disclaimer; I don't own Kingdom Hearts.
1; northern downpour
…I think I dreamed of green eyes.
They were brilliant; reminding me of smooth, rare, emeralds that sparkled and glimmered when held up to the sunlight. The ones that only the truly mad would seek. Like the crystalline delicate waters of the Caribbean, shifting from soothing to ferocious in the blink of an eye. They were the eyes of an Egyptian king, outlined in delicate charcoal markings and punctuated with small tear drops against the desert sand of his face.
The thoughts went away as soon as they had come, and they left me yearning for more. The moment I tried to reach out and touch them again, someone was pulling me back down and my back slammed against a hard and cold surface. I could feel it, everywhere, nothing but pain. Warm hands encircled me, working fast, shouting out sharp and direct orders. They all melded together and became a conglomeration that I could no longer decipher. I couldn't speak as tubes were being shoved up my nose and down my throat and the pain was starting to numb. The bright lights encircling my vision dimmed considerably.
Why was I here?
What had happened?
Was I going to die?
"He's breathing again..."
"Blood pressure improving…"
"I want him discharged to the ICU, ASAP."
"Nothing has changed since you've last seen him, in all honesty, he's gotten worse. We thought we were monitoring him closely but…"
"He's not going to …"
"We cannot say for sure."
"From what I can tell he's slipped into a coma. I don't know how long this will last. It could be days, weeks, months …even years before he wakes up. His intentions this time …have surpassed his past attempts."
"…Flowers, hm? A lovely gesture."
"I've heard they cheer up even the worst of places. You know we could definitely use some cheering up around here."
"Roxas, dad tried to come and see you the other day. ...We got into an argument as usual and he ended up storming off before listening to anything I had to say. This is hard … it's hard on all of us."
"Did I mention Ansem is here? You remember Ansem, don't you? Of course you do, why wouldn't you? …Maybe you can talk to him when you wake up. ...He helped you a lot during …that …time."
"I got you new flowers yesterday. Ansem says they do wonders for the atmosphere. You know, it brightens the place up a bit. Sometimes I wonder if you can really hear what I'm saying to you. The doctor's said you can still hear me, even though you're in this coma …"
"Naminé asked me how you were. I bumped into her at the supermarket the other day before I came to visit you. She came to visit you back when they first put you in this place. But, the sight of you laying up connected to all these tubes …she had to excuse herself shortly after getting here. She couldn't … she couldn't stand to see you in such a way. She might be around to visit again when she's ready, I don't know. She sends her love though."
"Had another argument with dad today. He just ...they don't get it, Rox. He doesn't understand how to help you."
"I wonder when you'll wake up."
I saw many things …many places, many worlds.
Colors flooded in from every corner of my mind. Crystalline mountains, multicolored rivers, disfigured birds that chirped incessantly. The sky always remained red and never changed to any other color. Although, the intensity of the sky would change depending on what time of day it was. When it was morning, there was a light, foggy red haze. The sun would shine above, hot and warm, touching and caressing everything with its rays. When night time came, the entire sky went ablaze in a fiery red hell. The stars and the moon were always black, and the sun was always blue.
The sky was falling into dusk now, the fiery hue of the sun fading behind a city of a thousand lights. Red light painted everything as it reached out to touch every person and thing before it. It reminded me of the sunsets of summer. They were always long and had the ability to turn the sky a thousand shades of different colors. Birds often accompanied the dusk that fell overhead. They flapped their majestic white wings, soaring high into the sky. It looked like they were heading into a sea of flames. It was like hell had migrated into the sky and heaven had fallen to the Earth.
There were other things besides this red sky, disfigured birds and the ever present city.
Sometimes, I was in a forest of trees. Large, short, fat, small, I was surrounded by so many different fauna and flora that it felt like I had my own private garden wherever I was. When the trees disappeared, I was often floating endlessly in a large pool of water. The clear, nurturing liquid flowed all around me. I moved along with absolutely no direction, drifting toward wherever the current swept me.
I felt calm here, like no one could touch or hurt me here. There was nothing to set me back when I all I wanted was to be left alone with my red sky, the trees and this cooling water. I wanted to stay here. To stay away from whatever was waiting for me on the other side. It was better being here than over there. I didn't want to leave.
Maybe this was heaven?
Is it? Is it heaven?
My eyes were heavy, and I saw nothing but white when I first opened them. My entire body was stiff; every inch of my being itched to be stretched. Bright lights loomed outside of the window by my bedside. The room was nearly dark, eerily painted with dim light by the lights from the city below. There was the steady beep of a machine to my right. A familiar sound no doubt. When was the last time I had landed myself in a place like this?
I tried to sit up, aching as I tried moving my muscles which had remained unused for so long. Fuck, I was weak. The sounds of frustration left my mouth. I flexed what I could, careful of the tubes and wires that were plugged into me. My bones creaked and snapped under every movement that I made. Something in the corner of the room moved, and I heard a tired voice call out to me.
It was Sora. He stood up, pressing his coat firmly into the seat. He crossed the room in a few short strides and leaned over my bed side. He looked at me, eyes travelling the length of my body and then they perked up when they landed on my face again.
"You're … You're up! Oh my God, you're up!" He sounded surprised.
I turned to look at him in the darkness. My eyes focused in on the short space between us and he leaned over my bed side, eyes full of concern and wonderment. I could barely make him out in the darkness but I presumed he was reaching over to touch my arm as if to assure me of something.
"You're in the hospital." He lowered his voice.
"…What?" My throat ached from having not used my vocal cords for so long a time. I promptly shut my mouth when he laid a hand on mine, massaging it gently.
"Rox, you've been in a coma since late July …it's September now." He looked to the left, biting his lips gently, then turned back to look at me. "I was just about to head home, but …I might just have to spend the night here. I'll be right back, so don't go anywhere …" Not like I could anyway. Was he blind or even aware to what current shape I was in? He leaned back, "I'm going to go get Ansem."
What was I doing in a hospital bed? I leaned forward as far as I could, trying to catch a glimpse at the clock across the room. Why was I even in the hospital to begin with? I was fine. I am fine. God, I need to get out of this bed.
Sora came back in, calling out softly in the darkness, "Roxas?"
The lights flickered to life overhead. I winced at the light, squinting in irritation as my eyes adjusted to the change of lighting in the room. Ansem walked into the room in front of Sora and cleared his throat as he sat down at my bedside. That voice always sounded so different when I was a child. Now it was crisp and dignified. His golden hair had receded over the years, and signs of aging crinkled the corners of his eyes and mouth. He still kept a small trim beard around and under his mouth, though. His eyes were focused on me.
"Roxas. I thought Sora was hysterical when he said you were awake, but perhaps …"
I groaned, trying to move again. My entire body still felt like lead. I sighed in frustration, willing my stupid body to start moving. Hell, where the hell would I go anyway?
He cleared his throat, "Do you have an idea why you're here?"
I shook my head, still unable to work through the fog in my mind.
He folded his arms again, "An overdose, Roxas." He flipped through his clipboard, stopping on a page and looked it over. "You slipped into a coma shortly after you were resuscitated. You've been in one for the past month."
I shot him an alarmed look, eyes wide. Now things were starting to come back.
He fiddled with his glasses, "Yes, it is a long time, hm?" Ansem paused briefly, "Roxas, court orders would mandate that I should have had you admitted to a psychiatric ward after all of this, but, we've decided to take a different approach to things. I've been looking at your mental health records from the past few months … it looks like you were already heading for the red."
I looked up at the ceiling, no longer able to meet his eyes. Of course I was. With a psychiatrist like Saix, who wouldn't be? All he was good for was doping me up on tons of pills.
His expression did not waver, "But now …is not the time to discuss this. It is rather late, and tomorrow we have much to talk about. I bid you good night, Roxas. Rest, well." He bowed his head to me, leaving me in the room with my brother. As soon as the door shut behind him Sora looked at me, still biting his lower lip. I hated when he gave me that face.
"Wha?" I managed to croak out. My voice sounded tired and withdrawn.
"I was so worried …"
He was worried.
That was Sora all right, still caring about me after all that I had done. I looked into his eyes briefly and saw hurt reflected within their depths. He shook his head, squeaking a bit to try to hold in what he was feeling. He gripped my hand, pulling his chair closer to my bed and laid his head on the side of the bed by my lap. He didn't have to say anything; I had heard it all before.
Bits and pieces came flooding back to me at the most random times during my stay at the hospital. Sort of like patches on a quilt, being sewn into place with such ease. I never tried to remember too much. Ansem said everything would come to me in time, and truthfully I didn't really care too much about it.
Sora said I looked tired, but I seemed to be getting better. I think he was happy I was in a place where there wasn't a possibility of me hurting myself. He told me our father was steadily calling him about me …asking to speak to me whenever I was in the vicinity. Sora however, refused to every time. Hell, I didn't want to deal with him right now. Not him ...anyone but him.
I don't know how long I was in the hospital for, the time sort of just moved along without me noticing too much. One moment I'd be sleeping or aimlessly staring out the window, and then I'd be in Ansem's office for some type of talk. My sessions with Ansem were …a welcomed change of pace to say the least. I had to see him twice a week for an hour. It was like being back when I was a kid again. Seeing him always seemed to calm me down. Ansem always had ...that way of helping people.
Naminé sent me flowers one day and a get well card that read: Get well soon, I'm sorry I haven't been around, but, I'm with you in this. Sometimes I wonder why she even sticks by me after all that I've put her through in the past few years. They say friends are supposed to stick with you through the end, but she doesn't deserve to be put through half the stuff I pulled on her.
I regained control over much of my bodily functions within a few weeks of rehabilitation. It wasn't perfect, but I had been making progress, and to those surrounding me, that was the most important thing. The trees outside continually turned to various shades of orange, yellow and red, departing from their vibrant shades of summer green. Autumn was here ...but I still had no idea what month or day it was still. Time was ...time was something that wasn't kept, it floated on by. To be honest, I never really cared to try and keep it.
But, then, on a late autumn afternoon, Ansem came to tell me, "You're going home."
To which I questioned him, "What?"
"You're going home today. Your brother is already here to take you back." He came in with a fresh pair of clothes, brought in by Sora no doubt, "Get dressed, there's someone I want to introduce you to."
I changed into the clothes, observing myself in the mirror for a few minutes. I hadn't really looked at myself in days to be honest. And hell, I looked awful. Like that was a surprise. My hair was limp, and looked lifeless. My eyes were dull and hollowed out, and my skin was too pale. I looked pretty gaunt and the clothes that Sora had brought for me didn't do well to hide that fact.
"Roxas, are you done in there?" Ansem's voice came from the other side of the door.
I slapped the side of my face, letting my hand slide down slowly. Splashing some water on my face, I sighed and opened the door again. I stood in front of Ansem, wiping my hands off on my jeans as he observed me for a few moments.
"It's quite nice to see you out of that gown and your pajamas." Ansem laughed heartily, patting at the space on the bed for me to sit, "Come, and sit." I obliged, looking at him curiously, "I've been studying you, Roxas. Trying to figure out what I should do with you. There's someone I'd like you to meet. He's …well …I'm not sure what to call him. Perhaps … we could call him a nurse?"
I coughed, "…A …nurse?" What was I? An invalid?
"A nurse doesn't fit the job description. I'd rather like to think of myself as ...someone that stays around to make sure you don't fuck yourself over. Your own personal twenty-four hour shrink without all the fancy titles, if you will."
I turned my head to the direction of the door. There stood a man just short of six feet tall, with green eyes and flaming red hair. He stood poised against the door dressed in black jeans, an un-tucked white shirt and a large, unzipped black hoodie. Wrapped around his neck was a thick red scarf that matched his untamed red hair. He was thin and lanky, unhealthily thin might I add, but it fit his body for some peculiar reason. His hands were jabbed into his pockets and he had this rather nonchalant look on his face. I could read the undertones though, seeing the slight smirk pulling at the edges of his mouth.
"It's rude to stare, got it memorized?"
I hated him already.
Ansem sighed, "Axel, can you be serious for one moment?"
"Well the latter sounded stupid. What do you expect?" He looked at Ansem with that same cat like grin, and then looked to me. Our eyes met for two seconds.
He sighed again, shaking his head. "This, Roxas, is Axel."
"So you must be the kid Ansem's been telling me so much about." He grinned, "Roxas, hm? Like, Roxy. Like …Foxy Roxy, hm?"
"I'm not a kid." I seethed. "And so help me God, if you call me that name again I will kill you."
"Oh, so he's got bite?" Axel's grin widened.
"Axel! Stop antagonizing your charge. I want you to take this seriously. I will not tolerate anything less of what we agreed on." Ansem sighed, massaging the bridge of his nose. He turned his attention back to me, "This was the alternative I found. Something of a conservatorship if you will."
I raised my eyebrows, "Go on."
"You are now in his care even though you will still be meeting with me for routine sessions. I had you transferred from your old psychiatrist back over to me, citing you were now under my care for specific reasons." He looked Axel over, who was tapping his foot against the bottom of the door, "However, I am more or less here to add back up support."
Axel stretched, yawning loudly as he did. He waved over his shoulder, "Well, since introductions are over, and I don't really think the rest of this conversation will concern me, I'm gonna go wait outside. Talk to the old man about whatever before we go." The door clicked shut as Axel exited.
"He may not seem it, but he has a grasp of what it is he's doing." Ansem muttered, and then looked at me, "Roxas, however sarcastic and cocky he may be …don't let Axel get to you, it's just …the way that he is."
I glared at the closing door, resisting the urge to clench my teeth in anger. "I won't."
"Are you sure there isn't anything else you need to ask of me before you depart?" Ansem asked.
"Are you really serious about him?" I paused trying to formulate my thoughts.
He began to walk to the door, and I blindly followed him, "You may doubt his reliability, but …Axel is ...well it's a bit complicated for me to tell you what Axel is. Perhaps, he will be the best thing that has happened to you as of yet."
"He doesn't seem like it."
"An open mind, Roxas. That's all I ask you to keep." Ansem cleared his throat, "Now, if that is all, I urge you to make haste and get going. The road to recovery is long and arduous, but I believe with perseverance you will overcome adversary. Take care of yourself, Roxas."
"Right." I took a look at Ansem, folding my arms and nodded to him.
Sora was outside my room waiting for me after I was done talking with Ansem. Axel happened to be nowhere in sight. Sora smiled cheerily, resting a hand on my shoulder as Ansem filed out the room from behind me. "How are you feeling? Are you ready to go?"
"Fine and yes."
"No problems? Nothing last minute you want to do?" He leaned forward, his blue eyes wide and curious.
"Ansem?" He turned to the doctor for a sense of confirmation.
"Do not worry, Sora. Everything will be fine." He gave him a reassuring look, nodding his head slowly.
"Alright." He looked back down to me, and nodded his head off to the left, "You're …um …well, Axel. He already went ahead to get your papers all written up and stuff. All you have to do is sign out and wrap up whatever loose ends you have here downstairs." He dropped my hands and began to walk in the direction of the elevator.
"Call me if you need anything at all, I will be glad to help." Ansem looked to Sora who was already in the elevator, "Do take care of him, Sora and make sure his stubbornness doesn't get the best of him. Goodbye you two."
"Bye, Ansem! Thanks for everything!" Sora waved, just as the elevator doors closed. He nodded to me again, and was on his way. Sora jabbed the button for the first floor and the elevator started up and began to move.
"…What day is it?" I asked.
"November 3rd." Sora noted cheerfully "You know what today is, right?"
I sighed, rubbing at my temples, "Rikku's birthday is today …" I muttered under my breath. "Is she doing anything?"
"Yes and no. She's doing something small tonight with Yuna and Paine. She didn't want to get hounded today."
"As if the attention will be on her today." I muttered.
"Feeling alright?" Sora asked, concerned.
"Superb." I replied dryly. The elevator chimed as we hit the bottom floor. Before I stepped out, Sora grabbed hold of my shirt and pressed something into my hands. Ah, these. Black sunglasses.
"You might want to wear these." He responded, plucking his own out of his back pocket.
"Lovely, I figured the welcoming committee would be here."
We stepped out of the elevator, walking across the first floor to the entrance. Axel was already waiting for us at the checkout desk. With a hand on his hip he waved to me, grinning, "Ready, Roxy?" He readjusted his scarf and pocketed his hands into his jeans as Sora and I neared him.
"It's Roxas." I snapped.
"Don't mind him; he's still kind of grouchy." Sora replied, waving a hand innocently. He lowered his voice and whispered to Axel, "Still doped up on meds, really."
"I'm not deaf." I replied, rubbing at my arm. Looking around shortly, I tapped my foot on the floor, "Can we go already?"
People in the waiting room were starting to whisper and it was unnerving to tell you the truth. There was a pregnant girl and her friend squealing over in the corner of the room jabbing at me and speaking in fast hushed voices. There was some other girl yelling on her phone to a friend about seeing me and was freaking the fuck out.
The nurse behind the desk smiled softly at me, "Hello, Mr. Ardenwell, just sign right here and you'll be ready to go." I signed it quickly and pushed the clipboard across the desk back to her. She smiled in return, thanking me.
I sighed and glanced over my shoulder. I turned back around to look at Sora who asked me, "Ready?"
I nodded, "You lead." Sora grabbed me by the hand, tugging me across the room with Axel trailing behind us.
I entered the haze of a lazy autumn New York City afternoon as I stepped out of those hospital doors. Someone shoved me from behind, and I turned around to find myself being pushed along by a rather large man in a suit. That's when the onslaught of cameras began. Every step I took felt long and agonizing as we were hit by a barrage of reporters and cameras snapping away. People were calling and pushing me from all directions and I felt as if I was going to break at any minute.
"Roxas! Over here!"
"Roxas are you going back to rehab!"
"Is it true you're abusing illegal substances again?"
"Why all the secrets, Roxas?"
I was pushed into the limousine, Sora followed after, and we pulled away from the hospital. The lights were still flashing as we drove by, headed onto the main avenue and were off in the direction of the highway.
We call ourselves the Ardenwells.
An old money family, known for their extravagance and wealth. In the early 20th century, after immigrating here from England, Alfred Ardenwell struck it rich in America as a powerful businessman. As he aged, he built his own empire of wealth and influence that carried on well into the 21st century. That was my great grandfather.
My grandfather, Gent, continued on with the family business, and met my grandmother, Yumi, on a business trip to Japan. She was unlike the young women of Japan, yet her exotic appeal seemed to grant her many admirers in her youth. Rumor had it that her father was a foreigner. Her mother sold her for money when she was younger, unable to live with the shame of the child she had bore. She managed to catch my grandfather's eye in an instant, the two shortly fell in love. When he returned to the states, she came with him and they married. They ended up with one boy, my father, Teier, and a pair of twin girls, my aunts Saoko and Hiromi.
Within the next generation, my aunt Hiromi would give birth to our cousin, Yuna. My father of course, married my mother Sabel, and ended up with my older brother Cloud, my twin brother, Sora and our little sister, Rikku.
As of now, my father is head of Ardenwell Corporations, and his fortune that he inherited from his father and so on will be passed down to all of us. We're portrayed in the media as if we're this big important interesting family that the public can't get enough, and it's funny because we all have our own little role to play.
My father's the respectable, hard working, stern provider. Whatever he says goes. His ideals and values can never be changed, staying rooted firmly to the ground. My mother was a lively woman in her youth but has become significantly compliant at her current age. She doesn't say much and doesn't put up a fight when my father says something. His word is the ultimate factor in decisions, and he's so stuck in his old ways and traditions that it sickens me.
Cloud's the first born, and my mother and father usually leave him alone and he tends to keep his distance from everyone. Everyone loves Sora, it's always been that way, not that I can harbor any ill will for my brother. He was always the one that people took an instant liking to. I play the part of the screwed up attention seeking middle child. You know, the black sheep of the family. The one that winds up in rehab or therapy for half of their life and basically gives the family a bad name. Lastly, there's Rikku, who as the youngest and only girl, can do no wrong and get away with basically anything.
I've been thrust into the spotlight ever since I was a child.
It came with the territory. This crazy, unstable, psychotic territory.
And everyone wonders why I'm the way I am.
Sora was looking at me intently, as if he were about to say something. I looked at him, raising my eyebrows as if to acknowledge him. He cleared his throat, folding his hands in his lap, "I didn't want to tell you this until later but …dad wanted us to stop by the house before I take you home. They wanted to talk with you."
I blinked, looking at Sora. "What?" Skepticism heavily laced into my tone, "…He wants to see me?"
He lowered his voice, "I don't know what he wants. He just told me to tell you to see them. It was important." He looked to me, rubbing his hands in his lap, "I …"
I scoffed, folding my arms. "No."
"I knew you'd say that." He sighed, shifting his view away from me momentarily. He fiddled around with the wine glass in his hands. Sora wasn't much of a drinker, but he had a penchant for wine. I think it's something he picked up from Riku if anything.
"Axel?" He interjected, "He's following us by car."
"What do you think about him?" I propped my cheek against my fist, staring intently at my brother.
"He's…" He paused, formulating his thoughts, "I can't really say, but I talked it over with Ansem for your outpatient care. I can't always be around you all the time, and …well …"
"Does it look like I need a baby sitter?" I spat, crossing my arms.
Sora sighed, massaging his temples, "Look, Roxas. You're my brother and I care about you. I wouldn't be approving this if I didn't think it was going to be beneficial to your health. …I want you to get better."
"Like I haven't heard that line before." I reclined against the chair, laughing bitterly.
Sora's eyebrows furrowed, drawing inwardly, and an angry pout was starting to grace his features, "Look, I'm one of the few who hasn't given up on you. You know dad wants virtually nothing to do with you, and feels that you've been wasting his time since day one. I don't even know why he wants to see you. All he could do was bitch and moan about you while you were still in the hospital."
"No one –"
He cut me off, "I don't care what no one asked me to do. You say that all the time. I wanted to help you. I still want to help you, okay? Unlike him, I still care about you, alright? Isn't that enough?"
I stared at him, not saying anything.
"Ansem knows you, Rox. He's known you since you were a child and I sure as hell think he knows what he's doing. Besides, do you really want to end up in an institution? Would you rather I just let you go without trying to put up a fight?" He looked up at me, his blue eyes ablaze, "It's tough on me too, don't you know? There were times when we were younger that I felt like giving in …but I didn't, because I wanted you to live. I wanted to make you better, fix you somehow."
I opened my mouth to say something but he cut me off again.
"So don't give me a hard time, alright? I've been under enough stress as it is." He picked his glass up again, ending the conversation.
The rest of the ride up to my parent's house was quiet …for me at least. Sora had taken to talking to his girlfriend, Kairi, for most of the ride there. His voice had regained its usual light hearted bubbly air and he was back to being his usual happy go lucky self. They were currently discussing how their days went, Sora noting rather loudly that I had been discharged and I heard Kairi squeal on the other line. No doubt she'd be showing up at our apartment later.
We were raised in Manhattan, but something happened during my late teens that prompted my parents to move to a more private and secluded area out of New York City. They're currently residing in some ritzy area up in Westchester. I live with Sora in Manhattan and Cloud also has his own place in the city with his friend Leon …whom he refers to as his roommate. Sora and Rikku are forever speculating that something else is going on between the two of them. My little sister Rikku still lives with our parents, although she spends a lot of time down at Cloud's place.
When the limo pulled up to the house, I could feel a foreboding feeling wash over my chest, paling considerably. I looked up at Sora, who shook his head and nodded outwards. When we got out of the limo, it was the same thing when we had left the hospital. Cameras and lights flickered from the gates that closed off the community from outsiders.
There was a car parked on the other side of the long drive way. Axel was waiting for us, arms crossed as he leaned against his car, "Bout time you guys got here."
Sora laughed, "Sorry, you weren't waiting long were you?"
"Nah, I just got here actually." He leaned off the car, "Do you need me to go in or anything? I can stay outside if this is one of those secret family things I'm not supposed to know about."
"No, no, no, not at all. Come inside. I don't think we'll be too long. You can entertain our younger sister or something; she's a big fan of your band." Sora responded laughing.
"How old is she?"
"Seventeen. It's her birthday today, actually."
"Ah, past the prime then."
The both of them shared a laugh, which quickly died out. I hadn't been paying attention really, my mind started wondering again.
"Earth to Roxas." I looked to Sora who was waving at me. Axel had his eyebrows raised; arms still crossed and stayed perched on his car. "Come on; let's get inside so we can get out of this place already."
He unlocked the front door, and we headed into the warm house. The sounds of girlish laughter, which I presumed belonged to be our younger sister rung harshly in my ears. We walked out of the grand hallway and into the living room. Sora poked his head inside the room, knocking on the wall. Rikku was currently sitting on the couch watching television and talking on the phone. She wasn't paying any attention to what was going on behind her. Sora cleared his throat and she looked up. Her eyes immediately lit up when she saw us standing there.
"Sora! Roxas!" Her high pitched soprano voice reverberated off of the walls around us. She leapt off the couch and ran into Sora. She flew into him at full force and he twirled her around once before setting her down on the floor. Next, she turned her attention on me. She gave me a bone crushing hug as a grin took up residence on her face, "Roxas! You're okay! I was so worried!" She paused, "Dad wouldn't let me go see you while you were in the hospital so I had to rely on Sora for updates about your condition."
"Yeah." Was all I could muster.
"Yeah? That's all you have to say? Yeah? What about, 'Happy Birthday, Rikku!' or 'I'm sorry that I worried you'. No, you have to go and say, yeah, like, it's no big deal that you nearly–"
"Rikku, that's enough." Sora chided her.
"Happy birthday." I tried, dryly.
"Sheesh." She sighed, shaking her head. "Whatever, I'm just glad you're okay …" She paused, her eyes growing wide, and let out another small squeak. "Oh …"
I turned around to see Axel standing by the door as Sora waved a hand for him to come in. He ran a hand through his fiery tresses, looking around to take in his surroundings. He stopped by Rikku, one hand on his hip, "This must be the birthday girl."
"Y-yo-you …Sora, Axel …Ramirez. What? …Oh my god." Rikku took that opportunity to pass out. Or at least, pretend to. She was always a bit dramatic.
"I always did knock them dead." He grinned, turning around to Sora and the two of them laughed again. I scowled at him, folding my arms over my chest. Sora was trying to fan Rikku into consciousness. Axel caught me looking at him and sighed. "What are you mad about now?" He asked, catching my look of disapproval.
I didn't respond, just glared further at him.
"Oh, so you like the silent treatment, is it? I better commit that to memory."
Sora came up behind me after reviving Rikku from the floor and got her to sit down in her chair. She was still making stuttering and incoherent sounds under her breath. Sora sighed, rubbing his head, "Come on and let's get you to dad before he gets into one of those moods. Axel, we'll be right back."
"Sure …take your time." He took a seat on the opposite couch, a bit wary as Rikku watched his every move.
"Rikku, behave." Sora called back as we left the two of them alone. He dragged me down the hallway toward our father's study. "Remember how it gets with you. Just try not to let him get to you." He looked over his shoulder at me, his expression was soft, although laced with worry.
The further we got, the more my palms were starting to sweat and I felt my stomach churn. I was starting to feel lightheaded and my hair was standing on end.
"Calm down." Sora whispered, as he stood before the door of my father's study. He knocked on the door, waiting for my father to signal us to go in, "Its Sora."
"Is Roxas with you?" A gruff voice called from the other side.
"Send him in. You are dismissed, Sora."
The doors opened and Sora sent me a meaningful look. He gave my hand a quick, hard squeeze, before disappearing behind the hallway. I walked in slowly, feeling my heart hammering against my rib cage with very step I took. The door closed shut with a resounding thud as I stepped forward. My father's back was facing me. It was silent in the room as I looked to my mother and then back to my father. My mother sat to his side, her lips thinned and hands clasped over her lap. She did not meet my gaze, but rather looked tired and drawn.
"Roxas, sit." My father was firm and commanding as always. My father paced the room, before looking at me again. "You've grown disgustingly pale and thin. What have they been feeding you in that god damn hospital?"
I opened my mouth to speak, but promptly closed it when my father started pacing again. He didn't waste any time and began the onslaught already.
"We pay so much money for you to get better, to get treatment and yet you refuse to acknowledge all that we do for you. It's taxing on us, Roxas, and clearly, your mother and I can't take much more of your disappointments. You're nineteen years old, it is time that you grow up and start acting your age."
"I am speaking."
I hated that voice. I hated it when I was a kid, I hate it now. I started to lower my head, when he called me again.
"Look at me, Roxas. Look at me." I looked up, finding it hard to meet his stone cold gaze. "This is your last chance. The next time you think it's appropriate to …do something of this caliber, I will make sure they put you away for good. We are a highly respectable family and you are tarnishing our good name, a name my grandfather, your great grandfather worked so hard to establish. This is unacceptable." He paused, "Have you anything to say?" I didn't say anything for quite some time, so he yelled rather boldly. "Speak."
"You? Yes, let me hear it."
"I …don't …"
"You don't what? You don't want to waste our time anymore? You are clearly doing it. If it weren't for Sora, I would have had you put away after you pulled that little stunt back when you were younger." He scoffed, "I am ashamed to call you my son."
I felt a sinking feeling in my chest, and I was growing light headed again.
"In my day, we had nothing of this. We respected our families. We knew how to represent ourselves. The Ardenwell name is not something to take lightly, Roxas." He sat down in his chair, "I am not sure you understand that."
I couldn't hear anymore. My heart felt like it was about to thump its way out of my chest right about now. Break free of my restrictive rib cage and flop over on the floor by my feet. A pumping, squirting, bloody red mess.
"Would you like to tell us …what exactly troubles you so? What reasons do you have to bring down this family? I would think after everything has been given to you, you would learn to acknowledge the extent of who you really are."
What was he talking about? He wasn't making any sense.
"Perhaps it was lapse of poor judgment on your part, certainly not ours. Countless dollars thrown away to fix you. To think you are a child of my blood. No child of mine acts in such a poor and disgusting manner. I wonder if Ansem is holding onto a false hope that you will recover from whatever is wrong with you …you …ingrate. Sabel, have you anything to add for our dear son?"
My mother shook her head, drawing her hands to her mouth. "No, Teier." She managed to choke out. This was tearing her up inside, I knew it was.
"Do you think this is nice, my son? It's quite charming, isn't it? Overdosing on drugs and alcohol. Countless times spent in rehabilitation. All of it is simply wonderful. You aren't worthy of the title of being my son. I don't even understand why I still spend my time on you." My father looked back at me with those cold, hard grey eyes of his. "This is your last chance." He said again. "Be wise."
My mother looked at me, eyes void of any expression. I tried to find something within her gaze, but she was just blank.
"You are dismissed."
I stood up, walking out of the study, and closing the door behind me. I walked slowly down the hallway, hearing my footsteps echo through the empty hallway. The moment I entered the main hall, I saw Sora was waiting for me.
"Are you okay? Roxas, what did he say to you?"
I looked to Sora, shaking my head, and drawing my arms inwardly. I felt like I was going to throw up and that light headed feeling came back to me once again.
I didn't speak when he called my name. I walked over to go sit down in the chair, clutching my stomach as I folded over, rubbing my arms. Sora kneeled down beside me, trying to look into my eyes. Rikku looked down at me, and her expression completely changed. "Hey, bro. You okay?"
Sora made a gesture as if not to press the subject and she frowned in silent defiance. Bending down to look at me, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and I looked at her as she grinned broadly at me.
"Don't let him get to you, okay? I love you no matter what anyone else says. Stay well, alright? And bring Axel back so I can harass him some more!" She paused, "Get better, I'm rooting for you."
…She could be sweet at times, no matter how much of a spaz she was.
"Come on," Sora linked an arm around mine, dragging me out of the chair and out of the door. With a quick farewell to Rikku, I stumbled down the stairs as if I were a child getting used to the concept of walking.
"Where exactly do you two live?" Axel asked as we neared the limo and the car he was driving.
"525 East 80th Street, it's between York and East End Avenue …" Sora shook his head, "Just try and keep close to the limo."
"Gotcha." He paused for a moment, looking at me and then back at Sora. "Is he going to be okay?"
Sora looked to me, and then back to Axel and nodded, "I'll see you when we get to the house."
The driver opened the door for me and closed it back as I got in. Once inside, I climbed into my seat, laid down and curled up into the fetal position facing away from the open door. Sora got in after me, taking a seat by my head. The driver started up the car after he told him that we were heading home and the ride started off in silence.
Sora's thigh nudged against my head, and I opened my eyes to look up at him. He stared back at me and patted on his thigh, motioning for me to put my head up on his lap. With the gentle lull of the car and fatigue overcoming me, I soon succumbed to sleep, finding myself in a place far away from here.
" …Yeah, he got out this afternoon. …Dad wanted to see him though and you know what always happens after Rox gets out of one those talks."
When I woke up, Sora was on his phone talking in a hushed voice to whoever was on the other line.
"No, don't call him. I don't want to get into it with them either. I've been dealing with him for the past three months; I don't want you involved in this now. I know how you've kept your distance from him and I don't want you wrapped up in any of this. Even if does concern Roxas."
"Um, we're heading home now …so, uh, we'll be there in maybe another twenty or so minutes? …Can you pick up some food? Um …I don't know; pick up some sushi or something."
"…Oh, look, I think he's up. Listen, Cloud. I'll talk to you later. Call me when you're on your way to the house."
I sat up, covered my mouth with my hand as I yawned and rubbed at my eyes. I stretched in all ways possible, cracking stiff bones and sore muscles. I turned to look at Sora, who in turn cocked his head at me. I yawned again, grinding my teeth as I straightened my posture in the seat. I looked to him again, "What?"
"How are you feeling?"
I hated that question. "Fine, I guess."
"You're back to normal." I guess three word answers are his definition of normal. He sighed, pocketing his phone. Shifting his legs so that one now rested underneath his thigh, he turned to look at me. "I just got off the phone with Cloud; he's stopping by the house a little later on." He tapped the side of his foot with a single finger, "You hungry?"
"A little." I admitted, shrugging. I can't remember the last time I ate.
"Is sushi okay?"
I shrugged, not really caring. Turning to look out of the window, I noticed we were just a little shy of the FDR and figured we'd be home in a little bit. Sinking back into my seat I nodded, "I don't really care either way, but it's okay."
"Good." He sighed, a bit relieved. "So …anything you want to talk about?"
He dropped the conversation soon after, probably figuring out that I wasn't going to talk about what happened in the study with our parents anytime soon. We smoothed past traffic on the FDR and within a few minutes, we had pulled up to our apartment building. The minute the door opened, I was being pulled forward again through a mess of people. Between the multitudes of screaming people, I tried to find my way through the crowd without going permanently blind. Sora quickly ushered me into the elevator, and steered me into the direction of our apartment. As soon as he locked the door behind us, he sighed, relaxing against it.
"How long have you been dealing with them?" I asked.
"Since you were admitted to the hospital." He followed my lead, walking to the dining room area. "They kind of …grew less scarce as time went by. But when it leaked out you were being released this morning, they were already there at the scene."
Everything seemed to have stayed the same way since I had been admitted to the hospital. Same living room …same kitchen …same furry thing in the corner of the living room. I nearly jumped when said small furry thing moved in the corner of the living room. When it came closer into view, I realized the small furry thing was a dog. It yapped happily upon seeing Sora, pawing at his legs and running around him. Sora bent down to cuddle the small thing, picking it up in his arms, and walked over to me.
"…You got another dog while I was gone."
"I got lonely because you weren't here …and don't give me that look! She was so cute …and small and …" He cuddled the dog, "Don't worry, she's completely up to date with her shots. I took her to the vet and did everything like I was supposed to. …Her name is Soro and she's a Maltese Yorkie hybrid. A Morkie! Isn't she cute?"
"Sure." I shrugged, "Just how did you come up with that name, anyway?"
"I combined our names …" He answered lowly, "…Okay, so I'm not that creative, so sue me."
"Are you sure this one isn't just going to end up at Cloud's house …like the other two dogs you got?"
"Positive!" He let the small dog drop out of his arms and she instantly ran over to me, running around in circles and yapping happily. I picked up my foot trying to shoo her away and Sora laughed, "She likes you, that's all." She whined a bit after I paid her no attention, and toddled off back to Sora who stroked her affectionately, "Aww, poor baby. All she wants is a little attention!"
Ignoring Sora, I left the living room and headed off toward my room. It was just as I had left it. Spotless, as if nothing had been touched to begin with. It had looked like Sora had kept it clean while I gone. Sora soon walked in behind me, Soro trailing at his feet.
"Something wrong?" He asked.
"I kept it clean for you."
"I can see that."
The front door clicked open, and Soro ran out of my room and started barking loudly at whoever had just come in. I spotted a shock of red hair and a lean figure coming around the corner. Axel stopped in the middle of the living room, hands on his hips. "Sheesh, I can't remember the last time I've ever gotten in a tabloid frenzy as bad as that."
Sora left my room, and headed out into the living room, "Did you have any trouble getting up?"
"Hell yeah." He shrugged off his hoodie, and Sora leapt forward to take it from him. His voice echoed away as the two of them headed down the hallway to another closet.
Soro ran back into my room, looking up at me again. She wagged her tail, and began pawing at my legs again. It didn't feel that long ago since I was stuck between these four walls to tell you the truth. Sora knocked on the door a few minutes later, looking in at me. "Come into the living room, please?"
Reluctantly I stood up and walked into the living room. Axel was already sitting in the living room, his chin balanced on splayed palms, his elbows resting on his thighs. He regarded me with a strange expression, gesturing for me to sit. I sat down in the recliner across from him. Axel was fairly young looking now that I got a good look at him. Or maybe he had a young face but he was actually in his thirties or something.
"…Trying to guess my age?" Too intuitive for his own good. "I'm twenty three."
Okay, that was way too young. How the hell did he land himself a job like this?
The door bell run and we both turned to see Sora shuffling off to get the door and two new voices entered the fray. The first of which was slightly high pitched, Kairi, and the other was the hazy, slight rasp of my older brother, Cloud.
"It's a mad house out there." Kairi commented as she walked into the living room with her hands on her hips. When she saw me, her hands instantly flew to her mouth and she grinned wildly, "Roxas! Hey!"
I wasn't too keen on my brother's girlfriend. Their relationship always seemed a little bit forced to me. She was the daughter of one of our father's business associates. She had grown up in the spotlight just like the rest of us had. It wasn't that I didn't like her or anything, it's just that …well, she and Sora just didn't seem that right for each other.
Cloud followed in, dropping off a bag with Sora who entered the kitchen. He wasn't really one for words, but he came over to where Axel and I were seated. "How are you?"
"…Okay, I guess." I really wished everyone would stop asking me already.
He turned to look at Axel, "…You must be the live-in." He paused, looked at me and then back at Axel. "I'm Cloud, Sora and Roxas's brother. I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of each other as time goes on. Take care of him."
Axel grinned, nodding at him, "Don't worry, I will."
Kairi took the moment to wrap her arms around me and pressed me against her chest, "Roxas!" She rubbed her chin into the top of my head. I pushed her off after she was starting to suffocate me. She bounced down on the seat, drawing her hands into her lap. "Oh, I was so worried! We all were!" I braced myself for five hundred questions. "Do they still have you on meds? Are you okay? Does anything hurt? We brought sushi! I hope you like it! I'm not asking too many questions am I?"
Sora had to stop her halfway, dragging her into the kitchen also, much to my relief. I turned back to Axel, and the serious expression was gone, "You have a lot of people who care about you, you know?"
"You ever say anything else besides three letter phrases?"
I stared at him, glaring once again.
"I guess I'll just have to learn sign language to communicate with you then."
I tapped my finger against my bicep, "Is annoying me part of your job description?" I asked him, raising one eyebrow, the other furrowed close to my eye.
"No, but I think we can pencil it in somewhere." He responded. Sitting up, he leaned forward, causing me to recline slightly in my chair. "So, what are you thinking about?"
I regarded him for a few minutes, "I don't like you."
"You wouldn't be the first to have told me that."
"Oh really? Then what number am I?"
"I don't know, sort of lost count once I got into the hundreds."
"Seems like you've created quite a following."
"Oh yes, quite a large one indeed." He laughed, "I like you, though. You've got spunk to you."
"Certainly," I paused, "Especially when it comes to dealing with idiots such as yourself."
"I'm so hurt."
"You're a little sadistic aren't you?" He grinned, lips unfurling into a devilish smirk. "Do you take pleasure in being so cruel to people?"
"Or maybe you're a masochist?"
This must be a joke. I refuse to believe that Ansem put me in the care of someone so ...so ...infuriating. I promptly stood up out of my seat across from him, stomping around to my bedroom door. Axel followed after me, sliding across the distance to try and keep up with me. I slammed my door behind me right in his stupid face.
"Oh come on, Roxas. I was just playing!"
I slid onto my bed, grabbing a pillow and curling up with it. The banging persisted, and only subsided when I heard two indistinct lowered voices outside of the door.
Is he always this ...moody?
Don't worry, he does this a lot. Come on, he'll be out soon.
If you say so.
He just has to get used to you.
I was finding it harder and harder to believe in Ansem's words as the day was coming to a close, "Don't let him get to you. He knows what he's doing."
Like hell he does.