Hello everyone! This is Brynna! This is my first time writing a KH fic, I think. I hope it doesn't suck. Angst isn't really my thing, but hey… inspiration is inspiration.
This fic was written in honour of my wonderful dog Rosie. She died last Thursday night of heart failure. Rest in Peace, dearest.
Disclaimer: Square Enix can kiss my shiny white girl arse, Roxas is MINE. Okay, just kidding. He's not, but I'd like him to be. Baklava, on the other hand, is totally mine, as is the original idea for whack-a-mole.
The day was bright. Way too bright. It didn't seem right to Roxas. The day wasn't supposed to be nice. It seemed wrong and disrespectful. To make up for the wrongness of the day, he stared at his feet and said nothing at all. His mother stood next to him, crying her eyes out, but quietly, not like she did at those retarded soap operas in Spanish she liked so much. He, his mother, and every single attendant to the funeral were wearing the darkest, drabbest garments they could've rustled up. It made it boring to look up. There wasn't any point to looking up. None at all.
Sora had died three days ago, so why was Roxas the one in hell?
Everyone had known it was coming, ever since the older of the twins had been diagnosed with cancer. Well, Roxas had known. It was one of those weird twin things, like when Sora knew that Roxas had broken three ribs and bruised two others in a car accident two years ago.
Everyone else had thought that Sora would be fine. After all, it was Sora. Sora had lived through some of the worst of the worst. It seemed stupid, which it was, that Sora would die of some retarded thing like cancer.
What really irked Roxas, though, was the fact that not one person had acted maturely about it but him. His mum had cried just like she was doing now. Thinking of her, his eyes flicked up at her. Her whole body was still quivering, her hands and knees too unsteady for someone as young as she, and her face puffy and red. Her cheeks, though, were completely dry. She had run out of tears to cry. Roxas hadn't. He only cried when he was alone, and that hadn't happened once since the news came from that pompous ass of a doctor at the hospital. So, yes, Roxas hadn't once yet cried for his dead twin. His favourite, and only brother.
There was Riku, across from Roxas. They hadn't been particularly good friends, but Roxas had always known how much Riku loved Sora. It was the only reason they tolerated each other. Roxas didn't really feel like yelling at Riku today, though. Falsely bonded by love that wasn't theirs, truly bonded by the source of that love. The irony wasn't lost on Roxas.
The last mound of dirt was shoveled over the grave, and that was the end of the matter. It had been decided that Roxas wasn't going back to school for another week or so, but he felt like he could've gone the next day.
Roxas led his mother to the car door. She tried to get out her keys, but her hands quivered too harshly to grasp them in the correct way. Her son shook his head and opened the door for her.
"Ma? Are you sure you're fine enough to drive home?"
"We'll find out, right?" she smiled weakly, trying her old sense of humour. She clambered in as Roxas got into the passenger's side.
"Oh, baby," she murmured. "How are you taking all of this?"
"I'm fine." Roxas said.
"Are you sure? Sure So-" she swallowed "- sure your brother was the more emotional of you two, but would it hurt you to try a tear or two? You don't have to be strong for anyone anymore."
Roxas said nothing at all. If only she knew how hard he had tried to cry. For Sora. For himself.
The first three days of no school passed ridiculously quickly for Roxas. They were boring, but he had plenty to do. He found the journal that Sora kept all of the usernames and passwords that Sora kept for various websites. He'd had to message every one of Sora's online friends that he was dead.
Roxas also had an odd way of dealing with grief. He cooked. Baked, broiled, braised, stir-fried, anything. There was enough homemade food in their refrigerator to feed a third-world country.
Unfortunately, that was how Roxas ran out of ingredients. Writing down the long list of things he needed, he started walking over to the nearest grocery store. He had his driver's permit, but he lived right across from the school and only about a block away from the grocery store, plus various take-out places and fast-food restaurants, so there wasn't much point to taking the car.
The December air was crisp and freezing, just like it should've been. The ground was cracked and dry, just like Roxas's lips. Licking them to keep them from bleeding, Roxas continued walking down the sidewalk.
Over the years, he had picked up a weird habit from Sora. For every crack or break in the pavement, he had to step over it with a particular foot. Left, left. Right, right. Left, left. It continued that way until he got to the store. Roxas had begun to use it solely as an excuse to keep looking at the ground.
So of course, he didn't notice the very tall man walking next to him.
The man had incredibly red hair that showed nothing but the snootiest of disdain for gravity, and every single other conceivable scientific law that had ever been thought up. He had checkered shoes and didn't wear socks. His pants were very baggy jeans, but they didn't reveal his underwear to the world, like so many young men his age had taken to doing. Sorry, but if you want the world to know that you wear Bob the Builder boxers, or worse, thongs, just write it on the bathroom walls. Girl's bathroom, preferably.
Three fastest methods of communication:
The man was looking at Roxas's feet, just like Roxas. Noticing the strange pattern of his footsteps, the man attempted to catch whatever rhythm there might've been. He eventually figured it out and was stepping in time to Roxas's irregular feet.
The man was totally new to this kind of walking, so he didn't remember to watch where he was going. He slammed into a pillar supporting the overhang at the Food Lion. He landed viciously, groaning and rubbing his head and rear simultaneously.
"Hey, you okay?" He opened his green eyes to look into half-closed blue ones. He jumped slightly, but not enough for anyone to really notice. "Any particular reason for running into large, stone pillars, or was it a bet?"
"Hey, hey, don't hate. I was just wondering why you walked all weird, not that somebody like me's really one to talk." He chuckled and tugged a fire-red lock for emphasis. Roxas's expression changed from one of sarcastic puzzlement to amusement and surprise.
"No one ever notices that I walk weird. Lemme guess, you were trying to walk along, got caught up, and weren't looking where you going."
"Spot on. Say, what's your name, kid?" the man asked.
"Axel. Got it memorized?" Axel smiled. It was more of a smirk, but it had a warmth to it that seemed more worthy of the term 'smile'.
"Maybe," Roxas admitted. "Depends on whether I see you around again."
"Hey, y'never know, right? It's a small world."
Roxas smiled back and waved as Axel walked away, shaking his head. He seemed like a nice enough person, weird name, weird hair, weird clothing, and all. The smile faded and Roxas turned to push the door open. He paused.
Wait…there's nothing out here, or between my house and here. So… why was he following me?
Tomorrow was school. Gross. At least Roxas had a new reason to look depressed. His mum had tried to kick him out of the house more and more, yelling that he couldn't waste the rest of his life curled up in his room with some books and chocolate milk, to which he would respond with accusations of hypocrisy. After all, Mum was the one who curled up in her room with a glass of water and a large tub of frosting. Nothing else, just frosting. The frosting never would return from the black hole that was his mother's abode.
This particular time, though, she had succeeded. He was out of the house, just like she wanted. Roxas sat in the local Starbucks, drinking nothing despite the fact that all five of his closest friends were practically already hyper. They couldn't have gotten more energetic if someone had slipped them crack. Thinking on that, Roxas took Hayner's almost empty cappuccino mug and sniffed deeply. He didn't know whether or not crack had a scent, but it couldn't hurt much to check. At least Namine was acting slightly sane. And Olette. Hayner, Pence, and Kairi were different. Kairi had already broken three mugs that everyone else had already sworn they weren't paying for.
"And then, and then… I f'got what happened then! So, like, I ate ALL of the bread in the WHOOOOOLE house, and, and, like, did you know that half of all bread eaters score below average on the SOLs? Hah, get it? Half of all are below average anyway! Haha! My geometry teach actually bought it for a minute! The look on her face when I told her!! Oh, yeah," Hayner interrupted himself and slid back into his chair from the strange chair-related dance he'd been doing. Some of the gay people had been looking at Hayner's behind most interestedly and were a little sad to see him finally sit down.
"Rox, I need you to come with me to the bakery. Since I ate all the bread in the house, my Mom is forcing me to go out and buy more."
"Why isn't that phrased like a question?" Roxas asked.
"Cause. Just come with, Rox," said Hayner. Roxas didn't miss the bit of worry that showed in Hayner's eyes and voice. His eyes swept over his other friends. Very few met them. Those that did were either heavily caffeine-intoxicated or not good at all at hiding their feelings, anyway.
"Does everybody want me to go?"
Half of them flinched. Kairi broke her fourth mug whilst twitching violently. Namine took his hand in her own and looked him square in the eye.
"Roxas, you… haven't been yourself. Not really. You haven't smiled or laughed since… well, we all just think you ought to get out more than you do. There's no one sitting here or anywhere who would blame you for it." Namine was on the verge on tears. That only pissed Roxas off even more. But he wasn't mad at Namine. No way. They were best friends. He was angry with himself that people existed in the world that could cry for a person who was still alive when he couldn't even cry for a dead person.
"I never said I wasn't gonna go, Nam. Jeez," he said. "So don't cry, 'kay?"
Namine blushed slightly and touched the base of her eyes, wiping away any trace of tears. "Got it."
"ON TO THE BAKERY, THEN!!!!" shouted Hayner. Kairi broke her fifth mug. You'd think that they would stop giving her replacement mugs. Hayner grabbed Roxas by the arm and bodily dragged him from the Starbucks. Everyone else left for home, considering they didn't want to have to pay for whatever other damage Kairi might inflict upon the little coffee shop.
The bell jingled at the door of the Twilight Town Bakery. The girl that usually worked the counter blushed slightly at the two absolutely gorgeous guys coming in. Okay, only one of them was particularly drool-worthy, but the other guy still wasn't bad at all to look at. If only his hair didn't look like it was actually just a mass of vertical squigglez. With a z. Yuffie crushed her instantaneous crush and tried to be all professional, as was her forte.
"What would you like today, sirs?"
"We need…" Squigglez stopped himself short, a confused expression blooming on his face. "Uh, Roxas? What do we need again?"
Roxas looked exasperated. "You need two baguettes and two loaves of whole grain bread. We need nothing. I didn't have a choice in coming, remember?"
"Right, right. I just don't see why Mom makes me get whole grain bread. It feels like they put little seeds in the bread that are actually little pods containing hemlock, or anthrax, or aconite-"
"We don't need your flawed poison knowledge, Hayner."
"And this is why I'm the one allowed to carry the money," Roxas said. "I'm sorry. Did you need me to repeat the order?"
"No! I got it. Two baguettes and two whole grain loaves, right? I'll get my lackey on it." Yuffie winked and whisked away behind the massive wall that hid away two-thirds of the kitchen. She came back in less than 30 seconds with the baguettes. "Sorry, guys. We sold the last W.G. loaf to some guy a couple of customers back. We put some loaves in the oven, but… y'know. It takes time. Lackey only works so fast."
As Yuffie vanished back into the kitchen to help Lackey, whoever that was, Roxas and Hayner looked for a place to sit down. There wasn't one.
"YOU IDIOT!!! GET – JUST GET OUT!!!" Yuffie's voice shrieked like the cruelty and evilness of the world had melted together into the voice of the Devil.
"Poor Lackey," said Hayner.
Said Lackey stumbled out of the kitchen at knifepoint. Roxas jumped at the sight of who it was.
"Axel!" Roxas gasped. He didn't like his stomach felt weird at the sight of the redhead. Not that his hair was particularly red anymore. Some flour had gotten in certain spikes, making them more pink than red.
"Roxas! Heeey, you got my name memorized!" Axel grinned maniacally.
"Well, yeah… you told me to." Roxas blushed without realising it.
"So if I asked you really nicely to protect me from Mistress Hellfire in there, would you-" Axel began.
"Not on your life," Roxas said. "Literally."
"Damn," Axel said.
"Alright, I fixed your stupid mistake, you can come in and maybe I won't disembowel your sorry-" Yuffie burst in from behind the wall, then looked surprised rather than wrathful. "-Oh, hey! So you Squigglez and Swirly-hair are Lackey's friends, huh? That's nice. That means they can come back here, long as they don't screw around with what's back here." She shot Axel a pointed glare. He flinched as though physically struck.
"Cool. And by the way, my name's Roxas, not Swirly-hair." Roxas walked past the little wall, followed closely by Axel.
Hayner grabbed the back of Axel's clothing, keeping him from proceeding just yet.
"Hey, man. Just listen. You break his heart and you'll have a cute new little nickname: Peg."
Axel ruffled Hayner's hair and smirked. "Dag, Squigglez, ask Roxy to share his Prozac once in a while."
Hayner glared and went on ahead.
"Lackey? Could you start up the other ovens for me?" Yuffie asked from the kitchens.
Axel chuckled darkly to himself as he headed to the other ovens towards the back of the kitchen. "She has no idea what she's-"
"LACKEY! ASS! YOURS! HERE! NOW!"
"No. I remembered the last time." Yuffie looked at Roxas, an eyebrow raised critically. "You, Swirly-hair, you start up the ovens." She turned back to Axel, shooting him another poisonous look. "He's not like you, is he?"
Axel shook his head slowly and mouthed the word 'no' emphatically.
"Good. GO GO, GADGET SWIRLY!"
"My name isn't-"
"That's nice, Swirly." She snapped her fingers and pointed expectantly at the ovens.
He sighed and trudged over to the ovens. He did a double take and backed up to look at the ovens closer to the front of the store.
"Hey, Axel… these aren't on. Why can't we use these?"
"Actually, they are on," Axel said.
"But they're not plugged in…"
"Then how would they be-" The oven door was opened and heat burst out, fires roaring hungrily in the bowels of the metal monster. "Oh."
Axel grinned. "I like my old-fashioned styles, thank you. More risk of death, you see."
"Oh," Roxas said again weakly. "Splendid."
Roxas shut the door behind him as he walked into his house. The place smelled like jasmine, and always had, for reasons no one knew. There weren't any jasmine plants anywhere nearby, nor was there anything jasmine-scented. It was just another unexplainable thing about Twilight Town. There were quite a few such mysteries. Roxas kicked off his shoes and walked into the kitchen. He had ended up getting bread for free, considering that he had worked it off while he was there. He hadn't even wanted bread, but no sane person turned down something they had worked for.
Instead of the mysteries of Yuffie's generous spirit and the smell of jasmine, Roxas's thoughts were all gravitating towards Axel. He had bumped into the strange man twice in less than a week, but had never once seen him around town before. And he notices things about me, like my walking style, he thought. Is that good or bad?
His mum chose that particular time to walk into the kitchen where Roxas was standing with a vacant expression on his face.
"Back in this hellhole, huh?" she asked.
Roxas jumped. He hadn't noticed her at all. "Maybe."
His mum sighed. "Hon, I think you need a permanent excuse to get out of here. I think you should get a job."
Roxas stared like she had grown two heads. "A… job?"
"Exactly. Earn a little extra money… and Roxas?" She leaned close to him and whispered; "Your brother was considering getting a job before we had to cart him off to the hospital every other day. He wanted to get into whatever college you were going to and decided that the only way I could afford it all would be if he worked part of it off."
That's playing dirty…Roxas thought. But his mind had already been working on something. Something that would appease his mother, his friends, and most of all, himself, if only a little.
"A job?" Yuffie asked in surprise.
"A job?" yelped Axel outside the office door, clearly eavesdropping.
"Yes. I need a job, and this place seems as good a place as any to work."
"Well… I could do with a lackey that doesn't light things on fire on a regular basis… I'll need to talk with the owner of this place before I give you anything solid. 'Course, Aerith's the most laid-back person I know. She'll prolly say yes if I ask. Get an apron on and I'll get Lackey to show you 'round. Lackey?"
The muffled thunk of Axel trying to not be caught eavesdropping was ruined by his response. "Yes'm?"
"Show Swirly-lackey around, won'tcha?"
"'Kay!" Axel said.
Roxas was pushed out of the cramped office and into Axel's chest. "Ah, um… sorry."
"S'alright. Hey, Yuffie seems to like you fine enough. She doesn't take to many people, you know."
"I might've noticed," Roxas admitted. "Hey, there's something I've been trying to remember to ask you. Why does she call everyone but you by a description of their hair style? What makes you an exception?"
Axel sighed knowingly and looked up at his hair. "It would take too long to describe my head," he said simply. It got the point across.
Roxas had been working at the bakery for a while. He had counted the days as however many school days he had had plus two. So he had worked there for… fifteen days. In that time, he had learned almost everything that there was to learn about the business. But it was always interesting to work with Axel and Yuffie. Despite daily death threats and brandishing of knives, the two worked well together. Both seemed to really like Roxas, especially Axel.
"So… Roxy, how old are you?" Axel asked, getting out the stuff he needed for doughnut dough.
"That young?" Axel asked, genuinely surprised.
"Well, yeah. I'm a junior. How old are you?"
Axel grinned the reckless smile that he usually wore when something was about to or was in the process of combusting. "See, now, that's a hard one. I'm actually a test tube baby, so-" Roxas punched his arm.
"For real," Roxas said, not quite realising that he was wearing an identical smile.
"Oooh! I got Roxy to smile!" Axel yipped in glee. Roxas's smile vanished. "But anyway, I'm actually 18."
"Only two years more than me?"
"Yep. I'm a freshman." He said proudly. "In college."
"That's nice," said Roxas, turning back to the ovens, shoving the loaves in with a strange expression.
"But still, I can't believe you're a minor… I'm getting all depressed." Axel sighed as dramatically as he could.
"Oh, because it means that my Roxas isn't legal. Only two years to go! I shall have to merely – carry on. I shall do my best!" Axel pressed a hand to his heart and whipped the other around in the air, as if beseeching God. Flour floated to the tiled floors.
Roxas shut the oven doors and shook his head at the thought that he had actually chosen to work with people like this.
"But seriously, Rox, you smiled. You haven't smiled once since you got here. Gotten my jokes and played along, sure, but no smiling. No laughing. You an emo or something?" Axel backed up a little, as if trying to ward off the awful emo disease.
"I just… don't wanna say," Roxas said. What Axel was saying sounded a little too similar to what his friends had been telling him since Sora's death.
"Secrets aren't good for the soul. You have to talk about stuff that makes you feel angry or sad, just to bleed off the poison of the memory. People try to keep stuff that makes an impression on them in their heads. They try to keep it all inside and constantly remind themselves of it so they don't forget it. But that just keeps them from seeing everything else. Sounds corny, but it's totally true. If it's a sad memory, people feel guilty for laughing or having fun. If it's an angry one, people feel the need to take it all out on something. To scream and shout and throw stuff that they're probably going to regret breaking later. Secrets suck," Axel said, still kneading the dough.
Roxas stared at him. Both things sounded like… well, exactly like what Roxas was going through right now. Did Axel see into people's heads or something? Or had he just been in a similar position once? If so, Roxas pitied him, and was glad that there was something who might really get the inside of his head.
The phone rang at the most inopportune time.
"Aww, crap. Hey, Rox, can you knead this for me? I gotta get that."
Roxas swallowed and nodded, taking charge of the dough. Well, maybe the heavens didn't want him to tell Axel anything just yet. If that phone call wasn't a divine intervention, Roxas didn't know what was.
Apparently, the phone call had been a wrong number or something, because Axel came back ridiculously quickly, muttering darkly about something or other. He saw what Roxas was doing and gasped.
"Roxy! Doughnut dough is different from regular dough! You're doing it all wrong."
"Jesus, Lord forgive me," Roxas said sarcastically. "Care to show me the correct way, oh exalted one?"
"Gladly," Axel said.
"Okay. First, we need to activate the yeast." Axel's arms wrapped around Roxas's waist and his large hands covered the younger boy's smaller ones. Roxas blushed insanely without realising it, again. How was it that bread-baking terms could sound like sexual innuendo? "Alright… the first rise… then the second rise will come…" Okay, Roxas was definitely not imagining the innuendo speech. Who knew that bread could ever be inappropriate? Axel moved a little closer to Roxas in order to control more of his hands's movements. His hips gently brushed the back of Roxas's-
-insert gratuitous smut scene here XD-
Axel woke up, blearily blinking his bright green eyes. It was much too bright out. Disgusting. But wait… what was that? Axel tried to pry himself up from the floor and rub his eyes into focus all at once, which just resulted in a new meeting between Axel's face and the floor.
"Hello, floor…" he muttered, not really keeping track of what he was saying.
That woke Axel up. Roxas. What exactly happened last night? That was the only thing Axel couldn't remember well. Or at all, really. "Morning, Roxy."
"I was being sarcastic. It's not morning. Jeez, d'you know what Yuffie'll do to you if she finds you out cold in here?" Roxas said.
It was then that Axel's vision shot into focus. What he saw frightened him beyond all recognition.
"You're a ghost! You're all white! What happened? How did you die? I WON'T FORGET YOU ROXYYYYYYY!!!!" Axel moaned and cried like a three-year-old as Roxas looked at him in annoyance. Sure, he was covered in flour that had, ahem, 'fallen' from one of the shelves, but this was just stupid. Even for Axel, and that was saying something.
"Axel," Roxas said through Axel's wails, "I will cut you in your sleep."
"Oh noes! A vengeful ghost!" cried Axel.
Neither one had seen the frying pan coming. Axel didn't even know that the bakery had a frying pan on its shelves. But somehow or another, gravity finally worked its cruel, cruel magic on it, sending it hurtling down through the bakery air at such a speed and weight that it could've gone through a normal person's skull like it was wet toilet paper. Fortunately, it met up with Axel's head first, and not even the Frying Pan of Doom could stand up to Axel's Hair. Regardless, Axel had somehow ended up on the bakery floor, twitching, but otherwise completely unconscious. Roxas had checked for vital signs, confirmed the Axel was alive, and then resumed his business. For a white bread loaf, he had needed more flour to dust the counters with. Most people didn't know it, but dough was disgustingly sticky. Flour kept it from sticking to absolutely everything.
Unfortunately, the flour was also on the top shelf of all of the shelves that were in the bakery. Roxas hated the little things like that in life that rubbed his height in his face. Life mocked him on a daily basis. There was no question of waking Axel up to get it for him; Roxas had his pride yet. But still, he shouldn't have tried to get to it as he was. The flour had come tumbling down, coating Roxas in pure white granules. He had sneezed for a good five minutes, at least, at which time Axel had chosen to wake up.
Axel could barely stop laughing. "Haha! So you're a midget, not a ghost, right?"
Roxas hit Axel over the head with Yuffie's Lackey-punishing stick.
"Haha, you hit like such a wuss, compared to Mistress Hellfire," Axel said.
"I wasn't asking you, now was I?" Roxas said.
"Nah, but I thought to dignify you with an answer anyway!" Roxas hit Axel again.
"Hey, Rox?" Axel said. Roxas stopped for a second, confused at the thoughtful expression on his coworker's face. "Would you come with me to the movies Friday night if I asked you?"
"What, like a date? I don't swing that way, y'know…"
"I said, 'if'. It's hypothetical," Axel said. "Would you?"
"I guess." Roxas shrugged, trying to fight a blush, along with an anxious tone. "I might, but as long as it was an 'as friends' thing."
"So, you consider us friends?" Axel said.
"I guess," Roxas repeated. "I mean, you seem like a pretty cool pers-" He was cut off by the large redhead glomping him at full speed. Flour that hadn't been washed off yet and probably wouldn't be until he got home flew in the air for the second – or was it the third? – time that day.
"Yaaay! Roxy loves me!" Axel squealed.
"Oi, oi, I didn't say that!" Roxas didn't even bother trying to hide the blush this time. Close proximity seemed to ruin everything, astoundingly.
"So, I'm asking you for real, now. Will you come with me to the movies on Friday?" Axel sat up, looking like a puppy expecting a biscuit.
"As friends, right?"
"Aahh… sure, whatever floats your boat."
"What would we see?" Roxas asked.
"Whatever's playing when we show up that you can legally get into, Roxy!" Axel said.
"Simple, yet effective." Roxas smiled for the second time that day. "Okay, I concede."
Axel jumped for joy before Yuffie came in and smacked the both of them for ignoring all and any orders that had come in the last half-hour or so.
Roxas was lying down in his bed, his hair and face now completely devoid of flour. His mother had seen to that. She had also stolen the rest of his clothes for washing before he had secured replacements for them. She wasn't a particularly practical woman, just a neat freak. But his mother's OCD wasn't on Roxas's mind. He had… smiled today. He'd been having fun. It seemed wrong. He was feeling so guilty. His twin, the one who had loved him more than anyone else, who had understood him better than anyone lese, was in the ground, and Roxas was off somewhere else having fun. Telling himself that it was what Sora would've wanted did no good. It didn't lessen the guilt. It was the most horrible feeling, ice-cold and slimy, wrapping around his gut, slowly working its way up to his jugular. It was gross and nasty. Just like me, Roxas thought miserably. He shuddered visibly. He was no longer sure if he really wanted to go somewhere with Axel, much as he liked him. He didn't want to do much of anything, but he couldn't find it in himself to tell Axel 'no' after he had already said 'yes'. It would only have made Roxas feel worse. Sora, you're an idiot. Please, come back and just tell me what the hell I'm supposed to do to make you and everybody else happy. You could always do it, why can't I?
"Roxas?" That was his mum's voice outside his door.
"Mmm?" he grunted.
"There's tomato soup on the stove. It's really hot right now, so it might be best if you waited." Roxas didn't answer. His mum took that as a cue to come in his room. "Honey, you know, when I named you, it was in our home language. Your full name was Rokusassu Riarumoto. The system changed your name a little when we immigrated here. Baby, I know it's hard, but you can't try to act like anyone else, especially your brother. He was himself. Try being who you really are for once and stop trying to do all the things that… that Sora could do."
That shook Roxas a little. It was the first time his mum had spoken Sora's name since the funeral. But he didn't let that show. "Why? What would it matter? Our last name means 'originating from something real', not 'something real'. I'm not going to end up being anything but a copy, anyway."
"Yeah. You use all those stupid names like Honey and Sweetie and Baby because you got used to it. You used to use it because you thought you were going to call me 'Sora'. You always called him by his given name. He stood out more than I did, and still does."
His mother was silent for the longest time, but she didn't leave. "Roxas…" she sighed. "How long has this been bothering you?"
He didn't want to answer. It made the cold, slimy thing in his stomach hate him even more. He just couldn't talk to her, or anyone for that matter.
When she finally left, Roxas curled up and pressed his forehead to the wall. It was cold enough to remind him of the Ice Feeling. It was enough to make him cry.
"Roxas? You look down today. And here I thought you were healing," sighed Namine. She had volunteered to talk to Roxas over AIM. None of the others were sensitive, or even subtle enough, to get answers out of him.
"Do I? Not my fault," he muttered.
Namine looked sadly at him. "Your mom told me you got a job at a bakery somewhere. Do you have work today?"
"But can you take me to see where you work anyway?"
"Why? You could go any old time. It doesn't matter if I take you or not," Roxas said.
"I guess… it's because I like being around you. It's fun. That enough reason for you?" Namine tried to look him in the eye, but it was he who looked away.
"Fine," Roxas said.
The two walked in silence for a while. Even if it hadn't been phrased that way in the original question, Namine was the one leading Roxas to the bakery. There was only one in Twilight Town, so there wasn't much chance of mistaking one for another. The bell jingled as Namine threw it open.
Yuffie's head shot up, assuming that there was a customer. Her face contorted into something that Roxas would label as a crap-I-lost-a-customer-possibility-but-at-least-it's-not-someone-I-hate face. "Hey, Roxas? What're you doing here? You didn't have to come in today."
"I know. My friend wanted to see the place, so…" Yuffie quickly grew a smile and made a small sound like a whip cracking, hand gesticulation and all. Roxas gave her a nasty glare.
"This place is so warm! I can take off my coat and still be fine!" Namine said.
"Yeah. That would be because of the ovens," Roxas said.
"Cool! Can I see those?" Namine asked.
Roxas turned a worried face to Yuffie. "It depends. Is Axel back there blowing things up again?"
She shook her head. "He's back there, but there isn't much blowing up happening."
"Yet," Roxas noted. Yuffie snorted.
"Who's Axel?" Namine asked.
"Oh, that's right. He's the guy who works back there with the ovens and stuff with me while Yuffie's up here taking orders and stu-"
"He's my Lackey. 'Nuff said."
Roxas shook his head. Axel took that moment to burst out from the kitchen, hands covered in flour.
"Is that Roxas's melodic voice I do hear?"
"Oh, it could be," said Yuffie. "Swirly and Friend."
"Friend?" Axel stopped short, paling a little.
"Yeah. Axel, this is Namine, Namine this is-" Namine was a little busy staring slack-jawed at the sheer volume of hair Axel had "-well, this is Axel."
"Umm, nice to meet you?" Axel gave a nervous laugh but offered her a hand for shaking. He somewhere along the line realized that his hand was coated in flour and tried to wipe it on his apron. "A girlfriend, Roxy?"
Roxas was a little shocked. "No! She's my best friend, not my girlfriend. It'd be like dating your sister!"
"Eew, incest," Namine said absently.
"Oh! Then this is okay." Axel leaned over and kissed Roxas on the cheek. Roxas, figuring it was just a joke, returned the favour.
Both girls stared at them.
"R-roxas? I- I didn't know that you..." Namine squeaked.
"Swirly is about as straight as his hair!" crowed Yuffie.
"Hey, hey! It's not like – Jesus! Just… Axel, help, please?"
Unfortunately, Axel was staring slack-jawed at him, too. A grin slowly grew on his face. Roxas had the unfortunate feeling that a pack of hyenas were closing in, their eyes on his internal organs.
"Leave my organs alone!" he cried, making his fingers into a cross to ward off evil. "And I'm not that way! It's just a friendly thing!"
"Ooh, friends with benefits!" Yuffie said seductively. Her face reminded Roxas of a lecherous monkey with a slight overbite, not that he had ever seen one, or ever wanted to, for that matter.
Roxas fled from the bakery, either assuming that Namine could find her own way home or forgetting about her entirely.
"Why the hell did I do that? Why did everyone automatically assume that I was gay or bi after one little peck on the cheek?" Roxas muttered. "And for Axel, of all the pyromaniac psychos…" Oh, I dunno, maybe 'cause you ARE? Said his inner person, whom he had dubbed Joebob von Scknicklehiemert.
Oh, shut up. I wasn't talking to you in the first place, thought Roxas.
Meaning that I'm dead on target and you just don't wanna hear it. Yare, yare, someone is in de-ni-aaaaaaal…Joebob said.
Not to myself!!
That's what denial IS you 'tard!
I'm not a-
And what's wrong with being gay or bi?
I dunno… it's not what my friends expect of me?
Would they drop you if you were one?
Then it's safe. There's nothing hypothetical about anything anymore, Joebob said triumphantly. And by the way, Mum's coming.
"Huh?" Roxas jerked up from his bed just in time to meet his mum as she came through the door.
"How did you know I was coming?" she asked, amused. "I pride myself on being so quiet, no one could hear me coming! Except Sora, of course." Her face tightened a little, but she kept going. "Anyway, Roxas, I'm making New York-style Chow Mein. If you wanted any, you'll have to get downstairs before I put it in the fridge. 'Kay?"
"G-got it." Roxas's eyes were wide. If his mum noticed, she said nothing.
"My God…" whispered Roxas. Roxas never had been able to tell when she was coming. Sora always knew. Joebob had only showed up in Roxas's mind after Sora died. Joebob knew. Could it be, just maybe… that Joebob wasn't Joebob, but actually…
Roxas shook his head free of such thoughts. There wasn't a way in hell. Literally. But tomorrow was his 'date' with Axel. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to ask the little voice in his head what he should do.
It was 5 pm at the movie theatre. Axel had been there for maybe 10 minutes, tops, when Roxas arrived.
"Punctual," Axel said, leaning down to Roxas's ear. The soft breath on his ear sent shivers down his spine.
"I take pride in that," Roxas said.
"Nice. Hey, the only thing playing right now kind of sucks. Wanna see the movie? And not watch the movie?" Axel's almost non-existent eyebrows went up and down suggestively.
"Ah, you mock my feelings."
"Nothing personal," said Roxas.
"Oh, it never is." Roxas half-wondered if axel was being sarcastic
Axel hadn't been kidding when he had said that what was playing sucked. It really was the most disgusting movie that Roxas had ever seen: Dora the Explorer: the Movie. Looking back, Roxas thought that it was no wonder that the ticket-seller up front gave them a weird look. The man deserved mad props for not laughing at them outright. Still, it made a good story to tell afterward.
"So, what now?" Axel asked.
"I haven't the slightest, unless you want to… nah, never mind."
"What, what? You can't tease me like that and tell me nothing, Roxy," he scolded.
"Haha, fine. I was thinking…"
"A dangerous pastime-"
"-I know," finished Roxas. Both burst out laughing. Dora the Explorer and quoting Beauty and the Beast. What had they stooped to? "But, as I was saying, I was thinking that maybe we could go up to the Clock Tower. It's the best view in Twilight Town, as long as you're not afraid of heights. I used to go there all the time when I was a kid."
Axel grinned. "hate to break it to you, but you're still a kid, squirt."
"Then what does that make you?"
"A manly squirt!"
The Clock Tower was dustier than Roxas remembered it. He supposed that that was because neither he nor his friends had made a habit out of coming there much anymore. But the view was three times as wonderful as he remembered it. Twilight was setting in, bathing every roof in the golden and reddish light that was the town's namesake.
"Woah," breathed Axel. "I always thought that this place was forbidden to the public. Y'know, falling-to-your-death risk and all. I can't believe I never came up here before. I can't believe I missed this."
"I know. Every time I come, Twilight seems just a little better than when I was here last."
"The only thing that would make this better would be ice cream."
"Too true." Roxas sat down next to Axel. "Actually, there's something I've been meaning to ask you."
Roxas reached an arm up around Axel's head and stroked his hair. "How earth did you get your hair that colo-" He didn't finish.
Axel had pressed his lips to Roxas's own. In shock of the ripple that went up and down his spine, Roxas opened his mouth a little. Axel took the opportunity to worm his tongue into the blonde's mouth, flicking the roof in just such a way that Roxas squeaked a little. Roxas started trying to kiss back, but Axel had so much force in his kiss that any returned kiss would be nothing in comparison.
If anyone had thought to ask, that was when the ice had settled in.
Roxas stiffened a little.
You're enjoying yourself! While your brother's dead! You bastard. Push him off. You're not going to? Whore. Do it. It's the only way to redeem yourself. You're supposed to be in mourning, and you're making out with some guy on a clock tower. Thinking that you'll push him away and then tell him why? Why do you need to tell him anything? Otherwise he'll just try again. He'll think that you're still a whore, just a whore with a conscience. Tell him nothing. Or maybe you just want a pity-party? Is that it? You want him to feel sorry for you, and then kiss you more. Maybe something a bit more M-rated? Ah, we've hit gold. I thought you were better than that. PUSH HIM AWAY.
Roxas pushed Axel off of him, crying a little in shame. The voice wasn't Joebob or Sora or anyone at all that he could recognize. It was that little doubtful, pessimistic side that everyone has. And it was trying to murder him from the inside out.
"Let GO! Just… please, don't touch me!" Roxas begged almost hysterically.
"What? What's wrong?" Axel looked bewildered and a little afraid. "Homophobe?"
"NO! No, I like… I just… please, leave me alone!" Roxas couldn't hold himself up. His knees buckled and-
-and Roxas fell from the Clock Tower.
"ROXAS!" Axel shouted, the fear draining all the blood from his face and the colour from his eyes. He tried to grab Roxas's arm as he fell, but missed by half an inch.
Axel didn't believe in guardian angels, or even angels in general, but that belief was reversed in an instant as he saw something incredible.
A pale arm reached out of nothing at all and grabbed Roxas's wrist and halted his fall abruptly. Though the arm remained transparent, the rest of Roxas's saviour materialized. It was another child, about Roxas's age, with large, spiky brown hair.
Axel ran like hell to the lower level of the tower where the angel was setting Roxas down carefully. As he approached them, his eyes widened. The boy had the exact same eyes, no, the entire face, as Roxas.
"The hell?" whispered Axel.
'Heh, sorry about this. I wasn't supposed to come back for a while now,' he said.
"Who are you?"
'I'm Sora, Roxas's twin. Yeah...I'm kinda dead.'
It was a bit much for poor Axel's mind to wrap around. At least Roxas was unconscious from shock.
"So… you're an angel or something?" he asked.
'Not exactly. I can't go to heaven or hell or whatever afterlife there is until my purpose is filled here.' He smiled gently. It had the same heart-wrenching happiness and sadness in one that Roxas used to wear.
"What is that purpose?"
'Protecting them. All of them. My friends, my family, Riku. Because I love them, I'll stay here until they really don't need me anymore.' Sora brushed Roxas's hair with his fingers, still smiling softly.
"Should I tell him all of this when he wakes up?" Axel asked.
"Probably not." Axel and Sora both jerked their heads up to see who had spoken.
"Hey. I know you told me not to come, Sora, but I couldn't help myself. I need to be where you are, baby." Sora blushed, hard though it was to tell. "Still, you shouldn't tell Roxas anything. Let him deal with grief in his own way." He shot Sora a look. "Going inside of his head during a mental breakdown slash questioning of his sexuality was supposed to be forbidden."
'Whoops,' Sora said.
"We should probably leave before Sleeping Beauty over here wakes up. What's your name again?"
"Let's keep in touch, 'kay?"
"Will do. See ya." Both visitors left in their own fashions; one by fading, the other by simply walking off.
"That was seriously weird," Axel muttered.
"Hn?" Roxas groaned a little. He was probably waking up. Axel sighed wearily. Now he would have to think up a plausible cover story.
This could get interesting.