This is a continuation of Unbalanced. I needed to put a closure to it cause it was nagging at me. I'm sure some of you who read the first won't like this, hence one of the reasons I'm keeping it separate, but its how the story ends. This always was going to be the end result. Probably will end up a two-shot also.
Thanks to all who read and especially those who review.
And like before, don't own 'em.
Sora wished he could say he'd lost track of the time Riku had been gone. He wished he could say he barely noticed his absence. He wished he could say that he didn't feel a strange emptiness in his chest.
But he couldn't.
Kairi was trying so hard to understand but it clearly wasn't happening. How could she when Sora himself had no idea what was happening to him? He felt awful that she was struggling along with him. He hadn't wanted to drag her into his… weirdness.
They were together everyday, just as she had promised Namine and Roxas yet even together, he felt somehow removed. As if he wasn't completely there. He stood by her side, held her hand, let her lay against him when they were both simply too worn to do anything else. To any one looking, they were the ideal couple. He was comfortable with her but something vital was missing.
He blinked. He had zoned out again on her. He smiled apologetically. "Sorry, Kai. What was that?"
She sighed and tucked some reddish hair behind her ear. Sora was always like this these days. He was physically present but his mind was far, far away. She didn't want to admit it, but it was like his heart simply wasn't part of his life. He was merely going through the motions.
"There's going to be a party for the blitzball team Friday night. Tidus and Wakka really want you to come."
"Oh, maybe." Sora shrugged. "You know parties aren't really my thing."
"You used to go to the all the time with Riku." She tried not to sound bitter. She really did.
"Only to make sure he didn't drink too much and get himself in trouble. You know how hard he can hit the bottle." Sora countered. "I like being around my friends just not in the party setting."
Kairi frowned. "Look Sora, everyone's beginning to worry about you. Since Riku left, you've been… different."
"What are you talking about?" Sora's words were wary.
"Well…" She began slowly. "You just seem kind of withdrawn."
"Huh? What does that mean? I'm here, aren't I?" He waved a hand. "I haven't gone anywhere. I'm not the one who up and left."
Kairi stared. Deep down she had known why Sora was behaving the way he was but now it was right there in her face. She couldn't deny this any more. Sora didn't need her, didn't depend on her. She wasn't the other half of his soul.
Suddenly she hated Riku. Hated him for being weak. Hated him for leaving Sora broken. She didn't care how messed up Riku thought he was, it didn't give him the right to torment Sora like this. Sora was the one suffering.
She couldn't let Sora see this anger. He wouldn't understand it and if she tried to explain it, he'd simply start defending Riku. Her sweet Sora wouldn't allow her to hate Riku for anything. Taking an invisible breath, she willed herself to calm down. This wasn't Riku's fault. This wasn't anyone's fault.
And that was the most frustrating thing of all. Everything was so much easier when there was some one to blame.
She leaned forward and gently kissed Sora's lips. He looked at her confused when she moved away but didn't say anything. He just gave a bittersweet smile. He understood a whole lot more than she believed.
"I'm sorry, Kai."
"You shouldn't be." Kairi shook her head. "Who we love isn't something we control."
Sora nodded. His eyes grew dark and sad. "I know but, it's so hard to ignore."
"Ignore? Why would you need to do that?"
"I've been trying to ignore this since the day Riku left." Sora looked away. "But it's slowly eating away at me. It got a little better once I admitted it to myself. Once I accepted it but…"
He glanced back at her. "It hurts, Kairi. I know letting him go was the right thing but I hate him for going. I felt like he abandoned me somehow. And I'm terrified he's never coming back."
Sora was on the verge of tears. She automatically reached over and wrapped her arms around him. How had all this happened? The fates must have cursed them, all three of them. Were their lives going to always be this painful?
"He promised you he'd be back, right?" She whispered against his ear. There was the barest of nods. "Then he will. Riku has never broken a promise."
"But," Sora drew back a bit. "What if he's different? He's dealing with some major stuff, Kairi. The darkness changes people."
"He hasn't changed yet." She assured him. "His heart's the same and we both know it."
"That's the other thing." Sora wiped tears that hadn't actually fallen. "I can't tell him my feelings have changed. I can't tell him…"
"He doesn't feel the same."
"You don't know that, Sora." Kairi spoke firmly. "And regardless, you need to tell him otherwise it will continue to gnaw at you and turn into something ugly. Love should never be ugly."
Sora blinked rapidly, pulling himself together. His gratitude was written all over his face. "Thank you, Kairi."
"Any time, Sora." Her voice caught a little.
Sora noticed it and took her hand. "You're important to me too, you know. I do love you."
The words were good to hear. She found herself smiling. "I'm glad."
With nothing else to really say, they began walking home, comfortably side-by-side. Each kept their thoughts to themselves, content to know that the other would always have their back. Kairi would always be Sora's dear friend as Sora would always be her protector. They had their roles and were happy to play them.
At her house, Sora turned to her. "Did you want to go to that party?"
Kairi shrugged. "Kinda. It sounded like a good time."
"Well, let's go then." Sora grinned. "If it gets too wild we'll just leave."
That Friday found the pair hanging out on the play island with about a hundred other teenagers celebrating the blitzball team's division win. The kept themselves somewhat removed from the bulk of it, mostly watching the other's dancing and drinking and just having fun. Selphie was already half-drunk and slinking around, hitting on every available player she came across.
For the most part, the party had been relatively tame.
"Kairi!" One of her friends from one of the clubs called out to her. Sora never could keep track of them all. "Come here, you have got to see this!"
Kairi gave Sora an inquisitive look to which he only shrugged. He took a very small sip of the beer Tidus had shoved into his hand earlier in the night.
"Go ahead. I'm not going anywhere."
She grinned and quickly pecked his cheek before running off. Sora watched a moment before sighing and turning toward the shack. For some unknown reason, no one ever went in that direction during this events. Sora didn't get why. It would be the perfect place for an intense make-out session.
He passed through it, climbing the stairs slowly and emerging in the path to the wooden bridge that crossed over to the islet. He hadn't been here since Riku left. He couldn't be here without thinking of the silver haired young man.
He jumped the sideways growing tree and sat there, beer bottle in both hands between his legs, staring at the ocean. How many hours had the two of them spent doing just this? Was it really almost two years since then?
Riku had been gone now for four months, almost to the day. His mother didn't seem to care if he ever came back. Then again Riku'd never had a good relationship with her. Sora's mom took care of him like her own.
He smiled tightly. His mom would be so thrilled if he and Riku ever- He stopped that thought before he could finish it. He could think about things like that now.
Soft steps came behind him. He assumed it was Kairi looking for him. How long had he been up here?
The gentle yet deep male voice sang to his heart. It sent a surge of euphoria through him but he managed to keep it cool as he slowly turned on the trunk.
Riku was dressed in total black, hair pulled back into a tail with the bangs framing his face. His eyes glowed in the relative darkness but Sora saw the small smile he was wearing. He was absolutely beautiful.