Disclaimer: If I owned the universe, why would I bother posting stuff here?

This is just a quick drabble, honestly, just some practice at writing SoKai to warm up for returning to my other story—The Stuff of Heroes. This is a standalone piece, slightly AU since 3D has been out for a while now; it takes place after KHII but before 3D.

I hope you guys enjoy it, leave a review if you feel like it.

Here goes nothing…


The worlds may be whole again, but he came back in pieces.

Something is wrong with Sora.

Kairi knows this as surely as she knows that the sky is blue and the grass is green. Her own ordeals in the worlds beyond her own have left their mark on her psyche, and she understands just as well as Sora and Riku that, when one has faced the horrors that they themselves have, everyone has their own method of coping.

Riku surrounds himself with girls. It's no secret that many of the girls on Destiny Islands have a crush on him, and absence, it would seem, really does make the heart grow fonder. His shameless acceptance of the lionization offered to him by the greater female populace of Destiny Islands has garnered him a reputation as something of a player, but he doesn't seem to mind. He takes it in stride, all smiles and waves and smooth one-liners.

If anything, Kairi refletcts, he enjoys all the extra attention.

The trysts that Riku goes on with these girls have caused more than a few fights and arguments at school, but Riku just breaks it up with an easy smile and the promise that there's enough of him to go around.

At first, Kairi had been annoyed by all the attention Riku'd been giving everyone else, but he always made time for her and Sora, unwilling to risk their rock-solid friendship for a little romantic excitement.

In the absence of his adoring fans, his eyes are a little more jaded, and the corners of his mouth shade further toward scowl than smirk. All in all, despite having gained a little more wisdom and being slightly more direct and cynical than most would deem appropriate for his age, Riku, Kairi decides, hasn't really changed all that much.

Sora however, is another matter entirely.

His happy-go-lucky, eternally-optimistic personality seems to have been cut out of him with a dull knife.

Sora's never been an early riser, or as intent on being physically fit as Riku, but now…it consumes him.

He's up at six every morning to go for a run on the beach, and then it's an hour of strength training before Kairi even gets to see him in the morning.

They've taken to staying together, just like Sora promised.

She sleeps in his bed, and he sleeps on the floor in an old sleeping bag with the door wide open—this is the only arrangement their parents will allow.

It is an odd thing for both of them, Hero and Heroine, worlds-renowned, hailed as saviors in every corner of the universe, to be subject once again to the laws of their parents.

The boy—no, young man—who literally committed suicide to save the young woman he loves, still has to go to bed at a reasonable hour on school nights.

And the princess that he saved, revered and respected for her bravery, tenacity, and skill with a blade despite her inexperience, still has to call if she's going to be home after eleven.

It isn't uncommon for Sora to hold Kairi at night to keep the nightmares at bay, nor is it unusual for Sora's mother to check on them in the wee hours of the morning, to find Kairi stroking Sora's hair, whispering in his ear and kissing his forehead as he trembles and shakes in a cold sweat from his latest nightly torments.

This night is no different.

Kairi's tears drip onto Sora's chest as he holds her close to him, trying to mask the tremors that wrack his own body.

"It's alright." He says, though his voice implies the latter. "You're safe. I've got you."

And later, when he wakes up, Keyblade in hand from his latest night terror, Kairi eases him back to the floor, holding him together as he falls apart, and it is in this moment that she realizes it:

The worlds may be whole again, but he came back in pieces.

The scars he bears are physical as well as mental; a jagged line of scar tissue along his side, a healing bruise on his temple, and of course, the vertical line in the center of his chest.

But even though they're barely holding it together, they manage.

Because love is the glue that holds the universe together—their respective forays into the outside world have taught them nothing if not this.

And although their budding romance is not without the awkwardness that comes with realizing that sometime in the last year and a half, the girl he left behind has become a beautiful young lady, one who still makes his heart leap into his throat when she smiles at him—this girl that he has laughed and played and teased and argued and bickered with, is the very same young woman that makes him cross his legs when she winks at him to hide what it does to him.

Nor is it without the slight embarrassment that is part of realizing that the skinny, lazy, goofball who left her behind, is the same chiseled young man that makes her blush when he catches her staring at him on the beach, or when she wonders about the size of his ridiculously large shoes…

These are part of the relationship that has sustained them through trials that would have turned lesser men and women into raving lunatics.

This is part of the unbreakable, invincible bond that ties them together, the one that makes the words: 'I'm always with you' into an indisputable fact, rather than the star-crossed, desperate promises of two teenagers grasping at love with the narrow, inexperienced minds of children.

This love, Kairi realizes as she tucks her head under Sora's chin and hums to him while they lay in his bed, is like a jigsaw puzzle.

It's a little hard to understand at first, but with dedication and no small amount of effort, everything turns out okay in the end.

And even though neither of them knows how long this will last, how much time they have before some other evil calls him away from home again, right now, in this moment, they are together.

In spite of everything they've endured, they still have each other.

And that is all they will ever need.

Thoughts? Anyone?