Summary: "Can't you just be there for the family for once?" Alternative Universe, College setting, because that's what was wished for. Oh, and it's slash. Don't like? I suggest you don't read it. Kthx.
Pairing: AkuRoku, because that's also what was wished for!
Warning: BEWARE THE READING GLASSES!! :D
Disclaimer: Indeed, I do not own the characters or places that are mentioned in this story. And indeed, I do not make money out of this. Indeed, you must fall to your knees and worship SquareEnix and Disney, for they created such wonderful characters for us fanbrats to torture…
Dedication: For my lovely muse, kotilo – This was supposed to be a birthday present, but of course it wasn't even nearly finished for her birthday. Knowing me, it might not even be finished until the next one… I hope you still enjoy it, love!
Family Bonds – Chapter 1
Twilight Town. A nice, clean, calm town, known for both its ice cream specialties and for Sunset Terrace, from where one could watch the most beautiful sunsets. And for its Art College.
The Twilight College of Art was small, but had established a good reputation since its foundation. Conditions of admission were strict, and only the best students were allowed to study here. It was an honor to be admitted into this college, and every student was reminded of it on a daily basis. Graduation at this college opened up a whole variety of possibilities; galleries in Radiant Garden and Disney Castle, symphonic orchestras in Wonderland, Atlantica and Neverland, all of them wanted Twilight College's graduates. Not even Radiant Garden's Music and Arts Faculty was comparable.
And it was satisfactorily far away from Atlantica. Perfect.
Axel Kaji, twenty-three year old Arts and Arts History student in his third year, gazed up to the famous clock tower of the faculty. He had spent weeks moving to this small town, finding an apartment, a job, applying to courses he found interesting. He had formally transferred from the University of Arts in Atlantica only days ago. There were very few possibilities to go out in this town, and it seemed impossible to throw parties here, even though Twilight Town was a well-known university town; all in all it was very different from Atlantica. But that was just what Axel wanted. His rebellious years had been over since he had turned twenty. Since his mother had died.
Well, but that wasn't quite correct; even by moving here he was rebelling against his father once more. Triton Oumono, Chief Justice and most promising candidate for the presidential office of Atlantica, did not approve of his only son's choice of studies. Law; that was what Axel should have studied. He should have worked for his father, like two of his sisters already did. At least in Axel's father's opinion. His mother would have appreciated Axel's choice. His father didn't. Nothing Axel had ever done had found Triton's approval.
Axel sighed, leaning back on the park bench he was sitting on, stretching his long legs. Well. He was used to being treated like a failure by his father. It had been his sisters who had always encouraged him to do what he wanted, and here he was; sitting in front of Twilight Art campus, watching the hands of the big clock move, but not daring to actually set foot into the building itself. Oh, he knew he still had half an hour until his first class of Art History started. He knew where the right room was, he had the whole schedule for today memorized. He still had time to stay here and watch; but he had a feeling as if he didn't belong here…
Oh, he was an excellent student, and he knew it, but still. He didn't belong anywhere. He hadn't belonged to Atlantica, with its endless beaches and expensive lifestyle, he hadn't belonged to Radiant Garden, where he had lived for a year as a teenager, when he had fled his home for the first time; Radiant Garden, a vibrant city full of lively, successful people. He had never belonged there as well. Oh, he had thought he had; he had thought he had found a home. He had spent the year partying, he had enjoyed how his name had opened every door for him. And then his friends had gone away, one after another, when all his savings had been gone and his father had refused to give him more. Two years later he had taken on his mother's maiden name and had refused to take advantage of his family's fame and wealth any longer. The only thing he had kept was a fund his mother had left him when she had died. It was enough to pay his tuition fees and some of his bills, but he still had to work to pay the rent of the nice, not too small apartment he was living in.
He sighed again, then grabbed his coat and his book bag. People around him were giving him odd looks already, but he was used to that. He wasn't exactly inconspicuous. His spiky, uniquely colored hair alone was enough to draw some attention, and his bright eyes and lean stature were quite eye-catching as well. Not to mention the dark triangle tattoos on his pale cheeks.
He kept his eyes fixed on the floor as he strolled through the hallways. He had seen the whole building the day before, when he had gotten his schedule. He didn't need to stare at everything open-mouthed, like some newbies he passed by on his way to class did.
His class was still empty, but soon after Axel had taken a seat, students entered the room in small groups. Some watched him curiously, some started to whisper. Axel opened one of his books and simply ignored them. He had taken parts of this class before, he didn't need to pay attention anyway. He frowned and screwed up his eyes when the tiny letters became blurred rather quickly. Sighing, frustrated, he pulled his reading glasses out of his book bag and put them on. He hated those stupid glasses. The only good thing about them was that they were red-rimmed. He liked red.
"Hey, you must be new here," a friendly voice next to him spoke up, and from the corners of his eyes Axel could see a hand being outstretched in his direction. He blinked twice, but didn't bother to look up. Instead he adjusted his glasses and hid his face behind his book, ignoring the person standing next to him. After a few seconds he could hear them mutter, "Stuck-up asshole!" and go away. He allowed himself a satisfied smirk.
Class started soon afterwards, and Axel was glad that no one else seemed to be brave enough to approach him. He put his book down when the professor entered the room. When the rather young seeming man asked him if he wanted to introduce himself he refused politely, then picked up his book once more. The professor didn't seem to mind.
A few minutes later a small scrap of paper was thrown onto his desk, and Axel lowered the book to stare down at it for a moment. He picked it up and twirled it between his long fingers for a while, then flicked it away without bothering to look at it properly. He put his book down again and raised a hand.
"Yes, Mr. Kaji?" the professor asked calmly, but frowned slightly. Axel ignored his pointed look and rose from his seat, pulling his glasses from his nose and taking a quick look around. He knew everybody was staring at him, and he also realized some of the stares were quite admiring; but it wasn't like he wasn't used to that. People, especially girls, seemed always to stare at him like that. Must be his incredibly good looks, he thought sardonically.
"Whoever just threw me that letter thing," he started slowly, scowling at his fellow students, annoyed, "Don't do that again. Letting aside the fact that it's something you should have stopped doing in middle school, I'm not interested in anything you have to say anyway. My name is Axel Kaji, and you won't learn anything else about me. I'm not interested in making friends, I'm not interested in parties, nor will I join a study group or go out with you, and I sure as hell won't have lunch with you after this class. I won't ever tell you anything about myself. Get used to it and leave me alone." He nodded into the professor's direction and put on his glasses once more. "Thank you. I apologize for interrupting."
He sat down and picked up his book again. No more letters interrupted his concentration, and at the end of class he left the room without trying to talk to anybody.
He had lunch on his own in the college cafeteria, relieved that no one seemed to bother trying to sit with him. He continued to read, also throughout most of his lessons. The first day went by uneventfully, and for that he was glad.
After his classes he headed to the small bookstore he worked at to earn some money. His boss, a quiet guy called Zexion, showed him everything and left him alone afterwards. It couldn't have been more perfect. Axel spent the afternoon restocking the shelves with new books and greeting a few customers; he wasn't allowed to sell anything yet, for the first week he was only helping out in the storage. Zexion explained to him he would have to take shifts at the register as well, but seeing as not many students seemed to find their way here, Axel didn't mind. Most of his first day he spent in the back of the store, reading an interesting book he had found in the storage room, and afterwards he said goodbye to Zexion and left.
On his way home he noticed a small café, not far away from the bookstore. Even though it was already past six it was still open, and the delicious smell of coffee wafted out of the open door. Some people were enjoying the last sunlight for the day out at the small terrace, drinking their drinks and chattering quietly. The inside of the café seemed cozy as well, and after some contemplation Axel decided to get a coffee himself. He would have to stay up for some time anyway; he still had to unpack most of his stuff.
He was pleasantly surprised that the café only seemed to serve 'normal' coffee, not the artificially flavored, low-fat, soy-milk infested stuff the big coffee shops in Atlantica and Radiant Garden served.
"You're new here, aren't you?" the waitress asked as she served his drink, along with a piece of chocolate cake. Axel lowered his book and glanced down at the cake, then looked up to the waitress. She was smiling brightly, brushing some of her auburn hair behind an ear and tilting her head to the side a bit.
"I didn't order that…" He adjusted his reading glasses and looked at her name tag. "… Kairi?"
"Oh, I know," she answered cheerfully, pushing the dish closer to him. "It's on me. Since you're new and all. Besides, you look like you could use some calories, you're awfully thin…"
Axel allowed himself an amused smirk and put both his book and his glasses down.
"That's pretty rude," he exclaimed, leaning back and gazing up to her smugly. "No way to treat a new customer."
"I think you can handle the truth," Kairi replied, smiling.
"How did you know I was new here anyway?" Axel asked and took a small sip of his hot drink. Delicious, just like the distinct coffee scent outside had promised.
"Twilight Town is pretty small," she answered shrugging. "I've lived here for eight years, and I think I would have recognized you if I had ever seen you before…"
"So… you're not from around here yourself?" Axel asked curiously, leaning forward a little.
"No, a friend of mine and myself moved here from Destiny Islands eight years ago," she replied, again brushing back a few strands of her auburn colored hair.
"A friend?" Axel raised an eyebrow questioningly, allowing his smirk to widen a fraction.
"A friend," Kairi agreed. "Just a friend. Not my boyfriend, not my lover, nothing like that. Just one of my oldest friends."
"Hm…" Axel nodded absently.
"Well, I have to serve some other customers here… Enjoy the cake! I hope I'll see you here again soon," she said, then she left his table.
Axel looked around, taking in the calm, quiet atmosphere of the small café, and nodded to himself.
"I think you will," he mumbled, then picked up his book and glasses again.
He soon developed a pattern for spending his days: Most of his classes took place before noon, only on Wednesday he had one class from two to four p.m. All afternoon he spent in the bookstore, and after work he spent one or two hours in the café. Most of the time he was seen reading a book, sometimes he had his sketchbook with him and drew. He usually preferred painting, and that he always did on weekends, when he had enough time and wouldn't be interrupted, but every once in a while something or someone caught his eye and demanded to be drawn. Besides, he had to practice anyway; his teachers demanded quite a lot of knowledge about different kinds of visual arts, about different techniques, different styles.
Sometimes he recognized students from his classes, but always ignored their attempts at conversation, regardless if he met them in the bookstore or in the café. The only people he talked to on a regular basis were Zexion and Kairi, but even those conversations were always short. Just like he wanted it.
Sometimes he just watched other people in the café, his bright green eyes moving over other customers lazily. One day however, one of those other customers caught his eye.
A young man, maybe in his late teens, was sitting at a table not far from Axel's, with four other students. Two of them were in some of Axel's classes, the other ones he didn't recognize. And he was sure he had never seen the boy before; he knew he would have recognized those radiant blue eyes, and the golden, stylishly disheveled hair. Blond spikes were swept to the side slightly, honey-colored bangs falling into his face. Axel couldn't help but notice the boy's delicately chiseled features, pouty lips giving him an air of innocence. He was smiling softly, but didn't laugh when his companions did. He didn't even seem to talk at all, just listened to the conversation taking place around him, sometimes nodding or smiling his gentle smile.
Stunningly beautiful, in Axel's opinion.
Axel couldn't stop thinking about the blond when he went home. He thought his smile had seemed too sad, too tired to be real, but somehow this aura of melancholy only added to his beauty.
He kicked his boots off and threw his coat over the couch in the living room, absent-mindedly picking up a sketchbook and a pencil as he made his way over to a cozy chair near the big window. He sat down cross-legged, and immediately started to draw.
He ended up staying up all night, unsuccessfully trying to make the drawing perfect. As hard as he tried, he just couldn't catch the boy's innocent face the way he wanted.
Next day after his work shift had ended, he went to the café again. He immediately recognized the blond boy from the day before, and sat down at a table near him. This time the blond was with another man. They looked quite similar, Axel noticed, even though the brunet seemed to be older than the blond one. Their eyes were almost the same. Those eyes, the eyes Axel hadn't managed to draw perfectly. He secretly pulled his sketchbook out of his book bag, laying it down on his table and opening it.
He kept stealing glances at the blond at the other table. The shape of his face, his lips, his nose, his side-swept hair, the elegant curve of his neck, everything seemed perfect… And yet the man on the drawing wasn't the same as the one sitting over there. Axel couldn't pinpoint the flaw in his drawing… He thought it could have been the eyes, but he couldn't see them properly; golden bangs were blocking his view.
He froze when suddenly Kairi walked over to the table, exchanging a few words with the two men. She kissed the brunet on the cheek, who smiled at her fondly.
And then the blond perked up at something she had said… And looked over to Axel.
Their eyes met, and all Axel could do was to keep staring. His eyes were a deep cerulean, he noticed, and even though they seemed so deep they were radiant in their beauty. He had never seen such an intense shade of blue before. Perfect.
He left the café in haste, trying to ignore the slight blush on the blond's cheeks as he realized Axel had been watching him the whole time. Because that blush made him look so damn cute and even more perfect, it was almost painful to look at such beauty and not be able to… to...
Axel couldn't tell what he wanted to do. He wasn't interested in guys, so he couldn't be drawn to the young man like that. But he couldn't get his mind off him; he was perfect, such beauty just demanded to be drawn. He thought he could watch the blond for hours without getting tired of the sight.
And that scared him out of his mind.
And yet he returned the next day, secretly hoping to see his blonde muse again. But this time he was disappointed, as he couldn't spot the blond stranger anywhere in the café.
He still ordered green tea, sitting down at a table at the far end and pulling out his sketchbook once more. He still couldn't say what was wrong with the drawing. He was fairly sure it was the eyes, but even after staring into them for what had seemed an eternity the day before, he couldn't tell what was wrong with…
"My lashes are darker," a gentle voice right next to his ear said. Axel dropped the sketchbook, but somehow managed not to cry out surprised. He glanced to the side, only catching a glimpse of golden blond spikes before his eyes darted to his sketchbook again.
'What the hell?' he thought, trying to calm his racing heart down. The person standing next to him took a step to the side, and Axel found himself staring into those unbelievably blue eyes once more.
"My lashes. See?" The blond pointed at his eyes. "They don't match my hair, maybe that's why you had problems with them."
Axel managed to take a look at his drawing, which was now lying on his table, awfully close to the cup of tea. A little to the left and it would have been soaked…
"You're right," he admitted after a while, glad that his voice sounded strong and didn't show how much the blond had startled him.
"But otherwise it's really good," the younger male added and took the seat across from Axel, folding his hands on the table and smiling gently. Axel just shrugged and put the drawing away.
"When did I allow you to sit down?" he asked, immediately regretting it. But the boy just smiled a bit wider, propping his chin in one hand as he continued to watch the redhead.
"When did I allow you to draw me?" he countered, and Axel could feel his cheeks heat up a little. He just hoped it didn't show. The blond chuckled, then outstretched one hand. "My name is Roxas Hikari. I just started studying Art History."
Axel stared at the offered hand for a moment before he took it, squeezing it gently. Well. Obviously he hadn't guessed the blond's age quite right… He didn't look like twenty.
"Axel Kaji," he introduced himself. "Third year in Arts and Art History."
"I know. I saw you in college a few times." Roxas nodded. "A few of my… A few people I know are in some of your classes."
"I noticed," Axel agreed. He had also noticed the use of the term 'people I know' rather than 'friends'. How strange.
"They said you were a stuck-up jerk who thinks he's better than the rest," Roxas continued, playing with his blond spikes absently.
"Maybe I am," Axel replied smugly, taking a sip of his tea.
"Maybe," Roxas agreed, but smiled when he noticed Axel's suddenly sulky expression. "But I don't think so. Your art says otherwise."
"Does it?" Axel asked and took another sip.
"Yeah… Even though I don't look that feminine." Roxas grinned a bit wider. "And you forgot those." He brushed his hair behind an ear, showing two small earrings on the right one. "But otherwise it tells me you are observant, devoted and a perfectionist, but not stuck-up. My expression on the picture wouldn't be sad; it would be proud or haughty if you were. And you read a lot." He nodded at the glasses on the table. "I'd say you are intelligent. And even though I would have never thought, you don't seem to be very expressive…"
"Bad experiences in the past," Axel said and instantly cursed himself for it. Why did he have to tell a total stranger something like that?
"Is that so?" Roxas' smile lessened considerably, but he didn't pry further. "But that's nothing you should tell a stranger."
"You're not a stranger," Axel disagreed, again cursing his loose mouth and wincing inwardly. On the outside he just smirked. "I know your name, you know mine. 'Stranger' doesn't quite fit, don't you think, Roxas?"
Damn, he liked how that name rolled off his tongue.
"I guess you're right," Roxas agreed and smirked himself. "'Person who buys me a hot chocolate'?"
"Hot chocolate?" Axel raised a brow. "Isn't that a bit childish?"
"Why? Kairi told me you liked chocolate cake. It's not that different," Roxas said and shrugged. "Besides, how old did you guess I was when you saw me first?" He smirked when Axel stayed silent. "Thought so."
"Doesn't that annoy you?" Axel asked interested.
"Nah, I'm still hoping it will save me all the anti-aging stuff when I'm older." Roxas ran a finger over his flawless cheek and grinned again. "Besides, the ladies are crazy about the 'Innocent'-look lately. Don't you read fashion magazines?"
Axel ended up buying that hot chocolate. And to add to that he ended up talking to the blond until the café closed and Kairi kicked them out. And when he went home he couldn't stop grinning like a maniac, knowing he would see Roxas the next day again.
Quick Note: Yeeeeeeah, like I already mentioned, this was originally supposed to be a birthday present for my dear kotilo (and it still is, if you want it, my dear). Her birthday was in May, but the story turned out way longer than I intended (like all my stories seem to do). But I'm starting to post this now (with her permission) to post at least something; Perfect Match will have to wait for a while, since I'm currently going through hell. Yes, through hell. No, I don't know how long the next chapter of PM will take. Don't even think of asking that if you don't want me to have a nervous breakdown.
But since this one is already halfway finished, I can post a few chapters of this until I get to write new stuff. So, I hope you enjoy it; I know I enjoyed writing it a lot. So far.
Well. Receiving reviews is always nice. But still: Please do not review if the only thing you have to say is that you want me to update. Knowing me, it will make me only update slower, if anything. There are many, many writers who also enjoy a simple 'I loved this!', I know, and to be honest, I feel bad for not being one of them. I just want to know what it was that you liked in the story, if that is possible. And: Constructive reviews are always welcome.