"Axel, what do you know about your somebody?"
"Well," Axel ran his hand through his hair, "What do you want to know about him?"
Truthfully, Roxas wanted to know anything Axel might be willing to tell. The past few weeks had brought everything back to a passable level of normality between them. This didn't change the fact that Roxas was still harboring the same feelings as he was before, but at least now he could talk to Axel as if those feelings never existed. It was better than being avoided or ignored.
"Where does he live?" Roxas began, although he realized he sort of knew the answer already, having been to the guy's house. However, Axel had been too drunk to remember taking him, so he figured it was a fair enough question.
"He lives in Las Vegas. It's in America," Axel looked at Roxas. "That probably means nothing to you though, right?"
Roxas smiled, "Yeah. It's lame, but I only know about the places I've been on my missions... So what's it like?"
"They call it Sin City, if that helps you form an opinion…. There are places called 'casinos' there where people gamble – like we did when I taught you how to play poker, remember?- and lots of, uh, adult entertainment." He must have seen the puzzled look on Roxas's face, because he smiled and ruffled Roxas's hair condescendingly. "I'll tell you about it when you're older."
Even though Roxas found it somewhat annoying when Axel wouldn't tell him things, claiming he "wasn't old enough," he realized it was Axel's way of protecting him, and he thought it was sort of sweet.
After a slight pause, Axel sighed. "It's a nice place though. I remember when he moved there. Ran away from home when he turned 18. He was kind of a rebel so you can see where I get it from," Axel laughed. He was getting that look on his face that Roxas loved. He looked hopeful. It was beautiful to watch.
"Why did he run away?" Roxas asked, trying to focus on the conversation and not how physically attractive he found his friend. Roxas could understand why someone would want to run away. Sometimes he'd wanted to do it himself, but he honestly didn't think he could survive without Axel. Not just because he really liked him, but also because Axel taught him about practically everything, and there were still so many things Roxas wanted and needed to learn.
Roxas was glad he'd finally gotten the courage to ask Axel about his somebody. Demyx had been bugging him to do it for a while. He wanted to know how Axel had gotten into his somebody's house, but Roxas certainly wasn't going to bring that up. He wasn't even supposed to know about it. Roxas wondered why Demyx didn't ask Axel himself, but he didn't like to discuss the status of Demyx and Axel's past relationship. Finding out that the two had kissed had been enough information already.
Roxas looked at Axel, waiting for an answer to his question. "Well… his parents were kind of awful. They just… didn't respect him, I guess. His father was an alcoholic. Do you know what that means?"
"Yep, Demyx and I talked about that once," Roxas said. This was more or less true. He had been speaking to Demyx a lot more lately, and he'd picked up a useless fact or two. He never thought Demyx's random vocabulary lessons would come in handy. It was a pleasant surprise.
Axel nodded, "Well, that's good. I didn't know you two talked."
Roxas felt like he should explain. "Well, during those weeks when you… weren't around as much, I talked to him more."
"Oh, right," Axel said, looking away. "Well, anyway, where were we?" He paused to think. "Oh! His parents. Well, they were awful people. So he just… left. He went clear across the United States. Started in North Carolina –that's in the South- and made his way to Vegas. It was a booming city at the time. He really loved it…." Axel trailed off and then added, "I really love it too."
Roxas was drinking in the expression on Axel's face. It was so unlike him to seem so genuinely content and earnest. Usually he was joking around, making fun of himself or someone else, or just acting in his (endearingly, Roxas thought) egotistical way. However, now he was just being honest, and Roxas thought it looked very good on him.
"But, anyway, I could be nostalgic all day about this stuff," he said waving a hand to indicate his willingness to push the subject aside, but Roxas was determined to keep him talking.
"What kind of job did he have?"
Axel seemed happy to have permission to continue on the subject, "Well, he started as a bartender to make some easy cash. Now he's a hotel manager, and he makes a lot more money. He met his wife when he was a bartender though. She's one of the nicest people I've ever met – well, actually I've never met her really, I guess." He looked distracted now, and a little embarrassed. "I hate it when I talk about my somebody like I'm him," he explained, "He doesn't know who I am, his wife doesn't know who I am, and I'll never really know who they are either. I just have these memories of them together and, I don't know… I guess I feel connected to them, and… I miss them…" His voice had become quieter. "I wish I could be him – leave all of this shit behind. But I can't. I'm just his fucked-up doppelganger, and that's never going to change."
Roxas thought this was a completely inaccurate description. Axel just didn't know how amazing he was. He always acted confident and self-assured, so it always seemed odd to Roxas when he spoke of himself in such a derisive way.
"Axel… I like you how you are. You're… perfect," he whispered the last word, realizing that this was an embarrassing thing to admit and immediately wishing he hadn't. "I mean- I meant – that you don't need to be like him to be a good person." Roxas thought this was a lame conclusion. He was too embarrassed to look at Axel.
Axel wasn't looking at him either. "Thank you, Roxas" he said with a tone of almost heart-breaking sincerity. "No one has ever said anything like that to me before." Axel scratched the back of his head in an awkwardly endearing way. Roxas wasn't sure what to do now. He wanted to reach over and put his hand on Axel's. Their hands were close – almost touching. It would take nothing to bring them together, and he wanted to show Axel that he was there for him physically and emotionally, and that he had meant what he said. He wanted to show Axel everything he was feeling, but he couldn't do it.
He settled for asking his final important question. "What's his name?"
"Reno," Axel whispered.
Roxas nodded to show he'd heard. He liked that name.
"Well," Axel said, changing his tone completely and stretching as he stood up, "It's getting late." Roxas noticed that the sun had set. "I've got to go, but – I know it's lame, but do you want to go to that bar again tomorrow? " Axel seemed kind of embarrassed and he was talking quickly as he often did on the rare occasions when he got nervous. Roxas thought it was kind of adorable. "Demyx will be there, and I will –obviously - and so will everyone. I'll help you improve your game of pool. If I remember from last time, you could really use the help," he joked as Roxas turned to look at him. "So – I mean- it's no big deal if you don't want to go, because they're lame, but I promise not to get black-out drunk again, and-"
Roxas decided to save Axel from himself. "I'd like to go… it'd be fun!" he said, adding a shrug, just to make himself look nonchalant. Inside, he was feeling overwhelmingly joyful. "Besides, I'd like to beat you at a game of pool."
"In your dreams," Axel said as he smiled down at him. Their eyes were glued to one another for a few magical seconds. Axel's deep green ones were playful, and Roxas was enjoying looking at them until Axel looked away. "I'll come by your room tomorrow then, okay? Around 8 o' clock." Roxas nodded, and Axel was just turning the corner of the clock tower when he stopped and added, "I'll find you something better to wear too, if you don't mind… Dinosaurs really aren't your style."
Roxas couldn't erase the smile on his face. He stayed on the ledge until complete blackness overtook the sky. He knew it was unwise to be so hopeful already when he felt like he'd just gotten over Axel's first round of rejection, but he couldn't help it. The sparkle in Axel's eyes had left him foolishly optimistic.