A silver-haired, aquamarine-eyed teenager halted his walking as he heard his name being called, loudly. He took out his earphones and turned around to see two other teens, a girl with cherry red hair and lavender eyes, and a boy with spiky brunet hair and blue eyes, running up to him. A small smile came onto the young man’s face, and he nodded as they caught up to him.
“You headed home already, Riku?” The girl, known as Kairi, had a slightly disappointed look on her face, “Sora and I were headed to the Sun Cafe with Selphie, Wakka, and Tidus, and we were looking for you all over school.”
“We wanted you to come with us,” said the other boy, Sora. He looked hopeful. Riku looked down, thinking.
“Nah, it’s okay,” Riku shook his head, his silver bangs falling into his eyes, “I have a test to study for in math.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to study at the cafe? Then you can hang out with us afterwards,” Sora too, started to look disappointed. Riku stared at his best friend, before shaking his head again.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” he said.
“Okay..well, maybe next time?” That hopeful look returned to Sora’s face.
“Sure. Next time,” Riku gave a thumbs up, and Sora and Kairi grinned.
“See you on Monday, Riku!” Sora patted Riku on the shoulder before he and Kairi ran off ahead, down the road leading away from their school. Riku watched his companions retreat into the distance, and when they were far enough away, he let out a sigh of relief.
Okay, Riku lied. Sort of. He did have a math test to study for, but the test was not until the first semester neared its end. Of course, Sora and Kairi being sophomores, and thus not having classes with Riku, they did not know that. He just could not tell them the real reason he did not want to hang out with them.
Riku was a junior at Skyland high school. He was attractive, a great blitzball player, an excellent student, and popular among his peers (especially the girls). He, for all intents and purposes was a very cool kid. Calm, collected, and confident, he was everything that anyone could look up to. Yet he had a secret, a secret that filled him with gloom.
He was in love with his best friend, Sora.
He could not recall when the love developed. Sora and Riku had been friends since they could walk, and even then, Riku had felt a special connection to the brunet. Over time his feelings grew, until even the thought of Sora filled his heart with longing. That was he reason he did not want to be with his friends today. He could not stand the yearning.
He had been avoiding Sora a lot lately, always coming up with excuses as to why he could not hang out after school, or spend the night at Sora’s house. He was unsure of himself. Unsure of his ability to control his desire for the younger teen. He was afraid that one day, his urges might get the better of him and he might make a mistake with Sora, one that he could not fix. If he did anything thing to jeopardize his friendship with him, he would not be able to handle it.
He was also unsure of Sora. Unsure of Sora’s feelings. If it ever were to get out that Riku had feelings for him, how would he react? Would he brush it off? Would he become embarrassed? Would he never talk to Riku again?
Also...what about Kairi? Riku had a strong suspicion that Sora liked her, although the younger boy never revealed to Riku any feelings he might have had for her. He could not really blame Sora. Kairi was pretty, kind, compassionate, and a loyal friend to the two boys ever since she moved to the Destiny Islands twelve years ago. She was everything that Sora would want.
The thought created a pang of hurt in Riku’s heart, and he touched his hand to his firm chest. The thought of Sora being with someone else, even Kairi, made him ache.
Stop thinking about it...He frowned. Now was not the time to start wallowing in agony. Breaking down in a public place? No way would anyone see him sad. He sighed and put his earphones back in his ears, walking down the road to his house, alone.
When he reached his home, he quickly settled in. His mom was working late that night, so he had the place to himself. He went upstairs to his room, dropping his backpack by his desk. He grabbed some clothes out of his dresser, a gray, striped, sleeveless, v-neck top, boxers, and baggy, dark blue jeans, and took a shower. Afterwards, he took his history textbook, notebook, and cell phone out of his backpack and went back downstairs into the kitchen, with the intent to get at least some studying done. He attempted to do so for thirty minutes, however as he sat at the kitchen’s island, looking down at the text of the book, all he could think about was Sora.
The boy plagued his mind, taking over all cognition. All he could picture was his deep blue eyes and shining, genuine smile. How he craved to be closed to him, yet how he wished his feelings would subside. Riku sighed, lowering himself until his forehead rested on his opened textbook. Maybe he should have gone to the cafe with his friends. The pain of longing must have been better than the loneliness that was creeping into his heart right now.
He wanted to tell Sora how he felt, he really did. Yet he was afraid of what could happen. He sat back up, looking ahead of him out at his backyard. It was nice, complete with flowers and other colorful plants. There was even a paopu tree planted back there, which Riku liked to sit under on the bench that was out there. The tree, like a lot of paopu trees, curved in a weird shape as it extended up towards the sky. It also, like all paopu trees, bared the star-shaped paopu fruit.
There was a legend that went along with the paopu fruit. It was said that if two people shared one, the power of the fruit would bind them together. Their destinies would be intertwined, forever. To give someone a paopu fruit meant that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with them. It was really quite romantic. As a younger child, Riku never really gave the legend much thought, but as he got older and started to fall for Sora, he became curious. However it was not until the past couple of years that Riku began to desire giving a paopu fruit to Sora. He was going to once, when he was fifteen and Sora was fourteen, but he never worked up the courage to do it. He scared then, just as he was scared now. Riku frowned.
He was such a coward...
He sighed and propped an elbow up on kitchen’s island counter, resting his chin in the palm of his hand. He looked down at his forgotten textbook, intent on drowning his sorrow in its pages, when his cell phone rang. He glanced over at it to see a familiar number and name on the screen. It was Kairi. He picked up the phone and tapped the screen, putting it to his ear.
“Hey, Riku!” Kairi’s cheery voice sounded on the other end.
“Just trying to get some studying done...”
“For your ‘math test’?” The tone is Kairi’s voice was one of skepticism. Riku inwardly winced. He had been caught.
“...You know I don’t have a test, don’t you?”
“I asked Wakka about it, and he said you didn’t have one for another three weeks.”
Riku pursed his lips. Unlike Sora, who took almost everything at face value, Kairi was not so easy to decieve.
“Can I come over?”
“I want to talk about Sora....so can I?”
Riku was silent for a moment. He really did not want to have a guest over, but Kairi had not been to his house in a while. Plus, he was curious as to what she wanted to discuss concerning Sora, despite himself.
“...Alright. You can come over.”
“Great! ‘Cause I’m already here.”
Just then, he heard a knock on his front door. He hung up his phone and pocketed it, then walked to the front of the house. He opened his front door to see Kairi standing there, waving and grinning. She was still wearing her school uniform, which indicated to Riku that she had not gone home before she came there. Riku furrowed his silver brows.
“So, what? You ditched everyone to sneak over here?” Riku stepped aside to let the petite red head in.
“ 'Ditch’ and 'sneak’ are such nasty words,” Kairi smiled and walked inside, “I just told them that I had some things to take care of at home, so I couldn’t stay after all. I didn’t say that I’d be coming here, because then Sora would’ve wanted to come with me.”
“...And you didn’t want him tagging along because you wanted to talk to me about him,” Riku caught on to what his friend was up to.
“Exactly. May I sit down?” Kairi made her way into the living room. Riku nodded and Kairi sat on the couch, placing her book bag at her feet.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“No thanks, I don’t intend to stay long.”
“Okay...so, what’s so important about Sora that you had to rush over here?” Riku sat down next to her. She gave him a peculiar expression.
“I know why you’ve been avoiding hanging out with us lately.”
Riku’s heart skipped a beat, and he froze.
“Yeah,” She smiled at him, “it’s because of Sora, right...? You like him, don’t you?”
“How did you-”
Kairi held up her hand to quiet him.
“I’ve seen how you’ve been acting towards him over the years...” She gave him a sympathetic smile.
“You’re hurting, aren’t you...?”
Riku lowered the gaze of his aquamarine eyes. It was true. He was hurting.
“Yeah...I am,” Riku sank back into the couch and folded his toned arms, “...I don’t just like him...I’m...in love with him.” No hiding his secret now. Kairi knew all.
Kairi’s lavender eyes widened, and she covered her mouth with her hand in an attempt to hide the “oh...” that escaped.
“I don’t...really know it happened,” Riku continued, cutting his eyes at the front door, “I just...I think I’ve always had feelings for him...I think even when we were little, I loved him, I just didn’t know it...” Riku rested his head back on the couch and closed his eyes.
“I don’t know what to do...”
“Well...have you ever tried talking to him about it?” Kairi asked.
“Kind of...a couple of years ago I wanted to give him a paopu fruit. I was going to tell him how I felt. I even asked if I could spend the day with him on the island we always hang out on, just the two of us. I waited for him at the paopu tree, but when he showed up...I threw the fruit into the ocean.”
“Riku...” A sad expression took shape on Kairi’s face.
“...I’m a coward.”
“No, you’re not...”
“Yeah, I am. And...it doesn’t matter anyway. Even if I told him how I felt, he only likes you.” Riku opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. His words filled him with bitterness.
“...I used to think he liked me too...” Kairi sat back as well.
“...'used to’?” Riku perked up slightly, intrigued by Kairi’s choice of words.
“Yeah...I was pretty sure of it. I definitely liked him. I still do...but the way he acts towards me has changed. He’s not as affectionate, at least not in the I-have-a-crush-on-you way...something in him has changed.”
Riku said nothing. He just looked over at his friend. She seemed a little sullen.
“I should have told him how I felt when I had the chance to make him mine.”
“...What are you trying to say?” Riku asked. Kairi turned her head to look at him.
“I don’t know how Sora feels about you, or if he even realizes that you love him, but I do know this...you can’t keep torturing yourself by not telling him how you feel.”
Riku sat up, eyes wide. What did she just say?
“Kairi...it’s not that simple. If he rejects me, it could ruin our friendship...I don’t want to lose him...”
“You won’t,” Kairi sat up as well, turning to face Riku, “Sora would never abandon you. You’re his best friend....he will always be with you...wait. Hold on, I’ll be right back.”
Kairi got up and went to the back of the house. She was gone for a couple minutes but soon came back, a paopu fruit in her hands.
“Here,” she said, “give this to Sora tomorrow.”
“Please? I promise, you will feel so much better if you just get this off of your chest. You’re my friend, and I can’t stand to see you suffer. Call him right now and tell him to meet you at the Little Island tomorrow.”
Riku looked down at the fruit in Kairi’s hands. Could he do it? Could he do what she wanted him to? His heart thumped wildly in his chest. He was nervous. All of his fears bubbled up inside of him, and it was causing him anxiety like he had not felt in a long time.
Without a word, he took the star-shaped fruit from Kairi. He nodded. Maybe...it was time to stop running away from what he truly wanted. Maybe it was time to finally come to terms with himself. Kairi grinned again and pulled Riku into a tight embrace. He paused. Kairi was never one to be physically affectionate with him, so it surprised him. Yet he smiled and returned the hug.
“It’s okay to try again...” She whispered. Riku nodded again, and she pulled away.
“Now, hurry up and call him!” She giggled, hitting him gently on the shoulder.
“Okay...” He took his phone out of his pocket and pulled up his contacts, finding Sora’s name and tapping it twice to call his number. His heart was still pounding and his stomach felt queasy as he listened to the ring tone. After four rings he heard Sora’s voice on the other end.
Riku laid on the paopu tree at sprung out of the islet connected to the Little Island. His mysterious eyes gazed out at the horizon, watching the sun start to slowly set. He twirled the paopu fruit Kairi had picked out for him in his hand. He was anxious. Yesterday he told Sora to meet him at their childhood play spot. He was finally going to tell Sora how he felt. He was not backing out this time. With Kairi’s encouragement, he was finally going to reveal his heart.Yet, that did not stop him from being distressed. What if this tore them apart? He could not live without the younger man.
Sora would never abandon you...he’ll always be with you...
Kairi’s words flitted through his head, and Riku calmed down a bit. He hoped the red head was right. Sora was too precious to him to lose...
The silveret sprung up upon hearing his name. He looked behind him and saw Sora jogging towards him on the sand.
“Up here,” Riku waved him over, and the youth nodded. He walked over to the seaside shack, the one that led up to the wooden walk way connecting the islet to the rest of the island. Riku jumped down from the tree, quickly adjusting his black shirt and patting down his dark jeans to make sure he looked presentable. He hid the paopu behind his back, and waited. Sora eventually made his way up to the pale teen, grinning kind-heartedly at his best friend.
“Sorry I’m late,” Sora put his hands behind his head and smiled sheepishly, “I ran into Selphie and Tidus and they tried to drag me to a movie they were gonna see this evening.”
“It’s okay,” Riku said, looking Sora up and down. He was dressed in a dark red, sleeveless top, black shorts with dark red black pockets, and black and red sneakers. His favorite crown necklace hung around his neck.
Just as cute and boyish as ever, Riku thought. Though they were only a year apart, Sora looked a bit younger that he really was. It irked him to no end when people would still mistaken him for a freshman.
“So, how’d you spend your day today?” Sora asked, hopping up on the trunk of the paopu tree.
“I didn’t do much,” Riku shrugged, leaning against the tree. The paopu fruit was still hidden behind his back.
“I played some video games and studied, but that’s about it.”
“Studying? On a Saturday?” Sora made a face, “don’t you ever give yourself a break, Riku?”
“Well, unlike you, I actually want to receive my high school diploma,” Riku smirked.
“Shut up!” Sora pouted, and Riku laughed.
“You know I’m just teasing,” Riku grinned, “what about you? What did you do today?”
“Well,” Sora’s pout faded as he thought about his day, “I went to the store with my mom this morning, and then I went over to Kairi’s and hung out there. Actually, now that I mentioned it, I spent most of the day with her.”
“Oh yeah?” Riku’s heart started to beat faster. Oh, he hoped that she did not say anything to Sora...
“Yeah, we went to the Sun Cafe and got tea, then we went to the arcade. After that we went back to her place and listened to music.”
“Sounds like you had fun,” Riku smiled, but he could not help but feel a bit of jealousy and envy at Sora spending the day with Kairi. However he quickly squashed the feelings. Kairi was on his side after all, despite her feelings for the brunet. He had no reason to worry.
“Yeah, we did!” Sora nodded, beaming, “I wish you could have been there with us, though. You’re always off by yourself nowadays.”
“Yeah...about that...” Riku looked off to the side, “There’s a reason for that...”
“What’s the reason?” Sora tilted his head in curiosity.
“I’ve been...doing a lot of thinking...”
Riku sighed. This was it. This was the moment.
“...There’s someone that I’m in love with, and I’m afraid to tell them.”
“Really?” Sora smiled, pleasantly surprised. He had no idea Riku had feelings for someone. The elder teen always acted as if he did not have time for crushes.
“Who is it? Namine’? Selphie? Xion?”
Riku shook his head. So, Sora still thought he was straight...The brunet’s eyes widened.
“...Is it Kairi?”
Riku raised his eyebrows and looked up at his best friend. Where did that come from?
“Are you in love with Kairi...? Is that why you’ve been avoiding us...?”
Riku smiled. Boy, was he way off. He said, “no...it’s not Kairi.”
“Well...then who is it?” Sora looked confused. He was apparently at a loss for possible candidates. Riku chuckled.
“I’ll give you a hint,” the elder teen said, “they’re a really good friend, but they’re not Kairi. They’ve been there for me in my darkest times, and they always try to cheer me up when I’m down. They always can make me smile.”
“A good friend, but not Kairi...” Sora pouted as he pondered what Riku said, “and it’s not any other girl we know...always there for you in dark times...they can always make you smile...”
Sora thought about this for a few minutes while Riku waited patiently. A couple of times he had an “aha!” moment, but then he would shake his head, grumbling to himself. After another minute, he pouted again.
“I give up! I don’t know who it is,” Sora frowned, looking over at his best friend. Riku smiled.
Alright...it was now, or never.
“I’ll give you another hint...” Riku said. His heart was beating rapidly, but on the outside he was calm. He gave off the perfect facade.
“...They’re right in front of me.”
Sora did not respond right away. It took a second, but as soon as Riku’s words registered, Sora’s eyes widened again and he gasped.
Riku looked down, that smile still on his face. He did not say anything for a time.
The silveret sighed, taking his hands from behind his back and presenting the paopu fruit to Sora.
“I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time...but I was afraid. I failed before...but I told myself that I would try again.”
“...That’s why you asked me to meet you here to today...?”
“Yeah,” Riku nodded, “and...I’ve always wanted to give you a paopu fruit to show you how I felt...”
Sora looked away, the expression on his face telling Riku that he was trying to process the information. He hopped down from the tree. He was quiet.
“...I’m in love with you, Sora.”
There. Riku finally said the words that had haunted him for years. His heart fluttered, and his stomach turned. Yet...he felt a weight lift off of his chest. He felt lighter. He felt that he could handle Sora’s reaction, no matter what it might be. He could handle it because...He was able to be true to himself. He had revealed his heart.
“You don’t have to share this paopu fruit with me if you don’t want to,” Riku said, “you don’t even have to give me a response. You can walk away right now and never speak to me again, and I will understand. No matter what happens after right now, you will always be my best friend. But I love you, Sora, with all of my heart. I couldn’t bare to be without it you...I always want to be with you, come what may.”
Sora looked up at Riku, his deep blue eyes still wide with wonder. He then looked down at the paopu fruit in Riku’s hand. Moments that felt like eternities passed as Riku waited for Sora to react. He did nothing for the longest time. The surety in his heart began to waver, but Riku would not back down now. He had laid it out there for Sora to see, and he would not leave until he got something out of him.
Sora reached up.
Sora’s hand hesitated over Riku’s a moment longer. He looked up again at the elder boy, opening his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
“...If we go down this road, there’s no coming back to the way things were before...”
Riku did not speak right away, shocked at Sora’s words. Did he feel the same way? If so, for how long? Why did he even care when all that mattered was if Sora liked him back?
Sora liked him back...
“I know...” Riku nodded, “...but I’m willing to make the journey.” His heart fluttered again.
Sora looked down once more, his hand still hovering above Riku’s. He was quiet again.
“...So am I.”
Sora grinned up at his best friend, a blush on his face. He took the paopu fruit.
That evening, they shared the sweet treat as they watched the sun set fully on the horizon of the ocean.
That night, they kissed.
That night, their destinies were intertwined, but it was not because of the paopu. It was because in their heart, they already knew.
They had always belonged to each other, and always would.