“I’m so afraid…”
She felt her way through nothingness, her dark coat hiding her.
“But, I know I did the right thing…”
She stumbled out onto a night shore, a forgotten world. Dark cliffs and rocks dotted the landscape, lit by a pale blue moon. She collapsed against one of the rocks.
“I gave up my life…”
She blinked away a tear.
“…for you, Roxas….Sora.”
. . .
“Well, what do you want to do?”
She could not look at Axel. She knew he was smiling, but did he really care?
She dropped her gaze, blocking out the setting sun.
“I want to be with you two.”
Roxas, sitting on the tree beside her, put his hand over hers, folded on her lap. “Then come back with us.”
It sounded so welcoming. It was just what she wanted.
That wasn’t what she wanted to say. Roxas pulled his hand back and Axel looked at her questioningly.
“Not the way I am now. But…” She lifted her gaze to catch the colorful rays of sun glinting over the water. “What would it take for me to be like you?”
. . .
“To be like…me?”
Sora brushed a hand over his eyes to block out the morning sun above him.
“I’ll admit, I’ve been jealous of you before…but not your sleeping habits.”
Sora sat up with a start and whirled to see Riku standing on the pier behind him, a bundle of greenery in his hands. Sora looked at all the banners and wreaths laid out on the ground around him.
“You haven’t changed,” Riku smirked. “Always sleeping when there’s work to do.”
He turned his back and Sora scrambled to his feet, grabbing a string of lights to prove his sincerity. “I don’t know what came over me. I just felt so tired that I had to lie down for a minute…”
Riku tossed him a string of garland. “Well, there’s a lot to get ready before everyone arrives for the Christmas party.”
Sora let his gaze rove over his childhood island. The wooden forts were glistening with lights, and the palm trees were strung with ornaments. But, there was still more to do…
He rubbed a hand over his eyes. “Leon and the gang are coming, aren’t they? And Donald, Goofy, and the King. Oh, a-and…Axel?”
Riku eyed him. “Problem?”
Sora momentarily got another glimpse of his dream with Axel, Roxas, and some black-haired girl who looked like Kairi. “Uh. No.” He passed his friend on the pier. “I’m just a little drowsy still.”
“You haven’t got a gift for her yet, have you?”
Sora hesitated and looked over his shoulder. He could still only see the black-haired girl in his dreams. “You mean Kairi?”
Riku shrugged his sweater-covered shoulders. “Who else? I hope you haven’t forgotten tomorrow’s Christmas.”
Riku brushed passed him, tangling him in garland. “You really are hopeless.”
Sora hurried after him to help as Riku started decorating one of the forts. “Christmas came upon me too quickly. I don’t know what to get her!”
“Simple.” Riku snapped a star-shaped leaf off of the garland. “Give her a paopu fruit.”
With a blank expression, Sora watched the leaf fall.
“Come on,” His friend laughed. “you’ve been wanting to do it for years.”
Sora snatched up the leaf and twirled it in his fingers distractively. “Well, yah, but…”
Riku hopped down from his ladder and put an arm around Sora’s shoulders, turning him in the direction of a bent tree with fruit hanging from it.
“Just go take a look. You’re not much help to me if you’re unfocused.”
He gave Sora a friendly shove towards the tree. Sora smiled nervously as he set his bundle of decorations down. “Right. Nothing wrong with just taking a look.”
That short trip across the suspended bridge never felt so long. Sora cautiously approached the fruit tree. Winter chills ran down his spine, and he hugged his arms to himself. The yellow star-shaped paopu fruits hung from this solitary tree on the island. He stared at them longingly, but…
“If I shared one of these fruits with Kairi, our destinies would be entwined forever.” He put his hand to the tree and hoisted himself up. “Well, I guess they kind of already are…”
Balancing on the tree, he reached for one of the fruits. His world spun for a second. The tree was suspended over the water below, the waves crashing against the land. Heights never did this to him.
“I want to be with you two.”
That mysterious girl’s voice echoed in his head, sounding so real. In his dream, she had been sitting here with her friends.
Sora’s world blurred. Waving his arms for balance, he snatched one of the paopu fruits off the tree before plummeting towards the water below. He shut his eyes as he crashed through the waves. He tried to swim back to the surface, but his body felt heavy. He clutched the fruit to himself and fought through the waves, but the current pulled at his ankles, dragging him down.
Bubbles of fear escaped his mouth when he realized he couldn’t make it to the surface. Darkness flooded his vision, and he was powerless to stop his body was sinking to the depths below.
. . .
Sora first heard the familiar sound of waves as he gained consciousness. He then became aware of the sand at his back. He sat up groggily, putting a hand to his head. “Did I…fall asleep again?”
He looked at his surroundings, expecting to see the familiar sights of the blue waves, the palm trees, the bright sun, and even Riku or Kairi. But this was different. Dark cliffs rose around him and the blackish water, illuminated by an eerie moon.
Sora got to his feet with a jump.
The Dark Margin!
He had been here once before with Riku after they had defeated Xemnas.
It was a girl’s voice. Gentle, but scared.
He turned to see a familiar person--the black haired girl from his dream.
“Who are you?”
She moved to put her black hood up and turn away, but he caught her hand. “Please, don’t run away. I’ve only met you in my dreams, but…I’d still like to get to know you.”
She fisted her free hand, but kept her gaze down. “I’m…not real.”
He shook his head. “I don’t believe that!”
“I’m nothing but memories…” She looked at the fruit still in Sora’s grasp. “…memories formed from your love of that girl you’re always with.”
She snapped out of his grasp and ran from him.
“Wait!” Sora struggled through the sand after her, but she was as light as a phantom.
The voice was hardly his own, but the word came out of his lips.
She halted and looked back at him. Sora rubbed his throat. “Xion? That’s your name, isn’t it?”
She put her hands together nervously. “Why are you here?”
He stepped closer to her. “Perhaps I should ask you that first.”
“I told you. I’m nothing but memories…inside of you. I shouldn’t even exist. That’s why I’m here.”
Sora held a hand out to her. “Then, you need to come with me back to my island. Tomorrow’s Christmas, and I don’t want you to spend it here alone…”
She pulled back. “I can’t…”
He dropped his hand in exasperation. “But, don’t you want to leave this place? Don’t you want to see Axel?”
“Axel?” She jerked her head up.
“That’s right. He’s come back, and he’s a keyblade wielder now.”
Xion sat back against one of the large rocks. “If only I could go…”
“Well, if you can’t…” He leaned up against the rock beside her, “I’ll just spend Christmas here with you.”
“But,” She looked again at the fruit in his hand, “aren’t you giving that to that girl?”
His cheeks flushed. “Well, yah, sort of…But, I’m a little hesitant about sharing it with Kairi anyway.”
Xion turned her gaze across the dreary waves. “If I could be with Roxas and Axel, I’d eat ice-cream with them. I think the greatest gift you can have is to be with those you care about.”
“Xion,” He met her eyes, “Roxas is inside of me, and you said that you’re inside of me too. Axel is coming to my island, so when I go back, you’ll sort of all be together.”
Her smile was weak. “I guess…”
“Here.” He pulled something off his neck and held it out to her. She looked at it unsurely.
“But, that’s your necklace. I can’t--”
“Please, Xion.” He took her hand and placed the crown-shaped necklace in her palm.
Tears were welling to her eyes. “What’s this for?”
“It’s a promise, and well…a Christmas gift.”
He released her hand, and she lifted the necklace face-level. “A promise?”
Sora nodded and pulled a good-luck charm out of his pocket. “Kairi gave me this a long time ago, but she told me to give it back to her when I didn’t need it anymore. It was a promise that we would meet each other again.”
“So…” Xion clipped the necklace behind her neck. “This is a promise that we’ll meet again?”
“Sort of,” He smiled. “It’s a promise you’ll be with those you care about.”
. . .
“Sora, there you are!”
When Sora opened his eyes, he was back on Destiny Islands. His body was half in and out of the water. Sunset hues were painted across the sky. But that was not all.
“Kairi!” He sat up quickly, shoving the paopu fruit into his jacket.
She looked at his clothes. “You’re soaked. It’s too cold to sleep so close to the water.”
I wasn’t sleeping…
He got to his feet and noticed that the island was lit with Christmas lights. Garland, candy canes, and ornaments were strung from tree and tree. Riku had finished it all by himself…and had done a wonderful job.
Kairi extended her hand to him. “Here. You must have dropped this.”
He held out his hand and she dropped the item into it.
It was his crown necklace.
He looked up to meet her blue eyes, and for a moment, he saw another face in hers--Xion’s.
Unable to hide a smile, he looked down the shore to where several shadows congregated around a fire pit. He could hear their chattering as they toasted marshmallows. He tried to locate the tall figure of Axel.
“Is everyone here?”
“Except you, sleepyhead! Come on.”
She grabbed his hand and began to drag him down the shore.
She slid to a stop in the sand.
Sora tried not to blush as she stared questioningly at him.
“I wanted to give you this. I…” He reached into his jacket and pulled out the paopu fruit.
Twas the week before Christmas in the Realm of Darkness and Master Xehanort wanted something to do with his apprentice. After all, who says villains can't have some fun around the holidays?
"I have been informed that christmas is approaching." Master Xehanort announced, staring at his apprentice who was lounging about on a sofa looking bored as ever.
"Yeah, what of it?" Vanitas asked, waving a hand in dismissal.
"Have you made a christmas list for Santa Claus?" Master Xehanort asked, watching Vanitas stiffen in response.
"No, I don't have time for childish things like Santa Claus." he replied, thinking this was some sort of joke.
"Not even for presents?" Master Xehanort asked, watching the wheels turn in Vanitas head.
"Fine." Vanitas said reluctantly, getting up off the sofa and stood up to open a dark corridor when something caught the corner of his eye. Vanitas mouth dropped open, choking out "M-Master Xehanort, what's that on your head!?"
Master Xehanort touched the reindeer antlers sitting atop his bald head and cackled "Doesn't it look good on me?".
"My eyes how they burn!" he screamed, rubbing at them trying to get that mental image out of his head. "Now I really, really don't want to celebrate christmas." Vanitas said in agony.
"But think of all the holiday cheer we can ruin and celebrate in their misery." Master Xehanort stated, removing the reindeer antlers.
"On second thought, lets go meet Santa Claus!" cheered Vanitas, taking the antlers from Master Xehanort and snapping them in half.
In Transverse Town
A huge grin formed on Vanitas face when he saw the Keyblade Hero standing in line with his friends and saw this to be the perfect opportunity to upset him.
"That's not Santa Claus." Vanitas stated, getting in line next to Sora.
"Is too!" Sora protested, with a frown.
"What are you two, five?" Riku asked, interrupting their yelling match before it could get any louder.
"How would you know, Sora?" Vanitas retorted, folding his arms across his chest in aggravation. "He doesn't even look remotely close to Santa Claus."
"Just because you don't believe in Santa Claus, doesn't mean I don't!" Sora cried out.
"Let me guess, you believe in unicorns and rainbows too?" Vanitas stated.
Riku face palmed as Sora nodded and glared at Vanitas.
"That's right, Sora! Believe in Santa Claus and you'll get lots of Christmas presents," Kairi encouraged, "Because Vanitas is a bad boy and will receive lot's coal in his stockings."
Vanitas glowered at Kairi, opening his mouth to speak his mind when a hand fell upon his shoulder, reminding him to quiet down. "Vanitas, play nice. We don't want to upset the other children in their silly delusions." Master Xehanort said cooly.
"Why am I doing this again?" he asked.
"This way please." interrupted an Elf, appearing at their side, holding a clip board and gazing up at Vanitas. "Ho Ho Ho! Have a Merry Christmas!" cheered Santa Claus, waving goodbye to Selphie who had a skip in her step.
"Pst, kid! You want to see Santa Claus or not?" the Elf asked, stomping his foot with impatience. Vanitas rolled his eyes in answer, "Yeah, let's get this over with," and followed the Elf over to Santa Claus.
Taking a seat in a chair next to Santa Claus, Vanitas eyebrow began to twitch in irritation every single time Santa uttered "Ho Ho Ho."
"Is that all you can say? Ho Ho Ho?" mocked Vanitas.
"What's your name, kid?" whispered the Elf, trying to move things along.
"Have you been a good boy this year, Vanitas?" Santa Claus asked, letting out a jolly good laugh and rubbed his belly good naturally.
"Do I look like a good boy to you, Santa Claus?" Vanitas growled out.
"Ho Ho Ho."
"If I have to hear one more Ho Ho Ho out of you, I will end you." threatened Vanitas.
"Kid, your holding up the line. Tell Santa Claus what you want for christmas!" complained the Elf.
Vanitas glanced over his shoulder, looking at the line formed for Santa Claus. There in line was an overjoyed Sora bouncing up and down in excitement with Riku on his right looking on in boredom and Kairi on his left humoring him.
"What does Vanitas want for christmas?" Santa Claus asked.
Vanitas golden eyes flickered over to Master Xehanort who bowed his in confirmation and a slow smile began to form on his face. "What do I want for Christmas?" he asked, letting out a bark of laughter. "Come with me!" Vanitas ordered, taking Santa Claus by the arm and hoisting him up out of the chair.
"Kid! What are you doing with Santa Claus!?" cried out the Elf, trying to stop him but was kicked away into a pile of fake snow.
"Ho Ho Ho?" Santa Claus uttered nervously, watching a christmas tree erupt into flames from a firaga spell and pushed harshly forward for all to see.
"I want Ventus, I want the X-blade, and most of all....I WANT TO RUIN CHRISTMAS!" Vanitas announced loudly, waving his hands dramatically up in the air and whirling on Santa Claus quick as lightning and whispering "Starting with you!"
"Please don't hurt me!" Santa Claus whimpered, cowering in fright from Vanitas and didn't see Master Xehanort approaching him until it was too late.
"Pathetic." Vanitas said, watching Xehnaort punch Santa Claus in the face with a BAM and sent him flying into a bunch of christmas presents.
"How could you! How could you do that to Santa Claus!" cried out Kairi, the first person to snap out of shock. "I'm a villain, that's why." Vanitas replied, cackling evilly.
"We villains are on the naughty list and every year, we get coal," Xehanort began ranting. "This is our revenge for all the years we've gotten coal. We don't have it in us to perform good deeds and help others and sing songs about unicorns and rainbows."
"He punched Santa Claus in the face!" cried out Sora, looking utterly devastated at the sight of a knocked out Santa lying on the floor with his black boot twitching.
"It's an improvement." Vanitas replied.
"Santa Claus was getting on my nerves." Master Xehanort said at last, letting his fist drop to his side.
Riku shook Sora trying to snap him out of shock and Kairi was checking on Santa Claus. "Merry Christmas Everybody!" Vanitas shouted and left through a dark corridor with Master Xehanort closely behind.
"Did you see the look on their faces?" Vanitas cackled, bending over in fits of laughter.
"Yes I did, Vanitas" Master Xehanort smirked, "did you enjoy yourself on this fine holiday?" He asked.
Vanitas straighten up and asked with enthusiasm, "Can we do this again next year, Master Xehanort?"
"Absolutely." Master Xehanort cackled.
And that was how Vanitas and Master Xehanort celebrated Christmas that year.
"We finally made it!" Sora exclaimed, looking out of the window of the Gummi Ship, his face pressed against the glass. Kairi joined him in looking out at the wintery Twilight Town. Riku just smirked and shook his head as he initiated the landing sequence.f
"You've been here a hundred times Sora," Riku said, punching a few buttons, "Is the novelty ever going to wear off?"
"No way! Besides, this is different! It's Christmas! And everyone's gonna be here!"
Riku couldn't argue with either of Sora's points. They had never seen Twilight Town covered in a blanket of snow. But the best part was that they were going to celebrate the holidays with everyone.
A few months ago, they had defeated Xehanort and saved the true Kingdom Hearts from the Darkness. And that was when Kingdom Hearts shone its light down and began granting miracles. Terra and Aqua returned to the light alongside Ventus. His heart had finished healing inside of Sora and had woken up. Roxas, Naminé and Xion were granted bodies of their own. And Axel, who had awoken as Lea, couldn't have been happier to see his best friends again. Though he never expressed that in so many words. He decided to keep his Nobody name because that was the name they knew him by before.
Since then, they had gone their separate ways. Sora, Kairi and Riku returned to their home at Destiny Islands, where they kept training to hone their Keyblade skills. They had continued to build their raft, and within a few weeks, it was finished. They would take it out on adventures on the sea, using their Keyblades to return home when they drifted too far.
Terra, Aqua and Ventus returned to The Land of Departure to restore their home to its former glory, to the way it was before Xehanort came. Terra and Aqua made a point to be careful around Ventus for a while. His heart mending took a lot out of him, even when it was finished; he would often faint from exhaustion, causing the older two to rush to his aid. But soon enough, he was back to his old cheerful self. After paying their respects to Master Eraqus, Aqua took his place as mentor and overlooked Terra and Ventus as they all continued to train.
Axel, Xion and Roxas returned to Twilight Town where they spent their time as they often did between missions for the Organization, eating sea salt ice cream and enjoying each other's company. As for Naminé, Roxas invited her to join them, and she happily accepted the invitation. Together, the four of them lived in the Old Mansion just outside of Twilight Town, At Roxas's request, they sealed the staircase that led to the computer that held the digital Twilight Town, among the other things that contributed to his time there.
Though they had seen one another since defeating Xehanort, they had never spent much in the way of quality time together. So when Sora suggested that they should spend Christmas together, everyone agreed. Roxas suggested that they hold their celebration at The Old Mansion. He went on about how beautiful Twilight Town was around that time of year, and their plans were made.
"How do you think everyone's been doing?" Sora all but leapt out of the Gummy Ship, landing a little clumsily in the snow, but managing to stay on his feet.
"We'll find out soon enough." Kairi stepped out behind him. After a few moments, she hugged herself and rubbed her hands along her bare arms, "It's freezing out here!"
"Jeez Kairi, its winter! You really should have dressed better!" Sora, looked back at her.
"Says the guy who goes everywhere wearing a hundred belts!" She joked.
"Hey, are you guys gonna lend a hand?" Riku called from inside the ship, "I can't carry all of these presents by myself."
"Yeah, coming Rik-Whoa!" Sora yelled, pointing up in the sky "Look!"
A portal appeared over the Old Mansion, and three figures emerged from it riding Keyblade Gliders. Once they made their way through, the portal closed behind them. Riku came out of the ship to see what all the commotion was about. They all watched as the figures did playful loops in the air around the Gummi Ship before descending. The one closest to the ship hopped of his vehicle that resembled a wave board. In a flash of light, his Keyblade Glider and armor disappeared, revealing Ventus.
"Hey!" Ventus greeted, running over to the Gummi Ship.
"Ven!" Kairi called back as Ventus approached, "Merry Christmas!"
"You too Kairi!" He paused for a moment to look around, "Wow, Roxas was right. It really is nice here in the winter."
Terra and Aqua joined them once they landed.
"Hey everyone! Merry Christmas!" Aqua greeted before turning to Ventus "Ven, try and be a little more careful, you're still recovering."
"Aw, come on Aqua!" Ventus groaned, "I was fine, right Terra?"
"I didn't see anything wrong," Terra said, earning a disapproving look from Aqua, "Just be careful, alright?"
"Deal. Try not to worry too much you two. It's Christmas!"
"Yes, we're well aware it's Christmas." Aqua said jokingly, ruffling his blond spikes "What with the snow, seeing everyone else, you mentioning it every five minutes..."
"Hey!" Ventus' cheeks flushed red, earning a laugh from Riku.
"Don't feel bad Ven," Riku said, pointing at Sora, "He's been the same way."
"Riku!" Sora whined, cheeks flushing to match Ventus.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Kairi piped up, "I've been so excited to see everyone too."
"You had to go and spoil my fun." Riku sighed, rolling his eyes.
"She's right though," Terra added, earning a smile from the redhead, "I've been looking forward to this as well."
"See?" Sora argued, "Even Kairi and Terra have been excited!"
"But they've kept it together. Any mention of the holiday and you turn into a three-year-old."
"Grinch," Sora pouted at Riku.
"Here comes the welcome committee!" Aqua pointed at the manor. The gates of the Old Mansion open and four figures emerged and approached the group outside.
"Merry Christmas!" Roxas said happily, "Welcome to Twilight Town!"
"Good job Roxas." Axel remarked sarcastically before turning his attention to the group, "He's been waiting to say that forever. I'm pretty sure he's been practicing."
"Shut up Axel!" Roxas glared, shoving Axel a little.
"Roxas, just ignore him," Naminé told him. She was dressed much warmer than her counterpart, wearing fluffy white boots, a white toque, a large white coat and white mittens. She frowned when she saw Kairi, "Kairi, aren't you cold?"
"Just a bit," She replied, shivering in her red dress.
"Well not to worry!" Axel said, "In a manner of hours, I'll have cooked a heroic Christmas feast!"
"Really?" Sora He noticed a large paper-wrapped object in Axel's hands.
"Absolutely!" Axel exclaimed, undoing the package in one hand "Ta ad!"
"WOW!" Ventus and Sora gasped.
In his left hand, Axel was holding the mother load of giant turkeys.
"You're going to cook that?" Kairi stared at the turkey, "I didn't know you could cook."
"It's easy red! Add a little bit of this, some of that. Then pop it in the oven and you're good to go!"
He snapped his fingers with his free hand causing fire to shoot from his fingers and incinerating the turkey Axel looked down at the charred mess on the white ground.
"Uh oh," He laughed nervously, looking back up at everyone, "My bad."
Sora, Kairi, Ventus, and Aqua's jaws dropped. Riku smirked. Terra burst out laughing, earning a swat on the arm from Aqua. Naminé and Xion exchanged horrified looks while Roxas sighed and brought a hand to his forehead.
"Congratulations Axel," Roxas said, mirroring Axel's earlier sarcasm He glanced at his watch, "It hasn't even been ten minutes and you've ruined Christmas."
"Hey now!" Axel put his hands up, "It was an accident!"
"See?" Roxas said, pointing at Axel, "This is why we can't have nice things! Because Axel sets them on fire!"
"That's not true!" Axel argued, "When was the last time I did that?"
"Well, there was the time you blew up my favorite barrette," Xion said.
"And when you burned all my spare sketch paper," Naminé added.
"And the time you almost set my hair on fire!" Roxas said, "My hair! I could have been bald!"
"Hey! I missed!" Axel said defensively.
"Yeah, and you hit the wall!" Roxas shot back, "We almost lost our house Axel!"
"Anyway," Kairi interrupted, hugging her arms tighter, "Why don't we head inside? I'll help you fix the turkey."
"Kairi, look at that," Riku pointed at the remains of the turkey, "It's beyond fixing. We should just humanely destroy what's left of it before Axel decides to take it for another round."
"Well that's a little harsh." Axel sneered.
"I'm with Kairi on this one." Terra said, "I'll go grab everyone's presents. I left them where I landed." He began to walk back over to where his Keyblade Glider was.
"Terra! Wait! I'll help you!" Ventus called, running after his best friend.
"Wow you guys!" Sora looked around as they all entered the foyer, "You really went all out for the decorating."
Sora wasn't wrong. Garland was wrapped around the railings and draped along the walls. The figurine Twilight Town in the entrance was covered in a continuous snowfall. The statues in the hall had been replaced with poinsettias. Wreaths hung from every door and angels had been stained onto the glass of the lights.
"Who was the mastermind behind all of this?" Terra asked.
"Three guesses," Roxas replied, looking towards Naminé with a smile.
"I didn't do all of it," Naminé pointed to the mini Twilight Town, "You used magic to make the snow."
"Come on Naminé, take a little credit!" Xion said, "You guys should see what she did with the tree. It's in the White Room. Come on!"
They all followed her up the stairs into the White Room. Xion opened the door and ushered everyone inside. Like in the foyer, she had garland draped on the walls. The table had Christmas cards from Mickey, Yen Sid and everyone from Radiant Garden on it. But the tree was what caused everyone to cheer in approval. The tree was decorated in miniature Keyblades that each of them had used. Wayfinders of every color, shells and papou fruits fought for space with the Keyblades. Chains of chakrams wrapped around the tree one-way while a chain of crayons went the other. On the top of the tree, in place of the star, was a miniature Kingdom Hearts.
"This is amazing Naminé!" Ventus said happily. He pulled his own Wayfinder out of his pocket and compared it to the ones on the tree, "It looks just like mine!"
Naminé smiled, "Thanks Ventus."
"I don't think you missed a single Keyblade Naminé!" Sora said as he poked the mini Kingdom Key.
"I made a list of them all and double checked." Naminé explained, "If you've used it, its on the tree."
"You made a list and checked it twice?" Ventus asked happily, "You're just like Santa!"
"I guess you're right." Naminé laughed. She turned to Roxas and Xion "Why don't you guys show them to their rooms? I need to get our presents and put them under the tree. After that, I'll need your help in the kitchen."
"What about me?" Axel asked.
"You can go collect the rest of the turkey and give it a proper Christmas burial in the back yard," Roxas joked, earning a laugh from Xion.
"Yeah yeah." Axel grumbled, exiting the room.
"This is where we're gonna sleep?" Sora's eyes traveled all around their room. It had three separate four-poster beds and a picture window taking up the far wall.
"Yep." Roxas replied, "I'll let you guys get settled. I gotta go help Naminé with her baking."
"Naminé bakes too? Is there anything she can't do?" Sora chuckled.
"I don't think so." Roxas smiled, "Anyway, she needs my help. See you around." Roxas spun on his heel and left the room, whistling a Christmas carol.
"This bed's mine!" Sora jumped onto the closest bed to the window.
"Such a kid," Riku rolled his eyes, "Which bed do you want Kairi?"
"I'll take the one next to Sora's," Kairi said, "I think you'd be happier with the one on the other side of the room anyway."
Riku mouthed a 'Thank You' to Kairi before starting to unpack his things.
"Wow!" Sora pressed his face against the window and looked outside, "Roxas was right, Twilight Town was amazing this time of year!"
"It's different than home, that's for sure," Kairi said.
"Hey! I have an idea!" Sora jumped back on his bed, "Let's go exploring!"
"What?" Riku groaned, "But we just got here. And we've been here so many times before."
"But not in the winter!" Sora whined, turning to Kairi, "Come one Kairi! Please?"
"Well, I wouldn't mind going for a walk," Kairi said, "And it turns out I did pack my coat."
"Fine," Riku groaned, "We'll go for a walk."
"Hooray!" Sora cheered.
"And this is where you guys are staying," Xion said, stepping inside the bedroom. This one was a little different than Sora, Kairi and Riku's. There was a fireplace on the far wall, and a giant four-poster bed on the opposite one.
"Sorry for the lack of beds you guys," Xion said.
"Don't worry about it," Terra told her, "It'll be just like old times, right Ven?"
"Yeah!" Ven pounced on Terra, sending him into the bed.
Aqua smiled, "I guess some things never change."
"Speaking of never changing," Xion said, "Naminé said that you guys like to watch the stars, so she came in here earlier and did a little more decorating."
Ventus looked around the room, "I don't see any stars."
"Lie on the bed and look up." Xion instructed.
Ventus did as he was told, getting off of Terra and looking up.
"Aqua! Come and see!" Ventus called. Aqua came over and sat on the edge of the bed and gazed up. Naminé had covered the canopy in bright stars. Terra and Aqua smiled at Ventus who pointed out different ones that he liked. She even made shiny versions of their Wayfinders to join the stars.
"She really went all out, didn't she?" Terra smiled.
"Nadine's always been pretty artsy." Xion explained, "She wanted to try branching out, and she thought this would be a good way to start."
"It's perfect." Aqua smiled, "Tell her 'Thanks' for us, okay?"
"Will do. I gotta go give her a hand downstairs," Xion said as she left the room.
"Oh man, I'm so excited!" Venus said, pouncing back on Terra.
"I noticed." Terra laughed, overpowering Ventus and pinning him on the bed.
Ventus squirmed like crazy in an attempt to get away, "Hey, no fair! Aqua! Save me!"
Aqua just smiled and rolled her eyes, "Break it up, you two."
Terra let go of Ventus, letting him sit back up, "Always gotta take his side."
"It's because she likes me more!" Ventus stuck his tongue out at Terra.
Terra smirked and cracked his knuckles, "Better watch out Ven. Aqua may turn her back."
"Okay, okay!" Aqua said, "Here's an idea. Ven, I left a bag in the White Room. Could you go and get it for me please?"
"Sure thing!" Ventus hopped off of the bed, landing gracefully on his feet. He stuck his tongue out at Terra again before speeding out of the room.
Terra shook his head, "He's never going to grow up, is he?"
"Nope." Aqua agreed, "But then again, neither are you."
"Hey now!" Terra pushed her a little.
"Oh, I almost forgot!" Aqua began rummaging through the nearest bag.
"These came in the mail for us," Aqua handed him a card, "It's from your family."
"Oh, thanks Aqua," Terra opened the card, "Everyone's seems to be doing well."
"Same here," Aqua passed her card over to Terra, "Everyone wants to come for a visit too."
"Your family wants to come to The Land of Departure?" Terra blinked.
"Of course!" Aqua smiled, "They really want to meet you and Ven!"
"They want to meet us?" Terra raised an eyebrow, "What exactly did you tell your family about me?"
"Oh, just the good stuff," Aqua laughed.
Terra rolled his eyes, "Great. But then again, I guess that makes up for all the stuff that I told my family about you."
"Wait, what?" Aqua blinked.
Terra burst out laughing. Aqua just threw her card in his face and pouted, causing Terra's laughter to escalate to roaring. Through the noise, they didn't notice Ventus. He had come bounding up the stairs with Aqua's bag, but when he heard their conversation, he stopped dead in his tracks. He looked down at feet. Before meeting Terra and Aqua, Ventus suffered with Xehanort as a master. He didn't have anyone else. He didn't have a family that sent him letters, or wanted to come and visit him or meet his friends.
He felt a tear fall, but quickly wiped it away. He took a deep breath, not wanting his friends to see him so upset. Keeping his eyes glued to the floor as to not face Terra and Aqua, Ventus slowly re-entered the bedroom.
"Hi guys," Ventus said, trying to keep it together.
"What took you so long?" Terra smiled, patting the bed, "Come over here. We gotta figure out what we're going to do today."
Ventus began to look up, but before his eyes found his friends, they found the cards on the bed. The sight of them brought back the feelings he was trying to push back. Tears started welling up, and this time there would be no stopping them from falling.
"Actually," Ventus said, his voice beginning to crack, "I gotta go! Bye!"
Ventus turned around and sped down the stairs, leaving confused looks on Terra and Aqua's face.
"What's gotten into him?" Terra asked.
"I don't know." Aqua shrugged, "I mean he was fine when he left the room, and then I pulled out the." Aqua slowly looked down at the cards. It was then that she pieced it together. She looked back up at Terra, eyes wide, "Oh no."
Terra caught onto Aqua's theory, slowly running his hand through his hair, "No wonder. Ven…"
"Come on!" Aqua jumped off the bed, "We've gotta find him!"
Terra followed suit, "Right behind you!"
"Psst. Xion," Axel whispered as he caught Xion running down the staircase.
"What's up Axel?"
"Are you busy?"
"Well, I've gotta go help Naminé with the baking," Xion pointed in the direction of the kitchen, "Why?"
"I need you to come on a mission with me." Axel explained, "In fact, as Number Eight, I command-"
"Axel, we're not in the Organization anymore."
"Well, it was worth a try," Axel smirked.
"So, what is it you need?"
"I need a turkey hunting partner."
Xion rolled her eyes, "And you want me to do it?"
"Yeah, unless your scared," Axel jeered.
"If anything, I'd be more scared of you turning me into the next turkey."
"Gee thanks," Axel groaned, "So, what do you say? Feel like saving Christmas with me?"
"And what about Naminé? She's expecting Roxas and I to help her."
"Oh, I don't think she'll mind too much," Axel grinned, "In fact, I'm sure she'd think of it as an early Christmas present if she got some alone time with Roxas."
"What do you mean?"
"Honestly Xion," Axel rolled his eyes, "Does everything go right over your head? Didn't you see how they were in the White Room?"
"No." Xion frowned, "Why?"
"Look at the way they've been with one another since Naminé came to live with us. She practically lights up like that Christmas tree when Roxas is around. And Roxas? He's got this special smile he saves just for her. I've caught him with it a few times when he thinks no one can see."
"Really?" Xion blinked.
"Yep. So, I'm thinking that since its the holidays, a little alone time is just what they need to finally say how they feel about each other. So, feel like helping them out?"
"Okay then," Xion smiled, "I'll come with you and give you a hand."
Axel smiled back, "I knew you were alright."
Xion pushed him playfully, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Guys!" Aqua came flying down the staircase with Terra on her heels, "Have you seen Ven anywhere?"
"Not since I took you guys to your room." Xion replied, "Maybe he went back to the White Room to look at the Christmas tree."
"Good thinking! Come on Aqua!" Terra said. And just as quick as they came, Terra and Aqua sped off to the White Room.
"What's up with them?" Xion looked over to Axel,
"Dunno," Axel shrugged, Turkey time?"
"Turkey time." Xion nodded.
"Hi Naminé," Roxas smiled as he entered the kitchen.
Naminé smiled back. She was wearing a snowy white apron and had just taken a tray of gingerbread cookies out of the oven, "Did you get everyone settled in?"
"All done. Oh, I ran into Xion on my way here. She's going to go help Axel get a new turkey."
"That's probably for the best." Naminé said, putting a new tray of cookies in the oven, "Axel probably needs all the help he can get."
"So," Roxas threw on a nearby Santa apron and rubbed his hands together, "What can I do to help?"
"If you could start grating some chocolate, that'd be great." Naminé instructed as she passed him a grater.
"You got it." Roxas nodded as he went to work on a block of chocolate. Roxas glanced over at the table next to Naminé and his eyes widened. Naminé must have had a really good head start on her baking. On top of the gingerbread cookies that she had taken out of the oven, there were different pastries, cakes and even homemade candy canes. The steam rising from each item found its way to Roxas's nose, sending him Cloud 9.
"Naminé, when did you start baking?" Roxas asked.
"Right after we all went to the White Room," Naminé replied, "Why?"
"Have you not had a break at all?"
"No. I haven't found any time," Naminé poured crushed candy canes into a large kettle of what Roxas assumed to be hot chocolate.
"You're not feeding an army you know," Roxas pointed out, finishing with his chocolate grating duties.
"No, but I am feeding Sora," Naminé grinned.
"True," Roxas laughed, "All I'm saying is that after all the decorating and baking you've done, you deserve a break."
"Maybe in a bit," Naminé said as she spooned some icing into a piping bag. As she spooned, some of it plopped in the bag, sending bits of icing flying all over her. Roxas burst out laughing at Naminé, who stood there, stunned.
"Hey, that's not funny," Naminé, pouted as she clued into what had happened.
"Actually, it's hilarious," Roxas grinned, "You're like a giant Christmas cookie!"
"Ha ha," She laughed sarcastically.
"Well, that's what you get for not taking a break," Roxas told her, "Oh, hold still," He took a step towards her.
"What's wrong?" Naminé asked nervously, a warm feeling began rising in her chest.
"You've got icing on your face," Roxas answered as he brought his finger to her cheek and wiped the icing. He popped his finger in his mouth and swirled his tongue around it, licking it clean, "Delicious," He said with a smile.
Naminé's cheeks flushed red and the feeling kept bubbling up. She bit her lip as this unknown sensation seemed to make her stomach tie in knots. Roxas clued in that Naminé was acting like this because of what he did. His cheeks tinted the same colour as Naminé's and the same feeling began to bubble up inside him.
"Sorry," Roxas took a step back and scratched the back of his head.
"No, it's fine," Naminé looked down, breaking eye contact with Roxas and trying to will her the colour out of her cheeks.
The sound of footsteps entering the kitchen caught their attention, thankful for the distraction. Roxas and Naminé looked over to see Ventus walking in.
"Hi Ventus," Naminé smiled.
"Hey." Ventus sniffed, wiping his nose.
"You okay?" Roxas asked.
"Yeah, I'm fine," he nodded.
"It sounds like you're catching a cold," Naminé said, "Take a seat and let me get you some hot chocolate."
Ventus nodded and he sat down at the table. She turned to the kettle and poured hot chocolate into a mug. She topped it with whipped cream and some of the chocolate pieces Roxas had grated.
"There you go!" Naminé passed Ventus the hot chocolate. She took a plate and set a few of her pastries on it, and placed it beside the mug.
"Thanks," Ventus smiled, taking a swig of his drink. When he took the mug away from his mouth, he left a moustache made of whipped cream, "Wow! This is awesome Naminé!"
"Thanks!" She grabbed a napkin and wiped away his moustache with a smile, "So, what are you, Terra and Aqua going to do today?"
"I'm...I'm not sure yet." Ventus said quietly, his face going blank.
"Well, just make sure you're back by dinner," Roxas smiled, "Axel and Xion are on a turkey hunt."
"If you told that to anyone else, they would think we were crazy." Naminé smiled, turning to Roxas,
"Yep!" Roxas grinned, "We're like one big, messed up family!"
The two of them heard some movement behind them. When they turned to see what was going on, they saw Ventus's seat was empty and heard him running out the entrance to the house.
"Did we upset him?" Naminé asked.
"I'm not sure." Roxas replied, "He seemed a little out of it when he came in. But don't worry. Terra and Aqua will sort it out."
"Well, I better get back to w-"
"Hold on a second." Roxas stepped in front of her, blocking the counter that she was working on, "First, you take your break. You don't want another icing explosion, do you? Let's just get out of here for a little bit, okay?"
"Fine," Naminé sighed with a smile, "What did you have in mind?"
"Go grab your coat and meet me at the entrance." Roxas grinned.
"OH THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL! " Sora sang as he crunched through the snow.
"Sora, I swear to God. If you sing another Christmas carol, I'll murder you," Riku threatened.
"Oh come on Riku!" Sora groaned, "Why do always have to be such a downer? It's Christmas! And Santa's watching you!"
"Sora, we've been through this. There is no such thing as Santa."
"What?!" Sora stopped dead in his tracks, "I've met him before!"
"No Sora. That was a mall Santa."
"But what about Santa from Christmas Town?" Kairi chimed in, "Sora couldn't stop talking about him when we all got back home."
"His mind was probably warped from all the world traveling that he didn't know what he was talking about," Riku told her, "If you think about it, it sure explains a lot."
Kairi held a gloved hand to her mouth trying to conceal a smile. Riku caught onto what she was hiding and proudly flashed a smirk in Sora's direction. Sora just pouted and started to walk again when a new song came into his mind.
"WALKING THROUGH THE SNOW! WITH A PRINCESS AND A GRINCH!"
Kairi couldn't hold her laughter behind her hand anymore. Sora flashed his signature grin at her. But as he turned to Riku…
Sora fell back into the snow banks after being hit with Riku's snowball. Kairi ran over to help Sora up.
"Are you okay?" Kairi asked.
"Always taking his side," Riku sighed.
"Well, what if your snowball had a rock in it?" Kairi glared, "You could have hurt him."
"Kairi, come on. Look how high the snow is," Riku held out his arms, pretending they were meter sticks, "It's just snow. He's a big boy. He can take it." He turned to Sora, "Isn't that rig-"
The force of Sora's snowball sent Riku flying out of sight.
"Hah!" Sora raised his hand victoriously, "That's what you get with messing with someone who loves Christmas as much as I do!"
"Sora! You didn't have to throw it that hard!" Kairi scolded.
"Hey!" Sora argued, "He started it!"
"That doesn't matter! He didn't hit you that hard! I can't even see him now!"
"Don't worry Kairi! It's Riku, remember?" Sora cupped his hands around his mouth, "RIKU!"
A low growl was heard in the distance. Kairi and Sora looked at each other. Whatever made that noise didn't sound like Riku.
"Riku?" Sora quietly called, nervous of whatever made that noise.
"RUN!" Riku came back into view. He was running at full speed, being chased by a very angry polar bear. The bear roared and tried swiping at Riku. The sight caused Sora and Kairi to jump and run behind their friend as they were all chased through the snow.
"Axel, where are we supposed to find a turkey this close to Christmas?" Xion asked as they turned onto Market Street.
"Xion, relax," Axel placed his hands behind his head, "It'll all work out."
"That's what you always say!"
"And I'm always right!" Axel brought his index finger to his temple, "Got it memorized?"
"Yeah yeah yeah," Xion smiled, "So, what do you think will happen with Roxas and Naminé?"
"Who knows?" Axel shrugged, She's so shy and he's so awkward that it may take a Christmas miracle to bring those two together."
"It looks like a lot of these stores are closed." Xion looked around the deserted street.
"Geez, has nobody ever heard of late Christmas shopping?" Axel mused.
From the left, a store door opened and an old lady came out of it. Axel and Xion watched her lock the door behind her, apparently she was the owner. As she walked up the street, Axel noticed she was carrying a very peculiar shaped bag.
"She's got a turkey!" Axel whispered, pointing at her bag.
"Okay, so what?" Xion asked, "You're going to steal it?"
"Pfft, no. It's called the art of persuasion. Just watch the master," Axel jogged up to the old lady, leaving Xion to watch.
"Merry Christmas!" Axel smiled down at her.
"Merry Christmas to you too!" The old lady beamed.
"You know, it's that time of year where we give from the goodness of our hearts," Axel explained, "The time for selflessness. So, I was wondering if you would be willing to part with that turkey of yours so I could have it."
"Oh, I'm sorry dear, but I need this turkey tonight," The old lady walked past Axel, "Have a good Chr-"
"Come on you old hag!" Axel jumped in front of her and grabbed her bag.
"What are you doing?" The old lady screamed, fighting to hold onto her bag.
"Axel! No!" Xion called running over.
"You don't need a turkey that big anyway!" Axel kept pulling.
"Somebody help me!" The old lady screamed.
"Axel! That's enough!" Xion pulled Axel's hands off of the turkey, "What is wrong with you?"
"Come on Xion!" Axel glared at her, "You're supposed to be helping me!"
The old lady pulled the turkey back and reached into her purse, pulling out a bottle of mace. Before Axel had a chance to register what was going on, she shot it into his face. Axel screamed and brought his hands to his face. The old lady gripped her turkey in two hands, and with a mighty swing, launched it into the back of Axel's head. The blow knocked him to the ground below.
"Kids these days," She muttered, walking past Xion.
"Axel! Are you okay?" Xion knelt down to check on him.
"Me? Oh, "I'm great. Never better," He groaned, lifting his face off of the ground, "I get my ass kicked by an old lady, there's witnesses, and I still have no turkey!"
Axel blinked through his sore eyes, trying to get his vision back. As things came back into focus, he noticed a small brown dot running across the street.
"Xion, what's that?" Axel pointed in the direction of the dot.
"What's what?" Xion looked to where Axel was pointing and her face went blank, "No way."
Xion couldn't believe it. Running around the Market Street was a live turkey. Axel's vision came back and he stood up.
"Where did it come from?" Xion asked.
"Dunno. Do turkeys live in the woods?" Axel reached into his long, black coat and whipped out a shotgun "The point is Christmas is saved!"
"Axel!" Xion jumped back a the gun, "Where did you get that?"
"What?" Axel looked over at her, "Haven't you been in the gun room yet? It's off from the basement and it's full of stuff like this!"
He cocked the gun in one hand and lowered the barrel to land in the other, "Alright Mr. Turkey! It's time to die!"
"Roxas, where are we going?" Naminé asked, treading behind Roxas through the woods.
"You'll see." Roxas grinned. He pushed a tree branch out of the way so they could walk past it.
"I've never been to this part of the woods before." Naminé looked around.
"This is a shortcut," Roxas explained, "We…I'm the only one here that knows about it."
"Oh," Naminé looked down. She bit her lip, knowing that the fake Twilight Town was still a touchy subject for Roxas, "Sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."
"It's fine," Roxas said, "I think I saw Sora, Kairi and Riku going the other way when we left."
"Oh no! What if they find polar bear by accident?"
"Relax Naminé. Even if they did find it, they wouldn't disturb it. They're smarter than that."
"Okay then. So, where are you taking me?"
"We're here." Roxas turned to her and smiled.
He pushed one more branch out of the way and ushered Naminé through. Naminé's eyes widened as she stepped onto the beach. Through the snow, you could see spots of the sand and the water was just starting to freeze.
"I thought you could only get here by train!" She smiled.
"I told you. I'm the only one who knows about this shortcut," Roxas explained. He held out his hand, "Follow me."
She smiled and took Roxas's hand. He led her to the shore where the waves started to touch their feet. Roxas let go of Naminé's hand and stepped away from her. In a flash of light, he summoned his Keyblades, Oathkeeper and Oblivion.
"What are you doing?" Naminé asked.
"Watch," He raised Oblivion to the water and cast a Blizzard spell. A shining blue light left the Keyblade's tip and rose in the air. The spell sank into the water and with a brilliant light, the water completely froze over.
"Here," Roxas lowered Oathkeeper at Naminé, "Hold out your feet out."
"Roxas?" Naminé asked with a look of concern on her face.
"Trust me, okay?"
Naminé nodded and raised a boot to Oathkeeper. Roxas tapped the Keyblade against the bottom of Naminé's boot, casting another Blizzard spell. Naminé flinched, wondering what he was doing and hoping he didn't overdo it. But instead of incasing her entire foot in ice, he had created the blade of an ice skate on her boot.
"Wow," Naminé exclaimed.
"Here," Roxas held out Oblivion, "Keep your balance with this so I can do the other one."
Naminé did what she was told and held onto the Keyblade. Roxas tapped her other boot, creating another skate blade. He did the same to his own feet and dismissed his Keyblades.
"Here," Roxas extended both hands this time, "I'll lead you onto the ice."
Naminé nodded and placed her hands in Roxas's. One step at a time, he led her onto the ice. The feeling that bubbled up inside both of them in the kitchen was beginning to surge again, but they both fought their hardest to suppress it and enjoy each others company.
"So, are you going to tell me why you brought me here yet?" Naminé asked.
"In a few more seconds," Roxas led them to the middle of the ice. He pointed forward, "There."
Naminé looked at what Roxas was pointing at. The sight took her breath away. From where they were standing, they could see the entire town covered in a blanket of snow. The sun illuminated the entire scene with rays of golden light that made the snow sparkle. And thanks to it being behind the clock tower, it didn't blind them.
"Roxas, this is beautiful!" Naminé smiled, "Thank you for showing me this."
"I thought you'd like it." He grinned, "Happy you took that break?"
Naminé nodded, "I just wish I brought my sketchbook. I would have loved to draw this."
"Well, just say when you want to come back, and we can."
"Oh, thank you Roxas!" Naminé went to wrap him in a hug, but as she stepped forward, her foot slipped on the ice and she lost her balance. She went flying into Roxas. Roxas, not wanting them to fall on the ice, grabbed her and slid back just in time as they crashed into a snow bank.
After they fell, they both realized the position they were in. Roxas was holding onto Naminé tightly, and Naminé had her head buried in Roxas's chest. Roxas slackened his grip on her and moved to look at him.
"Sorry about that," Naminé smiled sheepishly, "Nice save."
"Anytime," Roxas smiled back.
That funny feeling bubbled over and each of them looked away awkwardly. Naminé got up off of Roxas and allowed him to stand, both of them blushing.
"I should get back to the house," She said nervously.
"Yeah," Roxas nodded, "Let's go."
"Axel!" Xion called, chasing after Axel, "I don't think-"
"Can you just stop shooting for a second and-"
"Oh for the love of-"
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Axel was going crazy with his shotgun. He fired at the turkey over and over again, but his target was too quick for him. The turkey squawked with every miss as debris flew everywhere.
"Feisty little pest," Axel muttered as he chased after the turkey, cocking the shotgun.
"Axel!" Xion called before he started firing, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Xion are you kidding me? There's a turkey right there! We're going to save Christmas!"
"But you're going to be killing an innocent turkey!" Xion protested.
"Xion, that innocent turkey has 'Christmas Dinner' written all over it!" He grinned as he fired in front of the turkey, sending it running into the dead end of an alley. The turkey turned around in horror as it watched Axel and Xion come closer.
"Oh Mr. Turkey, this has been fun," Axel laughed maniacally, "But this time, you're toast!"
Axel cocked the shotgun and lowered the barrel down to the turkey. The turkey squawked as Axel rested his finger on the trigger. Xion covered her eyes. Axel looked down the shotgun, smiling that there was no way he could miss his shot. His gaze went back to the turkey, which was cowering away from the gun.
Suddenly, Axel sighed and lowered the gun. He placed it back in his jacket and stepped to the side.
"Off you go," Axel gestured to the Market Street. The turkey scrambled out of the alley and ran out of sight.
Xion uncovered her face and turned to Axel, "What happened?"
"I guess my heart decided to go into overdrive," Axel explained, "It picked a perfect time too. It was right there. I had the shot. Oh well, there goes Christmas. "
"Cheer up Axel." Xion told him, "We'll thing of something. Besides, I don't think anybody would have liked you shooting a turkey."
"Maybe you're right," Axel smiled sadly.
"Besides, what would Santa have said?"
"Well Xion, I would have had to put Axel on the naughty list," came a jolly voice from behind them.
Axel and Xion turned around and their faces went blank. Standing in front of them was Santa Claus, carrying a giant sack on his shoulder.
"Merry Christmas you two!" He beamed.
"Santa!" Xion grinned, "Merry Christmas!"
"Oh no. This can't be good," Axel groaned, "Let me guess. You're here to personally deliver me a giant lump of coal for burning our Christmas dinner."
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa chuckled, "Axel, if I were to do that, a lot of people would be getting coal this year."
"So, what are you doing here?" Axel asked.
"Let me explain. But before I do," Santa reached into his pocket and pulled out a pipe, "Axel, would you mind? I'm afraid I'm all out of matches."
"Anything for you, big guy," Axel smirked. He snapped his fingers against the pipe, igniting it.
"Thank you." Santa stuck the pipe in his mouth and began to puff out circles of smoke.
"Now where was I?" Santa blew smoke out of his nose, "Oh yes. I decided to make my trip a little early this year. I wanted to come and visit all of you personally give you your presents."
"Really?" Xion gasped.
"Of course!" Santa smiled, "But I wanted to tell you both something first. Christmas is a special time of year. And it isn't made special because the food we eat. But the people we share it with, and the people we spend time with. I watched the two of you all day trying to give all of your friends the best Christmas dinner you could possibly give them. But all along, you've both been embodying what the holiday is about! Especially you Axel." He turned towards Axel, "You've spent the entire day with Xion, making memories that she'll cherish forever. Isn't that right Xion?
"Yeah, I'll never forget today," Xion laughed, "Especially the part with the old-"
"I'd rather not think about that ever again," Axel snapped.
"Anyway," Santa went on, "I have something that the two of you have been looking for."
Santa put his sack on the ground and rummaged through it. With a tug, he pulled out a gigantic turkey from his sack.
"Here you go Axel!" Santa said as he handed Axel the turkey.
"Wait a second," Axel eyed the turkey, "This is the same one that I…overcooked."
"Yes it is," Santa nodded.
"But how did you get it back to normal?"
"Oh Axel! Christmas is the time of year for miracles!"
"Well, I'll keep that in mind when I cook next year," Axel grinned.
"Speaking of next year, I've got something else for you." Santa put his hands in his sack again and pulled out a fire extinguisher.
"I've used some of my special Christmas magic on it so it will never run out!" Santa explained.
"Oh goody," Axel groaned.
"And then there's Xion," Santa went back into his bag and pulled out a barrette, "I think that this is yours."
"Its my barrette!" Xion gasped, taking it from Santa's hand and placing it in her hair, "Thanks Santa!"
"You're welcome!" Santa smiled, "Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a few more of your friends that I need to go and see. Could you point me in the direction of the forest?"
"Down that way," Axel pointed.
"Perfect," Santa beamed, "Have a wonderful Christmas you two!"
And with that, Santa picked up his bag and walked off.
"Say "Hi" to the Mrs. for me!" Axel waved.
"Oh wow Axel! Christmas is saved!" Xion jumped up and down.
"Of course it is! We did it!" Axel sent his finger up to his temple, "Got it memorized?"
"Got it memorized." Xion nodded, mimicking Axel.
"Good. Now let's get home before I find that old lady and challenge her to a turkey fight!"
"KEEP GOING!" Kairi yelled, "ITS GAINING ON US!"
Sora, Riku and Kairi were running at full speed through the woods with the polar bear right them.
'"WHY ARE THERE POLAR BEARS IN TWILIGHT TOWN?" Sora asked.
"IS MY NAME ROXAS?" Riku replied, "HOW SHOULD I KNOW?"
"WELL, YOU'RE THE ONE WHO GOT US IN THIS MESS!" Sora fired back, "SO I THOUGHT YOU MIGHT KNOW!"
"EXCUSE ME? IT WAS YOU WHO THREW THE SNOWBALL AT ME!"
"YOU THREW IT FIRST!"
"WOULD YOU TWO SHUT UP?" Kairi interjected, "ARGUING ISN'T GOING TO MAKE IT GO AWAY!"
"YEAH SORA!" Riku jeered.
"RIKU! I SWEAR TO-WHOA!" Sora's foot got caught on a branch. He tumbled into Riku, who tumbled into Kairi. Together, the three of them rolled down a hill, forming a massive snowball as they went down. They landed against a tree with a crash, flying in every direction. The polar bear stood at the top of the hill and roared down at them. Then it turned around and walked away.
"Ugh," Sora groaned, popping his head out of the snow, "Is everyone okay?"
"I think so," Kairi got up and checked her over.
"Never better," Riku muttered, planting Sora's head back in the snow.
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" came a jolly voice, "That was the most thrilling chase I've seen in a long time!"
Riku looked over and his face went white. Sora leapt out of the snow at the sound of the familiar voice, and joined Kairi who was covering her smile with her hand.
"Santa!" Sora cheered, running over to Santa and hugging him.
"Merry Christmas Sora!" Santa said, returning the hug.
"Wow," Kairi whispered.
"You've gotta be kidding me," Riku groaned.
"HA!" Sora turned and pointed at Riku, "See Riku? I told you he was real!"
"Yes, Riku. I exist," Santa told him, "But don't worry. The world would be full of coal on Christmas Day if I put everyone who stopped believing in me on the naughty list."
"Now, why don't you all come with me for a moment?" Santa led them back up the hill.
"Santa, what about the polar bear?" Sora asked, "It wants to eat us!"
"Oh, I think we'll be fine as long as we keep our distance," Santa smiled as they reached the top of the hill. He pointed forward, "See?"
Sora, Riku and Kairi looked to what Santa was pointing at. The vicious polar bear that had chased them all through the woods was lovingly nuzzling its small cub. They watched as the cub ran in circles around its mother and fell in the snow bank. Sora laughed a little and the mother growled in his direction, causing him to hide behind Santa.
"It's alright Sora." Santa laughed, "She's just doing her job. Much like the three of you did your job, defeating Xehanort and releasing Kingdom Hearts. Everyone from Christmas Town is eternally grateful."
"It was nothing!" Sora smiled, tossing his hands behind his head.
"Well, it certainly deserved a reward," Santa said, dropping his sack.
"Hooray!" Sora jumped in the air.
"Though Xehanort is gone and Kingdom Hearts is back with us," Santa explained, "We still need to be on our guard from anything that threatens the light. So, I've brought you all new Keyblades."
"New Keyblades?" Sora exclaimed, "Alright!"
"This one is for you Sora: Reindeer Games." He handed Sora a Keyblade made of reindeer antlers.
"Wow!" Sora twirled his new Keyblade in the air, "Thanks Santa!"
"You're welcome," Santa beamed, turning to Kairi, "And this one is for you Kairi: Carol of the Bells." He handed Kairi a Keyblade with bells on the teeth.
"Thank you!" Kairi swished her new weapon in the air.
"And then there's Riku." Santa smiled.
"Let me guess," Riku moaned, "My new Keyblade is called 'Coal Blaster'?"
"Actually, it's not," Santa handed him a sparkly white Keyblade. It felt like ice in Riku's hand, "It's called 'Snowfall'."
"Not too shabby." Riku slashed the Keyblade forward.
"Thanks so much Santa!" Kairi hugged the man, "I can't wait to start using it!"
"Me too!" Sora chimed in.
"You're welcome!" Santa smiled, "Now, I have to go. There's someone who is all alone that could use my help. Where can I find the Usual Spot?"
"The Usual Spot? It's that way," Sora pointed.
"Perfect. Have a Merry Christmas you three!" Santa called as he walked away. He waved to the polar bear, who nodded back.
"Wow guys!" Kairi raised her Keyblade, "This is the best Christmas ever!"
"See Riku?" Sora joked, "You should never doubt me ever again!"
"Yeah yeah Sora." Riku said, "Better watch it, or else these new Keyblades are going to get broken in real fast."
"Is that a challenge?" Sora pointed his Keyblade at Riku.
"Maybe it is." Riku pointed his weapon back at Sora.
"Alright then!" Sora swung his Keyblade at Riku, "Let's go!"
Ventus sniffled as he watched the tears fall from his face. He was curled up in a ball, hiding in the Usual Spot. Shivering from the cold, he hugged his knees closer to his chest. He brought his hand to his eyes and wiped away some of the tears that fell.
"Ventus?" came a deep, soft voice.
Ventus looked up and his eyes went wide when he saw Santa looking down at him.
"Santa?" Ventus sniffed, "How did you find me?"
"Ventus," Santa shook his head, "You already know how I found you. It's my job to keep track of all the girls and boys in the world. That way, I can put them on my lists. If I couldn't do that, well, I would make a terrible Santa."
Ventus nodded and Santa sat down next to him.
"You should have at least worn your coat out here Ventus. You must be freezing." Santa went back into his sack and pulled out a large, red blanket. He draped it around Ventus's shoulders, "You wouldn't want to catch a cold on Christmas. What would Terra and Aqua say?"
Ventus clutched the blanket, taking in its warmth. He started to cry a little harder at the mention of his friends.
"Thanks," He whimpered.
"Now, why are you crying?" Santa asked.
"I…" Ventus looked to the ground, "I don't have a family."
"No family?" Santa asked, quirking his head.
"Terra and Aqua both have families that love them." Ventus nodded and shut his eyes, letting more tears fall, "They have families that they talk to. They write them letters and want to come for visits. I don't have a family of my own! There's nobody that sends me Christmas cards, or wants to meet my friends, or anything!"
"Ventus," Santa draped his arm over Ventus and pulled him close, "That's just not true. You do have a family."
"What?" Ventus blinked.
"A family faces challenges together," Santa explained, "They stick together through the good and the bad. Take a look at Sora, Kairi and Riku. Riku fell to the darkness, so Sora and Kairi worked to bring him back to them.
"Families are always happy to be in each other's company," Santa went on, "They cherish each other. Look at Axel for example. Remember how happy he was when Roxas and Xion came back to him? And they in turn were overjoyed to see him. Then there's Roxas and Naminé, who are connected on a whole other level by their others. Roxas welcomed Naminé with open arms when Kingdom Hearts gave them bodies.
"And families always come through the worst together," Santa continued, "That just leaves you, Terra and Aqua. The three of you were separated by insane circumstances. And look now. Terra is his own person, Aqua is back in the realm of light and your heart is whole again.
"But you were right about one thing. Families love each other. And I know you love those two with all your heart."
Ventus nodded slowly.
"Well, don't you think that they love you too?" Santa asked.
"But they've got their families," Ventus said.
"They do," Santa nodded, "But Ventus, family is by no means bound in blood. If they didn't love you, they wouldn't be tearing around the Old Mansion trying to find you."
"What?" Ventus blinked in surprise.
"Yes Ventus," Santa told him, "They're looking everywhere for you. And they're scared to death because they can't find you. They're scared because they think you ran away and won't come back. They're scared that you're hurt and they can't help you. What is that if not love? What could that be besides how a family acts?"
"Oh no!" Ventus jumped up, the blanket staying in place, "I've gotta go back! I've gotta apologize to them!"
"I'll take you home Ventus," Santa nodded, "There's something I want to give the three of you anyway. But I doubt nothing I have in my sack will give Terra and Aqua the joy that they will feel when they see you again, safe and sound."
Ventus nodded as Santa stood. He picked up his sack and took Ventus's hand.
"Come on," he said, "Your family is waiting."
"Aqua," Terra said, entering the bedroom, "He's not in the kitchen."
"He's not in the Gummi ship either," Aqua ran her hands through her hair in panic, "Terra, I'm really worried. What if he gets hurt? What if he needs us?"
"Aqua, the last thing we can afford to do is go crazy," Terra placed a comforting hand on her shoulder, "We'll find him."
"But he's still recovering from his heart! What if he faints and he's all alone? What if we never see him again? Why didn't I wait to bring out our cards? I should have known that it was a bad idea!"
"Aqua, you can't go and blame yourself. Now, where else haven't we checked?"
"Well, I may be able to help you with that," came a jolly voice from behind them.
Aqua and Terra turned to see Santa Claus standing in the doorway. Their faces dropped in shock.
"Santa?" Terra asked baffled.
"Yes Terra, its me." Santa chuckled, "But I think you'll be a little more happy to see who I have with me."
Santa moved out of the way in order to make room for Ventus to step into view. He was still wrapped in his blanket, holding Santa's hand.
"Terra! Aqua!" Ventus let go of Santa and ran toward his friends.
"Ven!" Aqua gasped, a tear falling from her face in relief. Together with Terra, she wrapped her arms around Ventus as if they thought he'd leave again.
"Don't ever do that again Ven," Aqua pulled him closer, resting her head on top of his. More tears began to fall, "Do you have any idea how worried we were about you?"
"I'm so sorry!" Ventus began to cry at the feeling of Aqua's tears falling on him, "I'll never leave like that again!"
"That doesn't matter anymore." Terra told him, "The only thing that matters is that you're here, and you're okay."
"No!" Ventus shook his head, "It's not!"
Terra and Aqua pulled away from Ventus, but each kept a hold of one of his arms.
"What do you mean?" Terra asked.
"I ruined Christmas!" Ventus cried, "Because of me, the two of you wasted the whole day! It's all my fault!"
"Oh Ven." Aqua wiped the tears from her face, "The only thing I needed this Christmas was for us to be together.
And look," She gave his arm a squeeze, "We're all here. That's all I wanted."
"Yeah Ven," Terra rubbed small circles into Ventus's back to calm him down, "We wouldn't want you to spend Christmas by yourself. Nobody should."
"So, you're not mad?" Ventus asked.
"Just promise you won't do it again." Aqua replied, running a finger along his cheek.
"Promise." Ventus leaned into her touch.
"And I'm sorry about the cards," Aqua told him, "I should have known better."
"Aqua, I don't want you to feel bad because you have a family that loves you. I don't want you to feel bad either Terra," He looked over to Terra, "I just didn't know what to think. So I ran, and then someone found me," He looked at Santa, who was smiling at him, "And showed me what it means to have a family. I understand now that I've had a family all along. Its you two."
"Ven…" Aqua trailed off as she placed a hand over her heart.
"Well said Ventus," Santa said, "Now, I think it's time that I give you all your presents."
Santa reached into his sack and pulled out three different coloured boxes; One red, one green and the other blue.
He handed the red one to Terra, the blue one to Aqua and the green one to Ventus.
"One of the greatest gifts that families share with each other are memories," Santa told them, "And these will make sure you can look back on them any time."
Terra, Aqua and Ventus unwrapped their presents, sending wrapping paper flying everywhere.
"Wow!" Ventus said happily, "A photo album!"
"Hey! Its us training!" He began to skim through the pages, Terra and Aqua looking through theirs, "And there we are stargazing!" He pointed to another.
"I thought I'd give you all a head start with some pictures," Santa reached into his pocket and pulled out a camera. He handed it to Ventus, "But don't worry. You still have a lifetime of memories to put in that album."
"Thanks Santa!" Terra said, ruffling Ventus's hair, "I promise I'll help Ventus fill his album."
"Me too," Aqua nodded.
Ventus opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a yawn. He placed his hand over his mouth, and looked up at Santa.
"Sorry," Ventus said, his eyes going bleary.
"It's quite alright," Santa beamed. He looked down at his watch, "Actually, I think it's time that you went to bed."
"But I want to stay up and take pictures of everyone!" Ventus argued.
"Ven," Aqua said, "We can take pictures of everyone tomorrow. We'll be doing everything in the morning anyway."
"Terra?" Ventus turned to Terra.
"She's right Ven. We'll all call it a night," He looked up to Aqua who gave him a nod of approval.
"Fine," Ventus kicked off his shoes and placed his gifts on the dresser, "Santa, will I see you again?"
"Ventus, as long as you keep Christmas in your heart," He touched Ventus heart, "I'll be with you.
"Now, it's time for bed." Santa told the three. Terra and Aqua placed their albums next to Ventus's. Ventus climbed into the bed with Terra and Aqua on either side. They each crossed an arm over Ventus, making him feel at peace.
"Goodnight Ventus," Santa patted Ventus's head, "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas Santa," Ventus said with a yawn. In mere moments, his eyes had shut and he was fast asleep.
"Now you two take good care of him," Santa told Terra and Aqua, "You don't want to lose him again."
"I'll keep him close," Aqua said, "I promise."
"He's not going anywhere," Terra added, "He's family after all."
"Indeed he is," Santa nodded, "Now, I should be off. There are a few more people I need to see tonight," He walked to the doorway, "Merry Christmas you two."
"Merry Christmas Santa!" They replied as they watched him walk out of the room and shut the door behind him.
Terra and Aqua looked down at Ventus and smiled. His little hand was clutching his Wayfinder. They pulled theirs out and wrapped them in his hand. Terra and Aqua rested their heads on Ventus's, listening to his breathing as they fell asleep alongside him.
"Thanks again Roxas," Naminé said as they stepped past the gate of the Old Mansion.
"I told you," Roxas smiled, "Anytime you want to go back, just say the word."
"I will." Naminé took a step closer.
"Can't wait." Roxas took her hands.
Suddenly, that strange feeling began to swell up in their chests, more powerful than before. They broke apart and clutched their chests.
"Are you okay?" Roxas asked.
"Yeah," Naminé replied, "I think I've been working a little too hard today. I'm feeling strange. I must be getting sick."
"Does it feel like your insides are knotting together?"
"I've been feeling the same way," Roxas said.
"Oh no!" Naminé gasped, "I got you sick! Roxas I'm so sorry!"
"Sick?" came a booming voice, "You two aren't sick!"
Santa stepped out of the mansion towards Roxas and Naminé, who just stared.
"Santa?" Roxas asked, "But, if we aren't sick, then what's wrong with us?"
"Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa chuckled, "There's nothing wrong with you!"
"Then what's going on?" Naminé asked.
"Tell me, how long have you had your own hearts?" Santa asked.
"Our own hearts?" Roxas thought out loud, "Well, since Kingdom Hearts separated us from Sora and Kairi."
"And have you been able to tell what you've been feeling since then?"
"What do you mean?" Naminé asked.
"Let me explain," Santa said, "When you were Nobodies, you what you felt wasn't real. An illusion, if you will. Happiness, sadness, and even anger. You never actually felt it, but you had an idea of what it felt like, right?"
Roxas and Naminé nodded.
"So, isn't it obvious?" Santa asked.
"We're...Feeling something that we've never felt before," Roxas said, "And that's why we don't know what it is."
"And this new feeling only seems to happen when I'm around Roxas," Naminé added, "He's been having it around me too."
"Exactly," Santa nodded, "Do you have any idea what that feeling is?"
They both shook their heads, causing Santa to laugh. He took Roxas's hand in one of his and took Naminé's with the other. He brought them together and let go, but the two hands stayed together.
"Its love," He said.
"Love?" Naminé blushed, "This is what love is? But it's...It's so strange."
"Yes," Santa nodded, "That's how love works in the beginning. You're not just feeling love. You're feeling uncertain and afraid."
"We are?" Roxas quirked his head.
"You are," Santa replied, "You see, this is what love feels like when you don't know if the person who you love loves you in return. Since you two have never actually loved, you weren't sure about any of that. But I'm here to tell you that love is what you are feeling."
"It makes sense," Roxas squeezed Naminé's hand, "I don't get like this around anyone else. Do you?"
"No." Naminé smiled.
"It feels kind of different now," Roxas looked down at his chest, where his heart was beating, "It doesn't feel like it did before. It feels...Warm."
"Me too," Naminé placed her hand on her heart.
"That's relief," Santa smiled, "There's no more uncertainty. All there is now is love."
"Wow," Roxas smiled, "It feels incredible."
"It almost feels like something was missing," Naminé said, "And now its there again."
"And that's exactly how it should feel," Santa dropped his sack, "I've got something for the two of you."
Santa reached into his sack and pulled out two necklaces. Each of them had half of a small golden heart. He placed them around Roxas and Naminé, "These are to symbolize the love that the two of you share. And no matter where you go, a piece of you will always be with the other."
"It's beautiful," Naminé said as she held the heart in her hands.
"You love is beautiful thing. Never forget that," Santa said, "Let grow and flourish as long as you can."
"I will," Roxas clutched his heart. He took a step towards Naminé and wrapped his arm around her waist, "We will."
"I know you will," Santa beamed, "But now it's time for me to go. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas!" They smiled.
Santa placed a finger on his nose and gave them a nod. He began to glow and in a flash of white light, Santa was gone.
"So," Naminé held out her golden heart, "This is real?"
"Yeah." Roxas placed his heart with hers, joining the two together.
Another flash of white light caused them to look up. Hanging above them on the gate was a sprig of mistletoe.
"I think Santa is giving us an extra gift," Roxas smiled.
"I think you're right," Naminé laughed. She leaned in closer to Roxas, "Merry Christmas Roxas."
"Merry Christmas Naminé," Roxas leaned closer and pressed his lips to hers.
* * *
I wonder what Christmas is like
How it feels to taste the glowing drops
Falling from the sky
I wonder if it’s fun
Waiting till the morning
For Santa Claus to come.
I wonder of the thrills
Of sledding down a hill
laughing with your
I wonder how it feels
Being with a family
To know that someone cares.
I’ll never know
Any of these things
Not even seeing through you.
I wonder what Christmas is like
I’m jealous of you
* * *
The wind buffeted Sora’s face as he ran to the top of the large hill overlooking World 5, reminding him of a time before the third war, when the worlds weren’t renamed using mere numbers, and when they weren’t destroyed beyond repair.
World 5 was unrecognisable, although Goofy seemed to believe it used to be known as Deep Jungle, home to Tarzan and the apes, which Sora, Donald and Goofy helped to save from Clayton, who was assisted by the Heartless in his efforts to take the world for his own.
This theory was backed up by several things found at the base of the hill, including a net of tree roots that managed to protrude from the ground from amongst the dystopian surroundings.
“Owwwwww!” Donald cried as he tripped over the tree roots. As Goofy bent over in order to help Donald to his feet, a sharp cracking noise disturbed the silence. Sora summoned his Keyblade, and looked towards the direction of the sound.
More cracks broke the silence, echoing across the land. Multiple thuds came from Sora’s rear, causing him to turn around in panic, raising his Keyblade.
“It’s us!” both Donald and Goofy yelled in unison. Realising they had spoken as such, they looked at each other and laughed. “What’s that noise?” Donald asked, a hint of fear in his voice.
“I’m not sure” Sora replied.
There was silence for several moments, in which time the trio looked towards the disturbance once more. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Sora vanished his Keyblade and looked into the distance once more.
For what seemed like an hour, they waited. And they waited. And they waited. Nothing happened.
“What’re we waiting for?” Donald asked, looking towards Sora for an answer.
“The noise” Sora said, bluntly and quietly.
As if on cue, the cracking noise from before began once more. Sora pinpointed it at once, as every time the noise was heard, a flash of orange light could be seen, albeit barely visible due to the volume of snow in the air and on the ground.
“There!” he shouted, pointing towards the light. “Come on!”
Even before the final word was spoken, Sora had set off at a run, closely followed by Donald and Goofy, making his way towards the queer disturbance in the normally-silent dystopia.
Several trees were still, partially, upright, so the trio took advantage of these and leapt from one to another. Closer and closer they loomed, towards the unknown. At one point Sora slipped, but he was not deterred. After being helped to his feet by his partners, he set off at a run once more.
As they became only several yards away from the disturbance, they reached a large cliff, and below, the cause of the noise was found.
Through the thicket of destroyed brambles, covered by masses of snow, the trio could clearly see several Heartless, each holding part of a large pickaxe, hammering into the cliff face. Every time there was a pause, another, larger, Heartless went over to inspect. Once Sora, Donald and Goofy noticed the larger Heartless’ attire, they all gasped.
“S-” Sora began, getting cut off by a sharp crack.
“S-” Donald began, getting cut off by a sharp crack.
“S-” Goofy began, getting cut off by a sharp crack.
After silence ensued, they began again, and this time they wailed in unison:
* * * * *
The large Heartless, now identified as ‘Santa’, looked up, and stared directly into Sora’s eyes. It whistled, getting the other Heartless’ attention. It pointed at the trio, who stood motionless at the top of the cliff.
“Finish them!” it cried.
The Heartless immediately took off, causing the trio to step back in surprise. Sora called upon his Keyblade, Donald his staff, and Goofy his shield.
While both Sora and Donald were fixated on the Heartless closest to them, Goofy jerked his head furiously in every direction, counting up from zero at each change of direction.
“What are you doing?!” Donald asked, readying a spell.
“There are seven types of Heartless” he gasped, then began relaying their types at shocking speed. Shadow, Gigas Shadow, Neoshadow, Soldier, Bandit,Gargoyle and Pirate.
The Shadow Heartless seeped into the ground, becoming immune to damage, and the Gigas Shadow Heartless followed. As ink-like spots on the ground, the Heartless seemed to glide effortlessly up the cliff, causing Donald to panic.
The Neoshadow Heartless leapt into the air, twirling in flamboyant arrays of violent dance as they slashed the air, in the hopes of scaring Donald further. It worked.
The Soldier, Bandit and Pirate Heartless ran vertically along the cliff face at frightening speeds, gliding left and right as they did, hoping to confuse the group.
The Gargoyle Heartless merely cackled. Once they reached the base of the cliff, they stood, motionless, staring at Sora, Donald and Goofy, and laughed.
* * * * *
All that could be seen was a flurry of flashes and sparks as Keyblade, Staff and Shield met the Heartless.
Sora swiped in large horizontal movements, followed by large vertical movements, followed by random slashes in no particular manner, in a desperate hope of destroying the foul demons that lay before him.
These swipes were accompanied by bursts of spells cast by Donald, and by Sora, in-between his sharp slashes. These were also accompanied by mellow thuds every few seconds, signs that Goofy was fighting with his shield, ploughing into the oncoming enemy as if they were no more significant that pieces of meat.
As Heartless fell, their bodies vanished, leaving semi-solid, green bubbles in return. They would sometimes drop diamonds, half-yellow and half-blue in colour, treasures taken from the many worlds they visited, known as Munny. This Munny was the currency of the strange worlds.
Shadow. Soldier. Shadow. Shadow. Shadow. Soldier. Gigas Shadow. Shadow. Soldier. Soldier. Pirate. Bandit. Pirate. Pirate. Bandit. Shadow. Shadow. Neoshadow. Neoshadow. Neoshadow. Neoshadow. Shadow. Shoadow. Gigas Shadow.
The death toll was heavy, and Sora soon lost count of the enemies he had killed. No blood was spilt, except for the rare times where Heartless managed to reach the trio and harm them in some way. These Heartless were soon rewarded, whether with strikes from Sora’s Keyblade, spells from Donald’s staff, or a head-on collision with Goofy’s shield.
Once the number of enemies seemed to diminish, the Gargoyle Heartless seemed to believe that it was their time to participate in the battle. In unison, they spread their wings and flew rapidly towards the sky, then dived towards the trio at astonishing speed. As they neared, Goofy held his shield above his head, in order to protect himself from the oncoming missiles: the Gargoyles.
Sora saw this, and ran towards Goofy. He did not stop, however, but merely leapt onto Goofy’s shield and flipped, holding his Keyblade out as he did so. Making contact with one of the Gargoyle Heartless, Sora’s Keyblade sliced it in half lengthways. This did not deter the rest, however. They continued to fly towards the group, even faster than before.
“Thundaga!” Donald cried. “Firaga! Thundaga!”
Streaks of gold illuminated the sky as they rained upon Donald’s surroundings, destroying several Gargoyle Heartless in the process. This was followed by blasts of orange, remnants of the second spell cast. Once more, streaks of gold filled the sky as the final spell was cast, destroying all bar two of the flying monstrosities.
“My time to shine!” Goofy called, launching his shield into the air, hurtling towards one of the remaining Gargoyle Heartless. It struck the beast in its head, severing it from the rest of the body. A whirring noise could be heard in the distance, causing the remaining Gargoyle Heartless to falter. The noise was that of Goofy’s shield gliding back towards its owner. Goofy laughed, then pointed sharply at the Gargoyle, who by this time had stopped flying towards the trio and had remained hovering in one place in confusion.
The shield seemed to moan, and altered its course, sending itself towards the Gargoyle, who squealed. Before it could escape, however, it was decapitated.
As the shield altered its course once more, this time for the final time, and returned to its owner, Donald asked Goofy:
“What the heck just happened?!”
Goofy hesitated, then shrugged. “I dunno” he said, “I just felt like it would work, gwahaha!”
* * * * *
A roar could be heard from below, a sign that the ‘Santa’ Heartless had decided to join in with the fight.
The group looked towards the base of the cliff and saw the last, and largest, remaining Heartless, staring back at them.
“Come down here!” It called in a demonic voice, “Face your destiny!”
Donald and Goofy looked at Sora with fear in their eyes.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “I have an idea. Goofy, give me your shield.”
Goofy silently did as he was instructed, albeit after much hesitation. Once Sora had hold of the shield, he placed it on the floor, face down, and stood on the top.
“Get ready to guide me down, Don’.”
Donald squawked, “Whaaaaaatttt?!” he cried. “You’re not going dowwwnnnn?!”
“Yes I am.” Sora replied bluntly, “Now ready yourself.” He looked towards the shield that he stood on, smiled, then raised his Keyblade to the sky. “Aeroga!” he cried.
Tendrils of smoke appeared from the base of Goofy’s shield as Sora cast the spell, and it began to rise into the air, slowly at first, then gathering in speed.
Sora turned on his heels and pointed his Keyblade in the direction of the edge of the cliff, as he had moved several yards in the midst of the fighting. The shield moved in the direction that he pointed. Once over the edge, Sora lowered his Keyblade, causing the shield to glide slowly to the base of the cliff. Once he was several metres from the ground, he finally acknowledged the size of the ‘Santa’ Heartless.
The Heartless stood roughly six metres tall and was probably the same in width. It wore a scarlet suit with white, fluffy, edges, along with a hat of the same description. It wore large, black boots and had a huge, black sack slung over its left shoulder.
Sora leapt off of the shield, which continued to drift slowly towards the ground, and yelled “Graviga!”
The ‘Santa’ Heartless groaned and fell to its knees, dropping its sack, and placed its hands against the ground for support. Sora took advantage of this moment and thrust his Keyblade through the Heartless’ back.
It’s stuck he thought as he pulled and pulled, but to no avail. Damn.
The Heartless roared as the Graviga spell wore off. It leapt to its feet, causing Sora to stumble and hit the ground. He cried in pain as he hit the floor, but stood up nonetheless.
Sora tried to make his Keyblade vanish, in the hopes that he could re-summon it and have it in his hands, but it never moved.
Damn. I can’t cast spells unless I’m touching my Keyblade.
The massive Heartless looming over him laughed. Donald squealed. As Sora chanced a glance at his partners, he noticed that Donald was whispering something into Goofy’s ear. Perturbed, he called their names.
“What’s wrong?” he asked them, although the answer was clear.
“You!” Donald cried, then he squealed again as Sora took a blow to the back of his head. Aiming his staff at the Heartless, Donald yelled a few choice words then “Thundaga!”
Sora gasped as several bursts of lightning fell from the sky. He took advantage of this distraction. Dodging the bursts, he ran towards the Heartless, whose sheer size gave him a disadvantage against the lightning.
Halfway there, an idea dawned upon Sora. He continued to run towards the large enemy, head-on.
It’s a long-shot Sora thought, as he neared even closer.
At the very last moment, Sora dived towards the gap between the ‘Santa’ Heartless’ legs, and rolled through. Once on the other side, mid-roll, he kicked off of the floor and leapt high into the air.
Once in line with his Keyblade, Sora flipped and landed on the Heartless’ back. It groaned and roared.
Sora smiled, then gripped the pommel of his Keyblade tightly, with both hands, and screamed. “Blizzaga!”
The end of Sora’s Keyblade lit up, and sent a jet of sub-zero ice into the Heartless’ body, causing it to howl in anguish.
“I will not be beaten!” it cried, although this was untrue, as it made one last howl before vanishing in a puff of red smoke, leaving behind a peculiar golden object in its place.
* * * * *
Travelling through the vast emptiness between World 5 and World 3 took a while, even in the speedy Gummi Ship. World 3 was home to what was known as The Liberation, a group whose members strove to regain the rights for each world and restore their glory. This group included Sora, Donald, Goofy, Kairi, Riku, Roxas, Axel and a few other men and women recruited from various worlds.
Whilst on the Gummi Ship, Sora hadn’t left the mysterious golden object alone. He toyed around with it in every way imaginable, in the desperate hope of making something, anything, happen.
Finally, Sora got angry, and launched the golden object, diamond-like in shape, across the room. As it hit a wall, something inside of it clicked, and a weird humming, accompanied by a light of sheer brilliance, emanated from within.
“Oh my!” Sora began, just as the object started to rotate. It stopped after a moment, then began to break apart, revealing something Sora had heard of only in tales of fiction.
“It’s-” he stuttered, “It’s a-”
The masterpiece within the golden object landed on the floor with a dull boom. Sora moved closer, but he was stopped merely inches away by an unknown, unseen, force.
The masterpiece was in fact alive, and humanoid in shape and size. It turned to face Sora, revealing a head of magenta hair, cascading effortlessly down the creatures nude body. Sora yelped.
“I’m in for a long ride home.”
Roxas suddenly awoke.For some reason, today seemed different. Through his half-open eyes, he glanced at his window. Nothing but-"Huh? What are those little white flakes falling outside?" Roxas thought to himself. He rushed into the hall. On the way, he crashed into Axel. "Hey Roxas, whats the hurry?" "Do you know what those white little flakes falling outside are?" Asked Roxas, who hadn't existed long enough to see a winter before and didn't have Sora's memories quite yet. "It's snow. It always comes during winter and people like it on Christmas." Axel replied. "Christmas?" " You know, holiday where theres the tree, presents, and everyone gets together?" "Will we celebrate christmas?" Roxas asked. "Of course not. We're nobodies man. We don't have feelings or emotions. Joy on christmas? I wish." Axel shook his head. "Well, I'd better go, or else Saix will get on my case." "Axel!" "Theres my cue." Axel sighed then walked off. "Christmas? Joy? Tree?" Roxas thought.
Saix had assigned him three missions. One to Beast's Castle, one to Wonderland, and one to Twilight Town. "Guess I'll go to Beast's Castle first." Said Roxas as he stepped through the portal of darkness. The castles normally gloomy exterior was decorated with wreath and the statues were strung with lights. When Roxas snuck in, he saw that the interior was decorated with candles that made the usually dark and lonely rooms seem full of life. The castles servants strolled around chatting about a christmas feast. "Hmmm... they celebrate christmas here too?" Roxas thought as he completed his mission(destroying heartless). "What exactly is christmas?"
Today was Roxas's mission to Wonderland. His mission was to collect hearts. "I wonder if they celebrate christmas there." Thought Roxas before he left. When he got there, Wonderland seemed normal, at least untill he got to the forest. There he found Alice and the Mad Hatter having a very unmerry christmas party. As he stood in the shadows, watching, a voice behind him said " Christmas is a time when all are in joy." Roxas whipped around, but no one was there. As Roxas finished his mission, he debated whether christmas was celebrated in all worlds. "Why is this holiday so important?"
Todays mission was at Twilight Town. As soon as he stepped out of the portal, three kids ran across in front of him. What were there names again? Oh yeah! Hayner, Pence, and Olette. "What were they doing?" Roxas wondered. Oh well. He wasn't here to goof off. He had to go find his target.
Later that day, Roxas ran into the sandlot, exhausted. He had searched everywhere for his target, and still hadn't found him. CRASH! Hayner slammed into him, sending them both to the floor. Roxas pulled himself up and saw Pence and Olette helping Hayner up. "Sorry man, didn't see you." Hayner apologized, pulling himself up. "Thats O.K., what are you guys doing?" Asked Roxas, eyeing the bag Hayner had dropped. "Oh, just decorating the tree and getting ready for christmas." Hayner replied. "You decorate the tree?" "You didn't know that? Man, you do need help." Hayner shook his head. "C'mon, we'll show you." Just then, a gigantic phantom tail popped up, hovering above them. Roxas leapt in front of his new friends, keyblade in hand. "Go guys! I can handle this!"
After a long battle,(phantom tails were extremely infuriating) Roxas won and caught up with his new friends. He helped drag a humongous tree into the sandlot, and used his keyblade to hang ornaments. They made popcorn strings too, but Pence ate everything. While they worked, Hayner, Pence and Olette explained christmas to Roxas. If only they could have christmas in the organization....
The sun was setting and Roxas had to go meet Axel. He bade goodbye and hurried to the clock tower He found Axel there alone. "Is Xion coming?" "She said shes coming soon." "Hey Roxas, I thought about what you said about christmas, and I decided that even us nobodies deserve to have a christmas, even if we can't feel it. Here, try this." Axel handed Roxas a packet, which he tore open. It was ice cream, and the flavor was Christmas Peppermint. "Thought we could have a change for today." Axel grinned. "Even we nobodies deserve to have a christmas." Axel's words echoed in Roxas's head. "I think I know how we can have a christmas in the organization." Roxas whispered his idea to Axel. "I don't know about this Roxas, but i'm in. I'll get Xion to help."
"Wake up sleepy head." Whoa! Xion was leaning over him. "They've just noticed our "little surprise". Roxas leapt up and followed Xion. The members of organization 13 were staring at the gigantic tree in the corner and the numerous decorations everywhere. Xigbar grinned, Demyx dropped his sitar, and Vexen muttered to himself. "What is this?" said Saix. "I just wanted us to have a Christmas" Roxas stepped up and said boldly. Everyone stared at him. No one said anything. There was a deathly silence. "Follow me for your missions." Said Saix. Everyone followed him out of the room. Roxas's spirits died. He couldn't believe he had been so stupid. They were nobodies. THey didn't care about christmas. What did he expect them to do, clap and praise him? "Wait!" Axel called. Everyone turned towards him. "Even us nobodies deserve to have a christmas. Roxas spent all night on this." Saix glared at him. " I say we shock the brats." Said Larxene, summoning her knives. Xion glared at her. "What do you say, lord Xemnas?" Saix inquired. Xemnas looked at them all, his gaze lingeing on Roxas. "Since it is here, we might as well enjoy it to the best of our ability." Xemnas said slowly. Roxas's face broke into a grin. Everyon walked away, looking around. "Look, I got a new sitar string!" Said Demyx. "Aerial tech, just what I needed." said Xaldin. Roxas had spent all night dragging the decorations, presents, and tree from twilight town. "Looks like even nobodies can have christmas" thought Roxas. Everyone looked happy. Well, just as happy as a nobody can be.
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Snowflakes drifted softly outside the frosted window, each and every individual reflecting the burning glow of the lights strung up around the tree. The glitter of ornaments both handmade and bought shone a tiny, brief light in his heart. The radio played its typical seasonal music.
Vanitas only raised his eyebrow in near derision, twisting his mouth to further send his mixed feelings of all this "Christmas cheer", as Ven called it. Vanitas had never understood why Ven had given the pitch-haired young man a room in his stuffy apartment, or even why Ven himself had ever even cared for Vanitas in the first place.
Long story short - given that Vanitas hated thinking of how he had wound up in this strange environment of love and joy - his mother had died after complications from childbirth; his father was unknown, and his divorced grandfather had been given guardianship of Vanitas.
From the farthest back he could remember until around a year ago, Vanitas had been in the stern, unloving, controlling home of his patriarch. None of that truly mattered to him anymore, since Vanitas left the house around his twentieth birthday.
He could still remember the day when Ventus came by in his car, helping Vanitas to pack his things into boxes, moving the usually cold, distant boy into the golden cherub's cozy abode. Ventus had managed to squeeze his manager at work into hiring Vanitas, both to help cover the apartment's costs, and give Vanitas a chance to make a good network of worthwhile friends.
Aqua the mom. Tough guy Terra. Happy-go-lucky Sora. Riku, the planner. Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum Isa and Lea. Kairi and Namine, always chatting about what they'll do next to mess with the boys. Xion and Roxas always finding ways to nab us some Sea Salt Ice Cream from the store next door.
And then there's Ven. Always smiling, never missing a beat. Why? Why help me? Vanitas mentally inquired, trying to force his brain to worm its way towards the answer, if there even was an answer that he knew of.
Maybe its like how he says it is. "Christmas cheer, Vanitas, is when your heart just happens to grow three sizes too big, and you just have to let it out!"
Funny, Ventus; you never came around to explaining how I get rid of this twinkling, warm feeling. Just like when we had to repair the cupboard shelf after you shoved all the seasonings and spices inside, and caused the board to collapse.
. . . You looked so delightfully comical covered in garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
A tiny, heart-throbbing mewl erupted the human silence, save for the radio. Vanitas felt the tiny sandpaper tongue lick on his thin fingers. The month-old calico kitten had been in the local shelter when he had stopped by the week before, and since the 'tiny demonic fluff of adorableness' - as he knew Ventus would squeal and gab about as he flabbergasted over naming it - had been difficult to keep secret from Vanitas' flatmate.
Vennie's always bemoaned about wanting a pet, and how dogs scare him, sort of. Vennie? When did that start? Vanitas almost made as if to scold himself mentally, but ceased the attempt. As much as he likes to get under my skin with 'Vani', I'm sure he'll just melt into a puddle with 'Vennie'.
Vanitas stroked the minute feline's round head, just between its ears, and set it down into a fluffy round cat bed, fastening a collar with a bell around the teeny creature's neck. A red bow completed the surprise, and Vanitas stopped for only a moment to admire his handiwork. He'll love this. Won't you, Vennie?. . .
The little furry bundle of joy curled up on its sleeping surface with the smallest of jingles, purring softly as it drifted to sleep. Vanitas rose slowly, taking care to not wake the kitten. He sat in a nearby chair that faced the entry door to the apartment, waiting patiently for Ventus to make his grand entrance back from work.
He could feel it again, that sort of strange strangling of his throat, the searing of his heart, the fluttering of his stomach. Vanitas could only relent to its invasion.
Ven will gush over and grin in that childish way of enjoying life in the way only he can. Silly Vennie.
A few quaint moments later, the sound of a car pulling into the parking lot outside broke the calm atmosphere, and the following sounds of the engine being cut off combined with the rhythm of stepping up the stairs that Ventus' shoes always made continued the thumping in Vanitas' chest.
The door opened after the key had been inserted and unlocked it, and was shut gently and re-locked ere Ventus entered, smiling warmly as ever, snowflakes from outside having fallen into his golden hair. Tears threatened to form in Vanitas' eyes from that constricting, yet liberating feeling.
"Evening, Vennie." Vanitas tried to smirk as Ventus made to give some sort of cheerful retort, the blonde-haired boy only to see the calico kitten stir from its nap. Ventus began to step forward as Vanitas rose from the chair and wrapped him in a fierce embrace, tears venturing on their descent down his tanned cheeks.
". . . Thanks for everything, Ventus. And . . . Merry Christmas."