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Starry Crown

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Sora keeps his windows open all year round, so that the sound of the waves can always reach his bedroom and carry him into sleep. But he can’t sleep tonight, and he doesn’t know why.

Riku is next to him, asleep. He’s only just stopped tossing and turning and pulling on the blankets around him, like couldn’t get comfortable in Sora’s bed.

But now he’s turned towards Sora, and Sora’s head won’t be quiet no matter how much he tries.

It’s their first sleepover—the first time Riku’s parents have agreed to let him stay the night, without coming up with an excuse that even Sora could tell was made-up.

Tonight had been different, and magic. They’d eaten snacks Riku wasn’t allowed to have at home, and they’d watched a scary movie that ended up being too scary, so they’d gone and kneeled on Sora’s bed and looked out the window, and Riku had pointed out his favorite stars until both of them had calmed down. Riku had said he wasn’t scared of the movie, but he’d been the one to press stop.

When it was dark, the sky turned into a place that went on forever, instead of just a color. Sora had reached out his hand and pretended to touch the sheet of stars, and the cool breeze brushing his fingers made it feel like he actually was.

Then a shooting star fell, and Riku, always ready to compete, pretended to catch it. He quickly cupped his hands together and held them to his chest. Then, he peeked inside them, to make sure it was still there.

“Let me see!” Sora chimed.

“No, I caught it fair and square. You have to catch your own.” Riku was trying not to smile. He’d been doing that more and more often.

“No fair, Riku! What if that’s the only one tonight?”

“Finders keepers!”

Sora huffed. “Are you at least gonna make a wish?”

Riku’s face went serious, and he looked back at his cupped hands. Then he closed his eyes—really squeezed them shut. Sora kept quiet so he wouldn’t interrupt.

After Riku had tucked one of his hands into his pocket, like he was putting the star away, Sora whispered, “What did you wish for?”

“I can’t tell you, or else it won’t come true,” he said firmly.

Sora nodded. He knew all about wishes. “…I hope it does.”

“Me too.” They turned back to the sky, but there were no more shooting stars. After a little while, Riku looked back at Sora, then away. Then he started digging in his pocket.

Sora quickly threw his hands up. “Riku, no! It’s yours! You caught it fair and square!”

“It’s not that…” Riku held out what he’d had in his pocket.

It was a long chain, with a silver crown hanging on it.

“Oh! That’s a cool necklace, Riku.”

Riku held it out farther. “It’s for you.”

“What?”

“It’s for you,” he repeated, like he didn’t know what else to say.

“Oh…” Sora put out his open palm to accept it. It dropped down, the chain falling on top of the crown like soft-serve ice cream. It was already the same temperature as his skin, after being in Riku’s pocket.

“I brought it for you. In case… In case we don’t get to do this again.”

Something pressed on top of Sora’s chest when Riku said that. Sora wanted to do this again—he wanted to spend every night with Riku if he could—and his heart jumped like a seagull on the beach when he thought of Riku wanting that too.

“We will,” Sora said certainly. “Because it’s my wish too.”

Sora held the chain of the necklace to let the crown swing in the night air. It caught the light like some of the star had gotten on it inside Riku’s pocket, and now that Sora had it, their parents couldn’t keep them apart anymore—not really. Not forever.

 

Sora had put the necklace on right away. It was a little cold at first, after being out in the air, but now it’s so warm against his skin that he keeps forgetting it’s there, until he remembers Riku gave it to him, and then his thoughts start all over again.

Sora is staring at white eyelashes in the dark when he sees Riku’s eyes move underneath his eyelids.

“Hey Riku?”

“Mmn?" Riku murmurs.

“Are you awake?”

He shifts his chin up and down in a nod, but doesn’t open his eyes. “Mmhmm.”

“Can you tell me a bedtime story?”

“Those’re for kids.”

“We are kids, Riku.”

“Maybe you are,” he grumbles, sounding a little more awake now.

Riku’s hand is laying up by his head, and Sora reaches to lace their fingers together. Usually, Riku would pull away, and tell him that holding hands was for kids too, but he doesn’t. Maybe because he’s too tired. Or maybe because there’s no one around to see them—even Riku. His eyes are closed like he’s trying to keep them closed.

“Tell me a bedtime story,” Sora says again, rubbing his thumb on Riku’s hand.

“About what?”

“About anything.”

Riku breathes in, and Sora takes a breath to match him. “Once upon a time… there was a prince, and a knight. The prince lived in a big castle, and the knight came to save him.”

“It’s not a princess?”

Riku pushes his eyebrows together. “No, because… the king didn’t have any daughters. Let me tell the story.”

“Sorry,” Sora whispers. “But if the prince lived there, why did the knight have to save him?”

“Because… the king didn’t let him go to the beach, even though he loved the sea.”

“Oh…”

“And when he tried to leave, the king locked the gate and pulled the drawbridge up,” Riku says. “But the knight knew a secret way in, because… he’d been locked up too, before. But he’d already escaped, from his castle, so he’d gone to get his friend from his.”

Sora thinks he feels Riku’s fingers tense. Sora shuffles a little closer, even though they’re already nearly touching foreheads. When Riku breathes again, Sora feels it on his cheek, and he can smell Riku’s toothpaste.

“He waited until it was dark outside, then he got past all the guards without any of them knowing he was there. He went to the prince’s room, and whispered, ‘It’s time to go.’ but the prince was scared his dad would try to stop them, so the knight gave the prince his sword so he wouldn’t be scared…” There is a long pause. Riku is falling asleep again.

“He doesn’t hurt anyone, does he?” Sora prompts, drawing his free hand around the necklace.

“No… he… they… went back the way the knight had come, and even though the prince had the sword, he didn’t need to use it, because the knight knew how to sneak all the way back out…”

Sora smiles, relieved.

Riku concentrates his eyebrows, trying to find his place again. “And they went straight to the ocean, because the knight knew how bad the prince wanted to see it, and he wanted to see it too. They made it right when the sun was coming up, and they watched it light up the water, and the prince… gave the knight back his sword. But then… the knight stuck it in the sand, because… he knew he didn’t need it anymore.”

Riku manages a final, mumbled, “and…” before his breaths turn long and deep, until they fit with the far-away sound of waves.

Sora lies there, one hand on the necklace and the other in Riku’s, and the night is soft and warm and full of everything.

“And they both lived happily ever after,” Sora whispers, just before sleep takes him too.