I LIVE!

So, yea. I've been gone for a while, huh? Yea… I swear, I've been writing this whole time, but nothing I come up with is any good. At least, I don't think it is. But anyway. This is something I wrote as a Christmas gift to my awesome friend, Schmelly Inc., last year. It's old and I don't think it's probable, but I still like it. I hope she doesn't mind that I put it up. Anyway, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I dun own Kingdom Hearts or anything.

XXXX

.::-Fate of Angels-::.

An angel rewards those who resist temptation, he said to her. And are you resisting temptation? She asks in response. No, he replies as a sly smile ghosts upon his thin lips, I'm enjoying the reward.

IOIOIOI

Fate has strange ways of working. What is it that decides who will meet and how this meeting will impact their lives? What is it that finally catches the attention of someone upon noticing a person wholly unfamiliar? How many times must two strangers pass before they finally collide? Certainly nothing has changed about that person. Same hair, same eyes, same smile, but maybe one day that smile shines just a bit more brightly, or those eyes glitter with just a bit more life; just enough to cause one to look away from their path in life and take a glimpse into the path of another. A chance meeting that has just as much potential to become nothing but a brief conversation in the park as it does a cup of coffee on Friday evening to secretive glances when the other isn't paying attention to gentle touches in the dark. So what was it? Predestination? Choice? Or just a coincidence? Any are plausible, but no matter the answer, there is one question that will always follow.

Why?

Ask Naminé, a first year art major at the local university, and she will respond with three simple words: I don't know. As of yet, nothing had prompted her to question such things. A family down south supported her and her dreams, a few close friends kept the days passing, and any time she had left was dedicated to a messy set of acrylics and an easel that was as colorful as the paintings she created. There was nothing more that she needed or expected, so there was no reason to question why things happened as they did.

At least, that was until a new face wandered into her drawing class one morning to deliver something to her professor. Eyes as blue as her own found her from across the room as she peeked from around her easel. A pink hue dusted her cheeks, embarrassed to have been caught staring at the boy with ruffled, blonde hair and an infectious smile. After class, she found that his face was still etched into her mind as she wandered towards the dining hall where, no doubt, she would sit in quiet companionship with her friends before retreating to her room to finish a painting that had been calling her name all day. But along the way, the blonde boy managed to find her and they walked together; he was almost as shy as she was, she noted. He had a habit of tousling his hair when he was nervous or he wanted to say something that he was afraid might upset her. But that never happened.

Hopefully, her friends would understand when she sat with him instead of them.

Roxas was his name, she later learned; a second year that had been allowed to leave high school early and majoring in philosophy. She asked him why he chose that of all things, but he replied with a simple shrug and smile. Maybe he didn't know either.

It was when the winter break came around that Naminé began to wonder about Roxas and his intentions. She knew that she was attracted to his awkward demeanor and gentle face, and her friends had told her that he definitely felt the same way, so what was going on? Was he waiting for something? Maybe she had guessed wrong and he really only saw her as a friend. Still, it made her heart leap into her throat when he finally asked her to do something outside of the campus. Granted, he also mentioned that he was bringing his friends, so she was welcome to bring hers; too bad they were determined to make it a date and refused to come. It was unfortunate, however, that he invited her to go ice skating. There was a reason why she wasn't enrolled in physical education courses and, as long as she had anything to with it, he wasn't going to discover what it was.

It was with both excitement and dread that the girl donned her pale blue fleece and white gloves before trekking across campus to Roxas' dorm. The chilling breeze bit cruelly at her cheeks, flushing her skin to a rosy red, and her teeth were chattering by the time she reached the building. Why did they have to do this at night? The ice would still be there in the day…

Roxas had decided to spare her the agony of waiting for him outside; he was already there, perched on the steps with clothing that looked much warmer than her own. She hadn't packed properly, it seemed; she was used to blistering summers and mild winters, not this twenty degree without considering wind chill stuff. Immediately upon seeing her near-frozen state, the boy hurriedly shed one of his layers and wrapped it about her shoulders with a shy grin.

"You're gonna freeze like that," He said, as though her shivering couldn't have given that away. She offered him a weak smile.

"Thanks."

The timid smile that made her wonder if there was more to their relationship graced his lips for all of a second before he shoved his hands deep into his pockets and rocked onto his heels, "So… are none of your friends coming or somethin'?"

Naminé shook her head, frowning, "No, they were all busy," More like, they were busy setting her up for something that she wasn't even sure was possible, "What about yours?"

"Oh, yea," The hand drifted back to ruffle his hair, "One of my friends is coming. I think he's going to meet us there."

Was that relief she heard in his voice? Maybe he didn't want to be alone with her. Naminé's lips curved downwards just a small bit so that Roxas was not able to detect it. If he did, he obviously didn't care, for he started down the stairs and she was left to follow after him. As she walked beside him, she couldn't help but occasionally glance at his hands that had escaped from his pockets. If this was a date, weren't they supposed to hold hands? Was this even a date? Anxiously, the girl bit her bottom lip and tried to pay attention to the large plaza that they were approaching. She had been here before, but sometime over the past few days, it had been turned into an outdoor ice rink. Miles of lights decorated the shop fronts with bright reds, yellows, greens, and the occasional blue. The largest Christmas tree she had ever seen sat as the head of the ice rink; ornaments of an innumerable range of shapes and colors dangled from its boughs and lights to match those of the shops wound their way around its entirety. At the very top, an angel with glowing wings and white streamers serving as its gown found its roost and it watched the skaters below with eyes of sapphire. Classic Christmas tunes could hardly be heard on the old speaker system over the din of last minute shoppers and children begging to be allowed just one small gift.

"It's not even Christmas yet," Naminé commented as they joined the bustling crowd. Roxas shrugged and smiled.

"So? A week is close enough."

"I guess."

The girl followed apprehensively as Roxas led the way to a small shop tucked in the corner where ice skates could be rented for $20 a pair. It was a bit overpriced, she had to admit, but maybe that was just one of the perks of living in a city where there were just as many tourists as residents. The shop owner greeted him by name. Perfect. That meant he would be an amazing skater, while she would look as out of place as a goose in a bevy of swans. Just the thought of such embarrassment brought a blush to her cheeks.

In an attempt to delay the inevitable, Naminé asked, "Where are we supposed to meet your friend?"

"Uh… not sure, actually. He didn't say," Roxas glanced up from tying his skates, then nodded toward the pair dangling in her hands, "You gonna put those on?"

"Oh, yea. In a second."

The boy paused then and cast a careful glance upon her. He frowned, resting his elbows on his knees, "You do want to skate, right?"

"Of course I do!" Naminé was quick to supply, but her next words were not quite so certain, "I've just… never done it before."

Roxas grinned, though she could find nothing funny about the whole ordeal. He said, "You should have said so, Naminé. You can watch me first, then you can come out when you're ready, okay?"

For the time being, the girl found a weight lifted off of her shoulders. She wouldn't have to make a fool of herself just yet, at least. Smiling brightly now, she nodded and took a deep breath. Roxas' grin widened before he awkwardly pushed himself to his feet, balancing now on only the thin blades, and Naminé walked close behind him in case he fell on his way to the rink. As soon as skate touched ice, the stumbling was replaced with a grace that the girl knew she could never achieve. Within moments, Roxas was on the far side of the rink, racing past the slower skaters and waving cheekily over to her. The girl giggled softly and offered a meek wave back.

Watching was definitely better than participating, Naminé decided not long after she sat down on a bench by the rink's wall. She was freezing cold, even with Roxas' coat, but it gave her the opportunity to watch the people glide by. It was a hobby of hers, studying people, because they always did the strangest things when they thought no one was looking. At one end of the rink, a father was carefully guiding his daughter along the ice and the little girl only laughed in glee when the man slipped and fell to his back. At the other end, three teenage boys circled about a laughing brunette girl and it was with some surprise that Naminé noticed that Roxas was among this small group. She smiled; glad that even if she had bailed on him, he could still enjoy himself.

When someone sat down next to her, Naminé instinctively shifted in the other direction to put more space between them. It was an unconscious thing she did, not to seem rude, but the person must have interpreted it this way. Her attention shifted from the rink to the stranger next to her when he suddenly slid closer and said, "Got a problem, sweetheart?"

Naminé's head whipped up to stare at the person, her eyes wide and lips parted in surprise. What she found was possibly the wildest, and yet exotically beautiful, red hair she had ever seen. From there, her eyes shifted downwards to focus on narrow, green eyes that were accented by thin red brows on top and twin tattoos on bottom. A dying cigarette was held between thin lips that were curved ever slightly downward. When he received no response from her, one brow rose and he pinched the cigarette between two fingers; a long exhale allowed a trail of smoke to mingle with the atmosphere and disappear.

"I ask again, got a problem?"

The girl swallowed hard and shook her head, "No, I just-"

"'Cos if you do, you might wanna think about moving. I'm sure as hell not."

"Sorry," Naminé spat out before he could continue. Tensely, she drew her knees together and hunched her shoulders, "I didn't mean to. You can sit there, if you want."

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched him replace the cigarette to his lips, take a long draw of the nicotine and rat poison and whatever else was stuffed in there, and then drop it to the worn bricks below. The toes of a thick black boot crushed it into a crack in the walkway and two hands protected by leather gloves tucked themselves into the pockets of a long, button-up coat. When he glanced down at her again, she quickly averted her eyes.

There was a pause in which Naminé hoped that he hadn't noticed, but then his silky voice was in her ear again, "If you see something interesting, don't be afraid to point it out. Chances are I'll be flattered."

The girl opened her mouth to reply, but then thought better of it. Maybe if she ignored him, he would stop talking. For a moment, she wondered if she had guessed correctly, but then he was shifting closer still. Her body froze, muscles tensing in preparation to flee, but he allowed a few inches to rest between them. She could deal with this proximity, but any closer and she had no doubt that she would bolt. Maybe he realized this, based on her rigid posture and tight lips. She could feel his acidic eyes on her, studying the details of her face and effectively making her feel self-conscious, but then a small smirk lifted the corner of his mouth and he looked away.

"Relax. I don't bite hard," He said with what might have been a chuckle. Naminé frowned, giving in to the impulse to speak.

"'Hard'?" She repeated, "You shouldn't bite at all."

He rolled his eyes, "It's an expression."

Naminé looked away and clasped her hands in her lap; the ice skates leaned against the leg of the bench, forgotten. She knew it was an expression, thank you very much. It wasn't her fault he used it wrong. She wanted nothing more to stand up and sit somewhere else, but there was still a part of her that couldn't bear to do that, even to this person. She didn't like him, but she couldn't be rude; besides, he'd probably follow her anyway.

She flinched when his foot slid closer and knocked against the skates. Naminé's gaze travelled up his leg, his torso, to meet his eyes.

"You skate?" He asked; the first normal thing out of his mouth, and consequently the first thing that she didn't mind responding to.

Shaking her head, she said, "No, not really. I don't know how."

"So why'd you get them?"

"I'm… here with someone."

He must have already had planned what he was going to say, for his mouth was open before she was able to finish. However, upon hearing her answer, those words must have suddenly been irrelevant. He paused for only a moment before he found a better response.

"So where is he?"

"Who?"

"The guy you're with."

Naminé wasn't sure whether to smile at his perception or scowl at his cheek. Tilting her head, she replied, "Who says I'm with a guy?"

The redhead shrugged as a quirky grin flitted upon his features, "I only assumed. Unless, of course, you and me have more in common than I thought. Because, you know, that'd be pretty hot."

It took a moment for his implication to sink in. When it did, her cheeks darkened to a red that rivaled the color of his hair, while he simply grinned again and snickered softly. As insulting as she thought it to be, Naminé couldn't help but allow him a small smile and a slow shake of the head, "I don't think we have that much in common."

"Way to kill hope," He mock pouted, "That would make for an amazing threesome. Everyone gets their share of the love."

Naminé couldn't help the awkward giggle that bubbled up from her throat and struggled to squeeze past her lips. The redhead was still strange, if not stranger, but it wasn't the same sort of discomfort she had felt originally. She could smile at him now and not have to force it. Funny. She never warmed up to people this quickly, especially when their opener was a deliberate invasion of space, sprinkled with a dose of crude humor that should have been reserved for close friends, if anyone at all. Still, her body slowly relaxed in his presence and, as he must have had a knack for doing, the redhead easily picked up on it.

"So, how 'bout a coffee?"

The offer startled her into almost retreating back to her reserved self, but she managed to force out, "I'm with someone already, remember?"

He shrugged his shoulders, "Sorry to disappoint you, sweetheart, but it looks to me like you've been ditched."

A glare set itself upon the girl's brow, but she wondered if maybe he was correct when she looked out onto the rink and found Roxas still with those other kids. One of the boys must have slipped and the other three were laughing; that the brunette girl's hand was on Roxas' shoulder did not go unnoticed by her. Naminé averted her eyes back to her hands in her lap. The redhead's expectant eyes were still on her, heedless of her attention out on the ice rink.

"I guess it would be okay…" She mumbled to herself. He was immediately upon his feet.

"Let's go then, shall we?" He asked, offering his hand. Naminé stared at it, hesitant to take it, but he took care of it for her by grabbing her wrist and pulling her up. She squeaked in surprise and found herself standing on her toes to keep from colliding into his chest. His grip left her as quickly as it had come and he nodded at the skates on the ground, "Just leave those here. You weren't going to use them anyway."

The redhead was off before she could utter another word. Anxious blue eyes flitted out to the rink, then back to the man- or was he a boy?- as he mingled with the crowd. Fortunately, his hair was like a beacon amidst all the blacks and browns, almost like the tiny lights that decorated the plaza. Naminé hurried after him until she was by his side. Insistently, she said, "I'm paying for myself though, okay?"

He looked down at her with a lopsided smirk, "You sure are. I can hardly afford myself."

"You mean you invited me for coffee, knowing that you couldn't pay for it?"

"I guess I did, didn't I?" He grinned, "Good thing you happened to bring money, huh?"

It was, she realized. Originally, she hadn't intended on bringing money because Roxas had told her he'd cover her for the evening. But, being the person she was, she would have refused to have him pay for absolutely everything they may do. So she brought along some extra and, with some surprise, she knew she was glad that she did.

The redhead led her to a small café situated in the center of the attention with colorful Santa decals on the windows. A large wreath with oversized lights was hung on a little hook on the door and the handle had been wrapped up in silver, gold, and red ribbons. A tiny bell announced their arrival and a blast of warm air thawed frozen cheeks and ears. Naminé inhaled deeply, taking in the scents of the endless varieties of coffee; it was only the smell she liked, actually. She had tried on many occasions to find a flavor she liked, but all tasted too bitter. Instead, she settled for a steaming cup of hot chocolate and left this stranger to find a table.

Alone for the moment, it occurred to Naminé how insane this was. She had met him only fifteen minutes ago, and here she was leaving Roxas and sitting in a café with this person that she couldn't help but notice was attractive in a bizarre sort of way. She didn't even know his name, but she was afraid to ask; doing so would prompt him to ask for her name and she wasn't sure if she wanted to give him something that he could use to find her. After tonight, she would never see him again. She was sure of it.

The cushion groaned when he sat down opposite her and placed his mug on the table. Naminé watched as he grabbed a couple packets of sugar from the little tray in the center of the table, dumped the contents into his coffee, and stirred it with one of the little straws that she could remember always playing with when she was little. When he was finished, he trailed the straw across his lips and replaced it back in the mug. His serpentine eyes flickered to her then, a question written within them, and the girl averted her gaze.

"I'm Axel," He said suddenly as he wrapped his hands around the mug; this action alerted the girl that he had taken off his gloves at some point. His skin was thinly stretched over brittle bones, but they still appeared soft to the touch. Naminé smiled at his expectant stare and stored the name away in her temporary memory. She wouldn't have to remember it long. She wanted to give him her name, but she was determined to make this meeting as brief as possible.

"Axel," She repeated, nodding and raising the mug to her face. She allowed the scent of chocolate to engulf her senses and the steam to warm her cold-bitten cheeks. While she had no intentions of allowing this to become more, she didn't mind permitting herself to enjoy the moment while it lasted. The redhead's eyes continued to study her and she tried not to let it show that it made her nervous, but he had already proven that he was quite perceptive. He sighed in contentment after a careful sip of the hot liquid and leaned back onto the cushion.

"So," He started conversationally, "How old are you?"

"Eighteen," She answered slowly. This response must have enlightened him, for a new light flickered to life behind his eyes and he leaned forward to rest his elbows on the table.

"You in college then?" Axel asked, grinning as she nodded, "Maybe you go to the one down the street?" Naminé hesitated before nodding again. Then, he continued with two words that made the girl sit up straight in her seat, "Me, too."

The girl imagined she must have looked like a fish, gaping at his grinning face and struggling to find the correct words, "You… you're in college still?"

"Yep. I'm on my last year," He paused to take another sip of coffee, "I figured that would have been obvious, though, what with sneaking away with random chicks on dates and being too poor to pay a dollar fifty for a cup of hot chocolate."

Naminé giggled softly at the lopsided grin that was becoming as infectious as the smile that had first attracted her to Roxas, "What do you mean, 'sneaking away'? I agreed to come with you."

A sly smile and a quick utterance of, "Veni, vidi, vici," was his response. The girl quirked her head.

"What?"

"I came, I saw, I conquered," Axel translated, "It's Latin."

"I know what it means," Naminé said with a quiet huff, "But how is that relevant?"

"Oh, it is very relevant, sweetheart," The redhead crooned, reached over to tap her gently on the nose, "I came to the plaza, I saw a girl deserted by her date, and I conquered her in that I convinced her to come with me for a drink. How's that for a victory?"

The girl blushed and looked away from his triumphant expression. It was hard for her to believe that he had been planning this all along; he had been too rude and abrasive at the beginning. It seems like he would have known that would completely turn her off to being around him. But then again, she did go along with him, despite telling herself that he was nothing but a jerk. After their less than pleasant introduction, here she was sitting across from him with the sound of muffled Christmas tunes in her ears and the smell of warm chocolate beneath her nose. And oddly enough, what Roxas may think hardly crossed her mind. For some reason, it just didn't seem to matter.

"You mean, you planned this?" She had to ask. Axel pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes in thought.

"Well, not really…" He trailed off. Hah. Didn't think so, "I was actually just looking for a place to sit so I could watch the idiot skaters fall on their asses. "

"Oh," Naminé muttered. Why was that upsetting? To think that this person had spotted her amongst thousands of people and made an effort to get to know her made her heart race, but that didn't seem to be case. It was just a coincidence that he chose her bench to satisfy his sadistic pleasures. Nothing special about her.

Axel shifted in his seat, "Is that disappointment I hear?"

"Why should I be disappointed?" The girl rapidly shot in defense, "It doesn't matter."

A frustrated frown marred her features as she placed her focus on the not-so-warm mug between her hands. She should just get up and leave now. It was wrong of her to leave Roxas; he hadn't deserted her, as Axel had said. She was the one that didn't want to skate. Was she supposed to expect him to just wait around until she built up the guts to go out on the ice? No, of course not, but she had to find something to do in the meantime. Besides, all she was doing was having some hot chocolate and then it was back to the bench. She didn't even have to tell him that she was with someone else. This was it. Nothing else.

"Hey, sweetheart, you want to go for a walk around the plaza?"

"Okay."

Naminé waited in line to see if they could get their drinks put into Styrofoam cups while Axel "answered the call of Nature", as he so graciously put it. Had she been less focused on thinking about her new companion, perhaps she would have noticed the boy she was supposed to be with pass by the window. Maybe she would have left the drinks on the table and hurried after him. But then again, maybe she wouldn't have when she saw that he was with his other three friends. Maybe that would have been enough to make her wait for this stranger with scarlet hair and vivid green eyes and twin markings on his cheekbones. Maybe the friendship they shared hadn't been as deep as she originally thought.

The girl at the counter had no problem exchanging mugs for Styrofoam cups and Naminé stepped away just as Axel arrived, patting the pocket of his coat. He smirked upon seeing her timid smile as she offered his cup to him.

"Thanks a million," He said, peeling up the little tab.

"Mhmm," She replied softly. Axel smiled, ruffled her hair with his free hand, and started out the door.

If anything, the amount of people had only grown since they entered the café, but it wasn't difficult for Naminé to keep up with the redhead's long strides. He kept his pace slow, she soon realized, and just this tiny thing made butterflies come to life in her belly. It was a privilege that he was allowing her to keep up, it seemed, as though he wouldn't have bothered if it were anyone else. When he brought out a red lighter from his pocket and proceeded to only flick the flame on and off, she wondered if maybe he was refraining from smoking just because she was around. But it seemed impossible he would change his habits for a girl he had only spent an hour with…

"You can smoke if you want to," She said to test her theory, "My parents do, so I don't mind."

Axel glanced down at her, surprised, "Oh, no, it's fine. I actually don't smoke that often. That was probably the first one since I got back from my study abroad adventure."

"Where did you go?" Naminé asked curiously.

"Greece," He answered. When the girl frowned in question, the redhead gave her a small smile, "Yea, of all places. Everyone smokes over there, but they're trying to use fines and stuff to get people from doing it so much. I figured paying out my ass in Euros was a good incentive to quit, don't you think?"

"That makes sense," She agreed, "But why Greece?"

Axel flicked the lighter one last time before extinguishing the flame with his thumb and forefinger and replacing in his back pocket, "I'm a Hellenic Studies major, so I thought I'd visit the place I've been learning about for the past almost four years."

Naminé wrinkled her nose, "That's a really random major."

"Isn't it?" He grinned, almost like he was proud that he chose probably the least popular major ever invented.

They chose to take the long walk around the massive ice rink where people still continued to glide in endless circles until their skin was chapped and they had fallen too many times to count. Naminé wasn't sure whether to cringe or laugh along with Axel when someone would slip and crash down upon the solid ice, but she didn't feel put off by his behavior. It was bizarre, yes, but it didn't take much to notice that the redhead was the very definition of 'bizarre'. So the girl took it all in stride and smiled and laughed along with him. It wasn't until they had crossed to the opposite side and were standing before the towering Christmas tree that she noticed a new warmth enveloping her hand. Her heart seemed to leap into her throat and the butterflies threatened to escape from her belly upon realizing exactly what it was.

Long fingers gently squeezed and intertwined with her own.

Was this even possible? A trembling breath escaped past her lips and she felt his grip tighten in… reassurance maybe? She wanted to look up at him, but she was afraid that he might look at her, too, and she didn't want him to see the bright flush upon her cheeks. This wasn't supposed to happen… things like this only happened in the movies and children's fairy tales. And the girls there were always beautiful and talented and special. She was just Naminé, a girl with little to do and even littler to say. Naminé didn't meet attractive strangers and leave the boy she was supposed to like. Naminé didn't have coffee- or hot chocolate- with those attractive strangers, or take quiet walks with them, or hold their hand within an hour and a half of meeting them. Those were things that she just never did.

Until now.

"I don't know about you," Axel started, breaking her out of her battling thoughts, "But I'm getting claustrophobic. How 'bout we go somewhere with a little less people?"

A warning flag shot up in her mind, but the warmth growing up her arm quickly silenced it, "Like where?"

"Like… behind Treezilla."

Naminé giggled at the name and managed to say, "What makes you think there aren't any people there?"

The redhead pulled her closer to his side and nodded in the direction of the tree, "If you notice, they have created a sort of current that passes in front of the tree, not behind it. There aren't any open shops behind it anyway, so why go back there?"

"I guess that makes sense," The girl mused, pursing her lips. The warning tried one last time to make itself known and for a moment, Naminé hesitated, but the mischievous smile teasing at the redhead's lips wouldn't let her turn him down. It wasn't like anything bad was going to happen, she told herself. Even if they would be alone, there were still hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people just fifty feet away. Besides, Axel wasn't a bad guy. A bit coarse, maybe, but certainly not bad.

Just as he had said, the large area behind the Christmas tree was completely empty. It was now made obvious that the tree had been set upon one of the tiers that would lead to shops on the upper level of the plaza; Axel led her to the next set of steps and dragged her down to sit against the railing, while he opted to sit on the step just below her. Naminé leaned back against the railing and curled her knees up to her chest, watching the redhead as he carefully sat his cup of coffee to the side. Her hot chocolate had long since gone cold, having been too distracted to pay it any attention. She had a feeling his drink was the same way.

Naminé would have been content to allow silence to reign over them, but Axel had already demonstrated that he believed the more talking, the better. Providing it was productive, at least. The girl glanced up from swirling her cup of hot chocolate when his voice interrupted her idle mulling.

"Do you believe in angels?" He asked. The girl followed his gaze up to the top of the tree where the angel with glowing wings and white streamers for a dress was perched. Why would he ask that? He didn't seem to be the type to ask about such things.

"I don't know," She replied, "What do you define as an angel?"

Axel hummed softly, "Well, they have to be hot, for one."

The girl stifled a giggle behind her hand, "Axel, are you trying to tell me that you are attracted to the tree topper?"

His mouth popped into a small 'O' and another peal of giggles bubbled past Naminé's lips. The surprise on his face, however, soon shifted to an expression that silenced her and brought the blush back to her cheeks, "Not quite," He said slyly, "But I can think of a couple things that I am attracted to."

Was he hinting at something? A part of Naminé wanted to reject what he could have been implying. People never found her attractive. She wasn't supposed to be, so why would someone like Axel say that she was? He wouldn't, so he must have been referring to something else. Someone else. The girl offered a weak smile before raising the cup of cold hot chocolate to her lips, just as something to keep her eyes off of him. When he didn't say anything for a few moments, she thought that maybe he realized he'd made her uncomfortable, but then he shifted up to her step and she knew that he probably didn't have any intentions of letting her be just yet.

"I also think," He picked up the subject again, "That angels bring rewards to those who can resist temptation."

Naminé gave him a sidelong glance, "Are you resisting temptation?"

"No," He said, "I'm enjoying the reward."

"What's the reward?"

For the first time, Axel didn't immediately reply. It was obvious he knew what he wanted to say, but something kept him from blurting it out. His serpentine eyes studied her face, narrowing as he memorized each of her features, and then he gave her that smirk that made her stomach flip and heart soar.

"The angel herself."

How was she supposed to reply to that without sounding like a babbling idiot? Was she even supposed to? Not even a smile seemed to be the right way to respond. He continued to search her, gauging her reaction, but then the light reappeared in his eyes and the smirk became the lopsided grin that reminded her so much of the boy she was supposed to be with. What was his name again…?

"Close your eyes for a second," Axel said with a giddy excitement. Naminé felt her body tense.

"What for?"

The redhead rolled his eyes, "Relax and stop thinking I'm going to rape you. Yea, I know what you've been thinking," He said when her eyes widened and a blush colored her cheeks, "You need to learn how to hide your thoughts better, or at least make it not so obvious."

Naminé hung her head in embarrassment and mumbled a timid, "Sorry."

Axel muttered something inaudible under his breath and the girl thought that maybe he had changed his mind on whatever he was planning, but then he raised one brow and said, "So… are you going to close your eyes any time soon or should I come back tomorrow?"

The girl shut her eyes tightly, scrunching her brows, and she heard the redhead chuckle. Naminé heard the distinct sound of rustling clothes, a choice curse word that made her lips twitch, and then silence for but a second before he said, "Okay, open them."

As though expecting something horrendous, the girl cracked one eye open slowly, and then the other when she saw nothing but his smirking face. It was when his gaze travelled up his outstretched arm that she found what he wanted her to see. Naminé frowned.

"A weed?"

Axel scowled, "It's mistletoe. What kind of girl doesn't recognize mistletoe when she sees it?"

"Why do you have mistletoe in your- oh. Oh."

Naminé was on her feet in an instant, ready to bolt for the crowd, but the redhead was faster. Before she could move an inch towards safety, Axel's arms were on either side of her, trapping her between him and the railing. Fear and anticipation battled to express itself on her face and her fingers tried to dig into the metal of the rail behind her. She had never faced such conflict before; she didn't know this person at all, but she wanted this even if it was wrong. She knew nothing more about him than his name, and he didn't even know hers! She couldn't want this and neither could he, but she knew that her eyes betrayed her just as his did him…

"I can't do this," The words spilled from her lips as nothing more than a breath. But I want to.

"Why not?" Axel responded, "It's nothing. Just a peck. That's all I'm asking."

"Because…" A shudder rippled down her spine as his body pressed against hers, "I'm not good at it."

"That's nothing a little practice can't fix."

Naminé turned her head at the last moment and pressed her hands against his chest, as though that would keep him at bay. Her fingers curled on the soft fabric of his coat and, ever so softly, she offered her last excuse, "It'd be my first kiss."

The barriers that were his arms suddenly dropped and the air seemed to rush back into her lungs. This relief was only a momentary thing, however, for one hand gloved in leather brushed below her eye and the other rested softly on her hip. His brow was furrowed, trying to understand why she denied him when she so clearly wanted it, and his acidic green eyes asked for an explanation that she wasn't even sure she could provide. She wanted to run away and she wanted to stay. She wanted to slap him across the face and she wanted to taste those thin, pale lips. She wanted to leave him in the cold and she wanted to be with him forever.

The hand drifted to touch her lips and he questioned softly, "What's wrong with sharing that first one with me?"

Nothing.

"Everything," She answered breathily, "I don't know you. You aren't my boyfriend. You're just a stranger that happened to sit down next to me."

What was supposed to be a chuckle came out more as a hiss, "Every boyfriend starts out a stranger. All of your kisses will be with strangers until you both reveal every little secret you have and everyone knows that'll only happen when Hell freezes over because not even you know everything about yourself."

Naminé parted her lips to respond, but no words came out. He was right. She couldn't possibly know everything about the one that she happened to end up with… but she would know more than she knew about Axel. Again, she looked away and out of the corner of her eye she saw him drop his head. Why was she making this so hard on herself?

"Axel…" His name fell from her lips and she was surprised that he could stand to look at her, but she couldn't decide on what to say next. The hand was back at her cheek, gently turning her head so she could look into his eyes again. There was a strange smile on his face, one that was different from the rest and made the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end.

"I'll admit," He started, "I don't usually do things this way. I take what I want when I want it, but there's something about you. Even if I said to Hell with what you want, I don't think I could do it. You're not like the others… and I want to know why."

The girl couldn't ignore the fingers grazing along her cheekbone or the intensity in his eyes. Why did this have to happen to her? If he wanted this so bad, then when couldn't he do it the normal way? But… maybe this was the sort of thing she needed. A deviation from the monotonous routine that she could look back on and say it was a stupid decision but she didn't regret it. A story she could tell her kids when she got older, about how she used to be reckless. Right now, it would be a lie… but maybe she could turn it into the truth. Hesitation tried one last time to keep her hands knotted in the fabric of his coat, but it couldn't compete against the overwhelming desire to experience what all the other girls talked about during the late hours of the night in the lounge. She had to know…

When her hands slid up his chest to wrap around his neck, Axel knew that he had won. His arms were around her waist in a second, pulling her flush against his body, and he placed his lips to her cheek, "I'll make it a good first one, okay?" He whispered against her skin, "Promise."

A small nod was all Naminé had time for before her breath was suddenly stolen away by the touch of his lips against hers. She gasped for air, putting just the slightest distance between them, but he wasted no time in filling the space. A low moan vibrated from deep in his throat as he pressed his body hard against hers and trailed his fingers up to twist in her pale hair and down to slip just beneath her many layers of clothing to feel warm skin. Naminé wanted to push him away, unused to the intimate contact that he so quickly sought, but then she also wanted him to continue, to see how far it could go before sense caught up with her and reminded her that Naminé didn't do this. The tight proximity was stifling to both him and the girl, but their minds and bodies screamed to be closer still. An impossible desire, but it repeated like a mantra, over and over until nothing existed but each other and the feel of two bodies rocking together as one. Skin burned with passion and shivered with exhilaration; reason became unreasonable and time stood still.

The need for breath brought Naminé to force herself free and it was only a matter of moments before his mouth was upon her again, demanding more than she could offer, even if she tried to give him all she had. A soft sound of protest alerted him to her exhaustion and so he allowed her to regain her breath while he nipped and sucked at the tender skin on her neck, no doubt leaving behind a bruise that she would have to somehow disguise as a burn from a curling iron that she didn't even own. She would have to come up with a lot of lies to get out of this one. And to think, all of this was because a stranger with fiery hair had suggesting going somewhere private while on a walk after a cup of coffee that she accepted because her not-quite-date didn't know she was too afraid to put on a pair of skates. Funny how things work out.

The body against her suddenly stiffened and Axel inhaled sharply between his teeth. His forehead moved to rest against hers and the girl could see the haze clouding his eyes and the heat coloring his cheeks. The redhead thickly ground out, "You know, sweetheart, I still haven't caught your name. After this, I think I deserve to know at least that."

Another rough kiss smothered her lips before she could reply, "Oh… it's… Na-" The girl gasped when his hand disappeared beneath her shirt to splay across her belly. How was she supposed to answer when he did things like that? She tried to fight through the haze that darkened her vision to the outside world and she managed a hurried, "Naminé. My name's Naminé."

"Naminé…" He repeated in a groan, "That's… that's… oh shit."

A blast of cold air brought the girl out of the fog before his odd choice of words could. A violent shiver racked down her body and she curled in on herself, desperate to be warm and devastated that he had left her. She wanted the heat back, to be warmed by his touches and kisses…

"You're Naminé?" He shouted incredulously as he paced away and ran his fingers through his tousled hair, though he couldn't hide the huskiness still weighing down his voice, "But Naminé… I thought… why?!"

Confusion etched itself upon the girl's face, "What are you talking about?"

Axel rounded on her suddenly with a finger pointed in her face, "You're supposed to be with Roxas!"

Clarity came back in an instant upon hearing the familiar name. That's right… she did come here with Roxas. He was probably worried sick now, wondering where she had run off to. But what did Axel have to do with any of that?

"How did you…?" It was unnecessary to finish the question; the redhead's wide eyes were already focused on her.

"Because I was the guy that was supposed to meet up with you two once you got here. I sat down at the bench, thinking I'd just spot him in the crowd and not knowing that the girl next to me was you. Damn it, Naminé!"

"Don't get mad at me!" The girl shouted in defense when he let out an aggravated growl, "It's not like I knew who you were, either."

"Yea, but…" He trailed off, growling again and moving to lean heavily against the railing with his eyes shut tightly. Frowning, Naminé discreetly tried to straighten her shirt and coats and a sick feeling burned away the butterflies that had taken up residence only minutes earlier. The guilt came to her in an overwhelming wave that made her want to crawl in a hole and never come out. Roxas, the boy that she had nearly forgotten, was now haunting her mind with devastated eyes and a frown that broke her heart. Naminé wasn't supposed to do things like this… why she didn't had been uncertain at first, but now the reason flared like a bonfire on a moonless night. She didn't because it was just wrong. Abandoning her friend, running off with a stranger… why had she been so stupid?

The girl lowered her gaze to her shuffling feet and she whispered meekly, "I'm sorry, Axel. I should have told you my name. This wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been so afraid..."

Axel dropped his head into his hand, "I should have asked and not waited for you to tell me yourself. I should have guessed that you wouldn't want to."

She wanted to touch his shoulder, to maybe give some sort of reassurance that he wasn't the one at fault, even if he had coerced her into doing this in the first place. But she could have told him no right at the beginning and none of this would have happened. They should have just stayed on the bench and Roxas would have seen them, would have come over, and things would have worked out the way they were supposed to. They weren't supposed to be hiding behind a giant Christmas tree, kissing like they had known each other forever. She was supposed to be with Roxas.

A slight chuckle brought Naminé out of her musing. She narrowed her eyes; what was so funny? This was probably the worst thing she had ever done and he was laughing.

"Why are you laughing?" She questioned, shoving her hands into the pockets of her coat. Of Roxas' coat.

Axel turned a grin on her that looked only slightly delirious, "Do you realize how unlikely all this is?" He asked, earning a frown from her, "I mean, look at all those people out there. There have to be thousands, but I chose you to sit down next to. So many places I could have sat… and I picked there."

Naminé's cheeks flushed in frustration, "That doesn't make it funny. I don't even want to know what Roxas is thinking right now."

The grin faded from his lips then and he ran his hand down his face. Good. Maybe he realized how horrible this was. But then he straightened up and approached her again with a troubled look on his angular features. Naminé flinched when one hand rose to touch her cheek, but then it faltered and fell back to his side. The girl took a deep, shuddering breath and another dose of guilt was added to the sinking feeling in her gut; despite telling herself not to, she carefully reached forward and took his hand in hers. She tried to squash down the leap of her heart when he gave it a gentle squeeze.

"We can't tell him about this," He said, "He doesn't need to know."

The girl shook her head, "He's going to notice that both of us are missing. When he sees us together, he'll figure it out."

"You obviously don't know Roxas very well," Axel smirked, "He's completely oblivious to how this sort of thing works. He had no idea what to do for you. Would you believe me if I told you I suggested this to him?"

"I'd be surprised."

"Be surprised then," He said with a crooked smile, "The kid doesn't have a romantic bone in his body."

"Romantic?" Naminé blanched, "You mean…?"

The redhead cast an incredulous stare that made her squirm, "Um, yea, duh," He said, as though it were the most obvious thing, "He's freaking head over heels for you. You didn't hear that from me, by the way. That's why we can't tell him about this. His self esteem is low enough to make even an emo kid feel good about himself. If he found out that I had my tongue down your throat- stop blushing; if you can do it, you can talk about it- he would be heartbroken. And I can't do that to him."

Naminé shyly raised her eyes to meet his, "So you'd lie to him?"

"Yes," He replied, "If that's what it takes to keep him happy. That's the only thing that matters."

The girl started at the sincerity in his tone; she hadn't yet heard such conviction from him, nor had she expected it. It wasn't the best policy that he could have, but she knew that he meant well. Again, she felt his fingers touch her skin and she didn't recoil this time. A ghost of a smile flickered upon his features, but then the moment was spoiled when the touch fell to a spot on her neck that the girl hadn't realized had been aching until now and she hissed between her teeth from the sting. The corner of Axel's mouth lifted upwards.

"You might want to think about wearing something with a high neck for a little while. And don't bother with the 'oh, I burned myself with a curling iron' excuse. Doesn't work as well as the movies make you think."

Flushing, Naminé pulled the zipper of her coats up to her chin. Axel grinned.

"Good girl. Now," With his free hand, he pulled out a tiny, red cell phone from his pocket, pressed a few buttons, and held it to his ear, "We find Roxas."

Well, this was it. Her time alone with him was about to come to end. He was going to set things as they should be and she would go back to harboring a secret crush that, according to Axel, was reciprocated. Though, that didn't necessarily mean that it would be acted upon, right? After all of this, Naminé wasn't sure that she could look at either of them the same way again. How could she stay with Roxas, hold his hand and kiss his cheek, knowing that right beside them was the one that she wanted? If that's what this feeling was; this aching in her chest when he looked down at her with sparkling eyes and a mischievous smile.

"Hey, Roxas. Forgetting something?" He greeted a voice that Naminé couldn't hear. Her heart continued to plummet. Axel's face twisted up into a concoction of emotions when the boy on the other end started spewing out question after question, to which the redhead responded with, "Shut up for a minute, would you? She's fine. I've got her."

There was silence on the phone, and then the muffled voice continued its rant. Axel rolled his eyes.

"Seriously, Roxas, shut up. I told you, Naminé is with me. She's perfectly… no, I didn't rape her, you ass! What's with everyone thinking I'm a rapist? I'm not that scary," The redhead narrowed his eyes at the girl when she hid a giggle behind her hand, "Yea, whatever, but you can forget me ever trying to help you again. You can kiss my… fine. Yea, that works. You better be there. Later."

Axel slipped the phone back in his pocket and gave the girl's hand a tug, "C'mon, we're meeting up with him at the other end of the plaza."

Naminé nearly stumbled as he started dragging her down the steps; her feet felt like lead, unwilling to move. She wasn't ready for this to be over yet. Just one more minute…

"Wait, Axel," She mumbled just as his boots thudded against the main landing; his momentum almost pulled her over, but she was able to catch herself. The redhead stared up at her, a question in his eyes, and her voice trembled as she said, "Before we go, can I… can we just… one more?"

Something flashed behind serpentine eyes and he glanced over his shoulder towards the crowd, then back to her. His brow was creased harshly, as though he were battling within himself, and Naminé's heart took that final plummet. She shouldn't have asked. It was wrong of her to do so when he had already told her of Roxas' feelings and that none of this was supposed to happen.

But then her heart was racing again when he closed the distance between them with slow steps and unwavering eyes. His warm hand was on her cheek and she leaned into the touch, and then his mouth was on hers and she cradled his head between her hands and pulled him close. It was nothing like the other, which had been driven only by lust for a stranger and the thrill of throwing caution to the wind and by kissing with reckless abandon. This time, Naminé felt that she could do this every day and not feel guilty. Like maybe it was meant to be and that it hadn't been an accident that he decided to sit beside her. It wasn't love, but maybe the little nudge that was needed for it to grow to be just that. His hands didn't need to trail feverously across her skin and she didn't need to gasp for a ragged breath and their bodies didn't need to fruitlessly struggle to become one.

They just needed to be together.

Roxas was waiting for them beneath a lamp post, just where he said he'd be. Upon seeing them, the boy's eyes sparked to life and he hurried towards them, enveloping the girl in a crushing hug and punching his best friend in the shoulder. He had looked everywhere for them, he gushed, once his other friends had left and he realized that Naminé had disappeared. The girl assured him with a timid chuckle that she was fine and the redhead thickened the reassurance by informing him of their trip to the café and their walk around the ice rink, but that was where the truth ended and became a lie. They were looking for him, Axel said, and then called when they couldn't find him.

"Why were you guys holding hands when you came over?" Roxas had asked as they walked back to the campus later that evening. Naminé tensed, fearing that they had been discovered, but then Axel grinned and shoved his friend off the sidewalk.

"Have you noticed how tiny this girl is?" He said teasingly, "I had already lost her once and she could have been trampled by all those people if we weren't careful."

The story sufficed for Roxas, who simply laughed and dropped the matter.

Naminé knew that the night was over when they came to her dorm building and stood outside the door. The last few words were spoken and Roxas surprised both her and Axel by moving forward to give her a quick peck on the cheek, to which her gut responded by twisting and reminding her of this betrayal. She forced a smile and he believed it, offering a nervous smile of his own before mumbling a good-bye and turning to head down the stairs.

Her eyes found Axel's then and he gave the lopsided smirk that caused her gut to twist even more. His hand tugged on the collar of his coat and, catching the hint, Naminé blushed and hurriedly pulled her own collar up higher around her neck. The smirk cracked into a grin and he placed two fingers to his forehead in a mock salute, then started down the stairs after his friend without a word.

For the first time, the shy girl with wheat colored hair found herself questioning what was fate and what was coincidence. What had brought Axel to sit beside her? With so many people and so many places, sitting beside the one person that, in his eyes, was off limits seemed impossible. The odds were stacked too steeply against it to be considered a coincidence. But she never believed in fate or predestination or whatever you want to call it. She controlled her own destiny, her own actions; not any other thing or any other person. Just her.

So had Axel known who she was all along? If he did, he was a brilliant actor as well as a grade-A jerk. But he had been so serious when he spoke about Roxas, that he couldn't ever do anything to hurt him…

Clenching her eyes shut, the girl hugged her pillow tight against her chest as she listened to her roommate's deep breathing. It couldn't have been a coincidence and that left only fate to choose from. Why her? Why Axel? Why did she feel such allure to a person she hardly knew? Why did she give in to her body's desires and suppress what her mind was telling her?

Why?

XXXXX

And there you have it. Love it? Hate it? I hope it's not the latter. I also hope it isn't too long to read in one go. Please, if you guys think it needs to be cut in half, let me know. I'll be glad to chop it up.

Alrighty, I don't have much else to say. I do have one request, however: PLEASE, refrain from leaving behind any comments that may spoil 358/2 Days! Some people have not completed it (myself included) and do not wish to have it ruined for them (like I already have). So please… do us all a favor.

Thanks for reading, guys! I hope you still enjoy my writing. Reviews are welcome and encouraged; flames will be used for Axel's enjoyment. Later!

Until Next Time,
Manwathiel