Author's note:
Hey guys, sorry for the massive delay... again... I hope you enjoy this, I'm not too happy with some parts, but this will have to do for now. I hope you enjoy.
~DSL.


The evil behind two faces

Chapter 18

"Christmas with Axel" by Cloud Takeda

At first I was a tad wary of Axel. I accepted his presence in my house, I was nice to him, but that's about it. I didn't want any trouble with anyone, least of all with Roxas or Sora. To me, that was exactly what Axel looked like: trouble.
Axel proved to be the complete opposite of what I feared and had the opposite effect on Roxas, most of all. He and Sora got along as well, but the effect he had on Roxas astonished me beyond all reason.

It wasn't rare for Roxas to wander from room to room at night, he had always been a bad sleeper and that hadn't improved since our parents' death. I was used to doors opening and closing, feet shuffling and soft music coming from the living room. I had gotten so used to the nightly sounds of Roxas, as I liked to call them, that I missed them when they stopped. Axel somehow managed to keep Roxas in his room throughout the nights, though I was fairly sure that they didn't sleep all night.
That point was proven to me the first night: I was woken up by a scream that gave me goosebumps all over. It was a scream filled with agony and terror, it exclaimed more pain than I could comprehend. A faint murmuring filled my ears shortly after, accompanied by something that sounded like soft sobs, but I couldn't be sure. Trusting Roxas to deal with this, I decided not to get out of bed and check on the two of them. If Roxas needed me, he'd come and get me. My trust in my younger sibling had been right: Roxas had taken care of Axel, he told me the next morning. I didn't want to ask him what had happened, Roxas seemed a bit protective over Axel and asking seemed inappropriate.

Roxas staying in his room all night wasn't the only change Axel brought to our house. For the first time since our parents' death, I heard Roxas' laughter coming from his room, one particularly dark, rainy afternoon. Sora came up to me shortly after, asking if he had heard what he thought he had heard. I nodded, as confused as he was. Sora then smiled at me and told me he liked Axel. I smiled back at him, thinking that at the very least I didn't dislike Axel. During the dinners we had together, Axel repeatedly complimented my cooking (which, by all means, is average at best) and thanked me every evening for the meal.

To me, that was another sign something was off about this guy. He was too polite to me, rarely looked me into the eyes and was giving off signals that didn't make sense to me. But, I have to say, his presence cheered up the general mood undoubtedly.
I noticed Axel's mood swings the second day, one second he was all smiles and laughter, the next he looked like he was about to start crying or shout at someone. I wasn't sure what that was about, I had noticed the mood swings in the twins as well, and blamed their age. With Axel, I couldn't do that, his mood swings were very different from the ones the twins had, so much more in the extremities of emotions. All in all, I had two weeks to figure out what it was exactly. Despite Axel's mood swings, Sora tried to make sure he was involved in everything we did, going as far as to refuse to help me with something unless Axel and Roxas could help as well.

As so many things were making all the alarm bells go off in my head, I decided I should have a talk with Axel. When I asked him if I could have a quick chat with him in the kitchen Roxas gave me a panicked look, I hadn't discussed my plan with him, and that obviously wasn't appreciated.
Axel and I sat down at the kitchen table, and I tried to make sure I didn't expect answers on every question I had – yet – but that I did want to know what it was he wanted from Roxas. He gave me a straightforward answer, something I greatly appreciated. He told me Roxas made him feel good, that Roxas made him forget about his home situation. When he mentioned home, I saw a flicker of fear, anger and pain flash over his face, but it was gone before I could figure out all the emotions that I got a glimpse of. I realised at that moment that my suspicions about Axel, the mood swings, the unusual polite behaviour, that all of that was related to his home situation. I had two reasons not to ask about his home situation right then and there. First: the flash I had seen scared me, was I ready to hear what lied beyond that? Second: I didn't want to ruin these things that Roxas was giving him.
He proceeded to tell me he felt protective over Roxas, that he wanted to make him happy and that the past few days had shown him what a family could be like. This last thing caused me to snort, us three? A family? Don't make me laugh. Yes, we're brothers and yes, we love each other very much, but I was in no way a parent to the twins, something all three of us were aware of. He gave me a reprimanding look, we might not be the picture perfect family, he said, but we were more of a family than he had ever experienced. He then told me he wanted to get back to Roxas and that if I had any more questions, I was free to ask.
I let the conversation rest, for now. I didn't really have any questions any more concerning Roxas. Concerning his home situation was a whole different matter, and the conversation had given me more questions than answers, but I was fine with that. For now. I knew, that if Roxas and Axel would become serious about their friendship, something I thought very likely, that I'd demand some sort of explanation for his behaviour. At the same time, I was very much aware that Axel wouldn't just tell me everything, and that, if I ever found out, I would probably be one of the last to know. I was fine with that, as long as he continued making Roxas happy.

Christmas shopping was eventful, as it was every year. We went to the biggest mall we could find and split up, hunting down the Christmas gifts alone. Axel didn't know the mall and seemed like he was about to have a panic attack when I told Roxas to take Axel with him, to make sure he wouldn't get lost. I got two grateful glances at that, Roxas glad he wouldn't have to leave Axel alone and Axel glad he didn't have to do this on his own.
As I did every year, I had ordered my presents in advance and all I had to do was pick them up and pay for them, so soon I found myself sitting in the cafe we had agreed to meet up when we were finished. I ordered a big cup of coffee, knowing that it would take Sora a lot of time to find everything and I wasn't sure about how long Axel and Roxas would take. I sat, drank my coffee and watched as people walked by.
About half an hour and another giant cup of coffee later, Axel and Roxas made their way to the table I was sitting at, the moment I got a text from Sephiroth. You'll be introduced to him later on, but I'll tell you a little about him. Sephiroth has been my boyfriend for about four years now and when my parents died he had just proposed to go looking for houses together. We had to postpone that, obviously, as I got the guardianship over the twins. The plans at this point in the story were still on hold, and suffice to say that our relationship had been as well. It had been a while since I last heard from Seph, so my mood was lifted when he texted me. Then when Roxas and Axel made their way to my table and Axel gave me a very confused look, I couldn't help but burst out laughing at how odd the whole situation was.

When Christmas finally rolled around I had heard Sora make his way downstairs at an god-awful early hour. About an hour later, I heard two pairs of footsteps making their way down the stairs as well and join Sora in the living room, waiting for me to come downstairs and join them to unwrap the presents. I sighed deep, considered staying in bed for a moment, but decided against it. This had to do with Sora emptying a bucket of ice-cold water on me the year before, when I did stay in bed for a bit longer. After another deep sigh I got dressed and made my way downstairs, to find three very excited faces sitting next to the Christmas tree. As always, I needed coffee first and told them exactly that.
After I got my much needed coffee – I don't function very well without the stuff – I joined the twins and the redhead and we started unwrapping the gifts. One I particularly liked Sora had given me, it was a magnet that says: I haven't had my coffee yet. Don't make me kill you. As I said before, I don't function very well without the black, strong goodness, so the magnet was a proper gift.
Once all the gifts were unwrapped and the twins had overruled Axel's idea of what to do next, they watched their usual Christmas day cartoons and I drew back in the kitchen, to make my not-so-notorious Christmas dinner. I asked for help every once in a while, which resulted in a crowded kitchen as Sora refused to do anything with out Axel and Roxas being there as well. All in all, the dinner wasn't too posh or anything, but we enjoyed it.

The night that caused Christmas day to turn into boxing day had been an uneasy night, for all of us. I had woken up several times to Axel's screaming and this surprised me, I had only heard the full blown screaming once, during the first night, and some muffled screaming in later nights. After the third time Axel screamed, Sora knocked on my door, asking if he could sleep in my bed, as the screaming was freaking him out a little. I couldn't blame him, and let him sleep in my bed. I'd talk with both Roxas and Axel the next morning.
Something changed after Christmas though. Axel was more timid, even more than usual. Roxas seemed to have gone back to his silent, sad self. What was going on here? I'd seen so much improvement for both Roxas and Axel, both seemed like more "normal" teens than their usual selves, both seemed somehow happy. And then, boxing day morning, all that was gone. Roxas was hesitant, Axel was pulling down his sleeves all the time, trying to hide his cuts more than usual. At that time I didn't know about either Roxas' or Axel's cuts, but I had seen Roxas wear more long sleeved shirts than usual. Axel actually pulled his already too long sleeves even further down his arm, up to the point where they reached his fingers. This did worry me, but it didn't necessarily ring any alarm bells, something it would do later, when I had gotten to know his story.