Chapter Twelve

A heart is just a heart

Roxas parked his brand new and extremely shiny pick up truck in a parking space outside Riku's house. He didn't want it, flatly refused in fact, but Cloud insisted in his usual way that he wasn't going to drive that 'deathtrap piece of shit'.

The mini was sent to the scrap heap days later. Taking pity on him, the elder Strife had done the deed himself, so he wouldn't have to go back to the Lionheart Garage.

The truck was bright red and stood out a mile. He did like being higher on the road, but he wasn't about to tell Cloud that.

He practically fell out out the vehicle, missing the steps. Getting in, driving stick, no problem. Getting out was another issue entirely.

It was in this prone position that he noticed someone sitting on the front step drinking beer. It was unfortunate that the hair of that said person matched his truck. He stepped closer and could smell cigarette smoke.

His heart, the traitor, did that funny jumping thing that it did every time Axel was in close proximity.

"I'm here to see Sora."

He tilted his beer bottle towards the door.

"Be my guest" Axel said dismissively "He's inside."

He shuffled aside and Roxas passed him, not looking back.

Three months ago the place was know as Axel's. As in, I'm going to Axel's and I won't be back for a few days. The rage had now been replaced by a hollow feeling at having to return to a place full of memories.

Roxas spotted Sora in the hallway leaning on crutches as soon as he stepped through the door.

"Rox"

Sora's voice as always was way too loud. His brother grabbed him by the hand and pulled him along at the speed one would go if they were limping on crutches.

Roxas was shoved into the living room.

The noise of people surged around him, joining the music. He scanned the room. Demyx was dancing in the centre, beckoning for Zexion to join him, the lights shining on the ghosted flames up the side of his skinny leg jeans. Roxas smiled.

"Surprise." whispered a female voice in his ear. "Happy birthday."

The voice grabbed his attention. He turned to see Kairi, who kissed him on the cheek then grinned at him.

"I thought you couldn't make it." He said.

"I got a note and some tickets in the post, but I have no idea where they came from. Sweet huh?"

"Hey Rox."

Yuffie passed him a cup of punch, grinning madly. Cloud wandered over and kissed her on the cheek.

Roxas' mouth opened and closed with no sound coming out.

"Yuff thought that telling you this way would be more fun. We've been waiting for months."

"What have you done with Cloud?" He asked in shock. "When did this happen?

"I moved to Leon's while my place was being fumigated. Cloud was dropping off some bike parts and we got to know each other."

Roxas felt his face change in realisation. "It was you Cloud went to see, not Leon?"

Cloud frowned.

"You thought I was seeing Leon? Are you mental?"

"He's back with his ex-wife anyway" Said Yuffie dismissively. "But that would be something I'd like to see." she giggled dirtily.

"Not going to happen"

Cloud smiled. Again Roxas wondered what had happened to his brother.

Eventually, he shrugged and turned to Sora

"Thanks for getting Kairi here"

"Wasn't me." His face completely clueless."Didn't know a thing about it."

"It was me and Axel."

At some point during the conversation, Riku had joined them and had given Sora a beer.

"Shit" Roxas stuttered and started to look for the unmistakeable flash of red hair. He wasn't there. "I have to find him."

He rushed out of the party, violently opened the door of his truck and started it up.

"He did this for me?"

"For both of you"

He looked over and saw Riku in the passenger seat.

"Sora would have come, but it's his party too."

"I know." He said reversing out onto the road.

They travelled in silence for several blocks, slowing at anything red.

"Where would he go?"

"Where do you think he would go?"

The question was rhetorical, he hadn't expected an answer. Then it came to him

"The park"

He screeched into a side road, u-turned and headed towards the park.

Axel was there, on a swing, not moving. Roxas pulled over, leaving Riku in the truck.

He stood over the redhead for a second, shadow merging with his and wishing like the first time they met, that his heart wasn't beating so fast.

"Thanks for getting Kairi to the party"

Axel didn't even look up.

"Happy birthday" He muttered.

Roxas crouched down and lifted the redheads face with his finger.

"I mean it, you know. Why are you out here by yourself?"

"This was where I first knew I was in love with you."

The words came our of nowhere and the memory of that night came flooding back. Roxas felt his heart clench. It was the first time he'd ever had those words directed at him and the first time he realised that he felt the same.

Axel reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. He passed it to Roxas.

"Here"

"I can't take this." He tried to give it back.

"I want you to have it. " Axel said sadly. "It's your present from me. I'd like us to at least be friends."

Roxas opened the box slowly to reveal a silver key. He must have looked confused because the redhead smiled.

"To my new place. No resident Sephiroth or Cloud" His voice was melancholy. "Surprise."

"Show me" Roxas grabbed his hand and pulled him up.

Screw the consequences, he would deal with them in the morning. He shoved Axel towards the truck. They got in, leaving Riku pushed up against the window.

Axel put the truck into first and crunched through the gears like he knew the blonde didn't want the truck in the first place.

They didn't look at each other for the whole journey. Eventually he pulled into one of the nice areas of town and screeched to a halt outside a modern looking semi. He got out and walk to the left door. He put his hand out. Roxas frowned.

"Key."

He snatched it out of Roxas's open hand and opened the door. The place was bare, but was double the size of Riku's.

"You should have told me" said Roxas softly "I could have met someone else and this whole thing would have been pointless."

"And ruin the surprise?" he said, sounding a lot like Sora "Anyway, you shouldn't be with anyone but me."

It was a full 10 seconds before he leant to kiss the blonde. Nine and a half seconds too long.

1 year later

Roxas lay in bed leafing through a photo album, listening for the fire alarm and the usual cursing that always accompanied Axel cooking breakfast.

Flicking through the pages he came across one of Cloud and Yuffie after their first race together. Covered with mud, leaning on their bikes with helmets in hand, grinning like idiots.

Yuffie had changed him into someone that Axel was happy to point out that was not longer a psycho. He'd even started to embrace the art of sarcasm much to Zack's delight.

A photo of Zexion reading with glasses perched on the end of his nose, so engrossed that he didn't notice that he was being photographed. Another one of him, this time with Demyx on a roundabout with them both smiling at something.

On another page, Riku and Sora on a roller coaster then a reaction shot of Sora throwing up into a bin.

He closed the album as Axel walked into the room with a mug of coffee. On the far wall, the photo booth photos, enlarged and framed stared back at him. An anniversary present from Axel. He smiled and took the offered drink.

"Love you baby" He said

"What's that for?"

"No reason." Roxas smiled as he sipped the coffee.