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Dream Drip Distance

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"Asleep again?" Roxas asked. Face buried in his arms on his desk, red hair sticking out in all directions, Axel's only response was to snore. Roxas dropped his backpack right onto the pile of papers Axel was supposed to be grading with a wham.

"YAAAGH!" Axel screeched, jerking upright. He groaned and rubbed at his face when he saw it was Roxas. "Geez, you wanna give me a heart attack?"

"You're the worst TA ever," Roxas informed him, re-shouldering his backpack. "Exactly how much of this office hour were you even awake for?"

Axel flipped through the small stack of papers he'd been sleeping on. "Three…ooh, four essays! A record! Listen, it's not my fault freshmen write the worst article reviews in the universe, they don't know any better." Yawning, Axel scooped up the papers and jammed them in his messenger bag. "Gosh, look at the time, let's get you home!"

"I'm an hour early." Roxas raised an eyebrow. "Why are you so excited about that?"

"Uh, because you live above a coffee shop," Axel answered, shooing Roxas out the door to the TA's office. "And I'm best friends with the owner's brother so he usually doesn't charge me."

"it's weird to have my TA call me his best friend," Roxas said, although he didn't say it wasn't true. "And quit scamming Sora, he's too nice to tell you off."

"But I'm so tired, Rox! And so poor!" Axel rifled the pockets of his oversized black hoodie, and then his jeans. "Also sometimes he gives me cookies. Yo, did you memorize where the heck I put my keys this morning?"

Twilight Town College was pretty now that it was late spring and everything was green again. The wind was still a little cold on Roxas's face, riding on the back of Axel's Vespa, but it was only a couple blocks off campus to Dream Drip, the tiny coffee shop Sora and Roxas ran and lived above.

They came in the back, through the kitchen, and found Xion trying to organize a tray of cookies. Sora's penchant for unusual cookie shapes made it difficult for any organization to stick.

"Xion, up high!" Axel called cheerfully, holding his hand up ridiculously too high for Xion to high-five him. Xion elbowed him in the stomach instead "Oof!"

"You're back early," she said to Roxas.

"Fricking Professor Even didn't show up again," Roxas complained. "Too busy with his little lab group of teacher's pets. We waited for fifteen minutes, that's all he gets."

"You hate that class, so I don't know why you're complaining," Xion said. She thwapped Axel's hand with her spatula as he reached for a cookie.

"It's the principle of the—" Roxas paused as Sora's voice carried through the door, laughter pitched higher than usual. "Who the heck is Sora talking to? It's usually dead in here for another hour."

"Ohhh, you haven't seen yet." Xion chuckled. She headed for the door, waving for Roxas and Axel to follow her. "So there's a new delivery guy? He's really cute."

They hadn't changed the house much to turn the bottom floor into the coffee shop, just added some extra chairs and odd tables and beanbags around the front room. Across the room from the kitchen door, they'd built a large service counter and a display case for baked goods. Sora was standing behind the counter, and another guy was standing with his back to Roxas, wearing the bright red ball cap and windbreaker of the Twilight Town local package delivery company.

Sora was chattering on at him, too quickly, grinning brightly and starting to lean just a bit more than usual across the counter.

"Awww," Axel cooed. "That's adorable."

"What the heck," Roxas grumbled. Sora often talked too fast when he was overexcited but this was ridiculous even for him. "Oh my god, look at his face."

"So, no filters, huh?" the courier said.

"Oh gosh, what?" Sora cut off mid-sentence, going pink. "Did I say that out loud? What did I say?"

"He's delivering the coffee filters, Sora!" Xion called. Sora flushed pink all across his nose and stuttered something unintelligible. The courier turned, and Roxas scowled as he recognized Riku.

"You! What are you doing here?" Roxas demanded. Crossing the room, he ducked under the counter and shouldered Sora back a little, crossing his arms.

"You guys know each other?" Sora asked, looking from Roxas to Riku.

"He's in like half my classes!" Roxas said. "I told you about him, he's the jerk who always asks some complicated question like five minutes before the class is about to end."

"So sorry for coming to college to learn," Riku said, face expression going to blank neutral. "Aren't you the guy who came to class in Moogle pajama pants for a week straight?"

"Don't you have a job to get back to, pretty boy?" Roxas snapped.

"Roxas!" Sora scolded. "Be nice!"

"No, he's right, I have to finish my deliveries." Riku picked his clipboard up off the counter and nodded at Sora. "See you later, Sora."

"Bye, Riku!" Sora waved a little. He kept on waving as Riku turned and went out their front door, eyes tracking him walk down the porch steps and climb onto his bike.

Roxas eyed Sora critically. "Every dude on this campus, and you've gotta pick that guy?"

"He's so nice," Sora sighed. Xion and Axel were snickering openly, but Sora didn't even seem to notice. "And so tall. And ponytail. And soooo tall."

"For the love of…would you stop waving, he's gone!" Roxas slapped Sora's hand down. "Get a hold of yourself, seriously."

"Well, I think it's cute!" Axel said, leaning on his elbows on the counter from the customer side. His grin was sharp, obviously encouraging Sora just to wind Roxas up tighter. "Crushes are fun, right? Loosen up, Rox."

"Yeah, Roxas!" Sora agreed, putting his hands on his hips and sticking his tongue out at Roxas. "Axel, you can have a cookie, for supporting me in my distress."

"For fucking serious," Roxas muttered, tying on his apron and trying to ignore Axel casually pumping Sora for all the details. Sora was only too happy to have someone to gush to about all the developments since Riku had replaced their last delivery person, and Axel was happy to be a friendly ear so long as his coffee kept getting refilled.

Riku's appearances in the next few weeks were regular enough that Roxas became somewhat inured to him, and to the hour of dopey, distracted Sora that followed every Riku delivery. After a week of it, Roxas started sending Sora to the kitchen to bake immediately after Riku left, just to get him out from underfoot. The flavors and shapes of cookies he came back with afterwards were always a bit odd, but they still tasted good.

"What even are these?" Roxas asked, watching Sora ice three dozen cutely rounded animals in blue with little pink hearts on their chests. "Are these cats or dogs?"

"Yes," Sora answered, giving them some cute yellow spots.

"Look, just ask him out already," Roxas ordered, making Sora squish the pastry bag too hard, yellow going everywhere.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Sora sniffed, picking up his tray of cookies and sashaying back to the kitchen dramatically like a heroine in a daytime drama.

"You aren't subtle!" Roxas yelled after him. "Everybody knows!"

"Oh, leave him alone," Xion chided, bringing a tray of mismatched cups and mugs back to the counter. "It's sweet that he's shy. He's your brother, can't you be nice?"

"You don't understand what Sora's like," Roxas said flatly. Xion opened her mouth, but Roxas cut her off. "Shut up and listen. He's always like this, he never goes after something he wants for himself. He just smiles and says he's fine, don't worry about him. He wouldn't sign up for college with me because he's afraid of wasting our parents' money. I've begged him to apply for culinary school, to apprentice at the Bistro or something, anything! He won't do it, even though he's paying our entire rent just with cookies alone. He's just…" Roxas heaved a frustrated sigh. "Always like this. He won't make a move, ever, I promise you. Even if Riku came in here in a stripper version of that delivery uniform and yanked it right off."

"Stooooop," Xion wailed, cracking up so hard she had to lean on the counter. "Gross! How am I supposed to keep a straight face when he's in here next!"

Eventually Sora came back out of the kitchen like nothing had ever happened, and Roxas dropped it. They set up a tray of his weirdo cookies in the display case, and even though Roxas mocked his silly name of Meow Wows, they were almost sold out of them by the end of the afternoon.

"See? And you made fun of me," Sora gloated, leaning with his back against the counter. "Your big brother! Show some respect, kid."

"Yeah, yeah," Roxas answered. Sora was so occupied boasting that he didn't notice Riku come through the open door behind him, a large box tucked under his arm. Roxas nudged Xion, and muttered, "Watch this." Raising his voice, Roxas said, "Hey Sora, there's a guy with a really nice package behind you."

"Ha, ha, Roxas." Sora rolled his eyes. "Would you quit teasing me already about th—"

"Um," Riku interrupted, making Sora freeze with his mouth open. Eyes wide, Sora turned slowly to see Riku standing there awkwardly. "Hi."

"Hi!" Sora squeaked. "I uhhhh have to go. Away. To the back! To get things from the back bye!"

Sora fled so quickly that his sneakers squeaked on the hardwood, leaving Riku, Roxas, and Xion all staring at each other.

"You're kind of a dick, you know," Riku said, setting the box down on the counter and handing Roxas the clipboard to sign.

"Takes one to know one, delivery boy," Roxas retorted. "Feel free to man up anytime."

"Shut up and give me one of those cookies." Riku pointed to the Meow Wows. "Are those dogs or cats?"

"Yes," answered Roxas.

As predicted, Sora did not make a move, even when it was patently clear to everyone in the coffee shop and probably also to people on the moon that Riku was also interested. Riku began doing school work in the coffee shop a few afternoons a week, bringing a sleek silver laptop and with dork glasses perched on his nose. He didn't even like coffee that much, and soon Sora had pots of looseleaf on the menu and was having Riku taste-test lavender buttercream.

"I'm going to actually murder him," Roxas complained to Xion during Saturday afternoon rush. The whole place was full, customers spilling out to floor cushions tossed out on the porch in the fair weather, and Sora was hovering around Riku's table, chattering with him and the friend he'd brought instead of wiping down tables like he was supposed to be doing. "I'm gonna ban that guy from the building during peak hours."

"Don't you dare, his friend is super cute," Xion said. "Her name's Namine, and she's an art major." Xion wiggled her eyebrows; Roxas had no idea what, if anything, saying "art major" like that was supposed to imply.

"You and blondes," Roxas crabbed, past his limit. "Don't you even start! There's no way I'm putting up with two of you at once!"

"No worries about that," Xion said, giving Roxas a wink. "Unlike your brother, I have no trouble telling someone cute what I'm interested in."

"I hate all of you!" Roxas called as Xion strolled away. "You're all the worst!"

It all came to a head during mid-term week. Sora always kept the shop open late during midterms and finals weeks; they'd learned first semester it was an easy way to take a lot of extra money from a lot of desperate college kids. Roxas spent hours on two take-home essay exams in between Axel trying to help him cram for his psychology exam, and then had to pull an all-nighter on Thursday when Riku accidentally revealed an assignment in one of their shared classes that Roxas had missed on the syllabus.

So Roxas was not at his best on Friday afternoon when he came home from his grueling psych final and found Dream Drip an absolute disaster area after their afternoon rush. Xion had gone home with a miserable cold just after the rush had ended, leaving Sora to reset on his own. Instead of putting anything to rights, Sora was leaning on the counter wiping off the same mug over and over, watching Riku type on his laptop with a schmoopy, lovesick expression.

Roxas lost his entire temper all at once, but it all happened on the inside, quietly.

"Sora," he said, voice deadly calm, "I need you to go grab some cups from the pantry."

"Hmm?" Sora asked. He dragged his gaze away from his beloved delivery nerd and blinked at Roxas. "Oh, yeah. Cups. Sure."

There had to be three full sleeves of cups sitting on the back counter, but Sora drifted by them, preoccupied. Roxas gave him to the count of three after reaching the kitchen to lean across the counter. "Hey, Riku!"

"Me?" Riku asked, looking up from his laptop.

"Yes, you." Roxas pointed to the kitchen. "Sora need some stuff off the really high shelf in the pantry, go make yourself useful."

"Sure?" Riku looked a little dubious, but he got up and went. Roxas gave it another count of three and followed.

The kitchen had an enclosed pantry big enough for maybe two adults to stand in, barely, and as Roxas came into the kitchen, Riku was standing just inside the doorway of it, asking Sora what he needed help with.

"Me? I don't…" Sora noticed Roxas over Riku's shoulder. "Roxas, what—"

Roxas gave Riku a hard shove between the shoulder blades, making him stumble further into the pantry, into Sora, and then Roxas shut the door on them with a satisfying slam and turned the lock.

"Hey!" Sora shouted. "Quit fooling around!"

"No!" Roxas shouted back. "I can't take it anymore! You can't come out until you say you like each other!"

"What?!" Sora demanded. There was a muffled thump, probably Riku trying to shoulder the door, but it didn't budge. "Roxas, you jackass, open this door! I'm telling mom on you!"

"Confess or I'm leaving you in there!" Roxas roared. There was some muffled muttering, then silence. "Have it your way! I'll be back in an hour, so you two better make out or hook up or I don't care what, or I'm leaving you in there all night!"

Ignoring the yelling and banging on the door behind him, Roxas strolled out of the kitchen and went to start cleaning up the wreckage of their coffee shop. With Xion and Sora out of commission, there was only one other place to turn for help; fortunately he was already curled up the big armchair in the corner, napping.

"Rox, buddy, best friend," Axel groaned when Roxas shook him. "Please let me sleep."

"Get up, shitty TA," Roxas ordered. "Sora and Riku won't be out of the closet for at least an hour and this place is a wreck! I'll pay you in cookies."

Axel cracked an eye. "I didn't think either one of them was ever exactly in the closet—"


"Ok, ok, geez…"

It was only about forty-five minutes before Roxas started feeling guilty for his meltdown. Leaving Axel to finish washing the last tub of mugs and plates, Roxas went back into the kitchen and listened for a second at the pantry door, but didn't hear anything incriminating.

"Hey, guys?" Roxas knocked on the door, then flipped the lock. "I'm gonna open the door."

He had planned to apologize too, but when he pulled the door open, Sora and Riku were both looking sheepishly in opposite directions, both a little pink and hair mussed. Sora was retying his apron quickly, and Riku's button-down was off by one button.

"Uh-huh," Roxas said dryly. "So we're all settled then, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, we like each other and stuff," Sora said, grabbing Roxas in a headlock and mussing up his hair. "But you're still a jerk!"

"Soraaaa." Roxas took his punishment, knowing he deserved it. "Also I told Axel he could name his price in cookies for helping me clean up."

"Whaaat?" Sora groaned, releasing Roxas. "Oh well, whatever." He offered Riku a shy smile. "Should we forgive him?"

"He doesn't look very sorry," Riku said, grinning back. "As his barista, I think you should ground him."