Series: Kingdom Hearts
Characters: Kairi, Riku
Type: One shot
Summary: A girl had been found at dawn, washed up on the shore. Half-dead, they said, and she didn't remember a thing except her name, had nothing of her home except the clothes on her back.
Notes: Requested by lingers. Prompt: Kairi and Riku, the girl who fell from the sky.
There was a meteor shower that night. Sora and Riku had watched it together, lying on their backs in the sand, each squinting up at the stars for a split-second glimpse of a shooting star.
"There!" said Sora, jabbing his finger at the sky.
By the time Riku looked, it was already gone. "Where? I didn't see it."
"Ri-ku," the six-year-old huffed. "That's the third time already. You gotta pay attention! They're all coming from that direction."
Riku rolled onto his stomach and rested his chin on his hands. There was an eerie quiet on the beach, even the waves lapping against the shore sounding muted. Like the world was holding its breath, waiting for something to happen.
Nah, he had to be imagining things. Only Sora would think of something dumb like that.
After a while, the hypnotic lights seemed to subside, and Sora amused himself by tipping sand from his sandals. Riku kept a lookout in case they started up again.
"Hey, Riku? What are shooting stars?"
"Um," Riku scrunched his face up. Sora seemed convinced he knew everything, being the older of the two of them. "They're stars that fall out of the sky, right? Or they wouldn't be called stars."
"Where do they land? Or do they just fall through the sky forever?"
Riku shrugged. "I don't know."
Sora slipped his sandals back on and lay back, linking his arms behind his head. "That'd be sad, don't you think? I hope they find a way back up to the sky."
"They're just stars. You're weird."
"Am not." Sora pouted.
"Yeah?" Riku suddenly lunged forwards and tickled Sora's sides, which ended the argument quickly enough. Sora tried to look angry but descended into a fit of giggles and pleas for mercy.
Then he noticed something over his shoulder, and his eyes widened. "Hey, Riku?"
"Not gonna fall for it."
"No, really, look! The stars."
Riku looked around. His mouth fell open.
Shooting stars had punched a hole through a clump of clouds, heading straight down for the sea on the horizon. This close, they were huge, white-blue balls leaving streaks behind them against the sky.
"Wow," he said.
"Wow," Sora agreed.
The first hit the sea, though from this distance, it was difficult to see the splash, but the light died. Then another, and another.
"Um..." Sora stood up. "Shouldn't we get inside? Those are kinda close."
Riku was enraptured. He'd never seen anything so strange – or beautiful. It was unearthy. "What, are you scared?"
"No." The younger boy was indignant. To prove it, he sat back down beside him.
The next morning, there was a huge fuss about the village. A girl had been found at dawn, washed up on the shore. Half-dead, they said, and she didn't remember a thing except her name, had nothing of her home except the clothes on her back. She belonged to none of the families on the islands, and no one came to claim her. In the end it was the mayor himself, a kind and generous man, who took responsibility for her.
"Maybe there was a storm last night," Riku's mother had suggested, "and her boat was destroyed. Poor thing."
"There wasn't," Riku replied. "Me and Sora stayed up late and didn't see any signs of one. Just shooting stars."
"Hmm," she'd said, which could have meant any number of things.
Every day Sora dragged Riku along to bang the elaborate knocker on the mayor's front door, carved in the shape of a star. And every day he would be told she was still weak and needed time to recover her strength and memory. He wouldn't be dissuaded and just kept going back and going back, like a stray cat that wanted in the house but was always turned away. Finally, over a month later, she was allowed to go out and get some fresh air. Sora immediately took her in a boat, as his way of showing her around.
She was called Kairi, and she had dusk-red hair and vacant blue eyes. She was pale, too, with that frail look of the recently sick. Yet she seemed to be happy to have company, and even smiled, once or twice, as Sora introduced them to their play island. Riku hung back all the while, not exactly shy, but not sure what to make of this new arrival and the constant object of Sora's attentions.
Eventually, though, he was unable to suppress his curiosity. "So where are you from?"
Kairi blinked at him shyly, and then pointed out to sea.
"I know you washed up here. But where's your home? You can't be from the sea unless you were a fish."
"Or a mermaid," Sora interjected.
"Mermaids are make-believe," Riku said matter-of-factly. "And she doesn't have a fin like one even if they were real."
"You say everything is make-believe," Sora kicked the sand, but his aim was only half-hearted. He'd never been good at getting angry.
Kairi looked at a loss to this back-and-forth. She tried again, and pointed this time at the sky.
"I knew it! You're a star, aren't you?" Sora said. "And you fell from up there that night."
The girl looked at her shoes.
"I don't remember."
The two did a double take – this was the first time she'd talked to either of them.
"Oh, that's right," said Sora. "You have am... amny... am-knees..."
"Right, what Riku said."
Kairi nodded quietly.
"Well, that's okay! Even if you're a mermaid or a fallen star, we'll make sure you like it here."
Riku was about to remind him that stars didn't take the shape of children and mermaids really didn't exist, but Sora had already taken Kairi's hand and was dragging her off to show her the secret place.
Their secret place.
Without asking him if it was okay, or if he wanted to go.
He watched them crawl into the entrance by the waterfall, and suddenly he felt angry without knowing why. He took his boat from the dock and went home without them.
Riku was tossing pebbles and shells into the sea when a bright yellow figure dropped into the sand beside him. "Heeey, where's Sora today? Is he sick?"
Riku gave him a disinterested glance. It was Wakka, someone he knew from his grade at school, but he spent his time with Tidus and Selphie. They shared the island, but Riku spent most of his time with Sora. He'd probably thought it was unusual to see him alone. "He's playing with the new girl."
Sora had invited him to come too, but he'd made an excuse to get out of it. They'd decided they were going to play knights and princesses today, and there was no doubt Riku would get relegated to the role of evil dragon. Before, Sora and Riku would have both been the knights, going on imaginary adventures and battling the forces of evil. Three's a crowd, he'd heard his father say once, and now he was starting to understand what that meant.
"They get on pretty well, ya?"
"You can play tag with me, Tidus and Selphie, if you wanna."
"I don't really feel like tag."
Wakka gave him an odd look. "You sure, brudda?"
"Uh huh. Go have fun."
Wakka shrugged and ran off back to five-year-olds Tidus and Selphie. (The former was currently crying because the latter had stolen his ball.) The more Riku thought of that new girl, the more he wished she'd never shown up. He wanted things to go back to the way they were, when it was just him and Sora. He felt like he'd had his best friend stolen away, by the girl who fell from the sky.
They even spent all their time together at school. Kairi was in the same grade as Sora, and in the same class. They even sat next to one another, when on Kairi's first day Sora told the teacher they'd made friends. He could only imagine that made them closer and closer friends, while Riku was alone. Sure, the other kids liked him, but he wasn't friends with everyone the way Sora was. There wasn't anyone else he could just hang out with, and if it was with Wakka and the other two... Well, if three's a crowd, four's an even bigger one.
He walked home alone as usual, one balmy Thursday evening after school. Other kids were running and shouting with friends as they headed home, or else walking hand-in-hand with their parents. Not that it bothered him; he was used to this by now.
Except not really. He hated it, and he felt miserable and lonely, even if he didn't want to tell anyone.
From the volcanic mountains on the other side of the island, there flowed a river, which cut through the village and out to sea. A small wooden bridge crossed it and led further into the village. Today, there were figures on it. Two boys, and a girl with familiar dusky hair.
His footsteps ground to a halt. He didn't want to talk to her, or look at her – even seeing her now was making him angry. Sora, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen, and he didn't recognise either of the boys with her.
Their voices drifted down the road, shouting in sing-song tones and laughing.
"Alien girl! Fell from the sky!"
"Alien girl! Does nothing but cry!"
She was crying, her face visibly red from here, and she backed up against the railings. There was nowhere for her to run: both boys had blocked either way off the bridge, and if she jumped, she'd get hurt from the drop. Nor could she fight, because both were older and bigger than her.
Fine by me, a spiteful part of Riku thought. She's done nothing but steal my friend ever since she got here. I wish she'd jump in the river and get washed back out to sea.
One of the boys shoved at her. She clung to the rails and screamed, terrified she was going to be pushed off. When it didn't work, the other boy tore her schoolbag from her hands. He held it over the rails, dangling by a single strap over the water.
"Give it back!" she sobbed, voice cracking with tears and anger. "Don't!"
"Don't! Don't!" said the other boy, putting on a high-pitched voice that was supposed to be an imitation of a girl. He was practically dancing on the spot with glee.
Riku felt his hands curl into fists. Even if he didn't like the girl, this – this went too far. He broke into a run, just as one of the boys yanked one of her pigtails and she tried to shove him off.
"Hey!" he shouted, and instantly the two boys' heads whipped around with the obvious guilt of being caught red-handed. One still held the bag, the other, Kairi's hair. Riku stopped at the end of the bridge, his blood pounding in his ears. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"
The boys exchanged uneasy glances, sizing the situation up. Riku had a reputation: he could easily take out two boys at once.
One of the boys let go of Kairi's hair and ran off. "We're not interested in your stupid girlfriend anyway!"
The other boy gave a nasty sneer that told Riku he'd pay for interfering later – and let go of the bag, gave the girl one last shove, and followed after.
"Get back here! You're pathetic, picking on a girl like that! When I catch you, I'll—"
"No!" Kairi wasn't interested in her assailants, more concerned about the pastel blue rucksack now drifting away on the water.
Riku was livid. When he tried to cross the bridge, though, Kairi blocked his way. Her face was red and swollen with crying, but she wore a look of determination. "P-Please, leave them. I don't want them to h-hit you too."
"What?" This just made him angrier. Why was she defending them? He tried to sidestep her, but she just barred his way again. "Move, stupid! They're getting away!"
Stupid seemed to be the last insult the girl could bear, and her determination broke into fresh tears. "I k-knew you didn't like me! I knew it! You're always so mean!" She turned and ran, off the bridge and along the river bank, and after her bag.
Today was going from bad to worse, he thought, as he gave chase. The bag hadn't gone far – the current wasn't fast or dangerous. Still, she was kicking her shoes off and was about to jump in. Riku arrived just in time to grab her arm.
"You can't swim," he said. "It's just a bag. Don't risk it."
Kairi turned her face up to him, blinking her angry watery eyes. "It's not just any bag. I have to get it."
He sighed, watching the bag's progress as it bobbed along. Then it bumped against a rock and was temporarily halted. "Fine. Wait here."
"Wait. Here." When she nodded mutely, he jumped in the water. It was icy cold compared to the dry, hot afternoon air, making him shudder as he was submerged up to his waist. He waded towards the rock, careful not to go too fast and lose his footing on the mud, sand and rock that made up the riverbed. Kairi watched, anxious. Even as he snatched up the dripping bag from the water and made his way back across, she uttered not a word. He reached the other side and she helped him climb back onto the bank.
"Thank you," she said. As he stood there shivering, she took the bag and checked the insides. Thankfully it was made of mostly waterproof material and her belongings seemed, for the most part, undamaged.
He wrung river water out of the bottom of his shirt and shorts. "No problem. I hate bullies. I can't believe they'd pick on you like that."
"You hate me too," she said softly, not meeting his eyes.
"That's not—" He started, and stopped. Yeah, so it was true. He'd been avoiding Sora, brooding on the feeling of being replaced, being not good enough, being not interesting enough as a girl with no past.
"Sora says you've stopped talking to him ever since we became friends. I..."
"I was jealous," he said plainly. "I don't hate you. I barely even know you."
She looked up at him, eyes wide. "Then, can we start over?"
"If you don't hate me for how I've acted." He tried for a smile. "I'm Riku."
"I'm Kairi." She smiled back – a tiny, reluctant thing, like she wasn't sure if she was being teased again.
"Okay, Kairi." He'd thought of her as 'that girl' for so long, it was a little odd – but nice – to use her real name for once. "I'll walk you home, in case those idiots show up again."
They headed to the beach along the way, Riku wanting to sprawl out in the sun for a while to dry out his clothes. If he went straight home in his current state, his parents would ask questions about why he was wet, and his explanation would lead to another telling-off about getting into fights. He got enough of those as it was. Beside him, Kairi laid out her slightly damp pencil case and notebook to dry out in the sun as well.
"So why's that bag so important to you?"
"Hm?" Kairi looked up from where she'd been staring at her knees, still a little gloomy. "Oh, it's... It's one of the first things my parents ever gave to me."
"My parents... My new parents. So it's very precious to me. I don't know what I'd tell them if I lost it so soon."
Oh. Of course. He took it for granted everyone had an ordinary, happy family – well, except for maybe Tidus – and it didn't even occur to him that the mayor and his wife weren't, of course, Kairi's real parents. Her real parents were mermaids or stars or whatever else Sora had made up.
"So you don't remember your old parents yet?"
"Or where you came from?"
She shook her head, looking ever gloomier. "That's why I get teased. Everyone thinks I'm weird because I don't know who I am or where I'm from. Everyone except Sora. He's been so nice to me."
Was that why Sora hadn't left Kairi's side? Because he wanted her to know she had someone there for her? That would be so like him.
"I don't think you're weird either."
Kairi sniffed and blinked at him. "Huh?"
Riku looked out at the horizon. "Everyone here is so boring. They just follow the crowd and copy everyone else. If anyone acts any differently, it's such a big deal." He would know – his talents as top of the class, at winning every game and play fight, at fishing and rowing and running – they might have earned him respect, but they also isolated him from others. "Everything is the same. But you're different."
"I'm weird," she hung her head.
"No," he said. "Different. Interesting. Who knows who you could be, or where you're from? Somewhere more exciting than this, that's for sure."
Kairi looked dubious, but smiled all the same. "Maybe..."
"And you're a lot nicer than some of the kids around here. I'm glad you're our friend."
"Our?" her eyes widened.
"Me and Sora, of course. We're best buds. I think I can handle having you around as well."
She wiped her eyes with shaky hands. He must have said the wrong thing, because without warning she burst out into tears again.
"Hey, hey, don't cry, I didn't mean to..."
Whatever he didn't mean to do, he couldn't think of, but she saved him replying. She flung herself at him in a hug, burying her face in his chest to muffle her sobs.
Girls are so weird.
He patted her hair awkwardly until she calmed down, and she gave a shuddery laugh. "I've been so scared... ever since I got here. Not knowing anyone or anything, being teased, and then I thought you hated me, and then... Now I have two really nice friends, and I..." She gave a hiccup.
"Of course," he said. "Me and Sora will be here for you, like I said."
"What if I get taken away to another place again?"
"We won't let that happen."
"Really. Destiny Islands is your home now, right?"
"Mm," she nodded. "Though I wonder if I can go back one day... to wherever I came from."
"We could find it," said Riku. "When we're older and know more stuff. That would be an adventure. Not just playing."
"And then we could find out if I'm really a fallen star," she laughed. "But I don't mind playing..."
"Well, we can play whenever we want."
Kairi looked hopeful. "You'll play knights and princesses with me and Sora this time?"
"Only if Sora's the princess," Riku grinned, standing up. "We can rescue him together."
"Yes! That'd be fun." Kairi stood up too, in such a hurry she almost forgot her things. She gave him one last hug – whether as thanks or reassurance or something else, he didn't know – and then she was gone, dashing off ahead to Sora's house. Her prized backpack bounced off her back, and her pigtails waved in the breeze.
Girls really were weird. But in the case of the girl who fell from the sky, Riku decided that wasn't such a bad thing after all.