Every Titanic Sinks
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, its characters or storyline. This little drabble is mine. I'm not completely sure what inspired this. All I know is that I was in a really crappy mood, the weather was cold and rainy, and I was listening to some sad songs as I wrote this. So yeah…bleh…I'm sorry if it's not very good. I just needed to run off on a RTF, a rant through fiction. So I feel much better now. Enjoy the angsty Riku-ness.
He was back again.
The tide had receded for the evening, leaving the shoreline of the cove an unblemished stretch of sand. All footprints of the day had been erased, overtaken by the waves, wiped clean. A clean slate. The sun was near the end of its descent, saying its farewells to the string of Destiny Islands, forfeiting the skies to the moon in exchange for rest beyond the ocean waves.
The final dying rays of light lingered in the sky, undulating in smoothly curving tendrils, winding through the clouds and trailing away to reveal the stars. Harsh gold and red from the sun faded to scalding orange, creamy pink, and lavish violet and blue until the dots of stars on the opposite end of the sky began to creep forward, deeming it safe to appear.
This was the third time this week he'd come back to this place.
Some of the light wasn't as interested in stretching through the sky. Instead, they remained below, dancing across the surface of the ocean, causing a blindingly dazzling sparkle across the always moving water. The gentle, salty breeze danced with it, drifting through the thick canopies of the palm trees and penetrating just the topmost layer of sand.
Sunsets on Destiny Islands were unlike any other he'd ever seen. And he had seen a lot.
The foamy waves broke in harmonic intervals, blasting the beach with steamy sprays of salt and the occasional shells. A seagull cried out nearby, but the throaty grating of its voice stirred nothing. If anything, it added to the perfection of the natural dusk.
It still hurt.
Like the relentless breaking of the waves on the shore, the guilt and pain would crash into him. Like the sand on the beach, with each wave, a little more of him was washed away, replaced by foreign soil, something he couldn't recognize, couldn't understand.
A coconut fell from a tree up the shore with a blunt thump.
It all started right here.
The mast, amazingly, was still upright. Storms had battered it, certainly, but it was relatively intact, standing taut and defiant. The sail was long gone, ripped away by the wind and flung off into nowhere. The logs and planks had knocked themselves loose, either by wind or the waves, or the combined efforts of both. The ropes and knots were water logged and weakened, fraying and slack in many spots. The islands were slowly dissolving the evidence. Soon, like his footprints in the sand, the waves would drag the little raft out into its depths, and leave only a clean slate of shoreline.
He would always see it in his dreams, in his nightmares.
The dainty, nature worn raft was his shipwreck, once glorious in what she stood for, now lost and nearly forgotten. The ice and the pain and the tragedy would soon dull in people's minds. The little raft he'd dubbed the Highwind, it had represented freedom, adventure, life, and opportunity. Now, however, his eyes only saw pain, guilt, and irrevocable consequence in the splintered remains.
The captain goes down with his ship.
Why did he keep coming back?
Riku closed his eyes, but the image was plastered across his vision, mocking him. He drew a long, shuddering breath and leaned his forehead against the rotting mast of the raft he and his friends had built an eternity ago. Before the war. Before the Organization. Before Xehanort. Before the Heartless.
Before he had betrayed everyone he cared about.
He was back again.
Sora was reclined in what had become his usual spot. Lately, he had been overcome by the urge to be by himself, alone. Alone with his thoughts? Alone with his feelings? Alone with nature? No, it wasn't anything so poetic as that. Sora simply wanted…needed…to be alone sometimes.
He sat back against the worn oak wall of the tower. How many times had he climbed up that rickety ladder, just to slide across the line to the tower across the cove? How many times had he done this, without ever chancing a second's glance at the view the tower offered? He'd had no idea how amazing the sunset of Destiny Islands was until he'd taken the time to slow down and just watch it.
Sora stretched one leg out, propping the other up and resting his forearm over his knee. His other arm, the one that had swung the Keyblade, was hooked around his stomach, his fingers rubbing the bottom of his shirt absentmindedly. His hands were callused and scarred now, with long, lean fingers and much stronger wrists than two years ago.
Hard to believe, it had already been three months since they had returned home. He inclined his head against the wood, settling his shoulders into the grooves between the planks and inhaling deeply before exhaling in a satisfied and relaxed manner. Things had changed. They had changed things, the three of them, in a way that could never be reversed.
Sora had left this island a child, impressionable and unbelievably naïve. So had Kairi and Riku, to a degree. They had had no idea what they were caught in the middle of, what they had gotten themselves into. He had returned to the island a man. He wasn't trying to sound macho; it was the truth. What had transpired over the last two years had pushed him through the transitions of adolescence and thrust him violently into a world where the only way to survive was to kill your enemy. Only Kairi and Riku could empathize with him on that level.
Kairi was a woman now. Sure, ever the damsel and ceaselessly optimistic, but she had her own share of scars, whether anyone else could see them or not. Her bubbly personality covered up a lot, but Sora could see how much she'd changed.
Riku…Riku was hard to gauge. On the island, he'd always been the hot shot, the one to beat, the winner. After the Heartless came, he'd changed. He'd changed in ways Sora knew he would never fully understand. Oddly enough, he accepted that. Some things didn't need to be discussed with words.
But this was starting to bother him.
Riku had come to the cove three times in the last week after not coming at all since returning period. It was always the same. At dusk. Alone. Silent. He never watched the sunset like Sora did. In fact, his back was to the horizon, as if he was trying to blot out the sun from his sight. The sinking sun blasted his back with light, forcing long and jagged shadows stretching from Riku's legs to the towering stone wall across from the shore.
Sora blinked, breaking the silent pact he had with the dusk and turning to look over at his friend. For all he could tell, Riku was oblivious to Sora's presence. Sora wasn't exactly right out in the open, but he wasn't out of sight if Riku had looked up. But Riku didn't look up. He never did. He only stared at the ruins of their little raft.
Riku had never been a guy of nostalgia. He was too practical for crap like that. Something was bothering him. Sora had grown accustomed to being shut out. His parents didn't like to talk about what had happened after the Heartless came. Kairi didn't like to talk about her captivity in the Organization. Riku didn't want to talk about his obsession with the raft. So what? Just another addition to the list of things Sora wasn't supposed to ask about.
But this…He'd never seen Riku like this. Sora didn't like it.
Like a lover's caress, the ocean on the horizon brushed the bottom of the sun, inviting it to rest for the night among its waves. The shadows on the beach grew longer, accompanied by the warm salty breeze wafting in from the ocean. Behind the white, sun bleached cliffs, the moon peered out, ready to settle in for another night's reign of the skies, with the stars as little glittering subjects.
Riku kept his eyes closed; the coarse grain of the mast warm and rough against his forehead. At some point he'd moved his hands to lock around the thick belly of the mast, holding onto it for support. His shoulders felt heavy and it strained his neck. He was suddenly untrusting of his knees to hold him up. He felt weak, weaker than he'd felt in a long time. Seeing this damned raft nearly every day wasn't helping at all.
He kept coming back anyway.
No matter what they kept telling him--it's not your fault, we forgive you, it's water under the bridge--he couldn't let it go. How could he let it go after what he'd done? He had betrayed his family, his friends, his home, just turned around and slapped them across the face. He had endangered all their lives, and their blood soaked his hands. He wanted to believe them. The darkness had seduced him. Maleficent was a master in the art of evil. The darkness had been too strong for him to fight. Sora had fought it. Sora, the little rugrat who was frightened of thunder storms and slept with a night light until he was 12, had been stronger than Riku had.
Sora had picked up the pieces that Riku had shattered. Not only saving Kairi and restoring Destiny Islands, but restoring all the worlds and defeating the Heartless' master. And Kairi…She had spat in the face of the Organization and taken up the Keyblade herself when Riku had corrupted his purpose and Sora faltered. She was far from perfect and far from strong enough to be a warrior, but she was a soldier of the heart and in that respect, she was stronger than he was.
Riku hated being pitiful and self loathing like this. It wasn't in his character and it was hard to mask from the others, especially Kairi, who could read him like a book. Still, it was out of his power to control how he felt. Even as he watched, the lowering of the sun pushed his shadow farther, expanding the area of darkness associated with his figure.
Swallowing hard, Riku let his eyes fall open and stare without focus at the water lapping up over the splintered edges of the raft. His vision grew hazy at the edges and the colors began to blur as his eyes burned. Hot moisture scalded the corners of his eyes, but he didn't blink the sensation away.
Suddenly very cold despite the warm breeze and hot water lapping up over his ankles, Riku quivered, gripping the mast tighter to keep from collapsing, imploding in on himself. He lifted his head from the mast and cleared his throat, but that only made it worse. Inhaling sharply, he jerked his head to the side to dislodge a few locks of hair that had settled over his eyes.
In doing this, his glazed eyes caught on the blotch of color atop the wooden tower on the ridge. Blinking repeatedly now to clear the moisture, Riku was startled to see Sora stationed up there, looking lazy and at ease, watching the horizon with a lax expression. If he was aware of Riku's presence at all, he didn't show it. Riku would prefer his friend not to become aware of his presence at the moment when he felt he was finally breaking.
Even the more startling, Riku was mildly intimidated. Mildly in every sense of the word, but still intimidated. Two years ago, the idea would have been laughable, for Riku to see any challenge at all in Sora. Riku, the mature, composed, strong, and muscled, seeing competition in Sora, the immature, naïve, childish, skinny runt. They were equals now, which meant Riku had no slack for allowing this kind of break down.
He turned away from Sora and closed his eyes again, pushing his forehead back against the mast and pressing it harder this time, allowing an infinitesimal amount of tense, underlying emotional stress to leak out through the muscles of his neck. The weakness in his knees doubled. His knees met wood as he collapsed, still holding onto the mast and trying to push his forehead harder into the wood.
The sun sunk below the undulating ocean currents, cutting off the air supply of the remaining light and dousing the sky in a pressing blue shade. Dusk faded as the night began again.
Sora waited until Riku looked away from him before glancing in his direction again. The sunset was over now, the temperature in the air immediately dropping a few degrees and his eyes straining to adjust to the awkward pre-night darkness.
With a sort of leaning, shrugging motion, Riku sank to his knees, clinging to the mast post like his life depended on it. Sora sat up off the wall of the tower, looking down at his friend in concern. Riku wasn't moving from Sora's vantage point, but his eyes were squinted closed in a grimace and his jaw was clenched and set.
Sora tore his eyes from the sight, fixing them instead at the dead horizon, where the sun's illuminated silhouette was all that remained of the day. The moon was safely marching out into the sky, pompously now that the sun wasn't around to rule the sky. It cast a soft, evanescent glow over the cove, bright enough to see by but not bright enough to cast a shadow.
Well, that was it then.
Sora sat up, his back popping from remaining in the same position for so long. He stretched his arms over his head and pushed himself up to his feet, enjoying the tight soreness of his legs as he worked the blood circulation back into them.
After sufficiently waking his muscles up again, Sora slumped onto the tower ladder's rungs and shimmied down them until he plopped onto crunchy, sun dried ground. Out of curiosity alone, he looked around the corner to where Riku hadn't yet moved from his kneeling position.
Sora chewed the side of his lip. Normally, he never wanted to interrupt anyone in a state like this. It was like something private, something he shouldn't be a part of. He didn't want to be a part of it. He and Riku weren't and never had been into the whole manly bonding thing. No secrets around the campfire or deep heart to hearts for them. They'd been such close friends for so long, those kinds of girl-inspired rituals weren't necessary.
But it was dark now; night had set in. Ever since the Heartless had come, strange things had been happening around Destiny Islands after dark. While Sora knew Riku could handle three times whatever the night wanted to throw at him, he wasn't comfortable leaving Riku alone on an island an hour's swim from home, especially if he was having some sort of emotional implosion.
Besides, both their parents had been getting antsy about them staying out after dark, as though they were afraid their children would disappear again or be lost forever this time. Ridiculous from Sora's point of view, but understandable all things considering. If his parents knew what Sora had gone through over the course of the last two years, they'd either trust him with everything or believe he was too traumatized to be trusted with anything. Either way, it was better they were ignorant of most of the details.
His mom was probably getting paranoid by the passing minute. Sora folded his arms and leaned against the rock wall overlooking the ocean. After bottling his emotions and stresses up for…well, most of his life…Riku really didn't need to be rushed through this cleansing process or however he was getting this off his chest. However, getting yelled at and fretted over by your mom wasn't going to help matters in the least.
Bearing that in mind, Sora straightened and hopped off the little rise in the ridge, landing on the soft, unbroken sand, fresh from the evening tides' cleansing. The hardly audible crunch of sand under his shoes seemed to echo over the rough shoreline. Sora shoved his hands in his pockets and kept his eyes on the top of the crumbling mast as he crossed the cove to his best friend.
Riku gave no indication or acknowledgement of Sora, and Sora didn't make a big announcement of his approach. He took long, slow strides, allowing the sand to completely absorb his weight with each step before advancing with another. His eyes stayed on the mast, not wandering to the trembling shoulders of his friend. It wasn't something he needed to see particularly.
Sora slowed to a stop just a few meters short of the raft, hands in his pockets, gaze fixed on the mast of the ruined Highwind, the ship that never got her maiden voyage. Her sail had sent them on a two way cruise to hell and back. They had come back alive; battered, broken, and marred, but alive. He stood motionless for a full minute before allowing his gaze to travel slowly down the mast and settle on Riku. For the first time he noticed how Riku was trembling, and how he was breathing in sharp, gasping pulls. The spike of alarm quickly faded as Sora recognized that trembling from his own implosions. Swallowing, his gaze travelled back up the mast, to the empty sail.
He'd have to come back tomorrow morning and get rid of this thing, dismantle the body of the raft and burn it or bury it or scatter it, do something. You couldn't recover from the cancer unless you had the tumor removed first. Or some other colorful metaphor. Sora frowned. He'd never been a master of eloquence; why try to sound cute now? Nevertheless, he'd have to get rid of it in some fashion.
A half stifled, half choking sob snapped Sora's attention back to Riku. Sora narrowed his eyes and averted them over to the rock cliffs, trying to decide the most effective way to discard of the raft.
Sora was still here.
Riku didn't open his eyes, but he knew. The fact made him nauseas. He couldn't feel his friend's eyes on his back, studying him for a reaction, but he knew he was around. Far from increasing that intimidation and self consciousness, Sora's nearness somewhat eased Riku's shame of this emotional display. If anyone could understand, it was Sora.
The sound escaped Riku before he could stop it. His lungs had contracted and his throat constricted. A harsh, hiccupping gasp strangled his chest and loosened his jaw, emitting a short lived sob. He stifled the last half of it by gritting his teeth and biting his tongue hard. He choked through it and set his jaw fast, gripping the mast harder and squeezing his eyes closed.
It was no use.
The scalding moisture under his eyelids burned across the bottom of his eyes, overpowering his eyelashes and escaping at the corners of his eyes. The would be tears fought their way through the crinkled, grimacing skin around his eyes and snaked down his cheeks. Riku bit down hard on his bottom lip until he tasted blood.
Then, like a dam, he broke.
All of the pain, the guilt, and the shame rushed out of his limbs, causing him to drop his head and hunch his shoulders. A low, agonized moan tore from his lips and was immediately followed by a strained sucking of air. Like a sledgehammer to a dam, a reservoir opened behind Riku's eyes and fought for freedom past his cheeks.
A full sob clawed out of his chest, and he recoiled from the force of it, struck by the sudden release of pressure over his heart. This pioneer sob was successfully followed by a series of guttural half groans and low cries of raw intensity. Riku hadn't cried since he was a very young child, so long ago it felt as though his body had forgotten how to do it. It was almost physically painful as he doubled over, still kneeling. His hands slipped from the mast and fell in clenched fists to the soggy planks of the raft with hollow thuds.
His chest heaved and his elbows buckled, nearly pitching him headfirst into the planks. He managed to remain on his knees, forcibly inclined against the mast, gasping and choking through the tears and sobs racking through his bones. His thoughts were muddled and his mind had gone on temporary leave, it seemed.
For all practical purposes, there was no reason he should be crying. Only the purest form of guilt and shame sent these spiked shafts of pain through his gut, evicting this teary response. At any other time, in any other setting, with anyone else, he would have been mortified at what was happening to him, what he was succumbing to. As it was, Sora was silent and at inattention behind him. No encouraging or consoling words. No offering of support or tissues or sad, pitying expressions. Only the silence of empathy. The most golden of silences.
Sora's cell phone was vibrating silently against his thigh, deep in his pocket. He let it shiver itself silent and chewed the side of his tongue, settling on the plan that he would come back over to the island tomorrow after daybreak and disassemble the raft, taking the pieces over the ridge and burning them. He might go one step farther and kick the ashes around until they were satisfactorily dispersed.
Riku was getting quiet again, breathing easier as his…episode—it was demeaning to think of it as just crying—ended. His trembling fell still and he started to look solid and stable again. Sora traced a finger around the antennae of his cell phone in his pocket, shifting his weight from his right foot to his left. Neither of the boys moved any more than that. In an instant, the situation morphed into a game of chicken. Who would break the silence?
A minute passed. Then another. Riku was hardly moving now, apparently debating how to save this situation. He should have known by now that he didn't have to sneak around that stuff around Sora. Sora tried to imagine how it would have played out if Riku had walked in on one of Sora's episodes, the most recent having been last week when he was registering for fall high school classes. Honestly, after running around for over a year, doing battle with the nasties of the universe, he was expected to go back to algebra and physics? Who wouldn't have an implosion after something like that?
His phone was quivering in his pocket again. Sora grimaced. He was going to get an earful about this when he got home. It was only a few minutes after eight o'clock surely, but he'd already had two or three missed calls in those few minutes. Sora pulled a hand out of his pocket and rubbed the back of his neck and looked at Riku.
Riku had moved into the recovery phase, wiping at his face to try and clear away the evidence. He was breathing as though just catching his breath after a long run. Breathe out the bad vibes. He did this still with no indication of intention to move at all.
Sora hesitated, flicking the cell phone in his pocket as it vibrated again. After pondering for a moment, he took a few steps forward, stepping up onto the raft. The wood was soft and sagged under him, but it held with only a wet groan. Riku stiffened, but only slightly. Against his better judgment, Sora lifted a hand. It would be very easy to offer a hand to Riku and be short one hand afterwards. He had no intention of that happening.
After pausing for a few seconds, Sora exhaled his own bad vibes and dropped his palm over Riku's shoulder, tightening his fingers in a grip. Not persuading, not impatiently, not pitifully. Just a friendly squeeze of the arm. Riku gave no reaction, but Sora hadn't been expecting one. Sora could appreciate what a simple thing like human contact could do to help pull you out of an episode. He had Kairi for that. Kairi could see a Sora Implosion coming from across a crowded room. Riku was a little harder to read.
Riku exhaled heavily and shook his head as though to clear it, and started to get up. Sora took his hand away and back stepped off the raft, just out of arms' reach but just within leaning distance. Riku kept his back to Sora for another long moment, steadying himself and generally pulling himself together. This wasn't for Sora's benefit, he'd just witnessed the whole collapse. Sora figured he had to pass the best friend test in order to persuade his parents he was fine.
Finally, Riku turned around. He took his time glancing around nonchalantly at the island, slightly fidgety, before trying out a safety glance at Sora. In that split second, Sora noted that his eyes weren't puffy or bloodshot and his face wasn't red or pale. Only by careful scrutiny could someone figure out he'd just had a break down. Sora didn't feel like carefully scrutinizing Riku's face…They might be best friends, but that didn't mean they inspected each other's faces or anything.
Sora looked down and pulled his phone out, checking the missed calls. Sure thing, three missed calls from mother dearest. Groaning inwardly, he pocketed it again and looked out at the ocean, towards the main island. Boy, was he gonna get it. Well, he would have stood out here all night if he thought it would help. As it was…whatever.
He glanced at Riku again, saw he was steady, and then turned and took one step towards the main beach where the boats were tied up before stopping. As close of friends as they were, this was already awkward. Sora didn't do well with awkward.
"Hey." He spoke up, turning back around and facing Riku.
Riku looked at him flatly, checking his own phone for missed calls and looking grim.
Sora grinned lopsidedly and punched Riku in the arm. "Beat you to the pier!" He promptly turned and took off at a sprint across the cove.
There was a moment's pause, and then…
"Nice. Way to get a head start!" Riku snapped, but Sora could hear the smile coming back.
Sora threw a cheesy grin back and hopped onto the rickety support steps. Riku may have been taken by surprise, but he was already gaining ground with his longer legs.
"Loser has to wax the other's car for a week!" Sora threatened, hopping onto the land and taking off toward the main beach.
It was no contest. Riku pulled ahead just past the paopu island off the coast and beat Sora by a full body length to the pier. Catching their breath, Sora tried and failed to come up with a witty remark about the victory, and they both fell quiet for a minute or so.
Finally straightening and untying their boats, Riku looked up, "Hey, Sora?"
Sora slid into his boat and gripped the pier. "Yeah?"
Riku hesitated, seeming as though to be searching for the right words. Sora quirked an eyebrow, unsure whether to press or not.
"I just—" Riku stopped.
Sora snatched up his oars, "Spit it out, man."
Riku's face went lax and he narrowed his eyes with a smirk, "My car takes three coats of wax for maximum shine."
Sora threw an oar at him. "Shut up."
Riku chuckled and climbed into his own boat. They pushed off the pier and started rowing back to the island. That soon became another competition, which Sora lost again, owning up to another threat of vacuuming out the car in addition to waxing. It was a quieter victory this time, and as they tied their boats to the dock on the main island, Sora straightened.
"So we need to get something straight here." He said firmly.
Riku looked up at him pensively, waiting for the questions. Sora planted his hands firmly on his hips and drilled Riku with a narrow glare.
"You tell anyone I go off by myself to watch the sunset, and I'll wax your car with shaving cream." He threatened, pointing a finger at his friend.
Riku relaxed and nodded with a smirk, "Deal."
"Yeah, well, that's what the awesome, attractive best friend is for."
And the silence was gratifying enough.