A World Below
Roxas didn't know what city he was in, but it was gorgeous. He knew he was standing on an extremely tall tower, and he was looking down at buildings of every color, all of them bright and covered in lights. They had a tacky loveliness about them that Roxas had never experienced before. He forgot about everything except what he was seeing until he heard Axel's voice.
"Do you know where we are?" Axel asked.
"No idea," Roxas said, as he shook his head slightly, without attempting to hide his awe. He knew he probably looked ridiculous, but he was in too much shock to act normally.
"It's where my somebody lives. Las Vegas." Axel smiled as he looked out at the city. "It's kind of brilliant, don't you think? I remember the first time he came here. He couldn't stop thinking about how beautiful it was. Reno felt free here for the first time since he'd left home. And that's how I feel here too," he sighed. "We have to be careful though. The top of this building is closed to the public right now, but sometimes there are security guards at night. I've had a few close calls. I'll worry about it though," he shrugged, "You just enjoy yourself." He offered an enthusiastic smile. "Kinda cool, right?"
It was cool. Really cool. "What building are we standing on now?"
"It's called The Stratosphere. It's for tourists –those are people who are visiting a new place, like on vacation, you know?" he explained after Roxas gave him a blank look. "They come up here to get a good view of the city. Like I said, it's closed for the night, but usually there are a lot of people here."
"Ohhh…" Roxas said. Then there was silence, and he didn't have anything else to say. Now that the conversation had died down he realized a few things that, when added together, made him exceptionally nervous. He was on top of a very tall building, alone with Axel , and the two of them could be caught at any moment by "security guards" and maybe get in trouble. Roxas stood by the edge of the building and looked out through the clear plastic walls that separated him from a perfect view. It really was enchanting. He was glad to be here.
"Feel like being adventurous?" Axel asked, looking directly at him with a hint of danger dancing in his eyes. Roxas was all too familiar with this look. It made his stomach drop. He didn't respond, but Axel started walking, and Roxas followed until he was looking up at a metal framework of some kind. It was massively tall. "Oh no," Roxas thought. He could see exactly where this was going.
Axel walked inside the structure and started climbing a ladder that led to the top. When he was a quarter of the way up (at least 40 feet above Roxas) he looked down at him. "Oh come on Roxas! You know you want to…" he yelled down.
Oh no. Axel was giving him that look. He could feel the peer pressure from 40 feet away. And he knew there were beautiful green eyes staring at him, daring him onward. He hated heights. But he had to do it. Here goes, he thought, as he stepped through the bars and onto the ladder.
Axel didn't say anything when he saw Roxas walking towards the ladder. He knew he'd won, and Roxas knew that Axel knew that he would keep on following him like always.
Roxas put a foot on the ladder and began to ascend, trying not to pay attention to anything except his immediate task and surroundings. It wasn't until he was halfway up that he looked down in a state of panic.
"Roxas, are you okay?" Axel yelled from above him. Axel must have been paying more attention to him than he'd thought.
"Uh… yeah –what?" He couldn't really pay attention to anything except how high up he was.
"Roxas, don't tell me you're afraid of heights!" He rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.
"I most definitely am afraid of heights," Roxas admitted. He had stopped looking down and was now focused on Axel.
"Oh C'mon! We sit on the edge of the bell tower all the time!"
It had taken Roxas a long time to get accustomed to that, and he only did it at the constant urging of Axel. Besides, the bell tower was not nearly this tall.
"Nothing's going to happen to you," Axel yelled, "Trust me. Just keep moving."
Roxas did, and somehow it worked. Suddenly, he was at the top of the ladder and there was a surface for him to sit on. Axel was already sitting down and looking at him.
"Not bad," he said with a shrug. Then, seeing the look of exasperation on Roxas's face, he laughed.
It was times like these when Roxas realized what an asshole Axel really was, making him climb all the way up here when he was afraid of heights. Axel lived off of adrenaline, and Roxas didn't, except when Axel made him. This was probably one of the stupidest things he'd done under the influence of Axel's manipulation. And then he looked out at the city around him as he stood on the ledge and realized he felt damn good. The adrenaline was pulsing through his entire being. He was wired. He wanted to do something outrageous. Like jump or fly or-
He was being kissed.
Axel was kissing him.
Combined with the rush and the nervousness and that indescribable grasp on being alive, it felt appropriately dangerous. Axel's hands were on his face and in his hair. All combined, it was like nothing he'd ever experienced. He was sure it was just what life was supposed to feel like. Axel's lips parted with his, but his hands were still on Roxas's face.
"Fuck," Axel said, breathless, his face still close, looking at Roxas's eyes. Then he took his hands off Roxas's face and looked out at the city. He was still standing close enough to Roxas for it to be okay that they had stopped touching. Roxas looked out at the city too. He felt Axel's hand take his, and their fingers intertwined. It was a very comforting thing. No one had ever held his hand before. He was trying to cherish the moment, and he smiled and took a deep breath and tried to store the memory in his head for later, for forever, just in case he never felt this way again.
"Roxas," Axel said, "What do you think of me?"
"Um..." He'd been caught off guard with the question, but he tried to make an appropriate answer out of all the possible things he could say. "I think you're a good person and fun to be around… I was kind of pissed at you for making climb up here, but… now, I feel pretty good about it," he said, and he couldn't help but blush a little. Axel was still holding his hand.
Axel smiled in a way that Roxas could only describe as bitter. "That's cute, Roxas. But you've got me all wrong… One day you'll know."
Roxas hated it when Axel put himself down, and he responded without thinking. "I will not know! It's annoying when you say things like that. You're wrong."
"Say things like what?" Axel asked. He was still calm despite Roxas's outburst.
"Like when you say you're a bad person or dangerous or 'dark.' It's stupid," Roxas shrugged, trying to calm down. "You're really. I don't know. You're my best friend. Everything you do for me contradicts that. Like the fact that you've been helping me out since I got here and taking care of Xion when she needs it and bringing me to places like this. A bad person wouldn't do those things."
"Roxas, I am only a good person when it comes to you. I'm a good person when I'm around good people because it's easy, but when I'm not, I go back to my true self, and I'm a terrible person. Trust me."
"You are not! Name one bad thing you've done." Roxas hated having this argument with Axel. It was so frustrating. He knew Axel was a good person. He just didn't know why Axel couldn't see it.
"You're just naïve Roxas. You can't imagine anyone doing anything bad because you never have. And you never will. I, on the other hand, do awful things on a daily basis. I just don't tell you about them. If you knew what I have been doing at Castle Oblivion, you'd believe me."
This comment made Roxas extremely uneasy. It never occurred to him that Axel may really have done something bad. He realized suddenly that Axel had never fully explained what kind of "missions" he'd been doing at Castle Oblivion. Still, Roxas was convinced that whatever bad things Axel had done could be forgiven. Deep down, he knew Axel was a good person. He wanted to make him see it.
"Listen," Axel said, and he dropped Roxas's hand, "this was an awful idea, and it was selfish of me to bring you here, but you have to understand that even if I am a bad person, I care about you, okay?" He was looking at Roxas seriously. "And I will protect you. It will be the only good thing I ever do."
"What are you talking about?" Roxas asked suspiciously. Protect him from what? He looked into Axel's eyes. How could there be anything bad hidden there? "I don't believe that you're a bad person, Axel," he said.
Axel sighed. "You will, Roxas, just wait. You're going to hate me when you find out who I really am."
He looked so sad. Roxas couldn't help what happened next. "I could never hate you," he said, and, just to prove it, he took a step toward Axel and, casting his nervousness aside, kissed him on the lips. He was pleased and surprised to find that Axel was kissing him back.