I hate my life. Roxas sighed as he walked up the steps to the studio. Where had he gone wrong?
Probably in accepting a spot on a cable TV show. But it had seemed like a wonderful idea at the time. He'd be the next big TV personality, a great interior designer creating marvelous homes for people struggling to find their own style. The show was called Home Sweet Home and they'd all hoped it would be the next great success.
It hadn't worked out that way. Roxas partially blamed the presenter, Larxene. He hadn't wanted a presenter when he started the show but the manager/producer had decided he didn't have enough camera personality to do both. So they show had Larxene, who was all big green eyes, blonde hair and had a high pitched voice that Roxas was sure could kill flies. He thought she was as entertaining as an STD but the producer disagreed.
Unfortunately, the viewers seemed to agree. He was the only one who received any fan mail and the show had lost its seven PM slot and drifted to two PM. Not good. Not good at all. They needed to do something to improve their fortunes or the whole thing might get cancelled and then what?
"Roxas, you're late." The producer snapped as he walked in the room. Roxas blinked stupidly at him as he waved impatiently at a chair. What did it matter? Larxene wasn't there yet. "We've gotten an amazing offer!" Roxas suddenly realized Alf was happy. What could have him grinning like that? And Marluxia was smiling like a Cheshire cat. Completely baffled, Roxas accepted the folder the producer offered him and leafed through it.
"What is this?" Roxas stared at photos of an immense home. A mansion, really. It was beautiful, built in a style that looked Italian to him. The brickwork was very white and it looked a little run down, but in a way that gave it a great deal of charm. The windows were very long and had bright blue panes while the roof was brown and some of the pictures showed a vast, beautiful pool. There were dozens of pictures including ones of the interior décor and Roxas tilted his head as he looked it over. Just judging from the pictures, the inside of the home looked like a period museum. Very pretty but very, very dated. It wasn't bad at all if you liked that look but it definitely wasn't Roxas' taste.
"This is your next project." Roxas just blinked and Alf grinned. "I know, I know, we don't have the budget to outfit a home like that! But that's the amazing part Roxas. Your budget for this job is unlimited!" Alf thumped the pictures with a forefinger. "The owner of the home is a huge fan. He's also a billionaire. He's covering all the costs and wants the whole thing redone, by us! The network loves it; they're giving us an hour, maybe two and moving us back to a prime time slot just for this episode. It's going to be called Celebrity Home Sweet Home. If this works out well maybe they'll up our budget and give us a better time slot."
"Oh." Roxas said weakly, feeling a touch overwhelmed. "Who is this billionaire?" It would probably be some old guy with a few strands of hair combed over his bald –
"Here's a picture." Alf slid a magazine over and Roxas nearly swallowed his tongue. He knew that face! "Axel Esposito. He was in the Tattler two months ago when he broke up with his girlfriend, the actress Jessica Thorn." Roxas had definitely heard of that. There had been a child involved but Axel had denied he was the father and the DNA tests had backed him up. It had come out that she'd had artificial insemination and was basically trying to scam her wealthy lover out of quite a wad of cash. The sordid details had been all over the news. At the time Roxas had thrown the scandal rags in the trash but he'd never imagined he would meet someone out of them. "So we might be able to work a love interest into this –" Roxas tuned the man out as he prattled about Larxene using her wiles on the man. Instead he examined the picture. It was a candid shot, clearly catching Axel by surprise as he exited his home. The way he'd turned his head towards the camera, eyes a little wide and mouth slightly parted, was very flattering. How did he get his hair like that though? Was it natural? "Roxas! Are you listening?" Roxas blinked, coming out of his reverie.
"Of course." He said briskly, pushing back the picture as Alf glared at him. "Get the concept done by Friday. I'll be right on it." It would take a lot of work but he was already fired by the project. This house had beautiful bones and he'd be able to do lovely things with it. There was a full blueprint of the house included and Roxas whistled softly at the size. There were so many rooms. He needed to come up with ideas for all of them. "Now, Marluxia, I want you to make Axel –" Roxas tuned them out again as he began scribbling notes. Marly did catch his eyes for a moment and smiled. Roxas smiled back, very happy. He and Marluxia had been boyfriends for only a few months and he was glad it looked like their fortunes were on the rise.
Then Larxene breezed in like a stray thunderstorm. Roxas winced as she slammed the door open and sashayed in, taking a seat with aplomb. Alf gave her a smile, which annoyed Roxas. She was later then him, why didn't she get chewed out over it? But Larxene was the station darling. She could do no wrong. Alf quickly gave her a rundown and they immediately began discussing the on-set sexual tension.
"When can I meet with Axel?" Roxas finally managed to get a word in edgewise. If he let them, they'd go on plotting Larxene's attempted love interest forever. Alf blinked but nodded at the folder.
"His number is in there. Call him and arrange a time." Roxas nodded and picked up the folder.
"In that case, please excuse me?" He'd do his planning much better at his desk, with his color swatches and various tools around him. Alf waved him away and Roxas stood, starting out. All of the projects he did interested him, but this one was special. An unlimited budget, a beautiful mansion and a handsome owner?
Yes, this was going to be fun.
Hello. The voice on the other end sounded a bit blurry and Roxas frowned. It was two in the afternoon but it sounded like he'd woken Axel up.
"Hello. This is Roxas Ackers from Home Sweet Home. I hope I'm not disturbing you?" He didn't think much of Axel's habits if he slept this late. Was he one of those people who stayed up until all hours of the night? Probably.
Oh no. Roxas was relieved as the voice became more alert. I was just taking a nap. What can I do for you Roxas? Axel had a nice voice, Roxas noticed. Very smooth and masculine.
"I was wondering when we could meet to talk about the concept for your home? Would tomorrow be good?" Tomorrow was Tuesday and he needed to have the concept ready for Friday so Axel could okay it. That would give him plenty of time to work on it.
Let me check my schedule – hm. I have some business in the afternoon so we could meet in the morning or evening. Are you a morning person? We could meet around eight. Roxas smiled to himself. That would give him the entire day to work on the design. We could meet at my condo. I imagine you'll have a lot of papers to show me, and the coffee shop hates that sort of thing. Roxas nodded. He knew exactly what Axel meant. Spreading out his diagrams at a café would be annoying at best. At worst, they might catch some stray coffee.
"That would be wonderful." He said sincerely and grabbed a pen and paper. "Where do you live?" Soon he had the address. It was for the best part of town which was no surprise. "Okay, I'll be there. Thank you very much."
No, thank you. I'm looking forward to this. Roxas smiled as he hung up the phone. It sounded like the billionaire really was looking forward to it. He couldn't wait to meet Axel. What would he be like in person?
He would just have to see.
"Welcome!" Axel greeted him at the door and Roxas was struck by the presence the other man had. It wasn't just his dramatic coloring and good looks. There was an aura about him, something that drew the eye and made him the centre of attention. It reminded him a little of Larxene, actually. She had the same knack. "I'm glad to meet you. You're my favorite on Home Sweet Home, you know." Axel offered him a hand and Roxas took it automatically.
"Uh, really?" Roxas blinked, surprised as he shook Axel's hand. The redhead had a nice grip, firm but not painful. And his hand felt warm and dry. "I'm surprised you watch us at all with the two PM time slot." Axel grinned and Roxas felt almost captivated. He looked so happy, his green eyes sparkling.
"Oh, well. I might have started watching when I was tired but couldn't take a nap." He said and Roxas smiled ruefully. That figured. "But then I started taping the episodes and watching later. Would you like to take a look at my condo? It's a good representation of my style."
"Sure." That would actually be helpful. Axel showed him around and Roxas had the distinct feeling the place had been professionally designed. It was comfortable yet chic and modern. "How did your mansion end up looking like that?" The design of it was completely at odds with Axel's condo. Axel laughed as he poured them both some coffee and Roxas sat at the table, getting out his sketches.
"Oh, well. That was my father's place actually. He lived there all through his final illness and he hated change of any sort, when he was ill." At Roxas curious look he elaborated. "Alzheimer's. He had me very late in life." Roxas winced at that.
"Oh, I'm sorry." He knew how difficult it could be to have a relative with that problem. His aunt had to be sent to an old age home for the same thing. Axel shrugged.
"Some things, no amount of money can cure. But it made things easier. He lived there with several live-in nurses and attendants. Anyway, I haven't been back there since he died but I was thinking of spending a summer there and I need an entirely new look for the place. Wipe out the memories. So, do you think you can do it?" Axel brought over the coffees and Roxas smiled brightly.
"Of course!" This was the kind of challenge he knew how to answer. "I have some fabric swatches here and ideas…" Roxas began to run through his various design concepts and Axel listened intently, sipping his coffee as he watched the blonde. His eyes lingered over beautiful blonde hair and slipped down to gesturing hands. A small, secret smile crossed Axel's face before he began to politely answer Roxas' questions about his style and what he expected for the mansion.
Everything was going according to plan.
After the meeting was over Roxas left the house, bubbling with ideas and filled with inspiration. Axel had been a marvelous client to deal with. He knew what he wanted but was receptive to new ideas. They'd picked out color palettes for most of the rooms and Axel had laughingly designated one of the rooms as his 'fun place'. Roxas blushed as he remembered that but he knew the redhead was right. A room where he could do something completely wonky would make for good TV, since they could film Axel's reaction when he saw it. The mansion had so many rooms that Axel was cheerfully willing to sacrifice one bedroom to the cause. Roxas hoped to make it nice though. In fact, he was planning to make it into his own dream bedroom. Would Axel like it? He hadn't a clue, but it would be fun and good TV. His phone went off just as he was climbing into his car and Roxas paused, pulling it out as he slid into the seat.
"Hello?" He answered as he tapped his fingers against the steering wheel. He didn't like driving while answering a cell phone. Roxas had always been a cautious driver and Marluxia sometimes made fun of him for that, but what could you do. He wasn't adjusting his driving style for anyone.
Roxas! How did the meeting go? Alf. Roxas sighed to himself.
"It went great. I think he's going to be a pleasure to deal with. Why?" Alf usually didn't start hovering this early in the process. But then, this episode might make their fortunes. Maybe he was starting early. If so, Roxas wasn't happy. He hated it when the producer was constantly jogging his elbows. He was good at his job and didn't need constant oversight.
The execs just want some hard data, you know how it is. Make sure that concept is ready for Friday. Hovering for certain. Roxas forced a smile and bid him farewell before hanging up the phone. Idly, he wondered how Axel would get along with Larxene. Somehow, the thought was less than palatable. Axel was very nice and clearly had bad taste in women. He didn't need another bitch like Larxene.
Roxas shook his head at himself. Axel's private life wasn't his business. Pulling into traffic he set a course for the office. He wanted to get started on this design concept right away.
He wanted it to be the best design he'd done in his life.