"We could always kill him," Saix suggested calmly as though murder were the most natural thing in the world.

"Do you think it's really necessary?" Axel remarked, trying to adopt the same disinterested tone. It wasn't easy. Axel was terrified by the ruthlessness of Saix's new power game, but he was in too deep now to escape. He knew better than anyone that Saix was happy to destroy anyone who got in his way.

The sad part was, he used to like Saix once, back when he was still Isa and Axel was still Lea. In fact, there'd been no one he had cared about more.

Axel's mind wandered back to a young Lea following Isa around like a shadow. It had taken a long time for him to notice he had a crush on his best friend, and Isa was the one who finally made him realize it.

They were near the Marketplace in Hollow Bastion, overlooking a darkening sky at twilight. The castle windows were just barely starting to glow with warm yellow light. In retrospect, it was quite romantic. At the time, Lea hadn't noticed such things. He was young, and his world revolved around Isa.

"Lea, have you ever kissed anyone before?"

If he said the wrong thing, Isa would tease him mercilessly. What answer did he expect? He knew he was taking too long to respond, and he expected Isa would call him out on it soon. Even worse, he'd know if Lea was lying. "No!" he blurted, "Have you?" He feared the answer. If Isa said yes, Lea knew he wouldn't live it down.

"No. Bet you've thought about it though."

Lea nodded slightly, panicking again. "Mmm sure," he mumbled, not daring to read Isa's expression.

"I wonder if you'd be any good at it."

Now Isa was baiting him, and his nervousness was replaced by frustration. "I'm sure I am! Probably better than you are!" It was comforting to return to their naturally adversarial rapport. They were better at fighting than anything else.

"Prove it."

Lea laughed nervously. What did Isa want from him really? Did he want Lea to say how stupid that would be and walk away? Or did he really want Lea to kiss him? He hazarded a look into Isa's eyes and recognized his expression. This was a real challenge. Isa was dead serious.

"Er, okay."

"You're nervous," Isa derided him.

"No I'm not."

"So do it then."

Lea did, pressing his lips to Isa's. It didn't feel like much of anything, and he pulled away to judge Isa's expression.

"I think you can do better," Isa challenged.

"Fine," Lea whispered, trying to take cues from the times he'd seen people kiss in the past. He'd try it slower, and he should probably touch Isa more, but where? They usually only touched when joking or fighting. Isa stared at him impatiently. He closed his eyes and leaned forward. This time he added more force. He managed to part Isa's lips with his own, and he found he liked the feeling, and he wanted more of it. Lea didn't have to think of how to touch Isa because his best friend's arms were soon laced behind his neck, forcing him closer. As his body collided with Isa's, he gasped slightly and broke the kiss, but Isa's mouth was back on his in a moment. His arms instinctively wrapped themselves around Isa, and he felt lost and thoughtless, focused only on this glorious moment and every new sensation.

In the sea of bliss, he felt a sharp pain on his bottom lip and a bitter metallic taste. The surprise made him pull himself away. He put a finger to his mouth and discovered a drop of blood.

He looked at Isa, offended, and Isa laughed. "Got you! See you tomorrow," he yelled as he disappeared down the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Lea stayed there for hours, sitting on the ledge overlooking the castle, wondering if he'd done something wrong.

They didn't speak of it again.

Two weeks later, Isa asked out a girl three years his senior, and she rejected him. Isa had been furious, believing everyone should want him (a belief which Lea seconded with unquestioned devotion).

"I know you want to kiss me again," Isa prompted. "Don't you?"

The answer was yes, and Isa had him pinned against the wall of his bedroom, digging his nails into Lea's neck in a way that made him feel wanted and wired even as it stung. And this time, there had been no bite at the end. Just a goodnight and goodbye and another night of restlessness and vague desire.

For months after, Lea tried to convince Isa to kiss him again by every means possible except asking. He knew Isa would tear him to pieces if he brought it up. He had to be sly and indirect, but it still never worked. Isa only resorted to him when he was desperate or lonely or wanted to prove a point.

As months turned to years, girlfriends came and went. Isa had sex for the first time, and Lea followed suit finding a girlfriend of his own. Isa often criticized Lea for his preference for men over women (though he honestly liked both), but still Isa taught Lea everything he knew about how to sleep with who he wanted when he wanted. His tactics always worked, but never on Isa - he always treated Lea like a second thought.

By the time they were in too deep with Xehanort, Lea realized he'd been supplanted by Isa's new idol. All he talked about was Xehanort, and Axel got the feeling the two of them did more than just talk, judging by the little looks and moves of control Xehanort always pulled with him. And the worst part was that Isa seemed glad, happy to be out-mastered at his own game. Lea watched on helplessly, seeing his best friend of 18 years slip through his fingers.

The truth was, he hadn't really wanted to join Organization XIII in the first place. He'd found Xehanort's ideas distasteful and his methods barbaric. But he always felt pulled, compelled by Isa's sheer force of will and charisma until he forgot he had a choice in the matter. When Xehanort became Xemnas and demanded they become heartless too, Axel and Saix were born, and Lea's fate became a mystery to Axel for a very long time.

Axel helped Saix become the pride of the Organization by doing all his dirty work without question. As a Nobody, he was unremorseful and obedient with none of Lea's previous reservations about morality. He was heartless after all. And still, even though he couldn't feel as keenly as Lea had about Isa, he was always compelled towards Saix by a force he couldn't explain. Saix had power over Axel, and they both knew it.

Until one day…

"We have a new member," Saix sneered, "Sora's Nobody. He looks weak to me, and he's definitely stupid. He can barely understand us. He doesn't even seem to know who he is… but Xemnas insists, and what Xemnas wants…" Saix shrugged. "He needs a name. Can you come up with something?"

"I'd love to," Axel lied. He was sick of always being assigned the most mundane tasks. He knew Saix did it just to annoy him and punish him for the times he'd acted out, which he was doing more by the day.

He sorted through the possibilities - Saxor, Arsox, Soxra… Roxas quickly became his favorite choice. It had a nice ring to it - Rox for short (if he was cool enough to warrant a nickname).

The fact that Saix didn't like Roxas was already a point in his favor as far as Axel was concerned.

But he was not prepared, not at all, for the sweet, helpless, blonde, short ball of indescribable cuteness and light that walked through the door.

"Well, introduce yourself " Saix commanded. "I've decided he's your responsibility," Saix smirked as though it were a punishment.

Axel tried to suppress the smile that threatened as Roxas looked into his eyes for the first time. He shouldn't show Saix how happy this made him, but when he saw Roxas smile back, it was hopeless.

At the time, he'd had no idea how much the gleam in Roxas's eyes and the smile on his face would come to mean to him. They held the promise of warmth and approval he would come to live and die for. He felt the first inklings of destiny vibrate through him. He was charmed, smitten, over the moon with joy.

"Don't just stand there with that stupid look on your face, Axel!" Saix snapped.

Axel found the bite of Saix's words no longer touched him, and he thought Saix must sense it because he added, "Remember, you're responsible for this boy now, and if you fail I shall personally make sure you're both punished for it, and -"

Axel didn't hear the rest. He walked towards Roxas who eyed him curiously. He held out a hand, but Roxas didn't take it.

"Do you… know what a handshake is? Here, just do what I'm doing." Roxas tentatively extended his arm. When their hands touched, electricity flowed from Axel's fingertips to his innermost being where all his hopes and dreams had been waiting for one little spark. Something awoke. A flower bloomed.

"I'm Axel, and you're Roxas. I'm going to take care of you. Got it memorized?"

*This story was written to accompany my multi-chapter fic "No One Would Miss Me" and provide a little bit of back story for Lea and Axel. Thanks for reading!*