Summary: They have fallen into darkness, but they are not alone.
Warnings: SPOILERS for BBS.
Terra has fallen into the darkness, but he is not alone.
There's the light from Ven and Aqua's hearts, of course. Even surrounded in darkness, even dead, he could feel those. But that isn't all he can feel.
Another, voices whisper to him, from near by. Another.
He opens his eyes, and Xehanort is nowhere to be seen. He isn't gone, of course- Terra knows he's never far away. But for the moment, his presence is not obvious.
Still, he is not alone. Around him are shadows. Not formless shadows, though if he looks straight at them they refuse to resolve into figures.
Out of the corner of his eye, he can see that they are people. Or, maybe, that they were people, once.
“Who are you?” he asks. “Why are you here?”
The whispers cease. Then, there is a pause that suggests thinking, a pause that stretches on for what feels like years. And some part of him thinks that these voices are old, that some of them don't remember how to say anything else. But then, finally, they say: You were not the first.
Terra isn't sure why, but that statement chills him.
“I don't understand,” he says. “This is my heart. What are you doing here?”
The voices only repeat: You were not the first.
After a while, one shadow separates from the rest. It's not quite as ambiguous as the rest- when he looks away, he can almost make out a face. If the shadow were a person, he might be a boy. A little shorter than Terra, perhaps. Thin.
I-, the shadow says, almost drowned out in the whispers. Then, even more quietly, defeated: We.
Terra is silent. He has a feeling that if he interrupts, he will never hear what the shadow has to say.
We were tricked, the shadow says, slowly becoming more coherent. Realer. Terra notes with dawning horror that the shadow might- maybe- look a little like a younger Xehanort.
Xehanort tricked us.
The other voices echo this one, until Terra cannot hear anything but the insistent echoing of those few statements . Xehanort, they whisper. Tricked us. Another. You were not the first.
“I'm going to fix this,” he says. “Somehow. Some day.”
But time passes, and his voice too fades to a whisper, and some day never comes.
Another, they say. Another.
And Riku opens his eyes and scowls into the shadows. He stands up.
“I'm stronger than this,” he says, though he isn't sure anymore if it's true or not. “I can't let him win.”
But his strength is spent, and Ansem has his body. And all he can think is that at least he bought enough time for Kairi and Donald and Goofy to get away. After a long string of mistakes, at least the last thing he did was right.
One shadow emerges from the mass. He's a lot more human than the rest of them, which would be comforting if he didn't look so much like Ansem. Riku glares at him.
“Go away,” Riku says. “Get out of my heart.”
The shadow ignores that. “Fix this,” it says.
His voice is familiar, and louder than the other whispers here. And it isn't Ansem's voice. Riku knows that one too well now to ever confuse it with someone else's.
“You're not Ansem,” Riku says. “Who are you?”
The shadow says: “You can set things right. You're strong enough. That's why I gave you the keyblade, remember?”
Riku half-remembers a man on the beach one sunny day when he was a child, and a promise of escape from a tiny trap of a world. Of strength to protect his friends. But the strength and the escape had never come. He'd seen the stars falling from the sky, and he'd known things were happening out there, if he could just go. But he hadn't been able to do anything about it. The keyblade had never appeared, no matter how hard he tried, no matter how much he wanted it or needed it.
And then, in the secret place, the door had started whispering to him about another way.
“I don't have the keyblade,” Riku says. “It chose Sora instead. All I have is the darkness. And look where that got me.”
The shadow reaches out to him. “There is more than one keyblade,” it says. And a blade appears in its hand. The blade looks a lot more real than the shadow does.
Riku stares at the keyblade for a moment. “It already had a chance to choose me,” he says, “and it didn't. What makes you think it'll be any different now?”
“Are you going to just give up, then?” the shadow says. “I thought you said you were stronger than that, Riku.”
Riku thinks of Kairi, and silent strength. He thinks of Sora, and that look of determination on his face when he'd taken the keyblade back from Riku.
He wasn't like them. He was weak. He hadn't even known how weak, until now, when he was trapped in darkness.
“I'm not strong,” Riku admits, after a moment. “Not on my own. My heart is weak.”
The shadow begins to take the keyblade back, and if Riku could see its face he thinks he'd see disappointment.
The whispers say: Another, another.
Riku reaches out and grabs the handle of the blade.
“But I'm not alone,” Riku says. Because if Sora's strength is in his friends- well, why can't Riku do that, too?
He takes the blade, and it stays in his hand, heavy and and bright and almost humming with power. Not power like the darkness had held, though- this was kinder. And, though he hadn't expected it, fiercer.
“Set this right,” the shadow says to him.
Riku nods, and waits in the shadows in his heart for Ansem to falter.
He isn't winning. Not yet. But he will.
He is in the darkness, here, but he can feel Kairi and Sora out there, somewhere, and the man with the keyblade is here in his heart, waiting to fight alongside him when the time comes. And the time is coming- he can feel it.
He's not alone.