Beware the long author's note of doom. Heh. Riyu went mad. Forgive him/me.
So this is a series of fragmented moments, from wayyyyyyyy back when the two boys were on Destiny Islands (pre-Kairi) to when they were about to set sail and Kairi was in the picture...from there we jump allll the way to KHII and from thereon out, with the exception of the beach scene, it's all just a more 'introspective' look at moments that actually happen. So if you're spoiler-fearful, I'd say avoid this story, which is basically an attempt at re-telling with a more clarified SoraxRiku angle.
It's not strung together in any particular way so I'm well aware that it lacks...cohesion sadly, but I couldn't figure out how I'd like to do it properly. So rather than half-decent transitions, I kind of just didn't use them at all.
Yeah, maybe not the best choice. .
Anyways, I divided it by lines, but to give you more context, also gave each section a title, so you know for certain when things shift. I took liberties with scenes on the beach, which is to say, made some up, but eh, it was going to happen.
For a clearer run down though, you basically have to have seen the cut scenes/ know the game to follow the KHII stuff. Here's a weird TOC since it's so er...lacking in cohesion:
Pt 1: the adventurers, back on the islands when Sora and Riku were ten or so, before Kairi came along
Pt 2: they prepare to set sail, as seen in the first manga or the beginning of KHI and we have an added in scene I like to imagine might have happened since in the manga Sora did in fact keep the paopu, blush, etc
Pt 3: here perhaps is the biggest jump. We go from KHI to the part when Riku first faces Roxas, blindfold and all, the part at which he demands 'why, why do you have the keyblade?'
Pt 4: in a sense this part is mirroring pt. 3 since the same feelings of uncertainty and worry should be there. Only this time it's Sora facing Roxas in that strange time limbo on the stained glass floor of him, Riku, Kairi, etc...basically part 1 of The World that Never Was
Pt. 5: this is when 'Ansem'/ Riku is about to leave but Kairi tells Sora it's Riku, to close his eyes, blah, blah...just a closer look at that moment since well, it's so...worthwhile, you know?
Pt. 6: Riku takes off his blindfold and we have that moment
Pt 7: Sora has just disappeared to fight Xemnas alone and instead of seeing the fight—as we were forced to since we were doing the fighting hehe, in the game—we see Riku and the others and what they were doing while Sora was gone—which frankly probably isn't that long, but eh, suspension of time?
Pt 8: Riku being reluctant to go back, Sora making that ridiculous face that makes you want to molest him and laugh at him all at once
Pt 9: After the real final fight, the nobodies are disappearing and we have the "Sora, you lead" line
Pt 10: The part up to where Riku asks to get down to the water.
Pt 11: okay here's where we get into the 'what if' part, basically it's just a closer look into their 'I was jealous of you' conversation, segueing from there into a longer interaction and conversation that doesn't actually happen in the game, but I thought might, considering their past together, Riku's imminent insecurity, etc
Pt 12: sexual tension/ pent up emotions...more artistic license I guess
Pt 13: awkward moment after the sexual tension/ release of pent up emotions
Pt 14: we leave before the bottle with Kairi's message floats over because I just didn't know how to work that in. Instead we have another possible moment between Sora and Riku, very, very short, but it means something, as always.
In summary, this isn't quite all that I'd like it to be, but I did put a lot of thought and work into so hopefully that comes through.
Yuki: So, you going to, you know, let them get to the actual story?
Disclaimer: KH anything is not mine. Such a damn shame, let me tell you!
A Promise You Can Keep
"And we'll sail off to find new worlds!" Sora raised his wooden sword high in the air, an adventure written all across his face. Riku grinned.
"Together," he added and Sora slung his arm through Riku's affectionately.
"Duh! Dummy!" Sora snickered and Riku, eyes lighting with a mischievousness certain to grow over the years to come locked Sora in a friendly hold around his neck, ruffling his hair.
"Who you calling a dummy, dummy?" he asked, smirking as Sora made all sorts of funny noises in protest at the rough treatment of his gloriously spiky brown hair. Riku never understood why the laws of gravity seemed to leave Sora's hair out of its restrictions, but it was lots of fun to play with so he didn't much care, really.
"Hehe." Sora managed to slip out from the hold, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. They stared at each other, each mirroring the other's grin as Sora skipped to the end of the dock and sat on it, swinging his legs over the side. Running a hand through his hair thoughtfully, another action that could in the future be patented as purely Riku, the young silver haired boy padded quietly over to sit behind Sora. Pondering his question, his eyes fell on the wooden sword at the boy's side and his mind clicked. Ah that was a good way to ask without seeming too...
Riku made a face.
Stealthily picking it up without Sora noticing, he proceeded to poke the boy with it, a lazy look drawn across his face. Sora, on the other hand, leapt up and whirled, an indignant pout on his face that it was certain he would never quiet outgrow.
"Riku!" Sora stood there, hands on hips, the very picture of offense...adorable offense, but still...
"When we go to other worlds, what if we get lost?" Riku asked, trying to be as nonchalant as possible.
"Huh?" Sora blinked, eyes wide.
Riku rolled his eyes.
And he was the dummy? Please!
"I said, what if we get lost? What'll we do?"
Sora let his head tilt to one side as he considered this. Well, hopefully they wouldn't get lost. He didn't know what he would do without Riku there. He'd always kind of...well...depended on the confident boy...needed him. What would they do? What would he do? A frown knit his brows and Sora plopped back down next to Riku with the occasional 'hmm' and 'um' escaping until Riku grew so impatient he poked Sora with the sword again.
"Well, what'll we do?"
Riku really wanted...no...Riku really needed an answer.
He wasn't even entirely sure why.
But something told him he needed to know.
"I guess..." Sora stretched his arms out in front of him idly and then turned to face Riku. "Well, we'll look for each other, right? And we won't stop until we're together again."
"I guess." Riku, for some reason, was not satisfied with this. Now that might have simply been the way any ten year-old would act, but then again...
"You won't look for me?"
Riku brought his full attention to a pair of watering sapphire eyes.
Stupid, Riku scowled at himself and let the wooden sword drop as he pulled Sora into a friendly embrace.
"Don't cry. Of course I would look for you...I'd look everywhere for you," Riku smiled down at him, a softness there that Sora would learn to look for beyond his usual dry smirk.
"And...and you promise we'll never fight each other? You'll always be my friend!" Sora's eyes had grown fierce rather than teary and he was now clinging rather strongly to the surprised Riku who nodded dumbly.
"Well, yeah," he laughed, wondering why he didn't feel so sure.
"You mean it?" Sora insisted, pulling on Riku hard enough to bring him down so that they were nose-to-nose.
"Of course," he replied easily.
There was a pause as sapphire bored into aquamarine waters, eyes locked on each other in a test of sorts, the kind of test only children seemed to be able to depend on because only children could be so genuine with, or without words.
Something honest woke quietly in the taller boy as he looked down at his friend who he loved.
"I really mean it." This he said and this he meant. A couple more seconds of staring and Sora released his grip on Riku, grabbed his wooden sword and tapped the boy on his shoulder.
"'Kay! You're it!" He smiled widely and took off down the beach like lightning. His own grin matching the brightness of Sora's, Riku quickly fell into pursuit.
A Promise You Can Keep
It was the day before they left, the day before the raft would carry them into new worlds, just like he and Riku had promised, just like they had dreamt! Well, sort of. There was Kairi. He liked Kairi ever since she moved to the island. She had a kind of similar mischievousness Sora could relate to and a laziness he absolutely recognized as his own. Of course he and Riku invited her to come along...or so he remembered. Lately Riku had been saying that he had invited her, but Sora couldn't quite recall. It was a bit hazy. Strange.
Well everything had been a bit 'strange' lately. His dreams were if anything, beyond that simple word's ability to define. He had a hunch it had something to do with leaving the islands, but he couldn't quite figure out what. After all, if Sora was completely honest with himself, he knew though he would miss certain things about it, the truth was that he and Riku had had this dream...shared this dream for years.
And he wanted nothing more than to make it a reality. He was ready he felt, to see whatever might lay beyond the wide blue water he saw everyday, beyond the same gold-orange sunset…as much as he loved that sunset.
In any case, he wouldn't let Riku go alone. They'd made a promise; he mused softly and upon this thought remembered Riku's strange behavior. Maybe he'd been worried Sora would back out? That was silly, but Sora had noticed Riku had a slightly...dare he say, insecure side? It was there. Maybe...maybe he should say something?
"Sora!" Ah, there he is, Sora thought wryly. Good timing. "Here!"
Brushing his previous thoughts aside, he turned around in time to see a blur of yellow headed his way. Eyes widening he held out his hands and found as a soft weight settled into them: a paopu fruit...?
"They say if two people share one their destinies become intertwined. They'll remain a part of each other's lives no matter what," Riku sauntered up to him, that familiarly lazy smirk on his face, accented by the slightly hooded look in his aquamarine eyes. Sora blinked, feeling rather dense as he met his friend's gaze. What the heck?
"Huh?" Oh yes, he was feeling rather dense...stupid too.
"Shouldn't you try it out before we leave?" Riku asked, his look becoming increasingly sly, which gave Sora great reason to be wary...he knew that look.
Oh did he.
"Huh?" Again, with the stupid feeling.
"Or should I test it out first?" Riku leaned down now, very, very close to Sora's face as he tapped the paopu in his hands.
"H-huh?" This just wasn't getting him anywhere, Sora noted feebly. "Wha—?" he began but...
"You guys! Let's go back!" Kairi's voice interrupted and Sora lost any semblance of a train of thought he might have had…which wasn't much to begin with. But as he watched Riku's eyes he saw them lose their teasing light as they darkened, still staring down at Sora. They were saying something to him, Sora felt, but exactly what that was, he had little to no clue. And before he could inquire, Riku simply turned away, brushing past him.
"See ya," he said as if nothing had transpired between them and without a single glance back, left. Sora sputtered at the empty space in front of him.
"...the heck was that?"
Later in his room Sora held the paopu fruit up as if in examination.
They'll remain a part of each other's lives no matter what.
So Riku had been worried about him backing out, Sora surmised. But...he also was aware of a certain...romantic relativity involving the paopu. Just thinking about it brought a fierce blush to his face and feeling strange because not only were romantic things still considered greatly 'icky' to Sora, but...this was his best friend.
What was he doing thinking about Riku like that anyway?
"S-stupid!" Sora muttered and tossed the fruit to one side, pulling the covers over his head, trying to make his blush go away, and trying to ignore any reasons it simply wasn't going anywhere.
An hour later he still hadn't fallen asleep. Sora sighed and pulled the covers down, looking out his window. His eye caught movement...Riku?
"Riku?" he whispered. Aquamarine eyes stared up at him, startled.
"Did I wake you?" his voice was oddly...apologetic. Riku didn't typically do apologetic.
"No. Couldn't sleep."
Awkward silence, a soft familiar breeze...
"Can I come up?"
"You never asked before, dummy!" Sora laughed and moved aside as Riku clambered up through the window, taking seat at the foot of Sora's bed. This was normal for them. And Sora liked it very much. Some part of him believed that no matter where he was, no matter what was happening, if he was with Riku, if his best friend could be with him, then he would be okay...things just seemed okay when he was near.
Things just seemed right.
"You kept it," Riku's words caught Sora off guard and he followed his gaze to the fallen paopu. Sora's skin once again felt the oncoming blush. Desperate not to seem ridiculous, Sora proceeded to...bury his face in his pillow. Okay, so he was still ridiculous, but at least it was not because of the strange pinkish tone his cheeks had taken on. Riku eyed him in half curiosity, half amusement as he moved closer to the brunet.
"Mm, yeah," Sora mumbled against the pillow just as Riku deftly grabbed it away.
"Why are you hiding behind that?" Riku asked, clearly entertained. Sora laughed nervously.
"I just...I wanted to say that..." Sora's gaze flickered over to the paopu inadvertently.
But it wasn't a blush that came over him this time...it was a sense of strength...a warmth...a certainty.
"I," he inhaled deeply and then finished, "I want to see new worlds with you, no matter what."
Riku managed to look extremely boyish in this instant, eyes a bit wider than normal at Sora's words.
"Huh?" it was his turn to not know what to say.
"I, I'm not letting you leave without me!" Sora declared, standing up on his bed, fists clenched, eyes shining. He was aware that he was probably being a bit childish but some emotion had severely conquered his other notions of sense or the like. "We're going to be together all the time and, and we'll have adventures and no matter what, we're...I'm…you're with me!" Sora stopped here to catch his breath, feeling a little strange to himself. Where had that passionate outburst come from?
"I didn't mean to scare you with the paopu," Riku laughed, looking up at him, a little sadly Sora thought. "I just...wanted...something...you know..."
He trailed off and looked out the window. When it became clear he wouldn't speak again unless asked, Sora slid off the bed and only spent a second eyeing the fruit before he picked it up and made his way back to the bed.
"You didn't scare me. Here," Sora smiled softly at his friend who turned only to be presented with a small piece of...paopu?
"You don't have to, Sora."
"I know," he shrugged and holding up his own piece didn't hesitate before biting into it with zeal. A trickle of juice made its way out of his mouth. Riku laughed and brushed it away with his thumb gently. Sora fought back his umpteenth blush of the day.
This is Riku, your friend, Riku, he chanted in his mind as he waited for the silver haired boy to also partake.
"You know, I don't think I deserve this," Riku mumbled almost incoherently. Sora frowned.
"What do you mean? We're best friends," and at those words Sora was positive he saw Riku's eyes grow a bit distant.
"Yeah, best friends," he repeated and then ate the fruit proffered by Sora, chewing slowly as if in thought. They both stared out the window for a while, the rest of the paopu fruit in between them on the bed. "Sora?"
"What?" Sora moved slightly so he could peer directly at Riku who seemed frozen with his mouth open.
Sora arched a brow. Riku, along with not usually being apologetic, usually did not stumble for words. What was going on?
"...thanks," Riku said at last, but it felt empty...false. Sora kept from sighing as he placed the remaining fruit on the windowsill and surprised Riku by situating himself against him, leaning into his side, head against his shoulder. It wasn't like they hadn't done this before, but for Riku, something was different. Sora knew it too, even if he didn't know what the difference was exactly. For a while it was just the sound of their breathing, the ocean waves laughing against the shore, the slimmest of breezes rustling the island trees...the beat of their hearts.
"Someday tell me what you really wanted to say."
"Just someday...okay?" For uncounted minutes it seemed like the most Sora would get in reply was an uncomfortable silence and he thought about saying something else, something to break the strangeness he sensed coming between them. But then Sora's hand was covered in Riku's as their fingers intertwined.
And that was enough of an answer for Sora.
A Promise You Can Keep
"Why? Why do you have the keyblade?" Riku yelled, staring up at the hooded figure in front of him, so familiar, and so strange all at once. It was cold and the rain wasn't helping and on top of that he wasn't in the best of positions to be demanding such an answer. But he had to know.
"Shut up!" the hooded figure—number 13...no...Roxas— spat and attacked, but reflexes reliable as always, Riku countered. Unfortunately, this also gave the young man a chance to escape. When he turned all he saw was the black robe, lying in a puddle like a dead animal. Slowly he approached it, let his fingers crush some of the fabric in between them as he knelt, just to make sure it had all been real...just to make sure what had just happened hadn't been some delirious lapse.
The fabric was already soaked. Riku let it fall from his hand, standing slowly.
Why, why do you have the keyblade?
"Argh!" Riku lashed out at nothing, swinging fiercely at the heavy air until he could feel his own body heat pulsing against the even harder rain, breath heavy. All this time, thinking he's on a simple mission to 'retrieve' this 'Roxas' for Diz, just a 'nobody' who for some reason would help Sora wake...and he hadn't known more than that because of course he'd left immediately.
So his shock at the strange member of Organization XIII wielding a...a keyblade...his keyblade...
Riku had never felt more exhaustingly confused.
"Sora." The name fell from his mouth like another drop of rain.
What could have happened to cause such a turn of events? The silver-haired young man knew his best friend would never yield the keyblade willingly. By now Sora knew it was too important, knew he was, at the most or the least, the chosen one. Riku's grip on his own weapon tightened until his knuckles went white under the black of his gloves. He sighed.
Was he even still...
A resounding clang echoed like a ripple through the air as Riku struck the ground in frustration, simultaneously shaking such a thought, such a possibility from his mind.
No, of course he was.
There was a perfectly logical, well maybe not logical at all, reason for this other person having the keyblade...his keyblade, unmistakably so. There was a reason that somehow would make sense. After all, nowhere in any code Riku had come across, in any place had it been written that the bearer must die before another may possess it. Such ultimate statements were absurd in this land of split world where anything was possible, and as such nothing could be written off for face-value.
Nowhere was it written.
Of course Sora was still alive.
Because, if he wasn't...well...
"Wouldn't I feel it?" Riku whispered. Strangely it felt like his whole body was broken into countless, microscopic pieces, aching and sharp...at only the thought of Sora being...gone. It was horrible, it was heavy, it made him feel...shattered...just completely separated from himself...from what mattered most to him.
And suddenly his anger rushes to the surface, as Riku had always been quick to flash from one extreme to the other. He struck out again at nothing, yelling at the night.
"Wouldn't I know? Answer me!" Ablaze with the ferocity of not knowing and fearing the worst, he struck the ground, a clanging ring settling in an echo through the rainy streets. His breath was ragged, hoarse...and he was feeling entirely too reckless for his own good.
He had gone to bring Roxas back to the man called Diz in order to help Sora wake, which meant Sora must be alive, only slumbering. In fact, he'd even been given the opportunity to see Sora. But that hadn't done anything to assuage his fears concerning the younger boy's life and how delicate its existence had become.
If anything, it had intensified them.
Before he'd left Diz had indeed shown him—as a form of proof and incentive to do his bidding Riku assumed—where it was his best friend was suspended in an eerie unconsciousness.
A shudder trickled through his body at the memory.
Never had he seen Sora look so...cold...still...lifeless. Even the soft smile Riku had become accustomed to seeing back on Destiny Islands whenever the brunet would fall asleep—a lot of the time—was not there. And Riku's first thought had been: this can't be him...not the Sora I know...
But then all the events taken into account, why would he smile in his sleep? Maybe he had nightmares like Riku did...maybe...though, Riku hoped not. His lightest nightmare was gut wrenching, making his worst one something indescribably brutal...he hoped Sora never suffered like that in his dormancy.
And that Roxas...he had...fought so angrily. That was the only way to describe it...like he was protecting something.
Himself, Riku noted darkly. He felt bad for the nobody who had no choices, no real seeming life of his own. But if it was one or the other...Sora or Roxas...well...
I want to be on his side this time, Riku thought and felt his own surprise at his amount of wistfulness. Some part of him had remained, for whatever reason, distinctly boyish, reminiscent of the boy who challenged Sora to races just to get alone time, and teased him with paopu fruit because it was fun to see the boy blush. Regardless of his past mistakes and decisions, this part of him remained in severe clarity once he was brought back to his senses by Sora back then. This part of him lit a small portion of his own heart. And he marveled at it whenever it surfaced...depended on it when he found himself once again wandering the darkness alone...believed in it when the only thing he could remember was a pair of sapphire eyes.
Eyes. They said so much...too much sometimes.
Almost imperceptibly he traced his blindfold.
If he could fight Roxas without it…but no...Riku was smart enough to know when he needed more than that...smart enough to know what he needed...
Well, what would we be without the darkness? He mused, dredging up what was left of his cool humor, since that was the only way he could do what he knew he needed to.
Heartless? Riku wasn't so sure anymore as he took a few steps, puddles rippling in his wake, rain pattering down.
But one thing he knew for certain...his friend...his...light...and a heart big enough for all the worlds...he knew that for him nothing was too large a sacrifice.
For if he was truthful, Riku could say he was being selfish...selfishly he wanted for Sora to wake up, to look at him with that ridiculously optimistic smile.
And those eyes...
Sapphire eyes...sky filled eyes...he wanted to see them again.
Oblivion isn't for you...Sora. Riku let slip a ghost of a smile. No, oblivion…that was for him...but not yet. First he would save him, wake the slumbering keyblade master, protect him until this mess with the Organization was over...only then...after that...
He just didn't know.
But he didn't need to.
I won't be beaten again, he thought coldly.
And the promise of sapphire eyes reminded him of his promise as he faded into the rain.
A Promise You Can Keep
They met each other half way, three blades wielded by two figures and Sora just wanted to know what the Hell was going on. This person wore the cloak of the Organization but he held the keyblade.
I don't understand! Sora's mind reeled as his opponent applied more pressure in their struggle.
"W-who are you?" he managed to force out as he strived to hold up against the mystery challenging him.
"Someone from the dark," the person said and Sora's heart got the better of him as it ached at the bitterness in the person's voice. They sounded...sad...like Axel had sounded before he...faded. Sora blinked at the keyblade dubiously as he let the words sink in and tried to push down his emotions. Those always seemed to get him in even more trouble.
"You can't be...Riku?" Sora guessed feebly. He hoped not. This person didn't sound or feel like Riku. And though there was something increasingly familiar about the person in front of him, he recognized it in a completely different manner than he would have recognized as his best friend...and this wasn't it.
"Riku? I defeated a Riku once." Sora's heart stopped. What?
"You what?" His chest felt tight and his grip was so firm he knew his knuckles must be sheet white. The person was lying. They had to be.
"Tell me! Tell me why he picked you!" the figure lunged at him and Sora found himself forced into defensive mode. The figure was clearly in pain of some kind...he sounded so harsh, so lost...so spiteful...like Sora had stolen something from him.
I don't understand! Again, this was his thought as he leapt backward only to parry a blow, sending himself up in the air. His brain had shut down though with that horrible claim: I defeated a Riku once.
But...then...where was he? Had that been this person he'd seen everywhere, had he taken Riku's weapon after he...and all this time he'd thought it might be Riku...helping him, guiding him...had it really been this...person?
If he had, he would never get the chance...the chance to say all the things he had wanted to...to explain...to see him...to...
Sora felt his heart and mind fragment and scramble as his internal battle mirrored the external one.
No! He's not gone! He's not! I don't believe it.
Again their blades clashed and Sora fueled his own anger and frustration into it. Riku couldn't be defeated. He just couldn't...
I need to see him again, Sora thought as he sprung back to the floor, staring up at the hooded person, his blood hot and his heart a terrible mess. Was this person trying to trick him into some strange mind play? That must be it...
"I see. That's why." And again the figure attacked...and attacked...he just kept on coming, relentless. Sora wanted to curse as he felt his muscles giving way and his knee hit the floor and the keyblade spiral out of his grip. Somehow he knew his attacker would get there before him, but he dashed for it anyway, coming to an abrupt halt as the opposing keyblade came down upon his own, the other extended in warning toward himself.
The person was good...good enough to defeat him...good enough to defeat Riku?
But Riku had always been stronger than Sora and the boy took refuge in that thought as he clenched his eyes shut and waited for the keyblade to come back to him, willing it to do so, reaching out even as it disappeared in a flash and reappeared back in his hand.
"What?" As expected, his opponent did not appreciate the turn of events but before he could react, Sora had his own keyblade trained on him, ready to demand what he meant by 'defeated a Riku' and who the Hell he was.
But then the hooded one dropped his weapons, letting them flash into nothing as he brushed past Sora who turned, still defensive, confused, and yes, angry.
He was sick of not knowing so much.
And yet, as the hood slipped off, revealing a strangely familiar head of unruly blond hair and the young man turned to face Sora over his shoulder, two strikingly blue eyes made his anger disappear.
It was replaced with a painfully intense sorrow.
Who are you? Sora's mind pleaded. Answers...why was he always looking for them, never finding any?
There was a pause and then a light flared out, seeming to envelop the blond. Sora opened his mouth to ask a name, anything, but as usual the stranger beat him to it.
"You make a good other," the person said with a cheerless smile and disappeared.
I don't understand.
When Sora found himself back on the strange street he relayed the message of Riku from his odd attacker to the others who quickly assured him that indeed, as his previous thoughts echoed: nobody could defeat Riku.
"Y-yeah, right," Sora heard himself say. But that doubt was powerful and he felt it lurking in him as they continued onward.
You wouldn't stand for it, right Riku? He thought absently, his own whisper of a smile exactly mirroring the sadness he'd most recently seen on the face of the familiar blond boy.
A Promise You Can Keep
-The Way I See You-
He closed his eyes as instructed, just as a man who appeared to be Ansem turned over his shoulder in a familiarly tentative way, a fearful way Sora knew without closing his eyes could not be Ansem. But as his eyes shut completely he felt something change...it was like the hand touching his had opened up part of its hidden self...and then.
Silver hair, finely chiseled chin, lithe neck, moon pale flesh...a blindfold...
It was Riku.
He was alive...real...here.
Sora opened his eyes, and though he knew the image before him as Ansem, he knew the heart to be unmistakably otherwise.
"Riku," his heart ached. "It's Riku," he breathed again in relief, in sadness, in shock as he fell to his knees. "Riku's here." He had to keep telling himself this for fear it would fade, for fear it would be some horrible, ungodly trick. He had to keep saying his name. Clasping the gloved hand, feeling its warmth, holding it between his own, his chest was tight again. But it wasn't of the frightened nature from before when he'd thought Riku might be dead, and it wasn't the kind that he felt when he embraced Kairi, which was more a sense of affectionate relief. No, this heaviness in him, in his heart...it was almost alien to him...he had never realized what it felt like to have it break before now. "I looked for you!" he said, not caring how accusatory it sounded. He was feeling rather in the right about that even as he felt a tension behind his eyes and tears seep out. Riku would probably call him a sap for that. Sora didn't care.
Of course since it was Riku the reply was a transparent attempt at lightness.
"Come on Sora. You've got to pull it together." Riku tried to inject a soft joking tone but that was hard when his own voice was shaky with the reunion, a mirror of the panicked state his heart was in. The cool front was just a poorly constructed mask for all of that. One look down at those sapphire eyes and Riku could tell without asking that the boy saw through him without even trying.
And Sora wasn't going to let him get away with it that easily...not this time. He'd done growing in more ways than one in their time apart—too much time—and he knew at least one thing for certain. He could never take time for granted again. If all he had was now, he'd use it until now was only a memory...but he'd use it for all that it was worth. No more waiting. No more.
"I looked everywhere for you!" he let the tears come at will. It wasn't like he had control over them anyway but some part of him seemed to sigh at the release, at the unabashed honesty of the reaction.
"I didn't want you to find me." The voice was still tender but not light...serious. Sora blinked, eyes trained fiercely up at his best friend. A ripple of pain lashed through him at those words. Vaguely he was aware of the conversing behind him but he was all too focused on Riku's words. Absently he pulled himself to his feet...Riku didn't want him to find him...? But...why?
"Why didn't you let me know you were okay?" Sora demanded, his anger spiking again for the millionth time that day. He wanted to add something like 'How dare you, you crazy person don't you know how much I worried about you?' but he didn't.
"I told you. I didn't want to be found...not like this...I couldn't..." Riku faltered. Some strange things were going on inside him...rage at being trapped in such a form, relief that Sora was in fact okay and in front of him as proof...amazement...tenderness that Sora had cared so much…cared at all. In this new truth he found some courage and continued, "I fought with Ansem...with Xehanort's Heartless when it invaded my heart, and I won, but to use the power of darkness..." Riku trailed off and his gaze on Sora became very gentle as he added mentally 'to help you'…and shrugging off such thoughts he finished unnecessarily, "I had to become Ansem myself."
"Does that mean you can't change back?" Kairi asked, her quietness conveying her concern and compassion effortlessly as she peered up at Riku sadly.
"This battle isn't over, and until it is I still need the power of darkness," Riku's answer was immediate, and detached but Kairi's concerned look only intensified. It was as though she were shaking her head at Riku and going 'No, you don't' but as he had, as Sora had, she had grown too. And whereas the Kairi of years past would have said this and demanded in a Yuffie like manner that he look to the other options, instead she stayed silent, letting her soft smile tell him instead 'it is your choice, it always has been'.
A brief pause and Kairi let her gaze fall to the floor. Riku felt his being submerged in doubt. What would Sora say? Would he accept him like this? It was him, and yet even as just Riku himself, he knew he'd done horrible things. Was this how it would end?
"Then..." Sora looked up at Riku, that heartbreakingly familiar smile back in full force. It was more determined, more serious, but it was the same type of look, that same type of trust...complete. "Let's finish it! You're still Riku no matter what!"
And the doubt washed away.
A Promise You Can Keep
"Riku?" A familiar voice. He turned to it...but why couldn't he see...? A blindfold but...
He heard the rush of footsteps even as he pushed himself up off the floor with a groan. What in any world was that...oh… Ansem the Wise... the machine...
Now he remembered.
But still he felt different he...
He felt like himself...his real self.
"Riku!" he heard Sora next to him as he stood, still mystified and disbelieving...he was in his own body...but...how...
"Ansem did say anything could happen."
Ah yes, he did didn't he? Riku turned, facing forward silently. He felt Sora shift beside him.
"Riku, you gonna take that off?"
"Oh," he murmured and thoughtlessly loosed the blindfold, letting it flutter to the ground. Slowly he let his eyes open. It was like he had been the one sleeping...forever. And though Sora was not right in front of him, the first thing that caught his gaze was the feisty keyblade master, out of the corner of his eyes...of course he'd seen him through Ansem's view before, but this...this was different...far different.
He preferred it.
"What was that?" the boy of his preoccupation asked and Riku wasn't sure how to explain. The silence was starting to become familiarly uneasy...not good, his mind sounded alarms but what could he say?
Luckily the king came to the rescue...sort of.
"His eyes couldn't lie."
Good someone else answered for him. Riku felt a tinge of his old smugness return. Often back home if he'd been in a pinch he could depend on someone saying something to bail him out. Some things didn't change after all, it seemed.
"Lie?" Sora asked, voice critical.
Uh-oh. Riku let his eyes flicker over to Sora in time to see his friend's dry expression. Okay maybe he wasn't bailed out quite yet.
"And just who were you trying to fool, huh? Huh?" Sora leaned forward, hands on his hips as he playfully indicated that he wanted an answer and would not stop asking until he got a proper one. Resigned, Riku hurried with a dull response.
Sora's playfulness dimmed. Riku...always going it alone...
But you don't need to, Sora thought with a shake of his head.
"Riku! Come on man...Why did you try to do so much on your own?" Sora ran over to stand in front of the others, spreading his arms wide in a welcoming manner. "You've got friends like us!" He was smiling that smile again. Damn if he didn't get more convincing with age, Riku thought dryly as he approached the boy.
In his mind part of him was saying: because Sora, I don't deserve a friend like you.
Instead he said, "Have you forgotten? I'll tell you why. 'Cause I'm not a total sap like you!" he smirked and Sora felt an intense surge of joy at the trademark expression. It was like no time had gone by at all for a moment. And he was up to the challenge.
"Say that again!"
Of course then things had to be put off, things like light-hearted banter that Sora missed, the general good feeling he got from being near his best friend again, knowing he was safe, himself, and could still smile.
A Promise You Can Keep
Suddenly he was gone, just like that.
What the Hell?
Riku whirled, scanning every inch of the room with his eyes, aware of the others calling out for Sora. One minute they're standing side by side, just how it should be, facing Xemnas, the next...Xemnas is gone.
And so is Sora.
Which means...Riku growled under his breath.
"Riku where is he?" Kairi exclaimed, eyes a mixture of anger and fear...feelings Riku could empathize with.
"I don't know! What makes you think I know?" His own anger was making him respond less than tactfully.
Why did Xemnas have to pick Sora? Fight me, Riku thought bitterly. Leave him alone...just leave him alone.
"I don't know!" Kairi had a temper too though, which he'd forgotten until now as she added, "I just thought...you're like his other half! You must feel something? I mean, do you know if he's ali—" she broke off here, voice shaking. "...if he's okay?" she changed quietly.
His other half? What did she mean? Roxas was Sora's nobody. They established that. So what did she mean?
Well, it didn't really matter. The answer would still be the same.
"...no, I don't know. Sorry," Riku added the apology for both not knowing and being as he knew he was, slightly rude. He couldn't help it. His emotions were out of his control at the present.
Shaking her head in frustration Kairi ran to the edge of the strange platform and called out again to the void ahead of them, "Sora! Where are you?"
Riku stared blankly for a moment. What the Hell kind of good would that do?
Then a sinking feeling filled him as he once again scanned the area for Sora and found not a trace...
Dashing over near the others Riku groaned. What could they do but call for him?
"Sora! Answer me!"
Okay it wasn't as polite or gentle as anything the others had shouted but it got the message through, right?
Even as he was thinking this he felt a presence behind him and Riku turned in time to see Sora fall to the floor from seemingly nowhere.
And to whatever gods might be, Riku sent a silent thanks as he hurried over to Sora's side, intent on not being separated like that ever again. Once was enough. As many times as he and Sora had been separated however, well, that was more than enough. It was absurd.
He was done with it.
Part of him wanted to help Sora up but the boy pulled himself off the floor before he could think to put the notion into action.
And things just kept getting crazier.
A Promise You Can Keep
They beat him. Sora wasn't positive how, but it seemed they'd beaten him!
He had a great feeling of pride and celebration but even that wasn't enough to make him so absent as to miss the brooding figure pass him by. Tentatively, smiling, Sora neared Riku who once more stood with his back to him. Sora's smile faltered. He'd rather look at Riku's face when he spoke with him, but clearly the boy was going to be difficult. He sighed, tried to smile again.
"You're coming back with us, right?" Sora's voice was light, but the strain was clear.
"I had given into the darkness!" Riku's answer was terse and as painful for him as it was for Sora.
No, that's not how this is going to be, Sora thought, irritated and frustrated with Riku. Couldn't he see none of that mattered? He was back, as himself, just Riku, Riku, Riku...couldn't he see that was enough for everyone?
Enough for him?
"Riku!" Sora's frown deepened.
"How am I gonna face everyone?" the silver haired boy turned to Sora who got an amusing idea.
"Like this!" Sora teased and pushed his cheeks in and made his eyes as loopy and large as he could. Riku blinked and even his legendary stubbornness could not repress the laughter that Sora's silliness inspired. He felt his body fill with warmth and his heart brim.
How had he gone on so long without this kind of...?
He honestly didn't even know what to call it.
Riku did know that he didn't think he'd ever willingly go without it ever again.
One look at Sora who was now smiling softly at him, in that entirely Sora way, told him he didn't have to.
Then the platform shook and Namine appeared and all sorts of optimistic things happened. It looked like they were going home.
And then Hell broke loose in more ways than one. Defeated Xemnas? Ha.
Goddamn these schizophrenic madmen, was the last coherent thought Riku had as they dove into battle after battle.
A Promise You Can Keep
-End of the Beginning-
The nobodies finally were disappearing...all of them...
Riku noticed this as he fell to his knees...he could barely feel his legs and what he could feel hurt like Hell. It was odd...he felt strangely lightheaded...and breathing was a little harder than he remembered...
He'd never even considered that Xemnas might use Sora...never dreamed he'd have to save him on the spot from the clutches of that bastard...but he had...luckily...he couldn't have gone on so long without Sora...but now... Shifting his weight, he bit back a hiss of pain.
"Sora, I can't..." he forced out but Sora cut him off, kneeling beside him.
"Don't say another word. It's not over. It's just not!" and with that his friend surprised him by looping an arm under his, around him and helping him to some semblance of standing. Riku blinked.
"How can you say that? Even if we could go on...look where we are," Riku said, but he sounded sulky even to himself as he looked down at nothing in particular.
"Aw come on Riku." Sora's voice was laughing at him, Riku could tell even though there wasn't even a trace of a chuckle. It was more the feeling he got that told him this. He looked at Sora. "You've been hanging out in darkness too long." Sora continued lightly and shifted his hold on Riku whose eyes widened. "You've gotta try and think positive!" the brunet gave him a half smile.
You're too much Sora... Riku thought affectionately and shook his head, eyes gluing themselves to the swirling floor below them. Silence spread around them indefinitely but Sora was patient, just glad to know from the contact of his friend that they had both made it out of that fight alive. That was enough.
"Sora?" Riku intoned and his voice was like a child's to Sora, for an instant. It was...sweet.
"You lead." Riku looked away. Sora blinked...and smiled.
A Promise You Can Keep
This was probably not the last place he should have expected the light to lead them to, but it was. Riku stared around. He knew this place.
"End of the road."
"Put me down. I can walk," Riku lied smoothly. He didn't want to be a burden any longer than necessary. He'd just see if he could stand or something...maybe. He refrained from sighing as Sora gave him a dubious look. Almost he thought the boy would argue but then he felt his arms slip away from him. Slightly suddenly he felt his tiny remnants of support flicker and he stumbled. Sora's hands shot out immediately to steady him. Gritting his teeth he made himself stand upright, shrug and smile noncommittally at Sora who nodded brightly at him and started forward again. Riku dared not try to move, afraid he would simply fall over. His knees were shaking as it was.
Pathetic, he criticized himself darkly as he watched Sora walk further away. He thought about calling out but suddenly the world swam before him in a murky mess...he was losing his balance even as he heard Sora's voice say something...and then he felt himself hit the ground.
"Riku?" Sora's voice again...closer.
Cursing the weakness that always seemed to be a part of him, Riku pushed himself up as Sora ran and fell beside him.
"This world is perfect for me," Riku said quickly to distract Sora from any worry he might have caused. "If this is what the world really is...jus this, then maybe I should fade back into darkness." Self-loathing was always a good distraction, in his experience, and at least, in Riku's opinion, in this case it was well deserved.
"Riku," Sora's voice was plainly sad. His voice was nothing but that single, pure emotion...not disappointed, not angry...but he was sad and Riku felt instantly guilty about it as he shifted his weight to sit up straighter.
"If the world is made of light and darkness," Riku added thoughtfully as he looked up at the eerie moon. "We'll be the darkness." He couldn't look at Sora directly right now...not right now. Sora moved beside him to a more comfortable sitting position and now Riku dared to stare in his direction since his eyes were focused elsewhere...those beautiful eyes, how he'd missed them...
"Yeah," Sora said and Riku stared for another reason now. He hadn't actually expected an answer, much less that one...was he fabricating in his mind how tranquil Sora sounded when he said that? Was he making it all up? The calm expression on his face said it was real, but Riku could hardly believe it...Sora didn't mind being stuck with him, after all that had happened, and not knowing what might come of tomorrow?
How do you do it, Riku pondered softly.
"The other side, the realm of light is safe now. Kairi, the King and the others are there," Sora noted as if noting the color of the earth. He wasn't detached but he did have an uncommon sense of peacefulness in him now. Safe, that was all he'd wanted for all of them, safe, and maybe even…happy. Staring out at the beachfront Sora felt a glimmer of his own happiness in spite of his location and uncertain future.
"That's what I mean," Riku said smoothly, slight amusement underlying it. Sora almost laughed out of sheer joy at the presence of that familiar smugness.
Riku was here...truly here, with him.
That was something he'd waited for so long...how could he not be at least a little happy?
Or even...completely happy?
Once, maybe when they were back on the islands, he would never have dreamed he could be happy at all in a place without sun, without his everyday routine, without the easy-going nature of the norm, without cookies...that sort of thing. He couldn't have imagined.
But now...with practically nothing but each other, he knew he felt almost the happiest he'd ever been...and while this served to confuse Sora, it also was something his heart could not lie about.
Riku was here.
And so part of him that had been missing for far too long had finally returned.
"Hey Sora," Riku's voice broke into his thoughts. Sora glanced over, tilting his head to the side, wordlessly encouraging Riku to continue. It was nice to hear his voice too.
So many things he'd missed...for so long...
"Could you help me? I want to get down to the water." Sora arched a brow as it took a moment for the request to sink in. When it did he nodded his head and stood. For a second he just stood there, looking down, memorizing all of everything that made Riku who he was from the outside in, and back again. Then wordlessly he slipped his arm under Riku to help him to his feet and slowly they made their way toward the water.
"At least the waves still sound the same."
Sora didn't answer, but he didn't have to.
Riku knew he was thinking the same thing.
A Promise You Can Keep
-Open Your Eyes-
It had been...well, Riku wasn't sure how long.
Time didn't seem to exist here, it never had actually, come to think of it.
Funny...Riku rolled his eyes at the thought. He cast a secret look at Sora who was looking out ahead. He sighed quietly. This alone time, this quality time with his best friend was dredging up some long buried emotions he'd been very careful to lock away for so long he'd almost forgotten them himself.
But with recent events, and Sora's obvious care for him—whether or not he understood it himself—and all the looks he continued to receive...those feelings would not just become invisible anymore.
Of course maybe it had been too long anyway, to keep such a secret.
After all, he'd loved Sora since before they'd even decided to leave the islands...long before.
Such a secret...it had to be...especially when Kairi came around...not that he held it against her. He didn't. It wasn't her fault that she also happened to get drawn in by the affable charms of the boy beside him. No, it wasn't her fault.
Still...Riku had to admit to more than a touch of envy when it came to her. She could express her feelings openly...he remembered her embrace with Sora with a sad smile. The closest he'd come to initiating that sort of open affection was asking Sora to 'help him' so he could get to the water, which had been true actually.
It was a bonus that he got to be close to Sora during the trek to the shore.
Hours had surely gone by now, though how many, no one could be certain, and Riku felt trapped by these thoughts and feelings. Maybe he should just tell Sora.
It wasn't like there was anyone else to hear.
And it wasn't like loving your best friend was a heinous crime or anything.
But I'm in love with him, he thought blandly and that changed everything really.
All the silence was getting to him now though. He had to say something.
"What I said back there, about thinking I was better at stuff than you..." Riku trailed off, feeling stupid. There were other options than that, idiot, he chastised himself but came back to the moment at Sora's voice.
"To tell you the truth, Sora..." Riku inhaled deeply, "I was jealous of you."
I love you.
"I wished I could live life the way you do," he sighed, aquamarine eyes fixed on looking straight ahead since his defenses would crumble at the first hint of sapphire eyes, and he clarified softly, "Just following my heart."
I love you with all of me.
"Yeah, well I've got my share of problems too," Sora replied more lightly than he felt. He was actually quite serious about that response, but he didn't quite know how to say it...how to explain that he hadn't just cried because he was relieved to know Riku was okay...
But he had cried because he could be near him again.
It had hurt so much it was like someone had smashed his heart into fragments, but it had been an exquisite sort of pain, the kind one only gets when one knows the reason is worth it.
And it had been...worth it...worth the time, the effort, the confusion, the anger...worth every last bit of it...because his heart beat steadier when he was near Riku.
Sora knew this to be true ever since they were little. For as cocky as even a young Riku could be, he had always made Sora feel safe, always looked out for him, always been kind. It was like his heart had gotten accustomed to Riku's presence and so after going so long without him, it was overwhelmed.
He was overwhelmed...with lots of things...like—
"Like what?" Riku inquired.
"Like...wanting to be like you," Sora replied.
Like wanting to be with you, Sora answered mentally.
"Hm," Riku's voice took on that old hint of amusement, "Well there is one advantage to being me, something you could never imitate."
Sora wasn't sure how he should take that comment. Was Riku joking? Or...?
"Really? What's that?" Sora asked hesitantly, not really certain he'd like the answer.
There was no hesitation in the reply however.
"Having you for a friend."
Sora blinked in surprise and then his lips curved upward slightly.
"Then I guess I'm okay the way I am. I've got something you could never imitate too," he let his grin become full fledged and winked at Riku jokingly, as if sharing some precious secret. The older boy stared and then laughed softly, a kind of deep hum in the midst of waves lapping at their feet and the slight breeze whispering through. Everything seemed to feel lighter, easier, gentler...without even trying, just their words, the silent looks...and all felt just...right.
Sora had no other word for it than 'right'. That was just it.
He let his eyes wander over to Riku who chose that moment to turn and glance at him. The furtive looks turned into an open stare shared between the two and ever so slightly Riku smiled at him. Sora returned it times ten, but that was typical.
Typical, but comfortingly so...
Yeah I guess I'm okay the way I am...I'm okay...loving you.
"Hey Sora," Riku's voice had that childish tone again. Sora looked over.
"What?" Sora tilted his head to one side, face blank.
"I couldn't keep our promise," Riku's voice was almost lost in the soft sound of the waves...so quiet...
"But, what do you mean? We're together now, you kept your promise," Sora crossed his arms with a frown, feet moving idly. He kept from sighing barely. Riku looked so serious! Sora was, for the moment, tired of serious. Playfully he tapped Riku's foot with his own.
"Wha—" Riku began.
"Tag!" Sora yelled and shot off in the opposite direction leaving a stupefied Riku to stare after him. Only a blur with spiky hair in the distance now, Riku watched as Sora paused, turned and waved wildly at him. "I said, you're IT!"
Green eyes sparked. It, was he?
"I hope you remember our races back home," Riku called out, standing slowly...hm...it seemed the hours of just sitting had done him some good after all. He hardly felt any discomfort at all. Then again, maybe that was simply the way Sora made him feel.
"Why?" Sora's voice asked, and Riku could feel the quizzical stare even if he could hardly discern it since they were so far apart.
He paused, for effect of course.
"Because, if you remember you should be prepared to lose!" Riku shouted and sprinted toward the brunet who gave a nervous laugh and took off at a similar speed, though going the opposite way.
"Ha, ha! Things change!" Sora called over his shoulder. But wait...he skidded to a halt. He didn't see Riku anywh—
"Gotcha!" A hand tapped his shoulder pointedly and Sora whirled around to find himself face to face with an incredibly smug Riku, eyes half-lidded with a deceptively lazy charm...very close too...Sora felt his skin flush.
"H-how'd you get over...I though you were...!" Sora sputtered, beside himself. He had been certain he had at least a good thirty feet between them.
"Over there, I know," Riku shot him a grin and Sora found himself laughing, not at Riku so much as because of Riku...this was how it should be...simple...honest...and really, nothing better than plain old-fashioned good. "What're you laughing at, huh?" the silver-haired boy poked Sora's chest inquisitively. Sora's playfulness was positively infectious.
"I'm just happy," Sora shook his head as if he almost didn't believe it himself.
"Is that so?" Riku arched a brow.
"Yeah," Sora nodded emphatically and then waved a finger in Riku's face as though scolding him. The height difference made this especially amusing, but Riku refrained from commenting on it as Sora spoke, "And you, mister? Have you found what makes you happy? It's been so long I worry what I've missed out on! So start talking!"
"Nosy," Riku rolled his eyes and ruffled Sora's hair earning a cry of indignation from the instantly childish brunet.
"I'm not seven anymore!"
"But I could've sworn..."
Riku's gaze became fond as he let it stay softly on his friend. No one he'd ever met, in his years of travel, had ever come close, even remotely so, to this kind of light...this radiance.
Was it foolish of him to feel like that glow belonged to him?
But he had learned that he'd rather be a passionate fool than an emotionless genius any day.
And with Sora so near, who could blame him?
"Riku?" Sora waved a hand in front of his face, brow furrowed in worry. "You okay?"
"Uh...oh, yeah," Riku snapped out of his daze, offering a slightly sheepish smile. Sora eyed him thoughtfully.
"Huh...you're weird, you know," he said cheerfully, as though this little fact pleased him for a terrifically secret reason.
"Pot calling the kettle black?" Riku intoned dryly. Sora snorted.
A sigh...the shift of a body...a...fwump?
Riku glanced down where the sound had come from. Sora looked up at him with a shrug.
"I wanted to sit...you should sit too."
And Riku did, wordlessly.
"Mm?" It seemed they'd switched roles...again.
"About the promise..."
"I know you say you didn't keep it but...I think you did." Sora hugged his knees to his chest, resting his chin on top of them idly. He didn't look at Riku but then again, he didn't need to.
"But, how? I...I betrayed you and then...I couldn't save you...I couldn't be on your side...again," Riku turned his face away, hair falling in a silvery shield, a poor form of distance, but the message was clear to Sora: shame...regret...fear...hate.
"Riku..." he whispered. He'd been saying that name a lot in the past twenty-four hours...or however many hours...it was a lot. But he liked the sound of it...Sora liked the sound of it very much. "Hey," Sora nudged Riku's arm, reminding the taller boy of a kitten. He might have commented on the parallel too, but Sora took that moment to take Riku's hands in between his and all possible words left Riku. "You were always with me."
"Sora, what are you talking about?" Riku was getting frustrated. He felt like he should understand, but he didn't and currently he was having difficulty anyway just focusing on anything other than the intensely compassionate handhold Sora had him in. To his surprise the brunet's eyes narrowed in a very un-Sora fashion. "What?"
"You dummy!" Sora exclaimed. "You were always right here!" And with that Sora brought Riku's hand close between his own, pulling him nearer until he could bring his hand to rest on his chest...right over his heart. "See?" Sora's voice was quieter again, almost shy. When aquamarine eyes blinked down at him curiously still, Sora sighed. "Alright, I wasn't going to but...I have to pull a Kairi on you...close your eyes!"
With a slight inclination of his head Riku complied.
What? Was he supposed to understand better this way? Frowning he opened one puzzled eye.
"Sora, what am I—"
"Shhh! Just listen," Sora stared him into silence, a rare occurrence to be sure.
So very slowly Riku relaxed, letting his eyes close once more, letting the warmth from Sora's nearness, the patience in his presence gradually help him to finally do as asked: listen. At first he noticed nothing and a hint of his earlier irritation began to surface...but just as suddenly as there was nothing there was something and he heard it...or rather felt it...
No, wait...there were two heartbeats...synchronized.
It felt like he was taking off the blindfold again when he opened his eyes.
Keeping one hand hovering almost covetously against Sora's heart, he drew back his other hand to cover his own, paying extremely critical attention...no he hadn't imagined it...Sora was right.
"And that means that," Riku began.
"I was always with you," Sora finished.
"What are you anyway? I always thought I knew you," Riku smiled. Sora moved closer, curious.
"I don't know what you mean. I'm Sora, your best friend," the brunet answered, tone dropping a slight question mark at the end as if to say 'right?'
"I know, it's just...never mind. But Sora?"
"What for?" Sora sighed, nudging Riku's shoulder.
"Believing in me," was the answer and Sora wanted to say 'dummy, of course I believe in you!' but instead he found himself wordlessly attaching himself to Riku's arm and resting his chin on the taller boy's shoulder. "Sora?" Riku didn't dare pull away...it felt so nice...just sitting there so close to the boy he loved...and he didn't want it to end any sooner than it needed to. But as much as he reveled in it, he was confused by it as he stared down at the head of brown spikes, wondering not for the first time how it did that without any form of hairspray or the like. He knew from ruffling his friend's hair so many times, teasing of course—but privately also just to be that close—that the cinnamon locks were unusually soft. Almost, he shrugged to himself. Some things lacked explanations in life. Sora's hair was undoubtedly one of those things. Sora's voice mumbling broke into his thoughts and Riku caught the last bit of '—you' but nothing else. He shifted slightly, hesitantly looping an arm around Sora, and let his hold relax as Sora leaned more into his side. He was comfortable like this, Riku realized, surprised and inwardly delighted. "What was that Sora?" he prompted when it occurred to him that the boy wouldn't repeat himself without knowing Riku hadn't heard him the first time.
"Mm, love," Sora murmured, sleep clearly having taken over most of his conscious state. Aquamarine eyes widened at the word of choice however.
"Sora?" was all he could say though, voice cracking just a bit. Had he made that up? Was he being delusional?
"Mm...go sleep...night..." Sora mumbled against Riku's shoulder and Riku did his best to stifle his laughter so as not to wake the brunet. He was about to return the 'good night' when Sora's hold on him tightened slightly and his head drooped further and he murmured, "Love you."
And then he was out.
Just like that.
Leaving a doubly stunned, silver-haired young man with one of the inarguably most awkward and astonished moments of his entire life. Well, Riku wasn't that old yet of course, but after all they'd been through, this was still saying something.
"Sora?" he tried without any real expectations...which was good because all he got in response was Sora practically burrowing into his side. He arched a brow. Sora had always slept like this, ever since they were little. If he didn't have a proper pillow, you had to watch out because when it came to his sleeping patterns Sora was absolutely indiscriminant, which meant you could be his next potential 'pillow' so to speak. Such was the position Riku found himself in now, but unlike back on the islands when he would have childishly teased Sora about it to hide his own happiness at the affection, now instead he drew the boy closer. "Sora," it wasn't a question, just a content whisper into the dark. Brushing his fingers through Sora's hair in a lulling fashion, Riku slowly lowered himself backward so that both boys lay on the ground, one almost possessively clinging to the other in his sleep. Listening to the waves Riku thought without bitterness that though he probably meant it in a different way, the fact that Sora loved him, had said he loved him, well...it deserved a fair response. And so what if he meant it in a different way, on second thought? Their hearts still beat as one. Nothing would change that.
And so before he too fell into the gentlest slumber, he heard himself whisper, "Love you too."
A Promise You Can Keep
-What's Yours is Mine-
It was...warm. Sora moved slightly only to find an unexpected weight upon him. Confused, he blinked his eyes fully open, letting them adjust to the darkness...the moonlight...? Huh?
Oh right...they were...here.
Eyes widened to saucer size as Sora also proceeded to blush slightly. He vaguely remembered falling asleep with his arms wrapped around Riku's head against his shoulder. It had just been so comfortable...so comforting, rather. He couldn't help it...but now it was slightly different. Both were laying down, which was fine but somehow one or both of them had managed in their sleep to get thoroughly tangled up in each other. Sora himself was almost draped across Riku who had an arm casually slung around Sora's waist, hand brushing his hip. That must've been the weight, Sora noted, amusement seeping in now that he'd gotten over his initial embarrassment. Had Riku gotten irritated with him when he fell asleep on him like that? Probably not from the way things were now, but maybe he'd just kept quiet so Sora could sleep? Sora's brow knit as he began to worry but it eased just as quickly when the still sleeping Riku pulled him closer. Sora repressed an 'eep' sound and finally just relaxed as now his nose was brushing Riku's neck. Silently as possible Sora inhaled the familiar scent. It made him feel kind of possessive oddly enough, like...like Riku belonged to him or something.
"Mine," Sora whispered affectionately.
Imagine his surprise when two aquamarine eyes opened up to stare at him...eyes that were clearly the 'I've been awake for you can only guess how long' kind and definitely not the 'I just woke up, where the Hell am I?' kind.
Sora gulped audibly.
"Yours?" Riku asked, his voice was a little lower than usual Sora thought...hoarse maybe?
Sora blinked, inhaled, and...nodded.
Give 'em both barrels, right? Or whatever.
"Yeah," Sora let a slight laugh work its way into his reply...nervous...oh so nervous.
"Look at me." Sora had never really been good at saying 'no' in general but with Riku it was just another type of inability altogether. As if out of pure reflex, he turned to meet his friend's gaze. It was...unlike any other luck he'd seen before...from anyone that he could remember...but wait...no...something...familiar...something painful...
He flashed on emerald green eyes, red hair, a broken smile...black feathers.
"Axel," Sora said dumbly.
"What?" Riku snapped to a different kind of attention.
"You looked like...I remembered before he...when he...faded...he had that same look..." Sora mumbled, feeling odd for blurting out his thoughts like that.
"...angry...sad...scared..." Sora whispered. "What's wrong, Riku?" He was getting a terrible feeling inside, his heart twisting something awful.
"Nothing but...you said I'm yours," Riku said carefully and then again, "Sora look at me, please." Sora hadn't even realized he'd averted his gaze until he felt Riku's fingers grab his chin lightly and encourage him to meet his stare...piercing...transparent...beautiful.
"Yes," Sora nodded because it was all he could think to do. The nearness of their bodies was once again very evident to him and he was getting feelings...sensations...from the proximity that made his skin feel hot in certain places. It was...embarrassing to say the least. Sora hardly understood it himself.
"Then...does that mean you're mine?"
"I..." Sora trailed off abruptly, drowning in aquamarine waves. "I..." he was drawing closer, he could feel himself moving. "I think..." he could feel their breaths mingling.
"Yes or no, Sora?" Riku's voice was definitely strained now. Sora could make no mistake on that.
A pause...Sora felt fingers tracing his jaw lovingly, so gently.
"Yes," the word was mostly stolen from his lips as they closed the final distance.
The kiss was tender, cautious...fearful...honest...painful...
And still very perfect.
"Bad time to ask but, you mean this the way I mean it?" Riku's last vestiges of doubt surrounded him in one final attack. Sora responded by playfully punching him in the shoulder and then slipping out from under his arm only to straddle him and rest his elbows on his chest, grinning, Cheshire-like.
"You're weird!" he repeated his words from earlier and leaned in for a much more enthusiastic kiss than the first.
And Riku's doubt?
For the moment, he didn't know he had any at all.
He concentrated on wrapping his arms around Sora, letting his lips respond to Sora, nipping at Sora's neck, flipping Sora beneath him, kissing Sora a third time even more passionate than the second...Sora...everything Sora.
It occurred to the keyblade master that the ground should be uncomfortable, but he was finding it didn't bother him in the least, even if it was. There were...other new kinds of consciousness awakening in him that were entirely distracting from such trivial things as the unevenness of the ground, or the like. For instance, Riku's lips, Riku's hands, Riku's eyes as they smoldered to a crystalline teal with some unspoken emotion, Riku...everything Riku.
They were lost in each other and briefly both had the notion that only in having had to do so much to get to this point, just them, just this...only in having to go through all of the darkness...the loneliness...the emptiness...only in having to do all of that, had they been able to come to this truth so cleanly.
Pausing in his conquest of Sora's throat with his mouth, Riku traced the flesh there with his forefinger, eyes lighting as a tremble seemed to ripple through the boy beneath him. Studying the brightness of his irises, the glowing quality of his skin, the soft upward curve of his lips...Riku could never find anything wrong with him...even if he tried.
Which he wouldn't...not anymore...not now.
"Hey," something childlike and loving had taken control and Riku felt a wave of tenderness sweep through him as he shifted so that Sora was again draped on top of him. Sora tilted his head as if to tell him to go on. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Sora shifted so that he could happily rest with his face against Riku's chest, listening to the familiar heartbeat that matched his own. "I was worried you were gone, you know, sometimes," Sora whispered so softly that Riku wouldn't have heard him if he weren't listening so closely
"I always knew you'd be okay," Riku admitted but there was a hint of anxiety behind those words that made Sora nudge him curiously.
"Don't' sound so happy about it," he teased but there was a question underneath the patient smile.
"It's not that. was glad I could trust your other friends to look after you once you woke...but...it was like you didn't need me anymore…" Riku explained, very careful with his words, painfully aware of how just one incorrect phrase could set off a whole turn of unpleasantness. But such a topic in general could only hope to elicit similar replies as the soft feeling around the pair grew darker, heavier with a familiar sense of worry and hurt.
"I need you." Sora's statement shook with his voice as he pushed himself up and off Riku to sit next to him, just looking down at his silver-haired love, eyes storming. "I always need you," he said and then hardly audible: "I can't believe you don't understand that by now."
"I don't deserve it," Riku simply his head as he too sat upright, gaze drifting to the water's edge again. "Want to go back down to the water?" The air had gotten too heavy suddenly.
A Promise You Can Keep
-Out of Dreams-
Damn you, you stubborn bastard.
Okay so that wasn't what Sora really wanted to say to Riku...only sort of.
But really, the guy's self-loathing was off-the-charts and very difficult for even the affable Sora to contend with, really now.
But...you're too old for a game of tag to make you feel better, part of Sora's mind noted sadly with realization and he sighed, earning him a stare from Riku.
To which Sora, feeling a little petulant, merely shrugged and looked away.
Riku's lips pressed into a thin line.
Sora shrugged again. What was he supposed to say? He just didn't know.
"Sora..." the warning came with the tone but Riku had always been fast and Sora felt he must have blinked because without warning they were nose-to-nose. "Sorry," he said.
"I know," was the reply. Both had been holding their breaths and now they both released them slowly, the air tickling each other's flesh like tiny invisible feathers. "You should know I need you though. I'm serious." Sora swatted jokingly at Riku's hair, kitten-like. The boy had always been pretty good at balancing lightheartedness with seriousness.
"I know that I need you," Riku gently let his forehead tap Sora's, resting together like that in a serene quiet, waves trickling up and down the shore in a calming rhythm.
"Well it'd be nice if I knew I could depend on you too," Sora said finally and this caught Riku by surprise as he leaned back to better look at the boy, a questioning expression telling all. "I mean, unless you understand that I need you just as much, how can I count on you, huh?" his voice was carefully light as he slipped away from Riku and stared out ahead. The light flickered in and out on the water, mimicking the shadows, mingling with them. In a strange way it was beautiful, detached, but beautiful.
"Sora it's not that easy for me..." Riku began.
"Oh shut up," Sora cut him off with a roll of his eyes and as if that weren't unexpected enough, he proceeded to shove Riku over onto his back. Clicking his tongue, Sora stared down at the shocked pair of aquamarine eyes. "Just shut up," Sora was now smiling as he knelt down and planted the briefest of kisses on Riku's lips. "It's not supposed to be easy."
"Why do you put up with me?" This remark earned Riku a deep pout from Sora who decided that earned him 'Riku is my pillow' rights and draped himself over Riku's chest lazily.
"Because, Riku," Sora shook his head as though he were speaking to a child...funny how their roles were so often being thrown around. One minute he was leading, the next Riku was, and so on. Neither could ever seem to get a firm foothold in one spot. But he didn't really mind, truth be known. "You're not as bad as you dream you are."
You're not as bad as you dream you are.
Something in Riku's mind shattered and snapped into place all at once...nightmares. He'd been assailed with them ever since he'd first been drawn into the darkness...wracked with the thorny tendrils of deceit and fear, doubt, and cynicism...faithlessness in what mattered most...Sora. And how they'd gotten worse...oh how they'd gotten worse after the door shut between them. Every night another dream, maybe two dreams, Sora's face contorted in uncharacteristic judgment, condemning...unforgiving...but those weren't the worst kind...no...the worst kind came after Diz had shown him Sora in his unnatural sleep. Those demons...night demons...Sora, cold...Sora, unsmiling...Sora, in pain...Sora...gone.
All because of him.
His reverie faded to reveal two anxious sapphire eyes peering closely at him.
"You're shaking." It wasn't a question...except that it was.
"How did you know about those?" Riku licked his lips, finding them dry and noting absently how his voice cracked too. One of Sora's hands idly played with a section of silver hair that was splayed across Riku's shoulder as he spoke, enchanted by the watery feel and the indescribable smell.
"Well, I had them too," Sora said slowly, tucking the strands of hair behind Riku's ear affectionately, letting his hand rest lightly on Riku's shoulder. "I've never felt so...hopeless...before."
"You had them?" Riku echoed, letting his own hand trail up and down Sora's back in soothing strokes, his heart softening as he felt Sora relax against him.
"Not yours, but my own," was the clarification as Sora wrapped his arms around Riku's neck and then whispered into his ear, "But they were dreams...only dreams...that's not who you are. And that's not the way I see you."
They lay like that in silence for some time, each boy content to simply know the other was there from the beat of their hearts, the hush of their breathing, the warmth of their bodies pressed close in such a fitting manner it would have looked wrong for them to be apart. On closer listening, Riku questioned the sameness of the waves. Whereas on Destiny Islands they had sounded like a dull crash, these ones sounded like lingering whispers, which might have been frightening on another occasion, but somehow fear had no place here.
Not when in present company.
His voice...he'd missed that voice.
"Did you mean it?"
"...before you went to sleep...you...you said..."
In spite of all they'd been through and in spite of their most recent explorations with each other, Riku felt a distinct blush rise into his cheeks.
"Y-you were awake?"
Riku laughed, and the rumble carried through to Sora, a deep sort of purr that made his heart warm and his own body shiver.
"What?" It was Sora's turn to ask.
"I meant it," Riku replied and they returned to a calm quiet after that, for how long, neither could say. It was only when Sora felt a little heavier that Riku came completely back to the moment and he was about to make a joke when he noticed Sora's eyes were closed and his mouth slightly parted. His lashes lay flat against his cheeks and his skin seemed so luminous that almost Riku thought he was imagining everything...how perfect could oblivion get, after all?
But was this oblivion?
Oh who cares? His mind shook a stick at him as if to say 'just stop thinking so much you idiot.'
For once, he listened, bringing the boy closer to him, buying his face in the nape of his neck, glad for the warmth, the comfort...and mostly for the trust.
He'd thought he'd long ago lost that privilege, especially with the object of his deepest affection. But he hadn't and now...now he just wanted to do his best to appreciate this gift...this preciousness.
"I guess we didn't need the paopu," Riku murmured before he too drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
A Promise You Can Keep
-A Familiar Feeling-
"And we'll sail off to find new worlds!"
Riku remembered Sora saying that all those years ago as later they sat side by side, looking at the strange false sort of sky. He remembered their intentions of seeing new things, meeting new people, doing great things.
And they had...they'd done all that...and more.
Riku would even admit that both of them had kept their promise.
But now... Riku glanced over at Sora who caught his look and smiled so widely his eyes seemed to close.
Now I've got all I need...right here.
So? Thoughts? I've got a different slightly er...dare I say angstier take on this possibility? It's much shorter, but I'll post that too if anyone's interested.
Or maybe just if I'm bored! Heh, because when I'm bored anything can happen...
Yuki: No kidding.
Riyu: Don't go giving them ideas.