A/N: Heh heh . . . Lookit what I did for you guys. I resurrected it. You happy? Go ahead—all the hot boys can kiss me. You know you love me. Mwah~ I probably won't put that huge thing at the beginning with the title and all that dramarama. And I don't really like Sleeping with Sirens anymore, as I am now 21 and I am a little different of a person. So now, Roxas's songs and voice will switch to the band Memphis May Fire, but the band's name will remain Sleeping with Sirens. I don't know if that's what everyone liked about this fic, but . . . I don't know. I hope you'll all still continue to read it, either with the minute changes. Enjoy!

The lyrics in the page breaks are from Chevelle's song Mexican Sun.

x-x-x

/Like to be feeling the sand bring color back to both my arms, the sun\\

Roxas was extremely quiet when we awoke the next morning, as was Ayumi as she bustled about my bedroom cleaning, as per usual. I was shocked that she hadn't flipped out when she'd seen Roxas and I entangled within each other in the morning. Any normal person would have immediately thought the worst, but Ayumi didn't seem to be affected by it. That was Ayumi for you, though—she cared about me so much that she would purposefully turn a blind eye if she felt that it would make me happy.

When my eyelids fluttered open heavily, I found myself looking into Roxas's concerned azure irises. His hand was on my face, just as it had been the night before, when he'd gone in for the kiss, only this time, there was no lust. Only an intense gaze filled with endless amounts of worry.

"G'morning," I murmured, trying my hardest to keep things light. I knew that what I had told him the night before had really upset him, and I didn't know if he was still angry. He had locked himself in a bathroom for nearly an hour—it had been a bit of a dramatic night, I'm sure you can understand. I didn't want to cause him any more distress; I just wanted everything to go back to normal.

Roxas didn't say anything and, instead, stroked the bruise on my cheek, his brow furrowing as he gazed upon it. He then sat up, still shirtless, and got out of bed. I sat up, too, and watched him with a worried frown on my face. Was he still angry with me? I couldn't bear it if he was—I didn't want to lose him.

As I pulled on a simple black dress with spaghetti straps and a cinched waist, I realized that even Ayumi was being strangely mute. Usually, she was the loudest of the two of us. What was going on?

"Is . . . Is something wrong?" I stammered to her nervously, half-expecting her to completely ignore me.

Ayumi turned to me with tears shining in her eyes, and then quickly turned back around, sniffling and rushing out of my bedroom with a basket full of laundry. I struggled to keep my panic levels down—was I to be a nuisance to everyone that I cared about?

Roxas came out of the bathroom shortly after, rubbing his nose tiredly with the back of his hand. His hair was as unruly as always, and he seemed to have changed his black lip studs out for some silver ones. I briefly wondered where he'd been keeping the extra lip rings when he came up to me and sighed.

I opened my mouth to apologize for everything, but my voice was stopped short as he lifted his hand to my face, brushing his knuckles tenderly over my cheek bruise yet again. His hand trailed down my jaw line and rested on my neck, his thumb ghosting gently over the large bruise that ringed it. A strangely pained look entered his eyes, but it was hidden from me as he drew me to his chest and hugged me tightly.

I hurried to wrap my arms around his small waist, bare as his torso was, because I was afraid he wouldn't hug me like this ever again. I inhaled softly his scent and realized with sudden clarity that he'd used my deodorant. I bristled, as it was a pet peeve of mine when people used my stuff, but then I remembered that Roxas hadn't brought any of his stuff with him. So I smiled a small smile and stood there in his arms for a long time.

I wondered what he thought of what I had told him the night before—of the admission of my mother's abuse. Did it freak him out? Did he now think I had too many problems for him to deal with? God, I was such a waste of space. Why was he even standing here, holding me like this? It would be better for him to just find someone else—someone better. I fought back tears, knowing that crying was pointless. It wouldn't change anything, especially not the fact that my own mother used me as a punching bag.

Eventually, Roxas pushed me away kindly and walked out to the veranda. I looked after him, pouting. I could tell that he was still mad—he hadn't spoken a single word to me all morning.

Sighing begrudgingly, I trudged over to the bathroom to put on my make-up, wondering whether or not this was the last time that I was going to see Roxas. As I put on my shimmering white eye shadow, black liquid eyeliner, and curvy false lashes, I found that tears and eyelash glue weren't the best type of emulsion, and that black eyes weren't so easy to conceal. When I was finally able to finish, however, I had done a decent job, so I sighed and prepared to walk myself to school.

I was genuinely surprised to see Roxas still standing on the balcony, leaning with his arms crossed on the balustrade, gazing out at the willow tree and the cliff it overlooked. The gentle morning breeze wafted all around us, lifting up his hair slightly. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply as I came up behind him, but still he did not say anything. Biting my bottom lip, I placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. Almost as soon as I did, he sidestepped my touch and walked back into my bedroom, heading for the door.

I flinched, my hand still held loosely in the air. I curved my fingers into a fist and brought it to my chest, feeling as if he had slapped me. It was my worst fear. I hated it when people were angry with me. My mother beat me when she was angry with me. I didn't think that Roxas would ever lay a hand on me, but having him mad at me was just as bad for me in my mind. I just wanted things to be okay.

I guess it's time to go . . . I thought sadly as what felt like a giant hammer landed on my heart. I fought back more tears at the thought that maybe this really was the end of Roxas and I. I mean, we weren't technically "together" yet, but I liked him so much . . . I just liked the way he made me feel—how happy he made me.

The car ride was almost unbearable as Roxas drove me to school. Even the fact that Roxas was driving shirtless and shoeless wasn't enough to lift the mood. Suicide Silence played their brutal, heavy riffs out of the speakers, and even though it was quite possibly the best band I'd ever heard in my life, I didn't notice. I was trying so hard to focus on not breaking down that I swear I probably could have burned a hole in my hands (which were clasped tightly, oh-so-tightly, in my lap) if I'd wanted to. For once, I couldn't feel Roxas's eyes on me, and it felt . . . Well, it felt lonely already.

Roxas began to pound his fists against the steering wheel in tune to the drums of the song Unanswered, banging his head at the intersections. I chewed my lip anxiously. Even these little things he did showed his passion for music, his passion for the melodic prose. I was going to miss this—I was going to miss him.

As he turned the corner onto the road where the school was located, the depression began to set it. In a few more yards, I would get out of the car, and Roxas would be gone.

A single, miniscule teardrop leaked out of the corner of my eye and I stifled a small gasp. I quickly placed my right knuckle in my mouth and bit down, desperately trying to hide my despair. The pain was an anchor against the abyss my mind so desperately wanted to spin into.

Roxas pulled into the parking lot and put the truck in park. There was so sound, save for the music in the background, and our own breathing.

"R-Roxas . . . ?" My voice quavered, belying me my sadness, and Roxas looked at me sharply.

"Xion? Are you okay?" He leaned forward and tried to peer into my eyes, but my bangs fell forward to shroud my vision.

"I . . . When I'm with you . . ." I started, unable to continue for fear of breaking out into gut-wrenching sobs. I then looked at him with wide eyes, tears sparkling in my cerulean irises.

"Mm?" he queried worriedly.

"When I'm with you . . . It's not a mask," I whispered, clasping my hands together even tighter. "My smile . . . It's real."

Roxas stared at me blankly for a long, long moment before he closed the distance between us with a kiss. I gasped in shock, in disbelief that he hadn't given up on me. I had been so sure . . . I . . . Was this truly happening? Happily, I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him back with fervor, allowing him to explore every crevice of my mouth as he saw fit, until we could no longer breathe and had to pull away to gasp for air.

He smiled at me affectionately, our breaths mingling. "What are you freaking out about, little chicken? I haven't forgotten you." His cobalt blue eyes twinkled and I couldn't help but smile.

A real smile.

/Let it do damage like they said it would if given chance\\

"Hey."

I turned around, still somewhat lost in my thoughts about the events of the night before and this morning, and was definitely surprised to see Namine standing next to my locker. She had a strangely impatient look on her face and her smile was strained.

"Uhm . . . Hi?" I said, still reeling from the fact that she was actually here. Our fight hadn't exactly been a minute one. In fact, she had been quite cruel to me in the gym, the day that Roxas had brought me to meet all of his bandmates.

"So, like . . . I'm sorry," she said, chuckling briefly, as if it were no big deal that she'd been hurting me and ignoring me. "Okay?"

Despite the fact that what she had let Kairi say to me—and what she herself had said—were horrible things to say in the first place, my joy at her wanting to make up overrode the common sense. She was my best friend, and had been for years. I would forgive her for anything, purely because I loved her. She knew me better than I knew myself. I pulled her into a tight, warm hug.

"Yay, Nami!" I cried happily. "I forgive you!"

"Good. So, like . . . You wanna eat lunch together today? Off campus . . . ?" I could detect a hint of something in her voice, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I shook away my sneaking suspicions; she was probably just overcome with joy at us being friend again. I knew I was.

"Of course!" I exclaimed, unable to wipe the smile off of my face. I hadn't been this happy in a while. "Do you mind if . . . Well, if Roxas comes?"

Her eyes seemed to flicker, like a candle flaring to life, and she shook her head. "No problem. I'm having . . . Someone come, too. The more the merrier. So . . . Meet me in the parking lot?"

I nodded energetically. "Yeah, dude! Roxas comes to pick me up there, so I'll be there."

Namine gave me a small wave, turned, and walked off at a brisk pace. I smiled, feeling truly happy. After all, Namine and Roxas were both in my life now. What more could I ask for?

As I bounced off to class, a few random words in conversations of passing students caught my ear. Normally, this wouldn't bother me, as it would take me a moment to stop and translate the English in my head so that I could comprehend, but the words seemed to be supported by nasty looks and snickers. Curious and a teensy bit apprehensive, I stopped to listen to one particular conversation that wafted out of the open girl's bathroom door.

"Xion did what with the lead singer?"

"Yeah, I know, right? She doesn't look like the slutty type, if you ask me."

My heart stopped at the mention of my name. They were talking about me? Calling me slutty? Why were they saying that? And what had I supposedly done with Roxas? They couldn't possibly know that he had slept over the night before—not that we had done anything anyway, and not that it was anyone's business. I crept into the entrance of the bathroom, careful to remain hidden around the corner as I listened in inquisitively.

"So like . . . What all did she do?"

"I guess she just likes to call him and text him all the time. But then again, the redheaded chick—you know, the tall one who looks like a model? Yeah, well, she told me at Sleeping with Siren's last show that Xion was like, all over the other band members."

"Isn't the drummer already dating that Larxene chick, though? And the lead singer is with some chick named Kairi, I heard, for like years now. Ooh, but isn't Kairi the redhead? I think she is . . ."

"I guess so. But Larxene's weird-looking, and Xion is pretty, so . . . Yeah. But it seems like she uses her good looks to steal the guys from their girlfriends then . . . ?"

I covered my mouth with both of my hands, horrified at what I was hearing. Who could be saying all these horrible things? I wasn't trying to steal anyone! I had thought that Roxas wasn't dating Kairi, but now these others were saying it . . . ? How many times would I have to hear it before I found out the truth? I didn't know what to think of this situation. I had never really experienced what it felt like to overhear someone gossiping about you, let alone about something that was awfully untrue. I didn't know whether to be angry, cry, or just walk away.

"So who told the model chick or Kairi or whoever she was all of this?"

"Supposedly some kid at SWS's last party, at the lead singer's apartment like a month or so ago. Apparently, the kid saw Xion going upstairs and coming out a while later fighting with her best friend. That, and Kairi's at all of their shows—she says she knows the band."

"Isn't Kairi the one who's like, with the lead singer? I betcha he's gonna cheat."

"Tch. I wouldn't blame him. That Xion girl is such a slut! Do you see what she wears? She looks like one of those anime hentai girls that come out of that Japanese tentacle porn shit. She's probably just trying to use her body to seduce them, or . . . Well, what the fuck ever—that sounds a little bit corny. But you know what I mean."

"Yeah . . ." The other girl laughed a little, derisively so.

Tears came to my eyes bit by bit, their cruel words biting into my heart like the steel edge of a blade. At first, I had thought that it was Kairi who had spread this rumor, but now I knew that it had to have been someone else. But who . . . ?

The girls went on, saying horrid stuff about me until I could no longer bear to hear it any longer. Their derisive laughter rang in my ears as I turned tail and fled down the hall. Even as I ran, more and more gossip about me filled my head until I just felt like I was going to explode. At the next bathroom, I rushed in and locked myself in a stall. I struggled to catch my breath as sobs racked my body, causing me to have to sit down on the closed toilet seat to keep from collapsing. I hated this, crying all the time. I hated showing weakness to anybody, including myself. And lately, I cried way too much. It had something to do with Roxas—he had brought my walls crashing down, and all without batting an eyelash. I just . . . I needed him so badly. He was my rock. To think that people believed I was a whore, trying to steal boyfriends or something . . . ? What if Roxas heard the rumors somehow and believed them? What if he stopped talking to me?

'Oh, God, please . . . Please, no,' I thought dramatically in my head, hiding my face in my hands as the tears continued to pour.

The bell for class rang, and students came and went, but they all seemed to be spooked by my loud weeping. Eventually, I was alone with my sadness.

When I finally left the stall and caught sight of my bruised, splotchy face in the large mirror, I wanted to cry all over again. What was it about me that caused everyone to spurn me? Was I ugly? Was there something about me that just screamed slut or whore or prostitute, or any variation of the word? What did Roxas even see in me? I couldn't understand anything anymore, and in my devastated state, I was reminded of the fact that I was a whore. My brother had seen to that fact.

I didn't realize that I had scratched so deeply at the skin of my forearm that it was bleeding until I felt the sharp stinging assail me and overwhelm my senses. I gasped in pain and looked down at the rapidly reddening furrows, the blood collecting in jewel-like beads in the gashes that my fingernails had opened upon my flesh. Now what was I going to do? I was wearing a sleeveless dress—Roxas would see! I hurried to the sink and thrust my self-inflicted wounds underneath a gushing stream of freezing cold sink water, much too shocked at myself to feel it hitting my skin.

Had I actually . . . Self harmed?

In the pocket of my tight black skinny jeans, my cell phone vibrated. Sniffling and wiping my eyes, shaken at what I had done to my arm, I pulled it out and saw that Roxas was calling me.

'Why is he calling me . . . ? He knows I have class . . .'

"H-Hello . . . ?" I answered thickly, not really caring if he heard me crying.

"Xion!" he said breathlessly. "Are you okay? One of my friends at the school called and said he saw you run into the bathroom. He says he has class with you, and that you never came."

'What a coincidence . . .' I thought miserably as I sniffled again, and sighed.

"It's . . . Nothing. Just having a bad day," I said, obscuring the truth as much as I could.

"Well, do you want me to come pick you up?" He sounded genuinely concerned, and I was touched that he would go to such lengths to help me get away from everything. He truly was my rock.

"N-No," I stammered nervously. "I think I'll be okay."

" . . . Okay, well then I'll see you at lunch . . . ?"

"Mm-hm," I answered.

I could hear the smile in his voice. "All right. Well, bye-bye, little chicken."

I giggled softly as the line clicked off. Roxas was so kind to me, and just his voice to take my mind away from the awful place I was in; help me to forget about how sad and overwhelmed I was feeling, even if only for a moment. I turned back to view myself in the mirror, adjusted my long hair so that it was perfectly messy in all the right ways, and then headed off to class.

After second block was over, pain and sadness from earlier that day forgotten, I excitedly rushed out to meet Namine. I barely skirted Zexion's path in time to get through the door unseen. When I did, I saw that Roxas was standing next to his truck, leaning back against the passenger's side door as he talked with Namine and . . . Kairi?!

I halted mid-step, the smile falling off of my face as easily as rain from a cloud and almost dropped my binder. I couldn't believe this—why would Namine bring her to lunch? And why did she have to look so much better than me?

Kairi was wearing a simple pair of dark blue skinny jeans, four-inch black wedge heels, and a flowing emerald-green chiffon top that made her crimson-red hair stand out amazingly in the sun. She was tall, and she was beautiful, and I didn't stand a chance. I would never stand a chance—me, in my stupid dress that would look better on a dog than it did on me. I was so unbearably short, and she had curves in all the right places. I lowered my gaze, feeling as if I wanted to just crawl into a hole and die.

Well . . . Not literally. But I definitely wanted to go into a hole. Holes were nice. You could put things in them.

"Little chicken!" Roxas's face lit up as he caught sight of me over the tops of Kairi and Namine's heads. He pushed through them and came to meet me. We stood extremely close, and I looked away modestly as I greeted him. Around us, people who recognized the singer were stopping to stare. I wondered if they'd heard the rumors—if they had, then what were they thinking right now? There she goes again, the slut of Sleeping with Sirens, tornado-ing her way through the entire band.

"How was class? You feeling better?" he asked in a low murmur. His eyes held more questions than just those, and I knew he was referencing my bruises.

I nodded and held my bangs out of my eyes, looking up at him through my false lashes.

"What was it that upset you so much?" he asked softly, reaching out to grab my hand.

I blushed shyly and shook my head. "Just a rumor; that's all. I'm fine now." I met his eyes once more, and felt my face heating up again. His irises were just so blue . . . I felt like I was sinking into them. Perhaps I could bring Roxas down into my hole with me . . . ? Holes had walls that needed pretty, shiny things to decorate them . . .

Roxas grabbed my chin gently and pull my lips to his in a soft kiss. My entire body flushed, and I smiled against his mouth. A small part of me felt triumph, because I knew that Kairi was looking. I'll admit, I leaned into it a bit much, and the small whimper of pleasure that came from the back of my throat was a bit much. Roxas seemed to respond to it, though, immediately taking his free hand and placing it on my waist. I could feel his fingers trembling, as if he were holding himself back, and he was gentle as he pulled me closer to his body. And although I was struggling not to visualize my brother's wicked grin hovering above me and focus on the fact that I was kissing Roxas, I was smirking inside my mind—Kairi just had to be pissed.

Roxas pulled away slightly, smiling as his affectionate gaze shifted back and forth from my eyes to my lips.

"I didn't tell you this morning . . . You look hella cute today," he said fondly, twining our fingers together and pulling my blushing, stammering self over to Namine and Kairi. I chanced a glance up at them: Namine was all smiles—too all smiles—and Kairi appeared calm. I held back the urge to pout, for I had hoped to see an enraged or possibly envious look on her pretty facial features. Ugh, no such luck.

"Ready to go to lunch?" she asked me sweetly, and it was all I could do not to widen my eyes in surprise at the kindness of her tone. "Do you like Panda Express?"

I was taken aback—she had been so awful to me before. I blinked once to recover, and then answered her.

"Um, yes. I'm pretty hungry, too."

"Sweet," Kairi said.

"This is gonna be fun," Namine added in before the two girls walked off to Kairi's car.

As soon as they were gone, Roxas shot me a look.

"Did you know she was gonna be coming?" he asked as he helped me up into the truck.

I shook my head, still facing out the door and looking at him. "No; I only knew Nami was coming. I'm sorry."

He placed his hands on my knees. "No, don't apologize. It's not your fault she's a bitch." He leaned forward and kissed my nose before heshut the door and ran around to the other side of the car.

As we drove, we chatted amiably about school, and what it was like for Roxas when he'd been in high school. I told him about how stressful it was, but about how much easier the work was than the schoolwork in my former Korean school. He seemed genuinely interested in hearing about the topic, so I was allowed to talk as long as I wanted to about it.

Somehow, the conversation ended up veering into the "God lane," and I asked Roxas if he was a Christian.

Roxas answered without hesitating. "I am. I may not be doing such a great job, but I love the Lord."

I smiled. "Me, too. I just try to live for Him, you know?"

It was quiet, and the band I See Stars continued to pound out of the speakers, filling the confines of the truck with brutal guitar breakdowns and heavy, hoarse screaming. After a while, I thought that Roxas was being strangely quiet, so I reached over and touched his arm.

"Are you tired, or something?"

Roxas blinked rapidly, and kept his eyes trained on the road.

"I'm sorry . . ." He finally said, causing my hand to recoil away from him. He sounded truly sad; I had never before heard this tone in his voice. Quit frankly, it frightened me.

"Mm?" I asked, bemused. "Sorry for what?"

He wouldn't look at me, keeping his eyes trained upon the road. "Last night. I . . . I crossed a line. I've known you were a Christian for a while now—I can tell—and I really went too far. So I'm sorry."

I smiled gently. "It's okay, Roxas. I'm a Christian, but I'm not perfect. I do what I want. And either way, I liked it, so . . . So it's okay."

"But it's not," he protested as he pulled up to a particularly long red light traffic jam, absentmindedly tapping out the beat of the drums on the steering wheel to the song that was playing. "I could have made you do something you'd regret . . ."

'You could never hurt me as badly as I've already been hurt . . .' I thought despondently as I touched his hair and moved his bangs behind one ear. He glanced at me momentarily before shaking his head and tossing his unruly spikes every which way. I had a feeling he didn't like his hair put behind his ears, so I just settled for lightly stroking the strands. Roxas nuzzled his head into my hands, and I smiled. Apparently, he was just like a cute little kitten who liked to be pet.

In response to his earlier statement, I said, "But we didn't, so it's all right."

He groaned, "But it's awfully difficult to keep in control of myself . . . When you touch me like that . . ."

His words were so innocent, and yet so sinful that I halted my movements and blushed such a deep red that I think my cheeks turned the color of Kairi's hair. I drew my hand back, and he grinned wickedly over at me. I couldn't help but think back to the night before, remembering the feeling of him lying against me. It had been so scary, like it had been with my brother, but then again, it hadn't. I wondered if I would ever be ready to be like that with Roxas. Would he truly be willing to wait?

Roxas changed the subject. "So what was that rumor you were talking about?"

I bit my bottom lip. Did I really want to tell him? What would he think?

"Um . . . I don't really think . . ." I sighed and glanced out the window. "It was nothing."

Roxas parked the car in the spot next to Kairi's little green Volkswagen Bug in the parking lot of a McDonald's, and turned to face me.

"Xion, how do you ever expect for us to get to know each other if you can't tell me about something as unimportant as a little rumor?" He tugged playfully on a strand of my hair. "You're stronger than that."

"You give me too much credit . . ." I grimaced, sighing again. "But you're right. I'm just . . . I can handle it. Honest."

Roxas just shook his head, got out of the car, and came around to my side. I unbuckled my seatbelt, mentally beating myself for refusing to tell Roxas. I just didn't think I could keep control of my tears if I told him everything I had heard the girls saying, and I didn't want to bawl my eyes out in front of him ever again, not like I had the night before.

"Xion—" Roxas stated, but I cut him off with a bright smile.

"Let's join them," I interrupted brightly, hopping down out of the car and walking at a fast pace to the front of the restaurant. I heard Roxas scowl, and then felt his presence beside me as we greeted Namine and Kairi.

Kairi looked me up and down swiftly and then gave me a small smile.

"Hey. Let's go inside, shall we?" she said, her voice still like sugar and honey. I couldn't tell if she was being truthful, or just plain being a bitch.

We all filed into the little restaurant, and I couldn't help but smile a little as Roxas threaded his fingers through mine. He stood close to me as we got in the line, and for some reason, I was extremely aware of the fact that he towered over practically everyone in the restaurant. Maybe it was just because I was literally like five-foot-one, and he was over six feet tall?

Throughout the entire meeting, I was aware of quite a few things. I was aware of Roxas's arm around me, giving me the sense of security that I desperately needed after hearing about the rumor. I was aware of Namine's absolute refusal to meet my eyes, even though she and I were supposedly on good terms. And most of all, I was aware of Kairi watching me with narrowed eyes, almost as if she were studying my every move.

"So . . . Nami tells me you and Roxas are working on a project together?" Kairi asked toward the end of our lunch meeting. She was picking up her French fries and tearing them into pieces somewhat absentmindedly, casting Roxas wary glances every so often. She hadn't eaten a single bite, but I don't think Roxas noticed her obsessive staring—I did, though, and for some reason, it was pissing me off. Did she think that Roxas was going to find her attractive if she didn't eat? She was already gorgeous. Was she trying to make me feel worse about how plain I was compared to her?

'If you wanna play that way . . .' I thought bitterly, trying not to make a show of putting down my half-eaten burger.

Kairi's eyes shifted to me, then down to my food, and the corner of her lips turned up.

"Uh . . . Yeah," I answered, remembering that Kairi had asked me a question. "Just a . . . A song we're writing together."

Roxas was staring off out the window over the top of my head, as if he'd rather be anywhere but where we were. I stifled a frown, wondering if I was doing something wrong. I suddenly felt somewhat suffocated, and I excused myself to go to the bathroom.

Unfortunately, Kairi excused herself as well, insisting that she had to pee, too. She followed me into the bathroom, and we stopped in front of the mirror, checking our hair and make-up. It was unbearably tense and awkward. I had already seen through her ruse ages ago: she had no intentions of befriending me. She only wanted Roxas.

After a while, I noticed that she was watching me, and rage bubbled up within me.

"Can I help you?" I snapped, putting my hands on my slender hips.

She smiled disarmingly, but I could practically smell the fake dripping off of her.

"Are you feeling okay?" she asked me softly. "Because you seem sad. I mean, you've definitely gained weight since the last time I saw you—I mean, duh, it's obvious—but you suddenly stopped eating out there." She ran her fingers backward through her crimson hair and her eyes twinkled, causing her to look even prettier than before. "I just wanted to follow you in here to make sure you were okay. I didn't want Roxas to worry, though, so I pretended I had to pee."

I stared at her incredulously.

"Are you . . . Are you serious?"

"I'm just worried!" Kairi protested. "I mean, I know we got off on the wrong foot . . ." She reached out and touched my arm, her fingers icy. "I just want to make things right. I want to be friends. Don't even worry about—your secret's safe with me. I won't tell Roxas about your . . . Eating problems."

I shook my head slowly, in utter and complete disbelief at her gall.

"You are such a liar," I scoffed in utter shock. "I mean, I may look like the shy little Korean exchange student, but back in Korea, I knew how to stand up for myself. Kairi, I'm not buying this shit for even a second."

Kairi's charming smile didn't falter. "I'm sorry, what? I mean, really, I'm so sorry but I couldn't understand your . . . English." She grimaced and laughed nervously, still gripping my upper arm lightly. "Could you repeat that?"

I felt almost as if I had been slapped across the face. In fact, I wouldn't put it past Kairi to slap me. I was half expecting it anyway. Instead, I took a step back, looking confused, and began to question whether or not I was going to sink to her level . . . Or rise to her challenge. Part of me wanted to give up, and ask myself a million times why she hated me so much, but part of me wanted to storm out into the restaurant and kiss Roxas just to prove a point to the snotty redhead. I mean, I knew she'd heard me—my English may have been odd-sounding, but it was definitely intelligible. I clenched my fists and tried my best to quell my anger, difficult as it was.

"So . . . I guess I'll see you out there," she said triumphantly, turning to the mirror and playing with her hair a bit more. Her cerulean eyes masked her true emotions as she looked me up and down once before turning and walking out of the bathroom, heels clacking against the linoleum.

I growled under my breath a little bit, and hurried after her, shoving past and plopping down next to Roxas as hard as I could. I winced in pain, of course, and it caused Roxas to laugh.

"What in the world are you sitting down so hard for, little chicken?" he chuckled, putting his arms around me again.

Staring intently at my uneaten, cold burger, I waited until Kairi sat down to tell Roxas that I was feeling sick and wanted to leave.

"Oh?" Namine asked, exchanging curious glances with Kairi. "Leaving so soon?"

"If you ask me, the conversation's been lacking anyway . . ." Roxas muttered as he gently pushed me out of the booth.

Kairi laughed suddenly, causing Roxas and I both to look at her in a confused way.

"You're so funny, Roxas," she giggled, tossing her fabulous sheet of crimson hair over her shoulder and rose from her seat. She took Namine's hand in a friendly manner and made as if to leave with her. Then, she paused and turned back to face us.

"So . . . I'm having my birthday party at my house this weekend. It'd be so awesome if you came. I'm turning nineteen, so it's gonna be a pretty awesome party," she said brightly. "Dress your best~!"

With a wink, she was gone.

"Fuck that shit," Roxas chuckled, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. "Let's go back to your house or something. You can skip school for the rest of the day."

"Mm," I said, thinking quietly to myself about Kairi's party invitation.

/Had to be shouting your voices, scheming devils never make it through\\

Back at my house, Roxas lay sprawled out on my bed with every intention of falling asleep on his stomach. I was laying next to him with my head on his back and my legs hanging over the side of the mattress, a manga in one hand and a can of soda in the other. I had initially grabbed a regular Pepsi, but something about the way Kairi had talked to me in the bathroom made me hesitate. Was I gaining weight? I glanced down at my dress, wondering if it really was as obvious as she'd said it was. I gingerly placed my palm over my stomach, feeling the marshmallow flesh. I decided to put the Pepsi back, and grab a Diet Pepsi instead.

"Gimme the soda," Roxas mumbled sleepily.

"No," I giggled, my eyes trained on my book. "I'm drinking it."

"Waaaaaaah," Roxas whined. "Thirsty."

"Don't care," I replied, taking a large sip of the carbonated drink I adored so much. Honestly, I liked Pepsi more, but . . . I was just being cautious. I didn't want more reasons for me to convince myself that Roxas was better off without me.

"You're so mean," he mumbled, rolling over so that my head landed on the mattress at the same time that he landed on his hands and knees on the floor.

"Don't do that," I muttered, guzzling down the rest of the soda and tossing the freshly empty can at his head.

"Owwie!" he whimpered, rubbing the side of his spiky-haired head. He crawled around to the side of the bed that my legs were dangling from and placed his hands on my knees, peeking up at me cutely through his long bangs.

"Whacha thinkin' 'bout?" he asked in a sing-song voice.

I rolled my eyes and continued to read my manga.

Roxas leaned up and plucked the book out of my hands, closing it, losing my spot, and scanning his gaze across the title.

"Dengeki Daisy?" he said. "What is this, one of them hentai thingies or whatever?"

"No!" I complained, trying desperately to reclaim my manga by getting up on my knees on the mattress. He waved it high above his head, his hand almost touching the canopy of pink gauze that hung over my bed, and looked down at me with a mischievous glint in his pretty azure eyes.

"Are you reading tentacle porn with me in your bed, little chicken?" he teased, his teeth flashing brilliantly. "Just what the heck are you thinking of doing to me?"

My entire body grew hot and I attempted again to retrieve the book (which, mind you, was absolutely not in any way pornographic. Sort-of . . .).

"Shut up," I snapped. "You meanie."

"You're not getting it back until you tell me what's going through that head of yours," he said with a slight pout.

I placed my right hand on his left shoulder and reached up with my left hand for the book. I didn't want to tell him that what I was thinking about was way too much for him to handle. Not only was I remembering the harsh gossip I'd heard in the bathroom and the way that Kairi had pointed out my weight, but I was also thinking about Kairi's party. I actually wanted to go to it. Even though I had a suspicious feeling that her niceness in the McDonald's bathroom had been entirely false, I was a Christian, and I would much rather be friends with Kairi than be her enemy. I didn't think that Roxas would understand my logic. He had told me he was also a Christian, but I had a feeling that in this matter, he'd be a little bit on the stubborn side.

"Well," I said huffily, adjusting the waistline of my black dress. "I guess I'll just have to resort to . . . Desperate measures . . ."

He frowned in confusion. "Desperate measures? What are you . . . ?"

He trailed off, his eyes following the path of my hands as I reached up to run my fingers through his hair. I smirked victoriously when I raked my fingernails gently across his scalp and his eyelids feel shut. A shudder ran visibly through his body, and I saw him drop the manga onto the floor. I was about to dive for it, but the next thing I knew, Roxas's hands were gripping my waist tightly, pulling my body flush against him from my place on my knees on the mattress. I looked up at him in surprise, seeing the look in his eyes, and I felt fearful. I tried to lean back, but he only held me tighter.

"I told you not to do that, Xion," he purred, the use of my real name and not his usual nickname for me causing my eyes to widen.

"Wh-Wha . . . ?"

"Looks like I'm going to have to punish you for disobeying me . . ."

My heart skipped a beat at his naughty words, and I opened my mouth to speak, but was silenced when he darted forward to nip at my earlobe. I felt the hairs on my body stand up straight and I gasped in a mixture of bewilderment and surprise. I clapped my hand over my ear, blushing clear down to my toes as I stared at him incredulously.

"Sorry," Roxas drawled lazily, and I knew he was anything but apologetic.

"Aissh!" I cursed in Korean, smacking him on the chest. "Oppa, you are meaaaaan."

"'Oppa'?" He laughed in confusion and amusement. "What the Hell does that mean?"

I smiled brightly. "In Korea, girls call their boyfriends 'oppa' sometimes."

Then, I realized what I had just said, and my lips sealed themselves shut. Roxas wasn't technically my boyfriend, and I had just put him in the category without asking him first. Oh, dear. Oh, dear.

"Hm," Roxas said thoughtfully, slipping his arms around me and embracing me. His hair tickled my face and he dipped down close. "I think I might like the sound of that . . ."

I blushed, the heat emanating off of his body only making it worse.

Suddenly, the door burst open and Ayumi stumbled in, looking bedraggled and frightened.

"You must hide him," she told me breathlessly, fixing loose strands of her jet-black hair. "Your mother is home early from her shopping trip, and I must go greet her!"

Roxas and I exchanged alarmed glances.

"Well, why don't you just tell her I'm not here?" I asked frantically. "I can turn off the lights and Roxas and I can hide out on the balcony?"

Ayumi paled. "She saw his car," she whispered.

"Shit," Roxas cursed, placing his hands on my hips, lifting me, and placing me on the ground.

I averted my gaze in embarrassment. "I'm so sorry; go hide in the shower in my bathroom."

"Why don't I just go down the hall and try to get past her while Ayumi distracts her?" Roxas suggested, hands still on my hips.

I shook my head, my eyes wild with terror. "No, it's too risky." My heart began to race—this wasn't what I had expected would happen. I wasn't prepared for this.

"Well, then why don't we just confront her?" He spread his arms wide. "Just tell her we're . . . A thing, or whatever?"

"Xion?" I heard my mother's heavily-accented voice in the hall, the sound of her heels clacking on the hardwood floor getting louder as she neared my bedroom.

Roxas, Ayumi, and I all stopped breathing before it finally clicked in my mind that we had literally five seconds to save my life.

"I'm sorry," I whispered urgently. I looked up at him, trying to get him to understand with just my eyes. Had he already forgotten what happened last night? Couldn't he see the fear in my eyes? Were the bruises on my face no longer visible? I was getting a little bit angry with him for thinking everything was just going to be all right if we just "confronted" my mother.

Roxas frowned again, stroking his fingers over my bruised right cheekbone before rushing into the bathroom. Just as the shower door closed, I sat down on the edge of my bed and my mother pushed past Ayumi into my bedroom.

"What are you two doing in here?" she asked us roughly. "You know the rules—when I or your father enter the house, all the staff and my daughter must come to greet us."

"Mianhaeyo, oma," I said apologetically, bowing my head. "We were just . . . Talking . . ."

"Talking?" she snapped. "Was this conversation so important that it couldn't have waited? And nevermind that—who's here visiting? Whose car is that in the driveway?"

"My . . . It's my . . ." I stammered, my face flushing as I struggled for a good lie.

"It's mine," Ayumi suddenly spoke up, swooping into my rescue, God bless her. "I just . . . Bought it. I received a bank loan."

"Oh," my mother said in a sickly sweet tone. "You bought a car. How nice. And how do you ever expect to pay it off?"

"Well, miss, the money I earn working for this family pays enough to make the payments to the dealership and the bank, and—"

"Oh, it does, does it?" My mother looked especially beautiful in a dangerous way as she crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at Ayumi.

"Y-Yes, miss, it does." Ayumi bowed, keeping her eyes on the carpet. I think we both knew what was coming next.

"Did you ever think when you were receiving this 'bank loan' and buying a new car that you might have to tell your employers? Don't you know that the address you live in is ours, and that now, we will have to sort through your bills as we do our own? Bills come in the mailbox, as I'm sure you are aware."

"I was aware, miss, but I didn't think—"

"You didn't think? Well, there certainly seems to be a lack of thought around here lately." My mother cast me a sidelong glance and moved her hands to her slender hips. "For your insolence, you will be given a reduction in wages, and you will now be paying a percentage of your pay to our family." She made as if to turn and face me, but then paused and looked at Ayumi with disdain. "Never forget your place. You're here because my husband is generous."

Feeling anger rise up within me, I blurted out, "Ayumi's here because I needed someone here to love me after what happened!"

There was a long moment of silence, during which we all waited in the eye of the storm. I could not believe what I had just done. Why couldn't I ever keep my damn mouth shut around my mother? Half of the time, when she beat me, it was because I had back-talked her. And now, my nervousness about Roxas being just beyond the door of the bathroom had caused me to lash out. I had definitely made a huge mistake. My heartbeat quickened, and it was an unbearable physical struggle trying to keep myself from completely dissolving into a terrified panic.

My mother glowered down at me. "Don't you dare talk about the incident like you're the victim! Your brother didn't deserve what you did to him!"

I exploded, despite how scared I was of her reaction. "What I did?! Are you insane?! I was just a little girl!"

My mother's face was rigid, her mouth set into a thin line. I could tell that she was livid with me, as she had always been ever since the incident had occurred. I could still remember her reaction when I'd told her. It was a moment that I never wanted to relive.

I felt the sting of her slap in my heart as well as upon my face.

"Insult my son another time, and I'll make sure that you never have the chance to speak again."

Before I could stop myself, I said coldly, "I used to cry myself to sleep at night, you know, and it wasn't because of what happened."

I paused, feeling the motions swirling and mingling within me, coiling and waiting to snap.

"It was because my mother hated me for no fault of my own!" I let loose a sob and buried my face in my hands, feeling hopeless and alone. "Why couldn't you just understand?! Why couldn't you just love me the same way you loved him?!"

"He was the perfect son! He never once got a bad grade—never once did anything to mar the reputation of this family. But you," she snarled. "You were the one who tried to single-handedly destroy our family with your wild cries of abuse. Well I wasn't going to stand by and allow you to lie—"

"LIE?!" I screamed, tears coursing down my already-bruised face. "Who in their right mind lies about that?! He was brother ,and I loved him more than anything. What the Hell is wrong with you?!"

"Shut up!" my mother screeched, enraged. "Shut up, you stupid little bitch!"

I cried out in pain as she slapped me with all of her might and I fell to the right, hitting the side of my head upon the corner of my dresser. I felt blood from the wound that had been subsequently inflicted trickling down my ear and through my elbow-length ebony hair. I tried not to scream, knowing that Roxas was in the bathroom, likely horrified at what he was hearing. Ayumi gasped and rushed to my side. My mother, white-faced with fury, shoved Ayumi out of the way and grabbed me by the hair. She yanked me to my feet and glared me dead in the eyes.

"Your father will be the first to hear of your disrespect when he returns home," she hissed just before turning and storming out of the room. As soon as the door slammed shut, Roxas burst out of the bathroom and gathered me up into his arms.

"We've got to get her to the hospital," I heard him say quickly as black spots started to appear in my vision.

"What?" Ayumi gushed in a panic. "Do I call? What do I . . . I don't . . . How do we get her out of the house? I—"

"Now!" Roxas barked, standing up and carrying me over to the balcony. He kicked open the door and called Ayumi over.

"What should I do?"

"This is gonna sound crazy," Roxas said quickly, "but you've got to drop her to the ground. I'm going to climb down first, then catch her after you pass her off to me. Then, you can jump down, and we can get her into my car. Can you do that?"

Ayumi said a few incoherent sentences before Roxas repeated himself in a calm, firm tone. Ayumi shut her mouth and nodded.

"R-Roxas, no . . ." I stammered in a meek voice, feeling agonizing pain pounding against my head. "My oma . . . She will be . . . A-Angry . . ."

"Shh," he said gently, looking down at me with concern painting lines in his face. "I'll tell the doctors you don't have insurance, and then I'll . . . I'll pay for everything."

I blinked twice, the spots and stars dancing in my vision increasing in number, and gave him a weak relieved smile before I passed out completely.

/Hey, way to go lad\\

I was just slipping my all-black Vans back on when there was a knock at my hospital room door. I hadn't seen Roxas or Ayumi since I'd been rushed into the hospital to be checked on after hitting my head, and that had been hours ago, so I excitedly told whoever it was to enter.

"Roxas!" I cried happily as Roxas rushed to my side.

"What'd the doctors say?" he asked worriedly, combing his fingers through my long hair and looking over my small wound with concern. The doctors had cleaned out the small gash and dressed it properly, and now there was a padded white bandage adhered to my skin, shielding me from further exacerbating it.

I batted his hands away and hopped down off the bed. In the back of my mind, I knew he was going to want to talk about all the things my mother and I had yelled at each other, but I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to drudge up old nightmares any more than I already had.

"I'm just fine," I told him as I walked over to the armchair that rested against the wall in the corner of the hospital room. I grabbed my pink pig backpack and pulled it on, slipping my arms through the arm loops. "I don't have a concussion or anything. They stopped the bleeding, and everything's fine. Ready to go?"

Roxas placed a hand on the middle of my chest and pushed me back slightly as I tried to pass him. He crossed his arms and raised one eyebrow at me. I looked up at him, feeling somewhat helpless under his firm gaze.

"We need to talk," he said quietly, seriously.

I glanced away, trying to change the topic of conversation before it went down a path I had no desire of following. "Is Ayumi waiting for us downstairs? She must be worried, and—"

"Xion."

"She's such a great friend." I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling the slide of my silky black hair against my skin. "She's been there for me through everything. I don't want her to be so—"

"Xion."

"Did you call Namine?" I looked at him without really looking. "She'll freak out when she hears I went to the hospital. I–"

"Xion!" Roxas placed his hands on my shoulders and bent down a little bit to look me in the eyes. My words stopped short, and Roxas sighed.

"We can't hope to ever have a strong relationship if we aren't completely honest with each other," he whispered with sincerity, taking my chin in one hand and bringing his lips to mine in a soft, chaste kiss.

I opened my mouth to speak, but the words caught in my throat. How could I just come out and tell him all about the event that I'd been trying to forget ever since it happened? I hadn't ever meant for him to heard what little about it that he had heard. I didn't want to have to go into details. I scrambled to find a way to change the subject.

"You . . . You want a relationship with me?" I asked, focusing on the happiest thing I could.

"Well . . . Yeah," he said somewhat nervously, tossing his head to get his bangs out of his eyes. "I really like you. I thought that was clear . . . ?"

"Well, I'm kind-of oblivious to those kinds of things," I said with a modest laugh.

"Well, let me spell it out for you."

I gasped in surprise as Roxas placed his hands on either side of my face and covered my mouth with his. He kissed me in a tender yet passionate manner—in a way that made my head spin and caused me to sigh in bliss. When he pulled away, he was grinning goofily, and I still felt the cool metal of his snakebites against my bottom lip.

"Wow," I laughed. "I didn't mean it that way."

"I know," he smirked.

Feeling somewhat bold after such a mind-blowing kiss, I said, "So I'm your girlfriend?"

He smiled and mussed up my hair with one hand.

"Guess so."

Just then, the door opened slowly and the person I wanted to see the least poked her crimson-haired head in.

"Hi," she said in that mock-sweet voice of hers that both Roxas and I saw through.

"What do you want, Kairi?" Roxas snapped, wrapping an arm around my shoulders and pulling me close to his side.

Kairi smiled ever-so-kindly and produced a beautiful bouquet of white daisies from behind her back. She walked over to me, her four-inch platform heels clicking on the linoleum floor, and held it out to me with that same frighteningly-sweet smile.

"When I heard you were in the hospital, I was just so worried," she gasped, her eyes filling with concern—concern that was most likely fake. "I mean, after our talk in the bathroom at the restaurant, I feel like we have a much better . . . Understanding of each other. You know?"

My eyes snapped from the daises to her then back to the daisies. We had a better understanding, all right. An understanding that we both despised each other with a burning passion, and that neither of us would stop until we brought the other one down.

So I took the daisies from her with a smile that mirrored hers, ignoring the astonished look Roxas threw my way.

"Thanks, Kairi—how nice of you," I said, hoping Roxas could detect the sheer sarcasm in my tone. "I feel like we have a better understanding of one another, too. It's almost like . . . Like we're friends."

"Oh, you're so silly," Kairi said, waving her hand dismissively and running her hands backward through her hair. She shot Roxas a sultry look, and then smiled at me again. "Best friends."

"Yes," I lied in agreement. "Best friends."

"Well," she said, glancing down at her French tips, "I have to be going. But you guys will be at my party tonight? Not my birthday party—that's later."

"Party?" Roxas and I said simultaneously.

"Uh, yeah," she scoffed. "It's only the most talked-about party ever. It's not mine, per se, but I did plan the whole thing."

"Whose party is it then?" Roxas asked, puzzled.

"Why, it's my friend Olette's, of course," she answered in that snobbish, holier-than-thou tone as she tossed her hair back over her shoulders, revealing those collarbones that could slice through concrete. "Her eighteenth birthday, to be exact. And I'm inviting you two last minute. Oh, and your bandmates and their dates are welcome to attend, too, Roxas." She turned and walked to the door, her flouncy white lace miniskirt dancing in step with her body before she stopped in the doorway and looked at us over her shoulder.

"Yes?" I said, still holding the flowers she'd given me up to my chest.

"Roxas, do you think you and your band could play a few songs at the party tonight, actually?" she asked. "I'm sure Olette would like it—she loves you guys."

Roxas and I exchanged glances. What did she want?

"I'll have to talk to the band about it, but I'm sure we can," he said cautiously.

"Great!" Kairi gushed, clapping her hands together excitedly. "I'll see you guys at my house at seven then!" She started to leave again, and, much to my dismay, she froze again and turned to look at us once more.

"Yes?" I said again, my voice sounding a bit strained.

"Roxas," she said, looking pointedly at him with those piercing blue eyes that I knew could stop a speeding plane in its tracks. "Don't bring a date," she said softly, her brilliant smile seeming to light up the room as she pointedly looked in my direction, and then left.

Roxas and I were quiet for a moment before he scowled, ripped the daises out of my hands, and tossed them into the wastebasket by the hospital bed.

"Roxas," I scolded softly, stifling my laughter. "What did you do that for?"

"That bitch needs to go," he snarled, heading for the door and forcing me to follow him as fast as I could to keep up with his long strides. "Ugh, who does she think she is, coming into my girlfriend's hospital room and asking my band to play at some stupid preppy high school chick's party? I mean, seriously?"

Roxas ranted on and on and on, all the way through the hospital, while he signed the discharge paperwork, and out to the car. While he entertained himself doing that, my mind began to wander as I thought about this whole new situation with Kairi. It was obvious to Roxas and I that her intentions were impure—we just didn't know what her real intentions were. Was it to assert her authority? To get Roxas back? Or to just hurt me for the sake of hurting me?

'I'd like to hurt her for the sake of hurting . . .' I thought irritably to myself as a crystal-clear image of me stabbing her repeatedly in the chest with a sharpened candy cane materialized in front of my mind's eye. 'See how she likes it, that stupid bitch. Grrr . . .'

The stabbing continued, my mental self mindless of her screaming and the blood that splattered my body and the ground around us. Man, did I hate her. I'd stab the beautiful right out of her, until nothing remained but the pure evil that swirled in her cold, black, ugly, evil, lonesome, stupid, stupid, and more stupid heart.

Then, as usual, my imagination went wild as I imagined huge black wings spreading out from my back as I was awarded by God for killing the source of all the evil in this world. And then, Roxas galloped over to me, still in centaur form from the last time my thoughts went crazy. I leapt onto his back once again, epic opera music lifting our souls and spirits as my wings carried us to new heights that had never before—

"Xion! Xion, stop!" Roxas's alarmed voice broke into my crazy thoughts, snapping me out of my reverie and forcing me back to the present. Thoroughly embarrassed, I looked out the window and mumbled my apology.

"What the fuck, dude?" he said, starting the car. "You were like, waving your arms around wildly like a bird and kept hitting me in the fucking face. God."

I couldn't help but giggle, which in turn caused him to chuckle, and soon, we were both laughing so hard that tears rolled down our cheeks. We kept looking at each other stupidly, each and every look causing us to laugh harder until finally, I had to beg him to stop making me laugh so that I wouldn't wet my pants.

"Anyway," he said, his eyes still twinkling with mirth as he wiped them free of tears. "Do you really wanna go to the party, or did you wanna just go to my house and work on the project?"

"Well," I said, choosing my words carefully. "I kinda wanna go to the party, if we can."

Roxas gave me a quizzical look as he started to pull out of the parking lot. "You do?"

"Um, no?" I said with a short laugh.

"No, no, I mean . . . We can go, it's just I thought you hated Kairi . . . ?" he said, placing his left hand on the wheel and slipping his right hand in my left one and lacing our fingers.

"No," I lied. "We're . . . Friends, remember?"

He smirked almost knowingly and shot me a sidelong look. "Friends, huh?"

"Besides, I may be shy here in America, but back in Korea, I've got lots of friends and I'm pretty popular. So, I'd like to make some new friends, especially since Namine and I are on the outs," I explained to him, trying to talk past the flutter of nervousness in my heart at the fact that he was holding my hand.

"Popular, eh?" He arched one eyebrow before snorting. "You? Okay."

"I was!" I insisted, taking my hand out of his to smack him playfully on the shoulder. "I was on the Student Council, and I helped make a lot of changes at our school and even some of the surrounding ones. Especially since my parents are so famous in Korea and in Japan, so they had a lot of influence over the school board."

"Look at you, Ms. Hot-shot," he said, not taking his eyes off of the road.

I rolled my eyes. "That's not what I mean," I said, exasperated. "I'm just saying. I want to go to the party so I can meet some new people. Not to mention, you could get some more publicity if you and your band performed."

"Yeah, you're right," he agreed thoughtfully. "Kairi's parents are in the record business, so if they're at the party, then the band could get 'discovered', if you know what I mean."

"Uh-huh," I nodded excitedly, sitting up in my seat and looking at him with bright eyes and a big smile. "I mean, you guys are so good. I'm surprised you haven't been 'discovered' already."

"Well, we had a chance last year to play in a Battle of the Bands, and if we'd won, we would have been awarded some studio time," he said, glancing over at me briefly before turning his attention back to the road.

"You did?" I gasped in shock, still sitting up in my seat and turned slightly to face him. "Why didn't you guys do it?"

"Well . . ." He seemed uncomfortable for a moment. The car slid to a gentle stop at a red light, so he leaned back in his seat and began to tap his fingers on the steering wheel. After a moment of silence, he sighed.

"You don't . . . You don't have to tell me, you know," I stammered, suddenly feeling terrible for prying into his personal life.

"No," he said heavily. "It's okay. I'll tell you. It's just . . . It's difficult to say."

"Take your time," I said somewhat awkwardly, reaching timidly for his hand where it was resting in his lap. He looked at it with the hint of a smile twitching at his lips and began to play with my fingers absentmindedly. It was awhile before either of us spoke, seeing as I could tell that he was racking his brain for the best way to say his next words. I felt bad, wondering if he thought I was an annoying person for prying, even though he'd said it was okay that I had asked.

"We had a manager once," Roxas finally said, the incessant clicking sound of his blinker filling the car and swirling around us. He took his other hand off the wheel and used it to start massaging the hand of mine that he was already holding. He stared out the windshield as he did so, as if he were physically looking into the past.

"Wh-What happened to him?" I asked cautiously.

"He died," Roxas said shortly. The light turned green and he dropped my hand to put both of his on the wheel and turn onto the next street.

I felt a pang in my heart and my stomach flopped a bit. "D-Died?" I asked gently, taking my hands and putting them in my lap. "How?"

"Car accident," he sighed. "The day before the first round of performances were scheduled to be held. We got the news when we got off the plane in Beverly Hills. So we had to rush right back and basically wait for him to die."

"Oh, my gosh," I said, looking at Roxas with a pitying, concerned expression on my face. "You had to wait for him to die?!"

"The accident left him on life support, paralyzed and missing an arm and an ear. He'd been blinded by the glass from the windshield and flying out of the car from not wearing his seatbelt had given him such massive head trauma that he would have pretty much been a vegetable all of his life if my mom hadn't taken him off life support."

His mother? "It was up to your mother to make that decision?" I asked, confused.

Roxas sped down a rather long street with modest one-story homes and an all-over suburban feel, driving into a cul-de-sac with blue houses that were similar in design and that had lush, green lawns that seemed to be impeccably taken-care of. He zoomed into the driveway of the rightmost house and slammed the gear into park. He seemed angry.

"He was my father," he said as he roughly unbuckled his seatbelt and pushed his car door open. "My grandparents are dead, and I was only seventeen at the time. Who else but his wife?" With that, he hopped out of the car and down onto the pristine concrete driveway.

As he shut his door, I found myself lost in thought. Loss shaped us all, it seemed, and with so many different types of horrors constantly attempting to bring us down every day, it was difficult to stay sane. It was a wonder Roxas still found the courage to smile. I myself found myself smiling less and less, the only times I was ever truly happy being when I was with Roxas, Ayumi, or Namine. The loss of a loved one; the loss of innocence; the loss of a friend; the loss of time; even the loss of a favorite item—it all melted into one big, aching pot of despair.

I clenched my fists in my lap and stared down at them, at the daintiness of my fingers, and how fragile I really was. How could loss such as my own not have affected me as much as it should have? Not only had I lost my innocence, but I had lost many other things—a brother, my parents, the chance at making an important choice that I would never get to make again. Why wasn't I broken yet? What was keeping me together?

I jumped in fright as someone knocked repeatedly on my window. I looked over and saw that Roxas was there. I hurried to open the door, giving him a reassuring smile.

"I'm coming," I said, unbuckling my seatbelt swiftly and moving to get out.

Roxas smiled and helped me down, and then gave me a quick but gentle hug.

"Sorry you had to hear that right after you got out of the hospital," he murmured into my ear. "I didn't think about what . . . What happened to you."

"It's fine," I said, hugging him back tightly. "I'm fine."

He heaved a heavy sigh before he pulled away and gave me a bright smile.

"I'm glad you're okay," he said.

"Thanks," I smiled as I glanced all around us. "So . . . Where are we, anyway?"

He grinned and took my hand, leading me up the walk to the front door. I looked down and saw many pots of flowers, all arranged perfectly around a wicker chair and a swinging couch to the left of the door. To the right of the door sat another big pot of flowers, which seemed to be shedding pink and white petals on the welcome mat, which Roxas and I were currently standing upon.

"This is such a cute house," I said, slipping my hand out of Roxas's so that I could lean over and catch a whiff of some of the flowers.

Roxas rang the doorbell. "It's my mom's," he said happily.

I snapped up just as the door opened my eyes widen with surprise.

I found myself looking into the kind eyes of none other than our teacher, Mrs. Strife.

/Hey, way to go\\

"So your mom is really nice," I said from Roxas's childhood bed as he walked into the bathroom that was adjoined to his bedroom. We were currently hanging out in the room he'd used as a kid, waiting for his mother—our Advisory teacher—to finish cooking dinner in the kitchen. I was lazily flipping through an old Game Informer magazine as I waited for him to get dressed for Olette's party.

The minute Roxas had introduced me as his girlfriend, Mrs. Strife—or Aerith, as she'd insisted I call her—had been fawning all over me. She'd given me the tour of her house, invited me to stay as long as I liked due to my current situation with my parents, and had asked me all sorts of things about Korea over tea at the table. She'd offered to lend me a dress for Olette's party that night, which I'd declined since I'd already texted Ayumi and asked her to bring me a dress from my clothes in her new car—the car she'd been forced to buy in order to make her lie more believable—and she'd asked me to stay for dinner before the party.

"I know," Roxas called from the bathroom, where he was flatironing his hair. "All of my past girlfriends loved her."

I walked over to the bathroom doorway and leaned against the doorframe, looking at him in the mirror.

"All of your past girlfriends, huh, Mr. Stud?"

He grinned. "I have had as many girlfriends as you had friends back in Korea, Ms. Hot-Shot."

I rolled my eyes and walked back over to his closet to rifle through his clothes. "Anyway, I'm glad she's happy. And who knows, maybe she'll give us an extension on our project."

"Hah!" Roxas scoffed. "Keep dreamin', little chicken. I can't tell you how many times Kairi asked that when she was in that class with me."

I didn't say anything, finding the mention of Kairi to be almost poisonous, in my opinion. Roxas laughed and said, "I knew it."

"Knew what?"

"You don't like Kairi at all." He turned off the flatiron and walked out of the bathroom. He folded his arms over his chest and smirked at me. "Why do you want to go to this party?"

I drew myself up haughtily. "I do too like her! She's my friend." Even as the words left my mouth, I knew he could see right through me.

"Xion," he said sternly. "Come on. Seriously? No."

"Oh, all right," I said, stomping my feet. "I don't actually like her. But she's an evil bitch and she needs to die."

"I'm not arguing with you on that one," he chuckled as he brushed past me to get to his closet. "But that doesn't explain why you want to go to this party . . . ?"

"Because," I said, putting my hands on my hips. "Does there need to be a reason for everything?!"

Roxas pulled a couple things off of their hangers and shot me a pointed look. "For your boyfriend? Yes."

A blush stained my cheeks and I gasped as I found myself boxed in between his arms against the wall.

"R-Roxas?" I said.

"Yeah?" he answered, still smirking in that knowing way, as if he knew every little secret I had.

"What are you doing? Your mom is in the other room," I said, gulping out of fear and worry.

"I know," he grinned. "But that's not what I'm doing. What I'm doing is trying to figure out what your plans are."

"Roxas, I don't have any plans," I said with a deadpan look on my face.

"Yes, you do," Roxas insisted. "I know you do. Why else would you want to go to a party that a girl you don't like is throwing, for a girl you don't even know?"

"No, Roxas, I promise you I don't have any plans!" I said, smiling as if to reassure him. "If anything, I'm suspicious of Kairi's plans. I mean, don't you think it's odd that she was being a bitch to me all this time, then suddenly, she just decides to corner me in the bathroom at McDonald's and tell me she wants to be friends?"

"Well, yeah," Roxas said, pulling away from me and walking over to his bed. He tossed the clothes he'd chosen onto the comforter and said, "Kairi never does things at the bare minimum, let me tell you what. She's very . . . Extravagant."

My eyes went wide as Roxas pulled his shirt off over his head. I looked away, not willing to get caught staring at his bare back, and how the muscles seemed to ripple under his skin with every move he made.

"E-Extravagant?" I said, sneaking a look as he pulled a black V-neck on.

"Yep," he replied with a nod. "Trust me. This party is probably going to be a fucking ball. I mean, seriously. Who the fuck goes to a ball when they're in high school? For Christ's sake."

"Yeah," I replied. "That's kinda weird."

"Yeah," he went on as he changed his studded belt to a wide brown one. "But I'm not really gonna play into it, and neither is the rest of the band. If everyone else wants to wear like . . . Sparkly suits or some shit like that, then they can go ahead. Sleeping with Sirens has an image to uphold, though, so we're gonna dress normal." He turned to me and looked at me inquiringly. "Is Ayumi bringing you a fancy dress?"

"I don't know," I said, walking over to the bathroom, as I felt somewhat suffocated just by being in the same room as him when he didn't have a shirt on. I adjusted my long hair in the mirror and leaned forward to make sure my make-up still looked okay. My circle lenses felt a bit dry, but I didn't care. I was sure they'd feel fine for the rest of the night.

Roxas appeared next to me, making a few last minute preparations as well. Then, he looked over at me curiously.

"Hey, are you okay?" he asked.

"Huh?" I asked, frowning. "What are you talking about? I feel fine."

"No," he said. "I mean, are you okay? I mean, the fight with your mother . . . I've been meaning to talk to you about it, it's just that you were recovering and stuff."

I flashed him a quick smile. "Oh. That. Well, um . . . I'm fine. I feel good. I think it'll be okay. Well, I'm gonna go call Ayumi, okay?"

"Xion," he sighed as I rushed out the bathroom and over to his bedroom door.

"Y-Yes?" I said in answer, clenching my fist to keep it from trembling so much.

"We're going to talk about it eventually, okay?" he said, coming to my side and taking my chin in his hand. He looked deep into my eyes, searching for something known only unto him. "This isn't something I'm just going to let slide—none of what happened today is going to go by the wayside."

I nodded, unable to find words to say.

He frowned heavily. "Xion, have you ever been in a relationship before?"

"Well, no," I said. "Actually . . . Yes. I don't know. It's hard to explain. Look, let me just call Ayumi and see if she's almost here?"

"Xion—"

I sighed and placed my hands on his cheeks, smiling up at him tenderly. "I'm grateful that you care and everything, Roxas, I am—honestly—but I just can't talk about this with you. Especially not right this second, either. It's not something that I can just . . . Just talk about, you know?"

He bit his bottom lip. ". . . All right," he said quietly. "I understand."

"Thank you," I said sincerely. "Really. Anyway, let's hurry up and get ready for this party, okay?"

"It's gonna be fun," he said lamely. I knew he felt dejected and probably angry because I didn't want to talk to him about the things he'd experienced and heard at my house, but there wasn't anything I could do. I clearly wasn't ready to talk to him about any of that right that moment, and especially not after what, three hours of being boyfriend and girlfriend? There were a lot of factors that would go into letting him into my heart like that, trust being the most important of them. Trust that he hadn't earned from me yet.

And yet . . . He'd told me about his father. He'd told me about his father, and he didn't hardly know me.

'There's two different types of people . . .' I told myself. 'Those who trust without knowing . . . And those who must first know without trust before the trust can be given. Roxas and I are opposites in that sense. I hope it doesn't get in the way of us having a relationship . . .'

Ayumi came and brought the dress a few minutes later—a little black number with a halter top and a plunging neckline, flouncy layered skirts, and a lacy underlayer. I slipped into it so fast that it was ridiculous, and ran Roxas's brush through my impossibly long black hair, all with the incessant urging from Roxas for me to hurry. Aerith had allowed me to wear a pair of heels that she never wore—they were too young for her, she'd said—and luckily, they'd fit perfectly. They were open-toed black platforms with three inch heels that I was more than accustomed to, what with my mother putting me through countless runway shows growing up.

Roxas watched me avidly from his bed the entire time I got ready, his eyes traveling back and forth with every trip I took from one place to another. His arms were folded behind his head in a relaxed manner, even though he'd been telling me to hurry just the few minutes before.

"Stop staring at me," I snapped in amused irritation as I slipped on my shoes. "It's weird."

"Can't help it," he grinned. "My girlfriend's hot."

"Oh, please," I mumbled half-heartedly, embarrassed. I went back to the bathroom, very aware of how my hips swayed when I walked in heels, just as any woman's hips would. I fixed my hair once more, and then was ready to go.

"Mind if I just leave my other clothes and stuff here?" I asked him.

"Doesn't bother me," Roxas said, sitting up and glancing over at his cell phone for the time. "We can just stay the night here after the party."

"Oh," I said, folding my arms over my chest.

"Oh?" he repeated, walking over to me and slipping his arms around me so that his clasped hands rested on my lower back. Even in my heels, I only came to his nose in height, proving that I was the shortest of the short. "That's all you can say at the promise of basking in my presence for an entire night?"

"Oh, I forgot," I giggled, wrinkling my nose up at him. "You're 'Mr. Stud.' You'll have to forgive my forgetfulness, sir."

He grinned wickedly. "Yeah, you'd better be calling me sir. Sir, mister, master, Your Majesty, and any variations of those suffixes."

I scoffed. "Oh, I should, should I? I kinda like the name Mr. Tub-Tub, though. Rolls off the tongue just the right way."

A mischievous glint glimmered in Roxas eyes and he growled. "I know what else rolls off of the tongue just the right way, little chicken," he snarled playfully as he leaned closer to me. My heart began to beat faster, as I still wasn't used to being kissed so easily and so often yet.

I closed my eyes, waiting for his tender kisses to feather across my lips, but alas—he did not. Instead, he left me there to pout and chase him all the way out to the car, where he laughed at me as I attempted repeatedly to get myself up into the truck. I cursed him in Korean, and finally, he stopped laughing long enough to help me into my seat. Then, he shut the door, got into his own seat, and we were off to Olette's or Kairi's or whoever's house it was we were going. I couldn't help but feel apprehensive, wondering how things were going to go tonight.

Could it be that Kairi had invited me purely because she had a plan to sabotage me?

x-x-x

A/N: There ya go, hope you liked it . . . I will try to update soon, I currently have Love Must Come: Rebirth that I am also working on, but I will take turns. I will write one chapter of LMC, and then one of this, and so on. Anyway . . . Hope that chapter was worth waiting a damn year or whatever for, lol!

P.S. I am aware that the hospital part was a little janky, what with Kairi having magically known she was there, but let's just say for the intentions of this fic, Roxas called Namine, and Nami told Kai. And Roxas is a big, macho hottie who has money and he paid for them to bandage her up and check her head. Anyway . . . Bye.