To all my readers, old and new, I welcome you to the first chapter of Saving Roxas (Rebuild). To my experienced readers, I invite you to enjoy the long awaited reconstruction of this old story. I hope it lives up to everything you hoped for, because lord knows you deserve it! I have high hopes for this rebuild, and I hope you'll come to enjoy it too!

And to any new readers, I welcome you just the same. As you might have assumed, this is a sequel to a much older story. However, with the way I've decided to rewrite things, it's not entirely necessary to read the prequel. In fact, I'd prefer you didn't. So, to prevent any misunderstanding before you read, allow me to offer a very concise, but detailed summary of Saving Axel:

Troubled Roxas Strife was sent to live with his cousin, Sora, when he was just a kid. He grew up in Twilight Town and lived a relatively normal life until his sophomore year of high school. By chance, he meets the local bad boy—Axel Lea—and after much trial and tribulation, become both good friends and eventual lovers. However, trouble arises when Axel's estranged father, Alec—a gang boss with control over most of the criminal underworld—kidnaps Axel, Roxas, and their close friends. Barely managing to escape with their lives, they healed in time for Roxas to be recalled by his parents to his home in Radiant Garden. Axel sees Roxas off at the train station, promising to find him again one day soon…

With that, you should be good to go. Please, enjoy the chapter!


Saving Roxas (Rebuild)

Chapter 1: A Decade Gone

"Mr. Lea?"

Uncrossing his legs, Axel leaned forward to give his interviewer his undivided attention. Settling his black Oxfords on the shiny linoleum, he ran his palms along the creases of his black dress pants. His fingers found his grey tie, straightening the fabric unconsciously before resettling against the leather chair's armrests.

He didn't care for the casual atmosphere of this interview. He didn't much care for the man's nonchalance either, pointing out aspects of his résumé and making small talk over the most trivial things. It was his fourth interview this month and by far the most demeaning. His cheeks hurt from how long he'd had to force a smile, and he felt the strain was starting to show.

Not that he was a stranger to forcing emotions. It was something at which he'd always excelled.

I could even give names of those who'd agree, he touted sarcastically, mentally applauding his own twisted talents, but keeping his expression neutral.

"Mr. Lea," the interviewer began again, seeming to have collected his thoughts. "What three words would you use to describe yourself?"

Easy.

Axel smiled at the simplicity of the inquiry. "Hardworking, bold, and a team-player," he proclaimed, lacing his fingers across his abdomen. It was child's play to field such a predictable question! He'd wasted countless hours in his father's office in preparation, preforming mock interview after mock interview. He spent even more just Googling "Most Common Interview Questions and Answers."

Whether he was truthful or not meant nothing. He just needed to get the job.

The interviewer laughed, smiling happily and nodding in agreement. Axel smiled too, swearing that he'd remain expressionless for a week if he had to keep this up for a minute longer.

"One last thing," the interviewer began, holding up a hand to remove his thick-rimmed glasses. Setting them on his lap, he pushed back a few strands of greying hair that had escaped their gel prison. Axel could only assume he was going for "youthful," and he was sad to report the man missed the mark by a mile.

Not that he would tell a prospective future employer he looked foolish, though. He'd even complimented his silly Disney tie when he came in. He'd do anything to get this job.

"Where do you see yourself in ten years?" the interviewer posed, resting a hand beneath his chin to give Axel his undivided attention.

With Roxas.

"Working under your direction at Sunset Hill Psychiatric, helping as many people as I'm able," Axel offered, hoping his words didn't sound as hollow as they were.

What the hell was that? Where on earth did that come from? he wondered, thanking his lucky stars for the bout of laughter he perceived over his tumultuous thoughts. What about that question made me think of him? Better yet, why am I thinking about him so often these days? I haven't seen him in years! Not even hearing the interviewer's words, Axel jumped to his feet at the first signs of the other rising from his seat.

They shook hands, the interviewer grasping Axel's shoulder firmly with a suggestive wink. "I'm sure you'll be hearing from us very soon, Mr. Lea."

"I look forward to it," Axel replied with a smile (he hoped would be the last for a while), returning the shake with matching force. "Thank you for your time today, sir."

"No, thank you! Have a good night, now." His interviewer led him to the door, seeing him off properly before running over to his secretary's desk with his résumé in tow. The elevator didn't take long to arrive, and Axel stepped on with the same confident swagger with which he'd disembarked earlier.

Once the doors closed, however, he sagged against the wall. His head made a dull thunk as it struck the glittering surface, but he didn't feel more than superficial pain. A massive sigh escaped his lips, and the anxiety of the interview melted like a layer of ice off his sweaty skin.

He was exhausted.

Maybe I can get some ice cream? he proposed to himself, standing upright when the elevator stopped to allow a mother and child pair on board. Maybe take a nap before my babysitters head home for the night…

Axel caught sight of the child gaping at him in their reflection. Wide, blue eyes took in the lanky man to her right, dressed in a suit tailored to his unusual dimensions. A shock of bright red hair drew her attention almost instantly, his most obvious feature even after a tub of hair gel and a makeover from his mother.

He must have looked as silly as he felt. No wonder she was staring.

When her mother pulled out her phone, Axel stuck his tongue out and crossed his eyes, watching joy transform her expression with delighted laughter. He smiled in response, relaxing his facial features when her mother told her to be quiet.

"It's no bother," Axel spoke up, grinning at the girl in the reflection. He pushed his nose back this time, cross-eyed again, before making a few others he knew to be favorites. The girl laughed non-stop, truly disappointed when the pair reached their floor. "Bye-bye now!" He waved, but he was surprised he could smile so easily for her.

"Bye-bye!" She waved back, and the elevator door closed with a muted ding. He stayed in the same pose for at least a floor, pulling his hand back and staring at the rough palm curiously.

He liked kids, he supposed. They weren't terrible, anyway, and he found them to be far easier to deal with than actual adults.

Adults lied, cheated, and broke things beyond repair. Children existed in brilliant contrast: honest, sincere, and were more than willing to slap a bandage over their heart if it stopped the hurt. They were innocent in their intentions, less likely to use people, and more likely to put others before themselves. And even if they weren't that pure, their true intentions were transparent. It was why Axel wanted to help them so badly.

Or else they'll turn out like me.

Neglected by his birth mother, and abused by his birth father, Axel had no desire to let another child bear that pain alone. It did things to a young mind…things that shouldn't be harbored alone. It caused damage no one could see, and Axel couldn't stand the idea of someone else bearing that same pain.

That's why an idiot like him went to college in the first place. If he became a child psychologist, he could do just that. Help other kids like himself.

"Good night!" a receptionist called, waving at him politely as he crossed the floor of the lobby. He waved back, pushing back one of the double doors to reenter the busy afternoon.

"Mommy, Mommy! Can we get ice cream?" a little boy squealed, nestled between his parents and passing right beside him to get inside.

"If you do really well at your appointment today."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

Axel held the door open for the trio, the father thanking him as the mother led her fidgeting child through the entrance. He let it shut behind them, gazing pointedly at his hand once more.

"The measure of a doctor's skill comes from how well he can relate to his patients. Nothing more, nothing less. If he can't do that, he's no doctor at all."

Axel wasn't sure why, but he was reminded of a quote by his professor from freshman year. He remembered the queer way he dressed and the odd way he spoke. He could vividly recall how many coffees he'd drink in a single lecture, perpetually high on caffeine as he ran through disorders and trials at the same speed an auctioneer rattles off bid prices.

But I remember that line most clearly. He walked down the street, hands in his pockets with his gaze to the ground. Probably 'cause it's so true.

Axel knew he wasn't quite right. Hadn't been for a long time. He caught some fleeting sense of normalcy when immersed in his profession, but it was only that. Fleeting. He'd been able to drown himself in work for the past decade, but there were no excuses anymore.

Maybe that's why I keep thinking about him lately? Axel wondered, craning his neck to watch the clouds while he waited to cross the crowded street. He'd been so busy between getting the degree, the internships, the certificate, and finally job hunting…he hadn't the time to think about Roxas or what he'd been up to.

"'Promise,'" he parroted the mother from before, tasting the word and its bitter flavors. "Just another way adults can be cruel."


Axel caught the last train to Twilight Town for the next hour. It was a lucky break, considering he was dead set on taking a nap at his apartment. The train was relatively empty, too, which was another bonus after a tiring day of people pleasing. He took the first seat he saw, watching as the stragglers boarded behind him.

He spotted a few high school girls not too far from him, talking much too loudly to be polite. They were sharing earbuds and giggling to themselves while the conductor made the announcements for the passengers to take a seat. Once those girls did, Axel's unintentional glaring caught sight of a familiar logo.

It was a design he'd helped make, sitting at a booth in a pizzeria on a sticky, summer afternoon.

"I heard his tour's ending at home!" one of the girls gushed, another agreeing while a third began to narrate about how she'd been able to secure tickets for them all. The others cheered her good luck, prattling on about how they had to save up and buy the next album the band released.

Axel just grinned, thinking about how he had access to any albums or concerts he wanted. The perks of knowing the talent on a personal basis.

Five years back, Demyx was signed by a record label. Playing at the local club with his good friends and loyal followers in attendance, the owner had contacted the agent with the intention of repaying an old debt. The agent fell for his music instantly, racing up to him after the show to introduce herself.

Demyx nearly dropped his guitar, Axel recalled. Zexion was the one with the sense to do the research, forcing him to play "hard to get" before signing his current contract. In fact, his efforts even impressed the agent, and now she always consulted Zexion about contractual agreements and changes before bringing them up to the talent himself.

Zexion always traveled with him as a result, even if he hated constantly moving. He justified it as "babysitting," but they all knew he was just lonely. After Demyx's initial two week tour, Zexion drove three hours just to meet him because he missed him. Not that the company minded terribly to pay for the extra head. Demyx's productivity was much higher when Zexion was around.

I'm still surprised the media hasn't caught wind of their relationship yet, Axel pondered humorously, picturing the scandalous tabloid covers of Zexion and Demyx.

The girls' conversation soon transitioned to school, and Axel lost interest. His exhaustion was catching up to him again, and he still had the train ride to get through. Running a hand through his hair, he let his finger catch around the back of his neck. He poked the skin gingerly, feeling his heart sink at the bareness.

I could never find it, Axel remembered. Staring down at his chest as he contemplated the same observation he'd made over a hundred times before.

He'd lost his ring—chain and all—the day Roxas left. It was probably why he had such a hard time keeping his promise when the symbol had vanished. Axel looked all over Station Tower for the damn thing, and he never found it. For all he knew, it'd been stolen shortly after it broke free. Or maybe he'd lost it even earlier and noticed too late.

Axel may never know, and that hurt more than losing it. He'd never had the time to think on it for more than an hour at a time. And even if he managed to do so, what could he possibly gain from moping about it now? He had more pressing issues to deal with.

Like graduating on time. Like job hunting. Like keeping in touch with his family.

Or raising his little girl.

Axel's phone buzzed inside the pocket of his suit jacket. The feeling sent a jolt of energy through his body, and he jumped to attention to pull it free. He typed in his passcode, blanching at the sudden bombardment of messages as his phone kept buzzing in his hand.

"Ah…" He fumbled with the settings, turning it silent to allow the messages to flood without notification. They were all from the same number, too, and he couldn't help but laugh. "Jeez, that kid…"

From: Xion

Are you done?

Did you finish?

Did it go well?

Are you on a train?

It's gonna rain tonight.

So don't loiter around.

Aunt Larx called you lazy.

Uncle Marly's making pizza.

I also got an A on my spelling test!

You helped me study. :)

Can we watch a movie tonight?

I'm thinking action.

Call me!

A flood of emoticons, Xion's new obsession thanks to Demyx's meddling, accompanied the last message. Axel didn't understand most of them, but he did see a few angry faces, and simply sent her a smiley face in response. A reply came shortly after he sent it.

See you soon!

Axel smiled at the happy faces and heart. She always knew what to do to cheer him up, even without knowing he was upset. He tucked his phone away after that, hands resting in his lap. His eyes slipped closed with his head tipped back as he let the clamor of the train car lull him to sleep.


The train pulled in a little past six in the evening. Axel was unlocking his apartment door a half hour later, greeting his neighbor with a half-hearted wave. It was only so cautious because of the noise leaking through the battered wood, betraying the unspoken rule of the floor to keep quiet at all times.

I mean can they even get angry when I'm clearly not responsible? Axel wondered, turning away from his disgruntled neighbor in favor of the door. He forced his key into the sticky lock, shaking it viciously before he heard the familiar tumbling.

The noise all but vanished, replaced with a high pitched squeal and tiny feet pounding along hardwood. Axel was just able to close the door before the attack landed, and he embraced it with all his power. He threw his suit jacket to the side, arms snatching the body and holding it close. His left hand carded through soft, black locks while his right clutched a handful of fabric.

"I'm back, Xion!" he cheered weakly, the face pressed tightly to his stomach eventually peeled away long enough to expose rosy cheeks and a brilliant smile.

"Welcome home, Papa!" Xion cheered back, throwing her arms into the air at the same time Axel crouched to the floor. She giggled in excitement, arms locked behind his neck as he scooped her up in one arm to continue through the narrow opening of the apartment. "Papa, hold me properly, or I'll fa—" Axel pretended to drop her, Xion laughing loudly but clutching the back of his shirt.

"But you're so heavy~!" He poked her side with his free hand, tickling it lightly to bask in her happiness. He carried her carefully as he entered the kitchen, spying the source of the initial noise he'd heard outside.

"Lookin' spiffy, Ax!" Marluxia called, offering a two fingered salute from the sink. He was wearing Axel's apron—but still covered in flour—with his pink hair pulled back in a half bun. "Your ma's got a hell of an eye for fashion."

"She owns a boutique," Axel snorted, still carrying Xion's body as he shuffled into the narrow kitchen. "I'd assume she'd know her way around suits." He deposited her at the table, ruffling her hair once while sniffing the air.

"Since you were so late, Xion chose the toppings," Marluxia explained, grinning at Axel's disappointment. "Oh, she at least let me put peppers on it."

"Even if the taste lingers, I'm willing to compromise," Xion huffed from the table, pulling her knees to her chest and watching Axel's expression change to one of relief. "But did you get my message about a movie? I really wanna watch one!"

"That depends on you, sweetheart." He winked, sliding behind the table and down the back hall toward their bedrooms. "Did you finish all your homework?"

Just as the last syllable left his lips, the bathroom door flew back on its hinges to reveal an annoyed Larxene. "Do you honestly think we wouldn't check?"

Axel felt part of his soul escape, body thrown against the nearest wall as he glared at the cause of his surprise. "What the hell are you doing?! Sneaking up on me like that—"

"You're bathtub was filthy, dumbass!" She cuffed him on the head, scowling back with twice as much heat while wielding a scrubbing brush like it was a dagger. "Do you think I like cleaning your messes? You lazy piece of sh—!"

"Larxy~!" Marluxia sang from the kitchen, calling both attentions as he made a zipping motion over his lips, tilting his head toward Xion. She took a deep breath then, lowering the brush and throwing a hand through her hair.

"Please clean your bathroom more frequently, you filthy animal," she offered jovially, smile tight and painful as she pushed past him to make her way down the hall. Xion looked at her curiously, eyes following the hallway back to Axel's frozen form. She shrugged, looking apologetic, but Axel waved her off.

"A movie sounds nice!" Axel conceded, slipping into his room with every intention of ditching his monkey suit.

He appreciated the effort Snow put into the decision. He was indebted to her diligence in picking the fabric, as well as her attention to his precise measurements and the overall appeal. Axel was impressed by how well the suit complimented him, but it didn't make him like it any more. For some reason, he felt far more fake when clothed in the expensive suit than he did in his usual shirt and jeans.

However, he was careful to keep the suit in good condition. He hopped over the mess on his floor, pulling his closet door open to begin his search for a free set of hangers. While he was elbow-deep in clothes he never wore but was too lazy to ditch, he caught sight of the pictures taped to the inside of the door.

The first one he noticed was of his friends on graduation day. They'd stopped by the hospital in their caps and gowns just to greet the recently re-bedridden Demyx, and took a picture to commemorate their freedom.

Surrounding that were other miscellaneous pictures he'd kept from the past. Many of which he took himself, as he was still a big fan of photography. Pictures of his friends in various poses at various locations were the bulk of it, featuring a few beach pictures and one from the zoo.

Some of his favorites included Marluxia's 21st birthday (in which Marluxia got wasted and began to sing crude covers of 80s power-ballads to an embarrassed Larxene). Another was after Demyx's first concert (in which he stripped down to his underwear to perform his breakout hit for his friends to Zexion's horror).

Though he had more regular ones as well, like Xion's first day of primary school. Dressed in her uniform skirt and coat with her hair all done up, he couldn't resist the temptation.

Right below it, however, was a picture much older. It featured Axel when he'd just started college, leaning against the arm of an attractive young woman four years his senior. She shared the same ocean blue eyes as her daughter, as well as the obsidian-colored hair pulled back in a bun.

Her name was Sinon. An upperclassmen in his program, one of his very best friends, and Xion's mother.

"She got taller again," Axel spoke aloud, looking at her smiling face in the old picture as he slapped the front of his suit. "She's getting smarter, too." He hung the suit on the rack, bending over to scour the bottom of the closet for something suitably clean to wear. "Annoyingly so," he mumbled, almost totally to himself as he found something that didn't smell particularly offending.

"I heard that!" Xion's voice rang out, Axel falling back on his ass as her laughter followed her back down the hall.

"You sneaky—!" Axel cut himself off, looking at the stack of school papers and mail on the foot of his bed. "No doubt she's hers." He started to stand, laughing as he struggled to get the shirt over his head. When he slid his foot into position to rise fully, he pulled it back immediately at the sensation of paper.

"What's this…?" he mumbled, dropping the hem of the shirt and snatching the thin strip of paper off the floor. The bottom was rough from being torn, and the edges were frayed. From the shape of the paper as well as the stack of wallet-sized photos, he identified it as the product of a photo booth. Turning it over, though, revealed the biggest discovery.

Axel huffed, a smile spreading on his lips as he held the pictures to his face. "So that's where you got to."

It was the pictures he'd taken with Roxas so many years ago. He could recognize those blond spikes in an instant, so soft to the touch he'd spend hours just petting them. The color was fading and there were water droplet stains in a few spots, but Axel could easily make out the memories of that day.

From Roxas's puffed out cheeks and drawn eyebrows, to Axel's wide smile and crinkled eyes, he remembered that day fondly. Roxas was initially annoyed at being pulled into the photo booth, but Axel wrapped his arms around his middle and selected the filters he wanted. He smiled so broadly in that first picture while Roxas pouted, but he was positively adorable. Then came the next picture, Axel pushing his index fingers into Roxas's cheeks while making a silly expression. The next picture depicted Roxas smacking at his hands but starting to smile as he settled more comfortably in Axel's embrace.

The last picture was missing, torn from the strip and lost somewhere. Running his fingers along the tear where flecks of color still remained, Axel could recall the memory of that picture from the day it was taken. Staring at the screen that mirrored their position for them so see, he remembered the open-mouthed smile on Roxas face, eyes crinkled with his laughter while his warm hands covered Axel's arms around his torso.

And I was kissing him, Axel thought proudly. He let me kiss him then. He knew he'd been kissing his cheek in that picture. Safe from the prying eyes of those who would judge them, they could be together. Happily.

I wish I had that picture still…

"Axel! We're leaving!"

"Ah, I'll be right out!" Axel called back, Larxene's shrill shout cutting through his nostalgic reminiscing. He carefully tucked the strip behind his and Sinon's photo, careful to keep them both elevated and in sight before he dashed down the hall.


"The history museum?" Axel read, staring at the field trip slip with a sour expression. "You sure you wanna go, Xi?" He lifted the paper straight up, staring down at the young girl sprawled out over his lap. Her legs were bent at the knee, kicking back and forth in the air as she played with an app on her phone.

"Of course I do!" she countered, turning off the screen and giving Axel a pointed look. "History is really cool! It's interesting to me!" Xion upturned her nose, but quickly lost interest in appearing snooty when the commercial ended on TV. She crossed her arms beneath her face, staring at the screen as the news resumed.

"You have an interest in all sorts of boring stuff," he joked, petting her hair as he leaned over to find a pen. He tried to be wary of their dirty plates taking up precious space on the side table, nearly knocking over his Coke bottle in his search for a functioning pen.

Honestly, Axel was thrilled Xion had such an interest in learning. It was something she inherited from her mother, and he was so proud of both her inquisitive mind and impeccable grades. He just liked to mess with her, seeing as how he only became the "model student" when he entered college.

"Of course you can go," he mumbled, signing his name with the faded leather of their old couch as a surface. "The fifteenth…" he repeated, tasting the date like it was some new spice. "You'll need to pack a lunch, and I'll need to drop you off at the school early and pick you up later," he recanted, dropping the paper onto the pile of other's he'd already gone through.

"You can take the day off and clean!" Xion cheered, rolling onto her back and revealing a mischievous smile. "You know, that thing you keep putting off."

"And I suppose you expect me to fix the leaky faucet? And the lock on the door? And the dishwasher?" He listed the major complaints they both had, and they both started laughing. "You wish! I'll sooner whine to our cheap landlord before I drop a single cent in this dump." He shooed her to her feet.

"We'll move when you get a better job, right?" She parroted his familiar excuse, and he rolled his eyes in a dramatic fashion. "I'll go put it on the calendar." Xion jumped to her feet, sliding along the creaky floorboards and straight into the kitchen.

"Be careful!" he warned, rubbing the back of his neck as he moved to grab the last of Xion's school papers. "It's starting to fall apart, so—"

"I know, I know." Xion carefully lifted the heavily marked up pages of their schedule. It was a system they adapted together, Axel having struggled to balance work, school, and a child while he was pursuing his higher degrees. They both consulted it whenever they made plans, and Axel always read it with his morning coffee.

"Jeez, conferences already?" Axel bemoaned from the living room, Xion chuckling as she penned her field trip down in bold lettering. "I swear, you just started the year, didn't you?"

"Try months ago, Papa," Xion reminded, shaking her head as she lowered the paper back in place. "My teacher wants me to consider gifted courses. Or skipping a grade‒"

"You're nine!" Axel was scandalized, Xion about to round the corner to comfort him when the phone began to ring. "Ah, grab that, sweetie." He looked back to the paper, Xion spinning on her tiptoes to snatch the old, spiral cord-style phone stuck on the wall.

"Hello! You've reached the Lea—oh, hi, Uncle Reno!" Xion's voice lifted upward in recognition, smiling widely as Axel groaned from the couch. "Yeah, we just finished dessert," she responded, leaning against the wall. "Mm, Papa's still up. Do you need to talk to him?"

Axel gathered their dishes, tossing them into the kitchen sink while Xion recanted to his cousin about her school day. Before she could get very far, he stole the phone from her hand and placed it against his shoulder.

"Spell 'maneuver.'"

"M-a-n-e-u-v-e-r."

"Good job. Go pick something to watch; you earned it." Axel tilted his head toward the living room, smiling at her excitement at winning another hour in front of the TV. "Sorry. What do you want, Reno?"

"Ah, I love how you quiz her after she does really well on a test!" Reno laughed, taking up the line as Axel slumped into the nearest chair.

"Just checking if she actually learned it," he sighed, staring at his socks.

"What? You think that angel would cheat? Xion?" Reno laughed again at the incredulity of the thought. "Still, I bet you know all the tricks, huh?"

"I needed to pass somehow," Axel grumbled, frowning at a hole in the fabric. "Besides, Cecil was always careful about it when I managed to get anything above a C." His lips quirked upward, reminiscing the days his adoptive father sat him on the opposite end of their table to quiz him. "But enough about my parenting. What do you need?"

"How hurtful!" Reno yelled, Axel pulling the phone from his ear and glaring at the receiver. "What? I can't express an interest in my cousin? Or my adorable niece?"

"Mr. Shinra isn't in the hospital again, is he?" Axel felt nervous, knowing Reno to launch into long winded rants when he was nervous.

"No." Reno had the decency to take the comment seriously. "But I did want to talk to you about something because of that stupid president. I mean, he's such an idiot! A workaholic! A slave driver. Do you know that today he had me—"

"Reno~o," Axel moaned, rolling his eyes. He could hear Xion laughing at whatever was on TV, and he was still pretty tired from interviewing so extensively lately. He just wanted a relaxing evening with his daughter. "Get to the point?"

"Oh. Yeah, right." Reno chuckled nervously. "I called because I wanted to tell you something. Duh." Axel remained quiet, inciting he continue. "So, my workaholic partner seems to have scheduled a string of important meetings and events during our usual vacation time."

"Did he?" Axel feigned interest, wondering why Reno would feel the need to complain about this to him. Isn't that what he had a sister for? "You poor thing!" He faked outrage, voice raising in pitch to accompany the act.

"Haha. Prick." Reno snorted. "And here I called to offer our tickets to you. They were for Radiant Garden, after all!"

"R-Radiant Garden?"

Axel stopped thinking.

"Yeah! Rufus and I go once a year, ya know? Mainly we visit Kairi and some of his family but the hotel we go to is pretty damn ritzy. There's a lot of cool monuments and stuff, too," he continued, but Axel couldn't get past the name. "Well, bottom line is that we can't go anymore. So, when I mentioned it to Kairi, she told me to offer them to you."

"To me?" Axel was standing again, tone harsher than intended as he began to pace before the phone receiver on the wall. "Did she say why?"

"Ah, nothing more than the usual 'I never get to see them anymore!'" Reno raised his voice to mimic Kairi's, and had it been any other situation, Axel would have laughed. "She mentioned that you've never visited, even though you were always looking for tickets when you were younger. Kai also mentioned some friend? Roman? Ronald?"

"Roxas."

Even the name felt strange to speak aloud, like it was some sort of verbal taboo. Axel felt his heart beat faster.

"That's it!" It sounded as if a real light bulb switched on in Reno's head. "Yeah, weren't you always tryin' to visit 'im? Think he still lives in that flat with Kai and her school friends. You know the ones." Reno mentioned the last bit in passing, but Axel vividly recalled each of her friends because they'd been important to Roxas, too.

"A-Are you offering them to me?" Axel wasn't sure what else to say, staring ahead blankly as Reno hummed over the line.

"Xi's never been there, right? Kid loves history and stuff, so she'll love the place!" he advertised, Axel's eyes already glued to the calendar on the refrigerator. "I feel like you also said she'd be on break coming up, right? It's the perfect timing!"

"Y-Yeah, I guess, but—"

"Great! Look, I'll drop the tickets off at your place tomorrow. I'll ask Rufus if it's possible to transfer the hotel reservation to you. See ya~!" Reno hung up before Axel had the chance to protest, and he was left to his own devices.

A truly dangerous mercy for someone like him.

Radiant Garden…I can finally go there, after ten years? The thought was too unreal. Axel had trouble believing he'd actually heard Reno right at all, or if he'd even answered the phone at all. Still, as the dial tone filled his ear and the chill of the drafty kitchen window assaulted his skin, he couldn't wrap his head around it.

I can see…Roxas.

The TV volume lowered dramatically, followed closely by a timid "Papa? You okay?" Axel tried to open his mouth, but no words would come out. It was like a lump had formed there, and his throat was too dry to move. It was like some sort of hex; a result of speaking the forbidden name aloud.

"Papa? Is Uncle Reno okay? And Mr. Shinra, too?" Xion's footsteps echoed loudly in his ears, and he felt each step like a direct hit to his heart. When she rounded the corner, dressed in her PJs with her damp hair glittering in the light, Axel was drawn to her impossibly blue eyes.

Eyes like her mother's no doubt…but also like—

"Mr. Shinra and Reno aren't able to take their yearly vacation," Axel was finally able to choke out. Leaning against the wall, he gestured her closer, and she took the last tentative steps to her father's side. "They were going to Radiant Garden—"

"Radiant Garden?!" Xion interrupted, spinning so she stood opposite Axel and trapping him to the wall. "The Radiant Garden? The home of the best museums in the country? The most popular monuments in this area? The place all of my friends have gone except me? The place where Auntie Kairi lives? That one?"

"It's the only one I know," Axel joked back, smile strained as he slid down the wall so he was closer to her height. "Well, Uncle Reno's giving us the tickets. And I promised you I'd take you wherever you wanted to go during your break, so…"

I can't tell her we're going, Axel realized, smiling at her. It would be too selfish if I did. His desire to see Roxas after so long was both frightening and empowering. He was scared out of his wits by the prospect, but there was still a part of his aching heart that clung to the idea of seeing that smile one more time.

But I can't make this call alone.

"You don't mind if we don't go to the beach?" Xion countered, looking genuinely shocked, and Axel just shook his head.

"It's your break. Don't tell me we've been going all this time because you were trying to make me happy?" Axel couldn't believe how kind-hearted she was at times. She shook her head, playing with her nails as she thought deeply.

When she came to a decision, she brought her gaze to his. "Then can we go to Radiant Garden? Together?"

Thank you, Xion.

Axel assured her that they could, pulling her into a tight embrace. He brushed his hands through her hair gently, thinking back to the days he could hold Roxas this way in a moment of frivolous reminiscence. They returned to the living room shortly after, but Xion didn't last much more than a half hour.

Axel carried her to bed, tucking her in gently and turning on her nightlight before he left. When he returned to his own room, he stripped down to his boxers. When he was putting his clothes in his closet, he snatched the picture reel from the door, taking it with him to bed.

He looked at the same three images for another hour, just thinking about all the memories he'd kept hidden away for a decade. Axel's heart raced all over again, and he felt light as air when he finally began to drift off. There was no doubt in his heart that seeing Roxas would be terrifying, but if there was even the slightest chance he could, he'd take it.

Not even to try and hold him again. Axel would be satisfied just to apologize to him. For everything and nothing.

Somehow, I just want to see him again.

Axel fell into a fitful sleep, eager and afraid for the morning to come.


If you still prefer the original, then by all means, continue to reread it. To those of you willing to give this revamp a chance, I am deeply honored! Any and all comments are welcome, and I look forward to rewriting this story with you. I hope to post as often as I can.

Bad news, right? But there is a silver lining!

I've recently found myself a Tumblr page, and I plan to post stuff regarding this story as well as some original content that I've been working on. So, if you're interested in that and also whatever anime/video game has me in tears that week, then please follow me! The link is on my profile page.

Now you can haggle me to your heart's content!

Anyway, hope to see you again soon. Thanks for your support!

~DivineSoul