don’t remember sleeping with you at all. I woke up and we clearly had sex that night but I don’t remember. Did I say yes? Did I say yes to you?” Axel can feel his heart pounding heavily in his chest at the prospect he’d been assaulted. His stomach twists with nerves and fear while Saïx looks completely flabbergasted.

“You think I drugged you so we could have sex?” he asks. “Axel, that’s ridiculous! I wouldn’t do that to you!”

“Makes it easier when I can’t even open my eyes, doesn’t it, Saïx?” he spits out the question like poison and he can feel an urge to cut the disease off where it grows. “Did you use a condom at least?”

“I can’t believe you’re accusing me of- of- I can’t even say it! I wouldn’t do that to you!”

“I couldn’t consent, Saïx. I was so drugged up, I don’t even remember it! I couldn’t have looked like I was consenting to you. God-.” His skin crawls at the implications. How many other people has Saïx harmed like this? “You disgust me. I thought we were friends, I thought you were getting better.”

“Lea-.”

Don’t you call me that .” Axel can feel the urge to punch Saïx solidly in the nose tear through him but he keeps his distance. “You know I don’t go by that anymore.”

“I’m sorry…” Saïx looks down. “The other night, I gave you ecstasy. That is all I gave you. It wasn’t laced with anything and I’m sorry you can’t remember the other night but you did go into my bathroom that night and I know you took something. I don’t know what it was but it put you out immediately. I almost had to carry you back to bed you were so drugged up.”

Axel stammers a few times and tries to recall any of the events of the other night. He doesn’t believe Saïx because there is nothing he could have taken that would have made him black out so much time. “Stop lying to me to cover your own ass.”

“Axel, I’m not lying. Maybe you’re right and maybe I shouldn’t be pumping you with drugs if you really want to stop… But the other night, we had fun, we went out, we danced. We had a good time. Did we not have a good time?”

They had had a good time. The old Saïx wouldn’t have even wanted to be in a public display unless it felt as if he were in control but they’d had fun dancing together and laughing over old memories.

“I am sorry for my behavior to you in the past. I want to work on it.” Saïx sighs. “Roxas told me today he wanted me to stay away from you. I’m sure he told you, which is what I assume brought this on.”

“Yeah, he did. Pointed out I shouldn’t have forgiven you for what you did to Xion and he’s right. I shouldn’t have.”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Saïx agrees which is a surprise and makes him take a step back. “I haven’t even forgiven myself for what I did to her. I commissioned her as an apology. I wasn’t trying to make her life harder. I thought by accepting she’d… forgiven me but I realize I was wrong. She was very upset to see me the other day and I will not engage her again personally without warning.”

“You commissioned her as an apology,” Axel repeats but the statement makes sense. Saïx has never been good with verbal apologies but his actions have always been drawn out and apologetic.

“Yes. You know I’m not good with words,” Saïx replies. “I do not deserve your forgiveness for what I did to you or Xion or Roxas. I would, however, like a chance to prove I have changed. I admit… continuing to provide you with pills is my excuse to see you. It’s wrong and I shouldn’t help you stay in addict’s hell but I thought if I became insignificant to you, you would stop coming around. If you want help, Axel, I can help you find it.”

Help – something he’s always wanted but he’s been too afraid to release the security blanket with an A stamped in the cloth to actually seek it out.

“I don’t know,” Axel whispers. “I don’t know what I want right now.”

“That’s fair,” Saïx replies. “Will you please refer to me as Isa. I apologize for bringing up an old name.”

“A dead name,” he growls. “That was mean, Saïx.”

“I’m sorry.”

He shakes his head and feels their time is up. Maybe Saïx wants to be a better person but maybe this is all one giant lie and manipulation crafted to keep him complacent. “I have to go. Don’t call me or talk to me.”

“Axel-.”

“I am asking you to leave me alone and let me figure stuff out for myself, Saïx. I have to go.” It hurts to walk away and by the time he reaches the elevator he’s crying and hugging himself as tightly as his arms will allow.

He doesn’t want Roxas to be right but the more he looks at the evidence the more it feels he’s been played. Xemnas has always had a throat choke hold on Saïx but the evidence is damning and stark. He walks home, head down, feeling exhausted by the time he reaches the front door. He needs to take something, his hands are shaking so badly, but all he wants to do is crawl into bed and not wake up again for a long time.

Maybe ever again.

He makes it as far as the living room, too tired to go to his own bed, and feels his eyes well up when he sees Roxas has made a large blanket and pillow fort in their living room. There are snacks – candy, cookies, popcorn – and several movies and video games line up for the choosing. Roxas is putting the finishing touches when he steps inside.

“You’re home,” Roxas says with a happy smile. “Good. I was about to call you.”

“What is this?” he asks quietly.

“I wanted to cheer you up so I thought we could cuddle and watch movies together or play video games, whatever you wanna do, Ax.”

“in a blanket fort,” Axel says but can feel a laugh coming on. They used to make blanket forts in college as a joke because neither of them had grown up with a normal childhood where blanket forts were allowed.

“Yes.” Roxas holds out his hand. “I told you, Axel, I will always be here for you.”

Tears grip him by the neck and squeeze until he can feel them about to fall so he launches over to sweep Roxas up in a tight hug, lifting him off of the floor. “I don’t deserve you,” he sobs. “What did I do to have you as my friend?”

Roxas laughs and hugs back. “I have no idea,” he jokes softly. “But I’m glad you did it.”

“Did you invite Xion?”

“Yep. She’s on the way over now. She’s just grabbing sea salt-.”

“Ice cream,” Axel finishes and feels so much love and warmth fill him he wants to break down and have a long sobfest. This feeling – this feeling completely filling him to the brim – is better than any drug.

“Yeah. You get comfy, pick a movie, and I’ll be right back.” Roxas kisses his temple which is also so comforting he can feel a blush rise up.

“Okay.” He sets Roxas down and slowly crawls into their fort, kicking off his shoes, and cozying up in the couch cushions on the floor and the pillow nest surrounding him.

When Xion shows up with ice cream, his heart is full, and his face is full of smiles. He’s never felt so good.

“I love you guys,” he tells them and they both roll their eyes and tell him he’s being a giant sap but for once, Axel wants to be the sap. He knows, in his heart, they cannot stay this way forever but while they’re here, he wants to enjoy every moment.

Chapter Text

“Thanks again for coming with me, Sora,” Riku says for the umpteenth time while he helps Sora carry his stuff inside.

“I would have done it over and over if I had to,” Sora replies. “I’m really glad your father is okay.”

“Yes, me too.”

After the surgery, his mother had gone in first and then she’d allowed each family member to visit. Riku had gone last – partially because he was afraid and partially because he wasn’t sure his father would even want to see him.

                For the first time in his life, Riku looks upon his father and thinks small . Despite their height difference, he’s never seen his father as small or weak. Nomura Takashi always stood tall and with so much pride to his stance no one would ever mistake him for a coward. Seeing him lying in the hospital bed, pale and tired from surgery and being social, Riku realizes how fragile life really is. He has to hold back a wave of tears.

            “Riku,” his father mutters, reaching out a hand for him.

            He’s surprised but he takes his father’s hand regardless. “Father.”

            “You came.”

            “Why wouldn’t I have come?” he asks while kneeling at his father’s bedside. He knows the man isn’t dying but it feels so much like his life is fragile and ready to shatter.

            “I know you and I do not see eye to eye on many subjects,” his father replies and chuckles. “Where is Kairi?”

            He wants to tell his father how he and Kairi are no longer together but the man had just been released from serious bypass surgery. He refuses to be the reason his father has a stroke on top of a heart attack. “She’ll be here soon.”  

            “Good.” His father pats his hand and then pulls away. “I am glad to see you.”

            Tears burn the back of Riku’s eyes; this is the nicest thing his father has said to him in years. “I’m glad to see you, too, Father.”

            His father’s eyes drift closed and his mother prompts him to step out so he can rest. Pain and confusion rush through Riku as he has a myriad of feelings – being missed by his father, loved by his father even, but knowing he’s a giant disappointment and maybe it’s only the drugs talking.

            He’s so afraid to tell his father the truth.

“Did they say when he could go home?” Sora asks as they step into Sora’s apartment. It’s a small studio space because it’s all Sora could afford on a meager salary being a teacher for preschoolers but it suits him. There are colorful curtains hanging on the windows and his bedspread has pictures of cartoon characters. The kitchenette is so tiny it makes Riku sad but he also knows Sora is no cook so maybe it doesn’t matter.

“No,” Riku replies and sets Sora’s bag down.

“Bummer… but he’s okay and that’s what matters. I’m sure he’ll have lots of doctor appointments coming up though.” Sora shakes his head and walks over to sit on his bed.   

“You ever consider putting up partitions?” Riku asks as he stands in the middle of the small space. “To separate bedroom from living area.”

“No.” Sora shrugs. “I like it the way it is.”

“Right. I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to imply anything.” Somehow, Riku always finds a way to trip over his words around Sora and maybe it’s because he’s never really been a man of words anyway. Actions have always been how he expresses his feelings and intentions.

“You didn’t.” Sora smiles and the world seems right again. A smile more blinding than the sun and leaving him completely breathless. Sora is brighter and better than any sunlight.

“Sora,” he says, feeling an inkling of desire to admit his feelings. Just lay them all out like pieces of a puzzle on the floor so they can work through it together. He wants to finally feel whole but as soon as Sora looks at him the words vanish and he’s left with his tongue being held hostage by his brain.

“Yeah?” Sora asks and the question is so innocent.

“Uh… Nothing. Sorry.” He shakes his head and locks down his feelings so he doesn’t accidentally spill them out like innards. “I should probably get home and let Kairi know the good news.”

“You haven’t called her?”

“Uh… No.”

“Oh… Riku, if you need somewhere to stay, you can stay here. I mean, I know my space is tiny but I don’t mind you being here. It’d be like a long, permanent slumber party.” Sora smiles again and looks so pleased with the revelation Riku almost immediately agrees to move in because what an excellent idea.

Then he remembers they are not together and sleeping in the same bed would be too difficult. “I’ll think about it. Thank you, Sora. You’re so good to me.”

“Hey, um, about you and Kairi… What happened? We never talked about it.”

“Right.” Riku sighs and slowly crosses the room so they can sit side by side. “We weren’t working out.”

“Why not?”

He drops his gaze to his lap, feeling his hands clench into weak fists while he fights through the anxiety of telling even a half-truth. Kairi had told him he could tell his parents she was gay but he wasn’t sure about Sora. Of course, if she’s ready to come out, Sora would find out soon enough.

“Kairi isn’t into men,” he replies slowly. “She’s dating Xion. I was her cover-up.”

Sora’s eyebrows quickly disappear behind his wild dark hair as they raise in surprise. “ What ? How long has this been going on?”

“Since high school,” he replies quietly.

“Oh my God- you were fake dating her this whole time ?”

He nods and feels a bit of shame fill his core. “She was scared her parents would find out about her and I agreed because we’re friends and I didn’t want her to be so scared.”

Wow .” Sora stares down at the ground for a moment and Riku can see him processing. Sora is much an outward thinker with his expressions all over his face. “So, you guys were fake dating but I’ve seen you kiss .”

“We had to make it believable,” he replies with a shrug. “We never – I mean, she and I never slept together or anything. We just put on a show for the public.” An uncomfortable one but he did it for her anyway.

“I’m sorry, Riku… Did you love her?”

“No. I mean, we’re friends and I love her as a friend, but I never loved her romantically.” Riku shook his head. “It was a business transaction.”

“But what did you even get out of it?” Sora asks as he puzzles through the situation more. “I mean, Kairi was able to hide her sexuality because she was afraid to tell her family but what about you? Did you just… not date anyone for like ten years? I don’t understand.”

Riku sighs and presses the heels of his palms to his eyes. The emotions want to spill out through cut ribbons and seep onto the floor but he has no idea how to start or if Sora will see him the same. “It’s complicated,” he says neutrally. “Just know that it was worked out on both of our ends.”

“I feel like you’re hiding something from me, Riku,” Sora replies slowly. “You don’t have to hide anything from me. You can tell me, really. I’m your best friend, right? I promise I can handle it. I know people think I’m immature or stupid or-.”

“I don’t,” Riku says firmly. “I don’t think things about you.”

Sora blushes and smiles shyly. “Well, I just want you to know whatever it is, I can handle the truth.”

“It’s… a difficult truth, Sora. It’s something I struggle with every day.”

“I don’t understand.”

He sighs and flops back on the bed, draping an arm across his eyes. “I know,” he groans. “God, I know.”

“Help me understand, drag me along.”

“I’m…”

“Yes?”

The words are trapped in his throat and they feel like they’re choking him but it has to come out. Tell him before it’s too late , Kairi had said. “I’m gay .”

Silence answers him and he’s too afraid to look at Sora’s face. He’s certain he’s just as surprised if not more surprised to hear the confession about his sexuality than Kairi’s. The silence drags on and finally he has to look because he wonders if Sora passed out or something ridiculous. But no, Sora is sitting with a shocked look on his face and not saying anything.

“Sora?”

“You’re gay?” he asks finally. “Into guys gay?”

He sighs and hides his face in shame. “Yeah.”

“So, you’re both gay and you were fake dating for ten years.” Sora sounds wistful and shocked which Riku supposes is appropriate. They’d hid it well. “And you never told me.”

“Sora… It was complicated, okay? It wasn’t just my secret to tell.”

“I feel kinda dumb,” Sora says while he scratches his head.

“You’re not.” Riku sits up and goes to place his hand on Sora’s shoulder but stops short. Sora may not want his touch anymore all things considered so he pulls his hand back into his own orbit. “Look, we took extreme measures to be sure our families didn’t find out. My family still doesn’t know so can you please keep this to yourself. About me.”

Sora looks over at him and there’s a soft, gentle smile on his face. It feels better than home. “Yeah, of course, Riku. I won’t say anything. Were you ever going to tell me? I mean- say you and Kairi never.. broke up. Then what?”

Riku sighs and shrugs helplessly, hair falling over his shoulder. “I don’t know… I’ve been wanting to say something because I’m twenty-six, right? I should be able to live my life with someone I care about.”

“Yes,” Sora agrees. “Hey, we should get you that app.”

“What app?” Riku asks and feels a bit of panic in his chest. “Sora, I don’t want to online date.”

“Why not? It’s the best way to meet people! I do it to make friends.” Sora smiles huge and pulls out his phone which he struggles with every single day – Riku’s seen the struggle – but quickly pulls up his profile on a hookup app. Only Sora could find friends on an app made for hook up culture.

“You… you do this to make friends?”

“Yeah!” Sora says excitedly. “But I mean I’m aware that’s not what it’s for , okay? I know what it’s for but I’m not all that interested in just hooking up… I’m not even all that interested in sex, I don’t think. I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it.”

Riku coughs and tries not to pry but suddenly he’s extremely interested in Sora’s preferences. “You’re not?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never thought about it before. I never really thought I was dateable and… I don’t know… Sexuality is confusing.” Sora snorts and shakes his head. “I’ve only ever really had a crush on one person- well- two people but it wasn’t a big deal.”

The idea of Sora with a crush on people makes his heart wring with worry. “Who?”

“What?”

“I said- uh- who did you have a crush on?” His mouth goes dry and he has to grip his thighs so his hands don’t shake. His wrist immediately aches at the shift in muscle use.

“Oh, uh, Kairi.” Sora laughs and blushes. “Stupid, right? I never told her.”

“…right… and the other person?” Riku asks slowly and wonders if he’s about to ascend onto a higher plane of existence. If Sora says his name, he won’t make it, he may pass out.

“Oh, just someone we went to school with, I don’t even remember their name.”

“Was it… a girl?” he asks slowly.

“I think so.” Sora nods. “Why?”

“Uh-… No reason, just… curious.” Inside, he feels like dying but he keeps his face neutral.

“I think you should make one of these,” Sora says, jiggling his phone. “That way you can meet a great guy. You deserve that.”

It’s you! It’s always been you! God, why can’t you see it’s you?!

Riku forces a smile to his face. “Sure,” he says quietly. “Sounds great, Sora.”

R: My dad is ok I’m hanging out with Sora right now but I’ll be home later
K: That’s great, Riku! I’ll be here

She doesn’t want to be here but Xion has yet to answer any of her texts, especially about this upcoming weekend. Apparently, they’re still fighting even though she’s apologized multiple times. Fighting with Xion is almost as bad as fighting with Sora, except Sora is quick to forgive and easy to talk to. Xion is the exact opposite.

K: I’m really starting to worry can you at least reply so I know you’re ok? Please?
X: I’m at work

Words! Better than nothing at all.

K: Okay I get it. I just wanted to be sure you were alright. I know you’re mad at me.
X: You’re mad at ME
K: I’m sorry Xion I was being stupid and selfish
X: It’s ok
K: It’s NOT ok but I don’t want to fight anymore :( it’s been a couple of days
X: I don’t want to either
K: So can you come over after work? Please??
X: Ok

A plan – not just words but an actual plan to see each other. Kairi smiles and decides to take an empty apartment as a sign to clean her room and run to the store to buy flowers and Xion’s favorite foods. She’s going to try to make up as quickly and efficiently as possible. Especially since they’re supposed to be meeting the Parents this weekend.

By the time Xion arrives, Kairi’s cleaned her room, the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. There are flowers with seashells from the boardwalk sitting in a vase on the kitchen island, and she’s bought sushi from their favorite takeout place for dinner. Xion walks in, looking tired, but absolutely stunning in a pantsuit, carrying a briefcase full of designs, and a backpack over her arm.

“Hi,” Kairi greets with a huge smile.

Xion waves and slowly set her stuff down on the counter. “Uh… You look happy.”

“Yep.”

“Did you do something dirty?”

Kairi laughs. “Not that happy.” She gestures to the vase and Xion turns her eyes on the flowers in surprise.

“Oh.”

“Those are for you… I wanted to make up for… everything. I’m so sorry, Xion.”

“I’m sorry, too,” Xion replies and walks over to press a kiss to her lips which is better than the absolute nothing they’ve been having. “I’m so tired, today was a nightmare. I had to put out finalized designs and I’m just exhausted.”

“Well, I bought sushi we can have for dinner.”

Great .” Xion collapses onto a stool at the breakfast bar and Kairi eagerly goes to sit beside her. “I’m sorry, too. About yelling at you, you were right. Axel wasn’t being a good friend but he and I talked and… he and Saïx aren’t talking right now.”

“They’re not?”

“No… I guess Roxas talked to him and also brought up how he treated me and I think Axel realizes Saïx isn’t the best person in the world.” Xion reaches over to take her hand and bring it to her lips to kiss. “Axel isn’t really the bad guy, though. He was just blinded by old friendship feelings.”

“I can get that,” Kairi replies with a nod. “So, we’re okay?”

“Yes.”

Good .”

They lean over to kiss one another, a real kiss, and Kairi can feel her heart flutter in her chest. Xion’s hands eagerly fly to her hips and she shifts to straddle Xion’s lap on the stool. She almost completely forgets Riku still lives with them until Riku walks through the front door.

“Oh,” Riku says as he sees them and Kairi yanks back, noting his face is bright red. “Sorry.”

“Uh…. It’s okay,” Kairi says and stands up so they’re not looking so suspicious. “We’ll go to my room.”

“No!” Riku yells which make Xion jump. “Sorry. Uh, I’ll go to mine. Just, excuse me.” He walks by, head down, and face red with humiliation, muttering sorry over and over on the way.

Once his door shuts, they both burst into laughter so hard there are tears running down their faces. The mood is definitely shot, so Kairi grabs the sushi so they can stretch out on the couch, cuddle, and watch a new episode of their favorite anime.

“Kairi,” Xion says while they’re watching, voice serious and sad.

“Hm?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“Sure.”

The air shifts when Xion takes a deep breath and suddenly Kairi can sense the tension. It’s so tight, she has to shift and sit up to feel like she can breathe normally. “I’ve been having a lot of thoughts about myself and I realize that I really don’t identify as you do. As a girl.”

Kairi blinks and looks over at her. “What?”

“I wasn’t sure what it meant or how I felt and… I’m- I’m so scared to even tell you now because I’m worried you won’t want to be my girlfriend anymore.” Xion’s eyes water and she starts to cry. “But I would really like it if you called me they and not… she. Does that even make sense?”

Oh ,” Kairi says slowly. Naminé also identifies similarly so Kairi isn’t completely lost. “So, like non-binary.”

“Right, like Naminé,” Xion agrees quietly. “I’m sorry if this makes you not want to be with me.”

What ?” Kairi grabs the controller to pause the show so she can gently cup Xion’s face and hold her. “Xion, this doesn’t change you as a person, just how I address and introduce you.”

“Are you sure?” Xion whispers, hands reaching up to hold onto her wrists. “I’ve been so afraid to say anything. I mean, you can still call me your girlfriend but-.”

“How about I just call you my partner,” Kairi offers. “No gender roles there, right?”

Tears slowly slip down Xion’s cheeks and she presses her forehead against hers eagerly. “You’re taking this so easily.”

“You’re still Xion and I still love you.”

“I love you, too,” Xion whispers.

Kairi kisses her and slowly eases Xion back on the couch cushions. “You’re all I ever wanted, you know,” Kairi says. “I hope that you don’t change your mind after the weekend.”

Xion snorts. “Doubt it. You’re not your family, Kairi. You don’t speak for them and you don’t represent them.”

Kairi presses another kiss to her – no – their lips and slowly rests her head on Xion’s chest. “Do you think we could make Riku cry if we made fake sex noises out here.”

Xion laughs. “ Kairi !”

She laughs too, burying her face in Xion’s neck. “I’m just saying, he was fifty shades of red .”

Xion snorts and trails their fingers through Kairi’s hair softly. “He was… I wonder if he’s ever seen a girl naked before. I mean, I've never seen a guy naked before.”

“Never?”

“Nope and I don’t want to. Honestly, just the thought of a penis kinda unnerves me. They just flop around all…” Xion trails off to flap their hands around which sends Kairi into a giggle fit. “They do !”

“How would you know? You’ve never seen a man naked before!”

“Okay, fair.”

They both laugh and Kairi debates on making a comment about looking for porn on the internet but Xion’s never been one to watch porn. “I’m glad you’re here,” Kairi says. “I’m glad you’re moving in. I’m glad you’re in my life. I love you.”

“I’m glad I’m here, too.” Xion slides their arms around Kairi and squeezes tight. “Wanna go to bed like a really old couple? I’m wiped.”

“Only if you let me eat your pussy first.”

Xion turns bright red and hides their face but laughs. “Okay.”

“Mmmm. Right here? Dare we be so mean?”

“No, not here .  Riku could walk out here and he does not need to see all of that.”

Kairi pouts but Xion is right – Riku is still her roommate and she needs to respect his boundaries even if moving sounds like a horrible idea. Maybe she would snack tomorrow morning and they could both sleep right here. “Let’s sleep here then,” Kairi mumbles, had still on Xion’s chest.

Xion yawns. “Okay. Good night.”

Kairi kisses Xion’s neck and nuzzles them before settling down. She puts the weekend’s upcoming events aside and decides to enjoy the peace while it’s here because soon, she knows, it will quickly end. Once her parents know the truth, Kairi fears there will only be tears.  

“Good night,” Kairi whispers, while her eyes drift closed.


 

Finding out Riku is gay felt a lot like finishing a puzzle which had one missing piece for many years but finally he could see the full picture. Riku being gay changes nothing in Sora’s mind but makes everything line up completely. He understands now why Riku never seemed interested in any girls growing up which was why dating Kairi had always felt extremely left field to Sora. Why Riku didn’t talk about girls or dates or love or kissing – he never mentioned anything about crushes like most boys did as they grew older and lewder.

Riku never did any of that.

He did, however, become flustered around older guys which he definitely realizes now that he has more information on Riku’s life. Blushing easily, maybe even smiling or flirting casually. He’s never outright flirted with someone of the same sex in Sora’s opinion but he does think in college Riku flirted subtly or accidentally.

Knowing his friend is gay and learning how to be this part of himself out loud, he wants to help so setting up Riku’s dating profile was step number one. Step number two was finding pro LGBT organizations for Riku to gain more friends in a community he’s never felt welcomed into. He even finds himself shopping for shirts, bracelets, anything he can physically wear to show subtle support but not accidentally outing Riku in any way.

He just wants Riku to feel comfortable and happy in his own skin.

Sora glances over at his plant, Donald, and wonders if he starts talking to Donald if that makes him insane but his apartment is empty otherwise. He should be planning activities for his kids but he’s too hyper-fixated on helping Riku. Such a heavy weight to bear and Riku already carries so much guilt on his shoulders for no reason at all.

“I wonder if Riku would want to go to Pride,” he muses while munching on a cookie. It’s coming up in a couple of weeks so maybe that would be an activity they could do together for fun. Kairi and Xion could come, too. Axel always went and Roxas usually went along as default.

K: Hey Sora
S: Kairi J Hey! Um Riku told me about you and Xion I’m really happy for you!!
K: Yeah he told me what he told you. He said you set him up a dating profile??
S: Yeah! I want him to meet guys.
K: Sora…
S: I think he deserves it, don’t you? I mean, no offense, but he’s been kissing on you, a girl who he is not attracted to, for 10 years. I think he finally deserves to kiss a boy
K: No, he does, you’re right. I just don’t know if a dating profile is a good idea. Riku’s so new to accepting himself. Like newborn baby brand new.
S: He doesn’t have to go. He can just talk to other guys like him.
S: Hey, do you think he’d want to go to Pride? We could all go! Me, you, Xion, Axel, Roxas.
S: Lol wait am I the token straight friend? OMG
K: Lol I guess you are, Sora
K: I’ll ask him about it
K: You’re a really good friend
S: ^_^ I just want him to be happy

The thought of Riku being happy with a guy instead of pigeonholing himself into a fake relationship brings him so much warmth and joy he finally feels motivated enough to start planning activities for the kids at school. Most people didn’t take his job seriously – being a pre-school teacher – but Sora takes his kids very seriously. Their minds are at a critical molding stage and he refuses to let them grow up into bigoted people. No, Sora teaches love, acceptance, and friendship.

Everyone needs friends and he is more than happy to be everyone’s friend if he can. More than once, the philosophy he tends to hold of everyone is innocent until proven otherwise, has bitten him in the butt. He’s been used, manipulated, and abused but he’s also never let any negative experiences give up on someone just because of a past decision. Like with Axel’s friend Saïx; he knows Saïx was not a good person, he’s heard firsthand stories from Roxas and Xion, but he also listened to Saïx when he apologized to Axel.

He saw the truth in his eyes and the humility he felt while asking for another chance. Sora has always been a person to give out second chances because everyone, in his opinion, deserves to become a better person and learn from their mistakes. He hopes Saïx continues down a good path and continues to set things right with the people he hurt.

R: I already miss hanging out with you
S: Hey ! You do?? You were just here
R: I know
S: Are you ok?
R: No

No . The word reads so heavy and Sora immediately sits up, cookies and lessons are forgotten.

S: What’s wrong?
R: I’m just not a good place rn
S: Why? What happened?
R: I messaged a guy for a while and he asked me to go out
S: Did you say yes?
R: Yeah
S: Then what’s wrong?
R: I just feel really gross :( I don’t want to I don’t want to feel like this I’m sorry I’m dumping on you rn you’re probably busy
S: I am never too busy to talk to you
R: Xion and Kairi have this thing this weekend so I’m going to be by myself
S: Do you want to stay over?
R: I don’t want to crowd you
S: You could never crowd me. You can stay over! You can take the bed and I’ll sleep in the beanbag chair
R: No. That’s your bed.
S: I don’t mind. You should sleep in the bed
R: If you’re sure
S: I am totally sure
R: Ok
S: What’s the guy like? The guy you said yes to?

There is a pause before a picture pops up onto his screen and he notes the guy in question is blonde, blue eyes, spikey looking hair, and he has a serious expression on his face but if Sora had to judge he’d say the guy is good looking. Definitely really good looking.

R: His name is Cloud
S: Cloud? That’s an interesting name
R: He wants to go out Friday night
S: Where to???
R: Um that one club Kairi likes
S: OH yeah ok
S: Do you want me to go too? I can kinda hang back, rescue you if you look like you need to be rescued
R: You would do that???
S: Duh! This is your first real date but I want you to be comfortable! I mean if it looks like things are getting spicy then I’ll probably duck out but otherwise I can hang if you want
R: That would be… really great actually. I’m just afraid of what might happen which is so stupid
S: It’s not, Riku. You’re nervous. That’s ok! I’d be nervous to meet someone too
R: Should we come up with a signal or something?
S: Hmmm just text me : ( if you want to leave and : ) if you want ME to leave bc ur ok
R: That’s a little confusing don’t you think?
S: Okay fine text me the SOS emoji for you want to leave and the check mark if you’re ok toward the end
R: Ok
S: Gr8!! I’m SO glad you’re doing this
R: You are?
S: Yeah
R: Why?
S: Because I want you to be happy! I mean even if this guy isn’t “The One” you can at least say you went on a date with a guy
R: Yeah that’s true. No pressure
S: Yes, no pressure. It’ll be ok, Riku. Are you feeling better? Or do you want me to keep talking?
R: I’m sorry Sora I know I’m a mess
S: I love you, I just want you to feel safe
R: I do feel better ty
S: =^__^=
R:  Lol what is that?
S: It’s a cat
R: You’re funny
S: Eh I try

Riku doesn’t reply so Sora reluctantly returns to lesson planning but he can’t focus. Maybe he and the kids can just have one big free day so he can plan the rest of the week out properly. Everyone deserves a break, even kids. A yawn marks time for bed, so Sora clears the bed off and plugs his phone in, making sure his 30 alarms are set and turned up loud, before waiting to see if Riku says anything else.

He doesn’t.

S: Good night Riku <3

The message stays on read.


 

“How do I be gay?”

“Riku, you are gay.”

“I know but how ?” Riku bemoans while he stares at up the ceiling of his room. Kairi is helping him ready for his date but he’s so nervous he’s forced his bowels and stomach to hate him. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You just… It’s just like talking to anyone else, Riku,” Kairi points out while setting an outfit beside him. “I know you’re nervous but you’re going to be fine. Cloud seems very nice.”

“We’ve barely talked,” Riku points out but he supposes the conversation they had already experienced was pleasant enough. Plus, Cloud was hot – even if his type is more brunette and short than blonde and muscular.

“That’s what tonight is for,” Kairi continues. “Okay? Here, I think this will make you look good but not slutty.”

Riku snorts. “Thanks?”

“Trust me, you want to look like you’re available but not easy .” She pats his hip. “Sora’s meeting you guys there right? Well, not meeting you guys there but he’s going to go hang in the background like a stalker.”

“He’s just making sure I’m safe,” Riku replies. “I thought it was a good idea and a nice gesture.”

“It is. Very Sora-esque… Riku?”

“What?”

Why are you dating a random when we both know who you want to date?” Kairi asks, leaning against the doorframe of his bedroom. “We both know it’s Sora.”

Riku grunts as he sits up to survey the clothes she laid out for him. “Yeah, well, Sora doesn’t know it’s him.”

Tell him.”

“He likes girls, okay? He told me he used to have a crush on you and some other girl we went to school with. He’s not into guys. I’m the only gay on the planet who doesn’t have gaydar.”

Sora likes girls?”

“Yes.”

Sora … Our Sora? The Sora who wears rainbow for fun and likes to sew and color in coloring books and cries at the drop of a hat, Sora, is straight?” Kairi snorts out a laugh. “I think Sora doesn’t know what he is and I think you still have a seriously fair shot. He called himself the token straight friend last night but I’m not sure he knows how he identifies. You should still try.”

“I think it’s not your business. Thank you for helping me, now can I get dressed, so I’m not late?”

“I’m just saying… Tell him.” Kairi ducks out, shutting his door in her wake

If he has to hear her tell him what to do one more time… Riku rolls his eyes and changes quickly into the outfit she picked out so he doesn’t change his mind entirely. The jeans feel too tight but Kairi made him buy a few pairs of skinny jeans because he “has a good butt” and a white tank top under a casual black hooded short sleeve jacket makes him feel a bit like he’s still trying too hard but maybe that’s the point. He yanks on black boots as the final touch and goes out for one final inspection.

Wow ,” Kairi says and nudges Xion to look. “Doesn’t he look nice?”

“Yeah,” Xion agrees. “You look great, Riku.”

He sighs and tries not to roll his eyes again while grabbing keys and wallet. “I’m staying with Sora this weekend. Have fun on your trip.”

Kairi flips him off at his sarcasm but he’s laughing out the door before she can say anything. Nerves make his stomach bunch and bundle knots on the drive over. He spots Sora’s car which is relieving and on the way inside he notes Sora is hanging in front of the club casually. They meet eyes briefly but don’t say anything as Riku continues forward to scour the club for Cloud.

He’s early but Cloud could have easily been earlier. The evening is early and the crowd is minimal so Riku finds a table and sits down to wait. He fights the urge to yank the hood of his jacket over his head and when a waitress passes by to grab him a drink he only orders water for now. No need to drink alcohol when he didn’t know the guy well enough to drink around.

Sora finds a table nearby, facing them, phone in hand but looking innocuous which Riku finds impressive considering Sora’s usual disposition. Cloud shows up a while later, five minutes late, but he immediately crosses over to Riku’s table to sit down. The nerves return and Riku grips his water so hard his wrist hurts but Cloud is breathtaking in person. He’s also a lot larger in person.

“Hi,” Cloud says. “You’re Riku, I presume.”

“Yeah,” Riku agrees and hopes his voice doesn’t crack.

Cloud holds out his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

Cloud’s grip is strong and Riku does his best to match him grip for grip. “Yeah.”

“Your pictures don’t do you justice,” Cloud says which immediately makes a flush flood Riku’s cheeks. “You’re… ethereal.”

Riku ducks his head down and suddenly feels so shy he’s not even sure how to put words into proper sentences. “I’m not,” he manages but he feels like his words are about to shut down. He has no idea how to date – or how to date a guy.

“I’ve honestly never seen someone as beautiful as you,” Cloud continues but quickly goes quiet afterward.

The silence drags on and they both order drinks and then Riku feels awkward because nothing else is said. Cloud seems reserved and he’s the same way under circumstances when he’s not nervous so now it’s worse. They sit quietly until Riku finally blurts out, “I’ve never done this.”

Cloud blinks. “Never done what?”

“Gone on a date… with a guy especially.” Riku’s hands fidget and he almost yanks the hood of his shirt over his head but holds back.

“Oh,” Cloud says and then he chuckles softly. “That’s okay.”

“I don’t know what you’re expecting…”

“Are you asking me if I’m expecting to hook up?” Cloud asks and Riku nods. “I never expect it but I won’t say no either if that is what you want to do.”

“I have no idea,” Riku admits quietly. “I’ve only… hooked up once and it was brief and rough and… Sorry, you don’t need to know this.”

Cloud smirks. “You don’t like it rough?”

“Not the way he did it, no.”

“Well, I can go either way,” Cloud admits. “I can be rough on you or I can be gentle. It’s up to you on what you want out of this.”

No pressure , Sora had said but he can suddenly feel the pressure mounting higher and higher. Part of him wants to say the date itself doesn’t even matter and just go home with Cloud for a good time. They’re clearly not talkers and the conversation isn’t really going anywhere. He doesn’t want to go home to Cloud’s though because he doesn’t feel comfortable going home with a guy he dosen’t know; he has no idea how Axel does this so easily. He should have asked for tips.

“My roommate is gone,” Riku decides to say slowly. “We could… go back to my place.”

Cloud seems to consider it and nods. “Okay.”

The pressure is on as soon as Cloud agrees to go home with him. They both leave the table and on the way out, Riku sends Sora the green checkmark to let him know things are fine.

R: We’re going to my place, this isn’t our scene so I’ll see you tomorrow probably. Ok?

S: Ohhhhh ;) Have fun

Well, at least he didn’t have to spell it out for once. Cloud also has a motorcycle and it’s huge and Riku is definitely jealous of the model and design. They take off through the city together until they reach the apartment building and park in the parking garage beneath the ground floor.

“Fancy,” Cloud remarks while they grab the elevator up to Riku’s floor. “You have money?”

“My roommate does,” Riku replies.

“Hm, lucky.”

“Yeah, she is.”

“She?”

“We’ve been friends for a long time.” They head down the hall together and as soon as they’re inside Riku wants to start undressing and jump into why they came here but he has no idea how to initiate something so physical. The apartment opens onto the kitchen and has an open concept all of the way to the balcony and the hallway to the bedrooms off to the right.

“Nice place,” Cloud remarks while Riku walks over toward the breakfast counter still unsure on what to do.

“Thank you…” He gulps and decides to just ask. “I… don’t know how I want it but I’m up for experimentation.”

Cloud nods once and slowly close the distance between them, his hand reaching over to touch Riku’s waist. “I’m a good listener, you just need to tell me what you want and what feels good while we’re doing it. Tell me what doesn’t feel good, too, so I can correct what I’m doing.”

He has to take a deep breath to steady his nerves but he nods in understanding. Communication. “Right.”

“If you’re too nervous we don’t have to do anything.”

“I want to,” Riku says firmly. “I do. I just don’t know how to start.”

“Well…” Cloud’s hand slides up to lightly push his hair out of his face and he leans closer. “May I kiss you?”

Asking for permission sent butterflies launching into Riku’s stomach because he’s never really been asked if he wants to kiss or not. Intimacy has never been something he’s had a choice over; he had to be intimate with Kairi and Vanitas had been extremely forceful. He feels himself nod even though his brain hasn’t caught up to his bodily wants. Cloud is gentle when he kisses him, gentle and soft with no tongue until Riku melts forward and lets his mouth open for more.

Cloud’s arm tightens as it wraps around Riku’s waist to climb up his back and into his hair, pulling gently while he feels the soft braid which quickly falls apart as their kissing and petting increases. Riku sighs, leaning back against the counter, sitting on the stool with his legs embarrassingly wide but Cloud stands between them with confidence. He trails his mouth down to Riku’s neck and his hands guide the black jacket off and it slips down Riku’s shoulders slowly. The sliding of the fabric sends tingles up Riku’s spine and goosebumps rise on his skin.

“Is this good for you?” Cloud asks while his hands slide up Riku’s shirt to feel every tense muscle in his stomach and chest. “So tense.”

“Just nervous,” Riku admits but he’s also highly aroused. The blood from his head is definitely rushing south and it hurts in pants too tight. “Need to get these pants off.”

Cloud snorts and nips his neck gently. “How about you show me your bedroom?”

“Right,” Riku breathes. His legs feel weak but he manages to stumble off down the hall to his bedroom which he’s suddenly glad he keeps clean and simple. Nothing to get in the way or trip them up. The door shut, Riku decides to be brave and strip out of his clothes quickly. He pulls his shirt off and manages to peel the jeans off until he’s down to strained underwear.

Cloud looks him over with a look of appreciation and matches him tit for tat, stripping down to his own strained underwear. “You’re fit,” Cloud remarks.

“You’re not exactly soft.”

Cloud laughs and Riku feels a new shiver run down his spine. “It was a compliment… Are you sure this is what you want?”

“I have no idea.”

“Fair enough. Come here.”

Riku swallows back any nerves before stepping into Cloud’s space. Commanding hands take his hips and push his underwear down to grab his ass instead. He gasps, hands going to rest on Cloud’s chest at the aggressive manhandling but he doesn’t push away.

“Too rough?” Cloud asks while he squeezes and then slides his hands up Riku’s back to grab his hair.

“Feels okay,” he whispers, eyes fluttering while his cock aches and throbs with the pulse of his heart. Sex never appealed to him growing up because he never thought he would be here , having sex with a man.

“Just okay? Well, I better turn it up a notch.” Cloud backs him up until the backs of his knees brush against the bed and he falls backward, letting Cloud finish pulling off his underwear. “You got lube in here? Condoms?”

“Yeah.” He gestures to the nightstand which Cloud is quick to pull out lube and pour a generous amount on his hand before wrapping it around Riku’s cock, stroking it firm and strong.

“Oh, fuck,” Riku whimpers, thighs spreading instantly. Cloud is confident in his motions and while masturbating isn’t something he’s shy doing, having someone else take control sends the pleasure up several notches. “ Fuck .”

“I bet you’ll cum quick,” Cloud chuckles. “Little virgin.”

“Shut up,” Riku pants and whimpers when Cloud’s lubed fingers work over his sac and down his perineum. He knows he’s nervous and it tenses his stomach and makes him clench, especially when Cloud rubs his rim softly.

“It’s okay,” Cloud whispers. “I won’t just shove my fingers in there.”

Riku clenches his teeth. “Appreciate it.”

“Just keep breathing,” Cloud says while stroking his cock faster.

Riku moans in response, gripping the sheets tightly, and Cloud isn’t wrong. He’s quick to cum and make a mess across his belly. He doesn’t usually make a lot of noise so when he cries out loudly his face heats up but the orgasm relaxes his body enough for Cloud to ease a finger inside.

“Shit,” Riku gasps, clenching hard but Cloud stays still, kissing his neck and chest instead to keep busy and keep him stimulated.

“Good boy,” Cloud mutters and the praise sends a zing down his spine while Cloud’s finger works him firmly.

Riku stares at the ceiling, breathing heavily, while Cloud’s fingers brush a spot which almost makes him completely hard again. He gasps and sits up on his elbows, toes curling. “Fuck!”

“Here?” Cloud asks, massaging the spot in response.

“Y-yeah- fuck-.” His fingers dig into the blankets beneath him and he moans louder. He can feel his body relax and Cloud presses another finger inside, scissoring him open.

“Doing good.” Cloud pulls his fingers away with a wet pop and finally peels his boxers off until Riku is staring at the cock he’s been hiding. Cloud is heavy and thick, which makes Riku’s eyes widen. Cloud strokes himself a couple of times and picks up a condom to rip open and roll on. “Ready?”

Riku snorts. “Doubt it,” he gasps but then Cloud’s hands are on his hips and he’s being flipped onto his stomach and brought up onto his hands and knees. The manhandling makes him groan and he can feel his hips pressing back, ass up, trying to be appealing.

Being so eager and slutty makes Riku blush but when Cloud starts to push inside after more lube is brought into the equation, he loses all reservations about how he’s acting. The fit is tight but Cloud manages and is quick to fuck him hard and fast. The room quickly fills with the sound of Cloud fucking him and Riku whimpering, arms shaking. The pleasure is so good he's only vaguely aware his wrist is going to hurt tremendously once they’re done.

Cloud is panting and making him sweat, hips pounding so hard Riku’s positive he’s going to be bruised. Pressing his forehead down on the mattress Riku groans loudly as he cums for a second time. Cloud’s rhythm stutters and he hears Cloud grunt and slams forward hard, draping across Riku’s back as he cums, too.

“Shit,” Cloud whispers, remaining inside for a moment longer before finally pulling away and Riku manages to collapse onto his stomach to regain his breathing. He rolls over onto his back after a moment and the pain in his wrist immediately starts up post-orgasm.

In the sweat coated aftermath, Riku can barely feel his toes but Cloud is already up and finding his strewn clothes. He feels as if he’s run a marathon, breathing hard, and he has to place an arm across his eyes for a moment to calm his heart beat. The pleasure slowly fades and he’s left tired and useless from the waist down.

So, this was what it felt like to submit to his desires.

“Leaving?” he asks after a moment, finally moving his arm to watch Cloud dress.

Cloud hums and nods. “Staying means commitment and I don’t know you enough for that.”

He understands even if it suddenly leaves him cold and lonely. “Right,” he replies, eyes turning back up to the ceiling. He’d turned into the one night stand guy – when had that happened? Which switch in his brain flipped on and turned him into Axel?

“You have my number,” Cloud replies. He pauses and slowly reaches out to touch Riku’s face and even bending to kiss him one more time. Humiliation burns through Riku’s stomach when he tries to chase Cloud’s mouth when he pulls back. “I’ll see you.”

“Bye.” Riku remains lying on his back after Cloud leaves the apartment behind. Once he hears the door open and shut, his eyes turn over to his phone to check the time and then remembers his phone is still in the pocket of discarded jeans. Meaning he has to stand up.

Grunting, Riku rolls over and slides half way off of his bed to attempt to reach his pants without standing because he’s not sure his legs will work. There is a brief struggle while he has to balance on his bad wrist to grasp onto the loop of his jeans and drag them across the floor. Pushing himself up on his bad wrist makes a sharp pain shoot up his arm and he cries out, almost falling off of the bed entirely.

He winces, holding his arm close to his chest, as he tries to cradle the aching limb. The wrist throbs in protest and he needs to find a wrist brace but this still requires using legs he can’t feel yet. Exhausted from pain, Riku lies back on the bed and holds his phone in his good hand to unlock and check to see if Sora messaged him.

Of course, he had.

S: Just wanting to check on you no rush

Texting one handed is hard but he manages.

R: I’m fine
S: Hi! It’s late
R: Lol I know. Why are you up?
S: It’s Friday
R: Ok lol
S: Did you have fun? You left p fast
R: I had fun
S: Seeing him again?
R: Maybe

Cloud had said he would see him but Riku isn’t sure how much he wants to see Cloud again. The sex had been good but he’s not just interested in sex being good.

S: Aw : ( only maybe?
R: It’s no big deal he was nice enough
S: Did you B==D~ !!!! 

Riku squints at the emojis Sora used and feels his face heat up as they finally start to make sense. He’s never been one for emojis but Sora uses them frequently enough he’s learned to decode their meanings.

R: I don’t kiss and tell
S: Awww c’monnn you guys were out of there p quick I figured you were going to do the Nasty
R: What are you 5?

The question is meant to come off funny but he realizes too late maybe it wasn’t the best response for Sora since a lot of people see Sora as naïve and immature.

S: I resent that
R: Sorry
R: Yes we slept together
S: Was it good?
R: I don’t really want to talk about the details, ok?
S: Oh.
S: Was it bad?
R: -__-
S: What?
R: You just don’t listen sometimes

Riku sets his phone aside and inspects his left wrist. It’s not swollen and the pain has stopped so he hopes he won’t pay for this tomorrow. He’s supposed to be staying over at Sora’s this weekend but he can already feel the number of questions Sora will ask him about his date and he had no desire to try to field those in person. No, he would just stay at the apartment this weekend.

Despite wanting the conversation to end where he left it, Riku can’t help but check to see if Sora had replied. A small smile fills his face when he notes Sora sent him a picture of one of those sad cat memes and he can’t help but laugh. No matter what, Sora’s always been able to make him laugh.

R: Stop making me laugh
S: I love your laugh so fat chance
R: Sap
S: I should sleep
R: Yeah you should
S: So should you. Are you coming over tomorrow?
R: Uh… No I think I’ll stay here this weekend instead
S: Oh

Riku waits for the dots to show Sora is typing more but there is nothing else and all he can picture is Sora’s disappointment. His heart seizes a little but he just doesn’t have the energy to keep up with Sora’s this weekend. He’s too tired.

R: Another time, ok? I promise.
S: k

One letter answers – he really is upset. Riku sighs and sets his phone down on the nightstand. He’ll deal with it tomorrow. The conversation leaves him feeling bad which only dampens the mood of the evening and he slowly feels himself spiral downward until sleep wraps its grip around his throat and pulls him under.

 


 

“This is your house ?” Xion asks when they pull up to the mansion her parents have called home since she was a child.

“Yeah,” Kairi sighs while the taxi driver offers to help with their bags. They both slide out and Kairi thanks the man as he helps them take the bags to the front porch. Staring up at a door she hasn’t been to in a while makes her anxiety spike because the last time she’d stood in front of this door, Riku’s arm had been around her waist, and they’d spent the entire weekend fake making out and kissing for her family’s benefit.

God, they’d even gotten extremely drunk and inappropriate at the wedding they’d been attending. Okay – she’d gotten really drunk and inappropriate with him. You should really apologize to him for that night.

“Kairi?”

“Sorry.” Kairi blinks and slowly comes back to reality. “We shouldn’t have brought so much stuff.”

“I thought we were here all weekend?”

“In theory.” Kairi reaches forward to ring the bell and soon it opens to reveal whatever new maid her mother’s hired this round of visits. “Hi.”

“Miss. Kairi,” the maid says and Kairi is surprised to see this is the same maid from last time. Well, maybe her mother ran out of people to hire from the islands. “Come in.”

“Thank you.” Kairi leads Xion over the threshold while the maid and some of the help comes forward to grab their bags.

“Should we…?” Xion asks, glancing over their shoulder to try and see if they can help.

“No, it’s fine.”

“Mrs. Yamada is out in the garden,” the maid says and Kairi nods, hand in hand with Xion to walk them through the house toward the back gardens. They can have a tour later.

“It’s okay, Kairi,” Xion says quietly while they step out onto the back veranda where Kairi spots her mother sitting at a glass table having tea and reading a book.

She takes a deep breath and dares to step forward. “Mom.”

“Kairi.” Her mother looks up and her face splits into a happy smile while she stands up to hug her tightly. “Oh, you’re here! I wasn’t expecting you until this evening.”

“Well, we got away,” Kairi replies.

“And who is this?” her mother asks, glancing Xion over. “Where is Riku?”

“Mom… I have something I need to tell you and Papa.” Fear hits so hard she wants to pass out but Xion takes her hand as an anchor. Her mother frowns at the gesture but doesn’t pass any judgment. Yet.

“What is it?”

“Is he home?”

“No, he’s at work. He’ll be home tonight. What is it?”

Great. Coming out twice is exactly what she’d wanted. Kairi forces a smile to her face and pulls Xion closer. “Mom, this is Xion, my partner.”

Her mother blinks and looks confused. “I beg your pardon?”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Xion replies and offers her hand but Mrs. Yamada doesn’t move to return the gesture.

“Where is Riku?” she repeats in confusion.

“Mom, Riku and I aren’t together- we never were together. I’m… gay and Riku was my cover-up.” Kairi says the words carefully – she’d been practicing them all week and she hopes her voice doesn’t shake as much as she feels it does. “I’ve been with Xion for five years now and we’re living together very soon. Still at the apartment but Xion will be moving in with me.”

“I- I don’t understand this.” Mrs. Yamada sits down heavily back in her chair and looks at them as if she’s never seen her own daughter. “You’re into women?”

“Yes.” Kairi nods and squeezes Xion’s hand tightly but Xion squeezes back in support. They’d discussed trying to explain Xion’s pronouns during the cab ride but decided that would be another conversation once her parents accepted the queer part.

            “I don’t mind waiting to explain that another time,” Xion replies softly. “You can let them call me she, it’s okay, I still identify with it. I just prefer the neutral ones.”

            “You’re sure-.”

            “Yes, this is about you, okay? Not me. We can deal with that stuff another time.”

“And you’ve always been this way?” Mrs. Yamada asks slowly.

“Yes. As long as I can remember. I always… wanted to kiss the Disney Princess not the Prince.” Kairi shrugs and blushes; this is so much and all she wants to do is go into the wine cellar, grab a bottle, and drink herself to sleep until the weekend is over. “I know it’s a lot to take in.”

“Yes, it is,” Mrs. Yamada whispers.

“I’m sorry, I wanted to tell you before this but I was so scared…”

“And Riku knew, too? You’ve both been lying to us? To his family, too?”

Kairi glances down but nods. “Yes.”

“Is he a fag, too?”

Mom !” Kairi gasps at the slur and feels a knife slam into her heart. “That’s not really your business.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she mutters. “I should have known, that boy was too pretty to ever date a girl.”

“Mom, stop, this isn’t about Riku-.”

“Kairi, how could you let this boy influence you this way.”

“What- Mom!” Patience wearing thin, Kairi pauses to take a moment to regain control of the conversation. “Mom, Riku didn’t make me this way, I’ve always been gay and I just am asking you to support me. I love Xion… I love Xion so much.”

Mrs. Yamara shakes her head and waves her hand. “Go away, Kairi. Wait until your father is home. I can’t deal with this right now.” There are tears on her mother’s face as if she’d told her she has cancer but Kairi decides to follow her mother’s request and take Xion upstairs to her room where their bags are waiting.

“Are you okay?” Xion asks immediately once they’re in Kairi’s childhood room.

She shakes her head and quickly dabs her face on her coat sleeve. “Fine.”

“Kairi.”

“Should have just called her and not shown up this weekend. This was stupid. I knew they would completely freak out.” Kairi sighs, leaning back against the closed door of the room and wonders if maybe they should go home. Her mother’s reaction was mild by comparison to how her father will probably react.

“I’m here for you, whatever you want to do,” Xion says, taking her hands. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’m sorry she… Acted like that.”

“It’s not your fault. They’re really going to blame Riku for this?”

“God, probably – oh no. Oh, God.” Kairi’s eyes widen as she realizes exactly who her mother would call. “No, no.”

“What?”

“Oh, no.” Kairi turns to pull the door open and run downstairs. She skids across the marble floor in the foyer and runs as fast as she can to where her mother is sitting still, crying, and on the phone. “Mom!”

“One moment- Kairi I’m on the phone.”

“Who are you calling?” Kairi asks slowly as dread fills her stomach. “Please tell me you aren’t talking to Mrs. Nomura.”

Her mother stares at her silently and Kairi can feel the wave of dread crash down and slam her hard into the rock bottom floor. “She has a right to know her son is out there being a faggot and hurting people!”

Mom! I never said that about him! You’re just assuming-.”

“Kairi, I have a headache. Do not talk to me right now. I’m talking.”

‘Oh my God,” Kairi whispers, turning to walk back defeated into the house, fishing her phone from her pocket to call Riku. Pick up, pick up, pick up.

“Hey,” Riku says. “You make it safe?”

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry.”

“For what?”

“I told my parents about me and now my mom is on the phone with your mom because my mom just assumed you were- you know.”

Riku is silent on the other end and Kairi can’t blame him. She feels sick because now she’s the reason his parents are going to be showing up at his apartment demanding answers. This is not how she wanted this to go.

“She’s talking to my mom,” he repeats slowly.

“Yes, telling her that you’re gay- which I did not say, she’s just assuming, and… God, I am sorry.”

“I have to go,” Riku mutters.

“Riku, I’m so sorry-.” The call ends suddenly and Kairi flinches. He may never forgive her again even if she has no control over her insane mother. F-

The walk back up to the room feels like a walk to the gallows and by the time she reaches her room, she’s crying, and panicking. Riku’s been there for her through so much and he’s done more than one person ever should to keep their secrets under lock and key. She’d never expected everything to fall apart so fast.

“Kairi?” Xion rushes over to her and wraps her in their arms. “What’s wrong? What happened? You ran off-.”

“My mom – called – Riku’s – mom -,” she gasps through tears. “Now – they’re – going – to know – about – him-.”

“Oh…” Xion flinches and pulls her tight and close. “That is not your fault. You never said anything about Riku being gay. Your mom jumped to that conclusion on her own. Do not put that on yourself.”

She clings to Xion tightly and feels her legs give out so they end up sitting on the floor while she sobs brokenly. Her father doesn’t even know yet – this is only the start. They place blind anger and pointless rage on Riku when he’s done nothing but stay loyal and a gentleman.

“He doesn’t deserve this,” she says as the tears slowly dry up. “I feel like I screwed everything up.”

“You didn’t tell your mom about him. Your mom jumped to that conclusion on her own despite you denying it to her face. You didn’t out him and since you can still continue to deny it maybe that will be to Riku’s benefit.” Xion slides their fingers through Kairi’s hair softly. “Please, don’t blame yourself for something you didn’t do or cause. You came out to your family which is important and such a big step. I’m proud of you.”

“I feel sick,” she replies quietly. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You have to tell your father and if you want to leave, go back home, we can do that or we can find a hotel around here and enjoy the weekend to ourselves.”

“Sounds nice,” Kairi whispers.

“Your family can still come around… This is all fresh and new- Remember, to them, you were the perfect straight daughter for the past twenty some years and now you come home with your gender non-conforming partner and that’s a huge thing to take in. Let them come around to it.” Xion bends down to kiss her head and Kairi nuzzles closer.

“Thank you for coming with me. I don’t think I could have done it alone.”

“Always.” Xion snorts. “Should have brought Roxas, too. He could have stood in the background, mildly threatening, and yelled about men having vaginas, too.”

Kairi laughs as she pictures Roxas doing just that while she tells her father. “Has he always been so bold and loud about who he is?”

“Roxas took a while to figure out who he was but once he knew where he stood, he’s definitely always been loud and proud about it.” Xion smiles while they reminisce. “He totally supports you, you know. I told him about this weekend and he’s all for telling people how gay you are.”

Kairi snorts. “Too bad he won’t just tell Axel.”

Xion bursts into laughter so hard they almost fall backward. “You noticed, too?”

Oh , yeah. He’s got it so bad for Axel.”

“I know, I know.” Xion wipes their face free of tears and leans back slowly against their mountain of bags. “I think they’re trying that whole friends with benefits thing but I don’t know how long that’ll last. Axel is the worst at being monogamous with just sex.”

“Wait,” Kairi slowly sits up and clears her face off on her sleeve. “So, you’re saying that Axel likes Roxas and Roxas likes Axel but they’re just going to screw?”

Xion nods. “I guess.”

“Do they know they like each other as more than just friends who have sex?”

“No idea.”

“But you know.”

“Yeah.”

Kairi laughs and shakes her head. “They can throw you out of the club for that.”

Xion rolls their eyes. “Hey, I’m tired of their pining, too, but I’m not their parent. If they want to secretly pine for each other while also sleeping together, who am I to stop them? Boys are stupid.”

“Yeah,” Kairi agrees immediately while thinking on Riku refusing to tell Sora his feelings. “Tell me about it. I’ve got a stupid boy at home.”

“Riku?”

“He’s madly in love with Sora and won’t just tell Sora the truth. No, instead, he’s going to hook up with random guys on the internet much like Axel, so here’s hoping that doesn’t become a habit.” Kairi shakes her head, slowly leaning back into the bag pile at Xion’s side, their legs stretched out across the floor together.

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Xion muses. “Interesting. Sora loves him, too.”

“Romantically?” Kairi asks, hoping Xion has more insight on Sora’s feelings.

“Not sure… I’ve never had a good grasp on Sora’s preferences, he’s very close to the vest about that.” Xion slowly takes Kairi’s hand to hold and squeeze. “Is he gay, too?”

“He said to me he’s the token straight friend but I don’t think that’s right,” Kairi says. “I think he doesn’t know how he identifies. I’m not sure he’s ever really put thought into it. I know… one time, when we were in college, Sora came to my room, really crushed, asking me if I thought he was good looking. I was… really confused but he seemed so sad. I remember, he was wearing a Halloween costume because he’d been told the party he’d been invited to was a costume party. It wasn’t.”

“Who did that to him?” Xion demands. “Who would do that? He’s so nice!”

“I know,” Kairi whispers. “I guess he went and was having fun but someone said something to him… and then people kept saying things to him and he left really upset. I don’t know remember what they said but he showed up at my door in tears to ask me what I thought about his looks.”

“What did you say?”

“I told him that I found him very cute - which is true – and he should be confident in how he dresses and acts. I’m not sure if he bought it but he left feeling better than when he showed up.” Kairi tries to remember what had triggered Sora – they’d discussed it but the conversation had been so long ago now. “He kept saying something about Riku, how he’d never be that good looking? I think…”

Xion smirks. “So, he thinks Riku is good looking.”

Kairi snorts. “Yeah, he does but I think at the time it was more of a competition thing to him. I don’t know, ever since he’s always been so quiet about dating. He has that app to make friends or that’s what he says. I’m not sure he finds himself… dateable.”

Why ?” Xion gasps. “He’s so sweet!”

“Yeah, I know. He’s really hard on himself,” Kairi says even though she’s not sure she should be divulging this much information about Sora’s private life. “He puts forth this big smile and positive attitude but he has more issues than you’d realize.”

“We all do,” Xion agrees softly.

“I know but… Sora’s got so much going on. His heart condition, his low self-esteem, depression, ADHD, dyslexia, and PTSD… He’s such a good person. Definitely one of my favorite people… I just wish he would realize how much Riku likes him. I really think they’d be great together.”

“Me, too.”

Kairi smiles and slowly slides closer to pillow her head on Xion’s chest. “He wanted to know if Riku wanted to go to Pride. Maybe we could all go and try to set them up.”

Maybe … Let’s see how Riku feels after this weekend.”

Right. The dreaded accidental outing. “Right,” she whispers. “After this weekend.”

 


 

He knows he told Sora he wasn’t coming over the weekend but after the phone call from Kairi he panics and packs his clothes into a bag before driving over to Sora’s. He doesn’t even realize he’s done it until the door opens and Sora is looking surprised on the other side.

“I thought you weren’t coming over?” Sora asks, eyes narrowing.

“I wasn’t,” he admits. “But I need to hide here right now.”

“Hide? From what?”

“My parents know about me so I know it’s only a matter of time before they show up at my door. Can I please crash here? I know you’re mad at me-.”

“I’m not mad.” Sora steps aside to let him in which is more relief than Sora can ever know.

“You one letter’d me last night,” Riku argues. “You were mad.”

“I was disappointed and hurt but I wasn’t mad.” Sora shuts and locks the door and Riku notes the entire place is a complete mess which isn’t too surprising. Sora tends to live in a chaotic tornado but the mess immediately digs beneath his skin. This is also why he didn’t want to stay over; Riku likes things clean and in their proper place, Sora can’t even remember to pick up wet towels.

“I’m sorry, okay?” Riku says and tries not to look outside in paranoia. “I’m really tired this weekend and I wasn’t sure I could handle twenty-questions from you about my date. I know you, you’re full of question and all you’ll do is just pummel me with them.”

Sora’s face goes from neutral to  pouty. “If you would have asked me to stop, I would have stopped, Riku. Are you trying to say I don’t listen?”

Riku sighs and sets his bags down on a chair so as not to create a further mess. “Last night, I asked you to stop asking for details and you didn’t, so excuse me for thinking you would have continued the pattern in person.”

Sora folds his arms over his chest and looks pouty which Riku hates because it’s cute and annoying all at once. “Just because I have ADHD doesn’t mean I can’t focus and listen to you.”

“I know.”

“I’m sorry if I pushed you too much last night.”

“I forgive you… I’m sorry I implied something bad about you.”

The pout disappears and is replaced with a big Sora smile and he grabs his arm to pull him over to the bean bag chairs because the space isn’t large enough for a proper couch. Riku grunts when he’s pushed into position and then Sora plops down beside him in his own chair.

“I’m glad you came,” Sora says. “I miss hanging out with you.”

“We hang out all the time,” Riku says but then pauses as he tries to remember the last time they properly hung out which didn’t involve some emergency on his end. A frown fills his face as he realizes he can’t remember at all. God, he’s become too busy for his best friend, no wonder he was upset Riku was breaking a promise. “I guess… we haven’t in a while, huh?”

“No,” Sora says softly.

“I’m sorry I was going to break our promise.” Riku reaches over to ruffle Sora’s messy hair. “Your place is a wreck, do you want to clean it?”

“Mmm no, too much work.” Sora shakes his head and stretches back on the bean bag chair, cracking bones and making Riku’s heart palpitate when he catches a glimpse of Sora’s tanned stomach and hip.

“I’d help.”

“I don’t want to clean right now.”

“Okay.”

“So, your parents know about you being gay, huh?”

“Yeah,” he mutters darkly. “I guess Kairi came out and then her mom just… assumed I was, too. Called my mom and I haven’t heard from my parents yet but I’m sure they’ll yank out relatives I haven’t even heard of to shame me into being a straight man.”

“That doesn’t work,” Sora says so sagely it’s like he knows.

“No, it doesn’t,” he agrees quietly. “How do you know?”

Sora shrugs. “You didn’t choose to be gay like I don’t choose to have a bad heart. It’s just a part of you. Nothing can really change it.”

“Medication helps you,” Riku points out.

“Yeah, but my heart is still bad . I’ve had countless of surgeries and devices and I’m still technically sick. Point is… Point is you can’t change this about yourself. So, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I’m sorry your family may reject you over it but you have me and your friends. My family can be your family!” Sora smiles and Riku can feel his heart soaring as high as the clouds. Sora’s family would definitely accept him – they were always so loving just like Sora.

The feeling of his phone ringing in his pocket is the crash back to reality’s orbit which sends his mood plummeting. A quick glance shows his mother’s number and he’s not sure he wants to answer but he also knows she’ll just keep calling if he doesn’t.

“Mom.”

“Riku- I… received a phone call earlier today and I’m… I need you to tell me if what I hear is true,” his mother says, voice on the edge of fear as if she’s about to confirm he has a terminal illness.

A lump forms in the back of his throat because part of him wants to keep up with the lie but it’s so tiring and if he’s going to be seeing men they may as well know the full truth so they can disown him faster. He tries to steel himself and stop his voice from cracking but he feels like a little boy and not an adult; a boy who only wants his parents to love him unconditionally as they promised to do when they chose to have him.

He’s not so certain they’ll love him now.

“I’m gay, Mom,” he whispers, voice shaking. “I’m gay and I hid it from you because I knew you wouldn’t want me as your son anymore.”

And how easy would it be to throw him away – he’s not really their son to begin with. He’s adopted, tainted, and they could easily rip up the papers, disown him, and leave him in the world alone. At least, he doesn’t have to be a black spot on the family tree.

His mother pauses for so long, he has to pull his phone away to make sure she hadn’t hung up but the call is still going. He decides to wait in silence, tears tracking down his face while Sora sits beside him, hand on his injured wrist. He doesn’t move or speak and he’s not even sure he’s breathing.

“You hid this from your family because you thought we wouldn’t want you as our son anymore,” she finally repeats slowly as if she’s trying to parse the words out one by one.

“I’m sorry I’ve shamed you again,” he says as he tries to default his brain into being a respectful but shameful son.

“Riku… Oh, my sweet boy,” she continues and he’s confused by her tone. It’s almost loving – gentle and soft. Sad. Probably mourning her chance at grandchildren. “You are my son and I love you no matter what you do or say or become, I will always love you. I know we have been hard on you but we always loved you.”

More tears and it’s a struggle to keep them out of his voice. “I need to hear that- … I need to hear it more often than once every ten years.”

“I admit your father won’t like this and he’s probably going to take it very hard. He won’t come around as easy.”

“It’s okay, you can disown me. I’m just adopted, right? I’m not really your son.” He says it quickly and sadly because it’s the fear he’s always had growing up; return the adopted son, he’s embarrassing and useless.

“Riku… Don’t talk like this-.”

“It’s fine. I know I’m not the son you wanted or the son you deserve.” The tears are starting to leak into his voice and he can’t hold back the dam much longer. He’s going to break and he’s going to break hard. Suddenly, he’s extremely glad Sora is here. “You can tell dad. I can’t. I have to go.”

“Riku-.”

He ends the call before he can hear anymore and then he drops the phone and a noise slides out of him not quite human. Before he can do anything else, Sora is there, wrapping his arms tightly around his head and yanking him close to hold. He has no choice but to sob into Sora’s shirt so hard his body shakes and his wrist hurts but he can’t stop the flood. He’s held back so many feelings for so long the tears flow out hard.

“Shhhh, it’s okay,” Sora says, holding on so tightly. “I’m right here. I’m here.”

I love you , he wants to scream but can’t even though it hurts to keep hiding things from his best friend. He can’t risk Sora leaving him, too.

“You’re so amazing, Riku,” Sora says softly. “You did such a brave thing and you’re going to be so much happier now that that weight is off of you. You can move on with your life, you can date, you can enjoy yourself. If your family… If they don’t come around to the idea of you being gay, we can cross that bridge together. I love you, you’re my best friend, and I only want you to be happy.”

“I love you, too, Sora,” he whispers. “I’m sorry, I’ve soaked your shirt.”

“That’s okay. You needed to cry.”

Part of him, an older part of him, feels embarrassed but he sheds the old part like dead skin and lets the new skin form. He’s out to his family. He can go out on dates with men. Gain more confidence in who he wants to be – and maybe, finally, he can tell Sora his true feelings and where his heart lays. He’s not embarrassed by crying or needing to be emotional for the first time in years. He’s glad to have a friend like Sora who doesn’t judge him for being so depressed and empty.

“Thank you,” he whispers, nuzzling Sora’s chest. “Thank you for being my friend and for caring about me so openly. I’ve never had someone care about me as much as you do.”

Sora kisses the top of his head and Riku almost melts. “I just want you to know you matter.”

“I appreciate that.”

“Soooo, maybe now is not the best time to ask but I think it would be a great way to really just embrace yourself,” Sora says while they remain cuddling even though Riku is halfway lying between two beanbag chairs.

“What?” he asks, glad his tears are over and he can just rest in Sora’s arms.

“I think you should come to Pride with us! Axel always goes and Roxas, too, and I’m sure Kairi and Xion would go. I think it would be nice for you to see how much love is around you.” Sora strokes his hair which is surprisingly comforting. He likes having his hair played with a lot .

“That sounds nice.” He would gladly go with Sora anywhere.

“Really? It’s in a couple of weeks so it’s coming up fast but it’ll be so much fun.”

He nods in agreement. “Sounds great.”

“You wanna order pizza and watch movies?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.”

“Not yet,” he says quickly before Sora can shift them. He clings to Sora hard, pressing his cheek against his chest and listening to his heart beat. It’s a little frantic and uneven which worries Riku but he knows Sora’s rhythm is off. “I want to stay like this some more.”

“Okay,” Sora whispers, fingers returning to Riku’s hair. “Sounds like a plan.”

Chapter Text

Sun shining and warm breeze off of the ocean marks for a perfect morning for a jog. The island is quiet and lazy in the mornings, too, which makes for a peaceful outing. Ventus has become much faster over the past three weeks of morning jogs and Vanitas could not be more proud. They’ve taken many morning jogs together and Ventus has only improved – probably the extra trips to the gym. Vanitas has never been someone who enjoys physical fitness but he does enjoy spending time with Ventus.

They pause for a breather on the boardwalk overlooking the beach and Ven leans against the railing to look down at the sand. Vanitas pauses, too, eyes on Ven’s body, stroking every inch of Ven’s muscles. He’s toner and fitter than he’s ever been. Vanitas licks his lips and slowly pulls out his phone to take a photo – he knows Ven won’t mind. Just another for the collection.

The sun disappears behind some clouds for a while but Ven doesn’t seem to mind. He drinks some water from a water bottle and adjusts his headphones before starting down the strip at a slower pace. The cooldown period. Vanitas pauses to stretch his calves briefly before following suit. He’ll catch up in a minute. They follow the usual path through town before anything is open and soon Ventus will veer to the left so he can head back to his upscale neighborhood. Vanitas knows the path well and could run it blindfolded.

Part of him wishes Ven would take a different route just to spice things up but as usual, Ven turns left. No. No, Ven doesn’t turn left. Vanitas almost stops when he sees Ven go right but instead he speeds up to close the gap, heart hammering in his chest. Where were they going so early in the morning? He rounds the corner around a building and notes Ven is now standing just outside of a small café with advertisements for breakfast on the chalkboard just left of the door. He’s stretching his calves behind his back while reading.

Vanitas frowns and is even more surprised when Ven enters the café after a quick read of the advertised specials. Well, he’d wanted something new so maybe Ven is giving him exactly what he wants. Crossing over, Vanitas quietly comes into the café and is glad to see it’s fairly busy this morning so finding a table near Ventus without being seen is easy enough. He holds a menu near his face and slowly peeks over, heart jumping in his throat when he sees Ven is sitting with someone.

Not just someone.

Him .

When a family vacates the table near Ven and his guest , Vanitas slides over to sit with his back to Ven so he can listen, hands cold, and jaw set. He hadn’t approved this clandestine breakfast and his jealousy quickly spikes into rage. He clutches his menu and tries to calm his breathing so he can hear their conversation. Ventus cheating is definitely out of left field because Ven’s never been so disloyal but Vanitas wants to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“You look tired,” he says. Terra. The competition. God, Vanitas hates Terra.

“I didn’t sleep well,” Ven replies.

“Another nightmare?”

“Yeah. All night… It’s like… I don’t know. I can’t get this feeling that he’s watching me all the time.”

“He’s not,” Terra says firmly. “If he were, we’d know. He’s not exactly subtle.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.” Ven sighs. “I just don’t like living like this, Terra. What if he…”

“Ven,” Terra says firmly. “It’s okay. You’re safe. I will protect you. Maybe you should stay over at my place for a while… I don’t mind having you. In fact, I’d love to have you over.”

There is a pause and Vanitas holds onto Ven’s every syllable. He hears Ven take a breath but then a waitress pops up to take their order and it takes all of Van’s strength to not scream at her to shut up and go away. She stops at his booth too and he quickly orders coffee and toast so he can make her go away. His ears prick for further conversation.

“That sounds nice, Terra,” Ven says and Vanitas feels his heart shred into pieces. Ven wants to spend time with Terra over him? How could Ventus want to spend time away from them?! Terra’s place is nicer, sure, but they could have fun together!

“Great. I’ll take you back to your place after and we can pack some stuff,” Terra says. “Plus, I’m sure Chirithy would like to see you.”

Ven chuckles. “Yeah, I’d like to see Chiri, too.”

Ugh. Chirithy – Terra’s cat.

Vanitas despises the animal kingdom but he knows how much Ven likes animals so he tries to put up with their existence for Ven. He can still recall the day Ven asked him to adopt a cat and the look of pain on Ven’s face when he immediately shot down the idea. I’m allergic , Van had lied so he could side step the responsibility of becoming a pet owner.

Of course, now Ven is friends with Terra and Terra has a cat. He wonders if the only reason Ven calls Terra friend is due to the cat. Probably. Terra is not exactly appealing otherwise, in Van’s opinion. He’s a boring goodie two shoes with a superiority complex. Vanitas is not a fan.

“Good, so it’s settled. After breakfast, I’ll take you home, we’ll pack, and you can stay with me for as long as you want, okay? I want you to feel safe and to finally get some sleep,” Terra continues.

Vanitas feels his jaw pop and soon there is the smell of food and he’s brought the coffee and toast he ordered which he mostly ignores. There is an occasional sip of coffee and he rips up the toast into tiny pieces onto the plate while Ven and Terra continue their breakfast and conversation.

“How’s Aqua?” Ven asks and Vanitas rolls his eyes. Aqua is only more tolerable than Terra because she doesn’t take anyone’s crap.

“She’s good,” Terra says. “Busy with work but she’s good.”

“She’s always busy with work,” Ven says with a snort. “Does she ever take a break?”

“Only when I make her.”

Ven laughs. “We should have her over this weekend and do something fun. Screw work, screw school, just hang out.”

“Sounds like a good plan, we can go bug her after we get your stuff,” Terra says.

“Okay! I miss her.”

“Yeah, I know. She misses you, too. Talks about you all the time, wants to know how you’re doing with your degree,” Terra replies. “I always tell her you’re doing great.”

Ven snorts. “I don’t know about great .”

“Hey, you’re doing your best, Ven… and I’m proud of you. So is Aqua. You’ve come so far – after that whole ordeal you went through? Christ, I’m honestly impressed you can get out of bed.”

Vanitas almost slams the coffee cup down hard but he manages to keep his cool because he doesn’t want to alert Ven to him listening in. He knows what they’re talking about and they’re both being completely dramatic . The “ordeal” was not an ordeal and certainly not Terra’s business. Terra being involved infuriates him but he can talk to Venty Wenty about that later.

For now, Vanitas sits and listens to their the rest of their conversation – it’s mostly bland and small details about the coming weekend and the rest of the week. Does Ven have a test he needs to study for? Papers to write? All boring details in Vanitas’ opinion. Once Terra and Ven leave, Vanitas stands up to go after them quietly, not bothering to pay for something he hardly touched, and grabbing the cash tip Terra left on their table to pocket.

A sizeable tip, too, a whole twenty. He can use it later to buy Ventus something nice. Terra has a car and they’re piling in which makes Vanitas’ hands clench. Doesn’t everyone walk in this town? Why does Terra drive? Rolling his eyes, Vanitas turns to start up the hill toward Ventus’ apartment complex which is comprised mostly of older people and young rich kids. Ventus is one of those young rich kids and his little ranch apartment faces the fake pond with a fountain.

900 Swallowtail Drive Apartment 201.

The address sounds so picturesque it makes Vanitas sick to his stomach but by the time he arrives, Terra and Ventus are leaving again. He casts the car a dark look from where he’s standing near a car not belonging to him. They pass by and don’t look his way but Vanitas wastes no time jogging over to Ventus’ front door and slowly pulling a key from his pocket to slide into the lock. It unclicks easily and Vanitas inputs the alarm code before it sends a text to Ventus’ phone. Terra’s birthday.

Venty Wenty is so predictable with his passcodes.

The apartment is clean with an open floor plan and some pretty watercolor paintings on the walls. The apartment, in Vanitas’ opinion, is generic and not really Ventus’ taste. He knows Aqua and Terra helped him decorate which explains the generic feel of the décor. Vanitas rolls his eyes and makes his way back to the bedroom. His eyes roam around the room and the same generic feel is here, too.

Ventus needs help redecorating; maybe he’ll lend a hand one day and bring him some new furniture.

Ventus’ laptop is gone and so is his cell phone but his desktop remains so Vanitas sits down at the desk and turns the computer on. It comes to life with a chime and he taps his fingers over the desk while comes up with a password protected screen. Except, Venty Wenty is so predictable, and uses the same password for everything. Terra’s birthday unlocks the computer and Vanitas rolls his eyes. The desktop image is a photo of Ven, Terra, and Aqua all smiling on the beach. Ven in the middle with Terra and Aqua flanking him on either side.

“Ugh,” Vanitas grunts while he pulls up Ventus’ social media to poke through. Facebook is mostly dead and empty but Ven’s Twitter is lively. He notes Ven tweeted his breakfast with Terra and tagged him in the photo.

Ventus is painstakingly boring but Vanitas supposes he’s only boring due to his friends. They’re even worse. Rolling his eyes, he plucks up Ventus’ files to poke around. Not much – mostly papers written for school, which are archived all the way back to his days in high school . Vanitas shakes his head and then his eyes fall on a folder which has no name and isn’t labeled in any particular fashion. Considering Ventus’ anal behavior for structure and organization – or maybe that’s Aqua’s doing – he’s immediately intrigued and opens the file.

The computer makes an annoyed sound as he tries to open it and Vanitas realize it’s also password protected. How interesting . He types in Terra’s birthday but the folder denies him entry. A new password.

“Oh, Venty, what do you have hiding here?” Vanitas purrs while he searches through Ventus’ papers to see if he’s stupid enough to have written it down. His eyes fall onto a yellow sticky note with an innocuous word scribbled down which he would have completely ignored if not for seeming so painfully obvious. Hidden in plain sight. Vanitas types in the proposed password – Chirithy – and is immediately given access to the folder’s contents.

Photos and videos.

Not just any photos and videos, however, these are definitely more of a risqué nature. Vanitas’ eyes widen when he notes a lot them are Ventus performing for the camera. There are several photos and videos of Terra which are definitely porn website worthy. He flips through the files and watches several of the videos, arousal rising, while he almost drools down his chin. He’s never known Ventus to be so nasty .

His eyes widen when he finds the last video and notes it must be Terra holding the camera while Ventus goes down on him. A mixture of jealousy and arousal floods Vanitas’ core while he watches Ventus please someone else. Not just someone else – Terra . He knew Ventus was cheating on him but now he has undeniable proof.

Vanitas wants to stop watching but instead he shoves a hand down his pants and pictures Ventus doing everything on him and not Terra. His hatred for Terra grows and forms a new head while he pants and makes a mess on Ventus’ computer desk but he feels no shame just anger. Breathing heavily, Vanitas slowly stands to clean the mess with his already sweaty shirt while he debates on breaking Ventus’ computer for being so filthy with someone other than him.

His hands clench into fists and for a moment he almost gives into the anger but then pauses. Ventus will not stay with Terra forever and he will eventually come back here and note his computer broken. He’ll grow suspicious and upset. A deep breath steadies his fury and he decides to put his anger toward something else instead.

Sitting back down, Vanitas writes down information about Ventus’ computer on a pad of paper. Any bit of information he can use later he writes down. He’s always been good with technology and hacking into Ventus’ webcam should be simple enough. Now, he can keep an eye on Ventus in real time. Ven won’t be able to breathe without him knowing exactly what he’s doing.

He shifts his eyes around the room and debates on coming back here with a hidden camera feed to place around the apartment. Ventus won’t live in his room and the idea of him being nasty with Terra on any other surface than the bed sends his blood pressure skyrocketing. Fists clenched, Van writes down the final information and slowly stands so he can make a shopping trip.

His eyes fall onto a paper of underwear Ventus left on the ground. Boxer briefs. Black. He slowly picks them up and notes they’re covered in dried fluids which sends a thrill down Vanitas’ spine. Venty Wenty likes to be nasty so often he even has an archive of video. Tucking the underwear down his own shorts and leaves the apartment but he’ll be back. He has a few stops to make first.

 


 

“Hey.”

Ventus doesn’t look up and continues to type – he has to have this paper turned in by the hour or he’ll be late and he doesn’t want to give the professor another excuse to give him lower marks. He’s so close to the graduation finish line and he’ll be able to finally call himself a licensed counselor with a master’s degree. Aqua would push for him to continue onto his Ph.D. – become Dr. Ventus – but he’s going to want a break first.

This Master’s program is burning him out faster than a candle starved of oxygen.

“Ven,” Terra says, more insistent.

“Can’t look, gotta type,” Ven replies as he tries to type faster so he can pay attention to Terra. He’s glad Terra opened his heart and place to him because sleep has been alluding him for weeks. He’s so exhausted which is probably going to make this paper either completely amazing or the worst one he’s written so far but at least he’s almost done.

“Take a break,” Terra suggests while leaning against the doorframe. “Please?”

“Just one more sentence,” he replies and finally he can sit back and relax. “God. Done!”

“Good.” Terra smiles softly. “Send it off and come hang out with me.”

“Okay.” Ventus saves the file – just in case – and sends it off to his professor before slowly standing to stretch and relax. Finally, he can take a moment to breathe and curl up with Terra on the couch.

Terra holds out his hand and Ventus eagerly stands to take it and they head off to the living room to curl up together on the couch just as he envisioned. Ventus notes the coffee table holds a giant pizza topped with pineapple and ham which makes him salivate immediately. If Roxas were here, he’d beat him up on principle but Roxas isn’t here so Ven eagerly reaches for a slice.

Terra ,” he whines. “You didn’t have to do this.”

“You’ve been working so hard, Ven, I thought you deserved a treat. Sit, sit.” Terra guides him to the couch and picks up a few slices to put on a paper plate and pass them over.

“What did you get?”

Terra picks up a Styrofoam box. “Salad.”

Ventus snorts. “You loser.”

A soft smile fills Terra’s face and they sit together with Ventus eagerly leaning and nestling into Terra’s side to cuddle while stuffing his face full of pizza. The perfect evening. It would only be better if Aqua showed up to hang out, too.

“Did you call Aqua?” he asks.

“Yes,” Terra replies. “She’s on her way.”

“She is?!”

“Yep.”

“Yay!” Ven smiles and feels so comforted in Terra’s arms. Nothing bad can happen to him here. Vanitas’ shadow cannot haunt him in Terra’s sanctuary. There is no darkness or evil afoot in this place. Just happiness.

“I told her to bring dessert,” Terra says while munching on his salad. “So, hopefully, she remembers to grab something.”

“If she doesn’t, that’s okay,” Ven replies. “I just want her to be here with us. I miss her so much.”

“I know.” Terra sets his salad aside in favor of nuzzling the top of his head and kissing gently. “She misses both of us, trust me.”

Ven slides his hand over to hold Terra’s and they interlink their fingers in a soft gesture. Warmth fills Ven’s heart while he rests his head on Terra’s chest, listening to his heartbeat thump slow and strong. This time two years ago, Ven never would have guessed he would be happy with Terra and feeling safer than he’s ever felt in his life.

Two years ago, he would have been huddled at Vanitas’ apartment, begging Van to let him go out with his friends or lying still while Van had his way with him. Intimacy had been extremely difficult for Ven at first, even when he knew he could trust Terra completely but they’d struggled down a long road while Ven learned to trust again. Terra had been so patient and sweet.

Sometimes, Ven isn’t sure what he did to deserve someone as respectful as Terra.

“Terra,” he whispers.

“Yeah?”

“I love you.” Not the first time he’s said the words but the first time they’ve felt so casual and right. He loves Terra completely and would never want to lose Terra to anything or anyone else.

“I love you, too, Ven,” Terra replies immediately.

Terra had sat with him through countless therapy appointments, comforted him after bad nightmares, calmed him from panic attacks and ledges in public places like the grocery store, and helped him learn to drive. Now, he can go jogging in the mornings without being afraid someone is following  him at all corners and he feels safe in his own life.

After finally leaving Vanitas behind, Ven had been so afraid Van would come after him. He’d been surprised when there were only vague threats sent by Vanitas in the first few weeks and then he seemed to drop off of the face of the planet entirely. He supposes the restraining order probably helped but he hasn’t heard from Vanitas in two years. Part of him is glad – he doesn’t want to see Vanitas ever again or think about the years he spent with Vanitas because he felt he had to but part of him, a small and sick part, misses Vanitas deeply.

He’d started studying abnormal psychology because of Vanitas. He wants to help Van and help him live in society comfortably. Of course, Ven is not under any false hopes Vanitas will ever want help. He was court ordered to attend therapy but Ven has no idea if it did anything for him. Of course, he hasn’t heard from Van in two years so maybe it did do something in the end. God, I hope so .

“You okay?” Terra asks and Ven realizes he’s been kind of rigid as he disappears into his dark thoughts.

“Yeah, sorry,” he says quickly.

“You don’t need to apologize, it’s okay.” Terra kisses his temple. “Just wanted to check on you. Where was your head just now?”

Ven sighs and snuggles Terra harder. “With Vanitas,” he whispers in shame. He doesn’t like to admit how often Vanitas flies into his thoughts on a daily basis. If Terra knew how often, he would maybe find him too broken to deal with and cut him loose. No , he thinks firmly. That’s Vanitas talking.

“Vanitas,” Terra whispers. “Why?”

“I just… I keep thinking about him lately,” Ven says slowly. “I haven’t heard from him in two years, I don’t even know if he’s alive. It’s weird, right? I mean he was so obsessed with me and now nothing?”

“You have a restraining order against him,” Terra reminds him slowly. “He was ordered by the court and forced into therapy. Maybe he got better. Hell, maybe he’s still there.”

He hadn’t thought of the possibility Vanitas is still locked away in court-ordered therapy. Maybe he’s still in a mental ward somewhere locked away and wearing a straight jacket. Maybe he’s dead. Maybe he finally killed himself as he would always casually discuss around Ventus as if they were talking about the weather. He can still recall Vanitas sitting next to him, talking about how he considered slitting his own throat with a kitchen knife.

Ventus shudders.

“Yeah,” He whispers. “Maybe.”

“He can’t hurt you anymore,” Terra insists firmly. “He’s not out there watching you. He’s not following you and he’s not going to harm you again.”

“Yeah, you’re right. I’m sorry.” Ven pulls Terra’s arm around him as a way to feel safe and protected. Terra doesn’t pull away or make a big deal about the physical contact; he understands Ven’s need to be touched so he can stay grounded.

The doorbell rings and the sound sends an alarm system off in Ven’s mind. He jumps so badly, Terra has to squeeze him to keep from falling off of the couch. Terra soothes him softly, remind him it’s okay and it’s just Aqua with the dessert. Ven lets Terra stand and he sits on the couch, frozen in place, feeling his body shake with fear. His mind fills with what if’s and the idea of it not being Aqua. Could be Vanitas – finally coming to finish the job.

“Terra,” Aqua says and slowly Ven can feel his muscles unclench. “I ran to the store and grabbed ice cream and pie. I thought you guys would like that.”

“Perfect. Come in.” Terra steps aside and Aqua comes in, still dressed in a skirt and suit jacket from work, and she’s eager to kick off the high heeled shoes she’s probably been wearing since way early this morning. “ Ah , relief. I have the weekend to myself for once and I can’t wait to relax. Ven!”

Ventus smiles and rushes up to her for a hug. “Aqua,” he gasps, squeezing her tight.

“It’s so good to see you.” Aqua kisses his forehead while Terra takes the dessert so she can hug him back. “How’s school? How are you?”

“School’s hard,” Ven replies, not letting go from the hug. He wants to stay this way forever – safe with his friends. “But I’m okay. How are you?”

“Good.” Aqua chuckles and finagles the door shut. “But I’m going to need you to let go so I can walk.”

“Sorry.” He steps back immediately, pulling away faster than shrapnel flying from an accident. She reaches out to takes his hands so he doesn’t go too far. “Sorry.”

“It’s alright, Ven.” Aqua kisses his cheek and ruffles his hair. “I’m not angry. I missed you and your hugs.”

He knows they’re both used to him apologizing profusely because it’s all he ever learned to do around Vanitas but he’s trying to do it less. They’re teaching him he doesn’t need to apologize for everything, especially things clearly not within his realm of control. He’s also learning he doesn’t need permission from Terra to do anything in his life. Vanitas had been so controlling, Ven remembers calling or texting him about everything.

Can he go to a friend’s?

Can he stay at the library late for studying?

Can he use the computer?

Can he go to the grocery store?

Every moment of his day had to be accounted for or Vanitas would be absolutely livid. He’d slowly been pulled away from his friends until he had none at all. His only source of social interaction had been Vanitas. When Aqua and Terra both helped him out of the situation, they’d been so welcoming despite the nasty history as he’d learned to hate them through Vanitas’ eyes.

He’s thankful his friends still accepted and loved him.

Tears form in his eyes as he watches Aqua scoop ice cream into a bowl and Terra cut off a large piece of pie to heat up briefly in the microwave. They’re both happy to be around one another and Ven feels peace. His friends love him. They really care for him and want him safe and happy.

“Here you go, Ven,” Aqua says while handing him the bowl with warm pie and ice cream. “Eat up.”

He accepts the bowl and goes to sit on the touch where Chiri has decided to join him, pawing into his lap to dip her nose into the ice cream. Ven pets her ears and soon he’s surrounded on both sides by Terra and Aqua. Terra wraps his arm around his shoulders and Aqua holds his hand once they’re done with dessert to watch a movie.

There is love and safety here.

Vanitas cannot harm him again.

 


 

Dear Xion,

Backspace.

Hello Xion,

Backspace.

Good Afternoon,

Backspace.

Saïx sighs and runs a hand over his face as he tries to compose an email which doesn’t come off too friendly but also not so cold and informal he seems like his old self. A self which had been a bad person – a self he’s not proud of but a self he’s trying to learn from so he can become better. Not that anyone believes him, least of all Axel.

Good Afternoon Xion,

I am writing this correspondence so I may inquire when I may come into your office to see the designs you have been working on. I understand you may not be done but I would like to see the progress myself. I hope that is not too forward – if it is, I apologize, I am not used to commissioning pieces like this.

I would again like to apologize for upsetting you the other day, it was not my intentions. I appreciate your time.

Thank you,

Isa

Backspace.

Saïx

Returning to his roots as Isa has not been easy; he still can’t refer to himself as Isa either so he’s not sure how he can expect anyone else to do the same. Besides, Xion never knew him as Isa, only Axel had that pleasure. No, Xion knows him as Saïx the tormenter. Her abuser , he reminds himself coldly. The voice in his head sounds so much like Xemnas it makes his skin crawl.

When will he ever have his own voice?

Never , Xemnas whispers in his ear. You cannot escape me. You are my dog and I will always own you.

Saïx shudders and shoves his tablet away after composing the email to send. An immediate pop up shows him Xion has an out of office message.

I will be out of the office until Monday with limited access of my email. If this is an emergency, please feel free to contact Tifa with inquiries. Thanks!

His email is not an emergency so he is content to wait on her reply, however, this leaves him with a large gap in his day. He hadn’t realized Xion would be out of the office and usually, when he sends her inquiries she wants to hurry and move him out of the way so he’d planned on having this to do with his time. Now, he has nothing to do and no one to call or message. The downside of having lived with a man who used to strangle his every desire was the result in him having no idea how to behave normally around anyone.

Axel has quit talking to him and without Axel’s companionship, he doesn’t have anyone else to lean on or talk to besides his therapist. Dr. Wayfinder has been one of his only pieces of solace he has in dark times but she also reminded him during their session the other day she’s going to be busy this week and booked him a week out. He’s not even sure he can rightfully contact her, especially when it’s not an emergency. He’s just lonely.

Saïx drums his fingers on the couch and looks around his apartment. He’s decorated it with little to no personality but he doesn’t feel he really has one of those yet either. The walls are painted dark grey and the carpet is cream. His furniture is all matching and new. The only thing Saïx has anymore is money and time. The city outside is probably bustling with life but he’s far above the world in a glass case and he’s not sure how to re-enter society now as a free man.

A broken man but a free man.

His fingers reach up to trace the scars over his forehead, flinching as the reminder comes to the forefront of his mind. He can still recall begging for Xemnas’ blade to cut a little deeper so he could please the man he so desperately wanted to please. Xemnas had smiled so cruelly and dug his knife so deeply into his flesh he’d thought his brains would end up on the floor. The scar aches sometimes but he’s never complained.

He’s never even told their origin story to anyone. Not to Dr. Wayfinder, not to Axel, or anyone else on the street. In fact, Axel knows hardly anything about Xemnas at all; he only knows Saïx became his friend and changed as a person. He knows nothing of Xemnas’ cruelty or abuse. If he gives the monster a name, tells Axel the truth, then it will probably seem as if he’s searching for pity and he doesn’t want to be pitied. He also doesn’t want anyone he’s abused to think he’s trying to win them over by appearing sympathetic.

He doesn’t deserve their sympathy and his experiences are not as valid as theirs. He’s not even sure he sees Xemnas’ actions as abuse – he’d wanted it, he’d asked for it, he’d begged for it. He knew what he was getting into the moment he signed himself over to Xemnas’ crowd. At least, this is what he tells himself because it’s much easier to believe than any alternative. He deserves this pain now and he doesn’t deserve their forgiveness.

His eyes still flit over to his phone and he pulls up Axel’s name. He’d been asked not to contact Axel but his loneliness eats him alive until he finally types out a quick message to send.

SX: Axel, I know you asked me not to contact you but I was just hoping maybe to talk to you today. I’ve been feeling kind of down.

Backspace.

SX: Axel, I know you asked me to leave you alone but maybe we could meet up for coffee? Talk this out?

Backspace.

SX: Axel, I have what you want.

Send.

Okay, he’s a liar – a liar and a manipulator just as Roxas says – but he’s also desperate to see his friend. He doesn’t have the Adderall and he’s not even sure he could find any if Axel decides to take the bait.

Ax: You do? Don’t lie to me Sai

He debates on quickly taking it back, admitting he’s a creature of habit and desperation but if he admits to it now, Axel may not want to meet up.

SX: We can meet up and I’ll give you what you want. Free of charge. Just want a conversation.

There is a pause and at first Saïx worries Axel won’t take the bait but then he starts to type.

Ax: Ok. Meet me @ our usual spot then
SX: What time?
Ax: 45 mins
SX: I’ll be there
Ax: Ok

Saïx shudders and decides to hunt through his apartment for any sign he’s not about to lie straight through his teeth to Axel’s face. He tears through the bathroom, the usual hiding spots, and his own stash but there is nothing so he decides to show up empty-handed. Their usual spot is an old restaurant they used to hang in before Saïx fell into Xemnas’ grasp. It’s in the older side of the island and a little sketch – they’ve had drug deals broken up here on the premises by the cops – but they liked the food and felt safe doing subtle deals here.

Saïx shows up early and places them in their usual booth, orders water, and waits for Axel to arrive. Surprisingly, he shows up on time but he supposes that only shows Axel’s own desperation. Saïx can see it in his face as he crosses the room; pale and haggard, he really does look as if he’s about to jump out of his skin for a fix.

“You got them?” Axel asks as soon as he sits down.

“Order something,” Saïx replies and Axel gives him a nasty look. “Do you want them to be suspicious, Axel? Order something.”

Axel rolls his eyes but when the waitress comes over to them they both order lunch and then Axel is left to tap his fingers on the table impatiently. Saïx knows he is running out of time. The food comes quick and hot which Axel doesn’t even touch. He’s lost weight since the last time Saïx saw him.

“You look sick,” Saïx tells him casually.

“Thanks, I feel swell,” Axel snaps. “Saïx, where is it? Don’t tell me you dragged me all the way out here for nothing.”

Saïx feels his throat go dry and he slowly stabs a French fry with a fork. “Axel…”

“Well? Saïx-.”

“I don’t have any,” he admits finally. “I said I did to-.”

“To get me to come out here?” Axel demands, anger rising in his voice. “You lied to me? Tricked me? God, you are such a fucking dick. I hate you, Saïx. You’re trash. Garbage. I never should have trusted you. Go fuck yourself.” Axel grabs his soda and throws it cruelly in Saïx’s face before walking off, completely livid and enraged.

The few people in the diner turn to stare at him but Saïx grabs a napkin to start blotting his face as calmly as he can while his feelings and heart shatter all over the place. He leaves cash on the table, after trying to sop up the mess and slowly walks up to his car. He’s surprised to see Axel standing there, looking like he’s ready to go another few rounds.

“Axel?”

Axel grabs him and shoves him hard against the car and Saïx is shocked when Axel kisses him, complete with tongue, and starts to paw at his clothes right on the sidewalk. Axel’s mouth is hot and welcoming and Saïx can feel his entire body give into the pleasure. His hands slide up Axel’s back and into his hair. Axel whispers an apology against his throat.

Saïx blinks and the vision disappears. Axel isn’t here and he’s standing by his car alone. His hand braced on the hood of the vehicle, he’s staring at his reflection in the glass of the window. Tears burn his eyes but Saïx throws himself into the car to grip the steering wheel tightly so he can chase the images away.

He doesn’t want you and he never will. You are not worth his time. Let him go.

He’s tired but he does manage to send a message to Dr. Wayfinder. He hopes it will reach her wherever she is; he knows her phone number is really only for emergencies but his mind is derailing faster than he thought it ever would.

SX: I am sorry to message you like this, I know you are busy and I am sure my problems are not as big as I make them out to be, but I was hoping to… talk. A phone session would be preferable. I am available any time. Please.

Backspace.

SX: I apologize for messaging you when you told me you were busy. I was just hoping to have a phone session sometime soon. Preferably today if you have time. – Saïx

Send.

Now comes the difficulty of waiting. He may wait all day in anticipation while his anxiety eats away the remaining bit of stomach lining or he may only wait a few minutes. He is not certain how attentive she is to her cell phone. Maybe he should have emailed her…

AQ: Hi Saïx! I would be happy to do a phone session with you today. I won’t be available until this evening. Is it something you need to speak to right now or are you able to hold off? I can call you around 8 tonight or is that too late for you?

8:00 P.M.

He checks the clock and notes it’s hardly afternoon. He’s in for a long wait but he’ll just have to make it work. He’s not exactly in a position to argue.

SX: I can wait. Thank you for your time.
AQ: You’re very welcome. I will call you tonight at 8:00PM I have it in my calendar as a reminder. This number is where I should call?
SX: Yes. Thank you.
AQ: Wonderful. I’ll talk to you soon.

Saïx runs a hand over his face to try and hold his emotions together. Hallucinating Axel is a new one but he is on a new anxiety medication – he’s not sure of the side effects but he’ll have plenty of time to read up on them before tonight. His eyes fly back to his email just in case Xion emailed him back while he was panicking.

Nothing.

Swallowing back a lump forming in his throat, Saïx steels himself to go home and sit in a quiet apartment. If nothing else, he has plenty of time to work himself up into a respectable panic attack.

You will always be alone , Xemnas mutters in his ear. Forever a ghost… a nobody… He won't miss you at all.

No, Axel wouldn’t miss him. No one would. The thought trails all the way back home and nests in his chest like a rotting snake wrapped around his heart.

 


 

Two cameras in the living room, one in the hallway, one in the kitchen, two in the bathroom, and three in the bedroom would provide Vanitas with 24/7 access to Ventus and he’s extremely pleased once everything is set up. The cameras are so small, Ventus will never know he’s under surveillance. Vanitas sits on his own iPad to check over the feeds and finds them all working. He would hack into Ventus’ webcam later, for now, he wants to download all of Venty Wenty’s private files.

The folder is large and full of videos and photos so he knows it may take a while but he sets it up to download to a flash drive so he can have for future reference. If Ventus wants to play this cheating game, Vanitas is happy to pull out blackmail. While he waits, Vanitas trails around Ventus’ bedroom and slowly trails his fingers over the dresser, dragging through the dust over trinkets and dancing over Ventus’ hairbrush. He eagerly plucks some blonde hairs away to wrap around his finger as a keepsake.

The top drawer slides open with ease and he finds Ventus’ boring collection of boxer briefs. Nothing exciting here – no fun patterns or fabrics. He rolls his eyes but then a flash of color makes him freeze and he slowly digs under the underwear to see something he never expected. At the bottom, hidden away, is a pair of neon pink panties. They’re lace and soft with a little black bow on the front. Vanitas squeals and holds the panties in his hands eagerly, almost tearing them in his excitement.

So, maybe Venty Wenty has an exciting side after all. Maybe he’s not so immune to being vanilla and dull. He digs for any more pairs but only finds the one which is as thrilling as it is disappointing. He’s tempted to take them but Ventus may actually notice these gone so instead he brings them eagerly to his nose to breathe in Ventus’ scent. A musk he hasn’t smelled in too long.

The sudden loneliness he usually locks away in his heart suddenly floods him and tears sting his eyes which only angers him further. Slamming the drawer shut, Vanitas storms over to Ventus’ computer and notes the folder is finished downloading so he can finally leave this place. He yanks the USB free, shuts down Ventus’ computer, and leaves in a huff. The anger and hatred follows him all the way back to the place he’s called home since he turned eighteen.

The house he lives in isn’t much – it’s barely even a house but he’s made it his own. It used to belong to Ventus, too, but Ventus left because he was weak . Vanitas steps into the house and tries to ignore the mess he’s left all over. He never has energy or desire to clean so he lives as he lives and since he has no friends there is no one to see it but him. He turns his eyes over to a darkened doorway and quickly looks away from the first-floor bedroom he refuses to go into anymore. He’s hung curtains over the door to keep it out of sight but even the curtains still draw his eyes when he’s upset.

“You did this to me,” he snarls at the black curtains and he almost rips them down but he knows what lies beyond the door and he refuses to open the lock ever again. “ You did this to me!”

He screams, anguished and aching, before going to the kitchen to find the nearest knife. The blade cuts through flesh like ribbon and blood runs down his arms until he’s dripping on the dirty kitchen floor but peace floods over his entire body as the endorphins from the pain carry him away. The knife slips from his grasp and he slowly sits down on the kitchen floor, leaning back against the counters, to ride the endorphin high.

“You did this to me,” he whispers, his eyes flicking to the doorway. He can still see the old man standing with his hands behind his back in his signature stooped posture. A flashing grin over his face and Vanitas slowly shuts his eyes.

You liked it, boy, Xehanort whispers. You loved every moment together.

“You did this to me. You did this to me… You did this… to me…”

Pain carries him down into sleep.

 


 

“Good morning, Ven,” Aqua greets so softly Ven can feel heart soar as she softly kisses his forehead. Terra is awake too and he’s holding a tray with breakfast food. He yawns and slowly stretches, wondering why they’re both here on the morning routine.

“Morning, Aqua,” Ven replies softly, stretching his legs until his hips pop. “Terra.”

“Hey.” Terra sets the tray over his lap and kisses his temple on the way. “Sleep well?”

“Yeah, I did actually.” No nightmares and he’d been so comfy and warm in Terra’s arms all night.

“Mind if we join?” Aqua asks and notes she has a tray in her arms too, larger, and filled with two plates.

“Oh, yeah. Sure.” He’s careful to make room for them both and Terra sits at his side while Aqua sits opposite both of them. He’s glad she’s still here and not running off to work again. “You don’t have to go to work?”

“I have a phone session to do later,” Aqua replies. “But no work today. I wasn’t even going to do a phone session but I have this patient and… he’s kind of needy? I mean, without going into details obviously but I know when he asks for a session he really does need it.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” Ventus points out quietly while he starts in on his French toast. If he didn’t have a therapist, always willing to help him no matter what, he’s not sure if he would have made it out alive the first year in a post-Vanitas world. He’d really relied on his therapist like a crutch until he started to feel less lost.

“No, of course not,” Aqua says quickly. “Sorry, needy wasn’t a very nice term. I just mean he has a lot of things to work on.”

“I know what that’s like,” Ventus replies, swirling his syrup slowly.

Terra slides his hand to the back of Ventus’ head and softly pets his bedhead. “Hey, that’s okay. We all need a helping hand sometimes.”

“That’s right,” Aqua agrees. “I have a therapist.”

“You do?” Ven asks, completely surprised. “Who?”

“Eraqus sees me whenever I have time,” she replies with a shrug. “It’s not as often as I’d like but I can only do so much, you know? This French toast is so good, Terra.”

“Yeah,” Ven agrees softly while shoving another piece into his mouth.

“I use real butter, not that fake crap,” Terra says. “Bet they’re not as good as Roxas’ though, right? Roxas is king in the kitchen.”

A true statement. While Roxas has a hard exterior and shuns a lot of what their parents taught them growing up, he’s still completely amazing in the kitchen when he has the right ingredients. Sometimes, Ventus wonders where Rox would be if he’d simply accepted his parents’ help with college and his life instead of turning his back on them as soon as he turned eighteen.

Of course, Roxas has always walked to the beat of his own drum and Ventus is happy he’s found a job and career he enjoys. Thinking on Roxas reminds him he hasn’t spoken to Roxas in a while and should probably call to check on him. Make sure his place is still in one piece and make sure he’s not so behind in bills he can’t see the end of the tunnel.

“Have you talked to him lately?” Terra asks as if he can read Ventus’ mind.

“Roxas? No… I should call probably,” Ventus mutters and wonders if he’s a bad twin or if maybe he’s really being a good twin. Roxas has never really held a lot of love for him growing up. Bitter Ventus was born in the right body and he the wrong one.

“Probably,” Aqua agrees softly. “I’m sure he’d like to hear from you, Ven.”

Ventus shrugs. “Maybe. We weren’t exactly close growing up… I mean… at least not since puberty and stuff.”

Roxas had started questioning his gender early but hadn’t really embraced it until they’d both hit puberty and Ven’s body changed in ways Roxas’ never would without help. His voice dropped, he started growing hair on his face even though he’s really never been much of a facial hair guy, but his legs and chest did also sprout more hair than he’d expected. Roxas envied and hated him while Ventus kept his feelings to himself.

“I think you’re too hard on yourself, Ven,” Terra says. “Roxas came to your birthday party last year, remember? Said he was glad to see you away from Van. He doesn’t hate you.”

“I know,” Ventus whispers. “And I know he’s got his hormones now and he’s in a better place. I just… I get worried I’ll say something and mess it all up.”

“That’s normal.” Aqua reaches over to stroke his leg which is the closest part of him she can reach. “I think you should see if he wants to come hang out with us today. Terra and I were thinking of going to the beach. I know Roxas likes to surf.”

Roxas does like to surf and he hasn’t been surfing with Rox in a long time. He wonders if Roxas would come to the beach with them or if he’d blow them off but he supposes the only way to find out is to text.

V: Hey, did you want to come to the beach with us today? Or are you working?
R: With us?
V: Oh um me Terra and Aqua : )
R: Oh
R: Idk maybe
V: You don’t have to we could do something else. We could go to the zoo!
R: Idk Ventus I said maybe ok?
V: Why are you mad?
R: I’m not mad I just don’t really feel like being your 4 th wheel
V: What? No! You wouldn’t be
R: Yeah I would
V: Roxas they told me to ask you to come! They want you to come!
R: So you didn’t want me to come??
V: What? No – ugh you’re being impossible rn stop twisting my words you’re not being fair

Roxas types and then stops which is frustrating but definitely a Roxas thing to do. Ven sighs and sets his phone aside, suddenly no longer hungry. Having his brother around more often would be nice but he supposes it’s too much to ask for. He can’t have everything he wants.

“Does he want to come?” Aqua asks.

“No,” Ven says, voice bitter. “Doesn’t to be our “fourth wheel”. I told him you guys said to invite me and now he’s ignoring me. I don’t know why I bother even inviting him anywhere.”

“You’re trying to do a nice thing, Ven,” Terra replies, rubbing his back. “Let Roxas come to you.”

“Yeah, sure.” Ventus snorts. “If I did that, I’d never hear from Roxas. Ever.” His phone vibrates and Ven reluctantly turns it over to check the new message.

R: I’m sorry. I just feel like ever since you started hanging out with them that when we do hang out you only care about them. I just feel left out.
V: I’m sorry : ( I don’t mean to leave you out Rox
R: I’m glad they’re your friends bc I know they helped you a lot after Van and I know I sucked during that stage of your life
V: You did NOT
R: Yeah I did. I saw the signs and I didn’t help you. I was too wrapped up in being angry with you.
V: Rox, Van could have hurt you too. I am not mad at you. That wasn’t ON you to fix.
R: I want you to know that watching you with him hurt me a lot and I pulled away bc I was frustrated with you bc I thought you could just walk away anytime and didn’t. I know better now.
V: It’s ok
R: You swear I won’t be your 4 th wheel?
V: I swear on Chiri
R: Wow serious
V: Lol well I am being serious. So, you pick: zoo or beach?
R: My board is busted so I guess zoo
V: Wait when did that happen?
R: Axel
V: Axel broke your board????
R: Yeah it’s a long, painful story. I”ll tell you in person
V: Ok. Let me ask them about times and we can come pick you up!
R: K

“You’re smiling,” Aqua says. “Does Roxas want to come?”

“Can we go to the zoo instead?” Van asks slowly. “Roxas’ board is busted so he can’t surf and I know he only likes the beach for the waves.”

Terra chuckles. “Sure, the zoo sounds great. They open in an hour, we’ll pick Roxas up then.”

V: Terra says we’ll pick u up in an hour is that ok?
R: Sure
V: Ok! I’ll see you in an hour I’m excited to see you
R: Loser
V: :P

Maybe he is a loser and maybe it’s cheesy to want to see Roxas so badly but he’s eager to scarf down the rest of his French toast, take a shower, and dress so he can make time go by faster. He can’t even remember the last time he saw Roxas in person and not just in the digital space of social media. By the time they reach Roxas’ house, Ven feels as if he’s about to fly out of his skin but he’s quick to launch out of Aqua’s SUV and run up to the front door and ring the doorbell five times in a row.

“I’m coming! Jesus Christ.”

Axel.

The door wrenches open and Axel stands on the other side looking annoyed and tired. Probably woken from a nap. “Roxas…… No. Roxas is inside- VENTUS!”

Ven smiles and opens his arms for a hug just in case Axel wants one. “Hi, Axel.”

“You here for Roxas?” Axel asks. “Roxas! Dude! Your brother is here! You look shorter.”

Hey ,” Ven growls, arms dropping to place his hands on his hips. “I am not shorter. Maybe you’re taller.”

“Maybe… You can come in.” Axel steps aside and wanders back to the living room while Ven stands in the front part of the apartment to wait on Roxas. The front room is messy but it’s an eclectic kind of messy versus completely disorganized. Definitely Roxas’ kind of messy and not Axel’s. If Axel had control of everything it would be a complete disaster zone with no floor space.

Roxas finally appears, dressed in all black but at least he has on jeans with more holes than denim and a cut off tank top so he won’t have a heat stroke. He pauses by a mirror to check his hair and waves at Ven while he sits to yank on black sneakers.

“Are you going to a funeral?” Ven teases but he supposes he looks no better. Terra always calls him a walking fashion disaster but he very much enjoys his orange shorts and a white t-shirt. The visor on his head will definitely keep him from being sunburnt and if Terra still finds him attractive then who is he to question himself?

“Haha,” Roxas replies and jumps up.

“Did you put on sunscreen?” Ven asks.

“Yes, Mom, I did. Axel helped before you freak out .” Roxas pauses by the living room to go say something to Axel but they’re out of earshot. Axel makes some response but then they’re out the door and Roxas’ face is red.

“You okay?” Ven asks, suspicious of Roxas’ blush.

“Fine.”

“Roxas.”

Roxas sighs. “Axel and I are kind of… sort of… together but not really together. He got his results from this STD test he took and he’s clean so I told him tonight, if he wants, we can screw.”

Ventus blinks and freezes on the sidewalk as he processes but Roxas is already hopping into the SUV. “You what ?!”

“You heard what I said, loser!” Roxas calls over his shoulder.

Ven blinks and stammers a few times but he has to follow without much answer or explanation. The ride to the zoo is quiet with mostly Aqua and Terra talking up front and listening to music while Ven has a crisis in he backseat over Roxas and Axel casually having sex. He isn’t sure if it’s a good idea or if it’s even any of his business but there is a part of him wanting to ask questions and figure out more about Roxas’ life. His brother has always been such a mystery and now there’s a treasure chest full of curiosities.

The zoo is packed and Ven stands behind all three of them while guilt starts to eat at his stomach and make breakfast not sit well. He wants to spend the afternoon with Roxas so they can talk and Roxas will feel comfortable enough to open up. In theory, at least, he will be comfortable enough to open up. They haven’t had a heart to heart since Roxas found out about Vanitas being garbage.

“Terra,” he says softly but the noise is too loud and Terra doesn’t hear them. They’re next in line for tickets so Ventus waits while Terra buys them all tickets. They all rush the front gate when they’re free of the ticket line and Ven grabs Terra’s hand.

“Hey- yeah?” Terra asks and his smile is brighter than the sun. Ven can feel his heart collide with how beautiful Terra is and it breaks.

“Um, this is gonna sound selfish and I’m sorry ,” he says quickly.

“It’s okay, Ven, what’s wrong?”

“I was wanting to maybe… spend the day with Roxas? It’s not that I don’t want to spend the day with you and Aqua! I’ve been wanting to for a while now but Roxas and I never have time together and-.”

“Of course,” Terra says immediately and Ven has to bite his tongue so he doesn’t break down into tears. Terra is so understanding, he doesn’t know what he did to deserve someone so nice.

“Really?”

“Yes, of course! Aqua and I can hang out, it’s not a problem. You guys have fun… but hey, let’s meet up for lunch at least? Just text me when you guys get hungry and we’ll eat lunch together.” Terra bends down to kiss him softly on the lips and Ven feels his heart flutter even faster at the affection.

“Okay,” he whispers, face burning when Terra pulls back. “I promise.”

“Great. You guys have fun, okay? I”ll let Aqua know.”

Ven nods and dashes over to see Roxas who is currently looking over the zoo map. He casually places his chin on Roxas’ shoulder and hopes Roxas doesn’t mind the contact. They used to be affectionate as kids but as Roxas grew older so did his tolerance for touch.

“What?” Roxas asks.

“Sorry.” Ven pulls away at Roxas’ sniping tone and quickly gives him space. “I just… we’re gonna hang out, just you and me.”

“What?” Roxas frowns and turns to look at him with a confused look on his face. “I thought I was here with you and your friends.”

“We were all going to hang out but I wanted to hang with just you for once,” Ven says slowly. “That way, you won’t feel left out and-.”

“Now I have to talk to you, right?” Roxas demands and Ven blinks in surprise at the sudden hostility.

“Roxas–.”

“You didn’t even ask me if I wanted to just hang out with you, Ven. God, this is so like you! You just do what you think I’ll like and don’t even ask what I want!” Roxas shoves the map into his hands. “Fine, you pick where we’re going since you’re in charge.”

Tears fill Ven’s eyes and he tries to keep them in check so it doesn’t seem as if he’s trying to guilt Roxas into feeling a certain way. Vanitas would have told him to dry it up immediately because no one wants to see fake tears. The map is crushed but he slowly unfolds it to hide behind while he tries not to cry but Roxas hating him - really hating him - hurts more than he thought it would.

His legs and arms start to shake and he can’t hold the map without trembling. His mind flies back to Vanitas and how angry Vanitas would be for him being weak minded and useless. He doesn’t want Roxas to see him like this but he can’t stop crying once he starts. He tries to hide it, tries not to whimper or sniffle but there’s a sob building in his chest ready to come out.

“Ven?” Roxas asks but he turns away so Roxas doesn’t have to look at him. “Ven- are you crying?”

No ,” he growls while his voice breaks. He almost collapses but Roxas’ arm wraps around him and helps guide him to a bench to sit down. He hides his face, map forgotten as it flutters to the ground. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m not the brother you wanted–.”

“Hey, hey, stop that.” Roxas grabs his hands to pull them down so they can look at each other. “Ven, stop. I’m sorry– I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled like that. It was stupid, I want to hang out with you. I just… you threw me off and I’m sorry. I hate when I feel like you’re forcing me to talk or like I can’t back out of a conversation. I panicked. That doesn’t give me the right to stomp on you.”

“I’m sorry I’m so broken,” Ven whispers, eyes on his lap.

“I’m sorry Vanitas hurt you so much you think you’re broken.” Roxas slides his hand to cup the back of his head softly. “Ven, I want to hang with you. I do.”

“I won’t make you talk about stuff you don’t want – except whatever the hell is going on with you and Axel,” Ven says and Roxas laughs.

“We can talk about that, there isn’t much to say honestly.” Roxas shrugs. “C’mon, let’s go to the aquarium. You like the fish. Right?”

Ven nods. “Yeah, I do.”

“Okay.” Roxas stands and helps him stand, too. “Ven.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m glad you’re my brother.”

More tears sting his eyes but he throws his arms around Roxas in a tight hug before he can break down. “I’m glad you’re my brother, too,” he says tearfully.

Roxas squeezes back and they hug for a moment longer than Ven expected but is happy about. Spending the day together may exactly be what they both need.

 


 

8:05 p.m. and no phone call.

He’s checked every clock on every device in his apartment but it is five past 8:00 p.m. and he hasn’t received a phone call or message. Every minute that passes by makes Saïx’s stomach clench and he tries to think of a reason why she may have missed the 8:00 p.m. call time. Maybe she’s stuck in traffic, maybe her watch is slow, maybe she doesn’t want to talk to him at all.

8:10 p.m.

8:15 p.m.

8:20 p.m.

He doesn’t like listening to himself either so he can’t blame her.

8:33 p.m.

His phone rings. Dr. Wayfinder’s number pops up on the screen and part of him is tempted not to answer but he’s also in need of talking. “Hello?”

“Saïx, I am so sorry for being so late with this phone call. I hope you’re alright, please tell me you’re okay. Are you in a safe place?”

“I’m at home,” he replies neutrally.

“I am so sorry, I lost track of time, and I’d left my phone in my bag. I am– I cannot begin to properly apologize, this will never happen again.”

She sounds apologetic and he’s sure she did lose track of time but now their session is cut short. His heart sinks and he wonders how important his issues really are in the end. “It’s alright,” he replies quietly. “I’m used to it.”

Dr. Wayfinder pauses and then her voice turns into her therapist's voice like flipping a switch. “Let’s start there, shall we? You saying you’re used to it. What are you used to?”

“Being blown off,” he replies. “I wouldn’ want to listen to me either.”

Another pause. “Saïx, I want to assure you, I was not blowing off our appointment. What I did was a mistake and we will still have a full hour, in fact, I’m willing to give you an extra thirty minutes to make up for making you wait. What did you want to talk about?”

“I lied to him today,” Saïx whispers. Him, he means Axel and she knows this by now. “Told him I had something for him but I didn’t. I just wanted to see him.”

“Axel still hasn’t talked to you?”

“No.”

“I see. I’m sure that’s very hard on you.”

He sighs. “You have no idea.”

“So, you lied to him so you could see him. Is that correct?”

“I shouldn’t have lied. I should have told him the truth – that I wanted to see him.” Saïx pulls at his hair in distress. “I lied and now he knows I lied and now he has more reason to think I’m garbage. Which is what he called me – he’s right .”

“Saïx, we’ve talked about this,” Dr. Wayfinder says softly. “I know it’s difficult for you but I need you to stop referring to yourself so negatively.”

“But he’s right,” Saïx insists. “I lied to him and all because I just wanted to see him!”

“Your heart was in the right place,” she says. “Maybe your execution was off but we can discuss how to improve on that and make better choices in the future.”

Saïx slumps in his chair, not sure he even has a future. “What future,” he asks grimly. “I don’t have friends or family. I don’t have anything at all. I don’t even have work .”

“You told me last time we spoke, you were trying to find a hobby for yourself. Something to do that you would enjoy on your own private time. Have you found anything like that?”

He snorts. “I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve never had a hobby.” It’s a sad and bitter admission. The only hobby he has is taking drugs which isn’t exactly ideal.

“What do you like to do for fun?”

Another snort. “I take drugs.”

She pauses. “I thought you were trying to stay away from that.”

“I am but you asked me what I do for fun. That’s it. I don’t have anything else. I’m pathetic.”

No … Saïx, you were abused by a man who controlled you and kept you on a very short leash. I know I don’t have the full details of what happened to you during that time but I have heard enough to know this man controlled your every whim and desire. You don’t know what you want because you’ve never had a chance to live your life. Everything is very new and I know that’s scary.”

“I don’t even know where to start,” he whispers.

“Well, maybe watching some videos on YouTube or reading some books might help. Have you considered joining that app I told you about? You can find friends and communities there to really start building yourself up. I think it’s important for you to find new friends and experiences.”

“I’ve downloaded it. Haven’t used it yet.”

“That is your homework then. I want you to use the app and try to find a group outing to do. Meet some new people, make a friend or two. I really think having friends will make you feel more comfortable. You can feel normal again and start to find a rhythm. I know you care about Axel very much but I think there is a lot of negativity between the two of you which is causing you to fall behind.”

“I don’t want to cut him out of my life,” he whispers desperately. “I know it’s what he wants but–.”

“I don’t think you need to cut him out completely. Just for a breather. Take a step back, let him cool off and potentially come to you for a change. I think if he cares about you as much as you care about him, he’ll be back.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“Then we can cross that bridge if we get there. Okay?”

Saïx turns his eyes over to a framed photo sitting beside him on the coffee table. An old photo, one of the only ones he has from before Xemnas of him and Axel - at the time, Lea. He lifts the photo frame and smiles a little at old memories. He misses the old days but he’s glad Axel seems happier with his body now.

“Are you feeling better at all?” Dr. Wayfinder asks softly.

He is but there is still an ache. Maybe the ache will never fade.

“Yes,” he replies, setting the photo down. “I am.”

“Good. Now, what else do you want to discuss, Saïx? We still have time left.”

“Please,” he whispers. “Call me Isa.”

Chapter Text

Desperation makes for bad decisions but it’s too late and he can’t really go back now. Axel stands outside of Sora’s door while Roxas and Ven are off doing some zoo adventure and waits to see if Sora answers. He hopes the guy is home because he really is desperate . After Saïx lied to him, he’s at the end of his rope and there is only so much he can do before he starts the painful detox.

“C’mon,” he growls. “Don’t be with Riku for once .”

The door finally cracks open and Sora stands on the other side, hair a wild mess, and looking as if he’d just been woken from a nap. “Axel?”

“Hey!” Axel screws on a big smile and tries to pretend he’s here because he wants to be and not because he’s on a mission. “Roxas is off doing something with Ven and I wanted to see if you were busy.”

Sora rubs his eyes and finally blinks to look more awake. “I’m not. I was asleep.”

“Can I come in?”

“Oh- right. Okay.” Sora steps aside and lets Axel over the threshold with a yawn. “Do you want something to eat?”

“Uh, no, I’m okay. I have to use the bathroom though…” Axel’s eyes dart around Sora’s small space and hopes what he seeks is in a bathroom cabinet and not by the bed.

“Sure. Go ahead. I’m gonna make Eggos.”

“Sounds cool, man.” Axel heads to the bathroom and shuts the door, turning the lock firmly, before letting his eyes fall onto the medicine cabinet which he eagerly opens. It’s mostly full of bandaids – Dinosaurs?? – cold medicine and a few old prescription bottles which mean nothing to him because they aren’t what he’s looking for. Panic hits Axel’s gut and then his eyes fall onto an orange bottle sitting on the sink.

Bingo .

He slowly picks it up and rotates it a few times until his eyes fall on the label. Adderall. Exactly what he wanted. “Oh, thank God,” he whispers while opening the bottle to shake out a few to take this morning. His hands are shaking so badly he almost drops them but manages to choke down a few before slowly pocketing the bottle into his back pocket. His eyes light up when he notes Sora has another fresh bottle sitting on the sink as well.

Meaning, he won’t miss this one. He’ll just think he misplaced it.

“Axel?” Sora calls which makes him startle so bad he almost knocks everything off of bathroom sink.

“Yeah?”

“Do you want anything to drink?”

“Uh- sure, big guy. Orange juice if you got it.”

“Okay!”

Axel takes a deep breath to steady his nerves. He’d never intended to steal from Sora because he knows Sora actually takes his medication but desperate times.  Just until Saïx has a new supply or he finds someone else to supply him. It’s not a permanent thing and soon he can even pay Sora back by finding him a new bottle. Until then, however, at least he knows a place he can come find a fix when necessary.

Steadying his hands, Axel slowly steps out of the bathroom to go and see what Sora is doing. He has what he came for but he did show up under the pretense of hanging out, so he supposed they should at least hang out for a little while.

“Orange juice, right?” Sora asks while pouring a glass.

“Yep. Sounds great.”

“You sure you don’t want Eggos?” Sora hands him the glass of orange juice and gestures to the plate of Eggos he now has on the counter. “I don’t mind sharing.”

“I’m not hungry,” Axel replies. Hasn’t been hungry in what feels like a few weeks because the drugs usually keep him going. He eats when he has to but it’s usually just a handful of chips or a snack cake. He hasn’t had a real meal in weeks. Roxas has been too busy working to notice which Axel is thankful for since he knows he’s probably lost weight.

Eventually, Roxas will notice.

Maybe tonight when they’re both naked.

“Okay.” Sora shrugs and goes to sit at the table to eat his waffles. The table is mostly covered in magazines and books but he makes do. Axel totally understands the lack of a cleanly space. ADHD really makes cleaning tasks difficult.

“So, uh, Sora what’s happening? Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Oh, I was with Riku and his family,” Sora replies. “His dad was in the hospital so I went with him to the mainland.”

Oh … Is his dad okay?”

“I think so.” Sora nods and shrugs. “Haven’t heard. I should probably call and see. I have to go to work soon, by the way.”

“Right- right. Okay. Sure. I can get out of your hair.” The faster he’s able to leave the faster he can make away with the drugs in his pocket.

“Not that hanging out with you isn’t fun,” Sora says quickly. “We should all hang out soon, it’s been a while.”

“Agreed,” Axel replies while inching toward the door. “I’ll, uh, ask Roxas. Maybe this weekend, yeah?”

“Okay.”

“Anyway, I’ll get out of your hair. Thanks for the OJ.”

“No problem! Bye, Axel!”

Axel waves and quickly dashes from Sora’s apartment to the car, heart pounding fast, while he jumps in and drives away. Once he’s free of Sora’s apartment complex he lets out a laugh as he realizes he’s managed to get away with exactly what he came for. Guilt eats at him but he shoves the feeling aside and drives home instead.

He did it – he really did it.

The house being empty is actually kind of nice and allows him to lounge in the living room, mostly undressed, popping pills when necessary and watching bad Netflix shows. He texts Roxas a few times to check on him and receives cute zoo pictures in return which makes his heart hammer. He’s always liked Roxas and seeing him so happy makes him happy. Roxas deserves to smile like this all of the time.

A: looks like ur having fun with Ven
R: Yeah don’t tell him :P
A: lol
A: sooo when u come home tonight…
R: yeah we can fuck

A blush colors Axel’s face while he thinks on how Roxas really does plan on coming home to rail him in bed tonight. He’s not even sure how the logistics will work because he’s never had sex with another trans person – at least, not to his knowledge.

A: lol right uhh my bedroom or yours?
R: who said it had to be the bedroom? ;)

Oh my God.

Oh my God .

Roxas maybe the death of him yet.

A: Dude don’t say shit like that I’m gonna lose it and you’re not even here
R: Lol we can do it wherever you want. Living room, my room, kitchen, your room
A: Uh your room is probably cleaner
R: My room it is
A: Is it weird we’re planning this? I’ve never planned sex before
R: Then stop texting me and just let it happen
A: I’m nervous tho
R: Why? You’ve done it before
A: I know but not with you and not with someone like me/you
R: Axel, I promise, I know where the clitoris is
A: Omg
R: I also know when not to stim it and where not to stim it bc I have one too
R: Unlike most guys you probably shack up with
A: Hey I’ve had orgasms
R: Lol yeah right
A: Hey!
R: Cis men don’t know shit

Axel feels his face blush while he thinks on what Roxas means; he’s never really thought about how many orgasms he’s had with other men or if they were any good. He’s usually too high to care when he has sex so sober sex might be a whole new world for him.

A: idr the last time I had sex sober
R: attractive
A: I’m serious
R: well it’s a new experience for you then

Sitting in anticipation, Axel really wishes Roxas would come home now so he can finally experience this Holy Grail of orgasms Roxas is clearly hell-bent on making him have.

R: I bet you haven’t had good sex in your entire life Axel
A: Hey you don’t know that
R: Bet you’ve never had more than 1 orgasm in bed
R: Hell, bet you’ve not even really had 1
A: I have to!
R: You screw cis men, you’ve never had a real orgasm
A: I bet you 20 bucks you can’t get me off as good as you say, I bet you won’t even make me cum twice
R: Make it 40
A: Fine, 40 dollars
R: You’re on

Making it a game is fun but it’s also his last bit of money so he’s hoping he’s right and Roxas is in the wrong. He finds it slightly insulting Roxas would just assume he’s never had good sex. He’s had plenty of sex so there’s definitely a high probability some of it was good – Saïx definitely was decent in bed. At least, from what he can remember.

The rest of the day, Axel spends in front of the television and eventually dozes off, only to be woken by Roxas when he returns home. The door opening and closing startle him awake and he sits up, almost spilling popcorn all over the floor, barely managing to grab onto the bowl before it tips.

“Christ, be louder why don’t you?” Axel snaps toward Roxas’ general direction.

Roxas appears in the doorway and Axel feels his entire gut fall out of his butt. Roxas is so thick and broad but he’s never really noticed before now. Sure, the guy is a foot shorter than him but he makes up for it in muscle. His arms are well defined, his chest is broad, and he looks so good in the ripped jeans and cut off tank. Axel’s mouth goes dry and he can’t seem to remember his name or anything at all. His only thought is he wants to slide on his knees and let Roxas have his way with him.

“Sorry, Ven wouldn’t shut up so I’m home later than I thought.” Roxas crosses over and looks around the living room. “Have you been sitting here all day?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Wow. Okay. Whatever.” Roxas pushes Axel back onto the couch and slowly straddles his lap which immediately sends Axel’s heart into overdrive. Shaking hands touch Roxas’ hips and he suddenly has zero confidence he’s going to win this bet.

“Hi,” Axel says slowly.

Roxas smirks. “Hi.”

“So, uh, now what?”

“You ready to lose this bet?”

God, yes, he is absolutely ready. “Yeah,” he whispers. “I’m ready.”

“Good because you’re about to owe me 40 dollars.” Roxas winks and tilts Axel’s chin up for a kiss. It’s hot and needy and almost enough to make Axel soak his underwear because he’s been wanting to kiss Roxas for so long and now they’re finally here.

Kissing.

Together.

Axel melts further into the couch and Roxas’ tongue is bossy and firm while he slides into Axel’s mouth which he is eager to allow. He likes Roxas being in charge and knowing exactly what he’s doing and what he wants. He has no idea who taught Roxas to kiss like this but he wants to send whoever they are a thank you note.

The kiss is so good it leaves him wet.

“Wow,” Axel gasps. “Who taught you that?”

Roxas winks. “I don’t kiss and tell.”

“Because I wanna send ‘em a fruit basket or something.”

Roxas laughs. “With what money? You’re about to be broke.”

Axel snorts. “Heh. Point taken.”

“You wanna take this to the bedroom?” Roxas asks and Axel nods. “Okay, let’s go.”

Axel trips over his own feet when he stands up to rush after Roxas to his room. Roxas’ room is much cleaner than his and there is no issue finding the bed. Roxas is stronger than he looks and is quick to push him back onto the bed and make him lie down on his back. He almost moans but holds back in favor of watching Roxas yanks his pants off and spread his legs wide open.

Axel blushes when Roxas sees he’s commando.

“No underwear, Ax?” Roxas asks and smirks. “You slut .”

“Figured we both knew where the evening was headed so why bother?” Axel replies as casually as he can but Roxas calling him a slut sends a wave of heat pulsing downward.

“I like you bushy,” Roxas says, a warm hand cupping Axel’s cunt expertly. “I like that you don’t shave it all off.”

He blushes. “Nah, just trim it.”

Roxas slowly lifts Axel’s leg and lets his calf rest over his shoulder, kissing the muscle softly. Axel moans then and shudders. His cunt throbs with his heartbeat and Roxas has barely done anything . He really is a slut.

Fuck , Rox,” he whimpers.

“Take your shirt off,” Roxas says and the way his voice drops sends Axel’s brain plummeting right into the gutter. He wants to please Roxas so badly he eagerly wriggles out of his shirt and lets Roxas survey his entire body.

“You like?” Axel asks, fingers trailing up to touch where his nipples are pierced.

“Yeah,” Roxas replies. “You’re hot.”

Under the haze of Roxas’ gaze, he feels undeniably sexy. His cunt aches and Roxas hasn’t even touched him. He slides his own hand down to brush over his bush and wonders if Roxas wants a show. He slowly spreads his cunt so Roxas can see how wet and pink he is. Roxas smirks and Axel whines.

He has more top energy than anyone else he’s met before.

“You showing me your pussy, baby?” Roxas asks and Axel nods. “Want me to fuck it?”

“Please?” he whimpers. “God, please, Roxas.”

“You’re so slutty, Axel.” Roxas finally moves his hand and lightly rubs his thumb over Axel’s clit which is hard and prominent from being aroused. “Look at your little cock, it’s so hard.”

Shit ,” Axel grunts, teeth gritting hard. “Fu-fuck- I’ve never had someone call it that.”

“Make you wet?” Roxas asks, rubbing him faster. “I love your cock, Axel. How about you show me how you play with yourself, hm?”

His face turns red but he obeys, slowly placing two fingers on either side to start stroking it like he would a cock. Roxas’ eyes lock on his for a moment and they’re so intense he can see the storm brewing. Axel whines and feels his toes curl tightly. He’s never been so turned on in bed in his life. He’s not even high .

“Stop,” Roxas says, voice sharp and commanding.

Axel drops his hand reluctantly but obeying Roxas feels so good . “Rox–.”

“Shh.” Roxas kisses his calf and slowly lowers his leg to the mattress. “Don’t want you to cum all over the sheets before I fuck you.”

He whimpers and closes his thighs shyly. “Gonna have Daddy’s dick now?”

Roxas pauses and Axel slams a hand over his mouth in embarrassment. He’s never called a guy Daddy before; he’s watched the porn and read the fanfiction but he’s never said it out loud . Roxas exudes such Daddy energy he can’t help himself and he only hopes Roxas isn’t embarrassed.

“Daddy,” Roxas repeats. “Wow, that’s kinda doin’ shit for me, Ax.”

“It is?” Axel asks. “Cuz I can shut the fuck up–.”

“I like it.” Roxas disappears but Axel can hear the telltale signs of metal jingling and he imagines Roxas changing into his strap on which sends fire burning in his belly. God, he’s going to cum just listening to Roxas dress.

While he waits, Axel scoots back so he’s flush with the headboard and sits on his hands so he doesn’t touch himself. Daddy told him to stop so he has to listen. His cunt is hot and throbbing which is not a sensation he’s used to feeling and he’s starting to think Roxas was right about his sex life.

“Fuck,” he whispers into the void over the bed and then Roxas steps out of his closet and Axel almost cums on the spot.

Roxas, gorgeous beautiful Roxas, is standing shirtless with a strap on, cock smaller than he thought but it’s purple and there are bumps along the shaft which sends more tingles down Axel’s spine.

He’s gonna kill me.

“You like Daddy’s cock he picked out for you?” Roxas asks as he climbs onto the bed on his knees. “I didn’t want to make it too big for you.”

Axel blushes and hides his face. “I like them big,” he admits softly.

“Yeah? Well, next time. There’s lube in the drawer, grab it for me?”

Axel leans over to grab the bottle from the nightstand’s drawer and hand it over, pussy aching for Roxas to fuck him. His skin feels tight and hot while Roxas pours lube on the toy and his fingers which are quick to rub over Axel’s pussy. Axel whines, pushing his hips into Roxas’ touch eagerly.

“Daddy,” Axel whimpers while Roxas’ fingers slip inside easily with how wet he’s been for most of the damn day. “Fuck.”

“You like this, huh?” Roxas asks, fingering him slow and opening his cunt with gentle gestures.

Yeah , fuck.”

Roxas smirks and slowly slides his fingers out to show Axel how wet they are. There are strings between his fingers and Axel blushes at the sight. “Your pussy’s so wet, baby.”

“Fuck me then,” Axel says, reaching to spread himself open for Roxas to see. “Please.”

Roxas looks devilishly delighted as he starts to guide the toy inside. Axel moans at the spread - the toy isn’t extremely thick but it is long and brushes in deep the lower Roxas sets his hips. Roxas is surprisingly gentle as he slides inside, his hands brushing over Axel’s hips and over his stomach. Every touch is more flames to the fire and every sensation feels new and warm.

Roxas looks gorgeous while he breathes heavily, face flushed, and eyes on Axel’s cunt slowly being spread by his cock. Axel’s eyes linger over the scars on Roxas’ chest and how his nipples are hard and so wonderfully pink. For a moment, Roxas just breathes, deep inside, before slowly starting to thrust his hips slow and gentle.

Axel wants to say he’s not going to break but the sensation of the ridges in his cunt feel so good he can only moan, hands sliding onto his own chest to tease and pull his nipple rings. Roxas doesn’t take long to find a steady rhythm, hips pumping faster with every whimper Axel can muster. The toy brushes a spot inside which sends a hot lightning bolt of pleasure up his spine and the more Roxas slams into it the better he feels.

“Shit,” Axel gasps. “Fuck– Roxas– oh fuck– it’s so wet– fuck .”

He is extremely wet. The sound permeates the entire room and Roxas growls, hands digging into the meaty flesh of Axel’s thighs as he fucks him faster and harder. Their breathing crescendos until he feels his body give in and he cums. A yell escapes his chest and there is a moment where he’s positive he’s pissed the bed which is completely humiliating.

Tears roll down his cheeks as the pleasure skyrockets when Roxas doesn’t slow down. He screams when another orgasm rips through his body, making his entire nervous system twitch. Roxas says something but he’s too far gone to hear.

“You fucking jizzed, look at you,” Roxas snarls. “Jizzing all over me and the bed.”

Axel whimpers and grips the sheet tightly as he manages to open his eyes and look down where Roxas is still fucking him. The bed is soaking wet and he’s shocked when he sees his pussy squirt again . He’s seen videos of squirting but he’d always thought it was some bullshit myth created by men who enjoy lesbian porn.

“Holy fuck,” he gasps and by the fifth orgasm, he’s exhausted and needing a break. “Roxas, stop, please–.”

Roxas slows down to a stop, hands roaming over Axel’s overstimulated body, massaging his muscles gently. “How many was that?”

“F-five,” Axel whimpers.

“You owe me forty bucks,” Roxas says with a laugh.

Yeah ,” Axel replies, eyes heavy with the need to sleep but the bed is soaked and his cunt is gaping.

Roxas pulls out and bends down to kiss him softly. “I’ll take care of you, okay?”

“You will?” Axel asks, completely shocked. He’s never had a guy take care of him after. They usually hit it and quit it a moment later.

“Yes.” Roxas gently pets Axel’s hair back and kisses him again. “You were amazing, Axel. I’m gonna start you a bath, okay?”

Axel shivers and nods. The one good thing about their older house is the claw foot tub in Roxas’ bedroom. His eyes drift shut and he doesn’t open them again until Roxas helps him to the tub and he’s eagerly wrapped in hot water and bubbles. He sinks down and rests his head on a makeshift pillow made of towels while Roxas even puts on some soft music for him to listen to while he soaks.

This he could absolutely get used to – is this supposed to happen after sex or is Roxas just weird? He’ll have to ask Xion. Maybe girls have sex differently and Roxas picked up some habits from talking to Xion all the time.

“Hey,” Roxas says, making his eyes open hazily. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m great. Can’t feel my fucking legs but I’m great,” Axel replies. “I’ve never fucking cum that hard in my life. So, thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Axel lets his eyes drift shut again as the warmth of the bath makes him feel comfortable. Roxas really is the perfect man.

 


 

The day starts better with coffee but they’re already late so Xion skips the long line at the coffee shop and hurries inside and up to the 16th floor to their office. If nothing else, they suppose, they can have the coffee in the break room.

Blech.

Work email blew up while they were away but a name immediately draws their eye and notes Saïx emailed them a few days ago asking about coming into view the designs they had done. There had been a lot of other things going on at the company, more designs to do, they hadn’t had a lot of time to work on Saïx’s commissioned designs but they suppose he can come by to see what has been done.

Saïx-

Feel free to come by anytime before 6 I’m in the office until then

They’re not even settled at their desk before Saïx emails back he’ll be around in an hour. “Ugh,” they mutter while running a hand over their face. Saïx first thing in the morning is not exactly how they wanted to spend the morning and coffee is now imperative.

“Good morning, Xion,” comes their boss’ voice as she comes to stand in the office door. “How was your vacation?”

“Uh… Tense,” Xion replies slowly.

“Tense?” she asks with a laugh. “Thought it was a vacation. Aren’t you supposed to relax?”

“My girlfriend came out to her family over the weekend. Her father… didn’t take it well and neither did her mom.” Xion rubs their temples while thinking about how Kairi’s father had been even worse than her mother.

“Oh.” Their boss grimaces. “That sounds bad.”

“Yeah, it was.” Xion sighs. “I have a client coming in in about an hour, is there anything I need to do before then?”

“No, we’re actually pretty caught up with everything. We’re entering that slow season so be glad and try to pick up some extra commission work. We have a meeting this morning but I’m canceling it. There’s nothing to talk about, so, have a free hour before your client shows. Get breakfast.”

Xion snorts. “Thanks.”

She waves and Xion waves back as she heads off to talk to other employees. The office now blissfully empty, Xion sets up a presentation for Saïx. There is only one piece completed but now they can focus on this commission to finish it and move on from Saïx as fast as possible.

You are nothing, a puppet, nobody at all and you will never amount to anything .

Xion shudders and shoves Saïx’s cold voice back into the closet it slipped free from. Saïx can eat his own words since he’s paying them to make him a whole new closet. The coat they’d managed to fashion, Xion puts on a mannequin, pinning it appropriately, and setting some lighting to make it shine. It’s long and black with well-fashioned buttons and sharp lines. Leather and fur accents, the coat screams Saïx.

Hopefully, he likes where everything else is headed, too, because it all stems from the same sounding board. An hour passes faster than they want but soon Saïx is in the doorway and his face is oddly different. Xion squints and finally notes he’s used makeup to cover the scars on his face but it’s not the best job they’ve seen so it stands out worse than his scars ever would have.

Xion covers their mouth and coughs in an attempt to not laugh. He really does look ridiculous. “Saïx, hello.”

Saïx nods as he steps into the office slowly as if he’s afraid of what might lie on the other side. “This is what you have?” he asks as he comes to the coat, fingers grazing the fabric lightly.

“Yes,” Xion says. “I know it’s not a lot but I’ve been extremely busy with work but we’re in a slower time so I should have these all done soon.”

Saïx is quiet while he surveys the concepts for the rest of the pieces, the fabric boards, and the concept boards beside them. Xion keeps their distance and stands as tall as they can but he easily towers over almost anyone. Except for Axel. He’s slightly smaller than Axel.

He comes back to the coat and touches it again but his touch is so hesitant and his hand quickly drops back to his side. “I see,” he says quietly.

“Do you not like something?”

“This is how you see me,” he whispers.

“Excuse me?”

This .” He gestures to the dark moods all around. “This is how you see me.”

“I.. don’t understand,” Xion says slowly.

“Our first meeting, I asked you to create something different. Softer. Not so…” He gestures to the coat. “But something that reminded you of me so I wouldn’t look so… out of place.”

Xion tries to think back to their first meeting and wonders if somewhere they messed up. “I don’t-.”

“It’s alright,” he says. “Go ahead and finish… I understand now. I do. I apologize for interrupting your day.”

Xion wants to keep talking, figure out what had gone wrong, but Saïx is already leaving. The look on his face they never expected to see; he’s hurt and hurting deeply. Once he’s gone, Xion turns to find their notes, digging through sketchbooks to find the notes they took from their original meeting. Finally, tucked in the back, Xion finds several pages of notes and quick doodles of things Saïx wanted and he’s right.

It’s nothing like what is presented here.

He’d wanted something softer, florals even, less harsh lines. Rebirth , they’d written on top of a page. He kept saying he wanted to feel new, clean, reborn. They’d underlined the word reborn several times. Xion slowly sinks into their chair and feels stupid for falling prey to how their tainted view of Saïx took control somewhere along the way. Cursing, Xion grabs the notes and runs to the elevator to hurry to the ground floor and pray they don’t hit every floor on the way down.

Despite their anger toward Saïx, they are a professional and this is a business transaction. Delivering what the client wants, within reason, is part of the job. Xion runs through the lobby and is glad to see Saïx just reaching his car.

“Saïx! Wait!”

He freezes, hand on his car but he doesn’t immediately slide in and drive away. He stays still and unmoving as if he’s not able to move again.

“Wait, please.” Xion takes a moment to catch their breath before slowly approaching and trying to show the original notes and quick sketches of design ideas. “This is what you wanted, right? This .”

He glances and shrugs. “It doesn’t matter.”

“No, it does. I’m being hired to do something for you, my client, and despite my feelings toward you or anything that happened, I said I would do this for you… So… I apologize for my unprofessional behavior and for delivering something that upset you. Please, let me redo this. I can remake the coat and things can stem from it. I think you’d like it more if it was a different color- Let’s sit down and talk again? I’m sure you’ve had new ideas or concepts.”

Please, don’t fire me, Xion thinks desperately. Saïx’s money is good and they know this kind of job just doesn’t come along every single day.

“Please,” they repeat softly. “I’m sorry.”

Saïx shakes his head. “Do what you want,” he replies stiffly. “I understand now. I see so clearly.”

“No, really, I messed up. I can fix it!”

He looks over at them and there’s such a deep sadness in his eyes it feels a lot like looking at a child who’s been hurt too many times. “Do not worry for me, Xion,” he replies quietly. “Or, perhaps, your worry is for yourself. I do not have any intention to go elsewhere. You may finish what you’ve started.”

His words come across heavy and tired as if he wears a weight around his heart and it doesn’t sit well with Xion at all. “Saïx,” they say slowly. “I really do want to give you what you want.”

Saïx looks away and opens the door to his car. “You can’t,” he says and the conversation ends, leaving a trace of bitterness in Xion’s mouth as Saïx drives away. Never in their wildest dreams had Xion ever thought they would feel sorry for Saïx and worry for his safety. No matter how many times Xion pictured killing Saïx with their bare hands, they’d never wished real death on him. They’d seen Xemnas’ mark on his soul as clear as the one on his face.

They knew the kind of pain Xemnas inflicted and everyone deserves to come back from something so awful to try again. Xion fumbles for their phone to call Axel and hope he’s in a listening mood. If anyone can help Saïx from going home and eating a bullet it’s Axel.

“Goooood morning, my sweet Xion,” Axel greets. Good, he’s in a good mood.

“Hey, I need to ask you for a favor and you just have to hear me all the way out,” Xion says, glancing nervously back at Saïx’s disappearing car. Soon, it blends in with the rest of the traffic.

“What’s up?”

“I need you to go talk to Saïx. Maybe go wait on him at his place.”

Axel snorts. “What? Why?”

“I messed up. He hired me to make clothing for him and I screwed everything up and he won’t talk to me or let me fix it but… He’s not doing well, Axel… and I know he’s not been good to you or me but I think he’s trying. He’s trying to reach out and we keep squashing his attempts. You can only break someone so many times before they just give up.”

Axel pauses and listens which Xion knows he’ll hear this. “When did he leave?”

“Just a minute ago. He’s not far away but-.”

“I’m going.”

Thank you ,” Xion gasps. “Let me know-.”

“I will.”

Xion sighs and ends the call, heart racing in their chest. Working on forgiving Saïx needs to be something they do for themselves but also Saïx, too. Roxas wouldn’t want to forgive or forget but why hold onto hate so strong it ruins their mood and day? Why carry anguish and abuse around for the rest of their life when their life is going in a better direction?

Xion settles their nerves and starts to head inside when a voice calls their name. A voice they recognize but almost can’t place before slowly turning to see a face they haven’t seen in many years. Still as beautiful as the day they remember.

“Naminé,” they whisper.

Naminé smiles softly, blonde hair tied back in a ponytail, bangs sweeping over her delicate face. “Hi,” she says. “Can we talk?”

 


 

Axel paces outside of Saïx’s door until the elevators chime open and Saïx starts down the hallway, looking tired and haggard. On his forehead is some type of cover up makeup to hide his scars which is not something he’d ever seen Saïx do.

“Saïx.”

Saïx freezes when he’s halfway down the hall, keys in hand, holding a bag in the other. “Axel?”

“What’s that?” he asks, gesturing to the bag because he fears what is inside.

Saïx glances down at the bag and shrugs. “Nothing.”

“Let me see.”

“Why? What are you doing here? I thought you were angry with me. I was garbage, you didn’t want to see me again-.”

“Yeah, well, I’m a crappy liar, you know that.” Axel crosses the distance and takes the bag out of Saïx’s hands to make sure he hasn’t bought a gun. The bag contains a few vegetables and some tea. Nothing sinister but he supposes maybe Saïx is planning on poisoning himself with tea. Definitely probable.

“I don’t understand, why are you here?” Saïx asks as they walk to the front door and Saïx lets them in.

Axel hurries inside, still carrying Saïx’s bag, and he turns to face him fully. “Xion told me you guys had a meeting today.”

Saïx sighs. “If she took anything I said-.”

“She’s worried about you,” Axel replies, cutting him off. “Me, too.”

Saïx blinks in surprise, his eyes widening slightly. “Worried? Why?”

“Because of some stuff you said. She said you sounded like you were… broken and ready to give up.” Axel slowly sits down on a stool at the breakfast bar while Saïx looks uncertain but he slowly walks over to sit down, too. “Are you giving up?”

Saïx stares at this hands on the counter and refuses to make eye contact. “I have no right to complain,” he replies evenly. “I’ve done so much harm to both of you, I have no right to sit up here in my high tower and act as if I’ve been wronged.”

“Saïx, just because you hurt someone doesn’t make you immune to hurt. Talk to me . Please.” Axel knows they had a fight and he’d said something mean and cruel which probably now lives under Saïx’s skin because Saïx always took his words so seriously. He would have to apologize but first, he wants to hear what Saïx has to say.

“Call me Isa,” Saïx insists softly. “Please, Axel. I apologize for calling you… a name you do not go by anymore… and I will not do it again but I ask that you please respect what I try to respect for you.”

“Isa,” Axel whispers. “I’m sorry.”

“There is a lot to say,” Saïx starts slowly. “Stuff I haven’t even really told my therapist.”

“I’m listening.”

“You know I became friends with Xemnas, fell into his crowd, and I left you behind.” Saïx trails his fingers over the counter to keep them busy. “I know I hurt you by doing so and I wish I could go back and beat my past self up and tell myself I am an idiot.”

“You changed, Isa,” Axel confirms. “You became someone I didn’t know.”

“I know. I didn’t know me either.” Saïx reaches for cloth and wipes the makeup from his forehead. “Xemnas wanted undying loyalty and obedience. I craved pleasing him… at first, when I was new, I didn’t care but then over time, I realized I desperately wanted to be his favorite. I thought I was.”

“Favorite?”

“He had other followers, too. I wanted to be the best , so I did what he wanted of me. He controlled me, my every move, my thoughts, my desires, my whims. He used sexual acts as a way to make me submit to him. I quickly fell prey to his abuse because I desperately wanted to please him… If he liked me, then he must love me, I am his favorite.”

Axel’s stomach churns at the admissions but he keeps his mouth shut. This is not his turn to speak.

“He used to beat me. Almost nightly, he’d beat me and then he’d… Well, I used to think what we did was consensual but I know now it wasn’t. He raped me every night. I begged for it. Wanted it.”

“Christ, Is’.”

“He gave me these. His final parting gift.” Saïx touches the scar on his forehead. “I can still remember how he had my arms in a spread bar, I couldn’t move, I was constricted so badly. I was on my knees, in the dirt of a basement floor, and I begged . I wanted him to hurt me.”

Why ?”

“Because by the end, I was so twisted and changed, I thought the pain meant he loved me.” Saïx sighs and uses the cloth to dab his eyes. “I thought if he marked me, one final time, it would mean I was fully his and he would keep me at his side forever… but afterward, all he did was call me ugly and throw me away. I was too broken for him then.”

All of this is news to Axel; he knew Xemnas was a bad guy but he’d never imagined Isa had been put through so much. He’d never known about the abuse or torture. He’d never asked about the scars but the story leaves him sick to his stomach. He can see, now, why Saïx – Isa – became such a cruel person.

“He threw me away,” Saïx continues softly. “I wasn’t good enough anymore. I was broken and ugly to him. I woke up outside, side of the road, naked and cold. I managed to make it to a hospital but I never told them what happened to me. I didn’t have my belongings but as soon as I was well enough, I went back to Xemnas. I begged him to take me back. I wanted to be his favorite dog.”

“Isa… God…” Axel reaches over to touch his harm but Saïx pulls away in a flinch. “ Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”

“Because I didn’t want you to think I was searching for pity! I hurt you and I hurt your friend. I was not a good man. I don’t deserve to be pitied.”

“You were abused ,” Axel says seriously. “You need help.”

“I go to therapy,” he replies bitterly.

“He didn’t take you back, obviously.”

“No,” Saïx says, voice cold and hollow. “He had someone new… Gave me my stuff and granted me access to my money but only if I promised to never contact him again. He wanted nothing to do with me. So, I came back here… I came back here and tried to search for a life I’d ruined. My therapist thinks it is best we take a break from one another, we’re not healthy for each other right now.”

“Look, I’m sorry about what I said to you,” Axel says quickly. “Is’, I’m really sorry.”

“She’s right. We need to step away from one another… I am no good for you and while you don’t mean it, you are no good for me either, Axel. I put too much stock in how you think of me,” Saïx slowly stands but Axel can seem him tremble. “So, please, go.”

“Isa, I can’t leave you when I’m afraid you’re going to hurt yourself,” Axel says firmly. “I won’t.”

“There is nothing I can do to myself which hasn’t already been done to me, Axel,” Saïx replies. “I am as dead outside as I feel inside. I don’t have the strength to kill myself if that is your worry. Besides, I have much to atone for.”

“I’m afraid for you.”

“Don’t be. I’m not worth the thought-.”

Stop !” Axel feels tears fill his eyes and he leaps up to yank Saïx – no, Isa – into a hug and hold tightly. “Listen to me, you fucking jerk, you are my friend and I will drag you home! Do you understand me? I don’t give up on my friends.”

Isa is slow to wrap his arms back around but when he does he squeezes as hard as he can. “I’m sorry I’ve enabled you.”

“What?”

“Your habits, I’ve enabled you to continue them and I shouldn’t have. I shouldn’t have lied the other day. I lied because I wanted to see you, not because I wanted to hurt you.” Isa presses his face into Axel’s neck and he can feel the tears on Isa’s face staining his shirt.

Axel slides his hand to cup the back of Isa’s head, holding him close and tight. “I love you, Isa,” he whispers softly. “I’m sorry, too.”

“I want you to get better, Axel. I want you to work on yourself,” Isa says firmly. “Please.”

He swallows back a lump forming in his throat because just the other day he’d stolen pills from someone he calls a friend because his need for a fix had been so great. Maybe Isa is right and he should really work on his habit.

“I’m afraid who I’ll be if I stop,” he admits in shame. “What if no one likes the real me?”

Isa kisses his temple and Axel almost melts at the touch. “The real you is a wonderful, soft person, Axel. Everyone will love you just the same. Probably more if you continue to work on bettering yourself.”

“I’m afraid of what Roxas will say,” he admits quietly.

“Roxas loves you and wouldn’t reject you because he hasn’t ever given up on you.” Isa steps back slowly but stays with his arms around Axel’s waist, while Axel’s stand on Isa’s arms, holding onto one another desperately. “I still think we should take a small break. Step away from one another so we don’t accidentally trip back down the rabbit’s hole.”

It hurts to hear but Axel nods. He’ll respect Isa’s wants. “Okay,” he says slowly.

“Call someone, Axel. A professional. They can help you detox and get better.”

He wants to so badly but there is so much fear. He nods anyway and decides lying through his teeth is better for Isa’s mental health. “Okay. As soon as I get home.”

Isa returns the smile and Axel’s heart breaks. “Good.”

 


 

Naminé.

A face from the past and a face leaving Xion aching deeply for something they can’t place but they are happy to see Naminé. “It’s been so long,” Xion says while leading Naminé up to their office. Part of them hopes Naminé will be impressed with the job but they’re not sure what makes them feel that way.

“This is your office?” Naminé asks while she walks around, glancing at the coat made for Saïx and the designs. “Wow, you’ve made so much of yourself, Xion.”

Xion smiles and blushes, ducking their head shyly. “Thanks.”

“I bet you’re wondering what I’m doing here and how I found you,” Naminé says and Xion nods in agreement. “Well, I found your information on the company website, I will admit, after seeing some Instagram post of your work… I’ve been so scared to come to see you but… I miss you.”

There is where the ache belongs.

Longing and missing Naminé so badly it hurts.

Xion’s eyes well up with tears and they turn away. “Naminé, I’m with Kairi still.”

“Happily?” Naminé asks which is an ugly dig at their past.

“Stop,” Xion hisses. “Don’t bring that up.” Xion’s memory flies back to one night in a bar, angry with Kairi, and desperate. The memory following is the way Naminé made them feel that night. Sex had never felt so good and validating.

“Don’t you miss me?” Naminé asks softly.

“Of course I do!” And Xion did miss Naminé. Anytime they lay down with Kairi, their mind wanders to blonde hair and skin so soft and white, Xion is reminded of milk and silk but their affair with Naminé had been too long and ended too quickly in the same fell swoop. They never should have continued their behavior.

“Then, come with me,” Naminé says, crossing the room to place her hands on Xion’s shoulders.

“I went with Kairi to her family and stood beside her while she came out to them. Why would I dump her for someone I barely know?” Xion demands but doesn’t pull from Naminé’s touch.

“I’m just saying I miss you and I think we were good together,” Naminé says. “You were happier! You didn’t feel so confined… Like you had to be a certain way.”

Xion did feel freer with Naminé but maybe that was due to not feeling they had to be a certain way in front of her. There weren’t any expectations. Just the two of them. Xion shakes free of Naminé’s touch and puts space between them – a whole desk.

“No,” Xion says firmly. “I love Kairi and Kairi never deserved this! I never should have cheated on her with you!”

“Did you ever tell her?” Naminé asks.

No ? Why would I? Why would I hurt her like that? I was weak and I chose wrongly in the moment,” Xion says firmly. “If you just came here for this, then you need to go. I don’t mind being friends, Naminé but I… I can’t…”

“I haven’t stopped thinking about us,” Naminé whispers and slowly pulls a shell from her purse. A shell they used to collect together as the sun set over the beach.

Xion clutches their head and wishes things would just stop being so complicated. A part of them had loved Naminé, too but their heart belongs to Kairi. The woman Xion loves is at a modeling call today, hoping to score a gig, and Xion remembers how they kissed and wished each other a good day. Maybe their love is comfortable, not as exciting or thrilling, but their love is a warm hug at the end of the day and knowing there is someone waiting.

“I love Kairi,” Xion repeats firmly. “I love her and she loves me. I want you to go.”

Naminé slowly sets the seashell down on the desk, face wistful and sad. “I’m going to the mainland this weekend for some R&R. If you want to come with me, meet me at the ferry at noon on Friday. Just friends.”

Xion knows there is no just friends with Naminé but Naminé walks away and their eyes remain on the seashell. Slowly, Xion cradles it in their hands and sits down heavily in the chair behind their desk. The shell is pale with a lovely shade of pink just inside the soft curve of the shell. The inside is smooth and soft while the outside is rough like sand.

Xion’s phone resting nearby lights up with a message from Kairi and Xion almost drops the seashell.

K: I got the job! ^_^
K: We should celebrate tonight ;)

Xion sighs and slowly picks up the phone to reply heart hammering but not because they’re excited for Kairi. No, the spike in blood pressure is the reminder of how Naminé made them feel. The heavenly feel of Naminé’s skin and hair. The way she whimpered.

X: Sounds good. I’ll take you to dinner, you deserve it. Invite your friends
K: Aww thanks babe, ok! I bet Sora and Riku would come : ) Plus, we need to catch up with them anyway
X: Sure
K: See you at home?

Home.

Home with Kairi. Xion clutches the shell tightly in their hand and tries to banish Naminé’s blonde hair from their memory and replace it with Kairi’s soft brunette locks but the image won’t fade.

X: Yes. See you at home.
K: I love you

Xion slowly sets the phone aside and opens their hand to see the impression clutching the shell left on their skin.

Friday at noon.

They clear their schedule.

Chapter Text

“Hold still, Sora.”

Holding still is a great concept but he’s never been good at staying still in actual execution. Not as a kid and definitely not as an adult either. Riku continues to slather sunscreen on his face, rubbing the product in so he doesn’t fry while they’re at the parade and festival for Pride. He’d debated on his outfit for days until finally settling on one the pride t-shirts he’s picked up – white t-shirt with a rainbow, simple and cute – with a pair of casual cut off shorts and tennis shoes since Riku refused to let him wear flip flops.

They’ll hurt your feet , Riku had said.

They’re standing outside of Axel’s and Roxas’ place, waiting on them before piling into Axel’s car on the way over. Kairi was supposed to come but Xion had to go somewhere last minute for work and she didn’t want to go without Xion so they were down by two but Sora was still excited. Even his parents were going to Pride this year.

“When we get there, I have to text my parents,” Sora says while Riku works some sunscreen down his neck and makes him turn so he can do the back, too. “Pretty sure I’m already tan, Riku.”

“Pretty sure skin cancer doesn’t care, Sora,” Riku spits back as he works more into his skin.

“Testy today.”

“No, just frustrated because we were supposed to leave twenty minutes ago.”

“We’re not late,” Sora points out. Riku’s always been on edge about being punctual but it’s how he’d been raised. He also thinks Riku is nervous because it’s his first gay pride festival – and this year he’s out of the closet so it’s even more nerve-wracking. Sora also thinks it’s special and he’ll eagerly break his back for Riku to have a good time.

“I know, I know,” Riku mutters. “I just like to leave when they say we’re leaving.”

“You know Axel, he takes forever to perfect his look.” Sora smiles and then hears the front door open. He spins around and eagerly tiptoes over Riku’s shoulder to see Axel and Roxas walk out to check out their looks for pride this year.

Roxas steps out first and he’s unsurprised to see him in ripped jeans and combat boots because it’s such a signature Roxas look. Black t-shirt with a saying printed on the front. From this distance, Sora has to squint to read the text but feels his face blush as it becomes clear what he’s reading: your husband calls me daddy too

Axel follows, also dressed in all black, black shredded leggings, tall black combat boots with metal spikes on the heels, and a black fishnet tank top. Silver glints at his nipples and around his neck is a black collar fashioned with a silver O-ring. Red hair tied back out of his face and black sunglasses over his eyes, Axel looks ready to attend a night club more than pride but Sora’s no judge.

“Are you two finally ready?” Riku asks, voice tired and on edge. He really is nervous.

“Yeah, what’s the rush?” Axel replies while they pile into the Jeep.

“Riku’s upset because we said we’d leave twenty minutes ago,” Sora informs them.

“Oh.” Roxas rolls his eyes and shoots Riku a look over his shoulder. “Chill, Mommy, we’ll get there on time.”

Riku’s jaw sets and he folds his arms over his chest but Sora reaches over to take his hand and ease his anxiety. He watches as Riku blushes full force but Sora doesn’t let go.

“It’ll be fun,” Sora assures Riku softly. “Right?”

“I guess,” Riku replies with a shrug. “Hold my hand and people will think we’re together.”

Sora shrugs. “That’s okay.”

The look on Riku’s face is of complete shock but Sora just smiles at him. Riku stammers and squeaks a few times but he’s used to Riku tripping over his words at times. Usually when he’s stressed.

“Riku, everything is fiiiinneee ,” Sora says. “It’s your first pride but you don’t have to be so nervous.”

“I- you- I-.” Riku gestures with his free hand. “You said- people will think- you- Sora ?”

“What?”

“I said people think we’re together and you said that’s okay?! Sora- I- we’re not- I-.”

“Oh, I can stop,” Sora says and pulls his hand away. Riku stares at his now empty hand with disappointment. “I mean I wasn’t sure if you wanted to find someone to hook up with or if you wanted to pretend to be with me so you won’t feel pressure. It’s fine either way.”

Sora hears Axel snort up front but ignores him. Riku stammers a few more times and slowly takes his hand again. He doesn’t have to say anything, the message is clear, so Sora smiles brightly and squeezes Riku’s hand in response. They ride to the parade hand in hand and when they find a parking spot in a parking garage, they walk out hand in hand, too. Riku’s not dressed in any particular way, just his usual white v neck, black cover-up, and jeans with boots but Sora keeps his eyes peeled for free stickers or temporary tattoos so Riku can be in the rainbow coalition, too.

“Text your mom,” Riku reminds him while they follow Axel and Roxas down the sidewalk. They’re heading to the end of the parade so they can be closer to the festival. The sidewalk is packed full of people, some dressed in hardly anything and others just regular parade-goers. They pass a few protests but the love surrounding them drowns out all hate. Sora skips beside Riku in excitement, his eyes roaming every which way at the colors and sounds.

There is so much to look at and take in.

S; Mom, we’re here!!! We’re headed toward the usual spot. Are you there or are you at the one restaurant??

His parents like to reserve a table at one of the bars down the street so they can be comfortable and drink, also offering his friends a place to hang out if they want which Sora always appreciates.

Mom: Sora! Sweetheart, I’m glad you made it, your dad and I were worried. We’re at the restaurant, honey. Make sure to stop by on the way down.
S: OK! ^_^

“We have to stop somewhere on the way over. Axel! Roxas!” Sora pulls Riku short so he can familiarize himself with the area. He knows the street but it takes him a moment to figure out where they are.

Axel grabs the back of Roxas’ shirt to wheel him around and walk them back to Sora and Riku. “Yeah?” Axel asks.

“We have to stop and see my mom and dad,” Sora says.

“They at the usual place?” Roxas asks. “That one bar or whatever.”

“Yeah!”

“Cool, it’s just up ahead,” Axel replies and they all fall in together.

Excitement fuels Sora’s entire body as they draw closer until he can spot both his mom and dad sitting at a large table drinking wine coolers and enjoying their lunch. Sora speeds up, dragging Riku in tow, to stand on the edge of the veranda so his mom can smooch his forehead in greeting.

“Mom!” Sora gasps as he hurries forward.

“Sora, there you are.” His mom stands up and eagerly bends over the railing, while her husband holds her arm, and kisses him right on the forehead like he knew she would. “Having a fun time, sweetie?”

“Yeah! We just got here but yeah. Mom, you remember Roxas and Axel.”

“Of course I do,” she says. She greets them with kisses too which makes Axel blush and Roxas pulls a face but they all know his mom is super affectionate. “And Riku.”

Riku blushes deep red and lets her kiss his cheek, too. “Hello, ma’am.”

“Oh, you stop that.” Mrs. Tetuanui gives Riku a gentle pat on the cheek. “You’re basically my other son. You call me Sefina. Understand?”

“Yes, ma’am- I mean- Mrs. Sora’s Mom- I mean- Sefina.” Riku ducks his head in shame while Axel and Roxas have to bite back laughter. Sora grabs onto Riku’s hand to squeeze and offer him strength. His mom raises an eyebrow but doesn’t say anything.

“Alright, you four have fun but not too much fun. Sora, did you take your medicine today?”

“Yes, Mama,” Sora replies immediately.

“And you have your medical card?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“And you have your phone fully charged?”

“Yes, Mama.”

“Okay.” She pats his cheek and gives him a gentle pinch. “Have fun.”

“Bye Mrs. Tetuanui,” Axel says and quickly drags them all away so they can reach their usual space on the bridge. “We’re late, let’s hope we can bully our way to sitting down.”

“Roxas is a bully,” Riku says which makes Roxas bark out a laugh.

They reach the bridge just in time for them to hear the parade start on the other end. The bridge is packed but Axel being so tall and Roxas being so terrifying, they manage to clear a path and all sit up on top of the railing. Riku immediately puts his arm behind Sora’s back to keep him from falling and soon Sora is snuggled right up against Riku’s side comfortably and swinging his feet.

Life is good.

Axel helps Roxas up, giving him a boost, which makes Roxas glare but Sora knows he’s glad he didn’t have to struggle up next to Riku while Axel takes up the last spot, long legs almost still touching the ground even from where he’s sitting. They have a while to wait for the parade to start reaching their end of the street but the festival is only one more mile down the sidewalk so they won’t have to walk from one end to the other.

Sora remains cuddled up against Riku through the entire parade, eagerly drinking in his scent of coconuts and sweat. Pieces of his hair escaping his braid tickles over Sora’s cheeks and neck but he doesn’t mind. Riku is solid and comfortable but he can also feel his arm shaking which is worrisome. He packed one of Riku’s braces in his backpack but Riku has yet to ask for one.

“Riku,” he whispers. “Are you okay?”

“Fine,” comes the whispered reply.

“Your arm is trembling.”

“Oh- uh- just my wrist hurting a little. I’m fine, Sora, really.”

“Okay.” Sora nuzzles closer, his hand slowly drifting to rest on Riku’s thigh. He feels the tensing of muscles but eventually, Riku relaxes. They sit side by side, eagerly snuggled while the parade goes by and Axel takes all of the photos. Lots of selfies since he has the longest arms and pictures of the parade. They collect their free goodies into bags and Sora drapes Riku in rainbow-colored beads and shoves plastic rainbow sunglasses on his face.

Riku’s laugh sets the entire world ablaze.

He can feel his heart soar as Riku smiles and has a good time. They take several photos together and when Sora posts them on Instagram he has to remind himself Riku really isn’t his boyfriend. He’s never thought about having a boyfriend or girlfriend outside of a few crushes here and there. He’s not exactly a dateable kind of person; he’s not attractive and he’s not reliable but pretending to be Riku’s boyfriend sends a thrill down his spine.

Riku is so beautiful and sexy and completely perfect. In fact, Sora’s never met someone as perfect and wonderful as Riku in his entire life. The parade slowly comes to an end and Axel helps him and Roxas down so they can start toward the festival. The sun beats high overhead and the black asphalt of the street doesn’t help the heat but luckily the festival is in a green park so there’s a lot more shade and areas to cool down.

His heart stutters a few times in his chest and he pauses while they walk, hand rest there for a moment. Riku’s attention is immediate and he places his hands on Sora’s arm and shoulder.

“Sora?”

“Sorry,” he gasps. “Just a little fluttery.”

“Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?” Riku asks concern tainting his cool exterior. “Guys, hold on!”

Axel and Roxas both come back and Roxas immediately pulls out a water bottle to hand over to Riku. The attention makes Sora blush and he hates how they’ve now caused a scene. More than anything, Sora hates being treated like a patient. Yes, he has a bad heart and yes, he has a medical ID necklace just in case he’s out in public and has an episode but he’s also run a marathon and done a lot of other normal physical activities in the past.

He doesn’t need to be seen as an invalid.

“I’m okay ,” he insists but he takes the water to sip. “I just got a little fluttery. It’s fine now.”

Riku looks uncertain but Sora shoves the water bottle bac into his hand and keeps walking. He won’t let them slow him down because of a minor upset. They all fall into line with him and eventually, Riku shyly takes his hand again which Sora accepts. The front of the festival is marked by a rainbow arch of balloons which makes Sora smile. They take a map and list of vendors so Roxas can figure out who is here this year, standing under a tree for some shade.

“God, next year, I’m going pantsless,” Axel pants while fanning himself with one of the free goodies they received at the parade.

“Hot,” Roxas replies which makes Axel blush.

“Shut up, Roxas.”

“Hey, that one dildo company is here,” Roxas remarks which again makes Axel turn bright red. Sora fears he’s missed something but doesn’t have the energy to ask.

“Really, Rox, right in front of everyone?” Axel mutters.

“Oh, yeah, we’re screwing,” Roxas says to clear everything up. Both Riku and Sora stare in disbelief. “There, now they know.”

“Smooth.” Axel rolls his eyes and looks completely scandalized even behind the sunglasses but Sora is glad they decided to maybe be together. He’s not sure if having sex is being together but at least they’re no longer pining silently for one another.

“Can we get food?” Sora asks. “I’m so hungry.”

“Sure,” Roxas says and points to the map. “Food is that way!”

Roxas leads the way with Axel a few steps behind because his legs are longer and he has to slow down so he doesn’t outpace all of them. With all of the colors and booths, Sora has a hard time focusing but Riku keeps him on the right path so he doesn’t wander off. Last year, he’d gotten lost and Axel had joked he needed a leash but this year he has a Riku.

Infinitely better than a leash.

“What do you want to eat?” Roxas asks when they come upon the food vendors. A lot of it is local foods and Sora keeps his eyes peeled for his favorite taco truck.

“The tacos,” he says immediately and points to the blue truck off to the side.

“We eat there all the time, though,” Axel complains. “Let’s do something new.”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Riku replies. “Sora and I will have the tacos. You two have fun experimenting.”

“Whatever,” Axel grumbles but Sora is glad Riku is here to stick up for him.

“Thanks,” Sora says quietly while they go stand in line together. Riku’s arm has at some point slipped around his waist which is so natural and comfortable, Sora doesn’t even question it. He wonders how far they can push this; will they kiss, make out?

Okay, maybe he really does have a big fat crush on Riku.

But what does that mean? He’s never liked a guy before and he always figured he was only into girls even if he’s not felt anything for a girl in a long, long time? His parents won’t mind but he’s not sure what to do either. This is a mess and he really needs to talk to his mom about it. Axel won’t listen, Riku is out of the question, Kairi isn’t here, and Roxas will just tell him to jump Riku’s bones.

Yeah, he def needs his mom.

“You okay, Sora?” Riku asks.

“Yeah, just… Need to talk to my mom about something,” he says slowly. “Can I call her and you get us food?”

“Sure. You want four tacos?”

“Yes, please.” He ducks out of Riku’s arms and tries to find a private tree to stand under, blushing when he notes most of the trees are taken up by kissing lovers. He eventually finds one to hide behind, pulling out his phone, and hoping his mom will answer.

“Hi, sweetheart. Having fun?”

“Hi, Mom- yeah- um… I wanted to talk to you.”

“Of course, honey. Let me move so I can hear you better.”

“Okay.” He waits while his mom walks away, biting his lip, turning his eyes to the sky to watch the sun dance through the leaves of the trees.

“Okay, sweetheart, go ahead.”

“I think I’m into boys,” he whispers, eyes tearing up in fear. He knows his mom won’t care but he’s still afraid of what this could mean.

“Okay… Were you not before?”

“Huh?”

“I kind of always thought you were,” she replies slowly. “Were you not?”

A hot blush runs down from Sora’s face to his stomach as he realizes his mom thought he was gay all along. Well, mothers do know their kids best. “I- I never really thought about it before.”

“Oh… I see… and now what’s made you think about it? I saw you holding Riku’s hand earlier. Are you two together now?”

“No… but it’s nice- I mean we’re pretending so weird guys don’t hit on him,” Sora says slowly. “He’s gay- he told me and… I don’t know. It feels nice to hold his hand and stuff.”

“Have you told him?”

“No! I- What if that ruins our friendship?”

“Sweetheart, he’s already pretending to be your boyfriend. If he was uncomfortable with the idea, he wouldn’t have agreed to even pretend . I hate to break it to you, Sora, but that boy has had one big fat crush on you for a very long time. Believe me, I’ve watched it grow.”

Another blush and Sora feels stupid for never noticing. “You think so?”

“I know so… That boy’s madly in love with you and I think you need to put him out of his sweet misery before he has a coronary.”

He laughs softly and tries to picture Riku and him as boyfriends. He guesses it’s really no different than how he feels right now just more official. The thought of Riku being his boyfriend and being able to ask Riku to spend the night every night feels good.

The thought of kissing Riku makes him tingle all over.

“You still there, Sora?”

“Yeah, sorry. Just… not sure what to say to him,” he admits shyly.

“I think you should tell him you care about him and maybe this pretend thing could become a real thing if he wants. You tell him you’re comfortable with him and he makes your heart full. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“Good. Now, you run along and bring home a boyfriend to your mama.”

A giggle erupts out of him and he slams a hand over his mouth to stop from sounding like a schoolboy. “Yes, mama.”

“I love you, my son.”

“I love you, too, Mama.”

Sora slowly hangs up and takes a deep breath so he can tell Riku to his face he wants to be real boyfriends. Riku is balancing two containers of tacos when Sora returns so he quickly takes one so he doesn’t drop them both.

“Oh, hey, you’re back. Everything okay?” Riku asks.

“Yes. Riku, focus.” Sora takes the tacos so Riku doesn’t drop them.

“Uh- okay?” Riku asks, looking lost and confused.

“This pretend boyfriend thing we’re doing, I really like it. I want it to be real.”

Riku blinks. “Excuse me?”

“I want us to be real boyfriends… I’d be open to the idea of us dating for real. If you wanted. I care about you and you make my heart full. This feels right. Us. Together.” He knows his face is red and he’s not sure if it’s sunburn or blush but Riku quickly turns the same shade as the red food truck in the distance.

“You- you want to- to date ?” Riku mumbles.

“Yes.”

“I-… uh- um- I need to sit down.”

Worry fills Sora’s stomach but they find a place to sit and Sora fans Riku immediately. Maybe asking him out on the same day he’s at pride being openly gay hadn’t been the best idea. Maybe he should have waited until-.

Riku’s lips are extremely soft.

The kiss happens fast and leaves Sora’s heart pounding hard in his chest. Riku’s lips are soft and gentle on his and Sora suddenly wishes he used chapstick more often. When Riku pulls back his face is flushed so red it makes his eyes stand out brilliantly green.

“Well?” Riku asks shyly.

Sora reaches up to touch his lips with his fingertips and smiles shyly. “Yeah, that was nice.”

“So, we’re dating,” Riku says slowly.

“Yeah.”

“Oh my God… I… I can’t believe I finally get to date you.” Riku turns even redder and drops his face into his arms to hide.

“Riku-.”

“Sora, I’ve liked you since we were kids !” he whines and Sora realizes his mom was right. She’s always right. “And now …”

“It’s okay…” Sora can hear the tears in Riku’s voice so he can only hope they’re happy tears. “I’m sorry it took me so long to realize.”

Riku sits up and kisses him again. The kiss is hard and desperate, a kind of kiss which will definitely leave his mouth bruised but Sora attempts to kiss him back in return this time. He’s not used to kissing but he hopes he can practice on Riku a lot.

“Wow,” Sora breathes once Riku pauses but doesn’t go far. “You kiss really good.”

“You feel amazing,” Riku replies, gently pressing their foreheads together. “I’m out of breath.”

“Eat your tacos,” Sora suggests and Riku chuckles but the chuckle turns into a laugh and he has to drop his head onto Sora’s shoulder to laugh so hard his shoulders shake. “What?”

“Sorry,” Riku gasps. “It was just so funny. I don’t know why.”

“That’s okay. I love hearing you laugh.” Sora kisses Riku’s forehead when he sits up which makes Riku blush. “Where did Roxas and Axel go?”

“I don’t know.” Riku shields his eyes to look around. Losing Axel in a crowd is difficult considering his height and shocking color of his hair but he’s nowhere. “I really have no idea.”

“I’ll text,” Sora says.

S: Roxas, where did u guys go??

Roxas starts to type and stops. Sora sighs and stands up, trying to spot them but they’re nowhere to be seen. “I have no idea where they are,” Sora pouts. “He was typing but he stopped.”

R: Lol sorry someone thought Axel was my sub I had to laugh
R: You should see Axel’s face
S: Your sub? I don’t get it
R: I’ll explain it in a min. Where are u guys?
S: Eating, where are you?
R: We went up to the pavilion, there are more shade and some music. Come up, we saved you spots!
S: Ok! Hey, I’m dating Riku now for real :)
R: No
S: YES?
R: OMG shut up
R: FINALLY
S: Finally????
R: He has pined for you for so long I thought he was gonna turn into a pine tree
S: Haha
R: Seriously come on up, we have lots of snacks and Axel is hilariously embarrassed
S: Do you have drinks? We forgot drinks and I have to take my pills
R: Yeah we got those too
S: Ok, c u soon

“They’re up at the pavilion. Hey, Riku?”

“Yeah?” Riku asks while holding their tacos in both of his hands.

“What does it mean when Roxas says someone mistook Axel for his sub?”

Riku’s face turns bright red and he says nothing in return for a moment. “Uh, Roxas can- uh- explain it.”

Sora rolls his eyes but he’s certain he’s in for an ear full when they reach the pavilion.


 

“I can’t believe someone mistook you for my sub,” Roxas laughs for the umpteenth time while they all sit together in the grass later that evening. They’re all tired, Sora especially, and they still have to walk back to the Jeep.

“Shut up,” Axel mumbles but he’s happily stretched out on the grass, head in Roxas’ lap while they enjoy the evening music from a distance.

“I bet you’d like it,” Roxas teases and hopes he’s not too transparent while he pets Axel’s hair. In his heart, Roxas knows this friends with benefits move has already deepened into something more. The moment he was inside Axel, he knew it was over. His crush on Axel is at warp speed and he has no idea how to handle feeling like this.

Axel is not the kind of person to commit.

Roxas is the kind of person to commit.

“Like what?” Axel asks, voice sleepy.

“Being my submissive.”

“Mmm, I dunno, never done stuff like that before.”

“We could try,” Roxas offers slowly. Of course, Axel is sleepy and when Axel needs sleep he’ll agree to almost anything.

“Maybe,” Axel mumbles. “Time to go home? I’m tired.”

“Yeah,” Roxas whispers, gently petting him. “Gimme your keys, you’re too tired to drive.”

Axel hums and unhooks the car keys from his belt to hand over. Roxas slowly stands first and helps Axel to his feet while Riku simply lifts Sora into his arms to carry to the car. Jealousy spikes through Roxas briefly as he wishes he and Axel were real boyfriends.

You told him you wanted to be casual. This is on you, not him.

They all slowly walk back to the car which takes a lot longer than the walk to the festival. On the way home, Axel and Sora sleep while Riku talks casually about the weather and the festival to keep Roxas awake. They drop Riku and Sora off at Sora’s place before he can take Axel home. Axel is so tired, he has to help him walk inside and they don’t even make it to Axel’s bed so Roxas helps him be comfy on the sectional.

“Sleepy, huh?” Roxas asks, slowly leaning back so Axel can use him as a pillow.

“Mhm.”

“Too much sun?”

“Mhm.”

“Too much alcohol?”

Axel giggles. “Nah, not enough.”

“Ax…”

“Yeah?”

“I like you,” Roxas whispers. “And I know I said we should stay casual but… I’m starting to think maybe we should date for real. Like Sora and Riku.”

Axel hums and yawns. “Real dating?” he repeats.

“Yeah, really dating. Boyfriends. Committed to not cheating on each other,” Roxas says, hoping he’s being clear enough for Axel’s sleepy brain.

There’s a pause and then Axel sits up and slowly turns to look at him, green eyes wide. “Are you serious?”

He shrugs and tugs at his shirt casually. “Yeah, I guess.”

“Roxas.”

“Yes, I’m serious, okay? I like you… I- I like being with you… I’d be your boyfriend if you asked…” He blushes and ducks his head, wishing he didn’t feel so on the spot. “You’re cute and great in bed and I like the idea of us being exclusive.”

Axel’s eyes water and then he’s eagerly kissing him and easing them both back on the couch, nuzzling, and being extremely cuddly. Sleepy Axel is a huge cuddler so this is not a surprise. Roxas wraps his arms around Axel in return and lets Axel rest his head on his chest.

“That a yes?” Roxas asks softly.

“Yeah,” Axel replies. “Definitely.”

Real boyfriends.

Him and Axel.

Axel and Roxas.

A huge smile fills Roxas’ face while he hears Axel’s breathing slow as he starts to drift off. Maybe they have some problems at times but they can work it out. Together.

 



The sun filtering in through the brightly patterned curtains highlights Sora’s hair in soft golden flames. Riku lies by Sora on his side, a soft smile on his face, while he studies the way Sora’s long, dark lashes tickle his cheekbones in his sleep. He looks so peaceful and Riku doesn’t want to move in fear of waking him. Last night, they’d come home and Sora had been so sleepy, Riku had immediately tucked him into bed after helping him change into pajamas and now they’re here together.

He has no idea what he did to deserve someone as soft and kind as Sora but his heart is full of complete love. He’s been in love with Sora for so long and he’s happy his feelings are reciprocated. He’s no longer hiding in a closet of shame and can fully embrace his feelings for the man of his dreams. Tears slowly slide down his cheeks but they’re joyful tears; tears from how much Sora makes him feel all at once. Sora’s soft hair is sticking up every which way and he drools a little in his sleep but Riku wouldn’t have him any other way.

The sound of a phone buzzing does make him sit up so he can silence it and notes his mom is calling him. Again. She’s called a few times in the last couple of days but he hasn’t bothered to respond because he lacks the energy to talk about this. He lets her go to voicemail but she calls again so he has no choice but to slowly slink out of bed and tip toe over to the front door so he can step outside and not disturb Sora’s sleep.

“Mom, it’s early,” he says which he knows isn’t respectful but he’s already mentally exhausted by a conversation that hasn’t happened yet.

“Riku,” his mother says, voice frantic. “Your father is in the hospital again.”

He frowns, completely thrown off guard. “ Again ? He just had heart surgery!”

“I know but he had to go back last night. He’s very sick… I- Riku, please come,” she says, voice breaking. “I don’t know if he’ll make it out this time.”

Riku’s skin turns cold and has to swallow back a wave of emotions. “Okay, I’m coming,” he says slowly before having no choice but to rush back into Sora’s apartment to redress. He borrowed some of Sora’s pajamas which were too small but they worked.

“Riku?” Sora mumbles while Riku makes too much noise gathering his belongings. “What are you doing?”

“I have to go, I’m sorry.” Riku bends down to kiss him softly once. “My dad is back in the hospital. I gotta go.”

“Oh- okay- I’m coming.” Sora throws the blanket back and sits up, still half asleep. “I just need to find my coat.”

“Sora-.”

“No coat, just shoes. Just shoes.”

“Sora, you don’t have to come.”

“Yes, I do.” Sora trips out of bed and manages to find some tennis shoes which he yanks onto his feet and he grabs a hooded jacket to pull on.

“What about work.”

“Gotta call work,” he mumbles “Let’s go. I’m ready.”

He pauses to admire how Sora is so eager to throw himself into his family’s problems and realizes now he can introduce Sora as his boyfriend. Shoving back more tears, he makes sure they both have their phones and they both are quick to hurry across town to catch the morning ferry. Sora leans on him while they ride, still sleepy, and Riku wraps his arm around Sora to hold him close.

He can do this now without guilt. They’re together.

“Wake me up when we get there,” Sora mumbles and Riku kisses the top of his head, glad he can draw strength from having Sora here with him.

“Sure,” he replies softly. He isn’t sure if his mother told his father about him being gay but he kind of hopes his dad knows so he doesn’t have to come out all over again. At least his family likes Sora.

The ferry ride is slow this morning with the waters being more erratic than usual but there is a storm brewing on the horizon. Checking the weather, Riku notes they’re expected thunderstorms through the rest of the week. They hit the mainland and Riku orders them a taxi to take them to the hospital where he rushes into the main entrance, Sora on his heels.

“Hi, I’m looking for Takashi Nomura,” Riku says quickly. “I’m his son.”

The woman at the front desk looks suspicious of him but slowly types the name into their database. “He’s in the ICU on the fifth floor,” she replies slowly. “You’re his son?”

“Yeah.” Riku grabs Sora’s hand and drags him to the elevators so they can ride up to the fifth floor. His face is grim in the mirrored surface of the elevator doors and there is a panic attack brewing in his chest. Had his mother told his father about him and then his father had yet another heart attack?

Was this all his fault?

Sora squeezes his hand softly and places his head on Riku’s shoulder. “I’m here,” he whispers.

A soft, steadying breath keeps him from breaking down and he continues to leech off of Sora’s strength. One day, he’s going to have to find a way to repay Sora for his unending kindness. The fifth floor comes up quickly and he sees his family sitting in the main waiting room, his mother beside herself with tears, and his cousins all pale and grim.

“Mom,” Riku says but his uncle bars his way. “Get out of my way.”

“Not right now, Riku,” his uncle replies coolly.

Riku’s eyes narrow and he shoves his uncle back which shocks everyone in the room, including himself, but he goes to kneel at his mother’s feet regardless. “Mom,” he says, taking her cold hands in his to hold. “What happened?”

“He hadn’t been feeling well,” she whispers, voice broken and tired. “I told him we should see the doctor and he agreed. I was calling to make him an appointment when I heard a crash in the kitchen. He’d collapsed again.”

Dread settles over Riku’s shoulders but he keeps his thoughts locked away. “And you called 911 and now we’re here. What did they say?”

“He had another heart attack, this one much worse. He’s not doing well at all. They came- they came back here to say I shouldn’t leave… That this may…” She covers her face and continues to cry which breaks Riku’s heart. “You need to see him, Riku. Say your good-byes now.”

Riku is cold all over and he’s not sure he has the strength to say final words to a father he barely knew; a man he loved unconditionally but he’s never sure loved him. Especially now. “Did you tell him?” he whispers. “About me?”

“Yes.”

Meaning the rest of the family knew, too. No one has said anything but he can feel their eyes on him, accusing and cold. Riku slowly stands up and notes his grandmother is missing from the group. He hopes she’s in good health and makes a note to call her.

“Go see him, Riku,” his mother insists. “Before it’s too late.”

“What room is he in?” he asks quietly.

“Room 514,” his uncle replies grimly.

Riku nods and slowly walks down the hallway, heart pounding heavily with fear. He can barely feel his extremities and sweat settles over his body. The world feels unreal – as if he’s entered a dream but cannot snap himself awake. The hospital room is full of machines and nurses, his father attached by wires and tubes in all parts of his body. He looks small and pale, surrounded by a team of guardian angels trying to keep him stable, his eyes closed while his heart monitor beeps steadily.

Riku swallows back another egg-sized lump in his throat and slowly approaches, taking his father’s hand to hold. He’s not even sure if his father is conscious or if they’re keeping him in a medical coma. Nurses bustle around him and he tries not to stand in their way but he also can’t bring his legs to move. Tears burn his eyes and several falls onto the blanket covering his father’s legs.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “God, I’m sorry. I did this, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry .”

A hand lands on his shoulder, startling him enough to turn around there at his side stands Sora, his own blue eyes swimming with tears brighter than any star. “I’m here,” Sora repeats and he has to steel himself to not completely collapse on the floor from being overwhelmed with a tsunami of emotions.

“I did this to him,” Riku gasps, tears choking and robbing his voice away.

“No,” Sora says firmly.

“Mom told him I’m gay and then-.”

“You don’t know that,” Sora says. “Do not put this on yourself. Your father is having complications after heart surgery. It happens.”

“It shouldn’t happen to him,” he says, knowing full well his voice is high and desperate as he almost yells in pain from seeing his father dying on a bed. “He’s strong. He- he’s always been so strong and firm. This can’t happen to him.”

Sora wraps his arms around Riku’s waist to partially hold him upright and partially to comfort. “Riku, you have to believe in him and believe he can walk away from this. Don’t give up on him now. He’s a strong fighter.”

He wants to believe his father could survive yet another major heart attack and come home perfectly fine but in his heart he knows this may be the last time he sees his father alive. He squeezes his father’s hand desperately and wishes he could brick them in this room forever. They could stay here in complacent silence while the machines keep his father alive. Letting go has never been in the Nomura code.

A nurse says something to Sora and Sora starts to pull him away. He doesn’t want to go but someone tells him he needs to step out for a while so they can work on him. Riku slowly walks out of the room and down the hallway, feeling numb all the way down to his fingertips. There is a raw ache living in his ribs which will never cease to go away as long as he draws breath.

Grief is like a silver wrapped gift box which rests on the back of his tongue. It grows and chokes off his airway and he cannot seem to force it down. It’s a box he never wants to open or look inside but it will only continue to grow in size until it kills him. Eventually, Riku knows he will have to reach back and pluck it free so he can examine its contents.

He goes to sit with his family and they are surprisingly quiet or maybe he just can’t hear anything. Sora sits at his side, his arm around his shoulders in comfort but they exist on the edge of sharp waiting game. Rock either way and they will be cut by something. It is a delicate balancing act and Riku is not sure he can walk this sharp edge alone.

You’re not alone , he thinks briefly while he remembers Sora is there to lend his shoulder.

Hours tick by so slowly and after no news for three, Riku thinks maybe they’re out of the woods but a man dressed in scrubs slowly approaches his mother and draws her away to talk to her. He stares at them and when she screams and immediately collapses to her knees, a sob chokes out of him, too. He knows in his heart his father is dead and there is no coming back from this pain.

Grief grows until he can’t breathe and he screams in agony when the doctor comes to inform them, too while his aunts go to comfort his mother. He bends as far over as his spine will allow and clutches the back of his head while he rocks and sobs. Sora tries to make him sit up but he can’t. His heart screams out and out as it unravels its pieces and bleeds heavily in his chest the memories he can still paint like pictures.

His father finding him and Sora eating cookies. His laugh and how he raised his fingers to his lips and let them have two more before sending them off to bed. The proud, small smile on his father’s face when he showed him his report card with all straight A’s for the first time. The time they went to a baseball game together instead of going to school. The late night stories his father would tell him when insomnia kept them both up late in the kitchen. The way his father’s eyes crinkled when he laughed – really laughed.

He doesn’t remember going quiet but he’s suddenly aware he’s not making a single sound. Grief strangles his voice away and leaves him completely used and raw. His father is dead and Riku knows he has some part to play in this cold story. Sora is soothing him softly, his hand on his back, trying to encourage him into sitting up so he’s not folded like a pretzel.

When he does sit up, he feels nothing at all but feeling nothing is better than the raw pain he’d felt a moment ago. The muffled sounds of his mother crying draws his eyes down the hallway but he can’t bring himself to stand up and see his father dead. Not until his uncle walks out, hardly able to stand upright at all as he shuffles down to where they’re sitting. He collapses into a chair and sobs so hard Riku is stunned. He wants to comfort him but instead he slowly stands and does his own long walk down the hallway.

It feels a mile long and by the time he enters the room, the nurses are all standing quietly in the corner while his mother weeps over his father’s body. His cousins all huddle together, crying and hugging one another. They make room for him while his aunt manages to pull his mother away so he can have a moment. Riku searches for signs of life in his father but his skin is now completely pale and his eyes unseeing. There is no light there and another sob bubbles up out of him. He collapses forward and sobs into his father’s chest until he can’t cry anymore.

Someone touches his back but he doesn’t have the strength to look. “Riku,” comes Sora’s gentle voice. “Let’s step out, they need to take your father away now.”

He has to be pried away but eventually he manages to walk away with Sora to the waiting room. Sora makes him sit and he wraps his arms around so Riku can bury his face in Sora’s stomach. He doesn’t cry, however, the tears dried up and gone. The initial pain fades and is replaced with knowing he needs to start taking action. His father’s affairs need settled, the house, his job, a funeral has to be planned. There is going to be a lot to do over the next couple of weeks.

“I need to call work,” he finally says, realizing he’s not shown up today and his client is probably livid by now.

“I’ll call them,” Sora says. “Give me your phone and I’ll do it.”

Riku slowly hands his phone over and sinks back into the chair to sit and mentally try to contemplate the next steps but his only thoughts are mostly just jumbled static. Sora walks away to make phone calls and he slowly looks over at his mother who is talking to some women wearing uniforms for organ donation.

Right. His father is a registered donor.

“Where’s grandma?” Riku asks after a moment to whoever is listening.

“What?” his uncle asks as he too slowly comes out of his own grief stupor.

“Where is she? She’s not here.” He fears she’s ill, too, and he’s not sure he can handle losing another family member so quickly after his father.

“She’s on her way,” his uncle replies quietly. “She was on some vacation with some of her friends and is flying back now.”

“Does she know?”

“We haven’t been able to reach her because she’s on a plane. I sent your cousin to pick her up.”

Riku nods and is sad he was not sent to do this job. What he would give for a long hug from his grandmother. He sits in silence afterward until Sora comes back and sits at his side.

“Okay,” Sora says. “I called and told your job, my job, and I left a voicemail for Kairi to call me back. I texted Roxas and Axel so they both know. Is there anyone else I should try to contact for you?”

“No,” he whispers. “Thank you for this, Sora. You’ve been so helpful.”

Sora smiles and slowly leans over to kiss him which in front of his family feels like a bullet to the chest but also feels like the right thing to do. It’s fortifying and he rests his forehead on Sora’s briefly while Sora’s fingers interlink with his to help further ground him in the moment. Without Sora here, he never would have been able to handle this and he’s beyond thankful for his presence.

“I love you,” he says quietly and knows he means it; they may have just started dating but he’s loved Sora for so long and he needs to say it now before it’s too late.

Sora nuzzles him gently in return. “I love you, too, Riku.”

Sora’s love for him might only be platonic but he doesn’t care; he clings to the words and holds them to his chest as tightly as he can. They’re important and he will gladly nest with them as long as possible. These words will be the light to kindle the darkening storm. Outside, the sky rumbles and lightning flashes as it starts to rain hard against the glass.

Riku turns his eyes to the window while he leans on Sora for support and wonders if the world is mourning for his father’s loss, too. The flood of emotions slowly rocks back into the forefront of his mind and slow tears trickle down his face while he rests his head on Sora’s shoulder. The darkness outside seems to encompass the entire hospital and it matches the anguish he feels inside.

 


 

The storm whips and shoves them down the beach faster than either of them expected and they are quick to return to the hotel to take shelter. Xion sits down on the bed while Naminé undresses from her soaked through dress to dry off. They try not to look or stare because they didn’t come here for this but now they’re at a precipice. They can stagger over or pull back and the decision could have tumultuous consequences.

“Xion,” Naminé says and offers her hand. “Shower with me? It’s cold.”

Xion shuts their eyes and tries to steel themselves to pull away and say no . They are stronger than this and they can remember Kairi. You left Kairi for the weekend because you wanted to see Naminé more than her. You are not strong enough, you should have stayed home. You know why you’re here.

“Okay,” they whisper.

Naminé  takes their hand and they go to the shower together. As soon as the bathroom door closes, Naminé  presses them against the closed door and drags her mouth down their neck to pull open their sweater, palming their breasts, and rubbing her thumb over their nipples until they harden. Xion sighs, eyes closing when Naminé  unbuttons their top, wet mouth placing open mouthed kisses on their neck and chest.

“I missed you,” Naminé  whispers while helping Xion out of their shirt before kneeling, teeth grazing over Xion’s stomach. “I missed everything about you.”

“I missed you, too,” Xion admits as they feel thir world crumbling beneath their feet. Naminé  flashes a smile and tugs Xion’s leggings down, kissing over black lace panties with soft lips. Xion wants to pretend this wasn’t planned, this was just an accident, but they also picked out their sexiest panties to wear to this hotel.

Premeditated.

Xion whimpers, fingers sliding to Naminé’s hair while Naminé  makes quick work of leggings and panties. Xion stands naked, back pressed into the closed door of the shower, and wondering where their life changed so drastically. Naminé’s breath is hot as she kisses their clit and slowly works her tongue between their folds. They’d even waxed for Naminé.

“You taste so good,” Naminé  says, tongue darting playfully over their pussy.

“Not as good as you,” Xion replies as they remember the taste Naminé  left on their tongue. A taste they crave to this day.

Naminé  grins and guides Xion to the sink to make them sit down on the counter, legs spread for the viewing. She kneels back down on top of a folded towel, and eagerly buries her face between Xion’s thighs. Xion moans, head falling back against the mirror, fingers digging into Naminé’s scalp and they try to think of Kairi instead but Kairi never materialized in their mind. No, only Naminé  can eat pussy this good.

“I’m going to cum,” Xion whimpers while Naminé  works their clit with her tongue.

“Already?” Naminé  teases. “Haven’t even started with my fingers yet.”

“It’s been a while,” they admit. “Kairi’s been busy and I have, too.”

Naminé  kisses their thigh and slowly stands up, guiding Xion’s hands to her own small chest. “Shower? It has a fun shower head.”

Xion nods and watches as Naminé  turns to start the shower. Arousal feels hot on their skin and when Naminé pulls them into the shower, moving the showerhead to pulse water between their thighs, they almost collapse from the pleasure. Xion cries out, hands on the shower walls while Naminé  eagerly changes the settings on the head to pulse water at different rates.

I’m cumming !” Xion shouts, fingernails digging at the tile of the wall. “Fuck!”

Naminé kisses their shoulder and slowly eases the makeshift toy away. “I love making you cum,” she whispers. “My turn?”

Xion nods, flipping them around so Naminé can press against the wall and unlike Naminé wanting to tease Xion to orgasm, they have a different desired outcome. Xion puts the showerhead against Naminé’s clit and lets th water pound her relentlessly. Naminé  moans, slapping the wall more than once, hips pressing backward. Xion admires how the water runs down Naminé’s back in rivulets from the dripping on the shower walls and grinds the showerhead against her.

Naminé yelps and her knes almost buckle as she cums. The water continues to pulse until Naminé  shoves their wrist away and she has to take a breather. Kairi would never wan to be so rough and never in the shower. Xion breathes havily as it all comes back to them. The way Naminé  submits and begs. The fun they had in the past.

Everything had been illicit and wrong.

Naminé  turns to kiss them and Xion kisses back but their mind turns to sludge as they stand and realize what they’ve done. They’ve cheated on Kairi twice now – this is their second affair and none of it is fair. They don’t deserve Kairi or her forgiveness. Xion places their head on Naminé’s shoulder and feels tears run down their face.

After the storm passes, they’ll leave, and tell the truth. Kairi deserves the truth.


 

His grandmother arrives in a flurry of curses and anger as she comes into their waiting room which they’d been given another private one to grieve and discuss wills and final affairs. Riku’s been sitting and watching the rain fall down on the mainland while Sora’s been eagerly sitting with his baby cousins to entertain them. More of his family had arrived to pay their respects and offer his mother condolences while they wait for further information from the hospital and coroner.

Death is a lot of work for the living.

“We wanted to wait for you,” his mother tells his grandmother as she comes in, still dripping a little from the rain. “Mama, you’re all wet!”

“I’m fine. Just a little water on the way in. Stupid umbrella,” she says and angrily tosses aside a mangled umbrella torn by the wind. “He’s gone, isn’t he Gina?”

Riku sees his mother mourn as she falls into his grandmother’s arms to cry and he aches because he wants to help but she’s been pushing him away. There is a wall between himself and his family and he feels it more now with his father’s passing than any other time.

“It’ll be alright,” his grandmother croons softly, rubbing her daughter’s back. “Takashi would want you to be strong right now. He wouldn’t want you to be a mess over him. He loved you so much and I know you loved him but you have family here. A son, nieces, nephews, cousins, me … It will be alright. We’ll be here for you.”

“Mom…” Riku calls softly because he has yet to even feel her hug him and more than anything he wants to crawl into her arms like a little boy and cry.

“Riku, you should see if someone can bring your grandmother a clean towel and a warm blanket. You don’t want her to catch her death, too,” his mother replies which is not at all what he wanted to hear but he stands up to obey.

The numbness returns and he starts to think of all of the ways she will start to blame him for this. The way their family will unravel until he has nothing left and is only a shell in the wake of his father’s shadow. He caused his father’s death and he’s certain his mother will blame him until her dying breath. His legs shake but he slowly pushes himself upright and starts to walk out to the nurse’s station to request the towel and blanket.

One of the nurses asks him if he’s alright and he forces himself to nod even though he’s not sure he’ll ever feel okay again. It hurts deep inside a stranger cares more for his mental health than his own mother. Just last week she’d said she loved him and tried to reach out but now he’s the black sheep all over again. He returns to the room and hands over the items before retreating to his corner and staring outside. A fall from this height would be deadly and he debates on finding an open window.

Easier on her if he’s gone .

“Riku.” His grandmother appears by his side as she knows his thoughts are turning as dark as the sky outside. She turns him around and pulls him into a hug, still damp from the rain but he doesn’t mind.

“I’m sorry,” he says immediately even though he’s not even sure what he’s apologizing for.

“You did not do this,” she says and makes him sit down at her side. “Do not put this on your shoulders.”

He doesn’t look her in the eye and keeps his eyes down because if he looks up he’ll cry. He can’t cry right now. “It’s my fault,” he replies.

“My sweet grandson, no, this is not your fault.” She slides her hair to his hair to pet gently in frail hands. “How could you have caused this? Hm?”

“She told father about me,” he whispers. “They know I’m gay and it killed him. I killed him.” The words solidify the concept in his head and his soul feels heavier than the grief he felt a moment ago.

“Gina,” his grandmother snaps and she stands up feebly on her cane, pointing sharply at his mother where she sits far away from him.

“Mama-.”

“Your son sits here, hurting and bleeding, and you let him sit alone. Why? You’re all you have now. No other children, you took this boy in and made him a Nomura. You love this boy and yet you let him sit and blame himself for something he did not do. Could not have done. You’re going to lose him and you’ll be alone. Is that what you want?”

“Mama…”

Riku flinches because he didn’t want this. “Grandma, stop,” he begs but when his grandmother is on a tirade she tends to blow at her own course.

“Do not push your son away when the only crime he’s ever committed is love that young man keeping your family entertained without being asked.” His grandmother gestures to Sora who turns pink but then is quick to lead his cousins from the room so they don’t have to witness any fighting.

Sora really is the best person in the entire universe and he owes him so much.

Riku looks away. The gift wrapped box called grief is so full now he really may have no choice but to reach in and pluck it free but as soon as it's free he knows he may never stop crying so he shoves it back. His grandmother scolds his mother for a while longer before his mother finally comes to sit by him. He refuses to look over at her.

“Riku,” she whispers. “Do you blame yourself for what happened?”

“Don’t you?” he spits back.

“No. I do not blame you. The doctor said he had complications after his surgery and it happens . He did too much, pushed himself too quickly. I do not blame you.” She reaches over to touch him, gently brushing his hair from his face but he continues to turn his face toward the wall.

“What did he say?” he asks. “When you told him.”

“He told me he wasn’t surprised,” she replies slowly. “That he suspected that of you… That was all. He never said he was angry or disappointed or hurt. He loved you.”

“I should have called.” Riku presses the heels of his hands into his eyes so he doesn’t start crying all over again. “I should have come home more.”

“Your father was very proud of you,” she says, hand resting on his shoulder. “He loved you like his own blood born son. I know you two didn’t always see eye to eye but he loved you. He wouldn’t want you to hurt alone.”

“Then stop pushing me away ,” he says and the words are meant to be angry but they come out afraid and broken. “Please.”

“I’m sorry, Riku.”

“I feel like an enemy in my own family… I’m so tired of fighting battles by myself. I’m so tired .” He drops his head and hands, letting them hang, tears blurring his vision.

“I’m sorry,” she repeats, sliding her arms around him to pull him close to her chest. “I know you’re hurting, too. I’m sorry… I’m so sorry.” She kisses his head and holds him close.

He does sob then, crying heavily into her shirt while his grandmother flanks his other side to pet and hold him. They wrap him in a cocoon of love and protection and his grandmother quietly prays over both of them. Asking for strength and guidance while they walk this dark path.

“The lights may be dim,” his grandmother whispers. “But they haven’t been snuffed out.”

His thoughts turn to Sora and how his light shines brighter than any other. Right now, Sora is entertaining the kids in his family while the adults mourn because they’re too young to understand. He also knows Sora will do his best to explain death to them because Sora is an expert at talking heavy topics with kids. Sora’s light is so potent it brightens even the toughest of people’s days.

He is lucky to have Sora in his life.

“Mom,” Riku says quietly.

“Yes?”

“I love Sora,” he says with as much gumption as he can muster. “I love him and we’re together now. I just… thought you should know when he starts coming to more family functions. That is if I’m still invited to them.”

She places a kiss to his forehead and gently clears the tears off of his face with a tissue. “You are always welcome and wanted, Riku. And Sora is a good boy… He’s been so helpful, I am indebted to him.”

Warmth fills Riku’s chest as he thinks on his family welcoming Sora as his partner. A dream come true – maybe there is light somewhere in this darkness. “He’s happy to help,” Riku says because he knows Sora would say the same.

“I’m sure he is,” his mother replies and gives him another kiss between the eyes. “I have… a lot of calls to make. You should go home, get some rest. I can call you when I have funeral details.”

“I want to help,” Riku argues immediately.

“Listen to your mother,” his grandmother scolds but is gentle when she tugs him into sitting upright. “You need to rest and so does Sora. I’m sure you’re both exhausted. I can watch the little ones.”

“I don’t want to leave you to do this all alone, Mom,” Riku insists. “I can help. I’m an adult, I can help with this. Let me help.”

His mother smiles softly and cups his cheek. “You can help when I have more information. Right now, we have to wait until they release his body, there’s nothing else to do here right now. Go home and rest. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

The reluctant, stubborn leash makes him want to stay but eventually, Riku gives in and slowly gathers his stuff and walks his grandmother out into the main waiting room so he can collect Sora. A soft smile fills his face when he sees Sora crawling around on all fours and his youngest cousin riding his back like a pony.

“Hey,” Riku says and Sora looks up as he comes to pause in front of them. “Having fun?”

“Hey!” Sora smiles and Riku feels his heart melt. “Sorry, are we too loud?”

“No, no,” his grandmother says and eases the youngest off of Sora’s back and onto the floor. “You two are going home and I’m taking over your duties, young man. Thank you for being so good and helpful.”

“Oh, we are?” Sora takes Riku’s hand and Riku pulls him up onto his feet. “Why are we going?”

“My mom thinks we should rest. There isn’t anything else for us to do here. She says thank you, by the way.” Riku wraps his around Sora’s shoulder, waving to his grandmother, and starts toward the elevator.

“You’re sure we can go because I don’t mind staying and helping out,” Sora says as they step inside.

As soon as the door shuts, Riku pushes Sora up against the elevator’s walls and kisses him deeply, tongue inside Sora’s mouth before Sora can do anything. He pushes all of his love and thankfulness into the kiss and only pulls back when the elevator stops. Sora stares at him, eyes wide, mouth swollen and gaping, as the door chimes and opens onto the lobby.

“C’mon, Sora,” Riku says, starting toward the front door, already ordering them a taxi.

“Uh- wow !” Sora follows fast on his heels, tripping over his own feet. “That was a good kiss.”

“It’s a thank you… for… for being here. I don’t know what I would have done if you weren’t here, honestly.” Riku wraps his around Sora while they sit on a bench to wait. “You’ve been amazing.”

“Are you okay?” Sora asks, nuzzling against him softly.

“I’m… I don’t know,” he admits which is a lot for him to honestly admit. “I have no idea.”

“Well, I’m here for you,” Sora says and Riku knows he means it. “No matter what, I’m here.”

“I know. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

Sora hums and kisses his cheek. “Exist.”

The reply makes him blush red and he’s glad their taxi is pulling up so he has an excuse to not say anything in return. They hold hands on the way to the ferry and don’t talk the rest of the way back to the island and Sora’s apartment. They don’t talk when they go inside or when Sora kisses him and they start to pull and tug at each other’s clothes. They don’t talk when they’re both stretched out on the bed, naked, breathing heavily and grinding against each other.

Riku sighs, eyes shut while he runs his hands over Sora slowly. He’s wanted this for so long he doesn’t want to forget a single moment. “I love you,” he whispers, forehead to forehead, letting their bodies press together. He doesn’t even want to have sex, he just wants to stay together like this, touching and loving on one another.

“I love you, too,” Sora replies which makes his eyes well up with tears.

“Why?” he asks even if it’s a rude question to ask. “I feel like I’ve done nothing for you.”

“That’s not true.” Sora kisses him and pets his hair. “You do so much for me, Riku. You’re amazing and one day I’m going to make you see it.”

“I just…” Riku slowly lets his head rest on Sora’s chest, shaking and trembling with anticipation and fear. “I’m so afraid of hurting you or ruining this. It doesn’t even feel real… I mean… I know you’re here and we’re together but it feels like this isn’t my life.”

“You just lost your father, Riku. You’re going to feel as if life isn’t real for a while.” Sora strokes his hair and kisses the crown of his head. “But I’m here and I’m happy.”

“I want you to know you mean the world to me, Sora Tetuanui, and I will always be here for you,” Riku says and he means every word. He would rather die than ever leave Sora behind, hurt, or lost. “You deserve better than me but-.”

“No,” Sora cuts him off. “There is no one better.”

Riku nuzzles him in response because any words die in his throat. The box of grief living in the back of his throat slides back a little further.

Chapter Text

Spending the week and weekend with Terra left him feeling refreshed but Ven is happy to be home so he can focus on school work instead of the color of Terra’s lips. Ven tiredly walks up to his front door and startles when he notes in front of his door are several packages. At least ten. They’re all addressed to him and as far as he remembers, he didn’t order any of them.

Frowning, Ven slowly takes each box in one by one. They’re all of varying size and one is so heavy he almost can’t bring it in on his own. Staring at the conglomeration now in the front room of his apartment, Ven pulls out his phone to call Terra and scold him for buying him so much stuff.

“Hey, you make it okay?” Terra asks. “Sorry I couldn’t drive you myself-.”

“Did you buy me anything?” Ven asks while he plucks a pocket knife out to cut one of the boxes open. Inside is a black pillow so large it springs out of the box once Ventus cuts it free. The pillow is covered in sparkles like stars but not anything he would have purchased himself.

“Uh, what do you mean?” Terra replies.

“I mean, did you order me crap from Amazon again? I have like ten packages here. They’re all for me. I didn’t order anything.” Ven cuts open another box and slowly lifts out another box which has a picture of a human skull on the side. Some type of trinket dish.

Terra pauses for a moment. “I didn’t order you anything.”

“You didn’t? Did Aqua?” The next box has a comforter set which is all black and dusted in silver stars like the pillow.

“Not to my knowledge.”

“What the heck. Where did all this stuff come from?” Ventus mutters and opens the heaviest box, leaning over to look inside. Inside is a tall decorative statue of the grim reaper which is definitely unsettling. “Terra…”

“I’m coming right now.”

“Okay.” Ven hangs up and shuts his front door firmly, making sure the lock is secure and the chain, too. He rushes through his apartment to make sure every window is also secure and locked. Nothing looks disturbed but his mind immediately pictures Vanitas.

Why would Vanitas send him slightly strange and almost threatening décor? Maybe it’s a mistake but they were all addressed in his name. Not someone else’s name at his address.

God, if it were Vanitas how did Van even have his address.

“Oh my God,” he whispers and slowly sinks onto the floor, rocking back and forth in fear. The idea Vanitas may have his address is absolutely horrifying. The island is small, yes, but he’s always been careful not to be listed in any White Pages because he feared Vanitas would try to track him down.

It has to be a mistake. This can’t be Vanitas’ handiwork.

Terra arrives twenty minutes later and Ventus sits at his dining room table while Terra looks the items over, opening up the last few boxes to check everything. He looks as puzzled as Ventus feels.

“I didn’t send any of this to you, Ven, and I asked Aqua on the way over. She said she hasn’t bought you anything. Do you think Roxas would have bought this stuff as a joke?” Terra asks.

“I don’t think so,” Ven says but still pulls out his phone to text Roxas anyway.

V: Did you buy me weird stuff of amazon??

“You don’t think it’s Vanitas…” Ven whispers and Terra is quick to shut down the train of thought.

“No. How would he know where to send this stuff? No, it’s not Vanitas. He couldn’t have done this, Ven.” Terra walks over to gently pet his hair back. “You’re safe.”

“I don’t feel safe,” Ven whispers. “ God , I hate this! Vanitas would do something like this. Send me stuff – like an apology but Vanitas style. It’s a classic Van move.”

“He doesn’t know where you live because how could he?” Terra reminds him. Terra’s strong arms help him up and lead him to the couch so they can sit together. “I really don’t think Vanitas is responsible here. Wait until you hear back from Roxas and we can figure this out together.”

“Will you stay with me tonight? All night?” Ven asks even as he feels stupid for asking.

Terra kisses his temple softly. “Yes, of course. Let me go home and grab some stuff for overnight and I’ll be back. You’re safe .”

Ven nods. He doesn’t want to admit how he doesn’t want Terra to leave him alone at all because then he’d come off like a giant baby. He needs to let Terra go and he’ll be back soon. They aren’t too far from one another. Plus, he has his phone, the doors can be locked, and it’s the middle of the day. Nothing can happen in the middle of the afternoon.

“I’ll be right back ,” Terra swears. “Alright?”

“Okay.”

Terra never judges him for his fears and Ventus is thankful to have Terra in his life because he’s always so afraid. The apartment feels extremely large and empty after Terra leaves but he stands to lock the door and chain and stare at all of the packages. They certainly look like Vanitas.

The grim reaper statue is definitely the oddest and Ventus stares at the box for a long time before turning to storm off to a hallway closet. In the closet, he keeps a toolbox complete with mallet hammer. The mallet is heavy but he drags it back to the statue in the box and glares down at the grim reaper’s face. If this is some sick joke from Vanitas, he doesn’t find it funny. Rage fills his entire core and lights his limbs on fire until he brings the mallet down hard on the decoration and watches it shatter. The pieces spill and splatter against the side of the box in a satisfying crumble.

Vanitas cannot harm him anymore. He holds no power here.

“Screw you, Vanitas,” he growls darkly, letting the mallet drop to the ground uselessly. He walks back to the couch to sit and wait for Terra to return while his stomach ties itself into knots.

Vanitas has no power here.

 


 

Venty Wenty didn’t like his gifts.

Vanitas is still seething after watching Ventus smash one of the gifts he purchased him which cost a lot of money – money he doesn’t even really have . Ventus is horribly ungrateful. Rage fills Vanitas’ entire body as he sits and watches Ven through his computer. Terra is coming back to Ventus’ place which is also completely agonizing to think on since listening to Terra coo and soothe Ventus all evening is annoying.

Ventus cheating doesn’t soothe his hurt either.

“He won’t do anything for you, Ventus, only I know what makes you tick ,” Vanitas growls at the screen.

Terra returns and Vanitas feels his stomach churn when Ven leaps up to let him in and they kiss, clinging to each other like a child to a parent. Makes Vanitas sick . His anger skyrockets when Terra kisses back relocks the door and leads Ventus down the hallway. He switches through the screens until he’s able to pull up the camera right across from Ventus’ bed.

“No,” he hisses. “Don’t you do it, Ventus. Don’t you do this to me.”

Terra is gentle when he eases Ven down on the bed and Vanitas’ lip lifts in a snarl as he notes Terra is now undressing. He’s also blocking the view so he switches to hacking into Ventus’ webcam which gives a perfect side view of the bed. Terra strips out of his clothes and Ven looks pleased and embarrassed at the same time.

“We don’t have to, Terra,” Ven says quickly.

“I want to.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. You asked and I want to.” Terra’s hands slide up Ven’s sides and slowly tug his shorts down until he’s bare ass on the bed, cock already hard and standing up. “I see you really want to.”

Ven blushes and slowly lifts his shirt shyly to show off his chest. Vanitas’ own arousal grows as does his anger. Terra bends over to kiss Ven’s chest and stomach, trailing wet lips and tongue down to his cock before he wraps his mouth around Ven with expert ease. Ven moans and arches, his ribs shadowed beneath paper-thin skin. Vanitas remembers how easily purple could bloom on skin so white.

Terra ,” Ven moans, eyes fluttering while Terra bobs his head, sucking, and spreading Ven’s thighs until he can pull away and bury his face between his legs instead. “Fuck!”

Vanitas sighs, pulling his own cock free to tease and stroke while Terra eats Ven’s ass for breakfast. He misses touching Ven, he misses making Ven cry and croon. He misses Ven.

“Ventus,” Vanitas moans softly, eyes shutting so he can listen to Ven moaning instead of watching him fuck Terra. The memories of pleasing Ventus returns and he strokes himself harder and rougher, fingernails dragging on his cock to send a spike of pain with the pleasure.

“Terra, fuck,” Ventus whimpers and Van jerks his head up, eyes opening so he can watch Terra sink inside Ven and fuck him hard against the headboard. The bed shakes and groans beneath their weight. Vanitas suddenly wishes he was lying beneath the bed, listening to them fuck even closer than he is now.

Terra pants and grunts, fingers digging bruises into Ventus’ hips, while Ventus strokes his cock in tandem with Terra’s thrusts. Vanitas snarls and moans, close to his own orgasm, toes curling tightly on the floor. When Terra presses Ventus’ thighs close to his chest, Ventus moans so pretty Vanitas cums. He gasps and paints his hands and shorts, cock throbbing and twitching with the sudden orgasm.

Shit ,” Vanitas whimpers, still stroking himself into overstimulation until he has to stop because he’s too soft to masturbate. His eyes fall onto Ventus being fucked, staring at Terra’s tan hips slamming into Ventus’ ass so hard he can hear the clap distinctly through the feed.

“I’m cumming,” Ventus says and Vanitas looks to Ventus’ face for confirmation. When Ventus cums his eyes always close as he rides through the pleasure. Anger floods Vanitas’ system when Ventus’ eyes slowly shut and he moans gorgeously, stomach quickly covered in white trails.

“Me… too!” Terra grunts and slams Ventus slower and harder, shoving in as deep as he can while cumming. He moans, head back, and eyes fluttering as his stomach heaves through his own orgasm.

Ventus’ eyes blink open slow and hazy, a small smile on his face. He looks so happily fucked out and Vanitas feels jealousy clamber onto his back and wrap him in a chokehold. He never made Ventus look so happy after sex. Terra pulls out after a moment, cock slowly softening, his eyes looking down at whatever creampie leaks out of Ventus’ fluttering hole.

Vanitas’ jaw pops.

“You’re so hot, Ven,” Terra says. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Ventus replies immediately.

Vanitas screams and stands up to walk over to his own bed, climbing onto his knees, and dragging his nails down the wall over his headboard until they bleed. Old grooves prick and tear the thin skin on his fingertips while he screams in agony over Ventus loving someone other than him. It hurts so much he can barely breathe.

Normally, he would want to play the slow game, ease Ventus back in slow and easy but he may need to ramp up the level. Breathing hard, Vanitas notes he’s hard again from the pain and he slides his hand back down to finish himself off for the second time. The scar on his back tugs and pulls until his muscles spasm and he has to remain in the same position until they unlock. The pain ravages his body and he’s aching too much to even scream.

He’s forced to listen to Terra and Ventus talk after sex about their lives and how they want to spend the rest of their time with each other. His stomach twists in anger while he rests on his knees, forehead pressing against the wall over his headboard, back muscles still twitching and locking. He tunes them out until his name calls him back.

“He isn’t hurting you anymore, Ven,” Terra insists and there is an edge of impatience to his tone. “I know you’re scared but Vanitas isn’t here. I’m tired of hearing about him. Will it make you feel better if we go to the hospital and see if he’s still there? I bet he’s still locked up. Van was not stable enough for release. Ease your mind so we can stop talking about this.”

“Maybe,” Ventus replies. “You don’t have to go since it’s clearly bugging you so much.”

Vanitas smirks at Ventus’ snide anger. Yes , a fight.

“Ven…”

“Sorry for being so annoying Terra. I won’t bring it up again.”

“Ven, wait–.”

Vanitas hears a door opening and closing and then he’s certain he can hear Ventus pissing. Bathroom. He went to hide. The satisfaction of knowing they’re fighting helps ease and unlock his muscles enough to slowly turn around and ease back to his computer chair, switching the camera to watch Ven use the bathroom.

He sits when he pees.

“Fuckin’ weirdo,” Van mutters.

“Ven, c’mon, open the door,” Terra calls. “I’m sorry . I shouldn’t have snapped like that.”

Ven stands up and storms over to the door to pull it open, glaring up at Terra’s tall frame. “You have no idea what it was like living with him. For years I stayed with him, let him abuse me, rape me, hold me hostage in my own home. Yes, I’m afraid. Sorry if that inconveniences you, Terra.”

“I’m sorry,” Terra repeats, face falling. “You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like and I’m sorry to yell at you like that. I just want you to feel safe.”

“I won’t feel safe until I know what happened to him.”

“Then we can go check it out ourselves, okay? We can give them a call and see what happened.” Terra slowly reaches out to cup Ventus’ face gently. “Okay?”

Ven pauses and nods. “Okay.”

“Can you forgive me for being an asshole?”

Ven nods and steps close to kiss him. “Yeah.”

“Thank you.” Terra kisses back and Vanitas is certain he’s going to throw up if they keep being so cutesy. “Shower?”

Ven nods. “Shower.”

“Ugh,” Vanitas grumbles and decides to shut the feed off so he doesn’t have to listen to them anymore. They’re disgusting with affection. His back still aches and he has to sit for a moment and hope it doesn’t lock up again.

His mind flies to the door downstairs on the first floor and his legs move before his brain can catch up and he’s ripping down the curtain in rage. The door is painted white like the others in the house. Dangling on a string in front of the door is an upside cross he fashioned out of sticks. His heart pounds hard in his hears while his hand reaches out to the door handle. Ventus used to ask him what was behind the door but he never let Ventus inside.

What’s in there anyway?” Ventus asks, eyes trailing over to the mysterious white door.

“Nothing,” Vanitas replies while stuffing cold spaghettios in his face.

“Nothing? Then why is it locked?”

“I said there was nothing in there so stop fucking asking, Ventus.”

“Van-.” Ventus cuts off when Vanitas turns to backhand him cruelly, drawing blood and splitting his lip. Ventus gasps, hand flying to his face and tears welling in his eyes.

“I said nothing is in there, so shut the fuck up.”

Vanitas flinches at the memory. He never should have been so rough on Ventus; something the Old Man would have done but he never should have turned so angry hands on the love of his life.

“I’m sorry,” he says to the empty house and hopes it carries to Ventus anyway. Maybe the apology comes too late now but he never wanted to hurt Ventus. His hand squeezes and he tries the door handle only to remember he’s locked the door from the outside. They key is in the junk drawer in the kitchen shoved all the way to the back.

The walk over and back feels like centuries and his bladder aches inside as his nerves send anxiety to his spine. The key slides into the lock and he slowly turns it to the left listening to the click. He hasn’t opened this door in many years. Not since before Ventus came here to stay with him. The door creaks as it slowly opens and he coughs at the rush of dust and the smell makes him gag. He’d done his best to tame the smell by researching preservatives and other chemicals online but the age of the room is still nauseating.

The Devil’s den he used to call this place.

He takes a step over the threshold and notes everything is the same as the day he sealed the door. On the bed, in the middle of the room, rests nothing but bones now. Still dressed in pajamas, not rotting away with the body, rests the Old Man. Vanitas’ lip curls up in rage as he stares at the empty eye sockets and notes he is nothing now.

Nothing but bones and dust.

“Fuck you,” Vanitas snarls to Xehanort’s corpse. “No one fucking misses you, you fucking creep.”

His scar twitches and aches. The fear his back may lock while he’s in this room makes him back peddle until he’s in the doorway so he isn’t stuck in this room to stare at the dead body of his tormentor for hours. There is a hole in the middle of Xehanort’s skull and Vanitas slowly looks over at the wall where there is a bullet-shaped hole he never bothered to repair to match. He can remember the day like it had just happened.

Halloween night and he wants to go trick-or-treating like the other teens in his neighborhood but the Old Man refuses to let him outside. He’s not even allowed to go to school. No, he has to stay inside and keep away from anyone his age. Xehanort is in the kitchen, making some awful concoction for dinner he'll force down Vanitas’ throat while Van wishes he could go outside. He trails his fingers over the window longingly as the kids all avoid their house because no one comes here.

“Vanitas,” Xehanort snaps. “Get away from the window and come eat your dinner.”

Vanitas remains where he sits, head pressed against the glass pane. He’s eighteen soon and he wonders how Xehanort plans to keep his leash so short once he’s no longer a child.

“Vanitas! Did you hear me?”

He still refuses to move. Fuck the Old Man.

Xehanort storms over and grabs him by the back of his neck, dragging him across the room despite his struggle to break free. “I said come eat your dinner, you ungrateful brat.” Xehanort throws him into the kitchen and shoves boiling hot food down his throat, burning his neck and choking him so bad he almost throws up.

Vanitas grabs blindly until his hand wraps around the pot handle on the stove and he slams the heavy thing across Xehanort’s head, making the old man stumble in surprise. Vanitas rolls onto his hands and knees and chokes, spitting out the food until his mouth is clear and he can breathe. Xehanort grabs his hair and drags him to the bedroom where he’s shoved onto the bed. Clothing ripping under the old man’s hands, Vanitas feels his body go limp as he used to this part by now.

“You’re an ungrateful little leech,” Xehanort snarls. “Your real parents left you in that hospital because they didn’t want you. I took you in out of the pity of my heart. Fucking scum of the earth you are, I should have poisoned you as a child, and drowned you in the bathtub.”

Vanitas stares up at the ceiling during the sexual act, body yielding because he’s used to it and he’s too tired to fight. Once the Old Man gets off he tells Vanitas to leave so he walks out, trying to pull up the remnants of his clothes on the way. Blood trails down his thighs but he ignores the pain in favor of slowly going upstairs. Beneath the floorboards of his bedroom rests a cold weapon he never thought he’d use because he’s not even sure how it works.

The black gun stares up at him as he removes the floorboard. His hands shake as he picks up the weapon and slowly clicks off the safety. He’s not allowed outside but he’s been able to sneak a few trips. One of those trips were to buy this – the last resort.

He’d intended to use it on himself on his eighteenth birthday but something tells him there is no justice in his death. He’s seen a boy around town who looks just like him. He wants to know more about this boy and his blonde friend. Vanitas slowly walks downstairs, gun calmly by his side as he comes to stand in the doorway of Xehanort’s bedroom.

“Hey,” Vanitas says, voice cold and hollow.

Xehanort turns around and before he can say anything, Vanitas raises the gun and shoots the old man between the eyes. His aim is lucky and he watches Xehanort drop like the old sack of bones he is. For a moment, he doesn’t move, panting in fear, before slowly walking over to kick Xehanort and be sure he’s dead. His eyes are open and he sees nothing.

Peace floods Vanitas’ body.

“You have no power now,” Vanitas growls before shutting the door and relocking the lock. This is his life and he intends to live it.

 


 

“Good afternoon, welcome in!”

Saïx nods to the volunteers at the door and notes the place smells like vanilla and cinnamon which is not how he imagined the animal shelter to smell. “Hello,” he says and tries to look as unintimidating as possible.

“How can we help you?”

“I was hoping to adopt a dog,” he admits slowly. He’d thought on a way to make his apartment less lonely and realized maybe the best way is to fill it with more life. Plants are nice but boring and he’s never been much of a cat person. A dog, however, would make him go outside, maybe even meet people, make friends at the dog park.

Yes, a dog is good.

“Wonderful.” The volunteer smiles and leads him back to where they keep the dogs in their kennels. “What kind of dog are you thinking personality wise? Tell me a bit about your lifestyle.”

“Well, I was hoping to find a dog which isn’t too energetic but still wants to go outside. I’m trying to make myself go out more,” he says.

“Okay. Great.”

He’s introduced to a few dogs and they’re all sweet but nothing clicks. His eyes trail over to a darker corner kennel more than once until his curiosity peaks and he slowly walks over to see a dog cowering in the corner. She shakes and looks completely sad and depressed.

Immediately, Saïx kneels to be at her level and places his fingers against the kennel’s chain gate for her to sniff if she decides to be so brave. She shakes and stays in her spot and Saïx feels her pain. He knows what it is like to be so afraid and everything seems terrifying.

“Hi,” he says softly. “I’m Saïx– Isa. My name is Isa.” He still has a hard time seeing himself as Isa but he’s trying.

His eyes trail over to her card and story and notes her name is Jelly, an abandonment, and abuse case, she’s been returned to the shelter more than once. His heart breaks and he slowly sits down on his butt to take the strain off of his knees, talking to her softly.

“You’re a very pretty girl,” he says, keeping his voice calm and quiet. No sudden movements. “I bet you give excellent cuddles, don’t you? And kisses. I’ve never been a fan of dog slobber but I guess that’s something you get used to, hm?”

Jelly slowly starts to ease forward, crawling on her belly and he doesn’t move in case he scares her back to the corner. She inches closer and closer until she can sniff his fingers. He stays perfectly still, despite the urge to pet wanting to overtake his arms.

“Yes, a very pretty girl,” he says, eyes trailing over her brindled fur and soft sweet face. “Who could hurt a girl like you? Hm?”

Jelly sniffs and slowly her tail thumps on the ground which makes his heart soar. Dogs cannot judge him; she doesn’t know where he’s been or the life he lived before her. She doesn’t know he’s broken and hurting. She doesn’t know he used to be a bad person. All she knows is who he is right now, presented in front of her today.

A dog’s love is unconditional and he doesn’t ever want someone to take advantage of her again.

“Would you like to come home with me?” he asks softly. “I would like that very much.”

Jelly rolls onto her side and continues to rest her nose near his fingers, tail wagging quietly. He moves slow and steady, easing to his feet so he can fill out the necessary paperwork and twenty minutes later he’s leaving with a sweet dog on a leash. She’s extremely well-behaved, even though a little skittish, he’s impressed with how she walks right by his side to the car and doesn’t even seem to mind when he helps her inside.

She rests in the backseat while he drives them both back home so she can sniff around her new space. He’d already been to the pet store earlier and purchased dog necessities. When she’s feeling more confident, he could take her with him and she could pick out a new toy. Joy forms in Saïx’s chest while he leads Jelly up to his apartment and unhooks her leash so she can sniff around and explore.

He pours her some kibble and water, leaving the bowls in the kitchen, and goes to sit on the couch so she can come to him when she’s ready. Jelly wanders around for a while until she decides she wants to come to him. She’s hesitant and slow and even looks unsure at the couch but he pats the space next to him. It takes a few prompts but eventually she jumps up to rest by him, head on his lap. His fingers find her ears and pet softly.

“Good girl,” he croons. “Yes, you are the best girl, aren’t you?”

Jelly looks up at him with love in her eyes and the look makes his chest tighten. He can’t remember a time when anything or anyone loved him. His parents had never loved him, Axel only tolerated him, and Xemnas had never had any love for him he knows now. Tears fill his eyes and he has to blink them away while he pets her gently. The act is soothing and lowers his anxiety.

Dr. Wayfinder told him to meet new people but the prospect of meeting a bunch of strangers on purpose is too much for him so he still hasn’t done his “homework”. Instead, he adopted a dog so hopefully, she will consider this a correct step. They sit together in silence for a while until she falls asleep and he feels complacent to sit with her and let her rest. Clearly, she needs it. However, sitting in silence leaves him alone with his thoughts.

His mind turns to Axel and how much he misses his friend. It is better they stay away from one another for a while but he can’t help but feel that ache and pull in his chest. He hopes Axel finds help somewhere soon. He doesn’t Axel to hurt himself because his addiction is too great. Axel is soon replaced by Xion and he wonders how she is doing.

She’d seemed sincere in wanting to change the course of the clothing but he’s gone numb to the entire situation. People will always see him as the man dressed in black with a harsh scar across his face. He is a bad person; an abuser someone who gets off on hurting others. He never wanted to be someone so cruel and in his heart, he knows he never liked hurting anyone.

Every act he’s done since he’s tried to form as an apology. Commissioning Xion and paying her in large amounts of money is an apology. Giving Axel the drugs he craves is an apology. Allowing Roxas to beat him up verbally is an apology. He’s not sure how to stop apologizing or letting people walk all over him.

Maybe he’s always destined to be a doormat.

Saïx sighs sadly while he thinks on his empty life. No hobbies, no friends, and no drive. He’s not even sure what he wants other than someone to not look at him and see a monster. His eyes drop down to Jelly and hopes she never sees him so dark. He scratches her belly and her tail thumps in her sleep which makes a smile tug his lips upward.

Maybe he used to be a bad person but he can start here: giving an animal a loving home. It’s a small step but it’s still a step toward the light.

“Good girl,” he says again. The road to dawn isn’t so lonely anymore.

 




The mainland hospital is extremely large and more than once they find themselves wandering the hallways listlessly. Eventually, they make it to the correct floor and head down to the mental health ward. Ventus isn’t sure if they’re even privy to this knowledge but they walk up to the nurse’s station outside of the locked doors regardless.  Terra’s arm around him is comforting but Ventus still fears what they may say.

“Can I help you?” the nurse asks, clearly annoyed with their presence.

“We’re looking for a patient,” Terra says. “His name is Vanitas Mun”

“You family?” the woman asks even as she starts to look him up in the system. “What was his name?”

“Mun, last name. First name, Vanitas. V-A-.”

“We don’t have a patient by that name,” the nurse replies and Ventus feels his gut fall out of his ass so fast he almost passes out.

“You don’t?” Terra asks. “He was court-mandated to be here.”

“He may have been let go already,” the nurse replies while tapping on her keyboard. “His name is not in the system unless we have him under something else.”

“No, that’s his legal name,” Terra replies. “Um, thank you.”

“Wait.” The nurse frowns and clicks a few times. “Vanitas… Yeah, he’s no longer here. He was released a few months ago on good standing.”

Hearing Vanitas is out in the world leaves Ventus shaking and sick to his stomach. He turns to go sit down on a chair so he doesn’t faint. The nurse asks if he’s alright but he can’t reply because he’s not alright. Vanitas is out there . He could be anywhere. He could be on the mainland. He could be on the island. He could be living in his apartment complex.

Ventus groans and retches all over the floor. Terra rushes over and the nurse comes over to check on his vitals and clean up the mess he’s made. Part of him wants to check into the mental ward for a while but Vanitas could easily find him here.

“He okay?” the nurse asks.

“He’ll be alright,” Terra replies softly. “Ven, come on, let’s go home.”

He can’t feel his legs but he lets Terra walk him out to the car where the air conditioning is blasted on his face. Vanitas is out of the hospital and could have sent him those gifts. Vanitas could be hunting him all over again.

“Terra,” he whispers.

“Ven…”

Heavy thoughts leave Ven cold but they’re as true as the sky is blue. He slowly looks over at Terra and fear makes him sound like a child. “He’s going to kill me.”

Terra pales.

Chapter Text

Xion comes home early in the morning while Kairi is busy making breakfast and trying to ready for her first day on the new job. A brief modeling contract but it’s better than the nothing she’s had for months. The modeling and acting lifestyle is fickle but she’s never given up on her dreams despite the odds. Xion comes in and looks exhausted and there is so much guilt on their face, Kairi doesn’t like where they’re already starting this morning even when they haven’t even spoken.

“Hey,” Kairi greets. “You’re back.”

“Yeah,” Xion says slowly.

“You look… upset,” Kairi says slowly and as neutrally as she can.

“Can we talk?” Xion asks.

The dreaded spin on we need to talk still leaves Kairi cold and she shuts the stove off so she doesn’t burn something. The eggs can be made another time. Besides, she has a feeling she won’t be hungry for much longer. “Sure.”

Xion slowly walks over to the kitchen table and sits so Kairi joins them and sits on the opposite side. The funeral silence to their morning is nerve-wracking and Kairi has to clasp her hands together to keep from fidgeting.

“Xion…?”

“I have to tell you something and I’m not proud of it,” Xion starts quietly. “And I want you to know that I am extremely sorry but I do not expect forgiveness.”

Kairi frowns. “For what?”

Xion pauses and takes a deep breath. Kairi feels her emotions hang on the edge of a blade. “I met someone years ago, her name is Naminé, and I… slept her with years ago. When we were together.”

The blade’s edge cuts deeper than she thought.

“It was junior year, I slept with her for a while. Had an… affair,” Xion admits quietly. “We ended it but then she showed back up last week and this weekend-.”

“No,” Kairi says while tears ravage her voice. “ No .”

“Kairi, I am so sorry,” Xion says and reaches to take her hands but Kairi yanks back away from them. “I was stupid! I didn’t mean to do this- I don’t know what happened or where that came from! I love you .”

“You cheated on me,” Kairi says, voice shaking. “ Twice ?”

Xion blinks tears away and nods in shame. “I’m so sorry.”

“I- I have to go,” Kairi says as she stands up to grab her purse. “I can’t talk about this right now.”

“Kairi!”

“No, no- no .” Kairi shakes her head and tries not to cry because she put on a fresh face of makeup and doesn’t need to ruin it with tears. “No, I can’t deal with this right now.”

“I want you to know I’ll do anything to make it up to you!” Xion says. “Anything-.”

“Just go, Xion.” Kairi points to the door. “ Go .”

“Kairi…”

“No, you don’t get to play the cute innocent Xion card. You cheated on me! Had an affair with this girl?! God- how could you?!” Kairi can hear her voice rising in pitch and pain but the tears are coming now. She’s glad Riku is at Sora’s. “I can’t believe you would do this.”

“I don’t have a good explanation,” Xion admits softly. “I wish I did. Wish I could say some evil parasite took over my brain but no, I’m just a bad person.”

Kairi shakes her head and turns to grab her coat and purse. “Don’t be here when I get back,” she says, tears drying up and being replaced with cold numbness. “Just don’t be here.”

“Kairi, please, I want to work this out!”

“You should have thought about that before you slept with someone else.” Storming out, Kairi rushes to the elevator and rides down to the lobby. The car is waiting on her when she goes to the sidewalk to take her to the first day on the job. Her mind is anywhere but work and when she arrives she winds up lost three times before making it up to the right suite.

“There you are,” comes a sharp voice as Tifa appears, long hair sweeping behind her. They’ve been friends for a few years, always trying to help the other find work. Tifa helped her land this job and now they have a shoot together.

“Sorry,” Kairi says, hoping her eyes don’t look as red as they feel.

“Oh my God, have you been crying? Kairi, what’s wrong? Who do I have to kill?” Tifa demands, hands already clenched in fists.

Kairi snorts and shakes her head. “Xion cheated on me. Twice.”

What ?!”

They walk back to Kairi’s dressing room where Tifa makes her sit and grabs her a bottle of water and shoves it in her face while she pulls up a chair to sit opposite her. Tifa’s always been strong and protective which Kairi’s appreciated. Especially now when life feels a lot like a pool she can’t quite swim in.

“Xion cheated on you,” Tifa repeats. “What the f-.”

“Yeah,” Kairi whispers, drinking the water down to help clean her throat. “I told them to leave and not be home when I got back later. Can we go to the gym after this?”

“Uh, yeah ,” Tifa says immediately. “Get you some rage punching out, girl.”

“I’m so… I just… How could Xion do this to me ? God, I don’t understand… I’ve always been so supportive of them!” Kairi pinches the bridge of her nose and tries to rationalize why Xion would ever be so un-Xion-like. Xion’s always been a positive, steady force in her life. She’s never felt Xion would be so disloyal and cruel.

“Look, Xion made a mistake and is an idiot to do this to you,” Tifa says. “You’re one of the good ones.”

“Maybe I wasn’t a good girlfriend-.”

No . Do not play that game.” Tifa grabs the bottle of water to set aside and then takes her hands. “You are an excellent girlfriend. I’ve seen how you are with Xion and you’ve done nothing to deserve this! Xion is stupid and I’m sorry they hurt you.”

“I can’t even focus,” Kairi whispers in shame. “God, I’m sorry.”

“Hey, you don’t have to be sorry. You’ve had your whole world rocked!”

“Plus, with Riku’s dad dying and the funeral is tomorrow… It’s just a lot.”

Riku’s dad died ?” Tifa gasps. “Oh my God. When?!”

“Last week,” Kairi replies sadly. “He’s been staying with Sora and I don’t blame him. I haven’t exactly been the best of friends lately… I need to pick out a new dress and I was going to bring something to the wake after….”

“Hey, let’s blow this off,” Tifa suggests which makes Kairi raise her eyebrows in surprise. “It doesn’t pay that well anyway. You’ve got way too much going on. Let’s hit the gym and then after you go a few rounds, we’ll go get your nails done and go find you a dress. And then I can make my famous paopu fruit tart for the funeral. Sound good?”

A few weeks ago Kairi would have thought Tifa was nuts to blow off a job – pay good or not – but right now she can’t bring herself to care about this job enough to want to say. “Yeah,” she says. “Let’s go.”

Tifa smiles, takes her hand, and they walk out together. Kairi follows Tifa down the sidewalk to the bus stop and they take the bus to the gym where Tifa lets her borrow some clothes from her locker. The top is too big and she has to roll up the band of the pants to make them stay up but Tifa is a lot thicker than her.

Tifa the protector of tiny lesbians.

Kairi snorts at the thought before heading out to meet Tifa by the punching bags. Tifa grins and helps Kairi wrap her hands. “Been a while since you’ve done this?” Tifa asks.

‘Yeah,” Kairi admits.

“That’s okay, I’ll hang out with you and make sure you don’t break your hand.”

“Thanks.” She snorts but it’s probably a good idea. She’s just angry enough to pull off a move to wind her with bruised and broken knuckles. Maybe the pain would be better than the pain she has in her heart.

Tifa stands with her and keeps the punching bag from swinging every which way while Kairi starts to wail on it. The anger and pain come out through her arms and she pushes as much of her weight into the punches as she can, hitting harder and faster until she has to stop, clutching the punching bag to cry. Tifa is there immediately, pulling her back and helping her sit down, holding her close.

“It’s okay,” Tifa whispers. “It’s okay.”

The tears soak through Tifa’s shirt but she can’t bring herself to stop. Xion cheating on her is worse than she could have ever imagined. There are so many questions left in the wake of learning this knowledge – was she not a good girlfriend? Is Xion unhappy? Why did Xion do this for a second time?

“I hate this,” Kairi whispers. “I don’t want to feel like this.”

“I know,” Tifa whispers. “I’m so sorry, Kairi.”

“I don’t know what to do. Should I break up with them?”

“I think you need to do what is best for you ,” Tifa says firmly. “If you think breaking up is something that is going to be good for you, then yes, but if you think you want to try to work it out… I mean, I don’t personally think you should give Xion the time of day but I also think this is your life and you need to decide for yourself what you want.”

“I think I want to break up,” Kairi says slowly which is a surprise even to herself. “I just… I don’t know how I can forgive them for that. Maybe if they’d only done it years ago and told me… but now they’ve done it again . Just this past weekend? That’s…” Kairi shakes her head. “I can’t forgive that.”

“I don’t blame you.” Tifa rubs her back. “It’ll be okay, Kairi. I’m here for you.”

“Thanks, Tifa.” She sighs and slowly sits up. “I guess we should go find a dress.”

“And get your nails done,” Tifa reminds her with a wink. “And then I’ll make that tart for the funeral. You want me to go with you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” Kairi replies. “Xion was supposed to go but…”

“I will.” Tifa kisses her cheek. “Come on, let’s go.”

Kairi takes Tifa’s hand and lets herself be dragged upright so they can shower and leave the gym. Everything hurts but with Tifa there to pick up the slack she doesn’t feel so alone. I can get through this , Kairi thinks firmly. I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been.

 


 

 

Black umbrellas guard them against the pouring rain while they walk toward the grave site in a formal and cold procession. Riku’s grandmother has her arm wrapped around his while they walk in silence toward the final burial site. The coffin is already beneath the pavilion, waiting to be lowered into the ground. He helps her through the grass and eases her onto a chair and makes sure his mother makes it in one piece, too.

They all sit together, the family of Takashi Nomura, while the priest goes over the last reading before his father is to be laid to rest. Riku stares in silence at the bouquet of flowers over the coffin. White lilies tied with red ribbon. They’re beautiful. The funeral itself had been a dignified ceremony with an open casket. Seeing his father lying there, dressed in a new suit and tie, eyes closed peacefully, he looked much like he was sleeping.

They’d arrived before everyone else and his mother had sobbed over his father’s body while he sat in the corner and tried not to look. Corpses made him uncomfortable and he’s never been a fan of funerals. Attending his own father’s funeral had not been how he’d wanted to spend his afternoon but he sat through the service, eyes glued to his shoes, while his mother, grandmother, and uncle both stood up to tell stories and say a few words.

He said nothing.

There were no tears from him because all he’s done for days is cry. Now he’s sitting and watching the rain come down while they give his father final rites. A soft hand goes to his shoulder in comfort and he doesn’t have to turn around to know it’s Sora there to give him comfort. His grandmother lays her wizened hand on his arm, too, and it finally strikes him he’s crying. He’s crying desperately and he tries to quiet his sobs but he can’t.

His mother takes his hand and when the priest ends the service, he stands up to flings himself at the coffin. He hugs it desperately and sobs before they can lower it and cover the grave in fresh earth. Someone rubs his back but all he can do is cry before having to force himself to step back. He wrenches away from the coffin with a wild force and walks away, out into the rain, and lets the water wash over him body and soul. His eyes go upward and the clouds open up overhead to let in a bit of sun.

The rays shine down on his face and kiss his cheeks. He closes his eyes and the rain slowly comes to a stop and the sun shines down in full force as the clouds begin to clear. Its rays kiss his eyelashes and seep through his soaked suit to warm him to the bone. His father wraps his arms around him in metaphorical sunlight.

“I love you,” he whispers and hopes the words can carry on the wind all the way to the afterlife.

“Riku!” Sora jogs to catch up to him and he looks him over desperately. “Are you okay? You’re all wet-.”

“I’m fine,” he says and for once he means it. The sun continues to shine down on them and he turns lighter eyes on Sora and lets himself smile. “I feel okay… I think… I think Dad made it stop raining for us.”

Sora smiles in return and kisses him softly. “I think so, too.”

Riku wraps his arm around Sora and they head back to the funeral procession. He rode in the hearse on the way up but he follows Sora to his car to ride back to where they would hold the wake. He leans his head back against the headrest of the passenger’s seat and feels at peace for the first time since his father died.

“You look like you need to sleep for a few years,” Sora comments while they wait to follow the cars out.

“I feel it,” Riku admits with a snort. “I’m okay… Just tired. When we get home, I’ll probably take a long nap.”

“Sounds perfect to me.”

Riku reaches to hold Sora’s hand while they wait, staring up at the slowly clearing sky. The rain clouds dissipate, replaced with clear blue sky while his mother and grandmother head back to the hearse. They pull away slowly and Riku turns his eyes one last time to the open grave site as they pass, heart full of so many different feelings.

Love, pain, loss, loneliness, happiness, and warmth.

“You know,” Riku says quietly. “I think if my dad was here right now he’d complain we’re all crying too much over him.”

Sora snorts out a laugh. “Yeah, he would. He’d also be super early to his own wake.”

Riku laughs. “Yeah, he would. Be mad if any of us were even a second late.”

Sora deepens his voice to imitate his father the best he can. “I was here fifteen minutes ago and you’re all one minute late. Disgraceful.”

They both erupt into laughter and Riku smiles as he remembers all of the times his father insisted they be at least an hour early to everything. They once flew out on vacation and arrived at the airport over six hours early. The worst part had been their flight was delayed and they had to wait even longer. They’d gone to Disney World and Riku can still remember how everyone refused to ride the magic teacups with him, despite how badly he wanted it, and finally, his father picked him up and they rode the teacups together.

The song had been stuck in their head for hours but watching his father laugh and have fun with him had been infinitely worth the pain.

The ride back to his parent’s house for the wake is faster than arriving at the burial site and by the time they reach the house, it’s already full of family and friends. People unable to attend the funeral but arrived with food as compensation. Riku holds Sora’s hand while they slowly slink through the house to where his mother is sitting in the kitchen with his grandmother by her side.

He walks up to her and she takes his hand to squeeze. “Riku.”

“Do you need anything, Mom?” he asks. “I’ll get it. Have you eaten or had anything to drink? Grandmother?”

“We’ll both take some water, Riku,” his grandmother says. “And bring your mother something to eat.”

“Sure.” Riku steps into the kitchen to weave his way around his cousins to pour them both cups of water and he grabs a handful of grapes and cheese for his mother to eat while she’s consoled for the evening. He’s not surprised to see Sora surrounded by kids when he steps back into the dining area.

“He fits in well,” his grandmother says gently when Riku makes it back to the table.

“Who?” he asks, setting the water down gingerly.

“Sora.” She gestures to how Sora has managed to attract every Nomura under the age of ten and he’s quick to lead them out to the back yard and gardens to play. “Always stepping in without being asked. He’s a sweet boy.”

“Yeah, he is special,” Riku admits softly while he sets the food down for his mom. “Eat this, please.”

She nods and takes a bit of a grape and cheese but he knows she won’t eat much. He can’t blame her but he also knows his grandmother will keep an eye on her throughout the day. “How are you, Riku?” she asks.

“I’m okay,” he replies with a nod. “I don’t know, I felt like Dad was with us there. He made it stop raining.”

She smiles softly and nods. “Yes, I agree. It was a beautiful service.” She reaches to take his hand and kisses the back of his knuckles and he frowns when she tears up.

“Mom?”

“If I lose you next, I’ll follow shortly after-.”

“Mom, no.” Riku grabs a chair to sit by her, holding her hand firmly. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“I’m just so afraid,” she whispers. “Do you have life insurance, Riku?”

“Yeah, through work.”

“Good.”

“Mom, it’s okay. I’m here.” He squeezes her hand and kisses her forehead. “I’m right here.”

“I’m so sorry, my son. I’m so sorry I’ve been so harsh on you lately. You’ve always been such a good boy.” She cups and pats his face softly. “I love you and I hope you know that.”

He nods and tries to keep from tearing up. “Yeah, I know.”

“Good… Now, go on, go see your friends. I think I saw Kairi walking around here.”

“Yeah, she was at the service,” Riku remembers how she’d been standing with Tifa and not Xion. He would have to find out the story behind the switch up. Maybe Xion had to work. Both his mother and grandmother shoo him, so Riku wanders outside when he spots Axel’s red hair out in the sun and is unsurprised to see the whole group taking residence at a glass table on their back veranda while Sora entertains the kids.

“Hey, there you are,” Kairi says and stands to hug him.

Riku hugs her in return, giving a firm squeeze. “Hey.”

“Sit, sit.” Kairi makes him sit on the cushioned chair while she sits on a metal one, holding his hand. “I’m not going to ask how you are because I remember how annoying that was after my grandmother died. I just want to make sure you eat something.”

“I’m okay for now. I may need something to drink though…” He goes to stand up again but Axel shoves him back down in his seat.

“I got it. You sit and chill. Rox, you want something?”

“Yeah, babe,” Roxas replies casually and Axel’s face turns as red as his hair while he ducks inside.

“You keep that up, you’re going to kill him,” Riku teases.

Roxas winks and grins. “Yeah, I like making him blush. It’s easy.”

“Where’s Xion?” Riku asks and Kairi flinches.

“Um… I haven’t had a chance to tell you,” Kairi says slowly. “You’ve been dealing with this stuff… and it just happened so…”

“What?”

“We broke up,” she says sadly, eyes downcast. “She cheated on me.”

Hearing Xion cheated is so shocking he stares at her in disbelief until Axel returns with an armful of sodas to set on the table for them all to pick from. He blinks a few times and tries to wrap his mind around the idea of Xion cheating. Xion cheating . It doesn’t even compute.

“With who ?” he finally asks, completely baffled.

“I don’t know,” Kairi replies. “I didn’t exactly ask… I just know that they did.”

“Fuck. That’s… so messed up. I’m so sorry.” Riku reaches to take her hand to squeeze. “God, I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay.” Kairi waves her hand. “I’m dealing… You’ve got enough going on without having to worry about me.”

“Hey, just because I’m dealing with this doesn’t make your feelings less valid than mine,” he points out firmly.

Kairi smiles softly and kisses his fingers. “You’re sweet, Riku.”

“If you need anything, you tell me.”

“I will.”

“I mean it, Kairi.”

“Only if you promise to do the same.”

Ah, she knows him too well. He smiles and nods. “Yeah, okay. That’s fair.”

“Good.”

Axel slings himself into a chair beside Roxas, his arm casually draping across the back of Roxas’ chair which is about as subtle as a car wreck but he can see Roxas looks pleased. Sora is running around in the grass while a group of kids chases him. One of his uncles teasingly turns on the sprinklers which makes all of the kids scream and run around. Watching Sora laugh and chase his family like a giant child himself makes Riku’s heart warm.

“He’s perfect,” he whispers, not realizing he’s said this out loud.

Axel pinches his cheek playfully. “Aww Wiku is in wuuvvvv,” he says and Riku shoves Axel off while the others jump to tease him, too.

“Riku and Sora kissing in a tree,” Kairi says and Tifa eagerly finishes the song.

“K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

His face burns but he’s laughing, too. He is in love and he would gladly chase Sora up into his treehouse to make out if he wasn’t at his father’s wake. They haven’t been up in that treehouse in years – he’s not even sure if it’s stable enough to hold their weight anymore. He drops his cheek on his hand and watches Sora with a wistful, dreamy look on his face and decides he is absolutely a hopeless romantic.

Sora is going to either break his heart or make it so full it grows six sizes.

Sora finally fumbles back over to them and collapses in a seat, completely soaked, and laughing. “Hey, guys,” he says and takes water to open and drink. “Man, those kids really have a lot of energy. They’re wearing me out.”

“You should rest, then,” Kairi suggests.

“Yes,” Riku agrees firmly. “Sora, please rest. They can entertain themselves. You’re not the automatic babysitter.”

Sora rolls his sleeves up and Riku is pretty sure he almost blacks out. “I’m okay,” Sora insists even as he’s panting to catch his breath.

“Did you eat?” Riku asks.

“No, not yet.”

“I got it,” Axel immediately says while he goes off on a snack run.

“Mmmm,” Roxas hums. “Love to watch him walk away.”

The whole table snorts out a communal laugh and Riku realizes they’re a few people short. “Hey, where’s Aqua, Terra, and Ven?”

Roxas frowns and pulls out his phone. ”I don’t know, I have them the information.”

As if they’d hear them, Aqua and Terra both appear on the veranda, Aqua dressed in a spring dress and Terra in slacks but Ventus is not among them.

“Hi, guys,” Aqua says softly and she immediately pulls Riku up into a hug which he obliges. “Riku, I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you,” he replies, squeezing her back. “Where’s Ven?”

“He’s not here?” Terra asks, worry leaking into his voice. “He… He went out last night. Said he was going to Roxas’ for the evening.”

“He did?” Roxas asks. “He never told me that.”

They all go quiet and Terra is immediately pulling out his phone to dial Ven’s phone, stepping away, and pacing. Aqua looks just as worried and Riku takes out his own phone to check for any updates from Ven on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – anything at all. There is nothing and Terra looks sick to his stomach when he comes back to the group.

“Voicemail,” Terra says. “I… I’m gonna go over to his place. Riku, I’m-.”

“Go,” Riku says firmly. “Let us know if you find him.”

“I will,” Terra says and Roxas is hot on his heels.

“I’m going, too,” he says and they’re both rushing out of the house.

Riku slowly sits and Aqua takes Roxas’ once occupied seat. They’re all quiet and Riku doesn’t want to think it but he knows Ventus once had a toxic ex. He didn’t know a lot about Vanitas but he knows Ventus worried Van would come back for him. He shakes the thoughts away because they’re going to send his mood to a dark place.

Not right now. Not today. He has to hold it together.

“He’s fine,” Aqua says. “I’m sure he’s fine.”

They all nod but there is an uncomfortable silence between all of them now. Ven is missing and he lied to Terra – or he never made it to Roxas’ house. Riku’s hands go hold and he reaches to hold Sora’s as a comfort.

He’s alright , Riku tells himself but somewhere, in his heart, he knows he’s lying.


 

Riku comes home with him after the wake and Sora is glad to have him home so he can keep a better eye on him. He claims to be fine but Sora understands loss, even if he doesn’t discuss it a lot. They return to Sora’s apartment together and as soon as they’re through the door, Sora is ready to help Riku ready for a nap but Riku has other ideas.

“Come here,” Riku says while he sits on the edge of the bed. Sora frowns but steps close enough for Riku to pull him close, right between Riku’s thighs. “I love you and I want to make love to you.”

Make love – he wants to have sex.

Sora feels a blush bloom across his cheeks. They had been close the other night but they’d stopped short and Sora had been glad because he wasn’t all that sure he was ready for sex. They’d just started dating and they’ve never really gone on an actual planned date. Pride counted, sure, but he wasn’t ready to just give up his entire body.

No matter how good it feels.

“Um, Riku…” Sora blushes and ducks his head. “I want to but…”

“But?”

“I don’t know if I’m ready for sex. I haven’t even introduced you as my boyfriend to my parents yet,” he points out shyly. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to ruin your evening by saying no but–.”

“You aren’t ruining my evening,” Riku says quickly. “If you don’t want to, then we won’t have sex.”

Sora ducks his head and wishes he could make it up to Riku for being so difficult. He offers him a kiss and slowly helps ease Riku onto the bed, taking off his shoes, and socks, and pants.

“Thought we weren’ having sex?” Riku asks with a light chuckle.

“We’re not… but you’re so tense, maybe I can give you a massage instead.” The blush darkens his skin but Riku doesn’t seem upset by the concept. Once Riku’s shirt is off he has him roll onto his stomach and Sora goes to the bathroom and finds some baby oil which will do for now.

“You really don’t have to do anything, Sora. It’s okay,” Riku says when Sora comes back and slides onto the bed beside him on his knees.

“I want to. You should relax.”

“Okay…” Riku shrugs and grabs a pillow to place his head on comfortably.

“Wait, one more thing. Fuck.” Sora shifts to grab his phone and turn on some white noise sounds to help with the relaxing mood. The sounds of thunderstorms always help him relax. “There, perfect.”

Riku hums but doesn’t say anything so Sora sets to putting oil in his palms and slowly rubbing over Riku’s shoulders. They’re broad and firm but Sora can tell they’re horribly knotted. He took a few classes on massages and considered become a masseuse once but ended up studying early education instead. Being a giant kid himself, at times, definitely helps him connect with children and he’s always had a knack for babysitting.

Teaching kids in pre-school seemed like the obvious step.

Sora rolls and digs into Riku’s muscles slowly, adding oil as he goes to make the process gentler and easier. Riku is quiet but he can feel his breathing slow and as he relaxes, the tension in his muscles releases. The shoulders are the easiest for Sora to remember but as he rubs along Riku’s body, the rest of his teachings come back to him. He works Riku’s neck, shoulders, biceps, and back first, moving slow and gentle.

At one point, he’s certain he hears Riku moan which sends a small thrill down Sora’s spine. Making Riku happy and relaxed is the main goal – and since they aren’t having sex, this is the next most intimate thing Sora can think to do with him.

“How do you feel?” Sora asks softly, easing down closer to his butt.

“Good,” Riku mumbles, voice sleepy. “So good. I think you missed your calling.”

Sora smiles and digs a little further into his lower back. “I took some classes in college. Basically all of them, I just never got my certificate.”

“Why not? Ah– fuck– yeah- that feels good.”

Sora blushes a little but eases Riku’s underwear down his hips so he can massage every muscle. Riku’s ass is so perfect, Sora feels his heart break a little but he’s certain he’s tense here, too. “Well, I wanted to teach kids.”

“Right,” Riku sighs. “You really gonna massage my butt?”

“Fully body massage, mister,” Sora replies playfully.

“Other side, too?” Riku asks and grunts when Sora works out a knot.

“Uh, yeah, why?”

“Because I’m fucking hard right now, so that might be awkward.”

Oh.

Well, Sora supposed he should have seen this coming. He doesn’t respond to the line of questioning because they can address it when they get there. For now, Sora works on Riku’s lower half, all the way down to his feet. Riku jumps a few times, proving to be ticklish but once he’s fully massaged on one side, he has him roll over.

Riku’s erection is definitely a sight to behold. His cock is on the short side but thick; so thick, Sora feels his ass clench because he has no idea how Riku’s ever going to fit. He doesn’t say anything about it, instead working on Riku’s chest and sides, over his hips, and trying to avoid all genitalia.

“Sora,” Riku whispers –  whimpers . “I’m gonna cum if you keep it up.”

“But I haven’t touched you,” Sora says, face extremely red now.

Riku’s eyes slit open, pupils blowing out every bit of green and turning black. “I know but this is… unbelievably sexy and I don’t want to embarrass you or myself.”

“Well, you’re supposed to be relaxing so… I guess… I could relieve more tension if you wanted.” Sora’s fingers dust over Riku’s hip with intent but Riku grabs his hand.

“You said you wanted to wait and I’m willing to respect that. I just need some privacy for a few minutes. I can take care of myself.”

The idea of Riku masturbating in his bed is the kind of thrill he never thought he would experience. His face heats up, again, and he swallows a lump in his throat. Riku being satisfied and fully relaxed on his bed after making a mess? Yes, Sora is willing to let him have it.

“I’ll go in the bathroom,” Sora says slowly. “Just, um, call me when you’re done.”

“Okay.”

Head ducking, Sora dashes to the bathroom to shut the door and lean back against it. He should turn on the fan so he doesn’t have to listen but Riku moaning softly makes his own cock ache. Biting his lip, he slides his hand down his pants to stroke and pull, imagining Riku touching himself on his bed. He can hear the distinct wet pull of his strokes and he whines desperately in response.

Riku moans louder and Sora has to slam a hand over his mouth as he cums faster than Riku but he can hear Riku’s shout shortly after. “Fuck,” Sora whimpers, blushing at the mess he’s made in his pants but he can clean up later.

“Uh, Sora,” Riku calls. “Can you bring me a towel or something.”

“Y-yeah- just a sec!” His heartbeat is flying and he has to take a moment to catch his breath before grabbing a washcloth and coming out of the bathroom.

Riku is lying on his back still, thighs spread and even from a small distance, Sora can see Riku’s mess on his stomach. OH my God .

“Sorry,” Riku mutters while he takes the cloth to clean himself up. “Uh– got a little backed up.”

Sora coughs and looks anywhere but Riku’s face. “Nice and relaxed?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“Okay, great, I’m gonna take a shower and, um, you can, um, go to sleep.”

“Sora–.”

“It’s fine. Just go to sleep, okay? Okay.” Sora takes the cloth from Riku’s hands and runs back to the bathroom. He’s so red in the mirror as he strips down and drops his dirty clothes plus Riku’s dirty washcloth into the hamper in the bathroom.

His heart keeps fluttering and he knows there’s been too much excitement for one night. He takes a few more deep breaths and writes it off as being excited over listening to Riku jerk off. He’s fine.

Everything is fine.


 

The apartment is empty when Kairi returns to it in the evening. Xion’s stuff is gone and she’s glad to find it empty even if it hurts to feel so alone. The space feels too large for just her but she knows Riku is only gone temporarily. Maybe she should tell Riku to let Sora move in, too. The apartment is definitely large enough. Of course, she’s not sure if she wants the two of them crawling all over each other in their common living space.

There is a note sitting on the counter which she almost ignores but decides to read last minute.

Dear Kairi,

I know you told me to go so I will go but I just wanted to reiterate I am so sorry for hurting you like I did. There is no excuse or explanation for what I did but I want you to know I love you. I will never stop loving you but I understand if you no longer wish to be together.

I hope you find all you are searching for and I will miss you so much. Maybe one day, we can be friends again? I hope so. I will not ask your forgiveness and I wish there was a better way to apologize than this. My actions hurt you and I wish I could take them back.

Please be well. Wish Riku my condolences if you can in person? I feel guilty for missing the funeral but I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me.

Love,

Xion

She’s tempted to crumple up the letter and throw it away but instead, she leaves it on the counter and slowly walks to her room to stare at all of the reminders of Xion. The photos around the room, the gifts Xion had given her over the years, the clothes Xion had made her. Xion touches everything in this room and it hurts to be here now.

Maybe, it’s time for a move.

Kairi slowly lies on the bed and slowly pulls out her phone to call her mother even if it’s a silly move. Her parents are still unhappy with her coming out, her father especially, but with her grandmother gone there is no one left to call. Plus, after watching Riku say good bye to his father, she doesn’t want to stay estranged forever.

“Kairi? It’s late,” her mother answers sleepily. “Are you alright?”

“No,” she says tearfully.

“What’s wrong?”

“I know you hate me now but I had to watch Riku attend his father’s funeral today and I just- I don’t want us to part ways forever,” Kairi says, voice sad and lost. “I love you and Daddy so much.”

“We love you, Kairi,” her mother replies. “I’m sorry, I know it’s been an adjustment.”

“Xion and I broke up,” She admits sadly. “She cheated on me- They cheated on me.”

Her mother gasps. “What? Kairi…”

“I feel so stupid , Mom!” Tears roll down her face while she lies on the bed and stares up at the stupid glow-in-the-dark stars Sora helped her stick to the ceiling. That way, we can always have the night sky , he would say.

“You’re not stupid, Kairi.”

“I loved someone who didn’t love me. Said they did but… How can you cheat on someone you love? It hurts so bad.” She slides her hand to her chest over her heart and wonders if it’s still beating.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” her mother whispers. “Maybe you should come stay here for a few days. I’m sure Riku is busy with his family, I’d hate to see you all alone.”

“Maybe,” she replies. “How’s Daddy?”

“He’s alright. I’d wake him up but he’s snoring like a buzz saw.” Her mother chuckles.

Kairi snorts because she can definitely hear the distant sound of snoring in the background. “Yeah, well, he’s a busy man. He needs sleep.”

“Yes, he does.”

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“I love you and I love Daddy so much.”

“We both love you. I’ll have your father call you tomorrow, okay? So you can hear it from him, too.”

Tears slowly slide down Kairi’s cheeks while she counts the stars. “Okay,” she whispers.

“It’ll be alright, Kairi. I know it hurts right now but all storms pass. There is a rainbow waiting for you out there.”

“Yeah,” she agrees, eyes heavy with the weight of wanting to sleep. “Mom, I’m going to go now.”

“Alright. I love you, baby doll. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“Good night.”

Kairi sighs. “Good night,” she whispers, slowly ending the call and letting her head rest back on the pillow. The glow-in-the-dark stars guide the way to sleep and she smiles as she thinks of memories of her, Sora, and Riku watching the sunset on the beach together.

Every storm must pass.

Chapter Text

“Good morning, Ventus.”

The familiar voice drags him out of deep and black sleep, slowly blinking his eyes open until he makes eye contact with gold ones. Ventus moans a little as there is a sharp pain in his head, and he realizes he’s tied to a kitchen chair. Across from, sitting in a similar chair is Vanitas. He startles and tries to yank away but whatever is binding him keeps him from flinging himself far away.

“Vanitas,” he gasps.

Vanitas smiles and Ventus’ skin crawls. The snake in the grass has yellow eyes. “Venty Wenty came to see me, I’m so touched.” Vanitas reaches over to gently pet his hair. “I’m surprised it took you so long to come by. Did you come to thank me for your gifts?”

“Gifts?” Ventus whispers and then he realizes Vanitas is talking about the packages. He did send them. “Oh my God- Vanitas- let me go, please .”

“Don’t worry, Ven, you’re safe.” Vanitas continues to pet him and Ventus wishes he could crawl into a hole and die. He was an idiot to ever show up here.

                “Hey, Terra, I’m going to go to Roxas’ tonight, before the funeral,” Ventus says while he holds a bag in his arms.

            Terra glances up from reading and seems confused. “Okay? Why?”

            “I just… I want to be with my brother tonight. I don’t know- funerals make me…”

            Terra waves his hand then to end the thought. “It’s okay. Do you want me to drive you?”

            “No, no, I can do it. It’s okay.” Ven tries to force a smile to his face while he bends to kiss Terra once before heading for the front door. He will end up at Roxas’ – eventually but he has a stop to make first and Terra would never understand.

            Vanitas had been released a few months ago and morbid curiosity sends him to the opposite side of the island to an old, white house at the end of a darkened street. He hasn’t come to this house in two years. The front lawn is tall with unmown grass and the windows are dark. Some of them are boarded up and he wonders if Vanitas even still lives here.

            He gulps down a lump in his throat and decides to find out once and for all. He carries a pocket knife in his hands as he approaches and rings the doorbell. Terra would never understand why he needs to come here and see with his own eyes if Vanitas is living here. He wants to see if Vanitas is better. He has to know the truth.

            No, Terra would never understand.

            Ventus holds his breath while the front door slowly swings open.

“Vanitas, I-…” Ventus isn’t sure what to say. He has no idea which words will be right and which will be wrong. He used to know how to appease Vanitas with just a few words but he’s been out of Vanitas’ clutches for two years. Tears fill his eyes as he realizes he was an idiot to come here at all.

“Hush, hush. Are you hungry?” Vanitas walks over to the stove and brings back spaghettios. Vanitas eats those more than anything else. He has hundreds of cans in his cupboards and in the pantry. Ventus never understood how Vanitas could eat them for all three meals.

“No, I’m not,” Ven lies because even the smell of them make him cringe. Vanitas used to make him eat them, too, and he’s sick of them. The worst ones are the ones with pieces of hot dog. Protein , Vanitas would purr while shoving a spoonful down his throat.

“No?” Vanitas sets the pot down and looks disappointed. “So, you came here. Tired of Terra?”

“No,” Ven growls. “I came to see if you were still here.”

“Where else would I be?”

“The hospital.”

Vanitas laughs and rolls his eyes. “That place? Oh, yes, such a great place. They shove your arm full of needles and make you sleep all day. Then they shove you into a group of people and make you discuss your problems . All I did was sleep. Became a zombie.”

Ven is sad to hear the hospital had been a bad experience for Vanitas because at the end of the day, Ven wants Van to be better. He knows Van has problems and demons; he needs proper medication so he can be stable but clearly, he’s as unstable as ever.

“Van, you really should take your medicine,” Ventus says gently. “If they gave you medicine you need to take it.”

“I hate it,” Van snaps. “Makes me tired.”

“Well, then it just needs adjusting!” Ven stares at Van in desperation and hopes he can at least talk Van into letting him go.

“No,” Van growls. “I’m fine. You made my job easy.”

“What?”

“I’ve been watching you, you know. In your house…” Vanitas tsks softly. “You’ve been cheating on me, Venty Wenty. With Terra . I hate Terra.” Vanitas raises his hand to slap him but then slowly lowers as it as if he realizes he doesn’t want to hurt him. Instead, he pets the side of his face softly. “That’s alright, though, because you came home. You came back to me.”

“Vanitas…” Ven’s stomach lurches at the idea of Vanitas thinking he came back here for him. On purpose. “Can you untie me, so we can talk?”

“Will you run?” Vanitas asks.

Ven gulps. “No,” he lies. “I came here to see you.”

Vanitas looks extremely unsure but he slowly plucks a knife up and cuts the ropes off of Ventus’ arms. Ventus sighs in relief and slowly rubs circulation back into his arms. He doesn’t run immediately. Vanitas has a knife and even though the back door is nearby, he wants to see if he can make Vanitas go into another room before he bolts.

“Why did you really come?” Vanitas asks, face full of suspicion. “We didn’t exactly end on nice terms, Ven.”

“I know,” Ventus replies calmly. “I… I came to see if you were still here. I wanted to check on you.”

Vanitas’ face softens and the look is so relieved it breaks Ventus’ heart. He knows, more than anything, Vanitas wants friends and seeing him so desperate is sad. He doesn’t know every part of Vanitas’ backstory but he does know Vanitas has a difficult time making friends and keeping them. He doesn’t like to go outside and is a homebody.

“Well,” Van says and takes his hand. “Come on, I’ll show you around again.”

“Uh- Van, I have to use the bathroom,” Ven lies as he recalls the downstairs bathroom has a window. He can always crawl out.

Van frowns and his eyes narrow. “Alright.”

They leave the kitchen and approach the bathroom. Van opens the door and Ven slowly steps inside and shuts it. There is no lock which is alarming but he slowly pats his pockets for his phone.

Gone.

Van must have taken it.

Panic hits his chest but Ventus moves around the bathroom to make noise while he walks over to the window to shove it open but it doesn’t budge. Fear hits him so hard he almost throws up but he keeps pushing until his eyes note the window is nailed shut. It can’t be opened.

“Oh my God,” he whispers.

“I don’t hear any tinkling , Venty Wenty,” Vanitas calls through the door. “Hurry up or I’ll come in and-.”

“No, it’s okay, Van. Just a second.” Ventus uses the bathroom to empty his bladder and to make Van less suspicious before washing his hands. The mirror over the sink is broken and in the shattered glass, he sees multiple and partial reflections. The sight is too close to a metaphor so Ven quickly steps out.

“You take a long time,” Van comments but then he has Ven by the hand again and they head upstairs.

They look at Ven’s old room, the upstairs bathroom, and then Van’s room. Ven feels his stomach twist when he notes on the computer screen are video feeds of his apartment. Van really had been watching him. He tries to hide his fear but he knows his palms are sweating and when they are inside, Vanitas is kissing him, trying to make him lie on the bed but Ven fights him, having to bite Van’s lip to make him stop.

“Ow!” Van yanks back and touches his bleeding lip, eyes narrowing. “Feisty, Ven.”

“I didn’t come here for that,” Ventus says firmly.

“Why not?” Vanitas asks and sticks out his split lip to pout. “That was the best part.”

“I’m with Terra now, Vanitas.”

Vanitas snorts. “Not for long. You came here. You’re just in denial.”

Ventus’ entire body runs cold as he realizes Vanitas has no intention of letting him go. Maybe never again. He’s going to die in this house. Anger rockets out of him then and he snaps viciously. “No, Vanitas. I didn’t come here to be with you . Why would I ever want to be with you after what you did to me?! You’re sick , Vanitas. You need help!”

“I’m not sick,” Vanitas snarls back.

“Yes, yes you are sick. You need help, okay? I didn’t come here to be with you. I don’t want you! I have Terra nd I love him. He loves me.”

“I love you!” Vanitas shouts.

“No, Ven, you don’t know how to love someone and I’m sorry that’s the case but I’m not licensed and I can’t help you. You can’t love someone by forcing them to stay with you, okay?”

Vanitas shakes his head and angrily screams while he clutches his hair, pulling it so hard he rips some out. “No! No, no, no! You came here because you love me back!”

“I do,” Ven whispers. “I love you, Vanitas, and I want you to get better. You need to check yourself into a hospital.”

“No.”

Ven’s heart sinks and seeing Vanitas so angry and desperate is depressing. He used to be afraid of Vanitas and maybe a part of him still is but mostly all he feels is sad. Vanitas is a broken shell of a person and he has no idea how to handle emotions or relationships. He’s never had a chance to learn normal human behavior.

“I know you had a really bad childhood,” Ven continues, voice soft and gentle like he is with his patients. “I know the man who raised you treated you horribly but you can’t force someone to stay with you, Van. You can’t force them to bed you or date you. That’s not how relationships work.”

Vanitas looks up at him, golden eyes lost and sad. “Then no one would ever stay and no one would ever love me,” he replies and Ven’s heart shatters all over the place.

“Van, you have to let me go. I can’t help you but I can help you get the help you need!” Ven pleads. “Let me go before Terra and the others know I’m gone. They’ll call the police and then you’ll go to jail. Do you want that?”

Vanitas snarls, all angry teeth, and rage. “No,” he says. “You are not leaving and if you try I will just tie you up again.”

Vanitas , please-.” Ven looks over his shoulder and decides to risk it. He turns and runs out of the bedroom and down the hall. The stairs are close and he just has to make it downstairs so he can run out the front door to the car.

Vanitas screams in rage and his heavy footsteps soon follow. Ven tries to run down the steps before Van can reach him but he feels Van reach for his collar to yank him back. Ventus yelps and attempts to avoid Van’s grip but instead of grabbing his collar, Van’s hand flattens and shoves him forward. Ven’s eyes widen as the world disappears from beneath his feet and he crashes down the stairs to the first landing, crumpled at the bottom in a heap. His left arm feels like fire coursing through his bloodstream and he can’t move it.

Vanitas’ boots appear in his vision and then a strong hand wraps around his neck and pulls him up, slamming him heavily against the wall by the landing on the stairs. Vanitas’ eyes are full of hurt and hatred as they water with unshed tears.

Stop making me hurt you,” Van snarls and shakes him hard.

Ven’s head slams back against the wall and darkness slowly trickle down over his vision. When he comes to again, he’s handcuffed to a chair tightly while his broken arm is useless. The sky outside looks darker so he’s not sure how much time has passed but his bladder is aching and his mouth is cotton dry. There is a distinct smell of gasoline in his nose which he wonders if that’s some sign of a stroke.

Vanitas appears, stripped down to nothing at all, feet bare, and body covered in old scars from self-harm. Ventus tips his head back and notes Vanitas’ back is covered in a distinct X-shaped scar. The scar would cause him severe back pain to the point where he would whimper in agony while lying still in bed unable to move. He would always try to soothe Vanitas during his back spasms but usually, Vanitas would just scream at him to go away.

“Vanitas,” he mutters.

Vanitas turns and Ventus’ eyes widen when he sees Vanitas has a can of gasoline. It’s not in his head, Vanitas has poured gasoline in the house. There are tears tracked down Vanitas’ face and fear makes Ven pull and yank desperately at the handcuff keeping him attached to the chair.

“Vanitas, no,” he gasps. “Don’t do this. We can talk it out-.”

“No,” Vanitas replies, voice empty and devoid of all emotion. “You chose your bed, Ventus.”

“Vanitas, please, let me go. We can both leave! Terra will help-.”

Don’t talk to me about Terra,” Vanitas screams, face twisting in rage. “He left me here.”

Ventus frowns. “What?”

“He left me here to suffer while he got away! He got away and I had to stay! He never told! He never told anyone about me!” New tears roll down Vanitas’ face and Ventus is desperately trying to piece together the puzzle. If he can keep Vanitas talking, he can maybe talk him out of lighting the whole house on fire.

“Vanitas, what are you talking about? He never told what? I didn’t know you knew Terra.”

“Oh, I know Terra,” Vanitas replies, voice cold and dark. “Father had Terra over a lot to help him around the house. Construction.”

“Xehanort,” Ventus says slowly.

“Terra walked in one day, he saw everything, he knew !” Vanitas screeches. “Before Terra could run away, he took Terra, too. He made me watch. I watched him hold Terra down and have his way…. But Terra got away.”

Ventus’ heart gallops in his chest as he tries to think on what exactly Vanitas means but his stomach is nauseated at the thought. He knows, in his heart, exactly what Vanitas means. “How- how old were you, Vanitas? How old was Terra?”

“Terra was sixteen,” Vanitas growls. “I was thirteen. Terra got away, the Old Man let him go after he was gone. Told Terra not to say anything or he’d gut his family. Terra got away and he said nothing . He knew what Father was and he didn’t help me.”

Ventus feels sick at the thought of Terra knowing all this time about Vanitas’ torture in this house at the hand of his own father. He also, however, understands Terra had probably been afraid to say anything. Xehanort had been a respected man in the community. Going against him was like going against a priest.

“He was only sixteen,” Ventus whispers. “I’m not trying to defend him but you were both kids. He was probably just as scared-.”

“He didn’t have to deal with it every single day!” Vanitas yells, pain wracking his voice. “I dealt with it day in, day out, day in, day out, day in , day out . I wasn’t allowed to leave. I didn’t get to go to school. I was homeschooled for a while but… he gave up when I turned thirteen. Said I didn’t need further education.”

“Why didn’t you tell me any of this? Before?” Ventus asks, his heart bleeding for Vanitas’ pain. He can see why Vanitas is so sick. He’s been horribly abused – worse than Ventus ever imagined. “Where-… where is your father, Vanitas?”

“Dead,” Vanitas spits.

“Dead,” Ventus repeats slowly.

Vanitas shapes his fingers in the shape of a gun and points it at Ventus’ forehead, placing the tip against his skin. “ Bang ,” he whispers.

Ventus shudders as he realizes Vanitas means he shot Xehanort. “You killed him.”

“He deserved to die,” Vanitas growls.

“He did,” Ventus agrees. “He was a sick man and I’m sorry he hurt you… but Terra didn’t do this to you! He was scared, too. You can’t blame him for this!”

“Yes, I can,” Vanitas replies coolly. “He should have told someone. He’s a coward.”

“Vanitas…”

“Shut up! You won’t ever see him again because now we can finally be together, Ventus. You and I for eternity.” Vanitas drops the can of gasoline and opens his arms, stepping back, and standing still like a statue.

Tears fill Ventus’ eyes as he realizes he’s going to die here. “Vanitas, please,” he whispers.

Vanitas leans down to kiss him once, tongue licking his teeth hungrily. “I look forward to spending eternity together, Ventus,” he whispers.

“Vanitas, don’t do this!”

Vanitas steps back and looks sad, more tears running down his face as he lights a match. “You make me feel less pain,” he says quietly.

Ventus’ eyes widen as the match slips from Vanitas’ fingers and hits the floor.

 


 

Fire and smoke choke down his throat while he crawls through the house toward an unopened door. The house caught fire quickly, spreading all over, and his hands are burnt but he still reaches up to yank on the knob and shove the old master bedroom open. He screams as the metal is hot but he collapses into the bedroom, coughing and choking. The ceiling is falling in places as the fire ravaged the second floor.

Ventus is still in the kitchen but he’s sure he will succumb soon. The gasoline hadn’t been as potent in the kitchen but it quickly caught in the living room and traveled upstairs. The building is falling apart and shaking but Vanitas crawls over to where Xehanort’s bones rest. The smoke burns his lungs as he slowly forces himself up onto his shaking feet, aching in places from various burns from the fire.

He has to destroy the old man’s skull or they’ll find a way to identify him.

Vanitas doesn’t want anyone to mourn the loss of Master Xehanort. He doesn’t deserve a funeral. He deserves to burn with the house none the wiser. He drags the skeleton from the bed and steps on the neck, ripping the skull free, glaring into empty eye sockets. The fire burns hard and bright, he can feel the heat creeping at his back as the flames lick into the room to start catching here, too.

Vanitas turns to set the skull on the floor and looks for something heavy. A bookend fits into his hands nicely as he brings it down hard on the skull, smashing the face and teeth as hard as he can. He screams in pain as the scar on his back contorts and a flaming piece of cloth hits his skin but he doesn’t stop. In the distance, he can hear sirens.

The fire department is here.

The smoke makes him cough and makes his eyes tear as he keeps at his work. Soon, he can be with Ventus. They can be together forever. His heart hurts as he imagines Ventus’ body burning away from his bones. He doesn’t want Ventus to hurt anymore and he wants to stop hurting, too.

“Soon,” he pants.

“Vanitas!”

His eyes widen as he recognizes the voice over the roar of the flames and he spins around to see Terra standing in the doorway. He’s still holding the bookend in one burned hand and the remaining bits of the skull in the other. Terra, dressed in fireman’s gear, is standing there, drinking it all in with a shocked look on his face.

Vanitas holds up the skull and feels all of his pain rush out in complete agony. “This is his fault!” he screams. “He did this to me!”

“Vanitas-.” Terra slowly approaches him, hands up. “It’s okay. I’m getting you out of here.”

‘No!” he screams, turning to bash the skull some more, busting the teeth as much as he can. He screams and yells as Terra’s arms wrap around him and start dragging his naked body out of the room. He drops the bookend along the way as he fights and tries to stay with the house. He has to stay here and burn. He has to expire with this place.

“You’re alright,” Terra assures him as they rush out of the house.

Vanitas coughs so hard he almost throws up, still trying to fight but Terra is stronger and bigger. They reach the outside and the daylight is almost blinding as he’s dragged out of the smoke and fire. His eyes fall onto someone familiar – Ventus is standing by an ambulance, a blanket wrapped around his body, face sooty but otherwise looking quite alive.

“Ventus,” he whispers while Terra places him on a stretcher and an oxygen mask is strapped to his face.

Terra looks down at him and there is anger in his eyes but something else, too. Hurt? Loss? He’s not sure what else is there but it’s more than just hatred. Terra stays with him while they load him inside the ambulance and he’s too weak to fight, now.

“Vanitas,” Terra says, his voice sounding so far away. “I won’t tell.”

Vanitas’ eyes are heavy and he’s only able to keep them open a moment longer to watch the ambulance’s doors slam shut as he’s taken away. He smiles slightly as he realizes the house is gone – his prison is no more and with it went his ward.

“We’re losing him!” someone yells and then the world is only ringing and a rush of silence.

 


 

“Hey, you’re looking better.”

Ventus smiles weakly and nods. His arm still hurts but it’s in a cast and he’s been treated for smoke inhalation and some minor burns. Terra walks in, looking so happy to see him, and his heart soars at seeing the love of his life safe and sound. When he sent Terra back into the house, to find Vanitas, he’d been afraid he’d send Terra to his death.

“I feel better,” Ventus says. “Oxygen does that, though.”

Terra chuckles and he sits beside him, offering over a little stuffed cat. “Here, I got this for you.”

“Thanks.” Ventus eagerly takes the cat to add to his army of stuffed creatures he’s received from his friends and family. “Terra…”

“Hm?”

“I’m really sorry,” he whispers. “I never should have gone to Vanitas’ house or lied to you. I was so stupid.”

“It’s okay,” Terra says, shaking his head. “Maybe it was a good thing you did. Maybe… maybe this is what helps him.”

“Is he okay?” Ventus asks. The last he’d seen Vanitas, he’d been rushed away in an ambulance.

“He’s still in the ICU,” Terra replies. “I’m going down to the police station to give a statement later today.” He sighs. “They want to arrest Vanitas for attempted murder but I know you don’t want to press charges.”

“No, I don’t,” Ventus says firmly.

“And I think… it’s time I told them all the truth… starting with you.” Terra looks tired and sad. “I’ve hid it for so long.”

“Vanitas told me,” he replies quietly. “About… Xehanort and what he did to you.”

Terra’s eyes well up and he hides his face in shame. “I should have told someone!”

“Terra… you were scared. You were just a kid!”

“I was sixteen. I was old enough to know right from wrong and I knew- I knew about what happened. I’ve known this entire time and I never said anything .” Terra stands to stare out the window, clearly sickened with himself. “I could have put an end to it before it went on any further. He was only thireen years old.”

“It’s not your fault,” Ventus insists. “Please, don’t blame yourself for that. Xehanort hurt his own son and… and that’s wrong . He was the adult, not you.”

“Vanitas hates me because of it, I don’t blame him.” Terra runs a hand over his face. “I would have hated me, too.”

“Vanitas is sick ,” Ventus whispers. “He needs help.”

“I know, which is what I’m going to try and push for down at the station. Tell them you don’t want to press charges and if anything happens, he needs to be sent to a treatment program. At least for a couple of years. He needs it.”

Ventus nods in immediate agreement. “Yes,” he agrees. “Yes, definitely.”

“I’m just-.” Terra cuts off as he’s about to start crying, covering his mouth. “I could have lost you.”

“But you didn’t.” Ventus holds out his hands and Terra is eager to sit right beside him, kissing him all over his face. Ventus wraps his arms around Terra’s head and holds him to his chest, letting Terra listen to his heartbeat.

You make me feel less pain .

The last words he heard Vanitas speak and they hurt so badly he wants to cry but he stares up at the ceiling instead while comforting Terra. Rationally, Ventus knows none of this is his fault either. Vanitas is sick and needs professional help – he cannot give Vanitas the kind of help he needs. However, he hopes Vanitas can be put into a program to work on his depression and other traumas.

“Ventus,” Terra whispers.

“Yeah?”

“Will you marry me?”

Ventus blinks in shock and pushes Terra back so they can look at each other. “Don’t say stuff like that-.”

“I love you,” Terra cuts him off, holding his hands tightly. “I love you and I don’t want to waste another moment. I want to marry you and be with you forever. I love you so much.”

“Terra, you- have you really thought about this? I mean-.” He cuts off when Terra reaches into his pocket and plucks out a silver ring. It’s a simple band with three colored stones in the middle – blue, green, and yellow. The simple beauty of the ring makes Ventus tear up. “Oh my God, you have thought about this.”

“Is there a yes in there?” Terra asks.

Ventus slowly nods and holds out his hand for Terra to place the ring which slides over his finger a little too easy. It’s too big but Ventus doesn’t care.

“Oh, it’s too big,” Terra says. “I’ll get it resized-.”

“No, you can’t have it back!” Ventus gasps, holding his hand close to his chest.

“It’ll fall off,” Terra insists. “You’ll lose it. I’ll give it right back once we can get it sized. I promise.”

Ventus pouts and admires the ring for another moment before letting Terra take it back. “As soon as they let me go.”

“Yes, I swear, we’ll rush off to have it sized.” Terra kisses his knuckles lovingly. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too, Terra.” There is a soft knock on the door and Ventus lights up when he sees Roxas step in. “Roxas!”

“I’ll step out,” Terra says, placing a hand on Ven’s head softly, he leaves the room to give him privacy with Roxas instead.

Roxas slowly walks up to the end of the bed and Ventus is surprised to see Roxas’ eyes are puffy and red, face pale, and there are dried tears on his cheeks. “Ven,” he says, voice shaking.

“Rox…” He holds out his hands and Roxas climbs into the bed to octopus cling to his side and sob. Ven scoots over so Roxas can have room and he lets Roxas lay his head on his chest. “It’s okay. I’m okay.”

“They- they told me- God .” Roxas clutches him tightly, crying so hard he shakes. “We went looking for you- and- and- you – we couldn’t- and then-.”

“Shh, shh, Roxas. Shh.” Ventus kisses the top of his head to try to soothe away Roxas’ fear. “I’m okay. I’m fine. I mean, yeah, my arm is broken but the doctor said it’ll heal fine. And you can draw on my cast, right? Give me the sleeve you’ve always wanted.”

Roxas laughs softly as he starts to hiccup and still. “You fucking idiot, what were you thinking? Going to his house, huh?”

“I know, it was dumb.”

“Yeah, it was.” Roxas squeezes him tightly. “Have mom and dad come?”

“Yeah… Dad had to take Mom away because she wouldn’t leave but she needed to sleep really badly. I told them it was fine so Dad made her go home a few hours ago. You just missed them.”

Roxas sighs and nuzzles closer. “If I ever find Vanitas, I swear to God-.”

No ,” Ventus snaps. “Leave Vanitas alone. He’s sick, Roxas. He needs help.”

“He tried to kill you!”

“I don’t… I don’t think Vanitas really wanted to hurt me. He was desperate to keep me so he did what he knew… Just, please, leave him alone, Roxas.” Ventus slowly pets Roxas with his good hand while they rest together. “Did Axel come?”

“Yeah, he’s downstairs picking out some monstrosity in the gift shop.”

“I already have enough stuff,” Ven says with a laugh. “I don’t need more.”

“Yes, you do. You deserve it all, Ven.” Roxas sits up on his elbow and traces his fingers over Ven’s cast. “I’ll send Ax back to grab my sharpies and I’ll give you a cool design.”

Ven smiles, resting his head back on the pillows. “Cool.”

“How do you feel?”

“Tired, mostly but I’m okay. Lots of oxygen treatments.”

Roxas nods. “The first couple of days, they wouldn’t let me back here because you were so sick and I was ready to fucking kick someone in the nuts. Axel wouldn’t let me.”

Ventus snorts. Just like Roxas to be so violent but not actually follow through. “Sorry, if I fall asleep.”

“It’s okay… You sleep. I’ll be here.”

Ven nods and lets his eyes drop closed, holding Roxas’ hand with his good one. His dreams are full of fire and smoke while golden eyes watch from below the floorboards.

 


 

“He’s pretty sedated, we’ve had to keep him like this or he gets violent.”

Vanitas stares lifelessly at the floor while a few men come into take his DNA and photos of his body as evidence. He doesn’t say anything as he feels violated all over again. Released from the ICU, he has his own room now in the psych ward at the hospital and while they have his body sedated, his mind sluggish, he still feels their pokes and prods as he’s studied for evidence for the police.

Attempted murder, kidnapping, arson.

He’s sure they’ll arrest him soon.

The nurses here aren’t nice to him but he doesn’t say anything about it. They’ve made cruel comments and he’s been handled inappropriately more than once but he’s so used to bodily violation it doesn’t even matter. They don’t care when the police are crueler than necessary to obtain what they came for and when they’re done they slam his door shut and leave him in his room alone.

He sits on the bed, still undressed, and too sluggish to put his clothes back on but maybe the point is to keep him as vulnerable as possible. He doesn’t know how long he sits there naked. It’s not until he’s feeling less fuzzy, he’s able to stand up and find his clothes, pulling on the sweat pants and shirts he’d been given. He still has burn injuries but they’re only minor. They hurt but he’s not allowed pain medication.

Only whatever they’ve been injecting in his arms to keep him complacent.

Whatever concoction it is, Xehanort could have used it and used it well. There is no window in his room and he has no sense of time so when he’s given a meal tray  and another dosage, he’s quiet while he slowly eats whatever mush they’ve given him.

At night, he dreams of Ventus.

“He’s right in here.”

The voice comes to him and Vanitas isn’t sure what day or time it is but there is a man coming into his room and someone sits him up roughly. They grip a bruise which already exists on his skin he doesn’t remember receiving but he’s sure it’s by the same man. The big nurse.

“Hey, whoa, whoa, there’s no need to handle him that way,” comes a sharp and angry voice. “He’s a patient, not an animal.”

“He’s a nut job,” one of the nurse’s replies coldly.

“That is enough . Jesus Christ, he’s covered in bruises. The hell have you been doing to him?!”

The nurses are quiet and Vanitas is too drugged to answer. The man’s face comes into his vision and it’s fuzzy and blurry but he looks nice enough. He’s wearing a police uniform.

“What’s he on?” The man asks. “Hm? What have you been giving him.”

“He stays sedated or he gets violent,” the nurse replies.

“Violent? The only violence I see in this room is the violence you’ve inflicted on him. Christ… Well, he’s coming with me. I have a warrant to take him. His parents want to see him immediately and they will absolutely be filing a complaint.”

“His parents- he doesn’t have-.”

“He does.”

Vanitas tries to blink the sleepy feeling away and clear his vision but the drugs make him so tired. He’s placed into a wheelchair and they wheel him outside where he’s then put in a car. The man driving him is talking but he can’t focus. When they reach the police station, he’s taken to a private room but he’s not handcuffed so he has no idea why he’s here.

The door opens and a woman gasps, almost sobbing immediately. Vanitas lifts his eyes over to them and he’s shocked to see a boy standing there who looks so much like him. He recognizes the boy’s face – not just because it’s his own but less harsh and sickly. This boy is Ventus’ friend.

“Vanitas,” the woman says and his vision clears a little to see a woman slowly approach and reach for his face but he pulls back out of her reach. “I’m sorry- oh my God, I’m so sorry.”

“Who are you?” he asks, voice hoarse from inactivity.

The policeman who helped him slowly sets down a folder and opens it. On a piece of paper is a photo of a baby with the words MISSING printed on top. There is information about weight and length of the newborn. Last sighting and there is promises of a reward. The poster is old and he has no idea who he is looking at but the man slowly flips through the papers and he notes there are more missing posters all for a boy he doesn’t recognize.

“These were made with age progression software,” the officer says softly. “You’ve been missing for twenty-six years, Vanitas.”

Vanitas scratches his nose as he tries to think. The drugs in his system make it difficult to focus. “I don’t understand.”

“Vanitas, you were kidnapped by a man named Xehanort Mun from the hospital you were born at,” the officer continues to softly explain. “Your real name is Vanitas Tetuanui… These are your parents.”

Vanitas slowly turns his eyes to the family of three looking at him as if they’ve been blessed by some benevolent being. Parents – he has parents. He frowns, trying to make sense of what the officer is telling him versus what he had been told his entire life.

“No,” he says quietly. “My parents didn’t want me.”

“No, that’s not true! Oh, Vanitas-.” The woman presumably his mother kneels by his side, hands on the table. “That’s not true. We loved you and you went missing- we never stopped looking for you.”

Vanitas frowns and reaches to rub his forehead to try and clear his thoughts. “He told me… He told me that you didn’t want me and he adopted me-.”

“He took you,” she whispers. “My name is Sefina Tetuanui and you are my son. I’ve been looking for you for so many years.” Sefina reaches out toward her husband and the boy who looks suspiciously similar to him. “This is your father Jorge and your brother Sora.”

“Sora,” he whispers. “You know Ventus.”

Sora nods. “Yeah, I do. We’re friends.”

Vanitas looks away and wonders how much they know about him. If they wanted him before they certainly wouldn’t once they learned about what he’s done. “I hurt him,” Vanitas whispers.

“We know,” Sora replies quietly. “It’s okay, Vanitas, we’re going to help you.”

Vanitas looks at his hands, still healing from being burnt, and wonders if Xehanort had truly lied so deeply about his lineage. These people claim to be his family but he feels nothing at all. The officer slowly places another piece of paper on the table beneath his nose and he manages to puzzle out it as a DNA test.

“Your DNA matches the missing person’s case,” he says. “You belong to this beautiful family here.”

The test, black and white, stares at him and Vanitas thinks back on all of the years he spent as a prisoner in his own home. The torture and abuse he endured all because of a man who kidnapped him as a baby. His face scrunches up and he covers his mouth as a sob wrenches out of his body as he realizes he could have had a normal life. He could have grown up in a loving house, had a brother, maybe they have a dog. He could have been different.

Now, he’s only a dark monster and who can love him now?

Sefina rubs his back and pets his hair which is the first kind touch he’s ever felt. It doesn’t make sense and he sobs brokenly over the paper, wetting them with his tears. Sefina gently rests her head on his shoulder and soothes him softly with a song in a language he doesn’t know but it brings him some peace.

“We want to help you, Vanitas,” Sefina says. “We know you need a lot of help and we want you to be able to live with us… if you want. I understand you’re an adult and you can do what you want but… We think it’s best if you’re committed- in a much better facility.”

“We will be suing,” Jorge speaks up for the first time, voice dark. “For what they did to him.”

He shakes his head. “All places are bad.”

“No, there is a wonderful place we were recommended by someone who goes to therapy there.” Sefina pulls out a pamphlet. “It’s right here on the island, so we can come visit you and you can get the help you need. But you have to want it because Ventus is not pressing charges so the court cannot mandate you go.”

Ventus.

He blinks a few times and tries to shove the fog off of his mind. “Where is Ventus?”

“He’s at home now… You can’t see him, Vanitas. Not now.”

Vanitas rubs his nose and wishes he could have Ventus here with him but he knows he may never see Ventus again. “How long do I have to go?”

“We recommend a few years,” the officer replies. “At least.”

Vanitas shudders at the thought of having yet another prison. He’s sure he’ll be abused there, too. Cast off and forgotten. They don’t love or want him either. His jaw sets and he decides if this is his penance for almost killing the love of his heart, he will suffer it.

“When do I start?”

Chapter Text

The combination of the clinking of the harness and Axel's moans is by far the most intoxicating symphony Roxas can ever imagine accompanying their morning routine. He keeps close, fucking Axel deeper and harder with each thrust, ears focused on the squelch of Axel's cunt. Roxas kisses Axel's neck and leaves a small hickey at the hollow of his throat, making him moan in response.

Axel likes to be owned.

"Fuck," Axel pants, his nails digging into Roxas' ass and lower back. " Fuck ."

"You're close, aren't you?" Roxas asks, breathing tickling over Ax's nipple.

" Yeah ," Axel groans, head tilting back while he enjoys the deep fuck. "Stay home. Don't go to work."

"I have to go to work." Roxas slides his hands down to link fingers with Axel.

Axel squeezes his hands back in response. A few weeks ago, Roxas would never have been caught holding hands during sex but something about Axel makes him mushy inside. Especially when he knows Ax is tensing for a big one™.

"Shit," Axel whimpers, thighs spreading and muscles tightening.

"That's it, Ax. C'mon, baby, you can cum for Daddy." Roxas slows down but fucks deeper with each hard thrust, aiming for his g spot. Axel is loud when he finally cums, spurting and flooding the towels Roxas put down on the sheets before they started. Once he figured out how to turn on Axel's water-works, they weren't easy to switch off.

They've bought more sheets in the past six weeks than any other household item.

"Shit," Axel grunts, pussy spasming on the toy. "Oh fuck me."

"I just did," Roxas snorts while peppering some kisses over Axel's jaw and mouth.

"You sure?" Axel pants. "Pretty sure this really hot blonde guy just came in here and railed my damn pussy for a few hours."

"Yeah? Anyone, I know?"

"Nah. He's a big tough little shit. You're a soft cookie."

Roxas rolls his eyes as he shifts to pull out and remove harness to drop on the floor by the bed so they can both be more comfortable. After the toy is safely plopped on the ground, Roxas focuses on kissing Axel, cupping his face, and brushing his hair out of the way. He always wants to make sure Axel feels loved after sex. He's had too many shitty one-night stands to be treated shitty by his boyfriend.

Axel kisses back even as his eyes grow heavy. He's always sleepy post-sex but Roxas doesn't mind. Means he can stand up, draw Axel a bath, clean up, and get ready for work all the while Axel takes a nap.

"Stay home," Axel mumbles. "Please."

"Wish I could," Roxas replies. He kisses Axe's forehead. "But I have clients coming in today."

"Blow 'em off."

"Axel."

"Just sayin’, I'm more fun."

Roxas snorts and kisses Axel lightly on the nose. "Yeah, you are."

“Then stay home.”

Roxas sighs as he slowly stands and leaves Axel on the bed in favor of turning the bath on. He can hear Axel bitching but he tunes him out while using a washcloth to clean himself from Axel’s mess. His fingers brush over his clit which is still over-sensitive. He’d been so focused on making Axel cum, he didn’t even realize he hadn’t finished yet.

Axel appears in the doorway, walking up from behind to wrap his arms around his waist and nuzzle him; probably further attempts to make him blow off work. “ Roxasss .”

“Axel, not right now, okay?” Roxas pants, wishing he didn’t feel a mixture of disappointment and frustration at his own lack of release. He tries to make sex about Axel and making Axel happy. He hadn’t realized he’d been doing it in favor of his own.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he mutters.

“Rox.”

“I didn’t cum, okay?

“You didn’t?”

“No. Doesn’t matter. I’ll deal with it later, take your bath.” Roxas pulls away from Axel’s touch but Axel grabs his elbow and swings him back around. “Ax, I gotta go–.”

Axel cuts him off with a swift kiss and he lifts Roxas up to set him on the bathroom counter, legs open, and long fingers eagerly pressing inside. Roxas gasps, not used to Axel penetrating him, not even with foreplay, but Axel’s thumb rubbing his clit and working him deep makes him moan and his legs boneless.

“Can’t leave my Daddy hanging, that’s just fuckin’ rude,” Axel says. “You’re so wet, Rox.”

“Fuck.” Roxas snarls at Axel, gripping tightly to the edge of the counter as his thighs tense. Axel’s hitting his g-spot which he’s never toyed with before. He likes making Axel wet the bed but he’s never tried it on himself.

“You like this, huh? Yeah, I can tell you’re gonna cum so good for me, Daddy.” Axel’s wicked smirk is maddening and Roxas lets his head drop back against the mirror.

He’s too embarrassed to watch Axel finger him but his thighs start to shake with anticipation of a big orgasm. The sounds he makes are just as humiliating as the feeling he has when being on display like this but the humiliation only adds to the fire living in his pelvis. Axel keeps talking, praising his cunt and his cock, adding a third finger and digging into one spot.

The release is so intense, Roxas smacks his head back against the mirror hard and his legs jerk as his pussy spasms and he squirts. Not as intensely as Axel but there is a small spurt and he makes a wet spot on Axel’s soft chest.

“Fuck!” Roxas yells, legs limping out and he can’t close them, too tired and fucked out to move.

“Wow,” Axel whispers, slowly pulling his fingers free. “Shit, wow.”

Roxas’ entire body blushes when he sees how wet Axel’s fingers are. They’re sticky and dripping. The blush deepens when Axel eagerly sucks them clean. He wants to run and hide but he can’t make his body move; he can’t even shut his thighs which is making him feel vulnerable. Too vulnerable.

“Maybe you should take the bath,” Axel chuckles. “You should see your fucking pussy, it is nasty .”

He doesn’t want to see it; he doesn’t want to see it or have anything to do with it right now. “Axel, get me a towel.”

“Sure, babe.” Axel turns and Roxas uses Axel’s distraction to force his body into sitting up and closing his thighs so he can try to slide off of the counter. He almost buckles but shoves Axel off when he tries to help. “Roxas–.”

“I’m fine. Take your fucking bath, Axel.” Snatching the towel, Roxas staggers to the bedroom to clean up and find underwear which he yanks on after he’s not so sticky. Axel is standing in the doorway of the bathroom looking concerned which doesn’t help.

“Roxas, what’s wrong? I thought you wanted–.”

“I did. Nothing’s wrong. I’m late for work.” He wants to take the time to really make himself look as masculine as possible today but he really is late for work so he settles for bigger clothes to hide and a hoodie yanked over his head.

“Are you mad at me?”

The sadness in Axel’s voice makes him stop and turn because he doesn’t want Axel worrying all day. “No, I’m not mad at you, I’m sorry. I’m just… That was a lot for me, I need to process, okay?”

“Because if I did something that upset you, we should talk about it now.”

“Ax, I have to go to work and I don’t want to talk.” He can deal with this wave of depression post-sex. He’s had it before and he’s sure it will happen again in the future.

“Okay but if you want to later, I’m here. You can call–.”

“I know.” Roxas leans over to kiss Axel’s cheek before heading toward the front door. He considers taking Axel’s Jeep but he may need it later so Roxas just walks, hands in his pockets.

It’s not Axel’s fault he feels this way. He’s not even sure why he feels this way. He can be on the bottom and still own Axel’s entire ass. He walks with his head down and tries to focus on anything but the sex they just had. He thinks on how Axel’s definitely lost weight which considering the amount of weed Axel smokes and how often he has the munchies, Roxas isn’t sure how Axel could possibly still be dropping weight. Neither of them can afford to go to a doctor so he’s not sure what he can do except keep feeding Axel snacks.

The shop is busy by the time he steps in and Cid is unhappy to see he’s so late but he mumbles an apology before having his first appointment come back for a consult. Focusing on work will be good – he can forget all about this morning and just focus on work. He turns on a smile and shuts his brain off so he can focus on work and work only. He can deal with this other heavier shit later.

Or never.

He’d prefer never.

 




“Good morning,” Xion greets with a smile and is surprised it’s not forced.

“Good morning,” Saïx replies in slow greeting, looking suspicious.

“Come in, please.” Xion gestures for Saïx to step into their office to survey the final pieces for the commission. They’d thrown themselves into the pieces after Kairi decided to end their relationship and they quit contacting Naminé. They’re hoping these pieces will make Saïx happy.

The coat, the best piece in her opinion, is still black but they changed the fabric to one with a golden floral pattern and the buttons are also gold and shiny. A military style coat because the style seemed to fit Saïx’s aesthetic but a gentler side. The rest of the pieces stem off of the coat and are lighter versions of Saïx. Someone new, someone fresh and trying.

They’re honestly proud of the collection and they hope Saïx is, too.

Saïx walks around the room quietly and they’re glad to see he’s stopped trying to cover the scars on his face and he seems healthier. Less pale, maybe even sporting a light tan. He looks like a new person.

“Do you like them?” Xion finally asks after Saïx’s prolonged silence makes them nervous.

He stops in front of the coat and when he turns around they’re surprised to see he has tears on his face. They’ve never seen Saïx cry.

“Yes,” he says. “This is… better than I imagined.”

Xion stands taller and smiles. “Good. I’m glad… again, I am sorry for what happened before. You seem… happier than when I last saw you.”

“Yes, I am,” he replies quietly. “I got a dog.”

“A dog? Really?”

He nods. “I’ve been going to group therapy at the rehab center. It’s been good for me, I think.”

“Good. I’m glad, Saïx- I mean… Isa, right? That’s what you want to be called now? Sorry.” Xion knows he’s been signing his emails as Isa so they try to commit it to memory. Got it memorized ? Axel would ask and tap his temple

They miss Axel and Roxas.

“Yes, Isa,” he says quietly. “Thank you, Xion. This is what I wanted.”

“Great. I can get the pieces ready for one final look over and fitting for you and then I’ll send them your way or you can come to pick them up, whichever you prefer.”

“I will come to get them,” Isa replies.

“Okay, great.” They both go over their calendars to set final fitting dates and then Isa is headed out so the rest of the day is completely free. Xion sighs, slowly sinking at their desk and turning their eyes over to a photograph of them with Axel and Roxas at the beach eating ice cream. Of course, always ice cream.

Smiling a little, Xion decides to text Roxas first because they were always closer to Roxas. They haven’t talked to them since the incident with Kairi because they hadn’t thought Roxas or Axel would want to talk to them. However, with the day completely free, they really want to see both of them.

X: Hey Roxas :) can we hang out today? 
R: I’m at work Xi
X: Oh sorry >.<

Well, Axel then.

X: Hi Axel! Are you busy today? 

A: Hey
X: Can we hang out? Maybe go get ice cream together? Go to the beach? I’m up for anything
A: I don’t have money
X: That’s ok! I can buy
A: I guess we could

He doesn’t sound extremely enthused and Xion wonders if he even wants to be friends. Tears filled Xion’s eyes as they wonder if they’ve lost their best friends as well as their girlfriend. Axel’s close to Kairi, too. This is the issue with having mutual friends and Xion knows they were in the wrong. Why would Axel want to hang out or talk?

X: If you don’t want to you can say so Axel 
A: You haven’t texted me in weeks. Feels weird.
X: I’m sorry, I just wasn’t sure you’d want me to text you
A: That’s fair
A: I hate having to pick sides :(
X: You don’t have to pick sides, Axel, I was wrong
X: I don’t want to lose you as my friend
X: Please say we can be friends, Roxas too
A: I can’t speak for Roxas but I can speak for me and I say we get ice cream! :)

Relief floods Xion’s entire body so fast they start to cry, hugging their phone to their chest in happiness. Axel still wants to be friends. Now, they just need to hear from Roxas.

X: Great I’ll come pick you up?
A: Sweet I’ll be here!

Xion smiles softly at their phone before jumping up to grab their personal belongings and lock up the office, hurrying down to the first floor. Axel’s house is on the other side of the island so it takes a while to drive over but he’s waiting on the front lawn when they arrive, dressed ridiculously in black leggings and a leopard printed crop top with tall black boots. He eagerly leaps up to the car and Xion notes the back of his top is completely mesh.

Somehow, Axel manages to be a fashion disaster and fashion-forward in the same breath. “Wow,” Xion says while Axel buckles up and then checks his face in the mirror, eyes on his eyeliner and the choker around his neck.

“What? You don’t like my outfit?” he asks.

“No, you look great. Definitely an Axel outfit.”

“Roxas would die if he saw me thank you very much.” He plucks out his phone to take several selfies; some with those animal filters before sending them off to Roxas to prove his point. “Too bad he can’t join us. He had to work today.”

“Yeah, he said that,” Xion replies as they set off to park by the ice cream shop and beach or as close as they can get. They’ll probably have to do some walking.

Axel is quiet and absorbed in his phone on the ride over and the walk to the shop. He’s still texting when Xion sits down with him, gently pushing a large sea salt ice cream sundae under his nose. He barely blinks while taking a bite, eyes and one hand still on his phone. Xion picks at their ice cream quietly, wishing they had someone to talk to while Axel is too busy to talk to them.

“Axel,” they say, hoping to gain his attention somehow.

“Yeah?” Axel asks, smiling at his phone and laughing.

“Is this a bad time for us to be hanging out?” Xion asks slowly.

“No? Why?”

“Because you haven’t said anything to me or even really looked at me since the car ride,” they point out slowly.

Axel finally pauses and sets his phone down. “Oh. Sorry. Roxas and I were talking.”

“Thought he was busy at work?”

“He is but one of his clients canceled so he’s just waiting for his next appointment. He likes my outfit.” The last sentence is pointed and Xion tries not to flinch.

“I didn’t say I didn’t like it, Axel,” they say quickly. “I do like your outfit.”

“Sound of repressed judgment,” Axel replies.

“Axel…” Xion pushes their ice cream aside and covers their face because they don’t want to cry in public. With Isa’s commission completed, there is nothing left to do but think – think on how they messed up, thinking on how they lost Kairi and potentially lost all of their friends, too. Lost their apartment, living in a new place with crappy neighbors and bad lighting because they’re on a waiting list for somewhere else. Thinking on how Axel is clearly more wrapped up in Roxas and probably wishes Roxas were here.

“Xion, I’m just teasing,” Axel says in a softer tone. “Didn’t realize we entered the no humor zone.”

“I’m sorry,” Xion whispers. “I just get this feeling everyone hates me and now you’re ignoring me and–.”

“I don’t hate you,” Axel replies quickly. “I think you made a mistake but I make mistakes every day – that’s just part of being human. You mess up, you apologize… if you really mess up, you try to apologize more and work on yourself. I know you apologized to Kairi and that’s really all you can do.”

“Does Roxas hate me?”

“No. He wishes he could come hang out.”

Hearing Roxas doesn’t hate them is a  huge relief. “ Good , I was so worried he hated me.”

“He doesn’t hate you at all.” Axel smiles and turns his phone over so it’s face down. “Sorry I was being fuckin’ rude. I get so absorbed in something, I don’t even realize. I”m sorry, Xion.”

“It’s okay, Axel… I just really… really miss you guys so much. I’m glad we’re still friends.” Xion wipes their tears away and Axel offers a napkin. “Thanks.”

“We missed you, too. And hell yeah we’re still friends! You’re one of my best friends, Xion.”

“Good. You’re one of my best friends, too.”

“Now, let’s eat this ice cream.”

“How… is Kairi?” Xion asks while they drag their spoon through the ice cream, taking small bites at a time.

“She’s… Kairi,” Axel replies with a shrug. “She’s been hanging with Tifa a lot and focusing on her work. She has this new job and is pretty happy with it. Some television show being filmed on the island. She’s the main part.”

“Wow,” Xion gasps. “That’s amazing!”

“Yeah, it is. We’re all pretty proud of her, especially Tifa.” Axel smiles fondly and polishes off his ice cream fast. “Mmm, that’s so good.”

“And how are you?”

“Me? I’m... “ He trails off and shrugs. “I’m with Roxas, pretty happy about that.”

“I can tell. I’m happy for you guys.” Xion smiles and frowns as Axel seems to twitch and move around a lot. He’s always been someone to have issues sitting still but they’ve never seen him be this bad. “Are you okay?”

“Hm? Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little antsy.”

“Why?”

“Uh, that’s just how I am, I guess?” Axel shrugs and his fingers drum on the table. “Uh, I”ll be back, I gotta piss.”

“Okay…” Xion frowns but Axel is up and hurrying to the bathroom. If they didn’t know any better, Axel is acting a lot like Isa did when they’d seen him be addicted to illegal substances. When they knew each other in the past – when they knew him as Saïx – he’d been horribly addicted to cocaine and other drugs Xemnas would pump him full.

Axel’s twitching and jittering are similar. Like he’s jonesing.

X: Roxas, does Axel have a drug problem?

R: LOL what? No? He smokes weed but that’s it
X: Are you sure?
R: Yeah, why?? Where are you guys?
X: Getting ice cream but he’s so thin and twitchy. He ran off to the bathroom but I don’t think it’s because he had to use it. Saïx used to act like that. When I knew him before. He had a cocaine problem
R: Wtf
R: Axel’s not on coke
X: I’m just saying he’s acting different and you should maybe check his room
R: That’s snooping
X: I’m concerned
R: Stay out of his business Xion

The shutdown makes Xion burn with anger but they shove their phone away. Roxas would be in denial about Axel’s behavior because he’s always seen Axel as perfect. Roxas wouldn’t want Axel to have a drug problem so why would he go looking for one? Xion waits for Axel to come back and he’s not rubbing his nose or sniffing but he does look a bit glassy-eyed. They don’t say anything and force a smile on instead.

“Ready to go walk on the beach?” Axel asks once he’s back.

Xion nods. “Sure, Axel. Let’s go.”

 


 

The orange bottle is empty and the last time he’d taken anything had been earlier today in the bathroom with Xion. Axel’s fingers dance over the bottle while he debates on going to Sora’s for a pill run. He’s stolen at least three bottles from Sora in the past three months but he’s trying to cut back. Problem being he hasn’t spoken to Isa in an extremely long time and according to what he’s heard on the streets, Isa is clean and isn’t using or selling anymore.

The next problem being he has no idea where else to get what he wants which won’t cost an arm and a leg. Sora is his only option but Riku is probably hanging around which puts him in a tight spot. Sora, God love him, is a complete dumbass so he has no issue stealing from Sora when Riku isn’t around. However, Riku is not an idiot and would probably notice if he shows up acting all squirrely.

Plus, Rox will be home soon.

Plus it’s late, going on almost 11:00 p.m.

He really can’t roll up to Sora’s place as if it’s the afternoon. Axel groans, pulling on his hair and wishing he could stop feeling the itch under his skin. He can’t focus and his brain feels sluggish; he needs the extra jolt Adderall gives him. Maybe then he can focus to clean or eat something other than the ice cream from this morning.

The sound of the front door opening startles him because he hadn’t heard Roxas walk up onto the porch. Roxas appears around the corner, looking unhappy and beat. He has to put on his good boyfriend skills now which is going to take so much effort without the help.

“Hey,” Axel says and makes himself smile. “You look exhausted.”

“I am,” Roxas replies as he slowly sinks onto the couch. “My one appointment canceled but then I had another and I took all of the extra walk-ins. I’m pooped.”

“But money ,” Axel points out with a smile. Meaning, they can pay their bills on time and maybe he can talk Roxas into letting him have a bit of cash since he’s been without a job for a while now.

“Yeah, money is good.”

“Uh, you okay? You know, from this morning? You seemed pretty upset.”

“Oh… that... “ Roxas sighs and runs a hand over his face. “It’s stupid.”

“Try me,” he prompts, leaning forward in his seat on the couch so he can try to focus on Roxas’ issues even when his mind wants to slow down and go to bed.

“I’m not used to bottoming like that and it felt amazing but was humiliating at the same time? Being exposed and fingered and… I don’t know. It just made me feel way less… masculine, I guess. I”m sorry, I know that makes no fucking sense because you can be the most masculine bitch in the room and still want dicked down.”

“Why didn’t you stop me?” Axel asks slowly. “I would have stopped. We could have changed positions or I could have done something else for you.”

“Because I was so caught up in the moment and it did feel really fucking good,” Roxas admits shyly, face red.

“I’m sorry if I upset you,” Axel says and he means it; upsetting Roxas and dumping him into a dysphoric state had not been his intention. “Are you feeling better now? Want me to suck you off like the big fucking hot dude you are?”

Roxas smiles a little and pats his lap softly.

Axel eagerly crawls across the coffee table to sit on Roxas’ lap despite being well over a foot taller than him. “Um, I want a pony and a bicycle and a Maserati and–.”

“Shhh.” Roxas presses his finger to Axel’s lips and tilts his head down for a kiss. “I’m too tired for a blow job but how about I take a raincheck.”

“Too tired for head? Damn, you are tired,” Axel mutters, gently petting Roxas’ soft hair. “You wanna just go to bed?”

“Yeah, I don’t even know if I can make it to my room, might just crash on the couch.”

Axel almost offers to carry him but decides to refrain. Roxas can crash on the couch and he can sprawl out on the loveseat and watch television. Once Roxas is out, he’s out for the night so he won’t mind if Axel sits up, jacking off, and watching porn for the evening. He has to do something to keep his mind off of the fact he’s out of pills and isn’t sure when he can obtain more.

It’s too late to text Sora so he’ll have to find out tomorrow if he can stop by casually. If he’s lucky, Riku will be at work and he can meet Sora at his place for lunch. Even if he can only find a few, it’s better than the fat nothing he has now.

Roxas settles down on the couch and Axel covers him in a blanket, turning the TV on for some noise before going to the kitchen to find a late night snack. Again, not out of human need but because he needs something to focus on. They don’t have a lot, probably because Roxas has been picking up all of the slack, and they haven’t had money or time to hit the store.

Maybe he should find work but finding a job is always so hard for him. He has a difficult time getting along with co-workers and he has absolutely zero skills. College had been a waste in Axel’s opinion and all he has to prove he even went is the student loan debt and a piece of paper which is doing him zero good. The fridge is basically empty and the pantry is down to canned goods. Axel pouts and decides to see if Isa is busy. Maybe he can con a McDonald’s run out of him.

A: Isa are u up ?
I: Thank u for calling me Isa
A: ok you are up cool, i’m starving, you wanna hit mickey d’s?
I: You know how I feel about fast fod
A: Nothing else is open I’m so hungry pls?
I: Fine
A: come pick me up?
I: You have a car
A: I know but I’m out of gas, pls?
I: Fine
A: Thanks!

Axel grabs his shoes to pull on and slowly creeps out of the house so as not to disturb Roxas when Isa pulls up. His wallet is in his back pocket, empty, but at least he can pretend he had the intention of feed himself all along. Isa pulls up fifteen minutes later and Axel eagerly slides into the car.

Heyyy , buddy,” Axel says with a huge smile. “Long time no see.”

“Yes, hello Axel.”

“You look great.”

"I've been going to therapy and group therapy at the rehab center. Met a boy there, he looks just like Sora but... edgier? Darker? He doesn't speak much. In fact, I've never heard him speak during session." 

"No shit," Axel gasps. "That's Vanitas. Sora's long lost psycho brother." 

"Axel." 

"Sorry... That was mean." 

"He seems lost... I feel sorry for him." 

Axel snorts and decides not to say anything because it's not his place. "Well, I'm glad therapy is working for you, Is'." 

“Thank you… I know we are supposed to be spending time apart,” Isa says slowly. “However, I have missed you.” He pulls away from Axel’s house and they start to drive to the one McDonald’s on the whole island. Mainland is littered with them and Axel was excited when they finally built one for the island, too.

“Yeah, I missed you, too.” Axel’s fingers tug and pull on his leggings but he tries to stay still because Isa knows when he’s jonesing and he doesn’t want Isa to know . If Isa points it out, he’ll have to explain how he isn’t working on himself like Isa asked and they may have a fight. And then he may not be able to talk Isa into buying him two McDoubles, a large fry, and a chocolate milkshake.

“Did you miss me or my wallet?” Isa asks as he turns into the McDonald’s parking lot so they can drive up to the drive-thru.

“What- Isa…” Axel glances at him nervously and hopes he’s not been so transparent but Isa has known him for years and maybe he really can’t hide anything from him.

“Admit it, Axel – you’re broke and you’re hoping I’ll buy you food. So, I ask again, did you miss me or my money?” Isa pulls up to order Axel’s usual order since he knows it by heart and orders himself more than Axel expected. A large Big Mac meal with a Coke, and a small fry with a small vanilla milkshake.

“Since when do you eat that much?” Axel asks before he can go back to the original question.

“The small fries and milkshake are not for me.”

“Then who the hell are they for?”

“My dog.”

Axel blinks a few times before bursting into laughter. Isa has a dog and apparently, the dog has a thing for McDonald’s fries and milkshakes. “ Wow , I didn’t even know you had a dog.”

He nods. “I rescued her. You never answered my question, Axel.”

“Okay, look, I admit I was hoping you’d feed me but I still miss hanging out with you , not your money,” Axel insists, hoping Isa will believe him.

“I remember you telling me you wouldn’t find me attractive if I wasn’t rich.”

Axel groans, head falling back in frustration. “Yeah, I remember I called you insufferable, which is what you’re being, Isa! I told you I missed you, why is that so hard for you to grasp as a concept?”

“Because you only asked me to come out with you because I have money, Axel.” Isa is quiet when they pull up to the window and he pays without a fuss. He’s still quiet as they ride up to collect their food and all of the way back to Axel’s house.

They pull up to the curve and Axel clutches his bag of food quietly, guilt eating his heart. “Is’... I’m sorry, okay? Yeah, I asked you out because I was hungry and I knew you’d feed me and that was wrong,” he admits shyly. “I’m sorry. I really do want to hang out with you more… It’d be nice to see you more often.”

“I would like that as well, Axel.”

“So, we should hang out tomorrow then?”

“I have group therapy but afterward, we could do something. I will text you.”

Axel smiles. “Great. I look forward to it… Thanks for the food.” Before he can put his foot in his mouth or give off any further weird signals, Axel opens the door and climbs out of the car so he can go inside to eat.

“Axel.”

“Yeah?” he asks, turning on his heel.

Isa leans over, holding out a one hundred dollar bill which makes his heart zing. “Buy some groceries.”

“Uh- Is’...”

“Take it, Axel. I know you need it.”

Blushing, Axel accepts the money and realizes he has no way to pay Isa back but maybe this is Isa’s way of accepting his apology. He stuffs the money in his pocket and hurries inside, trying to stay quiet so he doesn't wake Rox up – 1. Rude 2. He doesn’t want to share. He quietly tip-toes back to his room to eat in solace and stare at the money Isa gave him.

One hundred dollars they could stretch at the grocery store.

One hundred dollars he could also buy a fix.

“No, groceries,” he whispers and decides to do the smart thing and take the money back out to the kitchen to pin it to the fridge with a magnet. Once Rox sees it, it will be designated grocery money so then he can’t be tempted to use it or he’ll be a jerk who used their food money.

Now, he just needs to contact Sora tomorrow before hanging out with Isa and all will be right with the world.

Chapter Text

“There, now you should be seeing much clearer.”

Vanitas blinks a few times after the round-framed glasses are placed on his nose for the first time. His mother is sitting and smiling at him which he can really see well for the first time. He’d never questioned his bad vision growing up because he’d never really been allowed outside. After admission to the rehab center, they’d given him a round of vaccines, a physical, and tested his vision as part of his intake process.

They'd quickly discovered he can’t see dick and suggested he see an optometrist. He’d thought the rehab center would be another prison but found out his parents could take him on day-trips since they are his legal guardians when necessary. He’d gone to the eye doctor and nervously picked between one or two for over an hour before being fitted for glasses.

He didn’t like or want the glasses because he looks ridiculous but his mother kept calling him cute . Despite wanting to hate the words, he likes them, and they make him feel warm inside Six weeks since he started therapy and new medication which doesn’t make him feel like a zombie, and now he has glasses perched on his nose. He can actually see .

“Oh, sweetheart, you look so handsome,” Sefina says while he looks at himself in a mirror.

He looks stupid but he’s not in a position to argue.

“Thanks,” he mutters as he tries to remember good manners.

They leave the optometrist and Vanitas sits in the back seat of the car while his mother drives them back toward the rehab center. Sora is up front and chatting about going to lunch. Part of him hopes they go out for lunch because he’s not ready to return to the center yet. He stares at the outside world and is surprised to see everything so crisp and clear. Leaves on trees, flowers on plants, the way the ocean sparkles from the sun.

“What do you want to eat, Vanitas?” Sora asks, turning in his seat to look at him.

He slowly turns his eyes back to Sora. “What?”

“I said, what do you want to eat?”

He shrugs. Xehanort hadn’t liked going out to the store and always stocked up on canned goods. For most of his life, Vanitas ate canned pasta, beans, and canned meats. Coming to the rehab center, they fed him decent meals and he’s tried more foods in the last six weeks than he has his entire life. He doesn’t miss spaghettios morning, noon, and night but he still isn’t sure what kind of foods he likes . He eats what is in front of him because he's still living under the guise of never knowing when he’ll eat again.

“There’s this place that gives you a paper crown to wear,” Sora says with a huge smile.

Vanitas rolls his eyes. “That’s dumb,” he says and then a moment later, “I want to go there.”

“Mom, let’s go to the fish place.

“Sure,” Sefina says. She makes a left at the next light and they pull into a packed parking lot.

“This place is delicious,” Sora promises.

Vanitas slowly climbs out of the car and follows Sora and Sefina inside to wait in line. The menu is well lit above their heads and with his new glasses, he can actually read it. He glosses over the menu but his mind turns to Ventus and he wonders how Ventus looks with his new glasses. He taps Sora’s shoulder to gain his attention.

“Yeah?” Sora asks as he turns.

“Can we see Ventus?” he asks.

Sora looks sad and shakes his head. “Vanitas, you know you’re not allowed to see Ventus.”

“Oh…” He looks down and is suddenly no longer hungry. “I want to see what he looks like with my glasses.”

“Oh. Here.” Sora pulls out his phone and scrolls around until he turns the screen to face him and on the screen is a photo of Ventus.

Vanitas gasps, slowly taking the phone to see Ventus’ face with crystal clear vision. He’s beautiful with his dorky smile and bright eyes. The photo is new, according to the date, and he’s on the beach in the sun looking happy. A little sunburnt but happy. Tears fill Vanitas’ eyes as he realizes this smile was almost robbed from the world because of him . The dark thought gnaws on his heart so Vanitas hands the phone back quickly.

“You okay?” Sora asks.

He nods. “I almost hurt him– I– I did hurt him,” Vanitas whispers. “I am a bad person.”

“Van…” Sora touches his shoulder gently. “You’re working on being better. Remember when we used to tell you that you couldn’t see Ventus and you threw a fit? You don’t do that anymore because you understand why you can’t see him. You’re adjusting so well.”

Maybe he is adjusting or maybe he just quit throwing fits because he knew they weren’t helping him. He’s honestly not sure. “I suppose,” he replies but their turn is up and he realizes he hasn’t picked out what he wants to eat. Panic sets tight in his chest.

The anxiety quickly follows and he’s trying to read the menu as fast as he can but there is a lot of pressure to choose when you don’t know what anything is. Not to mention, being outside, in a new place, surrounded by people is extremely hard for him. Being outside is extremely hard for him. He’s been working with his therapist on the learned agoraphobia and he’s not as awful as some people but he would definitely rather be home and not outside.

Especially right now when he’s about to have a panic attack.

Sefina notices first and asks Sora to take him to a table so he can sit down. Sora smiles and guides him over to a booth and they sit down. Vanitas reaches for napkins in the holder to start shredding so he has something to do with his hands. Sora doesn’t say anything which Vanitas appreciates because he’s not sure he could respond right now. His back hurts and he can feel it wanting to lock up.

Sefina returns to the table with a tray full of food which she sets down, lightly touching Vanitas’ head, before sitting down beside Sora to give Vanitas breathing room. He takes deep, steadying breaths, and studies the food in front of him. Fried fish in a basket with crispy chips. In another basket are fried pieces of paopu fruit. Sora eagerly grabs a basket and Sefina nods at him to let him know he can take what he wants.

Vanitas slowly takes the basket and studies the fish for a while. He’s never had fish before except for freezer burnt fish sticks from his childhood. Sora is already demolishing his while he chats with Sefina. They don’t bother him or make him talk which is also relieving. He’s not one to talk a lot unless your name is Ventus and even then, he never spoke much around Ventus. He prefers the quiet.

He doesn’t mind listening, however.

There are many people in group he’s listened to over the past three weeks he’s been allowed to participate but he’s never spoken. He’s listened to harrowing tales of addiction and abuse, the struggles of depression and anxiety, and he’s realized his problems can’t begin to measure up. In their eyes, he may very well be the monster they’re all trying to escape. Everyone knows about the fire because it was all over the news.

He’s the pyro boy.

If only they knew how fire scares him; haunts his memories and he wakes screaming from smoke-filled dreams.

“Are you not hungry, Vanitas?” Sefina asks and he realizes he’s been staring at his food but not touched it.

“Oh… Sorry.” He grabs a fork to cut off a piece of fish to stuff into his mouth and try. The memory of sitting on the floor in the kitchen, eating freezer burnt fish sticks he tried o cook in the microwave comes back and sours his stomach. Five years old, starving and left alone for days. He’d been desperate. He pushes the fish away as the memory makes it all taste like ash in his mouth.

“It’s alright if you don’t like it,” Sefina says softly. “We can get you something else on the way back to the center.”

“Sorry,” he says automatically, leaving his eyes down on the table.

Sefina reaches over to briefly touch his hand. “You don’t have to like everything. Nothing to be sorry about, I know you’ve not been able to try many things growing up.”  

He nods and then the conversation lags until Sora picks it up by talking about someone named Riku. One of the many people Sora talks about, Riku is always on topic no matter where the conversation leads, Sora can loop it back to Riku. Sefina listens as a good mother would while Vanitas tunes out of all conversation until the world feels as if it's buzzing in his ears. He disassociates until he feels outside of his body and he’s watching them hold a conversation while he remains a quiet robot.

Part of him wants to scream and shake them to pay attention to him but then what would he say. What kind of conversation could he possibly ever hold with people who he doesn’t know? He hasn’t had an education since he was thirteen years old, knows nothing of current affairs, and has zero hobbies or interests. The only thing he ever did to pass the time under Xehanort’s care was drawing. Only at night and only when Xehanort wouldn’t see; more than once the old man destroyed his drawings, made him watch as he burnt them to ash.

No one wants to see this trash, you filthy boy , Xehanort would scream while he lit each drawing on fire.

Fire.

He shivers and comes back slowly to the present which is good because they’re all done eating and throwing away the trash so they can go. Vanitas stands to follow them back out to the car where he’s quick to slide into the back seat. Once inside the car, he feels safer. They’re outside but contained. He’s safe here.

“Does Vanitas have to go back now?” Sora asks sadly.

“I’m afraid so… Vanitas, would you like us to stop anywhere to get you something to eat? I’d hate to send you back hungry, honey.”

Honey .

She likes giving him little nicknames which at first rubbed him the wrong way but after a while, he started to like them. They’re sweet and make him feel warm inside. He kicks his feet shyly and shrugs. “I dunno.”

“We can go wherever you want,” she points out gently.

“Oh!” Sora gasps and spins around. He has a paper crown in his hand. “Here, Van.”

Vanitas slowly takes the crown and sets it on his head which makes Sora smile huge like the radiant sun. His cheeks turn red and he looks out the window shyly. They haven’t had many outings since he started therapy but they did go to McDonald’s once and he really enjoyed the chicken nuggets. “McDonald’s,” he says before remembering he needs to ask. “I mean – may we… please go there.”

The please is new but he’s working on it.

“Of course, chicken nuggets again?” Sefina asks and he nods. “Okay.”

Vanitas sits quietly in the backseat the rest of the way to McDonald’s, thanks her for the food, and then they have to go back to return to the Center. He doesn’t want to go back but knows there is no other option. He still needs help and he has to take it so he can maybe see Ventus again some day. Both Sefina and Sora walk him in, while he wears his crown and clutches his McDonald’s bag. They sign him in and he has to follow the nurse back but he allows Sefina to kiss his cheek and Sora promises to call.

His face is pink while he follows the nurse back into the facility and he walks toward his room. The Dr. Wise Rehabilitation Center is a beautiful facility with private housing and rooms on one compound. There is a lot of land and gardens to walk through which is also appealing. Vanitas has his own room but if he’s here long enough he hopes he can score a private apartment. Better than waiting to see if someone shows up to room with him.

Room 212.

Vanitas frowns when he sees the door is open; he knows he closed it before leaving this morning. Pushing the door open completely, Vanitas startles when he sees someone else is in his room, hanging up a poster of some guy dressed in a wild outfit with big hair and a guitar. There’s music playing and the noise makes Vanitas’ teeth clench. He walks over to angrily unplug the stereo so he doesn't have to hear it.

“Hey, what the fuck?!” The newcomer spins around and Vanitas is confronted with a taller, skinny guy with a bad mohawk or maybe it’s a mullet. He can’t tell but Vanitas can see he’d be pretty if it weren’t for his hair.

“What are you doing in my room?” Vanitas snarls. “Get out.”

Ohhhh , you’re Vanitas,” the guy says and holds out his hand. “Hey, I’m Demyx. Your new roommate.”

“Roommate,” Vanitas repeats and feels his entire soul die. He doesn’t want to share his room with anyone, least of all this punk.

“Yeah! I’m a repeat offender,” Demyx says with a snort. “Got out and then I sorta just started using again. I really am trying this time, though. Last time I didn’t give a fuck if I lived or died and then I almost died so… I guess I do care. What ya in for? Drugs?”

“No,” Vanitas snarls. “It’s not your business.”

“Sorry, sorry. Touchy.” Demyx raises his hands and goes back to his poster to fix. “Also, not sure if you want people to take you seriously or not but the crown is definitely not helping.”

The burn leaves Vanitas scorched and he quickly yanks the crown off of his head and leaves the room to go talk to the nurses at the front station. The girl on duty looks unimpressed with him as he storms up but turns her attention on him. “Yes, Vanitas?”

“I don’t want a roommate,” he says angrily. “Why do I have one?”

“Everyone gets one, Vanitas. If you don’t get along with Demyx after a few weeks, we can work something out but you have to give it a go.”

Vanitas’ jaw pops but he knows arguing won’t help so he storms back to his room to sit and eat his McDonald’s while he watches Demyx out of the corner of his eye. By comparison, Vanitas has absolutely nothing on his side of the room while Demyx is already attaching a third poster to the wall. He even has a special blanket and bedspread over his bed in the corner. Jealousy eats at Vanitas as he stares at his side of the room where his only belongings are a notebook he’s been doodling in and a few pencils he swiped from the nurse’s station. Everything else he ever owned burned down in the house, which he knows is his own fault but it doesn’t stop him from feeling even more alien.

“So,” Demyx says slowly. “You hate music or something?”

“That was noise.”

Music ,” Demyx corrects and slowly inches over to plug in the stereo again.

“Do it and I’ll cut off your dick in your sleep,” Vanitas snaps which makes Demyx fall back and laugh nervously.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

“Guess you won’t know until you try.”

Demyx looks nervous as he climbs onto his bed but he stays quiet afterward, shoving headphones into his ears instead. The music is still loud but at least Vanitas can tune it out. He sits at the small desk against the wall closest to the window to doodle silently. Little creatures from out of dark scribbles; little friends he’s always drawn and visualized as protectors. They all spring from a different emotion he’s had over the years.

They sit in silence until it’s time for dinner and Demyx slowly stands to stretch. “Let’s go see what they have to eat,” he suggests.

Vanitas rolls his eyes but if he doesn’t eat, his therapist will only be upset he’s avoiding meals again. “Fine. Don’t talk to me.”

Demyx snorts. “My dude, you are with the wrong guy if you want someone to not talk to you. I can’t shut up.”

Another eye roll but he follows Demyx out to the cafeteria where they’re all supposed to eat. He usually eats in his room by himself but his therapist is always on him about being social . Making friends, trying to interact with the other patients. Demyx leads him to the line and picks up a tray to hand to him first. Vanitas blinks in surprise but accepts the tray.

“God, I hope it’s meatloaf,” Demyx says. “I fucking love the meatloaf. I wonder if Marge is still the server because she and I go way back.”

“How many times have you been here?” Vanitas asks and then regrets it because he’s opened a door for Demyx to talk.

“Eh, a couple of times. First few I never finished and then this last time, I finished but only because I had to. Lid my way through. I don’t recommend that route.” Demyx scoots his way down the line, making conversation with the people serving their food, and finally grabbing up a colorful and jiggly dessert. Vanitas eyes it suspiciously but grabs one, too.

“What is it?” he asks

Demyx raises an eyebrow at him while they walk over to a table by a window to sit and eat. “You’ve never had Jell-O before?”

“No,” he says.

They both sit and Demyx looks completely flummoxed. “ Never ? Fuck, what rock were you living under before you came here? I’ve never met someone who’s never had Jell-O before. Jesus Christ.”

Vanitas stabs the meat portion which he’s pretty sure is meatloaf with a plastic fork. “I was held hostage in my own house for most of my life and now I have agoraphobia.”

Demyx blinks a few times. “Oh, fuck .”

He has no idea what possessed him to tell Demyx any of this because it’s not Demyx’s business but the look on his face is enough to make him smirk privately. He’s sheltered but he’s tired of the judging looks on everyone’s faces because he hasn’t don something the rest of the world has.

“Dude, are you serious?” Demyx asks then, looking distressed. “That is so fucked .”

“Who jokes about something like that?” Vanitas demands.

“I mean, a psychopath maybe but–.”

“Are you saying I am one?”

Demyx turns a pale shade of green and looks panicked and trapped. A bunny caught in the fox’s den. “What? No – I mean… you’re that kid who lit the house on fire, right? I just, uh–.”

Demyx is lucky the silverware is plastic or he would have driven his fork right into the back of the man’s hand. Vanitas shoves his tray away in anger before standing to walk away. “Fuck you,” he snarls. “Fuckin’ ugly.’

Demyx stammers but Vanitas walks away in a rage, knocking people out of his way in favor of going back to their room. His anger only grows when he sees Demyx’s homey side and his remains a blank patient’s room. He may as well be John Doe with nothing on his side at all. The boy who lit the house on fire with people inside. The insane boy. The psychopath. The monster.

Vanitas snarls at Demyx’s posters and cruelly rips them down, stepping and tearing them until they’re all ruined. He’s tempted to break his stereo but settles for tying his headphones around the leg of his bed into knots. He throws the blanket on the ground and then goes to sit down on his own bed, clutching the sides of his head. A migraine lives at the base of his neck and is crawling up the back of his head as the stress eats beneath his skin.

They have group therapy right after dinner so he just has to wait until then. He sits still and quiet on the bed until Demyx returns, carrying a Jell-O treat. “Hey, man, I wanted to say… sorry….” Demyx trails off while his eyes fall onto the ruined side of his room.

Vanitas flinches when he sees Demyx brought him a peace offering and all he did in repayment is to retaliate cruelly. Of course, if Demyx thought he was psychotic before this definitely only adds fuel to the fire.

“Uh… wow... “ Demyx says slowly his eyes misting over. “Okay, um, well, I can get different posters, I guess. If you hated those ones.” He slowly bends over to pick up his blanket and set it back on the bed before putting the Jell-O on the nightstand between their beds.

“Demyx…” he says and tries to form an apology even if he’s no good with apologies.

“I gotta go to group so, uh, yeah, I’ll see you there.” Demyx walks out, wiping his eyes, his nose pinking from repressed tears.

Vanitas sighs and runs a hand over his head before walking over to pick up the ruined posters and wonders if he can tape them back together but he did an extremely good job destroying them. He sits on the floor and slowly unties the headphones until they’re free, setting them gingerly on Demyx’s desk, even giving them a gentle pat. He goes over to his desk to write I’m sorry on a piece of notebook paper, doodles a sad creature and then sets it on Demyx’s pillow.

Group therapy is held in a stupid circle but Vanitas shows up on time and slowly sits down on a folding chair. One of the Outside Regulars – Isa something – is already there and Vanitas is surprised to finally see Isa has an ugly x-shaped scar on his face. He’s not been able to make out Isa’s face clearly until tonight. Once everyone is assembled, their mediator starts by checking in on everyone, which Vanitas says nothing, and he’s quietly encouraged to speak another time. He looks up at the others as they talk and when Isa finally notices him, he watches as Isa quickly covers his mouth to hold back a snort and laugh.

Vanitas’ eyes narrow when he realizes Isa is laughing at him. Fucking prick. “Shut up, ugly,” he snaps over in Isa’s direction and everyone immediately freezes and turns to look at him. Even the therapist-mediator looks downright shocked since he’s never spoken in group before. He’s never even said his name out loud. Isa looks shocked which is definitely worth speaking up.

“Vanitas,” the therapist says softly. “We don’t need to use harsh name-calling.”

“He’s laughing at me,” Vanitas snaps. “Just because I need glasses. Ugly ass bitch.”

“Okay, that’s enough, please,” the mediator insists. “Please… I am happy you’re speaking up but there are other ways to go about this.”

Vanitas notes how Isa is not reprimanded which makes Vanitas’ fists clench but he holds his tongue and keeps to himself any further comments. He mostly tunes everyone out until Isa starts to speak.

“Since they’ve come up again I thought maybe I would… tell this story finally.” Isa touches his forehead over the scar and Vanitas watches him through his lashes, reminded of the X-scar over his entire back. It burns and twitches with the thought.

“Please,” the therapist encourages.

“When I was younger, early twenties, I was involved with a man named Xemnas. He groomed me from sixteen until I finally left him when I was twenty-four. He made me feel worthless, empty, and as if I didn’t deserve any good in my life,” Isa starts slowly. “He forced me to abuse other people, convinced me I was a bad person, too.”

Vanitas frowns, ears pricking from Isa’s words. He understands this scenario too well.

“At the height of our… I wouldn’t say relationship but toward the end of my time with him, he convinced me he wanted to brand me forever. I craved pleasing him as much as I craved oxygen. I thought, if he marks me permanently, then we can be together forever. It will mean he loves me.” Isa sighs and touches his forehead again. “I won’t go into complete details as they are… not appropriate but he made me beg for the knife. I pleaded, I cried, I wanted him to hurt me.”

There is an ache in Vanitas’ chest as he listens to this story and part of him feels guilty for calling Isa ugly. He understands what it is like to be forced to carry a scar made from someone else; someone you thought loved you and trusted more than anyone else. Someone worth looking up to; someone with power. His back twitches.

“He dug the knife in so hard I thought he would kill me,” Isa whispers, dabbing his eyes lightly on his sleeve while the rest of the group stares at him in complete shock. “Twice, he slashed. I’m surprised he didn’t blind me permanently… but he…” Isa pauses to collect himself and someone reaches over to rub his shoulder in comfort.

“It’s alright, Isa, you’re doing well,” the mediator says softly. “Take your time.”

“Afterward, he told me I was ugly and my outside finally matched my inside. He threw me away after that… Like garbage. I guess I’m partially thankful for what happened because I may still be there or dead… but… when I see myself in the mirror, I hurt.”

Isa goes quiet and the therapist asks if there’s anything anyone wants to say as encouragement to Isa and Vanitas thinks on his own scar but keeps quiet. He listens to others comforting Isa with words of encouragement and then everyone jumps into their own stories until the hour is up. Afterward, they encourage everyone to participate in socializing and Isa is walking over to the table with snacks and drinks. Vanitas steels himself to walk over.

Isa glances down his nose at him before taking a water bottle. “Hello, again.”

“Hey,” Vanitas replies and picks up a water bottle too so he has something to do with his hands.

“I”m sorry I laughed at you,” Isa says. “It was rude.”

“Yeah, you are.”

Isa snorts a little. “You want to say sorry too or…?”

“No, you are ugly,” Vanitas replies even if he doesn't really find Isa ugly at all. “I have a scar, too.” He adds the last bit quickly so he doesn’t chicken out.

Isa pauses,   torn between two paths but eventually makes a decision. “Do you? Does it hurt?”

“Yeah,” Vanitas mutters. “Bad sometimes. It’s on my back.” He slashes the air with his finger like an X. “Just like you. The man I called Father my entire life gave it to me.”

Isa looks sad briefly but doesn’t make a big deal out of the information. “Why haven't you said anything in group? We could have talked about it–.”

“We’re talking about it now,” Vanitas points out. “I don’t want to talk to those people. Why would they feel sorry for me?”

“Is that what you want?” Isa asks and gestures for him to sit down in two chairs on the outskirts of the room. “People feeling sorry for you?”

“No!” he snaps. “Why would they feel anything at all for me? Sympathetic, empathetic, anything at all when I am what I am.”

“And what are you?”

Vanitas clutches the unopened bottle of water tightly until he feels it try to pop open. “A monster,” he whispers, staring anywhere but at Isa.

“Is that what your father told you?” Isa asks softly.

Vanitas nods. “It’s what everyone tells me. I deserve it. I am.”

“Why is that?”

“Because of what I did to him – to Ventus. I– was bad to him…” Vanitas sighs and angrily scrubs his eyes so he doesn’t start crying in front of Isa and everyone else in the room. “I was not a good person. I’m probably still not very good.”

“But you recognize what you did to him was bad,” Isa replies. “You understand you abused this person and that is not acceptable behavior. You are changing and working on becoming better. I understand this implicitly. I, too, abused people because it was all I knew for the longest time. I learned from Xemnas how to treat people and now I am trying to be better.”

“And are you?” Vanitas whispers. “Getting better?”

“I think so, yes.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, I’m making healthier relationships and choices. I… I’m here, in therapy, instead of hiding from the world. I adopted a dog, an animal who needed a loving home. But these are all my milestones. Yours will be very different from mine.” Isa gestures at everyone else mingling. “They’re all different and have a multitude of miles to walk and stories to tell. You can’t measure your own progress against someone else’s. Tonight, you spoke in group, maybe not anything… productive but you used your voice. That is a milestone.”

“I guess.”

“Maybe next time you’ll want to say more. You never know.”

Vanitas huffs quietly and nods. He needs to go back to the room and check on Demyx but he’s ironically found solace in speaking with Isa, even if he doesn’t want to in front of the whole class. “I have to go.”

“Okay,” Isa says. “Uh, wait before you do…” Isa pauses to pull out a pen and a little pad of paper from an inside pocket of his jacket, jotting down his number. “Here. If you ever want to talk, I’m willing to listen.”

Vanitas frowns. “Why?”

“Because you seem like you need a friend and I do, too.”

Slowly, Vanitas accepts the piece of paper to tuck away in his pocket for safekeeping before fleeing the area so he doesn’t have to say anything else. He avoids any doctors, nurses, or counselors, ducking off toward his room. Demyx is already there, headphones in, sitting on top of his bed and reading a book.

Vanitas is surprised Demyx knows how to read.

He walks up and taps Demyx’s foot to draw his attention and Demyx looks up, pulling his headphones free. “Yeah?” he asks.

“I’m sorry,” Vanitas says even though it’s almost painful to say out loud. Especially to someone as ugly as Demyx.

Demyx smiles and picks up Vanitas’ note. “Yeah, I see that. The drawing is cute, man. Thanks.”

“I will replace your posters,” he says slowly, wondering if he can talk to Sora about buying some new ones.

“Nah, it’s cool. I’m going out tomorrow on some free time anyway. I got that day pass after detoxing and all of that jazz. It’s my reward for being one month sober.” Demyx produces a little round chip with a 30 stamped on the side. “See? Got my sobriety chip at group.”

Vanitas takes the chip and turns it over and around in his fingers. “For being off of drugs.”

Yeah . I was on heroin. It’ll fuck up your whole life, man. I gotta have someone go with me, though, as my ‘buddy’.” Demyx rolls his eyes a little. “Think I’m gonna drag Marly out on the town with me. He can run into Sephora, I’ll go to the comics store and get new posters. Hey, you wanna come?”

“With you?” Vanitas asks.

“Yeah, if they’ll let you out.”

He pauses, going over the possibilities in his mind; he could hate every moment because Demyx is a pain or he could have a good time and explore the town. Of course, he would have to go outside and that’s a scary concept. “I don’t like the outside,” he admits quietly.

“That’s cool, man, you don’t have to come.”

Vanitas nods and slowly goes to sit on his bed. Isa spoke of milestones and everyone’s is different. He won't really know he’s improving by comparing himself to others only by comparing himself to what he already knows. He slowly lies back on the bed and stares up at the ceiling of the room, still holding the water bottle from earlier.

“Demyx.”

“Yeah?”

“I would… like to go,” he says slowly.

Demyx flashes him a smile and a thumbs up. “Sick., my dude”

 


 

“Sora, you made it!” Ventus smiles when Sora finally comes into the coffee shop to meet him for lunch, out of breath, and needing a second to calm down. “You okay? Did you run here or something?”

Sora holds up his finger while he struggles to breathe, hand on his chest, before finally sitting down with him. “Sorry,” he gasps. “I was trying to get here quick.”

“You’re okay, right?”

Sora nods. “Yeah! I’m okay... “ He pauses to take a final deep breath. “How are you, Ventus? You look better.”

“Yeah, I feel a lot better” Ventus admits. “Knowing Van is getting help makes me feel a lot safer and you being able to… to tell me how he’s doing is nice, too.”

Sora smiles and nods. “He’s doing great! His counselor says he’s really come a long way. They adjusted his medication and started him on a few different things to really help stabilize his moods. He’s no longer lashing out at people or being violent or anything. I guess, he’s still kinda quiet in group but he listens and does great with one on ones. I’m so proud of him.”

Ven smiles back. “Me, too.”

“I feel stupid not realizing he was my brother, though,” Sora mutters.

“Well, you'd never met him,” Ventus points out gently. “I should have realized, not you.”

“Maybe we’re all just face blind.”

Ventus laughs and nods, trying not to think too hard on Vanitas but it’s hard not to want to see him succeed when he’s come so far.

“How are you?” Sora asks again. “I mean, you’re engaged now, right?”

“Yeah.” Ventus holds out his finger so Sora can see the ring which they’d finally had resized and now it fits perfectly on his finger. The stones sparkle in the sun and Sora’s eyes light up when he pulls Ven’s hand close to his face.

Wow , it’s beautiful,” he gasps. “Really beautiful, Ven.”

“Thanks.” Ventus rubs the back of his neck. “I moved in with Terra, too.”

“You did?” Sora gasps. “Cool! Are you excited to live with him?”

“Yeah, he’s saving for a house. He wants me to graduate first and then we can talk about getting a more permanent place to live. Hoping I can find a job on the island,” Ventus says slowly. “Kinda worried we may have to g to the mainland.”

“Oh…” Sora’s shoulders drop sadly and Ven feels his heart break. Leaving his friends is not what he wants to do at all. Neither does Terra but they both understand, Ven’s job is niche and he’s just starting out. There may not be many jobs available here – at least, not in his field of work.

“I know,” Ven says sadly. “I don’t want to leave but I may have to for work… but we’ll figure that out if and when we get there. It’s not any time soon. I still have school to finish.”

Sora nods. “You’re on track?”

“Well, not really,” Ven replies. “I had time off after the fire so I fell behind.”

“Oh, right.” Sora looks sad but tries to sound encouraging. “You can do it, Ventus. You’re so smart and I know you’ll catch up in no time.”

“Thanks, Sora. How are you and Riku?”

Sora’s face drifts into a dreamy smile which makes Ven’s heart flutter. They’re so cute. “Great. He’s... he’s s wonderful, Ventus. I don’t even know where to begin to describe how wonderful he is to me. The other day, his wrist was hurting him real bad so I iced it for him and massaged it and then this morning he made me paopu pancakes as a thank you and… He’s just so great. He doesn't pressure me to do anything and I appreciate that.”

Ventus blinks. “You still haven’t had sex with him?”

“No…” Sora blushes and ducks his head. “I’m nervous!”

“Why?” Ventus asks. “It’s not that scary. Don’t you want to?”

“Yeah!” Sora snaps defensively. “I just don’t know how it’ll go or what to expect or what to d o . I’ve never really thought about it too much.”

Ventus snorts. “Well, Sora, when two cis guys fall in love, they put the dick in the butt and good feelings come out.”

Ventus .” Sora turns bright red and hides his face. “I just… I’ve never had sex before, okay?”

“You don’t have to but I’m just saying, put the poor boy out of his misery.” Ventus pats Sora’s arm. “It’s what I’m going to do after we’re done here.”

Sora gasps and stares at him in disbelief. “ Ventus .”

“What? Terra’s been a good boy and I feel like rewarding him.”

Probably a good thing Sora isn’t drinking something because he looks as if he’s about to choke on oxygen. “I’m gonna go,” he says.

“Have sex with Riku?”

“Shut up,” Sora mutters and he’s hurrying out the door which makes Ven laugh.

Terra is supposed to pick him up soon so Ven waits for Terra’s SUV before hurrying out. Seeing Terra in a too-tight t-shirt and gym shorts makes Ven sweat as he eases into the passenger’s seat. Leaning over to kiss Terra’s cheek, he runs a hand over Terra’s inner thigh, making him shiver and whine.

“Ven,” he mumbles. “Baby…”

“I know you want relief, Terra.” Ven kisses down to Terra’s neck and nibbles his ear. “You’ve been so good and understanding, I think you deserve some relief.”

Terra moans which makes Ven feel powerful. “Fuck, okay, buckle up.”

Ven grins and obeys so they can go home faster. By the time they’re in the door, Ven is pushing Terra up against the nearest wall, closing the front door with his foot, and tugging his shorts down to show Terra’s locked up cock in its clear casing. He’s been in chastity for two weeks so Ven could focus on school and not his dick.

Plus, it’s fun to make Terra wait.

“Look how cute you look,” Ven says before slowly removing the key to the device from his keyring to dangle in front of Terra’s face. Terra whines desperately but doesn’t reach to grab because he’s a gentleman. Terra has so much structure in his life, he likes Ven controlling his sexual release because they both implicitly trust one another.

“Please, Ven,” Terra whispers.

Ven smirks but finally pushes the key into the lock to remove the cock cage. It comes off easily and Ven turns to put it on the table before returning to Terra, finding him already half hard and looking ready to weep. He gives Terra a kiss on the mouth and then eagerly slides down to his knees to wrap his mouth around Terra’s half-hard length, sucking hungrily.

Fuck ,” Terra groans, smacking the wall behind him as he fights the primal urge.

Ven sucks him only for a few minutes, making it sloppy and wet, but stops quickly so they can go to the bedroom and Ven watches Terra take all of his clothes off. Terra stands at the foot of the bed, naked, and on display, chest heaving while he fights the urge t relieve his arousal. Terra’s so beautifully built with a thick chest and strong abs and stronger thighs. Terra’s ass is Ven’s favorite because of how plump he is.

When you walk across the room, I can hear your ass cheeks clap , Ven teased him once. Terra blushed the rest of the evening.

“How do you want me?” Terra asks softly. “I’ll serve you however you want.”

Serve him. Ven shivers at the implication. He’s grown more comfortable with intimacy since the fire and Terra is still always so gentle and kind. He loves Terra, trusts him, and feels complete with him. Terra wanting to please him and serve him is just another extension of their love.

“I love you,” Ventus says first which makes Terra smile. “Now, come here.”

Terra eagerly comes to the bed and they kiss slow but desperate. They both tear at Ven’s clothes until he’s naked and can roll on top of Terra easily. He grinds hard on Terra’s cock, making him moan and whimper, while they kiss and pant. Every one of Terra’s muscles tense and bunch as they grind and pet, his hands going to squeeze Ventus’ ass.

“Fuck,” Ven gasps. “I’m wearing a plug.”

Terra freezes. “What?”

“I wanted to be ready for you so I put it in this morning.”

“Ven– oh my fuckin God, you are so kinky.” Terra smiles and his fingers hesitantly go to his rim and his hand startles when he feels the plug nested there. “Holy fuck.”

Ven laughs and moans when Terra pulls it free. “Wanted you to slide right in.”

“Shit,” Terra growls and rolls them over so he’s on top, parting Ven’s legs with a rough gesture. “You are so hot , Ven.”

“Want to fuck me, Terra?” Ven asks and Terra’s gaze travels from his eyes down his entire body with more hunger than a starving man in a desert.

“God, yes.” Terra lines them up and slides in with a satisfied moan, sinking all the way to the base. “ Shit .”

“I love you,” Ven whispers before Terra starts to fuck him heavy and hard into the mattress. He cries out and wraps his arms around Terra’s broad shoulders to hold on while Terra fucks out some needs.

“I love you, too,” Terra replies. He does slow or tire, lasting longer than Ven expected after two weeks. “Fuck, fuck , Ven!”

When Terra hits his prostate, the pleasure runs up Ven’s dick and he whimpers, letting Terra’s pelvis and stomach rub against him for friction. His toes curl and his mouth wraps around Terra’s name as he cums, splashing a mess on both of them. Terra matches him by whimpering out his name and filling him shortly after with a thrust hard and deep enough to shove them both up toward the headboard.

“Wow,” Ven gasps while Terra is limped out on top of him, heavy, but the weight is comforting and not crushing.

Yeah ,” Terra sighs. “That’s the good stuff.”

He chuckles and runs his fingers through Terra’s sweaty hair, letting Terra rest his head on his chest while they rest in their aftershocks. Not long ago, Ven worried he was going to die in a house fire but now he’s never felt so completely happy. Vanitas is no longer a threat, he’s engaged to the perfect man, and all of his friends are there to support him.

LIfe is good.

 




Being outside the Center with Demyx is the kind of adventure Vanitas never imagined he would ever want but is glad he is having. Marluxia had not been able to join them, so they’re on their own and already they’ve gone to several stores and only purchased a few things. Vanitas’ mother had given him cash to spend on days he’s allowed to go out but the only things he’s bought are more notebooks and a pack of mechanical pencils.

“You know, you’re not s bad when you're not pissd off,” Demyx is saying while they eat french fries on the boardwalk and watch people on the beach.

“You’re… tolerable,” Vanitas replies but he’s pushing it. Demyx annoys him greatly but Demyx has also introduced him several times as his friend . He’s never had a friend before so beggars can’t be choosers.

Demyx laughs. “Thanks, my dude. I appreciate that.”

Demyx also never seems to understand when he’s being insulted. They eat quietly for a while, Demyx checking his phone a lot, and Vanitas watching the tides. Part of him wants to accidentally run into Ventus but he’s not sure he’ll be so lucky. The sun is bright overhead and is turning his skin a darker pallor than he’s ever been. Sora and his parents are all tan so he’s not surprised he has the same ability but he’s never been outside long enough to darken.

“Hey, you have freckles,” Demyx says.

“Where?” Vanitas demands, trying to twist and turn but he’s wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans so he’s not sure where Demyx could see freckles.

Demyx holds up his phone and then turns it around to show he’d taken a photo of Vanitas’ confused face. Across the bridge of his nose and on his cheeks are a dusting of freckles which makes his face redden as he realizes the freckles and glasses combination make him seem unassuming and borderline cute . If his mother were here, she’d tell him he’s adorable.

Yuck.

“Ugh,” Vanitas mumbles, pulling his glasses off and looking at them in annoyance. “I hate these.”

“Why?”

“Because I look stupid!”

“I don't think so,” Demyx replies. “I think you should look at your glasses like a rebirthing symbol. You had a shit time and couldn’t see jack… and now you’re getting help and you can see. Your whole life is different. They’re like symbolic or whatever.”

Symbolic.

A metaphor for his life changes. Vanitas slowly picks up the glasses to place them back on his nose and Demyx’s face becomes crystal clear again. Demyx smiles proudly and Vanitas tries to fight the contagion but he’s smiling back, too. Demyx is right which is not something he ever thought he’d think but the glasses really are a symbol for new changes in his life. They’re dorky and stupid but with them on, people don’t see him as they used to.

He can be a whole new person.

“Besides, eventually, you can get contacts like the rest of the visually impaired,” Demyx says with a wave of his hand. “They probably just want to see how you do with glasses first.”

Contacts. Right.

“Where are we going after this?” Vanitas asks and dips a fry in ketchup. Fries are delicious There are many things he’s never tried and he’s extremely glad to have finally tasted a french fry.

“Oh, uh, I’m gonna meet up with a guy I used to chill with,” Demyx says. “He’s cool and I’ll be quick. I just gotta get something from him.”

“What?”

“Eh, nothing that important but kinda needin’ it right now… so…” Demyx drums his fingers over the picnic table they’re parked at. “Let me know when you’re ready.”

Two more fries and they’re walking off to a shadier part of town. They stop at a gas station where Demyx heads inside to talk to the guy behind the counter. He makes Vanitas wait outside which he doesn’t like but he waits anyway. The area feels unsafe and he doesn’t have a knife so he’s antsy the longer he stands there. More than once he glances over his shoulder but Demyx is still talking. Finally, he watches as Demyx hands over some money and the man passes over a baggie. He can’t see what’s inside but a dark stone falls into Vanitas’ stomach because he knows.

Demyx bought drugs.

Probably the heroin he’s so desperately wanting to quit.

Demyx finally walks out and offers him a soda. “Here. Sorry to make you wait so long. That guy likes to fuckin’ talk.”

“Don't you?” Vanitas spits back and Demyx laughs, clapping him on the back.

“Touche, my friend, touche.”

“What did you buy?” Vanitas asks.

“Nothin’. We just talked.”

“Liar.”

“Hey, I said nothing, okay? Get off my bus.” Demyx looks defensive but Vanitas grabs Demyx’s arm. “Hey!”

“Are you using?” he asks, eyes narrowing. “I thought you wanted to quit.”

Demyx rolls his eyes. “It’s just a little bit, okay? It’s no big fuckin’ deal. One little bit won’t hurt me. I just… I get a little antsy and I need something to calm down. I’ll do it in the bathroom, not in our room, no one will know. Just chill.”

The idea of Demyx using and hurting himself, not to mention falling back on his sobriety, makes his skin go cold. They take the bus back to the Center and Vanitas follows Demyx back to their room in silence. Demyx sits around for a while but when he gets up to presumably use the bathroom, Vanitas’ mind is made up. He goes out to the nurse’s station and grabs their attention.

“Good afternoon, Van, did you have a good trip?” she asks but Vanitas doesn’t care about small talk.

“Demyx bought drugs and he’s going to use them right now,” he spits out quickly. “Probably already is.”

Her eyes widen and she presses some button and some automatic code goes over the PA system. It’s not long before a group of nurses are going to the bathroom to put an end to Demyx’s attempted high. Vanitas says out of the way, his back pressed against the wall near their room, watching as Demyx is dragged out of the bathroom, a needle hanging out of arm while he screams and kicks. His eyes are pissed when they land on him.

“You fuckin’ told!? You fuckin’ snitch!” Demyx screams. “Fuck you, Vanitas!”

Van flinches while they take Demyx away and he’s left to sit in an empty room. Demyx will go through another detox session, probably fully monitored but this is better than being dead. He can handle Demyx hating him because he’s used to people despising his guts. Is this another milestone? Further progress in his own recovery by helping someone else stay clean?

He’s not sure but he hopes Demyx can keep on a better path now.

“Hey,” comes a cold voice, making him turn to see who is in his doorway. Larxene. One of the bitchy bullies at the Center. She’s friends with Marluxia. He’s seen her be a cunt in therapy more than once.

“Go away,” he says.

“Well, that’s not very nice, now is it?” she replies with a snort. “Kinda glad shit for brains is off to go try to kill himself by OD-ing. Why did you stop him?”

Vanitas’ teeth clench and he slowly stands up. He can trash talk Demyx all he wants but he won’t let Larxene do the same. “He’s my friend,” he replies darkly. “So shut the fuck up before I break your nose.”

Larxene laughs. “ Oh , I’m so scared . Shut up Harry Potter and mind your own business.”

“Get out of my room!” he shouts and is ready to chase her down but she flips him off and leaves. He slams the door shut so she can’t bother him anymore and glances at Demyx’s empty bed. His heart aches even if Demyx annoys him – he doesn’t want the idiot to die .

Dinner is upon him faster than he realized so he takes a page out of Demyx’s book and goes to the cafeteria to try and socialize . Part of him wishes Isa lived at the Center but he only comes in for group. He hasn’t texted Isa yet because he’s not sure what to say but maybe he will now just to pass the time. He’s almost in line when someone shoves his shoulders from behind hard enough to send him flying to the ground, his glasses knocked off of his nose, and skidding across the floor.

There’s an eruption of laughter and Vanitas struggles to stand up; there’s a lot of pressure between his shoulder blades and he realizes someone is stepping on him. His glasses return to his field of vision when someone kicks them up to his face but he still can’t stand up.

“Get. Off. Me,” he growls and tries to look back to see who has him pinned but without his glasses, he can’t make out features.

Larxene’s voice, however, lets him know she’s standing in front of him, right by his glasses. “Threaten me again, emo boy, and we’ll have to have some words.” She steps forward and crushes his glasses, smashing the lenses and snapping them in half.

Vanitas stares in disbelief at the broken lenses before the foot is removed from his spine and he can sit up. Larxene is laughing as she walks away and he notes Marluxia is with her. Probably the one to hold him down. His fingers trail over the glasses, the metaphor for his new beginning, and a rush of emotions fill his entire body. Anger, hurt, rage, and pain all rush through him until all he can see is red.

He doesn’t remember flying across the room to tackle Larxene to the ground and he doesn’t remember beating her face in head into the floor. He screams and claws her face and eyes, biting whoever comes near until someone sinks a needle into his neck. The world grows fuzzy and blackness wraps its arms around him to drag him down.

When he comes to, he’s lying on a bed, strapped down, and his head is throbbing so badly he almost starts crying. The face of his personal counselor appears in his vision and he can see their face is concerned but also disappointed.

“Vanitas,” she says softly. “What happened? Do you remember?”

“My head hurts,” he whimpers.

“We’ll bring you something for your head. I need you to tell me what happened.”

“She broke my glasses,” he whispers. “Stepped on them.”

She sighs and he’s brought a few pills to take, which she helps him sit up a little so he doesn’t choke. “We found the broken pieces in the cafeteria. Larxene purposefully broke them?”

He nods. “Stepped on them right in front of my face.”

“I’m sorry, Vanitas… That being said, your behavior was extreme… Have you felt a lot of anger lately? Or was this the first time you’ve felt this way in a while?” she asks, notepad on her knee to take notes.

“I’m not angry usually,” he admits. “I was then.” He’s not sure she’ll care for his excuses but he decides to say them anyway. “My glasses… Demyx said they’re like a metaphor for starting over. I could be someone else and she broke them .”

“I see. Vanitas, I understand you were upset but this kind of behavior is not acceptable. You sent Larxene to the infirmary and she’s in a severe condition right now. You did a severe number on her head, neck, and face. She’s very sick… I’m sorry but we can’t allow you to act this way without consequences.”

There is a word he’s used to hearing. He waits for the beating, the pain, the abuse, and neglect. What will they do? Not feed him? Leave him in a solitary room for a while? Send him packing to go stay in the mental ward where they’ll just abuse and sedate him all over again?

“For now, I cannot allow you to go on extra trips outside the Center. You will have to re-earn those,” she says. “Even if your family calls unless it is a true family emergency.”

He blinks. “That’s all?”

“Well, I mean, it is one of our best privileges here… It’s something you’ll really have to work toward to earn back.”

“You’re not going to hurt me?” he asks.

What ? Vanitas, oh- goodness, no . I’m sorry, maybe I should have explained better.” She slowly starts to unstrap his arms so he can sit up freely. “You are not ever going to be physically punished here, I promise. I also would like you to write an apology to Larxene for hurting her so badly.”

Vanitas tries not to roll his eyes but if she’s as bad as she says, then he probably does owe an apology. He’s trying to become a better person, not worse. “I don’t even remember what happened.”

“You probably blacked out. I know it can happen… We’ll work on your anger issues in therapy together, okay? And as for your glasses, I’ve already contacted your mother, she’s going to have them replaced for you and will bring them here for you so you can see. Hopefully, they can get them rushed so you won’t have to walk around for too long without them.”

He nods slowly. “Will… Larxene be alright?”

“I don’t know, Vanitas. She has a pretty bad concussion right now and they’re monitoring her vitals. Hopefully, she’ll be okay.”

He wants to try to justify what he did but he can’t so he ties his tongue instead. Even if she did say Demyx deserved to OD, he knows she just needs help like everyone else in here. He’s walked back to his room, which still lacks Demyx, and everyone in the hall flinches and avoids him. Near his door, he’s surprised to see someone else standing there and it takes some squinting to realize it’s Isa.

“Isa,” he says. “What are you doing?”

“Oh… You’re back. I wanted to… to check on you.” Isa keeps his distance and the counselor leaves them alone in the hallway to talk. “I… saw your episode in the cafeteria. I was early for group and… I’m not sure what to say.”

Vanitas stammers and from the tone of Isa’s voice, he can hear him second-guessing their entire brief relationship. “You’re afraid of me now,” he says, voice bitter as he steps into his room. Isa is quiet which is enough of an answer for Vanitas.

“I’ve never seen you so angry. I’ve heard the rumors but I’ve never seen it myself,” Isa explains while he sits down on Demyx’s empty bed. “I’m not afraid of you, Vanitas. I used to have the same kind of… rage inside me. I hurt people in my anger. I didn’t mean to but I did… I understand .”

Vanitas slowly looks over his shoulder at Isa even if he’s really just a blur. “Why are you here?"

“I wanted to see you… After what happened, I didn’ think you’d be at group, so I came here to wait for you to come back.”

“Why?”

“We’re friends, remember?” Isa reminds him softly.

Friends.

Isa is his friend. He’s not afraid of him. Vanitas turns away so he can hide the tears forming in his eyes. He’s not used to people wanting to be his friend. Suddenly, he wishes he had his glasses so he could fucking see. “I didn’t mean to hurt her,” he whispers brokenly. “ Please , believe me.”

“I do.”

“I can’t go on trips anymore… outside.”

“You can earn it back,” Isa promises. “If you talk in group, they'll probably reward it back to you soon.”

Vanitas snorts. Of course, he’ll be given permission to go outside when he starts talking. “Figures.”

Isa chuckles. “Even if you start responding to other people, that is better than nothing, Vanitas. You'll be able to go out again in no time.”

“I hope so,” he says. “I liked going outside…” He never thought he’d say something like that.

“Well, tell them that… They’ll probably be lenient on you since you hate being outside usually.”

Isa is probably right; since he’s been working on his agoraphobia, they wouldn’ want him to regress so maybe he can go out if he’s supervised. “Demyx had to have a buddy,” he says slowly.

“And?”

“Maybe you could be mine,” he suggests.

Isa snorts. “I don’t babysit.”

“Fuck you.”

Isa laughs. “Just give them a  couple of days and things will blow over.”

“Maybe. People are scared of me now.”

Isa pauses. “Well, you were screaming and wouldn’t get off of her without drug intervention so I can’t really blame anyone. Just try to keep your head down and be helpful. You won’t be a pariah forever. Someone will do something and the cycle starts over.”

Vanitas pauses before he speaks again, feeling stupid and cheesy. “I am… glad you came by, Isa,” he says quietly even if it pains him to admit. “Even if you’re ugly.”

Isa snorts. “I’ll see you for group.”

“Yes.”

“Good night,  four eyes.”

Vanitas smirks over his shoulder. “Good night, ugly.”

Chapter Text

“You look nervous,” Sora says while they approach the front door of his parents’ house. Riku had been over to his house many times over the years but this is the first time he’s over as his boyfriend.

“Meeting the parents,” Riku replies while he straightens his cardigan. Usually a t-shirt guy, Sora likes seeing Riku dressed up even if he told him it was unnecessary.

“You’ve met my parents a million times,” Sora argues. “You’re like their other son.”

“I know but every time we would try to schedule a dinner with them something would come up and I haven’t met them as your… boyfriend,” Riku says as they approach the front door. “How’s my hair?”

“Long,” Sora teases with a big smile. “But nice and shiny and smooth.”

“Good.”

“You don’t have to be so scared, my parents love you and they’ll love you more even now.” Sora loops his arm through Riku ’s, practically hugging his bicep on the way up the driveway, which is packed with various vehicles and other equipment. His parents own a farm and have a lot of animals and more land than they know what to do with.

The house is medium in size with a lot of quirky colors and lawn ornaments. The long driveway is covered in stones and dirt while a sign hand painted by Sora when he was only six rests in the front yard near the walkway toward the door. Tetuanui’s it reads with several backward letters and each stroke is a different color. The sign always makes Sora smile as they pass by.

They reach the door, passing his mother’s flowerbeds, and Sora notes the front door is already open and the screen door is shut to let fresh air inside. “Mom,” Sora calls and at the sound of his voice all of the dogs in the house immediately run up to start barking and howling excitedly.

“Jesus,” Riku mutters. “Did they get more dogs?”

Sora laughs. “I think so, yeah. Mom?!”

“Coming!” His mom appears with an apron on and a smile on her face. She snaps at the pack of howling canines to back off and they all slowly back away from the door. They all sit and wait while the door is opened. “ Sora , sweetheart, it’s so good to see you. Hi, Riku.”

“Hello, Mrs. Tetuanui- um, Sefina,” he says quickly.

“Come in, come in, don’t be shy, boys.” She gestures for them to come into the house and Sora eagerly opens the door to step inside.

Riku follows and Sora guides him around the dogs while his mother gathers them to let out into the back yard so they’re not taking over the entire house. The house is crammed full of mismatched furniture and odd knick knacks but it’s home.

“How are you boys doing?” His mom asks as she comes back from letting the dogs out. “Your father is at the store, he’ll be back, we wanted to make you boys something special for dinner.”

“You didn’t have to do that, Mom,” Sora says immediately.

“I know but I wanted to have something delicious for you boys tonight. Coming all this way to see us and with your new boyfriend .”

Sora smiles as wide as he can at the mention of Riku being his boyfriend while Riku turns bright pink. Ever since they started dating, Sora has noticed Riku is easily embarrassed but he finds Riku’s blushing habit cute.

“Yeah, Mom, Riku is my boyfriend,” he says proudly while hanging on Riku’s arm. He can practically feel the heat of Riku’s blush radiating off of him.

“Finally,” she says. “I have been waiting for the two of you to pull your heads out of your butts and commit to one another for years . I remember watching you two play in the yard, pretend to get married, make each other little rings and I thought… That’s my son and that’s my future son-in-law, I’m calling it right now … and you know, I still feel I’m pretty right about that.”

Mom , we just started dating,” Sora whines as he finally feels a tickle of embarrassment.

Sefina holds up her hands and smiling. “I know, I know… I’m just saying you two make a very nice and beautiful couple.”

“Mom, you’re embarrassing Riku.”

“She is not ,” Riku whispers but Sora gives him a look because they both know he’s extremely red and shamed.

“It’s alright, Riku, I’m just teasing you both. Come, come, sit in the kitchen while I make some appetizers.”

Sora leads Riku over to the table so they can both sit and he watches his mom make them some pre-dinner snacks while the dogs make a ruckus out back. The donkey can be heard braying in the distance, probably at the dogs, but all of these sounds are sounds of home . Being homesick is not something he ever thought he’d feel once he moved out because he’d always been so homebound growing up.

Having a heart condition is definitely a damper on most childhoods.

Not being able to run and play as long as the other kids, all of the doctor’s visits, hospital stays, and surgeries really made him an anomaly in the classroom. Not to mention being placed in all remedial classes throughout his student career because of ADHD and severe dyslexia. He has a lot of needs and a lot of kids didn’t understand his medical issues.

Riku, however, always stood by his side.

“So, what were you two up to today before you came by?” his mother asks while she stuffs a tray of snacks into the oven.

“Riku wants to go hiking,” Sora replies with a roll of his eyes. “Wants me to go, too.”

“I see,” she replies but there is reservation in her eyes and tone. Sora knows the tone – she’s worried he won’t be able to do it because of his medical conditions. Even now, when he’s twenty-five, she treats him like a patient. “Is that safe for you?”

“Why wouldn’t it be safe for him?” Riku asks.

“Well–.”

“Because everyone thinks I’m going to drop dead if I do any sort of physical activity,” Sora snaps. “One bad aortic valve and I’m stared at like an invalid lying in hospice care! I can walk .”

“Sora…” His mother walks over to touch his shoulder but he pulls away. “You know the doctor said to take physical activity lightly. I Just don’t know if a rugged hike would be good for you.”

“I thought that was taken care of?” Riku asks, worry tripping into his voice which only makes Sora more annoyed. Great, now Riku can coddle him.

“Sora needs lifelong treatment, Riku,” she says softly. “He’ll never be able to have a normal heart. There’s always going to be the need for caution and treatment.

Riku looks over at him and there is an accusation in his eyes but Sora shoves his chair back and stands up to storm outside because he doesn’t want to be treated differently. The sudden motion, along with his blood pressure rising, causes for his heart to palpitate so badly he can feel his head spin. He gasps, hand reaching out to hold onto the chair but he crashes to the floor faster than he can hold on.

“Sora!” Riku cries out while his mother gasps in horror as he hits the floor.

His vision turns black and for a moment he doesn’t remember anything until he feels someone sit him upright. Strong hands grip his shoulders and Riku’s voice echoes in his ear while he regains complete consciousness.

“Riku?” he mumbles.

“You fainted,” Riku says and he can hear his mother crying. “Fuck, are you okay?”

“Fine,” he mumbles even if he’s a little shaky.

“Can you stand? Maybe you should sit for a while.” Riku continues to hold onto his shoulders but Sora pulls away so he can try to crawl back into his seat. “Sora, don’t move, you could faint again.”

“I’m fine . I know my body better than you do!” Yelling at Riku isn’t what he came here to do but he doesn’t want to be treated like a baby.

“Hey, what’s all the yelling about?” comes his father’s voice as he comes into the kitchen. “Sora, what happened?”

“He fainted ,” his mother says as she tries to regain her composure.

“Fainted?”

Sora sighs as his father comes over to plop him into his chair and check his pupils as if he’s a real doctor when his father’s only ever watched too many medical shows on television. Riku is beside him, offering him some water, his hand on his back to rub. He does at least sip the water even if he’s ready to snap.

“When was the last time you saw your cardiologist?” Riku asks. “We should make you an appointment. Sora, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me this was ongoing even now. I thought you were better–.”

“I didn’t want you to worry,” he replies which is true. “Or treat me differently.”

“Sora, if you’re still in need of ongoing serious medical care, I need to know that,” Riku says firmly. “We’re dating, this is pertinent information I need to have in case of something like this. I mean, I knew you had episodes and have a medical card but I didn’t–. I wasn’t aware of needing to take serious precautions.”

Sora rolls his eyes and sips more water while his dad goes to comfort his mom and Riku continues to fuss. He’s already going to his parents to write down all of the information he would need in an emergency, which Sora knows is actually a good thing. However, he’s mad.

He doesn’t want to be different.

He’s always been the weird kid; the stupid kid, the kid who had trouble reading, the retarded kid, the sick kid, the kid always picked last in every sporting event.

The thoughts leave him depressed so he stands up slowly and goes to the backyard to sit on the grass and let the dogs all smother him. He lies back and soon he’s covered in eager dogs, all kissing and vying for his affection. He pets them all as best he can, just staring up at the sunset-tinged clouds. They’re all pink and fading into indigo. The stars are slowly starting to appear and the moon already hangs in the sky.

Everything is beautiful.

“Sora?” Riku asks as he slowly comes outside. “What are you doing?”

Tears slowly slip down his face. “The sky is pretty,” he whispers.

“Yeah,” Riku agrees softly. “It is.”

“Don’t treat me different, Riku, please. You never did… You never made fun of me or made me feel like some invalid. I don’t want you to start now.” He wants to sit up but the dogs are all weighing him down.

“Sora, I can’t just ignore this… This is life-threatening and serious. You’ve been having a lot of episodes lately and I think we should make you an appointment to be checked out as soon as possible.”

Sora groans. “God, I have an upcoming appointment!” He shoves the dogs away and sits up, glaring over his shoulder at Riku. “You act like I can’t even fucking take care of myself, Riku!”

“Sora–.”

“I have an appointment in two days. I have one every six months. If I need it sooner, I make an extra. They do the full labwork and tests. I know how to handle my condition! I don’t need you to tell me how to run my own body!” He stands up and storms away from the house off toward where they keep the donkey and other cattle.

“Sora, wait!” Riku sighs and jogs to catch up but doesn’t take long. “I’m just worried.”

“You don’t need to be worried,” Sora grows. “I’m so sick of being treated like this! I don’t know what you want me to say, Riku. I wish you could just trust me.”

Riku sighs and runs a hand over his face, leaning against the iron gate which keeps the animals penned in. “I do trust you,” he insists. “I just.. You know me, Sora, I get blinded by my own worries.”

“Yeah, well, I’m asking you to listen to me and stop treating me like I’m five,” he shoots back, tired of this conversation. “I’m not a child. I know I act like one sometimes but I’m not.”

Riku glances down looking guilty. “I’m sorry, Sora. Can I go with you to your appointment? I’d like to hear from your doctor–.”

“You’re still not trusting me!” Sora throws his arms up and walks back toward the house. “I want to go home.”

“What about dinner?”

“Oh, I’m sure you and my parents will have plenty to discuss about me and my future, so I’ll just wait in the car.”

Sora .” Riku stomps after him and grabs his elbow. “Now you really are being a child.”

“No, I’m mad and I don’t want to have dinner with you.”

“Hey, c’mon–.”

“No.” Sora yanks out of Riku’s touch. “In fact, you can just drop me off and go home. I don’t want to deal with you right now.”

“You’re being rude to your parents, Sora,” Riku says but Sora is already going into the back door so he can grab his coat. “Sora!”

“What’s going on, champ?” his dad asks as he comes in like a tornado with a designated path.

“I’m not hungry, I’m gonna wait on Riku in the car,” he replies. “Sure you guys have plenty to discuss.”

“Sora!” his mom says in surprise but he’s already out the front door and going to sit in the car the end of the drive. He knows he’s being a brat but he’s just angry enough to let it happen.

Not long after storming out, his dad makes his way outside with a plate of food and gently knocks on the window. Sora refuses to make eye contact, not even when his dad opens the door and sets the plate on the roof.

“Sora,” he says. “I know you’re upset with something Riku said but there’s no reason to act like this.”

“He doesn’t trust my judgment on my own body and Mom’s all weeping because I fainted. I used to faint all the time.” Sora folds his arms over his chest and slumps in his seat. “Treats me like a kid, as a patient, coddles me – he looks at me differently now, just like everyone else . What I liked about Riku growing up is he didn’t do that. Didn’t treat me different.”

“Sora, I know it’s hard… having people look at you differently because of something you can’t change. I know, especially, it’s hard when you have someone you love look at you differently… but I don’t think Riku is being cold or malicious with his intent. He’s concerned because he cares about you, just like your Mom and I do. We love you and want you to be safe and healthy. Riku only wants the same.”

Sora sniffs and rubs his nose on his wrist. “I know.”

“Then, how about you come back inside, have your dinner, and maybe let Riku know you still love him because he’s pretty upset right now.”

“He is?”

“Mhm.”

Hearing Riku is upset and makes Sora feel guilty enough to slide out of the car and follow his dad back inside. His mom is at the table, talking to Riku softly, while Riku eats slow and sad. Seeing Riku sad is a downer so he rushes over to sit right at Riku’s side.

“Sora,” Riku says in surprise and Sora is saddened to see his eyes are rimmed red. He’s been crying.

“Riku… I’m sorry.” He reaches over to cup Riku’s cheek which Riku eagerly presses into his touch. “I shouldn’t have yelled like that.”

“I’m sorry, too,” he replies. “I do trust you, Sora, I would just like to be included.”

“I get it… I overreacted. We can talk about it.”

His parents clear their throats and Sora jumps to pull away so they’re not so wrapped up in each other. Riku blushes but he's all smiling while they turn their attention back to Sora’s parents for the evening. Sora smiles, slowly sliding his hand under the table to link his fingers with Riku’s. Everything will be okay. They’ll make this work.

His heart skips a few beats.


 

“Knock, knock, princess.”

Kairi rolls her eyes and laughs as Tifa lets herself into the trailer, carrying a bowl of fresh fruit. “You’re so funny, Tifa,” she replies.

Tifa grins and sets the bowl down and pretends to curtsy. “Must bring Her Majesty her every desire.”

“I’m not really a princess, just playing one in a movie,” Kairi replies and Tifa smiles while she drops down beside her. “But it is nice. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Tifa slides her arm around Kairi’s shoulders and slowly leans over to kiss her slow and deep. Kairi moans into Tifa’s mouth while a hot wave of heat runs between her thighs. They’d only just started exploring a physical relationship but Tifa’s made her happier in the past few weeks than she’s felt since Xion ended their relationship.

“I’m supposed to be studying my lines,” Kairi whispers.

Tifa grins and winks. “You can still do that,” she replies and starts to sink to the floor between her legs. “Read me the lines and I’ll reward you.”

“Tifa!” Kairi smacks her with the script. “You’re supposed to be studying your lines, too.”

“Would rather study this.” Tifa kisses her soft inner thighs and drags her teeth over here panties beneath her skirt.

Kairi gasps, the script quickly forgotten, while she laces her fingers in Tifa’s hair. Hot breath on her panties sends chills up and down her spine as Tifa slowly hooks them to the side to blow warm air on her exposed pussy instead. She moans, head falling back at the small teasing foreplay.

“You smell so good,” Tifa says.

“Too much talking,” Kairi accuses her but Tifa shoots her a wicked grin and Kairi knows she’s in for it. Tifa’s tongue immediately presses fat licks on her clit, teasing under the hood until Kairi is moaning and whining on her seat. She can feel her pulse in her pussy while Tifa sinks two fingers in to draw out more cream.

“You taste even better ,” Tifa growls, fingering her quickly.

Tifa ,” she gasps and giggles. “We’re going to get caught.”

“Don't care.”

Kairi laughs at how Tifa is so eager and hungry for her sex, she throws all cautions to the wind. Last night, Tifa had fingered her in public. She’d never been so wild with a partner before but Tifa likes adventure. She moans louder and her thighs tighten and tense with the threat of orgasm. Maybe Tifa will let her cum this time.

“Gonna cum, princess?” Tifa asks.

“Y- yeah ,” she pants.

“How do you ask?”

Please , Tifa, please, please,” she whimpers desperately.

“Good girl,” Tifa praises and presses her thumb hard into Kairi’s clit to grind.

The pleasure is so intense, Kairi screams and cums, leaving a wet spot on the couch. Tifa smirks so wickedly as she licks it up. Someone bangs on the door and reminds them they have rehearsal soon. Kairi freezes and Tifa busts into laughter as they realize someone was probably out there listening to them have sex and waiting for the right moment.

Kairi smacks her on the face with the script again. “I told you we’d get caught!”

“Doesn’t count unless they walk in,” Tifa replies. “Besides, it’s just to warm you up for your steamy scene coming up.”

She rolls her eyes at the reminder. “Yeah, with a guy I hardly know and will wear a sock on their dick while a camera guy breathes heavily and the director tells us what to do. Very sexy.”

Tifa kisses her thigh. “Just teasing. You hear from Xion or your friends lately?”

“No, I’ve been busy. I should probably call them… I mean… not Xion but my friends. No, luckily, Xion has kept away and hasn’t texted me in a while… I”m glad because I still don’t want to hear from them.” She smooths her skirt out and glances over her lines one more time. “C’mon, we have to go.”

“Okay,” Tifa says. “If that guy decides to get fresh, let me know, I’ll kick his ass.”

Kairi smiles and kisses Tifa’s cheek. “Who needs a bodyguard when I have you?”  

She doesn’t know what made her so lucky but she’s glad the stars seem to finally be aligning just right all for her.


 

“Good morning, good morning. How are you doing today, Sora? Oh, and you’ve brought a friend. Hello.”

Riku nods when the doctor walks in after knocking on the door. They’ve been waiting at the cardiologist’s for over an hour but according to Sora, this is normal. Before his appointment, he’d gone to have a few tests done so they could discuss the results in person. Riku went to each appointment so he could learn more about Sora’s condition.

Growing up, he’d always known Sora had a bad heart. He could still remember the day he found out. He’d shown up at Sora’s to see if he wanted to play and his mother answered looking saddened when he asked to see Sora.

“I’m sorry, Riku but Sora is very sick today.”

“Does he have the flu?”

She shakes her head and slowly kneels to be on his level. “I’m going to tell you a grown-up thing, Riku, do you think you can handle something so grown-up?”

He nods firmly and seriously. “I’m old enough now. I’m six.”

She smiles and gently cups the back of his had. “Sora has a bad heart. A congenital heart defect. I know those are big words but it means he was born with a sick heart. He has to have a lot of doctor appointments and right now he’s resting after a long appointment. They did a lot of tests. He has to have surgery.”

Riku gasps. “Surgery? Is he gonna be okay?”

“I think so. The doctors are very hopeful… Now, can you keep Sora’s secret?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. When Sora is better, he can play with you.”

“Okay. Can you give him a hug for me?”

“Of course, sweetheart. Run along and play.”

He hadn’t run along to play; he’d been too busy having a crisis over his best friend, so young, needing heart surgery. He knew Sora’s heart wasn’t good and he had a lot of health problems stemming from it but he never knew the whole story. Now, however, as Sora’s boyfriend, he wants to make sure he is informed and prepared.

“This is Riku,” Sora replies. “My boyfriend.”

“Oh, it’s nice to meet you, Riku. Finally able to put a face to the name. He talks about you quite frequently. My name is Dr. Zexion, I’m Sora’s cardiologist.” Dr. Zexion smiles softly and offers his hand for Riku to shake.

“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Riku says.

“Now, Sora, I know you have Riku back here, is it alright if I disclose medical information with him in the room?”

“Yes.” Sora nods. “That’s fine.”

“Okay, so, I was going over your echocardiograms and I am seeing some concerning developments in your aortic valve. I know we’ve been monitoring the leaks and it’s gotten worse since I last saw you six months ago. Have you been having any symptoms lately? Shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting spells?”

Riku almost answers for Sora but reigns in his immediate need to shout yes . It’s not his place to answer. Sora looks unhappy with the questions but he nods which Riku is relieved he’s at least going to tell the doctor the truth.

“I’ve had all of those,” he replies quietly. “I thought I was okay.”

“That’s good to know… I know before we’ve put you on different medications and you had a valve repair when you were a child and then again as a teen but I think it is time, again, for you to have another valve repair. The balloon treatment won’t b enough this time, I’m afraid. Our best course of action, right now, is to schedule open heart surgery.”

The words leave Riku breathless and he feels as if the ground is opening up beneath his feet and he’s running out of space to walk. Open heart surgery.

“Surgery?” Riku squeaks out.

“Yes,” Dr. Zexion says with a firm nod. “I know surgery is a scary thing, Sora, but we need to repair this aortic valve or you may have a lot complications upcoming.”

Sora is pale and Riku can tell he’s scared. He’s only ever sen Sora truly scared a few times in their lives growing up. The first time being when they were seven and he lost his first childhood dog to a reckless driver. The second time being when he told Sora there was a monster living in the ocean which would eat little boys with brown hair and blue eyes. This time, though, the monster is real and could definitely eat Sora alive.

“Is the surgery risky?” Riku asks.

“Every surgery has its risks,” Dr. Zexion replies. “But the risks are higher and more dangerous if he goes without the surgery. We’ll replace the aortic valve with a mechanical one since we do not have a donor currently lined up. You will have to go on blood thinners after this surgery, as well.”

Sora hasn’t said anything, his eyes down, and his pallor sickly. Riku slowly stands and places his hand on Sora’s shoulder to comfort him and lend him strength. Sora was there for him through the death of his father and he will be here for Sora through this new challenge.

“I can give you two some time alone, I’ll go get some paperwork written up and we can get you scheduled, Sora.” Dr. Zexion squeezes Sora’s hand and steps out, leaving them in privacy.

“Sora?” Riku says softly. “Talk to me.”

“I’m scared, Riku,” he whispers, tears running down his face. “What if… I... “

“No,” Riku says firmly because he knows where Sora’s thoughts are going. “You aren’t dying on that table.”

“But you don’t know that!”

“Sora, look at me.” Riku cups Sora’s face and forces him to make eye contact. “You are a strong and amazing person. You’ve had this surgery before, right? Twice now… You’re a champ. You can do this.”

Sora sniffs and presses his cheek into Riku’s hand. “I know but before… before the stakes weren’t as high.”

“What do you mean?”

“I didn’t have you to come home to every day.”

Tears well in Riku’s eyes, too, but he blinks them away so Sora doesn’t feel so lost. “It’s okay, Sora. I’m here for you every step of the way. You heard Dr. Zexion, you have to have this surgery so you can get better. You’ll probably feel a lot better, too.”

Sora snorts. “You’ve never had open heart surgery.”

“You know what I mean, Sora.” He slides his hand to pet Sora’s hair and leans forward to kiss his forehead. “I love you and I will be there for you the whole time. If I could do the surgery on you myself, I would, but I’m going to entrust these doctors to help you.”

“I know.” Sora slowly sets his head on his chest. “I love you, too.”

“It’ll be alright, I know it’s scary but I’m here for you.”

“You promise?” Sora whispers.

“Yes.” Riku kisses Sora one more time and Dr. Zexion returns to go over the basics even though he’s sure Sora knows them by now. Riku listens to everything the doctor has to say and takes notes and Dr. Zexion gives Sora a pick of dates for surgery.

“Soon,” Sora whispers.

“The sooner we can get you in the better,” Dr. Zexion says gently.

“I guess Friday is fine,” Sora replies, fidgeting which Riku knows is one of his anxiety markers.

“Friday it is. Make sure to shower with the soap we’ll give you on Thursday,” Dr. Zexion says. “Kill all of those germs. No food or drink after midnight. You can have water but no soda or juice. I assume Riku will be driving you?”

“Yes,” Riku says immediately.

“Good. You know the aftercare routine by now and we’ll go over that more when you’re ready to leave the hospital. We will call you the day before to let you know when the time of your surgery is and you will need to arrive at least one hour prior.”

“I know,” Sora says and sighs in exasperation. “I know all of this.”

“I know, we still have to go over it.” Dr. Zexion squeezes his shoulder lightly. “Okay, do you either of you have questions?”

“No,” Sora says immediately.

“No,” Riku replies. “If I do, I can call.”

“Wonderful. Alright, Sora, the nurses will give you a call Thursday. Okay?”

Sora nods. “Thanks.”

“You two have a good day.” Dr. Zexion steps out, leaving them alone in the room again.

Watching Sora look sad and anxious leaves Riku worried but he tries to be quiet while Sora takes the gown off and puts his shirt back on. They’re quiet on the way out after the nurse comes back to give Sora a bag of goodies including the disinfectant soap. Sora is still quiet when they reach the car and on toward Sora’s apartment.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Riku asks after the silence drags on too long. Sora is not usually the kind of person to stay quiet for so long which makes Riku worry even further.

“Just… tired,” Sora replies quietly.

“Well, you’ve got a lot going on.”

“I don’t want to do this.”

“Sora, you have to.”

“I know but doesn’t mean I want it.”

Riku sighs and grips the steering wheel tightly while they wait at a red light. “Sora, I know you’re afraid and I know this is a lifelong thing for you… It must be tiring and I cannot begin to imagine what you’re going through but I am begging you to take this seriously-.”

“You don’t think I’m taking this seriously?!” Sora snaps. “Riku, this is my body and my health. I take it seriously but that doesn’t mean I can’t be upset or complain or talk about not wanting something. Just don’t talk to me right now, okay?”

Sora’s anger and rejection stings because he’s trying to understand. Ever since the dinner at Sora’s parents’, he feels as if he keeps messing up and there is no fixing it because he can’t figure out how to navigate these new waters. Everything is tumultuous and Sora is not giving him any slack or leeway.

“Can I at least apologize?” Riku asks.

“Whatever.”

He sighs as the light finally turns green and they can drive the rest of the way back to Sora’s place. Sora is still silent when they pull up and he slams the door shut while he slides out of the car. Riku slowly places his forehead against the steering wheel of the car and wishes he could fix whatever he’s broken. Fighting with Sora is like swimming in a hurricane and not knowing how to swim properly. He’s drowning and it hurts the longer they fight and the more he messes up the more he worries Sora will call it quits.

He’s not even sure if he can come in so he sends Sora a text and hopes he bothers to message back.

R: Do you want me to come in? Or should I go home?
S: Go home
R: Ok

Riku flinches, tears burning his eyes while he backs out of the parking lot to go back to his own apartment. A numb pit sits in Riku’s chest while he walks into the apartment which is empty since Kairi is off shooting a film. It’s too quiet without Sora’s usual sounds and the apartment feels much too large after being used to Sora’s much smaller place. He never thought he would ever want to live in a small studio space but Sora’s home is comfortable and lived in.

This apartment feels too sterile and cold. He walks back to his room and slowly sinks onto the mattress to stare up at the ceiling in silence. Only gone from Sora for a few minutes and he already feels horribly lonely.

R: Sora pls talk to me I’m sorry I upset you but I don’t want to fight again
S: I don’t want to talk. Pls respect that
R: I’m sorry
S: Seriously Riku I don’t want to talk or text or anything so pls just drop it. When I want to talk again I’ll text you.

Riku’s eyes burn with tears while he sets his phone down, slowly rolling onto his side to curl up as tightly as possible. This is his fault and he hates he can’t even fix the situation because Sora doesn’t want to hear it. He wants to keep texting, talking it out, but he holds back the urge in favor of deciding to go into Kairi’s bathroom and find the Z-Quil. He takes a double dose and goes back to curl up on the bed, hoping he can sleep until tomorrow.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.

Chapter Text

The dog park is quiet for a sunny morning but Jelly prefers it to be more intimate instead of surrounded by too many dogs she doesn’t know. Isa stands nearby, leash in hand, while he watches her play with a much smaller dog. She eagerly wiggles and rolls around on the grass, which Isa knows will mean he’ll need to send her to the groomers for a bath soon.

He hasn’t heard from Axel or Vanitas in a while but he’s more disappointed by Vanitas which he never thought he would feel. Vanitas has yet to use his number but he hopes to hear from Van soon. The last he heard from Axel he was clearing jonesing and only wanting to see him due to his money; he’s not sure he wants to hop back into a relationship with Axel if he’s still using.

Jelly excitedly runs up, carting a stick in her mouth, and Isa smiles at her. “Good girl,” he says warmly, taking the stick to throw for her. Her eyes light up and she eagerly runs off to go and fetch.

“You have a beautiful dog,” the owner to the other dog remarks and he smiles politely.

“Thank you.”

The owner looks ready to try and make conversation with him but receives a phone call and has to step aside. Isa sighs and checks his own phone out of boredom. While the dog park is fun for Jelly, it’s not the best social spot for him. His eyes light up when he notes there is an unread message in his texts from an unknown number.

?: uh hi
?: Uh this is Van’s as
?: NO
?: Vanitas

Isa smiles as autocorrect quickly ruins Vanitas’ text message.

I: Hello Vanitas
V: Stupid phone
V: What are you doing
I: I’m at the dog park with my dog
V: You have a dog?
I: Yes
V: What’s their name?
I: Jelly
V: That’s dumb
V: Send me a picture

Isa snorts but obliges, sending Vanitas a photo of Jelly after she comes back for more fetch. “Jelly, sit,” he says and watches as she eagerly plops down and stares up at him with more trust in her eyes than he’s ever felt from another human being. “Good girl.”

He snaps a photo and sends it off before tossing the stick for her again. Jelly dashes off but is distracted by a butterfly which she proceeds to chase around. Isa smirks and shakes his head. A good, soft girl.

V: She’s cute
I: Thank you
V: What are you doing after the dog park?
I: idk
V: Oh
V: I’m bored

Vanitas is cutely transparent. He can tell he wants to ask for Isa to come by since he can’t leave the Center himself but is probably too afraid to ask. It makes him smile.

I: You should find something to do
V: I’m trying
I: Lol! Do you want me to drop by the center, Vanitas?
V: I mean I guess if you’re not busy or whatever
I: Ok lol I’ll come by when I’ve worn Jelly out some more
V: Ok

Isa can feel his face splitting into a smile and he can’t stop. Vanitas makes him smile and makes his heart flutter and palms sweat. He hasn’t had a crush on someone in a while and he has no idea why his heart chose Vanitas, considering Vanitas always calling him ugly. Yet, here he is, wishing Vanitas was here so they could chat in person, hold hands, and play with the dog.

As Vanitas would say: it’s stupid.

V: are you leaving yet?
I: lol no
V: I’m bored
I: So you said
V: hurry up ugly
I: say please
V: never
I: brat
V: shut up
V: I hate you

Isa laughs and whistles for Jelly to return to him. She seems reluctant to stop chasing the butterfly but trots back over to let him put the leash back on. “Come on, girl, I’ve got someone I have to go visit.”

She wags her tail and they head back to the car where he helps her inside and he decides last minute to just bring her along. No sense in driving home when they do allow pets as long as they behave. Besides, Vanitas needs to know there is someone out there who will immediately like and love him as long as he gives out belly rubs.

The Center is quiet when he arrives, letting Jelly sniff around outside and use the bathroom before they head in. The nurses are all smiles when they see Jelly, eager to pet, and give her treats.

“Group isn’t until later this week, Isa,” the head nurse says. “You here to see someone?”

“Yes,” he replies with a smile. “I was here to see Vanitas.”

“Oh, sure. Come in, come in.”

Isa holds Jelly’s leash close but she’s always calm and stays at his side while he walks back toward Vanitas’ room, knocking on the door before poking his head in. Demyx is not here but the last Isa heard, he’s still in solitary, and Vanitas is sitting on his bed.

“Hey,” Isa says and Vanitas jerks his head up from the notebook on his lap. “Brought someone to meet you. Vanitas, this is Jelly… Jelly, this is my friend Vanitas.”

Jelly wags her tail and Vanitas stares in surprise with widened eyes. “Oh,” he gasps. “Uh, hi.”

“You can come pet her if you want,” Isa points out. “She’s very friendly. Will love you in exchange for belly rubs. Just move slow, she can be a little skittish.”

Vanitas is quiet and surprisingly gentle as he eases from the bed and comes over to hold out his fingers for her to sniff. “I’ve never pet a dog before.”

Isa’s eyebrows raise. “Never?”

“No.”

“You’re missing out.”

“I can pet her?”

“Yes.”

Jelly sniffs and licks Vanitas’ fingers before he reaches out to slowly pet her head with hesitant gestures. Isa smiles softly as he grows more comfortable in his strokes until he’s petting her ears and head eagerly like most people petting a dog.

“She’s soft,” Van mutters.

“I try to keep her well groomed.”

“I didn’t know they let animals in here.”

“They do for visits on leashed and calm animals,” Isa replies. “It helps patients readjust.” Isa shrugs while he goes to sit down on a chair, leaving Jelly to sit and be worshipped. “How is Demyx?”

“I dunno but I’m sure he hates me.”

“You did the right thing,” Isa replies. “You were worried for his well-being and you did what you thought was necessary. If he’s mad at you now, I am sure he will eventually see that you are only trying to help him.”

Vanitas shrugs and decides to sit on the floor which is Jelly’s cue to eagerly lie down on her back with her belly exposed. Once Van starts rubbing her belly, she’s completely relaxed and in love. The sight makes Isa’s heart warm and fuzzy. They’re both adorable.

“Yeah, I guess,” Vanitas replies but doesn’t seem convinced. “Are you coming to group this week?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.”

“Do you not want me to?” Isa asks and tries not to laugh. Sometimes, interpreting Vanitas’ moods is about as difficult as interpreting a language he hasn’t learned.

“No, I mean, I want you to come,” Vanitas says defensively. “Just trying to make conversation.”

“I see, I’m sorry, not trying to shut you down.” Isa clasps his hands together so he doesn’t feel he needs to gesticulate wildly with them. “What were you working on before I came in?”

“Uh, just stuff.” Vanitas shrugs, looking torn between running over to the notebook on the bed and leaving Jelly behind.

“Do you draw?”

“Yeah… It’s private, don’t look.”

Isa holds up his hands in his own defense. “I won’t look without you telling me I can.”

“Good… They’re stupid anyway.” Van shrugs and scratches Jelly’s belly which makes her back leg eagerly kick. Seeing Van smile and laugh makes Isa’s heart skip a beat. His laugh and smile are beautiful. “Found her spot, I guess.”

“Yes, you did,” Isa replies, his heart beating heavily. Van is beautiful – even with his dorky glasses. “I see you have new glasses.”

“Yeah, my mom had them rushed so I could see. She got me a backup pair, too, just in case. I didn’t… I didn’t tell her what happened but I’m sure they’ll let her know what I did.” Vanitas glances down in shame while he continues to pet Jelly rhythmically.

“You lashed out in anger and I’m sure you’re working on that now, right?” Isa asks.

He nods. “Yeah. I didn’t mean to.”

“I know you didn’t. I’ve had dealings with Larxene in the past… She tends to bring out a rage in people. She’s not exactly the best person in the world.”

“No, but I shouldn’t have done it.”

“See?” Isa says and Vanitas frowns.

“See what?”

“Do you see how you’re improving? You’re healing, Vanitas. You understand you stepped too far and you know you shouldn’t have acted that way. You feel remorse and are trying to learn from your mistakes… Several weeks ago, you may not have felt any of this.”

Van pauses and considers Isa’s words, mulling them over quietly. “That’s true,” he admits.

“Personally, I am proud of how far you’ve come.”

Vanitas turns bright red and flips him off in a choice gesture which makes Isa snort. “Shut up, ugly.”

Ah, the ugly comments again. In his heart, Isa knows this is Vanitas’ way of deflecting and is almost a term of endearment from him but with each dig, the more his armor chips away. He doesn’t want to shut Vanitas down so he doesn’t bother to ask Van to stop. He’s used to people calling him ugly, why would Vanitas be any different?

“I’m hungry,” Van says after a moment. “You bring food?”

“I didn’t,” Isa admits. “But I’ll be right back. Jelly, stay.” Jelly whines but Van rubs her belly again and is immediately distracted.

Isa heads down the hall toward Vanitas’ personal counselor’s office. She’s at her desk, looking stressed, and Isa is sure this is not the best time but he’s always been good at talking people into things they don’t want to do.

“Oh, good morning, Isa,” she says.

“Good morning, Minnie,” he replies. “I was wondering if I could take Vanitas out for lunch. I’ll have him back by curfew.”

“Oh, Isa, Vanitas is not allowed on extra trips right now,” Minnie replies.

“I understand that but if I take full responsibility for his behavior and actions, I was hoping there could be some leniency. I will be fully responsible for anything he does.” Isa grips the back of the chair in front of him and knows if Vanitas causes an issue, he’s on the line for it but if they’re just going for lunch, he’s not sure how much trouble Vanitas could cause.

“Isa-.”

“Please? He wants to go out, should he – someone with agoraphobia – be rewarded for wanting to expose himself to new experiences instead of forced to stay inside?” Isa points out. “We’re just going for lunch, nothing serious.”

Minnie sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “If you are taking full responsibility-.”

“I am.”

“Alright, alright ,” she says with a tired sigh. “You may take him out but he needs to be back before dinner.”

“I will bring him back by 5:00 p.m.”

“Good. Go before I change my mind.”

“Thank you.” Isa smiles and jogs back to Vanitas’ room, poking his head in. He smiles softly when he sees Vanitas has moved to his bed and Jelly is eagerly there with him, tag thumping while he pets her ears and head.

“Oh.” Van sits up when Isa reappears, turning red. “Sorry, my butt was sore and she-.”

“It’s okay. C’mon, get your shoes, I’m taking you out for lunch.”

“I’m not allowed out,” Van points out with a suspicious look.

“You are today. Shoes, now.”

Van looks unsure but he moves to do as he’s asked, pulling his sneakers and a black hoodie on so he’s dressed. Isa looks Van over and makes a mental note to buy Van some nicer clothes closer to the style he’s trying to emulate. Lots of black, including his hair but his clothes, fit him poorly and are badly mismatched. Probably whatever his parents could buy him quickly before he had to come to the Center.

“Ready,” Van says and he holds Jelly’s leash. “Can I walk her?”

“Yes, of course, you may. She’s very good on the leash. If she pulls, just tell her to heel and she’ll listen.”

Van nods and they both head out together. Isa signs Van out and they’re off to the car. Jelly sits in the back seat, head already out the window once Isa puts them down and turns the AC for the car on. Van rolls his sleeves up and looks around Isa’s car curiously. He fidgets a lot, toying with the visor, mirror, and the glove compartment. Isa holds back the urge to still Van’s hands since this is probably an anxiety response.

“What kind of food do you like?” Isa asks, heading toward the main business hub.

“McDonald’s,” Van replies.

Isa snorts. “I was thinking we could go to a real restaurant.”

“I dunno. I’ve only been to a few places.”

“Well, do you like steak?” Isa asks.

“I dunno.”

“It’s pretty good. I know a place we could go to. Do you trust me?” Isa asks and glances over at Vanitas when they stop at a red light.

Van toys with the hem of his sweater for a while, eyes down, and refusing to look up at him. “I don’t know you well enough to trust you.”

“I understand,” Isa replies. “But you are trusting me to take you outside, to take care of you while you are outside, and to bring you home safely, correct?”

“I guess.”

“So, do you trust I will take you somewhere with good food?”

Vanitas finally nods and glances at him through his lashes. “Yeah.”

“Okay. I know a place.” Isa shares a smile with him and is happy to see Vanitas return the smile back. It’s small but it’s there and all of Isa’s warm fuzzies return.

“Okay,” Van says. “Let’s go there.”

 


 

The restaurant Isa brings him to is at the heart of the island’s city’s hub and is surprisingly full of a cool vibe. He figured Isa would take him to a place with white tablecloths and candle lighting because he comes off as a fancy guy but the restaurant has surprisingly interesting décor, a bar highlighted in blue lighting and has a second story with a balcony.

It’s not as packed as Vanitas thought it would be at the time but he prefers it this way. They’re lead toward the back and Van is surprised to see the first floor has outside dining as well, overlooking a pretty fountain and landscaping. They’re taken to sit outside on the veranda which Vanitas appreciates the privacy and the warm weather without being obliterated by the sun.

“This isn’t what I expected,” Vanitas admits while they both sit down.

“No?”

“Figured you would take me somewhere stupid.”

Isa snorts. “Why is that? Because I’m stupid.”

“Exactly.” He tries to smile to let Isa know he doesn’t really think Isa is stupid.

“I see, well, I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on me for being stupid or you for trusting a stupid man.”

Van pauses at the burn and hides his smile behind his menu because Isa almost made him actually laugh out loud. Perhaps, Isa isn’t such a stickler after all. “You can’t fix being stupid, Isa,” he replies.

Isa snorts. “Well, it’s a good thing I have you as a friend then, isn’t it?”

“Friend,” Vanitas repeats, slowly setting the menu down. He’s not even read any of it but he’s taken aback by Isa calling him a friend so openly and easily.

“Yes, we’re friends,” Isa says. “Right?”

“I’ve never really had one before.”

“Well, you do now.”

“Why?” Vanitas asks head tilting to the side.

“Why what?”

“Why are you my friend? I don’t understand.”

Isa sets his menu down too and sets his hands on the table. “I feel as if I see myself in you,” he replies calmly. “Young, impressionable, abused and hurt by people they thought cared about them. You made bad decisions because it was all you knew, you were raised by a bad man… I felt we were kindred spirits. A connection.”

The words make Vanitas nervous but they also send a thrill down his spine and make his heart beat speed up. He doesn’t want to think he’s falling for Isa because they don’t know each other well enough for something so asinine but he enjoys Isa’s company. He enjoys his company a lot.

“So, we’re friends,” Van concludes.

“Correct.”

Van rolls his eyes. “Gross.”

Isa snorts and shakes his head, picking up his menu again to look it over. “Order a steak, I’m paying.”

Van glances over Isa’s face and his heart beat only pounds harder. He’s beautiful, even with the scars; he would never admit to such a thought but he really does find Isa ethereal. He doesn’t bother to look at the prices and lets Isa pick something for him since he knows absolutely nothing about steak. When he’s brought out such a large piece of meat, his eyes widen with shock.

“You need me to cut it for you?” Isa asks with a wink.

“Shut up, ugly,” Van mutters and stabs the steak with his fork and cuts off a piece with the knife. “I’m armed.”

Isa laughs and they spend the afternoon talking. Van is surprised by how enraptured he is in Isa’s stories. They talk about Isa’s childhood, his friendship with his friend Axel, and some of his time with Xemnas. Nothing too heavy but enough to paint a colorful picture. Isa never prompts him to open up or to talk but after a while, Van finds he volunteers information instead. He tells Isa about his childhood, the prison he lived in for most of his life, he tells him about Ventus.

He even admits to regretting his decisions with Ventus.

“I shouldn’t have hurt him,” Van whispers. “I want to apologize but I don’t know how.”

“You could write a letter,” Isa suggests. “I wrote a letter to Xion a while ago… to really… really convey my apologies for what I did. I asked Axel to pass it along. I could pass it along to Ventus or someone else could get it to him I’m sure.”

A letter; written words on a piece of paper feels a lot more permanent than the spoken word so it feels write. He’s still not sure where to begin but at least there is a starting point. He’s sure Sora would pass the letter along to Ventus for him. He doesn’t even expect anything in return but he wants to do something.

“You… mentioned gardening once,” Vanitas says slowly.

“Yes, I picked up gardening a few months ago. It helps my anxiety to see my hands cultivate life,” Isa replies quietly. “Why?”

“What… flowers mean you’re sorry?”

“Well,” Isa begins slowly. “There are a few flowers which mean sorry. The purple hyacinth is one that comes to mind.” He takes out his phone to pull up a photo, showing Vanitas across the table. “Hyacinths mean, if I’m remembering correctly, means quite literally ‘I am sorry’ and can also mean ‘Please forgive me’ and ‘sorrow’. Are you wanting to send Ventus flowers?”

“Maybe,” Vanitas whispers. “I just figured I’d draw some.”

“Well, I admit I have sent purple hyacinths to people,” Isa replies. “I have some at home, I can bring you a few. You could always press them in with your letter.”

“You would do that?” Van asks and shoves another piece of steak into his mouth. It’s good – really good. Not too chewy and it has a kick to it he hadn’t been prepared for but he likes the flavor. “Spicy.”

“Spicy?” Isa asks with a laugh. “Pretty sure there’s just pepper and a few other mild spices on there. Have you never had pepper, Vanitas?”

He shrugs. “I lived off of spaghettios most of my life,” he replies. “The Old Man never wanted to go to the store so he just stocked up on canned goods. Canned meat, canned pasta… I basically ate spaghettios most of my life.”

“Christ,” Isa whispers. “Well, I will introduce you to a myriad array of foods, I promise you. You won’t have to eat canned pasta ever again.”

Vanitas hums at the promise but he doesn’t hold much stock in promises. They can easily be broken and he can be left disappointed. “This is good though,” he says, still stuffing his face.

“Good, I’m glad you like it.”

They finish their meal and Vanitas sits back, stomach bloated, and glad he’s wearing sweatpants and not jeans. “I am stuffed ,” he says, patting his stomach beneath his hooded jacket. “So full.”

“Good.” Isa takes the check and Van watches him set a black card down on the table so the waitress can come back to collect for payment.

“You’re rich, right?” Van asks.

Isa snorts. “I am… well off, yes.”

“How?”

“Excuse me?”

“You don’t work so how do you have all of this money?”

“Well, we are nosey today, aren’t we?” Isa says and Van flinches because he’s overstepped and not meant to but he won’t take it back now.

“Well?”

“My parents had a lot of money,” Isa replies. “I inherited their estate when they both passed away. They died in a car crash six months before I met Xemnas.”

“Oh.”

Isa nods a little. “New subject, please.”

“I dunno, seems lucky I guess, you didn’t have to deal with parents who don’t like you,” Vanitas replies which Isa doesn’t respond back.

The waitress comes back with the receipt and Isa puts in a tip before they head out to the car. Jelly is sitting sleeping soundly in the backseat since Isa left all of the windows open. Van touches her back and her tail thumps in response before he slides into the passenger’s seat. Isa is quiet while they start back toward the Center which Van tries to think of a way to extend their outing.

“Did I say something rude?” he asks after a moment because Isa won’t even look at him. “I didn’t mean to be rude For once.”

Isa glances at him and Van startles when he pulls over to park alongside a sidewalk. “My parents were good people and I miss them every day. Not everyone had a bad experience growing up. Maybe if they hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have fallen in with Xemnas, I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry-.”

“I know you are but sometimes, Vanitas, you need to think before you speak out loud.”

Van looks away, feeling shut down and chastised. He crosses his arms over his chest and glances out the window. “I said I was sorry.”

“And I accept your apology.”

“So, now I have to go home? we don’t get to hang out more?”

“Do you want to? I should take Jelly home if that’s the case. I do have to have you back by 5:00 tonight,” Isa replies.

“I guess you’re okay to hang out with,” Vanitas mumbles. “Even if you’re ugly.”

Isa shakes his head and they stay within the city until they pull up to an extremely tall building and park beneath in a parking garage. There’s even a reserved spot for Isa’s car. Van is impressed and he follows Isa to the elevator where they ride all the way to the top. Isa doesn’t just have a little bit of money – Isa is loaded .

“You aren’t well off ,” Van says while they walk down toward his door. “You’re like super rich .”

Isa rolls his eyes and unlocks the door to let Jelly inside. Van only sees a glimpse into Isa’s apartment but even from the glimpse, it looks really beautiful. However, Isa shuts the door and they go all the way back down to the car to sit for a minute.

“What do you want to do, Van?” Isa asks. “I need a game plan before we can do anything.”

“I don’t have money,” he points out.

“Doesn’t mean anything. There’s plenty to do without money,” Isa replies. “We could go to the beach, we could go to the park to talk, we could window shop.”

“Window shop?” Van asks with uncertainty.

“Where you look at stuff but don’t buy anything,” Isa replies. “I mean, I may buy something but we don’t purposefully shop.”

“Okay,” Van says. “We can do that.”

“Okay.”

Isa turns some music on while they start driving toward the shopping area of the island and Van leans closer to the window to enjoy the rush of air. He almost wants to pull a Jelly and stick his head out the window but refrains. They park in another parking garage and Van is stunned when they walk into a building full of stores.

“Whoa,” Van whispers. “What is this?”

“The shopping mall,” Isa replies. “I assume you’ve never been to a mall before?”

He shakes his head, frozen in the doorway, and feeling  immediately overwhelmed. There are so many stores he can’t even process all of them. Sights, smells, people – so many things at once and he feels an immediate fight or flight response flooding his system.

“Vanitas?” Isa asks. “What’s wrong?”

“Just… it’s a lot,” he replies quietly.

Isa slides his hand over to his shoulder which he would usually pull away but Isa’s hand is warm and grounding. “We don’t have to shop here, we can go do something else if this is too much for you.”

“No, I want to,” he snaps, pulling out of Isa’s touch. He’s not a baby. He can handle a shopping mall .

“Okay.”

Isa starts off into the mall and Van has no choice but to follow him, jogging to catch up because Isa’s legs are much longer. He reaches out to pinch Isa’s arm once he catches up.

“Ow!” Isa hisses.

“Hey, walk slower, ugly. I’m short.”

“Sorry,” Isa says, rubbing his arm where Vanitas pinched him hard enough to bruise. “God, did you have to be so rough?”

“Ugly baby.”

Isa rolls his eyes while they walk down an aisle in front of many different stores. He’s never seen so many stores in one place and there are so many options it almost makes his eyes bleed. Isa leads him gently by taking his elbow until they round a corner to a store with a black storefront and heavy metal music blasting out. Van’s eyes widen as he looks up at the store and feels at home. Black clothes, silver accents, lots of straps and buckles – the kind of fashion he’s always wanted but could never have without breaking his back to hide the efforts.

“Do you want to go in?” Isa asks.

“Uh… No…”

“C’mon.” Isa places his hand on Van’s lower back and Van is too stunned to actually stop him from doing it and they walk into the store together.

“But we’re window shopping,” Van points out.

“I said I’d buy something probably,” Isa replies. “I didn’t say it would be for me.”

“No,” Vanitas says but Isa is already wheeling him over to the clock racks to look at all of the shirts and pants. “Isa-.”

“Relax. I want you to own some clothing that actually fits.”

Vanitas rolls his eyes but the prospect of finally owning clothes which not only fit but reflect his aesthetic is such a mood booster he dives into the racks eagerly to find some tops. By the time he’s going to the dressing room, he has an armful of shirts and Isa is carrying several pairs of jeans. His heart is racing but for once not in fear.

No, he’s excited.

Isa waits patiently outside while Vanitas tries on everything – jeans, shirts, jackets. Everything fits in his opinion but more than once Isa makes him come out for an inspection like he’s the fashion police. When they walk out, Vanitas is holding one large bag and Isa has two more. Six pairs of jeans, ten tops, a new wallet, a pair of platform boots, and one box of black hair dye which he hopes Demyx will know how to use.

If they’re even still friends.

“You didn’t have to do this,” Vanitas says once they’re back at the Center in his room to unpack and unload. There’s a dresser which Isa helps him fold up his new clothes to put in the drawers.

“It made you happy,” Isa replies. “You can act like a sour puss all you like but I saw you smile more than once.”

Vanitas rolls his eyes as his cheeks darken in humiliation. Isa is too nice for him; he doesn’t deserve someone being so thoughtful. The only thing not unpacked are the boots but Vanitas isn’t sure he wear them around here and doesn’t want them stolen.

“I’ll take these home with me,” Isa says as if reading his mind. “Maybe next time we can go out and you can wear them.”

Van nods and briefly, barely even a few seconds, he wraps his arms around Isa in a hug but quickly returns to his own bubble. He’s not one for physical affection but he’s learning about hugging and showing his feelings out loud.

Isa smiles and ruffles his hair. “I’ll see you at group.”

“Yeah, I’ll see you, Isa… I mean… ugly.”

Isa raises his hand in a light wave before walking out. Once Isa is gone, Vanitas sits on his bed, and grabs his notebook to sketch casually. He finds himself sketching Isa’s face from memory, a stupid smile on his face. He doesn’t want to have a crush because he doesn’t know how to handle these feelings but he can’t help but feel his heart flutter when Isa’s face appears on his paper.

Isa & Vanitas

He writes their names and draws a heart around them before angrily scribbling them out.

Disgusting .

The sketchbook is shoved away while shame burns his entire body but his mind is quick to return to Isa and how much fun they had together. His fingers wrap around his phone to send Isa a text to read when he gets home.

V: have a good night ugly

Twenty minutes later, he receives an answer.

I: have a good evening, Vanitas

Chapter Text

Axel is late for their first real date which Roxas usually wouldn’t mind since Axel’s mind tends to wander but their first date and he feels stood up. Tapping his fingers on the table, Roxas stares out the window of the restaurant forlornly. Axel doesn’t have a job and nothing to do all day so he has no idea how Axel’s so late.

R: Ax where are u?
A: be there soon
R: ????
A: sorry omw

He sighs and the waitress stops with another glass of Coke. “You sure you don’t want to order something, hun?”

Roxas rolls his eyes to himself and flips open his menu. “Yeah, I’ll get some mozzarella sticks and an order of the garbage nachos.”

“Sure, I’ll get that in for you.”

“Thanks.”

Roxas drops his head on to his hand and stares down at the table wishing he’d brought his sketchbook. He sits long enough to have both appetizers brought out which is another twenty minutes. By the time Axel finally walks through the door, he’s already eaten most of the fried cheese and half of the nachos.

“Hey,” Axel says as he slides into the booth opposite Roxas. “I know I’m late-.”

“You’re almost an hour and a half late,” he replies darkly.

“Sorry.”

Axel doesn’t even sound remotely apologetic and Roxas glares at him in return. He’s extremely pale and so thin he can see the hollows of his cheeks. His eyes aren’t as bright and Roxas starts to give serious thought to Xion asking him if Axel has a drug problem.

“You’re not,” he says with a roll of his eyes. “God, Axel.”

“I’m sorry, okay? I was held up.”

“Doing what ?”

“Just stuff-.”

“No! I’m tired of you going around and lying to me. What were you doing?!” He doesn’t like yelling at Axel, especially in public but he knows Axel is lying and it hurts to know he lies so openly. They’re supposed to be in a relationship and Roxas is pretty sure lying is a fast track to a breakup.

“I’m not lying , I just don’t think it’s your business,” Axel says while he rolls his eyes and grabs a nacho to pop into his mouth to chew obnoxiously. He jumps and twitches a lot more which Roxas notices immediately.

“I’m your boyfriend, Axel, you shouldn’t have stood me up-.”

“I didn’t. I was late but I showed up.”

“You weren’t just late- you- Ugh!” Roxas slams his hands down on the table in frustration. Axel doesn’t care and Roxas can tell.

It hurts

It really hurts.

Chill , Rox,” Axel says. “Relax.”

“Fuck you, Axel,” he replies, angrily glaring at the table. “Why do I feel like I’m the only one who  cares about our relationship?”

“I care about you.”

“I don’t feel like you do.” Roxas shakes his head and debates on asking Axel point blank if he has a drug problem but he already knows Axel will lie. He’s going to have to do investigating of his own to find out the truth. It would definitely explain his erratic behavior.

Axel’s face falls and he looks so hurt, Roxas feels it like a punch to the gut. “Oh… I’m sorry, Rox.”

“Whatever, Axel. I should just go and make you pay for this.”

“I don’t have any money-.”

“Of course,  you don’t because you never do… You haven’t even tried to get a job, Axel. You’re lazy, unreliable, and a mooch.” Roxas grabs the menu to hide behind in anger.

“Ouch,” Axel mutters.

“Well, if the shoe fits.”

“Then why don’t you dump me and kick me out? Hm? You must like me somewhat!” Axel glowers over the top of the menu at him which Roxas hates since Axel is so tall. “You know finding work is hard for me-.”

“You aren’t even trying , Axel. How is it fair that I pay all of the bills? I pay for our food, our rent, our electricity, and water- I pay for all of it! On my own, I never ask you to help me. I’m buying you dinner tonight because we haven’t even really had a real date. I knew if I didn’t pay, we’d never go out.” Roxas shakes his head, wishing he didn’t hurt so much. “Even if we weren’t dating, you’re being a crappy friend and roommate.”

“I said I was sorry! You’re just kicking me while I’m down.”

“Why can’t you just admit you’re being a bad person? Why do you have to defend yourself at every cost, Axel? I would feel much better if you could admit you’re being awful and worked to fix it, instead of just being awful and never recognizing it.” Roxas is tempted to walk out, leave Axel at the table but he stays because, in the end, he cares about Axel too much to walk away.

“You’re right,” Axel replies quietly, eyes down, hands on the table. “I am being awful to you… I was trying to get a job, I’ve applied to a few places. Haven’t heard back. Super depressing when even the gas station doesn’t call you back for an interview.”

He can hear the sadness in Axel’s voice and he can’t help but reach over to take his hand. “Axel…”

“No, you’re right, okay? I’m lazy and a mooch and a crappy friend and a crappier boyfriend.” Axel pulls his hand away and slouches in the booth to make himself smaller. “I just didn’t know how to tell you that I haven’t heard back from anyone about a job so I just never said anything. Figured I’d hear back eventually by the time you asked… but I haven’t.”

“You’ve applied all over?”

Axel nods. “The only thing I’m good for is bedroom stuff, so, I should just go work a street corner.”

No ,” Roxas says firmly.

“We’d be rolling in it if we were-.”

“Axel, stop c’mon. You can find a regular job!” Roxas snatches Axel’s hand back and brings it to his lips to kiss. His fingers are cold but Roxas holds his larger hand in both of his to warm him up. “You are worth so much more than just your body.”

“I’m sorry, Roxas.” Axel stares down at the table like a child about to be punished. “I know I’m disappointing.”

“Look, maybe I could help you fix your resume or something… do you even have one?”

“I have one but it’s old.”

“Well, this weekend, we’ll work on it and I’ll help you find a job, okay?” Roxas kisses Axel’s fingers again. “Ax, I love you.”

Axel blinks and his green eyes fly up to meet his in surprise. “What?” he whispers.

“I said I love you.”

Watching Axel’s eyes water and his face almost break makes Roxas stand up and slide into the same side of the booth to wrap his arms around Axel who is still shrinking to be smaller. He kisses Axel’s hair and nuzzles him while Axel clings to his side tightly.

“Love you, too,” Axel mumbles.

Roxas’ heart flutters at Axel’s admission and they stay cuddled together in the booth while Roxas feeds him the remainder of the nachos. The waitress leaves the alone, only stopping by to take their pizza order and refill their drinks. Roxas pets Axel’s hair and is glad they’re at a better understanding.

“Are you still mad at me?” Axel asks after a beat.

“Nah.”

“So, what’s the likelihood I’m getting some tonight?”

Roxas snorts. Of course, Axel’s default mind is that of a teenage boy. “Mmmm pretty high, why?”

“Good because I’m so backed up, I’m soaking my underwear.”

He snorts out a laugh and kisses his forehead before making Axel sit up so they can eat. “Sit up, lazy, we need to feed you some pizza and then I’ll treat you when we’re home.”

Axel pouts but he sits up to wait on their pizza. “Fine.”

“Thank you.”

When the pizza comes, Roxas notes Axel hardly eats any but he does eat half a piece and a few more nachos. They go back to the apartment after and he shoves the darker thoughts aside so he can enjoy his boy instead. They kiss and stumble back to the bedrooms where Roxas quickly pushes Axel onto his back on the bed, both of them working to pull Axel’s pants off. Roxas’ eyebrows lift when he notes Axel is wearing black and red panties.

Not boxer briefs.

Panties .

Axel takes his shirt off, lying back, and a blush travels down to his navel when he sees Roxas staring. “Do you like them?”

“Where– where did you get them?” he asks, stumbling over his words while his mouth goes dry and all of the blood in his head rushes down south so fast he slides to his knees at the end of the bed to start kissing Axel’s thighs, placing them over his shoulders.

“Don’t laugh.”

“Why would I laugh?” He nuzzles against the crotch of the fabric before running the flat of his tongue over them, wetting them until he can see the outline of Axel’s cunt.

Axel moans and whimpers, fingers in Roxas’ hair. “ Shit . I got them at Hot Topic.”

Roxas snorts. Okay, he can see why Axel would ask him not to laugh. “Loser,” he says but with all of his affection and love.

“Feels good,” Axel whispers, his fingers settling on his hip.

“I like you in cute underwear,” Roxas says before pulling them down so he can eagerly lap and lick over Axel’s fat, hardened clit.

Axel’s fingers spasm and he moans, thighs already tensing while Roxas’ tongue works over him slow and deliberate. He listens to Axel whimper and gasp, teasing over Axel’s clit until he can feel Axel ready to cum.

“Fuck, Roxas, I’m– I’m so close–.”

Roxas eases back which makes Axel groan again but this time in frustration. He gives his clit one more kiss and tugs the panties all of the way off, setting Axel’s legs down until his feet touch the floor. Axel watches with heavily lidded eyes. He smirks when Axel reaches for him but he keeps his distance while he takes his own clothes off, slow and deliberate.

“Daddy,” Axel mumbles, covering himself shyly. “I want to cum.”

“You weren’t good earlier,” Roxas replies. “You were late for our date. Why would I let you cum?”

Immediately, Axel pouts and Roxas can already feel his resolve breaking. He’s always so cute when he pouts. “Please?”

Roxas takes off his underwear and kicks it aside, watching Axel’s eyes drag over him with eager, deep hunger. He approaches the bed, placing a knee between Axel’s thighs, pressing right against his cunt, before leaning over to kiss him, hand braced on the bed for balance. Axel kisses back, looking up at him in desperation.

“No,” he says and pulls away. “Go to bed, Axel.”

“...are you serious?” Axel asks, sitting up sharply. “Roxas.”

“I said, go to bed.”

“But- We were- we- Roxas ?!”

Roxas walks over to his dresser to put on pajamas while Axel continues to stammer on the bed. He keeps his back to Axel until Ax finally storms out of the bedroom, slamming the door, and quickly followed by blasting loud, angry music. Roxas rolls his eyes but his heart sinks in disappointment. More than anything, he doesn’t want Xion to be right but in his heart he knows they are.

Axel has a drug problem and he has no idea how to help him.


 

Roxas wants to meet up.

From their last conversation, Xion isn’t looking forward to seeing Roxas but they show up at the ice cream shop where Roxas is already eating outside, looking upset and sad. They walk up to sit, grabbing the extra spoon to start on the other side of the giant bowl of sea salt ice cream without a word. Roxas will talk when he’s ready.

“I think you’re right and I hate it,” Roxas says after a few bites. “About Axel.”

“What?”

“I think he does have a drug problem. I have no idea how to handle it or what to do. I went into his room and I found old bottles of pills that definitely don’t belong to him. I had no idea he was so bad. I feel so stupid . He needs help.” Roxas stabs the ice cream with his spoon and looks lost and alone. “How do I help him, Xion?”

“He has to want help, Roxas,” Xion replies. “I know that’s not an easy thing to deal with but Axel has to want to be helped before anyone can lead him in the right direction. He has to accept he has a problem and wants to get better from that.”

Roxas shakes his head. “I don’t think he wants help. Should we all stage an intervention? Tell him we’re worried?”

An intervention could either be helpful to wake Axel up or do the exact opposite and scare him and make him bolt. He’s not really been one to ever admit he needs help or wants help either. Xion takes a bite of ice cream and finally shakes her head. “I don’t think Axel would respond well to all of us ganging up on him.”

“Then what do I do ? I can’t just let him keep using like I don’t know!” Roxas drops his spoon and covers his face. “He looks so unhealthy, Xion. I don’t know what to do for him.”

Heartstrings pulling, Xion slides over to sit with Roxas, arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. “Shh.”

What do I do ?”

“You need to tell him you’re worried about him but he has to accept the help himself, Roxas. I doubt you want to turn him in for illegal drug use but you can’t force him to get sober.” Xion pets his hair and they can feel Roxas shudder with tears.

“I’m worried he’ll end up killing himself because he’s so stupid ,” Roxas growls. “It’s like the drugs are more important to him than I am.”

Xion sighs. “Unfortunately, they are to him now. When someone is… so dependent on drugs, all they can think about is when can they use again and how are they going to use again. He’s not thinking clearly or about you because you aren’t supplying him. I know that’s hard to hear–.”

Roxas pulls away and angrily knocks the ice cream to the ground while he covers his face in frustration and hurt. “I love him and he just chooses this shit over the people who care about him.”

“It’s because his body and brain and so addicted. I’m not excusing him but… it’s not your fault or my fault or Isa’s or Sora’s or anyone else Axel is friends with. Axel chose drugs, Roxas.”

Angry tears fill Roxas’ eyes but he shoves them away and Xion wishes they could help him. Watching Axel struggle and drown is the worst thing they’ve had to watch in a while. They sit in silence together for a while Roxas stares darkly in the distance. Xion rubs his back and tries to keep him grounded because Roxas is a man of action and they don’t want to see him do something harmful.

“He’d listen to you,” Roxas finally says quietly. “Maybe both of us. We should talk to him tonight.”

“Okay,” Xion replies. “We can talk to him tonight.”

He nods. “Good.”

Xion squeezes Roxas’ shoulder. At least, there is a plan. A plan to help save their friend. Roxas wraps his arms around them and they lean their head on his shoulder. “I’m glad we’re still friends,” they whisper. “I was worried you wouldn’t want to.”

Roxas kisses the top of their head. “Best friends,” he reminds them softly. “Ride or die, Xion.”

Xion laughs. “Yeah.”

“Remember when you met Axel the first time?” Roxas asks and Xion laughs again. “God, he thought I was pranking him because you were so small.”

“He’s an idiot,” Xion says.

“Yeah,” Roxas chuckles. “Our idiot.”

“Our big clown idiot.”

Roxas sniffs and Xion can hear him wanting to cry again. “Yeah,” he whispers.

“We’ll help him, Roxas.” Xion holds his hand softly. “I promise.”

They want to believe their own words but at some point, they know they will have to guide Roxas into understanding there is only so much he can do. Xion only hopes they don’t have to bury Axel at the end because they know Roxas will surely follow.

“Hey,” Xion says. “We should get some more ice cream.”

Roxas nods. “Okay.”


 

Making Roxas jealous is easy; all he has to do is invite Isa over so they can hang out and have a good time for when Roxas returns home. He sends Isa an invitation via text and sets up some snacks. He doesn’t suggest Isa bring drugs because he’s not sure Isa will come if he thinks this is a drug booty call. Instead, Axel pops one final pill he has left and sits on the couch to watch his phone.

Isa replies quickly.

I: You want me to come over?
A: Pls?
I: Why?
A: We can’t hang out anymore? :(
I: I didn’t say that
A: Pls Is’ I want to hang out with you
I: Fine I’ll come over
A: :D

Roxas had gone out with Xion a while ago and had yet to come back - not that it matters to him because he would rather step on a Lego than see Roxas right now. Leaving him completely blue-balled and kicking him out of the room had been a low blow. All because he was late for their date. He’s still angry with Roxas for being a cunt so he would rather see Isa anyway.

When Isa arrives, Axel calls for him to come in and Isa slowly walks into the house, looking uncertain and with caution. He moves like a cautious animal but Axel pats the couch by his side.

“Axel…”

“Hi,” he says warmly. “Come sit. I have snacks.”

Isa steps closer but looks uncertain.  “You invited me over because…?”

“I missed you,” Axel replies, reaching out his hand for Isa to take. Once Isa reluctantly takes his hand, he pulls Isa onto the couch to sit by him. “You can slum it for one night, Is’.”

Isa rolls his eyes. “I don’t consider it slumming ,” he replies quickly. “I’m just confused.”

“I missed you.”

“Yes, I heard.” Isa looks dubious but Axel cups his face and Isa slowly presses into the touch anyway. “I miss you, too, Axel.”

Axel’s heart thrums when Isa rubs his cheek against his palm and he slides his fingers slowly behind Isa’s head to thread into his hair and pull him closer until they can almost kiss. Isa’s eyes widen but when Axel kisses him, he melts, and their kissing quickly turns desperate. Two people starving for something they forgot they craved. Axel sighs, slowly sliding ono Isa’s lap, straddling and pinning him to the couch.

Isa kisses back but the gestures turn distracted so Axel moves his lips to Isa’s neck and jaw, kissing downward to tug on his collar so he can kiss his clavicle. Isa grunts and Axel can feel him harden but he doesn’t return the heavy petting. Axel glances up, green eyes sharp and confused.

“What’s wrong, Isa?”

“I thought you were with Roxas?”

“I am.”

“Then what are you doing?”

“I… I just want this. Please.” Axel kisses Isa’s clavicle, sliding his shirt up with his hands. “I miss everything about you, Isa.”

Isa doesn’t respond so Axel starts a path down to his pants to undo his fly but two consecutive things happen at once. Isa grabs his hair to stop him and Roxas and Xion both walk into the house, rounding the corner when Isa is shoving him back but with Isa’s shirt up and his mouth red from kissing, there is definitely incriminating scenery.

Roxas freezes and Axel watches his face go completely blank while Xion gasps. Isa yanks his shirt back down and apologizes to Roxas and Xion but Axel can’t stop looking at Roxas. His face is completely still and blank but he can see the pain bleeding in his eyes.

“You’re an idiot, Axel, and this is the last time you use me,” Isa whispers as he gathers his stuff to walk out of the house.

The door slams shut and they all remain in silence while Isa drives away. Xion is the first to move, slowly walking over to put themselves between the two of them. “Axel,” they say slowly. “ What were you doing?”

Axel sniffs and shoves his hair back out of his face, refusing to look at them. “What did it look like?”

“It looked like you and Isa were…. Axel ,” Xion gasps.

Roxas finally reacts and Axel assumes he’s about to have his ass kicked but Roxas walks away instead. He walks back through the house and Axel can hear the back door opening but it doesn’t shut. He folds his arms tightly over his chest and looks down in shame.  Cheating on Roxas hadn’t been a plan but after the other night, he’d been angry and he’d only invited Isa over to have fun and make Roxas jealous. He had not invited Isa over for sex.

“I can’t judge you,” Xion says after a moment. “I did the same thing and got further than you but… Roxas doesn’t deserve this.”

He sniffs and nods.” I know.”

“Why?”

“I was mad… He- we had  stupid fight and I invited Isa over to make Roxas jealous. I didn’t invite him for sex.”

“So, you just spontaneously fell onto his dick?” Xion asks.

“I got carried away!” Axel exclaims. “I didn’t set out to do this.”

“But you did ,” Xion says. “And I can say from personal experience, you’ve hurt Roxas deeply. We came here to talk to you, Axel… about your drug problem.”

Axel snorts out a laugh. “My what ?”

“We both know you’re using drugs, Axel. We’re not stupid… You've lost weight, you’re acting erratically, you’re cheating on Roxas? I know Isa used to use… Did he get you into drugs?” Xion asks, arms cross over their chest.

He wants to laugh in their face but he stands up instead. “Shut up,” he replies. “I don’t have a problem and it’s not really your business.”

Axel , you’re our best friend! We’re worried about you!” Xion grabs his arm as he starts to walk away. “At least go talk to Roxas.”

“I don’t want to talk to Roxas! I’m mad at him, too!”

“So that makes it okay to cheat on him?” Xion shakes their head. “Every day I wish I could take back hurting Kairi. Don’t go down this road, Axel. Go talk to him!”

He turns his eyes down the hall to where he can see the back door open. Eventually, Axel sighs and he slowly approaches the black maw to step outside into the backyard where he can see Roxas standing still with his head tilted up toward the skin as the sun starts to set. The clouds overheard turn bright, hot pink and violet. The world feels still and he’s afraid to disturb the peace but Axel slowly crosses the grass in bare feet, arms crossed, and trying to slouch while he stands near Roxas.

“Roxas…”

“I just wanted you to show up on time,” Roxas says, voice soft and lost.

“I messed up,” he says. “I won’t do it again-.”

“No, you won’t,” Roxas agrees, voice grave and tired. “Because we’re no longer in a relationship, Axel.”

“Roxas–.”

“I’m not Kairi. I don’t forgive so easily.” He looks over and Axel feels his heart shatter at the hatred in Roxas’ gaze. “I want you to go.”

“Go– go where ? I have nowhere to go! Please, Roxas.” He slips to his knees in desperation, crawling forward to hold onto Roxas’ wrist, pressing his hand to his forehead. “I’m sorry. I won’t do that again. I swear, I’ll stop talking to him if I have to! Don’t– don’t kick me out, please.”

Roxas stares down at him and Axel is scared to look up but he looks up slowly. Roxas looks unmoved and is borderline disgusted. “I told you I loved you, Axel.”

“I know and I love–.”

“No,” Roxas snaps. “You don’t love me back. You love your pills, you love Isa, but you don’t love me.”

“I’m sorry ,” he gasps. “Roxas, please, don’t do this!” He scrambles for purchase across quickly crumbling ground. The thought of losing Roxas is so painful, he can’t even form the thoughts and words. He would rather die than never see Roxas again. “I love you, I love you, I love you .”

“You were mad I kicked you out so you decided to cheat on me–.”

“No! I didn’t invite him here for that!” Axel gasps. “I didn’t, I swear! I just asked him to come over to hang out.” He stares up at Roxas, still holding onto his wrist as if it’s his lifeline. “I’ll do anything, Rox. Please.”

Roxas’ eyebrow rises. “Anything?”

“Yes.”

Roxas nods and pulls his wrist free. “Get help, Axel. Check yourself into rehab, detox, and get better. Otherwise, I don’t want to see you again.”

“I… Roxas…” He wants to immediately do as Roxas demands because Roxas is worth more than any drug but he has no idea how to do this without support. He’s afraid to let go and change.

“It’s the pills or me, Axel.” Roxas starts to go back inside. “I’ll let you decide which you love more.”

Roxas leaves him in the backyard, on his knees, staring helplessly at the grass with tears slowly rolling down his face. If ruining relationships was an Olympic sport, he would definitely have a gold medal. His hands shake and he wants to pull his hair out but instead he lies down on the ground on his stomach, quietly crying. He lies there until darkness casts its shadow over him and he feels Xion sit by his side and rub his back in silent comfort.

“This should be an easy choice,” he whispers. “Why is it s hard?”

“You’re afraid.”

“Yeah,” he mutters.

Xion sighs. “You’re afraid of who you will be without the drugs.”

Tears sting his eyes. “Yeah.”

“You’re afraid Roxas won’t love you without them.”

Silence falls over them and he knows it speaks louder than any other answer he could give.

Chapter Text

S: Mom is taking me 2 surgery tomorrow

One text. Six words.

It would be a simple issue with no real stakes; his mother is taking him to surgery. On the surface, not a big deal but beneath, Riku knows Sora doesn’t want to go with him because they’re fighting. He wants to text back, insist on taking him because they’re in a relationship now and he has a right to escort his boyfriend to surgery.

R: Can I at least come?? Sora I can’t just sit here while you’re being operated on!
S: They won’t tell u anything anyway ur not family
R: I wish you would just talk to me. Let me apologize or something. I feel so lost rn
S: I don’t want to talk u can come, I can’t stop u from coming 2 the hospital but mom is driving me
R: ok

Fighting with Sora is like being on fire; it hurts and it’s overtaking him so fast, stop drop and roll, really isn’t doing much for him right now. He doesn’t want to be burned but he would rather be burned and still in a relationship than be burned and have Sora dump him. Especially over something, he didn’t mean to do.

R: I love you

He doesn’t expect to hear back but he hopes Sora will at least read the text and know it’s true. He’s about to have surgery tomorrow – a potentially life-threatening surgery and he refuses to not say I love you beforehand.

S: luv u 2

Tears build in his eyes and he decides to go out on a limb and keep Sora talking.

R: I’m scared, Sora, I know I’m supposed to be brave and face this head on for you because that’s what I’ve always done. I’ve always been the brave one – the one to hold your hand and tell you it’ll be alright. I will gladly be that guy FOREVER
R: But I’m really scared for tomorrow
S: me 2
R: I love you so much and I am so scared
S: I know you are
R: I’m sorry. I”m so sorry. Sora, please, I will do anything for you to forgive me for being an ass. I’m so sorry. I love you.
S: Riku…
R: You’re my everything
S: do u understand why i was upset?
R: Yes! I do and again I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to imply you weren’t taking this seriously. That wasn’t fair.
S: Ok
R: Can I come over?
S: I”m @ mom’s house so she can just take me to the hospital tomorrow
R: Oh
S: U can come over here if u want
R: Are you sure?
S: Yeah I want u 2 com over
R: OMW

Leaping out of bed, Riku runs over to pull on boots and pack a light bag so he can drive over to Sora’s parents’ house. It’s a quick drive because of the traffic being nonexistent on a Thursday evening and he parks at the end of the driveway so he doesn’t block anyone in. Sora comes to the door at the sound of him arriving and he tries not to run up and be too eager like a dog.

“Hi,” Sora greets and tilts his head up for a kiss which Riku eagerly obliges.

“Hi,” he returns while kissing him softly. “So, we’re okay now? No more fighting?”

“Yeah, we’re okay now.”

“Oh, thank God. I hate fighting with you.” Riku wraps his arms around Sora’s waist to nuzzle his forehead and kiss him deeper until he hears Sora’s parents inside. His mother wolf whistles which makes him quickly pull away.

Mom ,” Sora groans. “Gross. Come in, Riku.”

Riku’s face turns red but he follows Sora inside the house and back to Sora’s old room. It hasn’t changed since Sora left it years ago to go to college. The walls are still soft blue with white fluffy clouds painted all around. There is still a cute growth chart to show how Sora never shot up and he grew like a weed when he turned thirteen. By the growth chart is a record of their painted palm prints from when they were three until eighteen. The sight makes him feel warm inside.

Even though his own family had never been warm and fuzzy, Sora’s family always made him feel at home and loved.

The bed is still small and barely fits both of them but they’ll make it work or he'll sleep on the couch whichever is more appropriate. The floors are all hardwood, worn and loved, but there is a little rug by Sora’s bed which they used to enjoy squishing their toes into. Sora’s desk houses an ancient desktop computer and he has several bookcases, mostly filled with toys and old books against the wall near the closet.

Riku sinks onto the bed, setting his bag on the floor at his feet. The mattress squeaks which makes him blush as his mind dives into the gutter. Fucking Sora in his old childhood bed is definitely a thought . Of course, they haven’t exactly had sex yet despite his patience. He doubts Sora would want to the night before open heart surgery.

Sora returns to the room with a soda and some snacks which he hands over. “Here.”

“Oh, thanks,” Riku says and accepts the soda. “Thought you had to stop eating?”

“After midnight.”

“So, gorge yourself prior?” he teases and Sora snorts.

“Nah, I haven’t had a whole lot. My tummy gets all nervous before surgery.” Sora slowly sits down at his side and Riku notes he’s drinking clear soda to probably help with his nerves.

“I’m sorry, baby,” he says, sliding his hand over to rub his back. “It’ll be okay.”

“I’m scared, too, Riku.”

“I know.”

“What if... “

No ,” Riku says firmly. “We won’t think that way, okay? Just think positive stuff. This is almost routine for you now and Dr. Zexion said this should last longer than your other valves, right? Maybe you won’t need surgery as often.”

Sora nods but Riku can tell he’s nervous and upset. “I know, it’s just scary each time. Anything can happen.”

“I know…” Riku sets his soda down on the nightstand so he can wrap his arm around Sora’s shoulders to pull him close. “I love you and I will be with you the entire time.”

“I’m sorry I was so mad at you.”

“It's okay.”

“Forgiven?” Sora asks and holds out his hand with his pinky sticking out.

Riku smiles softly at the gesture; pinky promising just as they used to as kids. He wraps his pinky around Sora’s and squeezes. “Forgiven.”

“Good.” Sora nuzzles him and they shift to lie together on the bed as best as possible since Riku takes up well more than half of the bed and Sora has to half lie on top of him and half on the bed to make it work. Riku isn’t complaining.

“Tomorrow, you’re going to get a better part for your heart and once you recover, you’ll feel so much better,” Riku muses. “How long does it take to recover?”

“Up to six weeks,” Sora replies. “Can be longer but I’m young so hopefully it’ll be quick. I don’t want you to miss work while I’m in the hospital, Riku.”

“I won’t miss work,” he says even though he’s lying. He told work he’d be out tomorrow due to Sora’s surgery but he already has zero intention to come in during the weekend either. If they fire him, they fire him. He’s not extremely concerned about money right now.

“Okay,” Sora says, head resting on Riku’s chest. “I like listening to your heartbeat.”

“I’ll shut up then.”

They both go quiet and Riku places his lips to the crown of Sora’s head, listening to his breathing slow until Sora is asleep. Riku turns his eyes up to the ceiling overhead and smiles softly when he sees a galaxy of glowing planets. Their light is weak but on rainy nights, they would lie on Sora’s bed, holding hands, and stare up at the glow-in-the-dark galaxy and pretend it was their own.

“What’s that one’s name?” he would ask Sora and point to a round planet similar to Saturn.

“Hmmm,” Sora would reply while he debates it over.

Riku would look over and watch Sora’s bright blue eyes squint as he thinks. Riku would smile.

“Married,” Sora giggled out loud and Riku quickly laughed, too, even if he didn’t know the joke. “Because it has a ring.”

Riku would have laughed at anything Sora said. Even then, he knew.

He knew what he knew now solidly in his mind and heart. He loves Sora Tetuanui more than anything else in this world and if he ever loses Sora, he will quickly follow him into the ground. He shuts his eyes to fight off a well of tears but they slowly slide down his face anyway. Please , he begs silently . Don’t take him from me.




The morning is dark and grey while Sora rests his head on a hospital waiting room window. They arrived an hour before his scheduled surgery and he hasn’t eaten since last night. His stomach is in knots while rain slowly starts to fall from the sky. His mother is talking to the nurses while he waits for his name to be called as if he stands in the line for the firing squad. Riku is sitting at his side, reading some pamphlet but this is all commonplace to him now. Last night, he’d been afraid but sitting here now he doesn’t feel fear or anything at all.

Everything is just numb.

“Sora?”

Riku looks up and he clearly wants to go, too, but Sora shakes his head and he walks up to the nurse in silence. He knows he has to face this alone. She asks him about his day but he finds everything completely ridiculous so he stays courteous and polite through his surgery prep but completely impersonal. One of the nurses makes a comment about a handsome silver-haired boy in the waiting room.

“Did you see him? Woof.”

“Too young for me, Lisa.”

Lisa snorts while she hooks him up to various monitors. “Honey, with a face and body like that, I don’t care if he could be my son, I’d still give him a fair chance. Plus, he was polite. ‘Yes, ma’am, no ma’am.’ I like a boy who knows his manners, most of the men out there don’t know a p from a q if you shoved it under their damn noses.”

Sora watches her put a monitor on his finger and finally speaks up. “He’s my boyfriend.”

Lisa turns red and the other nurse, Katelyn, snorts hard and laughs at her companion. “Well, that’ll teach you for running your mouth again.”

“I meant no offense,” Lisa mutters but Sora doesn’t make any further comment. Riku is handsome and he’s not surprised he’s a talking point in any place he goes.

Once he’s been completely prepped, they allow both Riku and his mom back. His mom rushes up to hold his hand briefly and tell him he’ll be fine while Riku looks one shade away from sick. Of course, Riku’s never see him like this and it strikes him this is a new testament of their relationship. Will Riku be able to handle him when he’s so weak and sick?

“I know, Mama,” he replies quietly because he never shows fear in front of her.

“I love you, my baby boy,” she says and gestures for Riku to step up.

Sora holds out his hand which Riku grasps onto and squeezes while he loses himself in the green of Riku’s eyes. On days it rains, Riku’s eyes remind him of a darkened forest and he loves spending hours in the boughs. “I love you,” he whispers and Riku nods. “It’ll be okay.”

“Yes,” Riku gasps. “I love you, too.”

The nurses remind them they’re on a schedule and Sora reluctantly releases Riku’s hand, feeling it trail over his skin longingly. They wheel him away and Sora has to swallow back a wave of fear. He focuses on the color of Riku’s eyes and lets them comfort him while he’s wheeled to the operating room. Dr. Zexion is there, scrubbed and ready to go.

“Hello, Sora,” he greets, muffled behind a mask. “Are you ready to receive a new valve? Now, we can call you robo-heart boy.”

Sora nods even though nothing can prepare for this situation. “Yeah.”

“Good… Ready to go to sleep now?”

He nods again. “ Yeah .”

Dr. Zexion chuckles. “Perfect. We’ll get you out in no time. Just relax and count backward from one hundred for me.”

Sora nods and they strap a mask to his face while he slowly counts back until sleep and darkness slowly chase him down.




Being back in a hospital so soon after his father died in one due to a heart problem is so anxiety-inducing, Riku finds it’s easiest to walk the length back and forth while he waits for notification Sora is back in recovery. He’s been in surgery for an hour already and his stomach is in knots so badly he’s already peed four times and done nothing worth mentioning all morning.

The gift-wrapped box returns to memory and even though it has shrunk in size, he has yet to pluck it free and examine the contents. The fear he may have to force another box of grief down his throat is a kind of fear which settles down over his chest and heart heavily. If Sora dies on the table, he’s not sure he’ll be able to recover from another blow so soon after his father's death.

To lose Sora is to lose everything.

On his fifth lap of the hospital, Riku finally sits down in one of the waiting rooms in the cardiac wing to rock back and forth and feel his hands shake. He unlocks his phone to open up Instagram and scroll through Sora’s photos. More than anything, Sora love to take photos. A soft smile slides into place while he scrolls; he hasn’t checked any social media in weeks so he’s missed quite a few.

The first photo is a selfie of Sora from yesterday. A big smile and his dogs surrounding him make Riku smile in return.

They always make me smile! #dogsofinstagram #selfie #imissthem

The second photo is a picture of Sora’s lesson plans and a row of stickers. Colorful pens and markers surround Sora’s workspace.

Even pre-schoolers deserved planned activities! #teacherlife

His heart warms as he remembers all of Sora’s passion and kindness. He loves the kids he teaches at Island’s Preschool. Whenever he comes home, no matter the day he’s had or the difficult parents he’s dealt with, Sora always finds a good thing to say about his kids.

The third and fourth photos are both photos of the sky as Sora admires the clouds – they always used to tell Sora he belonged to the sky with his head always in the clouds. No matter what Sora always remained a dreamer. Forever reaching for better and striving for the impossible. No one thought he would make something of himself and now Riku is glad they're all wrong. Sora is amazing.

The fifth photo is so surprising, Riku almosts drops his phone. He clicks on it to pull it open and his eyes fill with tears immediately. A sob gasps out and he covers his mouth to muffle the sound as he sees a photo of them as children. It’s clearly a scan from an old photograph but the photo contains himself, Sora, and his father. It’s from a time when Sora went on vacation with them. His dad has them on his arms while he stands in the pool and they’re all smiling, even his father is smiling with a huge grin.

Missing you today. I know you weren’t my dad but you treated me like your son and I appreciate you so much! Thank you for all of the lessons you taught us from swimming lessons to life lessons. You were a great second dad. #RIP #missyou

Riku sobs over the photo, clutching the phone tightly in his hand while he rocks on the chair back and forth. The reminder of how much he misses his father hits like a truck. He sobs and knows he’s being too loud but he can’t stop from crying and his hands shake so bad he drops his phone but can’t pick it up. He clutches his hair and cries instead, head between his knees helplessly. A soft hand lying on his back makes him startle and he looks up to see Sefina sitting with him.

She doesn’t ask him what’s wrong, she doesn’t demand an explanation or poke into his business. She opens her arms in silence and he immediately leans into them to cry more. She wraps him into a warm hug and Riku sees where Sora learned to hug. She pets his hair and kisses his head in quiet comfort. He knows she must be scared, too, and he feels guilty for not being able to help her, too.

“I don’t want him to die,” he finally gasps. “I can’t bury him too after burying my father, I can’t. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be like this–.”

“I expect nothing less,” Sefina replies quietly. “You are allowed to be afraid, Riku. You’ve never seen Sora this way or dealt with him while he has surgery. This is all very new for you. And you just lost your father. I know you’re having awful flashbacks right now.”

“I miss him,” he admits quietly.

She kisses his head. “I know you do, sweetheart. It’s alright to miss your father and be afraid. It’s normal… it’s human to be afraid and to grieve someone you lost. Your father loved you and I know he still does. He’s watching over Sora right now. He’s with Sora, lending him that strength. I think Sora will be alright.”

Riku sniffs and feels a sense of comfort over the idea his father is with Sora right now, guarding and guiding. Just as he would have done if he were alive. “Do you think so?”

“Yes, I do.”

Riku cuddles a little closer and slowly feels his sorrow and fear pass. Watch over him, Dad, keep him safe for m. Please. It’s not his time. Sefina hugs him tight and rubs his back which is extremely comforting and warming. They remain together, she holding him while he rests against her, until Dr. Zexion makes his way out, removing his mask and gloves. He’s almost asleep when he approaches and she has to help him sit up when the doctor appears.

“Ienzo,” she says, standing up and he quickly follows. She takes his hand and he smiles in return.

“He did wonderfully,” Dr. Zexion says. “The old valve was replaced with a new mechanical one and so far so good. He took to it flawlessly and we had him patched up. We checked out his heart to see if there was any other damage he hadn’t found on our tests and his heart looks healthy otherwise. A little rapid but once that valve really starts to do the work, it should even out just fine. He’s in recovery now, it’ll be a couple of hours before we can bring you back to see him but we’re keeping a close eye.”

Sefina lets out a relieved gasp and Riku cries out in relief, almost falling back but she places a hand on his back to keep him upright. “I’m so glad,” she says. “How long will he need to stay in the hospital?”

“We’d like to keep him for about a week but that’s just a preliminary guess. He may do wonderfully and could be out in as little as four days,” Dr. Zexion replies. “We know Sora is someone who tends to bounce back pretty quickly but we still like to carve out the week just in case he needs it.”

“Wonderful,” Sefina says. “I’m glad he’s okay. I’m so relieved.”

“Yes, us too. A nurse will be back to let you know when it’s okay to come see him. We ask for one visitor at a time.”

They both nod and Dr. Zexion gives Sefina one last pat on the arm and they both sink back down into the waiting room chairs. Riku squeezes her hand and has to wipe away another round of tears.

“He’s okay,” she whispers.

“Yeah,” Riku agrees. “I’m glad– you can go first. Please, go first to see him.”

She nods and kisses his hand. “I’m going to go call his father, I’ll be back shortly if they need me.”

“Sure.”

Sefina leaves him and Riku finally collects his phone off of the floor. When he unlocks the screen, his heart shatters again when he sees Sora and his father staring back at him but he likes the photo immediately and returns to scrolling slowly through Sora’s feed. He likes almost every photo on Sora’s profile, old ones, and new ones, he doesn’t care if it makes him creepy as Roxas would say. Speaking of, Riku realizes he should probably inform the group so he quickly opens their group chat he tries not to use because it’s so overwhelming.

R: Hey guys, I’m with Sora at the hospital and his surgery went really well he’s recovering right now
K: Omg I’m glad he’s ok!! I was so worried
Ro: Fuck yeah he’s ok, Sora’s strong
X: I’m glad
V: Good!!!! I’m really glad he’s alright I’ll let Terra & Aqua know!
R: <3

Sora is okay.

Sora is going to recover.

Relief makes Riku tear up and he has to swallow back another sob as grief and relief mingle together to create a wildly new emotion in his chest. The loss of his father is a bitter taste on his tongue but it coincides with Sora being fine. He has a stronger, better heart, and he will be well off in the long run.

A: I’m glad little man is good. Tell him I’m rootin for him

Axel texted him outside of the group which is curious so Riku pulls open the private message to respond.

R: I will when he’s awake. You ok?
A: lol no
A: Don’t worry about me, worry about Sora
R: Sora would worry about you
A: Yeah he would but that’s bc he worries about everyone
R: Axel, what’s wrong?
A: Roxas dumped me
R: What?!!!
A: I deserved it
R: Where are you? Do you want to come by and talk?
A: I’m standing outside of the rehab center trying to convince myself to go in. Roxas said him or the drugs. I have no idea how to do this.
R: Sora would want you to get better Axel
A: I know, I’d hate to disappoint the sunshine boy
R: If you need help, they can help you
A: Maybe
R: You can try
A: Yeah, I guess
R: I believe in you, Axel. Sora, too.
A: Yeah… Tell him I care about him and when I get outta there, we can Netflix night
R: I will
A: Tell him I owe him
R: Owe him what?
A: Just… tell him I owe him. I”ll explain when I’m out
R: … ok
A: See ya on the flip side

Axel in rehab. Roxas dumped him. Sora recovering from surgery. Riku rubs his eyes at all of the crazy going on right now in his life and friend circle. He wonders if anyone told Vanitas. When Sefina returns, she looks tired but not as worried. She sits down by him and he debates on keeping it to himself but Vanitas should probably know.

“Did you contact Vanitas?” he asks after a moment even if the mention of Vanitas makes him blush red. He still remembers their first meeting and he hopes to God, Sora never finds out.

Sefina gasps and pulls out her phone again. “Oh my God, no, I need to call him. Thank you, Riku.”

Riku nods and watches her dash away again to fix her faux pax while he waits for hours to tick by. When they can finally go back to see him, Riku lets Sefina go first and he sits out in the waiting room, stomach doing gymnastics while he waits his turn. He hasn’t eaten but he can rectify that later. After what feels like days, Sefina finally comes out and he’s able to go back. A nurse walks him back, explains Sora does have tubs and wires in several places to help drain fluids and monitor his body but he’s doing well.

“He’s very tired, so I would keep talking to a minimum,” she informs him and he nods while he slowly steps into Sora’s room where he’s recovering and resting.

Riku slowly steps up to Sora’s bedside where he’s sleepy-eyed but awake which makes Riku happy. He eagerly takes Sora’s hand and smiles as brightly as he can. “Hi,” he says and Sora smiles back even if it takes some effort.

“Hi,” he whispers.

“You don’t have to talk,” Riku quickly amends. “I’ll talk for us for once… I’m so glad you’re okay. You did well the doctor said so that's great . I let everyone know and, um, Axel texted me. He’s going to rehab? Said he owes you? I’m not sure what that means but he’ll explain it when he's sprung free. Hopefully, he’ll be out in a few weeks and we can talk to him again.”

“Rehab,” Sora repeats.

“Yeah… I don’t know… he said Roxas dumped him.” Riku shakes his head and cups Sora’s face softly. “But don’t worry about that, just worry about you, okay? Worry about getting better.”

“Yeah,” Sora whispers. “I’m tired.”

“Go to sleep, I’m right here.” Riku holds onto Sora’s hand while he watches him go to sleep and he doesn’t want to leave but the nurse guides him back to the waiting room quietly so as not to disturb Sora while he rests. Sefina is on the phone again so he doesn’t interrupt especially when she looks fairly upset. When she hangs up she looks almost livid.

“Ugh!” she says, shaking all over.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“Oh, just my mother-in-law being impossible. What else is new?” She rolls her eyes and sighs. “I’m going to stay here a while but you do not have to stay, Riku. You should go home and rest. Sora will need you to be his strength for a while.”

Riku nods. “Gladly. Anything for Sora. Did you tell Vanitas?”

“He’s in a private session right now, I left a message with the nurses but I’ll call again later. I want him to hear it from me, not them.”

He nods. “I’m sure he will appreciate that.”

“I am very glad you were here, Riku.” Sefina wraps her arms around him a tight hug. “Sora is lucky to have you.”

He returns the hug and holds on maybe a bit too long. Touch starved is his middle name. “No,” he replies quietly and feeling his next words so strongly he almost starts to cry. “I’m lucky to have him.”

Chapter Text

Being at his parents’ house without Sora is odd but he enjoys all of the animals. He’s spoken up more in group and he’d written Ventus a letter with pressed flowers. He hadn’t sent it because he was waiting for Sora to drop it off for him. His father is bringing Sora home so he’s been anxious all morning. He’s wandering the backyard and startles when the donkey brays. It’s so ugly, he takes a photo and sends it to Isa.

V: Looks like you
I: Wow
V: Ugly
I: Thanks
V: You’re welcome ugly :)

He smiles at his phone while his heart flutters over Isa’s name.

V: What are you doing?
I: Gardening
V: Oh
V: Sora comes home today. I’m at their house. I’ve been given more privileges for being “Good”
I: I’m glad Sora is doing well
V: Can you come over tonight?
I: Maybe
V: Ugh don’t make me say please
I: You compared me to a donkey why would I want to come over to see you?
V: Ugh
V: Not my fault you’re ugly Isa
V: Fine.
V: Please come see me tonight

Isa starts to type but stops, leaving him hanging and feeling anxious. Part of him wants to take back comparing Isa to the pet donkey but it’s just a joke. This is their thing now; he calls Isa ugly and Isa laughs.

He hopes.

“Vanitas!” Sefina calls. “Sora’s home!”

He checks his phone but Isa has yet to reply so he jogs up to the back door to follow her inside. Sora is being led into the living room by a familiar silver-haired young man. Briefly, Vanitas flies back to a night in a busy club restroom. One night of horny bravery and he’d managed to blow one of his brother’s friends.

“Van,” Sora says and smiles warmly.

“Hey, Sora,” he replies and Riku turns and jerks his head around. “Silvy-Locks.”

Riku stammers his face heating up red. “Vanitas.”

Sora gasps. “Do you two know each other?”

“Uh…” Riku says, looking panicked.

“Oh, we do,” Van purrs in reply.

“That makes me happy,” Sora says. “My boyfriend knows my brother.”

The panic in Riku’s eyes is hilarious in Vanitas’ opinion and he has to bite his tongue to keep from putting him on blast. This is Sora’s boyfriend and he’s positive telling Sora he gave Riku a blowjob will not end well. No matter how funny the prospect of Riku’s face.

“You feel okay?” Vanitas asks while Riku sweats in silence.

“Sore,” Sora replies. “But my heart feels good.”

Vanitas nods. “Do you want water?”

“Please.”

He hops up to help so he can show Sora he’s useful as a brother and a person. Riku follows him to the kitchen and Van feels a smirk coming on.

“Vanitas,” Riku whispers.

“That’s my name.”

“Look, I haven’t told Sora about how I know you and I would appreciate if you could keep it that way. We weren’t dating at the time but…” Riku still looks completely panicked and Van holds a bottle of water close to smirking lips. Watching him flounder is hilarious.

“Well, aren’t someone’s panties in a bunch?” he muses with a wink. “Was my bj your one and only, Silvy-Locks? Sora seems horribly innocent.”

Riku glares and clenches his hands into fists. “That’s not your business.”

“Don’t worry, Silvy-Locks, I won’t squeal… Sora did just have open heart surgery.” Another wink and he returns to Sora on the couch with water in hand.

“Thanks, Vanitas,” Sora says. “When do you have to leave?”

“Before dinner.”

“Soon,” Sora pouts.

“Yeah… Can I give you something? To give to Ventus?”

Sora raises an eyebrow. “What?”

“A letter,” he clarifies quickly.

“What’s in the letter?” Riku asks while returning to sit across from them on the coffee table, hand on Sora’s knee.

Vanitas frowns. “Not your business.”

“I think it is,” Riku argues. “IF you’re writing something to upset Ventus, then why would we give it to him?”

Heat rises to his face while he glares at Riku in rage – he understands the sentiment but he asked Sora for help, not Riku. “Not. Your . Business.”

“Guys–,” Sora tries to say but Riku cuts him off.

“Ventus is a mutual friend and Sora may need help reading the letter–.”

“I sucked his fat dick,” he blurts out which quickly shuts Riku down. “It’s how we met. Sucked his virgin dick off. Tasted good.”

Riku turns so red he’s almost purple and Sora stares stunned. Van shrugs casually at Riku; what he deserved for pissing him off.

“You- You had sex with Riku?” Sora gasps.

“Blow job,” Vanitas counters. “He came quickly, too. You may want to do jaw exercises, little bro because he’s as thick as a soda can. Not long, though. Fat and short.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Riku growls.

Sora grips his water bottle tight in hand while his cheeks turn pink. “I’ve seen it,” he whispers. “I’m not sure it’ll fit.”

“Sora!” Riku gasps, a vein throbbing in his forehead now.

Van laughs and nudges Sora’s ribs. “Practice.”

“With what ?”

“Mmmm a really big cucumber, maybe,” Van hums.

“I’m done.” Riku sands up, face red, and h storms outside which is only an added benefit.

Sora snorts and whispers. “He’s shy.”

“So, you two fool around?” Van asks, suddenly curious.

“I massaged him,” Sora replies. “I’m scared to have sex.”

“Because he’s basically the Hulk below the belt?”

“Yeah, and it’s just… scary… I love him and I want him to be happy but I’m scared.”

Van snorts. “Then suck his fat dick, trust me, he’ll be over the moon with joy.”

“I should ask Dr. Zexion if I can have sex post-surgery,” Sora mutters. “Just in case.”

“Definitely and don’t be scared of it. Just work the tip. You don’t have to choke on it the first time.”

Sora looks over at him, curious. “How do you know all of this?”

Van snorts and rubs his nose. His mind flies back to all of the times he’d been forced to suck Xehanort off and sometimes his friends. “Practice,” he replies bitterly.

“Oh… Hm, I’ll talk to my doctor first and then I guess I could be a little brave,” Sora muses.

He winks and grins in response. “I say go for it.”

Sora blushes but he smiles, too. “I should probably go talk to him, he’s upset.”

“Sorry, not sorry – oh.” Van shifts o grab his backpack and the letter. “Can you give this to Ventus? It’s the apology letter.”

Sora takes the letter and nods. “Yeah, I”ll hand it off.”

“Thank you,” he mutters and slowly relinquishes the envelope. Apologizing had never been something he’d learned to do easily. Talking in group and reflecting made him realize the hell he put Ventus through. Ventus hadn’t deserved any of the abuse he’d been dealt. Finding the words had been hard and he’d rewritten the letter a hundred times but he hopes his final rendition will do the trick.

He doesn’t expect forgiveness but it’s important Ventus at least knows.

“I’m glad you’re doing well, ”Sora says softly. “So proud of you.”

“Shut up,” Vanitas mumbles. “Don’t be gross.”

Sora rolls his eyes and throws his arms around Van’s neck in a hug before blowing a wet raspberry on his temple. Van shoves him off but inside he’s warm and fuzzy. Never in his life has he been loved as much as the Tetuanui’s love him.

“Vanitas,” Sefina calls while coming around the corner. “Time to head back, sweetheart.”

He sighs but nods, letting Sora hug him one more time before he follows her to the car. The ride is quiet with only music playing which he’s thankful she’s learned he doesn’t like small talk. After returning to the Center, he accepts one more hug and then heads back to his room. The door swings open easily and he’s shocked to see who is on the other side.

“Demyx!”

Demyx glances over his shoulder and nods. “Vajitas.”

He blinks. “ Vanitas .” There’s no way solitary had completely scrambled his brain hard enough to forget his name.

Demyx smirks. “Vajitas is better.”

Vanitas glares and bristles. He’s glad Demyx doesn’t hate him outright but the nickname has to end here. “Just call me Vanitas or Van please or I’ll strangle you in your sleep.”

Demyx rolls his eyes. “Can’t scare me, Prince of Darkness. You’re less intimidating with glasses.”

Van touched his nose and flips him off. “Fuck you…. I am… glad you don’t hate me, though.”

Demyx nods. “Well, I realized you were helping me… I’m actually glad you kept me from hardcore using again.”

“So… still friends?” Van asks shyly, even if it kills him on the inside but he could use more friends.

“Still friends. How’ve you been?”

Van shrugs and checks his phone. No further texts from Isa. “Frine but Isa’s ignoring me,” he says and sits to pout.

V: Talk to me ugly

“You and Isa an item?” Demyx asks which feels a lot like being teased but Van still blushes and feels his stomach flutter at the idea.

“Uh- no,” he mutters.

“You wanna be?”

No ,” he snaps quickly.

Demyx snorts. “You are a shit liar.”

Van flips Demyx off but knows he’s a special Heinz ketchup red. “He’s ugly.”

Demyx laughs and sits by him. “Ugly, huh? So, you saying you have the hots for ugly dudes? Damn, I must be hideous to you then.”

“I don’t get off on ugly guys,” he snaps in defense. “Isa’s not actually ugly – you are, though.”

“Ouch.”

“Sucks to suck.”

“Point is, you like Isa.” Demyx pinches his cheek which only worsens the humiliation. “Cute. Isa’s not bad looking… and he’s not Ventus.”

No, Isa is not Ventus; maybe months ago he would have been upset by this but not today. Isa is painfully pretty and on top of being good looking, he’s also nice.

I: Sorry
I: I was not ignoring you. I had some housework to do before I could come by
V: Are you coming?
I: I’m walking up to the Center rn
V: Ok

Van covers his mouth to hide his smile but he knows he can’t hide from Demyx. Isa shows up in the doorway moments later and butterflies slam in Van’s gut. Isa’s hair is up in a high ponytail and Van notes his ears are pierced and he’s dyed his hair black. He’s dressed in black ripped skinny jeans, tall combat boots, and a black v-neck which is tight across his chest.

God, he is so fucked.

“Hey,” Isa says warmly.

“H-hi,” Van stammers back, face red. “You came– I mean– uh–.”

Isa smiles. “Wanna come out with me?”

“But curfew?”

“Eh, I have a special slip,” Isa replies. “Dress up, you can put your boots on in the car, I brought them.”

A slow grin fills Van’s face as he realizes Isa may be taking him clubbing. “Close your eyes, ugly.”

Isa snorts but steps into the hall to shut the door so Van can change in semi-privacy. No way of getting around Demyx but he doesn’t mind. His thoughts are solely on Isa and what will make Isa sweat. Once the door is shut, Demyx whistles and makes kissing noises.

“Shut up,” Vanitas snaps before changing into back jeans and a longed sleeved mesh top. Since his boots are in the car, he slides socked feet into sandals.

Whoa , you do have a butt,” Demyx gasps.

Another middle finger for Demyx which is becoming a reflex while opening the door so Isa can see him. He’s quick to watch Isa’s eyes since he tends to be a closed book in the face. He’s dying to know if Isa maybe feels the same way about him.

Isa’s eyes widen slightly but it’s quick and then he smirks. “Nice shoes.”

Van glances down and feels his face flush. “Shut up, ugly.”

“C’mon,” Isa replies and gestures for him to follow.

Van waves to Demyx and follows Isa to the car. Once they hit the car, Isa pauses to check himself in the mirror. “You look fine,” he says.

Isa snorts in disbelief. “Thought I looked like an ugly donkey.”

Van blushes and looks down, pulling at his sleeves shyly. “Well, yeah.”

“Well, since I’m so ugly, I better check a mirror.” There is an edge to Isa’s voice and Van worries he might actually be taking everything Van says too seriously.

“Isa–”

“Ready to go?” he asks, cutting him off.

“Uh… yeah…”

“Great, let’s go.” Isa pulls away and drives them to an old hotel which looks shady but Van doesn’t question it.

He’s too nervous to say anything but his mind is racing with thoughts of Isa believing himself to be ugly. He pulls on his boots and carefully eases out of the car, wobbling at first from being so tall like a newborn giraffe. Is this how Isa feels daily?

So powerful.

Isa is walking to the door and Van rolls his eyes. “Isa! Wait !”

Isa pauses and turns to look back at him. “What?”

Vanitas walks up slowly to Isa, gaining confidence with each step. “I don’t think you’re an ugly donkey.”

Isa snorts in reply. “Okay.”

“Isa…” He groans and grabs Isa’s hands even if he’s no fan of PDA and they’re not dating technically.

“Let’s go inside-.”

“I think you’re fucking hot.”

“You call me ugly all the time-.”

“Yeah because I like you! If I didn’t, I wouldn’t drag you. I don’t really think you’re ugly. Look, I’m an fucking disaster, alright?” Van lets Isa’s hand go so he can fold his arms over his chest and put. “Terms of endearment, Isa.”

Isa raises an eyebrow but he nods. “Okay.”

Van glances up, still pouting. “Okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

“So… I said I like you…”

“I heard.”

“And?”

Isa smirks which drives under Vanitas’ skin. Isa always likes to evade his advances. “And what?”

“Isa! You know what I’m asking.”

Isa slowly reaches to take his hand, which makes him blush. “I do… but you called me an ugly donkey so I have to make you sweat.”

Van glowers but when Isa holds his hand he feels his heart gallop. “Do you like me or not, ugly?”

“Yes, unfortunately, I like you, too.” Isa winks and Van feels a shot to the heart.

“Fuck,” he whispers because he has no idea how to deal with these feelings. Isa – perfect, gorgeous, kind Isa – likes him back.

“You want to go in now or just stand outside all night?”

Van rolls his eyes but when Isa walks him up to the door, hand in hand, he can’t stop smiling. Isa pays their cover and they head inside the gutted hotel to step into the converted club. Moody music greets with dim light and Van is glad to see it’s not too crowded. Not a lot of goths on the island.

“Buy me a drink?” Van asks as flirty as he can manage.

Isa shakes his head. “No drinks. You’re out late under certain circumstances.”

“Ugh- stupid.”

“I don’t make the rules.”

“Still stupid.” Van turns away from the bar so he’s not tempted.

“We can have fun without alcoholic help.”

“Prove it,” Van quips, trying not to smirk.

Isa corrals him to the dance floor hands on his hips and Van finally realizes they’re almost the same height now with the help of platforms. Isa doesn’t have to bend to be close. He’s even prettier up close. Isa holds his hips and bows his head to be forehead to forehead.

Isa’s eyes are tantalizingly green; they sparkle with the dim lights and remind Van of the stars. He would gladly go stargazing forever in Isa’s eyes. The music flows over like warm water and every sensation feels ten times more intense. When Isa kisses him, it’s soft and slow – almost tentative.

The kiss sends a bolt of lightning down his spine.

“Wow,” he whispers when Isa breaks the kiss. “You kiss good.”

Isa smiles and gently knocks foreheads together again. “You make me happy, Vanitas. Make my heart flutter. I haven’t felt this way in a while. The last person I felt like this with – we weren’t healthy. I don’t want to hurt you and I will fight to not cause you pain.”

“Fuckin’ sap.” He rolls his eyes but Isa waxing poetic at him makes his stomach fill with butterflies.

“For you? Yes.”

Fuck.

Tears fill his eyes and he places his head on Isa’s shoulder. “Shut up, ugly.”

Isa chuckles in his ear, kissing his temple while they dance in their own world. Part of him wants to steal Isa away to the bathroom like a cheap hoe but a larger part of him is enjoying the slowly building affection.

“You’re gorgeous,” Isa says, voice soft but deep, rumbling through Van’s chest. “Bratty but gorgeous.”

“You like that I’m a brat.”

Another chuckle – another rumble through his body. “Unfortunately.”

“Your brat is horny.”

Isa snorts and his hands slide down to squeeze his butt. “That so?”

“Mhm.”

“And what do you want me to do about it?”

Vanitas groans, rolling his eyes, thunking his forehead on Isa’s shoulder. “I don’t say please.”

“Come on,” Isa says, guiding him off the floor toward the bathroom. “For now, I’ll accept you as a stubborn brat.”

The bathroom is small – two stalls and two sinks – and they bang into the biggest stall like clumsy, horny teens. Isa makes sure the door is shut and locked while Van shoves him up against it and eagerly yanks on Isa’s fly. Isa’s face shifts when he starts to slide to his knees.

“Uh, what are you doing?” Isa asks and Van pauses halfway down.

“You’re joking.”

“I mean… the floor is disgusting,” Isa clarifies and Van almost laughs but realizes Isa is serious so he chokes it back.

“Is your dick big?”

The question throws Isa off and he stammers and looks surprised he would be asked something so blatant. “Uh- yes.”

“Then I don't care.” He slides down onto his knees, ignoring the cleanliness of the floor, and eagerly tugging Isa’s fy all of the way open so he can finally find the prize inside. Isa’s cock is long and makes his mouth immediately water. “ Fuck .”

Isa wasn’t joking about being big.

“Going to suck it or stare at it?” Isa mutters and Van smirks, placing the head against the flat of his tongue. Isa gasps and slides his hand through Van’s hair.

He knows they’re in public and he should definitely start soon because he’s not sure Isa will want people listening to him getting off. “What do you say?” Vanitas asks, hand wrapped around to stroke his dick anyway.

“I don’t say please,” Isa parrots, voice tight and thick.

Van smirks and wraps his mouth around Isa’s head to start sucking and taking him down his throat. Usually, he has no hesitation but it’s been a while since he’s sucked a dick. He takes his time, tongue rolling over Isa’s shaft, hands on his hips, and relishing in how Isa’s fingers lock into his hair. Isa tastes salty and heady, sending chills down Vanitas’ spine while he takes him further down until he can feel the head of his cock brush the back of his throat. He moans, drooling down his chin.

Isa doesn’t make much sound in response so Van flicks his eyes upward to look at him and wishes he could smirk at the sight of Isa’s head tilted back and his eyes fluttered shut. Watching him breathe hard and feeling his cock twitch sends pleasure running and flaming between his thighs. Van moans louder and grows more confident, sucking harder and faster. Isa whimpers so softly, he almost doesn’t hear it.

“Fuck,” Isa pants. “Vanitas.”

His name on Isa’s lips is better than any orgasm.

“Going to cum,” Isa whispers. “Shit, shit –.” His fingers tighten in Vanitas’ hair and Van can tell he wants to fuck his face but he pulls back because choking in a club bathroom isn’t as sexy as it sounds. “Cumming!”

Van moans as he feels Isa cum in his mouth, a thick, salty load which tastes better than he expected. He slowly pulls back, a white string connecting them together still while he opens his mouth to show Isa the mess. He smirks at the look on Isa’s face and slowly licks his lips hungrily. He would gladly suck Isa’s cock over and over until he was full on only cum.

“Delicious,” Vanitas says. “I enjoyed that.”

Isa is still panting while he recovers, shifting to push his soft cock away, zipping up quick. “We should go.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing but I want to take you home to fuck before I have to take you back. If we even make it to my place. Might just fuck you in the car.” Isa offers his hand and Vanitas grins wide while he’s pulled to his feet. Seeing Isa so horny is a nice change of pace to his usual cool and collected manner.

They leave the bathroom in a hurry and as soon as they’re at Isa’s car they kiss and Isa shoves him against the door. Van groans, letting Isa take control, melting in his hands so eagerly. They manage to make it to the backseat which Van is suddenly glad Isa drives a car bigger than most spaceships. Frantic hands pull at clothes and eventually, he’s sitting on the backseat with his jeans and underwear pulled down to his thighs, cock hard and bobbing near his stomach, while Isa is kissing him with a desperate hunger.

Isa leans him backward until he’s on his back and Isa can take his boots off, stripping him from the waist down until he’s only wearing the mesh shirt. Isa spreads his thighs, draping one over the back of the seat, the other on the floor, and feels completely exposed. Isa’s hand wraps around his dick which is so relieving he almost cums right there.

“Fuck,” he whimpers. “ Isa .”

“I don’t have condoms,” Isa says which is extremely disappointing. “I’m sorry.” He leans over to kiss the inside of his thigh.

“So?” he pants. “Fuck me raw.”

“No.” Isa shakes his head. “Never let someone you don’t know fuck you raw.”

“I do know you.”

“Not well enough to let me fuck you raw.” Isa rubs his thighs and strokes his cock which feels extremely good. “I didn’t think this through.”

Van pouts. “I want to fuck.”

Isa looks torn and he climbs into the front seat. “Hold on.”

Van whimpers but is quiet when Isa takes off out of the parking lot in a hurry. Van tries to ignore his erection while Isa drives but he ends up stroking his cock, eagerly moaning and panting. He knows Isa is watching him in the rearview mirror which is even better. He slides his free hand up to push his shirt up so Isa has a decent show.

“Don’t cum,” Isa says and his voice is s deep and commanding, Van feels it in his dick.

“Fuck,” he whispers and slows down to a stop, letting his cock ache and throb instead while his hands rest on his stomach. “Where are we going, Romeo?”

“We were going to my apartment,” Isa replies.

“Were?” Van lurches when the car makes a hard left turn and they stop. He sits up half way and notes he's stopped at the drug store. “Seriously?”

“I can’t wait. I live on the opposite end of the island. Stay here.”

Van snorts because he’s basically naked, he’s not going anywhere. Isa leaves the car running and Van stares up at the roof to stop himself from wanting to masturbate. His hands and fingers twitch and time stretches on forever. He wants to cum so badly and Isa’s been gone for at least ten minutes. Without keeping himself stimulated, he starts to flag but once Isa revs him up again he’s sure he’ll harden up all over. Isa returns to the car, finally, carrying a bag which he tosses into the back seat.

Van grabs it and finds Isa purchased condoms, lube, and a bottle of water. He snorts and takes the water out. “This supposed to throw them off your trail, Casanova?”

“No, it’s for you,” Isa replies and then they’re driving again.

He rolls his eyes but pops the bottle open to drink half of it down – he is thirsty. They drive until Isa finally parks in a darkened parking lot and it takes Van a moment to realize he’s parked in the Center’s parking lot behind the building. He snorts but Isa is already coming into the back seat again with an eager kiss. Van kisses him back, sliding his hands up Isa’s shirt to take it off.

The thickness of Isa’s chest makes his dick stand up again. Clearly, he works out.

“Shit,” he whispers. “You’re fucking thick.”

Isa smirks and grabs the box of condoms to open and remove a little foil package. “Open the lube?”

Vanitas nods and grabs the box to rip open and warm the bottle between his palms. His eyes fall on where Isa is rolling a condom on his cock and he’s no longer in the car. He’s sitting on the scratchy carpet in the living room, his knees are burning from being on them so long, and his mouth and lips are swollen and bleeding. Tears streak down his face while he watches the old man roll a condom on his dick.

“Bend over the couch, Vanitas,” Xehanort whispers.

“Vanitas?” Isa snaps his fingers under his nose and he slowly comes back and realizes he’s hyperventilating a little. “Vanitas, what’s wrong?”

Panic sits in his gut, making him sick and nauseous, and he makes to sit up, wishing he could see his pants in the blackness of the car’s shadow. “I have to- I have t- to go,” he says, hands shaking so badly he can’t even reach for anything without dropping it.

“Hey, hey…” Isa takes his hands. “Vanitas, what’s wrong?”

“I can’t, I can’t do this,” he gasps. “I’m sorry. I have to go. I need my clothes.”

“Okay, we don’t have to have sex, I just want to make sure you’re alright,” Isa says which makes Van panic harder. How could someone be so nice? Isa’s not going to hold him down and make him take it? He can’t process the concept. He finds his pants to pull on, running to the Center in bare feet to escape the car.

“Vanitas!” Isa calls and he hopes Isa doesn’t follow. He doesn’t want to be followed right now. He yanks on one of the back doors over and over in desperation until a night nurse comes to open it.

“Vanitas?”

He shoves around her to run to his room, opening and closing the door fast, leaning back against it so no one can come after him. His heart is hammering so hard he can’t catch his breath and Demyx is sitting up, being woken from a dead sleep.

“Fuck, what happened?” Demyx asks. “I thought you were out with Isa? Did he do something to you? Fuck, I’ll beat his ass–.”

“No,” he pants before dragging himself over to the bed to curl up in the fetal position under his blankets until the world disappears.

The memory of Xehanort leaves him sweating and shaking for the rest of the night. He wakes up screaming more than once, Demyx having to calm him down, but he can’t help the nightmares. He knows Isa is probably worried and by morning, when Demyx drags him to eat breakfast, he’s unsurprised to see Isa approaching their table slowly.

“Hey, fuck off,” Demyx says to Isa but Vanitas shakes his head.

“He didn’t do anything,” he whispers.

“Vanitas…” Isa slowly holds out his cellphone. “You left this.”

“Oh.” Van accepts the device and mutters a thank you. “I’m sorry about last night.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Isa says. “May I sit?”

He nods and Demyx looks unsure but eventually, he walks off to give them privacy. Isa sits across from him and lays his hands on the table so Van can see them. After last night’s panic, he’s glad Isa seems to understand his twitchy nerves.

“You didn’t do anything, Isa,” he says quietly, spoon dragging through mushy oatmeal.

“I should have made sure you were perfectly fine with what we were doing,” Isa says. “From now on, I will ask you before you I touch you or do anything else, okay? I know you had a lot of abuse and sexual assault growing up. I will be sure to be extra clear on permission from now on.”

Vanitas slowly glances up, feeling his face flush. “From now on? You want to see me even though I’m a fucking nutjob?”

Isa smiles softly. “I like you. I don’t want to stop seeing you.”

“.... Okay.” Van blushes and hides his face in embarrassment. “Thanks, ugly.”

Isa chuckles softly. “Are you alright now?”

“Yeah, I’m okay.”

Isa nods and offers his hand which Van shyly takes. He hates being a sap but Isa makes him weak. “I had a good time last night.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Good.” Isa squeezes his hand and then presses a kiss to his knuckles. “I have to go but I wanted to come to give you your phone and make sure you were doing better. I’ll text you.”

Van nods and reluctantly lets Isa leave. His heart is sore but he does appreciate Isa’s ass walking away. Demyx comes back to the table, stuffing a piece of sausage in his mouth.

“So, you two an item now?” Demyx asks while chewing which is disgusting.

Van rolls his eyes. “I sucked his dick last night, what do you think?”

“He got a big one?”

“Yes.”

“Score.” Demyx grins.

Vanitas snorts and turns his eyes back on his sludgy oatmeal. Isa is his boyfriend. The thought leaves a smile on his face.


 

 

 

Dear Ventus,

I am not supposed to see you in person or talk to you in person but I wanted to find a way to reach you so I wrote this letter. I asked Sora to send it to you because I thought sending it in the mail would be stupid.

I’ve had a lot of time to think and I wanted you to know I am sorry for all I did to you. From when we first met to recently. I am sorry for being a horrible person. I know I cannot make up for what I did or how I treated you, I know I may never see you again which makes me sad but not in a ‘obsessive’ way… just… I’m sad to not see you again.

I hope you can find peace after what I caused.

You were always kind to me and I know I didn’t show appreshiashion then but I am appreshiative for how you treated me, despite being evil. I know you may not even read this letter and I would not blame you for simply throwing it away or burning it but if you did read it - Thank you.

I do not expect forgiveness and I will not ask for it. I never really believed in the after life but I’m probably going straight down if it’s true. At least, there is justice in that much.

If you want to mail me in return, I will provide the address you can send something to me and if you want me to, I can mail you back. If it’s okay to mail you anything. I’m rambling now so I guess I will just say one more time, I am sorry for everything.


Vanitas

 

Dr. Wise Rehabilitation Center
℅ Vanitas Tetooanooy Tetuanui
Suite 15 Room 212
Oceanbreeze Way
Destiny Islands 989-08

“What’s that?” Terra asks while Ventus stares at the letter sitting on the kitchen table. He’s been reading it for the past twenty minutes over and over because it still completely blows his mind Vanitas would ever apologize in any form.

“A letter,” he replies casually.

“From?”

“Vanitas.”  

Terra frowns and picks up the letter to glance over himself. Ventus can practically see him about to have a stroke. He lets Terra read it over since there’s nothing really scandalous contained in its contents but he knows he’s about to have an earful on why he shouldn’t reply or even keep the letter.

“He spelled appreciation and appreciative wrong,” Terra says and Ventus snorts.

“Cut him some slack, he has a 6th grader’s education,” Ventus replies. “I think I’m going to write him back.”

“Ventus–.”

“Look, I don’t expect you to understand, okay?” Ventus takes the letter back so he can read it again. “He’s reaching out, I should respond.”

“I really think that’s a bad idea,” Terra insists but Ventus stands up and goes to sit down and handwrite a reply since Vanitas used to paper and pen, he would too.

“Well, it’s a good thing I’m not asking for your opinion,” Ventus replies while sitting down.

Terra grumbles something in response but Ventus is too wrapped up in finding stationary and a pen. If Vanitas is better, and clearly he is doing better, then he should show he appreciates the attempt.

 

 

 

Dear Vanitas,

I’m really happy to receive your letter and to know you are doing better. I am proud of how far you’ve come! Don’t give up, okay? You can keep going and getting better. I don’t think seeing each other is a good idea even though I know you want to but I am glad you understand that.

This letter was very sweet. I am happy to become your pen pal if that’s what you want. If you think it will help you then I will do it! I don’t have a lot to say though right now, I’m sorry. Maybe when we get a rapport going.

Have a good day, Van.


Ventus

(also, not to be That person but just so you know it’s “ appreciation “ and “ appreciative “ I know you tried! )

The letter is short and sweet because he’s not sure he should be gushing about what’s actually going on in his life. Being engaged is great but he’s not so sure Vanitas will see it the same way. He folds the letter up and stuffs it into an envelope to address to Vanitas at the center so he can put it in the mailbox in the morning.

“You’re sure about this?” Terra asks one more time when Ventus sets the sealed envelope on the kitchen table for tomorrow.

“Yes, Terra, I’m sure. I really think it will help him to hear from me.” Ven turns to look at Terra, arms crossed and looking unhappy, and wonders if this is going to be a constant contention in their relationship. He knows he has an odd relationship with Vanitas but this is his life and Vanitas is not going to hurt him again.

“I guess you know best,” Terra says quietly.

“I do know what’s best for me, yes.” Ven walks up to him and slowly puts his hands on Terra’s hips. “I love you, Terra, and I know you want to protect me. I appreciate your bravery and your need to keep me happy but I want you to know I can also take care of myself. I know when I’m pushing too much or what isn’t good for me. I know you think Vanitas is bad and just an automatic evil thing for me to involve myself with again but I’m being careful. I swear.”

“I just don’t want you to be caught up in his bullshit again ,” Terra says, looking afraid.

“He’s doing better, Terra. It’s just a letter. That’s all.”

“You swear, just letter contact?”

“Yes.”

Terra huffs but nods. “I can see that being okay.”

“Good.” Ven leans up to kiss him. “You wearing your panties, today, Terra?”

Terra flushes and nods. “You told me to.”

Ven grins. “ Just checking.”

“So, um, we have wedding planning today,” Terra mutters and Ven wraps his arms around his neck.

“Yes, we do.”

Soon, in a few months, he’s going to marry his best friend. Life cannot be better than this.


 

“You seem happier today, Isa.”

Happy; an emotion he never thought he’d ever really experience but today he walked into the Dr. Wayfinder’s office with a smile on his face. “Yes,” he says warmly. “I am.”

“Good. May I ask what is making you so happy today?”

“My boyfriend.”

“Oh? You have a new boyfriend? That’s wonderful. Please, tell me about him.”

Isa feels a smile slowly slide into place as he thinks on Vanitas; dreamy and soft. “He’s wonderful,” he replies warmly. “I’ve not felt this way about someone since Axel and this is… much better. Healthier. I enjoy every moment with him. I look forward to his texts… The only thing bothering me is he calls me ugly a lot. I know he doesn’t– I mean, I think he doesn’t mean it – but if that is my only complaint I suppose I can live with it.”

Dr. Wayfinder tilts her head and looks uncertain. “He calls you ugly?”

“It started as a joke and now he says it often. I think he means it as an endearment,” Isa says quickly so he doesn’t set Vanitas up to be the bad guy.

“But it bothers you?”

“Sometimes.”

“Have you told him it bothers you?”

He shakes his head, looking down. “I don’t want to discourage him from opening up.”

“I do not want you to let someone walk on you, Isa, you’ve come a long way.”

“He’s not walking on me,” Isa snaps even though he doesn’t mean to sound so defensive. “Vanitas is a nice guy.”

“Vanitas?”

“Yes.”

Dr. Wayfinder’s face changes and she looks almost horrified before she clears her face and looks at her notes. “Um, you’re dating Vanitas?”

“Yes, that’s his name,” Isa replies slowly.

She stands up and starts to look for something on her desk and he can tell she’s frantic, upset after hearing Van’s name. “Um…”

“Is something wrong, Dr. Wayfinder?”

“Isa, um, I have enjoyed helping you and seeing you through treatment but-.”

Isa stands to cross the room. “You’re referring me?”

“I’m sorry, Isa but I have a personal and biased opinion on your choice of boyfriend and I do not think I can correctly counsel you knowing this information.” She hands over a card but he doesn’t take it, feeling a deep and painful burn spread over him. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re asking me to see someone else because of who I’m dating ?” he asks, completely flabbergasted.

“Again, this isn’t about you, Isa, it’s about my own biased opinion on Vanitas. I cannot counsel you with a clear mind knowing this.” She continues to offer him the referral card but he recoils back.

He doesn’t want a referral. He doesn’t want to start all over again, talking to someone new, building rapport with someone, learning to trust them as he learned to trust her. Knowing he’d have to once again explain everything that happened in his life and how he’s tried to change and become someone new. It’s too much.

“Isa, please, I promise Dr. Cricket is an excellent psychologist. He can help you and he won’t necessarily have these pre-conceived ideas about someone. I really think it would be best for you.”

“How do you know him?”

“Dr. Cricket?”

No . Vanitas.”

“I’m not at liberty to say, Isa. I just ask you to respect my wishes and see someone new. I really do think it is imperative you continue your therapy.” She sets the card on her desk, sliding it closer to him but he sneers at the card in response. “I know it’s a lot to ask and it seems sudden. I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think it necessary.”

“So, I get to be punished because you cannot separate feelings from therapy?” he demands. “You don’t even know him.”

“I do know him,” Dr. Wayfinder replies, voice turning cold. “Unfortunately, I do know him. I know him well and while I wish him the best, I will not be able to help you going forward. I will finish my notes here and send over your information to Dr. Crickt’s office.”

“I don’t want to see someone new,” he says, his voice teetering on desperate. “I would have to explain everything all over again! I’d have to go over my entire life’s story with someone I don’t know. I’d be at square one!”

“I take very thorough notes, Isa, he will review them–.”

“Forget it,” he snaps. “I won’t see someone new. If you don’t wish to help me, then I suppose it’s my last session.”

“Isa–.”

“I should have known,” he says quietly as he realizes life is one long, cruel joke. Everyone eventually gives up on him and leaves. She’s no different. “Everyone walks away from me eventually.”

“Isa, I swear, this is not about you personally!”

He turns to grab his coat and storm out of the office. He’s been dumped by therapists before, this is not the first time he’s had someone refer him to someone new. When he found Dr. Wayfinder, he’d been on his fourth therapist, and he thought he would never find someone to help him but she did – she helped him. Feeling it close in his face is cold and cruel but he climbs into his car and drives away.

He drives around town for a while before deciding to stop and see Vanitas. He signs Van out and it’s not long before Van is rushing up to greet him, looking happy. He’s never seen Van smile so willingly before but it makes the world feel a little less lonely.

“What are you doing here?” Van asks.

“I wanted you to come over for a while,” Isa replies. “Is that okay?”

Van nods. “Yeah, Demyx found a new band to listen to and my ears are still bleeding.”

Isa chuckles and walks Van to the car so they can drive back to his place. Van is immediately impressed again when they walk into his apartment. Jelly greets them excitedly and Van is quick to pet and love on her. Isa smiles and when Van joins him in the kitchen, he kisses him, eagerly pressing Van against the counter.

“Hi,” Van greets softly when they pause.

“Hello.”

“You’re tense, why?” Vanitas asks, hands sliding up to his shoulders.

Isa kisses him again once and shakes his head. “I’m fine.”

“You want another blowjob?”

“I do not want you to think you cannot see me without sexual favor.”

Van snorts. “I like sucking your dick,” he replies, tugging on Isa’s fly to unsnap the button and unzip the zipper eagerly. “Makes me horny.”

“I would like to touch you in return,” Isa whispers. “Very badly I want that.”

Van blushes but deflects by rolling his eyes. “I mean, sure, you can.”

Isa lifts Van up and sets him on the counter which makes Van yelp softly. He presses eager lips to Van’s neck and kisses his pulse and jaw, nibbling over his skin. Listening to Van moan sends chills down Isa’s spine. He lifts Van’s hoodie over his head so he can kiss his collarbone, fingers tweaking his nipples. Vanitas whimpers and opens his thighs invitingly. Isa is slow, stripping him until he’s naked and blushing on the counter, hands playfully covering his junk.

“How come I’m always naked and you’re always dressed?” Van pouts.

“Maybe I have a kink,” Isa replies.

Van snorts. “Wouldn’t be that shocking.”

“Are you sure you want this?” Isa asks. “Are you ready?”

Van’s cheeks turn crimson and he slides off the counter to turn around and bend over. Isa’s eyebrows go up when he sees his hole is open and fluttering. “Been fingering myself all morning thinking about you.”

Isa grins and drops to his knees, spreading Van open to lick his cute pink rim hungrily. Van gasps and Isa hears something crash off the counter but he doesn’t care. He holds Van open and licks him rough and thorough.

“Fuck, Isa!” Van moans. “What- what are you doing? Fucking weirdo.”

Isa’s hands grip Van’s ass and he squeezes his cheeks hard before giving one a light slap. Van moans in response and he doesn’t stop licking him open. His mind flies to where he left the condoms and knows the bag is sitting a few steps away on the kitchen table. He’ll have to grab one before they fuck. Vanitas doesn’t stop moaning and whimpering, and each little noise he makes sends a thrill down Isa’s spine.

He makes a sweet little bottom.

“Shit, shit, shit,” Van whimpers. “ Isa .”

Isa pulls away briefly to watch Van’s hole clench and flutter when the stimulation stops. Van’s cock is dripping so badly he’s making a mess on the floor. The sight makes him smile so he gives Van’s ass another sharp slap.  

“Ah! Fuck–.” Van looks back over his shoulder, biting his lip until its swollen and pink. “This how you treat all the boys?”

Isa stands and kisses Van’s shoulder blades and the back of his neck. There’s a large x-shaped scar on Van’s back but he doesn’t comment on it. “Just the special ones.”

“Oh, fuck off, you fucking sap.”

He chuckles and walks away so he can grab a condom and the lube, admiring how Van is bent over, tense, and his muscles rippling under his skin. He pauses to take off his own shirt and walk up behind Van slowly. He unzips and undoes his belt, letting his pants drop to his ankles. Van whimpers when he hears the condom open and Isa slowly rolls it on.

“Hurry up,” Van whispers but Isa takes his time putting lube on his fingers and drizzling some over Van’s ass, watching it slide over his rim. “Fuck!”

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Isa asks again to be certain while he rubs Van’s rim. “You were very upset the other night.”

“Yeah, well, if you shut the fuck up and dick me, I won’t have time to overthink it,” Van snarls. “You talk too fucking much, Isa.”

Isa rolls his eyes but presses a finger inside Van’s greedy hole, watching him clench and relax again. He adds a second and then a third to really stretch Van open. The moans and whimpers make Isa’s cock ache and soon he can’t stand it anymore. He pops his fingers free in favor of easing his cock inside slowly. He’s big and even with prep, he wants to make sure Van is ready.

“Oh, fucking Jesus Christ,” Van whispers.

Isa sighs softly, cock sliding in slow and steady. Van’s hole wraps around him like a warm blanket and he takes a moment to admire the view before starting to fuck him steady. Van makes soft, desperate little whimpers when he’s fucked; a little cock, hungry slut in Isa’s opinion.

“You like this, don’t you?” Isa muses. “Getting fucked and used by bigger men’s cocks.”

“Yeah,” Van whimpers. “I like it.”

“Tell me how much you like it, slut.” The words tumble out of his mouth fast and he doesn’t mean to talk dirty and nasty to Van but it happens so naturally.

“I love it,” Van whimpers. “Fuck me harder.”

Isa wraps his fingers in Van’s hair and tucks his head back. “What do you say?”

“P-please,” Van moans and Isa grins. He shoves Van’s face down on the counter and fucks him harder until Van is screaming so loudly Isa’s glad he doesn’t have neighbors.

“Yes, fucking take it, you ugly fucking whore,” Isa growls, losing himself in the moment. He slaps Van’s ass hard enough to make it turn pink and then red with another slap. Vanitas cums first, squeezing him, and yelling as he paints the kitchen counters with his mess. Isa’s eyes slowly shut as he enjoys the way Van’s ass squeezes and massages his cock. He cums after, filling the condom and wishing he could fuck Van raw.

Vanitas whimpers, body shaking through his orgasm. Isa slowly comes back to himself and manages to pull out, staring at how Van’s hole gapes. He’ll have to clean up the mess but for now, Isa helps Vanitas turn around and sit on the counter so he doesn’t have to stand up.

“Wow,” Vanitas gasps. “You… you really know how to fuck a guy.”

Isa chuckles and nuzzles Van’s neck. “You really a whore, aren’t you?” he teases, kissing Van’s collarbone softly. “Just taking cock wherever you want.”

Vanitas doesn’t reply and Isa slowly leans back to look up at him and notes his face is blank. There’s a vein throbbing in his forehead and when he speaks again, Isa is stunned by what comes out of his mouth.

“Fuck you,” Vanitas says, voice like ice, and he shoves Isa back so hard, he trips and crashes into the counter behind them. “ Fuck you ! Just- fucking fuck you- you’re- You’re vile, you know that? You’re a fucking awful person. You think you’re getting better, you think you’re going to be so good now, huh? Pathetic.”

“Vanitas–.”

“Take my name out of your fucking nasty mouth,” Van snaps while he struggles to stand and pull his clothes on. “You really are ugly , Isa.”

Each word comes across as true and Isa feels himself shrinking inside. He has nothing to say in response because he has no idea what he did.

“You’re lucky I even looked at you!” Van yells, golden eyes wild and angry. “Fucking hate you! You’ll always be an abuser, you know that? You’ll never get better. Your scars are fucking ugly. You’re ugly, all the way to the fucking core!”

Isa stands still, feeling exposed while he watches Vanitas dress, and go to the front door. “Vanitas,” he says softly. “Do you need money to go home?”

“I’ll fucking call my mom, you fucking bitch.” The door opens and slams shut, the sound echoing all over the apartment.

The silence after is long and he doesn’t move from where he’d been shoved so cruelly. The words hurt worse than the bruise forming on his back where he jammed his spine. They rush through his mind and eventually, his legs give out and he collapses to the kitchen floor. He doesn’t know what he did or what happened but Van’s cold vitriol slithers over and wraps around his neck to squeeze as hard as it can.

Ugly .

He’d meant it this time. He’d meant every word. He’s ugly and an abusive bastard and he won’t ever be anything else.

Chapter Text

No longer having Kairi as a friend and Axel in rehab leaves them short on friend dates but they’re glad Aqua is still willing to meet up for breakfast before work. Aqua is usually busy and with Ventus’ upcoming wedding, she’s even busier with trying to help them plan. Xion tries not to think on implications of potentially dating Aqua because they’re not even sure Aqua is into women or NB persons.

Even if dating Aqua would be nice.

Possibly very nice.

Aqua appears down the sidewalk in a flurry, carrying a purse and briefcase, walking quickly through the crowd to where Xion is sitting outside at the agreed café. Dressed sharply for the office, Aqua is all business but she looks relieved to be finally arriving, even if she is a little late.

“Sorry, I’m late.”

Xion smiles when Aqua drops down across from them looking tired and haggard. “Wow, you look… great.”

Aqua sighs and shakes her head. “Sorry, I’ve been so frazzled this morning. I’ve got emails and voicemails and everything under the sun I haven’t even touched . It’s been a mess all weekend.”

“I’m sorry,” Xion says quietly. “You’re here now, though.” Xion smiles and offers Aqua a bagel which Aqua eagerly takes to slather cream cheese on. “Got your favorite.”

Thank you, you’re the best.” Aqua smiles back and takes a bite. “Mm.”

“So, what have you been up to?” Xion asks while admiring Aqua’s outfit quietly. “You look good.”

“Oh, please.” Aqua rolls her eyes and waves her hands in denial. “I look like trash but thank you.”

“You do not .” Xion smiles and places their hand on their cheek. They have no idea if Aqua is interested but she’s definitely beautiful.

Aqua glances at her phone and shakes her head, face still stuffed with the bagel. “Sorry, I need to check this voicemail real quick. Got a phone call from an ex-patient on the way over.”

“That’s fine.”

Aqua holds her phone up to her ear and Xion stirs some tea quietly while they wait for her to finish. At first, Aqua is frowning but then her face drains of color and she looks absolutely horrified. Xion frowns in return and raises an eyebrow.

“Oh my God,” she whispers.

“What?”

“Oh my God- fuck.” Aqua frantically starts to look through her phone and Xion can sense her real fear.

“Aqua?”

“Um, I kind of broke up with a patient the other day and he left me a voicemail, oh my God- I don’t know if I have his address on hand. Fuck.”

“Who?” Xion asks. “Sorry, I don’t know if I can ask that.”

“Do you happen to know Isa Lange?”

The world really is too small. “I do, yeah.”

“You do? Do you know where he lives? I have his information at my office but not off hand.” Aqua asks, still frantically texting on her phone. “God, please respond Isa.”

“When did he leave the voicemail?”

“Like twenty minutes ago. I was on my way over and missed his call.”

“Can I listen?” Xion asks. “I have his address in my phone.”

Aqua hands over her phone so Xion can hear the voicemail while giving over their phone so Aqua can get his address information. Xion takes a breath and slowly puts the phone to their ear to listen to Isa’s voice. He sounds monotone and empty and leaves Xion’s body full of dread.

I’m sorry to call, I know you don’t want to hear from me anymore but I wanted to try and reach you… I didn’t obviously. I get why you gave up on me now. I’m never going to get better and I’ll always be an awful, disgusting, ugly abuser. I get it now… I get it… I know you know Axel, I can’t reach him either but if you could tell him goodbye for me. I’m not going to be here much longer. I have a dog and I want her to be taken care of, too. Please… I’m gonna go… I have to go.”

Xion slowly sets the phone down and feels their stomach tie in knots. “I’ll go check on him,” they say.

“I’m going with you. God, I never should have told him I can’t see him anymore.”

Aqua is a mess but Xion is standing to wave down a taxi. They’re cold and nauseous, hands shaking, and feeling a deep sense of dread. If they go to Isa’s apartment and he’s dead, they’re not sure what to do. Did Isa have a family? Did he have anyone besides Axel and his dog? Aqua is pale and quiet, hands clutching her phone tightly while they drive across town toward Isa’s apartment.

The building is tall and the sun glints off of its windows. It looks so peaceful and radiant despite knowing what they may find inside. The lobby is open and there are many people coming and going. The security desk will have to let them in so Xion follows Aqua up to the guard.

“What time did he call?” Xion asks again while they walk inside.

“Like at 7:00,” Aqua whispers.

Xion checks the time. It’s almost 7:45 meaning he’s had forty-five minutes to do something stupid. Anxiety eats at Xion’s gut while Aqua explains to the security guard what’s going on and why they need into Isa’s apartment. They take the time to text Roxas since they can’t reach Axel.

X: I know you don’t care for Isa but if you can reach Axel please tell him Isa might be in trouble

He may not even be awake yet but at least he can read it when he is. Security escorts them upstairs and uses a master key to open Isa’s apartment. Xion’s hands shake while they walk through Isa’s place up to the second floor. Isa’s dog is outside of a closed door, digging and scratching while whining and barking sadly. Xion gulps and slowly pushes the bathroom door open, feeling every bit of anxiety make them feel sick to their stomach.

In the background, Xion can hear security on the phone with 911 to call for an ambulance while they slowly round the corner to see Isa lying in the bathtub. The water is pink but they can see he’s still conscious. His eyes turn over to them and he looks shocked to see them standing in his bathroom.

Maybe he’s just shocked to be bleeding out.

“Isa!” they gasp, running over to start pressuring the wounds he’s inflicted on himself, heart pounding so hard they can feel it hitting their chest. “You’re okay, you’re okay. You’re going to be okay.”

Isa’s eyes are lost and frightened and it breaks their heart to see tears slowly slipping down his cheeks. Security helps them drag Isa out of the tub to the floor. They lift his arms and place pressure to staunch the blood flow. Sounds disappear for Xion while they try to keep Isa’s eyes on theirs, talking to him quietly to keep him from panicking. If he panics, his heart will pump faster and push blood out even harder.

“You’re safe, Isa,” they whisper, cupping his face. He’s so cold and his eyes are glassy. “I’m right here, I’m right here.”

Vaguely, Xion is aware there are more footsteps and someone is pulling them back but they almost fight the presence off. They promised they were right there with him and do not want to go back on that promise. Aqua wraps her arms around them to keep pulling them back while the medical professionals come to help Isa and take him away. The silence after is deafening while Xion stares at a bathtub full of water and the blood on the floor. Isa’s dog is whining and barking downstairs, probably wondering why anyone would take Isa away from her.

“We should find Axel,” Xion whispers. “I need to tell him.”

“Let’s give Isa privacy,” Aqua counters. “Let’s wait and… and see what happens. He should be okay, they got to him before he could bleed out and stopped the blood. He may need surgery but he’ll be okay .”

“I don’t understand what happened…. You said you had to quit seeing him as your patient?” Xion asks.

“It was for his own good,” Aqua replies. “I can’t really go into details but I referred him and now… God…”

“It’s not your fault Aqua,” Xion argues quickly. “Don’t put this on yourself… Isa’s been struggling for a long time.”

“I know he has,” she whispers, sounding as lost as afraid as Isa looked. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

“You didn’t make him do this.” Xion turns to hold her hands briefly. “You didn’t make him try to kill himself.”

The guilt on Aqua’s face makes Xion cold but they walk Aqua downstairs and make her sit with the dog before checking Isa’s kitchen for cleaning supplies. The last thing he needs is to come home and find his bathroom and tub stained with blood. There’s bleach which Xion takes upstairs to drain his tub and start to scrub it clean. The floor is tile and they work on scrubbing it clean, too, hoping the bleach will lift the blood away so he doesn’t have a cruel reminder every time he walks into the bathroom.

Aqua eventually comes back upstairs, anxious and antsy. “Xion, we should go to the hospital. I’m his therapist- I mean I was- I can at least try to help them.”

Xion nods, pushing their hair out of their face. “Okay, I was just trying to clean up. I didn’t want him to see all of this when he came home.”

“Nice of you,” Aqua whispers and Xion can see she’s shaken. Therapist or not, Aqua may never have seen someone so close to death.

“Come on,” Xion says, taking her hand and gently patting Jelly on their way out. They have no way to lock the door but Xion lets security know they’re leaving so they can lock up Isa’s apartment. Another cab ride takes them to the nearest hospital and they wander into the emergency room where Aqua seems to collect herself enough to speak with the nurses.

R: what happened?
X: he tried to kill himself
R: what??
X: it was awful Roxas
R: where are u?
X: I’m at the hospital with Aqua, she’s talking to the nurses
R: do u want me to come?
X: You don’t have to
R: do YOU want me to?
X: yes
R: I’m omw

Xion slowly sits down, antsy, and rocking back and forth. Times like these, Xion wishes they could still talk to Kairi; she would have a level head about this situation, no matter what, because Kairi is always calm and collected. Roxas arrives twenty minutes later, looking flushed, and out of breath. Aqua is sitting by them now but they’re disjointed, both lost in their own guilt and worlds.

“Hey,” Roxas pants as he approaches. “Did you get a hold of Axel?”

“Aqua thinks we should give Isa privacy,” Xion replies. They don’t agree.

“Axel is his best friend,” Roxas argues which is surprising out of Roxas but maybe he’s changed his tune about Isa.

“Surprised you want to tell Axel,” they say quietly. “Last time you saw Isa, Axel was trying to sleep with him.”

Roxas shudders. “This is more important than that, Xion. I’m not heartless.”

“Sorry,” Xion whispers. “I’m still kind of in shock.”

“How is he?”

Aqua shrugs. “We don’t know.”

Roxas runs a hand through his hair and lets out a breath. “God.”

“I know,” Xion whispers. “We should have checked if he left a note.”

“A note?” Roxas asks.

“Suicide note,” they clarify quietly.

Roxas sighs. “Right.”

“Maybe it would have explained why,” Xion says even though they feel as if they’re grasping at straws. There may not be an explanation. Aqua holds the most knowledge but she can’t exactly share Isa’s personal information without breaching patient confidentiality. The only people she can talk to are the medical personnel because he’s already harmed himself.

“May not be an explanation,” Roxas replies which Xion knows is probably true. “Sometimes… people just feel this is the only way out from their pain. I’ll see if I can reach Axel.”

Xion nods. “He’s probably still in detox.”

“I know,” Roxas whispers. “But he needs to know.”

He does need to know; Isa has been his friend for an extremely long time. They’ve been more than friends, they’ve been enemies but Xion knows Axel would want to know when Isa is hurt. Roxas walks away and Xion sighs, slumping in their seat tiredly. The cacophony of the ER fades and Xion dozes in their seat until Aqua gives them a gentle shake.

“What?” they ask, rubbing their eyes.

“Hey,” Aqua whispers. “Roxas reached Axel so he’s up to date, um, the doctor came back and I twisted their arm a little – Isa’s okay. He’s had blood transfusions, he was sewn up, they have him under suicide hold for the next 96 hours but he’s going to be okay. They said he probably had just started when we arrived so we made it to him in time.”

Relief floods Xion’s entire body to hear Isa is physically going to be alright – obviously, no one knows how he will do mentally but he’s alive. If he’s still breathing, he can be helped. “Good,” they whisper. “I’m glad he’s alright.”

Aqua nods in agreement. “Since he has to stay for the next 96 hours, I’m going to head out if you want to catch a cab with me.”

“No, I’ll stay with Roxas until he’s ready.”

“Okay.” Aqua squeezes their shoulder and waves to Roxas as she heads out.

Xion slowly presses their palms against their eyes to try and decompress. Roxas sits by them and offers his hand which Xion takes and feels warm when he smiles softly. The last time they’d seen Roxas he’d been having a crisis over Axel and now he’s helping them find their way through a new crisis.

“You okay?” Roxas asks. “I mean, I know it’s weird for me to feel bad for Isa but it must be even weirder for you. Considering your history with him.”

“I knew him as another person,” Xion replies quietly. “And as you said, I’m not heartless. How’s Axel?”

“Upset,” Roxas replies quietly. “He wants to come out here but I told him Isa is on a suicide hold and he can’t leave the facility anyway.”

“Are we able to go see Axel? Maybe it would help if we went to see him ourselves.”

“I don’t know, they were reluctant to even let him on the phone so I doubt it but also this is an extenuating circumstance. Do you want to go over there and see?” Roxas asks.

“Yeah,” Xion whispers. “I do.”

“Okay, let’s go.” Roxas stands up and offers his hand out.

Xion accepts his hand and follows him back out so they can see Axel together. They glance back at the ER doors and send Isa as many good vibes as possible.

 


 

Detoxing is by far one of the worst hells he’s ever been through but being told his best friend attempted to kill himself is the worst hell he could imagine happening. He would gladly detox for years if it meant Isa would be okay. Isa has been there for him for a long time – even when they were separated by Xemnas’ bull, Isa had still found a way back to him. He could never forget Isa and Isa would never forget him, no matter how many times he would joke about trying.

They were each other’s ride or die but Axel never thought Isa would try to die.

 He’s lying on his bed, watching the ceiling spin, when a nurse comes in to let him know he has visitors. He sits up slowly and stares at her in confusion. “I didn’t think I would be allowed visitors.”

“Technically, no,” she says. “But since there are extenuating circumstances, we think it is better for you to see your friends today.”

Tears fill his eyes and he nods, thankful he can see someone other than these four walls. “Okay,” he says. “Thanks.”

“They’ll be back in just a moment.”

He nods and slowly pulls his knees to his chest while he waits. His eyes light up when he sees Xion and then his heart aches when Roxas follows right after. Roxas . He’s missed Roxas so deeply, he feels nothing but pain seeing his pretty blue eyes.

“Hi, Axel,” Xion says in their soft voice and they smile which breaks his heart in further pieces until it’s a complicated mosaic.

“Hi,” he whispers.

“Can I sit?” When he nods, Xion sits by him and wraps their arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. “I’m so sorry-.”

“Did you see him?” he asks. “I mean- after- after all of that? Did you see him at the hospital?”

“No,” they whisper. “I’m sorry.  I wasn’t able to see him.”

“You were there with him though? I mean…. At the call?” Axel asks, voice lost and sad. Tears fill his eyes and he leans against Xion heavily while they pet his hair.

“Yeah,” they whisper. “I saw him at his apartment.”

“Was it bad?” Axel asks even if he’s afraid of the answer. His imagination runs rampant as he pictures Isa lying on the floor dying. He didn’t have every detail on what happened because all Roxas knew had been Isa attempted suicide but no details on how.

“Yes,” Xion whispers.

“What- I mean how did he…”

“Axel,” Roxas says and places his hand on his calf while he sits on the end of the bed. “Don’t think about it too much. I’m sure it’s better to not know.”

“I want to know,” he growls darkly. “How did he do it?”

Xion hesitates and takes a deep breath. “He slit his wrists in the bathtub. The doctors said we must have just found him in time- as he’d just started when the EMT’s arrived to help him.”

Hearing it out loud makes a pained sob escape outward and he covers his face in pain as he cries, ashamed of his own grief. Isa isn’t dead but he sobs as if he had died. Xion rubs his back and shoulders, soothing him softly while Roxas rubs his leg, squeezing his calf and ankles softly.

God ,” Axel sobs. “And the last time we- the last time we spoke, we fought.”

“Axel,” Xion whispers. “Don’t do that to yourself. He’s not dead. You have time to talk to him still and to let him know you love and care about him. Maybe we could get a card for you to sign since you can’t go yourself. Does that sound good?”

He nods, trying to keep from sobbing but the tears keep rolling down his face. “I disrespected him so much,” he whispers. “God, I’m trash.”

“Stop,” Roxas says, voice dropping to a familiar tone he’s heard more than once but usually they don’t have clothes on. “You are not trash. Isa wouldn’t be your friend if he thought that of you.”

“I just can’t believe I almost lost him,” Axel whispers, feeling broken and lost.

“But you didn’t ,” Roxas insists firmly. “Don’t hang onto the what if’s, Axel because it will drive you insane.”

“He’s my best friend… I know we had a rough patch but he knows more about me than anyone else,” he says, nuzzling under Xion’s chin. “I mean you’re both my best friend’s too, don’t get me wrong-.”

“We know,” Xion says quickly. “Right, Roxas?”

“Right,” Roxas agrees, still rubbing Axel’s ankle.

“Thanks, guys,” he whispers. “I just feel like crap. I feel like I failed him because I wasn’t there for him. He probably tried to call me.”

“That’s not your fault, Ax,” Xion says. “You’re trying to get better and I know Isa would understand that.”

“I guess,” he mumbles.

“Axel, Xion is right. Don’t blame yourself, you didn’t cause this,” Roxas says quietly. “I promise.”

Every part of him wants to have a private moment with Roxas, to talk and see if he still wants to date but he’s not sure if he can finagle the room alone with Roxas even for a quick minute. His mouth is dry which is good enough for him to try and be alone.

“Xion,” he says.

“Yeah?”

“Uh, can you go ask our lovely fine nurses at the desk for water?”

Xion nods and helps ease him off of her them so they can stand up. “Sure. I’ll be right back.”

“Thanks.” He watches Xion leave before slowly sitting upright, eyes falling on Roxas sitting on the end of the bed. Roxas smirks but it’s a tired kind of realization. “Rox…”

“Couldn’t wait for us to be alone, huh?” Roxas asks.

“I just wanted to… to talk,” he says. “Since I have you here.”

“Better make it quick then.”

Inside, he’s screaming and he wants to reach out and pull Roxas to his lips for a kiss. He wants to wrap his arms around Roxas and hold him as tightly as possible. More than anything, he wants to be with Roxas again. Knowing Roxas won’t even consider dating again until he’s clean, however, stalls him from doing anything drastic.

“I miss you,” he whispers.

“I miss you, too,” Roxas replies which is relieving to hear.

“You do?”

“Yes, Axel. I miss you , not the guy you became.”

Right.

The guy causing all of this drama in the first place. Axel wipes his face and isn’t sure what else to say. He misses being the guy Roxas fell for, too, but he’s still in the midst of detoxing. It hasn’t been a fun ride. He’s been sweating, cramping, vomiting, wishing for death – anything than his bullshit.

“When I get out of here,” Axel whispers. “Can we try again?”

“Let’s get you out of here first,” Roxas replies which is the diplomatic way of saying no .

“Right.”

They both go quiet when Xion returns with a  cup of water which Axel is glad to have but he can tell they knew his game. They sit together for a while longer but eventually, his friend time is up and they have to leave. His heart breaks at the thought of being alone but they’ve already given him more privileges than he’s really allowed.

“Do you know why he would have done it?” Xion asks.

Axel shrugs. “Maybe his demons just finally caught up with him.”

The thought hurts but he has no other explanation. He just hopes Isa knows he never meant to use him or hurt him. Once Roxas and Xion are gone, Axel settles down to cry quietly into his pillow. “I’m so sorry, Isa,” he sobs. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

Be okay, be okay, be okay .

 


 

Isa’s apartment is all the way at the top of the building and Roxas is glad Axel has a spare key because he’s positive security never would have let him in. He walks down the hall to the final door at the end and takes a deep breath before pressing the key inside the lock to open the door. He’s doing this because he knows Axel would have wanted to take care of Isa’s dog. He’s doing this for Axel – not Isa.

The dog in question rushes up to the door and then back pedals when she sees someone she doesn’t recognize. If he remembers correctly, her name is Jelly. He slowly shuts the door and offers his hand while punching in a security code in Isa’s apartment which he also gained from Axel. Once the alarm code is punched in, everything is kosher and he’s able to walk around without freaking out security downstairs.

Jelly avoids him and skitters off to the side but he gives her space since she seems like a dog needing to warm up to someone new. He can understand the sentiment. He takes his time walking around Isa’s apartment, impressed by all of the fancy furnishings, the pool , and his extremely large kitchen. The place is like a wet dream but he didn’t just come here to collect Isa’s dog. Her water bowl is empty so he refills it and searches for her food until he finally finds some fancy bag of dog food which he fills up her bowl completely even though there’s a scoop measuring cup inside the bag. She deserves a little extra.

Instinct takes over and Jelly braves to rush up toward him so she can start eating and lapping at the water. Once again, he gives her her space and makes his way upstairs to the second floor. According to Xion, Isa had been in the bathroom so he starts to check Isa’s bedroom for notes or signs of why . He told Axel not to focus on the why but he’s curious. If they can decipher why maybe they can prevent any future attempts.

He’s not even sure why he cares.

He’s never liked Isa; they’ve never seen eye to eye and he always viewed Isa as a bad influence on Axel. He’s not heartless, however, and he never wished for Isa to die.

There’s a desk in Isa’s room near the window and he slowly crosses over and in unsurprised to see a note which is shockingly several pages long and handwritten. Part of him worries he’s invading Isa’s privacy but he slowly sinks onto the edge of Isa’s bed to start reading. Someone should try to understand.

I’m not sure if anyone is going to read this but I need to write out my last words before I forget them or lose the courage to put pen to paper. This is going to be long so I’m sorry to whoever is reading this, even in death I’m a complete pain. I want to start by addressing people and apologizing for the wrongs I’ve done them over the years. Some of them are longer than others, so I’m sorry about that, too.

Xion: We have a history together which I wish had never happened. I am so sorry to have ever caused you physical, mental, and emotional harm. You are not nothing, you are not worthless, and you are an amazing designer. I thank you for sincerely for allowing me to commission you, the clothes are beautiful. I am sorry to have been the monster under your bed for so long. I wish you had never met Xemnas or been caught up in his crap and I am glad you were able to break free faster than I did. I hope you are doing well now. I hope my death will bring you peace. No more monster if the monster is slain, right?

Axel: Where do I start?

I want to start with I love you.

I’ve always loved you. I love you as a friend and I love you as a lover. I do not think I will ever not love you. You are my best friend… my only friend most of the time. I know our last words were in anger but I want you to know I do care about you so deeply. You are an amazing person and I know you’ve been struggling a lot lately… I hope you will find the peace you seek.

Some of my finest memories are of the two of us having fun together as kids. The games we used to play, the trouble you used to drag us into… I would gladly be grounded over and over with you if it meant you were smiling. Remember the time we went to the beach when we should have been in school? I was so scared we would get into huge trouble but you were so insistent I have a good time. I didn’t have any money and you bought me a sea salt ice cream.

I never told you but that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

Thank you for being my friend. I’m sorry I wasn’t a very good one.

Roxas: I’m sorry for hurting Axel, I am extremely glad he has you. Please, be his guide. I know you can keep him happy. Thank you for helping him.

Vanitas: I am not sure what I did to upset you the other day but I want to apologize for hurting you. You’re right, I will always be an abuser and I see that so clearly now. I’m a big fraud. If what I said in the bedroom upset you, I am very sorry, that was not my intention. I am so proud of how far you have come. I know you have had a hard time in life and God you did not deserve any of that pain. I wish I could take your pain away.

I’m sorry if I ever abused you, too. I thought I was better. I thought I was becoming a better person but you’re right, I’m not. I am ugly. I’m disgusting, awful, and evil. I’m just like Xemnas – which I know you never knew him in person, be glad you didn’t, but I have become the man I most fear. I’m sorry I caused you pain. I have enjoyed being your boyfriend even if it was brief and I have loved being your friend. You have taught me so much. Thank you for being my friend in return.

I hope you find love and happiness. I am so sorry I could not be the one to give you what you needed. I am sorry I failed you. I am sorry I am an ugly, terrible waste of space.

I hope you have a wonderful second chance at life.

Riku & Sora & Kairi: I know we did not have a lot of time together or much interaction but I want to apologize if I ever caused you secondary harm as I know you are all linked to Axel and Roxas.

Aqua: I am sorry to have been a difficult and awful patient. I hope with my passing, you can forget about me and focus your energy on people who deserve help.

To anyone I did not address, I am sorry to you, too, as no matter where I’ve gone in life, I tend to leave bruised people in my wake. If this note is ready by someone, my only regret is abandoning my dog. Her name is Jelly, she is a very good girl, and I ask she be taken care of by someone who will love her unconditionally. She’s been through a lot and I hope she can find a better owner than myself in the future.

I decided to do this in the bathtub, make it easier on everyone else, I do not want to be a hassle even in death. I am sorry. I am so sorry for all of the pain I’ve caused. I wish I could make up for being so ugly and terrible. Post my death, I do not expect a funeral or any type of service. It’s okay to just toss me in the ground or cremate me whichever is easiest on people. As for any money I have, I would like it all to go toward caring for Jelly and to helping those in need. Victims of my abuse, victims of any abuse.

I hope my death brings the people I’ve harmed peace knowing I will no longer be able to harm anyone again. I do not ask for forgiveness and I know where I am going. I’m sorry.

Isa

Roxas stares at Isa’s note and feels the paper shake in his hands. For a moment, he doesn’t realize he’s causing the shaking because his hands are trembling. Isa’s words leave him cold and sick to his stomach. The amount of times Isa said sorry and the amount of times he called himself ugly and disgusting make him feel nauseated. He can see why Isa tried to kill himself; if this is how he views himself, the monster under the bed, then of course his demons would try to drag him down six feet under.

He’s been there, too, he knows what Isa’s been through. Being suicidal growing up, he can at least understand viewing yourself like garbage. Roxas sighs, tucking the letter away, and exiting Isa’s bedroom so he’s not continuously violating Isa’s private space. Once he makes it back downstairs, he tours Isa’s apartment to locate Jelly’s belongings; leash, food, food bowls, toys, and stuffs them in a  reusable grocery bag. He sits down on the floor afterward, slowly digging out a bag of treats found with her food to hold as a peace offering.

Jelly eventually approaches him and dares to sniff his hand and lick up the treats he’s holding. She sniffs his hand again and he smiles, offering her a light chin scratch. Once he’s able to give a successful chin scratch, she settles beside him and places her head on his lap. He gives her a few more pets and scratches her ears. She really is a good girl.

“Don’t worry,” Roxas says softly. “Isa will be back. He really cares about you, you know. He’ll be back but for now, you’re gonna come to stay with me and Axel when he’s out.”

Jelly wags her tail but he can tell she’s sad and confused. He can’t imagine what it is like for her to not know where Isa is and why he didn’t come home. He hates the idea of taking her out of her home but having her around is probably better than him dropping by for a few hours a day. He clips her leash and she immediately follows him, walking at his side, and he’s happy to see she seems well trained. On the way out, he grabs one of Isa’s coats to pack with them so she can have his scent.

“Good girl,” he says, leading her out to the elevator. “You’re just gonna have an extended sleepover, okay? Not forever.”

At least, he hopes it doesn’t turn into forever.

They walk out of the apartment together and Roxas helps her up into Axel’s Jeep since he’s using it while Axel is in rehab. She looks confused and is panting heavily but he opens the window so she can stick her head out which seems to give her a sense of calm. She whines when he drives away but eventually quiets, looking sad and unhappy but otherwise calm. At least now, with a dog in the house, things won’t feel so quiet with Axel gone.

Once they’re inside, Jelly sniffs around the house and whines at the door which breaks his heart. “I know,” he says softly. “Here, girl.” He pats the couch and lays Isa’s coat out so she can cuddle with it if she wants. She wanders up to the couch to sniff his coat and he laughs when she pulls the coat off of the couch and curls up with it on the floor.

“I know,” he whispers. “I’m sorry you’re sad.”

Jelly whines but stays tucked in Isa’s jacket and he doesn’t disturb her. Everyone has to mourn; he just hopes Isa’s recovery is quick enough for him to at least see her in person so she doesn’t grow too depressed. He’ll be okay , Roxas tells himself firmly. He’ll be okay and he can be with his dog. He’ll be okay, he’ll be okay… he’ll be okay…

Chapter Text

“3.145926535 897932–.” The voice drones out from one of the patients in the room. He’s been sitting in one of the areas they hold group for an hour and hasn’t moved. He’s sitting with someone but he doesn’t remember their name. Isa tries to tune out the digits.

“He likes to recite the first 100 digits of pi, over and over, as if we’re all inferior to him or something.”

Isa moves his gaze over to the left, eyes dragging through a sea of sludge like the muscles in the sockets are tired. Sitting at a chair alone is a young man, probably younger than him and definitely younger than Axel’s friend Sora. Long blonde hair and green eyes are wasted no a pale, long face with hollowed out cheeks. A ghost lives amongst them.  If Isa remembers correctly, his name is Vexen, one of the patients here.

He’s been in the mental ward for 80 hours on a mandatory hold.

His eyes fly down to the stitches on his wrists. Every day he’s monitored closely by nurses with cold eyes to make sure he isn’t trying to unravel them like a red ribbon. Vexen’s chanting helps him slide back into his mind space while he sits and listens to his neighbor bitch about life. He never speaks or says anything in return but he suspects the man just likes to hear his own voice. Isa is fine with being a sounding board as long as he’s not expected to participate.

Rooted back into his mind space, Isa fades away from the hospital ward and quietly returns to a suburban neighborhood where soccer moms walk their golden retrievers and pick up their school-age children in overpriced minivans. His mind melds with a particular house on an ending cul-de-sac; two stories, red brick, green door, attached garage. The house is unassuming and the lawn perfectly cut to match the rest of the neighborhood, and always green. He approaches the door and presses the key to step inside. The perfect image fades away as soon as he steps into the foyer.

“Isa?”

The voice startles him out of his thoughts and he looks up to see a nurse standing at his side. “Hm?”

“Time to see your therapist.”

Therapy for the next three hours but he follows her like the robot they want everyone here to be. They walk down the hallway and Vexen’s voice fades away to be replaced by screams of other patients. People who are not as free as the rest of them. Strapped to their beds and shouting to be let free. Isa tunes their voices away with thoughts on happier tunes.

His new therapist, Dr. Yen Sid, is a strict and stern man but he carries himself with professionalism and pride. Isa believes he wants to help but Isa also believes he is beyond help. The first ten minutes, Isa is silent while Dr. Yen Sid goes over notes and sits with his hands steepled over the desk.

“You seem far away today, Isa.”

He shrugs. “Easier than being here.”

“Is there something you want to discuss? Whatever is on your mind, perhaps?”

“It’s a long story.”

“We have nothing but time.”

Isa feels his mind sink back down the rabbit’s hole and he stands outside of the green, innocuous door with the golden handle. “I once knew a man by the name of Xemnas.”

He doesn’t like sitting at the bar, especially not alone, but there are no other tables and he’s starving. The bartender brings him water and a bowl of peanuts while he peruses a menu. Squirrels eat with more finesse than him while he shoves peanut after peanut into his mouth and down his throat for consumption.

While he waits, the bartender slides a drink in front of his nose he didn’t order. His brows pull together and he looks up at the man in confusion. “I didn’t order this.” This is a factual statement and he tries not t sound offended but he doesn’t want to pay for something he didn’t order.

The bartender nods over to his left. “Someone bought you a drink.”

Isa’s brows pull together even tighter and he turns around to see a man with white hair and tanned skin sitting at a tall, round table. He looks young despite his hair color and he raises his own drink in salute. Isa peers at the drink purchased for him and push it away. He doesn’t like to drink. He returns to his appetizer while he waits on the steak he did order and ignores the man attempting to hit on him.

If Lea were here, he’d laugh.

Eventually, the bar stool next to him becomes occupied and he doesn’t have to look up to know who has joined him. The man’s voice is deep and it carries even over the music. “I can’t help but notice you seem to be the only one enjoying yourself at the bar.”

Isa rolls his eyes. “I’m not interested.”

“No?” The man offers his hand. “My name is Xemnas.”

Isa sighs and turns to face him completely on the stool so he can tell Xemnas to fuck off. He falls short when he notes how large Xemnas is up close. Thick chest, broad shoulders, and golden eyes. He’s beautiful in every definition of the word. He finds himself so enraptured he takes Xemnas’ hand to shake.

“My name is Isa,” he replies slowly.

“Isa,” Xemnas repeats and his voice sounds like silk in Xemnas’ mouth. “Beautiful name. Do you know its origin?”  

“No,” Isa admits slowly.

“The name Isa means Messiah,” Xemnas whispers. “Tell me, Isa, would you like me to worship you tonight?”

Sweat and goosebumps rise over Isa’s entire body while he imagines a man so handsome glutting over his body. He doesn’t know if he says yes or no; he doesn’t know if he says anything but in a blink, he’s outside in Xemnas’ car with Xemnas’ hands sliding up his shirt over his dampened skin, tweaking his nipples and pulling his jeans down.

“Come home with me,” Xemnas whispers.

Isa nods. “Yes.”

“You met him at a bar and went home with him that night?” Dr. Yen Sid asks and jots down some notes. “You felt you could trust this man?”

“Yes,” he whispers. “I know it sounds insane but he inserted me into his life so easily. He changed me as a person. He renamed me, even.”

“Gave you a new name?”

Isa nods. “It wasn’t hard for me to understand I’d somehow entered a cult. I moved off of the island and to the mainland to be with him and his band of followers. They did a lot of illegal things that I never took part in. Until Xion.”

“Xion?”

He nods. Warm tears fill his eyes and blur his vision but he doesn’t have the energy to stop them. “My biggest regret.”

The girl arrives in the middle of the night and is completely silent when Ansem brings her inside from the rain. She’s small, only standing to his chest, and her black hair is soaked and short. Her mousy, large yes remind him of the blue ocean. He misses the ocean.

“She was prowling outside,” Ansem says to all of them while they gather in the living room. The curtains are drawn and shut to keep their nosy neighbors from peering inside.

Sometimes, Isa is afraid of how normal they appear to be when viewed by the outside world.  He knows, rationally, they are not normal and they put up a terrifyingly accurate facade. The girl standing in the living room, young and fierce, shows no fear in the face of Xemnas while he rises to his feet. The floor creaks softly beneath Xemnas’ feet, the only sound in the room, while he approaches and slides his hand to cup her chin. He forces her head back and her lips lift in a snarl while she stares him down in return.

“A new recruit?” Xemnas asks. “What is your name?”

She doesn’t respond.

“I said, what is your name ?” Xemnas repeats in a tighter voice.

Isa holds his breath while he waits for her to respond. The entire room is tense and uncertain. She stares up at him in complete defiance before spitting in his face. Someone gasps but Isa keep his mouth wired shut. Xemnas grabs her throat and throws her into the midst of them all on top of the coffee table. Isa shifts uncomfortably while he fears what he’s about to witness.

“A new plaything,” Xemnas muses. “Strip her.”

Isa flinches when she screams while they tear her clothes away until she’s wearing nothing at all. Two men hold her down and slam her ripped underwear in her mouth to shut her up. Isa turns his eyes away; he can’t watch this and he wants nothing to do with it. They’ve done questionable things but nothing like this.

“Isa,” Xemnas calls and gestures him over. His hand is soft when he beckons and Isa is shy as he approaches, fears twisting his guts into knots. He ignores the naked girl on the table or otherwise he may throw up.

“Yes?” he whispers.

“Such a loyal pet you’ve become,” Xemnas whispers, his fingers sliding into his hair to start petting and stroking it backward. “I want to initiate you fully. Give you a new identity but you must prove you are worthy of such an honor.”

Worthy.

Worthy of Xemnas; he’s been trying for Xemans’ affection for a while now and he craves his touch. More than anything, he wants to be Xemnas’ favorite. “How?” he asks.

Xemnas chuckles. “You see how he submits so easily? If only the rest of you were so simple.” Xemnas pets his hair and Isa leans into the touch warmly. He gestures to the girl they’re holding down. His stomach knots again. “Show her what we do to disrespectful cunts.”

Fear and nausea slide over his entire body when he turns to face her. He’s witnessed the others cause bodily harm to strangers but he’s never participated in such things. He’s never taken away someone’s bodily autonomy. Xemnas stands at his back and quietly encourages him; whispering in his ear of how proud he will be and soon he will have his new name.

He will be reborn.

“Did you do it?” Dr. Yen Sid asks.

Tears continue to track down his face while he remembers that night. He remembers stepping up to Xion and the look in her eyes; defiance, anger, and underneath pure fear. “No,” he whimpers. “I couldn’t do it.”

“What happened?”

“He punished me,” Isa replies. “He raped me instead.”

“So, Xemnas raped you and not Xion?”

“I don’t know what he did with Xion that night. I know he made them watch him hurt me. He let the others hurt me, too. My first of many gang rapes.” The words come out emptier than he expects. Maybe, he’s finally gone numb to the entire situation.

“You said Xion was your biggest regret? Why?”

“I never forced myself sexually on Xion. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t awful to them.”

“Awful how?”

He takes a deep breath to dive back in.

“Since you failed me the other night, I expect you to produce results tonight, Isa, or I will throw you out into the street like a dog,” Xemnas mutters in his ear. Tonight is a Naming Ceremony and if he follows Xemnas’ letter to the law, he will be considered one of the Thirteen.

VII

Xion is to be number thirteen but her initiation is tonight also. After weeks of breaking her, they managed to make her stay despite how sick it made Isa feel inside. Tonight, they meet up at an old warehouse Xemnas claims to own; they do a lot of illegal activity here. Isa is nervous about what Xemnas is going to ask of him but eventually, Xion is brought forth, too.

Xemnas stands over them on a podium, looking important, and lit purposefully like a god. Isa looks up at him steadily and does not meet Xion’s eyes. Whatever he is tasked with tonight, he must do so he can accept his rank as VII. One day, he will be Xemnas’ right hand.

“Tonight,” Xemnas says, voice carrying in the large room like a chamber. “We will have a Naming Ceremony. To prove you are worthy of your new names, you will fight and win or you will die.”

Isa blinks in alarm because he hadn’t expected this. He’s never been to a Naming Ceremony but this seems extreme. He spins around and notes they’re surrounded by members to block them in. On a table is a selection of staves and rocks. Nothing else. His heart pounds hard in his chest and he realizes he’s being asked to fight Xion.

An unfair match in Isa’s opinion.

He’s not only larger than her but he’s certain he’s stronger, too.

“You may begin,” Xemnas says and smirks.

Xion turns and stares at him. Her eyes, crystal clear, look empty and sharp before she leaps around him and grabs a wooden staff to crack hard against his spine. He yells, shocked at the pain. She stares at him, a cold emptiness in her eyes. He underestimated her nd she is now between him and the weapons. He moves backward, trying to keep away from the edges as he’s sure the crowd will be happy to hold him in place or push him off balance. Xion dances with him, matching him for each move.

She’s quick and he has no idea where she learned to fight so gracefully.

“Nothing personal,” she says while coming at him so fast he can’t track her movements. She brings the wooden staff hard against the side of his head and his vision turns white.

He stumbles and collapses, ears ringing as he tries to recover. The crowd is screaming and when his vision returns, he can see Xemnas standing and looking disappointed. An urge grows in the pit of his stomach and he claws forward across the floor, even though his moves are sluggish, his hand reaches out for her ankle and he yanks her hard. She attempts to knock him away and regain her balance but she crashes to the floor and he slams her down with both hands wrapped around her throat, squeezing.

His fast twists as he watches her choke, her hands clawing at his wrists desperately. She wiggles beneath him until he feels her feet catch and she kicks him back and off. Air knocks out of his lungs but they both need a moment to recover. She gasps and coughs, blindly reaching for the weapon but he grabs the end first and grips it tightly in hand. When she tries to take it, he shakes her off and slams the other end into her face. Red quickly runs down her face and he leaves her no time to recover. Another smack in the face and she’s back on the ground.

Xemnas’ eyes train on him and Isa glares down at her, taking in ragged, difficult breaths. When she tries to sit up, he slams the end of the staff into her chest and lets her cough and sputter. “Nothing personal,” he growls before smacking her face another time. Xion lies back and doesn’t move again so he slowly approaches where Xemnas stands with his most trusted and holds up the bloody staff like a trinket of war.

Xemnas smiles. “Very good,” he praises and the praise slides over Isa like warm water. “You are ready.”

He’s brought onto the pedestal and given a long black coat like the rest of them. The material is heavy leather and he immerses his senses in the smell while he’s pushed onto his knees. He looks up at Xemnas with love in his eyes while Xemnas cups his face softly.

“Saïx,” he whispers. “Number Seven.”

“What happened to Xion afterward?”

“I don’t know,” Isa replies. “They were taken back, I guess. That night, Xemnas and I slept together and I convinced myself he loved me. Xion was a part of us for a while longer. I spent that time reminding them they were nothing at all – trash, a speck of dust. I verbally and physically abused them for fun.”

“And you regret all of this now, I assume.”

He nods. “Yes.”

“You feel remorse.”

“Yes.”

“Then why, Isa, do you think you deserve to die?”

A loaded question. His mind flies back to Vanitas and the angry words he spouted off. When he thinks about them now, he wonders how much validity they really held. In the moment, and in the days following, they felt so real he could wrap himself in them like a coat. Except, the coat strangled him and trapped his arms and body until he could no longer breathe. Standing outside of them, talking about his time with Xemnas, he knows he’s no longer the abusive person he used to be.

“I don’t,” he says after a moment.

“You don’t,” Dr. Yen Sid repeats.

“I don’t.” He says the words for a second time and feels them resonate with him loudly. He doesn’t deserve to die. He doesn’t deserve to die because he’s made peace with the people he’s directly hurt. The only other person he’s hurt is Vanitas but in his heart, he knows he didn’t set out to purposefully hurt Vanitas.

He wants to apologize for anything he might have done to trigger Van’s outburst but he knows Van’s words are ultimately empty. He isn’t ugly. He doesn’t abuse people. He’s a good dog dad. He’s done his best to turn a new leaf and reform. He’s stopped using drugs. He’s stopped living a life of parties and shitty behavior.

Most of all, he doesn’t deserve to die.

“How do you feel now?” Dr. Yen Sid asks.

Isa’s fingers twitch on the arms of the chair and he feels new energy fill his core. “Like I want to go home.”  


 

V: Hey ugly, where have you been?

He hasn’t heard from Isa since their fight – he doesn’t remember everything. He just knows they had a fight; he doesn’t even remember what the fight had been about. The text goes unread and hours later, Van sends another.

V: Are we fighting? I don’t remember what happened. I know that sounds fake but I really don’t. I kinda blacked out afterward so wtf did I say to make you ignore me? I wanna see you. Don’t make me say pls

They have group soon, so Van assumes Isa will be there and they can talk in person. He follows Demyx ut and they all gather around but Isa’s face is not one amongst the crowd. His presence is quickly missed and people mutter amongst themselves but Vanitas ignores them. Their facilitator arrives in a huff and she seems frazzled while they all sit together.

“Who wants to start?” she asks.

The room is quiet and Isa’s empty chair seems to be louder than anything else. Vanitas’ fingers twitch but he folds his arms over his chest to keep from checking his phone. No one speaks but Isa usually goes first. In fact, he always goes first.

“Where’s Isa?” someone asks softly.

The mediator is quiet for a moment and her face is grim. Vanitas stares at her and his palms begin to sweat. “Isa isn’t feeling well today–.”

“Where is he?” another person asks.

Vanitas clings to every word spoken. They know something he doesn’t about Isa. His mouth goes dry and he feels his heart stutter.

“Isa….” The mediator, Jen he thinks, sighs and looks sad. “Isa had an episode a few days ago and he was brought to the emergency room before being admitted for a 96-hour hold… He’s back at home now but we told him to take it easy. I received permission to let you all know he’s fine and he’ll be back soon.”

Everyone starts to whisper before someone asks what kind of episode did Isa have. Jen looks torn but if Isa gave permission, Van hopes she'll further explain. His heart pounds so heavily on his chest he almost can’t hear her over the rush of the blood in his ears.

“He attempted suicide,” Jen replies solemnly.

He attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted suicide he attempted-

“Vanitas?”

Everyone is staring at him. Every pair of eyes lingers on his face and he reaches up to touch his cheeks. They’re wet. There are awful, animalistic noises in the room and it takes him a moment to realize he’s the one making them. He sinks off of the chair and onto the floor to scream, pressing his forehead to the floor as he completely unravels and breaks down. People scatter and there are hands on him, hands trying to soothe him from this meltdown.

“It’s okay,” Demyx is saying. “Hey, it’s okay, he’s okay–.”

“It’s my fault,” he sobs through his screaming. “ It’s my fault !” He doesn’t remember their fight but since Isa tried to kill himself afterward, he can only assume he said something truly awful. He doesn’t deserve Isa or anything good to happen ever again.

The nurses ease him upright, helping him half stumble and half walk back to his room, where he’s given a mild sedative. Demyx sits by him, his arm around his shoulders, and he’s too upset and tired to shake him off.

“Why is it your fault?” Demyx asks.

“We had a fight,” he whispers while the sedative slows him down enough to stop feeling so anxious but it makes his thoughts a lot harder to form, too. “I don’t remember about what.”

“You had a fight and then what?”

“I guess he tried to kill himself.”

“You hadn’t heard from him?”

Vanitas shakes his head and goes quiet. His mind wanders while he thinks on Isa and all of the happiness Isa brought him. He has a beautiful light and it was almost robbed from the world because of something selfish on his part he’s sure. Isa’s smile and eyes flood his mind and he sinks down on the bed until he’s almost lying flat on his back. Demyx stays by his side but Van can feel the sedative drag his eyes down into sleep.

Blood. Cuts. A razor blade to the flesh while blue eyes ask him why. Searing pain through his spine and over his back until the muscles lock. Ventus’ tears taste like salt. Blood. Cuts. Isa’s smile tinged with blood and regret.

Blood.

C u t s.

He wakes up with a jerking start. Demyx is asleep in his own bed and the clock tells him it’s almost four in the morning. He fumbles for his phone and finds it but there is no reply from Isa. He opens his messages and tries to will one into being.

V: idk what i said idr idr what i said pls talk to me
V: i’m sorry
V: i’m really sorry pls respond pls
V: Isa pls
V: I’ll do anything if u talk to me just talk to me i need to know what happened
V: i keep trying to remember but i can’t remember i can’t remember i’m fucking stupid and i’m sorry pls wake up and talk to me

There are tears tracking down his face again while he lies on his side. He dares to open Isa’s Instagram to go through his photos but there hasn’t been an update in a while. His heart sinks as he notes the last photo Isa posted is a screenshot of their conversation about Isa being a donkey. The caption beneath the photo makes him cry harder.

Apparently, I’m an ugly donkey #ouch

“No,” he whispers, voice cracking. “No, you’re not.”

I: It’s 4 in the morning Vanitas
I: People are sleeping
V: Where are you???
I: In bed, where you should be
V: I am in bed
V: They told me. They told me what happened to you. I did that, did I? Fuck I’m so sorry. Idk what I did. Idk what I said.
I: We can talk about this later, Vanitas. I’m v tired.
V: I want to talk but it now
I: Do I need to repeat the time to you? I don’t even really want to talk to you right now.

His heart and feelings sink low as a numb pit forms in his chest. He can’t force Isa to talk to him and he’s sure Isa will fall back asleep soon so he simply turns his phone off and sets it on the nightstand table. The numb pit grows until his entire body feels numb and he’s standing outside of himself. Everything he touches turns to poison and rot. No matter how many times he’s told he’s made strides, there is no changing the fact he is a poisonous danger to everyone he comes into contact with.

The hours tick by and he dozes in and out of sleep, chased and haunted by nightmares. By breakfast, Vanitas goes to sit by a window in the cafeteria and not touch his food tray. He stares at the gardens outside and the sun is shining brightly. Demyx sits with him but they don’t talk. He’s not even sure he remembers how to talk; his voice is trapped back inside his numb body.

“I bet you Isa will be back in group soon,” Demyx says. “You’ll see.”

No,   Van thinks. Isa won’t be back to group because he goes so Vanitas stands and walks down the hall in numb silence. He paces it quietly while he waits for his therapist to come in. She looks surprised to see him, wandering the halls aimlessly waiting on her.

“Oh, Vanitas. Good morning. You’re here early.”

“I wanted to tell you I won’t be in group anymore.”

“Well, I’m afraid that isn’t really negotiable, Vanitas. Come sit down.” Minnie gestures for him to follow her into the office but he doesn’t sit down. He’s too upset.

“If I go, Isa won’t, and Isa needs it more than I do,” he insists.

Minnie’s face softens. “This is about Isa,” she says softly. “I assume you heard about what happened to him?”

“It’s my fault,” he whispers.

“Why do you say that?”

“We had a fight, I don’t remember what happened but I caused it and he was upset… He tried to… because of me and if I have to sit out of group because of that, I will.” Vanitas can feel himself wavering on tears. He doesn’t want to cry but knowing Isa hurt himself because of something he said. “I clearly need to work on myself on my own before I can even try to be with someone else.”

“Well, I’m glad you recognize that Vanitas, but Isa’s decision on coming or not coming to group has yet to be seen,” Minnie says quietly. “Now, I know you are upset and you have every right to be. If you want to sit and talk about this, I am happy to discuss what I can with you.”

“No,” he whispers. “I just… I can’t.” He walks out of the office and back down the hall, pacing up and down in front of his door. He wanders the hallways aimlessly for hours until he’s too tired to keep going. Isa doesn’t want to talk and he doesn’t blame him. Knowing this doesn’t stop him from feeling any less numb or empty.

“Hey, man,” Demyx says softly while he stands in the doorway. “You wanna go outside?”

He lies down on his side and stares at the clock to watch the time tick by. Everything feels empty without Isa and life doesn’t even real. Demyx eventually gives up and leaves him alone. The silence stretches on and Vanitas slowly fades back into himself. He dozes here and there until the memory snaps back hard like a rubber band.

“Fuck you. Fuck you! Just- fucking fuck you- you’re- You’re vile, you know that? You’re a fucking awful person. You think you’re getting better, you think you’re going to be so good now, huh? Pathetic.”

“Vanitas–.”

“Take my name out of your fucking nasty mouth. You really are ugly, Isa. You’re lucky I even looked at you! Fucking hate you! You’ll always be an abuser, you know that? You’ll never get better. Your scars are fucking ugly. You’re ugly, all the way to the fucking core!”

The words become crystal clear and he moves to pull his phone back from under the mattress to turn on. Isa has to know he never meant any of what he said. The logo takes so long to load and by the time he’s pulling up Isa’s name in the messages app, his fingers and hands are shaking so badly, he can hardly type or hold the phone at all.

V: Fuck I remember. I remember what I said. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Isa, I didn’t mean anything of what I said. Fuck. I’m sorry. Isa, you are not ugly. You are the most beautiful and most kindest person I’ve ever known in my whole life. I didn’t mean what I said. I remember now why I said what I said tho. You called me a whore which was fine bc I liked it but then I just snapped back to my time with Xehanort after it was all over and I took it out on you. I don’t know what else to say other than I don’t deserve you and understand if you want to stop talking to me.

Guilt chews and eats at his stomach while he waits for Isa to potentially text him back. Maybe Isa will leave him on read. Hell, maybe Isa turned off his phone. He waits and waits and waits until finally, a text message pops up.

I: I am sorry I upset you
V: It’s ok, you didn’t know. I liked what we did together. I’m gonna work on my “triggers” I guess they’re called.
I: I can’t type for long
V: Oh
V: Why?
I: Hurts my wrists

Oh. Right.

V: Will you come down here? I want to see you
I: Not rn
V: Soon?
I: I need to take a step back and make sure I’m alright first

His world feels as if it’s losing color and life as he lies on his bed and realizes Isa may never want to see him again. Understandable but hurtful.

V: ok

He sets his phone face down on the nightstand so he’s not tempted to check his phone every few minutes. If Isa doesn’t want to talk to him, Isa doesn’t have to talk to him. His heart aches and temptation makes him grab his phone and check. Isa hasn’t texted back.

V: are we boyfriends still?
I: I don’t know
V: oh
V: ok

The phone slips from his fingers and he hears it smack the floor but he’s lost all energy. The world turns black and white and the sun ceases to shine.

Chapter Text

The hospital staff are all smiles as he walks in today and Sora is happy to return them with a giant one of his own making. For once, he’s not walking in because he needs to be treated for something serious. After surgery, he’s begun to feel a lot better. He’s on week three and even though recovery has been slow and has had its ups and downs, he’s not nearly as sore as he used to be. Riku walks with him, hand in hand, while he heads up to the cardiac floor to Dr. Zexion’s office.

“You look nervous,” Sora remarks to Riku while they head up.

“I just hate being at the hospital,” he says with a blush.

“Oh, you could have waited in the car.”

“I’m fine, Sora. Really.”

“Are you sure?”

“I want to support you. I’ll be fine.”

Sora nods and he’s glad they made up; talking about Riku’s enormous dick with Vanitas hadn’t exactly been to Riku’s enjoyment. He’d stormed off, embarrassed, and they’d had a fight afterward when Vanitas left.

“Rikuuuuu,” Sora calls and steps outside where he sees Riku throwing a stick for his dogs. “Come back inside. Vanitas is gone.”

“Good,” Riku mutters.

“Hey, that’s not nice.”

“You know what isn’t nice, Sora? Talking about me like I’m a piece of meat, that’s what isn’t nice,” Riku snaps and Sora is surprised to hear him so agitated. Riku is usually a closed book, never showing his real emotions. Hearing him angry is somewhat relieving but also, he’s not sure how to deal with this new side of him.

“I’m sorry,” he says slowly, fingers tapping together nervously. “It was a compliment.”

“I don’t like being talked about, Sora. How would you feel if I just had an open conversation about your body at your parents’ house? It was embarrassing.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d get upset!”

“You didn’t think I’d get upset? I asked you to stop!”

“Riku, I need to sit down, can we go back inside and talk about this?” he asks, anxiety making him short of breath which is alarming and tiring. “Please?”

“I don’t want to talk. Do what you want, Sora, I’m going home.”

“But Riku–.”

“I’ll text you later.”

Fighting with Riku hurt and for three days he didn't hear from him until Riku showed up on his parents’ doorstep with flowers and a sad look on his face. He’d shamefully apologized for being immature and asked Sora to forgive him for having such a short fuse. It won’t happen again , Riku had promised. In the weeks following, Riku had been there for him 110% and Sora’s never been more grateful to have someone so wonderful in his life.

They sit together in the waiting room, Sora refusing to let go of his hand before he’s called back. He goes through the whole spiel with the nurse – weight, height, standard questions – and then there’s more waiting. Having to go to so many doctors, Sora is used to waiting. Riku isn’t as patient but he sits on a chair and flips through a magazine to kill time.

“Sorry,” Sora says while he sits in a hospital gown, swinging his legs casually. He’s glad they let him keep his socks on because his feet are always cold.

“For what?” Riku asks, eyes still on the magazine.

“For making you wait with me.”

“Hey, I said I wanted to wait, I don't mind. It’s not your fault they’re always behind.”

“You’re so good to me, Riku, I love you.” Sora smiles and Riku smiles back.

“I love you, too, Sora.”

There’s a knock on the door and Dr. Zexion comes bustling in after, holding Sora’s chart, and offering smiles. “Sora, it’s good to see you. How are you doing? How’s the valve?”

“I feel good,” Sora replies. “Haven’t had any issues.”

Good . Your tests look excellent, your bloodwork is perfect so this should be a quick visit. I’ll just have a listen here and answer any questions for you.”

Sora nods and holds still while Dr. Zexion listens to his heart and lungs, hoping everything checks out okay. Dr. Zexion listens for a while and then pulls back, a smile on his face. “Am I good?” Sora asks.

“You sound wonderful. I’m so glad… Do you have any questions for me?”

“Is it okay to have sex?” Sora asks bluntly and Riku drops his magazine as he startles. “I mean, we haven’t had sex yet ever but I was wondering if it would be okay to do that kind of stuff after surgery.”

“Sora,” Riku whispers, face bright red.

Dr. Zexion chuckles. “It’s alright, this is a very common question. Things sound very good and your incision looks as if it’s healing well. Every patient is different but you’re young, you’re healthy, so I would say it would be fine for you to resume or, in this case, start sexual activity as long as you don’t put too much strain on your chest at the incision site, as it’s still healing. Obviously, if you feel out of breath, light-headed, or chest pain, I would stop and you can give us a call and we can do some tests. But otherwise, yes Sora, I believe you may start sexual activity.”

Riku is red, hiding his face in his hands, while Sora smiles at Dr. Zexion. “Great,” he says and feels his smile widen. ‘That’s the only question I had.”

“Okay, perfect. I will see you again in a few weeks to do another checkup. You two have a good day.”

“We will!” Sora waves and Dr. Zexion steps out so he can redress.

Sora ,” Riku gasps but Sora rolls his eyes while sliding off of the exam table.

“What? Don’t you want to have sex?”

“Well, yes , I would love to do that with you but–.”

“I had to ask before jumping into it,” Sora argues quickly. “It’s okay, he’s a doctor, I’m sure he gets weirder questions every day.”

Riku sighs and runs a hand over his face but is quiet while Sora redresses. They go out to the car and Sora smiles when he sees Riku is still pink-cheeked. So easily embarrassed; he likes how flustered Riku can be at the drop of a hat.

“You were so good,” Sora says after they’re back in the car. “I definitely want to treat you.”

“Treat me?”

“Yeah.”

“How?” Riku asks.

“With a blowjob.”

Riku slams on the brakes which makes them both jerk forward and Sora is glad they’re still in the parking lot. “With what ?!” he squeaks, voice rising in pitch.

“A blowjob– you know, I suck your dick and–.”

I know what a blowjob is, Sora .”

“Oh, you seemed confused so I was just trying to make it more clear for you,” he replies and shrugs.

“I am confused. I’m confused because you’ve never made a single sexual advance in your entire life. I didn’t think you knew what a blowjob really was until just five seconds ago.”

Sora rolls his eyes. “I watch porn, Riku. I’m not an innocent baby lost in the woods. I watch porn, I masturbate, and I have naughty dreams. Just because I teach pre-schoolers, doesn’t mean I am one.”

Riku stammers a few times as he tries to catch up to what is being said. “You… masturbate,” he says slowly.

“Yes?”

“....when?”

“What?”

“When do you do that?”

Sora snorts and rolls his eyes upward to meet Jesus. Riku must see him as a child, too, or maybe he’s being dirty. “Kind of want to suck you off right now, since you’re so shocked. May as well prove it.”

Riku’s eyes widen slowly to the point where he can see whites all the way around and his pupils restrict like a cat before dilating to swallow the green. “I’m sorry, you want to do what ? Where ?!”

Sora smirks and leans over into Riku’s space, taking off his seatbelt so he can crowd him against the door. He tilts Riku’s chin up and kisses his lips slowly and light at first until Riku submits and lets the kiss deepen. Hearing Riku moans makes Sora weak in the knees so he’s glad he’s sitting. When they part, Riku’s cheeks are rosy and his lips perfectly swollen. He’s the picture of beauty.

“I said, I want to suck your cock in the car,” Sora repeats slower and soft. “But I’ll wait since it’s my first time. Don’t want to choke or cause a car accident.”

“I’m gonna pass out,” Riku mutters.

“You want me to drive?” Sora asks.

“No– no, I can, uh, I can drive.”

“Okay.” Sora side-eyes him but they start up again, driving in tense silence back to Sora’s apartment. He skips inside, rushing over to his plants to give them some water, and when he turns around Riku is there, standing a little too close. “Did you forget about personal space, Riku?”

“I don't want to force you into bed,” Riku says quickly, face turning red again.

“You’re not.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he amends slowly. “I mean, I am– I do have a large dick, okay?” Riku shifts and looks completely embarrassed and ashamed, eyes casting downward; thick beautiful lashes make Sora’s palms sweat. He’s so beautiful.

“Does it embarrass you?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I dunno, it just does.” He rubs the back of his neck but Sora leans up to smooch his nose. “Hey–.”

“I love you and I want to make you happy. Will it make you happy?”

“God, yes, but Sora–.”

“Then, I want to.” Sora wraps his arms around Riku’s waist and nuzzles under his chin. “Please?”

Fuck ,” Riku whines. “Okay, fine.”

He squeezes Riku tightly and smiles. “Go be comfortable.”

Riku wanders over to the bed, head ducked, and face red on the way over but seeing him so flushed only makes Sora smile more. He watches Riku take his shirt off which alone is worth every hesitant moment between them. Riku’s pecs bounce . His mouth waters in response.

Pavlovian.

Shirt off, Riku pauses at his jeans before stripping them down and sitting on the bed in just his underwear. He looks nervous, wringing his hands, and seeming completely unsure about the whole thing. Sora walks over to Riku and bends down to kiss him on the mouth, tilting him back until he’s lying on his back, head on the pillows. Beneath him, Riku’s body trembles with the lightest sensation but Sora kisses away his anxiety.

“I’m nervous,” Riku admits and there is shame in his eyes. “I don’t know why, I’ve done this before.”

“It’s okay,” Sora whispers back. “I’m nervous, too.  I haven’t done this before.”

“You don’t have to, Sora, really, we can just watch–.”

Sora cuts Riku off with another kiss. “I want to. Just lie still.” He takes his time to kiss down Riku’s jaw, neck, and over his chest.

“Oh, fuck,” Riku gasps and Sora smiles when he realizes he’s making Riku fall apart with just a few kisses. “You are so sexy, Sora.”

“Am not,” Sora refutes but he places a wet kiss n Riku’s stomach over his belly button. The rumble of Riku’s laugh makes him giggle too. Unsurprisingly, Riku is ticklish so Sora gives him a raspberry over his stomach. Another laughing fit; music to Sora’s ears. He nuzzles him after and slowly lifts his eyes to where Riku is smiling, face flushed.

“You are, too.”

Sora shakes his head and continues his way south. Riku’s heady scent slithers up his nose while he works his underwear down, mouth watering when he sees Riku’s cock. Tip flushed and already weeping, the foreskin rolling back as he grows further aroused. Sora feels a fire building in his gut but he doesn’t hesitate before licking up Riku’s entire length. Listening to Riku moan after makes a shiver run down his spine.

“Good?” Sora asks and lets the heavy length rest on his tongue.

Riku nods, flushing down to his belly button. “Fuck, yes,” Riku mumbles. Black pupils swallow up the green of Riku’s eyes in arousal and Sora smiles knowing he’s making Riku happy.

“Okay.” Sora returns to licking since he’s a little intimidated about putting Riku in his mouth. He’s not overly long but he’s thick; he can already feel his jaw aching with the anticipation. Vanitas’ suggestion of doing jaw exercises probably hadn’t been a joke. The salty taste of precum fills his mouth and Sora moans at the pleasure running between his own thighs.

He hadn’t expected Riku to taste so good .

“You taste really yummy,” Sora says. “Kinda like oranges.”

Riku blushes and covers his face with both of his hands. “I eat a lot of fruit.”

“Mmm, thanks.”

“Welcome.” Riku keeps his face hidden while his thighs tense and Sora can feel his cock throb on his tongue. “Fuck, I’m gonna blow, I’m sorry, it’s gonna be quick.”

“It’s okay.” Sora dares to pop the head into his mouth to suck, swirling his tongue over the wet slit. Riku moans louder and Sora watches his stomach tense and hitch with each breath. He works his hands over what is not in his mouth. Goosebumps raise beneath his fingertips when he brushes his fingers over Riku’s thighs and hips.

“Jesus Christ,” Riku gasps and his fingers twitch helplessly on the bed. He digs hard into the sheets. “I”m gonna cum. I’m gonna cum–.”

Sora pulls back so he doesn’t choke and lets Riku cum over his tongue, mouth open. He laughs when Riku’s load paints his face, too, squinting so he doesn’t end up with any in his eyes. He can hear Riku apologizing between whimpers but Sora is too focused on licking his lips and trying to lap up as much as he can.

“Yummy,” Sora says.

“I”m sorry,” Riku pants again. “I didn’t mean–.”

“Shh.  Don’t say sorry. I wanted you to do that, remember? That’s why I’m down here.” Sora kisses Riku’s flagging cock and then his thigh.

“I didn't mean to make a mess n your face like that.” Riku slides his fingers down and tilts his chin so he can see the mess in a better light. “Shit, you’re a wreck.”

Sora smiles and giggles in response. He would gladly be coated in Riku’s cum any day. “Did you feel good?”

He nods. “Yeah.”

“Good.”

“Your turn?” Riku asks and his eyes are shy while his face is bright red. “I’ll do you, too.”

Please ,” Sora begs while sitting up on his knees to shove his shorts and underwear down to reveal his own aching dick. He’s not nearly as large as Riku but from the look on Riku’s face, he doesn’t care.

“Fuck, look at you, baby,” Riku replies. He scrambles to sit up and shift around until he can wrap his mouth around Sora with enthusiasm.

Sora’s eyes widen when Riku doesn’t even hesitate and a soft, surprised moan makes his hips twitch. Riku’s hands shove his shorts down so he can grab the meat of Sora’s ass, pulling him nice and close. The pleasurable fire grows tenfold and Sora holds onto Riku’s hair for balance, moaning and whimpering so softly. He’s not as loud as Riku but each new sensation is lighting up every synapse in Sora’s brain.

Riku ,” Sora gasps. “I’m–.”

Riku sucks harder, bobbing his head as if he’s an expert on blowjobs. Maybe he is; Sora has no idea how many blowjobs Riku has given but he’s glad he seems to know what he’s doing. His own whimpering grows louder the closer he reaches the peak and when Riku’s hands squeeze his ass insistently, Sora stumbles over and cums.

Loudly.

Riku startles and pulls back, his own face quickly covered in cum while Sora moans and rocks his hips in desperation. He wants to shove right back into Riku’s mouth but he holds back the animalistic instinct because it would be rude without permission.

Wow ,” Sora gasps.

“Yeah,” Riku pants. “Fuck.”

They both relax and pant while they regain their composure but when Riku rises up also on his knees, and they kiss, Sora can feel the urge to keep fucking building. He slides his hands down Riku’s back to his ass to squeeze and grind together. Riku’s hands are not idle and he lifts Sora’s shirt off so they can be skin to skin. Sora blushes in shame when he notes how much larger Riku is than him in every respect. Riku has more muscle definition than anyone else he knows and he doesn’t have a scar on his chest from heart surgery.

“Wow,” Riku whispers. “You’re beautiful, Sora Tetuanui.”

Tears.

They form quickly in Sora’s eyes and he throws his arms around Riku’s neck to nuzzle against him. “I love you, Riku.”

“I love you, too.”

“I’m ready. I want you so much. Please?” Sora nuzzles and kisses Riku’s jaw, hoping he’s still in the mood. He’s so horny he can feel the desire to crawl out of his skin.

“Y-yeah, okay,” Riku whispers. “I should get a condom–.”

“I want to fuck you,” Sora says which makes Riku’s eyebrows go up. “Unless you want to fuck me–.”

“No,” Riku says quickly. “I would love to let you do me, Sora. I shouldn’t have assumed.” Riku’s face turns bright red again. “I wore condoms with the other guys I was with, I swear. I made them wrap it up and I did, too.”

Sora nods. “I should probably still…”

“Right–. Okay.”  Riku nods and turns to start digging through the nightstand drawers until he can produce a condom. “Here.”

Sora snorts and takes them. “I didn’t buy these.”

“I did,” Riku admits. “I figured, just in case, we should have some on hand… I was going to keep them at my place but I’ve been here a lot so-.”

“It’s okay,” Sora teases gently. “I don’t mind that you were prepared.”

“Do you know how to put it on? I can– I can put it on you.” Riku coughs and sits back on his haunches. “Wait.”

“What?” Sora asks while finally discarding the remaining bits of clothing still attached to his ankles.

“Lube.”

“Yes?”

“Do we have some?”

“You bought condoms but didn’t get lube?” Sora asks and Riku shrugs and turns red. “Riku!”

“I didn’t think that far!” Riku replies. “Sorry.”

“So, now we have to go the store. C’mon.” He turns to redress, not bothering with underwear, just pulling on his shorts and t-shirt. “Get dressed.”

“You can’t just go?” Riku asks. “I’m already naked.”

“I don’t know what kind you want!”

“Just… normal?” Riku asks but Sora rolls his eyes while sliding his feet into sandals.

“Fine. I’ll be back. Don’t get started without me.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Sir . Riku calling him sir is definitely sending him tingles and sensations he doesn’t quite understand but Sora dashes out to the car so he can hopefully make this drug store run quick. He doesn’t want to lose any horny on the way back to the apartment. CVS’ parking lot is pretty empty when he leaps out of the car to hurry inside and find the good stuff. He walks up and down the aisles, eyes scanning over the colored boxes and bottles of makeup and shampoo until he feels a little overwhelmed by how many items he has to go through to find what he wants.

“Sora?”

The voice startles him but he spins around, completely shocked but immediately happy to see who is standing there in the CVS. “Isa!” The mission forgotten, Sora rushes up to throw his arms around him tightly. “You’re okay!”

“Hi,” Isa says and pats his back lightly. “You look lost.”

“Oh, um, I’m looking for something,” Sora replies and blushes. “I didn’t think you were out yet? I’m… I heard about what happened and I’m really glad to see you’re okay.”

Isa nods and squeezes his shoulder. “I heard about your surgery, too. I am also glad to see you’re doing well. I came home a couple of days ago, I just am here to find some cold medicine. I think I caught something at the hospital. Ironically.” Isa rolls his eyes but Sora takes a step back. “Sorry. SHould have warned you.”

“It’s okay,” Sora replies. “Did you get Jelly from Roxas?”

“I’m going over there soon,” Isa replies. “I wanted to settle in and make sure I was alright before I went to pick her up. I think I’m going to move, actually, so I may ask Roxas to hang onto her while I find somewhere new. The old place has too many bad memories.”

“Oh,” Sora says quietly. “I understand. If you want help finding a place, I can help!”

Isa smiles. “I would love that.”

“Okay… Um, I forgot why I came in here.” Sora taps his chin while he tries to think on why he came to CVS to begin with but it must have not been important because he has no idea. “Oh well.”

Isa chuckles. “Do you want to get lunch sometime? If you’re busy now–.”

“Oh!!” Sora gasps as he remembers naked Riku at home. Right, lube. He came here for lube. “Oh, wait, I know why I came here. I was getting lube– Riku and I were going to have sex and then we realized we don’t have lube so we can’t.”

Isa blinks and seems surprised but he shrugs and guides Sora to the right aisle. “Right here.”

“Hey, thanks.” Sora scans over the prices and bottles and picks up something basic. “Um… Are you still talking to Vanitas?”

Isa’s fingers brush over bottles and packages while he avoids eye contact. “Not right now, Sora.”

“It’s okay if you’re not… Roxas said you guys were fighting.”

“How does Roxas know?” Isa asks, a frown creasing his brows together.

“Well, it’s sort of hard to hide anything in this group,” Sora points out. “Also, I just… sort of figured it had to do with him. I mean, you were doing well until you met him.”

Isa sighs and his shoulders slump. “I suppose this is a small area in comparison to the mainland.”

“I’m sorry, I won’t ask again–.”

“It’s alright, Sora.” Isa shakes his head and waves a hand in dismissal. “No, I am not talking to Vanitas right now. I need to step back and he needs to work on himself. I know now what happened between us but I realize I may have pushed him too quickly. That’s on me and I should probably stay away for a while.”

“I understand,” Sora mutters. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright.”

“Do you still like him?”

“Yes.”

He nods and hopes Vanitas knows Isa still cares about him. “Are you going to stay on the island?”

“Maybe,” Isa replies. “I’m not sure yet but probably. I have bad memories in both places so I suppose it would best to stay here. Axel would kick my ass if I moved to the mainland while he was in rehab.”

Sora smiles. “Yeah, he’d be sad.”

“Well, I should get going and you should, too, since you have someone waiting for you.” Isa winks and Sora jumps back into action. Isa is right, Riku is waiting.

“Bye, Isa!”

“Bye, Sora.”

Sora gives him one more hug and runs up to the front to buy the bottle of lube and head back home. Riku is lounging on the bed, scrolling on his phone when Sora bursts back into the apartment out of breath. “Sorry,” he gasps. “I ran into Isa and I started talking to him. Almost forgot why I went there to begin with.”

Riku snorts. “Is he okay?”

“He’s doing better, I think.” Sora nods. “Are we still in the mood?”

Riku snorts. “Mmm, I hope so.”

“As long as you are,” Sora replies with a smile. “Please say you are.”

Riku nods. “I’m dying over here, please, Sora.” He opens his arms and Sora eagerly bounces over to hand him the CVS bag.

“Next time, you can come with me and keep me on task because I almost left without it.” Sora snorts and hopes Riku doesn’t start to question why they’re even together when he can’t even remember one simple task.

Riku chuckles but he opens the box and bottle to start spreading some on his fingers. “Uh, while you were away I tried to get creative to finger myself open a little bit, uh, saliva isn’t as good as this stuff.”

Sora’s eyes widen when Riku shifts on the bed and he’s able to watch Riku tease and rub his rim. His cock is at immediate attention and he bites his knuckles while Riku sinks, one, two, and then three fingers inside, panting and whimpering while he stretches himself open.

Oh my God .

“Wow,” Sora whispers, eyes on Riku’s fingers sinking in and out, stretching, and pulling at his rim until he’s sloppy and wet.

“You want– me – to put– the condom on– you?” Riku pants, pulling his fingers free with a wet pop.

He nods and finally snaps together long enough to take his clothes off and toss them aside, standing at the end of the bed, uncertain and nervous. He’s hard and already dripping which is a bit embarrassing. This first time will not last long at all so he hopes they both have a good time while they can. Riku grabs the condom wrapper to rip open and Sora whimpers when he rolls it on. He has a brief moment of wondering if maybe he’s allergic to latex but then it’s too late.

“Good?” Riku asks while shifting back to lie on his back. “How do you want me? Like this or I can roll over.”

“Whatever is most comfortable for you,” Sora replies.

“Okay.” Riku turns around and Sora blushes when he’s soon ass up and there is no denying Riku is open and ready . “Fuck, hurry up. Please– sorry– sorry, fuck, this isn’t romantic at all, God, I’m so sorry–.”

“It’s okay,” Sora replies while lining up and hoping all he has to do is push in and go like a coin slot. His mind races back to sex ed but their sex ed included something about a banana and condoms which he can’t quite remember. They never discussed gay sex, either. Just the guy slots into girl – but they shouldn’t, they should abstain.

Riku’s moaning brings him back into the moment and his eyes widen while he watches his cock disappear inside until he’s at the base. “ Fuck ,” Riku moans into the bed. “You feel so good.”

“I don’t know how long it’ll last–.”

“Don’t care. Just fuck me.”

Sora nods and slides his hips backward almost all of the way out and then back inside. At first, he’s slow and clumsy because he has no idea what he’s doing but the pleasure and listening to Riku pant and moan lands him into a steady rhythm. Definitely easier than riding a bike or driving a car. He bites his bottom lip to keep his own sounds inside because he’d rather hear Riku.

The fire returns to his stomach so hot and bright he has to hold back as hard as he can. Toes curling, Sora fucks Riku faster, listening to how Riku hasn’t stopped moaning. His fingers dig into Riku’s hips and he can’t help but watch the way his ass bounces. His heart pounds away in his chest but he doesn’t feel lightheaded or sick; of course, if this is how he was going to go, he wouldn’t complain whatsoever. Finally, a small moan slips free and he knows he’s moments before the fireworks.

“Don’t stop, I’m so close,” Riku pants. “Fuck.”

“I don’t know if I can hold it,” Sora whispers.

Riku grunts in frustration but Sora can feel him shift to jerk his cock quicker. “Fuck. Fuck, I wanna cum. I wanna cum so bad.”

He speeds up, fucking Riku harder into the bed, desperate to help him cross the finish line first. What kind of boyfriend is he if he can’t make his partner cum? His fingers dig harder into Riku’s hips and he tries to go harder, faster, making the bed squeak and rock against the wall. Riku cries out loudly and he feels his hole spasm hard enough to make his own orgasm follow. Sora stares down at Riku breathing hard and for a moment, struggles to catch his breath.

Panic settles in his body as he thinks he’s about to have a heart episode, still encased in Riku and a condom, while Riku recovers from an orgasm. I don’t want to go this way, I take it back . Anxiety grips his gut and chest hard, making breathing even harder, and the pleasure of orgasm fades too fast. He pulls out and stumbles back off of the bed, falling off entirely, and crashing on the floor onto his butt.

“Fuck, Sora–.” Riku sits up and turns around, peering over the edge of the bed at him. “Are you okay? Did you just fall?”

Sora blushes and nods while he stays panting on the floor. “Sorry.”

Riku pauses and then bursts into a giggle fit, burying his face in the bed while he laughs. He rolls his eyes but listening to Riku laugh and laugh makes him smile, too. His heart slows down to a normal pace and Riku’s giggling cures his anxiety like medicine. He sits up and sits with his back to the bed, head next to where Riku is still laying an egg.

“Yes, yes, very funny,” Sora says. “You laying an egg or something?”

Riku only laughs harder, rolling over onto his back to laugh until tears stream down his face and his belly is completely relaxed and soft. “Sorry,” he gasps. “Fuck, sorry.”

Eventually, the laughter fades and Riku is left to wipe his face and try not to start all over again. Sora looks over at him and kisses his temple. “Love you.”

“God, I love you, too,” Riku gasps. “You okay, though, for real?”

‘Yeah, I’m fine, I’m just a klutz.” No reason to worry Riku about a small episode.

“Okay. Good.” He smiles and finally looks over, face soft and happy. “You’re my everything, Sora, I hope you know that. My sunshine.”

Sora blushes and knocks their foreheads together. “My moon and stars.”

“Did you just Game of Thrones me?” Riku asks with a soft laugh.

“Shhhh.”

They both fall into another giggle fit and soon Sora climbs back into the bed so they can cuddle together. Everything feels familiar and good. Nothing can harm them here.

Chapter Text

“You should go outside, enjoy the sunshine.”

Axel shrugs while the nurse checks his vitals and makes sure he takes the medication they have him on for depression and anxiety. She’s probably right and he should go outside to enjoy the sun and nice weather but he hasn’t been able to enjoy himself in weeks. He’s not even sure what day of rehab he’s on or how close he is to the finish line. He’s done detoxing and done with hospital care but now they have him focusing on recovery.

“Come on, I’ll walk you outside.” She holds out her hand which he reluctantly takes and they head outside to where there is already a group of patients playing volleyball, others sitting in the shade of the trees, and he can see Vanitas sitting at a picnic table. Demyx is with him but Vanitas is just sitting and staring at the table so eventually, Demyx walks away.

Part of him wants to walk up to Vanitas and choke him because Roxas shared the letter Isa left with him and he knows, in part, Vanitas is to blame for Isa almost dying. He hates the little fucker but he refuses to mess up his own chances of freedom by being violent. Instead, he goes to sit at another picnic table to watch the volleyball game.

“Axel?”

The voice makes him gasp and he spins around, tears automatically filing his eyes when they land on Isa. “Isa!”

Isa’s smile is soft and he opens his arms to let Axel leap and launch over for a hug. “I’m so sorry,” Isa gasps while Axel breaks down into sobs. “God, I’m so sorry, Axel.”

I’m sorry,” he gasps. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you needed to be.”

“You’re getting better ,” Isa whispers. “Okay? You’re getting better and how could I be mad at you for that?”

“I should have been there,” Axel insists. “I would have-.”

“I know. I’m not angry with you, Axel,” Isa whispers. “Please know that. I’m proud of you for getting better. I’m so proud of you.” He squeezes Axel and slowly steps back so they can look each other in the eye. “I’m doing good… What about you?”

Axel nods. “I’m here,” he replies. “I’m trying, Is’.”

“Good. That’s all you can do, Axel. Try and better yourself. That’s what I’m doing every day.”

“What about your dog?”

“Roxas has her still. I asked him to hold onto her, I’m looking for a new place to live… The old place is… tainted now. I want to go live somewhere else.” Isa knocks their foreheads together and Axel smiles in return. “I’m so proud of you right now.”

“I’m proud of you, too, Isa… Being here. Knowing what you know.”

Isa frowns and tilts his head. “What?”

Axel glances over his shoulder and feels Isa’s gaze follow over to where Vanitas is sitting motionless. “It’s his fault, isn’t it, Isa?”

“Axel–.”

“He caused this whole fucking thing.” Their gazes meet again when Axel swings back around. “You give me the word and I’ll kick his ass.”

No .” Isa squeezes his shoulders hard. “Leave Vanitas alone. It wasn’t just him… It was a lot of things added together. Leave him be, please.”

Axel shakes his head and looks away. “Fine.”

“Thank you.”

“So, let’s talk,” Axel gestures to the picnic table. “Catch up.”

Isa nods but Axel can see his eyes returning to Vanitas. “Sure.”

“Go talk to him, Isa, if it’s bothering you so much.”

“I can’t–.”

“I’ll go with you.”

Isa stammers but Axel starts to steer him over before he can protest. “Axel!”

“C’mon.” Axel pushes Isa along and makes him sit down across from Vanitas at the table. “Hey, four eyes.”

“Axel, stop–.”

Vanitas doesn’t flinch or look up at first; his gaze remains on the table before slowly flicking up to them.

“I’m sorry,” Isa says quickly. “We didn’t mean to bother you, Vanitas.”

“Yes we did,” Axel replies.

Isa sighs. “Axel–.”

“He wants to talk to you,” he cuts Isa off. “I’m just backup. I’m sure he has a lot to say.”

Vanitas’ eyes go from Isa to him and then back to Isa but he stays quiet. Axel watches him place his hands on the table and feels his skin crawl. Something is so off putting about Vanitas. Maybe it’s because he’s psychotic. He’d heard what he did to a girl’s face. Not to mention lighting a house on fire to kill himself and his stalking victim.

Isa swallows and looks uncomfortable. “I just… I wanted to see how you were doing.”

“How he’s doing?” Axel whispers. “What about how you’re doing, Isa! He broke you–.”

“Axel, that’s enough.” Isa holds up his hand to stop him from going further but Axel continues to chomp the bit. “We haven’t talked in a while and I wanted to be sure you’re okay. I ran into Minnie on the way in, she said you stopped going to group. You refuse.”

“Oh, that sounds healthy,” Axel mutters.

Axel .”

Vanitas turns his hands so his palms are upright but he doesn’t say anything at first. The no talking schtick slips under Axel’s skin and digs but he holds back his opinion for the moment. Isa shifts in his seat and the level of discomfort rises.

“I’ve almost robbed the world of two people,” Vanitas replies, voice quiet and a little hoarse from misuse. “Two people who are better than me. I am never leaving this place.”

“Vanitas–,” Isa goes to argue but Vanitas keeps speaking.

“I cannot be trusted in the real world because when I go into the real world, I poison it. I know now that I am evil and I am the one who never be better. I am sorry, Isa, for the pain I caused you. Just as I am sorry for the pain I caused Ventus and I am sure the pain I have caused my real family knowing they birthed a psychotic freak.”

“You are not those things,” Isa says in his firm, teaching voice. “Vanitas, we had a fight. I… I took your words and I internalized them. That is on me… Yes, it was on you to say them but it was on me, too, to get better. To stop caring so deeply for how the world sees me.”

“I know it’s my fault,” Vanitas whispers.

“No–.”

“Yes. It’s okay. Let me take that blame. It’s the least I can do.” Vanitas stands and Isa looks up at him, lost and sad. “I’ll die here. It’s okay. Everything is okay.”

“Vanitas–.”

“I really did like you,” He whispers. “I never knew what it was like to honestly enjoy someone so much. I thought I liked Ventus but that was fabricated… The feelings for you… they were real. Thank you for letting me have them for a while. I felt human.”

Isa stammers but Vanitas is walking away and they’re both left to sit and feel speechless. Isa looks over at him and then he’s up and going after Vanitas. Axel slowly sinks down onto the picnic bench and sighs. Nothing in his life can ever just be simple.


 

Just walk up to the door and ring the bell. This is not a big deal. If she isn’t home, she isn’t home.

Xion takes a deep breath and marches up to the door to ring the bell hoping this isn’t the worst idea they’ve had in a while. For a moment, there is only silence but then Xion’s ears pick up some noise within and the door swings open. They force a smile to their face and held up a bottle of wine in one hand and glasses in the other.

“I thought we could hang out,” they say.

Aqua’s eyebrows raise. “Oh,” she says. “Okay. Yeah. Come in.”

Xion’s smile relaxes and they step into Aqua’s apartment to follow her to the couch so they can pour some wine and sit together. Her coffee table is covered in files and newspaper clippings and there’s a half eaten box of pizza on the couch.

“Sorry,” Aqua gasps while shoving everything to the side. “I’m a mess right now.”

“I figured,” Xion replies. “I mean, you kind of disappeared after Isa.”

“I know… I… blame me for what happened. If I’d just spoken to him sooner.” Aqua shakes her head and pinches the bridge of her nose. “I’m surprised he hasn’t sued me for negligence or something. I was unprofessional and I’m… reconsidering my line of work. I’m just going through my files to find everyone a good referral.”

“You’re quitting?” Xion asks, completely shocked.

“I almost killed my patient, Xion. I know you can’t save everyone but Isa was absolutely saveable. I fucked up. That’s on me.” Aqua sighs and drinks half the glass before Xion pours her some more. “Thanks.”

“What are you going to do then?” Xion asks, sitting beside her and genuinely curious.

“I have no idea,” Aqua replies. “Something not psych related because apparently, I suck.”

“Aqua–.”

“No, I do. I suck… I shouldn't be a therapist. Maybe I’ll go back to school. I don’t know.” Aqua shakes her head and Xion notes her hair is longer now, so easy to braid, and her sweater keeps sliding off of her shoulder. Xion has to fight an urge to lean over to kiss her exposed skin.

“Well, I think whatever thing you do next, you’ll do better,” Xion says. “I really do think that.”

“Thanks.” Aqua smiles and leans her head back on the couch while she sips her wine. “You’re so sweet, Xion. I’m glad you came by… I feel like we both experienced that trauma together. You know?”

“We did,” Xion replies.

“Right.”

Xion reaches over to rub Aqua’s thigh. “I, um, I didn’t just come here to comfort you… or say hi, I admit.”

“You need something?” Aqua asks immediately and Xion feels their heart shatter at how selfless Aqua can be at times.

“No,” they reply. “No… um… I came by because I thought, maybe….” Xion pauses and wonders if showing is easier than telling. They lean into Aqua’s space and slowly press their lips to hers. Their heart races with anxiety but when Aqua doesn’t push them back, they slide their hand to Aqua’s hip and deepen the kiss.

When Xion is ready to push Aqua’s thigh open, they feel Aqua’s fingers tighten in their shirt and push them back, breaking the kiss. “ What are you doing?” Aqua gasps.

“I… I thought…” Xion trails off. “Was I wrong?”

“About what ? I barely know you, Xion. We aren’t extremely close just because we saw a man almost die together.” Aqua stands up and puts distance between them.

“I thought you were gay.” Xion blushes at their faux pax and wonders if their life can dip to any other further low. “I’m sorry if I was wrong.”

“Even if you aren’t wrong, what makes you think I want to just hook up right now?” Aqua demands. “I… I thought we were just friends, Xion. I mean, we weren’t close friends but we aren’t like just casual acquaintances either.” Aqua wraps her arms around her middle. “Why did you think I wanted to just hook up?!”

“I’m sorry ,” Xion insists. “I was lonely, okay? I’m lonely. I thought you were gay, I think you’re beautiful and sweet. I figured you were lonely, too, and we could… Not be lonely together.”

Aqua shakes her head and pushes her hair out of her face. “Look, I appreciate the sentiment but I can find my own dates, okay? I don’t need you to come over here and just… You should go.”

Xion sighs and slowly stands up, leaving the wine for Aqua. “I’m sorry,” they whisper but see themselves out. Aqua shuts the door firmly and Xion slowly makes their way to the car to drive home. At the end of the street, turn right to go home or turn left to go downtown and find a bar to bury themselves in a glass.

No one else on the quiet street, Xion turns left. Maybe they’ll find a hookup at the gay bar who can remember their pronouns. The bar is packed but Xion makes their way up to the one empty stool and plops down to order a whiskey sour. Not their favorite drink but they need something to take the edge off. The bartender slides them the drink and Xion brings it to their lips.

Stupid to think Aqua would be interested.

Stupid to think they could find someone better than Kairi.

Stupid to think at all.

So, no thinking. Just drinking. Xion tips back the first and orders a second. Third. Fourth.

By the fifth, they can barely stay on the stool and the bartender cuts them off, and sends them water. Xion sips the water and eats from a bowl of peanuts offered. Their life is pathetic. They cheated on their girlfriend twice with the same girl and then didn’t even stay with Naminé. They wonder what Naminé  is doing now – probably having sex because she’s beautiful and anyone would be lucky to have her.

“Stupid,” Xion whispers and pops another peanut into their mouth. “Fucking stupid.”

“You having a shit night, too?”

Xion slowly looks over at their intruder to tell them to fuck off because the night is not the night. “Not in the mood.”

The man sitting beside her is handsome but older. He chuckles and sips his drink solemnly. “Break up with your partner?”

“Weeks ago,” Xion replies. “You?”

He nods. “Dumped me for a younger model.”

Xion snorts. “Sucks.”

“Yes, it does. My name is Diz. What is your name?”

“Xion.”

Diz offers his hand and Xion accepts slowly. “Nice to meet you, Xion. I’m sorry it was under such poor circumstances.”

Xion shrugs. “Eh. Whatever. Life sucks.”

“Yes,” Diz whispers. “You remind me of someone I used to know… You look… so much like her.”

“Who?”

“My granddaughter.”

Xion frowns, starting to feel a little creeped out. “I should get going.” They can’t drive right now but they can always call Roxas and pay for his Uber to get here.

“I’ll walk you out. I don’t think a young woman like yourself should be out late alone.” Diz slides off his stool while Xion pulls away.

“I’m fine,” they say even while their legs sway. They stumble into the crowd and hope they lose the weird old man while trying to text Roxas but the world is fuzzy.

“Xion!” Diz calls over the music but Xion walks after, trying to disappear.

They burst back out onto the street and rush toward where they parked across the street. Their feet tangle and they almost fall but someone’s hand grabs them and keeps them from breaking their nose on the concrete. “Thanks,” they gasp and turn around, only to see Diz brushing them off. They snap back, pulling frm him. “Go away.”

“I just want to help you,” Diz whispers.

“Okay, well go away.” They turn to look for their phone but Diz is pulling them back out of the street. “Hey, stop, let go!”

“Shh, it’s alright. You’re very drunk.” Diz helps them sit down on a bench. “Do you have someone I can call for you?”

“No!” Xion shoves them away and starts to half run and half stumble down the street. Diz calls for them but they rush down a dark corridor to escape him. With Diz gone, Xion relaxes and slowly turns back around to head back out of the alley so they can find their phone. They go to step back onto the sidewalk when a noise makes them startle and they spin back around to see someone standing in the dark.

“Um, I’m sorry,” Xion says. “I’ll get out of your way.” Xion turns back around and prepares to run. A hand slithers around their arm.

 


 

A gray sky blanketing the island and threatening rain feel as heavy as Roxas’ heart as he walks into the center on a Friday morning. He knows visiting hours aren’t for a few hours but he approaches the nurse’s station anyway.

“Can I help you?” the first nurse asks.

“Yeah, I need to speak with Axel.”

“I’m sorry, visiting hours aren’t for three hours.”

“I know but it’s really important,” he insists, voice wavering on breaking. “It’s about a friend of ours.”

He doesn’t want to spread the news all over town but he’s sure as soon as they watch the new they’ll see it just as he did this morning. He’d called the police station to confirm the information and they asked him if Xion had any family. As far as he knew, Xion didn’t have family and the only people they had were their friends.

“I’m sorry but–.”

“They’re dead,” he spits out, voice cold and harsh. “Our friend is dead, so please, let me talk to him now before he sees it on TV.”

The nurse stares at him for a moment and then nods, leaning over to make him a nametag and lets him sign in. Someone else escorts him back to Axel’s room and they knock a few times before Axel finally appears, looking unhappy to be woken up so early. His face clears, however, when he sees Roxas.

“Roxas, what are you doing here?”

“I need to talk to you, Axel,” he whispers. “I… I have bad news.”

“What?” Axel asks.

The nurse leaves them and Roxas has to steel himself for a moment. He’d cried the entire way to the center after speaking with the police. He hadn’t believed them, even when they confirmed Xion had their ID on their person when they were found. They’d asked him to come down later to make a positive ID on their body but he wanted to speak with Axel first. He needs to know.

“Roxas?” Axel asks and reaches out to cup his shoulder. “What’s wrong? Is it Isa?”

“No, it’s not Isa,” he replies, eyes down while he fights a new wave of tears. “It’s Xion.”

“What happened?” he asks.

“Someone found them… in a dumpster. Outside of a club, they found Xion–… They’re dead, Axel,” he says and his voice breaks while his knees collapse and he drops to the floor while he sobs.

“D-Dead?” Axel asks and he slides to the floor too while he yells. The sound echoes down the hall and they cling to one another and sob. “No. No no no. No, no . Not Xion–.”

Roxas nods, burying his face in Roxas’ chest. “They’re gone. They’re gone .” Grief spills down his face in the form of tears and he can’t even see while he tries to comfort Axel, too. Xion, dead, taken by a random act of violence. The police ruling their death as a homicide and Roxas can only hope they find the person who did this.

Why ?” Axel whispers. “Why?”

“I don’t know…” Roxas shakes his head while he collects his composure after a moment. Breathing hurts but he has to stay strong. “I– I have to go down to the coroner’s office to confirm it’s them but they found their ID on their person so they’re pretty sure but they still want someone to ID them.”

“Don’t,” Axel whispers. “You shouldn’t have to–.”

“Xion didn’t have family, Axel. I have to… and we’ll… we’ll figure out the funeral and make sure you can go. The police are investigating, said their death is currently under homicide investigation.”

Axel leans his head back against the door while tears slowly track down his face. “Fuck,” he whispers. “ FUCK !”

Roxas leans against Axel, resting his head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Axel.”

“For what?”

“For… for treating you like a monster toward the end. You’re getting help and I should respect you for that. I’m sorry.” He wants to make sure Axel knows he loves him. They need to cling to one another now during this time. He wraps his arm around Axel’s waist and holds tight. “I love you, Axel.”

Axel nods, kissing the top of his head. “I love you, too.”

“I can’t believe they’re gone,” he whispers. “I– I should go to the police station because I have to tell everyone else. You can’t do anything in here.”

“Don’t go yet,” Axel begs. “Please.”

He nods in understanding. “Okay, I’m here Axel.”

They stay together on the floor for a while with Roxas’ mind racing on all of the things they need t do in order to make Xion’s funeral happen, investigation or not. He’s not sure how much evidence the police will want to collect. Can they bury Xion soon? Maybe they’ll find the guy fast. Maybe this is all a nightmare and he’ll wake up soon.

“I should go,” he says after they sit for what feels like hours. “I don’t want to but I need to go.”

Axel relinquishes his hold even though Roxas can tell he doesn’t want to. “Okay,” he replies. “Come back soon?”

“I promise.”

Roxas stands up and makes sure Axel is back in his room before leaving in favor of going back to his car and driving to the coroner’s office. The police agree to meet him there. The office is cold and the hallway is dark as he walks down to a window where he’s asked to look in so they can identify Xion for sure. Roxas’ stomach is tied in knots as he watches a woman approach a white sheet and lifts it up. Watching Xion’s face, swollen and bruised, slowly appear makes his knotted stomach clench.

He turns away and nods. “It’s them,” he gasps while hurrying back down the hallway.

“Thank you.” The officers walk him to a private room so he can collect himself. He gladly sits down and accepts a box of tissues. “Roxas, do you know anyone who would want to hurt Xion?”

“No,” he replies, voice hollow sounding in the room. “Xion was a good person. They were nice, sweet, kind. Never hurt anyone… I don’t….” He trails off as his mind switches to Isa and the past they always hinted at. He’d never known all of Xion’s secrets but he also knows they should probably talk to Isa first. “Isa Lange.”

“Who is that?”

“He’s a friend but he and Xion used to belong to like a… a cult? They might behind it, I don’t know,” Roxas says slowly. “They’re the only people I could imagine wanting to hurt Xion but I don’t know.”

“Thank you for your honesty, Roxas.”

“When… when can we have the funeral?” he asks.

“Once the medical exam is completed and a cause of death is ruled. You should be able to hold a funeral this week at the earliest.”

Roxas nods. “Okay… Thank you.” He stands up and the officers are kind enough to walk him to his car but afterward, he sits in the parking lot to stare at the steering wheel. He keeps imagining everything as a joke and Xion will walk out of the office and they will go have sea salt ice cream together. Nothing bad can touch them. Nothing like this; this is for TV shows and movies. This isn’t their lives.

He knows he needs to call everyone but he can’t bring himself to say the words out loud for a second time. Axel had been hard enough. They’ll see the news soon but there is one person who should know about Xion before she finds out from the television. He grabs his phone to call Kairi, even though they aren’t the closest but she has a right to know. Her phone rings and rings and her voicemail picks up which isn’t ideal but he has to do something.

Hey, this is Kairi. I’m faster to reach over text and email but feel free to leave your name, number, and I’ll try to get back to you!

The tone beeps and for a moment, Roxas can’t form words at all, and he sits there breathing on voicemail, knowing he’s coming off as a total creep. Words are so hard. Impossible. “Kairi,” he whispers. “Call me. Please.”

He hangs up and ends up calling Xion’s phone number. He wonders if they had a voice mail greeting or if, like him, they used the standard. The phone goes unanswered and then Xion’s voice fills his ear.

Hello, this is Xion. I can’t answer the phone right now but please leave me your name, number, and message, and I will get back to you. If this is an emergency, please text me, I am likely to see that first. Bye!

Another tone beep and Roxas sits crying in his car on their voicemail. He makes a mental note to make a voicemail greeting so if the world takes him soon, his friends can call and hear his voice one more time. His phone slips from his grasp and hits the floor of his car while he leans his forehead forward until it brushes his steering wheel. Xion is gone and no one can bring them back. No more sea salt ice cream. No new memories.

There’s just nothing.

Roxas hugs himself and finally pulls himself together enough to drive home. The house feels cold, even with Jelly there to cuddle him on the couch, he feels empty and tired. Tomorrow, Isa will be by to pick up Jelly and then he’ll be alone. Axel in rehab and Xion dead, he’ll have the house completely to himself. He sinks onto the couch and pulls a blanket over his head.

More than anything, he wants the nightmare to end.

Chapter Text

And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

Xehanort’s words whisper in his ear while he sits in the common room while the television plays and there are others playing board games, socializing, and having a good time. Vanitas sits in a chair, overlooking the grass and sunshine outside. The world feels grey and cold even though everyone else is complaining about the heat wave passing over the island. While most everyone is dressed in shorts and t-shirts, Vanitas huddles in a sweater and wishes he could stay in his room all day but Demyx made him come out.

He doesn’t want to socialize or talk with anyone but Demyx told him he should at least make himself available. Isa came by the center the other day and their conversation had ended quick and painful. Taking the blame for what happened is the easiest thing he's done in a while; if he hadn’t been so cold and cruel, maybe Isa never would have tried to kill himself.

“Vanitas?”

Isa. Vanitas doesn’t turn around but he can feel Isa pull up a chair beside him. He keeps his eyes on the world outside. The clouds are greying in the sky and the wind is blowing the flowers and trees so hard he can see them bow.

“I’m not giving up on you,” Isa whispers. “I came to talk.”

He doesn’t like talking anymore. He doesn’t like anything anymore. “Talk.”

Isa reaches over to place his hand on Vanitas’ arm. “Someone I hurt died recently,” Isa whispers. “I’m having a hard time processing what happened. The funeral is next week and I just… I wanted to talk to someone not abreast to the full situation.”

“Blame that on me, too,” he replies softly.

“Vanitas–.”

“I don’t mind.” He dares to finally look at Isa and is surprised to see he’s cut his hair. No longer extremely long, his hair now hangs around his shoulders. It’s not a bad look but it is shocking. “You cut your hair.”

Isa nods. “I know, ugly,” he replies but there is a hint of a smile in his eyes.

“No,” he whispers. “Pretty.”

Isa blushes and ducks his head in response. “The person who died didn’t deserve this… I... “ He takes a deep breath but Vanitas can hear his unshed tears. “I don’t know what to do. Why did I live and they die? I feel like my life was in exchange for theirs and that’s not fair.”

He isn’t sure if Isa is looking for a real answer or he just wants to talk but Vanitas has no idea on where to start with what is fair. Life has never been fair in his book. He should have passed a long time ago and then maybe there wouldn’t be so much pain in his wake.

However, this is not about him. This is about Isa’s mourning.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

Isa sighs and squeezes his arm. “I just feel lost… I know we’ve been on weird terms lately and I know I shouldn’t just jump back in with you but talking to you is so… easy .”

Van turns away again to look outside. A few raindrops patter against the window as the threat of a storm arrives. “You deserve other friends, Isa. I’m no good.”

“You’re better than you think,” Isa argues. “I want you to go back to group. You were doing so well.”

“I don’t deserve it–.”

“Do it for me,” Isa cus him off. “You owe me.”

A low blow but he can understand Isa’s desperation to make him do something he doesn’t want to do. Remind him he owes Isa for what he put him through. A clever low blow.

“Clever,” Van whispers.

“I don’t want you to hurt, Vanitas.” Isa takes his hand and brings it up to his lips to kiss. “I hate seeing you hurt, too. I can’t lose any more people, please.”

“I deserve to hurt,” Vanitas reminds him. He meets Isa’s eyes and studies their green forest. He is so beautiful and Vanitas has no idea how someone so pretty could ever look at him and think I want to know him .

“No one deserves to hurt,” Isa replies. “Especially when they’ve been through hell like you have.”

“I am not a good person–.”

“A bad person wouldn’t worry about the qualms of being a bad person versus a good person. You are a good person, Vanitas. You’ve grown, changed, and become someone new and I am privileged to know you.” Isa kisses his hand for a second time. “Please know I care about you.”

The words are strange to Vanitas’ ears. Why would Isa care about him when weeks ago he wanted nothing to do with him? He shakes his head. “ Why ?”

“Why, what?”

“Why do you care about me? You told me you didn’t want to be boyfriends anymore.” He pulls out of Isa’s grasp and hugs himself instead. The move is both defensive and soothing.

Isa pauses and seems to consider his next words carefully. “Because Vanitas, I lost someone I was starting to befriend. Someone who saved me from my fate in a bathtub and someone who deserves much better than life gave them. They’re gone. Dead. Taken by uncalled for violence and the event made me realize, I cannot take for granted anyone in my life. Even you.”

Vanitas hears the pain in Isa’s voice and he hurts, too, as a result. He looks over and sees how lost Isa looks and offers his hand again. “I’m sorry,” he whispers.

“Xion was a good person and I–.” Isa cuts off while his voice cracks and breaks. “I did them so much harm and I can only hope they know I worked so hard to fix my wrongs. It’s not fair they had this happen to them.”

Vanitas turns in his chair so he can focus on Isa and hold his face. “You didn’t kill them.”

“I know,” Isa gasps, tears rolling down his face. He leans forward and presses his forehead against Van’s shoulder while he cries. “I feel like I did. I feel like I did.”

He knows this feeling, too, so intimately. Vanitas rubs Isa’s back and lets him mourn how he needs to mourn. Everyone is different. Even he feels sad for a life lost he barely knew but Isa’s pain is transferable. Van puts the sadness on like armor. “But you didn’t,” he reminds Isa, kissing the top of his head. “You didn’t.”

“I know you didn’t know them but I think you would have liked Xion and Xion you if given half a chance.”

“Maybe,” Vanitas hums. He rests his cheek on Isa’s head, hoping Isa will soon find the peace he’s been craving.

“Their funeral is tomorrow,” he whispers. “I was wondering if you would go with me?”

“I don’t want to be in the way,” Van replies.

“You won’t be. Please come?”

“I don’t have anything to wear.”

Isa snorts. “Your entire closet is black. I’m sure you can find pants and a shirt.”

He’s run out of excuses. “If they let me go with you, I’ll go.”

“They will.” Isa kisses his shoulder and finally leans back. “I just can’t believe this happened.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not on you…. Vanitas, I forgive you for what happened between us. I forgive you for what you said and I hope you can forgive me for upsetting you.”

He nods immediately. “There isn’t anything to forgive, Isa.”

“I’ll go talk to the nurses about you going tomorrow. Maybe you can come to see my new place. Leave today, stay over.”

“I doubt that,” Van replies but Isa is already standing to go find someone to talk to. He shakes his head and returns his gaze to the window and the rain. The water comes down in heavy sheets now and the wind rips and roars, tearing leaves and flowers to blow around. Lightning shatters through the clouds and thunder rattles the windows.

Maybe they shouldn’t be going anywhere in this.

Isa returns a while later and offers his hand. “You want to go to my house tonight?”

“It’s storming,” Vanitas replies and points to the window even though he knows Isa’s seen the weather.

“I’ll come pick you up at the front door, then. Go pack some clothes.”

Vanitas takes a breath and nods. He’s surprised they let him out but he supposes with extenuating circumstances and probably a call to his parents, they let this happen. The walk back to his room is numbing and he packs with robotic movements. Returning to Isa’s place sounds like a quick way to remind him of their fight together. Of course, Isa had moved so maybe it won’t be so bad.

“You leaving?” Demyx asks while he pokes his head in.

“Staying with Isa tonight. There’s a funeral tomorrow.”

“Oh, shit. Whose?”

“A friend of his,” Vanitas replies. “He asked me to go so I’m going with him.”

“But you’ll be back?”

He wants to say no because he has no desire to come back here but he knows he has to return. The court mandated he come here so he has no choice until he’s deemed fit to return to society. “Yeah,” he whispers. “I’ll be back.”

“Good. See you soon.” Demyx waves and disappears from the doorway.

Vanitas glances around the room and wonders if life will feel different once he’s free of this place. What if he grows so used to it here, he can’t adjust to life outside of these walls? Stop, you’re going to give yourself a panic attack. You want to live outside and be normal. You want to be with Isa. He wants to maybe be with you. Just let it happen .

Throwing his bag over his shoulder, Van leaves his room behind and he’s walked outside to where Isa is parked under the pickup station of the center. At least, it’s dry under here. He waves goodbye to the nurse, even though he doesn’t know her name, and slides into Isa’s SUV. Isa is, of course, soaked to the bone just from his rush to the car. The heat is on to help keep the windows from fogging up and to dry Isa off. Vanitas doesn’t mind.

“I don’t live too far from here now, actually,” Isa says. “I have to pick up Jelly though, is that alright?”

“Of course.”

“Great.” Isa drives slowly because of the poor visibility but Vanitas doesn’t mind the slow drive. They’re quiet with only soft music on the radio but, again, Vanitas doesn’t mind. He’d prefer quiet to awkward small talk. Eventually, things will not feel so awkward he hopes. They drive to a side of the island he’s not familiar with and pulls up to a house he doesn’t know. Vanitas did not ask where Jelly has been – he figured she would have been at a kennel but his eyes widen slightly around the edges when he sees Ventus’ twin standing on the porch with Jelly at his side.

‘There’s my good girl,” Isa says, voice soft and thankful.

Vanitas ducks lower in his seat because he’s never met Roxas before but he’s pretty certain Roxas is no fan of his. Isa parks and there is a tree looming over the yard and house providing some reprieve from the rain but it’s still coming down in sheets. Isa turns to grab an umbrella before he opens the car door and the umbrella shoots up to protect him from the water. Vanitas keeps his eyes trained on Roxas as Isa rushes up to reunite with his dog. Jelly practically rips Roxas’ arm free of its socket to jump up to Isa in joy.

Roxas smiles but then their eyes meet through the windshield and his smile fades completely. Vanitas watches blue eyes as clear as the ocean – an ocean he used to know intimately – turn as dark as a tempest storm. His body stiffens and his jaw clenches while his hands ball into fists. Vanitas can see Roxas physically hold himself back from leaping at the car. The urge to flee fills his entire core but he has nowhere to go so he waits instead. Soon, he hopes, they will leave with the dog in tow and they can go to Isa’s new house and leave Roxas’ behind.

He understands Roxas’ hatred but the knowledge doesn’t stop him from being afraid. Roxas has a reputation and while Vanitas craves having his ass completely kicked, he doesn’t necessarily want to be beaten to death in a driveway. Maybe it’s what he deserves in the long run.

The conversation finally comes to a close and Isa offers a hug but Roxas declines which Isa seems to understand in his body language. Jelly stares at Isa the entire time they go back to the car and she jumps into the backseat, shaking off. Vanitas rolls his eyes as the inside of the car is covered in water but he can tell Isa doesn’t care. There is a huge smile on his face the entire time they pull away from the house and head back to the other side of the island. Jelly whines and yips in the backseat but Isa tells her to stay, so she at least stays seated on her butt.

They arrive at Isa’s house twenty minutes later and by then the rain has stopped and he can see the house in full view. It’s not a mansion but he can tell there is plenty of space and it looks newer than houses on the other side of the island. There’s a two-car garage around the side of the house which Isa pulls up to and they all step out of the car. Jelly dashes to the front lawn to pee and then is back at Isa’s side. Van has a feeling she won’t be leaving him anytime soon.  They head in through the garage and the first room they walk into the laundry room where they both strip out of their wet clothes and Isa pulls on a robe and offers up one of his cleaner t-shirts for Van to put on.

The laundry room leads into the large kitchen which in turn leads to the living room. Jelly takes everything in slowly, moving around to sniff everything after Isa dries her off with a towel. She sniffs the floors and counters before disappearing into the house to explore her new domain. He watches her go and wonders what it must be like for a dog when their owner moves to a new home. Humans adjust but he wonders if dogs have a harder time. He wonders if they can ever have a sense of home.

He wonders if he will ever have the same sense.

“This is it,” Isa says and gestures around the kitchen.

“It’s nice,” he replies. He leaves his bag in the laundry room so he doesn’t forget where he put it and explores the kitchen in silence. His fingers skirt over appliances and counters while he enters a new space he knows he will never belong in. Isa has a liking for matching furniture and he’s never been able to make himself mold and match with anything or anyone. He’s like an ugly chair which never quite belongs to any dining set or in any room in the house. Eventually, the owner grows tired of it not belonging and leaves it on the curb.  

Isa will soon grow tired of him not matching and leaving him for the curb, too.

“Vanitas.”

He glances over his shoulder and watches as Isa slowly walks up to him and they face one another. He turns his eyes up to Isa’s and is glad to see the green looking so lively like the grass in spring. “Yes?”

Isa’s hand reaches up to cup his face – he’s hesitant but eventually, he feels Isa’s warm skin against his cold face. He presses into the touch even though he tells himself to pull away. Isa was the last person to touch him in a purposeful and intimate way. Isa is the only person to touch him consensually in intimate ways. The feeling is like fire on his skin and he recalls the way the fire took a house which never felt like home. The heat of it on his skin, the way he’d wanted to die with the house. Terra saved him and he still doesn’t know why.

“I’ve missed you,” Isa says, his thumb stroking his cheek featherlight.

“You shouldn’t.”

“But I do. We can’t help who we love, Vanitas.”

“You don’t love me.”

“I do love you.”

“No.” He pulls away then and puts a step of space between them. “ No .”

“Vanitas–.”

“You can’t love me! I’m not worthy of love, I’m not worthy of anything ! The only thing I am worthy of is dead and gone because I killed him,” Vanitas shouts, vaguely aware his voice carries in the kitchen. It shakes with the fear he feels every single day and never voices. “I killed the man I was worthy of.”

“Which man?” Isa whispers.

“The man I called father.”

“He deserved to die,” Isa says, voice firm and he takes a step closer so Van steps back but he bumps into the counter. There is nowhere to go but Isa doesn’t come closer. “He deserved to die, Vanitas, for what he did to you. He didn’t deserve to be happy but you do.”

“I hurt you,” he insists. “I hurt Ventus!”

“You’ve apologized to Ventus and to me.”

“But I still did it. I still did awful things to both of you. I stalked him, I tried to kill him! I wasn’t good.”

“You are now,” Isa repeats. “You have a family who loves you and I… I love you, Vanitas Tetuanui.”

Crying is for the weak – at least, this is what Xehanort would have told him but if crying makes him weak then he’d rather be weak that a bastard. Blubbering sobs erupt out of him in a rush and he folds in on himself, arms wrapped around his gut, while he sags back against the counter. Isa steps into his space but he doesn’t touch him, just reaches as if asking permission. He nods.

When Isa wraps his arms around him, he breaks down so hard he starts to slip to the floor and Isa goes with him. They sit on the kitchen floor while Vanitas sobs so hard he can feel himself dry heave. Isa rubs his back and strokes his hair. The tears slowly dry up and he kicks himself for being so vulnerable at a time when Isa is hurting. He should have waited.

“I’m sorry,” he manages to croak. “I’m sorry, I’m taking up all of your time like this.”

“I’m not.”

“But you’re upset–.”

“And that immediately means no one else is ever allowed to be upset ever again?” Isa asks and Vanitas can hear the sarcasm in his tone. “Just because I’m drowning in an ocean doesn’t mean your ocean is any less valid, Vanitas.”

“I missed you so much,” he admits even though it frightens him. “I thought we were over forever.”

“No,” Isa whispers. “Not forever.”

Vanitas pillows his head on Isa’s chest and lets Isa envelop him in warmth and love. He’s never felt safe in his life; not with Xehanort and not even with his new family but sitting in Isa’s arms, hearing the rain start again, and Jelly coming over to lie by their sides, he feels safe.

“Isa,” he whispers, his eyes heavy with exhaustion and his body just as tired from all of the crying.

“Hm?”

He nuzzles under Isa’s chin and hopes he doesn’t come across too needy. “I love you, too.” Isa squeezes him in response.


 

The high collared dress the color of merlot wine compliments the pink of Xion’s lips. Head pillowed on white satin, they look at peace as if they were sleeping and not dead. Isa’s fingers skin over the lip of the coffin and he sets a rose in the casket where others have left gifts for Xion to have forever. Their hands clasped over their stomach and hair looking freshly brushed and soft. Tears grip Isa’s gut and fill his eyes while he grips the coffin tightly until his knuckles turn white.

Xion did not deserve to go in such a horrid manner.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. The eulogy, performed by Roxas, had been powerful and full of love. Xion did not have blood relatives but their family extended beyond blood. He stays by the coffin, watching over them, and wishing he hadn’t been such a demon in their life.

“Isa,” Axel whispers while he comes to stand at his side. Axel’s hand wraps around his shoulder and squeezes tight over the suit jacket. “Thank you for coming.”

Isa nods and he finally tears his eyes from Xion’s peaceful face to look at Axel instead. “I’m glad they were able to have an open casket funeral like you all wanted.”

Axel nods. “Yeah, Rox said the guy beat their face up but the mortuary people worked on them with makeup so– I mean you can kinda tell but it’s not awful.”

He nodded and pries his hands off of the coffin so Axel can lead him away so they can prepare the coffin to be taken to the burial site. Isa spots Vanitas with Sora and his parents so Isa lets them reunite while he follows Axel into the sunlight. Their cars bear the funeral pendent and are all lining up while the pallbearers lead the coffin to the hearse.

“Are you riding with Xion?” Isa asks.

Axel nods. “Yeah, me, Rox, and Kairi asked to ride with us, too.”

“How is she?”

“A wreck,” Axel replies and shrugs. “She’s been pretty upset since she heard the news.”

Isa nods and notes Kairi is being walked with Tifa to the hearse, still sobbing, and Isa feels a lump filling the back of his throat again. Tears flood his eyes and he quickly looks away so he can dismiss them. Xion would not want him to cry over them so much. Axel pats his shoulder and follows Roxas and Kairi into the hearse.

Isa watches them, face grim, and only comes back when Vanitas taps his shoulder. He spins around, hair shifting around his face. “Yeah?”

“Ready?” Vanitas asks.

“Yes. Sorry.” He places a hand on Vanitas’ back and leads him to the car so he can line up with the rest of the funeral party.

Vanitas is quiet on the drive to the cemetery which Isa is thankful for because he has no idea what to say right now. Last night, they’d slept together, connecting and making love. After Van cried and told him he’s never had sex this way before – he’s only ever been raped or done the raping which is such a heavy burden to bear. Isa comforted him well into the night and now they’re at a funeral.

A funeral which never should have had to happen.

Unfathomable the loss of Xion.

The cemetery is quiet and they seem to be the only ones there as they arrive and start to walk across the lawn to where there is a tent set up and the coffin is carried to be put over the open grave. Axel, Roxas, and Kairi all sit on chairs while the priest does Xion’s final rites. Isa stands off to the side with Vanitas, his face forming into a grim line again.

His mind wanders to the time he knew Xion in Xemnas’ cult. Xion had fought then and he believes, wherever they are now, they would still fight for their friends. He can imagine they fought for their life that night, too, and he hopes they did damage to the man who took Xion away so cruelly. His mind toils with the point of such senseless death; how can he live when Xion is taken away after a life of abuse and pain?

Only the good die young , he thinks to himself and slowly shuts his eyes as tears track down his cheeks.

He opens them again in time to see Kairi stand to drape herself across Xion’s coffin and weep before they can lower the coffin under. Axel rises, too, and puts his hand on her back to comfort her while Roxas takes a rose from the coffin’s bouquet to hold onto. Sora rushes up to pull Kairi away so he can hug her, too, and she weeps so openly, almost collapsing. He doesn’t know the full story but he can see Kairi loved Xion, whether their ending had been good or not.

There is love between them, still.

More tears fall like stars.

Soon, all of the friends Xion had, Sora’s circle and their own, gather to hug one another. Sora turns and then sees them and gestures them to come over and Vanitas goes without question to Sora’s side to hug, too but Isa remains rooted to his spot. He doesn’t belong there and he refuses to interrupt their moment. Also off to the side, Isa notes are Aqua, Ventus, and Terra. They all arrived at the funeral, too, and Aqua’s face is red and splotchy from tears, her eyes swollen. Ventus looks uncertain about approaching and Isa can under why.

He turns his gaze from them all hugging and slowly approaches the coffin to touch the smooth surface one last time. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I’m so sorry.” His voice catches and breaks while he cries, too, trying to keep himself upright. “This isn’t fair and I’m so sorry it happened.”

They have to start the burial and slowly everyone starts to head back to their cars so they can go to the wake being held at a function hall Xion’s company rented for the occasion. A celebration of Xion’s life, as he heard Axel call it. He remains by the coffin until he Axel touches his elbow.

“Come on, Is’,” Axel says. “Xion wouldn’t want you to cry all over their flowers.”

He nods and follows the group back to the cars. The sun shines bright and hot down on the cemetery and Isa sees Vanitas walking with his family. He also sees Ventus watching them with a wary eye. Maybe he should have thought before inviting Vanitas but he’d wanted someone there he didn’t feel would judge him for even going to the funeral at all.

“Isa,” Van says, popping up by the car. “Can I ride with my family?”

“Oh,” he says and tries to mask his surprise but he can’t fault Vanitas for wanting to ride with his parents. “Of course.”

“Thanks.”

He nods and while everyone leaves the cemetery, Isa stays, locked and frozen by his car and debating if he should even go to the wake. He doesn’t belong there, just like he didn’t belong amongst Xion’s friends. They were never friends . His eyes water again and he knows he has to go so he can take Vanitas home tomorrow. The car door is heavy as he pulls it open and the ride is cold and lonely to the beautiful function hall they’re taking over.

Inside, there is a picture of Xion smiling with Axel and Roxas blown up and bordered in live roses. He smiles at the image on his way in and finds the hall already full with Xion’s friends and people they worked with. He signs the book waiting on them and debates on crossing his name out more than once before finally leaving it so others can sign. Vanitas is sitting with Sora, Riku, and his family. He gives them a wide berth and finds a table in the corner.

He sits and feels the crashing waves of loneliness drag him under more waves of grief. Exhaustion wins over hunger and he sits and feels a lot like the wallpaper. So easily forgotten.


 

“It’s okay, we don’t have to go,” Terra says but Ventus shakes his head. He saw Vanitas at the funeral but he won’t let his shock and fear keep him from going to the wake. He hadn’t known Xion extremely well but they’d always been nice.

“I can’t let him rule my life,” Ventus replies. “You still want to go Aqua?”

Aqua nods but she’s been far away ever since they heard about Xion’s death. He hasn’t asked but part of him wants to know why she’s been so distant. Xion and Aqua had started to become but he wasn’t sure they knew each other closely. Terra leads them both inside and Ventus’ eyes immediately seek Vanitas out of habit. He’s sitting with his family and they find a table nearby.

Maybe going up to Vanitas and talking would help. Just rip the bandaid free. He takes a deep breath while Terra helps Aqua sit and approaches their table. Fear lives deep in his stomach but he pushes through the feeling. Vanitas isn’t so scary here, in his glasses and smiling at something Sora said. He’s just human.

“Vanitas,” Ventus manages to squeak and they all turn to look at him. “Hi.”

Vanitas stares at him and his eyes slowly widen as he realizes who is here. Ven blushes when Van stands up and goes to step close but he steps back out of Van’s reach. “Ventus,” Vanitas gasps.

His mouth runs dry and he feels sweat soak his brow. “Yeah,” he replies. “I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Isa invited me.”

“Oh,” Ventus says. “Are you dating?”

“I think so,” Vanitas replies slowly. “Can we talk somewhere else?”

Part of Ventus wants to say no because he doesn’t want to be alone with Vanitas ever again but they’re at a wake and there are plenty of people around. He swallows a lump in his throat and nods. They walk away from the main throng of people and go stand by some windows. On the way, he catches Terra’s eye but shakes his head so Terra doesn’t follow.

“I won’t keep you long,” Vanitas says. “I know I shouldn’t even really talk to you but I wanted to say… I am… sorry in person.”

Ventus takes a deep breath and while Vanitas’ apology feels genuine it falls short. “I’m sure you are.”

“I never should have hurt you, Ventus.”

“No, you shouldn’t have,” he agrees. “I’m glad you’re getting help and I’m glad you’re having healthy relationships.”

Vanitas nods. “I’m working hard on being better.”

“Good.” He keeps a large space between them and is glad the room isn’t too loud for them to talk one on one without having to stand close. He can’t stand the idea of being close. Writing letters and being penpals is one thing but seeing Vanitas in person is leaving him sick.

“Are you feeling alright?” Vanitas asks. “You look-.”

“I’m fine,” Ventus lies. “I just really wasn’t prepared to see you today. Out.” His voice is clipped and he doesn’t mean to sound so angry but Vanitas being out is terrifying. “Just doesn't feel that long ago you had me tied to a chair and were trying to kill me.”

The words come out faster than he wanted and he didn’t mean to say them out loud. Vanitas’ face shifts and he loses all signs of progress and looks completely hurt and cut deep. Ventus kicks himself for saying something so bluntly, whether or not it’s true, he doesn’t want to undo all of Vanitas’ hard work by constantly throwing his sins in his face.

“Vanitas–.”

“I’m sorry,” Vanitas replies, voice losing all warmth and going completely flat. He drops his eyes and takes a step even further back. “Isa will take me back tomorrow. You won’t have to see me again.”

“Vanitas, I didn’t mean–.”

“You’re right, Ventus,” he replies. “Dangerous animals should only be viewed through bars.”

“No, that’s not what I meant, you’re doing so good! I just- I-.”

Vanitas walks away and returns to his table with his family, sitting so stiff, and quiet. Ventus sighs and runs a hand over his face. He’s ready to walk back over and insist he’s proud of Vanitas’ progress but a hand on his shoulder startles him. Terra.

“You okay?” Terra asks.

“I said something I shouldn’t have.”

“What did you say?”

He sighs. “I implied he shouldn’t be free because he’s still unstable. I didn’t mean it that way, I just… it feels so soon and I wasn’t prepared to see him out like this. But I shouldn't have said that. He’s clearly doing well and I may have just ruined it.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Terra replies and walks him back to their table.

Ventus keeps his eyes on Vanitas throughout the wake while Aqua drinks more than he’s ever seen her drink. They have food and share stories of Xion’s life. The evening draws on and Aqua is only sobering up because Terra made her stop drinking champagne and drink water instead. Toward the end of the evening, Vanitas prepares to go with Isa and Ventus leaps at the chance to apologize and make Vanitas understand what he meant.

“Vanitas,” he says while Vanitas is pulling on his coat.

Van turns to look at him and there is a lot of pain in his golden eyes. “I’m leaving now–.”

“I know,” Ventus says. “I want to say I’m sorry about what I said. I think you’re doing really good and I hope you keep it up . Please, please keep it up. You’re doing amazing.”

Vanitas nods once and then Isa is taking him away. He sighs and feels his shoulders drop. He hopes his last words were enough to keep Vanitas on track or maybe he’s holding himself in too high of regards. Maybe his words didn’t affect Vanitas so deeply. Hopefully, not.

“Ventus,” Roxas calls and he turns to see his twin rushing up for a hug. Roxas squeezes him tight and lifts him off his feet. “When did you get here?”

“Been here,” Ventus gasps through the bone-crushing hug.

“You never came by, asshole.”

“I know, I’m sorry. Do you know what’s up with Aqua? She’s been acting weird all night,” Ventus says and glances back to where Terra is taking her out.

Roxas shrugs. “She’s your friend.”

“I know but I didn’t know if you’d heard anything. I’ve been so busy planning my wedding, I haven’t had time for socializing.” Ventus sighs and gives Roxas another hug. “How are you?”

“Sad,” Roxas replies. “But I’m getting better… Glad I got to see Axel.”

Ventus smiles. “You two an item still?”

Roxas nods. “Yeah, we’re together.”

“Good. You deserve a guy to make you happy.” Ventus squeezes Roxas’ shoulder and notes Terra waving him over. “I have to go.”

“Okay. When’s your bachelor party?” Roxas asks. “I better be your best man.”

“You are ,” Ventus says firmly. “And I’ll get back to you about the party. It’ll be soon.”

“Good!” Roxas waves and Ventus dashes across the room to catch up with Terra. His face is grim.

“What’s wrong?” Ventus asks. “Is it Aqua?”

“Come on,” Terra says and they walk to the car where Aqua is sitting in the backseat sobbing.

“Aqua,” Ventus gasps and he climbs into the backseat with her. “What’s wrong?”

“They came to see me,” Aqua sobs. “The night they died. I had just seen Xion! I– I– I should have let them stay. This is my fault!”

“Aqua, no ,” Ventus gasps. “You didn’t kill Xion!”

“If I had just let Xion stay. Maybe even a few minutes longer. I should have– I should have let them stay.” Aqua rests her head on Ventus’ chest while Terra slowly climbs into the driver’ seat. He can see the look on Terra’s face and he knows Terra understands Aqua’s guilt better than anyone.

“Aqua,” Ventus says, voice firm and afraid. “Xion wouldn’t want you to blame yourself like this.”

“What if I’d just… let them stay over? Goddamn it, I hate myself so much for this,” Aqua whispers.

Ventus wraps his arms around Aqua to hold her tight. “Let’s take her to our house, Terra.”

Terra nods. “Ven is right, Aqua. Xion wouldn’t want you to blame yourself.”

Aqua quiets but Ventus can feel her guilt it’s palpable in the air. He has a feeling, they will have to keep an eye on her together. He just isn’t sure for how long.


 

“Isa?”

Isa has been quiet on the way back to the house and hasn’t said a word since they stepped inside. Vanitas follows him like a shadow, afraid Isa is going to do something stupid again.

“Talk to me,” he says. “Are you mad? I didn’t mean to ignore you at the wake–.”

“No, I’m not mad,” Isa replies. “I didn’t fit in there.”

“You could have,” Van insists. “I should have been with you because you invited me. I was being a shitty boyfriend.”

“It’s alright, I’m glad you had a chance to be with your friends,” Isa replies but he can see the hurt in the way Isa carries himself. They come to Isa’s bedroom where Van stands in the doorway and Isa undresses. His eyes fall on Isa’s scars on his back and shoulders. Long lashes he’s never really discussed but Van assumes are from Xemnas.

He enters Isa’s room and turns him around for a firm kiss, hands on Isa’s chest. At first, Isa seems surprised but eventually, melts into the kiss and they tumble onto the bed together. Frantic hands pull clothes free until they’re skin to skin and Van spreads his thighs while Isa grinds his hips firm and hard against his pelvis. Vanitas gasps while Isa leans over to find lube and condoms but Van shoves the condoms away.

“No,” Van gasps. “Fuck me raw.”

Isa pauses, eyes glittering in the darkness of his room, the only light illuminating them from the moon. He nods and they kiss again while Isa uses lube to start fingering him open. Vanitas whimpers and moans, body limber and opening up easily at Isa’s touch. He’s never felt so relaxed in bed before. When Isa pushes inside, they both moan at the pleasure of being so close without condoms in the way. Van wraps his arms and legs around Isa even though their height difference makes this difficult.

He kisses Isa’s chest and stares up at him in reverence. The moonlight makes Isa’s hair shine while they start to shake the bed. He remains pliant in Isa’s hands and he moans, breathless, while he listens to Isa’s hips slam into him over and over. They pant and whimper together, his cock bursting before Isa’s but the over