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ne'er-do-wells and insufferable bastards

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Olette starts disappearing, and it’s weird. It’s really weird.

When summer vacation had started, she had been the one that was adamant about spending every moment possible as a trio. Hayner and Pence weren’t exactly plans kind of guys. Sure, they’d end up seeing each other every day anyway, because when it came down to it they all always ended up back at the usual spot.

Olette, though. Olette is on such a rampage that they half expect her to show up with a schedule for every day of the holiday, arranged in a 3-inch binder, with color-coded, cascading tabs.

That’s why it doesn’t make sense when her attentions shift. She’s absolutely still over-invested in the three of them spending time together (as well as mentioning homework every day!), but some days her mind just seems elsewhere, and some days she is literally gone for hours at a time.

She’s still their Olette. She just seems a little farther away than usual. And they love her but…

It’s weird. It’s really weird.


 

She plans on taking ice cream back to Hayner and Pence. That’s all it’s supposed to be for the day. It’s too hot for pretty much anything else, so she’s going to buy three sea-salt ice creams and take them back to the usual spot and they’re all going to try not to melt into the ground. The town is pretty much deserted, after all; no one wants to be outside on a day like today.

Olette buys the ice cream and turns around, ready to make a beeline back to their makeshift clubhouse, and when she does, all three sea-salt ice creams collide with a very black, very long, very much too thick for this weather coat.

The man wearing the coat doesn’t exactly look like he belongs in Twilight Town, but Olette is mortified no less. She sputters, jerks away, and hopes against all hope that Hayner will come rolling in with some kind of awesome social gaffe that will make hers invisible.

Hayner never arrives. The stranger blinks at her once, twice, and then his thin eyebrows rise into his hairline.

Olette’s jaw keeps dropping; he certainly doesn’t belong in Twilight Town, with that red hair and wild makeup. If he was local, she’d know him. She’s sure of it.

“I’m… I’m so sorry,” Olette finally manages, trying to look the stranger in the eyes. She doesn’t know what she expects, but she certainly doesn’t expect the stranger’s face to split in a cocky grin.

“Nah, sweetheart, I’m sorry. Wouldn’t want to get in your way.” He sidesteps dramatically, but Olette’s demeanor has already cracked.

Sweetheart?

“I’m… what? Who’re you to just go around calling girls, ‘sweetheart,’ huh?” The ice cream is still in her hands, but the embarrassment has been replaced with what she would probably call righteous indignation.

“Hey, hey,” he says, hands up in defeat. The stranger is in gloves and the longest black coat that Olette has ever seen, and she’s sweating just standing here in shorts. “You’re awfully fired up for somebody who just smeared perfectly good ice cream on a stranger.”

Redness rises to Olette’s cheeks. He’s not wrong, but still – sweetheart?

She shakes her head, and stomps away like she’s a hell of a lot younger than eighteen.

Olette doesn’t notice that the ice cream is completely melted until she gets to their spot and feels the stickiness running down her fingers, but despite the coolness, her body is still warm. Hayner and Pence are disappointed, but all it takes is a disapproving glance for them to swallow their complaints.

-

Despite their acceptance of the situation the day prior, Pence and Hayner use it as leverage. Normally, they take turns, but for the second day in a row, it’s Olette’s job to pick up ice cream. Again.

She’s ready to pay. Olette already has the pouch out of her pocket and the munny counted out when the vendor says, “Don’t bother, Olette. It’s already paid for.”

It doesn’t register to begin with, and Olette says, “What?”

“The guy from yesterday, in the coat, like it wasn’t a million degrees out here. He paid for your ice cream yesterday.”

He hands Olette the ice cream and doesn’t say another word about it. Hayner and Pence rejoice when she makes it back to them, and they don’t notice when she eats her own ice cream a little slower than usual.


 

The boys want to go to the beach. Olette doesn’t mind the idea, but Pence and Hayner are broke. They come up with some scheme to make enough munny to afford the train ticket, but Olette has plenty for her own and then a little spending money to boot.

She’s not going to work odd jobs for them. They can do the work for themselves. They’ll make her pull a lot of the weight once she finally convinces them to do the summer homework, anyway.

Olette can take a leisurely stroll. It’s cooler than that day a week ago, when she slammed ice cream all over the stranger in the weird coat. She doesn’t expect the walk to take her up to the station, but that’s where her feet wind up.

The view from the station is beautiful, all the houses and the water spread out in front of it, with the sun setting just behind. Olette sometimes feel like she takes for granted how beautiful Twilight Town is, and Hayner and Pence are here, and just… Olette breathes in deeply, letting the air fill her lungs.

The clock tower chimes, and Olette doesn’t know why, but she turns around and looks at it, thinking that it’s pretty damn beautiful too.

And when her eyes scan up that beautiful clock tower, the stranger is the furthest thing from her mind, but there he is. Sitting at the top of the tower, cloaked in black in what is definitely shorts weather with blazing red hair that makes him impossible to miss, is the stranger.

He waves, from his vantage point, sitting way up at the top of the tower, and for whatever reason, Olette smiles and waves serenely back, sweetheart completely forgotten.


 

Olette sits on a bench in the sandlot. Save herself, the place is deserted. It’s just her and the whistling of the wind, and Olette is still a little mad at Hayner but it’s fine.

If he wants to put off the homework another day, it’s fine. It doesn’t bother Olette at all. It’s fine.

She puts her head in her hands. It’s not fine. If they just did it now, they could do nothing but relax the rest of the vacation. Why couldn’t he just understand that?

“What’s got you looking so glum, sweetheart?”

Olette’s head rockets up from her hands, but there’s no one there. Just the wind still whistling, sounding scarily like the stranger.


 

It’s a little too easy to play with her. She’s so wrapped up in her own head that Axel thinks he could have probably opened up a portal under her and she wouldn’t even have noticed. He’s dangerous, sure, but Axel’s never thought of himself as evil. The Organization is darkness, sure, but there’s darkness in everything. He just happens to not have a heart.

He’s not going to hurt the girl, this Olette, the girl whose simulation Roxas befriended. The Organization’s cloaks clean up easily, after all, and the sheer terror on her face when she had realized she’d walked straight into him with the sweets she’d just paid for.

That look alone would have given Axel plenty of reason to keep coming back around to Twilight Town, even if the view from the clock tower wasn’t the most spectacular thing he’d ever seen. Add that affronted face when he’d called her, “sweetheart,” and really, Axel was something that flirted with entertained.

He’s got some pretty good memories in Twilight Town, days with Roxas that he’d die to relive (that he thinks he’d even sacrifice a heart to relive). He’s not about to turn down a few more good times.

And hell, sure, he doesn’t have a heart, but he knows a pretty girl when he sees one.

Axel drops his hood, and breathes in deep. Roxas isn’t here anymore, but when Axel closes his eyes and pretends that it’s a little while earlier, it almost feels like they’re side by side again.

“Hey!”

Axel’s eyes shoot open, but there’s nothing in front of him. When he pans down, he finds Olette.

“Are you from around here? I’ve never seen you before and suddenly I started seeing you everywhere. Also, wearing that coat in this weather is absolutely ludicrous; you’re going to melt.”

“Don’t worry, I can handle the heat,” Axel says, and when Olette turns because her friend in the camo shorts calls out her name, he disappears.


 

She sees the stranger at the clock tower more than once, so he must like going there. He bought her (and Hayner and Pence) ice cream last time, so Olette really just thinks of it as returning the favor.

It helps that his eyes are stunning, of course, but that’s not the reason, not really. She wonders if they’d be quite so striking if he was wearing any color but black.

Olette makes it a point not to look up at the clock tower before she begins the climb, ice cream in hand. It’s good exercise anyway, and it’s kind of exhilarating to be the one ditching Hayner and Pence. They’re normally ducking her because they’ll do just about anything to not think about homework.

She’s not exactly a rule-breaker, per se, but there’s a bit of a thrill to just letting Hayner and Pence wonder at where she is. She’ll turn back up eventually, of course, just in time to nag them about that report that they’re insisting on putting off, but Olette thinks that they can manage for a little while without her.

Olette reaches the top of the tower and takes a deep breath, steeling herself, still not sure why she’s doing this and completely unsure what she’s going to do if he actually is there. She shakes her head and rounds the corner before she has the chance to let the sensible Olette take back over again.

He’s there, feet dangling off the tower like he doesn’t give a damn if he lives or dies, wild mane of hair and all. The stranger’s holding something in his hand, and Olette’s eyes light on it for half a moment before his fingers curl into his palm, matching when he looks her way.

The something in his hand looks an awful lot like an open flame, but Olette thinks her eyes are probably just playing tricks on her or something.

“You know, it’s dangerous up here,” the stranger says. “You have a death wish?”

Olette swallows, hard, and tries not to think about the situation that she’s put herself in, on top of the clock tower with a strange man who towers over her.

“Um,” Olette says, unsure how to answer the question because she is kind of wondering if maybe she does have a death wish. “My name is Olette.”

She holds out the ice cream, trying to measure her breathing; what kind of fool is she? This isn’t her, this isn’t something she would do. This is foolhardy and stupid and downright reckless.

The stranger waits a couple seconds that feel a lot like an eternity, but eventually, he reaches out and takes it from her, the fabric from his gloves (black! All black! Coat and gloves and pants and shoes, all in the middle of summer!) brushing against her fingers.

“Not going to smear this one all over my chest?” He asks it with a smirk and a raised eyebrow, and the blush that creeps up Olette’s cheeks and blotches her throat is involuntary.

“I-I’m sor-” Olette almost apologizes, but then he actually winks at her, and the embarrassment is replaced by a feeling that she’s felt all too often with Hayner.

He’s teasing her, and she’s incensed, but there’s no malice in his words. Even in poking fun at her, he’s being friendly.

“Actually, no,” Olette says, retracting her statement before starting in on her ice cream. “I’m not sorry. You were standing much too close.”

She takes a seat next to him, trying to act like the height of the clock tower doesn’t bother her at all, like she’s not terrified of plummeting to her death. The stranger chuckles as she turns up her nose, righteously indignant.

The stranger licks his ice cream, and Olette watches out of her peripheral vision. They sit in silence for all of a minute or two, watching the sun set over the horizon, until finally, he speaks.

“I’m Axel.”