(Sorry about that mistake, guys. Here's the actual last chapter rather than a repeat of chapter Three orz;; Enjoy!)
The housework was beginning to pile up, but Marluxia had long since decided that he wasn't going to get out of bed. He'd found a pillow that smelled of Vexen and buried his nose into it, lying still and numb and with no idea what to do.
Vexen was going to come back for his things. Even if he didn't want Marluxia any more, he was going to have to come back for his things. So Marluxia had decided that he was going to stay at home and be there the moment Vexen thought it was safe to slip back in to grab whatever he could stuff into some hypothetical, imagined bag. He wasn't sure what he'd do after that, and he was sort of hoping on Vexen being able to spur him into saying something in the moment when their eyes would inevitably meet.
What could he say? It was quite obvious that things were Not Good, and it almost certainly had something to do with Larxene, and sex. So... Admittedly, Marluxia and Vexen did have more sex than was considered normal or even possibly healthy, but that was just the way they were. Sexing each other up was, as both of them had often insisted, just their way of saying "I love you."
Now that didn't seem like an explanation, more of a fat, misguided excuse, and when it wasn't just Larxene who was saying that, but Vexen too - Marluxia had no clue what to think. He'd never really broken up before. Not like this. Sure, he'd had girlfriends, back before he'd met Vexen, but they were all pretty little things that were just good for a little street cred and something to do at boring parties once the alcohol ran out. Vexen, Marluxia had been sure, was It. Except now nobody but him seemed to think so.
Eventually necessity called and he stood up, pulled on a clean change of clothes and went to find Larxene.
Larxene seemed to have brightened up a little now that only one gay was left hanging around. She was lounging on the sofa like she owned the place - and she did, Marluxia supposed. More than him. Vexen was the one who owned the deeds to this place, and she was at least paying rent. Marluxia felt like a freeloader.
"I... I'm gonna go walk next door's dog now. I was wondering if you wanted to come with me?"
He was fully expecting a no, but it was tradition, and right now tradition was all he had to cling on to to stop himself going completely and utterly insane.
"Sure," Larxene said, flicking off the TV. "Why not."
"I'll be leaving in five minutes," Marluxia said after he'd recovered from being struck dumb by Larxene's sudden change of mind. "It's quite cold out there, so dress up warm."
"Whatever you say, mum."
Marluxia felt a stab of pain shoot through him, and whether it was from the gaudy bruises on his leg and head or because he knew that if Larxene had said that to Vexen, it would have hurt, he didn't know.
Leaving himself eloquently at that, he left to find his shoes, tugging them on and doing up his laces with dexterous ease. Larxene joined him after a while, and they left in silence to collect the jumpy puppy who was really too young to be owned by a kindly old lady who could barely walk a mile, let alone the twenty that this little bundle of energy would probably manage with plenty of bounce left over. He fussed it extra because it somehow seemed to sense that he was miserable, and then they set off at a decent pace towards the nearest park.
Marluxia felt like he needed to say something.
"You know," He eventually began, "I didn't even know that I was gay until I met Vexen."
"Did he know?" Larxene asked, apparently willing for once to play along.
"Oh, yeah. He'd known since he was about ten. He told his parents on his sixteenth birthday, and..." He paused. Did Larxene deserve to know? Probably not, but would Vexen ever find out? "Well, they kicked him out. They were Catholics, like yours. Sixteen years old and they kicked him out because he was gay."
"Why didn't he just change his mind?" Larxene said. "If it was so difficult for him then why couldn't he just be straight?"
Marluxia stopped, partly out of surprise and sudden realisation, but mostly because the puppy was peeing on a lamppost.
"You don't choose to be gay," He said, feeling like he was revealing some deep, ancient secret. Why didn't anybody actually know this? "You don't just wake up one morning and think "Oh, hey, I'm going to like men today". You either are, or you aren't. You can't help it."
"Oh." Larxene said. "My parents always said that-"
"What do your parents know about homosexuality?" Marluxia asked evenly, if with a tiny bit of malice lacing his words. "What the bible told them? What the priests in church think they can extrapolate from twisted rumours and incorrect, biased scientific data? They don't know anything. And trust me, there's a lot to know."
They walked again.
"When did you first think you liked him?" Larxene asked eventually as they let the maniac thing off the lead at the park and stood together for a while in awkward silence, not really sure what to do.
"Well," Marluxia said with the tiniest of smiles on his haunted face, "My parents maintain that it was love at first sight. Apparently the first thing I said about him when I came home was "He's well pretty", although I don't remember that. But I didn't realise for a few months."
"What, so they knew you were gay before you did?" Larxene said, frowning like it had been anything but what she'd expected.
"My mum says that she always knew I had it in me. I don't know why, she could just tell right from when I was a little kid that I was going to be this way. Motherly love, I suppose. My dad was a bit put out that he'd never have grandchildren, but me and Vexen always sort of planned to adopt once we had some money."
"That's really weird," Larxene said, and Marluxia suspected that to be a filler to get around sharing an opinion of her own.
"Yeah," He agreed. "But I'm glad, really. If my parents'd done what Vexen's did I think we'd both be stuffed. Probably still living out in that crappy little two room flat next to ours trying to scrape together the next fifty quid's worth of rent. But instead we're here, and they're helping Vexen pay the fees for University so he can get his doctorate, and then we'll settle down, maybe get married - civil partnership, even - have a kid just like normal couples. At least, that was always the plan."
And he sighed, wiping away with his sleeve a new rank of tears that were trying to march across his cheeks.
The puppy happened to return with somebody else's ball, and Marluxia was glad of the distraction as he levered the thing out if its mouth and chucked it as far as he could. The puppy powered after it at top speed, but it was snatched up by the right dog this time, and they tumbled into a somewhat mismatched playfight over the ball, which at one point was dropped and forgotten on the grass, stealthily stolen by its owner who grinned in Marluxia's direction as he discretely pocketed it to confuse the dogs.
"He'll come back," Marluxia found himself whispering as they set off again down the road away from the park, clipping the puppy back in on the lead. Larxene didn't reply.
She hadn't seen Naminé other than fleetingly, really, since they'd argued on the way home the other day. But they were still stuck in the same class, and as luck would have it, today they were in a seating plan and the clueless teacher had thought that it would be a good idea to shove them together as partners. For a long time they worked in heavy, empty silence, Naminé doing her best to avoid Larxene and Larxene doing her best not to care. She just couldn't understand why Naminé had stormed off like that. She hadn't changed, she hadn't said anything wrong - so why did her best friend suddenly hate her?
"You know, Marluxia and Vexen split up."
"Really." Naminé said blankly as she unwillingly reached out to manoeuvre Larxene's arm into a position that would be easier to draw.
"Well, more like Vexen walked out. Pretty funny, actually."
For once, it was Naminé scowling, not Larxene.
"How's that funny? It's awful."
"They were just fuckbuddies anyway," Larxene replied flippantly. "So what, one of them left. Who cares?"
"How do you know they didn't love each other?" Naminé challenged, for once not simply backing down like she always did.
"Come on," Larxene drawled. "They were two men. Men can't love each other like that. Gays can't love at all. It's just sex, isn't it."
"That's not true," Naminé muttered.
"Oh, yeah? Prove it."
Suddenly the class was very silent as Naminé stood up and yelled - and Naminé had never yelled before, not even back in the first year of secondary school when a whole load of bullies tried to gang up on her and Larxene.
"It's not true because I'm gay, and I love you!"
She grabbed her paints, and her bag, tears streaming.
"At least, I did. And then I found out that you think that gays are the scum of the Earth. Including, apparently, me. So much for being best friends."
There were two bracelets that Larxene and Naminé had worn ever since they'd declared each other Best Friends, two things that were growing rather shabby now, but neither of them would ever even think about taking them off. But, to Larxene's horror, Naminé reached over for a pair of scissors and with one calculated snip severed the circle of woven, faded threads, catching the broken bracelet and hanging it tantalisingly as though to say this is what you could have had, before dropping it pointedly on Larxene's lap.
She was gone in less than a minute, the whole class watching the door where she'd stormed out in silent, awed surprise.
When she came home to find Marluxia a shaking mess on the floor, clutching at some old papers written in Vexen's tight, neat handwriting, she suddenly - sort of - understood.
"You know you were saying about losing friends," She said as nonchalantly as she could manage (which wasn't very) as she swung by the door into the sitting room. Marluxia glanced up, taking no more care to hide his tear-ridden face.
"What about it?"
"Well, I thought you should know that you were right."
Marluxia laughed humourlessly.
"I'm always right."
And he turned back to the papers, hair shielding him from her, and began again to cry.
"He was only some guy," Larxene said reproachfully. Her hand dug deep into her pocket where she could feel the rough, frayed ends of the Best Friends Forever bracelet that Naminé had broken before her very eyes that morning.
"He was more than that,"
"My best friend is gay."
"She says she loved me."
"I'm not a lesbian."
"You could be. You just don't know it yet."
Marluxia stood up, leaving the papers scattered uselessly about the floor. He made his way over to where Larxene was hanging in the hallway, and slipped past her.
"You shouldn't rule anybody out just because of their gender," He said quietly. "Vexen... Vexen always used to say that love is chemistry, not biology. I think he perhaps meant it in a less profound way, but it's true. It's about who you love, not what they are."
Larxene didn't reply, elbowing her way to the TV and half-deliberately stepping on one of the sheets of paper with her brightly coloured socked foot. Marluxia sighed, and left for his own room.
The weekend was awful. Since Vexen was always so busy during the week - and so was Marluxia, in his own right - the weekend was always for them, lots and lots of laughter and sex and doing crazy things together and not caring about Monday until seven o'clock on that very morning when they were running late for everything and anything.
But now there was no Vexen and Marluxia was slowly beginning to resign himself to the fact that there wasn't going to be a Vexen any more because Vexen was gone. Just like that. If Marluxia had been anyone else, he might have blamed himself - but instead, in a hundred small, vindictive ways, his blame lay to rest heavily on Larxene's shoulders. He hadn't driven Vexen away, even if on the night he'd hardly helped. Larxene's cruel words and blunt homophobia was what had driven him to the edge. All Marluxia was guilty of was not catching him before he jumped.
He rang around all of Vexen's friends, but he wasn't in any of the ones that answered. Marluxia felt like it was a long shot anyway, and he didn't pursue it much. He wondered if he'd gone to stay with Marluxia's parents (who'd become sort of substitutes for his) but he didn't want to have to feel the shame of telling them that Vexen was gone in order to ask them if he was there.
So he'd just had to sit tight and hope that he would return. He had a feeling that he'd be hoping for a very long time. And every morning that he woke up in a cold, half empty bed, and every time he looked at something stupid like the toaster or the old, worn ornament on the windowsill they'd found together washed up on some beach, or the calendar or the underwear drawer where they kept all their sex toys just to be really, really cliché or the hook by the door where Vexen's long, black coat was still hanging, it got worse. Marluxia even found himself hiding beneath it on Monday evening as though he was desperate for a last minute nook or cranny in some childish game of hide and seek. It smelled of Vexen and if he closed his eyes he could imagine that he was just there again, gorgeous and perfect and holding him close as Marluxia wrapped the empty coat suffocatingly close against his body.
He fancied he'd go up to the University on Tuesday and catch Vexen after his lecture but the grounds were so vast that he instantly knew that even if he managed to get past the receptionist, he'd never find him. So he sat all day when he should have been at work on a park bench outside and facing the entrance, watching all the Not-Vexens meander in and out until he thought that maybe he'd gone crazy or better yet this was all just a dream and Vexen wanted him back, wanted him now, and preferably also wanted him in bed.
Eventually he went home and didn't sleep until the phone was ringing him awake, the manager of the bookshop he helped out in wondering where he was.
"Sorry. I've had a bad weekend."
"Yes, you sound like it. Are you coming in tomorrow?"
"Yeah. I think I need the distraction."
"Anything you'd like to talk to me about?"
The woman who owned the shop was an approachable, motherly middle-aged lady who of course knew all about Marluxia and Vexen - and if Marluxia could talk to anybody about the events of the past few days, it would be her.
"It's Vexen," He said, his voice rising a note or three even as he recalled the other man's name to his lips. "He's... he's gone."
There was a pause for a while as they both took a moment to consider this, one for the first time and the other for the millionth.
"I'm so sorry."
"Hey just walked out. On Wednesday. We had an argument and he left. I haven't heard from him since and I don't think he's coming back. Not even to get his stuff."
"He wouldn't just leave," The lady said encouragingly. "He really loves you, Marluxia. He probably just needs some time out."
"But he's been gone nearly a week," Marluxia said miserably, sitting down as far from the desk where all of Vexen's work was still laid out as the old cord on the phone would allow.
"Then that means you haven't got long left to wait, doesn't it?" The lady replied and Marluxia could almost see that familiar smile. "You two go back years," She continued. "He wouldn't just leave and you never see him again. That doesn't sound like Vexen at all."
"I suppose," Marluxia said, although he wasn't convinced himself. A few formalities later and he put the phone down with a solemn click, sighing a little. Then he grabbed the spare duvet that didn't smell as much of Vexen and propped all the cushions up at one end of the sofa, changed into his pyjamas and settled down. He couldn't sleep in their bed. Not any more. In a couple of weeks if Vexen still wasn't back, then he'd get a blow up mattress or something to sleep on instead. Something new and completely devoid of Vexen. It was awful, but better than something that was almost but not quite the other man.
He still didn't really sleep.
"Hey, Naminé. It's Larxene. I know you hate me now, but I was wondering if you wanted to come around and meet up before Christmas. I got you a really nice present and I think it'd be a shame to let it go to waste because I'm certainly not going to be able to use it, and God forbid that Marluxia ever tries to. Although I don't think he will. He looks really miserable without Vexen. Wanders around like a lost puppy hoping that somebody will take him home and fuss over his hair. He washed the pink out, you know. Loathe as I am to admit it, brown doesn't suit him. But... I guess I'm rambling. Well, I'm free tomorrow if you're interested. So. Yeah. Call back, please."
This phone lay on the bed, a little way away from its owner, flipped open and playing the One New Message on repeat.
Hey, Naminé. It's Larxene... Yeah. Call back, please.
Naminé wiped her eyes on her sleeve and leaned over, picked up the phone and dialled recall.
It was Wednesday morning and a week had passed since Vexen had turned up on Lexaeus and Zexion's doorstep, drenched by the rain and looking utterly miserable. Now he'd recovered a little - but there was a haunted ghost still hiding behind his eyes, and his movements were still almost lethargic in their mechanical, automatic nature, and the reason was simple: Vexen needed Marluxia.
"We think it's probably time for you to go back now."
Vexen, who'd been brewing himself yet another mug of coffee, found himself pointing accusingly at the phone.
"He hasn't called. He hasn't even tried to call me. I really hurt him that night. How can I just mosey in and expect him to forgive me?"
Zexion, who was working on the kitchen table, sighed.
"Or you could never go back and just expect him to pick up the pieces alone."
"He knows I love him," Vexen said reproachfully. "I left him a message the first night and he never called back or anything. He must be really mad at me."
Lexaeus was hanging in the doorway, silent.
"How long have you been with Marluxia?"
"A long time. Six years, almost?"
"I rest my case."
"Basically," Zexion finished, "We're kicking you out. Off you go."
Marluxia was walking home from work when he saw him, strutting purposefully somewhere with his hips seductively swinging without him even noticing, his hair swaying a little in the breeze. There were twenty, perhaps thirty people between them, but he still immediately broke into a run, planting his face into Vexen's back and his arms firmly around his waist whether he liked it or not.
Somehow Vexen managed to twist in Marluxia's crushing embrace to gently wrap his arms around the other man.
"Oh God, Vexen, please come back. I can't survive without you."
"Why didn't you call me?"
"I didn't know where you were! You just disappeared!"
"Didn't you get my message? I left a voice mail on your phone."
Marluxia suddenly wanted to laugh at the irony.
"Vexen, my phone charger broke. I didn't think there'd be any point checking my phone because you never text me. You should have emailed me or something."
"I didn't bother to because I know that you never check your emails." Vexen replied.
"It was the first place I looked. You're always emailing everybody."
They prised themselves away enough to look each other in the eye.
"Shit," The eventually both said, simultaneously.
"I'm so sorry," Vexen said.
"I love you." Marluxia said.
"I love you too."
And then they were too busy doing other things with their mouths, hell if either of them cared that they were in public as tongues were thrust deep into throats and hands found familiar grips on places of varying degrees of appropriateness. Eventually it was the police who came along and pulled them apart for indecent exposure and sent them on their way, hand in hand and still nipping at kisses when they thought that nobody was looking.
"So," Marluxia said, looking a lot more comfortable with himself as he clicked open the lock of their apartment. "I think you have some explaining to do."
And when that explanation came in the form of hot, wet, much-missed sex, it was plenty of an explanation for Marluxia.
Larxene was nervous as she waited by the station to meet Naminé, who she hadn't even seen, let alone spoken to since that day when she'd stormed out of class nearly a week ago. She couldn't believe how much she was missing somebody who was just a friend. Slowly as the days had progressed, she'd found herself sympathising more and more with Marluxia - poor Marluxia, lost without Vexen to hold him up - but personal pride had ensured that she hadn't summoned up the courage to walk in and apologise, as much as that would have helped the older man.
But Naminé she really needed to apologise to, for all the times she'd expressed her hatred of homosexuals to her without even realising that she was one...
She had in her pocket two new bracelets that she'd bought with a little extra embroidery thread to sew into it with a needle in the small hours of last night as soon as Naminé had called back, and she fingered them nervously as she waited. This had to go right. She didn't really have any other friends - well, there was Axel but he was a dick - and without Naminé she felt like she was just as a loss as to what to do.
A bit like Marluxia was without Vexen. It was scary the number of parallels she found herself able to draw between her and him.
Except she wasn't gay.
She was struck by how normal Naminé looked as she stepped off the train, in jeans and a fitted t shirt with her hair falling like it always did over one shoulder, glancing left and right as she looked for Larxene. She didn't look like a lesbian, like a girl who liked other girls and got drunk a lot and groped people or whatever lesbians did. She just looked like... Naminé.
Larxene waved awkwardly and the smaller girl hurried over.
"So... How are you?"
"I'm..." Naminé paused. "I'm okay. You?"
It didn't sound like the truth but Larxene left it at that because she wasn't the only one lying when she said;
"Back to mine?"
They walked off across the bridge back to the right side of the station and then along to the footpath towards the apartment where Larxene lived.
"You know," Naminé commented halfway there, "I wish you'd invited me over before Vexen left. I really wanted to meet him and see what he was really like. I mean, aside from the whole sex thing because that was all you ever talked about."
Larxene was all geared up to say Well, that's all they ever did, but then she realised that that honestly wasn't true and she'd just been ignoring everything that made Marluxia and Vexen friends and not just lovers.
"He was pretty quiet," She said thoughtfully, recalling the few times that she'd actually bothered to talk to the chemist. "I mean, Marluxia was always the outgoing one. Now he hardly ever talks either."
"Well," Naminé said, "A break up like that must have been really painful. Like you and me and we're just friends."
"We've been friends longer than they ever knew each other," Larxene insisted, trying not to think about the fact that she'd just, in a way, "broken up" with Naminé.
"I suppose so."
It really wasn't long to the apartment and Larxene habitually took the stairs two or three at a time, Naminé being forced to hurry to catch up. She hung quietly around the doorway, feeling like things needed to be said before they could go inside and play at being friends again.
Larxene swallowed her pride, and forced herself to meet the shorter girl's eyes. She needed to do this - in one fell swoop backed by fifteen years of friendship, Naminé had successfully felled all of Larxene's misconceptions and now it was time for her to acknowledge that.
"Look. About everything. I'm sorry, okay?"
Naminé smiled - genuinely - for the first time in what Larxene suddenly realised was ages.
"Yeah. I forgive you."
Naminé bit her lip, still smiling in her own sweet, quirky way as she thought. Larxene found herself drawn to that pert little mouth, lips pink and glossy.
"Well... Can I just have one thing first, please?"
"Sure. What's that?"
Naminé put her fingers gently on her lips, her eyes perfectly conveying what she wanted, but still Larxene found the urge just to check - just in case she was wrong.
Larxene felt her cheeks explode into a blush but she couldn't exactly back out of this - not since she was pretty much teetering on the edge of loosing her very best friend. So she mumbled a bashful "Fine," and leaned down to peck shyly at Naminé's strawberry flavoured lips.
"You kissed a girl, and you liked it~"
Larxene immediately stumbled away to turn and glare at Marluxia who had inexplicably appeared in the doorway, wearing Not Enough Clothing and dangling off a familiar pair of hips. So surprised as she was to see Vexen (who was at least fully clothed unlike Marluxia who seemed to have lost everything bar his boxers), she forgot to defend herself until it was too late and Marluxia was ushering her inside, welcoming her to the "club" as Vexen rolled his eyes and followed, hanging up Naminé's coat for her and offering her a drink.
"So when did Vexen get back?"
"Met him down by the shops," Marluxia said, his usual chirpy and somewhat arrogant self. "We got cautioned by the police for making out too lewdly in public, didn't we, Vexen?"
Vexen hmmed in reply as he boiled the kettle for tea.
"So what about you? Finally getting in touch with your lesbian side?"
"No way! She just asked me to, that was all!" Larxene instantly exclaimed, reddening again. She felt intimidated again, everybody around her gay and her the odd one out. Even little Naminé... Larxene hadn't thought about that much, mostly because she couldn't really imagine Naminé being gay because she was so used to simply assuming that she was straight.
"You'd make a good lesbian," Vexen suddenly said as he poured boiling water into the kettle and sat down to sat for the tea to brew. Larxene didn't know whether to be worried, offended or both. For sake of being polite, she eventually chose curiosity.
"I don't know." Vexen replied honestly, one hand finding finding Marluxia's on the table. "Call it natural instinct?"
"I promise you," Larxene said, holding up her hands, "I am not gay. Nuh uh. One hundred percent into men. No offence... but it just isn't my thing."
She had no idea how wrong she was.