Another challenge fic. That's due…today?

Except I forgot if that means that "it's due today as in 12:00AM yesterday" or "12:00AM today." Silly me. If it's the first one then whoops, and if it's the second one than it means that I have 2 hours and a half left to submit yay:D

Yeah, I know I fail at deadlines. XD This probably should have been a multi-chap fic as well. But I tried to keep it as a one-shot.

Challenge: "Faith," Rokukami's challenge.

Summary: Roxas doesn't believe in his dreams in becoming a famous artist anymore. He doesn't believe in his stupid imaginary friend either. But what if all he needed was for someone to believe in him for a change? And what if that someone was his 'not-so-imaginary-after-all' friend?

Disclaimer: Shut up.


Black.

"Roxas."

The blond dabbed his paint brush into the ebony substance again, smearing his monochrome canvas with it and ignoring Namine.

"Roxas!"

After a few more half-hearted strokes he decided to give her a quick nod, indicating that she had part of his attention - until he realized that he was completely out of black. Instead he turned the volume on his iPod louder and reached for the tube of left over Prussian blue.

"Roxas, are you even listening to me?" sighed Namine, trying to hide her exhaustion.

She quickly grabbed the paint replacement before Roxas did and placed it out of his reach. A frown appeared on her partner as he narrowed his eyes in annoyance. However, it also earned her the college student's reluctant attention.

"Rox," her voice was gentler now. It was soothing, it was comforting, and it reminded Roxas of what a failure he was. It felt like home again.

He didn't need her sympathy.

"What?" he asked, as if nothing was going on.

He just needed his paint back so he could finish the damn assignment.

"I asked if you were listening to what I was saying."

No he was listening to his music.

"Yes."

Namine fixed him with her royal blue eyes. They were light and soft and reminded him of the Ulysses butterflies in front of their campus. He could get that color by mixing cerulean blue with a little titanium white. And maybe some kind of indigo. There was always a small tinge of purple around her pupils that matched Kairi's.

But only if you looked closely and had painted her portrait a couple dozen times to notice it.

His partner let out another exasperated sigh. Today her eyes were a pastier blue, the color of forget-me-nots. He subconsciously noted that if their teacher assigned them to do another portrait for homework, he could paint Namine's skin and eyes with the same brush without cleaning it.

"Fine." she said, setting down her own painting tools. "Then what was I saying?"

Roxas turned around to look at his stretched canvas, so he wouldn't have to look at Namine in those ghostly eyes. And more importantly, because he hadn't actually paid attention.

"You said something about...black." he guessed.

When Namine didn't accuse him of anything, Roxas allowed himself to assume he was right. Another fight avoided with his best friend. She really didn't deserve this from him.

However, he hadn't expected her to reach out and grab his hand, stopping the tip of his brush - the hairs still wet with the Prussian paint he had gotten back - from touching the latest product of that week.

"Roxas, what are you painting?" she asked, but Roxas still hadn't looked at her.

Because then he'd see the pleading look in her eyes. He'd hear the 'I-know-you-have-a-problem-and-everyone-else can-see-it-too' voice reflected in those orbs.

It had been that way ever since he told her that he had lost his inspiration

When an artist loses their inspiration, it usually meant they've quit. It was like writer's block, it was like life getting in the way, like an artist clutching a pencil so tightly in their hand that their knuckles and fingers were as white and blank as the paper in front of them.

But to someone like Roxas, whose entire life was made of art, who's every passion, every memory could be reminisced on a canvas, it meant they've lost their desire to live.

"I don't know." the reply came out of nowhere, much like the painting itself.

The picture was from one of his dreams; his fake nightmares. Somewhere in a made-up city at night, with tall buildings reaching out to a starless sky. The only lights emitted were from the bright neon signs, allowing the forms of night-creatures to be seen against all the black he created.

Those...creature...things, Namine didn't know what they were, but they scared her the most.

The way they twisted and turned in agony without showing any emotion on their inhuman faces. Did they even have faces? Those were just eyes, empty and yellow and...searching? And they seemed to spawn off the shadows of his painting.

Their claws becoming prominent under the city lights as they tried to grasp on to something, anything, to hold on to. What was going on with her best friend?

"Roxas," she began in a hushed tone, but he cut her off.

"I don't know anymore, Namine! I just...I can't do it like I used to anymore. It just...left me okay? I'm not a painter anymore; I don't even know what I'm doing in this place!"

He stood up violently, his seat barely pushed back a few inches before it hit the wall behind him. The art classroom was small and cramped and smelled like cancer-induced oil paint. It was filled with too many students, too many aspiring artists to compete with. He'd never make it.

"Roxas, wait!"

A pale hand reached out to grab his sleeve. He could break the grip if he really wanted too; Namine was weak like that. But instead he stayed, because the next words stopped him and kept him there. Just like they always did.

"You just need to have a little faith in yourself. You can do it Roxas, I know you can."


It was late in the afternoon when he finally got to his usual spot. The path had been washed away by the storm yesterday and he could have sworn some of the palm trees must have moved overnight.

Roxas wasn't even exactly sure how he managed to find his way here in the first place. He had been wandering around mindlessly with his duffel bag strung over a shoulder and his precious sketchbook clutched tightly by his side. He wanted to be anywhere but back home again.

To any of the inhabitants on the island, he must have looked like an eight year old running away from home - and helplessly lost as well.

The free hand that wasn't holding onto the art book with all his dearest drawings came up to wipe a stray tear that had fallen from his eyes. When he drew his hand back a second later, his favorite checkered wristband was damp.

"Stupid Sora..."

He walked down the pebbled path - or at least what was left of it - with difficulty. In his rush to leave the house, he had accidentally put on Sora's stupid yellow shoes instead. And while his brother was only a year older than him, the brunet's footwear size and style were ridiculously huge.

Another misplaced stone in the walkway caused him to trip over his obnoxious shoes, but he caught himself in time.

"Stupid Tidus...and his stupid blitzball sport...and his s-stupid best friend W-Wakka..."

Roxas had to stop moving as his vision blurred again. It was alright to cry here because there was no one around to see him.

No one was around to make fun of him. No one to tell him he couldn't play blitzball with them. To tell him that he was such a girl for drawing all the time and that he should just go play dolls with Selphie instead.

"S-stup-..."

But the rest of his thoughts were interrupted as loudening footsteps were heard to his left. Roxas quickly wiped the rest of his tears away and turned around.

"Who's th-there?!"

A crash was heard and Roxas could see the shadow of another person falling. The being had gotten up again - startled by Roxas' cry - and was proceeding to head right towards Roxas, much quicker than before.

If he wasn't all alone without his big brother by his side in some desolated part of the island with wild animals and dissatisfied tourists who wanted their money back, he'd probably be mad at himself for stuttering.

But all thoughts of how unprepared he was if he was attacked, or how worried his brother might have been at him running away like that, were lost as another person stumbled into his view.

And from then on he couldn't stop staring.

From the vivid red hair that spiked out in every which angle, yet was organized enough for it to be a 'style.' To the pointed hairline and chin that amplified his angular-shaped face. To his tall lanky form that made him look too skinny but at the same time feminine and slightly attractive.

Roxas thought that he was a lot prettier than Selphie too, but he would never admit that because boys weren't suppose to be 'pretty.'

"Um, hiya..."

By now the other boy had moved from his position behind the native palm trees to stand about a few feet in front of Roxas. From their proximity, the blond could see that the other boy was actually a lot taller than him and was probably a few years older too.

Roxas blinked. He had never seen this boy before.

"Who are you?" he inclined his head as he asked the big question immediately.

The taller of the two suddenly broke out into a huge smile, extending his hand to Roxas.

"I'm Axel, A-X-E-L. Got it memorized?" The boy didn't look the least bit phased by the encounter, or give any indication that he was embarrassed from falling right in front of Roxas a few minutes ago.

And of course Roxas was impressed, because he was only eight years old at that time and being able to spell your name was a great feat. Sometimes he added an extra s by mistake, which made teachers give him a funny look. Being eight, he didn't understand what was so funny about 'Rox-ass.'

Roxas placed his hand in the other boy's. If possible, the smile on the other boy's face got wider.

"What does 'me-mo-rized' mean?"

A moment of silence passed between them.

Now it was Axel's turn to stare blankly at him. The redhead opened his mouth, as if to make up an answer, but then thought better of it. He didn't want to lie to someone he just met.

"Heh, I don't know." He took his hand back, although reluctant, and scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "I heard my uncle use it once and thought it sounded cool."

Roxas tilted his head thoughtfully. He didn't have an uncle.

Or at least none that he had met - his mother was insane and his dad was trying to disown them. He probably did have an uncle. The thought excited him and he wondered what it would be like to meet him one day.

"I've never seen you before," said Roxas, a bit more open. Now that the initial fear of running into a dangerous stranger was gone, he was excited to find someone that could become a new friend.

"That's because I'm new." After a moment's pause, Axel continued with less enthusiasm. "...And temporary."

Roxas tilted his head again. Why was this kid using such big words? And why did his voice have such a funny accent?

"Oh." Axel realized that Roxas hadn't understood. "Temporary means I'm not staying..."

"Why not?!" exclaimed Roxas. He had barely met someone and now they had to leave? That wasn't fair! "Don't you like it here?" He sounded like one of the island hotel managers asking the tourist to spend another night. Or like his mother, asking their dad to stay for the sake of the children.

It had barely passed his lips before Roxas had realized what a hypocrite he was. Of course, he hadn't known what a 'hypocrite' was back then - he thought perhaps it was an animal, like a hippo maybe - so instead he just felt a pang of guilt in his chest.

Wasn't he just running away a few minutes ago? Hadn't he hated it when his older brother Sora, got all the attention, all the friends, and even got to play the hero in everything? And of the two children his mother had, it just had to be Sora's name she remembered everyday.

Didn't he hate this place?

He hadn't fully understood the situation back then, but he knew that every time his father raised his voice it was his fault. Or maybe it was Sora's; or both. So maybe if he just upped and left...everything would be better for everyone.

The problem would be halved, his mother's smile would be real again, and Sora's friends wouldn't have to make up a last minute role for him to play in their pirate adventures.

"Nah, it's not that," said Axel hurriedly, after noticing the depressed look on his new friend's face, mistaking it for something he had said.

"I just...don't belong here." He shrugged, emerald eyes scanning the exotic palm trees and flowers and that couldn't be found in the city.

And for the first time that week, Roxas' smile was genuine as it stretched across his face.

"I don't either."


A crash was heard near the front of the room.

"Sorry!"

Roxas groaned as he put his head in his hand. The art class wouldn't have been so bad if his brother wasn't in it as well.

Sora took the class because it was fun and guaranteed an easy 'A'. Roxas took it because this was what he was going to do for the rest of his life.

But now staring at his older brother surrounded by pieces of what used to be a vase– he was starting to wonder if the grade was really worth it if Sora was going to break a display every week. Thankfully Merlin was a patient and understanding instructor.

Roxas stood up to help his brother, as well as Namine and a few other students he didn't recognize. His brother could make friends with anyone, no matter where he went because of his personality and good nature. The blond didn't know if he envied this skill or not.

"Sora, don't move."

But another boy had beaten all of them to aid the brunet. An upperclassman with silver hair – who didn't even take the art class – was by Sora's side immediately.

"Ah, sorry Riku." Said Sora sheepishly as the other student brushed off the clay remnants from his clothes. "Roxas keeps telling me to watch where I'm going and to stop being so clumsy…"

Yeah, but he never listens. Roxas snorted as he sat back down again.

The blond tried to go back whatever it was he was drawing, but he couldn't help glancing back at the sigh of brother being completely petted down by Riku. He wasn't jealous – okay fine maybe he was. But just a little. Very, very little.

The feeling of longing was strangely always present every time he saw the two together. He felt like he was missing something, but that didn't make any sense.

And much to the delight of the female population, yes the two were dating.

It had started during their human anatomy unit. Riku had showed up to model for the class, the teacher had asked him to remove his shirt, Sora had been sitting in the front row…and the details kinda of just got blurry from then on. But he remembered that they had to cancel classes for the rest of that week.

"Sora don't- you'll hurt yourself." Riku bent down to collect the rest of the broken still-life from last week, all the while batting away Sora's hand so the younger boy wouldn't cut himself.

He was glad his brother had found happiness in another person. Too bad he hadn't.


"What'cha got there, Roxas?"

The blond smiled; he had been doing that a lot lately. He was thrilled at the extra attention Axel always seemed to give him.

He pulled the sketchbook out of his nearly empty backpack, careful not to let the binding get damaged. The entire time he noticed emerald eyes watching him curiously.

"It's my drawing book!" Roxas didn't even bother to hide his excitement. No one ever seemed to be interested in what he drew before.

Ever since he had met Axel a few days ago, he had convinced himself it was all a dream. None of the travelers that came to the island ever strayed from Destiny Island's main attractions or its well known beaches. So how was it possible for Roxas to meet someone so far inland that didn't live there?

But the hand that reached towards him, followed by a smile just as big as Roxas', was enough to prove to him that Axel was indeed real.

"Can I see it?" asked the redhead eagerly.

Roxas placed a finger to his lips, and contemplated the question for a second before he replied.

"Okay, but you gotta be careful with it. Sora lost my other one by accident and my dad won't let me get a new book if we lose this one too."

Axel nodded and the smaller boy handed over his prized possession without hesitation.

The first page Axel flipped to was blank. The redhead lifted an eyebrow questioningly and Roxas smiled sheepishly in return.

"I didn't know what to draw on the first page." He shrugged.

"I wanted the first page to be special. So I'm gonna wait until I finish the whole book and get better at drawing to see if I got any better."

Axel laughed at the reasoning and flipped to the next page.

The next few minutes were spent sitting on the ground, admiring Roxas' work. Axel was sitting cross legged on the dirt with Roxas' sketchbook on his lap. They were far enough on inland that there wasn't any sand. Axel was grateful for this since he was starting to hate sand and they way they got into his shoes.

The blond sat next to him, leaning over occasionally to explain a picture or tell a story that went along with one of his doodles. After a moment, they stopped on a page that looked very familiar, yet strikingly different, to Axel.

Roxas mistook Axel's narrowed gaze as puzzlement instead of pure resentment.

"That's the city," he explained. Then he rephrased it with a tilt of his head, suddenly realizing what he had said. "Well, that's what I think a city would look like."

Axel immediately started talking. "You've never been to a city before, have you?"

Azure eyes widened at the question. It sounded more like a statement than a question and he could hear a hint of accusation in it. Was Axel mad at him?

"No…" He looked away in embarrassment.

Axel probably thought he was a snobby know-it-all; pretending to talk about the city like he had live there all his life.

In truth, he had never left Destiny Island before. He had only seen the city-life through vacation catalogs and billboards. But he really did want to do there in person one day.

An arm was suddenly wrapped around Roxas' shoulder protectively. He looked up to find apologetic eyes staring back at him.

"It's okay. The city's not so great anyway," murmured the redhead gently.

Roxas bit his lip. "That's what my dad said."

If the two of them hadn't been sitting so close, he'd doubt that Axel would be able to hear it at all. His father had lived in a city once and on the rare occasions they shared an honest conversation, he swore it was the worst place on Earth.

"I still wanna go someday," he said, looking up. Axel was still staring at him intently and then a thought struck him.

'Had Axel ever been to the city?' was what he had been about to ask, but the green-eyed boy had already turned his attention back to the sketchbook.

The next picture he flipped to could only be described as…'warmth.' Or at least that's how Axel would have described it.

That was probably a funny way to describe a picture. Even if one was worth a thousands words, then this one was worth a thousand feelings. Everything about the portrait of the woman seemed to radiate security, hugs, smiles, cookies; all the happy things of life.

Roxas was only eight years old, but Axel felt that all his drawings were amazing because it made him feel, rather than visualize the scene.

He knew his question was pointless. It was obvious where Roxas' blue eyes came from; those gems that seemed to sparkle every time he complimented one of his pictures. But the woman also had long chocolate hair that curled at the ends and she seemed to be smiling; something that Roxas didn't do enough.

"Is she your mom?" he asked anyway.

Roxas lifted his face towards Axel, but his eyes remain glued on the picture, a slow sad smile gracing his features. The redhead felt like the breath was knocked out of him when the smaller boy finally looked up, a faraway look in his eyes.

"Yeah…" he said slowly, almost dreamlike. "That's what she used to look like."

Axel wanted very much to ask what had happened, but he refrained. Instead he moved to turn the page again.

"Your dad?" asked Axel when a man stared up at him this time.

The spikes Roxas had inherited were brushed back, his skin was tanner, and his posture was stiff even when he was drawn sitting in a couch. The corners of his lips were upturned but he wasn't smiling. Axel really hoped Roxas wouldn't look like that in the future.

The blond nodded, but remained silent.

A grin appeared on Axel's face when he looked at the next page. A boy about Roxas' age was shown playing with one of those popular blue beach balls. His spikes were a bit more chaotic this time and he looked genuinely happy. Maybe this was one of Roxas when he was younger.

He made the mistake of asking anyway. "Is this you?"

When Axel was suddenly shoved away from the hysterical blond, he felt the gesture was entirely undeserved on his part. But when he looked up to see tears rapidly forming in the blue orbs all thoughts were replaced with something akin to guilt.

"No, that's my brother!" cried Roxas, wiping furiously at his eyes.

The book was immediately forgotten as it fell off Axel's lap when he leaned over to hug Roxas. The blond had refused at first, but his long arms were able to trap the smaller boy possessively in the hug before he moved away, slightly.

"R-Rox, I'm sorry!" Axel quickly exclaimed.

Axel wasn't really quite sure how to hug someone. His parents were usually away on business trips and the only embraces they shared were quick formal ones that wouldn't wrinkle his mom's expensive suit too much at the airport.

But the redhead wanted nothing more than for the hurtful look to leave Roxas' eyes, so he was at least willing to try.

And he hoped for the love of firecrackers that he was doing it right.

Axel brought the sobbing Roxas closer to his chest, resting his head on top of the smaller one. He hadn't realized how much he wanted to touch the other's hair until he nuzzled the soft blond locks, breathing in his ocean air scent deeply.

It smelled real, unlike the sprays and bathroom soaps that claimed to be specially ocean breeze scented back at his hotel.

"Roxas I'm sorry. I'm really, really sorry…I didn't know you had a brother." Axel apologized softly, but loud enough to be heard over Roxas' hiccups.

"It's…" Roxas started, but had to swallow back another sob. The blond gripped Axel's shirt tighter as he clenched his teeth, willing for his tears to go away. He hadn't meant to lose it in front of Axel like that. "It's okay, Axel."

At home, his mother always confused him with his brother, Sora. And the people who could tell them apart, mainly Sora's friends, usually preferred to hang out with his older brother rather than him. It was like he was invisible to everyone.

And then there was Axel, who hadn't even had the chance to meet his brother. So he thought with delight that there was no way for the other boy to confuse the two or leave him for a better friend.

"I never told you I had an older…an older brother. So you wouldn't know that…that our mom always…c-confuses me with him." Roxas gave a light sniff, his hiccups dying.

"She always calls me Sora. She can't tell us apart …"

Axel frowned. That was awful. At least his parents remembered his name. And they really did love him too; they just had a funny way of showing it.

The redhead ran his fingers through the blond strands. "Your brother's name is Sora?"

Roxas nodded.

"Do you still like him?"

The smaller boy immediately pulled away from Axel, staring at the other with disbelief in his eyes. "Of course I do! He's my brother!"

Axel sighed. It would be no good to point out that it seemed like Roxas was living in his brother's shadow.

"Does he act like one?"

Blond eyebrows narrowed at the question. "I guess…" Roxas drew his knees up to his chest and wrapped arms around them, taking the moment to really think about his answer.

"I mean, he's always there for me. And when our dad yells at us he usually takes the blame – even if it's my fault. And our mom works really hard so she's always tired and stuff."

After another pause he added. "It's just his friends I don't like."

Axel looked down at the blond next to him, noticing that the position he was in made the boy look extremely vulnerable. "Did you tell him that?"

Roxas nodded again and spoke quietly. "I tell him everything." Azure eyes met Axel's again, this time they looked a bit guilty. "I told him about you too."

Axel lifted an eyebrow. "What did he say?"

"He didn't believe me."

An arm surrounded his shoulders again comfortingly. Roxas found himself subconsciously leaning against the boy.

"But I don't want you to meet Sora…" he added. The thought of losing Axel was too much. Throughout the entire silence that followed, he hoped that the redhead didn't think he was being selfish.

"Maybe you should keep us a secret then," said Axel thoughtfully.

Roxas looked up, excitement shining in them at the thought of sharing something with the other boy from everyone else. But then a problem suddenly occurred to him.

"What will I tell my parents? They already know I'm out playing with someone other than Sora's friends and my brother already knows your name. If I said I was all by myself the whole time they would think I lied to them."

The pout of Roxas' face was adorable. It made Axel's breath stop and forced him into saying something incredibly ridiculous for the blond's sake.

"Then tell them I'm your imaginary friend!"

Roxas tilted his head in puzzlement. "How will that help?"

"Well…" began the redhead, clearly making it up as he went and cursing himself, or at least pretending he was because he didn't know many curse words at the time, along the way. "That way, you can still hang out with me without lying to your parents. And I would never have to meet any of your friends or your brother if you didn't want me to."

The reasoning struck something within Roxas.

"No one would have to know…" The blond wondered aloud.

"Yup! And the best part is: I still get to be your secret!"

The blue-eyed boy smiled; it stretched across his face and shown brightly. Sora would never meet him, or his parents, or their friends; only Roxas would know about Axel.

"And you'll only be my imaginary friend, right?" asked Roxas, a hint of possessiveness in his voice. He had finally managed to find something that belonged to him, and him only. He wasn't about to share Axel with anyone else if he had a say in it.

"Right," confirmed Axel with a nod of his head. And then with a smile, "Only yours," he added.

Axel turned his head to look at the forgotten sketchbook that lay a few inches away from them. The page it was opened to revealed a half drawn picture of a star, outlined in black with green leaves protruding from one of its points.

"Hey, Roxas?"

"Yeah?"

"You're going to be a great artist someday…I just know it."

If possible, the smile on Roxas' face grew wider. Not only had he found a friend that was exclusively his, but he had found faith as well.


Roxas had fallen asleep again.

It was kind of hard not to when you're at the back of the classroom and the teacher was lecturing you about famous artists that only got famous when they died. Nevertheless, Namine took it upon herself to wake the blond.

"Rox, get up." A hand came out to nudge the boy's shoulder.

"Shut up Namine..." he slurred drowsily.

"But we're finally learning about Picasso! You know, the man that was so ahead of his time that no one believed him until he was dead and years had past and by then I guess it was 'his time'-..."

"I hate pistachios," interrupted Roxas, clearly mishearing Namine as he was still half asleep. "And I'm allergic to nuts, you know that-."

"Everyone, please welcome our new student." Merlin's voice echoed enthusiastically throughout the crowded room.

The abnormally tall art instructor was standing by the exit, his faded blue cone-hat, which he always insisted on wearing, getting bent in the doorframe. One of his old wrinkled hands was on another student that Roxas couldn't quiet see from the angle he was at.

From his left he heard Namine intake a breath behind her hand.

"He's quiet a work of art," giggled one of the students in the front.

At least it's not another obsessive teenage yaoi manga fangirl that got struck down.

Namine still hadn't said anything yet and he was becoming intrigued.

"What does he look like?" he asked disinterested, or at least he tried, but it came out too quickly.

The blonde girl gave him a look that clearly read 'are you blind?!' and then noticed the porcelain vase that was in Roxas' way. She quickly moved the still-life object from the previous lesson, clearing his vision.

And what he saw made his heart stop.

"It's..."

Him. Roxas was so sure it was him. Sure he was a hell of a lot taller now and he was dressed like some punk who was forced into taking this art class by his mom, but his hair, his eyes, his face, they were still the same.

Something burned inside of Roxas when he saw the artfully spiked hair that always reminded him of fire. Or the green acidic eyes that were now scanning the classroom, looking for someone. And the way his face suddenly tensed when he looked upon Roxas, his expression blank and unrevealing.

No, it can't be him. He wasn't real. This is just...

"The name's Axel." Emerald eyes never looked away from Roxas' blue ones as he spoke.

His voice silky, inviting. Roxas tried to suppress the urge to look away. "Commit it to memory."

A cat-call was heard from someone near the other side of the room. Their gaze was broken as Axel looked over to whatever female student it was and flashed her a Cheshire grin.

His Cheshire grin. The one that his imaginary friend would give to him, and him only.

With a scowl, Roxas quickly moved the planted vase back in front of him, hiding the man that reminded him of his past.

"Roxas, do you know him?" asked Namine cautiously.

Her eyebrows raised, although whether it was because of the way Axel had gone back to staring at Roxas - helplessly straining to look around the plant that was moved conveniently between them - or the fact that said blond was now glaring at the pottery was yet to be determined.

"He's...nobody," replied Roxas, a touch of bitterness in his voice. "I don't know him."

"Axel," called the art instructor, trying to get the redhead's attention.

"Why don't you sit over there next to Sora? You lads will have fun this semester I'll bet."

The pencil in Roxas' hand suddenly snapped. No…

Namine turned around at the sound and gasped. She quickly took the other boy's hand in hers and brushed off the stray pieces of wood.

"Rox, are you alright?" She had begun inspecting it for splinters when Roxas drew away.

No, this wasn't fair.

"Yes, I'm alright," he dismissed absentmindedly.

Roxas stood up and headed towards the classroom door. "I'm just…going to get a band-aid…or something. I'll be back. Cover for me Nami."

He left before the girl could say anything. That couldn't be Axel. Not his Axel. Or at least not his anymore, he thought bitterly.

Sora just had to take everything away from him.

Even the things that weren't real.


"Axel, the paints you bought for me didn't work."

The redhead stared at the other boy blankly.

He was torn between telling the other boy that he had bought the most expensive paint he could find (and geez were they pricey; it seemed like all mainland products were twice the cost on islands) or telling Roxas that he was incredibly sorry and the store clerk who sold it to him should be fired.

All because of that pout. It was going to be the downfall of him one day.

Axel chose the third option and cocked an eyebrow. "What do ya mean they don't work, Roxas?"

The blond took out a slip of paper from his backpack. Axel mentally noted that he was going to have to buy Roxas some kind of folder as well to keep his art work from being wrinkled when he carried it around.

"See?" asked Roxas, holding it out in front of Axel.

The taller boy was delightfully surprised and amused to find that it was actually a drawing of him. It was only the outline of his torso and face so far with minimal coloring by the red paint, but it was enough to capture the moment.

He had no idea when Roxas had gotten the expression down without him knowing - or perhaps the blond had simply memorized it and drawn it at home? – but it was the one when Roxas had explained to him what a paopu was.

"So you eat it?"

"Yup."

"And that makes the other person you shared it with stuck with you?"

"Hmmhmmm."

"Like…forever and ever?"

"Forever and ever."

"……………"

"………….."

"BUT HOW DOES IT DO THAT?!"

"…It's called destiny, Axel."

The blond had said it so simply, as if he really did believe in the island legend. Axel had no idea how Roxas could have faith in something that could never really be proven. It seemed pointless.

Even now as they stood side by side, he couldn't see how Roxas had absolutely no faith in himself, even when the proof was right there! Why couldn't the blond see how talented he was?

"…I still don't get it." He said, after thinking about the whole concept of fate over and over again.

"Well, Sora said it was like an edible wedding ring. Whatever edible means..." replied Roxas with a shrug.

And that had been when Axel made the face. His expression was one of disbelief that his Roxas could fall for something as silly as that. Whoever heard of a fruit that could tie people's destinies together?!

Unfortunately, the blond must have grown particular fond of that expression. The image on the page currently inches away from Axel's nose was like a mirror reflection of him.

Except his eyebrows were raised in amusement and he had that grin that would later become his famous Cheshire one. Perhaps that meant this picture was drawn based from later on in the conversation.

That had been after he had found out the fruit really did exist; so he asked Roxas to test out the theory by sharing a paopu with him.

The look on the blond's face was priceless as he stuttered out that it was actually shared by lovers. His picture had somehow managed to capture the moment on paper as well, maybe that's why they were so special.

"Can't you see it, Axel?"

The older boy quickly shook his head to clear it of all thoughts from earlier on. What had they been talking about again?

"Uh, see what?"

Roxas let his shoulder slouch down as he pouted again, clearly dissatisfied that Axel couldn't see whatever it was he was trying to point out. God, not that pout.

"The picture! It looks nothing like you!"

"What are you talking about? It looks exactly like me…" Axel paused for a bit, a hand coming up to his chin thoughtfully. "Well, I think I see what you're talking about. I'm more handsome than that picture."

The blond crossed his arms and glared. Axel only smiled sheepishly in turn.

After letting out a frustrated sigh, Roxas picked his picture up again and moved towards Axel. He gripped the other boy's shoulder for balanced as he stood on his tip toes, holding the unfinished painting next to Axel's head.

"See? The red paint you gave me looks nothing like your hair."

Axel was too preoccupied with holding his breath to point out that he couldn't see the picture if it was next to him. Luckily Roxas hadn't notice.

"It's like they're a totally different red or something…" He reasoned aloud, more to himself than the other boy.

"Rox, it doesn't matter."

"It does!" The blond moved back and crossed his arms again, insisting that all the colors had to be just right or the picture wouldn't be the same.

It sounded silly, but Roxas needed the red to look a certain way or it he wouldn't be able to remember Axel the way he wanted to.

Axel sighed, then ruffled the smaller boy's hair. "Fine, I'll buy you more colors if you promise to remember your very best friend Axel when you became a famous artist one day."

Roxas smiled. "Deal." He made to reach for the other boy's hand, to shake off the mock agreement but stopped. The blond placed his hands on his hips and gave Axel a stern look.

"Oh, but don't buy me too many or I won't be able to hide them all from my dad."

"Too many? What are you talking about?"

"Axel, you bought me 32 paintbrushes when I asked for only one.

"It came in a set!"

"But you bought me four sets…"

Axel blinked. "Oh."

Perhaps he was becoming too attached to the blond.


Namine looked across the room and like every week, the same pair of emerald eyes were looking in their direction.

"Rox, that guy's staring at you again." She said cheerfully.

A look towards the blond revealed that Roxas had indeed heard the observation, but was ignoring her again. The boy was angrily jabbing his paint brush into the canvas, the hairs of the brush now completely falling apart.

With a roll of her eyes, Namine turned back to their admirer – well, Roxas' admirer anyways - giving him a timid, but friendly wave.

Axel's face suddenly broke into a huge grin from the other side of the classroom and he returned the gesture, although with much more enthusiasm.

"Don't encourage him!" Yelled Roxas.

Namine smiled sweetly. "Too late, he's coming over now."

If he died right now, everything would be perfect. His dad didn't want him. His mentally-unstable mom thought he was Sora half the time. And the only friend he ever had in his entire life was imaginary.

Namine didn't count. He saw her everyday due to their special arrangement. So he was just kind of stuck with her. Plus, real friends wouldn't invite creepy psycho redheads to come over and talk with him.

"Hey." Roxas inwardly cringed. No that voice did not sound familiar – at all.

"Hello, I'm Namine." The blond girl extended her hand out for the introduction.

Instead, Axel just looked at it puzzled. Then he turned his gaze towards Namine as if he was seeing her for the first time - despite the fact that he had just waved to her a minute ago.

"Oh, right yeah! Namine, hi Namine!"

The girl just giggled, and Axel turned his attention back to Roxas.

"Uh, I'm Axel."

"I'm busy."

The redhead seemed unfazed by the comment as he smirked and replied. "With painting or looking adorable?"

Roxas tried his hardest not to snap the brush in half. He tried, he really did.

But then the redhead leaned against the back of the chair Roxas was sitting on, directly behind him with arms wrapped loosely around the younger boy's chest.

That was not supposed to happen. He began spazzing when he felt Axel spoke - his mouth inches away from Roxas' ear.

"'Cause you're doing a real good job of both, kid."

"Hey, Axel!" A shout by a familiar voice was heard from Axel's side of the room. "Stop molesting my brother and get back here you creep!"

Roxas quickly broke away from the redhead by scooting his chair forward. He also shot a glare at Namine, who happened to be sketching away at something furiously in her notebook. He had a pretty good idea of what it was...

Axel looked back at the brunet currently standing up who had his hands on his hips tilted to the side in what was suppose to be an intimidating pose. Except the cute pout on his face completely ruined the effect of his determined expression.

Further away, his silver-haired boyfriend was resisting the urge to ravish him on the spot.

Axel took a good look at Sora, much like he had with Namine. Except this time it seemed that something had sparked in his memory.

"Wait, Sora...he's your...brother?" He asked, addressing the brunet and pointing to Roxas - who was trying to put as much distance between them as possible.

As much as Roxas didn't want to admit it - yes, he was related to Sora. Their striking physical resemblance should have given it away, but their personalities was usually what made people reconsider.

"Is he your older brother?" Asked Axel, his tone suddenly serious with a - whoa. Wait, did that guy just sound serious?!

A strange feeling of nausea started to overcome him as he stared at Axel staring back at him. And no, that was not concern in those green eyes.

Everything was starting to make sense now – maybe this was bad. Maybe his imaginary friend really was real…and this probably was bad.

And Sora's shouting wasn't helping his sudden headache either, oh why had he let his mom convince him to sign Sora up for the art course as well?

Roxas raised a hand to message his temple, willing everyone to just shut up with a sigh.

He caught sight of Axel moving closer to him again protectively - no, not protectively, just...maybe concern? No wait, he had just determined that Axel wasn't concern.

But that seemed to be the only word he could think of at the moment. So concern it was. Right concern. Axel was just a little concern, that's all.

And the only reason the redhead had now positioned himself between Roxas and Sora was because...well actually he wasn't really sure why. He just knew it wasn't because Axel was trying to shield him from his brother and protect him like he promised to or something ridiculous like that. It was just a coincidence.

"Yes I am Axel!" Continued Sora, answering the question from before. "So you better get away from my little brother, because our mom said she wanted grandchildren!"

At that moment, Riku decided to step up.

Roxas groaned and Axel sent him another worried look. Oh gods, not Riku. Anyone but his brother's boyfriend. The kid didn't even take this class - what the hell was he doing here now?

Two pale arms encircled Sora's waist, pulling the brunet back onto his boyfriend's chest. Riku rested his head atop the cinnamon locks and smirked. "And she's not getting them from Sora."

Roxas rolled his eyes. Namine giggled. Axel seemed to seriously contemplate this.

"Besides, Roxas is straight!" Said Sora, as if it was the most obvious thing ever.

A soft thud was heard as Roxas' head came into contact with the table. The day he became attracted to Namine was the day he gave up on painting and ate all his cancerous oil paints. No offense to the girl or anything, she was just...a girl.

"And even if he wasn't straight - you're totally not his type Axel. I mean look at you! You'd probably break him or something!"

Another thud resounded in the room, and once again it was ignored.

This was why he couldn't stand Sora. Never in his life had he ever been this embarrassed before. Well, other than the time Sora's friends had figured out he had an imaginary friend and teased him about it. He was sure the color of his face must have rivaled Axel's hair.

Oh, why couldn't he just die now? Why did Axel have to come back - if it even is him. And why did Sora always have to stand up for him?! And why was Namine patting him on the back...oh.

Roxas tilted his head, still laying on top of the table, and spotted Namine's consoling gaze.

"He's only trying to help Rox..."

Okay, so maybe he didn't hate Sora. His brother could be tolerable and quite lovable at times. It was just that the hyperactive bouncy nature of his always made things worst in situations like this.

"YOU ARE NOT TAKING AWAY MY MOM'S LAST HOPE OF HAVING GRANDKIDS!"

Namine visibly twitched and Roxas considered death-by-table. "He's trying, but not succeeding, Nami."

Sora had somehow managed to latch himself onto Axel and was now dragging him away. The redhead turned around, trying his best to get Roxas' attention.

"Do I at least get a name, kid?" Asked Axel, grabbing onto the table to buy himself time. For being such a small kid, Sora was a lot stronger than he looked.

"Or do I have to resort to calling you Blonde Haired Kid?"

"AXEL!"

"Alright, fine fine. I'm coming." Said Axel in defeat, finally letting go of the table.

Roxas turned back to staring at the wooden surface; he didn't want to see the redhead get forcefully dragged away by his older brother. He was just glad that both of his problems were finally gone now.

"See ya BHK!"

Or not...

"Rox, I think you have a fan!"

"Shut up Namine."


Axel never really cried before. It just wasn't something a boy his age did in public. So when he found Roxas at their usual spot silently hugging himself with his head down – Axel panicked.

"Roxas what happened!?" He quickly ran over towards the other boy's side and wrapped his arms around him. But whether it served to calm him or the blond he was unsure.

"Go away Axel…" He could barely he it being mumbled by Roxas, who still refused to look up. The redhead frowned.

"I can't go away. I'm your imaginary friend remember?" He reached a tentative hand out to ruffle the blond spikes. "You have to stop believing in me to get me to leave."

Azure eyes looked up, but the smile Axel couldn't see was reflected in them. "Fine. I don't believe in you anymore."

Axel did an overdramatic gasp and his eyes widen. "Rox, you can't do that! Then you'll never see me ever again! And I had so much faith in our friendship-"

The redhead dropped the act when Roxas started laughing, an occasional hiccup surfacing in between them. When he was finished, Axel got serious again.

"Okay, now tell me what really happened."

Roxas looked away, but gave no indication that he wanted Axel to leave.

"Was it your dad?" Asked Axel carefully.

After a pause, Roxas shook his head.

"Sora?"

Another shake.

"His friends?"

Shake.

"……..the Sandlot?"

The sniff that escaped Roxas was all the proof Axel needed to start hugging him again. "What did Seifer do this time?" He asked, burying his face in the golden locks.

Roxas swallowed back the sob that was about to erupt from his throat. "H-he took my sketchbook."

The redhead suddenly tensed up.

"Don't worry, Sora got it back for me." Said Roxas quickly. He didn't want the two of them to meet. "But then Seifer started making fun of my pictures."

"You shoulda punched him." Growled Axel. He should have punched him. He should have been there to protect him like he promised.

"I did."

Axel's eyes widened and his jaw dropped. But before he could even ask why Roxas would do such a ridiculous thing - despite the fact that he had just suggested it to him mere seconds ago - an alarming thought occurred to him.

"Seifer didn't try and hit you back did he?!" Axel immediately began patting the blond down, checking for any bruises he wasn't there to prevent.

Roxas pushed him back with a laugh. "No, Sora stopped him before he did. He beat Seifer up too!"

The other boy drew back to scrutinize the blond in front of him. "Then why were you so upset?"

The laugher died and Roxas looked away again. "Because Seifer said that if he ever saw me again he'd break my fingers…"

How was he supposed to draw if they were broken?

When Roxas looked up again he noticed that Axel was regarding him with an intense stare – the most serious he had ever seen the redhead.

"He won't do it." Said Axel, his voice guarded. "I won't let him."

Roxas open his mouth to reason with Axel's strange behavior. "But what if-"

"I'm your imaginary friend, remember? I'm supposed to protect you - I won't let anyone else hurt you either." Axel interrupted.

The redhead found that his breath was literally knocked out of him as the smaller boy tackled him in a hug.

"Axel…" Roxas' voice was muffled by Axel's chest. "Don't ever leave okay?"

Axel smiled. "Okay."

He lied.


"I've got a story on Axel's background."

Roxas eyebrows rose, his cell phone was only halfway to his ear before the person started speaking.

"Hello to you too, Kairi." He said sarcastically.

A sigh was heard on the other line. "Well this Axel guy is all you've been talking about recently. I figured that was the first thing you'd want to hear."

"I haven't been talking about him al-"

"You have."

Roxas glared at his cell phone. It didn't do any good since the girl on the other line was incapable of feeling the intensity of it - but it made him feel better inside.

The blond ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "Whatever."

Kairi was a 'friend' of his, introduced to him through Namine. And with the two girls being best friends it was impossible for Kairi to not be involved in the art field as well.

She was the daughter of the mayor and that meant she was filthy rich and could have anything she wanted. But what she wanted, was to prove everyone wrong. Instead of sitting back and letting her dad run the town, she decided to get a job of her own.

Mainly as Roxas' art agent.

But he was just one of her many clients; Kairi arranged art shows and sold painting for a large number of aspiring artists. It was just a reminder to him that the cruel world of competition was never far from home - but today that proved to be a good thing.

"Okay Kai, spill."

With Kairi's job requiring her to be in contact with so many people in the art industry, she was bound to pick up something about Axel.

"Apparently Axel came from a really rich family." Started the red-haired girl. Roxas noted that her voice always seemed to sound excited whenever she gossiped, no matter the topic.

He rolled his eyes. Girls.

"His parents were CEOs of some big-shot company and whenever they went on business trips, they used to send him away to some tropical resort with his uncle."

A sound similar to paper being flipped could be heard on the other line. Either Kairi was busy at work, or she had taken notes. She tries too hard. But Roxas found a smile creeping on his face anyway.

"That sounds like fun..." Interrupted Roxas, he just needed her to slow down a bit. But something about what she said had caught his attention. "…-Wait, what do you mean by 'were'? Did something happen to his parents?"

"Yeah, some freak accident with their jet. They died when he was around twelve." Kairi's through the information out with little changed emotion. They weren't her parent.

But Roxas had suddenly froze. He felt something rise in his throat, but pushed it back down with a forceful swallow. The painful memories that were flooding him however, were harder to push back.

"That's pretty much all I know about his family." She continued, taking Roxas silence as an answer.

That's pretty much all I needed to know about Axel's family anyway. So Axel was twelve when this happened...and back then his imaginary friend was...how much of this could be a coincidence?

Oh god no, what if...

Roxas sigh. This had to stop. He shouldn't have called Kairi. He should have just left this silly idea of his where it was and ignored Axel for the rest of the semester. He could do. He was going to do it now.

"Oh, that and the fact that he was an only child. So he must have gotten all the inheritance. Lucky kid." He could hear Kairi laugh. But something about it made Roxas think it was forced, like she was trying to lighten the mood.

Roxas found the last bit of what Kairi said amusing since the girl was the mayor's daughter. She was probably just as rich as Axel apparently was. He took a shaky breath to calm his nerves and clear his mind before stepping into the art building.

There was only a few people standing in the art hall that morning. Roxas had came pretty early to set things up since Namine wouldn't be here that day. He decided to wait for more people to arrive before heading into the room - being alone with Professor Merlin kinda creeped him out.

"You know Roxas, if you two hit it off, you'd never have to work again. I mean this guy must be loaded."

Roxas scowled. She means I can give up my dream of becoming an artist. Even she doesn't have faith in me. And she's my agent.

He opted to lean against the wall, listening to the rest of what Kairi had to say - if it was worth listening to.

"Whatever." He replied. "If he's so rich then why is he taking some cheap college art course? Don't tell me that's how he gets his kicks."

"I bet you'd love to know how he gets his kicks." Kairi's tone was sweetly sinister.

"Kairi!"

A few heads turned his way, but he ignored them. Instead he was trying to fight the blush that seemed to appear from nowhere. Please tell me she's not trying to set me up...He got enough of that from Namine.

"Okay, okay. Sorry." He could he laughter from the other line and he growled. Kairi loved to tease him. "All I know is he's pretty much a failure."

Like me. It came second nature every time he heard that word.

"Either that or he's looking for something."

Roxa's breath stopped. He remembered the first day of class - when Axel had scanned the faces of students and stopped at...him?

"He's been to pretty much every art course in the country. Dropped out of some, kicked out of most. He's just wasting away his parent's fortune on traveling and enrolling..." Kairi continued.

What if..

"He can't really be an aspiring artist. No one would take him seriously with a record like that..."

...what he's looking for...

"Heh, wonder what he's so keen on finding?"

...is me?

"Thanks Kai. I gotta go, class is starting. I'll call you back some other time."

Roxas didn't have time to think about this. Axel would be arriving any minute now and he was going to try his best to ignore him. This was all nonsense, it couldn't be happening.

Imaginary friends were imaginary.

And they stayed imaginary. The fact that they both had the same name had nothing to do with this. He probably remembered Axel's name wrong or something. It was probably really Ale or Ela or….Lea?

"Alright, see ya Roxy." Replied Kairi, then her voice got stern. "And the next time you call, you better whip your inspiration into gear! It's costing me a fortune reserving you a spot at the Kingdom of Hearts."

The blond boy was only a few feet from the classroom door before he froze. What?! That place was only for displays from famous artists! What was Kairi thinking?! Did she want to lose her job?!

"Kai, I told you I didn't want an art sho-"

"I know, I know. But I really do have faithin you Rox. I know I might not sound like it or even remotely show it-"

Here Roxas gave a 'hmfpt.' That was a nice way of saying it...

"But I believe that there is talent in you. Despite what people say. The fact that you haven't given up by now just shows how devoted you are. Art is really important to you."

Roxas let out a breath he didn't know he was holding; the hand that wasn't reaching out for the doorknob was now running through his hair. God, what was going on today?

He couldn't even find the strength to pretend to sound thankful for Kairi, but he tried nevertheless.

"Thanks Kai..." He murmured, hoping the sigh that came afterwards wasn't heard.

"No problem Roxas." Was the cheerful reply. "Oh hey, let's go shoe shopping sometime! I promise I won't make you hold the bags this tim-"

Click.

A gossiping Kairi he could handle, but a shopping spree he couldn't. Roxas couldn't help but smile at how weird his 'friends' were as he opened the door. It was a rough morning but he could get through this.

He immediately stopped in the doorway when he heard a familiar voice. "So do you guys know that blond haired kid that sits next to Namine?"

Axel.

He was just about ready to turn around again when a voice he didn't recognize responded to it.

"Oh, that kid? I don't even know his name... what's it again?"

Roxas let out an aggravated sigh, but stopped when he realized that the people talking at the back of the room might hear him. This wasn't a surprise, many people didn't know him for more than 'Sora's little brother.' The girl talking probably knew even less.

It was probably because he wasn't very social. He couldn't tell who the next girl that spoke was either.

"I have no idea! I think it was something like Ro-" But she was suddenly cut off by a voice he did know.

"No! Don't say it!"

Roxas narrowed his eyebrow in confusion. Why didn't Axel want to know his name? Slightly angered, he changed his decision to eavesdrop on them instead of leaving at the last minute.

He figured that it couldn't hurt to learn a bit more about the redhead - now that he decided he wasn't going to have anything to do with Axel. It couldn't hurt right?

The blond moved away from the entrance and hid behind a stack of wooden canvases. A quick glance at the back of the room proved that his suspicions were right. Standing with a pair of girls he recognized as the ones who constantly caused Namine trouble was Axel.

Roxas brought a hand up to his aching temple - why couldn't the guy just leave him alone already?!

"I want to find out his name from him."

The hand was quickly removed and blue eyes widen in shock. What did Axel say?

"Oh that's so romantic!" Squealed one of the girls. "Well at least it would be if he was a…girl... Hey do you have a girlfriend?"

A groan was heard, considering how deep it was Roxas guess it must have been Axel.

"Look, do you know him or not?" The redhead sounded irritated.

"Oh yeah we know him, everyone does." Said one of the girls quickly. Roxas couldn't help but shout 'liar' in his mind, she was probably only trying to impress Axel. And for some reason that made him feel...

...like the first day when Axel came to class and smiled for everyone instead of him.

"He used to be like, this amazing artist. A total child prodigy and everything." Continued the other girl.

"But then something crazy happened to him and his family broke apart."

Roxas' teeth were clenched angrily and he silently hoped the noise it made wasn't too loud. What right did they have to talk about his family behind his back?

"His...family?" Asked Axel, hesitantly.

Roxas pretended that it didn't sound concern to him. That Axel's voice hadn't gotten considerably softer when he spoke it. And Roxas definitely wasn't trying to imagine the look on the redhead's face as they talked about him like he wasn't there.

Well, technically he wasn't.

"Yeah, and that probably affected his drawings 'cause now he can't draw anything. It was like all his inspiration was just sucked away."

And the things the girls were saying weren't hurtful either. Nope. He can't feel a thing.

"You should see the stuff he used to draw, it's so much better than what he's into now."

Yeah, he was a better painter a long time ago. Maybe he should have listened to his goddamn dad and stopped back then - instead of believing his imaginary friend. This was all his fault.

"Oh my god, all he does is draw shadows - and, and darkness and depressing stuff!"

Okay, he lied. That kinda hurt. It's called freedom of expression idiot.

And it was starting to hurt a lot actually. And the worst part was - Axel was hearing all this.

Maybe it wouldn't have hurt as bad if the two girls were just talking about him with other people. Even a crowd maybe. It happened a lot, he was used to it.

But this was different because he was hearing all this. He was the one that believed in him and now look what's all their effort has gone to. And this was all his fault.

"He's...depressed?" The way Axel had said it - it was like he was asking himself the question. Like he was blaming himself.

Good, it's all your fault anyway.

"He's not going to get anywhere with shit like that. People want landscapes, portraits and sunsets. The way he's painting - no one will want to buy his stuff."

That's what his dad would have said, if he hadn't left.

"He should just give up! It'll save himself the time and money."

That's what the rest of the world was implying. Maybe he should start listening. Axel was a liar.

"Oh, and the humilati-"

"HEY, SHUT UP!"

That's what he would have said if Axel hadn't beat him to it.

Roxas whirled around from his hiding spot. He wasn't sure what he was expecting to find, but what he saw was a positively livid Axel. The people he had been talking to were more then just the two girls now; a small crowd had gathered to talk about the poor pathetic Roxas.

But all of them looked slightly - if not completely - intimidated by Axel.

He couldn't see the redhead's expression, but he could practically feel the fire emitted from him. And when one of the girls caught sight of Roxas and squeaked, causing the redhead to turned around, Roxas was able to see a glimpse of what Axel looked like when he was ready to kill.

It was one of absolute rage and it only lasted for a second before it melted to something...to something Roxas didn't want to think about. He didn't recognize that expression at all.

Roxas suddenly remembered he had just given up his hiding spot. Damn, he quickly spun around and tried to walk casually out of the room. What else were you suppose to do when a roomful of people were just talking behind your back?

"Wait! -"

Of course, Axel just had to interfere. Axel was messing up his entire life. The intake of breath that was heard after the redhead's exclamation probably meant that he wanted to call out his name. Oh, that's right. He never told Axel his name.

He should have fucking remembered, or maybe it isn't really him.

And that thought hurt the most as Roxas dashed out the hall.

"Dammit, wait up!"

He couldn't out run Axel. The redhead was taller, stonger, and most likely faster than he was. So it wasn't a surprise that when Roxas finally made it out onto the campus lawn, Axel was only a few feet behind him.

Two long arms easily caught him from behind, sending the both of them tumbling to the ground.

"Let go of me!" Roxas cried, still struggling to get out of Axel's grip. It should have been easier since Axel had broken his fall - perhaps purposely.

"Sorry, no can do BHK." The voice was dangerously close to his ear. He could help but think that if the redhead really wanted to he could have pinned Roxas down on the ground by now.

"Stop calling me that!" A quick jab at Axel's stomach wasn't enough to make the taller male let go of him. But Roxas was granted the satisfactory of hearing a pained hiss.

"Not until you tell me your real name." Said Axel through clenched teeth.

Another well aimed kick at the redhead behind him and the arms that were holding him down finally released him. Roxas quickly stood up and turned around, glaring harshly at Axel on the ground.

"What the hell do you want from me?!"

Axel however, was taking his sweet time sitting back up. The bell had already rung and they were the only two outside with all the time they ever needed.

"Your name, if that wasn't obvious enough." He said, a cheeky smile adorning his face despite the bruise that was starting to form.

"Why the hell do you care." Asked Roxas, his voice low.

And he had expected a reply. He had expected something. But Axel just merely sat on the ground, holding his stomach and staring back up at Roxas with those acidic eyes.

"I just do, okay?"

He couldn't stand it anymore. He wanted answers and he wanted them now.

"You just want to make fun of me like they did." Spat Roxas, before he knew what he was saying.

"Go ahead, rub it in. I can't fucking draw and everything I did do was a fluke. My family probably just hired some phony artist to paint those pictures and I just pretended to draw them. All for the publicity. And that's why my family is all fucked up."

He hadn't noticed that his voice had started to rise considerably. Nor did he notice that Axel was now standing up, staring at him with that...that look in this eyes. The one that his imaginary friend used to give him when he said he felt useless and everyone was better off without him.

"No, I believe you." Said Axel, his voice barely above a whisper. "I know you really drew them."

Roxas swallowed the lump that was beginning to form in his throat. He hated the way his voice quivered when he spoke. "How the hell do you know? You don't even know anything about me."

Because it wasn't really him. It couldn't be Axel because he was fake. He didn't exist. That's why Roxas stopped believing in him. He was probably just mental like his beloved mother.

"I know a lot more than you think."

The blond had been in the middle of walking away when Axel spoke again. Everything in his mind told him to keep walking and never turn around again, but hey - maybe he was really mental after all?

He silently brought his gaze back to Axel's, letting the emerald orbs hold him in place.

"I might not know your name, but I can tell what kind of a person you are just by looking at you." Continued Axel with a small smile, glad that he finally held the blond's attention without the kicking and screaming.

"Like what?" He wasn't curious. He was just...okay fine he was curious. Roxas wanted to know what Axel really thought of him, and why he was worth all this trouble. And if he really remembered.

Axel spoke again, immediately."Well, I know you hate your brother. Then again, pretty much everyone can see that."

Roxas rolled his eyes. The action didn't go by unseen by the redhead.

"Because everyone gets along with Sora and everyone thinks he just the most cutest thing when he's with Riku, right?"

Axel didn't wait for a reply this time. But he could tell he had stuck something within the kid with that statement.

"But you only think you hate him. You're really just jealous." Here the redhead took a more thoughtful pose, a hand beneath his chin. Completely ignoring the growl that was thrown his way, instead smiling widely again.

"Because he has everything you wanted. The perfect friends, the perfect boyfriend, and being able to bounce back to his old self despite the less than perfect family."

Axel stopped when the look on Roxas' face changed.

The blond couldn't describe it, and like everything else that was going through his mind he was struggling to accept that the feeling was actually there. That's what...that's what he said a long time ago…to his imaginary friend.

Azure eyes tried to decipher emerald ones. Axel continued on, his voice growing softer to match his expression.

"All you have are these awful standards and everyone's expectations."

Roxas quickly darted his gaze. He couldn't deny that Axel was wrong, but how...nothing made sense to him anymore. Or maybe everything did.

Was this Axel's way of telling him something? Were all these hints?

Roxas sighed. He should have left when he had the chance, but he couldn't bring himself to leave now. Something about the redhead seemed to make him feel…secure…like he could tell him anything...like...

"What else do you see?"

The question was so quiet he was surprised Axel could even hear him. But when the other student spoke again, it was much gentler - like they had been long time friends.

"You...like to push people away. Mainly me." Axel laughs. "But you've been pushing Namine away too. Maybe it's because you're insecure."

Roxas looked up and glared, though not as cold as before, at the mention of being 'insecure.' Axel just laughed it off and picked up the psychiatrist act again. If the redhead hadn't sounded like he was obviously joking, the words would have hurt him. Badly.

"Maybe you think you can't live up to their expectations. You're afraid of disappointing people. You're afraid that no one will still have faith in you if you fail."

The way Axel had said it so dramatically - with hand motions and everything, it still wasn't enough to cover up the question. Roxas knew what he was asking.

It was the same question everyone asked. Axel just had the decency to sugar coat it for him.

What happened?

"What if the reason I can't draw is because I don't want to?" Asked Roxas with a shrug.

Axel just started laughing again - he probably knew that it was impossible. The blond lived for art, regardless if it was good or not.

"Maybe I'm just fed up with it because people used to tease me for drawing all the time, like my dad, and my family, and my friends. And maybe the one person..." He stopped.

Roxas wasn't supposed to go that far, but the look Axel gave him said that it was too late now. He might as well get if off his chest. Might as well tell him that -

"The one person that ever really had faith in me...even before I lifted a pencil..." Blue eyes looked away again, not wanting to see the look on Axel's face.

"...abandoned me."

He wasn't sure how long the silence between the took. He had no idea how long they had been fighting or standing. All Roxas knew was that he still had bits of grass stuck to the back of his jacket and hair. That it was a nice day outside with the kind of sky you could use periwinkle blue and titanium to paint.

And that when he finally found the courage to look up again, he wished he hadn't.

The expression on Axel's face was one of a kicked puppy. A guilty kicked puppy, because it had brought the kick upon itself and now it was it was repenting.

Roxas tried his hardest not to smile, but a guilty Axel really was cute.

Shit. He wasn't supposed to say that. And Axel did not look guilty because he wasn't supposed to be…-oh nevermind.

"I had-…" Started the redhead before he suddenly corrected himself. "…I have faith in you."

Axel was still staring at him with that depressed look. His shoulders stiff, his hands clenched and a sense of letting someone down emitting from him. Roxas couldn't help but think he deserved it, if it even was him...

"You don't even know me." Said Roxas, shaking his head with a sad smile.

"Let's not start that again." Axel lifted a hand, rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.

Roxas couldn't help but feel like a weight was lifted from his mind. Maybe Axel wasn't him - but if he was then much had changed. Axel was different than before, with too many awkward moments between them for things to be the same.

It was like Axel had became a stranger again. But that was okay, because it meant...

A total stranger had faith in him.

And that had never happened before. Or maybe it did a long time ago but both of them refused to remember.

Another glance at the redhead, who appeared to be drowning in his own misery, told Roxas that it was about time he returned the favor.

Axel suddenly jumped as a mass of blond entered his vision and hesitant arms had wrapped themselves around his chest. He tensed up from the shock, before immediately relaxing into the hold and placing his own arms around the boy's waist.

Roxas leaned against Axel's chest, subconsciously noting that the boy radiated warmth. He was content with just listening to the redhead's steady heartbeat filling in the silence. Or maybe he just didn't care anymore.

He breathed out a sigh. "Roxas."

Axel stiffen again briefly at the name. The redhead looked down, but his blue eyes were closed and Roxas looked the most care-free the redhead had ever seen him.

His heart was racing and the boy could probably hear it but Axel just didn't seem to care because he had to know...

"What?"

"My name. It's Roxas." Said the blond, resisting the overwhelming urge to nuzzle the warm chest.

That would be pushing things too far. They had just learned each other names...or maybe they...he thought, but pushed it back again.

"And you know what?" He asked.

But now that Axel's hand had entered his hair and a head was resting atop his, it was lot harder to resist his urge.

"What?" Asked Axel with exaggerated interest playfully.

"You should commit it to memory because I'm going to be a famous artist one day."

The redhead laughed, and Roxas decided that it did sound familiar. Along with the steady beating that was lulling him to a sense of serenity.

"Roxas, eh?" Wondered Axel aloud, and Roxas could feel the arms around him tighten. "That name sounds strangely familiar…"

Roxas tried to look up at the sound of nervousness in the redhead's voice, but Axel held onto his grip and kept the boy against his chest.

"You probably already know this, but I'm Axel."

The blond smiled. "I know. And we're going to be best friends."

Then just for good measure – and because he felt like something was missing- Roxas added. "Got it memorized?"

And it could have been his imagination but he swore Axel's heart skipped a beat.

END


Indigo: If you were one of those people who looked at the scroll bar while reading this story and noticed that it barely moved as you progressed through and started wondering 'Wtf?! Is this some kind of infinite void of text? Why won't this stop?!' than I'm sorry...I was wondering that as well…

I wrote plot part. Except the plot part didn't have enough challenge part so I wrote that too. Then I tried to mesh the plot part and the challenge part. They did not mesh well. So I wrote more parts to make it flow better. When I was finish…it was 40 pages long. D:

So thank you so much for reading this far. You either have an amazing attention span or you're just plain crazy. I probably would have given up long before the end. It means a lot to me that you're still reading my rambles.

An unconditional thank you goes to Hikari Aiyano. For listening to me rant, complain, procrastinate, and than panic insanely when it turned out I only had two days left. AND THEN SHE BETA'D IT! So thanks darling, for helping me out. And to let me bounce ideas off of you (Roxy being threaten to have his fingers broken off was her idea). And um, coughSolSolisQuodLunacoughreadit.

-takes big breath-

I'M FINALLY DONE AND THIS MIGHT BE LATE OH WELLZ YAY!

Um, review!