What's this? Something new, refreshing, and rather odd. Hopefully. Tell me your opinions—still updating other things as well and as fast as I can. Love to you all for your patience and stellar reviews. You make my world spin at a nice, lazy, tolerable pace in space.

(x) (x) (x)

How to do Nothing at All.

'Childhood of a Modern Pirate'

Xigbar was born in 1989. Nine. Teen. Eighty. Nine. A good year for ducks, perhaps. Nineteen-eighty-nine and Reagan told them to tear down the wall that would bring little baby Xig a-roaring on into the world in a burst of the typical blood, gore and amniotic-fluid-fountain.

In contrast, Luxord was a test tube baby, but that's neither here nor there at the moment, so just keep it together for another few.

Having been tossed into the world immediately following the end of the Cold War, it would stand to reason that Xigbar's life would be full of nothing but possibility and potential. No more fear, no more nightmares-- not for the children of the coming nineties-- nope, nadda. Seventies babies, eighties babies, they'd grown up with the notion that they would never grow up at all, wiped out by a nuke before they so much as got the chance to be de-virginized by some crack-happy someone or other. For your benefit, I shall now refer you to the absolutely educational film: 'Dr. Strange Love, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb.' Go. Enlighten yourself.

...Now that you are undoubtedly educated on the situation of the times, we shall carry on.

Xigbar-- being born right on the cusp of a carefree cesspool of drugs and fun, was seen by his parents as their shining light for a new future. Xiggy, as they would come to call the poor boy with the squint in his right eye and prematurely graying hair-- their Xiggy was bound for some damn great things, no doubt about it. It was then, of course, quite the shock when Xigbar decided to do absolutely nothing for his entire life. When asked what he would like to be when he grew up, Xigbar would shrug, screw up his eyebrows and that one squinty right eye and say: "Dunno. Nothin' much, I guess. Sit around. Maybe stand."

And they all thought he was joking-- that was the silly part about it. Yes, they all thought he was joking-- all except Luxord, who took Xigbar's apathy most seriously and told Xigbar so on several occasions.

"Xig, I really think you mean it when you say you're going to amount to nothing. Doesn't bother you in the least, does it? No? Okay then."

The way the two of them met was quite a treat-- a regular dark chocolate, rum-laced delight in a cold vanilla bean world. Luxord was walking on a split-rail fence (a decorative sort of thing, as no one in their right mind chooses split-rail over electric anymore) when he stepped on someone's arm and fell off. The arm, as most arms were, back in the day, was attached to a shoulder, which was attached to a chest, which held-- perched on the very top-- the head of a rather average-sized boy with a rather average-looking face. Well, average, when you remove that premature gray and that poor, sad little eye of his. The proper eye was glaring something fierce at Luxord and Luxord felt compelled to glare back.

Perhaps he would've done so and that would've been the end of that, but when Luxord noticed the squinty eye, he figured that his glare would've been only half-felt, and therefore, hardly worth the trouble. As a boy, Luxord believed that if you were going to do something, you should do it to its fullest extent. Otherwise, you shouldn't do it all. In other words, there was no point in riding a bike if you were not going to get into BMX, just as there was no point in coloring in coloring books unless you were going to make each little page into its own little masterpiece.

The two struck up a conversation of sorts, and since Luxord was neither stupid nor cruel enough to ask about Xigbar's hair and eyes, Xigbar was neither stupid nor cruel enough to tell the kid off about walking on his arm. They exchanged the usual, pertinent information of the age-- favorite colors, favorite board games, how many slugs they ate before they were six-- and then began to talk serious after Xigbar's step dad had stepped outside and told him that lunch was in an hour.

"Bring your new friend along, if you'd like!" the man had said.

"Okay, Kurt," Xigbar had said.

Luxord blinked. Questioned: "Kurt?"


"Why don't you call your dad Dad?"

"Because he's not my dad."

"Oh. So where's your dad?"

"He loves his yoga teacher."

"What's yoga?"

"I dunno."

"Oh. Well. My dad's not around either."



"Is he in love with his yoga teacher, too?"

"No, he's dead."


"Mom killed him with a fork and now she's in fed-ral prison. I live with my sister."

"I've never met anyone whose mom was in fed-ral prison before."

"And I've never met anyone whose dad ran away with a yoga teacher."

And then, in all the span of a split second, the planets aligned, the stars smiled, the alligators in the great big Nile turned circles, and a most spectacular friendship written in between the blanks of the two boys sitting against the split-rail fence.

Luxord liked being friends with Xigbar because Xigbar was rich and being friends with Xigbar made Luxord look rich, too. Like Xigbar, Luxord wasn't really sure what he wanted to do with his life either, but he thought he'd give it a chance so long as it let him hang loose and live up what he wanted to live up and live down what he wanted to live down.

It was probably a good thing Luxord happened to be around when he was, seeing as children are capable of being immensely cruel without even know it and without Luxord, Xigbar probably would've fallen prey to the host of perfectly glowing bitty bodies around him. No one likes boys with squinty eyes. No one wants to be friends with a guy with the squints. Yes indeed. Xigbar was lucky to have Luxord. Luxord gave him a pirate eye patch for his seventh birthday and said, "Here, Xig. Now we can play pirates." And after that, Xigbar was a pirate every day and no one was the wiser of the squinty eye ever again.

"Isn't it weird how every-freakin'-body noticed when I had the squint, but no one even cares when I wander around looking like a damn pirate?" Xigbar would ask.

And to that, Luxord would simply say: "Well, pirates are brilliant."

It was never a matter of things being 'cool' or 'neat.' Things were always 'brilliant' with Luxord. When Xigbar won the sixth grade spelling bee, he was quite 'brilliant' and quite capable. And then, at the county tournament, he misspelled the word 'piracy', which was ironic as it was pathetic. But to Luxord, he was still bloody brilliant.

Bloody Brilliant and his Bloody Sidekick roamed the side streets of the 'burbs of the 90s, crashing every block party and raiding every cookie jar they could get their grubby mitts on, near, or around. Their legacy was a giant pit filled with dog shit. They called it, most appropriately, the Shit Pit, and it was just as much fun putting the entire thing together as it was luring neighborhood freaks and geeks into the pit.

"Sora, you wanna come play with us?"

"Really guys?"

"Sure, come over here!"



Nine times out of ten, the Shit Pit successfully pulled off the sneakers of whoever was moron enough to set foot in it. Xigbar and Luxord made a victory dance accompanied by whooping laughter and pumping fists and it was all they could do not to explode with their own egos at the end of every summer day they spent in one another's company. The summer of '69 had nothing on the summer of '99. Drugs, sex and revolution had nothing on the Shit Pit.

But, as luck would have it, as fate would have it, and as the trends of the times would also have it, such things were not meant to last forever. That doesn't necessarily mean they didn't last a long, long time-- by any means, a friendship spanning four years or so is nothing to be laughed at by a child's terms. Four years is the stuff of epic friendships, of lasting friendships, of a solid kind of, driven kind of, pulled, stuck, and embedded kind of...


Such things were discussed-- brother to sister to sister to brother-- over a private school brochure and two cups of steaming water with lemon juice added for flavor. Neither Larxene nor her brother drank coffee.

"Uh. Hey Luxord?"


"I think you're gay for Xigbar."


"So Marluxia says I should, like... enroll you in this academy thing. You know. Private school. Mum said so, too. Talked to her on the phone last night."


"Personally, I don't give a damn. But Mum stabbed Dad with a fork, so I'd do what she says."


"If she says you should go get your ass straightened at... what was it... whatever the heck this place is… Bridges. Yeah. The Bridges Academy. Anyway. If she says you should go get your ass straightened out there, well, I'd do what she says."

"But what about Xigbar? What about my friends?"

"...Boohoo, Luxy. You'll make new friends. For some reason, people think you're charismatic." Larxene paused. Sipped her tea. Made a face. "...For some reason, people are absolute idiots."

The private school was one of a string of prestigious prep schools nationally acclaimed along the east coast. For all that Luxord's mother was a felon, she had at least demonstrated her good taste in education when selecting said school with Larxene's fiancée. Larxene herself had had little to nothing to do with the matter. She'd been out getting three shots down the street from the prison at the local watering hole and hadn't even been sober when Marluxia had broken the news to her. Nor had she been sober when Luxord had punched her in the nose two months later when he was told of his own fate, a hot summer skin clinging to his shoulders as they heaved and shook with something Larxene could not quite understand as emotion.

The two had handled the matter like true siblings, though, and Luxord dared not bring up the issue again for fear of having Larxene actually drown him in the toilet bowl rather than just give him a quick shove and soak.

"Larx's making me go to prep school," he'd told Xigbar.


"Mum said to."

Luxord had left it at that, and-- being of the sort to respect and unspoken, unwritten line and rule of privacy-- Xigbar left it at that, too. They were two boys on a rotting split rail fence at that point, fast approaching an age of more awkwardness than they could possibly begin to comprehend. So neither touched the other, for to do so would have been to bold and neither had the balls to pride themselves on being bold in public.

If you're fool enough to believe that the story ended there, you might as well stop reading, for you clearly have no basic comprehension of the way true friendship works.

x x x

Some years along, a statistics course was all there was keeping our boys outdoors in subzero temperatures that had crept up and backhanded them from the shadows of autumn, leaving the burning mark of a winter yet to come. Roxas was pissed. And cold. But primarily pissed, as Roxas was frequently pissed because he was a mature sixteen and constantly found himself surrounded by a herd of morons.

"Roxas, you should come to KFC with us."

Take Axel, for example. Charming youth, about six-foot-one-- lean and handsome as the day is long. Yet between his ears there seemed to be a vast void only occasionally filled by the small flicker and sear of some burning gas, frequently visible through his eyes like headlights-- green headlights that gave Roxas a headache if he stared at them too long.

Axel and Roxas were best friends. At least. According to Axel they were. He would later be quoted as having said: "All I need to do is warm the guy up a bit. Then it'll be a snap, man. I mean. Come on. I'm Axel. Everybody's gotta have just a little bitta Axel in their lives, right?"

But out on the parking lot, Roxas was not needing a 'little bitta Axel' in the slightest. Mouth set in a bleak horizontal line, Roxas blinked. "Why would I go to KFC with you."

Axel grinned and the little bitty flame between his ears spun around through his eyes again. "Because you dig us," he said.

"I don't dig you. I don't dig anybody. Dig's a stupid word anyway." Roxas shifted on his feet and though he would never admit it, he wondered if his words were too bitchy. Too coarse. He didn't want Axel hanging all over him, no, but he could have always just told Axel that the real reason he didn't want to go to KFC was because he was a vegetarian. But then if Axel didn't get the whole vegetarian idea, Axel would stop paying attention to him. And if Axel stopped paying attention to him, Roxas would be bored and hateless. It was, when he got right down to the root of the matter, a very strange, strange dilemma, only solvable by walking away. And that's exactly what Roxas did. Walk away.

And Roxas kept walking away, even when he felt Axel's arm fly around his shoulders and drag him close to the body nest to him, giving him an earful of jacket-clad shoulder. Roxas scowled. Axel talked. "I thought you were into that hippie stuff, yanno? Dig this, dig that," he said.

"Dig is more of a beatnik term," Roxas corrected him lamely. He couldn't think of anything else to say. If that wasn't the case, it was more like he couldn't bring himself to bother thinking of anything else to say.

"Beatniks, hippies-- same, same."

"...You're an idiot."

"An idiot craving chicken. Now then. You coming or not?"


They walked along like that, between row upon row of cars lining the school's front lot. The sky looked thick and heavy with snow, but no one really gave a damn. The clouds were regarded as they usually were on a Friday afternoon-- boring things that hovered and skittered around in the atmosphere and that were usually too lazy to do much in the way of getting kids out of school when they really didn't want to be there. Axel wrinkled his nose at the sky, turned back towards the clipboard in hand. A survey of cars, which would somehow be made into a statistical analysis.

By comparing the maker of the car, the cleanliness of the car, and the vanity license plate, they would all come to conclusion that their high school primarily consisted of over-priviledged assholes that frequented Starbucks at least twice a day.

Finding this realization something of a letdown, Axel did his best to distract himself with what he usually used as a distraction. Roxas. Pulling the kid even closer to him, he didn't even notice the dull whack that sounded as Roxas' head was once against smacked against his shoulder. "Why so sad?" Axel asked.

Roxas frowned. Wanted to box the kid around the ears with his clipboard. Restrained himself, but couldn't help but sound ridiculously peeved when he said his name. "Axel."

"Seriously. Come with us, Roxas. Share a cig. We'll make it worth your while. You can't get 'em anywhere else. Not legally, anyway."

Roxas has shared a cigarette with Axel only once, and while it had been an interesting experience, it was an interesting experience best taken on only once. Judging by Axel's oblivious grin, Roxas figured the guy probably didn't remember that Roxas suffered from a major case of asthma. As said-- smoking? An experience meant only to be experienced once.

"I don't want to smoke," Roxas said. "I don't want to get in a car with you. I don't want to eat fried chicken. I want to finish this project and go inside."

"I see." They paused at a lot number-- 237-- at which Roxas fumbled with his pen cap, cursed, continued fumbling, and remained silent when Axel calmly reached down and uncapped the pen. Not another word was said up until Roxas reached the third column in the complex survey chart, at which point Axel (who was, quite tragically, one of the world's nosiest individuals at that point) dutifully pointed out: "...Sheehy is not a car company. It's a car dealer."

Roxas blinked. Scratched angry black marks over the letters. Started walking away again, growing only more dismayed as he realized Axel was still trailing along not half a step behind. "I know Sheehy's not a car company," Roxas said.

"So why'd you put it down in the--"

"Jesus, Axel, would you get--!" In a brutal act of rebellion, the ground reared up and consumed Roxas' lower half, thereby demoting his complex function of step-step-stepping across the asphalt to a glorious grit-eating face plant. In simple terms, he tripped. But what a most magnificent tripping it was. So magnificent, in fact, that it caught the attention of every bystander-- innocent and otherwise-- and there was a collective moment in which the world, personified, reared up, reared back, and let loose a terrific "HAH!" sound that reverberated in the ears of ever mammalian creature roaming the plains of the blue marble in space.

Axel, completely oblivious to most of what had just happened, busied himself flagging down one of said bystanders while Roxas cursed and bitched and moaned and picked the little bitty asphalt bits from his skin. "Zexion, my man!" Axel hollered, flapping his arms and crowing something wild.

Zexion blinked. He focused and zoomed in on one tall freak yelling his name and one short sack of bones eating school parking lot. Coming to the conclusion that the situation at hand might be mildly interesting, Zexion strolled over, clipboard in hand and scarf looped around his neck, only trailing over one shoulder when he bent over just so, blinked just so, and asked the sack of bones-- "...Roxas?

"He likes dirt. You know. He 'digs' dirt." Axel cackled gleefully, smacking Roxas hard on the back when the boy had regained his footing. "Haha, Roxas digs dirt like a hoe," he rattled on. "A big ol' hoe-bag."

"Ugh," was the only remotely intelligent thing Roxas had to say in response to this.

Ever desperate to recruit more people for his fried chicken excursions, Axel, arms spread and mouth set in that know-nothing smile, said, "Say Zexion. Would you call us friends?"

It took Zexion about five seconds to raise on eyebrow and drawl, "... ...Peers, yes. Friends? ...No."

There was a cheerful little silence before Roxas could be heard muttering a quiet, "Burn."

"Fuck you," Axel grumbled, hoping Roxas would somehow magically trip on ground again. Alas, no luck in that department. Heaving something of a sigh, he made to turn back to his current conquest-- "Really Ze..."--only to find him gone, gone, gone. Somewhere in the distance, zipping through the car lot. Axel glowered. Tried to ignore the sound of Roxas choking on his own laughter. "Jackass. God, this whole damn place is crawling with jackasses."

"Tell me about it."

Enter Demyx, another of Axel's cronies and Roxas' vice-of-the-moment. Frankly, Roxas couldn't figure out why he found the guy so damn likeable. He was even denser than Axel, though rather than having a flickery little flame behind his eyeballs; he had a dense mass that was completely and utterly impenetrable. Try as he might, Roxas could never quite make it through the mass. And try as he might, he couldn't quite figure out why he even wanted to try to get through in the first place. As with Axel, it was a curious predicament, but rather than using escape as a method of addressing the issue, Roxas frequently employed a different, but equally noble method: that of silence.

Turning and burning and placing his hands on his hips (and dropping the clipboard in the process), Axel smirked. "You know, your brilliant wit is only exceeded by your good looks."

Roxas seethed (silently) and (silently) wished he could have been witty enough to come up with that statement (silently) and say it (...also silently.)

"Well, you're a poet now, aren't you?" Demyx asked. The two had a brief face-off of a rather lame and uneventful sort before Demyx burst into a chorus of decidedly unmanly nature and punched Axel jokingly on the shoulder. "So! Axel!" Punch, shove, bear-hug strong enough to send Axel teetering a bit as he clamped onto Demyx's arms momentarily engulfing his head, trying to keep some sort of stability. "How-doin'?" Demyx asked.

Axel smirked—jerked a thumb off to the side where Roxas was fiddling idly with the pen tied to the clipboard. "Living it up with the king of all things dead and miserable here," Axel said. "Lord, this kid's a royal drag of anything and everything."

Demyx turned to Roxas and shot him a warm 'Axel is full of shit and you shouldn't let whatever he says bother you' smile, but Roxas didn't care quite as much about the implications of the smile as he did about the smile itself. If an expression could be bottled and kept, Roxas would have done so right at that very point. And while he tried to work up a smile of his own, Demyx got a good, solid gander of his paper, at which point he politely said, "Sheehy's not a--"

"I know…" Roxas sighed as Demyx turned back to Axel, once more clapping the redhead on the shoulder and bouncing around on his feet a little while he did so, while he talked mile a minute and while Roxas willed some spine into his back so he could not sound like a brainless oaf when it mattered most.

"Axel, tomorrow, concert, you goin'?" Demyx asked. Bouncy, bounce as he said it. The bouncing made the syllables come out in bits and pieces-- 'Ax-el, tonight, con-cert, you-goin'?'-- and Roxas wanted to stab himself in the eyes and ears so he wouldn't have to witness the cuteness that was Demyx any longer. He figured-- Maybe if I wrote song lyrics, he would like me. He likes things like that. He likes songs. He likes--

Axel. "Can't, man." He beamed and Roxas felt his gut groan and huddle up in a deep dark corner in the pit of his body. "I got a date."

There was another silence, equally as cheerful as the first, yet twice as long and only broken when a breeze blew in and sent Roxas to shivering and clacking his teeth together helplessly.

Slapping one hand on his thigh, Demyx let out a stream of awkward laughter-- "Hah hah?"-- and-- "...Haha! That was a laugh. Seriously. Dude. Concert. I gotta get you reserves from Leon if you're going. Riku tours here, like, once every lifetime."

"That must make him pretty old. He held up well."

"Ax-el. Je-sus. Are you coming?"

Axel and Jesus are two very different things, Roxas wanted to say. And then, hurriedly, his brain followed up with-- Wait, is that even witty enough? Or is that just stupid? I mean, duh, Axel's not Jesus. He's like. Missing a beard. And holiness. But the idea of Axel being like Jesus is pretty funny. But if Demyx doesn't even think about it that way...

And then the moment zipped by and Roxas was left waving a metaphorical, metaphysical farewell at his chance to be smart and impressive.

Meanwhile, there was something of a tiff going on without him, Axel actually looking somewhat genuinely annoyed and Demyx looking truly and honestly confused and perplexed. "I told you, man!" Axel was saying. "Date! Me!"

"Oh, I thought you were joking." Demyx blinked. Turned for backup. "Didn't you think he was joking, Roxas?" Demyx asked.

"I thought he was high," Roxas said. Almost kicked himself in the face for saying it-- Goddammit, that was retarded!

Yet Demyx seemed to consider this statement a serious possibility. He leaned in closer, peering into Axel's eyes for some telltale state of... highness. "Hmm..."

"I'm not joking and I'm not high. How the hell is that so hard to get? You think I can't get dates like... like that?" To define 'that,' Axel snapped his fingers-- one snap from each hand and one angry as all get-out glare from each eye. Unimpressed by the display, Roxas just shrugged, toed the curbside with a sneaker, and chewed thoughtfully on his bottom lip before granting the guy a response of any kind.

"Eh," he said. "Sometimes I like to think humanity isn't totally devoid of common sense."

"You know, I hope you get recruited by the army so you have to have some jackass scream in your face day after day after day and strip you of your goddamn mouth that keeps spewing such utter crap."

Demyx turned towards Zexion almost like they were friends, almost like he was actually confiding in an old buddy, an old amigo when he said it-- "Impressive how they haven't killed each other yet, huh?"

"I guess." And Zexion simply shrugged, turned, and walked away.

"He has such a nice ass, doesn't he?" Axel commented.

"So does Roxas," Demyx said. He grinned and laughed a little and made nothing of the statement in the slightest.

Roxas blinked and found himself forced into making a serious effort to close his gaping mouth. "Err... th-thanks, Dem."

"Why you're welcome! What a prince, huh?"

Axel seemed to consider this for a moment, but also seemed to have more pressing issues at hand that absolutely needed addressing. For example: "…Do I not have a nice ass?"

"It's pretty bony, man," said Demyx.

"And square," said Roxas.


"Well, I would have to disagree!"

The ego-boost came in the form of a scrawny girl who was suddenly latched to Axel's back, impish little grin on her face and scarf all in a tangle around her neck. Axel barely even noticed the added weight or the compliment she had deliberately doled out for his benefit. He just sighed, peered over his shoulder at the head nestled there and gave a slight wave.

"Hey Kairi," he said.

"Hi guys! You all done?"

As Kairi hopped down from her Axel-perch, Axel seemed to make a considerable attempt at not pondering over the quality of his own ass. Clearing his throat, he nodded. "Yup. Finally. It's fucking freezing out here."

The four of them started off at a slow amble, making for the school's side entrance. The only one of them shivering was Roxas, who was still feeling the near brush of death he'd had with the face-planting incident only moments ago. Meanwhile, Kairi was babbling on about the project-- diligent student she was-- and only managed to shake Roxas from his self-pitying stupor when she looped an arm around his shoulder, asking, "Did any of you get space number twenty-seven? I couldn't find it."

He handed her his clipboard and was secretly glad for the warmth her arm brought. "Here."

Kairi smiled, thanked him, and began to jot down some numbers onto her own paper before pausing. "Hey Roxas, uh, Sheehy's not a--"

"Shut up."

Axel perked up, pointing off in a seemingly random direction at a seemingly random figure making its way towards them through the lot. "Hey, it's--"

"XIGGY!" A flailing Demyx knocked Axel straight in the nose.



Since last seen in his teenybopper years of yore by yours truly, Xigbar had undergone quite the dramatic change. Mostly, this could be seen in the unfortunate development of a few ribbons of prematurely graying hair. As though trying to make up for a loss of color, Xigbar must have come up with the idea of growing it long, just to prove he was not balding as well. The black patch still covered one eye, though he no longer seemed to give the thing a second thought. Gone were the days of self-conscious pitying and worrying and well-built Xigbar had taken place of the scrawny, puny thing he'd once been.

But back to the events of the time: Demyx's excitement to see Xigbar and Roxas' quiet, brooding jealousy at that very fact. A quiet, brooding jealousy that absolutely no one noticed or cared about.

"Demyyyx..." Xigbar wiggled his hands, mocking Demyx as he put on an overly cheerful face. The two were good friends, but they had never made it much past that point. Demyx was of a curious sort who could shift between being excruciatingly happy and unbelievably insightful in the span of two seconds. Xigbar needed consistency and consistency was just something Demyx couldn't provide.

Not only that, but Demyx was often loud.


"Dude, Dem, chill. You're going to rupture something." Demyx greeted Xigbar in similar fashion to the way he'd greeted Axel—a few beatings on an arm, but nothing quite so serious as a killer hug attack.

"Like hell," he said. "Concert tomorrow, you going? Axel's bailing. He's got a date."

"With who?"


Xigbar blinked. "WHA?"


"Seriously man, who's the guy?" Xigbar's attention had turned towards Axel then—clearly confused, much as Demyx had been, and much to Axel's growing annoyance. "Or... girl?"

"None of your goddamn business. Nice hair, Xig. It's gotten whiter since I've seen you last."

"Eh." Xigbar was well prepared to blow this comment off with a huff and a ruffle of Axel's hair. It was just that the ruffling of Axel's hair almost landed Xigbar with his hand glued to Axel's head. He blinked, yelped, and tore his hand away. "Stupid shi-- Eww, Ax! Man!"


"Your hair's frickin' disgusting, man!"


Demyx, ever the curious one, gave Axel's head a careful prodding. After giving the matter some thought, he nodded. "Yeah," he said, "your hair's like... fermenting a little, Axel. ...On your head." And after this, he felt inclined to repeat himself, just for the emphasis and just for the sheer amusement he gleaned from it. "It's fermenting. On your head."

"I wash it every other day. You're all just crazy. Hah! Losers. Cra-azy jealous." But anyone could see Axel was having second thoughts. Not just about one thing, but about many things. Maybe he should change his shampoo? His shower schedule? Was it really all that bad?

"Jealous of your square ass and bad hair?" Demyx snorted. Axel felt a little bit crushed.

"...Roxas, is my ass really square?"

To this there was no response. There was just the door of the school swinging shut, Axel left alone and blinking in the cold.


"I mean it, dammit! Is my ass really square?!"

x x x

School is a very boring pastime. As such, it is rarely considered a pastime, but between you and me and the grand scheme of things, that is what the great system of education technically is. Unless your parental unit physically, bodily escorts you onto the premises on a daily basis—physically, bodily drags you from one subject to the next—it is sadly, tragically, a pastime. A pastime brainwashed into the lot of us as being requirement, perhaps, but it is something we choose to participate in.

At least, most of us choose to participate in it.

Axel, for one, liked to sleep through most of his classes. This was largely due to the fact that at home, in his bedroom, he was a closeted insomniac. This is to say that he was an insomniac nowhere else—but whet it came to Axel being in his room, he was undoubtedly suffering from insomnia. Mostly, this was because he found many things in his room distracting, and therefore greatly preferred engaging with said distracting things over sleeping. The most distracting things he possessed were his stereo, his computer, his TV, and his Rubix cube. The least distracting things he possessed were his piggy bank (which held only safety pins and pocket lint), half a pair of scissors (the other half of which he spent many long hours pondering the loss of), and an empty box of matches.

While Axel spent his days sleeping through class, Roxas spent them diligently taking notes. He was determined not to end up like his supposed best friend—held back a grade and seriously deranged—and therefore flung himself headlong into his studies. This isn't to say that he was a bookworm. He had soul—it just followed closely behind his intense focus on his schoolwork. In his room were very similar items of distraction to Axel's—a computer, a stereo, and an old 1500 piece puzzle set which only had 1499 pieces in the box. Roxas was not an insomniac. He got done what needed to get done and let himself be distracted with whatever time was left over.

Demyx had his guitar. His drum set. His keyboard. His recording studio. His collection of strangely shaped, strangely comfortable pillows, his grandmother's old sewing machine he had coerced his uncle into turning into a complicated yet intriguing lava-lamp setup, and a stack of CDs stretching from the floor of his bedroom to his ceiling.

Demyx was not a very good student. We will not analyze this further.

During his school days, Xigbar drifted well along the worn and steady path of the boy of the in-between nature. He paid attention when the teacher or the lecture was particularly interesting, and otherwise he allowed his mind to wander where it pleased, so long as he could answer questions when called on (which he never was) and at least pass any pop quizzes (of which there were none.) All in all, Xigbar considered himself to be an average student. He made decent grades, but never quite poured himself into it enough to get noticed for it. At least one C+ always kept him from making the A-B honor roll and his teachers never came to expect much of anything remarkable from him.

He performed at his grade level and a teacher's time was best spent elsewhere—with those struggling or those overachieving. For Xigbar, there was nothing to do but be bored.

In his room was the standard needed to get by. His bed, an old beat-up loveseat he and Demyx had rescued from a curbside in the tenth grade, a desk, a desk lamp, a bookshelf, another shelf of random junk, and a mini-fridge. Seeing as mini-fridges have never really provided anyone with hours upon hours of amusement, it could be said, then, that there was not much in Xigbar's room to distract him. And yet somehow or another, he found distraction where he could, be it staring at the ceiling or staring off into space, letting his mind perform its same old routine, wandering in a field. In the Swiss Alps. With some woman spinning in circles singing about hills and whatnot. That was precisely where Xigbar's mind was 99 of the time.

He hated it.

It was after school-- after he felt slightly inclined to pay attention to his teachers' lectures and before he felt slightly inclined to pay attention to his parents' lectures-- that he found it tolerable. During such hours, he spent his time with friends, most of which had interesting things to do. On the particular day we're at in the story, Demyx had headed home to practice—for what, Xigbar wasn't sure, but he dared not ask. Kairi had gone to pick up a new pair of mittens because hers had a hole in the thumb, Zexion had muttered something that was going to be keeping him preoccupied for some time, and Axel was staying after school with Roxas to help him on an art assignment.

Why on earth anyone would stay after for help in art class, Xigbar, again, was unsure. But of all the options laid out before him, that one seemed to be the most promising, so he stuck with it. Little did he know.

"Xigbar. Stop moving, for crying out loud."

"My nose itches."

"It's called self control. Pretend you're meditating or some shit like that. Act like you're Buddha."

"Yanno, I got this gut feeling Buddha didn't sit on really uncomfortable stools in the—"

Axel growled and waved a clay tool around in a rather menacing fashion. "Goddamn, stop moving!"

Xigbar sighed. "This is the last time I ever do anything for you."

"It's not for me, it's for Roxas."

"So why are you playing with clay?"

"Dude. It's free clay. Roxas' flippy, dippy teacher left him a crapload." Axel shrugged, turning back to the lump in front of him, which actually was starting to take on a rather decent appearance. Granted, it was an extravagated look at Xigbar. Or at least, he hoped it was. He hoped his nose wasn't that large or angular. Axel was speaking again, though no one could be sure it was to himself or to anyone in particular as he said, "Free's one of my favorite four-letter words. Didin'tcha know?"

"No, can't say I did."

Shaking his head in Xigbar's general direction, Axel set down his tools, dipped his hands in a bucket of water, and wiped them on his jeans. Leaning over to his left, he peered over Roxas' shoulder—Roxas, who had been pretty much silent during their session up to that point. "How's it going, Roxas?" Axel asked. Then he saw Roxas' clay. And then he immediately regretted sounding so cheerful when asking the kid how it was going. "Oh," he said. "Er."

"You're supposed to be helping me." Roxas stabbed the clay idly with a needle tool, pause, studied it closely, and then stabbed it again.

"I am helping," Axel said. "I'm the over presiding sprit of helpfulness in this situation. What's the problem?"

"What does it look like?" Roxas asked.

"What does it look like?" Axel puckered his lips, nodded thoughtfully, and turned his attention back to Roxas' lump of clay. There was a certain balance to the right side of the face that reminded him of Xigbar. That gaping hole might be symbolic of the unknown eye behind the eye patch. Axel was nodding again and stated his conclusion with the utmost precision and clarity. "Well," he said, "it looks a little like a pineapple that got shot with an AK, that's what it damn well looks like."

"No, Axel, I mean what do you think my problem is? I don't know how to work with this stuff. It's stupid."

"Yeah, well, why do you need to anyway?" Xigbar asked from his perch in the center of the room.

When Roxas didn't respond, Axel took the liberty of doing it for him. "Gainsborough gave him a D on his last project," he told Xigbar. To confirm this fact, Roxas just sighed—the deep and heavy sigh of one who tired, but fails miserably each and every time.

"…Wow. That's… really harsh. And I heard she was an easy grader," Xigbar muttered.

Axel smiled. "She is."

Roxas didn't. "I just suck."

Nodding, Axel turned his attention back to Roxas and Roxas' situation. If Xigbar was a bastard of any means, he would've rolled his eyes and called his friend out on it, but he figured it was just one more thing best left alone. He wasn't about to be one of those people who just can't keep their sticky hands out of the lives of their friends. It was something, Xigbar told himself, he would avoid at all costs. So he sat still and quiet while Axel explained to Roxas: "Basically, yeah, I mean, okay, so you suck a little. But it's nothing that can't be fixed. Here, see? You're clay's getting dry. You just gotta keep it damp. But not too damp. Like, uh, like… like apple-damp."

"What the hell does that mean?" Xigbar asked. For there were certain things and certain events that just required input, and apple-dampness was one of them. But Axel just wouldn't seem to have it.

"Shut up, you. I'm talking to Roxas." At this, Xigbar had to roll his eyes. But he did shut up. At least, for a little while.

"What's apple-damp?" Roxas asked this time. Needless to say, Axel did his best to explain once more.

"You know when you bite into an apple? How it's kinda wet inside?" he asked.

"Apple-damp is too damp for clay, man. It'd be mud in his hands," Xigbar said.

"Well what kinda apples are you eating?"


"Well I'm talking about the Red Delicious kind, so just keep your pants on." Turning back to Roxas, Axel put on his nice voice again. "Do you eat Red Delicious apples, Roxas?"

"No, I eat McIntosh."

Axel blinked. "…Who the hell eats McIntosh apples?"

"…Roxas?" Xigbar suggested.

"No, aside from him. No one eats McIntosh apples."

"My mom uses Granny Smith apples, but only when she makes apple pie," Roxas added, trying to defend himself, but all to no avail.

"Your mom's apple pie must taste like puke," Axel declared. "Why does no one use Red Delicious anymore?"

At this, Roxas really had to pull off the gloves. Take down the walls. Lay waste to Axel's naïve apple notions. "Red Delicious apples just aren't good for baking," Roxas told him. "McIntosh apples are sort of like an all-purpose apple. Actually, they're really good when you make applesauce, because they're soft and all, but my mom likes her apple pie kinda tart. Rome Beauty apples are technically the best for baking." Inside, Roxas was pleased with how he had finally managed to one-up Axel. It was about time. But it was only a moment after this satisfaction had sunk in that it was ripped away from him once again. Both Xigbar and Axel were staring at him all too intently. As though he had sprouted a second head or some other disastrous thing. Fearing the worst, Roxas went, "…What?"

"That's the most I've ever heard you say in one conversation," Axel said.

"Well, this is fascinating," said Xigbar, meaning that what he really wanted to do was drive his skull against the chalkboard and have Roxas use the carnage as an abstract sculpture. Performance art, perhaps. Either way, it would mean Xigbar would never have to sit in on another conversation centering on apples and their various types and purposes.

Axel was trying to get on his case-- "Like you know anything about apples!"—but Xigbar had already gone. He could see his mind, then, drifting slowly out his right ear, floating past his eyes, and propelling itself towards the room's only window. Once it got out, Xigbar knew, there would be no saving him. It was all Swiss Alps and everything downhill from there. Yet as his mind drifted closer to the window, it was the window that brought his mind back. Not so much the window, maybe, but what lay beyond the window.

Luxord, since last discussed in depth, had grown much as Xigbar had. He was lean, muscular, attractive, blonde, and (as Larxene had feared) rather charismatic. Everyone loved him and, as a general rule, he was apt to love everyone in return before hating them. It was his philosophy in life that you should surround yourself with friends so that when an enemy comes up, there's a fairly good buffer between you and him, leaving you enough time to make a run for it. Aside from this philosophy was the philosophy that declared that strip poker was not fun unless played with a giant group of people. Yet that is a matter best left discussed on another day.

Regardless of philosophies and the like, Luxord was straining to peer in through the window, flagging Xigbar down and letting out a holler for him to hurry up and get a move on because it was already quarter-to-four.

It was Thursday—Xigbar had almost forgotten. Thursdays were his days spent with Luxord. And on that particular day, they were to engage in one of their favorite pastimes. It was not a pastime forced upon them by the brainwash of society, not a pastime passed off as a requirement, not a pastime of which either of them tired of very quickly. It was, quite possibly, the one habit they had both picked up and shared over the years.

And it was, quite possibly, the only thing that held them together in even the slightest way as friends.

That pastime was, ladies and gentlemen, the fine, respectable art of rummaging. And so, that Thursday afternoon, leaving a distraught Roxas and an agitated Axel in his wake, Xigbar set off with Luxord in Luxord's car. They were driving, unbeknownst to them, to the rummaging event that would forever change their lives.

If that doesn't sound at least somewhat foreboding, I don't know what does.

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