Riku concentrates, tries to remove every other sound from his head but for the waterfall roaring beneath them as he makes his way back into the castle. The King’s companions--lackeys, Maleficent’s voice supplies in his head, bumbling, incompetent fools--patter along uselessly behind him. He doesn’t need them. In fact, he’s an inch away from getting rid of them; if he had his way he’d boot them right out of the picture and excise that terrible air of tenseness and betrayal they’re projecting like radioactive waste along with them.
Not so comfy ditching your friends, is it.
The Kingdom Key, pulsing with power, almost sears his hand, he feels the warmth of it travel all the way up his arm, down through his chest, he’s heady with it. He can’t stop admiring it, holding it up to inspect it, listening to the satisfying way the chain falls each time he brings it back to his side.
He won’t acknowledge that he’s too scared to dismiss it; his knuckles are white where he grips it at the hilt.
“Gawrsh, Riku,” Goofy says lightly. “It sure is nice to meetcha again.”
Donald starts a little wheezing murmur, and out of the corner of his eye Riku can see Goofy lean over with a finger to his mouth to silence him. He wishes they’d both shut it, but Goofy continues.
“We heard lots about you and all the fun times you and Sora had,” he says. If this is an attempt at placacting him, it makes Riku even more angry. “He talked about all the games you used to play together, and how good you were at all of ‘em, and how much he misses you--”
“He did?” Riku starts, but stops himself. What a childish way of looking at things. What a childish way to respond to it. “He always was jealous.”
“I’m a lil mixed up, though,” Goofy says. “This wasn’t what I was expectin’ after hearin’ him talk so much about ya. I think this whole time he thought you were all gonna be together again when we caught up to ya.”
“Then why did he leave us?” Riku snaps. “Because it looks to me like he just started running with a new group instead. If he wanted his friends back so badly, then why did he run away from them?”
“Kinda looks to me like it was the other way around,” Donald mumbles under his breath.
Riku doesn’t allow them to see him hold in a breath, to breathe out each betrayal one exhale at a time. He doesn’t bother trying to reason with them again.
“It won’t be hard to put these two back together,” Naminé says softly, inputting something into the console ahead of her. “But we’ll still keep them here as long as we need to. King’s orders,” she says solemnly. “I need your help.”
The pod in the hallway opens up and she gestures out at Donald and Goofy, still napping, curled up opposite one another and alternating snores.
With mirth, Riku points at them, then back at the pod. She nods grimly, then steps over to activate the other one.
“Don’t worry,” Naminé says, just a little bit of amusement leaking into her tone. “They won’t wake up.”
“Better not,” he mumbles, and goes to scoop up Goofy, who continues to saw logs. “Some good you guys are.”
“They’re brave,” counters Naminé, reaching out to help Riku place Goofy upright in what Riku can only think of as a temporary tomb. “And sweet. It’s nice to have something to put it into perspective.”
“Put what in perspective?” Riku asks while going to bundle Donald up into his arms.
Naminé’s voice has not a trace of irony. While Riku turns to look at her, one of Donald’s webbed feet slips out of his grip and puts them both off balance, and Naminé runs over to help him while stealing a backwards look at the console she’s abandoned. A fine pair they make, swaddling their new pet. Donald only gives a little snort as a response.
“Did they know what they were getting into?” Riku asks, propping him up more gently than he probably deserves. “It seems like their choice was made for them.”
“I don’t think it mattered to them,” she says. “They would have done it all the same.”
“Something to be said for blind loyalty, I guess.”
“Was it, though?” Naminé turns to him as she punches in the final code. “Blind?”
“No, I guess it wasn’t,” he says. He smiles and puts one hand on his hip. “They’re not that dumb.”
Naminé stifles a little laugh, but he breaks, and they both giggle for a moment. Out with the old guard and in with the new--perhaps the pair of them could be a suitable interim replacement.
“The King told me about all the things you guys did,” Riku says. He’s got a clear view of Kingdom Hearts but it turns his stomach to look at it. The Door, though not ideal, is a slightly better option. “The good and the bad things.”
“Aw, shucks,” Goofy looks down, chagrined, but Donald wheezes out a laugh. “The King told you about us disobeyin’ orders? Was he mad?”
“Hah. No. He laughed about it, actually. For what it’s worth, I’m impressed,” Riku says.
“We won’t make that mistake again,” Donald says, a little smug. “Orders, schmorders.”
Riku purses his lips, trying not to laugh.
“Aw, I’m only kidding.” Donald claps some imaginary dust from his hands. “The King knows we would only do something like that for a good reason.”
“I wish we’d learned that earlier,” Goofy says, looking down with regret.
“I think you’ve more than made up for it,” Riku says. “There are worse things.”
He lets it hang there in the air for a moment, giving them the opportunity to dismiss themselves, but they stay right where they are.
“I know you don’t trust me,” he says. “You don’t have to.”
“Aw, what makes ya say that? You were helpin’ us the whole time,” Goofy says.
“So you noticed.”
“I didn’t,” Donald says. They both turn toward him. “Trust you.”
Riku sighs, and goes to speak again.
“But I do now,” Donald interrupts. “Just ‘cuz I think you wish you’d learned some stuff earlier, too.”
Riku laughs. Just once, but the olive branch has been accepted. Donald and Goofy laugh to themselves.
Donald makes a pathetic little noise. Goofy puts a hand over his face and looks down forlornly.
Riku paces. Strides forward. About faces. Three steps, then back; the nervous energy is taking over but he knows if he steps too close again to where he’d gently placed a sleeping Sora, Yen Sid is going to give him what for all over again, and that’s the last thing any of them need.
“Well,” Lea says. It pulls everyone out of their own thoughts so abruptly he may well have shouted. “What do we do now?”
Donald makes another terrible noise.
“I think…” Riku says, tentative, focusing on the two sets of watery eyes that have zeroed in on him now, “I have an idea.”
It’s Goofy’s turn to let out a raucous sob. The two of them run over to clutch at his waist; he drops to his knees and yanks them tight.
“Thank you, guys,” he says softly. “I really mean it. I owe you big time.” He lets them go. “We couldn’t have done it without you before, but this time it’s going to have to be me.” He turns over to the King and gives him an assertive look. “Right, Mickey?”
Riku watches him catch the expression on his face and it seems he can’t argue.
“He’s right, fellas.”
“Well, then, what are ya waitin’ for?” Goofy says, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.
“Yeah,” Donald says through one big sniff, “what are you waiting for?”
“Can’t get rid of me fast enough, can you?” Riku says with a smile as he stands, searching deep within himself to summon the blade he needs. “Sorry to disappoint. I’ll be back soon enough.”
The sun sets low on the Destiny Islands.
Riku smiles at the chaos, the yelling, the instant camaraderie between all of their friends, and then turns away from it all to go sit by the shore.
Not long afterwards Donald saunters over, still shaking away sand; he and Goofy flank him on either side and settle in close. He remembers the last time they were all here, seeing these two from afar as they leapt into the water to meet a waterlogged Sora plowing single mindedly ahead of the waves, and he knows that they are thinking about the same thing.
“There are still some loose ends to take care of,” Riku says, still staring straight ahead at the twinkles of light that still reflect off the water even as the sun descends further. “I was gonna ask--”
“We’re ready when you are!” Donald says cheerfully, crossing his arms as Goofy reaches over to give Riku a gentle pat on the shoulder.
“Hey,” Riku says, “you don’t even--”
“Gawrsh, Riku. Did ya really think ya had to ask? Can’t keep us three musketeers apart.”
“All for one and one for all!” Donald cries.
Overcome, Riku reaches out to pull both of them closer, a one armed hug for each. He clears the maudlin from his throat.
“No, he never did pick the brightest friends, did he?” he says, smiling in the vague direction of the horizon. “A trio of dummies. All for one and one for all.”
He reaches out his arm to summon Braveheart, extends it toward the sky. He’s met first by a staff, then by a shield. A motley crew, kit out for battle with their rears still in the sand, but it couldn’t be any other way, could it? He dismisses his blade and hauls himself up before helping them clamber up from the ground.
“I say we start now, what about you guys?” he says, taking a deliberate step closer to the Gummiship.
“You lead, Riku,” Goofy says, looking to Donald, who gives one strong nod right back.
“Got it,” he replies, but they don’t hear him, as they’re already scrambling down the shore; he overtakes them before they’re halfway there. Battle formation, three points, one straight ahead; a little triangle of idiocy. A trinity: all for one and one for all and all for one and...