(A/N): Oh. My. GOD. This fic is so much pure, unadulterated crack, but what better way to celebrate Halloween than by merging Kingdom Hearts and The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Yes, I'm one of those people and I so totally went there and I had so very much fun doing it. Knowledge and/or enjoyment of TRHPS may not be essential to this fic, but it might help. Warnings for language, gender-bending, audience participation lines and general what-the-fuckery. For you, Lauren. I hope you like it. Happy Halloween, everyone!
Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing depicted in this fic - I simply mushed it all into one unholy alliance.
Act I: Any Virgins In This Theater?
Roxas flipped through the pages of the script idly, raising an eyebrow at the number of highlighted lines. There were a lot of lines. "You sure you're gonna be able to memorize all this?" he asked, settling a little more deeply into the couch and crossing his legs.
Above him, Axel only rolled his eyes as he crossed his arms over his chest, somehow managing to tap his foot in the outrageously tall stilettos he'd run out and purchased as soon as he was sure he'd landed the part. "Thanks for that vote of confidence there, Rox – I'll be fine, thank you."
"I can't believe you agreed to do this," Roxas muttered, flipping back to the page Axel had marked.
Axel made an impatient sound in the back of his throat and waved a hand dismissively in the air. "Quit complaining and help me with my lines, Blondie." He only grinned at the glare Roxas pinned him with.
Muttering in annoyance, Roxas traced a finger down the page, searching for the right line. "Okay, here we go. 'I'm here, there's nothing to worry about.'" He looked up when Axel didn't respond, eyes narrowing at the glint in his best friend's eyes. "What?"
"You're not gonna do the scream?" Axel asked, voice practically dripping innocence.
Roxas's glare intensified. "No."
"Aw, c'mon Rox, it's part of the script."
"Don't make me beat you with the nearest blunt instrument, Axel."
Axel sighed and made a placating gesture with his hands. "Okay, okay, no scream. Give me the line again?"
Roxas glared at the redhead for another second before dropping his eyes back to the page. "'I'm here, there's nothing to worry about.'"
Axel gave a barely perceptible nod and threw his shoulders back, a small smirk gracing his lips. "'How do you do, I see you've met my faithful handyman,'" he sang. Roxas hid a snicker as Axel began to strut around the small room, stilettos clicking against the bare floor. The blond kept his eyes glued to the script as Axel continued to sing, knowing Axel would expect him to jump in when it called for it. "'I'm not much of a man by the light of day,'" the redhead belted out, hips swaying, "'but by night I'm one –'"
"Sick motherfucker," Roxas deadpanned.
Axel froze and cast a disbelieving gaze over his shoulder. "I can't believe you just did that," he muttered, a slow grin creeping across his face.
Roxas shrugged and held up a finger. "One, it's true," he said, smirking at the redhead's expression. "Two, the audience is gonna heckle you a lot worse than this. Get used to it."
"No, not that," Axel scoffed. "I'm ready for that. I just can't believe sweet, innocent little Roxie –"
"Fuck you," Roxas interjected mildly, eyes already back on the script.
Axel's grin widened, but he only shook his head, pulling his hair out of his face with one hand. "Gimme the line again."
Axel strutted around Roxas's small living room dressed like a drag queen for the next hour, voice ringing against the cinderblock walls. Roxas hoped to Yevon that none of his neighbors decided to drop by for an unexpected visit.
"'I could show you my favorite –'"
"Position," Roxas interjected loudly.
"'Obsession,'" Axel sang, striving to override him and making faces the entire time. Roxas grinned.
This was going to be a lot of fun.
When his alarm went off the next morning, Roxas only groaned and buried his head underneath his pillow, fumbling for the snooze button with one hand. All he managed to do was knock the damn thing so that it skittered beyond his reach on the distressed nightstand. Roxas allowed himself another long, drawn-out groan before extracting his head from between the mattress and pillow. Swiping irritably at the gunk that had gathered in the corner of his eyes, he smacked the alarm off and swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
His hissed as his toes curled against the bare cement, the shock of the cold against his skin enough to pull him to his feet, dragging his fingers through his hair and muttering nonsensically under his breath. He shambled into the bathroom, listening to the rattle and clank of the pipes moaning as he cranked the hot water knob in the shower on full. The hot water was another shock to his system, albeit a more pleasant one than the freezing floor, and when he stepped out of the shower a few minutes later, grabbing blindly for the towel, his brain had mostly adjusted to the fact that he was awake and ambulatory.
Roxas toweled his hair vigorously before wrapping the towel around his waist and stepping back into his freezing bedroom. He half-ran to the two large piles of clothes lying against the closet, pawing frantically through them for a semi-clean shirt and pair of jeans. He dressed hurriedly, pulling on thick socks and an oversized hoodie as defense against the pervasive cold before settling his towel over the bathroom doorknob and heading for the kitchenette.
When he pulled the fridge open, he found he was down to one jar of mayonnaise, lunchmeat that had expired sometime last week, and two lonely beer cans. He'd forgotten to go shopping again. He thumped his forehead against the top of the fridge as he glared at his meager food supply, stomach growling its displeasure at him.
His cell phone began to warble its annoyingly cheerful ring tone from somewhere back in the bedroom, and Roxas abandoned the fridge to hunt down the pants he'd been wearing the night before. Snagging the phone from the pocket of the jeans lying across the bottom of his bed, he flipped it open and tried not to sound as irritated as he felt. "Yeah?"
"Hey, Blondie. You forgot to go shopping again, didn't you?"
Roxas hunched his shoulders and glared at the floor. "Yeah." Axel laughed on the other end of the line, and Roxas's eyebrows settled low over his eyes in the beginning of a frown. "Shut up," he muttered. "I was helping you with your stupid lines."
"Roxas, what are we going to do with you?" Axel sighed, voice still rich with amusement. Not giving the blond a chance to answer, he said, "C'mon, I'll buy you breakfast. Way to the Dawn, ten minutes." He hung up without giving Roxas a chance to speak. Roxas gave the phone a dirty look before shoving it in his pocket; he grabbed his sneakers on his way to the front door.
It was warmer on the street than it had been in his apartment, and Roxas lifted his face into the late September sun as he traveled the three blocks between his building and the diner Axel'd settled on. The redhead was waiting for him, hands buried deeply in the pockets of his favorite black trench coat. Roxas said a silent thanks that the stilettos were nowhere to be seen. Green eyes flashed as Axel grinned when he spotted the blond, and he waved one arm vigorously. Roxas rolled his eyes but couldn't help grinning himself as he closed the distance between them. "Took you long enough," Axel commented as he turned toward the door. Roxas just shook his head and huffed as he followed the redhead into the diner.
"No heels today?" he asked with a small smirk as the door sighed closed behind his back.
Axel glanced down at him with a wicked grin. "Didn't know you liked 'em, Rox. I could always get you a pair," he purred, dissolving into laughter at the look Roxas shot him.
"No thanks," Roxas mumbled.
Axel let the discussion die as the waitress approached, menus tucked neatly underneath her arm. "Hello, how many?" she asked.
Before they could answer, a familiar voice sounded from the door.
Both men glanced over at the petite blonde who'd come in behind them, standing just inside the door and regarding them with a pleased smile. "Hey, Naminé," Axel said, gesturing her over. "What are you doing here?"
"Gee, Axel, what would she be doing in a diner?" Roxas rejoined as Naminé went up on tiptoe to hug him. She was one of the few people he knew that actually had to stretch to reach him.
Naminé's breath whispered against his ear as she laughed, squeezing his shoulders. "I was actually on the way to your apartment," she said as she drew back. "I saw you guys through the window."
"You eat yet?" Axel asked. When Naminé shook her head, he glanced over his shoulder at the waitress standing patiently waiting for them to finish. "I guess that makes it three."
The waitress only nodded and led them to a small table at the back of the diner. She set the menus around the table before stepping back. "Your server will be right with you," she said before turning and heading back to the front.
Roxas pulled Naminé's chair out for her, pointedly ignoring Axel's drawled, "Such a gentleman, Rox."
Naminé only smiled. "I hear congratulations are in order," she said, clasping her hands and regarding the redhead with an expectant expression.
Axel grinned, puffing his chest out theatrically. "You heard about that, huh?" Naminé nodded.
"I can't believe you guys decided to do this," Roxas muttered, grinning.
"I'm just an understudy," Naminé pointed out serenely as their waiter arrived to take their orders.
Roxas just shook his head. If his two oldest friends wanted to prance across a stage in high heels and…not much else, well, that was their business. When the small Twilight Town Theater had announced open auditions for The Rocky Horror Show, he'd expected Axel to try out – he'd been involved with every production they'd put out since he'd been in high school, and he'd been obsessed with the movie for almost as long (though his actually landing the role of Frank-N-Furter had come as a surprise). But Naminé was another matter entirely. She'd always preferred to work behind the scenes; when she'd asked him to help her read for the part of Janet he'd only been able to gape, open-mouthed. "You're both insane," he informed them.
"Probably," Axel agreed, smirking. "But you're gonna come to the show, right?"
Roxas propped his chin in his hand, rolling his eyes. "Of course. When have I ever not come?"
"Cid wants to know if you'd be available to help with set construction," Naminé cut in, smoothing her napkin across her lap. "We're a little short-handed."
Roxas nodded, sitting back to allow the waiter to put their drinks on the table. "Sure, just lemme know when."
"Okay," Naminé said, smiling. She laid a hand over his arm and squeezed gently. "Thanks, Roxas."
Roxas hummed a response, and the table lapsed into silence. Axel drummed his fingers restlessly against the tabletop for a few moments before he retrieved a small pair of reading glasses from an inner pocket of his coat. Settling them on his nose, he pulled a rumpled sheaf of papers from another pocket, smoothing it out against the faux marble top.
Roxas snorted when he caught sight of the familiar highlighter color. "You're obsessed."
Axel didn't look up, but his lips curled in a smirk. "You're just jealous 'cause I look so good in drag," he said dryly. Behind him, their waiter choked a little and came perilously close to dropping the tray laden with their food. Axel's smirk only grew.
"Yeah, Axel, that's totally it," Roxas muttered as Naminé tried to hide her laughter behind her hand. Somewhat recovered, the waiter managed to deal out their plates without further mishap, though Roxas caught the incredulous look he shot at them over his shoulder as he turned away again.
"Where are you today?" Axel asked as he returned both his script and his reading glasses to their respective pockets.
Roxas shrugged as he poured syrup over the pancakes he'd ordered. "Shifting boxes down at the warehouse in –" He glanced at his watch. "– an hour. Then putting up as many posters for the Struggle Cup as I can this afternoon."
"Mind if I drop by after rehearsal?" Axel asked, starting in on his own food. "I'll bring Chinese or something."
The clink of silverware filled the silence for the next few minutes as they each turned their attention to the food. Roxas glanced at his watch again as he shoved one last bite past his lips. "I've gotta run, guys," he mumbled around the food in his mouth. "I'm gonna be late."
"I'll talk to Cid tonight," Naminé said, pecking him on the cheek when he wrapped her in a quick hug. "I'll call you if he needs you tomorrow."
"Okay, thanks. See you later."
"Get someone to pay you today," Axel called after his retreating back, waving a fork emphatically in the air. "I'm not paying for dinner, too." Roxas tossed a distracted wave over his shoulder as he disappeared out the door.
Roxas trudged up the stairs to his apartment, fishing for his keys with numb fingers. He hated putting up posters in the cold – the tingle in his hands as the blood started flowing freely again was always just this side of painful. Naminé constantly chided him, telling him he was going to lose one or more of his fingers to frostbite, but he just never seemed to get around to buying a pair of gloves.
Finally extracting his key ring from the prison of his jeans pocket, Roxas allowed himself a triumphant smile as he slid his apartment key home and listened to the tumblers click. When he stepped into the apartment he was assaulted by the smell of Chinese food and the sight of Axel sprawled across his couch in stilettos, black briefs, stockings, and a garter belt, lips moving silently as he perused his lines.
Roxas froze in the door and stared at the redhead. Dressed in stockings. And garters. Draped all over Roxas's couch. "Please tell me you didn't walk over looking like that," he finally got out as his vocal chords hooked back up with his brain.
Axel grunted and flipped to another page. "Nah, I changed when I got here."
Roxas was really, really regretting giving the redhead his spare key. Maybe he should just consider himself lucky Axel's upper body was still clothed in a dark sweater. "Y'know, some people might think this raises some pretty big questions about your masculinity."
Axel snorted. "Well then it's a good thing I'm so damn secure. Food's on the counter," he said, waving a hand vaguely in the direction of Roxas's tiny kitchen. "You owe me twenty bucks."
"Don't you think you're taking this a little far?" Roxas asked, tone exasperated as he closed the door behind him and tossed his keys on the coffee table as he moved past the redhead.
"You come up with a better way to get used to walking around in this shit," Axel grumbled, dropping the script onto his lap and rubbing the heels of his hands against his eyelids.
"What'd you do, steal those from wardrobe?" Roxas asked, opening the paper bag on the counter and extracting the steaming boxes.
Roxas glanced over his shoulder at Axel's stiletto-clad foot hanging over the edge of his couch and decided he didn't really want to know. "What do you want?" he asked, lining the food up on the counter and grabbing the chopsticks from where they'd slid to the bottom of the bag.
Axel did a poor job of stifling a yawn. "Whatever."
Roxas entertained the notion of pulling down plates for exactly two seconds before he piled the containers in his arm and walked back into the living room, dumping the food onto the scarred coffee table. "Oh," Axel muttered, grabbing a container of what turned out to be beef lo mien, "Naminé said to tell you Cid isn't gonna need you to come in until Friday." Roxas grunted and flopped down into the armchair adjacent to the couch, grabbing the nearest carton of food and holding it between his hands, wincing a little at the warmth. "You need to buy a pair of gloves," Axel informed him around a mouthful of lo mien.
"Thank you, mom," Roxas mumbled. Axel only smirked, eyes fixed on the script as he ate. "Don't you know that thing by heart yet?" Roxas asked. Axel ignored him, and he settled back in the chair with a sigh. "How'd rehearsal go?"
Axel shrugged. "Mostly us sitting around listening to Cid figure out who's gonna need to do what on the stage crew."
"Thrilling," Roxas said dryly, lips quirking up in a grin at the look Axel shot him.
"No one asked you."
Roxas only shrugged and opened his food, spearing a piece of sweet and sour shrimp on the end of one chopstick. "Are you planning on dressing like…" He gestured at Axel's lack of attire with the shrimp before popping it into his mouth. "…that until this thing is over?"
Axel's grin was razor-sharp. "Why? You like it?" Roxas didn't bother to dignify the question with a response, and Axel's grin only spread. "Wait 'til we get to the makeup," he snickered.
Roxas rolled his eyes. "So did you want help with your lines, or did you get all dressed up for kicks?" Axel's grin morphed into an all-out leer, but he set the carton of lo mien back on the coffee table and stood up, tossing the script at the blond.
"Last line, third paragraph."
"'You've gotta choose between me and Rocky, so named because of the rocks in his head,'" Roxas read flatly.
"'It's not easy having a good time,'" Axel began.
"Try Disneyland," Roxas muttered under his breath.
"'Even smiling makes my face ache.'"
"So bite your knuckle," Roxas cut in, louder this time. Axel did, flipping him the bird with his free hand and grinning.
Roxas helped the redhead practice his lines for the next twenty minutes, making minor corrections when needed and throwing out the audience participation lines he could remember from the times Axel had forced him to watch the movie with him. "You're evil," Axel grumbled as he cracked his spine.
"Revenge," Roxas said, grinning. "Shouldn't have made me watch the movie so many times."
Axel scoffed and grabbed his backpack from under the couch. "I'm gonna get changed and get out of here." Roxas nodded and surveyed the Chinese food still spread across the coffee table before sitting back with a sigh and propping his feet around the cartons.
When Axel emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later, he was dressed in faded jeans with nary a garter in sight. "I'm gonna go," he said, slinging his backpack over his shoulder. "Don't forget about Friday, okay? Cid could use the help."
Roxas nodded and dug a hand into his pocket, emerging with a rumpled twenty-dollar bill. "Thanks for dinner."
Axel snatched it deftly out of his fingers, grinning and making a motion somewhere between a wave and a salute. "No problem. See ya."
"Bye," Roxas muttered as Axel disappeared out the door. He stayed where he was for a minute before pushing himself up with a sigh and gathering the almost-empty containers together, frowning at the little bits of food that had spilled over onto the table. Sticking his used chopsticks in his mouth, he shuffled into the kitchenette and pried the fridge door open with his foot.
He blinked. Stared.
There was a loaf of bread and new container of lunchmeat, milk, cheese, butter, and eggs occupying the formerly empty shelves. And another six pack of beer. There was a sticky note affixed to the front of the beer; when Roxas had settled all the Chinese food on the bottom shelf of the fridge he pulled it off.
No wonder you're so damn short, Rox.
Roxas stared at the note, a slow smile creeping across his face, before he crumpled it in his hand and glanced over at the door. With a chuckle, he dropped the note in the trash and headed into his room to change for bed.
When Roxas arrived at the small community theater on Friday, he was accosted before he even got to walk in the door. Two hands seized his wrists and dragged him through the entryway and into a crushing hug. "Hey Roxas, how've you been?"
"Fine, Demyx," Roxas managed thinly, nose mashed against the taller man's shoulder.
"Axel and Naminé said you'd be coming by today," the ebullient blond said, thrusting Roxas back out to arms' length and beaming down at him. Roxas just shook his head and smiled. Demyx was another long-time member of the theater; he'd taught a body movement class after school hours for the last two years. "Well c'mon, they're back this way somewhere," Demyx continued brightly, turning and dragging Roxas behind him.
They left the small ticket area behind and entered the auditorium, which was buzzing with activity. Cid was standing in the center of the stage, a clipboard he never glanced at clutched in one hand and his ever-present toothpick being shredded to pulp between his teeth. His eyes fixed on Roxas almost as soon as he entered the open space.
"You!" he snapped, jabbing a finger at the younger blond. "Xigbar's back in the stage left wing pulling flats. Go and help him."
Demyx draped a possessive arm over Roxas's shoulder, pouting up at the grizzled technician. "He just got here, Cid."
"He's here to work," Cid said, attention momentarily distracted as someone hurried up to him carrying a feather boa. "Why are you bringing that to me?" he demanded, running a hand over his short-cropped hair. "That's Marluxia's department!"
Demyx chuffed a laugh under his breath and tugged Roxas toward a side door. "C'mon," he muttered, pulling the shorter man through behind him.
"But Cid –"
"Cid'll live 'til we get back," Demyx insisted, smiling. Roxas gave up and allowed himself to be tugged down a narrow hallway, past the entrance to the stage and up an equally narrow set of stairs. The ceiling was so low Demyx had to duck in places – the theater had been built sometime around the turn of the nineteenth century, when the average height had been a good foot shorter; being here was one of the few times Roxas appreciated his lack of height.
Demyx ducked through the first door on the right, and Roxas followed him into a wide-open room packed with people and racks of costumes. Cast members were either standing and having their measurements taken or sitting in the plain metal chairs lining the wall, talking quietly to one another. Axel was standing in the far corner, rifling through a costume rack and speaking distractedly to someone with pink hair kneeling at his feet, fiddling with the ankle straps of the high heels the redhead was wearing; they were significantly wider than the stilettos Axel had been wandering around in for the past few days.
Axel noticed Roxas and Demyx standing in the doorway and waved, grinning. The pink-haired man followed the direction of Axel's glance, eyebrows settling low over his light eyes as his gaze fell on Demyx. "You were supposed to wait for your fitting," he said, voice stiff with disapproval.
Roxas blinked, fighting the smile struggling to break across his face and wondering when Marluxia had dyed his hair.
Demyx shrugged. "I had to go get Roxas," he said, grinning as he draped an arm over the smaller blond's shoulders again.
"You're in this, too?" Roxas asked, bemused.
Demyx nodded, blue eyes shining. "I'm Eddie."
Roxas blew his breath out in a sigh. "Of course you are," he muttered. He glanced around the room. "Where's Naminé?"
"Downstairs, probably being worked to death by Cid," Axel said, ignoring Marluxia's glare as he made his way over to them – well, strutted was probably the more apt term, Roxas thought, eyeing the way the redhead's hips swung with each step. "Which is where you're supposed to be," he added, flicking Roxas on the forehead.
Roxas frowned up at him as he rubbed the spot, Demyx's arm tightening around his shoulders. "I wanted him to come up and say hi," he said a tad defensively. "We haven't seen him around here for a while."
"Yeah, all of a week," Roxas muttered.
"You haven't met the cast!" Demyx insisted, free arm waving wildly. "We've got fresh blood!"
Axel sighed and glanced back over his shoulder at Marluxia. "Just make it fast, okay, Demyx? You know how Cid gets when he's stressed." He gave Roxas a distracted smile. "See you later, Blondie."
Before Roxas could reply the door burst open and Hayner stormed in, scowling. His dark eyes settled on Roxas, and he jabbed an accusing finger at the blond. "You!"
"Me," Roxas said dryly as his friend stomped up to him.
"Cid is not going to blame me for you not working," Hayner grumbled. He pointed back at the door. "Xigbar. Flats. Now."
Roxas rolled his eyes as he slipped out from underneath Demyx's arm. "Gee, it's great to see you, too."
"Shut up," Hayner muttered, punching Roxas's arm and grinning as he moved obediently past him and toward the door. "No, Demyx, you can have him later," he shot over his shoulder as he planted one hand between Roxas's shoulder blades and increased their stride. The door slammed shut on Demyx's petulant expression, and Hayner spun Roxas to face the stairs.
"I do know the way," Roxas pointed out blandly.
Hayner glanced at him before he shrugged and let his hand drop back to his side. "Sorry." He sighed and rubbed absently at one shoulder as he followed Roxas down the stairs. "You'd think they hadn't seen you in years," he groused under his breath.
Roxas just shrugged. "Demyx is…"
"Batshit insane?" Hayner offered.
"Demyx," Roxas finished, grinning.
Cid was standing exactly where he'd been when Roxas had first entered the auditorium, a fresh toothpick clenched between his teeth. He shot the both of them a brief glare as they tried to sneak down the aisle. "You," he started, pointing at Roxas.
Roxas held his hands up in a placating gesture. "I know, I know – Xigbar. Flats. I'm going."
Not appearing the least bit mollified, Cid jabbed a finger at Hayner. "You're supposed to be up on the catwalk. Last thing we need's Leon bringing the lights down on top of all our heads."
"On my way, Cid," Hayner said, rolling his eyes when the man turned away. He and Roxas traded glances laden with amusement, and Hayner held up a loosely clenched fist. "See you later, man," he said as Roxas tapped his own fist against Hayner's.
"See you," Roxas echoed as Hayner hopped up on the stage. When Cid's head started to swing back toward him he turned and headed hurriedly for the stairs leading to the wings.
He found Xigbar standing with his hands on his hips, his good eye glaring at the various plinths, doorways, and roman columns pushed together in no particular order in the corner. "I see you got real far," Roxas said as he came up behind him. Xigbar bent his spine back so that he was peering down over his shoulder at the shorter man before he grinned, scar rippling. No one was quite sure how he'd come by his injuries – the story seemed to change every year, depending on the man's mood and how much alcohol he had in his system.
"What, you want an old man to do all the work himself?" Xigbar asked.
"You're not old," Roxas scoffed, stepping up next to him. "You're…timeless."
Xigbar barked a laugh and shook his head, his gray-streaked ponytail swaying with the movement. "And you're fulla shit," he said good-naturedly, clapping the blond on the shoulder. He nodded at the stacks and shoved the younger man forward. "C'mon, this shit ain't gonna move itself."
He and Xigbar shifted flats for the next half hour, arguing over what they might be able to use for the show. By the time Naminé came looking for them Roxas had a fistful of splinters and a shallow graze across his cheek where an over-balanced streetlamp had fallen into him when they'd moved the column holding it up. "Hey guys," she said, laying a hand on Roxas's shoulder. "Break time. Cid's got pizza."
"Thank Yevon," Xigbar muttered, cracking his neck. Roxas winced and rubbed at his own neck as he and Naminé followed Xigbar out onto the stage, stepping around some of the crewmembers already eating. Pizza boxes were lined along the edge of the stage, tops thrown back and steam still curling up from the contents. Roxas hopped off the edge of the stage, turning and extending a hand for Naminé to grasp as she followed him.
"Hey guys, over here!"
Roxas glanced back at Demyx, who was grinning and waving at them from the third row. Axel was sitting to his left, munching contentedly on a slice of cheese pizza. Demyx raised a pizza box from where it was resting on his lap, displaying the slices still sitting in the bottom. "We've got you covered," he said.
Naminé smiled and grabbed Roxas's wrist, pulling him behind her as she moved to join them. Axel drew his legs up onto the seat to let them pass, and they each grabbed a slice of pizza and sank into the seats on the other side of the blond teacher.
"Okay, so," Demyx began as soon as they were settled comfortably. "Cast members." Roxas rolled his eyes but didn't attempt to interrupt; he knew from experience it would be faster to just let the man talk. "Obviously, there's me and Axel," he said, gesturing between himself and the redhead.
"Obviously," Roxas muttered, taking a bite of his pizza.
Ignoring Roxas's tone, Demyx straightened in his seat and peered at the stage. "Let's see… Oh, okay, there's Yuffie," he said, pointing at a slight woman with short dark hair talking animatedly to Leon, who was listening and eating his slice of pizza with a resigned expression on his face. "She's new. She's gonna be Columbia. Um…" He swiveled, surveying the seats around them. "You know Luxord, right?" Roxas nodded, following the line of Demyx's pointing finger to the man in question. "He's gonna be Rocky." Roxas raised an eyebrow, but remained silent. Apparently not seeing anyone else he was looking for, Demyx sat back in his seat, stretching his legs under the seat in front of him and ticking the rest of the cast off on his fingers. "I don't think you've met Vexen yet – he's Riff-Raff. Larxene's gonna be Magenta."
"Larxene?" Roxas cut in, pausing mid-chew. Demyx nodded. "Then who's gonna be doing the lights?"
Someone snorted behind them, and Roxas glanced over his shoulder in time to watch Hayner bend down over Demyx's shoulder and grab the last slice of pizza from the box in his lap. "His boyfriend," Hayner said dryly.
Demyx jumped and tried to grab the pizza back from the other man, but Hayner took a large bite out of it, smiling triumphantly. "I was saving that for Zexion!" Demyx cried indignantly.
Hayner shrugged as he took another bite. "He's a big boy – he's perfectly capable of getting his own food."
Demyx glared at him before turning away with a huff. "Um, Dr. Scott…Xaldin's Dr. Scott. Lexaeus is the criminologist." He stared at his fingers for a moment before he shot another accusing glare at Hayner. "You made me forget where I was."
"Brad and Janet," Roxas supplied.
"Olette's Janet," Hayner mumbled, coloring slightly.
Roxas tried not to let his mouth hang open too much. "Olette?"
Hayner shrugged and took a savage bite out of his pizza, glaring as Roxas's lips began to twitch up into a smile. "Not. A. Word," he growled.
"Yeah, Rox, you try watching your girlfriend saunter around a stage for two hours in a bra and slip and see if you like it," Axel added, smirking at the murderous look Hayner fixed him with.
"Shut up," Hayner groaned, sinking down in the seat behind them. "She wanted to do it, it's fine." Axel began to open his mouth, but Roxas reached across Demyx to punch his arm and he subsided, still smirking.
"Who's Brad?" Roxas asked, exasperation creeping into his tone.
"Sora is," a new voice said. Roxas immediately began to choke on the bite he'd just taken, and Demyx pounded him absently on the back as he grinned over his shoulder.
Zexion nodded and settled in the seat to Hayner's left side, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "Is there any pizza left?" he asked as Roxas continued to cough.
Demyx's features twisted into a brief frown. "No. Someone stole the last piece," he said, glancing over at Hayner.
"I think he's dying, Dem," Axel said, reaching across him to slap ineffectually at Roxas's shoulder.
Demyx's expression grew concerned as he turned his attention back to Roxas, giving the younger blond's back one last forceful smack. "Hey, breathe." Roxas lurched forward in his seat, gasping for breath and wiping the tears out of his eyes. "You okay?"
Naminé carefully pulled him back upright, brushing his bangs off of his forehead. "Are you all right?" she asked.
Roxas took a shaky breath, hissing when it burned in his suddenly tender throat. "Thanks for the help, Demyx," he croaked, glaring.
Demyx held his hands up, eyes wide. "Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't think you were really…you know."
"I'll go get some water," Zexion murmured, slipping out of his seat. Roxas waved him back into it, coughing weakly.
"'M fine," he managed. "Just…Sora is Brad?" Zexion nodded, perching on the edge of his seat as his dark eyes rested on Roxas's face. Roxas managed a thin laugh. "Shouldn't there be laws against something like that? He's…" He waved his hands in the air, searching for words. Sora had been the valedictorian of their high school class and a star blitzball player. He'd been Prom King, for crying out loud. "He's Sora," he finished at last, dropping his hands back into his lap with a huff.
Zexion shrugged and sat back in his seat, apparently satisfied that Roxas wasn't going to drop dead any time soon. "He auditioned, and he got the part," he said neutrally.
"It's not like the kid's a saint," Axel cut in with a snort. "He's living with Riku and Kairi. You can't tell me there's not something funny going on there."
"Yes, Axel, I'm sure they're having three-ways every night and twice on Saturdays," Roxas muttered, wincing and rubbing at his throat.
Axel shrugged. "I stand by my assessment," he insisted, grinning.
"Okay people, break's over!" Cid barked, striding to the center of the stage amidst a chorus of groans. "Don't gimme those looks – everybody back to work!"
Their small group stood, grumbling, and shuffled toward the aisle. "See you guys later," Axel said as they split in different directions, the cast heading for the front of the theater and the stage crew flocking back to the stage.
Hayner clapped a hand against Roxas's shoulder before he could head for the stage. "See you tomorrow."
"You're not sticking around?" Roxas asked, voice still a little raspy.
Hayner shook his head. "We're heading up to see Olette's parents in Hollow Bastion. It's her dad's birthday, and her mom won't cut the cake or open the presents 'til we're there."
Roxas shrugged. "Okay." He tapped a fist against Hayner's. "See you later. Tell Olette congratulations, I guess."
A small line traced itself between Hayner's eyes. "For her dad's birthday?"
"For the part."
For a moment, Hayner looked like he couldn't decide whether he wanted to smile or frown; he settled for laughing and punching Roxas's shoulder. "Shut up," he muttered when Roxas grinned. Roxas watched him retreat up the aisle before turning to find Xigbar once again.
By the time Cid let them go for the night, the sunset Twilight Town was so famous for had long since bled out of the sky. Shivering in the cold air, Roxas hunched his shoulders and buried his nose in the upturned collar of his jacket.
"Don't you have a scarf?" Demyx demanded, frowning down at him.
"Roxas doesn't believe in things like keeping warm," Axel drawled from behind them, pulling his gloves over his fingers as he let the theater door fall shut behind him.
"Shut up, Axel," Roxas muttered, voice muted by the jacket.
Demyx heaved a dramatic sigh and rolled his eyes heavenward as he unwound the scarf from his own neck. "The last thing we need is you getting sick," he complained, ignoring Roxas's muffled protests as he wrapped the wool tightly around the younger man's neck.
"Please. Give us a little credit," Axel scoffed, throwing an arm around Naminé's shoulders and ignoring her surprised yelp. "We've kept him alive and healthy since high school, thank you very much." Roxas opened his mouth to argue, remembered the food he'd found in his fridge, and settled for glaring at them all. Demyx only grinned at his expression and grabbed Zexion's hand; as the two of them turned down the sidewalk the other three fell into step behind them.
"So how'd it go?" Axel asked, removing his arm from Naminé's shoulders.
She tilted her head to the side, considering, before she gave a small shrug. "It wasn't too bad. There aren't a lot of props, and I think we'll be able to reuse a lot of the flats – that made Cid happy."
"How 'bout you, Blondie?" Axel asked, reaching out and poking at Roxas's temple. "Cid want you to come back?"
Roxas nodded, inhaling the scent of damp wool. "For the next week or two – until Xigbar's finished playing with his power tools."
"You'll have to come back after that," Demyx called over his shoulder, gently swinging his and Zexion's clasped hands. "You've gotta see the costumes – Marly's already started working on them."
"Oh, I'm sure he can't wait," Axel said, smirking. Roxas just shook his head and burrowed a little further into his jacket's warmth.
Things fell into a familiar rhythm for Roxas over the next two weeks. His alarm would drag him, stumbling and cursing, from his nice, warm bed into the freezing morning air, and if he'd remembered to do his shopping he'd have a quick breakfast before leaving the apartment. If he forgot, he picked something up on the way to whatever odd job he'd managed to secure for the day. When said odd job was over and done with, he'd walk or take the tram to the theater, where he spent the rest of the night running around at Cid and Xigbar's beck and call.
When he wasn't being sent for this hammer or that drill bit, he watched the cast figure out their marks and begin tentative scene rehearsals. Vexen and Larxene developed an almost instantaneous dislike of one another and went out of their way to avoid each other when not on stage. Sora walked into rehearsal one day wearing the largest, dorkiest pair of glasses Roxas had ever seen – Axel and Demyx heckled him with whistles and catcalls, and Olette fell into his arms with a ridiculously falsetto "Oh Brad, darling!" Yuffie practiced her tap dance routine in the Time Warp sequence so many times in a row she made herself dizzy and wound up going over sideways into the wings; luckily, Leon and Xigbar both managed to grab an arm as she went down and keep her from hitting the floor. Luxord, who had once made so much of the fact that he'd been a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, spent the majority of his time on stage grunting monosyllabically. And Axel…well, Axel strutted around like he owned the stage. Roxas didn't know how he could do any of it and keep a straight face.
"Well that's why we're part of the crew, not the cast," Hayner told him, grinning. They were both sitting in the back of the auditorium, feet propped on the backs of the seats in front of them.
Roxas shook his head, watching Axel swagger across the stage while belting out "Sweet Transvestite." "We're not insane?" he asked.
Olette's arms snaked around Hayner's neck as she placed her chin on his head, and Hayner shrugged. "I plead the fifth," he said.
"Someone's whipped," Roxas observed, grinning at the look Hayner flashed him. Olette only smiled and tilted her head so she could look over at Roxas.
"Come on Roxas, didn't you like getting to dress up for Halloween when you were little?" she asked, green eyes gleaming.
"Roxas! Hayner! Who said you two could take a break?"
Hayner sighed as Xigbar came striding up the aisle, and Olette pressed a quick kiss against the crown of her boyfriend's head before she pulled away. "C'mon, we've got things to do," Xigbar said, waving them out of their seats and shepherding them down the aisle.
And so it went. There were arguments over whether they'd have enough room on the stage for both the actors and a horizontal tank for Rocky's creation scene; they finally agreed on a round, vertical tank large enough to fit two people comfortably. Instead of rigging a platform that could descend to the stage for Frank-N-Furter's first scene, it was decided Axel would simply ascend from below the stage. There were lights to test, choreography to develop and memorize, flats to paint and costumes to sew. There was always one more thing that needed attention.
Toward the end of the second week, Demyx snuck up on Roxas while he was bent over the frame for the revolving platform Xigbar wanted to build so they could swing the criminologist's "office" on and off stage during the show. Roxas was in the middle of nailing down the cross boards, extra nails poking out between his lips, concentrating so completely on the task in front of him that when Demyx said his name he almost brought the hammer down on his hand. Setting the hammer carefully out of the way and spitting the nails into his palm, he glared up at the older blond. "What?"
Completely undeterred by Roxas's glare, Demyx plucked at the sleeve of the younger man's shirt, grinning widely. "C'mon," he half-sang. "You've gotta see this."
"Demyx, I'm working," Roxas growled, wiping a hand over his face.
Demyx shook his head, reaching down to tug insistently on Roxas's arm. "You don't want to miss this – trust me."
Roxas blew his breath out in an aggravated sigh and glanced around the stage. Xigbar was nowhere to be seen and Cid was engaged in a conversation with Leon, gesturing in the direction of the catwalk and shaking his head. "Fine." He wouldn't have believed it possible, but Demyx's smile only widened as he hauled Roxas to his feet, keeping his hand wrapped around the shorter man's bicep as he dragged him across the stage. "This better be good," Roxas muttered as he plodded along behind him.
Demyx dragged him up the narrow flight of stairs and through the first door on the right, gesturing with his free hand and beaming. "Doesn't he look great? Marluxia's outdone himself this time."
Roxas shook Demyx's hand off his arm and straightened his shirt before he actually looked at what the man had dragged him away from his work to see. His stomach dropped and his heart climbed into his throat, where it promptly proceeded to do its utmost to choke him. Because there was Axel, standing in the middle of the room in fishnets, garters and high heels, wearing a sheer black top with silver sequins flowing from his right shoulder to his left hip, face made up with ridiculously over-the-top eye shadow and thick red lipstick. He stood with one hip thrust out, sighing in exasperation and running his free hand through his hair as Marluxia made some sort of last-minute adjustment to his sleeve. He should've looked ridiculous.
He looked…fucking amazing.
Roxas's throat was suddenly dry. He'd been Axel's friend for years, and while he'd been aware that the redhead wasn't all that bad looking, he'd been aware of it the way he was aware the sky was blue or the grass was green. This, on the other hand…
"So? What do you think?" Demyx asked, his voice seeming to come from somewhere very far away. As if in slow motion, Axel's face started to swivel toward them and Roxas was suddenly agonizingly aware of the fact that he was standing there ogling his best friend – his male best friend. Who happened to be in drag.
Only through years of practice feigning indifference did he manage to blank his features and give an appropriately apathetic shrug. "Looks good," he muttered.
"Jeez Rox, don't hurt yourself tripping over your enthusiasm," Axel scoffed. Roxas swallowed, hard, and bit his tongue.
"Are you kidding?" Demyx cried, throwing an arm over Roxas's shoulders. "That's high praise coming from him! You hear that, Marly? Roxas loves it."
"I'm thrilled," Marluxia murmured dryly, releasing Axel's wrist and making a slow circle around the redhead. He nodded. "All right, good. I think we're done with this one. You can go ahead and change."
Roxas's spine stiffened and he pulled out from underneath Demyx's arm, backing toward the door. "I've gotta get back – Cid'll kill me if he sees I'm gone." There was no way he was going to stand here and watch the redhead undress – especially considering the suddenly strange mental state he was in.
Demyx frowned at him, but Axel only shrugged. "All right. See you later."
"Yeah," Roxas mumbled, turning and hurrying down the stairs.
"What happened to you?" Hayner asked as Roxas hurried past him on his way back to the stage. Roxas only shook his head and pushed on, heart still hammering in his chest. Yevon, what was wrong with him? He reached the platform he'd been working on and sank down to sit cross-legged in front of it, staring blankly at nothing.
Cid's voice sounded from somewhere off to his right. "I'm not payin' ya to sit and twiddle your thumbs, kid!"
"You're not paying me at all," Roxas replied automatically, blinking and giving himself a stern mental shake. He heard Cid huff.
"Just get back to work."
The rest of the evening passed in something of a blur for Roxas – when Cid told them they were finished for the day he was surprised to find time had somehow skipped ahead several hours. He was still sitting on the edge of the stage when Hayner came up behind him and cuffed him lightly across the back of the head. "You okay, man?" he asked, leaning over and resting his hands on his thighs as he tried to get a look at Roxas's face. "You've been acting weird all night."
"I'm fine," Roxas muttered, scowling.
"Yeah, you look fine," Hayner scoffed.
"What's wrong?" Naminé asked, wiping her palms against her jeans as she walked up to them.
"Nothing," Roxas said. Naminé glanced at Hayner, but he only shrugged and pulled himself upright again. Roxas sighed and pushed himself off of the stage, turning and extending a hand for Naminé. Hayner peeled away from them to find Olette, but Roxas was only dimly aware of Naminé telling him good night. His chest tightened as they approached the doors, eyes darting nervously between the people milling around the exit, searching for Axel's wild red spikes.
"Who are you looking for?"
It took every ounce of willpower Roxas possessed not to jump out of his skin. He turned and glared up at the redhead, nerves momentarily forgotten. Axel just smirked at him as he worked his hands into his gloves. Roxas froze, waiting for his pulse to spike, his throat to dry out, something. But it was just Axel, dressed in the same faded jeans and dark sweater Roxas had seen him in countless times before.
No racing pulse.
Roxas released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding and turned back toward the doors. "No one. Let's go."
Axel hummed in amusement as he followed them out the door. "What's got you in a mood?"
"Your face," Roxas muttered, grinning as he caught sight of the redhead's expression from the corner of his eye. Axel didn't bother dignifying the comment with a response, and Roxas tucked his hands into his pockets with a relieved sigh as they left the theater behind.