"Heyooo! Today is the day! Wake up sleeping beauty!" Said a familiar gruff voice. The sound of curtain hooks clashed together as their fabric panels were being pushed aside, letting in a stream of sunlight. "Come on, don't make me pull the covers off of you." The voice said, much closer now. The bed dipped down and long hair tickled his nose.
Sora slowly blinked his eyes open to find an excited Riku leaning over him, his silver haired ponytail right over Sora's face. Riku gave him a big, closed-eye smile. His excitement was contagious, and Sora couldn't help but smile back. "Are you ready for this?" Sora asked, raising an eyebrow at his best friend as he slowly pulled the warm covers from his upper body.
Riku sat back on his hands and smirked confidently. "Hah! I've been ready. The real question is, are you?" Riku asked as he raised his own eyebrow sarcastically at Sora.
The brunette slowly sat up and scratched at his bed head to give himself a moment to think seriously about Riku's question. "Mmm. I mean, I've already revealed myself back when I did that interview with Kairi. This is your first time showing everyone the second face behind Paopu Fruit Studios."
"I wasn't talking about the panel." Riku replied, giving him a wink before standing up to give Sora some space to get out of bed.
Sora blushed as Kairi's smile filled his thoughts. His eyes flicked up to Riku's face and then back down at the bed. Sora didn't need long to make up his mind. "Ready as I'll ever be. Let's do this!" He threw the rest of the covers to the side as he stood up and stretched.
"That's what I'm talking about." Riku patted him on the back proudly. He made his way to the other side of Sora's room towards the closet. "By the way, I'm picking out your clothes for the day. No complaining." Riku said as he opened the closet door. Unfortunately, Riku had forgotten about Roxas's little cleaning spree earlier in the week. Sora couldn't help but double over laughing as he watched the closet comically explode all over Riku. Several pieces of clothing, a few pillows and even a chair came tumbling out.
Riku rolled his eyes and discarded the hoodie that had landed on his face before stepping over the mess to get to Sora's clothes that were still hanging inside the closet. Sora thought he heard Riku say something under his breath about kicking Roxas's ass, but Riku soon emerged looking less angry. He victoriously held up a pair of black slim fit jeans, a comfortably worn-in red tee, and an oversized jean jacket. "Wear these with those sneakers." He pointed to a pair of high top sneakers that had tumbled out of the closet in the "explosion."
Sora was impressed. Riku always knew how to dress well so it made sense that he'd want for them to look good at the panel. And for Kairi... Riku looked to already be dressed in what he was going to wear for the day: fitted jeans, a button up with a couple of buttons undone, and black boots. He had pulled his silver hair back into a ponytail, leaving a few tresses loose in front of his face.
"Do something with your hair." Riku said as he stepped out of the closet and over the mess on the floor. Sora self-consciously ran his fingers through his bedhead. Riku plopped the outfit onto Sora's bed and turned to leave. "Oh and wear a nice cologne. Not for me. For Kairi." And with a wink, Riku closed Sora's bedroom door, leaving him blushing with the thought of Kairi being that close to him.
It wasn't long before Sora and Riku were ready to go with a backpack of electronics in tow. They made it to the expo's hotel with time to spare. Sora had decided against the facemask since everyone attending would know he was there for his panel today. He made sure his badge was visible as he and Riku quickly walked past the info booth on the first floor to the glass elevators. He did not want a repeat of yesterday.
Once the elevator stopped on the correct floor, Sora and Riku made their way to the section of the floor that was going to hold all the panels for the weekend. Sora followed Riku to their panel room, but stopped at the threshold, his mouth agape. "Riku, why the hell did you get such a big room? Look at all of these chairs... There must be like a hundred."
"I didn't pick the room for the panel." Riku said simply as he made his way to the low platform at the front where a long table had been set up with a few chairs. "Apparently, there was a lot of interest in our panel so the expo gave us the biggest conference room they had available." He opened his backpack, pulled out his laptop, and began setting up the projector for their presentation.
Sora walked around the room a bit, his heart feeling full. It was hard to believe that so many people wanted to hear about PFS and their games. It was one thing to see that love and respect through a screen and another to have a room full of people that cared enough to be there in person.
While Sora was still looking around the room, a tall brunette man entered. He gave Sora a smile and a wave as he walked towards him. "Hi! Sora, yeah?"
Sora gave him a wave back. "Uh, yeah! That's me! Can I help you?"
"I'm Terra. I'm here to help host your panel with Riku." Terra held out his hand and Sora shook it firmly, giving him a small smile. "Think of me as a moderator. I'm here to keep things moving smoothly."
"That's awesome. We'll need it. This is our first time doing something like this." Sora explained as he glanced at all of the rows of chairs again and back up to Riku; his nerves were starting to feel a bit rattled.
"For sure! I'm actually a big fan. I'll make sure your first panel here with us is a success. Hopefully we can have you both back next year." Terra assured him. "I'm assuming that's Riku at the front there?"
"Yep!" Sora replied. He watched as Terra confidently walked to the platform where Riku was still busy setting up. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes before exhaling slowly. Part of him was glad there was going to be a third person on the little stage with them. The other part of him was still nervous.
He wasn't nervous about the amount of people though. No; he was nervous about letting anyone down. He and Riku had worked hard on their presentation about becoming full time indie game developers. They tried to touch on everything that led up to their first game going viral. They also made sure to include all their setbacks. Sora knew that what he and Riku were doing wasn't the norm for folks who made games for fun. Rarely did anyone actually start making enough money to do it full time.
Sora was brought out of his thoughts when he heard a "pssstttt" coming from the doorway. He looked up and saw a cute girl sneakily poking her head into the room. "Kairi," Sora whispered under his breath, his anxiety instantly melting away. She motioned with her finger for him to come to her.
Sora grinned and met her at the doorway. "Kai, what are you doing here? We still have at least an hour before the panel." Kairi looked particularly adorably today, Sora thought. She was wearing a shirt with an anime character on it and a color coordinated plaid skirt. Her equipment bag was slung over her shoulder, but she looked comfortable with it.
"I know. I just wanted to wish you good luck! You got this." Kairi gave him a thumbs up and he couldn't help but laugh.
"Thank you. Knowing that you're gonna be here is all the luck I need." Sora lightly teased, bracing his arm on the doorway so that he was leaning over her.
A blush crept over her cheeks as she looked up at him, but Kairi quickly recovered. "Pshhh. You did amazing in our interview so I have no doubt you'll have the crowd head over heels for you." Sora bit his lip to keep from telling her that she was the only one he wanted falling head over heels for him. "Well, I won't keep you. I have a couple of more things I want to film before I come back for your panel."
Sora nodded a bit reluctantly. He really didn't want her to go. "Alright, don't be late though." He smirked and she giggled.
"I won't. I'll be back soon." And with that, Kairi gave him a little wave as she stepped away. Sora watched as she turned away to walk back through the crowd, and he couldn't stop his eyes from watching her hips, her skirt swinging with each step. Luckily, before he could get caught staring, Riku called him over to help him fix a PowerPoint slide on the laptop.
•| ⊱♡⊰ |•
An hour later, Kairi slipped into the already crowded room for PFS's first panel. She found a seat towards the back, but she still had a great view of all three of the men seated at the front. She quietly set up her camera and double-checked that it wasn't blocking anyone's view. As she adjusted the camera, she watched Sora scan the crowd through the viewfinder. He looked really good today, Kairi thought. Very handsome....
Then finally his eyes landed on her camera. She looked up, catching his gaze. He gave her a smile that was probably only meant for her, and it made her heart skip a beat. She had to remind herself to breathe as they continued to look at each other. She heard people beginning to whisper, some more loudly than others, about how nice Sora's smile was.
She bit her lip and finally broke eye contact to look back into the viewfinder. It seemed like Sora had found what - or who - he was looking for because he turned back to Riku who was clicking around on the laptop in front of him. Kairi wiped her sweaty hands on her skirt as she finished adjusting the camera to record the screen and the men sitting at the table.
It was only a few minutes later that the lights dimmed slightly and the project displayed a PowerPoint slideshow. The man that Kairi didn't recognize at the panel table stood up and introduced himself as Terra, the host of the panel. Kairi was glad the expo had opted to have someone officially host their panel considering the large crowd it had drawn.
She heard the whispers around her finally become silent as Terra sat down and Riku and Sora stood up with microphones to introduce themselves. Several people in the audience, including herself, clapped after the introductions. She couldn't help but smile at how relaxed Sora looked as he and Riku broke down what it took for them to get started and succeed as indie game developers. His passion shone so brightly as he talked about their first game all the way to the unreleased Heartless game that they were currently working on.
Sora and Riku had managed to put together a very streamlined and informative presentation with a bit of time left over for questions from the audience. Kairi re-adjusted the camera to focus on Riku and Sora who were sitting back at the table while the host grabbed a spare mic and began lining up a few people who had questions. It wouldn't hurt to get a few questions on camera for work, she thought.
Terra finished setting up a microphone stand and motioned for the first person in line to step up. They nodded and leaned into the microphone. "Why are you revealing your identities now? Why not just stay anonymous?" Kairi nodded slightly thinking to herself that this would be a good one.
Sora spoke up first. "To be blunt, it was time. Riku and I had been trying to figure out when the right time would be, and it just felt like the right time." This earned a couple of nods in the audience but others were a bit disgruntled with his answer. Sora continued. "On top of that, the conspiracy theories around PFS were just getting ridiculous." He chuckled. This earned Sora quite a few laughs including Riku whose laugh rumbled into the microphone.
Terra gestured for the first person to step down and the next person stepped up. "I hope you don't mind if I change my question."
"Go ahead." Riku assured them.
"Based on the fact that you admitted you read theories about yourselves, do you have a favorite?"
Riku held a hand up at Sora. He wanted to take this one. Between chuckles he explained that his favorite theory was an outrageous one about how PFS was a plant for the government to convert people into a certain set of political beliefs. "We're just normal guys who love video games. And most of the games you all have played so far started being written in middle school. I can't imagine that any middle school boy was thinking about politics while designing a game." The crowd humorously agreed with him, and the next person stepped up in line.
"What games do you play in your spare time?"
Sora's eyes flicked over to Kairi briefly before he answered the innocent question. "We don't have a lot of spare time nowadays, especially with Heartless coming out in the next month or so, but Riku and I both enjoy playing the MMORPG Heart of Worlds."
"Yep, we've met a lot of really cool people there." Riku agreed. "And it's also nice to just let loose and play something that we didn't make! Hahaha!" Laughs came from the audience as Riku grinned.
There was one last person waiting in line for their question to be answered. Kairi looked over at them briefly, but turned her attention back to her camera, starting to wrap everything up. They stepped up to the microphone, their voice breathy as they asked their question. "Do you have a girlfriend, Sora?"
Kairi's head snapped up to see Sora looking like a deer in headlights. Unfortunately, no one else seemed to think the question was inappropriate as excited whispers started to swirl around the room. Kairi felt a lump in her throat forming as she quickly took her camera down and packed as quickly as she could.
Sora audibly swallowed, his face becoming flushed. "Um, well-" But before he could answer, they cut him off with a surprising proposition.
"I'm single. I'd love to get a drink sometime if you're open to it." The whispers quickly turned into wolf whistles and cheers from the crowd. Kairi could feel her face turning red so she grabbed her packed equipment bag and stood up. She mumbled "excuse me" as she tried to get by the people still sitting down and make her way to the door. Unbeknownst to her, Sora noticed her immediately.
"I, uh... That's uh..." He stuttered, feeling extremely flustered and put on the spot. "I can't." His last words stumbled out of his mouth as he watched her, but Kairi didn't hear them as she slipped out of the door of the panel.
She gripped the strap of her bag tightly as she practically ran away, looking for a space that was empty so she could be alone. She tried desperately to hold back the tears forming in her eyes. Why was she so upset right now? Sora wasn't hers. And it was obvious how attractive he was. He could have anyone he wanted. Why would he want her?
She finally found a spot against a mostly deserted wall and set down her equipment. She slid down the wall until she sat on the floor. She brought her knees up and rested her arms against them as she put her head down. She blinked away the tears that she could no longer hold back.
She wasn't entirely sure why she was feeling so overwhelmed over a stupid question like that. A small voice whispered to her that she knew exactly why she was so upset. She had wanted Sora to say that she was his girlfriend. He hadn't even given that person an answer. Would he take them up on their offer?... Kairi tried to stuff down a pang of jealousy at the thought.
While Kairi tried desperately to calm herself, she felt someone place a jacket over her legs. She looked up through bleary eyes and saw Sora. He was crouched down beside her, his eyes full of concern. Kairi quickly wiped away the tears in her vision and cleared her throat. He didn't need to see her crying over something so stupid. He wasn't hers, she reminded herself again.
"Are you okay, Kai?" He asked softly, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as he studied her face.
Kairi gave a stiff nod. "Mmhm. I just... got overstimulated, I guess. There were so many people there. It's been a long day." She said as she looked away. It was obviously a lie, and both of them knew it.
"Are you sure you weren't jealous?" Sora asked as a small smile played on his lips. Kairi looked up at him briefly before looking back down at the floor, cursing herself for being so damn obvious. Fuck, she thought.
She tugged at his jacket that he had graciously draped over her knees. She had just remembered she was wearing a skirt and had been possibly flashing everyone that walked past. As if reading her mind, Sora responded. "No one saw. It's just us back here."
Kairi felt so embarrassed. She had acted like a teenager in cheesy romance anime: a dramatic exit, crying in public, and forgetting her choice of wardrobe. Sora sat down next to her, wrapping an arm around her. He felt so warm and comfortable that Kairi couldn't help but lean into him.
After a few moments, he cleared his throat to speak, but the words still came out husky. "I told 'em no, by the way. That I wouldn't go on a date with them. You know I don't have a girlfriend... but there is someone I like."
Kairi felt a weight growing in her chest. She couldn't look up at him for fear that he was about to let her down gently and stick her firmly in the friend zone. He'd say the flirting hadn't meant anything. He'd confirm that the time spent together was just friendly and nothing more. But Sora didn't say any of that. Instead she felt him lean into her ear, his voice low as he whispered into her hair.
"Will you go out to dinner with me tonight?"