Alright everyone, the last chapter is up! I just wanted to say thank you for everyone who stuck with this story, as well offer thanks to those who offered their opinions and reviews. :) Thanks again, and happy reading!
Sora walked along the wet, soggy sand, his feet leaving deep trails in the ruined beach. As he knew it would, the storm had left a sizeable amount of damage. The trees had been permanently bent, branches and leaves had been stripped from their withered trunks and debris littered the sand like the messy room of a child.
Riku's house had sustained minimal damage, as did many around it. Shingles from the roof were lying about on the sand, but the wooden boards they had put up had saved the windows and doors.
As Sora forged the trail from the house, stepping over planks of wood, seaweed and glass, he felt his heart plunging into whatever fleshy blackness that made up his chest cavity. It was hammering powerfully against his rib cage, reminding him with each pulse of blood that everything was right and wrong at the same time, and that the wrongness would cost him something he valued more than almost anything. He wanted to look back, to lock himself behind Riku's door and stay there, but he forced himself to continue on.
His feet and legs felt heavy—partly from the wet sand he was dragging along with him, and partly because even though he knew the visit was necessary, he really, really, really didn't want to see her. He was afraid of what she would say and afraid of what she would do. What if she cried? What if she slapped him? What if she said she would never speak to him again?
A cold shiver ran up his spine as he considered the prospect of losing someone he loved so dearly, even if it wasn't the way he had loved her before; wasn't the way he loved Riku now.
Even so, he knew that it had to be done so he mustered up the courage to stand on her porch.
He lifted up his fist to knock on the wood, and a dull porch light came on, cutting through the dark gray color of the sky. The light warmed his face, but did little to keep the cold from his bones.
He waited patiently for her to answer, hoping that she didn't hear him, and that he could just go back home and forget the whole thing, but the quiet sound of footsteps behind the door dismissed his silent wish.
The mechanisms in the doorknob shifted, and Sora felt anxious and began tapping his feet. When her head finally appeared between the crack in the door and the wall, Sora thought his heart was going to beat itself out of his chest.
She looked at him curiously, a reddish eyebrow lifted. "Sora?"
"Eh, Hi." It was all he could force himself to say.
"Hi?" She smiled and opened the door wider for him to enter, which he did with trepidation. She seemed to pick up on his bizarre body language and adopted an uncomfortable expression. "What brings you over?"
Sora entered her house and quickly took note of the smell of sugar, spices, and fruit permeating the air. The sugary scent of baked goods swirled pleasantly around his nose. He knew that storms made her just as jumpy as they made Riku and him, and she had found peace in cooking.
She looked at him expectantly.
"I think…I think I have to talk to you, Kairi."
The smile on her face wavered for a second; it was a cross between confusion, and a nascent sense that something she feared had arrived. But in a flash, the smile was back, and melted into an expression of unassuming curiosity. "You do?"
Sora swallowed. "Uh, yeah."
Kairi stared at him for a few seconds then nodded, taking in the serious expression on his face. "Ah, okay. Is something wrong?"
Kairi nodded again, and that same expression crossed her face, the one that made Sora's nerves pinch, and his skin prickle. "Should we sit?"
It was Sora's turn to nod now, and he did so with a heavy head. He seated himself as far away from her as possible on the couch and took her in. She sat down daintily, taking care to arrange her skirt about her legs. He really sat and looked at her; her face, her arms, her smile, her eyes. He looked at the way her hair curved around her neck, the way her shoulders slanted perfectly, like a pixy, or a fairy, or a sprite; the way her lips met in an even, heart shape and produced a musical, symphonic voice. He looked at her hands—capable of crafting the most intricate of charms and decorations, many of which he still kept to this very day; her knees and legs, ankles and feet.
When he lifted his gaze back up to her eyes though, he felt an throbbing heaviness erupt all over his being, because even though he was sure he was making the right decision; even though he knew that in the long run it would be better for all of them, this would be the last time he would be able to see her face this way.
It would be the last time he would see her not hating him.
With this though in mind, his mouth went dry and he had to clasp his hands together to keep them from shaking.
"How are you, Kairi?"
She seemed unsure of how to answer his question and tilted her head to the side. Deciding not to rush him into whatever it was he wanted to say, she smiled nervously. "I've been okay. That was one crazy storm earlier, wasn't it? In fact, I'm surprised that you're here so soon after…"
"I know. It is really sudden. I thought it might be best if I didn't wait."
She nodded again, and watched him. "Wait for what?"
"I need to talk to you about something. About us."
Kairi looked alarmed for a flash of a moment, then cleared her throat. "About us?"
"I think we…" Sora sighed, the words sticking in his throat.
"Just tell me what it is." The waver in her voice betrayed her; she knew what it was he was going to say. He knew she did. He could tell.
"I don't think we should be together anymore."
Her eyes widened anyway. Perhaps it was hearing it said out loud. It became real. "What?"
Sora chewed his lip. "Kairi, I'm sorry. I don't know what else to—"
"Why are you saying this? Have I done something wrong?"
"No!" He nearly shouted, a surge of pain rising up through his body. "Not you. It isn't you. You have to believe that."
She scoffed at this. "How am I supposed to? You decide today that you're going to leave, and I'm supposed to believe that I haven't done something? Did I say something? Is there something I'm not doing?"
He shook his head and made a motion to grab her hands, but thought better of it. "It has nothing to do with you, Kairi. You've been wonderful to me. Better than I have been to you."
"So you're breaking up with me because you think you're not being an adequate boyfriend? The last I heard, I haven't had any complaints." She sent him a look that could kill, and Sora thought she had nearly succeeded in doing so. He had never before seen such venom, seen so much hurt.
"You don't understand. You have been great to me. There's nothing that you've done wrong. It really is me this time." He put a hand to his chest and did his best to look at her. "I can't do this to you, Kairi. I love you too much."
"Sora, you're not making any sense." She looked away and clutched her knees with her hands. "Just tell me what's wrong."
Sora bit his lips again. "I can't just let us be as we were. My feelings have changed, and I've learned that it hurts more to pretend than to be honest." He went against his previous judgment from earlier and did take her hands in his. "I care about you, Kairi." He felt his eyes tearing up, and when one threatened to spill over, he paused to wipe it away. "Kairi," he said quietly. "I can't be with you anymore."
She took her hands out of his and clenched her fists. Sora felt as if she was squeezing his heart, and knew that she had every right too. "Can I ask why?"
Sora stared at his own hands silently, feeling her heated gaze on him.
She rubbed her temples. "Is there…is there someone else?"
Sora remained silent, wincing at the implication. He knew that he had been wrong, he knew that he shouldn't have done this to her, but when he heard it uttered out loud, he was visibly bothered.
She shook her head and put a hand up. "I mean I," She looked at him, then back at her lap, then back at him. "You…and…?"
Sora looked away from her, and he could tell she already knew. He briefly worried that she might be mad at Riku too, for something that was really not his fault. If he managed to wreck her relationship with Riku too, he wasn't sure what he would do.
"You and Riku? You and Riku?"
Sora knew he wouldn't be able to look her in the eye. It was the ultimate betrayal—picking one friend over another. If she decided to launch herself across the room and attack him, he wouldn't blame her. He couldn't apologize, he couldn't ask for forgiveness. Nothing seemed like it would be enough. All he could do was nod stupidly as she scoffed.
"You and Riku. You and Riku! I can't believe you would…" She sent him another hateful look, a mixture of despair, anger, frustration and pain. Sora couldn't handle it. He had to close his eyes. He couldn't take her looking at him that way.
"Kairi, please… I don't want, I don't…"
"How long," she demanded suddenly, her eyes a picture of ferocity, stern, demanding, sad.
"It's not like you think, Kairi. I would never—"
"Nevermind," she said breathlessly, standing from her seated position on the couch, her slippers scuffling against the floor. She looked about angrily for a moment, then her gaze landed on a large travel bag. "I don't want to know. I don't want to know anything. I don't want to know anything!"
She stormed over to the bag and placed it on her table, collecting a few more along the way—one from a nearby table, and one from the kitchen. She placed all of them on the coffee table and the couch before she paused to stare through him.
Kairi's cheeks were reddening, and it made Sora's heart melt. He saw what he thought were tears welling up in her eyes, and he knew that if a single one fell, his melting heart would suddenly shatter into a million, sharp, jagged pieces.
She closed her eyes for a long moment, though, successfully keeping the tears back for an undetermined amount of time, then opened them; bright blue dashed with betrayal. Sora thought she looked awful that way, and knew that all that marred beauty was his fault.
"I really should get packing for my trip. It would be awful if I kept my grandmother waiting, you know?"
"She's been sick lately. I don't remember if I told you about it."
She rubbed her eyes roughly with the back of her wrist and took a few steps away from him. "I know I have obligations here to attend to. You know how much I like the islands, being here with friends, but it's important that I go to her."
"Of course it is."
"Because she needs me. She needs me a lot, and it's only right. It's only right that I be with her. Do you understand?"
Sora felt pressure behind his own eyes as he watched her, listened to her. He took all of it in, her cracking voice, her trembling fists, her red-rimmed eyes threatening to spill over with tears. "I understand, Kairi. I just…I just…"
Kairi was throwing things into a bag on her sofa, Tupperware dishes, napkins, eating utensils. "I knew I would have to leave eventually. She sometimes has these episodes, you know? I have to go." She paused to try to fit a dish in the bag that would not sit level. She worked with it, her hands rough on the plastic. Sora envisioned her strangling him.
She pushed against the dish, but it refused to budge. Her arms were shaking, knuckles white. Frustrated, she gave up and released a sigh that could end the world. Sora felt his legs walk his body over before he realized he was even doing it, and arranged the dish into the bag for her, his hands brushing against hers. He could feel all of her pain, all of her anger.
She pulled her hands free and ran them through her hair, pointedly staring at Sora, who could only look back at her pitiably. She held his gaze for a few long moments, then closed her eyes, another sigh filling the room.
"I'm going," she said at long last. "I'm going, but I will be back. I want you to know that."
Sora felt his heart beating again, but this time it had stopped reminding him that it was sinking.
"I'm going, but I'll be back," Kairi repeated, walking to the other side of the room to collect another bag. "I need time to take care of my grandmother, but she will get well soon. When she does, I'll be back. Then, I don't know what will happen, but I will be here."
Sora nodded his head slowly, watching her path across the room and wondering how he could have possibly met someone like her.
"You should go. I have a lot of packing to do," she said quietly, her back to him. "And don't offer to carry my bags for me. I can do it myself."
Sora nodded. "I won't."
"Okay then," he said unsure. He started stepping back, towards the door. "I will wait for you to get back."
With that, he slipped out of the door, purposely walking quickly off of her porch, to escape the sound of sobs he could hear from behind the door. He knew she would cry. He knew this would hurt her.
But there was a glimmer somewhere, a glimmer of something hopeful. He wasn't sure they were going to be okay yet, in fact, he was sure they were far from that point. But he couldn't help but hope that somehow, that in some way they would be…
Sora felt moisture on his cheeks and rubbed his face roughly. When he looked back up, he realized where he was facing, and remembered a certain promise made to him by a friend.
As more moisture dotted his cheeks, he ran. He ran down the beach, kicking up sand, following footsteps he had already made along a path that had been made permanent.
Riku winced as he stepped on the side of one of the nails he had dropped from earlier. He was thankful that the pointed side was not up when his foot unfortunately landed on it, but he became more aware that he should probably go about cleaning up. Hunting around for more of the renegade nails on the floor, he was both pleased and disturbed when he found more. Walking to the kitchen could have easily ended very badly.
Five nails later, he was depositing them into the drawer, and was startled when he heard a familiar sound at his front door. It was a wicked knocking, similar to what the wind had done to his roof earlier, but this time it was panicked, uneasy. Riku had known that Sora was going to speak to Kairi, but he was surprised that he had done so this quickly. He had half expected for him to wander around the beach for a few hours, return, complain about not being able to do it, then try again every day for another week or so. He supposed that it spoke to Sora's character, how much he truly cared about her; about him.
It was because of this that he wasted no time in closing the distance between himself and the door, wrenching it open to find Sora barely able to control his tears, his face a picture of despair. Wordlessly, Riku opened his arms, and Sora crashed into him, smearing tears all over his shirt, crying as though he had just lost his best friend.
A very real possibility.
Riku silently held him, rubbed his back the best way he knew how. He wasn't the best at being able to console people, and was in fact quite used to being the one people needed consoling about. A crying Sora clinging to his arms was not at all a common occurrence, especially since their exploits through the darkness had changed him so; it had changed both of them. These days it seemed though, that all of the emotions denied of them were starting to come out, feelings they had repressed to stay strong against the forces of darkness. Both of them had emoted more recently than they had during that time.
Riku managed to maneuver Sora inside just enough to get the door closed, but other than that, he remained silent. He wanted to be a sturdy pillar for Sora to cry on. He himself hadn't given much thought about how Kairi might react, partly because he wasn't as close to her as Sora, and partly because he was still trying to understand how all of this had happened. Now that he was seeing the aftermath; however, he could only imagine how hard this conversation must have been. As someone who had once been on the other side of that conversation too, he really felt badly for her.
As Sora cried, Riku held him, moving over to the couch as Sora snorted and sniffed his way through a crying spell that seemed to drain him. Riku hoped that his silence wasn't coming off the wrong way. Aside from not truly knowing what to do, he understood that Sora just need to have this moment to mourn a relationship that had meant a great deal to him.
It was a good while later when evidence of its end began to emerge. Sora had quieted a bit, his face red and wet, his voice a shuddering hiccup. Riku dared not say the first word, lest he find need to continue, so he waited until Sora completely gathered himself together.
Sora let out a sigh, and coughed once before he looked up at Riku. He blinked back the remainder of his tears, and wiped his face with his hand. Riku didn't have much to offer him except for a towel he had apparently left draped over the back of his couch some time ago, so he handed it to Sora and waited for him to satisfactorily clean his face.
Sora handed it back wordlessly, and just stared at his lap.
"…Are you okay?" Riku offered quietly, muttering it so softly he wasn't even sure if Sora heard him.
Sora apparently had, and nodded slowly. "Yeah."
"Are you sure? If you need time to think or something, the kitchen is back there." He motioned with his head to the door, then added quickly "I also took the plywood off the door, so if you need to go home or…"
Sora shook his head and sighed. "I'm really okay. Thank you. That was just…"
"Harder than hard. Getting Tidus to make sense is hard. Convincing you that you're wrong is hard. This was…this was…"
Sora nodded. "It was painful, But…" he chewed his lip and looked up at Riku. "It was something that I had to do."
Sora snorted at this and chose to flop completely into Riku's lap. "Now would not be the time to ask me that. After I went up to bat for you, you'd better believe I'm serious at this point."
"I believe you, I just…" He sighed, unable to resist pinching a lock of Sora's hair and pulling it. "I just don't want to make things harder for you. I told you that I'd be willing to settle being your best friend."
"Stop doing that."
"Stop doing what?"
"That," Sora said pointedly. "Stop saying things that make me want to punch you."
"Hmph, it's not my fault you have a violent streak."
"No, but it is your fault for worrying about me so much." He moved, and realized too late that Riku still had a lock of his hair pinched between his fingers. Wincing, he continued. "If I'm willing to break up with the best girlfriend I've ever had for a jerk like you, I'd say you're just refusing to see the obvious if you don't believe me now."
"That's not it…"
"Yes it is," Sora said dismissively.
"No it's not. I just want to make sure you're not going to regret this later. She was important to you. I'm not—" Riku couldn't help himself. He was beginning to feel guilty again, and needed a small shred of reassurance that he was doing the right thing; that being so selfish could possibly be the right thing. Sora; however, was more than sure, and refused to let him grieve the loss of his supposed righteousness.
"If you're going to say 'worth it,' I really am going to hit you and probably break your nose. Now shut up and let me mourn the loss of Kairi, and embrace the new jerk I'm replacing her with." He smiled. "Got me?"
Sora kind of wondered if he should regret being so snappy, but he was still upset, and Riku wasn't doing much to make it better. The small smile that cracked on Riku's face; however, gave him all of the reassurance that he would possibly need. "Good. I was just letting you know that this was your last opportunity to back out. I'm not going to let you go so easily, okay?"
Sora grinned, relief washing over him like a tidal wave. "It's perfectly Okay."
Sora rearranged himself from his seated position and spread his arms, ready to give Riku a flying-tackle-hug he had been saving to both finalize things, and be slightly annoying, but he hesitated mid leap, narrowing his eyes. "Wait, does this mean we're official?"
Riku rolled his eyes and pulled his hand around Sora's head and curled it into his shoulder. Grinning as he struggled beneath his strength, he rubbed a hand roughly through Sora's hair. "Yes. We're married."
"That's not what I meant…and let go!"
Riku rubbed his head again finally let him up for air, pleased at the disgruntled look that was marring Sora's features. "I know. But I don't think we need to give us a title. We just…are. If you start acting all weird just because of it, I'll never forgive you."
"Same to you." Sora scoffed. He agreed, but refused to show it. With a huff, he sat back down on the couch next to Riku, smiling to himself, and taking in a large gulp of air before releasing it. He was content sitting there in the dark, next to a friend who meant so much more than a friend. Riku was quiet too, his arm loosely hanging over the back of the couch, the silence comfortable between them.
Suddenly, a growl rippled throughout the room, not so unlike the storm that had previously been attacking the island. Sora immediately began searching around. "Hmph, pretty sure I left my bag of chips here." Spying the rumpled bag on the table, he reached for them.
Riku lifted a silver eyebrow. "Is this all you've eaten all day?"
"It's not by choice. I was kind of in a hurry this morning."
"That explains why you didn't think to come over during more sane atmospheric conditions. Your brain is starved."
Sora's eyebrows waggled, and he elbowed him in the side, grinning. "Are you offering to cook me eggs and toast, dearest?"
"I'm starting to hate you."
That wraps it up! Please remember to submit feedback if you have a moment.