[EDIT: I totally thought all this stuff was in here when I published it! I am so sorry!!!]

Summary: Roxas works at a cafe called OLD FASHIONED JOE, which had an assortment of really cheap but really good old-fashioned coffee. As the son of the owner, and a teenager, Roxas proposed that they make another newer separate menu to bring in younger customers. Axel is innocently walking around town, window-shopping, when he spots a cutie putting up a sign that suggested you 'TRY OUR 22 NEW RECIPES!'. Hypnotized by the boy Axel initially goes to the cutie out but loses his nerve and instead makes a pact to try every type of coffee they offer, to prove himself, before asking the boy out.

Rating: T and NOT going up. The bad language in this fic is used by teens of all ages so it totally fits under the T rating.

BETA'd by the marvelous who is awesome and came to my rescue when my original beta unexpectedly dropped out!! Go thank her for the grammatically correctness of the fic!!

NOTE: THIS IS ONLY HALF OF THE STORY!!!! :] I have learned that there is no way for me to write small so the massiveness of the story should be familiar to those of you who've read my other fic's. I am also very sorry for how long it took to write all this, its been FOUR MONTHS!!! I'm gonna try to get the next 20,000 word part out as soon as i can but for now you guys can be happy with this monster of part one.

HAPPY READING!!


(22) Cups of Coffee

Roxas frowned. It wasn't a bad frown, per se, but then again, now that he thought about it, when were there any good frowns and what occasion would call for them? He pursed his lips for a second, going off and getting distracted by that train of thought before snapping back to reality and deeply frowning again. Now see, Roxas, he wasn't frowning out of being sad, or being upset, or even because he was mad. No, Roxas was frowning with a purpose.

And, because he was frowning constantly, he rationalized, someone would take notice and would eventually ask.

"Hey, Rox," Sora called, worry evident in his voice and in the furrow of his brow. "Something wrong?"

"Yes," he said, grateful, and sharply spun to face his brother, fierce determination clear across his face and in his eyes. "Yes, there is."

A range of emotions crossed Sora's face, mostly bewilderment and twitchy nervousness and panic when Roxas caught and held Sora's eyes as if they were wanted felons. A clear glass coffee pot was clutched in his hands, half full with dark liquid that splashed around, labeled simply ITALIAN. Sora was clearly on his way to refill a customer's cup, which brought the blond back to the matter at hand.

"Sora, are you aware of how many old guys are in here?"

Sora, with wide dark blue eyes, looked around the store, mouth forming the numbers as he counted. "Uhh, fifteen?" He looked back to his brother, now mostly curious as to where Roxas was going with this but still a little weirded out about how Roxas's eyes never left his and never wavered in that slightly creepy intensity.

"How many teens do you see?"

Sora looked around the store again. "Uhh, none?"

"Don't you think that's a little strange?" The question shot out of Roxas's mouth even before Sora was done answering because, well, Roxas had been preparing for this conversation in his head for about two hours now.

The brunette bit his lip, glancing around for a foreseeable exit. Roxas was just so WHAM! sometimes. "Uhh, yeah, I guess so."

"Well, I've been thinking about it a lot lately and I think it's because all of our coffees are so, so…blah." He gestured to the pot Sora held. "It's why kids our age never come in here. We can't compete with Starbucks or Java or all of those other coffee big shots around like this: when we only serve the traditional stuff straight from the pot."

"But, Rox," Sora interrupted, laughing slightly and raising an eyebrow at him, "It's an old-fashion coffee shop. That's kind of the point."

"I know that!" Roxas huffed indignantly. "I just think that we could make more profit if we start serving what the majority of the planet likes to drink. Think about it. Everyone wants to have a mocha-vanilla-chocolate-covered-frapp-whatever and we don't have that so we lose that potential customer and that potential five dollars. Five dollars." The blond raised a hand, all digits spread out. "Five dollars for a little measly cup of coffee with some frou-frou fancy stuff sprinkled on top. And they don't even shake their head at the price either! I'm telling you we could make major big buck if we started in on that."

"But we're an old-fashioned coffee shop," Sora insisted lifting up the pot pointedly before shaking his head and walking away, refilling an elderly man's cup while he read the newspaper. The man gave Sora a friendly smile to which Sora gave a huge toothy smile of his own while Roxas rolled his eyes angrily.

"Don't you see?!" he hissed as soon as they were out of hearing range. "We could double our profits! Plus, your friends would come down more often!"

"Well, yeah, I suppose. But," Sora bit his lip, setting the pot down on the coffee to pick up a few magazines that fell over. "It's just we have a pretty good line-up of loyal customers. They would freak if we change everything around…"

"But that's the beauty of it," Roxas enthused. "We don't have to change everything. We could keep our normal menu as it is but have a separate menu of new stuff. We could draw in a whole other crowd of loyal customers! Isn't it worth trying at least?" His blue eyes begged Sora's, pleaded with him to see his side, to confirm that this was a great, awesome, pure genius idea. "Wouldn't it be nice to have a few new faces around here? Spending a ridiculous amount of money on easily prepared beverages!?"

Sora sighed, looking sideways at his brother. Roxas was practically bouncing on his heels as he talked, excitement drowning out his usual bored and sarcastic tone. So Sora thought about it. It would be nice to have more people come in; that was always good for business. And it would be nice to have a change of pace in the line-up of drinks. Buuut, it was an old fashion shop, with old-fashioned coffees. That was the point. However, by selling the new wave popular drinks to people who fell over themselves to buy it, they would profit more. And at the end of the month, profit was what counted; profit was what kept them afloat. But would Dad see it that way? Sora almost laughed at the idea.

He made a humming noise, considered Roxas again. He looked so excited by his idea. Might as well humor him while it lasted. Sora sighed. "Okay. But you're taking it up with Dad, ya hear? In the end it's his decision," he added sternly as Roxas's face brightened considerably, his face was hardly able to contain this rare, wide smile. "If he says no, that means no."

By the end of the month Roxas was proud to cap his pen, all but glowing at the colorful words on the chalkboard sign. He let out a satisfied sigh, smiling softly to himself as he read the sign from arms length and his heart jumped with glee.

TRY OUR 22 NEW RECIPES!

(1) Cup Consumed

Axel was bored. Bored and without anything to quench this boredom. With Demyx off at his lessons and Riku off doing whatever he did these days that Axel didn't know about because Riku never answered his freakin' phone anymore! and Mar off doing Larxene, he was without anyone to hang out with. So, he was bored without anything and anyone to do something about his boredom. And from there it was a downward spiral, ending with Axel prowling the city, gazing longingly at the window displays and sucking on the straw of his Big Gulp while his fingers started to go numb.

Normally he hated going to low-town during this time of year, preferring to stay inside, warm and cozy and far away from the biting chill that came to Bastion very year. But it sounded way better than playing Kingdom Wars all day like a socially starved loner so roaming the streets he was, frowning at the snow littering the street and sidewalks he walked on. If it was the pretty, fresh, just-floated-down-to-earth kind of snow, he could tolerate it because, well, it was pretty. But this, the dirty, gray-ish snow, was the worst, making low-town look all icky and grimly depressing.

He was having fun, Axel told himself, scoffing at the outrageous price tags of ridiculous looking clothing, a second later trying on said clothing. The guy manning the floor told him he looked magnificent! He was having loads of fun, he repeated, chewing on the end of his straw angrily. Loads and loads of fun just walking around town, randomly taking turns on a whim. He was steadily trying to get himself lost if only for the excitement of find his way back.

After he was done ogling a very sexy lingerie store window and snickering under his breath, Axel turned a corner and eyed a pile of snow, specifically a round-ish clump at the top, which he eyed for a second more before giving it a well-aimed kick and sending it tumbling out into the street. Out of pure boredom, he watched, taking a sip from his extra large Big Gulp, as it went unopposed across the road, landing finally at the edge of the sidewalk on the other side. Disinterested, he glanced up, looking for any shops that might hold something to distract from his bored-ness.

Axel nearly spit out his gulp of his Big Gulp.

Across the street, just right above the clump of snow he kicked, was this skinny little kid on his tiptoes, stretching up as far he could go to hang up a large sign that demanded he TRY OUR 22 NEW RECIPES! But he only saw that later, much later when he finally closed his gaping-wide mouth. Axel mostly stood there; looking at the boy like he was a chicken sandwich and the redhead was starving.

And damn he looked good.

As the boy (how old was he? Sixteen? Seventeen? Please, please, please, please, please) stepped back to admire his work, hands on his little hips, Axel started fixing himself up. Just a little tuck of the shirt, calculated zipping of his thick jacket, a desperate attempt to flatten his hair into something presentable and he figured he looked as good as it was gonna get. From the shoes the blond boy was wearing Axel figured he had simplistic taste anyway. From across the street Axel saw the boy smile, the little quirk of the lips lighting up his face and he was smitten, smitten.

And he just stood there like an idiot while the cutie walked away, turning his back and walking briskly into the cozy looking store. Well, Axel said to himself, it was cold outside and he was only wearing a long sleeved green shirt and it looked pretty thin and holy god he was such a stalker, just go talk to the boy already, dammit! The snobbish voice in Axel's head sounded a lot like Riku. It gave him such a good kick in the ass that he lurched forward, crossing the street like there was fire licking at his feet.

A car honked its horn at him angrily, just missing him by a second. Axel was too gone to even flip the car off, chest swelling as he grew nearer and nearer. He saw the Blond Kid through the window, a large coffee container in hand. Blond Kid worked in a coffee shop! How adorable!

Now that he was closer, he saw that the newly put up sign had the names of popular sugary coffees that crazy people shelled out four bucks a pop to drink. Crazy, crazy people. And he was walking into the crazy-people filled shop, cold rosy cheeks cheering at the sudden warmth.

The bell jingled behind him, disrupting the quiet little atmosphere the store had going on, several crazed coffee sippers looking at him curiously. Axel was acutely aware that he was just about the youngest guy there by a long shot. Talk about creeeeeepy. He shuffled in his boots awkwardly, loudly kicking off the snow caked onto them. There was a counter in front of him, stools waiting patiently empty. The redhead made for them, taking in the laid-back setting of the place while taking off his rainbow scarf.

The Blond Kid moved faster than he, patiently standing by the register. At that moment, Axel was acutely aware of his brightly colored scarf and his beat up old shoes and the large hole at the knee his worn jeans. Blond Kid stared at him patiently, blank, expressionless. It looked like he didn't know what a smile was and that made Axel's wide, friendly, handsome smile break off nervously.

God, he had the bluest eyes Axel'd ever seen. Like the pictures of tropical waters of someplace perfect and warm all year round and had little bright colored fishes swimming around. His eyes looked like that. And Blond Kid had this little perfect pout-y mouth and button nose. His skin looked so fucking soft, no trace of anything anywhere, and Axel wondered if it would feel as baby smooth under his fingers as--

Blond Kid raised his eyebrows, leaning forward a tad with an expectant face. For a brief moment, Axel's mind went, a kiss, a kiss!? Does he want a kiss?! We just met but he wants a kiss, fuckin' yeah!, before he realized that he was at the register in a store… Yeah, he should be ordering right now, not staring like an imbecile.

Frantic, he searched the menu, the complicated name of the first thing his eyes landed on shooting out. "Uh, yeah, I'd like a marble mocha macchiato." God, he hoped that came out smooth, did that come out smooth? He didn't feel smooth.

Blond Kid nodded absently, fingers tapping away. Blue, blue, blue, so fucking blue eyes darted to him for a second. "What size?"

"Uhhh. A tall? The… the big one?"

Small, almost inconceivable, but there it was. He smiled a bit, tucking a piece of his wild blond hair behind his ear. Even his ears were perfect. "Large then. We use real sizes here. None of that tall, venti crap. I'll have your order in a minute. Is it for here or to go?"

Go? Go?! But he just got here and you, my little sweet angel faced minimum wage worker, have yet to be wooed and fall in love with me! How could he possibly leave when Blond Kid had the most kissable lips and touchable hair and probably smelled really, really good, too?

God, he was creepy.

"Uhh… f-for here," he stammered, clearing his throat of the little lump and scratching the back of his neck nervously and offering the please god be my age! boy what he hoped would look like a friendly and alluring smile, one that said, hey I know you don't know me but I would like to know you and well, with a few hours you'll want to jump into bed, jump off a mountain, jump into the ocean with me, I am just that interesting and attractive.

Blond Kid nodded once, punching in a few more buttons and boredly saying, "It'll be ready in two shakes, just… go sit anywhere. I'll find you." He promised this with an idle wave of his hand, motioning to the comfortable looking chairs before turning without another word, his back to the redhead. It was oddly dismissive and seemed out of place entirely, given that Axel was fairly attractive and that in and of itself should have had the boy flirting excessively with him. Excessively.

But he wasn't and though Axel lingered for another moment, the blond didn't turn around or pay any attention to him at all. Extremely put off and rather affronted, the tall teen stalked over to a vacated table near the windows to examine himself. He thought he looked fine, more than fine! Then Axel's eyes widened as he examined himself a little more closely, dread coming over him as he looked at his face.

His tattoos!

What if Blond Kid didn't like tattoos?! What if, when he spotted them permanently marking his cheekbones, Blond Kid immediately wrote him off, thinking he was some freak or a deadbeat? His mother constantly told him that it would get in the way of having a job but she never told him it would hinder whether or not he got laid! He always figured they would help in that category!

Well, that's just stupid, Axel thought, steaming in his chair. He was a catch! He was groomed, had money from his last job to buy the ridiculously overpriced coffee the kid made, had a nice smile, a good lookin' mug!, witty, adequate dick length, and a fun, adventurous personality! Who wouldn't want a piece of me? What sort of biased, hypocritical, utter dick of a person would write him off without even giving him a chance?! Axel could be the best thing that ever happened to that kid if he could just be given a chance!

As Blondie started walking over to him, colorful ceramic mug that almost matched the red of his hair in hand, Axel was just two steps away from saying this when Blond Kid smiled, dazzling him so much that he promptly forgot everything he wanted to say.

"Here you are," he said as he carefully set down the steaming drink down. "Anything else you need?"

You, Axel's mind instantly supplemented, in my be-- "No, no," Axel rushed to say before he screwed up and verbalized his thoughts. "I'm, uh, I'm good."

The boy nodded once and walked away.

He might be biased, maybe a pretentious little shit, but his stunning smile, which looked like it was created just for him specifically, said otherwise. He might think Axel was some weirdo screw-up delinquent and couldn't see what a good guy he actually really was but, Axel thought, lifting the red cup up to his lips with a smile, he could prove what a cool guy he was with time. He could prove that he was up to the boy's standards and tastes.

Perhaps he'd start by trying ALL of those 22 new recipes.

Now, wouldn't that be impressive?

Axel grinned a little more as he thought of this, taking a sip of the hot coffee and grimacing. It had a slight chocolate taste, a little sweet, but had an overwhelmingly bitter taste in it too, one Axel could only describe as coffee. He didn't even like coffee.

Oh well. Here goes everything.

(2) Cups Consumed

The next day, Axel was back, eagerness making his heart speed up way past what is considered normal just by taking that corner again and seeing the little coffee shop that Axel now knew was called Old Fashioned Joe', after making several failed attempts to get Blondie's undivided attention, he left in shame.

That was not going to happen today.

No, today he had his hair tied back into something more tamed, was wearing his least scuffed up shoes, dark jeans, his cool looking Kill Me Kiss Me band t-shirt, and his glasses which he was told made him look smart even though he only needed them for driving at night which was almost never. Or maybe that was just Riku being serious-sarcastic like he sometimes was; face expressionless as he said something in a monotonous tone of voice. He hadn't seen Riku or heard from him in two days now so Axel just had to assume his best friend would approve of his attire.

The snow crunched under his newer Vans as he crossed the street, already looking for a mop of blond hair and blue as tropical water eyes that wasn't in sight at the moment. The sign was still up; the display was in bright cheerful colors that didn't suit the boy at all and yet at the same time represented his personality greatly.

Axel glanced at it on his way in, mentally selecting the next of the lineup; a caramel macchiato. The bell above the door jingled as he opened it, warmth greeting his face and warming his fingers. He immediately started searching the inside, looking though all of the chairs and tables, the little hallway that led to the bathrooms and the counter. All were clear of one very attractive blond.

"Oh! Hi! Can I help you?"

Axel turned absently on instinct, smile already slipping down his disappointed face. He met blue, blue eyes and for a moment his smile widened considerably, eyes crinkling in excitement. However, the blue eyes were attached to a smiling, handsome face and messy brown hair adorned his head instead of blond locks. Not Blond Kid. Definitely not Blond Kid.

His smile completely dropped of his face and in response Not Blond Kid's smile faltered confusedly for a second before returning to its full force. "Uh. Well. What else would you be here for right?" He laughed, blue eyes scrunching up as his smiled widened even more. "Come over to the counter, I'll fix you up. You for here or to go?"

The tall redhead considered this. He was dressed up for a boy, an admittedly cute boy, whom he didn't even the name of and wasn't even here. He felt his neck start to burn in shame and he muttered, feeling quite displeased with himself and his stupid, stupid, puppy love brain; "To go."

Not Blond smiled at him, behind the register and ready to take his order; hand posed above the buttons. "And what would you like sir?"

"Caramel Macchiato, please," Axel answered a little more congenially, unable to be so grim when Not Blond was so cheery and nice. Was Blondie nice like this? When you got to know him? Did his frowns turn to smiles after you crossed the bridge of friendship? As he took his hot beverage and left the store, Axel figured that after a few days of his attendance, Blond Kid would warm up quite nice indeed.

(Later that day)

Axel awoke suddenly, that is, not to imply that he jolted up but just woke in the middle of the night when he usually didn't stir, even during thunderstorms. One moment he was deeply sleeping, the other he was slowly blinking open his eyes, wondering if he was having a dream or wondering if he picked up on some ESP or something, Axel-senses tingling.

Or maybe he woke up because of the tapping noise coming from his window, impatiently knocking away without pause. Axel stared in the general direction of the noise, rising slowly, and blinking. When the knocking continued, Axel scrunched his brows together and rose, grabbing the crowbar and walking over.

Metal bar clutched in his hand, prepared to do some damage if some creep climbed up his fire escape, he pulled the end string to his blinds, the fabric flying upwards.

"Holy mother fucking shit!" Axel jumped, heart skipping, when he saw the pale face smashed up against his window, contorted featured grotesque.

Riku was grinning at him when Axel stopped clenching his heart, saying, muffled through the glass that separated them, "Can I come in?"

Axel sighed, half because he was so glad it wasn't some creep and half because he was relieved to see Riku again. After two days without hearing from him, Axel had started to get worried. He didn't answer, instead he just undid the lock and pushed open the window, stepping back to let Riku crawl through.

It was almost routine. Axel would be sleeping and Riku would come and knock on his window until the message would transfer into his unconscious and he would get up and open it. It didn't happen every night but it happened enough for it to not surprise him anymore.

Normally the redhead wouldn't bother with formalities, going back to bed and feeling the mattress dip as Riku joined him without asking. He never asked, ungrateful twit.

But Axel hadn't seen him for two days, and Riku hadn't answered his texts at all which made the teen more worried than someone his age had a right to be. So when Riku got into bed without a word, no explanation, Axel turned and from the close proximity, he could see the purpling mark on his cheek. Axel's green eyes narrowed as his mouth twisted into an angry pucker, severely pissed off now; not at Riku anymore, but at the boy's father. Riku's father was considered an alcoholic to everyone who crossed paths with him but to the man himself he just liked to drink a lot and drink he did. While he was more a verbal abuser than a physical one, fights tended to get hands-on quickly when Riku talked back, unable to keep quiet under the mental hits.

This was how Axel found himself sharing his small bed on most nights and while he understood completely, he couldn't help himself from asking. "What the fuck!? What happened?"

Riku sighed again, an angry exhale of breath from his nose, sounding an awful lot like a bull. He was not looking at Axel; eyes focused somewhere else. "Look, I just," He exhaled again, eyes clenching shut. "I just don't want to talk about it, okay? I see it, I live it, I think it; I just want to have a break, okay?" He sounded very small, even with his muscle and height. "Can we just talk about something else?"

The redhead felt himself deflate, unable to do anything but bend to the will of his best friend. If Riku wanted to talk about something else then they would talk about something else.

"…What've you been doing, lately? I feel like I haven't seen you in forever."

The platinum haired teen chuckled a little, small genuine smile growing on his face as he shrugged nonchalantly. "You know. This and that. Here and there. Meeting people."

Axel started grinning too. "Oh? Who'd you meet?"

Riku licked his lips nervously, finally looking at Axel with happy eyes. "I met this guy. He's…" Riku shook his head a little, smiling growing a bit. "He's so cool. I really, really like him. I think he likes me, too," he whispered, eyes wide like he couldn't believe it, just couldn't believe his luck.

"That's so awesome," Axel whispered back, laying his head down and watching Riku being happy. "What's his name?"

He smiled even larger in his excitement, unable to hold it back, his eyes shining and just happy like they haven't been since the factory Riku's dad worked at started doing pay cuts. "His name is Sora. Oh God, Axel. You would love him, he's just so, so," Riku struggled to find the right word. "He's just great. He's so great."

Axel was so enthralled listening to Riku go on and on about 'Sora', nodding happily because Riku was happy, well into the night that he forgot to tell Riku about the boy he met, falling asleep without it even occurring to him.

(3) Cups Consumed

The next day, Riku was gone, like usual; probably off to his job. Demyx called him at ten, which was before Axel needed to leave to go the coffee shop to look for the kid he really wanted to go out with but didn't know the name of.

When he told Demyx this, with exaggerated hand motions and more whining than was needed for the story, his punk friend look at him like he was an idiot and preceded to let him know why. "You're an idiot," he said, nodding once in apology. "But you're not just an idiot. You're stupid. You don't just hang around looking like a creep waiting for someone to walk up to you." Demyx rolled his eyes and shook his head. "No. You walk up to him, fuckin' put on the moves, and woo him off his feet. That's how it's done."

"I dunno," Axel mused. "He's kinda…he's a little standoffish. I don't think he would like it much if I just came up and started trying to stick my tongue down his throat."

"Oh my god," Demyx said, looking at him again as if he were an idiot. "Those--those aren't the moves, man," he shook his head sadly. "No, the moves are this; first, you walk up, not just walk up, but saunter over there like you're a fucking tiger on the prowl. Second, you smile, nicely," Demyx added as an afterthought, holding up two fingers. "This is very important. Do not come off as a weirdo with an overdone smile, just a friendly one. Thirdly, and this is the most important one, you flirt. Flirt, flirt, flirt. Don't lay it on too thick, but not too subtly either; just enough to send out a signal. I mean," Demyx huffed, scratching the shaved parts of his head. "Do you even know if he's gay?"

Oh, shit.

The thought hadn't even occurred to him that maybe Blondie didn't like dudes. Axel sputtered, "N-No. I, I--I'll find out!" he announced smugly. "I'll go find out right now. If he's not then your 'moves' won't work."

The two parted, Axel heading down toward the part of low-town where the coffee shop sat. The sign was still up, the bell jingled and the warm blast of air hit him the same as the first two times. Unlike last time, though, Blondie was there, re-filling a customer's cup, biceps flexing a little underneath his shirt. Axel briefly started to wonder what the rest of him looked like, lean and strong or lanky and smooth and how he would look abov---

Axel took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly to gather his courage before he started in toward the boy. Blond Kid looked up, curious upon hearing Axel's determined steps coming toward him. He gave a distracted smile, speaking before Axel'd even opened his mouth. "I'll be with you in a second. Go wait at the counter, please."

All of his courage, all of his confidence, all of his determination just crumbled under Blond Kid's cool gaze, under his impersonal words that flowed up and curled around his ears, teasing, coy.

Axel turned around, neck burning and waited at the counter, too cowed to do more than stutter out his order.

What the hell made him think he could do this? Who the hell did he think he was to think he deserved even a fraction of Blond Boy's brain? Why did he even think he would have a chance; that he could somehow lure this kid, who looked like he was in a boy band lineup in a past life, to him?

He took the seat he sat in last time and laid his head on the cool metal, bemoaning his stupid brain and even stupider heart.

"Rough day?"

The redhead jumped at the sympathetic voice, slowly looking up to find the angelic looking boy who probably liked girls anyway giving him a contemplative frown. He set the red cup down on the table but didn't leave just yet, pausing to hear Axel's reply, blue, blue, so blue eyes patient and almost…interested. Axel blinked stupidly.

"UH. I-uh, yeah. Today's--today's not going exactly how I planned."

Blond Kid shrugged. "Today might suck but tomorrow's gonna be better. Just keep at it and eventually it'll all work out."

And it was like angels were singing in Axel's ears, their pretty voices triumphant in the hallelujah, hallelujah, halleluuuujahhh.

Unknowingly, Blondie had just given the encouragement that Axel needed to continue in his quest to somehow make the boy fall madly in love with him.

(4) Cups Consumed

"So…," Axel said slowly, drawing out the vowel while he glanced, hopefully in a way that was distracted and politely interested and not creepy-interested, over the artsy magazine that would give him just the right amount of cool to the blond person delivering his coffee boredly. "Shouldn't you be at school?"

All the schools of the area were closed for break.

But the question was the only one he could come up with, the only one he could ask without looking like a total weirdo and getting his ass kicked out of the shop and never knowing if they were remotely close to the same age. Axel was in his senior year and anything lower than 16 was not going to happen no matter how much he wanted to.

Blond Kid glanced up slowly, considering him for a second before huffing out a short laugh and shaking his head. "Nah, Twilight let out for break awhile ago."

Twilight Academy!?

Mentally, Axel gasped.

Twilight Academy was the rival school of the area, the private school to Axel's public, and they both hated each other with a passion. That Roxas went to private school while Axel went to public furthered his theory that they were star-crossed lovers. Key word: lovers.

He didn't let this even grace his features for a second, only nodding interestedly, and raising his eyebrows like he was impressed, taking a small sip of his vanilla latte. "Oh, wow. That's the private, right?" He knew it was the freaking private school, (who didn't know it was the private school!?), but seeing Blondie nod and look like he was paying attention to him gave Axel the chills. "What year are you?"

"I'm a junior," he answered and while Axel just about had a seizure in his chair, Blond Kid was glancing away, another customer beckoning him over. He sighed. "I gotta go."

"Yeah, yeah, it's no--" Blondie wasn't even listening to him anymore, walking away without another word. "--It's nothing," Axel muttered into his drink, frowning angrily like a child.

But really, he was too excited to keep feeling dejected. Blondie was sixteen or seventeen! Totally within his age range and thusly Axel mentally checked a box for their compatibility, almost giggling over the idea.

He went home, not even a little put out that Blond Kid hardly glanced at him the rest of the time he was there, smiling and happy with the world at large.

(5) Cups Consumed

Axel just couldn't sleep.

After he hung out with Riku and Larxene today, and for once the girl didn't have Marluxia sucking on her neck or vice versa, he sneaked off to the coffee shop, saying he was going home early. Pssht. Who went home on a Saturday at nine?

He was there at a different time than usual and was hoping that Blondie would still be there. By now Axel had a pretty good grasp on who staffed the shop. Some days it was a brunette girl with choppy hair and cool blue and green eyes and this cheery blond with braids in her hair who hummed to herself constantly and just about skipped everywhere she went. Sometimes Not Blond was there with Brunette Girl and sometimes he was there with Blond Girl but most of the time he was there with Blondie. Blondie was there most of the time, a nice break from the huge smiles and bouncy personalities. From observing him quietly over the past few days, Axel liked to believe he was quiet, shy, and naturally introverted. He probably liked holding hands better than making out in public and liked sex slow and with soft kisses rather than biting and pulling hair. Axel was prepared to make sacrifices.

Anyway, so, after he 'went home', Axel walked the few blocks over to the coffee shop, wrapping his scarf tightly around him as the snow fell. The trees had white lights on them, standing out sharply in the night. Others were out and about and the teen found himself seeing couples everywhere, holding hands, kissing, laughing. He found himself being jealous over people whom he'd never met before and entered the coffee shop a little more hopeful than usual.

Not Blond spotted him instantly, grinning ear to ear. "Hi again! Welcome back. What can I get for you tonight?"

The redhead scoped out the rest of the shop for a short, bored blond but didn't find him. Oh well; maybe tomorrow. He sighed as he considered the menu, mentally ticking off all of the drinks he'd already had. The barista's pocket jingled loudly, drawing both of their attentions. Not Blond smiled apologetically but took his phone out anyway, flipping it open and smiling widely, laughing softly.

Waiting like a gentlemen, Axel ordered when he calmed down a little bit, smiling politely. "I'd like a Cappuccino, please, small."

The brunette's, whose hair looked even more frazzled than normal, smile didn't waver in its intensity as he pounded the right number in. "For here?"

"To go."

He nodded to himself and then looked around the shop while he told Axel his total, accepting a five distractedly as he searched. Not Blond clicked his tongue in thought then smiled widely, bringing up a hand to wave frantically. "Hey! Roxas come over here and fill this order. I'm going on break."

"You just went on break!" came the irritated reply, voice making Axel freeze in his spot, hand still outstretched to investigate some mints.

The brunette smiled a goofy smile, shrugging his shoulders and already walking away. "So?"

Axel turned slowly, eyes wide. He caught the last few seconds of Blondie giving Not Blond a cold look, lips pursed in annoyance. He saw Blondie roll his pretty blue eyes and huff but walk over to the counter anyway, moving hair out of his eyes. It looked shinier than normal but maybe it was just because of the light but it also made him look like he was fucking glowing. Like he was a god, or a, an angel or some shit. God, Axel wanted to kiss him.

Blondie squinted at the machine, reading the order and his lips curled slightly. "Cappuccino? Excellent choice. I'll have it done in a second."

Excellent choice!?

Axel glowed. Blondie thought he had excellent tastes. Maybe this whole thing actually was working and Blondie was finally taking notice of him, grungy clothing and tattooed face and all. He stood around, the dumbest smile on his face, until his order was ready. When Blondie handed over his cup, their hands touched a little bit, just a small little brush of skin on skin but it made Axel's hands tingle.

Blondie even waved a little bit as he left, smiling the tiniest fraction and that too made Axel tingle all over.

Lying in his bed, staring up at his ceiling, Axel was far too buzzed to even think about sleep, but maybe that was the caffeine in his system. But it wasn't just the caffeine, it was how Blondie's hair looked, how blue his eyes were today, how their fingers touched, the first skin on skin contact, how he smiled and waved goodbye when Axel left.

Tossing and turning all night, the stupidest smile on his face, Axel was far too sick with excitement and anxiety to sleep.

Because 'Blondie'?

His real name was 'Roxas'.

Roxas.

It sounded perfect to him, rang softly in his ears the entire night, both gentle and tough at the same time. Kinda just… rolls off the tongue too. And when Axel finally did collapse into unconsciousness, it was with that name in his head and with a shudder down his spine whenever he thought it.

That same night, Roxas as well couldn't sleep, though it was for a very different reason from Axel's. While Axel was tossing and turning due to Roxas himself, the teen certainly wasn't thinking of him. In fact, apart from making his orders when the man came in the shop, Roxas didn't think about him at all.

He had more important and troubling things on his mind.

"Why can't you just talk to me!?"

"I'm not talking because you're screaming at me!"

Roxas turned over, frowning and shutting his eyes tighter, like if he did that then everything would just fade into the background and go away. That's all he wanted, was for it to just go away, for them to stop screaming and yelling and fighting all the damn time and just be happy again. There were more muffled noises, hushed but quick, voices lowered in volume but not intensity. He could envision the angry tears forming in his mother's face and the indignant look on his dad's face.

He turned over again, facing his wall, eyes open since he knew he wasn't going to get to sleep anytime soon. But while the nights were bad, the mornings were worse. Instead of his parents getting out all of their frustration on each other, they were silent, not even looking at each other. Sitting between them, eating his eggs at the table, Roxas figured he could probably cut the tension in half with a dull spoon.

In the morning they wouldn't even acknowledge the fact that they had a fight, like it never happened in the first place, like they hadn't kept him up all night, worrying that this'll be the night where his family will be officially torn in two. How they were able to do this completely eluded him and how Sora was able to laugh, smile, and joke while this all was going on completely baffled him.

Perhaps he was the only one that gave a shit at all; maybe he missed the lesson on what to do if your parents kept fighting, maybe he was sick on the day they told you not to let on that you knew your parents' marriage was falling apart.

"What exactly have I done, Shera!?"

"You work all the time, you're never home, and when I do see you all you do is complain about the bills!"

"Because we have them! Sorry I'm trying to make sure we still have a house over our head and that our kids can have food."

"You know that's not what I mean, Cid!"

Roxas exhaled a slow breath, brows coming together in an angry furrow as he sat up, shoulders tense and a headache starting form. Money, bills, mortgage, school fees, they seemed like such little unimportant things until they managed to swallow everything you are whole, until everything you've ever cared about can be secured if you just made a few extra hundred dollars at the end of the month, if you just sacrificed a few more hours of your time.

"That's what you always mean!" his father shouted as Roxas slipped on his thick hoodie, zipping it up over his nightshirt. "When are you ever not screeching to me about those things!?" Roxas pulled on some jeans that were lying on the floor, hopping only the slightest bit when tugging them on so his parents wouldn't know he was up. "You pretend that you don't care, but when it's time to pay bills, every little thing that I didn't do suddenly comes up like it's my fault we have bills!"

Roxas slipped his shoes on, grabbed his thick white beanie and moved to his window that squeaked a little bit as it opened. He didn't even contemplate swinging his legs over it anymore. The seven-foot drop wasn't anything he wasn't used to; in fact, the feeling of the ground suddenly under him was almost comforting, much more than his actual home was recently.

From there, snow crunching beneath his feet, he just wandered. Aimlessly walking around cleared his head better than anything else. He knew Sora wouldn't talk about it with him, and Hayner, his best friend, didn't understand that anything was wrong at all.

He sighed deeply and then breathed in the harsh but refreshing winter air and continued walking and walking and walking….

(6) Cups Consumed

"Axel," his mother sighed, tired eyes blinking at him owlishly. "What the hell are you doing?"

The redhead was awake, which was extremely miraculous considering it was eight in the morning and it was in fact a Saturday. However, it was not so much that he was awake as it was that he was dressed and didn't look zombie-awake but honestly awake awake; and going somewhere apparently.

"Oh, hey, Mom," he said distractedly, looking around. "Have you seen my shoes?"

"They're behind the sofa," she pointed, stifling a yawn as she leaned on the wall and watched him pull on his sneakers. It seemed every time she saw him, he grew an inch, which might be accurate considering how much she worked and how little she actually saw him. Today he looked… neat, like he had brushed his hair a little more or something. "Where're you going?"

"Out," he answered shortly, pulling his laces tight.

"Out where?"

"Umm, to this little place I found. It has a nice ambient atmosphere… Good for reading," he mumbled which was when she noticed the paperback next to him. Some book she didn't know by some author she hadn't heard of. She barked out a laugh, surprise lighting up her features.

"Reading? You?"

"Yeah, me," he darkly replied, shooting her a small glare. "It's… um, it's homework."

It was not homework. It wasn't even his book. It was something Riku had left in his room one time and promptly forgot about, but it looked like maybe something Roxas, and holy god how good it felt to think his name, might read. He looked like the type of guy that would appreciate books and would appreciate people who also appreciated books.

He stood up, brushing off nonexistent lint from his nicer than normal jeans and wrapped his scarf around his neck. "I'm gonna go, now," he said, voice slightly muffled under the thick cloth. "I'll be home later, ok?"

"Okay, sweetie," she eventually smiled, looking at her baby boy, her only baby. He looked so much like his father right now. "When do you think you'll be home?"

Axel hummed as he considered her question, taking his book and making for the door. "Probably most likely before ten-ish."

"And you'll call me if you need anything?"

"Yeah."

"…Okay. Have fun."

His green eyes crinkled at her, and she guessed he was smiling, as he turned the knob of their apartment door. "I will, Mom. See ya."

She only watched him for another moment or two, until she couldn't see his vibrant hair so much like his father's anymore, disappearing as he descended the stairs. As he left, her tiredness came back, the headache from working two jobs to make rent and get groceries throbbing in her temples. She sighed and went to bed, keeping her phone near her for just in case.

As usual, the bell above the door jingled as he entered, accompanied by loud stomping noises as Axel rid himself of the snow clinging to his shoes. The chilling breeze wandered inside and those closer to the door shivered and cast wary glances toward it, as if reconsidering their seating arrangement.

Blond Girl perked up, glowing smile on her face, the beads on her braids clinking together as she waved at him energetically. "Hey! I remember you! Whaddya want? For here or to go?"

Axel glanced around the shop as he walked toward her, looking for the other blond that worked here. He was surprised to see that several young people, two girls and one moody looking boy in the corner, were sipping on whipped cream covered coffee, a vast difference from the usual customers. He did not see Roxas. "I'll, uh, I'll have the gingersnap. Large. For here."

"Oki doke," she beamed, lightly punching in the correct buttons. "That'll be five fifty, please."

He handed her the money and went to go sit at his usual table by the window, taking out his book and reading it over for the first time, knowing by now that his choice in coffee would be delivered. Like a pizza or something.

The Guide to Hearts, the front page read, By Dr. Ansem Wise. Axel frowned deeply, flipping it over and speeding through the summary before glancing upwards, exasperated. A psychology book. Of course it would be a psychology book. Of course Riku read psychology books, the one kind of book that made Axel want to fall asleep. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate what people had been finding out about the human condition but reading about it, reading the dry language and complicated notes, drove him crazy. He would rather read one of those lusty paperback romances, the ones that used terms like 'quivering thighs' and 'his rod of love'. Axel frowned at the title page, considering it more when he saw Roxas out of the corner of his eye.

He flipped to the first page.

Roxas looked a little more flustered than usual, the redhead noticed while he was kind've reading. He looked about to scream, all forced smiles and distracted looks, more than usual sighs at random intervals, more eye rolling, and more frustration in the downward curl of his lips. When Blond Girl waved him over, her smile bright as ever, Roxas's shoulders slumped a little, relaxing as he rubbed his temples. He nodded a few times as she yapped, shrugging once, sighing as she handed him a large red mug.

Axel was very absorbed in the way that the working boy's jeans clung to his hips and how a little sliver of skin was visible between his long-sleeved dark blue shirt and the belt of his jeans, and thankfully, too, because if he hadn't been, then the older teen probably wouldn't have noticed when they started moving. Toward the window area. Toward where Axel sat. Towards him.

Shocked and totally not ready yet, Axel choked on his own spit a little, strange gurgling noise coming from his throat and nearly jumping out of his skin as he stared at the text of the book, trying to look contemplative and smart. He dared not look up.

There was a small clack of the mug being set down even though it was placed as gently as possible. "Here you go," the blond sighed, flicking a piece of golden hair from his eyes. "Enjoy."

Swallowing the lump in his throat caused by the close proximity, Axel opened his mouth to say something, anything, hopefully witty and smart. He could've said something introspective that would've stuck with the boy for weeks. He would've said something that would make him rethink how the blond thought about life. He should've said something that would make Roxas want to jump him right in the middle of the store, it was just that awesome.

In addition, he should've, would've, could've, if Roxas's attention hadn't been suddenly stolen away from him. All the old man with graying hair had to do was briefly raise a hand and make a small waving motion to get his undivided attention, leaving Axel's side to go refill his cup.

Disappointment was so thick around him that someone could've cut it with a knife.

Axel took a disheartened sip of his drink and watched Roxas refill and make coffee orders for the next twenty minutes, absently reading a few sentences of the psychology book here and there when Roxas disappeared from his line of sight.

Eventually, two chapters in, Axel looked up to see Roxas taking off his black apron, yawning, and placing it on a table near the straws, sugar packets, and other stuff needed to make your coffee experience perfect. He ruffled his hair a little, frowning and staring off into space before turning around and grabbing something from behind the counter.

Axel squinted, forgetting that he was supposed to be sly, and saw it was a book. A book. Mentally, Axel cheered because he totally guessed right, totally just knew that Roxas liked books. He was a book person. Fuckin' yes. And then he mentally freaked out, not because he thought that now Roxas was totally out of his intelligence range, but because Axel recognized the cover of the book and his jaw dropped because Roxas had just become super cool in his book.

Anyone who read Dean fucking Koontz was awesome.

The junior took a seat in one of the table's tall chairs and cracked it open to the middle, immediately staring intently at it and Axel had never been more turned on in his life.

Well, yeah, that wasn't true, he had, but no one the redhead had ever liked had even known of Dean Koontz so the fact that Roxas did and apparently liked it, blew him away and made him want the kid even more. Not only in his bed, but to talk to because anyone who read Dean Koontz had interesting things to say, wouldn't fill conversations with air-headed thoughts about vampires or whether Spiderman or Batman would be able to win in a fight.

Axel was itching, literally itching, to go over and start talking about how Koontz was a literary genius and about how his writing just flowed and made sense even though sometimes it was utterly ridiculous and how much he loved One Door Away From Heaven and would probably fall in love with Roxas if the boy even mentioned Icebound.

Deep breaths, deeps breaths, Axel reminded himself, getting far too worked up to pass as sane, too giddy with excitement to go over there yet. He took a few more breaths, trying to calm his wildly beating heart, smiling like an idiot, before Axel decided that he needed a packet of sugar. As he got up the squeaking of his chair against the floor seemed impossibly loud, like the rest of the shop quieted down to watch him probably make a fool out of himself, neck starting to heat up as he neared the counter.

Roxas was too absorbed in the book to see Axel pause at the table to take a few much needed breaths because when he passed the blond Axel somehow forgot to breathe. Another shaky, excited breath and Axel turned, his face carefully bored until he was two steps away from Roxas's table.

He made a small noise of surprise.

"Oh, hey, I know this must be really weird, but, uh, is that Dean Koontz?" Axel babbled, stomach twisting in pure nervousness. He felt like he was going to throw up. Please, God, no.

Clear blue eyes like pretty ocean waters looked up at him curiously and then back down to his book like he had to check that yes, it was Dean Koontz. "Um, yeah," the teen said, small smile working its way up on his lips. "Yeah, it is."

"That's awesome," he smiled, hoping it wasn't creepy, but nice at least, he was shooting for nice. "I'm a big fan of Koontz's work."

"Me, too!"

Oh, Jesus, mother fuck, yes, yes, yes. If it hadn't been before, Axel's heart was positively fluttering now. "What's your favorite?"

"Well, One Door Away From Heaven was brilliant, but it's hard because all of them are really good and really different from each other."

Oh my God, Axel thought, I think I have found my soul mate. Heart pumping wildly, head screaming thank you thank you thank you thank you!, he opened his mouth to say something else but apparently the heavens had something against him because Blond Girl let out a long, drawn out groan.

"Roooxaas!" she called from behind the counter, standing in front of a complicated looking machine. "I think I broke it!"

The blond boy sighed. "I gotta go," he said with a sheepish duck of his head, shrugging his shoulders and looking in her direction as if that explained everything. He placed his bookmark back inside and stood, grabbing his apron and tying it up as he shook his head at her, smiling a little. "What happened this time?" and was answered with a girly stomp of a foot and babbling explanation as to why the machine had something against her even though all she did was look at it and it exploded.

Roxas's hips sashayed a little when he walked, Axel noticed, and then he mentally called himself a creep.

Later, in the seventh chapter of The Guide to Hearts, in which Dr. Wise theorized why some people developed obsessive traits and why others did not, Roxas took off his apron again but this time he hung it up. Around this time, Brunette Girl walked in, a light skip in her step and a gentle but glowing smile on her face. Blond Girl waved merrily, grinning ear to ear and even Roxas smiled at her. The three huddled together. Actually, the two girls more converged into Roxas's space, the boy looking a little nervous in between the two squealing and jumping girls. Apparently, there was something very interesting about Brunette Girl's hand but they were too far away for the teen to see what it was.

Something about that last thought struck Axel as very odd and he turned away, feeling very much like a weirdo.

Eventually Axel did see though, from the corner of his peripheral vision of course, Roxas leave the two women and disappear behind a door for a few short moments, eventually coming out with a thick coat and a white beanie on his head. He's leaving, Axel realized, feeling his heart drop in disappointment. He lifted up his cup to his lips to hide the gradual frown that was forming, only to realize in surprise that his cup was cool and empty.

Axel frowned at it, trying to remember the last sip.

"You want a refill?"

The voice didn't make him jump out of his skin but to Axel's embarrassment and to Roxas's slight amusement (Axel could tell by the little crinkle that developed near his eyes) he did jump. And maybe he emitted a noise that sounded only the tiniest littlest bit like a squeak.

Roxas let out a short breathy laugh and pointed to his cup, eyebrows raised questioningly. "Want me to get you another?"

For a second, Axel just looked at him. Blinked. Then stared again.

When Roxas fidgeted nervously and averted his gaze for a second, most probably thinking something along the lines of 'oh gosh, what a freaking weirdo', Axel pretended to observe his appearance.

"…But aren't you leaving? It's cool but I can just go up there and get another one. It no big--"

Roxas rolled his eyes and took his cup and Axel noticed he had on checkered gloves that clung to his slender hands like…a glove. "I work here. It's no big deal; it only takes a second or two. I'll be right back."

Heart pounding at the second friendly exchange they had (the first and second in the same day! Oh my gosh!), Axel waited patiently for his return, sure that everyone one else in the shop was on bated breath as well.

Because Roxas talked to him of his own violation, his own violation.

Oh, fuck yeah.

When Axel finally went home, the sun had already been set for hours. The coffee store had been closed for a while. After Roxas left, there was really no reason to stay and he quickly became bored with his book and his refill, even though every sip of it felt like magic. He had no car and it was snowing outside, but the fact that he soon lost feeling in the tips of his ears and the part of his face that was not covered by his rainbow scarf didn't bother him. He was too far gone to care if it took him thirty minutes of walking to get back to the complex.

He had talked to Roxas; had a perfectly normal, delightful thirty-second conversation. They had things in common. Roxas was cautiously friendly but there was a, a, a smile behind his eyes when they talked. He wasn't a complete douche bag, he was willing to talk with him, and even if Axel had tattoos on his face, he hadn't seemed to care and had only stared at them for a second. Then Roxas walked up to him, and talked to him, wanted to talk to him, of his own accord.

Amazing: simply amazing.

His mom was at work, as she always was these days, so Axel didn't think twice about the bang the door made as he swung it open and didn't wipe the smug smile off his face. Shoes came off in haphazard movements, one going behind the couch and one remaining by the kitchen counter. Scarf and jacket were discarded on the table between their couch and small TV.

Axel sighed, smile feeling warm on his cold face, feeling the fuzzy affect in his chest, like he couldn't breathe right. He opened his door.

"Now just where have you been, young man?" Riku snapped in a very feminine Mom-voice from his position of lying on his stomach on Axel's bed, reading a magazine and sporting a hickey on his neck. "Do you know what time it is?"

"It's not even nine!"

"Well," Riku huffed, flicking a piece of his bleached platinum blond hair out of his face. "I was still worried about my baby Axel, all alone in the city, down in low-town even!, doing Lord knows what."

The redhead stared at him, scoffed and pulled a face. "How the hell did you even get in here?"

"Key under the mat."

"Wha-what?" Axel shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, deciding to just drop it. "Whaddya want?"

Riku sighed dramatically, rolling over onto his back, the bed squeaking under him, before staring at him upside-down with a blank face. "Do I really need a reason to visit my bestest friend in the whole wide world? Why does everyone think everybody needs something? Why can't I just come by to come by? It's not like I came over to eat all your macaroni and cheese."

"Did you eat my macaroni and cheese?"

"Well, yeah," Riku flipped the page and tilted his head back to see Axel better. "Did you honestly expect me not to?"

"You're such a weirdo, Riku. I don't know why I hang out with you."

"Because I'm vivaciously good looking and a babe magnet, thus making you better looking by acquaintance."

The taller teen snorted and shook his head. "Oh, yeah, totally; I guess that giant hickey on your neck is just proof of your magnetic powers."

Riku's hand flew up to his neck and he ditched the magazine to get up and look in the mirror, wincing as he poked the reddened spot marring his skin. "Oooh. That's a big one." A snort of agreement came from his friend, pulling a loose black shirt over his head. Not that Riku was watching or anything; there was an unspoken agreement that their relationship was purely platonic. Axel was too tall for him anyway. "So you know what I've been doing but where the hell have you been? I've been sitting over there for at least five hours waiting for you to entertain me."

Axel paused, hands gripping the fabric of his jeans on his hips, getting ready to pull them off. A slow smile worked its way on his face as he changed to a pair of shorts, gently softening him until he was all warm mush. "I, uh, I kinda met this kid…"

And Riku turned away from the mirror and looked at his friend, pleasantly surprised and waiting to hear more. Axel never just 'met a kid'.

Axel didn't really look at him, shyly smiling at the floor while he talked. "I, uh, I was walked around low-town a couple days ago and I just saw him. I almost got hit by a car trying to get to him. He works at this coffee shop down by Fifth and Prince and he's really, really," Axel laughed breathily, shooting Riku a smiley look, "cute. Oh, my God. He has these blue, blue, so fuckin' blue eyes, ya know? God. And, and, he reads Dean Koontz and he goes to Twilight Academy and he's blond and kinda small and wears Adidas and---"

"Whoa."

The babbling teen came to an abrupt stop, words stopping in his throat at the look on Riku's face: a cross of confusion, suspicion, and oh, hell no. "W-what?"

Riku opened his mouth, closed it, squinted at Axel and then opened his mouth again. "Are you… Does he wear a white beanie most the time? And has a funky hairdo?"

And it was like a light went off in Axel's face, smile growing into a stupid grin and excitement blooming in his eyes, sheer delight in his features. "Yeah! Do you know him?"

"Oh, God." Riku's blue-green eyes widened considerably: shell-shocked. He took a deep breath and exhaled it, walking over to the window and taking another deep breath and exhaling it, sounding like he was twice his age. "Of course I know him! He's Roxas. Roxas. Jesus flip, Axel. Roxas? Really? Roxas Highwind?"

"What's the big deal?" Axel asked, gesturing widely and looking at Riku as if he had three heads and sat in the space Riku just vacated. He mentally cheered over finding out his last name, though, sighing over it. Roxas Highwind.

His best friend scoffed and turned to look at him, shaking his head, long hair flapping around. "He's Sora's kid brother, that's what." When Axel's face failed to show that he understood the situation Riku elaborated; "Sora? That guy I met? He works with Roxas, too? Kinda short? Blue eyes, brown hair--"

"That's Sora?" Axel pulled a face, shaking his head. "They're brothers? They look nothing alike!"

"That's what I keep saying," Riku laughed, the problem over Axel's impossible infatuation with the coldest kid he knew disappearing for a second. "But everyone always thinks they're twins or something. And they're nothing alike either! Complete polar opposites."

Axel nodded. "Complete opposites. Sora pretty happy-go-lucky, but Roxas, he's deep."

Riku barked out a laughed, grimacing over the thought of Sora's younger brother. "Roxas is not deep. He's a moody little twat, that's what he is."

"How would you even know!?" Axel stood up; fists clenched the second the words came out of Riku's mouth. Instantly, his blood was boiling, body all tight like he was going to get into a fight; over Roxas and his totally not moody twat-ness.

"How would you?" Riku shot back, Axel's wound up body language doing nothing to deter him.

"'Cause! 'Cause--I-I--" The redhead started and stopped, face scrunching up in frustration and slight embarrassment. He shuffled his feet and looked away from Riku's expectant face. "'Cause I practically fuckin' stalk him every single goddamn day at that coffee place. Jesus Christ, I am so pathetic." He sat back down on his bed, putting his face in his hands. "What am I gonna dooooo," he whined, voice only a little muffled but mostly clear to Riku's ears. "I'm so totally losing my shit over this kid, Riku. And he doesn't even know I exist."

Riku hummed, bouncing slightly on his heels while he deliberated on what to do. While the brunette didn't have a problem with Axel (hell, he didn't even know who Axel was), Sora would get in a fight with anyone if he knew that person was trying to get into his brother's pants. And Sora would kill him if he knew about it to begin with. But Axel made a deep groaning noise, pushing his hair back with his hands and looking so damn helpless that Riku couldn't not help him out. Sora might bite off his dick the next time they engaged in fellatio but what were friends for, right?

"Okay, look, Axel," Riku started slowly and softly, whispering as if the walls in Axel's small room were going to tell on him. "I'm gonna help you out. Here's what we're gonna do…."

(7) Cups Consumed

The bell jingled as Axel walked in, confidant but with a nervous twist in his stomach. Roxas was wiping down a table, the muscle visible under his black sleeve flexing. The sight of it made his stomach clench pleasantly. Roxas glanced over to him, lips looking pinker than usual and slightly parted. Axel watched, transfixed, as the blond unconsciously ran his tongue over his bottom lip.

"Um, we're about to close, so…." Blue eyes looked pointedly behind him, toward the door, not quite telling him to get out but suggesting it silently.

But Axel smiled. "That's okay. I just need a quick one to go anyway. Can you fix me up?"

He let out a breathy laugh, shaking his head and giving the table one more swipe. "Sure. Sure, I'll fix you up."

Since the usual crowd was gone, nothing but the sounds of gurgling and churning from the coffee maker when Roxas set out to make Axel's seventh order filled the store. It was eerily silent with just him and the blond that had him going crazy bending over backwards. Axel idly tapped the polished stone of the counter, watching as Roxas made his drink with fascination; not at how nicely those faded jeans fit around his thighs but at how fluid and natural he was at the machine as if he'd been doing it his entire life. …Okay, maybe a bit of both.

Roxas's apparel of a fancy printed tee and fitted jeans made him smile an unnoticeable bit more, trying hard to keep down what would surely be a creepy grin. He settled for fiddling around with the mints, holding one in his hand, contemplating, before moving it in the center to buy as well. You never know, he might get lucky tonight.

The shorter teen capped his drink, slipped on a cup sleeve and set it down at the counter for him, pressing the buttons and knobs to ring up his order. Axel paid and left, making sure to give him a memorable grin as he wished the blond a goodnight. While he would have loved to spend another minute, another hour there, he had a potentially amazing night ahead of him.

Two hours later found Axel arriving at someone's house. He finagled and pleaded for the use of his mother's car. He didn't remember whose house was hosting the post-Christmas party exactly but he did remember the important details. Party: 11 o'clock. Beer: yes. Good music: probably not his definition of the word. Roxas: hell, yes.

The fact that Roxas was going to be there was the sole reason he was going. Some of his friends would also be there, like Riku, who put his balls on the line to deliver this holy grail of information. Apparently, Not Blond was the only person who mattered when it came to who is and who isn't getting admittance into Roxas's pants. Axel generally fit into the category of 'isn't'.

But a best friend didn't go halfway and then leave his pal hanging above a pool of pissed off sharks. Riku was going to handle the Sora Situation. That, hopefully, would leave the Roxas Situation to Axel and, hopefully, if he followed The Plan, the Roxas Situation would no longer be a Situation.

Step one; first, he had to find Riku. The entire house, to which the redhead still had no idea who it belonged to, was full of teens, most holding red cups in their hands unless they were dancing. Marluxia was sucking face with Larxene on one of the couches but he took a second long break to acknowledge the redhead. Demyx was hounding the stereo controller, trying to get some music he liked on. The DJ, a skinny kid with dyed purple hair and thick-rimmed glasses, wasn't having any of it and continued to play techno. Axel finally spotted Riku's signature hair in the very back, facing away from him and gesturing wildly to whoever he was talking to. Bingo.

Step two: "Oh, hey, Riku!" he called out, casually walking over as if he just stumbled upon him. "What's up?" They exchanged knucks and grinning at nothing in particular. Riku then stopped suddenly and smiled, turning to introduce him to the brunet at his side who was curiously quiet.

"Axel, this is Sora. I've told you about Sora, right?" Riku was good at lying. Axel knew practically everything about Sora, from his funny innocence to the freckle he had on his lower back.

Nevertheless, Axel shrugged, accepting the hand Sora offered. "Bit here, a bit there. Nice to put the name to a face," he grinned, laying on thick his nicety in hopes that the brunet would like him and eventually accept him as his future brother-in-law.

Sora, meanwhile, had a peculiar look on his face. He blinked and then smiled wide. "Wait. Whoa. You're Axel?! I see you every freakin' day!!"

Now Axel took his turn acting: he frowned, taken aback and shot a noticeably weirded-out look at Riku. "Excuse me?"

"I work at Old Fashioned Joe!" Sora said excitably. "You come in, like, everyday and order something. Man! I never would have guessed you were the Axel Riku talked about. Small world, huh?"

"Very."

Step two was now very much accomplished.

Sora finally let go of his hand, laughing. "This is too weird!" A sudden look flashed over his face and immediately Axel thought of those light bulbs that appeared over peoples' heads in cartoons. "My brother's here, too! You gotta meet him! He's the blond guy that usually works with me? I'll go get him, wait here!" And just like that, Riku's boyfriend vanished into the throng of people, waving merrily as he was sucked in.

Riku looked over at Axel and Axel looked over at him. "This is working out…almost perfectly," Axel said, astonished. Step three complete. Riku rolled his eyes and punched him in the shoulder.

"Are you saying you doubted me? Douche!" Riku laughed, flicking a piece of his light hair behind him. "How did the trip to Joe's work out? You guys suck face?"

"Oh, yeah, totally; being all alone in a dark store was a big turn on," he lied. "He pounced within seconds of me ordering a dark cherry mocha, which tasted like shit by the way." His best friend chuckled, rolling his eyes, knowing that Sora would beat him black and blue if he knew that they were talking about his little baby brother like this. Speaking of which…

"Sora's coming back, fix your hair," he advised, sipping on his soda. Sora didn't like drinking, so Riku wasn't drinking beer. Axel jerked, glaring at him while running a hand through his crazy hair as though he actually had a chance of making it stick down into something more normal.

Sora, the taller and more outgoing of the two brothers, led the way, talking animatedly and tugging on his brother's hand. Roxas looked like he was dragged from a comfortable dark corner of the house, which was probably the case. He didn't look too happy about this.

"Hi, guys!" The brunet chirped. He pointed to Roxas, who was glowering at the floor. "Axel; this is Roxas. Roxas; this is Axel. You know him, right?" After shooting a severely scathing look at his brother, Roxas finally glanced over at the beaming redhead. Blue eyes blinked and his mouth quirked a little bit but Axel saw it (he saw it, damn it!), and knew that at some level the blond was happy, or amused, to see him.

The tallest of the four held out his hand eagerly and was somewhat shocked when Roxas's handshake was gentle, so totally unlike his brother's fierce, energetic one. "Hey," the words were smooth and boyish, Roxas looking up at him, perplexed. "I just saw you, didn't I?"

Oh, angels could not sing words that were more beautiful. "Yeah," he laughed. "This is so weird. Like, Twilight Zone weird. Well, whatever. I'm Axel. I'm Riku's friend."

"Oh, cool."

"Yeah."

Roxas nodded absently, glancing over to his brother a few times. But Sora was busy making faces at Riku. "So…um. It was great meeting you, Axel. But I need to go find my friends, they're probably wondering where I went."

Oh no! "What," Axel smiled dashingly, leaning a little forward. "They can't survive a few more moments of your absence? Are you, like, their spokesperson or something?"

Roxas laughed (laughed!), and Axel's heart fluttered. "No, not exactly. Sora just dragged me away--"

"Kicking and screaming?"

"--yes! Kicking and screaming," he laughed and the redhead mentally took a picture of the way his nose scrunched. "So I think they might be starting to get worried."

"Well, of course," Axel nodded solemnly. "Friends usually get worried when other friends are dragged away kicking and screaming into large crowds of people. I understand."

The younger teen nodded a few times, awkwardly looking around and took a step back. "So, um, yeah." Another step back. "I'll see you later, I guess." Another step. So close and yet weeks away. Axel's heart sighed, and he forced a grin onto his face.

"Most likely. I seem to be frequenting the store you work in so I'll definitely see you around," Axel smirked and gave a cocky two-finger salute. "See ya."

Step four; finished and over with but definitely the worst so far.

With Roxas gone to his real friends and Riku steadily becoming Sora oriented, the only thing left to do was wait and hope Riku didn't forget his part of the plan. Axel left the couple to find a friend or two to talk shit with, hopefully in an opportune spot that would put Roxas in his field of vision if he felt bold enough to be that close to him. Seeing the blond laugh with his entourage of pretty friends, he didn't and went to go sit on the roof.

You knew a party was over when multitudes of people started to stumble out of the house, usually held up by a sober friend, into cars and slowly drive away. His palms were sweaty and suddenly it was too hot. His phone beeped a while ago and the message made his heart skip and start beating nervously.

W/ Sora. He's all yours.

From the rooftop, he climbed down and after walking through the interior of the house, Axel saw only those who were too far gone to even stand and those who were leaving, poking his head into room after room shyly and feeling like such a creeping loser but not enough to stop from gulping and taking a deep breath when he ventured onto the front porch area and into the chill air. Roxas was impatiently jiggling his legs near the stairs, hopping from one to another in a strange, unintentional dance. One hand was held near his ear holding what was most likely a cell phone, trying to reach, most likely, his brother, who was indisposed at the moment.

Sora was his ride home tonight.

Behind the redhead, Demyx sauntered out of the house, arm around the scene looking kid he had been arguing over music with. "Hey, Axel!" he called, waving his arm wildly. "There's another Christmas party over at Xig's. We're gonna head down there. You up for it?"

Think fast. "Nah," he said, taking a few experimental steps forward while he talked to his friend, purposely not watching where he was going. "I'm gonna head home. See ya on the flipsi--ahh!" Body collided with body, the closest contact they'd made to date. Axel couldn't tell what startled the shorter boy more, the colliding or the shout he gave. Either way, Roxas dropped his phone into the snow and he let out several foul curses as he picked it up. "Oh, shit. Hey, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, like,--" Roxas stood up; phone retrieved and looked him right in the face. Axel paused to let it seem like he was processing Roxas's face and then let a smile erupt on his face. "Hey! You're Sora's little brother, right? We met earlier?"

The blond sighed, squinting at him a bit before nodding. He flipped his phone open again and put it up to his ear, and jiggled his leg again impatiently. Axel waved goodbye to Demyx and stayed where he was. Roxas groaned and stomped his foot. "Jesus Christ, Sora! Fucking answer your phone! How the hell am I supposed to get home now!? Jesus Christ!" Having left the message, Roxas hung up only to redial again and press the phone back to his ear.

Axel took his chance. "Umm, sorry, but I saw your brother leave with Riku awhile ago…" The younger teen turned and looked at him with shock, mouth hanging open and eyes blinking. "Yeah... They're probably making out. Aren't your friends here?" Axel saw them leave. "Can't they give you a ride?"

Again, Roxas sighed and shut his phone dejectedly. "No… I told them to leave without me because Sora was supposed to bring me home," he grumbled, severely pissed off and pouting. So cute. He kicked the snow.

The redhead scratched the back of his head and mimed difficult thought while Roxas glared at the snow, flipping open and shutting his phone multiple times. "Well," he drawled until the blond looked at him. "I could give you a ride?"

And Roxas just lit up.

So that was how Axel ended up driving the quiet boy uptown to his well off home way after midnight, making jokes here and there, some of which Roxas actually found funny and others that he just politely laughed at. That was how he ended up going home with a humongous smile on his face. That was how he legitimately shoved himself into Roxas's good graces.

(8) Cups of Coffee

The day of the eighth cup of coffee Roxas smiled at Axel when he walked in and held up one finger. He was wiping down a table, scrubbing hard to get the coffee rings off while Axel scoured the menu for his next conquest.

"I'm surprised you're up this early," Roxas said in way of greeting.

"I'm surprised you're working this early," Axel laughed. "Isn't there a law against child labor? I'll have an Americano, by the way. For here." Roxas punched in the buttons and shook his head.

"I'm seventeen. Besides, my Dad owns this place. He'd make me work sun up to sun down if he could." He laughed and his eyes crinkled cutely. He turned around to get started on the drink but kept talking, "He thinks it'll instill some work ethic but I think he just wants to save a few bucks."

"Oh, I see how it is. And here I thought you worked because you liked the customers' smiling, bright faces. I'm disappointed now, Roxas. They should take down your employee of the month picture." Axel nodded wisely, smiling, excited. No sane human being should be this happy from sarcastic banter.

"Yeah right." Roxas chuckled. "I'll never be employee of the month. I don't smile every second of the day."

"Yeah, I've noticed that you're all doom and gloom compared to the others."

"I am not doom and gloom."

"You are so doom and gloom."

"I am not. Just because I'm not as extroverted as Sora or Rikku doesn't mean I'm doom and gloom. I'm cheery," he stated and handed Axel his bright red, hot cup of coffee. At Axel's sly smirk, he frowned and furrowed his eyebrows together in a pout. "In my own way."

The tall boy laughed and was about to say something smart when a feminine grunt distracted him. The girl had short bobbed red hair and looked pointedly at him, and under her impatient glare, he backed away. Roxas gave him a short smile before paying attention to the girl. It seemed like he knew her and it also seemed that she was putting the moves on him, from all of her giggling and talking. Sitting in his usual spot by the window, Axel could see that Roxas was smiling and laughing sometimes, too. He took a gulp of the scalding coffee with a distraught grimace and sighed.

I must be a masochist.

(9) Cups Consumed

Roxas sat with him at his break time, something that made him get all these butterflies in his stomach and sweat a little. Roxas didn't seem to notice and answered Axel's small talk questions.

"Well, I dunno. I like my school, I guess. I don't want to blow it up but I also wouldn't want to spend any extra years there, you know? I'm a junior so it's pretty stupid to hate it since I'm gonna be gone in a year. I dunno, do you like college?"

Startled, Axel choked on his sip of Café Mocha. Roxas stifled a laugh as the older boy coughed. "What? I--I'm eighteen. I go to Bastion High. How old do you think I am?!"

Roxas reddened and averted his eyes. "Um, I dunno. I thought Riku was older so I figured you were older, too. And you come in at random times so I thought you went to college or something."

"Uhh, no," Axel slowly shook his head, smiling because Roxas thought about him. "Riku's 1a senior like I am. We're on winter break until the fourth."

"Oh."

"Yeah…"

"So," Roxas started and then stopped himself, absently licking his lower lip. "So. How do you know Riku anyway?"

Riku and he had met in first grade after Axel beat him up for stealing his favorite green racecar during playtime. They became fast friends. Roxas had infectious laughter, prompting Axel to starting laughing nervously, smiling like a big dork. He fidgeted with his coffee cup, wanting so much to wipe away a strand of hair that fell down into Roxas's slightly watery blue eyes. Roxas didn't notice and thankfully brushed it away himself when his laughter died out. He was smiling lightly.

"Riku…seems like a good guy," he said after he made sure his brother wasn't in the area. "I don't see him much so I can't say for sure."

"Riku's a great guy," Axel nodded, comfortable with this turn of conversations. He knew Riku better than anyone else. Probably. Now that Sora was in the picture, he had genuine competition for Riku-knowing. "Sora couldn't be with a nicer guy."

The teen paused, thinking for a second. "Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah, definitely! I'm not just sayin' this to make him look good because, well, for one I don't think he cares what you think about him and, in the end, it doesn't really matter to me what you think about him, either. I've known that kid for years, years," he stressed, "And not once have I ever seen him be anything but the nicest boyfriend. He a closet romantic," Axel stage whispered, leaning in conspiratorially. It's true. When Riku fell, he fell hard. The only bad thing about that was… "If your brother breaks his heart, I'll kick his ass. I will, too; I know where you live." 119 East Owl Street: Axel had memorized it because he really was that creepy.

Unperturbed by the threat, Roxas chuckled and checked over his shoulder. His brother was talking to one of their customers at the counter. "That's okay. I don't think he will. I'm not gonna tell you this because I don't think he cares if you like him and because I don't care if you like him but Sora's head over heels for him," he grinned. "But that's just between you and me."

Axel nodded dumbly, distracted by what else was between them. Only several inches of space separated them, it would be so easy to just lean in and connect their lips together. Would that freak him out? That would probably freak him out. Roxas's lips were nearly red from the hot coffee he was drinking and looked very soft this close up, though. His eyes were so blue.

Axel gulped and tried to cover it up with a shaky laugh. "Oh, yeah? Huh, interesting. I'll try not to let it accidentally slip out in a conversation."

"Try your hardest. This is top secret information."

Later, when he was let off for the day, Roxas sat at one of the bridges he liked uptown with his friend Hayner. It had ornate embellishments on it, fleur-de-lis and spirals all contorting around an old clock lodged in the center of it. The bridge wasn't busy since it only connected two suburban subdivisions together but the road underneath usually was and the speed limit here was set at fifty. They liked to eat sea salt ice cream in the summer and drink hot cocoa in the winter and watch the cars blur by, hitting each other on the shoulder when they spotted a certain color car. It was freezing out and they usually lost feeling in their noses but it was always worth it. Sometimes Roxas just didn't want to be alone.

But today they paused in their male bonding as Roxas's parents came up as a topic of discussion.

"I mean," Hayner said as he swallowed a gulp of steaming liquid. "I'm sure it's just a thing. You know? Like, doesn't every relationship have its ups and downs? Give it a few weeks and I bet they'll smooth things out." Hayner, whose parents were high school sweethearts, couldn't even fathom a family he knew well completely splitting apart at the seams. Roxas at least thought he would try, instead of giving advice that Roxas himself had been trying to follow for the past few months now.

Roxas sighed, deep and lasting, breath white in the cold air. He looked up at the clouded sky that promised nothing but another fall of snow soon. "Yeah… I guess you're right," he tried to laugh and thought he did a good job of it. "Just have to wait it out, I guess…"

He then turned to Hayner and punched him on the shoulder, declaring green car.

(10) Cups Consumed

The tenth cup of coffee Axel consumed was not until very late that day when Roxas wasn't even working. This didn't bother him too much, considering he spent a good amount of the day with the boy. No, not getting a cup of a coffee from him wasn't even on his list of bothersome things that day.

It happened around one or two o'clock. Being on winter break didn't mean he was just lounging around, doing nothing. Well, he was, but he couldn't get away with that for long. He had a paper to draft up, about how book settings affected decisions and the character of those in a book he sort of remembered reading. After his hand stopped feeling sore, he put on his shoes, wrapped his scarf around his neck and went for a walk to low-town to visit his favorite little barista.

But, unfortunately, Roxas was on his way out when Axel arrived, white beanie sitting resolutely on his head. He almost hit the redhead with the door. "Oh! Axel! Shi-- I'm sorry, man," he apologized, shaking his head a little. "I didn't even see you. I thought you weren't coming in today."

"Yeah, well, just because I'm on break doesn't mean I'm actually on break. School haunts me no matter where I go… Are you going on break?"

"I'm done for the day actually," Roxas confessed. "But I'm not going far. Sora has the car so I basically have to wait until Yuna comes to relieve him. I'm gonna go wait at the comic book store…. Do… Do you want to come?"

And Axel just about pissed his pants. He played it off, though, looking into the store window thoughtfully for a second before giving Roxas a smile. "Well, I don't know what I'm gonna do without that morning shot of addictive caffeine." The small smile on Roxas's face dropped a little. "Buuut, I might be able to deal with it."

Roxas laughed and raised one his eyebrows sarcastically. "Can you? I bet those caffeine withdrawals are pretty brutal."

"Nothing your rosy personality can't erase, Blondie," the redhead smirked, feeling very smooth even with his stomach full of butterflies. Roxas had asked him to hang out. Hang out. This was…this was…revolutionary, almost a full seven steps ahead of The Plan and so quickly. He, he was floored, just floored at how well Riku's ingenious idea was working out. Who knew offering a ride could've cemented their friendship so easily. Wow. Maybe it was also because he was wearing his lucky Up We Go band shirt.

While Axel was busy being awed inside his own head, Roxas was talking and walking, Axel just following behind dumbly. "…was my idea. It just made sense considering everyone else had it, you know? It would have been a waste not to follow the trend, economically speaking. Sora thought we were selling out but my Dad thought we could try it out to try and bring some more revenue in. And it worked!" He declared proudly as he turned the corner. "A bunch of new people have been coming in and coming back. Like you," he smiled. "You like the menu, right? I mean, it's what brought you in?"

What brought me in were fantasies about kissing you, which ironically is the same thing that keeps me coming. "Yeah," he lied. "It caught my eye. It's real good, too." Another lie. But it was just a little lie, a little white one that wouldn't do any harm. In five years, they'll look back on it and laugh. Besides, Roxas just about started to glow when he said it before grinning and pointing energetically.

"That's it! This is The Comic Shop. Just about my favorite place in low-town so you should feel lucky. Not just anyone gets to come here," he joked, laughing. "It's only for cool people."

"Then how'd you find out about it?" Axel teased. Roxas shot his a look between a glare and a grin.

"For your information I brought here by Nami. She's just about the coolest chick I've ever met. She wants to get into comic books, like, as a job. She's so good but she'll never admit it. She's so cool."

"Nami? Who's that, your little girlfriend?" He said it leeringly, but his heart was sinking.

The short teen barked out a laugh, rolling his eyes as he opened up the door to the retro looking shop. If it wasn't for the large letters adorning the area above the door, Axel wouldn't have ever guessed it was a comic shop. It looked kinda… house-y. And there were no books on display at the windows. "As if."

Heart rising from Roxas's dismissal of a girlfriend, Axel looked around, somewhat impressed. Like where Roxas worked, there were many chairs and tables around, which were probably never all filled at the same time. Nevertheless, the main difference was the rows and rows of books. Roxas walked right to them, obviously knowing what he wanted. Axel meandered around, looking for something familiar. He wasn't too into comics but did have mad respect for the man in blue.

Plopping down nervously on a plump chair, he fiddled with the book, looking around for Roxas and wondering just what he was supposed to do now. Did he try to fill the silence with conversation or just sit and read in comfortable silence? Was this normal? Should he really be here? Since he accepted, what exactly is this? Are they on a date of some sort? Axel furrowed his brow, frowning at a picture of a young Clark Kent. That didn't sound quite right to him.

It… it felt like it should be harder. Or…was it really this easy? In the chair in front of him, Roxas plopped down, folding his legs in and started to read the first on his small pile of books. Axel smiled when he saw who was on the cover; Spiderman. Huh. Go figure. Was being with Roxas going to be this easy? It couldn't be, could it?

If there was such a thing as a comfortable stupor, Axel was well on his way toward it. Two comics read all the way through and halfway through a third one, a full two hours later, he had blocked out everything but Superman and his last few days on Earth. The only thing he kept notice of was Roxas, of course, even setting aside a few good moments here and there to look at him. His mouth was curled in a pleased smile that Axel couldn't get enough of.

A shrill beeping from his back pocket brought him out of his comic daze, even making Roxas look up at him questioningly. The screen said it was from Riku, a less than sign and a three coming before and after his name which Axel didn't remember putting in. A moment later, Roxas's own pocket began to jingle, the blond blinking as he extracted it and brought it up to his ear. "Sora?"

Axel flipped his phone open, disappointed that Roxas was leaving and trying to cover up his frown by reading Riku's message. His fake frown became a real one.

Tell Sora where you live so he can pick me up. You need more Mac N' Cheese.

He blinked twice at the message, even exiting out to see if Riku sent a follow up message to explain. He didn't. Across from him, Roxas was making noises of agreement, nodding his head here and there. "Okay," he said. "I'll tell him. Bye." He shut his phone with an audible snap and started to gather his comics in a neat pile. "Sora's gonna give you a ride home. He has to pick up Riku, too."

And Axel blinked again, completely taken back at Roxas's sureness of speech, like bringing Axel home and picking Riku up wasn't weird at all. "What if I don't want to go home?" Because he really didn't. Axel considered briefly trying to convince Roxas to let him go to his house, knowing that being in the same room behind closed doors increased the chance of something romantic happening. It also increased the chance of him fucking up and all the progress he made worthless because Roxas didn't want to even look at him again.

Roxas shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno. Sora doesn't know the way there, though, so…"

Roxas had a way of trailing off in mid-sentence, always looking like he expected everyone to read his mind and finish his sentence or just agree with him since he didn't exactly give any chance to argue.

So Axel shrugged and got up.

Sora drove a nice silver car that looked new, far newer than any car Axel had ever gotten to drive anyway. Roxas got in the front while Axel was left, all by his lonesome, in the back. When Sora rotated in his seat to grin and ask him for directions to his house, Axel realized that were going to his home; his shit apartment in the sort of bad part of town. Oh fuck. Reddening a little, he gave the first few directions, suddenly embarrassed as hell and hating his best friend.

What was Riku's problem?! This was not the sort of thing a friend did for another friend! This was the opposite of what friends did for friends! This is what people did when they wanted to totally screw over someone's chances at being with someone better than they were! Augh! Dick.

Riku was going to get it when Axel got home.

While Sora drove and engaged Roxas with some gossip about one of his friends or something, Axel sat and seethed. Great, he thought, just great. Now Roxas was going to know that he was basically trash and wasn't worth his time and would start ignoring him or acting like Axel was some form of plague. Tomorrow, Roxas would just give him that look, the kind where Roxas knew he was better. He sunk a bit lower in the nice black leather seats as the buildings started to get dingier, knowing they were getting closer to home.

For their part, neither Sora or Roxas seemed shocked or weirded out now that they realized where they were and how different it was from their little neighborhood up-town. Axel figured it was because they didn't want to hurt his feelings. Sora hummed a little and looked at him in his rear-view mirror. "Sooo…," he said, much like his brother but very different as he left his sentences open and closed them as well. "Why's Riku at your place if you're not even there? Am I gonna have to come down here a lot?" He laughed but Axel fidgeted.

"Probably. I think Riku has problems with his brain. He seems to think that my bed's his bed. It also extends to food and clothes so lock up your stuff," he advised, rolling his eyes and envisioning beating his friend up. "I think it's contagious, 'cause all my friends have started to do it, too. Apparently my place is where to go if you need to crash," he tried to sound annoyed but wasn't. He would rather Demyx or Larxene end up sleeping on his floor than anyone else's.

Both of the brothers made interested humming noises and for once Axel realized that they did resemble each other. Sitting there, looking contemplative, they both had a small frown bringing down their lips that meant they were thinking. It was kinda cute.

They reached his complex. "Well," he announced loudly, really wanting to get out there as fast as he could with as much pride as possible. "This is me. I'll send Riku out real quick," he smiled, all the while thinking of punching said boy in the face.

He didn't dare look at Roxas.

Four flights of stomping up the stairs and frisking himself for his keys brought Axel to his apartment door. The lock stuck and needed to be jiggled angrily to let Axel shove it open. When it finally surrendered and Axel threw open the door, Riku was sitting at the couch reading his psychology book. His head popped up like a meerkat at the sound of Axel coming in.

"Honey," he cried in a falsetto, grin breaking out on his face. "You're home!" Axel glared at him, mouth contorting and Riku kept smiling, expression not dropping in the slightest. When Axel's continual glaring did nothing to change Riku's fake cheer, he stomped his foot.

"You're a dick!"

Riku's smile fell to a blank look, replying seriously, "No. You're a dick." He then got up, totally ignoring Axel's indignant tries at making words and went to look out the window. "Sora here? Cooooool. We're gonna go see a movie today."

"I don't give a shit what you're gonna do! Why did you do this?! Were you trying to seriously ruin my chances with Roxas? What's your problem?!"

Riku rolled his eyes and put on his shoes, moving to Axel's bedroom while he talked, the redhead following huffily behind him. "Please. If seeing where you live would make Roxas reconsider liking you, if he's considering liking you at all, he's the one with the problem. It's all part of the plan, Ax," he said, patting his friend on the shoulder after he put on his shoes. "And if this does ruin your chances with him then I'm still not sorry and he's a dick and you shouldn't like him anyway and I'll put Nair in his shampoo. Okay?"

The tall teen nodded glumly, shoulders slumping as he sighed. Even though he knew Riku was right, so right it rather pissed him off, he still glared and pouted while Riku put on his coat and started to climb out his window. Before he started to descend the rusting fire escape, Riku looked back and grinned at his friend.

"Besides," he said. "If Roxas is considering liking you, he knows where you live now. Now, isn't that just fantastic?" The slightly stunned and pinkish look on Axel's face was answer enough for him and the light haired boy laughed all the way to Sora's car.

(11) Cups Consumed

Given all the mile marks of the day before, the redhead entered Old Fashioned Joe with more enthusiasm and nervousness than ever before. If Riku was right, which he usually was, then today was either make it or break it day. If Roxas was weird then that was it. He…he would have to call it quits and give up hope. He didn't like the thought of that, in fact he was pretty sure that he would rather suffer from not knowing than knowing Roxas was never going to look at him the way he wanted those blue eyes to look at him.

He put on his favorite Jupiter shirt, the one he wore at possibly the best concert of his life, the very last show the little known post-hardcore band ever preformed. He laced up his old and beaten-up hi-tops and took in a deep breath, thinking positive thoughts all the way there, not even feeling the chill as snow fell all around him. This was either an end or a beginning and the ringing the bell above the door made was more ominous that a bell should ever sound.

Sora looked up to greet him and burst into the usual grin of his. He must have had a nice night last night while Axel was awake into the wee hours of the morn tossing and turning. Axel took off his coat and scarf while Sora talked. "Hey, Axel! Roxas is getting more cream from the back. Are you staying long? What d'you want? I'll ring you up."

"I'll, uh, I'll have the plain espresso this time. Is that strong?"

"Depends on your definition of strong," Sora offered vaguely. "I'll get you a one ounce shot and if you hate it, Rox'll drink it. He likes that kind of stuff."

"Really? Doesn't seem the type." Axel figured he would have a little sweet tooth, favoring stuff like a cinnamon dolce latte, which Axel picked up at the end of the day yesterday. It was almost sickeningly sweet. The nickname 'Rox' was also insanely cute and Axel mentally filed it away to use in conversation later.

Sora shook his head while the complicated machine started to grumble and gurgle. "Nuh uh! Roxas doesn't really like sweet things, I mean he likes that blue ice cream shit but he just likes his coffee strong, you know? I got all of the sweet tooth gene, I guess." The brunet shrugged, a 'what can you do' gesture as the dark liquid spilled forth from the machine, collected in a suspiciously small red cup. "But, uh, I know it's really none of my business. But I just want to say thanks."

Taken back at the strange comment, Axel blinked hard as he accepted the hot mug and plate. "Excuse me?"

Whereas before Sora was loud and cheery with his speech, completely uncaring if he was heard by everyone, he now looked bashful and spoke in a lowered voice. "I mean, my brother. I know you have better things to do than hang out with a little kid but it's really nice of you to spend time with him. He really likes you, you know?"

"He does!?" Thankfully, Sora had his back turned to him so he couldn't see the way Axel's eyes bugged out at that information or the way he burst into a giant goofy smile. Axel even felt his cheeks start to get hot and wondered how the hell he managed to have such good luck.

"Yeah," the teen said as he stood on his tiptoes to reach a bag of coffee beans. "I think it's good he sees you as a friend. I mean, it can't hurt, right? I think it'll be good for him to have a friend he hasn't known since grade school." Sora turned around, bag in hand, and gave him a thankful smile. "So thanks, it means a lot."

I think it's good he sees you as a friend.

Sees you as a friend.

Friend.

"Oh." The redhead nodded numbly. "Yeah, man. I mean, yeah, it's cool. I don't mind." He paid and went to sit at his usual table. Taking a sip of the espresso, he found it to be utterly disgusting. Axel stayed put for a moment, seeing but not really seeing before he exhaled a long breath and let his shoulders slump. He felt…weird, like his chest was heavier than it should be. He stood up and put his coat back on. As he tied the multicolored scarf around his neck, in came Roxas with several bottles of what must have been the sought after cream.

The blond spotted him and smiled before stopping and letting the expression gradually fall. "Are you leaving?" he asked, even though it was apparent he was.

Axel plastered on a fake smile and lied. "Yeah, yeah, I just remembered that I have a few pages of home work and school starts up again soon so I have to work on that."

"Oh," Roxas said, placing the bottles of cream in their places on the wall.

"Yeah," Axel said again, nodding nervously as if he halfway expected Roxas to call him out on his lie. He started for the door, wanting to be anywhere but there at that moment. But he felt guilty as he opened the door. "So, um, I'll see you later, Roxas."

"See ya."

Axel left, leaving his barely drunken espresso and the boy who was probably everything he ever wanted and probably straight and his probable friend, which had to be the kiss of death, behind. He didn't stay long enough to see Roxas watch him leave, keeping his eyes on the bright burst of red hair all the way until he couldn't anymore. The blond unconsciously nodded to himself several times and sighed before he got back to work, wishing Axel was still there to cheer him up a little, because, when he woke up today, his parents didn't even look at each other.

Usually sleeping peacefully at this time of night, Axel started awake, blinking blearily and confusedly around. The glowing red numbers on his alarm clock read twelve twenty-three and when his not-quite-awake mind processed this, the obvious reaction was to roll over and tug the covers around him a little more. The bed was warm and as welcoming as an embrace against the chill of cold air in his little room. Axel sighed, relaxing when an almost silent pattering sounded from his window area.

Tired green eyes opened as Axel sighed again, thinking; Riku.

Clad in only boxers and a thin nightshirt, the cold winter air raised goose bumps on his skin as he rose to the window, forgetting the crowbar he kept near him at night because tough times made tough parts of the neighborhood more, well, tough. The tapping at the window became fewer and farther in-between before dropping off entirely by the time Axel drew up the blinds, scratching idly at his stomach.

Startled wide blue eyes and soft blond hair, white beanie keeping down the usual style Axel had come to know over the past two weeks, peered back at him.

Roxas blinked, hand held up, forgotten in the air. He looked cold, snow lingering on his hat and shoulders. When he realized that he was staring, he looked down, shoving his hands into depths of his thick jacket and shuffled awkwardly. During all this Axel just stared, wondering if he was still sleeping, until Roxas glanced up at him and gave a small smile.

The window came up with a few creaks and some more force than usual, but it came up, and Axel leaned out, winter air ghosting around his skin and making him shiver. "It's pretty cold out," he said softly. It seemed near silent. No cars rumbling pasts, no loud drunks on their way home or to another bar, no ambulances roaring past like every other night. "What are you doing here, Roxas?"

There was no reason for Roxas, little blue eyed Roxas who looked like he couldn't throw a stone, to be out in this neighborhood at this time of night. When the teen averted his eyes and pursed his lips, Axel knew that he knew there was no sound reason for him to be there, either.

However, it appeared that that didn't even cross his mind, Roxas looking back up at him with eyes that dared to turn him away and also begged him not to. "You said if anyone ever needs a place to crash, yours is usually the place to go, didn't you?"

Axel blinked, once, twice, and then moved back as Roxas came in.

The redhead suddenly became a little nervous and a lot embarrassed as Roxas looked around his small, dingy room, probably half the size of his if one were being generous. But Roxas didn't say anything. Instead, he dropped to his knees and started to take off his shoes. "Where am I going to sleep?"

"Um, I, um. Well, I don't really have anywhere else for you so…. Usually, my friends just crash on my bed 'cause they don't care about my personal space," Axel laughed nervously, hand rubbing the back of his neck. "I won't grope you in your sleep, promise."

Roxas shrugged off his coat and let out a soft laugh. "Well as long as you promise. It's okay. Thanks."

There was an awkward shuffle near the bed, mostly on Axel's part because holy shit, Roxas was going to be in his bed and they haven't even kissed yet. Nothing was going to happen, sure, but just the thought of it was enough to make him have chills, even under his blanket.

Roxas's back was turned to him, quiet, but Axel's brain was so busy keeping in control his hormones that it failed to stop his mouth. "So…um, what happened? I mean, do you, do you want to talk about it? Or not, I mean, it's none of my business anyway, so…yeah," he finished lamely, wondering why he couldn't be like a normal person for once and cursing himself for even opening his big dumb mouth.

Beside him, Roxas shuffled, the springs of the mattress creaking, but the boy himself was quiet. Great, Axel thought, now Roxas thinks I'm nosy and weird and won't ever want anything to do with me again. But eventually he spoke, humorous tilt to his voice; "My parents were fighting. I think they're getting a divorce. It's too cold outside so I just came here." Axel watched as his shoulders shrugged. "It's nothing, really."


OK, so once again so sorry it took this long to come out, second half is going to be out as soon as possible but honestly it's gonna take awhile. Things I wnated to point out are: The band t-shirts axel has are not real bands. Kill Me Kiss Me is actually a korean manwha that I loved, Up We Go is influenced by the movie Up in the Air and UP. Jupiter is from my other story Summer Boy, I couldn't help but put it in. I love Dean Koontz. I don't actually know alot about coffee. So if you work in a coffee shop and want to call me out on BS, please go right ahead, I encourage you. I love Superman, he's my favorite hero. Axel reads All Star Superman and Superman: Secret Origin. I think beanies are cute on boys.

I actually really dislike winter. It really weird writing a winter fic when its almost summer, ahahah. This was actually supposed to be out in JANUARY. This entire HALF is as long as I wanted the whole thing to be!! Ahh! Haahaa, ummmm, I don't remember what else I wanted to say, so if you are interested about somethign and want to know how I came up with it or if its from somethign in real life, go ahead and ask! Have a GREAT DAY EVERYBODY!! HEARTS AND KISSES AND THE BEST WISHES!!

PLEASE REVIEW!! I love reading reviews whether they are rants, criticism, babble, or general thoughts about the fic. So go on, be a rebel, click that button and click it hard! :]