* * *
All Things Nice
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts is not mine.

AN: AKA how they actually managed to hook up in the first place. (i.e. badly).

* * *

They're sprawled out in the sand and waiting for Riku to come back with fresh water from the falls near the center of the play island when Sora rolls over ostentatiously enough that Kairi sits up in recognition and sends him a sideways glance. He props his head in his hands, kicks his feet a little, and then says, "You know you're gonna have to learn how to fight."

Kairi flexes her fingers, thinks about the hum of her keyblade in her hand, thinks about the weird pulse of energy that thrummed through her skin when a heartless fell beneath her blade. "You don't think I did okay?" she asks, teasing, and Sora snorts and wiggles a little.

"Weeeeell," he says, not quite a drawl and not quite hedging, "I didn't see much, but it kinda looked like Riku was halfway swatting away the heartless and halfway dodging you."

Her aim when smacking Sora upside the head has always been flawless.

"Yeah, like that!" he says brightly, and she rolls her eyes and waves Riku over, making a complicated gesture with her hands that takes Riku a minute to process.

Then he obediently dumps the bucket of water over Sora's head, and she leans back in the sand and feels mildly proud about her first successful joint attack while a spluttering Sora chases Riku in ever-tightening circles around the remains of their campfire.

Predictably, they fall into it.

* * *

Under Sora's careful tutelage, she learns to hold a blade, to twist and feint and parry and, when all else fails, how to slowly and steadily beat an opponent to death. His voice and hands don't falter as he points out weak points, teaches her to go for vulnerable places, and forces her to swing a wooden sword against a palm tree until her hands are sore and red and her arms and head are aching from things she doesn't quite recall and could never forget.

Sora holds her up when she finally collapses, half-sickened and close to tears, and she thinks she might like to kiss him someday, when her lips aren't acid-burnt and her eyes aren't puffy and streaming.

"It gets better," he says softly, petting her hair with awkwardly shy boy-hands, "I promise, most of our enemies are just Heartless and Nobodies and they really don't bleed..."

But Kairi remembers claws on her skin and slicing through soft folds of silk and satin, and the bloom of crimson on pale flesh as Belle stumbled, the way Jasmine's hands and staff had snapped up, shredding the heartless to shadow and burning it away, and how much hard muscle flowing skirts can conceal, and pushes his hands away.

He blinks up at her in surprise when she clambers to her feet and reaches for the sword again.

"Again," she says firmly, because everyone has to battle for their happy ending, and she already knows she's woefully underprepared for everything she's already known.

Although he's by far the strongest mage on the islands, Sora's attempts to teach her magic leave Riku running for a bucket and salt water while she desperately tries to smother the accidental inferno with sand and their abandoned shirts. In the end, Sora flings his hands in the air and meanders away, and comes back dragging a half-protesting Riku, who nevertheless never bothers to exert enough effort to actually get away from him.

"Teach her!"

And they both stare at him for a while, at his doofy grin and complete certainty that they know exactly what he's talking about, and she realizes for this first time that she's back on that perfect wavelength with Riku again, finally, half exasperated and half confused, and it's all she can do to bite down a grin as they both reach out and simultaneously slap Sora upside the head.

"Ack, ack, stoppit!" he cries, slapping at their hands remarkably ineffectively for someone who's supposed to be such an awesome warrior. "I already know I suck at it!"

And then they have to drop their hands and exchange a long glance and a shrug, because he really kind of does. Sora blathers on about 'feeling the elements' and 'reshaping your will' and 'think of how awesome it is to smash things with fire!' which, while admittedly sounding impressive, doesn't exactly show her how to do it, or what makes throwing ice any different than summoning lightning, or the difference in power between a shield and a summon. Every time he demonstrates, she stares at him blankly, and her imitative effects have so far tended to wind up blinding them both or, occasionally, setting things on fire.

...maybe a change will be good.

* * *

As it turns out, the change is mostly weird.

Riku can't use proper elemental magic at all, not the usual way. Everything comes out wonky, save for his one Cure spell, which isn't a proper Cure at all, for all that it blossoms like one. Instead, it's an odd combination of potion and spell - when Sora casts Curaga, she can feel the aches wash away, but when Riku casts, there's a disconcerting flare of shadowlight that coalesces into something that feels like a potion but sizzles when it hits and sinks beneath the skin to drag together split skin and shattered bone.

When she presses, he mutters something about balance and elements and needing both darkness and light to draw on them both simultaneously, that's why you don't get proper mages out of princesses of heart or beings of pure darkness.

"Can't you?" she asks, and he shrugs a little.

"Not really. Whenever I try it just comes out as light or darkness instead."

"That's still something," she points out, reaching over to poke him in the arm. "Have you ever tried?"

"Tried what?"

"Healing yourself with light. Or darkness, I guess."

Riku stiffens, glances away, and shifts uncomfortably, all without moving an inch. Kairi tilts her head to the side, studying him, and waits. "...can't," he admits finally, "you don't--it needs--ergh."

He rakes a hand through his hair in a rare gesture of frustration, and she can tell he's trying to think of a translation for something he understands but can't put into words.

He's been doing that a lot, lately.

After another long moment, he says, abruptly, "I can't do it 'cause I'm a freak and you can't do it 'cause you're all light."

"...you can conjure the potions, though," she observes softly. "How come you can do it but I can't?"

"It's... kind of a long story."

"I'm listening," she says quietly, and he rakes another hand through his hair before folding his arms across his chest and starting to speak.

The story's not as long as he thinks it is, and it's funny, in places. She likes listening to him, hearing about what he's done and where he's been and everything he's seen, because Sora bubbles over with stories but Riku shies away from talking about things for reasons that don't really make any sense, because he has nothing to be ashamed of, not anymore.

They'll let him keep his regret, but weakness isn't a sin, and someday they'll make him realize it.

She looks at him for a long minute after he's finished, the slouch in his shoulders and the way his bangs fall to hide his eyes, then says lightly, "So that makes us both magically crippled. I guess that leaves Sora one thing to gloat about, since you're the prettiest and I'm the brains of the operation."

It wins her a hint of a smile. "Really now. You think I'm prettier than Sora?"

"You're definitely prettier than Sora, but Sora's cuter than you, so it balances out. Both of you are equally stupid, though, so that makes me the smart one, and because I'm the smart one, that means you should do as I say."

"That makes you the bossy one, not the smart one."

"It's because I'm the smart one that I get to be bossy, and as the smart one I say you show me what you do and I figure out what I can do from there."

"Bossy bossy," Riku says, and slips away from her hands before she can smack him upside the head.

So instead of trying to explain balance or attempting to cast ice or lightning, which he can't do anyway, Riku just grabs a handful of darkness, again and again until she can see and understand how to hold pure essence in her hands, and then stops and waits through her fumbling attempts to do the same with her light. He's good at that, too, because Riku is annoyingly adept at anything that serves to destroy things, and she'd be crankier about it except it's saved his life she doesn't know how many times over, so she swallows down the annoyance and teases him for it instead, because from everything she's heard he's a walking impossibility--"freak" she hears again, and thinks, viciously, boys are so stupid--but she won't let him treat himself that way, she just won't.

Sora knows how to channel his power, direct it and guide it and call on the light to aid him, but Riku's the only one she knows who casts barehanded, but he's not the only one who can.

After she's finally convinced him that she won't accidentally explode any trees (it was one single paopu, once and Sora didn't stop giggling for almost an hour) Riku finally shows her how to shape it to attack ("The king called it 'Pearl'," he murmurs softly, guiding her hands through the motions, "Queen Minnie invented it.") or defend ("Snap it up! It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be fast!").

The first night when she manages to blast a sapling clear into oblivion, she jumps into his arms and gives a triumphant shriek when he's proud enough and feeling silly enough to twirl her around in the moonlight, but not silly enough to do it more than once.

"Thank you," she says softly, once her feet are back on the ground, and she doesn't mind the flicker of shadow in his pretty eyes as he tries to look away from her. But he's being silly and shy and uncertain again, so she tugs on his soft silver hair until he looks back and steals her second kiss from his surprised lips.

It's been two weeks since she first kissed him in the classroom, she thinks, and that's more than enough waiting, now that she can finally attack on her own, now that she's no longer halfway helpless even with a blade in her hand.

Their first kiss tasted of salt, but their second tastes like sunsets and dawns and darkness and old pain and the promise of new things, and even though he's too-quiet and still in her grip, she's patient, nestling closer and pressing her face to his chest, just holding him and not letting go. Naminé stirs softly in the back of her mind, and she lets her slide forward and hold on too.

You did this before, she says softly, warm with the memory of it, a white room and a black blindfold and her hands carding through long pale hair. After he...

Yes, Naminé murmurs, to keep the bad things away. He's too good for them.

He doesn't believe it, she answers, sorrow reflected and echoed in the warmth of their shared heart. He thinks he can't be forgiven, or he shouldn't be.

Silly of him, Naminé agrees. It's not his choice.

Do you think he'll want us back?

They don't need to open her eyes to see the war inside his head, because Riku is an awful liar--he's too sincere for it, and anyone who can't tell just isn't looking hard enough.

Do you think he'll let himself if he does?

It's a long, quiet eternity while they hold him, while Naminé runs her fingers down the black chain link of memory and then slides back softly until she's just a ghost-touch against her mind, quiet with her own secrets and a soft sadness that tastes like joy and tears.

He's shy and careful and intensely solemn when his arms finally wrap around her, but it doesn't take much to convince him to spend the rest of the night with his head on her lap and her hands in his hair. Somewhere past midnight, she feels him shudder, and she squeezes him tight as he cries. She's a little embarrassed when she starts crying too, and once he starts a fumbling attempt to comfort her while he's still swiping at his eyes, they both dissolve into helpless, slightly hysterical laughter and more kisses, tentative at first, and then softer and smoother and calmer, and it feels like coming home at last, slow and peaceful and sweet.

"Riku?"

"Hmm?"

"Stay with me."

"...you..."

"Shh. You're mine too, remember?"

She rolls over and drapes herself across his chest, leaning down to rest her forehead against his and stare into his uncertain eyes. "Shh," she murmurs again, kissing his nose softly, feeling her own lashes droop with exhaustion and contentment, the warm thrum of his heartbeat singing through to her own. "I'll keep you safe. We love you."

It's... kind of a terrifying thing to say out loud, and she's sure that she's bright bright red, but Riku is kind of dense sometimes and needs a lot of coaxing to accept the things that will make him happy.

At least she and Sora haven't had to forcibly tackle and pin him to keep him from doing something stupid and self-sacrificing again. Yet.

His eyes widen just a little, and she smiles for him, Naminé's smile, their smile, the smile they share for all the beautiful boys that they love.

It would probably be more romantic if she weren't still red, but when she kisses him again, she knows he'll stay.

She wakes up in the morning curled underneath his arm, and his sleepy smile of greeting makes her feel precious and beautiful despite the gumminess in her eyes and the grime of a night spent out on the sands. "You were up all night, weren't you?" she accuses, giving him a glare, and swats at him when he just shrugs.

"I'll be okay - it's not like I haven't not-slept before."

"Not the point, Riku," she grumbles, and straightens up with a yawn, stretching and discreetly trying to adjust her bra. He looks anyway, which is kind of immensely gratifying and totally embarrassing all at once. "We've got school first, and then Sora to catch. Busy day!"

He stares at her. She stares back, because she knows he's just as sick of waiting for Sora to catch on as she is, and at this rate Sora will never get the hint and she'd like to have kids before she's forty. "What? We do!"

"Today?" he asks, a bit slowly, "like, today today?"

"I'd like to catch our boyfriend before we're old people," she says crisply, despite the fact that she can feel her cheeks heat even as she speaks the words, and then stands there and marvels as Riku slowly turns pink, because even when he's blushing he's still pretty. It would be infuriating if it weren't so nice to watch, the way he fidgets and glances down and toes the ground and okay, fine, she's sixteen and they've been waiting for half of forever and it's a little bit ridiculous, everything is.

First-thing-in-the-morning kisses don't taste very nice, Kairi discovers, but they feel awesome.

* * *

Riku walks her back home like a gentleman, and helps her scramble through her open window, and even though it's utterly silly she blows him kisses as he turns away and in one swift motion leaps the fence and streaks away into the shadows.

"He's ours," she whispers fifteen minutes later to her blonde-headed reflection, straightening her school tie, "they both are. We can win this, and then they'll never leave us again."

Naminé's answering smile is luminous and steel-edged, and Kairi thinks of sketches and false worlds and the sound of a lonely heart beating.

Desire is desire and they're not children, not really, not any longer, not even Sora.

* * *

She takes catnaps during class, gets detention for the first time, and has to stay after school and be scolded by an incredulous teacher, but it's more than worth it, she knows, feeling the thrum of her own power under her skin, and remembering the slow thrill of Riku's darkness twining with her light.

Well, that and the kisses. And the quick grope she'd managed to sneak in. Riku hadn't seemed to mind, if his snort of laughter and answering speculative tug at the hem of her dress was anything to go by.

Sora and Riku are waiting for her in the Secret Place, she knows, so she breezes past Selphie with a sheepish smile and heads out to the island. By the time she gets there, she's more than a little giddy and seriously overtired, and she isn't sure who of the three of them is more surprised when she flings her arms around Riku and drags him down into a slow, hungry kiss that means that everything is all right and she still wants him and that they haven't made a mistake, because this is right.

When they finally part, Sora's staring at the two of them with an enormous fragile smile and a faint glitter of tears in his eyes, but his expression melts into something adorably gobsmacked when she curls her arms around his waist and slants her mouth against his, which is when he starts making confused murfing noises and Riku starts to laugh like he hasn't in forever, in much too long, and she pulls back with a satisfied smile and a formal curtsy for them both, her gallant heroes and dashing boyfriends and idiot best friends.

"What-" Sora tries rather helplessly, and then promptly shuts up when Riku sweeps in, tilts his head back, and kisses him like the world is ending again. But things are different this time, because now he's ready to reach out and cling just as hard as he wants to, because everything is all right. Now Riku knows that he can't break them, now he knows that they're going to cling back just as hard and never ever let him go away again.

She's never seen anything quite so pretty, and when they finally part, Sora looks so bewildered and happy and Riku so unbearably smug that she has to laugh, long and hard and gleeful, and she throws herself at them, her lovely boys, and doesn't care about anything, not about school or her friends or her father or her reputation, because these are her boys, her beautiful beautiful boys, and she loves them so much that it feels like she's bursting from the inside out, like her heart is unlocking again and blossoming into something beautiful.

She settles down between them, plopped on the sand like a child, and snuggles against them both, one hand sliding down Riku's thigh, one hand threading up Sora's shirt, laughing at them both as they squirm and flush beneath her touch. She flexes her fingers into stiff uniform fabric, thinking of the new calluses on her palm and fingertips, thinking of the brokenness in their eyes, thinking of Naminé's smile.

We're going to protect them, she says softly, because they're silly boys who can't take care of themselves.

No more waiting for them, Naminé agrees, and they nod decisively at each other in the stillness of their mind. Protect them both, because they fought so hard for us and for everyone.

I'm sick of being saved, Kairi says softly, and Naminé turns her eyes down and bites her lip, and it's enough to make her take two steps forward and curl her arms around her, hold her shadow of a shadow close and breathe in the soft scent of her hair.

You have to fight too, she reminds her gently, we can't be afraid of our own power anymore.

Naminé stiffens, but Kairi kisses her cheek softly and rocks her a little. We deserve to use our own power for our own reasons, she says, it's ours and now that we know how, we should use it.

I know, she murmurs against her throat, I want to protect them - all of them, all the ones I hurt -

You know they don't think of it that way, they never did - they love you too, you worked so hard to save us all -

And that's why, she says firmly, looking up at her again, and Kairi's not at all surprised at the brilliance there, sweet sharp stubbornness and the flash of a thousand lights in her eyes, that's why we're going to protect them even if they don't want us to. We owe it to them and to us to fight our enemies and win.

But Sora is nuzzling her hair, and Riku is tugging on the hem of her uniform skirt, so she gives Naminé one last squeeze and folds herself back into reality.

"What did Naminé say?" Sora asks softly, blue eyes luminous, and she smiles to see a quick flicker, just the faintest hint of Roxas there. She leans over and kisses him on the cheek in Naminé's place, because it's nowhere near the same but he should still be her boy too, and she has to laugh at his disoriented expression as the two of them shuffle places again, resettling down into something like normality tinged by embarrassment, because Roxas is still learning to adjust to having a heart again too, and sometimes it seems like he still doesn't quite know what to make of it.

"That's a secret," she coos, tugging on an unruly brown spike, all Sora again and grinning, "so you're never gonna know."

"Aww, please?" He bats his big blue eyes at her imploringly and it doesn't look half as ridiculous as it should. "I'll buy you candy!"

"Uh-uh. No way I'm telling."

Riku snorts softly, reaching over to flick both of their noses. "Sora, you probably don't wanna know. I bet it's girl stuff."

"Girl stuff?"

She turns a soft, brilliant smile on Riku, and leans over to kiss him too, soft and light and gentle. Such a sweet boy, her pretty twilight boy, and Sora the light to his shade. Now that she knows how, she's ready to do for them what they've done for her, and there's nothing they can do to stop her.

"Mmhmm," she agrees softly, humming a little as she resettles herself against them, between them, with them, exactly the way it should always be. "Just girl stuff, that's all."

For them, she'll learn to destroy.

* * *

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