"Riku! I'm back!"
The voice was followed by the slam of the screen door falling closed and the crinkling of paper bags.
"In the kitchen, Sora."
The lanky ex-key blade master switched bags from one arm to the other, trying to close the door. He locked the deadbolt, having become quite a bit more nervous since his escapades throughout different worlds. He walked into the kitchen and dumped the bags on the counter. Riku was sitting in one of the four chairs that surrounded their small kitchen table. In front of him was a half empty bottle of orange soda.
Sora felt his mood sink. Orange soda was his favorite drink. Riku loved cream soda. And he had just put more in the fridge the night before. Turning his back to Riku he began to put away the groceries. There was a sound behind him as Riku stood, the hard wood of the chair squeaking against the linoleum.
"What did you buy?"
"Nothing important," Sora put down a jar of peanut butter and was quickly at the other side of the table. He put a hand on Riku's shoulder and eased him back into the chair. "Sit. I don't need any help."
Riku just nodded, smiling a bit as he picked up his bottle and took a sip of orange soda.
"Hey, how about I get you a cream soda and I'll finish that off for you?"
As soon as he said it Sora regretted it. He did his best. But it was hard. Like walking on eggshells every single day. Sora stared openly at Riku's face, the smooth discolored flesh around his eyes only partially hidden by his long bangs. His eyes were open just a slit today, the filmy monochrome gray showing through.
"Sora, you don't have to act like that. I know I'm blind, it's not like you're hiding something from me."
Even though he said it with a genuine smile, Sora felt like he had been scolded. It had been hard, ever since they returned to Destiny Island. Living alone in a tiny shack a ways from the suburbs where they grew up. Every day he went to work, helping the fishermen on the island pull in their nets. He wasn't quite a fisherman yet, but being apprenticed brought in just enough money to pay the bills, and enough seafood to keep them fed.
"I know. I just. Okay so I don't know."
Sora slumped into the chair across from Riku, his crown pendant clunking loudly on the table. He didn't even think to put away the rest of the groceries. How did it end up like this?
He felt tears stinging his eyes but stayed where he was, arms at his sides and chin propped up uncomfortably on the table. After all, it wasn't like Riku would see him crying and make fun of him. Not like the old days.
Riku leaned forward, his hand brushing against the cold chain of Sora's necklace. He followed it back to its owner, metal turning into soft, albeit slightly knotted hair. He took one of the long pieces of hair from in front of Sora's ear and gave it a small tug. He heard the younger man chuckle at this. Somehow it had transformed from a childhood sign of teasing to a show of affection.
Sora couldn't help but smile, even if there was no one to appreciate it.
Releasing his eartail Riku slid his hand across Sora's face. He jerked back and sat up, out of the reach of Riku's long arms. But it was useless, Riku must have felt his tears.
"Sora... please, its not worth it."
He knew what Riku meant to say. I'm not worth it. Riku was happy with this life because he felt like it was all he deserved. After what Ansem had made him do. Sora knew it; Riku just took everything that came and assumed he deserved it.
"No. It is worth it. God, Riku. Look at you. Its all my fault," Sora sniffled, not caring now that Riku already knew. "I should have been able to save you. What kind of a fucking savior am I..."
Riku stood up and Sora watched as he carefully made his way around the table. He could move pretty fast around the house when he needed to, so long as everything stayed where it was. When he reached out and felt Sora's arm he stopped and crouched down.
He brushed slowly against Sora's shoulders, gauging the distance to his face. Sora relaxed under his touch and let Riku run his hands across his eyes and his forehead, down to his cheeks and his ears.
"You're so angry you're blushing."
Sora let out a half sob, half laugh. Riku let his warm ears alone and gave another soft tug to his eartail.
"Sora. You couldn't have changed anything. This was our destiny. If you keep blaming yourself this will consume you. Move on."
His eyes were wide open now. Sora knew that Riku preferred to keep his eyes shut or wear sunglasses over them, even though Sora had seen them a million times. He couldn't lie. They were unnerving. When Ansem had abandoned Riku's body, he'd left him powers gained from the darkness, but also some of the weaknesses. For a long time Riku had worn a blindfold to shield his sensitive eyes from daylight. That was how Sora had first been reunited with him after he escaped Kingdom Hearts. But then, during the final battle his blindfold had been cut off and the light had seared his eyes completely. Despite all their attempts at healing spells, nothing could help Riku. The gray cataracts left no hint of the sea green eyes that Sora had always known.
"I know. Its just...very hard."
Riku stood up and pulled Sora with him. Even if he couldn't see what he was doing, Riku was still as abnormally strong as ever. Placing a hand on his shoulder, a sign that he wanted Sora to lead him somewhere, the twenty year old headed into the miniscule area they referred to as their living room.
"So, where we going?" Sora asked, trying to sound more playful than he felt.
"How about down to the beach? Its been a while since we've gone swimming."
Sora's thoughts went back to the kitchen, where he had left some of the groceries out. Even leading his friend to the door he tried to glance back and see if anything was going to go bad if left out.
"Didn't I tell you to stop worrying. That includes about the groceries."
He snapped around again, Riku laughing at him as they left their small shack. One advantage, aside from being away from prying eyes, was their home's proximity to one of the beaches. It was small, and had a lot of rocks in the shallows, so the tourists avoided it. When he felt the warm sand under his bare feet Riku let go of Sora and pulled his shirt over his head.
Sora realized he still had his shoes on and sat down to begin unlacing them. But Riku either didn't know or didn't care, and began walking down the slope to the water. As soon as his feet hit the pebbles that covered the tide lines he paused, feeling the temperature as the foamy tips of the waves slid over his toes.
"Wait up Riku! My shoelace is stuck..."
Riku laughed loudly at Sora, imagining the look of extreme concentration on the face of the ex-key blade master, faced with the challenge of his own shoelaces. It disappointed him sometimes that the Sora in his mind would always be 16 years old, wearing his black keyblade master outfit covered with yellow and red straps.
Time had changed a lot of things, but unfortunately Riku's stubbornness continued. He walked into the breaking waves, just far enough to avoid the shells and stones that littered the shallows. When he was about thigh deep, his long shorts already chilled and sticking to his legs, he heard the slide of sand as Sora hurried down the dune.
"I said wait up!"
"I'm fine Sora. Look, if a shark swims up, gimme some warning. Otherwise, you don't need to watch me like a hawk."
Sora snorted but secretly enjoyed these quips between them. He and Sora had always been rivals even as they were best friends, and insults between them felt natural.
Unlike the very cold water.
"Ow! Oh man. How can you stand this? Its freezing."
Despite his complaints Sora waded out to where Riku was, sidling up beside him, close enough that he could feel his presence.
"Its going to storm I think."
Whether it was instinctive or the result of a bad knee, Riku had always been predicting the weather since Sora and he were young. Sure enough, white clouds were covering the sky and some above their heads were beginning to gray. The water swirling at their calves tugged out with the tide, made strong by the oncoming storm.
"Yeah, looks like its a ways off though. Its getting dark on the horizon, but the clouds are still moving slow."
Riku nodded, sticking his head up in the air like a dog that has caught a scent.
As he watched him standing in the waves, Sora couldn't help but be reminded of his dreams. The dreams that had started right before they were pulled off of the island, dreams filled with shadows and heartless, and Riku reaching for him under a tidal wave.
While the wind was almost nonexistent they stayed there, sometimes wandering farther in up to their chests where they could bob up and down on the waves, and other times back into the breaking waves. But the wind picked up and a few droplets started to hit them, seeming colder than the ocean water they had adjusted to.
"Time to head back."
Once again Sora found himself thankful for the proximity of the beach to their home. Wet clothes just got taken off in the small foyer and tossed into the nearby washing machines. Before the older boy even had to ask Sora handed him a towel then went to get another for himself. Riku left his wet clothes in a pile, less out of a slobbish tendency and more out of the recognition that it would be faster and immensely less difficult for Sora to do it.
Wearing just the towel around his waist he let his right hand graze along the wall, following the well known corners into his room. Their apartment had two bedrooms, each with its own small attached bathroom, a half kitchen that led into the living room and porch on the back that faced the sea.
Riku loved the feel of fresh dry clothes after going into the ocean or getting caught in the rain. Sometimes he felt like he wanted to run into the rain just so that when he came back in he could enjoy putting on dry clothes. Pulling out a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt he carefully slipped them on, making sure he didn't get them backwards.
He could smell something fishy emanating from the kitchen as he followed the walls toward the smell. Lucky for him, he liked fish. Seeing as they ate it almost every night.
"What's the catch of the day?"
"Weakfish. Just a little too small to be legal, but plenty for us."
Riku found the table and settled himself down onto a chair. He found that ever since he'd gone blind, he liked to be in the company of someone. And that someone was almost constantly Sora. Even if they weren't talking, or Sora didn't even realize he was there, it was comforting to have that nearby presence. Too long spent in the world of darkness alone with only Ansem had probably added to his habit.
"I saw the others today."
This had become another of their rituals. It worked on the same principle as not moving the furniture around. It let Riku know what was happening, and at least in Sora's mind put him at ease.
"And?" He cocked his head towards where Sora was dishing out their dinners. At first it was just the expected clinking of forks out of the silverware drawer and then the scraping sound of porcelain to his right.
"They told me to say hello for them," he lapsed into silence again. Across the way Riku found his fork and was very carefully trying to determine where on his plate his food was. He had gotten infinitely better over the years of being without his sight, but some things would always be hard.
"So they still don't remember anything from before the island was swallowed up?"
"Nope, only Kairi remembers anything."
The two young men ate quietly, putting in one or two quips as they saw fit, to fill the gaps between them. As with his disability, it seemed to Riku that Sora took their friend's memory loss far more seriously than he did. Ironic, considering Riku had retained his memories of Castle Oblivion while Sora had willingly given them up.
All too soon dinner was over and Riku felt along the counter top, bringing his plate to where Sora was washing the dishes.
This is what it had come down to. A keyblade master scrubbing plates and passing them to his blind ex-nemesis to dry them with a dingy towel.
"We need a maid."
Apparently Sora's thoughts hadn't been far from Riku's on this occasion. With the dishes cleaned Sora walked into the living room, gently nudging Riku's shoulder as they walked, guiding him quickly around the obstacles. The oddity of how routine these things had become sometimes occurred to Sora, but he usually brushed it off.
Riku leaned into the corner of their small but plush couch. The sun had set and the dim light didn't bother him as much, so he relaxed and let his eyes open completely. After all, it wasn't anything Sora hadn't seen before.
"Want to watch the jazz channel?"
There was a snort from his silver haired companion as Sora attempted to maneuver his way to the aforementioned channel.
"Why don't you watch a movie? I'm not really in the mood for music."
What he really meant was that he didn't want to be pampered anymore. Even his patience ran out sometimes, and Sora took the hint. There was a good action movie on so he left the tv there, providing comforting background noise even to the one who was able to watch it. But instead, he chose to watch Riku. The man looked off into one direction, unseeing, but sometimes would tilt his head, like an animal that has heard something.
The sounds of screaming and explosions rocketed Sora into his memories. Seeing his friends, weapons drawn, fighting off the organization. Black cloaked figures and heartless rounded on them in black waves. He was the keyblade master, it had been his job to rally and command his troops. There were surprisingly few casualties.
He could still see the moment it happened though.
They had been outnumbered and each of their team was struggling against at least one organization member. This left the heartless to roam free. They rarely came near him, because they feared the touch of the keyblade. His back was pressed to Riku's, being in the thickest part of the battle. He saw a flash of electricity high in the sky above the tower of Hallow Bastion where they stood. Cloud and Sephiroth had taken their fight to the sky, and the younger warrior was being forced to use magic spells to ward off the flying heartless that dive bombed him, taking advantage of his distraction.
For just a second Sora had stepped away, had decided it was time to clear a path to where Donald and Goofy were struggling against a group of Defenders. He hadn't thought anything of it, was so sure that Riku could handle himself. The empty space where he had once stood was immediately swarmed by Neoshadows who were just as quickly met with the soul eater. Riku was so focused on warding off the shadows in front of him that he wasn't paying attention to those behind him.
Lucky for him his warrior instincts kicked in when he sensed the dark presence approaching him from behind. Using the soul eater to slash through a few of the heartless in front of him, he spun around ready to face his new opponent, when something flew out of the corner of his eye. He had been too busy blocking the attack of the Big Body that was advancing on him to pay attention to the lowly Shadows that accompanied it. One had jumped at his flank and slashed at his face. He had pulled back just a second too late, and one of the claws caught on his blindfold, tearing it down and leaving a shallow cut along his jaw.
Even above the battle cries and death throe calls of the heartless Sora could hear Riku's scream clear as day. He gave up everything he was doing to help the others and ran to his best friend's side. The others rallied around them, protecting the fallen boy while Sora and Aeris tried their best to heal his smoking eyes. But the burns had set in and no amount of curagas could bring his sight back.
The brunette jerked awake and looked around for a second, thoroughly confused as to where he was. He must have dozed off while he was staring off into space.
"You awake now?"
Rubbing the dry feeling from his eyes, Sora nodded out of habit before realizing that it did no good to his companion.
"Yeah, sorry, didn't realize I'd fallen asleep."
Riku just laughed at Sora's sheepish voice and reached out, feeling along Sora's jaw to find an eartail and give it a gentle pull.
"Well, I think its about time we both head to bed, don't you say?"
Sora took Riku's hand and they headed for the part of the hallway where the doors to their rooms were. Knowing where he was Riku let his hand trail along the hallway wall and went into his room to get ready for bed. When he opened his top drawer he found a whole stack of fresh pajamas. Sora always kept them in exactly the same place. He liked to help Riku be self-sufficient, at least as much as he could.
With a light pair of pants and a tank top on, Riku felt the edge of his bed and collapsed onto it. He had to wonder what their house looked like. A huge part of him wished he could see it all, just once. But he'd been blind when they first returned to Destiny Island, and now he'd never know. Reaching up to run a hand through his hair and pull it up so he wasn't laying on it he realized how long it had gotten. What did he look like now? Or Sora. They'd both aged so much since the Hollow Bastion battle.
Riku just rolled over, facing the open window and letting the breeze cool him off. It smelled of the storm that had just passed. He was quickly asleep, despite the sounds of his roommate tossing and turning across the hall.
Sora knew that he wasn't tired, and probably wouldn't be for a while. He had slept a long time while they were watching the movie, and now his body was ready to do something. Instead he lay in the dark, staring at the blue tinged ceiling above him. Riku was never an insomniac, even as kids Sora was always the one who was left awake after everyone else. Maybe it was time for a sleeping pill. Sora debated whether or not he wanted to walk to the bathroom and find his medication and slowly drifted into a half-conscious rest.
Noises from in his apartment woke him up, and he slowly rose from his bed, careful not to make a sound. He couldn't imagine that someone would break into their tiny little shack, but nothing was impossible. As he crept into the hallway, he realized the sounds were coming from Riku's room, his door open halfway.
Sora made his way inside and careful toward the bed. Riku was laying curled up, but his wrists would twitch out every now and then. He was also muttering in his sleep, something incomprehensible. Even though he couldn't tell what the boy was saying, Sora knew that he was having a bad dream by the way his arms kept pulling back and forth against his body, and his head kept snapping back.
"Riku, hey, wake up."
Sora gently pushed against the prone body, and Riku came out of his dream and looked around for a second his face drawn together in confusion.
"It's just me Riku, you were talking in your sleep."
The silver haired man slowly sat up stretched out, looking far more relaxed now and his eyes once again staring off into the distance, no longer looking for something he could never find.
"Sorry. Bad dream. I'm good now though, go back to sleep."
Instead of hearing him leave, Riku felt Sora's weight settle on the bed, pulling it away from him.
"I still get nightmares too..."
Even with his excellent hearing, Riku felt like he needed to lean in to hear Sora's hushed, gravelly voice.
"I see the heartless...I see our island being destroyed...the final battle..."
Riku suddenly felt very uncomfortable. This wasn't like Sora. He was always the one trying to make the situation better, putting on a smile and not talking about anything bad. Feeling like it was something he should do, Riku reached out and placed a hand on Sora's knee. He was shaking.
"I guess it comes from being a keyblade master, but I have to wonder if they'll ever go away," After a second of sniffling and sharp breathing, Riku figured that Sora was crying again. He hated that all he ever saw of his former best friend was the sound of his tears.
"What was your nightmare about?" Sora sniffed and seemed to get a hold of himself.
"I told you what my dreams are, I want to know what had you twitching and mumbling in your sleep."
Riku cleared his throat and tried to think of a good lie. But it was late and he had just woken up, his mind wasn't quite up to the task.
"Riku, please tell me..."
With a sigh and a soft smile he looked in the direction he assumed Sora was. This was not going to end well.
"I dreamt that a shark was trying to eat me...probably because of the joke I made earlier..."
After a few seconds of silence Riku tried to apologize and explain that he had dreams about the darkness too, just not this time. But he felt the weight remove itself from his bed and heard Sora's feet slap against the wood when he left the carpeted room. Riku tried to get out of bed but got tangled in the sheets, by the time he was standing he heard a door slam.
Sora shivered the second he was outside. The island had been warm this spring, but the thunderstorm from earlier had cooled the air down too much to be enjoyed in just shorts and a t-shirt.
But the cold seemed an infinitely better choice than what waited for him inside his home. He knew that running away had been stupid but he couldn't stand the embarrassment. As if on autopilot his feet started taking him to the beach. The sand was moist and cold, faded footprints making puddles that led to the ocean.
He finally said it. Finally confided in his best friend that he feared and dealt with the same demons. But he was wrong. Riku wasn't drowning in the darkness and the memories. He had moved on, just like he was always telling Sora to do. But he couldn't. His guilt kept him chained down.
Ignoring the sand that would inevitably bother him, he sat down on the sandy slope, looking into the pitch black water. Flashes of light showed on the tops of waves where seagulls sat trying to catch the squid that came up to the surface. Sora was distracted by movement and watched the sand crabs run from their holes on the beach into the water and back again, oblivious to his presence.
After a particularly hard shiver Sora curled up on himself more, wrapping his arms around his knees. He didn't want to go inside quite yet, but it was pretty cold out here. Looking around he saw that one of the small dunes had grass growing right on the top of it that led back towards the yard. He crawled up the sand and flopped on the grass, which was just a bit warmer than the wet sand. It also happened to be tall enough to block some of the wind. Before he could debate the safety of taking a nap on the beach in the middle of the night, he was asleep and awake again.
Everything was becoming gray and Sora knew that dawn had to only be a quarter of an hour away. He stood up and felt goose bumps trail down his legs. He was freezing. This was a stupid idea. All because he couldn't face being embarrassed in front of his blind best friend. And he knew Riku wouldn't follow him.
Sora felt bile rise in his throat and he swallowed it back. He had run twenty feet from their house and slept outside because he knew that Riku wouldn't follow him. Knew that being blind kept him from leaving the house without someone else to lead him home.
At least running back into the house warmed up his numb body. As he reached the door he worried that Riku could have gone back to sleep and so quietly swung it open. It was strange that Riku hadn't closed it after he ran out. He immediately headed back to his room, only to find Riku sitting across from the closed door, head lolling and nodding to the side.
His head picked up, and clicked confusedly from the door to Sora's room, back to where he stood down the hallway.
"How did you get out of your room? I thought I would have heard you open the door."
"Were you waiting out here all this time?"
Riku nodded before standing up, bending and stretching out his cramped muscles.
"You weren't answering so I figured you were really upset. I didn't want to burst in--"
He was cut off as something shaking plowed into him and he was pushed against the wall. The mass that usually went by the name of Sora pulled him down to the carpet, not out of weight or strength, but by capitalizing on the sleepy Riku's slow reactions. All too soon the blind boy found himself sitting with his back to the wall, a sobbing ex-keyblade master pressed against him like he was the only thing keeping him anchored to his sanity.
Riku wrapped his arms around the boy's shoulders, letting him rest his head on his shoulder as he cried against his t-shirt, his hands balled up in it. The brunette didn't seem to care about causing discomfort by sitting in between Riku's legs and putting all his weight on the poor boy's lower back. And considering the state of his best friend, Riku wasn't too worried about it either. Instead he just brought one hand up to ruffle Sora's hair and held him tightly with the other.
Sora sniffled before awkwardly crawling over one of Riku's legs, and turning himself so that his back was against the wall too. Neither said anything for a few minutes but then Riku stood up and took hold of Sora elbow, leading him as he had so often been led into the younger boy's room, opening the closed door and still being slightly surprised that it was unlocked.
He heard the sniffling and scuffling from behind him as he felt along the dresser that sat on the wall, careful not to bump either him or his companion on it.
"I'm real tempted to make a crack about the blind leading the blind..."
Riku laughed at the hoarse voice that attempted to lighten their situation. But then he felt Sora's bed, still rumpled and tangled from his earlier insomnia, and pulled the boy forward and practically pushed him onto it. Running his hand along Sora's arm he found an eartail and gave it one small tug, before pulling away and feeling along the wall to the door. As he closed it, he turned back to where he knew Sora was settling into his bed.
"Get some sleep. I'll keep watch."
He caught a snotty snort from the bed before closing the door and returning to his own bed.
Okay...I just started writing this as a bit of a character study, I like the way it came out. There are also two sketches of it that I will post to Deviantart when I get back to my scanner in my dorm. Anyway, this meant to be a oneshot, but if I get a positive reaction I might write more oneshots in this same universe. Leave a review if you like!