Sora walked onto the little islet set away from the main drag of the Destiny Islands, feeling the soft sand beneath his shoes; the small island was where he and the others used to play when they were younger. Those days were no longer, but he still liked to sneak away at times to see how things had changed and what had stayed the same. It brought back memories of good times and bad, but now the worst was behind him and his friends. Xehanort was gone and all was well.
Today was different though. He thought he felt a presence out here on the small island, and he knew that it couldn’t be children playing as it was during the school day. He looked around carefully from the shore and saw no one on this beach. He looked out over the sea to the smaller island connected to the main by a bridge. He saw someone over there, someone that he recognized even from this distance. Silvery hair, muscular build, familiar clothing.
Sora crossed the beach, through the shack, and across the bridge to reach the person. “Riku?” he asked cautiously.
Riku sat straight up and turned his head to look. “Sora?” he asked in surprise.
“What are you doing here?” Sora asked.
“I could ask you the same question,” Riku said.
“Well, I like to come here sometimes to look around. It’s nostalgic,” Sora explained. “Now, what about you?” He studied his friend. He was frowning deeply and looking away. “You seem upset.”
“I… I broke up with her,” Riku explained.
“Ah,” Sora said.
He thought back to Riku’s latest girlfriend, a girl named Claire. Outwardly, she was everything that any guy would want to date, but Sora and Kairi knew better. They had seen the way that she had been treating Riku lately. It started with simple things, nagging and criticism, but it had gradually marched forward to things like shouting, ridiculing, and sometimes even hitting. Claire had done her best to keep Riku separated from his best friends, telling him that they were trying to sabotage their relationship or were otherwise out to harm Riku. Sora and Kairi had tried to stop it, but there was nothing more they could do.
Part of Sora wanted to say ‘I told you so’, but he knew that would just hurt Riku. He wanted to say ‘good riddance, you’re better off without her’, but he knew it wasn’t that simple. There was one thing he wouldn’t say, though; he wouldn’t say he was sorry.
“I guess that means you might actually get to see Kairi and me now,” Sora decided to say.
Riku’s eyes widened. “You’d forgive me for what I’ve done, just like that?”
“What you’ve done? You haven’t done anything wrong!” Sora said. “It was all what she did. You just listened.”
“But I ignored you two. You warned me, you told me what I wasn’t seeing, and I ignored you.” Riku shook his head. “I messed up again…”
Sora sighed and sat down next to him. “You know, Riku, think of everything that has happened, all the way back when we were teenagers and out fighting real battles. You made mistakes then, too: worse ones. But didn’t we forgive you?” Sora grinned. “You, me, and Kairi: we’ll always be best friends, always there for each other. You just happen to be a little more stubborn.”
Riku shook his head. “You’re always like this, always so optimistic… Why can’t you just admit that I’m stupid sometimes?”
Sora chuckled. “I told you directly once, and that certainly didn’t get it through your head. There’s more to it than that.” He stretched his arms over his head. “We’ve all gotten into our fair share of trouble over the years. The thing is, you have to let yourself get pulled out of it!”
Riku nodded. “I’ll try harder, next time when I get in trouble. I’ll try to listen.”
“Good that you admit there will be a next time. Hopefully not like this, but we’ll all have our problems off and on.” Sora sighed and stood up. “Say, why don’t we go back home and tell Kairi that you’ve come to your senses?”
Riku stood up and laughed. “Married life still treating you okay?” he joked.
“Of course it is!” Sora said. “It’s really not like much has changed, to be honest.”
“That’s good, I guess,” Riku said. “I don’t want to intrude.”
“Relax, Riku; it’ll just be like old times.” Sora grinned. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Riku smiled. “Why don’t you go on ahead? We have to take separate boats, after all.”
Sora tilted his head. “Alright, if you say so,” he said. “But if you don’t show up soon, I’m going out searching for you!” He got into his boat and started rowing.
Riku watched Sora row away from the shore. He smiled and looked down. “Thanks, Sora,” he muttered under his breath. “Don’t know why I ever tried to go without you.”
He didn’t understand what he had been thinking. He knew that Sora and Kairi always saw through whatever Riku was going through and knew what was right even when he didn’t see it. But Sora and Kairi were together now. Riku thought that it was time to take a step back and let them be together. Days fighting Xehanort were in the past now. There was no threat left. He didn’t want to be the one thing that got in their way.
What he hadn’t thought about was if that was what they even wanted. It was more complicated than that, and Riku could never tell them. He knew that they wouldn’t understand, and that was why he tried to fill that void in his heart. Sora had chosen Kairi. Riku had never had a chance. He didn’t resent Kairi for it; he was happy for his best friends. Maybe… maybe just a little jealous.
But he had really thought about it now. Claire could never fill that void, and she was just hurting him. He thought that her pulling him away had been a good thing, but he was wrong. He couldn’t have Sora and Kairi’s fairytale, at least not with Claire.
No, he had to look at the big picture. Sora and Kairi were still his best friends, and no matter how he had them, it was better to have them at all. This wouldn’t happen again. There wouldn’t be another Claire... He had thought that before about others, but this time, he was sure. Sora and Kairi came first.
This time, Riku wasn’t going to make the same mistakes. This time, he was going to get away from it all.
Sora waited for Riku at the dock. He didn’t have to wait very long, but he was afraid that if he had gone home without him he would have changed his mind about coming to see Kairi. When Riku made it to the dock, Sora greeted him with a large grin. “Come on,” Sora said, leading the way.
Riku smiled back. It felt like he has smiled so much more this day than he had in a very long time. His mistakes felt so far behind him thought they hadn’t been handled for even a day. He knew that Claire might try to get him back, he knew that it wasn’t over yet; but he hoped that seeing Sora and Kairi would be enough to bring it all into place and make it feel final. Following the path that by all rights should have been familiar was comforting. He knew that things were going to be okay now.
Sora and Kairi’s house wasn’t small nor was it large. It was one of those ‘just right’ type houses. It was simple enough, painted white with a small garden out front. Many windows looked out into the street with soft translucent drapes peeking through the panes. It invoked a feeling of home.
Sora led the way to the door and led the way inside. “Kairi, guess what?” he called into the open air. There was sparse furniture; they hadn’t lived together for very long to accumulate clutter.
“What is it, Sora?” Kairi asked, coming out of the kitchen. She paused for a moment before smiling. “Riku!” she cheered. “It’s been a while!”
“Sorry about that,” Riku said, rubbing the back of his head and looking away.
“Don’t be. You’re always welcome here.” She still smiled. “So, what brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“Well…” Riku sighed and nodded. “I broke up with Claire,” he explained. “I was out on the old play island to think and Sora showed up and invited me.”
“Hmm, I knew Sora wanted to go there for a reason. It was too bad I couldn’t come along.” Kairi hesitated. “Does this mean… Does this mean that you’re back?”
Riku nodded. “Yes. Yes it does.”
“Good!” Kairi said. “We’ve missed you! You’ve hardly even seen this place!”
“I know. I haven’t been able to see you since you moved out of your apartment.”
“Well, you’re here now.” She paused. “I was just fixing dinner. Nothing too fancy, of course, but there’s enough for three.” What went unsaid was that there was always enough for an extra person, for a good reason.
“Thanks… I don’t want to intrude, though. I don’t have to stay long—“
“No, please don’t go!” Kairi interjected.
Riku was startled. Were they really just accepting him back, just like that? “Okay,” he said timidly.
Kairi paused and looked down for a moment. “Sorry… What I meant was, you can go if you want to, but if you want to stay, feel free. It’s good to see you.” She realized that had sounded like an order, and it was time that Riku wasn’t ordered around any longer.
“I’ll stay,” Riku decided.
“Awesome!” Sora said. “I’ll give you the tour!”
Riku followed Sora around the house, only half paying attention to the details that Sora gave since he was explaining what every little item was excitedly. It seemed that he had been waiting for a long time to show Riku around. Riku was happy to comply. He had wanted to see this place just as badly as Sora wanted to show it.
“—And here’s two extra bedrooms,” Sora said. “If you ever decide that you don’t want to live alone anymore, you’re welcome to one.”
“Huh?” Riku snapped out of his trance. “Really?”
“Yes, really.” Sora’s expression was serious.
“So, not only are you forgiving me for what I’ve done, inviting me back into your life… But you’re willing to literally take me back in?”
“Yes,” Sora said with a nod. “We… originally we were hoping that we could all get a house together, remember? Living in apartments was supposed to be temporary.”
“But that was before you two were married,” Riku interjected.
“That doesn’t change anything,” Sora said, waving his hand. “It’s a piece of paper making a commitment official. It didn’t really change that much.”
“He’s right, you know,” Kairi said from behind. “That promise still stands.”
Riku looked back and forth between the two of them for a moment. “You guys…” He sighed. “You’re too good to me.”
“No, we’re not,” Kairi said authoritatively. “This is how people who care about each other are supposed to treat each other.”
Riku paused. “I’ll… I’ll think about it,” he decided. He wasn’t sure that he was ready to accept them being so kind just yet, but the kind offer made his heart feel lighter. He didn’t understand why Sora and Kairi were forgiving him yet again for the mistakes he had made; one would think that they would get tired of it. He couldn’t comprehend what that level of care… But when he thought about it, for them, he would do the same. Maybe it wasn’t so hard to understand after all, if he looked at it that way.
“Come on, dinner’s ready,” Kairi said, leading the way through the house and into the kitchen.
The kitchen was bright and beachy, faint blue walls and whitewashed cabinets, windows much like those in the living room slanting sunlight in through them. There was a simple blue table in the center of the room set with three plates. The meal placed on it was non-descript, some rice and some kind of fish that was likely cheap in this island town and easy to cook. This house certainly felt like a home.
They all sat down quietly and began eating. The silence wasn’t awkward; rather, it was comforting. It was a pleasant day, and things felt so much better than they had in a long time.
“So,” Kairi began after a few moments. “Do you have any plans now?”
Riku shook his head. “No. I just broke up with her this morning.”
“Oh,” Kairi said. “Well, I suppose you can figure it out as you go along.”
“I’m not going back, though,” Riku promised. “It just took me a long time to realize what was happening, I guess. Sorry about that.”
“You don’t need to be sorry,” Sora assured. “You’re here now, and I’m going to do my best to stop what happened from happening again.”
“Same here,” Kairi agreed.
Riku nodded. “Thanks, guys.”
Having Sora and Kairi back was enough to solidify that he had made the right decision. If they had resented him, well, he wasn’t sure that he wouldn’t go back eventually. But now he had his real friends back. Claire no longer had any control over him. He had thought that he could love her, and he thought that she could love him; but it was clear now that was never going to happen. It was time to move on. Romance wasn’t everything.
Once the meal was done, they left the table to clear later. They retired to the living room and just talked for a long time. Riku had a lot to catch up on, after all. It had been months since they had seen each other, even longer since they had a meaningful conversation.
Riku wasn’t sure what he had been thinking when he let it all fall to the side. He could live with them being together. What he couldn’t live with was being apart from them.
That chapter came really quick, but there's no guarantee that they will all come so quickly.