Sora Leonhart was doing his best to shove three bags' worth of content into a single duffel bag. He was desperate to prove his father wrong. The previous night the man had walked into his son's room with a scowl on his face, and declared that he was never going to need this much stuff for a week at summer camp. Sora knew he was right, but the boy had never been much of a light packer.
He groaned in frustration, shoving some of his crazy, brown spikes out of his eyesight as he continued his valiant attempt at zipping up the bag. It's not like he had taken that much more than what was on the list the camp had sent him as a guideline. Only three more books, his camera he'd received for his 15th birthday, and his iPad. And a few extra bags of candy, just in case.
The boy finally gave up after he started to feel the zipper breaking out on him. He sat on his bed next to it, closing his bright blue eyes and taking a heavy sigh. In truth, he was a bit worried about going to summer camp. He was very social, of course, and he loved hanging out with his friends, but this was the first summer he wouldn't be spending with his bestest friends at home. He was going to miss them all so much. Selphie, Tidus and Wakka. But most of all, Kairi and Riku, his two closest friends.
At least he wouldn't be going alone. His brother, older by a year, was coming with him. Sora was silently very relieved about this. And besides, if Ventus could stand to be away from his best friends, Aqua and Terra, for one week, so could he.
As if knowing Sora had been thinking about him, Ventus poked his head through the half-open door to Sora's bedroom. His brother looked very much like him, but he had sandy blonde hair rather than brown, and his spikes were a bit more in control.
"Packed yet? Dad says we're leaving in an hour." He didn't need a response though. Ventus smiled in amusement as he walked further into the room, glancing at the two books Sora had thrown on the floor after failing to fit them in the bag, and even then, it would not close.
"Dad said you don't need any of that," Ventus said, grabbing Sora's bag and beginning the process of unpacking and packing everything back, taking out anything that was unnecessary.
Sora sighed, sitting up on the bed, watching his brother. "Has he told you why he wants us to go?" he asked curiously. It was a valid question. A few weeks earlier, their father, Squall Leonhart, had announced that the two boys would be going to a camp called Atlantica, situated between the large city of Radiant Garden, and the smaller town of Destiny Islands, where the Leonharts lived. The man had given them no explanations as to why they would be going, but since the camp sounded like fun, neither boy had objected much.
"Of course not," Ventus smiled. His smile was always genuine and bright, and filled with such sincere kindness that it never failed to make Sora smile, too. Sora had a similar aura to him, but he was more energetic and positive, and had a knack for getting into trouble. And his big brother was always there to bail him out, without fail. "But you know dad. He never talks unless he has to."
Sora smiled a little. "I know," he said. It was something that had always confused Sora about their father, but he had become used to it. Their father was a good man, and they both loved him dearly. But sometimes they both wondered how he could be so different from both of them. He was caring, yes, and both Ventus and Sora knew that he would do anything for his sons in a heartbeat. But he was also a bit cold, and very private, sometimes to a fault. For example, the two children still didn't know anything about their mother, if they had ever even had one. Logically, they had. But if their father had ever been in love, he had never mentioned it. Nor had he ever explained why he preferred to be called Leon rather than Squall. These were things Ventus and Sora never expected to find out about their father. They had come to terms with that.
After leaving Sora with only one book to read, and discarding his second bag of candy, along with a few extra t-shirts, Ventus managed to close the younger boy's bag with ease. He smiled, ruffling Sora's hair in a way he often did. "Ready to go?"
"I'm ready," Sora smiled, swinging his bag over his shoulder and grabbing his phone, quickly texting Riku to let him know he was leaving.
"I'm off! See you in a week, then." - Sora
"Get back in one piece. Call me if it gets too unbearable, I'll come pick you up." - Riku
Sora flushed slightly at the idea of his best friend coming to pick him up in his brand new motorcycle. Riku was 16, the same age as Ventus, and had more freedom to roam around as he pleased.
Ventus glanced at Sora, snorting as he noticed the blush on the other's cheeks. He always got like that whenever Riku said or did something even remotely appealing. He just wondered when Sora himself would actually realize his true feelings for the boy.
"Thanks. I'm sure it won't come to that, though." - Sora
He put his phone away once he was met with the impatient gaze of their father. He had dark hair, like Sora, though nowhere near as unkept or crazy. His eyes were a mixture of grey and blue, and he had a rather distinct scar on his face, running over the bridge of his nose from one side to the other. It was something Sora and Ventus had both gotten used to, to the extent that Sora had mostly forgotten it was there to begin with.
Leon had told them at a very early age that they were both adopted. He had not specified anything further than that, but it was something the boys had become very much used to. It was something that explained the age difference, too. Despite Ventus being 16, Leon was only 32. And the man didn't seem like the type to knock up a girl at the age of 16. Still, sometimes Sora wondered. Surely he hadn't been alone in deciding to adopt a baby at such a young age, and then another one a year later. And, as Leon had explained, Sora and Ventus themselves were related. The way he had explained it, whoever their birth mother was, she had agreed to let Leon adopt both her two-year old toddler, and the one-year old baby. But whenever the boys tried to bring it up, their father's expression would shift to one of pain, and it was one they never wanted to witness. So they didn't ask. It didn't matter to them, anyway. They had a loving father. That was all that mattered.
"Problems with the bag?" Leon asked in his deep voice, raising his eyebrows. He knew his sons too well.
"Nope," Sora flashed a charming smile, showing his bag with far too much pride considering that he was definitely at the age where he should know how to pack his own bag without problems.
"Good," Leon nodded, smiling a little. He knew the truth, but didn't say anything. "We should get going, then." He handed Sora a plastic container, and gave Ventus an identical one. "You can eat some lunch in the car."
Sora nodded, exchanging a look with Ventus before heading towards their car, already peeking inside the container and smiling at the little brownies Leon had undoubtedly baked. Despite his appearance, Leon was actually a very good baker, something both the boys were very grateful for.
"Your aunt called this morning, wished you good luck at the camp," Leon murmured, turning on the car after making sure both the boys were safely situated in the back seat.
"Aww, I'm sorry I missed her call," Sora pouted a bit. He loved Aunt Ellone. She was kind and patient, and always brought awesome presents for the boys.
"Well, she had the audacity to call before noon," Leon smiled, keeping his eyes on the road.
"I don't always sleep until noon. I was just reaaallyy tired," Sora said quickly, turning to Ventus for confirmation.
Ventus smiled lazily, shrugging. "Don't ask me. I'm always asleep." This was true. Ventus was infamous for going to sleep early, sleeping late, and taking impromptu naps.
Sora rolled his eyes, but smiled. It was true. He then took the silence as an opportunity to finally talk to their father about this sudden plan to ship them off to camp: "So, dad, what are you gonna be doing while we're gone?"
Leon tensed, but only for an instant. If you blinked, you would have missed it. "I'm probably going to be doing some housework. Irvine and Zell might come over and help me fix the roof of the shed. Nothing exciting, I assure you."
Ventus and Sora shared another look. They weren't sure if they should believe their father. But then again, why not? The man had never done anything to suggest he was anything but ordinary. Other than the scar, which he claimed had come from falling on a bike when he was 15.
The rest of the trip went by in a flash, and soon enough they were approaching the camp known as Atlantica. And true to its name, it seemed to be very much focused on water sports. Even from the gates, Sora could spot a large waterslide, and some pools. Tidus and Wakka would love this place. Maybe, if Sora liked it, he'd bring his friends back next year. And the prospect of him indeed enjoying his stay was growing by the minute. He loved the water.
"This is gonna be awesome!" the boy declared without further ado, earning a chuckle out of his father.
"I thought you two would like it. Seems more fun than the regular camps."
"Sure does," Ventus said, glancing at his brother. He already knew he would have a hard time trying to containh his younger brother during their stay. It was going to be a long week.
Roxas Strife sat in the car, his face pressed against the window, his eyes closed. They had been driving for ages. The traffic going out of Radiant Garden was always such a pain, and they hadn't exactly left early. It was partly his fault, he had been too preoccupied with skating around town with Hayner, Pence and Olette to notice the track of time. His father had been livid when he'd finally found his son in the outskirts of town, on his skateboard, without a care in the world.
Luckily for Roxas, his father didn't stay long angry, and he wasn't that strict to begin with. Only when it was called for, and only when Roxas deserved it.
The boy glanced at his father, Cloud Strife, noticing how the man was completely focused on trying not to lose his nerve at the very last bits of traffic still plagueing their trip to the campsite.
The two were rather similar in appearance, with both of them sporting blue eyes and blonde hair. However, whereas Cloud's hair was a light shade of blonde, Roxas' was more similar to the color of sand. Roxas had always considered it a little funny how the two of them looked so similar, yet were not related in any way.
Cloud had told Roxas some years ago that he was adopted. Roxas had been the son of a very good friend of Cloud's, a woman by the name of Aerith Gainsborough. She had died two years after giving birth to Roxas, and Cloud had taken custody of him. Despite the man only being barely an adult himself, adopting the baby at 18. It was something he had never regretted, in the man's own words. And if he had been lying, he had never shown it.
Cloud had always been the most devoted of fathers, spending as much time with Roxas as possible, acting in the role of both mother and father. Of course there was Tifa, who was like an Aunt to Roxas, and their other friends, but it was not the same. Cloud was a single father, and not once had Roxas wanted anything different. The two were very similar, both quiet and private, often lost in their own heads. It was easy for them to endure the long silences, which were never uncomfortable. Even in moments like these, when Cloud visibly looked like he was about to start screaming in frustration, Roxas felt comfortable.
"How did you hear about this camp, again?" Roxas asked, his plan being to distract his father from the annoying truck driver in front of them, who insisted on driving at the slowest possible speed. Roxas knew his father preferred his motorcycle, Fenrir. Cloud got motion sickness in the car, and Roxas imagined that driving one wasn't exactly a picnic.
"Uh," Cloud tore his eyes from the road, briefly glancing at his son. "From Tifa. One of her regulars told her about it, said their daughter had the best summer of her life there."
Roxas chuckled. "Uh-huh." He found the idea of getting summer camp recommendations at a bar a little bit silly, but he didn't elaborate on it. He didn't really care. The camp sounded like fun, and Roxas would be lying if he said he didn't need to explore beyond his comfort zone. Sure, he had his friends, but other than Hayner, Pence and Olette, he didn't have too many people in his life he could confide in. Maybe this would be fun. Maybe.
While Cloud went to find a decent parking spot for the car, Roxas walked around, looking around the camp with mild suspicion on his face. He walked through the gates, raising his eyebrows as some younger kids rushed past him, laughing. So this was a camp for all ages. Great.
He knew he would be housemates with three other guys, which he wasn't that thrilled about. Realistically, he knew he couldn't have a room of his own, but he didn't like the idea of sharing a living space with people he had never met.
"Hey there! What's your name?" Roxas couldn't help but flinch a little as he was met with the wide smirk belonging to a man with flaming, red hair that stood in all directions, making the man look a little unconventional, at least as far as camp instructors were concerned. The man had an orange scarf around his neck, and a clipboard held lazily in one hand as he eyed Roxas, patiently waiting for the other to react in some way.
"Sorry, what?" Roxas finally realized he had been staring. What kind of people did they let into this camp? He looked back, hoping to find his father somewhere nearby, but no.
"I asked for your name," the man said in amusement. Upon further inspection, it became clear that the guy wasn't that much older than Roxas. Maybe 18, maybe 19. Definitely not what he had expected.
"Strife... Roxas Strife," the blonde murmured, clutching onto his bag.
"Roxas. Cool. Nice to meet you," the man smirked, obviously aware of the awkwardness in the air, but he didn't seem to care. There was something interesting about that attitude. "The name's Axel. I'm gonna be one of your instructors. Got it memorized?"
Roxas blinked, finding that last sentence to be a little bit overdramatic, but he nodded. Anything to get the guy away from him. "Sure. It's memorized."
"Great. Here's your room number and key. It should be right around the corner," the redhead handed Roxas a key with a wooden keychain displaying the number 13 on it. "See you around," Axel winked at him and then strutted off in a rather lazy manner, obviously looking for others to sign up.
Roxas stared after the man for a moment before regaining his composure. He started looking for the said room, and found it soon enough. True to Axel's word, it was just around the corner. The rooms they would be staying in were more like little, individual cabins side by side. That was better than what Roxas had expected. He quickly texted his father his room number, and then opened the door. There was no one else there yet, which was surprising, considering that he and Cloud had been a little late.
There were indeed four beds in the room, along with two dressers, a TV, a writing desk, and a small couch. It could definitely be worse. Roxas expected his father had spent quite a bit of his salary getting his son here. And he didn't understand why. He would happily have spent the summer skateboarding around with his friends, and maybe helping Cloud with fixing up Fenrir. He didn't need this.
But since he was already here, there was no reason to complain about it. Roxas sat on the bed furthest from the door, tossing his bag down. He didn't have long in his solitude, however, since a moment later, another blonde entered the room.
He looked about a year older than Roxas, maybe. He had a bright smile on his face, and he was carrying a guitar with him. "Finally! I came through the other entrance at the back of the camp, it took me forever to walk here! Man, the water looks amazing! Have you taken a swim yet? Probably not," the guy sat down on the bed closest to Roxas, smiling brightly. "I'm Demyx! Nice to meet you!" He extended his hand.
Roxas blinked thrice before he realized that he should probably react somehow. What was with this camp and weird, talkative folks with crazy hairstyles and equally crazy grins?
Still, he took Demyx's hand and shook it. "Nice to meet you. I'm Roxas."
"Roxas! Cool!" Demyx smirked, fiddling with his guitar, playing out a quick tune. "I know I probably look too old to be here, but I swear, I just turned 17. I've just heard so much about this camp, and this was my first year to be able to attend. I hope you don't think it's weird."
Roxas smiled softly. Maybe this guy wasn't so bad. Sure, a bit too talkative, but then again, so was Hayner, and the two of them were best friends. "No. Not at all."
Demyx was about to say something else when there was a soft knock on the door, and Roxas smiled in relief at the sight of his father.
"Looks like you found the place okay. It looks nice," Cloud smiled. It was rare to see his father smiling, but whenever he did, it was not wasted. Roxas always felt so calm and reassured with his father smiling like that.
"Yeah, it's nice. Thanks, dad," Roxas murmured, gesturing at Demyx. "This is Demyx. One of my roommates."
"Cloud Strife. Nice to meet you," Cloud shook the boy's hand politely.
"Nice to meet you, too! So you're Roxas' father? You two look so alike! You're really young, though, how does that wo....," Demyx cleared his throat, realizing he had asked too much. That probably happened to the guy on a daily basis. "Nice to meet you."
Cloud had ignored Demyx's babbles, only focusing on the parts of his speech that had not been invasive. "I should get going, but call me tomorrow, alright? And if you need anything, I'll come and pick you up. Call whenever."
Roxas nodded. He stood up and gave his father a tight hug, something a boy his age would probably be embarrassed to do, but he didn't care. And he highly doubted that Demyx judged him for it.
Cloud chuckled, ruffling his son's hair before pulling away. "See ya. Behave yourself, alright?" Though his father's baritone voice was soft, Roxas knew that that meant that he could not get in trouble. Cloud was trusting him with leaving him here on his own for a week. And Atlantica seemed like every kid's fantasy. So Roxas was not gonna screw it up.
"I will," Roxas promised, watching as his father left.
"So," Demyx spoke, wanting to break the silence. "Wanna go check out the pools? We have some time before the evening orientation."
"Sounds good," Roxas said, grabbing his swimming trunks from the bag, after which he followed Demyx out. Maybe this was going to be fun after all.
Sora was grinning from ear to ear as he entered their room. "Number 13! This is it!" he placed his bag on one of the two available beds, looking around. "Looks like we missed our roommates. Too bad."
Ventus chuckled, running a hand through his damp hair. "That's what happens when you insist on going for a swim before even finding our room."
"Dad said it was okay," Sora argued with a smile as he started unpacking his belongings.
"He said it was okay to go after taking our things to the room," Ventus corrected gently, but he didn't mind. He liked that Sora was having so much fun. He deserved it. The boy would find enthusiasm out of anything, but in all honestly, Destiny Islands was not the most versatile of places. So Atlantica was like heaven for them.
"Oh, it's fine!" Sora smirked. He took out his phone, groaning. "Here we go. He's already texted."
Ventus got out his own phone after carefully placing his bag on the last remaining bed. He smiled, staring at the message in the WhatsApp group chat created for the three of them (which Sora had dubbed 'the Lion Boys').
"Call me if you need anything, ok? Anything." - Leon
Ventus smiled, typing up a quick reply. "This whole thing was his idea, but in the end he was a lot more reluctant than we were."
"We're just too lovable, aren't we?" Sora joked, plopping onto his bed, his phone still in his hands. He was half in mind to call Riku, maybe, when the door to the room opened, and their two other roommates arrived.
At first they were greeted with the sight of a grinning boy, still in his swimming trunks, laughing about something. The boy noticed them, and to the Leonharts' surprise, his smile fell, and his eyes went wide. However, before Ventus or Sora could ask why, they got their answer.
The second boy had arrived, and he looked exactly like Ventus.