Morning had arrived quickly, much to Kairi’s disappointment. Untangling herself from Sora’s warm embrace was hard enough, but knowing that this would be the first and last time that she’d sleep in his arms for a while was even harder. She gently prodded Namine awake, and they both snuck away to finish packing for their flight while the three guys continued to snooze on the pullout couch.
Once they were finished packing, and the hotel suite had been cleaned up to the best of their abilities, Kairi and Namine dressed in comfy clothes for the long flight back to “reality.” They gathered their bags in the entryway and shared a knowing glance. It was time. Namine went to wake up Roxas while Kairi went to the otherside of the bed to Sora.
Knowing she couldn’t put off their goodbyes any longer, Kairi gently prodded Sora awake. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and (very adorably, Kairi thought) stretched his arms above his head. He gave her a sleepy smile and pulled her back into the bed with a hug.
Kairi giggled softly. As much as she wanted to stay with him like this, her flight would be boarding soon. “Umm, Sora?”
“Mmm?” came his half-asleep response.
“It’s almost time for me to go…”
Sora’s arms tightened around her waist as he realized what she meant. The words he had been dreading to hear all weekend had woken him up. After a moment, he muttered into her hair, “I’ll come with you.”
“Huh?” Kairi asked in confusion, part of her wondering if he meant he’d come home with her and the other part of her knowing that her wish wasn’t possible.
Sora leaned back so that he could look her in the eye. “To the airport. I’ll walk you as far as they’ll let me. I’m not ready to let you go yet.”
Kairi ran a hand through his messy hair and gave him a nod. She wasn’t ready for him to let her go either. Going to the airport together would only be prolonging the inevitable, but she’d take whatever time with Sora she could get.
Roxas and Namine had agreed that he’d join them on the ride to the airport. Riku was gently roused from his sleep, and he decided that he’d meet Roxas and Sora back at home. He gave the two girls a big hug and told them that they’d better text him when they landed. With a smile and a wave, Riku left the four of them to gather the girls’ bags and call a taxi for the airport.
The ride to the airport was quiet. Kairi held on tightly to Sora’s hand, trying to memorize this feeling of his hand in hers. He gave her hand a little squeeze to reassure her, but she could already feel tears starting to well in her eyes. She didn’t want him to see her cry again so blinked them away, promising herself she could cry later.
Namine and Roxas seemed to be having similar feelings as Kairi and Sora. Roxas was holding Namine close while she rested her head on his shoulder. It was more mournful than romantic though. So much for ‘being in the moment’… Kairi thought a little bitterly, but the bitterness wasn’t aimed at Namine, moreso the situation that they were in. She couldn’t even take her own advice. Now we’re both going home heartbroken, but I don’t regret any of it.
Kairi patted her hoodie pocket where she had stashed a small gift for Sora. It was a little something to remember her by. She hoped it would bring him some comfort while they waited for him to visit after completing his game with Riku. She had to remind herself that this would not be the last time she would be with Sora.
Too soon for her liking, the taxi pulled up to the arrival terminal of the airport. The girls reluctantly got out and took their luggage from the driver. Sora and Roxas took their bags without a word and followed them inside. Everyone had one thought on their mind: this would be their last chance to say goodbye before the oceans separated them again.
They all stopped several feet from the first security checkpoint. Kairi turned to Sora and before she could take her bags from him, he wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the ground. “Sora!” She exclaimed, feeling weightless as her feet dangled above the floor.
“I just needed to get one more hug in before you go.” He slowly set her on her feet and she returned his hug with a tight one of her own. She buried her face in his shirt, trying very hard not to cry. He gently petted her head and held her close. “Remember, I’m coming to see you as soon as Heartless is done. I promise.”
“I’ll look forward to it then.” She said as she finally looked up at him. She smiled at him but it fell a bit flat as she pulled away. Remembering the trinket in her pocket, Kairi put her hand inside her hoodie’s front pocket. “Before I go, I have something for you.”
“What is it?” Sora asked, watching her hand fumble around in her pocket. His eyes widened as Kairi pulled a small charm out of her pocket. It was a star-shaped charm made of shells from the island. It resembled a paopu fruit.
“It’s called a Wayfinder. It’s a charm to bring good luck. I got myself one too.” Kairi held up her matching charm that dangled from a bracelet on her wrist already.
“So we can match!” Sora said happily as he accepted the small charm from her.
Kairi giggled. “Exactly.”
Sora studied it for a moment before he looked back at Kairi, scrutiny in his eyes. “Hey… Is this what you got at the expo that you wouldn’t show me?”
Kairi avoided his gaze, looking down at the tiled floor. “...maybe.”
Sora pursed his lips. “Maybe usually means yes.”
Kairi looked up and smiled at the tall brunette… a genuine smile this time that met her eyes. “In this case, you might be right.”
Sora pulled her in for another hug before leaning down and kissing her lips gently. Just one more… for the road , he seemed to say without uttering a word.
Namine cleared her throat nearby. “Kai, we gotta get going.” She sounded a bit anxious, always one to follow a schedule.
Sora reluctantly pulled away and held up his charm. “I’ll carry it with me always.” Kairi gave him one last quick hug then gathered her belongings. “Hey, make sure you text me when you land.” He reminded her.
“I will. I promise!” Kairi gave him one more smile as she and Namine walked towards security. Sora and Roxas waved as they watched the girls disappear into the crowd waiting in line.
Sora let out a loud sigh and scuffed his foot against the tiled flooring. He looked over at Roxas who looked as depressed as Sora felt. “Ready to go home?”
Roxas shuffled his feet, trying to hide his tear-stained cheeks from his older brother. “Not really, but there’s nothing for us here.”
“Yeah…” Sora put his hands in his pockets, holding the charm in his left hand as he turned back towards the entrance of the airport. Roxas followed behind, eyes trained on the floor.
•| ⊱♡⊰ |•
Once Sora and Roxas were finally back home, Sora went straight to his room and closed his door. He had about 8 hours before Kairi’s plane landed, and he had every intention of using that time to sleep. He put his phone on the charger, set Kairi’s charm on his night stand, and flopped into bed. Not even a second later, someone had slung open the door to his bedroom.
THUMP! “I need details. NOW.” said a familiar voice.
Sora didn’t bother lifting his head to answer his best friend. “Riku, please. I’m so tired, and I’m sad… Leave me alone.”
Sora felt the bed dip as Riku sat down beside him. He poked him in the back. “Not until you tell me everything that happened with you and Kairi. You didn’t even tell me about your date the other night! You know, the one I helped plan? The one you ditched?” Riku reminded him.
Sora groaned into his pillow. “Ughhh, you’re never going to let that one go are you?”
“Never.” Riku sat back and crossed his arms defiantly. “Now tell me everything.”
Sora rolled over onto his back, sat up, and slowly slid a hand down his tired face before finally making eye contact with Riku. “Fine…”
“That’s more like it.” Riku pulled his legs up onto the bed and turned to give Sora his full attention, looking very much like a school boy.
Sora rolled his eyes and took a big inhale before diving into the past weekend’s events. “So I picked up Kairi at the hotel and gave her the flowers–” Sora began.
“Like I suggested.” Riku cut in.
Sora’s eyes narrowed. “If you interrupt me again, I’m throwing you out.” He threatened.
Riku mimed using a key to lock his mouth and then threw the imaginary key over his shoulder.
Sora shook his head at his antics and continued. “Anyway… Yes, I gave her flowers like you suggested. She was wearing this really beautiful pink dress. She's a knockout no matter what she wears.” Sora’s face flushed as he remembered the moment he saw her in that dress, but he quickly shook the thought away so he could tell Riku about their little adventure. “We got to the restaurant, and the table you requested was perfect. She loved the view. Unfortunately, neither one of us were into the food on the menu… Sorry about that.” Sora gave him a grimace and rubbed the back of his neck.
Riku gave him a shrug and half-smirk, still pretending that he couldn’t talk.
Sora continued. “So we went back to her hotel room and ordered pizza from Mick’s. She really liked it! I figured since we eat there so much that it’d be good to let her try it at least once… We played some games and…uh… um…” Sora stuttered bashfully. “I-I kissed h-her.”
Riku pointed a finger at Sora’s face and wagged it. “I knew that sock story was total bullshit. I fucking knew it!” He exclaimed, forgetting that he wasn’t supposed to be talking.
Sora fell back onto the bed and covered his face in embarrassment. “Ugh, did you think everyone else thought it was bullshit too?”
Riku chuckled. “Mmmyeah… That was a terrible cover up, my dude.”
Sora sighed and slowly uncovered his face. “Ah, well… It is what it is.”
“So? What else happened?” Riku prodded.
“Well, you were there for the arcade and stuff.”
“You know what I’m talking about.” Sora raised an eyebrow at him when Riku didn’t explain. The silver-haired man let out a huff. “Last night, you and Kairi left the living room.”
Sora shot up, sitting up straight as a board. “You were awake?!” He squeaked.
“You’re the one who screwed up our sleep schedules.” Riku crossed his arms but his smirk gave away that he wasn’t actually annoyed. “So… did you make out? Did you ask her to be your girlfriend?”
Sora looked down as he fidgeted with his fingers. “We… decided to do the long distance thing,” he said quietly.
“Nice. I think if anyone can do it, you can.” Riku gave him a thumbs up, but Sora still looked anxiously down at his hands.
“I’m so nervous, Riku. It’s been awhile since I’ve had a serious girlfriend.”
“Yeah, who was the last one? I forgot.” Riku tapped a finger on his chin as he tried to remember that far back.
“Oh, yeah. Xion. Whatever happened with her?”
“She was ready to take the next step, and I guess I just wasn’t. Plus we were working on PFS, and it was getting harder for me to juggle her and make games. We were fighting a lot, but it was an amicable split at the end. At least it seemed that way to me.” Sora finally looked up from his hands but it was only to look over Riku’s shoulder at the wall as memories of his last relationship flooded his mind.
“What was the next step she was expecting?” Riku asked.
Sora blinked a few times to break the spell on reliving those past memories. That relationship had been over for a few years now. They had both moved on. “Marriage. Moving in… ya know. Serious stuff.”
“I think it’s important that you think about why you weren’t ready back then, but you’re ready for something like long distance with Kairi.” Riku explained, ever the wisest of the friend group. “...So why?”
“Xion felt more like a sister to me than a romantic partner. I just couldn’t drag it out anymore. She deserved to be with someone who really loved her. And her best friend? I think she was in love with Xion or something. She was always trying to break us up. It wouldn’t have worked out even if her best friend wasn’t stirring up drama all the time though.” Sora exhaled slowly. What he had said had all been true, but he hadn’t really thought about Xion in a long time. That felt like a chapter in another book of his life. He was ready to start this new chapter with Kairi and be the best boyfriend he could be from so far away.
Riku rolled his eyes as he remembered Xion’s best friend. “Ughhhh, that chick was so annoying. I think she has a couple of screws loose.”
“Speaking of having a couple of screws loose, check out these texts from that unknown number. I got these yesterday.” Sora reached over and grabbed his phone off the charger. He handed it to Riku and let him read the texts he had exchanged with the blackmailer.
Riku’s eyes widened as he got to the end of the messages. “Whoa, you got these yesterday? While hanging out with us and Kairi?” Sora nodded solemnly as Riku handed him his phone back. “Why didn’t you say anything?” Riku asked with concern. It was obvious he was worried for both Sora and Kairi.
Sora shook his head. “I didn’t want to ruin the last day I had with Kairi. I still haven’t figured out what to do about it either. I can’t let this asshat release those photos.”
Sora and Riku sat in silence for a few moments. Riku looked as if gears were slowly turning in his head. He finally looked up at Sora, and Sora met his wide-eyed gaze. “What if… we released them first?”
Sora wrinkled his nose in confusion. “What do you mean?”
Riku stood up from the bed and began to pace slowly back and forth in front of Sora’s bed. “What if we leak them to the press but have them run our version of the story?”
Sora let out a humorless laugh. “And just what the hell is our ‘version of the story’?”
Riku stopped and turned to him. “The truth: that you and Kairi fell in love. We’ll do a whole write up. Something like… Secret Dev Finds Love After Public Reveal…?” He began pacing again, holding his chin between his bent forefinger and thumb in thought. “I’ll figure something out. Send those texts and pics to me. I know someone in publishing who owes me a favor.”
Sora felt a weight slowly lift off his chest. He had been stuffing this down for 24 hours and it had been eating away at him endlessly. It wasn’t until now that he had finally been able to even let himself feel anything from it since he wanted to give Kairi his full attention. Tears welled in his eyes as he crawled to the end of the bed and grabbed his best friend’s hand to stop him from pacing. “Riku?”
Riku stopped and looked down at him, his eyebrows furrowed. “Yeah? What’s wrong?”
Sora was doing his best not to let those tears out but one slid down his cheek anyway. He looked down and muttered, “Thank you.” He really did have the best friend anyone could ever ask for. He had always been able to count on Riku. This situation was no different.
Riku smiled and ruffled Sora’s hair with his free hand. “No problem, Sora. Ya know I always got your back.” Sora gave him a small nod and let his hand go so he could wipe the tear away with the back of his hand. “Why don’t you get some rest. I’m gonna make some calls, okay?”
Sora nodded again and fell back down on the bed in the same position Riku had found him in. Riku quietly closed the bedroom door, and Sora drifted off into a dreamless slumber. With the blackmailer off his plate, and the exhaustion from the weekend settling into his body, the only worry Sora had left was to tell Kairi everything.
•| ⊱♡⊰ |•
They were more than a few hours into their flight when Kairi had finally stopped silently crying. It wasn’t because she was done; it was because she had simply run out of tears to shed. Namine had gone to the restroom and wet a couple of tissues so Kairi could hold them to her red and puffy eyes. Namine gently rubbed her shoulder to comfort her.
Kairi knew that Namine was also upset, but she tended to keep her emotions inside, waiting until she would be in the safety of her home to let her tears out in private. Kairi couldn’t hold things in. Once they had passed security, she started bawling her eyes out, and she couldn’t stop. Leaving Sora had hurt so much more than she anticipated. Lucky for her, staying up most of the night and crying nonstop for hours caught up to her. She fell asleep with her head on Namine’s shoulder.
Before Kairi knew it, Namine was gently shaking her awake. “We’re landing soon. Here, drink some water.” She helped Kairi sit up and put a plastic cup of cold water in her hand. Kairi downed it in one gulp. Namine seemed satisfied and handed the cup to a flight attendant when they came around for one last trash pickup before they landed.
Once they had landed, walked to the baggage carousel, collected their luggage, and made it to the nearby train station, Kairi was feeling more like herself. She gave Namine a big hug before watching her board the train. She waved one last time before watching it take Namine away. She sighed heavily as she prepared to walk back to her apartment. She could get a taxi, but frankly, she needed the fresh air.
The walk back to her apartment was quick and uneventful as she made her brain steer clear of anything Sora related; she couldn’t have a breakdown on the sidewalk. Instead she made a mental catalog of everything she needed to prepare for work tomorrow including lugging back all the camera equipment. She also brainstormed some ideas for the footage she got from the expo and the various panels she attended. She briefly recalled Sora and Riku’s panel and the infamous “girlfriend question” before she quickly pushed that memory aside.
Finally, she made it to the front door of her apartment. As she fumbled with her keys, she could hear Yuna meowing loudly from behind the door. “I hear you, I hear you, silly cat.” Kairi said giggling. She had missed her furry companion. The pet sitter had been fantastic at sending her a photo every day and keeping her updated on any cute antics Yuna got up to, but it wasn’t the same as being with her in person.
Kairi got the door unlocked and gently pushed it open with her foot. She quickly toted in all her belongings as Yuna tried to circle her feet, still meowing loudly at her. Once Kairi set everything down, she scooped Yuna up in her arms and nuzzled her. Yuna responded with loud, vibrating purrs as she returned her mom’s nuzzle. “I missed you, little granny.”
As she held Yuna, Kairi plugged in her phone and waited for it to turn back on. After putting in her lock code, she opened her messages to send Sora a quick text to let him know she got home safely. After typing it out and hitting send, her phone suddenly began to vibrate. Sora was calling her! Already?!
Kairi sat down on the floor with Yuna in her lap. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat, putting on a cheery voice as she accepted his call. He didn’t need to know how much she had been crying. “Hey!”
“Hey Kai, I’m so sorry. I know you just got home, but I need to tell you something.”
I need to tell you something.
Six words that no one ever wants to hear.