Battle Hardened

I look over at one of my best friends and realize how much he has changed. Wakka and Tidus were the first to notice it. I had been too dense to see it, as I tend to be at times. At first I wonder what has changed so much about him. At first I think it's his long silver hair and how much taller he's grown, but then I catch the glimpse in his aqua eyes as he stares out over the horizon, watching the sunset. His eyes are hard.

Not physically, but emotionally. He went from being my determined and yet carefree rival, to a much more distant friend. It's then that I realize how much he's seen. Riku's seen too much for his age, we all have, but he's been put through the greatest trials – and won them all. He's become a slave to darkness and won. He's watched friends suffer, seen death, felt the brunt of the pain in everything. The friend I once knew so well, I know no longer. Riku's become battle hardened.

Riku's laugh has begun to sound like he's had to force it. His smiles no longer reach his eyes. I've heard all of these things from Kairi, but I never paid them much heed – until now. I never would have foreseen how much a friendship could change over the course of time. Kairi's my girlfriend now, and Riku always seems to feel awkward around us, more than usual.

I need to understand him again. If I can't figure him out, than chances are he can't either. He needs to find himself again. He's not the same Riku that I used to know so well, but maybe, through time, he can laugh again without being haunted. I vow to help him find himself, whether he wants me to or not.

Because that's what friends do.

I look forward to that day.

Author's Notes: This was originally supposed to have a different premise, and be a much longer but my muse wouldn't listen to me, so my apologies.