This is a repost of a Kingdom Hearts AO3 fanfic that Jen wrote on 2/27/19.
Sora tossed and turned in bed, trapped in yet another tumultuous dream, only waking when a chance sunbeam streamed through his window. Letting out a massive yawn, he slowly sat upright, stretched his arms and glanced at the clock on his nightstand-
9:05? Oh no!
He was already late for his classes. Again.
Ever since Sora had his climactic confrontation with Xehanort, Yen Sid, King Mickey and the others recognized the young Keyblade wielder had one too many close calls against the Darkness. It didn’t help that he spent most of his childhood adventuring or incapacitated: he had been to so many worlds, but barely understood how any of them worked. He couldn’t even operate a computer or smartphone without one of his allies stepping in to help, which was an unusual setback for a teen boy.
Sora wasn’t the only one who needed help: his young friends were also thrust into war at an early age, leaving little time for mathematics, science, or any of the other pursuits that would prepare them for the universe at large. Now that the Realm of Departure was restored to its former glory, King Mickey had turned it into a general purpose school. Isolated from the rest of the worlds, the Keyblade warriors could get up to speed without feeling left behind by other students in their age group!
With little time to waste, Sora yanked his dresser open, threw on the clothes at the top and bolted out of his room. He had made a habit out of arriving 15-20 minutes late (as the others could attest, he was a deep sleeper), and already received several warnings from Yen Sid. If he didn’t get his act together, he would be forced to stay behind while the rest of his friends visited Twilight Town over the weekend: the notion of sitting in a classroom and missing out on the latest Struggle matches was unappealing, to put it lightly.
As he sprinted through the grounds on the way to the main building, Sora passed Cid, who grunted and looked up from the lamp post he was fixing.
“Get a move on, Vanitas! It’s not like you to be late.”
This moment confused Sora ( Wait, did he just call me Vanitas? ), but he decided that Cid made a simple mistake while focused on his work. After all, Sora and Vanitas shared the same face: the differences were obvious, but he often wondered if folks were confused by their similarities at first glance.
He approached the classroom and glanced at a nearby wall clock, which read 9:13. Not great, but slightly earlier than his average arrival. Doing his best to mitigate his bedhead, he ran a few fingers through his hair, wiped the crust from his eyes and strolled in, putting on a brave face in front of his friends.
Merlin turned to face the tardy teen. “Oh ho, Vanitas is here! It seems as though you and Sora switched schedules today. Please, have a seat.”
Sora’s eyes went wide in disbelief. “Vanitas? You do know I’m Sora, right?”
Merlin’s expression thinned. “Oh come now, boy, this isn’t the time for games. If you’re Sora, then why is he sitting back there, in his assigned seat?”
The class snickered, and sure enough, someone who looked an awful lot like Sora sat in between Kairi and Roxas. This other Sora(?)’s lips curled into a mischievous smile as Sora, dazed, wandered to the only available desk. His eyes darted around the room, searching for someone, anyone to question what just happened: instead, he only found several sets of eyes, all glaring at him. Why was everyone treating him this way? What was going on? And if the boy back there was Sora…there must be some sort of mistake, right?
Once class had broken for lunch, Sora rushed into the restroom sinks, only to have his worst fears confirmed. The person staring at him from the other side of the pane…wasn’t Sora. His eyes, once blue as the water in Destiny Islands, were now gold-colored and sinister. The chestnut hair that rested on his head had turned jet-black. Even his clothes, which he donned without a second thought, were darker than his usual red and gold outfits.
“What’s happening to me?” The voice that came out made Sora cup his mouth with his hands, shaking with surprise. It was coarse and raspy, almost like…almost like…
“Vanitas.” Ventus had walked in, and quizzically examined the shocked boy. “Care to explain what went on back there? It’s been a while since you’ve stirred up trouble during class.”
“I’m not…I don’t…” Sora searched for something to say, but he was too lost to properly respond. After several moments, he finally got out an exasperated “I don’t know, OK?”
Ventus, clearly annoyed, let out a loud huff. “I told you to stop bothering Sora, didn’t I? Keep this up, and we’re going to have a problem.” With that, he stormed out of the bathroom, leaving Sora sputtering on his own.
What do I do? I’m not Vanitas. I don’t want to BE Vanitas! But there’s another Sora walking around, and Ventus thinks I’m up to something. There’s gotta be someone that will listen to me, right?
Throughout the rest of the day, Sora approached his other classmates, hoping he could convince someone that things weren’t right. Time after time, he was met with laughter, derision or outright anger: Aqua asked him why he was so determined to hurt others, and Ventus took a swing at him. Even Kairi wouldn’t even respond to him, swiftly walking away as he approached her.
When Sora tried to follow her, the Other Sora stepped in front of him, bearing the same sinister grin from before. “Vanitas, Vanitas,” he lectured with a playful cadence, “can’t you tell that she doesn’t want to talk with you? I don’t know if this is a prank or you’re having a rough day, but I’d be happy to hear what you have to say! I’ve been told that I’m a good listener.”
“…Who are you?” Sora sputtered.
“We’ve been over this before, haven’t we?” Other Sora seemed to be having fun with this. “I’m Sora. You’re Vanitas. I’m light…”
Other Sora jabbed his finger into Sora’s chest. “…and you’re darkness. Simple!”
As Sora’s classmates gathered around, he growled. “This isn’t funny. I don’t know what you’ve done to me, but I want my body back, NOW. I’m the real Sora!”
He grabbed Other Sora by the neck of his red t-shirt, drawing him close. “GIVE. ME. MY BODY.”
Suddenly, several hands clutched Sora’s shoulders and pulled him out of the room as Other Sora sarcastically waved goodbye. “Vanitas,” Aqua whispered, “if you keep asking for trouble, I’ll make sure that trouble finds you. We’re taking you back to the dorms.”
On his way to the living quarters, Sora did his best to hold back his tears. His pained expression caught the attention of Riku, who was sitting on a nearby bench: Riku gave a small nod, then mouthed “later.”
Once he was back near his room, the others let go of Sora, exchanging exhausted looks as they left. Sora went inside, locked the door, and let out a small cry. Why was this happening to him? Was he just stuck this way for good? And while he was sitting there, moping in his room, was Other Sora turning his friends against him? These thoughts only made him more despondent. All he wanted was his old body, his old life. He didn’t want to be this dark, messed up reflection of himself.
A knock on the door interrupted his train of thought. He looked through the peephole and saw Riku, his eyebrows furrowed in concern. “Hey, Vanitas, can I come in? You looked like you were having a rough time back there, and I just want to talk.”
Sora bristled at being called Vanitas, but there wasn’t much he could do about that right now. Besides, Riku was the only one willing to reach out: if nothing else, it was worth a shot. Sora sighed, opened the door, and let Riku inside.
“First of all,” Sora began, “this may be difficult to believe, but I’m not Vanitas. I woke up looking like this, but I’m actually Sora. Second, I-HEY, WAIT-“
Riku had drawn close to Sora, circling around the confused boy. He hovered his hand over the spiky hair, took a good look at his gloved hands, then stared directly into his eyes and…sniffed him.
After this baffling act, Riku knowingly nodded his head. “Yup, you’re Sora, all right! I’d recognize that smell anywhere.”
“RIKU. WHY DID YOU-“
“Sorry, sorry!” Riku turned pink, then instinctively scratched the back of his head. “It’s a trick I picked up back at Castle Oblivion. I probably should have given you a heads up before I went and did it, huh?”
Sora shook his head in amusement, then grinned. “It’s okay. I’m glad you can tell that I’m me: everyone else was convinced I was pulling their leg! Kairi wouldn’t even look at me, so I assumed you wouldn’t believe me either.”
“Well, I have some firsthand experience with deceptive appearances.”
Sora thought for a moment, then lit up. “That’s right! Back at the Organization XIII base, we met up and you looked just like-“
“Ansem,” Riku finished Sora’s sentence. “I had let the darkness out so I could subdue Roxas, and it made me look like Ansem. And as soon as I’d done my job, I was filled with terror. Now that I wore the face of your biggest foe, could I ever see you again, or would you hate me forever? Could I ever…be with you again?”
Riku’s voice cracked on those last words, and he took a deep breath before continuing. “But when we finally met at that fortress, you took my hand and closed your eyes. In the end, it didn’t matter if I looked like a monster: you still fell to your knees in joy and accepted me for who I was. ‘Riku’s here.’ Right then and there, I knew that no matter what I had done, or how strange I looked, I was still Riku. And you’re still Sora.”
Riku pulled Sora into a hug, tears streaming down his face and into the shorter boy’s hair. The two held onto each other for a long time, determined to never let anyone tear them apart again. It was only when the two finally let go that Sora noticed something strange.
“Riku…were those black blotches on your shirt already there before you visited me?”
“Huh?” Riku looked over his white v-neck for a few moments before a light bulb went off.
Before he knew what was happening, Sora was yanked into the bathroom. Riku threw him a towel, barked “Shower, now,” then shut the door and waited outside. Did I really smell that bad? Sora thought to himself, but he did as Riku commanded, then dried himself off and walked back into the room.
Riku took one look at him, then started to crack up. “You might want to take another look in the mirror, friend,” he got out before doubling over with laughter. Puzzled, Sora went back in the bathroom and gasped in surprise. His hair was back to its old, chestnut brown self!
“Does this mean…but what about my eyes?!” Sora exclaimed.
“Contacts. Try taking them out?”
Sure enough, Sora lifted a finger to each of his pupils and removed two wobbly films with solid gold irises.
“And my voice?”
Riku laughed even harder. “We watched ‘Ghostbusters’ last night, remember? You screamed your lungs out when that librarian turned into a skeleton! I’m amazed you can even talk today.”
“Oh. Right.” Sora’s cheeks flared in embarrassment.
Riku smiled, then threw open the door. “Come on. It’s dinner time, and we’ve got an ‘Other Sora’ to unmask.”
Sora and Riku practically sprinted into the dining hall. Other Sora was leaning back in his chair, clearly enjoying the attention he was getting from the other students, when he looked up at the new arrivals and his eyes widened.
“SORA!” Kairi exclaimed. “You never swear! What’s gotten into you?”
“That’s not Sora,” Riku shouted from the other side of the room. “He’s had you all fooled this whole time, and we’re going to prove it!”
Other Sora nearly fell over clambering out of his chair, ready to run, only to be flanked at all sides by his confused classmates. While he was scrambling, looking for a way out, Riku marched right over, lifted Other Sora by the waist, then carried him outside and dangled him over a fountain in the middle of the grounds.
“Wait, wait,” Other Sora pleaded, “Riku! My best friend! This is all a big misunderstanding, I can explain-“
His words were cut short as he was unceremoniously dropped into the fountain, creating an expanding chestnut stain in the water while he flailed about. After a few moments, Vanitas emerged, coughing up water.
“I guess the gig’s up,” he spat, shivering from his unexpected, cold bath. “While you’re here, Sora, could you explain how you even walk in these clown shoes? It took hours of practicing before I could confidently recreate your childish-“
“Right, pal,” Ventus cut in, hoisting Vanitas onto his shoulders and stomping away. “We’re going home.”
After an extensive round of apologies from all of his friends, Sora said his goodbyes and went back to his room, once again filled with excitement. Vanitas may have put him through hell today, but his little act also meant that “Sora” wasn’t scolded for being late to class again. It was Friday evening, and he grinned with confidence, knowing that no one would stop him from a weekend trip to Twilight Town. He made a mental note to buy Riku a sea salt ice cream for his troubles, then hopped into bed and prepared for a good night’s sleep.