In a quaint house, on a friendly street all covered with snow in the heart of Hollow Bastion, lived a boy with spiky brown hair. Sora was just like any other teenage boy; wasting away his Christmas break playing video games until dawn, sleeping until dinner time, and hanging out with friends until the clock struck midnight. That is, until December 21st.
"Hey Leon, you're home late." Sora shouted as his older brother and said brother's boyfriend walked through the front door, "Was Cloud groped by a stranger again?"
Cloud hung up his coat and, besides the slight narrowing of his eyes, ignored him and went upstairs to take a shower. Leon smacked the back of his head with a rolled up stack of papers.
"No, now turn that off."
"What, no! I'm almost through Sin, and if I defeat Jecht then I win the entire game!"
"Whatever," Leon leaned against the back of the couch casually, "just don't complain when we leave you behind."
Sora perked up at that, pausing the game and scrambling onto the couch to lean over the back curiously, "We're going somewhere? Where are we going? When are we going?"
Leon whapped him on the head again to shut him up before showing him the papers. "Mom and Dad wanted us to come down for Christmas, so we booked a flight for tomorrow."
Sora's eyes grew impossibly wide in glee, looking very much like a little girl who was told she'd be getting a pink pony for Christmas. He threw his arms around Leon's middle and then dashed off up the stairs, throwing open the bathroom door and sticking his head inside.
Sora just laughed and raced to his room to start packing, and Leon permitted a small chuckle.
Early the next morning found the trio tiredly loading their bags into the back of a cab before crawling in themselves.
"Did we lock all the windows? Are we forgetting anything?" Leon muttered to himself, for a moment letting Sora doze on his shoulder.
Cloud nudged the brunet, "Stop worrying, this is supposed to be fun."
The cab driver turned to look at them in a less than friendly way, his hair a mess of pulled back dreadlocks. "My name's Xaldin, now where are you heading?"
Xaldin frowned a bit and turned around to start the car, pulling out onto the street as he mumbled under his breath, "Well I don't go there very often…let's see if I remember the way."
Leon got the first of his many sinking feelings about the trip right then. And then Xaldin took too sharp of a corner and ran a red light, which is when Leon skipped all the levels of bad feelings and was certain this was a terrible idea.
Seven U-turns, five near accidents, and two wrong airports later they finally arrived at HB International. The three threw themselves out of the cab and Xaldin tossed their bags out before collecting his fee and tearing off.
"That guy was insane!" Sora shouted, slinging his duffle bag over shoulder and followed the two men into the warm building. The made their way through the bustling crowds of holiday goers and found the correct check-in counter.
"Thank you for flying with The Airline That Never Was, can I see your ticket?" a very bored looking blonde woman said with an outstretched hand.
"Now, now Larxene. That is not how we're supposed to greet our customers." chided a man beside her, fluffing his pink mane by habit.
"Shut up Marluxia, I don't care." She took their tickets and scanned them, then scowled deeper. "Sorry but these tickets are invalid."
"Excuse me?" Leon barked, while Cloud eyed another man behind the counter with surprise. "I paid for those tickets!"
"You heard me; your designated seating doesn't actually exist."
"Aren't you the man who sold us the tickets?" Cloud interjected, staring hard at the third man. "At the ticket agency; you were at the ticket agency."
"I don't know what you're talking about." he answered in a rush, his accent thick.
"Isn't there anything you can do?" Sora asked, leaning on the counter and turning his 'kicked puppy' expression on them, eyes wet and lip starting to tremble ever so slightly. "I haven't seen my parents in so long…"
Larxene sighed and started looking through the systems, and Cloud ruffled Sora's hair with a quirked smile. Marluxia on other hand, being the sick pedo-freak he was, acquired a wolfish smirk at the display; in which Leon scowled and pushed his younger brother behind him.
"All right guys, there are a few seats still available that I can give you. But they're gonna cost you 50 munny per ticket."
"What? That's ridiculous! I already paid for these tickets and from one of your employees no less!" Leon snarled, pointing venomously at Luxord. The man threw up his hands as if it wasn't his fault and he wasn't trying to scam them (which honestly was the plan).
"Sir, I'm going to ask you to calm down before I have to call security." Larxene informed him, smiling wickedly as if she'd love nothing more than to make good on her threat. "Either take it or leave it, but we won't be able to refund your tickets."
Cloud gripped the lion's wrist and shook his head, "Just pay the extra." They looked at each other for a few moments before Leon sighed with a frown and pulled out his wallet, handing over the extra cash.
"Thank you very much Sir, have a nice trip to Destiny Islands." She grinned in triumph and motioned for them to continue on. They went to the next counter and checked their bags, cringing when the man with the ponytail -who looked like he was high- tossed their bags over his shoulder onto the belt.
Security was a nightmare.
Cloud padded through the electronic arch without problems, pulling his shoes on and putting his earring back in on the other side. Leon was next, and set it off immediately.
"Sir, you're going to have to take your belts off; all of them." the giant with the name tag that read 'Lexaeus' said. Leon rolled his eyes and backed up to do as instructed, which was easier said than done since he had like, ten, and most of them were intertwined. The other travelers behind him started to grumble, but quieted fearfully as soon as he whipped around to glare at them. Finally he had them all off and piled into a plastic bucket, and stepped through again. No sound.
"Thank you Sir. Next."
Sora stepped though and the beeping began, sending him into a panic as he was certain he took everything metal off. Another security guard came over to see what was going on, his hair fire engine red and an excited leer stretching his face.
"What's going on Lex?"
The giant shrugged, "Check him Axel, I need to stick to my post."
"Don't mind if I do." Axel purred and lazily swung his security wand, "Spread 'em kid."
"Don't you tou—" Leon began protectively, but Lexaeus turned a hard eye on him and cracked his neck casually. So he fumed off to the side, Cloud frowning as well as Sora was less-than-innocently patted down. Soon enough he was released (as the problem was the clasp on his pants) and hurried to join the other two, blushing and straightening his clothes.
"Come on," Leon muttered, laying a hand on Sora's shoulder and led them to their gate. They had a twenty minute wait and so tried to make themselves comfortable in the waiting area; Sora engrossed in his PSP and Leon and Cloud boredly watching other travelers.
A little blonde girl and her mother were among the throng trying to get somewhere else for Christmas, and she tugged on her mother's hand when she noticed them,"Mama, why are those two men holding hands?" Her expression turned dreamy. "Are they in love like the princess and prince from my story book?"
The girl's mother looked at them with something like fear and pushed her daughter along, trying to shield the girl's eyes, "Don't stare Nami dear."
Cloud coughed and Leon quickly let go of his hand. Sora did not notice this exchange as his attention was drawn to some drama down the hall. A man had collapsed and the airport medic had arrived, but something seemed a bit off. The medic was frantic while his assistant paid attention only to his book.
"Zexion, do you think it was a heart attack?" the medic slapped the man's face a bit, "Or perhaps he is suffering from a fever?"
"I do not know Vexen, nor do I care."
"Well, only one thing to do in this situation." Vexen said matter-of-factly, and pulled out of his bag a rather huge syringe full of a clear liquid, flicking it preparation.
Sora couldn't bear to look after that, turning back to his game and trying not to think about such a long needle.
"Flight 358 is now boarding. If all passengers would please form a line in front of the hall so we can check your tickets. I repeat: flight 358 is now boarding." a voice droned over an intercom. They gathered their carry-ons and followed the other passengers, slowly getting on the plane. Sora had an aisle seat and Cloud had the middle seat next to him, but unfortunately Leon was seated three rows back. Not that that was really a problem. He waited until the person allotted the window seat arrived and after some negotiation commandeered the spot next to Cloud –which in all honesty consisted of Leon staring down threateningly at the man until he gave up his seat.
"This is Captain Xemnas speaking, thank you for flying with The Airline That Never Was." a man said over the cabin speakers in a tone that clearly conveyed he didn't give a care and would rather be anywhere than flying their plane.
"Our pilot doesn't sound too happy…" Sora commented, and Leon had another one of those sinking feelings. A male flight attendant with blue hair and a scar on his forehead walked to the front of the aisle, turning to face the passengers with an apathetic gaze that easily rivaled Cloud's on his most depressing day.
He held up a seat belt. "Listen up morons; this is how you buckle your seat belt…do that now. Do not unbuckle it. My name is Saix and for the love of kingdom hearts don't you dare push that call button above you. I will be very angry and you'll wish you hadn't." He then turned around to stalk behind the curtain between first class and coach. The plane was unusually silent as it started to speed up the runway.
"So…can I push the button?"
"Later Sora, let us get off the ground before you start annoying the staff." Leon replied, already working through his Sudoku book.
The plane made it up into the air smoothly enough, and the flight attendants started coming down the aisle with the food and drink cart.
"Can I get you guys anything?" the flight attendant asked when he made his way to their row, his aqua eyes sparkling and his hair an odd style of a rocker's mullet –if such a thing even existed.
"Something strong." Leon and Cloud said at almost the same time, feeling the need to stock up as Sora fidgeted excitedly.
"A bag of peanuts please!" he tried to keep his voice low as he accepted the bag, waiting intently until the boy apparently named Demyx –as his name tag aptly said- was far enough away. He grinned widely at the two men with a peace sign, before reaching up with great flourish…and pushed the call button.
"Dear Hyne help us all." Leon muttered, but was quite honestly trying not to smirk, Cloud looking away so to not let his own small grin show. The curtain at the front of the plane was pushed aside violently as Saix stomped ever closer, his face twisted with a glare to shrivel flowers.
"I am quite certain that I to—"
Sora cut him off cheerfully, "Can you open this bag please? I'm afraid it's too difficult for me."
Saix glared harder, a sound like a growl steadily rising in his throat. Sora continued to smile innocently, as if completely unaware of the man's displeasure. The man looked to his guardians, obviously silently berating them for not keeping their charge in line. Leon and Cloud simply pretended he wasn't there though, looking out the small window. Saix took a deep, calming breath and snatched the snack bag from the boy. He opened it jerkily and handed it back, glaring once more for good measure. Then he was gone, leaving Sora to munch happily on his peanuts and formulate his next plan.
He was broken out of his scheming by the captain's voice over the intercom, "There will be a bit of turbulence up ahead, but nothing too severe. So I'd like everyone to shut the hell up and don't panic."
They had only a moment to process this, mere seconds for Sora to begin to panic, before the plane began bouncing violently, tilting this way and that, and overall making everyone feel like they were plummeting to their death. Now it was no secret that turbulence was the only thing in the entire world that scared Sora and so, when he turned terror stricken eyes onto Cloud, the only thing the blond could do was wrap an arm around him and pull him close. But he couldn't blame the kid this time: this 'slight turbulence' was downright awful and lasting much longer than he'd ever experienced –which was something considering that he'd flown many times with Cid in his float plane.
Thankfully the plane straightened out after a few more minutes, continuing their journey as if nothing happened. Sora frowned and shook himself a bit, as if shaking away the brief weakness, looking more determined than ever. Leon rolled his eyes and went back to leaning against the window, Cloud settling against him for a bit of sleep and trying to ignore Sora's mumbles of 'He's so gonna pay for that...' and 'little bit of turbulence my ass…' and jabbing at the call button furiously. Neither man really wanted to deal with a pissed off flight attendant.
The next time Cloud gained consciousness, scrubbing at his face to clear any lingering sleep from his eyes, a completely different flight attendant was talking to Sora. He had blond spiky hair and bore an uncanny resemblance to Sora, leaning over him with a sultry look and running one hand through the brunet's hair, using the other to pin something to his shirt. Sora's face was flushed and his entire form was rumpled.
Once the boy wondered off Cloud nudged Sora, "Hey, what's that all about?"
Sora peered down at the pin, blushing brighter, "It says something about a 'Mile High' club…"
Cloud looked over to make sure Leon was still asleep - that particular milestone would not go over well- and ruffled Sora's hair awkwardly. "Uh…congratulations kid."
The cabin speakers buzzed to life, "This is your captain speaking. We are nearing Destiny Islands, and the mainland will appear on the left if you care to look out your window. Sucks for you people on the right side."
Sora surged forward, leaning over both Cloud and Leon in his quest to press his face against the porthole. Leon jerked awake at Sora's flailing, looking none-too-happy for it. "By all means…" he muttered.
"It looks just like it did when we left." Sora said dreamily, eyes frantically searching for certain landmarks he recognized.
"We were here only the summer before last."
"Still, it feels like forever." Sora finally moved back into his own seat and re-buckled his seatbelt at Saix's glare from across the plane. The plane soon started its descent, feeling like it was losing altitude a little too fast. Leon abruptly sat up straighter, eyes closed and pinching the bridge of his nose like he so often did.
"Ears hurt?" Cloud asked, leaning over to whisper the inquiry. The lion only grunted and nodded curtly, and so Cloud reached over to intertwine their hands, rubbing his thumb in circles to offer what solace he could. A minute passed, a thousand feet lower, and Leon subtly winced. It wasn't much of a reaction, merely the slight tensing of his facial muscles and a thick swallow, but Cloud still noticed. He leaned a little closer and blew gently into Leon's ear, unable to stifle a small grin at how Leon relaxed almost immediately.
The plane made an unnerving groaning sound and bounced heavily on the runway, seeming to swerve a bit before Captain Xemnas regained control. Leon looked away from the window, not comfortable with seeing how fast the plane was still going and turning sharply into their allotted space. It came to a screeching halt and even then Xemnas had to back up a bit to realign the plane with the ramp.
"Once again: thank you for flying with The Airline That Never Was, and welcome to Destiny Islands. Now get the hell off my plane."
The usually shuffling came then; people getting up and knocking their heads on everything, trying to get their bags from the overhead department and in the process causing everything else to fall out, and the awkward dance of trying to get passed that slow person in front of you. It was utter chaos and Cloud was extremely happy when they finally were able to leave the plane and enter the airport, as he hated that many irritable people crammed in his personal space. The flight attendants followed everyone one out and Roxas sent Sora a saucy wink before getting back on the plane for cleanup.
"So who's coming to pick us up?" Sora asked as they rode the elevator down to the first floor to pick up their luggage.
"Mom said she'd send Riku down with the car."
"Yes!" Sora gave the air one of his obnoxious fist pumps. It was also no secret that Sora adored Riku.
Of course, as their continuous lack of luck would have it, their luggage was the last to arrive on the carousel and also arrived looking worse for wear. Leon frowned as he surveyed a particularly harsh dent in his suitcase.
"Come on, come on!" Sora chirped, bouncing as if there was an entire hill of ants in his pants, "Let's go find Riku, I don't want to make him wait!"
Leon sighed and waved him on ahead, following with Cloud at a casual pace. The day was warm, the sun shining cheerfully down on the trio as they left the main airport building to the pick-up area. Sora had already found his best friend and was gripping his hand tightly as he beamed up at the older boy, talking a mile a minute. Riku frowned in confusion as he noticed the pin on Sora's shirt, squinting in an attempt to read it. Sora flushed and hurriedly yanked it off and stuffed it into his pocket, trying his best to laugh it off. Cloud chuckled as he tossed their bags into the back of the minivan.
Leon clapped Riku on the shoulder and took the keys from him, "I'll drive, you can catch up with Sora." They piled into the van and took off, Leon easily remembering the correct direction through the bustling city to the freeway that would take them to the other side of the island.
"So Riku, have you decided what you're going to do with that humanities degree yet?" Leon asked casually.
"I was thinking of working at the airport: the pay's pretty good I hear, and then I can come visit Sora more often."
Cloud was certain that the answer tickled the younger brunet boy.
"Which airlines then?"
"The Airline That Never Was has a few spots open so—"
He was cut off as Leon jerked off the road and slammed on the breaks, "Get out of the car!"
"What? But we're still four miles from—"
So is everyone getting excited for Christmas? C8