Final Author's Note: (BEWARE RAMBLING!) Oh. My. GOD, you guys. Last chapter. I honestly never thought I would get to this point. I just started this silly little story for fun, just intending for it to be something to share with a few close friends, and then… WOW. Just wow. I decided to share it with all you guys here on ffnet, and I am absolutely BLOWN AWAY with the response I got to it. I have the best reviewers in the world. Seriously. I tried to respond to each and every one of you, because your reviews make my day, my week, my life. I like… got to know you guys. Heck, I was even proposed to once or twice. XD You have no idea how special you made me feel. I wanna give you all bright, shiny rainbows, and then you can follow them to the end and find a pot of hugs, cookies, and puppies. X3
So yeah. Thank you so much to EVERY SINGLE PERSON who read this story, and THANK YOU TIMES ONE MILLION BAJILLION to everyone who reviewed. I broke a hundred reviews, and got over a couple THOUSAND hits on this. I never thought that would happen.
Anyways, I'll shut up now. I hope everyone likes the chapter, have a nice day, and I LOVE YOU.
I own nothing! Please don't sue me!
For additional warnings, disclaimers, and summary, see the first chapter!
Suggested food: hotdogs, sandwiches, and an ABBA-ZABBA
Suggested beverage: tea?
Suggested listening: "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" – Jesse McCartney and Anne Hathaway
Where the Hell is Magic Lake?
Chapter 13: Home Again, Home Again…
The next day dawned as bright and early as any other, but this particular morning was laced with an edge of acute sadness. It was so tangible in the air one could almost hear it…
Roxas jerked awake at the sudden sob coming from outside, and as he groggily rubbed his eyes, any questions he might have had regarding what prompted the outcry were answered.
"I DON'T WANNA LEEEEEEEEEEEAVE!" Sora sobbed, and Roxas heard a faint 'thump', leading him to assume that the brunette had just thrown himself to the ground.
"Sora!" Riku could be heard whispering, although it was a rather loud whisper, seeing as he had to make himself heard over Sora's wailing. "Sora, calm down, you're going to wake everyone up!"
'Too late for that.' Roxas though to himself, burying his head back into his… not pillow. Apparently Axel had served as Roxas's head support last night, as evidenced by the fact that Roxas was laying half on top of him, his head having nowhere else to rest, even if he had objected to the idea.
After last night's 'shmello' fiasco, Roxas had promptly attempted to kick Sora out of the tent, only to fail drastically and eventually get dragged out of bed and over to the campfire in nothing but his boxers. The four friends had stayed up late into the night, talking and roasting whatever marshmallows were left before eventually heading back to bed. Axel had immediately pulled Roxas over to him, content to simply sleep – for once – but not without the blonde in his arms. It had been nice, though, Roxas admitted, and sleep had claimed him easily that night, apart from the few times Axel had attempted to grope him in his sleep. Honestly, most people just talked in their sleep, or at the very extreme sleepwalked or something… but oh no, Roxas had to get stuck with the one person who sleep gropes.
"Nnn…wa'sgoingon?" Axel mumbled, rolling onto his side and burying his face in Roxas's hair to block out all the light streaming into the tent. "Why's Sora yelling?"
"Sora always yells." Roxas reminded him. "He doesn't need a reason."
"Oh… right." Axel responded, never extremely coherent or functional this early in the morning. Heaving a sigh, Axel rolled Roxas underneath him, snuggling back down into the smaller male.
"Hey, Axel, no, get off." Roxas said, pushing at the redhead. "We've gotta get up."
"No…" Axel refused, wrapping his arms around the blonde. Roxas blushed. He wasn't used to this much physical contact, and it was taking all the willpower he possessed to not snap at Axel.
"Axel, come on, get off."
"Hmmn, whatever you say." Axel lazily smirked, pressing specific areas of his anatomy against the lithe body trapped beneath his own.
"GAH!" Roxas shouted, finally resorting to simply shoving Axel – hard – before scooting away and clutching the blankets to himself in defense. "God, do you have to be such a pervert all the time?"
"Yes." Axel grinned, finally setting up and stretching. Roxas rolled his eyes.
"Whatever. Just hurry up and get dressed, if we take too much longer Sora's going to –"
"YOU GUUUUUUUUUYS!" Sora sobbed, flinging open the door flap and flopping down inbetween Axel and Roxas.
"SORA!" Roxas snapped. "You don't just burst into other people's rooms!"
"But you guuuuuuuys…" Sora repeated, still wailing. "It's todaaaaaaay…"
"Sorry about that." Riku popped in, sticking his head into the tent and attempting to drag Sora out. "He's a little upset that we're leaving." The silver haired teen explained.
"Oh yeah?" Roxas sarcastically replied. "We hadn't noticed."
After Sora had been properly calmed down, everyone set about the business of packing up camp. First the backpacks were re-packed, followed by the dismantling of the tents (Roxas and Axel had a little trouble with theirs, given the badly twisted poles. Much fighting and name calling ensued, and it was a miracle they actually managed to get the tent back in its proper packaging without messing it up anymore than they already had.) and the disassembling of the collapsible stove and lanterns, not to mention the deflation of the infamous rainbow raft.
"So…" Riku began after everything seemed to be put away, overlooking the area with his hands on his hips. "Are we all done here?"
"We have to leave the campsite better than we found it!" Sora insisted, reciting one of the most important rules for going out into the wilderness.
"Sora, no one ever comes here, even if we did mess something up no one would know." Roxas pointed out.
"It doesn't matter." The brunette shot back. "We have to leave it looking perfect." Everyone looked around, giving the camping area one last once-over. It seemed as though everything was in order, and besides a few charred rocks that had served as a makeshift fire pit, the area looked none the worse for the wear.
"Sooo…" Axel started, seeming to strike upon a thought. "How are we getting back to the car? Hiking again?"
Sudden panic gripped Roxas, and he instantly found his mind lurching into a throwback to the torturous creek misadventure. No… No way was he hiking back to the Hundred Acres camp grounds with these guys, he would hitchhike with a passing pinecone if he had to – he was not going anywhere near that creek.
"No, that would take too long, as fun as it would be." Sora told them. Roxas snorted at Sora's use of the word 'fun.' "We're going to have to go into town and take one of the little shuttlebuses."
Oh. Okay. That was fine with Roxas. Anything but the creek.
Actually getting to town took much longer than it should have, because Sora seemed to deem it necessary to personally say goodbye to every single tree, rock, and drop of water in the lake before they could even think about leaving. Sobbing once again as Riku pried him off of a pine, Sora eventually allowed the trek into town to start, walking backwards nearly the entire way in order to get 'once last glance at his favourite place in the world.' Roxas didn't have the heart to tell him that the lake was long gone by the time they turned the first bend in the trail. Let the kid keep walking backwards if that was what made him happy.
And, not that Roxas was ever going to admit it, but… his heart felt a little heavy at leaving the place behind, as well.
By the time everyone got back into town it was after noon and no one had eaten lunch yet. Deciding to split up for a fifteen minute lunch break, Sora tugged Riku off in the direction of the hotdog stand, but Roxas (deciding he'd rather not deal with the pissy, silver haired hot dog vendor) headed off in the opposite direction towards a sandwich place he had noticed the other day.
"Hey Roxas, wait up!"
Roxas turned to see Axel running up to him, slightly surprised to see the redhead following after him instead of everyone else.
"What are you doing?" Roxas questioned with a raised eyebrow as Axel caught up to him. "I'd have thought you'd be trying to wrangle a thousand hot dogs out of the pissy hot dog vendor guy."
"Nah, I'd rather hang out with you." Axel replied with a happy grin. "Food is food. Hey…I don't remember the hotdog guy being pissy." He added the last part on as an afterthought.
"Yeah, well that's cause you didn't have to deal with him trying to make you pay for fifteen hotdogs that you didn't even order in the first place." Roxas grumbled.
"Hey!" Axel indignantly shot back. "I only asked for ten hotdogs, thank you very much! Are you calling me fat?'
Shaking his head as he entered the little sandwich shop, Roxas decided not to answer.
"Okay, I know, I'll pay for your food right now, how about that?" Axel offered.
"Fine, whatever." Roxas answered, briefly scanning the menu before placing his order. "Yeah, hi, could I have twenty five –"
The trolleyshuttle ride back to the Hundred Acres campgrounds was uneventful except for the fact that Axel kept trying to get Roxas to sit on his lap, which the blonde outrightly refused to do. The two caused a bit of a scene, most of the other passengers turning around in their seats to shoot them dirty looks. Sora had also taken to plastering himself to the window and making pathetic little whimpering noises, obviously not wanting to leave. Riku patted him consolingly on the back. Eventually, however, everything settled down and the ride only took about a half an hour to get them back to their destination.
"So wait…" Roxas slowly began upon exiting the tram. "Are you telling me that we could have just taken a thirty minute bus ride from the camp to begin with, and it would have saved me two and a half days in the creek with this" Roxas jerked a thumb in the general direction of Axel. "blabbering idiot?!"
"Hey!" Axel protested.
"Yeah, pretty much." Sora replied, grinning at Roxas. "But that wouldn't have been as much –"
"Fun." The blonde finished, massaging his temples in an effort to sooth his throbbing mind.
"Exactly!" Sora affirmed, before spotting the car and taking off into a run. "CAAAAAR!" he happily called out. "Did you miss us? Just wait until you hear about all the fun stuff we did!"
Roxas turned to Riku, an unamused expression on his face. "Is he really going to tell the car about –"
"Yes." Riku cut in, shaking his head. "Yes he is."
Sure enough, by the time Roxas, Riku, and Axel joined Sora over at the car, the brunette was babbling on about all the things they had done, as if the car just couldn't wait to hear about it. ("…and then there was this one time when we were trying to set up the tents and this squirrel threw a pine cone at me…") Years… er… nearly a week of fine tuning with Axel had taught Roxas how to block out unwanted jabbering, and as soon as Riku had unlocked the trunk he dumped his stuff in before going around and getting in himself and heading for his designated seat in the back and looking forward to a nice, relaxing trip home…
"Hey Roxas!" Axel suddenly cut in, clambering over the car seat in a most awkward manner. "Let's play a car game!
After playing a few rounds of half-hearted 'I spy' with Axel, Roxas was relieved when the redhead finally diverted his attention to Sora instead. However his relief was short lived, because not a minute later a rousing chorus of '99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall' had been started. Roxas groaned, burying his face in his hands. Usually people gave up by the time they hit around sixty bottles of beer on the wall, but Roxas was sure that if there were any two people capable of getting through all ninety-nine bottles, he was stuck in a car with both of them.
"Hey Roxas… Roxas…"
"What?" Roxas ground out bitterly, having been fast asleep until someone had taken to shaking him and trying to talk to him. Opening his eyes to find himself looking at none other than Axel – surprise! But not really – Roxas immediately groaned, turning back over and leaning against the armrest for support as he attempted to go back to sleep.
"No, Roxas, really, come on, wake up!"
"God, what do you want?" Roxas growled, refusing to turn back.
"Roxas, we're at a truck stop and getting out of the car. Come on."
"Why?" Roxas questioned grumpily, nonetheless unbuckling his seatbelt and angrily throwing open the side door. Gosh darn it, he may have decided he didn't hate Axel after all, but the guy was still damn annoying!
"Because." Axel supplied, pulling Roxas off to a little area set up with a food shack. Roxas used the term 'shack' because it was a cruddy little building looking like it was just waiting to fall apart after decades of catering to road-weary individuals, looking for a quick place to stop and regain a little energy and fresh air. Sora could be seen running around in the distance, getting out some of his pent up energy chasing after birds as Riku watched from a nearby bench. "Riku wanted a break from driving and Sora was getting really fidgety." Axel finished explaining.
"Fine, whatever." Roxas sighed as Axel drug him into the food shack.
Grabbing a candy bar, Axel headed towards the cash register when Roxas struck upon a thought – he really had to pee. Waiting for Axel to finish paying for the snack, Roxas stepped up to the counter, asking the haggard looking… woman? man?… behind the counter where the restrooms were.
"Righ' ovah there, hunny." The …person… replied, gesturing with a grubby hand to an area behind the snack shack. "Bu' yer gonna need a key, here ya go."
A grungy and dented key attached to a length of PVC pipe was handed over the counter, and Roxas took it with a wary "thanks". What on earth was the purpose of the attached pipe? To discourage people from stealing the key? Who would want to steal a truck stop restroom key in the first place? Whatever. Roxas headed out back to the restrooms, and was greeted with one of the most disgusting sights he had ever seen in his life. Never before had he laid eyes on such a filthy, utterly revolting men's restroom. The floor tiles were so covered with grime that the original colour was indiscernible; suspicious stains and writing covered the walls. And Roxas didn't even want to start thinking about that smell…
"Whoooooie!" Axel whistled appreciatively, having followed after him. "You really have to pee that bad, Roxie?" Roxas thought about this for a minute before deciding.
"Yes." He said, making up his mind. "But I'm going in the girl's bathroom." This proved to be a wise choice, because, although still disgusting and causing Axel to tease him mercilessly, at least in there he didn't fear for his very life. Death by bathroom slime was not the way he wanted to snuff it.
A few minutes later everyone was piling back into the car, a little more refreshed, and a little more disgusted with the male species in general. Sora immediately went into DJ mode again, slipping a CD into the slot and blasting the volume.
"DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART!"
"I COULDN'T IF I TRIED!"
"OH, HONEY IF I GET RESTLESS…"
"BABY, YOU'RE NOT THAT KIND!"
"Uuuuuurgh… not again." Roxas groaned, slumping down in his seat. Thankfully it seemed as though Axel would not be joining in the singing this time around, however, as the redhead contented himself with ripping the wrapper off of his Abba-Zabba he had bought back at the food shack and thrusting the thing into his mouth. Roxas watched as Axel sucked on it, getting the taffy nice and malleable before gripping it with his teeth, pulling back and letting long strings of the white goo get stretched out, barely connecting Axel's mouth and the rest of the stick…
Averting his gaze in an effort to hide his blush, Roxas let his mind drift to watching the countryside whoosh by outside the window for a minute or two before he was suddenly tapped on the shoulder. Turning to face Axel (who else would be tapping him?), Roxas jerked his head back as the redhead shoved the candy stick at him, a smirk on his features.
"You want some?"
"No!" Roxas shot back. "That thing's got your spit all over it."
Axel shrugged, not loosing the smirk. "Suit yourself. I was just offering."
"Yeah, well, I don't want it." Roxas grumbled, crossing his arms and going back to looking out the window.
A few hours later found Sora asleep in the front seat (despite the fact that he was right next to the speakers which were still cranked up to full volume), and Axel passed out on the back seat, using Roxas as a pillow. The half eaten candy stick was held loosely in his hand, about ready to fall as he shifted against Roxas in an effort to get more comfortable. Sighing, the blonde picked the treat out of Axel's hand, setting it aside so that it wouldn't fall on the floor and get dirty. Granted, Axel probably would have still eaten it anyways, but it was the thought that counted, right?
Axel shifted again, nuzzling his face into Roxas's chest. Quickly looking up into the rearview mirror to assure himself that Riku couldn't see what was going on in the back seat, Roxas allowed the cuddling to continue, even going to far as to lift a hand and place it gently among the red spikes sticking up all over Axel's head.
Looking down at the sleeping redhead, Roxas's stomach gave an uncomfortable twist. Soon they would be home again and everything would settle back to normal… and Roxas wasn't sure if he liked the sound of that. Sure, it would mean indoor plumbing and electricity and all the other wonders of civilization… but Roxas was worried that the events that transpired over this chaotic trip would be swept away, fading out until the whole thing was just some distant memory. And Roxas didn't want that. Axel might have been one of the most annoying, frustrating, and downright intolerable people he had ever met, but Roxas kind of wanted him to stick around. This is what always happened though, right? The infamous summer fling. Boy meets girl (or in this case, boy), boy falls for (or in this case annoying the living hell out of) girl, boy and girl (boy) spend an amazing and carefree summer running around together having fun… and then it ends. Just like that it's over and everything goes back to the way it was before, except it can't… not really. Something's different than before, and it leaves a gaping void in someone's heart. Roxas didn't want that to happen. But really, he didn't see how it could be avoided.
Riku suddenly turned down the music, most likely thinking everyone was asleep and wanting to spare his eardrums. Roxas suddenly found the impossible happening – he wanted that annoying music back. Call him sentimental, but he wanted to cling to that insufferable boy band music as a last reminder of the past week and a half, reminding him with it's shocking annoyance that it was all real, that the camping trip from hell really had happened.
Roxas didn't want it to be over.
Roxas jolted awake, immediately aware of the fact that his neck was bent at a very odd angle. Oh well, that's what he got for falling asleep on the armrest. Looking up at the front, it seemed as though Sora was wide awake again as well, and loud as ever.
"I just saw the sign, Riku!" He announced, fidgeting in his seat. "Only five miles to our exit and we'll be home!"
Roxas's stomach plummeted. So soon? Sora seemed to have gotten over the loss of leaving Magic Lake behind, but all of a sudden Roxas was overcome with the urge to demand Riku to turn the car around right now and take them straight back. Five miles… five miles until he was officially home, and this whole dreadfully, chaotically memorable trip would be over for good. Glancing down at Axel who was still sprawled across him, Roxas sighed, gently petting down the wild mass of red spikes.
'Well I guess this is it, then…' Roxas thought. 'Axel will finally be out of my hair. I finally got what I've been wanting for the past week… So why am I not happy?' Of course Roxas really did know why, but he wasn't sure if he was ready to admit it, even in his thoughts. Okay fine, so maybe he had a little crush on Axel, whatever. Big deal, he'd get over it, right?
Except… if it was only a silly little crush, then why did his heart hurt so badly?
A sudden jolt of the car signaled the exiting of their offramp, finally putting them back on the little streets that would take them back home. Great. Cool. Roxas would go take a shower and coop himself up in his room and listen to not-boy-band music.
…God, why didn't that seem as appealing as it should?
Jerking up as Riku went a little too fast over a speed bump, Axel nearly klonked his head against Roxas's as he sat up.
"Where are we?"
"Almost home." Riku informed him, not taking his eyes off the road. Sora, however, twisted fully around in his seat, sending the two occupants on the back seat a blinding grin.
"We'll drop you off first, okay Roxas?" the brunette said, more of a statement than a question. "Your house is closest, and we can help you unload your stuff, okay?"
"Yeah, sure, whatever." Roxas mumbled in reply, turning to press his face against the cool glass of the window.
"Why so glum, chum?" Axel asked, biffing Roxas lightly in the shoulder.
"It's nothing, forget it." The blonde snapped back in reply, deciding that if he wasn't going to allow himself to get all teary and emotional, he was gonna let himself get irritable, damnit.
"No really, what's up Roxie? I'd have thought you'd be happy to get away from annoying ol' me and the great outdoors."
Roxas's stomach clenched. 'So he really doesn't care. Fine, if he's gonna be that way, I'm not going to care either.'
"Yeah, Axel, you're right." Roxas replied, although he couldn't bring himself to face the redhead as he said the words. "I'm glad it's over."
Out of the corner of his eye, Roxas saw Sora shoot him a sad face but decided to ignore it until the brunette offered some words of comfort. "Come on, Roxas. it wasn't that bad. And I mean… wouldn't you like to do it again next year?"
"Yeah, sure, that'd be cool." Roxas replied, even though his heart wasn't in it. By next year everything would be different. By then he and Axel would have lost whatever weird understanding they had come to, whatever possibility they had maybe had at working things out and being together. By next year it'd be too late.
"We're here." Riku suddenly announced, and Roxas didn't think he'd ever been so unhappy to pull up to his own house. Somehow he managed to drag himself out of the car after everyone else had piled out, and walked around the back to where Sora was yanking Roxas's stuff out, dumping it on his lawn. Roxas would have yelled at him for being so careless with his stuff if he could have worked up enough energy to care.
"Is that about it?" Sora asked, beaming at him as he looked for conformation. Roxas did a quick inventory of the bags scattered across the yard and nodded.
"Yeah, that's about it."
"Okay then!" Sora chirped, jumping forward and grabbing Roxas into a sudden, tight hug. "Thank you so much for coming, Roxas! It really meant a lot to me! I hope you had fun! I mean, despite getting lost in the creek and everything."
"Yeah." Roxas answered, and he even was able to make himself smile a little for Sora. After all, if it wasn't for Sora he'd never have had the worst best week of his life. "Yeah, I did. Thanks for inviting me."
"Yup!" Sora giggled before scampering back off to the shotgun seat, fiddling with the stereo and most likely putting in another pop-tastic CD to torture the remaining party guests with one last time before everyone else was dropped off.
Riku was the next to step up, offering out his hand in an annoyingly masculine fashion that Roxas himself could never pull off without looking like he was trying too hard. Damn.
"It was cool having you along." The silver haired teen said, tugging Roxas forward as the blonde gripped his hand, pulling him into a man hug. "We should hang out again sometime."
"Yeah, sure, cool." Roxas vaguely responded as Riku gave him a parting thump on the back before heading off to the driver's seat and waiting for everyone else to get back in the car so they could go.
Everyone being Axel.
The fiery haired teen took a step towards Roxas, standing a foot or so away and rocking back and forth on his feet. "Sooo…" He started. "It was cool meeting you. I, uh, hope I didn't annoy you too much."
"Don't worry, you did." Roxas replied with a shaky laugh that he didn't really mean to slip out.
"Heh heh… well… sorry." Axel said, grinning sheepishly as he brought one arm up to scratch at the back of his head uncomfortably. "So… I guess maybe I'll see you around?"
"Yeah…" Roxas distantly replied, casting his gaze downwards. 'Do something, do something, DO SOMETHING!' his brain screamed. "Maybe…"
"Okay… so…bye…" Axel said, taking a backwards step towards the van.
"Axel wait!" Roxas said, snapping his head up and giving Axel a pleading look.
Don't go, stay here, I want you to stay, I want you here with me, pleasedon'tleaveIloveyou…
"Yeah?" Axel was totally serious now, looking at him and Roxas just knew he was just waiting for him to say it, to stop him from getting back in that
"I… I, um… yeah. Bye, Axel."
Axel's expression faltered just the tiniest bit, and he gave Roxas a small smile and a halfhearted little wave as he headed back to the car. "Bye Roxas…"
And with the slamming of a door, he was gone. Riku turned the key and the engine started up, backing the van up to pull away from the curb, before shifting forward and starting off down the street.
Roxas couldn't watch. Quickly grabbing his bags he ran for his front door, shoving his hand into his pockets and shakily fishing out his keys, fumbling as he tried to jam them into the door. "Come on… come on, damnit, just go in…" A prickling feeling was starting to sting at the corners of Roxas's eyes and he wanted in his house, to run up into his room and slam the door and not come out ever again.
Turning around, surprised to see the van pulling to a stop not half a block away, the side door getting thrown open as Axel threw himself out, tripping over his own feet in his haste and falling onto his face on the sidewalk. Roxas could do little more than stare as the redhead rushed up to his doorstep, panting and out of breath, and then suddenly Roxas air was knocked out of his lungs as he was being shoved back against his door, the stupid keys falling to the ground in his shock as Axel desperately pressed himself up against Roxas, kissing him for all he was worth. Just as abruptly, Axel pulled away and quickly shoved a crumpled piece of paper in the blonde's hand, as though if he didn't just do it right now he might loose his nerve.
"Don't you dare think you're getting rid of me that easy." Axel whispered with a lopsided smirk, placing one last kiss to Roxas's still parted lips before running back to the car, slamming the door closed behind him
This time Roxas watched the van drive off down the street, not looking away until it had turned the corner and was out of sight. Not quite sure what had just happened, but noticing that some of the heavy weight that had settled in the pit of his stomach had lifted, Roxas shakily unclenched his hand, uncrumpled the piece of paper, smoothed it out, and read the hastily scrawled message that had been written on it.
555 – 0813. Got it memorized?
Call me sometime.
(…but not quite! Look around on my author page and you just might find a sequel!)