Axel and Roxas became inseparable, and although the blond didn't really have any choice in the matter, he found that he enjoyed the redhead's attention. He had imagined himself managing to fit in with a small group of friends, them allowing him to join them at lunch and inviting him out after school until it was like they had always been together. But, Axel lavished enough attention on him to make up the attention of at least four other people. The redhead met him on the way to school, in between classes and spent the intervening hours between the end of school and the start of Roxas' job with the boy. They ate lunch with Axel's gang. That was the only way to describe them. Everyone was slightly nervous of the 'Organization' but Roxas found nothing scary about the group of nine males and one female. Yes, they all wore the long leather coats that Axel did and many of them had odd hairstyles and could get quite loud and violent if they had a disagreement, but they were nice to him and didn't resent the time Axel spent with him. Roxas, after a while of feeling confused by the redhead, began to relax. He started off flinching away from Axel when the older boy touched him; the buzzing feeling that filled him at a simple brush of fingers against Roxas' skin was bewildering and made him nervous. However, as Axel patiently persisted, Roxas' began to look forward to his friend's occasional affectionate gestures. A hug when they met and parted, fingers sifting comfortingly through his hair. It all made Roxas feel cherished and wanted, something he'd longed for, for such a long time. His only concerns were the fact that no one else seemed to act the way he and Axel did. None of the other boys spent so much time solely in each other's company, nor did they appear to hug. But Roxas was unwilling to lose the warmth Axel supplied him with and tried to ignore his worries. Axel was thrilled that Roxas had accepted him so quickly. He had known Roxas, well he'd known of Roxas, for years now, listening to Cloud talk about his boyfriend's son and feeling sorry for the boy who had never had a proper home or family. And now he was getting to know him properly, learning that he was deadly afraid of things that buzzed as they flew but had a soft spot for spiders (because they ate the buzzy flying creepy crawlies). He knew Roxas' favourite colour did not exist, that he liked black and white, together, always together. Ying yang's, checkerboard, abstract patterns, black and white entwining. Axel knew that Roxas was the friend he'd hoped he would be, and maybe, in the future, could be more.
The only other time that the Organization members, minus Larxene, would all gather together was at gym. Roxas was uncomfortable when surrounded by all the taller, more muscular boys and had convinced Axel to let him get changed apart from the group, alone. The changing rooms was split up into alcoves framed by lockers, Roxas changed in whichever alcove he could find that had the least amount of people in it. He felt rather shy and nervous around the other guys wandering around in various levels of undress, including wearing only a towel about their waist. Roxas was getting changed after gym one day, alone for once, and contemplating his new best friend. He was beginning to feel slightly confused by their level of ... closeness. From what he had observed in other people at school, he and Axel behaved more like the couples dating than they did simple best friends. Though Axel never invited Roxas over to his house, the pair went out most weekends when their work didn't get in the way. Thinking about Axel and work made Roxas wonder why the older boy always skirted around the topic of where he worked. Perhaps it was something embarrassing... This thought process was cut off as Axel's gang fell quiet. They'd been shouting and laughing raucously nearly the entire time they'd been changing, the sudden quiet was at first relaxing, until the boy tuned into their conversation. Xaldin asked about what he should prepare for someone's surprise birthday party and Roxas froze when he heard, "So, Ax, can you ask Cloud to write up a list of some of Leon's favourite foods?" Blue eyes widening, Roxas scuttled into a hidden corner in case someone spotted him standing open mouthed in the middle of the room. Axel knew his father and Cloud? Why had he not told him? Roxas bit his bottom lip; admittedly, he never had mentioned Leon, but still -
"Yeah, sure thing Xaldy." Axel's cheerful voice chimed. Next, Marluxia, a guy freakishly obsessed with flowers, piped up.
"So, are you gunna invite little Roxie?" he asked.
"Uhm...no. I don't want Roxas to know anything about me living with Leon and Cloud." Hearing this, Roxas' eyes filled with tears and he dashed out of the changing rooms unnoticed by Axel and his friends. "I think it's too soon. Leon said that Zexion thought the kid ran off when he happened to mention me by accident. It must have been hard for him to find out that his dad had adopted some random kid. Roxas doesn't know anything about me, or the fact that Leon's been fighting for custody. I want Rox to ... trust me, I guess, before he meets his dad. Leon thinks it's for the best too, and Roxas is quite safe in Aerith's apartment building, she's keeping a close eye on him when I can't."
Roxas was heartbroken at first. The only real friend he'd ever made happened to be his replacement. He'd thought Axel liked him, but it appeared that the redhead was simply trying to keep him away from Leon. Which would explain the obsessive walking him to and from school, the meeting up every weekend they could. And, of course, Axel would be working with Leon and the Restoration Committee. They had probably all laughed at Roxas' expense, amused that the boy had willing accepted Axel's false friendship. The Organization members were probably all in on the big joke too. Roxas moped around for a few days, avoiding Axel where ever possible and feigning illness whenever he thought he could get away with it, taking time off school and work. After he was through sulking, Roxas just felt angry. Leon was his father, not Axel's. How could the boy even think he had the right to keep them separated? How could Leon agree to the plan? Had he concocted the scheme or did her really not know about it? The redhead soon picked up on the little blonde's unusual behaviour but his persistent wheedling only got him a smack to the face, a growled 'shut up Axel' and a fuming Roxas stomping off at high speeds. He was confused and hurt by his friend's behaviour, Axel was almost positive that he hadn't done anything to warrant this treatment. Roxas grew moodier and more violent by the day; Aerith even received complaints from her customers about the boy's snappish attitude and muttered rude remarks. It didn't take long for Aerith to find herself nervous around the boy's negative energy. When she hesitantly asked him if everything was OK, the boy snarled something at her before, eyes widening, he burst into tears and collapsed into her embrace. Startled by the sudden change in temperament, Aerith squeezed him reassuringly and sent him into the little back room off the kitchen which held a squishy couch, old CD player and a wardrobe for their work uniforms. Hurrying to phone Axel and let him know Roxas may tell her what was bothering him, the woman turned the 'open' sign to 'closed' and went to talk to her unhappy employee. Sitting beside the sobbing teen, Aerith held her arms out to him and smiled softly when he wrapped his own arms about her waist, cuddled in against her warmth and sobbed against her shoulder. Roxas hadn't done this in a long time, be held by a motherly figure, although Aerith was not really old enough to be his mum, she exuded that kind of warm motherliness a few women seemed to have instinctively. After ten minutes of him crying and Aerith making gentle hushing sounds whilst running her fingers through his hair, Roxas calmed down enough to manage talking coherently.
"Roxas, sweetie, what's wrong?" Aerith asked softly, still running soothing circles across his scalp, the motions beginning to make the boy's eyelids droop. With a heavy sigh, Roxas chose to confess in the motherly woman.
"No one wants me." He said, then, realising how childish that sounded, tried to elaborate. "My family hasn't once tried to contact me since I left, nor have my...friends..." Roxas didn't know how else to describe Zexion and Vexen. "I've come all this way and haven't been brave enough to do what I originally intended. I managed to make a friend, well, what I thought was a friend, and then I find out that he's just trying to keep me away from someone. He doesn't like me at all and, I really liked him. A lot. I should never have come here, I might as well go somewhere new, where it doesn't rain so much, where I can start out fresh and leave my past behind me. Find a girlfriend and settle down." The boy was still troubled by how close he and Axel had been, even though Axel had been pretending, the feelings had been real for Roxas.
"No, Roxas, don't do that." Aerith said softly, her voice masking a slight sound of distress coming from near the door.
"Why? No one would miss me." Roxas' voice was bitter.
"That's not true...I would." The pair in the room looked up to see Axel standing in the doorway, eyes distraught. Roxas gaped at him, speechless for a second.
"I'd miss you too Roxas." Aerith spoke again, voice soft and pleading. Roxas pulled away from her, ears deaf to her words, eyes blazing electric blue as they locked onto Axel.
"What do you mean, 'you'd miss me'!" the blond boy screeched. Axel flinched. "You pretended to be my friend. Axel, I thought you were my friend!" Roxas' voice became a wail but he fought back the tears that struggled to spring forth.
"I am your friend Roxas! What's all this about!" Axel's heart was thudding painfully in his chest; something felt like it was caught in his throat. His green eyes were wide with honestly and confusion, but Roxas was oblivious. The smaller boy leapt to his feet and pounded a fist into Axel's jaw.
"I TRUSTED YOU!" he screamed, tears now running unnoticed down his face. Aerith sat with her hands covering her mouth in shock, uncertain how to deal with what was going on. "I trusted you." Roxas' voice fell to a whimper as Axel wrapped his long arms around the small, trembling frame, ignoring the dull ache left by Roxas' blow.
"Rox, what did I do?" He asked, remorse making his words waver. The redhead was lost, he cared about Roxas so much, how could he have hurt him this badly and not notice? His words seemed to ignite the previously doused anger in Roxas as the boy beat his curled hands against Axel's chest.
"I thought you...I trusted you. I liked you. And all along, it was you!" Both Aerith and Axel were lost, but Roxas' voice continued on.
"You're the one who stole my family from me. You're the reason I came here. You're the reason I was too afraid to meet him. You're the one who didn't want me to become a part of your happy little family. He was mine first. Even if he didn't want me! First Cloud took him away from me, and then you did! Why am I not enough for him? Why does no one want me? My father didn't want me, my mother didn't; she killed herself to keep away. My family put up with me, but they never really wanted me. They were just trying to keep me away from 'sin', like me knowing my dad would turn me gay automatically, as if I would like girls so long as I didn't meet him. And then I met you, and I thought that for once someone really did want me! So I didn't get angry when no one else was brave enough to try to be my friend, because you were always there and you made me feel special. And then I find out that it's all just a way to keep my dad to yourself. You couldn't bear the thought of sharing him with me, of being my brother as well as my friend. So in the end, you don't want me either!" Roxas' voice transitioned through anger, hurt, childlike despair and finally just simple pain. He stood before Axel, whose arms had fallen to his sides in shock, head bowed and blue eyes glistening with tears.
"Rox..." Axel sighed. The younger boy took a few steps back, shaking his head but unable to speak. "I wasn't trying to keep you away from Leon. You should know, he's been fighting for custody for you for years now. He wants you so bad, he and Cloud only adopted me cos I'm Cloud's nephew. He's my only living family. I am your friend, I wanted to be your friend, and I always wanted a brother. But when I met you, I knew that you could never just be a brother to me." Axel wanted to tell Roxas that he meant so much more to him than even brotherly affection could explain, but he found he couldn't make the words form. Roxas' eyes turned up to flash accusingly at the elder boy who simply held up one finger, begging silence and tried to explain why he'd done as he had, in the hope that Roxas would still be around when he found he could tell the boy how he felt. "We thought that if you trusted me to be your friend, if we were close, it would be easier for you to settle in with us. None of us thought you knew that this is where Leon lives; after all, Radiant Gardens is the biggest city within a few hours train journey from Twilight Town. We thought it was luck, the first place you decided would work for you. I never thought that I'd see you at school, I couldn't believe that the boy I'd seen in photos for so long was suddenly standing, dripping wet, at my school." Axel gently reached out and took Roxas' hand into his own, smiling as the blond chuckled lightly at the reminder of their meeting and allowed the older boy to keep his hand held loosely. "It's Leon's birthday today. Cloud has organised a surprise party. D'ya wanna come?" Green eyes burned with sincerity as they met wavering blue and lit up with pure happiness at the hesitant nod Roxas offered. "Great! Let's get you home so you can wash and get changed. Meet you there Aerith, don't tell!" Axel swooped down to kiss the blushing woman's cheek and, still holding Roxas' hand, led the dazed boy out of the cafe.
Thirty five minutes later, the two boys stood in front of the restoration committee's building. The party had been in full swing for ten minutes by that point, but they weren't concerned about being late. "We had to hold it here 'cos Leon wouldn't leave the house on his birthday for anything but a work emergency. He'd have been suspicious of anything else." Axel snorted in amusement and wrapped his fingers around Roxas' once more. "You nervous?" he asked and received a slow nod in response. "You'll be fine. Leon might seem scary, but he's a big teddy bear underneath all his quiet grumpy lion exterior. And Cloud...well, he's kinda like you actually. I think you'll get along just fine." After watching Roxas eye the door like it was about to gnaw on his face at any given moment, Axel grinned. "You ready, kid?"
"Uhm..." before Roxas had even cut off his hesitant, thoughtful hum; Axel had smirked and swung the door open. A blare of sound rushed out of the building to wash over them, chased by a deep masculine shout aimed just loud enough to reach over the noise of the room.
"Axel, did you have anything to do with this?"
"No, Leon, this one is alllllll Cloud's. I just helped with..." Axel was cut off by what sounded very much like a snarl.
"What's he doing here?" Roxas gaped at the angry expression on his father's face and felt his last fragile bubble of hope shatter. Leon didn't want him after all. As Axel frowned at Leon, Roxas tugged his hand from Axel's grasp. The redhead turned to the boy, mouth already open to say something, to see the blond boy already haring off back the way they'd just come. Growling in frustration, fighting down the panic he felt, Axel shot a glare at Leon, slammed the door shut and sped off after Roxas. He just couldn't lose him, not after he'd just began to trust him again. It didn't take long for him to find the boy. Roxas was curled up under the shelter of a shop's doorway, head to knees as he cried. Axel knelt in front of him and pulled the boy to his chest.
"He didn't mean it Roxie." Axel said softly. Leon was known for his limited people skills, but Roxas hadn't been prepared for the result of shock. "He loves you; really, he was just, not expecting to see you." Oh, how Axel wanted to tag on an 'I love you too', but the words still refused to make it from his brain to his lips.
"He hates me." Roxas' voice was muffled against Axel's chest. He felt more secure in the redhead's arms than he had when Aerith had hugged him, but his heart was hurting so much in response to his father's reaction that he couldn't even feel it fluttering as it usually did when Axel touched him.
"No, he loves you Roxas. I...I ...lo...Please don't go." Axel stumbled over his words, unable to give his feelings voice and bit back a groan of frustration. He'd already felt close to Roxas when they first met, that closeness had quickly evolved into affection but he simply couldn't voice it.
"Nobody could love a nobody like me." Roxas said, shoving the redhead away viciously, curling even tighter into himself. He wanted to be loved. Even if it was by a boy. He didn't agree with his mother's family, there was nothing wrong with loving someone of the same sex, it didn't feel wrong to him.
"Then, I guess that makes me a nobody then." Axel heaved a sigh and turned to face away from the boy, disgusted at his pathetic attempt to tell Roxas he loved him. Before he'd taken three steps he felt a hesitant hand pull at his coat sleeve. Turning his head to one side, to hide his expression – half nervous, half hopeful grin - , Axel allowed one eye to peer down at the blond behind him. Roxas' face was contorted in confusion even as his glorious blue eyes shone with barely acknowledged hope and awe. He had barely even allowed himself to hope that Axel felt about him anything close to the way Roxas felt about Axel. His heart began its peculiar fluttering, Leon forgotten.
"A nobody?" he whispered, lips puckered oh-so-adorably in a pout not quite yet willing to transform into a smile. Axel sighed and spun around suddenly, scooping his little emo kid into a tight embrace and buried his cheek against the boy's soft spiky hair. His heart was doing a mad victory dance, yelling and screaming its joy at the hope in Roxas' expression. Surely that meant that...
"Or maybe, if you prefer – I know I do - it makes you a somebody." Axel said gently, feeling Roxas melt into his embrace and was finally unable to restrain himself. Tightening his reedy arms around the waif, Axel lifted him easily and spun them around in a dizzy circle, shining blue meeting joyous green, teeth flashing a mirror image of happiness as laughter escaped the two boys. No sound had ever expressed such euphoria. And then, no silence could ever be filled with such passion as the pair fell to the rain dampened ground in a dizzy tangle of limbs. Hungry lips sought each other, Roxas shy and awkward but willing and eager, Axel gentle and caring. A sigh escaped in bliss. Never had Roxas felt like this before, he felt like his heart was soaring, forget its previous fluttering. He had finally found somewhere he belonged. In Axel's arms. And it didn't matter anymore whether Leon wanted him or not. As long as he had Axel, Roxas would be just fine. "I love you Roxas." Axel finally whispered as their lips parted to draw breath. He was shocked that Roxas felt the same way. It felt unreal, not even an hour ago, Roxas had hated Axel's guts, and now they were kissing, declaring love and devotion. The blond boy eagerly pressed his lips back to Axel's, tongue hesitantly questing forth to trace the seam of the elder boy's lips. He let his moans of pleasure be his response as Axel's tongue met his own. Roxas didn't know much about relationships, he'd observed them and worried about his unusual friendship with Axel, but maybe it made sense. They'd behaved like a couple because, foolishly hidden from each other, they were harbouring feelings much stronger than friendship.
A harsh clearing of someone's throat forced the boys to pull back from each other, startled eyes seeking out the source of the sound. Amused grey eyes took in their dishevelled state, still laying on the ground, clothes rumpled and damp, hair mussed and lips swollen slightly from passionate kisses. Leon snorted. "Welcome home, kid." He said, grinning as Cloud slipped up beside him and wrapped his arm about his waist. Axel grinned at Roxas and pressed a final kiss to his lips before scrabbling to his feet and pulling the blond up after him. Roxas' eyes were wide, his cheeks flushed as he took in his father's expression. Simultaneously, Axel and Cloud nudged their counterpart forward. Without further encouragement, Leon and Roxas were embracing, the brunet muttering his many appologies as Roxas tried to soak up a lifetime of his father's affection. He felt like he was about to burst. From having no one, he now had a father and, if he dared think the word, a boyfriend. And Cloud too, in whichever capacity the taller blond wished to play in his life. As father and son broke apart, smiling at each other, the other two men stepped up beside them and together they walked back to the party. Roxas would soon find that he had quite a large, extended family in the restoration committee, all eager to enfold him into their midst. He felt like he was floating, but Axel's hand burning in his, fingers entwined, kept him anchored. The redhead didn't let him go as he was introduced to new people, names blurring and melting into faces. Yuffie, Merlin, Riku, Sora, Donald, Mickey. He was welcomed by the Organization members, their eyes gleaming as they noticed the joined hands and Axel's blissfull smile. And, most importantly to Roxas, he was reunited with old friends. Vexen greeted him with a nod but Zexion gave his old student a huge hug and surreptitiously wiped away a tear. He attempted to apologize for causing Roxas such anguish with a simple slip of the tongue, but Roxas would hear none of it.
"If you hadn't mentioned anything, I would never have come here and met Axel." He said. Zexion didn't seem to understand the importance of Roxas meeting Axel, so the redhead gladly displayed what was meant by stooping down to place a lingering kiss on Roxas' lips. The room was filled with hoots and catcalls, many of the girls 'awwing' as Roxas and Zexion's faces both filled up in a delicate pink shade. A joyous shout was heard and everyone watched in astonishment as Demyx sped through the crowd shouting, 'MY TURN!' Axel jealously drew Roxas against him, though deep down he knew his friend was not aiming for the boy. Well, not that particular boy at least. Before Zexion had even registered what was going on, the mullet haired, mohawked blond barrelled into him, pulled him close and kissed him soundly. Everyone, except for the Organization members gaped in astonishment.
"Demyx!" Roxas sounded shocked, amused and appalled all at once. Said male shot him a peeved questioning glare. "He's my...he was my teacher! He's older than you!" Demyx snorted.
"Axel's older than you, anyways, Zexy's only four years older than me. I'm three years older than you but I'm a year behind at school."
"but...but, Zexion..." the slate haired man looked a little shell shocked but blinked in an effort to clear his mind.
"I don't mind Roxas." He said softly before pulling Demyx down for another, much gentler kiss. The boy made an amusing squeaking noise before melting into Zexion.
Leon, pleased as he was that everything had worked out, was feeling slightly uncomfortable and had been eyeing his birthday cake since the party had started. As much as he protested the day he was born being celebrated, he had to admit, if only to himself, that the cake made it all worthwhile. Clearing his throat to draw everyone's attention to him, Leon managed to hide his content feeling behind his usual neutral mask but didn't really manage to fool anyone. "We going to cut that cake or what?" he asked, making everyone laugh. The man's weakness for cake was well known. Roxas beamed about himself in simple joy. Though he'd felt like the world was against him so much over the last month or so, he now realised that all that pain had been worth it. He pecked Axel's lips briefly and leant against his boyfriend happily. Everything seemed so much brighter, happier and fulfilling now in the face of all the worrying and misery he'd gone through before. He knew that the world wasn't out to get him, if it were; he wouldn't be here right now.
"Welcome home, Roxas." Axel breathed into the boy's ear, making him smile happily and turn to hug the older boy. 'Home', that sounded nice.
A.N – OK! Revised version complete. I hope I've managed to clear some of the problems up. I must say that, apart for the ending, I feel much better about the story this time. Let me know what you think!