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Dancing With Your Silhouette

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The little shed that served as Naminé’s studio was always flooded with sunlight no matter the season. Sometimes she imagined that if she went out to the backyard at night, she’d see golden light bursting out from all the windows. She’d lie in bed and close her eyes and it was like she could see the streaky sunbeams leaking out from under the door, so vividly it was like she’d painted them on the backs of her eyelids.

She loved her little studio for the sun, not despite it, even though she got warm just walking through the door. She was constantly shedding her jackets and sweaters to combat the heat that kissed across her shoulders, but she refused to draw the curtains and hide the sun away. 

As usual, there was no need to flick the lights on with all the early morning sun. Naminé smiled, breaking the silence with a soft “Hello.” The shed was too small to echo but she liked to think it was waking up. She always greeted her studio like this, quietly and softly, like she was seeing an old friend for the first time in years. It was a home to her. The little shed tucked behind the house that Naminé shared with Kairi wasn’t very large, but it was all hers. Even Kairi never entered without permission, and that meant everything to Naminé.

Today, though, she was saying hello in particular to the heavy statue that rested on a drop cloth in the center of the room. The wooden floor was probably bowing from its weight and Naminé had yet to decide how she was going to move it, since it had taken five of them to get it in here.

“What are you gonna make,” Sora had said, panting. His shirt was covered in white dust, but he either didn’t care or notice as he used it to wipe his face off, spreading streaks across his cheeks. Roxas laughed at him, mirth clear in his eyes.

Naminé shrugged as Sora elbowed him back. “I don't know.” She rested a hand against the block of marble as if she was trying to feel a heartbeat underneath it all. She thought she felt the faintest flutter, but it was probably her own pulse echoing in her ears, nerves humming quietly. She always got like this before a big project.

This wasn't her first attempt at carving a statue, but it was the first time she'd felt like she was uncovering the statue more than creating it. As if she was truly discovering a girl, buried in stone. It felt like - it felt strangely like they were breathing together. And it was nearly done.

The girl in the stone was beautiful. At least, Naminé thought so. But she hadn't meant to make the girl so sad.

She knelt down next to the figure, almost complete. Naminé had spent months working on her, knew every line of her face, from her delicate eyelashes to the bow of her mouth. She smoothed a hand over the delicate fingers clutching at the shawl. “I want to know your story,” she told the girl. Why was this marble girl curled here in the middle of the studio, half-hidden under a thin shawl so that Naminé had to duck to peer into her eyes? She’d had to carve them lying on the ground, shoulders and arms aching for the effort, and had hobbled around the house for days like an old woman, begging Kairi to reach up and get a mug for her, or the popcorn from the shelf, and Kairi had laughed as she pulled them all down for her.

She wasn’t sure, yet, if she was going to paint her. Naminé could easily imagine black hair and tan skin, pink lips curving into a smile as they called her name, hands reaching out. She wasn’t sure why - she wasn’t sure if she thought she’d ruin it, if she was taking too much into her hands and turning discovery into creation. Maybe the girl should just remain all pale white, dusty-purple where the shadows kissed along her collarbone.

The eyes were white and empty, but Naminé imagined them blue. 

She sighed, pressing her forehead against the girl’s unyielding back. Like this, she could pretend she was comforting her, could carefully wrap her hands around this girl’s waist like she’d had a nightmare and Naminé could just hold her until she stopped shivering and the first glowing tendrils of the sun light the sky.

Sometimes, Naminé thought she was too lonely. Halfway in love with a statue simply because she wanted someone to listen to her.

She pushed herself back, not letting her fingertips linger, and wandered over to her workbench without so much as dusting off her dress. Just a little bit of work on the shawl, a tiny bit of work on the ears. She might even be done today.

She flipped on the radio, hating the noise of nothing, and set to work as the music drowned out her thoughts.

-----

It was sunset and the whole studio was bathed in red light when Naminé sat back, fingers aching. She coughed a few times, crawling over to her still-full water bottle, spilling dust and marble crumbs across the floor as she went. The girl remained where she was, shoulders curled in, head bowed. Naminé ran a hand along the stone shawl, pleased with the way it draped like it was real cloth. She could see the curve of the girl’s back through it like it was gossamer. She could trace her hand down the subtle knobs of the girl’s spine.

“I think you’re finished,” she said, awed, sitting up on her knees to inspect. She was definitely smudging her dress, since she’d forgotten to put a smock on, but she couldn’t help smiling, despite her dry mouth and the headache blooming at the base of her skull. 

She had been considering giving the girl a name, rolling it around in the back of her mouth, but she hadn’t let it spill across her tongue yet; she didn’t feel it was right to give it. The girl had her own name, whatever it was. 

Naminé leaned down one last time, studying the girl. “Thank you,” she whispered, pressing a kiss to the smooth stone. When they parted, she’d left behind a smear of her pink lipstick, the memory of a kiss. “Oh.” Naminé let out a little giggle. “Let me get that for you.” She wiped it away with her thumb, erasing her presence, and she could have sworn the stone was warm, but that had to be the fading light. It gave the girl the illusion of life, painting her orange and red. 

She was usually much more diligent about keeping her studio clean but she stepped over the dust and the tools, wiping her bare feet at the edge of the drop cloth and decided tomorrow would be just fine for cleaning. It was getting dark, sunset settling into dusk.

She opened the door, the lights from the kitchen window of main house making a perfect golden square on the grass.

“Wait,” someone called, and Naminé whirled around, hands slamming into the light switch as she flooded the room. There was nothing out of place.

Nothing but her statue, which was carefully unfurling itself up off the floor. 

“Oh my god,” Naminé said.

“Wait!” The statue reached for her, blinking. Oh god, she was blinking, she was blinking color into white alabaster, and her eyes were a brilliant unparalleled blue, just like Naminé had imagined. Color was spreading down her cheeks like tears, across her fingertips, streaking her until she wasn’t white and empty but everything. “It’s okay! Just - you can’t forget me!”

“You’re not supposed to be moving!”

The statue blinked at her. “But I am,” she replied, and she was. She was moving as if she wasn’t quite sure how yet, carefully wrapping the thin shawl around herself with shaky disjointed movements, staring at the curl of her fingers like it was all brand new to her. Naminé stared at her shoulder, where brown skin met the vibrant purple of the sheer shawl, and realized she could never have hoped to paint her this alive. She couldn’t have breathed this radiance into the red of the girl’s checks, the deep rose of her lips, that impossible blue of her eyes, nearly purple in the dark. “I’m alive, you know.”

“I didn’t,” Naminé breathed, but hadn’t she? Hadn’t she pressed her hand to stone and coaxed out the delicate curve of wrists, slender fingers, bowed shoulders? Hadn’t she spent months now pretending she couldn’t feel the soul of a hunk of marble, pretending it was art that kept her so invested in this project that she hardly remembered to eat. “I-”

The girl took a step forward, and Naminé stumbled forward too, to catch her as her knees buckled beneath her unknown weight. She felt warm fingertips dig into her shoulder, almost painful.

“Hello,” the girl said, beaming as they straightened up. Naminé swallowed, feeling painfully close to the sun.

“Hi,” Naminé managed to say, because she wasn’t rude. There was a girl and she was smiling and pretty, so pretty, and Naminé couldn’t just not say hi back. Because. That would be rude.

“I’m Xion,” the girl offered. The name curled up the corners of her mouth. She had a lovely voice, high and clear. “Um, thank you, for - for freeing me.”

“No, uh,” Naminé said, dizzy with the realization. She’d never spoken Xion’s name out loud, never given it to her. But Xion had known, had pulled the name out from where it was tucked behind Naminé’s heart, like pulling a chain from a pocket, and taken it for herself. It suited her. “Thank you for letting me.”

-----

Naminé helped Xion to the house, throwing the heavy smock she used while painting over Xion’s shoulders because while it might be summer, cicadas humming, a sheer shawl simply wasn’t enough. Naminé had neighbors.

Naminé focused on the feeling of the grass under her feet, cool and a little itchy. One foot in front of the other, that’s all walking was. Even Xion was getting the hang of it, more confident, her lips forming a little ‘o’ of surprise as her legs carried her forward.

It was easy to pretend this was all new, that she wasn’t familiar with winding an arm around Xion’s waist, because that would mean confronting the fact that her statue had simply stood up and decided to follow her home. That would mean confronting the fact that she’d pretended for months now that she wasn’t lonely and taking comfort in the physicality of another lonely girl, even if she was just a carving.

Xion couldn’t stop looking around, eyes wide. She looked at the grass under her bare feet and the stars in the sky and she fell in love, that much was clear. Naminé could see the moon reflected in her eyes, or maybe they were stars, or maybe a whole universe. Xion probably couldn’t even see most of the backyard in the dark, none of the flowers or the painted fence or the lawn chairs where Kairi would coax Naminé into sitting with her in the mornings. But anything had to be better than nothing, and Naminé had never been a statue, but she understood opening her eyes and seeing nothing. She understood not being able to breathe.

“Naminé,” Xion said, and Naminé barely avoided shivering, her fingers pressing into Xion’s waist. She hadn’t told Xion her name but it sounded beautiful falling off Xion’s tongue. “It’s beautiful.”

“It’s my backyard,” Naminé said breathlessly, shoving open the back door. It flew open with a slight pop, slamming into the wall. Xion jumped, wide-eyed, as Naminé ushered her into the dim light of the living room, the shadowy curves of the furniture familiar and steady. 

“It’s nice,” Xion insisted. Naminé didn’t know how much about the world she knew, but she’d been at the very least trapped in marble for months while Naminé took her damn time releasing her. “I want to see it all.”

“In the morning,” Naminé laughed, depositing Xion on the couch. “Are you hungry?” This was all she knew how to do, offer guests food, though she wasn’t really sure Xion qualified.

Xion considered this. “Sure.”

“We have, um, ice cream, and popcorn, or I can make you a full meal?”

“What’s ice cream?”

Naminé blinked. “Oh, it’s - it’s sweet,” she said, already moving to the freezer. A tub of sea salt ice cream, Roxas’s favorite, always sat in their fridge. He’d be annoyed if she ate some, glaring pretend daggers at her the second the tub was empty, but he was all bark, no bite, so Naminé pulled it out. Xion had followed her over the kitchen, curious, so Naminé just gave her a spoon and let her go wild.

She watched Xion pop it into her mouth. She kind of remembered this - the first time she’d had ice cream, at least, had only been a few years ago, because her father was strict and she followed his rules. Roxas had been the one to introduce her and she was sure she’d made the same face: surprised, like she hadn’t known the world could be this good.

“It’s really good,” Xion said happily. There was a trace of blue on the corner of her lips as she went for another bite.

Naminé felt warm.

-----

Naminé’s hand hovered over Xion’s shoulder for almost a full minute before she carefully shook Xion awake. She’d slept on the couch, curled up in a way that had Naminé’s fingers itching for a sketchbook. Like a child maybe, who didn’t think about or care who might be watching. Her hair splayed across her cheek, silky and ink-black, her breath even and unhurried. She didn’t have to worry about things like this.

Xion came awake all at once, one minute completely gone to the world and in the next, there was light in her eyes, a smile blooming on her face almost before she’d even opened them. Naminé’s breath caught at the sight of that blue. “Hi,” Xion said, her slender fingers wrapping around Naminé’s wrist. Absently, Naminé realized she had calluses, rough on each fingertip, dragging against Naminé’s pulse. Naminé hadn’t given her those.

“Hi,” Naminé whispered. Xion’s eyes were turning a rosy gold with the early dawn streaming through the windows, like sunrise on the ocean. She swallowed, acutely aware that Xion’s eyes tracked the motion. “Do you, um - do you wanna go out?”

Xion absolutely lit up. “Outside?”

Naminé nodded. “Yeah.” She’d thought about it all night, trying to decide, and she hoped the bags under her eyes weren’t too evident. She’d spent longer than she’d meant to in front of the mirror this morning, smoothing concealer over the problems until she hoped they were gone. She usually never bothered, not when it was just her and Kairi quietly and comfortably stepping around each other in the kitchen, and definitely not in the studio, where her art wouldn’t judge her. It knew who she was. But Naminé wanted to pretend a little bit for Xion, for the art turned to life, to pretend she was better than she was. As she’d erased blemishes, she’d figured Xion probably already knew, but she continued anyways.

“Really?”

Naminé let a smile cross her face. She wanted to do this. Xion wanted to see the world and Naminé - well, Naminé wasn’t equipped to show her, really, considering how little of it she saw between her house and her college and the store, but she was all Xion had right now. “You wanted to see it.”

“Yes!” It was a little frightening to know someone so well when you’d only just met them, and Naminé’s heart went double-time at the starstruck look on Xion’s face, the way she sat up on the couch so quickly she almost slammed their heads together. Xion’s mouth dropped open, dismayed. “Oh, sorry!”

“It’s fine,” Naminé promised, laughing as she helped Xion up. She offered up some clothes, so Xion could change out of the pajamas. “No harm done.”

Somehow, she didn’t think she was going to get out of this unscathed. Not all of her, not with the way Xion kept glowing.

Naminé borrowed Kairi’s old pick-up truck even though she wasn’t a great driver. She hadn’t really been able to explain herself to Kairi, and eventually she’d have to come up with a reason for why there wasn’t a statue in the middle of her studio and why there was a girl just sleeping on their couch, but she hadn’t figured it out yet. She’d hoped that when Kairi came home last night, she didn’t look too closely at who was piled under the blankets and didn’t realize it wasn’t Roxas or someone she knew.

Xion definitely couldn’t drive at all, so it didn’t really matter if Naminé was a little over diligent. Riku sometimes teased her about how she’d pause just a second too long at stoplights once they turned green, as if double-checking it wasn’t a trick. She’d frowned at him, unable to stamp on the gas pedal, but she knew just as well as he did that he let Sora do all the driving, always, because he had the same anxieties rooted in his heart as she did.

But Xion didn’t know any of that. Xion kept poking her head out the window, floating her hand along with the breeze. Naminé had lent her a pair of sunglasses that she never wore because they were bright red and heart-shaped and flashy and they looked good on Xion.

“Where are we going?”

“The beach,” Naminé said softly. This early, the only people out would be surfers. It wasn’t quite full summer yet, most schools were still in session, so there wouldn’t be families parked everywhere. Naminé didn’t want that for Xion’s first time at the beach. She wanted the smooth, unending expanse of water stretching out as far as she could see, sand on both sides of her unmarred by anything by nature. “Or - well, we can go anywhere you’d like, really, but. I like the beach.”

Xion’s eyes went round over her sunglasses. “I’ve never been to the beach,” she whispered, like it was a huge secret. Naminé wouldn’t tell either way.

Naminé put her blinker on too early, a blue sedan whipping by her as she took the ramp down. “I hadn’t before I moved here either.”

Xion bounced around in her seat a bit, peering out the window, trying to get flashes of that blue. “So you aren’t from here then?”

Naminé shook her head. “I’m from a city up north.” She waved her hands towards the window shield. She didn’t know if that direction was even north but for a moment her head was filled with thoughts of a snowy white city, all clean lines and nothing else. She shook her head quickly, removing that city and everything else as she eased the car into a parking spot.

Xion was out the door before Naminé had even put the truck into park, pulling off her sandals to burn her feet immediately on the golden sand. “Oh, it’s cold!”

The sun was just barely cresting the top of the waves, so the sun hadn’t had a chance to warm it up. The beach rarely got truly cold, even in the dead of winter, but there was still a bit of morning chill to the air, the promise of a bright beautiful blue sky hanging over them. Naminé knew, because she came here often, no matter the temperature, no matter the time of day. Usually when she was so upset, so blocked, she thought she’d never been able to draw anything again, but by the time she left, she felt clean and new, ready to start again.

Xion tugged her across the sand. Naminé dropped the beach towels she’d brought into a heap on the sand and followed Xion down into the water. Xion hadn’t bothered to roll up the legs of the pants Naminé had lent her, but she clearly didn’t care that the bottoms were getting soaked.

Naminé knew the feeling.

“This is amazing,” Xion said in wonder, peering down at the water kissing her ankles. She sent Naminé a mischievous grin, bending down to scoop up a handful of water.

“Wait-” Naminé protested, but then Xion flicked her hands up and sprayed water everywhere, turning sunlight into rainbows, and the words cut off into a shriek, a laugh. “Xion!”

“Sorry!” Xion said, but she didn’t seem it, not with the wide grin she was wearing.

Naminé kicked her foot up, managing to get a splash all the way up to Xion’s left hip, soaking the pale green fabric until it was dark green and plastered to her skin. Xion squealed, laughter spreading across the beach. Naminé was glad she liked it.

This wasn’t her beach, or anything, but it lived in her heart and Xion had loved the warm sand and the cool waters. Naminé smiled at Xion, who carefully tucked her heart-shaped sunglasses into the pocket of her loose jacket, and tackled Naminé, sending them both tumbling backwards into the water.

Naminé let out a yell, felt cool droplets on her face raining down before she was pushed under entirely. She could hear Xion laughing and she could hear herself laughing too before they were covered by water. Naminé pried her eyes open carefully, ignoring the mild sting of salt as she looked at the world in blue. Naminé hadn’t let Xion go, even as they both struggled to sit up, dripping wet, and Xion’s head was thrown back as she tried to laugh and spit out water at the same time.

She wouldn’t let go of Naminé either, leaning against her as her laughter kept going on and on and Naminé’s matched hers.

-----

“So,” Xion said, around sunset. She had a growing bruise on the side of her face from being smacked with a surfboard. “I like this.”

Naminé carefully closed her sketchbook. “Like what?”

“This,” Xion insisted, like if she repeated it, Naminé would get her meaning. Naminé was coming to understand this quiet stubbornness about her, even if it had only been one day on the beach. “Take me other places, I want to know them all, I want to - I want to live, Naminé, I want to know everything the world has to offer!”

“Including bruises?” Naminé slid her hand against Xion’s bruise jaw and Xion leaned into her caress. She didn’t seem to care about the bruise that much, honestly. It hadn’t stopped her from wanting to learn to surf.

After she and Naminé had staggered out of the water, dripping wet, Naminé had dropped down on the sand, content to watch the horizon. Xion had fidgeted for a while, her hair drying in uneven clumps, before she’d jumped to her feet and claimed she wanted to learn to surf. She’d run across the sand to a surfer in a wet suit, some incredibly tall skinny guy with red spiky hair who had his wet suit peeled down to his waist. 

“Uh, hi,” he’d said incredulously, setting his water bottle down. Probably not used to tiny people running up to him at seven in the morning.

“Hi!” Xion had said excitedly. “Can you teach me to surf?”

Apparently, he could. Or, well, he could try, but he seemed like absolute shit at it, so his friend took over, crouching in front of Xion and carefully coaching her feet into the right position. Xion kept looking back at Naminé, biting her lip, so Naminé waved her sketchbook, content to draw them. It was good practice to try and capture the way Xion’s form looked crouched, intense, as if she was really on the waves instead of sand. It was too bad Naminé didn’t have blue charcoals, or red, to color in the hair of the two surfers, but she had the black to make Xion stand out from the waves.

She wasn’t a fool, not when it came to this. Xion wanted the world, Naminé couldn’t give it to her fully. She only had her part, she only had her claim on the smallest amount, and it wasn’t enough. Already, Naminé couldn’t give that Xion. Others had to do the rest.

Besides, Xion had made her way back to Naminé eventually, after Naminé had filled pages and cleansed her soul. She was here right now, blue eyes intent on Naminé’s face, stealing Naminé’s breath. “Including bruises,” Xion joked, bringing Naminé back to the present. “I like discovering the world! Your city isn’t like this?”

“It’s not like this,” Naminé confirmed, eyes following a few people biking on the boardwalk. “It’s - there’s no beach. It’s cold. It snows.” She hated it there, she hated everything there. This was better. She was no true beach child, like Riku and Kairi and Sora, who splashed through the water so easily, like it lived in their soul, but that didn’t mean the beach wasn’t beautiful to her, singing thoughts of home and comfort.

“So,” Xion said brightly. “Where are we gonna go tomorrow?”

“I don’t know yet,” Naminé said quickly, pulling her hand away. Xion didn’t seem bothered, only stretched her arms up and lay back on the sand, ensuring they’d both be carrying the beach with them into Kairi’s truck when they left. Xion closed her eyes and Naminé looked back down at her closed sketchbook. “I’ll have to think of something.”

-----

She hadn’t really been able to explain to Kairi exactly what had happened to the stone in the studio, or where Xion had come from, because she didn’t know herself, but Kairi seemed to really like Xion, and she accepted Naminé’s stuttered explanation, at least. 

Naminé couldn’t make sense of it. She’d dropped the purple shawl over a hook in her room, still mesmerized, inspecting it like it might crumble under her touch, but it was finely woven and paper thin. There wasn’t a trace of dust on it at all, even though all of Naminé’s clothes had a thin veneer.

She wasn’t sure what level of roommate you had to be to accept I think my statue came to life as an adequate explanation for why you suddenly had a house guest, but she should have known Kairi had blown past that level. She simply offered more clothes for Xion to wear and taught her how to play Mario Kart. It had been nice sitting in the evening light, eating shitty take-out that Kairi picked up on her way back from work and those black cherry soda’s in the pink cans that Naminé liked so much. Kairi always joked she liked them for the color and she was at least half-right.

Kairi and Xion got along swimmingly. Naminé liked that. She wasn’t known for making her own best decisions, and Kairi knew her better than anyone.

“How about the botanical gardens?” Kairi twisted around to look up at Naminé, who was curled up on the couch clutching the now-empty can against her sternum. Xion, wearing a pair of Kairi’s socks, pink with little kittens on them, was sprawled on the ground next to the coffee table, where she and Kairi were compiling an anti-bucket list, as they’d named it. For living, not dying, Kairi had said, ripping off a piece of paper. “Olette and I wanted to go on a date, we could double!”

Naminé tried to hide behind her can, but Kairi still caught her blush. Xion was oblivious, writing down botanical gardens in neat cursive. This was the second list they’d made, actually; the first one had gotten full very quickly. Kairi had texted Sora and Riku for ideas, though Sora’s tended to be things Naminé would never do, like go on rollercoasters, and Riku’s tended to be expensive, like traveling to another country. 

“I can ride the rollercoaster with Sora,” Xion assured Naminé, leaning back so that her head was against Naminé’s thigh, so close that Naminé could feel the flutter of her eyelashes when she blinked. “You don’t have to go.”

“I want to,” Naminé said suddenly, and Xion’s signature smile appeared. Kairi gave her a smirk over Xion’s head. What did Kairi know, anyways?

-----

It was easy to fall into place besides Xion. Or for Xion to fall into place besides her, dropping to her knees next to Naminé. Today she was wearing Kairi’s favorite shirt, orange with a strawberry on it. She had to tilt her head to see under Naminé’s floppy sunhat. “What are we doing today?”

“I’m gardening,” Naminé told her, pushing her hat back to better see Xion’s face. “I grow strawberries.”

She was becoming too accustomed to Xion’s signature smile, the one that rose on her face like the sun whenever Naminé shared any tiny little thing with her. She didn’t give the same one to Kairi or Roxas, who’d come by last week and immediately hit it off with her, even going so far as to share his ice cream. Naminé had sat beside them as they talked, feeling both warm and cold. She wouldn’t know what to do if Xion decided to leave but sometimes she thought it would be better, because then Xion would get her dream. She’d get everything the world had to offer.

But for now, she was still here, kneeling right beside Naminé in front of a vegetable garden. She hadn’t left yet. “Oooh,” Xion said. “Can I help?”

Naminé nodded. “I’m just digging holes for seeds.” Xion carefully stepped over the flower bed and started doing the same, meticulously measuring out the same space as Naminé was. Naminé had a trowel but Xion just dipped her hands in hand into the soil, brown skin disappearing into rich deep brown dirt. 

“It feels so good.” She let the soil pour through her fingers like rain, soft and soothing. She scooped it up again. 

Naminé chuckled, ducking her head. “That's exactly why I like gardening so much.”

“Because it feels so good?”

Naminé smiled. “Yes,” she said. She took her own gloves off, digging her hands into the soil until she was buried to her wrists. “My - growing up, I didn’t have a garden. My dad didn’t like messy things, but I always really wanted one.” Her father had been pretty adamant about his house, with its white walls and white floors and white everything. Keep things clean, don’t step out of line.

Xion bowed her head, clearly still listening. But she kept working on the garden all the same. Naminé didn’t know she was telling Xion this, but she wanted to. She’d never wanted that before, even though she knew people would listen. But it was like Xion held more magic than Naminé could ever imagine, coaxing stories out of Naminé that no one else had heard, things Naminé didn’t even know herself. 

“I don’t like him,” Naminé said, another secret pulled from her like a loose thread from an unraveling sweater. It scratched at her throat on the way out but she wanted to say it. “My father. He - he ruined everything, sometimes. That’s why I moved here. I haven’t gone back in years, I just - I wanted to see the beach.”

Xion didn’t have the memories to do the same back, but she talked all the same. About her feelings, about the way the sun was bright, about how Roxas had eaten too much ice cream and made himself sick. How Saix and Axel had helped her actually surf on a small wave instead of being swallowed and how exhilarated she’d felt for the ten seconds before it was over, like she was flying, like the sky was beneath her.

“And,” Xion announced, sitting back on her heels, surveying the entire vegetable garden. They’d systematically worked through all the seeds, covering them up. Xion wished out loud for each other to grow up healthy. “I know your favorite flower!”

Naminé grinned. She thought more of her smiles were become grins lately, bursting warm things that stretched her face and let her laugh easier. Xion had decided her favorite flower when they’d gone to the botanical garden weeks ago; birds of paradise, spiky and colorful, suited her well.  Naminé had even considered a painting of her on that beautiful orange background, had started to sketch it out on the canvas. Xion had wanted to guess what Naminé favorite was, though, but she hadn’t taken a stab at it yet. “Do you?”

“Yes,” Xion said solemnly, as if she were about to bestow a magical blessing. “Hyacinth.”

Naminé blinked, images of little blue and purple flowers appearing. “I,” she said, stunned. She didn’t have a favorite flower. She’d never had one, she’d never been able to choose. But the second Xion named it, all she could see were little blue petals, feathering under her hands, and Xion’s bright smile. “Uh, yeah.”

“Really!” Xion leaned forward until their noses were almost touching, smile huge on her face.

“Yeah.” Naminé smiled back. She’d never look at hyacinths the same way, never again be able to walk by them without thinking about why Xion had connected them to her. “They’re my favorite. They’re - your eyes are the same blue, you know?”

Xion blushed. “I didn’t,” she said quietly, so close to Naminé that Naminé could feel her breath, the rise and fall of their chests syncing up like they were one. “I’m glad I guessed right! Kairi wouldn’t give me any hints.”

“Yeah,” Naminé said, heart pounding. She was sure Xion could feel it. “We should - we could go get some. Plant them on the porch, maybe?”

“Sounds beautiful,” Xion breathed. She licked her lips. Naminé pulled away.

-----

Naminé had never been in love. Not with a beautiful girl made of starlight and sunsets and the world, brimming until she overflowed, not with anyone. She’d been in love with her art, maybe, or maybe she’d been so invested in her own loneliness that she didn’t know how to feel anything else. 

But she thought she was in love, a little bit, with Xion and all her light. Xion so brightly, so truthfully. She was always so completely herself. This was probably inevitable, really, but Naminé kept it close to her chest, ignoring the knowing winks Kairi sent her. Her feelings were hers and she - she wasn’t ready to share more about them, not yet, but one day, maybe, if she gathered courage.

Letting Xion into her studio was the first step, somewhere, or maybe it was the fifth step or the twentieth step and she didn’t know because she had never done this before, but either way, it was a step somewhere along the winding staircase. It was - it was only one step, but if Xion was at the top of the tower… well, she nudged open the door to the studio, shoving with her hip when it got stuck a little because she hadn’t been inside in a while. Because Xion hadn’t gotten much of a good look at it that first night.

Inside the air was a little stale but it was all still there. Paints, canvas, tarp. An old radio that was a little crackly, extra sweaters that Naminé had left lying around. Hers. “Hello, old friend,” Naminé greeted. 

“Hello!” Xion called, voicing ringing out. The studio felt settled with her in it. “So this is where you paint?”

“Y-yeah,” Naminé said. Her hands were trembling and she shoved them into the pockets of her smock as Xion whisked by, bare feet thudding on the floors. The studio shivered, as if accepting the intrusion, then it all seemed to relax, embracing her as she peered through Naminé’s art. “I haven’t - I haven’t been doing it very much, lately.”

“I’ve been distracting you,” Xion said, half a question. She stopped in front of a half-finished beach scene. The palette sitting on the stool still had dry paints from where Naminé had gotten distracted and never clean it off, swirls of blue and green mixing together. “I like this one.”

Naminé smiled. “You just like the beach.”

“Maybe your art is just wonderful,” Xion accused, moving onto from the easel and finding her way to the finished paintings stacked against the wall. These were a lot less traditional and a lot brighter. Naminé had been trying to break away from traditional stuff. She hadn’t thought it had really worked until Xion sat down in front of a giant canvas, framed by a whirl of bright orange and blue. Riotous colors. Xion looked good in front of them. Maybe Naminé had been waiting for her to sit here the whole time, delicate fingers tracing the painted line that bleed from green to yellow. “Do you ever show these?”

“No,” Naminé said simply. She’d thought about it before. The whole stack of paintings Xion was looking through right now, she’d thought about showing, but she didn’t feel ready. “Right now, this is for me.”

“And me,” Xion said, smiling when Naminé sat down beside her. She tilted her head to the left, dangerously close to Xion’s shoulder, so close she could almost rest there, and she tried to see what Xion was seeing, but she only had her own set of eyes, she couldn’t know what Xion saw. If they even saw the same thing. “Naminé, these are amazing!”

“Thank you.”

Xion looked at Naminé, her hair falling across her face. “What's this?”

Naminé followed the line of her arm, down her finger to - the wall behind the canvases. “What,” she said. “What are you talking about? It's just a wall.”

“But - the shapes?”

Naminé blinked. “Oh,” she realized. The whole wall was exposed to the sunlight streaming in from the windows, and when Naminé moved paintings, sometimes they left behind shadows, secret patches of paint that sun hadn't hit. They overlapped, different shades circling around paintings, because Naminé kept arranging the paintings in different ways. “The sun washes out the paint but if you have something up on the wall, that part stays dark. I like to try and move them around and create - I guess art on the paint, I guess?” She stood up and took a painting down, revealing three different shades under where she'd used to have three different paintings hanging. She couldn't help but smile, a little bit. It had been a secret form of rebellion against her father when she’d been in his house.

“I think it's wonderful that you can make art out of anything,” Xion told her, eyes honest. Naminé felt a blush come over her whole face but she couldn’t look away. “Maybe the beauty of understated art is underrated.”

“It’s just - it’s just paint,” Naminé said, which didn’t even make sense.

“Yeah, but you did it,” Xion said, folding their hands together. “Isn’t that what matters?”

Xion always could make things so simple. Simpler than they had any right to be, or maybe Naminé made them more complicated than they should be. She got herself twisted up into knots and tangles before she even thought about it too deeply, but Xion smoothed it all out, breaking it all down. Isn’t that what matters?

-----

Sometimes, Naminé thought it would go on forever like this, an everlasting sticky summer that never broke into crisp fall. 

“Do you think I’ll ever go back?”

Naminé rolled her head so that she was looking at Xion, their hair both splayed across the pillow and intermingling, black on pale gold. They were laid across her bed, staring up at Naminé’s ceiling, which was painted blue, with fluffy little clouds, because she hated waking up and staring at the cold white ceiling. She hated the pristine white. “To?”

Xion lifted her hands up, palms toward her. “Back,” she said simply, wiggling her fingers. They moved with ease now, after months of being warm. She straightened her arms until she was looking up at the painted sky through the lattice of her fingers.

Naminé realized she was inspecting her fingers for marble. “No,” she said immediately, reaching up and threading her fingers through Xion’s. Their linked hands fell in between them onto the yellow comforter with a dull thump. “No, I don’t think so.”

She didn’t know, she couldn’t. She hoped that love was enough. Love was the most human thing and the simplest, despite how Naminé had troubles with it. It had to be enough, it just had to, because Naminé didn’t know how to have a life with Xion in it anymore. It had to be enough because Xion wasn’t done seeing the world, she’d only uncovered the smallest pieces of it, found a few stones at the edge of the mosaic but neither of them had any idea of the whole piece, so love had to be enough to find the rest. Naminé swore it.

-----

Roxas took Xion to a concert that Naminé declined to go to. Kairi and Olette went too, and Sora, which meant it was just her and Riku in the house. 

Naminé hadn’t spent a lot of time with him recently, which was her own fault - she’d been so distracted with Xion, and Riku hadn’t even met her yet, not really. A quick introduction while Sora dropped Riku off and picked the rest of them up barely counted, and then Xion was pressing a kiss to Naminé’s cheek and climbing into the car.

Riku didn’t see it, but Naminé spent a moment frozen in the doorway, hand pressed to her cheek.

“Naminé?” Riku called, and she snapped the door shut against the cool fall breeze.

“Sorry,” she said softly, padding over to the couch. Riku had already collected his favorite mug from the kitchen counter, along with hers. This was what they did, when everyone else was out being rambunctious. They drank tea and were quiet together. Naminé loved it, loved their little rituals, but sometimes she wondered if they’d have just as much fun going out. She knew Riku, and he wasn’t really a stay at home type. He had a tendency to consider his words carefully, but he wore his heart on his sleeve. And Naminé saw how he was with Kairi and Sora, how he’d get pulled into ridiculous adventures in less than a second, barely protesting. Sometimes she wondered if the quiet evenings in were for his benefit or hers. 

He’d probably have just as much fun at a concert as Sora would. He probably put Sora up on his shoulders, even, both of them laughing. Riku wasn’t a quiet person, not like Naminé, even if he knew how to be quiet. “Riku, did you want to go to the concert?”

Riku looked at her tiredly. “Naw.” He’d given his ticket to Xion, actually. “Sora wanted to go, but-” he yawned. “I haven’t been sleeping well.”

Naminé accepted the mug her passed her, curling her fingers around the handle. “Thanks for hanging out with me.”

“Yeah, I’ve missed you,” Riku teased. In the soft light of the living room, his hair was yellow-gold and his movements were casting long dusty shadows on the wall, catching on the corners of frames and edges of furniture. “Where you been?”

“I,” Naminé said, then wrinkled her nose, not sure what to say. “Wait, I want to ask a question first.”

“Shoot.”

“What's it like, being in love with Sora?”

Even in the dim light, she could see the surprise cross Riku’s face. Naminé had never brought up anything like this before, and he gave her his full attention; leaning forward on the couch and putting his mug down on the coffee table without a coaster, which Kairi was always chiding him for. “Angling for my man, huh,” Riku teased, voice gentle. Probing. 

Naminé didn’t ask questions like this. Her friendship with Riku revolved around quiet understanding, two old souls spending an evening in, neither of their voices above a murmur. She knew that. Sometimes she thought they were two of a pair. Sometimes, more often, she thought Riku was going on ahead. “I just wondered,” she said softly, tracing a circle around the rim of her mug. “I - maybe I like someone. Maybe I could-” she choked on the word love.

“Really?” Riku sounded so astonished that she winced, casting her gaze over the bookshelves, the flickering movie on the TV, anything to avoid his eyes. Riku cleared his throat. “Sorry, sorry, I just - I didn't even know you were dating someone.”

Naminé shook her head. “I'm not.”

Oh,” Riku said, and something in his tone was so serious that Naminé could barely look up. “I - oh.”

“Will you answer the question?”

“You’re really asking me for dating advice?”

“Yes,” Naminé said stubbornly. Because they’re the same, somewhere deep down.

Riku sighed, putting his tea down on the coffee table in front of him. “Being in love with Sora is - I don't know, Naminé. It's all I know how to do, is that what you're asking?” What do you need me to say, that was what he wasn’t saying, but he was asking; it was in his eyes.

“I just - the girl I'm - “ she still couldn't bring herself to say love, so she cleared her throat instead, pointedly ignoring the soft crinkles at the corner of Riku’s eyes that meant he was trying not to smile. She remembered him before he and Sora got together, he must know how she felt. Must have felt this burning feeling in his chest that was almost painful but she kept reaching out for anyways. “She's so - bright. Like sunshine, you know? And maybe I'm too boring for her, but - but you and Sora, sometimes I think maybe you shouldn't work either, on paper, but I've never seen two people more meant for each other.” Riku was staring at her when she looked up, mouth slightly open. “Oh, no, I hurt your feelings.”

“No!” Riku hurried to say, leaning forward to grab her hand before she could stand up and take her coffee mug to the kitchen, hiding her embarrassment under the pretense of cleaning. “I - actually, just the opposite. Sometimes, I do think like maybe Sora would be happier with someone who comes up with stupid adventures with him. But see, I don’t hate doing stupid shit with him, right?”

“Not even that time you got arrested for setting off firecrackers on the mayors’ porch?”

“Not even when I got hauled down to the police station for it,” Riku admitted sheepishly and she let out a laugh, because she hadn’t known that part of the story. “I was having such a good time. It might not - I might not do it on my own, but I like that he draws that out of me.”

“Okay,” Naminé echoed, and Riku tapped her wrist to get her attention again.

“That’s what matters, Naminé,” he said firmly. “What matters is that I like who were together. Whatever we look like on paper, in practice, we work. That's all it is.”

Naminé let out a breath, searching Riku’s face for signs of a lie, or signs that he was upset. She hadn’t meant to say all that to him, she’d thought - she’d thought it would upset him. But maybe it didn’t bother him anymore. “Maybe.”

“But tell me honestly,” Riku said, poking Naminé’s side. “This girl takes you on adventures?”

Naminé nodded. “Yes.” Oh, did she. Adventures and outings and the world, all at Xion’s fingertips. Somewhere along the way, Naminé had stopped being the one showing Xion the world. Xion started showing her, instead. Xion was the one who discovered it and Naminé bobbed along in her wake, content with Xion’s hand in hers as she tried to see through Xion’s eyes.

“And you like them?”

Yes, of course.”

“You never wish that you were back home instead?”

Naminé jerked back, surprised. “Never!”

“Then you're fine,” Riku said. “That's all it is. If you're happy being with her, even out of your comfort zone, don't you think it's okay?”

“But - what about you,” Naminé said. “You could have been at a concert tonight and you’re here because I didn’t want to go. You like concerts!”

“And I like hanging with you,” Riku admitted. “It’s - well, it’s true that I’m really not a person to sit at home, and god knows Sora’s always dragging me off somewhere, but I like doing it with you, Naminé, see?”

She tilted her head forward until her forehead was on his shoulder. Yes, she saw. Yes, this was why she had asked. No, she didn’t know at all what to do with this information, she couldn’t no, she was just - speechless. For so long, she and Riku had been sitting here, and she’d worried, and it was just so easy when he said it like that. Naminé found her voice. “I’m honored that you’re breaking up with Sora for me-”

“I hate you.”

-----

It was in the quiet moments that Naminé found Xion had stolen her breath, so beautiful that Naminé was sure if she inhaled at all, the spell would be broken. Like now, with Xion’s face half-lit up with orange light from the house and half shrouded in darkness, like a mask.

“Tell me a secret,” Xion said, turning her head towards Naminé’s so that her face was all dark, only the curve of her ear and the whisper of her eyelash glowing orange. They were laid out on the grass in the backyard. There were the sounds of the small party Kairi had pulled together filtering through the screen door; Naminé could hear Sora’s brilliant laughter and Roxas’s indignant yelp as he got teased, but no one was coming to find them yet.

It was just her and Xion. Naminé was shivering a little bit but she and Xion were laying right next to each other, pressed together in one solid line so that Naminé could feel how warm Xion was. Xion had her arms spread wide, one under Naminé’s shoulders and the other flat on the grass, and her leg propped up. Naminé longed to trace her reckless lines, to draw motion onto paper because Xion didn’t keep still. She never cared that people might be looking, people like Naminé who were unable to keep their eyes off of suns and shooting stars.

Xion cared about other things, important things, things that Naminé hoped included her.

It took Naminé a minute to come back to herself; she felt like she had been floating in the stars above the backyard, or maybe the stars in Xion’s eyes, so it took a while for the question to sink in. Tell me a secret.

Naminé considered. “I sometimes feel very lonely,” she admitted, watching Xion’s eyes go wide. 

It wasn’t judgement in her tone, but quiet curiosity, tinged a little sad by the downwards curl of Xion’s mouth. “But what about Kairi? And Riku and Sora and-”

“I love them all,” Naminé interrupted, folding her hands together over her stomach. Xion rolled onto her side, palm cupping Naminé’s shoulder. “And they love me, I know that. But sometimes I just think that I don’t belong. They’re a group of three, they don’t need a fourth. And Roxas - he revolves around Sora, you know, he’s Sora’s brother first and my friend second.”

It felt stupid to say, especially when everyone was in her house and she was out here on the grass. And she didn’t even begrudge them their loyalties, she loved them. When she needed them, they would be there no matter what to lift her up. That was more valuable than anyone could know.

But sometimes, more often then she’d like to admit, Naminé felt adrift on the waves. She’d be in the car while Sora drove, floating her hand in the breeze out the window like a little plane, and it wasn’t quite that she was being left out. No, Riku would turn to nudge her and he’d be laughing and Naminé would realize she wasn’t in on the joke. It had happened without her. Riku and Sora and Kairi were a set, they always had been, and you couldn’t break apart sets like that, even if you intended to rebuild them. No matter how they included her, she wasn’t one of them and she wouldn’t be. It was always Riku-Sora-Kairi, plus Naminé. 

And that was fine, usually. Naminé didn’t need to be included every single time. Her friends loved her, and that was enough. It just would have been nice to be included, that was all. But she was getting selfish, that’s why she could only admit it to Xion here, lying in the grass, sun dipping below the tree line. She couldn’t share this with anyone else.

There was something special in having a group of friends like that. You just didn’t know unless you didn’t have any.

“That’s stupid,” Xion declared, and Naminé startled, almost having forgotten she wasn’t alone out here with her thoughts. “You can belong with me.”

“What?”

“You belong with me,” Xion repeated. “If they’re also a group, then so are we, you know?”

It was on the tip of Naminé’s tongue to tell her it didn’t work like that, but Xion was practically glaring at her with the intensity of this statement, face deep red, and the protest disappeared. Xion didn’t care what the others thought, she only cared that Naminé didn’t feel so lonely anymore. 

So who said it couldn’t work like that after all?

Naminé cleared her throat. “Your turn.” Xion’s face floated above hers and she reached up, carefully, to tuck an errant strand of silky black hair behind her ear.

Xion grinned. “I think I was born to meet you,” she said conversationally, wrapping her hand around Naminé's wrist before she could drop it. “So we could go on this adventure together.”

Naminé’s breath caught. If it could be like this, forever, in the sunset next to Xion’s, both of them blushing, tiny nervous butterflies beating their wings in Naminé’s stomach, the both of them connected, then Naminé could be happy.

-----

Like most things, it was impermanent. Naminé should have expected it. But she was so comfortable like this, in the golden summer. Fall still had yet to appear, Xion was learning to surf in the quiet mornings, and the sun through the left window of the driver’s seat was turning Naminé’s arm red with sunburn. She’d never done so much driving or gone to the beach so much in the summer, but she didn’t much care that one shoulder was lily-white and the other was setting into a deep tan, mostly because it made Xion laugh to press her fingers against the weak sunburn. Her fingers were cool, her eyes twinkling, and sometimes Naminé would imagine Xion’s cool red lips against the heat of her skin.

“Naminé,” Xion said slowly, one morning before the sun was even fully up. They were both early risers; Kairi wouldn’t be down for another two hours. “I have to tell you something.”

“Hold on.” Naminé absently poured her coffee. She pulled down Xion's favorite mug, too, stirring in just the right amount of milk. She knew what Xion liked by now. “Here.”

She held it out, only looking up at Xion when she didn’t immediately reach for the mug. Xion flushed when they locked eyes and she hurried to take it from Naminé’s hand and only then did Naminé see the problem. Only then did she see Xion's fingertips, white as if she'd dipped them into paint, but she hadn't, had she. If she were to wrap those fingers around Naminé's wrist, like she was so fond of doing, Naminé would be able to feel exactly where warm skin turned into cool stone pressed against her pulse, but Xion would be unable to feel anything at all.

Xion gave her a sad look and knelt down, carefully, to pick up shards; only then did Naminé realize she'd dropped the mug. It had cracked on the floor, leaking out coffee across the tiles, leaking out all the quiet comfort that Naminé stirred in each morning for the both of them, together.

-----

Xion wanted to turn back on the beach, which meant that it was midnight and come morning, Xion would probably be gone. They were sitting on the sand far away from the waves, so that nothing would erode her too quickly, but the sand and the rain from summer storms would still take their toll. Maybe by this time next year, her face would be worn smooth and Naminé would have no memory of what she looked like at all. She’d have to check all the pictures Kairi taking as a way to remember and she hated that. She should never forget.

“It’ll be fine,” Xion assured Naminé, trying to pat her hand. Her left hand was entirely stone now, slow moving. “It’ll be cool! You can put your name up near me, like I’m art.”

Naminé struggled for a second to even breathe. “I can’t do that,” she said. Xion was art, but not because Naminé had carved her. She was art when she laughed, she was art when she tilted her head to try and puzzle out what Naminé meant when Naminé was being a little too quiet and cryptic, and she was art when a smile spread across her face because she’d figured it out, and she always figured out what Naminé meant. She was art because she lived. “I - you’re a person.”

Xion sighed. “I’m just trying to make it a little better.” She’d wrapped herself in that purple shawl she’d started with and it was fluttering against Naminé’s forearm, trailing along like a ghost.

“Don’t,” Naminé said softly, leaning against her. There was stone creeping along her shoulders now, too. In a matter of hours, maybe, Xion would be gone. Because love wasn’t enough, was it, it wasn’t enough that Naminé had opened the door for Xion and let her walk right in, let her became comfortable against her heart, and she’d turn to stone right there, heavy against Naminé’s ribs. This was what she got, apparently. If this was a giant hint from the universe that she needed to get out more, she hated the cruel god that had decided to go about it like this. To pull her into love and drown her. “I don’t - let’s not think about it.”

Naminé couldn’t tell, really, if Xion’s face was silver from stone or moonlight, but her face softened either way. “Okay,” she nodded, looking out at the sea. Like this, in the dark, it was impossible to tell where the black waters met the black sea. It was all just one smooth expanse, onyx bleeding into obsidian. There were a few smudgy gray clouds, like Naminé had rubbed her thumb in paint. “Tell me a secret.”

Her favorite game. Naminé let the corners of her mouth curl up, just barely. This is what she wanted. The good memories, not that bad ones. Not a reminder of what she was losing, but the discovery of the world, of love, of Xion, constant like waves on the shore. “I’m going to miss you more than anything,” she confessed, but surely Xion already knew. She just hoped that maybe there was magic in the words. 

Desperation was human too.

“Me too,” Xion whispered, and she had that same desperation. Tears stubbornly clung to her lashes, and stone was creeping up her chin, obscuring her cheekbone.

“You can’t,” Naminé said, and Xion lifted those stone-cold fingers to her cheeks, brushing away the fat tears rolling down and dropping off her chin. Her hands were freezing, marble and sea, and Naminé shivered under her touch. “I’m not ready for you to go.”

“But I have to.” Her left eye was stone now too. All she had left is one bright blue eye, a sharp cheekbone, and the corner of a smile quickly turning flat.

“Please,” Naminé begged, crying. She slid her hand up Xion’s stone shoulder, settling it against her neck. She’d long grown used to the way Xion’s hair would slide across the back of her hand like silk, but it was all immovable now. Naminé shook off the wrongness of it, leaning in.

Her lips slid against Xion’s just a moment too late. When she pulled back, Xion was gone.

She was beautiful, which was the worst thing. Her face was tilted towards the sky, as if watching the clouds. Naminé was sure that if she put a sign out, people would be calling her to do more artwork, but Naminé was also confident she’d never carve another statue again. She couldn’t do this again. It wouldn’t be the same again, even if she could work magic. It seemed like a one-time only deal, and Naminé had wasted it.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Up close, she could see the stone tears welling up in Xion’s eyes, never able to fall. If she’d been faster. If she hadn’t been so scared. She could have been so much more; she should have been all these things Xion believed she could be. “I should have said I loved you sooner.” She pressed a kiss to the stone collarbone that had been so tantalizing.  “I love you.” 

Under her lips, the stone cracked.

Xion was moving against her, heart beating so loud that Naminé could feel it running in her own veins, she could feel Xion returning to her and this time, this time Naminé wrapped her hands around Xion’s wrists and pulled so hard they were both toppling over and Naminé could feel silky hair - inky black - and warm skin - rich like soil - against her cheek, and she could hear Xion’s laugh in her ear.

“I love you,” Xion gasped into a kiss, and she tasted not like marble but salt and sweat and tears, human things, human things that Naminé could know and touch. “Naminé, I love you too, I love you-”

“I know,” Naminé whispered, wrapping her hand in Xion’s collar so that Xion couldn’t pull away. There was sand in her shirt and she could feel it damp on her cheek where it had stuck because she was crying. Carefully, Xion brushed it away, even the ghost of a touch sending lightning throughout Naminé’s entire body. She was so close. Naminé had kissed her. “I love you too.”

Xion carefully sat up, her hand at Naminé’s back guiding her up. She had the smallest smile on her face as she leaned forward and it seemed impossible she even could, with how closely they were tangled together, Naminé’s knee knocking into Xion’s side and her fingers digging into Xion’s shoulder. “I think I might get to - to stay this time.”

“Good,” Naminé said, because it had to work, she’d worked her miracles and she’d stolen magic and Xion was still here and she’d hold on this time, tight. “You can’t leave me, Xion, I - I don’t know what I’d do, I love you, I just - I want you to stay.”

“I will,” Xion promised, eyes full of promise, and with a start, Naminé realized she could see how blue they were in the light of the sunrise. They’d been sitting here the entire night. And now the sun was kissing them awake, showing the proof that Xion was alive, breathtakingly alive, even as she hid her face in Naminé’s shoulder. She always did this when they had to wake up, trying to hide from the morning, and it was no less cute for knowing Naminé would get to see that the rest of her life.

“You have freckles,” Naminé whispered, running her thumb over them as if they might smudge like charcoal on her sketchbook. They stubbornly remained.

“Do I?”

“From the sun.” There was a cluster right under Xion’s eye, high on her cheekbone, like a little grouping of stars. “I didn’t give them to you.”

Xion laughed, head thrown back and eyes squeezed shut. “Guess that means they’re mine,” she teased, her nose tickling Naminé’s neck. “Like something else.”

“What?”

“My heart, of course,” Xion said, beaming. “You know, forever.” 

So simple. No fuss. She always had a way of doing that. Making things simple. “Yeah,” Naminé agreed, drinking her in. “Forever.”