Their lives were- shockingly- very normal. Being gone for three years had put them behind, at first. Not only had they fallen behind classmates, but three years' absence had made them forget much of routine life. School, faces, places, memories... How many times had Selphie grinned at Sora, whom she had always had a crush on, and said, "Do wewe remember when...?" The first few times he would laugh and admit he did not recall the anecdote, and be made fun of for absent-mindedness. But as this happenstance recurred zaidi frequently, Sora would just slip on a false smile and nod. Of course he remembered. He hadn't Lost anything in the three years of his childhood he'd sacrificed to conquer unnamed evils and restore his life. Everything was absolutely normal.

The waitress paused in wiping a meza, jedwali off with a rag when Sora loudly inhaled the last bits of a strawberry smoothie, sitting facing the door on a yellow and chrome bar kinyesi at one of his favourite diners. It hadn't been on the island before he left, so it was devoid of guilty half-memories that he would struggle to capture before it would flutter aimlessly away; a nondo in the dark. He came here most days after class, waiting for Kairi to get off from her work as a Kindergarten teacher. Kairi loved children. Sora sighed. It was often joked kwa their Marafiki that when they got married- when, not if, despite no engagement plans- Kairi would insist on procreating enough to populate their own island. Sora usually laughed and did not challenge the notion, but inwardly, for reasons he could not pin down, he cringed.

The waitress, a slim, green-eyed girl with her pink hair sloppily pulled into low pigtails, sat inayofuata to him.

"Break time," she declared in her bizarre accent, reclining and draping elbows over the bar behind her. No one else was in the diner, and the bright afternoon sunlight streamed in through the windows, bouncing off the chrome opaquely. Years ago, bright lights had aliyopewa Sora flashbacks of a door and condemning his best friend to God knew what fate. Now, they gave him headaches.

"Slacker," he accused absently, studying the view outside the glass panels that served as walls. It was beautiful, as usual. The island rarely saw rain; never snow.

"Where's your girl?" Vanille ignored his half-hearted jibe.

"I assume she's still working." Kairi often took on extra hours. Was it to avoid the awkward silences that transpired zaidi and zaidi often between them, he wondered? The moments when her cheerfulness could not find its kindred spirit in his contemplations had increased as he had grown older. He had sobered his optimism, and while he was still the upbeat, naïve young man he'd been around friends, between them he did not bother to keep a facade of innocence. He would not insult her intelligence kwa pretending to be happy, when he felt locked in a mundane life of a room, without a key.

"And your other friend? The silver-haired one? I haven't seen him around here in a while..." She clasped her hands and stretched lethargically as she alisema this.

"Riku is... Busy." Sora alisema carefully, now staring at his large red sneakers. How could he explain to this casual half-friend that Riku spent most of his days traveling, seeking his inayofuata thrill, worrying everyone who wanted to upendo him?

Vanille rested a hand on his shoulder, and when he looked at her she was smiling. "Well, wewe should make sure he comes back to visit. He was a cutie." She winked and then slipped off the bar stool, walking back behind the counter and disappearing into the kitchen. Sora watched her go until he felt his pocket buzzing. He took out a cell phone and saw Kairi's contact number. He pressed the ignore button without thinking, and then felt guilty immediately thereafter. He would have to make up some excuse about being engaged in conversation and not wanting to be rude, but Kairi didn't deserve his avoidance, au his lies.

A moment later the phone buzzed again, and Sora read Kairi's text that she would be late. She hadn't bothered to provide further explanation, and after a moment of staring into space, it occurred to Sora that he hadn't wondered after one.

Vanille came back with another smoothie.

"I didn't know wewe guys gave free refills here," he alisema suspiciously, staring at the plastic glass.

"On the house," she grinned. Sora had to smile.

"Thanks, but do wewe think wewe can make it to-go?"

Vanille raised a thin eyebrow, slightly darker than her hair. "Leaving so soon?"

"I've been here for two hours," Sora countered, hopping off the bar stool. "Never mind, anyway. I can't take it inside the library. Thanks, though." Just to be kind, he gulped at least half of it down in fifteen seconds. He threw an additional bill down that would pay for the smoothie perhaps three times over, and before Vanille could work up zaidi than a few syllables of protestation, he left.


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Sora had meant to go to the library, maybe to read quietly au to look at the small art gallery, which was mostly dominated kwa works kwa Kairi through various mediums; usually coloured pencil. Though she had only ever been a branch of Kairi's soul, Naminé's persona shone occasionally- normally in the form of art- through Kairi, as Roxas's melancholy did through Sora. Instead, he ended up on the small uninhabited island he and his Marafiki played on as children. He'd been here a handful of times since he came home; those first years he would look to his side and see the exact scenery, but cloaked in heavy shadow, black figures morphing from the sand, though it had been brightest siku sekunde ago. He would blink, and it would all be gone.

Now, his post traumatic stress had alleviated considerably. Yet, he was simply too quiet and too contemplative to be Old Sora. He capitalized it in his head, like the younger version of himself was an entirely different person with a different name. He just wasn't that boy anymore, try as hard as he could. And Kairi was not exactly Old Kairi, for that matter. zaidi guarded and compromising than she was once. Less of a romantic. But Riku...

Sora smiled, almost picturing his friend sitting atop the bent paopu tree, scowling into the sunset, seemingly thinking he could capture the horizon, if only he could glare enough at it.

Riku had not changed all that much.

The ground crunched with a covering of brown leaves, though it was summer. Apparently none of his Marafiki had been around in a while, either, and the inayofuata generation had no interest. Sora sighed, sitting on the edge of the abandoned mini-island, gazing out at the sea. He watched his little rowboat, nearly too small to hold him anymore, bob at the dock for a while, a smile absently playing over his lips. Because of Kairi's job, he had ample opportunity to witness the goings on of the inayofuata generation. Her class was well familiarised with him, as he often popped in to visit his girlfriend and bring her lunch if he had nothing better to do. The children were curious, but lacked something of the playful innocence, the belief of impossibilities and magic that he had. They were a product of an information overflow, when maswali were answered before they were asked, and ndoto was merely a genre. He was shocked to learn that at least half her students owned cell phones for "emergency purposes," and all were comfortable and familiar with a computer. Sora hadn't been in frequent contact with a computer until he was at least ten, and even then he couldn't begin to approach the Gummi Ship's navigation system.

The sun slipped over the edge of oceana without Sora noticing. He only became aware of his surroundings when he heard crunching behind him. He leaped with graceful agility to his feet and assumed a defensive position and willed the Keyblade to him, before he realised that he hadn't the power to access it anymore. He felt suddenly stupid when he noticed Kairi, frozen, five feet away from him. He sighed and dropped into a normal standing position, hanging his head a little.

"I thought wewe were over the flashbacks," Sora could imagine the line forming between her eyebrows, though the evening light did not let him see her that clearly.

"I am," he assured her hurriedly. "Mostly."

"Sora..."

"Really, Kairi. It's fine. That's the first... incident I've had in months. Must be the setting."

There was an uncertain pause before Kairi seemed to decide it wasn't worth pursuing. Sora took advantage of her silence to turn back to the ocean and sit down. The moon was a wicked crescent, slicing a neat arc of white-silver into deep navy. Sora had forgotten how clearly one could see the stars away from the boisterous main islands. Kairi sat down tentatively beside him.

"I talked to my parents today." She alisema after a moment. Sora nodded.

"How are they?"

"They're good. They're..." Kairi looked down at her lap, where she twisted her small hands nervously. "Sora... I think they expect us to get married soon."

Sora did not know how to react to this. "Oh."

Kairi looked discouraged. "They've been hinting pretty heavily lately... I think it's because my dad is slowing down, and he wants to know that I'm okay before he..."

There was a pause. Sora made no attempt to assuage her fear, au react in any way. He just let it happen, like always. Kairi sighed.

"I know wewe were... Waiting... For him." No need to ask who him was.

"So were you." Sora alisema quietly, startling Kairi, who had been sure it was going to be a one-sided conversation.

"No, Sora, I..." She looked at him, and when he did not look back at her, she continued, "I upendo you."

"I upendo wewe too," he replied automatically.

"I know. That's why..." Kairi took one of his hands in both of her own. He finally looked away from the moon and at those small hands, and a lap of paint-splattered jeans. "Don't wewe think we could be happy?"

Sora stared at their hands. He did not know how to answer.

Kairi's voice dipped lower. "Don't wewe think I would make a good wife?"

Sora finally looked at her face, and it held a desperate, beseeching edge.

"Of course. You're right. I can't just..." His voice faltered, but he renewed with zaidi confidence than he felt. "We have a life together now."

Kairi's eyes softened, and she squeezed his broad, tan hand in her smaller, lighter ones. He gave her a small, sincere smile. "Next spring sound okay?"

She just gave her own gentle smile and leaned mbele to capture his lips in a lingering, if somewhat passionless kiss.


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Riku glared at the red-eyed man beside him with as much malice as possible.

"Fuck you," he kicked the stand of his motorcycle down. "Fuck. You."

Vincent's face was impassive, as it had been throughout most of the four years Riku had known him. "I warned you."

"Fuck you," was all Riku said. He was soaked, hungry, and therefore extremely cranky. "You and your cloak. Don't know how wewe wear that thing without it getting in your face, anyway."

Vincent did not reply. Riku got of his motorcycle and jogged to meet his occasional traveling companion under the awning of the motel, which looked fairly low-budget, though Riku had stayed at worse. He

pulled his shoulder-length silver hair (a deep dull grey, as soaked as he was) over one shoulder and wrung it like a rag. Water cascaded onto the pavement. Vincent hardly blinked.

"This is why wewe should have worn a helmet," he said, almost chiding the younger man. Riku scowled.

"In this visibility? If I were not a good driver as it was, I'd have crashed. No way I could've seen anything through glass. God, back home..."

Riku paused. Back nyumbani it never rained like this, he had started to say. But was that really his home, anymore?

"I've gotten a room for us." Vincent alisema as they began for the door. "Only one bed, though. It was the only vacancy."

Riku winced. "Wonderful."


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Sora stared at the dark abyss that loomed instead of his ceiling. It should have frightened him, but Sora realised that as he stared, all he saw was nothing. Not Nothing with a capital n, but nothing. As in, there was nothing to see. His fear of the dark that had, only a few months ago, been overwhelming at times, had subsided.

When he had first come home, his parents had thought he was dead. Swept away in a tsunami that had also taken the lives of Kairi and Riku. When Kairi turned up a mwaka later, they had hope, but that faded as all their memories were erased kwa Naminé's spells. Two years after Kairi's return, Sora was home, and all memories restored. He told them what had happened, had the King beside him the whole time to affirm. And what his parents could not accept from their son, well, how could one reject the word of a giant rodent?

Sora had only heard from the King once since. In the form of a bottled letter, Kairi, Riku, and Sora had read that the crisis being over, the doors between the worlds were once again being locked. And since a Keyblade wielder was no longer required, it was likely that his ability to summon it au cast spells would cease, as would Riku's. The inhabitants of Hollow Bastian had sent their upendo and well wishes for the future. Kairi had teared up. Sora had not known how to feel. He'd spent zaidi time with those people than he had with Kairi au Riku in the last three years. He would never hear Jiminy retell another adventure, au Goofy attempt to cheer him up, au Donald argue with him. It had never occurred to Sora that he would have to choose between his world and the dozens he had come to know. au rather, that the choice would be made for him. But the memories would never leave.

Sora lifted a hand in the darkness and flexed it, marveling that even with fully adjusted pupils, his digits were indistinguishable from the dark room. Kairi beside him gave a quiet moan. He let his arm drop to his side again. To celebrate their engagement, Kairi had made dinner. kwa candlelight they had made love. Afterwards Sora had blown out the candles on the bedside, and Kairi had curled and slept. But he was having no such luck.

He thought of the first time the two had slept together, on the mwaka anniversary of their homecoming. Once back from their adventures, without any official pronouncement, the two had somehow just been together. It was just understood that they now were a couple, and before Sora stopped to consider if this was something he still wanted, three years older and light years further traveled, they were having sex on the beach, pwani (how ironic) under the moonlight. It had been pleasant, that first time. Hell, it had never been unpleasant. But looking back, it had not filled a void Sora was unconsciously trying to replete.

Riku had left later that week.


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Kairi was dressed in one of his t-shirts, a blue-and-white striped v-neck, already eating a piece of toast with a bit of jam, jamu spread over it at the jikoni table. Sora wore his navy sweatpants, drawstrings uneven and untied. She smiled at him and uncrossed her legs before setting down the paper to meet him kwa the refrigerator.

"Good morning," she said, wrapping arms around his shoulders.

"Good morning," he answered, wrapping an arm around her waist and allowing her to press a chaste kiss to his jawline. "You're up early."

Kairi shook her head as she disengaged from him and then pulled her high ponytail tighter. "You're up late. It's almost ten."

"Oh," he replied. Then he remembered lying in bed, staring into the nothing that was really nothing for hours on end. "I guess I had trouble sleeping,"

"What kind of trouble?" She stopped playing with her hair to look at him carefully.

"Not that kind of trouble," he sighed, moving to grab a coffee mug from the cabinet nearest him. "I haven't had nightmares in months. I'm fine, Kairi. A little insomnia is normal now and then."

"Sorry," she replied. "I just worry."

"I know," Sora said, and then gave her a smile before dropping a kiss onto the juu of her red hair. "That's why you're going to make a wonderful wife."

Kairi giggled, and in that moment she was so familiar, just as though Old Kairi had never left. It was just him that was different, Sora thought bitterly.

"We're going to need to plan an engagement party, wewe know," she sat back at the meza, jedwali and sipped at her own coffee.

Sora groaned as he joined her. "Will I have to wear a suit?"

Kairi laughed. "No, it can be informal, if wewe like. We can have it here."

Sora nodded. "Good. Let's do that."

"Then there's the registry to consider..." Kairi continued, chewing her bottom lip.

"Registry?" Sora repeated. "We already live together. We don't exactly need anything else."

"No," Kairi agreed. "But most people will insist on getting us something anyway, and I'd rather it be something we like, at least."

"Yeah, well." Sora shrugged.

"And we need to figure out a date."

"Ah fough' we sad nex' spwing," Sora alisema with Kairi's piece of toast hanging out of his mouth as he looked through the discarded sports section. Sora hadn't much interest in sports outside of the occasional blitzball game with friends, but until Kairi had finished dissecting the rest of the paper, Sora knew he would have to settle. Kairi rolled her eyes and aliiba her toast back before setting it on its plate.

"Spring has three months, with over ninety days between them," Kairi reminded him.

"April, then." His brow was beginning to furrow. He had not planned on having to give his actual opinion on anything.

"As in 'April showers bring May flowers'?" Kairi arched a brow, setting down the paper to give him a Look.

"Well, jeeze, Kairi, I dunno," he gave her his most desperate face. "Just pick a time and place and I'll onyesha up, alright?"

Kairi rolled her eyes again and lifted the newspaper back to her face. Sora finished his coffee and rinsed his mug at the sink before putting it on the rack to dry.

"Oh, and Sora," Kairi added without looking at him as he wandered towards the door frame, intending on taking a kuoga before watching televisheni for a while.

"Yes, Dear," he alisema with an edge of sarcasm that Old Sora would've found pretentious and unnecessary.

"One of us needs to tell Riku."

And kwa that, Sora knew she meant him.


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Riku was halfway through a loud snore when something small, hard, and plastic collided with his chest.

"WHAT THE FUCK." He sat straight up from his makeshift kitanda of a comforter and two pillows on the floor. Above him, Vincent shrugged.

"Your phone is vibrating," he alisema apathetically, and Riku noticed the piece of sky that had landed on his rib was, indeed, his cell phone. He answered without looking at the ID.

"I told you, Ma, I'll call wewe when I get to Unc... Sora?" This made Vincent look away from the television, which was running some movie on a cable network. Riku frowned at him, and when he did not react, Riku interrupted the familiar voice on the phone. "Hold on, Sora, I've got bad reception in here; let me step outside..." He didn't look at Vincent as he stood and, still shirtless, stepped out into the humid afternoon air. "God, how late is it?"

"Huh? Oh, it's about eleven here..." Sora replied.

"That makes it about two here..." Riku calculated. "Damn, I didn't mean to sleep that late."

"I woke wewe up? Riku, wewe lazy bastard." Sora chuckled. Riku smiled.

"Can't believe you're the one calling me lazy," Riku answered. "Anyway, I just use up all my energy being sexy."

"My, wewe must have changed a lot in the weeks since I've seen you," Sora quipped.

Not as much as wewe have, though. "You call for any reason other than abusing my ego?"

"...Sorry." He heard Sora apologise, and groaned inwardly. Since when was Sora not allowed to just call and talk? Since wewe dropped him out of your life. Riku frowned.

"No, I was kidding. What's up?" He leaned against the door to his room, and belatedly realised he would have to rely on Vincent's mercy to be allowed back in, because he had not brought a key. And

Vincent was not the most merciful of men.

"Well, actually, there is something..." Sora said.

And he told him what it was.

Riku ground his jaw.

"I see." There was a long pause. "Sora, I don't know if I can-,"

"Please, Riku," Sora pleaded. "For Kairi."

Riku sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "Just for Kairi, huh?"

"No," a quiet voice admitted at the other end of the line. "Not just for Kairi. I... I miss you, Riku."

Riku heaved another sigh before forcing some enthusiasm. "I'll be there."

"Riku, wewe don't have to. I mean, I get it, I'll tell Kairi something if wewe like..."

"Hey." Riku smiled. That aspect of Sora, at least- the one always trying to make everyone happy- had not diminished in the slightest. "Don't worry about it. It'll take me about two days to get there. wewe guys have a kitanda for me au am I going to have to go slumming around my mother?"

"Of course, Riku," Sora answered softly. "You always have a nyumbani here."

Riku smiled again as he hung up. Sora was a bad liar, but he meant well.

He stared into space for minutes. He hadn't been nyumbani in months, and then only for a week au so. He hadn't lived there in years. He had not lived anywhere in years.

Abruptly the surface the was leaning against fell away from him, and Riku fell on his rear at Vincent's feet.

"Was that... Who I thought it was?"

"Not unless wewe thought it was Sora Hikari, wewe gossip monger." Riku stood back up gingerly, rubbing the back of his head, and picked up his cell phone, which had flown out of his hand in the process. He set it on juu of the televisheni and looked for his t-shirt.

"The same Sora you-,"

"Yeah." Riku said, pulling on a t-shirt. "That Sora."

"And what did Sora want?"

Riku paused, and considered changing the subject, but shrugged. "To invite me to an engagement party."

Vincent's eyes narrowed imperceptibly.

Riku pulled on his shoes and picked up his keys.

"Give my regards to Kimahri, will you?" Riku waved.

"Where are wewe going?" Vincent asked, already knowing the answer.

"Home," Riku answered, passing Vincent in the doorway. And then, with a sardonic laugh, he added over his shoulder, "I guess."