Basically, I wanted to write something with the younger characters, but I really needed to work on writing Sora and Kairi, so this came out. I think I've been spending too much time on the TVTropes Kingdom Hearts Fanfic Reccomendation page, and that inspired this too.
"I spy with my little eye something that is… green."
"Hmm… That one over there."
"No, not that one. That one, right there."
"Ah, that one… You're right, that was it."
"But Kairi… why are we playing 'I Spy'… in space? There's nothing out there."
Kairi looked down at her small companion with a smile. "You're right about that. Is there anything else you'd like to do?" They sat in front one of the larger of the Gummi Ship's windows, the vast expanse of stars stretched out before them.
He met her eyes and tilted his head in thought. "Where's Sora?"
"He's busy," she answered, trying to hide the apprehension in her voice, "Why? Do you need him for something?"
"No. Just wondering… I'm kinda tired."
She hoisted him up out of his seated position and placed him on his feet before picking herself up. "Alright then, Riku. Let's get you to bed."
Sora sat in the cockpit of the ship, staring out into the space ahead of him as he steered. He focused, letting his mind go blank, not because he needed to concentrate, but because he didn't want to let his mind wander to other things. The stars, each representing a different far-off world, shined in the infinite darkness. Behind him, the door opened and Kairi walked in, taking a seat beside him. He switched to autopilot and smiled at her. "How are things?"
"Good. Nothing bad has happened yet, so I think we're in the clear for now."
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "And… how is he?"
"In bed. He said he was tired, so… Sora?"
"Does he… I mean… well, when he looks at me, I get this uneasy feeling. I don't think it's having to do with that, but… it's creepy."
"I know what you're talking about. I keep forgetting that he grew out of it before you came. Riku… always had this way of looking at people. It always made him look like he knew more than he actually did."
"And is that why you won't see him?" she asked, leaning back in her seat.
"Yeah. I keep thinking that he actually does know. I'm afraid that he knows about it and he's just not telling. If I look at him, it'll just make me feel worse. I don't want him to hate me. That's what I'm really afraid of."
Kairi placed a hand on his shoulder. "He won't hate you. I know he won't, and you know Riku better than I do. I don't want to sound insulting, but you're worrying about it too much."
"I can't help it. I feel like I failed him. I go around calling myself the 'Keyblade Master', protector of world order and defender of the defenseless… and I can't even help my best friend…" Ashamed, he turned his head back to the controls, looking out at the stars.
"He wants to see you," she muttered after what seemed like hours of awkward silence.
"He repeatedly asks me where you are. I keep telling him you're busy and he brushes it off, but I can feel it. Everything about him, his entire presence, just seems to deflate. He's hurting, Sora, because you won't see him. He thinks you hate him."
Sora was suddenly on his feet. "I'd never hate him! I just…"
"You're running away from him. He's just a little kid. He just can't understand why his best friend suddenly wants nothing to do with him."
"I do want to see him… I do, but…"
"There are no buts, Sora," Kairi sighed. "Either you see him or not. I know you're still in pain; I am too. But running from it isn't the answer. He would say the same thing."
Sitting down again, Sora stared out of the window, feeling even more ashamed of himself than before. He was already upset with himself, and now Kairi was upset with him, too. The empty space ahead of them suddenly felt so confined and oppressive.
"I'm going to check on him," Kairi announced, getting out of her chair. The door closed again, leaving Sora with only his thoughts.
Kairi entered the room without a sound, resisting her reflex to turn on the light. The only thing in the room was a large bed, and it dwarfed its occupant, making him look even smaller than he was. He was curled up under the blankets, shrinking him even more. Strands of Riku's short hair had slipped onto his face, disturbed slightly by his shallow breathing. The déjà vu struck her instantly, picturing the morning two weeks before when she had last come in to find her friend sleeping, his adult body taking up the majority of the space. She internally wished she could go back in time and stop that self from waking him on that morning, but she knew there was no way to go back. 'It's strange, seeing him like this. Riku always seemed to be so strong. Seeing him like this… he looks so fragile…' Another mental image flashed through her head, but she shook it from her head before it could set in. Walking to the window, she stared outside, concentrating on anything other than her memories.
Startled, Kairi jumped, spinning around. Riku was sitting up in bed, rubbing his eyes. Carefully, she sat down on the bed. "I'm sorry. You startled me. I wasn't expecting you to wake up," she explained quietly. "Need something?"
He shook his head. "Is Sora mad at me?"
"No. Why you think that?"
"Because… he looked sad. He looked like he wanted to cry, but he didn't. I don't like it when Sora looks like that. He doesn't look like Sora that way."
"Sora's not sad. He's… he's just going through a rough spot right now."
"Is that why he's avoiding me?"
Kairi cringed. "He's not avoiding you."
"Then why won't he see me? I did something to upset him, didn't I?"
"Not at all. Sora… he's the one that he's upset with. He's worried that you're mad at him."
Riku gave her a questioning stare, sitting in silence. "Can I see him?"
"I'll try and convince him. Just stay here, okay?"
By the time she returned to the cockpit, Sora was beginning to doze off, his eyelids drooping down over his blank gaze. She dropped herself into the chair next to him and he startled awake, looking at her curiously.
"Sora, he wants to see you."
He frowned. "I know. You told me before."
"No. I mean, he wants to see you. Right now."
"Yes. Sora, you need to see him."
"I…" he trailed off in thought, "I'm not ready. I can't face him. Not like this."
Kairi sighed. "That's why you need to see him. He can tell that you're upset. He thinks it's his fault. He hates seeing you upset, and he's sure that he did something to upset you. He thinks that's why you're avoiding him."
"I'm not… You're right. I am avoiding him."
"Then stop. You're not the kind of person to run away. I've seen you stand tall in the face of things much bigger than this."
He smiled slightly. "And I fall apart the moment something happens to either of you. You guys are my biggest weakness."
"I'm trying to say that, Sora. You keep saying that you failed Riku, that it's your fault, but you keep forgetting one thing: he volunteered for it."
"And I should have stopped him! We knew how dangerous it was going to be, that something horrible might happen! I knew it and I didn't do anything!" His grip on the armrests tightened. "I don't want to face him because it should have been me! I should have gone! If I had, everything would have turned out fine and none of this searching and worry would have been necessary!"
Kairi was on her feet. "How do you know that? How do you know that for sure? Something could have happened to you, and what then? What do you think we'd be doing? Riku made his decision because he was looking out for you, because he cares! And now you're turning your back on him!"
"This is different!"
"No it's not!"
"Fine!" Sora shouted, turning on his heel, "I'll go!" He stormed out, leaving Kairi behind him. She slumped down into her chair and closed her eyes.
Sora's anger had died out by the time he reached Riku's room and his knees began shaking. 'Why, oh why did I agree to do this?' he mentally reprimanded himself. 'I can't do this. I can't, I can't, I can't…' Knowing there was no turning back once he opened the door, he did just that and entered.
Riku was sitting on the bed, his feet swinging back and forth. When Sora entered, he looked up and a smile crept on to his face. "You came."
"Yeah," he muttered, trying to keep the nervousness from his voice. "I thought you were sleeping."
"I was, but I felt bad. I wanted to know why you're upset."
Riku chuckled. "You've always been a horrible liar, Sora. I can always tell when you're lying because I can tell that your heart isn't in it."
"Don't be. We're best friends. You don't have to apologize for anything."
Sora's breath caught in his throat and he fought back a wave of hopelessness, knowing that if he let it win, he'd break down crying. "Sorry… Ah…"
"I just want to make sure you're okay," he said, letting out a huge yawn on the last word.
"You should be sleeping. It's way too late for you to be up."
"How do you know? Everything outside the window looks the same."
The two shared a laugh before Sora felt the hopelessness fighting back. 'He's always been like this. He always will be. That just makes it harder to take.' "Kairi said you wanted to see me."
"Yeah… Sora, are you mad at me?"
"Why would I be mad at you?"
"Because… you look sad, in a certain way. You always look like that when I do something to upset you."
"It's… hard to explain. Actually, it's my fault. I'm not mad at you. I'm mad at myself."
"But it's related to me."
Sora opened his mouth to reply before he realized that it wasn't a question. "Yeah. It's my fault."
"It's not. You take too much on yourself," Riku muttered, yawning again.
"You need to sleep. Come on."
"You won't leave yet, right? You still haven't told me what happened."
Sora sighed, exasperated. "Now isn't a good time. I'll tell you in the morning. But," he added hastily at his friend's sad expression, "I'll stay. At least until you fall asleep."
Riku yawned again and curled up under the sheets. "It's not fair," he mumbled, his eyelids drooping. "I finally get to talk to you, and I'm too tired to do anything."
Riku fell into a deep sleep, and Sora joined him not long after.
"It's not going to be easy. Someone has to go with Kairi to shut down the system on this end, and someone else has to go shut it down on the other end. The rest of us will stay here and keep both sides defended. We can't risk sending any more than that."
Crouched behind a battered and crumbling wall, King Mickey outlined the plan. Sora crouched between him and Kairi, Riku on the King's other side. The other members of their circle were the members of the formerly-named 'Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee', Cloud included. All of them sported scrapes and cuts off all kinds, but no one wanted to waste time on it.
'If we can get those machines to stop, we can finish this off without any problems,' Sora mused. "I'll go with Kairi. They probably know that only Kairi can shut down that system, so they'll probably put their strongest forces there."
The King nodded. "And the other one? It'll probably be heavily guarded, as well. We can only spare one person, so…" He didn't need to continue. In all likelihood, anyone who went there might never come back.
Sora opened his mouth, knowing that it would be a better idea for him to go on the solo mission, but Riku was faster. "I'll go. I know enough about the system to shut it down quickly, and I can handle anything they throw at me."
"If you're sure," the King muttered, his worry evident. "Then, we'll break. The rest of us will cover you three until you get inside. From there on in, you're on your own."
Before they dispersed, Sora stopped his friend. "Are you sure about this? I mean, I could go…"
"I'm sure. Besides, you have to look after Kairi. She'll be safest with you. I'll see you soon, Sora."
Sora jerked awake, breathing heavily as his heart pounded in his chest. 'Just a dream… no, a memory. The memory of my failure.' He stood up from where he had been seated on the floor and, finding Riku still fast asleep, crept out of the room. Before he went to check on Kairi, he went back to his own room. He hadn't entered the room for two weeks, leaving a thick layer of dust covering everything. Sitting on the bed, right where he had left it, was Way to the Dawn, forming its own dent in the otherwise flat bed sheet. Picking it up, he felt it unfamiliar weight in his hands and headed back to the cockpit.
Kairi was already awake, staring out into space. "I checked the coordinates," she announced as he entered, not turning around to greet him, "We're still on course."
"Good," he answered, dropping himself into his seat.
Kairi looked over at him, instantly noticing the Keyblade in his hands. "Something bothering you?"
"I'm not going to run anymore. I've decided that I'm walking forward." He gripped the Keyblade tighter. "I'm sure that's what I should be doing. And I'm going to do it. So, no, nothing's bothering me. Not anymore."