Tags: Riku, Kairi, Sora | Riku/Kairi, SoRiKai | AU- canon divergence, memory manipulation, not exactly an AU,
Summary: While Sora sleeps, everyone's memories change to account for his absence. In one case, they fail to make sense without him. (Set between KH1 and KH2, with the ending during KH2)
Kairi is alone with no Riku to distract her- there hasn’t been a Riku to distract her since she woke up again alive and whole on the islands again- and she can’t help running her memories over and over in her mind, worrying at them. It’s like having a missing tooth, when she was younger and her adult teeth were coming in. She’d poked at the gap constantly with her tongue until finally the new tooth had grown in.
Something is missing- something beyond Riku's absence- but she can’t pinpoint what.
There was something strange in Riku's heart, something completely alien to Kairi. It flashed behind his eyes when he was angry or when he talked about how small the island was. (There was something a little alien in everyone Kairi had ever met, but usually it was just a whisper, just a glimpse. This was more.)
Kairi didn't know what it was. but she didn't like it.She had never been afraid of her best friend before.
Some days she thought about going out on the raft, just her, all alone. it would be better than facing the whatever-it-was in Riku. But Kairi was his closest and only friend, and she wasn't going to leave him just because he was suddenly a little strange. She was ashamed of herself for even considering it.
(Sometimes she thought about before she’d washed up on the shore of Destiny Islands, and she wondered how terribly alone Riku must have been without her. She tried not to think about it too hard, though. There was no sense making herself sad for no reason.)
He kissed her the day they finished the raft, lips sticky with paopu fruit, sweet and somehow terribly wrong. Something was absent from the kiss, something vital. Love, maybe, or passion, or something entirely different- and Kairi couldn’t think why he would kiss her if he didn’t love her, if he didn’t even want her. It would have made a little sense if he were simply jealous- as much sense as jealousy ever made- but there was no one to be jealous of.
He held out his hand and she reached for it, grabbing tightly, his hand cold against hers.
That night, Kairi went with Riku, to make sure his darkness didn't take him the way the island’s had taken it.
There are parts of this that Kairi doesn't remember at all, but she remembers Riku’s eyes getting slowly more yellow, his speech more erratic. She remembers that he still insisted in standing guard over her while she slept, never letting her take the first watch when they were camping out in one world or another, looking for- something.
She remembers the keyblade.
It was Riku’s, and he dispelled it before she ever got to touch it. For weeks, she had watched mutely as he swung it at Heartless after Heartless.
The thing he should have been fighting- the thing that was eating him from the inside- wasn’t something he could swing a keyblade at.
One day, as he prepared for another sleepless night, she said “Enough.”
He was so surprised that she was able to walk right up to him, pluck the keyblade from his grip, and say, “Rest now. I’ll stand guard.”
She held the keyblade gingerly, a little afraid of the way it sang against her palms.
“Are you going to fight me for it?” Kairi asked. She tilted her chin up and kept her eyes on his, doing her best impression of royalty. “Or are you going to go to sleep like I asked?”
Riku looked, for a moment, like he might just grab it from her. She wouldn't be able to stop him. She'd never fought before in her life. But then his shoulders relaxed, his mouth quirked into a grin, and he said-
She forgets this part. Something about- a rescue. They were rescuing someone, and it didn’t matter who held the keyblade as long as they got there in the end. It had made sense, at the time. She’d known who he was talking about.
She can’t remember who they were rescuing anymore. This is the worst part of her memories, the part that bothers her the most. Because there should be someone else in this story, and there isn’t.
They found Maleficent in the third or fourth world they visited. (Or maybe she found them, Kairi thought, looking back on things. Because if the portals that Riku used to get to other worlds came from the darkness, and Maleficent had controlled the darkness-)
In any case, she was the sole inhabitant of Hollow Bastian. She smiled at them, and- well, she might have been beautiful once, but there was the same thing inside of her as in Riku, something ugly, only hers wasn't tempered by kindness or friendship. It was in her eyes, the way she looked at them like they were just- useful, maybe. Not like they were people.
Kairi couldn't look away, but she couldn't bring herself to say anything either. What would she even tell Riku?
So Kairi kept silent when she should have spoken up. And Riku laid their story at Maleficent's feet, as Kairi had laid it down to others, in other worlds. He told her about the keyblade, about- the one they were looking for.
Maleficent smiled even wider, teeth showing. "I believe we can come to an arrangement," she said.
She told them a lot of things. She told them that she believed Kairi to be a Princess of Heart. That Riku was the keyblade's chosen hero.
(Neither of them mentioned that Kairi could hold the keyblade too)
Kairi went with Riku at first. She took the keyblade sometimes. She wasn't as good with it as he was, but she learned fast. Not fast enough, though. Riku was more impatient with her every day. Sometimes he snapped thoughtlessly. Sometimes he wouldn't even give her the keyblade. He'd just keep slicing at Heartless, over and over again, seeming to forget she was there until something tried to attack her and she screamed. Then he'd snap out of it, say "Kairi," and come rescue her.
One day, he refused to take her with him.
"I want to come," she said, stamping her feet in the way that always worked on-
"You'd-" kinda be in my way "-just be a distraction."
It's true that she's in the way more and more; Riku is battling heartless everywhere, left and right, and she can't fight like he can. Maleficent gave her a few spells, but they fizzle half the time anyway. Kairi is not a mage or a fighter, it seems.
Maleficent scared Kairi. There was a hungry look in her eyes, like she wanted to eat Kairi. Kairi refused to show her fear, though.
Maleficent wanted to give Riku the power to control Heartless. Kairi thought how much faster everything would go if they didn’t have to take turns with the keyblade, fighting off shadows at every turn. She thought of the darkness slowly engulfing Riku.
“Give it to me, instead,” she said, thinking of Riku’s eyes gleaming gold in the gloom, of an island swallowed whole by darkness.
“What?” Riku said, and for the moment his eyes were just green.
“You have the keyblade,” she said quietly. “Let me have this one thing, Riku. To protect myself.” That wasn’t her reason. That wasn’t even close to her reason. It wasn’t her that needed protecting from the darkness.
Maleficent leaned over her, towering and malevolent. “No,” she said. “There is no way to give you this power.” She took Kairi’s chin in her hand, all false gentleness in front of Riku. “You’re a princess of light. You have no darkness. The Heartless will never obey you.”
“I’ll be careful,” Riku said, as Kairi pulled back from Maleficent. “Kairi- you don’t have to worry about me.” And Kairi knows then that her lie wasn’t successful anyway. She’s never been good at lying. She’s never needed to be.
He moved to kiss her like he had the night of the raft. She pulled away.
“Not until we find him,” she said, and he nodded like it made sense, like it had to be the three of them, together, or none of them, even in this.
Riku embraced the darkness. Kairi just hoped everything would be okay.
Kairi stayed with Maleficent for a long time, while Riku was out looking for the other princesses. Mostly she stayed in the library, reading book after book. Riku was out gathering the princesses of heart. The other princesses of heart.
Kairi still didn’t know what it meant, that she was a Princess of Heart. She just knew that the strangeness in everyone else was darkness, and that it couldn’t touch her the way it could them.
This was less comforting than it seemed. Because Riku was slipping away from her, a little more each day, and she couldn't follow him where he was going; she couldn't even understand what was driving him there.
She wasn’t sure what to make of their plan. She didn’t trust Maleficent’s word, that the Princesses would be able to get them to Kingdom Hearts. That Kingdom Hearts would even help them find-
She cannot remember his name. But she’s sure, now, that there was another boy. This story makes no sense without him. However she twists it around, there had to have been three of them. She knows she is remembering it all wrong, anyway, that things didn't happen this way, but she’s certain that someone is missing from this story.
Her memories skip forward over weeks and weeks in the library, weeks spent thinking of her grandmother, who she had forgotten until this library brought those memories to the surface. Kairi was sure that she had been to this world before, but the memories were too fragmented to help her figure out anything about her past. She's never needed her past, anyway- she knows she belonged on Destiny Islands, now, no matter where she came from. She belonged with Riku. She belonged with-
In the present, she rubs her head. She is getting a headache.
Kairi has lived with blank spots in her memory ever since she came to the island. She is used to her memories being untrustworthy, full of holes. She came to the islands with a head full of half-remembered fairy tales and not much else. So it isn't as alarming for her as it might have been, that an entire person seems to have been written out of her memories. That her heart is full of feelings for someone whose name she can't remember.
It is still a little alarming. And she can't help but wonder- where is this person now? Where did they go?
The person in front of her wasn't Riku. He said he was Ansem, the seeker of darkness, and Kairi had known something was wrong with Riku for the past week or so. He'd been acting weird. But she hadn't known what was the matter, and now he was possessed and she didn't know what to do. She stood still, frozen, as he raised a keyblade that reeked of darkness, as he lowered it again to point at her heart.
She doesn’t remember anything that comes after that, nothing until she woke safe again on the islands. But she knows she was rescued. She knows Riku was rescued. And she thinks, maybe it’s backwards in her head, maybe they always the ones who needed saving. Her mind is making sense of the gaps as best it can, but the boy who is missing is too vital to the story; there are holes that can’t be filled.
She thinks, they’re still out there. She thinks that they aren’t safe, and-
Kairi does not despair. Kairi doesn’t know how to despair. She thinks now, knowing what she does, that maybe despair is darkness, and because she has no darkness, there are certain things she just can’t feel. Despair, jealousy, defeat. If that's darkness- if that's what took Riku from her- she wants nothing to do with those emotions anyway.
She wants them here, wants to see Riku smile, and the other boy laugh, and for everything to be okay again. Maybe it’s just a delusion, but she believes it will happen. She can’t even imagine a future where they don’t come back.
She has hope. Maybe that will bring them home. Maybe her hope can shine like a beacon and bring them back.
But that’s not enough. She itches to do something, anything that might help, even if it’s unlikely.
She sends a letter in the bottle to a boy she cannot remember, because the story isn’t over. The story cannot be over until he and Riku return safely. She cannot remember the other boy, but she still feels his absence keenly. She feels both of their absences keenly.
It is only days later when she remembers it all, remembers the real story of what happened, and then she smiles and thinks, Sora. She knows then that they will return to her, no matter how long it takes.
“Come on, Riku,” Kairi says, taking the keyblade Riku offers her. For a moment she remembers two histories, two paths. Had she ever held a keyblade before in this one?
She dismisses that thought, because what matters is right here, right now.
“You know Sora’s hopeless without us,” she says. Silently, she adds: We were hopeless without him.