Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Disney, Sora, Riku, Destiny Islands, the quote at the beginning of the chapter...Seriously, what more do they want from me? I don't own the term 'munny', or moogles, or Keyblades, (none of which are even in this fic) and a whole lot of other things! There, happy?
A/N: Okay, so to start off, I was actually going to write a Dissidia one-shot, but when I got out my pen and paper I wrote...a Kingdom Hearts one-shot. (Don't even ask. I don't get it either) Good news for Dissidia fans, though! In writing this Kingdom Hearts story, it gave me two, possibly three, ideas for three Dissidia fics! (Again, I don't get it. As I stated on my forum earlier, my mind works in mysterious ways...) Now, this is my first story to really centre around these two characters, so I hope you all like it. I'm a bit nervous about this one, but we shall see how it goes. It's actually a companion piece to my Kingdom Hearts story Resonating Hearts. That one tells you what's going on inside Sora's heart just before receiving the King's letter (so basically after Kingdom Hearts II but before the letter, around when Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is going on) while this story focuses on what's going on with Sora himself on the outside. So again, this story takes place after Kingdom Hearts II, but before Sora gets the letter in a bottle from Mickey. And yes, this story does fit with canon. (At least until they make the next Kingdom Hearts game, which may or may not throw it out of whack. They love doing that to me. *grumbles*) And now, to the story! Quote is from the original GBA version of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
"His existence resonates with that of another hero. Sora came, so Riku followed." -Vexen (Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories)
It was a quiet and peaceful night on the small island located just off the mainland of Destiny Islands, or rather two small islands, one quite tiny and the other larger, each of the two landmasses connected to one another by a long wooden bridge, and though there were several islands that as a whole made up the island retreat known as Destiny Islands, it was really the mainland, which was the largest of the landmasses, that could be considered the heart of the islands, since that was where the only town on the islands was located, and as one may have already guessed, it was where the occupants of the town normally resided.
But, as many of the residents occupying Destiny Islands still had yet to discover, there was one spiky-haired boy amongst them who could hardly be considered normal. A boy particularly worth noting, and with good reason.
Why, one might ask?
Because on this particular evening there was one resident of Destiny Islands, who just happens to be the spiky-haired youth previously mentioned, that was not back on the mainland finishing his homework and getting ready for bed. Instead, he was sitting upon the sand near the ocean, the small island playing host to his favorite papou tree and the fallen tree trunk that was, on any other day, his favorite spot for gazing out at the ocean, looming out of the darkness on his left. The night sky was clear, except for the millions of tiny stars twinkling against a backdrop of deep blue velvet, and the moon's pale light cast a reflection upon the dark waters rippling gently towards the shore. The faint smell of salt lingered on the cool breeze ruffling the boy's dark locks, highlighted sporadically by honey-coloured strands from days spent swimming under the summer sun, but despite the gentle caress of the wind, the air was warm, though the sand was cool beneath his bare toes, his shoes having been cast aside earlier in favour of a stroll down the beach where the sand and the sea met, molding together as one. To the right, off in the distance, the faint lights of the town on the mainland could be seen glimmering from the depths of the buildings and the street lights across the water, but here on the small island where the boy spent much of his time hanging out with his two closest friends, all was silent, and though he was alone at the moment, the familiar scenery provided comfort, bringing a smile to his face.
It was beautiful. It was breathtaking.
It was home.
No matter where I go, no matter how many worlds I visit, this will always be my home.
At least, it was one of the two places where he belonged. His heart was quite divided on the subject, as another part of him reached out to a world shrouded in perpetual twilight, where the beauty of spectacular sunsets and the tangy, yet sweet, taste of sea-salt ice cream continued to call out to him, whispering in the gloom.
The strength of the heart could be fragile at best, but by placing your faith in others it had the potential to become your greatest asset, a friend and ally to fight the darkness that exists in even the most innocent of hearts.
The courage to fight, and more importantly, the strength to win the war against yourself. It was only when you learned to believe in others, as well as yourself, that the heart truly stood a chance of standing up to the darkness dwelling deep within.
Home. I guess...home is wherever there are people who matter to you. People you don't want to leave behind.
And also people you don't want to leave you behind.
Riku...I still can't believe it. I still can't believe we're finally home. You came back with me. You're really here. We're really together again.
Sora, the one known by many friends on many worlds as the Keyblade's chosen one, tilted his head back to let the gentle breeze caress his young face, and gazing out at the ocean, his startling blue eyes scanning the starry sky shining above his spiky head, he let out a soft sigh, his hand coming up to rest hesitantly against his heart.
He was home again, the worlds were safe, and Riku was back, so why, deep inside his heart, despite everything he had already accomplished, did he feel like all that had transpired with Xehanort and his Nobody, Xemnas, was really only just the beginning of something much more complex? Something big. Something he did not yet have the ability to comprehend. What more could possibly happen when there was nothing left of the man who had stolen Ansem's identity and threatened to claim Kingdom Hearts for his own personal gain? What more could there be when there were no longer any players left on the board?
Sora didn't know, but there was something. He refused to believe his heart was lying to him. A piece of the puzzle was still missing and the longer he remained on Destiny Islands, the stronger the feeling inside of him seemed to grow. The feeling that something was amiss, and several other feelings he couldn't quite identify.
These feelings weren't the same as the ones that had plagued him when Riku had opened the door to darkness, allowing the Heartless to invade their island home. Fear, doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and above all else, a lingering sense of dread deep inside his heart. Those were the feelings that had plagued him then, and they were not the same as the feelings that haunted him now.
This time his feelings were undefined, faint whispers from his heart echoing softly in his ears. Voices calling out his name and faces flashing across his mind, though he couldn't always identify the faces or recognize the voices. He did not know what he was seeing and hearing, but whatever it was, he knew it was somehow important, especially when one of those faces was his own Nobody. Gazing at the sky, Sora couldn't help feeling a bit sad. Somewhere, somebody out there was hurting. Maybe more than one person. He didn't know why, but he could feel it, and the sensation made his heart ache painfully in his chest.
He wasn't afraid of the darkness. After everything he had been through on his last two journeys, he had become much better equipped at handling whatever the darkness might throw at him, especially now that Riku was by his side again. There was no doubt he would do whatever it took to protect both his island home and his friends, hopefully with better results than last time if either his friends or his home, or both, became a target again, but also all the other worlds, places he had come to love and friends he couldn't bear to lose.
There was just one small problem. It wasn't so much the worlds themselves that concerned him, nor did they have much to do with the current feelings inside his heart. It was something else, something he couldn't quite explain, even to himself. He felt almost as if his heart was trying to tell him something, something he would no doubt come to see eventually, but for now much of it was still a mystery to him.
And being Sora, he was curious to know what those feelings meant. So many emotions pulsing through his body, emotions he was sure were not his own.
All these feelings inside my heart...
That voice. Sora knew that voice. He would recognize it anywhere, and because of that he didn't need to turn around to figure out who had suddenly come up behind him. "Hey, Riku."
There was a moment of silence, and then Sora felt the silver-haired teen step up behind him, pausing for a moment to take in the view of the ocean. The two of them remained that way for some time, Sora sitting and Riku standing close behind him, both of them gazing out at the waves or up at the sky in comfortable silence. The view really was spectacular, and after another quiet minute or two, Riku finally spoke, the pleasant tone of his voice washing over Sora before drifting towards the sea. Riku's words were dry and spoken casually, yet there was also a hint of amusement beneath the surface of his playful tone, eluding towards his feelings regarding the ocean. "You know, the view here is a lot better than what we saw in the Realm of Darkness."
Sora smiled, his elbows resting on his knees. "You think so?"
"Well...the view there might not have been the best, but I guess the company wasn't so bad."
Sora leaned back on his hands to gaze up at his friend's dark profile, his head tilting slightly to the side and his smile growing just a bit wider. "Not so bad, I guess."
"I think...I like our ocean a lot more."
"You get the view and the company. Can't go wrong with that, the way I see it."
Riku merely nodded in response, choosing not to comment, and turning his gaze back to the ocean, Sora felt Riku sit down close beside him, the two of them once again falling into companionable silence. There was no tension between them, only a deep sense of loyalty, comfort, and a strong bond of friendship that could not be defined with words, and abandoning the view, Sora chose that moment to study his best friend in the darkness. Riku was leaning back on one hand, his other arm having draped itself over his left knee, and his expression was neutral, though he seemed lost in thought. The bright rays of moonlight streaming down onto the sand gave Riku's pale skin an almost ethereal glow and it made his silver hair shine brightly in the darkness, the luminous glow of those fair tresses radiating brightly like a beacon in the night. The slight breeze stirred Riku's long locks, emphasising their bright silver sheen, and the reflection of the stars sparkled in his aquamarine eyes, like the eyes of a cat shining in the darkness.
It was almost hard for Sora to believe that the older boy was really sitting next to him, and reaching out he let his hand brush against Riku's shoulder before allowing it to drop back to his side, wanting to make sure.
Riku, having sensed his sudden movement and the barest hint of a touch against his bare skin, glanced curiously at him, a slight question in his direct gaze, and Sora, feeling he owed his friend some kind of explanation, merely shrugged his shoulders and said softly, "Just checking."
Riku, having already guessed what was on his mind, didn't respond. Instead, the silver-haired youth turned his gaze back to the ocean, his expression once again becoming neutral. "You weren't at home."
"Sorry, I just..."
"Don't worry about it," Riku replied, shrugging his shoulders. "I figured you'd be out here. That's why I came."
"You were looking for me?"
"Just passing by your house. Thought I'd drop in and hang out for a bit. When you weren't there, I just...came here instead."
"That obvious, huh?"
I guess this is what happens when you've been friends with someone for longer than you can remember.
Riku shifted slightly to look at him, and something Sora couldn't quite read flickered in the older teen's eyes, which immediately captured his attention. "Riku?"
"You've been thinking a lot lately."
"You, thinking too much. That's not like you," Riku said mildly, lifting his hand and allowing the grains of sand captured in his fist to slide through his fingers.
"It's just...Hey, what do you mean by that?"
Riku laughed softly, a teasing smile on his face. "Spending too much time inside your head isn't really your thing. Wouldn't want your brain to malfunction or explode from over-stimulation."
"Very funny. I'm not over-thinking things. That's more your style."
"Can't argue with that."
"You spend more time in here," Riku interrupted, reaching out to poke him gently in the spot where his heart rested comfortably in his chest.
Sora stared at the spot, a thoughtful frown on his face, and looking back up he met Riku's intense gaze, a questioning look in his big, blue eyes. Riku gazed back at him, their eyes locked in sudden mutual understanding. "For the record, I think your way is better."
Sora smiled at that and falling backwards onto the sand, his arms curling behind his head, he proceeded to study the stars, his mind once again returning to his earlier thoughts. "Hey, Riku...we've been through a lot, haven't we."
"I guess you could say that."
"Do you...regret everything that happened?"
"Not really. I mean...not everything."
Sora had to admit, he was a bit surprised by his friend's answer, and turning his head slightly, he watched Riku lay back on the sand next to him, an arm resting behind the older teen's silver head. "Riku..."
"I still have nightmares sometimes," Riku said quietly, turning his head slightly so they were facing each other.
"They don't...bother you?"
Sora studied Riku's expression for a moment, and gazing directly into the older teen's aqua eyes, he didn't doubt that Riku was telling him the truth. The silver-haired teen's gaze was calm and serene, the peaceful expression on his face pleasant to look upon. "Why not?"
Riku paused before answering, obviously thinking carefully about what he wanted to say before putting his feelings into words. "The darkness might haunt me in my sleep, but I know that dawn is always waiting just around the corner, and when I wake up, you'll be here and home will be just outside my window. When I think of it like that, the darkness doesn't seem so bad then."
"I'm never alone in my dreams. Not anymore. Not since we returned here to Destiny Islands. You're always there, too, fighting beside me. Having someone next to you makes a lot of difference, and when you're there with me, the darkness doesn't really stand a chance. Not against you and me together."
They stared at each other, neither of their gazes wavering, and Sora felt his face scrunch up, his emotions threatening to overwhelm him. He tried to speak, but when the words finally left his throat, they came out as barely more than a whisper. "I thought I was supposed to be the sap."
Riku smiled slightly, the silver-haired teen's fingers reaching out to flick Sora lightly on the forehead. "You are, but that doesn't mean I can't have my moments every now and then."
"If you say so."
"I guess...that's why I don't regret some of the things that happened. I won't deny I regret the things I did, but...if none of that had ever happened, I wouldn't be who I am now. I wouldn't have become the same person you see before you right at this very moment, and..."
"You wouldn't be here with me. Not like we are now."
"Something like that, yeah."
"So...you're happy being who you are now? You're happy being back here at home? You're happy being here...with me?"
"You have a big heart, Sora," Riku replied, looking away from him. "I'm just glad there's still room for me in it."
Riku hadn't answered the question directly, but Sora got the message, and the happiness sparkling in his brilliant blue eyes was bright enough to rival the luminous glow of the stars twinkling high above the ocean. "Like anyone else could ever fill your place."
Riku turned back to him, mouth open to say something, but Sora interrupted the older teen, determined to say what was on his mind. "Riku, I'm glad you're here with me. I'm glad we're together again."
Riku paused, his lips turning up in a faint smile, and Sora had the feeling he had just stolen the words right out of his friend's mouth. "I'm...glad to be here."
Despite the hesitation in his voice, Sora knew Riku meant every word. It wasn't always easy for Riku to express his feelings, not like it was for Sora, but it didn't matter. Sora always knew, even if Riku couldn't bring himself to speak the words out loud. That was the way it had always been between them, since before Sora could walk and talk, and that was the way it would always be.
Maybe that was why they were best friends. Maybe that was why they got along so well, despite the fact that they were complete opposites of each other. Maybe that was why Sora had found himself a place in Riku's heart every bit as much as Riku had found a place in his.
And truthfully, Sora wouldn't have it any other way.
"Riku, I...don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come back with me. If the darkness-"
"Have you forgotten who my best friend is?" Riku snorted, speaking quietly in the gloom, his face covered in shadow. "With you there beside me, there was no way that was gonna happen. You wouldn't have let it happen, even if I had given up on myself."
It was true. Sora would have given himself to the darkness first before he would have let Riku slip away from him again.
That's why he's my best friend. That's why I tried so hard to find him...
Riku suddenly sat up, and Sora blinked in surprise as the silver-haired teen quickly leaned over him, the barest hint of concern in his uniquely coloured eyes. "What are you thinking about? Ready to tell me now what's bugging you?"
"I...feel things...inside my heart."
Riku continued to gaze at him, the silver-haired teen's expression unreadable. "What kind of things?"
"Lots of things."
Riku waited, his silence and the obvious fact that he was listening intently giving Sora the courage to continue. "I...don't really know how to explain it. There's just these feelings in my heart. Sadness, pain, regret, all these feelings I don't really understand. I'm happy, I know I am, but...I feel like my heart is...hurting..."
Riku pulled back a bit, and Sora sat up next to his friend, shifting so they were facing each other in the sand. Both of them were sitting cross-legged, their knees touching, and Sora took comfort from their closeness, the strength of Riku's spirit flowing into his heart, helping to ease the tension that seemed to have built up inside his body.
"These feelings," Riku said slowly, studying him closely, "do they bother you?"
Sora shook his head, denying his friend's words. "No, it's not that. At least, not in the way that you think. It's...what I feel inside my heart...They feel like my feelings, but at the same time, they feel...different somehow. I don't really know how to explain it, but I don't think these feelings are mine..."
Riku didn't answer, and Sora felt his cheeks start to turn a faint shade of pink. "It's stupid, I know. It doesn't make any sense, but-"
"It's not stupid."
Sora perked up immediately, and he gave his best friend a hopeful look. "You don't think so?"
Riku quickly shook his head, a frown marring his handsome face. "No. Do you think...Roxas, maybe?"
Sora bowed his head, a hand once again coming up to rest gently against his heart. "Maybe. Partly, but...I don't think it's just him. There are just so many feelings. They can't all belong to Roxas, and I..."
"You want to do something about it," Riku finished, the expression on his face instantly softening into a look that Sora couldn't quite read, though he took note of the admiration and respect in Riku's gaze that was clearly directed at him, making him feel warm inside.
"I want to help. It doesn't make any sense, I know, especially since these feelings are inside my own heart, but...I can't just sit back and do nothing."
"No. That wouldn't be you, would it."
"I want to...I don't know. Fix things somehow. I wouldn't feel so bad if it was just me, but...I know it's not just me, it's..."
"There's somebody else out there who's hurting pretty badly," Riku said quietly, lifting his gaze to the stars.
Sora stared at his friend and his heart began to pound rapidly in his chest. Riku's words. He was sure he'd heard them before, and they were similar to the thoughts that had been running through his mind earlier. The line was definitely familiar, and he couldn't help wondering if maybe Riku, or someone else, had said those same words to him before.
There's something I'm not seeing. I feel like...like maybe I'm forgetting something important...
Sora lifted his gaze to the stars, and he suddenly felt a strange sense of deja vu, as if maybe he'd been in a similar situation once before.
Startled out of his thoughts, Sora turned to see what Riku was pointing at, and as he watched in fascination, a star fell in the distance, leaving a trail of golden dust in its wake, and then another star fell and other one, until the sky was filled with them, their brilliant light sparkling in the water below. Next came what looked like glowing cosmic debris streaking across the sky, meteoroids smaller than a grain of sand flashing brighter than the stars, putting on a show of their own.
A meteor shower.
I've seen this before. No, not me...
He had seen meteor showers before, but not like this one...not like that one...
"This place...I've been here. So warm...I remember now. This is your heart."
Sora let out a soft gasp, his hand pressing closer to his heart, and shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he turned to Riku, the words tumbling out of his mouth before he could fully think through what he was going to say. "Riku, do you sometimes think that maybe we might be forgetting something important? Like maybe...I don't know, like we're missing something big? Like...like there's this big piece of the puzzle that still needs to be filled?"
Riku glanced around the small island, his expression once again becoming thoughtful. "Maybe...You mean...with everything that's happened?"
"Yeah..." Sora glanced around the island, as well, the familiar sights suddenly taking on a new meaning. He had a feeling he was on the verge of discovering something vitally important, something that might answer some of the many questions still lingering in his heart. Questions about his journey with the Keyblade that he still didn't quite understand. Pieces of the puzzle that were indeed still missing. Things that just didn't add up. But the harder he tried to figure out what he was forgetting, the more his memories seemed to elude him.
And because of that he knew he wasn't imagining things. There was something there, something he still had yet to see, and the faint whispers in his heart seemed to sense it, too, because they suddenly grew quiet. They hadn't disappeared, Sora could always feel them, as their presence had grown stronger since his journey had come to an end, but they were less active at the moment, though despite that they still felt stronger than they had ever felt before. It was almost as if they were waiting. Watching and waiting for something to happen. What, Sora didn't know, but he knew there was something there, and he reached out to those feelings in his heart, to the presence of those lingering deep inside him, hoping to reassure them. To give them hope.
Whoever they were.
Roxas, he was sure he felt, for his Nobody's presence was always close to him, but the other feelings...people, maybe? He didn't know what he felt, but whoever they were or whatever it was he felt in his heart, if there were indeed others, like Roxas, they too seemed to need comfort, and Sora was happy to provide what little comfort he could, even if he didn't fully understand what was going on himself.
Sora fell back on the sand again, unable to look at his friend. "Riku, do you think...it's really over? Do you think all of us, you, me, and Kairi, are really home for good this time?"
Sora knew Riku would never lie to him, and the silver-haired teen did not disappoint. Instead of false reassurances and empty words of comfort, Riku simply looked at him and said calmly, "I don't know, but I do know one thing."
Riku lay back down next to him on the sand, a determined look in the silver-haired teen's aquamarine eyes. "If something does happen, this time it'll be different. This time, we stick together. There might be moments when we have no choice but to separate, but unlike last time, we'll always be together in here."
Sora looked over to see that Riku had placed a hand against his own heart, and sitting up, he pulled Riku towards him, burying his face against the silver-haired teen's shoulder and wrapping an arm around his friend's neck in a fierce hug. It was one of those hugs that only best friends who knew each other better than they knew themselves could share, and Sora struggled to keep his voice even and is emotions in check. "Promise?"
"If it comes to that and we're forced to leave our home again, we stick together, we fight together, we end this together," Riku said firmly into his shoulder, the older teen's fierce tone leaving no room for doubt. "If there's one thing this journey has taught me, it's something I knew all along, but I was never able to admit it to myself or to see it for what it really was. You, me, and Kairi. Our hearts are connected, and no matter how many times we end up getting separated, somehow we'll always manage to find our way back to each other. You were the one who taught me that, Sora, and I'm not about to forget it any time soon."
Sora pulled back slightly so he could look his best friend in the eyes, elated by what he saw glimmering beneath the surface of Riku's aqua gaze.
Faith, trust, understanding, and a deep respect for what they shared, for what even the darkness of the heart had not been able to sever, though not for lack of trying.
"So, no matter what...even if we somehow do end up apart, we'll always be together. You'll always be in my heart, and I'll be in yours."
"And we'll find our way back to each other, just like before," Riku replied, holding out his hand.
Sora took the offered hand, giving it a firm squeeze, sealing their pact.
"Now our hearts have touched..."
Riku's arm draped itself around Sora's shoulders, and they both turned to gaze at the meteor shower that was still showing off to them in the sky.
"By the way, you were always in my heart," Riku added, without looking at him. "That never changed. Just so you know."
Sora didn't reply. He just smiled and put his arm around Riku's waist, returning the gesture of affection.
Deep inside his heart, in Kairi's heart, and far beyond the skies of Destiny Islands, in places where the light could not reach, there were those who waited, and soon a letter in a bottle would wash up onto the shores of Destiny Islands, eluding to all the things Sora was feeling deep within the inner recesses of his heart. And while events continued to unfold, no doubt plunging the trio from Destiny Islands right into the centre of all that was still to come, an old man by the name of Yen Sid and his former apprentice, the King of Disney Castle, were making plans for two young chosen wielders of the Keyblade to gain their mastery of what, when it came right down to it, were the keys to the heart, bringing them one step closer to saving the lost hearts of those who waited, allowing old friends to reconnect.