Kingdom Hearts II
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! The title is the Latin word meaning "a step", which the word gradual comes from. This is a Christmas gift for Lisa and I hope she'll like it! I've never written for these characters before but I wanted to try, particularly because of their surrogate sibling relationship. I'm afraid the basic inspiration for the plot has probably been used many times before, but I tried to introduce some hopefully unique ideas, so I hope it will look alright.
It was hard sometimes, being back home after everything they had been through. Destiny Islands and its inhabitants did not seem to have changed, even after their harrowing experiences (although thanks to forces Riku did not understand, they probably did not even remember those). It had felt more than once as though the people expected Riku, Sora, and Kairi to be unchanged as well. And that was impossible on so many levels.
He had been asked more times at school than he could count about his adventures and the places he had seen. He had not wanted to talk about it and had told them so. Most had backed off by now. Still, every now and then he found himself being questioned again. It was more than a little annoying.
He wondered sometimes if any of them knew about the role he had played in causing Destiny Islands to fall into ruin (if they remembered it had fallen into ruin at all). He already recognized that a large part of his frustration and dislike over being pestered for information was because of his continuing guilt. They thought he and the others had been on a sweeping, grand adventure to save the world. And, well okay, maybe that was true, but it was not that simple. For most of the journey he had been struggling against his inner darkness and coming to terms with the actions he had taken. It had not been some magnificent joyride. He could not pretend that it had been, nor did he feel like telling the full truth to all of Destiny Islands' residents.
But was it wrong not to? And regardless, would he feel better or worse or no different if he came clean?
There were times when he went off by himself to think things over. Usually he found himself at some secluded spot of the beach, gazing out at the waves as his thoughts wandered. It was there that everything had started—the Islands' and his own plunge into darkness and his, Sora's, and Kairi's travels. But being there did not make it any easier to get answers. He had learned that long ago, yet he still went.
He looked up with a start at Kairi's voice. She was approaching out of the shadows, silhouetted against the light from the moon.
"I didn't hear you coming," he said.
"Yeah, I could tell!" Kairi gave him a playful smile as she sat down beside him. But then she quieted, turning her attention to the rolling tides. "I can understand why," she said after a moment. "It's so peaceful here."
Riku looked to her in surprise. "Don't you . . . ever think about what happened here?" he said.
She looked back, knowing in an instant what he meant. "Sometimes," she admitted. "It wouldn't be possible to not ever think about it."
Riku frowned. "Doesn't it bother you?"
Kairi looked down, picking at the sand and rocks as she contemplated her answer. "Not like it bothers you," she said. "I mean . . ." She looked up again, meeting his confused eyes. "For me, it's in the past. It's over. I've moved on.
"But you haven't, Riku. Not yet."
Riku picked up a twig, tossing it out towards the water. ". . . I was wondering if I'd feel any better if I told the townspeople what I've done," he confessed.
"And?" Kairi prompted.
"I don't know." Riku shook his head in disgust. "Maybe it would make everything worse. Maybe they'd want to run you and Sora out of town as well as me. And you two shouldn't suffer any more because of what I did."
"Maybe you shouldn't think of the worst!" Kairi said. "Maybe they wouldn't want to run anyone out of town. Maybe they'd understand, like I do, that things are different now. You've changed, we've all changed."
"That's part of the problem," Riku retorted. "We've changed, but no one else has. Do they even know what's been going on at all? Do they even remember the danger they were in? They're all just going along like nothing ever happened."
"Maybe that's better for them," Kairi said. "At least . . . that's what I try to tell myself."
Riku gave her a searching look. "What you . . . try to tell yourself?" he repeated doubtfully.
She nodded. "It is hard," she said. "My family doesn't understand what we've been through, what I've been through. I don't even know how to talk to them about it. I don't want to risk stirring up bad things they don't remember and getting them upset. So I try to tell myself that this is what's best, even if it means you and I and even Sora feel kind of alone sometimes. After all . . ." She smiled. "We've always got each other."
Riku snorted. "Yeah, I guess." He looked gruff, but soon smiled. "And that's what's important, right?"
Kairi poked him on the arm. "You're catching on! So the next time you feel upset, just come to me or Sora instead of trying to deal with it by yourself."
"Okay," Riku said, a bit too agreeably as he started to stand. "But it's not a one-way street. It goes for you too. And Sora."
"Of course it does," Kairi said, getting up as well. She gave a pleased smile that she had gotten Riku into a better mood.
"So, what did you come out here for in the first place?" Riku asked. "The view, or me being angsty?"
"Both," Kairi said. "I came to find you so we could talk about what we're going to do for Christmas."
Riku raised an eyebrow. "What are we going to do?" he returned.
"No one knows yet!" she said, giving him a mischievous smirk. "Sora's stuck washing the dishes, so now's a good time to plot. Maybe we can surprise him at the annual Destiny Islands Christmas party."
"Then he'll be in for it," Riku said with a bit of a smirk as well.
"That's what I'm counting on," Kairi said. "So, what ideas have you got?"
Riku pretended to think. "It should be something . . . terrible," he said. "Something surprising enough to knock him off his feet . . . but that he'll love anyway."
"Great minds think alike," Kairi grinned.
They started to walk back up the beach, deep in discussion about their Christmas plans. Every now and then one of them laughed at a suggestion, generally followed by scolding the other for making it.
What Riku did not know was that Sora and Kairi were also planning for Christmas—to surprise Riku. And Kairi did not know that Sora and Riku were plotting to surprise her.
It was going to be an interesting Christmas all around.
And perhaps eventually, healing would come.