DISCLAIMER: Someday, I will finally convince Nomura Tetsuya-sama to adopt me. And then, I will be the heiress to the KH-franchise, and will then have a semi-ownership to it!!

...but until then, I own nothing.

A/N: Ahhh, I haven't written in SO long... Well, hope you guys enjoy, anyways. Happy AkuRoku-Day!!



"SIMPLE JOYS"

An Axel x Roxas story

There were few things in life that Roxas Strife hated.

...okay, so that was a complete and utter lie.

BUT, there were few things in life that Roxas Strife hated more than not knowing.

Nothing, in fact, was worse than not knowing.

Be it birthday presents, Christmas presents, grades, or whatever, Roxas just had to know.

So bad did this situation get, that his brother and sister soon found themselves resorting to hiding his gifts at the homes of the two most sadistic, homicidal, and, in short, dangerous people that they knew.

Namely, Sephiroth and Larxene.

The two would safeguard the gifts, keeping them from Roxas by any means necessary, going from threatening him with a ten-foot-long sword to spraying him with the boyfriend's experimental perfumes.

But that's a whole other story.

The thing is, Roxas had to know anything and everything concerning him. It was more than just being "impatient", far more. Roxas always attributed this to the fact that he was a Scorpio, and can't stand being given just "surface information" (Which was yet another lie, for more reasons than the fact that he was, indeed, a Leo.) And now, with his birthday only mere days away, Roxas was poking around every nook and cranny in the house, trying to find the gifts that Naminé and Cloud had gotten him, with no luck. From the way that Larxene was grinning while sharpening her knives lately, he wasn't going to be getting them until he was supposed to.

All in all, it seemed that this was going to be a "normal" birthday for him.

...that is, except for one thing.

Every year, there was always one person whose present he could find out about early.

Every year, there was always one person who he could crack, whether directly or not.

Every year, there was always one person who would fail at this "game".

...but not this year.

This year, Roxas couldn't find anything out.

This year, Roxas had asked every single person that he knew, with no luck.

This year, Roxas hasn't even heard his birthday mentioned.

Roxas didn't get it.

Axel's mouth was bigger than Marluxia's ego, he had to have bragged to someone about what he was getting Roxas! Every year, he would make this mistake, so why not this year?

This was what he was thinking about as he stuck his head into his twin's room.

"Hey, Naminé."

There was a squeak from behind the canvas, and a paintbrush clattered to the floor. A moment later, hands appeared at the top of the easel, and a very red, very flustered face pulled itself into view.

"...y-yes, Roxas...?"

Roxas grinned.

"So..." he said nonchalantly, taking a step into the room, making note of how his younger sister froze. "Is that for me, or is it for Riku?" Roxas stretched out the name, pointing at the canvas.

A blush ran across the blonde's face.

"Ah, Riku it is," Roxas crossed his arms, a satisfied smirk plastered on his face.

"Th-that's...I-I-I mean, well, you wouldn't want...H-his birthday's only t-two days...A-Ah, I mean...Wh-wh-what did you come in here f-for, anyways?? I told you that I didn't know anything!! " Naminé stuttered, her face redder than the paint on her smock.

"That's what you said last year, before I finally got you to admit that Kairi had told you that Axel was getting me a golden chocobo that he 'convinced' the guy down at the drugstore to sell to him for a reduced price," Roxas replied, unflinching.

"Well, I really don't know anything this year! So if you'll excuse me, I have work to do," Naminé said, flopping back into her seat with a huff.

The blond stood in the doorway for a few moments, watching as Naminé painted stroke after stroke angrily. Finally, he sighed, shoulders slumping.

"Fine, I'll go ask Cloud; Have fun with painting Riku's egotistical head," he grumbled, ignoring the sputters of protest coming from behind him. Once out in the hallway, he yelled his brother's name.

...not a good idea.


"...so, you're telling me that you screamed my name like you were being murdered, made me fall out of my chair, crash into a pile of receipts which I am not cleaning up, bruise my knee on the door, trip over my saxophone, dent it you are paying for the repairs, and nearly sprain my ankle getting up the stairs...just so you could try and find out what your delinquent boyfriend got you for your birthday?!?" Cloud growled, holding an ice-pack to his head.

"Err...yeah?" Roxas shrugged weakly, his face red. "I thought Reno might have mentioned something, how was I supposed to know that you would do all that to yourself?"

"YOU," his older brother pointed at him with his free hand, glaring, "are NOT in any position to be arguing."

"I'm not arguing," the shorter blond replied, trying very hard not to catch his ear on the dart quivering an inch away from his head. Amazing. Who knew Cloud was so creative in his punishments? Seriously, pinning someone upside down on a wall was not expected of him. Larxene, maybe, but not Cloud.

Cloud leaned down, his face a hair's width away from Roxas's.

"I define that as 'arguing', little brother," he growled through gritted teeth. "Do you want me to use you as a dartboard?"

"Wh-why would you want to waste your time with me?" Roxas said, his heart pumping nervously. "You should take Zack up on his offer for free Anger Management classes, a-and go and spend time with Sephiroth!"

"Why you–" Cloud reached out for the darts sitting on the table next to him. Roxas clenched his eyes shut.

"Hello?"

Cloud froze, dart in mid-air. He looked up the stairs. From above, footsteps could be heard.

"Anybody home?"

"T-Tifa?" Cloud croaked. He quickly dropped the dart, suddenly looking nervous. "I'm coming right now; Don't come down here!!" he called.

Roxas let out a sigh of relief, as Cloud pounded up the basement-stairs. If anyone could talk some sense into his brother, it was Tifa.

From upstairs, Roxas could hear Tifa and Cloud talking in muffled tones. Nothing of interest; Tifa had just come over to give Cloud a textbook that he wanted to borrow– wait. Was that his name that he just heard? Straining his ears, Roxas tuned in to Tifa's voice. Yes, she was definitely getting higher-pitched. Annnnnd...it was coming closer to the basement.

Was he saved?

The door flew open.

"Cloud, you have about five more seconds to tell me where Roxas is before I find out for myself," Tifa could be heard shouting.

"W-well, I-I, h-he was," Cloud was stuttering incoherently.

"Cloud Strife, I have known you for years, and I know that you have at least some common sense," Tifa snarled, heading down the stairs. "So, for your own sake, I hope that you used some of that common sense and thought before you– OH MY FUCKING GOD!!" she shrieked, staring at Roxas, her eyes wide.

From where he was pinned on the wall, Roxas grinned wearily, and waved. "Hi, Tifa."

She whirled her head around so fast her neck popped, glaring daggers (how appropriate) at Cloud.

"Tifa...l-let's just, just calm down, and, and talk about this, like civilized adults, why don't we?" Cloud said slowly, putting up his sweaty hands, the ice-pack abandoned by his feet. His eyes flitted towards the stairs as he carefully backed away, planning his escape.

"'Civilized adults' my ass," Tifa hissed, grabbing Cloud by the shirt and stopping the blond in his tracks. "You are going to let Roxas down, and you are going to do it right now, do you hear me?!?"

Cloud opened his mouth as if to protest, took one look at Tifa's face, thought better of it, and obliged. Holding Roxas by the scruff of the neck so that he wouldn't fall and hit his head, Cloud wrenched out the twenty-something darts on and surrounding his younger brother. Finally free of the wall, Roxas stretched, rubbing at his arms and wrist, and looked up.

"Thanks, Tifa," he grinned.

"You're welcome, sweetie," Tifa smiled sweetly at the boy, causing Cloud to stiffen behind him. "Now, run up to your room; I have something that I need to, ah...discuss...with your brother."

"Actually..." Roxas glanced up at the taller blond, suddenly rather uneasy about leaving him to Tifa's rage.

"Now."

"Yes, ma'am," Roxas obeyed hurriedly, rushing out of the basement, somewhat conscious of Tifa watching him, waiting.

He was about halfway to the second floor when Tifa started shouting, shaking the whole house with her fury. Quickly taking the remaining few stairs three at a time, Roxas ran into his room and slammed the door closed behind him. Breathing heavily, his heart pounding in his chest, he slumped down against the door, wiping the sweat from his brow. Noticing his phone flashing on his desk, he got up and flipped it open.

It's from Axel, he thought with a slight bit of surprise. Bringing the phone up to his ear, he tuned in to the message:

"Hey, Roxy, it's me. Uh, yeah, can't talk much right now; I'm sneaking on actually, but, yeah, I'll make this short. Anyways, I'd, uh, stay away from here for a while if I were you; Mom's just started cleaning. As in, the kind where she's attacking the windows with what looks like the store's whole stock of Windex, and, well, you know what that means. I don't know when she's coming, but– what? Oh, shit, it's my turn to find out, I'll try to get Kairi to have Larxene or someone do it, somehow..."

Roxas smiled despite himself, as his boyfriend's voice rambled on from the other end. Flopping down onto his bed, Roxas glanced up at the calendar. Grabbing a magic marker from beside him, he reached up and placed a big red "X" on the current date.

Days until his birthday: 2

- - -

"So how was your weekend, Roxy?"

Roxas jumped, slamming his locker closed in shock.

"D-Demyx!!" he shouted, shooting a glare at the older boy.

Demyx grinned mischievously.

"Scared ya, didn't I?" he chirped, poking at a clump of Roxas's hair.

"Shut up..." Roxas mumbled, batting away the hand.

"What's wrong?" Demyx asked, rubbing at the spot on his hand where Roxas had swatted him.

"Take one wild guess," Roxas replied, opening his locker. On the door hung a calendar.

Demyx blinked.

"Ohhhhh..." he nodded in realization. "I gotcha, I gotcha. Naminé didn't give anything up, did she?"

"She had nothing to give up, Kairi hasn't said a thing," Roxas said. "And Cloud definitely wasn't any help, either; The bastard pinned me to a fucking wall, for Pete's sake!!"

Demyx whistled.

"Whoa. No comment," he said. "Except that that certainly explains why he came to school today with a black eye, a limp, and no front teeth."

Roxas grunted, shutting his locker. "You don't know the half of it–"

"ROXAAAAAAAS!!"

Demyx jumped out of the way, as a red blur shot past him, latching itself on to Roxas.

"Roxas, Cloud's gone crazy!!" the redhead wailed, squeezing the shorter boy like the world was going to end. Letting go, he grabbed Roxas by the shoulders.

"All I did was ask him what happened to him!!" Axel cried, panicked. "I mean, seriously, if a big, tough guy suddenly came to school with a black eye, a limp, and no front teeth, you'd be curious, too, right, right?? So I just went up and asked him, I asked him, and then he glared at me the way that Larxene does when she's PMSing, and just, all of a sudden, tries to jump me!! Zack and Leon managed to hold him back, but, goddammit, Roxas, your brother tried to kill me!!" he yelled, shaking the blond like a madman.

"Axel..." Roxas started, his brain bumping around in his head like a pinball.

"...okay, so that's not really rare, but I swear that he had been reaching for his sax case, and would have REALLY HIT ME OVER THE HEAD WITH IT HAD THOSE TWO NOT BEEN HOLDING HIM BACK."

"Axel, calm down..."

"DO YOU KNOW WHAT MANSEX WOULD HAVE DONE TO HIM IF HE HAD DAMAGED HIS INSTRUMENT?!? I know you're in orchestra, BUT YOU'VE SEEN HIM, YOU SAW WHAT HAPPENED TO RENO WHEN HE ACCIDENTLY SCRATCHED THE NEW PAINT JOB ON THE SNARES, YOU SAW WHAT HAPPENED!!"

"Ax..."

"AND CLOUD WAS WILLING TO GO THROUGH THAT, ALL THAT, JUST TO TRY AND KILL ME!! HE'S GONE CRAZY, I TELL YOU, FUCKING DAMNED CRAZY!!"

"AXEL!!" Roxas shouted, slapping his hand over Axel's mouth.

The redhead's eyes widened, his lips still moving against Roxas's fingers.

Roxas sighed.

"Axel, I'm going to go crazy if you keep on going like that," he said sternly, keeping his hand on Axel's mouth. "Either that, or get permanent brain damage, what with the way you're shakingme," he glared. "Now, I am going to take my hand off; Will you promise to be calm?"

Axel nodded.

"Okay," Roxas removed his hand from Axel's mouth. As promised, the redhead didn't say a word.

"So, when's your aunt coming?" Demyx asked as the three of them began walking. "Or is she already here?"

Axel grimaced. "They arrived last night," he said.

"'They'?" Roxas looked up, intrigued.

"Yep," Axel sighed, crossing his arms behind his head. "Aunt Gun's brought Rod along, this time, too, so Dad's happy; The two of them can use business as an excuse to avoid the house," he added, rolling his eyes, "so the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves."

Roxas patted Axel's shoulder sympathetically. His mind fluttered for an instant to the fact that Axel has yet to say a single thing about Roxas's birthday, but was soon replaced by the sight of Axel's fingers.

"Axel, what happened to you?" Roxas cried, yanking one of the redhead's hands down to eye-level. They were bandaged at the ends, tightly wrapped with gauze.

"Mom and Aunt Gun were 'talking', and knocked over a vase," Axel replied, rolling his eyes. "I cut myself trying to clean it up."

"Looks painful," Demyx said, leaning over for a closer look.

Axel shrugged. "It's alright. I really don't mind, I'm used to it."

At that moment, the warning bell rang, scattering the three of them: Demyx and Axel speed-walking towards the sophomore science lab, and Roxas, after a hurried wave, ran to the speech hallway. He made it into the Comm. Apps. Room just in time, the tardy bell ringing a second after he set foot inside. Catching his breath, Roxas plopped down into his seat, and waited. Less than half an hour later, the lesson was over, and they had the rest of the period free. It was thanks to this that Communicative Applications was, without a doubt, one of the best electives to have first thing in the morning. Sure, it was boring as hell, and they never actually did anything, but that was what made it perfect for catching up on sleep and homework. Or, in Roxas's case, snooping around.

"Roxas, if I've told you once, I've told you a million times, my idiot brother has told me nothing," the pretty redhead said before Roxas could even open his mouth.

"Kairi, you've known Axel your whole life; Since when has he been able to keep his mouth shut?" Roxas asked.

"Never, but there's a first time for everything," Kairi replied curtly. Scribbling down an equation on her paper, she twirled her pencil between her fingers idly. "Just give it up; Axel has obviously made an effort to surprise you, this year. Say, what'd you get for problem thirty-six?"

"Forty-one-degrees. Axel 'makes an effort' every year, and that's why he brags," Roxas pointed out, pulling his geometry homework out of his binder.

"Touche. But I'm telling you, none of us know anything, this year," Kairi said, punching in some more digits on the calculator. She frowned and bent over her paper, muttering to herself.

"Liar...ouch!!"

Kairi smirked, raising her textbook again. Roxas cringed, putting up his hands in surrender.

"Okay, okay, sorry I accused you!" he said, backing away.

"At this rate, I wouldn't tell you anything even if I knew!" Kairi stuck out her tongue at him, and turned and went back to her math homework.

"Yeah yea– wait. Do you know something? Kairi, you know something, don't you?!?"

"Don't worry, she doesn't," a voice chirped from behind Roxas.

Roxas whirled around, coming face-to-face with a grinning Yuffie and a smirking Larxene, a chess board in between them.

"C'mon, Roxas, don't you think I've tried to get Axel to tell?" the blackhead continued, moving her queen. "I've managed to get it out every year for the past ten years, but he's just not giving in this time."

"That makes no sense, you know that?" Larxene commented, claiming one of Yuffie's pawns.

Yuffie nodded, taking out a knight. "Axel's lousy at keeping secrets."

"You've got that right," Kairi snorted, abandoning her homework to join in the conversation. "Guy can't help but brag; It's like he has to in order to friggin' survive."

"Well, he's obviously found some other way to live, then," Larxene said, "'cause Blondie here paid me off the other day to 'interrogate' Reno, and he didn't know a thing. Sure that he didn't just not get you anything, this year?"

Roxas sat up, panicked.

"Larxene!" Kairi reproached.

The blonde shrugged. "Hey, it could happen," she said, shifting in her seat, warranting a grunt from her "chair". "Check."

"Don't worry, Roxas," Yuffie said, moving her king out of harm's way, "Axel's not stupid, he knows better than that."

Kairi nodded. "I'm sure that he's just trying to make this birthday special for you," she said.

"Yeah, I guess..." Roxas agreed halfheartedly. "But he hasn't even mentioned my birthday, either."

"Just chill, kid," Larxene said. "All else fails, just dump 'im if he doesn't get you anything."

"Way to be sensitive, Larx," Yuffie rolled her eyes.

"Speaking of sensitive... Yuffe, I think Vinnie there's losing circulation in his legs," Larxene pointed out.

"What? Vince, is that true?" Yuffie asked, turning her head to look at him. "I'm not too heavy for you, am I?"

Vincent shook his head silently, looking slightly flustered.

"What a suck-up," Larxene said from her position on Marluxia's lap, shaking her head in disbelief. "Anyways, Roxas, if you're so damn curious, why don't you just ask the guy and get it over with?"

Roxas stared at her. "...you're kidding me, right...?" he said slowly.

"I've gotta agree with Larx on this," Kairi said, leaning into her chair. "Instead of driving yourself and us crazy, go up to Axel and ask him what he got you for your birthday, and save everyone from going mad."

"I think it's a bit late for that," Marluxia spoke up. "Did you guys see Cloud this morning?"

"Dude, he went batshit," Yuffie said in awe. "I can't believe Leon and Zack held him back as long as they did!"

"All the more reason to end this now, then," Larxene said. "Oh, and checkmate."

"Whaaaaa??" Yuffie cried, scanning the board frantically. "When? HOW?!?"

"I'm choosing the movie this weekend," Larxene said simply, ignoring her.

"But you always choose the goriest ones! I wanna watch a comedy!!" Yuffie whined.

"You can choose when you win."

"You bully!!"

As the two of them argued (Larxene unrelenting), Roxas glanced at the clock, and sighed: Five minutes left in the period, and then it was gym with Axel.

"Just ask him, it's not like he's going to bite."

Roxas looked up, wondering who had spoken. It was Marluxia, arms looped loosely around Larxene's waist, eyes watching him expectantly.

"Yeah, well, you're one of Axel's best friends, Marly; You know how he doesn't let people live stuff like this down," Roxas muttered, putting his head down in his arms. "Besides, I shouldn't have to ask him; He'll tell me if he wants, 'cause he'll do what he wants, like he's always done."

Marluxia was silent for a moment, then: "This is more than just you being impatient, isn't it?"

Roxas sat up, his ears pink. "What? No! It's nothing like that; I just want to know, that's all."

"Uh-huh," Marluxia replied disbelievingly.

For Roxas, that bell couldn't have rung fast enough, and he was out of the room before the rest of the class had even finished packing up. Reaching the gym with nearly two minutes to spare, he changed quickly, his mind still on what Marluxia had said. He shook his head furiously, trying to get the thought out.

"Damn that Marluxia, making something out of nothing..." Roxas muttered to himself as he headed for the door, looking flustered. It opened, and Axel and Demyx appeared, pushing and shoving at each other to get in. Roxas flattened himself against the wall, just barely missing the two as they toppled to the ground.

"I'm okay!" Demyx said quickly, picking himself up.

"I'm not," Axel groaned, his back to the floor. "Goddammit, Demyx, you need to lay off on the sea-salt ice-cream; you're fucking heavy."

"Better than being anorexic," Demyx retorted, sticking out his tongue.

Roxas rolled his eyes. Grabbing Axel's arm, he managed to get the redhead up, the latter complaining the whole way.

"Shut up before I drop you," Roxas grunted, helping Axel to his feet.

"Aww, Roxy, you wouldn't do that," Axel said with a (very) unconvincing pout.

"And why not?" the shorted boy asked, his arms akimbo.

"Because you wuv me," Axel replied, nuzzling him on the nose.

"Sometimes I wonder about that, too," Roxas said, fighting a grin. Pushing Axel's head back with a finger, Roxas said, "Come on, let's go before Cid makes us run suicides."

"You got it, boss!" Axel gave him a mock salute, following behind Demyx to the lockers. Pretty soon, the three of them found themselves outside, running around the football field with the rest of the class.

"So, you want to hang out after school, today?" Roxas asked as he jogged beside Axel.

"Can't," Axel replied, "I gotta–"

"Kairi's dragging him shopping," Demyx smirked from the other side of him. Laughing, he ducked to avoid Axel's swat at him, then ran on ahead.

"Idiot... Reno has some made-up project that he needs to do, so I get to be Kairi's ride and lackey to the mall, so that she can buy Riku his birthday present," Axel told Roxas, grimacing.

"Right...Riku's birthday's in three days, isn't it?" Roxas said nonchalantly.

"Yep," Axel nodded. "Although, to tell you the truth, I really don't see any point in buying people a present for their birthday," he added.

Roxas nearly tripped over himself.

"...say what?" he deadpanned.

Axel shrugged, not seeming to notice Roxas's reaction. "Well, it becomes like a whole 'the more expensive the present the better the friend' thing, right? And that's not what friends are about."

"Y-yeah, that's right..." Roxas said slowly, looking away. "So...you don't think people should get other people gifts for their birthday...?"

"I don't see the point in buying people presents to celebrate, nope," Axel replied simply.

"I...see..." Roxas fell silent, concentrating on his feet. Left, right, left, right, Axel doesn't see any point in gifts left, right, left, right, watch the rock, right, Was Larxene right? right, left, right, left, Why does he think this way nowleft, right, ditch, left, right, Axel wouldn't just skip my birthday like this

Roxas jumped, shaking his left leg maniacally; He had just plunged into an anthill. As the people around him stopped, as Demyx and Axel hurried towards him, as someone emptied a water bottle onto his leg, he thought

Would he?


"You okay, Roxas?" Naminé asked. "You're still scratching."

"Yeah, I'm fine," Roxas replied, stopping for the tenth time in five minutes to bend down and rub at his leg. His pants hid them, but he knew that his leg was now covered in about a dozen little pockmarks. Damn ants.

"Where's Cloud?" he asked, hopping on one foot so that he could scratch. "I want to get home already, and just plunge my leg in ointment."

"He's got practice with Zack and Leon, today, so he told me that we were walking home," Naminé told him.

Roxas swore. "Home" was about five minutes by car, and half-an-hour by foot. No way in hell he was waiting that long, after already tolerating the bites for most of the day. Looking around, he spotted blonde "antennas".

"C'mon," he grabbed his sister by the arm and began dragging her towards the girl.

"What? B-but, Larxene can't drive!" Naminé cried, stumbling after him.

"No," Roxas growled, "but her brother can."

After a few minutes of "Where is he"-s and "Why should I tell you"-s, the two siblings were in the back of Demyx's car as it glided down the road. In the front seat, looking extremely deadly, Larxene was glaring back at Roxas every few minutes, like it was his fault that Marluxia's car was in for repairs, forcing her to carpool with Demyx. The latter, at the moment, was quiet for once, gripping the steering wheel tightly, his eyes set to the outside. Finally, they arrived at the Strife house. Roxas and Naminé got off and mumbled a thanks to Demyx. After a few minutes of standing around and watching Demyx drive off, the two of them headed into the house, where Roxas proceeded to dump a brand-new bottle of ointment onto his leg.


Two hours and a shower and dinner later, and Roxas was feeling much better. Munching on a fresh batch of cookies that Naminé had baked, he looked at the paper in front of him with a slight frown. Sighing, he put down his pen and pushed his essay to the side. That was as good as it got. Looking around the desk for his binder, his eyes fell onto a photo, next to a golden statue of a chocobo. Reaching out, he brought it under the lamplight: It was him and Axel, back when they were kids. Even then, they had been close, despite the one-year age difference. After they met at Reno's sixth birthday-party, Axel came over every day, just to hang out. When he started kindergarten, he would save his snacks, and come over to share them with Roxas.

Squinting, Roxas could make out the shape of a bear in his younger self's arms. Oh yeah, that's right... Axel had gotten it for him for his fourth birthday, the first one that they celebrated together. Axel wanted him to name it "Flamey the Bear", but Roxas liked "Mr. Taddy". In the end, the bear became "Mr. Tamey", just to make the both of them happy. Racking his brains, Roxas wondered just what had happened to Mr. Tamey. The last he remembered, he was ten years old, and at Axel's house for a sleep-over. Reno had made fun of him for still carrying around a stuffed animal, and Axel broke his nose. Kairi wasn't too happy that they got blood on her new dress, and locked them in her closet. Roxas remembered clinging on to Mr. Tamey, his stuffing starting to fall out and missing a button-eye, and crying because he was afraid of the dark. Then, Axel had procured a match out of somewhere, and, by the flickering light of the solitary flame, Roxas saw Axel's grin, saw his mouth move as he told him not to be afraid, that he would protect him. And, by the same flame, Roxas had smiled, his tear-streaked face glowing.

And then one of Kairi's nightgowns had caught on fire, and the two of them, screaming, had caused such a ruckus that their parents heard and ran upstairs, letting the two of them out and stopping the fire. Luckily, the nightgown was hanging by itself on a rack, and nothing else had caught on fire. Of course, this wasn't much comfort to either of their mothers, nor to Kairi, who had to sleep in her brother's tee-shirt, that night. Axel was grounded for the next year or so, and Roxas had to work extremely hard to convince Quistis not to ban Axel from ever contacting him again.

Standing up, Roxas stretched and yawned. He couldn't recall having Mr. Tamey after that, but he was sure that he would have kicked up quite a fuss had he gone missing. Still, though...

He looked at the photo again. Axel gave up the secret every year, that was true; but every year, his gift, though dull-sounding, would be more than memorable. Axel always managed to make Roxas's birthday special.

Roxas sighed.

This was going to be the first time that they celebrated his birthday as a couple. Axel had asked Roxas to be his boyfriend the last day of the previous term. He was so happy then, but now... What if them being "together" changed something? What if Axel, now that they were more than just "friends", decided that his birthday wasn't important anymore, wasn't crucial to the "big picture"?

Clawing his head, Roxas glanced at the calendar. Picking up the red magic marker, he crossed off yet another day, then tossed the marker aside and threw himself into bed, clothes and all.

Days until his birthday: 1


Roxas woke up on his birthday on the floor. Sometime in the middle of the night, he had rolled out of bed, and didn't even notice. It wasn't until his alarm clock rang, and he found that he couldn't move his arm to turn it off, did he finally open his eyes and realize that instead of sheets, he was lying on carpet. Groaning, he managed to kick off the covers tangled all around him, and sat up, bleary-eyed. He heard the door open, and turned his head sleepily.

"Oh, you're up," Naminé poked her head in, already dressed. "Cloud told me to tell you that breakfast is ready, and to hurry up."

Smiling, she bounced over to Roxas and hugged him tight. "Happy birthday, big brother."

"Don't forget whose twin you are," Roxas said, returning the hug. "What, did Cloud seriously forget? Or did you just not want to sleep in?"

"I'm an early riser," Naminé chirped, helping him up.

"Weirdo," Roxas grinned, ruffling her hair playfully.

Naminé laughed, dancing out of his reach. "Hurry up, sleepyhead; Those buns aren't only yours, you know," she said, before running back downstairs.

Roxas yawned widely. Heading into the hallway, he could smell the sweet tangy aroma of cinnamon buns. Well, that sure as hell woke him up.

Rushing through his morning routine, Roxas hurried down the stairs, nearly crashing into a music stand on the way.

"Watch it, kid," Cloud frowned, the stand toddling around hazardously, "you've already lost your next three months' allowance repairing my sax."

"Cloud, lighten up," Naminé said from beside him, laying out a plate of cinnamon buns for Roxas. "It's our birthday, come on; cut him some slack."

"Sure, whatever," Cloud muttered, getting up. Running his plate under the sink, he called out, "You've got five minutes, squirt; Hurry up and finish."

Nodding, Roxas stuffed the rest of the buns into his mouth– "Roxas, you're going to choke!"–, chugged down a glass of milk, then ran back upstairs to pack his backpack. By the time he got down, Naminé was by the door, standing with her bag next to Cloud, the latter tapping his watch impatiently.

"Remember, you two, Mom's working late, tonight," Cloud told them as they drove off, "and I'm spending the night at Zack's for rehearsal, so you two will be alone for a while."

"Yeah yeah," Roxas rolled his eyes, "we won't answer the door for strangers or play with the furnace, and we'll call the police if someone tries to attack us. We're sixteen, Cloud, we can take care of ourselves."

"You certainly don't act like it, sometimes," Cloud replied.

"You two, cut it out!" Naminé scolded. "You're both acting like kids."

"It's him," both blonds replied in unison.

Naminé sighed. Getting out of the car with Roxas, she dragged him into the school, muttering something about "Men...". Luckily for him, Kairi and Larxene had just rushed over, piling gifts into Namine's arms, allowing for a quick getaway.

...well, it was almost quick.

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROXY!!" Demyx squealed, tackling him with an all-out glomp.

"Demyx, gerroff!!" Roxas pushed the older boy off with some difficulty. "Man, Axel was right: You really do need to cut down on the ice-cream."

Demyx smiled sheepishly. "Well, here's your present, anyway," he said, handing Roxas a brightly-wrapped box. "Thought you would like it."

Taking the thin box from Demyx, Roxas removed the wrapping to reveal three CDs tied together with a streamer.

"Whoa, thanks!" Roxas exclaimed, holding them up. "I've been wanting to get these!"

Demyx grinned. "I know; That's why I got 'em for ya."

As Roxas moved to put the CDs in his locker, he was barraged by the rest of his friends: Chocolate from Olette and Pence, and a Struggle book and a punch on the arm from Hayner.

Rubbing the bruise on his arm, Roxas headed to class, Demyx helping himself to his chocolate beside him.

"Hey, look, there's Axel," Demyx said suddenly, pointing with a chocolate-covered finger.

Roxas looked up. Sure enough, the redhead was in front of them, having a drumstick-fight with Reno. The elder brother poked Axel in the eye, then walked off, laughing.

"Hey! That's cheating!" Axel yelled after him, his hand over his right eye. "You cheapskate!"

"Y'know, you sound like you're describing yourself," Roxas said, amused.

"Yep!" Demyx agreed, wiping his hand on Axel's jacket.

"Hey hey hey, get your grubby paws away from me!" Axel slapped at Demyx's hands. "Where the hell'd you get that chocolate, anyways?!?"

"He nicked it from me," Roxas said. "Olette and Pence got it for me."

"Did they, now?" Axel replied absentmindedly, rubbing at a smear on his sleeve. "Great, now I have to kill them, later; This jacket was brand-new, dammit!"

"Axel, do you have to do that today?" Demyx said, popping a caramel truffle into his mouth.

"Why not?" Axel said, crossing his arms. "What's so special about today?"

"What?!" Demyx cried, spraying him with melted chocolate. "Axel, it's Rox–ouch!"

Roxas pinched him in the arm hard, shaking his head. Demyx opened his mouth to argue, but at the sight of Roxas's furrowed brows, he stopped.

"I'll...catch you guys, later," Roxas said, turning. "You can have the chocolate, Demyx; I don't like sweets too much."

With this, he ran off, leaving the two flabbergasted teenagers behind him. Bending his head, he wiped at his eyes, his teeth clenched.

"Axel, you idiot..." he muttered, pushing open the door to the boys' bathroom. Washing his face, he looked at himself in the mirror. His eyes were red, his spiky hair dripping with water. Shaking his head dry, he headed to class, walking right past Axel without a word. For the rest of the day, he avoided him, despite the redhead's attempts to talk to him. After the last bell rang, he ran right out the door.

"Roxas!"

He kept on running.

"Roxas, wait! We need to talk!"

Just keep running...

"Roxas, wait!" Axel grabbed Roxas's arm, stopping him in his tracks.

"Let go, you bastard!" Roxas shouted, eyes watering. "Don't touch me, don't talk to me, don't even come near me!" He shoved Axel to the ground, breathing heavily. Then he swerved around, running and running and running, not knowing nor caring where he was. By the time he decided to stop, the sun was starting to go down, and he had no idea where he was.

Roxas swore.


The door creaked open, and Roxas stepping into the dimly-lit house. Naminé was asleep on the couch, waiting for him. Picking her up gently, Roxas carried her up to her room, tucking her into the covers. Watching her sleep, Roxas sighed, then went out the door. Closing it behind him, he headed down the hall to his own room, his feet dragging under him. Upon reaching the door, he started. Every day, before school started, he would close the door.

So why was it jarred open?

Slightly suspicious, and on his guard, Roxas placed his hand on the door, and pushed it open. At first, he didn't notice anything, but as his eyes adjusted to the light, he noticed a dim, red glow wavering in the room.

A fire?!? he whirled around, panicked. Then froze.

There, sitting on his desk, was a cake. A single candle was perched in the center, its solitary flame painting the frosting a warm gradient of yellow and red. And, next to the cake, its paws holding a photo, was–

"Mr. Tamey..." Roxas murmured in awe, slowly reaching out for the bear. Turning it around and around in his hands, Roxas stared, stunned. This was his childhood teddy-bear, alright, but, unlike the way that he remembered it to be, this Mr. Tamey had two shiny black button-eyes, and was plump with new stuffing, the old holes and tears re-stitched.

"What, you didn't really think that I'd just forget my precious little Roxy's birthday, did you?" a voice came from behind him.

Roxas whirled around, Mr. Tamey hugged tightly to his chest. Beside the door, a figure moved into the light.

"A-Axel...?" Roxas whispered, not believing his eyes.

"The one and only," Axel said, grinning. The same grin, the one that Roxas had loved for so long...

"What are you doing here?!?" Roxas demanded in a harsh whisper, so as not to wake up Naminé. "I thought I told you to never come near me, again!"

"Since when have I listened?" Axel said, bending down. Seeing Roxas stiffen, he sighed. "Look, I'm sorry for acting like I didn't care about your birthday. It's just, I thought that if I pretended to forget it, it would make the surprise all the more special for you."

"Stupid... What kind of logic is that?" Roxas grumbled angrily, not even trying to stop the tears rushing out.

"My kind," Axel replied simply, wiping away the tears with his hand. "Come on, Roxas, you know what you mean to me. I just...I just wanted to make you happy, so don't cry, okay? I don't like it when you cry."

"I'm not crying," Roxas muttered, turning away. "A-Anyways, where'd you find this old thing? I haven't seen it for years."

"Hey, is that any way to talk about Mr. Tamey?" Axel said. "He's been sitting at the back of Kairi's closet, buried under a dusty pile of unicorns and Barbies, and would be at the Goodwill store right now if I didn't see him in the box of stuff to donate!" Axel placed a hand on Mr. Tamey's head, ruffling his fur. "And not only that, I stab my fingers bloody so that I could make him look good, again!"

Roxas looked up. Looked at Axel. At his bandaged fingers. At Mr. Tamey. And back to Axel.

"Y-you mean, you're hands...you were stitching...you said that a vase...how the hell did you...you lied to me?!?" Roxas managed to get out.

"Aww, Roxy, it was for the greater good," Axel said. "C'mon, look at me."

Roxas felt his head being forced up, and then he was looking into Axel's eyes, blue into green.

"Roxas, I love you, and I would never try to hurt you like this," Axel said softly. "Sure, I was an idiot and did anyways, but I didn't mean to! I made you a promise, remember? I said that I would always protect you, and I'm standing by it."

Watching his lips move in the flickering flame, Roxas was brought back to that day, when the two of them were locked in the closet, and the fear that he had felt, and how Axel had taken it away.

"Idiot..." Roxas mumbled, burrowing his head into Axel's chest.

"There's the Roxas that I know and love," Axel said, wrapping his arms around the smaller boy.

Despite himself, Roxas, reveling in Axel's warmth, Mr. Tamey squeezed in between them, smiled. He felt Axel bend down, felt his lips gently graze over his forehead, his face, sliding down. And he felt, more than he heard, the soft breath that carried a "Happy Birthday..." through the air.

The candle went out, plunging them into darkness.

Outside, the clock struck twelve.

- FIN -


It's late, and I'm tired, so no more from me, today. Please REVIEW if you liked it!!

- Saku