Fandom: Kingdom Hearts
Pairings: [Sora+Kairi] [RikuxSora] [LeonxCloud]
Rating: R, eventual NC-17
Summary: Kairi's leaving for college, and Sora's left to hold the fading threads of their relationship. Roxas suddenly won't shut up inside of Sora's head after nearly two years of silence. Riku's lost the courage to let Sora know how he truly feels. Cloud's still chasing his past, and Leon's tired of helping him fight his demons.
Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.
New story; I know, I know. This started out as a one-shot, then… I got too many ideas as I was developing it, and let’s just say that it sprouted into a multi-chapter fic. It shouldn’t be as long as any of my others, no, but it won’t be too short, either. Probably nothing less than ten chapters.
A Voice in the Quiet
Sweat stung my eyes, and I stopped yet again to wipe it away. I wished I had a towel to mop my face with, but this impromptu sparring session hadn’t exactly prepared me for the idea that I’d be ready for a shower in a matter of minutes. It was too hot out for this. I wanted to tell Riku as much, but the words stuck in my throat. It had been a long time since we’d been alone together, like this—practicing with one another, like this.
We’d done it all the time before our world had been overtaken by the heartless. We’d been partners during the final stand against Xemnas. I still believed that if I hadn’t had Riku at my side during those crucial moments, I might not have made it out alive.
But with the restoration of the worlds and the disappearance of the heartless and any evil embodiment that I was meant to defeat—life was supposed to return to normal, and it did. Returning to school, pretending that I’d never left Destiny Islands, slipping back into the islanders’ memories as if I had always been there. That meant no Keyblades. It also meant that I had to be extra careful whenever I wasn’t around Kairi or Riku unless I wanted to explain how I could jump so high or dart so fast.
Regardless. Though Riku tended to practice every day in case his skills were ever needed again, I was just the opposite. And boy, I was regretting it. God, why had I slacked off? Sure, it was hard to hone my own skills whenever a million people were breathing down my neck. Sure, it was difficult to turn friends down with the excuse that I had to go fight some invisible enemies (and who would understand my need to maintain my warrior physique?). Well… it was just easier for Riku because he made it a habit of keeping to himself ever since we’d gotten back. No one questioned Riku. Everyone, however, questioned me.
“What’s the matter, slowing down?” Riku taunted from across the length of Paopu Island.
I snorted and twirled my Keyblade. “No, just thinking.”
“Now isn’t really the time to think, Sora.” He crouched to give his blade a horizontal slash at the air. I’d always thought that that was pretty cool, but I’d perfected a style that was easiest for me. In the end, that’s what counted. “What if I was an enemy? You’d be dead already.”
“Are you saying you’re going easy on me?” I grinned. Ha. “Nice try, Riku.”
As one, we lunged for each other. Road to Dawn met Ultima in a clash of colorful sparks that left spots dancing behind my eyes every time I blinked. I was glad no one was around. I didn’t know how I’d be able to explain this. At least when we began this fight on a whim, it was at a time when our friends weren’t going to be anywhere near the island for the majority of the day.
Tidus and Wakka were at their summer job on North Province Island. They coached a little league blitzball team for the local elementary school there in the evenings, and during the day they were counselors for an all boy’s sports camp. Each of them had asked us on separate occasions to apply with them but were met with a very firm decline from us. It was the summer after high school graduation. Who wanted to spend the last days of their freedom trapped in the working world? At least, that was my reasoning. I had no idea why Riku hadn’t taken the offer.
As for Selphie, she liked to stay indoors on days with record breaking temperatures. She’d be at her desk all day, writing the next bestseller for the romance section at our local bookstore—or so she claimed. Whether she had any talent for it, I didn’t know. I didn’t like to read much, and when I did, my preference wasn’t for romance. Kairi could be the one to listen to all her ideas and edit her manuscript.
Kairi was babysitting. She did most of the week. Her little sister was only three and needed constant looking after while their parents were at work. Not that Kairi seemed to mind the job all that much. No, whenever she was with me, she tended to coo over all the cute things the baby had managed to do. And as much as I enjoyed seeing Kairi smile, I didn’t want to talk about babies all the time.
In those moments, I was half-tempted to tell her I wasn’t ready for them yet, considering we were only eighteen. Something told me not to bring it up, though. Not if I didn’t want a fight. And I really hated fighting with Kairi—for all her charm when she was in a good mood, she could turn into a vicious viper within two seconds. I’d found that out the hard way, the compromising way. As for what had almost been compromised… well. I didn’t like to remember it too much.
“Sora, pay attention!”
I rolled just as a sharp whistling alerted me to Dawn narrowing in on my head. Sand flew and dug into my knees. I hardly paid it any attention as I straightened myself, pushing my palms outward to summon Ultima. How had I dismissed it? When I zoned out, had I unconsciously sent it away? Had Riku really attacked me when I’d essentially been weaponless? Sheesh! Way to show how you cared for somebody.
“We’re in the middle of a fight!” Riku narrowed his eyes as he flicked his fingers. Dawn dematerialized, and I swallowed. Great. Now it was time for the Lecture. I could tell just by the way he was looking at me. “Would you be doing that if I were the enemy?”
“Tch, it’s not like the heartless are still around, Riku,” I muttered, but it was sheepishly, and I couldn’t bring myself to look at him anymore. He was right—heartless or no heartless, I shouldn’t have lost focus on the fight. Riku could have accidentally hurt me, and it would have been my fault for lack of attention to my surroundings.
Riku was silent, so I looked up. It was easy to tell right away that I’d hit a nerve. Green eyes glared at me across the sand, and as Riku raised the water bottle he had initially brought with him today, his fingers were white as they clenched the plastic. I felt like he was trying to melt me into a puddle of ashamed goo under that stare. Maybe he was. He could get creative at times, especially when giving death threats.
But I hadn’t heard one of those for quite some time.
“Don’t you think this is a bit childish?” Riku remarked at last. He slid his gaze away so casually that I almost missed the anger leaving his expression. Riku’s ever-present icy shell was back in place. Man, what I’d give to see him go a full twenty-four hours without it. Even after two years, he had a habit of distancing himself from everyone and everything. It was his way of keeping in control of his emotions… but—sometimes I still felt like he wasn’t letting me in.
“No,” I heard myself saying. It was petulant, and when Riku arched an eyebrow in my direction, I wilted. “Okay. Maybe.”
Riku smirked, possibly to try to reassure me that we were okay again. I didn’t buy it for one minute. We weren’t okay until he was smiling. “Wanna try again?”
I was tempted to tell him no. Not only was I tired as hell from lack of proper exercise, it was hot out and I was dripping sweat more and more as the seconds ticked past. And I was hungry. I could feel the first hunger pangs hitting my stomach, and a glance in the direction of the sun revealed that it was a little after noon. We should have headed home by now. I knew of a turkey and anchovies sub that had my name on it, packed away in the refrigerator.
But I didn’t want Riku to retreat further into his shell, so I threw my hand out to the side to summon Ultima. “Yeah, but you’re going down, Riku!”
“Haha, I’d love to see you try.”
“It’s got to have been an hour already…”
Riku didn’t comment and instead chose to take a long swig from his bottle of water. The thing was almost empty. We definitely needed to return home soon. Not only was I somehow getting my ass handed to me, but we were going to get dehydrated if this kept up. That was the last thing I wanted—Riku, on the other hand… Who knew? The guy trained every day for this. Every other day at the least. He was definitely more fit than I was.
Still. Hot weather and running around sweating wasn’t doing anyone a bit of good.
I opened my mouth to tell him as much when I stopped. He was swiping the back of his hand over his mouth as tossed his empty bottle to the side. Sweat trickled down the length of his neck and into his thin tank top. (Something told me he’d been planning this spar, now that I examined his attire more closely). It had caused his shirt to cling to most parts of his chest and abdomen and left nothing to the imagination. Riku was built. I’d known it. I hadn’t really noticed until now, though. No wonder swarms of girls had always been ogling him in school.
And he severely needed a haircut. Even with that mane of hair pulled back into a scrunchie I’d seen him pilfer from Kairi’s collection yesterday afternoon, he still couldn’t hide how unruly it was. Someone was going to take a pair of shears to that mess if he wasn’t careful. How could he fight with it getting in his eyes like that, anyway? Besides, when was the last time I’d actually seen the whole of Riku’s face?
Maybe he just liked to look dark and mysterious. You know, to lure the ladies in. Hm. I wondered how that was working for him, because despite his constant admirers, he had yet to get a girlfriend.
I realized with a start that Riku was watching me with what looked to be amusement. To be able to feel my face warming when it was already pitch red was quite the accomplishment, in my book. This didn’t comfort me. I looked away and attempted not to give an embarrassed laugh. Aw, crap. I hadn’t meant for Riku to catch me staring at him. Agh, this was really awkward now… How was I going to explain it to him without getting picked on?
“Enjoying the view?”
My eyes snapped up and locked on his. Riku’s smirk was back in place, and the mere sight of it poked at my nerves.
“Oh yeah, because seeing you sweat like a pig is so sexy, Riku,” I shot back to cover up how he’d made my heart stutter. Then, before he could add something snide to that, “You done yet? Let’s get back to the fight.”
As soon as I uttered the words, I realized that Riku had manipulated me into false bravado so that we wouldn’t quit our dueling just yet. Had he known I’d been planning on announcing that it was time to grab some grub and take a nice, long nap? Apparently.
“Why, you ready to lose that badly?” he drawled.
I took the bait.
Just to shut him up.
“And they call you the Keyblade Master?”
Riku was asking to get his face smashed in.
“C’mon, Sora, don’t give up on me now.”
“Just give me two seconds!” I wheezed.
I couldn’t believe that I was this out of shape. I mean, I know that I didn’t exercise all that often—at least, not like Riku did. But shit. You would think that I wouldn’t have lost my touch so badly in the last two years. Then again, I wasn’t Mr. Macho, practicing every morning before school and every evening after school. We couldn’t all be Riku.
Okay, so maybe that was a low blow. I was hungry, I was tired, and I wanted to go home and soak my aching limbs in a hot bath. Riku wasn’t hearing any of it. Though I had yet to say a word about my desires, he knew me too well and took every opportunity to throw it in my face. I’m telling you, he was treading along dangerous territory. I wouldn’t be held accountable when I broke that perfect nose of his.
In the meantime, I stood hunched over with my hands on my knees. My shirt was stuck to my back—my socks were wet inside of my shoes. It was all very disgusting. I’m sure Riku was in the same condition. If asked, he’d deny it. Or, at least, he’d say that he wasn’t letting it distract him. Of course not. Riku had to best me in everything—or try to.
I knew I was pitying myself. It was hard not to. Two years ago, I could have gone through this duel easy breezy. Now I was back to square one, before we’d first started on that journey that changed our lives forever.
I was going to collapse if we didn’t stop soon.
“Wow, Sora, I must admit,” Riku kept on, “I didn’t think you were this much of a quitter.”
I was also going to kill him.
“I’m not!” I hoped he could see the warning in my eyes.
Either he did and was just ignoring it (which was the most likely reason), or he really did have a death wish. “Then what are doing? You don’t see me taking a break, do you?”
“Yeah, because you do this every day, Riku! I don’t!”
“And whose fault is that?”
Oh, that was it.
With an enraged yell, I called Ultima to me with a hum of energy at my fingertips and sprinted across the island to close the distance between us. He met me head on, gripping onto both ends of Dawn to block my assault. Normally this would be the part where one of us would leap back and then prepare for a counterattack—normally. Today, I wasn’t having any of it. I was going all out. Anything to get him to shut up.
God, I’d forgotten how cocky Riku could be when he thought he had the upper hand.
I came at him blow after steady blow—dead on, without relenting, and without any intention of granting quarters. Though he parried each strike, it was obvious by the way he kept trying to dig his feet in the sand that he was being forced back. That, and the closer we crept to the edge of the island. Any second now, and Riku was going to slip off the side and into the shallow waters below.
His eyes widened a split second before he narrowed them. I should have paid more attention to the subtle change in his expression. I didn’t. I focused on my continuous attempt to drive him back, and it was working. A slow, grueling place—but working. Riku was going to taste defeat, and I’d laugh while he choked on salty water and sent murderous glances up at me. But that would be okay, because I’d be in the high ground.
Time to put Riku in his place!
With a startled cry, his foot slipped in the sand and the lack of momentum sent him falling flat on his ass. Not as good as the sea, but it would do.
I laughed and flicked my fingers. Ultima shimmered, disappeared.
I had won.
An age old move I had thought he had forgotten about and moved on to better things.
I released a grunt of pain as his feet suddenly slammed directly into my chest and had me staggering several paces backwards. All the air was totally knocked out of me, and he used it to his advantage. Lightning quick—had I sensed a hint of darkness just then, or was it my imagination?—he leapt on me, plummeting with me to the hard ground. Sand could only provide so much of a cushion, it turned out.
The ensuing struggle was for my pride more than anything else. We both knew I was tired as hell and ready to call it a day. But he’d taken back my high ground when I’d least expected it, and I had to gain it back or else he’d never let me live this down.
Sand got everywhere. In my eyes, in my mouth, in my clothes. I think at one point I even grabbed Riku’s hair and yanked on it hard. It did me a fat lot of good—soon after my fingers had sunk in the silky strands, an elbow had hit me roughly in the gut. Riku, it seemed, was not above taking low blows, either. That was fine. If he wanted to get dirty, we could get dirty. At least, that was what I told myself, because no sooner had I thought it, my weary bones gave out on me completely and left me at Riku’s mercy.
I panted for breath and stared up at the brilliant blue sky as Riku huffed in satisfaction and finished pinning me to the ground. As his knees settled uncomfortably against my hips, he pushed his hair out of his eyes and I enjoyed the sight while it lasted. Here was Riku in full—triumphant and carefree. He was like a bird, fluffing up his chest feathers after he’d gained himself a defeat. The fact that I wasn’t even at my best today didn’t seem to matter to him. Victory was victory.
“Why does this feel familiar?” Riku was panting, too. At least I wasn’t the only one out of breath.
“No idea.” I struggled, once, mostly just because. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, but it didn’t hurt to try.
His fingers found my wrists and held them firmly against the ground—as if he didn’t already have me. Geeze. “Just say I win, Sora.”
My temper flared. I don’t think I could have helped it even if I’d wanted to. What a stupid jerk…! He’d won! Why did he have to kick me down further by making me admit it out loud? Wasn’t it enough that he had me pinned like a needle to a butterfly’s wings?
He shifted on top of me, settling over my stomach. Again, I felt the urge to snatch that smirk off his face. He was too arrogant for his own good. I wouldn’t have done this to him. I’d been happy when he’d been kneeling before me minutes ago. Why wasn’t it enough for Riku that he had me here and now—I wasn’t going anywhere, that much was obvious.
Irritation boiled inside of me, and I snapped, “No way!” Like hell was he going to get that out of me!
“Today’s just not your day. Admit it!” His eyes gleamed, fervent, lit with an inner light I hadn’t seen since our heartless days.
I’d been willing to go down quietly. Now that he was provoking me, he could kiss that good-bye. He knew me better than that. Then again, maybe victory would be sweeter for him if I struggled like I was now. My feet kicked at the dirt, and I pushed up with my wrists, hoping to knock him back, to no such avail. Riku was stronger than me today. Maybe every day. I didn’t know.
I managed to lift a few inches off the ground—my teeth gritted—sweat stinging my eyes all over again—
Riku pushed me back as easily as if he were knocking a glass off a table. I fell back against the sand, winded, and squeezed my eyes shut as I sucked in a few insults and kept them inside of me. I didn’t want this to turn ugly. I didn’t want us to fight. But Riku was dead set in his determination to have me utter my defeat. I wished I could say I wanted him to go fuck himself at that point. It would have been a lie.
“There’s nothing you can do to make me give up, Riku!” I gritted at last, when I couldn’t handle that smug silence anymore.
I was expecting a mocking laugh—maybe even a reprimand mixed in there somewhere—but all I got was a soft chuckle and an even softer, “Is that so…?”
As I slumped back against the ground a final time, I opened my eyes to get a look good at him. His eyes were darker but still carried that strange gleam. He was smiling at me, almost fondly, and I stiffened in confusion as his fingers touched my cheekbone and trailed down to my temple. When they caressed my ear, I shivered, my lashes fluttering, my breath quickening. This time it wasn’t from being tired.
Why was he touching me like this? Didn’t he know what he was doing?
At the sound of my voice (at least, I assume it was that), his eyes widened and he hastily scrambled off me. He seemed to be coming back to himself, and after a few moments, the old Riku I’d come to know and love came back to his eyes. He was staring at me, though, almost in fear. His lips were slightly parted—his breathing was ragged—his eyes were wide and locked onto my own.
But then he calmed himself visibly and extended a hand to help me up.
“What’s gotten into you?” I muttered, dusting off my shorts.
He wasn’t listening. “Let’s make a bet.”
I had to admit, this had me interested. I perked up and forgot about what had bothered me so much just moments ago. If Riku wanted to return to old habits, who was I to turn him down? Besides, this was almost like a drug—competing, constantly challenging each other to find out who was best. I didn’t like to do it on an empty stomach and without any water, no, but otherwise, I was always game.
His smirk was back. I was almost glad. “Meet me out here tomorrow. If you fight me and win, then I’ll concede defeat.”
I glared at him for that. “You’d have to, anyway,” I began hotly. “Because you’ll—”
“If I win…”
I sighed. Why did he always have to cut me off? “If you win?” I prompted.
“If I win, you have to do one thing that I tell you to.”
I frowned. “Uh—I’m not going to—”
He waved a hand. I swear, I could have hit him, but I shut up. I don’t know why. “Besides killing or anything like that.”
Oh, sure, mark that off the list. What have you got up your sleeve, Riku?
I gave it some thought. Riku did only say one thing. That meant that he couldn’t have me slaving after him if I—somehow—lost. And I wasn’t going to, so what did I have to lose, really? This could be easily turned in my favor, anyway.
“Okay,” I conceded. “But if I win, you have to do one thing for me that I tell you to.”
“Fair enough.” He laughed and held out his hand again. “It’s a deal.”
I held out mine.
“A deal,” I echoed.
I was just nodding off to sleep that night when I felt a faint, familiar stir at the back of my mind. Or maybe it wasn’t so familiar—I hadn’t felt it for going on about two years. It both surprised and puzzled me. I wasn’t sure what to think. So instead I tore my gaze away from the window and the bright moon without it and closed my eyes to better concentrate.
My name was breathed, like a whisper across distant sands, and at the sound of it, goosebumps rose across my skin. Then it came a second time, clearer now, pushing at my mind more strongly and demanding my immediate attention. The problem was, I was already giving it. But how could I convey this to Roxas, the Nobody who shared a body with me? My twin that had holed himself up shortly after our return to Destiny Islands and hadn’t spoken a word since.
A picture suddenly showed itself in my mind. A dark cavern with pictures strewn across its walls. A place where wind moaned through the hole in its roof and sounded like a caged monster who had haunted parts of my childhood.
Why did Roxas want me to go there?
I climbed over the side of my bed and started pulling on clothes over my boxers. Half of me was in control of myself, the other was dazed, listless—not really sure what was going on and ready to break through this odd haze over my mind already. It was the middle of the night, and going to the island I had been on just earlier today without a companion seemed like a bad idea. I reminded myself that nothing was going on, and I’d proven time and time again that I could take care of myself.
Besides, a piece of me seemed to whisper, you won’t be alone.
I had to sneak through the house to avoid waking my mother up, but I managed. I darted quick as a mouse through the hallways with the touch of my magic at my fingertips. If anyone managed to see me, I’d be nothing but a blur—something to blink twice at and then shrug off as a figment of imagination.
It felt good, I reflected, to be able to use magic again. To give in to the part of me I’d had to keep buried for two years lest someone come to find out about the journey I’d been on. It was like waking up after a long sleep and smiling into the sunlight because you knew it was going to be a good day. The only downside was that I wanted to do more—jump onto the roof once I was rushing outside in the sand… just because I could. From there, I could glide out to the water and see the moonlight shimmer against its surface—
God, I hadn’t glided in ages. Not since…
A gentle prod at my mind reminded me of my destination, and I shook myself out of my reverie. Right. I had someplace to be.
I did choose to glide to my boat, though. After a running start, I threw myself at the air and summoned more of that dormant magic. It sprung within me like a door had been pulled open, and though I faltered a bit at first—as if I had choked on clouds of dust—I was able to gain my balance in no time. I tilted my head down to watch my shadow ghost over the sand, its arms spread wide, its feet in a likewise state.
And when I had to land, I did it all over again.
To truly be able to fly, I remembered, you had to have fairy dust. A little bit of fairy dust and then nothing but happy thoughts to be able to spread your wings. Ha, when I’d been in Neverland and two seconds away from being eaten by a crocodile—I’d flashed back on my childhood. Riku; dappled sunlight playing over the small boulders in the Secret Place; lemonade on hot days; Kairi’s sweet laughter; the sound of feet running over a bridge that spanned from one island to the next… Riku, on that bent paopu tree of his, his head turned toward the skies.
“And suppose there are other worlds… Then ours is just a little piece of something much greater…”
How many times had I watched Riku as we grew up together? I’d wanted to be that cool, to soak up the sun and just think about… things that I had no idea of, but always wondered at. Riku would rarely tell me what was on his mind, though he would let me sit with him. We’d talk about nothing some days, all day, and others we’d just—gaze. We’d gaze out at the water and wonder what was waiting for us over the horizon.
I felt an annoyed flicker and paused. I was standing in front of my boat, but I hadn’t climbed into it yet. Instead, I’d been dreaming of a time before my journey to battle light against dark had begun. Roxas was impatient and wanted me to get to the Secret Place—for what, I still had no idea.
I pushed the boat into the water and climbed in before I grabbed onto the oars and used them to steer me toward the old play island. Before Riku and I had ventured there today, it had been mostly uninhabited for quite some time. It had really been overrun with wildlife. Instead of hacking down the near jungle it had become, though, we’d just climbed through the vines and trees until we’d made it to the old shack. From there, the paopu island and our impromptu spar.
Smiling at the thought, I battled against the choppy waters and reached the old dock of the play island. I wondered if I’d be prepared for my rematch with Riku tomorrow, or if I’d be too sore to be able to do much. Then again, I strangely wasn’t feeling any pain now. Maybe it wouldn’t hit me until after I fell asleep.
It took me some time to reach the Secret Place. Just like Riku and I had cut out a path toward the paopu island earlier that day, I had to make a new one toward our old hideout. It was almost ridiculous, especially since I couldn’t see in the dark and things kept brushing up against me, but Roxas was unrelenting in his pestering. By the time I made it to the small waterfall outside the cavern, I had a migraine developing behind my eyes.
Good grief, he’d never been this loud before.
Or maybe it was because I hadn’t heard him in so long that it seemed that way now.
Either way, he didn’t stop until I stopped to splash some cold water over my face. I was dripping sweat, and my throat was absolutely parched. Debris from cut leaves and vines were smeared on my cheeks and forehead from where I’d kept rubbing that stinging sweat out of the way. So hot, even at night… A drink of water would be good. I wished the small pool wasn’t so shallow, though. A swim would have been really nice right then.
I was just getting to my feet when I caught sight of my reflection in the distorted water. For a moment, I thought I’d imagined things (I was still quite tired, after all). But then, once the surface of the water had soothed enough that I could get a better look, I realized I hadn’t. There, staring back at me, was Roxas. Spiky blonde hair and wide blue eyes and all.
I was gaping—I could feel it, not see it. The Roxas image wasn’t mimicking me at all.
Idly, I reached up to touch my cheeks. Roxas gazed back at me, as somber as ever. His eyes seemed to be focused intently on mine, as if he wanted to speak through the water but couldn’t. His presence in the back of my mind had stilled into nothing but a faint hum. I wondered, but couldn’t come up with anything. Finally, I whispered, “What are you trying to tell me, Roxas?”
I blinked, and when I looked again, my own reflection was back. The Sora in the water was touching his cheeks—his brows were furrowed—his mouth was slightly ajar.
I set my jaw and got to my feet before I dusted away the sand that had dug into my knees during my short rest. I was uneasy, and I couldn’t make the feeling go away. What bothered me the most, however, was that Roxas hadn’t risen from that faint hum anymore. Why had he suddenly gone docile? What did he want me to know? It had to be something—why else would he have woken up like that after so long?
My feet were already headed toward the direction of the cavern’s slight entrance. I had to squeeze through it—my head nearly bumped the top now—but other than that, everything still looked the same as it had the last time we’d treaded here. I remembered when we’d been receiving those letters from King Mickey that had slowly but surely come to a stop. We’d all come to this place to read them amongst ourselves and reminisce on the time we’d spent traveling worlds.
Once the letters had stopped, we, too, had halted the progress of coming here every weekend or so. School had taken over our lives. Kairi and I had gotten more serious and preferred to have more alone time to ourselves. Riku kept to himself for the most part, and even when he chose to hang out with us, it was always at my house or someplace similar. In fact, it was only until today that he’d suggested we go anywhere but.
He tended to avoid the public. He’d gone through school because his parents had made him, but other than that, he hated being around other people. I still wasn’t sure why—though I’d never bugged him about it. Riku could do what he wanted. He seemed satisfied enough just spending time with Kairi and me.
However, I wasn’t expecting to see him already in this cavern when I finally stumbled out of the narrow pathway that led to it. Come to think of it, I should have noticed the lack of spider webs I should have had to push through.
“Riku?” I called. “What are you doing here? It’s the middle of the night.”
I realized how stupid that sounded as soon as I opened my mouth. After all, I looked equally as suspicious.
But Riku didn’t call me on it. In fact, he didn’t say anything at all.
“Riku?” I said again. “What’s wrong?”
I held out a hand to touch his shoulder—
Only, the more I walked toward him… the farther he got away. It was like he was standing at the end of a long tunnel, and it didn’t matter how fast I walked or how hard I tried to touch him, he always remained just ahead of me. Panic seized me—this didn’t make any sense—why couldn’t I get to him—what was wrong—why was he softly calling my name—why was my heart pounding so hard—
I blinked into the brightness of it for several long moments. I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It took me several attempts to swallow and find my breath before it dawned on me that I’d just woken up—that I’d been having a really strange, disorienting dream.
The second thing I noticed was that I couldn’t get that breath quite like I wanted to.
Kairi’s grinning face appeared before mine. “Hello, sleepyhead, aren’t you forgetting something?”
She was sitting on my chest!
“Kairi, what are you doing here?” I wheezed, struggling to sit up.
“Uh—you invited me for breakfast, remember?” When she frowned at me, I immediately felt guilty. But could she blame me for being so out of sorts after that sort of dream? Then again, she didn’t exactly know what had gone on in my head.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry… Just had a really bizarre dream.”
A sense of déjà vu overcame me then. I placed a hand to my forehead and ignored Kairi as she got to her feet and planted her hands on her hips, all the while giving me a stern look. I was trying to grasp onto the thought I’d almost had—and couldn’t. Whatever flash of intuition I had gotten was gone now. All that remained was the threads of it, the sense that I could have been holding something great and meaningful in my hands, only… I’d let it escape.
God, that dream, though… Roxas. Roxas feeling around in my head. Seeing him in my reflection. It made sense now that that had been a dream, because in reality, that couldn’t really happen. Roxas could be in my head, but we’d been together too long over the past two years for him to start slipping through anymore. We were way beyond that, in fact. Still… I closed my eyes and felt for him, and sure enough, there he was. He lingered as if he’d always been awake.
But for what?
“Hellooooooo? Sora?” Kairi waved her hand in front of my face.
“Hmm?” I looked up at her.
“You coming downstairs or what?”
“Yeah, sure, let me get dressed.”
For some reason, the air was really awkward between us as I pulled on a T-shirt. It wasn’t that she was in the room while I was changing—hell, we’d been naked together countless times. Something… something was uneasy, though. Her, or me, or—just something. It was so unusual. We were normally so relaxed and carefree together. I wondered if there was something on her mind she wanted to talk about.
Maybe that was it.
As the butter sizzled into grease on the skillet, I flipped our eggs over and adjusted the temperature. The butter was already popping, and it stung when droplets hit my skin.
Mom was already at work. The reason I’d invited Kai over for breakfast was so that we could enjoy the morning together. Alone. In peace. Away from everyone. This was usually a really good time—as it happened every Monday—for us to enjoy ourselves.
“What’s up?” I asked when she didn’t elaborate.
“Dad…” she began softly, only to stop.
“Yeah?” The edges of the eggs were getting brown. Time to put them on the toasted bread.
I almost didn’t hear Kairi when she spoke next, she was being so quiet. I had to strain my ears to listen, and even then, I only caught the end of it… which turned out to be enough. “…wants to move to one of the city islands. I’m going with him.”
I hesitated, my spatula raised midair. And then, once I gathered the breath to speak, “What?”
“It was kind of short notice!” she blurted. Now her voice was high, rushed, excited, terrified—everything she was feeling, nothing I needed, all at once. It pounded against my eardrums until I had to swallow hard to pop my ears. God, my knees felt weak. “Dad’s been having some problems in office here, and Mom got a better job offer from a big company at Chrona. So… you know.”
I didn’t know.
I didn’t want to know.
I didn’t need to know.
“And I said I’d go, because I got accepted into Chrona University once I applied, and… someone needs to watch over Yumi, she doesn’t need to grow up in daycare, and—”
Excuses, all of them, going in one ear and out the other. All I could do was stare at the rest of the butter sizzling away into nothing. I was tempted to strangle her—to ask her if that was all it really took to end us… but that would have been selfish, and she didn’t need to hear that right now. She needed my support. As her boyfriend, as the person she loved, as the person that loved her, I needed to give it to her.
Kairi could fly where she wanted. She was under no obligation to stay here.
“God, sorry.” I saw her gesture idly out of the corner of my eye. “I know I’m rambling.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say to that.
“I’m so sorry, Sora! I know things were going good between us—”
“—and I don’t really want to leave—”
“Then don’t,” I found myself saying, though I knew it was useless. Once Kairi had made up her mind… Well, she was a very logical girl. And she’d already presented hundreds of reasons as to why it was a good idea to go with her foster parents.
Her voice was weak, uncertain. “Sora… it’s not that easy.”
I wanted to believe her. I really did. But she was the one leaving here—leaving me. Though I knew she’d never want to hurt me, at least not intentionally, it was still hard to grasp onto that at a time like this. I really wanted to throw my pan into the sink and storm out of the house to get to the beach so I could gather my thoughts.
She needs you, I reminded myself. She needs to hear it’s okay.
I opened my mouth to speak when I felt him again—Roxas, stirring at the back of my mind, as restless as ever.
Kairi was just as careful when she replied, “Yeah?” Was she waiting for me to yell at her or something?
“Have you…” I didn’t know where to start. “Have you felt Namine lately?”
She was quiet for so long that I thought she hadn’t heard me. It was only as I turned to look at her with raised eyebrows that she shook her head and shrugged. Her eyes lifted to mine, as blue as ever. She’d put mascara on her lashes this morning. They looked thicker and fuller than usual… But it was a distant acknowledgement, swallowed out by suspicion when she said, casually, “No. Why?”
I studied her for a time. I had the feeling—and maybe it was completely unfounded—that she was lying to me. Could I really accuse her of that? She’d never done it before… why would she start now? And why at a time like this?
Why not at a time like this?
I frowned. Something seemed really… “off” about this whole thing…
I turned back to the stove and finished with our breakfast. I didn’t really know what else to say to her just yet. She didn’t seem to know, either. At least, not until her arms slid around my waist. I felt her cheek come to rest between my shoulder blades, and her hands settled in a loose clasp over my abdomen.
“Sora,” she murmured. “I’m really… sorry.”
I wished she’d stop saying that. It was making me feel guilty, and I hadn’t even done anything.
“It’s okay,” I reassured her, my voice as quiet as it had been in a long time. This sort of situation took… care. Consideration. For once, I needed to think before I actually spoke lest this somehow turn ugly. “I mean, we can still visit each other. It’s not like Chrona Island is that far away.”
“…Yeah…” She didn’t sound so sure.
I swallowed uncertainty as Roxas gave another prod at me. He was panicked. In a thin shout, if I closed my eyes and concentrated hard enough, “You promised we wouldn’t be separated!”
Yeah, I thought. But I can’t exactly make her stay. What do you want me to do, Roxas?
There wasn’t an answer. Of course not.
Kairi’s grip tightened around my waist, subtle enough that I could have imagined it, yet knew I didn’t.
Why did it seem like everything was suddenly crumbling apart? It was a ridiculous notion… Kairi was only moving. I mean, I’d considered the possibilities before when we’d been going through a list of colleges to attend and it had become really obvious that we probably wouldn’t be schooling together anymore… (Kairi was really smart, way above me, unfortunately). No harm, no foul.
But—it felt like—everything was about to change. Whether it was for the good or bad, I supposed that only time would be able to tell.