Summary: "Can't you just be there for the family for once?" Alternative Universe, College setting. Oh, and it's slash. Don't like? I suggest you don't read it. Kthx.
Pairing: AkuRoku, because that's what was wished for!
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!
"Don't cry," Roxas whispered in the dark, and Axel knew he had tasted his tears, now feeling even worse than before. "I forgive you."
Those words made Axel snap; finally releasing the strained sob from his tight throat he reached out and laid his arms around Roxas, pulling him close and holding him tight as he placed one soft kiss after another on top of the smaller man's head. Finally he buried his face in Roxas' golden locks and just took in his clean scent, no longer caring about the tears leaking from his closed eyes, but concentrating on the warm body in his arms, until he felt Roxas relax in his tender embrace and black tiredness disabled his ability to think or feel.
Family Bonds – Chapter 12
Axel was surprised to wake up alone; mostly because a part of him was prepared to wake to screaming or being shoved off the bed, while the bigger part suspected the first thing he would see when he opened his eyes would be a furious, icy cold glare, and the first words he would hear would be, "Get out!" That, or maybe a sharp kitchen knife and his own screams of agony.
And then, of course, there was that tiny little part of him that had hoped he would be able to catch a glimpse of Roxas' sleeping face before he was kicked out of the apartment, out of the blond's life. He almost laughed at that gullible part of himself.
But the bed next to him was empty, the door of the bedroom left ajar. He sat up, ran both hands through his hair and sighed. He could hear quiet clattering from somewhere outside; looking out of the window, he realized the sun was just about to rise, silvery light driving the night away.
He allowed another wary sigh to slip from his lips, rubbed his eyes, winced when a sharp pain reminded him of the black eye Roxas had given him the night before, and withstood the urge to fall asleep again. As much as he dreaded leaving the bedroom and confronting the owner of this apartment, for he had immediately recognized the bedroom as Roxas', he needed to get up. If he was lucky, Roxas would be occupied and wouldn't notice him leaving…
Rather stiffly he crawled out of bed, searching for his clothes and throwing them on in a haste, leaving the bedroom while straightening his shirt, his jacket carelessly thrown over one arm, and gripping the laces of his boots with one hand. He only glanced at the mirror in the bathroom through the open door, smirking wryly at the dark purple forming a half-circle around the outer corner of his eye, nearly chuckling when he thought it almost matched the color of the tattoo underneath. Another bruise adorned his jaw, but it wasn't nearly as dark as the one around his eye. Nothing seemed swollen, but his cheek and lower lip still felt sore when he touched it cautiously, and his nose stung when he tried to breathe through it.
"Morning," he was greeted as soon as he tried to pass the kitchen door on his way to the front door. He froze for a moment, never looking at the owner of the voice, but staring straight ahead without even seeing the clean, neat apartment.
"Morning," he just muttered, still staring into space, trying not to let the gut-wrenching pain that voice inflicted show.
For a while Roxas stayed silent, and all Axel could hear was more clattering.
"You want to leave already?" Roxas finally asked, and Axel was tempted to believe he could hear a cold, hostile undertone in his soft voice. But it didn't take him long to realize it was only his guilty coincidence making it up. Roxas didn't sound angry. Just very timid, maybe a bit sad too. And that was even worse.
"I guess…?" he replied unsure. Didn't Roxas want him to leave?
"You sure know how to make a guy feel special," Roxas huffed, and Axel cringed at the words. "Just sneaking out after all that happened yesterday…"
"I thought you wanted me to go," he muttered, looking down.
"Yeah," Roxas sighed, but didn't explain what he meant by that. 'Yeah, I wanted you to go'? 'Yeah, I knew you would think that'? 'Yeah, and now get out of my sight, you perverted asshole'?
"So…" Axel exclaimed after a while, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "I… probably should…"
"Coffee?" Roxas interrupted him, and Axel could no longer keep his eyes off the blond. With wide eyes he stared at the younger man, who sat at the small table in the kitchen, curled up on his chair with one leg drawn up to his chin, clad in wide sweat pants and a loose-fitting t-shirt, gazing down into the cup of coffee in his hands. He seemed as tired as Axel felt, and he never looked up.
"What?" Axel asked dumbfounded; Roxas' mouth twitched upwards for a split second, but he still didn't look up.
"You seem tired," the blond explained calmly, putting his feet down and slowly rising from his seat. "You look like you need a coffee."
Axel watched him, and he felt a sharp sting to his heart as he noticed the almost invisible wince when Roxas straightened; the way the blond bit his lip to keep himself from uttering a sound; the way his hands curled into small fists; the look of pain crossing his pretty face as he moved.
He dropped jacket and shoes and quickly entered the kitchen, laying a hand onto Roxas' shoulder to keep him from standing up.
"I can get it myself," he muttered, again avoiding looking into Roxas' eyes.
He could feel Roxas' eyes following his every move as he searched the cupboards for a mug, but Roxas didn't say anything. Axel only noticed how badly his hands were shaking when he poured himself a cup of coffee, staring at the rippling surface of the black liquid in his mug for a second before he decided to drink it without milk or sugar.
"Don't you want to sit down?" Roxas asked behind him. Axel just shook his head, turning around and leaning against the counter, keeping his gaze fixed on the small ripples in his coffee. His heart was beating erratically inside his chest, and he felt sick… He doubted he would be able to keep the coffee down, but he still took a sip, almost gagging at the familiar, bitter taste.
"We have to talk," Roxas said slowly, and Axel nodded weakly.
"I guess…" he whispered, closing his eyes and trying to suppress the trembling of his traitorous hands.
"I would rather have you sit down for that," Roxas added, and Axel nodded again with a deep sigh. He opened his eyes again, immediately looking away when they accidentally fell on the blond; he placed his cup on the table and flopped down on the chair across from Roxas, folding his arms across his chest. He waited for Roxas to speak up again, but the blond stayed silent; it took Axel a few minutes to realize it was his duty to start talking.
"I'm sorry," he blurted out the first words that came to his mind; words that needed to be repeated over and over again, even though they would never erase his sin. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…"
"I know," Roxas interrupted, and finally their eyes met. Axel was silenced at once. "I already told you, I forgive you…"
Axel remembered the whispered absolution in the dark, far away, as if it had been a dream, but still he shook his head.
"I know you do," he muttered, remorse almost cutting off his air. "But you shouldn't. What I did was unforgiveable."
"I still forgive you," Roxas insisted, smiling weakly. Axel wanted to say more, but this tired, sad smile rendered him speechless once again. Silence filled the kitchen again, and Axel desperately searched for a way to break it; when he couldn't come up with anything to say, he raised his hands and hid his face in them, sighing shakily.
"Why did you do it?" Roxas asked quietly, and Axel couldn't help a small, startled gasp. He ran both hands through his wild spikes, glancing at the blond, who was watching him so eerily calm. It would have been easier if Roxas had kicked him out.
"I don't know," he admitted, feeling ashamed. He heard Roxas sigh, and he dreaded the blond's next words.
"Come on, there must be a reason why you decided to show up at my door and rape me…"
"Oh God," Axel groaned, clamping both hands over his mouth as suddenly his stomach decided to rebel against the coffee. He felt the blood drain from his face, but his eyes were inevitably drawn to Roxas, whose blue eyes seemed a bit colder now. That one word kept replaying itself inside his head: Rape, rape, rape, he had raped Roxas, he had forced himself on Roxas, Roxas had begged him to stop and he hadn't… He was a monster. A rapist. How Roxas could even stand to look at him anymore was beyond him. He could barely stand looking in the mirror at the moment.
"Why did you do it?" Roxas demanded again. "Or do you want to tell me you raped me without a reason? 'Cause then I would have to reconsider forgiving you… I thought I really meant something to you when you came back after I kicked you out…"
"You do! You mean so much to me!" Axel cried desperately, reaching out to grab one of Roxas' hands, but pulling back before his hand could actually make contact with the blond's smooth skin, feeling too dirty and disgusting to touch him. "I don't know why, you have to believe me… I just… I saw you with all those people and… I don't know, honestly, I just don't know. I never wanted to hurt you…" He hung his head, suddenly feeling very small and vulnerable; he cowered behind his arms, feeling his shoulders begin to shake. "I don't know," he replied meekly; he blinked a few times when his eyes started to sting, then closed them in defeat. "All the shit that happened, with Reno and my sister… I know, you just wanted to help, but I didn't want you to. I… felt so bad for yelling at you, but I wasn't yet able to apologize, and… then I saw you with them… and… I didn't…" He swallowed around a bitter lump forming in his throat. All those excuses were so useless… not one of them justified what he had done. "I didn't want them to touch you… like I touched you. I was so jealous, and I…"
He took a few calming breaths, and he realized he wasn't making any sense. He didn't remember what he had been going to say, so he just finished with a lame, "You… you shouldn't forgive me."
"I know," Roxas replied, laughing tiredly; and for a moment Axel thought his soul would just fall apart at the sight of Roxas' sad, pained smile. "I know I shouldn't."
"You can't," Axel whispered, hating his voice for sounding so choked up and weak.
"I can," Roxas disagreed softly. "I did."
"I… I hurt you," Axel croaked, and again he could hear Roxas laugh; this time it didn't sound just sad and tired; this time it sounded sardonic and kind of dark.
"I didn't exactly try to stop you, did I? Can't rape the willing; isn't that what people say?" Roxas asked, chuckling darkly at Axel's appalled expression. "I guess rape isn't the right word after all…"
Axel wanted to disagree; he remembered that Roxas had told him to stop, he remembered the blond trying to push him away, and had he been in his right mind he would have stopped right then; clearly Roxas hadn't been in his right mind either, or else he would have just beat the crap out of Axel and kicked him out. Axel couldn't even begin to comprehend how Roxas had been able to tolerate his touch. He had forced himself onto the blond, and that Roxas had not resisted as much as he would have been able to, couldn't change that fact. So Roxas had surrendered to him on a purely physical level; it didn't matter, because it still hadn't been consensual. It was still rape, in Axel's eyes.
"I'm sorry," he muttered again, trying to ignore the tears prickling at the corners of his eyes.
"I know you are," Roxas sighed, and then Axel felt two hands touch one of his; slender fingers curled around his even thinner ones and pulled gently, and Axel didn't possess the strength to resist. He looked up, eyes widening in surprise; he watched as Roxas gently kissed the tips of his cold fingers, and a small groan spilled from his lips at the sight and the feeling. Roxas' lips felt so soft, so warm…
He tried to pull his hand back, feeling confused beyond words, but Roxas didn't release him yet. He pressed Axel's fingers against his forehead, closing his eyes.
"I know you're sorry. You showed me that you're more than sorry yesterday… I'm so glad you came back, Axel…" Roxas moved Axel's hand, this time kissing his palm, nuzzling it with his cheek. Axel could only stare, frozen in shock at the cute display of affection.
"Roxas," he breathed the other man's name, but Roxas shook his head, keeping his eyes closed.
"I'm grateful that you didn't leave me alone, Axel," the blond said, and his voice wavered only slightly. "And… I… want to thank you. You didn't… take advantage of me, thank you… I didn't think straight anymore, I didn't think how much it would hurt when I asked you to… make love to me. Thank you for… holding back."
Axel tried so hard not to cry, but it was no use; the tears that had threatened to fall ever since Roxas had confirmed that he was willing to forgive Axel, even though he knew it was wrong, spilled from his burning eyes and trailed down his cheeks before he wiped them away with his free hand. He gritted his teeth and pressed his lips together to keep any sound of sorrow that could have ripped itself out of his throat inside. This felt wrong, so wrong, Roxas should be mad at him, should hate him, should curse him for what he had done; he should not thank him for anything, it was wrong, so wrong, so wrong! But even though he knew Roxas was just hurt and vulnerable at the moment, that he couldn't yet think clearly, and that by staying here he, Axel, only took advantage of the fragile state Roxas was in, he didn't know how to respond, how to refuse Roxas' forgiveness; so he just nodded, even though Roxas' eyes were still closed and the blond wouldn't see it. So he moved his hand resting on Roxas' face a little, brushing back a few fluffy, blond spikes, and he loathed himself so much for it, because he shouldn't be allowed to do this, shouldn't be allowed to be near Roxas at all.
"But…" Roxas added hesitantly, and he sighed, pressing his hand against Axel's to hold it in place. "I can't… I can't go on like this. I can't pretend nothing happened."
Ah. There it was. Axel tensed a little, bracing himself against the rejection he knew would inevitably follow; he gently freed his hand, folded both hands on his lap, closed his eyes and waited.
"No friends with benefits anymore," Roxas whispered, keeping his voice low and not trying to touch Axel anymore. "I can't do this any longer. I can't give myself to you without knowing how you feel about me."
"I… understand," Axel replied hoarsely, feeling his hands twitch nervously. Oh, he did understand. He just wasn't sure if he could also accept what Roxas was trying to say. He knew there was no way they could just go back and pretend the rape had never happened, but his foolish heart just wouldn't cease to hope there was a way… He didn't want to lose Roxas. He didn't deserve the blond, he didn't deserve to be near him anymore, and yet he couldn't stand the thought…
"If… if you want to, we can still be friends," Roxas added and smiled, but his smile was a hopeless one, and it was gone as quickly as it came. "If not… you should probably go."
Axel stayed still for a while, the shock rendering him speechless for a moment; he kept repeating Roxas' words over and over in his mind, and then, when he finally managed to process what Roxas had said, he rose from his seat without a word, watching Roxas turning his head to the side and closing his eyes. Roxas' hands fisted in his hair, and in the deafening silence inside the kitchen the quiet sob that escaped the blond sounded unnaturally loud.
Axel quickly stepped around the table and sank to his knees next to Roxas, reaching up to take both his hands, gently peeling them away from golden spikes. He refused to look away when Roxas' eyes flew open, glassy blue eyes widening in shock.
There was no hate, no disgust; there was just sadness and pain. It broke Axel's heart. He could have lived with hate, he had expected hate, but finding not even a trace of it in Roxas' eyes simply caught him off-guard.
With a strangled groan he doubled over, clutching Roxas' hands with his bigger ones so tight it had to hurt; he took a few deep breaths, tried to calm himself down, willed his eyes not to tear up and his heart to beat slower. Roxas was such an angel, not exactly innocent, but so forgiving and so perfect, so beautiful despite the sickly pallor of his skin. Just being near him made Axel feel so dirty and tainted and twisted, just touching him made him lose his voice, his eyes burn and his body tremble. And yet he wanted nothing more than to be near him, to touch him, because Roxas' warm smile made him forget how much of a monster he was. When he dared to look up again, it took him three tries to get the words burning on his tongue out.
"I will go if you want me to," he promised, even though both the words and the uncertainty in Roxas' eyes tore his soul apart. Feeling his hands tighten around Roxas', he took a deep breath. "But I want to stay. If I can only do that as your friend, I will be your friend, not more. I won't… I won't try anything. I will wait for you in the café every day, and we'll just talk, as long as you can stand my presence. But…" He swallowed, and now he had to look down, staring at their joint hands. It almost hurt to see the overwhelming relief shining out of Roxas' eyes. "I want you to know… that I will wait. So if… you can look at me one day without… thinking about what I did to you, without thinking… how much I hurt you… If you can ever look at me again without being disgusted, if you ever get the feeling you could give us a chance, I… will be there. You mean very much to me, and I want you to know that." He slowly let his hands slide from Roxas' smaller ones; the blond was still staring at him in shock, seemingly attempting to reply something, but not uttering a sound.
Axel sighed and rose to his feet, turning to walk out of the kitchen. At the door he stopped again, not yet daring to look back; he knew he needed to say more, but he didn't know what exactly it was he needed to say. He knew what he had just said and done had been horribly inappropriate. Hell, deciding to confess his feelings just a few hours after taking advantage of Roxas like he had done, was probably the most fucked up thing he could do this very moment.
"If you can live with what I just said," he finally told the silent occupant of the room behind himself, "I'll wait at the café on Monday. If you still want to talk to me, you can sit with me; if you don't show up, I'll stay away from you. It's your choice." And with that, he left the room, collecting his jacket and boots from the floor.
But he smiled when a quiet voice reached his ears, and even though the words hurt somewhat, they also soothed the guilt eating away on his mind.
"See you on Monday," was the whispered promise, and it was more than he could have hoped for.
He barely did anything the whole remaining weekend. Oh, he was fairly sure he slept; right after his shower as soon as he arrived at his apartment, to be precise. And he was pretty certain he also ate something, but the rest of the weekend was a blur. Most of the time he sat on the couch in the living room, gazing at a certain painting sitting in the corner of the room, and he tried to follow his own, quite muddled thoughts. A hopeless cause, he admitted to himself; he didn't even manage to grasp one of them.
He thought about what he would say when he saw Roxas again; then he thought about the possibility of Roxas changing his mind and not meeting up with him on Monday. Then he remembered the last words Roxas had whispered to him and felt reassured that Roxas would talk to him again, then he reminded himself of his own, stupid confession, and he wanted to slap himself. Great, just great. There Roxas had told him he wanted them to be friends, and Axel went and ruined all that by declaring he would wait for Roxas to change his mind. Had he gone nuts? Roxas wouldn't want to talk to him again after that, now that he had to think that Axel would still be… lusting after him…
… And then he reminded himself that it still wasn't sure whether or not Roxas would meet him at all, and it all started over again. And again. And again.
He briefly contemplated an anger painting, but decided against it; he wasn't angry or desperate, just nervous, and that made everything… worse. He also thought about calling Roxas once or twice, but for the same reasons decided not to do it. He had promised he would wait, and he would wait as long as he had to. He would see if he had driven Roxas away for good on Monday.
Monday itself wasn't as bad as he had thought. His classes were fairly interesting and managed to distract him for a few hours, but he didn't have as much luck at work…
"If it isn't Axel," a smooth voice startled him out of his stupor, and he almost dropped the books he was supposed to place back on the shelves. He blinked and looked around, pursing his lips thoughtfully when his eyes fell on Silver-haired Bast-… Riku, and that other guy, the one from the day care, the one with the weird hairstyle… Demyx?
"I hear we are allowed to talk to you again," Riku exclaimed, smirking at Axel. Something about that smirk reminded Axel somewhat of a serial killer, and he swallowed nervously. "I take it that you took your chance to apologize to Roxas the other day, then?"
Axel tilted his head to the side, shrugging slowly. He had just been in the 'I'm-not-sure-if-Roxas-will-even-sit-with-me-today'-phase in his internal debate; and it became harder to reassure himself that Roxas would meet him today the closer their… uhm… date came.
"I seeee," Riku said slowly, shaking his head. "But man, he really caught you off-guard, didn't he? Nasty black eye he gave you there…"
Axel managed a lopsided grin, slowly placing the books he had been carrying on a table next to the shelf he had been supposed to refill. It was true, the bruises on his face had earned him quite a few weird glances today. They had faded a little since Friday, but still contrasted very much with his pale skin. Well, at least the color had changed from angry reddish-black to a milder bluish-purple, already fading to yellow around the edges; the color clashed horribly with his hair, but hey, he had to be grateful that Roxas hadn't broken his nose or anything. For a guy so small he threw one hell of a punch.
"You should have seen it two days ago," he replied, wiping his suddenly sweaty hands on his pants.
"I saw it three days ago, that was more than enough," Riku said and chuckled quietly. And if that wasn't a serial killer's chuckle, Axel's eyes were purple. "I'd love to know what you did to deserve that."
Axel arched his brows and winced when the motion troubled the sore skin around his eye; giving Riku an once-over, halting at the cold, threatening smirk for a moment, he slowly shook his head.
"I'd like to live, thanks," he retorted, making Riku narrow his eyes a little.
"Look," the silver-haired man growled, and Axel couldn't help but wince at the suddenly icy cold tone of his voice. He swallowed nervously, never daring to take his eyes off aquamarine ones, not even to look for a way out. Something in Riku's eyes told him that there wouldn't be a way out. "Don't think I don't know what you did. I know you were at Roxas' apartment. I saw you, almost crying and begging me to give you the key because you did something stupid... And if I had known you are such a sick bastard, I would never have helped you!"
"That's only between Roxas and me," Axel hissed sharply, feeling a bit surprised at how strong and completely devoid of fear his voice sounded. "It's none of your business, you creep!"
"I'm making it my business," Riku yelled, fixing Axel with a glare. Axel returned the glare unflinching. "What happens to my best friend's cousin is my goddamn business!"
"What are you waiting for then?" Axel shouted, even louder than Riku, stepping forward. The expression on Riku's handsome face changed from murderous anger to surprise. "Come on! If you know what happened, just go on and kill me!"
"I would," Riku snarled, and now the glare was back. "Believe me, I would. But Roxas told me not to."
At the mention of the very reason for their fight Axel felt all strength leave his body, and he had to brace himself on the table with the books he had been sorting to keep himself from falling. He looked to the floor, wondering why it was suddenly so difficult to breathe, and trying to keep his vision from going black.
"I apologized," he defended himself, his voice now sounding hoarse and raw. "I apologized! He forgave me! I apologized for hurting him, I…" He heaved a shuddering breath, running a hand down his hurting face, and he felt panic cutting off his air. He wanted nothing more than to end this talk. He didn't want to think about that night… Oh, fuck, Roxas would never show up today, after all the things Axel had done…
"I see," Riku said, and suddenly his voice was very quiet. Axel looked up, and he had to suppress a shudder when bright aquamarine eyes suddenly fixed his with a piercing glare. There was no trace of anger left on Riku's perfect face, but there was so much disdain; his expression sent shivers down Axel's spine. For a second Axel panicked; Riku knew what had happened, he had seen Axel at Roxas' apartment and had known they'd had a fight, he had to have talked to Roxas and Roxas had probably told him everything, he knew, he knew…
"Well," Riku startled him out of his beginning panic attack. "I know you did something that hurt him badly. But Roxas doesn't talk about it. And he told me to leave you alone. Said that you really regretted whatever you did. He made me promise I wouldn't hurt you. Otherwise I would not hesitate to break every single bone in your scrawny body." He nodded into Axel's direction, the dangerous glint in his eyes never leaving. "See you around, Axel."
"Hopefully not," Axel replied, feeling a bit out of breath and dizzy, and he was proud that his voice did not sound borderline hysteric. He watched Riku vanish behind one of the shelves.
"He's just really concerned about Roxas, you know," the other man nearby suddenly spoke up. Axel glanced at him. He had completely forgotten about… Damn, what had been his name? He knew the name, but it was so hard to think straight… "He's usually not like that."
"And you let this nutcase loose on children?" Axel clarified, noticing that his voice was shaking now, but only a little. He still felt so weak, and he wanted nothing more than just break down and sleep, sleep, but he managed to withstand the temptation of a blissful, dreamless slumber. The man - Demyx - smiled nervously.
"He… really is not like that. He's the nicest guy on earth once you get to know him. It's just… Riku and Sora are pretty close, and they both are very protective about Roxas," he explained and nervously played with the hem of his shirt, grinning apologetically.
"I noticed," Axel agreed, not yet sure if he wanted to talk to this guy at all. "That's why I didn't tell him anything. He would've ripped my head off."
"So what you did to Roxas was really that bad?" Demyx assumed.
Axel froze and cursed his loose mouth, turning around and picking up the books again, glancing at the title of the first one before he shoved it back onto the shelf above him. He barely noticed how much his hands were shaking.
"Look, none of my business, I know," Demyx sighed behind him. "I don't even know Roxas that well, he's just a friend of Sora's I see at work sometimes. But from what I overheard, Roxas no longer curses every time he says your name, so… apparently you did something to make up for whatever it was you did in the first place." Demyx fell silent for a while after this, and it took Axel a moment to understand that sentence.
Whatever it had been he had done in the first place. Basically, that had been calling Roxas a slut.
Crap! How could he ever have believed that Roxas would talk to him again?
"None of my business anyway," Demyx finally repeated, laughing lightly. "It's obvious you can't talk about it, and Riku gave you enough of a scare already, I think. But there was something else I wanted to ask you."
"And what makes you think I would answer?" Axel asked, smiling sweetly. Inwardly he felt sick.
"Why does your sister keep her son a secret?" Demyx still asked, ignoring Axel's sarcastic comment. Axel felt the smile on his face freeze.
Right. The reason why he had had that fight with Roxas in the first place.
"Dunno what you mean," he muttered weakly, continuing to put the books into the right places.
"Oh, come on, I'm not dumb," Demyx exclaimed, and he followed Axel when he tried to escape to the next row of shelves. "Nobody would have believed that shit about you being Reno's dad. He ran to her, not to you, and called her 'Mommy'. He didn't say anything about her in the day care, but he talked about you, and he called you 'Axey', not 'Daddy'. And she's an awful liar. And the way you said goodbye didn't sound like you were going to see him again too soon…"
Axel didn't know how to react; usually he would just have yelled at that nosy guy to fuck off and leave him alone. But for some reason he couldn't. Maybe because he was still unsettled by his fight with Riku. Maybe because Demyx was a friend of Roxas', however distant. Maybe because he didn't want to protect his sister anymore. Maybe because he had always felt uncomfortable when lying about Reno.
"She is Reno's mother, am I right?" Demyx said more quietly than before. Axel sighed, but then nodded. "And why did she try to lie about it?"
"What do you think?" Axel mumbled, glancing at the other man from the corners of his eyes. Lucky for him the bookstore seemed quite deserted today, he could only see Riku talking to Zexion in the front of the store.
"Man, I have no idea," Demyx admitted, shaking his head in disbelief. "He's such a sweet kid. And smart too! He learned that one game we played in the matter of minutes, even though he said he hadn't known it before, and Nami said he's good at drawing – pretty advanced for a three-year-old. And he immediately started to talk to the other kids… Usually children take a few moments to adapt to new surroundings, but he wasn't scared at all. He acted like he was best friends with everyone…"
"He's really something, huh?" Axel agreed and smiled fondly, thinking of his nephew.
"Yeah," Demyx said and nodded. "That's why I don't understand why she's hiding him. I mean, I would understand if she did it to protect him from the media or something, but she acted like she wasn't his mom in front of the boy! How could she do that? I mean, does she think she can hide she's a mom forever? Why would she in the first place? She can just tell the media she's a mother and live with it like all the other celebrity parents…"
"Say, what do you see when you look at her?" Axel interrupted the day care worker, without even looking at him.
"What do you mean?" Demyx asked surprised.
"What do you see? Whom do you see? Whom did you see when you were at her concerts?" Axel explained, shaking his head. "You didn't see a mother of a three-year-old boy, did you?"
"What? No," Demyx admitted confused. "You mean…"
"It's because of her image," Axel continued quietly, trying not to let the anger he felt every time when he thought about his irresponsible sister get the best of him. He succeeded… but barely. He knew his voice started to shake the longer he spoke. "She's not a mother, she's a nineteen-year-old princess, who plays concert after concert and records album after album. A pop princess hasn't got the time to be a mother. And a pop princess who got pregnant at the age of sixteen is just not acceptable, because she's a fucking idol for other teenage girls. If the public knew she had a son, she would not only have to explain that she had been a very, very careless girl, not the perfect little princess she plays – she would also have to cut back on work and spend more time with him, or else everyone would see her as the bad mother she is. But spending more time with Reno would mean spending less time on her career, which would mean she would earn less money for her label. It's so much easier to just shunt him off to a nanny or relatives, so he's not in the way…"
"But that's horrible," Demyx whispered.
"I can't even blame her," Axel said coolly, shoving the last book into a shelf. "It was her manager's idea. He came up with the story of me being Reno's father too, right after she was first sighted with the baby by some photographer… She managed to completely hide him until he was a year old, but then there was that one photo of her and the baby in some shitty youth magazine. And one day she begged me to babysit him for her, and suddenly there was that guy, another journalist, whatever, right inside her house. He had a key. Found me with the baby in the living room. I kicked him out, and next day there was a picture of me with the baby, and since we have the same hair color, I'm obviously the father. Then they found out I'm Ariel's brother. And then they made up that story about the pop princess and her leech of a brother, who obviously lived with her and lived off her money, who was too lazy to get a job and care for his child." He sneered mirthlessly; turning around to look at Demyx he leaned against the shelf, crossing his arms.
"I don't remember that," Demyx said quietly and tilted his head to the side, watching Axel intently.
"Oh, it was back when her career just was about to start. After her first single or something. She was just some starlet from Atlantica. I doubt the whole story ever left Atlantica. And even there it was just one of so many stories. I mean, Atlantica is full of starlets like her. Barely anything changed afterwards, just a few people in my courses at the university asked me about it, and they left me alone when I ignored them." Axel shrugged. "And when Ariel moved to Radiant Garden she hired a nanny for Reno. So she would not be seen with him, you know. I have no idea how she does it, but there were no more stories about her and Reno. She somehow made him all but nonexistent."
"My God," Demyx whispered, seeming shocked about Axel's story. "She's a horrible mother!"
"As I said, I can't really blame her for all of that. It was mostly her manager's idea, and she didn't try anything like it again. Until now, that is." Axel shrugged again.
"Why did you even help her again?" Demyx asked, shaking his head in disbelief. "She completely fucked you over with that! I mean, what she did there was just fucked up!"
"I didn't help her, I tried to help Reno," Axel clarified calmly. "He likes spending time with me. And I didn't see him ever since his third birthday a few months ago."
"Why is that? If you don't mind me asking…" Demyx added in a haste when he realized how rude his questions were. Axel just grinned again, shaking his head a little.
"I had a little fight with Ariel there. About her forgetting Reno's goddamned birthday party…"
"She didn't!" Demyx gasped, and Axel laughed.
"Oh, she did," he confirmed acidly. "All his aunties and uncles were there, Grandpa was there, his friends from his latest day care were there, but Mommy had to go to some awards show…"
"You mean the Crescendo Awards?" Demyx asked, obviously horrified. "God, I watched those…"
"She didn't even win anything," Axel continued, snickering at Demyx' appalled expression. "She came home, and Reno wanted to show her his presents, and she didn't even look at him. Just told him Mommy was tired and had to go to bed. Jetlag, you know? And the worst thing is: he wasn't even mad at her. He thinks it's perfectly normal that his mother isn't interested in him at all. She gives him the feeling he is unimportant to her… Just a burden."
"Wow," Demyx muttered. "That makes me regret ever listening to her music."
"Tell me about it. She makes me regret being her brother," Axel retorted, smirking warily. He leaned forward a little, spreading his arms in an inviting manner. "And you know what? If you want to you can quote me when you go to the media and tell them about it. I'm sick of protecting her. I'm sick of lying for her."
"I understand why," Demyx agreed, wrinkling his nose in disgust. "But… No, I won't tell anybody about it. The one who would suffer most is Reno. Poor little guy has it rough enough already."
"Yeah," Axel said, letting his hands drop to his sides again. The bitter smile vanished from his face. "Poor little guy."
He never noticed when Demyx left, staring at the row of books in front of him without seeing them. Poor little guy. Poor little boy, whose parents were never there…
"What are you still doing here?" Zexion's calm voice cut through the bitter reproaches, and Axel flinched, glancing at the other man. Zexion just looked him over, never showing even a hint of emotion. "Your shift is over. Usually you're out of the door as soon as work is done."
"Right…" Axel said, suddenly feeling dreadful. "Is… there something else? Can I help you with something?"
"No, you can go."
"Really?" By now Axel felt like a beggar, and he didn't even know why he kept talking anymore; he should leave, he had to be at the café soon, Roxas would be waiting… or would he? "I could sort the book delivery for tomorrow…"
"Or I could do it myself, like every week," Zexion replied, looking at Axel slightly puzzled. "Do you need more money? I told you I can't pay more…"
"No, not money…" Axel muttered, defeated. "I just… thought you could use some help…"
"No, not really. And if I'd let you work longer, I'd have to pay you more. It's in your contract." Again there was this look in his dark eyes; as if he knew something was up. "Aren't you supposed to be somewhere?"
"I guess…" Axel answered, his voice barely above a whisper. His hands felt sweaty all of a sudden, and his throat too tight; he forced a shuddering breath down his throat, chewing on his lip nervously.
He left the shop after getting his stuff out of the small room in the back, too distracted by the panic that threatened to take him over to even acknowledge Zexion's calm goodbye. He took a different way to the café, which took him longer than usual. He stopped in front of the shop, but didn't even try to look inside, turned around and tried to walk away… but he stopped after a few steps, sighing and shaking his head. His back turned to the café he ran a hand through his hair and crossed his arms behind his head, looking up to the sky…
"Coffee or green tea for you?" a gentle, female voice called out from behind him, and Axel nearly jumped out of his skin. Barely suppressing the urge to scream he let his arms drop to his sides, glancing back over his shoulder.
Kairi didn't smile, as she did usually. She just looked at him calmly, leaning against the doorframe, one arm outstretched to keep the door open.
Axel turned around, tried to answer her question, but found that he had forgotten it already. He couldn't concentrate; his eyes were drawn to the small, cozy café behind the red-haired waitress, but he couldn't see any customers.
Roxas wasn't there. He knew it. Roxas hadn't come. Roxas hadn't forgiven him. Roxas didn't want to see him again, Roxas hated him, Roxas…
"Roxas asked me to keep you here until we close," Kairi interrupted his troubled thoughts. She smiled, a crooked smile that didn't seem very lady-like. "Man, Riku didn't exaggerate. You look like shit, darling."
Axel blinked, still somewhat perplexed. He tried to say something again, but the words just fled his head. Kairi sighed, then shook her head, stepping forward and grabbing his arm.
Axel let out a startled gasp when she pulled him forward with a strength that betrayed her frail appearance. But he was still too dazed to resist her anyway, so he let himself be dragged into the café and pushed down onto one of the seats at the tables in the back.
He slumped in his seat, never meeting Kairi's gaze, just shrugging when she asked what he wanted again. He didn't look up when a cup with a steaming content was placed in front of him, but kept his eyes fixed on the simple pattern on the table-cloth. He mumbled something that he thought vaguely sounded like a 'Thank you', and he cringed when Kairi sat down across from him.
"God, why would Roxas mar such a pretty face like that?" Kairi sighed, propping her chin in one hand.
Axel just glanced at her, but didn't answer. He was used to ignoring people; hopefully Kairi would give up after a while, like everyone else did. He looked down at his hands again.
"Couldn't you use make-up or something?" Kairi chattered on, way too cheerful for Axel's current mood. "Your face looks terrible."
"Right back at you," Axel growled. Okay, if ignoring her didn't work, insulting her surely would. Why couldn't she just leave him alone? He felt jittery enough, without her prying… He wanted to go home, he didn't want to be forced to look at the door every five seconds, his heart racing with foolish hope every time he caught sight of blond hair…
"Ooooooh, that hurts, Axel, it really does," Kairi giggled good-naturedly; when Axel groaned and ran a hand down his face agitated, she laughed even louder.
"Can't you just leave me alone?" Axel yelled, unable to play her little game any longer; he jumped up and kicked his chair to the side, barely keeping himself from flipping the table as well. "Fuck you! You don't…"
"Sit down," Kairi ordered calmly, not even flinching when Axel's fist hit the table; she stared at him over her folded hands, no longer smiling. "Sit down, drink your tea, and wait for him with me."
"And if I don't?" Axel hissed, leaning down to glare at her, and for a moment he hated her for staying so irritatingly calm when he himself was a nervous wreck. Fuck, he couldn't even keep his hands from shaking…
"If you leave my café you'll regret it," Kairi answered his question, and now her lips formed a wry smile that didn't reach her eyes. The sudden change in her demeanor was so complete Axel was not sure how to react; he wanted to yell at her so badly, tell her to leave him alone, but the usually good-natured waitress looked at him so coldly, so… so different… just like Riku had looked at him before.
"If you leave now and are not here when he enters through that door," Kairi continued quietly, "if he decides to give you another chance and you hurt him by leaving, I will personally make sure you will never have children. And then I will sic Sora and Riku at you, and you will wish you never set foot into this town."
"And if he doesn't come?" Axel tried to shout, but his voice broke in the end.
"Sit down," Kairi repeated.
"But what if he doesn't want to see me?" Axel nearly whispered, his eyes searching out the door again.
"Sit down, you goddamn asshole," Kairi replied icily, and Axel slumped down onto his chair. He just didn't possess the strength to resist anymore. "I tried to be nice to you because Roxas asked me to be nice, but so God help me, if you don't sit down right now, I'll break your pretty nose to go with the black eye! Consider yourself lucky that he even thinks about giving you another chance. He didn't want to tell us what you did, but fuck, I know what you did to hurt him like that. I wish I didn't know. Just know that you only still live because Roxas begged Sora and Riku and me not to seek you out and beat your sorry ass to bloody pulp…"
"What did he tell you?" Axel asked hoarsely, watching the red-headed waitress through his fingers, trying to hide his shamefully reddening face. He didn't even dare to think about what Roxas had told them…
"He didn't have to say anything," Kairi explained and leaned back a little. "He came to visit Sora without calling him first, and that's something he never does. But when we asked him what's wrong he changed the subject. He just needed company, he couldn't stay alone after what you did, but he didn't tell us what happened. He barely talked at all, but that's not that out of the ordinary… But he was pale and shaking and tired, and don't think I didn't notice that he was limping…"
Axel winced, but didn't dare to say anything.
"He covered it up pretty well; I don't think Sora even noticed that. Oh, but you are lucky that he left when Riku came in. If Riku had seen what I saw, you wouldn't be here."
"But Riku knows, he…" Axel started, but didn't dare to speak further.
"Yes, Riku knows. He's not dumb," Kairi said icily. "He noticed the condition Roxas was in, we all did. We all know! No, Roxas didn't have to say anything. He was upset. He was limping. And Riku said he had seen you at Roxas' apartment, and that you said you had done something stupid… You know, that we're from the islands and not from some big, bad city, doesn't mean we're stupid, Axel. We know you were with him that night, and we know that Roxas was upset about it. So Riku decided it was time for a talk with you. That's why he was at the bookstore today. But Roxas forbade him to hurt you before he left. I guess otherwise you would not be sitting here."
Axel let his hands drop to his lap and stared down at the table, unable to say something, anything that could take the overwhelming guilt off him.
Kairi slowly rose from her seat when other customers entered the café, and Axel dared to heave a sigh of relief.
"Don't even think of leaving," Kairi warned him, glaring at him coldly. "I will find out where you live."
Axel didn't answer, just let out a slightly hysteric chuckle at her words. He stared down into his drink, never touching it.
He almost pitied himself for looking up every time when he heard the door open, or when Kairi or the other waitress, a raven-haired student who helped out every once in a while and whom he had seen a few times already, came to his table. He never answered the younger waitress when she asked if he wanted another drink, and Kairi didn't even try to be nice to him anymore; no other guest dared to sit near him, and Axel was just fine with that. Eyes fixed on the door he waited, and with every minute that passed he felt his heart sink even more.
The shadows outside grew longer, the light of the sun turned reddish, more people entered the café and left it again. All around him customers were cheerful and happy and enjoyed the beautiful evening outside, and Axel took their happiness as part of his punishment; his punishment for hurting Roxas, a punishment he well deserved, and it didn't matter that Roxas had said he forgave him, because Axel couldn't forgive himself. He never tried to leave, but not because of Kairi's threats; no, he couldn't leave because he owed Roxas at least this much. The shadows grew longer, and the light of the sun faded; street lamps bathed the streets in their soft light, and Axel could no longer stare out at the streets. He closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands, rubbing his burning, weary eyes and sighing loudly.
Of course Roxas had not showed up. The café was about to close, every moment now Kairi or the other waitress would kick him out. And really, he could already hear footsteps approaching, and he refused to look up and meet Kairi's accusing glare.
"Can I bring you anything to go? We're closing in five minutes," the raven-haired waitress' soft voice reached his ears. Ah, so Kairi didn't even want to kick him out herself, but sent her poor co-worker.
"For fucks sake, no, I don't want a fucking drink, and no, I don't want to eat anything, and now leave me the fuck alone!" he growled loudly and immediately regretted it; the poor girl was just doing her job, and it wasn't her fault he was so down, but he needed to vent his frustration on someone, and she just chose the worst time of all to approach him.
"That's nice, but I believe Xion asked me, you fucktard," an amused, and definitely male voice replied. Axel's head shot up, but he couldn't focus; he stared straight ahead, and for a moment he believed his mind had played a trick on him. But then there was movement in front of him, right in front of him, right across the table, someone sat down right across the table and… Black and white and blue and blond, so unearthly golden hair, so rich, deep blue eyes…
"Hot chocolate for me, please," Roxas said and gave the waitress one of his gentle, perfect smiles. "And that asshole over there is paying for me."
"Right," Xion said and threw Axel a stern look before she went back to the counter to get Roxas' order. She and Kairi started to whisper, never taking their eyes off Axel and Roxas, but Axel couldn't focus on them for long; his eyes were drawn to the young man sitting so close, just within reach, and he couldn't believe that Roxas was smiling at him.
"Hi," Roxas said quietly.
"H-Hi," Axel breathed, not even noticing that his voice failed him. His eyes were still fixed on Roxas', and he had a feeling as if Roxas would just vanish if he ever looked away. He didn't even dare to blink.
"I thought you would give up after an hour or so," Roxas declared lightly, but there was something in his expression that didn't fit the carefree tone of his voice at all. He had really thought Axel would give up. And Axel wanted to assure him that he would have waited longer if necessary; that he would have waited for days and would not have left the café, that he would go to hell and back if it was necessary to show Roxas that he cared about him, so much, too much… But he didn't know how to voice his thoughts, so he just shook his head weakly.
"Axel?" Roxas asked, and Axel shuddered at the sound of his name. He nodded slowly, signaling he was still listening, and still didn't dare to look elsewhere but into Roxas' eyes.
"Could you please breathe?" Roxas said and frowned slightly. "You're starting to freak me out."
Axel blinked; he hadn't even noticed he had held his breath, and sucked fresh air into his lungs with a hissing sound. He still couldn't believe this was happening…
"Alright," Roxas went on, pursing his lips a little, seeming displeased by Axel's lack of verbal response. "New rules. If you really meant what you said before you left, you will accept them."
Again Axel nodded eagerly. He would accept everything if it meant he would be allowed to be close to Roxas again. Not that he even dared to dream about being as close to Roxas as he already had been… But just to talk to Roxas again, just to see him smile would be enough.
"First of all, you will behave more nicely towards poor waitresses from now on," Roxas declared with a small smile on his lips, and Axel couldn't help but smile back; he even chuckled softly, and he felt like a huge weight had fallen off his chest.
"Second, you will not let your anger about your sister out on me again." Ah. The weight was back. Axel had almost had time to miss it, too, he thought sardonically. But before he could speak up…
"Next time you have to babysit Reno, you will not just run away without an explanation," Roxas continued, and Axel frowned; this came not unexpected, but still it surprised him. "And you will never, ever talk about what happened last Friday again."
"But I…" Axel tried to object, but Roxas silenced him with a cold glare. Axel flinched and bit his lip, feeling too guilty to actually protest against Roxas' rules.
"I am willing to forget all about the time since our fight," Roxas clarified, looking at Axel over his folded hands. "But only if you agree never to mention any relationship we had that felt like more than a simple friendship. Only if you never remind me… of… how stupid I was to believe we could be more than friends."
"I can't… I can't do that," Axel whispered ruefully.
"If you can't, I will walk out of this door and will never talk to you again," Roxas promised darkly. And when Axel just continued to stare ahead without looking at Roxas directly, the younger man attempted to rise from his seat.
"Wait!" Axel blurted out, frantically catching Roxas' wrist in a tight grip. He felt Roxas flinch violently, and when he looked up he noticed how pale Roxas had become. He let go of Roxas' hand, and Roxas jerked back as if burnt, rubbing his skin while watching Axel with distrust in his eyes.
Axel slowly pulled back his hand, and even though he told himself he had expected Roxas to be scared or at least very suspicious of him, after the things that had happened between them, it still hurt. A lot. More than he had expected. Probably a bit more than he could take, but right now he couldn't allow himself to show his weakness, if he didn't want to lose Roxas for good.
"I can't promise you that," he said, trying not to stare at Roxas' shaking hands, but not able to avert his gaze anyway. "I can only promise you that I will try my best. I… I understand if that's not enough for you, but it's all I can offer."
And he tried to look away, he tried so goddamn hard, and he knew it made him look like a creep, but he couldn't rip his eyes away from Roxas' hands; those hands that had pulled him closer when they had first kissed, those hands that had gently guided his own when they had first made love; those hands that had tried to push him away and had encouraged him, those hands that had hit him when Roxas had thrown him out of his apartment, and that had caressed his face when Roxas had whispered words of forgiveness in the dark. Those hands that would probably never touch him again.
And finally Roxas let his hands fall to his sides and turned around, and only now Axel could look up, feeling the faint glimmer of hope he had cherished vanish. He watched Roxas slowly making his way to the door, and he tried not to feel so choked up and so weak… But with every step Roxas took he felt his own shoulders sag and his eyes burn more.
He was so ready to give up and admit that he had blown it for good, he was ready to stand up and go to his apartment, pack his stuff and leave Twilight Town. He was ready to leave, yes. Because that would be best for Roxas, and it was the least he could do.
And then Roxas stopped at the door, turned his head, only a little, and without looking at Axel, but enough to let Axel catch a glimpse of sad, blue eyes.
"See you tomorrow," Roxas said, just loud enough for Axel to hear, and Axel couldn't help the ecstatic grin that suddenly spread over his face. His heart suddenly beat twice as fast, and his hands wouldn't stop shaking, and he had to concentrate to keep himself from shouting out loud, and as soon as the door had closed behind Roxas, he closed his eyes and clasped his hands, silently thanking every God that would listen for this miracle.
"Uh…" a female voice exclaimed timidly, and when Axel opened his eyes again, he couldn't help but beam at Xion, who stood at his table, a paper cup with a plastic cap on top in one hand, obviously very nervous. "Uhm, Roxas said… you'd pay?"
"I'm pretty sure he said 'That asshole over there'," Axel replied, grinning from ear to ear and chuckling quietly when the young waitress blushed. "Yeah, that would be me."
"Well… since the hot chocolate was for him, you don't…" Xion spoke up again, and Axel just snatched the cup, pulled some munny out of a pocket and dropped it on the table, never minding that he'd just paid for fifteen of those cups.
"Keep the change," he all but sang, and took a sip of the hot, sweet, foamy liquid. Aah, he could taste why Roxas loved this stuff so much. Roxas, his Roxas, his lovely, lovely Roxas, who had forgiven him, who had talked to him, looked at him, smiled at him, Roxas, Roxas, Roxas…
"Bye, Kairi," he laughed when he skipped out of the café, leaving both waitresses speechless. "Oh, and I live in 295 Station Heights, apartment number eight, just in case Riku or Sora want to pay me a visit!"
Laughing freely at Kairi's baffled expression, he closed the door behind himself and nipped at the hot chocolate again, completely ignoring how people around him turned around to stare at him; right now he didn't mind. Roxas had forgiven him, Roxas wanted to be friends with him, he would see Roxas tomorrow.
Life was good.
Quick Note: Sorry for the slow updates, I officially hate my life for interfering with my dearest hobby, I hope you still enjoy this story, thanks for reading, 'kay, bye. Oh, and Salem, I'M SORRY for, like, vanishing for so long. AGAIN! ____