(A/N): This is the reason I shouldn't be allowed to listen to music at two in the morning - it sparks never ending oneshots. Bah. Just another rapid plot bunny that attached itself to my brain. Please review!

Disclaimer: Not now, not ever.

Closer

It's his hair that grabs Axel's attention first – reflecting the last of the dying light as he enters the house, it flares brightly before the door swings shut behind the kid, trapping him in the room with the rest of the living dead. Axel squints, but he can't make out the kid's features through the haze of smoke; taking another drag on his cigarette, he turns his attention elsewhere with a mental shrug.

There's noise everywhere – everyone's busy getting high on their drug of choice – but Axel's built himself an insulated little pocket of silence on the couch, chasing away trespassers with a pointed glare or a well-placed fist as he deems necessary. He didn't come here to get high or to fuck – he came here to remind himself that at least he hasn't hit rock bottom yet. The thought brings a bitter smile to his lips, and he closes his eyes as he holds the smoke in his lungs, waiting until it burns to exhale.

He tenses when he feels the couch dip as someone settles next to him, digging dirty nails into his palm as he wonders how much force it'll take to make the guy leave. He's not prepared for the hand that tangles itself in his hair and jerks his head around – eyes flying open, he growls in the back of his throat as he glares into the painfully blue eyes of the kid he watched walk in just a few minutes ago.

"Let. Go."

Axel's voice is brimming with venom, and he half-hopes the kid pushes the issue just so he'll have a good reason to deck him – a fight would definitely help relieve the anger that's been simmering just below the surface all day. The blond regards him silently, fingers still fisted around Axel's hair. Scowling, Axel reaches up and digs his thumb into the kid's wrist, just below his thumb, suppressing the smirk that wants to flash across his face as the blond's face twists and he hisses in pain. Still, he doesn't release Axel's hair.

Axel twists his thumb, untrimmed nail scraping the skin, as he brings his cigarette back to his lips. The guy's fingers tighten – in pain rather than intentionally – before he snatches his hand back, cradling it against his chest. Running his hand through his hair, Axel fixes the blond with a smug smirk. "Fuck off."

The kid's eyes narrow before he turns his face away, but instead of leaving, he slouches back against the cushions. Sighing, Axel waits for the fight – the explosion, the fist flying at his head – but the guy's voice is soft, barely audible over the noise of too many people crammed into the room. "You're an idiot." Axel snorts, attention already straying. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"What do you care?" Axel grumbles, letting his head fall back as he blows smoke rings at the ceiling. There's a strangled cry from the blond sitting beside him before his cigarette is plucked from his lips and stubbed out on the scarred coffee table. Axel forces himself to pause, taking a deep breath to prevent himself from breaking the kid's neck before he deliberately digs out another cigarette. The blond immediately moves to take it away from him – snatching it away, Axel catches the guy's wrist with his free hand and twists.

Instead of the protests he's expecting, the guy clenches his teeth and ducks his head, clawing at Axel's hand. Yelping in surprise, Axel draws his hand back, frowning at the thin lines of blood tracking across it in jagged rows. "What the hell is your problem?" he demands, lighting his cigarette with his good hand.

"You're an idiot," the blond mutters. His shoulders shake with a mirthless laugh. "And you're an asshole." Without further comment, he shoves himself up and leaves, threading through the myriad people sprawled across the room in varying states of sobriety.

Closing his eyes, Axel rubs at his temple irritably. Before his thoughts have time to settle, the blond is back, fisting a hand in Axel's collar and dragging him off the couch with more force than Axel would've expected, given the guy's build. Taking advantage of the redhead's surprise, the kid doesn't pause long enough for Axel to get his feet under him; keeping a tight grip on Axel's shirt, he drags the taller boy to the door, practically throwing him down the front steps.

Temper flaring out of control, Axel rounds on the kid, grabbing his leg and pulling it out from under him. When the blond crashes to the stairs with a pained grunt, Axel immediately crawls on top of him, pinning his wrists to the step above them. Lips skinning back from his teeth, he brings his face close to the other boy's as he snarls "What the fuck is your problem?"

The kid scowls and tries to buck him off, but Axel clenches his thighs around the guy's waist and waits for him to stop struggling. Eyes narrowed in frustration, the blond regards him with what might be disgust. "You really don't remember." It's more a statement than a question, but Axel's not in the mood for games and he tightens his grip on the kid's wrists, watching his eyes narrow in pain. The blond twists and bucks underneath him, trying to wrestle Axel off of him, but Axel's bigger and has no trouble keeping the smaller boy pinned to the stairs. "Fuck you, Axel," the kid finally spits out, panting.

That catches Axel off guard; in the split second his grip loosens, the kid tears his wrists out of Axel's hands and shoves him backwards – arms pin wheeling uselessly, Axel sprawls in a heap, his head cracking against the pavement hard enough for spots of riotous color to explode behind his eyelids. He knows he needs to get up, because if the guy starts kicking him he'll be lucky to get away with a couple of cracked ribs, but all he can do is groan.

"Shit, Axel – are you okay?"

Axel cracks an eye open to find the blond kneeling over him, eyes shadowed by the hair falling into his face. "The fuck do you care?" Axel mumbles, quietly terrified at how garbled his speech is. The kid's shoulders slump, and he runs a shaking hand through his hair.

"It's me, moron," he sighs. His eyes lock with Axel's, and Axel's drowning in blue. "Roxas." Axel blinks.

Roxas?

Oh, God.


Axel gapes at his friend, trying to wrap his mind around the concept. "Moving?" Roxas shrugs and studies the tops of his sneakers with rapt attention, hands shoved deep in his pockets.

"Yeah." Axel swallows thickly – why the hell is Roxas so calm about it? He lowers his eyes, scowling at the blacktop. "It-it's not that far," Roxas mutters, scratching at the back of his head. Axel nods mutely.

It's far enough.

It's forever.

"So, um, you'll be living with your cousin?"

It's Roxas's turn to nod, eyes still trained on his sneakers. "I'll – I'll come back and visit, and stuff," he mumbles. "It won't be so bad, right?"

"Yeah."

Liar.

Liar.

Axel struggles to shake off the dream remnants clinging stubbornly to his consciousness; dragging his eyes open, he groans at the too-bright light flooding the room. Raising a hand to shield his eyes, he squints and tries to figure out where the hell he is. The room's unfamiliar, and very white. He tries to sit up, but falls back almost immediately as nausea slams through him.

He rolls onto his side, running his fingers through his hair, fighting the urge to vomit. He hears the door swing open on squeaky hinges, and then someone is kneeling beside him, laying a cool hand against his forehead. "How are you feeling?"

Axel forces his eyes open, wincing at the light, and he's drowning in blue again; panicking, he tries to draw back, but then his vision clears and he realizes it's not Roxas, it didn't even sound like Roxas, and I don't give a shit if it is Roxas. The petite blonde brushes his hair back from his forehead, frowning in concern, and Axel tries to tell her he's fine, he just doesn't know where the fuck he is, but all that comes out is a watery croak.

"Namine?"

Axel knows that name, but the memories come sluggishly – she was always Roxas's friend, and Roxas is at the door, staring at Axel with no expression, and Axel wants nothing more than to be anywhere but where he is. Namine's glancing over her shoulder at Roxas, but her words are washing past in a gentle rush and Axel doesn't hear them at all – his eyes are glued on Roxas and his mouth is dry.

He hasn't seen the kid since they were ten – what is that, eight years, now? – so really, it's not his fault he didn't recognize him. He scowls as he drags a hand through his hair, reaching for his cigarettes.

His pockets are empty.

"Where are my cigarettes?"

Namine pauses in the middle of whatever she was saying to Roxas, biting at her lower lip. Roxas's eyes narrow, but before he can answer, Namine springs to her feet.

"Would you like something to drink?" she asks quietly, not quite looking at him. Axel opens his mouth to tell her no, he doesn't want a drink, he wants his fucking cigarettes, but Roxas speaks before he can get the words out.

"He's fine."

In spite of the pain that tears through his head, Axel shoves himself up, certain he's going to be violently sick at any moment. Panting, he leans back against the headboard. "Fuck you," he snarls. "Where are my cigarettes?"

Namine flinches at his tone, but she leans forward and lays a hand against his clammy forehead, her features etched with concern. "You shouldn't do that," she murmurs, but Axel grabs her wrist and thrusts her away. That at least gets a big response out of Roxas; in a matter of seconds he's across the room and hauling Axel up by the front of his shirt, ignoring the redhead's gasp of pain. Axel squeezes his eyes shut, waiting for the punch he knows is coming, but Roxas's grip only tightens before he abruptly drops Axel back down on the mattress.

"He's fine," Roxas repeats flatly. Axel's sinking back into unconsciousness, dimly aware that Namine is yelling at Roxas, but he doesn't care, he wants them both gone; he wants Roxas gone, out of his life, where he belongs.

"He's fine."

Liar.


Axel wakes with a start, grabbing at his head as a bolt of pure agony tears through his skull. The lights are off, for which Axel is pathetically grateful. Whimpering, he curls into a ball and clenches his eyes shut, waiting for the pain to dissipate.

Light floods the room as the door is thrown open, and Namine is standing over him, gently pulling him back around to face her. She's holding out two pills that look at least as long and thick as her thumb. "Take these," she urges, pressing a glass of water into Axel's hand. "My mom picked them up for you." Axel wants to ask why the hell he should take anything she offers him, but she dumps the pills into his hand, closing his fingers over them. "She's a nurse," she says softly. "They'll help the pain."

Axel still wants to argue, but another lance of pain reduces him to unintelligible gibberish. He swallows them both, grimacing when one sticks in his throat. "Where am I?" he mutters as she takes the glass back from him.

"You're at my house," Namine answers. "In the guest bedroom. Roxas brought you here after you hit your head – he couldn't remember where you lived." Axel suppresses a bitter laugh, running a hand over his face. The kid's done his best to forgot about him for eight fucking years, why the hell should Axel be surprised that he can't remember where he lives?

He remembered where she lives.

Axel decides he'd rather not think about that and turns away from Namine, reaching for his cigarettes before he remembers they're gone. "Where are my cigarettes?"

Namine hesitates before she sighs. "Roxas took them."

Axel can't restrain the harsh bark of laughter. Of course he did.


Axel's staring at the ceiling when Roxas comes in without knocking, balancing a breakfast tray in his hands. Axel really doesn't want him there, and he fixes the blond with a poisonous glare. Roxas ignores it, carefully settling the tray over Axel's lap, and Axel wants nothing more than to break the plate over his head.

"Where are my cigarettes?"

Roxas's eyes narrow in irritation, but he keeps his temper in check. "Is that the only thing you can say?" he asks levelly. Axel digs his nails into his palms to keep from hitting the blond. It's been at least a day since his last smoke, and he needs a fucking cigarette.

"I need them," he insists, wincing at the note of desperation in his voice. Roxas makes a disparaging noise in the back of his throat as he shrugs.

"I threw them out."

Axel freezes, mind temporarily unable to function the way it should. With a snarl that's more like a sob than he'd like to admit, he upsets the tray, scrambling up and out of the bed, shoving his way past Roxas as the blond shouts something Axel can't hear over the roaring in his ears.

Sobbing, stumbling, he darts recklessly through the house, almost upsetting an end table, barking his shins against the low coffee table before he finally finds the front door – flinging it open, he sprints desperately for the street, ignoring the gravel embedding itself in the soles of his bare feet. He thinks he can hear Roxas calling after him, but he's not sure. He doesn't care, anyway.

It's not long before his breath is coming in tearing gasps, and he begins cutting through yards and alleys in an attempt to get some distance between himself and Roxas, to get away. He finally collapses against a grimy wall at the back of the E-Z Shoppe, hating the way he's shuddering and helpless to stop it. Axel slides down the wall until he's crouched over the pavement; resting his pounding head in his hands, he waits for his lungs to stop hurting with each breath he draws.

It's not fair.

Roxas can't disappear from his life for eight years and then come back as if nothing's happened. He can't come back and still act like he knows a fucking thing about Axel when he hasn't sent so much as a letter in all that time.

Axel chews on his pencil as he stares at the paper in front of him. It's terrifying in its blankness. He's scribbled 'Roxas' at the top, and that's as far as he's gotten in the half hour he's been sitting here.

What's he supposed to write about? School? Friends? His parents? Nothing's changed. The only thing that's different is that Roxas isn't here.

And why would Roxas want to read about things that are happening exactly the way they did when he was here? He's probably too busy getting all his stuff moved in with his aunt and uncle, and making new friends in Destiny Islands.

He's probably too busy to write.

But Axel will see him when he comes to visit during summer vacation. They promised, after all.

They promised.

Axel squeezes his eyes shut.

Liar.


Axel stretches out along the couch, aiming a kick at some guy who looks ready to pass out when he tries to settle near Axel's feet. There's a lit cigarette hanging from his fingers, Axel hasn't seen Roxas for two days, his head only hurts when he moves too quickly, and life is finally back on track and he's going nowhere fast.

Everything's just the way it should be.

So when Roxas stalks up to him and rips the cigarette out of his fingers, Axel's justifiably pissed.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Axel hisses, eyes narrowed. Roxas matches his glare, arms crossed over his chest.

"What are you doing here?" Axel snorts, keeping his eyes locked with Roxas's as he digs another cigarette out of his pocket and settles it between his lips.

"What's it look like?" he sneers. Roxas immediately reaches for the cigarette, and Axel ducks under his arm and slams his open palm against Roxas's chest. As the blond staggers back, Axel slips away from him, threading through the mass of bodies with practiced ease.

He wanders through the other rooms aimlessly, unlit cigarette hanging from his lips as his mind wanders in useless circles. As he makes his way back to his couch, he pauses in the doorway, not knowing whether he should want to laugh or cry when he sees that Roxas is sitting there, arms crossed, scowling fiercely.

Axel drags his hand through his hair as he turns away with a sigh. Just go back to where you came from, Roxas. Just leave me alone.


Axel's sprawled across his front steps, shirt draped over his shoulders as he squints up at the sun. Of course his air conditioner had to conk out, today of all days. Sighing, he rests his head against the warm concrete of his steps, idly wondering how long it takes for sun poisoning to take hold.

He's just beginning to doze when someone kicks the bottom of his right shoe. Axel releases an aggravated groan when he cracks his eyes open to find Roxas standing over him. "Go away," he mutters. Roxas doesn't move.

"We need to talk."

"Like hell we do."

"Look, I came all the way out here, at least let me come in," Roxas grumbles. Axel snorts at him, pushing his damp hair off of his forehead.

"I'm surprised you remembered where it was," he sneers. Roxas has the grace to flush, but he still doesn't move. "Go away, Roxas," Axel sighs, closing his eyes. Roxas doesn't respond, but he moves to sit next to Axel on the steps. Axel draws himself up with a scowl. "Go. Away. I don't wanna talk to you."

Roxas's face is set in that obstinate expression Axel remembers so well – Roxas isn't leaving until Axel lets him in. Axel considers going inside and locking the door, leaving Roxas to die of heatstroke on his front step. It has a certain appeal, and he can't help the smirk that crosses his face at the thought, grinning when Roxas blinks and shifts uncomfortably.

"Are your parents home?" Roxas asks, dragging a hand through his hair. Axel scowls, pushing himself up from the step.

"No, they're not," he grumbles. "And if you knew anything, you'd know they split up five years ago." Roxas doesn't seem to have an answer for that, and Axel's already digging for a cigarette as he leads the blond up the steps. For once, Roxas doesn't seem intent on ripping it away from him at the first available opportunity.

As Axel pauses to light his cigarette, Roxas moves past him, into the kitchen, grabbing two beers out of the fridge and settling at the small table, and Axel has to close his eyes and turn away for a minute, because it's just so fucking wrong.

How many times did he come over and do just that? Help himself to whatever was in the fridge like he was family – hell, he was family – and sit down in that same damn chair? He can't do this shit to me. It's not – it's not fair.

"So."

Roxas's voice pulls Axel out of his thoughts, and Axel uses his shirt to wipe the sweat from his face as he moves to sit across from the blond, popping the tab on the beer Roxas slides over to him and taking a long gulp. Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Axel leans his elbows on the table, glaring at Roxas. "So."

Roxas glances around the kitchen. "Brings back memories," he mutters. Axel takes an impatient drag on his cigarette, tapping his fingers against the table.

"Talk or get out."

Roxas's head snaps back around to face him – eyes narrowed, he takes in Axel's stony expression before he leans forward. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he hisses. Axel shrugs.

"A combination of nature and nurture," he smirks, breathing smoke in Roxas's direction. With an irritated shout, Roxas leans forward and grabs the cigarette out of Axel's fingers. Axel scowls at him. "Those are expensive, you know," he mutters darkly. Roxas waves it under his nose angrily.

"This is what I'm talking about, Axel!" he cries, stubbing it out in one of the many ashtrays scattered across the table. "When did you start this? When did you get those?" He points at the tattoos under Axel's eyes, and Axel can't help grinning at Roxas's obvious frustration.

Serves him right.

Feeling a little more in control now that Roxas's is slipping, Axel leans back in his chair with an arrogant smirk. Eyes narrowing at Axel's expression, Roxas takes a deep breath as he tries to wrestle himself back under control. "What are you doing, Axel?" he asks quietly, shoulders slumping. Axel shrugs.

"Waiting for you leave."

Roxas springs up from his chair, knocking his beer to the floor, where it spits and foams across the faded linoleum. He ignores it. "You stupid son of a bitch," he spits out, voice wavering. "I came here to see you." Axel's eyes narrow as he crosses his arms over his chest.

"And now you've seen me," he mutters. "Get out."

"Why are you being such a dick?" Roxas demands, his hands tightening into white-knuckled fists. Axel snorts.

"Get out, Roxas. You can't waltz back in here eight fucking years later and start questioning my life. Stop acting like you've got some God-given right to tell me what to do."

Roxas doesn't move, but the blood rushes from his face so rapidly Axel thinks he might just fall over. Ducking his head, Roxas pants for breath, and Axel can tell the kid's really trying to keep his temper under control, but he doesn't really care – he just wants Roxas gone.

"You asshole," Roxas mutters, wiping one hand over his face. "I came back to see you." Axel hates that his chest is twisting the way it is, and he hates Roxas for being the cause of the pain.

"You're a little late," he says coldly. Roxas's head snaps up, and Axel waits for him to explode, wants him to explode, because he can deal with Roxas if he's the only one in control, but Roxas is still fighting to rein in his temper, shaking with the effort. Axel shoves away from the table with a derisive snort, heading for the door. "Get out. I don't wanna see you again."

That does it – Roxas snaps. He tackles Axel from behind, his momentum sending both of them crashing to the floor, and Axel has the sense to break his fall before his head connects with the linoleum. Twisting around, he throws a punch at Roxas's head, which the blond easily ducks, straddling Axel's narrow hips and fisting his hands on Axel's chest.

"Get off," Axel growls, trying to sit up and throw Roxas off of him, but Roxas shoves him back down, lips skinning back from his teeth.

"What's your problem?" he cries, beating a fist against Axel's chest in frustration. "Do you know how long I worked to save the money to get back here?"

"Do I care?" Axel sneers, shoving at Roxas's chest.

"I missed you," Roxas grates out, looking like each word costs him a lot to force out. He ducks his head, slouching forward until his head is resting on Axel's shoulder. "You son of a bitch, I missed you."

Axel freezes, squeezing his eyes shut.

"I missed you."

Liar.

"Liar," he mutters, swallowing harshly. He feels Roxas tense above him, and he bolts upright, sending Roxas sprawling across the kitchen floor. "Liar," he repeats, wiping a shaking hand across his face. "Get out. Get the fuck out. You –"

I was fine without you.

"Get out –"

I'm fine.

Roxas is staring at him, and the expression on his face makes Axel want to hit something, but he's not moving, won't pick himself up and just leave, and Axel feels any control he might've still been clinging to slipping away. "You can't do this," he snarls, wincing at how broken his voice sounds. "You can't come back after eight years without – without anything and do this to me."

"You never wrote me," Roxas mumbles, pushing himself up on shaking arms. "I waited – I waited all year for a damn letter, you know that?" Axel's eyes narrow as Roxas curls in on himself, cradling his scraped arm against his chest. "You – you promised you'd write me, you bastard." Axel's lips skin back from his teeth – there is no way Roxas is making this his fault.

"You never came back," he growls. "You promised you were gonna come back and visit, remember?"

"I thought you didn't want to see me!" Roxas cries, staggering to his feet. "You never wrote, you never called – my aunt and uncle offered to take me on vacation with them – what was I supposed to do?! I thought you didn't want to see me," he finishes quietly, looking exhausted.

"I don't," Axel breathes, feeling pinpricks of pain at the back of his eyes. Roxas sags, leaning against the counter, and it's tearing Axel apart – spinning away from the blond, he stalks into the living room, reaching for his cigarettes.

He doesn't look up when Roxas leaves.


Axel's lying on the couch – his own, for once – staring at the flickering television screen, not really seeing it. Roxas finally seems to have gotten the hint – Axel hasn't seen him for over a week.

It's fine.

Sighing, he brings his cigarette back to his lips, wincing when the phone begins to ring. Axel waits for his mom to get it, but after six or seven rings he figures she must have left and pushes himself up, grumbling. Tripping over the empty beer cans piled at his feet, he searches among the various piles of papers spread around the room before he finally locates the phone under one of his mom's clothing catalogues.

"Hello?"

"Axel?"

Axel tries to place the voice as he stumbles back to the couch; giving up, he collapses back onto the cushions with a groan. "Who is this?"

"It's Namine."

Axel's breath catches before he narrows his eyes and drags a hand through his hair. "What do you want?" There's a short silence before he hears Namine sigh.

"I just – I wanted to talk to you," she says quietly. "About Roxas."

"No." Axel hangs up, throwing his arm over his eyes as he grinds his teeth together. Is he ever going to be allowed to forget that dick? The phone begins to ring again, but he throws it against the wall and it falls silent.

I'm fine.


Axel's dragged out of his stupor by someone pounding insistently on his door. Rubbing his eyes irritably, he pulls himself off the couch with a groan. His head is pounding, and there's a bad taste in his mouth – he's not in the mood for company.

He winces against the flare of sunset as he pulls the door open, scowling down at Namine standing on his front step. "What?"

Namine flinches at his tone, but she stares up at him with a stern expression. "I need to talk to you."

"No." Axel begins to slam the door in her face, but she surprises him by stepping forward; taking a step back, he glares at her. "How the hell do you know where I live, anyway?" The smallest smile graces her face for a second before she ducks her head and shrugs.

"You're in the school directory," she says quietly. She sweeps past him, and Axel can only look after her, scowling, as she hesitates at the entrance to the living room, eyes widening at the beer cans and ashtrays littered all over the place. He expects her to start ranting about he shouldn't do this to himself, he's got so much potential, but she turns aside and walks into the kitchen instead.

Axel stands next to the open door for another second before he closes it with a long-suffering sigh and follows her. She's already seated when he comes in, and it's Roxas's fucking seat, of course it is, but Axel just goes to the fridge and grabs another beer. Throwing himself into the chair across from hers, he cradles his head in his hands, trying to drive back the pain that's threatening to blossom into a migraine.

"Roxas is worried about you." Axel digs his fingers into his temples, grinding his teeth together. "He came back for you, you know."

"Shut up," Axel whispers, hating how hard it is to force the words from his throat. Namine hesitates before she reaches across the table, trying to lay a hand against his arm, but he jerks away from her.

"Axel, please –"

He shoves himself up from the table, trying to escape back into the living room, but Namine cuts off his retreat, and Axel has never wanted to hit a girl more in his life. Namine's eyes are swimming with tears, but she grabs the front of his shirt and clings to him, preventing him from sweeping around her.

"Why are you both such idiots?" she cries. "Just talk to him, Axel, please."

"Let go," Axel mutters tonelessly. Namine doesn't; pressing closer, she shakes as the tears begin to slide down her cheeks.

"Both of you – you're idiots," she murmurs. "You're destroying yourselves. He needs you, Axel, he always has." Axel can't hold back the bark of laughter.

"What does he need me for? He's got you." He tries to slip past her, but she tightens her hands around his shirt, still crying softly.

"You're an idiot, you are such an idiot," she chants, trying to calm herself. "He always asked about you." Axel freezes, staring down at her with wide eyes. "All those times you'd yell at me in middle school for – for trying to talk to you, trying to make you stop using – Roxas asked me to."

"I don't do that anymore," Axel mutters, and his voice sounds strange in his own ears – strained and small.

"How do you think Roxas knew where to look for you the first time? He cares, Axel, he does, and I know you still care about him, because you've been destroying yourself every way you know how since he left."

Namine dissolves into silent sobs, and Axel places his hands on her shoulders awkwardly, fervently wishing he had a cigarette. Luckily, Namine gets herself under control pretty quickly and steps back, running a hand over her eyes. Axel stares at her, stuffing his hands in his pockets – it's never occurred to him that his downward spiral affected anybody else, but Namine's still hiccupping softly, and suddenly he feels like the world's worst shit.

"Knock it off," he mumbles, patting her shoulder. Namine's face twists into a strange expression, and Axel thinks she's getting ready to start yelling at him, but a thin laugh winds its way from her mouth, and Axel's lips stretch in a crooked smile at the absurdity of the entire situation.

"You're both so stupid," Namine sighs, wiping the last trace of moisture from her cheeks. "Come on." Axel frowns as she turns away, heading for the door.

"What?" Namine looks over her shoulder at him, brows furrowed in confusion.

"I thought – don't you want to talk to him?" Axel shifts uncomfortably, avoiding her eyes.

"I didn't say that," he mutters. Namine sighs heavily, biting at her lower lip.

"There's no time, Axel – he's at the airport."

Axel stares at her, unable to process the statement at first. Suddenly it slams into him so hard he gasps, feeling sick.

He never said he was staying.

No. No. Roxas can't just come back, upset everything about Axel's life, and then waltz back out again. I was fine without him, dammit, I was fine

Liar.

Axel whips around Namine, dragging the girl toward the door, slipping into his ratty sneakers as he pulls at her arm in something like panic. "You have a car?" Namine doesn't complain about the fingers digging into her skin; she nods and moves ahead of him, already digging the keys out of her purse.


Axel's half-way out of the car before Namine's put it in park, the petite blonde calling something after him as he throws open his door and bolts for the gray building, but he doesn't hear it. He doesn't hear anything but the blood rushing in his ears.

Axel drags his hands through his hair as he throws a panicked glance around him, slowing to a stumbling jog. Where the hell is he even supposed to start looking? His feet slapping against the tiles provides a rhythm for Axel's inner chant: Nonononononono

"Axel!"

Axel almost loses his balance as he whips around to find Roxas standing behind him, weighed down under two suitcases and a carry-on. He thinks he sees something in Roxas's eyes light up before they narrow and Roxas scowls at him. "What are you doing here?" Axel takes a step toward him, hands clenching into fists at his sides.

"You can't leave." Surprise flickers across Roxas's face, but he only tilts his head to the side as his lip curls away from his teeth.

"What do you care?"

"Damn it, Rox," Axel groans, and Roxas twitches at the old nickname, but his expression doesn't soften, and Axel threads his fingers through his hair as he stares at the floor. A strained silence settles between them, and Axel's mind is whirling; he knows he needs to say something, and that there are a million reasons Roxas can't leave, but he can't quiet the roaring in his head long enough to articulate them.

"Well?"

Axel flinches at Roxas's tone, but he still doesn't lift his eyes from the floor. "Because I do, okay?" he mutters. "Because you can't just leave after you sweep in here and – and…" He trails off when he hears footsteps drawing closer, and he glances up to find a boy who looks an awful lot like Roxas standing off to the side, his head swiveling between Roxas and Axel with a confused expression on his face.

A small smirk flickers across Roxas's face before he hands one of the suitcases to the other boy. "Axel, this is my cousin, Sora. He's gonna be staying with me for a few weeks before school starts again."

"Uh, hi." Sora flashes a nervous smile and extends his hand, but Axel's staring slack-jawed at Roxas, whose smirk has broadened.

"You," he mutters, a disbelieving grin slowly stretching his lips, "you son of a bitch. You planned this whole thing didn't you?" Roxas's expression falls into confusion, and Axel scowls at him. "Namine, coming over and –"

"Namine?" Roxas really does look like he has no idea what Axel's talking about, and the redhead pulls his hand through his hair with a sigh.

"How the hell did you think I knew where you were?" he mumbles, and he turns when Roxas's eyes slip past him – Namine's standing behind him, her arms wrapped around herself as she smiles widely at their little group. Ignoring both Roxas and Axel, she steps forward and introduces herself to Sora, grabbing his carry-on from Roxas as Sora grabs the second suitcase. She glances over her shoulder as they disappear down the hall.

"I brought the car, Roxas," she smiles, waving over her shoulder before she turns the corner with Sora and disappears. Roxas and Axel are left standing in the hallway, staring at each other.

"So," Roxas starts, a wicked grin on his face.

"Don't start," Axel groans, running a hand over his face; but he can't hide his grin. "I thought you were leaving." He ducks his head, regarding the blond from the corner of his eye. "You're still an asshole." Roxas narrows his eyes before he nods thoughtfully.

"And you're still a bastard," he muses, pushing a stray piece of hair out of his face. He tilts his head as a crooked smile spreads across his lips. "I guess nothing's changed." He begins to breeze past him, but Axel reaches out and wraps him in a one-armed hug, closing his eyes as he sighs.

"Shut up, Roxas."