"Damn. Why am I always the one stuck doing all the work?" Riku grumbled under his breath, running his hands through his shoulder-length hair. He slowly straightened up from his kneeling position and surveyed the work in progress displayed at his feet. A decently sized raft was nestled within the soft sand of the shore, looking as though it was well on its way to being complete. The structure appeared to be quite stable, despite the limited supplies on the small island. It was made of several thick logs hoisted together with rope, and even the beginnings of a mast were visible.

The 15-year-old islander released a heavy sigh and spun around on the heel of his blue sneakers to begin his search for worthy supplies. He walked up near the shanty buildings of the island (mainly just houses built around and within massive trees) in search of more wood, dipping his head to a few other teens he passed. Strangely enough, Riku never walked by the two particular people he was looking for. There weren't a lot of residents on the island to begin with. How could it be this hard to find them? Sora, if you're off napping again, I swear-

Riku shook his head to himself and began rummaging through the palm leaves littering the ground for any sign of something useful. A smile lit up his face upon finding a sturdy log resting beneath the lush palms. He heaved it up onto one shoulder and made his way back toward the shore, suddenly noticing two teens chatting near the rolling waves. They were just the people he was looking for.

As Riku approached them, his ears picked up part of the conversation. One of them, a younger boy with spiky brown hair and bright blue eyes, was announcing his dreams of seeing other worlds beyond the island. A girl with short, reddish-brown hair was standing beside him, the words coming from her mouth plain and clear. "So what're we waiting for?"

"Hey," Riku called out, pulling the log down from his shoulder and holding it against his hip, "aren't you guys forgetting about me?"

Sora and Kairi turned to look at him as he smirked and shook his head. "So, I guess I'm the only one working on the raft." He glanced down at where Sora was sitting and half-heartedly tossed the log down to him. Not expecting this, the 14-year-old stumbled back as it landed on him, and Riku couldn't help but smile at his clumsiness. However, instead of helping Sora up, he approached Kairi.

"And you're just as lazy as he is," he scolded her playfully, hands on his hips.

Kairi let out a small giggle, something Riku never got tired of hearing. The younger girl always had the cutest laugh, and Riku constantly felt like an older brother to her, despite not being at all related. He just felt the need to protect her, which was what any older brother would feel.

"Okay, we'll finish the raft together," she said enthusiastically. "I'll race you!"

"Are you kidding?" Riku sighed and sat next to Sora, who had just managed to push the log off of himself. There was no way he was up for a race. Exhaustion from the heat and from working on the raft was bearing down on him. However, as Kairi persisted with a shout of, "go," Riku felt Sora looking at him. He slowly turned his head to gaze back at his friend, and the looks they saw in each other's eyes said it all. In an instant, both boys leapt to their feet and began darting across the beach, leaving Kairi far behind.

As they ran, Riku glanced to the side at Sora, a grin crossing his face upon seeing the determination in the boy's eyes. The two were constantly competing with one another - whether it was racing, battling, or even just a dispute over the tiniest thing. It was friendly competition, though, and Riku took pride in winning practically everything. There were times when Sora got threateningly close to being the "champion," but Riku would never admit that. Nor would he admit almost letting Sora win a few times. He just loved seeing that bright look on the 14-year-old's face each time things were looking up for him.

For that race, Riku came close to letting Sora win. He wanted to see how the younger teen would react, but Riku was far too proud for that. As they approached the raft, a sudden burst of speed pushed at Riku's legs and he dashed ahead of his best friend, slapping a hand on the "finish line" once he reached it. Sora fell onto his knees in front of the wooden structure, panting heavily.

"Why do you feel the need to do that?" he gasped while taking in deep breaths.

"Do what?"

"Give me the slightest hope of winning and then take it away at the last minute."

Riku released a laugh and looked down at him with folded arms. "Because the look on your face is adorable."

Riku saw his friend's befuddled expression, but called out to Kairi before anything could be questioned. The girl leisurely walked up to the raft and smiled before taking a seat beside Sora.

"Took you long enough," Riku murmured.

"Well, that's a bit mean," she giggled lightly. "I didn't think we were in such a big rush."

"You're the one who wanted to race," Sora mentioned with a sideways glance.

"I guess so. I just didn't know we were hurrying to finish the raft."

"Don't you wanna get off this island?" Riku asked and pushed his silvery hair out of his face.

"Of course I do! But we don't have that much left to do, do we?"

"Whatever we do have left, I vote Sora finishes it."

The spiky-haired teen straightened up suddenly and whipped around to stare at Riku. "What? Why?" he protested with a wrinkled nose.

Riku smirked. "Because you're the one who has been taking naps when work should be done. What do you do all night that makes you so tired anyway?" He placed his hands on his hips and bent down to be face-to-face with Sora. "If you want, we can have another race to see who gets to gather the rest of the supplies, but that'd just be a waste of your energy."

Sora glared defiantly back at Riku, but got to his feet nonetheless. "Fine. What do we need?"

It was Kairi who answered. "Well, we need some sort of cloth for a sail, a few more logs..."

"And maybe more rope," Riku continued, smirking at the peeved look on Sora's face.

The brown-haired teen nodded firmly, flashed one last irritated glance at Riku, then spun around and darted away. For a few moments, Riku and Kairi simply watched as Sora left. Then, Kairi looked over at the taller teen beside her.

"Are you really not going to help him?" the girl asked curiously.

A smile pulled at the silver-haired boy's lips and he gently shook his head. "Nah, I'll help him. It was just entertaining to see his reaction," Riku chuckled. And he looks absolutely adorable when annoyed.

Kairi giggled and nodded. "You definitely got him there," she grinned. "Anything you want me to do?"

"You can just wait here for us. Then we'll finish the raft together."

Riku dipped his head to the younger girl and raced in the direction Sora had run off to. When he passed a teenager balancing a ball on one finger, he stopped to ask where Sora had gone.

"He went up to the treehouse there," Wakka said and pointed upward with his free hand.

Riku smiled at the boy with the blue headband and darted up the wooden steps to the indicated treehouse. When he turned around the corner to peer into the tiny fort, he saw Sora surveying a large cloth hanging upon the wall. At first, the younger teen was completely unaware of Riku's presence, which actually pleased Riku to have the chance to just watch. Then, he stepped over to Sora and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Hey, I don't think that cloth will perform a trick if you stare at it long enough."

Sora was taken completely by surprise. He nearly jumped out of his clothes at the touch to his shoulder and twirled around to face whoever had been spying on him. Upon realizing it was his best friend, he relaxed.

"You could've made a bit more noise so I knew you were coming!" the teen complained and ran his hands through his hair. "Why are you always teasing me?"

"You're so easy to tease, Sora," Riku beamed and ruffled the shorter teen's hair. "Stop being so stiff!"

Sora attempted to duck out of the deadlock around his head, but ended up just laughing along with Riku until he was released. "Hey! I'm not stiff!" he frowned playfully.

"Oh really? You're the one who got all moody when you lost the race, you big grump," Riku snickered.

Sora jutted out his bottom lip sportively, but finally just shook his head and returned his attention to the cloth. "D'you think this'll work?"

Riku glanced at it with a hand to his chin in thought, then shrugged. "It looks like it should be big enough. Let's take it. I don't see what purpose it's serving just hanging there." The 15-year-old pulled the cloth down from its place and draped it over one arm. Then he began to make his way out of the treehouse.

"Wait," Sora called suddenly, causing Riku to stop and look over his shoulder, "can I talk to you about something?"

A curious look crossed Riku's face, and he stepped back over to Sora's side. He didn't speak, but merely looked at his friend and gestured for him to continue.

"Do you think it's possible to go to other worlds in your sleep?"

"Well, yeah- I dream about other places all the time."

"No, I mean literally."

Riku stared at Sora with a raised brow, but before he could question it, the younger teen pursued the matter even further.

"I had a dream last night that didn't even feel like a dream. It felt so real. I battled this big black creature, then the shadows swallowed me up and I ended up on the beach!"

After a moment of silence, a laugh could be heard through the small house. Riku, who had made the sound, placed a hand on Sora's shoulder and shook his head.

"You've always had such a huge imagination, Sora," he smiled. "Maybe you should stop dreaming up these bizarre things and concentrate on what's more important; like the actual real people in your life."

"I told you! It wasn't a dream!" Sora argued furiously. "You're acting just like Kairi. She blew off the idea, too! I thought you, out of all people, would listen to me!"

Riku's smile faded for a brief moment, but he quickly forced it back onto his face. The teen wrapped his arm around Sora's shoulders and gave him a gentle, affectionate squeeze. "And as your friend, I'm telling you not to worry about it."

Sora moodily averted his gaze from Riku, determined to stay angry with him. However, Riku simply smirked, placed a hand under Sora's chin, then tilted his head up. He gazed into his deep pools of eyes, mesmerized for that moment.

"As long as we stick together, we can get through anything," Riku grinned. "So, promise me this, pinhead: we'll always stay together, whatever it takes."

Sora looked slightly shocked at first, but he finally cracked a smile and nodded. "Okay, I promise."

Riku dipped his head and slowly, almost reluctantly, let Sora slide out of his arms. He then adjusted the cloth that had begun to slide off and placed his other hand on his hip. "That was a promise you just made, so don't break it. I'll hold it against you forever," he teased with a wink. "Now, let's go find the rest of those supplies to keep Kairi from waiting."

The silver-haired teen gently pushed Sora out of the treehouse ahead of him, taking a moment to survey his friend. How could the 14-year-old be so naive? Didn't he get any of Riku's hints as to how he really felt about him? Nevertheless, Sora had made a promise, and he sincerely hoped he'd keep it. Riku couldn't imagine living without him.