They had a rare free day, and Kairi suggested they take a break with it. Sora didn’t miss a beat and suggested San Fransokyo immediately. And who was Riku to argue? There were plenty of places Sora went that they hadn’t even heard of, never mind seen. He wanted a chance to see everywhere Sora had been and for Kairi to be at their side.
“Riku,” Sora broke through his thoughts, tugging on Riku’s sleeve and making the bags in his hand crinkle together. “Check it out!”
“What is it, Sora?” He didn’t explain, of course, just ran off into a massive toy store full of giant stuffed animals, blinking robots, and other things Riku didn’t recognize. He smiled, shaking his head, and waited behind. Kairi would be back any minute—someone should be here.
“He’s at it again?” Riku turned to Kairi’s smile, two bags in her hand from the shop behind her. Just putting together some outfits not made from fairies made her feel more at home, she said. Now that she’d thought of it, Riku was sure he’d do the same soon enough.
“Yep. You know him,” he answered warmly, nodding to the game store. Sora wouldn’t go far, he knew that without even looking yet.
And sure enough, Sora looked up from the toy train track just long enough to wave to Kairi with a big, boyish grin.
To both of them, actually. Sometimes it was so hard to believe they are all in the same space at last. Ready to face Xehanort together once and for all… But first, some time just… Together.
Kairi waved back, a broad wave with a bright smile in return. “I missed this.”
Years ago, back on the islands, he might’ve teased her. Expressing what he thought and felt seemed so impossible then. They’d all come so far since their childhood… “I know how you feel. It’s been way too long.” There was so much more to say, but none of it seemed to fit into words the way he wanted it to.
So he held out his hand, offering to take her bags too. Kairi just shook her head. “Oh, it’s alright! You don’t have to do everything yourself, you know.”
Teasingly, she nudged his shoulder and they both laughed—for a moment. Kairi trailed off into a sigh, turning to look out the large windows overseeing the city. Nothing like the islands he felt so trapped on, and so much more than he could ever have imagined. How weird was it that now, sometimes he wished he could go back?
“Being kids,” Kairi thought out loud, “We’re here doing what other people our age do all the time…” Finally turning to him again, her smile was steady.
But there was a trace of remorse in the ocean of her eyes. All those years, she waited without a complaint and only now did Riku realize she’d never talked to him about how that must’ve felt. “And together at last. Thank you, Riku.”
Caught off guard, his eyes widened. “Huh?” What did he do to earn that?
Kairi just giggled, leading him toward the toy store. “You helped him find his way back.”
Thinking back, she had a point… But they were the reason he had the strength to do that for Sora. Riku learned his lesson about being too prideful. “And you helped him see through to me when my face wasn’t my own.” He smiled her way, moving closer to keep together through the crowd. “We all fought for this, Kairi.”
Her smile softened, the sorrow vanishing from her gaze. Riku knew well that it just retreated to greater depths, still there and waiting for her to talk about it—when she was ready. He nodded to her. He would be patient, then.
“C’mon, you guys!” Sora rushed out of the store to meet them, practically bouncing with excitement. “You gotta see what they have!”
Riku had to chuckle at the sight. Sora really was incredible—he’d seen so many places, achieved so much, and that did nothing at all to his natural curiosity. To him, there really was beauty in everything. “Coming, Sora.”
Breaking out into a grin, Kairi matched his energy. “I haven’t gotten a toy in years! I wanna see all the best ones.”
Sora lit up, both of them feeding into each other. “You got it!” And he took her by the arm in a second, the two running ahead of Riku trailing with most of the bags.
“Right behind you!” He would catch up, that much was sure. In more ways than one. After all this time, Riku finally had the strength to protect what mattered.