Soul to the Sea.
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
'Dante's Prayer', Lorena McKeenitt

For all that he's a terrible liar – no, seriously, terrible; Kairi has been better than him at that since the moment they met – Riku is really, really good at evading things he doesn't want others to know. That's the only way that Kairi can explain it to herself that it took her so long to notice that, for all over the last month once they've come back, Riku hasn't gone into the ocean even once.

Hell, most of the times he sits under the shade, just looking at them. Riku has played with them once or twice, has wrestled with Sora by the ocean's shore three times and then... then he has spent a lot of time just. Not there, not really.

It's been nagging her, now that she thinks about it and realizes, a long time itch that she was unsure where it was placed, but now it's spreading all over her love for him. Kairi is still scared that her boys might disappear, after all. They're still fixing up things, relearning how to move together, she and Riku finally learning how not to be scared that each of them would take their most important person away.

She doesn't think that Sora has noticed, because Sora is still busy beaming at the fact that the three of them are back together at home. It's Sora the ones who makes things between them not awkward as they could have been, because she might be the 'Princess of Heart' but it's Sora the one who has the words they need to hear, even if he fumbles saying them, and it's Sora the one who reaches for them
Kairi frowns a little, smiling only when Namine whispers to her that it'll be okay.

-...-

There's something wrong with Riku, Roxas lets him know, way to early in the morning. Sora grumbles and tries to duck, puts his head beneath his pillow, but there's really no way to stop listening to the other part of your heart, even if Roxas doesn't quite say anything else.

It makes Sora kick his sheets away, roll over on his back and frown up to the ceiling, breathing in and out slowly. Riku isn't running away again, he's sure of it and Riku has promised that, every tiny, little swear that they've known how to do, even the pinky one.

It stays with him the rest of the day, even as his dad hauls him to help with fixing his boat, and he's so distracted that he barely complains about it.

What's wrong about Riku? Well, a lot of things, but nothing serious, he doesn't think. Nothing that would make him leave them, right?

Roxas sort of shrugs inside him, but then, as Sora walks towards the beach, he realizes how truly long it has been since the last time he and Riku had a swimming competition, with Kairi cheering for them both by the shore.

-...-

Riku thinks he should've expected this conspiracy – okay, perhaps not exactly that, but he thinks he should've realized that Sora and Kairi would notice, for all that he thinks he was doing a very good job at hiding the fact that he. Well.

That he can't see the beach without thinking of darkness coming everywhere and swallowing this place, that he can't hear the waves or feel the sand under his feet without remembering that place where he almost caused Sora to die and that he's not sure how to make it stop feeling like that.

But still, Riku thinks he should've known they'd realize, if only because their hearts are too close to each other, heavy and warm chains linking them together until their hearts are almost beating like one. He should've known and he should've done something to avoid it, so he pulls his hands free from their grasps as they pull him to the beach – their beach – and he glares at his feet.

"Riku," Kairi says, soft and worried and Riku clenches his hands tight.

"Would you say what's wrong already?" Sora interrupts and Riku doesn't look up, just keeps on breathing. "Unless you're too chicken to say so."

"What?!" When he looks up, though, there's just this faint line of smugness to Sora's eyes about having made him look up and Riku resists the urge to throttle him or punch him or both. He's not going to hurt his best friends again just because he's...

Then Kairi reaches for his hand, and her hands aren't as soft as they once were, the callouses she's getting from practicing with the two of them unfamiliar and Riku takes a deep breath as Kairi curls her small hand over his, looking up at him with soft, careful violet eyes and Riku feels something inside him snap.

"It looks too much like..."

And something sparks in Sora's eyes, something that makes his jaw fall and a look of desbelief steal over Sora's expression.

"It does not!"

"It does. And because of me, we almost got stuck there forever!" And he remembers. The too-soft sand that wasn't warm at all, and the landscape that was so different from the ocean he knew, but the sound of the waves against the shore was the same.

Sora and Kairi look at him as if he was crazy. Riku looks away because he can't forget. He won't let himself forget, what he almost caused. He's the only one that has never forgotten and he will carry those memories the best that he can, but still.

Still.

Kairi and Sora look at him and then at each other for long, tense moments before Kairi drops his hand. Riku tries and fails not to miss the warmth of her skin, even as she smiles at him, as she stands on her tiptoes to brush a kiss against his lips.

"Kairi?"

"I want to swim," it's all that Kairi says, and for a moment Riku remembers the little girl that she had been, the little girl that for so many weeks had been afraid of the ocean and who'd stay sitting on the shore as he and Sora played over the shore.

Sora must remember the same because then he grins too, punches his arm in that teasing way and he nods towards Kairi, even as he starts jumping on one foot to take off one shoe and at the same time try to wrestle himself off his shirt.

"Last one there is a dusk!"

Kairi shrieks in glee, running towards the shore and being as silly as Sora is, undressing as she run, almost stumbling, even as her skirt ends up on the sand, reaching the water a few seconds before Sora manages to do so, shouting her victory and tackling Sora unto the waves, arms around his neck.

Riku watches them, heart aching, and he tries to pretend that he doesn't know what they're doing but it's not working, because it's the same he and Sora did ages ago, when a small princess had fallen from the stars. He watches as Sora and Kairi look golden and fair over the water, kicking water to each other and tumbling upon the gentle waves, salt water sticking their hair to their faces and Kairi shrieking as Sora tickles her, Sora begging for mercy as Kairi jumps unto his back to make him fall down, both of them turning to look at him with the full force of their smiles and wet skin and then they go back to playing, calling him to them.

The worse part is that it works, and slowly Riku starts undressing, uncertain but for the fact that he doesn't want to be without them, not here and he swallows the lump of his throat as they both stand up from the water, the light of the sun against the water and against their eyes, and they both reach for him, hopeful and expectant and Riku thinks he'd better get wet, before they can see closely and see the salt water in his eyes at how much he loves them.

-...-

They're a wet tangle of limbs afterwards, hiding under the shade of a palm tree, Sora snoring with his head against Riku's legs, and Kairi winces as she tries to move her hand through Sora's hair, the salt of the ocean already causing tangles.

Riku is quiet, though, even with a hand curled over Sora's shoulder, the other arm curled around her and Kairi is almost afraid to look up at him.

Then, something shifts in Riku's body, something like tension but different, and then Riku is pushing them away, Kairi blinking surprised and Sora making a sleepy noise as he stumbles to sit down.

And then Riku strides directly to the shore, not running but walking straight to it and as the water reaches his calves, he dives. Kairi waits, breathless, and she hears the way Sora seems to suck in a deep breath, starting to stand up, and neither of them know if they should be worried or--

But then Riku pushes out of the water, shaking his head as he stands up and looks towards them.

"Well?" Riku smiles and it's hesitant and brilliant and beautiful and hopeful and it makes Kairi's heart ache at how much she loves him. "What are you waiting for, slowpokes?"

She and Sora grin as they stand up, both tackling Riku against the sea.