It's late enough that the grownups are gone and the only ones left around the fire are Selphie and Tidus and Wakka and the two of them. The others have long since staggered home or fallen asleep farther off in the yard; everyone knows what teenagers get up to in the wake of the summer parties, and they've alienated everyone else in their class.
Sora doesn't mind it. It's way better like this, when it's just them, Selphie and Tidus and Wakka leaning into each other but still giggling and trading sips of leftover wine, now that all the others are gone and no one else can see, since technically Wakka's not allowed to drink but he's doing it anyway because it is just them, now.
It's way better like this. It's safer.
Kairi's bare feet are in his lap and her bare legs are slung over his shoulders and she's perched on the log that once was a tree that fell when the world was lost and has since become a place for them to lounge in her backyard, and her hands are in his hair and everything is almost perfect, but not quite.
The fire's burning lower now, more orange than gold. It reminds him of freedom, of long nights on the savannah, and sleep, and he's drowsy and wide-awake all at once, itching under his skin but holding very still. Kairi's been letting him poke at her feet--he can't help it, her toes are painted with something sparkly so they glitter when she moves, and Selphie did her nails with the same, and Tidus has been staring at them for so long that he's moving his whole head whenever she waves a hand, so Sora figures it's probably all right for him to find Kairi’s toes so distracting.
Tonight was Tidus' first night drinking with the rest of the kids from their school, and Sora doesn't like thinking about why, how his eyes had glittered and his smile had been too bright when he’d swiped the first bottle, how he’d laughed too loud when someone had told him how great it must be to have his dad back home again, after all that time away on the mainland.
It's hard to anyway, when Kairi's curled up with him like this, when he can tilt his head to the side and press his lips to her thigh, when it would be so, so easy to turn around and slide up, the way he knows that Riku has, to lean in against her soft heat and--
But after the negotiations earlier, when their parents had been so brittle he'd thought they might break, when his mother smiled at him like a liar and he'd thought he finally understood why Riku doesn't like it when--
Riku had walked his parents home. He wasn't back yet.
So it wasn't perfect.
It should have been perfect. It should have been--his mother's smile hadn't reached her eyes and Riku's mom still looked right through him like he didn't exist--but they'd agreed. They'd agreed to it, to the dowries they'd suggested and the plans Kairi had offered, and it should have been perfect.
It should have been perfect, but it wasn't.
Her skin is so soft against his cheek, and her hands in his hair are so gentle, and in the wake of the party they’ve been steadily drinking their way through what the grownups left behind them, and their parents have agreed, and it's still not perfect.
There's no Heartless here, the only Nobodies are curled quiet and still inside his heart, inside Kairi's, and it took way more sips from their shared bottle than it used to for the world to go soft and hazy, and Hiromasu doesn't like him but at least Kairi's dad knows that he exists, and--
He looks past the fire again, and no one is there.
It doesn't take that long to get to Riku's house. It shouldn't take him this long to get back, and that means he's probably fighting with his parents again, in that cold, brittle way that doesn't seem like it’s fighting but it actually is, and Sora can't--
It was supposed to be perfect, once they agreed, or at least better, but he doesn't-- he doesn't understand why they're being like this, why this is apparently so much to ask, when Riku's got that cousin who’s going to be his family’s heir so he doesn’t have to anymore, when his parents had already agreed even before this--
Kairi shifts behind him, and he wants to turn into the curve of her, nuzzle into her, slide teeth and tongue against the softness of her skin and press upward--
But Selphie is still talking, and Tidus is still following the slow arc of her hands, and Wakka shouldn't drink and isn't a priest yet but is still right there and Riku hasn't showed him how to do it yet, but. He wants.
It was supposed to be perfect and he knows that she knows it too, that's why she pulled him to her, curled around him, tugged his head up so she could shadow him with her hair while she stole a kiss when no one was looking.
His lips still ache, the sweet tang of the wine and their shared loneliness, because it was supposed to be perfect but everything's fractured at the edges, and sometimes he wonders if this is what it felt like for Riku, before everything, because if it is--
Sometimes he hurts and doesn't know why.
Three dowries agreed on, four grownups who said yes, and it's all such a bother.
It's not fair.
Wakka laughs at something Selphie says, ruffles Tidus's hair; and Sora blinks, feeling his lips curve down as he watches them.
It would be easier, if it were them. Of course two boyfriends are better than one, Selphie had said into the classroom's awkward silence, calm and confident; and Jecht would only laugh and slap Tidus on the back, if it were them. Wakka's family would be the problem, but Wakka’s the only one with siblings and he’s not even the oldest so it doesn’t matter who he marries--and Tidus and Riku's lifelong ban against stepping foot on the family property aside, Wakka’s dad is usually pretty easy-going, for a priest.
If it were them, it would be easier.
It should be easier.
It's not fair.
He looked for them, he looked for them everywhere, world after world after world after world, always seeking and never finding, and Kairi left this world, left the safety of this place, fought past the Organization just to get to them, and Riku--
They're engaged for real now. Their parents agreed, and it's almost perfect, firelight and his friends and his fearless fiancée, but.
"Where is he?" Kairi murmurs. She says it low, maybe low enough that he wasn't supposed to hear, but her feet are in his lap and she's leaning over him, her hands folded on his head and the rest of her so so soft that--
She’s resting her chin on top of her hands on the top of his head, keeping him folded into her, because she's his fiancée now, for real, and if she did decide she wanted him to do all of the things he's been thinking about, no one could stop her.
But she won't, not while their friends are here. Even though she could, if she really wanted to. She won't, not when Riku's not here to guide him, not when Riku's not here to show him what to do.
It's not fair that Riku isn't here right now, that he has to go back to that awful too-big house that Sora hasn't visited since they came home, that Riku couldn't just stay with them and--
Maybe they shouldn't do anything, even though the light’s low, even though Wakka and Selphie and Tidus would probably look away, but--
"I could smell you guys from two houses over. How much have you been drinking?"
--and Riku is just there suddenly, standing at the edge of the light, and Selphie gives a belated yelp and skitters backward into Wakka, who blinks lazily and then raises his hand in a slow, careful wave.
Tidus, now distracted from Selphie’s glittering fingernails, is staring. "...where'd you come from?"
Riku chuckles, and it's low and warm, and also a little bit of a lie. He's standing loose and relaxed in that way that makes other people think that he's being insolent, that reminds them of how he was before, but Sora knows better: Riku always goes sarcastic and still before launching into his most vicious attacks.
It's a clear tell, and he’s teased him about it, but Riku's also so blindingly fast that most of the time it doesn't even matter.
Looking at him now, it’s so easy to tell that he had another not-a-fight with his parents on the way back to the house, because of course he did. Even though the whole point of the meeting before the party was for their parents to come to an agreement. Even though everyone had been so polite that even he could feel it, and right before his mother had left (early, always early, he was starting to understand it better now, the mornings on the boat and the work, always the work to be done) she’d squeezed his shoulder and murmured "I'll see you tomorrow" with that tone was half-expectant, half-warning, and he'd smiled at her and agreed and not understood, then.
It was supposed to be perfect, but even though Riku's here now, it's still not. So Sora smiles so hard that a little of the damp in his eyes slides past his lashes, smiles and waves him closer, like Kairi started doing even before Riku spoke, arms up and beseeching.
Chasing after Riku is always useless; just hints and guidance left behind him, like a concession, like sympathy, and somewhere in Sora's heart he's still a little angry at the king.
Still so angry at Riku's parents.
But Riku will relax for them. He always has, and even now he's drifting closer, soundless and easy, the poised calm melting into the real, even as his nose is crinkling.
He stops just out of arm's reach, evading their outstretched fingers, and in the dusky night the firelight gleams gold against his hair. It's so pretty Sora almost forgets to pay attention when he talks.
"You stink," Riku says, in that drawling "I'm a jerkface" voice, and it makes Kairi giggle and Tidus let out an offended "Hey," even as Selphie's saying "You can't say that to a lady!" and Wakka just laughs.
"Whatever," Sora replies, and flaps his hands a little more intently, "C'mere already, you've been gone forever."
More than a year without him, without her, more than a year and there will never be enough time, never never, and he doesn't understand how their parents can think they're rushing when all of the rest of forever will never be enough.
"I'm pretty sure you're exaggerating," Riku says, but then he sidles closer, and closer again, then closer still as Kairi says "You're still too far away," and then he's right beside them and Kairi grabs his arms and Sora lunges up and together they pull him down against them, finally, finally.
Riku tumbles into them with an easy grace, laughing now, still taller even when he's on his knees, his hands braced against the log that Kairi's sitting on, the weight and heat of him a bright and smothering rush that makes Sora’s face flush, makes him want to--
Riku is pressed against Sora's chest and leaning up for the kiss that Kairi is bending down for, and maybe Riku will let him, since it’s close and dark and no one will be able to see.
Sometimes Riku doesn’t mind it when he bites.
Sometimes he even likes it.
Sora tilts his head up like he's been wanting to, noses soft fabric aside, and then he can finally taste skin, salt and softness under his tongue, between his teeth, and Riku laughs again, so close that it vibrates right through him, so close it makes him shiver.
It’s so warm.
Riku's kiss with Kairi doesn't last nearly long enough because his laughter made her giggle, and then Riku's pulling away again, sitting back on Sora's outstretched legs. But his hands are on Kairi's thighs now, and Sora likes that almost as much as he dislikes him pulling away.
Riku probably won’t let him bite again, but his eyes are glittering with amusement and there’s a tiny smirk curving his lips, so Sora curls his fingers through his belt loops to tug him closer.
Riku lets him, moves with him, until they’re all crushed together, a little awkward and a little uncomfortable, close enough make him breathless, close enough that they could do anything if they wanted to, they could, and no one in all the worlds could stop them.
Kairi laughs again, sweet and low against his ear, and he wants.
He wants to pull Riku all the way down with him, wants what he’s had before, wants more. He wants Riku's hands to cup his own and slide them higher up the soft curve of Kairi’s thighs, beneath the hem of her skirt and farther; he wants Riku to show him where to go and how to touch so that she'll giggle and sigh for him, for them; he wants heat and pressure and he wants, he wants, he wants--
The world is soft and warm and golden, and there's laughter here, safe and familiar. They're engaged now, for real, here with the people who will protect them, and Kairi is wrapped around them both, her hands already curling into Riku's hair, her voice lilting as she calls back to their friends.
It should be perfect now.
It should be.
"Hey," Riku murmurs, low and warm, and Sora blinks up at him, relaxing his grip, but not letting go. "You okay?"
He’s said it slowly, low and easy; but Riku notices too much, too early, and that's what the problem has always been.
"Uh-huh," Sora says. He smiles when Riku starts to frown at him, then arches up to catch his lips in a kiss that's been too long coming.
His mother had walked away without looking back, her arms wrapped around herself, protection against the evening breeze or something else; Riku had muttered a flat "Bye," and fallen into absolute silence before turning to join his parents; Hiromasu had stood and quietly argued in a corner with Kairi for fifteen minutes before snapping at her and turning to storm up the stairs; and Kairi had stood stiff-limbed and glaring at nothing for almost a minute before she'd grabbed his hand and dragged him off to find Selphie.
They're officially engaged. Their parents have settled on dowries and his mother is handing control of the business back to his uncle and Riku's cousin is going to be the next landlord and Kairi's dad is going to figure out the paperwork, and it's supposed to be perfect.
Riku's here in his arms, in their arms, and Kairi's still so warm against him, and their friends are protection against rumor and protection against others and even if nobody believes them it's still an official act, the first watch of the first night, a tradition so old no one even knows how it started, and they could do anything right now, anything, in the old days it would have been expected, it wouldn't be considered meaningless teenaged experimentation like before because they're officially engaged now--
Sora pulls back from the kiss, reluctant, rests his forehead against Riku's and smiles against his frown, then slides a hand down to curl around Kairi's ankle.
One hand on her and one hand on him.
"We just missed you, that's all."
- - -
(Tired of wasting time)