Roxas would have really loved to just tear his robe off, get back into his pajamas, flop back into bed, and sleep for the entire rest of the morning. Unfortunately, he wouldn't have that option until after breakfast and the distribution of the day's assignments; even then, if he was assigned a mission for the day, he'd have no choice but to stay awake and complete it. Resigned to a sort of sleepy awareness until further notice, he started pulling his boots on and absentmindedly put his left boot on his right foot first.

The problem began when he realized the other boot in the pair was also a left.

Okay...I know I had one left and one right yesterday...

Well, regulation insisted that every member keep four pairs of boots on hand, just in case - they were tough boots, but they often got sent on tougher missions. Muttering to himself under his breath, Roxas checked under his bed for his other three pairs.

He now had a grand total of eight left boots.

...I am really in no mood for this shit.

Promising cruel death to whoever had screwed with his boots, he jerked open his closet door, just in case, and was promptly caught in an avalanche of right boots. Once he got all eight complete pairs sorted out, accompanied by much swearing, he tried to put a complete pair on only to realize that the left boot in the pair was a half size smaller than the right - a half size too small, in fact. After more sorting and more swearing, he found himself with four complete pairs of boots in his size and four complete pairs of boots a half size smaller than his.

There were only two people in the Organization with smaller feet than his. One, if you didn't count Naminé.

Roxas seethed for a long, long moment, debating whether or not to force his way into the next room and start hacking Foriuxocol to ribbons. Then it came to him - four complete pairs must represent all the boots Fori kept on hand. Unless and until Roxas returned them, he had no boots at all.

Well...maybe I will return them. In a way.

Wide awake and fully aware now, Roxas took Fori's boots, one pair at a time, and started "returning" them. One pair was "returned" to the utility closet outside Vexen's lab, one tied between two chairs in the Hall of Empty Melodies, one given to a training dummy that was left standing in the arena, and one left on a bookshelf in the library. He headed down to breakfast late, but looking forward to it much more than he had before he'd tried to put his boots on.

As late as he'd been, Fori was even later, showing up wearing a pair of bright red Converses. Xigbar actually snickered when he saw them, and Vexen glared at him sharply and informed him he was out of uniform, but Fori kept up a completely casual attitude, as if he'd put them on specifically to amuse Xigbar and irritate Vexen. Roxas, who knew exactly why he was wearing them, tried at first to keep his face as level as possible so as not to give himself away to Axel and Demyx, but when he saw how Axel was struggling not to howl, he couldn't help but burst into giggles. As he tried to control his giggling fit, he caught Fori's gaze from across the table; the look in those solid black eyes held a promise of imminent revenge.

Roxas spent as much of that day as he could in Axel's company, because he knew Fori was intimidated by Axel and he was trying to forestall the anticipated revenge - of course, he'd carefully locked both his doors first. When he went to bed that night, he carefully checked his spare pairs of boots - all three consisting of one right, one left - his drawers - none of them booby-trapped or laden with poisonous creatures - and his bed - hadn't been short-sheeted and there was nothing dangerous or disgusting hiding between the sheets. All the same, he slept only lightly, and did the same thorough check when he woke up the next morning. He still found nothing.

Huh. Maybe he's not going to.

Poorly rested, but relieved, Roxas reluctantly disrobed and headed into the bathroom to shower. As soon as he turned the tap on, he was greeted by a spray of bright red liquid.

Kingdom Hearts, he made it shower blood -

As he opened his mouth in an involuntary scream, some of the red liquid inevitably fell into it - and it didn't taste like blood. In fact, it tasted...well, fruity. Like...

...Kool-Aid. Cherry Kool-Aid.

By this time, the water was starting to run an ever-paler shade of pink, and Roxas spent the bulk of his shower washing Kool-Aid out of his hair and plotting his next move. The only thing he could think of over breakfast was what he could do to get back at Fori this time; when Axel waved a hand in front of his face, he nearly fell out of his chair. "Welcome back, Rox - what world were you in?"

Roxas could feel his face turning red. "Oh...uh...I was just...thinking..."

Axel ruffled his hair. "It's not healthy to think that hard, got it memorized?"

"Axel would know, see. He hurt himself by thinking too hard once, so now he doesn't think at all, just in case," Demyx added from Axel's other side.

"Oh, hush...what do you know about thinking?"

"I know it can save you a hell of a lot of trouble if you do it at the right time and in the right way...before you open your mouth, for instance..."

Roxas tuned them out and glanced over at Fori. He had his face buried in a medical textbook, presumably to avoid whatever lecture Vexen seemed to be dying to give him - probably because he was still wearing the Converses. Roxas briefly considered giving him one pair of boots back, out of pity, but...nah. If he hadn't guessed yet what Roxas had done with his boots, he deserved a lecture. Besides, he should have known better than to dedicate every pair of boots he owned to making sure Roxas ended up with four pairs of left boots. He'd been asking for it.

While Roxas was still thinking about boots, Fori jammed a bookmark in his book uncooperatively as he was handed an envelope - and it suddenly hit him. As long as Fori was going to be out for the day...and, hell, he read almost as much as Zexion did...

Of course, Fori had locked up his room as carefully and conscientiously as Roxas had locked up his the day before. But locks never stopped Roxas for long. As soon as he had his door open, he started systematically seeking out every book that had a bookmark somewhere in it - and there were many - and sticking it somewhere else in the book. Now, whenever Fori opened one of those books, he'd be even more lost than if he hadn't put a bookmark in at all. Once that was accomplished, and Fori's door was locked again so he wouldn't know immediately that his room had been broken into, Roxas teleported straight to Demyx's room for sitar lessons with a glee that took Demyx by surprise.

"So what have you been up to all morning? You look like the cat who swallowed the canary and got all the cream to go with it!" he asked as Roxas arranged himself comfortably on a pillow and put the mezrabs on his fingers.

"Oh, nothing...just been...watching a really funny movie..." Demyx nodded like he didn't quite believe a word of it, but Roxas didn't care. Fori was going to get so frustrated the next time he cracked a book he'd been reading...and if everything went right, he'd assume he'd just forgotten where he'd really left off - he might never even realize anyone had done anything!

"It must have been damn good," Demyx muttered dryly. "Since you must have started it at about 8:30 in the morning."

Despite his hope that his prank wouldn't be noticed for a long while, Roxas still took all the same precautions before going to bed as he had the night before. The next morning, he let the shower run for a few minutes before stepping in, just to make sure it didn't start running Kool-Aid, and checked the toilet seat for plastic wrap just in case - he'd heard of that one before. He even checked all his own bookmarks, just to make sure they were where he remembered them being. He raced through his breakfast without really tasting any of it, and when he was given a mission assignment and Fori wasn't, he nearly had a stroke - there was no way Fori wouldn't take advantage of his absence the same way he'd taken advantage of Fori's yesterday. Worrying about what pranks Fori might pull on him in his absence occupied far too much of his attention all day, so that he took twice as long at his mission as he usually would have and came close to failing it altogether.

And when he came back...absolutely nothing had happened.

He could barely believe it. He started tearing his room apart, looking for some evidence of pranking - short-sheeted bed, Shadow Heartless in his underwear drawer, booby-trapped closet, Saran-wrapped toilet seat, stink bomb under the bed - and nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even his bookmarks had been disturbed.

Well...maybe, just maybe, Fori hadn't realized Roxas had screwed up all his bookmarks yet. Roxas was still on pins and needles the entire rest of the day, which his friends attributed to doing so poorly on his mission. "Seriously, Rox, take a trank. We all have bad days sometimes," Axel admonished. "And the more you let one bad day go to your head, the more bad days you're gonna have." Roxas didn't even have the will to protest his unnecessary advice, just nodded and pretended to listen. After dinner, he tried to read and relax a little, but he was too tense to concentrate on his book, even though the bookmark was where he'd left it. When he gave up on the book and tried to sleep, he ended up tossing and turning for hours, sensitive to every little noise that might be Fori trying to break in.

The end result of all this nervous restlessness was that he slept very, very late the next morning. Praying he hadn't missed breakfast, or worse yet, missed getting a mission assignment and would end up getting reamed for it, he raced through his shower, threw on a uniform without paying much attention, and portaled to the kitchen instead of walking. He stumbled in while Xigbar was still dealing out envelopes, and felt his face start to burn when everyone turned and stared at him. Fori - who'd finally found a pair of his boots - covered his face with his hands, except for his eyes.

That's it. I'm in trouble.

Demyx swallowed hard. "Roxas...what in all hellfire did you do to your hair?"

Roxas would have dearly loved to jump over the table and strangle Fori with his bare hands, except he seemed to be rooted to the spot. He barely even noticed what Axel was saying. "I know it's damn near impossible to get your hair to behave normally, but damn - don't you think you went a bit heavy on the grease? Or what the hell is that?"

Roxas reached up gingerly as he sank into his seat. His normally unruly hair was now somehow impossibly slick, and his fingers came back oily. "I don't believe this," he hissed under his breath.

Axel reached over as if to ruffle his hair like he always did, then seemed to think better of it and pulled his hand back. "Okay, the life lesson for today is: miracle hair-care products are pretty much always a complete crock, got it memorized?"

Somehow, Roxas couldn't bring himself to admit that he hadn't consciously done anything to his hair except wash it, and that this had to be Fori's return prank for the bookmarks. He had the feeling Axel would completely understand the prank war, and would probably even help him come up with something really nasty to play on Fori in revenge, but -

No. He had to come up with something on his own, or it would feel like cheating. And Kingdom Hearts knew, if Axel knew he and Fori were in the middle of a prank war, his first move would be to beat Fori to a pulp and set what was left of him on fire. Not exactly a desirable outcome in the long term, since it was no doubt only a matter of time before someone - someone who stood a better-than-average chance of being Axel himself - needed Fori's healing skills. Besides which, it would deprive Roxas of his chance at revenge.

Instead of saying anything about Fori, pranks, hair care products, or - he sniffed his greasy fingers - baby oil, Roxas just made a strangled growling noise under his breath. "After breakfast, can I borrow your shower?"

Demyx was hiding his mouth behind his hands, probably because he was too polite to laugh out loud at Roxas's predicament. "Get rid of all your old shampoo or something?" he said in a muffled voice. Roxas only growled again, instead of saying "yes", "no", or "that has nothing to do with it". "Then, sure, I guess..." Demyx cut open the envelope he'd been handed with a butter knife and read its contents. "As long as you're out before I get back. You don't take six-hour showers, do you?"

"I might have to, to get all this shit out of my hair..."

Demyx raised an eyebrow. "Well, whatever it is, it's probably not worse than the hair gel Axel and I use on a daily basis."

Roxas wasn't sure about that, but he held his tongue. The three of them finished almost at the same time, and Roxas went down to change into his bathrobe while Axel and Demyx made sure they wouldn't get in his way. He was faster than they must have expected; by the time he got to Axel's room, Axel was still testing his blood sugar, and Demyx was rummaging through drawers trying to throw together a first-aid kit to take along on his mission. Instead of getting in his way, they were getting in each others'. "Watch it!" Axel snapped as Demyx nearly shut a drawer on his hand. "Trying to take my fingers off or what?"

"Sorry," Demyx mumbled, then looked at the tube in his hand. "Dammit, that's toothpaste, not antibiotic ointment."

Axel snorted. "Imagine trying to smear that on a cut. Wonder how it'd work. Make the bandages stick, I bet."

"Not my fault the tubes look almost alike..." Demyx yanked the drawer open again and retrieved the correct tube while Axel put his monitor away. "All right. Now I'm out of here. Don't kill anyone while I'm gone."

"Can I make an exception for -"


Axel sighed heavily. "Fiiiiine," he whined in a put-upon manner. "See you when you get back. Don't get yourself killed. All right, Rox, we're out of your way now...uh, Rox? Come in, Roxas, can you hear me?"

Roxas could technically hear him, but he wasn't listening. He'd suddenly been struck with what seemed like the greatest idea ever.

It would have been nice if Roxas could have seen the tube of antibiotic ointment Demyx had mistaken the toothpaste for, so he could have known which two brands made such different products in such similar containers. Then again, it wasn't like he didn't have free time to shop for other things besides a fresh bottle of shampoo. And it certainly wasn't like Axel was going to spend all his time chaperoning him, even if he'd wanted him to. And it was so very fortunate that Fori's tube of toothpaste was almost empty. And he knew for a fact Fori wasn't the least bit shy about invading Roxas's drawers for supplies he needed.

And if he wasn't lucky enough already, Axel figured Roxas's uncontrollable smirk was due to the fact that he'd been buying magazines certain of the Organization's more conservative members would throw a fit over, and certain of its less conservative members might attempt to steal. Instead of asking Roxas what that mysterious grin was for, Axel was begging him not to tell anyone else about the magazines in question.

Truly, Roxas couldn't have cared much less about Axel's dirty magazines. He was more concerned with how he was going to pull this off - let Fori see the new tube of toothpaste, then put the antibiotic ointment in his drawer instead and hope Fori didn't read the label too carefully before trying to brush his teeth? Too chancy. Fori was too likely to read the label. And it didn't seem humanly possible to get all the toothpaste out of the tube and still have the tube in any shape to refill with the ointment. Examining the two tubes in the privacy of his own room, Roxas noticed they weren't quite as similar as he'd thought in the store - sure, they were the same shape, but the toothpaste tube was just a little bit bigger...

...Would that even work?

Well, the least he could do was try.

Praying to any deity that might listen that Fori would stay in the library all day, he grabbed a pocketknife and a tube of superglue and moved into the bathroom - this was going to get messy. As quickly and quietly as reasonably possible, he carefully slit open the toothpaste tube, cap to end, washed the toothpaste out of it, fit it over the tube of antibiotic ointment like a jacket - thank whatever god, it fit almost perfectly - and superglued it in place. He even had time to make sure the seam was nearly invisible and the cap still fit, and to wash the last traces of toothpaste out of the sink. Then - all he could do was leave the doctored tube in his bathroom drawer, and wait.

And wait. And wait. And wait.

Oh, damn it, Fori rarely went to bed before 1:00 in the morning, and usually not even that early. There was no way he was going to actually see any payoff before he fell asleep.

And he'd better check his new shampoo bottle along with everything else tomorrow. Just to be sure Fori didn't put hair dye in it or anything. It would be just his luck to show up tomorrow morning at breakfast with hair the same color as Axel's. Or worse, Marluxia's.

Heck, if that happened, he'd take a sick day and ask Axel to buy him some blond hair dye. And let him know the whole story. After this, beating the snot out of Fori was the only thing left he could think of anyway.

"Are you interested in dinner, or would you rather stare at the ceiling all day? Did you get that from Demyx?"

Roxas nearly fell off his bed. "Oh - uh - lost track of time - get what from Demyx?"

Axel rolled his eyes. "The tendency to spend hours on end staring off into space is what. Now come on before you start composing yourself insane like he does. After dinner, I think you need a heavy dose of Halo - and maybe fewer sitar lessons."

Dinner was more entertaining than usual, though purely by accident. Axel, who was and always had been a complete stranger to tact, had made the mistake of mentioning how he thought Roxas needed to drop his sitar lessons with Demyx sitting right next to him; Demyx had promptly torn him a new one, at the top of his lungs and in multiple languages. Roxas had never seen Demyx chew anyone out like that, or even realized the good-natured musician was capable of doing so, and apparently neither had most of the rest of the Organization. Axel's feeble attempts to defend himself took the whole scene from a little surreal to outrageously funny. It ended up taking a lot of Halo to restore some of Axel's composure, and by the time either of them bothered to check what time it was, it was well after midnight.

"We're gonna be in so damn much trouble," Axel muttered under his breath. "You'd better get your ass to bed pronto, or you're gonna be dragging all morning again. God knows you've been doing enough of that lately..." He raised an eyebrow, and Roxas quickly disappeared before he could start asking questions.

While he was taking his boots off, it suddenly struck him - just maybe, if Fori went to bed early, he'd be able to stay up long enough to see, or at least hear, what happened when he tried to brush his teeth. He'd have to try...Kingdom Hearts knew, he was exhausted already...but if he just stayed up that much longer...he tried reading a book to pass the time, but he just couldn't focus on it...he struggled to focus on something, because he just had to stay wasn't working, though...he was starting to nod off where he sat...and then he heard a noise in the bathroom, and suddenly he was wide awake and listening intently.

Running water...that was probably the sink...a tapping sound that was probably a toothbrush...a pause...and that was a drawer opening, then closing...a very, very long pause...then a short, harsh syllable that probably stood for a whole litany of curses in a demonic tongue. If that was it, it was a fairly unsatisfactory reaction, Roxas thought as the sink ran again for a long time, and the bathroom door on Fori's side opened and shut. He was starting to unfold a set of pajamas when his door suddenly opened.

"You win," was all Fori said.

Roxas blinked, sure he hadn't heard that right. "What?"

"I have no idea how you managed to fill a toothpaste tube with Neosporin. I can't even see how that's possible," Fori continued. "But I have no idea what to do to top it for ingenuity. Saran-wrapping the toilet seat seems so...banal in comparison."

Oh...he meant Roxas had won the prank war. And about time, in Roxas's opinion, because he was out of ideas himself. As long as it wasn't going to harm anything, though, he decided to bluff a little. "Too bad. I haven't even used my best idea yet."

Fori held up his hands. "Tlacolotl! Spare me! You haven't been getting help from Axel or anything, have you?"

Roxas grinned. "Axel doesn't even know."

"Gah!" Fori shook his head. "Ah, well. You won fair and square. I give up. did you get the Neosporin in the toothpaste tube?"

Roxas tried hard not to gloat - well, at least, not gloat too much. "I didn't. I cut open a toothpaste tube and glued it over the antibiotic ointment."

"Son of a -" Fori ran into the bathroom and returned a second later with the doctored tube, examining it closely. "Son of a bitch! Now that I really look at it, I can see the little seam...son of a bitch! I never would have thought of that!"

Roxas couldn't help but smirk. "Good thing it never got to Saran-wrapping the toilet seat. I've been watching for that since day one."

Fori heaved a huge sigh. "Guess I picked the wrong guy to mess with." He threw the tube back into the bathroom, rubbing his eyes. Then his face lit up suddenly, as if he'd been inspired, and Roxas wondered what was about to happen this time. The answer wasn't long in coming. "...Wanna team up?"

"Team in on pranks?"

Fori nodded. "Share the love with everyone else. I mean, why should we keep all the fun to ourselves?"

If he hadn't been so tired, Roxas might have been more rational. Exhausted as he was, however, this seemed like a grand idea. "...Kickass! Who should we get first?"

Fori thought hard for a few moments. "...Huh...did you know Luxord bleaches his hair? Just asking..."

"No, I did not know that..." Roxas gave a few moments' thought to the possibilities that opened up. "Did you know Axel and Demyx use the same container of hair gel?"

Fori's eyes lit up, as much as they ever did given their natural color. "...Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"If you're thinking what I think you're thinking, then, yes, I am thinking what you're thinking..."

Roxas slept better that night than he had since before the boot exchange. "You look better than you have in days," Axel commented at breakfast the next day. "I was starting to wonder if you were sick or something."

Roxas shook his head, struggling not to imagine Axel with bleach-blond spikes. "Nah. I just didn't sleep too well for a few days. I slept better last night."

Axel snorted. "Not enough sleep isn't good for you. I'd think you'd know that, considering the examples you have." He looked pointedly at Demyx, who glared back in furious silence until Axel cringed and looked away. The comment about Roxas dropping sitar lessons must have hit an extremely raw nerve; Demyx almost never stayed mad at anyone overnight, no matter what. "...Anyway. Glad you're sleeping better."

Roxas made some noncommittal noise and concentrated on eating his breakfast, or tried to. He couldn't help but glance around the table, unconsciously evaluating everyone as a potential mark. Larxene...would probably blow up in spectacular fashion, but if she found out who pranked her, the results could be gruesome. Xigbar...probably had a good enough sense of humor to take a prank in the spirit in which it was meant, but Roxas had the feeling he wrote the book on pranks, and would not only figure out who pranked him, but take some sort of humiliating revenge. Saix...if Fori had a death wish, he could take Saix on by himself. Mission assignments were being passed around right then, and Xigbar handed Luxord the very first envelope. Roxas and Fori made eye contact briefly, and Fori nodded to him almost imperceptibly and glanced away as if nothing had happened.

Rooming right next door to each other made it easy to conspire. Almost as soon as Roxas sat down in his own room, Fori popped in the door. "That couldn't have come out better if we'd planned it that way," he announced cheerfully. "I need to get into Luxord's room - not necessarily to steal one of his bleach kits, understand. Finding out what brand he uses and buying our own so as to leave the correct incriminating evidence should do."

"Taking one of his would be better, I think, because if we're trying to pin it on him, I don't think he'd buy a fresh one special for it," Roxas said musingly. "And...yeah, I can get you in there in ten seconds."

Fori grinned. "Awesome...what about getting it into the hair gel?"

Roxas thought for a moment. "If I don't show up for sitar lessons again soon, Demyx will probably flood the bathroom or make the toilet back up or something. I think...if I brought something along and left it in his room...and went back to get it sometime when he was out of the room for a few minutes...Demyx, because I figure he'll be easier for you to'd take too long to wait for Axel and Demyx to get sent on a mission on the same day..."

Fori gave him a thumbs-up. "I can find something in the library written in Hindi that I really wanna read and can't ask Zexion to help translate because...I dunno, he's busy or doesn't wanna be bothered or I don't trust his translation or something."

"Or don't want him to know you're reading that particular book."

"Excellent. The original Kama Sutra it is."

"...You scare me some days."

"Good. That means I'm doing my job. Now about getting into Luxord's room..."

"Looks like Axel hasn't corrupted you completely yet..." Demyx said with none of the gentle teasing tone he would normally have had. In fact, there was something in his voice approaching genuine venom.

"You know that I know that Axel can be a worlds-class idiot sometimes," Roxas said lightly, trying not to fidget with the bottle of pre-mixed bleach that had been hastily mixed up this morning, after a three-day wait for Axel to get sent on a mission. Once he'd seen the envelope in Axel's hands at breakfast, he'd given Fori no more than a quick glance over the table, and Fori had gone straight for the library after eating. He'd told him ahead of time when he was going to be in Demyx's room, so he should have had plenty of time to find the book he wanted.

He was so nervous about what he was plotting that he barely cared how uncharacteristic Demyx's continued hostility was. "Gods know that much for sure..." Demyx growled. "Gods-damned jackass..." He summoned his sitar without his usual flourish and handed it over, then sat down, rubbing his forehead as if he had a headache.

That got Roxas's attention. "Demyx? Are you okay?"

Demyx nodded, looking pained. "Yeah. Just a tension headache. Not a seizure - sorry, ictal migraine, as Vexen insists on calling them. If it was one of those, I'd cancel the lesson and just keep you here until further notice."

Roxas nodded understandingly - "until further notice" meant "until the seizure hit". It wasn't safe for Demyx to be left alone during a seizure. But since Demyx wasn't expecting one, Roxas had a less serious worry - if Demyx had just an ordinary headache, he was apt to cut the lesson short, giving him and Fori a much smaller window of time. Even if Fori still got there with his distraction in time, Demyx might simply tell him to piss off. In that case, the best-case scenario was that they'd have to do some more waiting; the worst-case scenario was that Roxas would be caught in the act.

Demyx gestured at a pillow, ignorant of Roxas's train of thought. "Go ahead. Sit down." Roxas obediently sat down, put the picks he'd been given on his fingers, and strummed a note, making sure the instrument was in tune - though Demyx wouldn't have handed it to him if it wasn't, and he didn't know enough to tune it anyway. Demyx was shaking his head irritably already. "...Don't mind me," he said when he realized Roxas was looking at him in alarm. "I'm just in a pissy mood."

"Sorry," Roxas said uncertainly, hoping Demyx's bad mood wouldn't ruin the prank.

Demyx waved his hand shortly. "Not your fault. You just start practicing." There was a sudden knock on the door; Roxas hoped it was Fori. "This had better be good..." Demyx growled, standing up impatiently to yank the door open. "Is this important?"

"Yeah...I...uh..." That was Fori's voice. "I found this book in the library...and I thought it looked really interesting...but I need you to take a look at it..."

Demyx narrowed his eyes, but joined Fori in the hall. "All right, why do you need me to look at it?"

As soon as Demyx was out of sight, Roxas disappeared into the bathroom, pulling the bleach out of his pocket. He didn't dare shut the bathroom door just yet, in case Demyx heard it. "I needed someone to help translate it."

There was the critical bottle of hair gel, about half-full. Hopefully the bleach wouldn't change the texture too much. "Why do you need my help? If you finally found something written in a language Zexion doesn't know, what makes you think I would?"

Roxas quickly uncapped the bottle of bleach and poured it into the hair gel, mixing it with a tongue depressor Fori had swiped from the hospital wing. "I'm pretty sure he could translate this if I asked him to, but I have the sneaking suspicion it's not on his approved-reading list."

It didn't seem to be making too much of a change to the gel's appearance. "I didn't know Zexion had an approved-reading list...I thought he just read everything he could get his hands on..." An unusually long pause. "...You sick little -" Roxas hastily shut the door, muffling Demyx's angry shouts and Fori's insistent protests, and hastily mixed up the rest of the bleach with the gel.

A few moments later, Demyx's door slammed hard, and he heard Demyx's voice much more clearly. "Roxas? You in the bathroom?"

"Yeah...I'll be out in a second..." Roxas closed the container of gel, threw away the empty bottle, turned on the tap for a few seconds as if he was washing his hands, and opened the bathroom door, only to realize he was still holding the tongue depressor. Quickly, he flicked it backwards into the trash can, hoping Demyx hadn't seen it.

Roxas was wide awake and staring at the ceiling a good hour before his alarm went off, too full of nervous excitement to relax. He couldn't wait to see what was going to happen to Axel and Demyx's hair once they put the doctored hair gel on. Would their hair turn entirely pale blond, or would they just have sudden bleached tips? Kingdom Hearts, how were they going to react? On the one hand, he couldn't wait to find out; on the other hand, he was afraid he might get hurt. The instant his alarm went off, he jumped out of bed, raced into the shower, and stayed there until Fori asked him if he'd drowned or something and if he needed to go in there and rescue him. With that prompt, he dried himself off in a flash, pulled his uniform on so quickly he popped a couple stitches in his sleeve, took almost fifteen minutes to tighten and lace his boots, and dragged his heels all the way to the kitchen.

The first sound that met his ears outside the kitchen was screaming - Axel screaming. "You stupid little fucktard!" Roxas flattened himself against the wall immediately, thinking that Axel had caught sight of him. "Have you ever had a thought in your stupid little head, and if you have, have any of them ever involved the idea that maybe this shit isn't fucking funny for anyone else?!"

"Yes - one of them is 'what the bloody hell is this lunatic on about?' How bloody much did you have to drink last night?" That was Luxord's voice, roaring right back at Axel. Roxas breathed a sigh of relief and continued towards the kitchen.

"How much did - oh, that's fucking rich, jackass! That's really fucking -"

There was a quick, resounding crack, like two skulls being slammed together. "YOU TWO! SHUT! UP! NOW!" Roxas finally worked up the nerve to round the last corner and look, and saw Axel and Luxord both looking a little stunned, and Xigbar, red with fury, leveling his guns at their heads. A little chill of what might have been excitement gathered in his stomach when he saw Axel had his hood up. "If you are damn well bound and determined to tear each other limb from limb, get your asses to the training arena! This instant! I will be over-fuckin'-joyed to referee! If not, get your asses in the kitchen and shut the hell up before I blow your idiot heads off!" Axel and Luxord both glared evilly at him, but eventually they both looked away and stalked into the kitchen, shooting poisonous glances at each other.

Roxas was afraid to talk to Axel all through breakfast, for fear he'd accidentally say something incriminating. Demyx showed up very late indeed; he also had his hood up, and to Roxas's surprise, when he sat down, Axel shot him an even more venomous glare than he'd been giving Luxord. Demyx didn't make eye contact with anyone, and he never said a word. Roxas figured he was just too humiliated by whatever the bleach had done to his hair to interact. Still not having seen any actual results, he followed the two of them at a safe distance when they left. Demyx was slouched over and shuffling his feet, looking the exact picture of dejection, and Axel was rigid with fury.

"You're not even fucking sorry, are you!" Axel suddenly burst out. Roxas flattened himself against the wall again.

Demyx, much to Roxas's surprise, shrank away from Axel. "Ax, I swear by any god you pick, I had nothing to do with it!" he protested, his voice quavering.

"The fuck you didn't!" Axel roared, ripping Demyx's hood off. Roxas stared. Demyx hadn't put any gel in his hair this morning - it was more-or-less lying down, even more straggling in his face than usual - but even more surprising were the dark bruises developing on his face. Roxas gulped, feeling a little sick. "Riddle me this, fuckwad - if you didn't have anything to do with it, why didn't you use any gel this morning?! Did you have some weird premonition or something?!"

"N-no...I-I just...r-ran out of t-time...I w-was in a h-hurry...I d-didn't kn-now a-anyth-thing..."

"Like hell you didn't..." Axel grabbed him by the shoulder, slammed him into the wall, raised his fist -

"What's going on?" Roxas asked quickly, unable to stomach the thought of this turning to physical violence.

Axel whipped around in a flash, and Demyx tried to wriggle free of his grip. "Guess what sort of stunt this jackass has been performing," Axel hissed thinly, "with material and probably financial support from everyone's favorite drunken card shark."

Roxas swallowed hard. "...What?"

Axel glared at him silently for a few long moments, eyes blazing. "...This," he said finally, tearing his hood off. Oddly enough, the first thing Roxas noticed was the developing bump on his forehead where (presumably) Xigbar had cracked his and Luxord's heads together.

Then the rest of it sank in. Axel's hair was not pale blond, nor was it bright red tipped at the very ends with pale blond. Instead, most of it had gone absolutely white, except for incongruous bright red patches at the roots. Roxas tried not to laugh, and only allowed a brief, embarrassed giggle or two to escape. It was easier not to laugh than he'd expected, when he looked at Demyx's bruised face. "That's...pretty drastic."

"No. Damn. Shit." Axel jerked his hood back up, covering the damage done by the bleach.

"No wonder you were ready to kill Luxord this morning," Roxas said, because he would have felt stupid not saying anything and that seemed fairly safe.

"God. That bastard." Axel hissed between his teeth. "Offer anyone money to do anything at all, just because he thinks it's fuckin' funny." He shot another lethal glare at Demyx, who was now flattened against the wall. "And of course, there's always some asshole willing to do anything for money, isn't there!" Demyx sagged like Axel had punched him.

"That's...that's too bad," Roxas said in a very tiny voice.

Axel growled. "It's fucking disgusting. I gotta go buy some red hair wanna come?" he added unenthusiastically, as if on automatic.

Roxas shook his head. "No. I...think I'll stay here."

"Fine," Axel growled, then glanced back at Demyx. "And you might wanna drop sitar lessons altogether!" He opened a portal and disappeared. Roxas couldn't help but breathe a quick sigh of relief as the portal closed behind him, and started to head towards his own room.

And then he saw how Demyx was staring at him. His expression was uncomprehending, horrified, crushed, almost heartbroken...

Absolutely betrayed.

Roxas hastily portaled to his room and spent a long time staring at the floor. He knows I did it, and he didn't tell Axel...and neither did I.

Axel showed up to lunch with his hair in two slightly different shades of red, still shooting evil glares at Luxord. Demyx didn't show up at all. When Roxas timidly asked Axel where he was, Axel growled in the back of his throat and said something like "how the fuck should I know?" Roxas didn't dare try to talk to him again. For once, lunch was eaten in absolute silence.

When Roxas went back to his room, Fori was there waiting for him, all smiles. "That - went - perfectly!" he declared, then seemed to reconsider. "Well, almost perfectly - we didn't manage to get Demyx. But Axel more than made up for that, didn't he? I mean, he has not the faintest clue -" Roxas remained silent, remembering the bruises on Demyx's face and the awful look in his eyes. "...What? It was just bad luck we missed Demyx. Couldn't have planned for that."

"Fori -" Roxas said suddenly, and then stopped, not knowing how to continue. "Leave me alone. I gotta think about something."

Fori gave him a dubious look. "Not having second thoughts, are you?"

Roxas held up a hand. "Just...just go, okay?" Fori looked at him like he was silently questioning his sanity, but he went, which was all Roxas wanted right then.

What have I done?

Stood back and let one of his best friends take the heat for his stupid prank. It didn't matter that that wasn't how he'd planned it, or that Demyx was supposed to have been one of the victims. Axel had screamed at him, shoved him around, even punched him in the face, for something he'd had nothing to do with - if he hadn't been in too much of a hurry to gel his hair, it wouldn't have happened. And Demyx knew damn well who at least one of the guilty parties really was, and no matter what Axel did to him, he hadn't said a single incriminating word...and Roxas knew damn well that Demyx had been taking the rap - hell, taking the beating - for what he'd done, and he hadn't said a word to Axel either. He might as well have started beating on Demyx himself.

That could have been me, though, that Axel was beating the snot out of.

Demyx's battered, horrified, betrayed face suddenly appeared in his mind's eye. Roxas stood up and portaled to Axel's room.

Axel looked up sharply at him as he crossed through the portal. "Oh. S'you," he growled, and ungraciously handed him a controller. "Want a round of...fuck, I don't care...something. I wanna blow shit up."

Roxas swallowed hard, afraid that Axel himself would blow up in the very near future. "...Demyx didn't have anything to do with it," he said finally. "Neither did Luxord."

Axel's eyes narrowed dangerously. "How do you know?" he asked in a menacingly quiet voice. "Well?" he added, after Roxas hadn't managed to force a word out after nearly a minute.

"...I did it."

Axel leaped to his feet, fists clenched and eyes blazing; the room was suddenly filled with the smell of smoke, and little grey wisps were definitely curling from Axel's robe. Roxas cowered and held his hands up defensively, sure he was about to get the beating of his life. Axel certainly looked like he was about to give it to him, as the wisps of smoke from his robe grew thicker and darker and tiny flickers of flame appeared. Suddenly, Axel roared, whipped around, and put his fist through the bathroom door. "God-fucking-dammit!" he screamed, as he followed it up with a kick that splintered the wood. "You just...aaauuuuugh..." His fist slammed into the wall, and he suddenly yelped and clutched his hand. "Oh, fuck it all..." he hissed between his teeth.

Roxas swallowed hard. "Ax? okay?"

Axel hissed again. "Okay...I'm gonna go see Vexen. Think I broke a finger. Then...I wanna talk to you."

It felt like it took three or four millennia plus or minus a few centuries before Axel came back, one finger bandaged and splinted. Roxas still felt like he could have waited another few minutes. "All right," Axel said, sinking down onto the bed next to where he was sitting. "First question. Did you have an accomplice?"

Roxas could feel himself turning red. "Fori," he mumbled, staring at his boots. "He stole some of Luxord's bleach and distracted Demyx long enough for me to mix it into the gel. We were supposed to get Demyx too," he added, feeling like it was a little pointless to mention but it couldn't hurt now. "It was just bad luck that he didn't have time to use any today."

Axel snorted and shook his head. " least it saved him getting his hair wrecked..." he muttered, not looking altogether proud of himself either. "Second question: Why Fori? I mean, not that I can't see him getting up to this kind of shit, but how'd you end up in on this together?"

Roxas bit his lip. "He started it," he said weakly.

Axel looked sharply at him from the corner of his eye. "He started what?"

"The prank war..."

"...What prank war?"

Somehow, Roxas found himself explaining the entire story to Axel, from finding himself with eight left boots one morning to their agreement to join forces after the toothpaste incident. Much to his surprise, Axel's expression changed throughout his story, eventually shifting to faint amusement. When he got to the part about the toothpaste, Axel actually laughed. "Never would have thought of that one on my own. That's a pretty good one." For possibly the first time since his initial confession, Roxas started to think that maybe he could get out of this without even a black eye. When the explanation was over, Axel clenched his good hand into a fist and sighed heavily. "And when I saw what happened to my hair, and that Demyx hadn't used any gel, I automatically assumed that he'd taken one of Luxord's jackass bets, or at least got his help. I mean, I know he doesn't do anything to piss anyone off normally, but after that crack about sitar lessons, he was being such a pisswad..." He shook his head, then cleared his throat. "Okay, first, let me make something clear. I wouldn't normally do this for anyone else. Most people would be down to a charred spot on the floor right now."

Roxas swallowed hard. "Um, thanks," he said, not sure what Axel was talking about.

Axel took a deep breath. "All right. There are some real key dos and don'ts to successful pranking." Roxas's jaw dropped. Advice was approximately the last thing he'd expected. "First - never, ever do anything that could put someone else's life in danger. No exposing electrical wires trying to give someone a shock, no covering deep holes with carpeting and luring someone over them, no screwing with important medications. This is gonna sound weird coming from me, but especially don't do anything that involves pyrotechnics or any explosive more powerful than a stink bomb. It doesn't take much bad luck to kill a person, or put an eye out, or something." Roxas nodded mutely - it wasn't like he'd have considered such a thing if it had been suggested to him. " really careful with your mark. I mean, make sure you pick someone who can take the joke without breaking down or breaking your neck. As a corollary, don't pick on the same person too many times in a row, unless you're in a prank war. Take Demyx. The most easygoing guy in the Organization, bar none, but there are jokes he can't take, and there is a point after which he can't take any joke. Actually, that's a handy benchmark. If you don't think Demyx could take it, no one is gonna be able to take it. And there are ways that he is capable of taking revenge on you that will make your life miserable but that you probably won't even realize he did."

"Backing up the toilet..." Roxas said musingly.

Axel nodded emphatically. "He can use his powers to fix it; stands to reason he can use his powers to cause it. Anyway, third: If you're going to plant evidence to incriminate someone else, make sure they're not gonna get into too much trouble. I know, you had nothing to do with Demyx, but you did steal one of Luxord's bleach kits, and the only reason I can think of for you doing that instead of buying your own is to give the impression that he had something to do with it." Roxas turned red - that was exactly the case. "We would have torn each other apart if Xigbar hadn't broken us up. Instead of trying to make it look like someone else did it, it's really a better idea to leave no evidence at all."

Roxas nodded slowly. "I can see how that makes sense."

"And fourth - it's a bad idea to do anything that's gonna change someone's appearance in a way that's not easy to fix." He gestured at his hair, the tips of which were now slightly more orange than they should have been. "No one ever takes that well, got it memorized?"

"Yeah," Roxas confessed. "I think I've figured that out now."

"Good." Axel thought for a moment. "Did I miss anything? If I did, I'm sure I'm going to wake up at 2:30 in the morning shouting it out loud...oh yeah, don't do anything that could permanently damage someone's reputation. Yours included. If that's what you're setting out to do, you've left the realm of harmless pranking."

Roxas nodded. " that it?"

Axel shook his head emphatically. "First, we've gotta go apologize to Demyx - I say we because while I might have...jumped to some totally inaccurate conclusions and took thoroughly inappropriate were complicit in that to some degree."

Roxas nodded, feeling several inches shorter than he had earlier. "I know. That's why I did eventually 'fess up."

Axel half-smiled. "Well...good for you, I guess. Second..." The smile spread across both sides of his face. "Did you know Xigbar smokes occasionally?"


Axel held up a readily identifiable package that definitely wasn't a cigarette pack. "Wanna see him try to light up a stick of pocky?"

AN: Oh my. That took entirely too long from start to finish. I didn't have writer's block...I had author's ADD. Kept picking up and dropping four or five different things, not all of which might ever be published. This is the first one fit to see the light of day, probably because the concept was born much more complete than most. And it made total sense to me for Fori to have sort of a mean sense of humor, and to not be too concerned that Demyx and Luxord were taking the blame in his and Roxas's place. Did you think his Other became a demon because he was all sweetness and light?

Don't take inspiration from me, would-be pranksters. I'm not sure some of these are even plausible.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, got it memorized?