author's note: This is my entry for the lovely Ivy's contest. Enjoy, please!
-standard disclaimer applies, foo.
x. reminiscence && regret .x
- you never should have played the waiting game -
It's a perfect winter day- her favorite kind of day.
Roxas, wearing his best suit, walks along the worn sidewalk to the church; he wasn't sure if he was cognitive enough to drive his car there or not. The sun smiles brightly down upon him, reflecting brightly off the snow.
The sunny, yet still freezing, weather cannot soothe him, however. It can't heal this kind of hurt, nothing ever will.
He passes the run-down playground of his childhood, and the tears threaten to spill over his eyelashes, carrying the memories of yesteryear.
It had been nearly fourteen years since that fateful day.
He was perched atop the lone swing -the one that nobody ever went on because it was so squeaky- shuffling the woodchips underneath his sneakers.
The other children were running about, screaming and waving their arms around wildly. His brother was amongst them, shrieking as loud as the rest of them, clearly enjoying the game of tag.
But the little blond-haired boy didn't really feel like playing with the other kids. He knew that they didn't want him to join in; they all liked playing with Sora better.
He watched them scurry about, hiding behind teeter-totters and slipping through plastic tunnels.
He was so entranced that he didn't realize a girl had escaped the game and had skipped over to him.
"Hi!" she bubbled with a smile, hands clasped behind her back.
He looked up in surprise and raised his eyebrows.
"My name's Kairi. Who're you?"
"Why aren't you playing tag?" she asked, spinning around. He watched her pink jumper twirl about her as he soaked up what she had just said. Most kids didn't really like playing with Roxas; Sora was much more fun.
"The other kids don't want to play with me." He kicked the woodchips, and they flew forward, sprinkling wood and dirt through the air.
"I'll play with you!" she exclaimed as she clambered onto the swing next to him, the sun reflecting brightly off her red hair. "Let's see who can go higher!"
Roxas smiled meekly and pumped his legs back and forth. He felt the wind whipping against his face playfully and looked over. Kairi was shrieking with glee as they went higher and higher- high enough to grab the leaves off the trees.
And his stomach turned as he swung, but he didn't care about getting motion sickness.
He was having too much fun.
"Wanna be friends?" she cried as she flew back, her hair flittering about. Roxas couldn't help but smile. He nodded.
"Best friends?" she clarified. Roxas' eyes widened. He had never had a best friend before. She couldn't be serious, he reasoned. Nobody wanted to have shy little Roxas as their friend. But he looked over at her anyway, and she was grinning.
"Forever?" she asked. Roxas laughed.
"Forever and ever!"
He turns away from the playground, continuing his walk, and his stomach gurgles as another wrenching pain claws through him.
It's much worse than that sickness he used to get on the swings, and there is nothing to cure it. He doesn't know if it will ever go away.
He wishes it hadn't turned out this way.
He wishes he could change everything.
From that first day they had met, they were inseparable. It was always Roxas-Kairi, Kairi-Roxas, and nobody was going to ruin that, ever.
Almost every week, Kairi would have to stay the night at Roxas' house. Her parents were the owners of a growing retail company, and they were always gone on some kind of business trip.
Sora made fun of him for having a girl for a best friend, but Roxas ignored him. Sora didn't know what he was missing.
When they were ten, Kairi taught Roxas how to braid hair. Or rather, tried to teach. He never quite got it.
And when they were twelve, Kairi had finally gotten the courage to get on a skateboard. She fell, of course, and skinned her knee on the sidewalk. Roxas had to carry her back to his house so he could put a bandage on it.
And even though Roxas refused to even attempt styling hair, and Kairi vowed never to step foot near a skateboard, they stayed friends. Kairi would sit on the sidelines as Roxas practiced grinding rails, and Roxas would always find some book to read when Kairi would practice French-braiding in her mirror.
And really, it didn't matter what they were doing; they were always together.
They had planned on starting their freshman year together, and of course they would have the same schedules.
It was all planned out, and everything was going to be perfect.
That is, until Kairi was forced to move away to a distant string of islands.
He peered across the train station, hidden behind a huge marble column. Her train was to leave in a few minutes, and there she was, tapping her foot impatiently on the gleaming hardwood floor, with only her luggage and a group of chattering strangers to keep her company.
Her parents were away on a business trip, and were flying to their new home directly from their meeting. Kairi was alone.
The last thing he wanted was to watch his best friend of eight years leave, but he couldn't resist coming to say goodbye to her one last time. He walked out from behind the tall pillar and prodded Kairi's shoulder.
"Hey," he said sullenly. She whipped around quickly, obviously shocked. But then her surprised expression melted into a beaming grin.
He ran his hand nervously through his blond hair. He had never been any good at goodbyes.
"Yeah. I… couldn't have you leave without saying goodbye." At this, Kairi leapt out of her chair and threw her arms around his neck.
"Roxas," she mumbled into his shoulder, "I thought you weren't going to come." Normally, Roxas would have pushed her arms off (he wasn't fond of that touchy-feely stuff), but today was different. He embraced her whole-heartedly, stroking her beautiful red hair.
"I'm going to miss you, Kai," he said, his breath tingling her neck. She hugged him tighter.
"We'll be writing every week… every day…" she said slowly. Roxas didn't respond. Kairi pushed herself out of his grasp and looked up into the shining ocean-colored eyes of her best friend. "Rox?"
He was crying.
"Don't cry, Roxas," she said gently. Her voice cracked as a tear rolled gently down her porcelain cheek. "You'll make me cry too." Roxas smiled nervously and rubbed the tears from his face. The train rolled up next to the station with a loud whistle, and a fresh burst of steam rose up from it.
He sniffed and moved his thumb across her cheek, wiping away her single tear. With a smile, he picked up her heaviest bags and said, "Let's get you on that train." He handed the luggage to the stationmaster, and pulled Kairi in another awkward embrace.
"Give 'em hell, a-all right?" he sputtered. Kairi choked in a half-giggle, half-sob.
"You know me all too well."
She hugged him one last time and then climbed into the train. Roxas shifted nervously, head tilted to the ground, hands deep in his pockets. Tears rolled down freely to the tip of his nose; he really was going to miss her. As the train screeched its final whistle, Kairi threw herself out the window, arm flailing about.
"Roxas!" she yelled, hand stretched out to him.
He pivoted around and ran over to her. Without letting him protest, she grabbed his hand.
"Don't miss me too much, Rox," she laughed sadly, a sheen of tears brightening her eyes. The train's wheels groaned as they struggled to turn, pulling the string of coaches slowly. Roxas walked along with the train as it sped up, but neither was willing to let go of the other just yet.
And then somewhere between a walk and a jog, it hit him; she was leaving.
The train quickened again, and Roxas was jogging faster. His hand was slipping from hers.
But something else was slipping too.
Kairi's eyes widened as their grasp loosened, and the train chugged farther and farther away. Roxas opened his palm and revealed a smooth, silver ring.
"My ring!" He heard yell and saw her eyes roving the ground for it.
He held it up with a grunt as he ran to her. She reached out to grab it from him, but the train was moving faster than he could, and some security guard was screaming at him to step behind the yellow line, sir.
Kairi's eyes lowered as she realized that his attempts were futile, but her arm rose again in a hearty wave.
"Keep it!" she yelled. Roxas nodded, but continued running after her. "Goodbye!"
He sprinted to the end of the platform, where he had no choice but to stop and wave. The train rounded the bend, and disappeared behind a cluster of trees.
He felt like the ring was burning in his hand, and his fingers automatically opened. And it was only then when he vaguely remembered that this was the ring that he had given her. Well, more like his mom made him give her for her thirteenth birthday. She had said that every teenage girl needs a good supply of jewelry.
He held it up against the sun, and it reflected harshly into his eyes. An intricate weave of leaves and flowers was etched onto the side.
He didn't know that she actually wore this. He hadn't been that observant.
He buried the warm metal in his pocket, and regret burned in his throat. Knowing that he hadn't even realized that, he felt disappointed in himself. What else had he missed about her? His best friend?
Another wave of tears threatened to fall down his cheeks, and they balanced precariously on his eyelashes. But he didn't allow himself the luxury of crying.
"Goodbye… Kairi…" he whispered quietly, so only he could hear. He turned and ran off, the train's whistle echoing distantly.
He sniffs, and mentally berates himself for not being able to hold it together. He wishes he could kick the ground, but knows better. She wouldn't want his shoes to be scuffed.
He continues his slow amble, and turns the corner. Just a few blocks ahead, he can see the church's steeple poking above the other buildings. His hand slips underneath his tie and presses against his chest.
There is a slight pressure as the silver ring pushes against his breastbone, and he feels the warm metal against his skin.
The reminder of the years of friendship they had is always warm, and has always been warm.
He always keeps it close to his heart.
Roxas entered high school alone, friendless, and quite scared. Sure, Sora stuck by his side at first, but even he was eventually absorbed in some sort of group, and Roxas was left to fend for himself.
He wished Kairi had stayed, but he thought that if she could make some new friends, he would be able to as well.
It was only a few days into the school year, and he had already sent his first letter off to Kairi. He shuffled from class to class, eyes drawn to the floor, hands buried in his pockets.
And then he ran into someone.
The impact pushed him backward, and Roxas fell to the floor before he could catch himself. His eyes widened not because he fell, but because he saw the ring he always wore around his neck, underneath his shirt- Kairi's ring- had flown out as well.
"Hey, punk! Watch where you're going!"
"S-sorry!" Roxas glanced up as he shoved the ring back down his shirt, feeling the warm metal against his skin comfortingly. He expected to see a very angry face glaring back at him, but it was quite the opposite.
The guy was grinning.
"Just kidding, man," he said, jerking Roxas up from the floor. "I'm Axel. You got a name, punk?"
Roxas wrenched his hand out of Axel's grasp and swiped the back of his pants.
"Well," Axel said cheerily, "I always love meeting new freshman. It's a great experience." Roxas' hands once again found their way into his pockets, and he shrugged.
"Whoa, what's your deal?!" Axel asked, prodding Roxas on his chest. "You know freshman don't talk to seniors like that." Roxas shrugged again.
"It's my business."
"Yeah? Well you've made it mine, too."
"My best friend moved away. I miss her," he admitted as he began to walk off. Axel followed him, and draped an arm over his shoulders.
"Well, we can be friends," he suggested, the tattoos under his eyes crinkling as he grinned mischievously. Roxas grimaced.
Despite the horrible impression he originally had of Axel, Roxas grew rather fond of him. In the following weeks, Axel followed him around, teasing and poking fun at Roxas every chance he got. But it only brought the two closer to each other.
They became fast friends, and Roxas didn't really care that Axel was nearly four years his senior, that Axel smoked and drank and partied with the upperclassmen nearly every weekend. Hell, Axel often took Roxas to these parties.
And despite all the pestering he got from his fellow classmates and all the disappointed looks he received from Sora, Roxas didn't care a single bit.
Axel understood him, and that's all he cared about; he just needed a friend.
But on those nights where Roxas was alone in his room, tossing and turning as sleep avoided him, he wouldn't call Axel.
He would peel out a crinkled piece of paper- one of Kairi's letters- and imagine everything she wrote. He would imagine what it was like living on the islands, and he would imagine what all her friends looked like.
As he read, Roxas would pull out her ring from around his neck and stroke it gently. His fingers traced the delicate pattern, warming the metal with the friction.
He would read and reread as his fingers memorized the carving, eyes scanning the flowing cursive writing almost absentmindedly, until he would fall asleep.
He wished that this would be enough.
It never was.
Roxas is standing on the corner of the sidewalk and has to take deep gulps of air to keep himself under control. He is failing miserably. The tears continue to spill, and other people going to the church stare at him. Some showing looks of revulsion, some of pity.
But Roxas doesn't want to be pitied.
He pulls a tiny, wrinkled scrap of paper from his inside pocket, and stares at the writing. It's one of her old letters, dated nearly five years ago. He sees the last words of the page, scrawled out in her looping cursive. Fresh tears drop onto the already tear-stained parchment.
He doesn't really know what he wants now.
High school flew by, and Axel and Roxas had grown closer than Roxas would have expected them to. Axel had never gone to college but still lived in town. They would hang out almost every other night, doing whatever they felt like. They knew everything about each other.
Well, almost everything.
Yeah, Axel knew that Roxas and Kairi still corresponded regularly, but that was the end of it. Roxas never really told Axel that he bounded down his front steps to check the mail everyday, in case one of Kairi's precious letters was inside. He never really told Axel that he stored each and every one in a shoebox underneath his bed.
He never really told Axel that with each strawberry-scented, perfectly handwritten letter, he was falling deeper and deeper in love with Kairi.
And the funny thing was that he got to know more things about her when they were apart than when they were together. More things when it was Roxas-Axel than when it was always Roxas-Kairi.
He learned that she liked vegetables more than fruits, that she didn't really like cats, that she hated her parents for being gone all the time, that she really didn't like being on the cheerleading squad, that her favorite color wasn't really pink, like most people thought, but it was purple.
He was more in love with her than he had ever been, and he hadn't seen her face for four years.
It was the summer after graduation, and Roxas was just lounging on his couch, flipping through the channels on the television. Axel was supposed to pick him up in a few minutes. They were going to some pool bar with a bunch of Axel's other friends.
The doorbell chimed through his house, but Roxas just lay on the couch, unmoving. Axel usually let himself in, anyway.
But the door never opened.
Roxas heaved himself up from the couch and walked over to the front door, wondering silently who would be coming over to his house at such an hour. It was nearly nine, after all.
His fingers latched around the knob and pulled it open.
His heart skipped a beat.
"Roxas," she exclaimed as she threw herself into his embrace, "I'm home!" Roxas was hesitant at first, but after he smelled that distinct strawberry aroma rising from her shining crimson locks, he knew it was really Kairi.
He was glad her face was buried in his chest. That way, she couldn't see the fierce blush rising on his cheeks.
"K-Kairi!" he stuttered, at a complete loss for words. She hugged him tightly, and he squeezed her back. Roxas didn't care that he usually yelled at people who touched him; this was different.
He didn't really know how long they remained like that, and he didn't really care, because it was so very dreamlike, he was afraid he really was sleeping.
And he didn't want to wake up.
Kairi giggled into his chest.
"You've gotten taller, Rox."
"So have you!" he exclaimed as pulled her into his house. She paraded into his house, and bent over the end table in the living room, gazing at all the recent photos of Roxas. "Um, why are you… here?" he asked hesitantly, making up for the rudeness of it with a quick, "not that I mind… I… I'm really glad to see you."
She straightened her back as she turned to look back at Roxas. She had changed a lot over the past four years. She was taller, had longer hair… if she was pretty before, she was beautiful now.
"My parents are moving the company back here. Business on the islands wasn't as good as they had hoped it would be," she said. "So we moved back here! Isn't that great?"
"Y-yeah!" he stuttered. The shock was still taking some time to get through him.
"So, do you wanna go do something tonight? Catch up? In person?" she asked as she resumed looking at all the photos. She picked up a frame containing a photo of Roxas in his graduation robes. "Great picture."
"Well, I… uh… already had plans…" he mumbled, ruffling his hair anxiously.
"Whatcha doing?" she asked, in a curious voice.
"Me and Axel were gonna go to some bar-"
"Can I come?" she cut him off. Apparently, Roxas had a confused expression on his face, because Kairi explained herself, "I haven't hung out with you in four years. I'm going to be following you around like a little lost puppy, and you can't do anything about it. Besides, I want to meet Axel. You've told me so much about him."
"So you've heard of me?" a voice came from the door. Axel had let himself, and Roxas hadn't heard him come in. He brushed his thick, red spikes back with a grin to rival the Cheshire cat's. He swaggered over to Kairi, grabbed her hand quickly, and pressed it firmly against his lips. "Nice to meet you… Kairi."
Kairi giggled and pulled her hand away.
"And you too."
Roxas laughed as he pushed Axel's shoulder. "Don't pay attention to anything he says. He's such a pathetic flirt, he'll try anything to sweep you off your feet." Axel huffed, but Kairi laughed again.
He forgot how much he loved her laugh; it was like the sweet sound of bells.
"Well, let's go, kids. Xiggy's waiting for us outside."
Axel strode out the door, and Roxas followed, a hesitant Kairi on his heels.
With a strangled sob, he replaces the letter in his inside pocket. He pats it continually, almost maniacally, as if he's checking and rechecking that it's still there.
But he can't seem to walk any closer without struggling. He's almost the last person to go inside, and every step is torture.
She wouldn't want him to feel hurt like this, would she?
"A toast!" Axel cried as he raised his shot glass above his head. Roxas laughed, and lifted his soda. Kairi nervously tilted her glass of water upward. "To Kairi."
The glasses clinked loudly together, and while Roxas and Kairi sipped at their non-alcoholic drinks, Axel chugged his tequila shot. He slammed it down on counter, and stood up abruptly.
"I'mma gonna go play some billiards… Billiards. Billiards? That's a really funny word," he slurred, swaggering over to the pool tables across the bar. Kairi squeezed more lemon into her water.
"He seems a lot different than how you described him," she noted, raising her eyebrows.
"Well," Roxas sighed, "he's drunk."
"When did you start hanging out?" she asked, twirling the straw around in her glass. The ice clacked along the side cheerfully. Roxas downed the rest of his soda. Just because they were old enough to get in the bar didn't mean that they were old enough to drink.
"A few weeks after you left," he admitted solemnly. He licked his finger and ran it along the top of his glass, attempting to coax a musical note out of the motion. Kairi smiled sadly and resumed spinning her ice around.
"I…" She seemed lost in her train of thought.
"You'll like him, trust me. He grows on you." She shrugged, but glanced over to Axel anyway. He was leaning against his pool stick and flirting shamelessly with some girl with long, black hair and large breasts. Axel had apparently unbuttoned the first two buttons on his shirt, compliments of his drunken stupor. Kairi's eyebrows lifted.
"How 'bout we go play some pool," she said plainly as she stood up. It was not a question. She sauntered over to the pool tables, and Roxas followed, his brow furrowed down in worry. Kairi was more of a volleyball-type girl. Since when did she play pool?
Kairi pulled a cue stick off from the wall and made a big show of setting all the balls in their proper positions. Roxas laughed as she tried to group the white cue ball with the others.
"That's the one you have to hit, Kairi," he explained. Kairi glared at him.
"I know!" she growled under her breath, not making any sign that she was prepared to fix her mistake. She balanced the stick on top of her shoulder with a concentrated look and giggled. She looked like she was about to harpoon the pool table.
"Hey, Kairi," Axel drawled as he swaggered over to her, ignoring the other woman he had been talking to. "You don't do it… like… like that!"
Kairi giggled again.
"Huh?" she asked. "I thought this was how you played?"
And then it hit Roxas- she was flirting with him. His two best friends. Flirting. He groaned and buried his head in his hands. Sure, Kairi had mentioned guys in her letters, but he didn't know that she was such a tease.
"Doll, you got it all wrong," Axel cooed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. He explained the rules of the game as he pulled the white ball away from the solids and stripes toward the two of the. His hand gently covered hers as he wrapped it around the end off the cue stick.
Kairi couldn't seem to stop laughing as Axel thrust the cue stick, shooting the eight ball right into the corner pocket. Roxas' throat burned with jealousy as he stifled a string of curse words.
"Well, uh… that's not supposed to… uh… happen."
"That's okay," she said with a giggle.
Axel balanced the cue stick on the ground and spun himself around it, laughing all the while.
"I think…" he paused, "I'm gonna go get a beer. Do you want one, Rox?"
"Axel, I'm eighteen. We've been though this," Roxas sighed as he leaned against the back wall with his arms folded across his chest.
"No thanks," she said.
Axel groaned, obviously disappointed that he wasn't going to get his underage friends drunk, but strode off to the bartender anyway. Kairi was about to follow him, when somebody grabbed her arm.
"Kairi!" Roxas exclaimed as he tugged on her sleeve. "What the hell was that?!"
"It's called flirting, Roxas," she explained coolly, wrenching her arm from his grasp.
"But it's… it's Axel!"
"He's your friend, right? So why can't I have fun with him in his drunken state? It's not like he's going to remember it."
Well, he couldn't argue with that, but still. Axel and Kairi? Roxas shuddered at the thought. He knew the kind of girlfriends that Axel had. They weren't like Kairi. Kairi was sweet and innocent. His previous girlfriends were… well, sluts.
But it wasn't like Roxas could explain to Kairi about the green monster lurking inside him.
"Rox…" she began, "I'm just having some fun. Trust me, I would never go any farther than that. Anyway, I was just seeing if I could get him away from that one girl."
Roxas raised his eyebrows suspiciously.
"I promise, no more," she swore as she threw herself into his body in a hug. It seemed to be enough proof to him. Or maybe her scent was that intoxicating?
He nodded and smiled, and they were both reassured. After all, they were best friends; nothing could drive a wedge between them.
He finally stands in front of the steps to the church. His breathing is uneven, and he can't seem to control it. His fingers pinch the bridge of his nose.
The dam he had built to contain all the memories cracks, and they flood his mind, taunting him. All the memories when they were just friends. The three of them, friends. Just friends.
What had he done wrong?
Did he honestly, truly deserve this?
He walks up the steps and pushes open the heavy, wooden door.
He had never thought that Kairi and Axel, his two best friends, would have gotten along so well.
But they did.
At first it was Roxas-Kairi, years and years ago. And then it was Roxas-Axel, buddies to the end. And now…
Now it was Roxas-Kairi-Axel.
The three of them would spend entire days together, often. And even after Kairi and Roxas went to college, they still hung out every chance they got. Almost every weekend.
Axel was still a flirt with her, though. And Roxas tried his best to suppress the angry monster growling inside him, because he always seemed to be kidding. Kairi seemed to think the same thing- she always laughed him off.
And then there were those times when Axel would touch her. His arm around her shoulders, or his hand grabbing her hip- it always seemed like Axel wanted a bit more than friendship, and unlike Roxas, wasn't afraid to show it.
Roxas was deathly afraid to show any sign that he was love with his best friend, and it was obviously working. Kairi didn't seem to notice a thing. She always tried to hook him up with her girlfriends, and it always ended in disaster. The worst so far was when he took that one girl, Olette, out to dinner.
They had wound up in the emergency room with Olette's tongue swollen up to twice its normal size. Roxas didn't know that she was allergic to peanuts; he really didn't.
So, Roxas did his very best suppressing his emotions around Kairi. But, it was getting harder and harder to not confess, and Roxas couldn't help but hate himself a little for keeping the secret from her.
But it was for the best, right?
It was the summer before their sophomore year of college, and Axel had just left for the weekend- he was visiting family, or something else that he would never do unless forced. Roxas couldn't really remember.
So it was just Kairi and Roxas, sitting on his couch, watching some horror movie that neither was really paying attention to. At least Kairi was looking at the television screen, although her giddy smile didn't represent the gore playing out in front her.
Roxas, on the other hand, kept sneaking glances at Kairi. Her smile was so pretty. But whenever she looked over at him, the smile dropped off her face. Roxas couldn't understand why.
"Hey, Kairi?" he asked hesitantly.
"Hmm?" Her eyes were glued to the screen, but it was still obvious how little attention she was paying to it. Roxas sat up a little straighter.
"Let's go out. I'm sick of this movie."
"Sure," she said, not glancing over at him, "Where do you wanna go?"
"How 'bout that café down the street a little ways. I know how much you love it."
She looked over at him and smiled. That smile could melt him.
"Yeah," she agreed, "I do love it." Kairi shoved her cell phone into her purse and began walking out.
"Come on! I'm hungry!" she exclaimed.
Roxas stood up and began following her. He could feel his ring (her ring) bouncing against his chest. Yeah, he had never given it back to her. It wasn't like he didn't want to… it just seemed too important to simply hand over. It was like his own personal reminder of how much she meant, how much he loved her. It was far too special to him, now.
He had always hoped that he would someday get the courage to give it back to her. Just like he wanted the courage to ask her to be his girlfriend. He just was so afraid of ruining their friendship.
He had tried, often. But something always got in the way: Kairi would have to go back home, or Axel would be there, or Roxas' voice would just get lost somewhere in his throat.
But it was still his deepest desire, his deepest secret.
He slipped some sandals on and ran his fingers through his thick, blond hair.
"Hoping to see your lady sometime tonight?" Kairi asked with a giggle. Although Kairi was still pretty clueless that he was madly in love with her, she knew that he liked somebody. And she was always up for teasing him about it. If only she knew the whole story…
"Oh, shove it," he complained.
"Just kidding, Rox!" she cried as she skipped childishly down the sidewalk, her wine-colored locks bouncing behind her.
Roxas felt the blast of the air-conditioning sweep across his face as they entered the café.
"Table for two?" Kairi piped up, "Non-smoking, please." The hostess smiled and seated them in a booth by the window.
Kairi didn't even need to open the menu; both of them knew that Kairi was going to get the half-soup, half-salad combo. Roxas, however, didn't go there every chance he got, and needed to look at the menu for his options.
"I have to go to the bathroom really fast, could you order for me if the waitress comes back?" she asked him in a whisper, leaning over the table. He nodded. She stood up, and then Roxas' breath left him.
As she passed, her hand grazed over the top of his.
"Thanks," she said before walking off to the back.
Thank God she left; Roxas would die if she saw the blush on his cheeks. But… she was the one who did it. He had seen Axel grab her around the waist, and Kairi was known for giving random hugs to the two of them, but he had never seen her do anything like that before.
Did that mean that she wanted to be more than friends?
His hand flew to his chest, making sure the ring was still there. His heart was beating so fast; it felt like the ring was bouncing underneath his touch.
Roxas could return the ring when he asked her. That would be romantic, right? Kairi was always a sucker for romances.
When he realized what he was thinking, he told himself, "I can't do this. It will never work out. She's my best friend."
He leaned his head against the cushion of the booth wall behind him and sighed, trying to gather his courage.
"What's your deal?" Kairi asked as she slid back into her seat.
His heart was pounding so hard; he thought it was going to explode out of his chest.
"C-can I ask you a question?" he choked out.
He breathed in again. This was it. He was finally going to ask her. After years of cowardice, years of waiting, this was it.
"Can I take your order?" the waitress asked, flipping the pages on her little pad back, pen poised above a fresh sheet. Roxas' stomach dropped. It was always something.
"Um, I'll have a Caesar salad, with a bowl of the broccoli cheddar? Oh, and a glass of iced tea, please," she said very quickly. But the waitress didn't seem to have any problems writing it down just as fast as the words spilled out of Kairi's mouth.
"Rox?" Kairi snapped him back into reality.
"Um, I'll just have a turkey on rye…"
"And to drink?" the waitress prompted irritably.
"Just a coffee. Decaf."
The waitress strode off, leaving Kairi and Roxas sitting in silence. Kairi twirled her hair around her index finger, a worried expression on her face. She seemed to be having trouble focusing. But then Roxas launched into some story about his brother, Sora, and the question he had been waiting to ask for years was forgotten, just like it always was.
But when the waitress dropped their order off ten minutes later, the silence returned, as cold and as calm as ever.
"Didn't you need to ask me something?" Kairi remembered between slurps of her soup. Roxas' face burned.
"You have to promise not to laugh."
"I won't laugh, Roxas, why?"
"Promise." He took a deep breath.
"I promise!" she exclaimed.
"Well, Kairi," he began, ruffling his hair- a habit he had picked up from Sora. "I've been meaning to ask you this for a while." Kairi looked attentive, but her mind seemed to be somewhere else. "I… I just…" He tugged nervously at the chain around his neck.
And then Kairi's phone jingled in her purse. She glanced at the screen, and smiled.
"Sorry, Rox- this'll just be a minute," she explained. Roxas hated listening to other people's phone conversations. It was always so confusing to not know what the person on the other line was saying.
"No, I'm just out with Roxas… that fun little café up the street… no… yeah… well, not yet… Axel, I haven't said it yet…" Well, at least Roxas knew whom she was talking to. "… I wanted you to be with me… he's both our friend… no… now?… fine, Axel, have it your way." She ended the conversation by snapping her phone shut and groaning.
Roxas took a drink of his coffee and raised his eyebrows.
"Anything you two need to 'fess up to? Murder, perhaps?" he asked with a laugh.
"I swear we were going to tell you, Rox, we just needed to find the right time," she said seriously, a nervous tone lacing her voice. Roxas put his coffee cup down and looked into her beautiful eyes. They were pleading with him.
"Kairi, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong… I was going to tell you tonight, really, I was," she rambled.
"Kai, just tell me!"
She took a deep breath.
"Axel and I are going out."
Roxas could have timed the exact moment that his heart split in two.
He knows what the problem was. He had waited too long. And now, as he enters the church, the scent of flowers overwhelming his senses, he wishes he had said something before that.
After all, it had been years. Years.
He yanks the chain off his neck and dumps the ring into his hand. His (no, her) ring. That beautifully carved ring that had waited with him all those years.
It was no longer Roxas-Kairi-Axel. It was Axel-Kairi, now.
"I'm fine!" he would exclaim whenever they questioned him. Then Axel and Kairi would exchange glances, emerald green catching indigo, not reassured by Roxas' statement.
Of course he wasn't fine. In fact, he was miserable.
But that was the price he had to pay, wasn't it? For wanting them to be happy together? For falling in love with his best friend? For waiting?
He always kept up the pretense. He wasn't going to ruin their happiness. Even months after Kairi had admitted that she and Axel were boyfriend and girlfriend, even after enduring the countless make-out sessions and hand-holdings, even though he could feel his and Axel's friendship slowly crumbling, he said nothing.
Because he thought they were happy.
Because he thought she was happy.
It was New Year's Eve, and they were at some party; Roxas wasn't really sure who the host was. It was some distant friend of Axel's… Demy? Demyx? He couldn't be sure…
But whoever the guy was, he loved having people over… loved it a lot. His place was packed wall-to-wall with guests, talking and laughing and drinking, because after all, it was New Year's Eve.
But Roxas never was one for huge parties. So he just sat in the back corner, watching the people converse. It was only eleven, but Roxas wanted out of there. He had a killer headache.
It was then that Kairi came rushing past him, obviously trying to hide something.
"Kairi?" he asked, the butterflies flapping about in his stomach like they always did when he saw her. She didn't respond but kept walking as if Roxas wasn't even there.
Roxas hurried after her, catching her wrist before she walked out the door. She gave a little yelp.
"Kairi, don't just walk outside!" he exclaimed, pulling her back to him. She gave a second cry of pain, and jerked her arm out of his grasp. She rubbed it before pinning it to her side. Her eyes were clearly red and swollen. She had been crying.
"Roxas, I… I have to tell you something…"
"What's wrong?!" Roxas cried, "Are you hurt?" He grabbed her hand and pulled her sleeve up before she could object.
A long bruise shone against the skin of her forearm, running almost from her wrist to her elbow.
"Kairi," he said slowly. "Who did this?" His voice took an angrier edge.
"It's okay, Rox," she mumbled, wrenching her sleeve back down. "I swear."
"How did you get that huge bruise?" He wasn't going to let her get away without a proper explanation. She turned away and pressed her forehead against the cool windowpane, watching the sleet pour onto the earth.
"Axel," she confessed, sniffing.
"… A few weeks."
Roxas growled, his fists clenching angrily.
"Please, Roxas, I don't need that. It's hard enough already…"
"I thought you were hap-"
"I thought I was happy, too… and most of the time, I am! It's just… sometimes Axel gets a bit rough… if he drinks too much… y'know?"
His lips pulled up in an ugly grimace. Of course Roxas wouldn't know. He wouldn't know because he never would have hurt her like that. Even if he was drunk off his ass.
"I'm going to kill him…" he muttered under his breath. His and Axel's friendship had already been hanging by a thread since Kairi started dating Axel, but this was the last straw.
"Roxas, don't!" she yelled as she yanked on his arm. "Please, for me… I'll sort this out."
Her pleading words struck him harder than she knew.
"What are you going to do? Break up with him?" He asked sarcastically.
"I… I think," she said slowly as her eyes widened, "that's what I'll do."
"Well, go do it."
"It's New Year's Eve. It's supposed to be a happy day," she said, rubbing her eyes.
"It's New Year's Eve. You're supposed to be making resolutions," Roxas countered, his voice edgy.
"I'll do it later… after midnight? He still needs someone to kiss when the ball drops…"
Roxas scowled. He didn't have anybody to kiss. And the only person he had ever even thought of kissing was waiting to break up with her abusive boyfriend so he wouldn't feel so lonely when the ball dropped.
"Fine," he groaned. Kairi threw her arms around his neck.
"Aw, I love you, Roxas!" she cried.
"Love you, too," he said, stroking her hair.
Roxas didn't really think she knew how much he loved her.
Kairi strode off, and Roxas checked his wristwatch. Eleven-thirty. He was still going to kill Axel.
Roxas returned to his spot, watching the people. Almost twenty-five minutes later, something caught his eye. Axel was pulling Kairi out the door.
"Kairi!" he yelled as he ran as fast as he could through the crowd of people. They were already outside when he caught up to them. "Aren't you two going to stay until midnight, at least?" he asked angrily. After all, he was staying and he didn't even want to.
"No," Axel said. "We… we're going back to my apartment." Roxas saw Kairi grimace. Since he had been friends with Axel, he knew he had never treated his girlfriends all too well… but he though he was going to treat Kairi differently. The envious monster in his chest growled as Roxas realized he had been wrong.
He wasn't treating her better; he was treating her worse.
Axel crushed his lips to Kairi's. "We're going to have a little bit of fun, you… you see?"
Roxas' eyes pleaded with Kairi's, but she seemed glued to the spot. He was freezing; the sleet was beginning to come down harder than before.
"Axel," she mumbled as he pushed her into the passenger seat.
"Shut up!" he yelled at her, slamming the door.
"Axel, how much have you drank?!" Roxas cried, stepping toward him.
"I'm fine, Roxas, stop being a worry-wart. You've always been a worry-wart!" Axel rambled as he trekked to the driver's side.
"Please, Axel," he pleaded, "I can drive you guys back." Axel shook his head.
"I wouldn't want you driving in this storm," he said sarcastically. Roxas could finally see that their friendship really was no more. It was gone. Forever.
"Axel! Stop it!" He heard Kairi yell. Axel smacked her across the cheek, and the sound made Roxas want to vomit.
He wasn't going to treat her like this. Not anymore.
Roxas started running to Axel, not really sure what he was going to do, but his ferocious rage was going to do enough damage. But before he could get even close, Axel slammed his door and started the car.
Roxas tried pulling on Kairi's door, but Axel had locked them already. With a squeal, the car drove itself out of the snow onto the icy road. Roxas yelled a string of curse words as he ran after them, falling behind with every step. That was his ride, too!
Kairi somehow managed to unroll her window and stick her head out.
"I'll call you when I get home, Rox!" she bellowed, her high voice echoing against the snow-covered houses. Roxas could have sworn he heard another slap, but he wasn't sure.
He kept running after the car though, his shoes slipping on the ice, until it was completely out of sight. He collapsed onto the ground, ignoring the fact that he was shaking. With cold or with anger, he couldn't say.
The clock struck twelve, and cheering voices erupted all around him. Fireworks exploded in giant bursts of color, and people screamed their excitement.
But Roxas didn't care. All he could do was pray that she got home safely, somehow.
He tried calling her right away, but she didn't answer. Axel wouldn't answer his phone, either. So he called Sora, and asked for him to pick him up and take him back home.
Roxas waited on his couch once he got home, trembling under a thin blanket, waiting until five in the morning for her phone call.
She never called.
He walks down the aisle, tears flowing freely down his cheeks, and the sea of black disturbs him. Kairi hated black. Up at the front of the church, there are hundreds of pictures of her. Nearly half have Roxas in them.
Nestled in between two pictures is a newspaper article. Roxas cringes at the headline. 'Two Young Adults Killed in Drunk Driving Accident'. He had read through the article too many times to count. His tears burn his eyes like acid.
His hand clutches even harder around the ring as he walks up to her coffin.
Even in death, her beauty cannot be defeated.
Her voice echoes in his head; the memories flicker around and never let his mind rest.
"Wanna be friends?" she cried as she flew back, her hair flittering about. Roxas couldn't help but smile. He nodded.
"Best friends?" she clarified. Roxas' eyes widened. He had never had a best friend before. She couldn't be serious, he reasoned. Nobody wanted to have shy little Roxas as their friend. But he looked over at her anyway, and she was grinning.
"Forever?" she asked.
Roxas hiccups a strange half-laugh/half-sob to himself and slips the etched ring onto the fourth finger on her left hand.
Her cold, dead hand.
"Forever and ever."
author's note: Yes. I attempted tragedy. Review with your thoughts, please?