Seven Years Later

"God dammit! Why won't the damn thing stop leaking?"

"Daddy, you shouldn't cuss. It's not nice!"

Axel sighed from under the sink, wiping his forehead with his greasy, dirty hand. He looked at her from between the open cabinet doors, her curly blonde hair in a ponytail and her aquamarine eyes glaring at him with a pout on her lips. She looked a lot like her mother, he decided for the zillionth time that month. Only her mother had never been much into the tomboy look.

She had a baseball cap on backwards, her too big, too bright t-shirt all stained from playing in the grass. Though, surprisingly she was in a skirt today, she had shorts on underneath them, because she didn't often stay nice and lady-like. But boy would she give you an earful if she heard you say a 'bad word.'

He shook his head, "Sorry, princess. I'll try not to."

She rolled her eyes and sat down by his legs, huffing, "That's watcha said last time."

He sighed again, and continued working with the sink plumbing, which continued to dribble water onto him. He was trying to tighten one of the valves, but all that seemed to do for him so far was get more water on him.

"Why don't ya jus' put duck tape on it?" his daughter asked from her place by his legs, having turned around to balance on her knees so she could look in again.

He chuckled, "That wouldn't work, honey. The water would dissolve the adhesive."

"What's that?"

He pulled himself out from under the sink and sat up on the floor next to her. "Adhesive is the sticky stuff on tape and band-aid and those stupid push-lights on your wall. When they get wet, the adhesive dissolves and it makes it not sticky anymore. It's why your band-aids always fall off in the bathtub."

She looked at her elbow, where she had her current band-aid and said, "Oh, I wondered 'bout that." She looked back up at him and then to the sink. "So what're ya gonna do about that leak?"

He looked behind him, where the leak was merrily dripping, and shrugged, "I dunno."

He shoulders slumped and she looked up at him demandingly. "Come on, daddy! You're a mechanic!"

He folded his arms over his chest and gave her the same look. "Yeah! A mechanic, not a plumber!"

"I don't see how that one small tube can be any harder than putting all the tiny ship pieces back together."

He shrugged, grabbing the bucket he had been using to block the leaking and put it back under the drip. He shut the cabinet doors and leaned against them, staring at his daughter who was staring at him. They stayed like that for a couple of minutes, neither of them moving or looking away from each other, neither of them were blinking. After thirty seconds of not blinking, it was silently declared a staring contest, and Axel started making faces at the little girl until she stared laughing so hard she had to blink.

"Daddy! That's not fair! You cheated!" she hollered as she came down from her giggles. He just smiled and shrugged, letting her smack his knee with her tiny hand as she threw her small fit.

Afterwards, when she was 'over it,' she led him outside so she could play in the sprinkler. It turned out she had been wearing her bathing suit the entire day, somehow knowing that Axel would say yes to her, pleas and begging. He turned on the water hose in front of the house he had been living in for the passed seven years, where his boyfriend had died, and where his sister had begun losing hers, and then he sat on the porch, taking this time when his daughter was completely oblivious to him, to think things over, again.

His sister had died shortly after she had given birth to the little angelic devil that was now squealing with delight as she ran through the sprinklers in the mid-afternoon summer sun. Larxene had had internal bleeding that they couldn't get to in time if she wanted the baby to live. Axel didn't know the specifics of what had caused it. He hadn't wanted to know if the little girl he had been clinging to protectively had been the accidental death of his beloved sister. She had really just enough time to name her daughter, his daughter now, and tell him that she loved them both.

When she died, he came back to the house that he had shared with her, the one that Riku had left to him in his will along with all of his money, and he had slowly moved all the baby things from Larxene's old room to his room, the one that Riku's mother used to sleep in. He put the baby-seat that had been a gift to Larxene from one of her friends in the back of the car he had bought a few months before she had the baby, and drove back to get her.

He hadn't really been ready to deal with a baby, not knowing what to expect, how to deal with crying or anything, but instead of going to his 'mother,' he had gone to Phoenix, remember how she had loved children. Oh, what a catastrophe that had been. His little girl was so tightly woven around that family's finger she could do anything and it would be just dandy. Sora and Roxas almost would set her on the floor when he was around.

But he was grateful for them. Had they not been around, he probably would have thrown himself into a river with cement tennis-shoes on. They came over all the time, and helped him watch her, or just watched her by themselves while he took a nap after the long hours of being up with her.

And one day they had brought Kairi over. Wow! She was almost worse than he was. She had checked the temperature of everything, made sure all the electrical sockets were all covered, looked over everything to make sure it was baby-safe.

"Daddy, look!"

She did a cartwheel through the sprinkler, and he clapped. "Good job, princess!" he yelled as she took her bow.

She smiled and then went back through the sprinkler, leaving him alone to his thoughts again, this time mostly on the here and now.

Kairi had finally coerced Reno into marrying her, after they had started dating a few weeks after Namine had left. They had already had one child together, a boy, two years younger than his little girl, whom they named Nero, though they mostly just called him 'boy' or 'kid.' Her parents weren't happy about it, as he recalled her telling him, but she had told them to stuff it or deal with another 'Namine incident,' as she called it. They had calmed down after that, but Reno reported that Kairi's mother still gave him death glares.

His old buddy Demyx was in a fairly famous band, and they were out touring the worlds. He hadn't heard much from him, but his infatuation with Zexion had passed after he moved out. They spoke every once in a while, but Zexion had proven to be straight—that had been a major shock to Axel—and had married an accountant from the firm he worked at. Demyx was having a grand time of being single, but had reported that he had been seeing one of his band members, and was happier, though he wished that his 'partner' would wipe take his shoes off before he got in bed.

Cloud and Leon, both of whom he had become good friends with after Riku's funeral, were still together. Why? No one really knew. Sora assumed it was because they had a love/hate relationship. They loved to hate each other and hated to love each other. Axel had to agree that it did make sense. The times when they actually liked each other were few and far between.

As for Roxas and Sora, they had moved out on their own about a year after their graduation. They had both decided to go to the Academy; Roxas had gone to be a designer, which meant winter fashion should be intriguing from now on, and Sora, god love the freak, had gone to be a lepidopterist, or a person who studies butterflies. Sora's father had supported them both through school, having come back and had a royal throw down with his now ex-wife when he discovered she had kicked their son out. Lately, they spent most of their time in the city, coming to see him on the weekend so they could bring his daughter more gifts.

Axel, himself, had not done much more after bringing his daughter home. He had received a job working with Cid, Sora's father, as a mechanic, but his love life was honestly…lacking. He hadn't had time. His daughter was a full time job, and he just worked around her. Throwing in a romantic evening now and then would be too much. Not to mention he would feel a bit odd bringing someone into his dead boyfriend's house.

He laughed to himself at how silly his life sounded, but stopped abruptly when a shadow came over his. He looked up and the person with crinkled eyes, trying to figure out who was kind enough to block out the bright sun for him. It was a man, about as tall as he was, maybe a little shorter, with short silver hair and ice-like eyes. He was fairly good-looking, well-muscled, five o'clock shadow, scars—oh, baby, look at them all—all of those macho things.

Axel didn't bat an eye. "Can I help you?" he asked politely.

"Nah. I'm just scoping out the neighborhood. I just moved in about three days ago. Figured I'd best come make friendly with the neighbors," he said, shaking his head.

The redhead nodded, unperturbed, "Awful neighborly of you."

"Gee, thanks," he said sarcastically, inviting himself to sit down and watching his daughter, who was now just laying in the grass and letting the water fall over her. "She yours?" he asked.

"Pride and joy."

"Ah hah… the little misses?"

Axel cast him a sideways glance, smirking a little. "Never had one. I adopted her after my sister died.

"Oh, sounds rough. What's her name?"

Axel smiled to himself this time. "Priti Lenore."

"Beautiful name."

"Haven't found one better," he said, finally looking over to the stranger again. "I'm Axel, by the way. You would be?"

The man smirked at him, his glacial eyes glinting in the sunlight. "I would be Dante," he said. "And I would like to know if you and Priti are doing anything tonight. You see, I hate to eat alone."

Axel smiled, a real full smile, and then whistled loudly, watching as his blonde haired angel hopped off the grass ran through the sprinkler once to get stray grass off of her. She normally didn't like strangers, and he was relying on her to tell this man that she didn't want to go over to his house. She ran over to him, and sat on his lap, still dripping wet and sharing the experience with him.

"Geez, Priti! You're getting me all wet!"

She smiled happily. "You're already wet. You didn't change from workin' on the sink." She looked at Dante as if suddenly realizing that he was in front of her. "Are you here to fix the sink?"

Axel tried to stop her, tried to tell Dante not to listen to her, but the other man cocked his head to the side, "Is there something wrong with your sink?"

Priti nodded, enthusiastically. "Yeah. It's got a leak and daddy can't fix it with duck tape," she said matter-of-factly. Axel covered his eyes with his wet hand, exasperated at his daughter.

Dante chuckled and stood up, Priti following his example. "Well, little lady," he said, holding his hand out to her, "You mind showing me where this leak is?"

Axel tore his hand away from his eyes and looked up at Dante, "No, no. You don't have to…" But it was too late. Priti had already taken his hand and was leading him into the house. Axel glared at the doorway, imagining the two of them still standing there to catch the full intensity of his frustration, but they were already inside, leaving the door wide open as an invitation to come into his own house. He threw his hands up in the air. "What the hell! Let's have dinner with him.

Inside the house he heard his daughter yell at him, "Daddy! Don't cuss!" followed quickly by this new man, Dante's, laughter.


A/N: After several long, looooong months, I am finally finished. I'm sorry it took so long to deliver all of this to you. But several things came up, some of them not in my control, most of them were. But I am now here for you, with the final installments of this story. I hope you have enjoyed this more than I have enjoyed bringing it to you.

I love you all, those of you have reviewed, those of you who haven't, those of you who just looked at the summary. You have all helped and inspired me, and I would be useless without you.

I'm sorry to bring this to such a sad ending…but it had to be done.

I leave you with just this parting thought:

Is it better to lose everything and leave, or lose everything and learn how to carry on?

Goodnight, Good love, and Good life.