Disclaimer: Doesn't belong to me. Well, the fic does, but you knew that. Warnings: vulgar language, sexual innuendos, basic things that teenage+ boys say to each other.
Not That I Care
You are one of God's mistakes
You crying, tragic waste of skin
I'm well aware of how it aches
And you still won't let me in.
Axel can't remember the last time he slept so long. He thinks that such a nice, unbroken sleep was exactly what he needed, especially after these past insanely stressful weeks. It's one of the few times that Axel is actually grateful for his rare, rain-induced headaches. A nice sleep, though, doesn't make up for the fact that the headache all but screwed up the one day in weeks that Axel has had with Roxas.
Axel has no time this morning to hunt down Roxas and find out how the fight went down after Axel left. Not that he particularly cares; he's still pissed at Roxas for calling him useless and for cutting their day short. It's not like that last part is really Roxas's fault—stupid rain—and Axel is more pissed at the circumstances, really. But either way, he doesn't really want to talk to Roxas, not yet. Better to just meet with Saïx and get back to work in Hollow Bastion—give time for things to cool down. Otherwise the kid might put his Keyblade through Axel's skull.
Been awhile since we had a real fight. Dunno if that could be called a real fight. Hm. I wonder if he's still angry.
He stretches one arm above his head and yawns as he picks his way through the hallways down to the Hall of Empty Memories, where he's supposed to meet Saïx. There's no time even to stop into the cafeteria for coffee and breakfast. Saïx is just sadistic like that. Axel can't help a little sigh as he comes up to the cafeteria and smells coffee brewing. Must be Demyx; no one can brew coffee like Demyx can. Sure enough, when Axel pokes his head in there he is, munching cereal as he waits for the coffee to finish.
"That smells unspeakably good. You're doing it just to torture me."
Demyx looks up and smirks, swallowing a spoonful of corn flakes. "Early mission this morning?"
"Saïx hates me," Axle mourns as his stomach growls.
"Saïx hates everything that moves," Demyx says. The machine beeps and he gets up to pour himself a cup. "Oh hey, before you go, have you seen Roxas?"
Axel snorts. "Nope. Last I saw he was kicking ass down in the Dark City."
"Right, the rain," Demyx says, nodding. He frowns down into his coffee.
"Why do you ask? I thought you were avoiding the Pride Lands. Regime change, general chaos and all that."
"Yeah, but he was supposed to meet me last night," Demyx says, sounding concerned now. "He wanted to do a little research—like, why certain worlds affect people the way they do. Like in the Pride Lands, everyone becomes an animal, right? Roxas is way too into books. But yeah, it's not like him, just not showing up like that. I asked around and checked his room but no one had seen him."
Axel chuckles. "Well, sometimes it's hard to see him without a microscope. I'm sure he just slunk back in late last night and went straight to bed."
"No, that's the thing, I checked his room this morning and his bed hadn't been touched." Demyx runs a hand over the top of his hair, a nervous habit of his.
So, what? The kid stayed out all last night? I know he needed to relieve stress, but no one can fight Heartless all night. What, did he end up at a bar or something? Yeah, like they'd let him in, never mind he's underage. So what the hell? Oh, this is bullshit.
"Someone has to have seen him," Axel says, and decides that Saïx can wait another minute. "Let's just go find Luxord, he's usually on top of these things."
Demyx sets his coffee aside and gets to his feet. Axel stares at the pot with longing, then the two of them head down to one of the sitting rooms on the lower levels, which Luxord has been known to frequent.
It's weird, it's not like shorty to blow people off. Or to forget to check in. He's as antisocial as the rest of us, but still.
They find Luxord in one of the sitting rooms as they expected, immersed in a heated discussion with Xaldin.
"The point, my friend, is not to beat your opponent senseless, which is hardly plausible when your opponent is incapable of dying. The point is strategy."
"Everything dies," Xaldin fires back. "Immortality is a lie. And everything has its weak point, it's just a matter of finding the right place to stab it."
"Indeed, and it is likely the pirates will be mortal once the coins are returned, but even I couldn't manage that on my own. For someone who so claims to dislike strategy, you're certainly being quite the tactician, the mind games you're playing with that Beast character," Luxord growls over his cup of tea.
"I never said I dislike strategy, but you seem to think that you can win a battle without ever exchanging blows."
"And why can't you?"
"It's a matter ofreality! It's—what the hell do you two want?" Xaldin snarls, whirling on Axel and Demyx so fast that his dreadlocks make snapping sounds. Rather like a whole nest of angry snakes. Axel holds up his hands in mock-defense.
"So sorry to intrude on such a fascinating debate—"
"Get on with it," Luxord says, sinking into a chair and looking bored.
"We were wondering if anyone's seen Roxas," Demyx puts in.
"No, brat didn't come back last night," Xaldin huffs.
"The Superior is quite upset with him," Luxord adds, sipping his tea. "He was expecting a report on the Pride Lands situation from Roxas."
"Wait, back up," Axel says, the last of his good humor leaving. "What do you mean he didn't come back last night? Are you shitting me? No one's seen him at all?"
Luxord and Xaldin glance at each other, the animosity gone.
"It is a bit strange, isn't it?" Luxord says, looking up as if addressing the ceiling. "He has not been one to shirk his duties in the past."
"Probably got caught in the rain, found somewhere to wait it out and fell asleep there," Xaldin agrees with a careless shrug.
They don't give a shit. Roxas could be…
Axel turns and takes off running. Demyx makes a sound of surprise.
"Wait, Axel, what about Saïx?"
"Fuck Saïx!" Axel yells and rounds a corner, heading for the bridge.
The sky is still smoky from yesterday's rain and Kingdom Hearts is shining as if through polarized glass. Some of the puddles on the streets are inches deep, and Axel gets a fair amount of oily water on his coat as he charges through them.
Where were we last night? It was around here, right?
Most of the streets in the Dark City look the same, but Axel has spent enough time here that he knows his way around. For some reason, though, his mind doesn't seem to be working. He's having a hard time finding his way to where he last saw Roxas.
Damn it, no wait, here it is, it was this street, I remember.
He skids to a stop and looks around. No Heartless around, thankfully—Axel wouldn't mind killing something right now, but there's no time—and no Roxas, either. His eyes scan the street, looking for any sign. There are claw marks and soot stains from the Heartless, a scorch stain left by Axel, but that's about it. Axel turns around on the spot, swinging his head left and right. Something funny is going on in his chest.
"Roxas! Answer me, dammit! Where the hell are you?"
Alright, no, think. If he defeated that lot, and it wouldn't be hard, there weren't many, if I'm Roxas, which way would I go? Back to the Castle, okay. Back the way we came, right? Which way, it was this way I think. What the hell, what the hell is he thinking, why the hell would he stay out all night? No, shut up, he probably just got rained in like Xaldin said. Okay focus now, go look for him, focus, dammit!
Axel starts trotting back up the street, trying to remember the route they took from the Castle last night. He curses himself for not paying more attention, even through the fog of the headache and the confusion of the rain. Rain always skews Axel's sense of direction—always skewseverything, really, and suddenly Axel hates anything and everything to do with water.
He keeps walking, looking down every side street, checking every nearby building that still has doors. Heartless are watching him from several alleys, though they make no move to follow.
There'd have to be some trace, wouldn't there? I mean, even if…oh God, but if, no because he'd just vanish, wouldn't he, like the others did, and there'd be no trace, he'd just disappear, damn, damn, shit, no, calm down. Calm the fuck down. He's Roxas. There's no way he'd…
Axel can't even bring himself to think the word. And suddenly he's laughing, because it's ridiculous and so, so stupid and so scary, though Axel can't admit it, won't admit it.
Is this what he felt those times I nearly kicked the bucket? "Felt," what am I thinking, we can't feel, shut up, just shut up and look for him!
He's getting closer to the bridge but there's still no sign, no trace of Roxas. He picks his way carefully through the streets, not wanting to be wrong in remembering which way they went last night. The tightness in his chest is spreading into his throat and stomach and for some reason it's getting hard to breathe.
Without warning his eyes fall upon a building that appears to have been smashed by something quite large. Glass and shrapnel litters the street and there are streaks of black soot against the bricks.
"Something big, shit…what kind of Heartless…?"
There aren't many. A Behemoth, maybe; a Darkside more likely. It's rare, but they've appeared in the Dark City before.
Did it…when Roxas…?
Axel scans the side street and decides it's his best bet. He lopes down the street, boots crunching the fallen glass and splashing in the puddles, looking back and forth, his chest tightening further with every step.
If he did, if Darkside got him, I'd know, wouldn't I? I mean, I'd like…I'd sense it. He's my best friend. Isn't that how it works?
Then he sees it: a tiny spot of yellow and a patch of black that's darker than usual, like a hole in the false night of the World That Never Was. Axel squints through the darkness as he approaches and finally, cursing, brings a flame to his hand which lights up a part of the street.
Axel, momentarily, stops short.
Roxas is lying on his back in a puddle on the sidewalk. One arm is clenched tightly to his chest and his coat looks like someone put it through a wood chipper. His face is as pale as the dim, heart-shaped moon above the city.
A small explosion happens in Axel's chest.
Axel rushes forward and sends a small ring of fire up into the air where it floats, casting Roxas in an orange glow and making him look even more like a corpse. Axel slides to a stop and goes down on his knees beside Roxas, who isn't moving.
"Roxas, sweet flying fire monkeys…" Axel leans over him, peering into his face, searching for signs of life.
He's not dead, no, he'd be gone if he was, so he must be alive but damn, damn he looks hurt, damn.
Little tendrils of darkness are seeping away from Roxas, but he's breathing. He's alive—barely.
Axel looks him over. There are more wounds than Axel can count. One of Roxas's shoulders looks funny. His breathing is ragged, as if each breath causes him pain. He's also sopping wet, his blonde hair plastered against his head.
"Roxas…Roxas, can you hear me?" Axel gives Roxas's uninjured shoulder a squeeze, and when that doesn't work he lays his hand on the side of Roxas's face.
"Damn it, you idiot, you're not supposed to get hurt like this. Fuck, fuck, okay, alright, he needs help, come on, Axel, dark portal back to the Castle and Xigbar, Xigbar should know what to do…"
Axel reaches beneath Roxas and lifts him out of the puddle, as gently as he can, before gathering him into his arms. He's light, too light, and Axel is painfully reminded of just how small Roxas really is.
Axel hoists him up and jars Roxas's bad shoulder by accident. Roxas makes a groaning sound and his eyes flutter but don't open.
"Sora…she called me Sora…" Roxas says in the barest of whispers. For the time being Axel could care less what Roxas is saying—it's enough that he's talking at all, and Axel can't help but burst into a relieved grin.
"It's alright, kid, I've got you, you'll be okay now."
Please, let him be okay, someone, anyone, let him be okay.
Axel opens a dark portal back to the Castle and steps inside, Roxas falling limp in his arms.
"The final tally is—one dislocated shoulder, two broken ribs, and too many lacerations and puncture wounds for me to care about counting. That plus a raging fever and probably pneumonia when he does wake up equals general badness. Relax, man, he's gonna recover—it's just gonna take awhile."
Axel gives Xigbar a glare that would make Roxas proud.
"I am perfectly fucking relaxed."
They're in the makeshift hospital. It's always been hard for Axel to think of Xigbar as a doctor. He and the other higher-ups were all scientists before they became Nobodies, and Xigbar was the only one with any semblance of medical training. If he had really been a doctor back then his malpractice insurance would have been astronomical. Axel thinks they're lucky that Xigbar does at least know a femur from a spine, but that doesn't make it any easier to see him as the doctorly type.
Still, for the time being, he's grateful for Xigbar's skills. Roxas would have died otherwise. Axel has no delusions about that.
Xigbar heaves an impressive sigh and slaps a clipboard down onto a desk littered with medical doodads.
"I don't get why you care. You two are so weird. I mean, it doesn't make sense, Nobodies being friends? We can't care."
Axel shrugs and looks at the door to Roxas's room. There's a glass window in this one and Axel can just see Roxas, lying on the bed within.
"Yeah, and yet strangely, we all need some kind of outlet for those emotions we can't feel." Axel smirks. "Everyone needs a hobby."
Xigbar chuckles at that.
"Can I see him?"
"Whatever makes youhappy," Xigbar says, his voice dripping with irony that Axel chooses to ignore. "Just don't fuck anything up or bother him. What should I tell Saïx? He's pretty pissed off."
"Tell him whatever you want," Axel says, and pushes open the door.
Up close, Roxas looks only marginally better. He's still unconscious, still breathing like it hurts, but now his face is flushed with fever. Passing out in a puddle is apparently unhealthy.
Axel sits down beside him and stares at Roxas's sleeping form. Xigbar says he's not sure when Roxas will wake up.
"You are such a fucking idiot," Axel says, wondering if Roxas can hear him. He's pretty sure it's only comatose people who can supposedly hear things, but still.
"What were you thinking? Why the hell didn't you just run? What, you thought you could take on a Darkside—one in this world, no less—all by your tiny little lonesome?"
Roxas doesn't respond or stir. Axel folds his arms.
"Fine. Don't listen to me. But I'm not going away. You and I need to have words, so I'm gonna stick around until you do listen. Because I'm pissed. Not because I give a shit or anything like that."
Axel looks away from Roxas and stares at the walls beyond him, at the shifting shadows. He's always noticed that if you stare at a surface—a wall, a ceiling, a carpet—long enough, you start to see shapes. This time, he can't see anything but Roxas lying in that puddle, looking dead.
"Except that I do," Axel says, staring at the wall. "I mean, we're friends, right? Friends are supposed to care about each other, I guess. But Xigbar's right. We don't have emotions, not really. Shadows—it's all shadows. But I'm putting a lot of stock in that shadow. Whatever the fuck Nobodies are—it doesn't matter. You're my friend, and I give a shit."
The silence stretches out and fills the corners of the room. Axel remembers that silence, because it was everywhere before Roxas came along. Axel hated that silence. He never wants to have to hear it again.
"I never told you this before," he says, "and I'm never going to, because the last person I told was Larxene, and you know how she is, was—she'd use things against you. Anyway, the point is, I had this little brother back before, in my old life, and you kind of remind me of him, a little. You look kind of like him, I guess. Blonde, blue eyes. I think he was thirteen. It's getting harder to remember. He was really independent, but he was still my little brother. Mom always said, 'be sure to look after him.'
"It was night when the Heartless attacked. They killed everyone. My whole town, just wiped off the map. People were screaming in the streets. I rushed back to my house from…I don't know where, and there they were, my family, going to dust right there in the living room. My little brother was holding a baseball bat and had put himself between our mom and the Heartless, but it didn't matter. Heartless got them as I walked in and I watched them dissolve. Couldn't do a damn thing. Dunno much of what happened after that."
Axel pauses and leans back in his chair, closing his eyes.
"Sure botched that whole 'looking after him' thing, didn't I? I've never been reliable."
It would be nice if he could feel something right now—sadness, guilt, pain. It would be nice if, just for a second, he could actually grieve. But there's nothing there.
Then he leans forward in his chair and glares at Roxas, who hasn't moved or made a sound.
"It's a damn good thing you can't hear me right now. Otherwise I'd have to kill you."
Two more days go by before Roxas finally wakes up. Axel has left the hospital room only a handful of times, mostly for food, and is asleep in his chair beside Roxas's bed when he senses something different. When he wakes up, he sees Roxas sitting up in bed, staring forward with wide eyes and gripping the edge of the sheets.
"Roxas, holy shit," Axel says, and he can't help a grin. "Looks like you're gonna live. Congrats, man. I was worried."
"I…" Roxas pauses, and Axel can see the muscles in his neck working. "There was a Darkside. I fought it, but…and then I was on a beach." His eyes lid halfway. "I thought I was dead."
"You almost were. God damn it, Roxas, you're such a fucking idiot."
Roxas ignores him.
"Kairi and Riku were there," he says. He frowns. "How do I know those people?"
Axel suddenly remembers the one thing Roxas managed to say before he passed out in Axel's arms: Sora…she called me Sora. Axel bites his lip and watches Roxas carefully.
Has he figured it out? Did the fight trigger something? If he knows…what am I gonna do if he knows? What is the Organization gonna do?
"Axel," Roxas says, turning to him slowly. Axel braces himself. "Am I Sora?"
Axel stares at him and opens his mouth to respond, but then Roxas turns away again, closing his eyes and shaking his head.
"But it's impossible," he says. "Sora isn't a Heartless. There's no way there could be a Nobody without a Heartless—it's just not possible. But…I feel like I was there, with them. Sora, Kairi and Riku. It was like I was a fourth person, watching it happen, but also like I was Sora, like I was watching it all through his eyes. She, Kairi—she called me Sora. I don't understand it."
"Sure you weren't dreaming?" Axel says, though he knows the attempt is pretty pathetic.
Roxas shakes his head again. "It felt too real."
There's a long pause. Axel can't think of what to say.
"Is it because of the Keyblade?" Roxas holds his hand out. There's a flash of light and the Keyblade appears in his hand. He looks it over, his eyes widening again. "We can both wield a Keyblade. We're both Masters. He's a Somebody, and I'm a Nobody. This is the only thing we have in common."
He turns the Keyblade over, and Axel sees that his hand is shaking now.
"Just…just what the hell is this thing?" Roxas says, his voice broken. "Why did it choose me? I don't…I don't understand…"
Axel reaches forward and seizes Roxas's wrist. He's sick of this.
"Just shut up," Axel hisses. "The Keyblade is random. No one really understands it. The fact that it chose you doesn't mean anything, you hear me? It just happened. Same as it did for Sora."
Roxas closes his eyes, but doesn't try to pull away. The Keyblade disappears in a puff of sparks.
"You don't get it."
Axel resists the urge to squeeze Roxas's wrist until it breaks.
"I don't get it?" Axel repeats. "Are you fucking kidding me? I find you half-dead in a fucking puddle and that's all you can say? What is wrong with you? You took on a Darkside all by yourself in this world? And you get pissed at me for doing the explodey thing! Like I'm the one with the death wish. And then you come back, like it's any old fucking thing, like you didn't just nearly die, and you start rambling about all this existential bullshit? Who the fuck cares who Sora is, or why you have fucked up dreams, or why a giant fucking key decided you were the best one to defeat the Heartless. Whocares? Do you have any idea…?"
Axel cuts himself off with a mirthless chuckle and jerks his hand away. He gets to his feet and kicks his chair backwards. Any other day, any other time and he would be pleased with the shocked look on Roxas's face.
Anger might be nothing more than a shadow now, but it certainly feels damn fuck real.
"Of course you don't," he says, smirking cruelly. "Can't say I blame you. Can't say you're any more or less selfish than me, or any of the others around here. Pot and kettle or whatever. Like I give a shit. You can ponder the meaning of your pathetic little existence all you want, but fuck if I'm going to stick around for it."
Axel is at the door when Roxas speaks again.
"I was…" He stops, tries again, and Axel lets him. "It was really that bad?"
Axel's hand is shaking on the doorknob. He's not sure why.
"You were out there all night, broken ribs, dislocated shoulder, gushing darkness all over and lying in a puddle. It was worse than that."
Axel decides he doesn't want to hear whatever Roxas has to say in response. He wrenches open the door and walks out, slamming it behind him. Then he finds a wall and leans back against it, breathing. It feels like it did that day, the yawning sensation in his chest, the sense that his heart is in there somewhere, if he can only find it. All he can see in his mind's eye is Roxas lying there in that puddle, slowly dying. Axel remembers what it felt like.
Felt. But that's a lie, isn't it?
It's like he doesn't even care. Maybe he really doesn't. Why can't he just fucking forget about Sora? It doesn't even matter. So what if Sora is his Other? Roxas is still Roxas. But at the same time…the connection between them is getting stronger. He must have been sharing Sora's dreams or something. Does that mean that Sora is closer to waking up?
No…no way. Reconstructing all those memories of his…Naminé is going to take awhile on that one. It must have just been random.
He really doesn't give a shit, does he? He doesn't give a shit about any of this. Anything here. Me, Kingdom Hearts, any of it. He just wants out. And he says I don't get it. But then…he's not like the rest of us, is he? His Other is alive. Roxas…Roxas can still feel. He's not really a Nobody.
Bastard. That little fucking bastard. He doesn't even know what he has.
Axel rubs his face and slowly the yawning sensation in his chest starts to dissipate. His knuckles are white as he clutches at his arms. Then he shakes his head with a quick jerk and stands up from the wall. He leaves the hospital area, leaves the castle, and heads off to find something to set on fire.
I should not be writing this. It's practically finals week. I should be working. But I decided I should finish this chapter, since it's been sitting there half-finished for, oh, a month now? Gah.
Christ, but I'm ever sorry for leaving you guys hanging for so long! Here it is at long last—what happened after Roxas, yanno, nearly died and all. Axel's not too happy, is he? I don't think he likes existentialism much, lol.
Frantic!Axel was interesting to write. XP And now you get a little fake Axel backstory! I'd love for Nomura to tell us their real history, but it's fun to guess. I always kind of wondered what drew Axel and Roxas together, since they're not all that much alike, in terms of personality. I guess this is just my take on it. Hope y'all like.
This chapter ended up being shorter than most. I'm not sure what I think of it overall, but it was pretty fun to write. Very angsty and emotionally charged. Interesting since they can't really feel anything.
Well, I'd like to hope that I'll get another chapter up before Christmahanukwnazaayule, or at least before New Years. But since I'm not sure that'll happen—I will try, but I don't promise anything—think of this as an early Christmahanukwnazaayule present
Anyway. Hope you enjoy. Sorry for such a long wait this time. Next semester is looking a lot less soul-killing than this one was, so hopefully I'll have more time and updates will be more regular (that's just a hope, though).
Feedback is candy for my soul!