author's notes: Holy crap. I cannot believe I actually wrote a Kaixel. And a long one at that! 11K. My longest oneshot EVAH!! Well, long for me at least… and, I've never written Axel before (I love him to death, but I just never wrote him!), so I hope he's (somewhat) in character… hope I didn't butcher him… -fingers crossed- Well, this idea ran me over like an eighteen-wheeler on one incredibly boring day answering phones at work. I hope it isn't too overused… blaaah… -dies-

disclaimer: I don't own KH or its characters. If I did, they would suck

dedication: zomg! To the incredibly awesome Ana♥! Whoa- she cool! I hope you enjoy it, love!


life -i s n ' t- always easy


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

Her arms were incredibly sore as she carried yet another box up the seven flights of stairs. The pain flowed freely through her tired muscles, taunting her mercilessly, as if it was saying 'you are too weak to do any real heavy lifting'. But then again, her thin arms did shake crazily whenever she attempted to lift a box over thirty pounds.

Kairi leaned against the uneven brick wall and rested the box (this one had 'silverware' printed in large capital letters) against her hip. She brushed her long bangs away from her face and took a deep breath, preparing to climb up more stairs.

"Moving day isn't as easy as you thought it was going to be, huh, Kai?"

"Shut up, Riku. The elevators just had to be under repair!" she complained, "And how many times do I have to tell you- I hate it when you call me 'Kai'!" The silver-haired young man just chuckled, his laughter full of mirth. "Oh shut up!" If her hands weren't already occupied, she would have slapped him upside the head. Riku smiled and took a rounded turn through the narrow, poorly lit stairwell.

"C'mon Kairi," he encouraged, "These are the last few boxes. Just three more flights of stairs and we're done."

Kairi groaned but did as she was told. Her wine-colored bangs instantly fell back in front of her eyes as she pushed herself from the wall. Clutching the box against her stomach, her frail arms barely able to carry the heavy box, Kairi forced her weary legs to step, step, step. The less she thought about how many stairs there were, the easier it was.

"Holy crap, Kairi," she heard Sora yell from a few flights below, "Why are all these boxes as heavy as rocks?!" Kairi's laugh echoed like bells down the stairwell. He must've gotten the box with all her pots and pans.

"Didn't I tell you?" she yelled down with a laugh, "I own rocks! Pet rocks!"

Riku, only a few steps higher than her, murmured with a smile evident in his voice, "Y'know, he'll believe you if you say that…" Kairi just laughed some more and walked through the door with a bold number eight printed on its face into the dimly lit hallway.

The eighth floor of the apartment building was a little high, but she didn't care. She was still thrilled that she had gotten into the university, gotten a decentjob to boot, and finally moved to the mainland of Destiny Islands. It was perfect. She needed to get away. Away from the little town they all grew up in and into the big city.

She was a little scared, but she convinced herself that nineteen was old enough to have a place of her own. Her parents died when she was little, so she figured that at nineteen, she should have a place of her own. Riku and Sora had one. She needed to stop crashing at their place and at Selphie's parents'. Besides, she was sick of the community college back home.

They finally reached the end of the hall, and Kairi kicked the door open to her room (number 814) and entered, eyes wide with glee, taking in all its glory.

Or lack thereof.

The walls and ceiling had yellowish smears in some spots, most likely water damage, and the carpet was stained in some spots, and the couch was a little musty… but still… it was home now.

And Kairi was glad to be here on her own, because she was an independent woman now.

"It's wonderful, isn't it? Every time I come in, I think I love it even more than I did before," she whispered joyfully. Riku groaned as he set his stack down next to the other boxes.

"Sure." He knew it wasn't all that great, but he wasn't going to spoil her fun. Besides, she couldn't really afford any better. The majority of her money was paying for school, and this dingy apartment was the best she could do by herself. Kairi pushed her box of silverware onto the off-white countertop of her tiny kitchen and sighed.

"It's just… perfect…"

"Kairi!" Sora screamed as he hobbled into the room, box dangling between his arms, "Your pet rocks are trying to climb out! They keep making these loud, clanging noises!" The box dropped to the carpet with a thunderous crash, and Sora fled behind Kairi, grasping her shoulders tightly. Kairi giggled, and Riku tilted his head toward her.

"Told you so." He leaned over and opened the box, revealing the pots and pans inside. Sora's grip on her shoulders loosened considerably.

"Hey, you said those were rocks!" Sora cried.

"I was kidding, Sora," Kairi lifted his hands away from her and guided them down to his sides.

"Well," Riku began loudly, "We can help you unpack if you want."

"You guys don't have to help me unpack!" Kairi blurted, waving her hands in front of her.

"We don't have to," Riku groaned as he picked a pan up out of the open box, "but we will." He slapped the pan against his palm.

"Yeah," Sora chimed in. "Besides, what else are we good for… other than slave labor? Come on, let us help you!" Kairi grinned, gushing with happiness. She loved her boys so much. Both of them. "But first," Sora whined as he charged toward the door, "I need some food!"

Sora pulled at the doorknob as if it was locked, jerking it back and forth, apparently very eager to leave. Kairi laughed and opened the door for him. Riku groaned loudly, but swaggered to the door anyway. He laid his arm over both Sora's and Kairi's shoulders and led them out the door. They were almost all the down the narrow hallway, laughing at Sora's antics, when Kairi stopped walking.

"Dammit, I forgot my purse!" she exclaimed, pushing Riku's arm off her shoulder. She started jogging back to her room and yelled over her shoulder, "You guys just start heading out; I'll catch up!" She rushed into her room and found her purse lodged between two boxes of clothing. She yanked it out and slipped it up on her shoulder in one fluid motion.

Kairi ripped the door open, and rushed out, wanting to catch back up to Sora and Riku, but she didn't run into the hallway.

She ran right into someone's arms.

The arms wrapped around torso, pulling her body to them. Her head slammed right into their chest.

"That's what I call an introduction!" she heard him say. Kairi pushed herself quickly out of the stranger's grasp and looked up at the enigma. He certainly looked strange, and a bit shady. After all, he had tattoos underneath his eyes.

"Wh-who're you?" she sputtered, one hand instinctively clutching her purse.

"Axel." He leaned against the wall of the hallway with his eyes closed and arms crossed.


"Axel. A-X-E-L," he spelled his name out, and his head bounced along with the rhythm of his own voice, "Got it memorized?" Kairi just stared at him, feeling a bit insignificant, indigo eyes as wide as a deer in headlights. "Hey new girl, you were friendly enough to hug me, and now you won't talk? What's up with that?"

"No, you grabbed me," she countered.

"I was just coming over to introduce myself," he retaliated. She stared back at him.

"Well, new girl," he exclaimed, "welcome to the eighth floor!" His voice sounded very sarcastic, "I'm your neighbor 'cross the hall. I live in eight-thirteen." He pointed with his thumb to the door directly behind him.

Kairi smiled politely; she didn't want to be rude.

"Well… Axel… it was nice meeting you, but I have to run." She tilted her head lazily to the door of the stairwell. "My friends are waiting for me."

"It was nice meeting you too." He grabbed her unwilling hand with his mouth curved in a wide smirk and gave it a firm shake. He was in the process of pulling her hand to his lips when Kairi jerked away and started power-walking down the hall, ignoring all manners, and feeling quite eager to get away from him.

Hell, this guy scared her.

She looked over her shoulder just as she was entering the stairwell and saw him leaning against the wall again, looking right back at her.

So maybe everything about the apartment wasn't perfect. But hey, beggars can't be choosers.

"Guys?" Kairi called down the stairs, her body leaning against the rail and hair fluttering into her eyes.

"Hurry up, Kai!" Sora's voice echoed up. It sounded like they were already at the bottom.

"Don't call me that!" She heard them laugh as she leapt down the stairs, and wished dearly for the elevators to be fixed as soon as possible.

When she reached the bottom, Riku pulled her back underneath his embrace, and the three stumbled out into a dank reception room, and from there, onto the sidewalk of the busy street.

The cold winter air bit their cheeks as they walked through the city. It was mid-January, and the cold was as intense as it had been all winter. Kairi zipped her jacket up a little higher.

"What took you so long?" Sora yelled over the loud hum of cars zooming past them, his warmth breath fogging the air in front of him.

"I met my neighbor," Kairi said with a shudder. She couldn't tell if it was due to the cold or to… Axel.

"Not too nice, eh?" Riku joked.

"No, that's not it… he just seems… odd." She pulled her wool hat down lower over her ears.

"Well, if I just went on how odd people seemed, I wouldn't be friends with good ole Sora here!" Riku laughed and shook Sora a little.

"Hey!" he exclaimed.

"I guess you're right…" she pondered. Still, she wasn't sure if she would ever feel comfortable around the guy.

Sora slapped Riku's arm off his shoulders and changed the subject. "So, where to?"

"There's a pizza parlor just past that coffee house," Kairi pointed down the street with her hair fluttering behind her. She looked over and saw that Riku's silver locks were flying about his face as well.

This day was turning out to be cold and windy.

"Sounds great," he said with a light smile, taking his arm off Kairi's shoulders as well.

"Pizza!" Sora yelled, raising a fist into the air. For a nineteen-year-old, any mention food always made him act a bit childish.

They entered the restaurant in a hurry, the freezing bursts of wind blowing behind them. Riku quickly shut the door, and they instantly felt the warm, pizza-scented air caress their faces, and it felt damn good.

"Three. Non-smoking." Sora ordered of the hostess, three of his gloved fingers extended in front of him.

"Right this way," she mumbled with a nod of her head. Her fingers latched around three menus and pulled them along as she led them to their table. It was a small, rounded booth, nestled in the corner next to the green stained glass window.

The three slid in, Sora and Riku doing so rather ungracefully. Kairi opened her menu, and Riku followed suit. Sora, however, sat with his back leaning against the cushion with his arms crossed.

"Aren't you going to look for what you want?" Kairi asked without lifting her eyes from the page.

"We're getting a large pizza. Ham and pineapple." His voice never wavered.


"Yes, we! Do you think I could eat a large by myself."

Riku sighed and shut his menu. "Actually, yes. Yes I do."

"Fine," Kairi agreed reluctantly with a snap of her own menu, "Ham and pineapple."

Their waitress strolled over to their snuggled booth and jotted their drink orders on her little pad of paper. She returned shortly with three glasses of cola balanced on a tray and passed them out accordingly.

"To Kairi," Riku mumbled. Sora grinned and lifted his glass in the air.

"To Kairi," he repeated. Kairi rolled her eyes.

"What for?"

"For being a beautiful, smart, independent young woman." Sora grinned.

"No," she whispered under her breath. "Not to me… to us." Riku gave her a sideways glance. "I don't care how corny it is, but we need to promise to keep in touch. I live nearly an hour away from you guys. I won't be seeing you often." Her gaze lowered to her hands.

"We'll see you, Kairi," Sora tried to convince her.

"How do you know for sure?"

Riku cleared his throat in a very pompous manner. "Well, I do… because… we're gonna make this a tradition," he suggested with a slight wave of his hand. "We come here... say, every two weeks, if possible… And we'll get Sora's ham and pineapple pizza while we're at it."

Sora laughed. "Sounds good to me!" He raised his cola, and the bubbly brown liquid nearly sloshed over the edge. "To us."

"To us," Riku repeated, raising his own glass.

Kairi grinned, her teeth sparkling. She lifted her cup above theirs heads, and they clinked the plastic together.

"To us!"


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

Sora and Riku had left after they finished unpacking all of Kairi's things, leaving her completely solo. It was fine at first; she had mindlessly watched the late show on her funny old TV, sitting on her musty old couch. But once midnight approached, her eyes began drooping, and she finally convinced herself to retire to her bedroom.

After she got settled, the noises started getting to her. She hadn't realized how noisy her apartment was until now. The cars speeding through the streets were one thing, but the creaks and groans of her tiny apartment scared the living daylights out of her. No matter how many times she tried to convince herself that it was just the wind, just the wind, just the wind, she couldn't help but turn molehills into mountains. By 1:30, she could have sworn a murderer was standing next to her bed.

On top of all that, she was shivering like crazy. True, she was scared out of her mind enough to make anyone tremble. But it was freezing at night. Not even her down comforter could soothe her quivering body.

So… it was no surprise that she was incredibly tired the next morning.

The alarm clock woke her at around 6:45, and she stumbled into her kitchen sleepily. Her feet slid across the floor quite sluggishly. She pulled her favorite mug from the cabinet (that pinky-purple one that Wakka gave her for her birthday two years ago) and set it on the countertop. One, she needed caffeine. And two, she wanted to get warm. Her hand tapped around, searching for the coffee pot until-

"Dammit," she muttered to herself sarcastically, "I don't have a coffee pot." She forgot that hers was still at Sora and Riku's place. She'd have to call Sora to have him bring her coffee pot over next time he dropped by. She tried to ignore her massive craving for caffeine and switched her thoughts to breakfast. Maybe some hot oatmeal?

She opened a cabinet, praying for that oat-

Empty. Goddamn it.

Oh yeah… she forgot to go to the grocery store yesterday.

She collapsed, extremely peeved, in the kitchen chair and glanced up at the clock Riku had mounted on the wall for her. She had to be in class in an hour. Might as well stop by that coffee shop she saw last night on the way to school; she needed that caffeine.

She quickly showered, enjoying the heat immensely, and put on a decent outfit. Black pants and a white blouse- after all, she would be going straight to work after her classes. She bundled up in her coat, scarf, and mittens and flew down the seven flights of stairs as fast as she could.

The air outside was colder today than it was yesterday. The sun shone down brightly, wanting to warm the city streets, but nothing could be done to calm the harsh winds snapping at the raw cheeks of the pedestrians.

Kairi snuggled her chin farther down into her wool scarf as she trekked along the sidewalk to the coffee house. She loved her scarf, but she didn't care too much for being cold. No wait, scratch that-

She hated being cold.

So it was no surprise whatsoever that when Kairi stepped into the quaint little coffee shop on the corner, and the warm scent of freshly ground coffee beans wrapped around her, it felt very, very nice.

"Um… one cup… large… of black coffee… and one of those banana nut muffins?" she asked the lady at the counter.

"Yes ma'am," she replied a bit too sweetly. She poured her coffee quickly and snatched a muffin from under the counter. "Three fifty-two," she named the price.

Kairi rummaged through her purse for the munny and threw it on the counter. With a content sigh, she took the first sip of her coffee and turned around, scanning the place for a seat. Like hell was she going to leave this warm place any minute soon.

But when she whipped around, she saw that most of the tables were occupied. No, not most. All.

Her heart dropped a little. She'd have to eat her muffin and drink her coffee on the cold walk to school. She slung her purse a little bit higher on her shoulder and set off for the door.

"Hey, new girl."

She kept walking. That sounded like that guy she met yesterday, and it was a bit too early to be messing with any weirdoes.

"New girl! I have a seat for you!"

She stopped. 'Seat' equals sitting with that guy. But then again, 'seat' means not running out into the freezing weather. Decisions, decisions…

Aw, hell.

Her head turned to the direction that the voice was coming from and sure enough, there he was. Spiky red hair and all.

"Remember me?" he cooed. How could she not?

"Of course, Axel. You're my neighbor across the hall." Her voice was dull and toneless. Axel, however, didn't seem to get the hint. He pulled out the spare chair and motioned for her to sit down. She obliged.

"I never got your name yesterday." He stirred his coffee with one of those little straws. She sipped her own, relishing the heat streaming down her throat.

"Why does it matter?" she asked plainly.

"Fiiiiine," he dragged out the first syllable holding his hands up. "I'll just call you… Princess." Her eyes narrowed. "So, what brings you to the big city?" he continued, very oblivious to her glares.

"Why does it matter?" she breathed icily and then bit into her muffin. Maybe she should've braved the cold weather instead of this guy?

"Christ, I'm just making small talk. Don't get your panties in a bunch!"

Kairi breathed deeply. "I'm taking morning classes at the university. And I work nights at Bella Notte." Axel raised his eyebrows. "Y'know, that fancy Italian restaurant down the block? Ring any bells?

"Not a jingle."


"Why d'ya wanna work there?"

"The waitresses there get tipped extremely well. A whole bunch of rich people eat there."

"Clever. How'd you get it?"

And then Kairi launched into the whole story of how after she had received her acceptance letter to the university, she had told Selphie that even though she had gotten in, she didn't think that she could actually live there without a job.

That weekend, Selphie went up to the city with her parents and they ate at Bella Notte. She asked the waiter about getting a job there, and the waiter told her that they were desperate for another waitress. So once Selphie got back, she brought Kairi an application form.

Kairi was ecstatic. She filled it out and took the hour-long drive to the city for an interview. She was really nervous, but she got a call a few days later telling her that she got the job.

"And so, I moved here. Live by myself now," she finished her story with a nod, "And today's my first day of both school and work."

"Well, shouldn't you be heading out then? Wouldn't want to make a bad impression on your professors." Axel leaned back in his chair and smirked.

Kairi's stomach dropped. She jerked up her sleeve to check her watch.

It was five minutes to eight.

"Why did you make me talk to you?!" she screamed while gathering her purse.

"I didn't make you do anything, Princess," he laughed. Kairi didn't respond, but she downed the rest of her (not so hot coffee) and flew out without so much as a goodbye.

The wind echoed in her ears and her hair whipped against her face. She could feel her shoes smacking against the concrete as she ran, but she couldn't hear it.

She had five minutes.

And she was ten minutes away.

People turned and stared as she soared through the crowd. Where had the time gone? She was usually a lot more responsible than that.

Kairi huffed and puffed, and somehow made it there in less than five minutes. She rushed through the doors into the lecture hall, and saw that probably three hundred other students were listening in. The professor didn't even look up as the doors slammed behind her.

Axel had freaked her out. This was a lecture class; she didn't need to sprint the entire half-mile.

Oh, Kairi was going to get him.


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

In all her classes, it was like her professors didn't care about the students. Many times, Kairi would raise her hand, prepared to launch into a question. But they would just ignore her.

In addition to that, they never took a breather. They would go from one subject and plunge right into the next without warning. It was a lot different from the community college.

At three o'clock, she got done with her last class. She had to be a Bella Notte at three-thirty. At least she didn't have to sprint through the freezing air this time. She wrapped her scarf around her neck and started the trip on foot. After all, Kairi couldn't afford a car in her wildest dreams- and she wasn't ready to cough up some change for a taxi.

The air stung her eyes; she yearned for summer, but was extremely thankful that there wasn't any snow on the ground. Now that she thought about it, they hadn't had any snow or ice this year. Odd.

"You're late," a cold voice snapped the very instant Kairi entered Bella Notte.

She looked at the large, gilded clock hanging above the table where people put in their parties and saw that it was 3:26. That is not late. She looked back at the voice's owner.

It was a young woman; she looked like she was in her early twenties, with slicked-back blonde hair and two flyaway pieces bouncing above her head. Her electric green eyes sparked as she glared at Kairi.

"I'm sorry, I tried my best to get here at three thir-"

"You were supposed to be here at three," she snarled, "You're taking my place, and I was ready to leave at three. But you, being the considerably tardy person, decided to not get here until now."

"I-I'm sorry…" Talk about waking up on the wrong side of the bed…

"You sure as hell better be, and you better not do it again!" She pointed an accusing finger at Kairi.

The woman slammed the door shut behind her as she exited the building.

"Oh, sorry. That's just Larxene." A new voice came up from behind her. "She's a bitch." Kairi turned around and couldn't help but smile. "I'm Yuffie, by the way… and as my friends call me, The Great Ninja Yuffie."

"I'm Kairi," she said with a smile. Yuffie smiled back and grabbed Kairi by the shoulders, pushing her back into the kitchens.

"Okay, I was told to show you the ropes. You're waitressing, right?" Kairi nodded. "Well, the most important thing is charisma. You gotta talk to these people to get good tips, but don't pester them, or else they get pissed off."

Yuffie continued drilling her through the restaurants policies, and after an hour, she felt Kairi was in pretty good shape to work some tables.

At around five o'clock, people started coming in for dinner. Kairi had the six tables tucked away in the back corner. The host led a couple in to one of Kairi's tables, and she felt confident that she was going to get everything right.

"Hello," she said smiling, "I'm Kairi, your waitress for this evening."

"The usual," the man snapped. Kairi bit her lip hesitantly. Oh, the joys of being the new girl. Her excitement was too much to handle.

"Um…" she hesitated, "and that is?"

"Two glasses of pinot noir and two veal marinaras!" he said between gritted teeth. The woman rolled her eyes and swept her hair away from her face. Kairi felt bad for the poor baby cow that was about to be eaten by these people, but jotted the order down anyway. "And hurry it up!"

Kairi groaned. It was only five o'clock, and she already had a cruel customer. Little did she know, it was all downhill from here.

The first horribly awful thing that happened was that that couple didn't tip her any money. They told the host at the front that it was bothersome for Kairi to not know what their 'usual' was.

She didn't get a tip when the chef got an order wrong for a group of snobby teenage girls. Kairi did absolutely nothing wrong. But of course, the waitress is denied her tip because of a misunderstanding in the kitchen.

Some condensation from the pitcher of water dripped onto a businessman's water repellant pants. First, he screamed in her face. Second, since he had already ordered a meal absolutely full of substitutions, nobody else would take it. So Kairi had to pay for it.

Kairi learned that most of the employees at Bella Notte were as rude as Larxene had been to her. The only one who had been kind was that weird girl with the short, black hair who liked to pretend that she was a ninja.

She sought Yuffie out at around nine thirty, eager to leave.

"Oh no," Yuffie explained as she hefted a tray of food onto her shoulder, "We stay 'til eleven. And then we close. Well, actually, if someone's still at one of your tables, you would have to stay and close up by yourself. That's why I hate working nights. Just because of those people who pleasure themselves by sitting in a restaurant past eleven o'clock… I mean, c'mon!"

Kairi had stopped paying attention long before. She was still stuck on that whole 'we stay 'til eleven' bit.

She groaned and wiped her arm across her sweaty forehead. Sure, it was freezing outside, but the kitchens were damn hot.

Kairi's last table left at about ten forty-five, and thankfully, had left a decent tip. Kairi swept the munny into the front pocket of her little apron and felt someone behind her. She whipped around, and saw that Yuffie was leaning over her shoulder.

"So, how was the first day?"

"Honestly?" Yuffie nodded. "Terrible."

"It'll get better; it was hard for me at first too," she encouraged. Kairi sighed and stumbled into the back room for her coat. She wrapped it around her tired body, sent a gloved wave to Yuffie and headed out the door, her tired body aching like hell.

The air nipped at her face again, but this time, Kairi was too tired to even care. The bright neon lights of the city glowed overhead, breaking through the darkness of the cloudy night. She staggered to her apartment and, upon entering the reception room, remembered that the elevators were under repair.


Kairi made her way slowly up the stairs, feet dragging upon each step.

Goddamn she was tired.

She opened the door to her door from the stairwell and immediately wished that she hadn't.

Axel was standing at the end of the hall, leaning against his doorframe. He had annoying smirk on his face, and Kairi yearned for him to just not talk to her for once.

"Hey there, Princess." His voice echoed down the hallway. Kairi walked toward her room, which was, consequently, in the same direction as Axel was. "Was your first day absolutely lovely?"

"Shut up-"

"Glad it was super. I'm positively overjoyed."

"Why are you following me everywhere?" she asked. Axel pushed himself off from the wall.

"Excuse me?" he laughed from across the hallway. "I live here. I think you're the one who's following me!" Kairi groaned loudly.

She had almost reached her door, when Axel slid his body in front of it.

"Move," she breathed threateningly. He grinned.

"Tell me your name."


"I'll move if you do." Kairi stood in front of him, glaring.

"Kairi," she said plainly.

"Kaaaiiiri," he mused, dragging out the first syllable far too long, "I like that."

"I'm glad. Move." She pushed his shoulder, and he moved aside, surprisingly, but chuckled as he did so. She unlocked her door and slipped inside, locking the door behind her.

Like hell was she going to leave that door unlocked with someone like Axel living across the hall from her.

She was going to call Riku and Sora, but fell asleep (with her clothes still on) before she ever had the chance. Then again, it was eleven-thirty, and she had to wake up in seven hours. To do the exact same thing over again.

And then she fell asleep; the noises didn't disturb her tonight.

Oh, the joys of independence.


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

She thought she was going to love living in the big city. Absolutely love it.

How wrong she had been. How wrong.

Every single day was the same. Sleep deprived and stressful. School, work, sleep. School, work, sleep. School, work, sleep.

She barely had any time in her life to cram any food down her throat.

She barely had time to talk to Sora, Riku, or Selphie. Kairi really missed them. She had called Riku once to confirm their pizza date, but that was it. That was it.

And then there was Axel.

Oh, that damn Axel.

Kairi still hadn't gotten her coffee pot back, but she still needed that caffeine. After all, she wasn't getting a lot of sleep lately. She didn't want to go down to that coffee shop, but her addiction to the caffeine always broke her down.

And she would go down, and she would get her cup of scalding hot black coffee.

And Axel would always be there.

But Kairi learned. She didn't sit with him. Ever. But she always heard his voice.

"Hey, Kairi."

But she had decided that braving the frigid cold was a lot better than sitting with him. She didn't want to play twenty questions every day. So she would drink it on the way to school.

And everyday, when she came through the stairway door to level eight, he would be leaning against his doorframe with that same smirk on his face; his thin lips curled when he would ask the same question that he did every night.

"So, how was your day?"

Awful. She tried to ignore him. She tried really hard. She usually would remain silent and enter her apartment as quietly as possible. But sometimes, when she was really tired, she would slip.

"Horrendous." Or sometimes, "Dreadful."

But the worst part wasn't when he would try to talk to her.

The worst part was when she was lying alone in her bed, tossing and turning, begging for sleep to wash over her… when she would think of him.

And how she hated him. With that smirk and that hair and those (gorgeously) green eyes. Why did he keep talking to her?! He was so annoying! But then again, he wasn't doing anything wrong. Nothing illegal or anything.

Just existing.

But at least today, she had something to look forward too. It was Saturday, and she didn't have any classes, she transferred to the lunch shift, and Riku and Sora were supposed to come over to her apartment at six.

Kairi hadn't seen them for two weeks; she missed them.

She had dragged herself home from work, and thankfully, Axel wasn't waiting in the hallway to pester her again. She kicked off her flats and collapsed onto her couch. It didn't smell so bad anymore; she didn't really have a life now, so she had cleaned everything up the weekend before. True, there were still a lot of stains, but she couldn't get those out even if she tried.

As if on cue, someone knocked on the door right at six. Kairi exploded from the cushion and ripped the door open, eager to see her best friend's faces.

She was disappointed.

It was Axel.

But Sora and Riku were standing cautiously behind him. They looked uncomfortable.

"I have some visitors for you, Miss Kairi," he declared in a mock-receptionist voice. And then going back down to his deeper tone, he said, "They knocked at my door."

"It was accident!" Sora defended.

"Axel, stop pestering my friends. Go away," ordered Kairi bluntly. Axel laughed, strangely, and receded into his open doorway. Ignoring him, Sora burst forward with a grin.

"I missed you, Kairi!" His eyes glowed; he really meant it.

"Sora," Riku sighed as he pushed his way into Kairi's apartment, "you are a total sap."

"Am not!"

"Are too."

"Shut up, both of you!" Kairi yelled, ending the childish argument. And sure enough they stopped fighting. From across the tiny hallway, Axel chuckled heartily. Kairi glared at him and slammed her door closed. "I just need my bag, and then we can go; I'm sure you two are hungry…"

"Of course not," Sora lied. Kairi grabbed the handles of her purse and strode out of her apartment confidently. Sora and Riku followed her; thankfully, Axel wasn't waiting out in the hall like he did all the time.

When they got to the pizza parlor, and they had removed their hats and coats, Riku pulled Kairi into a deep discussion.

"Are you happy here?" he asked quietly. Kairi nibbled at her straw. Sora cocked his head to the side.

"I dunno…" she hesitated.

She was supposed to be independent now, right? No need to burden her friends.

"What's up?" Sora questioned, a worried look etched across his features.

"I'm just so… tired all the time. All I do is work and school. School's not that bad. I like the whole learning bit, I suppose… it's just that I have to wake up at like six-thirty every morning."

"Ouch," sympathized Riku.

"It's always a joy waking up so early after not getting home until past eleven. Plus the fact that I'm up later than that because every night I always have a paper to write, or some other kind of homework." The waitress dropped their ham and pineapple pizza at their table. Kairi snatched a slice from the tray and took a tiny bite.

"Work is awful," she confessed. "The employees are incredibly rude, except for one girl, Yuffie; the customers are even ruder. Nobody cares about anyone but themselves… I have to work my ass off to get any sort of a decent tip…"

"I'm sorry, Kairi, I don't know what to tell you-"

"And then there's Larxene," she hissed, cutting Sora off, "She insists that I'm to be at work at three. Even though I don't get out of my last class until three. So I get yelled at by her all the time." Riku opened his mouth.


"And then, the worst part of it all, is that my wonderful neighbor Axel finds it absolutely hilarious to annoy the shit out of me every. Single. Day!" she yelled in complaint.

The boys were speechless. Kairi looked back and forth between them, but never caught their eyes. She threw her head into her arms curled up on the table and groaned.

"Sorry, guys. I didn't mean to ruin our night by bitching about my life. I'm sorry," she moaned into her sleeve. Riku rubbed her back comfortingly, fingers scratching deeply between her shoulder blades.

"Well, that's what we're here for," he crooned. Sora nodded.

"Yeah! To put your mind off things! We're listeners," he exclaimed with a mouth full of pizza goodness.

Kairi smiled, but wished that someone wouldn't just listen to her. She wanted some advice.

"Thanks guys," she said, pushing her true desires back down.

They ate in silence for a while, just enjoying each others' company, until Sora spoke.

"I see why you don't like that Axel guy, though…" he encouraged her dislike of her red-haired neighbor.

"I know," Kairi agreed. "He's so… ugh!" she yelled. Riku sipped at his soda, smirk clearly evident.

"Ugh?" he laughed, "Is that an adjective, Kai?" Her eyes wrenched up from her pizza crust to meet aquamarine orbs.

"Shut up! And you know not to call me that!"

Sora and Riku roared with laughter.

"Aw, we're just messin', Kairi," Sora explained. Kairi couldn't help but smile; she knew she had missed her boys, but she didn't realize how much she had missed them until now.

"I know."


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

After spending a few hours with her two best friends, she thought that it would have eased some of her stress, calmed her down a little.

But when she walked into her empty, dark apartment, she could see how lonely she was. She didn't have friends here. Sure, Yuffie was nice to her, but she was just a friendly co-worker. Not a friend.

She hadn't talked to Selphie since she moved in; what a friend she was. She was probably just spending all her time with Tidus, anyway.

Kairi collapsed in her bed, drawing the cool comforter around her body, wishing, hoping, praying for things to get better.

She cried herself to sleep that night.

On Monday, Kairi woke up (at freaking 6:45) and tried her best to ignore the fact that she hated it here. She followed her normal routine; she showered and dressed. But this time, she had a coffee pot of her own to turn on.

Kairi poured the coffee slowly into her mug, relishing in the fact that she could make her own coffee now. She tilted the mug against her lips, fully prepared to enjoy the warmth she sought out.

Almost instantaneously, she spluttered the bitter liquid into the sink. It tasted horrible!

She flipped the switch on the machine to 'OFF', grabbed her purse, and headed for the door. She didn't care if she had to shell out the munny for the coffee down the street; she had grown too accustomed to its taste.

Kairi rushed down the steps in the staircase, like she usually did, and flew into the reception room.


Kairi pulled her coat tighter around her body, prepared for the cold. Surprisingly, it still hadn't snowed, and it was almost the end of January.


Kairi turned to face the voice, and saw the cute old lady at the reception desk was waving her hands at Kairi, apparently very eager to catch her attention.

"Yes?" she said as she slowed down to a mere walk.

"Miss, you do know that the elevators were fixed this morning, right?"

Kairi stopped in her tracks.

"Really?" She was shocked. Honestly shocked.

"Really." The little old lady smiled. Kairi returned the smile. Maybe the day wasn't going to be as horrible as it usually was.

When she reached the coffee house, she got her coffee (strong, black) and turned to exit again, wishing that she could remain in the warmth a little bit longer.

Right before she reached the doors, she noticed that there wasn't a "hey, Kairi" like there usually was. She looked to where Axel usually sat, and was shocked, again.

He wasn't there.

And the table was empty.

Kairi grinned and plopped herself down in the empty seat. What a wonderful start to the day. Elevators were fixed, and Axel hadn't ruined her morning like he usually did.

Sipping her coffee, she watched the people coming in and out. And realized that she didn't know any of them. They passed by her table without a second glance. Nobody talked to her; nobody acknowledged her presence.

She didn't have friends here…

She couldn't take it anymore. She took her coffee and fled through the door.

Hearing Axel's voice, no matter how annoying it was, had made her feel… accepted, almost.

She couldn't help but think.

Where was he?

School was fine; work was awful, as usual. But overall, a decent day. She hurried into the apartment building, and saw the elevator door just about to snap shut.

"Wait!" she screamed, "Hold the elevator!"

She saw a hand jerk out and clutch the cool metal of the elevator door.

See, not everybody in this city was cruel and heartless. She reached the elevator, and her heart dropped.

Axel was holding the door for her.

She sighed, but entered anyway. Maybe he won't say anything. Maybe, maybe, please maybe.

"So, how was your day?"

That classic question. She didn't want to respond, so she just stayed quiet, back pushed against the cold metal bar in the elevator.

"Kairi, how was your day?" God, she hated how he pronounced her name.

"Decent." She counted the numbers overhead in her mind as they approached their floor. Four… five… six… sev-

Then, the elevator just stopped. The doors didn't open to pick up extra passengers; it just stopped moving.

"Goddamn," Kairi cursed under her breath. She swept her bangs out of her eyes. She reached forward and pushed the help button of the elevator, more than eager to get out of this place.

"I'm sorry, but we're working on the problem right now," a smooth male voice answered, "We got a bug in the hydraulic system. It'll just be a few minutes. Fifteen, tops. We're so sorry."

"Ugh!" Kairi shrieked as she crumpled onto the floor of the elevator. So much for getting these fixed.

"Now," Axel laughed, "there's no need for that kind of attitude." Kairi glared at him. He always seemed to ruin her day. Always. "Since we're both kinda stuck here," he continued, "why don't you talk to me? I always love our conversations. Those few and far between."

Kairi curled her knees up to her chest and slammed the side her head repeatedly against the wall of the elevator. Her day had started so well! Ever since Larxene yelled at her (again), it had gone downhill.

"Not going to talk to me, Princess? Well, I'm just heartbroken."

She couldn't take it. She couldn't.

"Jesus Christ, do you ever shut up?!" she snapped through gritted teeth.

"Your words wound me," he said with a smile and a hand placed firmly on his chest. She turned to face him.

"I'm completely serious. Why the hell do you talk to me? I obviously don't like you."

"I like to piss you off," he stated simply. She groaned.

"Well, you're good at it."

"Damn straight I'm good at it."

And then she couldn't help it. She couldn't contain it.

Kairi burst out laughing. Axel joined in. And then it hit her how odd the whole situation really was. She was stuck in an elevator with a man who she really hated, laughing her butt off.

Their laughs bounced across the tight walls, echoing into their ears.

"So, are you ever going to give me more than a one-word answer when I ask you how your day was?" Axel asked between chuckles.

"Actually, it was off to a good start… wait, why weren't you in the coffee house today?" she interrogated. He sauntered over to Kairi and sat down next to her. He took out a cigarette lighter and snapped it open and shut, open and shut. "You… smoke?" she asked him.

"Yes, I smoke, and that's my business why I wasn't there. Why do you ask?"

"Oh, no reason-"

"Did you miss me?" he cooed.

"Don't get so full of yourself." Axel laughed. He had a nice, rich laugh. Kairi couldn't help but notice it. "Anyway, then it all went downhill. There's this… bitch at work who yells at me every day. And, I can't yell at her- she's the owner's daughter, I found out."

"Where do you work?"

"Bella Notte."

"Oh, Larxene… Larxene, Larxene," he repeated while shaking his head.

"Great. You know her," Kairi sighed.

"I went to high school with her. That was a while ago, but still. She thinks she's all high and mighty. Biggest bitch I've ever met… aside from you, of course," he added. Kairi laughed again. She hadn't laughed like this in a long time. Not even on Saturday with Sora and Riku. Wait, he said high school was a while ago…

"How old are you?" she questioned.

"The ripe old age of twenty-three," he chuckled at his own joke, "and you?" She hesitated. He was a lot older than her.

"Nineteen." She thought he was going to poke fun at her age, but he didn't. He was smiling, though.

"Well, y'know what I think you should do?"


"I say that you should yell back. Call her a bitch, tell her that you will get to work whenever you damn please, and put her in her place."

"I… I should," Kairi mused.

Right at that moment, the elevator jerked back to life. Axel stood up wiped the dust off his pants. Then, he turned back toward Kairi and extended his hand. Cautiously, she grabbed it, and he jerked her up from the floor.

"See, I'm not that horrible when you talk to me." He grinned, and the tattoos on his face crinkled.

"Thanks, Axel."

"No problem, Kai."

She immediately was ready to tell him off for calling her that, but when he said her name like that, it sounded… nice. Not like when Sora and Riku did; she hated when they called her that. But when Axel said it, it… fit.

Her lips curved into a tiny smile, and she waved a silent goodbye to her red-haired neighbor and tripped into her room. She heard him burst into laughter again. Kairi slammed the door, absolutely mortified.

She quickly pulled on some pajamas and fell into bed. It took a while for her to get to sleep (it was well after 1:30 before she did so), and she couldn't help but ask herself.

Why hadn't she talked to him before?


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

"Late again?!" Larxene shrieked. Her shiny blonde fly-aways bounced down into her face. Whenever she yelled, Kairi felt like she was getting shocked by static electricity.

Kairi clenched her fists at her sides, and she could feel her nails digging painfully into her flesh. She saw that the other employees had gathered to see what was going on. How embarrassing.

"I told you, I can't be here at three. I have class." She could do this. She was determined to stand up for herself. No more getting yelled at; no more getting pushed around.

"How many times do I have to tell you?! You are to be here when I say you are!" Larxene stepped forward and pushed Kairi on the shoulder. She stumbled backward and caught herself on a kitchen counter. The countertop pushed into her back, ensuring a large bruise.

She… couldn't do this.

She averted her gaze down to her feet, and pushed her way out through the crowd of employees around them. She felt awful. She was so close to just telling Larxene off, and she couldn't do it. Kairi fled to the employee's only restroom. She was clutching the porcelain sides of the sink when Yuffie popped her head in.

"What were you thinking, Kairi?"

"Ugh…" she moaned as she sank to the floor.

"I know she's terrible, but we all have to take it from her."

"My… fr… acquaintance," she corrected herself with a shake of her head, "told me that I should stand up to her."

"Well, whoever they are, they don't know Larxene," Yuffie laughed. Kairi looked up at Yuffie from the bathroom floor. Her hair flipped into her face.

"See, that's the thing. He does."

"Well, he's just crazy then."

"Maybe he is… I shouldn't have even tried… now she's going to hate me even more," Kairi sighed. She reached behind her head and pulled her stray locks into a tight ponytail. Yuffie murmured something about getting back, and left Kairi sitting on the cold, tiled floor of the bathroom.

Kairi was thankful that Yuffie was somewhat kind, but wished that she had done something about the situation… rather than thinking her absolutely insane. Maybe it was because she was infuriated, or maybe it was because she missed them, but her mind began concocting ideas of what her other friends would have done in the situation.

Selphie would have just let her complain. Kairi knew that.

Sora and Riku would have teamed up against Larxene, yelling at her. But they would have pushed Kairi to the side. They always did that. They claimed that they didn't want Kairi to 'get hurt', and she would be forced to sit and cheer on the sidelines.

But… she didn't want to be the cheerleader.

And Kairi couldn't help but thinking- Axel would have wanted her to fight. He wouldn't push her to the side; he'd push her literally right into the action.

Kairi shook her head and lifted herself up from the floor. She didn't know what Axel would do; she didn't even know him… and why she was she pretending like she did in the first place?

She brushed the dust off her pants and walked out of the bathroom.

Maybe she shouldn't have backed down.

Maybe Axel wasn't crazy for telling her to stand up for himself. Maybe he was right.

Kairi pushed through the doorway and got to work; she already had a wealthy family sitting at one of her tables.

When she got home that night, she practically fell into the elevator. Her feet were killing her. She shouldn't have worn those heels.

Again, she watched the numbers increase on the panel overhead, and prepared herself for another Axel encounter. She would have to tell him that she didn't stand up for herself. She wondered if he would be mad.

No, of course he wouldn't. Why would he? He wasn't friends with Kairi, or anything like that.

Maybe he would tell her try again?


But when she reached the eighth floor, she was surprised to see him not waiting for her like he always seemed to be.

And the next morning, he wasn't at the coffee house.

And he wasn't waiting in the hall the next night either.

Where was he?

And he didn't show up. For two weeks, he still hadn't shown up.

Two long, lonely weeks.

Kairi couldn't help but feel her stomach knot up when she noticed his continual absence. But she still followed her routine. Wake up, school, work, sleep. She wasn't going to knock on his door; that would be… like a stalker.


And on top of that, she still hadn't talked to her other friends. She had left a message for Selphie, but she never returned calls.

Sora and Riku hadn't talked to her either. True, she was so busy all the time that she hardly could talk, but she still felt forgotten.

Despite all that, she couldn't stop herself from going to the coffee house every morning. And she would always scan the crowd, looking for those bright red spikes and emerald eyes.

And every morning she would wait for him at his (their) table, hoping he would stagger through the door and say in his classic voice, "Hey Kairi."

But he never came.

Nobody talked to her at school; they simply ignored her. At work, they treated her terribly, and, as expected, Larxene walked all over her even more than before.

Kairi grew to miss the "So, how was your day?" waiting for her every night.

She also grew accustomed to crying herself to sleep. A damp pillow in the morning was no surprise.

So, Kairi was clearly overjoyed when she heard Riku's voice on her answering machine the night before their planned trip to the pizza place.

"Hey, Kairi. Sora and I miss ya!" Kairi heard Sora yelling something in the background. "Just calling to tell you that we can't come up tomorrow. So, we're going to come by next Saturday instead, whether you like it or not! Kay, bye!"

Kairi's heart sank. Her head dropped ungracefully into her folded arms on her kitchen counter. Her cheeks pressed against the fabric of her coat.

Kairi had been looking forward to this since the last time they got together.

They probably were pissed off that she didn't have time for them anymore, she reasoned. But it's not like she could help it. The only day that she didn't work was Saturday, and they were skipping out of it.

So, as it turned out, she spent another Saturday catching up on sleep, and then watching TV by herself. She called Selphie, but she didn't answer again; Kairi swore if she did that again she was going to chuck her phone against the wall.

February rolled in uneventfully. Kairi went to school and work like a good girl would. Nothing changed from before, except for that whole 'loneliness' bit. It was getting worse and worse each day.

She had managed to convince herself, persuade her subconscious, that nobody wanted to be her friend anymore. She had moved to the city; so it was a perfect chance to just drop the friendship.

She was forgotten, she told herself.

Until one day when she had come home from another long day, she heard that voice. Her hand had been grazing along the side of the wall carelessly, but stopped instantly at the sound.

"Hey, Kai."

That nickname. It was starting to grow on her.

She looked down the hall, and sure enough, there he was, as if he had never abandoned his apartment.

She peered up at him, recognizing the hair and the tattoos and the tallness, and indigo met bright green.

"Where were you?" She whispered cautiously.

Why was she acting like this?

"Why do you ask?" He smirked. He thought this was funny.

"Because." Short, sweet, and to the point. Although her answer didn't explain a single thing, a single thought that she had, a single explanation of how she was so goddamn lonely.

"I was visiting my friend Roxas in Twilight Town, geez…"

"Oh… sounds fun." She put up a fake smile.

"So, how're things with Larxene?" he interrogated with a grin. She knew he was going to ask.

"Well, no better-"

"Didn't you tell her off?"

"Um, well… I tried?" It sounded like a question. Kairi was getting more and more embarrassed.

"What, did you think it was going to be a piece of cake? If you want her to stop yelling at you, you have to stand up for yourself. Yell back."


"Do it," he ordered, "It'll feel stupendous."

She nodded, and felt ridiculous. Axel slipped inside his apartment without a goodbye, and Kairi was strangely disappointed.


She thought it was going to be a lot easier than this.

Well, no, she knew it was going to be hard, but she liked to pretend it was simple.

It was Friday, the day before Sora and Riku were supposed to come up. (Hopefully, they wouldn't cancel on her like they did the last time.) Kairi leapt through the doors into Bella Notte and braced herself for the oncoming argument.

"Kairi, Kairi, Kairi," she heard Larxene mutter with a disappointed shake of her head, "how long is it going to take you to listen to me?" Kairi took a deep breath. Why was she listening to Axel? It didn't work last time…

"Stop bossing me around," Kairi breathed.

"Or what?" Larxene taunted with a loud. The other employees noticed the growing argument, and poked their heads in the doorway, hoping to catch a glimpse of the scene.

"Larxene," Kairi began. Different thoughts ran through her head. She saw Sora and Riku pushing her to the side and fighting the battle for her… she wished that they were here… No! Axel was right. She needed to stick up for herself. She was supposed to be independent!

"Ha, can't say anything, can you?"

She wasn't going to take it. She was an independent woman.

"Larxene, you are a bitch!" she yelled. Kairi heard all the employees take a simultaneous intake of breath. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Yuffie grinning wildly at her.

"What?!" she screeched.

"You heard me! You have no right to push any of us around! I am going to get here at three-thirty, because frankly, I value my education more than pleasing you." Larxene pursed her lips together, and her eyebrows furrowed down in rage.


"No! Just because I'm younger than you, or just because you're the owner's daughter, does not mean you can yell at me. Or anyone, for that matter. So, you can keep on telling me that I need to get here earlier, or whatever, but you are the one who needs to calm down and learn that my life does not revolve around you!" she bellowed.

Larxene looked around with her shocking green eyes at all her smiling co-workers. She was absolutely appalled that they had taken Kairi's side. She huffed loudly and stormed out the door.

"Wow…" Kairi murmured, "That was overdramatic." The other employees scuttled off to the kitchens, but Yuffie came forward.

"Holy crap. The Great Ninja Yuffie says that was the best thing that's ever happened." Kairi laughed at the third-person reference.

Axel was right. That felt stupendous.

But, the other employees didn't seem to find it as great (besides Yuffie, of course). They ignored her just like they normally did, and Kairi tried to not let it get to her.

Besides the whole 'ignoring' part, it had been a decent day at work, even though business really slowed down after eight.

But after Kairi had bundled up in her winter gear and reached the door, she saw that there was nearly a half-inch of ice caked along the street. No wonder people hadn't been coming in for a while. How could she have missed seeing this?

Well, in any case, it was the first ice storm of the year.

Kairi tensed up the instant she walked outside. Sheets of cold rain pounded against her, and whenever she would try to run to get out of the rain, she slipped. When Kairi finally reached her apartment, she was shaking from head to toe and was absolutely soaked.

Axel was nowhere to be found, and she wasn't as eager to tell him about what had happened between her and Larxene. Kairi was freezing. She rushed into her apartment, and closed the door. Her fingers wrapped around her phone, and hoping that the storm wouldn't interfere with the signal too much.

She dialed the number for Riku and Sora's place. If Axel wasn't waiting out in the hall to hear the story, Kairi was going to tell Sora or Riku.

"Hello?" she heard Sora's voice.

"Guess what?" she asked excitedly.

"Kairi? I can hardly hear you!" The static was beginning to overwhelm his voice.


"Kairi, if you can still hear me, Riku and I can't come tomorrow. We're so, so sorry, and well have to make it up for you some oth-"

The phone cut off. As did the lights, and everything else electronic.

How ironic. The ice storm cut out the electricity.

Kairi placed the phone back in its cradle, and realized that she was still wearing her soaking wet coat. She stripped it off quickly, but now that her heater had been cut off (damn that lack of electricity), she was freezing.

On top of her being chilled to the bone, and the fact that it was pitch black in her apartment, Sora and Riku had bailed out again.

She couldn't help be feeling lonely and unloved in her damp, dark apartment; the thrill of finally standing up to Larxene had long since past.

She was going to go to her room to change out of her damp, freezing clothes (she couldn't feel her toes anymore), when she realized that she couldn't find clothes in the darkness if she tried, and of course she forgot to get a flashlight.

And then Kairi couldn't help it.

Miss 'nineteen and in college with a job in the big city and independent' couldn't hold it in.

She collapsed onto her stained carpet, curled up into a ball, and burst into tears. Her wails pierced through the darkness, and the storm wailed along with her, wind crashing into the windows.

It had been a mistake moving here. A huge mistake. She hated living here, and wanted nothing more than to move away.

Suddenly, the sound of her sobs was broken by a quick tap-tap on her door. Completely unfazed by the fact that someone was knocking on her door at midnight during the biggest ice storm the islands had seen in a decade, Kairi pulled herself up from the floor and dragged her cold, tired body to the door.

Her hand tapped around for the knob, and when her fingers clasped around the cool metal, she yanked the door open.

When it opened, a yellowish glow covered her face, and she could finally see.

Axel was standing (and smiling) in her doorway, holding a candle out. Instantly, he saw the streaks of mascara down her porcelain cheeks and his smile dropped.

"What's with you?" he asked in a very un-comforting tone. Kairi shook her head. "Don't you have any light?"

"I don't have my flashlight," she managed to sputter between sobs. Axel took that as an invitation and swaggered into her apartment, lighting his way to her couch with the slowly melting candle.

"Well, we'll just have to share."

"Aren't candles prohibited?" Kairi asked cautiously. As far as she knew, they were.

"Fuck that," Axel laughed and slid the candle onto the coffee table. "So, did you tell Larxene off?"

"Actually, yeah… it felt nice…" Axel laughed again. That wonderful, hearty laugh.

"Well, good for you," he commended as he fell back onto the couch. Kairi smiled and sat down on the other cushion, but didn't say anything. She shivered involuntarily. Dammit, she was cold.

"Cold?" he asked. Apparently, he had seen her shudder.


Without saying a word, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer to him. Her head fell against his chest, and she would have protested if he wasn't so warm.


"Y-yeah… thanks…"

They sat in silence, listening to the rain and ice and hail pounding against the windows, until Axel spoke.

"You're wet." Okay, Captain Obvious.

"I know."

"Is it from the storm, or from crying… or both?" he whispered quietly, as if he didn't want to embarrass her. Not like it worked. The blood rushed to her cheeks, and it occurred to her how easily she got embarrassed around him.

"…both," she admitted.

"Why?" he asked plainly.

"My life is terrible. I… I thought living here would be so much fun, so much easier… but, it's not…" she confessed as she pulled closer to his chest. He smelled good.

"Y'know, life isn't always easy, Princess. It's hard. Life's a bitch." She didn't respond, but another tear managed to slip down her cheek. "You're lonely, aren't you?"

"How'd you know?" she asked.

"Just a guess."

"…Good guess… Sora and Riku ditched me again," she said softly.


Kairi pulled herself away from Axel.

"Hey!" She slapped his arm.

"Sorry, but it's true." Kairi opened her mouth, but no words could escape. She was a little ashamed, but she agreed.

"Well, people ignore me. At school and work. I don't mean to sound self-centered, but I miss having… friends."

"See, you just might not be looking in the right places," he said with a wave of his hand.


"Y'know you could wind up making… friends with, say, that crazy red-haired stalker who lives across the hall from you," he suggested with a smirk

"He doesn't want to be friends with me. He just likes to annoy me. And embarrass me," she admitted, and a faint blush rose in her cheeks as if on cue.

"Oh, but he does."

Kairi's stomach knotted up, and she tried to tell herself not to read too much into it. She looked at the tiny flame of the melting candle.

"Well, I've always wanted to thank him. He's been the only person who's encouraged me to stand up for myself. But…"

"Y'know, Kai, I think he likes you a lot." Kairi turned to face him, and saw his eyes were gleaming with intensity. She couldn't help but grin.

Maybe it was because she was just lonesome, maybe because it was… true.

"Y'know, Axel, I… I think I like him too-"

And then Axel's lips crashed against hers; fire was sent coursing through her veins, and Kairi couldn't help but feel that this was the warmest she'd been since she moved here.

Her fingers weaved their way into his spiky, red locks, and she pulled herself closer to him, pulled herself into the kiss. He, too, twisted his hands in her wine-colored hair, and Kairi moaned softly.

They broke apart slowly and Axel licked his lips. Kairi smiled.

"Axel… thanks for… everything you've done for me…" she murmured.

"No problem," he managed to get out before he leaned in for another passionate kiss.

Maybe it hadn't been such a bad idea to move here.

Yeah, definitely a good idea.





author's notes: Oh, dear Lord. Someone, please... stab me now. This is just… ugh. And the end… ugh… I'm disappointed with myself. It sucks, and I now know that I cannot write Kaixel to save my life. I apologize profusely for any pain this fic may have brought you. Dreadfully sorry.

Leave a review, please. It'll make me happier.