Sora was clearly going through a whirlwind of emotions, body shaking, hands clutching at the other boy’s too tightly, as though if Sora eased up even for a second he would disappear and Sora would lose him all over again. “Riku.” He huffed, sneakers squeaking loudly against the smooth surface of the castle floor as he slipped to the ground, still pulling the hand all the more closer to him. “It’s Riku,” He repeated. “Riku’s here.”
Kairi stepped back, blinking back heavily at the tears threatening to spill down her face. She was all too aware the three friends hadn’t been this close since the afternoon before the storm so long ago. She sniffled, rubbing at her eyes.
Donald and Goofy were gawking. Their jaws dropped when Kairi had first addressed Ansem-no, Xehanort's heartless? as Riku, and they were still hanging wide open.
The two had been unsure what to expect of Sora and Riku’s eventual reunion, only hoping for Sora’s sake it went well. Everytime Sora voiced his desire for seeing his best friend, or became overwhelmed with joy at what Sora perceived to be a clue to his whereabouts, Donald and Goofy cast eachother a look. The same one they were giving eachother now, after they had finally gotten their mouths to close.
The brief glances were all they’d been able to give eachother, because Sora would always turn around and smile at them so wide his face might split, saying something along the lines of “I just know I’ll see him again soon!” or “I can tell Riku’s looking out for us, can’t you?” They’d instantly turn away from eachother and back to Sora, nodding in agreement to Sora’s words because they didn’t want that smile to slip away into his “Will I ever see Riku again?” despair.
Once or twice they had tried to bring up their mutual concern. Goofy had said something akin to “If Riku’s runnin’ around ina black coat... don’tcha think, maybe, he’s with the Organization?”
Sora had just laughed it off. “Nah! Riku?” He scoffed, putting his hands behind his head and looking up at the sky, smiling. “No way! He’s on our side.”
Then Donald and Goofy would have to give eachother The Look again. The Look that said what they couldn’t say in front of Sora. The Look that meant “I don’t want to crush his hopes but this reunion might not go so great, assuming Riku’s even still alive.”
Because the two of them just could not fathom where Sora’s faith in his “best friend” came from. Donald and Goofy could count the number of interactions they’d had with Riku on one hand, and every single one had been unpleasant.
First he had just seemed violent and arrogant. Boy of fifteen, casually swinging about a blade that no hero of the light would be caught dead with. Staying only a moment to brag, then disappear without a trace.
The next few interactions confirmed their suspicion about that blade. This kid was clearly on the wrong side. Kidnapping puppets, carrying around a dead-eyed Kairi, locking them up and sicing heartless on them.
Then in Hollow Bastion he was able to summon the keyblade.
The last thing Donald and Goofy wanted to do was leave Sora on his hands and knees, hunched over in shame. Even less did they want to have to follow around the silver-haired brat, swinging the powerful weapon like it was a new toy. But they had their orders, they needed to follow that key and assist the wielder in using it for light. They couldn’t abandon their duty, it was ten times as important now that the keyblade was in the hands of such a dark-hearted and reckless young man.
Riku didn’t speak a word to the two of them, but let them come along. He regarded them the same way he did the key, proof of his victory over Sora.
After that the laundry list of wrongdoings kept on. Trying to kill Sora, trying to make Maleficent kill Sora, trying to kill Sora by turning into an old man. Holding back the heartless with his last ounce of strength, closing the Door to Darkness and sacrificing himself in the process. Well, maybe those two weren’t wrongdoings.
Goofy considered their interactions since. Both he and Donald suspected The King was fabricating a promise with Riku to try and shield Sora from the fact that Riku was dead, or had betrayed them again. But if The King hadn’t lied, and he really was friends with Riku, and all those little favors Sora was convinced were Riku’s really were Riku’s, maybe Sora hadn’t been wrong to put his trust in him.
“But it was him that was helping us, wasn’t it?” Goofy pointed out to Donald, whose look was currently saying “I don’t trust this guy, I’m going to cast some blizzara magic on him.”
“Huh?!” Donald squawked.
“Those clues we kept findin’! I guess they were from Riku afterall.” Goofy turned to look at Riku in a new light. Physically, there was still nothing in his appearance tying him back to the boy Goofy had met in Traverse Town, but the way he was smiling down at Sora seemed genuine, and not very Xehanort's’-heartless-like.
“I was wondering when you two would catch up.” Riku laughed, and the voice was that of Riku’s. “Sora never did pick the brightest friends.” Goofy noted that the words were definitely that of Riku’s.
Donald made some snarling comeback that Riku ignored in favor of continuing his conversation with Sora.
“Aw, Donald. It might really be Riku.” Goofy told him, quiet enough so Sora wouldn’t hear.
“Just because he’s not Xehanort's heartless doesn't mean he’s on our side.” Donald grumbled back.
Sora recovered, back on his feet and wiping away his tears. “Let’s go!” He called, waving down the group, smiling once more up at Riku, and charging out of the room. Donald and Goofy gave eachother another look before following after.
Donald and Goofy continued to watch Riku with caution. At first, anytime he made a sudden movement Donald would grip at his staff and Goofy would flex his fingers around his shield’s handle.
Goofy started to relax after a while. Riku hadn’t done anything suspicious, and Kairi seemed to trust him. Sora clearly had no second guesses, he just kept beaming up at Riku, cracking jokes and grabbing at his friend's arm every once and awhile just to reconfirm he was there and this was real. After every fight he’d rush over to make sure both his friends from the islands were still fine. Riku and Kairi both rolled their eyes at being fussed over. Kairi would shove at his shoulder playfully and Riku would rustle his hair.
Goofy found himself warming up to Riku a little more when he realized that he wasn’t the same as before. Despite his sarcastic remarks about the trio’s intelligence earlier, he was less inclined to making jokes at others expense. Plus, the way he was smiling at Sora was sweet, even on Xehanort's face.
Donald eventually stopped plotting to attack Riku after he got his original body back. The King and Ansem both trusted him, and he no longer looked like the heartless who tried to plunge the worlds into darkness. He was still skeptical though, not trusting Riku to stay on the path of light. Donald was still on guard, and he was growing more frustrated by the minute that Sora wasn’t.
Goofy knew Sora couldn’t help being so giddy, on cloud nine even in this giant castle of monstrous, lurking evil. He hadn’t been properly reunited with Kairi since their brief respite in Traverse Town. As for Riku, there never had been a proper reunion. But Goofy also wished Sora could be a bit more on guard.
“What’s up with your jacket?” Sora asked, after clearing another room of Nobodies. He gripped at Riku’s zipper and gave it a little tug. “Is this broken?”
“It’s just the style.” Riku grumbled, pushing Sora’s hands back. Riku was also happy, but unlike Sora he kept on edge, not turning to look at Sora, still scanning the room for more enemies.
Sora snorted. “That’s dumb. You’re unprotected.” He poked at Riku’s belly button. Riku narrowed his eyes, but still kept on lookout. But then Sora poked again and Riku seemed to also forget the giant castle of monstrous, lurking evil.
He looked down at Sora, smirking fondly and pinching at his cheek in relation. “The designers probably didn’t think weirdos would go around assaulting people’s belly buttons.” Riku quipped, followed by a surprised shout of, “Hey, wait! Knock it off!”
Neither Donald nor Goofy were able to shout “Sora, stop trying to tickle Riku in the middle of Organization Thirteen’s castle!” They were too stunned by the fact a situation had arose where they would ever need to say those words.
Kairi was the one who ended up intervening. “I’m happy to see you guys too,” She said, stepping between them, “But we need to stay alert, okay?”
The two both nodded and mumbled solemn apologies. But Riku still tripped Sora in revenge as the group left the room. Sora shoved him back, laughing before rushing out as well, and The King gave Riku the most incredulous slow blink he had ever given anyone in his life.
Riku and Sora were left behind in The World That Never Was.
The rest of team found themselves safe on Destiny Islands. After the eventual panic and disbelief subsided, Kairi sat in the sand, clutching at her knees, pale as a ghost. “They’re going to be fine.” Her hands were trembling, but her voice was steady. “They’re going to come home to me.”
King Mickey was pacing back and forth, shoes kicking up the waves that lazily rolled themselves onto the beach. Goofy chewed at his fingers, sick with anxiety. Donald was mumbling a stream of “Oh no oh no oh no” to himself.
“They’re going to be fine.” The King agreed, but he didn’t sound as convinced as Kairi.
“I’m sure they’ll be.” Goofy mumbled.
Donald threw his arms into the air. “Will they?!” He exclaimed.
Kairi shot him a dark look. “Yes.”
“They have eachother.” The King voiced, nodding to himself. “They’ll be fine.” He was still pacing.
“How do we know?” Donald asked. “How do we know Riku’s not going to betray Sora? Leave him high and dry?”
The King and Kairi snapped, “Riku wouldn’t do that,” at the same time.
Donald wasn’t convinced, but he kept quiet after that. Goofy just stared at the sand. He wasn’t sure if it was his nerves or the heat radiating off the ground that was making the world spin.
They all agreed that they would wait until sunset. If Sora and Riku still weren’t back, then they’d get off world as soon as possible and start looking for them.
Midday slunk slowly into afternoon. Kairi hadn’t moved an inch, still staring out onto the horizon, hardly blinking in case she missed a black portal appearing and her two best friends tumbling out of it. The heat was starting to leave in favor for cool ocean air, and Kairi tucked her blowing hair behind her ear, eyes still fixed on the ocean, lip trembling.
The King’s pacing hadn’t stopped, evident from the trail he left in the sand, but now he began anxiously glancing over his shoulder every other minute. Donald and Goofy sat beside eachother, wordless.
Then, there was a bright flash of light across the sky, cracking across the hemisphere like lightening. They all winced at the intensity, and when their eyes adjusted they could see two human-shaped figures hurdling towards the earth, into the ocean about a quarter mile down the beach.
Kairi was on her feet before anyone else could react. “Look!” She shouted, pointing at the figures. She tore off down the beach. The others followed her, cheering.
The next moments were filled with tackling, hugging, crying, laughing, hugging and hugging and more hugging. Kairi and Sora had their arms wrapped so tightly around one another, only loosening for a moment to grab Riku and drag him in too, becoming nothing more than a tangle of limbs and hiccuping laughter.
Nearly an hour had gone by before the hugging stopped, replaced by Sora, Kairi and Riku running along the shoreline, splashing eachother and laughing like nothing bad had ever happened to them before.
By the time the sun was setting Sora and his friends were nestled up in a curved tree on a smaller island, connected to the main one by a wooden bridge that The King, Donald, and Goofy were sitting on. The three were catching up, giving more detailed reports of their experiences away for two years. After The King finished recounting his time in the Realm of Darkness, Donald found himself finally believing Riku was wholly on their side.
“I guess we can trust him.” He said, looking briefly over at the teenagers joking around with eachother. He still wasn’t sure he liked how chummy Riku was being with them.
“Well gosh, Donald.” The King frowned. “Of course you can.”
“I think he’s all made up for the things he did two years ago.” Goofy added.
Donald nodded, but didn’t say anything. Goofy began with his report, but was interrupted by the sound of steps on the creaky boardwalk.
“Should I give you guys a tour around the island?” Kairi asked, smiling politely and clasping her hands behind her back.
Goofy smiled back. He had always really liked Kairi. She was such a nice kid. “Gawrsh, Don’t ya think ya should be enjoyin’ yourself with Sora and Riku?”
The King waved her off with a good-natured chuckle. “You don’t need to worry about us. Go have fun with your friends.”
Kairi looked to the side, her smile becoming a little sly. “I think they won’t miss me right now.” She said.
The group of three all leaned forward to look around her.
Sora and Riku were still sitting up on the branch, visible as silhouettes, their colors muted by the pink light cast across the horizon. They were no longer facing the ocean. Instead, they were turned towards eachother, hands wrapped around the other’s waist, so close their noses brushed against eachother. Riku lifted a hand to Sora’s cheek, tilting his face to the side and closing the tiny space that had spanned between their lips.
Then they were kissing.
Goofy’s eyes widened in mild surprise, but only in mild. He couldn’t say he hadn’t seen it coming. The smiles, the playful nudges and hair ruffles that they had been exchanging in the castle. Maybe even before that too, in the dreamy look that crossed Sora’s eyes everytime he thought he was a step closer to Riku. Yeah, Goofy had known this was only a matter of time.
The King, on the other hand, was doing a spit take and Donald nearly fell off the bridge. Kairi’s slight amusement had turned into uncontrollable laughter.
Donald recovered a second later, jumping up, staff clutched in one hand, running across the bridge. He was roaring wordlessly, not stopping until he had rushed up to the kissing boys and had swung his staff against Riku’s kneecaps.
”Oh boy,” Goofy breathed, hurrying to his feet to rush after his friend.
The King got up as well, calling for Donald to stop. Kairi’s laughter ebbed away into silent surprise.
The duck continued to swing his weapon at the boy. Riku was too startled and confused to do anything besides cower behind his arms and make distressed noises as Sora tried to pull the staff out of Donald’s hands.
“What’s the matter with you?!” Sora screamed, finally tugging the weapon out of his grasp.
“I- ” Donald cried, jumping up to grab it out of the teenager’s hands. “Don’t- ” He leapt again. “Approve!”
“What?!” Sora yelped. He was blushing furiously. So was Riku, who cautiously lowered his arms a sliver to see the scene. “I- You-” Sora stammered, words beyond him. Finally he was able to choke out, “W-what does that even mean?!”
“It means,” Donald lunged for his weapon once more before giving up, panting. “That you’re not allowed to date him!” Donald pointed dramatically at Riku, who flinched. “He’s no good for you!”
Goofy grabbed at Donald’s shoulders, holding him back gently but firmly. “Now, Donald.” He scolded. “Sora should be allowed ta be with Riku if he wants.”
“No way!” Donald shouted, stomping his foot and trying to shove Goofy off. Riku just stared into the distance, unable to react to any of this. All Kairi and The King could do was stare as well.
“You’re not my mom, Donald!” Sora coughed, glowing red.
“I may as well be!” Donald shouted back. “Who comforted you during all those nightmares?! Who took care of you when you got space-sick on the Gummi Ship!? Huh?!”
Donald freed himself of Goofy to point and chastise at Sora who was stunned into mortified silence. Donald continued to yell and gesture wildly as Goofy clasped his hand onto a shellshocked Riku’s shoulder.
“Don’ let Donald get to ya.” Goofy told him, snapping Riku out of his horrified stupor. “He’ll come aroun’. I think you’re a real good kid, and I’m happy for ya two.”
“Um…” Riku’s voice cracked, and his red cheeks went a shade darker. “Thanks.”
Sora found his voice again and began screaming in retaliation at Donald. They continued until the last bit of red light slithered itself down behind the water’s edge. Eventually, Donald gave in. He huffed, angrily stomping away. He paused before reaching the bridge and rounded on Riku.
“You!” Riku looked at him, hesitantly. Donald brandished his finger at him. “You better be good to him!”
Riku made a garbled noise that wasn’t a word.
“Say it!” Donald growled, narrowing his eyes.
“I… Uh… Will be good to him.” He managed to stutter out the words.
Donald glowered at him for a moment, then turned to stomp off. Goofy retired from patting at Riku’s shoulder reassuringly to follow after his fuming friend. Riku looked up at the sky and blinked, not really sure what was going on anymore. He just wanted to kiss Sora, he thought, his knees aching. Why did this happen?
A hand snaked itself around his waist, and he jumped. He looked down from the sky at Sora, who was leaning against his side. His face, flushed from all the yelling was bathed in a gentle blue light from the twilight. He was grinning, satisfied he had won the argument.
“Aww, you’ll be good to me?” Sora asked, and Riku felt his cheeks heat up. “Do you promise?”
Riku returned Sora’s smile, albeit a lot smaller and a lot more shy.
“I promise.” He replied.
Sora pressed his lips against Riku’s cheek. “Good,” he muttered, pulling him closer with the hand on his hip.