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Over Oceans

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Light had slowly begun to pour from the curtained windows in Kairi's hotel bedroom. Her phone read 8AM right as her alarm went off, sending an unpleasant sound throughout the room. Scrunching up her nose and squeezing her eyes against the unwanted sunlight, Kairi fumbled to find her phone on the unfamiliar nightstand. Once she finally got her phone in her hand, she squinted one eye open to turn off her alarm. Today was the first day of the expo, and she had planned on getting there a bit early to shoot some B roll and schedule out which events and panels she was going to go to. However, the warmth of the hotel bed kept her firmly in place for the time being.

Kairi didn't have long to snuggle into the sheets though because not ten minutes later, she heard the clanging of pots and pans in the kitchen. Sighing and rolling her eyes at Namine's ability to be an early bird even on vacation, Kairi pulled the covers off of her bare legs and shuffled towards the living room and kitchen. Her annoyance slowly dissipated as the delicious smell of breakfast hit her nose.

"Mmm... what's that smell?" Kairi watched as Namine turned toward her, batter dotted on her cheek and forehead, with a big grin.

"You're awake! I'm making waffles. The kitchen has this adorable mini waffle maker and I just couldn't help myself."

Kairi giggled at Namine, feeling more awake now that the peppy blonde was in front of her. Namine made it hard to stay grumpy. She took a seat at the island on one of the barstools and watched as Namine finished plating a set of waffles and fresh strawberries. Namine slid the plate across the island towards her.

"Thank you, Nami." Kairi wasted no time in drowning the waffles in syrup, cutting into them, and stuffing a large bite into her mouth. She closed her eyes, savoring the sweetness of the homemade waffles, syrup, and fruit. "Mmmmm, s'good..."

"Hey, no talking with your mouth full." Namine jokingly chastised her. She finally finished cooking the last waffle and scooted into a bar stool beside Kairi to enjoy her hard work. She stuffed a bite of waffle and strawberry into her mouth and made the same sound as Kairi had. "Oh m'goshhh..."

"Right? This is so good. Why don't you cook for me like this all the time?" Kairi gently elbowed Namine and gave her a wink. Namine rolled her eyes and ate another bite of waffle.

"So, when are we heading to the expo today?" Namine queried between bites.

"Oh, I didn't realize you had planned on going with me today." Kairi set her fork down to eat the remaining strawberries with her fingers.

"I wanted to check it out. Besides, aren't you meeting Sora for lunch or something?" Namine cut her eyes to the redhead who was now sporting an obvious blush.

"Um, yeah. We're meeting at 11 and then having a late lunch. I don't know if it's just gonna be us or not." Kairi secretly hoped it would just be the two of them, but she really had no idea if Sora was going to have Riku and his brother tagging along.

"All the more reason for me to come. For moral support. Yeah?" Namine used the last bit of waffle to scoop up the rest of the syrup on her and plopped it into her mouth.

"Is moral support the same as being over protective? Or is this because you're hoping to see Roxas?" Kairi's last question made Namine almost choke on her bite of waffle, causing Kairi to snort and pat her on the back.

Now it was Namine's turn to blush. She managed to swallow and cleared her throat. She looked away from Kairi before she answered. "Why can't it be both?" She said mostly under her breath, but Kairi caught it.

"I knew it!" Kairi ruffled Namine's hair then grabbed their now empty plates and walked to the sink. She turned on the warm water and began washing their dishes as well as the utensils and bowl that Namine had used to make breakfast.

Namine stuck her tongue out and slid off the bar stool. "Shush. I'm going to shower and get ready. When are you leaving?"

Kairi glanced up just in time to catch Namine's tongue poking out of her mouth and smiled. "In about an hour." Namine gave her a nod and started toward her room. "Wear comfy shoes! I'm going to try to get a lot of B roll today before things get hectic." Kairi called after her.

"Got it, boss!" Namine gave her a pretend salute and marched into her room. Kairi laughed and shook her head.

"Kairi!!" Namine shrieked, causing Kairi to almost drop the plate she was washing. Before she could ask Namine what was wrong, she heard Namine fussing about how Kairi had failed to mention the batter on her face.

"But it was cute!" Kairi yelled back between giggles.

•| ⊱♡⊰ |•

Outside the expo with Sora and his friends...

Sora adjusted his mask for the fifteenth time since he left the house. Riku patted him on the back, knowing it was just nerves as they walked up to the entrance of the expo which was decorated with large vertical banners depicting the biggest event on the island of the year. Sora, Riku, Roxas, and Axel walked through the enormous doors and looked around for signage to direct them to the convention info booth so they could grab their passes.

Every year, the Destiny Islands Gaming Expo was held in the largest hotel on the island. The convention was so expansive that it took most of the upper three floors, leaving the ground floor and a couple of floors in between for guests. For this reason, the expo had a few dedicated information booths to direct con-goers and panelists to where they needed to go. Riku spotted the info booth that had been tasked with the ground floor and made his way over, the rest of the group trailing behind him with Sora at the back.

Two girls who were probably in their early twenties were seated at the booth. They both had on expo shirts and name badges to distinguish them as expo staff. One girl was chattering happily on the phone to who Riku could only assume was a lost guest trying to make their way to the info booth. The other girl looked bored as if she would rather be anywhere but at the info booth with her cheery partner.

"Hey! Where can-"

"Name?" Riku was quickly cut off by the bored-looking girl who was staring at a tablet in front of her. It took him a second to recover from the abrupt question, and he stuttered out his full name. She used her finger to tap a few things on the screen and then handed him a badge and pen. "Write your name on your badge. If you lose your badge, you will not be granted re-entry until you come back here. Because you are a panelist, there is no fee to get a new badge, but please, don't lose your badge." Her eyes briefly flicked up towards his face and then back down to her tablet. Before Riku could thank her, she had already moved on to Axel. "Name?"

Axel and Roxas got a similar spiel as Riku. Since Roxas and Axel were regular con-goers, they had to pay a fee if they lost their badges. Finally, Sora stepped up to the table, and the girl's eyes flicked up at him, landing on his face mask before she went back to her tablet. "Name?"

"Uh, Sora Irino." Sora replied as he once again pulled at his mask uncomfortably.

At his name, the girl's head snapped up. Her eyes studied his face suspiciously. "Sora? Like Sora from PFS?" Sora nodded nervously and looked away from her scrutinous gaze. "Oh. My. GOD!" The girl squealed so loudly that it echoed off the walls of the open ground floor comically. Everyone but Sora instinctively put their hands over their ears. She grabbed her partner who had just gotten off the phone and pulled her rolling chair next to hers. "It's SORA!" She whisper-yelled. The other girl's eyes widened as she looked him up and down.

Sora felt his face heat up. He really didn't want this attention, hence the whole reason he wore a face mask to the expo. "Um, can I get my badge please? I, uh, gotta be somewhere."

The girl who had been passing out their badges blushed and nodded, sliding his badge and a pen over the table. "If you lose your badge, just come see me. I'll take care of you." She gave him a wink. Sora swallowed hard and quickly scrawled his name across his badge. "Or you can come see me." The other girl put her hand over Sora's as he set the pen down. Sora quickly pulled his hand away but neither girl seemed deterred.

Riku walked up behind him and clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Sora is in a rush right now. Ya know, meetings and dev stuff. But maybe on our way out he can give you an autograph." Riku gave the girls a polite smile. Sora glared at Riku, but he pretended not to notice as he steered Sora away from the booth and gave the two girls a final wave without looking behind him. They quickly made their way to the elevators, but Sora could still feel their eyes on him.

"Jesus fucking Christ." Axel looked back over his shoulder a few times while Roxas hit the elevator button. "They were so hot. Why didn't you get their numbers, Sora?"

Sora looked at Axel as if asking if he was really serious then rolled his eyes at him. Roxas shuffled next to him nervously which caught Riku's attention, but he decided to say nothing. Finally the elevator doors slid open, and the group filled in the spacious, glass elevator. Sora looked out over the ground floor, avoiding the info booth as the elevator rose up to the floor when the start of the expo began.

"Sora has Kairi; why would he need their numbers?" Roxas answered for Sora since it was apparent Sora was refusing to give Axel a real answer. Sora just nodded in agreement, his eyes scanning out as the elevator continued to climb up. "It's almost 11." Roxas announced as he looked at his phone. Sora gripped the hand rail as the elevator dinged, arriving at their stop.

He let out a deep breath as he followed the others from the elevator and into the welcoming bustle of the Destiny Island Gaming Expo. There were tons of people flocking to and fro, some in cosplay, some in gaming t-shirts, and even a few staff members were dotted throughout the floor. It looked like they were making their way towards panels, booths, or the set of escalators to make their way to the other floors of the expo. Sora was slowly drawn out of people-watching as Roxas fell into stride beside him. "Namine is going to be with Kairi."

Sora looked over at Roxas who seemed as nervous as he was. "Yeah? That's good. I was kind of worried Kai would be on her own and would feel weird with all of us."

"Yeah, makes sense. So, what's the plan?"

"We're meeting them over at the VR booth for that new flight simulator. Should be right at the end there." Sora pointed out a booth that had a small gathering around it, but it was too hard for Roxas to try to pick out the two girls among them. "Then we'll hit up the artist alley/dealers' room and then maybe get some lunch. Kairi said she got all the footage she needed this morning and just finished the last panel she was attending for the day so it should be pretty chill." Sora feigned being "chill" as they got closer and closer to the booth that they had designated their meeting place.

Suddenly he saw a hand shoot up in the air and wave in his direction. "Sora! Over here!" It was Kairi's voice calling out to him so he carefully began to maneuver through the small groups of people, hoping the rest of his group was keeping up. Roxas was right behind him, keeping an eye out for a certain petite blonde. It only took a moment for them to get through to Kairi who was standing by a wall adjacent to the VR booth. A couple of bags were at her feet, one looked like it held camera equipment. Once she saw Sora, she smiled and Sora could swear he felt his heart stop. Her smile was even prettier in person.

"How'd you know it was us?" Sora asked as he finally made it to stand in front of Kairi whose smile faltered as a light blush bloomed on her cheeks.

"Oh, um... well, your hair." She confessed as she let out a soft embarrassed laugh. Sora chuckled and went to pull her into a hug. Kairi stiffened slightly, but then returned his embrace.

"Ah, sorry. I'm a hugger." Sora said into her hair right before he let her go which took all of his strength to do so. She smelled so good, and she fit perfectly in his arms.

"It's okay! Just caught me off guard." Kairi looked up at him, the blush still present on her cheeks. His eyes landed on her lips, and he had to remind himself that he was going to have time for that, if she wanted it, but just not right now. He decided standing next to her would be his safest bet so he leaned against the wall beside her.

"Hi Kairi, I'm Riku. You know me as Geir." Riku walked in front of her and held out a hand.

She shook it firmly and glanced up at Sora. "So you're not a hugger?" Riku looked at her with a hint of what Sora knew was amusement, but poor Kairi could probably only guess. Then Riku suddenly pulled her in for a hug. "Oof!"

"I'm totally a hugger! All you had to do was ask." Riku's laugh rumbled in his chest as he held her for a few seconds before releasing her. Sora punched him in the arm, a warning in his eyes, but Riku just laughed it off. "This is Axel, and this is Roxas, who you know from HoW." He said, gesturing to each of them respectively.

"Hi there!" Axel waved at her, but Kairi's eyes narrowed.

"You look familiar."

"Ah, yeah. I took you and your cousin to your room at the hotel." He looked a bit embarrassed at the fact that she easily recognized him. "I had no idea who you were; sorry about that."

"You'll have to ignore Axel." Roxas said, stepping up a bit closer to the group even though his eyes were scanning the crowd. Oddly, Namine was missing from this little HoW reunion. "By the way, um, where is Namine?" Roxas said as nonchalantly as he could.

Kairi jerked her thumb towards the VR booth where a large make-shift room of black fabric panels and wood had been set up to house the flight simulator that a dev team had been using for demos. As Roxas looked over, the "door" of the fabric room slowly slid open, revealing a red-faced Namine. He could hear her voice carry over to their group as she excitedly recounted her flight to the dev team and the others waiting their turn to try their hand at flying a plane.

As if she felt his eyes on her, she turned and her eyes met his. Roxas's mouth fell open. She was much closer than she had been at the ramen restaurant, and he could see how attractive she looked. Riku gave him a light pinch on the arm, but before Roxas could round on him, he whispered in his ear. "Be cool, man. Now I see why you were so nervous." Roxas pressed his lips into a thin line as he turned slightly towards Riku and mouthed the words "shut it."

Namine quickly made her way through the crowd. Being as small as she was, it was easy to avoid people and squeeze through small spaces. She waved at the group as she got closer. Kairi waved back and pulled her onto her other side. She quickly introduced her to the others, and also included how they already knew Axel from the hotel prompting a second apology from him.

Riku noticed that Namine seemed to avoid looking directly at Roxas during the name exchange. He wasn't sure if Roxas caught it either considering he was doing the same thing. Riku knew that while Sora was nervous to be meeting Kairi in person, Sora was still very much an extrovert who could handle the pressure, at least while they were in her presence. Roxas was less extroverted than Sora and definitely more shy. Riku silently vowed to give Roxas a helping hand as well.

Now that everyone had been introduced, Sora decided to go ahead and prompt the group to head towards the artist alley and dealer's room where they could check out merchandise, both official and fan-made. His favorite part of the expo was always the artist alley where people displayed and offered handmade items for literally any fandom you could think of. He was always on the lookout for items centered around PFS' games. He was especially excited to see what might be on the tables since the expo had advertised his participation this year.

The group made their way to the escalators rather than the elevators as they were less crowded. Sora couldn't help but stick close to Kairi while they walked towards the escalators. They ended up being one of the last ones to step onto the escalator, and he was surprised when Kairi's hand suddenly gripped his as they stepped on together. He blushed and looked over at her. Kairi's other hand was gripping the hand rail so hard that her knuckles were turning white. He nodded to himself in understanding: Kairi was afraid of escalators.

Sure enough, once they stepped out onto the upper floor, her hand left his. He immediately missed her warmth. He felt a tug at the tail of his shirt, and he looked down to see Kairi holding onto it. "Sorry, I-"

Sora smiled and shook his head, taking her hand from his shirt and giving it a gentle squeeze to reassure her silently before letting go. Kairi gave him a small smile, and they continued walking side by side to the main area which had rows and rows of art-filled booths.The group gravitated towards the left side, and everyone began slowly making their way down the first row.

Sora watched as Axel seemed to take off on his own, looking like a man on a mission. Riku, Roxas, and Namine had formed their own little group. Namine and Riku were chatting while Roxas watched Namine and made small comments here and there. Sora couldn't quite hear what was being said but he could tell Riku was playing wingman to Roxas. Sora couldn't help but inwardly roll his eyes and outwardly smile behind his face mask. As much as Riku liked to scheme and plan, he really did care. Riku would wreck him though if he ever said so out loud.

He and Kairi scanned the booths together, pointing out prints they liked or laughing at silly quotes immortalized in enamel pins. Since there were so many people, they had to lean in close to talk or just point at things to communicate. At one booth, Kairi had made a purchase that he didn't catch. When he motioned for her to show him, she just shook her head and smiled. He knew she was hiding it, but he wasn't sure why.

At another booth, Kairi pointed out a gorgeous Nobodies sculpture of the main character that was obviously made carefully by hand. Sora immediately got the attention of the artist tending to the booth and pointed at the statue. They leaned in close to make the transaction, and Sora walked away happily with the sculpture delicately packaged in newspaper inside a cardboard box.

As the group slowly made their way to the end of the artist alley, Axel caught up to them, a couple of bags in hand and a large body pillow tucked under his arm. The group huddled up in an empty area to look at the treasures everyone had purchased. Kairi still didn't show whatever it was that she had bought when Sora wasn't looking, but the others had some cool finds.

Sora noticed Namine staring at Axel's body pillow which he could see now had a scantily clad video game character on it. Axel must have noticed her staring as well.

"Ah, sorry. I know it's kind of inappropriate, but she's one of my favorite characters." Axel explained bashfully.

Surprisingly, Namine shook her head at him. "I don't think it's inappropriate. She's one of my favorites too. I just don't recall seeing that pillow on display."

"Oh, they didn't have it on display since it's kinda NSFW. But I can take you to the booth if you want!" Axel explained as Namine nodded her head before he could finish offering to take her.

The two quickly got up and made their way back into the artist alley. Sora could faintly hear Namine explaining that the outfit the character was wearing on the pillow was one of her favorites. He looked over to see Roxas watching them walk into the crowd. He gave his brother a small kick into the back of his leg. Roxas looked over at him with a bit of annoyance. Sora cut his eyes to the two then back to Roxas to silently tell him to follow. Roxas bit his lip but quickly went into the crowd to follow Namine and Axel.

Riku reached over and gave Sora a fist bump. "Nice."

"Hmm?" Kairi looked up, having been lost in looking through several prints she had bought.

"Nothing." Sora and Riku responded in unison. Kairi just laughed and shook her head at them, going back to looking through her prints.

"So, lunch after this?" Sora asked, gently tapping his finger on Kairi's shoulder in case she was engrossed in the prints again.

She looked up, quickly giving him her full attention. "Yeah! Got any recommendations?"

Before Sora could answer, Riku said, "I hate con food so why don't we hit up the food trucks down the street at the beach front?"

"The ones on the boardwalk?" Sora asked.

"Yeah, they should have something for everyone. Then we can chill on the beach if y'all want." Riku gave Sora a subtle look. Sora already knew what he was getting at.

"That sounds good. We can leave once Nami gets back with her pillow. Who would have thought she and Axel would have that in common?" Kairi let out a giggle, and Sora couldn't help but laugh too. It really was a bit bizarre. Namine seemed a little more straight-laced but that just goes to show that people aren't always what they seem. With that thought, Sora looked back at Kairi again only to catch her staring at him. She quickly averted her gaze back to her prints. Sora could swear he saw her blush.

Once the group was back together again, and Namine's pillow was safely tucked under a blushing Roxas's arm, they all made their way down to the ground floor of the hotel. Since Kairi still had her camera equipment, Sora took it upon himself to carry it while they walked down to the beach which was only about a ten minute walk from the expo's hotel. Kairi and Sora had ended up behind everyone again, but that suited him just fine. Being with Kairi felt comfortable, and he couldn't even remember why he had been so nervous to begin with.

They walked in comfortable silence while the others chatted animatedly in front of them until they reached the boardwalk. The boardwalk was lined with several different food trucks, all sporting colorful logos, with the backdrop of a gorgeous waterfront view gleaming behind them. Delicious smells wafted from the trucks, and the conversations between Namine, Roxas, Riku, and Axel quickly turned to food.

Sora took off his face mask and tucked it into his pocket. Now that they were far enough from the expo and the more popular tourist spots, he felt like he'd be less likely to be recognized. He turned to Kairi who was looking at the different trucks. "Any idea what you want to try for lunch?"

She turned to him and noticed his missing facemask. She gave him a small smile and Sora felt his heart skip a beat. "Hmmm. What are you getting?" She tapped her finger on her chin while she looked at him expectantly.

"I was thinking maybe a poke bowl. That green truck over there makes the best poke bowls on the island." Sora pointed to a lime green truck that was decorated in white string lights and was softly playing J-Pop.

"I think I'll have that then."

"Hey!" Axel called from in front of them. "We eating or what?"

"Yeah! Kai and I are going to get poke bowls. Meet you at our spot?"

Axel, Riku, and Roxas gave him a nod. Roxas and Namine split off towards a different food truck and Axel and Riku wasted no time heading to get their own lunches.

Kairi looked up at Sora, curiosity in her eyes. "Your spot?"

Sora grinned and took her hand. "You'll love it. Come on. Let's get our bowls, and I'll show you." Holding Kairi's hand felt natural, and Sora would be lying if he said he didn't grab her hand on purpose. It didn't seem like Kairi minded either since she held his hand while they ordered and only let it go while he carried their disposable bowls out onto the beach.

They walked out onto the sand just a short way from the pier to where a couple of large palm trees shaded a small area of the beach that was dotted with a few large rocks. Most of the people that were swimming or tanning on the sand always steered clear of this spot which made it easy for Sora and his friends to take it as their own. Not too far from the spot was the bridge that Riku and Sora had been on just the other day. That time seemed so long ago to Sora now.

Sora carefully set their paper bowls on one of the rocks and then leaned their bags from the expo against it. He pointed to a cleared spot of sand. "Wanna take a seat there and I'll hand you your bowl?" Kairi looked at the spot and then sat down cross legged. Sora carefully handed Kairi her bowl then grabbed his and sat down next to her. "Sorry I don't have a towel or anything. Living on an island makes you used to always having sand everywhere, and it stops bothering you after awhile." He said sheepishly as he took a bite.

Kairi shook her head at him. "It doesn't bother me. This is a beautiful spot. We can see the water, it's shaded, and quiet. A little sand won't hurt me." Sora couldn't help but smile at her which earned him another blush from the auburn-haired girl. She looked away shyly and started eating her lunch.

It wasn't long before the others showed up. Axel had a plate of loaded nachos while Riku had a large burger. Roxas and Namine had gotten a plate of shared chicken tacos. The group sat together, making light conversation until lunch was devoured, and the sun had already started to dip down, getting closer to sunset.

It had been a couple of hours since Kairi and Sora had finished their poke bowls. Axel had put on a playlist from his phone while everyone continued to hang out, some of them reluctant to call attention to the time. Sora didn't know how late Kairi had planned to stay on the beach with him, but he'd take any time she'd give him. They had been making conversation about the expo, like the panels Kairi attended, what she enjoyed - and didn't enjoy - on the first day of the expo. Sora enjoyed listening to Kairi talk. She was passionate about her work, but it was obvious she was more passionate about gaming.

"What made you go into writing about games?" He finally asked when the conversation about the expo lulled.

Kairi frowned a bit, and Sora worried that perhaps he shouldn't have asked. Kairi uncrossed her legs and brought her knees up to her chin before she answered him. "I guess I didn't think I could do anything else."

Sora's brow furrowed as he studied her face. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I love games, and I love to write. I would never make it as an author so I tried to do the next best thing." Kairi avoided his eyes and looked out over the ocean forlornly.

He hadn't expected that answer from her. As someone who had followed his dreams, it was a bit hard to imagine NOT doing what he was doing now. However, he knew that there were plenty of people who didn't "live to work." It was completely valid to work just to get a paycheck and spend time/money on hobbies instead. Lots of people lived like that, but even more people worked jobs that made them feel miserable because they didn't know what else to do. He sincerely hoped Kairi didn't fall into that last category.

"So you want to be an author? What kind of books would you want to write?" He decided to lead the conversation to something a bit more pleasant for her, he hoped.

Kairi's expression softened a bit though she still looked a bit sad. "Definitely fiction. Probably romance. I used to write a lot of fanfiction when I was younger. Which is kind of embarrassing... Why did I tell you that..." Her voice had dropped to just above a whisper but Sora could make out her words over the crashing of the waves nearby.

"Maybe it's because you're comfortable around me." Sora leaned a bit closer to her and knocked his shoulder into hers gently. She wasn't looking at him, but he could see a faint smile on her lips as he leaned against her. "I know I'm comfortable around you."

She turned towards him, her face dangerously close to his. "Yeah?" Her voice was still soft, only loud enough that he could hear her. He felt his cheeks heat up as his eyes went from hers to her lips and then back up. Kairi must have picked up on the subtle glance because she started to lean into him, her face turned up towards his, her eyes slowly closing. Sora dipped his head down, his hand cupping her cheek.

"HEY!"

Axel's yell broke the magical moment between them. Kairi and Sora practically jumped apart, both blushing furiously and looking everywhere but at each other. Sora was going to fucking kill Axel.

"DO YOU SEE THEM?!" Axel yelled again from behind them.

"SEE WHAT YOU IDIOT?!" Sora turned and yelled back at the obnoxious redhead.

"The dolphins!" Namine responded, pointing out into the ocean. Sora and Kairi looked out into the ocean and sure enough, there were three dolphins jumping into the air as they swam across the ocean water. Sora bit the inside of his cheek to keep from getting up and knocking Axel's head off, but when he looked over at Kairi, he completely forgot about Axel. Kairi's eyes were sparkling with wonder as she watched the dolphins. He forgot how a lot of people didn't live near an ocean so dolphins were something to marvel at. Normally, he didn't care much, but seeing Kairi watching them like this right now brought back the memories of seeing dolphins back when it was still new to him.

Maybe he wouldn't kill Axel today, but he would beat him for ruining the moment he was having with Kairi.

•| ⊱♡⊰ |•

Kairi's POV

The dolphin sighting reminded Namine and Kairi of the time so they reluctantly decided to head back to their hotel. Kairi thanked Sora for lugging her equipment around all afternoon and for the poke bowl. Once their taxi arrived, and Kairi had safely put in her equipment and their bags, she turned to Sora to ask about tomorrow, but he pulled her into a hug before the words could leave her mouth. She practically melted into his embrace and hugged him back. Maybe it was to make up for the almost kiss that Axel ruined which made Kairi blush. When she pulled away, she could faintly make out Sora's blush in the shadows of the setting sun.

Once they were in the taxi and on the way back to the hotel, Namine was talking animatedly about all the things she and Roxas had in common. Kairi couldn't help but think that Namine hadn't seen the moment she and Sora were having which gave her some relief. Partly because it was a bit embarrassing and partly because she knew how much Namine was enjoying her time with Roxas who she obviously liked a lot.

Namine continued gushing as Kairi used the key to let them into their suite. "And you'll never guess what he said! He said... Um, Kai, are you listening?"

"Hmm? Oh yeah, I'm just tired. It's been a long day." Kairi replied, which wasn't a lie, but it also wasn't the whole truth. Namine seemed to pick up on the mood now, even if she wasn't sure what exactly that mood was because she gave Kairi a smile and a promise to tell her tomorrow. She gave Kairi a push towards her room and told her to go relax while she ordered dinner for the two of them. Kairi nodded gratefully and went into her room.

After putting her equipment away, Kairi went to the bathroom to run herself a warm bubble bath in the giant soaking tub. She turned on the warm water and looked through the basket of complimentary bath bombs, picking out one that promised to smell of strawberries. Before she could enjoy her bath though, she knew she needed to check her email just in case there was anything from Aqua or the office.

Kairi went back to the bedroom and sat on the bed so she could plug in her phone and open her email. Not much was of importance but one email caught her eye. Surprisingly, it was from L. Kairi felt her heart squeeze nervously a bit at seeing his name.

Good evening Kairi,

I hope you're enjoying your vacation. HoW has been lonely without you, but I'm managing. Maybe we can do that new summer quest when you get back?

Yours,

L

Knowing that L had feelings for her made her feel a bit guilty considering how close she was getting to Sora right now. L's confession came at a time when she wasn't sure about Sora's feelings towards her, but if tonight was any indication, she knew Sora at least liked her enough to almost kiss her. Was it anything more than that? She wasn't sure, but she couldn't keep acting like L hadn't confessed to liking her (even if he was the one that said to pretend he hadn't). Kairi sent back a quick email to L, vowing to herself that she would let him down gently as soon as she was back home.

Kairi set her phone on the nightstand to finish charging and resolved herself to soak in the luxurious hotel bathtub that was now ready for her. After throwing in the bath bomb and shedding her clothes from the day, Kairi climbed in, letting the warm water and strawberry scent relax her.

Unfortunately, one thing was keeping her from fully relaxing, and it wasn't L's email. Every time Kairi closed her eyes, she could feel Sora's breath against her lips and smell his sweet cologne. So close. Almost. She didn't know how badly she wanted him to kiss her until that moment.

Maybe she should have been more nervous around Sora, but they had already been talking on HoW for months. They spent so many hours together practically daily, even if it was only virtually. And once she interviewed Sora, they had started voice chatting a bit as well. He made her feel so... comfortable. Just like he had said on the beach.

Maybe this crush was no longer a crush. Maybe... Just maybe... She was falling in love with Sora.

『♡』•『♡』•『♡』•『♡』

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