Streets to the Summer
Track 01: "Summertime Feeling"

The final bell rang at the small school on the Destiny Islands, freeing all of the students for the summer. Wakka, Sora, and Selphie stood next to the front steps, waiting for Kairi, Riku, and Tidus to get out. Wakka was tossing his ball into the air and catching it while Sora rocked a bit on his skateboard.

"How long is it going to take for them to get out?" he asked.

"Mrs. Hasagawa's half-deaf," Wakka explained. "She probably didn't hear the bell. Someone's got to yell to remind her."

"We're going to have her too next year," Selphie commented with some dread, looking at Sora.

"Don't worry about it," Wakka replied. "She's a nice old lady, even if she is a little crazy. She helped me out a lot last year, when I thought I was gonna fail math."

"She doesn't sound too bad," Sora said.

"You're saying that you faced down Heartless and Nobodies, but you're scared of the tenth year teacher?" Riku asked, walking up.

"Very funny, Riku," Sora muttered.

A year had passed since they'd finally returned to the Destiny Islands. Fortunately for Riku and Sora, their yearlong absence had been rewritten in everyone's memories as an educational trip to the mainland. Of course, both had been worried when they had to deliver a report on life on the mainland, but Twilight Town was a close enough environment for them to fake it. Even so, they'd been held back for a year to make up for the classes they'd missed. Sora was in ninth year with Selphie, and Riku was in tenth with Kairi and Tidus, rather than in eleventh with Wakka.

"Are we all set for tonight?" Kairi checked.

"Almost," Sora answered, tucking his skateboard under one arm while holding her hand. "Hayner said he wanted to bring a few things—his Struggle bat for one."

"Tell him to bring an extra bat," Tidus added. "I want to try that."

"Make sure we have enough time to stop off at Disney Castle for a little bit," Riku warned. "I want to get another book while we pick up Donald and Goofy." Being friends with King Mickey, Riku had a standing invitation to their library, and he took advantage of it as often as possible.

"Just don't take forever, okay?" Sora asked. "Last time, we were there all day."

"Just because you haven't read anything since The Great Mouse Detective when you were six, it doesn't mean I can't enjoy reading," he answered sarcastically to Sora's indignant "Hey!" "Besides, I know exactly what I want to borrow."

There was an awkward silence for a minute. Whenever Riku said that, it usually meant he wanted some kind of philosophy or psychology text. And that meant he was feeling the darkness that was Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, in his heart more painfully than usual. It had been a year since he'd come to terms with being a dark person while living in the light, and a year since he realized he was trying too hard to avoid becoming Ansem. He hadn't needed to use that form in a long time, and he was fine with using the powers of darkness he normally had access to when he needed to fight. But they were always afraid of what would happen to him if he fell back into his old fears. Sora and Kairi weren't as afraid of Xehanort's Heartless taking control as they were of Riku withdrawing into himself. If he shut them out, there was no telling what might happen.

"You're okay, right?" Sora questioned hesitantly.

"Yeah," Riku answered after a pause. "It's just that it's been a year since it happened. And don't worry." Here his voice was stronger, lacking the darkness. "I just want to look up some history. The story you told me about that black-and-white world beyond those doors was interesting, but I don't know why so many people back at Disney Castle don't remember that past. I want to see both sides of the story so I can understand."

"Hey, you guys better hurry if you're going to change before getting in the Gummi Ship," Selphie realized. "At this rate, we'll never get ready!"

"Okay, we'll meet at my house, then, before we head off," Riku decided. "Once we get Hayner, Pence, and Olette, we'll meet on the island."

"No problem," Wakka agreed. "It'll give me a chance to pick up the food—burgers, hot dogs, chips… If we're gonna have a barbeque, we gotta do it right."

"You're doing the cooking, right?" Selphie checked.

"You think I'm gonna trust Tidus with it after that last fiasco?" Everyone shook their heads as Tidus tried not to look too embarrassed. The last time he cooked, he'd gotten them all sick from food poisoning. Apparently, the fish he'd made wasn't cooked well enough, and they'd all suffered. Riku's parents had been kind enough to let them all sleep over since they were too sick to move anywhere beyond the living room.

"All right," Kairi said as they came to a crossroads, "here's the road to my grandparents'. I'll catch up with you in a bit."

"Yeah, I need to head the other way anyway," Tidus agreed. "See ya!"

And the group split off—Kairi heading to the center of town, where her adoptive grandparents, the mayor and his wife, lived; Tidus to the north, Wakka and Selphie west, and Sora and Riku south. Sora got back on his skateboard and started slowly rolling along while Riku pulled out the last book he'd borrowed from Mickey and read. Sora had no idea how Riku could read and walk at the same time, but then, Riku had joked about being surprised that Sora could skateboard without falling flat on his face—at least, Sora thought it was a joke. Sometimes Riku's sarcasm made it hard to tell.

"Is your mom home?" Riku asked, flipping a page. Where Riku had both parents around, Sora's father had died before he was born. His mother, Suzume, did all she could to raise him on her own, and working long hours was part of it. Because Riku's family lived next door, Sora was often left there when he was younger. Even now that Sora was old enough to take care of himself—and a lot more mentally mature after years of fighting the Heartless—Riku's family liked to keep an eye on him.

"Probably not," Sora answered. "But I told her we'd be having a barbeque tonight, so she won't worry." He got off his skateboard and walked up to his door, knowing that Riku was standing behind him to be sure he had his key this time. Once, he'd forgotten it and had to break in with the Keyblade. Riku never let him forget it. But when Sora produced said key and opened the door, Riku walked over to his own house.

When Sora came home, one of the first things he had done was rearrange his bedroom. So much of what he used to have were the hopes and dreams of a boy, and now he was a young man who had fought nightmares and achieved many dreams. He threw out a lot of what he didn't need anymore and repaired the things he'd left broken too long. The end result was a room that was a lot more organized and a lot more grown-up. His mother had been surprised to see the change, but she didn't say anything. And Sora liked it—some of it was similar to the way Roxas's room had been set up in the duplicate Twilight Town. He'd cleaned up his desk and moved a nightstand and lamp next to his bed for some late-night reading (despite Riku's jokes, he did read—just not as much as Riku did). His bed was still right next to the window, but the blue crystal from Roxas's trophy sat on the sill, catching the sunlight. Numerous Keychains hung on the walls, most of them dormant once more, but still ready in case they needed to be awakened. His mother had been confused at the sight of so many Keychains, so Sora had passed them off as souvenirs he'd picked up on the mainland. Only his armor, accessories, and Summon Charms weren't up—he kept those under his clothing, even at school. Once, he had been caught off-guard by a Heartless attack at school. He wanted to be sure it would only happen once.

Sora pulled on the clothes the three fairies had made for him—he didn't expect he would need his Drive Forms, but Twilight Town often had a Nobody problem, so he felt better with this extra precaution—snatched the Oblivion Keychain from his wall, and grabbed a quick bite to eat from the kitchen before walking over to Riku's.

In all honesty, Sora didn't need to eat before going. Riku's mother, Haruko, was always happy to feed her son's friends. She handed him a generous piece of coconut cake before letting him sit on the porch with Riku. Kairi had always thought it was funny just how much Riku looked like his parents—he was practically a clone of his father, but with his mother's eyes and facial structure. Sora, on the other hand, didn't bear as much of a resemblance to his mother as Riku did to his. From photos he'd seen of his father, there was a slightly closer likeness, but in truth, Sora looked like himself more than like anyone else.

"Hope I didn't take too long," Kairi called, riding her bicycle over. "My grandmother was asking questions. I think she suspects what we're doing."

Sora and Riku looked at each other. Kairi's grandmother had always been shrewd; they'd always known there was the chance she'd figure out the truth of their absences and how they were related to the random Heartless attacks on the islands. But still, there were laws forbidding them to reveal the existence of other worlds—they only got away with telling Selphie, Tidus, Wakka, Hayner, Olette, and Pence because they had gotten involved. Selphie had been with Kairi when she contacted Roxas, and Tidus and Wakka had asked questions. Olette, Hayner, and especially Pence had helped Sora, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy find the other Twilight Town DiZ had constructed.

"Kairi, she won't say anything, right?" Sora asked hesitantly.

She shook her head. "I think she's always known there was something strange going on since she and Grandfather found me. But I don't think we have to worry. She just wants to make sure we'll be safe."

"Then there's nothing for us to worry about," Riku decided. "Come on, we'd better go."

Seifer entered the sandlot to see Fuu, Rai, and Vivi staring at the sign-up sheet for Struggle. Already, he didn't like whatever it was that happened.

"What's going on?" he asked. Vivi, seeing he was in a bad mood, got out of the way quickly.

"Hayner," Fuu answered simply.

Seifer traced his finger down the sheet to where he knew his rival had signed up the week before and stared in shock. The name had been scratched out. "Someone crossed him off?"

"He did it himself," the Struggle promoter explained. "Didn't give an explanation or anything."

Seifer narrowed his eyes. "Well, he's going to explain it to me."

"He's probably with his friends in the back alley," Rai suggested. "Their 'usual place,' y'know?"

Seifer stormed off toward the back alley. He wanted to know why Hayner had dropped out of Struggle—they weren't exactly friends, but he wanted to know what was up. Hayner did not just drop the one thing he always looked forward to in the summer for no reason. And it was a blow to Seifer's pride too. Even though he'd gladly lose to Hayner before admitting he was worthy enough to be considered a rival, rival the younger boy was. And Seifer wanted to know exactly what his rival had planned.

When he reached the abandoned lot the trio had claimed as their hangout, he found a massive cooler blocking the entrance. Olette was kneeling in front of it and said, "Hey, Seifer," before looking at the contents. Seifer was just tall enough to lean over the open lid and peer in. Inside was about two pounds of sea-salt ice cream bars.

"You think this is enough?" she asked.

"There's only going to be eleven of us, right?" Pence replied. "We don't need that much."

"I don't know," she answered. "Donald really liked the ice cream…"

"Sora's going to have stuff there too, so don't go overboard," Hayner warned, walking over. "This is more than enough." Seeing Seifer, he asked, "What are you doing here?"

"I was coming to ask you why you dropped out of Struggle," he replied, "but then I found the two lovebirds here stuffing ice cream in this cooler. What's up?"

"Nothing really," Hayner answered. "I'm just not going to have that much time to devote to Struggle this year."

"We're hanging out with Sora and his friends a lot this summer," Pence explained. "It's been kind of a rough year for them, and we thought it would be good to celebrate."

"Tonight, we're going to a party on a beach in their town," Olette added. "After that, we're not exactly sure. After all, their town is pretty far away…"

Seifer had put that much together on his own. Sora had been an obvious outsider when he'd first met him. He was so clueless on the way things were done in Twilight Town, and the way he said goodbye to Hayner and everybody each time he left screamed that he lived too far away to know whether or not he'd be able to come back. And the way he knew how to fight those weird invaders that had been coming more and more often—Nobodies, he'd called them—he had to have come from a town that had a massive Nobody problem, and those Nobodies were spreading out all over the world. It wasn't like Seifer planned to confront Sora with it or anything; he just saw it as his duty to protect the town from threats—from street gangs to Nobodies—and he wanted to be sure he knew everything about what he could be dealing with.

"Hey, everyone…whoa!" Sora cried, walking into the alley. Seifer turned and saw him and his odd group of friends frozen in the alley, staring at the cooler. The duck, Donald, quacked in surprise. "How much are you planning to bring? It's just one night at the beach."

"That's what I said," Seifer agreed.

"Sorry," Olette apologized. "I just wanted to be sure the ice cream didn't melt."

"Ice cream?" Donald repeated, a greedy look entering his eyes.

Olette laughed. "Don't worry. We've got plenty. Here's one for now." She giggled more as he happily licked the ice cream bar.

"All right," Seifer decided. "I'll see you when you get back. But just because you're not in Struggle this year, don't think you're not facing me, Hayner. Someone's got to bring you down a peg when you get too cocky."

Hayner smirked. "You sure you're not talking about yourself?" Seifer made a rude gesture before walking off, and Hayner chuckled.

"I hope this isn't too big to carry," Pence commented as Sora and Goofy came over and each tried to lift an end.

"It's kinda heavy," Goofy admitted, "but Sora and I can make it."

"Easy for you to say," Sora grunted. "Put it down for a second, Goofy. I need to get a better grip."

"Are you all ready?" Kairi checked.

"Just a second," Hayner replied. "I'm looking for my comics."

"Are these them?" Riku asked, holding up a bound collection labeled Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Green with Evil.

"That's it," Hayner answered, grabbing two Struggle bats as Riku handed him the comic book.

"Don't lose that," Olette warned. "Pence and I spent a lot of money trying to get you those back issues."

"And I told you already that I'm grateful. I just wasn't sure if I put them with the rest of my stuff."

"Is the Gummi Ship going to be big enough for all of us?" Pence asked Donald. The Court Magician shrugged.

"No clue," he answered before returning to his ice cream. Pence let out a long-suffering sigh.

Everyone involved had to admit that this was probably the greatest summer vacation of their lives. They slurped on the ice cream while Wakka fired up the grill (and subsequently complained about his ice cream melting—between him and Donald, it was a miracle the others got any ice cream at all). Kairi taught Olette how to string together thalassa shells while Selphie told the offworlders lore of the Destiny Islands. Hayner showed Tidus the basics of Struggle, and they battled until dinner was ready. Of course, then Selphie started flirting with Hayner, who was so caught off-guard that Wakka was able to hit him with a blitzball before telling them their food was done. Hayner was still staring after her like an idiot for the next ten minutes.

Amazingly, everyone was still hungry even after the ice cream. Wakka ran out of food, and Sora climbed a few trees to get some coconuts and paopu fruit. The paopu, which wasn't completely ripe, was thrown on the grill—Wakka had found out that grilled paopu tasted sweeter than raw, and to save them from the embarrassment, grilling it seemed to disqualify it for the child's legend of the fruit binding people together in destiny. Selphie researched the legend and reported back that the paopu had to be eaten raw and freshly picked. Tidus and Wakka had breathed a sigh of relief, worried that a moment of hunger had utterly ruined their lives.

The paopu fruit was easily taken care of, but the coconut presented a problem. The only thing they had on hand that could possibly break them open was Goofy's shield, and that ended in a messy explosion of coconut guts.

Pence, covered in Olette's thalassa necklaces, held up one of the coconuts and said, "I think it needs something sharper. Does anyone have a knife?"

"Mine's not big enough," Wakka replied, but Tidus had a grin on his face.

"Hey, Sora…"


"Think your Keyblade might break them open?"

"What?" Donald exclaimed in protest. "Using the Keyblade!"

"Uh, Tidus, I'm not an expert in magical weapons, but I don't think using the Keyblade to break open coconuts is the best plan in the world," Sora commented.

"Then what about Sanctuary?" Kairi asked, summoning her blade. "It's not a true Keyblade, anyway."

Nearly everyone there stared in shock as she brought her flowery Keyblade down and cleaved the coconut in two. It was even more shocking when Riku tossed another in the air and sliced it neatly in half with Way to the Dawn.

Riku shrugged. "It looked like fun."

Sora shook his head and laughed while Donald was still gaping. "Guess if you guys think it's okay…"

The next five minutes was nothing but chaos as the trio smashed open coconuts with their Keyblades, spraying coconut milk every time they swung. After getting sprayed for the umpteenth time, Donald fired a Blizzaga at Sora's back, and Goofy tackled him from the side. While Riku and Kairi laughed at his misfortune, Sora picked up some crushed ice and threw it at them, inciting an eleven-way war of magic, Struggle bats, shields, blitzballs, and Keyblades. It only ended when Hayner and Riku ran over to the cooler and dumped the melted ice all over Sora, Goofy, and Donald. While the victims stood stunned, dripping all over the place, the conspirators gave each other a victory high five.

Once they'd all calmed down and eaten their fruit, Riku and Donald had a magic duel to entertain everyone. It was largely just them showing off, with Riku blasting Dark Aura into the sky and Donald creating fireworks and lightning. When they finally ran out of magic, they took a bow to wild applause. Selphie produced a bag of marshmallows she'd nearly forgotten about, and they all returned to the grill to roast them and share stories.

Sora laughed hard enough that he'd nearly lost his marshmallow in the fire. "The King did that?"

"Ahyuk, yep!" Goofy laughed. "The whole basement was flooded. I don't think Master Yen Sid's ever been that mad since."

Riku chuckled. "Funny. Mickey didn't tell me about this."

"We only know 'cause we've been friends so long," Donald answered. "I don't even think Queen Minnie knows." This set them all laughing again, and it didn't help when Sora added stories about his journeys. The Twilight Town residents hadn't heard any of these, so they enjoyed it a lot when Sora kept getting interrupted by Donald and Goofy, and occasionally Riku and Kairi.

"And don't forget the Pride Lands, when you got turned into a lion cub!" Goofy added, which got the girls cooing.

"Aww, you must have been a cute cub," Olette commented.

"He was," Kairi answered, smiling. "I saw the photos."

"I have no idea how Jiminy got those pictures," Sora deadpanned. "Form changes were weird."

"What about Atlantica and trying to swim there?" Donald reminded him.

"Yeah," Sora agreed. "At least the second time there, we didn't have to fight too much. That was so hard."

"What did you have to do the second time?" Pence questioned.

"We just had to fight Ursula," Goofy answered. "And then we joined in Sebastian's concert."

"Sora singing?" Riku asked. "That must have been painful." Sora scowled while everyone else started laughing.

"What about you?" Hayner added. "You must have some stories to tell."

The laughter suddenly stopped, and Hayner realized he'd said something wrong. He, Pence, and Olette looked at each other in confusion while Riku closed his eyes and the others watched him carefully.

"I think we'd better save my stories for another time," Riku answered carefully. "They're more horror stories than anything else."

"One of these days, I want to hear everything," Sora warned in a low voice. "You've kept us out of it too long."

Riku nodded. "Just not tonight."

"So," Olette started, trying her hardest to salvage what was left of their good night. "What are your plans this summer?"

Wakka made a face. "Trying to enjoy the last summer of being a kid. I finish school next year, so I'm going to have to get a job."

"You guys don't have a university here?" Pence asked in surprise.

"There's one on the mainland, but it's too expensive," Wakka explained. "Most people on the islands don't have university degrees unless they're doctors or teachers. They're the only ones that really need it."

"Wish we had that kind of luck," Hayner commented, stuffing a whole marshmallow into his mouth. "My mom keeps pushing me to get good grades so I can get into a good university."

"Yeah, but then you'd have to worry about getting a job," Tidus pointed out.

"I'm starting to see why Peter Pan wanted to stay a kid forever," Sora said. "What kind of job am I going to be able to hold if I've got to run to another world at a moment's notice to fight Heartless and Nobodies?"

"You managed school just fine," Selphie noticed.

"Yeah, but…" Sora trailed off for a second before managing to get it into words. "With all I've seen, it seems surreal just settling back into a normal life."

"It's a different experience than most people have," Riku put in, "but it's made you stronger. It makes it easier for you to adapt to the changing world. We're more stable than others."

"And those of us who haven't gone through light, darkness, and the place in-between?" Pence asked.

"You fought it too, so you're just as strong," Goofy replied. "We only told you about the other worlds 'cause we knew you could take it."

"Yeah," Donald agreed. "The laws were written to protect the people on each world. But you're involved too."

"I guess that makes sense," Tidus agreed.

"Any other plans?" Hayner asked, trying to bring the conversation back on topic.

"I want to try and find some record of the powers of darkness being used for good," Riku declared. Sora and Kairi gave him pleading looks, but he added, "Don't worry. I won't be gone long. I'll just head off from time to time, searching for answers. I'm not leaving."

"I'm not really sure about what I'll do," Sora commented. "Every time I try to plan something, things don't go as planned. But I think I'll stop by a few worlds and visit my friends there."

"Don't forget about us!" Donald added. "You're not leaving Goofy and me behind."

"You think Mickey might be able to get away for a little bit?" Riku asked. "He helped me a lot on my last journey."

"The King's kinda busy, but I know he'd be happy to help you out," Goofy replied. "Remember, you're his friend too." Riku smiled and nodded.

Suddenly, Wakka belched, catching them all off-guard. Selphie scolded, "Wakka! You're ruining the moment!"

"Sorry," he apologized. "I'm stuffed. I can't eat anymore."

"I'm not surprised after seeing you and Donald eat all that ice cream," Tidus replied. "I thought I was going to be sick watching you."

"After all that, there's no way I'm going to handle the Gummi Ship now," Kairi decided. "Let's just relax for a while before heading back."

They were all happy to oblige, wanting to prolong the night. They could see each other anytime because of the bending of the "no interference" law, but they were having too much fun. Sora pulled Tidus aside to talk to him for a minute before heading back over to Kairi so they could bury Donald and Goofy in the sand. Hayner took out his comic book and started reading when Riku walked by, heading for his friends.

"From what I do know about you, you'd probably like this," Hayner remarked.

"Sorry," Riku apologized, "but I haven't read comic books in a long time."

"You'd like this one," Hayner insisted. "Power Rangers is a staple of childhood in Twilight Town. It's been around for over ten years now, with a new series coming out each year. They'll end one and start a new one. This year's is called Mystic Force, but two years ago it was Dino Thunder. That's the one that got Pence and Olette saving up to get me this."

"What's it about?"

Hayner shrugged. "Your standard comic fare. A bunch of teenagers—sometimes adults, but mostly kids—are given a great power so they can defend their world from evil. No one was really sure it'd survive until the Green Ranger saga came along. I think you'd like him. He kind of sounds like you."

Riku managed to keep a neutral expression. "Go on."

"One day, a witch cast a spell over an ordinary kid in the street, thinking he'd be a perfect soldier for her. She turned him into the Green Ranger and set him on the other Power Rangers. He was completely in darkness, unable to control anything he did."

"What happens to him?"

Hayner grinned. "His best friend comes along and breaks the spell, then the rest of the Rangers gladly welcome him to the team. He eventually becomes the leader, and later he grows up to be a teacher and leads a new team in Dino Thunder."

"Good to know he has a happy ending," Riku commented. "I think I might read that."

"Feel free to borrow it any time you're in Twilight Town. Just be careful with it, okay? Olette and Pence would kill me."

"No problem," Riku promised before heading over to help Kairi and Sora. "Sora, what gave you this crazy idea anyway?"

"Hey, Donald got me with that Blizzaga and Goofy tackled me. It's only fair."

"I don't mean this. I mean what made you offer to bring those three here and break about a dozen dimensional laws in the process?"

Sora was silent for a moment as he packed the sand around Goofy. When he spoke again, his voice sounded different, and Riku wouldn't be surprised that if there was more light, he'd see that his friend had blond hair instead of brown. "I just thought it would be a good idea for them to see the beach. After all, those others didn't."

Riku nodded. Even in his Ansem form, he'd felt pity for Roxas and his friends. "They have a beach of their own, you know. You could have had a party there."

Sora's voice was his own again as he answered, "But where would the fun be in that? They're in this too, and so are Tidus, Wakka, and Selphie. I wanted to make it special."

Riku sighed. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again: you're a sap, Sora." Sora threw a handful of sand at him and nearly tripped over Goofy when Riku retaliated. Kairi and Donald burst into laughter as Goofy got up and moved to a safer spot while Riku and Sora continued their impromptu wrestling match. Somehow, everyone had the feeling this was going to be an interesting summer vacation.

Standard disclaimer applies: I do not own Kingdom Hearts or any of the titles referenced in this. Kingdom Hearts belongs to Disney and Square Enix, and Power Rangers, The Great Mouse Detective, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice cartoon from Fantasia are Disney properties. The Sanctuary Keyblade gets its name from Hikaru Utada's opening theme to Kingdom Hearts II, and the chapter title is from the S Club 7 song "Summertime Feeling." The story title "Streets to the Summer" comes from a song from Digimon Adventure Zero Two, belonging to Toei and currently distributed by Disney.

This is a sequel to my oneshot "Growing Pains," and is probably AU if Nomura decides to continue the Kingdom Hearts saga.