A/N: Hello, peeps! Well, the Christmas fic I've insisted on bringing up every so often is finally here. Woooooooot, Christmas is one of my favorite times of year! It's great, it's glorious--it's, well, let's cut to the first chapter. This was originally thought up of as a dark comedy (though you will see it gets considerably lighter after the first chapter), so that's why chapter one might not be the happiest chapter in the world. Then again, I love Christmas too much to make any darkness out of the fic. After all, well, it's about family and all that good stuff.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything mentioned in this fic, especially NOT major corporations such as Wal-Mart.
Chapter 1: Not Home for the Holidays
A tall redhead waved goodbye to one of his friends as he left the Wal-Mart building, his shift over for the day. He knew Christmas was two weeks away, much to his bitterness. He had no family in his eyes, for they had treated him deplorably. So, if one of the most important ingredients in the perfect Christmas was family, then Axel severely lacked true happiness.
He shoved his hands into his pockets as he walked the crowded streets, casually whistling a familiar tune, though not a holiday carol. Seeing avid shoppers peering into shop windows as he strode by compelled him to vomit. Of course, he would never do such a revolting act in public. He definitely wanted to, though.
The sweetness of the holiday season kept souring for the cynical Axel, year after dismal year. A loner, he spent every Christmas eating microwavable foods instead of the traditional turkey or ham. Friends never bothered to visit his apartment due to their own busy family plans. And his family insisted on informing him how worthless he supposedly was in whatever form possible. So, anything remotely connected to Christmas sickened him. How he loathed it! Light snowflakes drifted down toward Axel's spiky red hair, annoying him.
Snow, snow, snow! When would it ever cease? He sighed irritably once he stopped at the stoop of the apartment building at which he resided. Brushing the cold ivory flakes away from the bright crimson of his hair, he entered the brownstone building and ascended the creaky wooden steps to his apartment. He thought of how the manager should really have carpenters to fix the practically rotten stairs.
What Axel didn't expect, however, was a yellow notice that had been tacked on to his door that lead into room 850. This signified that he had forgotten to pay his rent for the third month in a row, meaning eviction.
He stared at the piece of paper blankly...and stared...and stared until he decided to face the music by ripping it away from the tack.
It stated the following words that vexed him even more:
You have failed to pay your rent in the past three months. As you are already aware, water had been cut from your apartment room 850 as well as your electricity. With that said, it was merely a matter of time before I decided to take matters into my own hands and evict you. I hope you will not forget your payments at your next home, wherever it may be.
-your landlord, Mr. Valentine
Axel's hands fell limply to his sides as the tersely written notice fluttered onto the floor. Right before the holidays, and he had managed to inadvertently force himself out his home in which he inhabited for three years, since the age of fifteen. Not only that, but he noted how coldly polite his landlord had managed to come off as in the note, almost as if he served as a trifling pest to him.
"Ho, ho, ho," he muttered sarcastically, "I've just been evicted by Ebenezer Scrooge. Merry Christmas, my ass!"
Trudging inside his disheveled room for the last time, he removed battered suitcases from his closet to pack his few belongings. The apartment itself was strewn with neglected bags that once contained potato chips, articles of dirty clothing, and generally absolute filth. He had never had the time to tidy up his own living space. Ironic, how Axel would now gaze at the building outside, fully aware that he no longer had his perfectly organized mess. Grumbling under his breath, he stomped to his bedroom last to salvage his precious treasures. In the suitcases went a handheld, his toy racecar collection, and photographed mementos.
Axel took an especially fond look at a picture with him wearing his blue Wal-Mart vest for the first time with three of his then newly found friends, two of them also wearing vests. These boys had been there for him during his darkest days fresh from running away from his horrendous family. Zexion, Demyx, and especially Roxas welcomed him to the town warmly, showing him around. Going to the theater to watch gory horror films, skateboarding at the local park, and seeing who could eat the most Chinese food...All these memories stood out in Axel's mind in a rush just by gazing at this framed photo before him. A slight smile tugged at his lips as he gently placed it inside the suitcase.
However, the bitterness of his current situation taunted him with a vengeance. Here he was, sitting on his stoop, his fists under his chin in a pitifully agonizing manner. The fluffy white snowflakes continued to allot themselves in his meticulously spiked hair. After the third attempt of ridding himself of these wintry annoyances, he surrendered depressingly with a sigh of lament. Why did this have to happen to him?
Axel betted that his landlord felt secretly overjoyed when writing that eviction note.
Mr. Valentine had immediately scrunched up his elegant nose at the sight of him, he remembered. A formidable man that stood roughly six feet tall and had cascading raven hair, the landlord proved himself as a frigidly uninviting character. The fact that he had a golden claw in place of a right hand had done nothing to ease Axel's shivering at the time. Mr. Valentine had unnecessarily told him that he had lost his hand in the last war, disturbing his renter even more.
Upon finding out Axel had run away from home, he had commented, "It's a cowardly thing to do. Why bother running away at this young an age when life in the real world is so much more difficult?"
Axel always dreaded his landlord's presence at the end of every month to collect the rent. Mr. Valentine had usually poked his ghastly pallid face through the doorway of room 850, raven hair practically covering his haunting face. He would motion for the two hundred dollars with his golden prosthetic hand... Reflecting on this tingled Axel's spine with slight fear; his landlord had been one of the scariest people he had ever encountered....willingly or not. And to think, this harbinger of terror had evicted him just before the holidays! Of course, Mr. Valentine would do something as tasteless as this, Axel thought dismally, staring dully at the busy citizens. And the snow still wouldn't stop. What else could go wrong at this hour?
He glimpsed a diminutive five-year-old girl running toward him, her hazel eyes glowing with friendliness. She held a cute blue purse in one hand and a shopping bag in the other, appearing as a miniature adult. Axel did have a soft spot for children; they did do the most adorable things while still maintaining their innocence. He almost wished that he was a carefree kid again instead of a high school dropout (or maybe transfer student was the more correct term) struggling to survive in the real world. The weight of the world seemed to be placed heavily on his shoulders.
"Hey, Mommy!" the girl yelled over her shoulder. "There's a homeless man here. We should help him!"
Oh great, now people thought he was a hobo—definitely the story of his life. Noticing a gracefully tall woman wearing a beige leather coat, black gloves, and a bright red scarf wound around her neck, he hunched his shoulders in hopes that he would somehow become invisible. He was starting to feel self-conscious of his current station in life: homeless. Homeless, all because he had kept forgetting to pay his stupid rent. Seeing this obviously wealthy mother/daughter pair only added to his unease.
Walking like a flawless model striding down a runway, the mother approached where her daughter eagerly waited. Upon espying Axel, whom the girl mentioned as a homeless man, her stony brown eyes took on a hostile glint that immediately said distrust. She wrinkled her perfect nose with disgust at the fact that her angelic daughter had dared to associate with the likes of this hooligan. He could pose as a threat to their safety. Suppose he had a gun concealed within his sweatshirt pockets?
"Harriet, come here at once!" the overprotective mother barked.
Reluctantly, the little girl complied with her guardian's order but not before gazing sorrowfully at Axel.
He remained ever silent and only stared back with the same agony as he hunched his shoulders as far up as they could go. Wincing when the girl's mother rushed toward him, he knew what would happen next.
"How dare you speak to my Harriet! You are not worthy to do so."
"But, m'am, I—"
"Shut up! Do you think this is a joke? If that's the case, well, I'm not laughing! I won't even give so much as a penny to you."
The woman paused for breath before letting her daughter know that the two of them would go home and forget that they even talked to this idiotic boy who had managed to end up in the streets. Before they departed, however, the mother called over her shoulder, "You would have just spent my hard-earned money on booze and cigarettes—get a job, young man!"
Infuriated, Axel leapt to his feet in an instant, his temper flaring.
"I already have one, you prejudiced—!"
He abruptly seated himself back on the stoop, realizing that he shouldn't use profanity when there are ladies present, especially around an impressionable little girl. Harriet and her hoity-toity mother had long since left anyway.
Axel had no patience for people who so quickly stereotyped others; that high-society lady was one of them. But, with good breeding came ill morals, he thought sourly as he recalled what had occurred. He assumed that that mother thought he had a gun in his possession, which he certainly did not. The government never even bestowed him his permit yet. With a heavy sigh, he bitterly imagined what life was like for Harriet and her mother.
Yes, he could see it now. The two of them along with a handsome businessman father residing in a fancy high-rise downtown where their wealth had no boundaries. That impeccable family lived a grand, fantastic dream that only lesser mortals could have in their sleep. Fine dining 365 days a year, a butler catering to their every whim, and a plasma screen television; Axel had always craved for this last material possession. The rich family probably rolled around in gold coins, gems, and hundred-dollar bills, an extremely envious idea.
Meanwhile, as Dad fired employees without so much as a blink of an eye, the mother trained Harriet to become as prejudiced and self-absorbed as her. By the time that girl reached puberty, Axel predicted that she would have an entire clique of airheaded girls at her disposal. She would have a horrific, bratty attitude to boot. Axel tended to be a realistic thinker. And he never felt as pessimistic and spiteful toward this wretched world as he did now. After all, Harriet and her parents most likely had everything, whereas he currently had nothing but his two suitcases and the clothes on his back. What truly peeved him most, what really set him off was that that filthy rich family would gather around their expensive Christmas tree and laugh joyfully, oblivious to world.
If only he was that lucky.
A/N: For some reason, I could randomly picture Vincent Valentine as a creepy landlord. Don't ask, it's my random mind that created the idea. I think it may have had something to do with this one fic I read in which Vincent is homeless watch salesman. But, that's a whole different ballpark there, folks.
And yes, I referened a Beatles song in my summary. Because who doesn't like that band? Well, anyway, please review this first chapter. It will get better from here, I promise you.
Oh, and one more thing, there will be slight language. As much as I was kind of reluctant to do this at the time, I remembered what a wise fanfic writer once said. If you wrecked your car, you definitely wouldn't be saying, "Darn!"