* * *
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts is not mine.

AN: An AR of epic proportions, told in a not-so-epic way. The working title is a pun, and yes, it's supposed to be spelled that way.

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- One -
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They flock at his feet, awed by this stranger whose shape is so different from their own, whose eyes spark like the diamonds in the sky, who is so hard to see because of the vibrancy pouring off of him.

In time, they will learn what color is, and they will learn that they are not all the same, and they will learn the difference between Light and Darkness, but for now all they know are the endless shades of gray that will someday be called Twilight.

Their world is young, the sorcerer tells them, their world is newly-born and only now beginning to learn itself, and that is why they are still unfinished, still so soft in comparison to all of his hard, fierce edges. The diamonds in the sky are worlds like their own, both new-born and older, living creatures with a Heart and a will, and they are their own world's children, still learning to be, naive but so full of potential, and he has come among them to make that potential blossom.

And the most promising of them all is Oswald, Yen Sid says, and Mickey watches as his brother's eyes gleam, as his brother cocks an ear and preens, and he hides a scowl behind laughter as he spills a barrel of molasses out across the grass, soaking his brother and the hem of the sorcerer's robes.

It is an accident, of course, and they maintain this polite fiction up until the sorcerer has retired for the night.

Then Oswald tackles Mickey into the sticky puddles that remain, squishes molasses down his shorts and into his ears, and they call it even.

* * *

In the wake of the sorcerer's arrival, they learn to give things names, not just people. When the sun is in the sky, that is "day," and when it is not, that is "night." The in-between times are called "sunrise" and "sunset." One day comes after another, and that cycle never ends. A moment can be a long one, or a short one, and those have names as well, ones that Mickey never pays much attention to learning.

The World is their parent, and they are its children, but they are not all the same. Yen Sid says they are all slightly different, even though they all have bodies, two arms and two legs and two eyes and two ears but only one nose, says that they are all unique, says that no two of them are the same.

It is one of the only times that Mickey sees Oswald disagree with Yen Sid, when he frowns and says that there are sibling pairs, children that their world birthed together, surely these are the same?

Yen Sid says they are not.

That night, when the lessons are over, Mickey sits with Oswald, palm-to-palm, and listens while his brother speaks quietly, counting off differences one by one. There are so very many that neither of them can understand why they hadn't noticed it before, especially given that Oswald's tail, now that Mickey has thought about it, looks completely ridiculous.

* * *

His eyes are not his brother's. His nose is not his brother's, nor is his face, nor are his ears, nor is his tail. Their hands are not the same, their feet are not the same, their eyes are not the same, they are not the same.

So what, then, makes them siblings?

Oswald reaches over and taps Mickey's chest, then taps his own, and Mickey lets his tail lash side to side, lazy, a reminder that they no longer breathe the same and maybe they never have. Oswald bops him on the ear, a little too hard, reminding him who is eldest, reminding him who came first, even though their memories of before are misty and formless.

Mickey reaches over and taps his hand against his brother's chest, and for a time, all is still--they only get into three wrestling matches and one race--for a time, his brother is only his own.

Then Yen Sid comes calling, and Oswald only hesitates twice before he goes. Mickey kind of wants to smash the sorcerer's face in just on principle, but he puts worms in his shoes instead.

* * *

The sorcerer has a ripple effect on their sleepy little town: names are sliding onto everything now, slithering into every nook and cranny, and places go from "by the water" and "not by the water" to "dock" and "riverboat" and "hill"; places go from "house" to "my house," from "dog" to "Pluto," from "world" to "our world" and from "ours" to "mine."

The people are no longer called the people, and there have been motions to give a name to their own world, to distinguish it from others, since Yen Sid says each world must have its own name, of course, for all the travelers must know whence they come and where they go.

Oswald has decided he is a "rabbit."

Mickey isn't quite sure what a "rabbit" is, but he knows that he is not one, even if it's only because he would never have such a silly-looking tail.

But Mickey does know what a traveler is: it is someone who does not belong. And Yen Sid is trying to turn his brother into one of them.

The duck with the funny cheek feathers says it's an "opportunity" and things become much more interesting once everyone realizes that traveling means that Oswald could bring them back all kinds of interesting snacks from other worlds.

In light of this news, Mickey decides you only count as a traveler when you're on a world that isn't your own.

* * *

Mickey is often restless now, where once he lazed through his days, but the tingle of Yen Sid's magic makes him want to sneeze whenever he gets too close, so he spends his days exploring, pushing against the boundaries of the world until it yields to him, allowing him to meet new strangers-who-are-not, different shapes and sizes but who still fundamentally belong here in ways that he can't explain.

The ones he meets don't know the new words, not yet, and they speak through the language that he's learning is only native to the children of this world, laughter and the tilt of a smile, a quick gesture and an exaggerated pose, and it soothes him in a way that the endless days no longer can.

He wanders, and pushes against the edges of the world, and laughs and shoves against those boundaries, feels them strain and stretch and sometimes snap, shifting around him, and climbs trees and makes streams and clambers across rocks and drops down into gulleys and lets the land feed him, lets the water nourish him, lets the ground be his pillow and the breeze his companion.

He pauses outside a grand house once, caught by the tinkling sound of laughter and the flutter of a ribbon on a clothesline, but he doesn't know what makes him stop, doesn't know what makes his skin tingle, so he shakes his head hard and continues on. It is the first time he wonders if a feeling has a name.

It is also the first time he finds himself laughing without a reason to do so and examining all of the flowers he finds very closely, even though he's not quite sure why they've become so fascinating.

Then he watches Horace turn even clumsier every time Clarabelle walks by, and things suddenly start to make a lot of sense, which is a little strange since he hasn't even seen her yet.

But he knows that she's there and that she's the most wonderful girl in the world.

* * *

When Mickey drifts back into town after one of his journeys, he finds his brother there waiting.

It's odd enough behavior that Mickey checks him for a fever even before a greeting, but Oswald shrugs his hands away and cuffs him upside the head, then pulls him down to the waterside, across the stones that crisscross the river, and out onto the far bank. Mickey follows him out of sheer curiosity, beyond the docks, down the meandering dirt paths and out onto the fields.

When all is quiet and still, Oswald reaches out a hand and presses it against Mickey's chest. Then he presses his other hand to the grass and goes still, nodding at Mickey with an ear cocked.

Mickey only hesitates for a moment before reaching out and doing the same, one hand against his brother's chest, one hand flat on the ground. They stand like this in silence while the wind stirs the grasses and tugs at Oswald's fluffy tail, while the worlds whirl sparkling above them, while the clouds drift and tiny insects call to one another, and it's boring enough that Mickey's halfway towards dozing when he finally notices it, the rhythm beneath his hands, in his chest, in his brother's chest.

He jerks to his feet with a startled cry, but Oswald only just looks at him and nods once, grinning brightly.

It is never too hot or too cold in their world, but Mickey slinks next to his brother just the same, nestles up close like they're children again so he can hear his heart, and drums his fingers in the dirt to the beat that pounds in both their chests and in the earth below.

They stay that night in the fields like they used to, in the days-before, but Oswald keeps them both awake with chatter about what it might mean, about how he's still the oldest no matter what, but maybe Mickey isn't quite as young as he thought, and Yen Sid finds them surly and sleepy-eyed in the morning, and picks them both up to take them into town for breakfast.

They both refrain from telling him that if they'd simply gone looking, their world would have provided for them.

(Yen Sid is also cranky in the morning.)

* * *

Yen Sid calls it a "keyblade," smiles approvingly and says "What a lucky little rabbit," but Oswald holds it gingerly, and Mickey seems to be the only one who shares his trepidation, while all the others gather around his brother and marvel.

A sliver of a world's beating heart is not something to be held in one's hands, Mickey thinks, not when the world itself is still an infant, not when he can feel the lack aching in his own chest, a sharp pain that burns with every breath and clouds his vision with pain.

They're too young for this, Mickey knows, and knows that he will never be able to explain, not to his brother, not now, not while Oswald is caught up in the radiance of a sorcerer's promise and the endless spill of power that sings in his hands.

And maybe it's weird when just one hurts so much, but maybe Mickey wants one of his own.

* * *

Yen Sid is taking Oswald away to train.

Yen Sid is stealing his brother.

And yet a keybearer is a gift born of the worlds, so Oswald must go, and he must learn, and he must become strong enough to protect them all.

And in his absence, Mickey will become the eldest child of this world.

He kind of wonders what he's supposed to do with it.

* * *

When Yen Sid first appeared, no one had noticed as the walls surrounding the world shimmered and shifted to let him pass.

When he leaves, Mickey feels the world-walls ripple, and stumbles heavily, suddenly dizzy for reasons he's not quite sure he understands.

And when Oswald leaves a breath of an instant later, taking their world's keyblade with him, for just a moment, Mickey's vision goes black.

Once he blinks his way back to consciousness, he decides one keyblade is enough.

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