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Picnics and Internal Screaming

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"You," Roxas pointed his ice cream stick at Xion, "are a gay disaster." Axel started laughing as Xion gave a gentle shove at the boy, rolling her eyes. "Like you're any better! At least she actually talked to me, Mr. I'll-Just-Keep-Walking-And-Maybe-They'll-Look-At-Me." He snorted in response, refusing to acknowledge her but smiling all the same. "Maybe. But Naminé let you borrow her sketchbook, her most prized possession, and you just finger-gunned and ran away. Even I would respond better than that." He mimed shooting her, to which she slapped his fingers with her ice cream stick. "Yeah right."

A moment of comfortable silence passed between them. Xion felt her fingers drift to the sketchbook she still had with her. She traced the rings, then the cover, then Naminé's name on the first page. Her hand writing was ... interesting. Honestly, Xion could not read half of the words Naminé wrote when they passed notes or scribbled on each other's arms. But while Xion's handwriting was a lot neater, Naminé's art was far more advanced than Xion's. Even the artist's doodles made Xion's best work look like childish stick figures in comparison. Every page in the sketchbook was special, every sketch a unique representation of thought. "She wants to hang out tomorrow. To uh, for me to give the book back and just, you know...." Her shoulders hunched as she sunk deeper into herself, her face hot. Not only was she going to be giving Naminé her sketchbook back, but she would also be given back her writing notebook in return. Naminé probably had feedback on some of it, had likely read all her dumb plots and wild character ideas. What would she say? Did she think any different of her now that she'd seen Xion's heart on a page?

"Just relax." Axel moved from his position on the ledge to stand between her and Roxas and ruffled both of their hair. "Whatever happens, you'll survive. We'll probably laugh about it and eat ice cream when you're done anyway." Xion smiled at him, thumb still gliding against the edges of the book. "Yeah!" Roxas slung his arm around her casually. "So make sure there's a story to tell when you get back." He winked, sending the three of them into a small fit of laughter.

"So what about you two? Any big plans for tomorrow?" Axel smirked, glancing at Roxas. "I don't know. Can Roxy here finally get the nerve to ask Kairi out?" Instinctively, Xion went "oooooh," poking at the blush on his face. "Hey, I haven't even asked her yet. She might be with Sora, now that Riku's off on another one of his tours...." Roxas shrugged. "Nah, him and Riku are pretty serious." Axel gestured vaguely to the islands where the three friends lived. "Even if they're apart, I have a feeling they'll just come running back to each other."

Xion smirked. "Like you do with us when we leave?" Axel had made a promise that he would always be there to bring them home, even if they ran away. After all, both had tried to at some point. Axel nodded, seeming solemn for a moment before breaking into a smile. "Yeah, exactly. So you two better behave. It'd be embarrassing if I had to drag you both back because you ran off during your dates."

They laughed for a moment as they watched the sunset from their usual spot at the top of the town's clocktower. Xion cherished those moments. Every time she was there to eat ice cream with her best friends, she made a note to never forget it. Life was hectic enough already, and one could only guess what would become of them when they finally started chasing their dreams. Could they truly stay close together forever? She wanted to believe that yes, they could, but a pinch of dread always poked at her stomach when she thought about it. Not to mention, thinking about "forever" reminded her of what had happened, how she had almost-

She shook her head just a little, like the forceful shake of an Etcha-Sketch to clear it. She just needed to enjoy the moments as they came. Afterwards, she would get some much-needed rest for tomorrow.

-*-*-

"Good to see you haven't died yet." Axel leaned against the door frame and watched Xion attempt to dig herself out of pile of clothes the closet had dumped on her. Her head popped up, frizzy hair looking more like Roxas's than her own. "Don't say that just yet." She fumbled through the dresses and messes, the shirts and skirts, and the rainbow flag that had somehow fallen from the wall to blanket the mountain of clothes and anxiety. Dear god, Roxas was right; she was a gay disaster. "What am I supposed to do, Axel?" She picked up her signature hoodie before throwing it back into the pile. "I've never done this kind of thing before...."

He chuckled and walked to the bed, making himself comfortable. "If you really want to make this a date," he kicked a pair of shorts off her head, "you have to put in some more effort than usual. But not too much, or you'll look like you're trying too hard." Axel sighed at the lost look on her face. "Just pick something out - anything - and I'll let you know if it would work." She nodded, and scanned some of her options. "How about ... this?" She held up a bright red jumper, a gift from Sora that she never intended to wear, but it could work if she tried hard enough. "Absolutely not." She dropped the jumper and replaced it with a baggy white shirt. "Too big." She continued to go through the options, but they all received the same answers. It did not help that most of the clothes at the top of the stack were the ones at the bottom of her closet.

A sluggish century passed before a few outfits were decided, and at least an eternity went by before they were done.

On the surface, the outfit was fairly casual, but Axel promised that it looked good enough for a date. They had settled on a well-fitting black shirt with the white crown emblem of Sora's band and an open flannel over-shirt, some dark jeans that supposedly "made her butt look fine," a pair of clean sneakers, and the metal rainbow-flag necklace she'd been given for her birthday. Looking in the mirror, Xion thought she did look pretty good, or at the very least, fairly decent. Or, she would, when she fixed her mess of hair.

"Now for the makeup."

Oh no.

-*-*-

Outside of the decrepit mansion Naminé called home was a forest that, so Xion had been told, was perfect for flower-picking, picnicking, and scaring the shit out of people on Halloween. It was the last reason that gave Naminé the infamous title of "witch," and her maniacal laughter when a prank went well truly helped turn a normally sweet girl into the embodiment of a horror-themed tall tale. It sent shivers down her spine when Xion heard it, and whether they were good shivers or bad was a conversation she had thus far avoided having with herself.

The thing was, the forest and mansion were generally pretty spooky on their own, and watching the branches bend towards her doubled her nerves. In her satchel was the sketchbook, carefully examined cover-to-cover, with a secret note tucked away inside, and both weighed twice as much as she did as she stomped through the woods.

"Xion!" Somehow, from behind her, was Naminé's voice, and though Xion would like to say that she kept calm, she felt her feet leave the ground. Turning around, she watched helplessly as her crush giggled at the display of fear. At least she hadn't screamed ... had she? "It's nice to see you." She smiled. Naminé smiled and Xion's stomach flipped and was that really all it took? A smile from a pretty girl? Damn. Of course, it didn't help that Naminé herself looked even more stunning than usual. She had rejected her usual dress for a simple white tanktop and a light blue skirt. Her seashell-themed purse was draped over one bare shoulder, leading her eye to Naminé's pale skin.

"Ah, yeah!" She cleared her throat. "I mean, yeah, it's nice to see you too." Her hands started fiddling with the satchel straps, then moved to the necklace, and Xion tried to make it seem casual, but there was nothing confident about the way she wrung the metal through her fingers. Things had just started and they were already going sideways. Naminé was going to see how nervous she was and back out, or laugh at her for her anxiety, or- Was it just her, or was her breathing getting faster?

"Come on, I've set up a spot for us." She took her hand, dragging it away from the necklace. Her cool fingers were like ice to Xion's overheated skin as she pulled her through the trees. She weaved through them like it was second nature, as if she were a doe that had been born and raised in this forest. They arrived to the spot, recognized by the bright red and white checkered blanket, without getting lost once. Unless they had actually gotten lost many times and Xion just hadn't noticed. Whatever the case, her hands were sweaty by the time they got there, and every moment their hands stayed together felt like a moment too long. Naminé would surely notice, after all.

Without letting go, she sat down and, using her free hand, placed the basket she had been holding - had she been holding a basket? Xion had been too nervous to notice - on to the blanket, kept secure by stones at each corner. "I didn't bring much, but I hope it'll be enough." She opened the basket, revealing perhaps the most successful attempt of storing an entire fridge in a small box. It was only then that Naminé released her sweaty hand, using both to unpack the endless assortment. Pies, sandwiches, berries, fruits, cookies, a whole container of salad, snacks, and a full loaf of miraculously un-smushed bread. Xion watched in awe as one thing after another appeared in Naminé's hands and found its way onto the blanket. Just as she began to worry about not having enough room, a pair of plates and plastic forks were brought out. Naminé handed her one of each, a shy smile on her face as their fingers brushed against each other.

Terrified that her heartbeat would be heard, Xion cleared her throat. "Alright! Let's dig in!" She didn't even know where to start. Naminé had packed so much, she wasn't sure what to do. The girl in question only picked out a sandwich and an apple, leaving Xion to wonder if piling a bit of everything onto her plate would be too uncouth. She hesitated her hand over the pies and picked a sandwich and some pretzels as her starter instead. But would not eating more be rude? Naminé had clearly gone out of her way to pack everything, and at least one of the pies looked homemade. How much time had she spent preparing this? "It's okay if you want more, you know." Naminé watched her with a teasing grin, clearly aware of Xion's indecision. Gulping, she quickly shook her head. "No no, I'm good! For now!" She ducked her head and started in on the sandwich, trying hard not to think about how Naminé had made it for just the two of them.

The tension slowly died down as they ate in silence. Xion felt her eyes being drawn to Naminé, and despite looking away whenever she was caught, she couldn't help but look again. Just as she had finished her food and was reaching finally to get a slice of that delicious-looking pecan pie, Naminé broke the silence.

"You know...." Naminé's voice was as soft and light as always, the voice of angels for sure. "I really enjoyed reading all of your writing. I guess you could say that I was ... inspired by how you could make something so complex from nothing." She reached for her purse and withdrew Xion's notebook from within. A blush covered her elegant face, a blush that Xion was sure she matched with her own. "I'm really sorry, but I couldn't help myself." Naminé glanced at her with a shy smile. "I just had to draw something once I had read everything."

Slowly, she passed the notebook to her. Xion tried to contain her excitement as she flipped through the pages. Naminé had drawn something for her, no one else but her. It could have been a stick figure; regardless of what it was, she knew that she would cherish it with all of her heart. She couldn't get through the book fast enough. Where-where-oh! There! She landed on the most recent blank page. Or rather, formally-blank page, because on it was a detailed concept of one of her characters.

"So?"

Xion jumped at the voice, right next to her ear. "So?" Xion looked at her incredulously. "This is!" She looked between Naminé and the page. "This is amazing!" The artist had perfectly captured the idea of the character. The warrior's armor was so carefully drawn, her dark key-like blade pictured with every detail Xion had ever imagined on it. "Naminé ... this is really, really good." She hoped her lack of better words was made up for with the enthusiastic tone she said them in. She took another moment to scan the drawing, taking in as much as she could before she closed the book. "I- I didn't write in yours-" She reached in her satchel and pulled out the sketchbook. "But I really- your art is- I mean- Ah, just, here." She could barely meet Naminé's eyes as she handed over the book. A soft giggle did reach her ears, however.

Before she knew it, something soft was pressed against her cheek, and as it pulled away, Xion could feel Naminé's breath on her skin. "Thank you." She could feel the heat practically radiating off of her own face. She must have looked like an idiot, but who cared?! She got a kiss! On the cheek! A kiss from Naminé!

"Well, we better not let all of this food go to waste!" Naminé's voice broke Xion out of her stupor, but not enough to calm the blush on her face or the raging heartbeat in her chest. "Right! Yes! Food!"

The rest of the date - if Xion dared to call it that - went well. As Xion relaxed, they were able to talk and joke around like usual. Still, as they packed up, she couldn't help but want their time to last a little longer. An eternity would do. Their hands found each other as Naminé walked her out of the forest. The sun was starting to set, casting golden light in patches on the ground. How long had they been out there together?

"I had fun." Naminé smiled at her oh-so-softly.

"Me too." Xion licked her lips and tried not to shake.

Slowly, she leaned in. Naminé's voice came from much closer when she hummed a simple "mhm." Just as their breaths started to mix, jarring music sounded from Xion's pocket. Leaning back so hard she might have snapped her spine, Xion fumbled for her phone. "Axel." She growled out the name.

"Woah-woah! I'm not interrupting something, am I?" His tone was far too cheeky, like he had just caught her with her hand in the cookie jar. "Just- nevermind, what is it?" She tried to ignore the soul-crushing embarrassment of the situation by changing the subject, but it was no use. "Nothing, nothing!" His voice was too breezy, too casual. "Just wanted to make sure you hadn't gotten into any trouble." Xion groaned, but she had to appreciate how much he cared. "I'm fine, Axel." She didn't dare look at Naminé. "Alright. Just be safe coming home. Oh! And Xion...." His tone was suddenly serious. "Yeah?"

"Don't do anything I wouldn't do." She could could hear that smug idiot wink at her. He hung up before she could yell out her response, leaving her frustrated and utterly embarrassed in front of the other girl.

Bracing for the worst, Xion finally looked at Naminé, who just seemed concerned. "Ah- that was Axel. He was just worried about where I was." She tried to laugh it off, but the tension still hung tight in her shoulders. The other girl nodded and smiled. "I understand. I guess that means you'll be heading back now?" Xion nodded stiffly.

Suddenly, hands were on the collar of her flannel and pulling her towards Naminé. Their lips met for a brief, fantastic moment. All too soon, Naminé pulled away and pressed a gentle kiss on her cheek. "Be safe." With that, she turned and made her way back into the forest, leaving a frozen Xion in her wake.

A tiny voice that sounded an awful lot like Roxas called out in her head, the only thought that made sense in the jumble of emotions she was sorting through. "Gay. Disaster."