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“Man, I hate Secret Santa,” Axel says as he reads the name on the slip of paper that he had just pulled out of the stupid hat going around. It’s all he can do to hold back a displeased groan. “Why the hell are we doing this again?”

 

“Boss thinks we don’t try hard enough with the Yankee Swap and wants it to be personal this year,” Larxene says, rolling her eyes. “I even gave him the ultimatum that he would have to participate as well, thinking that would persuade him not to, but he actually went for it.”

 

“C’mon, guys, it ain’t that bad,” Demyx says. He pulls a name from the hat and unfolds the piece of paper. His face distorts instantaneously. “Awe, fuck me…”

 

Xigbar grins. “Still not that bad?”

 

Demyx crumples the paper before stuffing it in his pocket. “Shut up.”

 

“All right, settle down,” Vexen speaks up. “Does everyone have a name?” Everyone nods their heads. “Does anyone have their own name?” Everyone shakes their heads. “Very well. We will be presenting and exchanging the Secret Santa gifts the last day before our holiday begins. All gifts must be at least twenty dollars, but no more than fifty. And there is to be absolutely no alcohol.” He lets out a little sigh. “The boss really wants these gifts to be personal. So at least try.”

 

“Did I mention I hate Secret Santa?” Axel says again once the team has been dismissed to go home for the day.

 

Roxas laughs. “Is the person you got really that bad?”

 

“Can’t be as bad as mine,” Demyx says. “I’d rather fall through the ice.”

 

“So, you picked Larxene’s name, huh?” Xion says.

 

“Oh. What gave it away?” His voice is dripping with sarcasm.

 

She shakes her head. “All of you have to get into the holiday spirit. Besides, we’ve been working with these people long enough now that we should be able to get any of them some sort of personable gift.”

 

“That’s not point.” Demyx looks around at the others. “Okay. Who wants to trade with me?”

 

“I must say, I myself am perfectly content with the name I chose,” Saïx says, joining the small group.

 

Zexion nods his head once. “Yes, me too.”

 

Demyx’s face distorts again. “Ya don’t gotta brag about it.”

 

“Whatever,” Axel says. “I just feel bad for whoever got Boss’ name. They best make sure it’s a damn good gift.”

 

With that, they all disperse.

 

“Man, I never thought I’d agree with Larxene on something,” Axel says as he drives Saïx home. “The Yankee Swap is definitely so much better.”

 

“For the record, though, half of us have ended up with alcohol for the last three years,” Saïx says. “Don’t you think it’d be nice to switch it up a bit?”

 

He shrugs his shoulders. “I dunno. I guess.”

 

“Whose name did you pull that has you so against this?”

 

Now he rolls his eyes. “Xigbar.”

 

Saïx stifles a laugh. “I see.”

 

“Shut up. It ain’t funny.”

 

A little smirk twitches at the corners of his lips. “My apologies.”

 

“By the way, whose name did you get that you’re so content with?”

 

He shakes his head. “I’m not telling you that.”

 

“C’mon, I told you my name.”

 

“That’s because you’re a sucker.”

 

“Do you wanna get kicked out of my car?”

 

“Please.” He scoffs, although there’s no real heat behind it. “You would never.”

 

Axel glares at him momentarily, almost hating the fact that that’s true. “Consider yourself lucky.”

 

The rest of the drive is relatively quiet. Not out of anger or annoyance, but just because these two have been friends for so long that they don’t feel the need to fill the silence with meaningless conversation. They’re comfortable enough with each other’s presence. Then again, Axel’s not sure he’ll ever admit just how comfortable.

 

“Your car is in the shop the next couple of days, right?” Saïx speaks up as he climbs out of the car once Axel arrives at his apartment complex.

 

“Correct. So, you’ll have to carpool, and I’ll pay you back with coffee.”

 

“You know that’s unnecessary?”

 

“Sure, but I feel bad. I know you kinda hate driving.”

 

“I have no issue with driving itself. It’s who I’m stuck driving with sometimes that makes it a bother.”

 

Axel grins. “Like when you got stuck driving Demyx to work for, like, a month?”

 

“Yes. I still don’t understand how that happened.”

 

“We drew straws and you got the short end.”

 

“Ah, yes, that’s right.” Saïx shakes his head. “Either way, I shall see you in the morning. Please do not be running late.”

 

“Hey, it takes time to look,” Axel gestures at himself, “this good.”

 

He rolls his eyes. “Then wake up earlier.” And he shuts the door. Axel sticks his tongue out at him in response. Saïx doesn’t have to look back to know to just simply wave him off. “Real mature.”

 

Axel laughs as he continues watching his best friend. He watches him until he’s inside the complex. Then he takes a deep breath before starting back to his own place. When he gets there, he finds Roxas and Xion both sitting on his couch playing a video game.

 

“Uh…I don’t remember inviting either of you over,” Axel announces his presence as he drapes his jacket over one of the kitchen chairs. “Did I invite you two over?”

 

“We invited ourselves,” Roxas says.

 

“Good. Then I can tell you to get the fuck out of my house.”

 

He grins. “C’mon, don’t act like you don’t love having us around.”

 

Axel shakes his head as he pulls a beer out of the fridge. “Do ya even get how weird it is for me to be hanging around with a couple kids?”

 

“We’re work associates,” Xion speaks up.

 

He chuckles to himself. Can’t argue much with that. “Just warn me next time.”

 

“We can do that.”

 

Axel finishes his beer as he watches the other two finish their match. They then put their controllers down and turn the console off. The three of them order food before Axel starts on a pot of coffee.

 

“By the way,” Roxas starts, “seeing as you’re the one who said that it better be a damn good gift, you have to help me come up with something for Xemnas.”

 

Axel almost chokes on his spit. “Shit, you’re the one who pulled Boss’ name?” He holds back a laugh. “I’m so sorry, man.”

 

“You’re an ass and you’re helping me.”

 

“Fine. Only if you help me come up with something for Xigbar.”

 

“Oh, no…” Xion says. “Xigbar hates you.”

 

“Thanks, I got that.” He lets out a heavy sigh, thinking. Then he grins. “Maybe I can get him some bedazzled eyepatches or something.”

 

Roxas nods. “Yeah. Then that’ll lead to his real gift of him getting to murder you.”

 

Xion laughs. “Sounds about right. But if you two are helping each other, then you have to help me, too. It’s only fair.”

 

“Who do you get?” Roxas asks.

 

“Lexaeus. And he’s always so quiet. I barely know anything about him so I have no idea where to even start.”

 

Axel shrugs his shoulders. “Maybe you should get him noise-canceling headphones.” He pauses. “Wait a sec… Maybe I should get those for Xigbar.”

 

Roxas considers this. “That’s actually not a terrible idea.”

 

“And I would like to put more thought into my gift,” Xion says.

 

“Then I would ask Vexen or Xaldin. They’ve known him the longest. As for Xemnas, he has a weird obsession with the number thirteen.”

 

Roxas’ brows furrow. “He does?”

 

“Yep. Almost didn’t hire Xion because of it since there were already thirteen people in the office. I forget who, but someone convinced him to hire you by convincing him not to include himself in that number.”

 

“Huh. All right, then. The number thirteen.” He thinks for a moment. “Maybe I can find some abstract art or something that has to do with it.”

 

“Sure. Whatever.” Just then, there’s a knock on the door. Axel’s quick to answer it and pays the delivery guy what he owes. He then places the two boxes of pizza on the coffee table. “Doesn’t matter what I end up getting Xigbar. I’m sure, it’ll end up in the trash no matter what.”

 

“So, uhm…” Xion starts. “Are you gonna get Saïx anything?”

 

“Huh?” Axel says around a mouthful of pizza. He swallows hard. “Why would I?”

 

“I-I dunno. Maybe because you two are friends?”

 

“Yeah, but we haven’t done gifts for each other in ages.”

 

“Maybe you could give him the gift of telling him how you feel,” Roxas says.

 

Now Axel freezes before taking his next bite. “Excuse me?”

 

“C’mon, Axel, we’re not idiots. We’ve spent enough time with you to pick up on the fact that you’re into Saïx.”

 

“W-what? What are you—? I am not.”

 

Xion smiles. “You’re getting awfully defencive.”

 

Axel shakes his head. “Saïx and I are only friends. We’ve been friends for our entire lives. There’s nothing more to it than that.” Roxas and Xion exchange glances of raised, non-believing eyebrows. Axel rolls his eyes, exasperated. “What?”

 

“Nothing,” Xion goes on. “There’s nothing wrong with developing feelings for your best friend.”

 

“And for the record, pretty sure Saïx is into you, too,” Roxas says. “He has to be with the way he puts up with your bullshit.”

 

Axel scoffs at him. “Oh, shut up.”

 

He chuckles in response. “Just saying.”

 

Roxas and Xion continue with their own conversation and Axel thinks back on the one that just finished. Does he have feelings for Saïx that go beyond their lifelong friendship? Hmm. Well, he can’t necessarily deny that he hasn’t thought about it before. About dating him. About what it would be like to cross that threshold. There have been moments when he thought it was about to happen. Nothing has ever come of it, though. So, there’s no way it could be true. There’s no way Saïx has feelings for him. Nor does he have feelings for Saïx. They’re only friends. Best friends. Maybe a little closer than average best friends. Maybe in a way that’s not actually so average. Maybe—

 

“Earth to Axel,” Roxas says, getting his attention by waving his hand in front of his face and pulling him back to the present. “You still with us?”

 

Axel clears his throat. “Y-yeah. Sorry.” He grabs another slice of pizza. “What were we talking about?”

 

Xion smiles and Axel knows exactly what that smile means. She’s subtle, but she’s also sly. “We were just discussing more Secret Santa ideas.”

 

“Great. I’m gonna need a lot of options.”

 

“Tch. No kidding,” Roxas says.

 

The rest of the evening is spent doing exactly that: Brainstorming. Except Axel can’t help but keep the thought of him and Saïx in the back of his mind. Roxas and Xion aren’t the first people to bring the concept of them dating up. And he has a strong feeling this won’t be the last he hears of it. He has a strong feeling he might have to start taking this idea into serious consideration.

 

~~~~

 

A day soon comes when Axel and Saïx are both off work. That doesn’t happen very often anymore. So, whenever it does, they make sure to make no other plans aside from with each other. Today, they decide to keep it simple. Axel heads over to Saïx’s place to binge watch stupid Christmas movies they can make fun of together. It’s practically a holiday tradition for them.

 

“Any luck on coming up with a Secret Santa gift for Xigbar?” Saïx asks as they prepare snacks for their upcoming marathon.

 

Axel sighs. “Not yet.”

 

“You do realise you only have a week left, right?”

 

“Yeah, I get that. What about you? Do you already have your gift?”

 

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

 

“Your tone makes it sound like it was easy for you.”

 

He shrugs his shoulders. “It was, in a sense. The actual exchange of said gift may not be so much.”

 

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

 

“That’s none of your concern.”

 

“Whatever. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who hasn’t gotten a gift yet. I mean, hell, Dem even found something for Larxene.”

 

“Yes, I must admit, that is quite shocking.” They both move to the couch. “What about Roxas and Xion?”

 

“Roxas found this really neat piece of art made up of the number thirteen for—”

 

“Xemnas,” Saïx says. “No need to say more.”

 

He chuckles. “Right. And Xion got this white noise machine for Lexaeus. He’s a quiet guy and all, but apparently he hates falling asleep in dead silence.”

 

“How thoughtful of her.

 

“That’s exactly how she wanted to come across.”

 

“Hmm.” He tilts his head thoughtfully. “Doesn’t Xigbar have a sort of model weapons collection? Perhaps you could get him a model gun or model katana or something along those lines.”

 

Axel’s eyes widen. “Holy shit, I totally forgot about that. It’s weird, but that’s a fucking brilliant idea.” He smiles. “Thanks, man.”

 

“Of course. Aren’t I always bailing you out of trouble?”

 

“Yeah, yeah. Shut up and start the movie.”

 

He chuckles under his breath before doing just that. They then fall silent as they focus on the horrible acting and even worse plots. In one movie, Saïx needs to keep reminding Axel as to who is who seeing as they all look the same to him. Some sorority Christmas theme where all the actresses have blonde hair and blue eyes.

 

“There’s no way they all have legitimate blue eyes like that. Half of them have gotta be wearing coloured contact lenses.”

 

“Not necessarily. Maybe the casting director specifically called for women with blonde hair and blue eyes.”

 

“Well, that would explain why most of them can’t act for shit.” He laughs. “Man, this is terrible. Sororities should be kept in horror movies.”

 

Saïx shakes his head at him, but Axel can tell he’s holding back a chuckle. He then gets to his feet. “Need a refill on anything?”

 

“Nah, I’m good.”

 

With that, he heads for the kitchen. Axel turns to watch him before taking a deep breath and pausing the movie. He stands up and joins Saïx in the kitchen.

 

“Change your mind?” he asks.

 

“Uh, no, I—” Axel clears his throat. “Can I talk to you about something?”

 

“Of course. You don’t need to ask.”

 

“Right. Uhm…” His throat is suddenly way too dry. “Has anyone ever brought up the concept to you before of you and I,” he gestures between the two of them, “d-dating?”

 

Saïx seems completely taken aback by the question. “Oh.” His gaze drops to the floor. “I believe Demyx has said something about it before, if I’m being honest. A-and…Marluxia and Larxene. I think they’ve joked about it happening.” He pauses, almost as if he’s trying to catch his breath. “Why?”

 

“Nothing. Just, y’know, Roxas and Xion mentioned it the other day and…” He shakes his head. “I dunno. Maybe they were just trying to fuck with me. Thought it would be funny or something”

 

“Yes. Maybe. The three of you do seem to have that sort of friendship.”

 

“You mean the type of friendship where they enjoy pissing me?” He nods with a huff of a chuckle. “Yeah.”

 

Now he grins. “I’m sure they mean no harm.”

 

“I guess it just caught me off guard.”

 

“Understandable.” Saïx moves past him to return to the couch.

 

“Have you ever thought about it on your own?” Axel asks, turning with the movement of the other.

 

“Thought about…?”

 

The word is stuck in his still too-dry throat. “Us.” His heart nearly stops once he finally gets it out.

 

“I…can’t say I have.”

 

“Oh.” He tries his damnedest not to feel disappointed. “I mean—Right. Of course not. That would be weird, huh?”

 

“Yes. Quite strange indeed.”

 

He nods his head. Probably too much. “Yeah.” He’s almost positive he just gave himself whiplash. “Well, let’s finish the marathon.”

 

They both return to the couch and Saïx resumes the movie. Axel can’t pay attention to it, though. Not anymore. Not with Saïx in such close proximity to him. It’s never bothered him before. It’s never meant anything to him before. But now…

 

Man, he’s in trouble.

 

~~~~

 

“Please, please, please, tell me you found Xigbar a gift,” Xion says the night before the exchange is to take place. Axel called her and Roxas over for Chinese takeout. “Please.”

 

Axel chuckles. “Yeah, I found something, don’t worry. Saïx reminded me of that model weapons collection he’s got going on and I found these things called arrow guns.” He shrugs his shoulder. “I dunno, seemed his style.”

 

“Better than bedazzled eyepatches,” Roxas says. “Although, that really would’ve been hilarious.”

 

“I should’ve gotten him a couple as a joke.” He pauses. “Ah well.”

 

“I can’t stop thinking about who pulled my name and what they got me,” Xion says. “It’s making me seriously anxious.”

 

Roxas nods his head. “Same. Tomorrow will definitely be interesting, to say the least. No doubt about that.”

 

“Yeah… By the way,” Axel starts, “I talked to Saïx about what you two mentioned to me the other day.”

 

His brows furrow. “What are you—?” His eyes then widen in realisation. “Shit. You mean you actually confronted him about your feelings?”

 

“No. There was nothing to confront. There was nothing to confess. There are no feelings between me and Saïx. No romantic feelings, at least.”

 

“I’m sorry, but…you’re joking, right?” Xion speaks up.

 

“I’ve never thought of Saïx that way and Saïx has never thought of me that way. He said so himself. So, you,” he gestures to Roxas, “were wrong.”

 

Roxas lets out a short laugh. “Like hell I’m wrong. Saïx is just lying.”

 

“Why would he lie about that?”

 

“I dunno. For fear of ruining the friendship? I mean, why the hell does anyone lie about anything?”

 

“Hold on… You brought it up with him which means you’ve been thinking about it,” Xion goes on. “Axel, do you have feelings for Saïx? And maybe you’ve just become so complacent in your friendship with him that you didn’t realise you have feelings?”

 

“What does it even matter? Like I said, Saïx doesn’t have feelings so—”

 

“Axel—”

 

“I don’t wanna talk about this anymore.” He shakes his head. “I don’t even know why I brought it up in the first place.”

 

“Because we’re your friends and you trust us and you know we won’t judge you,” Roxas says.

 

“Maybe you should try talking to Saïx again,” Xion says. “But don’t beat around the bush or be ambiguous about it. Just be upfront with him. I mean, like Roxas said, he could’ve denied his own feelings out of fear of ruining his friendship with you.”

 

“Sure, but… What if he truly doesn’t have feelings for me?”

 

Roxas shrugs his shoulders. “So what? If you two are as good of friends as you say you are, then it shouldn’t ruin the friendship. It shouldn’t have any sort of effect between you two, really. I mean, yeah, maybe it’ll be a bit awkward for a little while but moving past it shouldn’t be an issue.

 

Axel lets out a heavy sigh as his drops his head into his hands. “This is dumb. I still don’t even know for sure what my own feelings are.”

 

“C’mon, you know that’s not true,” Xion says. She smiles softly. “It’s okay, Axel. Besides, you need to admit it to yourself first anyhow.”

 

He turns back on Roxas. “You say if our feelings aren’t the same that it shouldn’t have an effect on your friendship, and I agree with you on that, but… How am I supposed to get over a one-sided crush?”

 

“I dunno,” Roxas says. “That might be a better question for Demyx considering his crush on Zexion.”

 

Now he laughs. “That is not one-sided.”

 

Xion practically squeals. “I told you.”

 

“Wait, Zexion is into Demyx?” Roxas asks.

 

Axel nods. “Very much.”

 

He pauses. “And you can see that, but you can’t see that Saïx has a thing for you?”

 

He scoffs at him. “Shut up.”

 

Xion giggles. “You two act so much like brothers.”

 

“Do older brothers usually wanna beat the shit outta their younger brothers?”

 

“Sometimes, yeah.”

 

“I’m okay with that, then.”

 

Roxas chuckles almost uneasily. “Please don’t beat the shit out of me.”

 

Axel grins. “We’ll see. Just keep in mind that I hold the power here.”

 

“So long as you keep in mind that I hate you.”

 

“Seems fair.”

 

“Oh yeah, you two are brothers, all right. And you’re both ridiculous.”

 

They pick fun at each other as they finish the Chinese food. Once it’s gone, they sit down for a short movie. Axel’s mind is still elsewhere, though. It’s still on Saïx. Hmm. Is Roxas right? Did he lie about his own feelings as not to risk losing their friendship? Axel won’t be mad, either way, but… Bringing it up a second time might be odd. It might give Axel away. It might end in a disaster.

 

Or it might open the next chapter of their relationship.

 

~~~~

 

“Who would like to begin the festive exchanges?” Vexen asks once everyone is gathered in the conference room at the office. He looks around and sighs when no one volunteers. “Don’t make me call on people.”

 

“Why don’t you go first?” Luxord speaks up. “You’re the one who’s trying the hardest anyhow.”

 

He scoffs. “Fine. Whoever my gift is for will go next, so on and so forth.” He picks up his small, nicely wrapped box. “Ironically enough, your name is the one I pulled.” He hands the box over to Luxord. “You’re welcome.”

 

“So enthusiastic,” Luxord says back. He shakes the box a bit. “Also, quite small.” Vexen rolls his eyes at this, which causes Luxord to grin. He then unwraps the box. “Well, well, they’re playing cards.” Upon closer inspection, his eyes widen a bit. “Huh. Personalised playing cards.” He swallows hard. “These are actually quite nice.” He tucks them into his pocket. “Thank you.” Vexen only nods in response. Luxord then proceeds to pull out his gift to exchange. “I had Xaldin.”

 

Xaldin takes the heftier box from Luxord and wastes no time unwrapping it. “A thirteen-piece knife set,” he says. “I was in the market for some new knives.” He nods his thanks and Luxord nods back. “My gift is for Xion.”

 

“Oh.” Xion jolts a bit at the sound of her name. She gets to her feet and crosses the room to retrieve her gift. Once she returns to her seat, she starts pulling the tissue paper out of the bag. Her face lights up at what’s inside. “Candles. Hibiscus, ocean waves, and sea salt scents.” She smiles. “These are so perfect. Thank you so much.” She carefully sets the bag aside and pulls her own gift from under her chair. “Mine is for Lexaeus.” She stands up and walks it over to him.

 

He takes his time unwrapping it. When he finally finishes, he simply holds it up to show to everyone else.

 

“Uhm… What the hell is it?” Larxene speaks up.

 

“It’s a white noise machine,” Xion tells them.

 

She snickers. “That’s so lame.”

 

Lexaeus shoots Larxene a glare before giving a Xion a small smile. Xion blushes back ever so slightly. Lexaeus then gets to his feet and walks his gift over to Roxas.

 

“Thanks,” Roxas says, gesturing the bag to Lexaeus once he’s sitting again. There isn’t any tissue paper for him to work around, so he just opens the bag and pulls out what’s inside. “Coffee beans from around the world. Hey, this is pretty cool and will definitely come in handy. Thanks again.” He sets the bag aside and picks his gift up. “Mine is for the big boss.” He gets up to pass it over to Xemnas.

 

Axel’s grinning when Roxas returns to his seat, so Roxas discreetly nudges him in the gut with his elbow. This only causes Axel to want to laugh out loud. He somehow refrains from doing so.

 

“How intriguing,” Xemnas speaks up. “Thirteen is my lucky number.” He nods his head once. “Much appreciated.”

 

“You’re welcome, sir.”

 

Axel leans closer to Roxas so only he can hear him say, “Good job.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

He chuckles under his breath.

 

“Saïx,” Xemnas goes on. “I pulled your name.”

 

Axel freezes. “Shit. I had been so caught up in who pulled Boss’ name that I didn’t even think about whose name Boss pulled.”

 

“Does it matter?” Roxas asks.

 

He shrugs his shoulders. “Guess not.”

 

Saïx returns to his seat and Axel can tell he’s not entirely comfortable. He unwraps the first of the two boxes. “A moon and star cufflinks,” he says. “They seem quite exquisite.” He unwraps the second box. “And earrings to match.” He clears his throat. “Thank you very much, sir.”

 

Xemnas smiles at him. “You’re very welcome.”

 

There’s a pang in Axel’s chest. Jealousy? He’s not sure. But he’s focused on that smile—smirk—spread across his boss’ lips. Something about it bothers him.

 

“Axel?” he hears a voice. “Axel?” It registers as Saïx’s voice. He shakes his head and looks over at his best friend. “Your name is the one I pulled.”

 

He holds back a wide smile. His name was the one Saïx pulled that he was perfectly content with? Well, no wonder he hadn’t wanted to tell him whose name he got. He diminishes his grin and takes the box from Saïx, who shoots him a small smile in return. Axel then starts unwrapping the gift, suddenly feeling like a far too excitable child on Christmas morning.

 

Except when he reaches the gift itself, that excitement weakens. “It’s a…scarf,” he speaks up, pulling a red and black scarf out of the box. “Oh. And matching earmuffs.” He forces a smile. “Pretty cool. Thanks, buddy.”

 

He’s still smiling that small, genuine smile. “Good. I’m glad you like them. Apparently, they match your—What’s the word you used, Demyx?”

 

“Aesthetic,” Demyx says. He grins. “Good pick, man.”

 

“Yeah, real good one.” He places the scarf back in the box. “Okay.” He sets it aside and pulls his gift out. “I pulled Xigbar’s name.” He gets up and hands the box over.

 

“I swear, Flamesilocks, if there are eyepatches with, like…jewels on them or some sort of bullshit…” Xigbar shakes his head, inhaling sharply. “I will kick your ass.”

 

Axel chuckles. “Y’know, man, I had actually thought about doing that as a joke, but then decided against it on account of knowing you would kick my ass.” He pauses. “Or try to, at least.” He winks at him.

 

Xigbar rolls his eyes. He then opens the package and freezes. “Are these…model arrow guns?”

 

“Yeah. You still have that collection, right?”

 

“These are infamously rare.”

 

“You’re welcome, then.”

 

“Don’t get cocky.”

 

“Wouldn’t dream of it.”

 

Another roll of his eyes. He puts the model weapons down and pulls out his own gift. “I drew Marly’s name.”

 

“Oh, wonderful,” Marluxia speaks up. He meets Xigbar halfway for the gift. Once he’s seated again, he’s quick to unwrap the gift. He glares across the room at his gift-giver. “Really?”

 

Xigbar’s grinning, leaning back in his chair with his arms folded across his chest. “What? You like flowers, don’t ya? And these are decorative, so they’ll never wilt or die.”

 

Marluxia shakes his head. “Thanks. I guess.” He nearly drops the bag on the floor. “The name I pulled was Vexen’s.”

 

Vexen lets out a soft sigh at this. “I was afraid of that.” He retrieves the gift from Marluxia and returns to his seat. He takes another deep breath before unwrapping the gift. His face drops almost instantaneously. “A toy chemistry set?”

 

“What? You like playing scientist.”

 

Xigbar lets out a loud laugh. “And you got mad at me for my dumb gift. Yours is just as bad.”

 

“Enough,” Xemnas speaks up. “This was supposed to be taken seriously.” He closes his eyes. “Who is left?”

 

“I’ll continue,” Demyx says. “Might as well get it over with.” He breathes deep before stepping up to Larxene. “Here.”

 

She sneers at him. “You have got to be kidding me? Ugh.” She takes the gift from Demyx almost as if she’s disgusted by it. She opens the bag and her eyes widen. “Is this…a bubble bath set?”

 

“Bath bombs and everything,” Demyx goes on. “Figured the reason you’re such a raging bitch all the time is because you’re always super stressed. Thought this might help you relax for once in your godforsaken life.”

 

“Y’know, I’ll let that slide this time because this is actually pretty considerate.” She rolls her eyes. “Kudos, dumbass.” She sets the bath set aside and retrieves her gift. “I pulled Zexion’s name.”

 

Zexion covers the short distance to Larxene to take ownership of his gift. He sits back down and makes quick work of the unwrapping process. “A book trilogy. And in a genre that I enjoy. It’s like you actually tried.”

 

Larxene focuses on picking her nails. “Whatever.”

 

He grins a bit. “Well, last but certainly not least.” He returns to his feet and stands before Demyx. “For you.”

 

“Oh. Thanks.” Demyx takes his gifts. He unwraps them in haste, his eyes widening at the first glimpse. “Holy shit. Are these—?” He finishes unwrapping rather than finishing the question. “Vinyl records of my three favourite albums. Hold up, you remembered my three favourites albums?” Zexion nods and Demyx smiles wide. “These are seriously awesome, Zex. You’re the best.”

 

Axel leans into Roxas once more. “Told ya it’s not one-sided.”

 

With that, Xemnas decides to dismiss everyone early, wishing them all an enjoyable holiday season. Axel gathers his—aggravatingly stupid—gift and gets out of the office promptly. Unfortunately, though, Saïx isn’t far behind him.

 

“Axel,” he calls after him. “Would you slow down?”

 

He breathes deep before forcing himself to stop dead in his tracks. “Yeah?”

 

Saïx’s brow furrows. “What’s the matter?”

 

“Is that a joke?”

 

“Is it…supposed to be?”

 

It takes everything in him not to scoff and storm off. “A scarf?” he goes on. He opens the back door of his car and tosses the present inside before slamming the door shut again. “These gifts were supposed to be personable. You’ve known me longer than anyone. For my entire life. And you get me a fucking scarf? The hell is that about?”

 

“Axel—”

 

“If this had been the other way around, I would’ve put way more time and thought into my gift for you.” He shakes his head. “Tch. Guess this is one-sided, after all.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“You know what? Never mind.” He walks around his car to get inside.

 

“Axel—”

 

“Just forget it.”

 

He climbs inside and slams the door. He then starts his car and drives off without looking back. His mind his reeling the entire way home. Maybe he should’ve given Saïx a chance to explain himself. Yeah, he probably should’ve. Except… What is there to explain? He pulled Axel’s name in the drawing, which he was allegedly very content about, but then got him bullshit for a gift. And that’s all there is to it.

 

As soon as he gets to his complex, his phone rings.

 

“I really ain’t in the mood, Rox,” he says.

 

“I get that, but just hear me out,” Roxas starts anyway. “I know you’re pissed about what Saïx gave you and that you feel it’s thoughtless or whatever, but apparently he didn’t draw your name originally.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Zexion drew your name. But then Zexion approached Saïx and asked him if he wanted to trade, and it just so happened to work out that Saïx had pulled Demyx’s name.”

 

“Okay…” He reaches his door and fumbles for his keys for a moment. “So, if Saïx wanted my name that badly for the Secret Santa, then why the hell did he skimp out on the gift? It makes absolutely,” his door swings open and his eyes widen at the sight before him, “no sense.”

 

“Axel?”

 

“I’ll call you back.”

 

He hangs up the phone before giving Roxas the chance to respond. Axel then sets it down on the table beside the front door. He steps further into his apartment, looking around at all the fairy lights that have been strung up. The candles lit and meticulously placed. And once he’s facing his front door, Saïx is standing there.

 

“Did I mention there was a second part to your gift?” he speaks up.

 

The breath catches in Axel’s throat. “And what would that be?”

 

He lets himself into the apartment and closes the door behind him. “A confession.”

 

“Saïx…”

 

“I have thought about us,” he goes on. “Dating, I mean. I think about it a lot, actually. I think about how much I want that.”

 

He swallows hard. “Y-you do?”

 

“Of course I do. You’re my best friend and there’s no one else I’d rather share everything with. I’ve done my dating around and…I’m over it.” He meets Axel’s gaze. “I’m hoping you are, too.”

 

A smile now twitches across his lips as he steps closer to Saïx. “How long have you been planning this, exactly?”

 

“Well, I may have told Roxas and Xion to bring up us—”

 

Axel cups Saïx’s chin with his thumb and index finger and kisses him before he can finish that thought. He already knows where he’s going with it; he doesn’t need to hear more. Saïx’s hands find their way to Axel’s forearms and squeeze ever so slightly.

 

“You manipulative asshole,” Axel says once he breaks the kiss.

 

Saïx chuckles. “I wanted to surprise you.”

 

“You did.”

 

“So…what now?”

 

“Now, we’ll figure it out step-by-step. And the first step…”

 

Axel smirks before recapturing Saïx’s lips with his own. The first step is kissing each other until they run out of air. Until their lungs burst. The first step is making up for years of not kissing each other. Then they’ll figure it out from there. Better yet, they’ll figure it out together.

 

When Axel pulls away once more, he’s still grinning deviously. He strokes Saïx’s cheeks with his thumbs. “Man, I love Secret Santa.”