Chapter Two

Cool autumn air surrounded Roxas and Axel as they arrived at their destination. A neon sign, dulled by years of wear and tear, was firmly attached to the brick building, and read "Highwind Tattoo."

"This place brings back memories," said Roxas, staring at the tattoo parlor.

Axel pushed the door in, and stepped into the reception area of the shop. Once inside, he held the door open for Roxas, who shuffled in as quickly as he could to escape the chill of the fall breeze. "It is a bit nostalgic. It's the first tattoo shop I worked at."

Roxas sent him a nod of thanks as the swinging glass door closed behind him. "And it's the place I got my first tattoo," Roxas replied, remembering the day clearly. It had been three years ago, on his eighteenth birthday.

Roxas had driven himself to the nearest tattoo parlor to exercise his new found rights as an adult. He could vote, but politics and the right to vote hadn't interested him nearly as much as the right to get all the body modifications he wanted done - and without parental consent.

He got a beautifully designed tattoo on his chest of a door; it was made up of a simple color palette: blues, purples, and blacks. The tattoo itself was also simple; it was a door, open just a sliver, with shadows pouring out of the door and swirling in every direction.

Roxas even had a name for the tattoo, as it represented a theory, or philosophy he had about life. The door was called "The Door to Darkness." It symbolized how one move could lead to you being swallowed by despair, desperation, pain, and engulfed in darkness. According to the next part of his theory, the darkness could manipulate you, turn you into something hardly recognisable as yourself. It seemed that the darkness had the power to spit you back out completely anew, as a person who had changed for the worst.

Though the story behind the tattoo was detailed, long, and lengthy, the tattoo got right to the point, just as Roxas had wanted.

The intricate piece that adorned his left pectoral was created by none other than a sharp-tongued apprentice with a set of locks akin to fire.

"That tattoo," Axel reached a skinny index finger out to poke Roxas's chest, "was one of my finest pieces of art." He approached the front desk, which was made of a smooth, grey marble. Behind the reception desk was an aluminum wall, covered in different merchandise for Highwind Tattoo.

Axel reached forward to ring a small, silver bell on top of the desk. He pressed it once, three times, and finally five times before anyone came up to the counter.

"Ya couldn't ring the damn bell once, like a normal person?" A man in his late fifties asked, shooting Axel a glace to kill. A pair of steam-punk glasses covered his head, and Axel reached a bony fist out to knock on them.

"You really should take these off, Cid. You're looking a little nerdy with 'em on."

"Hey, hey, hey! Get yer hands offa me!" Cid said, swatting at Axel's fist. The red head grinned sheepishly and returned his hand to his side. Cid just grunted in response. "Hmph. That's right, put your hands away," he mumbled. He looked to Axel's right and finally noticed Roxas. "Who's he? Looks familiar..."

"This is Roxas. He's gotten tats done here before." Axel replied, gesturing at his blonde friend.

Cid just scowled at him. "What? He can't speak for himself? I swear, Núñez, sometimes you just talk too much." At that, Roxas had to stifle a laugh. He wasn't sure if the older man was genuinely annoyed, or if he just had an extremely dry sense of humor.

Axel looked at Roxas from the corner of his eyes and smiled slightly. "What's the matter, Cid? Haven't had a smoke break yet today?" The older blonde man just deepened his scowl. Roxas supposed that meant yes. "Just tell me where Rikku is and I'll be out of your hair. I have an appointment with her today, remember?"

"She's in the back. Go down the hall, it's the door at the very- why am I explaining you the layout of the store?" Cid grumbled, as he walked away towards the front door of the store.

"Better take that smoke break now!" Axel called after him. "Might clear your mind a bit! Or is that just old age making you forget? Alzheimer's, perhaps?"

Cid turned around, a carton of Marlboro's in hand. "Fuck you, Axel. I might as well dock yer pay for all those remarks you make!"

"Maybe that would work," Axel shrugged, "if I had a set salary. Too bad I'm paid by the tattoo, eh?" With that, he trailed down the hallway and opened a black metal door at the end of the small hall. A sign on the door read, "employees only" but honestly, Roxas didn't care. Apparently neither did Axel, since he said nothing as he followed him into the back.

There wasn't much in the back room. A sofa and a few chairs made up the majority of the furniture in the room. A counter lined the wall, equipped with a sink, microwave, and mini-fridge. Another section of the counter had a few extra bottles of ink, and a couple of spare needles in case an artist had forgotten some of their supplies.

A small blonde girl with braids in her hair was seated on the couch, cellphone and energy drink in hand. She looked up at the sound of the break room's door shutting. "Axel!" She exclaimed, setting down her drink and slipping her phone into her back pocket. She smiled and gave him a brief hug, which he returned. "And your... Roxas, right? I think I remember you. Axel's mentioned you before."

"Yeah," Roxas smiled back at her. "Nice to meet you, Rikku."

"Pleased to meet ya, too!" She opened up the door back to the rest of the shop. "Follow me." She said in a sing-songy voice.

"You're chipper as always, Rikku." Axel said as they turned into one of the four tattooing rooms.

Ignoring his previous comment, Rikku turned to Axel. "Give me a few minutes to get everything set up, alright?" She busied herself with sanitizing the work space.

"Are you sure you really want to do this? I mean... a facial tattoo? Don't you think it'll hurt?" Roxas asked, shuddering at the thought of a needle anywhere near his eye. He had a fairly high pain tolerance, but there were a few things he would never even consider doing. Tattooing his face was one of them.

Axel snorted. "You don't think I'm that stupid, do ya? Of course I know it's going to hurt, Roxas. That's why you're here: to hold my hand during it." He cracked a smile, and took a seat on the tattoo chair.

The blonde just smiled and rolled his eyes in response. He took a seat in a chair next to Axel that Rikku had brought over for him.

"You don't mind if I just free hand this one, do you Axel?" Rikku asked, sitting in a rolly chair next to Axel. She held a tattoo gun in one of her latex glove covered hands.

"If you need an outline to tattoo a teardrop, then I seriously question your abilities." Axel laughed, leaning back into the chair. "Just make sure they're symmetrical, yeah?"

Rikku placed one of her hands over her chest and scoffed playfully. "You really think I can't make them symmetrical? You big meanie!"

Axel held his hands up in defense. "Sorry, sorry. I forgot I was getting tattooed by someone with the mental age of a five year old.

"I... I don't act like a five year old! You... you... you big jerk!" The three of them erupted in laughter at Rikku's childish antics. "Alright, alright. No more laughing, okay?" Rikku said as soon as everyone had calmed down. "If you don't, this tattoo will look disateriffic!"

"Disateriffic?" Roxas asked with a large grin on his face. "Is that even a word?"

"I think she may or may not mean disastrous..."

Rikku dipped the tip of the needle in to black ink and turned on the tattoo gun. "Hey, you two! Can you stop talking now? We need to get this tattoo done sometime this year."

With that, the boys in the room quieted down. She placed the needle against Axel's skin, and he winced as the first bit of ink touched his skin. He shut his eyes for a moment, but was quickly scolded by Rikku. "I know it hurts, Axel, but don't do that." She held the needle a few inches from his face since she had to stop her work when he closed his eyes. "It pulls on the skin when you close your eyes. It'll come out weird if you do that again."

Axel nodded slightly, and Rikku started working again. Roxas noticed a look of pain etched onto his friend's face. Silently, he wished there was something he could do to make it not hurt Axel so badly. He felt bad about the pain Axel was experiencing, he really did, but there was nothing for him to do. Besides, Axel was the one dumb enough to want a facial tattoo. He must have known what he was going to get himself into.

"Hey, Axel?" He asked when Rikku had turned around to dip the needle in more ink.


"Why'd you want to get this tattoo done?" Roxas had been wondering about it since they left his apartment. It was an odd thing to have tattooed. What did the two teardrops mean?

"I guess... the meaning of it is for me to know, and you to find out." Axel smirked, but it was short lived as Rikku pressed the needle against his skin. His arrogant smirk turned into a pained grimace, and damn, did Roxas feel bad. He smiled sympathetically at the red head.

"Roxas, I wasn't joking when I said I wanted you to hold my hand." He stretched his arm out towards the blonde, and looked at him expectantly.

"I... what?" Roxas asked, dumbfounded. He looked from Axel's hand, to his face, and back to his hand again.

Axel had to stop himself from closing his eyes at the pain. "Christ, Roxas. Stop acting like a prepubescent boy and take my hand. I'm kind of in a lot of pain." He waved his hand in the air, once again drawing Roxas's attention to it. "Please?" He added as an after thought.

After a moment of considering weather or not to do it, Roxas placed his hand in Axel's, and smile at Axel when he felt him thread his fingers through his.

In the movies, if someone were to hold hands with the one they liked, they'd feel sparks, fireworks. Roxas felt no sparks, no fireworks, no electricity running through his veins. All he felt was the slight pressure of Axel squeezing his hand. Sure, it wasn't exciting like movies, but he didn't think it would be, didn't want it to be. It was Axel, and that was good enough for him.

If only he were good enough for Axel...