He didn’t plan to respond to the knock on his door, but it was insistent enough to let him know that there was simply no ignoring it. He had a feeling well before he reached for the knob, finding a very determined Kairi standing alone on the other side, a small bag slung over her shoulder.
“You’re going after him. Right?”
It wasn’t like Riku could lie to her even if he wanted to. "Of course I’m going after him.“
Kairi ever so delicately pushed her way past him and inside his room, looking around for a moment before giving a noncommittal hum. "I’m coming with.”
“No arguing.” There was no forcefulness in her voice, no tension in her posture; in fact, she was smiling ever so slightly, hands behind her back and looking every bit the girl who ran around on the island with them. Even under all of that, Riku could see the sheer resolve. "You two always get to have all the fun.“
"Oh yeah, always fun chasing each other because we’re both idiots.”
“Luckily you have me this time, then.” She teased, walking over to bump elbows; but that was when the smile faded slightly. "Aqua said you just let him go.“
A great deal of effort went into not wincing. He should have been the one to fill Kairi in on what happened. "What was I going to do? Stop him?”
“No, I just mean–” She sighed, gaze dropping to the floor for a moment. According to Aqua, Mickey had known the danger, tried to stop Sora, but Riku… Riku let him go as casually as anything. She didn’t quite believe that was all there was to it. "You knew you were going to follow him from the moment he left, didn’t you?“
In the pull of Kairi’s gaze, such a direct question demanded a direct answer. Before that, even, but– "Of course I did.”
“Of course you did.” She heaved out a sigh, then ever so lightly pressed up against Riku’s chest. "You two were always bringing each other back to me. You know that?“
The sudden closeness surprised him, but then it always did. Every casual touch from any source radiated, sunk deep into the surface and remained for some time no matter how fleeting. Wrapping his arms around Kairi, the gesture was returned; and he couldn’t help but try and suck in a breath past the thought that he should have hugged Sora before– "Yeah, I guess so.”
With a quiet sound of amusement, she pulled back to meet his gaze again. "So now we drag him back to both of us. Everyone else got a happy ending.“
The lead weight in his stomach dropped further downward. Of course. They’d had the same seemingly childish thought. "Kairi–”
“He deserves it. Don’t you think so?”
“Yes.” Such an easy answer. So hard to speak without a shuddery quality to his voice. "Yes, I do.“
That nod was one of absolute certainty; the one that said she couldn’t possibly be talked out of her decision, nor bribed with sweets or even boat captaining privileges. "Then we make it happen. Give us all a happy ending.”
Not that there was a single, tiny part of Riku that wanted to argue with her. "Sounds like a plan. Who else is coming?“
Beaming, she admitted with practiced nonchalance, "No one else knows.”
“What, seriously?” He supposed he probably shouldn’t have been surprised. He wasn’t the only one who could act seemingly rashly.
Pulling away to look around one more time, there was the slightest bit of guilt in her admission. "Lea thinks I’m with King Mickey, King Mickey thinks I’m with Lea. They probably won’t meet up for a while. I’ll send a message once we’ve left so they won’t worry.“
Riku wondered if he ought to have chastised her. He grinned, instead. "Sneaky.”
Kairi laughed. "I learned from the best, you jerk.“
He snorted rather than wasting time trying to defend himself. "Okay, then. Separate gummi ships?”
“For now, yeah. We’ll keep checking in while we search.” Her suggestion ended with a nod to one another, as good as shaking on a decision.
As ready as he’d been to go alone, as much as he would still be alone for much of the time, there was something inexplicably correct about Kairi being his partner in crime while trying to find Sora. Still, he couldn’t quite stop himself from announcing, “They’re going to be so angry.”
The soft look of guilt gave way to the determined steel in Kairi’s eyes. "They’re going to understand.“
"They’re going to be understanding and angry.” Riku pointed out with a milder grin.
“Yeah, well. As long as there’s that understanding part.” She laughed, turning–then thought better of it, crossing the very slight space between them to hug Riku again, squeezing tight. "No stopping until we’re all home.“
How very grateful he was for that contact, stilling and grounding. The words made his chest ache a little, but not in the worst sort of way. "Right.”
One more squeeze, and she took a step back, away from his arms with a brilliant smile. "And until he gets a lecture.“
Making an amused sound, he was only too eager to agree, "You first. I call second.”
“You got it.” As ready as she looked to start off on her own, once again her hands wound up folded behind her back. Soft and sincere, “Be careful, Riku.”
With a little blink, he nodded, just as much open sincerity present in his voice. "I will. You too.“
"I just…” Her teeth worried at her lip for a moment, knowing that she probably should go, just drop the subject and get started like Riku so clearly wanted to, but it was important to say out loud, to let him know. "I started to tell him, but… you weren’t there, so…“
He didn’t think he was blushing, by some miracle. But he suddenly couldn’t quite meet her gaze regardless. "Yeah.” They’d… talked, the two of them. Not nearly as directly as they should have, but there hadn’t been much time. Training to fight, to save all worlds… it left little time for anything else. No matter who, specifically, they were fighting for.
“We tell him.” Kairi swore, waiting until Riku braved looking up and making eye contact again. "Both of us. When we bring him home.“
That was– Terrifying. It wasn’t like he didn’t know that Sora loved him. He just… he’d never… and he didn’t know how mutual it could have been, especially maybe with the three of them… But it was worth braving, wasn’t it? He was about to casually fling himself across the universe if that’s what it took to get Sora back; what was a little confession in the wake of that? Letting Sora know how precious he truly was to those closes to him. "Okay.”
Tilting her head slightly, Kairi was silent for a moment. Searching, serious. "You mean it?“
Riku’s lips twitched in a smile. He didn’t blame her for that. "I don’t… want to waste my chance. I already thought, after this was all over…”
“Yeah.” He really didn’t need to go on. There were a lot of things they all wanted to do and say when the threat of Xehanort had been vanquished… and she understood the sting of waiting too long, saying too little. "He’s… actually the only one who doesn’t know.“
The words surprised a quiet laugh out of him. "That obvious, huh.”
“That obvious.” Kairi confirmed with a slightly shy smile. "For both of us, I guess.“
There was a fondness in Riku’s eyes, not quite the full softness that Sora could bring to the surface, but close. Despite being sure there was a lot more to say, he sighed. "We’d better go before we’re caught.”
“Ah, right.” It was a legitimate concern, suddenly, Kairi practically skipping back to the door. "Last one out– Well, I’ll think of something.“ Laughing, she darted back outside, leaving Riku to smile to himself and grab his supply bag before locking up. Maybe he’d be back soon, or maybe he wouldn’t, but either way…
His heart was lighter.