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   Riku took a breath, letting it out in a soft sigh. It was a quiet day—the calling of seagulls notwithstanding—and for the moment, he was happy just to enjoy the peace. It had been a few months since they’d gotten home, but the calm and quiet still felt like a foreign thing he was trying to relearn. It was nice.

   Sora’s phone went off and he cracked an eye open to look at him. His best friend (boyfriend, he reminded himself, giddy) was sitting at the cliff where it dropped off into the ocean, kicking his heels against the cliffside. Unlike Riku, he probably wasn’t enjoying the calm as much—Sora was too restless, and if they hadn’t been waiting on Kairi, he probably would have long since found some way to entertain himself.

   Sora huffed out a short breath, and even with his back to him, Riku was sure he was pouting.

   “What’s up?”

   “Kairi’s not coming,” he answered. “Well, not for a bit. She said things are running behind and she doesn’t know when she’ll be free.” He sighed dramatically, stuffing his phone into his pocket and flopping back in the sand. Looking upside-down at Riku, he pouted, and Riku broke into a fond little smile at his theatrics. It was nice, not having to stop himself from realizing that Sora was…well, adorable.

   “Now what’re we gonna do?”

   Riku shook his head with a little chuckle, getting to his feet. He walked over to Sora, crouching down in front of him.

   “I’m pretty sure we’ll figure out something,” he answered, amused. Even if they hadn’t exactly had plans that required Kairi’s presence, he understood Sora’s frustration: ever since the three of them had finally admitted their feelings for each other—ever since they’d started dating—it seemed like it was practically impossible to get some alone time together, and Riku was pretty certain that was the only thing any of them wanted right now. It was an awkward situation: Sora and Kairi were nervous about telling their parents, afraid of anything that might try and separate Riku from them again, and Riku bluntly refused to tell his grandmother anything (how could she understand? Would he, in her place? Would anyone?).

   So, officially, he was still single, and Kairi and Sora were a couple. As long as nobody saw them acting like anything but friends, that was fine…but if anyone did catch them, it would be…awkward. At least. At worst…well, he didn’t want to think about it. And that meant the only time they got to act on their new relationship was when they didn’t have witnesses—now, it felt like every little gesture of affection was risky, was maybe too telling.

   It was frustrating as hell.

   “Yeah? Like what?” Sora continued to pout, and Riku sighed.

   “Well, we’re not gonna find out here. Come on.”

   He stood, and Sora huffed. He made no move to follow, but it hardly mattered, since what he said next stopped Riku in his tracks.

   “Wanna make out?”

   Riku blinked a few times before looking down at Sora, cocking an eyebrow. “Seriously?” He was briefly proud of himself—he sounded normal, a little deadpan, despite the way his heart raced. Sora just broke into a grin, folding his hands across his stomach.

   “Well nobody else is around,” he answered, “and besides, we’ve never gotten a chance, so…”

   Riku just blinked a few times. Wait. He was serious? And worse, he had a point. They hadn’t really had a chance to be alone together since…well, this. Part of him was thankful for it—he still couldn’t quite believe Sora was his boyfriend now, and as badly as he wanted to kiss him, he was still convincing himself that that was okay to do, that it wouldn’t make things weird between them, and the excuse to avoid it entirely was sometimes welcome—and part of him was maddeningly irritated with it, because Sora was his boyfriend now, and he’d been wanting to kiss him—among other things—for ages, more than he’d wanted almost anything.

    “Seriously?” he asked again. Sora pushed himself up, half-turning to look up at Riku.

   “Seriously,” he answered as Riku crouched down again. For a moment, Riku just blinked again, until Sora caught the edge of his lip between his teeth with a sheepish, shy smile. Sora wasn’t often shy—not when he was just joking around, anyway. So that settled it: he was actually serious.

   “Alright,” Riku said finally, the corner of his mouth crawling up in a smirk as he went to his knees, “but you asked for it.”

   Sora opened his mouth to respond but was cut off when Riku kissed him, bracing himself on Sora’s shoulders. It was a short kiss, but it was enough to make a little nervous thrill run down Riku’s spine anyway.

   Kissing them always did, though. It had only been a few times now, between Sora and Kairi, that he’d kissed either of them. Some part of him was still half-convinced he shouldn’t be doing it, because he’d spent so long telling himself that.

   Like always, he couldn’t help but compare them: Sora was gentler than Kairi, soft and sweet and a little hesitant where she tended to be eager and excited—like he was as confused by the change in their relationship as Riku, unsure how to approach it and worried about overstepping his limits. In a way, everything was easier with Kairi. Riku had had a crush on her as long as he could remember, and subconsciously, maybe she’d known that. With her, it was more expected: some small, quiet part of him had always thought maybe, even after he’d convinced himself she would have chosen Sora over him without hesitation. Sora, though, had always been completely off limits in Riku’s head—unquestionably not someone he was supposed to think about kissing, because it wasn’t going to happen, ever.

   And yet, here they were.

   Sora blinked at him, cheeks flushed, when he pulled back. He swallowed, then reached up to pull Riku down at the same time Riku moved to kiss him again. That little gesture—Sora’s fingers tangling in his hair, not enough to pull, but enough to not let him go—was enough to make Riku let out a short little breath, and Sora took the opportunity to flick the tip of his tongue across Riku’s upper lip: a little playful, a little teasing, a little questioning.

   Riku responded before he could catch himself, his tongue sweeping against Sora’s before he caught hold of his face and was kissing him again, firmer. He was about to pull away when he realized—too much? too fast?—but Sora shoved him back before he could. It caught Riku off guard and he didn’t have a chance to catch himself before Sora had shoved him onto his back in the sand, covering Riku’s mouth with his own. He shifted, almost squirmed in place like he didn’t know where to move, before settling in the sand next to Riku, his hands in his hair as he kissed him—deeper now, more confident, but careful. And Riku knew him well enough—knew himself well enough—to know what it meant.

   Is this okay?

   Riku’s hands went to his waist as he returned the kiss, letting out a shuddery breath. It was all nearly overwhelming: Sora’s hands in his hair, his taste on his tongue, his scent in the air (he smelled like light, like sun, like sand, like home). He was pulling Sora against him—as close as they could get short of actually moving Sora onto him—before he could stop himself, kissing him deeply.

   It’s okay. It’s more than okay.

   He felt different than Kairi: heavier, firmer. Kairi may have been more eager at times, but she was all slenderness and girlish softness, and Sora had more angles to him, more muscle under his skin (even through all the layers and pockets and tangling straps of his clothing, Riku could tell). Different—very different—but equally beautiful and equally fascinating to him.

   They broke apart for a moment, just enough to breathe, and Riku’s breath caught on the look in Sora’s eyes, the way his pupils had gone wide, his dark lashes fluttering against his cheeks as he blinked down at Riku, looking a little dazed. His thumb brushed the corner of Riku’s mouth and he was already arching up to meet him when Sora bent to kiss him again, his movement looser, more confident now that he was assured this was all okay, wanted.

   This kiss was harder, sloppier, but Riku didn’t mind at all, even if it felt like a challenge—and like always, he could never resist a challenge when Sora issued it. His hand slid up into Sora’s hair, fingers curling around an unruly handful of it before he tugged—just a little, just enough to make Sora break the kiss off and arch against him, his breath coming in a shuddery gasp that made Riku have to bite his tongue to keep from moaning. Instead, he kissed Sora—hard, deep, blowing out a harsh breath through his nose—and was about to shove him over onto his back—

   A sudden burst of laughter—high, girlish, he noted inanely—rang out and they both pulled apart almost immediately, bright red and terrified they’d been caught. Riku shoved himself up, twisting towards the sound, and let out a relieved breath when he realized who it was: Selphie, walking along the beach. She was talking to Tidus and Wakka, and the three of them seemed completely unaware that Sora and Riku were even there; but then, the paopu tree and the plants surrounding it had probably hidden them, anyway. Beside him, he heard Sora exhale shakily when he realized it himself.

   Riku cleared his throat, shifting to face Sora and trying to ignore the way his cheeks burned. Sora bit his lip, trying unsuccessfully to suppress an awkward, sheepish grin, then finally let out a short, nervous, giggly laugh. He scooted over so he was sitting beside Riku without saying anything, exhaling slowly and looking up at the sky.

   After a second, Sora’s hand found Riku’s, closing around it in a gentle squeeze. Riku looked over at him slowly…and they both broke out laughing, quiet and giddy with nerves. Too close.

   Riku sighed, tipping his head to the side to bump against Sora’s, squeezing his hand before he pulled away. It was too risky to be that affectionate now, with other people around—people who weren’t Kairi, anyway. As distracted as the two of them could get with each other…Riku felt himself blushing fiercely at the thought, and cut it off before he could finish it, standing and busying himself with dusting sand off. He did not want to think of what else they could have been caught doing.

   “Think I’m going to head back and bother Kairi,” he announced. “You coming?”

   Sora let out a short laugh before getting to his feet. “Seriously? Of course I am.”

   Riku flashed him a brief grin, but didn’t answer, starting off towards the beach with a little sigh. The other three weren’t in sight—Sora must have noticed that too, because he hurried a little to catch up with Riku, glancing around briefly before taking hold of his hand again, just for a moment.

   Riku cast his eyes around the area, then bent, pressing a quick kiss to Sora’s lips before pulling away from him.

   And, like always, it sent a shiver down his spine, even now.

Chapter Text

   “Hey, Kairi.”

   Kairi looked up at her name, beaming even before her eyes fell on Riku. He sat down next to her on the cliffside, leaning back on his hands. A flicker of a frown passed over Kairi’s face. It was too quiet.

   “Hey.” She looked back over her shoulder, noting the distinct lack of anyone following him up the half-hidden path. “Sora’s not coming?” She’d been waiting on the two of them to meet her here, and figured they would arrive together.

   “Nah. I think he’s in trouble for something. I didn’t really get much of an explanation.” Riku side-eyed her pointedly, and Kairi sighed.

   “Of course he is,” she muttered. Oh well. She’d been working on one of her projects while she waited on them, and when she settled her hands in her lap, the shells she’d gathered clicked together gently. Riku perked up a little at the sound, and he pushed himself back up straight, leaning over to look.

   “What are you making?”

   Kairi gathered them up before he could see, holding them out of reach. “It’s a secret, Riku,” she answered with a teasing smile, and Riku broke into an answering grin.

   “A secret, huh? Let me see.” Before she could stop him, he moved to catch hold of her wrist. Kairi laughed, then kissed him quickly before he could try to pry her hand open. Out here, it didn’t matter if she kissed him: they were on the main island, but in a little secretive spot Kairi had claimed for herself years ago, at the edge of a cliff overlooking the town and ocean. There were better views nearby, though, so the chances of someone else seeing them together was unlikely.

   (part of her almost didn’t care; part of her wanted someone to see)

   Riku hummed against her mouth, pleased, and Kairi took the chance to pull her wrist free from his loosened grip and stuff her project into her pocket: it was a good luck charm, like the one she’d lent to Sora, but only partly finished. And if Riku saw it, he’d ask why she was making another—after all, Sora had returned hers when they’d finally gotten back home, and he knew that—and Kairi wasn’t ready to explain. Not until the whole set was done, at least.

   “You’re trying to distract me,” Riku mumbled against her lips after a second, and Kairi giggled. Her hands free now, she slid them up around his neck, grinning.

   “Nope,” she said cheerfully, “already did that.” Riku huffed out a short breath and Kairi laughed before pulling him back to kiss him again in apology, her tongue flicking against his lips until he parted them for her. She let out a soft little sigh, brushing her hands up into his hair. The two of them didn’t get many chances to show their affection for each other, not with their whole world knowing Kairi already had a boyfriend (not that it mattered, because he knew about Riku—hell, he was dating Riku too). Explaining it was too much trouble—and too terrifying. She wasn’t really worried about their other friends—sure, they’d probably think it was weird, but any of them worth having wouldn’t care.

   That wasn’t the problem.

   What if their parents didn’t understand? She doubted her mom and dad would approve of their little girl having two boyfriends. And even if they didn’t care, what about Sora’s parents, or Riku’s grandmother? Any one of them could have a problem with it, or might even be likely to. And what if they tried to do the one thing nobody had ever managed: separate them?

   They couldn’t be separated again.

   She sighed softly when she pulled back, smiling at Riku and slipping a hand out of his hair to cup around his cheek. The way his eyes fluttered closed as he tipped his head into her hand was enough to make Kairi break into a grin, before she kissed him again. Later. That was all something to worry over later. Right now, she had other concerns.

   Out of the three of them, Riku was still the most nervous about all of this. Kairi knew him, and she could tell. Something in the way he held himself when they kissed was tense and uncertain, like he still had to tell himself that he was allowed to do it. It wasn’t just kissing either; it was cuddling, hand-holding, everything that might be something more than friends would do (even the things they had done as friends), and it made Kairi’s chest ache when she thought about it. How much time had he spent learning not to show too much affection for them, because he cared too much and thought he shouldn’t? It was too much for him to unlearn in a couple weeks, but she wished it was that easy: the sooner he accepted that she and Sora wanted him, the sooner he believed it, the better.

   But for now, there was nothing to do but be patient and work on it. So, kissing. Besides, she and Sora already had a head start on that part, so it was only fair that they make it up to Riku. As far as she knew, Sora was doing his part, so she had to do hers.

   It was only fair.

   Kairi shifted, wrapping her arms around his neck again. When Riku’s hands went to her waist, she squirmed encouragingly into his touch, until they slid around her. She broke off the kiss for a moment to let out a breathy, pleased little sigh. Riku wasn’t as warm as Sora was, but that was hardly unusual: Sora had always been that way, warm to the touch no matter the season. He was like the sun, bright and brilliant and impossible to ignore. And if Sora was the sun, then Riku was the moon: a colder kind of brilliant, but no less stunning or beautiful, and just as important. She nuzzled against him, pressing her lips to his neck for a moment before returning to his mouth.

   He tasted different, too: like salt from the breeze, and sweet and tangy like the fruit smoothies he liked so much (and he always seemed to have one handy nowadays, more than he had even before he’d left the islands in the first place, like he was trying to remind himself he was home as often as he could). Under that, though, was a subtly bitter-dark, almost earthy sort of flavor that seemed to be all him: even if they hadn’t gotten to kiss as often as Kairi would have liked, she’d learned to recognize it and how it always seemed to be a part of him, so she simply labeled it Riku in her head.

   It was nice; she loved comparing the two of them, taking the time to appreciate all their little differences and similarities. Sora was home: he was sunlight, soft breezes and calm seas. But so was Riku, and he was damp soil and dry sand and green leaves. He was home too, but a different sort: the kind of home where secret things hid.

   Riku hummed softly against her, pulling her closer until Kairi broke off the kiss so she could shift into his lap. He was tense for a moment, blinking at her—and, despite herself and how much she swore she wasn’t embarrassed by anything with her boys, Kairi couldn’t help but blush a little at the way her skirt rode up around her hips—but, to his credit, he was kissing her again as soon as she’d adjusted, and he was a little less tense now, a little less uncomfortable. There was a lot to unlearn, but Riku was eager to do so—once he got over the initial moment of should I be doing this? Soon, she hoped they could leave that moment behind entirely.

   Kairi made a pleased little noise in her throat, returning the kiss and sliding her arms around his neck when one of his hands slid up her back, flattening against her shoulders, the other moving to squeeze her hip gently. Kairi couldn’t help but push her hip into his hand a little, catching his lip between her teeth in a playful little nip. Riku huffed out a short noise, closing his teeth around her lower lip in response, and she giggled, short and giddy, before kissing him again.

   His response made her gasp a little in surprise: for a second, he wasn’t hesitant at all, and when he kissed her it was fierce and unrestrained, years of longing packed into one meeting of lips. And then, almost before she could appreciate it, he caught himself and pulled back sheepishly, his cheeks red. He pressed another kiss against her, at the corner of her mouth, and it felt like an apology.

   Kairi sighed, softly, tangling her fingers in Riku’s hair and rubbing her nose against his. Her eyes flickered open and for a moment she just looked at him, lit in the evening light, his hair swaying a bit in the gentle breeze and his eyes soft as they met hers.

   She didn’t say anything, just kissing him, gentle and reassuring. His response was careful at first, but only for a moment, until he was kissing her firmly again—not as fiercely as before, but enough to leave her breathing hard when they broke apart.

   Kairi fumbled for a moment, her hands going to his shoulders to push him down. She almost had to scoot up onto his stomach to continue kissing him once Riku had laid back in the grass, and for a moment, she pulled back to look down at him, her hands on the ground on either side of his head. He was gorgeous, and always had been, and Kairi couldn’t help but reach up to touch his face, her fingers brushing his cheek.

   Riku didn’t say anything, swallowing (the way his throat bobbed when he swallowed was so distracting) and tipping his head into her hand, looking up at her like she was the most beautiful thing in the world. She had seen that same softness in his gaze when he looked at Sora, and it made her chest clench, giddy and tight, to realize he looked at her the same way. Kairi brushed his hair out of his face, bending to press her lips to his forehead, then moving to cover his mouth with her own in a brief kiss.

   “Riku,” she whispered, her eyes closed and her voice soft against his lips, “don’t ever change.”