(A/N): Can't promise a speedy update after this - having a lot of issues with my gray matter recently - but I'm still pegging away. This fic needs moar Axel, like, yesterday.

Disclaimer: Disclaimed.

It Always Rains Like Hell On

When Roxas woke, late-morning sunlight was slanting through the open curtains and across his face. He groaned and tried to roll over, only to smack into the back of the couch. Disoriented, he almost over-corrected and rolled off the cushions before managing to catch his balance. "What..." Remembrance swept over him and he bolted upright. "Sora?" No one answered him.

The kitten meowed up at him, and Roxas swung his feet to the floor. "How come you didn't wake me up?" he muttered, reaching down to pet its face. It surged into his caress before flopping onto its side, batting at his hand. Roxas smiled and scratched its stomach before he stood, wincing when his cramped muscles protested the movement. "Sora?" he called. Nothing. He sighed, shaking his hair out of his eyes before he tilted his head back, trying to rub away the crick in his neck.

The kitten rubbed against his leg, purring. "Okay," Roxas said, biting back a sigh. "C'mon."

He turned toward the kitchen, the kitten trailing close behind, only to stop dead in the archway. The mess from the night before was gone – the stove-top was spotless, and the kitten's bowls held fresh food and water. The kitten paused beside him, staring up at him expectantly, but when he didn't move it padded past him to lap at its water.

Roxas turned and walked back into the living room, sinking down onto the couch and burying his face in his hands. He took a deep breath, sliding his hands up to cradle his temples and staring sightlessly at the carpet. He wanted to curl up and go back to sleep. He wanted this entire stupid trip – hell, the entire last year – to have been a bad dream. He wanted the scent of cigarette smoke and the low din of a television in the background.

He grit his teeth before he pushed himself back to his feet, casting a cursory glance at the wrinkled clothes he'd slept in before he grabbed up his jacket and headed for the door.

The air was cool against his face, too mild for his heavy coat, but Roxas set his jaw, buried his hands in his pockets, and began walking. The sidewalks were mostly empty; he kept his eyes trained on his sneakers, concentrating on the sound of his feet smacking against the pavement and trying to drown out the maelstrom of his thoughts.

Morning ticked over into afternoon, the sky gradually clouding over as Roxas walked mindlessly on. He shook himself out of his mental apathy when he found himself on the docks, hair stirring restlessly in the breeze coming off the water. His face was flushed, body overheated in the cocoon of his jacket, but he ignored it as he squinted, trying to pierce the haze on the horizon and pick out the shore of the small island where they'd spent hours as kids. Their parents had made the trip out every summer vacation until he and Naminé were eight, when Sora began to go away to camp for the summer and the cost had become prohibitively expensive. He wondered if Sora knew if the ramshackle shed was still standing.

The wind picked up, whipping Roxas' hair into his eyes. He tilted his head back as the first drops of rain began to fall, splashing against his up-turned face. He flinched when one hit his eye, turning away from the water and drawing his hood up around his face, looking around for somewhere to wait out the downfall.

A souvenir shop on the opposite side of the street caught his eye, and he made it inside just as the rain began to pour down in earnest. The clerk, a spry older man with half-moon glasses, glanced over at him with a smile. "Can I help you?"

"Uh, no, I was just..." Roxas gestured at the downpour.

The other man's expression turned wry. "Ah, yes."

"Sorry."

The clerk shrugged. "Nature is a fickle thing. Feel free to browse while you wait."

"Um...sure," Roxas mumbled, pushing his hood back and moving further into the store. The clerk nodded at him before turning away to tidy his workstation. Roxas glanced back at the rain belting down before he gave a mental shrug and wandered toward the nearest display. He glanced through the various figurines without interest, mind only partially focused on bric-a-brac.

The bell above the door jangled, heralding the arrival of another customer. Roxas and the clerk both glanced up, Roxas' stomach sinking as he took in the sight of Riku pausing on the threshold to slick his wet hair out of his face.

"Good afternoon," the clerk called.

Riku's gaze flicked in the man's direction. "Hey."

"Help you find anything?"

Riku shook his head. "I just came in to get out of the rain. Sorry about the mess."

"Any port in a storm," the clerk said with a small sigh. "Let me know if I can be of any help."

"Thanks," Riku said, stepping away from the door. He leaned a shoulder against the display window, gaze fixed on the low-hanging clouds.

When he was certain Riku hadn't noticed him, Roxas began edging toward the other end of the aisle, surreptitiously trying to put more space between them. He was so busy watching the taller man he failed to notice the angel figurine until he knocked it with his hand, sending it tumbling to the floor. "Careful, young man," the clerk said, straightening his glasses. "You break it, you buy it."

"Sorry," Roxas muttered, bending and snatching the figurine from the floor. He hurriedly returned it to the shelf, cringing a little when he glanced around and found Riku glaring at him. "Uh, hi."

Riku's eyes narrowed before he turned his gaze back toward the street. "Hey."

The clerk glanced between them with a polite smile as the silence stretched.

"U-um." At the sound of his voice, Riku threw a disinterested glance over his shoulder. Roxas tried not to scowl. "How's Kairi?"

The line of Riku's jaw flexed minutely. "How do you think she is?"

Roxas took a deep breath. "I just –"

Riku's voice was curt. "Look, no offense, but I just came in here so I didn't get poured on. If you want to try and apologize, I'm not the person you should be talking to."

Roxas flushed, heat spreading from his neck to his hairline. Riku turned away from him, fixing his attention back on the street. The clerk kept his head down, busying himself with rearranging the knickknacks at the register. The sound of the rain drumming against the roof seemed over-loud in Roxas' ears.

He started when the bell above the door sounded, glancing up in time to catch a petite woman rushing across the threshold, her purse extended above her head in a poor defense against the weather.

"Good afternoon," the clerk sang out, and abruptly Roxas jerked his hood back up and half-ran for the door, narrowly avoiding crashing into the woman still standing just inside the threshold, trying to shake the water out of her hair. Her indignant "Hey!" was quickly swallowed by the rain pounding against his skull as he jogged away from the store, sneakers kicking up plumes of water with every step.

He ran along the waterline until his clothes became too water-logged to maintain his pace, slowing and finally stopping him as he braced his hands on his thighs and panted for breath. "Goddammit," he muttered, scrubbing the water out of his eyes. He sighed and tilted his head back, considering his options. He had no idea when Sora would be home and no key with which to let himself back into the apartment. It didn't appear the storm was going to blow over any time soon, and he was already soaked.

"...Goddammit."

He turned and began the trek back to his cousin's apartment.


Roxas was huddled on the steps, soaked through to his skin when Sora got home.

"Roxas?"

The blond glanced up listlessly. "Hey, Sora."

"Roxas, you're soaked. What – "

"I didn't have a key."

His cousin stared at him, water dripping off the edge of his umbrella. "Roxas, are you okay?"

Roxas scowled and cut his gaze to the side. "I'd like to get inside."

Sora hesitated another second before he sighed. "Right. Sorry." He stepped around Roxas, fitting his key into the lock and holding the door for him. Roxas shuffled past him, trying to ignore the water streaming from his clothing onto the thin carpet. Behind him, Sora closed his umbrella, shaking the water from it before he stepped through the door, pausing to grab his mail before he preceded Roxas up the stairs. The sound of water pattering against the floor was loud in the otherwise quiet stairwell.

Sora held the apartment door for him. "Just...leave your clothes in the sink when you're done, okay?"

Roxas nodded, squeezing past his cousin and trying to ignore the trail of wet carpeting he left in his wake. The kitten ran to greet him from the kitchen, but drew itself up short when it registered his soaked state. It meowed its displeasure at him, tracking his progress to the bathroom just beyond the reach of the water dripping from his clothing. Roxas shut the bathroom door firmly in its face before slumping forward to rest his forehead against the wood. He could hear Sora in the hallway, coaxing it away from the door with promises of a treat. He grit his teeth before he pushed himself upright and began to strip, slinging his soaked garments into the sink.

He turned the water in the shower on as hot as he could stand before stepping under the shower-head, bracing his hands against the cracked tile and letting the scalding spray stream over his chilled skin. He closed his eyes, letting the water drumming against the crown of his head deafen the whirlwind of his thoughts. God, he was so tired of thinking.

He didn't move again until the water became noticeably cooler; finally, he turned his face into the spray with a sigh and reached for the soap. He washed mechanically, barely bothering to rinse the suds away before he shut the water off. He stared at the tile, water dripping from his chin and the tip of his nose, and absently flexed his bruised hand before he gave his head a sharp shake and stepped out of the shower.

"Sora –!"

The cry died half-formed in his throat – there, perched on the edge of the sink, were a pair of his sleep pants and a plain t-shirt. He hadn't even heard his cousin open the door. His throat was suddenly full, his eyes burning. He sniffled, wiping a hand angrily across his face. His soaked clothing was still in the sink; he wrung each garment out one by one in the shower, hanging them from every available surface before he dried himself and slipped into his sleepwear.

When he opened the door he found a trail of mismatched towels overlaying his route across the thin carpeting. He nudged the nearest one with his foot, face twisting in a grimace at the feel of the damp chill against his skin. "What do you want me to do with the towels?" he called out.

"Nothing. I'll get them in a bit."

"But – "

"I made you some soup. You need to warm up."

"I'm fine," Roxas said.

Sora poked his head out of the kitchen, frowning. "How long did you sit out there in the rain, Roxas?" He released a theatrical sigh when Roxas shrugged and cut his gaze to the side. "C'mon, it's not gonna kill you – I'm not that bad a cook."

"How's Kairi?"

Sora regarded him with a quizzical frown. "Kairi? She's fine." He sighed again when the blond didn't move. "Roxas..."

"I'm sorry, Sora. Just – I'm not hungry, okay?"

"...Okay." Sora's posture slumped a little before he brightened with a new idea. "How 'bout some hot chocolate?"

Roxas raised a hand to his eyes, trying to shield himself from Sora's hopeful gaze. "Yeah, okay. Thanks."

"Great!"

Roxas could practically feel the warmth of Sora's smile before he heard his cousin turn away from him. For a moment, he remained where he was, gently massaging his temples with his thumb and forefinger, the sound of Sora's tuneless humming drifting from the kitchen; then his hand dropped, and he stared blankly ahead at nothing.

"Do you want marshmallows?" Sora called. He popped his head through the archway when he didn't receive an answer. "Roxas?"

The blond blinked, startling as his gaze snapped back into focus. "Yeah?"

His cousin hesitated, searching his face intently. "You feeling okay?"

"Yeah, sorry – I just didn't hear what you said."

"Okay..."

Roxas took a deep, steadying breath. "What, Sora?"

Sora's eyes scoured his face a final time before he smiled, expression tight around the edges. "Do you want marshmallows? With your hot chocolate," he prompted when Roxas only stared at him.

"Oh. Sure. ...Thanks."

His cousin's expression eased. "No problem. Come have a seat, it's almost ready."

Roxas nodded and stepped carefully around the towels, reaching down to scratch behind the kitten's ears as he settled himself at the table. He blinked when Sora set the mug of hot chocolate on the table in front of him, then shook his head with a rueful smile. The mug was too large to lift single-handed, and his cousin had added what looked to be a full quarter bag of mini-marshmallows to the steaming brew.

"Drink up," Sora said cheerfully, throwing himself into the seat opposite Roxas, his soup splashing dangerously against the sides of his bowl.

Roxas' smile spread. "Thanks." Carefully balancing the mug with two hands, he blew on its contents before taking an experimental sip, trying not to groan at the sensation of warmth.

"Good?" Sora asked with a grin.

"Good," Roxas confirmed, taking another sip. They lapsed into a comfortable silence, the sound of Sora's spoon knocking against his bowl and the occasional slurp of soup or hot chocolate the only sounds to punctuate the stillness.

When he was finished, Sora stood, gathering up Roxas' empty mug and giving the dishes a quick wash before setting them in the drainer to dry. "So...there's something I need to tell you," he said, glancing at Roxas over his shoulder.

Roxas frowned at his cousin's expression. "What?"

Sora hesitated before he moved to take the seat opposite Roxas again. "I tried to call you this afternoon," he said, tugging at a stray spike of hair. "At least, I tried to call the last number I had for you, and – "

Roxas froze, gaze pinned to the table.

" – I know I said it was up to you if you wanted your family to know you were here, but I didn't realize – "

"Who?" Roxas interrupted, voice rough. He cleared his throat and tried again, not looking up to meet his cousin's gaze. "Who'd you talk to?"

Sora blew his breath out in a noisy sigh. "Naminé." Then, quietly, "I'm sorry, Roxas."

His ears were ringing. "It's fine," he said through numb lips. "They would've found out eventually."

Sora's gaze was troubled. "But when they found out should've been your decision."

"Yeah. Well." Roxas stood abruptly, almost tripping over the kitten. "Is there a convenience store around here?"

Sora blinked at him, brows drawing together in confusion. "What?"

"A convenience store," Roxas repeated. "I just – I need to grab a couple things."

"Roxas, it's pouring – "

"Sora." Roxas grit his teeth as his cousin's eyes widened. "Please," he said, wrangling his voice into something more civil.

"Rox..." Roxas flinched at the childhood nickname. "Hey." The chair scraped against the floor as Sora stood up, and Roxas shied from his cousin's gaze, fixing his own eyes on the stained carpet. Sora's feet entered his field of view, but he refused to look up. "Talk to me," the brown-haired man said, his voice unbearably gentle.

Roxas began to shake. "Please, Sora."

"Rox." His cousin reached out hesitantly, grasping Roxas' shoulders. "I'm really sorry."

Roxas ducked his head, hating the tears that spilled over to wet his cheeks. "I shouldn't have come," he whispered.

Sora's grip tightened in shock. "What? No! Roxas, I told you – you're welcome to stay as long as you need! Why – ?" He broke off when the blond began to cry harder, pulling him into a crushing hug. "God, Roxas – what happened?" he mumbled into the younger man's hair.

Roxas didn't answer.


When he'd finally cried himself dry, Roxas allowed his cousin to lead him to the bedroom, the brown-haired man brooking no argument as he tucked Roxas into his bed like a child, perching on the edge of the mattress. "Listen, Rox," he said gently. "I obviously have no idea what's going on, but if you need someone to talk to – " He sighed when Roxas turned onto his side, away from him. "Okay. Probably not the best time for this conversation," he said quietly. The mattress dipped as he stood up, and he reached out a hand to squeeze Roxas' shoulder. "Get some rest, Roxas."

He left the door ajar as he exited the room, a stripe of light from the living room crawling up the far wall. Roxas stared at it without really seeing it, thoughts for once blessedly silent.

He stirred at the sound of a timid mew, shifting to find the kitten on its hind legs next to the bed, front paws braced against the comforter. Roxas reached down and scooped it up with one hand, lying on his back and cuddling the creature against his chest. "You're the only good thing to come out of this whole stupid mess," he told it, stroking its face. His eyes stung. "And I can't even come up with a fucking name for you. Sorry – you deserve better."

The kitten purred, surging into his hand with its whole body. Roxas managed a watery smile. "How do you feel about 'Cat'?" he asked half-heartedly. It hooked his finger with one tiny paw, drawing it close so it could rub its face against his skin. Roxas' laugh was shaky, but it was there. "Okay," he whispered, giving its ear a gentle tug. "Cat it is."