Author's Note: First, for old readers, I'm here to apologize-For my one year absence and my failure to contact people properly to let them know why I've been gone. There are a lot of reasons why I was gone from fanfiction and the top reason was that I started senior year and, because I wanted to get to college, I had to do well. So here I am, it's summer vacation, and now that I've graduated I feel strange, but accomplished. It's been a rough couple of years for me filled with emotional and physical stress, and I regret to say that during all of it I was too caught up in the emotions to turn to my creative muse for help.

I know that people have been PMing me and reviewing the stories still, and I very much appreciate the dedication and love that you have shown these past few months. It honestly brings a tear to my eye when I see that people are still reading my work and wanting to see more, so thank you. But I should also confess something: A lot of the work I currently have here I am not proud of. I realize that a lot of them pass off as cliche and silly, and the writing immature and novice, but at the same time I love them because I know that they were the kick starts to my writing career. So, that all said, I want to thank you all for sticking with my fail...and I'm back...if you'll have me. :3

SO. YES! Hello to readers old and new! Happy belated holidays of 2009 and New Years! I have here with me a new story that I worked on the last couple of weeks and I'll be uploading it over the next couple of days in parts. It's already completed, but I want to give people time to read and ABSORB the story. XD I'm hoping to break it up into two to three chapters, but we'll see how it goes. I promise that I will get to work on any of the stories I still have that are ongoing at the moment, so thank you for being patient.

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Disney and Squareenix, respectively. ...But Nomura definitely needs to be clocked upside the head for all this suspense. B| Am I right or am I right?


Eyes || Part One
"Lens"

Axel woke up one Saturday morning not to the usual sound of his alarm clock going off or the sound of an ambulance roaring down the street, but to the sound of glass shattering in the other room. He'd come to learn how to trust his senses rather well during times like this, which, really, was a good skill to have, but in hindsight was a touch depressing. After fluttering his eyes open, exposing them fully to the blinding whiteness of the ceiling above, he rubbed them and proceeded to kick the sheets away from his legs so that he could properly sit up and quickly walk out of the room and into the hallway.

It was hard now-a-days to be able to walk in a perfectly straight line if only because of the clutter that frequently adorned his floor. From papers to textbooks they laid stacked along the walls, albeit as neatly and out of the way as possible, thought that didn't mean he hadn't tripped a couple times here and there. With his vision still a bit blurry, the redhead carded a hand through his hair and stumbled toward the source of the sound that had woken him up.

Sure enough, the sound took him to the kitchen and there on the pristine, very white floor were shards of glass, scattered in seemingly a million pieces at the feet of none other than Roxas—his roommate of three years. Blue eyes, very bright, very...blue, were plastered open and staring dead on ahead of him, directly at Axel, but Axel knew better. He knew that the other really couldn't see what he was looking at for sure. For all he knew Roxas could have thought he was the only one in the room, staring at nothing more than an unresponsive wall.

"You ok, Roxas?" the redhead asked, taking a few steps closer to the blonde who was still dressed in his sweatpants and loose fitting white t-shirt. Roxas jumped slightly at the voice and continued to stare unblinkingly at the spot ahead...before a comforted smile finally graced his lips. He was pressing his fingers into his left palm when he responded with a sheepish laugh,

"I cut myself."

Axel only sighed and surveyed the damage, surprised and thankful that this time the cut wasn't as terrible as it had been the last time this happened. "Doesn't look too bad," he commented, taking Roxas's wounded hand in his own so that he could turn it and examine the cut closer. There was a pause before he added, "Did you try to pick up the glass yourself?"

...Roxas simply lowered his head.

"That's what I thought."

"I was pretty sure I could do it this time, though," Roxas said, letting Axel press down on his wrist.

"Can you feel that?"

Roxas nodded gently. "Yeah."

"Good. Wound's probably not deep. Here, let's sit you down first and I'll patch it up." After saying it, the redhead carefully took Roxas's unwounded hand, stepped out beside him, and proceeded to guide him around the broken glass and over to the kitchen table where he seated him on one of the wooden chairs. The room was cold and walking barefoot on a tiled floor might not have been the smartest thing to do for either of them, but there were some things that Axel had to learn to sacrifice for the sake of this blonde kid. Many a time he'd sit in bed wondering just what the hell he was getting himself into and if he could very well be digging a grave for himself. Sometimes he wondered what had happened to him as a kid to grow up into someone like this. Someone taking care of a complete stranger and welcoming him into his apartment like it was no big deal.

Turning the heater off at night was one of the biggest sacrifices. He had to save money for Roxas's sake even if it meant stocking up on more blankets and huddling beneath them during the harshest of Seattle's winters. Axel was sure that it would snow soon...just because he could sense it, that skill he'd developed over the last few years of this epidemic. His skin would prickle and in turn his mind would tell the rest of his body not to go outside if he wanted to live.

Thinking it, Axel rested the blonde's hands in his lap, palms facing upward, before heading back towards the hallway bathroom for the medical kit he had stored beneath the skin. He returned shortly after and effortlessly, like he'd done this a million times, which he must have by now, dabbed wetted cotton on Roxas's cut to sterilize it before wrapping it in a white gauze bandage.

The blonde barely winced at the treatment and just shut his eyes, the soft smile ever-present on his face. "The first time you did this I thought you were crazy."

Axel scoffed. "Yeah, I remember that."

"...Could've infected yourself."

"I know."

There was another pause before Roxas added, a bit solemn, "You do too much for me, you know that?"

The statement, just the very way Roxas said it even though he'd probably said it a thousand times, caused the redhead to pause in securing the bandage around the blonde's palm and stare down at the floor, thin lips pursed in mild annoyance. In his mind there was no such thing as "too much" he could do for Roxas. The moment he met this kid he felt a connection to him, like he was responsible for him, and from that moment on Axel made the decision to do whatever it took to keep Roxas out of harm's way. He'd do it all on his own. ...Well, not entirely—Reno was helping him some months on the sidelines—but the bulk of the work came from himself.

He sighed again, patted Roxas's palm before turning it over toward the ground again, and stood up from his kneeling position. "I gotta get to work," he muttered, turning his back on the younger so he could quickly grab something from the fridge. Roxas sat up straighter in the chair and, still with eyes shut, started to feel the strange texture of the bandage with his right hand.

"I'll stay put here," he responded with a chuckle and Axel couldn't help but return it.

"Yeah, and if you don't I'll kick your ass, man."

Roxas didn't respond to that and simply sat perfectly still on the chair...while the world around him passed by. In the distance he picked up sounds of the wind rustling through the trees and the hum of electricity running through the apartment walls. A few minutes later he heard the tinkling of glass—Axel was probably sweeping the mess up like he'd done a few times before. Into a dust pan, maybe, or straight into his hand, before he would take five paces and toss them into the garbage can.

All these things Roxas memorized...because without his eyes, well, relying on everything else to map his life for him became essential.

The running of water a few minutes later indicated that Axel was in the bathroom. Brushing his teeth, most likely, and then later flushing the toilet. The paces echoed down the hall—the pitter patter of naked feet scuffling toward the bedroom once again—and then the faint rustle of clothing accompanied the sounds. He was getting dressed. The material sounded...light. Papery. They wouldn't be anything else, of course, so Roxas had to smile at his own foolishness.

At last the jingle of metal rang in his ears and the blonde turned in his chair toward it, feeling a warm arm clap his shoulder as soon as he did. He knew Axel would be standing there.

"All right, lemme just take care of the other stuff and I'm out, 'kay?"

Roxas hummed in response and let Axel scuffle through the apartment a second time, this time bringing a whole barrage of noises which consisted of plugs being pulled, buttons being pressed, cupboards being opened and shut, and doors locked. Suddenly the room was quiet. The hum of electricity had vanished. There was one last thing that needed to be done and that involved a little work on the blonde's part.

"All right, Rox, up you get." And with that Roxas pushed up from his chair, Axel's hands on his wrist and arm to guide him, and he walked slowly toward the bedroom, fingers occasionally brushing up against the padded walls and door frames as he passed them. Finally he could feel the plush of the bed beneath his body and the familiar touch of a sheep wool blanket being tossed over his shoulders. ...He smiled again and finally opened his eyes.

...Axel always thought his eyes were so beautiful.

"See ya soon, Roxas."

"Six o'clock like always," Roxas said as he felt the warm presence drift away from him and the bedroom door shut with nothing more than a soft puff of air...and the tender music of jazz and pianos playing at the bedside stereo.

Are the stars out tonight? I don't know if it's cloudy or bright, 'cause I only have eyes...for you.

xxXXxx

In the year 2101 the nationwide epidemic known to most people simply as "the blindness" spread across the nation, targeting no specific age, gender, race, or species. Highly contagious and threatening, the disease would attack at any time of day, often disguising itself as the common cold or flu before the victim would eventually lose sight completely within a matter of seconds. As a result many untimely deaths occurred, mostly from car accidents either with people losing sight while driving or being struck while blindly wandering into oncoming traffic. Out of the ninety two percent infected, thirty percent died within the first few months of the disease's initial spread.

The remaining eight percent were and remain immune to the disease and have since been forced by government to replace many medical professionals who were disabled—to do simple tasks such as give injections, feed, clean, and dress sick patients. With most guide dogs out of commission and diseased themselves, the eight took their place. Certain material learned over the duration of a six year college course had to be compacted and understandable for a week-long class containing five hundred to one thousand people. When hospitals filled up, malls and stadiums became facilities for the diseased but even then care wasn't guaranteed for every person.

...Three years ago Axel was 25.

...Three years ago he became a part of the eight percent.

xxXXxx

"You should've seen the way you walked, man!"

Axel shoved his brother in the side with elbow and walked on in as best of a straight line as he could muster after about four and a half beers. Reno just sputtered and shoved back with less effort and strength, but it was still enough to cause his brother to sway off course and hop down onto the street with a thud. Axel scoffed while he stepped back onto the sidewalk and back into step with the other.

"Ah, but it's good to get out and have a little fun like that once in a while, huh?"

"We're probably risking a lot, you know," Axel commented, intertwining his fingers behind his head. Reno turned and pocketed his hands.

"Yeah? How d'you figure?"

"Didn't you hear about the sickness getting around the country right now? Worse than swine flu was, apparently, over some hundred years ago."

Reno snorted and glanced up briefly at the sky. "Nah, we're fine, Axel. Good set of healthy bodies, you and me!" As he said he the other redhead proudly stuck out his chest and pounded a fist against it, though he ended up bowing into himself slightly when he realized it had hurt. Axel chuckled and only shrugged while they continued walking—or maybe swerving—down the street and back to Reno's apartment. Axel's was just across the street from his brother's, but every so often they'd sleep over at each other's places just for kicks.

They were still family, after all, and the family motto was something cliché like... "Love thy neighbor as yourself," or whatever. No, no, it was "Always lend a helping hand." So the two of them, having had that drilled into their brains by their father starting at just the age of one month, figured that when they grew up they'd stick by each other through thick and thin and try to support each other in any way they could.

Neither of them had any idea that they would need to put that motto to good use tonight.

It started with a scream. It wasn't a very loud scream, but it was loud enough to catch both their attention. Whoever it was came from nearby and they sounded like they were yelling "No" between screams. Young, probably, so it was hard to tell if it was a man or a woman just yet, but regardless of gender or their ability to touch their finger to their nose, Axel and Reno looked at one another and then took off running down the sidewalk toward the sound.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, look," Reno exclaimed, thrusting a finger up ahead to where he spotted the silhouette of someone stumbling aimlessly through the dark. They were walking in circles, messy circles, pacing back and forth and yelling out in frustration and sadness every time they so much as touched a parked car or tripped slightly over a crack in the sidewalk.

"No, no, no, this can't be happening!" they screamed in between sobs.

Axel ran ahead with Reno a few paces behind and tried his best to grab the individual by an arm. "Hey. Hey, buddy, you all right?" he asked to which the boy screamed even louder, panicked, and wriggled free.

"Don't touch me!" And with that he took off running to Axel's left...right into traffic. Horns began to blare and tires screeched. Cars going at fourty miles an hour swerved to the best of their ability to avoid the frantic boy, but Roxas didn't reach the other side of the street and out of their way just yet. No, the blonde kid had to keep running around in circles, arms flailing at his sides and in front of him, face glistening with tears and legs shaking. He probably knew he was in the midst of traffic and could be hit at any time, but he didn't look like he knew how to get himself out of it.

"Hey!" Reno yelled out to the boy and took off running even at the risk of being struck himself. Axel followed but stepped back when a pickup truck honked and sped past, obscuring his vision of where Reno and the blonde were. Craning his neck he tried to get a good look and the most he saw was a flash of red and yellow before finally he saw his brother on the other sidewalk, laying down on the ground with the young boy curled into a ball beside him.

"Reno! Reno, is he ok? What's wrong with 'im?"

The other redhead looked up and hastily waved his hand over to signal for Axel to follow. He did eventually once the cars had slowed and though his head was throbbing he knelt down on the stranger's other side and carefully placed a hand on his shoulder to shake it. The blonde's face was soaked with sweat and tears and he was hiding his face in his hands.

"Yo, dude, what's wrong? Can you look up for a sec?"

"I-I can't!" the boy exclaimed, voice cracking.

"Hey, do you have a name?" Reno asked and tried to pull the guy's hands away but they stayed planted where they were.

"No, no, this can't be happening! You don't get it!"

Axel tried to get him to turn over onto his back. "Get what?"

Then, in a raw, frightening wail, "I can't see!"

...Reno was the first to get it and as he immediately swore under his breath he got up from the ground to dig through his pocket for a cell phone. "Fuck, Axel, we touched the guy."

"What?" his brother hissed, not getting up while he turned to look up at Reno. "What're you talking about?"

"That sickness, Axel, the one you were talking about. This guy caught it just now. I'm callin' the hospital, man, this is...bullshit. Yes, hello, yeah we're gonna need someone over here at the corner of—"

While Reno gave the address to the operator on the other line, Axel could only stare dumbfounded at the person on the ground. He was visibly shaking and he looked so...broken. Axel had never seen someone infected before, at least not right when it started, so for once he was at a total loss for words. What would it be like to lose your sight in a split second? One moment someone could be riding their bike, drawing a picture, or simply walking down the street after a night of drinking like he and Reno had been doing...and suddenly everything can become nothing.

A lump formed in the redhead's throat just imagining it and realizing that this guy must have been your average Joe up until a few minutes ago. His life would probably never be the same.

"...Kid, kid," he said gently, patting the blonde a few times on the shoulder to catch his attention. He was still unstable and shocked, but eventually Axel managed to get him quiet enough so he could talk. "Listen. My name's Axel."

"...A-Ax—Axel?" the kid stammered after a cough.

"Yeah."

Then, once he could hear ambulance sirens pulling up in the distance, "I'm gonna help you."

xxXXxx

Every day before Axel left the apartment for work he would do a list of things and on his walk down the block he would go over said list of things to make absolutely sure he'd checked them all off.

Unplug all electronics except for the radio and the small refrigerator in the bedroom.

Check supply of food in small refrigerator.

Turn on the heater.

Safely lock all cupboards and store all sharp utensils and glass.

Lock all doors except for the bathroom and bedroom door.

Lock all the windows and pull the curtains shut.

Say goodbye to Roxas.

He smiled a bit to himself when he checked everything off his little list and crossed the street once the light on the other end turned into a walking man. There...wasn't really a reason for him to wait—there were no cars on the road for him to wait for. No, every Wednesday to Saturday it would just be Axel and the walking man across the street to tell him when to stop and when to go. Sometimes there would be another person crossing the street with him and sometimes they would exchange in simple conversation, but once they would both enter the hospital across the street all talk was nothing and it was down to business.

Maybe that was why he liked to wait across the street for the walking man to tell him when to go; he wanted that last taste of reality before he would have to go through hell in the other building. He could already smell the alcohol, feel it burning his eyes with every new bottle opened, and hear the wailing of newcomers when they had to be sedated if they were too rowdy upon arrival. It was the most terrifying sound in the world to him, but he'd learned how to accept it.

"See ya," he told the walking man as he passed him and entered the hospital grounds, past the empty, dusty fountain, the dead flowers, and soon the many white tents pitched outside the entrance. Dressed in his light blue scrubs and sneakers he blended right in with the groups of nurses and doctors bustling to and fro, in and out of tents with clipboards and other utensils in their hands.

"Good morning," a gruff and muffled voice greeted him to which Axel saluted with two fingers. "You're here earlier than usual today, Axel," the man said while he proceeded to give the redhead a quick pat down for security reasons.

Axel just did what he was supposed to do as if it was second nature by now and chuckled. "Yeah, the roommate woke me up again."

"How's he doin'? You taking care of him all right?"

"Yeah, yeah. Just cut himself on a piece of glass this morning and that's what woke me up."

"Oh, so you mean you didn't decide to be an early riser and jump right into gear, huh?" The man laughed from behind his white quarantine suit and gave Axel a quick pat on the back to signal that he was through. "All right, you're clean."

"As always."

"Hey, it's just my job, man. I trust ya, but I still gotta do it. Times are rough these days."

Axel just nodded and walked through the white tent where a series of station were set up beneath. These tents were reserved for what people called "the eight"; the lucky group of people who were immune and had to go to and from the hospital so many times a week and do their job. Of the eight that worked at the hospital were Axel and Reno but Reno's shift was always at night. When Axel would leave, Reno would start, and so on and so forth. It wasn't the life they chose...but it was the life they had to accept.

After undergoing radiation tests, several scans, and a quick shower, he was free to put the scrubs back on and head on through the double doors...and into the sound of what he hated most.

xxXXxx

At least five doctors and a whole team of nurses charged through the doors and hallways of the emergency ward, leaving Axel and Reno to stay bewildered and windswept in the hospital lobby, laying down on wheeled stretchers. They had to be brought in a separate ambulance from Roxas because the officials claimed they could have been infected. Both were injected with IVs and their heart rates were tested. Swabs and other sorts of things he couldn't even comprehend with were done over the span of that five minute drive and by the time they arrived they felt as if they were thrown out onto the pavement and shoved into the farthest corner of the lobby...to wait.

Just wait.

"This sucks," Reno whined, throwing his head back to stare up at the ceiling and later complained about how much the IV hurt in his hand.

Axel groaned and did the same. "I'm worried about that kid, man."

"Yeah, but now we should worry about ourselves. What if we end up getting sick 'cause of this?"

To that the other redhead said nothing and ended up shutting his eyes, wondering if when he would open them next his vision would indeed be gone and that would be that. Nothing would be forgiving; the sickness would just take him. But when he fluttered his eyes open and he could see the peppered ceiling above he heaved a sigh of relief. ...Maybe it would happen later, though.

xxXXxx

"Hey, Dem—holy shit, what the hell happened to your eye?" Axel asked once he approached a computer desk far into the emergency ward. Demyx, a blonde male of 24, looked up from a file he was writing on to reveal a little more of the gauze bandage wrapped around his right eye. He smiled and waved a hand.

"Ah. Just kinda got into a little scrape with one of the patients," he said, shrugging. "One of their visitors brought 'em soda in a glass bottle and when I came in to give her the weekly shot she took a swing at me with the thing and split the skin a little right down the corner of my eye." Axel formed his lips into an 'ooo' to which Demyx mouthed back, 'Yeah.'

"It's ok, though, I guess. I can still see and everything. It just feels bruised."

"Yeah, and we know that the first mentioning of you not being able to see would put this whole staff in a frenzy." Axel had to say it under his breath to make sure no one else would hear and Demyx just chuckled lightly and went back to checking names and vaccinations off his list. He and Axel were always in charge of one specific wing of the emergency ward, but of course other nurses would come in time to time to help with the rounds.

After a couple hours passed and day gradually turned into noon Demyx came back from his trip of fluffing pillows to slump into the wheelie chair beside Axel who was going down a checklist of his own.

"Phew. You come here to work four times a week and go back home to take care of a patient of your own. Huh. Dunno how you do it, man," the guy said after yawning quite loudly. Axel scoffed.

"Gotta thank dad for implementing the do-gooder gene in me, I guess," he replied, not looking up from his paper.

Demyx fiddled with the mouse on the desk. "How are your folks, by the way?"

"Ah, still huddled up in San Francisco, I imagine. They're not letting anyone in or out of that city since the scare three years ago. It's like wartime down there." Thinking it, Axel rubbed at his forehead with one hand and placed the pen he was writing with down on the pad of paper. He hated thinking about how hard it must have been for other people who weren't infected and who couldn't just walk around like him or Demyx. His parents, for example, were locked up in their own home in a small pocket of a neighborhood that had been immune.

He hadn't heard from them in two years and while the noise around the hospital always brought some twinge of fear, silence, he learned, was even more frightening.

Every day someone would die of this epidemic and every day there would be more silence because of those people who would cease to speak and scream. Axel had seen patients go crazy in bed after waking up unable to see and sometimes the panic would be so severe that they would fall into silence for seemingly forever. They wouldn't die, no, but they would commit themselves to saying nothing out of trauma and depression.

It was a fucking disgusting life they had now, but, as he and Reno always told themselves, they had to accept it.

"And Roxas?" Demyx added after taking a sip of his Red Bull. "Still got those piercing blue eyes of his? Haha."

Axel smiled...and that was his only response.

xxXXxx

The two of them had been released from the nurses once their results came back negative for the disease. It took a while, a full day at most with the blood test going, but finally after waiting for so long they had their answer...and a very shocking one at that.

The doctors told them that they were both completely immune to the sickness. Some strand of their DNA prevented it from attacking. Both brothers speechless and ecstatic at the same time could only stare at one another while the doctor congratulated them...and then shuffled out of the room in a hurry. They didn't care if the congratulations were genuine or not; all they cared about was them being...ok. It was amazing.

They were ok! ...But— "Oh, hey, hold up!" Axel called out to which one of the nurses that was about to leave the room stopped and turned back.

"Yes?" she asked.

"The kid we brought in. How's he doing?"

She flipped through her clipboard a few times before looking back up at him. "He's down the hall from here and undergoing intensive care at the moment. We'll keep you updated on his status." That said she slipped out of the room once more, her sneakers squeaking against the linoleum as she did so.

It wasn't until the next morning when they were successfully unhooked from all the machines and gadgets that they were allowed to walk past the blonde's room and peek in through the window. The room was dimmed with nothing more than the sound of beeping filling the silence, and as Axel watched one of the nurses inside carefully pry one of the kid's eyes open...he was shocked to see such a vivid, alive hue strike through the darkness. The nurse herself seemed a bit alarmed at this discovery but he judged that it wasn't terrible because she only laughed and gently touched his forehead to whisper something to him.

"He has very blue eyes," someone told him from the side and when both redheads turned they saw a doctor ready to enter the boy's room. "It isn't normal for them to keep the eye color. Film would have developed over his corneas by now."

...Axel smiled at that. It was like a spark of light in all this darkness, hearing that. "Can I ask his name?"

"Roxas," the doctor replied while adjusting the stethoscope around his neck. "I need to check up on him, but...please know that you two did a very brave thing today. And you're both very lucky. I'm sure he would, ah, tell you the same." With nothing more than a nod and a smile to both, the man ducked into the room and that was that.

"Hang in there, little man," Reno said while patting the glass of the window and Axel—He cried.

Why couldn't Roxas be like him on the other side of the glass? It didn't seem...fair.

xxXXxx

There was a patient at the hospital who didn't reside—yes, reside—in the emergency ward, but rather on the upper floor in a smaller room pushed in the corner. She shared it with one other person, but they were often unresponsive and silent. And while it wasn't Axel's responsibility to take care of her or even lift a finger for her, he still took it upon himself to visit her at least once during his shift, usually a few minutes before he would need to go home.

After taking the elevator up a few stories, Axel stepped out into the crowded hallways filled with familiar faces of people he'd taken care of before...and even had known before the blindness appeared. Here and there faces were turned toward walls and ceilings, other people and floors, trying to find answers to so many questions, but because their sight was taken, well, their answers remained a mystery. Axel wondered what they all would question. Perhaps the usual: "Why did this happen to me?" or "When will this be over?" They were all possibilities, but he was too preoccupied with other work to ever ask

Swerving down the hallway, avoiding beds around corners or patients who would unknowingly walk in his path, Axel continued on until he came to the end of one hallway where her room was. As usual things were quiet on this side; she never made a lot of noise, but what he found admirable was that she still chose to speak. He slowly and carefully opened the door after knocking a couple of times and after setting foot into the room there he saw the petite, frail, and beautiful young blonde woman sitting up on a chair, her attention directed towards the window on the wall opposite where he was currently standing.

It was such a simple and sad scene because Namine, though she had that window—that perfect outlet—she would never see the world again.

With a slight smile the redhead sauntered up to the girl and placed both hands on the window sill to look out with her, watching the sun begin to set over the frozen and desolate city. Her eyes, like most, where milky and pale, much like the winter outside, but beneath that ghostly gaze he could still catch the flecks of blue that so reminded him of her brother.

Namine smiled when she felt a warmer presence enter the room and reached a delicate hand out. Axel took it and squeezed her fingers, feeling how cold they were in contrast to his own.

"How are you?" she asked, turning to face him. Axel shrugged.

"Same as ever, I guess. Still working, still breathing."

The girl giggled and placed her other hand atop his and shut her eyes. "Mm. It's hard. I've been listening to the news and people keep saying how much of the eight are so stressed with their lives." A tiny frown pulled at the corners at her lips when she said it. "But at least you're ok."

Axel squeezed her fingers again. He would have nodded, but knowing that she wouldn't see it, he had to choose this option instead. "Yeah. Roxas tells me the same thing. That kid listens to the news all the time." He chuckled and Namine couldn't help but do the same.

"...We're really alike."

"That's because you're related, of course. Heh." Axel paused and started again. "He just told me before I left that I do too much for him. Same fare, day in and day out with that kid."

Namine sighed and glanced toward the window again in thought. "He respects you deeply," she began, "and he probably feels strange even after three years of you being beside him through everything." Axel squeezed the girl's hand again, lighter than the first few times as if he was unsure.

"I would've taken you in, too, if Roxas wasn't so stubborn."

She giggled again. "Like I said: he respects you. He only wants the burden to be lighter."

The redhead scoffed and with his free hand he ruffled up Namine's hair a bit. "A little thing like you would hardly be a burden, y'know."

But it was never worth it to argue with a girl like Namine, because he just didn't have the heart to do so. He knew that she didn't like being trapped in that suffocating place with nothing more than a window as her connection to the outside world, but he also knew that she, just like Roxas, was stubborn, and that she thought being in the hospital would be a better and fair setting for everyone. The girl was a year younger than her brother and was the first to come down with the blindness in her family. The doctors hypothesized that Roxas had caught the disease when he had gone to visit her some weeks before the night his vision left.

...But Roxas would never blame her.

Axel left Namine's room no more than fifteen minutes later, leaving her to sit in solemn silence under the faint, cold light of the sun, and as he took the elevator back down to the main floor...he couldn't help but regret not staying with her longer. He always felt that way on the trip back down...even knowing that there was no way to change the course of this life. He thought, as the doors opened and he headed back towards the hospital entrance, of how precious life was to millions of people and yet how, from the shadows, life would suddenly turn on people and destroy them from the inside out. It made promises of fortune and fame, health and prosperity; it was treasured and held in such high regard for years...but as he took a final glance at the sleeping and downtrodden bodies behind him, he knew that life, to them, was now death.

xxXXxx

As like every day they had shifts, Axel passed Reno on the crosswalk and held out his hand for a high five once they crossed paths. The sky was darkening and the world was falling colder by the second—their breaths were coming out in puffs of smoke—and in their scrubs it wasn't certainly the best of times. Axel swore he could hear his brother's teeth chattering from across the street.

"Freezing my fucking balls off out here, Axel, I swear," Reno called out to him which earned him a sputtered laugh in response. "Once this all clears up, we're movin' out to Pomona!"

"Then you better get your ass in that building and get some work done. That'll warm you up, right?"

Reno just rolled his eyes and waved his brother off before turning his back and jogging up to undergo that same old procedure Axel had to undergo that morning. Hm. 'Once this all clears up,' huh. Axel chuckled and shook his head. Though he highly doubted that this disease would "clear up" any time soon, the prospect of living somewhere warm...brought a sudden ease to his heart. He'd often think about living life normally again, but all it would take was a sound of a siren or harsh wind nipping at the back of his neck to snap him back to reality.

Back at the apartment he shuffled through his pocket for the key, unlocked the door, and once he was inside the darkness he flicked the lights on to reveal the same old mess littered on the floor in his...unique, organized way of littering and the same old padded walls he'd installed himself, again, for Roxas's sake.

"Yo, Roxas, I'm home!" he called out, shutting the door behind him and turning the two locks and inserting the deadbolt. He also checked the crack under the door to make sure that the piece of wood he'd drilled in there was still secure and with that done he sighed heavily and made way down the hall towards the bedroom. Like always he could hear music playing on the other end and it brought a flicker of happiness to his face amongst the tired creases.

Emboldened by the image of Roxas just sitting there, motionless and smiling, possibly swaying like he did at times to the music, Axel pushed the door open and sure enough there was the kid, sitting on the end of the bed, facing where the headboard would be...and smiling to himself while the guitars and pianos played in perfect harmony together over that black radio sitting on the side table.

Axel's bed wasn't really a bed anymore, but instead it was a mattress—he wanted to make sure that Roxas wouldn't tumble out of bed at night or if he had to get up to go to the bathroom, so he'd taken the frame apart and stored it away in the living room. The once clean carpet was dotted with stains of various things, mostly juice that Roxas had spilled over the years when he tried to walk with his cup. But, for the most part, it was the cleanest room in the entire apartment, and Axel sort of had Roxas to thank for that. While he was at work Roxas would sometimes walk around and start to test his senses by picked things up he thought didn't belong and store them where they should have. He'd come home to a few paper clips on the kitchen table and a rubber duck on the bookshelf, but at least the kid was trying.

Tonight there were no things out of place—Just Roxas, the music, and the room all together and all painting a soothing picture for Axel. The blonde turned his head, eyes shut, toward the doorway and gave a little wave.

"Hey. I knew it was you."

Axel laughed and shut the door behind him before flopping down on the bed on his back. "Oh, yeah, how do you know?"

Roxas playfully chuckled and felt around on the mattress until his fingertips touched Axel's shoulder. From there he formed one hand into a fist and punched him. "I always know. Right around six o'clock you come back home, tell me you're home, and fix the three locks on the door."

"Reno does the same thing, though."

The boy shook his head. "No, he forgets the deadbolt."

"That jackass." The two of them laughed at that and soon Axel pushed off the mattress so that he could walk over to the closet and take out his pajamas. "So, Rox, thinkin' you need a shower?"

"I already took one."

...Axel turned around and furrowed his brows at the kid. As if expecting the answer, Roxas looked over his shoulder and interrupted what the redhead was probably about to say.

"Look, I held the safety bar the whole time and I promise I didn't hurt myself."

"Yeah, but you still gotta tell me before you go doin' that, Roxas."

"I didn't know I wanted to until you left."

Axel clicked his tongue and started to pull the top of his outfit off. "Smart ass."

Roxas shifted on the mattress and said nothing, but Axel guessed that the guy was most likely reveling in his success at taking a shower all by himself. Roxas may have been blind, but the kid's personality wasn't that much of a stretch different from how it was when they first moved in together. ...He could still picture that day exactly. About four months after he and Reno had taken Roxas to the hospital, they had been shortly contacted by the government with orders to attend classes for medical study and to afterward immediately answer a call of duty. Naturally they were hesitant and refused, but in the end complied since it was...ordered and all.

Axel was assigned for the mornings and afternoons and Reno was assigned for the evenings and early mornings. And on the first week of work, stressed and aggravated...Axel came across Roxas sitting on the floor in a hallway, his knees pulled into his chest and his chin resting on his folded arms. Those blue eyes of his were so distant and forlorn. He had tried to get the kid to go back to his room but he insisted that he wanted fresh air and wanted more space. ...He wanted freedom. It wasn't until two weeks later that he made up his mind to grant the kid that wish and take him out to live with.

Granted, the process wasn't easy. There were still healthy people living out in the city and though scarce, taking an infected person out there would potentially endanger them. Days upon days of convincing passed before finally the hospital management agreed to keep Roxas under Axel's care so long as Roxas would undergo heavy antibiotics for the next few days before taking his leave.

...And once that was over and Roxas's skin felt the sun beating down on his arms, on his face and hands...he fell to his knees on the ground and it took all of Axel's strength to pick him back up and guide him safely home. He asked why he was crying but all Roxas could manage were broken sentences. He wanted to do more than feel, he'd said, and he wanted to know where he was standing. It felt terrible knowing that he couldn't grant the other the first wish, but at least he could give him the rest of his answers.

You're walking beside me. We're crossing the street and there are some puddles on the ground from when it rained last night. Up ahead there's a stop sign and two birds sitting atop it. Maybe you can hear them if you tried to...

Roxas wanted more than to hear and to touch...but he had to trust Axel now. He might not have known what he looked like, but...he had to put himself in his hands.

It was strange having to sleep with one other person in the same bed as him, and admittedly Axel considered on many nights to go to the living room to sleep on the couch. But that worry, that fear of something bad happening while he was gone kept him at Roxas's side from dusk to dawn, day in day out...for three straight years. He felt so responsible for that kid...and while he looked at him now, preparing himself for bed by feeling for his pillow and blanket, Axel realized that that feeling had never once died out.

If anything it had grown.

Once in his black sweatpants, the redhead stretched and climbed into the bed with Roxas, of course not before walking over to shut off the heater. Four extra blankets had to be piled on with them just for that, but Roxas never complained. He just snuggled without a word when his companion would pull the blankets over them and he would always wait, just wait, for those beautiful cerulean eyes to close and his body to fade into sleep before he would shortly follow. In a way it was like being a parent...but Axel had to admit that the burning in his chest every time he saw those eyes and heard that laugh...meant that it was a much deeper bond than that.

xxXXxx

Six months later Roxas broke another glass...but not because it had slipped from his fingers from stumbling about in the apartment.

...It was because Axel had told him that Namine had woken up able to see.

"...What?" he asked, voice a mix of surprise, elation, and sadness. If she could see, then would he be able to see? Axel smirked, ignoring the broken pieces of glass, and placed a hand on Roxas's shoulder. Reno, who was in the living room at the time cleaning a few boxes out, answered for him.

"Yeah. Woke up during my shift and the first thing she saw was the snow outside. You should've been there, Roxas."

"I want to." The blonde held his hand out and touched Axel's shoulder. "Can I go?" Axel immediately shook his head.

"That place is still under quarantine. You could still get sick."

"You mean I'm not already?"

Axel pursed his lips and sighed heavily. "It's different. You could get worse."

"And what about Namine? Is she still there?"

Reno appeared around the corner just then and leaned up against the door frame. "Not in the same room. She was moved."

Roxas turned to face him. "Where?"

"She's still in the hospital, but they moved her to a higher floor."

"Well, if it's dangerous, they gotta get her outta there, right?" Roxas turned back to Axel and then back to Reno, eyes blazing with excitement and question. "Right?"

"Roxas," Axel began, giving his shoulder a squeeze, "take it easy. We'll find out more about her when I go back to work tomorrow."

"You have to make sure she can see."

"What, you don't trust my word?" Reno laughed but Roxas took it seriously.

"No, no, I do, it's just—I'm just—"

Axel ruffled up the guy's hair a bit, playful. "I know you're nervous, but relax. I'll find out more tomorrow and tell you first thing when I get home."

Roxas barely slept that night...but miraculously Axel was able to even with the radio turned on and that same old jazz CD playing on the bedside table.

Millions of people go by, but they all disappear from view...and I only have eyes for you.

xxXXxx

After work no cups were broken, no glass was left to pick up; no faucets were left dripping and no radios were playing. Everything was silent...and everything was cold. When Axel returned home that night to an expectant face and a boy getting up from the kitchen table for the news...he couldn't give it to him.

"...Just like that?" Roxas asked, huddled up beside Axel on the couch in the living room, a few blankets thrown and wrapped about them even though the heater was still on. Axel didn't feel like leaving Roxas at the moment to switch it off. Right now...Roxas needed him.

He nodded. "Yeah. She's back to square one."

There was a pause. "Was she sad?"

This time Axel shook his head. "No. She took it all in stride. The doctors were all driven up the wall, though. Hm. Boy, you're lucky you're not there."

"So why'd she go back to being blind?"

The redhead shrugged and pulled Roxas's body closer against him with one arm. "Don't know. We thought we had something, though."

"...Me too."


(Nammmmmeeeeeers.) Part Two should be coming up later on in the day, I promise. WELL. I was walking around the house one day without my contacts in, which left me LEGALLY BLIND GODDAMMIT, so I was partially inspired by me stubbing my toes and blindly searching for shit to write this story. Now, before the creativity wore out I HAD to write it down and before I knew it within the span of four hours I had almost twenty pages written out.

Imagine. That. B|

So, guys, that was part one! I hope you liked it! Review if you so wish~ ...Aw, what the hell: CAN I GET A "WHOOP WHOOP" FOR FUCKING SUMMER AND COLLEGE OVER HERE?

who brought the beer?,
kokoro77