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by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Squeenix and Disney.

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- In School/Priorities -

Sora's fingers tap a relentless rhythm on desks and chairs and books and his own skin, sometimes, and he chews on pencils and hums under his breath and murmurs to himself when he thinks nobody is looking. He whispers to no one during tests, peels apart erasers with a jagged fingernail, and doesn't know how to calculate with pi or to examine the subtext in the novels he hasn't bothered reading.

His mother scolds him for his indifference, and he just looks at her like she's ranting nonsense and asks how anything he's supposed to be learning has any practical relevance for his future. She gives him lists of trades, of the island's industry, mentions college and apprenticeships and self-sufficiency, but she can tell from the way that his gaze drifts away that none of her words are reaching him.

Sora knows that his future has always been in his own hands.


Kairi fills the edges of her notes with sketches, curling smoke and skittering shadows and long lean bodies draped in blackness, and has to be called on twice before she'll answer. Selphie tugs at her hair and whispers into her ear, trying to help, but can't forget the way she froze one day when Kairi tilted her head and smiled at her like a stranger, and then bent back over her drawing, a boy sleeping who might have been Sora or might have not.

The mayor looks at her slumping grades and wandering eyes, and blames the boys that she won't let go, but can't understand why their return means torn dresses and races along the beach instead of experiments with makeup and clumsy, cautious flirtations, because two boys are always trouble, and Sora and Riku both came back strangers.

Kairi still moves with grace, but her backpack lies unopened just by the front door, and the notes from her teachers are littered with tales of distraction and failure.


Riku has given up even the pretense of paying attention, and spends his classes with his head propped in his hand and his thoughts worlds and worlds away. He doesn't participate in discussions, but he does the work that is placed in front of him, and that's enough to keep his grades passable, even if he never hands in homework. He's managed to avoid all of the detentions Sora has earned simply because none of his teachers are comfortable looking him in the eye.

His parents have never known what to do with him, so they do nothing at all, and hope that he'll learn the lessons of responsibility on his own.

They tell him this once, over dinner, and he stares at them through blank blank eyes and doesn't respond. Later, long after his parents have retired to their rooms, Riku sits alone in the dark kitchen and laughs until he throws up.

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- After School/Crush -

There have always been cliques on Destiny Islands. Small communities breed contempt, and the rest of the kids their age still haven't forgiven the six of them for taking over the play island at ages seven-eight-nine-ish, even as Tidus and Wakka are growing into star athletes, even as Riku and Sora disappeared and came back again, and the little bubble that has always existed around them grows in size as the days go by and the boys slowly grow accustomed to the island life again.

It's the first year in five that no one has asked Kairi to tutor the younger students, and no one has asked Sora to join a club or Riku to join a sports team. Kairi's father worries about her transcripts, Sora's mother worries about his social life, and Riku's parents frown at the shelf of trophies that's been steadily gathering metaphorical dust for the last two years.

The three of them spend their afternoons training on the play island, because social training for adulthood means nothing if you don't survive your teenage years, and Kairi desperately needs the practice. They don't even have to lie about it to their parents, which Kairi thinks is a nice change - they just fudge on the details a little, and that way no one comments about the bruises and the aches and the way they always head straight for one another once the final bell rings.

No one has yet worked up the nerve to comment on the way they always come back in the late late evening holding hands, or how long it takes them to get home, because Kairi argued with her father for an hour straight when he suggested she was spending too much time with them, and Sora's mother was terrified of the expression on his face when she mentioned the same, and when his own parents obliquely hinted at it in passing, Riku just walked out the front door and didn't come home for three days.

But their parents are beginning to wonder.

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- At Home/Hearing Voices -

Sora begs and wheedles and pleads with his mother to buy him a skateboard, but his grades are a wreck, and even if she can't bring herself to ground him, she won't indulge him, either.

Sora buys it with a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the munny he's carefully hidden away, and at night, long past the time when normal denizens of the island are asleep, he and Roxas practice tricks off the top of the school building to the sound of Kairi's laughter and Riku's mocking commentary and the constant brush of pencil against paper as Naminé sketches them all beneath the pale cool moonlight.


On the weekends, Kairi sprawls out on her belly alone in the sunshine with her eyes shut, drawing pictures with her fingertips in the damp sand, murmuring to the girl in her head. The richness of an island home is nothing like the emptiness of the white castle or the stale dusk of the mansion, and the air is salty as she breathes it in, and they watch through their own eyes as her skin tone deepens to the color of warm honey, bringing out the depth of her eyes and the rich luster of her hair.

Her shadow is a pale delicate pretty thing, and Kairi wants to breathe color into her, with every thought and whisper and tear.


Sometimes, when he's very tired, Riku can hear Ansem murmuring deep within the confines of his heart.

Kairi and Sora find him every time no matter how far he wanders, and curl around him like limpets until the whispering dies away, and he can finally sleep.

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