Day 69

Axel hated the way he craved for physicality like he craved for oxygen. He hated the way he depended on Larxene's touch, because he couldn't have Roxas'. He hated the way he couldn't hate anything at all because he didn't have a heart with which to harbor it.

Day 70

When Axel actually gave the kid a chance, as opposed to putting up with him for Roxas' sake, he found out that Demyx was a little more interesting than he'd given him credit for. It had taken everything in him not to laugh when the musician finally got the balls to backhand Larxene across the face.

Day 73

As an act of goodwill, Axel left Castle Oblivion, even though Marluxia had told him to stay. He disobeyed a direct order from the Lord of the Castle for one reason, and one reason alone. He found Demyx strolling the World's streets and grabbed the sitar player roughly.

"Listen carefully, I have exactly no time to repeat myself." He didn't even wait for the blonde to nod. "Marluxia is trying to take over and Sora is in the Castle. Keep Roxas the fuck away. If things turn sour I'll find a way to come back again."

"Marluxia?" Demyx repeated.

Axel growled and glanced around quickly. "It's more complicated than that. He and Larxene are including me in their plan, but Vexen, Zexion and Lexaeus aren't too happy either. They're all scheming. That doesn't matter, I'm entrusting Roxas to you, take care of him."

With that, the Flurry of Dancing Flames disappeared.

Day 75

Axel felt his insides squirm with disgust as he watched Larxene tormenting Naminé again. He had never been so disgusted with the bitch before in all the time he'd known her. He watched as Naminé bent like a willow beneath the Nymph's assault. He waited, with very little patience, for the woman to leave, and then approached the girl.

"What do you think?" he whispered.

She gave him a wide-eyed, lip trembling face in return.

"Do you think this plan will work?"

"I don't know," she whispered. It was as good as 'no'.

"Me too," he replied. He winked at her and then disappeared.

Day 76

He had Vexen's blood on his hands. The fool had not only made that ridiculous Riku-clone, but had almost blabbed about Roxas and…Axel couldn't wait any longer.

He found Naminé and released her. Marluxia's little scheme could take it up the ass.

Roxas' protection was what mattered.

Day 77

The balancing act between sides was becoming difficult, but he had an ultimate goal and a fail-all plan. For now, he was managing. For now, he no longer had to worry about Larxene and the Riku-clone was suddenly coming in handy. For now, Roxas was safe.

Day 78

The anxiety began to set in. He never realized how much energy the moon, their Kingdom Hearts, gave to him, until he was away from it for weeks upon weeks at a time. Maybe it was because he was far away from his heart, his Roxas.

Riku was going to escape the Castle soon.

Sora was going to kill Marluxia even sooner.

His manipulations had gone exactly as planned. He sent a note to Demyx. It floated through a portal and landed in the musician's lap.

It said nothing more than: I'll be back for him soon.

Demyx knew what it meant and it made him miserable but hopeful at the same time. Axel intended to come back and take Roxas for his own and Demyx couldn't think of a good reason to try and stop him. He knew Roxas' mind, and knew what would have been in his heart, had he possessed one. The Key of Destiny missed his Flurry of Flames, just as much, if not more, than Axel missed him.

They would be together when the redhead returned. In the meantime, Demyx surprised his partner with a show of dominance, sweeping the other blonde into his arms and making his passions known the only way he could; with touch, with feel, playing at the lock to the prison.

Xemnas promised them their hearts would come soon…Demyx prayed for all speed. Maybe then he could at least feel sad to lose the love of his life.

Day 79

Sora was encased in glass and Riku had stepped into the darkness. Axel was free to return to the World that Never Was. He breathed in the perpetually soggy air and looked straight up into their heart shaped moon. He trudged through the streets passing unnoticed by many of the lower class Nobodies.

He entered their castle, and was greeted in the main hall by Luxord, which put his hackles up from the start. He brushed past the gambler, only biting a curt greeting to avoid getting himself beaten up.

He all but ran through the painfully white hallways and looked for Roxas. He'd told Demyx to watch out for him! Damn it! Wait, he tried to calm himself. There was no proof yet that anything was wrong…but then he found the Nocturne.

"What is it?" the redhead snarled. He looked around frantically as if Roxas would appear to him simply because it was him looking.

"Xemnas told him."

"W-what?" Axel did not stutter. He did not fumble. He had himself together; he could joke; or laugh; or growl; but not stutter.

"About Sora." Demyx, to his credit, seemed stoic about the whole thing.

"Oh. Oh, shit." Axel leaned back against the wall rubbing at his eyes. He had underestimated how angry Xemnas would be about the whole affair in Castle Oblivion. Everything had gone so well; his calculations had been so perfect. Except when it came to Xemnas. He could never predict that bastard! "Where is he?"

"Somewhere in the city. He hasn't come back since Xemnas told him."

Day 80

Roxas didn't want to be found and it took Axel far longer to track the blonde down than it should have. When Axel did finally come across the boy, he was heading for the gate.

"You can't betray the Organization!"

And they'd argued about it and Axel had told him simply and heartfelt, only without the beating heart, that he didn't want Roxas to leave. The boy hadn't even turned to stare him down or give him that glower that he'd always given to him when he was angry, or amused, even though he knew he shouldn't have been.

"No one would miss me," he sneered and Axel thought he got it. They had all lied to Roxas for so long, he felt betrayed. Axel thought he got it, but he didn't know how to make it better.

"That's not true…I would…"

Roxas (his) had gone anyway.

Prologue, the

There were dreams. Mostly about Riku. The name was familiar to him now, more familiar than it should have been. But his mind had a duality that hurt him on such a visceral level that his brain preferred to shut down, than to try to comprehend.

Raixkeul

He rolled over in his bed, burying his face.
The dreams were too much.

There were emotions that felt out of place in him, as if he shouldn't be allowed to have them. The visions of Riku brought along feelings of blame and there was something, some reason for there to be blame, but it felt off. It felt wrong.

Whythat'sdonotyoutruehaveIthewouldkeyblade?

There was something missing. Vital…vital…the pace of his blood quickened and his body flamed and he writhed on his bed with a groan. His ears buzzed and his head pounded and…he rolled to his side and fell to the floor with a painful thump. All sensation ceased in that one, blessed, moment.

x

It hurt, sometimes, Demyx reflected. For once, he understood the hurt, because it wasn't in his heart. He didn't have one, it wasn't there; it just wasn't. It was a physical pain in his chest. He tried to ignore it, as he lay on Roxas' abandoned bed, stroking the strings on his sitar, letting them vibrate and sound off, one by one.

It was a pain…that made him stronger. Axel saw the subtle change in the musician's manner and didn't know whether to be relieved or saddened by the hard look on the once-boy's face.

x

All he knew was that he would not so readily accept Roxas' absence. He looked far and wide throughout the multi-verse. His key was not to be found and Axel had begun to despair until he'd realized it wasn't Roxas he needed to find. Instead he hunted after Naminé's gentle energy signature.

He found the girl in Twilight Town…he found the girl with Riku and DiZ. He didn't have any desire for the other two to know of his presence, so he snuck around watching the town's folk, praying Roxas would be among them, but he wasn't. Finally Axel saw his chance to speak with the witch.

She was stunned to see him. "Axel, you shouldn't be here."

"Where is Roxas?"

"He isn't here," she answered clearly. He was impressed to see she had, at last, grown a backbone.

"Where is he?"

"Axel," the girl pleaded. "You can't see him. Things will just turn out badly."

"No," he was getting snappy and flames popped at his fingertips. He stared her down; loomed over her; whatever it took to get to Roxas, he would do it. "Where is he."

"He's a part of Sora. This is his chance to be whole."

"NO!" Axel slammed his fists down onto the table and put his full weight on its oaken legs. Naminé stared at him in terror, until she took notice of the way his shoulders shook and his breath heaved.

"Sora is the key to everything. For everyone. He needs to be at his strongest. He needs to be whole."

"He can't have Roxas!" Axel was choking on his words and his eyes shone with emotions that…weren't there! "Roxas can be whole without him! It should work both ways!"

"But it doesn't!" Her own voice became heated. Axel didn't understand what it was like to be born under their special circumstances. The Nobodies felt ostracized, so too did the Shadows. Yet they had no companions to take comfort with…

"I want him back," Axel growled out his warning. Flames licked the wooden surface on which he laid his hands.

"He won't be whole, no matter what you or Xemnas believe."

Axel shot forward, reaching across the table and seizing her forearms, gripping her painfully. He held her eyes with his own just as easily. She stared through those windows, deep down into his soul, where she found something startling.

"I love him, Naminé. Don't take him away from me."

Axel, the Flurry of Dancing Flames, Number VIII of the Organization, was reduced to begging. The memory witch was struck by the intensity of his not-feelings. She made her decision.

"I will do what I can. In the end, it is his choice."

x

Riku often found himself incapable of the same apathy that DiZ seemed to have perfected. He looked at Roxas and saw Sora, yet everyday they wasted waiting for Naminé to finish her task, the more he came to know a different boy.

Sora was a child and that was part of his appeal. If he was displeased, his pitch would become a gentle whine and he would entreat Riku to be fairer. Roxas, on the other hand, would take up arms to get his way, never even wasting so much as a breath.

Riku felt a smile tug at his lips. The Almasy boy deserved those beatings more often than not.

However, deserved or not, it wasn't something Sora would do. Riku was beginning to obtain a duality to his thinking. It tore at him in ways he shouldn't have allowed. But…as much as he wanted Sora back…he began to pity Roxas' loss. The boy would first lose one life, and then another. He would be stripped of all self and forced back into his mold.

The price was worth it though…wasn't it?

I love him, Riku thought. It was simple and without finesse, but it encompassed his purpose. He loved Sora.

x

When Naminé high jacked his data and entered the virtual world, DiZ was furious. He did not know what she was playing at, but she had to be stopped at once. He sent Ansem out to do the job with an offhanded comment about getting rid of the girl, now that she had outlived her usefulness. The callous words stung even his heart. He reminded himself firmly, however, that his revenge came before his emotions.

Roxas could not be allowed to know he had a choice.

He couldn't fathom why Naminé did what she did, perhaps she was sympathetic, perhaps she thought he would repay her with love, whatever it was, DiZ did not like it.

He also did not like the warm energy reading that seemed to dance across his screens from time to time. Things were almost ready. He had to be prepared.

Post Reference

He looked down at the imposters face and felt his stomach completely turn. He put his thoughts on hold as Xemnas said something, which he figured must have required laughter. He chuckled along with the others, though it was totally without heart.

Oh, ow, that seriously wasn't funny either; his laughter lost some more of its already severely lacking humor.

The imposter…He hadn't actually realized he'd cared, which was definitely completely impossible. No heart, no caring, or at least that's what he'd always been told; he was beginning to question. He looked at the boy with that heartbreakingly (Oh, just stop, he told himself) familiar face. There was an answer he wanted—needed. He asked the question and was rewarded with favorable results, of a kind.

"Roxas used to give me that exact same look," he snickered. The look on Sora's face had made his sudden, confusing feelings intensify. That boy had been like a son, which wasn't possible. It just wasn't! He forced out another snigger, let out another insult and then hurried to disappear.

His thoughts were rolling faster than he could keep up. He thought of Axel and then of Roxas and how much it was like missing something…a part of the family? No! He slammed a fist down, scowling at the floor. There were no feelings! He pushed the emotions into a far corner of his mind and there he locked them away. He didn't have feelings…Roxas and Axel were traitors…and he…was ordered to use aggressive means. If that pussy Demyx could handle this, so could he.

Convincing himself was much easier than it should have been and he cringed. One day, when he had his heart, this might just come back to haunt him.

x

Sora was the cynosure of all their efforts. The key, if you would. How quaint.

Xemnas let the corner of his mouth twitch into a sharp little smile.

Rain dripped from his hair into his eyes.


End.
Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts.