Candy Boy

Disclaimers: Kingdom Hearts and the rest of the franchise © Disney and Square Enix; everything else © their rightful and original owners.

Ratings/Warnings: M--profanity, adult themes; AU

Chapter Twenty

Around eight, Riku's birthday party ended and he was nearly suffocated in Tidus and Wakka's embrace--a monstrous double bear-hug, noogie, and back-slap that the silver-haired boy hadn't experienced in a long time.

By nine, he'd given everyone hugs good-night, and he and Sora were back at the Kaimana house; he phoned home to let his parents know he was staying the night at a friend's. His mom picked up again, which was once more unusual, but Riku wasn't going to question good luck. Mrs. Kaimana, Sora said, was not going to be off work until ten, which gave them around an hour alone together.

In which, they found themselves in Sora's room, on the bed, lacking both shoes and self-restraint, sipping breath from each other's mouths as they kissed for the first time that day. Not a quick, secret peck here and there when they'd been adequately out-of-view, but supple, hungry, properly amorous macking. Warm and wet, hot sighs and pliant lips, little nips here and there and a shy tongue pressing to be granted entrance. Sora's hands traveled Riku's back, beneath his shirt, while Riku's mouth was busy in the crook of the brunet's neck, trailing soft kisses and tentative brushes of tongue. Sora's fingers made their way down Riku's arm, to where the leather wristband hung limply on his thin wrist. He fumbled with it absently, tipping his head to allow Riku more skin to nibble.

"Riku... If we ever did have sex, would I be the one getting it?"

Riku paused, lips dusting Sora's neck. Was this a trick question? No, couldn't be; Sora wouldn't make something like that into a trick question.

"I probably would be." Sora snickered and his body rolled with the movement, causing Riku to move with him. Sora continued to fiddle with the leather wristband. "You'd be uncomfortable, hunh?"

"No..." Riku frowned, lifting up and hovering over Sora, hands pressed to the bed to either side of his head. Sora blinked up at him, raising his brows.


"No. I wouldn't be." Riku laughed, coyly. "But you'd have to, well, you know...teach me how to do it."

Sora pondered this for a moment, looked distant for a few seconds, then wrapped his arms around Riku's shoulders and brought him back down atop him. His body arched as Riku's nose buried back into his neck, fingers spreading absently on the silver-haired boy's shoulders. "Teach you how to do it?"


Sora shifted his ankle, nudging Riku's legs further apart so he could roll his hips upward with less of a struggle. Hidden against Riku's shoulder, a sly smile pulled at his mouth and sultry mischief shadowed his eyes. "Well, Riku, you'd have to be...really slick."

Riku grunted, taken slightly aback by Sora's abrupt shift in attitude, from soft to sensual in the blink of an eye. He remembered a few months ago, on Sora's birthday, when he'd directed Riku in what to do as far as the proper mechanics of having sex. Riku wondered briefly if Sora had been required to learn all the mechanics of sex, as a kind of circumspection after what happened with his dad.

Riku tensed, attention drawn back to the matter at hand as Sora's body bucked up into his, and after a moment of hesitating, he complied and pressed his own hips down in response. "...Uh hunh."

Sora's thighs inched apart and he dug his socked heels into the mattress, thrusting up again. His arms tightened and he cocked his head back, gasping into Riku's ear. He felt as though he was winning a race, but they weren't playing a game here; this was fun, yes, but it was definitely serious, too. "And when you're slick'd go in me."

Riku choked on a breath at the very thought of doing so, grit his teeth against a groan, and took a harsh breath against Sora's sweet skin as he ground down into him. "Unh..."

"Ah, Riku--" Sora's fingers curled into the black cotton of Riku's shirt and he rocked his body harder, sharper. The devilish smirk at the corners of his mouth faded away into a delighted grimace. "And then--"

Riku ducked his nose down into Sora's ear and interrupted him, began to whisper, began to tell him all the things he'd do and how he'd do them and how much he'd like it. Sora moaned and bucked and clung to the older boy, and Riku thrust down and grunted and murmured over and over against the curves of Sora's ear, and after a short and lustful moment, they were both enrapt in their chimerical love-making session, their shared daydreaming of vocal approval, undulating bodies, and satisfied hard-ons--one that was beginning to come to life in Sora's bedroom, if Sora continued to move like that, if the silver-haired boy continued to grind like that, if they both continued to gasp like that--

Sora's bedroom door opened, the obligatory knock sounding as it swung ajar, and within seconds, Riku was on the floor and holding his gut where Sora had accidentally kicked him in their joint effort to scramble into as innocent a position as possible.

Mrs. Kaimana stood in the hallway, fingertips dusting the doorknob of her son's door. Blinking, she squinted into the dark of his room, then swept her hand up the wall and flipped his light on. Sora sat on the edge of his bed, slumped forward with his arms crossed on his thighs. His toe was tapping against the bed frame, and she vaguely noted to herself that that was something of a habit when he was nervous. What she noticed beyond that, though, was his boyfriend, standing at the opposite side of the bed with his hands shoved in his pockets and looking as calm and collected as Sora looked guileless. Not wanting to fathom what she had just interrupted, the young woman sighed heavily and raised her free hand to her temple, brushing hair out of her face.

"I knew you wouldn't be asleep at ten," she murmured, directed at Sora but spoken to everyone in the room.

Sora shrugged quickly, shook his head even faster, then gave his mom a smile and hopped off the bed. "Nah, we're just hanging out. It's his birthday today."

"Oh, honey, happy birthday." She sounded tired; her smile seemed even more exhausted. Riku wondered if she was worn-out from work or just the simple stress of what she found upon returning home. "It's late. Are your parents okay with this? And on your birthday...?"

Riku shrugged in turn. "Well, see, you called my dad about me and Sora back when you talked to me and Roxas, and after that, he hasn't really cared where I am. So I'm fine."

"Riku," Sora hissed, cutting him a harsh glance.

"What are you talking about?" Mrs. Kaimana's words were more wary than defensive. "What do you mean?"

Riku shifted, frowning. Exchanged eye contact with Sora and frowned further. He felt bad now, for sounding so sharp. People were proven to sometimes forget to evaluate the consequences of their actions, especially the rash ones. But, he thought. Still. She fucking tattled on me. "Uh... Well... You called and told my dad that I was Sora's boyfriend, and he didn't particularly like it. For a while he was pretty nasty about it, but now he doesn't care either way. Like, he really doesn't care. If I never came home again, he'd be perfectly fine."

Sora's mother held her head, leaning against the frame of the doorway; she stayed like that for a lengthy couple of moments. "I hope you know I didn't mean for that to happen. I assumed he knew--"

"Not everyone is as lucky as Sora."

Both Sora and his mom shot startled glances at the silver-haired boy. The woman didn't say a word; Sora, on the other hand, spat out, "What does that mean, Riku?"

"Your mom is understanding." Riku shrugged, frowning further. More genuinely this time. "She knows you, she loves you, she accepts you. You're so open with her about everything, so when the time came that she found out about me, she tried her best to understand it. But I'm not really open with anyone in my house. I don't talk to them. They don't really talk to me. So I didn't tell anyone about you, because I knew no-one would understand me."

It was quiet. Tense, volatile. Mrs. Kaimana said, distant and nearly emotionless, "I apologize for causing anything of a hassle for you. I hope you know I didn't...anticipate a reaction like that."

Riku glanced at Sora for permission to respond, but Sora was staring at his feet. He sighed. " should have asked me before calling my dad."

"Are you going to stay the night, honey?" Yuuko's mouth pinched in a thin line and she drummed her fingers on the doorframe, her French-tipped nails tapping against the wood. She hadn't avoided responding to his suggestion out of spite; she just didn't quite know how to handle a sixteen-year-old being right while she stood in the obvious wrong, especially a sixteen-year-old that was not her own flesh and blood.

"...If it's alright."

"Sure thing. Not a problem with me." Her blue eyes flickered over to her son, gave him a once-over, and then she straightened up and began to back into the hallway. "I'm across the hall if you need anything."

The room was silent as the door clicked shut, the light on and three feet of space between the two boys. They were quiet all through the sounds of Mrs. Kaimana retreating to her room, turning her television on, trundling down the hall to the bathroom. When the shower started running, Sora uttered a shy little chortle. Riku glanced at him, raised his brows in question as to where Sora found the humor in all this.

"She knows we're up to something, Riku."

"Um, are we...still up to something, or what?"

"Were you telling the truth?"

"About my parents? Yeah. About you being lucky? Yeah."

Sora smiled softly, moved across the room to the door. "Do you want to watch TV?"

Riku nodded, feeling as though a guilty weight were pressing between his shoulder blades. Anxious but not encumbering. It would be gone within a few hours of relaxing, and would only resurface the next time he saw Mrs. Kaimana. "So I take that as we're not up to something anymore."

"Maybe, maybe not."

"We can just watch TV if you want. As long as you make sure your mom knows I'm not mad at her."

Riku's birthday officially ended on the Kaimana couch at two o'clock in the morning. There was no sex, but there was definitely an abundance in good times.

Valentine's Day was nothing special. Sora claimed it was only a nationwide marketing campaign, that if you really needed a holiday to let someone know you loved them, there was something wrong with your relationship, that it was a waste of money and a waste of effort--so they didn't do anything special, but instead helped Kairi count how many store-bought and home-made paper hearts she received from numerous secret and not-so-secret admirers.

Even though Valentine's Day was nothing special, Riku found it the perfect opportunity to openly display his affection for Sora. So while Kairi dissected her mountain of valentines, Riku kept his arms around Sora. In the student body's eye. In flawless view from his old lunch table. On purpose. He knew his old friends were looking. He knew other kids he didn't even know were looking. He even thought he heard his name mentioned a few times from a couple yards away, where his old crew still found him a hot enough topic to discuss.

Tidus was the first to move to the table with them, accompanied by Yuna--who had become quite the bridge between the segregated groups of friends. Wakka followed, Lulu in the lead, the brains to the brawn as always.

"They called you a fag," Tidus mumbled, sounding rather disappointed that he even had to bear the bad news in the first place.

Sora glanced at Riku, who had bristled at the announcement. But then he shrugged, tightened his arm around Sora's waist and propped his cheek in his palm. "Who cares," he edged out, but it was obvious he wasn't pleased.

It went unspoken that the four who had switched tables were not going to switch back, and out of nowhere, a realization bloomed in Riku's mind. He remembered lying in bed with his mom sitting beside him, running her thin fingers through his hair as he drifted off to sleep. Remembered her voice as he began to fall away into dreamland, tickling his ear just off the edge of consciousness--something about a little boy and a reflection in a pond, the reflection talking, saying, You don't know anything yet--but you'll learn. You'll learn that you have to look for the good things. They may be hard to find and you might want to give up, but there's always something good.

Riku thought then that the people sitting around him were pretty good, and after that he felt kind of stupid for never noticing these things before.

The worst day ever was a week and a half later, on Friday.

Riku had a condom stuck in his wallet, the wallet in his back pocket, and a chain keeping his wallet attached to his jeans. He and Sora had come to the conclusion that Friday night, they were finally going to do it, so their meeting in the hallways on Friday morning was tentative and flustered, all anxious grins and glances of reassurance.

Sora was not there during lunch.

Riku checked in the office, in case Sora was in the nurse's office. She told him he had been picked up during second period.

Riku was very worried. Almost scared, almost panicked, but able to keep himself struggling through the afternoon at a level of very worried.

He went home first, planning to call the Kaimana house and see what was going on. But when he walked through his front door, Riku ran into something of a roadblock. It was like a dream, where everything appeared real but didn't feel that way. Where reality buckled at the edges, swayed over the line and back again, where everything was happening somewhere far below him and he was detached from actuality, floating along on a string and watching from an unaffectable distance, far away.

When he opened the door and dropped his bag to the floor, it took him a moment to realize what was going on around him. Riku was halfway out of his coat before he acknowledged the intensity with which his father was yelling--before he acknowledged the lunacy with which his mother was yelling back. The boy stood in the threshold, his hand still on the handle of the main door and chilly February air licking at his skin through the screen door as he watched his parents' fight play out before him like a scene in a movie.

His dad had his hands in the air, his work uniform on sloppily enough that it was beginning to fall off. He was pacing through the kitchen, dropping every derogative name he could, displaying facts and screeching questions as though they were going to stop anything. At the sink was his fragile wife, but she didn't look like a listless, broken woman anymore. In fact, Riku was so startled that he wondered briefly if a neighbor had intruded their home. But no, that was his mother--that was his mom, shoulders squared and head held high and her fingers clasped about numerous necks of beer bottles. Riku noticed first that she was a lot bigger than she appeared to be, curled up in her chair reading books, and then he finally noticed that she was pouring out all of his dad's Bud. Just dumping it all down the sink.

"You're fucking crazy," his dad accused, storming towards the hallway but reconsidering and shooting back into the kitchen. "You're a psycho, lazy old hag and you're wasting our money! Pouring our money down the sink! You'd better stop or--"

"Or what?" His mother laughed--nearly cackled, but it was too sane to be a cackle--and pushed the rest of the bottles into the sink, not taking the time to open them and pour out the contents herself but instead just smashing them in the basin of the sink. "Or what, Ichiro? Or else?"

Riku knew that they hadn't noticed him, and he didn't want them to at that point. Not after hearing the numerous bottles shatter in the sink. Instead, he backed out of the house, sprinted across the lawn, and wished he had a car yet again as he hurried to the bus stop. He'd just go to Sora's house, and if he wasn't there... Well, Riku didn't know what he would do. But at this point, Sora having gone missing from school and the lowbrow apparatus of his household breaking down was far too much to grasp all at once. So he didn't. He took a deep breath and managed to stay impassive about it.

If Sora wasn't at his house, he would really start to panic, but until he had reason to, Riku was not going to lose his composure. He was going to go to Fallridge and find his boyfriend.

He saw Sora at the swings as the bus passed Creek Street park, and yanked on the passenger wire for a good fifteen seconds before the bus finally halted at the appropriate stop, the one it had been headed to anyway. Riku hopped the stairs and nearly ran as soon as his feet hit the sidewalk, but he managed to keep his pace at a very fast walk, hands in his pockets.

Sora was indeed sitting on a swing, slumped with his head hung as he slowly swayed back and forth. Riku gripped the chain of his swing as he approached, trying to catch his breath.

"Why'd you go home early?" he demanded, sea-green eyes traveling the other boy up and down with utmost and sharp concern. Sora had his cream-colored coat buttoned all the way up, his hand in his pocket with something box-shaped, and Riku knew what it was even before Sora pulled his hand out and conveyed a little red Swedish Fish to his mouth.

"My grandparents picked me up," Sora replied, absolutely lifeless.

Riku dropped to a crouch beside him, trying to look him in the eyes. Sora focused on his red Converse, face blank but for his knotted brow and murky blue stare. It wasn't the first time he had gone into a state of indifference, and through experience, Riku knew that such episodes meant something bad. Somewhere inside, Riku wanted to be impatient, but he wouldn't allow himself to be that way. Instead, he hissed, "Why did they pick you up?"

Sora sighed, his breath becoming a cloud as it exited his mouth and joined the rest of the crisp winter air. "I'm moving in with them."

Time stopped, if only for a moment. Riku blinked, felt his stomach drop, sensed his heart begin to hammer his chest; he craned forward, perplexed. "You're...moving?"

Sora rummaged for another Swedish Fish, spoke around it as he chewed. "I got called to the office during second hour and my grandparents were there. Apparently, my dad has gotten out of jail."

Riku scoffed, a sharp sound in the back of his throat. Ice overtook his face and he stuttered, "What? No, that's bullshit. That's wrong. How on earth would they let him out if..." He grit his teeth, hands fisting instinctively. "If I see him--"

"Just listen. In the district Traverse City is in, incestual rape is tried in family courts and my dad only got sentenced to five years. But you know how it goes. Besides losing five years of his life, now he's registered as a sex offender, owes my mom compensation for therapy and hospital bills and, oh, he'll never be allowed to work with children. Nobody will ever give him the benefit of the doubt. Except my mom." Sora kicked at the ground, scowled at it, then promptly began to choke up. "My mom is going to give him a second chance, Riku. They're not officially divorced, you know. Just separated. My mom put a restraining order on him back when everything happened, but only for me, not for her. So, naturally, she's concerned about my safety, which means I'm moving in with my grandparents in Twilighttown. Riku, that's hours away!"

Riku shifted, plopping down because he suddenly didn't have the strength to crouch. "You're lying."

"Nope." Sora gave a terse laugh, although the tears in his eyes were obvious. Finally, he lifted his head, only to grip the chains with both hands and bark out, "I love my mom to death but she's so fucking stupid! How does me moving make me any more safe?! What does she expect, that everything's going to be wonderful again? That at some point we're going to be one big happy family again? She's stupid, she's so STUPID!"

Riku simply sat at his feet, gawking down at his lap where his hands lay limp along his thighs. He was in shock. Blindsided. His chest felt tight, and he felt like kicking something but first of all, he didn't know what, and second of all, he couldn't get up. Where was the thunder? Wasn't God supposed to be laughing at him right now?

Sora gasped sharply, choked on a stifled sob that wrenched from his chest, arms instinctively winding about his own torso as he curled forward. "I don't get it, Riku. I don't get it."

"I don't get it either," Riku managed. He kind of felt sick to his stomach all of a sudden, not at all optimistic, but he had to say something comforting. Something Sora-like. Something Sora would understand, something he'd agree with. He swallowed the rapidly rising fury at everything Sora had just told him and husked, "Hey, you know. have to go through the bad to get to the good."

"Yeah, well, every time something good happens to me, it's ruined. I thought everything would be okay now that I'm better--now that I've got you, too--but it's not. It's all a big fucking sham."

Riku reached up, placed a hand on Sora's lower back. Sora's body shook as he tried to keep himself from crying, but only ended up worsening his distress.

"What if it comes back, Riku? What if I'm so upset there that my stupid disorder comes back and no-one there can help me pull out of it? I'll have nowhere to go. I won't be able to see you. I barely even know these grandparents, Riku! I didn't know they lived here! The last time I saw them, it was a family reunion on the islands and I was, like, eight!"

Riku climbed to his feet, brushed woodchips off his pants and wrapped his arms around the brunet. Let him finish crying before he dared to speak, so that Sora would be sure to hear him. He said, "Candy boy," and Sora hitched a breath, held it, and sniffled loudly.


"When do you leave?"

"Tonight. My grandparents are taking me tonight. Since they picked me up, I've spent all day packing up my fucking room."

"Okay, listen. Twilighttown is only a few hours away. I'm gonna get my license soon, and I'll get a job to save up for a car but until then I've got friends who can drive so it's fine. I'll come see you every other day. And we'll talk on the phone, every day. We can set something up on the weekends, like you come stay with me, or I'll go stay with you... Something like that." Riku's brows furrowed as Sora's fingers fisted on his jacket, pulling him closer. "We'll work something out. It'll be fine."

"I just don't understand," Sora groaned, talking into Riku's stomach. "I love her so much, she's such an amazing mom, I couldn't ask for more, but why is she doing this?"

"I don't know," Riku said, leaning down to whisper it against Sora's temple. "But everything's going to be okay."

"Yeah, sure. Whatever."

Riku pressed his hands to Sora's damp cheeks, forced him to tip his head back and meet his gaze. Sora's jaw was set in a firm frown, a bonafide Roxas expression that reminded Riku of everything they'd overcome so far--but when Sora's eyes met Riku's, they softened, and his lower lip began to quiver again.

Sora fumbled in his other pocket, pulled something out and clawed for Riku's left hand. Shoved something tiny, smooth, and cool in his palm and closed his fist around it, never once looking away.

"Do you promise me you'll do that, until we can figure something else out?" Sora smiled weakly, but his brows were still furrowed and it looked a bit forced. "Do you promise that you'll call me every day, come see me every time you can?"

"I promise," Riku whispered, otherwise still dumbstruck. "And, hell, you can get a job soon, too. And you'll be able to drive soon, and before you know it, we'll both be old enough to move out. You know?" He uncurled his fingers and glanced down at what Sora had shoved in his palm. The sight of it made his gut knot up. It was a little black ring, untarnished and blank. Sora held out his hand, showing Riku that he had a matching white ring.

Sora motioned for him to pay attention as he slid the white ring onto his left middle finger. Riku followed the example, donning the black ring on the same finger; upon finishing, he grasped Sora's hand and laced their fingers, stooped down and gave his knuckles a papery kiss.

"She's stupid," Sora grumbled, sounding distraught again. Riku stepped backwards, pulled Sora up off the swing and into a tight hug.

Riku waited with Sora for his grandparents to return with their pick-up truck, the two of them alone in the quiet townhome and trying to avoid discussing the stupidity of it all because it was so blatantly stupid it didn't need to be established as such anymore. When Sora's grandparents did arrive, Riku helped him shove all his things into the bed of the truck. They kissed, numerous times, each one inadequate until finally Sora really had to go. His little white ring gleamed in the pale sunlight as he waved out the window of the truck, fervently, not smiling but squinting through the distance growing between the truck's rear fender and the curb.

Riku took the bus home.

He didn't want to think anymore about it; the bottom line had already been set. She's stupid. He could hear Sora saying it over and over. She's stupid. I love her, but she's stupid. I don't get it. She's so STUPID!

On the bus, Riku was struck with the urge to stop by Kairi's house. He realized a few minutes later that he didn't know where she lived.

It was dinnertime, but he wasn't hungry.

He walked through the door and his dad, now that his wife was no longer an easy target, welcomed him with scathing comments and insults, sly remarks--something about necking with that girlfriend-oh-wait-sorry-I-mean-boyfriend of his, another something about why did he look so down, was he gonna run away again?

Riku went to Tidus's.

Tidus played video games, letting Riku lay on his bed with his face shoved in the blond's pillow. He listened as Riku talked, babbling about how stupid the world was and how he needed to get a car and a job and about how he had finally found something to live for. Tidus listened, a little perplexed by Riku's sudden openness, but he offered his advice in the proper areas and simply listened to the rest. When Riku's voice got thin and he stopped talking, Tidus abandoned his game and joined his friend on his bed, just sat by him while he kept his face shoved in the pillow and his shoulders trembled. Tidus wasn't sure if it was in rage or what, but he sat by him all the same.

"If you don't want to make friends, then why did you sit here? Usually that's a big red flag that someone wants to be your friend. To me, at least."

"Whatever, candy boy."

"Let me give you my number, okay?"

"Sora? I'm Roxas. You should know that if we're going out."

"There has to be one hell of a reason I'm dating you."

"Sora, why do you eat Swedish Fish all the time?"

"I eat them when I'm nervous, I guess."

"Oh. So, I make you nervous."

"No. No, you... Well, yes, but it's a good kind. I mean, like, certain things make me scared-nervous, but you, ah... You... Oh, whatever!"

"I promise...that you can trust me."



"It's Roxas. I just... I... I'm not okay. Will you talk to me a little bit? Just for a while..."

"What if I jumped off? Right now?"

"You'll never be 'free', Roxas. You're part of Sora and you always will be."

"Not you, too, Riku--not you, too! They got you in on this, didn't they? They all think I'm crazy! They think I'm fucking psycho! I'm real. I don't know why they think I'm so sick in the head, that I don't even know who I am or what happens to me when I forget. I don't understand."

"You might not believe it, but I really love you."

"Nah, Roxas... I believe it."

"Hey, Riku, did you know I still have that Swedish Fish you made a promise on?"

"Don't go anywhere. I can't...lose you."

"Hey, Riku, my man!"

Tidus grinned broadly, waving at the silver-haired waiter. Riku glanced at him through his lashes, cocked a brow, pushed the hair that had not been long enough for his ponytail out of his face and shifted from the kitchen threshold over to the service counter. The Bean, a little café on the corner of Oceana and 13th, was not very busy for a Tuesday evening--especially a Tuesday evening in April--and Tidus slumped on the counter with an impish smile. Yuna stood behind him, tucking hair behind her ear and looking around the café curiously.

"Let me guess," Riku sighed, propping both hands on the surface of the counter. "To repay you for all the hospitality you've graced me with in the last few months, you'd like me to get you some free food. Right?"

"No, no, no--"

"Then why are you bothering me while I work?"

"You just got your license and stuff, right?"

"Yeah, finally."

"Aaaand Wakka's going out of town this weekend, right?"

"He said he was."

"Which means you'll be out of a ride, right?"

Riku frowned, regarding Tidus suspiciously. "Right. Why?" He watched as Tidus's eyes flickered to his left hand, to the black ring, lingering there, then shooting back up to meet Riku's stare.

The blond's voice lowered and the goofy grin on his face faded into a very serious expression, big-eyed and solemn. "Look," he murmured, "you know my dad doesn't have a problem with you staying with us and all, he really doesn't. And I've been talking to him, you know, about your problem with your long-distance thing--"

"Uh...what?" Riku's stomach fell and he craned forward, mimicking Tidus's position and scowling sharply. "What did you tell him about that?"

Tidus shrugged, leaning in even further to ensure no-one else picked up on their conversation. "That your significant other moved away and you've been asking Wakka to drive you when he can because you're saving up for your own car."

"You said that? You said significant other?"

"Yes. Don't worry. And besides, even if my dad knew it was your boyfriend you go and stay with on the weekends, he wouldn't mind. I think." Tidus grinned again, awkwardly, and continued with his proposal. "So anyway, my dad loves working on cars and stuff, and he found you a really good deal on a used one. Cheap, man. And he'll help you with all the complicated stuff, make sure it runs fine for you. He's gonna talk to you about it later, but I just wanted to let you know that you don't have to worry about telling Sora you can't get there this weekend. You'll have a ride, I promise."

Riku stared for a long moment of silence as what Tidus had said processed in his mind, and after it finally registered, he curled into a sheepish smile and straightened up, a little dumbstruck. "Seriously? Your dad found me a car?"

"Yup." Tidus beamed.

"I don't believe it."

"I know, but it's true. Now... Free food?"

Riku's smile faded into a firm frown and although his eyes still gleamed with gratitude, he pointed to the door. Tidus laughed. "Get out, you mooch. Before I throw you out."

"I'm going, I'm going!" Tidus waved his hands dismissively and stood up straight, grabbing for Yuna's hand. "I'll see you later, okay?"

"Hey..." Riku frowned, thinking for a moment. "Will you pick up a bag of Swedish Fish for me? I'll pay you back when I get home."

Sora. Almost seven months ago. Sitting across the lunch table and digging a pretzel out of a little bag, saying matter-of-factly, "If you don't want to make friends, then why did you sit here? Usually that's a big red flag that someone wants to be your friend. To me, at least."

Over dinner five months ago, when an innocuous kiss sent Sora reeling and brought Roxas into the picture. Five months ago when a simple white lie had become something so complex, something so intriguing.

Roxas, weeks and weeks ago. Sarcastic and confusing and more than Riku could handle. Roxas, hair tossed to the side and checkered-banded wrist, familiar blue eyes slit into little crescents with his wry smile.

The stupid Swedish Fish promise, and long after that Sora's birthday. The bathroom. Christmas. The clock tower.

The afternoons spent, the dinners made, the long and late-night phone calls--the red Converse, then the black Converse, but always the same feet.

"I love you."

"No way."

"Way. And you love me, too. I know you do. You can't hide it."


"Say it, Riku."


"Don't ruin the moment, stupid."

"I love you. More than anything."

You don't know anything yet--but you'll learn. You'll learn that you have to look for the good things. They may be hard to find and you might want to give up, but there's always something good.

Hey, you know. Sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the good.