Had the idea for this after the KHIV reveal trailer a couple months ago, and finally managed to finish it over the weekend! \o/ You can also read it on AO3 here! - Sora's tongue poked out of the corner of his mouth as he tried to wriggle the wooden block free from the tower with just his thumb and forefinger. "Careful," Strelitzia warned, watching just as intently. "I aaalmost got it," Sora said. The top half of the tower twisted with the block's movement, and they both drew in sharp breaths, Sora freezing in place. After a moment, he carefully resumed his work, and eventually—though it turned the tower just a bit more—the block slid free. "What!" Strelitzia shrieked, jumping to her feet as Sora smugly placed his prize atop the tower. "Your turn now!" She eyed the tower wearily. Where it hadn't proven too sturdy to budge on earlier turns, it was row upon row of single blocks in a spindly stack, and the whole thing looked ready to tumble down at the most feather-light touch. She sank back onto the couch with a groan. "How am I supposed to win now?" Sora grinned at her. "Aw, c'mon, you'll never know unless you try! If you don't see anything right away, try thinking outside the box!" Outside the box... Her gaze kept coming back to the tower's fragile midsection. It would be impossible to swipe one of those single blocks—which meant that if she was going to follow his advice and do something unexpected, that was the place to try it. As she studied the structure, a memory bubbled up: once, she'd been in the Moogle's shop in Daybreak Town when he was showing off some fancy dinnerware. She wasn't sure what practical application the demonstration had in hindsight, but at one point he whipped the tablecloth from the fully set table, to the amazement of the assembled crowd, without disturbing the dishes. Maybe, if she was fast enough... Strelitzia closed her thumb and forefinger around a block. Sora leaned in. She took a deep breath...and yanked. The upper half of the tower dropped with a CLUNK , two blocks in the same direction now stacked on top of each other, and wobbled. Then it fell still. Strelitzia let out an involuntary "Oh!" Then, she repeated again, higher-pitched, "Oh!" Sora whooped and jumped to his feet, pulling Strelitzia with him. "You did it!" he crowed. "I did! I did it! I really—" They bumped the table. Their heads swiveled back down. The tower swayed. And then it toppled, blocks scattering with a crash. "Noooooo!" Even in the dark of night, Quadratum continued to bustle outside the apartment. Cars continued up and down the highway, people ambled and chatted across the sidewalks and crosswalks, city lights glittered as far as the eye could see. Inside the apartment, though, it was only a quiet hum in the background as Strelitzia and Sora sprawled across the floor. "I really almost had it," Strelitzia sighed. "Not almost," Sora said. "You did have it!" His smile turned sheepish. "If it wasn't for me getting all excited, we could've had a more fair end to the game." Strelitzia turned her head to look at him. "If it wasn't for you," she said, "I would've just given up, and never tried at all! So...thank you, Sora." She giggled. "Pulling that off without it all falling down felt pretty incredible." "Aw, well, what are friends for?" Friends... Tears suddenly pricked at her eyes, a strange weight settling in her heart. Unfortunately, Sora noticed when she looked back up at the ceiling and rubbed her face. "Hey, what's wrong?" "Nothing," she replied, but the waver in her voice wasn't exactly subtle. "...Well. Sorry, it's just—" She swallowed and cleared her throat. "I've...never really had a friend before." When Sora finally responded, it was only with a small "Never?" "I mean—I had my brother," Strelitzia said quickly. "And—and I was friendly with the other members of my Union! And I don't mean to discount my brother, because I really love him, and he really loved me, but other than him...I wasn't really close to anyone." For a moment, the plain white ceiling above her turned purple in her mind's eye, and then opened up into a brilliant misty sunrise, full of blues and pinks and golds. "There was...this one person, though." Her heart fluttered in her chest as she recalled their face. "I really wanted to be their friend..." "What happened?" Strelitzia smiled through the water trailing from her eyes. "I got sent here. Right when I'd finally worked up the courage to talk to them." Sora's hand found hers, threading their fingers together. "I'm sorry," he said. She closed her eyes. They listened to the distant traffic for a little while. When a clock in the apartment chirped a jaunty tune to mark the hour, Strelitzia wiped her face again. "...It's getting late," she said with a sniffle. "We should probably get to bed." She started to pick herself up to stand, but Sora squeezed her hand, and she paused. He sat up with her, and she was surprised by the intensity in his blue eyes. "When we get outta here," he said, "I'm gonna introduce you to all my friends." He beamed. "I think they'll really like you! And I'll help you find your brother, too! We all will!" Out of here? she thought incredulously. But all the same, something in the weight in her heart shifted, and she couldn't help smiling back. She couldn't help the next words out of her mouth, either: "...Could you...tell me about them?" Sora's smile grew brighter.