A Wee Romp in the Woods
Chapter Six: Essential Communication
It was still before noon when Roxas was discharged from the hospital by an old doctor who took his blood pressure before announcing him healthy. Though relieved that he wasn't going to drop dead any time soon, Roxas was a little exasperated when the doctor stated he was required to ride a wheelchair to the lobby. The blond wasn't feeling one hundred percent because his limbs were shaky and he was noxiously dehydrated; still he figured that a wheelchair was a bit much. He wasn't an invalid after all.
Axel and his friends went down first to bring the car around, leaving Roxas time to brush his teeth and get dressed. He'd showered happily, enjoying the hot water running though his hair and cleaning his germ-riddled skin. The black grim that filtered down the drain only attested to how filthy he'd been.
The nurse Xion brought his washed clothes to the room; he thanked her before returning to the bathroom to change. While he threw his old wardrobe back on, she lounged in the room to pull the sheets off the bed and otherwise tidy up the room. This wasn't her job, of course, but she wanted to talk with this odd boy before he left.
Absorbed in her thoughts, she absently wished that he was a local and she could see him more often. Even if she knew he didn't swing that way, he was a nice boy when he wasn't being emo, and Roxas was very easy on the eyes. She could tell why the redhead liked him so much. He was adorable. Plus she kind of had a thing for gay guys. Her parents told her she was weird like that.
She grinned when he came out wearing his normal clothes, "That looks a lot better on you, Roxas. The gown was a little dramatic."
Roxas smiled back, "Dresses don't really match my complexion."
Xion's eyes twinkled, "So you work everything out with the redhead?"
Roxas couldn't help but blush, nodding with a peaceful sigh, "Yeah. Thanks for all your help. I was kind of acting like an asshole to my friends."
"That happens from time to time." Xion stated with a shrug, "I'd be pretty bitchy too if I had to go camping."
Roxas plopped on the couch with a smirk and began tying his shoes, his expression turned distant, "I really needed the extra push though. I was… doubting how I felt, trying to ignore it because those things can make stuff difficult. But hearing what you said really cleared my mind. Seriously, I'm grateful."
"Pssh," Xion waved her hand absently, "All in a day's work."
Roxas stood and leaned over to hug her warmly. She wrapped her arms around his trim waist. The blond normally hated touching random people but with this dark-haired girl he felt obligated. She'd comforted him so much in the past day, he didn't know how else to express his gratitude. It helped that she wasn't taller than him.
Xion giggled when they pulled away, "You two make an adorable couple!"
Xion pushed him into a wheelchair moments later and they went down the elevator, chatting casually.
"Just take it easy for a few days." She told him when he stood from the chair towards the front door.
As he was about to leave she called his name out once more. Roxas turned, Xion was holding out a piece of paper with her slender arm. Roxas blinked, expression confused.
"In case you're ever around this neck of the woods again, here's my number, you can text me too. I'd really like to talk with you again. You're the most interesting patient I've had in ages. Tell Mr. Redhead I'm hitting on you!" She teased, winking.
Roxas chuckled at the nickname for Axel, folding the paper in his pocket as the automatic doors slid open, "Will do, Xion. Thanks again."
They waved once more and he exited the hospital.
Demyx's car was parked in the front and like he'd promised Axel was behind the wheel. Demyx's head stuck out the back window, his spiky hair brushing the canoes that hung over top. Zexion's nose was pointed back in the book he'd been reading from before. Demyx was leering at him, he'd seen everything.
"What did that girl hand you?" Demyx asked conspiratorially when Roxas slid in the front seat and tugged on his seatbelt.
"Oh, just her number." Roxas said casually, scanning Axel's face out of the corner of his eye.
"Good!" Axel replied, astonishing his friends. "I really need to thank her later."
Zexion scoffed, "So much for jealousy."
Axel frowned as he switched on the blinker, "What do you mean?"
"Normally when a girl gives a boy her number it means she likes him." Demyx stated, leaning towards the front between the seats.
Axel obviously hadn't thought of that, his face pouting, "Oh."
Roxas laughed at the expression, "Well, I wouldn't worry about it. Xion's a good girl."
"Why?" Zexion asked as he pulled his face away from the book.
"I told her I was dating the smelly redheaded guy, she said we make an adorable couple." Roxas replied, gaze out the window.
The vehicle was halted to a stop immediately in the middle of the road. Axel spun to look over at Roxas, his eyebrows almost meeting his hair. His face was openly astonished. Demyx's mouth dropped. Zexion's face awash with pure shock.
"You said that?" Axel's voice was a pitch higher than normal, his heart suddenly pounding.
Roxas gave a silly look of confusion and crossed his arms over his chest, "What? You do kind of smell, Axel. You need a showe-"
Roxas was cut off when Axel leaned between them and gently kissed him. Roxas returned the dry peck wholeheartedly, arm reaching over to caress the slender neck. A loud honk interrupted them a moment later; a car was idling behind them, the driver giving them the finger.
"Oops," Axel said with a sheepish grin, his face flushing happily.
Demyx was still watching the back of their head's, amazed, wondering what happened between the pair. So they'd worked everything out while he was sleeping. Just his luck. Things were oddly friendly between the two that morning, especially after their fight. But they'd been rushed with Roxas being discharged and hadn't had a moment to talk. Demyx reached over and grabbed Zexion's hand, twining their fingers together. Zexion yawned and leaned towards Dem as much as his seatbelt would allow. But something was still nagging on Demyx's mind.
Demyx bit his lip, "Hey Roxas?"
"What's up?" Blue eyes were deftly scanning the beyond-crinkled map.
"Um, I'm really sorry about before."
Roxas turned to face the backseat, "You don't need to apologize, Dem. I acted like a fucktard. It's understandable you'd want to defend Axel, he is your best friend."
Demyx grimaced unhappily, "No, Rox, I was acting like the fucktard. I was so mean to you, and I can't believe what I said. I'm sorry! We were so angry I didn't see you get sick. That was horrible of me."
Zexion muttered his agreement, "I was behind you the whole way, and didn't have time to grab you before you fell. I apologize also. I should have noticed that you were ill. And I want to take back those things I said, also."
Roxas leaned over and pat Demyx's knee, then Zexion's, "If you forgive me, I forgive you. It was all heat of the moment, and I hadn't really noticed getting sick. Personally, I was in the wrong, but if it makes you feel better to apologize then I'll accept it."
They all nodded in agreement. Axel watched this exchange from the corner of his eye, relieved that the matter was put behind them. He still needed to properly apologize to Roxas, and ask him many questions, but he wanted to wait until they were alone again. He wondered when that might be.
Demyx continued, "So what happened in the hospital this morning?"
Roxas smirked, "Why don't you tell me what happened between you two at the campsite first?"
Axel added sheepishly, "Agreed. Never got around to asking you and all."
But his green eyes darkened when he remembered why he hadn't asked. Normally he'd have jumped on the opportunity. But he'd been so depressed by what Roxas said that he hadn't even thought to ask Demyx. The words still stung in the back of his mind, even if Roxas said he took them back and didn't mean them. Roxas noticed Axel tense, he leaned his hand over anxiously to grab at Axel's on the steering wheel. Axel flipped his palm up and Roxas clutched their fingers together firmly. The blond could only imagine what Axel was thinking, and he wanted to comfort him, wanted to say, 'I was wrong. Not you,'
Roxas felt those words would sound bland in comparison to how he really felt.
"Well…" Demyx glanced at Zexion, wondering how much he should say.
Zexion sighed despondently. They would find out anyway, eventually Demyx would get drunk and spill the beans to Axel who would in turn inform Roxas. Demyx wasn't one to keep things a secret for too long. And they deserved the truth anyway. They were all friends, who'd gone through hell.
"Go ahead." Zexion told him, glancing at Demyx so the man would know he was serious.
"Don't make me repeat myself." The scientist replied in his usual dour attitude. This held no bearing on Demyx however, who disregarded his tone with a bright smile. Zexion felt his heart skip at that ecstatic expression.
"So you remember when Zexion was acting moody on the hike?" Demyx started.
Axel nodded wordlessly. Roxas already released the redheads hand and was opening a left-over soda that was on the floor with his fingernails, and taking several long gulps.
"So, I guess… Somehow, Zexion thought I was in love with Axel."
Roxas promptly spit his soda out, it spewed across the front windshield. Axel was laughing rancorously, wickedly amused. Zexion was so out-of-touch with people's emotions.
"Demyx? In love with –me-?" Axel belted. Roxas wiped the window with his sweatshirt desperately.
"That's the reaction I got from Demyx also." Zexion glared at the pair sullenly.
"Haha~" Axel wiped a tear from his eyes, "That's too rich. But- it's probable. I can totally understand why! As a matter of fact, Demyx could still be madly-"
Roxas punched his arm. Hard. Axel bit his tongue before squeaking, "Continue."
Zexion smirked when Roxas gave Axel a testy scowl. The redhead ducked his head in shame.
"So after I, you know, finished laughing- I told him I was in love with someone but most certainly not Axel. And by the way dipshit driver, I know you too well. Stop being full of yourself." Demyx informed Axel though his words held no resentment.
Roxas queried, "So then you told him, Dem?"
"No," Zexion continued, "Demyx was… having a rather difficult time with his words. So I told him."
"Told him what?" Axel asked.
Zexion flushed before glancing tentatively at Dem, "That I was in love with him."
Roxas spun towards the back, his head nearly hitting the roof when he leaned over the seat, "Awwww! That's so… so… not like you."
Demyx giggled, wrapping his arms around Zexion's elbow, "No, but it was perfect."
Zexion was pleased. Roxas blinked, "So then…"
Two sets up eyes glanced up from their own little world and asked in unison, "Then what?"
Roxas' cheeks turned pink, honestly curious, "Then you humped on the forest floor?"
Axel started laughing obnoxiously again, the car swaying precariously on the road.
"It sure wasn't bears, Rox!"
Demyx tilted his head, "Bears?"
-Five Hours Later-
After driving through a fast-food joint for lunch Axel drove in silence when he finally turned off the exit towards their college. Axel was so sick of driving and his three passengers were fast asleep. Axel was exhausted. He needed sleep also, and the only thing that kept him from crashing was the caffeine from his monster energy drink. It was Monday; they were supposed to be in class right now. But he was sure he wouldn't attend class tomorrow either, he'd be too busy passed out.
The drive back gave Axel lots of time to think about things.
He replayed what happened during their trip from start to finish. Kissing Roxas in the tent, swimming with him, and then making out next to the fire while Demyx and Zexion made love in the woods. The hurtful words, the fear that spiked through him when Zexion screamed Roxas tipped out of the canoe. Roxas on the dirt, not breathing, face blank and chest unmoving. His own eyes overwhelmed with tears as he gave the blond CPR, desperately hoping the kid would be okay. Dragging the boy to the hospital and leaving him with the crew from the ambulance. Roxas saying he loved him. Over and over and over.
He no longer regretted the vacation. More like regretted the things that needed to happen for everything to move forward. Roxas said he was dating him. That still floored Axel. He knew Roxas, inside and out, understanding the kid rarely said things without meaning them.
Which was why the words, "I'm not a goddamn faggot whose gonna fall in love with sometime like you!" Those fucking words… they scared him.
What made Roxas suddenly change his mind? Could it have been delirium from the hypothermia? Yet Roxas sounded so certain when he said they were dating. So nonchalant as if it was an obvious fact. He'd kissed him back, in front of their friends. That couldn't mean… nothing… could it?
"I'm in love with you."
These thoughts tore at Axel. Did Roxas mean that? He didn't know what to believe. All he knew was that he adored, loved, and cared for that boy more than anyone he'd ever had feelings for. Roxas held such sway over Axel that the blond could break him if he wanted to. Roxas could tear his heart out.
Axel daydreamed for so long what dating Roxas might be like. He'd envisioned a sappy confession, immediate and unequivocal satisfaction. But doubt stuck him down firm. Axel pulled passed his dorm and turned around to shake his best friend.
"Hey buddy, we're back." He said gently.
Demyx awoke, his face streamed with lines from Zexion's t-shirt. Demyx woke Zexion as Axel woke Roxas. They'd planned for Axel to get his stuff out first, than Demyx would take the wheel and drive Roxas home before Zexion and himself parked his car. They would take the canoes down later, which they stored in the athletics building. This was all planned for Sunday, so Axel hoped nothing would be stolen. He was too tired to haul them now.
Roxas stretched awkwardly in his seat, watching Axel get out of the car after popping the trunk. Axel's mouth was set in a grim line; he didn't even glance over at him. Roxas blinked, but the man already disappeared. Roxas watched Demyx switch to the front seat and adjust the seat.
Demyx was still bleary, "Hmm?"
"Can I leave my stuff in your car?"
"Yah." Demyx didn't care. He wanted to go back to sleep.
Roxas opened the door; rushing back and helping Axel carry his heavy tent.
Axel glanced back, "Dem gonna wait for you?"
Roxas shook his head in negation, "No, I'll help you bring stuff back up. And head back to my dorm. I have my backpack so I can get my other luggage out later."
Axel nodded, dropping the trunk with a thud. Roxas waved at his friends from beside Axel. After thumbs-upping Demyx they trailed back towards the redhead's dorm. Since two of them were carrying the gear they managed to reach his dorm in one trip. Axel dropped the stuff on the floor, fishing for his keys.
Axel lived with a kid who was never at their dorm, his roommate stayed with his girlfriend almost six nights a week. The room was empty when he switched on the lights.
"Ax?" Roxas asked quietly when he shut the door behind them.
"What?" His voice was subdued.
Roxas hesitated, "You… okay?"
Axel threw himself face-first onto his futon, "Yeah."
Roxas sat on the edge, hand reaching over to stroke Axel's back but he stopped himself.
Axel turned, "I'm just exhausted."
Roxas nodded, understanding that sentiment completely.
Roxas leaned forward, pointedly not commenting about his nickname. Their eyes locked.
"Did you mean what you said?"
Roxas tilted his head, not understanding the question. Axel leaned up, expression troubled.
"That you… love me? And want to date me?"
Understanding flashed across Roxas' gaze, he nodded, "Yes."
This didn't seem to comfort Axel, "I dunno," The man sighed, "I... You know."
"You're not making any sense."
Axel sat up, hunched over his crossed legs, "Well, you don't ever say things you don't mean. And the other night-"
Roxas frowned, so that's what Axel was getting at. He needed to verbalize his mindset.
"You're wondering why I suddenly changed my mind."
Axel turned away.
Roxas thought about it, but forced the words out to explain his process, "Well, I guess, it's hard to explain. I was confused. I was sure I was straight. But I always had… feelings for you. And I was scared. So I… said shitty things to push you away. I was desperate, so… unsure of myself. I felt guilty when I woke up in the tent and Dem told me you'd slept outside, Zexion said I really hurt you. Despite that I had an inkling how you felt about me. I knew from back when I figured out Dem was gay that you stared at me the same way he watched Zexion."
Roxas flashed an absent smile, "You always looked at me different. After I said those things, I was worried you'd never look at me like that again. I didn't want to hold you back, but I didn't want to be selfish either. In the end, I felt like I had to act selfish by pushing my feelings on you."
Axel absorbed the words carefully, "So it wasn't an impulse?"
"No, it was never an impulse. Hell- I'd have never gone camping in the first place if you hadn't been so excited about it." Roxas leaned his arm across, gently touching Axel's hand. "You make me feel... beautiful. You accepted me completely, even when I act like a self-centered jerk. You're kind, a great friend, and you're really…"
Roxas tucked his head against his chin, "Attractive."
Axel softened, his heart melting at the admission. Roxas was clearly embarrassed, but he was still trying to comfort him. That was what he loved about Roxas so much.
Roxas lifted his head slowly.
"I'm in love with you." Axel's words were barely above a whisper. "And you were right. I've felt this way about you for a long time. I just… don't want to force you. Don't want to make you do anything you'd regret. I knew, deep down, you didn't mean what you said, but it hurt."
Axel flinched, "Badly."
Axel tugged Roxas against his chest, the blond following without hesitation. With Roxas pooled across his lap, Axel began to verbalize some of the more painful events.
"When you fell in the water, I panicked. I've never been so fucking scared," Axel buried his face into Roxas's hair. "Please don't ever make me worry like that again."
Roxas frowned against Axel's hair, "What do you like about me?"
Axel pulled away to cradle a blushing cheek in his hand, thumb padding its way across soft skin, "That's a hard question."
Roxas didn't seem to appreciate that answer but Axel wasn't finished.
"So many things. Way too many things. I love how blindly dedicated you are, how you try so hard to accomplish anything you set your mind to. You always think things through carefully and you are so particular about the most random stuff. You don't back down, and it's hard to be your friend. You have to earn it."
"You make me sound like an ass." Roxas muttered.
Axel chuckled and continued, "You're OCD about germs, and you're obsessed with your hobbies. You're quiet unless you think people are worthy to talk to or if you really need to say something. You don't like to camp but you were willing to go anyway. You're moody and distant, but I never noticed because you never acted that way around me."
Roxas glared doubtfully.
"Okay, maybe at first." Axel amended, "But I loved the challenge. I thought… you would never like me back. So I was determined to never say anything, or act on it. But, you beat me to the punch."
"Then why did you kiss me?"
"Because it was consensual." Axel admitted, "I didn't think I'd ever have the chance again."
Roxas pressed their foreheads together, "So you really like me?"
Axel grinned, teasing, "You're not going to start saying I'm secretly in love with Zexion, are you?"
Roxas bit out a laugh, smile crossing his face, "Well, may-"
Axel kissed him, warm and soft and soothing. "I'm in love with you and all that other sickly romantic shit."
Their lips were perfect against each other's, Roxas thought before responding, "Yeah, I love you too and all that other cuddly emotional crap."
Roxas brought his hand up around Axel's back before withdrawing, "You seriously need a shower."
Axel nuzzled their noses together before pulling back to stand, "'Kay. You're staying here tonight."
It wasn't a question. Roxas flushed at the unspoken implication.
Demyx and Zexion lived in the same dorm building across campus, but separate floors. After taking well-deserved showers, they agreed to meet back in Zexion's room. Zexion lived in a solo-dorm; he'd paid more for the extra privacy. Demyx changed before prancing down the stairs, practically tackling the slate-haired man against his couch.
Zexion tugged his comforter off his bed to wrap it around them. Demyx pulled his arms around Zexion's waist.
"You think they'll work it out?" Demyx muttered voice thick with sleep.
Zexion leaned his head against the pillow, "Yes, but damn."
"What?" Demyx asked with alarm.
"You do realize this camping trip made us all gay right?"
Demyx's shoulders were shaking with amusement before he nuzzled against Zexion's neck. Zexion smelled perfect, all musky and familiar. The scientist kissed his hair.
"That's not correct," He murmured back, "Camping forced us all realize and acknowledge our true feelings."
And Zexion couldn't argue with that logic. They cuddled closer before relaxing, falling asleep in the comfort of each other's arms. Demyx wouldn't have it any other way.