Fire and Light
By: Koorino Megumi
This fic contains KHII spoilers, but not for the ending. Special thanks to Ginger Ninja, Northern Cross, and starhealer for their on-the-spot beta help! I love you guys.
"Hey, Axel. What are you doing out here?"
The red-haired Nobody looked up in surprise at the voice, turning to the blond who was headed across the beach toward where he sat on the shore.
"I'm sitting. What about you?"
He sounded particularly bad-tempered. Roxas smiled faintly as he stepped up beside him. "You got yourself in trouble again, didn't you?"
"Heh." Axel smiled as well, a bit ironically. "Not any more than usual."
Roxas rolled his eyes. "So what was it this time?"
"...you burned something, didn't you?"
A grin broke out. "I wouldn't call it something."
The blond snickered and shook his head. "Your addiction to setting fires is just going to keep getting you in trouble, you know."
Axel smirked. "So what's the problem?"
The blond rolled his eyes again, sitting next to his friend. "You only come out here when you're actually upset."
The redhead paused for a moment at that abrupt change of topic. "Heh... All right, I'll give you that one."
"So what is it?" Roxas pressed.
Axel raised an eyebrow at him. "You're going to ask?"
Roxas frowned, shifting a little uncomfortably. Today was a bit...awkward, and he didn't want to let it show any more than Axel did. He tried to lighten the conversation again. "Well, we both know he's not really going to turn you into a Dusk for it. I mean, remember that time Demyx-"
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Axel interrupted. He snickered, giving Roxas a meaningful look. "I definitely wouldn't be the first in line to go for pranks."
The other boy couldn't help the smug expression that crossed his face as he thought of a few of his own. He leaned back, looking up at the stormy sky. "You might be good at pranks, but I have all the best ideas."
Axel smirked. "You still haven't heard how I got myself in trouble."
Roxas quirked an eyebrow this time, but Axel just crossed his arms over his chest, looking out at the sea with a funny look on his face. It wasn't exactly sad, but it was...somewhat worried. Which was not a good sign where Axel was concerned. Meaning Roxas should probably do something about this before someone...else...got hurt. Or before their conversation got serious again. He was getting a little worried about what topic might be breached if it did.
So, seizing the first idea that came to mind, the blond stated, "Well, I've got an idea right now that I bet's even better than your prank."
"Oh really?" Axel was looking at him again, but he sounded a little less interested than Roxas rightfully thought he should be. Well, more incentive to pull this off, then! He wasn't going to sit out here and angst. Not today.
"Yeah. So come on, let's get out of this place." Roxas stood, waiting for Axel to get to his feet as well before the blond turned behind him and opened a portal. He couldn't help smiling faintly as he headed through, wondering what Axel's reaction would be to the location. Whatever the redhead might be expecting from him, he was sure it wasn't this. And if anything was going to take Axel's mind off his worries, well...anyone as addicted to fire as Axel was couldn't help but love the unexpected.
Roxas stepped out of the portal first, looking around out of curiosity more than anything. He was getting to know this town pretty well by now; he liked coming here when Organization politics got to be too much for him. But Axel...what would Axel think of the place?
The aforementioned Nobody stopped in his tracks, startled, as he too emerged from the portal. "Whoa," was his first comment, "Wasn't expecting this one."
"I said I had an idea," Roxas replied easily, already heading down the street of the quaint little town where the two now found themselves, ignoring the nervous looks that the natives gave the two cloaked men unexpectedly appearing from the entrance to the forest.
"Yeah, but I didn't realize boooring counted as an idea," Axel replied, looking around. "Man, this place reeks of normal."
"That's because it is." Roxas rolled his eyes. "You're acting like you've never seen a normal world before."
Axel shrugged, following him. "I prefer the empty worlds, myself." Then he grinned, looking at a stand that was coming up on their left. "But I bet we could get a good price on some candy if that's what you want."
There was something a little too sinister in his gaze. Roxas put a hand on his shoulder, directing him carefully around the sweet shop. "Maybe later. My idea comes first."
Axel quirked an eyebrow. "You're actually serious about this whole idea thing, aren't you?"
"What, did you think I brought you here for the candy?"
The other snickered. "All right, hot shot, lead the way."
Roxas grinned. "Just don't get lost."
And the two young men continued down the street, oblivious to the staring eyes that they were passing, although Roxas couldn't help but notice the old woman who dropped her shopping bag at the sight of them.
It didn't take long for them to get up to the Station Plaza, and once they were there, there was certainly no one who was going to protest as they headed up to the clock tower.
Axel whistled when they finally got out on the ledge, overlooking the whole town. A train rolled by in the distance.
"How's this for quiet?" Roxas asked with a smile.
"Heh." Axel grinned, still staring down below. "It's a better view than all that water, I'll give you that. But if this was all you brought me out here for-"
"Are you kidding? It hasn't even gotten interesting yet!"
Axel turned to him, raising an eyebrow. "Roxas, you know my patience..." he started.
Roxas grinned at that. "Then just drop things on the passersby while you wait? I'll be back in a just a few minutes. Play with fire or something."
Axel gave him a genuinely curious look in response, but all that he said was, "You sure you wanna subject this little town of yours to that?"
Roxas laughed as he headed off to get the necessary "supplies" to put his plan into action. Axel really had no idea what he was capable of, did he? Especially when he was set on making sure they enjoyed their day.
Just like Roxas had promised, he didn't leave Axel up there alone for long. But admittedly, that prudence was more to protect the town from Axel than Axel from the town.
As he had suspected, the redhead was currently amusing himself by raining sparks down on anyone who passed, trying to see if he could aim accurately enough to start a good fire or two.
Roxas rolled his eyes as he came up next to his friend. "Any luck?"
Axel turned to him with another grin. "You think it's luck?"
The blond shook his head and sat down next to him, setting his bag of supplies in his lap. "You didn't get caught, did you?"
Roxas snorted. Clearly anyone who had seen Axel had been too afraid to do anything about it. Well, that was good. He wouldn't want the two of them to lose their vantage point to Axel's hyperactivity. "All right then..." He took a look out at the setting sun, still just peeking above the horizon. He should have thought to time this; they were a little early. Then again, the view sure was breathtaking.
"My fire's prettier."
Axel gestured out at the sun. "You were staring. Sure, it's nice, and I bet it'd be really cool close up, but from here? Pfft. You can't see anything but light."
Roxas smiled a little wryly. "Maybe that's the idea. People prefer the light."
"Until they get too close to it. Then they get burned."
Roxas blinked. "That's..."
Axel raised an eyebrow at him. "It's true. Light's dangerous. Got it memorized?"
The blond felt his face heating up. "Of course I know that!"
"Good. Because for a minute there, it looked like you were going to argue with me."
Roxas frowned, eyeing Axel now. That worried look had come back to his friend's face. "Axel, what...?"
But he trailed off, hesitating when he saw his friend's eye twitching. Axel jumped right into the gap. "So what's in the bag?"
"The bag!" Axel rolled his eyes. "Honestly, Roxas, you gotta try waking up every once and a while."
Roxas reddened, holding the bag tightly closed. "You'll see in a minute."
Which, he realized just after he said the words, was actually true. As they had been discussing the sun, it had slowly been sinking below the horizon, its bright rays fading into twilight. Soon it would be dark enough to put his plan into action. He just needed to keep Axel off his back for another few minutes. Then again, that was easier said than done...
"So what did you do to get in trouble?"
Axel snickered. "See if you can get a look at Xaldin anytime soon. Or at least his hair."
Roxas raised an eyebrow, but he knew this was probably one of those things better seen than heard about. On which note... Well, it wasn't quite as dark as he'd been hoping for, but surely it was dark enough for them to be visible. He shifted his hand, opening the bag and reaching into it. "Looks like it's about time."
Axel blinked, then rubbed his hands together. "Hah, finally!"
The blond screwed up his face. "'Finally'? You don't even know what's coming."
"Well, yeah," the redhead conceded, "But it's gotta be less boring than sitting and watching the sun set."
Roxas snickered. "Heh. All right then, close your eyes and start a flame."
Axel gave him about the oddest look he'd ever seen in his life--something along the lines of "Have you gone nuts?" and "You meant that, right?" rolled together into one.
"A small flame," the blond amended very carefully, smiling faintly at Axel's obvious disappointment.
"Aww, okay... But if you've got anything planned for the locals, I'm not keeping my eyes shut!" the Nobody replied as he closed his eyes, holding up a hand. A small flame appeared in his palm, licking at his fingers.
Roxas grinned now, pulling an object out of the bag and preparing to light it, carefully, on Axel's flame without letting his friend touch it. "Don't worry," he assured him, "You won't miss this." In his other hand, a faint chime and rush of air could be heard as he called a Keyblade to him.
The fuse began to crackle the second the flame caught it, and all at once, Roxas was ordering, "Open your eyes!" and thwacking an object with the Keyblade, sending it arcing away from them and into the sky as the fuse reached its end and it exploded with a shrill whistle, bursting into multicolored light.
Axel just stared for a minute before he turned to his friend in disbelief. "You've gotta be kidding me, Roxas."
Roxas grinned at him. "Light's only dangerous when you're not the one controlling it."
Axel grinned right back. "Want to see how many we can set off before they get enough police over here to chase us away?"
Two breathless Nobodies returned to the World that Never Was hours later, when they were satisfied that they had gotten all of Twilight Town out of bed--either to help chase them off or to admire a light show the likes of which the town's own fireworks celebration had never quite lived up to. Then again, the town had never had Axel at their disposal to throw in a bit of extra (albeit dangerous) "flare." But injuries had been minimal, and neither of them could remember living a night quite like that one since they'd joined the Organization. Which, was to say, in all of their nonexistence, really.
"Told you I had a good idea," Roxas stated when they had caught their breath well enough to talk.
Axel waved a hand. "Next time we stay longer."
"Heh." Roxas smiled, turning away from his friend and taking a seat on one of the castle's outside walls.
Roxas glanced back at that. There was that funny look again... "Yeah?"
"I...heard some talk today."
The blond couldn't keep his eyes from widening just a little. So...that had been what was bothering Axel. "What kind of talk?" he asked anyway, not quite willing to let the facade slip yet. Not after he'd gone to all that trouble to make it a fun day.
Axel gave him a pained look. He gestured at Roxas's hand, knowing that they would both connect the motion with the weapon even if he wasn't wielding it at the moment. "You're not serious, right?"
The blond's hand tightened into a fist. "Is that what's been bothering you all day?"
Axel cringed, watching Roxas uncertainly. "They were talking about keeping a better eye on you, just in case. But they didn't think you'd be stupid enough to just try walking off in the middle of-"
Roxas stood abruptly, walking away from his friend.
The blond stopped, turning back to him, his jaw set. "You're right. I'm not going."
Axel sighed in relief. "I figured they were just-"
The Nobody smiled a little wryly. "Next time you pay for the fireworks, all right?"
Axel just stared as Roxas pulled his hood up and took off running, leaving him behind on the side of the castle with nothing to do but stare out at half a moon and wonder.
Roxas, on the other hand, headed out to a desolate landscape overlooking a sea, where he sat right down in the sand, his hood still over his head.
"You're right," he murmured into the silence, "Light...fire...you don't want to get too close. Not when you know you have to go to the darkness eventually..."
He called both Keyblades to his hands now, looking down at the white and black weapons, studying them even though he'd done the same many times before.
"Pretty soon, I'll be free. And I'll open my eyes and see what's really there--light or darkness. But fire... I'm going to have to leave that one to you...my friend."
"That's a good idea."
Roxas jumped at the sound of the voice, turning in surprise to the cloaked figure who had just come up behind him.
Axel was grinning wryly, despite the sadness in his eyes. "Can't get any light without fire, you know," he said, "And there's one other thing you should remember about fire."
Roxas wasn't sure what to make of Axel's actions. The blond let the Keyblades disappear, watching the redhead in confusion. "And what's that?"
"Once you've got one, it's hard to put it out."
He almost laughed at that. "Especially if it's in Xaldin's hair."
"Hah!" Axel pointed at him in triumph. "So quit brooding and come on. You don't want him to glue on a wig before you see it, do you?"
Roxas stood, shaking his head. "I thought 'stop brooding' was my line."
Axel shrugged. "It's not my fault your emo is contagious."
The blond just stared.
The redhead snickered. The sadness and uncertainty was still in his eyes, but it was harder to spot now. "Come on already," he insisted, "I'm thinking maybe Castle Oblivion could use a fireworks show."
Roxas let the facade fall back into place. He did laugh at that thought, and the two headed into the Realm of Darkness together.