Riku eyed the ruined door, on the half-ruined castle, there at the edge of nothing. The card in his hand - the one he couldn't quite bring himself to look at - was warm, for a piece of paper, and he couldn't stop running his thumb over the uneven edge of the top. He stared at the door, hanging on its hinges now, and wondered.
It was silent around him, and still, except for a flicker of white that he could see out of the corner of one eye. He wouldn't look at that, either, for much the same reason as he couldn't look at the card in his hand. His thumb ran over the top of it again, over ridges and dips, and took another step towards the door, pausing at the threshold, and hesitating again.
Would it work? Could it work?
More importantly, did he want it to work?
"And even if I want to," Riku said to himself. "Should I?" He turned the card between his fingers, and finally made himself look at it. A smirking face under a shock of red hair looked back out at him. The card seemed warmer now that he was closer to the castle, and he wasn't sure whether or not it was his imagination.
From the card, he forced himself to look at the gently swaying form of the Assassin, standing just out of his attack range. Watching him.
And back to the card.
Sora, he knew, didn't remember. Would never remember, not one single thing that had happened in Castle Oblivion. And so, he would never remember the cards tucked away at the bottom of one of his pockets. But Riku did.
One thing had lead to another, and Riku had found himself here, at Castle Oblivion, once again. One card in his hand.
"If this works," he muttered to the card. "We're even." And he stepped into the castle, and moved deeper, until he found himself in a still-flawless white-on-white-on-white room.
The card was almost burning in his fingers.
It was a simple matter, a kind of rusty second nature, to draw out the... potential of the card. It vanished from his hand with the same glitter of energy, and then--
Axel was blinking, as if someone had suddenly shined a bright light in his eyes, and then he grinned a Riku, and laughed. Riku's eyes narrowed.
"You knew," he said flatly. "That card was your insurance policy." Axel's grin widened, showing teeth and he stretched with what looked like intense pleasure.
"Everything is cards in Castle Oblivion," the Nobody - if he could still be called that; what the hell could you call him now? - replied, the familiar edge of mockery in his voice. "Got it me-mo-ris-ed?" Riku scowled.
"So are you real, or are you stuck here?" he asked. Axel's grin turned narrow, and bitter.
"As real as I've ever been, Riku." Riku snorted, and turned to leave. He'd done what he came to do. No need to stick around anymore.
"Going so soon?" Axel asked. Riku paused, and looked back over his shoulder.
"I have somewhere I need to be," he said. Sora. Kairi. "Do what you like."
He wondered if Axel would follow.