Hello Lovelies,

This story has been brewing in my head ever since Heart and Soul, when Demyx blushingly admitted to Zexion that he learned to play the saxophone in high school because there was this guy in band…

This October marked the end of my little sister's, xthetwilightprincessx, fourth and final Marching Band season, and the end of my family's eight consecutive years as a part of the Walt Whitman High School Wildcat Marching Band. I sobbed my way through Championships, again, and then came home and started writing.

This story comes in three parts; part one will be posted today, two next Sunday, and three (provided I finish it, fingers crossed) will be posted the Sunday after. It's been four years since I was last on a football field, so I can only hope that I managed to capture the essence of Marching Band as best I could, and I was in colorguard so the workings of the band proper are sketchy at best for me, but I hope you enjoy it anyway. This story is primarily Zemyx, but has a heavy amount of Akuroku in it, sometimes overshadowing the Zemyx at moments, and already established Soriku. I have also been informed that Roxas is an asshole. Well…yes. Try to suffer through him for the first two chapters, I promise he gets better at the end.

Things I Own: Four years worth of torn up jazz shoes, an endless supply of bobby pins, obsessive-compulsively perfect dot books, a pockmarked picnic table in my backyard.

Things I Don't Own: Every single beautiful boy mentioned in this story. All of the not-beautiful ones too. They, and every other Kingdom Hearts related element, belong to Square Enix.

Opener: Summer Rehearsals

Leaning one hip against the hood of his mom's car, arms crossed sulkily over his chest as he pouted at the knot of teenagers grouped twenty yards away from him, Demyx Kuso watched his baby sister sign her soul away to social suicide.

He stared, brows pulled tightly together in a frown, at the group of fifteen, sixteen year old kids standing unnaturally still, backs unnaturally straight, arms unnaturally stiff as the setting sun gleamed on their polished instruments, and couldn't possibly fathom what person in their right mind would ever volunteer to spend thirty plus hours a week marching around a muddy football field in zig-zagging circles. Playing music all night and all weekend, sure, yeah, he could relate, but what was the point of donning androgynous wool overalls and a freaking helmet just so that you could conform to the military precision of every other musician on the field?

Demyx jumped approximately two feet in the air as the band suddenly exploded with sound, yelling in unison something about their chins and eyes, before casually disbanding, different sections peeling away from the massive group as they wandered towards the bags and cases dotting the sidelines. Naminé cradled a long, thin flag pole in her arms as she walked towards him, tossing her blonde hair over her shoulder as she laughed at something her best friend said to her.

"Sure you don't want to join, Dem? There's still plenty of time to change your mind." Kairi laughed at the look on Demyx' face, blowing him and Naminé a kiss and a wave as she veered off towards another car. Demyx watched her shove her own flag unceremoniously into the back seat of a silver sedan, the owner, whose had apparently attempted to match his car to the same shade as his hair, yelling good-naturedly at her as he climbed into the front seat.

"Seriously, Nam, I really can't believe you're actually doing this." Demyx ruffled his younger sister's hair with his free hand, snickering as she batted his fingers away. She scowled at him as she strode forward, very nearly whacking him upside the head with the rubber end of a six foot metal flag pole.

"Stop it, Demyx, it seems like a lot of fun. Besides, Kairi's doing it too. What, are you afraid to be related to a band geek? I promise I'll make sure to introduce myself as Naminé Kuso, freshman sister of Demyx Kuso, the only band geek in the school who's too cool for Marching Band."

"I'm not a –"

"You play like fourteen different instruments, jerk, just because you refuse to actually play in a band doesn't mean you're not a..."

Naminé trailed off, half turned to stare back at her brother, who had ceased moving entirely and was apparently not listening to a word she said. He stood frozen on the sidewalk, car keys dangling precariously from one finger, mouth dangling even more precariously from under his incredulous stare. Azure eyes gazed unblinkingly at a point somewhere over Naminé's right shoulder, following the progress of a figure striding purposefully across the parking lot. The boy was short, razor sharp strands of charcoal gray hair slicing across his cheeks and brow, shielding at least one of his brilliantly blue eyes from sight. Black Dickies shorts hung from narrow hips, a thin black tshirt mostly obscured by the drum harness slung over his shoulders. He walked several steps behind two of the other drumline boys, sticks lightly tapping a beat against the head of his snare, completely oblivious to the boy halfway across the parking lot slowly hyperventilating over the sight of him.

"You know," Naminé said slyly, a grin slowly spreading over her face as she took in her brother's flushed features, "practice for next year's band doesn't formally start until July. I'm sure we could find something suitable for you to play by then."

"You want me to teach you what?"

Demyx frowned. Axel Kaiamuso was best known for being the most talented musician at the school (Demyx was pretty sure he could give the kid a run for his money, not that anyone would ever know it), so he seemed like the obvious choice for a tutor, but now that Demyx was face to face with the lanky redhead he was having second thoughts. This was the best musician Hollow Bastion High had to offer? He looked like he dressed himself by diving headfirst into the clearance rack at Hot Topic, and was weighed down with so much metal, both of the removable and the pierced variety, that it would probably take him an hour to get through airport security. And were those tattoos? On his face?

"To play trumpet. That's what you play, right?"

Axel gave him an incredulous look.

"Well, I mean yeah. But you want to play trumpet? In Marching Band? This year? You realize summer rehearsals start in two months, right?"

"Do you always ask this many questions?" Demyx worked hard to keep the bite out of his voice, forcing a smile that felt more like a smirk. He couldn't afford for Axel to say no. He'd spent the last two weeks trying to find the drummer he'd seen after Naminé's practice, but hadn't so much as caught a glimpse of him at the other end of the hallway. This was most definitely a last resort, and if Axel gave him a hard time about it he was fucked.

"Listen man, no offense, but there's a little more to playing an instrument than putting your fingers in the right place and blowing. There's no way you can learn all of it in two months." He sounded vaguely apologetic, but mostly dismissive. Demyx didn't particularly appreciate it.

"I'm a fast learner. Promise."

"Sorry. Listen, they can always use more cymbal players in the pit, if you're really desperate to jump into uniform, but since you've never so much as stepped foot in the band room before today I can't really imagine why you'd want to." The redhead shrugged once, green eyes flickering over Demyx' stony face for barely a second, before turning back to the sheet music in front of him and settling his mouthpiece against his pursed lips, a blunt dismissal. Biting back the dozens of retorts settling on his tongue, most of them including suggestions of other places Axel could put either his trumpet or his lips, Demyx turned on his heel and walked away, pointedly ignoring the fairly impressive flow of notes streaming from the red and gold horn.

"You're a little sharp," he called over his shoulder, reaching for the door handle, "you should probably check your tuning."

The music stopped abruptly, cutting out mid-note as Axel pulled his instrument away from his mouth. Demyx glanced over his shoulder to see the punk staring at him, one red eyebrow raised high on his forehead as he studied the blond.

"How would you know?" He challenged, but Demyx could already see him reaching for a tuner, fumbling with the buttons for a minute before pressing his horn back to his lips and testing a few notes. The raised eyebrow was joined by a second as Axel's expression changed to one of surprise, eyes flickering from the now-smirking blond in the doorway to the dial on the tuner.

"I thought you didn't know how to play trumpet."

"I don't," Demyx shrugged, leaning back against the closed door, "but I do play piano. And guitar. And bass, sitar, ukulele, ocarina, fiddle, keytar. Oh, and I learned how to play the harp one summer at camp, but I try not to think about that."

Axel's eyebrows rose higher and higher with each instrument Demyx ticked off until they were in danger of disappearing into his hairline, cat-green eyes wide as a faintly impressed look settled over his sharp features. Demyx stared him down, the challenge apparent in his sea-blue eyes, but a voice from the band director's office interrupted what was shaping up to be an eye-watering staring contest.

"What's wrong, Kaiamuso? Scared you can't do it? Or just scared he'll be better than you?"

They both turned their stares on the newcomer, but not before Demyx saw the way Axel's cheeks flushed. Roxas Strife, small and blond, typical skater boy in Etnies and cargos, leaned one shoulder against the doorframe, blue eyes flashing as he stared across the room at the redhead. There was a challenge evident in his voice, but the smirk dancing across his lips was friendly and teasing. Demyx bit his lip and waited for Axel's response.

"Why don't you do it then? The line could always use more drummers, especially now that you're abandoning them."

Demyx opened his mouth to protest, but Roxas beat him to it, flashing an amused look at the slightly horrified expression on the other blond's face.

"Waste all that potential talent on a drum? No way. Riku can handle it. Do it. Come on, Axel, do it. You won't do it."

Axel's struggle was evident in the redhead's face, lips twisted in a grimace as he attempted to find something substantial to hold against the grinning blond still leaning against the doorway. He finally gave up with a small sigh, rolling his eyes and turning his expression back towards Demyx.

"Demyx, right? Better go grab a practice horn out of the closet. Roxy here'll skin me alive if you're not on par with the rest of the line by July. Welcome to Marching Band, kid."

"You ready for this?"

Demyx glanced at Axel out of the corner of his eye, scanning his facial features for some sign of whether or not the other boy was serious. No smirk lifted the corner of his lip, though, and he kept his green eyes on the road in front of them, rather than looking at Demyx. The blond shrugged, figuring his friend was mostly serious.

"I think I've logged more practice hours in the last two months than I have in my entire life," he mumbled, one knee bouncing as he drummed his fingers against the battered binder in his lap. "You know I can play just fine."

"You think I would let you step foot on that field if you couldn't? I know that." Axel did, indeed, know this. He'd spent every lunch period, study hall, and afternoon for the remainder of their school year with Demyx in a practice room, pushing him through scales, warm-ups, and exercises. Somewhere along the line bitter competition mellowed, morphed, slowly melting from grudging respect to reluctant admiration to, eventually, genuine friendship. The snark and sass from their first conversation hadn't lessened in the slightest, but the tone had changed into something teasing and playful, sarcasm and wit that was all bark and no bite. Demyx had grown surprisingly fond of the punk musician, and Axel had gone from merely tolerating his existence to actively seeking his presence, offering to drive Demyx to his first practice. The last bit, admittedly, was two parts friendship, one part making sure the blond actually followed through on his plans. Axel needed an ally in the band, and Demyx had his own agenda.

"Then why wouldn't I be ready?"

Axel shrugged half-heartedly, unsure of how to articulate to the blond that he was rapidly approaching, at approximately 57 miles per hour, according to the dashboard, the point of no return. Demyx, apparently, didn't need it spelled out for him.

"Worst case scenario it's social suicide, yeah? But lets face it, I wasn't exactly rolling with the Heathers, so really, what harm is it going to do?" Demyx' fidgeting fingers, fumbling with the frayed edges of a hole in his shorts, bellied the casual confidence in his voice, but he knew he was more nervous about whether or not the drumline hung around the band very much than about what his classmates would think of him joining the band. Axel had already become more of a friend than Xigbar, Xaldin, and their crew ever were anyway.

"As long as you're sure, man. We'll take it easy on you noobs tonight anyway, just in case." Axel threw the car into park as he settled into a spot outside the band room, smirking at the blond in his passenger seat. "Don't want to scare you poor little biddies away your first night. They'll probably just do some kind of orientation meeting, play a video of last year's championships, a recording of this year's show, that kind of thing."

"Championships?" Demyx paused, one hand wrapped around the trumpet case he was pulling out of the car. Axel quirked one eyebrow, newly pierced, smirking again.

"What, you think all we do is prance around at halftime shows, playing half-assed bastardizations of the fight chant during football games?" The redhead teased, nudging Demyx in the shoulder as they set off towards the school doors.

Demyx didn't respond, not entirely sure how to say yeah, actually, that's exactly what he thought. Axel laughed anyway.

"Dude, Field Band is a heavily competitive activity. Pretty much every weekend from the end of August until November we compete against dozens of other bands from the surrounding areas, fighting for every tenth of a point towards the upper hand. We've been second in the region for the last three years," Axel boasted, slinging one arm over Demyx' shoulder, "but this year, we're going to reign supreme."

He released Demyx with the same speed with which he'd grabbed him, envy-green eyes sparking as he caught sight of a new target.

"How could we not," the redhead crowed, now flinging his skinny arm around a cringing blond, "under the direction of our brilliant new drum major, Roxas Strife himself? How excited are you, Roxy, to be drum major? Maybe when you're up on that podium you'll finally be eye level with everyone else in the band!"

Roxas, admittedly shorter than most fifteen-year-old boys, scowled so fiercely that Demyx was pretty sure that Axel, despite being nearly a foot taller, was mere seconds away from getting his ass handed to him. The blond elbowed his redhaired leech in the ribs, snickering at the over-exaggerated exhalation of breath as Axel rubbed his side with his free hand, one arm still firmly clamped around Roxas' shoulders.

"What I am most excited for, freak, is the license to punish the ever-loving shit out of you whenever you so much as slightly irk me."

Axel grinned, catching Demyx' amused gaze over Roxas' head and winking, simultaneously ruffling the smaller blond's carefully constructed spikes as he removed his arm from around his shoulders.

"Kinky, Rox, very kinky." He purred. Roxas narrowed his eyes, glaring at the redhead, but Demyx was certain he saw the corner of Roxas' lips twitch in what looked suspiciously like a barely supressed smile. He stalked off without answering, storming up the ramp into the band room, oblivious to the malachite green eyes following the stiff line of his shoulders. Interesting.

"Come on, Axel, are you finally going to share your new toy with the rest of the class, or are you going to keep hogging him all to yourself?"

Demyx blinked at the new voice, turning his attention from Roxas' retreating figure to the newcomer on his right. His tone was mocking, but the face partly obscured by long, impossibly silver bangs was friendly, teasing, smiling at Demyx despite standing with his arms crossed over his chest. Riku something-or-another, he hung out with Naminé's friend Kairi sometimes, notorious for his contradictory bad-assery and his smarmy charm, strikingly similar to Axel in both style and demeanor; Demyx was slightly miffed that he hadn't managed to make the connection between the two seniors before.

"Quit your bitching, drama queen," Axel snarked good-naturedly, finally ripping his eyes away from the drum major. "Dem, this is Riku, one of my best friends. Riku, this is Demyx, my protégé. Play nice."

"I'm always nice," Riku protested, reaching one fist forward, bumping it against Demyx' own extended hand. The blond's eyes lingered for a minute on the taller boy's fist, catching sight of the beaten pair of drumsticks clutched between pale fingers.

"Drumline?" He asked, nodding at the sticks. Riku grinned, flipping one effortlessly over the back of his knuckles, rolling it through the same repetition over and over with little flicks of his wrist and fingers.

"Section leader," he confirmed, "you know anyone else on the line?"

"N-not really." Axel's gaze fell on Demyx' face as the blond faltered slightly, stumbling over his words. Sea-green eyes pointedly avoided the redhead's stare, missing the contemplative look in the green eyes. Riku glanced between them both with a smirk, aquamarine eyes glinting as though he understood something no one else in the hallway did.

"Yo, meeting's starting!" Someone called from the band room doorway. Riku nodded once in acknowledgement, catching his flashing stick back in the palm of his hand as he nudged Demyx forward.

"Make this kid bring you to Sora's tonight, I'll introduce you to everyone you need to know. Besides, you'll need the incentive to get through this meeting."

Practice ran almost exactly as Axel had predicted, focused almost entirely on orienting the newest band members. Demyx lost interest some time around the seventh staff member introduction, teal eyes wandering lazily around the room as Assistant Drill Instructor #3, whose only main purpose seemed to be to complete the package set of alumni teching the band for the summer, droned on about something long-winded and useless.

Despite the fact that nobody was playing, the band had settled themselves into their appropriate sections of the band room, flutes and clarinets up front, percussion along the back wall, brass scattering the outer arcs. The colorguard lounged casually on the steps leading to the instrument closets, Naminé and Kairi grinning cheekily at him when he made the mistake of glancing at them. Demyx kept his sweeping gaze casual, forcing himself to appear calm, but he couldn't help the involuntary freezing of every fiber of his being when his eyes finally landed on a head of charcoal gray hair leaning back against the window sill.

The messy bangs hanging in the boy's face obscured most of Demyx' view of him, but it was unmistakably the same drummer Demyx had seen back in May, the same boy who apparently inspired life-altering impulse decisions in the blond in question. He lounged against the wall with the casual air of one totally at ease in their surroundings, arms loosely folded over his chest, legs extended out in front of him.

Axel cleared his throat.

Demyx jumped nearly a foot out of his seat, cheeks burning brighter than Axel's hair as he tore his eyes away from the drumline, turning instead towards the general direction of his friend's shoulder. Even without looking him in the face Demyx could see the wolfish grin on Axel had plastered on. His face, if possible, turned redder.

"That's Zexion," Axel hissed at him, still smirking. "He's a junior, obviously on drumline, solidly asexual, as far as anyone's been able to tell. Drumline's got more gay boys than the rest of the band put together, though, so I'd say you have a passable chance."

"More of less of a chance than you have with Roxas?" Demyx shot back, recovering from his momentary shock. Axel's face went slack, only his eyebrows moving as they shot up in surprise. Demyx grinned.

"You're not exactly discrete, Axe. Pretty sure if Roxas had pigtails you'd be dipping the ends of them in inkwells." Axel frowned contemplatively, head cocked slightly to the side. He licked his lips, parted them slowly, but was saved from answering by the very boy in question.

"Axel, since you so obviously love to talk so much, why don't you introduce the video for us." Roxas' mouth was drawn in a tight line, frowning not at Axel, but at Demyx, who flushed under the cold blue stare. On his right Axel fumbled just for a second before plastering his usual cocksure grin on his face, pink cheeks the only sign that he'd been flustered.

"With pleasure, my dear drum major sir." Someone snickered, Roxas lips were nearly white with the pressure of how hard he was frowning. "Last year the Hollow Bastion High School Heartless Marching Band graced the fields of the Coliseum with a truly killer performance of The Divine Comedy, based on Dante's epic tale of the same name. The band and guard braved the depths of the Inferno, clawed through to the limbo of Purgatorio, and eventually came out on top of Paradisio. We fought hard against some worthy contenders, including the Marching Lions of the Pride Lands and the Experimental Band of Deep Space, but ultimately fell two tenths of a point short of the championship title. For your viewing pleasure, I give you the Heartless Marching Band in their Championship performance of The Divine Comedy."

The explosion of hoots and cheers as Axel finished with a flourish redirected Roxas' frown from Demyx to Axel, who flashed the scowling blond a cheeky grin before settling back in his chair. Roxas didn't say a word as Sora, his twin and fellow drum major, leaned over to whisper something that made the short-tempered blond blush scarlet. Most of the band had turned their attention to the mellophone solo opening the show on the projection screen before them, but Demyx caught sight of Sora winking at someone in the back of the room, lips curled in a barely suppressed smirk.

The rest of the meeting passed without incident, mostly just Axel muttering commentary to Demyx while Roxas' scowl grew deeper and deeper as he glared at the pair of them. He didn't try to call either of them out again though, waiting until Cid, the band director, had dismissed them before grabbing Axel by the elbow and hauling him from the room. The redhead flashed an amused grin over his shoulder at Demyx, who stood shaking his sandy blond hair at the pair of them.

"Most of the band has a bet going," Riku appeared at Demyx' shoulder, watching the lopsided pair as Roxas manhandled Axel into one of the practice rooms, "over how and when Roxas is finally going to snap. The fan favorite theory is that Roxas is going to lose his shit one day and rip every single piercing off Axel's body."

Demyx shuddered at the thought, having no trouble at all imagining the diminutive blond yanking the studded silver from Axel's various appendages.

"And where's your bet?" He asked, pulling his gaze away from the closed practice room door and turning to face Riku. The silver-haired boy smirked, but was interrupted by the arrival of a third voice before he could elaborate.

"Well. I'm betting on a kiss, initiated by Roxas, mid argument, before this year's championships. Riku thinks I'm a nut job and bet against me." Sora grinned at Demyx as he reached them, nudging Riku's hip with his own as he grinned at the pair. "You're Demyx, right? I'm Sora, it's nice to finally meet you."

Demyx returned the smile and the greeting easily, leaning forward to shake the brunet's hand. The blue eyes sparkling at him were the exact same shade as Roxas', though the friendly gleam made Sora's eyes seem lighter than Roxas' ice cold stare. Movement over Sora's shoulder caught Demyx' attention, and he watched as the practice room door swung open, Roxas' looking only slightly appeased, Axel's smirk broad and triumphant.

"I think I'm with Sora on this one," Demyx said slowly, watching the way Roxas pointedly avoiding coming anywhere near them, snaking through chairs and music stands rather than cross their paths. "Axel doesn't strike me as someone to give up easily."

"What was that about?" Riku asked Axel the second the redhead was close enough, raised eyebrows disappearing under his silver fringe.

"Nothing," Axel scoffed, waving a hand casually, "he's just being a little bitch today."

"He was fine until you showed up," Sora teased, "you just have that effect on people."

Axel grinned, clearly taking the comment as a compliment. Sora laughed.

"So, diner?" Axel asked, slinging an arm over Demyx' shoulder as he grabbed his trumpet case with his free hand, "we go to Organization, that diner on the corner of 8th and 13th, after more or less every practice. It's practically sacred ritual."

"Oh shit, did I forget to say something?" Sora asked Riku, frowning when the taller boy nodded. The brunet hopped up on the chair next to him, clearing his throat before shouting over the din, "YO, POOL PARTY AT ME AND ROX' TONIGHT."

"Summer rehearsals are about two things," Sora told Demyx, using Riku's shoulder for balance as he jumped back down off the chair, "after practice diner runs, and pool parties. See you guys there!" He scrambled off, climbing through the forest of stands and chairs, pausing frequently to write his address on various scraps of paper people handed him. Axel grinned.

"Come on, kid, time to meet the band."

For a party that had been announced half an hour before it was due to start, Demyx was pretty impressed by the turn out. A solid 75% of the band appeared in Sora and Roxas' backyard, filling the pool and the surrounding patio in large, loud groups of people. Axel weaved his way through the crowd dragging Demyx along behind him, approaching each and every group, all of whom greeted him like a long lost best friend, and introducing Demyx to the lot of them.

"Look at you," Naminé teased, leaning into her older brother as a group of colorguard girls giggled manically at something Axel was telling them, "first you join the band, now you're actually willing to be seen with them in public!"

"And yet, I'm still unwilling to acknowledge you as my sister," Demyx shot back, tickling her side with the hand he had wrapped around her waist. "Kairi, on the other hand…now she's a lot cooler than you." He nodded over to her best friend, lounging on the side of the pool with Sora, both of whom were laughing as they attempted to dodge the splash from Riku's cannonball.

"Who are you and why are you making fun of my freshman?"

Demyx glanced to his side, where a blond girl he vaguely remembered being introduced as the colorguard captain stood with her hands on her hips, eyebrow raised as she stared down Demyx.

"Larxene, this is my obnoxious big brother, Demyx," Naminé poked him in the ribs, giggling when Demyx squirmed. "Dem, this is Larxene."

"You're Axel's friend, aren't you?" Demyx nodded slowly. He had the distinct impression, based primarily on the way Larxene's voice likened being Axel's friend to being a very ugly toad, that this was not a good thing. "Well, tell him to stay the hell away from my guard, the good-for-nothing manwhore."

"Ah Larxene, I knew I heard my name," Axel appeared at Demyx' free arm, green eyes sharp as he glanced down at the blond girl. "C'mon Dem, I haven't thrown Roxas in the pool yet, and you still haven't met the rest of the drumline. Later, Larx." He laced his arm through Demyx' and all but dragged the other boy away, bee-lining for the opposite side of the backyard.

"Don't mind her," he muttered as soon as they were a safe distance away, though Demyx was pretty sure he could still feel Larxene glaring daggers at the backs of their heads, "she kinda had a huge thing for me last year and, well, the girl really doesn't handle rejection well."

"You marching band people and your relationships fascinate me," Demyx teased. "Is there some kind of rule that you must create some kind of soap-opera romance-drama with another member of the band at least once a season?"

"Isn't that why you joined?" Axel retorted, smirking. "Come on, drumline time. Smile pretty for me."

The drumline, minus Riku, sat grouped around one of the picnic tables, the surface of which was littered with pock-marks and dents, as though the entire line regularly used the table as a giant practice pad. Roxas sat cross-legged at the head, laughing at something one of the guys on his left had just said, lazily twirling a drumstick between two fingers.

"I don't think Roxas likes me very much." Demyx protested, eyeing the blond they were quickly approaching. He noticed their arrival with a single raised eyebrow, giving them a once-over with a lordly sort of appraisal.

"Don't worry about Rox." Axel hissed, waving one hand dismissively. "He's just nervous about being drum major. It means a lot to him, he doesn't want to screw it up." The redhead cleared his throat and aimed his next comment towards the picnic table, raising his voice.

"We request an audience with your royal highness," apparently Axel had noticed the regal atmosphere sounding Roxas' too, snickering as he bowed low from the foot of the table. "I want to introduce everyone to Demyx."

"We've met," Roxas said, eyes narrowed, though his tone expressed boredom. Demyx frowned, shooting Axel a very pointed 'told you' look. Axel ignored him.

"Yes, well, last time I checked you weren't on the drumline anymore, Rox, and even when you were you definitely weren't the only drummer." There was just a hint of something chastising in Axel's tone, something that Roxas apparently noticed too. He frowned, but didn't say anything.

"Anyway, to the rest of you, this is Demyx, he's the newest member of the trumpet section. Demyx, this is the drumline." He started at the base of the table, pointing from person to person, each one nodding at Demyx in acknowledgment, "Leon and Lexaeus play the quads, Pence, Tidus, and various freshmen I don't know on bass, and Hayner and Zexion on snare with Riku."

Demyx' eyes lingered for just a split second too long on Zexion, who met the blond's gaze with the pale blue eye not hidden under his bangs, nodding once before returning his attention to the binder on the table in front of him. It looked like sheet music, but nothing like any Demyx had ever seen before. The musician in him forgot to be embarrassed as he studied the page with interest, oblivious to Axel's amused snort next to him, until something heavy and soaking wet suddenly latched itself to his shoulder.

"So Axel threw you to the wolves, huh?" Riku grinned, shaking his wet hair in Demyx' face and laughing as it sprayed all over the table. "Whoops, sorry Zex. It must be a sign that you should put the damn book away and come party."

Zexion frowned at him, wiping the water droplets from the plastic page protectors with long, delicate fingers, but didn't say anything. Riku sighed.

"They're notoriously anti-social," he told Demyx casually, ignoring the spluttering protest from Roxas' side of the table

"Especially with Captain Emo over there," Axel agreed, nodding at Roxas as though the boy wasn't sitting three feet away from them.

"But they're good fun once you convince them to put down their drumsticks and actually let loose a little," Riku protested, flicking water at Tidus, who looked entirely nonplussed. Riku let out another sigh. "That's it." He cleared his throat, waiting until all eyes were, somewhat begrudgingly, focused on him. "First person to get Roxas in the pool is exempt from polish duty for the rest of the month."

The result was instantaneous. Demyx didn't know what polish duty was, but from the way Roxas' eyes grew wide and the way nearly the entire line dove for him almost simultaneously, Demyx could imagine it was something fairly awful. Roxas leapt from the table like it had suddenly burst into flames, bolting across the backyard with a stream of drummers chasing after him, hurried along by cheers and catcalls from the surrounding band.

Zexion, Riku, and Demyx were left standing alone at the suddenly deserted table, Riku doubled in half with gut-wrenching laughter as he watched Roxas dart around the pool, barely managing to avoid being grabbed by Lexaeus as he sidestepped around a group of wide-eyed freshman. He shot Riku a murderous look as he blew passed them, flinging his cell phone and wallet at Demyx as Hayner gained on him.

"Is it always like this?" Demyx asked Zexion, dropping the contents of Roxas' pockets onto the picnic table. Zexion raised an eyebrow at him, the corner of his lip just barely lifted in the hint of a smirk. Demyx took that as a yes.

"Watch!" Riku grabbed his arm, pointing across the pool, where Roxas was sprinting back and forth like a baseball player stuck in a pickle, Hayner at one corner of the pool, Tidus at the other. The blond turned on his heel, clearly in an attempt to run straight down the middle, away from the pool, when he was suddenly airborne, tackled backwards by a blur of black and red that could only be one person.

Axel and Roxas hit the pool with a splash as a great cheer went up through the crowd, laughter and applause and the flashes of several cameras going off as they both resurfaced, Roxas spluttering like a wet cat, Axel laughing. Riku hit the ground next to Demyx with a dull thud, hysterical laughter bubbling from his lips, and even Zexion seemed to be snickering silently, eyes flickering between his section leader and the drum major.

"The only person that I hate more than you," Roxas snarled, stalking towards the still cackling Riku, "is him." He jerked a thumb in Axel's direction, the dripping wet redhead laughing as he slung an arm over Roxas' drenched shoulders. Riku and Axel just kept laughing, completely disregarding anything Roxas said to them. Demyx glanced at the smaller blond, waiting for the scowling drum major from earlier to return, and was utterly shocked to see a grin slowly spreading over Roxas' face, rolling his eyes as he elbowed the redhead playfully in the ribs, leaning forward to shake his wet hair in Riku's face. Demyx watched, utterly fascinated, as Roxas gave in and started laughing too. He was fairly certain that in the two months he'd virtually taken up residence in the band room, and the two years previous he'd had various classes with Roxas, he had never once seen the blond crack a smile like that.

"Seriously, I hate you," Roxas reiterated, nudging the silver-haired drummer's shoulder with his hip, "go do something productive with your life."

"Like what, your brother?" Axel shot back, grinning. Riku burst out in a fresh wave of laughter, volume nearly doubling as he caught sight of look on Roxas' suddenly slack face.

"Dude, Axel? Run."

And the chase started all over again, Axel barreling through the crowd as Roxas pelted after him, Riku doubled over on the ground laughing, Demyx standing utterly bemused as he watched, Zexion still sitting silently at the table. The sandy haired blond glanced down at the boy with his chin in his hands, surprised to see the single blue eye watching him from beneath the gray hair.

"Welcome to the band."

And Demyx, sea-green eyes wide as Axel and Roxas streaked past, Sora barreling towards them and collapsing in a heap next to Riku, could only nod.

Summer passed faster than Demyx ever would have imagined, most of his days dedicated in some way or another to marching band, whether it was attending rehearsals, practicing daily to make sure his playing was up to par with the significantly more experienced brass section, or hanging out with Axel and his friends.

Axel's friends, who Demyx supposed were really becoming his friends now too, were still something of a mystery to the blond musician. The group, which had taken Demyx a solid three weeks to figure out, seemed to consist of Axel, Riku, Sora, and Roxas, at the core, with a select group of optional additions lingering on the periphery, all of whom seemed to be friends with only pieces of the group, never the whole. Roxas usually spent most of his down time at practice with the drumline, particularly Hayner and Pence, while Sora and Riku hung out with, of all people, Kairi, despite the fairly substantial age gap. Demyx assumed he was filling the role of Axel's exterior friend, although Riku and Sora seemed to like him well enough too. Roxas didn't appear to want anything to do with him.

Riku and Sora, Demyx realized after the first week of summer, were definitely more than friends, though whether or not that was common knowledge wasn't really clear to the blond. Their friends certainly knew, nor did they particularly seem to care, but the subject was never formally addressed, and Demyx wasn't going to ask. He liked them, both as a couple and as people he could be friends with, and he was content to leave the status quo as is. Roxas, on the other hand…

Axel continued to antagonize the shit out of Roxas nearly every time they were together, whether it be rehearsal or lounging around Roxas' and Sora's backyard or post-practice trips to the diner, and Roxas continued to rip him apart in response, but there was something Demyx was missing between them. Axel and Riku were obviously really close, and he supposed that as twins, Sora and Roxas were too, so Demyx assumed that Roxas and Axel were friends by association, tolerating each other for the sake of their mutual associations, but that still never seemed quite right to him. He hadn't brought it up since the first day of summer rehearsals, but he knew there was something more than a penchant for being an antagonistic bastard in the way Axel singularly targeted Roxas.

He finally caved and asked Axel after a particularly long practice, during which Roxas was exponentially more short-tempered than usual, despite the fact that Axel was unusually well behaved that evening. Axel raised an eyebrow at the blond when he asked what was wrong with the drum major, scratching at the red hair on the nape of his neck as they walked to Axel's car.

"It's…nothing, we just…got in a little fight before practice started."

Demyx had noticed that, had seen the way Axel shouldered Roxas into the corridor outside the band room, the harsh gesticulations and the daggers in Roxas' eyes, the pointedly cold expression on both of their faces as they stalked away from each other, Roxas to the confines of the drum closet, Axel back over to where Demyx and Sora sat.

"No offense, Axe, but you guys fight literally every single day." Demyx reminded him. The opportunity to understand more about their relationship was too tempting to pass up, and from the icy glares Demyx had been getting from Roxas all evening, he was pretty sure he needed to understand Axel and Roxas better than he currently did, preferably before Roxas bit his head off.

"Yeah, well, today was real." Axel sighed as he unlocked his car, throwing his precious trumped unceremoniously into the back seat before flinging himself into the driver's seat, slamming the door slightly louder than necessary. "Roxas is pissed that you and I are rooming together for band camp."

Huh? "Aren't the rooms quads? Like eight of us are rooming together, I thought Roxas was one of them."

"He is," Axel frowned, knuckles white on the steering wheel, "but you and I are in the same room, he's rooming with Hayner in another double in the same quad."

"I still don't get it. Since when are you guys so close that he's mad that you're rooming with someone else?"

Axel looked surprised, then amused, glancing over at Demyx quickly before turning his attention back to the road in front of them.

"Roxas and I have been best friends since I was four. You didn't know that?"

Demyx head reeled, staring at the redhead in the driver's seat as he attempted to process this new piece of information. Axel and Roxas were best friends? No way. Axel and Riku he could believe, the two were like bread and butter, hot chocolate and marshmallows, two halves of a pair, but Axel and Roxas?

"Best friends? Like, best friends best friends?"

"Ever notice the scar on Roxas' jaw?" The apparent non-sequitor threw Demyx for a loop. Frowning, he nodded slowly. He had, in fact, noticed the small white scar marring the side of Roxas' face, level with his mouth on the left edge of his jaw.

"Last year when Larxene was on her pro-Axel campaign her ex-boyfriend Marluxia –"

"Marluxia? Pink haired President of the Garden Club Marluxia? He's straight?" This car ride was clearly becoming too much for Demyx to handle. There's no way the most flamboyant boy in the senior class was not only straight, but had dated a real, live, actual girl.

"Walked in on him and Larx in the guard closet one time…the guy can definitely get it up for girls. Ew. Anyway. Word around the band was that Larxene had dumped him because she got bored with him, and was moving on to, well, to me, and he wasn't too happy about it. Tried to fight me, the girly bastard." Axel snorted in disgust, glancing over at Demyx as he slowed the car to a stop at a red light. Demyx looked properly overwhelmed.

"And this is somehow related to Roxas' scarred jaw?"

"Well," the corner of Axel's lip was lifted in a surprisingly soft smile, as though remembering a truly fond memory. "Like I said, he tried to fight me. We casually exchanged a few words, but I wasn't in the mood to fight for a girl I didn't even want, so I tried to leave. Marluxia took a swing."

Demyx vaguely remembered hearing about this last fall, something about Marluxia causing a scene outside Organization, some drama that was dismissed as 'band geek drama over some chick.' If he remembered correctly, and if the rumors were true, Marluxia had started the fight, but got the ever-loving shit kicked out of him by…Roxas.

"Yeah." Axel nodded, watching Demyx' piece the rumors together out of the corner of his eye. "He probably would have floored me if he'd landed that hit, but Rox took the brunt of it instead. The scar's from where Marluxia's class ring hit Roxas' jaw." Axel let out an amused snort. "It was the only hit he landed, the fucking pink-haired freak."

"But…" Demyx trailed off, mouth fumbling for the right words to express his disbelief. Axel chuckled.

"Roxas has been nothing but a pain in the ass douchebag with a stick up his ass all summer?" Axel still sounded amused.

"Well…yeah. I mean, no offense, but I really don't understand why the fuck you're friends with him."

"You…you've only really gotten to see him at his worst. I swear, when he's not in the stupid funk he's a really great guy. Roxas' and Sora's house is back to back with my old house. They moved in when I was four, Roxas and I hit it off instantly, were completely inseparable for most of elementary school and middle school."

"So what the hell happened?" For the first time in his life, Demyx felt he could use the word flabbergasted to accurately describe his current state. Axel shrugged.

"Freshman year I went to Hollow Bastion, and it was the first time Roxas and I weren't in the same school together. I joined the band, started hanging out with other people in high school, Riku in particular, and, well, Rox didn't really like that very much."

"But you guys are all friends now. And Roxas doesn't seem to have a problem with Riku at all." Demyx' brain was finally catching up, and he didn't like the math he was doing. Roxas and Axel were best friends, but Roxas had been nothing but a snarky little bitch for as long as Demyx had…oh. Axel watched the realization cross Demyx' face with a frown, nodding slightly.

"It got better once Sora and Roxas were freshmen and Sora and Riku became a kind of package deal. It's a lot easier to balance a group of four than a group of three."

"Or a group of five."

Axel nodded. Demyx' frown deepened, contemplative as he attempted to reason through Roxas' logic.

"I wouldn't mind rooming with someone else," he finally offered. He had absolutely no idea who, he wasn't really friends with anyone other than Axel, Riku, and Sora, but he could probably find someone. Maybe one of the other trumpet players or something. Axel just laughed.

"If I wanted to room with Roxas, Dem, I would have." Axel caught sight of the confused look on Demyx' face and continued. "It might not be a bad idea to put some distance between us for a little while."

And Demyx heard what Axel didn't say, heard that it was Axel, really, who needed a little distance from Roxas right now, and understood that he was finally hearing the confirmation he'd been waiting for since their very first rehearsal.

"Does he know?"

Axel laughed again, but it was the self-deprecating kind, the kind reserved exclusively for those who knew all too well how bitterly pathetic and hopeless their situation was. He shook his head slowly, glancing sideways towards the passenger seat.

"I've seen Roxas watch hardcore porn without so much as turning a little red. He's hot as fuck, this emo little skater badass with a superiority complex and an asshole streak that runs a mile wide…guys and girls alike throw themselves at him, and he just brushes them off like they're annoying little bugs. Dude, I've never met a high school boy who's so wholly unaffected by sex. I'm pretty sure I could tattoo his name on my ass and do a strip tease for him and he'd just tell me to stop being a dick and put some clothes on."

Demyx laughed, pointedly avoiding the mental image of Axel doing a strip anything, focusing instead on the diner they were finally approaching. "Picked a pair of winners, didn't we Axe?"

"At least you get the occasional blush out of Zexion," Axel snorted, cutting the wheel and pulling slowly into the parking lot, pulling up next to Riku's car. He glanced again at Demyx' face, laughing at the blond's dumbstruck expression. "Never noticed, did you? I guess not, you always look away the second he catches you looking at him. But I'll tell you what, Dem, every single time he catches you, he always starts blushing. It's precious."

Smirking at the way Demyx was now mouthing wordlessly at him, Axel flung his door open and climbed out of the car, ignoring the gaping blond in favor of some insult or another Riku hurled at him, something about driving like an old lady. Axel snarked back, laughing, before banging once on Demyx' door, snickering as the boy jumped in shock.

Demyx wedged himself into the booth between Riku and Roxas, who seemed to have decided that sitting as far away from Axel as possible was more imperative than distancing himself from Demyx. Zexion blushed when he caught Demyx staring at him? Why? They barely even talked all summer, the occasional sentence or two at parties here and there, a nod of acknowledgment when they passed each other in the hallway outside the band room, but nothing substantial, nothing flirty, nothing even remotely suggestive. Had Zexion caught Demyx' eyes on him one too many times? Was he uncomfortable? Embarrassed? What did that mean for him? When did he become such a fucking girl?

"Can I ask you something?"

The words hissed in ear made Demyx jump slightly, blinking twice as he glanced at Roxas out of the corner of his eye. The rest of the table was engaged in some story Axel was telling them, complete with wildly exaggerated gestures and different character voices, and Roxas was the only person who could possibly have reached Demyx' right ear, but why the hell would he be talking to the blond he so obviously didn't like? Demyx nodded slowly, curiosity getting the better of him, keeping his eyes on Axel's gesticulating hands as Roxas shifted closer to him on the bench, breath hot against his ear.

"Are you and Axel…"

Discretion be damned, Demyx turned fully to face Roxas, his face no doubt reflecting the incredulous feeling his mind was attempting to comprehend. Was Roxas seriously asking if he and Axel were dating?

"No." He said firmly, aquamarine eyes firmly glued on Roxas' own baby blues. "Definitely not."

Nobody but Demyx would have seen it, not unless they were scrutinizing Roxas as intensely as Demyx himself was, but the barely noticeable droop of Roxas' shoulders as he let out a small breath spoke volumes to Demyx.

Maybe their stoic, asexual bastards weren't quite as asexual as he and Axel thought.

Were/are you in Marching Band? Was/is it a pep band or a competition band? Did you have a Marching Band romance? Tell me about it, stud ;) see you at Band Camp next Sunday!