1. The Blizzard
There was something magical about the first snow. For a town that only got a few a few inches of accumulation each year, it was nothing short of a miracle to be dumped by an entire two feet of the powdery white stuff.
Unless, of course, you had to drive in it.
Aqua Leonhart-Almasy laid on the horn as she came across yet another car pulled barely two feet off the road. To the amusement of her two brothers, she began cursing out the driver, swerving around him at a whole ten miles-per-hour.
"God damn retards!" She shouted, waving a fist.
Her older brother, Terra, snorted and leaned back in his seat. "A little louder, Aqua. I don't think the cars ahead of us have heard you yet."
"Shut up!" The blue-haired girl snapped. "This is all your fault, you know! You're the one who waited until the last possible minute to turn in that project!"
"You're the one who insisted on going to the library," Terra retorted. He turned around to face his youngest sibling, a spiky-haired brunet. "Back me up, 'Ra."
Sora shook his head. "No way! I'm not getting involved this time!"
Aqua smirked. "Too bad for you."
Terra stuck his tongue out at her and then turned his head to stare out the window.
For a moment, all was silent.
"It's really coming down hard out there," Sora said. "I hope papa and dad get home safe."
"Right now I'm more worried about us getting home safe," Terra grumbled.
Aqua promptly punched his arm, eliciting an "ow!" from the older brunet. "I'm perfectly capable of driving in the snow safely! Unlike you."
"Hey, hey! Just because I panicked that one time--"
"We were only going five miles-per-hour!"
"I thought we were going to hit that other car!"
"We were three cars away from it!"
"That doesn't matter when you're sliding across the road!"
Sora yawned as the two continued bickering over who could drive better in the snow. He put his arm on the door and let his chin rest on his hands as he stared out the window of their old four-door sedan. 'I wonder how Riku's doing…'
Riku sat on the floor of his bedroom, surrounded by wrapping paper and brightly colored ribbon. A box was in front of him, halfway wrapped. One stubborn corner of wrapping paper was proving to be particularly difficult to pin down.
"Stay down, damn you," he muttered, laying down another strip of tape and pressing it hard against the box. The paper stayed for a few seconds before popping free again.
Riku glared at it and then threw the tape across the room and picked up the roll of tape meant for closing cardboard boxes.
"This time you'll stay!" He triumphantly exclaimed.
Five minutes later the flap was still loose and he was fighting to get the tape unstuck from the roll.
His younger brother walked past the doorway bundled up from head to toe, his long silver hair draped down his back in a braid. In his hand was a wooden sword.
"Sephiroth," Riku called after him when he noticed the weapon. "Where are you going?"
Sephiroth paused, a smirk spreading across his cherubic face. "Genesis is out building himself a snowman so I'm going to go… help him."
Riku rolled his eyes. 'More like terrorize.' "Stay out of old Mr. Ansem's yard," he warned. "And that creepy Hojo guy's yard. I don't care if he's selling the most adorable cats in the world--stay away from him."
"I'm not stupid," Sephiroth said. "Tell mom where I went if I'm not back when she gets home."
Riku glanced out the window where the snow was beginning to fall more heavily. "Fine. Be careful out there. Don't get run over. And don't hurt Genesis again!"
"I can't make any promises." Sephiroth left before Riku would say anything else.
Riku sighed and tossed the tape aside. 'I hope Sora and Kairi are having a better day than I am.'
Reno cheerfully hung mistletoe above the arch to the living room, a glass of eggnog sloshing in one hand. His wife, Elena, smiled at him fondly as she carried a tray of cookies for her two oldest children, who were wrapping the last of the gifts for family and friends.
"Looks wonderful, honey," Elena said, giving Reno a quick kiss.
Reno grinned. "Thanks. Using that hook sure beats last years thumb tacks."
"No kidding!" A feisty redhead named Kairi exclaimed. "I kept stepping on the damn thing every day until we took it down!"
"You think you had problems?" Her older brother, Axel, asked. "I was the one who had to keep going up on the roof last year to fix the Christmas lights because dad used regular staples!"
Kairi laughed at the memory. "Yeah, but you're forgotten that you volunteered for the job because you could see into Roxas's room from there."
Axel grinned fondly. "Oh yeah… hey, dad! You need help puttin' up the lights?"
"Already done!" Reno said proudly.
"Damn." Axel snapped his fingers. "So where's the little brat and why isn't he in here helping?"
"Genesis is outside building a snowman," Elena said.
"What's the point?" Axel asked. "It'll be melted by tomorrow."
"Let him have his fun," Elena said. "The two of you used to build snowmen every year too."
"Yeah, but then we actually lived where we got snow," Kairi said.
Elena looked out the window. "Oh, so I suppose that's cotton floating down from the sky?"
Kairi rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean. I hate you admit it, but Axel's right. It'll all be gone tomorrow."
Reno got down from the step ladder and walked over to sit down in his favorite recliner. "I don't know 'bout that. Reeve says it's supposed to be a heavy snowfall. And Lucrecia called me to say that her car is already covered by three inches of snow. A lot of the other nurses at the hospital are staying the night at the hotel across the street and she said that if it gets worse she's gonna do the same."
Axel groaned. "Man, does that mean we've gotta invite those jerks over? You know Genesis and Sephiroth hate each other."
"They'll survive," Elena said in a tone that clearly meant that they had better behave or they were in for a world of hurt. Then she turned to Reno, her hands on her hips. "Reno, can you go make sure the generator is ready? Just in case."
Reno grumbled but got up to go check.
Kairi nudged Axel. "I bet you wish the Strife's were coming over instead."
"Shut up," Axel grumbled, a hint of a blush on his cheeks.
"What a wonderful idea!" Elena exclaimed. She stepped into the kitchen so Reno could hear her from the garage. "Dear, we should send out invitations to the neighbors for them to come over if their power goes out! Only a few people in the neighborhood have generators."
Reno knew better than to deny his pistil-wielding wife on any given day. "Sure, honey!"
Elena happily clasped her hands together and hurried to the phone saying: "I'll go make the calls!" Kairi stretched her arms out over her head and then let them rest behind her, supporting her upper body. Axel simply swung out his legs, kicking a pair of scissors across the room.
"I hope that basement's clean if we've got people coming over," Reno remarked as he walked back into the room.
Kairi and Axel exchanged glances and then jumped up and raced for the basement.
Naminé carried Cloud around on her back through the house, galloping around and making horse noises. Cloud happily laughed, his chubby arms loosely wrapped around her neck.
The house was devoid of any conventional Christmas decorations. There were no Santa Claus figures, no manger scenes, no Nut Crackers, and not one sign of twinkling lights. Instead there were candles of various shapes and sizes with holly leaves decorating the candle holders. The only item that could at all be related to the popular holiday was a small, bare fir pine in one corner of the room.
Naminé paused to catch her breath and then turned when she heard the pounding of footsteps coming down the stairs. She caught sight of Ventus first. Or maybe it was Roxas. Even she had a hard time telling them apart sometimes, especially when they were dressed identically.
"Uncle Reeve and Uncle Tseng need help digging out their driveway so they can get out of the road," one of them said.
By the cheer in his voice, Naminé knew it was Ventus talking. That meant Roxas was the one who was grumbling as he pulled on his checkerboard gloves.
"We're going to be doing this for everyone in the neighborhood, I just know it."
"Call some of the others," Naminé suggested. "I bet the Leonhart-Almasy's will help out."
Ventus shook his head. "They're out driving in this mess. After we clear the Tuesti's driveway I'm going to go clear theirs so Aqua doesn't try to plow through it to the garage." He shook his head wryly, a soft smile on his face.
"What about the Sinclair's?" Naminé asked, looking to Roxas.
"That was them who called after Uncle Reeve," Roxas said. "Aunt Elena says that if the power goes out, we're all welcome over there. She's probably got Axel and Kairi cleaning the house."
Naminé frowned. "Riku?"
Roxas scowled and Ventus chuckled.
"That's be a good way for Riku to get himself killed." Ventus sounded amused. "I think Zexion's going to help us shovel his driveway. And that Highwind boy lives right next door to him. Cid'll probably send him out to shovel the sidewalk or something ridiculous."
Naminé peered out the window to see huge flakes of snow still steadily falling from the sky. "Be careful out there. It doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon."
"Careful's my middle name!" Ventus said cheerfully. "C'mon, Rox. Lets go brave the blizzard!" He tugged on his black-and-gold checkered hat and then marched for the door.
Roxas rolled his eyes and followed.
Cloud stuck his thumb in his mouth. "Nami?"
"Can we make cookies?"
"Sure." Naminé carried him into the kitchen as Cloud rested his head on her shoulder.
"Love you, Nami."
Naminé smiled. "Love you too, Cloud."
Zexion stepped out onto the snow-covered front step and shivered. There he was, bundled up from head to toe in a thick wool coat, hat, and gloves, as well as a pair of snow boots, and he was still cold. He opened the door wider for his little sister, who toddled outside looking like a jet-puffed marshmallow, her black hair hidden by a white knit hat.
Giggling, she ran out into the yard and began spinning around letting the cold flakes hit her face.
"Be careful, Yuffie!" Zexion called after her.
"Kay!" Yuffie replied before stumbling and tumbling backwards into the half-foot of accumulated snow.
Zexion sighed and reached for the shovel laying against the inside wall. While Yuffie rolled around in the white powder, he carefully went down the steps and began shoveling the driveway. He cleared a foot wide strip in front of the garage and paused a moment to look through the thickly falling snow. Already a good half centimeter covered his coat and Yuffie was starting to resemble a small snowman.
He cast a weary glance at the rest of the driveway and then went back to shoveling.
It wasn't too long before a door slammed shut next door and Demyx Highwind trudged outside in his blue coat with a shovel in his grasp. He grumbled and adjusted his blue ear muffs with his free hand.
Zexion paused to watch as the blond hastily began clearing away the concrete walkway, leaving behind a small later of snow with every scrape.
'Mr. Highwind's not going to like that…'
Predictably, Cid opened the door the very second Demyx moved on to the driveway.
"Y'call this cleared?" He barked. "Shera could come out and slip and fall in this mess! Get back here and start over!"
"What's the point?" Demyx asked. "The snow's still coming down! Can't I wait until it stops?"
Cid was silent for a moment, as if genuinely considering the question. He looked around, taking in the snow covered road and the various people milling about outside. He raised an eyebrow when he saw Zexion quickly look away and start gently scraping at the driveway. "No, you ain't gonna wait. And after you're done with our yard, you go over there and help Reeve's boy. And then you're gonna scrape the road."
Demyx's jaw dropped. "The road?! But that's crazy!"
"Do it and I'll decrease your grounding by two months," Cid bargained.
"Three months." Demyx tried to haggle with his dad, not wanting to ask for too much or else risk getting the whole deal taken away.
"Two and a half. Final offer."
"Deal!" Demyx trudged back over to the sidewalk and struck at it, hard, to pick up the frozen layer left behind.
Zexion winced at the grating, ringing noise it created, wishing he had a pair of earmuffs to help dull the sound.
Whistling, Cid went back inside, not wanting to spend another second out in the cold.
For a while Zexion tried to ignoring the noise created from Demyx's rough shoveling. Then the noise began ringing in his ears about the same time that his fingers went numb and he started having a hard time holding onto the shovel.
"Hey there, Tuesti!"
Zexion accidentally dropped the shovel in surprise, getting Demyx's attention as it clanged to the ground.
Ventus hurried over to him, light blue eyes worried. "Hey, are you okay? You probably shouldn't be out here in the cold like this."
"I'm fine." Zexion stubbornly bent down to pick up his fallen tool and get back to work.
Ventus stopped him by taking away the shovel. "No way. Go sit down and let me and Roxas handle this."
"I can help!" Zexion protested.
"Not if helping means you passing out by the time we finish the driveway. Go sit!" Ventus ordered. "Or better yet, go inside and get yourself warmed up. Once you feel better, you can come back out and help."
"I'm fine," Zexion lied.
Demyx abandoned the walkway to go dashing through the snow between their yards, falling in the briar-filled ditch in the process. "Oww…"
"You alright over there, Dem?" Ventus asked.
"I'm good… yup." Demyx gave a thumbs up from the ditch.
Roxas made it to Ventus's side and dropped his brothers shovel before going to take over where Zexion stopped.
"Don't mind Mr. Grumpy over there," Ventus said loudly. "He's just disappointed that Axel didn't try to spy on him while putting up lights this year."
The bridge of Roxas's nose went red and his cheeks flushed pink. "I am not! Stop telling lies!"
Ventus grinned and nudged Zexion towards the front step. "Go sit. Or if you really wanna do something, then you might want to go dig the snow princess out of her hole." He gestured to where Yuffie was rolling around in the snow, unable to get up thanks to the fresh powder, as well as her poofy coat.
Zexion frowned but went over to help his sister, leaving Ventus to pick up his shovel and join Roxas in clearing the driveway.
A few minutes later they were joined by Demyx, with briar branches stuck to his coat and hair in various places. The three of them started talking about school, and how it was a good thing they didn't have to go in that day, but quickly grew tired of the topic and discussed all the fun things they could do with a good few inches of snow. None of them thought the snow would keep falling for much longer.
"There's no way we're getting the foot and a half they're predicting," Ventus said. "It'd be nice, but there's no way."
"I'm surprised there's this much," Demyx said, pausing to look up at the sky. He blinked his eyes and looked away as a melting snowflake left a trail of freezing water running down his neck.
"Before it melts we should have a snowball fight."
Ventus and Demyx looked at Roxas in surprise. The entire time they had been talking, he hadn't said a word.
"A snowball fight?" Ventus asked, his lips curving up into a grin. "I like that idea. There's plenty of people around here who would like to get involved in that. We could even form teams!"
"But where would we play?" Demyx asked.
The three boys exchanged glances and looked around, trying to decide on the best place.
"What about that empty field the Sinclair's own for target practice?" Zexion suggested as he walked over to them, holding Yuffie's hand.
Yuffie quickly pulled away from him and sat down on the snow covered driveway with a tiny plastic shovel in her hands. Wordlessly, she started using it to scoop up snow.
"I'll ask them," Roxas quickly said. He found that maybe he blurted it out a little too fast as Demyx and Ventus traded conspiratorial grins and moved in on him.
"Is that so? And why might that be?" Ventus asked slyly.
Roxas's face began to turn even more red, and not just from the cold. "A-at least I don't write his name down all over in my notebook, Ventus."
Ventus stood his ground. "I do not write Axel's name in my notebook!"
"No, but you write Ter--"
"Shut up!" Ventus hissed.
Roxas rested the shovel against his leg and crossed his arms over his chest, his blue eyes challenging. "Terra's name. All over your notebooks."
Demyx laughed. "So that's who you like! I don't blame you. Terra's hot." He quickly added in: "But not my type."
Roxas rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Demyx. We all know who your type is."
Demyx's eyes flickered towards Zexion so quickly that the gray-haired boy didn't even notice. "Can we not talk about that now?"
"Sure," Ventus agreed. "Hey Tuesti!" He had to turn around to find Zexion, who was back to shoveling the driveway. "What's your type?"
Zexion paused to catch his breath, his face looking rather pale for someone working hard out in the cold. "I r-refuse to take part in this conversation."
Ventus frowned, his joking expression changing to something more concerned. "Hey, are you--"
They all looked to the mouth of the driveway, where the Tuesti's golden minivan was waiting for them to move. The boys gathered up their shovels and Yuffie and moved out of the way. They watched as the tires spun and the car slid slightly before it got enough traction to safely move along the driveway and up into the garage.
"Daddy!" Yuffie squealed the second the car cut off. She dropped her tiny shovel and quickly waddled her way through the snow to go run into the arms of a tall man with dark brown hair.
Reeve got out of the van just in time to catch her and swing her up into his arms. "There's my princess! Were you good for your brother?"
"Yup!" Yuffie said.
"That's good." He waved to the boys gathered in his yard. "Thanks for clearing the driveway! You should probably get back home. You've got to be freezing."
"It's not so bad," Ventus said. "I've still gotta clear the Leonhart-Almasy's driveway."
"And I have to clear the road…" Demyx muttered, looking dismally at the long stretch of blacktop.
"The road?" Reeve repeated in surprise. He looked to his left, where his husband was fetching bags from the backseat. "Tseng, don't we have a snow plow somewhere?"
Tseng pulled out the last bag and shut the door. "It should be down in the crawlspace. We haven't needed it for years."
"I'll take them down there," Zexion volunteered.
Tseng nodded. "Good. Then come inside."
Zexion reluctantly agreed and led the neighbor boys to the side of the house, where he, Ventus, and Roxas ventured into the cobwebbed crawlspace and Demyx stayed outside to avoid falling on something sharp and pointy.
"Hey, Zexion, what's this d--"
There was a crunching noise.
Zexion sighed and looked back to where the plywood door used to hang. "Don't touch anything else."
"I found it!" Roxas called, lifting up one end of the metal object with a grunt. "Get over here and help me. This thing ways a ton."
Ventus wrinkled his nose. "It's probably covered with spiders and who knows what."
Roxas shot him a glare. "Just get over here."
Ventus walked over and lifted up the other end and together he and Roxas carried it out of the space with guidance from Zexion. All three of them breathed a sigh of relief when they made it back out into the fresh air.
"So… now what?" Demyx asked, eyeing the metal thing that was already collecting snow.
"You need a car," Zexion said.
"I've got a truck," Demyx offered.
Ventus and Roxas lifted up the snowplow again.
"Lead the way," Roxas said.
Zexion watched as they carried it over to the Highwind yard to attempt to attach it to Demyx's truck. Granted, the clumsy blond was a Highwind, a family very well known for their ability to fix anything mechanical, but he still worried about what accidents could come from the simple project.
'Not my problem now.'
He slowly trudged back through the snow to get back inside where the temperature wasn't below freezing and dropping every second.
'I hope he doesn't hurt himself.'
"Go on, I'll be fine!"
That was what Demyx cheerfully told them, surrounded in the garage by a variety of tools and the obnoxiously yellow snowplow. And then they left him there. Alone. To work with a big, heavy metal object and a moving vehicle.
Ventus stuck the blade of his shovel into the snow and leaned onto it, looking down the road to the Highwind house. "Maybe leaving him there wasn't such a good idea."
"It's Demyx," Roxas grunted, lifting up another load of frozen slush to deposit in the yard. "If he hasn't killed himself on anything by now, then it's not going to happen. Just you watch, he'll probably be the only one of us to die of old age and not a freak accident or disease."
"Well aren't you just a bundle of warmth and happiness," Ventus retorted. "What's with you today?"
Roxas continued shoveling. "Nothing. Why?"
"You've been crabbier than usual."
"Oh, so just because I've been 'crabbier' than usual that has to mean that something's wrong?" Roxas shook his head. "I don't get people. Nothing is wrong with me, I just wanted to sit in my room and not do anything today. Instead I'm out here in the cold, shoveling your friends' driveway."
When his twin wasn't looking, Ventus bent down and scooped up a handful of snow. "Socializing isn't that bad, is it? You seemed to be having fun when we were talking to Demyx and Zexion."
"Maybe if you didn't have to tease me all the time," Roxas retorted.
Ventus frowned. "Is that what's bothering you?"
"No! Nothing is bothering me, damn it!"
"Does it have to do with Axel?"
Roxas whirled around, his blue eyes blazing in anger. "That's your problem, Ventus. You always think that something's wrong and that if you find out what it is, you can help fix it. Well guess what, you can't fix everything! Especially not when there isn't anything wrong! So stop trying to fix me!" He jerked his shovel out of the snow and stomped away, leaving his twin staring after him with a stunned expression.
"Roxas…" he murmured sadly.
He dropped the snowball and sat down beside his shovel, ignoring the cold that seeped through his pants. Above, large snowflakes continued to fall.
'I wish there was something I could do…'
Ventus sat in the cold and snow until Aqua and her brothers finally pulled into the driveway without slipping and sliding around. Even then it took some coaxing on Aqua and Terra's part to get him inside, while Sora went inside to make hot chocolate.
Naminé peered out the window, trying to see past the snow and darkness. It had been several hours since Roxas returned home without Ventus. Her mom had already called to say she was staying the night with some coworkers because of the storm and had left her in charge of the house and her brothers.
"Ven… you better be inside with those three…" she murmured.
The blonde girl looked over at Cloud, who was sitting on the floor with a bucket of Lego's. Behind him a live fire crackled in the hearth.
"What's up, Cloud?" she asked, sliding off the bench to join him.
"Is Ven okay?" Cloud asked.
"I'm sure he is," Naminé tried to reassure him. "He's probably inside right now, chatting up a storm with Aqua and Sora while Terra tries to convince them to play the quiet game."
Cloud giggled. "I think so too."
Namine affectionately ruffled his hair. "So what do you think of this snow we're getting?"
Cloud blinked his big blue eyes and looked at the window. Unable to see through it, he turned his attention back to the colorful blocks in front of him. "I hope we get lots. Zack wants lots of snow."
"I bet he does." Naminé couldn't help but smile at the thought of Cloud's enthusiastic best friend. He reminded her a lot of Ventus sometimes. "And what are you and Zack going to do in the snow?"
"Snow fight!" Cloud happily said. "And snowmen. And sled riding! He said Aerith has a fun hill."
"Sounds like fun. You can give him a call tomorrow and I'll walk you ove--" She stopped talking as the lights flickered and then went out, leaving the fire as the only light in the house.
There was a thud and a muffled curse from upstairs.
Cloud set down his blocks and looked up at Naminé. "Are we going to Uncle Reno's now?"
"I think so… I'll get some candles so we can go upstairs and pack," Naminé said.
"Welcome, welcome!" Elena greeted them at the front door with a lantern. "Come inside, you must be freezing!" She ushered the three Strife's into the house and shut the door behind them with a shiver. "Aren't you missing someone?"
"He's at the Leonhart-Almasy's," Naminé explained when Roxas said nothing.
Elena nodded in understanding. "That's good. Those four will be fine over there. And if they do need any help, Ventus knows our house is open." She paused, smiling at the three kids. "Well lets not just stand here in the hallway! We've got a nice fire going in the living room and Genesis and Sephiroth are roasting marshmallows!"
Cloud tugged on Naminé's coat. "Can I have a marshmallow?"
"Of course," Naminé said with a nod. When Roxas continued to stand there like a living statue, she elbowed him in the hip.
Roxas grumbled and held out the plate of cookies his two little siblings had made while he was running around in the snow. "Here."
"How wonderful!" Elena happily took the cookies and led them down the hall, where she paused between two rooms. "Go right in there, I've got to get the hotdogs for Reno to cook. Ask Kairi for a skewer."
The three Strife's walked into the living room, where they were greeted by the scene of a tired looking Riku resting his head on Kairi's lap while Genesis and Sephiroth did their very best to knock each others marshmallows into the fire. Sephiroth seemed to be winning.
'It's going to be an interesting night,' Naminé thought.
After teaching his dad and brother the proper way to cook marshmallows without them resembling charcoal, Axel happily took a seat next to Roxas. He took one look at the blond, with his knees drawn up to his chest and a frown marring his handsome face, and decided he needed to cheer him up.
"Hey, pal. What's wrong?" He cheerfully asked, giving Roxas a playful nudge.
Roxas snapped at the question and was on his feet in a split second. "Nothing is wrong with me! Why is everyone asking me that?! Damn it!" He stomped off before Axel could say a word, expertly maneuvering through the house to go upstairs.
"…the fuck?" Axel muttered to himself, getting to his feet.
The lanky redhead looked to his sister, who was looking rather cozy with the older Crescent boy. "What?"
"Let me go talk to him," Kairi said. "Riku, let me up."
A painful grimace rippled across his face, but Riku sat up and twisted his body so he could lean back against the couch. He lifted one hand up to his forehead as if the action would help suppress his pounding headache.
Kairi stood up and fixed her shirt before heading upstairs, promising Axel she'd come get him once she thought Roxas was ready. She took a candle with her and nearly dropped it at the very top of the stairs when their pet cat came darting out of the shadows and hit her leg. She went straight to Axel's room, knowing that was where the blond would be.
She stepped around the clothes and knickknacks all over the floor to set down the candle on the bedside table before sitting down on the very edge of the bed. "So, I don't suppose you feel like talking?"
"No," Roxas muttered.
Kairi hummed and rested a hand on his tense shoulders, testing to see if he would reject her touch. When he didn't, she smiled. 'It's not as bad as I thought.'
Roxas rolled over, hugging Axel's red pillow to his chest. "Kai? Why do people tease me about liking Axel?"
"Which people?" Kairi asked, pulling back her hand.
"Just… people," Roxas said vaguely.
"Well, I know Ventus and Demyx tease you because they tease everyone. They don't mean any harm by it, they just want to get you to talk. Not everyone is as good at wheedling things out of you as I am," she said teasingly.
"See," Kairi said. "You laughed and I was teasing you. That's what they're trying to do, they just don't know quite how to do it."
"That's dumb… they don't need to tease me to talk to me."
"They're boys, what do you expect?"
Kairi giggled. "Sorry. What were we talking about?"
Roxas sighed and pulled the pillow closer to his face.
"Oh, you and Axel. Well, some people tease you about it because they're jerks or homophobes or both, so their opinions shouldn't count. Most of us around here tease you because it's so damn obvious that you two like each other. I know of at least two betting pools floating around the neighborhood."
Roxas sat up suddenly, his eyes wide. "Axel likes me?"
Kairi raised an eyebrow. "You cannot possibly be that blind. Sora is that blind. Ventus is almost that blind. But not you. Rox, you're the only one Axel lewdly drapes himself all over."
"He does not!" Roxas protested, a slight blush rising to his cheeks.
"He does," Kairi said firmly. "I know he does because it gets to the point that even Sora feels the need to point it out to me. So, feeling better yet?"
Roxas shrugged, not letting go of the pillow.
"Good enough." Kairi tugged the pillow free from his grasp and then pulled him to his feet and led him back downstairs. She left him standing in the doorway and then strode forward to drag Axel over to him. "There. Now look up."
The two did so, blinking in a rather owlish manner when they notice the mistletoe hanging above them.
"Now will you please just kiss and agree to go on a date already?" She asked impatiently.
The two looked at her and then at each other.
"Do it or I'll push your heads together myself!"
The two boys gulped and tentatively kissed before breaking away, to the cheers of everyone else in the room.
"I win! I win!" Elena giggled happily, doing a quick little jig. "I told them it would be under mistletoe before Christmas! Oh, I'm so happy!"
Kairi's jaw dropped. "Mom, you've been neighborhood gambling again?!"
Elena was too busy cheering to pay any attention.
Riku groaned and pressed his hands to his ears trying to drown out any noise. What was his reason for agreeing to stay downstairs with everyone and the noise?
Deciding it was in her best interest to ignore her mom, Kairi looked back at Roxas and Axel. "So, I'm guessing there's someone you need to apologize to?"
Roxas sheepishly nodded.
"Lets get you a peace offering and send you over there," Kairi said wisely, leading the way across the hall. "But you've got to send Sora over here for Riku. He's the one with the magic touch, not me."
Roxas frowned, looking confused. "What?"
"Riku has a headache," Axel explained. "He needs his, uh, Sora medicine?" He cast an amused look at Kairi, who immediately began searching for the rice crispy treats she made earlier. She quickly located them and shoved the plate at Axel before shoving them down the hall and out the door, shutting it behind them.
Seconds later the two were back inside to get their coats before they went back out to brave the long trek to the Leonhart-Almasy's.
Settling back on the couch with Riku, Kairi thought about how things could have gone much more wrong with the first snowstorm in years. 'Compared to what could have happened, this is pretty damn peaceful.'
As if on cue, Cloud began crying because Sephiroth had accidentally knocked his marshmallow into the fire amidst his battle with Genesis. While Naminé and Sephiroth tried to comfort the crying blond, the youngest Sinclair proudly ate his first marshmallow of the night.
'Yup. Pretty damn peaceful.'
I know I have at least one more chapter for this, possibly more. It depends on how much I squeeze into the next one. This chapter just sort of... exploded as I was typing it. I never meant for it to be quite this long or, um, dramatic. (Darn you, Roxas! You drama king!) But Kairi made it all better so i don't have to deal with that in the next chapter! Just Axel and Roxas being all awkward around each other... fun.
I had an extremely fun time coming up with the families for this. I know there's a ton to try and remember or figure out, but I did try to make it make sense. And I get to work with Ventus, Aqua, and Terra! (By the way, that first scene with Aqua is based off of me, driving home from school on Friday the 18--which is when we got hit with snow. A glorious amount of snow! Which is what inspired this.)
Anyway, here's a quick look at the families, the parents in parenthesis and the kids listed from youngest to oldest and their age:
Leonhart-Almasy: (Squall and Seifer) Terra (22), Aqua (20), Sora (18)
Crescent (Lucrecia) Riku (19), Sephiroth (12)
Sinclair (Reno and Elena) Axel (21), Kairi (17), Genesis (11)
Strife (Skye aka Mrs. Strife) Ventus and Roxas (18), Namine (12), Cloud (7-ish)
Tuesti (Reeve and Tseng) Zexion (16), Yuffie (4-5-ish)
Highwind (Cid and Shera) Demyx (19)
And then there's Zack (10) and Aerith (9), who were briefly mentioned by Cloud.
I'll try to remember to put something like this at the beginning of the next chapter as a quick refresher. If not, just pop back to this chapter to check here. I've got a few characters left to introduce next chapter, if only for a brief moment or mention.
So, anyone surprised by some of the ages after reading the chapter and then finding out how old they are? I really have a horrible time judging how characters should act at different ages, so trying to figure out Yuffie and Cloud gave me the hardest time. I'm pretty confident that Yuffie's okay, but Cloud is troublesome. Heck, Cloud is troublesome during any other time too.
I'd be happy to answer any questions, unless I feel like it'll give something away. Constructive criticism is always welcome!
Next Time: The Day After (the Snowstorm)