Hi! I'm, er, back. I'm just dropping a note to let you all know that I haven't forgotten about you -- I've just been really horribly busy. I organized a trip to Anime Expo this summer (way fun! the con center wasn't so hot, but who cares? I met some of you there, too!) and, er, in slightly more important news . . . I START COLLEGE TOMORROW! That totally would have so many exclamation points on it if Word didn't scream at me for it. Pfft at Word.

So, yes, that's mostly the long and short of it (more long, I'm sorry to say) -- I haven't stopped but life is really hectic. And just like every other scary fangirl out there, I had a realization today that it was August 13th and I was totally neglecting my fandom by not celebrating it. So.

By the time I post this it should still be 8/13/2007 where I live, but for those of you for whom it isn't -- happy late fandom holiday! And have an interlude to occupy yourselves while I start on my brand-spanking-new scary-as-hell physics degree.

Lots of love,


Okay, so actually it's a pretty explanatory interlude. A lot of you have wondered about wtf is up with Axel's disappearing bits -- here's an explanation by way of demonstration, if you will. 3


After Roxas and the girl he was with left the store, Axel just sort of stared off into space for a bit. Not that there was really any "space" in the BurgerMart. What he actually stared at was some disturbing green display of plastic dinosaurs that was a relic from the nineties but which management had decided to leave since it would cost more to remove than it had cost to put in. Axel wondered vaguely if there were other lonely dinosaur displays in select BurgerMarts elsewhere, spread out across the country, with no friends and no other happy little dinosaur plastic toys to coexist with, alone in the universe . . .

Axel was disturbed out of his morbid reverie (for which his starting-to-ooze brain was thankful) by an indignant-looking mother of three. "Excuse me?" she said again, the tone of her voice just condescending enough to set Axel on edge. And he was pretty used to condescending, really. I mean, he was a fast food worker. Not exactly high up on the . . . uh, food chain, so to speak.

"Yes?" he snapped at the woman, his hands clenching on the cash register. He noticed absently that he appeared to be missing two fingers. Great. He corrected his tone as he heard clonking footsteps behind him. "I mean, how may I help you today?" he asked with painfully fake brightness, his voice attempting to out-ooze his melancholy of moments before. The woman frowned at him, clearly unconvinced.

"You may help me by kindly scraping up three Kiddie Kart meals and a double-patty no-cheese Express Lane burger, onions on the side. Oh, and a large diet cola." Like laying off the cheese was going to do her physique any good, he thought vengefully. He punched in the order with his left hand, which still had the appropriate fingers, although he noticed it was missing a pinky. He surreptitiously tried to wiggle the missing pinky while the receipt was printing. He couldn't feel anything. It was pretty surreal. The woman didn't seem to notice. But Roxas had noticed, he thought.

The thought of Roxas sent him into another spiral of depressing thoughts. What if Roxas really was really really mad at him and never spoke to him again? He was going to call him right after he got off work. But his recent encounter with Roxas hadn't exactly been encouraging. What was that last 'yeah' supposed to mean? Was it apologetic? Was it supposed to be cold? He wished a bit incoherently that he had some sort of Dictionary of Roxasism. Except Roxas was probably like Navajo, or Chinese, or something -- the tone was important. And he'd never been good with tone. His roommate didn't exactly express any for him to get practice with.

The woman harumphed impatiently, and Axel absently ripped her ticket off the register and handed it to her. As he did so, he noticed that the fingers he was holding the receipt with were, uh . . . apparently not there. The woman didn't seem phased in the slightest. He would personally be freaking out a little if somebody just handed him something without apparently actually touching it. In fact, he'd be freaking out a little if he handed somebody something without actually touching it. The woman stalked off, yanking her kids along, and he wandered away from the register to go have a bit of a freak out.

He sat down on an empty milk crate near the back of the store to better get his moping and his freaking out done in relative comfort. Roxas had seen, right? He wasn't crazy! Roxas certainly wasn't crazy, either. But Roxas totally didn't care, did he? He let that girl drag him off. And Axel had no neck. Or hands now, he noticed, some distant part of his brain trying to panic and not being able to get through all the moping at the forefront. Well, shit.

Pete, the unpleasant and rather greasy manager, caught him 'lollygagging,' as he termed it, a couple of minutes later. "What the hell are you doing back here, you lazy excuse for a moron?" Pete wasn't exactly the brightest when it came to insulting people, but his sheer massive anger tended to do the trick. It wasn't really working on Axel today. He stared blankly. "There are five guests waiting to be helped at the counter! Why are you not up there? Do you want that badly to get fired?"

Axel stood up, angry and more than a little disturbed. "I have no hand!" he squeaked, waving the nonexistent appendage frantically in Pete's face. The squeaking was a little damaging to his manhood, but he wrote it off as acceptable when under this much stress. Besides, it probably had something to the fact that he had no neck, either.

"What are you talking about, you moron?" the manager shouted at him. He was staring at where Axel's hand should have been, but it looked like he was looking right through it. "Your hand is right there, attached to your arm, which is currently waving in my face." Oh, the manager agreed he was disturbed -- mentally disturbed. "You know what? You go help those customers up there, and then you take off your apron and leave. I don't have any use for lazy riff-raff like you around here." Pete stomped off, apparently feeling he'd proven his point or something. Which he had. Definitively. Not that there was a point. But getting fired was pretty pointed all on its own. Oh my god, Axel thought, I just got fired.

It was a testament to his shock that he actually went and helped the customers first, rather than just walking right out the door. What good could it do? But he really didn't want his last paycheck docked any more than it was already going to be for this. He had to pay bills. God, bills. Bills! What was he going to do about bills? And food. And --

The line of customers he was helping just stretched on and on until the end of his shift, which he supposed was probably what the manager intended (there wasn't exactly a backup cashier around today, and he sure as hell didn't want to do it himself). At three p.m. exactly, the last customer took his receipt from Axel, and Nancy showed up just barely in time to start her evening shift. Axel turned and walked to the back of the store, untying his apron from behind his back as he went. He noticed detachedly that his hands were back. Huh. That was just as well, because he had no job.

He pulled open the back door roughly and stepped outside, reaching up behind his neck to untie the last string attaching the apron. He'd never been so unhappy to take it off before. Where else was he going to get a job? He had no diploma, he had no recommendations, he --

He made an undignified "oomph" noise as somebody slammed into him.


Aaaand that's it. That's totally a, like, tag scene to stuff that happens next chapter, fyi. So. Er. Yeah. Essential setup! Intriguing plot twists! PEOPLE WITH NO HANDS. Temporarily. Okay, just the one person. But still: LOOK, MA, NO HANDS!