“Radiant Gardens really come a long way, hasn't it?” Sora spun the wheel of the console, tilting the ship as they came in for the descent. Outside the windshield, tall uneven towers whizzed past, their windows boasting huge wreaths of flowers in every color of the rainbow. From the roofs, little flags with rainbow stripes fluttered in the wind. All of the bright hues almost made his eyes hurt. That just made him smile wider.
“It's so colorful!” Kairi exclaimed, pressed to the window of the gummiship.
“And you're sure we were invited?” Riku asked as he leaned against the back of Sora’s seat.
“Riku!” Sora leaned back, tilting his chin up so he could look Riku in the eye. He realized his mistake when Kairi shrieked and reached over to yank the wheel. They narrowly dodged the building. He set his focus back to the controls. “Of course we were invited.”
“I just don't want an angry duck yelling down my neck about ‘world order’,” Riku muttered.
“Well,” Kairi was keeping a much more careful eye on Sora’s flying, making minute adjustments every now and then. “I am a citizen of this world. He can't stop me.”
“Did they have these kinds of festivals when you were a girl?” Sora perked up at the reminder that this was where Kairi had grown up.
“I think so? But I don't remember them very well. Just that everything always looked so,” She waved a hand to the technicolor decorations outside. “Vibrant, all over the city.”
“Well, they certainly nailed that part,” Riku smiled.
Sora carefully maneuvered the ship onto the brick landing strip that had been cleared just for them, which helped ease some of Riku’s doubts. He loved Sora to pieces, but he could disregard almost any rule if it stopped him from visiting friends. Once, when they were kids, he’d snuck out of his house and climbed up two stories of ivy to visit Kairi when she was home sick with the flu.
The three of them ducked out of the ship, hand in hand. Across the way, a tall girl dressed in pink waved at them. She rushed over, the basket nestled in the crook of her arm bouncing with every step.
“Sora!” She skittered to a stop, but kept rocking back and forth on her toes, like she couldn't hold still. “I'm so glad you made it!”
“Aerith, it's great to see you! And Radiant Garden in general. It's looking awesome these days.” Sora gestured around at the streamers and flowers that decorated every lamp post. Aerith gave a happy little bow.
“Thank you. The committee’s been working so hard, it's almost like the old days.” Her brilliant green eyes widened. “Oh! And you haven’t even met our newest member yet!” With a quick turn, she cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled. “ZACK!”
A head of spiky black hair poked out of a nearby store.
“Yes. Everyone, this is,” Aerith stuck a pose, arms extended in a classic ‘ta-da!’ gesture. “Zack. He recompleted just after your last visit, Sora.”
“Hey guys.” Zack hopped out onto the street, giving a friendly salute.
“Zack trained on Olympus when he was a kid,” Aerith bragged.
“Woah, really?” Sora asked. “Geeez. The coliseum training is brutal. One time when I was there, a guy with a black wing and huge sword almost killed me.”
There was an awkward beat of silence.
Riku cleared his throat.
“So Aerith, is this the first public festival since the world got back on its feet?”
“Pretty much.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, also clearly wanting to move on. “We've had a few minor celebrations here and there, but this our first big city wide holiday.” A small smile lit up her face. “And definitely our first one with off-world guests!”
“So, this festival,” Kairi butted in. “What even is it? Sora was kind of fuzzy on the details.”
“It was a traditional holiday, back when we were a whole world,” Aerith explained. “It's a day for the celebration of love, especially between couples that are the same gender. And it's also a celebration of gender in general, and people who live truer to themselves through it.”
“Oh, so it's kind of like the valentines celebration back on the islands,” Sora commented. He leaned on Kairi, remembering glittering lanterns and desserts baked with papaou and stargazing with her and Riku.
“It's a yearly festival of romance,” Riku explained. Aerith thought for a moment, then nodded.
“Kind of. But a little more specialized.”
“There was a whole string of similar holidays on Olympus.” Zack offered. “There was the Day of Artemis, for people who didn't want romance, The Day of Heracles, which celebrated men who loved other men, The Day of Dionysis for people who were born the wrong gender…”
“Zack was our historical consultant. He used to go to a lot of these, back in the day. ”
“Aw, don't lay it all on me. I always just came to support Cloud. He did more of the work in setting this up.”
“Cloud’s here?” Sora brightened. It had been a long time since he’d seen the broody sellsword.
“Yeah, he was a huge help. He and Zack really spearheaded the whole thing. I just did the decorations.” Aerith rummaged in the basket at her elbow. “Flower?”
“I’ll take one,” Riku offered. He eyed the selection before him, before choosing a cluster of soft orange blossoms. Aerith looked him over, then at Kairi, who was still cuddled against Sora. She politely coughed.
“So, Sora, are you going to introduce me?”
“Oh right! This is Kairi, my girlfriend!”
“Nice to meet you.” Aerith grinned and gave a little wave.
“And Riku, my boyfriend!”
Aerith’s brows furrowed at that. It was like something he’d said confused her. Sora took a deep breath.
They’d rehearsed this speech. On the islands, it wasn't so unusual, couples that weren't two. But with all the travelling they did, on all the worlds they visited, people kept giving them odd looks. Like they couldn’t comprehend it when Sora told them.
“Yeah, he’s my boyfriend and she’s my girlfriend and I love both of them and they love each other and also me so it's kind of like what you’re probably familiar with, there's just three of us.”
“Oh, did I make a face?” Her hand flew around, waving an apology. “I'm sorry. It wasn't that, I swear. I just-” She buried her face in Zack’s arm. He chuckled, patting her on the back.
“I think she was just a little confused when you said ‘boyfriend’,” he said. Aerith, having collected herself, turned back to them, her smile tentatively coming back.
“Right. I should have realised that you all weren't familiar with some of the nicher traditions. See this flower?” She pointed at the flowers in her basket, at the one that Riku had picked. “On days like this, you wear it in your hair, symbolizing who you are. The orange means girl, the purple means boy, and the yellow is something that isn't either. See?” She spun around, showing off the orange blossoms were delicately woven into her braid. Zack grinned and displayed his own purple corsage.
“Oh.” Riku glared down at the orange flower he was clutching. “Guess this isn't me, is it?” Aerith smiled, softer this time.
“Only if you want it to be.”
“Oh no,” Riku snorted. He put the little flower back in Aerith’s basket. Then, he raised a fist, thumping it against his chest, and the binder he wore under his shirt. “I figured that when I was like, seven.” Kairi ducked under his arm, collecting a handful of orange and two handfuls of purple. Humming to herself, she expertly started weaving, twisting and twining the stems.
“What about you two?” she asked as she worked, her eyes flicking to Aerith and Zack. It was hard to make the flowers behave without a surface to lay them out on, so she’d scrambled up a small stone wall and was sitting on top, weaving in her lap. “Are you the kind of people this festival is for?”
Aerith rocked back on her heels again. “I try not to think about love in shades like that. The planet sees everyone, equally, a thousand blazing lights that connect, regardless of anything. The lifeforce doesn't distinguish based on shape or size or birth. The very ground beneath your feet doesn't even begin to comprehend the labels and words we give ourselves, the same way that we could not understand the words it would use to describe itself, if it tried. It loves everyone. Equally. I guess I'm kind of the same too.”
“Oh! So you're pan!” Sora exclaimed. Aerith smiled.
“I'm pan,” he told her. “Kairi too.” From her perch, Kairi briefly stopped her work to throw up a quick peace sign.
“I'm stealing that. ‘Seeing everyone as their lights.’” She held up the flowers, which she’d woven into a perfect circlet. “It describes it well.”
“I'm bi.” Riku blurted out. Kairi dropped a kiss onto the crown of his head, nestling his flowers in among his silver locks.
“Staawp.” He scrunched his nose in that adorable way he did when he was embarrassed, which just caused Sora to swoop in and steal his own smooch.
“Zack, could I get your help with some idiots on Third Street?” A familiar voice called out from around the corner. “They’re complaining about the public square being used like this and are trying to-”
Anything else he was saying was absolutely lost to the islanders as Cloud Strife walked onto the scene.
The last time Sora had seen Cloud, it had been just after the Battle of a Thousand Heartless. He’d been battered down, dressed in what looked like the castaways from a second hand goth store. Now, he walked down the street in a beautiful black and blue ball gown. The buster sword was still slung over his back, and he’d kept that singular shoulder pauldron he was so attached to (although polished so it matched the outfit). But everything was brand-new-Cloud, from the shiny combat boots to the expert dustings of makeup across his face. His blonde hair was parted into twin braids, tied with ribbons and a smattering of those flowers from Aerith’s basket, a mixture of purple and yellow.
“Cloud you look…” Sora struggled to reconcile the person before him with the serious, dark brooder he’d met at the coliseum. “...Great.”
“Yes, I do. Nice to see you.”
Okay, there he was.
Cloud rounded on his colleague. “Zack, Third Street?”
“I'm coming, I'm coming. Someone did bother to inform you during all these planning meets that this is a celebration?”
“Fine.” Cloud rolled his eyes, but turned back to Sora. “Sora thanks for all your help… before. I’m glad you're here. You two.” He nodded at Riku and Kairi. “I'm looking forward to getting to know you later.” His spine loosened a little, and he leaned back, turning to his friends with a small smirk. “Now, Aerith, apparently Zack wants to sit around and make pleasantries, so could I get some actual muscle to play bouncer?”
“Hey!” Zack called after the two retreating figures.
Aerith turned around and grinned innocently. Then, with a wave, she summoned a silver-tipped quarter staff and bounded off after Cloud.
The second the pink and purple duo turned the corner, Kairi and Riku turned to stare at Sora.
“You didn't say he was hot!” she yelped.
“I mean, I guess?” Now that Sora was sure it was still the old Cloud, just a bit more polished, he really couldn’t see why his partners were acting like this was world shattering.
“Sora, don't be all high, mighty, and demi on us. That guy was att-ract-ive. Riku, tell him!”
“He was very pretty,” Riku muttered. Zack laughed, languidly stretching his arms over his head.
“Yup, our Cloud is a soldier of many talents.” He stood for just a second, then looked nervously down the street. “I better go make sure Aerith doesn't actually kill anyone. You three enjoy the festival!”
Kairi plopped Sora’s crown down on his head. Hers had turned out a little too big, falling down into her eyes, but she just pretended it was on purpose.
“So, what do we do now?” she asked. Riku shrugged.
“Just walk around I think. I’m sure we’ll find some cool things.”
“Like those booths!” Sora pointed across the square, to tents and tables festooned with color. He linked arms with the two of them. “Come on!”
They made their way over to the small pop up market, which, delightfully, seemed to sell only everyday objects in bright colors.
“Guys look, they have rainbow everything,” Kairi marvelled, picking up a scarf with glass beaded tassels.
“I want the rainbow socks,” Sora announced.
“Sora, you don't even wear socks.”
“So? They're rainbow, I'm getting them.” He marched over to the seller.
They all ended up leaving with something. Sora got his socks. Kairi found a parasol that she loved the weight of on her shoulder. It made her feel so fancy. Riku didn’t think he would want anything that could get him mistaken for a tropical bird, but the soft pastels of a collection of bracelets, one for each color of the rainbow, suited him perfectly. They wandered the stalls until Kairi (staring up at her new purchase as she twirled it around), spotted the familiar shapes in the sky.
“Look! Gliders!” she pointed.
They raced back over to the pad where they’d parked their gummiship, just in time to see four sets of keyblade armour lift off their helmets.
“How was the ride over, guys?” Sora asked.
“It was alright.” Aqua frowned a little as she stored her armor. “Somewhere shortly after breaking atmosphere, a certain passenger decided to get very vocal.”
“Keyblade gliders are dumb!” Vanitas had apparently decided to switch from speaking in growls to teenage grumbling. He messed with his hair as he complained. “You should have let me just dark corridor over. Save me the road trip with you light infested fleabags.”
“Don't worry. It's how he shows affection,” Ventus smiled as he collapsed his keyblade armour. Immediately, he ran forward to give Sora a big, shockingly bone crushing, hug, of which Sora was more than happy to return. The other keyblade masters (and Vanitas) made their way over as well, if a little slower.
“Kairi, Riku. It's lovely to see you again.” Aqua smiled and gave each of them a small bow of her head. “Sora too, once Ven stops strangling him.”
“It's good to see you too Aqua! How’s everything back at the castle?”
“It's alright.” Terra spoke up as he changed his keyblade back to normal, then dismissing it. “Though we’re not seeing much of it, with how hard we’re working.”
“Then consider this a well timed vacation,” Sora said as he broke free of his old heart-resident. “Come on, we were just about to shop flags.”
“Heads up, idiots,” Vanitas snorted.
“Van, what- ohmylighteveryonemove” Ventus grabbed Aqua and Terra and leaped, out of the growing shadow that was slowly engulfing the landing pad. A lower case ‘s’ shadow. The kind of shadow one might expect from a small, personal gummiship making its descent to a already very cramped landing pad, and the pilot wasn’t able to properly maneuver around the loiterers who were foolishly standing in the middle of it, and thusly just had to park slowly and hope everyone moved in time.
They all did, and Vanitas was laughing harder than he had in a long while.
The cockpit hissed open, and a blonde girl, dressed in a snappy cream suit, stuck her head out.
“Sorry,” Namine called out. “I didn't land on anyone did I?”
“Yeah,” Riku drawled. “You killed Sora. The worlds are doomed without him.”
“Noooo!” Sora wailed and sank to the ground. Acting weak, he stretched an arm out to his partners. “Kairi, Riku.. Avenge me.”
Namine made a show of putting her hand to her ear and listening for anyone else to speak up.
“No one important? Great!”
“Hey!” Sora protested from his place on the floor.
Behind her, Lea walked out of the ship, rubbing an apparent crick in his neck.
“Nam, would it have killed you to try and land without putting all of the bones in my body through a blender?”
“Sorry Lea.” Namine hopped down to stand beside him. Lea continued complaining.
“I could have sworn I taught you better than that.”
“No,” Roxas smirked, as he exited the ship. “You really didn’t.”
“What? Xion, I taught you to fly right? I’m an okay pilot!”
“Sorry, Lea.” Xion came next, shaking her head. “It's true. Neither of you can fly straight to save your life.”
“Well, that's because we’re not straight.” Lea and Namine spoke almost in unison. They exchanged a fist bump.
“We should get bumper stickers,” Roxas snarked, waving a hand along as he read imaginary lines of text. “‘Homosexual on board. Please disregard the crazy flying’”
“Also, if I recall, I actually taught Xion to fly,” Isa remarked as he closed the hatch.
Lea, maturely, stuck his tongue out.
“You're going to overheat in that coat, and I won't even pretend I didn’t see it coming.”
“Says the man wearing flannel,” Isa levelly responded.
“I have to wear flannel to pride, Isa. Who would I be if I didn’t?”
“A little cooler?”
Kairi scooched over to Namine.
“Are they always like this?” she whispered. Namine nodded.
“It's like a constant soap opera.”
“Alright!” Riku clapped his hands, perhaps a bit too loudly, but it was enough to distract the married-couple-bickering. “We were just heading over to pick up flags for everyone. Do you five want to come with us?”
“Hell. Yeah.” Namine nodded.
So Sora and Kairi and Riku led the other nine to the big tent they’d scoped out earlier. Inside, every square inch of space was housing fabric, striped in every combination of color. Flags hung from the ceiling, from the walls, and were folded neatly on tables scattered throughout the space. Instantly, Aqua started seeing how many she could name.
“And there's the aromantic flag, and the genderfluid flag. And right next to that is the poly flag-” Aqua continued on, examining each pattern. The others dispersed, but Kairi stayed and watched her with a little bit of childish wonder. The woman who’d put a sword in her hands and who had protected her when she was just a kid, also able to rattle off the name of a dozen sexualities at the drop of a hat.
“You know this stuff really well,” she commented. Aqua froze, and she glanced almost guiltily at Kairi.
“Our master used to go to a similar kind of celebration, back in the Land of Departure. I guess I just..” She cleared her throat. “Picked some things up.” Not quite sure what to do, Kairi knocked her shoulder against Aqua’s.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Aqua shook her head.
“Don't be sorry. It’s more… That it’s a decade later and I’m still realizing everything he taught me. He’s the reason I found my colors so early.” She selected a bolt of purple, blue, and magenta from one of the piles on the table. A sad smile crossed her face. Then, Aqua smiled resolutely. “He was a good father.”
And with that, she selected her purchase and left for the register, Kairi trailing after her.
“And this is what I wear.” Ventus held up a near monochrome flag, striped with white, grey, black and purple. He’d decided to show Vanitas around, leading him through the tent as he explained everything. “It means-”
“Ven, I know what my fucking flag looks like.” Vanitas growled.
“Oh.” Ven stared down at the fabric. Then his gaze shot back up. “Wait, you're ace too?”
“Obviously.” Vanitas rolled his eyes. An awkward silence filled the air between them.
“Sorry Van. I just assumed you didn't know-” Ven tried to explain, but Vanitas just shrugged angrily.
“Yeah well, some of us don't get amnesia everytime we sneeze.”
“Van.” It was a low blow, one of their unspoken rules. The fabric slipped out of his hands, pooling on the table. He ducked his head, busying himself with refolding it, very stauntly not looking at Van.
His other half sighed.
“It was- It was important. If I didn't remember being us, and being-” He shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket, then nodded at the flag in Ven’s hands. “That. I would have assumed it was because our heart was broken. That I was…” Ven softened. Of course. If he hadn’t had his family, the knowledge of Eraqus and Aqua, he might have assumed the same thing.
“We’re not broken, Van.”
His response was so quiet that Ventus might not have heard it, not unless he knew to listen to Vanitas, listen to the hoarse whisper he still spoke in sometimes, like he expected to be punished if he was heard.
“No. We’re not.”
Ven smiled to himself. He ran his fingers over the stack of grey and white. With no words, he selected two. Van followed him to the register, trailing behind him as Ventus exchanged pleasantries with the cashier, handing over the munny. They didn't say anything until they were back outside the tent, when Ventus stuck out his arm, offering one of the twin flags to Vanitas.
“You don't have to wear it.”
“Fuck off.” He grabbed it, clutching it to his chest, like a kid with a blanket. “I'm going to.”
She had to find Namine. She could answer the cold fear that was slowly uncurling in her chest.
Xion scoured the crowd for that distinctive blonde head (It was a shockingly uncommon hair color when the entire color wheel was an option). Her sister was doodling on her sketchpad, leaning against a lamppost. She looked up, and their eyes met. Smiling, she waved to Xion.
Xion took a deep breath, then headed over.
“Namine, you like girls right?”
“Most definitely.” She flipped her pad closed with a whump. Xion let out her shaky breath.
“Would you fall in love with me?”
“What like right now? Xi, at least take me to dinner fir-” She laughed, the caught sight of Xion’s blotchy red face. Instantly, her brows knit together and she lay an unsteady hand on Xion’s shoulder. Her voice was softer as she asked, “Xi? Whats wrong?”
“I'm just-” They didn't know what to say. They waved their arms around, unable to put words exactly to the anxiety that was gripping her. “Nam, I'm not a girl.”
Namine gave her shoulder a quick squeeze.
“Xion, I know.”
And she did know. The whole family knew, from conversations of them all crumpled on their lumpy couch. The nights where Xion explained how she wasn't Sora, wasn't Kairi. That she couldn't be, couldn't imagine a world where she was the boy who saved the world or a princess of heart. She was something in between. And Roxas and Namine understood, and apologized for ever making her think they wouldn’t love her just the same if she wasn't either. Lea cried a little (He’d been doing that a lot more, since he lost his tattoos.) and poked Isa in the side, saying “Guess we got the whole set. Sister, brother, and sib.” Isa had been the one to take her hands and ask her what she wanted to be called now. And Xion shook her head and said that ‘she’ was still fine. But, if everyone could sometimes use ‘they’? And then they did. It felt nice when they said it, like someone finally, finally saw her. It was like when Roxas had seen her face for the first time.
Visible. That was the feeling.
“Nam, Roxas. He only likes-” They lost their words and just pointed, across the street to where Roxas was talking to Sora, the bi stripes proudly tied around his shoulders. Understanding dawned on Namine’s face.
“Xion, come on. I’ve got someone you can talk to.”
She dragged Xion down the street, to a quaint little cafe on the corner. Outside, Riku and Kairi chatted at a table, cups of coffee in front of them. When Namine and Xion approached though, one supporting the other, they set down their cups and turned.
“Xion’s worried,” Namine explained.
“What about?” Kairi had the same face as her nobody, eyes wide and concerned.
“I was-” Xion started, but couldn’t quite say it. They decided to start at the beginning. “I was thinking about asking Roxas out.” Kairi gave a soft whistle.
“Congratulations!” She clearly didn’t see the problem yet. Xion shook their head.
“But then we get here and he says he bi.” They waited, waited for her to get it. Kairi just tilted her head.
“You guys hadn't talked about that?”
“I mean, kind of. I knew he wasn't straight, I just-” Lights, it felt bad to admit.“I assumed he was like Sora.”
“Nobodies and their somebodies don’t share a sexuality. Just look at me and Namine.”
“I know that, I just hoped-”
“Xion, what's the problem?”
“He likes girls!” It burst out of them. “And boys. And I'm not… Either of those”
Riku, who’d been silently watching, put down his coffee cup and cleared his throat.
“That doesn’t mean he won't like you.”
“Yes it does! I just said, he-”
“Xion. listen to me.” He fiddled with the handle of his cup. “Speaking as the only bisexual at this table, thats not what bi means. It's not like I can only be attracted to perfectly male or female people. This morning, I saw an enby so beautiful I almost fainted. I say I’m bi because I like people. I like guys. I like girls. People who are both, people who are neither. Sora and Kairi, they just like people. Period. End of sentence.” He glanced at Kairi. “Did I explain that right?”
Kairi nodded. Xion stared at the table, mulling over his words.
“So, you're saying you would like… me?”
“Yup.” He made a face. “Well, not you specifically. You're like a little sibling to me. But other people, people who are bi, people like Rox-”
"Riku.” Kairi tapped the back of his hand. “Let’s leave them to it.”
“Right.” He looked a little embarrassed. “Well, I can just say: Talk to him. Tell him how you feel.”
“Yeah, good things happen when you talk about your feelings.” Kairi smiled, leaning over to playfully elbow Riku. “And if you can wrangle your mutual second crush to appear with a convenient papou…”
“Ugh. We get it. You and your boyfriends are adorable.” She turned back to her sibling.“Feeling better, Xion?”
Xion nodded. The cold inside their chest was starting to dissipate, warmed by Riku’s words.
“We should probably better get going before they tell us the whole 300k slowburn.”
“Actually,” Riku held out a hand. “We were just about to catch up with a friend of Sora’s. He’s the one I was talking about earlier. Stick around. I think you two would get along.”
Cloud and Xion did have a lot of things in common. Same taste in coffee (One sugar), same taste in fashion (A little emo, but still cute), and the same opinion on people who brainwashed their subordinates (Fuck them).
They ended up getting along famously.
Terra had originally come up here to secure a spot for watching the lights show Cid had promised. The grassy knoll had a perfect view, the city unfolding below, the sky a perfect blue dome overhead. But he wasn’t the first one to arrive. A tall, blue haired man was seated on the lawn already, gazing out. Terra cleared his throat.
Terra sat down. Isa was all curled in on himself, fingers fidgeting on his cuff.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah.” His voice was a soft rasp, strangely familiar. “Yeah.”
With that blue hair, Terra could imagine it was Aqua, in those days after the war, where she refused to talk about the Realm of Darkness. Or Ven, in those early days when he’d just arrived at the castle, and had stared off into space in almost the same way. Both of them had needed time, but Terra had sat with them, waiting until they were ready to talk.
“When a person becomes a nobody,” Isa began, after a few minutes of silence. Terra smiled, a little proud that his tried and true technique had worked. “Their physical form shifts around a little. Becomes what they want, what they see themselves as. It's mostly just little, quality of life improvements.” He sounded like he was reading off a doctors clipboard, listing symptoms. “All of us were in peak physical condition. Demyx never had to buzz his undercut. Marluxia always had pink nails.” He bit his lip. “But it can be aesthetic changes too. Lea- Axel’s tattoos were like that. But for me…”
It clicked for Terra. Why his voice sounded familiar. He’d tried out that voice, low and quiet, when he was first testing things out.
“It was the body you’d always wanted.”
“That obvious?” Isa gave a low, humorless chuckle. Terra shook his head.
“No. I've just been down that road before.”
“Oh.” Isa shuffled in his seat, casting a quick gaze over the man beside him.
It wasn't like he had some sort of sense for when he met someone like him. But Terra was a… well, he was the warrior, the famous keyblade wielder who’d defied the possession of Xehanort for twelve years. He was almost the archetypical knight, right out of the age of fairy tales. And he certainly looked the part.
Terra nudged Isa’s shoulder, knocking him out of his thoughts.
“I'm sorry. You're back in a body with dysphoria after not having to deal with it in years. That sucks.”
“Did you go through something similar?” Isa asked. Terra leaned back, pondering the question.
“I don't remember much about being a nobody. I wasn’t really in the driver’s seat.”
“Xemnas always sounded like he had his windpipe replaced with a double bass.” Isa offered, a small smile tugging at his lips. Terra laughed, lying back onto the grass.
“Yup, that was definitely me.” He sat back up. “I'm sorry, Isa. That sounds awful.”
“I think I could deal with it. The problem is with Lea.” He reached for his cuff again, and Terra caught sight of a strip of flannel, patched around the inside. Idly, Isa started rubbing his thumb over it.
“Really?” Terra nodded at the fidget, clearly lovingly sewn. Isa blushed.
“Yes. With all this,” He waved down at the city, decorated within an inch of its life. In the main square, Lea chatted with a man in a leather jacket, the rainbow flag pinned to his back bright as anything. “I have to wonder if what he really wants is-”
“I wasn't finished.”
“Doesn’t matter.” Terra shook his head. “You don't have to think like that. Because it's not a question. Lea loves you. Even I can see that, and I’ve spent a total of fifteen minutes with the guy.”
“But would he love me more if-”
A lot of things could be said about Terra. In every way, he fit his chosen name so well. Solid and strong as stone. Built like a monolith. A bit dull, some might even say ‘dumber than a box of rocks’ (Those people were the kind that mistook easy trust with a lack of intelligence. Those people tended to have many academic achievements and few friends). But the one trait that Terra most embodied of the earth, the name he'd picked out when he was just a kid, was that heaviness. The ability to plant oneself and say ‘I won't move’. As stubborn as a boulder. The will that kept from being dominated even after a decade, that lingered, even when it didn't have a body to house it.
It was one of the things that made him a terrifying enemy.
But it also made him a very good friend.
Isa tried one more time. He opened his mouth, some argument on his tongue, about how Lea wouldn't want him like this, but he looked at those dark, determined eyes, and he found he couldn't say anything.
“But seriously,” Terra grinned, and held out his fist. “If you ever want a guy to talk with about this stuff. Someone who isnt your boyfriend or a teenager. Brothers?”
Isa hesitantly bopped his fist against Terra’s.
“You two here to watch the fireworks?” Cid called out from behind a teetering pile of rockets in his arms. Yuffie bounced beside him, technically supposed to be helping. Clearly having not heard the news, Isa frowned.
“Fireworks? It's noon. They wouldn't even be visible.”
“Y’all seem real keen to forget that magic exists,” Cid grunted.
“Isa!” A familiar explosion of red hair made a beeline for Isa. In almost a single motion, Lea threw himself into Isa’s lap, wiggling around so he could look up at his boyfriend. Isa shared a glance with Terra, who just ran a hand through his hair and snorted.
“I better you find Aqua and Ven.”
“Hey Roxas! Xion!” Lea waved over the kids, who’d just crested the steps that crawled up the hillside. “Isa saved us a spot!” The two wandered over, flopping down on the grass. Roxas offered two wrapped rectangles.
“They’re not as good as sea salt,” Roxas apologized, as Lea ripped off the plastic.
“It's perfect,” he declared, holding up the layered, multicolored popsicle, watching the sun sparkle through the ice. Isa smiled down at his boyfriend, those green eyes no longer decorated by tearmarks. Idly, he took a bite off his own popsicle.
They’d both changed, so much since those early days of frisbee and pranks and lazy summer days.
But Lea was always Lea.
And Isa was always Isa.
And that was more than enough.
Riku and Kairi were next, chatting happily as they made their way up the stairs, Kairi apparently unbothered by the weight of her second boyfriend, who was clinging to her shoulders piggyback style. The second she was off the flagstones and on the soft grass, Kairi laughed and leaned into Riku. From her back, Sora leaned over to press a kiss to his temple. The three of them stood like that for a second, until Kairi groaned.
“Sora sweetie, I need to let you down now.”
“I'm sorry, but Riku’s hand desperately needs to be held.”
“Okay fair poin- hey!” He slipped as Kairi suddenly dropped him, landing on dirt with a thump. Kairi grinned.
“Sorry.” She held up her hand, fingers triumphantly curled around Riku’s. “It was an emergency.”
“Oh. Well in that case,” He widened his eyes, blinking innocently up at his partners. Like a toddler, he held up both arms, wiggling his fingers. Riku and Kairi smiled softly, then stepped forward, slotting their free hands into Sora’s.
Sora pulled them both to the ground.
“Sora!” Riku laughed. The three of them were a tangle, legs and arms all interlinked. With some wriggling, he shifted to a more comfortable position, his head resting on Kairis chest and a hand cupping Sora’s wrist.
Looking up at the sky, beautiful and blue and perfect, Riku closed his eyes and listened to the heartbeats of the two he loved most.
The wayfinders were last up the hill, three sets of footsteps on the stone stairs (Ven had elected to just hover a few inches off the ground, which Vanitas loudly complained was unfair.)
“Just learn air magic. Or make friends with a pixie,” Ventus said as he spun a slow circle, calling down as he watched his friends stagger up the last few stairs. Vanitas glared.
“Pixies are completely unfriendly.”
“Actually,” Aqua commented as she reached the top, “Pixies are just too small to feel more than one emotion at a time. So they could be happy and kind-”
“But they choose not to,” Vanitas interrupted. He nodded knowingly. “Because they’re evil.”
“Not all fairies are evil, Vanitas!” she huffed as she sank down onto the grass. Frowning at him, she twisted open a water bottle. “Though admittedly, the one at Neverland was a little-”
“Wait, wait.” Terra flopped down beside her. “I thought we were talking about pixies. Fairies are totally different.”
“Lights, it's finally happening.” Ventus slowly let go of his magic, sinking down beside the two of them. Immediately, Terra and Aqua whirled to look at him, brows furrowed.
“What, Ven? What’s finally happening?”
“You have someone to lecture at who isn't me!”
Aqua flicked her fingers and cast the smallest water spell she knew, spraying tiny drops all over Ventus. He jumped back, like a cat being scolded.
“What an adorable little family.” Vanitas drawled. “Tell me, how old is your youngest?”
Ventus stopped the retributional spell he’d been about to cast, tilting his head to the side, almost like he actually had to think about it.
“Technically Vanitas, you’re the youngest.”
“Ack? I was talking about you light infested weirdos and your ragtag little family.”
“Yeah. And?” Ventus pushed his bangs out of his face and stared up at him. Vanitas frowned and crossed his arms, tapping the toe of one foot on the ground.
“Yeah, and I'm not-” The thought stopped there, as he took in Ven’s wide blinking eyes, Terra’s firm nod, and Aqua’s half grimace, half smile. It hit him. Dramatically, he let out a blood curdling groan, sinking to his knees and banging his forehead on Ven’s shoulder. “Fuck. I’m one of you weirdos, aren't I?”
Ventus laughed as he patted him on the back.
“Yeah. Welcome to the family.”
Namine was perched on the lowest branch of a tree, sketchpad spread across her legs. Originally, she’d wanted to draw the skyline, all those brilliant banners snapping in the wind. Then, as her family and friends from across the worlds slowly filtered in, she’d started drawing them, the people sprawled and curled together across the grass. But no matter how much she scribbled and shaded, she kept getting distracted. She found herself just staring, not even trying to draw. They were all just so… happy. Colorful, all together like this, with flags and blankets and pennants adding vibrancy to every square inch.
And no matter how many times she tried the composition, something was missing.
Hesitantly, then with a bit more confidence, she slipped her gummiphone from her pocket. Anchoring herself on one branch, she spread her arm back behind her, gesturing excitedly to the focus of the photo, like she’d seen Sora do on kingstagram. She was sure to capture the flag hanging from her sleeve, the orange and pink stripes she was wearing as a cape. And behind her, her big messy family, sunning themselves in the grass.
“Hey, everyone!” she shouted out. Every face turned to her.
Right at that moment, the fireworks went off.
People were preoccupied with watching the sky light up after that. But, for that one second, she’d somehow managed to get everyone looking at the camera. She selected the photo, and looked it over, her smile widening with each second.
There was Namine of course, filling a good portion of the screen. Behind her sat Lea and Isa, reclining against each other, and Xion, hesitantly making a grab for Roxas’s hand. Riku and Kairi, snuggled around Sora, who had somehow found the time to pose, throwing up a peace sign. Aqua and Terra, their broad shoulders a perfect backdrop for Vanitas, who looked like he had Ventus in some sort of headlock and was aggressively ruffling his hair. Behind all of them, the residents of Radiant Garden all pointed and smiled at the fireworks overhead. The glowing sparks lit up everything, highlighting every color. The oranges in Namine’s flag, the red in Lea and Kairis’ hair. The yellow stripe in the flags slung over Xion's shoulders and rumpled under Sora and Kairi. The brilliant blues of Aqua and Isa, the bright sky colors that he and Terra proudly bared. The green of Vanitas’s eyes. The royal purple that wrapped around him and his other half.
Namine smiled to herself.
A perfect rainbow.