“But…you're – what?”
Sora blinked owlishly. Uncomprehendingly. Sure, he recognized the suitcases (two of them, pink, and over-stuffed to the point of bulging). He understood the shoes waiting by the door, her favorites, the little white sneakers with the purple laces. He even, vaguely, in a detached sort of way, understood that the shelves on the opposite wall, the ones he could see over the curve of her pale shoulder, were suddenly missing half of their books and knickknacks.
Her books. Her knickknacks.
But still. Even as he categorized these changes, these unexpected disruptions to their apartment, with distant, clinical observation, none of it added up to what she was saying to him.
“I'm leaving, Sora,” Kairi repeated. She didn't say it meanly. It wasn't the nasty, violent sort of break up you see in those silly chick flicks she always wanted him to take her to, when the girl finally escapes from her terrible relationship to get together with her One True Love. No, Kairi was gentle. Almost apologetic, really, but even more than that. It was like...like she was doing him a favor, breaking up with him like this. Leaving him.
She smiled at him, and it wasn't pitying, it wasn't derogatory or mean or anything that made Sora feel small and pathetic. No, it was like she knew something. She looked at him, smiled at him, like she understood something that Sora didn't know yet. It was the same look she got on her face when she solved the crime before the detectives on Castle did.
“I j-just don't understand...why?” Sora stuttered.
Kairi sighed quietly, bending down to slip on her sneakers. “You will,” she said carefully after a moment. “You will. It's just...Sora, I just woke up one day, and I realized. Neither one of us is with the right person. And...and that's not to say that we weren't…that we're not…not good for each other, because we were, Sora. We were, we were great. But that doesn't change the fact that somewhere, somewhere out there there's someone better for us. We were good, of course we were, but is that all you want? Good? Because I think you deserve so much more than just good.”
“But I don't. I don't want anyone better,” Sora said quietly. “No, that's not...I mean, I don't need any better. I don't think there is anyone better, not for me. Not better than you.”
And now there was a little bit of sadness in Kairi's smile, but he knew her well enough, after so many years of friendship and then more. It wasn't pitying sadness, it was something else entirely. “One day you will,” she insisted. “I promise. One day you're going to open your eyes, and you're going to see that someone, standing in front of you, where you'd never even noticed them before. You're just going to look up and realize 'it was you that I needed all along. It had to be you.' You will, and you'll realize that that person was never me.”
“But I don't understand why you have to leave,” Sora frowned. “I don't understand how 'break up' translates to 'accepting a job on the other side of the planet.'”
“Maybe it'll be for the better,” she said slowly. Kairi threw one hand up quickly, cutting Sora off before he could even spit the words out. “Of course I don't mean forever. Just...this internship, Sor, it's everything I've ever wanted, you know that. And it's six months. Maybe that's just enough time for us to come back to each other and just...just realize that we're so much happier in our new lives, and that we were so much better off as friends.”
She was giving him space. That was the expression she'd used when explaining why Naminé had to come spend a week at their apartment a few months ago, even though she had a perfectly good loft she shared with her boyfriend. They'd had a fight, Kairi said, and Naminé wanted to “give Marluxia some space to figure things out without her being around to get in his way.”
“Listen,” Kairi started, and Sora recognized the closure in her tone. They'd known each other since they were ten: he knew when Kairi was finished with a conversation. “Nam's downstairs. My flight's in a few hours, I need to get going. I love you, Sora. I do. Just not in the way you deserve. And I hope someday you realize that too.”
And really, that was it. She wrapped her arms around him, one of those classic Kairi hugs that involved her entire body, and he could barely do much more than nod into her shoulder and hug her back. He didn't say a word as she shuffled both suitcases out into the hall, ruffling a hand through his brown hair one last time before pulling the door shut behind her. He didn't say a word, not as his phone began ringing in his pocket, or as the timer-controlled light in the living room, set to turn off at midnight, suddenly kicked in and sent the room into darkness.
The next sound he registered, some indeterminate time later, well after the lights went off but before the sky outside started getting bluer again, was Riku's voice. It was muffled, Sora eventually realized, not just from the dull buzzing that had built up from the silence in his ears, but because Riku was still on the other side of the door. Why, exactly, Sora wasn’t quite sure, until he noticed that he was apparently sitting with his back against said front door.
“Sora, come on, just fucking let me in,” Riku swore.
The brunet wanted to, he did, but that involved moving, and he wasn’t quite sure he was capable of that yet, considering he didn’t even remember how he’d gotten there in the first place.
“Seriously, you have ten seconds to get your ass out of the way.”
Sora didn’t bother counting. Ten seconds. How many ten seconds had passed since Kairi had left? Not six months worth, that was for sure.
“That’s it. I warned you.”
The solid weight of two-inch thick wood driving into his back forcibly shoved the brunet across the bare floor before he could even begin to process what he was being warned about. Riku shoved the door open far enough to slip inside, slamming it shut behind him and leaving a ten-inch gap of empty air between Sora’s backside and the painted white wood.
“Get up,” Riku demanded.
Sora blinked at him.
“Sora,” Riku heaved a long-suffering sigh, like he’d been pleading with the brunet for hours, not seven seconds. Maybe he had been; Sora hadn’t been paying much attention to the way time was passing. “Get up. You look fucking pathetic.”
“Kairi left,” Sora said. The words were empty, meaningless, hanging heavy in the several feet of air between Sora’s mouth and Riku’s ears. They rang hollowly in the apartment that suddenly seemed so much emptier than it had been that afternoon, even though Kairi hadn’t taken any of the furniture. It was her that was missing, her presence sucked from the room when Sora wasn’t looking.
“No shit,” Riku snorted. “Now stop being a bitch about it. Get up.”
“Why?” Sora muttered despondently.
Riku didn’t bother answering. He crouched down in front of the brunet and angled his head until he was almost directly in Sora’s line of sight, and when that didn’t work he curled three fingers under his friend’s chin, nudging his blue-eyed gaze up to meet Riku’s.
“Come on, idiot,” he said coaxingly, “on your feet.”
Sora shook his head as much as the hand on his chin allowed. Riku sighed again and released his hold on the brunet’s face, dropping both hands instead to wrap around Sora’s bicep and tugged them both upright without warning. Sora didn’t protest. He didn’t help, but he didn’t argue, letting Riku set him right on his feet and silently agreeing to support himself when the taller man loosened his grip on the brunet’s arms.
“Let’s go,” Riku issued, ushering the younger man along with two quick flicks of his hands.
Sora stared blankly at him. The only thing in the direction Riku was suggesting was the bedroom, and Sora wasn’t going near there with a ten-foot pole. He figured it would make the whole thing real, somehow, to actually see the hole Kairi had left in one half of their room.
Riku, it seemed, didn’t need explanation. “No,” he sighed. “It’ll be easier to get this all over with at once. Rip the band-aid off in one go.”
And really, Sora wasn’t in any way capable of arguing right now. He shuffled along in his best friend’s wake in a solid impersonation of a sulky teenager being sentenced to death by parental interaction, following his executioner in a detached sort of stupor as Riku led him into his and Kairi’s be…his bedroom.
He didn’t look at it. It was easier not to, not to focus on the picture frames missing from the top of the dresser that was surely half empty now, not to notice that Kairi had left him the bed set they had picked out together (meaning she had picked it out and he had nodded his approval) when she first moved in. It was easier to shuffle the rest of the way forward until his thighs hit the mattress and he had no choice but to topple face-first onto the bed, half-heartedly hauling himself up until he was eye-level with a pillow.
“I called you out of work,” Riku informed him. “Left a message for the principal’s secretary that you’d woken up with a stomach virus in the middle of the night and didn’t want to pass it to the kids.”
Sora nodded into the pillowcase. He heard movement behind him, the slight shifting of fabric as Riku crossed the small room, the sudden dip of the mattress as he dropped down on one corner. The brunet had a sudden flash of nostalgia for a time when he was young enough that it wasn’t weird or embarrassing or girly for him to curl in on himself and sob, for a time when Riku, so much older, so much smarter, would wrap his arms around the little crying boy even as he told him to man up.
And Riku, his best friend, the only person in the world who would show up at his apartment at 4:30 AM the night his girlfriend up and left and call him pathetic, the only person in the world who could get away with rolling his eyes and mocking the brunet and telling it exactly like it was without any sort of bullshit mollycoddling, didn’t need for Sora to say the words. He crawled down the length of the bed until he was level with the smaller man, stretching out alongside him until they were almost touching from shoulder to hip to knee, Sora’s nose bumping against Riku’s chin. The older man reached forward and slid both arms around Sora’s waist, pulling the brunet flush against him and holding just a little bit too tightly, just enough for Sora to be completely aware of being held, for once, and not being the one doing the holding. He ducked his head under Riku’s chin, face in his best friend’s collarbone.
“Stop being such a little bitch, Sor,” Riku chided, tightening his grip infinitesimally.
Sora, closing his eyes and pressing the bridge of his nose into the fleshy hollow where Riku’s neck met jaw, damp eyelashes brushing pale skin, spent the rest of his sleepless night letting his best friend hold him together.
By mutual, non-verbal agreement, Sora and Riku made the decision to never, ever speak of that night again, but it was hard to ignore that something had changed.
Not between them. Never between them; a little thing like a late-night cuddle sesh could never be enough to change things between them. It wasn’t Riku either; hell or high water couldn’t stop him from being a cynical, sarcastic bastard, and damned if one of his best friends completely destroying the emotional well-being of his other best friend would challenge that.
Something about Sora had changed. Something more than just the obvious, Kairi-walked-out-and-took-the-fragmented-pieces-of-his-heart-with-her trite bullshit. Something had settled over Sora in the shadow of Kairi’s absence, something hard and dark and quiet, something that dulled his normally iridescent eyes and quieted his usually boisterous mouth.
Riku had made quite a scene of it after the first week had passed, proclaiming loudly and to anyone within hearing distance that Sora’s lack of babbling was very clearly a sign of the impending apocalypse. This, in the world according to Riku, meant that the silver-haired man was absolutely beside himself with worry over his best friend’s new vow of silence and patently despised this particular brand of brooding. He had taken to showing up unannounced at Sora’s apartment, letting himself in with the spare key Riku’d never given back after he’d moved out and Kairi moved in.
These break-ins, as Sora dryly informed Riku he was technically doing after the fourth unplanned appearance in the first week, were neither unwarranted nor unwanted, but that didn’t mean Sora was going to admit it. He rioted in his own (fine, completely pilfered directly from Roxas back in his emo days), ways, ranging from prickly to standoffish to downright cold-shouldering his best friend. Riku, bless his heart, promptly and repeatedly informed Sora that he was a right little shit and a massive pain in the ass, all the while making up for it by being the overbearing mother hen everyone knew he secretly was when it came to Sora. Verbal abuse and no-nonsense bullshitting aside, no one could force-feed the brunet something more substantial than beer and pop-tarts like Riku could.
But the lowest low, which Sora had readily anticipated in one of his more lucid moments, standing at the blackboard in front of a room full of 10-year-olds, pretending to be coherent but mostly just going through the motions, came almost three weeks later. His birthday, which happened to be just a handful of hours before Valentine’s Day. His birthday, a one-two-punch reminder that Sora was left high and dry and alone. His birthday, for which Sora fully intended to drink himself blind under the pitch-dark safety of his own comforter.
He’d failed to consider Riku. Honestly, he should have known better, but Sora wasn’t really functioning in his right mind, especially once he got home from school on the thirteenth, dropped his bag and kicked off his shoes, and paused only to retrieve a bottle of Jose Cuervo from the kitchen before crawling head-first into his bed. It was still light out as he shucked off his jeans and twisted open the top of the tequila, but the brunet hadn’t opened his curtains in two weeks anyway – the sun had no business being here.
He turned his cell off after an hour, ripped out the cord on the landline twenty minutes later. Roxas knew better than to bother him, and was no doubt entirely too busy with his own birthday celebration, but his mother, grandmother, three cousins, and half a dozen friends from school didn’t share his twin’s insightfulness.
By the time he’d drained half the bottle, though, and still hadn’t heard hide nor hair of Riku, Sora was starting to feel a little…sullen. Not that he wanted to be bothered, he wanted to be left the fuck alone, but Riku was supposed to be his best fucking friend and it was his birthday and Sora was upset.
Which was, naturally, the conclusion Sora chased with a roughly ripped shot less than five minutes before he heard his bedroom door creaking open. He didn’t bother with care or concern, didn’t even bother peeling the covers back from his face, just waited for the slow dip of the mattress as another body gingerly planted itself right in the curve between his knees and his chest, one hand feeling around tentatively for the edge of the blankets covering the brunet.
“Want me to go away?” Riku asked, successfully locating the top of Sora’s head and ruffling the tufts of brown spikes peaking out from under the purple comforter.
“Yes,” the brunet grumbled, burrowing deeper into the mattress in a pointed attempt to avoid Riku’s hand.
“Want to me to leave?”
It made sense in a way that only a half a bottle of tequila could explain, but Sora understood perfectly the distinction between the two questions. It struck a twisted chord within him, plucking at the pathetic remains of Sora’s heartstrings, that Riku knew him so damn well he could read his best friend in a single word uttered from under a thick blanket.
“No,” he admitted quietly.
Riku’s hand came back again, but this time instead of his hair it landed a little lower, the side of his head, thumb stroking across the ridge of his brow with just enough pressure to give Sora something tangible to focus on. The older man didn’t say a word, and Sora didn’t prompt him to, laying quietly curled around his tequila and Riku’s back until his friend wordlessly pushed himself to his feet and left the room.
Time must have passed. The amount of tequila left in the bottle had once again decreased by almost half, and Sora was starting to have an incredibly difficult time focusing his vision on any given thing, regardless of what or where or how far away it was. It’d gone completely dark in his room, as far as he could tell – even when he poked his head tentatively out from under the covers – so it’d definitely been hours since he first crawled into his misery-nest.
He should eat something. His stomach felt like it had been marinating in tequila, and it was the least appealing thing he’d experienced in a long time, nothing substantial to stew in the amber liquor sloshing back and forth in his otherwise hollow gut. Food would be good, no matter what kind of half-assed, poorly made crap he could muster up. It would be crap, too, considering shoving himself to his feet had taken him using both hands and knees and multiple breaks to stop the world from spinning.
The blanket was coming with him. That much Sora decided mostly because when he finally managed to maneuver himself off the bed the comforter had come too, but also because he’d forgotten he’d taken his pants off and it was motherfucking February. The three-quarter-empty bottle of Jose came without question, dangling from Sora’s fingertips curled around the neck.
Wrapping the purple cotton across his shoulders, and stumbling heavily into both the doorway and the wall on the opposite side of the hallway, Sora managed to fumble his was down the length of the hall and into the living room. He didn’t even pause to flip on a light, careening gracelessly into the open entryway to the kitchen and aiming his mostly-uncontrollable trajectory towards the fridge.
This proved to be harder than it necessarily should have been, and entirely not worth it. By the time Sora successfully managed to break the seal between the refrigerator door and the box itself and actually got to look inside…well, a questionable package of raw meat, three-week-old milk, mustard, and a jar of peanut butter were going to get him real fucking far.
It was with much bitterness and crank that he shuffled back into the living room, hurling himself at the couch and landing with a muffled thump in the far corner. The TV was on, the brunet noticed hazily. He didn’t remember leaving the TV on, or, for that matter, the big floor lamp next to the couch, but it had successfully allowed him to avoid going flying over the coffee table, so that was nice.
“Everything okay, Sor?”
Holymotherfuckingshittinggodfuck. Sora narrowly avoided falling off the damn couch, jumping four feet in the air and moving as fast as his spinning head would allow to gape in the direction of the voices he was apparently now hearing.
Except not, because Riku was sitting there. Textbook-studying, reading-glasses-wearing, med-school-student-Riku, highlighter in his hand, book in his lap, and a beer balanced on the arm of the couch next to him, watching Sora with concern that might have been tinged with amusement.
“You’re still here?” It was meant to sound accusatory and annoyed but really came out more like a desperate slur of furiously grateful and relieved. Riku was still there, he hadn’t abandoned Sora to his pit of despair regardless of what the brunet might have said, might not have done.
“I need to spend more time around corpses, and you’re the closest I can get without going to the morgue,” Riku deadpanned. “I can go if you want me to.”
“No.” Sora shook his head stubbornly, a motion which he regretted almost immediately. He pressed both hands over his eyes (after carefully depositing the glass bottle in his lap), fingers to his temple, waiting for the world to slow the fuck down.
“Okay.” Riku sounded amused. “Then what’s wrong?”
“There’s no food,” the brunet moaned despondently, still digging the heel of his palms into his eye sockets.
His friend openly laughed. “Lucky for you,” he teased, “someone ordered a whole shit ton of chinese take out half an hour ago. It should be here soonish.”
Sora uncovered one eye carefully, peering over his fingers at Riku. “Sweet and sour pork?” he asked tentatively, mumbling around his wrist.
“Sweet and sour pork,” the other man confirmed, lifting his glasses off his nose and perching them up on top of his hair, catching up his long bangs in a makeshift headband.
“And extra white rice?”
“And extra white rice.”
“Can I drink my tequila with it?”
Riku laughed again. “I probably wouldn’t, but then again considering the amount of straight tequila you’ve had tonight you’ve probably burned all your taste buds off anyway.”
“Rude,” Sora grumbled, glaring (slightly cross-eyed) at his friend. “Can I completely pretend you’re not here and ignore you and eat in my bed?” Take that, jerk, and go put some ice on that burn.
Except he didn’t stop laughing – on the contrary, he just laughed more. “Yes, idiot, of course you can. I have two more chapters to read, god knows I don’t need your annoying drunk ass around.”
“I hate you, you’re the worst,” Sora whined, kicking blindly at Riku’s knee. “Don’t you have your own apartment somewhere else?”
“Twenty bucks my name’s still on the lease for this one,” he teased.
“You’re an aaaaass,” the younger man grumbled. Even drunk as a skunk and barely coherent enough to remember what a lease was, he was pretty sure Riku was probably right. Bastard.
“As long as we both know I’m right,” Riku sang back. “Go retreat to your cave, hermit. I’ll let you know when the food’s here.”
If he did, Sora didn’t know. He passed out within minutes of tottering back to his room and face-planting back down onto the mattress, and woke up god-knows how much later, tangled in a blanket cocoon with the square tequila bottle pinned under his belly and a serious case of dry mouth. He still wasn’t really sober, nowhere in the same room as it, truth be told, but had that hideous blend of hungover-while-still-endlessly-drunk that told him that at least a couple hours had passed.
That and he was fucking starving.
Sora climbed gingerly to his feet, swaying slightly on bare, shivering legs and piling the blanket around his shoulders. The tequila he decided to leave behind, for now, but the blanket had become a non-negotiable part of his evening.
He wondered if Riku was still here. He’d thought far enough in advance to take a personal day tomorrow, ignoring the knowing wink from the principal’s secretary when she’d pointed out his birthday and Valentine’s Day were consecutive holidays, but Ri had class in the morning. It’d be nice, though. If he was still there. Sora had a feeling he’d been kind of a dick to his friend earlier, and having Riku around, even if they weren’t speaking, weren’t in the same room, made him feel a little less…empty.
“Jesus fuck, I didn’t realize the zombie apocalypse had started.”
Well. That was that question answered.
“Mehlurgh,” Sora growled back, leaning heavily against the doorframe. There he was, sprawled bodily across the couch that had practically become his bed, regular glasses and sweatpants on, hanging backwards over the arm of the couch in all his yellow-hooded, shiny-knight glory. The clock on the bookcase said something that looked suspiciously like 2:30 AM, but Riku, blanket over his lap and clearly in for the long haul, still hadn’t left him.
“See, you could definitely use some brains right now,” said knight teased.
“I will vomit all over you,” the brunet warned, pointing threateningly at his friend. “Don’t think I won’t.” He eyed the TV over Riku’s shoulder, zeroing in on the perfection he hadn’t realized he’d been missing.
“AreyouwatchingThePrincessBride?” he slurred. It was mostly rhetorical, as if he wouldn’t recognize William Goldman’s greatest gift to mankind.
Riku nodded. “Want me to start it over?”
“Nah,” Sora shrugged a still slightly shaky shoulder. “Just pause it? I need food or I probably will start gnawing on your arm.”
“Arm, leg, take me I’m yours,” Riku quoted, scooping up the remote and hitting the pause button. “I saved you chinese. I’m a little nervous about letting you near kitchen appliances right now though, you’re shakier than Michael J. Fox and flammable to boot.”
“Rude, bitch,” Sora snarked, “feed me.”
“You’re such a joy to be around, you know?” Riku sighed, pushing himself to his feet and tossing the remote back down on the couch.
“Going all-out with the sweet and sour pork suddenly seems awfully ambitious,” the brunet responded, pointedly ignoring Riku. “But white rice by the bucketload sounds pretty damn good right now.”
“Whatever you say, Princess.”
“If you had any sense of propriety you’d say ‘as you wish,’” Sora protested, following the other man into the kitchen. “Especially if you’re gonna call me Princess.”
“But everyone knows when Westley says ‘as you wish,’ what he really means is ‘I love you,’” Riku argued, pulling a carton of rice out of the fridge and shoving the entire thing into the microwave.
“So who says I love you, twerp?”
“LIAAAAAAAAR,” Sora wailed back, channeling the best Carol Kane he could muster under the circumstances.
Riku quirked an amused eyebrow at him, nudging the brunet back towards the open archway leading into the living room. “If my choices are between witch and wife, I’d honestly rather chose witch,” he teased. “Besides, you’d make a terrible wife.”
“After what you just said, I’m not even sure I want to be that anymore,” the younger man huffed in response, stumbling obediently over to the couch and toppling down onto his side.
“You know, if you’d rather just quote the entire movie at me, it would save us all the time and trouble of watching it,” Riku called over the beeping microwave.
Sora stuck his tongue out at the empty room, picking up the remote and unpausing the movie before Riku was back just to spite him.
“Brat,” Riku sighed, shoving the freshly heated carton of white rice under Sora’s nose and yanking the remote out of his slack grip. “This is my favorite part and you know it.”
“The whole damn thing is your favorite part,” the brunet bitched back, stabbing at his rice until it wasn’t quite as stuck together and trapezoid-shaped.
“Exactly” his friend agreed. “Now shut up, Grandfather’s talking and you’re interrupting.”
He did shut up, for the most part, save a few mumbled comments under his breath about what Riku could and should do with his bossy little mouth, but the power of The Princess Bride was far too much to be ignored for long. It sucked him in in that impossible way only a classic tale of action and adventure and sword-fights and magic and LOVE TRUE LOVE could do.
It was inevitable, though, in the relative darkness and the relative silence, with nothing but a movie he could recite in his sleep and a person who was practically an extension of his own conscience sprawled across the opposite half of the couch, that Sora’s thoughts started to stray. And, as was wont to occur in such circumstances of muted darkness and minimal distraction, they started to stray in a direction that was not looking especially promising for Sora’s current mental state. He’d avoided it so well, he thought, testing the crushing weight of the overwhelming misery looming above his head, measuring the circumference of the gaping hole left somewhere between his ribs like a through-and-through gunshot wound, and he thought he had a little more time left before it started caving in on him.
“It’s the little things I miss, you know?” Sora muttered, picking at a loose thread on the seam of his boxers. He didn’t look up, but he could feel Riku’s bright eyes on his face, turquoise glow reflected in the dim light of the television screen. It was the closest Sora had come to acknowledging…what had happened that night, and Riku was clearly not about to interrupt him now. Maybe he knew, maybe he could tell, that this was much more Sora’s desperate attempt at staving off the inevitable than it was a moment of him opening up to his best friend.
“Things like waking up two minutes before your alarm so it doesn’t wake the other person,” he continued resolutely, staring at something only one of them could see in the darkness. “Like when your stuff starts to smell like a combination of the two of you, instead of just her shampoo or just his cologne.”
“You still smell the same to me,” Riku nodded firmly. “The exact same Sora you’ve always been.”
The brunet spared a watery smile that he couldn’t quite aim in the older man’s direction.
“Sometimes,” Sora shrugged, cheeks red from some indiscernible embarrassment, “what I miss more than anything is, well…cuddling with her. Not her, just…being all tangled up together and just having someone warm and soft and there. Letting someone else support the weight for a while, hold it up long enough for me to pull my head together. She always knew when I’d had a shitty day before I’d even get home, and she’d be waiting with a movie we’d already seen half a dozen times and a soft spot on the couch. And we’d just lay there and she’d hold me up, messing with my hair and semi-watching the movie, and it was real. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, but it was something.”
“Sor,” Riku said quietly. “Are you telling, or asking?”
“I don’t really know,” the brunet whispered. “Both?”
Riku’s response was subtle. Sora might not have even noticed it if he’d been paying more attention to Prince Humperdinck and less attention to Riku, but since every tense fiber of his being was trained on his best friend he was completely aware of the careful way Riku shifted his weight, orienting himself just a fraction more in Sora’s direction. The arm thrown over the back of the couch, bent at the elbow and curving back in towards his own body, straightened out, opened up, giving Sora unimpeded access to Riku’s half of the couch.
It was all the invitation he was going to get.
The thing about Riku, Sora knew, was that as much as he craved human contact probably even more than the average person, as much as he was never one to shy away from a hug or a handshake or a full-body-hump, he was also almost never, ever the one to initiate it. Riku would give him the opportunity, if he asked for it, and Riku wouldn’t stop him, not even for a second, but if Sora wanted to crawl into that goddamn comfortable-looking lap and pretend he was six again, he was going to have to do it himself.
He made his move slowly. Slid his ass into the crevice between the two cushions when Buttercup shoved the Man in Black down the side of the cliff. Inched halfway onto the same cushion as Riku by the time Humperdinck caught up with them in the Fire Swamp. Wiggled his shoulders just enough that Riku’s arm was almost draped across them as Buttercup cut her deal with Humperdinck, leaned his head back a little further, the curve of his skull brushing against Riku’s forearm, while the Thieves’ Forest was being purged.
When fingers appeared on his neck almost in time with Fezzick’s sobering grip on Inigo, though, Sora held very, very still.
It was light and tentative, but Riku was most definitely curling the heat of his palm around the side of Sora’s throat, thumb wrapped around to smooth up from collarbone to ear and back. A lesser man than Sora would have moaned, honestly (okay fine, he might have a little bit. Just a tiny little smidgen of noise in the back of his throat. But that was it.). As it was, he held his breath as he let his eyelids fall heavy and slow, eyelashes weighed down by a dampness he hadn’t noticed until then.
Sora’s cells were still saturated with a substantial amount of liquor. More than enough, really, to blame for the way the tears were suddenly welling up behind his eyelids, threatening to seep through the slits of his blue eyes. Riku’s hand slid up far enough that he could thread his fingers through chocolate brown spikes, carding carefully through Sora’s hair just as the first wash of tears dripped slowly over the crest of the younger man’s cheekbone.
He was painstakingly careful not to make a sound, not to so much as bite his lip or take too shaky of a breath, but Riku was…well, Riku. And in an unprecedented display of affection he tightened his hold on the base of Sora’s head and pulled his best friend towards him, effortlessly guiding the unresisting brunet into the warm curve of Riku’s torso.
And finally, finally, after three weeks of staring at the world with dead eyes and a despondent grimace, of barely going through the motions and dancing just on the cusp of Functioning Human Being (and, really, falling on the functional side solely because of Riku’s forceful shoving) but never actually doing anything about it, Sora let the gut-twisting, throat-clenching, lung-crushing sobs rip through his body, breaking him apart from the center as he fell to pieces in Riku’s lap.
Neither one of them tried to speak. Sora knew better than to try to choke out words around the suffocating gasps, Riku just knew. He didn’t say a word, didn’t even make a sound, just cradled Sora’s head against his chest with one hand and tightened the other arm around his friend’s waist, doing what he could to keep a hold on the crumbling fragments.
They stayed like that long after Sora’s lungs stopped rattling with harshly drawn air, until only the nasally whine of “Wuv, twu wuv,” (and honestly, Sora would have thrown everything he could at the damn TV for that one if it wasn’t still the funniest thing he’d ever heard) was once again the only sound in the room. Stayed just like that, Sora wedged into the little hollow between the back of the couch and the seat cushions, ear pressed flat against Riku’s heart as the older man combed long fingers through sweat-dampened brown hair.
“You really need to stop being so nice,” Sora whimpered, pressing his face further into Riku’s chest. “It’s freaking me the fuck out.” The fingers in his hair didn’t falter, tracing the curve of his skull with the blunt edges of nail.
“This is starting to feel weirdly habitual,” Riku murmured back, stroking the dark strands of hair curling behind the brunet’s ear. “But I figure it’s okay. You probably won’t remember this in the morning anyway.”
“Remind me to thank you, though,” Sora mumbled. Thank him for a lot of things, really, for being his rock and his savior and the best fucking friend anyone could ever imagine in the history of goddamn ever, and for never once pointing out how freaking often Sora took advantage of that, for not mentioning that even though Sora’d done his best to keep his voice steady and his body calm there was no way Riku didn’t feel the damp spots on his hoody where the brunet’s tears were still pooling.
“Remind you never to mention this ever again,” the older man corrected quietly. “I’ll never live it down once you’re coherent.”
Sora jabbed his best friend’s ribs with a half-assed attempt at force, poking two fingers into his side before giving up and sliding his hand around until he was hugging the other man’s waist. He was fading fast, drained from the combined effort of his mental tantruming and binge drinking, and Riku might’ve been hard muscle and sharp bone but he was also a warm body and a familiar smell and comfortable in every way a person could be. It was nice, so fucking nice, to be drifting out of consciousness without feeling so lonely when he faded back in.
“No,” he demanded, as petulantly as possible with a sleepy tequila slur. “I said remind me to thank you.”
Vaguely, on the opposite side of the schism separating his conscious thought and his awareness, Sora felt Riku shifting underneath him, stretching and straightening out his long legs until they were both flat on the couch. The hand in his hair disappeared, much to the brunet’s displeasure, but his whine of protest was muffled by a soft rumble in Riku’s chest as the older man chuckled and settled the warm purple comforter over Sora’s shoulders.
“As you wish, brat,” Riku whispered, threading his fingers back into Sora’s hair and scratching his fingers lightly against the younger one’s scalp.
“Damn right,” Sora mumbled, pushing the words through the last remaining vestiges of his consciousness. “Love you too.”
They still weren’t going to talk about it, though. Sora wasn’t remotely interested in hashing it out any further, not now and maybe not ever, and Riku wasn’t about to go out of his way to instigate any more alarmingly cinematic display of girl talk. But there was this certain underlying sense of guilt Sora was starting to acknowledge. Kairi had been Riku’s best friend too, and when Sora thought about it enough to remember that he considered that she’d up and left Riku just as much as she’d left him, and he was kind of being a selfish prick about it.
It was the morning this realization struck (afternoon? Early evening? It was light out, he knew that much) that he fumbled through his sheets in a half-hearted search for his cell phone, picking his way through the blankets until his fingers closed around smooth, cold plastic. He frowned at the blank screen, punching a few buttons for good measure before confirming it was well and truly dead.
“RIKU?” he called. He couldn’t remember if his best friend was here or not, but figured the odds were good enough that he might as well give it a shot. “RI?”
Sure enough, less than thirty seconds passed before the silver-haired med student, once again with his hair in a ponytail and reading glasses on his nose, poked his face around the half-opened bedroom door.
“You knew I was here?” he asked skeptically.
“No,” Sora scoffed. “Lucky guess. Why are you here?”
“Because you’re an idiot?” Riku shot back. “And probably haven’t eaten since the last time I was here.”
Sora opened his mouth to argue that he’d had something soup-related just yesterday, until he realized that it had been a. at least two days ago (he thought. Might have been three.) and b. made by Riku.
“Was there something you wanted, Princess, or do you often yell out my name when you’re in bed?” Riku prompted, watching him with a raised eyebrow.
Sora ignored him. “Are blankets flammable?” he asked instead, picking at the plum purple comforter he was huddled under.
“My answer to that question depends entirely on whether or not you intend to be in the bed when we light it on fire,” Riku answered.
“I’m not suicidal,” Sora sighed, rolling his eyes. “And mattresses are expensive, why the fuck would I light one on fire?”
“Why are you asking me when you have a pyromaniac for a brother-in-law?”
“Cause you’re closer, and I know he doesn’t operate alone,” Sora argued. “So? Blankets?”
“Anything’s flammable with the right amount of lighter fluid,” the older man shrugged.
“Jesus Christ on a cross,” the brunet gasped, “to think, one day someone’s actually going to let you operate on sick people.”
“Do you want to burn your comforter or not?”
“Wanna go to the beach?” Sora began shoving the blankets straight off of him and onto the floor.
Riku nudged the door open the rest of the way, leaning one shoulder against the frame and watching Sora move with newfound vigor as he began tugging sheets and pillowcases off the mattress.
“I’m not going anywhere with you until you shower,” Riku insisted, shoving his glasses up into his hair, “you smell like a high school locker room after a football game, and I refuse to be confined in a car with that. And if we’re doing this, it should be all the way. Burn everything, go big or go home.”
The younger man ignored the (completely accurate) shower remark. “You’re totally right,” he nodded. “Throw me that sweatshirt?”
Riku threw him the sweatshirt. Two t-shirts. A whole shelf’s worth of picture frames (and then promptly insisted on taking the photographs out of the metal frames that wouldn’t burn anyway, Sora), an apron, a shoe box full of movie ticket stubs, a throw pillow, three books. Sora looked over his pile with a grim sort of satisfaction, nodding approvingly.
“Are you serious about the shower thing?” he frowned, glancing up at his friend with his very best pout on his face.
“Do I look like I’m joking about the shower thing?” Riku gave the brunet a once over with his critical, Doctor Riku stare. “Seriously, when was the last time you showered?”
“When was the last time I had to teach?” he responded, eyebrows climbing up near his hairline as he struggled to remember.
“Sor,” Riku sighed exasperatedly. “That was Friday. Today’s Tuesday, man, that’s fucking disgusting.”
“It’s not like I’ve been doing anything all that physically exerting,” the younger man defended, picking at the collar of his t-shirt and pulling it up over his nose. Fuck, that was rank. “I’ll shower if you make me lunch.”
“You’ll shower if…” Riku repeated disbelievingly. “Idiot, you’ll shower or I will haul you bodily into the bathroom and throw your stank ass into the tub, and let me tell you how painfully mortifying of an experience that’ll be for you.”
Sora didn’t have to stretch too far to imagine that.
“You,” Sora sighed, hip-checking his best friend as he squeezed through the doorway, “just want to see my naked ass. Don’t lie.”
“Guilty as charged,” Riku muttered dryly, rolling his eyes. “You’ve caught me.”
“Careful what you wish for,” Sora warned, hooking two fingers into the waistband of his sweats, “you just might get it.”
Riku slapped one hand over his eyes and flipped Sora off with the other, turning his back and striding down the hall before the brunet could properly follow through on his threat. Sora blew him a noisy wet kiss instead, earning himself a second appearance of Riku’s middle finger, and it was the closest he’d come to laughing in…weeks. At least.
Showering, admittedly, felt pretty fucking nice. His hair wasn’t quite so grease-slicked to his scalp, and his face felt a lot less itchy without three-and-a-half days worth of stubble coating his chin. He took his sweet ass time about it too, even going through the effort of finding clean clothes in his dresser instead of just pulling on whatever was lying at the foot of his bare mattress, tugging a fresh t-shirt over his head as he fumbled his way down the hall to the dining room table.
Riku sat hunched at one end, glasses back on his nose and pen between his teeth, looking fairly engrossed in the textbooks spread open across the table in front of him. Sora watched him contemplating the text for a few seconds, rattling the pen against his teeth before leaning over to scribble a few words into one of the margins.
There was another little spike of guilt piercing through his gut – Riku had plenty of his own shit to deal with without having to worry about reassembling Sora piece by piece. He had a pretty full plate without an extra load of bullshit, and yet, speaking of plates, there was one set in front of Sora’s usual seat, peanut butter and banana with the crusts cut off, carrot and celery sticks, two chocolate chip cookies, and a glass of milk.
“Thanks Mom,” he teased, flicking Riku’s ponytail as he slipped into the chair in front of his all-time favorite childhood lunch.
“Eat your damn vegetables, brat,” Riku chided. Sora, half a cookie already crammed into his mouth, marveled at the way the med student hadn’t even looked up from his book.
“If I do will you take me to the beach?” Sora begged, bouncing lightly in his seat. “Oh please, oh please, I’ll be so good I promise. I just want to go burn a ton of shit, I’ll be on my best behavior.”
“The concerning thing,” the older male sighed, pulling his glasses off and tossing them down onto one of his textbooks, “is that I’m genuinely not sure if you’re pretending to act like a four-year-old, or if you actually are mentally four years old.”
Sora stuck out his tongue in response.
True to his word, though, the brunet finished his damn vegetables, and true to his word Riku helped him gather up the pile of miscellaneous Kairi memorabilia and lug it down to the trunk of Riku’s secondhand Beamer. Sora was high off weeks of listlessness finally being channeled into something productive, but Riku somehow managed to reign him in long enough to suggest they should maybe go to Target first. They’d need lighter fluid, and, Riku argued, Sora’d probably regret his life choices when he got home much later tonight and remembered that it was the middle of February and he didn’t have any blankets on his bed.
They bickered over the wisdom in Sora’s choice of a lemon yellow comforter and royal blue sheets that, when paired with the red walls, would no doubt make Sora’s bedroom look like a primary color wheel. The brunet shut the other man up with a brazenly bared tongue and the pointed reminder that Riku won’t be the one sleeping there, and if he ever, for some hitherto unknown reason, should ever be forced to, he’d be welcome to bring his own (periodic table of elements themed) sheets.
Eventually, though, they found themselves sitting on the sand in the brisk (frigid) February evening, bundled up in the very blanket Sora had intended to burn. They’d decided, after much deliberation and teeth chattering, that the comforter could be spared in favor of saving them from the utter embarrassment of admitting defeat against the winter wind, and that burning the sheets in effigy was more than sufficient.
The bonfire helped. Riku built up a decent pile of wood, lined with lighter-fluid-sheets and lit with a half a box of matches. They huddled as close to it as they dared, pressed together along the seams of their jeans and tangled at the elbows, Riku slowly passing Sora things to feed into the flames.
“Last time I did this we were burning Roxas’ boxers cause Axel thought Rox had just used him for a one night stand,” Riku mumbled dryly.
Sora threw his head back and laughed. Laughed, bone-deep and gut-shaking, falling backwards until he was flat on his back in the sand, leaving his best friend blanket-less and flailing slightly from the sudden loss of the opposing force against his side.
Riku recovered fairly quickly, leaning back and planting a hand in the sand next to Sora’s hip. He turned to study the brunet, watching him with a small, fond smile that almost made Sora choke on his laughter. It felt so damn good, though, letting it slide through his veins and tickle his nerve endings, twitching and shivering with the glory of just being alive and saying fuck it all. He wanted to share it, wanted Riku to bask in it with him, because maybe things weren’t quite really okay yet but they were going to be, and that was 100% thanks to the brunet’s best friend.
“Hey,” Sora laughed finally, reigning it in and pulling himself upright with aching abs. Riku was still watching him with that genuine little quirk of his lips, teal eyes reflecting the sparks from the flames beside him as he met Sora’s tentative grin. “I’m sorry I’ve been a total jackass and a hideous waste of space lately.”
“What do you mean lately?” Riku teased, jostled Sora’s shoulder with his own as the brunet threw the blanket back around them, and pulled them snug up tight against each other again.
“Rude,” Sora muttered, accidentally slipping and elbowing Riku firmly in the ribs, “I’m trying to have a moment here.”
“I am so, so sorry,” the older man apologized with mock seriousness, “please continue being a whiny little girl.”
“Nevermind, I take it back! I was so ready to promise life-long commitment and undying gratitude and the solemn swear that next time some bitchy girl crushes your heart I’ll bake you chocolate chip cookies and play with your hair until you explode, but if youuu don’t want itmmgphh–”
Riku clapped one hand firmly over Sora’s babbling mouth, smirking at his best friend with a look in his eyes that belied his mock irritation.
“God you’re annoying,” he laughed. “But I accept your offer. Next time some idiot breaks my heart I’ll be sure to call you when the very last shred of masculine dignity I have has shriveled up and died a brutal death.”
Sora licked the palm against his lips, smirking as his friend yelped and yanked his hand back, wiping it clean on the denim covering Sora’s thigh. Grinning triumphantly, Sora allowed Riku to retreat safely back to his half of the blanket, leaning his weight only slightly on the bigger man and settling in to watch the flames.
Riku shoved a bowl of fresh, hot off the stove, still-steaming Annie’s White Cheddar Shells Mac and Cheese, the fucking food of the Gods, as far as Sora was concerned, into the brunet’s grabby hands before depositing himself down onto the couch next to his best friend.
“Ohhh I love you,” Sora sighed, cupping the bowl right under his nose and inhaling for a few seconds before he started loading up the spoon.
“That’s hot, moron,” the older man scolded, not even bothering to look. Sora, spoonful of steaming pasta scant inches from his lips, froze, glancing sheepishly between Riku and his bowl.
“How did you –”
“Years and years of practice,” Riku laughed, kicking his feet up onto the unused coffee table and slumping back into the couch cushions with his own bowl on his stomach. Sora’d left the TV on some godforsaken Real Housewives of Shitty Attitudes and Piss-Poor Personalities show, which Riku was going to avidly pretend to not be watching with thinly veiled interest.
“…really should just marry you…”
“Do I look like a housewife?” he snorted, stabbing at his mac and cheese (with a soup spoon, which is obviously the best and only way to eat mac and cheese, who uses forks, honestly) a sight more viciously than necessary.
Sora cocked his head to the side, turning very pointedly to look between Riku and the TV. “Dunno,” he said slowly, smirking. “I see it. You’re a sassy little bitch, just like they are, and you’re definitely stupid pretty.” He tore his eyes away from Riku long enough to consider the ceramic bowl still cupped in his left hand. “And you cook. Yes. How would you like to be my kept woman?”
He expected a wide variety of snide answers. Snark about how Riku was not a housewife probably, and definitely about how Riku was not a goddamn woman, let alone one that could be kept, thank you very much.
“You think I’m pretty?”
“Are you blind?” Sora blurted out.
That one he hadn’t counted on. He hauled himself upright, turning bodily to face Riku with his best “what the fuck is wrong with you,” expression. Seriously? That’s what he was going with? He wasn’t even sure if Riku was kidding or not – his inclination was to say obviously, Captain Sardonic was being a bitch for shits and giggles, but there was something in the quiet way Riku’d said it…
“You’re – you –” Sora’s free hand flapped around uselessly, indecisively gesticulating at Riku’s general person. “You’re like, the embodiment of perfect male specimen.”
Riku, hiding under the guise of an extra large scoop of mac and cheese, didn’t say anything for several long seconds.
“I am pretty fucking hot.”
“Jackass,” Sora sighed, rolling his eyes. He leaned over to grab the remote from the coffee table, taking extra care to elbow the older man none-too-gently in the ribs. “Seriously, I really could wife you up, since you’re apparently such a girl.”
“I’d make a fucking great housewife,” Riku snorted, jabbing his spoon emphatically at the brunet. “You’d be damn lucky to have me.”
“Sure you would,” Sora agreed, mumbling around a mouthful of the admittedly delicious food the housewife in question had cooked. “Temperamental, neurotic, cranky, dramatic, and a nagging bitch, you’d fit right in.”
“That’s it, no sex for you tonight, dear.”
The next second found Sora gasping desperately for air, choking on a prematurely swallowed wad of pasta lodged deep in his throat. Riku pounded him on the back in a way that seemed more like a friendly pat than a concerned attempt at helping, unable to completely hide the way he was chuckling.
“Geez, Sora,” Riku laughed, retreating back to his side of the couch once the brunet seemed to be breathing almost regularly again. “Don’t get your panties in a twist.”
“I just…” Sora wheezed, the heel of his hand still pressed against his aching sternum, “…didn’t expect that.”
“Obviously,” Riku muttered dryly, rolling his eyes. “It’s very reassuring to know the idea of having sex with me repulses you so much, though. Almost makes up for the fact that you called me pretty.”
“Shut up and eat your dinner, dumbass, it’s getting cold.”
Repulse him, that was. Sex with Riku.
It was a joke. He knew it was, knew that Riku had only been teasing him, that Riku was being his classic asshole self and just trying to get a rise out of Sora. Riku wasn’t even gay, never had been, and there was absolutely no reason for Sora to even give the conversation another passing thought, let alone lay in bed at 4:00 am contemplating it over and over and over again.
But he was.
See, the thing about sex with Riku, and how it couldn’t and didn’t repulse him, was that he had never thought about it before. He’d never even considered it, never looked twice at his best friend, whose smooth charm and sultry looks had always just been a part of the full package, just another thing to go with the rapier wit and snappy personality.
Now, though, now Riku had, unintentionally as it might have been, put the idea in Sora’s head. And now he couldn’t. stop. thinking. about it.
Because Riku. Well. Riku was one of those people who didn’t half-ass anything – he practiced until he was the best, and Sora could think of no good reason why that wouldn’t translate over to sex. Or kissing.
He’d never devoted that much time to the subject of Riku and kissing, but he knew his best friend was notorious in college for his drunken dance floor make outs, and now that he thought about it, he could conjure up plenty of mental images; hazy nights and strobe lights, Riku attached at the lips with a faceless blonde. It wasn’t hard to picture Riku holding a girl close with a palm on her jaw and an arm around her waist, pale neck taut and exposed and…and Sora could just reach up and shove his hands into all that silkyfinepalesoft hair, fingertips clutching at the smooth skin at the base of Riku’s skull.
Riku moaned into his mouth and tightened his grip as Sora tugged lightly at his hair, pressing into the arm weighing heavy on his hips. There was barely room for air between them, oxygen compressed to nothing as Sora pushed down further, pinning the older man between his body and the mattress. The arm around his waist shifted until Riku could hook a hand around Sora’s hipbone and pull, using the momentum to flip them both in one quick motion.
Sora groaned as his back hit the bed. Riku followed barely a second behind, settling on top of his best friend and wasting no time in attaching his lips to the soft ridges of Sora’s throat.
“Fuck,” Sora whined, freeing one hand from the tangle of long silver strands to grasp at Riku’s shirt, fingers fumbling impatiently along the cotton hem as he attempted to shove it further up Riku’s ribs.
“Yeah, idiot,” the older man teased, nipping once at the stretch of skin between Sora’s jaw and ear. “That’s kind of the point.”
Sora woke with a gasp, wrenching himself upright out of the dream he didn’t remember falling into. He was practically panting, sucking in heaving breaths of air like he’d just broken free of a rip tide, and entirely too aware of the way his heart felt like a jackhammer against his ribs.
Fuck. Fuck, that was – fuck. He…well; for one, he was painfully, impossibly turned on. And, really, what did two and three matter in the face of fact one? He needed to stop, and he needed to breathe. Step one. Because he needed, step two, to calm down. What did he expect, really? He’d been thinking about that stupid conversation, of course it had seeped into his subconscious somehow. It made perfect sense.
And so what if he’d liked it. It’d been weeks and weeks since he’d so much as kissed another person, after almost three years of regular sex and another two of frequent making out; Donald Duck probably could have turned him on right now.
He needed a drink. Except not of the alcoholic kind, they’d finished the six pack Riku’d brought over with him and god only knew Sora hadn’t been to the supermarket, let alone the liquor store, in days. Water was good though, he reasoned, wiggling out of the sheets he’d gotten himself all twisted up in and shoving his bare feet into the matted yeti feet slippers Rox had bought him for their twentieth birthday.
The TV was still on. It wasn’t an overwhelmingly big screen, nor was it particularly brighter than normal, but in the depth of night it single-handedly lit the entirety of the living room and kitchen in a washed-out haze of blue. He picked his way silently across to the little kitchen, taking great pains to silently ease the fridge open and place his glass gently on the countertop.
Behind him, Vince Offer was expounding at great length upon the superior quality of the The Most Amazing Non-Stick Frying Pan You’ve Never Owned in a whisper/shout that shouldn’t have filled the whole apartment when the volume was only one bar up from mute. Sora leaned heavily against the kitchen doorframe, fingers curled around the chipped Mickey Mouse mug from his senior class trip to Disney (he really should do the damn dishes), pretending to watch the garish color glare on the screen.
He managed it for a minute. Maybe less. Just long enough to find out that Just For Now they were offering a Free, Yes Free set of Forever Sharp Steak Knives that Stayed Sharp Forever, all yours for ten easy payments of $19.45 plus shipping and handling, before he finally caved and let his eyes fall just a few feet short of the blaring television.
Riku hadn’t moved from where Sora’d left him, belly-down on the couch with one arm and half a head of hair dangling off the cushion. He’d crashed down there after the housewives had turned into 2 Fast 2 Furious and they’d attempted to reclaim some of their failing masculinity, guzzling down beers and heckling the shitheads on the screen until they were sufficiently sunk into a late-night stupor. Sora hadn’t wanted Riku walking home alone that late, and really just didn’t want to be lonely again, and Riku’d accepted the couch gracefully (read: with only one snarky complaint that Sora should really just clean out Riku’s old room and a line about how he’d only been joking about withholding sex, Sora didn’t need to exile him to the couch).
He looked…ethereal. Inhuman, edged in electric blue and glowing in the makeshift moonlight. It didn’t matter that Sora knew he was drooling on the couch cushions, or that he was going to wake up with some serious bedhead, or that Vince Offer was still harping on in the background. There was just something, something in the way the shadows fell on the planes of his face, maybe, that Sora just couldn’t tear his eyes away from.
There was no point in overthinking it. Not now. No point in attempting to catalogue this alarming, newfound attraction at 4:30 am, not with last night still in his veins and sleep deprivation clawing at his brain. So he didn’t bother. Didn’t even try. He just stood there, one shoulder against the white painted doorframe, both hands cupped around his lukewarm mug of water, until the early morning news and the weakest hint of pre-sunrise dawn lit the room.
In the morning, he called Kairi.
Okay no. He didn’t. He’d tried that, once or twice, on nights when he was desperate and Riku had been unsuccessful in wrestling the phone away from him, but always hung up before he could do any damage. Maybe she would call him, if Sora could figure out some way to telepathically relay that it had nothing to do with him begging her to come home, but such technology was hitherto unknown to him.
So he thought about calling Kairi. Did his utmost to divorce her in his mind from the girl who broke his heart, to revert her back to the girl who’d been his friend since they were kids, the one he could always talk to about absolutely anything. Thought about what she would say to him, if he called and told her he was panicking about one stupid dream.
He called Roxas instead. There were some things that were just painful to have to talk to your brother about, but Sora was seriously running out of options here.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Roxas groaned.
Sora could practically feel the force of his twin’s glare through the airwaves. Fine, maybe he could have waited until some time a little later than 8:30 on a Saturday morning. And maybe he should have remembered that while 8:30 was a little early, Twilight Town was two hours behind him, giving Roxas a casual 6:30 AM wake up call. Oops.
“But wait. Are you saying you’ve never thought about Riku like that before?” the blond heaved a heavy sigh punctuated halfway through with a yawn. “No don’t answer that, of course you haven’t or you wouldn’t be here right now. Stop gaping at me like a choking fish.”
Sora closed his mouth with an audible clack of teeth, frowning against the phone’s mouthpiece. He had no idea what that meant, or you wouldn’t be here right now, but Roxas was clearly in no mood to be interrupted.
“If you’d called at a reasonable, not the ass-crack of dawn time I might have sugar-coated this, but now you don’t deserve it,” Roxas scolded. Sora, feeling properly chastised, nodded. “It’s Riku, Sor. Riku. The thing about having a sex god for a best friend is that you have sex on legs walking around your apartment on a regular basis.”
Something mumbled in the background prompted Roxas to cover the mouthpiece, leaving Sora alone to stew in his brother’s muddled response. Rox sounded more surprised that he hadn’t had a sex dream about Riku sooner than about the fact that he’d had one now, and even then didn’t seem all that phased.
“Are you telling me that I should sleep with Riku?” He did his best to keep his voice as low as possible; he’d never live it down if he woke the older man up screaming about having sex with him.
“What? Seriously, how the fuck did you get that out of me saying it doesn’t mean anything? Or is that what you want – ”
“Having raunchy dreams about your best friend, sugar?”
Sora groaned, slapping one hand against his forehead and pulling his knees tighter into his chest. He should have known the second the mumbling started. Axel laughed, and goddamn if he couldn’t hear the redhead smirking at him.
“You wake me up at stupid o’clock and take away my morning sex, I get the right to embarrass the shit out of you,” Axel insisted. “And I say fuck him, Sora, seriously, you and Reeks should go for it like you were meant to. I mean, I’d do it in a second if your brother wouldn’t castrate me –”
“Damn right I would. Don’t listen to him, Sor,” Roxas grumbled, apparently reclaiming the phone from his boyfriend. “Stop freaking out about it and go back to bed. It was just a dream, right?”
Sora, despite knowing fuck all that that wasn’t going to happen, quietly agreed and let his twin hang up with minimal protest (from Axel. Who apparently wasn’t done telling Sora what he should do to Riku. Loudly. In what sounded like vivid detail.). He knew he didn’t have a prayer at going back to sleep though, knew he was destined for another few hours of staring aimlessly at the ceiling weighing “like you were meant to” and “you wouldn’t be here right now” against how easily his mind conjured with vivid detail what snatches he’d heard of Axel’s suggestions.
Well fuck it. If he wasn’t sleeping, and it was Riku’s fault, then damned if the other man was going to get to sleep either.
“RIKU,” Sora bellowed, shoving himself up off the bed and yanking open his closet door. “WAKE UP AND ENTERTAIN ME, LAZY ASS.”
It was, as Roxas had promised it to be, a complete nonentity. Riku had graciously chalked up his awkwardness that morning as guilt over waking the older man up, and by the time Riku was shoving a shopping cart in Sora’s direction an hour later, tauntingly asking if this was entertaining enough for him, everything felt completely and utterly fine.
Until, of course, it wasn’t.
Until it was several weeks later, and Sora was sitting up on the counter, crammed against the fridge with Riku’s Human Physio book in his lap, quizzing the med school student and sneaking pepper slices out of the various bowls of toppings Riku had been chopping up. They were going to eat real food, he’d insisted, with meat and vegetables and substance, that didn’t come out of a freezer, and since Sora couldn’t cook worth a damn, Riku was going to do it.
And frankly, Sora wasn’t going to turn down a home-cooked meal, especially when accompanied by sangria, a background of Motion City Soundtrack, and Riku showing off how freaking smart he really was. It was even worth the risk he was subjecting his thieving fingers to, sneaking snacks right out from under Riku’s knife.
“Next time I catch you I’ll cut your damn fingers off,” he warned, slapping the brunet’s knuckles with the flat part of the blade.
Sora threw him a cheeky grin in response, crunching down on the particularly luscious looking chunk of orange pepper between his teeth. “Not fingers,” he corrected, wiggling the appendages in question in front of his friend’s face, “but…”
“Phalanges, idiot,” Riku sighed, snapping his teeth at Sora’s fingers in lieu of swatting with his otherwise occupied hands. “Which has nothing to do with this chapter.”
“But this is boring,” Sora whined, glowering at the textbook in his lap. “Why can’t we study, like, the effects of the bubonic plague on modern genetic structure or something?”
Riku raised an eyebrow, glancing up from the tomato he had begun deftly dicing. “The effects of the bubonic plague on modern genetic structure?”
“Wasn’t that the paper you wrote last year for that cultural genetics class?” Sora frowned into his oversized glass of sangria, trying to remember.
“Yeah,” Riku said slowly, “but you remember that?”
“Now who’s the moron,” the brunet scoffed, rolling his eyes. “How could I forget, you spent weeks on that damn thing? I even went to your presentation.”
“You did?” Riku was blatantly staring at him now, brow furrowed in some combination of surprise and confusion.
Sora rolled his eyes, nudging Riku’s nearby hip with his knee. “I’m not taking you to the emergency room if you slice your hand open,” he warned, nodding at the knife his best friend was still wielding. “And yes, obviously, of course I went.”
“Dear god, what is wrong with you?” Riku recovered, flipping the knife over in his palm just for good measure before returning to his tomato.
“I was in serious need of a nap,” the brunet teased, “and it gave me an excuse to get out of class.”
“Brat.” Riku smirked, holding out his empty wine glass. “Make it up to me by getting me more sangria?”
Sora wedged the heavy textbook into the space between the counter and the fridge and grabbed both their glasses, hopping down off the counter in search of the sangria bottle. Riku, in the mean time, abandoned his vegetables in favor of the pan of chicken sizzling on the stove.
“I think these are done,” he informed Sora, scooping up a forkful and holding it out to the brunet. “Let me know if you burn your tongue before I taste it, yeah?”
“Jackass.” Sora jammed the cork back into the bottle, closing the two-step distance across the tiny kitchen and walking open-mouthed into Riku’s waiting fork.
“Tastes like poison,” he mumbled through his mouthful of utterly delectable chicken, washing it down with a sip of Riku’s drink before passing the glass off to his friend.
“Let me guess, you’ll volunteer to take one for the team and eat it all, since you’re already contaminated?” Riku asked, one eye twitching in his failed attempt at keeping a straight face.
Sora grinned and nodded, leaning up to press his lips to the corner of Riku’s still-smirking mouth before turning back to pick up his own replenished glass of sangria.
Sora pivoted slowly on the spot, wheeling around to face Riku. Riku hadn’t moved, one outstretched hand clutching his wine glass, the other still curled like he was holding the fork that, Sora noticed belatedly, had just clattered to the linoleum floor.
“Um,” he tried slowly. Riku was still staring at the spot Sora had just vacated, white-faced and slack-jawed, looking for all the world like he didn’t know what the fuck to do. “I, uh…”
Riku turned just enough to tilt his gaze to the side, to where Sora had backed up against one of the cabinets, stomach in his knees and heart in his throat. The brunet knew his best friend’s face, knew every tick, every twitch, every subtle little nuance, and had no fucking idea what Riku was throwing back at him right now.
“I – sorry, I –”
It wasn’t so much a head shake as it was a spasm, a dismissive little jerk to the side that Sora wouldn’t even have noticed if he hadn’t been focusing every fiber of his attention on Riku (for the umpteenth time, this was starting to feel like a habit). He didn’t know what it meant, had no idea what Riku was disagreeing with or stopping him from saying or dismissing or whatever it was that he wasn’t articulating, but something about the motion offered the little nudge Sora hadn’t realized he’d been waiting for.
He firmly set his glass on the counter behind him before leaning forward far enough to pull Riku’s clear of unresisting fingers, depositing the untouched drink next to his own.
Riku trailed off helplessly, and if Sora hadn’t been so busy being determined, so fixated on closing the empty space between them, he might have taken pause at that, might have filed it away as something Important, because Riku was never helpless. But he didn’t.
What he did do was close that meager (impossibly wide) distance between them and cup Riku’s face between his (entirely too clammy, fuck what was he doing) hands, resolutely looking straight into Riku’s wide eyes.
“I have no idea,” he admitted.
And then he kissed him.
It only lasted seconds, just the soft catch of lip between lips, the ghosting brush of thumb across cheek. Sora wasn’t trying to push anything, not with Riku stiff and shaking between his fingers. He pulled back slowly, but not completely, shifting his hands back to cradle the base of his best friend’s skull.
“I don’t know,” he reiterated quietly, answering the unspoken question. “I don’t – I’m sorry. I know you’re not…I mean, you don’t…”
Riku took a slow, shuddering breath, eyes still closed, face still utterly impassive, and Sora was starting to regret this. He had no idea what he was doing, no idea why he was doing it or what on earth possessed him to kiss Riku once, let alone a second time, but there was time for panicked over-analysis later, because right now he was still running on impulse and instinct and those were still urging him on.
Riku opened his eyes and Sora released his tenuous grip on the older man’s neck, floored by the laundry list of emotions he couldn’t even begin to catalogue flashing like filmstrip across that turquoise stare. Lightning fast, more of a compulsion than a premeditated response, Riku’s own hands shot up and clutched at Sora’s wrists before they even passed his shoulders, preventing the younger man from taking another step back.
“Wait,” he whispered hoarsely, and Sora froze, didn’t even breathe for fear of doing something wrong. “Just…wait. Sora.”
And that expression, finally, the one Riku finally settled on as his voice broke halfway through Sora’s name, that one the brunet was familiar with. That was the expression Riku wore when he knew something was a patently bad idea, knew he was going to regret it, and knew full well he was going to do anyway.
Riku clenched his fingers tighter around Sora’s wrists, twisting the younger man’s forearms until there was nowhere to go but forward, nothing to do but crash together, holding tight to the point of being painful as they collided. Sora wasn’t sure where it started, who or when or if it had been accidental or incidental or intentional, but someone had wound up sealing their mouths together and fuck if it didn’t rewrite the definition of kissing, because Sora had never been kissed like this before.
Past kisses (girl kisses)(Kairi kisses) were always soft and sweet, less collision more caress, less attack more yielding. Kairi had never bit down hard on his bottom lip and used her tongue to pry his mouth open. Kairi had never driven him backwards until he was pinned to the fridge, hands (big and rough and strong and not at all like her long, slender fingers) gripping his shoulders hard enough to bruise. Kairi had never kissed him like she was claiming him, like she was carving out her own little piece of his soul to take from him.
Riku kissed him like they were competing for it, and Sora couldn’t decide if he wanted to win or lose, only that years and years of childhood rivalries paled in comparison to how badly he just wanted to keep fighting. He wormed both hands back down between their (flat and broad and firm) chests and shoved hard enough for Riku to hit the opposite wall before he threw himself after, not giving a damn about how bluntly he landed against the taller man because Riku could, and did, take it.
And this was different too, even when it was exactly the same, because Sora had never been the smaller half of the couple before, and now he was significantly, both in size and stature. He hadn’t realized how much he’d liked it, how overwhelming it felt to be the one pinned up and dominated, Riku with a solid and imposing five inches on him, until he’d switched them around.
Sora waited until after he’d resealed their mouths together, sucking Riku’s bottom lip between his teeth, to begin turning them slowly, one hand fisted in the soft collar of Riku’s sweater, pulling them back around until he felt the cabinet door behind him again. Riku followed effortlessly, the hands on Sora’s hips ensuring there was never more than an inch or two of space between them.
It was…dizzying. Intoxicating. Even when he did have a spare second to breathe, the odd gasping moment when one of them would twist away only just long enough to move to another section of smooth, hot skin, he could barely do more than gulp desperately at the same oxygen-depleted air Riku himself had just exhaled. He was boneless and breaking down, heavy arms hanging across Riku’s shoulders to hold himself upright, because who could give a damn about a thing like keeping his legs firmly underneath him when Riku was working a hand under the tail of his white button-down and tracing feather-light touches up the side of his ribs.
Riku noticed. The hand slid down, quickly followed by the second, smoothing over his jeans and hooking around the back of his thighs, lifting the brunet high enough to deposit him on the counter, a tinkling crash lost in the bang of Riku’s knees hitting the cabinet doors as Sora pulled him closer. He didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t stray far, still close enough to the edge to snare Riku between his legs and hold his best friend nearly flush against him. It was, mostly, the difference between straining up on shaking legs and being (for the first time in his life) just-above eye level with the taller man.
Sora took advantage of it, catching Riku’s chin between three fingers and pulling him forward into a searing kiss. Hands wandered down from where they’d been gripping his hips, caressing down his thighs and back up, thumbs along the inner seam. Sora tore his mouth away with a breathy whine as Riku’s fingers strayed dangerously close, and the movement directed Sora’s gaze across the kitchen…
“Ri – ”
Sora frowned, straining his face away from Riku’s swollen lips. “No, Ri, the chicken…”
Riku froze for half a second before stumbling backwards and staring dumbly at the sizzling chicken burning to a crisp on the still-lit stove. Sora moved before Riku could gather himself together, slipping down off the counter and brushing passed the hard body still a hair’s breadth from his.
He didn’t give a damn about the chicken, or dinner, or the hour Riku’d spent slicing and dicing vegetables for the fajitas, or the, he noticed belatedly, shattered wine glass dripping sangria across the countertop.
It was…he grabbed the handle of the skillet and shoved it back, turning off the hot burner with slightly shaking fingers. Deep breath, but that was hard, seeing as he was still having trouble breathing. This was…there were a dozen ways to finish that sentence. He didn’t even know where to start. Crazy, stupid, wrong, the biggest mistake he’d ever made. He couldn’t settle, couldn’t touch down on just one, because somehow, none of them fit quite right.
Sora glanced over at Riku, who had barely moved from where the brunet had left him. He was leaning heavily against the counter, both hands on the formica surface, forehead against the cabinet door, breathing like he’d just fought the same battle and wasn’t sure who’d won either.
Sora didn’t know a lot of things, in that moment. He didn’t know what he was doing, or why. He didn’t know what Riku was thinking, or why he was letting this happen, or what the final consequence of this impulse action was going to be.
What he did know was that he liked it. Way, way too much. And that Riku, even with that unreadable expression lingering in his turquoise stare, did too. And that right now, and maybe not ever, he definitely did not want to stop.
He took another deep breath, slightly more successful than his last attempt, and crossed the feet of linoleum between them.
Riku didn’t look up, even when Sora sidled right up next to him and dropped one hand palm-flat against the small of his back. The brunet played with the delicate hem of the soft sweater, fingers creeping slowly up under the knit cotton as he waited for Riku to acknowledge him.
“So look,” he said quietly, praying that his voice didn’t sound as insubstantial to Riku as it did to himself. “I think there’s only one of two things we can do, at this point. You could…you could leave, I guess. I wouldn’t stop you. You could leave, right now, walk out the door, and we can pretend this never happened.”
“Or,” Riku prompted. He still wasn’t looking at his best friend, but had at least pivoted his head slightly in Sora’s direction.
“Or,” Sora repeated, tracing a smooth line across Riku’s back, the low dip of his spine, the subtle curve of a hip. “We could do the same thing we do every other Saturday, when you pretend you hadn’t intended to sleep here, and I pretend I don’t want you to stay. Except maybe this time,” he exhaled slowly, “you don’t have to sleep on the couch.”
Riku cracked one eye open, piercing Sora straight through with a look that was maddeningly incomprehensible. When had this happened, that he found himself so unable to read even the boldest expressions on his best friend’s face?
“It’s up to you,” Sora said quickly. He nudged his chest against the arm closest to his, barricading the empty space between Riku and the counter, until he shifted his weight and let Sora slide just slightly in between the cabinets and the man. “But I want this,” he said boldly, pressing up on his toes and leaning in to drag his tongue up the tight cord of muscles in Riku’s neck. “I want you.”
The arm that had fallen limp at Riku’s side moved, curling around and settling low on Sora’s hips, holding the brunet against Riku as he worked his way down the underside of the taller man’s jaw. Riku didn’t say anything, not right away, but Sora took his cue from the way he rolled his head to the side, granting Sora significantly better access to his neck.
“Sora,” he mumbled. The brunet nuzzled the skin in the hollow under the hinge of Riku’s jaw. He was waiting patiently, he was, but he had Made His Mind Up and he wanted this, so if Riku could hurry up and get with the program that would be great, and if Sora pressing in and sucking lightly on the delicate patch of skin would help him along…
“Fuck,” Riku choked. His grip on the brunet’s waist grew exponentially tighter, one hand grasping at the bone jutting out on Sora’s hip.
“About that…” Sora breathed, mouthing the words into his best friend’s neck.
Riku groaned and Sora felt it. He felt Riku caving in, giving up, letting his head fall back and his body slump forward, unresisting for just a moment before his free hand steered the smaller man around and propelled them both towards the kitchen door. Sora shifted his hands, dragging them up over torso, ribs, chest, cradling Riku’s head and pulling him forward into a kiss even as they stumbled down the hall.
What if it was you?
You that I needed all along.
I felt like a fool,
thinking we were completely wrong.
It seemed like a dream,
a beautiful scream,
that echoed forever
and made us not afraid to feel a thing.
And after it ends,
we’ll try to be friends.
They say that what doesn’t kill us makes us who we are.