author's note: This is my entry for Rawkin Paradox's challenge. Put up at the latest possible time. I'm such the procrastinator. Enjoy, and leave a review on the way out!

standard disclaimers apply—


never let go



I knew it was going to be hard.

But honestly, I didn't know it would be this hard.

I thought the first night would be the worst. And as the sky was filled with the star-stricken blackness, I could see the fear carved into their faces. Sora's eyes were clenched shut, blocking the sky from view. He jumped at every sound, his hand flexing around the empty air. It was almost as if he wanted to summon his keyblade… but was too scared to admit to himself that all his nightmares were real.

Riku was just as bad. As we sat on the beach, he remained immobile. His hands dug into the sand, his fingers clenched tightly around the grains. His gaze never left the sun, and it worried me. He hardly moved at all that night. It was almost as if he thought that it was all a dream- our home, a dream- and he refused to wake up out of the trance he had lulled his body into.

I didn't really know what to do then. Sora flinched at my touch, and Riku was just too unresponsive. I knew I shouldn't have been angry with them… but it was just so frustrating.

They were home. Finally, they were home.

But they sure didn't act like it.

--I can't understand it

The search for an answer is met with a darker day

And we've been handed these moments forever

But I'm reassured there's another way--

I thought the second night was going to be the worst. After Sora begged his mom to let him stay the night, she couldn't refuse- especially after the fiasco from the night before. His mom told me that after hours and hours of him struggling to remain awake- not wishing to have another nightmare, I supposed- he finally fell asleep on his couch.

He awoke about two hours later screaming his lungs out.

Another nightmare.

Riku was the same… well, almost the same. He had actually denied himself the luxury of sleep until around eight in the morning that day, when the sun was shining brightly into his bedroom. His father was too scared to wake him up, not that he needed to.

Riku woke up after a few hours, his muscles tense and his skin glistening with sweat.

Well, I didn't see him- but that's what his father told me.

They came over late that night, and they looked as if they felt... out of place, I suppose. Sora walked everywhere in my house with his back against the wall. He was always glancing around, searching every dark corner with fear evident in his eyes. And again, he flinched at every tiny noise. My heart erupted with pity.

It took Riku ages to actually step into the house; he remained in the doorway for nearly twenty minutes, his hand constantly grabbing at the doorknob. I had to beckon him in… like he was a lost dog, or something.

After a while, they seemed to settle in, but it was just like before.

They hardly spoke.

We were snuggled together on the floor in our sleeping bags, and we wound up watching some movie… I can't really remember what it was, because I fell asleep. But when I woke up in the middle of the night, my eyes blinking the sleep away, I saw it was just as before.

Riku was perched on the seat below the window, staring out into the night sky. Maybe he was watching for falling stars? He always liked to do that when we were growing up. I was going to call for him to come lie down- because everything was going to be okay- but I didn't want to scare him.

I flipped my pillow over to the cooler side, and rolled over in my sleeping bag. My breath hitched in my throat.

Riku wasn't the only one awake.

Sora was curled up into a ball on the couch, his eyes clamped shut. He had the afghan wrapped around him, but he was trembling and was obviously awake.

I wanted to call his name, to tell him everything was going to be okay, but the words couldn't escape.

I stood up, and my sleeping bag crumpled at my feet. I walked to the couch slowly, and I felt Riku's stony gaze on my back.

This was hard. Too hard.

I sat on the couch next to Sora and pulled him against me. My arms wrapped around his shuddering body, and I felt him shake more under my touch. With the silence of the night wrapped around us, his sobs were easy to hear.

I shushed him and pulled him closer. What else was I to do? His head shook against my chest, and I cooed a lullaby into his ear.

--You don't have to close your eyes

There is room for love again

Ease the pain to realize all that love can be--

After that, my sleep pattern was destroyed. I stayed up nearly all night consoling him, pulling him against my chest. He fell asleep like that, and like the night before, Riku had stayed up until the sun was streaming its light through the windows.

I was still awake, and Riku was curled in his sleeping bag, his face scrunched up as a vivid nightmare attacked his mind. My eyes were struggling to stay open, and I yawned. I tried to adjust my body- my left arm was definitely asleep under Sora's weight- but-

Sora woke with a jolt in my arms, and he fell off the couch with a yelp. He stood up, and with a gasp, he realized his hands were shaking. Pity scorched my throat. He shuddered and stepped away from me, shaking his arms.

I bit my lip, trying to stop my tears from coming down.

What had they done to deserve this? Were the saviors of the worlds destined to terrified days, and even more terrified nights?

Sora curled back into a ball, but had moved next to Riku. I tried to stay awake- to make sure they were going to be okay- but my eyelids kept fluttering down. It was bound to happen.

I had fallen asleep during some point that morning, and Sora and Riku had left without a sound. I awoke as the sun was setting, and the golden light danced across my face.

I wanted to call them, to check on them, but decided against it. Who was I to pester them about it all? It wasn't their fault they were like this now. Hell, I would be too if I had been fighting for my life for over a year.

I kept pacing back and forth in my room, my hand lingering on the phone every time I passed it. Even as night fell and the stars peeped through its inky blackness, I just paced in my room.

Sora and Riku had had it so hard. It was a shock that they were still functioning. And who was I? I was just the girl waiting on the sidelines. I had no purpose. I shook my head and brushed my hair away from my face. The tears were flowing down now.

The expansive sky looked down on me as I tied my rowboat to the dock. I couldn't sleep; it wasn't even midnight yet. And I couldn't stay in my room any longer.

The grains tickled my bare toes, and I collapsed into the sand, crying freely. Everything should be okay now, but it wasn't. It wasn't, and I had no idea how to fix it.

The moon rose higher in the sky, and a faint summery breeze blew my way. I hung my head between my legs and sighed. I couldn't go back tonight. I couldn't see them suffering like that again.

I gasped as I heard a splash. My head jerked up, and I saw a second boat being tied to the dock. I couldn't mistake that crazy head of hair from a mile away.

I hiccupped and rubbed my eyes. The sun was just beginning to rise, and Sora couldn't see me like this. I had to be strong for him and Riku; I couldn't cry like this anymore. He came closer, his arms holding his body tightly. My heart couldn't take this anymore.

I sighed again and lifted my head, trying to coax the tears back. It wasn't working.

Sora plopped down next to me, and his thumb traced my cheek, wiping my tears away. It wasn't long before I fell asleep in his arms, and I loathed myself for doing so.

It should have been the other way around.

--Forced apart by time and sand

Take a step and take my hand

And don't let it go

Never let go--

I jolted awake, and my back screamed in pain. I shot up, clutching the wall for support as dizziness struck me hard. I realized, vaguely, that I was in the little tree house that Wakka and Riku had built years ago. Tidus and Sora claim that they had helped, but Selphie and I know that they were just playing with their toy swords the whole time.

I stretched backward, and my back cracked painfully. I didn't plan on sleeping on wooden floors again anytime soon.

How had I gotten up here? I wrenched the tattered sheet from the doorway, and the sunset blinded me. It felt a lot different waking up to the sunset instead of the sunrise. As my eyes adjusted, I saw Sora and Riku on our island.

They must have brought me up here. My heart fluttered for a moment and then sank back down again. They needed to stop treating me so kindly. I wasn't worth it.

I started climbing down the ladder, hoping they were okay now, but I seriously doubted it. I was rushing over to the seaside shack when a flash caught my eyes. It was coming from the shore. I jogged over to the water's edge, seeking what had shone.

A message bottle.

I grabbed it and shook the water off before peering closer at it. My eyes squinted against the sun's light, and brought the bottle closer to my face.

The king's seal.

I dropped the bottle instantly, and it rolled back toward the ocean. Not again. They had been through too much.

I wanted to throw it back. I wanted to hide it. I wanted to break it and never tell anyone about it. But what I really wanted was to send a message back saying that I wasn't letting them leave again. They were too broken already.

But I knew I couldn't do that.

So with a sob, I reached down and picked up the bottle again. The grains of sand stuck to it felt too coarse. I hated this bottle. But they had to know.

I sighed and, with great reluctance, ran up through the seaside shack and across the bridge. I yelled their names, and they turned to face me.

I hated having to do this to them. I didn't want to break them anymore.

--Broken, once connected

We were so strong and so blessed in a simple way

So don't let me go it alone--

Self-loathing coursed through my body as I panted from my run and held the bottle up to Sora. He wrenched it from my grasp and dumped the parchment into his hand. He was trembling, and I hated myself- I should have just thrown it back when the tide changed!

Riku leaned to read over Sora's shoulder, and I stood on my tiptoes. My stomach dropped.

I was right.

The King was making them leave again. Tomorrow evening.

I looked at Riku and had to stifle a sob. The bags under his eyes were so dark, and he was shaking with… anger? I turned to Sora with tears balancing on my eyelashes. His eyes were so wide with fright, and he ripped the parchment with a growl. He looked over at me, and his cerulean eyes- usually so, so happy- were spilling tears.

Riku touched Sora's shoulder, and I saw the sadness in his aquamarine eyes as well.

And then it hit me.

They weren't scared of fighting heartless or nobodies. They weren't scared of the darkness or of dying.

They were scared to leave me again…

No! We had worked so hard to come together again!

Was fate this cruel?!

I kicked the ground and ran back across the bridge. This wasn't fair! Couldn't we live a normal life… for once?

I heard Sora and Riku chasing after me, and guilt flooded my body. I was being so selfish. I stopped and collapsed in the sand. The sun was barely visible on the horizon, but its rays still twirled over the ocean's waves.

Riku pulled me up and threw me into his warm chest. I crumpled into his body, and I felt him kiss the top of my head. I felt so guilty, so pitiful, but I couldn't stop myself. He put his chin on the top of my head, and my arms latched around his waist. I breathed his scent in.

I don't know how long we stayed like that, but his chin moved, and I pulled away from him. The stars were coming out again.

Sora was lying on the ground, staring up at the sky. His face was etched with worry, and my heart went out to him. Even with the faint starlight, I could still see the tears running down his face. I wanted to tell him that everything was going to be okay, that it was all going to be fine.

But I couldn't say it.

I couldn't lie.

--Turn your head up to the sky

Nothing down below but me

Face the truth to realize all that we could be--

I bent down and lay next to Sora. He never stopped shuddering, did he? I stroked his brown bangs away from his face soothingly, but he sat up anyway. I gasped, and he pushed my arm away.

I pulled my hand back into my lap, and my knees automatically curled up into my chest.

I heard Riku mumble a string of curses under his breath, and felt him glaring at Sora.

What was I going to do?

I couldn't wait here on the islands again. I had to leave with them. But… I couldn't fight. Could I?

Riku sat down next to me, and I shivered as a cool breeze blew through my hair.

Sora poked my shoulder, and I whipped around to face him. His eyes locked onto mine, and he murmured his apologies. He grabbed my hand and kissed it.

The tears cascaded down my cheeks, and I sobbed loudly. I felt their gaze on me, but I ignored it. I threw myself back into the sand. I had to be strong. I had to fight for our friendship.

I couldn't let them go alone. I refused to.

They were already broken beyond repair, and thousands of cracks lined their hearts. But I wasn't going to let them shatter.

I loved them too much for that.

--Torn apart by rage and fear

Hold on to what brought you here

Don't let it go

Never let go--

I don't know how long we lay there, staring up at the dark sky. It was hard to tell time when my mind kept wandering around.

I had always taken our friendship for granted, and I despised myself for it. Even when I had drifted to the islands when I was a little girl, Sora and Riku took me under their wing. They protected me. They cared for me.

And that hadn't changed a bit.

They still protected me. They still cared for me. They still loved me.

Now it was my turn to return the years of undeserved kindness.

I intertwined my fingers between Sora's fingers first. His hand was shaking and twitched at noises, but he calmed down quickly. I grabbed Riku's next, and he jumped at the sudden movement. My thumb caressed his bare hand, and his fingers soon loosened their grip.

I hummed a soft melody under my breath. I wouldn't be so ungrateful anymore. I couldn't be ungrateful… with my broken boys constantly protecting me, constantly needing me.

And although it had been completely obvious, it still came as a shock.

Fate was cruel and would throw everything in our path, but it would never stop us. Nothing would ever stop us.

We would be together.


"I'm never letting go," I murmured under my breath as I squeezed each of their hands. But they didn't respond. I looked at Sora first, then at Riku.

They were fast asleep.

Riku snored softly, and his gleaming silver hair was covering half his face. I giggled. Then I looked at Sora, whose gentle smile reassured me that he was okay. No nightmares tonight…

I smiled.

Maybe they weren't broken beyond repair after all.




author's note: Sooo- I tried to challenge myself with this one. Canon, no dialogue except for that last line, and first person POV. Tell me how I did, please!