gin and sin
chapter one

i wanna see more dirty places
take me to the hall of filthy faces
trash flavored trash - the blood brothers

Roxas stopped jogging, and sighed as the yellow vehicle continued to disappear into the darkness down the street. He had missed the late bus again. All because he had to stay late at school to get help for some stupid math homework. His head fell to his chest, and his blonde hair obscured his vision. Now, he'd have to call his mother and tell her that he needed a ride. What a fantastic way for an already horrible Monday to end.

The boy cast a gloomy silhouette on an empty Edmonton street. The lamp-post above him was the only light in the darkness, and his shadow stood with that of a sign that merrily read 'bus'. Snow was gently drifting, falling on Roxas's tan jacket. Early November was an awful time, since it wasn't quite Christmas and it wasn't summer, either. And the slush-caked sidewalks didn't help, either.

He pulled his back-pack off of his shoulders, and turned it so the mouth faced him. Supporting it with one of his small, but strong arms, he unzipped the mouth and let his hand disappear inside. In the desperate search for his cell-phone, Roxas didn't even notice a tall figure block his shadow behind him.

"Hey…" began the figure, and Roxas nearly jumped out of his skin. He quickly turned around, and even in the dim light of the street light, he could plainly see the man. He recognized the character as a man called Axel.

Roxas didn't quite reach the red-head's nose, and Axel looked a little worse for wear than the younger youth. Axel's face was pale; his hair was quite limp and damp, and clinging to his forehead and neck. There were bags under his blood-shot, dull eyes. Axel was only shielded from the bitter cold with a baggy, black hooded sweater and equally loose jeans that easily engulfed his thin frame. If Roxas was cold, even with his warm coat on, then the red-head was surely freezing.

Axel opened his mouth to speak, but quickly closed it. His hand was visibly shaking as it gripped the strap of his battered messenger bag. After a moment of standing in the cold, he opened his mouth again and weakly mumbled, "Hey, do you have a light?"

It took a moment for the sentence to click in Roxas's brain, but he shook his head. "No. I don't smoke," stated the blonde, standing with his back-pack awkwardly held by his right hand and balanced on his thighs. He could feel the cell phone against his finger nails, and he quickly remembered that he needed it for a reason. He pulled his hand back, and let his backpack fall to the ground. With cell phone in hands, he turned back to Axel. "Uh…"

Axel snorted, moving closer to Roxas. After the clumsy greetings, the older man's brash personality returned. Roxas always remembered Axel as having a loose behavior. Axel wasn't afraid to say what he wanted, and he often used that skill to manipulate people. The red-head was only a year and a half older than Roxas, but he could often swear the man had the brain of a 30 year old. "So… what are you still doing here? I bet you missed your bus," said the taller man, staring down at the blonde.

Roxas huffed, flicking his phone open. "Yeah, I did. So what? You gonna make fun of me? Gonna call me stupid?" When the two were still in grade school, the 4th grader Axel had often sent Roxas home crying. It was common knowledge that Axel was a bully, even though he wasn't particularly big or strong. With Axel at a close proximity, Roxas could make out twin diamond shaped tattoos under each of the red-head's eyes. Roxas idly wondered if Axel was in a gang.

"No," Axel responded. He crossed his arms, hugging himself. Roxas could see the taller boy's breath. "You used to be shorter."

"I was in the second grade! Of course I was shorter!" Roxas shot back, heatedly. Axel winced as if the words had physically hit him. A car roared by on the street, cutting every coherent thought out of Roxas's brain.

"So… you still remember that, huh?" Axel laughed, weakly. "I was talking about high-school. You've gotten taller since I last saw you there."

Roxas stared at his phone, pretending not to pay attention. "Yeah, whatever. I never hear about you there, like I used to. Everybody used to talk about you. What, did the Great Axel just fade into the crowd?"

Axel sighed, and his teeth began to chatter, rather noisily. His head fell slightly, and he slipped his hands back into his sleeves. "No, I got expelled last year in June. I never went back," he said, after a moment. Roxas stared at him, a little lost.

"Why?" the boy, wondered. Axel's eyes hardened.

"None of your fucking business," the red head bit. Roxas rolled his eyes, scrolling through the long list of contacts, searching for his Mother's familiar number. He heard Axel sigh, and out of the corner of his eye he caught the taller man's fingers go to massage his temples. "…That's not what I meant. I just… don't want to talk about it. So, uh, you still live with your foster parents?"

Roxas nodded, finding the number he desired. He brought the phone to his ear, and listened to the monotone sound of the ring. "Yeah, but they've adopted me. They're legally my parents or guardians now, or whatever," the blonde said, flippantly. Axel made a sound of understanding, and waited for Roxas to finish his call. The shorter boy talked into the phone for a few minutes, every so often saying 'yes' or 'no'. There was guilt in his tone, and Roxas had obviously angered his Mother.

The call ended with a happy tune, and Roxas closed his phone, tucking it into his jacket pocket. "So, what are you doing here? Just wandering around down-town?" inquired Roxas. Axel shook his head.

"No. I was actually trying to get to a friend's place, but then I saw you and figured I should… say something. I don't know," said the taller, nervously running his long fingers through his unruly hair.

"Well, I suppose I shouldn't keep you," Roxas replied, rather icily. He pulled his backpack up, quickly zipping the opening up, and he shrugged it onto one shoulder. He was ready to leave the conversation at that, but Axel spoke again.

"Well… he's not really a friend. And you were always my friend… err, until I got into second grade, but…" Axel said, rather brokenly. Roxas rolled his eyes. It would be a good fifteen minutes until his mother came with the car, and Axel was beginning to get annoying.

"What do you want? You never talked to me before, so why is this time any different?" Roxas muttered. Axel glared daggers at Roxas, but his gaze broke and he turned his eyes away.

"Look…" began Axel, his eyes hard as he stared off into the blackness. "I… I need a place to stay…" Roxas's expression went from angry to confused, and he blinked at the seventeen year old.

"Uh… Why are you asking me?" questioned Roxas, his hands both limp at his sides. He felt utterly lost in this predicament. It was quite obvious that Axel felt out of place, and that the older boy really wasn't too thrilled at this dilemma he was stuck in.

Axel's eyes closed, and he turned his face back towards Roxas. When his eyelashes fluttered open again, Roxas found himself fixed under one of Axel's glares. "Because there's nobody else left to ask."

Roxas stood there, rather dumbstruck as the boy that he had ran away from for the first half of his life ran to him for help. It was no coincidence that Axel had 'passed by'. Axel had probably followed him to the bus stop. For some reason, that unnerved Roxas to no end. "And why in the world would I let you stay at my house? You bullied me when we were kids, you got expelled for some unknown reason and you look like a zombie," Roxas said, pointedly. "And you're probably in a gang."

Roxas turned around, blocking out all of the noise that he could. Years of living with other noisy foster children had made him quite able to do so. Axel came back into view, as the taller boy stood beside him, staring ahead. There were no cars at 6 o'clock on a Monday night. It was dreadfully quiet and lonely. "I suppose I do look kinda creepy," said Axel, forcing humor into his voice.

"Yeah, pretty much. And besides, I think you stalked me here," Roxas said, in a clipped tone. Axel repeated his habit, letting his fingers pass through his blood red hair again. Roxas looked over at him, and noted that Axel looked a lot older than seventeen.

"I didn't stalk you here. Really, I was just going to that other guy's. I was staying there before, but I think I've pretty much worn out my welcome."

"What'd you do? Bang his girlfriend in his bed?" Axel rolled his eyes at Roxas's rude comments, and the red-head contemplated slinging an equally vulgar one back. He refrained, biting his chapped lips.

"Of course not. The idiot didn't have a girlfriend. But, I've been on the streets for the last three days. I haven't slept, eaten or bathed, and I feel fucking disgusting. And I'm sure your parents won't mind if I stay, I mean they are foster parents." The words came out in a long run-on sentence, and Roxas wondered when Axel was going to shut up. When the beloved silence finally returned, Roxas grimaced.

"You haven't showered in three days. Sick," he said, letting sarcastic humor grace his pessimistic voice. Axel chuckled, a little sourly.

"I would if I could." Roxas let himself laugh, if lightly, at Axel's expense. It was a little sad and funny at the same time. Roxas wondered what happened to Axel's parents. "Please, at least let me talk to Tia. I'm sure she'll understand, and let me stay a few nights until I can figure out what I'm doing," said Axel, obviously referring to Roxas's adoptive mother.

It was only moments later that a muddy, silver car pulled up against the curb, wind-shield wipers squeaking across the windshield. Tia rolled down the passenger window, and gave Roxas one hell of a look. The boy's eyes immediately went to the ground, as he felt a new wave of guilt wash over him. It quickly softened, and she radiated with motherly love. "Get in the car, Roxas. I've got some dinner for you at home." Roxas sighed. Well, he couldn't exactly leave Axel shivering on a corner.

"Hey, Mom. You won't mind if I bring Axel home with me, will ya?" said the blonde, approaching the passenger window that faced them. Tia craned her neck to let the red-head come into view.

"Axel? Axel Erickson, the kid who used to send you home sobbing?" laughed Tia, motioning the red-head to come closer. "Get in the car, dear! You look freezing." Roxas let himself into the front seat, and the red head got into the back. Axel nearly swooned when the heat hit him full force. Tia pulled away from the curb, and began the fifteen minute drive to Roxas's suburban home. There wasn't all that much traffic and the scenery flew by in a blur of window shop color.

"So, Axel. What brings you downtown, when your mother's home is near our area?" said Tia, raising her eyebrows to the rear-view mirror. The red-head felt utterly scrutinized under the older woman's eyes. Tia was thin, and shorter than Roxas with graying cinnamon hair. Axel remembered from when he was younger, Tia baking lots of chocolate chip cookies and being a strict but kind woman. Roxas had lived with her forever.

"Er, I don't live with her anymore," mumbled Axel, staring at his hands. They were finally beginning to grow warm, in the heat of the small car. Tia nodded, her hands tapping gently at the steering wheel. Roxas was staring at his shoes, which were pretty much soaking wet. He couldn't feel his toes any more.

"You're still shaking, Axel. Do you want me to turn up the heat?" asked Tia, reaching for the knob. Axel adamantly shook his head.

"I'm fine."

There was uncomfortable silence once again, and Tia's fingers resumed drumming the steering wheel. Roxas simply stared out into the night. Axel finally decided to ask the woman his question. "Uh, Tia… Look, I know you don't really know me that well, and I used to pick on Roxas a lot…" He broke off because Roxas was looking at him through the rear-view window again. "But, I don't have anywhere to stay for the night. Would you mind if I slept on your couch or something? Just for one night?"

Tia's kind, wrinkled eyes faltered, and concern slipped into her features. "Of course you can spend the night. But, is everything all right Axel?" Said red head looked up to the mirror, and opened his mouth to voice his thoughts, but no words came out.

"Everything's… normal. I just need somewhere to stay for a while," said the teenager, wringing his fingers. He really didn't want to talk about why he was homeless, but Tia wasn't one to pry, and for that he was thankful.

The drive to Roxas's house after that was mostly un-eventful. The minutes seemed to drag on for Axel, while they passed quickly for Roxas. Tia was watching Axel in the rear-view mirror. She knew that Axel was pretty much screaming for help, even if he didn't vocalize it. The Axel she had previously known (and heard about, from Roxas's jabbering) was no-where near as reserved as this boy sitting in the back of her car. Apparently, Axel was a constant trouble-maker who lipped off to everyone and set cats on fire. There was something different about Axel. That was for sure.

When the car pulled into the drive-way, Tia pulled the parking break. "Alright, we're here," she said, unbuckling her seat-belt. Axel had totally forgotten to put his on, so he simply scooted out of the car, messenger bag falling limply at his thighs. Roxas shut his door, gently, while Axel closed his firmly. Tia led them into walkway of the familiar house. The lights were on, and homey comfort exuded from the place. Axel felt extremely like a fish out of water.

Tia hadn't even put her foot in the door when she found herself with a little girl locked around her ankle. Roxas let out a laugh, before bending over to pry the girl off of his Mother's leg. "Heeey, leggo of her, Selphie," said the blonde, threading his hands under Selphie's arms, and lifting the little brunette off of the floor. Axel observed that the girl looked about six years old.

Selphie squirmed as Roxas picked her up, laughing, and hugged her. "Ngh, let me go," whined the girl. Roxas was a lot stronger than he looked, obviously, as the little girl was left immobile. Tia pulled Axel in by the sleeve of his worn, large sweater. Even though Axel was taller than her, she felt his body swagger against her. Axel still shook, even though they were out of the cold, at that point.

"Would you like something to eat?" Tia asked, her voice laced with kindness. Selphie continued to squirm in Roxas's arms.

"And a bath?" piped the little girl, wrinkling her nose. Axel glared down at her, and the girl immediately squeaked. Roxas laughed again, completely ignoring Axel as he carried Selphie back to the living room. A blonde, thin girl rushed down the stairs, her feet beat a rapid tattoo into the carpet.

"Tia, would you help me with my homework?" said the girl, before turning her blue eyes towards Axel. She blinked at him for a moment. "Who's this?" The girl sunk back towards the stairs. She appeared to be very shy.

"This is Axel. He'll be staying with us, for a while," said Tia, as she toed off her shoes. Axel abruptly did the same, and he felt hands on his back. He jumped at the feeling, to find that Tia was only taking his bag. "Come on, you can get this again later. Naminé, why don't you go put this up in Roxas's room, for now?"

The timid girl nodded, tiptoeing by to snatch the bag from Tia's hands. She gave Axel a fleeting look, before she retreated back upstairs. "What's with her?" Axel asked, a little wary. Tia waved her hand, going off into the kitchen. Axel stayed behind her, eyes flicking around the hallway.

"Why don't you take off your sweater? It's all wet," said Tia, upon reaching the kitchen. She motioned for Axel to sit down in a chair, and he did so, his fingers drumming restlessly against the table.

"It's alright. I'd rather leave it on," he said, looking at the tan colored walls. Tia nodded, and turned her back to him, reaching into the refrigerator.

"You know, Axel. We're not out to get you. You can open up to me. I'll listen," said Tia, bringing out a large pot of some sort of soup. "Do you want some of this?" Axel's growling stomach spoke for itself. Tia chuckled, taking a ladle and spooning some of the cooled soup out into two bowls.

"But if you're not ready to talk, that's fine too." The woman put one of the bowls into the microwave, and with a few reassuring beeps, the food was being re-heated. Roxas stepped into the kitchen, next, with Selphie clinging to his leg all of the way.

"Smells good," said Roxas. He hadn't eaten for a good six hours, anyway. He was allowed to feel hungry. Selphie detached herself from Roxas, and scuttled over to Tia.

"So… how many people live here, now?" questioned Axel, looking at the table with utmost interest. Tia removed the first bowl from the microwave, and pulled open a drawer to place a spoon in the bowl. She brought it over to Axel, with much slothfulness, due to the four year old clinging to her leg. Axel gratefully accepted it, spooning some of the hot liquid into his mouth. He probably felt warm for the first time in days.

Roxas shoved his own bowl into the microwave, unceremoniously, and some of the broth sloshed over the sides of the bowl. "Well, there's me, Mom, Dad but he's out on business, Selphie, Naminé and Tia's real kid, Sora. Remember him?" Axel frowned, attempting to recall memories. Well, he eventually remembered picking on Sora for being a weakling. Fantastic memories those were.

"Where is your brother, anyway?" said Selphie, from her spot on the floor. Her voice came out in high little squeaks, and Axel was idly reminded of the time that he had unwittingly ingested some helium.

"He's over at Riku's," said Roxas, of his younger housemate. Well, Roxas truly did consider Sora his brother. The two fought like brothers, teased each other like brothers and were generally as close as siblings could get. The only real difference was that Sora was a year younger than himself, but possibly more mature, if not a little naïve. "He said that this morning."

Selphie giggled into her hands, before she was towed along by her mother once again. The little girl adored hooking herself onto people's limbs, as it offered herself a free ride. The microwave beeped, and Roxas removed his soup bowl from the appliance. Immediately, he winced. "Ow, that's really hot," he said, quickly moving towards the table and dropping the bowl onto the surface. Tia wagged a finger at him.

"Really, Roxas. Use your brain," said the older woman, before picking up Selphie. She glanced at the LCD clock, where it cheerily blinked 6:42 back at her. "You, little girl, are going to go get ready for bed."

"But it's early!" whined Selphie. And, she wanted to see if Axel would make a good playmate. She avoided the annoyed looks that Axel was currently giving her. Tia rolled her eyes, hugging the little Selphie closer to her body.

"I'll read you a few stories. But it's time to hunker down, or you'll be grumpy in the morning. And my little sunshine can't be grumpy!" chided the woman, heading upstairs. She disappeared, and her footsteps couldn't be heard over the television set that was still talking noisily in the living room. That left Roxas and Axel alone, to swallow down pre-heated soup in an uncomfortable silence.

"So…" said Roxas, mid gulp. Axel looked up at him with weary eyes. It was completely obvious the older boy didn't want to talk. But still, Roxas wanted to press on a conversation. It wasn't every day that Axel asked for help, Roxas guessed. "Er… so, why did you leave your Mom's place? She was always nice."

Really, Roxas could only barely remember Axel's mother, so he didn't have a big opinion on her like Axel probably did. Surely, Axel snorted, shoving his spoon roughly into his mouth, and Roxas winced at the sound of metal hitting teeth. "Fuck, she wasn't nice. But I don't want to talk about it," said the older boy. Roxas nodded.

"Then, where have you been staying? How long ago did you leave?" questioned Roxas, twirling his own spoon around in the murky bowl of soup. He was guessing it was vegetable, but he couldn't really tell for sure.

"I stayed at my friend's place since I was 13. My mom kicked me out around then," said Axel, shrugging. Roxas merely stared at the other boy. He'd had no idea what happened in Axel's life beyond elementary school, and had only seen Axel around after that. He'd never held a conversation with the red-head in a good four years.

"Uh, why?" inquired Roxas, slowly taking another spoonful of the soup. It was slowly beginning to cool at this point. Axel had the silver utensil dangled in front of his mouth, and Roxas saw that his hands were still shaking.

"Because she hated me," Axel said. Roxas nodded, slowly, and quickly finished off the rest of his soup. Axel was apparently a slower eater, as the red head continued to eat after Roxas had stood to put his dishes away.

"I don't think she hated you…" said Roxas, opening the dishwasher. Axel scowled at the table, before finishing his own soup. Due to his quivering hands, a slight trail of broth ran out the corner of his lips. He quickly wiped his mouth with the sleeve of the sweater, and Axel stood up, pushing his own dishes into the appliance.

"What would you know?" muttered Axel. Things quickly began to get tense in the kitchen, and Tia came to the rescue. The woman made her way into the kitchen, smiling lightly.

"Selphie's in bed now and Naminé is in her room. Axel, why don't you go have a nice warm bath?" said the kindly female, and Axel quickly averted his gaze to the floor. She put a comforting hand on his shoulder, looking up at him with as much motherly warmth she could muster. "The bathroom is upstairs, second door on the left. There are towels in the closet in the hall." Axel nodded, hesitantly, before making his way up the stairs. Upon hearing the creak on the last step, Roxas faced his adoptive mother.

"He looks like he's sick," said the blonde, leaning against the counter. Tia sighed, making her way into the living room. The television was casting eerie shadows on the plush, mahogany sofa. Tia found the clicker, and the TV went off with a buzz of static.

"I don't think he's sick, so much as a little bit cold and underweight. He'll be alright," said the woman. She was well trained in judging ill children, as she had been around many kids in her life. "He just needs to eat some more and to sleep in a nice warm bed—namely, yours." Roxas gave a start at this.

"What? Aw, mom, can't he just sleep on the couch?" protested the blonde boy. Tia put her hands on her hips, fixing Roxas with a glare.

"That boy is obviously in trouble, Roxas. The least you can do is lend him your bed for a night. Tomorrow, I'll set up a cot somewhere, and he can sleep there. For tonight, you've got the couch, buddy," stated the woman, poking her son square in the chest. Roxas gave a groan of resentment, but quickly stifled it when his mother rolled her tired eyes. She sat back down at the kitchen table, and beckoned Roxas to follow. Roxas could now hear water running upstairs, as he sat down across from Tia. "So, did he tell you anything? I mean, why was he all alone in the streets like that? Where's Rose, she wouldn't just leave her son out there, would she?"

Roxas sighed, feeling a lot like a snitch. Axel probably wouldn't want him telling Tia everything, so the blonde decided to keep it rather vague. "Well, apparently, he's been on the streets for three days now. And he hasn't been living with his mom for four years." Tia brought her hand to her lips, thinking.

"Then who has he been living with since then? I mean, he's not wearing rags, and he doesn't look homeless," said the woman, thinking out loud. Roxas shrugged.

"He said he was living with a friend, or something," said the boy. Tia clicked her dull fingernails on the tabletop.

"Did he say who this friend was?"

"No. He didn't really say a whole lot." Tia huffed, standing again.

"Well, let's clean up the kitchen, then," said the woman. Roxas moaned again, screwing his face into a grimace. There were still cutting boards and various other things out on the countertops from Tia's cooking.

"You made the mess, you clean it up," said Roxas, turning to leave the kitchen. Tia grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, laughing.

"Oh, no, bucko. If you're going to eat my food, you're going to help me clean up. An eye for an eye," stated Tia, pushing Roxas over to the counter. "That big pot needs to be hand washed, and make sure you put the knives into the dishwasher with the handles facing UP. I don't want to get stabbed again by your carelessness." Roxas groaned, though he was smiling. He always felt so at home.

Roxas yawned, going up the stairs. He'd turned the TV off after about an hour of watching. Hell, it was only 8:00, but he felt incredibly tired. His run to the bus stop (only to miss said bus) had taken a lot out of him. Roxas didn't really like physical activity. Most of the time, he just sat around with his girlfriend playing video games and listening to music.

The top stair creaked, as usual, and Roxas turned into his own room. Blinking, he found he wasn't alone. Axel stood, back facing him, with a pair of draw-string pants hanging off of his angular hips. Without the large sweater, Roxas could make out just how deathly thin the taller man was. He could count every rib, and his skin was almost transparent, stretched across his back. Roxas swore under his breath, as his eyes traveled downward to where large bruises rested on Axel's thin waist.

What exactly had Axel been up to? A million questions flooded into Roxas's head, as Axel pulled a loose t-shirt over his slight form. He turned at the noise from the doorway, his unruly red hair damp and sticking to his neck. "Uh, hi. Sorry I'm in here, my clothes were here," he said, pointing accusingly at his messenger bag.

Roxas, still a little shocked at what he had seen, nodded tentatively. Axel gave him a half smile. "I can leave now, if you want. I'll just sleep on the couch downstairs," he said, picking up his bag and brushing past Roxas.

"Hey, wait. Do you just wanna hang out for a while? I mean, er, I'm not really tired and yeah," said Roxas, rather awkwardly. He still wanted to pry some information out of Axel, for his dear mother, and partly for himself. Axel was a bit of an enigma, to him. Some more information would be better than what he currently had. He watched as Axel shrugged on another sweater, black again and possibly even more loose-fitting.

"Sure. Let's go outside. I need a smoke," said Axel, leaving through the door that Roxas had just entered. The blonde followed the taller boy down the stairs, and was careful to skip the one on the top that always creaked. Selphie was a light sleeper, and would probably come bounding out of bed if she'd known that Roxas was wandering around. Tia was probably reading in her room (she was always gone to bed early), and Naminé was either trying to figure her homework out, or doodling like she always did before bed.

"The patio would be the best place to go," Roxas said, rather quietly. Axel let Roxas pass him, and the shorter blonde headed towards the sliding screen door in the living room. Axel threw his bag onto the couch, before flipping over the canvas. He reached into the bag and came out with a crinkled pack of half-finished cigarettes. He pulled out one, balancing it between his fingers. Roxas remembered Axel's absence of a lighter, so he added, "There are matches on the barbeque."

Axel nodded, watching as the blonde slid open the door, extremely carefully. He still didn't want to wake anyone up. The automatic light clicked on, and Axel blinked at the sudden luminosity. Turned out the patio was only a large platform of cement sheltered by a hanging-over roof that was surrounded by a small plot of grass. The yellowish spikes that covered the ground were speckled with white. It was still freezing out, and the blonde idly wondered if he should've gotten his coat. An old barbeque stood to the left, where Roxas was picking up the small container of matches, rested on the lid.

The boy passed them to Axel and the red-head accepted them without so much as a word. His hands were still quaking as he accepted the box, Roxas observed. Axel quickly struck a match, lighting the cigarette with practiced ease. The blonde easily saw the slate grey curls of smoke in the cool, winter air.

At the mere scent, Roxas was quickly reminded by his little friend called Addiction that he hadn't had a smoke since earlier in the day. He stared at the haze, slightly fascinated by a simple thing. Axel gave him a sideways look, his lips curling into a smirk around his cigarette. "What?" he mumbled.

"Can I steal a drag?" requested the blonde, with the most offhand voice he could muster. He never carried cigarettes himself, due to the fact that Tia would probably catch him and stalk him to make sure that he didn't smoke. And besides, Hayner always had a pack or six handy, and wasn't stingy.

"I don't know. You wouldn't want to get in trouble with your mommy," quipped the older boy, inhaling on his death stick yet again. Roxas scowled in the darkness.

"She's not my 'mommy' and I'm not the angelic kid you make me up to be," claimed Roxas, quickly growing offended. Because of his close-ness with his adoptive mother, people tended to categorize him as a perfect, model citizen. Nobody took the time to talk to Roxas and figure out that the kid was a pot head who bullshitted his way through most of high school. Most of the time, instead of 'being at soccer practice' like he told Tia, he was smoking weed with Olette and Pence behind the gym.

Axel rolled his eyes, and inhaled yet again. The embers looked like another light in a city like any other, to Roxas. Abruptly, the red head turned and gripped surprisingly strong fingers on the blonde's jaw. Roxas staggered slightly, barely even registering what was going on. Before he even knew it, he found his lips crushed against Axel's in a bizarre imitation of a kiss. Roxas opened his mouth to protest, but was suddenly met with a full blast of cigarette smoke. Oh.

Axel pulled his face away, slowly, a smug grin barely illuminated on his pale face. He could see Roxas trying to frown, but unable to mask the completely shocked expression on his face. "There's your nicotine, angel. Now, get your ass back upstairs. I want to pass out on your couch."

The elder of the two finished his cigarette, before flicking it onto the ground. The embers dyed out within seconds, as the snow drifted onto the crinkled butt. Axel was the first to re-enter the house, and Roxas closed and locked the sliding door behind the both of them. As the blonde closed the gliding blind, Axel arranged the cushions on the old couch. Roxas turned, blinking at the red head. "Do you want any blankets or anything?"

Axel snorted, sending a bit of a cynic look at the younger. "I'll be fine. I assure you." Roxas gritted his teeth, giving Axel a dismissive wave as he headed back up the stairs.

"Fine, whatever. But don't try to wake me up, pleading to cuddle because you're cold. I'm a deep sleeper, and I'm fuckin' grumpy if I don't get enough sleep," assured Roxas. Axel rolled his eyes for the second time, before flopping himself onto the couch.

The floorboards creaked, usually.

But they never shuffled, breathed or stubbed their toes in the dark.

Roxas bolted upright, hand going to his bed-side table to flick on his lamp. Immediately, the room was a dull yellow colour, casting eerie shadows against the wall. The eeriest of shadows, Roxas supposed, was the one that Axel created against his dresser. "What the fuck are you doing in here?" hissed the younger, feeling a little exposed. The LCD clock next to his lamp showed him that it was just after midnight.

Axel blinked back at him, and Roxas noted that his eyes were entirely bloodshot, and his entire body was quivering like a leaf. Axel backed away from the dresser, his neck twisting around in every direction, paranoia overtaking his system. The boy was raking blunt nails against his arms, like it was a second nature, as normal as blinking. "I-I," began the red-head.

Roxas narrowed his eyes in suspicion at the red-head. Either the kid was on some serious drugs, or he was just plain crazy. "You what?"

"I-I…" Axel cut off, his eyes directed to the floor. For a few seconds, Roxas thought he was going to pass out. There was a distanced look in Axel's eyes, but the red-head suddenly crawled forward, to the point where he was almost straddling the blonde's legs. "I need to borrow some money."

Roxas began to grind his teeth. Since the moment he had let Axel walk into his home, he knew that money was some how going to appear into one of their conversations. "Yeah? So what. Everybody needs money, but don't think I'm just going to let you free-load. Fuck, is that why you snuck into my room? To mug me while I slept?"

Axel would've shaken his head, but what Roxas had said was entirely the truth. Despite himself, Axel swallowed all of his lies and gave Roxas the most pleading of looks that he could make. "…Please, Roxas…"

Roxas shook his head, his mussed blonde locks bouncing against his forehead. "No way. I need money, myself. Just because you look like a pathetic coke-head, I'm not giving you any cash," re-stated Roxas, giving Axel a half-assed push. He hadn't meant to be forceful at all, but Axel nearly fell off of the bed.

After a sluggish movement, Axel was back on his hands and knees, pathetic look back in place. With his eyes glued to the bed-spread, Axel mumbled, "Please… I'll… I'll do anything." He raised his face, eyes now locked with Roxas's own. "I mean it. Anything."

Roxas could feel his stomach sink in his chest at the mere intensity of the gaze. For that very moment, Roxas almost believed that Axel's words were true. He would do anything for cash. Perverted suggestions of those things fell into the blonde's brain, but he quickly banished the thoughts. Axel wasn't like that.

"Fine. Fuck. But you have to pay me back," dismissed the younger, throwing his legs off of the bed. In only a pair of boxers, he felt severely underdressed. Axel was still buried in his over-sized sweater, with eyes glued to Roxas's back as he moved. Oddly, the blonde felt like a specimen under study. It was almost as if Axel had never experienced a normal human's reactions to simple requests. Roxas wondered what type of 'friend' Axel had been living with for those four years. The friend was probably a drug addict, or something of the sort.

Roxas returned from his dresser, with two fifty dollar bills crumpled in his fists. He pushed them into Axel's open hand, and hissed a word of warning; "Make this last for as long as you damn can, because I'm not giving you any more until you've paid every cent back."

Axel's blood-shot eyes narrowed, but he gave a nod of agreement. "Y-yeah. I will, as soon as I can."

Roxas shook his head, crawling back under his covers. Axel was already off the bed, creeping back towards the door. "Where are you going, anyway?" asked the blonde. "When'll you be back?"

"I'll be back by morning," was the only information that Roxas got.

It was really the only information he needed. For the moment.

disclaimer: don't own anything.