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On the City Shore

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Riku scribbled furiously on a sheet of paper lined with eight staffs, crossing out notes that were either illogical or impossible, trying to strong arm his way through another dodecaphonic paradox.

If this note should, rationally, be an A#, then this one would have to be…. hmm, no, that doesn’t make much sense, does it? Then why would I have written an A# to begin with? Which note did the row start off on?

This process was an act of self-flagellation. Riku’s music was interesting and unique and potentially groundbreaking, or so he hoped—years of focusing so intently on the study of physics gave him a more acute understanding of numerical relationships than most composers could ever hope to have. The work he’d been doing lately, however, was harsh, cold, in some cases virtually unperformable. Sora would eye it with a combination of curiosity, frustration, and confusion, and generally didn’t ask Riku to explain it in greater detail. If he had, Sora imagined he was more likely to misunderstand it and make a fool of himself than to offer any insightful critique. Once-lively discussions about Riku’s music had simmered down to brief acknowledgement of the papers stacked in front of him and then, more often than not, leaving Riku to continue with his work. Sora had begun to feel alienated, as if he were an emotional migrant, traveling from moments of excitement and warmth to moments of bitterness and near estrangement. He had simply begun to accept the detachment, thinking of it as a more or less inevitable consequence of loving someone for a long time.

Riku, on the other hand, spent a great deal of time contemplating what had begun to go wrong in their relationship. His disappointment generally came through more clearly in his music than his words. Perhaps Riku’s music was comprehensible only to Riku for this reason. He wondered if, perhaps, he’d been too sudden about the way he revealed his feelings to Sora, too overbearing, too eager for his own good. After spending so much time envisioning what their relationship would be like in his head, he was left in the weeds—reality was much more complicated, much more exasperating. His love for Sora hadn’t diminished, of course, nor had his enthusiasm, really. There were other men to whom he’d felt attracted, and the two had discussed on several occasions, however uneasily, the idea of meeting other people. Neither of them had wanted the relationship to end, but there was a latent feeling of deprivation in both parties.

Riku sat his pen down and leaned into the back of his seat. He absentmindedly scanned his surroundings—jagged lines, flat colors, a feeling of angularity to everything. Very Bauhaus. Perhaps the most tangibly good thing to come out of his relationship with Sora was their mutual talent for interior design.

He wondered when Sora would get back from work. It had been so long since they’d spent the night together, either as friends or as lovers. They were so preoccupied with other things that their relationship had become a peripheral concern. Riku had found little success in the musical world, writing pieces of largely academic interest that nevertheless attracted no attention from academics. His physics degree had helped him to find a job in data analysis, which kept him busy during whatever free time he didn’t spend working on his music. Free time in general had become elusive. Sora’s presence in Riku’s life was, at this point, more an aide-memoire to earlier days than anything. This was saddening, he felt, of course it was, but not unconquerable; other things simply took precedence. He could safely ignore their drifting apart until his voice escaped him at last and they both withered away into nothingness.

He heard a key distantly turning a lock and the opening and closing of a door. Sora must have finally gotten back. For a moment he’d wanted nothing more than to go out to the kitchen and excitedly start a conversation, but he figured Sora would be too tired and overworked to return the favor. It was better for them both to rendezvous in bed and then part ways in the morning.

Riku lifted his pen and set his hand back down on the paper. He abandoned the bar he’d just written and started another one as the door to his study creakily opened. He’d been meaning to do something about that, replacing a few bolts would only take a minute or two and he definitely had enough of them, and where had he placed his screwdriver, and come to think of it what would he use to remove the…

“Riku?”

Sora could immediately recognize when Riku was avoiding a conversation. He didn’t have anything particular that he wanted to discuss on his mind, but he’d missed talking to Riku after spending upwards of ten hours at work. What prevented them from striking up a conversation, anyway? He could only imagine that they’d have some reasonably interesting things to talk about. It didn’t have to be science or art or philosophy or anything… even just a little bit about what had happened throughout the day would be enough.

“Oh, Sora… hey. What’s, uhm…. what are you up to?” He sputtered out the question gracelessly. Sora brightened at his response anyway.

“Not much, really… I got back from work a minute ago. I figured you might wanna just… hang out for a little while?”

Riku wasn’t stunned, exactly, but he was a little surprised. Sora would usually squeak out a few words to him about the goings on in his life whenever they saw each other, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in bed at night, but it had been a while since he offered to just hang out.

“Yeah, uh… okay, sure.” Riku tidied up his papers and set them aside while Sora made himself comfortable on a futon situated beside Riku’s desk. Sora had sensed a hint of hostility in Riku’s tone, but it wasn’t intentional—he was just unsure about where this was going. His work had given him enough consternation throughout the day, not to mention the stress of finishing an unfinishable piece of very obscure music. As much as he wanted to make things right with Sora, he didn’t feel that casually strolling into his study while he was busy was a good way to go about it. Riku hadn’t walked out into the kitchen to greet him for a reason.

Sora had shared his anxieties. Maybe Riku will be moody, or maybe he’ll be too busy to pay attention, or maybe I won’t know what to say… maybe I’ll be interrupting something he thinks is more important.

“So, uhm, how was your day?”

Not off to a great start.

“It wasn’t bad, I guess. Work was pretty boring, repetitive… I didn’t really talk to anyone while I was there. I’ve been trying to write this saxophone piece for the past two hours but I can’t figure out how to align the notes here… I’m tempted to give up on it.”

Sora saw an opportunity.

“Don’t do that! I’m sure it’s a lot better than you think it is. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily understand how it works, but I doubt just one bar would be enough to ruin the whole thing.”

He’d hoped that would be enough. Sora did genuinely care about Riku’s music, even if he thought it was a little unpleasant and strange. He thought back to the days when they would fondly play together in his parents’ basement, smoking and drinking absentmindedly, each luxuriating in the presence of the other…

~

“Oh god, Sora. I can barely see straight. Take my hand,” Riku said, unable to control his laughter, offering his hand to his (boy?)friend situated on the adjacent couch.

“God, you are such a lightweight,” Sora said, laughing in response, pulling Riku up to his feet and allowing him to collapse into his side. It had been five days since they confessed their feelings to each other, and there was still a sense of uncertainty in the air about what exactly had happened. Neither was any less certain of how they’d felt, of course, but the subject remained difficult to address. They’d just shared a bottle of cheap red wine that Sora’s mother had probably bought for the holidays, sweet enough that Sora was able to down it but strong enough that Riku wouldn’t complain about its “shallow flavor profile.” On top of that, they’d smoked nearly half of what Sora had bought from Tidus just a few days prior, and neither of them was quite in the right headspace to figure out the specifics of their relationship. This didn’t stop Riku from letting an “I love you” slide across his tongue as he settled into the couch.

Sora looked at him softly, a modest smile on his face. “I love you, too,” he said without a moment’s hesitation. His thoughts were hazy, his judgment likely somewhat impaired, but he was certain of this. They bathed in each other’s warmth, their silence unbroken for several minutes, until Riku shifted slightly and averted his gaze.

“Is everything okay?” Sora asked, looked at him intently, worry marking his expression.

“Yeah, I’m… I’m okay. You know, I’ve been worrying about how exactly to explain my feelings to you for so long that I guess I hadn’t really thought about what would happen next.”

The smile returned to Sora’s face.

“What do you mean?”

“I dunno. I guess I just wanna be sure that this is…. definitely a thing.”

Sora eyed him sympathetically, placing his hand on Riku’s thigh and gently brushing his fingers back and forth.

“A thing?”

“Yeah. I mean, I guess we’re old enough now that we can handle this like adults and… you know.”

“I do?”

Riku’s mind raced with unease. He was comfortable beside Sora, but he felt like he’d just opened the floodgates to a massive storm.

“I guess. I don’t know, we live kind of far away from each other… if you wanna just be friends I’d completely understand.”

Sora was slightly hurt by Riku’s comment—he wondered if Riku was intimating that he didn’t want to be together after all.

“Do you… just wanna be friends?”

He didn’t know how to explain what he was feeling. Of course he’d wanted to be with Sora, to be certain of their closeness, to have no unsaid words about what existed between them. But other concerns plagued his mind—how would their parents feel about it? Could they tell their friends? Not that their friends were homophobic, far from it, he simply didn’t want to interfere with the dynamic that had developed between them over the course of so many years. Could he even maintain his sanity if he were unable to see or even speak to Sora for extended periods of time?

Riku looked to his friend and noticed that he’d been lost in thought for a bit too long. He had to say something.
“I… I want to be with you. There are a lot of things I’m worried about, but I know I want to be with you.”

Sora’s expression leapt from relief to excitement to joy in a matter of seconds. He embraced Riku enthusiastically and nuzzled into his neck.

“I’m so happy. I don’t know what else to say. I just… I love you so much.”

It had only been a couple of days and both of them had already grown comfortable with the idea of saying “I love you” to each other.

-

Christmas had arrived without much fanfare. Riku and Sora spent most of the day texting each other and avoiding members of their respective families. Riku didn’t dislike his family, exactly, but he felt a bit alienated from them. He maintained a rather distant relationship with his parents, and his relationship with other family members amounted, at most, to the occasional conversation about where he’d been the last time they were in town. He’d already set out a plan for the day: spend the morning and afternoon with family (in other words, stay at home to appease his parents), meet up at Sora’s house for a little while, then head to Kairi’s for a Christmas party she’d been planning. Simple enough.

His mother gave him a few furtive glances throughout the day as he texted Sora and shied away from mingling with his relatives. He hadn’t mentioned anything to her (and certainly not to his father) about what had happened between them, but she’d grown curious at the amount of time that Riku was suddenly spending at his house again.

As the day went on and family members began to shuffle out of the house, Riku mentioned to his mother that he was going to head over to Sora’s place for a while. She asked him, somewhat aggressively, why Riku had been spending so much time at his friend’s house lately. Riku responded with a hint of disdain in his voice, saying flatly that they’d been friends for years and his presence there had never been a problem before.

“I just find it strange that you don’t mention him at all for years and then you’re suddenly spending all of your free time with him.” There was a tone of curiosity in her voice, but it was masked by an expression of disinterest.

“Do you not want me to go?”

She raised her eyebrow for a moment but decided not to protest.

“No, no, that’s alright, go if you want. Will you be coming back later?”

Riku had already turned his back to her when she began to ask the question.

“Possibly, I’m not sure. I’ll let you know…”

She said nothing in response. Riku assumed that his mother was concerned about his well-being, about what she saw as Sora’s mistreatment of Riku, and he was partly right; she didn’t want to see him get hurt. But at the same time, she had a suspicion that something else was going on beneath the surface. It wasn’t enough for her to interrogate him about it any further, not at the moment, but it was enough to keep her headspace occupied for most of the day.

Riku settled into his car and decided to put on some music. Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations sounded appealing; the gentle cadence of the notes would compliment the softly falling snow and receding sun nicely. As he drove and began to daydream to the music in the background, the stream of piano keys was interrupted by the sound of his ringtone. Looking over to the side, he saw that it was Sora calling him. He couldn’t pick up while he was driving, but it wouldn’t have taken more than five minutes to get there—Sora could wait.

As soon as the call ended, another one stopped the music before it could begin. Sora again. Riku groaned and wished that Sora were better at containing his enthusiasm.

His attitude quickly changed, however, when he got a third call. Now he was beginning to worry. Sora wouldn’t have called three times in a row if there hadn’t been some kind of problem. There was only a short distance left separating him from Sora’s house, and he decided it would be better to address whatever this problem was when he got there.

As he pulled into the driveway, he noticed that Sora was standing alone outside in a thin jacket with his hands in his pockets. This was not the warm, familial greeting that he had expected.

Riku stepped out of the car and hurried over to Sora. His expression was blank.

“Is everything okay?”

Sora didn’t say anything in response. He instead looked up at Riku, who immediately noticed the frustration and weariness in his eyes.

“Let’s… get in my car.”

Sora nodded, and the two stepped off of the walkway and into the vehicle. They lingered there in strained silence for nearly a minute before either of them decided to speak.

“Can we just go somewhere else?” Sora finally spoke up.

“Do you want to go to my place? My parents are kind of in a weird mood, but…”

“No, no. I’d rather go somewhere where we can just… be alone.”

Riku nodded and put his key in the ignition. He worried that Sora’s parents would notice that he’d just begun to drive away with their son after showing up more or less unannounced, but something about Sora’s demeanor suggested that there were more important things at hand. He was unsure of what to say—he didn’t want to make what already seemed like a delicate situation even worse.

“Do you want me to put on some music or something?”

“If you want.”

A noncommittal answer. Riku decided against returning to his Beethoven.

“Where do you wanna go?”

Sora was silent. He looked up at Riku, who softened at the pleading look in his eyes. He knew immediately where to drive.

They continued along in silence until they arrived at their destination: a small wooded area roughly a mile away from Riku’s house. This place held a special significance for the two of them; they’d spent all of their spring and summer afternoons here, often playing well into the evening as children and talking deep into the night as high schoolers. It was small enough that they’d grown accustomed to its every twist and turn but dense enough that it never became overfamiliar. They both felt a certain freedom of spirit whenever they set foot in it together. Even with snow falling and the temperature well below freezing, there was a sort of warmth and serenity to the woodland. The absence of sound apart from the gentle rippling of wind drew them closer to each other.

Riku looked at Sora with a soft but questioning expression. He was unable to conceal the sense of worry that had been gradually swelling in his chest.

“So… are you gonna tell me what’s wrong?”

Sora hesitated for a moment, but decided it was best to explain himself.

“Yeah. I’m sorry, Riku. I… kind of mentioned what was going on to my parents.”

Riku was shocked. Sora’s family had always seemed so kind, so genial, so accepting… what could they have possibly said to elicit this kind of response from Sora? Sora, who was always himself so kind, genial, accepting? Why, for that matter, had Sora brought it up with them so soon after it happened? Did they already know about his sexuality? They couldn’t be kicking him out or anything… right?

“What happened?”

Sora sighed and looked down at his feet.

“I just figured it was Christmas and if everybody saw how excited I was about our relationship then they’d be excited about it too. I guess I was wrong.”

Riku didn’t know how to address any of the things that were wracking his brain. Why did you decide to tell your parents about our relationship without consulting me first? I understand that you need to let things happen at your own pace, but… I mean, my parents have been interrogating me about this too! I have no idea how they’d react if they found out… I don’t think your parents would have the nerve to call them and ruin Christmas for everybody, but…

No, no. This wasn’t the time for self-pity.

“I’m so sorry, Sora…”

He caressed Sora tightly in his arms. The fabric of Sora’s jacket radiated with his warmth, the sensation of their hearts held tightly together overpowering his body. Sora held his eyes shut, wincing as if he were in great physical pain, likely trying to banish the thought of his parents’ expressions from his enervated memory.

“Okay… I think I should explain exactly what happened.”

Riku slowly nodded and eyed Sora empathetically. He figured that it was best to let Sora handle this as he saw fit—interrupting to ask if he felt ready to share the whole story with him would have accomplished nothing at this point.

“The day was mostly normal. Like, I woke up, we all exchanged gifts, the mood was… I don’t know, light, happy, comfortable. It was nice. I know I should have asked you first but I guess I just got caught up in the atmosphere. They asked me what I was gonna be doing later today and I mentioned that you were gonna be picking me up in the afternoon and then we were probably gonna head to Kairi’s…”

He paused. Riku could tell that he was trying to keep his composure—he was tempted to reach out his arm and pull Sora back in again, but decided against it. He instead placed his hand on Sora’s shoulder and rubbed it back and forth in circles as he allowed him a few moments to figure out what he wanted to say. Sora inhaled sharply and opened his eyes.

“And then, for whatever stupid fucking reason, I decided to tell them about everything that happened. I told them that I was in a relationship with someone and I got the whole routine about what ‘her’ name was and how ‘she’ and I met and I just… I assumed that they would understand. I really thought they would.” And so the tears began to fall. Riku pulled Sora back into his caress and pressed their foreheads together. He knew, still, that it was better to remain silent and give Sora the time he needed to process this fully. Sora gently pulled his head away from Riku’s and wiped the tears away from his eyes.

“I’m really glad you brought me here, Riku, but… it’s getting kind of cold. Can we go back to the car?”

Riku nodded and briefly redirected his attention to the snow surrounding them. It was 4:30 PM and the sun had already begun to set. It seemed as if a storm was on the horizon. There must have been at least a few inches on the ground already. They wandered back to the car, hands intertwined, trying to absorb as much of the remaining daylight as they could before nightfall.

The warmth of the car was reinvigorating. Riku put the key in the ignition and turned on the heat. He was beginning to worry about the condition of the roads, but Sora was in no condition to go back to his parents’ house. He supposed they could go back to his own place for a bit, but it would only make things worse if his parents were to start questioning them about their relationship. He decided to speak up and get Sora’s opinion—he didn’t want to interrupt Sora’s train of thought, and he knew that Sora cherished the mutually consoling silences that had marked their friendship for decades, but this was quickly becoming a matter of safety.

“Is there anywhere else you’d maybe want to go? The snow is starting to get heavier…”

“Could we go to Kairi’s?” Sora responded without skipping a beat. Kairi hadn’t been expecting them for another hour or two, but Riku knew Kairi—if Sora needed a friend, she would be more than willing to provide a shoulder to cry on. And even if he didn’t feel comfortable discussing it with the both of them, she’d understand that he needed a place to be away from things.

“Okay. I’ll text her.”

Riku unlocked his phone and navigated to his conversation with Kairi.

“hey is it ok if we come a little early? some stuff is going on and sora really wants to see you”

He thought to himself that it was best to explain the urgency of the situation without giving away too much about Sora’s state of mind.

“hey! yeah sure, what’s up?”

Riku didn’t know how to respond. He didn’t want to press Sora to explain more than he wanted to, but he didn’t want Kairi to be too concerned while she was getting ready for the party.
“it’s not a huge deal, we both just kinda wanna get out of the house. see you in 15?”

“okay!”

Riku tucked his phone away in his pocket and asked Sora if he was ready to head out. Sora nodded in response and looked down at his feet. It seemed as if he was done talking about whatever had happened for the time being. Riku felt, for the first time since they’d left the house, that he had to intervene. He couldn’t allow Sora to continue suffocating in this grief.

“Sora, I totally understand if you don’t want to say anything else about what happened, but… I just want you to know that I love you and I’ll be more than willing to listen whenever you’re ready.”

Sora picked his head up and turned his gaze to meet Riku’s. There was nothing more he wanted to say; just remembering what had happened was already too painful. In a moment, his expression softened, he closed his eyes, and he lightly pressed his lips against his boyfriend’s. Whatever Sora had been unable to express, whatever Riku was unsure of how to receive, their concerns were washed away in that ephemeral moment of union and togetherness.

“I love you too.”

-

By the time they’d arrived at Kairi’s house, she’d already set up most of the amenities for the party. There were boughs of mistletoe decorating the doorways, almost humorous in the amount of area that they covered; several bottles of alcohol arranged along several tables; trays of food laid out in several rooms throughout the house. Since they’d all turned 21, Kairi’s parents had become surprisingly tolerant of them drinking in their presence. This party was designed to be much larger than those that they’d previously thrown, of course, this fact being displayed perhaps most noticeably in that Kairi had organized the whole thing by herself. Riku assumed that he wouldn’t be familiar with half of the names on the list—people that she’d gone to school with, people that those people had gone to school with, assorted girlfriends, boyfriends, partners of unspecified gender identities and so forth. He’d been looking forward to it for some time, but his thoughts now rested squarely with Sora.

The three of them had been sitting in Kairi’s kitchen discussing the general goings on in their lives for about forty five minutes before the guests began to arrive. Sora was uncharacteristically silent, interjecting only to mention small things or to share an equivocal nod.

His spirits immediately seemed to brighten when Tidus and the other members of the gang arrived. Riku was only a satellite member of this group, really—he would meet up with them occasionally when Sora invited him to do so, but they’d had effectively zero interaction outside of that. He didn’t want to intrude on what he imagined was a very… well, trivial conversation, but at the same time he couldn’t help but worry that Sora was beginning to bottle up his emotions. Now, of course, didn’t strike him as a particularly good time to start acting like a therapist, so he chose to stay in the kitchen with Kairi as she prepared some eggnog. He wasn’t sure whether or not it would be appropriate to drink, considering the circumstances—if Sora needed him, he didn’t want to be too far gone to utter a complete sentence—but he gave in to his impulses and poured himself a glass of straight whisky. With a small ice cube to help the flavor diffuse a little bit (a piece of small faux sommelier knowledge that he hatched up in his head.)

“Hey guys! Make yourselves comfortable, there are drinks on the table out there!” Kairi called out from the kitchen. After a few sips of his drink and a brief grunt of acknowledgement from Tidus and the rest of the group in the living room, Riku decided now was probably as good a time as any to fill Kairi in about what was going on between him and Sora. They hadn’t really talked about what happened since the beginning of winter break and he’d begun to feel kind of guilty about it—Kairi was the one who helped him muster the courage to talk to Sora in the first place, after all.

“So, uhm… Kairi…”

“Mhm?” she responded absentmindedly. Riku wondered for a moment if it would be better to save this conversation for some later date, but he’d already made up his mind about it. The two of them were here, they were together, Sora was in a terrible mood because his parents had reacted poorly to him coming out, and now he had no idea what to do.

“I guess I didn’t really tell you about the rest of what happened after I called Sora a few weeks ago.”

Kairi turned around swiftly and allowed her attention to be drawn away from her drinks.

“Uhm, no, you didn’t!” she answered teasingly. “I mean, Sora did mention to me that something was going on but he kind of disappeared as soon as I started asking him questions about it.”

Well, that figures, Riku thought to himself. It made no difference to him whether Sora talked to Kairi about this in advance, of course, but he thought it was strange that neither of them had said anything about it to him—almost as if they thought that he was the insecure one. It had taken him all these weeks to say anything about it, but he supposed he’d just been waiting for the right opportunity…

“Well we’re together now. It just kinda happened naturally when he picked me up at the bus station a few weeks ago… I don’t know. It’s been really nice. But…” he stopped. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to let Kairi in on the details of what had happened earlier in the day… but her look immediately turned from one of excitement, joy, even, to one of deep worry.
“But?”

It seemed that he didn’t have much of a choice now but to explain himself.

“But I guess he told his parents about what’s been going on and, well… apparently they didn’t respond in the way that he expected them to.”

That explained why Sora had been so reticent earlier, Kairi thought to herself. Her mind was split between obligations now—she knew she would have to make sure that Sora was alright for the duration of the party, that was her first priority, but she had to keep everyone else satisfied at the same time. This was shaping up to be a much more stressful Christmas than either of them had expected.

-

Riku and Kairi both kept a close eye on Sora throughout the evening. Riku migrated with him from room to room, usually following Tidus around, someone that Riku had begun to grow less and less fond of as the night went on. Sora had been drinking—a lot—and the amount of marijuana that Tidus had offered to him over the course of the past five hours definitely wasn’t helping things. Sora didn’t exactly seem at ease, Riku noticed, but what was he supposed to do? He didn’t want to drag Sora away from his friends, even though it was becoming gradually clearer to him that he wasn’t enjoying himself…

“Hey, I wanna play the piano,” Sora stuttered, interrupting whatever other conversations were taking place around him. He eyed Riku expecting a look of encouragement but found instead a raised eyebrow and a hint of dismay. Ignoring his expression, he took Riku by the hand, wrenched him out of his seat, and began to drag him into the living room. It was nearly one in the morning, Riku noticed, eyeing the glow of a digital clock through the door to the master bedroom. Sora had been completely silent about whatever had happened between him and his parents for the duration of the party. Riku tried to participate in the conversations Sora had been having with the other guests, but he was too worried about Sora’s state of mind to really enjoy himself.

The living room was empty. It seemed as if the remaining partygoers had moved to the basement, leaving the upper half of the house completely unoccupied. The sounds from below the stairway at the end of the hall sounded as if they were being projected into the room from another part of the world—the barely-recognizable pulse of an electronic beat, hushed whispers of lively conversation, peals of intangible laughter. Sora hadn’t once met Riku’s gaze since he started dizzily guiding him up to the top floor, attention still focused squarely on his goal as they entered the main room. He placed himself at the piano when they arrived and cautiously picked out a snippet of some unrecognizable melody, stopping dead in his tracks moments after he placed his hands on the keyboard. He titled his head back and situated himself so that he was face-to-face with Riku.

“Hey,” he choked out. Riku carefully took note of Sora’s expression before responding; he seemed as if he was struggling to keep his composure.

“Sora, I…”

“I know. I know, okay? You don’t have to say anything. I don’t want you to.”

“Sora, whatever’s going on, I need you to tell me! I’ve been waiting for you to talk to me all night—”

“Well, why haven’t you said anything?!”

Riku was taken aback, hurt by the tone of mistrust and disappointment in Sora’s voice.

“I… I don’t know. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to interrupt your good time. I thought maybe giving you some space to just be with your friends for a while would do more good than trying to start a conversation…” (…in the middle of Kairi’s Christmas Party which she’s been planning for over a month, he finished to himself.)

Both were silent for a moment, Sora looking away from Riku, arms crossed and face downcast.

“But we’re alone now. I just want you to feel better. Do you want to talk about the rest of what happened…?” Riku asked somewhat hesitantly. Now was as good a time as any to finish having this conversation; they couldn’t leave the rest of it hanging in the air for much longer. Sora seemed as if he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

“Yeah… yeah, I guess I should. So… they started asking me about who I was seeing and what her name was and so on and so forth. And I didn’t really hesitate. I just kind of told them that I wasn’t seeing a girl. And my mom looked at me with this awful face… it wasn’t hateful, necessarily, not even angry, just… sort of confused, baffled… and somehow that was just as bad. My dad raised his voice and told me to ‘shut my fucking mouth’ and that I just had to go and ruin everybody’s Christmas because that’s just like me, right? And I guess he was right about that.”

Tears began to fall from Sora’s eyes. Riku wrapped his arms around him and pulled him in as tightly as he could.

“A-and then they demanded to know who it was that I was seeing. And before I could even get your whole name out they started screaming about how they knew it the whole time, how I’d always spent too much time with you when we were kids, that they knew something was ‘really wrong’ because you were spending so much time at the house lately. I was the one who decided to leave… my dad shouted ‘we’ll be talking more about this!’ at me over and over again as I was walking out…”

Riku looked at Sora with eyes gaping in shock and disgust and disappointment.
“Sora, I… I’m so, so sorry. I’m so sorry…” he pulled him in close again and held him up to his chest for a long, plaintive moment.

“Can we get out of here? I really just want to be alone with you right now.”

“Yeah. I can drive. I haven’t really had anything to drink…”“I’m sorry if you felt like you had to babysit me.”

“No, no, it’s alright. I’ve felt kind of weird tonight too. I’ll just text Kairi and let her know that we’re leaving.”

He shot Sora a look of calm and reassurance before the two of them headed out of the main entrance.

-

The two of them quietly snuck into Riku’s house, making sure not to wake Riku’s parents and rouse their suspicions any further than they already had, and situated themselves in his bedroom. The furnace had already overlain it in a haze of warmth before they got there, and the temperature was high enough that both felt compelled to undress and hold each other beneath the cover of Riku’s bed in response. As each suffused into the softness of the other’s skin, Sora shot up and mentioned that he needed to hydrate himself. He stretched and stumbled out of the bed, tight boxers hardly concealing the contour of his small body, ambling to the bathroom to get himself a bit of water. Riku blushed at the sight in spite of himself. He knew that now wouldn’t be a good time to make any moves considering Sora’s state of mind and his level of intoxication, but he marveled at the thought of their skin brushing against one another’s, the taste of Sora’s breath, the warmth of his… well. He could cherish these thoughts later. Sora had made it back to the bedroom in one piece and positioned himself directly beside Riku in bed.

“Hey, Riku…” he muttered softly.

“Yeah?”

“I wish we could just be together like this forever.”

“Yeah… me too.”