Walking down from his house to his rowboat at the dock, Riku still feels half-asleep. The tea he had this morning is kicking in by now, and he slept surprisingly well last night in comparison to earlier in the week, but there’s still a fuzziness in his head that he can’t quite put his finger on. It lingers even as he unties his boat and gets in, and the deep breath he takes doesn’t do anything to clear his head. His mind doesn’t seem to be moving at its normal pace, and nothing seems as important as it usually would.
He starts rowing over to the play island, trying to figure out the cause of his strange mood today. It’s been a relatively clear day so far, but there’s a bank of clouds in the distance that’s probably going to be over the islands later today. The air smells like rain, too, and while the waves are relatively calm now, Riku knows that’s going to change once those clouds get closer. He should suggest to Sora and Kairi that they don’t stay on the play island as long today, so they can get back relatively dry, but he loves the anticipation of the storm too much to remember the thought clearly. Right now, when he’s the only one out on the water with the breeze on his bare arms, it feels like a secret only he’s been told, something deeply magical in a way he hasn’t felt in a long time. It’s almost like-
And that’s when he realizes.
What am I forgetting what am I forgetting. Riku’s mind races, and he has to stop suddenly, hands holding onto the oars only due to years of muscle memory. He’s not used to feeling this way, doesn’t like it, isn’t comfortable with it at all. It isn’t exactly like that feeling he got the year Sora was asleep, when he felt like most of the good chunks of his life were slowly being stripped away from him like so many layers of invisible – and necessary – armor. It isn’t like that, no, nonono.
But it’s similar, isn’t it? There’s something the same about it, and Riku can’t stand it. He feels like there’s a certain kind of scream building up under his skin from the thought of it, and he doesn’t want to risk finding out what kind it is. With that thought in his mind, Riku’s arms go from stock-still into overdrive, and he rows as fast as he can to the play island, in a kind of mechanical efficiency. He focuses on thinking about the roll of his shoulders and the smell of the salt and the direction of the current because if he thinks about anything else, he’s not sure if he’s going to be able to stop in any reasonable amount of time.
He ties his boat to the dock, and then runs out onto the sand, stops haltingly, then runs again. Wrench open, slam shut. Sneakers pound on the wooden stairs. Wrench open, slam shut. He dashes over the bridge to the Paopu tree, leans against it, lightheaded, and tries to will his inner ear to function properly once again. It doesn’t work right away, but after a few minutes, he’s able to stand up on his own again. It doesn’t erase the feeling, though, of the forgetting. What was it what was it why can’t I remember.
He doesn’t know why he didn’t hear it before, and it hadn’t registered if there’d been another boat tied up at the dock, because everything is too loud, but he becomes aware of a set of feet walking across the bridge, not timidly, but slowly enough to purposefully give him time to try and collect himself. It’s more the fact that she made an effort than her actual speed that makes it work a little. She’s always been good at that sort of thing.
“…Riku?” he turns his body as deliberately casually as he can, which means she of course still notices. Her hair’s a little windblown, and her expression is slightly cautious, but she doesn’t waver as she continues to walk the small distance around the tree’s left side, to where he is.
“…Kairi.” His throat feels dry, and she feels further away than usual. He can’t really think of much else at the moment, so he just goes ahead and says it. “I think there’s something I’ve forgotten.” She pales into blonde and white. Naminé frowns, then calms.
“What kind of thing was it?” She’s the kind of perfectly neutral that only comes from both effort and experience. Riku’s skin still feels like there’s a noise that wants to jump out of it.
“Something important.” As soon as he says it, he knows it’s true. She frowns again.There’s something she’s not telling. “You know what it is, don’t you.” It’s not phrased like a question because they both know it isn’t one. She presses her lips together more firmly. She knows she knows she knows and she’s not telling.
“I can’t fix anything for you.” Because it’s not something that can be fixed, or because Riku has to fix it himself? Or because it might not be a question of ‘fixing’ at all?
“It feels like it was a long time ago.” So many things have happened in his life that he doesn’t know if that means two months ago, two years ago, or some indefinite amount of time longer than that. He thinks he might’ve had a dream about it recently, but even if he’d at least remembered what happened in the dream, that’s not something he talks about to the others. He stops at that last thought, and she waits while he starts and stops a second time as well. Eventually, “I feel like I should be doing something.” It feels too honest. Something flickers in her eyes, and she steps forward to rest a hand on his arm.
“There are questions only you can answer for yourself,” she says softly, looking up at him, “but I’ll always be here if you want.” There’s a pang – and he feels unsteady for a moment with her gaze so directly on him – but she’s also reminding him, if not how to balance himself again, then where to look to start figuring out how. And never look away.
“Thank you,” he replies, and while his voice is just as soft, it manages to stay even. Somewhere in between her next step closer and his other arm reaching out, they embrace. The only sounds around them for some moments are the waves slowly approaching and receding. When they part, she smiles like a pastel afternoon. Then, she turns her head slightly to look around him; he follows her gaze over his shoulder.
Sora’s tying his boat up at the dock.
“When will it start?” he asks, turning back to her. She looks unsure. “…Soon?”
“…Maybe, maybe not,” she answers, carefully. So she can’t say. That’s… fine, too. She asks him a silent question, and he nods. She lets the rest of the color come back, and then Kairi gives him another smile before turning serious one last time. “Riku, there’s…” she pauses, perhaps searching for the right words, “…a feeling.” Something is about to happen.
“Yeah, me too.” Riku can’t put his finger on it, either.
“I should go check.” What, she doesn’t say. He nods again, and she seems grateful that he doesn’t ask. Riku glances in the direction of the dock, and then back.
“I’ll be here with Sora.” There’s another affirmation they don’t need to say out loud, and then she turns, walking back towards the stairs. Riku, in turn, sits on the Paopu Tree, and lets the anticipation rest for a moment.