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They meet at the Mysterious Tower after Yen Sid calls them in while they’re traveling between worlds. It’s just a simple check-in, nothing big, so him, Donald, and Goofy update Yen Sid on anything new that’s happened.

Which, there’s a lot, but also nothing at the same time because no one in the Organization can ever just give them a straight answer. That would be way too easy, apparently, because being all cryptic and mysterious is their whole annoying shtick. So really all they’re working on right now is theories, ideas, and the overwhelming desire to just stop them before they act on whatever awful plan they have in mind.

Sora picks at a scab while he listens to Goofy explain, idly rubbing at a sore spot from where a heartless mob conked him upside the head last world. Even though he’s been getting stronger, he still struggles with big crowds sometimes. They always somehow manage to get in a few good blows that linger for hours after no matter how well he dodges.

“—and then some kinda big wolf Heartless appeared, and when we defeated it that Organization member Larxene showed up again! She was saying some pretty strange stuff, right Sora?”

“Hm?” Sora says, refocusing. “Oh, yeah. All she did was brag and talk about how the Organization was rising up again, that they we’re gonna win, blah blah, the usual stuff.”

“What exactly did she say?” Yen Sid asks.

Sora crosses his arms, staring down pensively. “I’m not really sure…it was weird. She said they had all thirteen members, and that they wanted us to gather the guardians of light, and if we didn’t then a lot of people would get hurt…but…I don’t know. It’s strange.”

Donald snickers a bit. “I think your brain is still frozen from all that ice. Or maybe that’s just how it always is!”

“Hey!” Sora scowls at Donald, and even though he means it jokingly it still kind of itches at him a little. Even Goofy snorts at their antics which makes him clench his jaw and turn away without any fun theatrics.

He knows Donald is just trying to lighten the mood, but—today was…not that great. And Sora’s not in that great of a mood to begin with.

Don’t get him wrong, it was amazing to meet Elsa and everyone, and he’s so happy that the two sisters have reunited and that the town of Arendelle was saved from an eternal winter. He’s always so glad to help, to see others be happy because of it, and he loves exploring the worlds and meeting new people and going sledding down snowy cliffs. For that, it was a great day.

But there’s only so many times he can fall off a mountain, trip into a snow drift, get lost in an ice maze, and blow three hi-potions fighting one Heartless in a whole pack of them before it starts to grate on him. And to top it all off Organization XIII had to show up to gloat and say more weird, cryptic phrases that he can’t tell if bluff or truth. He’s still trying to process it all, but they’ve been hopping worlds so fast that his head’s starting to spin from all the information being thrown at him from so many directions.

So yeah, it’s going to take him some time to process everything, thank you very much Donald, he thinks cruelly.

As soon as he thinks that he mentally winces. It’s not fair of him to take out his bad mood on his friends. Jeez, he really needs to sleep this off.

Donald and Goofy go back to explaining with Sora making the occasional comment, mentioning some of his thoughts or describing some details more in depth.

“I see,” is all Yen Sid says when they finally trail off. “This is troubling news indeed, that the Organization has reconvened. However, your primary focus should still be on regaining the powers you have lost. We will keep a close eye on what the Organization is plotting, but do not let that sway you from your path. Continue traveling, and we shall see where this path leads us. That is all.”

It’s a clear dismissal. In succession, they salut, and one by one start to head towards the exit. With the rest of the day off, Sora starts making plans.

Supposedly the King and Riku are also heading back today for a check-in, if Riku’s texts were accurate. The way data transfers between the Dark Realm and the light can be laggy sometimes. Sora really hopes the text he got yesterday meant today and not like, a week from now.

Maybe he’ll meet up with his boyfriend so they can go grab a late lunch. He hasn’t seen him in ages, each too busy with their missions to do more than check in on the Gummiphone for an hour or two whenever their timezones align. A good sandwich and quality Riku time sounds amazing after this disaster of a day. Even the thought of it already lightens his mood.

“Sora,” Yen Sid calls before they manage to leave. “May I speak with you alone for a few minutes?”

Internally, Sora groans, but he doesn’t let that show on his face. Instead, he smiles and turns back to face Yen Sid. “Sure! I’ll catch up with you guys later,” he says as he waves off Donald and Goofy.

The two share a look, then nod at him before closing the door behind them. And then they’re alone.

Sora keeps his smile wide. “Is everything okay, Master?”

“Yes. I simply wanted to discuss your progress so far.” Sora’s smile dims a little but doesn’t waver. Why does every conversation he’s had in the last few weeks with everyone always come down to this? Sora gets it, he really does—there’s a lot of people relying on him right now, and he can’t very well help them if he’s not in tip-top shape, but…

It would be nice if someone talked about him as the Sora now and not who he was or who he should be.

“You have been performing admirably,” Yen Sid says, and Sora’s hackles lower a little. Praise? He wasn’t expecting that. “I have heard tales of your assistance in many worlds. They are extremely grateful for everything you have done.”

Sora feels a splash of pride at the praise, but it’s soon followed by dread. There has to be a catch. Yen Sid’s been harping on him for weeks, and there’s always a ‘but’ after anything good he says. For every compliment, there’s three criticisms close on its heels.

“However,” and here it comes… “your progress is not at the level it should be. There are many factors at stake here, and I want to remind you of what the consequences are if we are not able to accomplish our goals.”

“I know what’s important, don’t worry! Trust me, we’ve got this covered.”

Yen Sid’s piercing gaze bores into his soul. “Are you certain you are taking this seriously enough? We cannot afford to dawdle in such critical times.”

Sora keeps smiling a strained grin, because what else can he do? That’s what he’s good at, right? “We’ve all been working really hard. I mean, in the last world we saved an entire town from being frozen in ice! We cleared out a ton of Heartless and Nobodies, and even though it wasn’t great information Organization XIII did tell us new stuff. So that’s pretty good, right?”

He wants to tell Yen Sid about everyone he met, how they found a talking snowman and an ice palace and beautiful lights in the winter sky, but Sora thinks the Master wouldn’t care about that. The lecture he’s about to get would then be ten times worse because it’ll be all why weren’t you focusing on your mission, your powers, you should know that and do this and listen to me. It always is.

“And your aid was surely invaluable. But know this, Sora. Keyblade Masters must be ever focused on their goal, unrelenting in their training, tenacious in their improvement. You must not waver from your path, as that is the one that will set you on one to dusk.”

With a blank stare, Sora traces the whirls of the wood on Yen Sid’s desk with his eyes as the Master drones on about duty and responsibility and other things that Sora gets, completely understands, yes siree, can he go now?

His head throbs painfully as pressure builds behind his eyes. Really bad timing.

“I know that,” he mumbles when Yen Sid pauses after a while in wait for a response.

Even though Sora isn’t looking him in the eyes anymore, he can feel Yen Sid’s disappointment sticking and burning his skin like hot glue. “I’m not quite certain you do. You—"

And Sora—doesn’t want to be here anymore. Whatever Yen Sid is about to say next, it’s nothing good and nothing he hasn’t heard before. He doesn’t want to hear his failures continue to be pointed out and needled at, to be told that he’s not trying his best.

Because Sora is. He really, really is trying his absolute best. Why doesn’t anyone believe him? Can’t they see it? Can’t they see all the effort Sora is putting into this? Into everything he does? Why do they only focus on what he can’t do instead of what he is doing?

He’s tired of having his flaws picked apart. He’s so goddamn sick of it.

And he can’t keep doing this right now.

“I know, okay! I know!” Sora yells as some tightly restrained part of himself snaps with sickening relief. “I know I need to regain the power of waking, I know I need to focus on regaining my strength, I know the dangers and I know the consequences and I know I’m not strong enough!”

He swallows thickly as the words he spit echo hollowly in the lonely tower room. The other meaning hangs heavily in the air, unsaid but very much meant.

I know I’m not good enough.

There’s a familiar burn in his eyes and, shit, he has to leave now, because he can’t let Yen Sid see another weakness of his to judge him over for and for everyone to poke fun at. He can’t do this. He just—can’t.

With a harsh, shaky breath in, he forces himself to meet Yen Sid’s gaze unflinchingly. His eyebrows are slightly raised, the only reaction he had to Sora’s outburst.

“I’m sorry for yelling, Master. That was rude of me. It won’t happen again.”

Yen Sid’s voice is quieter than normal, less grandiose in his reply. “Sora—"

And Sora shouldn’t interrupt, he should just shut up and take whatever reprimands or lectures the elder wielder has for him, but then he really will fall to pieces right here and now and that would be worse. “Thank you for your advice. I’ll try harder next time. Please excuse me.”

With his emotions on a coiled leash, he bows stiffly, and focuses on each step closer to freedom from the suffocating, tensed air in the tower room. He clenches his fists to try and keep his hands from shaking for just another moment, just five more steps, leave, leave, leave.

Yen Sid, thankfully, doesn’t say anything else as Sora throws open the door with robotic movements and shuts the door with a soft, final click. The air still feels heavy in the hall, but at least it’s not strangling him like it was in the room. Sora swallows again, dry throat burning from trying to keep it all in and breathes in again as he pushes down a building sob.

There’s one hallway and three stair flights to his room. That’s not hard, he can do it, he can stay together for just a few minutes more, as long as he doesn’t—

“Sora?”

Run into anyone.

Sora’s breath catches. He turns slightly from his lean on the door to see Riku a few paces away, staring at him with shock. An open book lies crumpled on the ground by his feet as if it was dropped suddenly and forgotten.

Fuck. No, no. Not now. How much of that did he hear? God, Sora probably looks like a mess, and out of everyone he knows Riku is one of the few people he’s never been able to fool even if he’s putting on his best façade. Not this popsicle-stick-and-glue raft he’s trying desperately to keep afloat before it finally sinks.

But he can damn well try to play it off. Because what else can he do. “Riku, hi! Haha, fancy s-seeing you here.” His voice breaks embarrassingly badly halfway through, and that simple act cracks his mask a little farther, a little worse. It’s obvious, glaring weakness. It hurts.

Riku takes a step closer, a soft expression on his face like he’s approaching a cornered animal. “Sora, hey, it’s okay—”

Sora doesn’t want his pity. What Riku must think of him now, falling apart over some stupid words. He’s always going to see him as some dumb kid and nothing more, a ridiculous sensitive moron who can’t handle getting scolded let alone fight Heartless. Who doesn’t take his work seriously enough and who doesn’t try and who is nothing and no one special. Less than nothing, even.

The Keyblade would have never willingly chose someone like me.

The tears well up, about to fall, and he’s has to get out of here now, now, to salvage the last little bit of pride and dignity he has left. “Haha, wow, that time already? I gotta run, I’ll talk to you later bye!”

“Sora!”

Riku calls after him, but Sora doesn’t listen, barely even hears, he just keeps running as fast as his legs will carry him on the adrenaline pounding in his blood. He doesn’t even know where he’s running, just some place away from that suffocating room and from prying eyes and from pity and disappointment and oh, that’s all he can handle.

He manages to lock himself in an empty room before the first tear falls. Then another. And then an ugly sob bursts forth and his weak raft shatters into splinters.

He’s never going to be anything more.

Back sliding against the door, he collapses to the ground and starts to shake apart. Pathetic. He’s so fucking pathetic. Who’s he kidding? The only reason he’s here is because of a mistake, a big long series of mistakes. Despite that, though, he had managed to claw his way up to be someone worthy in the wake of that. He’s helped so many people in the past and he did it so well too.

But now he’s back at square one. He’s back to nothing. What good is he then? If his best isn’t good enough, then why is he even here?

Every single thing he’s done, others have had to clean up the mess in his wake. He fights off the Organization in Castle Oblivion, and then he sleeps for a year while his friends fight for their lives, for his. He unlocks the Sleeping Worlds, then has to be pulled out of a nightmare when he stupidly falls in further and nearly becomes another pawn of darkness.

Riku’s a Keyblade Master, and so is the King. Donald and Goofy have been protecting the King for years before he came around. Even Kairi and Lea are putting in their all, training and learning all they can.

And he’s just, what, goofing off? Sure, he has some fun on the worlds, but he’s never not focused on missions. He’s not! Can’t they see how much he cares? Why can’t they see him, the real him?

The tears won’t stop. They don’t believe him, and it hurts.

A knock on the door breaks him out of his stupor, and Sora stops breathing even if it winds his chest up uncomfortably. How long has it been? Of course someone would come looking for him.

But maybe they don’t know it’s him, not yet. Maybe they’ll think it’s unoccupied, or someone else sobbing his heart out like an idiot. He just needs a few more minutes, and then he’ll get up and he’ll smile (fake, fake) and he’ll save the universe. He will. He will.

Go away. Please, go away. Don’t see me like this. Please.

“Sora?” Riku’s voice calls through the wood. There’s a painful tug in his heart at the worry in his tone.

Of course Riku would follow him. Even if he didn’t see the condition Sora was in after leaving Yen Sid’s room, their bond would surely have alerted him due to how out of sync his heartbeat is jittering.

He presses himself further into the door, trying to keep as quiet as possible even if every breath in is painful in its restraint. The doorknob jiggles softly, but the lock stops it.

“Sora, please. Can you open the door?”

No, that’s not an option. He can’t let anyone see him like this. Especially Riku. No way. No way.

“…can you at least let me know you’re okay? Please? It’s—“ there’s a thunk on the other side of the wood, as if a head hit it. “I just want to make sure.”

A coiled whine starts to build. Here he goes again, making people worry over nothing and forcing them to fix his mistakes. How awful is that?

But. He doesn’t know how to fix this. Where to start, even. Or when he’ll be able to get himself under control. There’s a million wooden pieces of himself scattered and he has no idea where to even begin putting them back together, and. Having Riku here might be…nice.

It might be nice.

“You don’t have to open the door. Just, can you say something, maybe? I can talk to you through the door. Or, I can wait. I’ll wait for you as long as you need.”

Any walls he had started to build back up start crumbling again like sand. Riku is stubborn, as stubborn as he is, and Sora knows he won’t leave until he hears from Sora. He can’t leave, so in tune with each other that they each can hardly rest until they’re back in sync.

With a flick of his wrist, Sora summons the Kingdom Key. It glitters softly in the dim light of the room, brilliant and strong. Even though it wasn’t originally his to keep, he still feels the connection with it now, that tether in his heart whispering of belonging, deserving. It’s a grounding reminder.

He needs to snap out of this fast if he wants to stay that way, so he can get on with his duty.

The Keyblade dissolves as Sora stands up and clicks the lock open. Almost immediately, the door bends inwards when Sora cracks it open, Riku’s teal-green eyes peering through the sliver of space. Sora remains in the shadows, hyper-aware of the mess he looks and trying to delay the inevitable.

“H-hey,” Sora’s voice stutters, and he can’t help but sniffle harshly before any more tears or snot can fall, suddenly embarrassed at how badly he broke down.

Riku’s expression crumples. “You’re not okay.”

Sora wants to make a joke—jeez, what gave it away!—and he wants to snap—yeah, so what?—so instead what comes out of his mouth is a watery, choking laugh he harshly barks out with no hint of humor.

He can’t keep eye contact for longer than a second, so he backs off to slide back into his cool, dark spot and hide his face into his knees. There’s no point in hiding anymore, but it makes him feel better.

The door clicks back shut as Riku’s footsteps move closer, deliberately soft. A rustle of fabric, the smell of dark ozone and sandalwood, and a faint warm presence by his right are how he knows where he’s at.

For a while, all they do is sit and listen to Sora’s sniffles that echo pathetically in the quiet room. Riku doesn’t reach out, doesn’t try and touch, and Sora doesn’t know if that’s good or bad because he doesn’t know what to feel or think or know anything right now.

Everyone was right when they called him stupid. They always were.

The silence grates on him after a while. “Are you going to tell me off, too?” He bites out.

Riku jumps a little when he speaks, but his response is quick. “No, no. I was just thinking…”

“About how I don’t care enough? That I don’t do enough? That I’m dumb and useless and I can’t do anything right—“

“God, Sora, no!” Riku sounds horrified. “I was thinking of what to say. Did—who told you that? Who said that to you?”

Sora digs himself deeper in his knees, feeling the buttons on his pants indent in his cheeks. “No one. I figured it out on my own. I’m smart enough for that at least.”

A sharp inhale. “You’re not stupid, don’t say that about yourself!” Sora flinches at the harsh tone in Riku’s voice before it sinks into his skin and ignites the crushing feeling smoldering in his chest, dry branches blazing and burning with sudden fury.

With quick, jerky movements, Sora forces himself to his feet, pacing from one wall to another. “So what, it’s true, you didn’t need to say anything because I figured it out! All by myself! I know what you think about me and I’m fucking trying, okay!”

Sora feels anger bubbling in him, lava bursts and solar flares and magnifying glass beams blazing in his vision. He wants to scream and shout and throw something at a wall just to watch it break and scatter and cut and he feels the warmth of more tears fall down his face but he doesn’t even blink because he’s so furious.

He wants Riku to snap back, for him to stand and spit and yell at him, maybe something hurtful so Sora won’t feel as guilty when his own words strike at the heart and when their fists fly so that Sora can’t feel anything but actual hurt and pounding blood instead of whatever awful thoughts explode and pin and needle in his mind.

And Riku does stand, tensed and pinched with an unreadable expression, and Sora leans back on his heels, biting words at the ready and hands clenched by his side, blood pounding aggressively in his ears as he thinks yes, yes, c’mon, let’s go now now now…

But a minute passes, and then another, and Riku just stands there. Instead of yelling back, he just takes in a deep breath, and Sora watches as his shoulders lower and his gaze loses that harsh edge. He’s not gearing up to argue, or to fight. He’s calming down.

But Sora doesn’t want to calm down. He wants to argue, he wants to fight, but—he can’t throw the first punch. He can’t. That’s not how this goes.

Another second. Another moment of nothing.

Even though he tries to hold on, he feels his anger start to cool, and—and—

God, what is he doing?

“I’m sorry,” Sora mumbles, regret eating away at the last bit of fire in his blood. “I—I didn’t. Mean that.”

“I think you did,” Riku says, and Sora doesn’t know if he agrees with that or not because his mind is a battlefield right now.

Sora swallows thickly, feeling it stick in his throat. “You heard it, right? You heard it all.”

“Only the last part.” Riku’s shadow takes a few steps closer, and Sora doesn’t move or look up from staring at the carpet. “I just got back, and the walls are pretty thick so…”

Great. So he only heard the absolute worst part. Isn’t that great. Sora sighs harshly. There’s no real coming back from this, now, so he’s instead going to try and be honest and hope to scrap up the last few dregs of his mental well-being in the meantime. “Look…I had a bad day, and…everything was getting to me and I think I didn’t get enough sleep or something. I don’t know. I’m really sorry.”

The shadow gives way to boots, and Sora finally looks up with his dry, itchy eyes when Riku’s arm falls on his shoulder. His eyes are nothing but kind, understanding green. “Hey, you don’t have to be sorry. Let’s go sit down, okay?”

Riku leads him to the nearby bed where they sit up against the headboard shoulder to shoulder. If Sora was in a better mood, they would be cuddling at this point with Riku’s arms around his waist and Sora’s back leaning against his chest. But Sora still feels unnerved, on edge and ready to blow again. So he settles for sticking close by Riku’s side, their sides brushing just enough.

The room stays dark, which further settles his nerves. There’s something comfortable in the darkness, with the only light being from the window starlight sending sparking objects in the room to glow ethereally. Like the nights on the island when he was young and everyone would whisper secrets to each other during sleepovers in the dead of night, where no one else but them would be around to listen and where no one would dare to judge.

“…Do you want to talk about it?” Riku’s voice is a gentle rumble in the quiet air, safe and familiar and reliable. No, Riku wouldn’t judge him for this, Sora knows. He was crazy to think that he would.

It takes a few tries to swallow the dry click out of his throat, but he does tell Riku. He describes the broad snowscape of Arendelle, what had happened, shows him the bruise on his head and the scab on his arm to show how he messed up, how angry at himself he was.

In response, Riku tries a Cura, but it barely heals anymore and just scabs over again. Still, the cool feel of the spell sinks into his skin and settles his fears, the pleasant warmth of Riku’s hand stroking his arm quick to follow.

“I just…don’t feel like myself, lately.” This confession is whispered quieter, near inaudible. There’s this other Sora in him, a quick-to-snap Sora who fractures when he smiles and doesn’t want to get up when he falls and he hates it. He doesn’t want to change, he doesn’t want to be mad or upset, he just wants to help and save and protect but there’s all this pressure building in his head that he just wants to scream sometimes.

“I’m trying to be what everyone wants, but I can’t do it,” Sora says. “I’m—everyone supports me, they’re all on my side, all my power comes from them…but, I just feel like they’re looking for more. Someone that’s not me. Someone better. And I’m letting them down.”

A cracked, hurt part in his chest grates at that. That’s what really hurts. Letting others down, thinking that, to them, Sora is second-rate in their hearts even if they themselves are the most important people in Sora’s.

It’s probably not true. Sora knows he’s being unreasonable, and dumb, and over-emotional, but. It still itches. God, it itches at him so much.

Wouldn’t the worlds (his friends?) be better off with someone more?

Riku is quiet, listening patiently, but Sora doesn’t have anything left to say.

A deep breath. Then, careful words, tinged thick with emotion, with feeling, in way that Riku only speaks when he really, truly means what he says. “Sora, you have never let us down. Not me, not anyone. Not once. And I know you never will, no matter what happens.”

Scratching his salt-encrusted cheeks, Sora grumbles under his breath, but Riku’s having none of that. Through their bond, Sora feels a tug inevitably dragging his attention back, and Sora doesn’t bother resisting the gentle pull because in his heart, he’s craving this.

A squeeze to his wrists encourages him to gaze back again. “We all look up to you, you know. I mean, at least I do. The way you always find a way to help, even in the smallest of ways. How strong you are, how you never let yourself stay down for long. You know, I think I heard Lea grumbling in the gardens the other day about needing to learn some of your techniques so he could try and beat you for once. He even admitted he didn’t think he could!”

At that, Sora laughs a little. Well…he’d be happy to help teach Lea, if he asked. Sora just never thought he was good enough for that.

“I’ve always admired your determination. When we were kids, I wished I could have the same unwavering trust and endless compassion that you do. I was too stubborn to actually try, but your smile always made me want to smile right along with you.

“Even when I was…gone, for that year, in every world I visited after you left, they always mentioned you. Like, that spiky-haired kid with the good heart, or the kind guy with a charming smile. Things like that while they talked about how you helped them, even in the smallest of ways. You just have that impression on people, dork.” Riku pokes his cheek to squish it, and Sora’s feeling better enough to puff them up a bit to joke back.

“Just by being here, by being you, you make us better. Without you, I would have been lost in hatred. I never would have had the will to fight off Ansem or the energy to go on that far through the darkness. I would have been stuck an angry, hard-headed teen teen forever trapped in the past. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. Someone trying to be better. To be like you.”

Sora looks away, biting his lip at the praise he can’t accept, he can’t—

But…Riku’s so earnest, so heartfelt, speaking with such confidence that it would almost be an offense to deny the reverent words.

How others see him…is this really it?

And there, his emotional dam cracks, gentle unlike the burst it had been before. He leans in to Riku, asking wordlessly, and Riku understands because sometimes Sora thinks Riku knows him better than he knows himself. Opening his arms, he readily accepts Sora falling into his embrace the way he’s secretly wanted to do all this time. Sora sighs in comfort as his arms wrap around him warmly, that jittery-nervous part in his chest finally resting.

It’s silence for a while again, but it’s not the tense atmosphere of before. It’s the quiet after a storm, when the grass is still dewey with water and the clouds are still swirling and there, just in the distance, the sun starts peeking out from behind the shadows.

Still, it takes time.

Sora swipes at his eyes, taking a few deep breaths as he tries to shove down the feelings swirling in his stomach. “I’m okay. I’ll be okay. I just…need a moment.”

“Take all the time you need,” Riku says, rubbing gentle circles into his back. “You don’t have to be okay all the time, you know.” Sora hums, too relaxed to say much more, but Riku understands all the same.

Absently tracing patterns, Riku talks, half to Sora and half seemingly to himself. “We rely on you too much. You don’t have to be the hero all the time. You’re allowed this. You’re allowed to be human. I think…you keep it so bottled up inside because everyone expects too much of you, and….I’m so sorry we didn’t notice before.”

“Not your fault,” Sora mumbles.

“Maybe, maybe not. But it’s not about fault right now. It’s—this is about you. This is about you needing to let it all out because everything sucks and everyone is putting too much pressure on you and it’s killing you, Sora. Keeping this trapped inside is hurting you and I just want you to talk to me or someone when you feel pressured or upset. Please.”

Sora would cry again if he hadn’t just filled his crying quota for the entire year in the past hour. Instead, he settles for pressing himself tighter into Riku, head buried in his chest and legs intertwined.

“Okay.” The word is messy and jumbled on his tongue but clear sounding. “Okay. I promise.”

Even though he hopes this doesn’t happen again, he knows that these doubts and fears wont just go away. And he knows that he still has to deal with the Problem of Yen Sid…he winces when he remembers his abrupt exit.

Yep. Not looking good for him lecture-wise.

Riku probably remembers that around the same time he does. “….What was Yen Sid saying to you, anyways?” The question is asked as though he’s been holding it in for a while. Sora sighs but decides to get the rest of it off his chest. Talking really does help, even just to vent.

“Just…the usual. Stuff about the power of waking, not being good enough to be a Master, that I’m lazy and don’t take my work seriously enough. I don’t know, things like that.”

He’s paraphrasing, obviously, and probably exaggerating. That’s how he interpreted it, though.

“Fuck him,” Riku says without hesitation.

A scandalized gasp. “Riku! You can’t say that! What happened to proper, respectful Riku?”

“No one has the right to say that you’re not trying your best. Therefore, Yen Sid can bite me.” Riku sniffs, so flippant and offended that Sora can’t help but laugh at it. “He better not say anything else to you except to apologize or else he and I are going to have words.”

“I can fight my own battles, Riku.”

Riku huffs, but there’s that confidence in his voice again that catches Sora’s attention. “I know you can. It’s just good to have backup, is all I’m saying.”

It’s an absurd conversation, but Sora feels warm all over from the way Riku is so ready to go toe to toe with their Master over him. The way he trusts in Sora to handle it, though, because he knows Sora is strong enough to stand on his own even if he prefers not to…that sends a different, fuzzier kind of warmth through him.

A faint grumble echoes from his stomach and Sora suddenly remembers how hungry he actually is. “Oh, I forgot to ask. Do you want to go out for lunch? I wanted to get sandwiches before…you know.”

“A date?” Riku says. He presses a hand to his heart dramatically, passing it through Sora’s hair on the fly by as if he can’t help it. “Why, Sora, I thought you’d never ask.”

Bumping his head on Riku’s hand, he wriggles indignantly. He only laughs back. “That sounds wonderful. I’ll even buy us some ice cream, too.”

“Mint chocolate chip?” Sora says hopefully into Riku’s chest, staring up with pleading eyes.

Riku screws up his face. “Ugh, you disgust me. I don’t even know why I like you.”

“It’s good!”

“It’s toothpaste!” They’ve had this argument hundreds of times before, ever since they were kids and they fought over dumb things like candy flavors and seashells for the fun of it. “Mint belongs in tea, gum, and mouthwash, not ice cream. And especially not with chocolate!”

“Says you, Mr. Caramel Peanut Butter Delight. Ruin a perfectly good scoop of ice cream with that slop.”

“Shush, you,” he says with such fondness that it makes Sora’s heart pitter-patter despite himself. “That’s nearly as bad as that horrible habanero ice cream you liked for some awful reason.”

Sora sighs dreamily. “Could only find it in that one sweets shop on the farthest island. Ugh, it was so good, don’t remind me! Now I want one.”

“For you! Kissing you felt like making out with a lava pit when you brought a cone back to the tower.”

“Ha, you gotta admit, that was funny though.” Sure, he could have warned Riku that he had just eaten super-spicy ice cream before greeting him that day, but then he wouldn’t have gotten to see Riku jump around the common room in frantic search of water while he mumble-yells at him with his tongue sticking out. Sora has priorities.

“The. Worst.”

Sora just laughs and bumps his head under Riku’s chin, feeling his answering rumbles, feeling far too comfortable to move just this second.

The sunshine feels the best after a storm, Sora decides.