Running in Place

by Talya Firedancer

This story is not mine. Well, this story is, but it's a fanfic, of a quite curious nature: based on Destiny's Intervention, the awesome Kingdom Hearts-based crossover that Kuwabara no Miko has begun. Check it out, read it, ogle the art, beg her for more!

The first thing he was going to do when the Keyblade Master showed up, Torrent had already decided, was walk up to him and give him a good, swift kick to the shins. Not unlike the one he'd delivered to Cid once upon a time for conduct unbecoming a gentleman...well, but then Cid was no gentleman.

Even under the best of circumstances, Torrent wasn't good at waiting. He despised it, in fact, when there was something large and tremendously exciting on the horizon and he had nothing to do but wait for it. The "hurry up and wait syndrome," Cid called it, laughing uproariously at the dirty look Torrent had slanted him.

Traverse Town was a town of perpetual twilight, not exactly the kind of place Torrent would have chosen to spend years on end had he been given the choice. Point of fact he hadn't had a choice; when his world began to break up around him and he'd clung to Choco's neck, Torrent had seriously thought he was going to die. Finding himself anyplace but the afterlife had been a relief at first.

Where he'd ended up seemed to be a crossroads, of sorts: a town that was a world upon itself, situated on a nexus between many worlds. Before Torrent had found himself here, he'd never even considered such a universe existed.

"Kid, cut that out," Cid's gruff voice wiped out his train of thought. "You're going to scare off my custom if you sit there glowering like that. Go practice, or something."

"What custom?" Torrent demanded sulkily, but picked himself up from the bench and stuck his hands in the joey-pouch of his sweater.

"If anyone came in, they'd walk out after seeing you," Cid elaborated, jutting his jaw, making the long toothpick clamped between his teeth bristle fiercely.

Torrent paused at the door. "Get off it. You just want me out so you can close up shop when Vincent gets here and have a quickie."

"Why, you--!!" Cid began to roar, raising a fist, and Torrent retreated, leaving only his laughter behind.

Now he was in the dusky, lamplit stone square of Traverse Town, and no better off. Torrent slouched his way to the central lamp-post and sighed. He'd been here for years, and still no sign of the Keyblade Master beyond vague rumors from recent, disoriented arrivals to their town. All that proved was the continued destruction of the Other Worlds. It didn't prove the dusty legend that Vincent had related to him, a long time ago when Torrent had first arrived.

At first, he knew, Vincent had meant the tale to cheer him up, to raise his spirits as he lamented the destruction of his world, his beloved herds of chocobos, and his dream of entering Garden some day. Vincent hadn't expected him to latch onto the legend like a quest.

"I'll wait for the Keyblade Master, then!" Torrent had declared, giving a firm nod as Vincent looked taken aback. "If the Keyblade doesn't come to me, then when its Master shows up, I'll help him on his quest!"

"Well, I really think it's up to the Keyblade Master, isn't it?"

"Nope! I've already decided!"

He'd begun training from that day forth. Clumsily at first, then with increasing purpose as Cid watched from the edge of his impromptu practice field in the wide central area of the third district and offered tips at first. Tips had turned into outright commands, commands had morphed into drills, and one day Torrent found himself sparring against Cid, who brought all sorts of padded wooden weapons into play. Thus had begun their regular training, which Torrent expanded upon with a practice regimen of his own to increase endurance and his reflexes.

It had been years since Torrent had begun his preparations. He was ready, now, to fight. He wanted to put his skills to the test. But still...but still...

"I'm so BORED!" Torrent burst out, leaning his lanky young body against the central lamp-post. He slid down it to rest on his butt, drawing up his knees and folding his arms across them.

A busily-waddling Moogle, refugee from Gaia, paused in its tracks to peer at him curiously, its red bonbon bobbing merrily. "Bored, kupo? Why not help Vincent with the second district construction? Or, or Mupela needs help in the synthesis shop!"

Torrent scowled at the little creature, which normally he considered to be quite cute. Moogles were busybodies. "I'm not that bored," he clarified. "When will the Keyblade Master come?"

Morton turned away, disinterested at the mention of Torrent's most consistently-visited topic of conversation. "Why don't you hurry up and wait?" he suggested, and trundled off in the direction of the item shop.


As bored and frustrated as he was, Torrent knew he'd run out of sympathy from all the inhabitants of Traverse Town with the exception of two. Vincent would just shrug when the subject came up now, and Ran's eyes would brim with the nebulous hopes he'd been clinging to since he had arrived in Traverse Town and Torrent had passed along the idea he'd had.

Speaking of Ran, he hadn't seen the pretty little blonde Genome that day.

Maybe he'd go find his friend and have a cuddle.

Poking around the first district, where Torrent lived in a snug second-level home together with Ran, turned up nothing. He did catch sight of Vincent's scarlet cloak and scurried along, shimmying over a box in the alleyway around the corner from Cid's shop and dampening down a reflexive twitch of guilt. It wasn't that he was a slothful boy, Torrent had decided; he simply wasn't suited to the construction tasks that Vincent had in mind when he asked for help.

He rounded the stairwell in the second district and spotted the golden-blonde head of his pretty little friend; he was curled up beside the fountain with a set of pastels and markers and his journal laid out before him.

"Ran!" Torrent called out, waving a hand. To Ran, these days were as idyllic and indistinguishable as the time he'd spent in the Black Mage village on his vanished planet of Gaia.

Ran, he had long since concluded, was far better at waiting than he.

The pretty Genome looked up, giving him a hesitant smile. "Torrent."

"What are you drawing?" Torrent asked, lowering himself into a cross-legged position beside his younger friend. He'd learned early on in their friendship that Ran wasn't offended in the slightest when he asked what his pictures were, and provided clarification with a shy kind of pride.

Ran finished the last swipes of color to the odd-looking sketch and set aside his pastels. "It's an airship," he said quietly, glancing sidelong at Torrent with those incredible dark blue eyes. His tail slithered over the cobblestones and came to rest against Torrent's thigh, a warm and pleasant presence.

"Airship?" Torrent prompted, reaching down absently to pet Ran's soft-furred tail as he leaned against his shoulder.

"Mm," Ran confirmed with a nod. "It's the airship that we flew in, when the Hero took us to safety."

Torrent thought he was a little jealous. Ran had already been through amazing adventures, though he'd said he had been terrified at the time. The only thing Torrent had ever really done was tend his chocobos, traveling to check on the flocks he tended, and then BAM! He'd wound up here.

"That's really neat," Torrent said with a sigh. "Wish we had an airship here, to take us from world to world. Then we wouldn't have to wait for the Keyblade Master, we could go out and fight the Heartless ourselves!"

"We should wait," Ran spoke up at once, drawing his knees to his chest in a scared kind of huddle. "We should wait. That's not the kind of thing you can do without the Hero."

"I'm sorry," Torrent said at once, drawing Ran close with an arm about his shoulders. He chuckled. "You don't care about waiting, do you? Not like me, I'm too impatient, I guess." He nuzzled his cheek against the other boy's.

"It gives me more time to practice," Ran said softly. Just as Torrent had been honing his fighting abilities during the time he'd spent in Traverse Town, so Ran had been learning arcana from the various staves and gloves that Vincent gifted him with, absorbing magic like a sponge.

"Yeah...I guess it gives me more time to practice, too," Torrent said grudgingly. "Even if it's with old man Cid."

Ran giggled, then began to gather up his coloring pens and pastels and closed his journal. "How is your day?" He was also learning, from Vincent, the various ways that humans interacted. Such as pleasantries. Upon his arrival in Traverse Town, Ran had been a very ignorant, very direct boy.

"Fine," Torrent said with deep disgust. "Every day is fine, like the day before...and tomorrow will be fine, too. I've decided: when I see the Keyblade Master, I'm going to march up and kick him a good one in the shins."

"You can't!" Ran exclaimed, looking horrified. "Oh, Torrent, tell me you won't! Not to the Hero!"

"Oh, yes, I could," Torrent replied evilly. "I've been waiting for that jerk to show up for so long, I could kick him in a heartbeat."

The blonde Genome shook his head back and forth. "Torrent, please," he said, mouth pursing in a pretty moue of distress. He tilted his head, fixing Torrent with his most adorable feline Entreating Look of Doom.

It spelled Torrent's doom, at any rate. "Oh, I'm only half serious," he grumbled, telling a white lie. "Let's go and have lunch, okay?"

"Un!" Ran gave him a nod.

In Traverse Town, it was hard to tell time. The lack of sun or moon to give them a balanced out day prevented people from basing their schedules that way...not to mention, with everyone coming from different worlds as they did, they had too many different time systems to contend with. Vincent had told him when they'd first arrived that there had been about twenty different clocks in Traverse Town and they all told different times.

Cid had simplified it for everyone; he had built a universal clock. Even though there was no difference between night and day, the lights dimmed and lit up around the schedule he had established. Torrent had asked once what he'd used to determine the daily schedule that everyone now lived by; Cid had growled "Never mind."

Vincent had answered the question calmly, "His stomach."

At least it was something to live by.

The two boys walked through Traverse Town side by side, Ran slipping his hand unselfconsciously into Torrent's. "I'm hungry," Ran informed him, and his tummy growled.

"Aww..." Torrent squeezed his hand, utterly enthralled. Ran was too cute, sometimes. If he had to be stuck in Traverse Town, being around Ran was the way to go. "We'll get you something to eat, okay?"

Hurrying back to first district, they burst through the door of the first level of their home. Cid and Vincent lived on the first level, he and Ran on the second. One of Vincent's construction projects was building a place for just he and Ran. The first thing Torrent noticed was that plates were laid out on the table, and some food. The second thing Torrent noticed was the energetic squeaka-squeaka-squeaka coming from the next room.

"I guess we won't be having our lunch with Vincent and Cid," Ran said nonchalantly, seating himself at the table.

Torrent began to sweat. It wasn't that Ran didn't know what they were doing; he knew perfectly well. Ran had been raised in a place without shame, a world of innocent exploration: where there was no right or wrong, only what felt good and what didn't. To him, sex was just another exercise; to him, sex between men was just sex.

"Doesn't it bother you?" Torrent managed, grabbing his sandwich and folding it in a napkin. Apparently Cid had taken his quickie comment the wrong way and decided to come home instead of dragging Vincent into his shop.

Ran blinked, pausing with his sandwich halfway to his mouth. "Why should it bother me?" he inquired. "Vincent and Cid act rough, but they care about each other...and Cid is a randy bastard," he added judiciously. That last was Vincent's phrasing and Torrent choked.

"True..." Torrent shook his head. "Let's eat outside, okay?" That wasn't the kind of "bother" he'd meant, but it was okay. He thought that Ran was too young for the kind of fun and games he himself was ready for, and definitely not ready for the kind of thing Vincent and Cid shared. Torrent knew for sure that he himself couldn't sit around the kitchen placidly eating a sandwich while the bed whacked against the wall next door and...there it was. Vincent was moaning.

"Okay," Ran said, acceding to his wishes as he did on practically every occasion.

It was enough to give a naughty boy ideas, Ran's degree of compliance. But Torrent was protective of his friend.

"I wonder," Torrent said, shutting the door behind him, taking a bite of his sandwich at last, "when we'll know the Keyblade Master is coming."

Ran shrugged, already halfway through devouring his. "Vincent says that we'll know because the Heartless will come."

Torrent shivered, groping in his sweater pouch, fingers closing around a slim metal whistle as if it were a talisman to wield against the dark. "The Heartless," he repeated, and his eyes were cold and determined. He would fight. He had already decided. He was no baby to stay at home while the Hero did everything. "It feels like we've been waiting forever." Like a dream, a recurring dream, where his world broke to pieces and he pumped his arms and legs and the breath burned in his lungs only for him to realize...he was going nowhere, spinning his legs uselessly in space.

"Torrent?" Ran's hand sought his anxiously, even as the Genome finished stuffing his sandwich into his unexpectedly capacious mouth. Fingers squeezed his.

"It's okay." He shook his head and gave his friend a reassuring smile. "I'm not very good at waiting."

"Forget that for now," Ran entreated, tugging on his hand. "Once you're done with your sandwich, let's go snuggle."

Torrent crammed his sandwich into his mouth in one continuing bite and swallow while Ran regarded him with wide violet eyes. "Done," he said indistinctly.

A cuddle with Ran was worth waiting for, but Torrent preferred to seize the moment. As for the rest...he'd wait. He had to.

And when the Keyblade Master showed up, he would kick him a good one. Right in the shins.