Disclaimer: still not mine
Author's Notes+Warnings: cross-dressing, casual threats of violence, (mostly off-screen, but still implied) sexual harassment by third party ocs
Dedication: For SnarkyKat, who gave me the prompt. Happy Birthday!
Enter the Players
The low thrum of applause reverberated across the sin-black walls of Seventh Heaven, rattling the laminated photos and posters as they hung haphazardly from the small red pins dotting the plaster. Dim, incandescent lights lay scattered across the large room, casting an ethereal glow on the inhabitants within.
The place was classy; or at least, as classy as a bar can be. The rich, heavy scent of alcohol wafted through the air, and some of the boys in the corner were a bit more unruly than one would like, but on the whole it was nice. Posh. Almost luxurious.
And Roxas Strife owned it.
Metaphorically, of course. The bar itself belonged to one Tifa Lockhart, resident bartender and badass. But that was beside the point. The point was Roxas.
He sighed, and stepped onto the small, rounded dais that lay in the center of the tavern. Immediately, every head turned towards him. Whistles and catcalls erupted across the large room, and shouts of approval began echoing against the wallpaper.
"Roxy!" The room shouted, in near-perfect unison. "Roxy!"
Roxas shoved down the near-manic urge to take a machete to every man in the room, and smoothed the wrinkles from his wine-colored evening gown. He smiled with the ease of one who's spent fourteen plus hours in front of the mirror practicing, and bowed slightly, giving the room a teasing glimpse of what they thought was cleavage. It was really only two cantaloupes stuffed in a bra, but no one had to know that.
"Good evening, gentleman," Roxas murmured, his voice a feminine, throaty whisper. He mentally mumbled a tender goodbye to his vocal chords, and continued. "I hope you've been enjoying yourself so far."
A man sitting six feet away said something moderately untoward. Roxas decided that death by machete was too good for these people, and contemplated buying an Uzi.
"I normally don't take requests," he said. "But one of our dear customers is celebrating a birthday. I thought I might make an exception."
The room erupted into approving applause, and Roxas inclined his head in acknowledgment. He let his eyes drift to the right, towards the large mirror behind the bar where Zell was busy mixing drinks. He saw short blond hair curled around an elfin chin, wide blue eyes darkened dramatically with liner and kohl, and pink cherub lips glistening with gloss.
Dear God, he prayed, lifting the microphone to his mouth. I have never needed you more than I do now. A little divine judgment wouldn't be too much wish for, huh? Is it really that much to ask? A flood? A raid? Lightning bolts?
"Roxy!" A man shouted, waving frantically. "Bear my children!"
The spontaneous sobbing fit, Roxas would later insist, came after the bar closed for the night.
Seriously. He promised.
All stories have a beginning, and this one is no different. In the case of Roxas Strife, lounge singer, it all started with a single sheet of paper. Light blue, embossed with the college's crest and credo. Hollow Bastion University, the header proclaimed proudly. Beneath it, a motto: Consilio et Vi. Beneath that, an address. To the right, a telephone number, fax number, e-mail address. To the left, a department name.
It was a single sheet of paper. Just one, really, though several leafs still remained in the large envelope laying on the kitchen table. They weren't important.
Well, that's a lie; they were all important. Introductions. Instructions. Papers to be signed, photocopied and returned. But the point is, they were each less important than this one. This pale blue sheet of what was once a tree, lines and lines of text and numbers sprawled across the page. And above them, two simple words. Just two.
The Bursar's Office. As in, the financial aid place, where old guys in black suits decided how much money little Roxas Strife, not yet nineteen years old, would be receiving from his first choice college. The first choice college that happened to have a $45,000 price tag. And that was just yearly. Multiply that by four, and dear little Roxas was looking at a potential marriage to a loan officer and a life spent in debt up to his eyeballs.
Unless, of course, our beloved friends at FinAid had decided his family was poor enough to grant him a full ride. His grades were good enough, there was no question about that, but HBU was fucking selective. They only took the best, the brightest, the most involved. Everyone's grades were good enough. The school granted scholarships only to those who needed one, regardless of scholastic ability.
Roxas, as it might have been inferred, needed one. Like, desperately.
A weary, working mother. A lazy, stay-at-home father. Two older brothers, both in college: one a grad student at Radiant Garden University, the other a rising sophomore at HBU. A thirty year mortgage, two pick-up trucks, and a lawn-mower that hadn't run properly since 1967.
Yes, Roxas needed a scholarship. He was two seconds away from finding out if he'd been given one.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. And then another. And another.
Ten minutes later, his older brother walked in, took one look at him, and groaned.
"Oh, give it here," Sora sighed, snatching the leaf of paper from his limp hands and ignoring the Roxas's indignant squawks. "You're so dramatic. It's not like they'd give you nothing." He snapped the sheet straight and lifted it up to the light, squinting at the tiny letters. "University Scholarship," he declared loudly. "28,000 munny."
"Hey!" Roxas barked, making a grab for the page. Trust Sora to take the most important moment of his life and turn it into a game of keep-away. "Give it back!"
Sora ignored him, dancing out of his brother's reach. "Federal Toan Grant. 6,000 munny."
"Sora! Lemme see!"
"Federal Xiao Loan. 1,800 munny."
Roxas sighed, making another swing at the paper, which Sora promptly swatted away. "Federal Osmond Loan. 1,200 munny." He lifted an eyebrow appraisingly, then nodded. "Well, that's not bad. You can manage 3k. We'll all help."
Roxas nodded, but his eyebrows lowered. Wait. But…that still left…
"Expected student contribution…" Sora blinked at the page. And then again for good measure. "Huh," he said. "That's…well." He winced, then looked down at his younger brother apologetically.
"You know when I said you could borrow however much money you needed from me? Uh. I lied."
Roxas sighed to himself, flipping through the mass of work-study catalogs and newspaper ads lining the kitchen table. A summer had passed; an entire summer spent contemplating the dismal state of his financial affairs. One week remained before freshman orientation. He had three and a half months before the first four thousand were due.
The point was that, even with work study — at base pay of 7.25, twelve hours maximum for freshman a week, in which case it would take ten and a half months to make what he needed in three — there was no fucking way Roxas would be able to scrounge up four thousand munny per semester. It was impossible. He'd have to be working four hours a day, six days a week, making twelve bucks an hour to even hope to cover those kind of expenses…
And that was when Roxas found it. The newspaper ad that would change his life. Or rather, the newspaper ad that would turn him into a cross dresser. But again, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Short on Cash?
Need To Make 4K in 3 Months?
Local Bar Seeking Lounge Singer!
No Exp. Necessary
4 Hrs/Dy; 6 Dy/Wk; $12 Hrly
For More Information, Please Call 258-7658
Minors Need Not Apply
Roxas blinked blankly down at the small square of text.
Four hours a day. Six days a week. Twelve bucks an hour. It was…perfect. It was perfect. You know, except for the whole lounge singer bit. He frowned. Weren't most lounge singers female?
"Hey, Sora!" He called loudly, never removing his eyes from the ad. Peripherally, he saw a brunet head peek into the kitchen. "Have you ever heard of a male lounge singer?"
"Kairi says that, in this day and age," Sora said, "where gender roles are considered the quaint moral fallacies of a forgotten era, any man can do what was once considered a woman's job."
"Sure," Roxas said. "But that's not what I asked. I asked if you've ever heard of a male lounge singer."
Sora hesitated, thinking it over. And then he shook his head. "No."
"Yeah," Roxas muttered, turning his attention back to the ad. "That's what I thought."
It didn't really say anything about men applying. All it mentioned by way of specifications was that no experience was necessary, and that minors wouldn't be accepted. Probably had something to do with the whole selling of alcohol thing, but Roxas wasn't about to assume.
"Hey, Sora," He said again, still staring down at the newspaper. "Am I a good singer?"
"No," Sora said. "You suck."
Roxas's shoulders slumped.
"Just joking," Sora said. "You're not bad. Pretty good actually. But you sound a bit like a girl. Your register is really high."
Roxas's head jerked up then, but he didn't look either upset or surprised. Instead there was a wary sort of interest in his eyes. As if something Sora had said had answered a thousand life-changing questions.
"Ah," Roxas muttered, returning his attention once more to the newspaper. "That's…good to know."
Sora raised his eyebrows, but wisely kept quiet. You just didn't ask sometimes. Not when it was Roxas, not when there was a week left of summer, and not when said brother was glaring down at a sheet of paper like it was the devil. So he stepped away and walked back to his video game.
It was the single worst thing Sora could have done to his brother at the time, and, months later, Roxas felt quite sure that he would never forgive him.
But that comes after.
It really wouldn't be too difficult. At least, that's what Roxas told himself as he walked down the city boardwalks, wrapping a thick, clunky sweater tightly around himself. It was really too cold to be summer, but this was Hollow Bastion. The town was no Destiny Islands, and the hat that Roxas had lost to the cold, blustering wind could attest to that.
He sped up, pulling his sweater around himself. The sweater was one more thing to be upset about. It had once been a nice, comforting shade of khaki, but take one khaki sweater, one red tee — courtesy of Sora — and one cup of laundry detergent, mix 'em together under cold water for fifteen minutes, and now you've got one pink sweater and a single red tee that's a bit more faded than it was when it entered the washing machine. Add that to the fact that all other sweaters were in storage for the summer, and we are left with one Roxas Strife who was feeling slightly flushed at the moment.
Of course, going out without a sweater was sheer stupidity: the temperature was nearing the high fifties in fahrenheit, and there was no way in flaming hell — Hell, Roxas thought,was warm, at least — that Roxas was gonna step outside without a sweater, washed out or not. He bowed his head and walked a bit faster. If G**gleMaps was correct, the 'local bar seeking lounge singer,' should be right…
Seventh Heaven, the sign above the large gray building proclaimed. Roxas smiled. There.
He stepped inside. Five o'clock, and the place was fairly empty. A few patrons lay scattered across the large, dimly lit room, tipping back bottles of beer and glasses of cocktails. A tall blond was sulkily mopping a beer spill not fifteen feet away, but he gave Roxas only a passing glance before he continued with his chore. Roxas tightened the sweater around his shoulders, eyes darting between the customers, the blond, and the counter.
New places always made him feel antsy. Not scared, really; just a bit nervous, on-edge, as if someone was gonna look up and call him on being somewhere he didn't belong. He sighed softly to himself, steeling his nerves. This was nothing. Just a job interview. That was all.
"Hey," a loud voice called brightly. Roxas hid a flinch and turned towards the bar. A man was standing there, idly wiping at a glass with a white rag. "What can I do you for?"
Roxas frowned, resisting the very real urge to shake his head and walk away. Four thousand, he told himself firmly. Just four thousand, and you'll have a semester in the bag. After that you can stay or leave, but you need this. Just four thousand.
He shrugged his hands into his pockets, walking up to the counter. Up closer, the grinning barkeep looked a bit odder than he'd imagined. An ornate black tribal tattoo decorated the left side of his face, and long blond bangs were gelled and spiked upwards.
He looked like a chocobo. Fuck that, he looked like a chicken. Roxas, of course, did not mention this.
"I'm Roxas," he said, taking a seat on one of the counter stools. "I talked to someone on the phone earlier. I'm here about the—"
"The job!" the barkeep cried, and the tall blond mopping across the room looked up. The tattooed guy glanced over his shoulder warily, then hopped over the counter. He smirked down at the surprised Roxas and grabbed his hand, eagerly pumping it up and down.
"Zell Dincht," he said. "I work weekdays five to nine, and Saturday nights. We close at three, but I don't think you'll be staying that late. There's really nothing much to worry about, Roxy…do you mind if I call you Roxy?"
Roxas ground his teeth together and managed a painful smile. The guy was innocent, he reminded himself, and had no idea how many years he'd been forced to endure the indignity of being referred to by a clothing brand. "Everybody does."
Zell smiled, grabbing Roxas by the arm and pulling him across the large bar. He sloshed happily through the spill the poor…janitor?…was trying to mop up, and ignored the barbed insult that followed him. "It's all pretty cut and dry," he said, yanking a chair out of his way. "You'll be working for four hours, but you get a thirty minute break between hours two and three. I don't even want to think about what this is doing to your voice, kid, but you're the one who signed up for the job."
"I haven't even had my interview yet," Roxas muttered. Zell raised an eyebrow, the corner of his lip quirking a bit higher.
"What do you think this is?" he asked, laughing. He shrugged, pointing at a small, raised dais that stood prominently in the rear of the room. "There's your stage. Go and sing."
Roxas blinked. "Sing?"
Zell laughed, shoving Roxas towards the platform and grinning when he stumbled over a chair. "What, you didn't think we'd let you have the job without an audition?"
"No, but…" Roxas glared helplessly at the few customers lining the bar, all staring at him curiously. "I thought it'd be private—"
"Roxy," Zell laughed, collapsing onto a chair and slinging his feet up onto another. "You get the job, you're gonna be crooning in front of a live audience. You can't afford to get shy in front of ten." He smiled again, but this time it was gentler. "Go on."
Roxas shot ocular fire at the chicken-headed idiot. "Shouldn't I be doing this with the manager?" he asked sullenly, knowing what the answer would be as soon as Zell shrugged and crossed his ankles together on the second chair.
"She's in the back. If she likes you, she'll come outside. If not…well. We'll hope it doesn't come to that."
"Great," Roxas muttered. He took a step towards the dais. Shoved his fingers into his pant pockets. Kicked idly at the last chair in his path and hopped up onto the platform. "What am I supposed to sing?"
Zell paused then, cocking his head to the side. "Doesn't matter, I think, but…" He swiveled on his chair, angling his face backward. "Does anyone have any requests?" he called to the bar's customers, eyebrows raised. The patrons sitting sprawled in their seats glanced at each other, but said nothing. And then, from the janitor smirking at him:
Roxas spluttered, but Zell was already grinning, aiming a glare at the man even as he gave Roxas a thumbs-up. "You heard the bastard," he chuckled. "Disney. Go for it. And make it Beauty and the Beast. I know Seifer loves it."
The spluttering came from the custodian this time. Roxas was busy wondering if he could make a break for the door without anyone stopping him. He'd have tried, but he had the distinct feeling Zell would probably leap from his chair and tackle him mid-sprint. Groaning internally, he closed his eyes. Imagine 'em naked, he thought. Then reconsidered. Imagine 'em sprawled on the floor bleeding from numerous head wounds. He sighed, opened his mouth and began to sing.
"Little town. It's a quiet village."
"Louder!" Zell called. Roxas did his level best to remember not to glare at someone who could theoretically be a future coworker.
"Every day like the one before."
Around him, Zell was sitting a little straighter, and Seifer had paused in his mopping. Roxas lifted his eyes to the high heavens and hoped that it wasn't because he sounded like a screeching harpy ascended from hell to destroy the ear canals of bar-dwellers everywhere.
"Little town, full of little people. Waking up to say—"
"Bonjour!" Zell shouted. And then, from the customers around him, who were beginning to look more like the spawn of Satan the longer Roxas glowered at them: "Bonjour! Bonjour, bonjour, bonjour!" Roxas ignored them and doggedly continued.
"There goes the baker with his tray like always! The same old bread and rolls to sell!"
Seifer was walking forward now, expression oddly somber, and he leaned over chicken-head to whisper something in his ear. Zell nodded absently, still staring at Roxas. Roxas shifted from foot to foot.
"Every morning just the same, since the morning that we came, to this poor provincial town—"
"Good morning, Belle."
Roxas faltered, turning to stare at the woman who'd just spoken, and who was making her way towards him from the large back door behind the bar counter. She was dressed completely in monochrome, and was beautiful.
"Tifa!" Zell cried.
The woman-who-was-apparently-named-Tifa shot him an even glance. "Shouldn't you be behind the bar?"
"New kid," Zell shrugged. "And it's not even five thirty. There's no one here."
"Zell!" Tifa barked. Zell spun on his heels and began speed-walking back to the counter. Seifer muttered something to him under his breath as he passed, and Zell made an angry grab for him before Tifa sent another glare his way. He grumbled and continued walking, hopping over the counter and grabbing a glass by the stem, polishing it irritably.
Tifa turned back to Roxas, and he decided right then that he most certainly did not like the predatory gleam in her eyes.
"How old are you?" she asked curiously. Roxas straightened, feeling suddenly even more uncomfortable about the fact that he was wearing a washed-pink sweater.
"Have you sang anywhere before?"
Roxas blinked. "Church choir when I was y—"
"And when can you start?"
Roxas gaped. "I…you mean I've got the job?"
Tifa laughed brightly, outstretching a hand to help him off the dais. "Honey, that was magnificent. I've heard singing that good a grand total of once in my lifetime, and that was from a boy."
And that was when Roxas realized that something had gone dreadfully wrong.
"But that's beside the point," Tifa smiled. "How about you start tomorrow night? You've got the job for as long as you want it. Or until you lose your voice. Whichever comes first. What's your cup size?"
Roxas's mouth opened and closed helplessly. Tifa didn't notice.
"That sweater's a bit bulky," she muttered, almost to herself, "But you still look sorta small. I'll get you a padded bra and some brown concealer. Just brush some between your boobs and the shadows create the illusion of size and depth, you see."
"And would you mind de-spikifying your hair?" she continued happily. "I think it looks very chic, but it's a bit too boyish for this job. Especially with the evening gown."
Roxas squeaked. "E…evening gown?"
Tifa smiled. "Of course! We can't have our lounge singer performing in jeans and a t-shirt!" She sighed contentedly, leaning back in her chair. "So. Cup size?"
And this, dear readers, is where it all began. With a sheet of paper, a want ad, and a case of mistaken assigned gender born of a too-high singing voice and assumptions about color coding.
Roxas, of course, needed to present two certificates of identification before he could begin working. They came in the form of a social security card and a driver's license. The social security card was no problem, but the license might have been. Had, of course, the laminated tag listed him as male.
In a complete and total accident - which was not so much a mistake as a twisted prank, courtesy of one Hayner, intern at the transportation department - Roxas's current driver's license listed him as a female. Juvenile, to be sure, but Hayner never seemed to get tired of bragging, and Roxas liked him too much to get him in trouble over it.
Coincidence? Fate? Only this humble authoress knows, and she's not telling.
The point is, Roxas had been offered the perfect job. Four hours a day. Six days a week. Twelve munny an hour. And that, dear readers, would make him four thousand munny per semester, plus a few extra hundred for spare change.
It was simplicity incarnate. The bar needed a singer. Roxas needed a job. It was a match made in heaven.
And all Roxas needed to do was keep his nethers under wraps. Not so hard; Tifa had given him his own 'dressing room,' which was really just an oversized janitor's closet, but Roxas wasn't complaining. The place had a lock. He could change into his dress in blessed peace, and no one would ever be the wiser.
This, of course, is the point where we all share a laugh at Roxas's expense.
Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails
An AkuRoku Story
"What are little boys made of?"
Roxas jumped, lifting his head from its resting place on the counter and turning to stare at the grinning bartender. "The hell?"
Zell laughed, reaching forward companionably and mussing Roxas's short blond locks of hair. They were curled today. Roxas spluttered indignantly and batted the hand away.
"It's a nursery rhyme. You remember the Power Puff girls? Sugar, spice, and everything nice? Well, the boys have it a bit rougher, don't they? Y'know…What are little boys made of, made of? What are little boys made of?"
"Snips and snails and puppy dog tails," Roxas muttered.
"That's what little boys are made of!" Zell finished triumphantly. He scribbled something down on a small, spiral notepad, his tongue protruding slightly between pursed lips.
"And why the hell are you spouting nursery rhymes?" Roxas muttered, idly swirling his Shirley Temple. Zell grinned, still scrawling away at the pad.
"My lit course. Prof insists that we gather a bunch of nursery rhymes for our next in-class workshop. Something about using them as a basis for that final project of ours."
"Ah," Roxas said, because he really had no idea how else to respond. HBU had interesting courses. HBU had interesting everything. If anyone had told him a year ago that he'd be able to spend lazy afternoons writing short stories about Cretaceous-period love affairs, he'd have laughed in their face, but that was college. You could do lots of weird things in college.
The point was, uni was great. Everything he'd ever dreamed of and more.
This job, however, was another matter entirely.
Oh, it wasn't horrible. The pay was twice what most gigs would give lounge singers. The staff was nice enough; Zell reminded him of Sora, Tifa reminded him of his mother, and Seifer AKA the-assistant-manager-who-got-demoted-to-janitorial-duties-every-time-he-started-an-argument-which-was-always wasn't so bad after you got past the derogatory nick names and dickwad attitude. And the hours were perfect; seven to eleven on weekdays and eight to twelve on Saturdays, which left him with plenty of time for homework, studying, and fending off the roommate.
Yeah. It wasn't horrible. Really.
"A screwdriver," a tall, lanky redhead said, sidling in beside him and nodding at Zell. "For the lovely lady sitting directly to my right."
Roxas's mouth stretched upwards painfully. Not for the first time, he wondered how the hell girls managed to go through life without dropping a desk onto someone's face.
"I'm underage," he said, smiling so widely he thought he'd probably split his mouth in half. "Also, my break ends in five."
"So replace it with something virgin," the guy said, because he was an asshole. "And chug."
Roxas didn't chug. Roxas mostly just entertained pleasant fantasies of living in a world where people bothered to listen to social cues. But the fact of the matter was that he only had to put up with this for a few hours a night; Kairi dealt with it all the time. He tried not to complain too much. He finished his glass of water, gave Zell a look that impressed upon him exactly how much hell Zell would suffer if he actually gave Roxas the guy's offered drink, and hopped off the stool. Goddamn Don Juans who thought it was cute to bother someone who was obviously having a conversation. The world could do with less of them. If Roxas weren't worried about staining his dress, he'd have slugged him.
He glowered at the floor, nimbly avoiding the sprawled stools and chairs. Lounge singers weren't supposed to become local celebrities. They were supposed to provide background music. They were supposed to stand on a small little platform and sing soft pop or swing or jazz tunes while the customers got drunk and gobbled up appetizers. And they definitely weren't supposed to sing Disney songs every night for four straight hours. He'd already stumbled his way through The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. Aladdin was up next. That one was always show-stopper.
Lounge singers were not supposed to be show stoppers.
Of course, they weren't supposed to be Roxas, either.
Roxas sighed, trying to resist the impulse to pull the major wedgie he was sporting. God, at least he wasn't wearing the thong. Tifa'd been pulling for thongs, but Roxas had put his foot down. Still, bikini-cuts were little better, and they were riding up his ass something dreadful.
"Roxy!" The crowd was beginning to shout. "Roxy!"
Roxas decided that if he ever heard that name again outside of a work setting, there would be a few fewer assholes in the world. And that was another thing to be upset about. Roxas was not usually so blood-thirsty. He was calm. He was mature. He was stable, dammit. But if one more man tried to woo him by way of poorly thought-out conversation or a never ending flow of virgin drinks, he was going to scream.
The small dais had once been nestled comfortably in the rear of the bar. Once Tifa realized how much of a crowd-pleaser 'Roxy,' had become, she'd angled all the tables to face the back. Roxas didn't much care. The little platform was really the only place Roxas could ignore the attention. They faded away as soon as he raised his voice in song. So that's what he did.
The bastards wanted Disney? Well, he'd give them Disney.
He cleared his throat, and began.
"Though I come from a land—"
Two hours later, Roxas stumbled off the platform, staggering back to the bar. Fuck, he thought he might have sprained something this time. There were some octaves his vocal cords were just not supposed to hit, high register or not. But he had hit those notes, had hit them long and hard, and now he thought that he might have severed his larynx.
"Water," he rasped, collapsing onto a bar stool. Zell grinned at him, already pushing a glass his way. Roxas downed it in one prolonged gulp and sucked ice cubes into his mouth.
"Not bad, kid," Zell laughed. "But I think the Snow White bit was pushing it."
"Ya think?" Roxas half-gasped, shoving his glass back towards the older blond in a wordless demand for more. Zell poured a steady stream of fluid into the tumbler, chuckling.
"You broke a wine glass."
"Truth." Zell grinned. "Anyway, that's not the point. Tifa wanted me to ask you whether you think you can stay 'till closing time."
Roxas cocked his head to the left, raising an eyebrow curiously. "Sure. Why?"
The tattooed man sighed, rolling his eyes at the door leading to the back. "Ms. Manager wants to introduce the new guy. Bartender. You know. The one who's gonna be picking up the shifts we have to stretch. Me and Xigbar and Marly are the only ones Tifa's got, and it's always hell whenever one of us can't make it. So Marluxia introduced a guy he knew, and Tifa liked him well enough. We're meeting him at closing."
Roxas frowned, leaning his elbows against the counter. "What's the big deal?" he asked, voice some mix of genuine curiosity and irritation. "We're all gonna meet him sooner or later. Wouldn't it just be easier to introduce him tomorrow? Like, sometime that is not three in the morning?"
"Tifa's orders," Zell sighed, and Roxas rolled his eyes.
"Whatever," he muttered. He idly tugged at a curled lock of hair, glaring at it. "Sure. I'll stay. But only if you tell Seifer to get off my case. If the bastard makes one more Disney joke, I'm going to-"
"Give him the butter knife," Zell snorted. "Yes, we know."
"I don't even actually like Disney," Roxas grumbled pitiably. His eyes narrowed, and he shook his glass at Zell's face. The water inside splashed threateningly against the rim, but Roxas ignored the impending mess. "Just do whatever it is you do to shut him up." He frowned suddenly, raising an inquisitive eyebrow. "What is it that you do to shut him up?"
"Never you mind," Zell said, rubbing even harder against the glass he was cleaning. "Just sit. I've got five minutes before Marluxia gets here, and then we've got three hours to sit and do nothing until closing. Unless you wanna help me with my math."
"No," Roxas said bluntly. "I don't."
"Thought so," Zell mumbled. "I brought a play for you, though. Since I didn't tell you about this beforehand. Twelfth Night."
Roxas blinked. "What?"
Zell lifted his hands up defensively. "I saw it at the bookstore and thought of you. Isn't Orsino supposed to be, like, the epitome of masculine awesomeness?"
"Orsino was an idiot," Roxas growled. "Give me the book."
Zell grinned and handed it over. Roxas, huffing the whole while, disappeared into the dressing room to change back into a girl's shirt and jeans a few sizes too tight. When he walked back out, he shot the bartender a dirty glare and buried his nose in the novel.
No one noticed the dark, menacing figure that hovered in the corner, eyeing the staff members. And no one noticed his hungry gaze coming to a rest on Roxas Strife.
Ten past three in the morning.
Seifer locked Seventh Heaven's front door, then made his way back to the bar, where a small group was seated. He flicked an impassive finger at Zell's forehead with a muttered 'chicken wuss,' dodged the punch that swung his way, and took a seat on a bar stool.
"So," he began, once everyone had been seated. "Where's the new guy?"
All eyes turned to Marluxia, who raised an eyebrow. "Don't look at me," he drawled. "He said he'd get here before closing time. Has he called?"
"Yeah," Tifa murmured, knitting her brow. "He said he'd be here. Hell, he said he was already here."
All heads turned to stare at a dark, shadowy corner nestled in the rear of the large room, hidden almost completely by the baby grand gathering dust for lack of a proper player. A tall man, dressed almost completely in black and all-but swimming in a large hoodie, stalked forebodingly towards the group. And then he threw his hood off. Cascades of spiky red hair tumbled down his shoulders, and a cocky smirk lifted his lips upward.
"Hey," he said. "The name's Axel. A-X-E-L. Got it memorized?"
Seventh Heaven's employees stayed silent for the space of ten seconds. And then they simultaneously snorted.
"Wow," Seifer scoffed, tossing his head back. "That was the most dramatic entrance I've ever seen. How long did you have to practice that in front of a mirror?"
"Teardrop tattoos?" Reno laughed. "Please. How retro-chic can you get?"
"Do you have to embarrass yourself everywhere you go?" Marluxia sighed, rubbing at his temples as if soothing away a headache. "How many times have we told you to drop the catchphrase? It's just not as cool as you think it is."
To his credit, Axel's grin did not drop, though his right eye developed a bit of a tic. He ignored everyone and plopped down on a stool, lifting his feet onto another and crossing them at the ankles. And if he looked a bit petulant, well. It was his right.
"So," Tifa said, stifling a grin. "Yeah. This is Axel. He'll be taking over the nine to twelve on weekdays, and half of Saturday."
"Which half?" a small blonde woman asked curiously, pausing to shoot a derisive sneer at the redhead in question.
"The later one," Tifa responded. "Which means you'll probably never meet the guys who work the first shifts. Xigbar barkeeps before Zell gets here, and Yuffie and Demyx wait from noon to six, but otherwise you'll be fine. The rest are right here. Everyone, wave."
One hand rose. Everyone else just stared at Axel.
"Right," Tifa muttered. "Well. You've got Seifer, my assistant manager. He's also the best janitor we'll ever have. Don't scowl at me like that, Seifer, you're still on probation. Reno and Larxene wait the later shifts. Zell and Marluxia man the bar for the most part. And then there's Roxy. Our pride and joy. Say hello, Roxy."
"You're the jackass who tried to pick me up earlier," Roxas said, eyes narrowing in recognition. Axel smirked and opened his mouth to respond, but Tifa was already continuing.
"She's the entertainment. Lounge singer. An absolute Godsend. Most beautiful voice you'll ever hear, 'cept for Demyx maybe, but he's a boy so he doesn't count."
"Got it," Axel said, nodding innocently, but something in the way his eyes cut towards Roxas and just about glistened bespoke of hidden evils. "So…that's it? I was sort of expecting…more people. Four waiters and four bartenders for a bar open fifteen hours a day seems a bit…few. You don't even have a pianist."
Tifa winced. "We did. For a while. But, uh…he had a bit of a run-in with a butter knife."
Axel raised an eyebrow skeptically. "A butter knife."
"Yup," Zell responded, and his voice practically oozed pride. "A butter knife. Hacked his thumb right off. It got lost in the piano's innards. We had to pull it out with a pair of pliers. Don't," he said, "mess with Roxy."
Axel's eyebrows almost reached his hairline, and Roxas coughed. "Whatever," he said, rising to his feet and clutching Pride and Prejudice against his hip. "Is that it? We've met him. Are we free to go now?"
"Sure," Tifa sighed, climbing to her feet and stretching. "Sorry for the wait, guys. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Tomorrow," Zell repeated, and everyone began gathering their respective belongings. Roxas was first out the back door, clasping the borrowed novel close to his chest. He walked towards the bike rack directly adjacent to the building, unlocking the chain keeping his small yellow scooter carefully secured to the metal stand and pulling it free. He swung a left foot onto the base, and prepared to wheel himself home.
"Hey, Roxas!" a voice called. "Wait up!"
Roxas's left eye twitched. Nasal. That voice was grating on his nerves. "I'm not interested."
Axel pulled to a stop beside him, staring at him curiously. "What?"
"I said," Roxas sighed, pushing off with his right foot and rolling down the street, "that I'm not interested in you. Go away."
The redhead jogged to keep up with him, grinning so widely Roxas wanted to hit him. "I'm not gonna ask you out."
"Then save whatever you want to ask me for work tomorrow," Roxas said, refusing to take his eyes from the road and trying to speed up. "Or sometime when I'm not gonna have to call someone to pick me up because I've got a creep following me home."
"It's not that," Axel said, smirking, and Roxas was sure that he'd never hated an expression so much in his life. "I was gonna comment on your singing. You're not bad. I didn't think dudes could hit notes that high."
The world froze. Or at least Roxas did. Not a wise thing to do when one is balancing precariously on a scooter about to go down a thirty foot hill. And then he frowned.
"Okay," Roxas said. "So first of all, making assumptions about a person's gender identity is super rude."
Axel paused. "What?"
"You can't just assume someone's a dude," Roxas said. "Just because your birth certificate says you're a dude doesn't mean you're actually a dude. That's the sort of thing you have to ask a person about. Geez. You'd think we as a society would have come far enough to realize this by now."
Axel considered this, nodding. "So you're not a dude?"
"Yes, I am," Roxas said. "You were just really terrible for a second there and I wanted to let you know."
Axel squinted at him for a few seconds. And then he said, "So, you're in my Dino Poetry class—okay, where the hell do you get those butter knives?" Axel held his hands up in the universal symbol for 'I'm defenseless and any act of violence against my person can and will be punished in a court of law.' "I'm not gonna tell anyone."
"Sure," Roxas snarled, pocketing the utensil. "Right. Why bother bringing it up if you're not gonna tell?!" He spun around, kicking his scooter to the curb. "Listen, jackass. I need this job. Like, desperately. There's no way I'll be able to make my tuition without this, and my family's not exactly in the sort of financial situation where I can, given the field I'm pursuing, justify taking out 8k in loans. And if I can't make my tuition, I just don't go to college." He groaned, deep in his throat. "Just…please? Can you please just…not say anything about this?"
Silence. And then a snort that sounded a bit more gentle than snorts are generally supposed to sound. "I already said I wouldn't," Axel sighed, reaching out to tug at a blond curl. "Shit. And they say I'm overdramatic." He bent over, picking up the yellow scooter and handing it back to the smaller boy.
"I won't tell," Axel repeated. "And I'll help you keep your secret. Okay?"
Roxas felt deep, immense gratitude for exactly the two seconds it took Axel's face to break back out in its default, shit-eating grin. "So," he drawled, waggling his eyebrows. "Friends?"
Roxas huffed, snatching back the scooter. "Whatever," he mumbled.
But he let Axel walk home with him anyway, and when they split ways it was with affectionate curses on their lips and grins on their faces.
And then months passed, with fairly little to-do.
Well, that's a lie. Life in Seventh Heaven will never be normal, after all. Take, for example, the annual Halloween party, where Tifa hosted a (male patron only) wet t-shirt contest, Larxene and Marluxia were found naked behind the bar, and Reno started making out with a man that looked remarkably like Roxas's eldest brother (though that couldn't be true, because Cloud lived in Radiant Garden, and was supposedly dating a guy named…Dallas, or Sacramento, or something geographic like that). Nine months later would find an increase in the amount of local births, but that is neither here nor there.
Or fall break, where the much-discussed Demyx finally challenged Roxas to a musical battle royale, where each incorrect Disney lyric was penalized by a shot of vodka. By the time they were through, the room was too drunk to remember whether Aurora's magic carpet ride had featured in The Fox and the Hound or Dumbo, and each agreed to sing at the other's wedding. Axel dragged him away shortly thereafter, muttering something about touchy-feely blonds who didn't know how to keep their hands to themselves, and how 'Oh, Zexy's gonna hear about this…'
Or the Thanksgiving Bash, where everyone finally discovered how, exactly, Zell managed to keep Seifer from blowing up the pub, and what this feat cost him. In explicit — and quite pornographic— detail.
No, life at the Seventh Heaven would never be quiet. But it was good. And Roxas started believing that maybe he'd be able to make it through four years of cross-dressing without ever being forced to give up his gown.
This, of course, is when things went wrong. Just not in quite the way they probably should have.
It came to pass one Sunday afternoon that Tifa delegated Axel, Roxas, and Zell clean-up duty. The bar was tidied up every night after closing, generally by Seifer — who it seemed would never catch a break, and who would never graduate from his probation (the circumstances of which everyone but Roxas seemed to know about, and no one was telling) — but each Sunday three workers were encouraged (read: coerced) into spending a few hours mopping, dusting, and sweeping the room top to bottom. These hours were generally underpaid and always annoying, but it was a widely accepted fact that it would be better to suffer three hours of cleaning duties than four of a scorned Tifa.
And so, Axel and Roxas spent a happy fifteen minutes walking to Seventh Heaven together. They spent a happy five minutes waiting for Zell. And then a quiet five minutes waiting for Zell. And then, an irritated twenty minutes waiting for Zell.
Thirty minutes later, Roxas and Axel decided that yes, Zell had probably decided to brave one of Tifa's fierce temper tantrums (the reason for which was probably tall, blond, and possessed of an unceasing…ego) and might not show up.
"The bastard left us to clean an entire bar all by ourselves, didn't he?" Roxas murmured, almost in shock. He let his eyes travel through the length of the bar.
Mountains of dirt seemed to form right before his very eyes, and the windows now looked so smudged you could write your name on them and still not see the outside. He gulped. Oh, Zell was not going to enjoy this next month.
Suddenly, Axel coughed. Roxas turned to stare at him, eyebrows raised. And then he almost stepped back at the near-maniacal gleam in the older man's laughing green eyes. Had the room dropped in temperature? Why did the world suddenly seem devoid of light? He wasn't sure, but he couldn't quite get rid of the feeling that something was horribly, horribly wrong. Like, mad-axe-murderer-horror film wrong.
"Tell you what," Axel grinned, and Roxas decided right then that he probably wasn't going to like whatever was on the end of that sentence. "I'll mop, wash, Windex, and organize the bottles alphabetically. Which, really, only leaves you with cleaning the tables."
Roxas cocked his head. Okay. Maybe he had been exaggerating. Surely, anything that began with 'I'll mop, wash, Windex, and alphabetize,' couldn't be all bad.
Of course, this is Axel we're talking about, and Roxas had had several months to learn about Axel. And so he crossed his hands over his chest and raised an eyebrow skeptically. "But…?"
"But," Axel said, not even trying to hide the smirk curving his lips upward, "You have to wear the dress."
Roxas blinked. Then once more for good measure. "Huh. Run that by me one more time?"
"You heard me," Axel said, grinning. "Just think about it: no mopping. No glass washing. No dusting, no organizing…nothing except cleaning the tables. And all you gotta do is put on the dress. You don't even need to wear the stockings. Just put on the dress for me."
Roxas's eyes narrowed. "You're a little pervert, aren't you?"
The bartender laughed, long and hard. "It can't have taken you this long to figure that out."
"Whatever," Roxas muttered. He debated this for a moment. "Yeah, okay. Fine."
"Sure," Roxas said. "But come with me. The zipper goes up the back, and I slept wrong yesterday. Help me zip up."
Axel's smirk looked like it would actually reach his ears, so Roxas shoved him out of his way. He hopped over the counter and opened the door leading to the rear, then pulled his door open.
"This is it?" Axel hummed, casting a derisive glance over the janitor's closet turned dressing room. "I'd sorta expected something…bigger. With mirrors. And maybe a make-up table. Not…" he lifted a mop, staring at it, completely appalled. "Isn't this Seifer's?"
"Yeah. And why the hell would I need a make-up table?" Roxas snorted. "Anyway, it's all right. At least the place has a lock."
"A lock," Axel huffed. He reached toward the knob, experimentally tugging it back and forth. "Right. This thing's probably not even screwed on—" One particularly fierce tug, and the knob came loose in his hand. He blinked down at it. "Properly."
Roxas stared at him. "Please tell me you did not just break my lock. No, really. Please."
Axel laughed weakly and tried to stick the brass knob back into its forlorn little hole. "I, uh…didn't break your lock."
"Liar!" Roxas shouted, whacking his friend upside the head. He growled, tearing his shirt up and off. "You're replacing that, fucker!" He unbuttoned his pants, muttering to himself as he slid them down his legs. "Make yourself useful and throw my clothes outside," he grumbled. "I don't want to trip over them when I'm changing. Oh, and go to Tifa's office. A dress should be hanging on the peg behind her door."
"Why don't you just keep the dress here?" Axel asked, taking the shirt and pair of pants Roxas handed him. The blond rolled his eyes, shrugging and leaning against the wall.
"There's more than one," he sighed. "And anyway, she doesn't want them getting dirty. This is a janitor's closet. It's dirty. Hence the keeping of all evening gowns in Tifa's office."
"Ah," Axel said. And with a final wave, he disappeared out the door, leaving Roxas to lean against the wall in nothing but boxer-briefs, tip-tapping his foot on the floor.
There was something very wrong about this situation. No, for seriously. He could feel it in his very bones; the pervasive feeling of doom and cataclysm peeking around the corner, just waiting to smash down upon his unsuspecting (or not) self.
Firstly: Axel. Asking for a fashion show. The intrinsic what-the-fuckness of this was not lost on him, but really, you could never really tell with Axel. The guy was the proverbial mystery wrapped inside an enigma covered in a conundrum. If Axel liked watching him dress up, well. At least one of them was enjoying it. Not that Roxas really minded much; it was Axel.
Anyway. Axel was the least of it. There was something else in the air…some malice just waiting to manifest itself in a corporeal form, looming ever closer.
It was scary. It was threatening. It was giving him the fucking creeps. He shivered, rubbing at his arms and glancing around the small room. Something was gonna happen. Something bad.
"Hey, Roxas," Axel said, opening the door and stepping inside, closing it behind him. "I left your clothes in Tifa's room, but the dress wasn't behind the door."
Roxas fought down his involuntary shivers and shrugged. "The others should be at the dry cleaners, but she always keeps one in her office. Did you check inside her closet? I know she keeps changes of clothes there for spills and stuff."
"Right," Axel nodded. He spun his heel and outstretched a hand to push the door open. And then the jingling of bells sounded through the bar, and the creak of floorboards signaled someone else's presence inside the bar.
"Oi, Roxy? Axel? Are you guys here?" A slight crash, then a scoff. "You haven't even started yet."
Axel's hand froze on the wood, and Roxas stiffened. The footsteps grew louder.
"Oh God," Roxas whispered, his eyes going as wide as saucers. "That's Zell. He'll see." He burst into motion, grabbing a huge cardboard box and shoving it against the dressing room's entrance. "Help! We have to barricade the door!"
"Roxy?" Zell called. "Are you in there?"
"What the hell?" Axel said loudly, completely ignoring the blond's frantic shushes. "What's that gonna do? Come on, stay calm!"
"Calm?! Axel!" Roxas hissed. "Dammit! I'm half-naked! He'll find out! Help! Go out and…and distract him!"
"You don't have time," Axel muttered, bowing his head as if in thought. "He'll smell something fishy, and you won't have time to run to Tifa's and get dressed before he comes barreling in here."
Roxas moaned in sudden realization, tearing at his hair with one hand and using the other to shove a spray bottle of cleaning solution angrily aside. "Fuck," he groaned. "What do I do?"
"Roxy! Axel! Where are you?"
Roxas kicked furiously at a pile of pans, realizing only belatedly that the clanging had given away his position. The footsteps were speeding, coming ever closer.
"Oi! Guys! Don't be mad just 'cause I'm late! Get out here so we can finish!"
"Oh God," Roxas muttered feverishly. He bowed his head, burying it into his palms. "I'm doomed."
Axel's eyes went wide. "Oh," he said.
And then he grabbed Roxas by the waist, and hoisted him up and against the rear wall. Roxas shouted in surprise, arms and legs automatically going around the redhead's neck and waist to support himself. "A-axel!" he cried in shock. "Wh—"
"Ten seconds," Axel said, grinning brightly. "This a good enough idea for you?"
Roxas looked at him, looked at the door, and decided it was.
This is what Zell saw when he walked into the dressing room, courtesy of one broken lock: Axel, facing away from him with his pants around his ankles. Legs — which he assumed were Roxas's, but with Axel's body in the way he couldn't quite tell — wrapped around the bartender's waist. And then back to Axel, who was making very recognizable movements with his hips, and who was moaning quite vigorously.
"Awha?" Zell yelped; rather articulately, actually, in light of the circumstances.
"Oh, Zell," Axel said, twisting his head to stare over his shoulder at the abashed blond. "Could you give me and Roxy a minute? We'll be out in five."
"Ah," Zell squeaked. And then he backpedaled quite furiously and slammed the door shut behind him.
Silence reigned in the small dressing room. And then:
"Holy hell," Roxas said, licking his nips nervously.
Axel grinned, grabbing the younger man by the waist and setting him down safely on the floor. "Not one of my better ideas," he said, pulling up his pants, "but serviceable."
"Serviceable," Roxas repeated flatly. He opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it. Repeated this for a few moments, before Axel sighed and reached out to ruffle the pale locks of hair.
"Don't worry about it. He's not gonna spread it around. And you know I'm not gonna hold it over your head. No way I'm throwing our friendship away for the sake of fake frottage."
"Yeah," Roxas said. He folded his hands in front of his lap, completely ignoring the fact that they were shaking. "So."
"So…" Roxas said, switching his weight from foot to foot. "I wanna, like, get dressed. Do you mind grabbing my clothes?"
The redhead raised an eyebrow. "You might want to give it a few minutes. Zell's still outside."
"No," Roxas hissed, squirming slightly and trying to hide the fact that he was crossing his legs together and using his hands as a shield. "Now."
Axel raised his eyebrows curiously. "Oh," he said. And then realization dawned, and the confusion was replaced by unbearable smugness. "Oh. Right." He grinned, turning, and waved a hand over his shoulder, opened the door, and walked away.
The second the door closed behind the older man, Roxas released a huge breath of air. God, what the hell had that been?!
Well, whatever. It was over at least, and he never had to think of it again. Just one more embarrassment in the long line of humiliations that had paved his lounge singer career. Nothing to fret over.
Now, to get dressed. And to hopefully relieve the problem all that bumping and grinding had left him with.
"Roxas?" He heard Zell call tentatively. "Is there a reason your clothes are lying on Tifa's desk?"
Roxas closed his eyes, cursed Axel under his breath, and shoved his hand inside his boxers.
Random House Webster's Concise Dictionary, 2nd Edition, defines the word 'catalyst' as:
Catalyst: (kat´l ist), n. 1. a substance that causes or speeds a chemical reaction without itself being affected. 2. Anything that precipitates an event.
For the purposes of this story, we'll be borrowing from the second definition.
The impromptu frottage that Sunday afternoon in Roxas's small dressing room was important not just because it saved Roxas's sex from public revelation - and most definitely not just because it gave Roxas an opportunity for masturbation (which, as far as he was concerned, was always a good thing). It was important because what could have once been viewed as an innocuous attempt at salvation by his best friend had turned into something more. Something a lot less innocent. The whole jacking off thing could probably attest to that.
That day was a catalyst, and its aftereffects could not have been foreseen.
Unless of course you were a romantic, in which case the aftereffects were really all too obvious. But again, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
We now end this interlude, and return to our regularly scheduled program.
It was official. There could be no denying it.
"—'cause this perfect world will spin around his every little whim, because this perfect world begins and ends with him—"
Roxas sang, loud and clear, one hand clasping the microphone, the other resting delicately on his thighs. His eyes darted to the bar, where Axel was mixing drinks. He slapped himself internally, and drew his gaze back to the crowd.
Red hair. Green eyes. Teardrop tattoos.
"Oh, what's his name?"
The white dress shirt stretched nicely over a thin chest and even thinner arms. Strange, really, how strong they were, what with them looking like spindly little toothpicks and all.
And those black pants, pulled tight over wide hips. Mm mm. He knew exactly what those trousers were hiding. Knew how big it was, too. It'd be hard not to, after that blessed, blessed day in the dressing room—
"He's the king of the world!"
—and that was far enough! He slid his thoughts to an automatic halt, and snapped his eyes away from where they had drifted for the umpteenth time.
"Kuzco!" He practically shrieked at the customers. With a final, too-awkward-to-be-dignified half-curtsey at the dumbfounded patrons, he stalked towards the bar.
"I want a beer," he growled at Axel, refusing to look anywhere but his throat - and what a nice throat it was, all slim and pale, and oh how it would feel to suck that Adam's apple between his lips, roll his tongue up and around and around…
"I didn't say you had to give me one," Roxas said. "I said I wanted a beer."
Axel whistled, and — for what was probably the first time in his life — wisely kept his mouth shut. He slid a Shirley Temple over the counter and then turned away to address a pretty young brunette. Roxas drained it in one long gulp. He sighed, folding his arms and laying his head down on them. His eyes followed Axel.
It had started innocuously enough. Or not. Actually, it'd started that day in the dressing room, when all that involuntary, half-naked dry humping had set off a very reluctant — and very enthusiastic — masturbation session. Roxas had sighed, leaned against the wall, conjured up a mental image of nice girl, and resignedly finished himself.
That, of course, was a lie. Or an untruth, to be completely accurate. He'd sighed, yeah. Had leaned against the wall. So far, so good. Hell, he'd even conjured up the mental image of a girl. But after that, things got a little shaky. If by shaky, you meant that the boobs had become a cock and the girl had become Axel, flaming hair, cocky smirk, throbbing male organ and all.
And there was nothing resigned about the way he'd pounded, pounded, and splattered.
He'd written it off as a fluke. Statistically, most men experienced homoerotic dreams occasionally. A large percentage of 'em had jerked off to a guy before. Hell, case studies showed that over ten percent of teenage males regularly engaged in casual mutual masturbation sessions with close friends. And Roxas had had mild crushes on guys often enough that he didn't really care that he'd masturbated to one. It wasn't a big deal.
That's the way it worked. That's the way it was supposed to be.
He was not supposed to spend the next month day-dreaming about said masturbation fantasy. He was not supposed to admire the way Axel's clothes stretched over his skin. And for Pete's sake, he was not supposed to wish that he'd fucked him when he'd had the chance!
Roxas groaned, burying his face deeper within his arms. He was screwed. Like, completely. And, quite possibly, literally. His brothers were bad enough! Cloud was beating the men off with a stick, and Sora's best friend cum boyfriend was doing the same for Roxas's oblivious brother. But Roxas liked girls just as much as he liked guys, and he'd always entertained the faint hope that he, at least, would one day continue the family name. What would happen to the Strife family?! Would they just fizzle out and die? Would the impossibility of butt babies ensure that there would never again be a Strife in the world?! Never! This could not be!
"Tifa!" Roxas cried, and the pretty manager poked her head out of the back door. "Please bear my children!"
The entire bar fell silent. And then, as one, they all burst into raucous laughter.
"Hah, funny, Roxy!" Tifa laughed, slapping her thigh in a fit of unmanageable giggles. "Bear your children…" She disappeared into the rear, her hearty guffaws echoing through the door. "That Roxy! Bear her children, indeed!"
Roxas almost cried. The mighty Strife dynasty, foiled by a cross dressing scheme and eight thousand dollars. He should have taken the loans.
Axel sidled up to him, a short eyebrow raised. "Is that what this's about? You're sexually frustrated?" He grinned and made a filthy gesture with his fingers. "You know, you could have just asked—"
Ten minutes later, Axel was still wondering where exactly Roxas had pulled the butter knife from, and how the hell he'd managed to pin him against the wall by his hair.
And so Roxas's torment began. And by 'began,' I mean 'escalated to unbearable levels.'
Axel: Whoa, is it hot in here or is it just me? /fans self/
Roxas: It's just you.
Axel: No, really. It's burning up in here. D'you think Tifa would mind if I took my shirt off? /begins unbuttoning blouse/
Roxas: (Frantically) Yes, yes, I think she would mind!
Axel: Aww, come on. I'll wear the apron. We're mostly all men here. /Shrugs shirt off/
Roxas: /chants twenty Hail Mary's under his breath/
Axel: Whew. God, that feels good. I could just cream myself.
Roxas: /awkward silence/
Axel: Oh, hey. I stopped at Scrooge's before work. I got us some sea salt ice cream. /hands Roxas popsicle and shoves entire length of his own in mouth/
Roxas: /squirms in seat/
Axel: Hnnn. Mm. Oh, God. God, this is good.
Roxas: /makes small circles with hips against counter/
Axel: God. Wow. Hey, I need to grab another glass set from the back. Are you coming?
Roxas: Yes, Axel, I do believe I am.
And so it was. Axel would speak, and Roxas would interpret. His interpretations were generally filthy, perverse, and probably illegal in many states.
It was driving him crazy. It really, really was.
So really, it was no surprise that he broke when he did.
But fuck if it wasn't embarrassing as all hell.
It happened on a Thursday. The date is important only because Roxas had school the following day, and would henceforth have to bear with much mockery as a result of his actions the night before. But that is neither here nor there, and shall never again be mentioned in this story.
Roxas stood on his small dais, the warm incandescent lights gleaming against the creamy champagne of his evening gown. In his thin, calloused hands he clutched his microphone, lifting it up to his cherry-colored (and flavored, though Roxas thought that was a big fat lie, because he'd tasted cherries and they were nothing like the goop he'd spent five minutes trying to apply) lips.
"Then tell me Maria, why I see her dancing there, why her smoldering eyes still scorch my soul?"
It was Hunchback of Notre Dame today. Stylistically, it was one of the most difficult movies to perform; the ranges and notes he was required to sing ran all over the place, and it was the sort of soundtrack one had to be at a hundred percent to pull off.
Roxas was not at a hundred percent. The reason? The reader gets three guesses, and the first two don't count.
Axel had arrived at Seventh Heaven fifteen minutes into Roxas's break, looking like he'd just stepped out of the shower. His wild red spikes of hair were still damp and plastered to his nape. Small beads of water wrung themselves from the brightly colored locks, trailing down his temple, his neck, disappearing into the white of his dress shirt.
Roxas wanted to lick him all over. Well, that or kill him. The man had no right to show up looking like he'd walked straight out of a Playgirl centerfold. He had towels! Why couldn't he fucking use them?!
Meanwhile, the patrons were leaning over the counters with requests for Sex on the Beach's and Blinding Orgasms and Weeping Cocks. At least half of them were asking for body shots. Roxas was going to cry.
"Like fire! Hell fire! This fire in my skin. This burning desire is turning me to sin."
Although…body shots with Axel certainly didn't sound too bad. Imagine: a tongue flicking over salt dotted along his wrist…his neck…clavicle…belly button…tipping back a shot of vodka, or an apple martini, or, you know, a nonalcoholic equivalent…taking a bite from a lemon, planting grinning lips along Axel's, passing the sour fruit from mouth to mouth…rolling back and forth along a bed, hands working his pants off and sprinkling the barest traces of salt right where he wanted it most…and then that tongue, that small, red tongue working down down down, lapping up salt, tipping back a glass of wine, and then diving back down, mouth open and ready and willing and-
It was at about this moment that Roxas realized that getting an erection while warbling Disney tunes in the bar where he was employed as a (cross-dressing) lounge singer would probably not be very beneficial to his finances, and he quashed down on these thoughts.
Disney! That was it! There wasn't much in the world less sexy than Disney! Especially Disney villains; urgh, just the thought of Frollo moaning possessive love lyrics at a fire was enough to make him shrivel up in his pants!
"It's not my fault, I'm not to blame. It is the gypsy girl, the witch who set this flame!"
Although…fires were sort of sexy. Not in arsonist kind of way. Just in the…Axel kind of way.
Sex in front of a fire place…
Huh. He could work with that…
The setting: A cold, winter's day. Hiking through the woods. Suddenly, an unexpected snow storm hits, and Roxas and Axel are forced to find shelter in an abandoned cabin! There, they find a single, raggedy blanket, and must strip and huddle together for warmth! Insert much sexual tension here.
However, the snow is still too deep the following day to allow them to continue their hike. The two intrepid adventurers are then required to go out into the wilderness and hunt for their food! Or, that is to say, Roxas hunts for the food. Axel gathers firewood like the lazy asshole he is. And then, that night, as they slowly manage to start a flame in the cabin's fireplace, using nothing but sticks, they huddle together under the warmth of their single blanket. Insert even more sexual tension here.
Roxas lifts his head and offers Axel a strip of jerky. Axel's eyes soften in gratitude and he dips his head, taking it from Roxas's fingers.
The sexual tension builds to a crescendo, and then sparks. Insert gratuitous sex here.
Erection! Erection in an evening gown! Roxas stamped down on his thoughts, jerking his eyes away from where Axel was stretching, rolling his shoulders and arching his neck backward. Disney! Frollo!
"It's not my fault, if in God's plan he made the devil so much stronger than a man! Protect me, Maria—"
Y'know, you could probably call Axel a devil. What with the whole demonic personality, and all. And the affinity for fire. And oh, Roxas could just bet that he'd be a devil in the sack. All long limbs and sharp angles, passion smoldering with the same intensity that was present in everything Axel did.
Smoldering…God, why the hell had he chosen the Hunchback of Notre fucking Dame as a 'pick of the evening?!' Did the little brats watching this stupid movie even realize how suggestive the lyrics were?!
"God have mercy on her. God have mercy on me—"
This was really getting out of hand, Roxas realized suddenly, as he quashed down on the beginnings of the eight erection of the evening (And, really, thank the Lord for bikini-cut underwear. He didn't want to think about how obvious it would have been if he'd been wearing a thong). Every time he looked at Axel, he wanted him.
Maybe it would have been better if they'd stayed friends. They were friends, such good friends, and Roxas didn't want to ruin anything by asking for more. Because, you know, underneath the fantasies and visions and wet dreams, he really…
Well, he really did like the guy. Emotionally, and all. And he didn't want to ruin that. They were friends, best friends, and nothing was gonna change that. But…
Axel grinned at a customer, grabbing a few cubes of ice with a pair of tongs and plopping them delicately into a glass.
Roxas almost came in his pants. Axel was so…not beautiful. He was too sharp, too skinny, and the angles of his face were way too pointed and defined to be lovely. But Roxas wanted sex, dammit, and he wanted sex withAxel, and you know what? Come hell or high water, Roxas was going to get his some and he was going to enjoy it forever and ever!
And as he stood there, singing Frollo's anthem to the tearful, half-drunken audience, it all became clear.
"But she will be mine or she will burn!"
The last notes had not yet faded from the air, and the applause had not even begun, before Roxas was hopping off the dais, stalking towards the bar. Every head turned towards him, curious; lounge singers do not typically jump off their little round podiums and stomp across the room, fists clenched and a furious flush inching down their necks.
Every head turned towards him, except of course the only one he wanted.
Well. Let it never be said that Roxas was not proactive. He slid to a halt and pointed a dramatic finger at the redhead mixing cocktails behind the bar.
"Axel!" he screamed, finger quivering in the air. The bartender's head jerked up.
"You bastard!" he shrieked. Axel's eyes flew open in complete confusion, and every head within the bar turned to glare at him accusingly. Roxy, after all, would never stoop so low as to question a man's legitimacy without provocation. Pitchforks were sharpened, knives were glossed, and various kitchen utensils found their way to angry hands as if by magnetic force.
Roxas, being a determined young man absolutely fixated upon his goal — said goal being the acquiring of one very infuriating young barkeep, who really had no idea what he had done wrong — noticed none of this. And so, finger still outstretched at the confused man of his wet dreams, Roxas took off at a sprint towards the counter.
Time seemed to slow, ala a bad movie cliché.
Axel's eyes widened.
The abashed customers turned their heads, their mouths dropping open.
Seifer — for what was probably the first time in his life — wasn't a complete and total bastard, and did not outstretch a foot to trip Roxas as he shot past.
And Roxas, dearly beloved Roxas, Seventh Heaven's pride and joy, who belted out Disney six days a week and who wore evening gowns and bras in order to hide the fact that he possessed fully-functioning erectile equipment, made a running leap over the bar and crash-landed directly into Axel's open arms.
Axel had exactly five seconds to wonder what the fuck was going on. And then Roxas leaned up on tiptoes and mashed their lips together.
The world slid to a halt, and every sensation in his body fizzled away, leaving only the feeling of warm breath on his face, of hair tickling his cheeks, and of dry lips pressed against his own. Huh. He'd have to get Axel some chap stick if he ever wanted to do this again…
Roxas's eyes snapped open, and his primary head finally caught up with the secondary one. He was standing in the middle of his work-place, lips plastered to Seventh Heaven's bartender, whom he'd just leapt on.
He lifted his arms up and pushed them against Axel's shoulders, shoving himself away. And then he bowed, apologized, was forgiven, and walked back to his dais where he continued singing Disney carols for the remainder of his college years. He and Axel split ways shortly after graduation, and Roxas married a co-worker and had three children. He never saw Axel again.
Please take a moment to imagine that scenario. And then smile, for it is a complete and utter lie.
Roxas lifted his hands up and pressed them against Axel's shoulders, trying to shove himself away. He'd have succeeded, too, if Axel hadn't decided at that moment to wrap his thin, lanky arms tightly around Roxas and pry his mouth open with a hungry tongue.
Roxas stood there, staring blankly - and foggily, because really, you can't see very well when your face is scant centimeters away from another's - at the closed eyes right before him. And then he realized that, yeah, Axel was tonguing him.
Ah. Okay. Well…he could work with this.
Grinning against the lips moving against his, he folded his arms around the still-mostly-damp neck of the man kissing him. And there they stood, behind the counter of one small bar called Seventh Heaven: one tall, cocky redhead holding a smaller, pretty blond, smiling and laughing into the kiss they shared.
"It took you long enough," Axel whispered, separating just far enough to whisper the words directly into Roxas's mouth. Roxas blinked, working the words through his head, trying to figure out what the hell they meant. And then he smiled.
"Yeah," he laughed. "I guess it did."
He stood a bit higher on his toes and met Axel's lips once more.
Zell sighed, leaning back on his heels as he watched his co-bartender just about eat their lounge singer's face. He turned towards Seifer, who was watching the proceedings with no small amount of amusement. "Oi," he said, and Seifer raised an eyebrow at him. "I was just wonderin'. Do you think we should tell them that we knew about Roxas this whole time?"
A snort sounded behind him, and Zell tilted his head backward, grinning up at Tifa. "Yeah," she laughed. "And lose the opportunity to watch a pretty, nubile young boy prance around in evening gowns? Please." She scoffed, rolling her eyes. "The secret stays with us. And dammit, it'll die with us. Roxy Strife will go down in history as the best lounge singer Seventh Heaven ever had, and no one will ever be the wiser. "
Seifer smirked. "We'll just wait a while," he agreed. "Let's see what happens. And hell. Demyx and Zexion have already placed their bets. They say Roxy'll only last for another six months before he admits it."
"They're betting on him now?"
"Xigbar has a thousand on Roxas lasting to the end of sophomore year," Tifa said, waggling her eyebrows. "Marluxia says he'll make it three. Larxene's got one. Yuffie and Reno say he'll make it through senior year, wherein the stress of final exams will finally get him."
"Fuck that," Zell snorted. "If the kid made it through the first year, he'll make it through them all. Fifteen hundred on perpetual anonymity."
"I second that," Seifer nodded. His smirk widened into a positively predatory grin. "Tifa?"
Their manager smiled.
Seventh Heaven made more in sales that night than a commercial costs during the Super Bowl, and Tifa was much pleased.
Marluxia and Larxene spent the next three years teasing Axel about everything from his sex life to the fact that it was Roxas who'd made the first move. And then they got pregnant, and Axel spent the rest of his life teasing them about everything from their failure to use contraceptives to their (actually quite happy) marriage to the fact that their little baby girl wanted to be an artist when she grew up.
A year later, Seifer finally managed to work himself off probation. He found himself back on it a day afterwards, when Tifa walked in on him and Zell having celebratory sex on her office desk.
Tifa married a higher-up at some electric company or another, but she never gave the bar up. She just hired a few more people to manage - after the Axel/Roxas fiasco, the bar gained more than enough notoriety to attract enough potential employees to fill up a stadium.
Axel and Roxas moved in together off-campus the following year. They lived together in that apartment for five years. At the end of that time, they bought a house in one of Hollow Bastion's little suburbs. White picket fence and all. The pair would one day go down in Hollow Bastion's rich local history; the lounge singer and the bartender, thrown together by fate, financial aid, and Disney songs.
At the end of Roxas's four years at Hollow Bastion University, Zell, Seifer, and Tifa each made six thousand munny in bets.
And you know what? They all lived happily ever after.