Guys, this is a challenge fic that is three years overdue. I'm not even kidding...

Challenge by cnfzdpsychosis, although it's been so long I don't even remember what the prompt is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it was to use the phrase: "You're running out of places to hide from me." Which would explain why I chose such a generic title three years ago...Seriously guys, I just found this on my computer and I hadn't touched it since and now I'm editting it up and finally submitting it.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I don't even know why I try....


From the moment his mom had dropped him off at Aerith's Afternoon Day Care – Axel knew - his life was gonna change.

He had felt it in his sneakers as he jumped out of the car and landed on the ground. The concrete beneath his soles felt different, the air he breathed felt different. Even the name tag he wore was clinging to his shirt differently.

Every single indicator of the day was telling him to brace himself.

And then he met Roxas.

A little kid who was hard to find at first because he had wandered off into a corner to play build-a-block by himself. This lasted for all of two minutes. Two. Minutes. Too ambitious to finish his block castle, Roxas hadn't noticed anything else as he was seconds away from competing the last tower; Only to be dragged away by Axel a minute later to go play what he was told a much more exciting game of hide-and-seek.

And it was weird. It was fun too, but it was also kinda weird.

Because there was just something about that Roxas kid that made Axel like him. And there musthave been something about Axel as well – or so the redhead liked to believe - because the other boy had stuck by his side the entire time they were playing.

Maybe Roxas was a bad player. Maybe he wasn't good at hide-and-seek. But that was impossible because all kids were good at hide-and-seek. And he must have at least been better than the girls at it, because boys were better at everything.

And yet here he was, cramped behind a table because the kid was forcing him to share all his special hiding spots. His blond follower squatting down next to him, not that he needed to because he was so small he barely took up any space. It kinda made Axel feel a bit too lanky, a bit too tall. If they became too close friends, they'd probably make a funny dynamic duo.

But Axel didn't mind. He kinda liked the kid.

But then that happened.

Stupid Larxene, that was the last time he shared his cookie with her! Because yeah, thanks a lot, Larxene for making that snide comment about the kid's height. Or maybe it was his age. Hmmpt, why'd you have to do it? Well, whatever it was, it sure made the kid awfully angry because he just upped and left - stomping out of the play area with a pout and dazzling Axel with his light-up sneakers.

He thought that was the end of it. He thought, well there goes another playmate.

But of course, he thought wrong. Because Xemnas, their overpowering 10-year-old leader, had ordered Axel to retrieve him - after assigning Larxene time out of course.

And so that finds our favorite redhead roaming around the woods of Twilight Town. Our eight year-old hero starts his journey by looking under every rock and inspecting every blade of glass. He stops momentarily to question a bug about his companion's whereabouts.

But alas, our hero is forced to use his last resort, with a hand beside his mouth he shouts: "MARCO!"

And that, my friends, is where our story begins.

xXxXx

The woods remained silent. A few rustling of the leaves as the wind blew and the faraway chirps of birds was the only things that replied.

Axel tried again.

"MARCO!"

And again. And again. And again.

And finally, a low bush that he had overlooked began rustling. The redhead jumped a foot into the air, nearly falling backwards as he did so. A few seconds later, a little blond boy - who had indeed looked like he had been crying - emerged from between the branches. Using the long sleeves of his jacket, he started to wipe away tears that had been made prominent in the sunlight and asked,

"Who's Marco?"

The other boy grinned widely. "There's nobody named Marco, silly! It's a game! You're supposed to say 'Polo' back."

Cerulean eyes looked up at him and Axel suddenly found a color he liked.

"You guys are playing another game?"

Axel shook his head indignantly, "No! We're playing hide-and-seek! But then you ran away, so I went to go find you."

A blushed appeared on the smaller boy's cheeks as he looked away quickly. Axel smiled and hugged him. Because the redhead's parents had never given him 'the talk' about personal space, Axel was surprised to find that the other boy wasn't hugging him back. He had actually tensed up and stiffened at first touch.

"It's okay, Larxene is a meanie. All the boys think so, too! The only reason we play with Larxene is because Demyx's mom makes us play with her. Oh, Demyx and Larxene are brothers and sisters. And Demyx is my best friend, and Larxene likes to hit people. Oh, and I like fireworks. Do you?"

Axel had been rambling on, hoping to ease the other boy's nerves when he suddenly heard laughter. The blond pulled back from the sorta-hug and smiled at him. "You're funny."

He smiled back, taking the statement as a compliment. "Thank you, and you're not that short!"

The smaller of the two pouted. Axel realized that if he could learn how to pout like that, he could have all the cookies in the world.

"I know I'm short. I'm only six..." The boy crossed his arms and stared at the ground.

"That's cool, I'm eight." And then Axel added. "My favorite number is eight, what about you?"

Blue orbs looked back up at him again, shyly. "Um...thirteen?"

Axel stared, surprised. "Wow. I can't count that high, yet..."

The boy laughed again, and Axel determined that he liked it. Not just making people laugh in general, but making this boy laugh. And he had such a nice smile, too.

"What's your name?" asked the redhead.

"...Roxas." said the boy, averting his gaze.

Axel had a feeling he might have been embarrassed by his name, no doubt other people would assume it was a girl's name, so he said:

"That's an awesome name."

Roxas looked up at Axel with wide eyes - then a small smile broke out and Axel knew he had done something right.

"I'm Axel, got it mem-mo-ry-ized?" He struggled with his newfound catchphrase. Big words were hard to remember.

"What?" Roxas cocked his head to the side, confused.

"Uh, the name's Axel. Com...Comet it to memory." Tried the redhead again, but Roxas was still giving him that funny look.

The older boy sighed. "My name's Axel, just remember me okay?"

Roxas stared for a few seconds, as if he was really taking Axel's name and filing it away somewhere safe and special in his memory to remember later. A bigger smile appeared this time and Roxas nodded happily.

"Okay."

Axel couldn't help himself. He immediately pulled the smaller boy closer to him and held him in a possessive embrace. Like he was just given a new toy or something.

"We're friends now, Roxas. So if you run away again, Imma come find you. Gots it?"

And to his surprise, small arms wrapped themselves around his back, hugging Axel just as tightly back.

"Gots it."

xXxXx

In the great words of Axel, "A lot of shit happened in four years."

The so called Organization had slowly moved away from being a club and began resembling a gang with Roxas as their last and thirteenth member. The blond had also become closer friends with Larxene and Demyx. (Although he had a feeling Larxene only stopped picking on him because of Axel.)

This was especially useful when the redhead turned twelve and started his first year of middle school, reluctantly leaving a ten-year-old Roxas behind.

Axel had tried in vain to set fire to the elementary school with hopes of getting held back, but it failed miserably because Vexen had tattled on him. But the precious friendship that had spawned over the last few years was something Axel wasn't willing to give up a fight for.

Not when he found out that the only other two people Roxas depended on were either dead or working three part time jobs to support the both of them. And the few friends he made had gradually stopped corresponding after Roxas moved to Twilight Town.

So on the first day of school he promised to meet Roxas back at the elementary school.

"Hey Axel...Axel!" But the blond that ran up to him wasn't exactly the one Axel was looking for.

"Demyx, what's up?"

Axel shoved his hands in his beaten up black sweatshirt. They had all bought them to look cool, so instead of looking happy to see him or disappointed that it wasn't Roxas, Axel just tried to look nonchalant. Too young to really put it off, Axel just looked bored.

"Roxas... he-" started Demyx.

"Where is he?" Sharp green eyes narrowed as Demyx stopped running in front of Axel, hunched over with his hands on his thighs as he panted.

If what he thought was right, then this was the first time Roxas had ran away again in years. The kid just had so much trouble making new friends. But that was okay because Axel had promised to protect him and told him he didn't need any other friends because Axel was better than all of them. Had he perhaps failed him by abandoning him at this school? What kind of a best friend was he?

"Demyx...what happened?" asked Axel, suddenly feeling a bit sick.

The blond shrugged, his expression mirroring the other's worry.

"We've got some new kids this year. I think they're in Roxas' class or something. I dunno, er- I don't think they got along very well..."

At that point Larxene had shown up as well, relaying the same tale as her brother.

"Axel? Are you gonna help us search around school?" asked Larxene, who was the first to refuse asking help from a teacher.

The redhead shook his head distractedly, "I think I know where he is..."

Larxene perked up immediately, although they were friends, spending the afternoon playing hide-and-seek was not her ideal past time.

"Really? That's great! That means we don't have to go find him. Where is he?"

Axel shook his head again, "I don't know for sure...you guys should stay and look here, just in case. I'll come back later."

And with that he began sprinting across the school parking lot. Ignoring the looks of teachers who were probably wondering why he was back when they had finally gotten rid of him. He passed by a few group of students, frantically asking "Have you seen Roxas?" to each person, only to see heads shaking.

Each "No" he got only worsened the sick feeling that was forming in his stomach.

"You better not be ditching us, Axel! He's your best friend!"

Was the last thing Larxene had yelled at him, apparently thinking that Axel was leaving the search party. Yeah right.

His breathing was getting heavy as he continued running off school grounds to the first location he could think of. A sudden wave of nausea hit him as he arrived at the edge of Twilight Town's woods.

Please, Roxas, please be here...

He collapsed roughly against a tree, impatiently waiting for his breathing to ease. His eyes began scanning the forest, watching for any sudden movement or natural disruption that would imply that his blond friend had been there.

Axel hated the way he had to move slowly and carefully through each area, there was just too much of the forest to look through! But if he moved too fast he might miss him...

What if he already had missed him?

Axel stopped and frowned, immediately regretting that thought. Why did he have to think like that? He had to be positive if he was going to find Roxas! Unless if course...and try as he might, Axel couldn't push the next thought down...

What if Roxas wasn't even here? Had Roxas gotten new hiding places now?

The redhead balled his fist, his hands shaking at his side. He took a shuddering breath to calm his nerves, but his loud exhaled breath against the silence of the forest only reminded him that he was the only one there. Axel shut his eyes tightly, he was going to be okay...if he couldn't find Roxas...maybe he was still at school, maybe the others had already found him...

He swallowed the lump in his throat harshly and threw his head back with another angry sigh, opening his eyes to the sky.

And then he found him.

Sitting in a tree, several feet above him was Roxas. The blond's checkered shoes hanging off the branch, idly swinging back and forth, as he rested his back against the trunk of the tree. He had yet to notice the immensely grateful and relieved Axel on the ground.

"ROXAS!"

Until the older boy shouted his name out, causing the blond to twitch and lose his balance on the tree. Axel immediately panicked. He ran over to the patch of ground directly below Roxas and held his arms out, prepared to catch the blond if he fell.

But Roxas had already dug his fingernails into the bark roughly, holding him in place as he looked down curiously.

"Axel?" Cerulean eyes widened and sparkled as they located the redhead. "What are you doing here?"

"Looking for you...you idiot!" Axel was angry. He sounded angry - but he also sounded like he could have been relieved.

"Axel, what's wrong-" began Roxas, concerned, leaning over to get a better look at his best friend, whom he had never seen so upset before.

"ROXAS, DON'T LEAN OVER!" Axel shouted immediately.

If the redhead was mad before, he was furious now. The sight of the angry twelve-year-old made Roxas flinch and lean back, gripping the branch tighter. He hung his head dejectedly as he looked to the side.

"Axel, stop yelling at me," he murmured, but the redhead didn't hear him.

"Roxas, come down here right now! You shouldn't even be up there!"

"Don't tell me what to do!" shouted Roxas back. He glared angrily at the figure below, fighting back more tears. "You're just like Riku!"

Axel caught himself at the outburst. Getting yelled at by Roxas usually sparked his attention. It wasn't often that the blond raised his voice at him. As his anger subsided, Axel lowered his voice and tried to sound less angry. But it was hard to act calm and understanding when his best friend had ran off without any warning and was now perched dangerously on the treetops.

With a deep breath he asked, "Who's Riku?"

The boy in the tree frowned, something that looked awfully misplaced on Roxas. "He's this new kid in my class..."

Axel swallowed as he vaguely recalled something. "Did he….say something mean to you?"

Roxas looked away embarrassedly. At that moment, Axel realized that he was a bit useless in the situation. There was nothing he could do for Roxas while he was still on the ground, and Axel was getting ready to climb up the tree himself when Roxas spoke again. The blond's voice had gotten much lower, as if he was ashamed to tell Axel his feelings and that thought alone made Axel uncomfortable.

"There's this other kid named Sora in my class, too..." Roxas paused and glanced down at Axel. The redhead nodded to show that he was listening, more than listening.

"And everyone says he looks just like me..." There was a long pause where Roxas refused to make eye contact. "Larxene doesn't know I heard her...but she said that Sora was like a cooler version of me. And-and..it's true!"

"Roxas..." The feeling of being useless started to surface again. Axel couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"Sora has more friends than I do...and he's got so many of them...and he even has a dad...and...he-he's got Riku..." The blond slowly trailed off and Axel picked up for him.

"And Sora and Riku are...?" But Axel already knew the answer.

"...best friends."

An uncomfortable silence was shared between them. Axel had known it would be hard - losing your best friend like that. Roxas had lost so many things in his life already, and now he was going to lose him. The person who had promised to be his everything.

Did this mean Roxas thought Axel had abandoned him? Did he think that Axel didn't want to be his best friend anymore? Or was it - and he certainly hoped this wasn't the case - Roxas the one who didn't want be friends with Axel? But the more he thought about it, the more it made sense.

How were they supposed to share made-up rumors about the Organization? Or stick up for each other when they got caught in one of Axel's crazy pranks? Or tease Marluxia about his not-so-secret crush on Larxene?

Heck, who was going to split his lunch with Roxas when his mom forgot to pack it? Who was going to help Axel do his math homework and keep it from catching on fire?

But all of his insecurities, which he didn't even know he harbored, vanished after Roxas spoke again.

"Axel...I miss see my best friend everyday."

The older boy's head shot up. He almost forgot to breathe.

But once he did, the sight of Roxas almost took his breath away again. Roxas' knuckles were white from gripping the tree branch tightly and when he spoke, he shook. Out of embarrassment Roxas had turned his head away, but that didn't prevent Axel from seeing the tears.

"Seeing Sora and Riku together made me miss having a best friend even more."

It was something in the way Roxas' voice shook - or maybe it was the way he had to immediately bite his lip after speaking - but something weird happened inside of Axel's chest that would keep him confused for years. But one thing was for sure – Roxas made him feel needed. Roxas still needed him, and that made all the difference.

"Roxas, come down," pleaded Axel. He might not have understood the sensation he was feeling, but he knew he wanted Roxas down and safe immediately. So much that he didn't pay attention to the vague instruction he gave - until Roxas took it.

"ROXAS, I DIDN'T MEAN JUMP!"

By a stroke of luck, the blond managed to land on Axel, sending the both of them tumbling towards the ground. Axel's heart began racing uncontrollably as his back hit solid earth. The only comfort he had was the weight on his chest and the mass he currently had his arms wrapped around, which meant he had indeed caught Roxas and the blond had not jumped to his death.

When Axel opened his eyes, he was met with an innocent little Roxas sitting on his chest, giving him the most curious look.

"You caught me."

Roxas tilted his head towards the side, as if this was the oddest thing that had happened to him. Axel couldn't believe it.

"Of course I caught you...YOU JUMPED ON ME!"

The redhead tried to sit up, but Roxas had yet to give up residence on Axel's chest. And it wasn't that Roxas was heavy or anything - it was just getting a little hard to breath with the extra weight on his lungs. Axel pushed the younger boy back until he was seated on his stomach. It didn't make Axel any more comfortable, but at least now he could use his elbows to support himself up to a quasi-sitting position.

"What were you thinking?!" Axel glared angrily, but Roxas merely smiled back.

"That you would catch me..." and here the boy's smile grew akin to a playful smirk, "...and you did."

When it seemed that the younger boy would remain unfazed by glaring, Axel gave up and rolled his eyes. With a sigh, the redhead closed his eyes and collapsed onto the hard ground, his arms stretched out beside him.

"I don't understand you," he murmured.

A second later, he noticed that the weight on his stomach had started to spread out evenly and got considerably lighter. He felt Roxas' hands fisted in his shirt and the boy's steady breathing against his collar bone. With a smirk, Axel began tangling their legs together as Roxas laid on top of him.

"I think you do sometimes though, Axel."

Axel slyly opened one eye to peer at the bed-headed mass of blond lying on his chest. The younger boy's relaxed form moving up and down with every breath Axel took. And because Roxas had his eyes closed, Axel allowed himself a smile - but vowing to immediately look angry and scold him again when Roxas woke up.

xXxXx

Everyone who lived in Twilight Town probably should have learned that bad things happened when you separated the infamous duo.

Roxas tended to sit there and pout miserably - and although that never hurt anyone, it tended to make people feel like they had kicked a box full of homeless puppies. And Axel just tended to burn down important things. So when Axel entered ninth grade at Oblivion High and left Roxas behind in seventh, everyone adopted a puppy and a fire extinguisher.

But Axel wasn't as prepared.

The redhead had tried to warn him - he really did. Middle school wasn't easy, it was hell. Those years had been the most confusing period of Axel's life as he struggled in becoming a teenager. Fortunately, he had succeeded in steering Roxas away from his footsteps, the drugs, the hazing social groups, and anything else that Axel feared might hurt him.

And Roxas had gone so far as to make more friends like...erm...Lamer, Fence, and Omelette. Or something like that...despite what people said, Axel wasn't very good at memorization unless it directly involved himself or his interests

Or maybe it was Roxas that wasn't prepared.

Because the younger boy kept finding himself thrown into Sora's life and vice versa. Although he hated the brunet, it seemed like Sora was intent on befriending Roxas. But it was probably just in the other boy's nature- and he probably got it from his dad. Because as the years passed, Sora's single-parent dad seemed to get along too friendly with Roxas' also single-parent mom.

And everything changed when their parents finally started dating.

'Do you remember that day when we met? You told me this gets harder...well, it did...'

Axel cursed as he rummaged through his backpack, looking for his cell phone. He was walking home from school alone today because Roxas had stopped accompanying him ever since his family crisis. Actually, Roxas had stopped hanging out with people in general.

The stupid blond had pushed everyone away from him, everyone meaning everyone and Axel.

Well, he thinks, everyone except forher.

'...Been holding on foreve-' His ringtone abruptly ended as he stared at the caller ID with mild disgust, but flipped it open regardless.

"Hello?" Axel didn't bother to keep the bitterness out of his voice.

"...Axel?" came the timid reply.

"What do you want, Namine?" Axel could picture her flinching when he said her name.

There was a pause on the other end and Axel began wondering why he had picked up the phone in the first place. He had no loyalties to Roxas anymore, and the blond had made it clear that he had wanted it that way.

"I was...wondering if you've seen Roxas lately." Her voice was so weak. Her voice sounds pathetic. She's so pathetic, he tells himself. And Axel just couldn't understand it.

"No, I haven't." The redhead gritted his teeth as he added. "Why would I know where he is - if his girlfriend doesn't?"

Namine didn't reply. If it wasn't for her breathing on the line, he would have thought she'd hung up.

"Because no one else knows where he is..."

Axel surpassed a groan and pinched the bridge of his nose. Of course no else one knew where Roxas went - because the only person who should ever be there for him was Axel. Him. And how the hell was he supposed to do that when Roxas kept pushing him the fuck away? How was blocking the rest of the world out there going to solve his problems?

"Axel, I know you two used to be best friends-" Something constricted in Axel's chest tightly after hearing the words. Used to? What right did she have to say that? "And I know you don't care about him anymor-"

"Who the fuck said that?!" Axel growled. He immediately slapped himself in the head after it slipped.

A shorter silence occurred this time and when Namine spoke, Axel noted with a grimace, she sounded much more confident.

"You don't have to help, Axel. We can find him without you. But if you really cared about hi-"

Axel's teeth gritted. "Alright then, you go find him."

The blond girl had started to say something after the interruption, but Axel had already closed his cell. He was wasting time talking to Namine. Chances were, she had probably waited until the last minute to ask for his help. Waited because she wanted to go find him herself, to help him, to prove to herself that she was what Roxas needed all along.

And a lot of good that did. What a selfish bitch, he thinks, Roxas could be anywhere now...

Axel absentmindedly slung his backpack over his shoulder and began walking back from where he came from. He was only a few feet away from his neighborhood and he doubted Roxas would hide anywhere near the redhead's home.

Goddamn it, why was he still expected to find Roxas if they hadn't spoken for months?!

A hand raked through his crimson hair as he mentally berated himself for not asking Namine where they had already looked. He didn't even know where to start...

Or maybe he should just start from the beginning?

The redhead looked up and was surprised to find that his feet had taken him to the forest outside of Twilight Town. The two had stopped frequenting that spot after the town banned anyone from entering it - something to do about a haunted manor. And if his gut feelings were wrong, Axel could get into a lot of trouble for trespassing.

He shrugged.

The aspect of getting caught just made it all the more appealing. And the worse that could happen to him was a wasted afternoon. But he had plenty of those nowadays, Axel convinced himself that if the other boy wasn't here, he wouldn't let it get to him. It wouldn't mean anything.

"Roxas?"

As he picked his way through the forest, Axel began having doubts that the boy was even here. The path was so overgrown with wild shrubbery that it was almost impossible to tread on. But Axel would be damned if he didn't at least try.

"Roooooooxas?"

The name should have sounded foreign coming from him. He almost hated how it wasn't.

"Rox-"

The name froze in his throat. Sitting on a tree branch several feet away from him was that goddamned kid. Too baggy pants, those stupid skater shoes, and a white jacket he had donned after he threw the Organization cloak in Axel's shocked face. And those fucking weird accessories Namine probably bought him, too. He had changed so much...so damn much. And with his face covered by his hands, it was almost impossible for Axel to recognize him.

At least, not when he was crying like that.

It was too painful to say his name again after Axel had already forced it down. Instead, he slowly made his way to Roxas' tree, trying his best not to let the blond's shaking form and shuddering breaths get to him. He didn't even know what to say to him. Hell, he didn't even know why he had bothered looking for him in the first place. It wasn't like Roxas was his responsibility or something...

"Are you coming down from there?" He asked, in what he hoped wasn't a patronizing voice.

The blond didn't look down or take his head out of his hands. He didn't even bother to acknowledge Axel's presence, but something in the air had changed. Another sob wrecked through the boy's body and Axel's jaw and fists tightened.

"No..." came the mumbled reply.

Axel swallowed the lump in his throat, along with his inhibitions. He looked towards the trunk of the tree - but he knew he probably shouldn't - and took his gloves off to grip the bark roughly. It was probably a good thing Axel was so lanky because he climbed the tree with more ease than he knew he possessed.

He tentatively took a seat next to Roxas on the branch. Although he had no idea why he was nervous - it wasn't like Roxas owned the tree. Or maybe he did? He could have claimed the branch as his territory, after all he did get there first. You know, finders keepers? And if Roxas told him to get off his branch, then it was only right that Axel jumped off an-

"Why are you here?" The last part of the sentence was punctuated by a hitch of breath from the younger boy.

The question took him off guard, perhaps it was because he didn't know the answer himself.

Axel really wished that Roxas would look at him, or at least turn to him - anything. It wasn't like he hadn't seen Roxas cry before – he remembers the times. He remembered passing Roxas' mom in the kitchen as he headed for the stairs. He remembered the dim lit room, ransacked and broken like the being living there. He remembered amidst all the mess he would find Roxas crouched down in a corner crying, yelling at his mother who could probably hear him from the kitchen table below.

He remembered when these times began happening more frequently. He remembered when he started feeling like an intruder.

"Your girlfriend was looking for you." He said, for lack of a better thing to say, and because he wanted to avoid the question.

Roxas made a small noise of distress. It could have been laughter or sobbing, Axel wasn't sure. All these ambiguous signs the boy kept sending him was making Axel crazy.

"Namine was pretty worried." When Roxas continued to ignore him, he added. "She even called me. I wonder how the hell she got my number..."

Axel had been staring off into the woods as he spoke, not sure if he was ready to look his ex-best friend in the eye yet. He squinted a bit because the view from above made their footsteps look small and insignificant. But at the first sight of movement from the blond, he quickly turned around.

"Was Sora..." The other boy tried his best to keep his face hidden from Axel as he wiped the tears away on the back of his hand. "Was Sora worried...about me?"

For the first time in years, Roxas sounded scared. But not nearly as much as Axel.

"I don't know." said Axel lamely, hating the invisible barrier between them. "I didn't talk to him."

An uncomfortable silence settled between them as Roxas' sobs began to die down. Axel felt a bit awkward that they were sitting so far apart. What happened to the days when he could casually sling an arm over his shoulder, or ruffle his hair and claimed Roxas from the world? Was he even allowed to comfort him now?

"I didn't know they were serious..." Roxas still wasn't making eye contact with Axel, instead he was staring at his hands which were now folded in his lap.

The redhead watched as stray tears clung to other boys' cheeks before dripping off his jaw. He wished he knew what to say, but he was thankful that for once Roxas was doing the talking for them. It felt so weird to not say anything when he had waited so long...

"I thought...I thought it would just pass." From his peripheral vision, Axel could see the blond starting to clutch the hem of his shirt nervously. "Even though she was so happy with him. More than she ever was with just me."

"Roxas, what are you talking about?" He tried to keep the sympathy out of his voice, but he failed.

"I'm talking about my mom!" The other boy whirled on Axel and glared, anger flashing in his eyes. Never before had he looked so dangerous and magnificent.

"She's my mom, not Sora's! But not anymore because that bastard had to go and fucking propose to her!"

Axel was at a lost at what to say. How was he supposed to react to his former best friend during his nervous breakdown?

"What...what did she say?" He started, cautioned, until he remembered that they weren't friends anymore and he could say whatever the hell he wanted.

"Yes, of course!" Screamed Roxas, near hysteria as his tears started up again. Axel could tell the boy must have been light-headed from all the crying.

The redhead stuffed his hands into his pockets to keep from reaching out to the other boy. He inwardly cursed himself for digging up unwanted memories. He and Roxas were supposed to be over. Roxas had chosen Namine over their friendship. Why couldn't Axel move on as well?

"Well, sh-she hasn't told him that yet…" said Roxas between sobs. "But she's g-going to!...Sh-she just wanted to ch-check with me first...As if she was asking me permission to m-marry him! How am I...how am I supposed t-to…..I mean it's not like, like I'm mar-marring him…"

Roxas took another ragged breath to calm his nerves. "I m-mean how am I supposed to keep her from her…her happiness?"

"The same way she can't prevent you from your happiness," Axel said calmly.

He hadn't been expected to be heard over Roxas' cries, but apparently he was. Blue orbs peered over at Axel, staring at him with a strange, somewhat confused expression. They were captivating, but another second later Roxas' body trembled and the blond closed his eyes as more tears fell.

"Everyone thinks it's g-great. That they're finally getting...getting married." replied Roxas, through clenched teeth.

Axel stared for a second. "I don't."

Not when it makes you this miserable, not when it drove us this far apart.

And at the redhead's words, the other boy opened his eyes again. This time he deliberately returned Axel's gaze, although slightly ashamed.

Axel couldn't prevent himself from watching the remaining tears fall from those cerulean eyes. He was memorized by the shimmering droplets, he watched them get caught in long lashes before flowing unhurriedly down the flushed cheeks. The boy bit back the rest of his sobs to speak again. He choked a few times before asking the question that was also on Axel's mind.

"What happened to us?" Roxas sounded like he was afraid of the answer, he averted his gaze.

"Nothing..." Axel shrugged, but the movement wasn't caught by the other boy. "We just…drifted apart. That's just how life works."

Or at least, that was the reason he had been repeating to himself like a mantra to cope with Roxas' absence. It was probably just as unconvincing now then it was months ago, and they both knew it.

"Life sucks." He sounded so pitiful, the redhead had to suppress the twitch in his lip.

"Tell me about it." Sighed Axel dramatically.

Roxas lightly chuckled, but it turned into a sob halfway, or it might have just been Axel's imagination. Another moment of silence stretched out between them, albeit friendlier this time. The blond was once again the first to break it.

"Do you...think we'll ever be friends again?"

Axel swallowed, and then shifted his gaze when Roxas tried to look at him. He couldn't lie to Roxas, but he didn't like the truth either.

"I don't know."

Roxas looked crushed. The other boy had gone back to staring at his lap solemnly, his expression somewhat downcast. He looked like he knew he deserved it.

But then Axel reached out to cup the blond's chin, noticing that Roxas immediately tensed up at the touch. When the boy didn't say anything, Axel turned the boy's face so that they were facing each other. After making eye contact, he brushed a thumb over the other's cheek, wiping away a stray tear he knew would just be replaced with more. Axel smiled at the other boy's confusion.

"But I wouldn't mind being friends again. I kinda missed having you as a sidekick."

Roxas stared.

Then he punched Axel.

"Idiot."

But the look of worry that passed over his face – Axel had faked his fall quite convincingly - betrayed his tone. As well as the smile he tried to hide afterwards.

xXxXx

Roxas had managed to hold off his mother's decision for two years.

Axel had to hand it to him. The stubborn blond was able to hold off many of his mother's suitors that way, but Sora's dad was too persistent – and too in love – to easily scare off. So they probably should have seen it coming – but Roxas had insisted that it would never work out. Even up until the first wedding rehearsal, he was still denying it as he donned a black tuxedo to go play ring bearer with Sora.

He denied it as relatives began helping with the preparation and filling in the benches. He denied it when Kairi and Namine, dressed as flower girls, walked passed him in the aisle. Even when the organ music was flooding the not-so-abandoned manor, Roxas was still determined that it wasn't going to happen.

And then of course, when it because apparent that his mom really was going to get marry the bastard, he took off.

Axel sighed.

He was convinced that Roxas must have been part ninja. That was the only reasonable explanation why he could disappear so quickly and unnoticed.

So once again, he was in the woods outside of the manor searching for the blond - this time with the rest of the occupants of the wedding aiding him. But of course, people in frilly dresses and tuxedos don't normally plan on going for a game of hide-and-seek in the forest. Not that it really mattered; they didn't have a built in Roxas-Radar like he did.

Or so he thought…

Axel froze and was suddenly pulled out of his thoughts as he felt arms encircling his waist. Well, at least now it seems like he didn't have to look very far. But his troubles were far from over when he felt the smaller body pressed behind him and a tickling warm breath against his shoulder. It had to be him, because only he was too short to reach his ear.

"Looking for me?"

The redhead gritted his teeth as he suppressed a shiver. Axel hated how enthusiastically a certain part of his anatomy had acted to the innocent question. Goddamn it, they were at a wedding, too.

Instead of giving an immediate answer, Axel whirled around and pinned the smaller form against a tree. Roxas let out a yelp of surprise as his back collided with bark. Axel smirked and leaned down until his face was mere inches away from the sixteen year old boy.

"Either you're incredibly bad at hide-and-seek." he said teasingly. "Or you're running out of places to hide from me."

Roxas mirrored the smirk and leaned closer, pressing their foreheads together. Axel couldn't help but noticed that the blond was giving him that dead sexy look. The one that said, I don't know I'm dead sexy, and I don't know that you know I'm dead sexy, but I'll give you this look anyway because it drives you crazy.

"I wasn't hiding from you." He said innocently. Too innocently.

Axel drew back, the less contact the better for his self control, and libido – and probably Roxas' well being.

The blond didn't seem to notice, instead he cocked his head to the side curiously as he gazed at the senior.

"Are you wearing your brother's uniform?"

A smile stretched across Axel's face, imploding from the pure happiness that came from catching the other boy's attention.

"Yeah, Reno doesn't have to be at work today," he replied nonchalantly, well he tried.

Axel tried to act calm as Roxas gave him a look over, but his nerves were on overdrive at the thought of Roxas checking him out. Axel had even gone so far as to wear it like his older brother did because apparently Reno was a chick magnet - not that he was calling Roxas a chick or anything. His shirt was untuck, his blazer unbuttoned, his tie un...well actually he couldn't find it. But he was pretty damn sure he must have looked hot, if the looks he got from various female patrons meant anything.

"It looks nice on you." said Roxas, and Axel's insides suddenly melted.

He quickly tried to clear his expression when he realized he probably had a goofy smile on. Axel would have returned the compliment, but he felt that no words could do the kid justice. Roxas looked entirely delectable in his tuxedo.

"So you think I'd make a good turk?" Axel asked, unable to suppress the huge grin.

The younger boy snorted and crossed his arms. "You're too obvious to be a turk. Reno probably only got in because they needed recruits in the diversion department."

"Ouch!" Axel clasped his right hand over his chest, "That hurt right here."

And when Roxas laughed, Axel noticed that the heartbeat underneath his hand speed up erratically. Dammit, of all the people to fall for...why did it have to be his best friend? Why was he so jealous when Namine was around – even when Roxas had promised him that he would put their rekindled friendship first now, no matter what?

Even when things had finally gone back to the way it was, why did he have to keep wishing for something more?

Axel sighed as he stared at Roxas. The kid had no idea what he was doing to him.

"When are you going to break up with Namine?" He asked, and the smile on Roxas' face quickly fell.

"Why did you bring that up?" His eyes narrowed unsurely as he spoke.

Roxas uncrossed his arms, one placed against his hip, the other raking irritably through his hair. The blond had already turned away from him, but he was sure there must have been frown on the other's face.

"I'm sorry."

Axel lowered his gaze as the younger boy twisted his body around to stare confusedly at him. He raised his eyes again when he heard an audible sigh coming from the blond. He listened carefully as the other boy spoke.

"I dunno...I just…There's no easy way to do it is there?"

Roxas leaned back heavily against the tree. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, a look of mild contemplation on his face. Axel frowned and stepped closer to the blond. When Roxas still hadn't said anything, the senior placed his hand on either side of the boy and pressed his forehead against the other's.

At the affectionate contact, cerulean eyes opened and stared into Axel's emerald ones. Roxas' must have widened a bit when he noticed that Axel's were full of concern. The blond forced a lopsided smile onto his face, probably for Axel's sake.

"Can we...can we talk about something else?" he asked shyly.

"Sure." Axel returned the smile as best as he could. "What do you want to talk about?"

Roxas sighed and dropped his arms, letting them dangle at his side. One of his hands had brushed against Axel's as they fell, and the redhead had to fight back the urge to pull them back. He always liked to sling his arm around the blond, or hug him excessively. But to hold his hand…that was going too far. But regardless, he always felt like he was on fire every time Roxas touched him.

"What if he doesn't like me?"

Blue orbs were downcast as Roxas asked the question. Axel had a feeling that this thought alone had been bothering the blond for a while. He wouldn't be surprised if this was the reason why Roxas had ran away.

"You mean...Sora's dad?" Axel asked, cupping the other boy's chin and tilting it up so that he could stare into the maddening depths of the ocean again.

When Roxas nodded, sadness and guilt flooded the eyes.

"He will like you," reassured Axel.

And he reassured him again, and again, and again when Roxas voiced his other fears, too. What if Sora didn't want him as a brother? What if their relatives didn't accept him? He had tried so hard to keep them from marrying– what will happen now that they were officially going to be a family? Apparently Roxas was more troubled then Axel had originally thought.

"If you just took me out of the picture, you'd have a perfect family," the blond murmured.

Axel scoffed. But then he noticed how serious Roxas was when the other's eyes began to glaze over. Shit. This was bad.

"What if they kick me out?" Roxas voice had gained a subtle tremble.

The redhead wasted no time in pulling the other boy into a protective embrace. Roxas didn't protest as Axel's arms circled around the blond almost possessively. He rested his head on top of the blond locks, secretly inhaling the other's scent. If Axel could – he'd protect Roxas from the world.

"Roxy, how long have you been thinking about this?" The older boy was finding it hard to keep himself from nuzzling the kid.

Axel continued holding the blond as he felt hands pressed against his back - it was a rare thing to get his hugs returned so he cherished the moment. They stood there in the silence, taking comfort from finally escaping the mass mayhem wedding rehearsal. But when it became apparent that Roxas wasn't going to answer, Axel frowned.

"Well, if they do kick you out...you could always come live with me," he joked.

The younger of the two mumbled something that was blocked by Axel's chest.

"Whazzat?"

"I said 'I might just take you up on that offer.'" Axel could feel the chuckling against his chest. But then the boy spoke again, more solemn this time.

"But what about when you leave for college?" The boy drew back to peer at him through apprehensive eyes, his hands clutching Axel's blazer nervously as if the redhead would leave him any minute.

"You'll be leaving me again, right? After the real wedding?" Axel stared back, a bit of a loss at what to say.

"Rox…" The redhead averted his gaze. They had had this conversation before, although not under the same context. Axel had been accepted to a decent college that was miles away from Twilight Town. It would take at least a half a day if Roxas ever wanted to visit.

And the community college nearby was out of the question. It didn't have welding classes – and that was where Roxas knew the older boy's career was headed. And told he Axel that he'd be damned if he was the reason holding Axel back from his dreams.

How ironic, because for any other occasion, Roxas would have been all of his reasons.

Axel sighed. "What if I told you I'd come back for you?"

The body between his hands shifted and Axel peered down curiously. Roxas opened his mouth to say something, then closed it, then swallowed, and then tried to say something again – only to have words leave him. Axel in the meantime had been too busy noticing the way his throat clenched when he swallowed to be bothered by the silence.

When the younger boy finally did say something, his voice sounded strange and unsteady.

"Well, what is that supposed to mean?"

Axel gave him a crooked smile and lifted one hand to ruffle the boy's hair, an attempt to lighten the suddenly heavy mood.

"It means…" The affectionate fingers absentmindedly tucked a lock of blond hair behind an ear. "…that you don't have to go through this alone. I'll always be there for you. Maybe not there there, but I'll always just be a phone call away. And if you ever need me there, I'm really only a few towns away from you. I can get to you in half a day."

Roxas seemed to be deep in thought as he replied, quietly. "How can I be sure we won't drift apart again?"

The fingers in the younger boy's hair trailed down the side of his head to cup the small chin, forcing ocean blue to stare into green eyes.

"Because I'll promise you."

Axel's smile faltered when Roxas attempted to look away. Even though the eye contact was broken, his hand kept the boy's face in place. After minutes had passed and Roxas still hadn't replied or looked at him, Axel sighed again. His fingers began running along Roxas' jaw and dipped down, leaving feather-light touches on the other boy's neck.

This uncharacteristic show of affection caused Roxas to stiffen. Widened blue eyes tried to search out his, but Axel ignore him. Instead he let his hand roam further, over the blond's shoulders and down the side of his arm, neither of them saying a word. When his finger tips finally reached Roxas' he grasped the smaller boy's hand in his own.

The intake of breath was shared by both of them as Roxas unsurely held Axel's hand in his. The taller of the two unsteadily and wordlessly lowered himself onto the ground. He was perched on one knee with their fingers intertwined as Roxas staring down disbelieving at him. Axel only nervously smiled up at him.

"If I promise I'll always be there for you - and only you - no matter what happens….would you believe me?"

The redhead had brought the smaller boy's hand inches from his mouth. He felt rather than heard the soft words. "Do you believe me, Roxas?"

After a moment of silence - in which dancing blue eyes and a one-sided up turn smile greeted him - the boy replied.

"I do."


Indigo: I kinda forgot about ffnet until I started cleaning up the files on my computer. It's bringing back a lot of nostalgia. I think I might actually go over my old fics and edit them so they're not so terrible. Maybe if I have time I'll try to wrap everything up! The ending's got to be somewhere on my computer anyway XD.

I'm sorry it's so late cnfzdpsychosis! Wow, ffnet is really different after three years...

And yeah, if you're as confused as I am about why I'm on ffnet again then check the profile - or the LJ.

Review! (And I'll reply this time ;D)