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Fires the Mountainside
by Edmondia Dantes

Disclaimer: Squeenix and Disney.

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The wind rustling through the jungle leaves isn't unfamiliar, and the lushness of the oasis is a sharp counterpart to the desolation out past the golden sands, and he's never minded taking first watch, because Donald was made for dawns and rude awakenings, and they've always been careful to make sure that Sora can sleep the night away. Duty and necessity will always come first, and they can't always afford to be reckless, but when they can it's not so bad to indulge him a little, to make sure he's the one to get the extra rations and the softest bunks, the swiftest-cast healing spells and all the strongest armor.

Sora isn't his child, and he's always been grateful for that.

Like this, he looks more the age that Goofy knows him to be, because human children grow strange and quick and wild, and he's never quite been able to tell how their parents keep up with them.

Sora curls the tip of his tail over his nose and stares through the soft fur, but Goofy knows his gaze is somewhere far away--the same place it always wanders in the long quiet moments when there is only silence and the stars around them.

Odd for him not to be sleeping, but not odd enough that it's alien, so Goofy stays quiet and waits for him to speak.

"...do you think Riku's mad at me?" he asks finally, soft and shaky, and there are a million questions interlaid into that one, a million little doubts and fears, and young love, Goofy remembers, is as fragile as it is overwhelming. He's been thinking about this for days, Goofy knows, biting his lip and staring off into space, so it's not that unexpected, now that he's finally said it out loud, even if he's not quite sure what prompted him to speak, out here in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.

"Gawrsh, Sora," is what he says, slow and steady, "why would Riku be mad at you?"

Sora fliches back a little, pawing at the ground lightly and looking away, and Goofy wonders if he's going to be brave enough to speak it out loud, or muffle it away, because it's not so hard to see that his smile's been fraying around the edges, no matter how hard he tries to hang on. He's good at hiding it, but Goofy raised his own teenage boy and practically Pete's as well, and he knows better.

"I dunno," Sora says, and it's a terrible lie, not quite to the level of disaster it would be if it were PJ talking, but still far worse than anything Max would ever invent. "It was just a stupid thought, never mind."

It's not a stupid thought, and Goofy knows enough now to recognize that the cool, sharp-tongued boy he met at Hollow Bastion is far more than just that, that grief can be a poison and that Sora's never felt a loss like this before, not so keen and sharp, because he left them with a smile and the sound of the doors slamming shut could almost but not quite muffle the crack of a heart, newly splintered.

"Aw," he says, "Riku knew what he was doin' when he helped us shut that door. It'd be silly to get mad about that."

"I'm not mad at Riku!"

"A'course you're not," Goofy says, even though yes, Sora probably is and doesn't even understand why, "but that doesn't mean you can't be mad that he's not here."

"I'm not mad," Sora says again, which is a lie even if he doesn't know that it is, "I just don't understand what's going on."

You're growing up, Goofy thinks, but that's hardly a consolation, and he knows it. "Well, we gotta beat that Organization and take care of all of the Nobodies. And the Heartless too."

"I know, I know," Sora says, and it's close enough to sulking that he has to duck his head to hide his smile. "I just... I just wanna know what's going on."

He could tell him, he thinks, about duty and honor and knowing one's place, about what the role of a knight in a war really means, about why he's the captain of the king's guards but carries a shield, but the creed of Disney Castle is to keep smiling and carry on, and it's brought them through more wars than this one, and their kingdom will always continue for it.

"Well," Goofy says, "for now, we just gotta focus on what we can do. Figurin' things out is the king's job."

"We find stuff out too," Sora protests, and he's not wrong, but they tend to fall face-first into trouble, or it chases them down, they don't go seeking it out the way his king does.

"Yeah," he agrees, "but we gotta focus on what we do know, not what we don't."

Sora's quiet for a moment, pawing at the ground, and he mutters, low and angry, "We don't know anything."

"We know the important stuff," Goofy protests, because duty to his king comes second only to duty to his heart, and he's always most content when the two are in agreement.

"No we don't," Sora protests, fur on this back prickling, "the important stuff's still missing."

"We know what we need to know," Goofy says, thinking of the logistics of wartime, of field commands that mean far more than the simple instructions that they are, of the necessity of haste and silence, of choosing between duty and defiance.

His king will always forgive them for following their hearts, and that kindness is what has always made him shine, because there's a recklessness that he sees in Sora that he first saw years ago, when a mouse hopped off a riverboat and brought a sleepy little town to chaos.

"I still don't know where Riku is!" Sora snarls--or maybe it's a sob instead--but then he cringes back, maybe remembering the others snoozing nearby, or maybe just startled by the sound of his own voice, cracked and bleeding in all the ways that he won't admit he's hurting.

Goofy trusts Mickey, always has and always will, and if there are secrets he's keeping, they're being kept for a reason.

"Gawrsh," he says, "I dunno, Sora. But you trust Riku, don't you?"

Yes and always are the responses he's expecting, so it comes as a surprise when Sora whirls around and exclaims "He's stupid! Something bad happened, I know it did, and I don't know what it is and nobody will tell me!"

Goofy looks at him, at the tears glimmering in his eyes, the arched back and the ruffled fur that Sora would never recognize as anger or threat, because there's nothing here to strike at, no Heartless nearby and not a single Nobody in sight. His temper's been showing a lot more lately, Goofy knows, set on by heartbreak and loneliness, and the Organization's taunts haven't helped, and that fleeting encounter in the mountains of the Land of Dragons had left Sora tight-lipped and pale and silent for a solid week afterward, whenever he forgot that he should be smiling, whenever there wasn't something new and strange to distract him.

Sora is too young to trust that some things aren't for him to know.

"If nobody will tell you," he says, and if you don't trust him, "then I guess I gotta wonder if Riku asked them not to tell you."

Sora opens his mouth, and then shuts it again, squeezes his eyes closed tight and crouches down to the ground, not to pounce, but not cringing, either, a knotted-up ball of tension in the form of a lion cub, and Goofy thinks of the necessity of power, thinks of what that focus could do.

Pain isn't a necessity of love, merely its consequence.

"He'd do that," Sora says, and the words are half-choked. "He's so stupid he'd totally do that because he's such a dumb stupid idiot!" and Goofy gets up from his position next to the fire, even though moving means abandoning the best vantage point, because the night is long, and Sora is very, very young.

He settles down next to Sora without a word, and if he's sitting just a little closer than usual, it's not enough that it should ruffle his pride, not really, it's not with any of the caustic affection that colors every interaction that he's ever known from Donald, because maybe Sora might respond better to it, but Donald isn't a father. It's been such a long time since Max needed comfort like this, and Sora's not his own, has a bigger destiny than any of them, but still, he'll shelter him as best he can.

Goofy spends the rest of his shift watching Sora instead of the wildlife, carefully not saying a single word, and when Sora finally falls asleep, exhausted past the tears, he carefully straightens the camp back to normal before he wakes up Donald for the morning shift.

Goofy avoids intelligence missions because he's bad at information gathering, but he's very, very good at keeping secrets, and he will never betray a confidence given to him in honesty. It's why he pairs so well with Donald, the spark to his steady flame, and between the two of them, he thinks, they've done well enough with Sora, who doesn't so much need guidance as to be aimed in the right direction. Mickey is a kind king to respect them for it, if not a good one, but of the two, Goofy knows which he'd prefer to serve.

He wonders, briefly, about Mickey, who has never been a parent either, and the volatile young one he's chosen to guide, but then the sun is rising, and there are worlds to save.

There are always worlds to save, and that necessity outweighs everything, especially childishness, especially envy.

Sora, he thinks, has come to know that too, and if he takes a moment to mourn for that, in the hustle of packing up camp and moving on, no one will notice the difference.

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