Title: Between Bethel and Ai

Word Count: 1,223

A/N: I wrote a fic about bb!Axel coloring. That's it. I'm not sure what this says about me other than I think kids are strange little creatures. Also, the title is a biblical reference to a place where Abraham (though at the time I think he might've still been Abram, not sure) built an altar. I'm trying to be deep leave me alone.

When Axel was very little, coloring was his favorite activity.

Before his nap, his mom used to sit him down at the hard plastic table in the middle of his playroom with a package of fat crayons and a pile of coloring books and let him color for a while. Picking a picture was the first task.

He'd pick through his pile of books, eying them critically. He'd turn them. First to the left and then the right, making the brightly colored covers catch the light before picking out two or three and laying them in front of him on the green table. Then he'd narrow it down to a simple choice based on the subject of the books in front of him, something like 'Plants, animals, or space?'

He'd stare at them very hard and, if it were three, tossed one of them to the side with the other rejects. Then he'd space out the books very carefully, close his eyes, carefully sticking out one finger, and sing Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mo in a very soft voice to make his final choice.

Book picked, he'd take a moment to flick through the pages and pick exactly two pictures to color. (Before he'd had a Daily Coloring Time, he'd picked a lot more, but he usually only got to two, so later he only picked two and kept a third in mind.)

As a child, he was also a firm believer in saving the best for last, so he always began with the picture he found least interesting out of the two.

He carefully folded the picture over the perforation (though at the time, he called it the 'dotted line', even though it wasn't actually a dotted line like the ones he cut with his plastic safety scissors to make a little picture book at school) and then he'd fold it back over the opposite way, like Mommy had shown him so that the page didn't rip when he tore it out.

Once he had it torn out (and if it still ripped somehow, he'd tear the ruined page in half twice and then burst into tears, before Mommy swooped in and laid him down for a nap early), he'd open the book it came from to the picture he liked better and slide it across the table to the right corner, out of his way.

Then he took his freshly torn-out page and would press his hands into it, easing out nonexistent wrinkles and feeling the coarse paper scratch at his palms. He'd lean down, just enough to get the smell of the paper and sometimes he'd nod to himself, as if glad his paper has the right scent to it, and open his crayon box.

He pulled out each of the crayons, one by one. He preferred the sixteen pack, because there were more colors, but he didn't have to pull out as many crayons as when he used a 32, 48, or 64. (As a general rule, he loathed anything higher than a 64-pack. There were just too many crayons to choose from.) They were always placed in the box in the order of the rainbow. (Or as close to it as he could get with sixteen crayons, including the colors black, white, and brown, which were not Rainbow colors.)

He laid them out on the table on his right side, within easy reach but not so close that he'd have to worry about knocking them off the table while he was working.

Then he placed the box on top of his coloring book and leaned back to look at his picture.

It was a very delicate thing: the decision on where to start, and he had to think. If he didn't, he'd do it wrong and the whole picture would be ruined. (Not many years later, Axel would later learn to not care if his decisions messed things up, and soon after that, to not care much about the decision-making process altogether. No one else seemed to care, either.)

He would carefully pick up the crayon he wanted to use first, usually a red or orange, and then he'd begin to trace the lines. For instance, if he was coloring a picture of a little girl and she was wearing a shirt, he'd pick up his chosen color (red was his favorite color, with blue coming in a close second) and carefully trace the outline of her shirt, before very softly filling it in.

He knew not to press too hard or the picture came out looking too bright and waxy and too much like the plastic of his coloring table. It would be ruined.

Coloring was his talent. His pictures were his pride and joy. He would get lost in it, blue eyes narrowed and tongue sticking out just that much, just to help him concentrate. Occasionally he would pause, tap a crayon against his chin, tilt his head, and really see how well the picture was coming along, before continuing with his work. Sometimes it was necessary.

He wasn't perfect. He made mistakes.

He'd go on like that for however long it took him to complete the pictures, placing a crayon back in the void he'd left in the rainbow back to his right whenever he was done with it, before picking up his next color choice.

Once he was done, he'd sit back on his heels and lift the page with gentle hands until he could face it straight on and judged it with squinting blue eyes, and if he judged it to be up to his normally high caliber, he'd grin and pick up his red crayon and very carefully write in his first name in the bottom right hand corner like the real artists did. (If it wasn't up to his usually high caliber of work, well… things are best left unsaid.) Then he set it gently down on his left and reached for his crayon box, carefully placing it on top, before snatching up his coloring book.

This was his prize.

This was what he really wanted.

So, he laid it down as if it were a baby or a glass slipper or something equally as fragile and he'd brush the page, just like the one before it, and the process would begin again, only this time it was even more intricate. This time he put even more thought into his color choice: should he go with traditional coloring or not? Would it be better if the sky were cloudy? Yellow or brown? Blue or green? Red or black?

He liked to draw patterns, sometimes. Yes, the girl is wearing a shirt, but who says it has to be one color? Maybe there are polka dots or stars or hearts or something?

It was all very tiring.

When he was done, he'd sit back and sigh deeply and judge, just as he had done before. Once he'd made a decision on how well it ranked, he'd pick up his red crayon and smack his left hand down at the top of the page to keep it in place.

'To Mommy' he'd write at the top. Or, on more special occasions, 'To Daddy'.

And at the very, very bottom, in the left hand corner: 'From Axel'.