Why did cell phones have to be so small and easy to lose?
Roxas would have given a lot to know that particular tidbit right now, but he would have given a lot more to know where his cell phone was right then. It wasn't in his pants pocket, where it usually lived. It wasn't in his coat pocket either, which is where he thought he remembered putting it this morning. It hadn't been in the car, or his room, or anywhere in the house that he'd looked. He'd called Hayner's house, and Hayner said it wasn't there. The only thing he could do was retrace his steps starting from this morning at home before church, when he knew very well he had it, to coming home this evening after the movie, when he realized he'd lost it. He'd already eliminated home; the first place he'd gone after that was church...well, he might as well start with the walk to church, and then the church itself. Except he was already practically at the church, and he hadn't seen it on the sidewalk, in the street, or under a bush anywhere. If it wasn't somewhere in the church, that meant he would have to go home and talk Dad into driving him everywhere else he'd been all day, and that would be an unbelievable pain.
Besides, what if Axel had called or something?...Oh, his phone had better be in the church in that case...he hadn't heard from Axel in almost two years, but every day he prayed and hoped and daydreamed that someday, someday soon...he'd even refused a new cell phone if it meant changing his phone number, because he knew Axel had his old number. He still had Axel's old phone number, but he never, ever answered it no matter how often Roxas tried to call him; he liked to think his brother was just always busy when he happened to call or something and always forgot to call back, but deep inside, he knew Axel had probably sold it for drug money ages ago.
Axel, you beast, you brute, you drug-addled bastard...don't you know you're breaking every heart in the family? Including mine? Come back...just call home...just let us know you're still alive somewhere...
He didn't even remember where in church they'd been sitting this morning. Normally, they sat sort of close to the front, on the right side, but not always, and he couldn't remember if today had been an exception or not. Even if it hadn't, that still left six or seven rows of pews the might have been sitting in. It was twilight outside, nearly full dark, and there weren't nearly enough lights on in the building to let him see the floor between or under the pews - if his phone was down there, he'd have to find it by feel, and he was in no mood to have to feel his way around the entire church in the hopes that his phone was actually there. Maybe he should go over to the rectory and ask Father Stone if anyone had found a lost cell phone...would he even know? Did the church have a lost-and-found? This was going to be such a pain in the ass...but he couldn't just give up on the phone. Axel might call.
Resigned to whatever legwork it might take to find his phone, Roxas paced along the aisle at the far right of the building, sighting along every pew as he passed it for a dark bump that might be a phone, without seeing any such thing. He did see a man, who appeared to be either deep in prayer or asleep in the kneeling position; he hesitated about interrupting him, if he was praying, but there was a chance that the man might have found his phone, and if he was asleep, he probably didn't intend to be. "Excuse me," he called aloud to the man, edging his way down the pew. "Sorry to disturb you, but, um..." The man wasn't so much as twitching. If he was asleep, he must be way out of it. "I lost my cell phone earlier; I was wondering..." Roxas was raising his voice as he approached; surely the man could hear him, unless he was stone deaf. And Roxas didn't like how still he was. "Excuse me...sir? Are you all right?" All of a sudden, the dimly-lit church seemed positively spooky. The hair on the back of his neck was standing on end as he gingerly touched the man's shoulder. "Sir? Are you okay?"
Roxas's nerve suddenly broke. The blood draining from his face all at once, he bolted out of the church to the rectory in a blind panic and hammered on the door, hardly thinking about what he was doing except that he needed to get help now. "There's a dead man in the church," he babbled as soon as the door opened. "He's just kneeling in one of the pews...I thought he was praying, but he wouldn't move..."
Father Stone had never been given to any major outburst of emotion, even now, and he took control of the situation in an instant. "Show me where he is," he said, laying a hand on Roxas's shoulder, and some of the blind panic seemed to fade. Without an instant's hesitation, he grabbed the priest's hand and all but dragged him into the church to where the dead man was, even though Father Stone was easily more than twice his size. Once they'd reached him, however, there was nothing left for him to do but stand there in an agony of tension; without his cell phone, he couldn't even call 911 while Father Stone looked over the body.
"He's still breathing."
"What?" Roxas said automatically, as Father Stone lay the man down on the pew. Oh...from this angle, he could see the rise and fall of the man's chest, which he couldn't before.
"Thankfully, you seem to have found a live man instead of a dead one." Father Stone lay a hand on the man's forehead, and the man groaned faintly and started to stir. "Good evening."
The man seemed too disoriented to reply to that basic courtesy in kind. "Where the hell am I?" he mumbled, batting at Father Stone's hand.
"Quite far from Hell, I like to think. You're at the Church of St. Jude."
"Oh..." The man blinked a couple times, focused his eyes on Father Stone's face, and jerked back. Roxas couldn't quite blame him; Father Stone was a giant of a man, and the fact that he was wearing all black could only make him more intimidating in this dim light to a man who was just coming around after God-knew-what, whether he saw the Roman collar or no. "Who are you?" he demanded, fear written plainly on his face.
Father Stone only gave him a slight smile. "My name is Father Lexaeus Stone. Most people forget my first name as soon as they hear it. This is Roxas; he very kindly led me to you. And you are...?"
The man was apparently starting to figure out where he was and what was going on around him, and he suddenly started to look more intensely ashamed of himself than any human had a right to - not to mention, Roxas realized as he sat up a little and more light fell on his face, hungover, half-starved, and generally in piss-poor health. "I...I'm nothing. I'm a nobody," he murmured, shaking his head and refusing to make eye contact. "I'm just another homeless boozer. A drug addict. Street trash, waste of space and decent people's taxes. I don't belong here. I shouldn't even be here!" he cried, trying to roll to his feet and escape.
Father Stone rested one hand on the man's shoulder; whether he applied any pressure or not, it seemed to be enough to stop him. "No man should ever say he doesn't belong in his father's house," he said gently. "You are as much God's child as I am, and have every bit as much right to be here as I do."
The man blinked up at him in confusion, the words apparently not sinking in or something. "But...you're a priest," he said, as if that was supposed to explain everything.
"I am still only a man, no greater than you," Father Stone repeated. "Now...what's your name?"
The man stared up at him for a few more seconds, looking scared stiff and like he wanted to be anywhere else, then finally sighed and bowed his head, looking defeated. "...Demyx." If there was a last name to go with it, he didn't seem inclined to give it.
"All right...Demyx," Father Stone said, completely unfazed by Demyx's hesitance or lack of a last name. "May I ask how you happened to come here this evening? Assuming you want to tell, of course. If you'd rather not -"
"No, it's okay," Demyx grunted, still refusing to make eye contact. "I was coming down after shooting heroin, wondering where the fuck I could ever get the money for more by the time I'd need it, and I saw the church and I just...stopped in my tracks. I just couldn't help wondering how I got to where I am now...I just wanted to die. I dunno why I went in. To beg for help or something. I'm just...out of places to go." He buried his face in his hands, seemingly unable to continue. "...I...I haven't eaten in two - almost three days," he whimpered. Roxas's blood ran cold all of a sudden, with a mixture of condemnation and pity and blank, cold fear - this man was in the habit of poisoning himself routinely, he could even see the needle tracks on his arm, he probably hadn't eaten in so long because he'd spent all his money on heroin...but...that could just as easily be Axel. Did Axel ever miss meals because he spent all his money on drugs...?
"Well, the least I could do for you is give you a decent meal," Father Stone said kindly. "Come with me - can you stand on your own?"
"I...think so." Demyx pulled himself to his feet with some difficulty and stood there, wobbling back and forth slightly. "Yeah. I'm...stable." In that sense, at least, Roxas added silently, trying not to scowl. Out of all the washed-up homeless boozers and drug addicts in the city...why did it have to be a complete stranger who happened to wander into the church at the right time for Roxas to come in and find him? What set this particular half-stoned loser apart and entitled him to any better fortune than the thousands of other half-stoned losers out there? Who let him get lucky?
Why couldn't it have been Axel?
Father Stone only nodded, seemingly unaware of Roxas's totally uncharitable thoughts. "I haven't eaten yet, and it would be as easy to prepare enough for two or more as for one." He glanced over at Roxas, as if wishing he would excuse himself but unwilling to simply ask him to leave.
Roxas was about to make some excuse and leave, and look elsewhere for his cell phone, but Demyx spoke first. "Feh, he can come or go as he wants," he said, his voice sounding almost bitter, but the bitterness seemed directed mostly at himself. "He might learn something from me. Like 'don't do this shit'." He looked straight at Roxas for the first time, and his face twisted into a sort of sick smile, though he looked like he wanted to cry at the same time. "I was about your age when I got started. Just think - one bad day, one bad report card, one bitchy mother, one party you weren't supposed to go to, one person saying 'try this, it will make all your problems go away'...one weak moment, and in six years, this could be you."
All of a sudden, Roxas wanted to cry too. That hadn't been how Axel got started - in fact, at one time, he'd kind of been the sober voice of reason for Reno, at least when Reno was still alive. Reno had always been the party animal; in fact, the accident report said in as many words that he'd been drinking before the crash. And once he was gone...Axel just fell apart. He didn't know how to deal with that kind of pain, any more than the rest of them, and his solution had been to drink it away, or try to. When alcohol hadn't proven strong enough, he'd turned to meth, to cocaine, to anything that would make him feel good again for a little while...and just like that, Roxas had lost both brothers for the price of one. Maybe Axel wasn't dead, yet, but then again, for all Roxas knew, he might be. He might as well be. All it had taken was one moment of weakness, one voice saying 'try this, it will make it all better'... "I'll stay," he muttered, sounding sour without meaning to in an attempt to hide how close he was to tears. "If I could find my cell phone, I'd call Mom and tell her I won't be back for a while."
Father Stone gave him a faint smile, leaving Roxas unsure whether he was totally unaware or totally aware of what he was thinking, and gestured for both of them to follow him back to the rectory. Thankfully, it was a very short walk, because it would have been embarrassing to be caught in such strange circumstances and odd company. Roxas had never been inside the rectory before, and was a little surprised to discover it was very much like a normal house on the inside; Demyx was looking around with his hands stuffed in his armpits, as if he was afraid to touch anything. "Take a seat in the dining room, both of you," Father Stone said casually, disappearing into a side room. "I have something for each of you." They obediently sat down at the dining room table, in an uncomfortable silence; Roxas was starting to wish he'd just gone home, and Demyx simply looked miserable. Roxas wanted to tell him to get over himself already, but he just knew it was about the worst thing he could do, over and above decking him with a chair, most likely.
It seemed to take an hour for Father Stone to come back, though Roxas's watch said it was only a few minutes; he was carrying a small velvet box, which he handed to Demyx. "Remember, no matter what you've done or what a mess you think you've made of your life, you will always have a Father watching over you, ready and waiting to take you back," he said in a soft voice as Demyx opened the box to reveal a gold crucifix on a matching chain. "That is real gold. If you want, you can sell it and use the money to buy more heroin...but if you keep it, you will always have something much better than heroin to sustain you."
Demyx looked so awed and touched, as he fingered the chain with one hand and rubbed at his eyes with the other, that Roxas just didn't have the heart to resent him for a moment. "Can...I stay here for a while?" he finally asked in a tiny, cracked voice. "'Cause...I just know that if I go back out there, especially with this...I'm gonna pawn it in a heartbeat. No matter what I tell myself I'm gonna spend the money on, it's all gonna go to heroin sooner or later. And I just...can't go back to that..." He trailed off, unable to continue for tears.
Father Stone patted him gently on the shoulder as he began to cry in earnest. "You may stay as long as you like," he murmured, in as soft a voice as such a giant was likely capable of. "You may also leave whenever you choose, but I will not send you away."
Demyx buried his face in his hands, too overwrought to speak, and Father Stone tactfully motioned Roxas into the side room with him; it turned out to be a small study. Roxas tried not to let himself start feeling sour and angry again - Demyx was just some random drug addict, who just happened to wander into the church and pass out at the right time; how did that earn him a gold crucifix? Roxas had lost two brothers, one so suddenly they didn't find out until he was already gone and one in the most painfully slow way imaginable; what recompense did he get? A gold crucifix would seem pretty slim payback...but then, why should it matter if he got more than Demyx? What had Demyx lost in six years that one bit of jewelry couldn't begin to compensate for? "All right, what's this about?" he asked, trying not to sound surly and preoccupied no matter how he felt.
Father Stone gave him another faint smile, but it was rather wry this time. "You're not feeling...precisely charitable to our new friend, are you?"
Well, Roxas would hardly call Demyx a friend on such short notice no matter what, but that wasn't really the question. "No," he grunted, since there was no point in hiding it. "...I just...can't help thinking about Axel," he added after a moment, when more explanation seemed necessary. "Wondering where he is, what's going on with him...wondering why I haven't heard from him in years, and this...random stranger pops up out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, for him, it's all good. How does he deserve a happy ending and not Axel?"
He looked down at his shoes, feeling ashamed of himself for that admission, until Father Stone lay a hand on his shoulder and he was forced to look up again. The priest was not smiling now, even faintly, and Roxas was certain he was about to get a lecture on charity. "I had a feeling it was something along those lines," Father Stone said as softly as was possible for him. "I can hardly blame you - after what happened to your brothers, both of them, I would be surprised if you didn't take this personally somehow. But first of all, it's hardly 'all good' for Demyx now. He's made a start just by realizing he needs to change, and taking a step in that direction, but he has far to go before he can finally break the chains that tie him to the drugs. I have hope for him, but he may yet fail. Second - to someone else, Demyx is that lost brother, the one they hope and pray will come to their senses and come home and fear never will, and Axel is only one more drug addict among thousands. And to most people, they are both useless addicts, scum of the streets, that the world would be better off without." Roxas blinked, and clenched his fists in sudden anger at people like that, upset on behalf of both Axel and Demyx. "And remember this - to an extent, these people have a point. But if you allow that one 'useless' drug addict is still a human being after all, and can be saved, you allow that all drug addicts are human and can be saved, your brother as much as this stranger. To save Demyx is to allow hope for Axel."
"...Oh," Roxas mumbled, looking down at his shoes again. It honestly hadn't occurred to him that Demyx might also have a family somewhere, who missed him as badly as he missed Axel. "I...guess you're right."
"One other thing..." Roxas had halfway turned to go, assuming the interview was over, and had to turn back to see what now. Father Stone was just pulling a small, blocky object out of a desk drawer - not a jewelry case this time, but a cell phone. "Is this yours, by any chance? I believe you mentioned in passing that you'd lost yours..."
Roxas sucked in his breath - with all the fuss, he'd all but forgotten about it, except for one brief moment when he wished he could call home. It certainly looked like his, it had the same wallpaper, and when he checked the address book, it had all his contacts, starting with a number labeled "Axel" that hadn't gotten an answer in two years. "Yeah. Yeah, it...is mine," he said, astonished to see it here and now, just like that. Granted, the whole reason he was at the church to begin with was that it was one of the places he might have dropped it, but he'd never expected to simply have it handed to him. "Thanks so much...where was it?"
"Someone found it after the last mass and handed it to me for safekeeping; I didn't know whose it was, and calling the number marked 'Home' got no answer, so I decided to try again later and put it away."
"Yeah, um...we were out of the house all day, and we'd just gotten home when I realized I hadn't seen my phone since before we left. Thanks so much..." Roxas spent the next few minutes just turning the phone over and over in his hand, amazed that it had been that easy - he'd half-expected to spend the evening and well into tomorrow possibly scouring the whole city for it, and possibly never finding it, which would have been unthinkable. "I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost it for good. I mean...if I had to get a new phone, one that didn't have all my contact information...or even a new phone number...I mean...Axel has this number." On impulse, he glanced back out the door into the dining room - Demyx was still sitting patiently at the table, still fingering the crucifix, in no visible hurry to go out and trade his good fortune for more heroin.
If he really can shake the drugs off and get clean someday...that means Axel can too.
Roxas knew he really ought to call home, and let Mom and Dad know that he'd found his phone and that he wouldn't be home for dinner...but... For some reason, he just had to call Axel's number first. He knew he was all but guaranteed not to get an answer, but...it was worth a shot. If nothing else, he could always hope. And hope no longer felt quite so hopeless as it had before.
AN: Written for a contest on deviantART. The parameters were to choose one prompt off a list, and one character from each of three lists; Axel and Demyx were on the same list, so I couldn't use them both. I ended up with Roxas, Demyx, and Lexaeus, and the prompt "Cell phone".
Also, whee, my first published AU. I don't really intend to abandon my long-ass storyline, though. I just couldn't come up with anything in the storyline that fit a prompt and used the right characters...all right, this story popped into my head halfway formed and I just had to pick the characters and make a prompt fit.