Merry Christmas! (or non-denominational holiday of your choosing. Today is Christmas Eve, therefore I say Merry Christmas.) In honor of the only good thing about winter, and my current obsession with the Darren Criss/Chris Colfer cover of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" from Glee, I wrote some CHEESETASTIC holiday fluff.
I've been writing like it's going out of style lately, so hopefully I'll have something real for you guys soon. Until then, enjoy this like the extra sugary little nibblet of Christmas candy it totally is, and have a stellar holiday season loves.
Things I Own: over 100 songs from Glee (including everything featuring Darren Criss that I can get my hands on), four covers of "Baby, It's Cold Outside," the "A Very Potter Musical" soundtrack, an excessive amount of hot chocolate, mistletoe.
Things I Do Not Own: Axel. Roxas. The Night Before Christmas. Sora and Riku. Everyone else mentioned in here. My own bookstore. I am, however, still accepting Christmas presents…
Axel flicked his gaze up briefly, green eyes peering over the thick rim of his reading glasses to focus on the small store. Towering bookshelves were crammed into every available space, leaving only narrow aisles and nooks for shoppers to navigate their way through the specialty book store. Other than the small counter, barely big enough to hold a cash register and an ancient computer, the largest open space in the store surrounded the small fireplace crammed against one wall, a small assortment of mismatched, but equally well-worn, armchairs crowded around the roaring flames.
The store's only patron sat in Axel's favorite chair, knees curled to his chest, back against the armrest, sunk so deep into the cushions that nothing more than the tips of his spiky blond hair was visible over the back of the deep green chair. He'd been there for hours, silent and unmoving as he worked his way through at least two books, but Axel let him be. He encouraged his customers to spend their time perusing his books, had no problem with people reading in his store, and besides, it was Christmas Eve. If the boy didn't have anywhere else to be Axel certainly wasn't about to make him leave. Furthermore, he'd seen the blond in here several times in the last month, always staying a few hours to peruse a book or two, never stopping to talk to the shopkeeper. Axel didn't mind.
The boy was still there, hadn't moved, as far as Axel could tell, so he returned his poison ivy eyes back down to the yellowing pages on the counter in front of him. He'd been reading for the better part of the afternoon, barely interrupted by the few patrons that had wandered in for last minute shopping, particularly not for the last two hundred pages.
The quiet scratch of breath scraping across vocal chords sounded exponentially louder than usual in the near-silent shop, snapping Axel out of the penultimate chapter as he straightened up with a jolt. The blond haired boy, though further inspection showed him to be closer to man than child, stood in front of the counter with a raised eyebrow, two books resting on the edge of the painted wood.
"I'll take these two."
The blond's voice was rough with disuse and he cleared his throat again, the corner of his lips turned down in the barest hint of a frown. Axel raised an eyebrow at him, reaching one hand up to push his glasses over his forehead, perching them on the crown of his auburn head.
Blue eyes shone like lapis lazuli from pale, delicate features, framed with a messy disarray of fine gold spikes of hair. He was significantly shorter than Axel, though that wasn't particularly saying much, but he stood in front of the counter with an air of quiet confidence that was much more impressive than his diminutive stature. A single pale eyebrow arched lightly at the redhead's delay, though his expression did nothing else to suggest impatience.
"I'm sorry, I'm just surprised. You've never purchased anything before. Besides, haven't you finished both of these volumes already today?" Axel frowned softly, reaching for the proffered books and turning them over in his hands. They were definitely the same two books the other man had spend the day pouring over, and he was certain he had seen the blond finish them both.
"Well, yes." A faint trail of pink blossomed across the smaller man's cheeks, strikingly blue eyes glancing down as though in embarrassment. "I got caught up in them, I'm afraid. So I'd like to pay for them."
"Why?" Axel cocked his head slightly to the side, ignoring the way his glasses tilted precariously. The blond's frown deepened.
"I've spent too many days sitting in your store and reading your books without buying them. It's starting to feel like stealing."
Axel waved one hand dismissively, carefully dropping the books back on the counter in front of the other man.
"Don't be ridiculous, it's not at all like stealing. If I didn't want my customers to sit and read then why on Earth would I have searched the entire city for the most comfortable arm chairs I could find?"
The man on the other side of the counter didn't quite smile, but his frown lessened by half as he considered the words the shop owner had said. Axel was almost ready to chalk it up as a victory on his part, already reaching for the books to add them to his pile of items to return to their shelves, when he caught sight of the stubborn gleam burning through blue eyes.
"Regardless, I would like to buy them. They were both excellent, and buying them now will save me the trouble of coming back in a few months and rereading them." He raised an eyebrow at the redhead's surprised expression, the corner of his mouth twitching slightly.
"You're going to reread them?"
"Of course. What's the point in buying a good book if you're only going to read it once? I usually find myself missing most of the finer details the first time through anyway, a second reading makes everything fall into place so much easier." Axel's surprise melted into more of a pleasant disbelief, staring at the blond with an appraising look in his malachite eyes.
"I find very few people have the time or the patience to reread books these days. It's incredibly discouraging." Axel admitted. He finally finished his movement toward the two books still resting protectively under the blond's fingers, this time with the intention of moving them towards the cash register, not the return shelf.
"Very few people have the patience to read, period."
"And yet, you managed to find the time to spend an entire day holed up in a secondhand book store, where you read at least two books. You restore my faith in today's youth…"
"Roxas." And despite his slightly exasperated tone, Roxas' lips were definitely quirking slightly in the direction of a smile now. "And I'm hardly 'today's youth.' 21 isn't that young."
"Ah," Axel laughed, sliding the first book into a small paper bag before reaching for the second one. "But in comparison to my twenty six long years, Roxas, 21 is practically infancy."
"Oh yes, of course." Roxas' tone was dry, and he rolled his eyes as he spoke, but the smile on his face was growing, and Axel could tell his sarcasm was good natured in spirit. "Do you need any help getting around that counter, or do you have your walker back there with you?"
Axel laughed as he added the second book to the bag, folding the open edge over once before passing it back to the blond. The ancient computer wheezed feebly as it attempted to keep pace with the redhead's typing, apparently finding it too much to process when the shop owner subtracted a small discount from Roxas' order.
"I think I can manage." He chuckled, finally ripping the receipt off the top of the printer and passing that along to the blond as well. Roxas raised an eyebrow at the price, clearly aware that it had come out to less than it should have.
"Well, if you're sure you'll be alright." He tucked the package into a messenger bag slung over his shoulder, exchanging the books for a sweatshirt he pulled from the bag. "It was a pleasure talking to you…"
Roxas nodded as he pulled the sweatshirt over his head, a smile spreading across his pale face as he finished, extending one hand out towards the redhead. Axel blinked once, twice, three times. The blond had been attractive, he'd noticed that from the first time Roxas had walked in over a month ago, but the smile stretching across his cheeks made him positively stunning. Axel felt his face flush as he grasped the other man's extended hand, shaking it briefly.
Roxas nodded again, smiled for just a second longer, before releasing the taller man's long, thin fingers, turning on his heel as he weaved his way through the aisles towards the door. Axel dropped his gaze back down towards his unfinished book, waiting only for the tell-tale jingle of the bell hanging above the door to signal that Roxas had left the store, granting him permission to continue reading. If the sound came at all, it was hidden under the sudden outburst that made Axel jump a foot in the air for the second time in only minutes.
Axel rounded the side of the counter just in time to be assaulted by a gust of frigid air and a flurry of ice and snow, throwing one arm up to shield his face from the attack. Roxas stood braced at the front entrance to the store, both hands pressed against the barely budging door. A snow drift practically up to the blond's knees was doing its level best to keep the door firmly in place, no matter how hard Roxas pushed it.
"You're fighting a losing battle there."
Roxas tilted his head back in Axel's direction, one blue eye glancing over his shoulder at the shop owner. That stunning smile had given way to set determination, arms still braced firmly against the unmoving door.
"No, really, you are. It's happened twice before, both times I was stuck in here until the guy who lives next door could shovel me out." Axel closed the distance between them and wrapped one hand around the door knob, pulling the door firmly shut from the bare inches Roxas had managed to open it.
"I really need to get home," Roxas protested, reaching for the door again. Axel frowned at him, keeping one hand pinned against the well-worn wood.
"Seriously, all you're going to do is tire yourself out, maybe even hurt yourself. Come on, you're better off just sitting it out, I'll make you a drink, see if we can find someone with a shovel."
"Aren't people going to think it's weird that we're stranded in a book store?" Axel raised an eyebrow at the blond, pulling back away from the door and crossing his arms over his chest.
"If there were people around to judge us right now then we wouldn't really be stuck here. Besides, look at you. Even if you did manage to get out, you'd freeze before you reached the end of the block." He gestured to Roxas' jeans, thermal, and sweatshirt, glaring extra pointedly at the Chuck Taylors on his feet. The blond gave up with a frustrated sigh, slumping against the wooden doorframe.
"Man, when did it even start snowing?"
Axel shrugged. He'd been fully absorbed in his book for the better part of the afternoon…last time he'd checked it wasn't even cloudy outside. He frowned slightly at the offending weather, staring forlornly out the window. It wasn't as though he had any place else to be right now, but still, he didn't particularly fancy spending Christmas Eve in his bookstore, regardless of how adorable his currently pouting company might be.
"I'm sorry." The redhead apologized, dropping his free hand on the other man's arm. "I'll try calling Marluxia, but I'm pretty sure he's visiting his girlfriend's family for the holidays, so I don't know if he'll be around to shovel us out."
The blond finally turned fully around, head cocked slightly to the side as he studied the taller man. Axel tried to ignore the way those piercing blue eyes looked right through him, focused instead on the way he could feel the heat of Roxas' skin under his hand through two layers of clothing.
"Well. Let me try and call a few people, see if any of them are willing to come bail us out."
Axel directed the blond back towards the arm chairs, undeniably the warmest part of the still drafty store, before making his way into his back office, where he kept a few spare mugs and a hot water pot. He set to work making two steaming mugs of hot chocolate, biting his lip before piling on the extra marshmellows. Who cares if Roxas thought he was a dork for still loving marshmellows in his hot chocolate; it wasn't like the blond was going anywhere anytime soon.
He frowned at the old school rotary phone stuffed into the corner of his desk, running through the brief, very brief, mental list of people he could call. He didn't really have many good friends here (read: approximately six); Marluxia and Larxene were upstate already, Riku lived all the way up town, and besides, he'd said something about his boyfriend tonight anyway. Zexion's Christmas present to Demyx had been a week long cruise that they'd left for yesterday, and Reno…he wasn't calling Reno.
Axel walked back into the main store, balancing carefully with the nearly overflowing mugs, just in time to catch the tail end of Roxas' conversation. The blond's face was nearly as red as Axel's hair, elbow propped on his knee, forehead balanced on his palm, shaking his head emphathetically at whatever the person on the other end was saying.
"You're a terrible brother. Really and truly. I'm keeping your Christmas present for myself. No. Really. Nope. Bye Sora."
He glanced up just in time to see Axel rounding the small opening between chairs, silently offering over one of the mugs with a sympathetic smile on his face. Roxas accepted it with raised eyebrow, disbelieving smile replacing the scowl on his face when he glanced inside the mug.
"Is this hot chocolate? With marshmallows?" Axel blushed, scratching the back of his neck with his free hand.
"I don't like coffee. I know, I'm a dork…but I'm 26 and I own a bookstore, so I think that one was a given already."
Roxas laughed, but it was friendly, playful, a pleasant sound that Axel decided he really particularly liked. The blond slid his phone back into the front pocket of his jeans before wrapping both hands around the mug, sighing contentedly as he pulled a long sip from the surface.
"I love hot chocolate." He admitted, eyes sparkling at the redhead over the brim of his cup. "Especially with extra marshmellows. Thank you." Axel tried not to smile too wide as he settled himself into the arm chair next to Roxas', folding himself into the oversized maroon chair with his feet up on the seat next to him, arms wrapped around his bent knees.
"No luck on the phone?" Axel asked, nodding lightly in the direction of the blond's pocket. Roxas shrugged and shook his head, careful not to jostle his drink.
"Most of my friends are some combination of out of town and/or with family. I called my brother, but he's an ass and told me he's not hiking all the way downtown just to bail me out of a good situation."
"He thinks you being snowed into a bookstore downtown on Christmas Eve with a total stranger is a good situation?" Axel snorted, shaking his head. Roxas' cheeks turned pink, lapis lazuli gaze firmly on the marshmellows floating across the surface of his mug.
"He says that it 'beats me sitting home alone in my apartment like an emo little bitch on Christmas.'" Roxas shrugged, embarrassment laced through his sarcastic tone. The corner of Axel's lips tugged down in a slight frown as he watched the way the blond refused to meet his eyes until the redhead stretched one foot out and nudged the other man's knee.
"It's not like I have anywhere else to be either," he promised the blond. "In fact, if you weren't here I'd probably be stuck alone right now, so your company is greatly appreciated."
"Yeah?" Roxas glanced up and met the redhead's holly green eyes, a small smile gracing his lips as something unidentifiably gleamed in that blue stare. Axel made sure the smile he returned was as warm as he could muster, tightening his fingers around his mug as he grinned at the other man.
"You don't…I mean, you must have family, a girlfriend, roommates, someone expecting you home tonight? It's Christmas Eve." Roxas' tone was so earnestly sincere that it was hard to take offense to the reminder that Axel didn't, in fact, have any of the aforementioned options available to him. He shrugged half heartedly at the blond, running one hand over his forehead and through his red hair before answering.
"I moved here last year to move in with my boyfriend. Got a job at this rare and unusual book store downtown, and between working and my boyfriend I didn't really have much time to go out and make a ton of friends. Then the guy who owned this place retired; and he knew I loved the place, so he left it to me. Not exactly the cornucopia of social scenarios here; I mostly keep to myself. Thus no friends to call for emergency snow shoveling."
"But…" and now Roxas was frowning again, forgetting his previous embarrassment in favor of studying the redhead's pale features with slightly narrowed eyes and a furrowed brow. "If you moved here to be with your boyfriend wouldn't you rather be there with him than stuck in a bookshop with some stranger?"
"Oh. Uh." It was Axel's turn to pointedly avoid eye contact. Some part, of him, deep in the recesses of his mind, apparently, and a whole lot of good it was doing him, was wondering why on Earth he was spilling his soul to some poor stranger who didn't want to hear him babble uselessly about his life. "Reno, uh…Reno dumped me about a month ago. Told me I was spending too much time here, that I had to choose between the store or him."
"Shit. Wow. Sorry for…wow, I feel like an ass now. I'm so sorry." Roxas' face was back to that brilliant shade of red, blush spreading from his neck straight through to his hairline. Axel found it rather endearing. He waved one hand dismissively, carefully keeping his face as impassive as he could manage. Truth be told, this was about to be his first Christmas alone since he graduated high school; he was hardly as flippant about the subject of his ex as he pretended to be.
"If it makes you feel any better, I'm glad you chose the store. This place is amazing." Axel made no attempt to hide the pleased grin slowly making its way across his face. This store had become his baby over the last few months, had really become so months ago, before Merlin had even considered retiring. That had been why the old man left it to him, he said, because Merlin didn't have any kids of his own, just the store, and Axel was halfway toward adopting it anyway. "Although I admit, for someone who claims to be this dorky guy who owns a bookstore, you certainly don't fit the profile."
Roxas' eyes dropped just shy of the redhead's cat-green eyes, trailing across sharp cheekbones and down the curve of one ear. Axel snorted, smirking. He supposed that the image of the stereotypical dork probably didn't have multiple tattoos, a smattering of silver piercings dotting his skin, gravity defying hair that fell down past his shoulders.
"I can't argue with that," he laughed. "I promise that my dorkiness is genuine though, I've just perfected the art of hiding it."
"I'm going to guess…rebellious high school years to prove that despite the fact that you were hiding in the bathroom to read trashy novels, you were doing it because you were a badass, not because you were a nerd." Roxas teased. Something of it rung true in the blond's expression, something that made Axel notice, for the first time, the glint of silver hiding between the other man's teeth when he spoke.
"Maybe partially," Axel admitted. "That was definitely where these came from." He brushed one finger over his cheek, thumbing the small purple brands under each eye.
"Yeah, I'll bet no one messed with the kid hard enough to inject ink straight into his face." Roxas chuckled. Blue eyes lingered on the taller man's skin, following the trail of Axel's thumb. "But if that's only part of it, where'd the rest of it come from?"
Axel shrugged, dropping his empty mug on the small end table between their two chairs. People asked him all the time the intention behind this tattoo or that piercing, but no one had ever questioned their existence as a whole.
"I graduated with a B.A. in English, received an MFA in Creative Writing, woke up one morning and realized I didn't have anything to write about. I mean sure, I had plenty of bullshit to write about, but nothing substantial. How could I? You're supposed to write what you know, but I grew up in a small suburban neighborhood with nothing more than the usual teen angst, and I went to a small liberal arts college. So I took some time off, wandered around spending a month or two here, couple weeks there, trying to experience something. Each tattoo or piercing is for some experience or another that made the trip worth it."
Roxas was staring at him with both eyebrows raised, lips parted lightly as he blinked at the rambling redhead. Axel cringed slightly in embarrassment, startling slightly when an amazed grin slowly spread over the blond's face.
"Well, shit." Roxas breathed, his expression fading into something obviously impressed. "That's kind of fucking awesome. So you're a writer?"
"Kind of." Axel shrugged, embarrassment of a different kind creeping into his tone now. "Never got anything published, and I haven't had as much time since I took over this place, but I like writing for fun."
"That's still really cool though," Roxas argued. "And to have that kind of meaning to attach to each piece, that's insane. I feel kind of lame in comparison."
"Why?" Axel frowned slightly; that hadn't been his intention at all. Roxas shook his head quickly, extending one hand to stop the redhead's thoughts in their tracks.
"Just because I just got things done because they looked cool, or because I felt like it, or because I'd gone too long without that burning adrenaline spike that comes unique from the feel of a needle through your skin. None of it actually means anything."
"Sure they do. Why did you get your tongue pierced?" Axel was fishing, and he knew it, but he really didn't like the slightly self-deprecating smile on the other man's face. Roxas shrugged, clicking the barbell thoughtfully against his teeth.
"I always wanted one. Finally got it one day when my brother and I were bored."
"But why did you want one?"
"I dunno, I knew I would like playing with it. And I totally do, it's completely replaced all my other awful nervous habits. It has terrible connotations attached to it, and I know that, but why should I let what other people think about a certain piercing determine whether or not I get…one?" Something clicked in Roxas expressions, bright eyes widening, then narrowing as he leveled them on the redhead.
"So you're saying that because I chose to ignore social convention in favor of doing something that I wanted, my tongue piercing isn't just a meaningless piece of jewelry?"
"I'm not saying anything," Axel pointed out, laughing. "But yeah, if I was it might be something to that effect."
"That is such a load of bullshit." But Roxas was laughing, broad smile back on his face, and despite the fact that Roxas totally saw straight through him Axel was satisfied with the way the conversation had turned out.
Axel excelled at talking to strangers; it was a skill that made him such a great salesman, and one that was necessary from his years of wandering around from city to city. Still, despite his prodigious skill at making conversation, he wasn't much good at making anything substantial come from the mindless chit chat; therefore lack of friends to shovel him out. It wasn't that he didn't have a whole cell phone full of acquaintances, but when you spend years bouncing around every few weeks it's hard to make any kind of permanent relationships. Roxas, though…this conversation with Roxas could go somewhere. More importantly, Axel wanted it to go somewhere. Wanted the blond to come back and curl up in these chairs with him again; he would remember that the other man liked dark chocolate hot chocolate more than milk chocolate, that he couldn't sit still for more than a minute without fidgeting, that as the afternoon melted into evening what was once Axel's favorite chair was slowly turning into Roxas' chair. He just hoped the blond was going to come back and sit in it again.
They pushed the two biggest of the three arm chairs together face to face, creating a makeshift chaise lounge large enough for them both to stretch their legs out a little bit, something Axel did gratefully after hours of sitting with his knees tucked into his chest. They sat facing each other, Roxas tucked into the corner of his chair, Axel's calf pressed against his thigh as the redhead dug his socked feet into the crevices between the cushions.
"You don't happen to have any food in that back office, do you?" The clock over the register told them it was closer to 'midnight snack' time than dinner time, the weather outside dark and unforgiving and showing no signs of lightening up any time soon, and Axel shook his head sadly as the other man winced and rubbed his stomach.
"I would tip a delivery man 500% right now if he came and brought me Chinese food." Axel sighed. "Although if a delivery man could bring me Chinese there would be no need for delivery, cause I'd be able to just go get it myself."
"Are Chinese food places even open on Christmas Eve?"
"Land of Dragons is. I checked." Axel frowned, burrowing down slightly into his chair. New levels of pathetic were creeping into his voice, something that Roxas was sure to notice.
"You checked to make sure you could order take out on Christmas? Why?" Roxas cocked his head to the side just enough to appear teasing, but those blue eyes were serious as the pinned the redhead to his seat.
"What else was I going to eat? I can't cook to save my life. Besides, it's not like I'm trying to impress anyone with my delicious home cooked meal tonight."
"Yeah but…Chinese food? On Christmas? That's sad, Axel." Roxas' expression made it clear that he really meant sad, as in sorrowful, not pathetic. In Axel's opinion, that was worse. "And what were you going to order tomorrow, pizza?" Axel shrugged. Thai, actually, or maybe just his leftovers from tonight, but he definitely wasn't going to admit that out loud.
"Why, you're going to what, cook a feast for just yourself?" It came out sounding more defensive than Axel had meant it to be, but Roxas didn't look offended.
"Well, no, if I was home right now I'd be playing my annual game of 'how many bottles of wine can Roxas go through before he passes out.'" There was that self-deprecating smile again, something stung in that statement. "Tomorrow, though. Tomorrow I will be cooking a full four course meal. And no, I won't be eating it alone, thank you very much."
"You have friends on Christmas but not on Christmas Eve?" Axel teased. He wanted to ask why the blond drank himself into a stupor every Christmas, but just because the other man was apparently comfortable enough to ask the personal questions didn't mean the redhead would. Axel had never been much of a digger. Roxas just laughed.
"Believe it or not, I have friends all the time. I went to undergrad in the city, most of my friends did too, so we've always had this great tradition of a Christmas feast. It grows and shrinks depending on who's dating whom and whose family decides to care this year, but this year's not going to be too shabby."
"And yet, you can't find anyone willing to come shovel their top chef out of a snow bank."
"Most of them will be back in time for early dinner tomorrow, or else are already doing their own thing tonight. It's part of the tradition, Christmas Eve is a quiet night, Christmas Day is family dinner. Sora'll probably come tomorrow, if we can't figure anything else out, but he's probably already halfway through a candlelit picnic dinner with his boyfriend, unwrapping some lewd combination of presents and each other under the damn twinkling lights on the tree." Roxas' voice had gone from pleasantly wistful to bitter in mere seconds, and the redhead couldn't avoid it for the second time in as many minutes. He frowned at the faraway look on the smaller man's face, scratching at the hairs on the back of his neck as he thought about how to phrase his question.
"What happened to ruin Christmas Eve for you, then?" The lack of surprise on Roxas' face suggested he'd been expecting the question, had known that Axel wasn't going to let him get away with it twice, but it did little to help ease Axel's nerves. He felt bad, butting into this virtual stranger's life like this, but if Roxas minded he could certainly just say so.
"It's a charmingly self-deprecating, woe is me kind of bullshit tale that involves me sounding like a whiny little bitch and us hashing out The Big Ex way too early in this relationship. Are you sure you want to hear it?" Roxas' voice was only slightly on this side of snarky, still teasing enough that Axel cared a little less about offending the blond. Besides, he'd said that it was too early in their relationship, and the casual ease with which he'd made that statement was far more interesting to Axel than whether or not Roxas was bothered by his nosiness. He nodded.
"I have a twin brother named Sora. Sora is my best friend, has always been my best friend, probably will always be my best friend, but you know, just because we're twins didn't mean we were inseparable. He had his own friends, I had my friends, we did different sports and stuff, went to different colleges. Anyway, Sora's best friend is Riku. They've been attached at the hip for as long as anyone can remember, even I have a hard time remembering what life was like before Riku was in it. Riku, by the way –"
"Is bloody fucking gorgeous." Axel interrupted. It was possible that Roxas knew a different Riku than Reno's old roommate, back before Axel moved in, but really, how many Rikus were there in the city.
"You know him?"
"Tall, blue-green eyes the color of sea-glass, silver hair that shouldn't exist in the natural world?" Axel smirked at the slightly bug-eyed expression on Roxas' face, taking the silent shock as affirmation. "Yeah, I know him. Not super well, but well enough that he was on the incredibly short list of people I considered calling to bail us out. Continue your story."
"He used to live with Reno, back before he got kicked out so I could move in. They were still friends when I was around though, so I hung out with him a few times. He's a good guy." Axel shrugged. Roxas' already popping eyes grew comically wide.
"Your ex was that Reno? Riku's old roommate? Shit, man, that guy was a total fucking doucheba–" Roxas clapped one hand over his mouth, looking slightly horrified, but Axel just threw his head back and laughed. Of course Reno was an epic asshole, saying so was a matter of fact, not an insult to the redhead.
"Still is, Roxas. Still is. So anyway, your brother and Riku are more like Siamese twins than you and Sora are, and…"
"Riku's always been in love with Sora. Always. Everyone knew it for years, there wasn't even any question about whether or not Riku was straight. As soon as we knew what sexuality was we knew that Riku was gay, that Riku was gay for Sora most of all, and that Sora had a crush on Kairi, the cutest girl in class. Sora, being Sora, was the only person in the world who didn't know about Riku. He eventually started dating Kairi, and they dated for most of high school."
"But didn't you say that Sora and Riku are dating now?" Axel's eyebrows knitted together as he tried to puzzle together the two separated pieces of information. Roxas nodded.
"Yeah. Riku took their relationship as a hint, decided that he needed to move on, get over Sora, date someone else maybe, and get used to the fact that the only way he was going to be at Sora's wedding was fighting me for the role of Best Man. So he moved on."
"With you." Axel guessed. Something in Roxas' face twisted sharply, and the shop owner didn't need the accompanying smirk to know that he'd been completely correct in his guess.
"Riku had always been in love with Sora, but I'd always been in love with Riku. The few of my friends that actually knew all told me it was a horrible idea, that Riku was just displacing his feelings for Sora onto me, literally the closest he could get to dating my twin without actually dating him, and yeah, maybe I knew that was true, but that didn't change the fact that I was a 17-year-old boy finally getting the boy I'd wanted for as long as I could remember wanting something."
"How long did you date?"
"Almost a year. We kept it a secret from most of our friends, especially Sora. My idea, probably because I didn't want them to tell me how stupid I was being, and how much Riku was going to hurt me. Sora walked in on us one night, and that was kind of the end of that. Apparently seeing his twin brother getting fucked by his best friend was all it took to flip that switch that years of Riku's subtle flirting hadn't done. Sora broke up with Kairi within the month, came out to the world, and very, very publicly professed his undying love for Riku."
"You're kidding." Axel said flatly. He couldn't even imagine, his own brother, how Roxas could still call him his best friend after that.
"Riku tried to be really nice about the whole thing, and eventually we got passed it. He's practically like my brother now, and it's really hard to resent either of them for it when you see how happy they are now. It's like…it's the kind of love story people write songs and stories and movies about, how can I begrudge the two most important people in my life that kind of happiness?"
"Easily," Axel muttered bitterly. Roxas raised an eyebrow. "Fine, you don't have to hate them, but I will on your behalf. Riku is officially off the emergency contact list."
"You can't hate Sora." Roxas laughed, speaking in an irrefutable matter of fact tone. Axel frowned at him, but Roxas cut him off before he could speak. "No, seriously, it's actually impossible to hate Sora. You'll see what I mean when you meet him…the boy is literally bottled sunshine. If you could mass produce and market whatever shit it is that keeps him going you'd be the richest man alive."
"I'm very good at hating people." Axel assured him. Roxas laughed again. "I don't understand what any of this has to do with Christmas Eve though."
"Riku's a year older than me and Sora, so we got together my junior year, but it was his last semester in high school. The night Sora walked in on us was the first time I saw him after his first semester at school…he got home really late that year, and I didn't get to see him until Christmas Eve." The laughter was gone from Roxas' face, and Axel was sorry to see it go, though he understood why it disappeared. He'd probably hate Christmas Eve then too.
"I'm sorry I asked you to relive it then." Axel apologized solemnly, slightly exaggerated in his gravity in an attempt to crack a smile from the blond. The halfhearted upturn of his lip was a start.
"What do you think I'd be doing if I were home right now? At least now I'm doing it without the crippling help of a bottle of wine. It'll be a nice change of pace to not spend all of tomorrow wearing sunglasses in my own kitchen because the shiny lights are too much for my hungover ass while I'm trying to cook."
"You cook Christmas dinner every year?" Axel had been under the impression that Roxas' friends took turns hosting, that the blond had pulled the short straw this year, or that it was some kind of big old potluck leftovers affair, like the ones he and his friends used to have after Thanksgiving in high school. The corners of Roxas' mouth made a second, significantly more substantial effort at producing a smile.
"I love cooking. And I love hosting dinner parties. Really, it's probably the most flamingly gay part of my personality imaginable, but if I had an excuse to cook up a feast and decorate the dining room table with my best china every day of the week, I would." That wistful gleam that had been in his ocean eyes, snuffed by the story of Riku and his own brother's betrayal, was slowly coming back. Axel hid a victorious smile behind his hand. He liked Roxas much better when he smiled.
"Are you any good at it, or are you one of those people who deludes himself into thinking that cooking is all about making a giant mess and turning the kitchen into a chemistry problem, and then serves mediocre crap that all his guests are expected to gag down and pretend to swoon over?" He teased. Roxas pretended to look insulted.
"Well, I went to culinary school and graduated at the top of my class, so I think it'd be pretty safe to say that I'm not one of those delusional housewives." Axel's eyebrows shot up in surprise, blinking once, twice at the revelation. Roxas smirked at him.
"If you graduated top of your class why aren't you at some high end restaurant right now preparing Christmas goodness for wealthy cliental?" Not that Axel was complaining about the blond's presence, but really, he'd worked as a waiter at a country club in high school, he knew what kind of hours chefs usually kept.
"Turns out that cooking like that isn't nearly as enjoyable as cooking for fun is. The best part of it is seeing people enjoy the meal you spent hours working on just for them, not some assembly line cookie cutter dinner sampler platter mass produced for this weekend's Bar Mitzvah." Roxas shrugged. "I started hating cooking, and I couldn't stand that, so I quit."
"I'd call you crazy, but I understand." Axel nodded, flexing his feet as much as he could between the cushions. "What are you doing now then, if you're not cooking?"
"Currently unemployed." Roxas laughed. "I asked Santa for a clue for Christmas. I won't even ask for a job, just some idea as to what I want to do."
"Well," Roxas shrugged again, "I've found plenty of things I want, but none of them are particularly promising employment opportunities." The way blue eyes bore unblinkingly into green caught Axel's attention, Roxas' words highlighting themselves in neon colors in his mind. The blond was telling him something with that stare, but only if Axel was willing to pay attention.
"And what about you?" The moment was over before Axel had even begun trying to figure it out, Roxas breaking his gaze with a blink and a small smile. The redhead frowned slightly. What about what? "What did you ask Santa for for Christmas?"
Well now, wasn't that a loaded question. Truthfully? For someone to spend Christmas with. Was that something he was ever going to admit out loud to the blond? Definitely not tonight; they'd already covered the pathetically depressing portion of the evening.
"As of right now, I'm strongly considering asking for a snow shovel." Axel teased, laughing at the retort he could already see forming on Roxas' lips. "Although if I was always in such good company when I got snowed in here maybe I wouldn't mind it as much."
Roxas' retort died on his tongue, replaced instead by a full-frontal blush that left Axel grinning. He'd been accused of being disarming many times, and maybe he was, but how could he resist when it was so very cute the way Roxas blushed like that?
"Well…I'm glad I didn't disappoint." The blond recovered, one hand rubbing at the back of his neck. Axel only grinned wider, taking pity on the still-blushing man.
"I hardly think you could." He teased. "But really, I suppose anything would have beat fifteen hours of nothing but me and stacks and stacks of books."
Roxas pretended to look affronted, glaring without any real heat at the redhead sitting across from him. The effect was somewhat lessened by the huge, cat-like yawn that interrupted the blond halfway through their staring match. He blushed as he covered his mouth with one hand, scrunching his nose in a way that Axel found entirely too precious.
"Sorry," Roxas giggled, scrubbing one hand over his eye. "I got up appallingly early this morning." Axel laughed, waving one hand dismissively at the blond.
"It's getting pretty late. We probably should go to sleep, especially if you're planning on cooking for a bunch of people tomorrow."
"I can't wait to interrupt Riku's beauty sleep at approximately the crack of dawn." Roxas smirked, straightening his legs and stretching them out on the chair in front of him. He grabbed the arm of one chair and heaved, hoisting himself up and throwing one leg over the arm.
"And where are you going?" Axel asked, raising an eyebrow. It wasn't like the blond had many options here.
"There," Roxas pointed at the only remaining armchair like it was blatantly obvious, cocking his head to stare at the redhead.
"I'm not letting you sleep on that chair, it's barely big enough." Axel protested, wrapping his fingers around Roxas' wrist and tugging him back down towards their makeshift lounge chair.
"Aw, gee Axel, if you wanted to cuddle you could have just said so," Roxas teased. It was Axel's turn to blush, color staining the apple of his cheeks. He forgot to let go of the other man's wrist, skin warm and soft against his slightly calloused fingers.
"I just…it's my store, that kind of makes you my guest. You don't let guest's sleep in the awkward chair, it's rude. I'll sleep there, you can have this."
"Not a chance." Roxas argued, frowning. "You're at least six inches taller than me, if I barely fit into that chair how the hell are you supposed to sleep there?"
"I'm not letting you sleep there."
"I'm not letting you sleep there either."
"Look," Roxas began, sliding down off the arm and back into his previous seat, "we're obviously both going to be stubborn about this, so how about instead of arguing about it all night we compromise?"
"Name your terms."
"We'll share." Roxas gestured to the chairs they were already curled up in, smiling slightly at the redhead. "We're already here, no moving necessary, and we've been comfortably sitting here for hours, I'm sure we can handle sleeping here for a few more."
Axel frowned. He didn't like it, he felt like a jerk not insisting that Roxas take the spot for himself, but he could tell from the look on the other man's face that he really would argue with him for the rest of the night if that's what it took. He nodded once, already shifting himself into a slightly more comfortable position.
Axel wasn't sure what time it was, but the store was still just as dark as it had been when he and Roxas finally fell asleep, each curled up in their respective corners, heads resting on opposite chair arms. He wasn't entirely sure what woke him at first, blinking once or twice as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, just that something had quietly pulled him back from the dream he only vaguely remembered having.
It was only when he shifted slightly and his shin brushed against empty air did he realize that something had changed. Roxas was gone from his corner, and was instead climbing back over the arm of the chairs. Axel briefly wondered where he had gone, why he had gotten up in the first place, but the thought was entirely derailed when he realized where Roxas was going.
He did not, as the redhead would have assumed, settled back into his corner, but slid into the empty space next to Axel, just close enough that their sides were brushing together from shoulder to knee. Axel frowned slightly, observing the space between them. He couldn't tell Roxas' intention, whether the blond was trying to get closer to him or just shifting positions, tired of sitting the same way for hours and hours.
Roxas glanced up through thick blond eyelashes, ocean eyes growing wide at the sight of Axel's staring back at him. They stared at each other for a long minute, neither of them speaking, neither of them really even breathing, truth be told. Axel moved first, shifting his weight, curling slightly towards Roxas, he lifted one arm and slung it over the blond's torso, pulling the smaller boy the infinitesimal distance between them. Roxas settled against him without protest, smoothly shifting until they were both comfortably curled together.
Neither of them spoke, but just before Axel drifted back to sleep he felt Roxas' thread his fingers through his own.
Long red eyelashes blinked rapidly as green eyes adjusted slowly to the blindingly bright light filling the store. Roxas' blond hair faded like a golden white halo into the light framing his face, giving the other man an ethereal glow to Axel's sleep-ridden stare.
"My brother just called." Roxas' voice was soft, gentle; it was that kind of morning where everything felt muted under the blanket of a world still clinging to the last vestiges of sleep. He smiled slowly as Axel continued to blink at him, using one hand to brush a stray red spike out of Axel's face. "He and Riku are less than five minutes away, they'll have us dug out of here in no time."
"Hmmkay." Axel, never much of a morning person, reluctantly pulled himself up into a sitting position, cracking his head from one side to another as he stretched his arms high over his head. Roxas' eyes strayed down the length of the redhead's arched torso, a ghost of a blush echoing over his cheeks at the other man's raised eyebrow.
Axel wasn't much of a talker in the morning though, and he didn't know how to, or if they even should, address their little cuddle session last night, so he let Roxas off without a word, hauling himself up out of their makeshift couch-bed and shuffling silently towards his back office, where he kept a travel toothbrush and the rest of his supply of hot chocolate. By the time he turned back into the main room, once again carrying two mugs of extra-marshmellowy hot chocolate, Roxas had straightened up the sitting area, fixing the slightly squashed cushions on the rearranged chairs.
"Thanks." The blond accepted the mug gratefully, smiling at the redhead again. "Sorry, I'm not much of a morning person. Not a big talker."
"Me either," Axel shrugged, offering the other man a small smile. Roxas opened his mouth, maybe to take a sip of the still-too-hot drink, maybe to say something, but whatever it was Axel would never know. A loud bang against the window made both of them jump, the blond narrowly avoiding slopping steaming hot chocolate down the front of his sweatshirt.
Riku and the exact brunet replica of Roxas stood grinning at them in the doorway, palms that were still holding shovels pressed flat against the glass door. The area around them was relatively clear of the two-plus feet of snow otherwise covering the ground, a small arc just wide enough for the door to swing open.
"We come to rescue the fair maiden," Riku called teasingly, stepping back far enough into the snow bank to pull the door open, ushering the man who must have been Sora inside Axel's bookshop. "I'll leave it up to you two to determine which one of you that is."
Roxas rolled his eyes and caught Axel's amused stare, wordlessly shaking his head at the redhead. Blue eyes fell down onto the mug of untouched hot chocolate, frowning slightly at the marshmellows.
"Keep it. You can bring the mug back next time you're here. Besides, you're going to freeze on the way home, you're hardly dressed warmly enough for this weather." Axel insisted. The snow had stopped, and the sun was out, but it was still well below freezing, and Roxas' Chucks and sweatshirt had not magically transformed into snow boots and a fleece ski jacket overnight. The smile that lit the blond's face was so bright it was bordering on obscene, shining up at the store owner like he'd said exactly the right thing.
Axel, for his part, sincerely hoped he had. He really, really wanted to see the other man again, really hoped that Roxas would, in fact, come back to his store in a few days time, and not just to return the mug. Maybe next time he would suggest that he knew a café downtown that served the best hot chocolate he'd ever tasted, and that maybe Roxas would like to meet him there sometime, or maybe, God willing, he'd come up with something less dorky than that. He could even say it now, really, if he really wanted to, but Roxas was already pulling his hood up on his head, tugging his sleeves down over his wrists as he wrapped his hands around his mug, and Sora and Riku were watching them with matching smirks on their face like they just knew something, which they couldn't possibly because Axel wasn't even sure what he knew.
"Thanks for keeping me company." He said instead. Roxas had begun moving towards the door, was steps from it, really, before he stopped and turned, lapis lazuli eyes shining in the light reflecting off the white snow. "I know you didn't have much of a choice, but really, it was the best Christmas' Eve I could have possibly imagined."
Roxas closed the distance between them with three quick steps, bringing one hand up to cup the redhead's jaw, guiding Axel's face down low enough for the blond to press his lips to the apple of his cheek. He was gone as quickly as he'd moved, fingers falling back to the warmth of his drink as he smiled quietly at the redhead gaping down at him.
"Merry Christmas, Axel."
Axel waited until he couldn't see them anymore, until the three bright splash of color against the otherwise white background rounded a corner and faded seamlessly into a brick wall, before backing away from the door, retracing his steps back into his office. He had never really closed up shop the night before, and he had work to do before he could finally head back to his apartment.
There was a book sitting on his desk, a book he hadn't noticed when he'd stumbled in half-asleep earlier. He recognized the cover instantly, it had been, and always was, one of the most popular books of the season, but he was certain he hadn't put it there himself, and that it hadn't been there yesterday. The redhead picked it up slowly, turning the book over in his hands once or twice before flipping through the pages, skimming for any clue about why The Night Before Christmas had appeared on his desk.
A small scrap of paper fell from between two pages, fluttering to the floor to land against the toe of Axel's abandoned combat boot. He bent slowly to pick it up, placing the book back down on the wooden desk as he flipped the paper over in his hand.
I've been coming down here every week for the last month trying to work up the courage to talk to you. Sora wouldn't come shovel us out because he said this was 'exactly the opportunity I'd been waiting for.' Maybe my brother likes to play sadistic matchmaker, but he was right; you were everything I hoped you would be.
You're asleep right now, and I should be too, but I couldn't fall asleep until I told you this. All I want for Christmas is you.
PS. We live on the corner of 3rd and 45th, apartment 8B. Christmas dinner starts at 3:00. Although I warn you, Sora has taken the liberty of placing mistletoe in every single doorway in the damn apartment, and I'm not afraid of shamelessly abusing tradition if it means getting a kiss from you.
He used his free hand to knock twice on the door of apartment 8B, other hand curled around the neck of a bottle of wine. He could already hear loud, animated voices coming from inside the apartment and a steady undertone of cheerful Christmas music, and was suddenly feeling uncharacteristically nervous. It was kind of like first date jitters, except that the first date was a Christmas party with twenty of your date's closest friends.
The door swung open before Axel had a chance to consider turning around and running away, and the sight that greeted him froze any chance of him moving like an ice storm. Roxas stood with one hand on the doorknob and the other cradling a glass of wine, blue eyes widening with both surprise and the size of his smile at the sight of Axel on his doorstep. He was cute in the casual clothes they'd been stranded in, but here in neatly pressed black slacks and a snug v-neck sweater he looked like the kind of present Axel wouldn't have minded unwrapping under his tree this morning.
"Hi!" That definitely wasn't the first glass of wine the blond had had; and he definitely fumbled a little bit in his attempt to set it down on the credenza next to the door. Axel resisted the urge to tell him how absolutely adorable he was, and then wasted several valuable seconds wondering when the hell he had gotten so giddy over this kid. "I was really hoping you'd come."
"How could I turn down an invitation like that?" Axel laughed, taking a step across the threshold. Roxas stopped him with one hand flat on his chest, letting go of the doorknob to use that hand to gesture up. Axel followed his gaze with a grin, already expecting the bright green sprig of leaves and berries dangling just inside the door.
Roxas' hand slid up from Axel's chest to wrap around his neck, tugging the taller man down with a smile that made Axel shiver. He steadied himself with a hand on Roxas' hip, holding the blond carefully as he leaned up on his toes and pressed his lips brazenly against Axel's.
It was chaste and sweet, just a light press of lips together, Axel's bottom lip caught slightly between Roxas', lingering just long enough for it to be real. The blond pulled back with a smile, glancing up at the grinning redhead from half-lidded blue eyes.
"Thanks, Santa," Axel murmured, glancing up one more time at the mistletoe above him. He hoped Roxas hadn't been exaggerating about Sora decorating the whole apartment with it.
"Come on in, baby," Roxas laughed, "it's cold outside."
hope you like cheese for christmas!
(name the movie quote and I'll give you a cookie: "do you like...cheese?" "why yes I do, my favorite's Gouda")