The screech of a Deinos echoed across the forest floor as Reyn finished it off with a Sword Drive. Had Reyn been any later, Shulk would’ve been pierced by the dino’s claws. Reyn turned on his heel, checking on the boy behind him.
“Oi, that was a close one. Are you alright?”
“Yeah,” Shulk replied from the ground, recovering from being toppled. He took hold of Reyn’s outstretched hand and hoisted himself up. “Thank you for saving me,” he smiled.
The sincerity of Shulk’s words and smile made Reyn blush. His hand pulled back from Shulk’s to scratch his neck nervously. “Hey, there’s no need for thanks. That’s what best friends are for, right?”
Sharla and Riki watched the two from a distance.
“Shulk and Reyn make great couple,” Riki admired as if he were watching his own littlepon.
“Huh? They aren’t dating.”
“WHAT YOU SAY?!”
“I mean, yeah, Reyn’s crush is kinda obvious, but I don’t think Shulk has caught on yet.” Sharla was a bit disappointed by this, as she felt something for Reyn, as big of a doofus that he was. He just reminded her so much of her dear Gadolt.
“Oh no, this won’t do. Riki talk to Reyn tonight, man to man.” Riki waddled away determinedly.
Sharla sighed. “Oh brother.”
The gang set up camp in the forest for the night. Almost everyone had already passed out, exhausted from battle. Reyn had volunteered for the first shift of lookout and sat by the fire. He was polishing his mammoth of a sword when he was startled by the sound of something plopping down beside him. Instinctively, he gripped his sword and started to swing.
“Don’t hurt Riki!!”
“Hwa-! Oh, it’s you. Bloody hell, Riki, I thought you were an enemy. You were this close to becoming a furball kabob.”
“Hmm, Riki probably would taste pretty yummy.”
What goes through this guy’s brain?? Reyn tried his best to ignore that comment and change the subject. “What are you still doing up?”
Riki held out his little arms in front of the fire and purred, content by the warmth.
“Riki notice Reyn have.... problem. And Riki want to help.”
Brows furrowed in confusion, Reyn frowned. “What problem?”
“Reyn have a crush. Big crush! On Shulk.”
Instantly, Reyn’s eyes widened. “W-what are you talking about? He’s my best friend, yeah, but-“
“Everybody see it. Well, maybe not Dundun because he dumbdumb. But Riki see same look on his littlepon. That look is LOVE!”
“Oi, keep your voice down!” Reyn shout-whispered. With a sigh, he relented. “Alright, alright. It’s true. I’ve had feelings for him for a long time, but I couldn’t ever bring myself to tell him.”
“That’s strange. Reyn definitely not shy! Why no tell him?”
Reyn scratched his head. He couldn’t make eye contact with Riki. It felt weird, being able to confide in someone like this. Maybe it’s because Riki was an innocent-looking fuzz ball, yet had the years of experience of a father. Or maybe it was because he’d known him for so little time that it felt low-stakes. Whatever it was, Reyn felt comfortable sharing his insecurities with the Nopon.
“Well, when we were growing up it was always me, Shulk, and Fiora. Fiora also had a giant crush on Shulk. But she wasn’t shy about it all. She always made him meals and would flirt with him. They were so close. Everyone in our colony assumed they would end up together. Especially Dunban. I just didn’t think I stood a chance.”
“Mmhmm,” Riki nodded, a gesture that shook his whole body.
“And now, well now..... Fiora is gone. There’s nothing stopping me now, and yet there is. I think maybe I was using Fiora as an excuse. The truth is.... I’m scared of losing Shulk. What if he doesn’t have the same feelings? He’s my best friend and the closest thing I have to family. I can’t lose him.”
“Reyn look at Riki.”
At his command, Reyn turned his gaze to Riki. Riki had a soft look in his eyes.
“If Reyn and Shulk really best friends, Reyn no lose Shulk. Reyn as important to Shulk as Shulk is to Reyn. Nothing can change that.”
“Wow. You make a good point, Riki.” Reyn chuckled as his nerves lifted just a bit.
“What, you have no faith in Riki? Riki make many good points all the time.” Riki crossed his arms and sniffed in a dramatic gesture.
“Yeah, yeah. Riki’s a genius.” Reyn playfully smacked Riki’s back. “Anyways, I see how brave Shulk has become lately. I don’t think I could be that brave....”
“Still not ready to confess? Hmmm.” Riki scrunched up his tiny face in thought. “Okay, Riki know of an item called Truth Juice that will definitely make Reyn confess!”
“Really?!” Reyn nearly shouted, before realizing the others were still sleeping nearby. “Why didn’t ya just start with that, ya bugger...” he muttered. “How can I get some of that juice?”
“Riki know a guy.”
“Of course you do.”
“What if! Riki go to village right now and get juice from guy? Badubadu owe Riki favor.” Riki made a face much like >:3
I’m not sure I want to know what the favor was... Reyn thought.
“You’d do that for me?”
“Of course! Riki care for Reyn like littlepon! Be right back.”
About an hour later, Riki returned, bag in hand. The two agreed to get some sleep and commence their plan tomorrow. Riki hopped on top of Dunban to wake him up for the next lookout shift.
Dunban’s eyes shot open; then his whole body shot forward, launching Riki through the air and onto his back.
“OOF! ....Okay, Riki deserved that.”
After a few hours of rest, the gang set off on their journey. Shulk, Dunban, and Sharla manned the front of the group, while Riki and Reyn stayed back a ways.
“Today’s the daaaaay,” Riki sang. Reyn thought he looked bouncier than usual.
“Keep your voice down! And all that bouncing is gonna break the bottle!”
“Oh yeah. Reyn should drink that now. It takes a few to kick in.” Riki turned his back to Reyn and let him fish the juice out of his backpack. Upon inspection, Reyn quickly grew suspicious. He hastily screwed off the lid and sniffed the contents.
“This is just alcohol!”
“Riki no know what that is. Nopon call this Truth Juice. Reyn should see wifepon Oka after drinking some. Heheh.”
Reyn looked warily at the bottle in hand. “I’ve never drank before...” Reyn looked ahead to see Shulk laughing, probably at a lame dad joke Dunban told. Man, he looked so cute.
“Well, I guess there’s a first time for everything. Cheers!” He held the bottle up triumphantly before taking a swig. And then nearly spitting it out.
“That tastes god awful!” His shouting caused the others to look back questioningly. “Oh, nothing to see here, haha!”
“Nobody drink it for the taste. Now drink up.”
Hesitantly, Reyn brought the bottle back to his lips and began to chug.
“Now now! Reyn only need little for full effect!” Riki leaped up and Yoink’d the bottle from Reyn, indulging in some himself.
“Ahh, Truth Juice hit the spot!”
“Sooo, when does it kick in?”
20 minutes later
“Riki, did ya know you’re like a dad to me? You’re my daddypon!” Reyn giggled at the endearing term.
“Ohhh yeah, now’s the time.” Now they just needed a way to get the two boys together and alone. Riki had an idea. Riki wiggled his way to the front of the group and dramatically flopped to the ground.
“Hnnnngh, Riki soooo tired!” His eyes turned into X’s.
Dunban shot a look of mild annoyance. “We just started moving only an hour ago.”
“Riki’s legs much shorter than Homhoms! Much more work.” To further convince them, Riki began to unconvincingly fake snore. “Snzzzzzz.”
“Fine. I suppose we can stop for a break, but we must keep it short!”
At that, Riki shot back up and began leading the group towards a nearby riverbank.
“Yaaay! Thanks, Dundun!”
“Hmph, you sure look full of energy right now.”
The group settled their belongings at the shore. It did feel nice to be off of their feet for a bit.
Sharla spoke as she fiddled with her rifle. “It would be a good time to refill our water supply.”
“Good idea! Riki thirsty too. Shulk and Reyn go get water, yes?” Riki winked at Reyn, a gesture that looked quite comical coming from the Nopon.
Dunban started to get up from his stump. “I can help as wel-“
“NO. Shulk and Reyn go. Alone.”
Even through the effects of the alcohol, Reyn felt a little embarrassed. Riki sure wasn’t subtle.
Shulk began circling the camp and gathering everyone’s canteens. “Sure, that’s no problem.”
“Y-yeah! Hey, Shulk. Let me carry some of those! You’re always putting the burden all on yourself.”
Shulk knew that Reyn wasn’t just talking about the canteens. He knew that he struggled with telling the others about his visions, but Reyn assured him that they could change the future together. He softened at Reyn’s kindness.
Once the waters were carried and filled, the two sat at the edge of the water to take a break. Shulk absentmindedly swished his hand through the water, entertained by the way it swirled.
“So, uh, Shulk. There’s something I wanted to tell you.”
Shulk jumped lightly at the unexpected break of silence. He looked up from the water.
Reyn swallowed. Shulk’s gaze was intense. That’s just how it always was, but in this situation it seemed even more fierce.
“Y’know, I didn’t really think about what I was gonna say to you... I never really thought I’d get to this point.” Reyn’s face fell. He searched for the right words to say.
“You can tell me anything, Reyn. I hope you can trust me the way I trust you.”
“I do! Of course I do, Shulk. You’re my best friend! That’s why this is so hard. I don’t want to mess anythin’ up.” Reyn sighed. “I’m just gonna say it. Ain’t no time like the present I s’pose. I like you, Shulk. Like, really like you.”
Shulk’s expression didn’t give anything away. “I like you too, Reyn.” Reyn could tell he hadn’t caught onto what he really meant. There was no beating around the bush with Shulk.
“Naw man, I meant... aw hell, I love you! I’m in love with you! I have been for a while.” He let go of the breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. His chest felt so much lighter. He was so focused on how free he felt that he nearly forgot to listen to Shulk’s response.
“Oh. Reyn.. why didn’t you say anything before?”
“Well I... I always expected you to be with Fiora. Dunban did. Everyone did. I think even Fiora expected it. And I was fine wit’ it, really. She was strong and spunky, just what ya needed. She made you happy.”
Shulk stepped closer and grabbed Reyn’s hand.
“You make me happy, too.”
Reyn’s lips separated in surprise. Shulk was usually closed off physically. For him to hold his hand like this, it was special. His hand was so delicate, despite being worn from battle and from tinkering with mechanics. Reyn wished that he could hold it forever.
“I guess that we should head back, huh. The others are probably waiting,” Reyn frowned.
“I think we can afford to stay here, just a little longer.” Shulk smiled softly at him, hand still in hand.
When the boys returned, they were practically glowing. Reyn, even more so. They passed out the water quietly, too shy to inform the group of anything that had happened.
Riki simply wouldn’t stand for this. He had to know.
“Well~? How did Shulk Reyn Alone Time go??” He made no effort to hide this conversation from the others.
“Riki,” Reyn groaned. He looked around the group, who was all now eyeing him curiously. “Umm, me and Shulk, we’re dating now. So, yeah.”
Sharla perked up. “Well it’s about time! What made you so courageous all of a sudden?”
Riki laughed mischievously. “Reyn drink Truth Juice!”
Dunban narrowed his eyes at the Nopon. “Riki, Truth Juice wouldn’t do anything for Reyn.”
“Huh? Isn’t it just alcohol?” Reyn questioned.
“Well, in a sense, yes. But it’s a kind that only intoxicates Nopon. It would’ve been completely ineffective to you.”
“Aww, hell! You mean I drank that crap for nothing?!”
Shulk laughed. “Really, Reyn? Well, that also means you didn’t need any drink to be able to share your feelings.”
“Huh. I guess you’re right.” Reyn blushed, feeling silly for believing he’d been influenced by the Truth Juice. “I can’t believe you made me fall for that, fuzzball!”
“Riki accept thanks in form of gold or Truth Juice.”