For xxlovelycollision's challenge - Soda Machines

Wow. Pathetically horrid title, no?

And oh my gosh, I am so sorry. This took me forever. One, I was unmotivated, not gonna lie. Two, I felt so dead. And three, I hated the near end so I had to rewrite it. And it still sucks. Because I couldn't figure out how to freakin' end it. So yeah. (stabs) Anyway, hope you don't hate it. It's my first Akuroku with actual (slight) romance.

Disclaimer: Nope.

-- - --

The hum of peace was calming.

The sun sharp and alive as it hung suspended in the cloudless sky above his head, Destiny Islands, a tourist trap for all who wanted a nice beach to go to for a summer rendezvous, radiated with heat as golden light spilled shadows onto the concrete, the flow of human traffic relentless. He was caught in the tide, too, hands shoved in his pockets, eyes indifferently fixed ahead, as his feet allowed him to weave around laughing teens and irritated families, the mood beneath his apathetic appearance crackling slightly.

He didn't like people. Noisy, abrasive, rude, they got in his way and brushed against him, making him stumble and just shouting in his ear when their pointless words were meant for someone else, whom he didn't particularly care about. Put that element in a small island paradise, complete with narrow streets and scorching weather, and it spelled bad day in screaming letters for his own reading pleasure.

Exhaling impatiently, jerking his shoulder away when someone ran past, the person laughing and shouting as he turned and waved to people no doubt following him, the blond watched in a bored fashion as a shock of unruly brown hair disappeared as the space he made was swallowed whole, the blond's peripheral vision catching a silver-haired teen effortlessly weaving through the crowds soon after, a red-haired girl at his heels. Mouth twitching, frustration towards everyone around him making his hands twitch in agitation, almost curling into fists, he had to restrain the curses weighing down his tongue, gaze narrowing when the petite redhead laughed and skipped ahead, twisting her body and waving towards her lagging companion before she sped off. He was just thankful they were soon going out of his way, because he didn't want to be jostled anymore as he made his way towards the beach.

Ruffling his hair as his eyes strayed to the expanse of blue overhead, he grimaced, only able to imagine how crowded the sands were at this hour. Had he not gotten such a late start, his heavy slumber brought about by his three a.m. night of lounging before the television with music bleeding into his senses through his headphones, he could've made due with a morning stroll at the water's edge and gone out of town for the day.

But no, now it was far too crowded to even hope to get his car through the streets without coming to a complete stand-still through half hour intervals, so the beach it was.

Shoulders slumping, gaze removed from the cloudless sky to glower at the backs of faceless forms before him, he felt his lip curl in discontent. Feet taking him farther to the left, too, he stepped up onto the curb, fingertips fisting a handful of blond strands as he grumbled under his breath, spots of sweat lingering on his forehead as his white jacket hung loosely to his frame, black shirt underneath clinging to his chest. Again he was reminded how hot it was, and again he was severely annoyed, lowering his hand to drag his forearm across his brow as he sighed in exhaustion.

He wanted to swim, that was all. His rented cottage had no air conditioning, and he just wanted something to relieve him of the God-awful heat that blanketed the islands in such an overbearing manner.

So couldn't people move faster?

"Heads up!"

It was about as much warning as he was given. Head jerking to the right, eyes wide as the teens on rollerblades rushed towards him, he stumbled over his feet, shoulder crashing into someone to his right as he tripped over their extended legs, landing in an ungraceful heap on the ground. Groaning, shifting his body so that he dragged his arms under his head and his legs curled slightly, the blond lifted his gaze and glowered ahead, the retreating backs of the group disappearing in the distance as their progress created a ripple of movement through the sea of travelers.

He was pissed, to say the least.

"Dumbasses," he growled, crooking his elbows outward as he pushed his upper body into a sitting position, rubbing the back of his head afterwards as he let out a sigh. Then, placing one hand on his right knee, he shifted his legs and managed to his feet, dusting himself off nonchalantly as he stood there, bangs falling to his eyes from the incline of his head and occasionally stirred by the breeze.

The sound of clapping behind him had him arching an eyebrow, stilling in his movements as he lifted his head and looked over his shoulder, attention immediately resting on a guy leaning against a soda machine, somehow managing a cloak in the weather. Coy grin on his features, green eyes sparkling above tattoos adorning his cheekbones, he tilted his head to the side, flare of red hair rippling like flames.

"Astounding performance. You're so light on your feet."

Bristling in annoyance, he turned around and glowered at the man, shrugging his shoulder away and wincing slightly when someone walked into him. Eyes glancing back into green, narrowing at the mocking smile toying at the redhead's lip's corners, he growled softly. "Shut up."

Pushing away from the machine, amused glint in his eyes, the man opposite to him strolled forward, casually leaning down as he met the challenge in the blond's eyes. Wanting only to get to the beach, however, and not exactly in the mood to socialize, he scoffed in response, waving him off as a smile curled the corners of the redhead's lips and turning on his heel, his footsteps carrying him away and onward.

"Hey!"

Sighing in frustration, coming to a stop as his head fell back, he glowered at the sky above, an annoyed "What?" tripping forward past his lips.

"The name's Axel. Got it memorized?"

Looking over his shoulder, eyeing this Axel with incredulity as he arched a brow, he took in the playful grin and confident stance, soon finding himself rolling his eyes as he looked forward again.

"Whatever," he responded, waving his hand absently as he soon melted in with the crowd, weaving towards the center so he could disappear from the sharp green eyes completely.

-- - --

He had to say, he much preferred the beach an hour or so after sunrise. Less crowded, less clichéd, and all around more peaceful.

Bare feet sinking into the sand that was damp from the previous night's rainfall, he curled his toes contentedly, eyes falling on the waves breaking in the distance, the horizon undulating just beyond. The hush around him made his eyes heavy, a yawn itching at his throat as the waves crashed and crept closer to his feet, and as he lifted his hand to stifle his gaping yawn the cell phone in his pocket rang, distracting his attention.

Blinking blearily, rooting through the depths of his khaki pants until his fingertips grazed the device, his grip closed around it and he brought it into the open, eyes glancing off the name once before he flipped it open and brought it to his ear.

"Hi, Olette."

"Roxas! Hi! How's your vacation?"

Smiling, eyes softening as they remained fixed on the touches of gray and soft rose and scattered purple, he felt his lips ease into a gentle smile. "It's fine. You don't need to worry."

She was silent for a minute, no doubt nodding, and the rustling of paper sounded in the background. Rolling his eyes in amusement, Roxas shifted his feet, walking along the shoreline as he drove his left hand through his hair distractedly. Same old Olette, doing homework when there was no school to be had.

"You sound tired. Are you sure you're relaxing?"

He laughed gently. "Olette, it's six in the morning. Of course I'm tired."

"O-oh, I didn't wake you, did---?"

"I've been up," he said gently, cutting her off before her concerns could escalate any farther. "The time's different here, though, remember? Twilight Town's hours ahead of Destiny Islands."

She sighed softly, the creak of a chair and further rustling of paper sounding the silence on the other line. "I'm sorry. I just keep forgetting."

He nodded, progress slow as his eyes took in the sights around him. A couple was sitting high up on the dunes he was approaching, completely engrossed in one another even so early as it was. A jogger was making his way down the shoreline up ahead, feet splashing in the shallow waves and carrying him closer and closer towards Roxas. And gulls stood in a cluster to his right, cries shrill and raucous as they fought over scattered bread and empty sea shells.

"I'm happy…" her voice captured his attention again, and he furrowed his brow as he listened, hand falling to rub the back of his neck absently. "…that you're able to relax, Roxas."

He gave a soft laugh, footsteps halting as his eyes grazed the ripples in the sand made by the retreating tide. Inclining his head, he dug his toes into the moist sand, swinging his left arm casually as he let it fall to his side. "Yeah. It's been nice to get away."

"Just don't collapse like that again, all right?!" He smiled at the brunette's motherly tone, rolling his eyes affectionately as he turned about, retracing the footsteps he'd left imprinted in the sand. "You really scared us. You get too stressed, Roxas, so just take a break and---"

"Olette, calm down," he laughed softly, shrugging his shoulders easily. "And I promise. I'll take care of myself."

"I still think someone should've gone with you…" she complained, not letting up, and he could practically her pacing now, wearing a path into the carpet as she bit her lip and focused her eyes on some part of her wall.

"Just a couple more days, Olette. I'll be home soon." Shifting his arm slightly, he smiled, eyes softening as he turned his head and glanced out onto the horizon. "Love you."

She giggled against her will, he could tell, and then sighed, no doubt leaning against her desk from the way the papers shuffled hesitantly in the background. "I love you too, you idiot. We all do. So rest up; you still need to those independent studies done so you can look good for colleges, too."

Laughing, he spared her a final goodbye, ending the conversation by closing the phone and shoving it back into his pockets. Day already monumentally better, Roxas played with the strands of blond hair with his fingertips, feet carrying him towards the downtown area of Destiny Islands, the way he would use to get back home.

Olette had been his best friend since he'd moved to Twilight Town years back. Being the general pain that he was, rebellious and without the social experience to just walk up to a person and offer his friendship sincerely, he made a lot of trouble for himself. He made himself an enemy of teachers, occasionally vandalized, and even challenged Seifer's gang every so often. Without the discipline in his household to hold his rage back – his father had abandoned them years ago and his mother was long gone from the world due to her alcoholic tendencies – he had no one to talk with and no one to care.

Plus, besides his anger at his domestic problems, he was fighting a personality crisis, struggling to figure out what his sexual orientation was. He figured that, if he got close to no one, he wouldn't have to deal with it, so he pushed people away.

Olette wasn't one to be ignored, however.

She slowly wedged her way into his heart, little by little each passing day. He'd thought he could love her, in the beginning, her evergreen eyes and infectious giggle stirring a slight laugh out of him every so often, and her gentle touch able to calm his rage when he would trade words with Hayner, the rebellious teen whose group Olette belonged to. But he soon found that his affections only went so far as friendship, even when they'd shared their first kiss, and his frustrations only heightened, because he hadn't felt that he could deal with all of this happening all at once.

But it had been resolved. He couldn't quite remember how, or why Hayner and Pence suddenly befriended him, but one day they'd just started laughing in the usual spot, together and inseparable, and it had just clicked into place. It had lasted even up to now, after three years, and he couldn't ask for better friends than them.

Feet brushing along pavement, he realized with a start that he'd stepped off of the beach. Slowing his pace, walking along the sidewalk until he came to a bench, he sat himself down, drawing his feet closer so that he could brush off the sand that clung to his skin.

He couldn't wait to get back to Twilight Town, once this week was over. Life just wasn't as exciting without them.

-- - --

The day was monumentally cooler than yesterday, thankfully, the breeze earlier that morning still sweeping off of the tide. The clouds were hanging low in the sky, too, the oppressive gray perhaps hinting a storm. Thus, the streets had breathing room, and as he walked downtown just for the sake of it, hands in his pockets, eyes focused on the ground under his feet, he felt this day to be the best of his two-week vacation, people not around to agitate his temper, the humidity not clinging to his skin and making it hard to catch his breath.

It was calming, quiet, soothing. Besides watching the sunset off of the clock tower in Twilight Town and just walking some shoreline at dawn, this was the kind of moment in a day he liked best. A person could be on his own, lost in his thoughts, unperturbed by anything.

"You! I know you!"

Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Stopping in his tracks, rolling his eyes to the heavens, he felt dread spread through his stomach when he realized that he recognized that voice. It was that Axel-person, holding himself up against the same soda machine, standing just ahead of him as he crossed his arms over the chest of his peculiar cloak, green eyes glinting in amusement.

"And I'm leaving," he mumbled, turning around, shoving his hands into his pockets as he squared his shoulders. He may have made a great distance in his strives towards friendships, but he wasn't anywhere near cured.

He still had no qualms about shutting people out, no matter how friendly their advances were.

"Hey, wait up!" he called, Roxas blatantly ignoring him as he kept his head down and tried to ignore the jogging behind him. "Wait, will ya?"

"Screw you," Roxas muttered, veering off of the sidewalk, crossing the street to the other side. The roads were almost completely empty, save a few cars still in the distance, everyone no doubt lazy on such a miserable day.

"Well, if you're into that I suppose you could. I would like a name first, of course."

Casting the man a dark look, footfalls stopping as he bristled at the comment, Roxas whirled around, crossing his arms impatiently. Calming to a halt as well, Axel let his arms hang at his sides, brilliant grin lighting up his face playfully.

"You can get the hell away from me now."

Crossing his arms as well, he shook his head as he sighed, smug expression still keeping the upward tilt in his lips. As Roxas felt exasperation alter his features, he sighed, dry look pinned on the redhead who now matched him in the blond's initiated staring contest, apparently expectant.

"Go…"

"Yeah," he smirked, shrugging his shoulders as he towered over Roxas, eyes crinkling. "Not happening."

"Then stop following me," Roxas snapped, whirling on his heel and trudging off to the right this time, rather wanting to continue his peaceful afternoon and not wanting the redhead to know where his house was situated.

As he'd figured, Axel fell into step beside him, gliding fluidly as his arms remained crossed over his chest and his cloak rippled in the wind behind him.

"Is giving me your name really all that difficult, Blondie?" he asked offhandedly, bringing his hand to push Roxas forward as his touch landed on the back of his head. Stumbling, the blond hissed and waved his hands, skipping over his feet as he caught his balance and then shot the highly amused man a glare.

"Yeah, it is. And don't touch me, you idiot."

Giving him a withering look, Axel extended a gloved hand and poked him once in the shoulder. Snarling, Roxas slapped his hand away, rubbing at the offended area in irritation as he straightened himself, strolling slightly farther ahead from the chuckling man, the blond's chin raised indignantly.

"…stupid, arrogant jackass."

"I'm not deaf."

Turning around and walking backwards, Roxas stared at him apathetically. "Oh, I'm touched that you think of my as the kind of person who would care if I hurt your feelings."

Smirking, crossing his arms again, Axel inclined his head thoughtfully. "You're going to walk into someone, Blondie."

Jumping, Roxas whirling about, but he spun too fast and tripped, leg slamming into a parking meter as he yelped and caught himself against it. Blinking in surprise, surveying the empty area, he quickly realized that the idiot trailing after him had lied, and thus shot the redhead a scathing glare as the man leaned against the railing, holding his forehead in one hand and his side with the other as he collapsed into laughter.

"The look…on your face, Blondie…!"

Annoyed, the blond snarled defensively. "It's Roxas. And you're a jackass."

Shifting his feet, Roxas jogged down the sidewalk, leaving the red-haired man to compose himself as he made to distance himself as much as possible from him. The dull ache throbbing in his leg ebbing away and his irritation dispensing as the wind rushed through his hair, Roxas ran until he was deep into the other side of town. Footsteps slowing, breath coming in gasps, he doubled over, resting his arms on his knees as he fought for air.

And when he could breathe again, a smile slipped onto his face, a thing which startled him greatly.

-- - --

"You like ice cream, Roxas?"

"Go away."

They made an odd pair, he decided. The fact that the relationship itself was bizarre didn't need to be dwelled on too carefully, obviously; he'd known the guy for two days and already they'd made a habit of meeting up at the same soda machine, walking through town side by side, Roxas mostly insulting Axel, Axel mostly teasing Roxas. But he wondered what the numerous eyes of the passing people saw and thus thought, seeing Roxas, small for an eighteen-year-old and vastly mature, growling biting remarks to a twenty-some-odd man who wouldn't know how to act his age if someone explained it to him.

Shaking his head as he held back a smile, knowing Axel would give him grief if he actually revealed that he was enjoying the man's company, Roxas raked his fingers through his hair, eyes to the sky.

"Do you?"

"Shut up."

"God, Roxas, if you don't like ice cream, you fail at the human race. I might just have to disown you as my friend."

Smiling playing dangerously on his lips, Roxas looked off to the left. He didn't regret telling the eccentric redhead his name. Something in the way he said it…it just seemed complete, in a way Hayner, Pence, and Olette couldn't achieve.

"That hurts me deep in my nonexistent heart, Axel."

He scoffed, ruffling the blond's hair, Roxas wincing as a reaction under the abrasive gesture. Smile brightening slightly, he batted the hands away, feeling the laughter fighting to bubble forth from the back of his throat.

"You're not heartless, Roxas. You're just a jerk."

"Thanks."

The man beamed, causing Roxas to laugh softly and thus cover the sound with a false cough. "Now. Ice cream."

"Dear God in…will it make you shut up if I say I want ice cream?"

"Yup!"

"Then fine," Roxas grumbled. "I want ice cream."

Needing no further prompting, Axel excitedly grabbed his wrist, pulling Roxas effortlessly though the crowd as the boy stumbled and fought to keep up. Wincing when he accidentally bumped into passersby, Roxas rolled his eyes at the man who was dragging him along, annoyed by his carelessness. He didn't particularly enjoy being treated like a rag doll, that was for sure.

At last he was tugged into a small shop, stumbling into Axel's cloaked back when his attention wandered for the briefest of seconds. Growling into the fabric, Roxas pushed away, shaking his head in an abrupt fashion as he made to clear away the dizziness that had fallen over him.

"Walk much?" Axel teased.

Roxas merely glared at him, without the power on his temper to keep himself from growling expletives, should his mouth open.

"So. What do you want?"

Sighing, staring at the man for a long moment, he finally shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose in exasperation, rooting through his pocket with his left hand. "I'll pay for my own. I don't need you babying me."

"Tough guy…" Axel laughed, crossing his arms as Roxas shot him a glare, flipping his wallet open as he did so. "And you are not paying. You are definitely the girl on this date."

Blinking in surprise, Roxas stared at the munny in his wallet, having lowered his eyes for a short second. Then, attention snapping back to the redhead, he stared at him incredulously, not even able to comprehend the utter stupidity of it all.

Sadly, though, the only thing he could think to snap at the man was an indignant, "I am so not a girl!"

Laughing, Axel patted his head affectionately. "Now, sweetheart, what would you like?"

Growling, Roxas clenched his fists. "I can pay for my own damn sea-salt ice cream."

Smirking deviously, Axel nodded and steered him to a seat, pushing him down into the chair as the redhead tapped his own forehead playfully and commented that he'd be right back. Glowering at him, and then at the table when the redhead laughed and walked to the small counter only a short distance away, Roxas shoved the wallet brutally into his pocket, wrinkling his nose.

He didn't get it, really. Axel was everything he strived to avoid, and yet somehow in this case he couldn't stay away from the red-haired man. He didn't like getting close to people; yet, in the passing of a couple days, they were miraculously close friends. He didn't like people interfering with his need for independence; yet, with Axel, he was forced to sacrifice it sometimes and would only get slightly irritated. He hardly gave up any information at all; yet, when Axel asked him something, the answer ultimately slipped out of his mouth. It was frustrating as hell, in Roxas's opinion.

Grumbling, he propped his elbow up on the table and drummed his fingers against his cheek, eyes flicking to the side when he noted movement. Axel was walking back again, ice cream on hand, and the blond sighed, straightening in his chair as the redhead slid into the seat parallel to him. Beaming, Axel extended the treat, Roxas accepting it sourly as he slumped in his chair and glowered over the blue ice cream.

Axel arched an eyebrow in amusement, crooked smirk in place as he leaned into his hand. "You still pissed about that 'girl' comment?"

Growling, Roxas turned his head away, bringing the sugary dessert to his mouth as he muttered under his breath. The redhead chuckled in response, staring at him as he just played with his own ice cream while it sat in its cup, Roxas eyeing him from his peripheral vision all the while.

"What does that taste like, anyway? Sounds nasty."

"It's not," he replied defensively. "It's delicious."

Axel laughed at him, Roxas sneering back. "Well, can I try?"

Roxas scoffed, turning his head to stare straight at the man. "Yeah right. You have your own. Get lost."

Taking a big bite for emphasis, Roxas winced at the cold, Axel consequently burying his face in his hands to muffle his laughter. Scowling softly, embarrassed at his own stupidity, Roxas grumbled, swallowed painfully, and then laughed softly, shaking his head as he leaned his forehead against the palm of his hand.

"You're an idiot, Rox," Axel laughed.

All control left him, and suddenly he was laughing hysterically right along with his friend.

-- - --

He suddenly found himself on the floor.

Grumbling, rubbing the back of his head in irritation, Roxas pushed himself up, arm shaking slightly from the weight of his body. He'd rolled off of the bed, he noted with discontent, eyes trailing back to the mattress and the pillow hanging lopsided at its edge. It was the first time in a while that he'd done such a thing. It only ever happened when his thoughts were restless.

Roxas sighed. And they were, of course. His dreams had been annoyingly persistent about waking him up at intervals in the night.

Sighing, Roxas shook his head and pushed himself up a little farther, so that he was resting in a comfortable position. Once sitting, the sheets of his bed twirled and twisted around his lower body, he rubbed at the back of his head, wincing at the sunlight streaming in.

It felt like a slow day.

Chancing a quick glance at his clock, he sighed, noting that it was only slightly past six. He kind of wished that he was a late sleeper for once, just so he wouldn't have so much time to kill before the day became interesting. He was getting tired of his vacation, no matter how entertaining his new friend Axel was.

With a grunt, Roxas pushed himself to his feet, rubbing at his throbbing head as he trudged towards the bathroom, needing to splash water onto his face to clear the sleep away. Leaning over the sink, he turned on the faucet, hands idling under the running water as he stared at his face reflected in the mirror, noting the circles under his eyes with disdain.

Olette would be irritated with him if she saw the shape he was presently in. This was his vacation, after all, she would argue, and he should try harder to get his rest.

Gasping slightly as cold water splashed onto his skin, he felt his lips twist into a grimace, hands groping about for a towel as he stared at the water trailing towards the drain. Problem was, he wasn't one to let issues go too easily; he over-thought, over-felt, and over-reacted, quirks of his personality that weren't exactly compatible with his habit of spiraling into states of panic.

Sighing, rubbing at his eyes with the white fabric his hand had finally fallen on, he grunted in the back of his throat. He was over-thinking, too, all right. He hadn't been able to sleep properly for days, twisting and turning on his mattress as he found himself matching the shadowed ceiling with his own shadowed-over eyes, legs more often than not kicking off the covers at last so that he could walk to the kitchen and just sit and wait for the sun to rise.

Throwing down the towel, he growled. Roxas was always thinking of red hair, green eyes, and an arrogant smirk now. He just couldn't get Axel out of his mind.

Upon viciously attacking his teeth with his toothbrush, growling at his reflection in the mirror as his cold, blue eyes accused himself of bringing about such troublesome matters, he donned his regular khaki pants, pulling on a casual black shirt with 'XIII' scrawled across it soon afterwards. As he pulled the door of his bedroom open and glided out into the next room, the kitchen – seeing as his one-floor cottage hadn't the room for space – he kicked aside his sneakers resting near the counter and casually slid into them, gaze indifferently sweeping across the shadows on his floor as he dipped his hands into his pockets.

Clothed, alert, and unbearably restless now, he strolled towards his door and shoved the screen open with his shoulder, noting with contempt how he'd been careless to lock it after he'd stepped out onto the porch at three a.m. for a breath of fresh air.

Too lazy to lock it behind him, he shook his head and jogged down the steps, shoes scraping against gravel as he carried himself toward the sidewalk and walking past sleeping houses, allowing his feet to take him to the main street that split apart the downtown area from the beach.

He needed to relax.

Honestly, he couldn't understand his gloom completely. The day before, he'd been laughing and smiling and as normal as he used to be, joking with Axel in the ice cream parlor as the man teased him back. He'd had fun, a thing which surprised the blond, and he'd enjoyed the company.

Now, his moods had switched. Sure, ever since he'd first stumbled across Axel leaning against the soda machines, his thoughts had been restless and he hadn't been spared much slumber, but it wasn't almost like he was mad at the guy. Fixing his glare on the pavement, he felt his lip twitch, and he hissed out a sigh, wondering why it was so complicated.

Olette always teased him about being blind about his emotions. Maybe she was right.

Sending his fingers through his hair, Roxas sighed, feeling lonely for the first time in the quiet. He wanted Olette to call, but he knew she was busy; she had volunteer work with Hayner cleaning up the ring for the Struggle Match that was to be held on the last day of vacation. Considering Hayner always got himself into trouble, he'd been roped into it as a kind of "community service" type thing, Olette trailing behind because she always loved to tease the boy, and, more her character, she just didn't want him to be spending his last days of break miserably. Pence no doubt would also be helping, seeing as he would be friendless if he didn't.

The smile brought to his face by such musings died slowly, his eyes darkening into storm clouds as he lowered his head. No, instead he was the one left friendless, because he couldn't keep a goddamn hold on his emotions. If he could just always be apathetic, he wouldn't worry them so much; he could actually be there, laughing and enjoying himself instead of stressing himself to the point of breaking.

Roxas hated the way he was sometimes. He hated being so helpless.

Scuffing the ground with one of his sneakers, he tsked under his breath, eyes narrowing sharply. That was all he was, really. He was a vulnerable little kid, too damn reliant on others no matter how hard he tried otherwise. It was one of the things that irked him always when he was at Axel's side.

The redhead just made it so easy to be dependent.

And there he was, thinking of Axel again, missing Axel again. He knew it was too early for the redhead to be up, and so he wanted to see him more, hands clenching at his sides as he gritted his teeth at the revelation. Even thinking of the man made him pathetic, weak, and utterly helpless. He couldn't just ignore the redhead anymore.

Growling out sharply, the blond whirled on his heel, entirely fed up. He couldn't walk any farther. This thinking he'd planned had been directed right back towards Axel, and he couldn't deal with that. The happiness he felt in the redhead's presence, the carefree bliss that came so easily, confused the hell out of him, and so he'd run from it, back to his bed sheets curled in an unkempt pile on his mattress. He was going to fight for just one dreamless sleep, no matter if the sun was rising higher and a new day was creeping closer. He just needed rest, or else he truly was going to break down, and he couldn't deal with that.

So he started walking back, head bowed resentfully, mind tired of thinking of the redhead. In just a few short days, his heart, a thing he never thought he had, had become someone else's before it could truly even be his own. Axel had become his panic attack, and he was wearing him out, so that Roxas couldn't even sleep anymore. His thoughts belonged entirely to glinting eyes and dancing flames.

And he really didn't know how to deal with it.

-- - --

It wasn't a good day.

The rains were oppressive. The lock to his house was being stubborn. None of his friends had called. And a million small things were getting in his way, everything going wrong. The agitation was building up inside of him, an agitation which led to his anxiety attacks undoubtedly, and he didn't want to deal with that today, so he'd decided for a walk.

Besides, Axel probably wouldn't be around to act as a catalyst to his shortened fuse. The man hated water, for some unknown reason.

God knows why he decided to vacation at a beach, though.

Shivering, pulling the hood closer around his face, Roxas walked the streets, his agitated mood from yesterday still crackling within him. Just thinking Axel's name made him bristle, his mind on edge, his footsteps hesitant. And, above all, he was so tired, wearing himself out silently as he constantly worried over the redhead, stressing over the fact that he couldn't get him out of his head and that he couldn't get any sleep besides. It was yet another one of his flaws, that he didn't suffer outright. Olette hated the fact that he was so withdrawn, never showing his feelings; when it got to be too much and he collapsed at the most sudden of times, he always awoke to her crying, pleading to him every single time to just say what was wrong so that she could help him.

"You don't need to suffer alone, Roxas," she would gasp, fisting his shirt as she sobbed into his shoulder. "I'm here."

But Roxas had never learned how to be open. It was just easier this way.

Pence, always trying to help, tried to peg it as a sort of strange depression, which came and went as it pleased. (Hayner, being Hayner, would always drawl that that was normally what depression was like, stupid). And, from the small amount that he knew of his father, Roxas knew that depression was hereditary in his family; he just wasn't sure if it had been passed down to him.

Most of the time, it was his own doing. He just thought things to death, mind growing more and more burdened each time. All he knew was that, when such happened, the less he was around people, the better.

So, despite the frigid temperature of the rain pouring down, he was seeking comfort now in the calming drum of it against his shoulders and onto the pavement, with the freedom to walk without people getting in his way. The cold could distract him from his musings, and he could just listen to the natural hum of a stormy day, hopefully to calm by his walk's end.

But it was just like fate to intervene.

"Roxas?"

He recognized the voice before he even saw his form, but that didn't stop Roxas from squinting through the film of rainfall, eyes falling onto the skinny build adorning a cloak, a shock of red hair obvious against the surrounding gray, and surprised green eyes directed solely on him. Axel, startlingly enough, was at the soda machine even in this weather, smoking a cigarette, reclining in the quiet afternoon.

Sighing, Roxas shook his head and kept on walking, hands shoved in his pockets, head bowed slightly.

"Hey!" The blond caught his movement, Axel leaning down and flicking the cigarette onto the ground and crushing it under his boot hurriedly, but didn't stop moving, his hesitation wearing off and his eyes fixing their gaze straight ahead once more. "Roxas!" Axel called, agitation in his voice, but the blond kept moving, hoping he'd get the hint.

A slap of flesh against clothing startled him, and then he jerked as he realized that Axel had grabbed his wrist, the blond stopping as consequence to the man's grip. Turning his head, eyes flaring, he glared in a way more deadly than he'd yet done to Axel, the man hesitating as he scratched his head in confusion, grip still tight on his arm.

"Hey, didn't you hear me?"

"Piss off," Roxas snapped, the man's eyes widening in astonishment as Roxas jerked his arm away, continuing his slow progress. He didn't expect the redhead to follow now, not with the way his tone had sliced through the air more coldly and successfully than the falling rain had achieved, so he didn't bother to pick up the pace.

He was just going to leave Axel behind, standing in the rain, probably to regret the action tomorrow.

"What's your problem?!" Axel growled suddenly, his feral tone halting Roxas in his steps. Eyes widened slightly, he stared at his feet, hood overshadowing his eyes as he watched the ripples explode on the pavement under him, the crackling anger holding the silence tenaciously for a long moment.

"Just leave me alone, Axel," he finally said, irritated. And he took a step, sigh hissing past his lips, but that was the greatest amount of distance he made.

"Like hell!"

Tiredly, Roxas ran a hand along his face, exhaustion welling up within him. He couldn't take this. He didn't want to break down when he was going home so soon. He just wanted to let the ties between them dissolve smoothly, so that Axel wouldn't be hurt and Roxas wouldn't regret leaving him behind. Twilight Town was waiting for him, and he was more than willing to go home, but Axel was making this difficult, like he apparently made all things difficult.

"Stop, Axel…" he warned, wary of his own temper.

The redhead sloshed through the puddles, violently whirling Roxas about to face him. Taking hold of his chin, he growled softly, looking immensely frustrated. "Is this how your treat your friends, Roxas? Huh? Are you always this big of a prick?"

Inhaling sharply, his body jerked, his temper snapping. Fisting his hand violently, the anger surging within him so dangerously that his upper body shook, Roxas growled and at the last second stopped himself from slamming a blow into Axel's gut, instead shoving him away.

"Go away!" he screeched, voice cracking.

Axel stared at him incredulously. "R-Roxas…"

Shaking his head violently, he shifted his feet and ran off, sloshing through the puddles as he raced as fast as he could down the damp city streets. The hoarse panting of his breath startled him, as did the pounding of his heart in his ears, but he didn't stop, eyes wide with fear and adrenaline coursing through his veins. This was going to end. He was going to stop messing around. His heart couldn't take it.

He just wasn't meant for companionship. His friendship with Hayner, Pence, and Olette was just a lucky fluke. Anything else was too much.

Roxas didn't realize until he was quite breathless that he'd put too much distance between himself and his cottage, making it impossible to gain refuge from the rain. Unwilling to turn back, for fear of running into Axel once more, he tripped as he fought to slow and finally stumbled to his knees, collapsing breathlessly as he stared in a vacant manner at the ground.

Slowly, every part of his body conscious of his actions, he moved his hands to fist his hair, and then he choked, eyes wide as his body shuddered and he stared in disbelief as his vision blurred. He wanted to go home. He wanted to crawl under warm covers and slip away from the world, because he was just that horrible, pushing away a person who'd been, even if only for a short time, a really close friend.

It had always been him, he knew. Roxas had always pushed everyone away. No one had been different, because he'd hated people in general, and so what was one more?

He'd never expected it to hurt. He'd never expected to care. And he'd never expected to cry.

But Axel…he was always the exception.

-- - --

To say he was mortified didn't even do his feelings justice.

His mistake had been to go back to the downtown stores, expecting to find a few more gifts for the friends he would be meeting back home. Having slept well into the afternoon, waking up to a day that was again miserably wet and gloomy, he had phoned Olette and had thankfully caught her, saying he'd be home later that night. And he had gone for a walk into the streets, alert to his surroundings so that he could turn should Axel be anywhere in sight.

But when the soda machines had appeared deserted, the streets only bearing a handful of people, he had let his guard down, and his cautious mood had eased. He'd honestly expected to be able to leave behind every little drama that had happened in the last few days, his vacation ending resolutely with the last shopping bag and his footsteps leading him home.

But, instead, fate had it out for him.

(Seriously, he must have pissed it off somehow).

Smiling at the present, fingering some charming trinket that had just screamed Olette, he leaned down to pick it up. Once in hand, he held it up to the light, excitement at seeing her and everyone else again bursting in his stomach like a thousand butterflies. Olette had always been his girl, after all, and even if he didn't love her, he treasured her more than anything, and he couldn't wait to see the smile light up her face when he got back.

Laughing softly, he just hoped she'd like it.

Distracted, he didn't sense anyone come up behind him until two hands rested on the shelf in front of him, arms brushing against his waist. Stiffening, Roxas jerked and fumbled with the gift in hand, choking in surprise. Finally maintaining hold on it, he remained still, not even daring to breathe as he concentrated his horrified stare ahead, his look met only by magazines.

"Now…" a voice growled in a deadly fashion, lips dipping to move against his ear, "why is it that you're so happy today, Blondie?"

Jerking in surprise, Roxas tripped over his feet, righting himself quickly before Axel could be given the satisfaction of doing it himself. Folding his arms stubbornly over his chest, pressing Olette's intended gift near his heart, he tried to keep the fear from his body as he fought desperately for anger.

"I'm…I'm going h-home," he found himself stammering, eyes narrowing immediately afterwards at the pathetic sound of his voice. He blamed it on fear of Axel's anger, not uncertainty of his closeness.

'Goddamn blush,' he snarled in his mind, irked that he couldn't blame that on anything but the redhead.

"Huh," Axel muttered. "You never told me you were leaving soon."

Then, unexpectedly, he shifted closer and moved his arms to encircle Roxas's waist as the blond yelped, thrashing his feet in indignation. Silently he cursed the little shop for being rather large for a beach front, and he doubly cursed the weather for not allowing more people to be around so that someone might catch Axel practically molesting him.

Oh, he was pissed.

"Let…go!" he snapped, jerking and growling as the redhead passively held him off of the floor, never saying a word. Perhaps he was truly livid, unable to forgive the blond for his comments the previous day. And really, he could understand that, but he honestly didn't care.

"If I don't let go you don't leave," he commented nonchalantly, but the familiar tones of teasing were hidden in his voice.

"Screw you!" he shouted, kicking wildly and growing mildly satisfied when he heard a pained grunt sound from Axel. In the end, he became so much of a nuisance that the redhead relented and placed him down, only to spin him about and pin him against the shelf, looming down with a hesitant grin.

"Oh, you still want to? Even after yesterday?"

Brows twitching in discomfort, he looked away in a stubborn attempt to ignore the pained look in Axel's eyes, muttering under his breath in frustration. "Whatever, Axel," he finally mumbled, shrugging away his hand as he pushed him back weakly, unable to help the reluctance that flashed briefly across his features. He was going to miss the redhead; even he couldn't lie to himself about that.

"Rox…"

Stiffening, Roxas lowered his head and ignored his friend, leaning down to pick up his other bags and then weaving out of the aisle and down another until he found his way through the maze to the counter. Not sparing the cashier a glance, he retrieved munny from his pocket and held out his hand for the change, not caring if he was going to be ripped off or not. Then, snatching the object away again, he slipped it into a random bag and walked out the doors and onto the sidewalk, wincing as the lightened rainfall dripped into his eyes.

Sighing dejectedly, he started walking, pathway stretching towards home.

"Roxas!"

Stopping, rolling his eyes, Roxas cast a glance over his shoulder, shrugging as Axel took a step, hesitated, and then spared a wary grin. He didn't know what the redhead wanted, in all honesty; normally he was so confident, never halting when he wanted to take what he felt was his. Roxas had seen several examples of such, at any rate.

So if he wanted to talk, why wasn't he?

Shaking his head, Roxas shrugged again, moving forward. Apparently, it wasn't that important.

"Wait!"

"I have to go home," the blond commented offhandedly. "Sorry."

"Dammit, why are you being so difficult?! I just wanted to talk, Roxas! And how come you didn't tell me you were going so soon? I would've…"

Roxas stopped, hearing the redhead's slow footsteps continue to trail after him. Eyes cold, jacket clinging to his form as his navy shirt, one sporting two keyblades crossed as a design, remained plastered to his body, he shook his head and stared off down the road, the gust of wind making him shiver. "What, Axel?" he murmured, shrugging his shoulders carelessly. "You wouldn't miss me."

There was a savage growl, and then Roxas found his body slammed against the nearest barrier – a soda machine, of all the ironic things – as the bags fell from his possession. Eyes wide, entire being startled, he stared at the man he'd so easily befriended and then distanced himself from, feeling a stab of guilt when he caught the true depths of Axel's anger in his green eyes.

"That's not true," he snapped, fingers clenching the soaked fabric of his clothing as he stood fully exposed under the storming weather. Face falling immediately afterwards, Axel bowed his head, forehead coming to rest against the blond's as he sighed in exhaustion. "Stupid…"

Roxas made a noise of disdain, irked by the insult no matter if he was supposed to be moved by the redhead's heartfelt comment. And Axel himself glanced up, disbelieving look appraising the blond's lack of compassion as he straightened, remaining until the softest of laughs slipped past his lips and he was smirking in his customary fashion once more.

"You jerk," he said affectionately, leaning down to lean his forehead against the blond's. Face flaring in the cold, Roxas narrowed his eyes at him, pushing at his chest weakly. He knew he wasn't trying that hard, though, and, more importantly, Axel knew that, too. "Here I am, bearing my heart and soul to you, admitting in not so many words that I would be crushed should you leave me, and you go and roll your eyes at me."

"You called me stupid, jackass," he drawled, lips slipping upwards slightly. "How is that sentimental?"

Axel laughed and dropped his hand from Roxas's shoulder, moving it to touch his hip affectionately. The blond jerked in surprise but calmed just as quickly, the blood pounding in his cheeks. "So. You don't hate me now? Just like that?"

Roxas rolled his eyes. "Well, I could always try harder."

"Aww, but you wouldn't. You like me, Roxas. You know you do-o."

"Kinda wish I didn't," the blond grumbled, grinning despite himself.

Axel smiled back. "So, if I were to kiss you, would you go berserk and run from me again?"

Roxas sighed, staring passively at him as he shook his head. "Well, I don't know. I am going miles and miles away. Of course, you would probably follow me."

"Probably."

"So I guess there's no point in you not kissing me, right?"

"I guess so."

They stared at each other, Axel grinning craftily as he hovered over the blond, Roxas staring back expectantly. Beyond them, a car rushed by and the downpour picked up, Axel's cloak gleaming with water and his bangs plastering slightly against his face. Blinking, Roxas arched a brow at him.

"So you just stare at me…?"

Axel smirked in amusement, shrugging once. Needing no further incentive, though, he leaned down and captured the blond's lips swiftly, Roxas stiffening in shock momentarily until he eased under the redhead's touch. Hands fisting Axel's cloak soon after, Roxas kissed him back, the drum of the rain drowned out by the pounding of his heart.

He could feel it in the air; summer vacation was over.

And where his life went from there…well, he honestly didn't know.

-- - --

I think...I'm going to go pass out now. The length is ridiculous. I'm so sorry for that, too. (dies) Anyway, please review.