The first thing Roxas was aware of was pain. His whole body seemed to ache. It reminded him vaguely of the time he'd had a very bad fever and he coughed, feeling his throat stinging and painful.
"Hey?" Something blocked out the light above him, and Roxas coughed again as he slowly opened his eyes, blinking up at the dark blurry shape above him. "You're alive! How are you feeling?"
"Water." Roxas managed to croak out, then blinked as a wet cloth was pressed to his lips. He sucked on it, trying to get as much water out of it as he could, and squinted as his vision began to resolve. "…" It was that annoying redhead, the one that had been sitting beside him on the plane and chatting constantly.
Wait. The plane?
"Oh my god." Roxas tried to sit up and groaned as pain bounced through his head. Then strong arms were around him, helping him up and propping him against a tree. "Where-where's the plane?"
"Out there a couple miles." The man beside him gestured towards the sea and Roxas felt his breath coming short. He had to be kidding. Didn't he? Roxas blinked and glanced around, trying to understand what was happening.
They were on an island. Roxas wasn't sure how big it was, but it was at least a fair size and looked very flat. He was sitting beneath the shade of several tropical trees, including coconut trees. The beach was beautiful and if the situation had been different, he would have been looking forward to wading into the ocean and having a really good time. Roxas turned his attention to the man beside him, and met concerned green eyes in a grimy, bruised face. Roxas remembered how handsome and well dressed the man had been on the plane. His dress shirt was in rags now, torn at the hem to make bandages and Roxas winced, reaching up to touch the cloth wound around his head. It was crusty with dried blood.
"Axel, right?" Roxas hadn't been paying much attention when the man introduced himself, lost in his own thoughts, but it came back now. Axel nodded.
"And you're Roxas. I wasn't sure you were going to wake up." Roxas swallowed and glanced over the ocean. Axel seemed to sense what he was going to ask next. "There was a storm and the plane went down. I have no idea why, but I think there were some other survivors. None made it here though. I'm a really good, strong swimmer but I barely made it. It was dumb luck I went in this direction, too, I could have ended up swimming further out to sea and we would have drowned for certain."
"You towed me here in a storm?" Roxas didn't know whether to be appalled or impressed. He couldn't imagine doing something like that for a stranger. But then, several miles of swimming while carrying a dead weight would have been just impossible for him. Axel grinned tiredly, and Roxas suddenly realized that the dark circles under his eyes weren't bruises. He looked almost exhausted under the dirt.
"Did more than that. I got us water, after a fashion." He pointed into the forest and Roxas followed his motion, blinking as he saw a hole that had been dug into the ground. "I could tell there was a bit of seepage so I dug until I started getting water. It tastes like shit, but we can drink it. For a while anyway. We need something better and some food-"
"I think you need to rest." Roxas said firmly, gripping the redhead's arm as he started to move. There was a moment of resistance before Axel sat down beside him heavily.
"Yeah." He admitted, rubbing his face for a moment and smearing the dirt. Now Roxas understood where that had come from… digging for water must have been a backbreaking, messy business. Had he done it with his hands? Surely not. "I think it's been maybe eight hours and I haven't slept more than an hour or two. The storm only broke a couple hours ago."
"I'm glad you saved my life, but you talk too much." Roxas said briskly, surprising a laugh out of the redhead. "Try to get some sleep before you fall over." And if Axel pushed himself too hard, the redhead might get sick and that wouldn't help either of them. Roxas swallowed at the thought. On the plane, red had been a nuisance but with just the two of them on what might be a deserted island… well, Roxas didn't want to be alone. And Axel had risked his life to save him. The redhead dying now of something like pneumonia would just be too ironic. Axel nodded with a small smile.
"Sure Roxy." Roxas flinched at that nickname but Axel didn't notice, trying to make himself comfortable on the hard ground. The beach would have been more comfortable, but without any shade sleeping there would be asking for a wicked burn. It didn't take long for Axel to doze off, though, and Roxas grinned as the redhead began to snore softly. Pushing himself shakily to his feet, the blonde winced at the pain in his head but began to explore.
Some food would be really good. Roxas winced as his stomach felt like it was cramping, and licked his lips. More water would be good too, he'd have to see what he could get out of that hole of Axel's. But maybe there was some food here. Walking along the edge of the beach, he saw several coconuts on the ground. But how to get into them? At home, his father had used a nail and a hammer to open them. He didn't have either. On the other hand, it wasn't like a hammer was a complicated tool. Gathering up a couple coconuts, he searched through the woods for a suitable rock. Finding one, he pounded it against the coconut a few times. The nut shattered messily and Roxas grimaced as he saw water go flying. He would have liked to drink that. He still managed to get some of it, caught on the shards and winced at the sour taste but drank it anyway. Picking up one of the smaller pieces, he chewed the meat off the hard exterior. That wasn't so hard. I should bring some of this back to Axel. He gathered up the broken pieces of the nut and carried them back to where the redhead was sleeping. Roxas knawed on the pieces for a while, wishing for a knife to remove the meat from the larger sections of nut, then slowly dozed off.
It had been a very long day.
"Hey Roxas." The blonde shivered as a large hand touched his shoulder, waking with a start and a gasp. For a moment he was frozen in fear before he registered that the hand wasn't the same as the one he dreaded, and he was lying on dirt rather than blankets. "Feeling better?" Roxas looked up into concerned green eyes and swallowed before nodding. "Thanks for the coconut, by the way." Roxas glanced over at the nut and was surprised to see that the white, edible part had been peeled away from the hard shell and placed on a 'bowl' of leaves.
"How did you do that?" Roxas asked, and Axel grinned and pulled out a pocket knife. "Oh! That's helpful." Roxas grabbed a piece of the remaining coconut, and Axel took a chunk as well. Roxas suspected the redhead was very hungry, but hadn't wanted to eat the entire nut before he woke up.
"Yeah. Better yet, I smoke sometimes and I've got a full lighter on me." Axel wasn't a serious smoker and he'd run out of cigarettes some time ago, but the lighter would be very helpful for starting a fire. "But we have to find some better water, this is drying up." Roxas glanced down into the hole and winced as he saw Axel was right. "I think the underground water was swollen from the rain."
"Ah." That made sense but might mean that even if they kept digging finding water here might eventually become impossible. Axel stood, brushing the dirt off his pants and Roxas followed him into the bush. Axel was frowning as he glanced around and Roxas wondered what he was noticing that he didn't like. It all looked like tropical brush to him, but then, he'd never paid much attention to plants before. Nature hikes had never been his thing.
"Hmm." Axel paused to examine some tracks as Roxas looked at them blankly. "This island must be fairly large. There are pigs and goats here." That made him blink and look at the tracks more closely. It all looked like a mess to him. "This could be a problem."
"A problem? Why? Can't we eat them?" Roxas thought it would be easy to catch a pig. Axel grinned at him.
"You've never seen a wild pig, I'm guessing. We don't have a gun and I like living, so if we stumble over one of those I'm heading up a tree while you kill it." The blonde glowered and Axel thought it made him look very cute. Although that wasn't a great thing to think about – how old was the kid, anyway? Axel realized he didn't have a clue. He pegged the kid at maybe twelve but something about him seemed older.
"You're scared of a pig?" Axel shook his head at the naivety behind that remark and replied patiently.
"I take it you've never read classical literature. One of the labors of Hercules was to capture a wild boar and bring it back to the king alive. Granted, that was a monster pig but the fact is that wild pigs are not for sissies. They can and will kill you if they get a chance and we don't have any weapons. Seriously, if we see one climb up a tree." Roxas looked a touch grumpy at the thought of running from a pig. "Now, the goats are another matter, but first we need some water." They were both getting thirsty already. Roxas nodded.
They were both beginning to despair when they finally found it. It was a ruin that had once, perhaps, been a village. It was hard to tell but the one thing that was still intact was the well. There was even a bucket, although it was old and not particularly watertight at all. Still, along with a rope made from the remains of Axel's shirt it was fresh water.
"Hmm, I think my shirt is now totally cashed out." Roxas laughed as Axel stripped away the remains of the expensive dress shirt. "Mom is going to be so upset, she got me that for Christmas."
"If we make it out alive, I doubt she'll care. Do you think we should stay here?" Axel glanced around thoughtfully at the remains of bricks.
"Ye-eess, I think so." Axel seemed dubious, though, and Roxas looked at him questioningly. "The problem is we'd be a lot more visible to any searchers on the beach. But it's really exposed. This place would be better to ride out any storms." Although the whole island was very flat. That worried Axel a bit. But the pigs and goats survived, so even the worst tropical storm wasn't likely to kill them. He hoped.
"Maybe we could stay here for the night and go to the beach during the day." Roxas suggested and Axel looked thoughtful.
"Not a bad idea. If we set up a big fire on the beach, it would burn through most of the night." Fire was going to be the easiest way to signal their presence to any possible rescuers. "See if you can find more coconuts or anything edible, I'll try to get a fire going." Roxas nodded, taking the older man's orders easily. Axel seemed to know what he was doing and he was older, so it felt completely natural. He searched some time but most of the coconuts here seemed to be green and stuck firmly to the trees. He did find something else though.
"Hey Axel? Are these edible?" He asked as he carried several yellowish fruits back into the ruins, and blinked. Axel had a good fire started and was carefully clearing the area around it, although there wasn't much to burn really. "Wow, that was fast!"
"I found some good, dry twigs and the lighter really helped." Axel grimaced slightly. "I'd hate to try lighting a fire without it. We need to be careful not to let this go out if we can avoid it." That made putting up shelter rather important, to keep the fire active. Axel's lighter would run out if they had to make too many fires and he wasn't putting any money on his odds of success at making fires by hand. "What have you got – papaya!" Axel looked very pleased as he carefully took one of the fruits and pressed on it. "They look ripe too. Were there any more?" Two fruits wouldn't be enough for a good meal, the way he felt right now. Roxas nodded.
"Lots. Follow me." He led Axel back to the little tree he had found, and they both picked off the ripe papaya, Axel showing Roxas how to identify the ripe ones. "You know a lot about fruit." It seemed a little odd for… what did Axel do? Roxas knew the redhead had told him on the plane, but he couldn't remember. But it hadn't involved fruit. Axel grinned.
"Yeah, I've been living in Hawaii for the past year. I always loved those little farmers markets with a ton of fruit for sale, I learned about the different types. I can probably pick out anything edible. I can certainly recognize stuff like breadfruit." Axel sounded very confident and suddenly, Roxas felt… he wasn't sure how he felt. Almost incompetent. He'd lived on Hawaii half his life, really, but his father had never taken him to any farmer's markets and he hadn't cared about the fruits. Roxas helped carry the fruits back to their little camp and Axel set to cutting them up as he watched, wishing he had a pocket knife as well. "Here you go." Axel passed him a Papaya that he'd sliced into quarters and removed the seeds from. Roxas look it carefully then bit into the smooth, sweet flesh of the fruit.
"Thanks." Axel smiled and started on his own fruit. They ate in silence for a while, and soon Axel was cutting up some more fruit. There was no reason not to eat until they were full, and every reason why they should. "Axel, tell me about yourself." Roxas suddenly said, and Axel blinked.
"Huh? What do you want to know?" Axel scratched his ear, then ate some more papaya before feeding a log into the fire. It was starting to get dark out and a touch chilly, so the fire was more than welcome. Roxas frowned.
"Just… anything. Tell me anything about yourself." He wasn't sure why he was asking, but it was an irritation, knowing that Axel had told him so much in the plane and he just couldn't remember any of it. Axel shrugged then grinned.
"Well! I was conceived in Okinawa, Japan." Axel said lightly and Roxas winced.
"You… don't have to go THAT far back." It was more information thane he really wanted. Axel laughed.
"But it's a good story! You sure you don't want to hear the story of my conception?" Roxas gave him an 'I am not amused' look. "Okay, okay. Well, it is somewhat pertinent in a different way. My parents met in Okinawa. My mom was an English teacher for Japanese kids and my dad was in the marines." Axel took another bite of his papaya before continuing. "Mom's Canadian, so I have dual citizenship. Which mostly means it's easy to take jobs up in Canada if I want. Anyway, they made me, finally got married after a long and interesting courtship and mom followed dad around the globe. I've lived in the most amazing places." Axel smiled again, this time sadly. "Dad died three years ago on a mission."
"Oh. I'm sorry." Roxas muttered, looking down at the fruit in his hands. But really, he felt almost resentful although he throttled the feeling quickly. It wasn't Axel's fault that he had a father he'd loved and cared for while Roxas – he yanked his thoughts away from that. There was no point in dwelling on it. Axel shook his head.
"It was a while ago. I'm over it, although I'll always miss him. Anyway. I'm a freelance photographer now, mostly doing weddings although I do work for magazines too." Axel smiled and his eyes were warm and happy. "I love photography, it's my passion. I started when I was just a kid."
"You're lucky. I don't know what I want to do when I finish school." That question had been haunting Roxas for a while. He was sure he wasn't going to university. His grades weren't very good and besides that, how could he get the money? His parents made too much for him to get a loan but there was no chance at all they would give him any kind of help. He was okay at writing but lacked the dedication to write a real book. Axel laughed.
"I'm sure you'll find something good. You seem like a smart kid." Roxas bridled a bit at that. Who was Axel calling a kid?
"I'm fourteen." He snapped, and regretted it as Axel smiled.
"Well, turn about is fair play. Tell me a bit about yourself." Roxas winced, but he'd been asking for that.
"My parents are divorced." He stated flatly. "Mom and my step-dad live in Baton Rouge and my dad lives in Hawaii. I go to visit him every year for summer but this year he got a girlfriend who doesn't want me around, so I got sent home early. I've run away from home a lot and my grades are shit. Anything else you'd like to know?" Axel looked started and Roxas almost felt bad, laying his family situation onto him like that.
"Uh… favorite fast food place?" Roxas blinked, then laughed, suddenly cheered a bit.
"Hmm." He had to give that some serious thought. "Subway, I think. You?"
"Oh, Burger King all the way. Nothing better than a good, char-broiled burger." Axel said solemnly and Roxas laughed again. "And have you checked out that Flame cologne thing they came out with? The website is just wrong, I love it."
"Really? You'll have to show me if we get out of here." It sounded fascinating. Axel considered it with a grin.
"I dunno, would the sight of the Burger King in a bubble bath making come hither gestures scar you mentally?" Roxas winced at the mental image.
"I might have to poke out my eyes. I think I'll skip it." Axel laughed again and they chatted for a while by the light of the fire. Roxas learned that Axel was twenty and had decided to leave Hawaii for a more vibrant scene in Vancouver, Canada where his mother was living. Although it might actually hurt his business a bit, a lot of tourists came to Hawaii to get married and needed photographers.
"It will be worth it to be with my mom, though." Axel confided in Roxas. "She's the best, really. I mean she can be a bit of a bitch and I'd never want to live with her now that I'm an adult, but she's still pretty cool." Roxas nodded but couldn't help but feel a pang. He wouldn't care if his own mother died tomorrow. "Well, I'm tired." Axel carefully fed several logs into the fire. "That should keep it 'till morning. Good night, Roxas."
"Good night Axel." Roxas watched as the redhead tried to make himself comfortable on the hard ground, then sighed and tried to do the same. He knew it wouldn't be easy to sleep well on nothing but dirt, but he had to try.
Tomorrow would be a long day.