This is the final chapter of Give Way. I want to thank everyone who reviewed me, and everyone that didn't review me but read my fic anyway. Words can't express my appreciation.
This chapter is a little more dialogue heavy than the others, simply because there's a lot that needs to be said. Hopefully you won't find it bothersome.
Disclaimer: I don't own KH or the characters.
The crowd dissipated a little, as the appearance of officers alarmed a few. Sora was glad that he could at least see what was immediately in front of him, but he would have gladly given up that privilege had he known Riku would have such an expression on his face.
Utter surprise was a shamefully inaccurate description.
"Dad?" he muttered again, Riku's eyebrows lifted briefly before dipping into a frown.
Sora grimaced. He himself was more than a little taken aback at the situation, but he did have a distinctly powerful sensation of sympathy for Riku. "Riku," he said cautiously, stepping forward as the officers took his father to one car for questioning, and the other combatant to another.
"You know this guy?" one of the officers asked, pulling out a pad and a pen.
Riku didn't even remember that the officer was standing next to him, and was startled when the clear voice met his ears. "Huh?"
"Do you know this guy?" he asked again. "This your dad?"
Riku gave a half nod, watching with a feeling of disbelief and horror as they handcuffed his father, patted him down, and promptly loaded him into the car.
"Okay," the officer said, squeezing a bit of sympathy into his voice. "He's going down to the station for a little while to sober up; he'll spend the night."
Riku nodded again, biting the inside of his cheek.
"If you want to come down to the station to ask questions, or see about him," he paused to scribble something down on the pad. "You can go here." He gave another brief look of sympathy before heading to the car with the other officers.
Sora stepped forward again, not quite sure about what he should do. He chewed his lip and put a hand on his shoulder. "Do...do you want to go?"
His father's head was planted firmly against the window of the back passenger seat. He seemed to be saying something, but his voice was muffled by the thick glass and the distance between he and Riku. His cheeks were red and a bit shiny, Riku observed, and the five O' clock shadow had erupted to a scraggly mop, but not quite a beard.
Suddenly, his pink eyes shifted a little, then widened.
It appeared as though he had just spotted Riku.
Both men held their breaths for long moments, neither knowing what to do or say. People walked past the car, past Riku, bumping into him awkwardly, offering muttered apologies and murmurs of sympathy, all of which fell on unhearing ears. No one was part of the world right then. It was just the two of them, suspended in a glass sphere of muted noises and dim lights, confusion, disappointment and shame.
Riku was the first to avert his eyes. He shook his head disappointedly at the ground, mindful of the red eyes still slowly taking him in, one particle at a time; and the hand placed gently on his shoulder.
The car drove off shortly after that, taking with it his father, the bright, flashing lights, the stench of alcohol, and all that had made his past what it was. He could let it all go, let it cling to the police car like the paint, the number and the license plate, and the man strapped to the backseat with a seatbelt. He didn't have any obligations to this man anymore. Nothing had changed after all; there was nothing he had to try to salvage, nothing he needed to try and salvage. He had been given overwhelming proof that this very moment could be his closure, however unconventional it was.
There didn't have to be a fairly-tale storybook happy ending. They didn't need to come together and embrace like old friends returning to each other after years of unnecessary fighting. They didn't have to mend. They could just be.
Riku had known things weren't going to turn out like that for a while now. He had accepted it. He knew the two of them weren't going to be on friendly terms. It was fine with him, it was the way he wanted it.
But there was something...
There was something coming away from him, something unraveling inside him as the police car traveled down the street. It was as though there was a spool inside him and the thin thread was tugging him forward, threatening to leave him forever with no hope of returning once it had gone. The thread wrapped around the corner, through the people, past side walks, newspaper stands, uncaring who it managed to tangle in it. It was unrelenting; unstoppable, final.
If he let the spool unwind, he would surely fall apart.
This was not something he could just accept. No, it was true he didn't want to be on familiar terms with this man. He didn't even want to have anything to do with him. But he couldn't just let him leave; let him carry on doing as he wished with no obligations to his son, or his ex-wife, or the world. Riku had to let him know; let him understand what kind of damage he had truly done to him. His father had to know his side, how he felt, how the whole thing impacted him.
Riku had heard how much his father struggled with the divorce, how hard of a hand life had dealt him. He knew his father was going through difficult times now, even if some of it was self-induced. But now it was time for him to learn what Riku had been through. His father had to know about his struggles, about how growing up with that man had inhibited his own personal growth, how hard life was for people other than his father. If he did not get this message across, Riku knew he would not be able to completely move on.
"Riku," Sora started again, shaking his shoulder a little. "Do you want to go?"
He clenched his fist. "Yeah," he said quietly. "I really do."
Sora nodded slowly. "Okay. Well, it's probably going to be a long walk. I could drive us…if you want."
Riku scratched his head. "You don't have to go with me. I don't want you to feel like you have to or anything."
"No, I want to, I mean, if you don't mind." Sora toed the ground. "I don't think this is something you should have to do by yourself."
"You really want to come?"
Riku smiled a little. "Thanks, Sora."
The two of them walked down the rest of the sidewalk and headed to the parking lot of the apartment complex. Neither of them said a word during the trip; their thoughts satisfied any need for conversation.
When they stood on the back parking lot, Sora headed to his car, but stopped suddenly when Riku cleared his throat. "Um, Sora, maybe I should drive."
Riku shrugged. "I know the town a little better than you, that's all." He smiled. "I've never had a reason to go to the police station before, but I could probably find it easier."
Sora nodded. "Okay." He then turned to follow Riku down the dark parking lot to where he parked. It occurred to Sora that he had never even seen Riku's car, much less been inside it.
Riku headed to the far end of the lot to a car perpendicularly parked against the concrete walk way. It was a fairly nice looking car; not fancy, but it looked clean. He opened the door and sat inside, reaching over to unlock the door on Sora's side. As Sora sat down, he was met with the warm scent of carpet and...heat. He remembered that Riku walked to work every day, and didn't really go anywhere else.
He sat down into the firm seats and buckled in, watching out of the corner of his eye as Riku did the same.
"Okay," he sighed, starting the engine. "Here we go. Uh, please excuse the sad condition of my car. I haven't cleaned it in a while."
Sora waved him off. The interior was spotless save for a small layer of dust on the dashboard. Unlike Sora's vehicle, this one didn't have crumpled up maps strewn on the floor, a pair of running shoes in the back, and gum wrappers jammed in the glove compartment. "Don't worry about it. My car is easily ten times worse."
Riku chuckled humorlessly. "Is that so?"
"Yeah," Sora added, sure that he didn't want the conversation to die so quickly. Riku was a hard person to read at times, but he was sure his thoughts weren't pleasant at this point. He didn't want him dwelling on whatever they were. He felt obligated to at least keep this moment light. "It's really messy. Um, there's a lot of junk in there."
"...And it smells bad too."
Riku nodded slightly.
"Seriously, the smell is sometimes overwhelming. I left half of a container of yogurt in there for uh...a...long time. After I cleaned it up, I had to keep the windows down for the entire winter until it aired out."
Riku didn't even respond.
"...Yeah, that's my car."
He was again met with silence. Only slightly discouraged, Sora leaned forward. "There's a lion in the back seat."
"It's pawing at the backside of your chair."
"If you don't hurry up and acknowledge that I'm talking to you, it's going to feed you to the cubs in the trunk."
There was a moment of silence, then Riku quirked an eyebrow. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
Sora sighed with extra exasperation and flopped back against the seat. "No."
Sora's lower lip jutted out. "So...what are you thinking about?" Since his initial plan of keeping things light hadn't worked out so well, he thought he might as well tackle the issue head on.
"Um..." he smiled sheepishly. "It's not really anything. I can't really describe it to you."
"Are you upset?"
"Kind of, but I'm not exactly sad or angry. Does that make any sense?"
"Yeah, it does." Sora mused. "It's like a couple of things at the same time; not so much one or the other?"
Riku nodded. "Sometimes it amazes me how well you can read me."
Sora had to stifle a snort. He had been thinking just the opposite a few moments ago. "Not really. Sometimes you're quite the enigma."
Riku shook his head as he turned the corner. "I think you know me better than you think you do."
"Is that creepy?"
"Hmm, well, it kind of sounds that way out loud, but it isn't exactly weird. It's kind of..."
Sora leaned forward in the seat, worried that perhaps he had indeed treaded on some territory he wasn't supposed to. The last thing he wanted to do was scare him away because of some unexplainable attachment issues. "What? It's kind of what?"
Riku chuckled a little at Sora's alarm. This time it did contain a little humor, but Sora was too panic stricken to notice. "It's kind of nice, Sora."
"Oooh," he let out a deep breath and flopped back against the seat again, feeling as if his mind had just released a two and a half ton collection of dumbbells. "That's a relief. In that case, I'm glad."
Riku chuckled again and stopped at a stoplight and took the moment to look at Sora sideways. "How do you do that?"
"How do I do what?" He was still trying to catch his breath.
"How do you always know what to say; what to do?" He lifted an eyebrow. He had a strong feeling of admiration towards Sora these last few days, especially since all of his help seemed to be paying off. There was something amazing about him, something strong, and powerful, and just all around good. He couldn't help but wonder if he had had some prior experience, or training in his history. Maybe he was just naturally gifted.
Sora flushed a little and shrugged. "Oh...I don't really do anything. I kind of just voice the stuff you already know."
"Nah, you do more than that."
"Um..." The color on his face darkened a shade. "I don't know. I mean, I guess..." he scrunched his eyebrows together in concentration. "Sometimes I just know what you need to do or hear...like I can feel it. Sometimes I just want to help you so badly that words just fly out of my mouth."
"Well," he scratched his head. "Sometimes I just guess and cross my fingers. Actually, that's what I do most of the time. I honestly have no idea what I'm doing."
Riku shook his head dismissively. "It's nothing. I'm just...really glad I met you."
Sora grinned. "I'm glad I met you, too."
The two of them finished the trip in silence.
When they arrived at the police station, Riku was the first one to exit the car. Sora noticed that he had blanched a little, but he didn't look nervous like he expected him to. Had they not been doing something so serious, he would have smiled.
Riku pushed open the glass doors and walked in to the receptionist's desk. After a few moments of conversation, the two of them were directed to an office in which an officer sat. He fussed with some paperwork briefly, then noted the two of them with a half smile before handing them a stack of paperwork as well.
"Fill this out and I'll let you talk to whoever you want to talk to."
The officer had led them to a small holding facility at the end of a maze. Sora hoped that Riku had kept track of where they had come, because he could barely remember what building they were in anymore.
There was a man curled up on one of the benches behind a wall of Plexiglas. His wrists were still bound behind his back.
"Hey," the officer snapped, rapping on the glass. "Someone's here to see you."
The man rolled over with a grunt and muttered something, but the officer ignored him and opened the door anyway.
"Try not to make this take too long."
Riku sat down heavily on one of the benches, and Sora and the officer stayed outside.
"Um...hi," came a weary greeting. Eyebrows knitted together on a brow that hadn't been washed in days. "It's...it's you."
Riku folded his hands. "Yeah, it's me."
His father shifted his position on the bench and cleared his throat. "Well, it's been a little while, hasn't it?" He grinned. "Not quite a decade this time, though. Guess I should be thankful."
"I'm um...well, I'm glad your eye looks good." He glanced up briefly at the officer standing outside the door. Though he appeared to be talking to the boy Riku came in with, he still lowered his voice. "
Anyway, sometimes I don't know my own strength so it's good it didn't bruise."
Riku folded his arms and watched him shift around nervously. Perhaps he was still intoxicated, but he was inclined to think it was something more. "Anyway, there's something I wanted to talk to you about."
"I have a pretty good idea what it is you're going to say." A lopsided grin made its way to his face. "I told you that I changed. This isn't a habit or anything. I've just had a rough couple of days and I needed something to make it a little easier. You can understand that, right?" He chuckled. "I didn't think things would get out of hand tonight, but it won't be a problem again in the future, okay? This was just a one time thing."
There was a certain self-assured, almost dismissive tone in his voice that Riku didn't favor. He watched with widened eyes at the grin tugging at his lips, the slight sway in his movements as he talked, and the mirthful, happy-go-lucky confidence in his speech.
"Is that so?"
"Yeah, I guarantee it. Just wait until tomorrow after the hangover and I'll be back on my feet again. You can't judge a person's character off of one slip up, Riku. Life's been a little hard right now, but as a whole, I'm a changed person. Trust me."
He shook his head. "No, listen. I actually need to ask you a favor. All I need is a leg up. You can understand that, right? I just need a little help. Everyone needs a little help every now and then." He looked at him seriously, but Riku was looking at the floor. "All I need is a little money to pay for this charge. Once this little slip up is figured out, you'll see that I'm a changed man. I'll even pay you back."
"You want me to...what?"
His father grinned. "It's really not that much money, son. I just need you to lend me a few dollars to pay off bail."
Riku's eyes widened. "No. I'm not...no!"
"Come on." He urged, the slightly cheery expression on his face morphing into desperation. "I need to get out of here, Riku. I don't want to be here. It's just a little money."
"Please, son? I'm going to change. I just need the money to get out."
"I'm not going to pay your bail."
His father bristled, then sat back on the bench. A confused, slightly perturbed look crawled across his face. "Why did you come down here? You aren't here to help me, and I can tell by the look in your eyes that you don't believe a word I'm saying." He's eyebrows sank down here. "What do you want?"
Riku swallowed and folded his hands. "I wanted to talk."
"To be honest, about how angry at you I am."
His father stiffened, raising an eyebrow. "What?"
"I'm really, really angry at you, Dad. That's just what I wanted you to know." Riku sighed.
"But I already explained that—"
"That's not what I mean," he said quietly, starting to complain. "I don't believe you really want to change your life around, or whatever, but if you do, that's great; if you don't, then I can't really do anything to stop you. I'm talking about all the other stuff."
"What other stuff?"
Riku sighed and hunched forward. Now that he was getting ready to tell him, he couldn't get his thoughts together. There were so many things he needed to bring forward that they all jammed together at the exit of his mind and couldn't unfurl them. Where should he begin? His mother's letters? The loss of their relationship? The resentment? Riku pondered this for a few moments while his father waited expectantly.
"Dad, when I was seven, you threw a beer bottle at my head when I looked at you."
His father looked taken aback for a few minutes, blinking in surprise. A few emotions flickered across his face, but they were too quick to be recognized. "...I...don't remember that."
"You did it three more times when I was eight, and a half a dozen more times after."
"Hey, I don't know what kind of crap you're trying to pull in here, but I didn't lay a hand on you when you were growing up." He leaned forward, but his balance was off and he ended up swaying to the left.
Riku continued unhitched. "I glanced at you when you came in the door once, and you threw your hat at me. When I looked at you to ask you a math question you told me my eyes were disgusting and that I should never look at you ever again."
His father sat up straighter, eyes wide with confusion and perhaps a touch of denial. "You were just a kid. How could you possibly remember half of that stuff? I don't even remember half of that stuff."
Riku stifled a snort. Given his father's current condition, that wasn't even close to a surprise. "That's not the point. The fact of the matter is that it did happen, and I'm having a hard time just letting it go."
"I don't suppose forgive and forget is an option?"
Riku was tempted to get up and leave the room right then and there, but he stayed firmly planted in his seat. "I really can't do this, Dad." He said it with such finality that it made his father's face twitch ever so slightly.
There was silence between the two of them. Pleading eyes meeting the corners of ones cast downward. The air felt the same as it did a while ago as he stood outside the police car, watching his father through the glass door before the car drove away.
Confusion, disappointment, and shame.
He was going to open his mouth to object again. He could feel the 'no' in the back of his throat, taste it on his tongue, imagine it suspended in the air in front of him as a big block of concrete.
Then Riku was hit with this overwhelming feeling of pity for this person sitting in front of him. He was consumed with denial, clinging to goals both of them knew he wasn't going to live to, hoping that simply saying them would make everything okay. Riku bit his lip as he listened to him ramble on a little bit longer about how he would change, and how he needed help with bail money, and then shook his head when he had to stop now and then to keep his head from swimming.
He saw now that his father wasn't someone to be feared anymore; that he wasn't someone that was worth fearing. He was a man to be pitied for his weakness; he was someone that couldn't be penalized for not living up to his potential because he would end up punishing himself later on when he hammered drinks at the bar.
The whole thing was terribly sad.
And Riku felt darned sorry for him, too.
"Dad," he interrupted, meeting the red-rimmed bloodshot eyes with the eyes of his mother. "I think you should stop."
"It shouldn't be that much money, son." He smiled sheepishly. "I saw your apartment. It shouldn't be more than a drop in the bucket for you. I'm proud of you. You've made a great life for yourself. I just want you to give me the chance to do the same—"
"Dad," he said a little more sternly. He felt strange. He felt almost powerful. The homely appearance of his father's face didn't elicit fear or doubt from him; just a feeling of pity laced with a thin thread of disgust. "I don't really think this is going to work out. I don't want to see you anymore. I don't like what you were, and I don't like what you've become."
"You and I both know this isn't going to stop, unless you stay here and figure out what you have to do. You were lucky you didn't kill that guy with your car, but you didn't learn anything. You're still drunk and you're still in jail."
Outside, Sora was rocking back and forth on his heels eyeing the officer's badge. It occurred to him that he could have sat down, but the chairs unnerved him for some reason, and at least while he was standing, he could see what was going on behind the Plexiglas better. He couldn't hear words, but he could hear mumbles and he could see lips moving.
He raised his eyebrows because the conversation seemed to escalate. Lips were moving faster, the mumbles were more intense. He tipped forward on his toes to watch closer, and was surprised to see Riku stand up. He turned and said something else, and his father replied, but he was cut off when Riku shook his head and waved him away.
His hand was on the handle now and the door was opened, releasing with it the explosive end of sentence coming from his father. Riku didn't seem to pay any attention to it and wordlessly closed the door of the cell behind him.
Following him quickly, his father stood up and started yelling at him through the glass. He fumbled with the door, but it was nearly impossible to open because his hands were still bound. "What do you mean you're not going to pay my bail? What kind of crap are you trying to pull with me?! Come back here!"
The officer calmly made his way over and locked the door then went back to his post.
Sora's eyes widened. "Uh...what was that all about?"
Alarm spread out across his features. "Riku," he persisted. "Are you okay?"
"Um...yes. Don't worry about it." He patted him gently on the shoulder. "It...it doesn't really matter I guess."
"Really, it's okay." He smiled. Sora wasn't sure what to think. He could feel a little uncertainty floating about his being, but he noticed the small smile on his face, and felt a warm contentedness radiating from his body. "Are...are you sure?"
"Yeah." He sighed, with a little more conviction in his voice. "It's weird, but I feel good. I feel like it's time to move on."
"Oh. Just like that?"
Riku nodded. "Just like that." He could tell Sora wanted to press the issue further, and since it was just part of his nature to want to be helpful, he couldn't blame him either. After all, Riku had been rather vague. But that was how it did feel. Everything was so simple now, so clear. He felt like significant weight had been lifted off of his shoulders. "I know. I don't really understand it myself."
"Will you tell me what happened?" He furrowed his brow. "I'm not trying to be nosy or anything."
"No, it's okay." He opened his mouth to begin, but realized he couldn't. There was nothing to say. He couldn't describe his feelings in that cell because he didn't have them anymore. It was as if all of his anxiety had been neutralized somehow. He and his father simply had a talk, and things were clearer than ever now. "We talked."
Sora gaped. "I know you talked," he stood in front of Riku and folded his arms. "I saw you from out here. I just want to know...more."
Riku rolled his eyes. He'd just have to explain it to him on the way back. He doubted Sora would just let it go anyway. "Sora," he said after a brief pause, "let's go home."
I'm so glad I'm done with this thing. I have a sort of warm, almost maternal satisfaction, if that makes any sense. Is Sora and Riku's relationship too ambiguous? I tried to keep their relationship moderate to satisfy both RxS shippers and friendship supporters. That's not to say that I was too lazy to be decisive. ;) A bombardment of love just seemed like too much for this fic. If you've got clarity questions or some other thoughts, please send me a review or a PM. I'd be more than happy to respond.
Thanks again for reading!