Standard Disclaimer: This universe belongs to Disney and Square-Enix…I am not them…you figure out the rest.
AN: This is a ficlet done for one of those random song memes where you put your music player on shuffle and write a drabble/ficlet based on the songs so…yeah. This is one of the four I'm posting.
So I'm guessing that you know Sora; cute little kid, late growth spurt, handsome, big hearted young man, just about the warmest, brightest damn smile you'll ever see on anybody. Hell, who am I kidding? Everybody knows Sora. He's the shoulder to cry on, the arm to lean on. I don't think I've ever known anyone to go so far out of his way to help other people. I'm serious, we're talking about the kid who walked a mile to someplace random just to help a lost tourist find her way to her scuba lesson; missed classes so that he could visit the hospital every day after Kairi had her tonsils out and had a bad reaction to the anesthesia; gave up his lunch money and went hungry for a month so that he could help Tidus' family after their house was robbed. That's the kind of person Sora is, and I'm proud to say that there was a time when I could call him my best friend.
That was years ago, though. High School. Growing up and graduation tend to put a strain on relationships like that. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I did manage to keep an eye on some of the things he'd been up to, but there really is only so much you can learn from MySpace and Facebook. Besides. He hadn't updated his account in over a year.
What I had managed to gather from the bit of net stalking I indulged in was that he had somehow earned his degree early on a scholarship no less, and that he was still living in our old hometown. I'll admit, that last bit surprised me a little. When we were younger, Sora had always been a big dreamer. He'd always had this light and energy about him; this confidence that said whatever he dreamed he could do. It was weird to think of him stuck in our sleepy little town on one of the smallest of the Destiny Islands.
No matter. It was a good thing for me. I had been away from home for way too long—five years—and it was nice to know that I would be able to touch bases with him and see how time had treated him. When I really though about it, I couldn't deny the bubble of excitement that filled my chest. Sora was one of the people I missed most when I moved to the mainland for school. It would be good to see that smile again, hear his infectious laughter.
It was harder than I expected to actually track him down. The house where he and his mother used to live was vacant. When I asked around, everyone seemed to know about the poor widow, her struggle with cancer, her devoted son…but no one could tell me where he was! I even tracked down some of our other friends who never made it off the island, people whom, I knew for a fact, Sora had supported through some heavy ass shit.
They all were completely fucking clueless.
By the end of my first day home, I was fuming. I couldn't believe that after everything Sora had done for so many of these people, when he was the one who needed a little support, they'd all just left him hanging. He was completely abandoned to care for his mother with no other family to his name. It was disgusting.
I spent the majority of my visit home searching for him. All I got for my trouble was a migraine. I had two days left…and no clue where else to look for him. Maybe he wasn't even on the island anymore…maybe he had managed to get away somehow. I didn't know and all I could do was hope. I'd basically given up hope of finding him.
It's funny, though. Somehow in situations like this, when you've put everything in your power into achieving a goal and still fail, life has a way of laughing at you…but not always in a bad way.
For nostalgia's sake, I ventured out to our old play island the day before I would catch my ferry back to the big island to catch my plane back to the mainland. The island was off limits to kids these days; parents worried about pirates or transients or something.
That's where I found him.
He was sitting at the edge of the little paopu islet where we used to spar. His legs hung over the side and there was a fishing pole held in his hands.
"Sora?" I called up to him, needing the confirmation of his voice to be sure that it really was him. He was…a mess! His normally wild hair was far wilder than usual; dry and brittle where it used to hold a healthy bounce and sheen. He was far thinner than could possibly be healthy, and his clothes were little better than rags.
He looked down at me in startled confusion for a time before recognition finally dawned.
"Riku?" he called down, voice cracking from lack of use I imagine, and then he just sat there staring down at me.
My feet were moving before I ever gave them conscious command to do so. My sandals kicked up sand as I made my way to the little shack that led to the bridge that led to the island where Sora was. Inside the shack, I found an old sleeping bag laid neatly in one corner along with several handmade tools, fish bones, coconut shells and the like. It looked, for all the world, like Sora was actually...living on the island in our old play shack.
That just wasn't right. Why…no. How could Sora, of all people, end up here? He was better than this, smarter than this. He deserved the best the world had to offer, should always have a place in the sun not this...isolation. He deserved more...
"Medical bills are a bitch," he told me as we sat watching the ocean like we used to when we were kids. "Mom just kept getting worse and we couldn't pay the bills. I took out loans, over drew all of our credit cards, but still...it just wasn't enough. Maybe it had been hopeless from the beginning, but I just...I really believed that if would could just get the money, pay for all of the treatments..."
She had died anyway. I can't imagine how devastating that had to have been for him. He had loved his mother more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, bill collectors don't really care very much about an individual's suffering. The banks had taken everything—their house, and everything in it, the car—and still it hadn't been enough. He was forced to file bankruptcy at twenty-one, and with no where else to go and no one else to turn to, he had moved out to the little island. He'd been living off of fish and coconuts for almost half a year now.
"I can't believe you're living like this," I sighed looking at the uneven stubble that was trying to grow on his face.
"What else was I supposed to do?" he asked flatly. His voice held nothing of the joy for life it used to. "No one cared. I figured eventually I'd get sick or hurt or something. At least then I'd be able to die someplace that still held happy memories."
I studied him for a long time, taking in his gaunt appearance, the dull quality to those eyes that had once sparkled fit to rival the sea. I couldn't leave him like that. There had never been a question of it. Even if it had been years since we had seen or talked to each other, he was still one of my best friends in the world.
"C'mon," I told him, rising to my feet.
"What?" He looked genuinely shocked as I held my hand out to him. Had he really given up so completely on anyone giving a damn what happened to him? After all he had been through, could I really blame him for feeling that way?
"C'mon," I repeated, "we've gotta get you cleaned up. I don't think they'll let you on the ferry looking or smelling like that."
"I don't understand," he said, staring at my hand as if it were a poisonous snake he wasn't sure was dead or not.
"What's to understand?" I said simply. "Put your hand in my hand. If you've already forgotten how to get back, then I'll show you the way, but I'm not leaving you here. You're coming back with me."
He looked up at me, confusion and doubt clashing in his eyes with something that hadn't been there before...something that used to all but drip from his pores. Shining there again, was the tiniest shimmer of hope. It took a while, and I didn't move from where I was, but as the day grew later and the ocean winds began to blow, he finally sighed...
...and took my hand.