YAAAAAY second part is up and beta'd and here for you to read! It picks up right where part one left off so if you're a little fuzzy on what happened last time, you might want to skim it over so everything is kosher.

Beta's by Life' again. She is awesome for cleaning my mess up like a pro. :]

Happy reading!

(12) Cups of Coffee

However, it wasn't 'nothing' and Axel couldn't just ignore something that so obviously bothered him even if he didn't have the spine at the moment to say anything. The next morning Roxas was gone. The only trace of the blond was the faint scent of coffee still lingering in the sheets. He wasn't so concerned about this, since he was well accustomed to Riku's coming and going.

He was concerned, however, about the state of Roxas's family problems and last night. Roxas's words just kept circling around in his head, again and again and again. My parents were fighting. They're getting a divorce. That wasn't so unusual these days; in fact, it was more normal than marriages actually making it. Axel's own parents had divorced when he was little.

It's too cold outside so I just came here. What the hell does that mean? Of course it's cold outside. Why was he outside anyway? Axel sighed and rolled over as he considered why. Though his own parents divorced over twelve years ago, he vaguely remembered the yelling and the general atmosphere that surrounded his then home. Back then, he had wanted to be anywhere but there… Perhaps that's how Roxas felt as well and why he was outside. It was a very long walk from Roxas's residential neighborhood to Axel's complex.

It's nothing. Really. It was anything but nothing. To walk all that way in the snow, to climb up his fire escape, to come to him, whom Roxas hardly knew, is definitely not nothing. It's everything. It changes everything.

When Axel first saw him across the street that very first day, there was no way he would have ever thought of Roxas climbing up his fire escape. Ok, yeah, maybe he did, but that was for something less personal and more erotic in nature. He only ever hoped, hoped and fantasized and then hoped some more. For Roxas to actually be there, to actually seem to trust him and, if Sora was right, think of him as a friend and come to him with problems, this was real, this was actually happening.

He couldn't half-ass stuff now, he couldn't hope and wait and sit around for Roxas to go on his break. This was real, this was happening. He had to do shit because Roxas walking around in the middle of the night to escape his parents' arguments. That wasn't healthy teenage behavior, something was wrong, and it was obvious no one else was paying attention to it if Roxas went to him to escape it.

But at least Axel was the one person who actually had the skill set to deal with it.

Walking all the way down there, hoping Roxas was working today, he knew he could do something, should say something, and would; it was just a matter of working up the nerve… which, in seeing Roxas taking someone's order behind the counter, he didn't have.

God, he was such an ass.

But Roxas genuinely smiled when he got in line, a little upward curve of his lips that was neither big and fake or forced and tight. It was just a smile and it was just as soon gone but it was there, it was there… and while it wasn't a heartfelt confession of love, or a big kiss for the world to see, it gave Axel the confidence to pursue this wherever it went.

As Axel neared the front of line, which was longer than usual and the ringing of the bell above the door alerted him to even more people coming, and gave his order of a peppermint mocha, he opened his mouth, not quite sure what he was going to say but sure he was going to say at least something, when Roxas interrupted him. "Um, I have a lot of people in line…" he said, not quite looking at him while he counted Axel's change. Not exactly telling him to get out of the way but silently suggesting it.

Of course. He didn't even consider before if this was going to be awkward but apparently, it was. He didn't really care. Roxas smiled at him and climbed up his fire escape last night. He didn't give a shit if Roxas had some vulnerability issues. "Yeah, sure," he grinned, making sure Roxas knew that he at least wasn't going to be weird about it and went to wait for Roxas to bring his drink.

He didn't. Instead, Blond Girl (whose real name Axel learned was Rikku but since it was practically the same as his best friend's and it was weird to think of it that way he preferred to just keep calling her that) delivered it with all smiles. "Hey there, Red!" she chirped, placing the red mug in front of him. "Sorry for the wait. Looks like we're swamped today." Blond Girl looked around at all the new people, mostly teenagers talking loudly with their fancy coffees. Axel had fancy coffees but at least he didn't talk loudly. "I miss the good old days when kids wouldn't even think about coming in here." She laughed, "Wow, I never thought I would actually say something like that, ever." Blond Girl sighed and smiled once more at him. "Well, have a nice day, I guess. Enjoy your mocha!"

Several hours passed and Axel started to get the distinct feeling that Roxas was avoiding him. The feeling started to creep on him as he waited and waited and every time he happened to look up from the random magazine he picked up Roxas just so happened to be on the opposite side of the room. He started to be really suspicious when Roxas lingered at the register or took extra time to wipe down tables that weren't dirty. At first, he was amused and then he steadily progressed to somewhere between hurt and pissed.

Hurt because he figured that they were way beyond acting like children and pissed because Roxas was blatantly ignoring him! That wasn't cool; friends, and Axel used the word with a little cringe, did not act like that. Grown-ups, and Axel used that word with a cringe also, did not act like that.

Thinking this, frowning a little to himself while he played with his empty cup, he happened to see from the corner of his eye the particular boy he was thinking about. He was delivering a large blue and small yellow mug to a duo of girls who were talking and laughing at a table that just so happened to be near the redhead.

He took a sharp breath and said, without thinking, "Roxas!"

The blond's head perked up, surprised blue eyes looking over at him and then blinking in question as he placed the mugs with a dull clack on the table. He lingered long enough for the girls to smile widely at him and thank him graciously for walking a total of, like, ten feet to give them their beverages before slowly backing away to where Axel sat. Meanwhile, Axel was stumbling over himself to figure out what to say.

Dammit, he thought frantically, I don't have a plan! I need a plan! Fuck! Roxas was just a few steps away from him but Axel was no closer to actually having something to say. He had an idea, of course he had an idea, but the words? The words just weren't coming to him. Roxas neared and opened his pretty little mouth before Axel could even get his brain together.

"You need a refill?"

Mentally, and Axel was sure not to let it show, he made a face at the boy. Really? Really? You have to be kidding me, he thought. Just because I drank my gross coffee and called you over doesn't mean I want a freakin' refill. There is more to our relationship than refills! He was opening his mouth to tell the kid so when Roxas picked up his red mug anyway and was turning away to go refill it for him. And Axel freaked, opening his mouth and saying something without even considering his words first.

"UH. My, my parents- my parents are divorced. Too, I mean. My parents are divorced, too," he stammered, wondering just what the hell he was saying as he said it. "So, um, I, like, I get it. So if you, uh, ever need to, like, talk? I'm here." Then he stilled, hands folded nervously as he watched Roxas for any kind of reaction.

The blond teen had stopped to listen to Axel ramble, facing away from him but with his head slightly turned Axel's way. He lingered in that spot for a moment more.

Then he walked away.

Almost instantly, Axel felt the blood in his body chill as if he'd been outside in the snow all day. He was crushed, more than crushed. He was effectively bulldozed by Roxas's lack of response or any acknowledgement that he had spoken at all. What the hell, he asked himself, staring at his hands. Now what does that mean? If Roxas coming to him meant that he had a chance, what did Roxas completely turning away from him mean? That he was fucked? That he never had a chance? That Roxas was just playing with him for shits and giggles? Or that the blond just didn't see him as a person he wanted to discuss his personal problems with.

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts, mouth pursing angrily and brows furrowed downward, that he didn't hear Roxas walk right back to him, slowly, and place the full mug on the table.

After a moment where Roxas stood patiently, waiting for Axel to acknowledge him, the blond decided to sit. The high-pitched squeaking of the chair against the floor made Axel jump, eyes going wide as he saw Roxas bashfully sit, cheeks going pink as several customers glanced over at him.

A long moment passed, followed by another.

Then Roxas glanced up, licking his lips nervously, and looked right into Axel's eyes.

"So. Um. What are you doing tomorrow?"

Axel grinned.

(13) Cups Consumed

Unfortunately, as all good things do, winter break came to an end. Axel would have been more upset about his return to school if he didn't have important plans after school. That's right. Important plans. After school. With Roxas.


Although, now that he thought about it, he didn't know exactly what sort of plans they had or how long these plans were going to last or even start. Roxas only nodded vaguely, lips at Axel's refill, when the redhead asked if he wanted to hang out or something. But the important thing was that they did have plans. With each other. At some point today. And that's the only detail that really matters, isn't it?

When he told Riku this, sitting in their English class and probably supposed to be doing something but Axel hadn't been paying attention because his brain was all over the place in happiness, his friend spared one long dry look before laughing once and rolling his eyes. "It sure is, Ax. It sure is."

Whatever, Riku could hate if he wanted to, he didn't fucking care. All he cared about at the end of the day was the text in his pocket from an obvious but unknown number asking if it was okay if they met at the shop. He gave Roxas his number yesterday after slowly but surely digging up the courage at the very last minute. Throughout the night he couldn't sleep, looking at his phone every two minutes, thinking every little noise was him receiving a text from the teen.

At one point last night he did receive a text late at night but it was from Demyx, wondering about homework. Axel was so disappointed.

The dismissing bell couldn't have come sooner. Actually, it could've, since most of his teachers didn't actually expect him, a senior who just came back from break, to retain any knowledge. He didn't understand why they couldn't have just let him out early. He had somewhere to be, dammit!

The bell on the entrance door to Old Fashioned Joe, however, he could've done without. On the way there, he started to get nervous butterflies despite himself. It seemed louder than usual and like a lot of people looked at him when he came in. He was blushing and had no idea what to do with himself. Did he wait for Roxas? Was Roxas here? Was he too early? Late? Did Roxas get mad 'cause he waited so long and went home, pissed? Fuck, fuck, fuck!

"Hey!" Axel jumped at the voice behind him. Roxas, cheeks a little rosy from the cold, was behind him, trying to get through the door that Axel was standing in the way of. "Dude. Move," he laughed, giving Axel a look. When the redhead did, face burning because ohmygod he was lame, Roxas walked right past him to behind the counter, smiling at Blond Girl as he did so. As he started to press buttons on the machines, he turned back to look at Axel, who followed him up there. "What do you want? It's on the house."

"Um, you don't have to do that. I can pay," he said, moving to take out his wallet.

Roxas shook his head. "Dude, really. It's on the house. My dad won't notice two cups. Besides, no one's going to tattle on me, right, Rikku?" He looked pointedly at the girl, mock glaring.

She turned her back to them, shaking a bottle of whipped cream. "I never saw a thing," she announced. "It's your day off, remember? I didn't even see you today."

The teen grinned and look back at him. "So? What do you want?"

The redhead smiled and put away his wallet. You, just you. "I guess I'll take a…white peppermint mocha? Is that different from the normal peppermint mocha? I mean…I dunno what I mean," he ended lamely.

"Well, yeah, duh. White mochas use white chocolate instead of normal milk chocolate," he informed Axel with a tone of voice he usually assumed came with the job of teaching. Like it was common sense, like he should already know these things. "The peppermint is the same though."

"Oh," he stated, feeling stupid.

"But, yeah. It'll be done in a few." Roxas turned around and stared at him with his penetrating blue eyes. He mouth was set in an unintentional frown, his set expression when he didn't make the effort (or maybe he just wasn't feeling it) to smile. "So. Where are we going today?"

"I dunno, I thought you had a plan."

"Oh. I thought you had a plan."

"Why would I have a plan? You're the one who dragged me out here on a cold winter afternoon!" Oh please, his subconscious sneered, sounding very much like Riku again. You would have come even if he hadn't. Roxas looked like he was going to say something mean, the little pout he got when he thought people needed to be harshly rebuked present. "Do you want to go anywhere?"

Roxas slowly dropped his mad face, thinking. "Well, I don't want to stay here."

Axel grinned. "Because that really narrows it down."

"Shut up. Well, what? Do you have anywhere in mind?"

He did not. "I do not." The machine beeped and Roxas turned to do whatever he did with it. Axel could hear the sound of the lids being snapped onto the to-go cups. As he came back, giving Axel his own steaming hot cup, Axel clicked his tongue and had a great idea.

"So let's go nowhere."

Being nowhere consisted of being actually everywhere, but with no destination in mind. It wasn't as cold as Axel thought it was. But maybe that was Roxas staying close to him at all times. Warm, fuzzy feeling, perhaps. No. That was too girly and weird for him. Anyway, it wasn't too cold. It wasn't even snowing and there wasn't a foot of snow on the ground like usual. Only a couple of inches.

They walked up and left and down and right to the main street, where all the fancy stores were. Bookstores, clothing stores, antique stores, weird stores, food stores, skateboard stores, arty stores, a store full of nothing but different types of paper, a store full of puppies and kittens that looked at them with their big eyes and begged to be taken home. As soon as he started losing feeling in his toes, Axel was a little antsy to get down to business.

Business being, of course, Roxas and his parental problems. That's why they got together right? To talk, maybe? Weren't those his exact words? He wasn't sure if he was messing up by not mentioning it and continuing on walking around. Like, didn't Roxas want to talk? Isn't that why Roxas asked him out here? So he asked.

"So, um," Axel started nervously, glancing down at Roxas. "I don't wanna sound rude but, uh, what did you call me out here for?"

Roxas blinked and extracted his lips from the cup to look at him, frowning maybe confusedly. It was hard to tell his confused look from his mad look sometimes.

"I mean, if you just want to hang out and walk around, you know, I'm cool with that. It's just, I kinda got the feeling you wanted to talk about your parents."

"My parents," Roxas repeated dryly.

"Yeah. Your parents." The redhead fiddled with his cooling cup of fancy coffee. He hadn't taken more than a few sips. Someone walking on the sidewalk shoved him a little as he or she walked past, a little of the drink flew out and splattered on the floor. Axel didn't really notice, too wrapped up in appearing to be cool and not totally emotionally invested right now. He stared at Roxas and Roxas stared right back at him. Like they were having a very intense staring contest.

Axel won as Roxas glanced away and huffed out a dry laugh. "My parents, right." He rolled his pretty blue eyes. "Where would I even start?"

Someone else shoved him, a girl this time, he could hear her shrill laugh, and Axel looked around. "Well," he started with a smile. "We could start by moving over to that bench right over there. I don't think people are too happy that we're just standing in the middle of the sidewalk like this." Roxas smiled faintly and followed him to the freezing cold metal of the sidewalk bench. They sat and Roxas started hesitantly.

"So… my parents are getting a divorce. Probably. I mean, it's not like they actually told me they're getting a divorce. They haven't even acknowledged the fact that something's wrong. I mean, no one's acknowledged the fact that anything's wrong. Not even Hayner, he's my best friend," Roxas informed him, "sees that anything's wrong."

"Do you know what's wrong?"

Roxas glanced at him before looking back at his shoes, exhaling, breath visible in the cold air. "It's like I said. They don't tell me things. But I'm eighty-nine percent sure it's about money." His blue eyes glued themselves to Axel's green. "What about yours?"

"My parents?" Axel clicked his tongue and thought, trying to remember that time. "My parents didn't love each other. Maybe once they did but not anymore. Sometimes you just lose it. Sometimes you just don't love or even like each other the way you did when you first met."

The boy next to him nodded his head and Axel felt slight pride in the fact that he could relate and give advice and generally understand what Roxas was going through. Not even the kid's best friend knew what was going on. Axel was special and he liked the thought of that. "That makes sense, too, I guess. But. But they've been married for, like, twenty years! If they didn't love each other then shouldn't they know by now? How could they just pretend all this time?" he added, addressing the red brick of the sidewalk. "I don't get it."

"Well…" Axel sighed and ran a hand through his hair, looking up at the cloudy sky. It was probably going to snow tonight. "What you mean? You think they should've spilt up when you were a kid? You think you would have been happy with your parents divorced? 'Cause that just not how it works. I mean, I understand- I understand what you're saying but I also think your parents did good by not doing this when you were seven. I mean, did you have a good childhood?"

The blond was quiet, then murmuring, mouth pursed like a grumpy child who was being reprimanded, "I guess so."

"You think you would have turned out different if they started fighting when you were a kid? I think they did good holding it together for you. Because, believe me, if that's the case," he paused, realized sadly that it wasn't the case for him. "Then you are the reason they held it together. And that alone should be enough for you to stop being mad at your parents."

Roxas huffed, making a face like he didn't like that thought very much: being angry was as common to a teen as zits. "But still, they shouldn't act like nothing's happening."

"But don't you see? They probably don't want you to know that something happening…"

"What does that even mean?"

"It means that they don't want to hurt you with the news that their marriage isn't perfect. They probably don't want to hurt themselves with admitting that their marriage isn't perfect." Axel laughed an unfunny laugh, looking at the teen. "Don't you get it? Their marriage is falling apart; if that's scary for you, imagine how scary it is for them. Twenty years of living in the same home, raising their kids, and being together side by side. And now it's crumbling at their feet? I don't know about you, but if I were your parents, I would want to wait and see before I just say it's over and give up just like that. I wouldn't want to just throw in the towel and be done with it or move a thousand miles away and start a new life…" he went quiet.

"Is that what happened to you?"

The older teen blew out a long breath, white mist shooting out in a way that reminded him of blowing out smoke from a cigarette. He didn't look at Roxas though the teen was staring curiously at him. "Yeah," he said shortly. "Something like that."

He didn't want to elaborate but Roxas was staring at him with his big blues eyes, innocently curious, cold lips asking him about it. So Axel sighed and started to jiggle his foot like he noticed he did when he was stressed. He decided to just get it over with. He hated telling this story.

"My Dad met my Mom. They got married young. They had me before they could even legally drink. My Dad, I guess, realized that he was twenty with a wife and a kid and didn't like that thought. So he left my Mom and me and went to the west coast. From what I've managed to learn, he has a new home, a new wife, three new kids, and a new life. I was, like, real little when he left and he never bothered to keep in touch with me so I don't miss him at all," he stated, feeling a little bitter. He clicked his tongue and glanced at the blond teen next to him, who looked a little shocked. "So. Yeah. I mean, Roxas, when I say you have it good, I mean you really do have it good."

Roxas nodded slowly and looked back at the ground, a little slump in his shoulders. "Yeah, I can understand that. I mean…I guess. I dunno, I feel like I'm whining now." He quirked a little apologetic smile. "I'm happy my parents held to together. I'm just frustrated that it seems like I'm the only person who actually acknowledges it, you know? Like. I would be more understanding if they had a fight and later my Dad ranted about it to me. 'Cause then it would be real. I mean, then I would know that what I think is going on is really going on. And then I would know that I'm not crazy."

So Axel nodded, that was reasonable. "I get that. Like, you don't want to be treated like a little kid who can't handle the truth."

"Exactly!" Roxas cried, nodding urgently. "That's how it is. I mean, I'm seventeen, I think I can deal with the fact that my parents won't live in the same house anymore. It would be better than everyone ignoring it like it isn't happening. Everyone freaking ignores it. That's what makes me pissed. And it's just so stupid and complicated and no one gets it so I get mad." He sighed, long and strong like he was exhaling everything out of himself. He looked over at Axel, a thankful smile on his face. "Thanks, man."

"For what?"

"'Cause you get it."

(14) Cups of Coffee

For some reason, Axel's teachers thought it would be an awesome idea to give him loads of homework the second day back from school and make it due the following day. While they didn't exactly have plans to hang out, Axel figured since he'd been there just about every day Roxas would be expecting him anyway. He sent Roxas a message, smiling over the fact that he could do that now, explaining his predicament. Roxas replied a few minutes later, in horrendous text talk: Its ok. Rikkus sick so I have to work til closing. I'll see you 2morrow.

The next day came and Axel walked over to Old Fashioned Joe just like usual. Roxas was waiting for him, talking in a low voice to Sora who was making an order. Roxas was not dressed in the usual uniform. It was a Friday and usually Roxas had to work on Fridays because they were busy. "You're not working today?"

"No. I got the day off because I worked for Rikku yesterday," he explained, pointing to Rikku who was making an angry face at a cocky looking blond man. The man was laughing in spite of her. "I think that's her boyfriend," Roxas whispered to him. "She always says he isn't but I think she's lying."

"Huh," Axel said, looking at them. They sort of had that juvenile I-pull-your-hair-because-I-like-you thing going on. It was sort of adorable. Roxas was watching them, fascinated. Now that was definitely cute. He ordered a coffee and by the time Sora finished and fastened its cap on, Roxas was done watching the non-couple.

"I'm starving."

So they went to get a hot dog at the place two streets down and a block to the right called Underworld. There was nothing terribly dark about the place, besides the black chalkboard walls and sometimes the drawings people did on them. Axel got a Cerberus dog and Roxas got a Phili dog.

"Why is it called a Phili dog?" He asked, sounding truly stumped as he bit into his hot dog with the most delicious sweet chili on it Axel had ever had.

"It's a chili dog. Phili rhymes with chili," he shrugged. "I don't actually know. I think this place is supposed to have a Greek mythology thing going on." Cerberus was a huge three-headed dog. Axel's three hot dogs in a huge bun. Larxene always got the Medusa, which was spaghetti. Demyx once got some weird looking thing called The Hades which was the spiciest thing on the planet considering how much he sweated when he ate it. But that could've been because Demyx is a wimp and can't handle spices very well. After a few times here Axel started to get the theme.

"Huh. That's pretty cool. How did you find this place? I mean, it's like down an alley," he added, an eyebrow raised. Roxas had been looking pretty nervous as soon as they turned in here.

Axel laughed, remembering. "Funny story actually. Well, not really. It might've been a you-had-to-be-there moment. It was hilarious at the time. Demyx, one of my best friends, was high and was getting the munchies even though he'd already eaten his weight in food. We were at a friend's house, who lives over there," Axel pointed to the east. "I was the DD and everyone had pretty much disappeared from me so I didn't want to lose Dem. And he was, like, I wanna a hot dog, I wanna hot dog. So when we hit the street he, like, took off running and I was running after him because, you know, it is a little sketchy down here and I didn't want him to get stabbed. And he's making turns and changing directions and when I finally caught up to him he was turning into this place! And I was like, what the hell are you doing? And he said, I'm never gonna forget this, I wanna a hotdog."

Roxas was laughing. "What? Had he been here before?"

"No. Never in his life had he been here, but he, like, smelled it, I guess. I dunno, that whole night was crazy. He loves this place, though, comes here all the time. Dem's a trip," he laughed, shoving the last huge bite in his mouth.

"He sounds like it," Roxas said warily as Axel's pocket started to jingle. The redhead had a little trouble getting it out of his tighter jeans but when he got it out, he laughed at the screen.

"Speaking of him. Hey, Demyx," he said.

"Dude. Come pick me up," came the muffled reply. Axel frowned.


"Just freaking pick me up, dammit!" Demyx shouted and then sniffled loudly.

"Are you crying?" Roxas looked up in alarm, chili on the corner of his mouth.

"No." He sniffled again, choked on a little sob. "….yes."

Axel sighed, rubbing his forehead and glancing away from Roxas. "Where are you?" Demyx blubbered where he was and promised to stay put when Axel heard him slur his words. Demyx only slurred his words when he was super drunk. When he hung up his phone, Roxas was watching him, all done.

"What happened?"

"Who knows? Dem's drunk, though; I'm gonna go pick him up and drag him to my place."

"Do you need any help? I have my car," Roxas offered, looking genuinely concerned. Axel was tempted but at the same time, he didn't really want Roxas seeing the ugly side of his friends. Talking about them being crazy is fine but actually seeing it? Not cool.

"Actually, I-"

He was just about to say something along those lines when Roxas spoke again. "It's going to take you forever to walk there and back and it's below freezing outside."

"-would love a ride, thank you."

They trekked back to the café and got into the car that Axel recognized from the day Sora drove him back to his place to pick up Riku. Speaking of Riku, well not really speaking of him but thinking of him, he hadn't been over as much as usual. Probably sleeping over at Sora's, he bet, frowning as he glanced over at Roxas who was taking all of the safety precautions. He wondered if he would ever get to sleep over. He told Roxas the address, which was twenty minutes away and the teen was right, it was way too far to walk.

"Okay," Roxas started as he began driving. "Um. Okay. I just got my license a few months ago so I'm not an expert driver so I would appreciate if you didn't like, try to distract stuff and me while I drive. Like talking." Roxas's ears were burning, Axel figured he was embarrassed by his inexperience so he dropped it and stayed obediently quiet.

Demyx was waiting outside for them.

Or more accurately, he was just sleeping outside in the snow, people wrapped tightly in thick coats stepping over him warily. Both he and Roxas stared at the lump on the sidewalk, Roxas stunned and worried while Axel was primarily amused with disbelief. What a goof.

"…Is that your friend? Is he okay?"

"Oh yeah," Axel assured him as he got out of the car. "He's just sleepy." The snow crunched under his feet as he meandered over to his friend. He nudged Demyx's head with his shoe, eliciting an irritated grumble and a glare from bloodshot eyes. "Oh good," he said sweetly. "You're not dead! I thought I was gonna have to explain all this to your mother."

"Shut up!" Demyx shouted at him as he sat up slowly. He was frowning deeply and his hair was floppy. He looked pretty pathetic. "Don't do that. Don't talk to me like that. Can't you see I'm hurting? I was stabbed…"

"You were stabbed?"

"Yesssss." Demyx looked up at him pitifully. "He stabbed me in the 'eart. Look." He unzipped his jacket dramatically, pulling it off to show him his perfectly unbloody, unstabbed chest.

"I thought you said someone stabbed you, buddy. Augh," Axel grunted as he picked the drunken boy up by his underarms. His friend wobbled ungracefully on his feet, almost falling back over. How the police hadn't picked him up already was beyond him.

"Figuratively," Demyx mumbled, sighing loudly. "Or maybe really. I don't remember. Fuck!" He swore when he knocked his head on the top of the car. Axel laughed. "You're a jerk. You're a stupid jerk. Be nice to me. I was fucking stabbed: you need to me nice to me."

"You were stabbed?" Roxas's eyes were wider than Axel had ever seen them be and his mouth just dropped agape in shock. Axel rolled his eyes.

"Yeah. Yeah, you know what? I was. I was fucking stabbed. In the 'eart."

"Who stabbed you?" Poor little Roxas was freaking out, turning around to see if his backseat was now covered in blood.

"By the love of my life!" Demyx moaned, leaning on his friend like he didn't have the bones to hold himself up. "Augh. You think everything's okay and then bam! They stab you."

"He wasn't really stabbed," Axel explained. "It's a figure of speech."

"Ooooh," Roxas said, eyes on the road now, being even more careful and cautious than before.

"How do you do something like that?" Demyx asked them but didn't ask them at the same time. "I mean, fuck, you gotta be one cold bastard. With, like, no… no… You gotta be a douche. A super douche. Ohhh, Axeeeeluh," he whined into the older teen's jacket. "Why was he a suuupperrrrrr douche? I liked him, I reeeeeeally fuckin' did."

"Take a left up here, Roxas," Axel told him while he patted his friend's head gingerly. He was actually somewhat proud that he had this whole routine down.

"Roxas?" Demyx lifted up his head to squint at their driver, confusion on his face shifting to sudden fascinated recognition. "Roxas? HAY, hay Roxas! Are you, are you gay?"


"," said Demyx, making these crazy eyes. "Hay, man. Are you gay? 'Cause I'm, I'm gay, you know, and, uh, and Axel," he clapped the stunned man on the shoulder. "He's, uh, he's gay. And if you're gay then we'll all be gay! Even that fuckin asshole, 'cause if you suck my dick, then you're gay, that's IT. Don't try to fuckin' tell me you're not, 'cause you are, you know?" He huffed, flopping back onto Axel, looking pathetically at the roof of the car.

Axel, still stunned at Demyx's previous outburst, asked, "Who are we talking about again?"

"Zex, man. I love him."

"I thought you hated him."

"No. I love him."

Axel tried to run the name Zex through his brain, trying to pin a face to it. He thought and thought and thought but in the end, he had to admit that he had no idea who this person is. He was probably a private school kid. He wondered if Roxas knew him. The teen didn't seem to be paying attention to them, brow furrowed as he watched the road. They were near Axel's apartment building. "Well, buddy. If I see him I'll punch him in the nuts."

"Thanks, man," Demyx sighed, closing his eyes. "You're nice."

Later, when he was having to pull Demyx out of the car because he fell asleep with Roxas's help, he assured the worried looking boy, "This doesn't happen all the time. I promise." Roxas laughed.

"It's okay. It was actually kinda fun," Roxas said, looking pleasantly surprised as he pulled the drunk teen out of his car. "He's funny. It was an experience anyway."

"Yeah," Axel winced, wondering what the whole ordeal must look like. With Roxas's help he maneuvered his friend onto his back so he could carry him up several flights of stairs. "You won't have to do this again."

"No, really. I didn't mind. I-Oh hey! Look! It's snowing," he said softly, pointing up to the sky. And so it was, gentle falling down in pretty little snowflakes, landing softly on buildings and cars and the roads. On Demyx's passed out face, on Axel's hair, on Roxas who was staring up into the sky with something like childlike wonder on his face, lips red from the cold, cheeks flushed, looking very kissable and cute.

Axel took a step forward that Roxas didn't notice but the blond noticed the second step, noticed innocently the decreased space between them. And Roxas just looked at him, smiling…confusedly? Is that what that expression is? Roxas didn't…he didn't know that… Fuck, fuck, fuck, he was stupid.

Axel stepped away awkwardly and hoped it looked like he struggled with Demyx for a second. He coughed and started walking slowly toward his door. "Um. Bye."

"Bye," Roxas waved, getting in his car and waiting until Axel was safely inside before he drove off.

(15) Cups of Coffee

"So what's the deal with your friends?" Roxas asked, the day after Axel almost slipped and planted one on him. Axel was munching on cookies Roxas's mom apparently made for the workers. By the time Roxas actually got around to telling him this, he had two in his mouth. He blinked and tried to swallow his mouthful of cookie goop, choking a little before managing it get down. His eyes watered a little.

"My friends?" He coughed, slapping his chest. "What about them?"

"I dunno, it's just a little weird to me that you allow them to always crash at your place when they get trashed. Like a few days ago," Roxas said, looking down at him. Axel was sitting cross-legged behind the counter because there were no seats available and sitting behind the counter seemed like a cool idea. His butt was starting to go numb though.

"Oh, that." Axel frowned. "Well, I mean. I would rather they be at my place then someone else's. Haven't I said this before?" Roxas shrugged, clearly not remembering. "Well, I mean. I look after my friends. I somehow made friends with all misfits with crappy home situations. And since I don't, they like it at my place. It's a nice break from their hell of a life. And why wouldn't you want to do that for someone if you could?" He glanced over at Roxas, not expecting him to say anything but wanting to see his expression. "It's what friends do for each other. And they've done the same for me for so it's not like they're taking advantage of my supreme generosity. I mean, wouldn't your best friend do that for you?"

Roxas thought. "Hayner? Yeah, I suppose he would. He would bitch about it but I think he would. What you do sounds more like something my friend Olette would do. Or Naminé. Naminé is really nice like that. She'll do everything she can to help someone out, even if she hardly knows them."

"Naminé? Oh right, your girlfriend," Axel teased.

"She is not my girlfriend!" Roxas protested, pouting and glaring. "I mean. Once, yeah, for like three minutes. But that was like four years ago."

Whoa! This was news. "What? You actually dated her? And here I was starting to think you were asexual." The thought had crossed his mind. "So? What was it like? She pretty? You guys get hot and heavy?" Ugh, he couldn't even think about Roxas and other people.

The teen gave him a look, a cross between amusement and irritation. He opened his mouth to say something, when a pretty redhead came up, smiling a big smile. They talked a little bit and Axel picked at the wood under him. When she left, Roxas got to making a cup for her and finally paid attention to him again. "It was for, like, a week and I was thirteen so there was no getting 'hot and heavy'. She kinda looked like a boy back then but she's real pretty now." Roxas paused as he fastened a lid onto the cup. "…You would like her."

Axel barked out a laugh. "No. Probably not my type," he added, hoping Roxas would get the hint. The teen just smiled and shook his head, leaving for a moment, probably to give Pretty Redhead Girl her drink. Axel picked at the floor again, ready to slyly ask Roxas what his type is, hoping it went something along the lines of male, tall, and skinny, red hair.

But when Roxas came back, he didn't get the chance to. "But yeah," the blond said as he came back. "I think it's really cool that you do that for them, letting them stay with you I mean. I'm glad at least, with the way everything has been at home recently it's nice to know I have the option of actually going somewhere instead of walking around all night."

"You used to walk around all night?" He asked incredulously. "You could have been kidnapped! Or mugged! Or killed! Or mugged and then kidnapped and then killed! That's dangerous; you shouldn't do that, Rox. Like, really," he said, making sure Roxas knew he was serious. "That's bad, just come to my apartment next time."

Roxas smiled, an amused and surprised smile, as if he didn't know Axel would be concerned over his well-being. "Okay, I'll do that. You should come to my house sometime. For fun. We can hang out or something."

The older teen laughed, on the inside freaking out about the prospect. "Okay, I'll do that."

(16) Cups of Coffee

It was a blizzard out.

Snow freaking everywhere, wind throwing it all over the place, trees across the road from Roxas's house swaying their branches in a strangely poetic way. They sort of looked like they were dancing. Axel didn't connect the dancingness until Roxas pointed it out but now that he was looking, they sort of did look like they were doing some strange dance to no music other than the frequent howl of the wind. Their frozen branches glinted when the odd ray of sunshine shown through the cracks of clouds.

Axel sighed and ran a hand through his hair, glancing over at Roxas with a good-natured scowl. An hour with the kid and look at him, he was getting so sappy he could write lovey-dovey teen fiction. If he hung out with Roxas every day, he would sell millions. Possibly billions.

Roxas was contemplating the weather with a thoughtful look, tilting his head to one side. He made a decisive grunt, nodding to himself. "We should definitely go out there."

Slowly, Axel turned to him. He made sure his thoughts about that idea were obvious. "Excuse me?"

Now Roxas turned to him, boyish excitement lighting up his features. He didn't seem to notice the look of pure horror on Axel's face. "Yeah. We could have a snowball fight."

The redhead looked from Roxas's smiling face to the foot of snow outside and then back to Roxas. He faked a smile. "Surrrrrrrre." Apparently Roxas didn't get his sarcasm because he got up and went to his closet, digging around for awhile before coming out with horrendously puffy coats in equally horrendous neon purple.

"We can wear these!"

"Oh my god." Axel eyed the two abominations. "Do you keep those just for these occasions?"

Roxas tossed him one and put on the other. "My grandma got them for me and Sora forever ago. Doesn't she have great taste?" He chuckled, zipping it up. He looked like a very long and shiny grape. Very sexy. Axel laughed and put his one too, it actually sort of fit. He wrapped his scarf around his face while Roxas put his beanie and another furry earflap hat on top of that. Axel could hear the wind and snow crashing against the side of Roxas's house and already felt cold.

The blond teen practically flew out of the door, jumping into the snow that went easily to his ankles as Axel wandered out warily, strong wind pushing him slightly to the left. He wasn't watching Roxas, which he should have been, because a moment later something came throttling toward him, hitting him in the head. He felt the iciness of the snow and looked at the laughing blond teen with betrayal before he packed snow into a ball shape and threw it at him as well.

It missed horribly but the message was clear: this means war.

Roxas squawked as the snowball flew past him and ran away to make cover behind a tree in his front yard. There weren't many trees in low town but uptown there were, they made for perfect hiding places as he and Roxas alternately packed more ammunition and fired upon their enemy. Axel somehow lost his scarf a while ago and had snow from perfectly aimed snow missiles going down his neck. Most of his snowballs didn't go where he intended but he did manage to hit Roxas in the face once. It was kinda awesome.

While he was packing snow into tight little balls, he noticed that the hail of snow that was coming from Roxas's direction had stopped. The teen was probably making more like he was… WHICH LEFT HIM VULNERABLE TO A SNEAK ATTACK!

The startled yelp was satisfying even though his snowball missed by at least a foot. As was Roxas's frantic lunge to escape his reach, tumbling and scrambling to getaway. All of his ammunition was lost in the white snow so he gave chase. over things and changing direction to avoid being caught. Eventually they just started laughing, bursting out into a fit when he was so, so close all he had to do was reach and- Roxas would quickly change directions and escape, giggling, from his grasp.

"Oh, man," Axel gasped, chilly air entering his lungs as he stopped, hands on his knees, chest fucking killing him. "Dude. I'm done. I'm not cut out for this shit! Let's go back insiiiiiide," he whined. His hands were cold, his face was cold, he couldn't even feel his nose, and everything else was cold. He'd entertained Roxas for long enough, he was done, he'd had enough.

"Oh, come on, Axel! Don't throw a hissy. It's not even windy anymore!" he shouted, gesturing to the not windy air. Axel hadn't noticed before. He jogged up to Roxas, sides hurting.

The wind only died down for a short while, as was normal for Bastion winters. Strong winds, blizzards, a short reprieve, and then they started back up again. Just as he reached the teen, they started back up again, hurtling toward them, shaking the trees even stronger than before. The snow hit them like snowballs, sting of ice on skin. The hat Roxas was wearing flew off his head and down the street, never to be seen again.

Axel, blinded by the sudden onset of snow, pulled Roxas to him as he turned away from the wind, snow flinging itself on his back. "Are you okay?" he shouted over the wind, wiping snow from his face. Roxas was looking at him, probably stunned by the sudden change in weather. Big, blue eyes and flushed cheeks.

His face was freezing, snow clinging to every surface of his body, feeling the harsh wind from the places Axel wasn't already blocking. He was slightly stunned by the sudden change in weather but more so by Axel grabbing him and turning him away from the wind. They were so close to each other. Roxas nodded numbly, staring up at him, and licked his lips, taking a deep breath and taking a step toward him, making them even closer.

Roxas nodded at him, looking a little scared with his wide eyes, which made him a little nervous and uncomfortable. They weren't far from his house, still in the teen's yard. "C'mon, let's go," he said, tugging the boy a little until he got the hint that they were going to run for it. When they made it inside, the door slamming behind them, they slumped for a while and then started laughing. Roxas offered him a cup of coffee.

(17) Cups of Coffee

It was a Saturday and Axel was busy all day writing a paper that his stupid psycho English teacher wanted the following Monday. How was it even possible to write an eight-page paper in three days? He didn't even have enough thoughts to fill up eight pages! While grumbling about crazy menopausal teachers and their stupid books and stupid papers, the hours slipped by as one page by one page he drafted up a decent paper. When his poor abused hand developed a painful cramp, he decided to call a break.

Lying on his mattress, he heard the muffled noise of the front door being unlocked and his mother's distinct coming home ritual. She sighed long and loud, kicking off her shoes and throwing her bag on the kitchen counter. She hung up her coat. Opened the fridge. Closed the fridge. Then she started to walk toward her room.

"Hello, Axel!"

"Hey, Mom," he answered back loudly, staring at his ceiling blankly. He heard the shower start, pipes humming dully, the consistent sound of water running filling the apartment. He started wondering how the pipes worked, what mechanism made it flow, how they made that weird bumpy texture that was all over his ceiling, and what was for dinner.

He was so caught up in his musings, staring unwavering at the ceiling, that when a loud clanking started suddenly, Axel jumped so hard he almost fell off the bed. Heart jumping almost painfully in his chest, he looked over to his window, where he left the blinds open so light could come in. Roxas was crouched in front of it, much like that first night, waving merrily at him like this was perfectly normal, like he did this all the time. He was wearing that white beanie Axel liked.

"Roxas. Just what the hell are you doing?" he said as soon as he opened his window. "Do you know what time it is? Does your mother know where you are?" He said this jokingly, much in the way he and Riku bickered and hoped Roxas got it and didn't think he was being patronizing.

Thankfully, Roxas laughed, pushing him out of the way to crawl in. He sure was getting cozy for someone who'd only been in his room, like, twice. He used only one hand, keeping the other steady and far away. When Axel looked closer, he saw that Roxas had a to-go cup in his hand. "Shut up, I brought you coffee, "he smiled big and cheesy, presenting him the cup like it was an offering to a god. "I'm climbing through your window. It's like nine. My mom thinks I'm at Hayner's."

At this, Axel frowned while he took the cup and placed it on his nightstand; displeased Roxas had to lie to come here. "Why?"

Roxas wrinkled his nose. "You really think my mom would let me come here, to some guy's, whom she's never met, house to spend the night? Oh and also that he lives in low-town? It took my mom a year to even let me sleep over at Hayner's sometimes. She's like an overprotective mother bear."

Mentally picturing Roxas's overprotective mother being a bear, Axel smiled and chuckled a little. But he was still curious. "Why are you here exactly?" Because, other than that night, Roxas had never been to his home or even suggested being at his home.

Roxas stilled in the middle of taking off his shoes. Axel couldn't see his eyes, blue hidden by a fringe of blond hair. He shrugged. "You know. I just…I just didn't want to be there anymore. I mean," he struggled to say, and resumed taking off his shoes. "I mean, after a few months of this, I can sorta tell when they're going to have a fight. I just didn't want to be around it. This is okay, right?"

It's definitely more than okay, Axel wanted to say. It's more like a dream come true. But he didn't want Roxas to know that so he said, "Nah, man. It's cool."

"Cool." The younger teen smiled. "So have you seen Riku recently?"

"…Yeah, why?"

"Oh, no reason. Just, could you tell him that it'd be cool if Sora was home every once in awhile?"

Axel laughed, going to sit on his bed again. "Yeah, right. You think he'd listen to me? Pssht. He'd make sure Sora was home less just in spite."

Roxas made an unsatisfied face, scrunched up into a not-really-mad frown. "Yeah, well, tell him anyway. I'm sick of Sora leaving me all alone with our parents. He takes the car so I can't go anywhere too," he added as Axel started to say something.

"Oooooh," Axel winced. "I don't you'd want it very much after they've had it."

"…you don't think-?"

"I don't want to but yeah, most likely."

"Eww. I don't want to think about my brother having sex," he made a face and shook his head, like that would dislodge the thought permanently. Axel laughed, getting rid of the image of his best friend having sex with the brother of the boy he liked. Ugh, the whole situation sounded like it belonged on a mid-morning soap opera. "But at least he's not doing it at home. Although, I don't really think my parents would notice anyway," he said dryly.

"Still bad?"

"I would say it's the same but they seem to be more wrapped up in it, if that makes any sense." Roxas paused and then added, "But I did overhear my Dad saying that we were making more money at the shop, so maybe things will get better soon."

"Yeah, maybe, but I-"

"Axel!" his mother shouted from outside the door, knocking. He hadn't even heard the shower go off, too wrapped up in Roxas. She poked her head through the door since he didn't say she couldn't otherwise, mouth open to speak but stopping when she saw Roxas sitting in his room. "Oh. Hi there," she said, as friendly as could be. "I'm Axel's mom, Tifa. I just got done making dinner, Axel. Breakfast for dinner, your favorite." She smiled wide at him and then wider at Roxas before bashfully leaving.

Axel hid his red face in his hands while Roxas laughed. "So that's your mom. She's real pretty. You look nothing like her."

"Are you saying I'm not pretty Roxas?" He threw his pillow at him playfully. "Learn some manners, young man." Roxas laughingly caught it, smiling awkwardly. Axel shifted on his bed nervously. "So, um, you want some? Breakfast for dinner, my favorite. Pancakes."

"I LOVE pancakes."

And so they ate pancakes, watching TV with his mom and making comments on it every now again. It was very surreal, he didn't expect Roxas to come and have a very domestic meal with them. He didn't really expect him to fit in immediately, just like that. Even Riku was awkward the first few times he ate Axel's mother's dinner, as if he felt he didn't belong. Roxas just melded in perfectly, like it was no big deal and behaved like it might become a routine thing. Axel liked the thought of that.

His Mom gave him a mom-look when they went to bed, saying with her dark eyes something along the lines of 'Please don't have sex. Please don't have sex.' And Axel bashfully retreated, glaring at her indignantly with a burning red face. Roxas went to straight to sleep, curling up and saying goodnight. It took Axel longer, heart beating too fast to sleep, even with Roxas's almost hypnotically even breaths trying to lure him to sleep. He didn't know why, actually he did, it wasn't every night someone he actually had romantic interest in climbed in his bed. Not since his crush on Larxene anyway and one swift kick to the crotch had taken care of that.

When he was absolutely sure the younger teen had fallen asleep, he turned over and looked at him, peacefully sleeping. A piece of hair was in his face so Axel brushed it away and really liked being able to do that, brush his hair away. It was very… almost intimate without really touching. After he looked a while more he started to feel like a creep and wondered what it looked like, him staring like this, so he turned over and fell asleep. He dreamt of nothing but it was a good nothing, a comforting nothing. And when he woke up, Roxas was still asleep next to him. And Axel smiled, brushing away a piece of hair in his face.

And then he realized there were only five more cups of coffee left.

(18) Cups of Coffee

The eighteenth cup of coffee was taken to go. Actually, it was given to go. When Axel ducked under the door of Roxas's car, a small cup was already waiting for him, steam rising up softly. It was so cold outside, even walking the few feet from the building to curb made Axel's nose sting painfully. Even though he didn't want to take it, because he would be that much closer to the end, he cheered at the sight of the hot cup, taking it to warm up his fingers while Roxas started to pull away.

"Where are we going today?" he asked, somewhat not looking forward to it because that meant they would have to leave the safe, warm paradise of the car. It was so fucking cold outside.

Roxas watched the road cautiously, nervous like the sixteen year old he was. "Ummm…" he murmured as he merged into the lanes of traffic, checking behind him a few more times than needed. "I was thinking maybe we would go to this place I really like. I think you would like it, too…"

The redhead smiled to himself as he looked at the passing scenery. He was giddy on the inside, tingly warmness expanding throughout his entire body. He sighed mentally, happy. Some soft sounding music was playing on the radio that Roxas didn't seem to be listening to. He felt a little stupid but he thought the moment was a sort of romantic. He didn't say anything the entire ride, obeying rule number 1: thou shalt not talkith to Roxas whileith he is drivingith. But he wanted to, he was itching to ask if the teen had listened to those CDs he gave him and if he liked them and if he didn't like them. He hoped he liked them.

Several turns and stoplights later, Roxas parked quietly on the side of the road right before a bridge. It had a weird clock lodged in it, probably just in case anyone driving under it needed to know what time it was. And didn't have a watch…or a cell phone…or a working clock in the dash. Axel was quite happy picking apart the function of the clock-bridge when Roxas did something completely confounding and almost startling.

He turned off the car, heat from the vents stopping immediately, and pulled the keys from the ignition. "This is it," he announced as he took his seat belt out.

Axel sputtered. "We're-we're not getting out are we?"

The teen laughed as he opened his door. A rush of cold air flooded the car as he got out, briefly ducking back in to grin a little at him. "C'mon. It's not that cold outside." Axel huffed and rolled his eyes but shoved open his door too now that Roxas implied that he couldn't take the cold. As he stepped out, he couldn't help himself, he involuntarily shivered. Roxas laughed at him, eyes going squinty. "What? You act you've never been through a Bastion winter before."

He glared hard at the laughing teen that was making his way over to the clock-bridge. "I have been through winter before, thank you very much, douche-face. I just happen to be naturally more suited to warmer weather is all," he said grumpily. "It's my genetic makeup."

Roxas shook his head and lifted himself onto the bridges high railings. "Yeah, right. More like you can't take it 'cause you're all bones."

Axel huffed and glanced down at himself. He was not all bones. He looked over at Roxas. Roxas was just as thin as he is! How dare he. He swung his legs over the rails and sat next to his now-friend. "Oh, and you're naturally predisposed for cold weather."

"Shut up," Roxas laughed and then quieted. Axel wrapped his arms around himself, one hand warm from the coffee. From their improvised bench, there was a nice view of the road and the beginning of low-town behind it. Even with the couple day old snow, it was almost pretty. "You know," Roxas said quietly, almost a whisper. "I really love this place… It's kind of ironic 'cause whenever I come here, it's like time just stops."

The older teen frowned, not getting it. "How is that ironic?"

"Dude," he said, raising an eyebrow like Axel was obviously stupid for asking that. "It's a clock…"

"Oh." God, he was obviously stupid. But Roxas apparently thought it was funny because he chuckled and his eyes went squinty in the way they did when he found something funny. They sat there for a while.

They sat there for a while, not talking, not doing anything, just looking forward and watching as a car or two passed under them. Even so, Roxas's chest was palpitating a little for some reason. His hand was lingering an inch or two closer to Axel's than what was normal but he tried to not think about it, tried to not look over, tried to not get his hopes up. He shifted a little closer in a way that was inconspicuous and his hand was closer still, freezing and slowly going numb but closer, there if Axel wanted to hold it.

Oh God, he was freezing. The chill that his thick jacket had kept away had slowly but surely sunk into him, into his bones. He was bone cold. Axel wondered how long you had to be out and in what temperature to get frostbite. Because he was losing feeling in his hands. The hot coffee wasn't hot anymore. God, he was cold.

"God, I am so cold," he stated urgently, finally breaking under the pressure. Roxas jumped a little at his sudden outburst and probably thought he was a weakling but he just couldn't take it anymore. "Are you freezing? I'm freezing." He was positively shivering.

Roxas's eyes crinkled up and he nodded. "I lost feeling in my hands."

"Oh, man, come on dude, let's go," he begged, doing a little jig to get off the railing without moving his arms to conserve warmth. He and Roxas shivered back to the car as quickly as humanly possible.

He never even noticed how close Roxas's hand was or how it was positioned perfectly for hand holding.

(19) Cups of Coffee

Kingdom Wars.

One of Axel's favorite games. He lost track of time playing the addictive game into the late hours of the night or rather, early hours of the morning. He always loved playing the versus mode because then he could feel superior when he totally demolished his friends within seconds. Currently staring nervously at the screen, thumbs flying all over the controller to start sick combo moves, he watched his character be quickly hacked into pieces.

Roxas also loved the versus mode.

"Yeeah! Take that! Do you wanna go again? You might win this time," Roxas teased, snickering under his breath. That was not good sportsmanship. Axel scrunched his face up and selected his character again without saying a word, thumbs poised to start immediately. Roxas started the game, tongue sticking out of his mouth cutely. 3...2...1...START!

Long jab, high kick, high kick, special combo move-that was interrupted as Roxas unleashed several well-aimed strikes of his swords, pushing Axel's character further to the edge and finished with a swift power kick that sent Axel's assassin falling to his death.

"AUGH," the redhead groaned, letting his controller fall through his hands. "You dick! I can't believe you pushed me off the edge. I hate you, we are not friends anymore. I am never talking to you again." Fat chance of that. Axel'd been hanging out with the teen everyday for the past two weeks, steering clear of the coffee shop but seeing him before his shift or after. He explained his absence from the shop as a lack of money for his grossly overpriced drinks, which was sort of true but not really.

Roxas laughed. "I'm sorry. Actually, no, I'm not. Why should I be sorry for my naturally gifted abilities? They're a gift from god. WORSHIP THEM." Roxas wiggled his fingers in front of Axel's face quite obnoxiously to which Axel opened his mouth and tried to catch them with several snaps of his teeth. After several close calls, Roxas's fingers were back at the controller, playing alone now while Axel read a magazine.

The past two weeks had been mostly like this, but with one considerable difference. One night Axel had woken up to the shrill song of his phone ringing and, answering it, Riku had excitedly regaled this to him:

He and Sora were looking at the stars on the top of the flat roof of the coffee shop, just laying there, holding hands. All of a sudden, he thought of Axel and wondered how the Roxas Situation was going and then he thought of Sora, holding hands with him. Sora, who was Roxas's brother. Last he heard Axel still wasn't sure if Roxas was gay and if anyone would know, he figured it would be Sora. So he looked at his boyfriend and asked.

"Hey, is Roxas gay?"

Sora blinked once and then twice, looking utterly perplexed. He scoffed and huffed and puffed at the stars, "What? Roxas? Gay? What? Nooooooo. No." He shook his head and pursed his lips before looking over at him and conceding. "Yeah."

Needless to say he was excited about this news, a new fire igniting now that he knew he actually might have a chance maybe! Ahh, and that was enough to plaster a smile on his face for days on end. It wasn't like that little tidbit changed everything or put everything Roxas ever did or said into new light. Axel just had a new skip in his step, a new lightness. And he liked that.

Outside Roxas's door, he heard a heavy shuffle of feet passing, probably Roxas's dad, Cid, whom Axel had met earlier. A big man, just as tall as he was but packed with muscle and a rough demeanor. Strange, though, Axel noticed that he drank tea instead of coffee which was weird considering he ran a coffee shop. He also met Roxas's mom, Shera. She was nice, kept offering him food. Roxas glanced over and then back at the screen again when the footsteps faded away.

"Have you ever, like, stepped back for a moment and realized that you know nothing about your parents?"

Axel frowned, contemplating. "Yeah, sorta. But in retrospect, how much do our parents know about us?"

Roxas knocked down a squadron of dark soldiers as he talked. "Well, yeah. That's true. But it's just weird to me that we can spend our entire lives being taken care of by these people and yet never know what's on their mind or what they do in their private time. Or what they did before they had kids. Isn't that weird to you? Like their entire life just disappears when they have a kid. They become a whole other person."

"Well. Before they had kids, they were kids. When you have a kid, you need to take on certain responsibilities that clash with who you were before," Axel told him, not reading the magazine anymore but watching him quietly. "And I guess it's weird that they don't tell you stuff but they just want a little privacy. When you have kids you have to give your all so I can understand that they want to keep a little bit of themselves for, you know, themselves."

The teen nodded. "I understand that. It's just so weird now, because while they're not fighting as much I know now that they do fight. It's just weird to look at them now."

"'Cause now you know they're human. And they have faults, easy as that." Axel flipped the page of the magazine. Roxas demolished another large group of dark soldiers, working his way toward the Mirage Castle, which was alternately there and not there. "It's all give and take. You can only watch them as they do things and they can only watch you and hope you don't fuck up. So don't fuck up. That's what life's all about, trying to not fuck up."

Roxas laughed, eyes going all crinkly and lips upturned in a big smile. "I like your outlook on life."

"I like telling you my outlook on life." I like you, he mentally added, smiling silently to himself. Roxas laughed lowly and saved his game, tossing the other controller at the redhead. They played versus for hours and hours, changing players every round. Axel won some but lost most, Roxas laughing and smiling until the very end. For the life of him, Axel couldn't think of a better way to spend the day.

(20) Cups of Coffee

There was a week between cup nineteen and twenty. Axel helped Roxas study for a big test, Roxas came over to his house to kick his ass at Kingdom Wars again and this time Axel enjoyed it. They went to the comic shop again and Roxas showed him all of his favorites, explaining how much they mean to the comic world and why they were so amazing. Axel met Naminé, the girl Roxas dated four years ago. She was sweet, a little shy, and totally not interested in Roxas romantically in the least. Axel liked her. Roxas came over and they had macaroni and cheese dinner. Only a week, though. Roxas pushed a free spiced chai latte on him.

Only two more left and how terrible that sounded, even when it was just in his head.

"I heard Land of Wonder was cool," Roxas said, biting on the straw of his large drink as he stared at the list of movies. Axel hummed, drawn back from his own thoughts, not necessarily agreeing but not disagreeing either.

They didn't even plan to see a movie today, just hanging out. Then Sora called so they went to pick him up at the mall and then Roxas's dad called Sora to work on last minute notice so Sora ended up taking the car to work, leaving he and Roxas alone at the mall. It wasn't too bad, almost sorta like a date. Maybe he would take Roxas out to dinner later. He liked the sound of that.

The other movies showing within an hour, the most amount of time Axel would wait at the theater, were Land of Wonder, Djinn, The Gates of Twilight, and The Planet. Land of Wonder looked like a tripfest, talking animals and weirdness and a smiling cat. It had awesome looking graphics though and looked funny. Djinn was about a street kid who fell in love with an Arabian princess and had to do stuff to win her over and save the day or something. Gates of Twilight looked cool to him; from what he could tell from the previews it was about a kid who wasn't real or a part of someone else and didn't want to give up his life. The Planet looked freaking awesome, full of bad guys and good guys and a corrupt government and fighting and an alien. There was also a real cute main hero guy who looked like Roxas.

"I think we should see The Planet," Axel decided.

"No. I'm sick of action films. I want to see Land of Wonder or Gates of Twilight. You can pick," he added, smiling. Axel frowned. He didn't want to pick. He wanted to see The Planet! He was about to tell Roxas this when someone from behind them called out.


The blond teen turned and smiled when he saw three kids his age waving to him. "Hi guys," he greeted when they walked over. Axel noticed they gave him suspicious looks. "This is my good friend, Axel. Axel, this is Hayner," he pointed to a blond kid with wavy hair and muscles. "Pence," a chubby kid with crazy hair and a weird shirt. "And Olette," a pretty girl with big green eyes and a friendly smile. She needed to get rid of those orange socks though. Pretty okay group of friends.

"Are you seeing a movie? We're going to see a movie, you should come with us!" Olette said. Axel decided he didn't like her, trying to take away his precious time with Roxas away. Roxas glanced over at him and Axel shrugged good-naturedly.


"Dude, we have to see The Planet," the blond guy stressed. "I heard it was so amazing, they're gonna make a game out of it."

Roxas groaned. "I've seen too many actions movies this month. If I see another bomb, my brain is going to explode with it. It can't take that shit anymore. It's done."

"Augh, but it'll be so worth it, Rox! Have you seen the previews for it? Your brain'll thank you for taking it to see it."

"Not if it explodes," Roxas mumbled.

"Even so," Hayner shrugged, walking over to the ticket booth like the discussion was done. That was sort of mean. Axel frowned; he would never do that to Roxas. Yeah, he was going to make him go to the movie anyway but he would have been nice about it at least. Roxas sighed as he followed his friends, smiling tiredly at him.

"Looks like we're going to see The Planet."

"I knew you would see the light," Axel teased. Roxas laughed but punched him in the arm. They paid for their tickets, Roxas refusing to let Axel buy him one even though Axel got a free coffee today, and sat down. The one thing Axel really, really liked about movie theaters was how close the seats were. If he stretched and got comfortable, his leg would be next Roxas's and they could share an armrest, so those would be touching too. Which was always awesome. The movie, he was sure, was also awesome and he was also sure he would have enjoyed it. If he had, you know, been paying attention to it.

During the previews, he realized what Roxas called him. His good friend. That's what he called Demyx, or Larxene. Good friends with zero romantic or sexual interest. And Roxas called him that. That's all he could think of, the entire movie, was how Roxas said it, like it was nothing. Good friends. Good friends? What does that even mean?

He knew what it didn't mean. It didn't mean that they were anything but friends. It didn't mean that they had something going on. It didn't mean that Roxas liked him. It didn't mean anything. It was meaningless.

He kept thinking that, over and over again when fights broke out on the screen. Kept thinking it when the female lead died tragically. Thought about it when she was avenged and the world was saved or whatever, he didn't know. He kept thinking about it and he couldn't pay attention and stared at Roxas when he wasn't looking, wondering why he said good friends. And then he knew why he said good friends. Because they were good friends.

And that was it.


(21) Cups of Coffee

The jingle of the bell above the door, the sound of his feet stomping to get rid of the snow, walking over to the counter and placing his order. Waiting for it, hands holding a magazine, paper thin and glossy under his fingers, reading over and over but not understanding a word. The click-clank of the big mug being set down, chair making a horrendous noise as it slid across the floor and Roxas sat, smiling. Something about school, a girl who was being obnoxious in class today, explosive laughter even though Axel didn't remember what was funny. Something about Yuna getting married next Saturday and how she was his cousin and that he was going. Watching Roxas sip down coffee, catching and licking away the drops that escaped him, tongue red. Lips catching on his teeth when he smiled, the light shining on his hair, blue of his eyes. More laughter. More smiles. Suddenly he noticed that all of his coffee was gone but didn't remember drinking it. The squeal of the chair again, Roxas getting up, promising to come back soon with another. Watching him walk away. Light footsteps of him coming back. Axel said something that he didn't remember but must have been funny because he remembered watching Roxas laugh, his eyes crinkling up. Hands burning hot where it touched the ceramic cup, cold everywhere else. He didn't drink this cup, he remembered that. Eventually he let go of it for some reason, to sit differently. Roxas talked incessantly about something and he was enthralled, something about this band he like and how happy he was they were coming to town and that they were awesome, etcetera, etcetera. After awhile he was so lost in whatever he was saying that when he went to take a drink, he took Axel's. But Axel noticed. And he remembered feeling pleased but also sad that he felt so comfortable to drink his stuff. Happy because that was great. Sad because Roxas probably felt so comfortable with him because they were friends, "good friends". And that was it. Weeks and Axel still didn't know if Roxas like him. The only mile mark he made was because Riku asked Sora about Roxas's sexuality. Roxas never even talked about it, never flirted, never said anything that suggested he thought about them being together. Twenty-one cups of coffee. After another hour or two (more laughter, more smiles), Axel left, bell above the door jingling, wondering why the hell he voluntarily put his heart through hell and heartbreak, why he taunted himself everyday by being with someone he could never have? He would never have Roxas; or rather, Roxas would never have him.

He didn't think he could convince himself otherwise anymore.

Axel could hardly sleep, his brain was far too everywhere to rest, realizing he hardly remembered the day even though he was fairly sure it happened. He watched the clock turn from 11:10 to 11:11 and remembered something Demyx told him one time and shut his eyes as tight as possible and made a wish. When that was done, and he was lying in bed with no evidence that anything changed, feeling stupid and all alone. He stared at his ceiling and knew that he couldn't wait any longer. It was just prolonging the inevitable. If he was going to lose Roxas he would rather have it done quickly, with less pain than dragging it on for months and getting his hopes up day after day. He would have to do it; he would have to do it tomorrow. Even if it sucked, he had to. Like pulling off a band-aid you've had on for so long it sort of fused to your skin. Like that.

But he was scared, fretting about losing someone he called a friend and hung out with and liked. In a way, he didn't want to lose the comfort of that slight chance, because it came along with so much more. It came along with smiles and jokes and coffee and comic books and movies and talking and reminiscences and secrets and video games and someone very intriguing. Axel just didn't want to lose him, wasn't sure if he could do that, was mostly sure he would like to keep Roxas around him for a long time if possible.

Was that possible? Was it possible to be friends after a friend told you they've wanted you all that time? Would it be the same? Axel didn't want it if it couldn't be the same, he didn't want a different, weird-around-him Roxas. He wanted the Roxas he liked. It probably wasn't possible, he decided, getting tired as the day officially ended and another began. He rolled over and wrapped his blankets around him, staring at the wall before he closed his eyes and sighed.

He woke up to sunshine peeking through his blinds and silence, a warm bed and cold room, his life. He got up, took a scalding hot shower to wake up, put some pants on, a shirt, shoes, coat. And left. It was cold, but not snowing. There was a chilling breeze but it wasn't windy. The coffee shop had customers but wasn't crowded. Axel realized he had no idea what time it was or if Roxas was even working today, but he figured that since it was the weekend the teen would be here eventually. He hoped and hoped and crossed his fingers that Roxas would be there, steeling himself for what would come next, running scenarios through his head so when they actually happened he would be prepared and they wouldn't hurt as much.

Roxas turned around and smiled distractedly at him when he heard the bell ring, the scene more devastating that it should be. He was taking someone's order, Brown-Haired Girl smiling softly to herself as she went around giving people refills. Axel suddenly remembered the first time he came in here, not even knowing Roxas's name, driven here more by a sexual drive than the emotional one he had now. He was so stupid then, conceited. He had no idea what he was doing, not that he did now but, well, whatever. Yeah.

He got in line.

"Hey, man," Roxas greeted him, blissfully unaware of what Axel was going to do, innocently happy to see his "friend". "Whaddya want? We're not so busy so I can hang out with you after."

"Oh," Axel said dumbly, staring at his hands nervously. He realized that he failed to think up a plan on his way here. "Um. Okay. I'll, uh. I'll have a… a dark chocolate mocha." He'll think of one by the time Roxas is done, for sure. The teen barista nodded his head and went to work on it, without even calculating it into the machine. "Um, you forgot to take my money?"

Roxas snorted, shaking his head. "Dude. You're a friend, it's on the house," he smiled.

Axel smiled back and turned, sighing with a sinking feeling in his stomach as he got into his usual chair at his usual table. He suddenly thought that if it didn't go well he would never come back in here, back to this table, holy fuck, what if Roxas never wanted to see him again? What if it went bad? Holy fuck, holy fuck, holy fucking shit.

Okay, okay, okay, he told himself, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, wringing his hands together. Okay. He would have to like start out slowly, ease the conversation into it. He couldn't just blurt it out, that would end in possible disaster more quickly. Ease in, how was your day? Me? I'm okay…only something's been bugging me for a real long time. What, you ask? Well, for starters, I've wanted to shove my tongue down your throat since the day I met you.

Axel frowned, no, that wouldn't go over to well. That was just…no. Fuck.

"Okay," Roxas started to say as he walked over, holding a bright red mug carefully. FUCK. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. He wasn't ready! He didn't have anything! No words, sentences, something smart to say, nothing! SHIT. He was brain-dead, unmoving in front of an extremely noticeable train about to crash into him. Roxas was saying something but he couldn't hear it, blood pumping so damn loud in his ears, adrenaline going and making everything quiet. He went to take the cup.

"Ah, SHIT!" The cup was scorching hot, startling hot, even hotter still as he instinctually jumped and liquid spilled over the rim and onto his lap. Fuck.

"I told you it was hot!" Roxas's big blue eyes were wide with sudden shock, going wider with disbelief. "Shit, it got on you; I'll go get something to-"


Roxas stopped, already half turned to get something for the cooling liquid, blinking, shocked still by Axel's outburst. "What? What is it?"

The redhead was stunned too by that, embarrassed about how loud he was and blushing under Roxas's undivided attention. What did he do now? He said that to stall but he had nothing to say to back it up. What did he do now? What else could he do? "I…I…" he stammered, biting his lip before he just started talking. "I. Rox. Are you, are you gay?" Roxas said nothing, brows furrowing and mouth opening slightly but saying nothing. So Axel continued, laughing an un-funny laugh at his own stupid, stupid self. "I mean. Actually. I know you're gay. I do. But what I'm saying is. Is." He took a deep breath, mumbling to Roxas's shoes instead of his face, "Do you- do you like me?"

He didn't see the look on Roxas's face and didn't know if he wanted to, gathering up his courage and just going with it, sure he had nothing to lose but everything he could possibly want. " 'Cause, I mean. I can't look at you without wondering how it would feel to kiss you," he said sincerely the words he'd never spoken aloud before. "But it's so much more than that. I wanna know you inside out, upside down and backwards. I want to know what you're thinking, I want to know you like no one has ever known you before. I want to be your everything because you're the only person that matters to me anymore and I would really, really like it if…if you could just look me in the eye like I look into yours…" He looked into Roxas's eyes for a moment. The boy was staring at him, still. Axel couldn't read the look on his face.

"Axel…. What are you saying?"

He let out a desperate laugh, looking at his cup of dark coffee, running a hand through his hair and letting it linger. "I'm saying I think I love you, even though I've never kissed you, or touched you like that. I'm saying I think about you ten times every second. I'm saying, I'm saying I've been coming here trying to get you to notice me. And then you did but not the way I wanted you to. I…I am far too in love with you to look at you every day and want to kiss you and know that I can't." His breathing sounded very loud to him, his words sounded strange to him, like he was listening to someone else say them.

"I…I can't be in love with you every day when you're never going to love me back. I can't, Rox. I can't." He took a sharp inhale of breath, a little sniffle behind it. He looked at Roxas, who was shell-shocked, looking at him with wide blue eyes. "I've been coming here every day, drinking those new coffee things to impress you. I've had every single one of them…" He held the boy's eyes for as long as he could stand it and Axel could feel his pulse, blood coursing through his veins. He felt like he was on fire, like he was burning up right where he sat.

Roxas's eyes were very blue as they fell to the ground, the boy's brows coming together. He stared at the floor for a very long time… and Axel closed his eyes and buried his face in his hands.

When Roxas's breath hitched, throat clearing, Axel couldn't help himself, he peeked through his fingers forlornly, waiting for the blond boy to yell at him and those lips to say stay the fuck away and never come back.

Roxas's eyes were so blue and his lips were red as he absently licked them. He looked right at Axel like they were the only two people in the room, right into his face. He licked his lips a second time. And started to talk softly but haltingly, hesitating at certain words and saying others with a strong confident voice. His eyes were so blue, an honesty in them, a certainty in them.

"I…Well. You know… we, we have a whole line of house brews," he said, gulping once as Axel removed his face from his hands. "From all around the world. Ranging from mild to really bold. And…and in all sorts of flavors, I, yeah. And we were thinking of importing some teas," he babbled, hands flying everywhere as he talked, nervous. "to go along with our selection and-"

He was cut off as Axel leaned out of his chair and pressed their lips together, one hand moving to touch his hair and another to touch his cheek. Soft, barely there.

When Axel moved back, a little wet noise sounding as their lips parted, he saw that, one; Roxas was flushed and his eyes were dazed and that, two; Roxas's dazed eyes were settled on him so he leaned in and with more force kissed him once again. And what a fucking glorious feeling it was: everything he thought it would be like and more. Roxas's lips were soft and moved nervously against his. He was growing a little lightheaded with just the knowledge that he was kissing Roxas. Roxas.

With a little gasp and a gentle shove back, Roxas backed away, face pink. He stared a little, wide eyed, at Axel and then averted his eyes. For a second the older teen worried if he moved too fast. But then the blond smiled, running a hand through his hair and laughed, shyly looking back up at him.

He took a seat across from Axel. Blue, blue, blue eyes glanced at him and he licked his lips nervously, "So…"

The redhead moved so he was directly facing him and nothing and no one could have wiped the smile off his face. "So…" he repeated, laughing breathlessly, an almost unbelieving laugh. No, he actually really couldn't believe it. But it was. It really fucking was, it really fucking happened. Wow, it happened. Roxas's left hand was lying inconspicuously close and fidgeted a little. Axel noticed and with a smile covered it with his own. It was warm and soft and sent chills up his spine when their fingers laced together. It was a little awkwardly positioned but it worked.

Roxas smiled as he looked at their hands and then smiled more as he looked at Axel. He opened his mouth several times to say something and each time Axel waited. He himself was speechless, capable of only smiling like an idiot and staring adoringly at Roxas without holding back this time. Eventually the teen gave up, laughing apologetically and gestured to his untouched cup of coffee. "So," he smiled. "Are you going to drink that?"

Axel laughed and squeezed his hand, dutifully taking a sip.

(22) Cups of Coffee


Only took like six months but it's done. Hope you guys enjoyed it. I probably had a bunch of, things that I wanted to say, but I can't remember right now. Um. Thanks for being nice and waiting so long for the second part. I am working on another fic, already, I've had it lined up for awhile now. and I posted the first chapter of it up on my lj. and I'm going to post a music playlist that goes along to it like I did with Summer Boy in the next few days. Not going to post one for 22 because it had little to no music in it. Although if you do want some good music, I listened to post harbor. and The River Empires while writing this. Both of them are awesome, I think. Okay, that's it I guess.

Thank you so mucj for reading this and waiting so long. It would be very awesome if you reviewed to tell me what you thought! Have a great summer kids!