Author's Note: Happy Halloween!
"Two funerals in two years in our little town... and both so young too." A woman's gossiping voice is heard before quickly being hushed by another, "Quiet they might hear you," the second woman points to a group of teens, the gossiper's eyes follow the other's extended finger to them.
All of them were dressed in black with was fitting for the event, two were girls one a long-haired redhead and one a shoulder length brunette. The redhead was tearfully watching people walk by while the brunette was focused on the boy seated on the steps beside her. This boy was also a brunette though his hair was spiked his expression unreadable as his face was mostly downcast. A few feet away from him was a blonde boy who seemed both part of the group and not at the same time he appeared to have something on his mind, he almost seemed angry instead of sad.
In a quieter voice she asks, "They were friends with the last boy as, well, weren't they?"
"Yeah," The second lady nods, "do you think they had something to do with it?" The original woman eyes them warily as she asked.
"No, the last one was sick if I recall correctly." Is the whispered response.
They then both hurry pass the teens into the reception hall all the while glancing back and continuing to talk in hushed tones.
"Ignore them Sora." A short haired brunette tells the depressed looking boy seated on the steps beside her, he doesn't hear her though as he's lost in his own thoughts.
Thoughts of the first friend he'd lost a year before.
An alarm went off but the teenager slept through it soundly which was normal enough for him but annoying to those who heard it through the thin walls of his aunt's quaint two-story house.
"Sora. Wake up!" A girl shouted as she slammed open the door of the other teens' room, "Honestly how are you still sleeping through all that!?" Receiving no answer in response except a slight snoring noise the girl's frown slowly shifts into a wicked grin. Walking over to the messy bed she stares at the sprawled out form before promptly jumping onto the bed and the sleeping boy thus startling him awake.
"Wha-oomph, huh?" Sora awakens confused before seeing the giggling cause of his newly conscious state, "Selphie!" He shoves her, but she doesn't budge, "Get off!" He shoves again and receives the same result.
"Good morning to you too big bro," She grins leaning down to kiss his messy bedhead much to the boy's disgust all the while not getting off of him, "I'm awake you can get off now." The spiky-haired boy told her annoyed. He was usually a very bight and happy person except when it came to first thing in the morning, in other words, he was not a morning person. At all.
"Nope!" She replies popping the p, "If I do you'll just pull the covers back over your head and doze off again," He opens his mouth to say he won't, but she beats him to the punch, "and don't deny it, I know you too well Sora."
"Fine… you still need to get off if I'm gonna get ready for school though." He grumbled.
Nodding as he's got a point she gets off but not before taking the blanket with her, "Oh come on!" The boy complained as he flopped backwards onto his bed with his arm covering his eyes, "Worst little sister ever…" The girl hits the alarm turning the annoying thing off finally.
"I think you mean the best." He peaks out from beneath his arm to glare, "Really your about as frightening as a kitten." He pouts, it's true he's not good at making a mean or intimidating face. Best leave that one to Riku.
Sighing he pulls himself up in a sluggish and dramatic fashion before suddenly having a burst of energy and speed take hold of him and making him grab the blanket from Selphie before jumping back onto his bed triumphantly.
"Hey!" The girl holds on to the edge stubbornly though and thus the battle for the blanket begins.
Well, it does until their aunt Aerith breaks it up by simply walking up to his open door and telling them that breakfast is ready. What teenage boy would turn that one down, so he decides to halt 'the war for the blanket' as he's so awesomely dubbed it. But only for now, can't fight a war on an empty stomach after all.
Aerith curbs their slight battle at the breakfast table in her own sweet but no-nonsense way. Both were pretty obedient around her because as nice as their aunt was normally it just made it all the scarier to make her angry.
After eating and getting dressed the two begin their tread towards Destiny Middle and Destiny High respectively. Selphie was in her last year of middle school whereas her older brother Sora was starting his second year of high school.
"I hate Mondays…" Selphie complains to the boy skipping beside her, a complete turn around from the grumpy boy from this morning she notes as usual. How did he do it? She to wasn't a morning person but she wasn't a nightmare to wake up then either a simple alarm sounding did the trick just like most 'normal' people. And like most normal girls her age, she hated Mondays because well early mornings and school, simple enough.
"They're not so bad… well except for the getting up early part." He starts off with a grin and ends with a shudder at the thought of waking up so early. If the younger girl had to choose between waking up early and going to school she'd pick waking up every time, she was so done with middle school at this point.
"If I were in charge school would start at a reasonable hour though!" He laughed, "Like when, the later side of never?" A voice asks from behind the two.
"Riku!" Sora exclaimed, "You're always sneaking up on me," he turns and swats at the other boy's arm before grinning and answering the previous question/statement, "No but maybe one or two would work."
"Of course, it would and when would you do all that homework?" He deadpanned and barely withholding an eye roll from what Selphie could see.
"Afterwards still," he tilted his head like the answer was obvious, "Sora you do realize that coming into school later wouldn't make the day any less short, don't you?"
"It'd be nearly dark by the time they let out and that's without any after-school clubs." Sora's bright blue eyes widen, "Okay… well if I could change the time I'd just make school days shorter then!" Riku shook his head it was like he was dealing with a child. Still, he'd humor him because they've been best friends for so long the silver-haired youth knew that one had to or else his younger friend would just keep coming up with even more bizarre ideas.
"Too bad you're not in charge of things then." Sora nodded in agreement and happily starts to chatter about other things even dragging Selphie into it. For some reason, Selphie tended to get quiet whenever Riku showed up lately but her clueless older brother didn't notice the change.
Soon enough they were joined by their other friend Tidus and before they knew it Selphie was branching off from them with a quick wave and they were on their own school grounds.
"See you after school Riku," the brunette happily told his slightly older friend, "Actually I have to stay after today, so I'll see you tomorrow." Sora frowns at that. Riku was two years older than him and was on the student council so sadly during the school year he only really got to hang out with his best friend during the weekend or on rare occasions after school. The younger teen didn't really count the short walk to school as 'hanging out' after all.
Sora hated it…and he didn't hate things lightly.
He didn't like mornings.
He didn't like roast beef.
But he hated how little time he had with Riku as of late.
Sora was used to always being around Riku and that made the change hard but the brunette had come to terms with it given that the development wasn't 'exactly' new. Since Riku started high school it made Sora appreciate the summer even more, too bad the summer just ended a few weeks ago. Too bad that Riku's final year was the worst one yet in terms of them having time to spend together.
Still, he didn't want to make Riku feel bad about it so the teen put on his happy face and nodded, "Well if you get done early I'll be down by the beach with Kairi, Tidus, and Wakka!"
Riku nods his acknowledgment and they go their separate ways.
After school, Sora and his trio of friends have a blast playing on the beaches shore as per usual but Riku never shows up. As the sun starts to set the three other teenagers head home leaving only Sora who glances back towards their high school hoping to see his silver-haired friend. He doesn't. So instead he hopes that Riku's not still working on something at school and sighs knowing he probably is. Something is pulling him back towards the school, towards Riku but he doesn't listen instead the teen follows his friends' example and goes home.
The next day starts off similarly to the previous with Sora sleeping through his alarm clock and Selphie waking him up in her own unique way. Another blanket battle ensues. Sora claims himself the victor despite having to get up and go to school anyway.
However, strangely enough, they don't run into Riku on the way to school. Both brunettes are disappointed by this but neither mention it.
After school though Sora cheers up at the sight of his silver-haired friend exiting the school gates, "Riku!" He caught up easily and jumped on him from behind in excitement as if to get a piggyback ride.
Sora doesn't notice the bandage on the side of the other boy's neck. He does notice that Riku tenses up instead of laughing off his friend's antics.
"Where were you this morning?" He tilted his head and scrunched up his nose in thought all the while hanging onto the other teen's neck from behind, partially dangling due to height differences.
The teen sighs and shoves the overly friendly boy away, "I had to come in early this morning."
"Oh well, that sucks." Sora frowned as he kept pace beside his friend and glanced at his face, "Yeah." Something was off.
"You shouldn't work so hard… you have bags under your eyes." The brunette rounds to the front of the older boy to get a better look, "Yup defiantly bags," he pokes the slightly annoyed boy's face under his eyes as if to empathize his statement.
The paler of the two swats the offending hand away, "Knock it off Sora."
Sora holds the hand that Riku swatted, it didn't hurt well not physically anyhow but instead of let on that he was disheartened by his friend's action he did what he did best and acted like everything was fine.
"Hey, I was just kidding… but really you look tired." Sora said in concern.
Riku sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
In Riku language that meant he had a headache or was getting one.
"Don't worry I'm fine and I'll go to sleep early so stop fussing… mom." He ended his sentence with a smirk, "Haha, well if you're making jokes I guess I shouldn't worry too much." Still deep down Sora knew something wasn't right but he shoved the feeling away not wanting to push the other boy.
The walk home that day was just the two of them and Sora did most of the talking but that wasn't too unusual as the younger of the two could talk up a storm. It worked enough to make him forget his worries at least for a time.
The next day came and he was walking to school with his little sister when they happened upon Riku walking ahead of them and they all chatted some. Then Selphie spoke to Riku without being prompted to by Sora, "You look pale Riku, are you feeling alright?"
Sora laughed and shrugged away his uneasiness by simply telling the worried girl, "Riku's always pale." The pale teen in question agrees to the spiky-haired boy's assessment and that's all that's said on the subject.
Something heavy is hanging around them, around Riku but Sora stubbornly ignores it. Nothing was wrong if something was Riku would tell him. That's what Sora kept telling himself.
After school was normal enough except for when Sora invites Riku to go down to the beach and gets turned down, "It's only Kairi and me today so you don't have to be sociable I know how much you hate that." The blue-eyed boy joked, once again the other boy says he has too much homework and Sora concedes although reluctantly. It was starting to feel like Riku was avoiding them, him. But that made no sense, so Sora stopped thinking it.
The next day was a Thursday and that's when Sora really notices that maybe Selphie was right and Riku did look pale.
"Riku I think maybe you should go back home today… I mean you look as white as a ghost." Sora tried to make the latter half of his words into a joke but the worry bleeds through all the same making the 'joke' fall short.
"I'm fine." Riku snapped with a glare.
"No, you're not!" Sora stopped in front of his friend and placed his hand on the other's forehead, strangely it's not hot like Sora was expecting. It's cold?
Riku was freezing but it was still summer-like weather, how could he be cold?
The silver-haired teen aggressively knocks his hand away before spitting out, "I told you I'm fine!" Even his hand was cold.
"Riku…" The other boy's glaring darkened as he shoved his way around the worried brunette to continue on to school.
That wasn't like Riku at all.
"Do you think he's sick?" Selphie who was watching silently from the sideline finally asked after her brother remains motionless staring in the direction that Riku had left in.
"…I don't know?" The girl nodded and grabbed his hand before pulling him along by the hand that had been knocked away by Riku... again. But this time was different, this time wasn't annoyance, it was anger? Sora didn't know how to deal with Riku's anger directed at him, the older boy was usually pretty calm and collected not prone to anger at least not with Sora it even took a lot for the younger of the two to annoy the boy. Usually.
Simply put the two boys never really fight not with real anger in the mix and though it wasn't a fight per say, it still wasn't normal for Riku to talk or act that way around the younger boy.
It left Sora unable to pay attention in most of his classes but Tidus and Wakka seemed to notice this and covered for him. He would've thanked them had he noticed.
When the final bell rang signaling the end of his school day the brunette quickly bolted for the door in hopes of catching Riku before he left. It was unlikely he'd be outside before Sora but there was always the possibility and so the teen would rather not chance missing him.
Sora gaze roamed around as he tried to catch sight of Riku, his friend was tall and had unique hair. So he shouldn't have missed him. No, he had to still be here, so he waited. During the wait, Kairi showed up and offered to wait as well. So both he and Kairi wait for an extra fifteen minutes by the school's rusted iron gate. Kairi tries to attempt conversation but Sora's attention is elsewhere so the redhead simply sighs and mumbled to herself, "It's always about Riku with you."
"Huh? Did you say you saw Riku?" Sora asked looking to and fro.
"Oh no," The girl shakes her head, "sorry, I didn't say anything," Kairi tells him and his spikes literally seem to droop along with his expression.
Eventually, there's no one else passing them, it seems that everyone has left but them.
That makes him worried.
"He's probably just doing whatever it is a student council member is supposed to do," Kairi said in a comforting tone.
"...Maybe, no you're probably right but I'm just gonna go make sure." He turned his gaze away from the building to look at her and forces a smile, "Thanks for waiting with me but you don't have to keep me company anymore."
Kairi shakes her head, "I'll wait here just in case you miss him when you go check on him."
Sora smiled for real this time, "Good idea, thanks Kairi."
That said he leaves and quickly checks in with the student council to see if Riku's still there, they tell him that they haven't seen him. In fact, his friend had been skipping his after-school meetings the last two days without any notice… that was not like Riku at all.
Sora meets back up with Kairi by the gate, she can tell by his face that he had no luck. Kairi tells him that Riku hadn't passed her while he went searching so Sora tells her that their friend must've left early as the student council hadn't seen him. They decide to visit Riku's house on the way home even if it was a little out of the way.
The walk there is quiet and Kairi not knowing how to fill the silence with pointless chatter like her friend opts to keep the silence.
Sora is the one to approach the door when they arrive and he gives it a quick few knocks deciding against the doorbell as the teenager knows that only the front part of the house can hear it clearly.
Riku's mother was the one to answer the door and she looked none too pleased to see them, the woman had always thought her son could do without his friendship. Honestly, Sora didn't get it but then again she had taught him that being friendly couldn't make everyone like you. No, some people just didn't like certain people on principal and Sora just happened to be that person to Riku's mother.
The older woman informs them rudely that Riku's sleeping and to come back later before nearly closing the door on them but Kairi speaks up first, "It's only a little after four though."
"He said he wasn't feeling well. I'll tell him you stopped by once he wakes up." Her tone made Sora doubt the truthfulness of her words but as the door had already closed he couldn't say anything. Not that he would've, he never did know what to say when faced with her.
After the very short conversation with Riku's mom, the two make their way home, "Well at least he acknowledged he was sick right?" The redhead looked at the boy walking beside her, he shakes his head, "No if Riku told her he wasn't feeling well it was probably to 'just' keep her out of his room," He always complained of headaches to get her to leave him alone and as far as Sora knew it worked, "so he might be doing his homework instead of sleeping."
Riku and his mother's relationship was complicated even more so than Sora's almost non-existent one with his own parents who traveled all the time, he couldn't recall the last time he'd seen his parents at this point. A phone call here, a postcard there. Aerith was more of a mom than his actual one, that went for Riku too. He'd even said so once during a sleepover years ago so it wasn't just Sora's interpretation.
Realizing Kairi was expecting more he pulled himself away from his thoughts and loudly exclaimed, "If he doesn't stay home tomorrow I'll just bug him until he does!"
Kairi shakes her head fondly and listens as Sora continues to talk, "Maybe I can stop by in the morning and bring him some cold medicine?" He looked to Kairi as his statement turns into a question.
She briefly thinks Riku's mom should be the one getting him medicine but doesn't say so, "I'm sure he'll appreciate it." Sora puts on a happy grin and nods, "Of course he will, and he'll get better and then I'll make him apologize for being such a jerk about it!"
Knowing Riku once he got over whatever cold or illness this was he'd feel bad about his treatment of his best friend and then it would all go back to normal, yes Sora truly believed that.
The next day came quickly and Sora did something completely out of character for him.
He woke up early and without any sort of prompting from his little sister, no blanket wars, no fussing, no nothing. Just quickly getting himself dressed grabbing a piece of toast and the cold medicine he'd asked Aerith for the day earlier and rushing out the door a full thirty minutes before he had to.
It left Aerith at a complete loss and Selphie wondering if the body snatchers got to her brother.
Arriving at Riku's house with plenty of time to spare Sora noticed that his mom's car is gone, meaning his mom's not home. He's thankful for her early work hours at the moment as a run in with her wasn't the way anyone should start their morning. Making his way to the door he hopes that he will have gotten there in time to stop his friend from leaving for school. Sometimes Riku did go in at ungodly hours, hopefully, this isn't one of those times.
Sora takes a deep breath and knocks and waits. And knocks. And knocks. He waits. Nothing. No lights through the curtains in the window or the tell tale signs of movement from within only silence.
He starts knocking and keeps knocking until the person he wanted to see finally opens the door.
He looked bad, deathly pale with dark circles under his eyes but not only that he was still in his night clothes as if he'd only just woken up. Riku was the morning-est morning person to ever wake in the morning but now he looked like death warmed over. Not a happy thought.
Worse than his looks though was the fact that he was leaning on the door as if he didn't have the strength to stand on his own.
"Sora… what're-" worried Sora interrupted, "You should see a doctor." The other boy looks at him in exasperation, "I don't need-" once again Sora cuts him off, "Yes you do, I was coming over to bring you this cold medicine," he holds up the medicine, "But you look even sicker than before which I didn't know was even possible so-"
Riku grabs the medicine, "Thanks Sora I'll take this so don't worry," His spiky hair flies back and forth as he shakes his head hard as he all but shouts, "You need a doctor!"
"…I'll take the medicine and if I'm not better by Monday I'll go, okay?" Sora doesn't want to agree but Riku is just as stubborn as he is maybe more.
Riku chuckles but his voice is dry sounding and he gets cut off by a coughing fit which causes the Sora to flutter around uselessly trying to figure out what to do to help him.
Sora gives him a look that says he doesn't buy it, "Alright I'm not but I will be… and I promise if I'm not better and back in school by Monday I'll go and see a doctor."
Something in Sora is telling to not agree to make him see a doctor but it's useless because he can't make his friend do anything.
"Okay… let me help you back to bed you look like you can barely stand." Riku frowns at this, "Thanks but-"
"Don't say that you're fine!" Aqua green colored eyes stare into the determined bright blue ones in front of him, "Alright but if you don't leave now you'll be late for school."
Sora's eyes widen, "Oh man I forgot about that!"
The silver-haired boy managed a partial smirk, "I thought that might have been the case."
"…Well if I'm late I'm late let's get you back to bed."
Riku doesn't argue and the two make it back to his room with little fuss though Sora thinks that this should've maybe been harder. Riku was older, taller, and putting most of his weight on him as they moved. Was the other boy losing weight? Sora continued to fuss about making sure he was tucked in, getting him some water to sit beside his bed and even putting one of his favorite novels next to his bed telling him not to do anything strenuous today before reluctantly leaving.
The next morning was the weekend and once again Sora forced himself up if only to call Riku's cell to see how the other boy was doing, the two talked for a few minutes and Riku insisted his was doing better so Sora hung up and went back to bed hoping Riku would do the same thing. That Sunday he didn't wake up early but he did call Riku when he did only he didn't get a response.
This made him nervous but Selphie just told him to chill out as the other teen was likely resting like Sora had told him to, she told him to call back later.
So Sora did, he called three more times.
In between this, he sent a dozen or so texts.
He was practically pulling his hair out by the time Selphie just told him, "Call the house phone."
"Oh yeah, I could do that." He stated sheepishly as the girl rolled her eyes before returning them to her favorite tv drama.
Sora didn't get Riku on the phone that night but someone did answer, his mom. She explained that Riku was asleep and to call back later.
While frustrated he decided that at least he could calm down now that he finally got through to somebody.
Only that night Sora had the most restless sleep of his life, he tossed and turned, had nightmares when he did doze off about things that he couldn't recall upon waking and then it was time to wake up and an exhausted Sora got ready for school, drank coffee of all things to give himself much needed energy.
"Yup, definitely body snatchers," Selphie tells their aunt to the older woman's amusement.
On the way to school Sora keeps an eye out for Riku but he doesn't show up and after school he heads straight to Riku's homeroom teacher and asks if he'd seen him upon hearing the negative reply the brunette leaves and shrugs off both Kairi and Wakka telling them he was going to check on Riku.
Kairi assures him he probably went to the doctor's today and that was why he wasn't at school but Sora had this horrible feeling all last night and during the day that he could not shake. The blue-eyed teen didn't know what it meant if anything at all but he needed to see that Riku was okay for himself.
Arriving at Riku's house he barely registers that the car isn't there and before long he's banging on the front door, the awful feeling only getting stronger the longer there's no sign of his silver-haired friend.
Laying down on the doorbell gets no results either.
Finally, Sora can't take it anymore and heads to the back of the house and a familiar tree, one he used to climb all the time with his best friend as young boys. The two would both sneak in and out of Riku's room this way. Sora hadn't climbed it in a few years but his muscles seemed to recall how as he scaled the tree in record time pushing away his now near panic.
Why was he so scared? He just needed to see Riku then everything would be alright.
But then he saw Riku through his window, the curtains were undrawn and everything was not alright.
Riku was laying in bed, hair spread out on his pillow and at first Sora thought he was simply sleeping despite his dread and horror only escalating and not going away like it should have.
Some part of him knew before he ever slide over on the branch he was on to open the window.
It was unlocked.
Sora climbed inside almost on autopilot.
Sora was inside but Riku wasn't, not really and Sora knew that.
A hand fell onto his shoulder causing the teen to be pulled away from his thoughts to look up into his aunt's tired and equally sad eyes, "Come on Sora it's time."
Sora looked away and stood up following after her. He barely noticed that the two of them were the last ones inside or that other than Selphie none of his friends sat beside them. He didn't look forward at the preacher or at the coffin sitting upon the catafalque.
Sora zoned out not hearing the man's words they didn't offer him any comfort now just like they hadn't back then. This was easily one of the worst days of his life, not the worst but one of them and as the tears flowed and time passed it didn't get any better.
The teenager wasn't even aware of how he came to be back outside, the car ride to get to where he currently stood, or even the walk to this place. He was only vaguely aware of the casket now being lowered into the hole before him.
It was the same as last year.
No, this time was different.
This wasn't his best friend, but a good friend nonetheless.
No Wakka hadn't been sick not like Riku...
Riku hurt just a little bit more than this but the feeling that came from this death was worse because- "They weren't wrong..." Sora didn't have to turn to know the person behind him it was Tidus. Selphie glared back at him and tugged on Sora's arm to pull them further away.
"Who?" Sora asked in a whisper to which Selphie hissed, "Don't."
Her brother wasn't sure if she was speaking to him or to their friend behind them. "Those women earlier... we all know who's fault this is." Tidus glare was felt even if he couldn't see him. "Tidus!" Selphie's voice was angry yet quiet as not to draw attention to them, "Shut up you weren't even there, tell her Kairi, tell her who's fault this is."
Kairi said nothing for a moment before whispering, "We shouldn't talk about this here."
"You see she's not denying it!" The blonde said in a quiet but upset tone. Selphie turned her gaze to both of them and glared hard warning them to be quiet but Tidus was too upset to heed said warning. "We all know it should be you laying in that coffin right now Sora." Tidus harsh whisper may not have been heard but Selphie's reaction was.
Everyone turned their heads to see what or rather who slapped someone only to find a tearful brunette and a redfaced shocked blonde. Sora didn't pay them or the other people any mind though, he wasn't aware of how the situation around him was being handled.
Tidus words cut him, unlike anything he'd ever felt. He was right, it was his fault. He should be the dead one, not Wakka, it wasn't fair. Not life and apparently not death either.