Axel/Roxas, Riku/Sora. Death is not the end. The heart is intangible, its existence perpetual. A Nobody finds new life. Fleeting glimpses of a past he should not remember haunt him as he yearns for what once was, refusing to allow what may be. AU, Xover, Yaoi, Lemon, Angst

A/N: This is not AU. It takes place in a new world within the Kingdom Hearts universe. Obviously, there were more than Sora and co. discovered. With the addition of the character Vincent, it is somewhat a crossover except that the Vincent presented here is not the same as the Final Fantasy VII universe, just as those in KH have a different story than their prospective universes. Expect some OOC as this is only my second attempt at a KH2 fanfiction. I've done a lot of research to make this as accurate as possible within the plot line, but any pointers would be appreciated. Also, this was a request fic from one of my readers.

Chapter 1: Winged Repentance

Everything hurt. His bones, his muscles. His skin felt raw and blistered, eyes refusing to open and agony ripping through him. He was lying down, face to the ground, feeling as if he had fallen from a great distance, only to collide nose first with the rocky soil beneath him. Oh, and the grass, mustn't forget that.

To make matters worse, it was raining as well.

He blinked, trying to lift an arm and push himself up. But his vision was blurry, and his body shook, trembling violently. He hurt. By Kami, he hurt. And for everything in the world, no matter how much he searched, he couldn't remember why or where he was. A brief flash of insight, and suddenly, he knew his person.

Axel… the name whispered across his subconscious, echoing in his ears, pounding through his skull. And a memory… something fleeting, slipping easily through his fingers as if he grasped at spilling sand.

After another moment of the rain beating upon his back, sucking what little warmth remained in his battered form, he struggled to turn over. Axel fought his way through a haze of pain to do so, wincing with each fractured movement. He attempted to push his beaten body off the increasingly muddy ground and somehow executed a half-sitting position, managing to peer about.

The place was unfamiliar. An open field of thick grass with glimpses of a city or town in the distance, stone and glass gleaming faintly. The sky above was grey, almost formless as the rain fell; there was no sun, or so it appeared. He looked down at himself, mud and pieces of vegetation stuck to his clothing… but no blood. He wore leather, all dark black. Almost cultish.

Why the hell did he hurt so badly? And why couldn't he remember anything?

His head ached, a stab of pain striking across his eyes, and he winced, one hand coming to his head where he briefly registered black fabric, thick and leathery, completely covering the entire appendage. Even his hands were gloved.

Flashes… brief flashes of memory, too quick to tell. Metal warmed from his touch twice over, grown leaden in his hand. A smell, acrid, bitter yet welcome, familiar. Words floating on a sea of obscurity… 'I'd miss you'. But nothing tangible, nothing he could grasp a hold of or cling to, nothing to grant him comfort in the sudden loneliness that assaulted him.

Axel groaned, another shooting pain striking through him, this time through his gut, and he realized somewhat belatedly that he was starving, as if he hadn't eaten in years. With a sigh, he gathered what little energy he had and pushed himself to his feet, wobbling on unsteady legs. The city didn't appear to be far away; perhaps he could find someone willing to take pity on him. A brief pat down of his form assured him that he was without wallet or munny.

Slumping against the weariness in his back and swaying slightly from a dizzy spell that assailed him, Axel stumbled forward, determined to discover something, anything about his location or his reason. His steps felt heavy, leaden, and he looked down, finding he wore thick, black leather boots that were already coated in the dark mud. The rain was still falling, steady and silent, the only music in the calm and still unnamed world around him. He hadn't yet decided if he was soothed by it, or annoyed. Presently, with it dripping down his face and obscuring his vision, it irritated him. Yet, for the aching in his muscles, it was a pleasant distraction.

He stumbled forward for several minutes, each step a struggle. He literally had no energy, and though he hadn't done much, his breath came in ragged pants, lungs straining. He vaguely noted that the air had little feeling to it. Despite the rain, it was neither cold nor hot, merely there. It was unsettling.

As he walked, Axel tried to recall his last memory… what he was sure he could remember, but he drew a blank. It was nothing, grey and formless… very much like the clouds above him. He managed a step or two more before his knees buckled, one booted foot overturning on a rock and offsetting his already precarious balance.

Axel uttered a brief cry of surprise as he tumbled forward, just managing to catch his aching body with hands thrust forward. He winced at the jarring pain that reverberated through his arms as he fell to his knees and narrowly missed going headfirst into a silvery puddle of water. He found himself blinking owlishly at his own reflection.

Bright green eyes accented by diamond-shaped tattoos on his cheekbones stared right back at him. Fiery red hair hung in bedraggled, limp strands around his pale face. He supposed he should have had a flash of familiarity in looking at himself but found he still drew a blank. It appeared merely knowing his name was a miracle.

A strange sensation crept down his spine, a chill shiver though he was not cold. His senses snapped, flaring to life. In the same moment that he raised his head in alertness, the sound of deep-throated growling echoed in his ears. It sent a foreboding feeling right through him as he looked up into the lupine eyes of an albino wolf.

He was surrounded completely by four… perhaps five of the carnivorous creatures. The extremely large wolves were about five feet away from him with him in the center of their circle. They snarled as they regarded him as their next meal, almost appearing as apparitions with their ghostly paleness and luminous, golden eyes. And were it not for the spine-tingling feeling that raced through him, he would have thought this nothing more than a hallucination. Still, why would he fear a mirage? And since when did he know fear?

He was powerless as he looked into his certain death, barely managing to stay upright with some dignity attached. The wolf in front of him, the largest and most voracious of all, took a step forward, seemingly laughing as the frightened human cowered before it.

Emerald eyes fluttered with weariness, fatigue nearly overcoming him, and in that one moment of weakness, the wolf pounced, a fierce growl accentuating its movement. Time seemed to slow, crawl, and then stop as Axel's eyelids slid closed, and he seemed resigned to his fate. The rain still fell, but everything else paused. He could smell the fetid breath of the beast, rank with its latest kill and so fresh he could almost see the blood-stained fangs through his lidded eyes.

But then, something flared inside of him, a burning, all-consuming fire that roared to life with the declaration of an army. His eyes snapped open, green immersed in golden flames, and the creature howled as it flew far from him, time returning its course. His breath came out in even pants as he looked down at himself, right arm weary and faltering.

He had something in each of his hands, some kind of weapon. The name floated to him as if called: the chakram. Yes, these were his weapons; these were his means to defend, to fight. The smell of scorched fur and flesh reached his nostrils, and his gaze centered on the wolf, lying on its side a good fifteen feet from where the lone human knelt.

The albino creature was bleeding, nearly torn in half as warm, fresh blood stained the ground beneath it. The wolf's chest did not move, its body lying still. Gone, just like that, in an instant, in a flash. He had moved so quickly, that his own body had barely registered the motion, the weapon emerging instinctually, his own desire to live calling it to his hands.

Yet, it drained what little energy he had, and he slumped further, relying entirely on one hand to keep him from falling face first into the muddy plain. And there were still four more beasts, and they were still hungry in spite of the fate of their companion.

He breathed heavy, each breath feeling as if it were torn from his lungs and rattling within his rib cage, and then, they pounced seemingly all as one, not taking any chances on their own. An inferno raged around him, directing itself in a spout of blazing flame and slamming into one unfortunate beast. It yelped loudly and collapsed the ground, a smoldering death amongst the rain. However, this used the last of Axel's power, and he slumped completely, graying edges on his vision and dizziness taking over his mental capacity.

His hand slid out from in front of him, and he collapsed forward, face into the mud, even as the strange sound of flapping wings reached his ears. Then loud, resounding pops like that of a gun accompanied the rushing wind, and out of the corner of his eye, he caught crimson fluttering just as the darkness overwhelmed him and he descended into nothingness.


It was raining in his dreams also it seemed. Around him was darkness, the streets literally flooded with it. Few streetlamps were on, illuminating how very empty it was around him. Some lights shone from windows, but still, it was all around him. For a moment, he noted how very fitting the darkness was. Yet, now was not the time to remark on his fortune, or was it misfortune? No, now definitely was not the time, not when he was threatening to leave, not when he was trying to walk away.

He caught the back of a blond head disappearing around an alleyway. Axel skidded to a stop, changing his direction and darted after his departing friend. Honestly, he was the only friend Axel had.

"Roxas!" he called out, hating the edge of desperation that was in his voice. He didn't care… shouldn't care. Did he?

Axel came around the corner of the building, finding that Roxas was still determinedly plodding away, seemingly ignoring him completely. He struggled to draw a breath, calling the young boy's name again.

"Roxas! You can't leave!" he argued loudly.

The blond boy paused, half-turning as he shook his head. "I can and will." There was a vision of sun-kissed skin, sky-blue eyes bright and full of something. Not emotion, they didn't have those… but definitely something. His cute, boyish features had his usual pout. Something that always made Axel cave. Always.

"You get on their bad side – on Xemnas' bad side, and they'll destroy you!" His words sounded pathetic even to him. How had he come to begging? How had this boy completely taken over him? He understood Roxas' need to understand, his desire to learn things that no one would explain… but to leave? To leave him and them, to leave Axel alone like he was before?

However, the sigh that issued from Roxas' mouth as he turned away from Axel only served to hurt him more. It was resigned, regretful… full of emotion that the emerald-eyed man was nearly certain they weren't supposed to have. Yet, then what was the raw rending inside of him?

"No one would miss me," Roxas muttered quietly, picking up the pace and melding into the shadows, calling the darkness portals in order to escape, to flee.

Axel reached out to stop him but paused, knowing that in effect it would be futile. "That's not true," he said, almost helplessly, shoulders sagging. Normally bright eyes dimmed. "I would," he continued, though now he was speaking to empty air, staring at a spot where the blond once stood.

Roxas was stubborn, always had been as long as he had known the younger boy. Even if Axel could drag him back, it wouldn't have been the same, but that didn't mean he couldn't try. Perhaps if he just gave him some space, let him answer the questions that plagued his dreams at night, then Roxas would return on his own accord.


The sudden clearing of someone's throat behind him had Axel's eyes narrowing as he stood up straight, hands twitching at his side. He didn't turn around, however, knowing full well who stood behind him. The man sent chills up his spine, his very aura one of treachery and deceit, and by the emotions that Axel most assuredly did not have, he hated him.

"I see he has left. That is most unfortunate."

Axel snarled but managed to actually keep his tone somewhat servile. "Are you going to let him go?"

Xemnas laughed, cruel and taunting and not at all full of amusement. "Of course. If it wasn't part of my plans, he wouldn't have left to begin with." He knew without looking, just by closing his eyes, what their 'leader' looked like. It was an impression that would never fade.

There were cold, seemingly unfeeling, golden eyes against amber skin and grey almost platinum hair with a perpetual and taunting sneer. Xemnas held very little regard for those beneath him, and the bastard was manipulative, not caring whom he had to use to fulfill his desires. Roxas just had been his newest conquest in a long string of them.

The scarlet-haired man longed to take his chakram and shove it through Xemnas' throat. Were it not for the fact that the older male was much stronger and more powerful, he would have done so already. Still, the fact was, faulty though it may have been, Axel rather enjoyed living. If living was what he could call his state of non-existence.

Rather than respond to Xemnas, he attempted to relax his curled fists and storm away, planning on vanishing into the shadows of the alleyway. However, the leader of the Organization's voice followed after him, mocking.

"If you had meant anything to him… he would have stayed – I should think. Your manipulations are pointless, Number Eight."

Axel growled without thinking, and summoned his chakram, whirling to turn on the man, but as suspected, there was no one there. The redhead snarled irritably and allowed his weapons to disperse, idly flicking rain-dampened locks out of his face. He didn't even want to consider if there were any points of validity to the bastard's words.


He awoke from the strange dream… flashback… whatever the hell it was rather slowly. His eyes opened, barely registering that he was now within a home, no longer on the rainy plains, though he could still hear the continuous pattering of rain. It was a storm that seemed never-ending. Or perhaps that was just the fate of this world: to never see the light of day.

He stared at a blank white ceiling, even as he laid in an unfamiliar bed. It was a distinctly warm and comfortable bed, though a quick check discovered that he was indeed unclothed. Someone had undressed him. More than that… someone had saved him. If his memory served correctly, he last faced a most horrible death at the claws of hungry wolves. Yet, he now laid comfortably and completely devoid of his earlier pain in a bed with a thick comforter, which was in an appropriate black color.

He frowned in thought, images from his sleep still fresh in his mind. Roxas… Xemnas… names that meant nothing to him, faces that flashed in and out of his mind. He didn't even recognize them, despite the fact that they were obviously of his past. Otherwise, he wouldn't be able to recall it with such clarity. Every detail was fresh, the smell and feel of the rain, the encroaching darkness… the burning anger.

What had he been before suddenly arriving in this world? What did that strange flashback mean?

A slight noise and brief rustle alerted Axel to the fact that he wasn't alone in the room. He turned his head, taking in a rather small space. A bookshelf lined the wall at his feet, filled to capacity. A blank wall with a door was on another side, and to his distinct left, beneath a window covered in pale gauzy curtains, there was a man. He was sitting, reading a book that, from his odd angle, Axel could not see the title.

The man was a strange one, to say the least. His long black hair fell around his face, nearly obscuring all features, and his bright, crimson eyes strangely complemented his inherently pale complexion. As the unnamed male read, he occasionally pulled his lower lip between his teeth, revealing fanged canines similar to a vampire, and he was dressed in all black except for the frayed scarlet cloak that was wrapped around his frame. Nevertheless, what was perhaps the most surprising was the pair of tattered, black wings that sprouted from the man's back, currently folded against his sides.

All in all, this stranger presented an instinctually frightening appearance. Were it not for the fact that Axel did not feel threatened and the man was reading a book, he may have felt a little wary. Yet, as it were, the stranger sparked curiosity rather than fear in him. If the man had intended to consume him, he did resemble a vampire after all, he would have done so already.

"You've awoken," the man said before Axel had even had a chance to speak. It was almost as if he had been waiting for the green-eyed male to finish his perusal before talking. Still though he spoke, his eyes never left the book in front of him, slowly taking in each and every word of what had to be a fascinating subject.

Bah. Axel hated studying.

"Yeah," he responded simply, finding that his strength had returned to his voice. Axel moved into a sitting position, not caring about his nudity in the slightest as his chest was bared to the warm air. He idly wondered how the obviously heavily dressed man could stand the heat in the room.

The other male nodded faintly, the movement barely imperceptible. He was silent for all of a moment before suddenly snapping his book shut, raising his gaze to lock onto his guest. "How do you feel?" he questioned in a surprisingly a pleasant voice, low but essentially devoid of emotion.

Axel winced. That was a loaded question. "Hungry. Tired. Confused." He paused, a devilish grin appearing on his face. "Hungry." That one seemed most prevalent, judging by the growling in his belly and the empty feeling accompanying it.

The man appeared bemused. "You said that already," he commented.

He shrugged. "I know. It's the one that's loudest right now." His gaze left that of the pale man and traveled around the room once more, taking in the plain furnishings. "Where am I?"

There was a moment of silence as the chair creaked, the winged stranger slowly rising and moving to stand directly in front of the window, pushing aside the curtains with a clawed hand. It was mostly human, but the fingernails seemed unnaturally sharp. His webbed wings twitched and stretched lightly as he stood before settling back into place. Axel found them fascinating, his eyes invariably drawn to the leathery and tattered appendages. Smoldering red eyes stared out through the slightly fogged glass at the rain sluicing down the exterior.

"My home," the man replied simply.

Axel rolled his eyes as he had figured that much out. "And you are?"

The stranger emitted a bitter laugh, faintly reminiscent to the man in Axel's dream, the one called Xemnas. But it was still different, more mocking of himself than others. "I could answer that in many ways, but for now, Vincent will suffice."

He cocked his head to the side, confused by Vincent's circuitous answers. "Huh," Axel replied simply, still gazing intently at the winged man. "Well, Vincent," he put emphasis on his name. "I'm Axel. A-X-E-L. Got it memorized?" The scarlet-haired man paused, furrowing his brow. That phrase seemed to come out of nowhere; yet, it seemed vaguely familiar, proper… as if it was something belonging to him alone.

Vincent raised a brow, a somewhat elegant gesture. "You know your name," he commented as he turned, fixating that intent glare on the other male. "Interesting. Tell me, Axel, did you leave something – someone – important behind?"

"Behind? I don't--"

There was a flash, something similar to his memory but too quick to catch anything of importance: vague details, colors, distinct scents that flooded by in a myriad of scenes. Dark streets, ever present rain, much like his dream. Was it another memory? And there was a feeling there, something so strong it nearly ached in his chest, and he had to stifle a gasp. The last of his words emerged, the entire episode having taken less than a second.

"--know. Huh." He paused, considering what had just happened before looking up, locking stares with Vincent. "Why do you ask? Where is this? And why did you help me? And why can't I remember anything?" All of the questions he wanted to know tumbled from his lips before he could stop them, an irritation developing inside him though he knew very well that Vincent wasn't to blame for it. Or perhaps the man was, but Axel didn't really know enough to make that decision.

Vincent again seemed bemused by him, lips curling up into a strange half-smile which only accentuated his impassive expression. "You are in a world known as Gaia's Grotto, existing in the realm of nothingness located between those of darkness and light; what is known as an in-between world. As such, there is no light or dark here. It perpetually rains, and the sky is grey, formless. Only certain – well, I suppose people will work for now – people come here, and it is for that reason that your memories are escaping." He narrowed his gaze on Axel, one of curiosity almost. "You must have a strong heart, Axel, or a strong desire to even be able to remember your own name."

The other male growled, beginning to grow annoyed by the way that Vincent seemed to answer his questions without really answering them. For every thing that he received an answer for, more cropped up. It seemed an endless circle of confusion. And that irritated him.

"Quit speaking in riddles, man!" he demanded.

Vincent seemed unbothered by his rising aggravation, merely returning the fiery glare with his usual blank gaze. "You are rude to someone who has just saved your life and quite possibly your very self," he commented. "But I will look past that only since I understand your pain and confusion right now." He gestured towards the end of the bed, pointing to a pile of folded clothes. "I have laid out some dry clothing for you. Dress yourself and come into the kitchen. I will explain what I can while you eat."

Instantly, Axel's irritation and anger fizzled under the other man's calm demeanor, leaving him strangely speechless. Although he wasn't certain of his true personality, the scarlet-haired man had a feeling that he wasn't usually at a loss for words. Vincent said nothing more, turning from him with a slight twitch of his wings and heading for the closed door, turning the handle and pulling open the wooden aperture.

Just then, Axel found his voice, hoping to make amends for his earlier rudeness. "Thanks," he called out, words easily carrying across the short distance.

Vincent paused in his movements, nodding his head once before continuing out the door, pulling it efficiently shut behind him. Axel couldn't help but think that he was an odd man, a little cool and impassive, but otherwise kind.

He sighed as he threw back the covers, reaching immediately for the folded clothing at the end of the bed. It was clean; that much he could tell, and after unfurling the fabric, he found it would fit him. Vincent did appear to be close to his height, though the all black clothing was a little dreary, but beggars couldn't be choosers.

As he dressed, his thoughts turned towards the strange dream he had witnessed and the blond boy he tried to keep from leaving. His mind roved over the taunting man that had been so powerful to inspire fear. Not to mention the fact that they all wore the same outfit, the one he had first been wearing when he showed up on "Gaia's Grotto." What connection did they all have?

And what was it about the boy, whose name had already escaped him, that was so important? Then, there were his weapons, the twin circular metal items… chakram was the name that came to him. Plus, there was his sudden affinity to fire. Not that he didn't mind the heat so much or the strange ability to burn things, like those white wolves. He could remember how it felt to call the flame, the rushing sensation of magic, the feeling of being consumed by fire yet not being burnt.

It was a heady notion, and he found he rather liked the feeling of power.

Axel shook his head as he slipped the dark fabric of the shirt over his head and strode towards the door. There was a lot he didn't understand right now, and the best place for him to get his answers was to ask Vincent. He was certain that the man knew more than he had explained, even if he was evading direct answers and only cryptically replying to certain questions. He was certainly confusing… a worthy challenge for the deviousness of Axel, and the newcomer looked forward to their next verbal spar.

With that in mind, he lazily rolled his shoulders and stretched his lanky arms before heading towards the door and the kitchen, his grumbling stomach agreeing with his movements. He opened the door and found himself in a small hallway. It was rather unadorned with four other entryways, one doorway obviously the exit judging by the locking mechanisms. The one without a door he decided was the kitchen and immediately headed in that direction.

Inside, Vincent was moving around the kitchen, boiling something on the stove and moving with an agility and grace that Axel had not noticed before. The man's wings twitched occasionally, as if they had a mind of their own, rising and fluttering only to settle back against his back. The small table was already set for one person with a plate with a sandwich on it and some napkins that Axel could only assume was meant for him.

All in all, as he took a seat he was surprised by the almost homey feel to the kitchen. Warm and appealing in pleasant shades of cream with honey-colored cabinets and gauzy drapes over the window, it was perhaps the most inviting room in the house. It really didn't fit Vincent's character.

Nor did he say anything as he set a cup in front of Axel, full of a steaming liquid, and took a seat in one of the chairs, twitching his shoulders to adjust the placement of his webbed wings, a movement that Axel found fascinating. He watched with patient crimson eyes as the redhead peered into his cup, frowning at the liquid. He certainly didn't know what it was and sniffed at it tentatively. Then, the smell hit him. It was tea.

He raised a brow and regarded Vincent with a slight smirk. "Tea?" he questioned, almost teasingly.

"Sometimes the little things are needed to remind me of the memories that this world tries to take from me," the other man responded quietly as he idly watched Axel eat.

The emerald-eyed male nodded. "Okay, so explain," he said succinctly, waving a hand for emphasis. "This world takes memories, right? Why? And all memories? Or just certain ones? And how did I get here?"

Vincent sighed but spoke anyways. "It is quite complicated, but I shall explain to the best of my knowledge what I know for the short amount of time that I have been here," he began. "Gaia's Grotto is the path of new life for those who weren't given a choice in the one that led prior. Yet, in order to accept this new life, the old must be completely cast away, memories included. In the very process of coming here, usually the mind is wiped clean, but those with strong hearts or deep regrets can sometimes cling to the things that are most important to them, and they do not instantly forget."

"Those who weren't given a choice?"

Vincent's eyes shifted, moving to gaze about the window, even as he curled a clawed finger around his own steaming cup. "The Heartless not freed by the keyblade and the Nobodies who faded into darkness." He paused before continuing, though his voice was much quieter than before. "I was a Heartless, one of those used in an experiment and locked away in the deepest part of a castle until my body evolved into that of the shadow creatures. This form you see here is a remnant of that form. My heart was strong enough to keep something relatively human, but I allowed other emotions to interfere, and it twisted my own perception of myself." A bitter smile curled up at the edge of Vincent's mouth. "In a way, it is fitting."

Axel eyed him, curiously taking another sip of the warm tea, surprised that it was actually quite good. "Fitting?" His mind spun. Heartless? Nobodies? Which was he? A murkiness had settled in his mind, muddling what little information he had, and even the faces from his dream were already beginning to fade. He knew his own name with clarity and the feel of the chakram and the flames, as well as the emotions that twisted inside of him, the feeling of looking for something. Nonetheless, what had remained with him when he arrived was fading away, like wisps of smoke in the wind.

The dark-haired man shook his head. "My past is not important. Suffice it to say, I was killed but not released and found myself here." He turned his gaze back to Axel, using a hand for emphasis. "Think of Gaia's Grotto as an almost purgatory, a place to have another chance for life. Thus, the reason it exists on the Plains of Nothingness. Anywhere else, our dead forms would have not existed. We would have been remnants, ghosts if you will."

"So then, I died, right?"

"Yes," the other man responded evenly. "Whoever or whatever you were before was killed in some fashion. Eventually your heart and soul found its way here… where you were given a new body similar to your old one, so similar that it feels to be exact the same. As with most newcomers, your arrival was on the Forgotten Plains."

Axel furrowed his brow in thought. "And the wolves?"

Vincent nodded in understanding. "Ah, the memory-eaters. They are those of a more sinister nature, consuming not only memories but flesh as well. It is their brethren that are not quite so vicious, the black shadow beasts. They only devour memories, more specifically memories of the past."

"Why is it so important that we don't remember?"

"It is a casting off the old to make room for the new. The weak always forget when they arrive. Always. Though they may have lost their human forms as a Heartless or Nobody, here they have returned to those bodies that are most familiar to them." He shrugged offhandedly, still somehow managing to maintain his enigmatic aura. "They don't want us trying to return to our old lives."

Axel eyed the crimson-eyed man critically, a sudden revelation striking him as he bit into the sandwich that Vincent had prepared. "You want your old life, don't you?" he inquired. "You remember something that you can't give up."

It seemed easier for Vincent to avoid answering a direct question so long as he didn't look anyone in the eye. Axel recognized this when the other man suddenly stood up, turning away to dump his untouched tea into the sink and casting an eye towards the clock on the wall. Thankfully, the redhead man could understand that, realizing that despite the somewhat brightness streaming in from the window, according to the wall clock it was nearly midnight. Strange.

"You're not going to answer me?" Axel asked again, feeling that Vincent needed a little push. He realized that the dark-haired male was an intensely private man, but if he was going to accept Axel into his home and even bother with saving him, then the younger man wanted some answers.

Vincent was silent for another moment as the teacup clinked quietly in the sink, the sound of running water as he rinsed it out filling the silence. He rested both hands on the sink and gazed out the window, his wings twitching irritably.

"I made a promise," he finally responded softly, fingers curling on the sides in a moment of emotion that Axel did not fail to miss.

"A promise, huh?" Axel questioned, something about the word striking an aura of familiarity to him. Had he promised someone something as well? He frowned in thought. Would his memories continue to fade until he forgot he was Axel as well… or would his somewhat clarity enable him to remember more and more each day?

He opened his mouth to question Vincent, but the man spoke up before he could so with another quick glance to the clock. "Just leave your dishes in the sink," stated Vincent, gesturing towards said device as he turned around. "I have to go to work, but I will return early in the morning. Feel free to get more rest; I know that the journey here leaves those weary."

Axel raised a brow. "Work? There's work here?" He snorted. "And here I was imagining sunny beaches and relaxing for the rest of my 'new life.'"

Vincent shook his head. "It's a new life, not a vacation," he replied simply, already heading for the door. "If I were you, I wouldn't leave. I'll explain more tomorrow, and give you the choice as well."

Emerald eyes regarded him thoughtfully. "Choice?"

The winged man waved a hand of dismissal, disappearing out the doorway, his last response floating back to Axel even as he heard the locks being opened. "I will explain tomorrow, Axel. Get some rest."

It was odd how when he was giving a command, Vincent seemed to use his name more. Truthfully, the dark-haired male had an odd way of saying it, as if he was unused to calling people their names or if he were making a statement by merely deigning to speak to him. Hmph.

Still, now that Vincent had mentioned it, Axel did feel a bit fatigued. The pain that he had initially felt had all but faded, but the exhaustion was still a large factor. With a slight yawn, he stood up from his chair, depositing the empty plate and teacup in the sink as he did so. He found the trash can and tossed in his used napkin before strolling out into the hall. He idly decided to explore the other two doors before heading off to sleep.

The one on the same side as the kitchen revealed a bathroom. That was good to know but essentially boring since it was completely white. Everything was precisely placed, it and held little more than a toilet and a shower stall, so he couldn't even relax in the bath. Overall, it was strangely economical, and it soon became more than obvious that Vincent sure didn't strive for decadence.

The door on the same side as the room he had been in opened easily to his inquisitive touch and revealed another bedroom, this one obviously Vincent's own. It was clean, almost obsessively so, and not really decorated either. There were a bed, a desk, a chair, and more bookcases. The bed was covered in the same dark fabric as the one Axel had awoken in.

The scarlet-haired man was about to turn and leave, when something caught his eye, glinting atop the desk against the wall. His curiosity was greater than his respect for Vincent's privacy, and it had him entering the room, intent on investigating. The desktop was otherwise empty, save for the item that had caught his interest. He picked up the glinting, metallic object, links running through his fingers as his eyes roamed over it. The thing was a necklace of sorts, a silver chain with two rectangular flattened objects dangling on the end of it. He held one between his fingers, finding that there was writing on it in a language he could actually read, so he tilted the disc to the side to better see it.


Cidrick R.


"The Captain"


Cidrick Highwind? The name was very unfamiliar to him, and judging by the words, they were military identification tags. Why would Vincent have those? Perhaps this Cidrick was the one whom Vincent had made his promise to.


Eyeing the necklace once more, Axel gently set it back down on the desktop, trying to put it back in its original position. The metal had been worn, as if held many times with fingers constantly run over the upraised markings. It appeared that Vincent had many secrets.

Stifling a yawn, Axel decided that he had spent enough time snooping and headed back to the room he had first awoken in. His mind was whirling, overwhelmed by all the information he had absorbed in the past hour or so.

Who was he? Why was he? What had happened to him so that he arrived on Gaia's Grotto? And what had Vincent meant by "choice?" And why did he feel like he was looking for something he couldn't find? Who were the people in his dreams, and why did he have a hollow place in his chest?

These questions and more plagued him as he laid down to sleep, despite the comfort offered by the bed. He kept having visions of ocean-colored eyes and mocking laughter. These apparitions haunted him still, even as he drifted into an uneasy and fitful sleep.


All reviews and comments are appreciated.

And if Axel seems very OOC, you have to remember that he's just awoken in a strange world with little to no memory. Expect some changes in characterization.