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Concealed Confession

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“I’m going to share the paopu fruit with Sora when we get to the island today.”

Riku’s heart nearly came to a stop when he heard these words. Had he even heard them right? Could that really be what Kairi just said to him. Slowly he turned to face her and he saw her smiling happily. With all the strength he had, he kept his face straight and calm, trying not to show how her words had affected him. 

“Oh yeah?”

Kairi nodded with a hum. “After all we have been through and with that battle coming tomorrow, I feel now is a better time than any. Just don’t tell Sora, heh. I want to surprise him.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Riku said, his voice lowering into a whisper. 

Riku breathed out slowly as he looked at the ocean before them. The two of them were standing at the docks to take their boats out to the smaller island. They only had today to relax before the final battle and they all had agreed they would go out to the island together and relax. 

Though now new thoughts were plaguing Riku’s mind. Things he didn’t want to have to think about that. They were things that started to weigh down his mind as well as his heart. He didn’t want to keep thinking about what Kairi had said, but the words swirled around his mind. 

He didn’t want to continue more on the conversation, knowing how it was only going to hurt his heart further, but he had to ask. He had to know more, at least by a little. “I guess you’ve been thinking about this for a while?”

Kairi nodded again. “Yeah, it’s been on my mind for some time now. He’s always looked out for me, and has done so much for me over these past couple of years.”

“And I’ve done so much for him…” Riku thought to himself, but didn’t speak aloud about it, letting Kairi continue. 

“He’s cared a lot about me before either of us probably even realized it. You know those cave drawings we did as kids? Sora and I drew each other once, then one day after Sora saved me and got me back home, I saw that he had added something to it. It was him handing a paopu fruit to me.”

“Yeah… I saw it…” Riku internally sighed. “And you drew handing a paopu fruit back to him.”

“So I added me handing a paopu fruit back to him on the drawing, and that is when I figured we would have to try it sometime. I just never got to asking him before, but I am going to try now.”

“Sounds like you got it all figured out,” Riku replied, his voice almost wavering, but he tried his hardest to keep it from showing. 

“Oh! Wait, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how much I was rambling on it. I know you and Sora used to fight over me from time to time. I hope this isn’t too weird to talk about,” Kairi said as she looked down at the ground. 

“No… it’s not that. I just didn’t expect it. It’s all right though,” Riku said, trying to smile as best as he could despite how painful it felt. “I’m happy that you figured it out.”

“You sure?” Kairi said raising her head back up. 

“Yeah, I am just glad that you’re happy,” Riku said smiling once more. “I’ve always looked out for the both of you. As long as you two are happy, that makes me happy.”

It wasn’t a total lie. He did want his friends to be happy no matter what, but it didn't mean he was entirely okay with what he was hearing. He was trying his hardest to just feel happy for them and nothing else, but there was still a lingering pain in his heart that wouldn’t be leaving any time soon. 

“Thanks Riku, I’m glad you understand,” Kairi replied. 

“Sure,” Riku said, feeling his voice growing more weary than before. “I… I think I may head to the island first. You know, so you can get to talk to Sora. Besides, I have some things I need to think about for tomorrow.”

Kairi placed a hand on Riku’s arm. “You sure you are going to be all right?”

“Yeah yeah, I just need a little time to myself, that’s all. A lot has happened in only a couple years, and I’ve never really just sat and thought it out,” Riku said, feeling his voice nearly break at the end. He was starting to feel he wouldn’t be able to trust his voice much longer at this rate. 

“Okay Riku, we’ll see you over there, but I’ll be sure to let Sora know you you need some space.”

“I wouldn’t mind if he wanted to talk to me though…” Riku thought about saying, but instead he said something else. “Thanks Kairi.”

Riku then got into his bow and started to row out to the smaller island. Now that his back was facing the mainland he could finally let the tears fall from his face. They dripped down his chin and fell onto his pant leg. 

“If only I could have spoke up. If I could have just told her how I felt about him… would she understand? I should have just told him sooner, though… I guess I may be selfish for thinking it could go that way. They obviously feel the same for each other, and I don’t want to come between that. I only want you two to be happy… that’s what matters. But… these feelings will never go away for you… Sora.” 

Chapter Text

“So why didn’t you tell her about how you feel for him? I don’t understand why you stayed quiet.”

Riku looked at his replica, who technically was sitting next to him. Though really his replica wasn’t there, his spirit was resting within his heart, so it was only a project to give the easiest explanation. On top of that, because the replica was within his heart, he was the only one who could see and hear him. Meaning Sora and Kairi, who were sitting on the paopu tree, wouldn’t see the replica at all. 

Though Riku still talked in a lowered voice, even though he was a bit far from them, he wanted to make sure they didn’t end up thinking he was talking to himself… technically. 

“I just couldn’t,” Riku finally answered. “It’s not my business to butt into their relationship. It’s better this way anyways.”

“You really think it is better to stay quiet and never tell Sora how you feel about him?”

“And if I tell him and he finds it weird or something else? It would just make things awkward between us,” Riku replied softly. “I don’t want to ruin the friendship we have all because I have some measly feelings.”

“The way you talk and think about Sora, I wouldn’t call them measly. I’m resting in your heart, I can sense those feelings. You really do care a lot, far more than you want to let on. Besides, you know Sora, one awkward moment between you two wouldn’t ruin your friendship, he is too understanding and caring to let that happen,” the replica replied. 

Riku knew that was probably true. Sora would find the good in every situation he could. Even if it was a bit strange he would do whatever he could to make the best of it. Though Riku couldn’t get himself to believe it could be true for this. This was something else entirely. 

Having his feelings for Sora was something he had never once brought up to Sora in his entire life. It was something Riku had kept quiet about and made sure to keep quiet until he thought it would be a good time. Now that chance… it was long gone. 

Riku turned his head away slightly, giving a side glance to Kairi and Sora. He could see them sitting on the paopu tree, and for the second time in the day it felt like his heart stopped. 

He saw Kairi holding out a paopu fruit to Sora while also holding another in her own hand. They were obviously talking to one another, but Riku wasn’t able to hear anything from where he sat. He was starting to feel uneasy the longer he stared. Inside his stomach was twisting and he knew that he would have to avert his eyes. The longer he would stare, the worse this inner turmoil would get. 

With all the strength he had turned away and looked back out at the ocean, giving a soft and weak chuckle. Though it was barely even heard, he didn’t even have the strength to manage it. 

“Look at that… they aren’t even doing it right. The legend says for two people to share one with each other, not take a bite from one that the other is holding.”

“So? Go up there and tell them they are doing it wrong. Show they are doing it wrong by sharing one with Sora,” the replica replied. 

Riku initially blushed at the thought of it. Something like that was always something he had thought about. To share a paopu fruit with Sora… if he could go and do that, then maybe the weight could be pulled off of his heart. 

Quickly he shook his head, trying to get all the thoughts out of his head. He could dwell on them for too long or it would only further drown his heart. He stood up, turned and started to walk away without a word. He thought about leaving the islands, leaving Sora and Kairi to have time to themselves, but he knew that would draw too much attention. So instead he walked across the sands to the door that lead to the other side of the island. 

He wanted to give them time by themselves anyways. No need for him to be a third wheel at the start of their relationship. Just as he was about to enter the door he stopped, a small temptation came to turn around and look at them. 

Were they eating the paopu fruit now? Was it really worth it and would it work even if the two of them weren’t doing it correctly? Had they already done that and moved on to the next step that would be in their relationship? How did the fruit of legend taste? What would it be like if he were sitting there sharing it with-

“Stop it!” Riku scolded himself before pushing the door open and quickly closing it behind him. 

‘I may not be an expert on relationships, but I don’t think what you are doing is the right choice for you,’ the replica’s voice said, echoing in Riku’s mind. 

“Just shut up,” Riku grumbled, though there was more sadness than anger in the tone. 

‘If you were always afraid of those two getting together, why did you never let Sora know before? Or at least drop hints when you were younger?’

Riku sighed as he walked to the edge of the island part he was standing on. He looked further and saw the rather sketchily made wooden track that he use to race with with Sora. Those were the days… back before Heartless and keyblades. Back whenever things felt so much simpler.

Riku sat down and finally answered the replica. “I was never good at expressing those feelings when I was young. Even back then I wasn’t too sure how Sora would handle it, so I never tried to leave much in the way of hints. I mean, I had tried before, and I had hoped for a time, but...”

Riku placed his hands behind himself as he turned to look up at the sky, which was growing darker with the night sky by the minute. “Days before our home was consumed by darkness I tossed a paopu fruit to Sora, trying to joke around with him. It was a bit of a tease, but secretly I had hope Sora would want to try it in that moment… but instead he just looked confused and tossed it into the water.”

Something twisted inside of Riku when he recalled that memory. How Sora started at it and tried to form some sentences but trailed off. Sure Riku had laughed at it, but it wasn’t because he had made Sora confused by the fruit. He only wanted to try and hide how he felt about it and laughing over the rest of his feelings was the only way he could think of. 

“And then the next day, I thought to test Sora to see if he really felt anything or not. We had a race… and I said the winner would get to share a paopu fruit with Kairi. Once again Sora looked confused and not too sure of what I was saying, almost seemed upset after the race when I passed off what I had said and choose to ignore it. There was a bit of hope there with how he reacted though honestly I couldn't actually tell what he was thinking at the time.”

Riku sighed again, letting himself process through the thoughts. Even though he would have rather crumpled them up and pushed them down, talking it out was helping to a degree. He never thought he would be able to talk about it to anyone, but here he was, talking to the one person who could possibly understand. 

“Then we all know what happened next… I was manipulated and turned against Sora and I put a big dent in our friendship…”

The memories from that time were still something that haunted him from time to time. The way he had been so fooslish and dumb to let the darkness in like that. How hurt Sora had looked when he looked down at Sora and scoffed at him for using the keyblade. 

Those were his cruelest moments he could never take back. Moments he was sure Sora still remembered and maybe though about from time to time. He had never asked Sora what he had thought from that time, his own fears prevented him from ever doing that. 

‘But didn’t Sora forgive you? And afterwards when searching all over for you and then basically broke down crying when he saw you again?’

“Yeah, I know but… wait how did you know that? I didn’t tell you that. Are you… searching through my memories?”

The replica finally reappeared besides Riku and shrugged. “Not a lot else I can really do in your heart. But my point still stands or do I need to dig through more instantes in your memories to show you that Sora may actually care more than you think?” 

Riku shook his head. “No… you don’t need to. Yeah I know there have been moments where Sora was rather emotional, but he has always been like that. There’s one thing you are forgetting though…”

“And what’s that?” 

Riku closed his eyes and kept them closed. “The drawings the two of them made in the cave…”

“That’s what you are deeming as that is their official feelings? A drawing in a cave?”

“They recreated their drawing that they made, so I don’t know what else to say, but they have those feelings for eachother. But…” 

Riku opened up his eyes and shook his head, they had already filled up with tears and were ready to leave his eyes. Quickly he wiped they away, he was not going to keep going on about this. If he did he would hurt his heart and it would break and never recover. It already had enough fractures that made it questionable, but he would try all that he could to prevent any further damage. 

“That’s the end of this convo. Sora and Kairi like each other and that’s what it is. I am not going to sit here and mope about it. I’m going to be happy for them, that’s what I want… I just want them to be happy.”

“Even… if it is at the cost of your happiness?” the replica asked quietly.

“I said it before, as long as they are happy, I’ll be happy. As long…” Riku paused slightly, his emotions and thoughts wavering slightly. 

His eyes slowly filled with tears, making everything blurry. He couldn’t understand why this had to be so hard for him, it was only a simple little feeling that he had. One little feeling that taunted him and left him feeling empty and lonely for he knew he could never get what he wanted. He desperately wanted to be able to express and give these feelings to Sora. To let him know that he cared and could give him so much love and affection, that was what Riku wished he could do. He wished he could do all of this and find his happy with Sora, but he knew that was out the door. His chance to even try was gone, but he was going to keep trying as best as he could to keep going. “As long as they don’t forget about me or leave me behind, I’ll be happy.”

Chapter Text

Night had fully come in now, and the stars speckled themselves across the sky. Riku sighed and took in the beauty that was the field of stars and worlds. There were so many other worlds out there, so many more that he had never been to. Then again he had not been to a lot of worlds, not compared to Sora. The sight was still one to behold though. 

Riku only wished he could be sharing this with someone, and he knew exactly who that someone was suppose to be. 

“Now you’re just going to stay out here all night? You know there is a battle tomorrow, right?” the replica asked, looking to Riku who had barely moved an inch from his spot. 

“I know… I just need a little more time, then I’ll be ready,” Riku said before he breathed out heavily. 

He wanted to stay there as long as he could until he could get his feelings sorted out. Or better yet, if he could just get rid of them, it would be so much easier. If he could just get over his feelings and accept that Sora and Kairi were together, then he could move on with this life. 

But… He just couldn’t do it. 

He couldn’t pull himself away from how he felt. Every time he tried to shut the door to what he felt for Sora, he found himself lost instead. Lost staring at that childish and cheerful smile. The bright and caring blue eyes. Even how clueless Sora could be sometimes was rather adorable. Every aspect of Sora was something that Riku cherished and admired.  

How he wished he could just be able to tell Sora these things. He wanted to be able to tell Sora that he loved the way he laughed and smiled. So many different things he wished he could actually say and express to his dear best friend. If only he was so afraid of the possibility of rejection, maybe then he could do it. 

The more he thought about it, the closest he had ever gotten to trying to say it was when he was in the Realm of Darkness with Sora after they defeated Xemnas. 

“What I said back there...about thinking I was better at stuff than you… To tell you the truth, Sora… I was jealous of you.”

“What for?”

“I wished I could live life the way you do. Just following my heart.”

“Yeah, well, I've got my share of problems, too.”

“Like what?”

“Like… wanting to be like you.”

“Well, there is one advantage to being me... Something you could never imitate.”

“Really? What's that?”

“Having you for a friend.”

He had tried his hardest to hint at his feelings, but after he said ‘friend’ he couldn’t find the words to go further with it. Then as expected Sora have his usually happy and thankful response back. So if anything, that was the impact he left on Sora and what Sora probably thought of him. 

Just a friend.

That’s all he ever was going to be. 

And it was all his fault. 

All because he was too afraid to speak up. 

A sudden pain struck his chest suddenly and it tightened. A strong surge of hurt and sadness overridden everything else, only apimfiying what he had already been feeling the entire evening. He gripped his chest before he hunched over and let the tears fall from his eyes again. His shaky breath became weak and sorrow filled sobs, finally crawling out from inside and to the open air for it to hear.

Breathing out slowly, the air around him felt heavy and confined. He was inside of a box and it was slowly getting smaller. He couldn’t do a thing about it though, after all he had placed himself in that box. He trapped himself fully knowing the dangers that were there. 

Before the boxed could shut completely he hear the sound of a door creaking open. “Riku?”

It was Sora’s voice. 

Riku wiped away his tears as quickly as he could. He couldn’t let Sora see him weak and emotionally distressed. “Yeah, Sora?” 

He tried his best to keep his voice strong, though he could hear the weakness. He could only plead that Sora wasn’t able to pick up on it. This was the last thing that he wanted to happen for today. Sure he had thought before that having Sora come to talk to him would be fine, but now… after what he witnessed before… he wasn’t sure if facing Sora was even manageable. 

“I was wondering why you came back here. Are you feeling okay?”

“No of course not…” Riku thought to himself, not even attempting to turn around to look at Sora. “I just needed some space to myself, that’s all.”

“I know… that’s what Kairi told me, but…” Sora trailed off for a moment. “You know you can talk to me if you need anything.”

Riku smiled slightly, happy to know that Sora still wanted to help out as much as possible, even though what Riku wished to talk about was something that could never be brought up. 

"It's nothing, there's just a lot on my mind with what we need to face," Riku replied. 

"Okay, if you say so though… there is something I wanted to talk about with you."

Finally Riku turned around and stood up, he tried to keep his eyes from looking at Sora. He felt afraid of what would happen if he did. But he was at least facing him now.

If Sora wanted to talk, Riku was going to make sure he could be there for him. Even if Riku felt conflicted, he would do whatever he could for Sora. That was the goal he wanted to have and keep.

"All right then, what's up?"

Sora surprisingly turned his head to the side and rubbed the back of his neck. "Well… its something I was thinking about before, but I just never got the chance to say it."

"Well, what is it?" Riku asked approaching Sora a little. He would have tried to go closer and place a hand on him, but Riku knew that being too close would cause too much pain. The urge to grab and hold onto Sora was strong now that he was only a little bit in front of him. Quickly Riku breathed in slowly and spoke again. "Just like you said I can talk to you, you can talk to him."

Sora nodded, a smile coming across his face. "So the thing is, I mean what I figured out. I wanted to tell you… you've always been a good friend to me. So… I…" Sora hesitated for a moment, spacing out for the moment. 

“You figured out your feelings for Kairi right?” Riku thought to himself. “And you think that I had those same feelings for her and just want to let me know…”

That was what Riku was expecting Sora to say. It was the only reasonable thing for him to say at this point. 

“I think figured out that I actually like you more.”

Chapter Text

“I think figured out that I actually like you more.”

Riku nearly lost all strength in his legs. His heart was racing faster and faster and he was sure that it was going to burst any given moment. The world around him felt out of place and his head throbbed with questions he had never thought to think.

There was no way he heard Sora say that, right? It was impossible. There was no way that Soar said that. No way that he said that he-

“I know it might seem a bit weird… but after I saw you walk off here, I think I realized finally how I felt. I’ve always admired you Riku and looked up to you, so yeah…” Sora’s cheeks began to turn red. “I’m in love with you Riku.”

Riku opened his mouth, but all words or thoughts had failed him. “This… it has to be a dream. This can’t be right. There’s no way-”

'It's no dream. He really has come to talk to you to tell you his feelings. What you didn’t expect to happen turned out to be true,’ the replica replied. 

Riku breathed deeply while continuing to stare at Sora. It was all too much for him to process, even if it was what he always secretly had wanted. Soon enough Sora started to pick up that Riku was only staring and nothing more. 

“Um, Riku? You okay? Like I said, I know this is probably weird for me coming out of the blue with this, but I can’t get it out of my head. You know what I mean? Like after all we have been through and I’ve worried about never seeing you again… I can’t imagine my life without you.”

“S-Sora…” 

Riku still found himself too frozen by shock over Soar’s confession. It all felt so surreal and his brain seemed to not want to function how he wanted it to. He wasn't even sure if he was blushing or not from the kind honest words Sora had to offer to him. 

Sora’s expression started to change. The blush on his cheeks faded and he started to look more pensive. “W-Well… I guess I get if you are shocked by it. It’s just some feeling after all that I thought I could tell you about. I guess… I mean what I thought… was wrong.”

‘Idiot!’ the replica shouted. ‘Your lack of response is making him doubt you feel the same. Speak up already!’

Riku breathed out quickly. “Ah Sora… I-I um.”

Sora shook his head. “No Riku, you don’t have to say anything. I get it. I shouldn’t have said anything…” Tears swelled up in his eyes, creating a sad expression that Riku hated to see on Sora. “It was foolish of me to try this.”

Briskly he turned around and pushed open the door, and just as he started to run away, Riku finally had his senses return to him. “Sora wait!” 

But it was already too late, Sora had already run off back presumably towards Kairi or the docks. Riku watched as Sora vanished from his vision and almost lost all his strength in his legs, but he managed to stay standing. The tears returned to his own eyes though and he couldn’t control them from flowing down his face. 

‘Come on! Run after him. You are seriously going to sit here and cry right after Sora actually confessed to you?!’

Riku nodded as he ran as fast as he could through the door and around the island, looking for Sora everywhere. It only took a few seconds to locate him at the docks… already in his boat and rowing away. 

“Sora!” Riku shouted, but Sora didn’t stop rowing, he wasn’t even facing the island. Instead his back was to Riku and he didn’t bother to stop once. 

Riku nearly stumbled onto the docks, watching Sora continue to row away. "Sora!" Riku shouted as loud as he could. "I…"

His voice feel far too quiet as he tried to say the next part. "I love you too…"

He knew his soft quiet voice would not carry for Sora to even hear, but he wasn't able to shout the last part. He wanted to, so badly he wanted shout it for Sora to hear. 

Maybe then Sora would stop and turn around and they would stare long and hard each other, feeling the strong pull of their connection. Then Sora would come back and they could embrace. The warmth from that embrace would be enough to finally wash away any doubt that either of them seemed to have. 

But Riku still could not find his voice. All he could do was continue to watch Sora get farther and farther. 

No longer could he handle himself and he dropped to the ground, letting out a pathetic sob. Tears fell from his face faster than ever before and they didn't care to stop.

“I screwed it up… I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t even react properly… and I've screwed it up now…"

'You can still go after him!' the replica shouted. 'Get back to the mainland and run after him!'

"N-No… I can't…" Riku whispered in a sore voice. "I won't be able to take back what I did."

The replica scoffed. 'All you did was stand there and gawk like a big idiot! You just need to tell Sora you were too caught up in shock to think.'

"But that's just it… I stood and gawked… and made Sora think I was disgusted by his confession."

'Riku,' the replica said sternly. 'I am positive that he wouldn't think you were disgusted by him saying he loves you.'

Riku choked on another sob, he tired to look up to see if he could still see Sora, but he could no longer see any figure on the water. Sora already had docked and no doubt ran home. 

"If he doesn't think I was disgusted, then what did he think?! You say how he… the way he looked at me. He was hurt… and I failed to do anything to help him. I'm such an idiot…"

'I wouldn't want to put you down more than you already more, but I am going to say this because you need to hear this. Yes, you are being quiet the idiot, and staying here sobbing your heart out isn't going to make it any better.'

Riku tried to hold back the remaining sobs he had, but he had no more strength in him. He let another sob out before wrapping his arms around himself. 

Never before had he hated himself so much. Sure he hated himself pretty badly after betraying Sora before. That was a long journey to recover, thinking he couldn't be forgiven, only to find that Sora forgave him no matter what. Now… this was something he felt could not be taken back. How could he even do that? He truly had hurt Sora's feelings more so than ever, and there was no taking that back.

'Hey…' the replica said, this time in a much softer voice. 'Take some deep breaths already. The battle is still tomorrow and you still need sleep.'

Riku slowly stood up while wiping away the tears that stained his cheeks. "Y-Yeah… gotta focus on tomorrow. Though… facing Sora tomorrow… I don't know if I-"

'I'll be right here for you. You're going to make it through this."

Riku closed his eyes, pushing out the last of the tears he had. "I hope so…"

Chapter Text

The following morning was rough for Riku. When he woke up, his heart felt heavy and still stung from the events that had transpired yesterday. As he got dressed, he did his best to try and put all of these feelings aside. They were not what he needed to have when going into a dangerous battle, but when he looked at himself in the mirror he could see a tear had escaped. It started to run down his cheek, but Riku was quick to wipe it away before it could get any further. 

“Come on Riku… pull yourself together,” he muttered to himself. 

‘Are you sure you going to be okay? There is still time to talk to Sora before hand,’ the replica offered.

Riku thought about it for a moment, seeing as there would be time as everyone traveled to the graveyard where Xehanort was. Everyone was going to be traveling on the gummi ship, which meant all of them would be there in the same area for the entire journey. Confined to one space for an entire journey. Right near Sora… who Riku was sure was still just as heartbroken as he was. 

“It’s going to be fine. I’ll get through this, but now is not the time to be talking about that stuff. After the battle… that’s when I will talk to him about it. Though… it probably is already too late. He probably went back to Kairi and-”

‘And that is where you are going to stop talking,’ the replica interrupted. ‘I am not letting you get yourself and more down than you already are.’

Riku sighed, finding himself thankful that he had the replica by his side to keep his head straight. “Thanks… Facing Sora today is something only I can do, but just… thank you for being here.”

‘You’re welcome,’ the replica replied softly. 

After that Riku was finally ready to head out. He went out of the house and headed down to the docks to take his boat to the island. That was were Kairi and Sora were going to be, and were they would all be waiting for the others to come with the come with the gummi ship. 

While rowing, Riku could feel his palm growing sweaty. The closer the island got, the better he could see the figures already standing there. Kairi and Sora had already arrived before him and now he was the last to come and meet up with them. 

Once he docked his boat and tied it up, he pushed himself as best as he could to keep walking. When he was close enough Kairi waved to him and smiled, and much to his surprise he saw Sora smiling too. 

“Did Sora already get over last night? Or did I really just dream that he said those things..” Riku thought to himself as he got closer. 

As soon as he was standing right next to Sora and Kairi, he found his answer. Sora was smiling his usually happy smile, but Riku could see that it was easily being force. Sora was odd sometimes about his emotions. Sometimes he would wear them on his sleeve and show everyone what he is feeling. Other times… he would hide away what he didn’t want others to know, and he would do whatever he could to keep it secret. 

This was one of those times. Sora was smiling, but it was only to hide what he didn’t want to talk about, and Riku knew exactly what that was. Riku seemed to be the only one who ever could pick up on when Sora was like this, no one else ever caught on when Sora truly felt sad cause he held that usual happy face. 

Though Riku couldn’t complain, he was far worse than Sora. He had suppressed and hidden away so many of his emotions over the years. Thinking that his love he felt for Sora could never be returned was one of those he kept to himself. Now that felt like it could be more the case than ever since his own fears got in the way of accepting what he wanted most. 

“You ready to go?” Sora asked in a seemingly normal chipper voice. 

Riku blinked for a moment, trying not to lose himself in Sora’s gaze. He knew he was going to have to lie too, but there wasn’t anyone that would be able to pick that up and see past his mask. Quickly he averted his eyes before he could let his feelings get the best of him. “Yeah, ready if you guys are.”

“Of course,” Kairi chimed in.

“That’s good! Donald and Goofy should be here with the gummi ship any minute,” Sora said before checking on his gummi phone. “Everyone else is already on board, so it will  be straight to the keyblade graveyard from here.”

Riku nodded. “Right.”

With that Riku could only hope that the battle ahead wasn’t going to be as hard as the battle that was in his heart. He started right at Sora, seeing him smile as if nothing had happened last night. Seemingly happy and perfect as always. 

If it weren’t for the fact that they were heading into a dire battle, Riku would have confronted Sora on the matter. Or at least he would have tried, whether or not he would get the guts to actually speak up was another story. Besides Kairi was there, and Riku had no idea if she even knew about last night. She had already left the island before Sora had come to see him, so Riku didn’t know if she had any knowledge at all on it, and he was not about to ask. 

Riku waited to see if Sora would say anything, but now he seemed to be focusing on playing around with his gummi phone. Riku breathed out a slow breath, trying to figure out what to say next, or more really what he could even say. There was a uncomfortable turning in his stomach, one that made him worry that he would be sick if he didn’t think of something so say. 

Thankfully the gummi ship got there before Riku could feel anymore awkward or ill. All three of them were then brought up into the ship were the rest of the group was waiting. Though the cockpit had only 3 seats, there was an area in the back of the ship for extra sitting. 

Riku sighed with relief knowing he would at least not have to be sitting right next to Sora, it would only make him feel more awkward than he already was. He took his seat and felt the ship blast through space moments later. He didn’t even bother to look out the port window. The vastness of space with all its stars and worlds could not fastnate any more at this point. 

There was only one thing that truly still fascinated him… or really one person, but now he was more afraid than ever that he was going to lose that. He wanted to act, but at the same time felt wrong for doing so. He had made his choice to stand there dumbstruck and couldn’t get himself moving fast enough, and now this was the price. 

It was exactly as he feared. Exactly as he thought would end up happening. He had made things awkward between him and Sora, and he wasn’t sure if he would be able to fix it.

Chapter Text

“Riku?” a voice asked, pulling him out of his deep thoughts. 

Riku looked up to see Aqua standing in front of him, giving a worried face. He straightened up and spoke up. “Yeah Aqua?”

“You seemed to be spacing out a bit, I didn’t mean to look, but…” Aqua trailed off for a moment. “You looked a little lonely.”

Riku sighed as he leaned back against his chair. They were still on the path to the graveyard and Sora was still up front at the cockpit, steering them to it. It wouldn’t be much longer before they were there, but they still had a bit of time before hand. Ventus, Kairi, and Lea were caught up in a conversation since the start of the trip, so Riku had thought that he would take some time to himself and try to calm himself. He wasn’t too sure honestly what good it would do him without actually talking to Sora, but he knew he couldn’t go and do it now. It was still going to have to wait. 

“Ah sorry,” Riku said, running a hand through his hair. “Guess I zoned out too much, you know with everything that is ahead of us.”

Aqua nodded before taking a seat next to Riku. “I understand, there’s so much at stake, but we have to try and pull through. Though, are you sure you are all right, I would have thought you would be up at the cockpit with Sora.”

Riku shook his head quick. This was not the subject he wanted to talk about, not at all. Though he knew trying to avoid it would only bring up more concern from Aqua who seemed to have a keen eye for this stuff. “Nah… he needs to concentrate on flying the ship, no reason for me to be up there.”  

“Ah I see, I suppose that could be the case,” Aqua replied before she paused. She pursed her lips slightly while looking deep in her own thoughts. “Does that mean you are only worried about the battle head?”

“Yeah… just worried about the battle. I know it’s going to be tough, but…” Riku sighed deeply as he let his thoughts float around in his head. 

He almost had the thought to say what was on his mind, but he still could not find himself admitting it. He always had wanted to express his feelings for Sora for others to know, to let them know that he loved Sora and he wanted him to be his. Though now was far from that time and besides, knowing what happened yesterday there was no way he could do that, especially with Kairi in the room. He had no idea if she knew what Sora did or not and he was not about to upset her if she didn’t.

“But…” Riku finally continued. He wasn’t ready to tell the truth yet, but he could do at least something close enough. “I can’t give up. There’s still so much more I have to do after all of this is over.” 

Aqua smiled. “That’s good to hear. Just remember Riku, if you need to talk to us about anything, we are all here for you.”

Riku smiled back. “Thanks Aqua.”

The speakers then turned on in the room and Donald spoke up, saying that they were approaching the keyblade graveyard. After that everyone prepared to disembark from the ship to head down to the world. 

Donald, Goofy and Sora made their way to join the others to all go together, bringing Sora and Riku much closer to one another before going down to the world. Riku slowly glanced at Sora, who was still hiding behind his smile. He was still so hurt and it was making Riku feel sick inside. 

He had caused Sora to be like this. His dumb actions caused him to make Sora afraid to express himself. If they weren’t heading to the battle, Riku would have ran over to Sora and embraced him, telling him it was okay to cry. It was something he had done with Sora when they were little. Whenever Sora was picked on or bullied he would hide how hurt he was, not wanting everyone else to worry. Riku still knew, he always figured it out even though Sora never said it, and he would be right there for Sora to comfort him.

Sora never looked back his way though, leaving an empty and broken void between the two of them. He didn’t even once glance in Riku’s direction, but he figured it was for the best. “He’d rather not look at me right now… makes sense…”

‘And what did I say about putting yourself down? You have to stop!’ the replica scolded. 

“Yeah, but what else am I supposed to think? That I’m just invisible right now? Sora clearly doesn’t want to even see if I am okay…”

‘That is not the case at all! You know that for a fact. You both are being stubborn idiots who are hiding their feelings from each other,’ the replica replied in an annoyed tone. 

Before Riku could reply everyone were all teleported down into the graveyard. It was a barren and dry land with rocky pillars and mountains in all directions. It seemed everything was starting up right away as Xehanort soon appeared in front of the group, still not giving Riku any time to reply back to the replica. 

Once Xehanort and half of his vessels showed up for a brief talking, they caused the sky to grow dark and Heartless to rain down. Not only that but Nobodies as well as Unversed started to fill up the area surrounding them. 

Right away everyone lunged into battle, fighting as many creatures as possible. In the heat of the fray Riku ended up getting farther away from Sora. Not that he was worried, he knew that Sora could hold his own and he had Donald and Goofy to back him up, but there was still that wanting to be near him. 

He wished that he could be near Sora and actually get to fight alongside him. Only one time in all of the adventures they had so far did that happen, and that was one of Riku’s most treasured moments in recent times. Even recently when Riku was fighting Aqua when she was corrupted by darkness, Sora came in to save him and then he took on Aqua by himself. 

Riku gripped his keyblade tighter as he destroyed more Heartless. Each strike became harder than the last as more and more Heartless, Nobodies, and Unversed were cleared out. It also seemed to help clear his head, his thoughts became more calm and more thoughtful the more he worked at it.

“I will be by your side again Sora. I’m going to try at least. I want to be able to try. I gotta find a way… no matter what. I’ll prove to you my feelings, somehow.”

Chapter Text

Once all of the enemies were cleared out, the group met back up in the center of where they had just fought. Riku side glanced like he had before, and Sora finally picked up that he was staring. He offered a kind and warm smile, one thing that Riku didn’t expect. 

It was the smile that could melt any wall he tried to put up, and it made him actually smile back at Sora. Though before long Mickey spoke up and the focus went back to what was happening in the moment. 

“Is everyone okay?” Mickey asked. 

Everyone nodded and then Sora looked around to everyone. His cheerful smile become something much more serious, a rare look for Sora. “C’mon, let’s go.”

It seemed like everyone was ready to go on ahead, but then something… or someone appeared in the distance. A man was there, one who was vaguely familiar to Riku, he knew for a fact he had seen this man before, but the memory felt a bit old and fuzzy. 

What happened next though was a surprise to him and he was sure also to the rest. Everything happened so quick from the movements of the man, who’s hair had now turned a pure silver-white color, that there was barely any time to just think. Ventus was already struck and knocked out, and Sora took the chance to charge. 

Riku watched Sora get close onto to have his attack stopped by a force of darkness. Sora tried to pull his keyblade free but he was blasted back a second later. Riku tensed up when he saw Sora crash back to the ground. 

He was about to run to him, but once again everything was happening far too quickly. It almost looked like Kairi would be hit, but Lea took the hit instead and was launched forcefully back into the bottom section of one of the mountains. 

Then came a second attack on Kairi. Riku was about to move, ready to save his friend, when Sora ran first. 

Once again Riku froze up against what he wished he could have done. 

As soon as he saw Sora hugging Kairi tightly, ready to take the hit for her, Riku never felt so distant. Sora was willing to block and willing to protect Kairi at the cost of himself.

Sora was going to protect her as he stood there and watched. If only Riku could have moved faster, he could protect the both of them, but his legs felt like ice as the world seemed to move slowly around him.

With the blink of an eye, Goofy came in to block the attack, knocking the man into the air. Even he seemed surprised by the action m, and what happened next was yet another thing that happened all too quickly. 

Donald cast a large and powerful spell, which only added to propelling the man further back. Then after he had collapsed, Mickey and Goofy went to check on him. 

Riku was going to approach Sora to check if he was okay, now that he had stopped hugging Kairi. Much to his surprise though, Kairi pulled on his wrist and motioned over towards the far rocks. 

Lea was slumped there, not moving an inch. Giving one more glance to Sora, who now was the one standing still, he moved to go with Kairi towards Lea. 

While Riku was checking on Lea, who was thankfully still breathing, he heard a noise. He turned to look and saw Sora still standing there. He was looking at the Heartless that were beginning to form a large conglomeration. 

'You better get over there and say something to him otherwise he'll end up being the frozen idiot,' the replica interjected. 

"Don't need to be reminded," Riku said as he moved from his spot to get over to Sora.

He ran up to Sora and stood next to him. Without even thinking he grabbed Sora's shoulder and shook it. 

"Sora! Snap out of it!"

Sora gasped slightly before turning to look at Riku. He could see the worry and fear that was beginning to form. This was not how any of them expected it and Sora was always the first to worry. 

"You gotta breathe Sora. Everyone is okay, they haven't lost their hearts. But we can't just stand here, we have to protect them."

Sora continued to stare at Riku, with a wavering expression. He still was clearly worried, but Riku kept on looking seriously. As much as he wanted to pull Sora into a hug and comfort him about his fears, this was not the time at all. Though that didn't mean he would leave Sora feeling all alone. He would still so whatever he could do for Sora. 

Sora finally nodded. "Yeah, you’re right!"

The two of them then looked back at the Heartless. They were rapidly growing in numbers, getting into a bigger mass than before. 

Aqua then walked up beside them and gave them a serious look. "We stand together."

Riku and Sora nodded before the three of them ran forward towards the ever growing Heartless mass. He summoned his keyblade and prepared for what was to come. He could feel something stirring inside of him as he watched the Heartless. If there was a chance to fight along Sora again, Riku was finally getting his chance. 

It was probably a very dangerous out of every battle Riku had fought, he had fought plenty large Heartless before, but this was the largest swarm of Heartless he had ever seen. Though that did not deter him from his thoughts. He was still determined to do whatever he could to stay strong. 

He would protect and fight alongside Sora this time.

Chapter Text

The large swarm of Heartless continued to materialize before them. The size of it was growing taller and taller and it showed no sign of stopping. As far as Riku could tell, this mass of Heartless, that were now rotating around like a tornado, was already way past the height of a Darkside Heartless. 

Riku breathed in as he prepared for the fight that would most likely commence any moment, but then everything felt like it was falling apart. 

More Heartless flew in, joining the still ever growing mass. It was now to a monstrous proportion now, but still none of the Heartless came out to attack.

Then Aqua dropped her keyblade and that was when the Heartless burst forth directly at her. 

In the blink of an eye she was gone.

The sheer sight of that happening all too quickly was enough to completely through Riku off guard. He managed to call out to her, but she was already gone from the moment the Heartless engulfed her.

Then seconds later the Heartless swooped up all the rest… all except Riku and Sora. Somehow for some reason the Heartless didn't go for them yet.

It did go after Kairi though. 

Riku watched as Sora tried to reach for Kairi. He watched as Sora cried out in desperation for her. For the second time that day he froze again while watching Sora express his feelings for Kairi.

Though frozen in place, he could hear the anguish from Sora's screaming. Sora was hurt, practically crying in pain. Sora needed someone… but Riku only stared. 

"How did this happen? How… why did… everyone… and now Sora…" Riku's thoughts were fragmented, unable to process the event that had happened. 

'Idiot! Snap out of it, already!' The replica screamed in Riku's head. 'Standing here isn't going to help anything!'

Riku breathed out slowly, trying to process what he was hearing. How long had the replica been yelling at him? How much time had passed since this started? Everything felt blurred and out of place now, but Sora was still there. Still crying his eyes out on the ground. 

Riku urged himself to move as fast as he could. He ran up to Sora's side, seeing that he was still sobbing out his heart. "Sora!" Riku shouted, trying to think what he would say next to his friend. 

"Th-They're gone. Kairi, Donald… Goofy, the King… gone forever," Sora said, his voice breaking the more he spoke. He had kept his face to the ground at first, but then he slowly raised it. 

There Riku could see the tears staining Sora's face and the true hurt and sadness that Sora had been hiding. He had seen Sora hurt and sas before, but this was truly much deeper than any of that. "What do we do? Without them… I…"

Sora choked back on another sob before he continued. He started to lower his head again while more tears poured out of him. "All my strength comes from them. They gave me all of it. Alone, I'm worthless. We've lost… It's over."

Riku felt his gut tighten once Sora spoke his words. He spoke as if he were giving up. He wanted to give up because everyone else was lost, but… 

"I'm right here Sora," Riku whispered, or really he wished he could. The words only stayed locked away in his mind, too afraid to escape. His fears started to climb and weed their way into his mind, and he did nothing to stop them. 

"Do… do I not give you strength? Am… I… no longer someone you care about?"

The sound of a scoff echoing in his mind rang clear and loud, interrupting his thoughts. 'I'm getting really tired of you acting all pessimistic. I thought you were supposed to have grown since we last met. Yet you are acting like a complete baby. If Sora didn't care about you, he wouldn't be looking for your advice on what to do!'

"But… he…" Riku watched Sora crying. He even felt his own tears stream down his face now that enough time had passed.

He hated himself for not being able to speak aloud, but he still felt haunted by Sora's words. The words of giving up because everyone but him were gone, and it seemed that him still being there meant nothing. 

The two of them had been through so much together and survived. They had battled tough odds before with Xemnas and then everything during the mark of mastery exam. They still made it through no matter what because they had each other. 

Was all of that gone now? Was it because he screwed up with Sora? Was their connection… 

'No! Stop! Use your brain for a moment and think! Sora needs you more than ever now, he may not have said it, but you are all he has right now. If you were also gone I'm sure he would not even be able to function. Now stop wasting time and actually do something useful!'

Riku nodded. He knew that the replica was right. The replica's point was fair and much better than what he was thinking. Riku wanted to reach out to Sora, he did want to help. 

Slowly he reached his hand out, wanting to give that comfort that Sora needed. "Sora… I…" 

Sora didn't even look up at Riku's voice, he kept his head down and continued to let the tears stream. 

Riku hesitated before his hand reached Sora's shoulder. Doubt entered his mind, tormenting him once more, but this time he pushed those thoughts away as fast as he could. “I won’t let fear stop me this time, I… I will do this.”

He grabbed Sora’s shoulder, warranting his attention. His eyes were already red from so much crying, and yet there were still tears coming down. “Sora,” Riku said, speaking as calmly as he could muster. “You really think that? I mean, honestly the Sora I know wouldn’t say or think that. Cause you know what? I don’t believe that, and I’m going to keep fighting. I’m… I’m going to keep on protecting you Sora, because I…” 

Riku’s words almost got stuck in his throat. They were trying to swell up, making it impossible to finish, but Riku still refused to give in. He could already feel his cheeks burning, but he didn’t care at this point. He wanted Sora to see this. He wanted to have Sora hear what he wanted to say next. 

“I love you Sora. I always have.”

Without another word, fearful that his emotions would spill out too much, Riku stood up and turned to face the Heartless. Though now that he faced away from Sora, some emotions did break free and trickle down his cheeks. He was thankful that he had finally said it, though whatever Sora’s reaction was stayed behind him. As much as he wanted to see how Sora reacted, what mattered more was protecting him. 

He keep on moving though. If it was one thing he knew how to do well, it was how to protect Sora at all costs. Riku would do whatever he could to save Sora, even if it cost himself in the end. His love for Sora was stronger than anything else, and he would use that as his strength to carry himself through all the way to the end. 

Chapter Text

“I love you Sora. I always have.”

Sora heard these words crystal clear, but he still was doubting what he had heard. Or at least part of him was doubting, the other half had his heart racing with feelings he thought were never worthy of being felt again. 

“Riku? Y-You love me?” Sora whispered in a voice that was far too quiet to be heard. "Like actually..." 

His heart was pounding vigorously at this point. The sheer simplicity of Riku’s words had set it off beating and had no plans on stopping or slowing. It raced for the words, but also for what he was seeing before him. Riku kept walking away, farther ahead of him. He was walking right into the Heartless mass that was forming a spiral of Heartless in his direction. 

“What is he… why…” Sora muttered as he tried to figure out what Riku was doing. 

Then a second later he knew why. Riku stepped into a stance and pushed his keyblade forward right as the Heartless went to strike at him.  

An explosion of Heartless and darkness spiraled out from the hit, spilling every way except right behind him. Sora watched carefully as his eyes continued to widen. He could hear Riku yelling, using as much of his strength as he could to keep the Heartless from coming. 

“R-Riku…” Sora choked out softly, still not loud enough to be heard. “Don’t do this. You don’t need to protect me like this…”

His words still too quiet to be heard fell to deaf ears. He thought this, yet he couldn’t get himself to do anything. He could only watch in shock and awe and Riku continued to rip through the Heartless that were pouring at him. 

Until Sora noticed him slip slightly and the darkness start to wrap around his ankles. “Ah!” Sora gasped as he fumbled to his feet. He needed to get to Riku. He couldn’t just sit there and watch anymore! He had to try and do something.

“Riku!” Finally his voice was working and he could shout. 

As the darkness continued to latch onto Riku, Sora swore he could see him turn his head back slightly.

But then the Heartless exploded around him and that was all that was left. 

Sora braced himself as the darkness filled with Heartless flew at him. He felt it hit his body and wrapped around him, the darkness burning against his skin. “Riku, I’m sorry…I wish I could have told you… that…” Sora thought to himself, hoping that his thoughts could be carried to wherever Riku had gone. Though he was never able to finish them for it wasn’t long before his mind faded into nothingness. 

Chapter Text

The last thing Sora had expected was to literally piece himself back together again. Or how ever it was, it was still rather confusing to think about. Either way it was just one of the strangest things he had done, but he had done it and it was over it. Now it was on to more important things.

He had to find and restore everyone’s heart. 

He had set off to find the others, leaving the Final World behind. Once he did that everything blurred around him and he nearly fell unconscious, but he could tell he was getting somewhere. But his mind still briefly faded into sleep. 

“I love you Sora. I always have.”

The event replied through Sora’s mind vivild. Riku’s words so strong and truthful… so meaningful and simple. 

Watching him walk away… to step ahead to protect him… it was still painful to see. But it was still there, still happening in front of his eyes. 

Riku… 

Sora’s eyes shot open and he saw that he was flying through someplace dark, but there was a light up ahead of him. He turned himself around to be facing up right as he continued forward towards the bright source of light. 

Though as he did, his thoughts began to wake up and start poking around. 

Did he really mean what he said? 

Did he really mean ‘love’ in the manner that Sora was hoping for?

It had to be that… Sora couldn’t think of it any other way. 

“He told me directly that he loved me… that he always did. He’s… why didn’t he just tell me before…” 

Sora sighed before he looked to the light again. It was still far away, but he could feel a warmth coming from it. It was a nice and familiar warmth, and he wanted to get to it quicker. 

“Riku!” Sora called out, reaching a hand forward. “Riku! Answer me please!”

There was no answer, but he continued flying towards the light. Even without an answer, he knew that light had to lead him to Riku. There was no other option. It was just something he knew. Something that his heart knew. He could feel it pound against his chest the closer he got to the light. 

“Riku, don’t worry. I am going to find you. Just hold on!”

He finally made it to the light and he closed it eyes as it surrounded him. When the light vanished he found himself to be in a world that was very familiar. “This is Herc’s world.” He didn’t understand why the light had brought him here, but it had to mean something at least. “Does that mean… Riku is here?” 

He was just outside the gates to Olympus itself, and with no real direction he started to head up the stairs. Just following his gut on this one he could only hope that it was leading him the right way.

Halfway up the stairs he stopped and turned around. He only now saw how quiet it was and the lack of… well anyone was a bit odd. Though after making a comment aloud, he found out that Jiminy was still there, hiding in his hood. He jumped out onto Sora;s shoulder to talk with him in an easier way, though it was still surprising. How long he had been there Sora couldn’t tell. Had he just been there the entire time? Even at the final world? How much had he heard? He wanted to ask Jiminy about it, but he wasn’t going to question it. 

After a bit of encouragement from the cricket, Sora ran ahead all the way up to the top of the stairs. At first he wasn’t sure where he would go from here, but something caught his eye the further he ran into the area. 

He saw something that made his heart race, though he had to get closer to be sure. 

Up above one of the structures he saw a light blue, transparent figure. The figure looked just like he did when he was in the Final World… and upon looking closer, he saw exactly who it was. 

His heart ache at the same time, creating a painful feeling in his chest. 

“Riku!” 

His transparent body just floating there in the sky, unmoving and not reacting. 

“Riku! I’m right here!” Sora shouted as he ran closer. 

But before he could get close enough, a Heartless with a strange staff appeared next to Riku. It held out its hand and a second later Riku’s heart floated out from his body and up to the Heartless. Chains formed around it and the Heartless raised its hand and made the heart vanished, and then the Heartless flew away out into another area of Olympus. 

“No… No… I am not going to let you take away Riku!” Sora grumbled aloud. 

He wasn’t going to let any Heartless take away Riku’s heart. 

He had to get Riku’s heart back. He just had to. 

“I love you Sora. I always have.”

The words echoed in his mind once he began running. It started just once, but slowly fell into repeating itself again and again. 

“I love you Sora. I always have.”

“I love you Sora.”

“I love you.”

The words swirled vigorously in his mind. He knew what Riku meant, and now he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He didn’t want to forget the words or the way it was said. He wanted to keep on hearing it. He wanted to hear it from the memory yes, but he also wanted to hear it again in person. 

“When I find you Riku, I want you to tell me again… I want to hear you say it face to face. Then I am going to tell you it as well. We will both tell each other, this time with no fear to stop us. I love you Riku, and I am going to save you.” 

Chapter Text

It had been a bit harder than what Sora expected, but he had done it and stopped the Heartless from taking Riku’s heart. The Heartless may have gotten away, but the heart was at least free. Though it did float off away, presumably to wherever Riku was. 

But now he had to finish the rest of his mission, which was to go and save the rest. Sora ran off, jumping right into it, though he still thought about watching Riku’s heart float off to somewhere. He could only keep on hoping that Riku’s heart was returning to its proper place after all of this. 

He had saved everyone’s heart… everyone’s but Kairi’s. Though he now had a path to take back to the graveyard, and it was his last chance to look for her. Thankfully while flying through the path he did see her farther up again. 

Though upon seeing her smile happily at him, something twitched in his heart. He tried his best to smile back at her while they joined hands. “Kairi.”

He knew he had to say more than just that though. It was going to feel too uncomfortable otherwise. “I found you again.”

Kairi hummed happily as she nodded before they started to fly further through the path. Eventually she looked at him, still smiling. “You see? I had no doubt that you’d pull through.”

“Yeah… thanks…” Sora said. He didn’t know what else to say anymore as they flew towards the light. 

“Sora? Are you okay?” Kairi asked softly as she floated closer to him.

He wasn’t sure how to answer it. He wanted to be honest and straightforward with her, but his mind was wandering too far. He felt afraid now to tell her the truth. He knew it was foolish though. He knew that she would understand. 

“I… Kairi…” Sora sighed, turning his head away from her. 

“Something wrong?”

“No… I mean kind of… but not really,” Sora muttered. 

“You know you can tell me what’s on your mind.”

Sora nodded as he closed his eyes. He knew that was true and he knew she would listen. He tried to speak what he wanted to say, but his words still ended up failing him. He sighed again upset that he wasn’t able to just speak calmly and aloud about all of this. 

“Is it something to do with Riku?” 

Sora looked at Kairi with wide eyes. “What? How did you… I mean it is, but I didn’t say anything that it was about him.”

Kairi laughed. “Remember what you told me when we were at the paopu tree? I don’t know exactly what happened with you two afterwards, but I haven’t forgotten what you told me.”

“You mean… you would be okay if… if I…” Sora hesitated, the words tying up in his throat. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt Kairi’s feelings. He never wanted to hurt anyone's feelings at all, especially his best friends. 

“As long as we can stick together and still be good friends, that’s all that matters to me. We can still look out for each other and be there for one another. But Sora, like I told you back there, I understand if you find your feelings are different.”

“Kairi… thank you,” Sora replied in a whisper. 

Kairi gently took hold of Sora’s hand. “So everything worked out then between the two of you? If I can ask that is.”

“Ah… yeah I think so… maybe. Still need to work out things I think,” Sora said. “But I think I am getting there.”

“That’s good to hear, I’m happy to hear that,” Kairi said before smiling once more. 

It was a truthful and honest smile. Sora could feel the warmth and kindness that flowed from it. He knew that she meant what she said and he felt happy that she was. She actually understood his choice in the matter and only wanted his happiness and his friendship if nothing more. If she hadn’t… he didn’t want to think about those possibilities. 

Sora finally found the strength to smile back. “Thank you Kairi…” 

“Of course. You’re welcome.” 

Kairi gave his hand a gentle squeeze. It was rather reassuring for him and he kept on smiling. “Now let’s keep on going, the others are already ahead.”

“The others… yeah, that’s right,” Sora reminded himself as they got closer to the light. “That means Riku should be back there. Riku… I’m almost back.” 

The light around them became blinding. Sora closed his eyes as he felt the ground beneath his feet. He touched down gently and the light started to fade away. When he opened his eyes he saw that he was standing before all of his friends again, all of them looking to him and looking perfectly fine. 

Before anything could be said or done, his eyes locked onto Riku. The boy was looking at Sora, but something seemed odd about his expression. It almost looked… awkward and perhaps a bit sad. Sora was starting to wonder why Riku was looking like that when he noticed what probably caused it. 

He was still holding onto Kairi’s hand. 

Quickly he let go but kept on staring at Riku. He breathed in slowly, trying to figure out what he wanted to get himself to do. He knew he couldn’t stand there forever, they didn’t have the time for that, but he wasn’t sure what he was trying to do. 

“Go on,” Kairi whispered into his ear. 

Without a word Sora ran forward straight to Riku. He colliding into his chest and he could feel Riku staggered back, not exactly him to hug so suddenly. Now that he had his hold on Riku, there was a warmth in his chest that swelled. 

Finally he was back with Riku. 

Riku was safe and alive. 

Everything was okay. 

“Riku…” Sora choked out. 

His emotions were spilling from him now, right in front of everyone. He didn’t care though. None of that bothered him in the slightest. All he cared about was making sure Riku was okay and hadn’t forgotten what had happened before. And if he did… Sora at least knew Riku’s feelings and would get him to admit it either way. 

“Sora?” Riku responded. “Are you… I mean why are you…” 

Sora lifted his head. He had to blink several times to clear out the tears that were blurring his vision. He wanted to see Riku up close. Seeing his deep blue-green eyes looking at him with such a gentleness made his heart swell up even more. 

He laughed weakly. “I’m happy. Happy you are okay. And… And…”

He pulled on Riku’s jacket, pulling his face close to his own. “And thank you for finally telling me.”

Riku gasped slightly, though it faltered slightly. Now with Riku so close he could hear his breath become unsteady. “Sora… I’m… sorry I didn’t tell you before. I know I should have but-”

“It’s okay. I know now. That’s what matters most.”

Sora continued to hold onto Riku and no more than a few seconds later did Riku finally return with a hold of his own. It was so warm between the two of them. Sora wanted to stay there, comforted and embraced by that warmth, but again he sadly had to remind himself that now was not the time for it. But he still wanted to stay in this warmth… Riku’s warmth… Riku’s light. The very light that guided him to safety. 

Someone cleared their throat and Sora finally had to pull himself away from Riku. Sora looked to see that it was Axel who had done it. “Hey, I get this is a nice reunion and all, but we do have to get back to what we were doing.”

Sora nodded. As much as he wanted to talk things out with Riku, he knew what had to be done first. He gave a quick glance over to him though, and saw him giving a small smile. It was a small, but it filled Sora with that warm feeling again. 

He smiled back. “Right let’s go.” 

The group started running off to where they had to head next, with Sora and Riku running side by side. Sora smiled softly to himself as he kept pace with Riku, the warmth still staying in his chest. This had been the feeling he had been looking for, for so long. He finally found his light and now this time around he was intended to keep him safe.