Title: At the Sign of the Bawdy Moogle

Summary: In which we have strippers, rockstars, college, a soon-to-be sabotaged wedding, alcohol, and lots of gay boys. Akuroku, RiSo, KaiSo, C/L, Zemyx, Naminell

Rating: T for offensive language and adult situations (changed because it's not that bad yet, and readership seems to be suffering for it)

Disclaimer: Not my sandbox. I just play in it.

Chapter the Third

Zell stole a quick glance at the blonde sitting slightly to his left and two rows ahead, paying minimal attention to the professor's dissertation on the erotic undertones in Bernini's sculpture of St. Theresa. Namine Umino, after all, was much more interesting to look at.

She was drawing on her notes, occasionally pausing to write down something the professor said. Zell's eyes traced the curve of her neck, savoring the way her hair draped and collected into a pool on her desk as she bent over her notes. His breath caught as she tucked a few golden strands behind her ear. As her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, Zell could have sworn his heart stopped.

Zell Dincht was lovesick, plain and simple.

He tore his eyes away from his unknowing tormenter and returned to his notes as the professor moved on to the next piece. He was pitiful, and he knew it. He'd never even said two words to the girl. He sighed as the professor brought the lecture to a close, closing his notebook (which contained not so much actual notes as it did Namine's name) and capping his pen. He took his time organizing his stuff in his book bag, drawing out his cell from the front pocket and checking for messages.

He idly wondered, as he hefted the bag over one shoulder, what he would do for lunch – Dem and Axel were probably practicing for their show at Destiny on Friday night, so he was on his own.

He was vaguely debating the pros and cons of getting a burrito from The Usual Spot – the nearest dining hall – when he tripped over one of the shallow stairs that led to the lecture hall exits…

… And directly into the love of his life. The demure blonde girl let out a soft cry as her books slipped from her arms. They both froze for a moment, Zell staring at up her with growing horrified embarrassment and Namine returning the gaze with an expression of… concern? Remembering his manners, Zell shook himself from his daze and began apologizing profusely.

"Man, I'm sorry! I should have been watching my feet! Here, let me help you with your books!" Zell scrambled to pick up the fallen textbooks and notebooks, well aware that his face was gradually becoming the same shade of red as Axel's hair. Or, that's what it felt like, anyway.

Books collected, Zell rose and held them out to Namine, who was still staring at him as if he'd grown an extra head. She turned her heartbreakingly blue eyes to the books, and then began to giggle as she accepted them.

"Thank you, that was very kind of you," she said. Zell waved it off, still blushing.

"No, seriously, let me… uh, buy you coffee or something… make it up to you, you know?" Namine tilted her head slightly, her lips forming a small 'o' in surprise.

"It was just an accident," she said. "No harm done – I wouldn't want you to waste dining munny on me." If it had been possible for Zell's face to get any redder, it likely would have – rejected! However, Zell was nothing if not persistent.

"It wouldn't be a waste – and, well, I could really use some company… uh… if you're not busy…" Zell winced as he spoke. Way to sound like a total loser, Dincht, good job. The blonde girl smiled, however.

"Well, if you insist. I'm Namine Umino, by the way."

"Zell. Zell Dincht."

"So… The Usual Spot?"


Wednesday nights at The Bawdy Moogle were always crowded; the Major League Blitzball teams always played on Wednesdays, a moment of relaxation in the middle of the week. Roxas inhaled deeply as he walked through the door, savoring the familiar smell of alcohol and cigarette smoke. Hayner and Pence followed, teasing Olette about needing to drag her away from her homework to get her to come out with them. Olette was pouting, shooting pleading glances at Roxas (which he ignored).

"Roxas!" The blonde boy paused and braced himself as his older brother tackled him in a hug. "I haven't seen you in a week! What have you been up to? By the way, have you seen Nami? Kairi wanted to talk to her about wedding colors, and she's had her phone turned off all day –"

"Let him get a word in edgewise, Sora, jeez!" Mentally thanking the powers that be for the existence of Tidus Zanarkand, Roxas squirmed out of Sora's embrace and straightened out his hair and clothes.

He took a moment to glance around – all of Sora's crew had turned out, and Cloud's. Namine was the only person missing, it seemed.

"I actually have no idea where Namine is," Roxas said with a shrug. "She never returned to the dorm after her art history class."

"That doesn't sound too reassuring, ya," Wakka Besaid chipped in, frowning from his perch on one of the barstools. He and Tidus, along with Olette's older sister Selphie, all ran with Sora and Kairi's clique. It was somewhat odd, actually, how the Strife boys managed to attract such interesting people. Roxas supposed it had something to do with the addition of the Gainsborough girls… Olette, Selphie and Aerith had been close to Roxas, Sora and Cloud since before either set of siblings could remember.

"She'll turn up," Roxas said. Namine did disappear from time to time. Usually it was to the art studios on campus – she'd get so caught up in her paintbrush and oils that she'd lose track of time, coming home close to midnight with a sheepish grin and smelling of linseed oil.

Kairi didn't seem too concerned about the absence of her twin. The redhead was absorbed in a copy of Bride magazine, a large binder and more wedding literature spread over her corner of the bar. "Sora, what do you think of lavender?" Sora cringed.

"Kairi, we've been over this… Lavender is a girl color!" Kairi's purple-blue eyes fixed upon her fiancé with a vicious glare.

"I am a girl, Sora!"

"Yeah, but Kairi, you'll be wearing white, right? So it doesn't really matter, does it?"

"Doesn't really MATTER?" The rest of the bar wisely averted their eyes from the budding dispute and each patron quickly busied himself with something else.

Roxas sauntered over to Cloud's table and took a seat beside his oldest brother, engaging him and Leon in a conversation about school and work. Once again, Roxas mused as his subconscious took in the atmosphere, everything at the Bawdy Moogle was as it should be.

It was half-past-eight by the time Namine finally walked through the pub doors, her cheeks flushed with the cold. The more boisterous of the Strife crew (namely, Hayner, Tidus, Yuffie and Selphie) greeted her with cheers and catcalls; the rest offered a smile and a wave. Kairi promptly seized her sister (and future maid-of-honor) by the arm and dragged her over to her little fortress of bridal magazines and color swatches before Roxas could even rise to greet her.

Sighing, the youngest Strife rose and, taking his life in his hands, drew near the cloying grasp of wedding-planning purgatory.

"… So I was thinking definitely lavender or pink for the bridesmaids' dresses and the groomsmen's tuxedos," Kairi was chattering to Namine. Roxas made a face at the thought.

"Kairi, if you make the tuxes lavender or pink, I'm going to the wedding naked," Roxas told her. The redhead whirled to glare at him, but Roxas held strong. "I mean it, Kairi, pick another color. Light green – light blue even."

Kairi huffed, pouted, then sighed. "I suppose periwinkle wouldn't be too bad. It's close enough to lavender…"

"Plus, periwinkle looks good on everyone in the wedding party," Namine offered. "Especially you, Kai. It complements your hair."

"You think so?" Kairi asked with a happy giggle, returning to reading about popular honeymoon destinations. Sora, who had been silently dying inside at the thought of a lavender wedding, looked like he was about to pass out with relief.

"So, Nami," Roxas began, "where've you been all day? Art studio?" The blonde girl suddenly became very pink in the cheeks.

"Ah, no actually. I had lunch with a friend and we lost track of time talking." Roxas narrowed his eyes. Namine wouldn't be blushing if this was just any old friend. She didn't blush often. In fact, the last time she'd blushed…

Roxas smirked slightly.

"This friend wouldn't happen to have a name that starts with 'Zuh' and ends with 'ell,' would he?" he asked his fellow blonde in an undertone. He could tell by the sudden intensity of the blush that he had hit the nail on the head with that one. His smirk widened into a wicked smile.

"Tsk, tsk, Nami! Ditching your friends to go hang out with a boy! You must really like him. I should sic Selphie and Yuffie on you. They're sure to have boatloads of advice…"

"Hssst! Not so loud!" Namine shushed him, taking a panicked glance at the aforementioned girls, just in case they had heard. The girl narrowed her eyes at him. "And just for that, you get to help me."

"Help you with what?"

"He kind of invited me to go see his cousin's band with him on Friday night. I can't go alone, Roxas, I just can't!"

"Band?" Roxas asked skeptically, drawing back a little and making a face. Roxas was very picky in his music choices. It wasn't that he stuck to a particular genre; there were just some bands whose music he simply did not like.

"Please, Roxas?" She was giving him the Look. Roxas cringed, tearing his eyes away. Unfortunately for Roxas, Namine's Look had a magnetic quality to it, consistently drawing his eyes back. No one could resist the Look. No one.

"Fine," Roxas said at last, resigned. "But I'm bringing Hayner. At least then if the band is horrible, I'll have someone to make snide remarks to."

"Perfect!" Namine said, her Look turning into a mischievous smirk. "It'll be like a double date!" Roxas rolled his eyes at the insinuation.

"If you wanted that, you should have asked Sora and Kairi to go with you."

"They're too busy planning the wedding. I don't envy them – I'm having enough trouble planning the bachelorette party!" Namine said as she and Roxas removed themselves from Sora and Kairi's presence. (The two were now arguing over whether to have the honeymoon in the Land of Dragons (Sora) or in Agrabah (Kairi).) "Kai wants to go clubbing, but the only place in our budget is Oblivion, and you know what Oblivion is like." Roxas winced; Oblivion was on the seedier side of Twilight Town, and the girls were more likely to get raped there than to have a good time.

"I've been having a bit of trouble with Sora's bachelor party, too," Roxas said. "He clearly has no idea what he wants to do."

"Isn't it obvious? Every bachelor party needs a stripper!" Tidus butt in, throwing an arm over Roxas' shoulder. Roxas rolled his eyes.

"Kairi would kill me if I hired a stripper," Roxas said, giving the older blond a pointed glare. Tidus chuckled.

"Who says she has to know?" Roxas rolled his eyes and shrugged off Tidus' arm.

"We're not hiring a stripper, Tidus," he growled, Namine nodding along. Tidus huffed and stalked off to the bar, attempting to wheedle a beer out of an uncompromising Cid. Roxas sighed.

"We'll probably end up having a Smash tournament or something, knowing Sora," he said ruefully. Namine giggled.

"As long as you're having fun!"

"Yeah, yeah. So where is this concert thing, anyway?"

"Oh, I forgot to tell you! It's at Club Destiny," Namine said with an excited clap of her hands. Roxas raised his eyebrows. Club Destiny was elite.

"And you're allowing me to bring Hayner?"

"Bring me where?" Roxas and Namine turned as the blond army brat approached.

"We're going to Club Destiny Friday night," Roxas said. "Nami's got a date and she's to chicken to go on her own." Namine frowned and cuffed Roxas' shoulder.

"Fine by me. Means I don't have to go to that Bio study session."

"Perfect! It's a date!" Namine chimed. Roxas merely shot her a dry glare.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Zell had pseudo-math (Logic) with his cousin, Demyx, and his close friend, Axel. While Axel had known Zell for only about a year – blowing up the chem lab tended to be a bonding experience (no pun intended) – Demyx had known him for their entire lives, and thus found it much easier to notice that something was… different about Zell on that particular Thursday afternoon.

Zell fidgeted as Demyx's ocean-colored eyes sized him up. Axel merely raised an eyebrow as Demyx leaned over the folding desk to inspect his cousin on the redhead's other side. Trying as hard as he could to ignore the piercing gaze, Zell scribbled down notes on the professor's monologue.

After a moment, Demyx smirked. A moment more, and the smirk became a grin. A final moment and Demyx leaned back into his seat, looking smug. Axel shot him a questioning glance.

"He asked that girl out – what was her name? Namine," Demyx explained.

Zell choked on his own saliva.

Axel snorted, turning to Zell with an evil grin, which the young man was studiously ignoring. "Holding out on us, eh?" He glanced back at Demyx. "What do you s'pose that means, Dem?" Demyx hummed to himself and returned to inspecting the other blond.

Zell's eye twitched. Demyx grinned at the inadvertent signal.

"It means he didn't want us to know… which means he's probably planning on doing something with her when we're too busy to spy on him." Zell's hand, holding his pen, spasmed. "Likely tomorrow when we're playing the concert. And since he wouldn't dare miss our gig, he's probably taking her to Destiny tomorrow."

Zell heaved a sigh and let his head crash on the folding desk in front of him. Axel and Demyx exchanged a glance.

"And that?"

"Means I was right on the money. Which is surprising, because I was just making random guesses."

Roxas and Hayner stared at the blond boy coolly, sizing him and clearly finding him lacking. Zell gulped, avoiding eye contact and instead focusing on his conversation with Namine as the group strolled down the sidewalk leading to Club Destiny.

Namine, Roxas had decided, was worth ten of this obvious delinquent. For some reason he could not fathom, however, the girl liked him – truly, honestly liked him. As they walked, the couple appeared to be drawing closer and closer, tapering off into a private conversation of whispers and giggles from Namine.

"So, what kind of music does your cousin play?" Roxas asked loudly, causing Zell to stiffen nervously and practically leap away from his date.

"Uh, well… they started off playing covers of some rock groups. Their original stuff has more of an alternative edge to it. Demyx – that's my cousin – is the guitarist, so he does most of the actual music composition. Axel writes the lyrics."

"Wait a sec," Hayner chimed in. "Axel… I've heard that name before. He go to Twilight? Axel Lee?" Zell blinked, surprised.

"Yeah, he and Dem are in one of my classes this semester."

"Wasn't Axel Lee the guy who blew up the chem lab?" Roxas asked, deadpan, one eyebrow raised in question. It was something of an intimidating sight, a skill Roxas had learned from Cloud: the "protective older brother" aura. (Even though Namine was older than him, it still amounted to the same thing.) "Professor Vexen won't stop bitching about it."

"Hey, I helped!" Zell protested with a huff. "People always give Axel all the credit…"

"You helped blow up the chem lab?" Roxas said dubiously. If the glares he had shot at Zell before this revelation were bad, they were nothing compared to the "I-want-you-away-from-my-surrogate-sister-immediately" glare he was shooting the poor boy now. Seeming to have realized his faux-pas, Zell made an abortive attempt to clear his name.

"Only a little bit..." he offered. Roxas rolled his eyes.

"How can you blow up the chem lab 'a little bit?'?"

"Will you two stop it?" Namine finally interrupted, exasperation tingeing her normally-calm voice. "We're here." Indeed, they had arrived – at the tail end of a long queue cordoned off with velvet ropes.

"It's going to take forever to get in!" Hayner groaned. Zell smirked.

"Maybe for the little people like these," he said with an air of slight arrogance. "You, on the other hand, are in the presence of a man with connections." He led the way to the front of the line, Namine's hand in his, Hayner and Roxas trailing behind suspiciously.

Zell greeted the bouncer, a tall bald man in a dark suit and sunglasses, cheerfully. "Rude, I'm with the band." One of Rude's eyebrows rose into visibility over the rims of his shades, as he inclined his head questioningly at the others with him. "And they're with me," Zell added on as an afterthought. The man sighed and disconnected the velvet rope from one of the posts, allowing the four to pass.

Hayner grinned at Zell with a new respect. "That was sweet! How'd you do that?"

"Well, it's the truth, isn't it? Rude knows me – I've come here often enough with Axel and Demyx." Roxas scoffed, sulking to himself. Now he couldn't even count on his best friend to keep this tattooed freak away from his "sister;" Zell had just earned the Hayner-stamp-of-approval.

"When does the band start playing?" Namine asked, voice raised slightly over the music. The dee-jay was playing something with a strong bass, and somewhat angry lyrics. Roxas approved, oddly enough.

"Not 'til ten," Zell replied. "They wait until people actually start arriving to send out their headliners."

"Why'd we come here so early, then?" Roxas grumbled, inaudible over the music, as he glanced at his wristwatch. Half-past eight. Predictably, he didn't get a reply, as Namine started to drag a compliant Zell out to the dance floor and Hayner made a beeline for the bar. As usual, he would be trying to convince the bartender he was of age. He would probably end up with a glass of water and a reproving glare for his troubles.

With no particular desire to watch Zell and Namine get all lovey-dovey on the dance floor, or to get kicked out for trying to buy alcoholic beverages, Roxas merged into the crowd. He went with the flow for a while, bobbing his head to the music. This dee-jay wasn't bad at all – the variety of the playlist, Roxas decided as the previous sugary pop song ended only to be replaced with an odd techno beat, made it so much more interesting than the typical clubs which only played badly-written hip-hop.

Roxas allowed a faint smile touch his lips as he swayed to the beat, allowing his eyes to close. This club wasn't so bad, Roxas decided. And maybe Zell wasn't so bad for bringing them here. Namine liked him, right? She was usually a pretty good judge of character…

Roxas bumped head-on into another body, his blue eyes shooting open only to discover… someone's torso? Roxas' gaze trailed up… and up… this was ridiculous, he wasn't that short… until they finally locked with a pair of green pupils that regarded him with a mixture of surprise, amusement, and some emotion Roxas couldn't quite place.

The green eyes belonged to a pale face framed by wild red hair – a gravity-defying mess far worse than that of all three of the Strife brothers put together. It was an interesting face, angular and somewhat exotic. The angles were accentuated by a pair of upside-down-tear-shaped tattoos on the cheekbones.

Roxas refused to admit to himself that he liked the face.

"Sorry, I wasn't watching where I was going," Roxas said, sighing.

"Nah, neither was I," the redhead replied, the surprise gone from his gaze (though the amusement and the something-else were still there.) "You don't come here often, do you?"

"Ah… no," Roxas replied, confused as to why this redhead was speaking to him instead of moving on to go grind against some girl.

"Didn't think so. What's your name?"

"Roxas," he said, after a moment of hesitation. He kicked himself the next moment, hoping that this guy wasn't some psycho who would follow him home and kill him in his sleep. The redhead's lips curled into a smirk.

"Rrrrrroxas, hm?" the man said, rolling the 'r' as he tried the name out. "Mind if I call you Roxy?"

"Yes," Roxas replied with a glare. This seemed to amuse the stranger even more.

"Ooh, a fiery one," he chuckled. Then, his voice lowered to a husky purr as he leaned in close to Roxas, their noses practically touching. "I like fiery." Roxas was frozen, his eyes wide, as the taller pulled away, laughing. "See you around, Roxy."

As the redhead sauntered off, Roxas realized what the something-else in the stranger's eyes had been.


Axel slipped back into the dressing room at 9:30 – plenty of time to spare before "curtain," but Larxene was bitching at him anyhow.

"You should have been back twenty minutes ago!" the blonde bassist snapped at him as Axel began fixing his hair. "We're never going to have time to figure out another song to do for an encore now!"

"Chill, Larx," Marluxia called from his chair in the corner. "We'll just play one of our old covers if we need a second encore. Which we won't, as this is only a club – not the Twilight Town Amphitheatre." Larx shot him a glare and returned to chewing Axel out.

The redhead didn't really care. He had a tendency to float around the crowd before his shows (few as they were) – to get a feel for the crowd, he said, but mostly it was to get away from Larxene's bitching and Dem's hyperactivity and Marly's cynicism and… well.

It was for stress relief mostly.

And that cute little blond boy he'd stumbled upon today? So worth Larxene's wrath. Sure, the kid had played hard-to-get, but once little Roxy realized Axel was the front man of Twilight Town's best up-and-coming band, he'd be like putty in his hands.

For he was Axel "Love-'em-and-Leave-'em" Lee, Sex God, and what Axel wanted, Axel got.

Axel smirked, ignoring Larxene's nagging, and continued getting ready for the show.

A/N: Whew. There it is, nine pages. 3500+ words, in one chapter. I'm doing my part, so please review?

What'd you think about Roxas and Axel's first meeting? Good? Bad? And what about the whole "Naminell" aspect of it? Woo, new crack pairing. XD

And there's another big hint as to how a certain character will tie into the story in this chapter… can you spot it? ;P