12. Talk
Pairings: Axel/Zexion, Demyx/Roxas and possible Sora/Riku
Rating: M
Warnings: Eating Disorders, depression, self-deprecation, lemons and limes later I think
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts.
Summary: Axel is popular, his family is loaded, so why does he smile when he can feel each of his ribs? Zexion is quiet, but he's watched Axel for what had felt like forever. Sometimes things happen too quickly, or not quickly enough.
Author's Note: Sorry for the long wait, my beta took forever and I started working full time.


"Who is this?" I asked, motioning the radio as a new song came on, the singer's ethereal voice breaking through waves of technological sounds that seemed like fog in a forest. The song was like nothing I had ever heard before.

"Bjork, she's spectacular." Axel answered and Demyx made a sound of agreement, a sharp nod accompanied his approval.

"It's really different, her music, it's—" I started but Demyx shifted suddenly as a loud wave of sound came from his pocket. The redhead turned the volume down, just as Demyx inhaled and answered. It was his mother, his muttered side of the conversation revealed as much, and as Axel and I hung on his every word, Demyx seemed to brighten.

"She's woken up!" He exclaimed when he hung up, his face full of the brilliance I was accustomed to seeing there. Mingled with my excitement for Demyx, was anxiety that something could now go wrong and the hope of her awakening was going to shatter Demyx and his family. Axel and Demyx exchanged words, smiles playing on their faces, and my own harboring a look of encouragement for my blonde friend. I couldn't truly feel happy though, I was too afraid of the universe ripping people apart like it seemed to. I didn't want Demyx to be hurt more than he had been.

Axel drove to the hospital, where we sat in the waiting room, Demyx dashing off to his sister's side with his family. We weren't allowed inside because she was still in the intensive care unit where only family was permitted. The squeak of white sneakers called out below the noise of pagers, conversations and the bleeps from the machines all around us.

"You look nervous, want to take a walk?" I offered, my eyes drifting over the redhead who fidgeted beside me in a plastic chair. His fingers danced across his knees, his nails long and unhealthy looking, they seemed broken and flaked. His skin was thin, the paleness of his flesh was highlighted by the harsh fluorescent lights above. Axel stood, though, pushing himself off of the chair and immediately out of the door.

"Hospitals are creepy." He muttered, pulling out his pack of cigarettes and lighting up. I didn't reply, I wasn't sure what to say. I was emptied of my words. A painted green bench was cleared of snow and dry, so I sat, my fingers grasping a book inside of my bag while chills raced from my ass through the rest of my body. The metal of the bench was unforgiving and did not warm as I folded my legs under me, and dove into the novel.

The harsh hiss of tires on cement, and tobacco burning into my friend's lungs were washed away to mere glimmers of reality. I was inside the words, I was in a Celtic tale, a story of adventure with the fickle fey folk that live under mounds and inside of forests. Axel paced, one arm crossed over his chest, while the other held his cancer stick to his lips for puff after puff. He spit suddenly, and answered a text message, my thoughts drifting between the sounds he was making and the story calling for my attention. I didn't want to be inside of my own head. I didn't want to hold my own emotions, I wanted to hold someone else's and pretend they were my own. I wanted to devour the tales of magic and pretend my life was interesting.

"Zexion," He was watching me, his back pressed against a light post beside the bench I was perched upon. When I planted a finger on the end of a sentence I just read and peered at my thin friend, he half laughed and looked away shiftily. I waited, watching him find the words he wanted to say, giving him time for whatever was going on inside of himself. I wanted to say something, this moment felt like a precipice of sorts. The way Axel acted made me feel as if he had something important to say, he fought silently with himself, it seemed.

"Are you okay?" I asked, not able to withstand the uncomfortable silence. He was laughing again, and it seemed that I had my answer. "What's wrong?" My fingers worked at the corner of the page I had been reading, folding it over as my eyes remained firmly on the redhead. People walked by, their footsteps invading our world, their chatter and existence not rippling through my consciousness, though.

It took him a long time to respond, and even though I remained silent, I was not being patient. I wanted the issue laid out in front of me, where I could sift through the different possible solutions before I could actually fix it. He flicked what was left of his cigarette into the tall ashtray, but it tipped over the side and fell onto the ground. I watched as the filter hit the pavement and then the butt flopped onto its side, by the time it was totally still, Axel was ready to speak.

"Can we get dinner?" The syllables were a little bit shunted, I assumed it was from being nervous. He fidgeted and only enforced my notion even further, especially as his feet shuffled continuously, and he stretched his long fingers over the front of his thighs. Something seemed to be wrong, as I began packing my book back into my messenger bag, he began pacing and nearly bumped into a small girl. In Axel's defense, she was quite short and he had been looking over his shoulder at me, but I still felt like he normally wouldn't do something like that. He ignored me when I asked if he was ready, and instead shot a question of his own at me.

"What do you see when you look at the stars? It's like you see something I don't." He paused, but I didn't answer right away. I followed his gaze up at the expanse of grey and an almost purple shade of blue which was disrupted every now and again by a prickling of white light. The dusty clouds moved about and removed some of the flecks of stars from our view, only to reveal others that had previously been covered. "I just see dots and clouds. It's all pretty, sure, but the way you look at them is different. It's almost like they really exist for you, like you can touch them or something."

"Axel, just because I read a lot and try to find meaning in things hardly makes me as insightful as you seem to want to believe. The stars are the stars, that's all." I considered how deflated my words were, how untrue because to Axel the stars meant very little, if anything at all. That was not how it was for me. "I guess I've given them sentimental meaning. That doesn't mean they exist more for me, it just means I care more." He perplexed me sometimes, the way the redhead would say things out of nowhere or do things to complicate us more than we already were. Sometimes, he left me twirling around inside of my own head in pure awe. The way I couldn't understand him was endearing, exciting, and a good way to induce anxiety when I thought about it too much.

"Axel, I'm worried about you." I said, an impulsive phrase that sprang out of my mouth before I really thought better of it. I didn't particularly want to take them back, but I didn't want to explain myself either, I didn't know if we were ready to talk about what had happened between us in his room, or the sounds that came from the bathroom afterwards. I was one of those people who generally worried, I thought about things too much, I made things seem worse than they really were, but there was something else in this problem. There was something that seemed very wrong about Axel's state of being.

"Hm? Oh, where did you want to go to dinner?" The question was an obnoxiously blatant dismissal of my words.

"You're thin, you know that, right? Sometimes I think it's a scary sort of thin." Some people are naturally thin, I thought to myself, but now was not the time to back down. I was pretty sure there was something very wrong with his eating habits. As a concerned friend it was my duty to say something if I was concerned, right?

"What?" His emotions passed through his face briefly, but he covered them up quickly enough. "I was asking you what you wanted to eat, I'm hungry, it's my treat. Is that alright with you?"

"Yeah, that's fine, but I think something's wrong. Demyx and I care about you a lot, you know. If you ever need anything, I'll help you out." Honestly, I was getting a bit frustrated with his lack of cooperation, and so my words sounded a bit strained.

"I know this pizza place, we could make it a," he hesitated a moment before continuing. "We could make it a date." The last sentence was staccato, half blurted out it seemed. Perhaps the desire to say them was so built up that the syllables legitimately burnt. Somewhat flabbergasted, I just gaped at him like a useless figurine. The excitement I felt was unpleasantly mixed with suspicion and worry. Axel had toyed with me as… What? A hook up? I recalled the scene on his couch where he tempted me with sensual and sexual desires. I didn't want to be lead on, I didn't know his intentions, and I had seen no signs of much change in the way he considered me. We were closer friends now, but he had left the flirting out of a lot of things. I had to assume that meant he was uninterested, I had decided that to protect myself from emotional rejection. I was distracted, considering his words when another thought struck me, he was quite possibly distracting me now so I would divert my attention from my concerns for his health to something else. Perhaps he wasn't ready to talk about his problems yet.

"Are you trying to change the subject?" I decided, before he even answered my inquiry, that it was more likely than him actually asking me on a date. The idea that he was simply leading my mind in a different direction became more plausible when you considered that his best friend was inside of the hospital, happily reunited with his sister who was finally improving.

"No, you just weren't paying attention or letting me talk. You were the one trying to change the subject." The bite of his accusation seemed ridiculous for a moment but I let my suspicion subside. I had been so focused on the emaciation of his body, the way his sudden eating started me, and then the vomiting afterwards. I knew what was going on with all of that, I was pretty sure anyway, but my keenness to talk about it may have been being projected onto him. Perhaps he had been nervous because he was trying to convince himself to ask me on a date. That was somewhat difficult to believe, but it was plausible enough.

"So," he prompted me to answer his suggestion.

"Why a date?"

"Well, I mean," his brows furrowed and he nervously released a breath, in what I assumed was supposed to be a laugh, but ended up sounding more like an audible shiver. He licked his lips, the pinkness of his tongue darting out quickly before he began again. "What kind of question is that? It's obvious why it would be a date, isn't it?" He huffed a bit and jammed his hands into the pockets in the puff vest portion of his jacket, the thick cotton sort of material making a beautiful swishing sound against the plastic sort of material on his torso.

"No, not to me, but whatever. It's not like we're together, we're just friends." I didn't really want to deal with a conversation about feelings towards one another and the ensuing emotions thereafter. The possibility, or rather probability considering the dynamic of whatever was between us, of Axel meaning more to me than I did to him was not something I wanted to deal with. I liked having him as a friend, I didn't really need anything else, and being a fling held no interest for me at all. I didn't look at him to see his reaction, I decided it was safer for me to look at my bag and double check my belongings were inside. By doing that, I spared myself some of the awkwardness that existed because of the turn the conversation had taken.

"Alright," the stiff reply was followed by Axel swiftly wandering towards the parking lot. I hurried after, hesitating only for a moment to ponder what the 'alright' was in reference to, exactly. It seemed a tad straightforward, marking agreement with my statement, but the tone implied underlying thoughts and emotions he had. He offered no other points of conversation as he drove to the pizza place, and I was too disinterested in conversation to strike one up. The landscape passing by was enough to occupy my attention outwardly, and my own personal thoughts of inconsequential things engaged my mind. The buildings looked drab and populated, the dirty snow making the scenes unattractive and bothersome. It was not typical beauty, and I didn't find it pleasing to see at all. Winter was beginning to overstay its welcome with me, and I couldn't wait for spring to begin more than it had seemed to.

The restaurant was decorated in rustic colors, burnt orange walls, the table tops were wooden, polished, and each was adorned with a vase the color of a red fall leaf with a single unidentifiable fake flower inside. It all seemed stereotypical and cheap, the décor was more novel than actually nice. Nothing was said as we sat down, and it seemed like the table morphed into an ocean that put us thousands of miles away. Our minds were in different places, each wandering in its own direction, pushing us apart. A petite young girl took Axel's order of a cheese pizza and both of our drink orders, and she left with a bounce in her step which thrust the contrast of the tension between Axel and I in my face. I was thinking of things to say, trying to break the silence between us, but all conversation starters ran in the opposite direction inside of my head. Axel just remained silent, looking out the window placidly, as if nothing was uncomfortable or wrong. If I didn't know him better, I would assume the fake coolness he had projected was not his way of throwing walls up so I couldn't reach him.

"What's your problem?" I blurted out before I lost grasp of the courage to get things going between us once more. "Seriously, I don't know what's going on in your head." The way I said it was a bit rough, and the fleeting look of angry anxiety his face displayed was an expected response to the frustrated tone I had used, not to mention the odd way I had thrown my hands up.

"Nothing." That was it, that was all he could say about his sulking, and ultimately, the way he had been acting off and on with me. It was irritating, his lack of elaboration and refusal to confide in me, but not wholly unexpected. What had I really thought he was going to say? I didn't have an answer for myself. Thankfully, the climate between us returned to something akin to normalcy, and there was only a bit of unease left. It was a relief in a lot of ways to me, and I put thoughts of anything else out of my mind for a bit.

The next time things surfaced in my head, was when I was in my own bed, listening to the television from my father who was in the living room. I couldn't tell what dvd he was watching, I had tried to determine it for a while, but nothing came to mind. I had only been attempting to keep my thoughts off of Axel so I could find sleep, but that's more difficult than it had seemed at first. He had not treated me with any consistency, and I didn't know what to make of half of the things he did. That was untrue, and I knew it, I didn't want to try to make sense of half of his actions because there were contradictions in the way he acted. His behaviors, on a whole, were contradictory and secretive, I didn't want to hope for anything. I typically ignored my romantic feelings towards him, brushed them off as a crush since he was so attractive and had a very attractive mind, I cared about him too much in a platonic way to let things get in the way of our friendship. It hurt though, it ached sometimes, but it wasn't going to kill me to deal with the emotions. I simply didn't know what to make of his advances and retreats from me. He was a flirt, that was about the best explanation I could give to it, but asking me out was the one thing that always broke that hypothesis.

Sleep did not come easily that night, nor the nights of the following week. The days, overall, began becoming more pleasant as good news poured in about Larxene, my father getting a relatively great paying job, and Axel seeming to level out and return to the way he had been before the awkward night we had pizza together. After the first week, another equally pleasant yet more uneventful week passed by with me receiving more hours at work, and feeling more exhausted. Sleep still refused to come to me easily, and midterms began to creep up, as the snow banks crept away into the ground which left things muddy and wet. Larxene was released from the hospital as our tests began to wind down and become nonexistent, people started hearing back from the universities they had applied to, and it started to set in that high school was nearly over.

Happily, Demyx, Axel, and I had gotten into some of the same school and accepted to a few others we did not have in common, but none of us had heard from our top choices yet. My education depended on the scholarships and financial aid I would be awarded, where as Axel and Demyx did not face that problem but were both guaranteed some sort of aid. Life seemed to begin falling into a comfortable pattern that I could easily follow when Demyx threw a wrench into everything.

"He never eats, and he used to, does he eat with you?" The question was hushed with anxiety that was probably more about breaking Axel's trust than the actual inquiry. The day was mild, and we were walking to the store on my fifteen minute break at work. Demyx had stopped by the bookstore to keep me company, the both of us had grown closer and really enjoyed the companionable environment we felt while together.

"Sometimes, not often." I wanted to say more, I wanted to ask his advice, to see if we should confront Axel or just hope we were imaging things. I knew we weren't, but I didn't want the most likely alternative to be true. I wanted to hear everything Demyx was thinking about the issue, I wanted to spill out all of my thoughts and fear, but none of my internal ramblings or inquiries would leave my throat.

"I'm scared."

"Me too." That was the end of the conversation, and only silence was left of the walk until we entered the store and picked up a few small snacks. The walk back was normal, our joking attitude falling back into place, but the bit of conversation stuck with me.

Three days, it felt like a death sentence, but my manager assured me I would receive enough hours to offset the break. Three days was how long it was going to take to remodel the bookstore, and I wouldn't have work for three days. That would have been fine if I had had any homework, but I didn't. There were always books to keep me busy, but my attention was fleeting with literature. Anything that didn't have some sort of commitment attached to it, became impossible to concentrate on. It was the three days without my job that inspired me, or rather forced me, to confront Axel.

I went to his house with him after school was let out one day, and we spent the beginning afternoon drinking iced tea in his backyard, thinking of things to do with the evening since Demyx was occupied with Roxas who seemed to have dropped off the face of the earth for a while, but it turns out that he had just gone away with his family for a few weeks. I could say for a fact, that I had not thought of anything to do, and had spent the entire time obsessing over how to start an important conversation with Axel. I wasn't doing that great of a job, in all honesty.

"How does Demyx come up with so many plans so easily?" He asked, a mild growl of frustration in his voice, but he followed it up with a laugh. He seemed at ease, which was one of the last things that I was.

"Maybe we could just… talk." I suggested weakly, my pulse jumping in my veins a bit as each syllable left my lips.

"About what?" He scoffed a little, sipping from his glass, reclining his head after he swallowed. The sky was a powder blue with clouds that were imitating cotton balls.

"I don't know, maybe just, well maybe we could talk about," I knew this next bit was the initial important part, but it was so difficult to get out. Axel was looking at me, then, and I took a steadying breath before continuing. "Maybe we could talk about you, I'm worried." I wanted to flinch away from my own words because his eyes flickered away and back to me in a way I didn't think meant wonderful things. I was expecting the worse, though, and really I hated confrontations.

"You don't need to be worried. There's nothing wrong." He laughed a little again, as if that would convince me. He wasn't going to make this easy, and I just wanted it to be over.

"Axel, you don't eat."

"I eat." His snapping tone, and the way his eyes narrowed made me crawl in my skin a bit. His chest rose and fell differently, he seemed to straighten up and the pose he arranged himself in seemed defensive in such a way that he could spring into a verbal attack at any moment.

"I know you get what I mean. I'm just worried, I care, you know? I just want to help you."

"What are you saying? That I have an- that I have an- that I'm screwed up? I am perfectly fine, thank you, and I eat plenty. You aren't around me all the time, you don't know what I do or do not eat." His words were said so harshly, it was intimidating and I didn't quite know what to do.

"Demyx and I were just worried, we're both scared." That was obviously the wrong thing to say, and the reaction to my words was immediate.

"You two have been talking about me? What the hell? Why didn't either of you say anything to me, instead of gossiping behind my back like cowards?" His voice was rising, and he stood up, towering over me as his anger built and curled before it was unleashed. "I can't believe you two would accuse me of, I don't even know what! You can just fuck right off, got it memorized?" The staccato harshness made me flinch, my first thought was to cower. I was afraid, he was getting disproportionately angry to what I had said. Someone who didn't have anything to hide wouldn't get that vehement about their friends being concerned, I thought.

"We just thought something was wrong and wanted to make sure before we brought it up to you. We just made sure we weren't imaging anythi-"

"Just shut up, that's an excuse. You two have been up to something, I'm not stupid! Leave, just get out of my house, off my property, whatever. I don't care." He yanked one hand through his hair and stormed off, his breathing so loud I could hear it from a few feet away.

"Axel, please, I just-"

"Shut up! I don't want to hear anything you say!" He turned as he yelled those things, his feet leading him backwards towards the house still, his hands buried deep into his jean pockets. I almost felt as if I was going to cry, my own anger and the fear he inspired in me both seemed to fight to control my tear ducts. They succeeded when he closed the door and continued into his house, doing whatever it was that he was going to do. The overwhelming emotions released as I leaned down to focus on calming down. I sat there for a short time, allowing myself to cry and breathe until I felt up to the walk home. The one thing that kept repeating in my mind was how much that sucked. I was scared I was going to lose him over it, but it was better than risking him dying.

I didn't know why he was so unhappy. I didn't know much about eating disorders, but I knew that it wasn't a matter of a diet gone too far. There were mental problems that went with the problematic relationship with food. He hadn't ever let me in, he hadn't ever hinted there were things wrong. Sometimes I could tell he was upset, but he never talked about it. I had assumed he would talk when he felt up to it. Things got serious, though, and I had to push him to talk which didn't turn out well, it seemed.

My bag was by the door, and I showed myself out, texting Demyx a warning before Axel went off on him, too. At least Demyx would be aware of what had happened.