Happy reading guys. Enjoy it.
Two years passed.
Two winters, two springs and one summer flew past him just like, yet unlike, all the rest. For Roxas, each season was like a small victory, each month a small battle he won, each day a day he didn't cave to peer pressure, didn't light up a joint with old acquaintances, didn't randomly hook up with people he wouldn't know the names of in the morning. He was proud of himself, eighteen and having a vantage point most of his peers lacked, getting lost in a high and not knowing how to live their life.
Two years gave him three more inches, slowly gained, a little more muscle definition in his arms and legs from actually participating in gym class. Two years made him smarter, wiser, getting good grades and bumping up his GPA. Two years and Roxas still has the same haircut
Two years and things couldn't be better and besides from maybe wanting to relive them, he wouldn't want to change a thing from his junior or senior year. Things were great, really, really great, and that was his first thought when he woke up, the morning after he walked with the rest of his graduating class and accepted his diploma.
Two years… how time flies.
For Roxas, a month into his junior year, if he were to somehow find a genie and get three wishes, he wouldn't have any to fulfill. He had his friends back, his mom more or less trusted him and was becoming proud of the way he acted lately, he and his dad talked regularly, and he was getting a B+ his Algebra 2 class.
Hayner balked at his grade, huffing indignantly as he childishly tried to hide his C+ grade from Roxas's prying eyes. "No way, man," the taller blond grumbled and crossed his arms, slightly embarrassed by the fact Roxas was smarter than he was. "Grades are bull anyway. When am I ever gonna use this shit anyway?"
"You'll use it today, tomorrow and then the next day," Roxas smartly replied, smiling at Hayner's huff and subsequent glare. He folded the piece of paper and put in a folder within his binder for his math class. "You'll do it as long as you need to so you can walk at then end of the year."
The blond again huffed, rolling his eyes. "The school can go fuck itself. All I care about is the Storm Rider scouts that are gonna be at the next Struggle." Hayner looked at his friend, eyebrows raised expectantly. Roxas made a small distracted noise of interest as he put away his binder, shoving it forcefully into his backpack and then frowning when it didn't fit right.
When Hayner loudly sighed, exasperated, Roxas turned curiously and saw Hayner was frowning; upset pout in his lips he got whenever he thought people weren't paying enough attention to him. Confused, Roxas was taken back, blinking. "What?"
"Well?!" Hayner demanded to know, even though he hadn't asked a question. His brown eyes widened, questioning. "You gonna sign up?"
Oh. So that was it, Roxas idly thought, mentally rolling his eyes. Mentally because Hayner would flip if he saw Roxas roll his eyes at the subject of The Struggle Tournament. While he himself once thought the world of the tournament, not skating for a year had changed his view of it and he did not base his entire year around the competition as Hayner did.
A week ago (was it really only a week ago? It seemed like a lifetime had passed.) Hayner was right in saying that even Roxas's top form was below his. And it was true. Hayner practiced skating everyday, would practice all day if he didn't have to go to school and, ya know, sleep, and it showed. He made hard tricks look simple, ease in his movements as if he'd been doing them since he was a kid. Hayner made Roxas look like a poser.
"Nah," he laughed, shaking his head at the incredulous idea of him signing up for a tournament, especially when skateboarding was nothing like riding a bike and he was relearning tricks he used to be able to land easily a year ago. "You know I'm not ready for anything like that, Hay. You just wanna see me fall on my face."
"Yeah, well, while that's always fun, I see it everyday so," Hayner laughed, grinning at Roxas's glare. "So no. But seriously, just sign up. I'll still be your friend even if you place last."
The junior groaned, imagining the pure embarrassment of being last in a competition of a hundred or more. That meant that while you didn't suck, a hundred people were better than you were. Not too great for the ego. "I would die. Now I definitely don't to do it!"
"Do it anyway!"
"No! Why don't you get Pence to do it with you or something?" Roxas griped, frowning seriously now. He really didn't want to go now, talking about messing up making him think he was actually going to mess up.
"Pence is already going," Hayner informed him smugly. "He signed up so you have to sign up."
"That makes no sense at all. I do not understand your logic."
"You just gotta sign up, Roxas. I'm gonna bitch about it until you do."
And bitch about it he did.
Not a day passed that Hayner didn't reference the tournament in some way at least three to four times. Math class--now that Hayner got his schedule switched around--once being one of Roxas's favorite classes was steadily becoming one he loathed with a passion. And if it wasn't enough for Hayner to yap all day about it, as the time to sign up started to dwindle, it was all Pence and Olette could talk about too. It was always; whatshisface is going and whatshername will be there and Rooooxasssss you have to go!
The breaking point came when Sora, Sora who didn't even really know what the Struggle was, told him, with a stern face, that he should sign up. That was when Roxas realized that he was really actually going to have to participate in the tournament. If Sora was getting involved, he knew things were going to get out of hand quick.
So that was how he found himself at the sign up board on the very last day, scrawling his name in barely legible script for something that would change his life.
To understand how exactly signing up for something he didn't even want to do managed to set things in motion, how it managed to send forth the marble with such force that it would knock over the cup, that would fall on the pump that would blow air into the miniature windmill that would conduct enough energy to open the hatch to a cage so a little white mouse would scamper forth to press the button that would begin things, was extremely hard, even for Roxas who saw it with his own eyes and lived through it all.
But it did.
Roxas daily schedule was this; he would wake up at seven, take a shower and get dressed. At seven forty, Sora would come pick him up in his dad's old car, since his father got a new one, so that they would make it to school on time. From eight to three, Roxas would be in school.
Some days after school, Roxas would hang out at the skate park, which was starting to become one of his favorite places again, with Hayner, Pence and Olette and others he would spend with Sora, messing around, doing homework, or just talking at Roxas's house. But most days, Sora would hang out with them at the skate park, video tapping their tricks. That was, of course, if Riku wasn't in town or if Sora wasn't making an impromptu trip to Traverse. They were steadily Not Together, but Sora didn't date anyone else and he was sure Riku was in Twilight Town too much to have someone on the side. If you asked Roxas, they were just beating around the bush and one of them would cave sooner rather than later.
And everyday after doing whatever he would pick up the mail for his mom who always, without a doubt, forgot about it.
Another month had passed and Hayner had Roxas on a strict skateboard everyday, rain or shine, schedule so he would be in shape for the Struggle tournament in November. This left him sore and aching, purpling bruises developing everywhere, on his shoulders, on his shins, on his sides, one on his elbow. He was sweaty, tired mess after spending hours at the park and after he slowly skated back home, all he ever wanted to do was crash on his bed.
Today, after falling one too many times for his liking, Roxas kicked up his board and collected the mail, too tired to look through it. He opened the door, muttering a tired hello to his mother's enthusiastic one and tossing the mail onto the counter, not giving it a second glance, more interested in stomping up the stairs to fall asleep.
The next morning, Roxas rolled over, blinking his eyes opened tiredly. He briefly acknowledged the light shining through the blinds before rolling back over into the warm comfort of his blankets. He sighed contently. A bird chirped.
Blue eyes shot open as he started. Light shining through the blinds, a bird chirping, he still in bed when it was, he saw with horrified eyes, seven thirty-four! "Oh shit!" Roxas exclaimed, checking his clock to make sure it was the right time, that he really did over sleep, that his alarm was really not on and he was running late.
Quickly, he decided his plan of action, forgoing a shower for jumping into fresher clothes on the floor and spraying himself a few times with cologne. Roxas grabbed his shoes and ran down the stairs, picking up his backpack on the way. A beep from outside sounded and Sora was there, waiting for him while Roxas pulled on his shoes, tying them hastily slung his backpack across his shoulder and picked up his board and another school book just as Sora pushed on his horn again, this time impatiently. He was ready to go.
"Roxas!" Daisy called and Roxas sighed slowly, eyes flying to the sky in his incredulity and utter lack of time.
His mother stepped into the foyer, piece of paper in her hands that she waved about. "This came in the mail for you. I don't know who it's from and--" she was cut off abruptly when her son snatched the paper, sticking it into his pocket hastily.
"Thanks mom, no time," Roxas said, waving to her as he swung open the door and all but running to the car, sighing in relief when he closed the door and Sora drove off. It was only seven forty-four.
They made it to school only two minutes before the tardy bell rang due to some traffic light that had it out for student that were running late. Sora and Roxas spent no time on goodbyes, speeding off at a pace that was not school appropriate to their first hour. The blond teen made it into his English class just before the bell rang, sighing yet again in relief.
He didn't even remember the piece of paper he pushed into his pocket until his second hour when it all but stabbed into him when he tried to sit down. Wondering what the hell was in his pocket, Roxas took it out. It was bent all over now, crinkles deforming its former rectangular shape and creases marring the picture on the front. Blond eyebrows furrowed together in confusion as he read the front while his U.S. History Teacher started on a long monologue.
Greetings from Salt Lake City.
Roxas raised his eyebrow at it, deep frown developing on his face. He flipped it over, wondering if someone mailed it to the wrong address or something. Maybe the mail carrier messed up and his mom read it wrong. No dice. On the back of the thick, bent paper his name was written neatly, address beneath it.
There wasn't a greeting on the back, no hello, or how have you been? It didn't say; Hey, It's your long lost cousins from Salt Lake City! The back side was….blank. Nothing besides the prompt of your message here in small print at the very bottom.
Roxas flipped it back and forth between the front and back several more times and after that failed to give him answers, the teen tucked the card into the front pouch on his backpack.
Even though he appeared to pay attention in his classes, notebook out, pencil in hand, Roxas spent the rest of the school day trying to figure out who the hell he knew in Salt Lake City.
The teen promptly forgot about it however, when he fell off his board five times too many after school. Nothing like physical and mental pain as a distraction.
It was days before he thought about the Salt Lake City postcard again. In fact the next time he thought about the Salt Lake City postcard was when he received one from, mysteriously, Dinosaur, Colorado.
The name of the city struck him so hard he was smiling widely, confusedly, at the card, laughter spilling out at the ridiculous name. Dinosaur? Really? That was….amazingly awesome. Roxas flipped the post card over and once again, there was nothing besides his name and address, in slightly less neat handwriting, as if it was rushed or a last moment thing.
One postcard from Salt Lake City and now one from dinosaur, both with his name on it.
But who did he know in any of those places?
Roxas had no clue. He was Roxas from Twilight Town, who the hell would send him postcards? His mother thought it might be Tracy, one of cousins that he was rather close to up until a few years ago and was now going to school somewhere in the west, she didn't know where exactly, but somewhere in the west. It was probably her. Well, who else could it be?
Who else could it be indeed. The teen accepted the suggestion easily, putting name to face, wondering just how Tracy was.
Another week later, Roxas got another postcard.
He was dead tired, four straight hours of playing road tag, which consisted off chasing each other in the roads on their boards, and smacking someone on whatever body part you could in order to not to be it. Hayner said some bull about it helping his stamina but Roxas figured he wanted to play it because he was crafty and could maneuver to escape your reach every single time.
So he was tired, legs like noodles, sweat cooling from the breeze as he slowly made his way home, dampening his shirt and forehead. The furthest things from his mind were the postcards he was getting presumably from his cousin. In fact when he took out the mail that evening he was thinking of the struggle tournament…and actually felt excited. He might completely wipe out in front of hundreds but at least he was doing it right? At least he was giving himself the chance to fail, he figured, absently going through the mail.
Roxas stared at it, eyebrows rising and a taken back frown forming. Loveland? Sounded like some cheesy romance movie starring a quirky brunette and a hunky jock that inevitably fall in love at the very last minute. He snorted, shaking his head slightly as he started to walk up to the door. Roxas flipped it over, not really knowing why but flipping it over all the same, maybe it was just instinct. When you got a postcard, you always flipped it over to see if anyone wrote you anything.
His old, beaten up, scarred skateboard clattered to the cobblestone walkway as he dropped it but Roxas hardly heard it, staring wide eyed at the simple white back of the card, pale line separating his name and address and the message.
He felt Axel's breath on his neck, tickling, and the smooth touch of skin on skin as he moved to reach over him, grasping something at the nightstand. Roxas was laying on his stomach, eyes closed with one hand tucked underneath the firm pillow and the other lying close to his face. Axel's chest was warm and heavy against his back, all but sprawled over him now.
A pinpoint of pressure on the sensitive skin of the top of his hand made Roxas lazily open his eyes to find a pen marring his skin. Above him, Axel was concentrating intently on whatever he was drawing, wrinkle in his forehead. Roxas giggled and the redhead gave him a smile and a wink, bring his hand away to reveal;
A small, slightly deformed heart, one side much larger than the other.
All at once, he knew.
How could he have not seen it before? How could he have thought it was anyone else? Why didn't he know at the very first one that it was Axel? He should have known! Who else but Axel would send him postcards? Who else would be traveling around that area? How could he have not known?!
The severity of this, his inability to see it was Axel, Axel, all along, and it meant floored him. Despite himself, despite everything that had happened, despite the fact that real life never had happy endings, Roxas started smiling and he felt his eyes start to water.
Axel. Axel. Even after all the things he said to him, even though he never got the chance to explain, even though they hadn't seen each other in months, Axel had somehow located him and for some reason felt the need to not cut the string between then, to not let go of him forever. Axel had found him and in this way, this little heart on a postcard of LOVELAND, Colorado had told Roxas not everything, but all he needed to know.
Axel, sweet, goofy, witty, funny, sexy, lovable Axel, still loved him, still thought of him, still cared enough to send these cards with nothing on them and with no purpose but to say, 'Hey, I'm still alive, I'm still out there, somewhere'. Axel, whose heart Roxas most likely ripped to shreds that day, wanted to send postcards to him, with little hearts on it. Axel hadn't forgotten him, hadn't found someone else, hadn't let things die.
Maybe he felt the same way Roxas did, maybe he thought that, maybe, things could be fixed, maybe he wanted a second chance or wanted to give the teen one. Maybe he just wanted to say hi.
The door closed quietly behind him as Roxas stepped into the house, holding the postcard tightly and all but dropping everything else in his hands. He gazed at the misshapen heart longingly, reading his written name with new eyes, trying to pick up what he maybe hadn't before. Daisy called to him that dinner would be ready in thirty and how his day was and though Roxas didn't really care, he answered her back, slowly going up the steps and to his room, closing the door shut softly and leaning back against it, holding the postcard tightly to his heart.
It was beating erratically, wildly and his breaths were flutters, sighs escaping him. His chest felt like it was too small, something like hope beating through his veins as he found the last two postcards and pinned them to a large map he had rolled up in the back of his closet.
Roxas stared at the three postcards and the rest of the map with desperate eyes, wondering just where Axel would be next, where he would next drive to in his seemingly never-ending travels.
Olette needed help with her math. While she was great at English, history, and most of the time science she faltered when given formulas and equations and told to find angle A of a triangle.
And Roxas was the only who stand doing math, Hayner's lame excuse, and had the time, Pence's legitimate excuse, to teach the poor girl before her test the next day. It was a welcome break from going to the skate park everyday. The tournament was in two weeks and they didn't want to be too sore or fracture anything so they were cutting down time practicing.
"Thanks for doing this Roxas," she said, her Vans clapping against the sidewalk as they neared the end of the twenty-five minute walk to his house from school. They both didn't have their boards today. "Really. I just don't get any of it at all."
"Yeah, Mr. Yen Sid can sort of fly over your head. If you don't get one thing then it usually escalates."
"That's exactly how it is! He started going on and on about similarities and proofs and how to get angles and I'm just hopelessly lost," she complained, groaning. "I'm gonna fail the class I swear!"
Roxas laughed as he turned the corner, coming onto his cul-de-sac. "Nope. You got me. You'll get by with a passable C." Olette snorted and shoved him playfully. "I'm just kidding. I just got to, uh, get the mail," the teen nodded toward the mailbox. If it was a tradition before it had be come an obsessive-compulsive need now. He hadn't gotten a postcard in two weeks. "But you can go on ahead."
Olette nodded but continued his path. "That's okay; I'll just get it for you. Go open the door."
"It's fine, Rox," she said as she opened the hatch, rolling her eyes as she took out a newspaper and several other items that Roxas couldn't immediately identify. He went to grab for it but she started going through his mail, which would be extremely rude were it anyone but Olette. Her eyebrows shot up as she held one up, smiling at him. "Oh hey! Your Dad sent you a cool postcard!" She flipped it over, looking over it in interest. "He lives in Phoenix, doesn't he?"
His father did most certainly not live in Phoenix. He would never need to travel to Phoenix. His father would not send him a postcard from Phoenix. Roxas's eyes flashed and he made for the card. Olette held it away, taken back by his sudden lunge. "What's your deal?"
"Just give it to me, Olette. It's mine," he bit out, turning angry fast as the intense urge to see whether something was written on the back or not, if Axel had chosen now to say something in words, anything tangible that would settle all the doubts that had formed in the past two weeks.
The brunette raised both of her eyebrows and slowly handed it to him, demand for an answer clear on her face. Roxas snatched it, Greetings From Phoenix on the front and two words, Hate Phoenix on the back. Just two words and though they didn't quite settle his worries it made him smile, envisioning Axel suffering under the heat and the town that he disliked immensely. He wondered briefly why he was there if he hated it. Maybe he went to Sedona again.
Olette was searching his face, standing awkwardly as he stared at the postcard he took from her so forcefully. He went from searching to joyfully happy to disappointed and then back to happy. A light flush reddening his cheeks, a look she hadn't seen before. He looked…flustered but amused. It was enough to make her raise both of her eyebrows. "Roxas?"
His blond head snapped up, blue eyes wide like he forgot she was there. Roxas glanced back quickly between her and the postcard, face darkening further as he realized how strange that exchange must have been to her. He blundered around, looking for the right words, not meeting her eyes in his embarrassment. "I, um, I just--Look, I'm sorry, it's just--I'm sorry."
"Yeah, okay that's cool, I believe you in all just…" Olette scratched at her cheek absently, scrunching up her face. "What the hell was that? You just, like, went ape shit," she laughed, not feeling insulted or hurt but merely extremely curious.
Roxas's face flamed again. "It's nothing."
She snorted, rolling her eyes and started walking toward his front door. "Yeah, whatever, Rox. I know when someone's lying, especially when it's a bad lie. And Roxas--you're a bad liar," she said as she ascended the steps, Roxas right behind her bashfully. Her cool greenish blue eyes held no ferocity, no intensity, just calm interest that made it easy to talk her no matter what.
"You see," he said, biting his lip as he fiddled with his keys in the lock. "There was this guy…"
And Olette smiled.
Roxas figured that Axel was sending him postcards of his travels; something Olette thought was extremely romantic when he finished telling her the story. A little creepy and somewhat heartbreaking when you thought about it but there was undeniable romance there. The only thing was… that she just couldn't see how it could have a happy ending.
It was late November and in Twilight Town that meant that winter would fully encompass the entire town in a week or two, going from chilly to feet of snow as soon as the months changed over. Thus, it was the last chance to have a tournament before it got too cold and would be the last until spring rolled along. The tournament was held in Traverse this year as the Storm Rider label was hosting the event.
Which meant that Hayner had to finagle for his mom's car for the last two weeks, wheedling her resolve down until she relented, even if it was only to get him to stop asking about it everyday. Late November found Roxas and Olette lounging in the back seat while Hayner drove angrily and Pence controlled the radio, swapping Cds for another just after a few songs, on their way to the tournament.
(If Sora hadn't been grounded at the last second for the strange reason of being out too late when he came home at ten, he would have been there as well, bouncing excitedly because he was seeing his first ever skateboard tournament and knew people who were participating and because Hayner actually said he could come.)
Roxas was lying down boredly on Olette's lap, her feet propped up between the driver's seat and the passenger seat, bobbing to the rhythm of the music about forty minutes into the two-hour drive. Pence was flipping through his large own CD case, having already gone through Roxas's. When Pence made an excited noise, he turned around to explain, smile huge on his face. "My cousin made me this mix awhile ago of her favorite bands when she came home to visit awhile ago. I haven't had the chance to play it yet. Wanna listen?"
Olette roller her eyes, grinning. "Pence, even if we said no you'd still play it."
He laughed, turning around and pressing it to the player gently. "True, true. But she's pretty cool, she went to film school out in New York and saw most of these guys at concerts."
Hayner whistled. "New York, huh? Wow. That's a long way away from Twilight."
"Ain't it? She loves it there, went out as a mousy art geek and came back super chic," he told them, proud smile on his face as the first song started to fade in. "I huff gasoline from your shirt," it started, all distortion and blurry sounding lyrics. "And blur the questions that no one could ever answer. I empty my head of all that I know. Seems like the best view is the one from below."
"So who's gonna be there again?" Olette asked, feet bopping to the fast beat.
"Seifer," Hayner seethed, fingers clenching around the wheel, face contorted into instant anger.
"Jack and his girl Sally will be there," Pence calmly stated, looking out the window with interest and paying no attention to Hayner. "I hear Mulan was allowed back this year."
Roxas lifted his head up, frowning deeply. "Allowed back? When was she not allowed?"
Olette sighed, wide, unbelieving smile on her face. "Last year she entered in under a false name to get into the guys' division."
"She did really good," Pence enthused.
"Better than most of the guys," the brunette girl agreed with a sly smirk, pride in face. "She woulda been in the top five from her scores but she made a big scene in front of everyone about the fact that she was a girl and just as good as the guys, better than the guys, and yet she wasn't allowed in their division. It was awesome," she groaned. "I totally worship the girl."
"So they banned her?" Roxas asked. "Can they do that?"
"Nope," the chubby teen happily replied. "That's why she's back this year. But she had to sign up in the girls division still."
"Which is utter bull because it's only ever a competition between her, Meg, and Tiana. It's not fair to completely block her like that. It's a complete utter lack of general----"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," the blond driving muttered, waving one hand in her direction. "We know already. Let it go. Storm Rider Scouts are gonna be there. She's gonna get picked up and then she'll be able to play with the boys all she wants. What really matters," he stressed, sighing angrily. "Is Seifer. I swear to god if he takes my spot again I'm never gonna come to these things again. I swear."
"You said that in June," Pence pointed out, referring to the summer tournament.
"And again in August at the Neverland tournament," Olette offered helpfully with a snide smile. "But here we are."
"Shut. Up. I never asked you for your input," he told her reflection in his rear view mirror. "I'm just sayin'."
"That if Seifer completely makes you look like fool again you're gonna flip out? Like that's new," Pence muttered under his breath.
A twitch developed in Hayner's eye. "What'd you say?!"
"I can't hear the music," Roxas interjected helpfully. "Turn it up." Slowly, Hayner moved his narrowed eyes back to the road and the blond saw Pence's arm move to turn the volume knob. The music grew louder in response, making the aggressive guitars even more prominent, the voice of the single ringing louder.
"The city burns under its own fire," the male voice sang bitterly, angrily and Roxas could envision the sneer on his face. "Buckles under the pressure of angry fists. The city charts the course to its own expire, leaving its rotting residents. With your help we can travel to the moon, the city smiles. But they don't mean you, or you or you or you," the singer angrily snarled. "We just need your money, your sweat, and your strife, and then we can escape to the sky, escape into the sky, and escape this life."
Olette frowned appreciatively, nodding her head. "Huh. It's actually pretty okay. I kinda like this song."
"Me too," Pence agreed whole-heartedly, happy to be on a different subject, especially one that Hayner wouldn't get into a mood about. "They have a cool sound."
"Who is it?" Roxas boredly asked, eyes closed. They were, as Olette said, pretty okay. But they were no Jupiter. He heard Pence flipping around in his CD case and could mentally see his brow wrinkling as he searched.
"Track four, track four….It's kinda hard to read…" he mumbled. "But it looks sorta like… The Nocturn--something. I can't read the last two letters. -- Cooolpa?" He elongated the last word into a question, unable to figure out how to pronounce it. "I dunno. It looks complicated."
"How's it spelled?"
"C. U. L. P. A," he named off.
Olette made a surprised noise, saying smartly, "It's culpa. It's like Latin or something. It means guilt. Don't ask me how I know; I'm just awesome like that."
Everyone laughed, turning up the music yet again, listening about burning cities, governments who invited their own collapse and, strangely, zombies who brought it all to the end. For the rest of ride, they talked about how nervous or excited they were, carefully walking around Hayner's own jumpy nerves, or about other stupid things about class or a movie they'd seen recently. Traffic wasn't too bad for being a Saturday so they were approaching Traverse sooner than expected; taking the turns that brought them closer and closer to their destination, to the tournament.
Their doors slammed loudly when they finally found a parking space as apparently everyone else had the same idea to come early. Closing his, Roxas felt his stomach climb up and plummet every few seconds, board feeling heavy in his hands, nerves all bundled up like string.
He laughed with everyone else at their own nervousness, saying that he didn't care of he did good or not, but secretly he hoped that he would do really, really well and blow everyone else out of the water. He entered, eyes wide with hope and the feeling that maybe he could actually be able to do this.
When they called his name, announcing him, Roxas had never felt so nervous, like he might throw up any second. He mounted the half pipe, prepared to fly, prepared for the gasps of people, amazed. He was prepared to win, to make the top ten, to do great and have his name on everyone's tongue.
He however, was not prepared to land his trick, losing his footing only seconds into his turn, face planting suddenly right onto the hard wood.
Roxas obtained the crowds gasp all right and his name was on their lips but not for the reason he wanted.
He placed last and went home with nothing but a busted lip, a bleeding nose, and possibly a concussion too.
Roxas pouted the entire way home, driving because Hayner complained he was too sore from going into the finals to drive, taking great care to playfully rub in Roxas's utter failure. It was almost midnight, the tournament just over and this time Hayner had beaten Seifer had took the spot right above him. There was no end to his gloating that drive back, only when Roxas turned up the music loudly did he give his mouth a break.
The blond driving took solace in the angry voice of track four's singer, going as far to play it again and again until the rest of the passengers demanded he let the song change. By the end of the drive, he liked the song so much he scrawled the lyrics on his arm to look up later. Spirits dampened, he bitterly thought, at least I got something out of it.
Axel's head hurt. And he could hardly hear himself let alone anyone else. The thing is, he hardly cared. Utterly soaked in his own sweat, the lights shining on them were scorching, and tired and his fingers felt numb at the tips, but he honestly didn't really care. They had to drive all night to make it on time to their next gig which was scheduled stupidly but he didn't care about that either.
The venue was packed, maybe because one of their openers was local and very well known, but the matter of the fact was that it stayed packed. Even after the main attraction, which stung to admit they weren't, were finished, people stayed to listen to them and didn't leave until their set was done. And after their set was done, and this was the part where Axel couldn't wipe the shit-eating grin off his face, they stuck around to buy their CD, to get a shirt, and tell say, 'Hey, you guys were good. We like you.'
Because it was one thing to perform. It was another to perform to people who like you, or to perform and make people like you.
He, and the rest of band, were in euphoria the rest of the ride from Tucson to San Diego. But unlike Demyx and Larxene, who were trying to get some hours of sleep in while their poor bassist was stuck driving, Axel was wide-awake, blood pumping too loudly in his ears to close his eyes.
Because when you had a great gig like that, you wanted to tell people, you wanted to phone home and gush about it and Axel was somewhat stunned when, shoving all of their equipment into their van, he thought, god, I can't wait to tell Rox about this.
It was like; he was happy, and then he had that thought and his chest just clenched horribly, a physical pain on his left side and his smile slipped from his face.
He'd sent four postcards, wanted to send twenty but thought that would be overkill. He didn't know if Demyx was right about Roxas, but he wanted to think so. He didn't know if they reached Roxas, but he like to think so. Axel didn't know if Roxas knew it was him but he like to think Roxas knew immediately, like some strange awareness. He didn't know he Roxas was throwing them away or not. And he didn't know if Roxas even cared at all.
He just had to hope that, against all odds,… that maybe things might work out.
The rumble of the engine and the road beneath him was keeping him awake, Axel told himself, sitting up. There was no way he'd get to sleep for at least awhile longer. The guitarist reached for his handy duffle bag, groping around blindly until he felt what he needed. His hand came out with a pen, a pad of paper and a flashlight he bought at a store a while ago. Usually inspiration struck him when he was sleep deprived and there were no outlets for a lamp so Axel had to make due.
The pen paused just before the paper as Axel had a moment of indecision before he just put down what he felt on the paper, his thoughts in dark ink on yellow line paper, scratching out something that felt real.
There's nothing left to say now and words kill more on average than knives and guns and love and they sure as hell do more damage, Axel wroteslowly and then faster, getting into the rhythm of it. But there's a lot I wanna say and I'm not sure if you give a fuck but I'm gonna say it anyway. Ok? Ok.
Just call me up again. I'd be fine to just be your friend. Just call me once again… the redhead paused, pen hovering right over the paper as he struggled with what to put. Your friend? Your lover? Soul mate? What was he to Roxas, at very least?
The rest of November passed quickly, taking Roxas's bruises with it. December came with its chills and winds, snow falling only two days into the month, falling to the ground with a thick blanket of white. In the first week, Roxas caught a cold, which he sort of thought was funny when anyone said that. 'Caught' a cold, like you could really catch the microscopic virus. That was a pretty funny thought or maybe it was just the Dayquil and other medication he was on speaking. It felt like a chore to even sit up.
But he had nothing else to do, stuck at home all day. He sure as hell wasn't gonna do the homework his mom got for him and Roxas didn't want to lay in bed and sleep all the time. He felt better than the day before so… the blond looked around, trying to figure out what to do, silence soothing instead of being overly loud. He spotted his computer and it looked awfully lonely sitting on his desk.
Roxas sniffed, blew his nose loudly for a moment, before making his way over.
The sick teen wasn't too sure what he was going do when he got there, pushing the power button and waiting with a blank face as it slowly started up. He sniffed again, wiping the back of his hand under his nose as the welcoming noise sounded and he logged in, tapping out a random tune as everything loaded up, head, which felt heavy and clogged up, propped up on his other hand.
Automatically, his messenger popped up, signing him in, and his music player also loaded. Roxas clicked his tongue thoughtfully before picking up and setting down papers that littered his desk, look for, "Aha!"
The green piece of paper with a outline of a person dancing on it made him smile amusedly but it was really the plastic card that cheered him up because he now fifteen digital dollars to spend on whatever music related good he wanted.
The albums that were recommended due too his taste didn't seem worth the 9.99 price value no matter what the site said and the new albums that came out and the top ten songs to the side all looked like crap. Jupiter hadn't made a new CD in years and he already had two of every one they had produced.
All of this left him still with $15.00 and nothing to spend it on. Roxas sniffed again, trying to think of any bands he liked. What was that one band he really liked? He wrote down somewhere…. Once again, Roxas lifted and moved the papers covering his desk space, searching for the piece of paper he scrawled the lyrics on hastily, squinting at his own skin to read the faded ink on his arm.
It was covered in green, blue, orange rings, left over from kool-aid spills but the words were readable enough so Roxas typed them into the search engine with a few clicktly-clacks and one final satisfied CLACK.
Several sites of the same thing popped up but Roxas didn't pay so much attention as to the results as he did the band name. THE NOCTURNAL CULPA, the very top site read, LOVELY ZOMBIES LYRICS.
Roxas nodded to himself, impressed and entered the artist name into the search bar in the iTunes store, excitement rolling in his stomach as he clicked the BUY button and watched as his money disappeared and the songs start to download. The album art pictured the band name in swirling letters printed on what appeared to be a dark, brick alleyway.
Given what little he knew about them and the meaning of their name he figured it was meant to be an innuendo. Which was pretty brilliant but kinda gross, Roxas thought, considering all things that happened in alleyways…. Roxas stropped thinking about it. Instead, he clicked on the one loaded song, instantly smiling as the singer's somewhat cocky voice filled his speakers.
With his measly five dollars now, Roxas had to call off his spending spree, now again without anything to do again. He blew his nose, throwing the tissue a close approximation to where his trash can resided, already filled to the brim with white tissues and went to go play video games.
He ended up liking the album so much he kept it on repeat for the next six hours.
It was a Saturday, just about seven days before Christmas. They just got out from school the day before, early since they only had three classes that day due to their finals. Uncharacteristically of late, Roxas was home, brooding. He wasn't sure why he was brooding but he had been since he woke up this morning and saw that it was snowing again. The teen moved to the window, saw the white landscape all around that blanketed houses, yards and the ice that encased the trees.
For some reason this made him very sad, deep throb in his chest at the sight. It sort of just hit him that it was winter. Winter.
It didn't feel like winter to him, it still felt like the summer sun coursed through his veins, like he still felt the heat on his back. His mind had still been in summer mode all this time even when it started to get colder and the leaves changed colors and fell off. Even when snow fell to the ground Roxas still felt like the sun should be shining and brilliant against a calm blue sky.
He still felt like he should be back in Sedona, kissing in the rain, in love, under the heat of the sun in a never-ending summer.
Roxas crumpled, face scrunching up as tears appeared from nowhere, sobs racking his body silently. It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair, why did it have to happen to him, why did the best of times have to fade into the past? Why did, just when things were happy and okay and just--- why did it all have to slip through his fingers? Why couldn't he just be happy? Why did Axel leave him… Why didn't he say anything on the postcards? Why doesn't he just come to me himself? The thoughts just spiraled from there, terrible thoughts of that day and what this meant or what that meant bloomed in his head and made him choke on his subdued cries.
Ten minutes later Roxas was red eyed, face blotchy but the clenched feeling in his chest was more or less gone and a numbness took over that made the teen lay back on his bed, looking up at the ceiling for the next hour, wondering if it was healthy to be this way, to keep holding on to what--to what he should maybe throw away. It's been months since they saw each other. How could things go back to normal when all that time passed? People change in five months, dramatically so…. Maybe it just wasn't worth it.
The Nocturnal Culpa had a perfect song for his thoughts right now, the perfect lyrics that summed up everything he felt. Forget It, I'm Done! was their title track and was so full of power it deserved to be. It was just so passionate, like Roxas could envision them thrashing on their instruments, could see the sweat glistening on them as they preformed their best for this song, honest emotion behind it. It made Roxas think I'm done too! I don't deserve this! I better than just sitting around, waiting.
Then the song ended and Meccas followed it up, the shear opposite than the one before it. Whereas Forget It, I'm Done! was angry….Meccas sounded more….hopeful, pleading. Like…please come home, please back to me. I didn't mean what I said before, I just want you home, I miss you.
From his spot on the bed, Roxas sighed, unsure of his feelings and what he should do or if he could do anything.
On one hand he wanted to just start sewing up his heart and on the other…on the other hand he couldn't help how his heart demanded he wait, wouldn't listen to reason and logic and just paid attention to the fact that the last postcard Axel sent had three words, I miss you.
For right now, Roxas decided, the singer almost desperate sounding as he sung Where did you go? Where did you go?, that those three words would just have to be enough for him right now. It would have to be.
It was January. January eighth, the first Friday back to school and Roxas was slowly making his way to class, early for once. He jolted when he felt a hand clap on his shoulder, taking out his ear bud, the singer from The Nocturnal Culpa becoming just a little tinny squeak. He was relieved to see it was just Pence grinning at him, not some mean teacher demanding he hand over his mp3 player.
Pence laughed at his thankful expression and gestured to his headphones. "Who's that? Anyone I know?"
"Actually, yeah. They're from that mix your cousin gave you, remember? The Nocturnal Culpa?"
"Oh! That one song you listened to on repeat the entire drive home?"
"Shut up. It's a good song."
The chubby brunette laughed, free and loud, causing several students to cast him a glance. "I'm just kidding. They're pretty okay. I like them but I only know that one song. Hey!" He exclaimed, face brightening in sudden revelation. "You should check to see if they're touring! If they come to the area, we could go see them. God knows I'm dying to see a concert."
Just as Roxas laughed in response, the minute bell rang and a worried look came over Pence's face. "Oh, shit! I gotta get to my class! Don't forget to look up concert dates okay?"
"Okay, I won't forget," Roxas promised, turning to walk into his classroom with a smile on his face. He hadn't thought about that before. TNC were probably awesome live, he sighed excitedly, he would kill to see them in concert. Hopefully they were touring….
The rest of the day was filled with The Nocturnal Culpa daydreams, Roxas fantasizing about meeting the band and getting their autographs and becoming friends and ohmygosh that would be so awesome.
The first thing on his mind when he got home was the band, all but kicking off his shoes and throwing his book bag off his shoulders to race up the steps. The computer couldn't have taken more time to load, Roxas rapping his fingers against his desk impatiently. He all but attacked his internet icon, clicking way too many time in his excitement and opening too many windows for his poor desktop to handle at once.
Excitement utterly pooled in his gut, making him smile to himself widely, even his clickity-clacking of the keys took on a frantic, nervous excitement. He really, really hoped they were touring. He wouldn't know what he would do with himself if they weren't. He typed the bands name into the first search engine he saw. The first result was a MySpace page and while Roxas deleted his account for a classier Facebook page, he clinked on the link anyway, desperate.
And fireworks went off in his head as the page loaded, taking more time than usual because the band must have had some serious background pictures, anxiety just killing him while the page took forever to load. While he waited, Roxas fished out his phone, prepared to either bare the bad news or announce touring dates close to home to Pence.
The whole process of taking out his phone from the pocket of his jeans was more difficult than it sounds because his phone was a little too big and his pants today were a little too tight. But it still only took all of twenty, in which the screen had completely loaded and Roxas eagerly took in the sight.
If fireworks were going off before, the celebration had been officially closed down due to a hail of growing confusion and disbelief, Roxas's mouth growing dry as he blinked, stunned, at the picture. It--how could--what?--it-- it was--
He was surrounded by people Roxas didn't know, in a place Roxas didn't recognize, holding a guitar for Christ's sake!,…but it was Axel. There was no denying the sharpness of his face, the bold red of his hair, or the surprised smile on his face, green, green eyes crinkling in the corners, a look Roxas used to feel his heart swell at and still did, sitting alone in his bedroom.
He was in the middle of the picture, almost dead center while two others, a wild-eyed girl and a calm, focused looking man to his right and the grinning face of another boy taking up most of the left half of the page. From their looks, Roxas quietly figured the picture was taken suddenly, spontaneously.
But then again, Roxas wasn't really focusing on the others, more caught up with the fact that it was Axel to really notice right away.
What was he doing? Why was he in the picture? How did he know these people? Who were these people in the first place? Where was he? What was going on?! Brows coming together and mouth dropping, he searched Axel's still face for answers, trying to find an explanation in his happy features.
The found the answer, not in Axel's face, but above him in swirling letters.
The Nocturnal Culpa.
"What?" The teen shook his head, face complete disbelief at the sheer impossibility of it all. It was….It was impossible! But no matter how hard Roxas stared at his face it didn't suddenly morph into someone else who just bared his likeliness. No, it was him, tattoos, gangly form and all.
Roxas scrolled down, coming to the band info and right there, right there!, was Axel's actual name. Axel Scott -- Guitar. He didn't even know Axel played the guitar…. The scrolled back up, leaning in close to peer at his face, for the first time in months looking at him. He looked good. Happy even.
He sat back in his chair…numbed. Roxas figured that, that when he found Axel it would be a little more… climatic. Like, they would be reunited in a flash of rainbows and sparkles or something. Certainly not stumbling across the man when looking up a band. Certainly not when he couldn't touch him, or talk to him, or do anything.
The postcards Axel sent were tacked to his United States map, drawing his attention and a suspicion-taking root. Roxas scrolled down, going down until he came across the heading TOUR DATES, which didn't give him as much excitement as he thought it would. It honestly didn't seem real at all.
Axel sent him a postcard from Salt Lake City. The band had a show there. He sent one from Dinosaur and Loveland in Colorado. The band had a show in Boulder and Denver in Colorado. Roxas had one from Phoenix and, well, whaddaya know, The Nocturnal Culpa played there too. The most recent Postcard he received was from San Francisco. The band was there just a few weeks ago.
Axel wasn't sending him cards of the places he traveled to; not really, he was sending his postcards of places he traveled through, of places he had gigs in. Axel wasn't traveling the country, alone; he was….in a band? With friends, it looked like? It was all so weird, completely irrational, never in a million years would Roxas have thought of this outcome.
Instead of phoning Pence like he was going to in the beginning, Roxas called the one person who was nuts enough to make sense of this whole thing.
"Get over here right now," Roxas stressed, cradling the phone in his hands while he gazed at Axel's smiling face. "You are not going to believe this."
The moment in which Sora stared at the computer screen, face totally blank as he scrolled up and down, were the most nerve wracking in his entire life, just sitting around waiting for his best friend to say the right words that would make the entire situation clear. When Sora did speak, it was slowly, as if he was piecing the words together as he said them.
"Um… I'm not… too sure… what I'm looking at here. Care to give me a hint?" Sora shrugged at Roxas's exasperated expression, giving him one of his own. "Well, what do you expect? You just drag me up here, not even telling me what's up and make me look at your computer. I mean, what? Do you have a virus? Or…do you really like this band? What?"
"It's Axel," Roxas groaned, placing his face in his hands. "It's Axel. In the picture."
Sora frowned, taken back, before looking back at the picture at the very top of the page. "The redhead?"
The brunette nodded several times, eyebrows shooting upward, impressed. "He's kinda hot."
Roxas shot a scathing glare toward the other boy. "Don't look at him like that! He's not some piece of meat!"
"I'm just sayin'! Ya know….You said he was cute but wow, he's cute."
The blond groaned. "Can we stay on topic, please? I don't think you get this. That's Axel. The Axel."
"No, I get it. He's that guy you had a thing with. I just don't see why it's such a big deal," Sora slowly said, one eyebrow raised like he was talking to an idiot. "I mean, congrats and all. This is awesome, you found him. Right?"
"No!" Roxas cried, eyes toward the sky. "This is terrible. I mean, I mean. Why wouldn't he have told me this? That's kind've something you tell people."
Sora clicked his tongue a few times, decidedly calm against Roxas's frantic attitude. He was silent, scrolling down the page and putting the pieces together. "Well… didn't you say he's from Boston?"
"Yeah," came Roxas's muffled voice. In his own exasperation, the teen flopped back on the bed, face first into a pillow. Sora decided not to remark about how he was acting and rolled his eyes instead.
"Well the band's from Boston. Maybe it's one of the things he left behind and it just… maybe he just didn't want to talk about it 'cause it hurt or something…." the brunette said and added, with a thoughtful frown. "Maybe that means he went back to Boston."
"But why would he go back to Boston?" Roxas asked, lifting himself up and turning to look at Sora with wide eyes because what the teen was saying actually made sense. "He hates it there."
"I don't know!" Sora huffed, tucking a piece of hair behind his ear. "I don't know the guy. But I bet it was because of you. Poor guy. To be hurt so much you'd want to go to the one place that made you want to leave in the first place. Probably didn't have many options. I know that if someone broke my heart I'd come running to you." He considered the picture thoughtfully. "Looks like that's what he did."
Slowly, Roxas rose to a sitting position, clutching his pillow to him, facing away from his friend. Everything Sora said…made sense. Why didn't he think of that? Axel had told him that he wanted to go home but was too afraid of what might have changed to actually do it. It would make sense for Axel to go home, if you thought about it that way. "…You think?"
"Well, he's there," Sora pointed out sarcastically. "He's in the band. From the looks of it, he's having a great time." Sora took a deep breath, worried look coming over his face as he spoke softly. "Hey… I know you two had a thing during the summer but… I just… I don't think it's good for you to continue freaking out over this. It's been months. He's moving on so…you should too," he suggested gently.
Roxas wouldn't have it, turning quickly to gape at him. "What? How--how could I? I mean, the postcards--"
"The postcards?" Sora echoed, confusion written over his face.
"Yeah the postcards! How can you even say that? If Axel was---was moving on why would he find me and, and send me postcards?" Roxas asked frantically but more to himself than to Sora. "If he wanted to move on why would he keep in touch with me? Why would he tell me he missed me? Why would he do that if he wanted to move on? Why would anyone do that?"
"Those postcards!" The blond pointed dramatically toward his map. "Those fucking postcards! Why would he send them?! Do you think he's leading me on?" Roxas was going into hysterics, having not even thought of that before but now that he had, Roxas couldn't get the thought out of his head. What if Axel was just leading him on? A big hotshot with his own band and friends and fans… was he just some groupie now? Did it count if he had met Axel before he was in the band? Or was he just one drop in the bucket? Surely, Axel had people throwing themselves on him all the time… was he just keeping in touch so when he got into town he could have a booty call? What a jerk!
While Roxas was freaking out, Sora had moving to go inspect the map, taking down the postcards and flipping them over, inspecting them with a keen eye and wincing, feeling like a dick. "Hey, buddy," the brunette looked over, saw Roxas was still staring at his carpet in despair. Sora looked back from the lopsided heart on the back of the postcard to the computer screen back to Roxas. "Uh."
"I just--" Roxas inhaled sharply and exhaled loudly. "I just really, really hoped that, that, you know? I figured--" he deflated, sighing and staring out his window. "I don't know what I figured."
"…How long have been getting these?" Sora asked quietly while Roxas's lip quivered and he sniffed loudly, wiping his nose.
"Since, like, October."
"October?! Ok, listen Rox," Sora started in, wide eyed, trying to fix this entire situation because he was stupid and Roxas was stupid and everybody was so fuckin' stupid to let it this out of hand. "First; you should have told me about all this in the beginning. I swear to god Rox! This is the sort of thing you tell your best friend."
"I knowwww," Roxas moaned, sounding small and fragile, clutching his pillow to him like it was his last lifeline.
"Second! Ohmygod! If someone sends you postcards of freakin' Loveland, Colorado, I think that means you're more than a summer fling, Rox! Ohmygod! This really is one of those romance novels!"
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"If someone goes out of their way to find the person who broke their heart and try to reach out and, and, put freaking a heart on the back," he waved the postcard back and forth pointedly. "I think that means he still really, really likes you, Roxas. I mean, I wouldn't try to find you if you did that to me!"
Roxas sniffed, looking at him with watery eyes, swallowing a lump in his throat as he said, hopefully, "You mean it?"
"Yeah! I would punch you the face before I would do this!" Sora sighed, pushing his hair back. "I'm sorry I said that, before. I didn't know he was doing this… I think, I think he really does miss you. If anything all this means he doesn't want to lose you, or something."
The blond wiped his eyes, taking a few calm breaths. That made sense…. "You think?"
"I don't know," Sora laughed, taking the few steps that brought him to where Roxas sat. "But, but I know that you really like him and I think he still really likes you, so, so, go see him!" A small, hopeful smile spread over Sora's lips. "Go see him when he comes to town. What better way to say 'I love you too' than to show up and actually say it to him? You have the chance now," he said, gesturing to the computer. "Just do it! Just go there and see him and then you'll know for sure if you two are meant to be, okay?"
A few more deep breaths and a few more moments passed of Roxas staring at his clenched hands. That sounded like a really good idea, right? "Y-yeah…yeah. Okay."
But then March came and though Axel was in Traverse, even though Sora told him again and again that he had to go, even though Olette said she would drag him there by his hair when he told her, even though Hayner quietly encouraged him, Roxas was sitting at home, looking at Axel's still, smiling face when 7:30 rolled by and the show began.
It wasn't that he didn't not want to see him, he did, he really, really did. But….it was scary. The prospect of seeing him was scary and overwhelming and made him freak out every time he thought about it.
What would he say? Roxas daydreamed about their meeting at least seven times a day. And in each of his daydreams he said something witty and Axel would kiss him and everything would be great and perfect and they would finally have that happy ending.
And then Roxas would remind himself that this was real life and he always got nervous during confrontations and he would probably ruin it before it even began.
So…Roxas just stayed home.
Concerts weren't that big of a deal, not really. It was just fun and felt like walking on clouds or something when the people in the audience screamed and sang along. It was fun and Axel was never really nervous about it, not really.
However, tonight he was a wreck, sweating even before they climbed onstage to open for a band they knew pretty well and liked. His heart was thrumming fast and his mouth was continually dry. He thought he was going to faint when he strapped on his guitar and would have if Demyx hadn't taken him to the side, given him some water and told him to get his head together, and he better fucking do it quick.
It wasn't that the venue was huge or that it was sold out. It wasn't that a journalist was there to write a review. It wasn't that they were doing a brand new song that Axel wrote. It wasn't that he got a haircut and thought it made him look stupid. He wasn't nervous because of any of those but they did contribute.
They were in Traverse.
Axel did his homework. He knew that Traverse was just an hour or two away, depending on where you came from, from Twilight Town.
Roxas lived in Twilight Town.
He also liked music.
Maybe, maybe, just maybe, he was here to see Jackie's Doll, a more popular band that fit in with Roxas's selective taste. Maybe he was here and Roxas would see Axel and Axel would see him and they would have a moment and then Roxas would just know.
The lights were bright but Axel could still see out to the audience of about three hundred people and he searched throughout the entire first song, looking for messy blond hair and blue eyes, perpetual pout on his lips. He searched through the breaks, though the next song and then the next.
After they preformed the new song, which everyone did perfectly, it was just how he wanted it to sound, Axel had to admit to himself that Roxas just wasn't there…
The next time The Nocturnal Culpa came to Traverse it was on June 12th. It coincided with the summer Struggle tournament.
This time around, Roxas didn't go about announcing they were coming to the area, in fact he didn't talk about it all. Instead, he just stared at the tour dates for days, mouse hovering just above the button to buy tickets.
In the end, he did end up going to Traverse.
For the Struggle tournament.
It was more important, Roxas told himself, and Hayner would be upset if he missed another one, and…. He just couldn't, he couldn't, not now, not yet.
Roxas spent the month of July in Sedona. The heat was almost welcoming now that he was better prepared. He did this and that at the motel, usually just sitting at the desk for a few hours. He hung out with Yuffie, went to dinners with his Dad and every moment that wasn't spent doing those previously mentioned three things, Roxas was walking around town with a camera he bought, taking pictures of places he liked and remembered from last year.
He wanted to find that place Axel always took him to go watch the sun set and to gaze up at the stars but he didn't remember too well and figured he would get lost before he would find it and end up dying of thirst.
Axel didn't magically appear and Roxas kicked himself for even entertaining the thought.
Senior year. Roxas let out a breath he didn't know he was holding, looking up at the school he spent most of his days in for the past three years. This would be his last year here and then he was a grown up. It seemed really silly to him but it was true.
This would be his last year and the thought freaked him out more than he thought he would. He still skateboarded a lot and he still spent too much time looking at the pictures The Nocturnal Culpa posted up (He missed his chance to them concert as they hadn't posted up any new dates in awhile) but now he had another thing to do; worry about his future.
What was he gonna do now? Was he going to college? What he would do when he got there? What would he major in? What was he going to do with his life? Last year he laughed when Riku talked about college, now he listened in earnest whenever he came by, soaked up as much advice as he could. Sora was going to Traverse U without a doubt. Pence was applying to local art schools and to those stationed across the country. Olette wasn't sure what she wanted to do but she figured she might as well go to college. Hayner… Hayner had been getting phone calls from Storm Rider. They wanted to 'talk' to him when he graduated.
All of his friends were focusing on their future and Roxas just stared at his computer all the time, listening to music he never saw live and waiting for postcards he pored over. The most recent one was from New York and it had a photo of the empire state building and a hand drawn gorilla on the top, roaring.
On the back was a large heart with the words iloveyouiloveyouiloveyou repeated over and over in the space inside. It made Roxas's own heart swell and he had no trouble admitting to himself he was falling in love all over again with a person on paper.
While Roxas was doing homework and skateboarding in his senior year, Axel and the band were in the recording studio for the months October to late Febuary, their producer Luxord doing everything he could to make it perfect. Because 13 Records was small and self-run by people who knew what they were doing, it wasn't about royalties and how many units they might sell, it was about the music and the fans and the band.
They didn't worry about getting on TV or in the hippest magazine to promote their music. Instead, they were going to tour constantly to spread the word by mouth. The only reason they were stopping now was because they wanted to make another CD, called, just like he and Demyx joked about in the beginning, Tales From the Modern Nomad.
And Axel loved it. Holding songs he poured his heart and soul into in his hand, in a little seven-inch CD, it was the most euphoric feeling he had ever had in his life. The entire CD read like a map if the two years he spent on the road, songs about being lonely, in love, hurt, rejected, they were him. He wasn't too proud to admit it, but quite a few were about a blond kid he met in a dusty little town in the south.
He wondered, late at night in his room in Demyx's apartment in Boston, if Roxas would like the CD. It wasn't anything like Jupiter's STARGAZING but maybe, just maybe, if he had it in his hands he would like it. And with that thought in the middle of the night, Axel shot up, more awake than he'd ever been.
The CD he had with all the new stuff didn't even have album art, no fancy design on the CD, it didn't even have their name on it but it had what mattered. The redhead scratched out on a piece of paper the track names and the name of the band.
He slipped on a pair of pants, CD in hand and went to go find the nearest post office, sure he was either doing the smartest thing yet or the stupidest, pulling down every wall and every protective barrier he had and left himself completely venerable with the act of putting a postage stamp on thick envelope.
Olette, Sora and Roxas were sitting on the floor of the latter's bedroom, all of them staring down a thick brown envelope package. The former two, Olette and Sora were exchanging worried, wide eyes looks while Roxas's never left the package, lip being brutalized as he chewed on it thoughtfully.
Olette kept raising her eyebrows and pointedly looking at him and Sora would glare back, raising his own eyebrows and looking at her pointedly. When she puckered her lips together, scrunching her face in warning, Sora spoke in a whisper. "What do you think is in there?"
Roxas glanced up briefly before looking back down. "I dunno…."
Sora exchanged another glance with Olette and this time she spoke. "Well, it's---it's from him, right?"
Roxas nodded, not even look at her as he let go of his lips and stared chewing on the inside of his cheek. "Yeah… Yeah, it has his name on it. Boston."
"So, so that means he definitely went back home. That's good," Sora ventured, trying to get a real response form his friend.
"Jesus Christ just open it!" Olette exclaimed, groaning. "You guys are such wimps, just do it, like ripping off a band-aid!" When Roxas just stared down at it more she sighed, frustrated and made to grab it. "Fine! I'll do it!"
Just as her hands touched it Roxas realized what she said and grabbed it too, resulting in a tug-of-war over the thick envelope. "No! It's mine, don't touch it! You're gonna rip it."
Undeterred, Olette pulled back, gritting her teeth as Roxas did the same, scowling, "That's the point, you idiot!
Sora sat back with wide, overwhelmed eyes, not saying anything.
"Just let go Olette!
"Just open it!"
"I'll open it when I want to ope--"
Both teens fell back harshly when the envelope ripped into two, both of them staring in horror at what happened.
"See! See what you did Olette! You should have just let go!"
"Let go? You could have let go!"
"I shouldn't have had to!"
"GUYS," Sora said loudly, holding both his hands up. The brunette girl and blond teen looked over to him, like they forgot he was there. "Who cares? It's open, problem solved."
Roxas breathed a few calming breaths, looking at the larger half of the package held in a tight grip in his hands. Something was wrapped up in foamy packaging paper. He extracted it slowly, both of his friends watching him intently as he started to unwrap it. Roxas exhaled a long, sad breath as he finished, eyes roaming the circular disk.
THe NoCTurNal CuLPa: TaLeS FrOM THe MODerN NOMaD, read at the top in messy letters, some lowercased and some not like it was done really, really fast. A piece of paper fluttered to the floor, catching his attention. His heart jumped, wondering if it was a real, actual letter.
But it wasn't.
When his eyebrows came together in confusion, Olette looked over his shoulder, reading it. Her own thin brows came together. "What is that? Is that….Is that a song listing?"
Roxas sounded breathless, looking at the disk with new eyes. "Yeah…"
Sora met his eyes, a smile starting to form on his lips. "He sent you his CD, Roxas."
The smile on the blonde's face could not have been wider and he spoke with unbridled affection in his voice, close to tears, to screaming, to laughing as loud as possible. "Yeah…Yeah, he did, didn't he?"
"What does that mean?" He asked them, tracing his finger over the mismatched letters; Axel's handwriting.
"Who knows," Olette said, smiling widely now as well. "But, I dunno, I think this is a definite, ya know, 'here I am'. He doesn't know you already know, I bet he thought that by doing this you would be able to find him or something. See him in concert or something."
"He wants you come see him Roxas," Sora said, conviction his words. "What else could it mean? All along he's been saying the same things. I love you, I love you, I miss you, I wish you were here, I'm sorry, I forgive you, Roxas this is your chance."
It was, wasn't it? Axel had jumped the barrier between them, was metaphorically reaching out to him, hand outstretched and just waiting for Roxas to do the same.
Axel had done and said everything he could, everything that mattered.
Now all Roxas had to do was get over himself, to do the same even though it was scary and made Goosebumps appear all over his skin and made his gut clench to terribly at the mere thought of it.
Because he was in real life and things like this never happen to people like him, successful conclusions weren't given out ever, and even though you thought it might work, it never would. It couldn't. Even though Roxas wanted no one else but a really tall redhead who had a cool car and nothing but hope and love the actually possibility that it would all work out in the end was zilch.
And getting your heart broke happened all the time.
…But. It was okay to hope a little bit, right? He could hope just a tiny little bit, right?
Axel Scott grew up in Boston. It was his home, more or less. Even though since he came back to the city he hadn't gone home home, Axel felt like he was home, that this was home again and he had a place where he was wanted, needed. He liked meeting new people, enjoyed listening to them go on and on about their new CD, about how much they liked it. He loved touring around the tri-state area and he loved spending time with his friends probably more than anything.
It was May and the signs of summer were everywhere. The bright sun, flowers, birds signing, the collective sigh of every school age person. The grass was a healthy green, fluffy white clouds interrupting the wide expanse of blue. The stars were brighter now.
Summer found Axel with his duffle bag packed, keys in hand.
Yeah, he loved Boston. But… he had somewhere else he needed to be.
This was it, Roxas thought, dressed in a dark gown and a cap on, as he watched his classmates walk across the stage, everyone clapping as their names were called. He watched as Olette's name was called and knew that soon his would be too.
But standing up there, in his best dress shoes and his hair combed as best as he could get it, it didn't seem real. Did he really just graduate high school? Was he really being handed his diploma and shaking his principle's hand? Was it all really over?
Roxas sat back down and watched as all of his friends were called up as well, something akin to shock in his bones.
High school was over.
He couldn't believe it. Just when he thought he'd have to walk those halls forever, listen to his teachers drone on and on until the end of time. He figured he would be ecstatic about it really being over. But… he was kinda sad. This would be the last time he would see most these faces, probably. He would never make any more memories with them, or share a joke with them.
It was really over, just as the last person was called up and they were given words of encouragement for their futures and everyone pulled off their caps and threw them upward, laughing. Roxas kept his in his hands, feeling the tassel and the sharp edges.
His parents took him out to dinner, and his Dad said how proud of him he was, and his Mom and Fynn echoed him. Roxas started to think that graduating was a good thing from the way they kept smiling at him. After he was too full, Roxas was granted permission to go to Sora's.
"I can't believe it," Sora said, both of them sitting on his roof under the darkening sky.
"It feels just like yesterday I was walking through those big doors for the first time. God, what am I gonna do with my time?" Sora laughed. "There's so many hours in the day now. Gosh, I never thought that thought would be scary but it is."
"Right?" Roxas lay back, looking up at the bright moon and tiny, tiny twinkling stars around it. "I never thought this day would actually come. Now I have to figure out what I'm gonna do with my life. I just wanna live in my room for the rest of my life," he whined, laughing. "Wouldn't that be the life?"
Sora snorted. "Not me. When I get out of here, I'm getting out of here. I'm never gonna come back." Roxas nodded thoughtfully.
"What are you gonna do?"
The brunette shrugged, leaning back on his hands, legs shooting straight out. "I dunno. I wouldn't mind just getting out of this town, ya know? See some other place for once. I'm tired of this place."
"Maybe…" Roxas licked his lips, thinking. "Maybe, before I officially become an 'adult', maybe I could… you know, go around. See places like you said."
Sora was quiet for a while, thinking. "…Like Axel did?"
"Yeah… I think I would like to see some places," Roxas elaborated. "Just see things not everyone sees. It's one thing to have a postcard and another to actually go there, see it with your own eyes, touch it." It sounded like a good plan to him, it sounded like an adventure and exciting.
Sora chewed on his words before he said them, bringing up a topic that was well discussed over the past few months, ever since Roxas got that CD in the mail. "Are you… Would you stop in Boston?" He was implying, of course, if Roxas would finally find Axel now that he had no excuses not to. Roxas was stalling, insecurities and worries keeping him from putting even one foot forward.
Roxas cocked his head, considering the stars while he thought about it. It had been almost two years now. A lot could change in two years…. But what did he have left to lose? "…Maybe. I might make a stop there."
Sora nodded, smiling softly to himself since he figured that it was as close to a yes as he was ever going to get. "…Well," he said, meeting Roxas's eyes. "Make sure you send me a postcard."
It was the morning after he walked across the stage, when he awoke to the bright light coming through his window he was officially not a high school student anymore. It was weird as hell, knowing he'd never have any reason go back to that place again. For a long moment, Roxas just stared up at his ceiling, the only reason to get up today being hanging out with his friends later. He sighed deeply, calm, the anxiety of yesterday gone with the day itself.
He took his first shower as a non-high school student, brushed his teeth and combed his hair, thinking 'I'm not a high school student anymore'. He got dressed for the first time being a non-highschool-er. Ate a breakfast slowly, knowing he didn't have to rush to get to school on time anymore. Soon he would be going to hang out with his non-high school-er friends.
"Roxas!" His mother called as she came down the stairs, putting on her earrings. "Go grab the mail for me would you? I have to get to my students graduations in pretty soon."
While Roxas really wanted to tell her he was not a high schooler and didn't have to do that anymore, he kept his mouth closed. Though he did remark as he stepped out the door about how strange it was kindergarteners needed a graduation ceremony in order to make the transition to being a first grader.
The sun was shining brightly, the birds were twittering in the trees, and the lawn looked like it needed mowing. What was usually a terrible observation, because he always had to mow the lawn, actually made him happy, to know that he had the time to mow the lawn and still be able to have enough time left to do whatever he wanted.
Roxas wasn't wearing shoes or real clothes, preferring to just slip on his gym shorts and a shirt he usually used for sleeping in. This is what people who didn't need to go to school wear, he thought, proud he fit into the category now. He stayed in the grass area of the lawn as he approached the mailbox, keeping away from pebbles and the like that would embed themselves in his feet.
Roxas clicked his tongue slightly as he extracted the numerous envelopes and the magazines they received from the mailman earlier in the day, taking his time going through them since, well, didn't have to go to school and could take his time. Bills, bills, Mom, Fynn, magazine, bills, Roxas smile widely as he uncovered the next article, me.
The postcard this time read on the front 'Wish you were here' and then 'BOSTON'. Roxas smile dampened a little. He'd never gotten one from Boston before. Axel lived in Boston. Maybe this time he actually said something on the back, like 'hey, how are you? I miss you, come visit me at blank blank blank. I would really like to see you'.
But, as usual, there was no message on the back.
But what was on the back made Roxas furrow his eyebrows together, wrinkles developing in his brow as he tried to figure it out. It was…it was….
But not just any car, oh no. It was a very well kept 1962 Cadillac Eldorado, painted a shiny black with leather seats and a cloth top and ran exceptionally well, engine that purred like a kitten. Definitely 'not a piece of shit'. A picture of a black 1962 Cadillac Eldorado that was decidedly not a piece of shit was taped to the back of the postcard from Boston from Axel.
Confused, he looked at the picture some more, trying to figure out if there was indeed anything to figure out. The top was down, the car vacant, it looked like a bag or something was in the back seat. But where was it taken? He squinted at it, seeing a house behind it, very suburban style, modern with a paved driveway….light blue shutters…brick stairs leading up to the door. Dark green lawn that needed mowing.
That's my house!
Roxas looked up, comparing the real thing to the photograph, and there was no way it someone else's house. It was his, no doubt about that. What was Axel doing with a picture of his house? What was Axel's car---
Blue eyes shot up to the surrounding houses of the cul-de-sac, wide because, because! The grass tickled his feet as he turned full circle, searching for a black car, a person with bright red hair and--
Green, green eyes that looked like they could see into his soul, read his mind without even trying. Angular face, powerful jaw line and tattoos forever sitting under his eyes, small smile pulling on his lips as he leaned against the trunk of his car.
The mail fluttered to the grass as Roxas's hands forgot how to hold onto them, as he stared wide-eyed and mouth slack at Axel in his plain white t-shirt and simple dark jeans staring at him. The tall man licked his lips nervously and took a step forward, becoming closer to the teen than he had in almost two years.
For Roxas it was overwhelming, too overwhelming and he was confused and wasn't sure what this meant and what did it mean? He took a step back, shaking his head and clenching his eyes closed. No way, no way. His hair didn't look good and he didn't have deodorant on and he was wearing his gym shorts and the shirt he wore to bed! He wasn't ready for this!
When he stopped freaking out and opened his eyes, peaking out under his bangs, Axel was in the same place was before, only one step forward. But his face was pulled into a shocked expression, taken back, something like desperation behind his wide eyes as his mouth opened and closed.
Axel stumbled over his words, looking away from the blond and to the sidewalk a he stepped backward, retaking the step he gained. "I--I-- God, I-- I'm sorry," he whispered, choking on his own ragged breath. "I'm sorry-- I won't--" he inhaled a breath sharply, turning away quickly, walking briskly toward the front of the car.
Roxas's heart was beating erratically, adrenaline making everything go fast. Axel was leaving, Axel was leaving. He couldn't leave, he just got here and Roxas had a lot to say, about how much he missed him, how much he loved the CD the older man sent him, about he cried when he listened to Summer Boy, about how he loved Into the Mountains With You, about how many times he thought about going to him but just couldn't bring himself to.
"I kept every single one of your postcards!" he blurted loudly, breathing shallow. Axel stopped walking away but didn't turn to look at him. "I kept everything you touched," Roxas laughed breathily and sort of felt like he was pleading. "I've thought about you every single day. I am so sorry Axel. I shouldn't have said those things I--"
"Was freaking about going home?" Axel asked quietly, back still turned to the teen but his head was angled toward him slightly.
Roxas felt like he wanted to cry, just hearing his voice. "Yeah," he choked out. "Yeah."
Another moment passed in which Roxas really thought Axel was going to get into his car and leave. However, it passed and slowly Axel turned, looking at the ground before his bright green eyes shot up to Roxas's blue and held them, looking at him for a long drawn out moment.
The sun shined, the birds chirped and Axel spoke, voice thick, "It's okay. I forgave you a long while ago. I love you, you know?"
The sidewalk was riddled with sticks and stones that hurt his feet as he crossed the distance between him and Axel, barely a foot away and closer that he'd ever been in two years. Axel was close enough to touch so Roxas reached out and touched his face, thumb rubbing over his tattoo for a moment.
He had the greenest eyes and for once Roxas thought he could see into Axel, could see what he was thinking, worrying, what he thought when Roxas took that step back, how long Axel had wanted to be with him, how he sometimes thought it was never going to happen, how he sometimes thought that the teen didn't want him at all, how much Axel just wanted to kiss him.
It wasn't perfect but it was Axel's lips and it was his lips and they were touching like how they used to touch. Axel's hands on his hips were a comforting weight, proof that he was really there. It wasn't rain pouring down on them but warm sunshine. While it wasn't two years ago but in the present, Roxas felt very much the same he did then except for this time, he said the words that he thought when they broke apart, breathless even though it was such an innocent, simple kiss.
"I love you."
And Axel pulled him forward again, crushed his lips against his again like he needed it as much as he did air in his lungs, holding him like he would never let go. And Roxas's actions matched his.
The sunset behind the Brooklyn Bridge made the city shine and Roxas let out a whisper of amazement at the wonder of it all. It wasn't just that the sunset was pretty but how it made everything look better, more welcoming and friendly than intimidating as he always thought New York as.
Beside him, Axel grinned, eyes crinkling behind his huge sunglasses and his red hair moving slightly in the breeze that only faintly smelled of smog. The radio was on, some song that faded into the background of their life. "How do you like it?
"I love it," Roxas answered truthfully. But he loved everything they've seen so far so it wasn't exactly saying much.
Axel himself looked at the sunset, having not much else to do as they were stuck behind a mile of unmoving cars. "Yeah, yeah, it's pretty spectacular, isn't it?"
The blond looked away from the brilliant colors and looked at Axel instead, smiling as he laid his head on the seat. "Yeah. Pretty spectacular. I'm pretty lucky." Axel looked over, mouth open as if he had something to say but forgot as he noticed how Roxas was looking at him. He smiled shyly, laughing as he realized what Roxas said.
"Yeah, " he whispered lowly as he leaned over, face coming closer and closer to him. "You're, uh, you're pretty goddamn lucky if I do say so myself." Roxas closed his eyes, moved to meet him in the middle, and would have but--
Hey, there Delilah, what's it like in New York City? I'm a thousand miles away but girl, tonight you look so pretty, yes, you do.
Axel gasped, eyes widening comically behind his sunglasses, turning to gape at the stereo. "I love this song, Roxas!"
In a quick movement, Roxas hit the button on the stereo, effectively turning off the distraction, and slid the distance between them, hands holding Axel's surprised face as he pressed their lips together forcefully; putting all the passion he could into the short, simple kiss. When they broke apart, Roxas remained close, looking into Axel's eyes even though they were hidden by those atrocious sunglasses and kissed him again in the middle of traffic, hundreds around them, possibly watching and sneering or whatever they did.
He didn't care, not about them, not about what they thought, he just cared that he had three months of this, sunshine on his skin and Axel's lips against his. Roxas had three months of touring the country with Axel, of meeting his friends and Axel meeting his friends and watching him play and being with him constantly.
Roxas had three months of an everlasting summer with the only person he wanted to spend it with before he had to start college in Boston.
Back in July at the very beginning when I first posted this I said that it was going to be four chapters and 12,000 words at best. At the end Summer Boy has 15 chapters and over 140,000 words. Needless to say I outdid my expectations, created something I poured my heart into, made something I am so proud of, typos, grammar errors and all. During this I learned that no matter what you never make the deadlines you set for yourself and that you should never do two stories at the same time because one will get less love. Summer Boy was not the one with less love. This was my baby and I terribly sad to see that its done. DONE. I don't know what i'm going to do with myself from now on. I'm going to miss this terribly, going to miss everyone who ever reviewed, going to miss writing it and attempting to edit it and the world I made. I'm such a sap, you really don't need to read this, I'm just blubbering now.
I made a playlist to go with this as I said before, since it's very musically inspired and the link is up in my profile. The Nocturnal Culpa in my mind was meant to mean 'The guilt of the night' and was inspired by the Felix Culpa, Empires, Manchester Orchestra, and The Dear Hunter. Jupiter, Roxas's favorite band, was inspired by my favorite band Something Corporate and I too own two of every CD they made, (expect for Songs for Silent Movies which was released in Japan only and cost an arm and leg) and they sadly don't produce any more music but are getting back together for the next bamboozle concert in California which I can not go to. ANYWAY. yeah. Songs from this chapter include Anti-Anti by Snowden, Hey There Delilah by Plain White Tees. Jackie's Doll is what I sometimes call Jack's Mannequin, another band that I ADORE. (singer from Something Corporate is the singer in Jacks Mannequin) and Lovely Zombies and Summer boy by The NOcturnal Culpa which is a made up band.
The story was always named after that song. Always. at the beginning it was an angry/pleading song and then it became an purely angry song and just recently I realized that would not do. Summer Boy HAD to be a love song. It could be no other way. The story could end no other way, either. I always wanted it to end like this, purely because I am a closet romantic and think that love is always within your grasp, you just have to reach for it. Hope, hope, hope and one day things will work out.
I AM SO SORRY I DID NOT REPLY TO YOUR REVIEWS. I know I asked for some reviews to get 150 but actually receiving them blew my mind. And kinda freaked me out a little, ahaha. but nevertheless THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who read this, to people who've been with me since July, to those of you who are just reading this now. Thank you so much. I say this all the time but really, without you Summber Boy would have been four chapters and 12,000 words long. really, thank you.
For those of you who like this, I'm going to write a oneshot next of axel/roxas which will be entirely different and just a little longer than the length of this chapter. short, right? ahahh. But yeah. There's a summary of it in my profile along with the rest of the line up. OH GOD this authors note is LONG. I gotta stop blabbering. I'll leave you to it. I'll see you (?) in a month when (22) comes out.
Please, please, please review! :] Imma miss you guys.