Bath And Body Works
"It should be called Bath And HOW The Body Works – that would make it all the more interesting."
Roxas dimly notes that Kairi may very well be trying to kill him.
Emphasis on try, for he doubts she would go through with her murderous intent, especially since she's not aware of said intent to begin with.
"Do we not remember what happened in Sephora?"
Kairi, as usual, is dressed way too little for the incoming weather. She seems to think that spring is synonymous with summer and therefore is sporting some sleeveless get up that has strategically placed rips and holes adorning the seams. Roxas can't even begin to fathom why someone (and by someone we mean him) would pay extra for an item of clothing that looks as though it is already five hundred years old. He told Kairi to buy a clearance rack shirt and a pair of scissors. The new fashion trend would be cheaper that way. But no, everything comes packaged pre-ripped and pre-faded, and Roxas is utterly befuddled by this concept.
"You look like you had an encounter with Jack The Ripper," Roxas had noted when Kairi came waltzing out of the dressing room.
"Would it kill you to compliment my clothing for once?"
" … What clothing?"
She sneered at him and bought the scuffed up tank top out of spite.
Well, technically he bought it. She just stood there and looked pretty.
"Sephora was the result of perfume," Kairi explains, completing a set of pre-shopping stretches. "This store specializes in scented lotion. There's a difference."
"Tell that to Marluxia."
"Actually, he'd probably agree with me. He knows his cosmetics – probably even the ingredients of every feminine product available. He could deliver a dissertation on the differential molecular structure between perfume and lotion."
"Ya know what? Forget I asked. I don't need to hear the virtues of someone who exfoliates three times a day."
"Don't knock it 'till you've tried it."
Roxas rolls his eyes at the clichéd response.
"So, remind me, why are we here again?"
This time it's Kairi who rolls her eyes and heaves a sigh.
"I already told you. Birthday present for Namine. Girls swap hand lotion on birthdays, Christmas, and sometimes even on New Year's. Not to mention Valentine's Day."
"You left out Ground Hog Day."
"Roxas, don't be stupid. Your IQ is visibly dropping. It's painful to witness."
Roxas ignores the blatant insult. He's becoming immune to such proceedings.
"And what about Veteran's Day? Do you have any estranged, premeditated social norms you participate in on Veteran's Day?"
Kairi does not deign that worthy of comment.
"Just … follow me."
"Don't I always?"
The duo make their way into the store, and immediately upon crossing the threshold Kairi stops dead in her tracks. Roxas collides with her backside and stumbles around for a good ten seconds. Kairi does not do so much as blink.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking," Roxas drips sarcastically.
"Uh-huh," Kairi drawls, her eyes laser locked on someone in the distance. "Oh. My. Gosh. That's him, Roxas! That's actually him!"
Roxas tries to follow her direct line of vision, but all he sees are geriatric couples and a couple perusing females. He squints, as though such would actually help ascertain the individual in question, and scratches the back of his neck in confusion.
"You mean to tell me you're gawking at Sir Senile over there? Cuz that's all I'm seeing."
"Well then you're not looking," Kairi replies blithely. "Over there. By the car fresheners."
Roxas is totally lost. It's a position he finds himself in often.
"I didn't know Demyx worked here," he says. "Fitting, I suppose."
"His name is Demyx?" Kairi queries with such intensity that Roxas is forced to take a step back to avoid bodily harm.
"Yeah. You don't know him? He graduated a little while ago. Axel used to stuff him in lockers."
"That's … that's him! I can't believe it! That's actually … him!"
"We've clarified that already. What's your point?"
Roxas finds himself growing defensive. What could possibly be so intriguing about Demyx? He was good for a laugh, sure, but Kairi looks as though she is ready to tear her way through the window display and pounce his bones.
"I wonder what happened to his position in the militia," Kairi muses, biting a nail as though this quandary required serious thought. "No matter. I was too busy swooning when we met on the beach."
"Wait," Roxas demands, grabbing his girlfriend by the shoulders and twirling her around to face him. It was the only way to get her to make eye contact. "Demyx is the militia dude with the six pack you were blabbering about back in Forever 21?"
She says this as though such things should be innately obvious.
"Oh, I wish we could find an excuse to make him take his shirt off … "
Roxas is momentarily rendered utterly speechless. He has no desire to see any more of Demyx than he has to. And he's still getting over the shock that Demyx joined the militia. Axel said throwing hapless individuals into various garbage disposals would help build character, but Roxas never fully believed him. Either Demyx got tired of being picked on or Roxas had Axel to blame for his girlfriend's infatuation with somebody other than himself. Certainly Axel didn't intend to build his character that much. Roxas is now regretting all the times they stole his lunch money or flushed his term papers down the toilet. If they hadn't, maybe Demyx wouldn't have gone out and gotten himself a six pack.
"We're here for aromatherapy, Kai. Not to satiate your own lustful desires."
"Let me dream, Roxas. I won't be able to concentrate until I satisfy said lustful urges with mental imagery."
"For the love of all things holy … " Roxas sighs. "Fine. Stand there and be a pervert. I'll go find Namine a birthday present."
Kairi is too enamored to argue.
Roxas wanders around the store, lost yet again amidst an agglomeration of feminine products. Though this is decidedly less interesting than Victoria's Secret. Hand lotion doesn't require mannequins.
He momentarily wonders what Gertrude is wearing right now.
(Hey, if Kairi could gander, so could he.)
Roxas aimlessly makes his way through the buckets of scented shampoo and massage oil before coming to an abrupt halt in front of the tea light display. This discovery bewilders him. He ultimately decides he must consult Kairi on this matter. It's crucial.
"This is poor product design," Roxas grouses, picking up a random tea light to present Kairi with.
"I'm sure it is," she replies without looking. "Gimme a couple more minutes. I've only managed to mentally strip him of his name tag. I need to rid him of more articles of clothing before I am sufficiently satisfied."
"Would it kill you to pay attention to your boyfriend for a minute? He has something to say."
"Then say it."
"You have to look at me first. I brought a visual aid."
"Nope. Sorry. Not gonna happen." Pause. "Awesome. I just managed to remove his sweater vest."
"Who wears sweater vests anymore? In public, no less. That should be illegal."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better, he is no longer wearing a sweater vest in my mind."
Roxas proffers his tea light.
"Did they ever think about how little tea this thing holds? It could pull double duty as a shot glass."
"Roxas, that is officially the stupidest thing I have ever heard. We're breaking up for the next five minutes."
"Why? So you can mount a random store employee?"
"That would take longer than five minutes."
Roxas' backseat adamantly begs to differ.
"Besides," Kairi says without averting her eyes. "You're not supposed to drink tea out of tea lights. You put candles in them."
"Then it should come with directions. This is false advertising. I should sue."
"You do whatever you have to in order to sleep well at night. Good luck finding a gullible lawyer."
"Six packs and sweater vests don't go together," Roxas ultimately concludes, his distraction proving futile. "And a mullet? Kairi, come on. Standards."
"You didn't see him at the beach," Kairi counters. "I did."
"So I've gathered."
Roxas dumps the misleading tea light back into its corresponding wicker basket. He can contemplate his impending law suit later.
At a lack of anything better to do, and trying to ignore the fact that his girlfriend was currently two steps away from salivating onto the wooden floor, he picks up a scented candle and decides to give it a whiff. It smells good. So he sniffs it again. After that he determines it's good enough to warrant a third sniff. And a fourth. Possibly a fifth.
"Sir," the cashier admonishes from across the room. "Please refrain from getting high off the store products."
"Ma'am," Roxas replies. "Please refrain from calling me sir."
"Roxas!" Kairi squeals, torn from her personal reverie. "Manners!"
"Please. What manners?"
Not to be deterred, Kairi tries another tactic.
"Personal dignity, then!"
"I happen to have none. Is this a problem?"
"I bet Demyx has personal dignity."
"He's wearing a sweater vest. No he doesn't."
"Well, let's go find out."
"Wait. We're going to talk to him now?"
"Only for Namine's benefit, of course."
Kairi begins to make her way over to the air fresheners, Roxas reluctantly in tow.
"Excuse me, but could you recommend a birthday present for a friend of mine?"
Demyx turns around. His face visibly brightens when he sees the inquisitor is none other than Kairi.
"It would be my pleasure," he answers, beaming.
"Oh! Demyx!" Kairi feigns surprise. She's horrible at it. "Fancy meeting you here! Oh my gosh, how have you been?"
" … Fancy meeting you here?" Roxas mimics in distain. "What kind of pick up line is that?"
Kairi rams her elbow into her boyfriend's ribcage. He refuses to wince.
"I've been great, actually. I'm currently on leave from the militia, but only for a while. Decided to pick up a job in the meantime. I do miss lounging around on the beach, though. But that doesn't exactly offer monetary compensation, now does it?"
Why does he insist on smiling so much? It makes Roxas want to break the guy's front teeth. Or stuff him in another locker.
"Oh, hey there Roxas," Demyx offers as an afterthought. "Didn't see you back there. What's up, man?"
"Nice cologne," Roxas replies. "Must you marinate in it?"
"You haven't changed, I see."
"But apparently you have."
Kairi interrupts before things escalate any further.
"One of my best friends needs a gift. Suggestions?"
"Jazz actually specializes in the whole sales pitch thing. I'm new here. Jazz has been employed for years."
"Whoops, I mean Jasmine. We're not supposed to call her Jazz on the clock. Only Jasmine. You know, subliminal indoctrination and all that. Jasmine is one of our top selling hand lotions."
"We're shopping at a store that promotes subliminal indoctrination?" Roxas hisses in Kairi's ear. "And you're okay with this?"
"Roxas, please. The grown ups are trying to have a conversation."
Roxas seriously doubts that conversating and not procreating is on Kairi's mind right now.
"So what made you decide to work here, of all places?" the slighted boyfriend questions, standing up straighter than usual. It's not his fault Demyx has six inches on him.
He's referring to his height, of course. Not six inches elsewhere. Hopefully.
"Um. Because they were hiring?"
"Yeah. But. Like. Girls."
"Ha; I know – I'm surrounded by them twenty four seven. Isn't it great? Sure beats serving over priced novelty drinks to grumpy, decaffeinated customers or stocking shelves at Hot Topic with heavy metal blasting in my ears. I like to be able to hear things when I'm off the clock, thank you very much."
Kairi nods appreciatively, like Demyx has just made a very profound point and such things must be reciprocated.
"What about a sporting goods store?"
Kairi looks at Roxas like he's insane for randomly suggesting another venue of employment.
" … Now why would I want to do that?"
"Oh, I don't know. I just figured as the proud owner of an alleged six pack and two years of intense military training would make you more at home in a decidedly more … manly store."
"Maybe he's just comfortable in his masculinity and doesn't need to engage in a pissing war to prove it," Kairi snips, all defensive over a guy she's known for five minutes.
"Don't worry, I'm used to this sort of thing," Demyx says. "Axel and I go way back."
"I stole a nose ring from Axel!" Kairi blurts out. Realizing she spoke out of turn, she tries to remedy her social blunder with the addendum, "But only because he was being a dick."
"Yeah, tell me about it. He used to give me swirlies in the toilet between classes."
"And peg me in the head during kickball."
"He should have been suspended!"
"And hit my shins during hockey practice."
"You poor thing!"
"And throw me into random lockers during lunch." Demyx looks directly at Roxas. "Actually, if I recall correctly, he had help with that last one."
"I just stood there and watched!" Roxas cries in protest. "I didn't do anything!"
"You took photos," Demyx notes dimly. "And posted them online."
"I only did that once!"
Kairi turns to face her boyfriend.
"You did what?"
"I … I helped build his character!" Roxas flails. "See how much he benefitted from it? He went out and got a six pack, a position in the military, and a job of dubious nature! He should be thanking me!"
"Like hell," Demyx grumbles. "Thanks for spiking my sandwich with walnuts, by the way. The allergic reaction was a blast. I even got to use my epi pen."
"Again; Axel's doing," Roxas reminds him. "The only thing I ever did was put mintos in your soda. It made a mess, but it certainly didn't endanger your life."
"Imagine that," Demyx dead pans. "And all this time I thought it was Zexion."
"See Kairi? He's even learned to master the art of sarcasm!"
"I fail to see the trade off," she responds, fists clenched and mouth in a firm line of resolution.
"Look, I screwed up, okay? Demyx isn't the only one who's grown up – maybe I had an epiphany and decided to turn my life around, too!"
"Then apologize," Kairi orders.
"Apologize for all the crap you put him through. It's the least you can do."
" … Do I have to?" Roxas all but whines. "Isn't it enough to know you obviously find him more attractive than you find me?"
"I never said that!"
"You were mentally undressing him thirty seconds ago!"
Demyx coughs awkwardly.
"I stopped at the sweater vest!" she argues in her defense. "I left his pants on!"
"Only because I interrupted you with erroneous tea lights!"
"Those tea light were not erroneous, Roxas. You just don't understand how to properly use a candle!"
"At least I'm not a flaming candle like Demyx!"
Poor choice of words, kid.
It is then that everything goes black as Roxas receives a perfectly executed punch to the face, compliments of one very skilled veteran.
"Me? Apologize? To him? He hit me!"
"And you deserved it! If he hadn't stepped up to the plate so damn fast I may have beaten him to it! In fact, I still might slap you for good measure!"
Roxas leans over the water fountain where he is currently nursing a bloody nose.
"Is it broken?" Kairi asks with acid in her voice. "Because you can drive yourself to the ER. I'm not wasting gas money because you felt like being a dick."
"The epiphany thing was true, you know."
Kairi opens her mouth to say something, thinks better of it, and closes her mouth instead.
"Since I met you," Roxas began, running an index finger over his front teeth to make sure they were all still there and accounted for. "I've … changed. I haven't hung out with Axel in two months. I also haven't shoved anyone else into a dumpster, either."
"A dumpster? I thought you shoved him into a locker."
"That was the first semester. The second semester it was a dumpster."
Kairi rubs her temples fervently before speaking.
"Why? I mean, at least attempt to defend yourself."
"I was insecure and impressionable and did whatever Axel said needed to be done. He was my only friend – which, by default, made him my best friend – until you showed up in middle school. I'm not the most outgoing of individuals. Relationships are a rare commodity for me. I tend to hold onto them until someone convinces me to think otherwise. And by someone I mean you. So slap me all you want, because, yes, I do happen to deserve it."
Kairi puts her hands on her hips and stares at Roxas for a very long time.
"Well. At any rate. I still think you should apologize."
Her voice is softer now, more subdued and gentle around the edges. She doesn't issue any slaps, but she doesn't exactly hug him, either.
"Fine," he acquiesces. "Just … let me realign my sinuses."
Roxas returns to Bath And Body Works dragging his feet. Anything to prolong the inevitable. It's been ages since he's been forced to reconcile with what they did to Demyx all those years ago, and he's not quite sure how to rectify endless semesters of harassment with naught but a waylaid apology and some sort of manly handshake. He does not foresee this ending well.
Lost in his own thoughts, he almost didn't see Demyx as the two passed each other in the mall. The impending encounter made his blood run cold – but it had to be done, one way or another.
"Demyx," he calls out. "Where the hell are you sulking off to? Aren't you on the clock?"
That's just the way to segue into an apology.
"Not anymore," Demyx replies. "I got fired."
"Wait, what? Why?"
"Why do you think?"
"Oh, that's right. Punching potential customers is generally frowned upon in our society."
"Generally," Demyx agrees.
Neither man speaks for a good thirty seconds. They just stand there looking awkward.
"Okay. I've got an idea."
Demyx looks unconvinced.
"No, really. I have this amazing idea. But you have to trust me for five minutes. Alright?"
Demyx emits a belabored sigh.
" … Only five minutes?"
"Yes. After that you can leave me for dead in the parking lot for all I care. I just need five minutes. Think you can do that?"
"Why the hell not? I've already survived four years of your shenanigans, why stop now?"
"Okay. Good. Now follow me."
Demyx stands frozen outside the threshold of Hot Topic.
"You brought me to Axel," he dead pans. "Give me one reason not to deck you again."
"The five minutes aren't up," Roxas replies. "Also, you're better than that. Which is more than I can say for myself. Now keep following me."
Demyx walks like there's cement lodged in the confines of his shoes.
Roxas approaches the counter and waves to an unexpecting Axel.
"Dude, I haven't seen the likes of you in months," Axel offers in the stead of salutations. "Where the hell have you been, man? Trying to get past third with Kairi?"
It is then that Axel notices Demyx standing in the middle of the store, in between the nose rings and the lingerie, to be exact, wearing nothing but a sweater vest, dress slacks, and loafers.
Axel perks up at the prospect of inflicting torment unto another.
Demyx doesn't do so much as nod in response.
"Yeah, I'll explain him in a minute. First I need to see your manager."
"The manager? Really?"
"Is he here or not?"
"Yeah; he's here alright. I suppose you want me to go get him."
"That would be ideal."
Axel walks off into the back room. Roxas seizes this opportunity to assure Demyx.
"Don't worry. The tea lights gave me an idea."
"The tea lights?" Demyx repeats.
"Don't ask. Just watch."
Soon enough, the nondescript store manager emerges, and Roxas sets his plan into motion.
"I'd like to sue," Roxas announces. "Figured I'd just let you know."
"On what grounds?" the manager drones, as though he's used to this kind of melodramatic dissertation.
He then commences on a retelling of Chapter Four.
It ends as poorly, or as well, depending whose side you're on, as could be expected.
In under five minutes, Axel is fired and Demyx is hired.
It's the best peace offering Roxas has to give.
"I assume you and Axel are no longer friends," Kairi says on the ride home.
Roxas has already explained everything.
"Yeah, they were short handed as it was, and getting rid of Axel left no other options. They hired him on the spot despite the sweater vest."
"Do you have some secret vendetta against sweater vests?"
"I don't know what gave you that impression."
"And you got this idea from … the tea lights?"
"I was in the mood to sue someone, and since the tea lights weren't made to hold tea, I decided on Axel."
Kairi looks directly at her boyfriend.
"I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I'm actually proud of you. That couldn't have been easy."
"We never made it easy for Demyx. So I think it was a fair trade."
"You left out the part where I stole the nose ring, right?"
"That's my man."
"As long as I'm still your man," Roxas states, "I'll buy you all the nose rings you want."
Once upon a time I promised someone I would write something that actually benefits Demyx as opposed to making him the butt monkey to all my jokes. It took me a couple years, but looks like I've finally gotten around to it. Also: I adore Axel. Sorry he had to be a jerk in this rendition. Hopefully Repercussions makes up for it.
I wanted to thank you all for reading, and if you chose to leave a review, I thank you for that, too. I'll reply as soon as possible. ;)
This dedication goes out to C.D. Meiss, Lucy, SoraxKairi7, and of course – GoldyCat94.
Your support and feedback have helped me more than you know. Thank You.