Chapter Eleven
Open Up My Eager Eyes, 'Cause I'm Mr. Brightside


...I don't even know what I can say. Just…whatever, let's just get to the story.


In the back of my mind, I could still hear the music from Demyx's party by the time I was at the end of the street. But my thoughts were far from the party and even further from where I was actually going. My entire body was on auto-pilot as I continued down the sidewalk.

Was this really happening? Had I really just walked in on the guy I was going to ask out making out with a girl I can't stand? I couldn't understand it; it had been the perfect plan.

In another corner of my mind I could hear both Kairi and Hayner scolding me about running out of time. Guess they were right, I waited too long. This was entirely my own fault, somehow.

…no. No, fuck that, not all of this was my fault. Axel's the one who's back at Demyx's making out with Larxene and probably copping a feel of her flat chest. Axel's the one who sent me mixed signals for like, two months. Axel's the one who started kissing me first and got me involved in this whole mess in the first place.

"Fuck!" A scream brought me out of my daze, and then I realized the sound had come from me. I stopped walking then, turning to look at my surroundings.

Apparently, even my subconscious knew I needed my best friend right then. Okay, that's fine. Problem was Kairi was still back at the party and probably wouldn't be home for hours, if at all. After all, she was so close to Demyx now.

"Fuck," I repeated and stomped up the walkway to her front porch, flopping down on the porch swing her dad put up four summers ago. Leaning my head against the back of the swing, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, willing myself to calm down before doing anything rash. Reaching into my pocket, I found my phone but I also found my iPod. Slipping the earbuds in and turning it on, I scrolled through all of the artists to find something suitable for my mood. It didn't take long for my mind to wander and stop on Panic at the Disco.

Apparently, even my subconscious knew I couldn't run away from Axel. Damnit.

And so, that's what I did for the next four or so hours; sat on the porch swing in front of Kairi's house and pushed myself back and forward while listening to my iPod and waiting for her to come home. I guess it was about 1:30 in the morning when I heard a car pull up in front of the house. Riku's car, in fact. Lifting my head a bit I watched Kairi climb out of the back seat and wave at Riku and my cousin before the car disappeared from the curb. I didn't bother taking out my headphones or even saying anything; I just sat in the dark waiting to see what would happen. Kairi came up to the front door and started digging in her purse for her keys, glancing to the side a bit as she did so. That's about the time she spotted me and jumped.

"Roxas!" She forgot about her keys and immediately sat down next to me. I still didn't say anything and let the music play. She took the hint and reached for one of the earbuds, pulling it out and listening to Brendon Urie scream about shotgun weddings and photo ops and how boys will be boys.

No shit.

"Roxas. How long have you been out here? I tried calling you like 20 times." She reached around and pulled out the other earbud.

Missed calls? Reaching into my pocket and unearthing my phone, I unlocked it and looked at the display screen.

21 missed calls; 18 from Kairi and three from Sora.

"Oh. Guess it was on vibrate," I replied and shoved the phone back into my pocket, attempting to grab my headphones from Kairi's hand. She quickly moved them out of the way though and out of my reach. We went through this sometimes; I'd be in a shitty mood and would want to block out the entire world with my headphones and Kairi wouldn't allow it. I should have been grateful but right now? Right now I was just pissed and wanted my headphones back.

"Why did you leave the party?" she asked, keeping the headphones out of my reach still.

"It doesn't matter. Give me my headphones."

"Stop lying to me. Why did you leave?"

"It. Doesn't. Matter."

"No. It does matter and you're not leaving or getting your headphones back until I get a straight answer. Everybody noticed you were gone and nobody could figure out where you went or why you left."

"…you really want to know why?"

"Yes."

"Because I am a huge tool and I left before I made myself look like a complete ass, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear, Kairi?" She fell into silence then. Good. I felt better about it after that but I knew it wouldn't last long.

"Wanna explain that one to me, or should I come up with my own assumptions?"

"We were wrong."

"About?"

"What do you think? He didn't want me."

"…that doesn't make any sense though. Are you sur-"

"Kairi when a boy you like is busy making out with a girl, that's pretty much a neon sign saying he wants nothing to do with you."

In retrospect, the look on Kairi's face from that revelation was actually pretty funny. It kind of went from being overconfident I was wrong to confusion to shock and settling finally on sympathetic.

"No way…"

"Larxene, in the kitchen, wish I had a lead pipe." I shrugged and finally gave up trying to grab my headphones back. I didn't care at that point anymore. I was just exhausted from the whole thing and none of it really mattered anymore.

"…c'mon, get up. You're spending the night," Kairi decided for me and grabbed my arm, pulling me up from my seat on the swing and finally unlocking the front door of her house. Closing and relocking the door, we made our way up the stairs and into her bedroom while Kairi shut the door and turned on the light.

"I really wish you had just told me what happened instead of running away. You really had me worried," she said from inside her closet, tossing a pair of my pajama pants and a shirt out at me.

…what? We always keep spares around each other's house.

"Yeah well at that point I really just wanted to bail. I don't even know how I ended up at your house instead of mine other than pure fate."

"Fate?"

"Fate," I repeated, pulling off my shirt and changing into my pajamas. "Can we just not talk about it?"

"No, we have to talk about it." She walked out of her closet already dressed in her own pajamas, sitting on the bed and waiting for me. "If we don't, you're just going to do that thing you always do."

"Which thing?"

"That thing you do where you hold everything inside before you freak out and explode, usually involving violence and/or music."

"…I don't know if I'm really up for it right now."

"That's fine. That's common in people who've just had their heart broken."

"…'people who've just had their heart broken'? Sorry Kai, hate to be the bearer of bad news but I don't think I actually have a heart to break." Sitting on the bed next to her and burrowing under the covers, the only thing I left available to see was probably the top of my hair. Maybe my eyes, I dunno.

"Don't be dumb. Everybody has a heart."

"Nope. Do not. Don't have a heart, can't possibly be heartbroken."

"…see now you're just doing that other thing," Kairi sighed and reached over to turn out the light, sending us into pitch black.

"Which thing?" I asked, removing some of the suffocating lavender bedding and laying flat on my back, staring up at her ceiling.

"That thing you do where you try to convince yourself that you're invincible and you can't feel anything. You only do that on rare occasions of course, but this is one of them."

"I have no idea what you're even talking about."

"…you did it when your dad left. You did it every time your dad failed to keep his promises. You did it that summer we thought I was going to move to Radiant Garden. And you're doing it now. Why can't you just admit that yes, you do have emotions and yes you do have a heart and it's hurting right now?" Kairi ended her long-winded explanation and curled up next to me, propped up on her side to look at me.

"Because…isn't heartbreak something you're supposed to feel? Like that gross twisting agony gonna-rip-open-the-chest-cavity kind of thing? Yeah I don't feel that."

"Do you feel anything?"

"…not really. Numb maybe. Mostly pissed."

"At?"

"Myself. Can we talk later? I just want to pretend this whole thing never even happened."

"There has to be a reason he was kissing Larxene…"

"Kairi, just leave it alone. It doesn't matter what the reason was, the fact is he was, even after saying how he'd basically be my date for Dem's party. And speaking of Dam and date, I'm surprised you didn't stay at his place for the night. I mean it's your boyfriend's birthday."

She went quiet again, resting her head on my chest and looking out the bedroom window. Then she did something kind of unusual for Kairi, bringing a hand up to my cheek and tracing her thumb along my jaw.

"Maybe it is my boyfriend's birthday, but I think the fact that my best friend's upset is a little more important. Besides, Demyx understands."

"How can he? You guys are dating…isn't that a little more important than me being a pussy and leaving?"

"He just does. I'm grateful for that. The thing is, no matter whom I meet in my life or whom I'm dating at the time they're not going to be more important to me than you are, okay? Accept that for what it is. There's no one more precious to me than you are."

"…yeah?" I tilted my head to look at her again. She nodded but remained silent, waiting for me to make the next move. Pulling her closer, that was about all I could do at the moment. Even if I'd tried saying anything, words wouldn't have been able to justify how lucky I felt to know she'd continue putting up with my sorry ass no matter what. Her eyes had closed, but I knew she was still awake and just listening to me.

"Kairi."

"Mmh?" Wrapping the covers around us tighter, she cracked one eye open to watch. Rolling over onto my side and making myself more comfortable, I moved even closer.

"…I want to know you all my life," I whispered into her ear.

That was the last thing said that night, but I think that was about all that needed to be said anyway.


I snuck out of Kairi's house around 6:30 that morning while she was still sleeping, quietly making my way out of the Harada house and back to my original spot on the porch. That was about the point I got stuck on what I was going to do next. Reaching into the pocket of my jeans and grabbing my iPod (that Kairi eventually gave back, thankfully), I slipped my headphones on and scrolled through the playlists. Eventually selecting something, I looked out to the sidewalk and then up to the sky.

Now if this was a perfect story it would have been a rainy day with big dark grey clouds, maybe with a little lightning and thunder. Then at least the weather would have matched my mood.

But of course…what's the lesson we've learned here? Right; it's not a perfect story. It's a true story. And in this true story wouldn't you know it, the damn sun was shining as bright as ever as it was just starting to rise.

Stepping off of Kairi's front porch I started making my way back to my own house, listening to the music from the headphones and keeping my mind fixated on that instead of whatever else my brain was going to think of. I've come to find that my mind's actually a pretty scary thing, really.

The walk home from Kairi's house was way too short and I found myself standing out front on the steps leading up to my front door. Hand hovering over the doorknob, I looked up at my bedroom window first. The window was still closed tight.

I let go of the door and walked away, leaving my house behind and quickly turning the corner.

It didn't take long for me to reach my final destination and the next thing I knew, I was climbing up a drainpipe and walking on an overhang of the first story of a house, crawling to the first window on the left of the second floor. Pushing the window open, I didn't even bother looking as I tumbled head-first into the room, landing on the bed right in my spot next to Hayner.

What I wasn't expecting was for him to be awake and staring straight at me.

"You're only a few hours later than I expected." He scooted over to give me some more room, propping his head up on a hand. "Did you just leave Kairi's?"

"…how did you-"

"After knowing somebody for roughly 12…13 years, you start picking up on their habits. So what happened?"

"…"

I knew it'd be pretty pointless trying to hide the truth from Hayner. Unlike Kairi who just stares at me and makes me feel guilty, Hayner tends to get violent if I don't give him answers and right now I wasn't really in the mood to get the shit beat out of me.

"Well?" he prodded again.

"Axel's more interested in hooking up with Larxene than dating me apparently. So as soon as I saw him kissing her in the kitchen of Demyx's house I left the party. I realized I fucked up and I ran away."

Hayner didn't say anything for a moment, giving me a skeptical stare like he was trying to decide if he really wanted to believe what I had just said. I guess it was the fact that I remained unblinking and motionless that made him realize I wasn't fucking around and indeed I was still pissed.

"Go back to sleep. It's too early for this shit." He pulled a blanket over me and flopped down on his stomach, waiting for me to do the same thing. "We're going to sleep until my alarm goes off and then we're going to do something to take your mind off this shit, 'kay?"

"What're we going to do?"

"Trust me, I know how to fix everything." And with that he closed his eyes and went to sleep. Soon after I followed his example and everything was quiet in the room.

Neither of us woke up until about noon when Hayner's alarm went off and he pushed it off the desk to shut it off. Hayner got out of bed and opened his dresser, throwing a shirt and a pair of boxers at me.

"Get dressed, we're gonna go."

"Where are we going?" I asked, sitting up in his bed slightly disoriented from my nap.

"You'll see. Just get dressed," Hayner repeated and began stripping out of the clothes he was wearing. We finished getting dressed and Hayner was already busy putting shoes on.

"Dude do you still have a spare toothbrush?"

"No time, here just chew some Orbit." He threw the pack of gum into my hands and ran a hand through his hair, chewing on his own piece.

"Where are we going?" Hayner just shook his head and grabbed my wrist, dragging me down the stairs and into the front hall. He opened the closet door and pulled out two skateboards.

"Let's go." Tossing one of them at me and opening the front door, he dropped his board on the ground and began rolling away. Shutting the front door behind me and dropping my own skateboard, I quickly followed after him knowing exactly where he was going.


There's this place in town that's kind of isolated from everywhere else, maybe a few blocks away from the school. A few of us kids, we used it as our own personal skate park. Hayner and I spent the next four hours just skating around, practicing tricks and blowing off steam more than anything. We ended up lying at the bottom of the half-pipe after those hours, watching the other few kids that were there disappear from sight. Hayner didn't say anything at first, not wanting to break the feeling of satisfaction both of us had at that moment. The problem is, Hayner isn't one to keep his mouth shut for very long.

"So…you ran away instead of fighting for what you wanted. Is that really what you want me to be assuming?"

"Well when you say it like that, you make it sound like such a bad thing…"

"That's because it is a bad thing, Rox. What are you doing running away? That's not the Roxas I know."

"…really." I raised an eyebrow, interested in this sudden fact. "And what would the Roxas you know do?"

"He'd fight for what he wanted and he wouldn't let little things get in his way."

"You wanna hear something funny?"

"Huh?"

"The Roxas you know and the Roxas I know and the Roxas everybody else knows are all completely different people."

Hayner considered this for, oh, maybe about five seconds before he sat up and got to his feet pulling me with him. Grabbing his skateboard and barely giving me time to grab the other one, he dragged me down the street by the wrist and into a convenience store on the corner right outside the school. He pulled me inside and bought two ice cream bars, continuing to drag me around until we stopped in front of the school building and hopped up onto the stone wall sign thing outside. I like ice cream as much as the next person but really, it was January. Granted, we're on an island so it's not that cold but it's not as refreshing as if it had been warmer. But I wasn't going to argue because this was routine for me and Hayner; ice cream on the brick wall. Hayner immediately bit into his ice cream though, rolling it around with his tongue in thought before looking at me again.

"I think you're wrong, you know."

"About?" I asked, taking a tentative lick of my own ice cream.

"The Roxas I know being different than the Roxas you know who's different from the Roxas everyone else knows."

"All right, smart guy. What do you think then?"

"Honestly? I think you're taking the easy way out because for once in your life you don't know what you're supposed to do. You spend too much time planning things trying to make them perfect, and you're not used to things not working out how you want them to so when something like this happens, you freak. Don't even deny it, just shut up, say I'm right, and eat your ice cream."

"With as much planning as I actually do, I wonder why I never plan for failure."

"Roxas it's not the end of the world okay? Axel's just being a douchebag, maybe he'll come around."

"The problem with Larxene is even though she's a huge bitch, she's actually pretty cute. And somehow I have a feeling who she is around me isn't who she is around Axel. He said that he's known her for a while, longer than me anyway. There has to be some reason he keeps going back to her right?"

"Look," Hayner cut me off, pointing at me with his ice cream bar. "Forget about Larxene. Forget about the fact that Axel was kissing her. This isn't about Larxene, this is about you and this is about Axel and this is about the fact that you're giving up way too easy and you know that you're going to keep beating yourself up until you actually do something, so why are you sitting here feeling sorry for yourself, Roxas? Fight back. You have to just keep acting normal like nothing's wrong and find out why the fuck he blew you off, okay?"

"It's not that easy, Hayner! You have no idea what this is actually like." Shoving his ice cream away from my face, I realized I possibly (probably) was overreacting but I was annoyed and upset, damn it. Couldn't he see I just wanted to wallow in peace?

Instead, he just snorted. "Don't try it. I go through it on a monthly basis."

"…what're you talking about?"

"Olette. At least once or twice a month she blows off plans with me because she's got a date with some guy. And then to add insult to injury she'll call me and tell me about how well it went because 'you're such a good friend, Hayner. I know I can talk to you about anything'. So, before you go on your tirade about nobody understanding rejection, look around."

…all right, so maybe I was being a little self-centered. Oops.

"It really bothers you that she doesn't know you're in love with her, doesn't it?"

"No, it bothers me that when we say 'I love you' on the phone at night, only one of us means it. See this is why I settle for just hooking up with people. No strings attached and it's a lot easier to understand. But I know you. You would never go for that."

"What makes you say that?"

"Because you, Roxas, are the type that wants to find The One and that's just it. You won't even settle for browsing, you want your happy ending and your princess…or prince too. Simple as that."

"You really think I think Axel's my 'prince'?"

Hayner just shook his head and gave me a wry grin. "Why else would you be this upset?"

"Does that make Olette your princess?"

"This isn't about me and 'Lette. This is still about you and Axel. Are you really willing to let him walk out of your life without a fair fight?"

I took another bite of my ice cream and stared at my knees, giving this some actual thought. It was January now. This whole crazy mess started in August. The guy drove me crazy. I couldn't picture my life without him. I couldn't walk away. I became too attached.

"…no. No, I'm not."

Hayner pulled the ice cream stick out of his mouth and smirked at me. "Then you've got a lot of work ahead of you."


I didn't actually get home to my own house until about ten that evening. Hayner and I were going to keep hanging out that night but he got called in to help at work. The restaurant he works at gets busy on Saturdays; it wasn't the first time that happened.

As expected, my mom and my aunt were already in their own bedrooms sleeping. Not as expected though, Sora was sitting at my desk when I walked into my room playing solitaire on my computer.

"…what are you doing?" I asked, closing the door behind me.

He turned his head slightly and shrugged, clicking the mouse again to move a card. "Solitaire. I think I'm about to win this game."

"No, I mean what are you doing here in my room? Why aren't you playing solitaire in your own room?"

"It's ten," he replied, completely ignoring my questions.

"Yeah. It is. What's your point?"

"Where have you been all day?"

"With Hayner. Come on, Sora, stop trying to be the adult and get out of my room."

"I can interrogate you as much as I want when I get a phone call from Kairi asking if I knew where you were. She was worried about you, and so was I."

"Then why didn't either of you think to call me?" Sitting on my bed, I dug through my pockets to find my phone.

"We did." Sora closed his game and turned the chair around to face me, pulling a leg up and resting his chin on his knee. "Kairi said that you didn't hear it last night when we called either. Vibrate?"

"…I guess." I looked at my phone. He wasn't kidding, he and Kairi did call about three times each. What was with me and my phone lately? What else was I missing?

"…can we talk?" Sora changed the subject again.

"If I say no, will you leave?"

"Probably not. Try it."

"Sora, I'm really not in the mood to talk right now."

"Oh well. What's going on? You left the party yesterday really early without saying anything and then I couldn't get a hold of you. Kairi said she found you at her house when we dropped her off but then you still didn't come home."

"…did Mom or Aunt Seiya ask where I was?"

"I covered and said you were at Dem's still going over music stuff."

"…thanks." I'm not sure why I was so surprised that Sora covered for me; he always does whenever I do something my Mom or Aunt Seiya would be pissed about, but for some reason this was different.

"Yeah. But seriously, what's going on? You've been acting really weird all week and now you're pulling this kind of stuff. What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."

Liar.

"Don't even try that, I can tell something's wrong, Roxas. What is it?"

"It doesn't matter, it's not a big deal."

It's a monsterous deal.

"I don't care, I just want to know what's going on."

"Sora, shut up. Get out of my room."

"I'm not leaving until you tell me."

"Leave. Now."

I couldn't tell him yet, but he was threading on dangerous territory.

"Make me. Just talk to me already!"

"It's none of your business, okay? Get the fuck out of my room!" I finally snapped, successfully sending Sora into silence. He stared at me briefly, as though trying to decide if I really had yelled at him, before he got up from the desk and crossed the room heading out through the door. It was about then my brain caught up with my mouth.

"Sora. Sora, come back, I'm sorry!" I scrambled off of the bed and chased after him to his room. He immediately slammed the door in my face and locked it behind him.

Sora only locks his door when he's incredibly pissed.

"Damn it," I heard myself sigh. Going back to my own bedroom, I shut the door and flopped on my bed again, burying my face in my pillow.

My life had officially gone from bad to worse, and really, it was all my own fault. That's what made it so perfect. I (so far) lost the guy I really liked, my two best friends were subtly disappointed with me running from the scene, and now I just made my cousin mad on top of everything else. My life was going swimmingly. Really.

Shit.


I wasn't sure how long I had been laying with my face on my pillow, but when I finally sat up I realized it was still very early morning, maybe a little past midnight. Getting up from the bed, I walked to the door and headed out into the hallway…

…where I was greeted with a house that wasn't mine.

It was about then I clued in that I was dreaming. Does anybody else do that or is it just me? Like…you know you're dreaming because things suddenly stop making sense, but you don't want to wake up because everything's more fascinating in the dream world? No? Okay so ignore what I'm talking about.

Anyway I stepped out of my room and I found myself in a foyer of a large house, marble floors, pillars, the works. About that point, I looked myself over.

I wasn't wearing a blazer when I went to bed, but you can bet that I was now. And a tie, and even a bowler hat.

"What the fuck?" I wandered through the foyer carefully, keeping an eye out for anything that could potentially kill me. Then I remembered I was in a dream; you can't die in dreams. Approaching a set of doors, I pushed my way through and entered a room with white walls, white floors, and a tall chair with a black-cloaked figure sitting on that chair with his hood pulled up and a guitar in his lap. I didn't know what I was doing, it was another case in which my body was on auto-pilot and I was just going along with it as my feet carried me forward to stop in front of the chair and look up at the man in it.

"How do I find the answer?" I felt myself saying, but no words came out. White letters formed in front of me instead and the figure grinned from under his hood as he read, not even looking up from the guitar.

"Keep looking. He's the key." Letters replaced an actual voice and a hand pointed to another door. Watching the man play the guitar without sound only kept me entertained for so long before I followed his advice and headed for the other door. Opening it, I found myself in the same foyer I was in before I walked through the double doors. The same doors were in front of me again but instead there was another boy in front of the doors, dressed in the same outfit I was, despite that the tie was replaced with a set of dog tags.

"What are you looking for?" More letters, less words.

"I want to find the key."

"Be careful; you just might get it." Before I could even blink, he had teleported behind me and held out a hand to force the doors open, pushing me through with the other. Falling head-first down a dark tunnel was possibly the most normal part of this dream so far. Landing in another white room I found myself in front of a long white table with two girls sitting behind it, white dresses on each of them, one blond and one redhead.

"Do you know what you want?" The redhead spoke first, blue eyes staring blankly.

"I want the answer."

"What will you do to achieve it?" The blond spoke next, pencil in her hand quickly scratching against the pad of paper on the table.

"Anything." The girls exchanged looks and the blond held up the pad of paper. The redhead moved her hands in a way to make the page bigger, the first step of the spiral staircase at my feet.

"Tread lightly," they said together and the redhead moved her hand again, forcing me to jump onto the stairs. Breaking into a run, I followed the spiral stairs up and higher through the house until I reached another door. Pushing through it, I found myself in a long hallway and a door at the very end. Walking slowly, I almost reached the door before I felt more than anything a pair of eyes. Turning again revealed that I was right; a tall red-haired man stood back in the place I had once stood dressed in a black cloak similar to the guitar player.

"What will you fight for?" he asked, letters appearing before me.

"Everything."

"How?"

"I'll find the key."

"What if it's not worth it?" He made a vague hand gesture, green eyes narrowed and fixated on me.

"…it's worth it. How do I find the key?"

"It's closer than you think." He grinned and waved his hand, creating a black portal which he stepped into and disappeared, leaving me alone with the door in front of me. Slowly the door swung open and I stepped inside.

I was greeted with a giant egg-shaped bubble with two bodies resting inside. Pressing my face against the glass, it was then I realized that one was Sora; the other was me. Leaning in a little closer, I tried to make sense of how we were keys but I never found out. The glass gave way and I fell through, tumbling back down the dark tunnel and effectively jolting myself awake.

The first thing after I woke up was checked if I was in my normal clothes. Second thing was to check the time.

"A little past one," I murmured to myself, rubbing my temples with my fingers. "Weird dream." Maybe I should consider waking up long before the strange parts of my dreams start happening. What was that all about anyway? Black cloaks, white rooms, Demyx, Hayner, Kairi, Naminé, Axel…Sora?

"…Sora." Crawling to the foot of my bed I jumped into my desk chair and woke my computer up as well.

I think I understood what I needed to do.

Once my computer was running, I signed into my AIM and just hoped Sora was still signed in. If I strained hard enough, I could hear him typing from his room. My list loaded and I scanned over it quickly before double-clicking on the name CrownNecklace.

Sora, I know you're there.

Auto response from CrownNecklace: Go away, Roxas.

…ouch. I admit, I probably deserved that though.

Sora, please? I really need to talk to you about something.

what, Roxas?

This isn't something I can type to you. Is your door unlocked?

Maybe.

Sign off.

I closed the message window and walked away from my desk, leaving my room and lightly knocking on Sora's door before letting myself in. Sora was sitting at his own desk this time, typing something out to…somebody before he minimized the window and turned to give me his attention. He still didn't look too happy with me, but at least his door was unlocked. It was a step in the right direction.

"…first of all, I'm sorry I got worked up about, well, nothing really."

"Are you at least going to tell me what's with the bipolar syndrome?" Sora shot back, leaning back in his chair.

"…yeah. I am. But it's going to take a little while. This isn't exactly a simple story."

"Oh?" Every trace of irritation soon erased itself from Sora's face. "I have time, it's only one in the morning on a Saturday night. What is it?"

"Don't rush me okay? This really isn't easy."

"Like I said, I've got time."

"Okay…"

It was now or never.

"So. I had this dream a few minutes ago that I was like, in a The Used video and everybody was in it. I just woke up and I figured out that what the dream meant was that I needed to stop being a pussy and just tell you what's been going on in my life. So, that's what I'm going to do. I'm gonna man up and I'm going to be honest and-"

"Are you going to actually tell me, or are you going to stall?" Sora sat up again, leaning his elbows on his knees.

"I'm getting there! Fine, so you know what? You were right."

"About?"

"What you said at Christmas. I am seeing somebody. Well, was anyway."

"I know. The thing I don't know is who she is."

"…that would be because…well, it's not a girl," I said as quickly as I could, half-hoping that Sora didn't even hear what I said. Judging by the look on his face though, he heard me loud and clear.

"What."

"…surprise, I'm bisexual?"

"No wait what? I mean I've thought about the possibility but I never really thought you'd say it was true."

"You've thought about this?"

"Why wouldn't I? Roxas, we're practically twins; we're psychologically linked."

All right. All right. So this was turning out to be a lot easier than I had originally anticipated. Sora already knew, sort of. That at least took some of the weight off of my shoulders.

"So, you're bisexual and you've been going out with Axel. What else is there to tell me?" he continued.

"Whoa! Who said anything about going out with Axel?"

Way to catch me off-guard, Sora.

"Please. You really thought I didn't see his car come and pick you up? And you really thought I didn't hear you talking to him on the phone? And you really thought I didn't notice the way you two act around each other? Give me some credit here, I'm not completely oblivious. I'm nice though; that's why I never called you on it. I wanted to wait and see if you'd approach me on it on your own. And now that you did, I don't have to pretend to be blind."

"…you haven't told anybody, have you?"

"No. I thought you should do that on your own. It's not easy, you've got a point. I just thought you could trust me."

"I do trust you, that's why I'm telling you about what happened last night."

"…go on."

At least he shut up.

"Well, I had already decided that I was going to officially ask him out at Demyx's party. We had made plans to meet up in his room away from everybody else and I was going to do it then. As it turns out, we got to the party and when I found him, he was in the kitchen kissing somebody that wasn't me. That was my first and only clue I needed to realize he wasn't being serious."

"Who was he kissing?"

"Doesn't matter, just know it wasn't me."

"And now you're mad at him and mad at yourself."

"Does everybody know?"

"No, but the people that know you best can read you very easily. Such as me. And Kairi. If I told you things will work out, would you believe me?" Sora got up from his chair and joined me on his bed.

"Probably not. What am I supposed to do, Sora? I virtually just wasted three months of my time acknowledging that I liked this guy and trying to do something about it, five if you count wasting my time hating him when I first met him. And the thing is, I probably still like him anyway but I just…fuck."

"You're pissed off. Teenage angst looks fabulous on you, Roxas, that's the problem. It's almost not abnormal for you to be emotionally closed off from the world so now that you're having to deal with this, it sucks. I think you still like him too though. So what are you going to do?"

"Hayner said to just pretend that nothing's wrong and make him realize he messed up."

"He might be right. But think about it this way. You still have all day tomorrow without Axel to regroup and feel better before school. Tomorrow we've got band practice. Tomorrow's another day. But for now, you and I are going to sleep because you look tired from thinking about this too much and I'm tired from looking for your dumb ass all day today." Sora lightly punched my shoulder and settled on his side on the bed.

"…you don't mind if…"

"Lay down before I change my mind. Emotional upset; you have it. Having somebody you like disappoint you is never easy."

"What do you know about that?"

Sora didn't answer me for the longest time after that, shifting on his side of the bed and closing his eyes. The two of us laid on our sides on Sora's bed, staring at opposite walls.

"Later, okay?"

And that was the last thing either of us said that night.


I woke up a lot earlier than Sora did, which gave me plenty of time to think about the advice I received from the three people that mattered most. With that advice in mind, I slipped out of Sora's bed and back to my own room to grab my music notebook and frantically scribble lyric after lyric after lyric. I wrote for a solid twenty minutes and when I looked at the paper, I realized that no, it wasn't a love song but it sure made me feel a lot better. Grabbing my bass I headed downstairs with my notebook and walked outside. There was only one place I could go that would allow me to work in peace without interrupting anybody, and more importantly, without anybody interrupting me. Making my way to the edge of town, I untied one of the rowboats and made my way out to the play island. Tying the boat to the dock and walking across the sand, I climbed up onto Riku's island and sat on the giant paopu tree that was growing there. You know, that same one where I first started to clue in that maybe I didn't want to push Axel away. Stretching myself out I held my guitar in my lap and started playing around with some chords that could match the lyrics I had just written. Holding the notebook again, I re-read the words on the paper and thought to myself how they would be sung. It made things easier.

"I should warn you things you're feeling, aren't normal now. Think you need me, it's not easy, let you go some how. Now we're too far gone, hope is such a waste, every breath you take you give me the burdens bitter taste. You promise that you'd stay, you say you want to go, your lips provide a shelter for the things that I don't know. Please speak slowly, my heart is learning, teach me heart-ache, stop this burning now…"

Flipping to a new page, I jotted down a line of music and attempted to play it. Followed by another, and followed by another. Flipping back to the other page with the lyrics, I read over them while playing the music I just wrote.

"Wishful thinking, patience shrinking, bliss is far away. North is calling, now I'm falling, at your feet please stay. Now we're too far gone, hope is such a waste, every breath you take you give me the burdens bitter taste. You promise that you'd stay, you say you want to go, your lips provide a shelter for the things that I don't know. Please speak slowly, my heart is learning, teach me heart-ache, stop this burning now…"

I could make it work.

I spent hours out on that island just writing songs and playing music with only the fish and seagulls to keep me company. I felt better. Sora was right, tomorrow was another day and today was a day that I was allowing myself to channel everything negative into something with somewhat positive feedback, i.e, a song. Or rather, a bunch of songs. By the time noon rolled around I had three completed songs in my notebook. I was pretty proud of myself and I was in the middle of celebrating such progress when I realized it was noon. I needed to get back for practice with my band.

By the time I actually got back to the main island and back to my house, Demyx and Sora were sitting in the living room waiting for me.

"Hey, we were just about to call you," Demyx said as a greeting, tuning his guitar while chewing on some gum.

"Sorry, I was out for a while. Ready to get started?"

"Even if we said no you'd make us start anyway." Sora got up from his seat on the couch, handing me a half-empty can of soda before heading upstairs, Demyx and me following right after. Taking a drink from the can, I took out my notebook again and took my bass off of my back, flipping through the pages until I got to the new section I had written. Entering Sora's room, I sat on the bed while Sora occupied his drum stool and Demyx sat at Sora's desk with his guitar still. The two of them stared at me expectantly, but neither of them actually said anything.

"So. I actually got some stuff written today that didn't turn out half-bad. I sort of want your opinion on all of it before we do anything else."

"What kind of stuff?" Demyx asked as he popped his gum, actually giving me his full attention. Believe me, it's a pretty big feat for Demyx.

"…call 'em love songs." Grabbing my bass I turned another page and played the first part of the first song I wrote that day. I was secretly calling it "We're Too Far Gone" in my head, but they didn't need to know it had a name. After finishing the first chorus, I stopped and flipped to another page to play a section from another song I wrote that day.

"I already wrote your music parts for this one. Here, look these over." Tearing out the next few sheets of paper and handing them over, I flipped to another page for my own music and lyrics. Giving them enough time to scan over the music I waited until Demyx started playing and waited two eight-counts before filling in with the vocals.

"Coming out of my cage and I've been doin' just fine, gotta gotta be down because I want it all. It started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this, it was only a kiss, it was only a kiss. Now I'm falling asleep and she's calling a cab while he's having a smoke and she's taking a drag, now they're going to bed and my stomach is sick and it's all in my head, but she's touching his chest now, he takes off her dress now , let me go. And I just can't look, it's killing me, and taking control. Jealousy, turning saints into the sea, swimming through sick lullabies, choking on your alibis, but it's just the price I pay, destiny is calling me, open up my eager eyes, 'cause I'm Mr. Brightside…"

I stopped right there and Sora and Demyx stopped playing as well, waiting for me to continue. When I didn't though, they figured out that I was waiting for critique. Demyx hesitated for a moment, trying to think of something to say but Sora just shook his head and started talking.

"Dude I thought you said these were love songs," he blurted out.

"They are, just not in the way that most people would say. Who said that love songs have to be completely happy and perky? Love sometimes sucks and well, you write about it and it sucks less."

"You sound really emo right now," Demyx chimed in.

Thanks for that insight, Demyx.

However after that explanation, something registered in Sora's mind and it clicked just what I was talking about. After that, he shut his mouth and just smiled lightly.

"He's right, but they are good songs for what it's worth. Save those, we'll keep them."

"Did you have any more?" Demyx, on the other hand, remained as oblivious as ever.

"Just one about the tragedy and bloodshed of a lov-"

That was about the time a pillow hit my face and we stopped being serious.


After a lot of discussion and tweaking, we decided to keep "Too Far Gone" and "Mr. Brightside" as part of any playlist we might have needed. Demyx didn't catch on to what was going on and Sora didn't mention it again, knowing it was better to just let me come to him instead of pestering it out of me like usual. Monday morning came a lot faster than I wanted it to and as soon as my alarm went off, I knew this was the day I had to put on my game-face and be the best damn actor I could possibly be. I entered the school building with my head held high and a thin smile on my face heading straight for my locker.

…and then I saw Axel coming straight at me from the other end of the hallway and ducked into the yearbook staff room. Kairi was already there waiting for me with everything I'd need between now and lunch.

"He's been hanging out in the hall for the past twenty minutes waiting for you," she explained as she passed me my books. "Maybe you should reconsider this whole 'ignore him forever' strategy."

"I could, you're right. Thing is I don't want to right now because I'm still pissed about this weekend. He can just keep waiting; I did." I sat down at my workstation and dumped my books into my backpack. Working on bringing my computer out of hibernation I didn't even realize Kairi was standing back at the door watching through the small window.

"I don't know, Roxas. He looks pretty pathetic," she commented before turning away from the door and facing me again. "Besides, you didn't really wait for anything. You kept putting everything off and being overly-cautious."

"Since when is being cautious a bad thing?"

"You can't really do that when it comes to stuff like this. It doesn't work because things end up li-"

"Like what happened to me. Is that what you were going to say?" I probably said that a little more sharply than I meant to but hey, it was still a touchy subject okay?

"Yes. Roxas can't you just-"

"No." Abruptly ending the conversation and pulled my headphones out of my pocket and popped them into my ears, effectively tuning Kairi out along with that nagging voice at the back of my head…which also sounded like Kairi.

I really needed to fix the whole "my conscience sounds like a 17-year-old girl" thing. It was starting to mess with me.

The rest of the day I did my best to avoid confrontation with what happened last weekend. Riku gave me a few strange looks, and I'm not sure if it's because of my weird behavior on Friday or because Sora told him about the bisexuality thing. Thinking it over, I came to the conclusion that no, Riku's just stupid sometimes and Sora wouldn't tell. Demyx and Selphie were talkative as ever and completely oblivious still, which was nice because I'm not sure how I could have bothered to cover with them. Unlike Kairi and Sora, Demyx and Selphie don't know when to take a hint most of the time.

And then, of course, there was Axel. I had done a fantastic job avoiding him thus far. Sora and Kairi always had my back, making sure to sit on either side of me in any class I shared with all of them and at lunch he didn't even show up to sit at our table.

Problem was, I forgot to take sixth period into account for AP English. That class, I didn't have any back-up and I was entirely on my own. So what did I do?

I did the chicken shit move; I waited until right before the bell rang and slipped into the room unnoticed, taking a seat as far away from him as possible. Sure I felt a little bad when I saw the look on his face, but at the time? It felt pretty damn justified.

This went on all week actually. Sora and Kairi gave me the back-up I needed, I stayed away from Axel, avoided him at all costs, and ignored all of the text messages he sent me. He never bothered to call, and I stayed off of AIM so he couldn't IM me. The rest of my friends either were silent about the whole thing or didn't even notice I was acting any different. I went through four play rehearsals with Selphie blabbering in my ear about how much she hated anatomy because they were dissecting pigs or something, I don't even know. Maybe I should actually listen to her some time. This…just wasn't the time.

So it was on a Thursday that things in my safe little bubble were disrupted. I got home from rehearsal Thursday night and immediately went upstairs to drop off my bag and shower before dinner.

Except, you know, Sora was being nosy again and hanging out at my desk playing solitaire on my computer. Again.

"What're you doing now?"

"Solitaire," he answered, minimizing the game and gesturing for me to close the door. "I have a proposition for you."

"Proposition? I'm listening." Closing the door and dropping my backpack on the floor, I sat on the bed and waited.

"So here's the thing. We know you're avoiding Axel and you're still upset about last weekend."

"Who's we?"

"Me and Kairi. Just listen. Anyway, we know you're upset and you don't want to see him and on and on and on. So, I think I came up with the perfect distraction. As I'm sure you're well aware by now, it's a three-day weekend starting after school tomorrow, so really it's more like a three and a half day weekend except we wouldn't be able to leave until Saturday morning but it's still something and it'd just be good to get away from everybody for a while. So, we were thinking that Saturday morning you, me, Riku, and Kairi could head up to Twilight Town to go snowboarding for the weekend. Cloud already said that we could just crash at their place and Mom and Aunt Kia agreed too, so actually it's really just you that we're waiting on. What do you think?"

"…Twilight Town?" I repeated. Then I actually thought about it. What was I going to do here, just sit and wallow in my own self-misery while knowing that Axel lived within walking distance? No way. "Sure."

"Oh come on, Rox, it'll be re-…wait, did you just say yes?"

"No, I said sure."

"Same thing." Sora rolled his eyes and threw a pen at me. "I didn't think you'd agree to it right away, we thought you were going to put up a fight for sure. Besides, you also don't have practice until Monday night right?"

"Right. Guess we'll leave Saturday morning then, we'll have all afternoon and all of Sunday to hit the slopes. You and me, we can leave Riku and Kairi in the dust," I replied, the idea suddenly sounding more appealing to me. It wasn't a secret that Kairi wasn't very fast on a board and I could outrace Riku and his skis any day.

"You bet! Then it's settled, we'll leave Saturday morning and take the SUV." Sora got up from the desk and grinned, walking past my bed and ruffling my hair. "This is going to be awesome." And with that he bounced out of my room and down the stairs, assumingly to tell our moms that we were definitely going.

I should have known that my friends would take care of me and make sure I didn't self-destruct. Guess I just forgot…


Jump to early Saturday morning, after an awkward day at school on Friday and a rehearsal that went on longer than it should have. I think I fell asleep singing Razzle Dazzle. The four of us had agreed to leave at eight in the morning on Saturday to give us enough time to get up to Twilight Town and hit the mountain for a few hours before heading to Cloud's house. Riku and Kairi showed up on our doorstep at 7:45. Well, Kairi did. Riku was busy breaking into the SUV to put his skis and Kairi's snowboard in the back. A quick goodbye to the mothers and Sora and I ran outside to join them, shoving our own boards into the back of the vehicle along with our duffel bags. The night before, Sora and I had decided that he would drive the first half and then I'd take over the last half, but we were using my iPod for the whole trip. Once all four of us were in the car (Riku riding shotgun and Kairi next to me in the back) Sora pulled out of the driveway and we headed out. Drove up to the ferry dock, parked the car, got out, rode the ferry to the mainland, got back in the car, drove off the ferry, got onto the main road.

"I'm really excited we're going up there this weekend," Kairi suddenly said, leaning between Sora and Riku's seats to reach for my iPod and change the song. "We haven't been there for a long time."

"You and Riku haven't," I corrected her and leaned over her to see what song she was going to play. "Sora and I were just there a few weeks ago for Christmas."

"That's because you guys have family," Riku cut in. "I bet if Kairi and I had family there we'd go more often too."

"Well that's why we're going up there now. Besides, I don't think any of us got homework for the long weekend, right?" Sora adjusted the volume on the stereo system before bringing his hand back to the wheel.

"I didn't." Kairi sat back in her seat. "Good thing too, I'm not really in the mood."

"I doubt your teachers care if you're in the mood, Kai." Riku grinned through the rearview mirror. Kairi, being the mature adult she is, just responded by sticking out her tongue and poking me in the knee.

"And I know you don't have rehearsal until Monday at least. How's the show coming?"

"Good. We're almost ready to start teching everything," I replied, looking away from the window to face her. "Scenes are going a lot smoother, all lines are supposed to be memorized by Monday."

"When's the show anyway?" Riku turned in his seat to face me.

"Um, first show's the 17th of February or something like that. Whatever that Friday is, we've still got like another month. Besides, I know all of you already have the date marked so you can come and then tell me how amazing I was."

"What about Selphie?"

"Well yeah, her too."

"I'm going to tell her you said that," Kairi giggled to herself.

"I didn't even say anything!" Kairi continued laughing instead and I figured it'd just be easier to let her instead of, you know, defend myself. She was interrupted though by a loud guitar rift and Davey Havok screaming through the speakers, causing all four of us to jump in surprise.

"Shit Roxas!" Sora reached over and jabbed the button on my iPod to change the song. "What the hell I that?"

"Older AFI." I shrugged and sat back, not even thinking about what was going on. That only lasted for a few seconds though before I heard a familiar melody playing through one of its two opening eight-counts.

"…Sora did you put any music onto my iPod before we left?"

"Yeah, there was a file called 'Roxas' Music' sitting on your desktop so I just added those. Why?"

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Lunging forward, I tried wriggling between the seats to change the song before the vocals could start-

"I don't want another pretty face, I don't want just anyone to hold, I don't want my love to go to waste, I want you and your beautiful soul…"

-except by that point, it was too late and the damage was done.

"…is that you?" Riku raised an eyebrow, looking down where I was next to his elbow.

"Hey, I remember this! I didn't know you finished," Kairi added, pulling me by the hood of my sweatshirt to sit up.

"Yeah well, nobody was supposed to hear it," I muttered to myself. Riku re-wound the song a bit to start back at the part where we started talking and hit play, letting the SUV fill with my own voice.

"I know that you are something special, to you I'd be always faithful, I want to be what you always needed, then I hope you'll see the heart in me…"

After that, I tuned out and stopped listening to myself sing. It wasn't that I sounded bad or anything, but my songs…that song in particular wasn't supposed to see the light of day. First of all, I had completely changed it since I let Kairi hear that opening line and second of all, talk about opening fresh wounds. It sounded cheesy and perky and sappy and just about everything I'm not. There was a reason it was in a file called Roxas' music. After a grueling three minutes and thirty-five seconds, the song finally finished and Riku pressed pause, catching my eyes in the rearview mirror.

"Are you sure that was you?"

"Yes."

"It just…"

"It didn't sound like you," Sora filled in. I couldn't see his face, but the sound of his voice was enough to let me know he was surprised by the content and style of the song.

"I know." Keeping my answers short, I looked at Kairi to see if she was going to comment on it too.

"…that was actually really nice, Roxas."

Damn it.

"Yeah well…" I trailed off and shrugged, leaning forward again and pressing play to shuffle to the next song. Once a Sugarcult song started playing I sat back and curled up in my seat, letting my head rest against my window and listening to Sora sing off-key while Riku begged him to stop. This went on for another fifteen minutes before Kairi realized I was still laying against the window and leaned over to put a hand on my shoulder.

"Are you okay? You got really quiet suddenly." Shrugging her off, I readjusted my head against the window and didn't say anything. She tried again, same result. Damn it, couldn't she see I wanted to be left alone for a bit? "Hey Sora, maybe you should let Roxas drive. I think he's getting sick."

"Hmm?" Sora finally returned to earth, stopping his singing and looking in the rearview mirror again. "Oh okay, next rest stop we'll switch out."

Sure, I was feeling sick, but for all the wrong reasons that they thought. But Sora stopped soon enough and we all traded seats in the SUV, me driving, Kairi riding shotgun, and Sora and Riku sitting in the back. The rest of the ride was spent in an almost awkward silence on my part, like everybody was afraid to talk to me. Sora and Kairi were probably thinking the same thing and Riku? Who the hell knows what Riku was thinking, who ever knows? All I knew was that I was going to delete that song as soon as I got home.

We got to Twilight Town about three hours later and beyond that, the rest of the day sort of bled together. We went to get some lunch, and after that I know we headed to the mountain to hit the slopes for the afternoon. I remember Riku almost running into a tree, Kairi barely making her way down the bunny slope, and Sora and I racing down one of the tougher runs but words, conversations and all leaked into each other and I couldn't differentiate between them even if I wanted to.

It wasn't until later when we got back to the main part of town and pulled up to Cloud's house that my brain started functioning again and I calmed down. By the time we got there, we were all pretty wiped out from the drive and from the day on the mountain, not to mention pretty cold. I think I had some snow melting down the back of my shirt or something. Parking on the curb in front of Cloud's house, we left the boards and Riku's skis in the car and grabbed our overnight bags, Sora barging up to the front door and me locking up the vehicle.

I…guess maybe I wasn't functioning as well as I thought because it's like I totally blacked out again. I remember seeing Zack answering the front door and being ushered in, the smell of tacos from the kitchen, Tifa taking all of our wet jackets to hang in the laundry room to dry and Cloud taking our bags up to the guestroom but again, words and conversations bled together. I think maybe this time it was just because everybody was talking, or maybe it's because I was still pretty distracted. Is it weird that I couldn't get my own song out of my head?

Okay, okay. I'll admit it, it's not the song I had a problem with, but what the song represented. You know, the one thing I didn't want to be thinking about this weekend at all. We weren't even driving for an hour before he popped up in my mind and now? Well, now he was stuck.

If I wanted to be clever, I could compare Axel to a parasite or something. But metaphors aren't what makes for an interesting story. An interesting story comes from the words, conversations, the details I blanked on.

Consider yourself lucky that I do remember what happened at about 1:30 that morning.


Because Cloud's house is kind of small, all four of us got stuck sharing the same bedroom Sora and I usually share when we came visit. I guess all of the brainpower I was using on analyzing and reanalyzing the Axel situation was really starting to get to me because I found myself wide-awake even after everybody else had passed out. Sora and Riku were sharing a bed, and Kairi and I were sharing the other bed, and all three of them were asleep as far as I could tell. The red numbers on the clock radio between the beds glared at me signaling it was just about 1:30. If the clock could talk? I'm sure it'd tell me to stop staring at it and close my eyes.

I'm not sure what caused me to make the ultimate decision to quietly worm my way out of bed and out into the hallway of the house, but I did it. It sounded like the other four adults were asleep as well, and all of the lights were off upstairs. Naturally? This meant that I headed downstairs. I really kind of just wanted to clear my head, maybe make some hot chocolate or something. Tifa keeps an arsenal of it in the cabinets. By the time I got to the bottom of the stairs, I had already made up my mind that I was going to hunt for some marshmallows, too, and I headed straight for the cabinets in the kitchen expecting to find them.

What I wasn't expecting to find was Cloud sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of tea and a newspaper sprawled in front of him.

"What are you doing up?" I asked before I could even stop myself. Cloud's eyes shifted from his newspaper up to me, raising an eyebrow as he did so.

"My house," he replied. I knew he wasn't going to ask what I was doing up, not verbally anyway. That's just not Cloud's style.

"I can't sleep," I offered my own explanation. "Does Tifa still keep the marshmallows in the cabinet with the hot chocolate?"

"…door to the left of the fridge." He went back to examining his newspaper, leaving me to my own devices. I went about preparing my hot chocolate without saying anything to him, heating the water in the microwave, dumping the chocolate powder into the mug and tossing in three marshmallows on top to let them melt. All the while, Cloud just continued flipping through his newspaper.

I'm not sure what caused me to make the ultimate decision to sit across the table from him, but I did it.

My mom has always told me that I'm a lot like Uncle Cloud, and I guess that's sort of true. I won't ever tell Sora this because I know he'd get annoyed, but Cloud favors me out of the two of us because of it. Even when we were younger Sora would spend a lot of time playing games with Zack and the girls, and I'd hang out with Cloud reading books and watching documentaries on the Discovery channel and PBS. Cloud likes quiet. I'm the quieter of the two of us. I wouldn't say that Cloud and I have a deep bond or anything, but more like a mutual understanding.

"What're you reading anyway?" I finally asked him, taking a test sip of the hot chocolate.

"Calvin and Hobbes."

…the other thing about Cloud is that for someone kind of stoic, he's still full of surprises.

"Calvin and Hobbes," I repeated, raising my own eyebrow at him this time.

"You'd be surprised how intellectual these comics are." He pushed the newspaper toward me then, pointing at the comic he was reading.

If I could draw half as well as I could write, I'd draw the panels for you, but I guess I'll just have to write out the words.

"I asked Dad if he wanted to see some New Year's resolutions I wrote. He said he'd be glad to, and he was pleased to see I was taking an interest in self-improvement. I told him the solutions weren't for me, but for him. That's why we're outside now," Calvin said.

"I wondered what the rush was," Hobbes replied.

"I'm getting disillusioned with these new years," Calvin continued. "They don't seem very new at all! Each new year is just like the old year! Here another year has gone by and everything's still the same! There's still pollution and war and stupidity and greed! Things haven't changed! I say what kind of future is this? I thought things were supposed to improve! I thought the future was supposed to be better!" He finished his rant. Hobbes looked at him thoughtfully for a moment then.

"The problem with the future is that it keeps turning into the present," the tiger said slowly, and the pair walked off into the snow.

The future keeps turning into the present…it's not something you realize until it's pointed out to you. Pushing the newspaper back to Cloud, I took another sip from my mug.

"Wish I had realized that earlier."

"What'd you procrastinate on now?" Cloud shot back almost instantly, turning the page of the newspaper to check what was going on with the Peanuts gang.

"What makes you think I procrastinated on something?"

"You're Roxas. That's what you do. Besides, saying you wished you realized that lesson earlier kind of solidifies the whole thing." He shrugged and stirred the spoon in his tea. "You don't have to tell me as long as you acknowledge it, but figured I'd ask."

"…it's just something really stupid."

"Okay."

…sometimes I hate how aloof Cloud could be. It makes it a lot harder to avoid talking about the subject when he's not fishing for answers. No, really. When a person's trying to get you to answer personal questions you don't want to answer, you put a lot of effort into hiding those answers and so you focus on your evasion tactics. If a person's not asking, then all you're going to think about is what you were trying to avoid in the first place.

"…I had a lot of time to work some stuff out with a friend, but I never did. It sort of blew up in my face and now we're not even talking, so…"

"So what?"

"So that's why I wished I realized I was really eventually going to run out of time. I would have worked harder to get everything settled."

"Would you really? Or would you have just procrastinated as long as possible and then scramble to try and beat it from blowing up?"

"Probably the latter."

"That's what I thought." He folded up the newspaper and looked at me then. Looking at Cloud sometimes is like looking into a mirror of my future. Impossibly spiky blond hair, blue eyes, vertically challenged. Just don't expect me to get anything pierced anytime soon. I hate needles.

"Look. I don't know what you're even talking about, but if it's enough to keep you up at night maybe you should consider fixing it in the nearby future?"

"…and by future, you mean the present?" I questioned him, watching as he pushed his chair from the table and gathered his newspaper and mug.

"Exactly." And with that he walked over to the sink and dropped the mug into the basin, dimming the light and heading for the stairs. "Night, Rox."

Thank you, Uncle Cloud, for being kind of unhelpful. But I guess that's all that can be expected from Cloud, random words of advice that make sense in the long run but leave you sitting in the dark alone and confused and with rapidly cooling hot chocolate.

Nothing a quick reheat in the microwave wouldn't fix. Getting up from the table, I stuck the mug back into the microwave and leaned against the counter watching it spin around and around.

"…maybe Cloud's right," I mumbled to myself, barely watching the numbers tick on the timer.

"He usually is," Sora's voice suddenly appeared behind me. "Wanna make me one of those?"

"What are you doing up?" I countered the question with my own as I glanced at him over my shoulder.

"Noticed you were gone, had to make sure you didn't go bury yourself in a snow bank somewhere. Here, I'll even make it easy for you and get out the packet of powder and a mug."

"…you're not going to take no for an answer, are you?"

"Not really. Tifa still has marshmallows?"

"Cabinet left of the fridge."

And that's how I suddenly found myself making my cousin a mug of hot chocolate and then sitting across the kitchen table from him in the same positions Cloud and I were in.

"So…" Sora started out, looking at me from over the rim of his mug. "What's got you going this time, space cadet? You've been zoning out pretty much the whole day."

"What? I have not."

"Dude, you ate snow today. I haven't seen you do that in a year or so. You're distracted by something, so what is it?"

"What do you think?"

"I've got a few ideas, but I'm too tired to really guess. Can't we ever just have a normal conversation where I don't have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get answers out of you?"

"Well no, that'd be way too easy." I couldn't help but smirk a bit. Sora rolled his eyes and took another sip of his drink.

"Don't be an asshole. Fine. We'll play 20 questions. Is it about a person?"

"Yes."

"Does the person have red hair?"

"Yes."

"Is the person on your shit-list right now?"

"Yes."

"Is the person Axel?"

"We have a winner! Look, Sor, I'm really not in the mood to be talking about this."

"And I really don't care. Roxas, you have to talk about this or you're going to keep obsessing. And I know you won't talk to Kairi about it because she'll talk you to death and give you advice that should be coming straight out of a Disney movie."

"Like you won't?" I snorted. "Sora, I've heard your inspirational speeches before."

"Watch it. Okay, let's start over. Has anything changed about how you feel since we talked about this a week ago?"

"…not really, except I'm still pretty pissed off."

"But you're still upset that Axel was kissing somebody else, and you're still pretty in love with him."

"Why are you pressing this so much, dude?"

"Because nobody else will."

He had a point.

"…so maybe I'm still kind of sort of infatuated with him."

"Right. Kind of sort of." I hated the way Sora sounded amused when he said that. "How long ago did you write that song?"

"What song?"

"Roxas."

"When I first wrote it, I wasn't exactly writing it with Axel in mind…"

"Roxas. How long ago did you write it?"

"…late August, early September. I finished it around the middle of October."

"So basically right about when you first started letting yourself be attracted to Axel. Got it."

"I hate you."

"No, you don't. So how come you can write a song basically revealing you're like a toasted marshmallow, but you can't verbalize any of that to Axel himself?"

"Because I-…toasted marshmallow?"

"Hard outside, gooey inside."

Leave it to Sora to compare me to food of all things.

"Because. I don't know, you know I write things better than I say them. It's always been that way. Besides, I have no idea how to say any of that to Axel, and furthermore, what makes you think I would have ever told him in the first place?"

"Let's see. To quote…well, you, 'I don't wanna waste your time. Do you see things the way I do, I just wanna know that you feel it too, there is nothing left to hide.' Sounds like you've got plenty to hide to me."

"Did you memorize my song?"

"I listened to it again when we were hanging out in the ski lodge on my iPod. I was curious. Look…Roxas, I really just want to ask you something. Even if Axel was kissing someone else, even if he hurt you, even if you think telling him isn't going to do anything, why don't you just do it anyway? What's the worst that can happen?"

"Oh, I don't know. It could blow up in my face? Besides, aren't you the one who said that having someone you like disappoint you is never easy?"

"Well…I mean…" He stammered a bit, suddenly focusing on his hot chocolate. Hah. Caught.

"And hey, didn't you say that you were going to explain that to me anyway? I asked you what you knew about it, and you told me to ask later. Guess what, cousin, it's later. So spill it."

Not so fun when the tables are turned, is it, Sora? And maybe I felt a little victorious that I could change the subject and interrogate him, so what? Watching Sora spin his mug around as he stared at it was something that made me feel better about my own crappy situation.

Maybe that makes me kind of a dick. I didn't care at that point.

"…you really want to know?" He said slowly, still staring at his mug.

"Sure. Why not?"

"Riku's disappointed me before."

I couldn't help but shake my head. Right. Perfect boyfriend-of-the-year Riku disappointed Sora. Okay. "Yeah? What, did he forget your 37th month anniversary or something?"

"No, he cheated on me and I dumped him," Sora replied calmly, finally taking a sip of hot chocolate instead of just spinning his mug.

Cue me choking on the marshmallow I'd decided to inhale right before he said that.

"What? When the hell was this?"

"Like…right around our two year anniversary. You know how kids are…"

"No. No, Sora, I don't know how kids are but I know how people in serious relationships are, and people in serious relationships don't cheat on their boyfriends!"

"It's sort of interesting actually. It's a lot like the you and Axel thing, it just started out with a kiss. I mean, at first I thought it was just part of a game, you know? Do you remember that New Year's Eve party Demyx had the year we met him? Freshman year. Remember that game of Spin the Bottle? Remember that kid with the weird name? Snow? Remember how Snow spun the bottle and it landed on Riku?" The longer Sora talked, the more worked up he started to sound, and really, it was starting to scare me a little. "Remember how Riku assured me that it was just a simple kiss and it didn't mean anything, and it was just a game? What you probably don't remember is a conversation between Snow and Riku after that where Snow talked about how he knew Riku was a better kisser than that and holding back sucked. What you probably don't remember is Riku disappearing with Snow to another part of the house. What you probably don't remember is Riku and Snow feeling each other up on the back porch against the side of the house."

"…but what I do remember is you screaming at him and storming out of Demyx's house," I finished the sentence, cutting Sora off entirely. He gave an idle shrug and leaned back in his chair.

"I didn't want to talk to anybody about it because I didn't want to believe it happened."

"But…I don't get it. It's like you and Riku never fought about it. Everything seemed pretty normal…I mean, Riku wasn't around a lot because he was busy doing a photography assignment, but-"

"Rox, think about that really hard for a second."

"…there was no photography assignment. Riku avoided you for weeks."

"Not exactly. At school he avoided us during lunch because he'd thought I would have told everybody by then. But he called a lot, IM'd a lot, texted a lot…he spent about three weeks spamming me with apologies and feeble excuses."

"…do you think he had sex with Snow?"

"I don't want to know," Sora said flatly, cutting me off quickly. "I don't want to know what else Riku might have done with somebody else beyond what I saw with my own eyes."

"Right…" Awkward. This was an awkward (and on Sora's part, probably painful) conversation to be having, and what did I do? I stirred my spoon around and drowned my last remains of marshmallows. "Okay so…what happened? You guys are totally fine now. And I mean…you were normal by Valentine's Day. I remember because I had to go out and buy ear plugs that night."

At least that got a slight grin out of him. "I started thinking, I guess. I kept all of Riku's texts and IMs and once I was done being completely mad at him, I actually started reading what he said. I started listening. I didn't forgive him right away, but I did start to think about his side of things, started to think about why it would make sense for him to fool around with Snow on our anniversary."

"Did you ever get an answer?"

"Nope. But about a month after it happened, I was ready to talk to him again. It's not that Riku was busy proving he was sorry. It's more the fact that I saw how he was even when he wasn't talking to me. About a week after everything happened, he stopped talking to Snow completely. I'd watch him approach Riku's locker, and then I'd watch Riku walk away. Stuff like that."

"But how did you know Riku was really actually sorry for what he did and not just sorry he got caught?"

"…I didn't, at first. I think that's why it took me so long to actually talk to him. But when I was ready, Riku was still there and the next time he called, I actually picked up. I think we talked for four hours trying to work through everything. I mean…Riku knew he'd have to work really hard to regain my trust again, but he was willing to do that. And I said okay."

"…but…why?"

"Faith. I had faith that Riku meant it, and yeah, it was a risk to take him back after everything, but…look at us, Roxas. What would have happened if I didn't take that risk? I could have missed out on what's been the best couple of years of my life."

"So what are you saying, that I should have faith in Axel? Talk to him about it?"

"More or less. You take a lot of other risks, why not take this one?"

"Dunno, man. Maybe…maybe it won't be that bad."

"You'll never know until you try." He nodded and pushed his empty mug at me, leaning over and ruffling my hair. Swatting at his hand, I pushed my own mug at him.

"Yeah. You're right, your speech definitely wasn't as cheesy as something Kairi would come up with," I teased him, breaking the remaining tension.

"Shut up." But hey, he was grinning still. "Come on, it's late. I know those two want to go back to the mountain tomorrow, so we should go get some sleep, huh?" He stood up from his seat at the table and grabbed the mug, leaving me to follow suit. Dumping the dishes in the sink, the two of us headed up the stairs quietly, trying not to wake everybody up as we slipped back into the guestroom. Riku and Kairi, predictably, were still asleep. I still had a few questions about what Riku did to Sora and about Sora's choice, but I knew that it wasn't the right time to ask. AS the two of us slid into bed again, I looked across the room to where he was.

"…hey. I don't thank you for enough stuff, do I?" I whispered.

"Not really. You should try it more often."

"I'll thank you if this next plan doesn't blow up in my face, how about that?"

"Fair enough."


Let's just say this. The rest of my weekend went a lot smoother than that day. I actually had fun with my friends, I didn't let the stress of the Axel situation get to me, and I even let Sora drive all the way home from Twilight Town on Monday. After all, I had a rehearsal I had to get ready for.

By the time we got back to the islands, I literally had enough time to take my stuff inside, drop Kairi off at her house, and jet to the school and skid into the auditorium just before Mr. Holloway entered. I wasn't really that concerned with what was happening at this rehearsal, mostly because I already had all of my lines down.

I'm kind of awesome like that.

Things went really smoothly, and I even listened to what Selphie was telling me during our break. When we have long rehearsals, Mr. Holloway lets us take a 20-minute snack break while he goes over things with his stage manager.

"So you guys spent the whole weekend in Twilight Town? I'm jealous! I had to cover for all of Kairi's shifts," Selphie whined at me as she dug through her purse for something.

"Sorry, Selph. It was Sora's idea, take it up with him." I had to laugh as she huffed at me and threw a package of Gushers at my head.

"Roxas, don't be mean! I want a vacation…"

"Next three-day weekend's in February. Maybe all of us can do something then."

"I'll start planning." She found her own package of Ritz Bitz and tore it open, popping a few peanut butter crackers into her mouth. "Anyway, I guess covering for Kairi wasn't too terrible. Axel was around all weekend to help, too."

"I thought Axel didn't work most weekends," I said without thinking, cringing a little at the realization that I knew his work schedule.

"He usually doesn't, but he volunteered to pick up some extra shifts. It's weird, he's been doing that all week. Not that I mind since we get really busy during long-weekends, but you'd think he'd have other things to be doing. Axel's kind of mysterious like that."

"…I guess so, sure." What Selphie didn't need to know is that a lot of Axel's free time was usually spent with me. Without me, what else was he going to do?

Oh. Right. Larxene.

…but wait a second. No, that should have been the obvious answer. He should have been spending time with Larxene, what the hell was he doing at work? And come to think of it, he had been texting less and less the more I ignored him. Maybe that's why.

"He's really cool about it. I'm glad we met him, you know? We needed some kind of diversity in our group, and Axel's it," Selphie carried on. I'm guessing she's one of the ones who hadn't really noticed that Axel and I weren't on that great of terms, but then again, ever since she started dating Tidus she's been wearing rose-colored glasses about a lot of things.

"Yeah…I know." What else was I supposed to say? I couldn't exactly tell her that I regretted ever getting involved with Axel because that would mean having to spill everything from the last semester to Selphie. Then again, I couldn't exactly disagree with her either because I knew she had a point. Axel added something special to our group whether I wanted to really admit it or not. And, well, even if I was still mad at him and unsure what to do? I was pretty glad I met him, too.

So what the hell did that mean? Was I really not as mad at him as I thought? Maybe my anger was just misplaced. Maybe I was just mad at the wrong person. Or maybe I was just being stupid and irrational…all of those were possibilities. I really wasn't sure I was ready to try and analyze all of it right then and there though. Not in the middle of Chicago rehearsals. Not with Selphie standing next to me. Not with a blue raspberry-flavored Gusher on my tongue.

Nah. It could wait.

"Come on, I think Holloway's ready to start running scenes again," Selphie said abruptly, stashing away the rest of her crackers and getting up from her seat. I nodded and started to follow her, but I didn't get very far before my phone vibrated in my pocket.

"Hold on a sec, Selphie." Reaching into my pocket and tucking away the rest of the Gushers, I flipped it open to find that I had a new text message.

From: Axel Tamashi

You didn't randomly get kidnapped by somebody with a blonde-haired-kid fetish, did you?

I had one of two choices here. One, I could do what I've done with his last few text messages and completely ignore it, or two, I could answer and yell at him for a while.

To: Axel Tamashi

not quite. At rehearsal. I'll get back to you afterward?

From: Axel Tamashi

Sounds good.

And as soon as the first note from All I Care About started playing and my phone returned to my pocket, I knew my fate was sealed.


Well. This only took about two years to write and update. Apologies to anyone still reading this. It's been a long two years.