Disclaimer: Certainly not mine.

Warnings: Mind the rating. I'm not even sure it's necessary, but some may find the main concept of this fic somewhat disturbing (mentioned torture, a little blood, and Axel's poor cooking await). I also use gameplay items (potions, munny etc) which I know can be insanely annoying, but hopefully it's ignorable enough if that grinds your gears. It's canon compliant up until the first word, then deviates into it's own happy AU because I'm quite sure Disney wouldn't have held for something like this. And if you're still with me, go ahead. :D

There Wasn't

"Axel will stop at nothing to turn you into a Heartless," – Saix, Twilight Town.

Some small part in his mind told him it should have been harder, really, to capture the heralded hero of the keyblade. But it wasn't. Once the keyblade was gone from his hands, (once his blade was taken, and he was just a stubborn boy with shaking fists), it was almost humourously simple.

That troublesome keyblade could open a path, a door, anything with the power of the Light it drew from Sora's ever strong, beating heart. Except in the shadowed corridors. As soon as he'd lured the boy there (he had needed little provocation, what with the promise of finding his Riku or his Kairi on the other side), it was as good as done.

No matter how Sora had flexed his fingers or stretched his palm, waiting for the sing of air and twinge of magic to bring weapon to hand... it would not come. Still...

Sora had a mean right hook. His jaw was rather intimate with it.

And Sora was practicing it against the stoned wall even now.

Axel breathed out a weighted sigh and slouched a little further along the wall. There was no sense in being uncomfortable after all, if he were to stay here a while.

As soon as the boy tired himself, Axel would feel safe enough to leave his guard. He disliked having to use the term 'safe', but if he had gotten this far, it wasn't worth while leaving anything to chance.

Axel didn't like chance. He almost hated Luxord for it. The rhythmic thumpthumpthump of Sora beating against his prison walls lulled Axel to a half-dose, but he was still aware enough to find the humour in it.


Sora slept, finally. The uneasy, shallow sleep of the exhausted but still alert. It was enough.

Axel slipped out of hallway, stretching his almost cramped back as he went (Sora had taken hours before he stopped striking the thick wood door). A flick of wrist opened the round opening to darkness, and he stepped through greedily; there was something erringly like Home in those corridors. He took a moment to breathe in the freshness of it, the smoky insides burning his lungs and soothing the ache that was forming in his temples.

Now, to work.

"Heartless. Hey! Heeeeeartless. Come play with Axel." A murmur in the shadows. "I'll make it worth your while, trust me; I have a delicious snack waiting for you."

They came to his feet and waited for reward. Axel didn't fight his grin.


The next morning Sora's knuckles were painted bloody red. Or, rather, his knuckles were painted red with blood. It was on the door, too, a little.

"I'm not going to give up, you know. They'll find me. I'll escape. You won't win." It echoed a little, which was new, and Axel wondered dimly if it was because Sora was facing away from him. Or maybe conviction was enough to change the properties of Sound.

"Do you hear me?" Sora was saying, once again. Axel inspected his gloved fingers lazily.

"You won't win, got that memorized?"

In reply, Axel gestured wordlessly to the door. One, two, then three heartless melded with ground and slithered under the door's crack, stretching to full shape once on the other side.

Sora's exclamation of surprise was louder than he probably would have wished it. Axel could almost hear Sora reach for his keyblade and find none there.

The sound of Sora punching heartless was much more quiet than him punching stone. It was rather refreshing.


Of course he fed the boy. He didn't want Sora to die. A mortal death implied a decay of soul and heart and (though more slowly) the body. He just wanted the heart gone. If he thought tearing the actual organ out would have counted, he probably would have done.

Sora was stubborn and played a lovely hero, turning away from food and water until he realized he could hardly keep up the fight with no energy. Sora was killing heartless. It was not pretty.

With his blade he had been releasing the once-hearts, but with just his hands, he was literally bruising them to twitching, quiet death.

The first day after Axel had led the three heartless in, he'd found only one still hovering about Sora; wary and unsure. The other two were on the far wall, crumbled, and only the barest flicker of antennae proved they weren't simply large shadows.

Sora leant against the far wall, eyes on the third heartless, and so so pale.

Axel called the heartless away. One obeyed. He'd had to drag the other two out and silently dispose of all three in the outside corridor. He was quite impressed, actually.

He gave Sora a sea salt ice-cream as a reward with his dinner. The look Sora cast him suggested he didn't quite appreciate the effort.


There were always more heartless here. Axel hadn't specifically designed it so, but it was an excellent feature. It would be a well-stretched lie to say that creating a place to hide was easy. Hiding was not easy. Especially when one was hiding with the most valued person (on both sides of the battle field) and one's seekers had means of travelling anywhere and anytime.

There had been a quiet brilliance to how they had hid Roxas. One couldn't simply create a doorway from the corridors into a world that technically didn't exist. Though all doorways eventually led to a world that never was, this world had been different.

Axel well remembered the troubles he had to go through to sneak into Roxas' faked Twilight Town, but he had succeeded. It was not impenetrable. But that's what he needed here. Impenetrable to outside forces. Impenetrable from inside forces calling cursed keyblades for help. At least there he had succeeded.

Along the nexus between worlds, nestled in the more dusty corridors of rotten bridges and loose connections, he had weaved a sheltered bit of solidness. The heartless themselves had made little nooks and homes in dark; small chunks of solid rock and what could almost pass for landscape. They had made that beach, he was sure, before Xemnas had shooed them away.

This was nowhere near as elaborate. A stoned hallway that held five doors. One door led to Sora's small, chained prison. One door led to the long room where Axel would sleep if he found the time. One for Roxas... whenever he showed up. The fourth to square room with a wide table (with three chairs, though he could never name who they were supposed to belong to – he wasn't expecting company). And the last simply led Out.

Out is where he got more heartless.

"I've got Sora, ya know. Sora. S-O-R-A. You all know that name, don't ya?"

They did. They swarmed. He hoped they were more sturdy than the last bunch.


Sora's shirt wasn't quite a shirt anymore. It was so torn, so shredded, that it was more like thick threads clinging to his shoulders. There were scratches along his arms and what could be seen of his chest. They drew towards and gathered most deeply near his heart – where the heartless attempted to dig it out day after day.

Axel hadn't really thought how long it would take. He had half-envisioned throwing heartless in and that would be the end. Rather, the beginning.

This 'fighting back' business was tedious but so incredibly fascinating.

"How are we feeling today? A little less like a somebody and a little more like a nobody, I hope?" He called through the door. It took a moment for an answer, though Axel knew Sora was awake.

"I feel like taking on some heartless. Know where I can get any?" Sora till the end, then. Sora's voice was raspy and raw. Axel heard him screeching at his attackers, but it just as easily could have been the tears at night that ruined his throat.

"As a matter of fact..." Axel began, and he heard Sora's sharp intake of breath and the sound of him staggering to his feet as a few heartless shuffled under the door.

Axel stopped listening and waiting a few days ago. He'd see who the victor was at the end of the day, one way or another.


"Try not to take your time with them, eh?" Axel called through the barred window. "I don't have all day."

"How 'bout you give me a hand," Sora called back, voice dropping at the end as heartless sprang and he defended himself.

"Alright." Axel clapped his hands a few times.

"Oh hah h-AHH. Arg." Axel waited for a pause in the sound of flesh against shadowed flesh.

"You're usually close to an hour before the end. Let's improve on that, hmm? Come on, forty-five for a personal best."

It was banter. It was immature. It was somewhat unsettling to be having it with a young man he had kidnapped and was sending torturers to on a daily basis.

It was like Roxas.

"If – stay back – I get forty five, I want – ah, OW – I want... I want..." Inside there was a few quick thuds, a short sound from Sora, then wham. Quiet. "Then you feed me something good for once."

"I feed you good all the time!" Axel was affronted. For a moment he tried not to be, but it didn't work. He had to feed him, of course. It would all be a complete waste and unbearable failure if Sora died of starvation. He didn't want Sora to die at all, in fact, just-

Sora's fingers shot out between the door's thin bars, grabbing the ledge of the small window. Axel raised an eyebrow, though he was sure Sora couldn't see. His nails were chipped to raw finger. There was a blood smear across the back of his hand, in such a direction and thickness that it was probably transferred from elsewhere, like a bleeding forehead or shoulder.

Bleeding to death wasn't an option either.

"Forty five minutes and I'll get you meat. Red meat." Give the boy some iron.

His answer was the sound of a Shadow being beaten into the wall.

It was the start of their game.


It was ten days. Axel hadn't been counting. Sora had. He'd etched the lines into the stone with a broken edge of wall and they seemed to glow with the fierceness of each chipped stroke.

Sora grinned when he saw Axel eyeing it through the door's window. It was not a happy grin.


"So. Say I were taking bets. Where should I put my munny?"

"What's the opposing team?"

"Two Shadows and a Soldier. I'm thinking thirty minutes."

"Forty gets me a potion and a heartless night." The stakes kept rising.

"Thirty-five. No potion. But no heartless."


Sora beat them in thirty-four minutes. Axel took the heartless bodies away and vowed to not send more until morning. Nearly fifteen hours away. When Sora smirked up at Axel, in the split shadows, he looked like Roxas until Axel blinked it gone.

The sight of Roxas' face looking up at him, blood across forehead, bruises under eyes, was enough to make Axel turn away, and enough to force him to slip Sora a half-filled bottle of plain potion. He ignored the look Sora gave him.

Because if he wasn't quite sure, he'd have said Sora looked smug.


On the thirteenth day (oh, the delicious irony), according to Sora's wall-counter, Sora stopped pounding the wall with his balled fists. He stopped pushing black bodies from his own, desperate to keep their heart-seeking touch away from chest. He stopped yelling, shouting, calling.

He stopped being.

On that thirteenth day, Axel opened the door and found his swarm of heartless staring up at him, still hungry and desperate, hands searching the sprawled body but finding no heart inside from which to feed. Because nobodies did not have hearts.

Axel reached down and lifted Roxas from their twitching claws.


The first time he had met Roxas, he was collapsed in the arms of Xemnas, being easily carried through the dimmed streets of their world that didn't quite exist.

"Get me Xigbar. Xaldin." Two and Three. They had been apprentices to a very wise scientist, in life. Even not knowing who the blond child Xemnas was dragging into their world, he could put some things together. They had studied the human heart, Axel was sure he had heard, and this kid needed someone with such skills – a long gash stretched across the center of his chest, as if his heart had been sliced through with a very strange blade.

Axel had never seen them heal Roxas. A week later he had just bumped into him, fit, angry, and draped in black cloak.

"Name's Axel," he had said, summoning and swinging a chakram for show. He received a very blank stare and then Roxas carefully stepped around him to keep walking. Now that was a friendship to be reckoned with.

A week, at most then. Before.

But Axel was no apprentice of science from what his memories say. No where near. It didn't stop Roxas from being bloodied and bruised and opened from heartless bite and claw. It was enough that he could smell the blood when close enough.

Nobodies only bled once. They only scarred once. Whatever wound created them, stayed with them. He cleaned each cut and hole, but some still welled gently. Axel wondered if a nobody had ever died from their creation.

He really, really, did not want to find out.


Roxas still had not woken yet, despite having bottle after bottle of cool green goop being forced down his throat. He'd used up all of the potions and elixirs Sora had had on him when Axel took him. He needed more.

The far door in Axel's made hallway (Sora's door, he had started calling it in his mind), opened to reveal the victorious heartless. The power gained from unleashing Sora's heart from his body had evolved them stronger. He eyed the long Neoshadows warily.

"Hey. I need munny. I know you guys hoard it." Heartless liked hearts and anything that came close to resembling hearts. Like hopes, and desires, and wants. And the biggest

Want ever known was munny. Being shiny didn't hurt either.

"Hand it over," he continued. They regarded him silently. Axel wasn't afraid, he knew how heartless allied themselves, and he was by far still the strongest here. "Come on, that wasn't a free meal. Time to pay the cheque."

Thirty munny. Even if he slipped into the world with the best economy it wouldn't do him well. Stealing the resources he needed would be a last desperate effort; if he knew the

Organization (which he did), they'd be monitoring for such activities and he wasn't about to be discovered. Not now.

"Well, get out of here," he flung the door wide, and with a snap of fingers, opened the far outside door as well. They crawled back to their dark homes.

One small Shadow remained in the west corner. Axel made an impatient motion.

"Well? Pay up and leave." It didn't move. Axel folded his arms and gave him the scariest nobody stare he could summon, which from the tilted look he received back, wasn't quite scary enough.

Frustrated and tired, Axel stepped into the room and grabbed the Shadow's arm, pulling.

"Munny," he said, and reached along its side to the odd spatial warp each threw their treasures and items in. The Shadow reached over and gnawed his hand.

"Ow! What the-" It latched onto his leg and attempted to claw into skin. Its movements were a little awkward and disjointed. As if it weren't familiar with its own body.

"Ah," Axel murmured, holding the heartless away at arm's length. "Sora."

The heartless answered by biting his knee.


He'd found the munny Sora had had with him at the beginning. All eleven thousand, seven hundred and forty-two pieces of it. The kid was loaded. He told him so.

"What, were you saving up for a dream home for your little girlfriend?" Sora twitched his antennae and made what could have passed for a rude gesture, or could have just been a heartless shrug.

There wasn't much point in keeping Sora locked up in that room anymore. He couldn't really hurt either Axel or Roxas in the form he was in, and the door Out was locked heavily.

Axel sat in the tabled room counting out all of Sora's munny, placing them in stacks according to potion price.

"I didn't get into this to play nursemaid to the kid, ya know?"

Sora drummed his claws against the table. It half sounded like a laugh.


Axel didn't keep track of the days, and without proper thumbs, Sora didn't either. But a third of Sora's munny was gone now, and though Roxas didn't bleed new each morning, he still hadn't moved in sleep, let alone woken.

Roxas was stone dead to the world.

Sora however... Sora had learned how to slide along the ground in the disconcerting, almost two dimensional way that Shadow heartless could.

Sora was everywhere. To say he was constantly under foot would be too accurate to be funny. He'd slither from room to room, along the hallway, and he was learning how to do it on the wall. Sometimes following Axel, sometimes attempting to surprise him. He'd shake up to his full form then waddle about a bit. If Axel weren't paying careful attention Sora would begin to gnaw at his coat's hem. His boots were already ruined.

Sora's revenge was quiet, unsubtle and horrifically annoying.

He wondered, dimly, if Sora was fully conscious in his new shape, or if the basic drives of each heartless haunted him as well. Did Sora yearn for mortal hearts? He liked to entertain the thought of unleashing Sora onto one of the worlds he had tried so hard to save. But Sora seemed to be able to tell when Axel thought such things. Because his musings were usually interrupted with the feel of teeth on gloved fingers.

"I am not food, Sora," Axel whined, moving to a far cupboard. He pulled down a bag of rice. A salt shaker hit his head. When he looked at the hunched Shadow standing on the table, it was looking rather seriously at anywhere but him.

"Fine," Axel said. "What do you want to eat?"

Sora waddled for a moment in a circle and then bobbed his head. He stared with vacant yellow eyes.

"Yeah. Yeah, we're gonna have to work on communication," Axel said. He made rice anyhow. Sora found a box of sweets when Axel wasn't looking and had eaten half of them before it was taken away.

"You'll ruin your appetite," he said. Sora made an odd noise then swung his antennae and threw out his left foot. Axel was sure that meant 'You are the best, Axel, and always correct, so thank you for proving the errors of my ways'.

(There were a surprising amount of gestures that meant that.)


Roxas was on his side, facing the doorless wall when Axel checked on him. He had rolled in his sleep.

"Roooooxas. Roxas? You awake? You alive? You remember anything?"


Axel shut the door.

"That's my Roxas!" he said to Sora, who was standing in the doorway opposite. Sora marched on the spot. Axel folded his arms and shook his head. "Now now, there's no need for that sort of language, Sora."

Sora waved his right arm.

"Yeah, same to you."


Sora was watching Roxas sleep. It was, perhaps, the most disconcerting thing Axel had ever witnessed. His shaking black face was pressed mere inches from Roxas' and his rounded feet were perched on Roxas' slowly rising chest.

"Stop that," Axel ordered, slipping his hands under the heartless' arms and lifting. He dropped Sora to the ground. "You'll wake him up."

On cue, Roxas leg twitched then bent in a stretch. Axel leaned forward, staring at closed lids, inches away. The jab against his shin was either a remark on his hypocrisy or Sora being Sora. Sora hopped (using the bedside table as a step between) onto the bed and watched again. Roxas rolled to his side, mumbling a slurred three syllable word.

"What-a-neigh? What did he say?" Axel asked, turning to Sora. Sora twitched the word back to him then melted to the bed and slithered away down the hall.


"Yeah, I don't think so," Axel said that evening. There was nothing else to say, really. He was exhausted, he was frustrated, he was not in the mood to see Sora on his bed. In the covers. One couldn't call it 'under' the covers, because... one just couldn't. The blankets were in torn shreds, piled in some sort of quasi fabric igloo with Sora nestled inside. His large yellow eyes stared out.

"This is my room, you know," Axel said, almost to himself. Sora reached out his small arms and gathered as much of his surrounding 'home' as he could. He hopped a few feet back on the bed, leaving a mangled spot that, yes, would fit Axel.

Sora shot out his arm and wiggled his claws mid air.

"Shut up," Axel said. He shoved Sora further into a corner and lay down, turned away from him. He'd have taken his boots off if he bothered to wear them anymore. Sora had eaten a hole clear through the toes. Axel left his chakram clutched tightly in his hand.

"Touch me and I swear to you..." Axel waved the weapon in Sora's direction and Sora tunnelled down into his mess. "And so help me if you snore."


"That witch!" Axel hollered, stomping about the fourth room, opening cupboards then closing them, searching through drawers but never pulling anything out.

Roxas was staying awake for extended minutes now. Twenty, thirty, not quite at the three quarter hour mark yet. He was sore and bruised ugly. There were some wounds that still split and ran blood when he moved quickly in bed. There were black smudges under his eyes from Sora's lack of sleep, despite Roxas trying to make up for it over the past week.

There were broken bones in some of his fingers from Sora's defending. Potions couldn't knit bones or seal open flesh, so Axel was already irritated enough in trying to solve that dilemma, he hadn't needed more fuel to his ever growing fire.

Roxas had woken, sat up irresponsibly quickly and stretched out his arm. Axel had placed his hand in Roxas', not quite understanding the gesture, before Roxas flinched away.

"Axel," Roxas said. "I can't fight you."

His held out palm had not been an invitation to Axel. It had been a call to his keyblade. To fight. Like Twilight Town.

Roxas didn't remember him. Not from Before.

And it was one tiny girl's fault. And if he ever found her again, he wouldn't hesitate one minute from setting her world aflame – crayons and paper made such excellent tinder.


Sora wouldn't go in Roxas' room if Roxas was awake. Axel didn't know why, nor did he much care. It was much simpler to have them separate anyway. Because both were a handful in their own way. It wasn't that Axel's plan hadn't worked; it worked perfectly in getting Roxas back. It was just a few outside variables that were... it wasn't an equation. It wasn't some experiment he could afford trial and error.

It was Roxas. And Roxas was dying.


"Man, I don't know what to do," Axel said to himself at night, pillowing his head on his folded arms. "Your potions don't do a thing now. They stop it from hurting but don't heal.

Never thought I'd miss those guys from the Organization. They may have been a little nutty, but at least none of us died under them. Well... not until you came along, anyway."

Sora wiggled his claws at Axel's comment. Axel smiled faintly back.

"Yeah well... at least I'm not a blanket hog." Sora made a tiny screech from his mound of sheets and fabric, then disappeared into them. "Yeah. I went there.," Axel said to the ceiling.

The pile of blankets flinched for a moment.

"Goodnight yourself."


"Guess you're house trained now, huh?" Axel commented, watching Sora saunter through the fourth room. Sora hadn't actively destroyed Axel's clothing or furniture in days. Sora made his rude-shrug, but it was quiet and looked lethargic.

"Geez, what's got your antennae in a twist?" Axel asked over his shoulder, half-watching Sora mope about, half-watching the pot on the stove. Roxas was eating today. Rather,

Roxas was hungry enough to request to eat. It was bitter, this soup – he had tried to tone it down, but it didn't cooperate, no matter how it was threatened with being turned into flambé. Maybe he shouldn't have poured in the elixirs, but Roxas turned out to be wary of the bottled drinks given to him, and Axel had to keep the kid breathing somehow.

Axel took a sip. Axel dutifully tried not to choke.

"Does this taste normal to you?" he asked Sora, holding down a large spoonful. The spoon was shoved in Sora's mouth, and, sputtering, Sora fell into an awkward summersault and slithered away.

"Che. Lightweight."


"What happened to Sora?" Roxas asked one day. Axel was leaning against the far wall, watching Roxas slowly dip bread in his soup, catching the dribbles with his fingers and licking them clean. His very unbroken fingers.

Axel didn't know what was making Roxas better, but better he was getting. He'd tried a few other worlds, gathering different soups. Soups were what everyone gave him when he requested food for the sick. Most of them were horribly complicated for a man that could burn water. (Which he was actually quite good at.) But if dried leak soup spiked with a little potion would somehow snap bones back into their proper place, well, who was Axel to complain about a little kitchen work. Even if he had to taste-test everything on his own now - Sora had learned; he kept a wide distance when Roxas' food was being made.

So... Sora didn't eat the food cooked for Roxas. Axel did, pre-potion. Axel couldn't actually recall what Sora ate. He used to be able to tell when Sora had gone raiding; the heartless were never the most tidy of creatures. But the fourth room hadn't taken on the look of one that did battle with a Berserker (and lost) for a very long time.

Either Sora had evolved some manners or he simply... wasn't eating. Which might have accounted for the sluggish way he pushed Axel away that morning when he had pulled an opening in Sora's blanket house.

That's what Sora was. A small, voiceless creature that burrowed into linen, and a picky eater. But Axel couldn't tell Roxas that.

"He's around," he said, instead.


"... I don't think so. Not everyone sleeps as much as you do."

"Last time they made him sleep," Roxas said, motioning his arms above his head and bringing them downwards, outlining himself in an ellipse, as if drawing an invisible wall.

"Last time they needed to correct what happened to Sora at Castle Oblivion. Do you remember? You've been a handful of times... before Sora entered. No need for anything crazy this time." Roxas was staring at him sceptically, the sort of look that used to be followed by a tired look of disbelief and a shaking of head. Roxas being indulgent in whatever Axel had done. The accompanying look didn't come.

"Sora doesn't need you to live, ya know," Axel said, arms folded tightly, though he had abandoned his spot against the wall and was now at the foot of Roxas' bed. "He spent over a year without you."

Axel was lying. But it was alright, since he didn't know it.

Out of the corner of his eye he caught Sora stumbling about between Axel's and the fourth room, large feet slapping the stone with every uneven step. Sora hadn't slithered into the floor's shadows in days, and (perhaps more telling) hadn't destroyed something of Axel's for the same time.


"Would you stop it? What are you, lonely?" Axel asked. Axel's days, which used to be spent waiting outside Sora's door while the heartless clawed at him, and then were spent waiting outside Roxas' door for some improvement, were now spent in Roxas' room, where for some reason Sora would not venture. The little monster still hogged his bed at evening though, so there was no reason for such sulk.

Sora flicked his claws.

"Two can play," Axel laughed, raising his center finger back at Sora. Sora wasn't watching Axel's returned rude motion, but instead was staring at the sweet onions and crusted bread he'd pilfered from the cupboards. Black hands reached out and held it for a moment, bringing it to his face, but Sora didn't take a bite. He dropped them back to the ground and waddled from the room without more than a nibble.

It was this scene that pushed Axel to ask Roxas. He had held off for most of the day because what did he care about Sora? Sora had served his purpose quite well, and he wasn't exactly contributing anything useful anymore. His company had even began to decline, yet...

"What does Sora eat?"

"What?" Roxas asked, absent-mindedly twirling his utensil between his fingers. "I told you, I don't remem- urgh."

"Hold still," Axel said, now leaning against Roxas' bed, the boy's hand caught tightly in his own. "Your fingers..." Straight, unbruised, unbroken, perfect slender fingers.

"Yeah," Roxas said, watching his own trapped hand with interest. "Whatever you gave me worked, I guess. They don't hurt even." Axel released Roxas' hand though he didn't remove his proximity. Nothing he gave Roxas could have mended bone. Only a healer or a mage's spell could have done so. The seals on the Outside door were bound and seamless – no one had gotten in. Or out. But someone was working magic on Roxas. Axel dropped

Roxas' hand sharply and stalked towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Roxas asked, voice tinged with curiousity.

"To see your wizard."


"Heartless can't do magic," Axel told Sora. He'd cornered him in Sora's old room, which was always left open now that he wasn't actively trying to hide the boy away. Technically, there was no 'boy' to hide anywhere.

Sora didn't move. He was trying to block (bodily, and without much luck) the jagged indent in the wall. Thick scratch marks ran along the outside edges of it. Sora was trying to dig his way to freedom.

"You can't do magic," Axel said again, grabbing Sora's arm with his strong hold. Sora was pulled forward and stared up at Axel with a solid glowing gaze. He didn't pull away, or twitch about, or try to bite him.

"But you are doing magic, aren't you? I could make an exception on the whole Heartless Magic No-No thing, cause, it is you, after all. But it's... it's killing you." Sora must have known... how could he not? "Why?" Because it had to be asked. Roxas was a stranger to Sora, and Axel certainly was no friend who deserved such a favour.

Sora tilted his head to the side and slowly, quietly, stepped forward to Axel and collapsed a little across his bent knee.

"Eeh. Sora?" He poked him on the top of his head a few times, then lifted the sleeping heartless under his arm and carried him from the room. If Sora, for whatever reason, was expending his skill and talent (and very life-force) into healing Roxas, he was using his energy daily. Or nightly, perhaps, because that was the only time Axel could think of when Sora would have the chance to do so without getting spied by Roxas or himself. And if he was using energy it needed to be replaced. Sora seemed to know this, he had seen him try to eat yesterday but...

Human food wasn't working anymore. He needed heartless food, Axel realized suddenly as he nudged the heartless into his blanket mound. Sora twitched a little and turned in the sheets for a better position.

Heartless food? Heartless food. Heartless food was hearts.

There was a small village in a world that connected almost right outside. And small villages had children, whose hearts were perfect sized for feeding tiny Shadow heartless.

Axel unlocked the door Out.


Axel returned hours later childless. It wouldn't matter. He could have kidnapped the entire village and brought them here, but it wouldn't help. Sora was Sora, and Axel was certain enough that he would die slowly and miserably rather than pierce a human's heart to stave of his own hunger. It wouldn't work.

The only option left was to sneak back into the home world. To the world that wasn't and... nip off a little of Kingdom Hearts. It... might work.

Tired and irritated, Axel stumbled into the kitchen wondering if the wine he'd pilfered weeks ago was still around. Thoughts of alcohol swiftly fled as he stopped short just past the doorway.

Roxas was finally out of bed. And here.

He was standing in the center of the room, his hands clenched tightly around one of Axel's chakrams. It was too big for him and if he had tried to hold it in one hand he might have fallen over.

"Roxas. What are you doing?" Axel asked, closing the distance and taking the weapon from him. There was a small mist of shadow along one of the edges.

"There was a heartless," Roxas answered, his voice lower and quiet even for him. He looked almost the same way he did the day (from before) he had killed his first heartless, but this was different enough to be worse. Because Axel has closed the door behind him... The door Out was closed so heavily the locks bent under the weight. No heartless could have gotten in.

"What did you say?" Axel asked, mouth dry.

"There was a heartless," Roxas repeated. Axel peeled off his glove and hesitantly placed his naked palm against Roxas' chest.

It was beating.

"No," Axel said quietly. "There wasn't."