Why, hello there KH fic I wasn't planning. Okay, no, actually this is a GIFT FIC for Light Within Darkness (hey, look the title!) because she is super-awesome and she wrote me wonderful, delicious fic. Also, belated Christmas/birthday gift. Hope both of those were wonderful for you and I hope you like!


He is content where he is. This strange dark place between worlds. Kairi, his friends, the King…they are all safe, somewhere far from the doomed World That Never Was. And Riku…Riku is next to him, warm and solid and real. Sora is half-tempted to reach over and pull the boy into a hug, but the warmth that's between them now is wondrous. Their words are few and far in between, but that doesn't matter, for those words are like the murmurs of prayers, sweet and soul searching and true.

Soon, Riku hands him something. The paper is dry and crinkled in his hands and for one fearful moment, Sora thinks that the paper will fall to dust. But the paper is surprisingly steady and he reads it. When he is done, light flashes and grows and the Door to Light opens on this strange darkness-world.

The reason the door opens is not the realization that Kairi wrote the letter. It is

(one sky)

how this letter, all the way from Destiny Islands, came to this place and how

(one destiny)

this nothing-darkness and light and everything between connects everybody on every world.

It is these realizations that force the Door to Light to appear because really, they, Sora and Riku, are not even truly gone.

Sora stands and soaks in the warmth from the light and looks down to Riku. The light glows on his moon-silver hair and in his ocean-dark eyes. He has searched for two years for this boy, this young man, this friend, and Sora refuses to leave without him. Sticking out a hand, he says, "We'll go together." It is not a question, because even if he has to carry Riku out of this world that was made for him, Riku is coming home.

But Riku looks up at him and smiles gently and says, "Yeah."

They walk into the light as if they are dead and moving onto another plane. It is a comforting warmth at first and then it gets burning hot, wind rushing past his hair as gas-flame-blue fills his vision. Then it is wet and cold and he has to paddle to the surface of this unknown ocean. It is the sight of the familiar bluepinkyellow sky above him that has his heart pumping.

Then "Sora!" is shouted across the waves and he turns and it met with the bright green flora and the pale yellow sand and Kairi, right where they all belong on Destiny Islands. He swims to her, ecstatic that he is done with his adventure, that his friends are home, finally, and then that ecstasy turns to something even more as Donald and Goofy bound around her and crash joyfully into him.

He returns Kairi's token (his promise to her) and for one moment there, he sees the whiteness of moonlight and the pale blonde of light sunbeams and the blue-silver of mirrors; he feels a rush of warmth that is not quite from him but from something Other and then that moment is gone.

There is a joyful moment where they are all together, him and Riku and Kairi and Donald and Goofy and King Mickey, but then the King backs away and says that they have to be getting home. Sora won't deny that there are tears in his eyes when he hugs Donald and Goofy goodbye; he sees the tears in their eyes, too, so it's okay. Riku talks quietly with the King for a moment and then they are gone, vanished in a flash of light to their gummi ship.

He and Riku stare at the sky, watching. Minutes pass, and then Kairi clears her throat. "Your parents will be glad to see you."

Parents? He glances at Riku and catches the same wide-eyed look. Kairi's eyes are flickering between them.

His first question is, "What do they remember?"

Kairi turns white, then red, and then her eyes go distant as if she is looking past them. "Her last gift," she says slowly, distractedly, as if repeating what someone else is saying, "is that you and those on the islands will have memories of the past two years."

She comes back to them with a shake of her head, looking thunder-struck.

Sora smiles and it is not entirely his own. "Naminè, right?"

"Yeah," she replies, eyes on the horizon. Then she smiles and it is not quite right. "Why don't we go to your houses?"

She tucks her hands in their elbows as if they are going to disappear and they walk away from the shore.


Riku had slipped sneakily into his house and Kairi had left him when he had started walking home. Sora stands before the front door of his home and fidgets. He has spent the past two years away from home. Sora's not quite sure what to do. Vague, blurry not-memories are pushed to the forefront of his mind, but he brushes them away in favor of actually turning the knob and walking into the house.

The hall looks the same as the one in the images vying for attention in his mind, yet he still swallows nervously and shuts the door quietly. Then one Hikari Seiya pops her head around the doorframe of the kitchen and chirps, "Hello, dear. I was just making lunch."

Sora freezes. His mother's once short chestnut hair is now long, pulled back in a ponytail. There are lines around her mouth, around her eyes, that he doesn't quite remember. When he hesitantly walks into the kitchen, he notices that he's taller than her; not by much, of course, but he remembers the time where he only came up to her chin.

Some emotion causes his breath to catch in his throat and he sweeps her into a hug. She laughs, a little startled, but he just holds her close. She is skinnier than he remembers and that causes worry to bloom in his heart. Yet, she hugs him back and then slips from his grasp, going back to the cutting board. She finishes the sandwiches and sits at the table.

When Sora just stares blankly at her, she grins and waggles the plate at him. "Aren't you hungry?"

Clumsily, he hurries over to the table and eats slowly. Seiya chatters, her words flowing, but Sora is uncharacteristically silent, taking in everything he should know but doesn't. He only gets through half of his sandwich before he sets it down and uncomfortably goes, "I think I'm going to go out, mom."

Mom. Mother. The word rolls unfamiliarly through his mind. King, Wizard, Princess, Villain…those are familiar terms for him now. Not mom.

Seiya frowns at his food. "Are you sure? You haven't finished your sandwich."

Sora looks down. White bread, sliced meat, cheese, lettuce. His stomach roils. They—him and Donald and Goofy—had always been pushing forward, going farther and farther in their adventure. There had been little time for food and even if there had been, munny had always gone towards Potions and Elixirs and upgrades for weapons. Those had been necessary for survival. Tiny rations on the gummi ships and the occasional bits of fruit from the wild worlds they had visited had kept them filled. His stomach feels uncomfortably small and heavy with what little bit is already occupying the space.

He tries to smile for her, but it feels like it comes out funny. "I'm not that hungry."

Her laugh is carefree. "Not hungry?" She playfully swats him with her dishtowel. "Are you sure you're my son?"

He rushes out of the house, the question echoing in his head.


Sora ends up on the other side of the island, the place where he started this first day home. Relief fills him, the uneasy feeling disappearing, when he spots the rolling waves and settles on the small bit of land with the bent paopu tree. He digs his fingers into the warm, warm sand and watches as the yellowpink fades from the sky and redpurple takes it place. Jewel-like stars twinkle into existence and he prays, wishes, hopes, dreams that none of them blink out.

Hours later, and a weight sinks next to him. He doesn't even have to look to know that it's Riku.

"How are your parents?" Sora finally asks. The words come out awkward and weighty, as if he's attempting some new language.

He feels Riku's frown. "I have all these memories of them. And they have all these memories of me. But…" A shake of the head and a slight sigh. "It feels…strange." A pause as Riku gathers his bearings. "You?"

Sora removes his fingers from the sand and places them behind him so he can lean back properly, eyes focused on the sky. "The same," he agrees faintly.

Comfortable silence settles between them again. Riku leans back also, the warmth of hand next to Sora's. It is like they are on that darkness-world all over again. They stay there for hours, waiting and watching until the coming dawn.


The next day, Sora finds out he has a week until his junior year of high school starts. Blind panic fills him. He wants to point out to someone, anyone, that he doesn't even remember the first two years of high school, but there is a quiet, dry chuckle in the back of his mind and vague not-memories are pushed forward. The moaning over homework, the horror over tests, the monotony of long days, the happiness of break…

He understands and not-remembers, but still. School. Sitting, with nothing to do but listen, for hours on end. Already, Sora feels trapped. He vaguely has to wonder if this is how birds feel when they are caged.

And there are the people. The friends that he hasn't actually interacted with in the past two years. Shivers crawl up his spine and make him look towards the horizon that's framed by his window. A raft would be simple now. He would be able to survive the journey. The thought lingers for only a moment and then he is pushing it away. That is not an option. This is the home he has fought for the past two years; this is real prize at the end of the adventure.

He lies there, eyes focused on the bright orange of the sun, thoughts turning, until a light knock sounds on his door and his mother pokes her head in. "Sora, Kairi's outside waiting for you."

Sora turns a glance towards her and small smile graces his face. "Thanks, mom." Then, almost absent-mindedly, he vaults out the window. It's as he's landing on the sun-warmed ground in a crouch that he realizes his error. Seiya is half out the window, mouth open in a gape.

He winces when he sees not only her shocked expression, but Kairi's also. Seiya shouts, "Don't you ever do something like that again! You want to give me a heart attack?" Grumbling under her breath, she moves back into the house.

He gives Kairi a sheepish grin, but she frowns at him and goes, "If anybody else had seen that…" Her words trail off into nothing.

Sora stands and walks over to her, hands shoved deep into his pockets. The disappointed frown disappears as Kairi smiles. "Come on. Everybody is over at the play island." When he hesitates, trying to figure out some polite way to say that he'd rather hide in his room in a panic, she twines her small fingers with his and drags him off.

He sees them all. There's Selphie and Tidus and Wakka and some new girl that he knows is named Lulu but a part of his mind insists that she's a stranger. They don't think anything of coming up to him and speaking. Selphie is curvier, pretty in her tank and shorts. Tidus is taller than him, shoulders broad. Wakka is muscular, one arm wrapped around the thin waist of an elegant girl

(Lulu)

whose smile slips from cruel to sweet when she spots Sora. They speak easily with each other and to Sora, but Sora, for once, remains quiet, trying to fit the puzzle pieces of not-memory with the images from years ago that he once knew. They talk about teachers and people he doesn't know but now vaguely remembers.

His gaze shifts from them to the lone speck on the faraway play island with the bent paopu tree. He wants to run over there and sit next to Riku (because, really, that place has always been his, even with the space of two years blotting out his existence from their home). But Kairi moves closer to him, the warm skin of her arm touching his, and her blue-violet eyes focus on him. There's some dreamy quality to her smile that sets him on edge, but he refrains from saying anything about it.

It seems like an eternity before Selphie and Wakka and Tidus and Lulu leave, heading into town for lunch. Kairi's fingers dig into his arm when they leave and she turns to him, face tilted up so she can look at him. The yellow-orange sun outlines her beautifully and there is something like anticipation in her eyes; however, unease is clawing at Sora's stomach as if there are Heartless gathering around him so he backs away with a chuckle and runs over to his saving grace.

Riku doesn't look up at him when he vaults over the paopu tree and leans against it. There is just the turn of a slight smile. They focus on the setting sun. Then, "Nothing's changed, huh?" Riku's words are light.

Sora's stomach twists. Words crowd his throat, clatter at the backs of his teeth. His mouth is heavy with Yes, things have changed, we have changed but he takes a deep breath in and hopefully, optimistically says, "Nope. Nothing will."

Riku laughs and Sora warms at the sound. "What a small world."

Sora is reminded (one sky, one destiny) and absent-mindedly adds, "But part of one much bigger." The words click off a thought. He knows what he thinks about the Door to Light, but he simply has to ask Riku, because he's curious about Riku's thoughts. "Hey, Riku…what do you think it was—the Door to the Light?"

Riku jumps off the tree with a chuckle. "This," he says and taps at Sora's chest. Sora is lost for a moment and then is hit with the idea that it's his heart.

"This?" He knows the implication running beneath Riku's words; it's the idea that's been following him for the past two years, ever since a silver-haired boy tossed a star-shaped fruit at him for winning a race. According to everyone, Kairi's his heart. The thought makes him feel sick.

Riku's words are warm and low. "Yeah. It's always closer than you think."

Kairi? No, she's not his heart, he knows that already. These words, they choke his breath and make his chest tighten. He stares at Riku, taking in the peaceful smile, the long hair, the light eyes. Instead of saying anything, he pastes on a smile for Riku.

Their conversation is cut short when Kairi runs up with a bottle clutched in her hand. She hands it to them, emotions battling for a spot on her face. Sora's breath catches when he spots the black seal on it. King Mickey.

He fairly tears it out of the bottle and opens it. For one golden, shining moment, Sora thinks that it's another adventure, another mission, another way to get off this island, but that golden moment vanishes when he reads the letter. It is simply a letter telling them that the King and Donald and Goofy are back at the Castle and are safe. There are the general wishes of luck and happiness and then the flourish of a scribbled signature.

Sora feels the bottom of his stomach drop out. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Kairi takes the letter and rolls it back into the bottle, popping the cork back in with a satisfied smile. It's as she's ducking her head to look into the clear bottle that Riku shoots him a worried look over her. This time, he doesn't bother with the smile. He just looks at Riku and tries to refrain from asking about a raft.

Kairi nudges an elbow into his side, grinning playfully. "How about lunch, Sora?"

He notes how she excludes Riku, notes how Riku draws back a little. Mouth dry, he goes, "I had plans with Riku already."

Her smile falters. "Oh." She fidgets a moment, pale fingers tapping against clear glass. Then, with a bright smile, she goes, "We'll catch up tomorrow, right?" She doesn't wait for an answer; instead she runs off the play island and heads toward town.

Riku eyes him. Then a teasing smile comes onto his face. "I'm surprised you didn't take up her offer."

Sora gives him an askance look. "I…" He doesn't know where to go from that. It's all worked out in his head, all those words about how Kairi's just a friend, really, and it's not what everybody thinks and yes, he does love her and because of that she does hold a part of his heart, but there's a bigger piece there and the words about that are silent, nonexistent for now. He shrugs, tries a smile. "I'm just not hungry."

He hops onto the paopu tree and keeps his eyes on the sun. There is a silent moment where Riku regards him, but then the tension flows away as Riku joins him.

His mind feels all stretched out now with the prospect of another venture. He wants to jump out of windows like he did earlier and land easily. He wants to even try jumping off a roof, possibly; he's fallen from higher distances than that. Maybe he can even try flying…

But he cuts that thought off. Flying had only worked in Neverland, with Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, but they are gone from him, just like Dumbo and Bambi and Stitch and Simba and Chicken Little and all his other friends, and their absence is like the empty, rotting gap from where a tooth has been pulled.

Experimentally, he runs through an internal check. Yes, all those holes in his mind are empty, but there, he can still feel all the strength and abilities he's gained, along with all the magic. Magic is natural, he reasons, as he draws on the bright power in him. Just because it doesn't actually exist on Destiny Islands and he had never believed that possibility until Donald and Merlin had proved otherwise, well, that means nothing.

He draws on that power and holds up a hand. In the twilight of evening, the small flame he conjures positively glows, bouncing orange and red and yellow back into the air. It throws shadows onto Riku's face, sends light sparking in those blue-green eyes.

Riku grins. Then he murmurs a few low words under his breath and protective blue-silver shielding magic erupts, dispersing the flame easily. They both laugh a little and look at each other. Nothing is said as the sun completely sets and the stars appear.


For that one week, things remain the same. Sora eats what he can and rests for only a few hours a night (another consequence of trying to constantly move forward with the journey). Only one night is different in that he is woken by a dream instead of his own internal clock. Heat thrums along his skin, curls tightly in the pit of his stomach. These are not unfamiliar feelings, oh no. It is the accompanying images that are unfamiliar. Surprisingly soft red hair, a bony, pale body, and eyes, green green eyes that seem to burn right through him. He sleepily ponders these visions; then a quiet voice in the back of his mind whispers Sorry and the images are tucked away to where he can't reach them. He spares a moment for shock and then he's falling asleep all over again.

Other than that, things are the same. He goes to bed late and gets up early, around the time his mother is leaving for work. When he simply grabs an apple (fruits instead of sweets, simply because he is now used to the tastes of fruits and actually likes them) and then heads over to the play island, she stares incredulously at him. He and Riku sit on the play island, talking over these new not-memories and the upcoming school days. Sometimes these conversations itch along his skin, so he'll let off the tiniest bit of fire or ice or lightening and Riku will respond with his own magic and that itch will disappear.

Kairi tries to join them. But they talk about worlds she's never seen and magic she's never accessed and Kairi can only smile while she listens. There is still something like anticipation in her eyes when she looks at Sora and Sora has no idea what to do about that. Other times, her eyes will go faraway and dreamy and it takes her a while to rejoin this world. Sora's worried about that shadow behind the blue-violet of her, but when he asks about it, she smiles mysteriously and her eyes go mirrored-blue-silver; that quiet voice in him whispers Naminè questioningly. Sora lets it go.


School starts. At first, Sora feels confused with the crush of people surrounding him. He chokes on his breath and his vision goes blurry, but everything comes back into focus when a hand wraps around his wrist.

Riku looks worriedly at him. "Are you okay?"

His fingers are like a brand against Sora's skin, but he does nothing to shake them off. Instead, he attempts a smile. "I'm okay."

Riku eyes him. "You sure?" He leans close.

Suddenly, they're sharing the same space, the same air. Sora feels the heat gather in his cheeks. "Yeah." A forced laugh so Riku will stop looking at him like that. "I'm good."

Riku's fingers linger a moment; when they pull back, the motion feels like a caress. Sora shakes his head and tries to get his thoughts back in order. "I need to get to class." He makes an unnecessary gesture indicating the hall.

A smile on his mouth, Riku says, "See you later," and walks away.

Sora tucks the smile in the far reaches of his mind.

Then he heads to class. It goes how he thought it would. All day, he is jittery, fingers and toes tapping because of all the excess energy. Unlike most of the students he sees, he is not half-asleep in a zombie-like state. Words and numbers swirl in front of his eyes, print themselves on the back of his eyelids. All day long, he is bored.

This is his new life, he tells himself, and cannot stop how his stomach sinks.


The time after school is better. The girls gather together and say something along the lines of going to the mall. Kairi links her arms with Selphie and Lulu and giggles with them as they walk away.

Tidus and Wakka share a look and then they're racing towards the beach, backpacks thumping, a blitzball being tossed between them.

Sora knows he has homework, reading and exercises and assignments that all want his attention, but he simply hitches his bag higher on his shoulder and turns to Riku. "Beach?" he asks hopefully.

Riku's grin is reassuring. "Yeah." Then his grin goes up a notch and it's the familiar smug smirk from two years back that takes Sora's breath away. "Race?"

Sora leans forward a little, hands coming up to grasp the straps of his bookbag. "Ready?"

"Set."

"Go!" Sora shouts and they're both off, dust flying behind them. They are neck to neck, both using abilities they've gained in their journeys. At the end, on the play island, there is no clear winner. For all the distance they've run, neither is out of breath. They grin at each other and sit on the sand.

A few hours later, Kairi joins them. In the plastic bag she has, there are sketch books and packs of colored pencils. Sora looks intently at her, searching for blonde hair or bleached skin. Kairi blushes at his look and shrugs self-consciously. "I've just had this urge to draw lately. There're all these pictures in my mind…" she trails off, eyes going distant and dreamy.

Riku hands the bag back to her and watches her silently. She comes back to them. Her eyes flick between them nervously. "Did I interrupt something?"

Riku's smile is bright, but there is an edge to it that makes heat shiver down Sora's spine. Within a blink, that edge is gone and his smile is soft and warm. Sora has to wonder if he imagined it. The dry You didn't that resounds in his thoughts makes him smile a little, heat coming to his face. Then Riku goes, "No, not all."

Kairi sits in between them and starts speaking but Sora can't quite catch just what she's going on about. Instead his gaze drifts over to Riku. About ten minutes into Kairi's narrative (something about…shoes, maybe), Riku looks over. His mouth quirks up into a slight commiserating smile. Sora feels warm all over.

It is as the sun is setting that Kairi's almost nervous babbling winds down. She fidgets with her bag and then turns to Sora. Her smile seems to tremble on her face. "There's a carnival this weekend. Do you want to go?"

His gaze flicks over to Riku, seeing a strange smile. But that anticipation is back in Kairi's eyes so he tries for a smile and says, "Sure."

Kairi looks relieved; she grabs her bag, says, "See you two tomorrow," and runs off, sand flying up behind her.

He watches her for a moment and then turns to Riku. A funny expression is on his face and Sora goes, "You okay?"

Riku laughs and Sora wonders at the sound of it; it sounds…strangled, as if being forced out. Something is wrong, he can tell.

Riku's smile twitches. "Yeah. I just thought you'd be jumping to be alone with Kairi."

Ah. That. Uncomfortable, Sora looks up at the stars. If only he could be among them instead of here… "Why? We're both friends with her."

Riku raises his eyebrows. "Yes, we are, but you like her, Sora." At Sora's silence he frowns and slowly tacks on, "Don't you?"

Sora shifts. "She's my friend," he says and looks down at his hands. If only this were easier. Anxiously, he reaches up and scratches at the back of his neck. Looks over to Riku and sees how the stars are trapped in the ocean-blue-green color of his eyes. "I don't like her like that."

Shocked silence. "Oh," Riku drags out. Pensively, he looks out to the ocean. "She doesn't know, does she?" Sora shakes his head. "What are you going to doing if she does something about it?" He moves closer to Sora and looks down into Sora's face.

Stomach-eating fear claws at Sora. "I don't know," he says miserably. Then, almost desperately, "What would you do?"

Riku's eyes go wide. "What would I do? Tell her the truth, I think."

Sora sighs as he embraces the truth. "I guess." Stretching, he looks up to the stars and focuses on them instead.


The rest of the week is the same. Every day in school is a test, some cruel form of punishment for coming home after his adventure. The people that are supposedly his friends talk about things like grades and television shows and sports. He tries to join the conversations, but he simply can't succeed at that. This…this is nothing. These things…they're not interesting. Riku doesn't even try to join; he just leans back and listens. Most times, Sora and Riku will go off and spend the time together. Words will flow easily, conversation about fighting and magic and different worlds. It doesn't linger there but continues to the awkwardness of being home, of having parents and ready food and medicine and money. Kairi watches them but always gets drawn back into the girls' conversation. For her, those things are her reality; Riku and Sora were pulled out of that reality because of an attack of shadows to their home.

The time after school is spent on the warm sand of the play island, books spread in front of him and Riku, as they try to understand foreign concepts with memories that have been given to them. Kairi tries to join this activity too; her eyes search for a way to be part of this. However, she can't grasp how Riku and Sora both relate their homework with things and places and people she doesn't know. After that first time, she sits on the beach by herself, constantly drawing in that sketch book she bought.

Saturday night comes much too quickly for Sora. The carnival is bright with neon colors against the darkness of the sky. Riku doesn't come with them; his absence creates a tight band around Sora's chest. Tidus and Wakka gather Selphie and Lulu with them and head towards the booths. Sora watches as they aim darts and throw balls and he draws further away. Kairi looks hopefully up at him, so he chokes out, "I would have an unfair advantage." She leaves it at that.

Sugary, greasy food is pressed into his hands and the smell makes his stomach roll. The clean taste of fruit or a simple meal would be better. He pushes it off to Tidus and Wakka, who finish the treat with relish.

There are rides, all rickety and old, and he sees people screaming with delight on them. They all get on; the world spins around them and he sees his friends' faces lighten with the rush of adrenaline. Even Kairi shrieks from the thrill. The world may be spinning and turning, but it is nothing. A fight in the Coliseum or a trek along the shadow-infested roads of Hollow Bastion/Radiant Garden gives him that wonderful rush, that heady thrill. They get off the rides and they all laugh and stumble like the teenagers they are; he feels cold on the inside when Kairi hangs onto him and giggles breathlessly.

Kairi positively lights up when she spots the rainbow colored Ferris wheel. "Let's go on that, Sora," she says happily and grabs his hand to drag him over there. Her hand is small and fragile in his and it feels all wrong. They get into a car and Kairi hums brightly as the wheel slowly turns.

It is when they are almost to the top that Kairi sits next to him on the small bench. She leans against him to look out the window and smile at the stars. Yet, they do not keep her gaze like they do his and she turns to stare at him.

"Sora," she says, fingers twisting. She leans closer so that he could get a glimpse down her tight top if he so wanted; the thing is that he doesn't want to. "We've been friends for a long time."

"Yeah," he agrees nervously and hopes this conversation isn't going towards the direction he dreads it going to.

She smells like buttery popcorn and sweet cotton candy when she presses close to him. "And we've been on adventures together, right?" Her smile is almost shy, but that anticipation he has seen so often in her eyes turns into something like triumph.

"Yeah," he repeats, swallowing anxiously.

He can feel the shape of her curves when she presses that little bit closer. Then her mouth is on his, sweet and sticky and much too soft. He rears back quickly, eyes wide.

Kairi opens her eyes to look at him, her mouth shiny. Then she draws back, arms curving around herself, and frowns. "Oh," she breathes. "I thought you…" and then she trails off.

Sora holds up his hands in peace. "You're like a sister, Kairi."

He can see her heart breaking in the blue-violet of her eyes and he wishes he didn't have to do this. Her bottom lip trembles and all the various shades in her eyes are magnified as tears gather. "I'm sorry," she pushes out and ducks her head. The tears spill over, clinging to her long lashes like diamonds and dripping down her cheeks.

They are the top of the Ferris wheel now and the stars are jewel-like against the black. He reaches out and wraps his arms around her in a hug. "It's not your fault. I'm the one that's sorry," he whispers into her hair.

Her shoulders hitch, up down, up down, and she presses her face to his neck. He can feel the warmth of tears and breath. "Can…can I just stay like this…until the ride is over?"

He presses his palms flat against her back and holds her tight. They stay like this for the rest of the ride.

Kairi avoids him for the rest of the night. Tidus and Wakka don't notice a thing, much too preoccupied with outdoing each other at the booths or getting that bit of thrill on the rides. Lulu merely stands close to Kairi and Selphie glares angrily at him. All of this makes him uncomfortable, unsettled by this world, this reality, which is not his, so he forces out a lie and he runs home.

Sora doesn't bother with the door. He feels the press of ground under his feet and pushes off, feeling the stretch of muscles as he flips midair. Easily, he lands on the tiny bit of ledge of his window and slides into his bedroom.

It shouldn't be such a relief that Riku is lounging on his bed as if he belongs there. It also shouldn't be such a desirable sight. But Sora brushes it off and simply sits next to Riku, huddling close.

Riku slings an arm around his shoulders and looks down at him for a minute, easily reads his face. "Let me guess. Kairi said something tonight."

Sora recalls the sight of her heart breaking and feels the misery clawing at his stomach, at his air. Uncaring of the consequences, he turns to Riku in a hug. Riku's body is hot and solid beneath his, frighteningly real. The knot in his throat loosens and he can breathe comfortably again.

Riku moves and it is his arms coming up around Sora. He places his chin on Sora's head and Sora feels as if this is perfect, right where he's supposed to be. He nods; Riku's chest moves beneath his cheek when Riku says, "What did you do?"

Sora sighs. "I told her the truth."

"Which was?"

"She's like a sister to me."

He can feel Riku's wince. "And what did she do?"

Sora presses his forehead against Riku's body and wishes he can just sink in the darkness here. It would be so much less complicated. "She cried."

"Ah." One hand moves, hesitates, and strokes along his spine. It causes Sora to shiver and press a little bit closer. The hand stutters and then continues as if that never happened.

For the first time within the past two weeks of being home, Sora actually feels comfortable. He presses a little closer and hears the steady beat of Riku's heart. It is…lulling. His eyes flutter shut and he quickly drops off to sleep.


It is the sun shining through his window that wakes Sora. Riku is gone. Sora feels rested, light on his feet, energy thrumming through his body. He wants to go out and run around and spar…he cuts the thought off there and heads downstairs.

His mother is sitting at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee in her hands. When she sees her son, she sets the mug down on the table and goes, "We need to talk."

Sora freezes and then sighs, sitting in the chair across from her. He doesn't think he's done anything wrong, so he's curious.

Seiya draws a finger along the handle of the cup and looks blankly in the air as she gathers her thoughts. Then, "You've been acting strange, Sora. You willingly eat fruit. You don't eat as much. You don't sleep as much. You only hang out with Riku." Her expression turns funny. "Riku was in your bed this morning." She wraps her thin hands around the mug and looks Sora in the eye. "What is wrong?" Her voice is quiet but firm, demanding an answer.

Sora stares speechlessly at her. "I…," he starts and then draws a blank. He can't say anything about his journey, but there's no other way to explain it. "I've had so much sugar that I've just gotten sick of it. And I can't control how much I sleep."

She doesn't look satisfied. "Nothing's wrong," he tries.

"And Riku?" she asks.

Now would be the time. And yet… Sora inwardly curses his anxiety. He's battled various demons and saved the world—twice—and has saved Christmas and gone into the Underworld. This should be nothing. "Riku's my best friend," he whispers and looks down at the table.

Donald would strike him with lightening. Goofy would smile and encourage him with kind words. Tears choke him as he thinks of these friends he's lost to the division of worlds. He remembers their joyous cries when he crash-landed back on Destiny Islands and lifts his chin. "I like Riku," he tries, his tone indicating the true meaning of the words, and it really is nothing because Seiya looks satisfied with this answer.

She smiles kindly at him. "Have you said anything?" she asks and sips at her coffee.

"N-no," Sora fumbles and wonders if revealing any of his love life to his mother was a good idea.

She nods contemplatively. Yet, she doesn't push the matter. Instead, she says, "I can see you fidgeting from here. Go on, I know you want to go outside." She rolls her eyes when he dashes from the kitchen.

He goes to the play island and his heart does a double-time beat when he sees Riku there. Riku smiles and shifts his hands from around his back. Happiness is shot straight into Sora when Riku reveals two wooden swords.

Sora feels as if the smile he has is splitting his face. Riku hands him a sword with a laugh and says, "You looked like you needed to smile."

Sora's eyes widen at the affectionate words; there's something captivating about Riku's smirk that has him blushing.

The move to opposite ends of the island. Without even saying anything, they both know these spars will be next to nothing. There will be no magic, none of their special abilities. They'll both pull back on strength and speed. These will be simple spars. Despite this, these spars will be enough, simply because this little something is more than nothing.

Riku grins at him and they start the spar.


The following week occurs without any incidents, yet it is enough for tension to gather. Wakka and Tidus still talk to him, but their words are stilted, their eyes shadowed. Selphie frowns at him at every chance and Lulu simply does not speak to him. Kairi tries her best really, but her smile falters around him and the sorrow rises to her face; most of the time, she simply sticks her nose in a sketch pad and continues to draw.

Sora only has Riku and, like always, that is enough; really, that is perfect.

The weekend hits and Sora is faced with the prospect of homework he barely understands. Stress and frustration are laced in every move, so instead of focusing on homework, he heads over to the play island. He sits there most of the day, hiding in the shade of the paopu, but Riku finds him right after the sun sets.

Riku looks concernedly at him for a moment and then smirks. Sora's heart beats that much faster. Then Riku sneakily goes, "I have an idea." The air around his hand bends and then there is a Keyblade there, the winged Way to Dawn.

Sora's breath catches. Then he feels deep into himself, feels the bright power of the Keyblade, and calls forth Oblivion. The weight is familiar in his hand, his balance automatically shifting to accommodate it. He hefts it forward and grins at Riku. They spar.

They use the strength they've gained, the speed they've earned. Sora flips in the air and Riku dodges in a roll. The night air is filled with the clanging rings of clashing blades and the shimmer of magic.

Hours are spent like this. It is as the sun is crawling over the horizon and the stars are fading into redorange light that they finally collapse, their respective Keyblades vanishing into thin air. Sora laughs joyously, happily. He moves close to Riku, pillowing his head on Riku's shoulder.

"Thank you," he murmurs.

Riku shifts and brings one hand up to draw along Sora's arm. "You needed to smile again."

For effect, Sora gives a large grin up at him. Riku laughs freely, ocean-eyes light. But then his face grows serious. "I know it's hard trying to adjust back to this, but we can manage." His voice sounds almost desperate when he says, "We have to manage."

Sora sighs. "The real prize at the end of the adventure."

Riku nods and hums an agreement.

Sora watches the sun rise for a few moments, watches the stars disappear. "You know," he says thoughtfully, "those first few days back, I thought about our raft. After everything we've done, we could survive a journey like that."

Riku's hand comes up, touches lightly against the back of Sora's neck, fingers running through strands of hair. "Do you really want to leave?"

Sora moves closer to Riku and takes a chance. "Not really," he whispers and presses a soft kiss to the underside of Riku's chin.

Riku stills for only a moment. Then he bends down to Sora and presses his mouth to Sora's. This, this is perfect, Sora thinks. Then Riku moves back and smiles a little. The sun may be up, but the stars are hiding in Riku's eyes. "The real prize?" he asks.

Sora grins and leans up again, drawing Riku into another kiss.