It had been three or four days since Axel had last seen Roxas, and he was beginning to get a little worried. Not too worried, really, the kid could take care of himself – no, that was a lie. He was worried. The cops had said a day, two tops, when they'd taken him, and here it had been twice that and still no sign of spiky blonde hair.
He took a deep breath as he finished off a complicated rhythm – man, he hadn't practiced in so long; this could really take it out of a guy – and set his drumsticks down on his stool as he stood. It was only then that he heard the furious pounding on his front door.
"I'm coming, I'm coming. Jeez, what does a guy have to do to get some practice time around this place?" His neighbors had complained before about the volume of his drumset. Fuck them, he figured.
He opened the door with a swing and a fake apologetic look he had crafted just for the occasion.
"Yeah, sorry, I know I'm loud, I…" He blinked once, twice, as he realized that the pissed-off neighbor standing in front of him was looking incredibly familiar. "Roxas?" he asked incredulously.
"I've been out here for forty-five minutes," the blonde growled at him. Axel took a step back and swallowed out of nervousness.
"Yeah, uh, sorry 'bout that, I mean…" He paused. "Wait, where the hell have you been for the past two days? Would have been nice to let a guy know, yeah?"
"I'll tell you as soon as my stuff's in. Riku ended up just leaving it here, they were waiting with me for the first twenty minutes,"
"I told you I was sorry, I'll get your… wait, you've got crap? You didn't have any shit at the…" He trailed off, eyes going blank as he thought about what he was trying to say. It only took another moment for him to realize what that meant, and his face was split by a grin in half a second.
"You remember!" he said excitedly, arms waving in emphasis. "You jackass, you couldn't tell me?" The little smirk on Roxas's face should have pissed him off, but he was so goddamn ecstatic that the blonde finally remembered everything, that he couldn't manage it.
"Wanted to see how long it would take you. Help me get this crap in, would you?"
"Fuckin' hell, Roxas," he exclaimed, not knowing what else to say but taking a bag and shouldering it.
"Don't get too excited. I'm living with my father until my emancipation hearing is over." He walked past the other man – shoved his way past, really – and into the living room.
"So this is it, huh? Nice place."
He couldn't help but think that it looked so much better with the blonde as a centerpiece. It wouldn't be too much longer, now, before he was there to stay. And Axel would make sure he never, ever wanted to leave.
Sora's voice as he entered their shared apartment was tentative and unsure, as if he didn't quite know whether his lover really wanted to be disturbed or not. He took a few steps forward and shut the door, then set his bag down on a nearby chair and moved to stand by the other man, evidently debating whether or not to sit on the bed.
"Hey," Riku responded with a half-smile, staring up at the ceiling from his position on the well-worn couch. The judge and jury handed out the verdict and punishment for Sephiroth today – though they had to do it in Twilight Town as the man clearly wouldn't put himself in jail – and Riku had neglected to be there, in favor of running the police station.
"They put Sephiroth away, you know," he said with no evident change to his expression.
"I figured." He wouldn't get the death penalty, because the only person he'd killed – that had been confirmed, anyway – was a hardened criminal himself. Juries didn't tend to have pity on criminals, and pity for the victims tended to be what drove death penalties. That and hate. "For life?" he asked quietly.
There was a pause, and their conversation felt more awkward than it had in a while, though he suspected neither of them quite knew why.
"How's Cloud taking it?" Riku continued with a mask of utter boredom to hide the undertone of worry.
"He's… well. I haven't seen him since the trial. I don't know."
Riku somehow thought that Cloud would be taking some time off for quite a while – disappearing, rather. The events of a few weeks ago had probably been such a blow to him that Riku had no idea when they might see their captain return. He was a solitary man, and not one to show pain.
"So… how are you feeling?" Sora asked, blue eyes shining with concern.
"I'm… tired. But fine." He paused, and the expression on his face changed. "As soon as Vincent comes back on duty, what do you say that you and I go off on vacation?" he suggested, one eyebrow cocked, and with a suggestive little smirk. Sora responded by turning red, which only made him smirk harder. He was so pretty when he was embarrassed.
"Can we go to the beach?" he asked hopefully.
"I've already reserved a little beach-house off the coast of Twilight Beach. It's practically got its own island, too – Destiny Island, I think it was called. It's perfect, you're going to love it."
It might take a while, but things would be alright again. Yuffie's presence would be sorely missed, but they would move on.
They had each other, after all, and that's all either of them really needed.
It was almost seven before Demyx intruded upon Zexion's sleep. Quite frankly, he was surprised it had taken that long.
"Zexion! Guess what day it is?"
The doctor didn't respond, giving the other man a blank look, as if he didn't know.
"I'm not fond of guessing games," he said after a moment, completely deadpan.
The pouty look the blonde gave him was almost enough to make him smile. But not quite. He had better self control than that.
"You've forgotten? Zexy, you can be so mean. It was just one little thing, and…"
He interrupted the other man with a laugh.
"It's your eighteenth birthday." He paused, watching the expression on Demyx's face transform to one of delight. "There's a car waiting for us outside. I suggest you pack."
Roxas was more than a little surprised to hear his doorbell ring at one in the afternoon on his first day living there – Axel was at work, and there weren't that many people interested in seeing him. He was even more surprised when the door started rattling, then opening – the person was letting themselves in. To Axel's apartment.
"Roxas!" came a voice from the doorway. "Roxas, hey, you there?"
He pretended to be asleep on the couch, not very convincingly.
"Hey, Roxas! I know you're awake." He opened one eye in a squint, to find Demyx's cheery face obscuring everything else in the room.
"Um, Demyx. How did you get in here?"
"Oh, I've had the keys for years. Nothing special. Anyway, you're here, Axel isn't, it's perfect!" he said excitedly, sitting down with a thump next to Roxas's head on the couch.
He had a bad feeling about this.
"What's perfect?" he asked blearily as he sat up, sleep not quite yet gone from the corners of his eyes. He'd been napping, dammit.
"You, me, here." The expression on his face was more than just a little frightening, mostly because he had a feeling that there was a Plan in the works.
"You're living with Axel now, so I'm going to sit you down and talk to you properly. I just want to tell you that if you hurt him in any way, you're going to regret it. I'll set Larxene on you. And trust me, you won't like it." There was a pale glint in Demyx's eye that made it clear that he had been on the receiving end of that before.
Roxas blinked slowly, almost confused.
"But wait, I'm not…" he interrupted defensively. They were living together because they were friends, dammit, and his other options just sucked. He'd been properly emancipated from his mother not too long ago – not surprising considering that she was an assassin – and even though she was acquitted of the crime by reason of self-defense, he had no intention of going back to her.
They weren't dating, for god's sakes!
"He's pretty much hung up on you, you know?" Demyx continued before Roxas could finish. "It's like he's a totally different person now that you're back in his life."
"But you're assuming…" Once again his feeble protest was interrupted.
Demyx didn't miss a beat. "You're really good for him, and I hope he'll be good for you too. But the fact is that he's so dependant on you that you could hurt him pretty bad. So no cheating, no being cruel, the usual, got it? Oh, and no sex until you're not jailbait anymore. That would be a sucky thing to get locked up for."
Roxas paled slightly at that last comment, left eye twitching in frustration – why wouldn't this guy just listen to him?
"Demyx, we're not dating!" he finally interrupted, glowering. "If you'd just listen to me, you'd know that by now."
There was a brief pause, during which Demyx stared at him with the king of all blank looks.
Another silence. They watched each other vaguely awkwardly, until Demyx shifted in his seat.
"Well, why the hell not?" the musician finally burst out in disbelief. "I mean Axel thinks the sun shines out of your ass and you like him too, so what's up? I mean, you're living together for god's sake."
"…Maybe because I'm not gay?" he responded with just a hint of sarcasm. People could be so dense sometimes.
"Oh." There was a pause. "Oh." Roxas found himself getting nervous at the sight of the grin that was spreading across the other's face slowly.
"Is that right?" Demyx finally said, with a grin that looked like it might have split his face down the middle.
"I'll give you two weeks, tops."
Roxas snorted derisively – your sexuality didn't change in two weeks, no matter what the other might have thought.
He left without another word, snatching his sitar on his way out and still wearing that stupid grin.
Roxas spent the next half hour trying to convince himself that the expression on the other blonde's face didn't make him nervous at all.
It took Demyx less than a day to get totally settled into Zexion's apartment. It was by no means tiny, but not big enough to lose yourself in either, and the rich wood paneling in his bedroom and study just screamed "bachelor." Perfectly spotless, too, but then that was to be expected.
By the time Zexion came home that evening, he was completely unpacked – even though the apartment had only been made for one person, the hall closet was surprisingly large – and had been sitting contentedly on the couch with his feet up, strumming chords absently on his sitar.
"Hey, Zexy! How was your day?"
"Fine." He paused. "It's quieter there, now."
Saïx's death had been a blow to them both, though they hadn't really spoken of it yet. Demyx knew that it would be a while before Zexion was completely comfortable with talking to him about things, but he was willing to wait. The reward would be more than worth it, after all.
"So I went by Axel's today to pick up my sitar," he began, mostly just to fill the silence. "And Roxas is back there now."
"Is that so?" Zexion responded with a look of amusement as he set down his bag and moved into the kitchen. The blonde couldn't help but notice that he winced at the sight of it – sure, he left crumbs here and there, and crap he forgot to put the milk away, but it wasn't that bad.
Ok, so Zexy's a neat freak. Duly noted.
"And I sat down to talk with the kid – I had to give him the shotgun talk, you know – and I found out that he and Axel aren't actually together yet! Can you believe it?"
The doctor raised an eyebrow and he quirked a smile at that statement as he put the kettle on to boil, setting out two china teacups, then pulled out a cloth and started wiping down the countertops.
"The shotgun talk."
"Yeah, you know the one. 'You hurt my best friend and I'll make sure you regret it.' Like the dad sitting on the porch with a shotgun for his daughter's first boyfriend."
He had a broom now, and he definitely looked like he was suppressing laughs.
"...So you're treating Axel like your daughter."
Demyx winced. It did kind of sound weird when you put it that way.
"You're missing the point here, Zexy."
The blonde watched the other man with interest as he started to pour the tea, and he couldn't help but grin when he realized what the scene reminded him of.
"Hell, Zexion. You're domestic," he said with an incredulous look and no short measure of amusement. The broom and the cleaning and the tea, he looked like such a housewife! It was kind of adorable.
Zexion blanched at that, and stopped mid-pour, realizing what he was doing only just in time to save himself another cleanup.
"What makes you say that? Single men have to learn how to cook and clean."
"Actually, most guys just let their place be a wreck and order takeout."
"Well, there's always Axel's place if you prefer that."
Was he getting indignant? He was. Demyx laughed.
"No no, nothing against it, it's cute."
"I'm glad at least one of us is getting amusement from this," the doctor muttered, and the other man grinned, propping his chin up with his arm.
If nothing else, this would definitely be amusing.
Axel was really quite proud of himself for not molesting Roxas on the spot when he found the kid lounging on his couch, overly large sweatpants hanging down too far to be legal and skintight t-shirt not doing much more to help.
After all, this was only his first day. There would be lots of time for molesting in the future.
"Hey, Roxas. I take it you've moved in, officially, then?" He kept his voice down to a normal level. Excellent.
"Yeah," he said with a grin, evidently oblivious to just how delectable he looked. "So how was work?"
"Filthy as all hell," he groaned, "But otherwise good. Got paid. Larxene should be eighteen within a couple of weeks and then we should have some real spending cash. Bitch owes me money," he laughed. "I'll take you out to something fun."
"Sounds good," Roxas responded. "I'm going to order something, if that's ok, 'cause the food in your fridge has been dead so long it might have reincarnated." He stretched some as he stood, and that only made his stomach more glaringly distracting. The blonde might have said something after that, but Axel definitely missed it. He tuned back in after an indefinite leave of absence, and just barely manage to catch the end of the other's sentence.
"…about time to start making life hell for the neighbors, don't you think?"
"Fuck yeah," he responded. He didn't really need to hear the rest, anyway.
Fifteen minutes later, Axel heard the doorbell ring – probably the food, they got damn fast service here – and decided it would probably be a good time to get out of the shower. He still had to find a lighter before they went out tonight, anyway – the one he kept on hand had run out of gas – because no hell-raising campaign is ever complete without fire.
He toweled off quickly and slipped a pair of pants on, shaking his head once to get rid of some of the excess water, then rummaged through his sink drawer for a lighter – he kept one everywhere – and then walked back out into the living room.
"I found a lighter, there should be tinder somewhere in my pantry," he informed the other absently as he sat down on the couch in front of the steaming Chinese food. It was only because he had started playing with his lighter that it took him as long as he did to realize that Roxas was staring at him. At his bare chest, more like.
Axel gave the other a sly smirk and a sidelong glance, putting his hands behind his head and his feet up on the table so as to afford the blonde a better view.
"Like what you see?" he quipped suggestively.
The boy jumped nervously with a small squeak, pointedly staring at the Chinese food as if to say no, he wasn't doing what it looked like he was doing.
"No! Why in hell are you walking around shirtless anyway?"
The redhead raised an eyebrow.
"This is my apartment," he drawled, and gave the other a look that said he saw right through it. "And it's not like you're interested in guys anyway, so why should it matter?" he teased.
"It doesn't," the blonde shot back defensively, "I just think it's weird."
Axel grinned like the devil, flicking his lighter on and off in his hand.
"Sure you do, Roxy," he agreed condescendingly, and Roxas shot him a look.
Now this gave him a pretty damn amazing idea, really.
When Zexion came home for the evening a few days later, there was no Demyx on his couch, but upon entering his bedroom, he found a package on his bed instead, with a note on top.
Sorry I'm not here to give this to you myself, but Axel called for band practice and we have a concert in a week, so I couldn't skip out.
Hope you enjoy!
He wasn't sure whether to be amused or indignant when he opened the package to find that it contained a frilly white apron. He settled for a bit of both.
As he shook it out and began to refold it, another piece of paper fell out of the bodice.
Because I think it's cute, it said in Demyx's handwriting.
Reading that, he couldn't help but smile.
Demyx wasn't exactly sure why Roxas was giving him such horrible glares from across the bedroom, but he could probably take a guess. Hidden frustration coming to the surface, and now he got to be the blame for all of it. The thought made him laugh.
As soon as Axel called a break, claiming to need a drink, he wasn't at all surprised to find himself dragged outside by a rather pissed off little blonde, who then proceeded to cross his arms and give the other man a glare that could have frozen fire.
"Demyx, you bastard," he spat. "What did you do?"
He gave his best innocent look in return. After all, he really hadn't done anything.
"You want to tell me what you're accusing me of?"
"You know what I'm accusing you of."
"No, actually, I don't," he informed the other with a shrug.
Roxas made a noise that was halfway between a sigh and a derisive snort.
"You and Axel have been planning to get me and him together."
"Well then, we've been doing a pretty good job of doing it without me, because this is the first I've heard of it."
Roxas shot him a look.
"Don't give me that."
"So what's the problem, really?" Demyx questioned with a sparkle in his eye. He had a feeling that he knew exactly what it was, even though he hadn't been a part of it.
The other blonde muttered something, looking away and tightening his arms defensively.
"Speak up, can't hear you."
"…Axel's been walking around shirtless practically all the fucking time."
The other blonde snorted in amusement. This kid was really a master of denial.
"And this is a problem, why?"
The other gave him a wild look.
"Because he's shirtless, that's why!" He ran a hand through his hair, agitated, and that just made Demyx grin more.
"So you like it and don't want to admit it to yourself. Five days, Roxas – I gave you two weeks. You're ahead of schedule."
"But, I… No!"
"Deal with it, kid," he said good-naturedly. "You're attracted to him. And besides, would it really be so bad? I mean, you like him, he's completely obsessed with you, seriously, what's the problem?"
He was really pretty proud of himself, because it seemed he'd rendered Roxas totally speechless. It would probably be only a matter of hours before he realized that the answer to that was "Nothing, really."
And that's what he'd been aiming for all along.
The next morning, his cell phone woke him with Axel's ring, and he slammed it up to his ear blearily, rolling over on his pillow to check the time. Ten-thirty.
"Hey, man," drawled the redhead's voice from the other end. "Guess what I did last night."
"It's about time," Demyx shot back, throwing an arm over his eyes to block out the light. "But couldn't this have waited another couple of hours?"
"I guess, but man, thanks. This is fucking perfect."
"Yeah, yeah. Don't mention it."
Perfect, he mused as he flipped the cell closed. Was that it?
Maybe not, but even so, it was pretty goddamn close.
Remember when I said I'd have this out within a couple of days? Yeah, I lied. This fought me tooth and nail.
But... I love you?
Anyway, so there we have it! The end, all right and proper. If you read and liked it, especially if you haven't dropped me a line before, please say something, I'll love you forever.
And because this is the last chapter, I feel like I can finally do this. Random fact time!
1) I got the idea for this story with only Xemnas and Saix really in it at all. I added Demyx and Zexion in the planning process because I wanted someone to have a happy ending, and the rest of everyone inserted themselves during the actual writing of the fic without my knowledge or prior approval.
2) Riku and Sora refused to do anything even vaguely plot-related for a good long time after they were introduced. Whenever I tried to make them do anything, they just sat there and were mushy at each other instead. Cute, but hard to do anything with XD
3) I inserted Sephiroth on a whim when I needed a judge with connections on the squad. He took over insidiously and I blame the emo of the last chapter entirely on him.
4) I'm seriously considering writing a prequel to this about Riku's days in the gang and Sora as the leader of a squad. Thoughts, anyone?
Thank you guys again, and please speak to me, I know it can be hard to think of what to say but it means worlds to me.