A/N: I would just really like to thank Raining Moon Song, aka Tory, for her amazing fanfiction called Pieces, which I am addicted to and I ship the implied main pairing for life, and everyone should really go read it. Like, right now. Tory, I know this can't ever do Pieces justice, but by gosh I am determined to try my best. I hope you like it, and thank you so much for letting me use your idea as inspiration!
"Throw me that can of Mountain Dew."
"Come on! It'll take like, two seconds! You can put the freaking controller down for two freaking seconds. Just toss me the can!"
"It'll take you the same two seconds to walk over here and get it yourself; I am trying to kill Sephiroth!"
My sister gives me the most long-suffering look I have ever seen, her dark brown eyebrows narrowing into a pout over her chocolate-colored eyes as I struggle, once more, to block the several meteors hurtling high-speed at my—or should I say, Sora's—head.
"God darn it!" I growl, flicking the PS2 joystick severely to the right, my body leaning just a little as I watch the figure on the screen frantically running out of Masamune's way.
"Lisi, I swear I'm gonna kill you. Throw me the freaking can."
I ignore her for another second, but it's too late anyway; her words distracted me and now Sora is falling backward in slow motion, the familiar tone accompanying his digital death.
I turn around and glare at my sister, hoping that my dark black eyeliner is making the expression as severe as I want it to be.
"I hope you're happy; you just made me die."
"Toss me the can and I will be happy," she says, completely ignoring Sora's floating body on the screen.
I stick my tongue out balefully and chuck the can of Mountain Dew at her; infuriatingly enough, she catches it without so much as a stumble. My darn sister, always the graceful one while I go stumbling around like a retarded elephant on stilts.
"Thank you," she says pointedly, returning to the bed and picking up her Heart no Kuni manga again as she pops open the Mountain Dew.
I sigh and roll up off my beanbag chair, dropping the controller into the warm space that my butt just vacated. She glances up at me, raising one eyebrow curiously. "Where're you going? I thought you were trying to kill Sephiroth."
"I'm taking a break," I growl. "If anyone asks, I'm out killing Heartless with a stick."
"Ha-ha," she replies sarcastically. "Where're you actually going?"
I give her a long-suffering look of my own, already pulling my giant, fluffy warm black coat (a birthday present from our Aunt Lindsay a couple of years ago) over my arms and zipping it up the front.
"I'm going for a walk, you dip. Five blocks. Not far."
"By yourself?" She looks at me doubtfully.
"I'm seventeen years old, Zanna. I can take care of myself. And anyway, I'm not going far, I already told you; I'm just going over by Storm's house. Sheesh."
"Didn't you look at the weather forecast? There's some kinda big storm coming." She's still looking at me with that infuriating one-eyebrow-up expression, which is really starting to annoy me right about now.
"So I'll be home before dark. What are you, my mother?" I make sure to emphasize the last word, and am gratified when I see her wince.
"Just be careful, you idiot. If you die in a tornado then I'm stealing all your Final Fantasy games."
"You can have Nine, I don't like it that much anyway," I say, shrugging and turning toward the door. "And we don't get tornadoes in December… in Massachusetts."
She rolls her eyes at me. "You know what I mean, butt-face. Just be careful. And tell Storm and Mrs. Rose I said hi."
"Yeah, yeah," I reply, already on my way out.
"And make sure you-!"
The door shuts on the sound of her voice.
I hate admitting that Zanna's right, but the freezing wind almost takes my breath away when I step out of the door of the two-story house that we share with our dad and our dog Meghan. Shivering a little, I shove my hands deep into my pockets and start down the slick and frozen sidewalk, my boots slipping a little on the icy concrete as the gale whips my bright violet hair around my face.
It's only five blocks to my best friend Storm Rose's house, but by the time I've walked a block and a half, I can't feel my fingers, toes, or nose, and I swear that snow's blown into at least forty crevices in my clothes that I didn't even know were there.
These are the times I wish we'd stayed in Georgia instead of moving up here…
We moved up here a little over three years ago, after Dad and Mom split up. Mom stayed in Georgia with our little brothers, and my older sister and I came up to Massachusetts with Dad and Meghan. Most of the time I don't regret it; I never would have met Storm if we hadn't moved, and we live closer to Aunt Sam now, which is nice, but on days like today, I really miss the south-Georgia-a.k.a.-north-Florida sunshine.
And my flip-flops. Oh, God, I miss my flip-flops.
I wiggle my frozen toes inside my snow boots, just to make sure I can actually still move them. I've made it three and a half blocks now, and I'm just entering the intersection of Lowell Street and Baker Street, a couple of houses away from where my other friend Zane lives (yeah, she's actually a girl… her parents are weird, though; she calls them by their first names and her family's really odd). I can see headlights in the road, crawling through the veil of snow at a miserable twenty miles an hour, instead of their usual brisk residential-area thirty. The golden flashes refract off the snowflakes, creating dull shimmers in the almost-opaque air.
As I'm about to pass the intersection by, however, I see something that makes me pause, squinting across the road. What looks like two figures in long black trenchcoats with deep hoods are hurrying up the block on the other side of the road, keeping close together, I guess for warmth. I can't tell whether they're men or women from this far away; the snow and their coats completely obscure any kind of details.
It's actually the coats themselves that I'm staring at; I can't really tell, but from here, they almost look like…
Nah… cosplayers in Massachusetts? No one even hosts cons in Massachusetts…
All of a sudden, both figures turn and sprint out into the road during a lull in traffic, running full tilt toward the sidewalk where I am standing.
I can't hold back a small shriek of surprise, though the wind immediately tears it away from my mouth. What kind of idiot do you have to be to run into oncoming traffic?
I hear several cars honking their horns as their headlights illuminate the two shapes careering across the street, their coat hems flapping crazily at their heels.
Oh my God… I have to be crazy…
"Come on!" I scream, waving my arms at them. "Run! Over here!"
I don't know if they hear me or not, but I guess something must alert them to my presence, because the one in the lead, the taller one, I can now see, turns slightly and is now running straight toward me. The smaller one behind quickly follows, and they dash past the remaining few yards of road to almost collapse on the sidewalk in front of me, their chests heaving as they gasp in the freezing air.
"What were you thinking?!" I demand, not even caring that I've never met these people in my life, and they could be weirdo stalker pedophiles just waiting to find some kid to snatch. My adrenaline's racing just from watching them run across the street, and my heart is pounding right out of my chest. "You could have gotten hit, like, a million times!"
They don't answer me, of course, both of them too out of breath to manage any words at all, only gasps.
While I wait for them to collect themselves, I take a moment to study their clothing. Up close, I can see more clearly the distinctly huge double zipper and shiny silver chain beneath the high neck that clearly distinguishes their coats. The taller figure is wearing regular tall black boots over black pants beneath the coat, leading me to believe that he's a man; the muscular, athletic-looking build is leaning me that way too. His friend's coat is pulled snugly, but not too tight, over what is clearly her frame, and she's dressed in ankle boots with pointy heels that I can imagine were not comfortable to run in.
Holy crap… they actually are cosplayers…
"Uh… you guys lost or something?" I ask, having to shout to make myself heard over the steadily increasing wind.
The first one, the guy, looks up, though I still, creepily enough, can't see his face beneath the deep shadow of his hood.
"Something close to that, I suppose," he replies, raising his own voice a little.
I shiver just slightly, my eyes widening at all the oh my God Re: Chain of Memories feels and holy crap this guy's a good voice mimic or something…
"Well… er… you wanna come with me?" I'm not sure exactly what's pressing me to help them out; it's not like I know them. It's actually kind of creeper-ish, now that I think about it, especially because I really am curious about their costumes.
"We would appreciate that, thank you," he answers slowly, his voice seeming to flow from beneath his hood like molten caramel, and giving me the shivers all over again.
Holy crap, that's a good imitation…
"Okay… um, this way," I say, gesturing lamely with my hand down the street toward where I know Storm's house is. "Follow me, please."
I start walking again, and I'm shocked, pleased, and also slightly terrified when they actually do follow me.
What have I just gotten myself into…?
We arrive at Storm's house ten breathless minutes later, stumbling numbly up onto her front porch. I raise one shaking finger and mash the doorbell several times, knowing that her mom will know it's me.
Mrs. Rose answers the door moments later, smiling a little when she sees me. "Oh, Lisi, hello!" she says brightly. "Did you come over for a—" and then her eyes light on the two people behind me, and one blonde eyebrow shoots straight up. "And… who are…?"
"Friends of mine…" I pant, shivering uncontrollably. "Just moved here… not used to cold… wanted to introduce them to Storm."
"Ah… I see." Mrs. Rose blinks, looking slightly taken aback, but not really suspicious. "Do they have names?"
My mind goes blank for just a second; I didn't ask their names, and they didn't tell me…
"Lu," I say in an instant, as my cogs shudder back into motion. "He's Lu, and she's Arlene."
"Well, it's nice to meet you, Lu and Arlene," Mrs. Rose says, her smile returning. "All of you, please come in; good grief, Lisi, it's freezing out! Hurry up, come on!"
Gratefully, I slide past her and into the blessedly warm interior of my best friend's house, watching as the two figures do the same behind me. Mrs. Rose shuts the door behind us, walking back to the living room.
"Storm!" she shouts, sticking her head into the stairwell. "Lisi and some other friends are here!"
"Coming, Mom!" I hear my friend's familiar voice reply, muffled by a couple of walls.
There's a slamming sound, and then the sound of feet as Storm sprints down the stairs.
While I wait for her, I turn around, glancing at my two new 'friends.' They're both slowly pulling down the hoods of their coats, looking around with pensive expressions. I fight the urge to stare at them, feeling my traitorous eyes going wide anyway.
The taller figure is a guy, like I thought, but he's got to be the most androgynous guy I've ever seen. His sapphire-blue eyes are framed by long, delicate lashes, and his facial features are angular and angelic; a long, straight nose and full lips accented by perfectly-carved cheekbones. His feathery hair is the most unique shade of petal pink I have ever seen; it falls silkily to his shoulders, seeming almost like a mop of flower petals growing from his head.
His friend is a girl, though that's not really a surprise. Her face is small and heart-shaped, bright teal eyes looking out of a face a little less angular than her companion's, but no less beautiful or delicate. Her blonde hair is slicked back into almost a helmet on top of her head, except for two tendrils that stick up at a curve, almost like bugs' antennae.
I have to remind myself to breathe.
Holy crapola… those have got to be the best cosplays I have ever seen in my entire freaking life…
"Whoa," I hear suddenly from behind me. Turning, I see Storm also staring at my friends, her hazel eyes going wide as she beholds the two people standing in her living room and removing their sodden coats. Her burgundy hair is tied back in what she likes to call her 'day-ponytail,' though I don't really know what the difference is between it and a night-ponytail. It's just a Storm thing, I guess.
"Who're they?" she asks, gesturing at them.
"Uh… Storm, meet Lu and Arlene," I say, my eyes flickering toward the kitchen.
She glances that way at well, and instantly understands when she notices her mom.
"Oh, right… nice to meet you guys!" she says cheerily. "I'm Storm Rose." Looking back to me, she says, "You guys should come upstairs, so we can get to know each other. Besides, I'm playing a game I think you'd probably like."
I smirk; in a whisper, I ask, "Replaying C.O.M. again?"
She sticks her tongue out, turning to walk up the stairs.
I turn around and glance at the cosplayers, waving an uncertain hand at them. "Well, uh… come on."
They exchange a look, shrug, and follow after me, up the stairs.
I close the door when we get into Storm's room, locking it behind the final two entrants. Storm's settled back into her moon chair, holding her PS2 controller and attempting to ward off the attacks of several Soldier Heartless with a series of calculated card tricks.
I can see the two cosplayers watching Storm curiously as she thumbs the joystick back and forth, pressing buttons with expert dexterity. I've always hated her for being better at Re:CoM than I am, but I make up for it by having beaten KH2 on Proud Mode more times than I think she ever will.
"You guys play Kingdom Hearts, right?" I ask them, trying to break the silence. "Re: Chain of Memories? Or Days, I guess, but they don't show up as much in that…"
"Play Kingdom Hearts?" The question sounds so odd in his calm, unwavering voice.
"Or I guess maybe you could have read the manga?" The amended statement sounds more like a question, and I shrug uncertainly. "Those are seriously awesome cosplays for only having read the manga, though…"
Now they both look bewildered, which is confusing me, as well. If they're trying to stay in character, they're doing a pretty freaking awesome job of it, but now isn't really the time, especially if they're lost.
"Uh… okay, forget that," Storm says, seeing my dilemma and shaking her head. "How about you just tell us your actual names?"
They glance at one another, and then briefly back at the screen before replying.
"My name is Marluxia," the guy replies evenly.
"My name's Larxene," his female companion answers, her voice high-pitched and lilting. It's not nearly as annoying as I always thought Larxene's voice was in the game.
Storm and I both raise our eyebrows; these guys are seriously committed to their characters, I guess.
"O…kay then," Storm says, shaking it off and shrugging. "So… Marluxia? Where're you guys from? I didn't know there were any cons up here…"
"Cons?" Marluxia repeats, looking confused. "I do not believe I understand to what you are referring."
"You know… conventions?" I jump in here, getting more confused by the moment. "Like, a giant party where everyone dresses up and acts nerdy?"
"That's not really what a con is," Storm says, giving me a slightly injured look.
"In the briefest sense, it kind of is," I reply, waving the look off. We can have a fangirl definition war later.
"Anyway," Storm says, shrugging. "Where are you guys from? It can't be around here…"
"We have come from the World That Never Was," Marluxia answers her calmly. "Well… Castle Oblivion, if you wish to be technical, but our assignment originated from the World That Never Was."
Holy God, are they actually serious with this?
I glance at Storm, a little worried now. We haven't been able to get any real information out of these freaking cosplayers, which means we have absolutely no way of getting them back home, and there's a giant freaking storm coming right over Lowell, like now.
This looks like it's going to be more of a problem than I thought.