This is something I jotted down after seeing the trailers for 358/2. No spoilers are intended by this, but I was struck by the imagery of Roxas, Axel and Xion sitting on the papou tree just like our original trio, and wondered how Riku felt about it. It wasn't until I finished writing this that I realized that I used no pro-nouns whatsoever, and when I tried to put them back in, it messed up the style and feel of it, so I left it this way.

Imperfect Reflections

He watched them from the shadows of the cliff, the waves lapping gently against his sturdy, black boots. His heart pounded painfully in his chest; not fast—but slow, steady and powerful, as if his sternum were a castle gate it could break through with enough time.

The three had not noticed him, lounging on the papou tree, and it was this sight that made his heart pound. Blonde, raven and redhead, the colors were wrong, but it was still like looking directly into the past. Or a mirror with the reflections slightly skewed from imperfections in the glass. Yes, imperfect reflections, that's what they were.

The blonde leaned forward to smile at the other two, his smile not as wide or childlike as the one he knew, but just as bright and sincere. Her body was relaxed, secure in the knowledge that she was the balance in the center, where she belonged, even if there was a sadness there that wasn't quite right. The redhead was with them, but separate, not sitting on the curving trunk, but standing and leaning against it, his build too tall and slender. His attitude spoke of an independence and aloofness that begged to be taken down, to be replaced by the closeness and comfort the others so easily shared. He was especially hard to watch.

They had what he'd once had; companionship, friendship, a place to belong, and ties to keep them there. He'd had that—and had thrown it away, only realizing too late what it had meant to him.

And now he was going to take it away from them. Take away their peace, separate friends, break hearts that may or may not exist. He wished, with all of his still pounding heart that there was another way. Someway to preserve this picture of all that was right in the worlds.

But there wasn't, not to do what had to be done. And he would do whatever was necessary to make sure the ones that he loved could be whole, happy and safe. Everything else was expendable in comparison. Even these imperfect reflections of the truth. That's all they were, he had to keep reminding himself of that. Even so--he hoped that in the end, they could be whole, happy and safe too.