Sora/Kairi entry for the H o t e l . L o b b y contest.
Of course, so many other awesome writers entered, so my chances don't look too good, but hey. I tried.
And a thank you to my fantabulous friend, Rachael, who willingly (key word there) checked to see if I made any stupid mistakes. Yay, Rachael, for beta-ing. (Oh, and for all you good-literature loving people out there, go read her fantasmical Harry Potter one-shot, The Reason, under tyco622).
Disclaimer: I don't own a hotel, a lobby, a hotel lobby, or Kingdom Hearts.
Perfection was non-existent, but...
A shuffle of a pair of feet across carpet, a gentle hum as she momentarily paused, and then a soft rustle of a jacket as she swung it over her shoulders. The weatherman had said rain was due that day; why would he lie to her?
A stumble on the carpet, soft laughter and a clack of shoes, and the gentle click of a heavy door closing. She was outside, in the hallway, hopping on one foot while fumbling with the second shoe, the heels imposing and the thought of a twisted ankle always in her mind. And then she tripped over her feet and was flying across the embroidered rug, shouting for them to "Hold the door! Hold the door!"
Of course they didn't hold the door. Such was human nature to be rude and disrespectful in the early hours of the morning.
Impatient, she slammed the palm of her hand against the doors once and then turned, rushing towards the staircase. And her heels were clicking quite loudly, signifying that she was running, running, running down the flights of stairs. She was late again. She'd slept too late again.
For the millionth time she tried to smooth her hair as she landed on the first floor and rushed through the halls into the open lobby, crisp business suit already wrinkling. And she frowned at herself in disdain, all the while a strand of curled red hair slipping out of her bun and falling into her eyes.
Why was her real self always trying to butt in to her business self? It was so irritating.
Keeping her posture rigid and her eyes dead ahead she hurried on forward, not willing to be held up any longer. Efficiency was expected of her, and nothing more would catch her off guard. No, she was all set now. Everything was perfect, organized, presentable; she was ready.
And she strolled towards the doors, passing a person or two unkempt, sleepy-eyed, and lethargic, the coffee-carrying sleep-lovers who never heard the crystal clear call of opportunity in the early-morning air. She snorted softly, not at all craving the warmth of blankets and perfume on her pillows as the doorman opened the door for her and opened her entrance to the real world.
Not without manners, she looked up with a smile, an insincere "Thank you" ready on her tongue. That is, ready until she stumbled over her shoes and choked, a flush on her face as his laughing blue eyes softened in amusement at her clumsiness.
He caught her elbow, fingertips barely grazing her at all, and then his smile widened. She straightened, pulling her arm closer to her, and curtly thanked the man, stomping off.
"You have a nice day, ma'am," he called, his resonant chuckle spreading through her body.
As she stepped into the cab she'd flagged down, the first drops of rain began to fall.
Well that was good, then. Everything else was on schedule, she prepared for it all.
He was just a minor distraction.
So he wasn't always the doorman, then. He lived there, like she did, in the Paradise Hotel.
Of course, she would never have known that if they hadn't kept meeting inexplicably.
In the beginning, it was much of a bother, too, but then, in due time, it became nothing more to her than another routine, something to be expected every day. She would awaken wild-haired and deeply startled in the morning, her alarm clock yet again doing a poor job of rousing her. (She desperately wanted a new one, but she hadn't the money for it, always the problem in her case). Then, late again, she would stumble through her spick-and-span apartment, taking a quick shower, making her hair flawlessly neat, slipping into her business suits, and then missing the elevator just barely as she locked the door behind her and raced across the rug, sometimes even barefoot.
Then, upon reaching the bottom floor breathless and unacceptably a mess, she would neaten the suffocating perfection she made herself become, would stroll into the lobby, and then bump into him in some way and form.
Their gazes always locked too long for her comfort.
And even more unsettling…it was like they knew each other in a single glance.
And then, come the late hours of the night, upon stumbling in exhaustion out of the cab that had shuttled her back to her little sanctuary she could barely afford but stubbornly refused to be without, she would pull off her shoes, the tender soles of her feet aching, and trudge through the perfect little hotel doors, hair pulled out of her bun and fanning out over her shoulders, to bump into him and his "how do you do"-s.
And she would shrug him off and climb back to her perfect little hotel room, to flop down in an imperfect and tired heap on her mattress, drifting off to sleep.
And that was what life was for her.
So she just kept on going through that life, constantly weary, ever perfect, never unsurprised. And yet, somehow, as the days progressed, their routine of casually bumping into each other, of making small comments like, "Have a nice day," or something along those highly insincere lines, increased. It was as if he was purposely trying to mess her up, to get in her way, to frustrate her. He just kept holding her up, stepping in her path, and grinning that wide, wide grin that couldn't have been a fake.
Maybe he was trying to be her friend, but she hated him. He made her feel small, insignificant, and a liar, as he stood there bright and true when she was nothing but a wilted image trying to own up to her own impossible dream.
Perfection. It controlled her.
Yes, he was there, always there, reading a newspaper in a lobby chair or chatting with his silver-haired friend who worked behind the lobby desk. And as she drew herself up self-consciously, as she flicked her eyes to him and then looked away with her cheeks flushed, she always caught him pausing to look to her, to grin at her, and to wish her a nice day.
Who was he to be so kind to her?
He had to be a fake.
Today was no different, either. He was standing by the doorway, a casual happiness – not exuberance, because that would be overdone, and he was never overdone when he was around her – in his expression as he blocked the doors that would take her away from him for a few blessed hours of the day. And she shifted impatiently, tapping the impeccably polished toe of her boot on the linoleum floor, dainty brow arched, blue eyes bright with rage.
His arm was still in her way, across the doorway, and his grin widened as he realized he had her, and that she would be too stubborn to merely walk to one of the doors on either side of this one. She had to have her way, and he realized that in that moment.
And it delighted him.
"Magic words, miss?"
She scoffed and turned her head, glaring at the elevator doors, a polished gold glinting brightly from the light of the chandelier hanging above. Outside it was gray, overcast, and about to rain, and she would get soaked if he held her up any longer.
"Close, but no."
She looked back, infuriated to know that he was teasing her, toying with her, trying to rile up her emotions. Who was he to prevent her from her destination, anyway?
She crossed her arms tighter over her chest, stance rigid. "Move."
The corners of his lips twitched, and all at once his smile gave way as something – disappointment? – replaced the happiness in his eyes. It was as if he'd expected better of her. That she'd…failed him, in some way.
Sighing, he let his arm fall, and he leaned against the doorway, arms crossed as she held her chin high and got ready to stomp passed him. But, with a touch as light as a summer breeze, he caught her elbow – and her breath, as well – and she stilled.
"Loosen your standards a little. Maybe then you'll smile."
She whirled on him, enraged, but his back was already to her, his feet carrying him to the front desk as he shoved his hands in his pockets.
Outside, it began to rain.
The corners of his mouth turned up, and he stretched his arms over his head, head tilted as he let his blue eyes rest on her face. She shifted, feeling uncomfortable in her soaked hair and business suit, not understanding why the sight of him had stalled her instead of spurred her that much quicker on towards her quaint little room.
But she was standing there, in front of him as he sat in a beige chair, the water from the rainstorm trailing down her face and dripping onto the floor.
He shifted, leaning closer, and then tapped his finger to his chin. Her eyes widened and she edged back a little under his scrutiny, her face feeling warm, her palms feeling sticky.
Why were they sticky? They had been freezing cold seconds ago, what from the rain and all. She didn't understand. She didn't understand why she felt as if a thousand butterflies had burst free in her stomach and were flying around in a whirlwind. She didn't understand why she felt so exposed, so vulnerable, so uneasy as he looked at her with those blue, blue eyes of his.
And she didn't like not knowing.
She cleared her throat, tapping her foot so he could get on with it and drop his inspection of her.
His grin softened, and he looked up to catch her eyes. "You look different."
She opened her mouth to say something nasty, to protect herself from whatever underlying insult there was in that comment, but words failed her.
Why? She'd never been speechless before.
"How…how so?" she asked crisply, eyes narrowed, but the uncertainty she felt made her voice waver and ruin the effect.
His eyes softened, too. "You look relaxed."
She scoffed. "I'm a mess. I'm cold, I'm wet, I'm…"
She trailed off as he stood, cocking his head to the side as if he were missing the details she was explaining and was trying to find them. And then he met her eyes again, his look making her heart skip, and a smile curved on his lips. And he laughed at her.
He laughed at her.
She hid the tears pricking at the corners of her eyes; she'd be damned if he knew he hurt her, after all. But, as it was, she hated being the center of mockery. She hated being imperfect in any way, hated being the object of someone's cruel fun. Too many things in her past which she'd buried away had made her that way, and so she forced herself to be absolutely flawless so no one again could have a problem with her.
But now he was laughing, because she was unkempt and shameful in appearance. And she wanted to cry, because she'd thought he was different.
Why she thought that, though, was a mystery.
He wiped his eyes, grinning widely and foolishly as he looked back to her. "You say it like it's a bad thing."
Her mind went blank. What?
"I take it you've never danced in the rain, then."
Still, she stared at him.
And his grin widened. "Kairi, Kairi, Kairi," he cooed, straightening and taking a lock of her cold hair between his fingers. She blushed. "Nobody's perfect," he said gently, "no matter how hard they try to be. You're no exception, either, even if you try and try and try. Granted, it's a valiant effort, and you're nearly there…" His eyes had a teasing note in them. "However…"
She looked away, impatient with whatever he was rambling about. It was nothing but words to her. All she'd gotten was that he'd laughed at her, had said she wasn't perfect. She didn't need to hear anything else.
His hand touched her cheek, and she stiffened under the warmth and softness of his skin. There were calluses on his fingers, as well, a sign that he worked hard, that he was stronger than he seemed.
She wanted to relax completely under his touch, but she refrained herself, protected herself from him. She wouldn't let him hurt her, too.
She wouldn't throw away her heart again.
"Let me put it this way," he began, and her eyes flicked to his. He smiled softly; he was always smiling, and it annoyed her. He was so true, so sincere, so…happy. And that wasn't fair. "You say you're a mess. And I say you're the closest to perfection you've ever been."
Her throat went dry. "H-how?"
She was curious, and she wanted to know, more than anything, what he was talking about.
"By just being you."
And he dropped his hand, she immediately missing his touch, and walked away.
And her tears fell like rain as he disappeared.
She'd been late. She'd missed cab after cab. And she'd forgotten her umbrella. So now she was sloshing through the puddles of the city, caught in a downpour, clothes ruined, hair drenched, and body soaked to the bone.
She missed the warmth.
Sighing, she clenched her fists at her sides, wondering why the season was so rainy. It really left something to be desired in her, made the city look so gray and hideous, made the air so cold and frigid, made everything so unwelcoming. What she wouldn't give for a day of sunshine.
Sighing in exasperation, she drew her arms closer to her chest, shivering. But life was nothing but bleak skies and bleaker outcomes, apparently.
A hollow ringing filled the deserted area around her, leaving an empty feeling with the lack of bumper-to-bumper traffic and blaring car horns. She felt rather alone, more like desperately alone actually, and she let her gaze fall to the ground, where the expanse of pavement kept stretching before her, dark, cracked, and ever-reaching.
Her heels clicked in the stillness of the night, not even drowned out by the steady fall of raindrops.
She gritted her teeth in impatience, however, as she made the mistake of looking up. Of course, how cliché it was, to see a couple sharing an umbrella with their hands clasped lovingly, laughing about some lovey-dovey inside joke as they passed by, leaning against one another cozily. How happy they must be, comfortable with their flaws and trusting enough to share in another's love.
How happy they must be not to feel exposed in the rain, not to feel as if with every single drop of icy liquid the concealing paint was falling away to reveal the uglier, truer side of themselves.
Her mask was being washed away in the goddamned downpour, and all she could do was stop and cry as she was alone on the sidewalk.
And think of a pair of warm blue eyes that had started it all by just merely glancing in her direction.
Sniffling, she used her palm to wipe away the tears in irritation, feeling weak and helpless and disgusted at herself. She'd chosen this; there was no point in going back on it. People don't just change out of the blue, after all, and she wasn't going to shift to some form of easy-going nitwit because of a sudden realization that her life was hollow. No, she was fine basking in the bitterness of false pretenses and shallow living, because it protected her from a road of hurt she wouldn't go down again.
If she wasn't wanted, then fine. She would make herself seem like the most despicable person in the world, so no one would want to spare her a second glance. Being alone wasn't so bad, right? It brought you success, routine, perfection…
Suddenly, that word tasted so wrong on her tongue as the rain kept stripping away the lies in her.
When had she become so vulnerable, she wanted to know. When had she started seeing through her little act to realize that she was being nothing more than a mere child?
It was that goddamn lobby, wasn't it? With its quaint little glow, cozy warmth, and sleepy-eyed inhabitants so at ease with the world.
And that blue-eyed Sora who'd ruined all of her plans.
She winced. The rain was ripping her heart to shreds.
It was the only explanation as to why it hurt so much at the thought of his name.
"Colds are a bitch, huh?"
She looked up at his laughter, feeling drowsy and irritable – no surprise about that, really – as she drew a blanket closer to her. Her little hotel room had just felt so small, and she found herself wandering the halls in a daze, unkempt, disorderly, and falling to pieces.
She felt so sluggish by the warmth of the fire, she could fall asleep. And she had been about to, too, had it not been for him.
"…go away," she rasped, turning her head and drawing her feet onto the beige cushions, the vague notion that this was his favorite chair registering in her mind.
He only chuckled and seated himself comfortably on the floor, neck craning so his eyes could meet hers. She pursed her lips and looked away more stubbornly, hoping the warm glow of the fire would disguise her blush.
"Hot chocolate?" he asked gently, and her blue eyes flicked to the foam cup he was extending, the gentle grin she caught on his features dispelling the rude retort she'd been about to say.
Weakly she extended her hand, and their fingertips brushed as he handed over the drink, sending a jolt through her. Ashamed, she pulled the drink to her chest and looked far away, mumbling "Thank you" under her breath as her eyes focused on the hearth.
"Your face is pretty red," he said abruptly, only causing the blush on her face to deepen and rage to flash through her. How rude. "Do you have a fever?"
Blinking, she looked down at him, not expecting him to care, actually. But he looked so concerned, head tilted in question and mouth a straight line.
"I'm fine," she said sharply, and turned away from him.
There was a shuffle of clothing, and from her peripheral vision she saw him push himself to his knees, and then to his feet. She bit back a sigh, wondering why she had to be so harsh and push him away like then, when a gloved hand on her forehead made her stiffen. Her eyes flicked to him, incoherent thoughts making her headache grow, and then he clicked his tongue.
"For such an intelligent girl," he said gently, "you sure don't know how to take care of yourself."
"Are you calling me stupid?" she asked in resentment.
"Kinda," he laughed, and then she shrieked as he lifted her in her arms, blanket falling to the floor.
She felt too dizzy to really voice her complaints, however, and she merely shook in his arms and drew herself closer to her body.
She'd woken up a while later to find herself sleeping against his form, right outside the door to her apartment, as he hadn't had the key. But, instead of moving, she let her head fall right back on his shoulder, wondering at the feeling that filled her as her drowsiness took over.
He made her feel so safe.
He loved that stupid hotel lobby. She couldn't understand it, but he could live there. He almost never left it, acting as doorman in the morning, sprawling out across his chair at night, watching for her to reenter so he could have his fun. And at first that had been disconcerting, then annoying, and now…
It had been a while since she'd had a friend in the world.
"You're all wet," he laughed as she trudged over to him, cross. The rain was back, and so she was in a rather foul mood.
"No kidding, genius."
"Oh, come on," he said, eyes twinkling. "Don't get all mad at me just because of a little water."
She snorted and made to stomp past him, but he grinned and grabbed her wrist, pulling her back. She knew he only meant that much, too, because when she landed in his lap he looked equally startled.
"U-uh…" he stammered, face bright red.
She couldn't help it. The blank, helpless look on his face sent her over the edge, and she was laughing against his chest uncontrollably. Her fingers fisted the dark fabric of his shirt and she just giggled on, not even stopping when he took the liberty to wrap his arms around her.
And then he was laughing, too.
It took a while for her to calm down. She couldn't remember the last time she'd laughed, couldn't remember the last time she'd found anything remotely funny, and so she was reluctant to let the feeling go. For the first time she didn't feel so bitter or uncomfortable, and it was all because she was in his arms, laughing at his expense.
She shook her head left and right against his chest, still smiling and letting out a giggle or two. She felt whole for once. She liked that.
For the second time, too, she felt herself falling asleep against him, the crackling of the fire and steady rise and fall of his chest casting a spell over her. He hummed once, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, and then sent his fingertips through her tresses, exhaling gently. Her eyes were closing, and the sounds were dying down, only his quiet murmur distinguishable in the buzz surrounding her.
"You should laugh more," he murmured gently, still stroking her hair.
She struggled with herself, trying to form a response, but only managed a sluggish, "…why?"
"Your laugh is pretty," he whispered.
She snuggled closer to his chest. And as she was just about to fall asleep, she heard, "…you're…pretty."
It was as if that was the only thing she'd ever wanted to hear in the world.
She'd missed her cab again. She wasn't happy about it, but then again the air felt suddenly refreshing to her. A walk home wouldn't be so bad, even if the rain was freezing and presently pouring down on her.
She shivered and drew her arms closer to her as a gust of wind sprayed more rain into her face. Okay, so she could care less about how refreshing the air was. She wanted to get back to that stupid lobby, where the fire was crackling and Sora was waiting.
She blushed and ducked her head down, bangs flopping into her eyes. The truth was inevitable. She wanted to see him.
Letting out a sigh, she dropped her arms, forgetting that she'd gathered them to her to fend off the chill. Then, spreading them out wide, she spun a little, closing her eyes and inhaling deeply, the smells of smog and city trash washed away with the constant fall of the rain above. And, no matter the wet, it was nice, to not be pressured by the overbearing city that held people shackled by shallow dreams and high expectations.
It was perfect, in the purest sense of the word.
And for once she really was a mess, not caring at all that she wasn't on schedule, that her hair wasn't in place, that her clothes were ruined.
Because she was dancing in the rain and the pressure was sliding off her shoulders.
Upon stumbling, she grinned and slipped out of her shoes, stocking-clad feet immediately soaking up the chill of the puddle she stood in. Then, taking in her hands the ruined footwear, she sped off down the sidewalk, splashing water up at herself and feeling the wind whip at her cheeks. She felt like a child again, feeling bliss at the most frivolous and common of things, but it was a freeing feeling. It had been a chain reaction, event after event leading up to this, and now she felt free, the last of the chains that bound her loosening their hold.
She didn't want to be perfect any longer. She wanted those rain washed doors, that quiet little lobby, and the blue-eyed boy who always waited up for her to make sure she was okay.
She was done playing a part she wasn't meant for. Instead, she would stumble through the rain like everyone else.
And be happy.
She wrenched the doors open, and then she was slipping across the clean white floor in her socks, Sora's eyes wide as he stood up to catch her. And she laughed into his shoulder, dropping the shoes and with it the last of her act, fingers fumbling with her hair as she tried to catch her breath; and she tore out her bun, hair tumbling down her neck and onto her shoulders, another relief to have. She pulled away, mumbling things that sounded like nonsense to even her ears, but he was grinning nonetheless, excited by her excitement. His hands were at her waist, gently tickling her sides, and then he was spinning her around with affection in his eyes, in complete view of the sleepy-eyed, coffee-loving hotel inhabitants, in a lobby that was small and quaint, in a world that could never be perfect.
And she was happy, for the first time in her life. The road that led on was full of unexpected events, of possible trials and tears and heartache she could never prepare herself for.
But maybe he was different, maybe he could bring her a perfect little ending, and that maybe was enough.
And in the eyes of everyone his strong arms brought her down from the air, from that ethereal bliss, and he held her to his chest…
…and he kissed her.
Right in the middle of that stupid hotel lobby, Sora kissed her.
Nothing so unexpected had ever felt…so right.
...she found something better.
Nngh. Sappy Romance. I was trying so hard to make it sad or tragic or something, but I couldn't think of anything. It seems like all I can right is this stuff. -sigh-
Yeah. Reallyreally long, too. I just couldn't seem to end it. Plus it's so...odd.
On that note, hope you love it! Haha.