"You've been planning this for a long time, haven't you?"

"Not long enough, or I'd have made you all wear masks!" Demyx rubbed a finger along the bottom edge of his blue-and-silver domino, still sporting a crazy grin. "I saw this red one at the shop that I think you would have looked spectacular in..."

"Should it worry me that I actually find that kind of tempting?"

Demyx punched Axel lightly in the shoulder. "Absolutely not. That just means this place is getting to you. Laissez les bons temps rouler!"

Axel thought hard for a moment. "...I'll be right back." He disappeared into the crowd.

"...Well, that was clever," Roxas said. "Think he'll ever find us again?"

"Oh, yeah. And if he doesn't - well, he's six-foot-seven or so and has almost freakishly red hair. Even if he can't find us, I'll bet we can still find him."

Roxas fingered the strings of beads around his neck. "If he gets lost, I'm not going to go looking for him again!"

Zexion nodded. He had somehow maintained his attitude of aloof solemnity. "There's an experience I don't care to repeat."

"Ah, stop worrying, you two. I don't think he's going to go around setting things on fire today." Demyx toyed with a gold-painted coconut, pretending to crack it over Roxas's head. "You wanted to know why I stayed behind - well, you're seeing it!"

"What, the parades?"

"The entire thing, Roxas! Mardi Gras!" Demyx spread his arms wide. Zexion had to duck a waving coconut. "That's what I hauled you all back here for! It's the biggest party in the worlds! This is just the end of it, unfortunately. It started over a month ago."

Roxas tried and failed to imagine the wreck of a city he'd seen before turning into one huge party for an entire month. "Mind-boggling," Zexion said, echoing his thoughts. "This city was nearly destroyed the last time we were here."

Demyx winked. "Can't keep a good world down." Roxas was about to sock him for that pun when Axel returned, sporting a blazing red-and-gold mask that could be seen down the block.

"There you guys are!" He grinned at them. "How's it look?"

"Um..." Roxas was at a loss for words. "Stunning!"

"Glad you like it, because I got one for you too!" Axel suddenly produced a gold-and-silver domino and popped it onto Roxas's face before the blond had any time to protest.

Demyx giggled. "That looks good! Of course, now poor Zexion is the only one without a mask on."

"I have no problem with that!" Zexion cut in hastily.

"That's a shame, because I got you one at the same time." The silver-haired Nobody stared at Axel as though he'd just sprouted a third arm as the redhead extracted a third mask from his pocket and offered it to him. "Put it on; it's not gonna bite."

Zexion took the mask as if he was expecting it to do exactly that. It was a simple black velvet mask, without so much as a hint of feathers or sequins. "Well...I suppose it's not nearly so...ostentatious as any of yours..." Reluctantly, he slid it over his face and rearranged his hair over it.

Roxas, still fiddling with his newly acquired mask, wondered how Demyx could keep smiling like that without his face starting to hurt. "You like it?"

"It's questionable, Nine." But Zexion wasn't moving to take the mask off.

"Good! You're getting into it! Even a little!"

"Laissez les bons temps rouler - got it memorized?" Axel picked up a handful of beads left on the sidewalk from the last parade and looped them around his neck. "...What the hell does that mean, anyway?"

Demyx didn't stop laughing before the Rex Parade started rolling by, so he never got an answer.


Fin. Let the good times roll.

If you've managed to read the entire story all the way to the end, first, congratulations, you're a hardy soul, and second, please review, because you'll make the author's day. Ten chapters, plus prologue and epilogue - not bad for a first fic.


Disclaimer: If you think I own Kingdom Hearts or any of the characters therein, there's something wrong with you. I don't own New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina either. If I did own Hurricane Katrina, I'd try to get rid of it as soon as possible. And not by throwing it at poorly-defended coastal cities.