Title: My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada
Pairings: Axel/Roxas, and whatever else my cracked-out brain will come up with in future chapters -- that's right, it's a WiP.
Disclaimer: I actually don't know the full details of KH ownership, but whatever, it's not mine. Just a heads-up, this document sits in my hard-drive under the title Cliche #5, so you should probably know what you're getting into. Perhaps I should also name chapters after song titles...
Summary: Roxas has a pretend girlfriend. Don't look at me like that. (Completely, shamelessly AU)
My Girlfriend, Who Lives In Canada
Olette had some sort of weird notion that being their closest-cum-only female friend automatically made her den mother to all of them, so when she marched into the cafeteria during Monday lunch and threw her bag down into an empty seat with an ominous thud, an overpowering sense of import immediately settled around the table.
"So, it has come to my attention that not one of you have procured dates for the Junior Prom," she announced, propping herself up against the table edge to peer down at her subjects. "And seeing as said Prom is only in three weeks and I'm on the planning committee, this poses a problem."
She finished with a flourish and looked around imperiously, breathless with excitement. In the ensuing silence, Pence physically leaned away from Olette in horror, Hayner did not appear to notice her at all, and Roxas laid down his book.
Unfortunately, this put him in direct line of eye contact with Olette, who seized on this chance to say, "Especially you, Roxas. You should have told me if you were having trouble finding someone—I would have set you up!"
"Uh," said Roxas, sounding squeaky. "That's—thoughtful of you, Olette, but I'm sure Hayner and Pence would appreciate your help too."
He made general hand motions at the other two. They glared at him loathingly.
Olette waved him off dismissively. "Oh, forget them. I've had to deal with these knuckleheads for the last three years, and even I have had to become resigned to the fact that their mental capacities will never progress past the age of nine."
"Besides," cut in Hayner, giving Olette the stink-eye, "it's not like I'm going to be caught dead anywhere near this place on Junior Prom night. Saturday's my weekly DotA meet, I'm not letting some stupid dance ruin my track record with the guys."
"I don't think my parents are going to let me go," Pence spoke up feebly. "They've always been kind of strict since, um, I didn't do so hot on my PSATs last year, and there's that trig final coming up the week after…"
"You, on the other hand," Olette continued blithely, frowning as though she were seeing in them the dregs of humankind. "You have to come to Junior Prom because you've only been here for six months and during that time you've managed to flake out on every single major school event. I'm not even going to talk about the time you took Lydia Burkeson to the Winter Formal and ran out on her in the middle of the opening dance--"
"She was gnawing on my ear," Roxas protested, coloring. "I felt like a chew toy for a week."
"Personally, I don't think Lydia was very torn up about the whole thing," Hayner said darkly. "I heard she hooked up with Seifer at the end of the night."
Everyone at the table turned to stare oddly at Hayner, who had started fingering his butter knife with sudden intensity for no apparent reason.
"Anyway," said Olette, looking shaken. "Why don't you just ask someone, Roxas? I'm sure not every girl in this school has heard about or been scarred romantically for life by the Lydia incident." She faltered. "That we know of."
Roxas tried not feel deeply insulted, and forcing a plastic smile onto his face, said, "In that case, why don't you go with me to Junior Prom?"
Pence turned to regard him in surprise, eyes and mouths forming three perfect Os. Hayner was immersed in cutting up his napkin to resemble a mini-knitcap, and did not look up.
"Oh very clever, mister," Olette scoffed, hands on her hips in schoolmarm fashion. "But don't think you'll be getting out of this that easily. Besides, in case you've forgotten, I already have Rai to take me to Junior Prom."
She turned and waved coquettishly across the cafeteria. The jock-head in question smiled stupidly and nearly dropped his tray waving back, his thick caterpillar-like eyebrows climbing to a state of extreme emotion indicative of impending heart failure.
And then there was some stuff where Olette fluttered her lashes and blew long, artful kisses which Rai pretended to catch and clutch lovingly to his chest, and Roxas could swear he saw every single male person in the room share a collective shudder and visibly sink into their seats. But then Olette was riveting back and looking at him with her scary, scary eyes, and Roxas found himself becoming one with the school bench as well.
"Just as well," she said condescendingly, and narrowed her very green eyes. "I have already anticipated the possibility of you being difficult, and so have already consulted with the girls to come up with a contingency plan."
Before Roxas could start freaking out about things like "consulted" and "the girls" and "contingency plan", Olette had snapped her fingers. There was a loud shuffling noise, and when Roxas looked up it was to see that the occupants of the table one row over—all of whom he had failed to notice earlier were members of Olette's very extensive female clique—had turned to look at him with bare intent, eyes flaring like the heart of a fire.
Roxas could not keep the stricken horror from his face.
If anybody asked, that was when the lying started.
Roxas would admit that much, even if he was never, ever, ever owing up to another living soul that at that exact moment he had looked into the shining, optimistic faces of Olette's posse and verily seen the Kingdom of Hell, fire and brimstone brought upon Earth by way of a sudden and disturbing surge in estrogen in the cafeteria.
So he closed his eyes, and pretended that all of this was happening to somebody else far, far away. He cursed his luck. He cursed Amherst for being in Massachusetts but not having private high schools where despite the claustrophobic environment people tended to stay out of each other's business, and even put in a few choice epithets for Olette and the mother hen instinct that had propelled her to sic girl after enthusiastic girl onto Roxas ever since he had transferred to their school just before winter break.
And how incredibly convenient was it for Olette to blame him for what had happened at Winter Formal, when it was her who had practically dump Lydia the Human Leech into his lap the day before the dance in the first place.
So, yes, if anybody asked—and someday, somebody would—that was when the lying started.
"The thing is... I'm sort of," he began abortively, muffling his mouth with a napkin. "I, uh. I'm already seeing someone."
All eyes at their table swiveled around to gaze at him in disbelief. Pence stared. Olette stared. Even Hayner had abandoned his mangled napkin—which he had somehow twisted into a clever little effigy complete with mini-knitcap—in favor of gawking at Roxas and his newfound relationship status. The moment stretched.
And then Olette reached across the table and flicked Roxas's ear. Hard.
"I can't believe you," she said, stormy-eyed. "If you didn't want to go you could have just said so. You didn't have to lie to me."
"I'm not lying," Roxas lied, rubbing his ear. "Seriously, I'm—I'm going out with a person." He paused, and added lamely, "A girl."
"Really?" said Olette, raising her eyebrow in challenge. "A girl. Then how come this is the first I'm hearing about her? Who is she?"
"No way, man," Hayner said excitedly. "Why've you been holding out on us? Dish!"
"Does she go to our school?" asked Pence in a tentative voice. "Do we know her, Roxas?"
"Well," said Roxas, feeling increasingly hunted. "She kind of—she doesn't go here," he said finally, willing his voice to sound as firm and persuasive as possible.
His friends shared a vaguely concerned look amongst themselves.
"We haven't been together very long," Roxas explained, improvising quickly. "And we're trying to keep it low-key, since—well, her family's kind of strict. Catholic. They're strict Catholics. So, yeah, that's why I haven't told you guys about us—I'm really not supposed to say anything."
He finished, and closed his mouth with a click of his teeth. He willed his face to appear sad but valiant. He folded his hands on top of the table, where they could easily be seen.
Roxas, being seventeen and naturally reticent in personality, was not in the habit of lying to his friends, and for this reason a part of him was ringing all sorts of alarm and frantically urging him to quit, quit now while he was ahead. The rest of him just wanted to die, or die laughing.
And it seemed to fly too, for a moment. Pence's expression was already faltering into that awkward but brave no man's land that meant he was confused but still trying to be supportive, and Hayner looked as if he was mere moments away from punching Roxas's arm and crowing, "You sly dog!" or something equally horrific anyway, and in a fit of baseless optimism, Roxas entertained the beautiful prospect that he might just be able to sell this.
That was, until he got a good look at Olette's eyes, which went huge and shell-shocked for a moment before narrowing in determination, and Roxas realized to his vast, vast horror that she had just discovered something about him even more worthy of her fixation with lost causes than his inability to acquire a Junior Prom date.
"If that's the case then it's even more important that you tell us more about this girl," she said. "I mean, you hardly talk about yourself, and we're your friends so it's our duty to--"
At that blessed moment, the school bell went off.
"Oh, look at that," Roxas said over-brightly, "Got to go," and slung himself from the table like it was his last chance at life.
And he would have made it too, had it not been for his cell phone, which exploded into shrill noise about halfway to his sixth period classroom. Fumbling though his pocket while still trying to navigate his way through the sea of thronging students, Roxas finally caught hold of the device, and flipped it open to find a new text message. It read:
DID U KNOW THE ONLY RAILWAY TO GO TO THE TOP OF A VOLCANO WAS BUILT ON MT. VESUVIUS IN ITALY, 1880?
TRAIN STATION AT 4.
Roxas stared at the screen, and for the briefest moment, the fact that he was standing in the middle of a crowded hallway as well as on the lam from his friends seemed to evaporate from his mind, melting away like ether. Out of long habit, he scrolled down the message to find an attached picture: a beat-up pair of classic Hi Top Chucks in Kelly Green, standing over what appeared to be a gravelly railroad track.
It didn't occur to Roxas that he had a kind of spacey, vapid-looking smile plastered all over his face until he realized that the people passing in the hallway were casting weird looks in his direction. Hastily, he shoved his expression back into a suitably cavalier mask, and looked up just in time to see Olette running toward him, elbowing people out of the way and hitting them with her wildly swinging book bag.
"Come on, Roxas," Olette said, grabbing his arm as she finally caught up with him. "Just tell me something, anything about your girlfriend. Like, what's her hair color, for example."
Roxas took one last glance at the text message, blinking on the bright blue screen. TRAIN STATION AT 4.
"Red," he said absently, snapping his phone shut. "Her hair is red."
The old Amherst train station was a small one-storey building, all red-brick walls and dark green paint on the doors and windows, typical New England. The interior gave you the feel of being transported into an episode of Petticoat Junction, and by the time Roxas hopped onto the wooden platform, sending dusty planks creaking beneath his feet, Axel was already there, draped comfortably across the wait bench and making bemused faces at his beverage.
"You know," he said by way of greeting, swilling the content of his cup, "I keep coming back to that crappy indie-hipster place you work at, hoping each time that the coffee will be better, just slightly better, and I swear it just seems to get more and more awful every time. This stuff is borderline toxic today."
"It's a longstanding conspiracy," Roxas said, rolling his eyes. "We only break out the good stuff when you're not around." He leaned in for a look. "Besides, that's tea you're drinking."
"My point exactly," Axel replied.
"Whatever," said Roxas, throwing himself down onto the bench and staking out his usual corner. Axel did not move. It was a very narrow space and their knees knocked. "Are you thinking about skipping town or something?"
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" said Axel, smirking. "Nah. I'm just doing a spot of," he paused, and made air-quotes, "trainspotting."
Roxas raised an eyebrow. "You read Irvine Welsh?"
Axel grinned. "I just liked the movie."
Roxas made an indistinct noise, totally noncommittal, and dug around in his backpack until he found the hardback volume he had stuffed in there prior to coming to the station. He had read this particular book so many times that it didn't even merit a bookmark anymore; he could just open to a random page and start reading.
As usual, however, it took all of four minutes spent in Axel's company for him to be interrupted.
"What's that you're reading there?"
"Anna Karenina," muttered Roxas, determinedly not taking his eyes off the page.
"Ah," said Axel, cracking his neck. "Mr. Tall, Dark, and Russian. Any particular reason you made this selection?"
"Seemed fitting for the occasion," Roxas said, throwing Axel a narrow look. He smoothed a finger down the length of the book's well-broken spine. "With the train and everything."
He stared at the inane lines of text before him intently, willing the silence to reign, reign hard and long and with an iron fist, but of course it was just stupid to believe he could get away with that. He could almost mentally time the moment when Axel said, "Come again?"
Roxas was way too smart to hold any delusion that Axel might have genuine interest in the Russian novel, or, God forbid, ham-fisted literary motifs from the nineteenth century. Funny how that didn't stop him from laying down his book in a put-upon manner and then explaining the whole shebang in much of the same way. Using very few four-syllable words.
Of course, if he didn't, Axel would just fill the spaces with his own voice anyway, and possibly start smoking, and then Roxas would have to negotiate a truce with his blood pressure or risk developing Tourette's and blurting out, "I told my friends you were my red-headed girlfriend from a Orthodox Catholic family," and wow, it sounded even crazier in his head, he'd just go ahead and not think about that.
The point was, he'd identified a pattern with Axel and conversations, and that was why Axel was and would continue to be speed dial number three, and the reason Roxas derived meaning out of things like TRAIN STATION AT 4.
"So she jumped in front of a moving train by the end of the book?" Axel said in bafflement, waving his hand around expressively. The slanting afternoon light caught his signet ring, and Roxas found himself following the dull flash of ruby vacantly with his eyes. "Jesus, why don't you just buy a rainbow wristband and some Fall Out Boy now and be out with it."
"I wouldn't mind terribly if you jumped in front of a moving train," Roxas said pleasantly, and felt his heart sink when Axel got an inspired look on his face and said brightly, "Oh, that reminds me of this story I read in the trailer park edition of the New York Times once. A guy was running for the subway--"
Thirty minutes later, Roxas was still reading the exact same paragraph, and Axel's reel of nonsensical tangents, unaided by fresh caffeine reinforcements, finally seemed to be running out of steam a little. He made a particularly energetic gesture, and their elbows bumped.
"You know, if you'd just angle your body a little--" Axel began.
"The same argument could be made about you moving your knee," countered Roxas, still wondering why this was his life.
"I was here first," Axel pointed out obstinately.
"I'm not moving," Roxas said, in a voice that made clear it was the end of discussion.
"Oh, I'd be nice to me," Axel said smoothly. "After all, I know which one of us has got these coupons for that new amazing green tea ice cream they've got down at the shitty sushi place."
He had an extremely agreeable smile on his face, like he totally had Roxas's number. Roxas would take great issue with this, if it didn't also happen to be true.
"I hate the shitty sushi place," he grumbled, at which convenient moment his stomach turned traitorous and made an embarrassingly loud growling noise, harkened by the siren song of food.
Luckily, at that precise moment there was a great rumble in the distance, growing louder by the second. A gust of wind blew past, ruffling their hair, and they both looked up to the sight of the four forty-five train rolling into the station, grey metal shining brightly in the New England sun.
"Yeah," Axel said, laughing as he jumped to his feet. "But you love green tea ice cream."
That was Monday.
Roxas had met Axel at the crappy indie-hipster coffee shop where he worked part-time. There was a place like that in every college town, and for four hours a day three days a week Roxas poured hot water over organic, shade-grown, fairly-traded beans so that the slovenly caffeine addicts who regularly dragged through their doors could get their daily fix while nursing the precious illusion that they were doing their part in supporting small cooperative farmers in Ethiopia.
It was a pretty sweet gig, and for all of four hours Roxas hadn't been able to figure why they'd give it to a high school student like him when there were college hopefuls lining down the street. But then he had finished his first day and his manager had more or less body-slammed him into the back office for a private talk.
"You have to take the job, Roxas," Stanley had begged, a look of deep misery etched into every line of his middle-age face. "So far you're the only one who can stand working with Crazy Sally, and I need another person there to help her cover all her shifts."
"Crazy Sally?" Roxas had echoed, lapsing into a montage of PTSD flashbacks—mousy brown hair, massive orthodontic gear, a troubling tendency to "accidentally" grab his ass, etc.
"You won't believe how many threats of lawsuits we've received over that girl," Stanley had moaned. "But I just can't fire her!"
It turned out that Stanley was dating Sally's mother—"Trimming the roses," he had explained, a sentence which Roxas wasn't going to comment on—and desperately needed an "in" with the daughter. Roxas didn't particularly care, but he had nodded, shut his mouth and gone to work, because a) money was money, and b) the indie-hipsters of the world needed their coffee, even if it put him in frequent direct exposure to Crazy Sally and her trademark come-on, "I know your phone number and where you sleep at night."
It had been a Sunday afternoon, a rare golden March arcing over the town like warm honey, and he had been in a good mood—people had been tipping, the coffee had only been marginally rancid, and Sally had only raked in two near-sexual harassment suits that entire shift. It'd been, all things considered, a good day.
And then, it'd happened.
The first thing he'd seen had been the shoes—oversized Chucks in Kelly Green that'd looked like they'd seen much better days, stumbling across the threshold—and before he'd known it a mutant-red hedgehog had been poured onto the counter.
"Espresso spritzer," the hedgehog croaked, trembling lightly where it had apparently collapsed.
"Excuse me?" said Roxas weakly, wondering if perhaps the smell of roasted beans was getting to his head, and then there was some movement and he found himself staring down a pair of striking—albeit crazy—eyes of the greenest shade of green he'd ever seen.
This fact was further expounded by having said eyes shoved violently into his face. Roxas blinked, leaned back, and the world cleared enough for him to take in that the eyes in fact belonged to a face, which belonged to a man, who slammed a ten dollar bill down onto the counter and hissed, "I said espresso spritzer. Double—no, make that triple-shot—and dark, dark, dark like the pit of Satan's soul. Snap to it!"
Behind him, Sally made a noise that sounded suspiciously like spilling hot water all over herself.
In moments of duress, Roxas had three default settings: hostile, confused, and professional. He didn't know what to make of the man standing in front of him—who appeared to be twelve-foot tall and composed of maybe one hundred pounds tops including the many layers of clothing he was wearing. But whatever he was, a ten dollar bill translated to "customer", and so Roxas settled for a combination of the latter two and said, calmly, "What size?"
The redhead blinked hugely, like he simply couldn't comprehend. "What size?" he echoed, making a hand motion that basically amounted to flapping his fingers around. "Grande, large—whatever size is the biggest you have! I've been awake for three days burning those documents."
Slowly, Roxas stepped away from the counter, silently crossing out "hyper" from his mental assessment and replacing it with "bona fide psycho".
Nevertheless, he practiced his zen, took great deliberation in taking down the order, getting the change, and finally, pushing the humongous triple-shot espresso carefully across the counter, like an offering to a mouthy, anorexic god garbed bizarrely in Harajuku fashion.
The redhead grabbed for the cup, took a giant quaff, and immediately choked on it.
"What the hell?" he yelled, wiping his mouth on one overlong sleeve. "Blondie, this coffee is total shit! What the fuck did you put in it—cat piss?"
Roxas blinked—and, for no reason, it was like someone in there had amped up the hostility.
He narrowed his eyes in warning, and said, voice icy, "Actually, sir, all of the coffee we sell here is one hundred percent organic and--"
"—and one hundred percent made from pure golden crap," said the redhead, smirking around the paper cup—from which he was still drinking. "I'll bet that's why they hire grade-schoolers like you to sell it, since you're too young to drink coffee anyway, right?"
Roxas thought briefly about wrapping his fingers around the redhead's long, spindly neck and squeezing as hard as he could. The shop was fairly crowded, full of potential witnesses, but he was sure everybody would understand.
There was no point in losing his cool, reasoned his better half. After all, the coffee they sold was shit, and even though four in the afternoon on a Sunday was a bit too early for the weirdoes to start crawling out of the woodwork, Roxas was a rational person, he could take ten dollars and—
And that was the exact moment the redhead reached over the cashier, dipped his hand in the tip jar, and extracted a dollar bill without so much as batting an eye—saying, "Well, since I received shitty service, I think it's only right that I take this for compensation."
Roxas saw red. "Alright. That's it."
The espresso cup hit the floor, splashing the foot of the counter. In his peripheral vision, Roxas could see people in the shop whipping around to look at them, expression oddly glazed over, and Sally was warbling something incoherent in the background, but none of that seemed to register as he clamped one hand around the redhead's wrist and dragged him like a ragdoll out of the shop in complete and total rage blackout.
Once they had reached the relative safety of the streets, Roxas pinwheeled around and body-checked his companion into a tree.
"Listen, you," he snarled, baring his teeth.
The redhead stared, seemingly at a loss for words.
"Don't ever do that again," Roxas ground out carefully. "I don't care who you think you are—if you ever pull that shit in my workplace again, I am going to throw it down."
Even in his head, the threat sounded ridiculous—sure, the man might look like he had an eating disorder and weighed 30 lbs. with a wet t-shirt, but he was still a full-grown adult who basically towered over Roxas and at any moment now was going to realize that his back was getting deeply intimate with some serious oak. Any moment now, he was going to receive a claw to the guts, and Roxas mentally steeled himself, braced for impact.
Which never came.
Instead of retaliating or even trying very hard to free himself, the redhead just limply allowed himself to be manhandled as he blinked slowly and regarded Roxas through heavy-lidded eyes, like Roxas was some strange tiny wonder that he had just laid eye on. After a moment, Roxas began to feel mildly self-conscious under the close scrutiny, and releasing his grasp, stepped away from his captive with a little too much haste for dignity.
"Is that understood?" he said feebly, at a reassuring three-step distance, although without the blurring rage his voice sadly didn't hold the same dangerous edge.
"Loud and clear," drawled the redhead—and had this guy always had a voice like that, all silky and low and weird? "I apologize for what happened back there, blondi--" he peered at Roxas's nametag, "—Roxas. Really, I don't know what came over me."
Disturbed, Roxas opened his mouth, and managed to say, "Whuh?"
The redhead grinned, green eyes flashing genially. "I suppose you should take this dollar bill back, then."
The reminder of petty theft jolted Roxas out of his shock-induced trance. He snapped, "Keep it," and spinning around, stalked back into the shop without a further word, shoulders squared and unfriendly. With any hope, the quota for creepy redheads had been reached and this day couldn't possibly get any worse, maybe he could salvage his nerves with a nice, cooling draught of water—that did not come from the shop.
Unfortunately, life was not on Roxas's side, and no sooner had he approached the counter than he found the use of his left arm appropriated by Crazy Sally, who latched upon it like a hysterical monkey.
"Roxas, look what you've done," Sally wailed, clawing at his shoulder in frenzy motions. "Do you think he noticed my hair?" she went on hopefully, fluffing her frizzy ponytail and staring at the door with naked longing.
Roxas carefully disentangled himself, and tried to inch away from Sally without making any sudden movement. "What?" he boggled. "What are you talking about?"
Sally glowered at him, and dug her fingers in harder, her dark eyes forming the shape of a .45 caliber. "What am I talking about? What am I talking about? You went and chased the slamming hottie off, that's what I'm talking about!"
As if on cue, every girl in the shop and a couple of the guys turned to scowl at him simultaneously.
"I hope you plan on cleaning up that mess you made," Sally said distantly, pointing at the floor where the espresso spritzer had melted into a disgusting puddle. Then she added, mournful, "I knew I should have worn the silver tube top today."
Roxas hated the entire world.
- - -
A/N: I wrote this story as a thank-you gift for all the wonderful people who read and reviewed -- even the ones who had to be bullied into it -- my first fic in the KH fandom, Deceitful Above All Things. Remember how I promised to reply if you would review? This is my way of answering your support. This fandom has totally won me over with y'all and your awesomeness; I'm deeply infatuated, and am going to stick around awhile if you would have me ;)
Incidentally, though I am very committed to writing this fic, it would be nice if you guys would just say something -- otherwise it feels like people are clicking on the story and then running away in horror D:
Last, but not least, happy birthday, Canada!