Written 10 October 2006
When Kairi found Riku, he was sitting on the edge of the dock with his legs hanging over the edge. He was watching the slow undulation of the ocean without really watching, for what he was truly seeing reflected were his private thoughts.
Kairi toed off her shoes, leaving them on the sand, and stepped softly onto the wooden dock, her feet making quiet thuds across the planks as she seated herself beside him and smoothed out her short skirt. The older boy did not acknowledge her, and it was as though she did not exist.
(And if she were correct in her thinking, she might as well not have, because right then Riku could only be thinking of one other person.)
“He’s upset,” she murmured, kicking her legs slowly and squinting her eyes at the horizon to see the sun. Sometimes, if one were patient, one could see the green burst of light just before the sun disappeared below the blue edge of the world. “He’s laughing too loudly.”
After a moment, she decided to watch Riku instead and saw the green flash of his eyes when his head turned ever so slightly, shifting the silver hair that he had never bothered to cut.
“He went to play Blitzball with Tidus and Wakka, but you can tell his heart just wasn’t in it.”
Probably because it was somewhere else right then. She watched the tension that rose ever-so-slightly in Riku’s shoulders, the near-unnoticeable tightening of his fingers that were curled around the edge of the dock and peeking from under the sleeves of his black shirt.
“You know, for being a Keyblade Master and all that, you can be pretty stupid.”
Finally Riku looked at her, eyes narrowing and lips parting to make some kind of sharp bloodletting return (Riku was good at many things, but he had always had a special ability for finding the syllables that slid like splinters beneath the skin) but Kairi just gave him a small smile and shook her head.
(Even a princess’ heart could hurt, too.)
“Sora has a lot of generosity. He might make new friends, but he would never forget the old ones.”
The hostility in Riku’s expression bled away into something a little more hollow and a lot darker, and he said in a subdued thread, “Sometimes, even the oldest friends grow apart.”
“Course they do, if you don’t trust anything but the worst.” Kairi absently twisted the bangle on her wrist and wondered if she could believe her own words.
“Sometimes, the worst is all you have.” His voice was even lower, hardly audible over the ocean and gulls and wind.
“Is that all Sora is to you, then? The worst?”
His head shot up in surprise, and anger, and he snarled, “Don’t you dare say that about him,” but Kairi was not frightened.
“Then don’t treat him like he is. He isn’t something for you to own.”
Riku looked like he had been slapped though she had never lifted a hand in his direction. “What—“
“I’m not stupid, Riku,” she whispered, drawing up her legs to hug her knees. The ocean really was beautiful, and maybe this did not have to hurt so much. “I’m no match for you or Sora, but don’t make me threaten you if you hurt him. You’re my friend, too.”
Tidus once told her that no one on the island could remember a time when Sora and Riku had not been friends. When someone spoke about one they usually meant the other, too, as if they were Soraandriku and not two separate entities, some kind of halved creature that communicated with itself in a language that no one else had really understood. Somehow Kairi had become part of that strange creature but never fully one with it—she was there to patch them up after a few too many bruises and scrapes, scolding them with all the self-righteous ire of a little girl convinced that boys were just mind-numbingly stupid, while said boys grinned at each other over her shoulder in that secret unspoken tongue of theirs. While they had not really acted any differently in the last few weeks, she—attuned as she was to them—could not miss the subtle things that had changed.
Riku was a possessive person. Especially when it came to Sora—but Sora was not one to submit passively.
(Riku and Sora had matching decoder rings from their favorite cereal box years ago, she remembered.)
“Kairi…” He trailed off, having started without knowing what to say, but wanting to say something. Kairi wondered how deeply Maleficent and Ansem (or should that be Xehanort?) had scarred him, what they might have said to turn an arrogant and overconfident teenager into this new incarnation.
“After everything we’ve gone through—everything you and Sora have gone through—do you really think he’d let you go so easily?”
Even though he was much taller than she was, he looked so small hunched over his legs, jeans a little too big and his dark shirt a little too loose on a body that he used without thought for the hardship.
“And here I thought you knew him better than that.”
He was like a wounded animal, much as he tried to pretend otherwise, and it was as though he wanted little more than to curl up in a dark hole if he could not lash out. After a long moment he laughed self-deprecatingly under his breath.
“Since when did girls get to be so smart?” he asked with a shadow of his usual rudeness, and Kairi smirked.
“Well, someone had to pick up the boys’ slack.”
The amusement was short-lived. Riku let out a long breath, looking lost.
Kairi stood up.
She held out a hand, and he glanced up at her with incomprehension.
“You know, the only thing you and I ever really had in common was our concern for Sora. And our…competition. But—I think I’d like to see if there’s something else we can share. On our own. I don’t…I don’t want to lose him or you.”
She took a moment to center herself, and said with a smile that hardly wavered, “Hello. I’m Kairi. I hate math, my mom taught me how to tango before she died, and I want to work at the shelter when I grow up so I can help other kids. Who are you?”
Maybe she had lost her chance to be with Sora, if it ever had existed, but when Riku’s bemusement turned into a real smile, Kairi decided that maybe just being able to watch over her two boys and the strange but wonderful creature the two made together was enough.
“Hey, my name’s Riku. I like fighting, and all I want to do when I grow up is to know that I’ve learned from my mistakes.”-
Note: A sort-of sequel to Inspired Curiosity, but not really. Riku's just been letting his Sora-possessiveness get out of control.
Also, 'grigori' are said (depending on who you ask) to be the lowest-ranking angels that watch over mankind--like Kairi over her boys. Hee.