(A/N): This is just a quick idea that started gnawing insistenly on my brain while I was trying to work on Waiting. I typed it up to get it out of my head. Reviews are always appreciated.

Disclaimer: I do not own Kingdom Hearts in this or any other universe (that I'm aware of).

Shades of Gray

Kairi twisted in Axel's grasp, trying to wrench her wrist away from him as she glanced desperately behind her at the rapidly shrinking portal and the shocked faces of her would-be rescuers. "Let go of me!" she cried, planting her feet and throwing her weight behind a frantic wrench backward. Axel paused and glanced back at her, expression blank, before he jerked her forward and continued on, not stopping when she stumbled and almost fell.

"Knock it off," he growled, irritated. Kairi threw one last yearning look over her shoulder as the portal closed behind them, trapping them in the darkness. She shuddered, closing her eyes against the shadowed corridor. She didn't know which frightened her more – that she was completely surrounded by the darkness, or that it wasn't as dark as she had always thought it would be.

"Let go," she hissed, fighting the sting of tears at the back of her eyes. Axel snorted in frustration, but to her surprise he dropped her wrist. Kairi's eyes flew open to find the redhead glaring at her, hands clenched at his sides, a cruel smirk on his face.

"Well, go on," he taunted, gesturing at the mirror images of the corridor stretching away from them in both directions. "Go on, I won't stop you."

Kairi folded her arms around herself in a tight hug, trying not to shiver. Axel frightened her, but not as much as the shifting walls of darkness. She'd leapt into it once to escape from the black-clad stranger, but she didn't remember much about what had happened between the time she'd slipped away from him at Destiny Islands and her arrival in Twilight Town. She didn't want to run through the darkness by herself, without even a weapon to defend her against unknown enemies.

"That's what I thought," Axel sneered, stepping forward and grabbing her wrist again. Kairi swallowed thickly, eyes darting like those of a trapped animal assessing its cage, but the darkness stretched unbroken for as far as she could see.

"This won't work," she muttered sullenly. "Sora will never listen to you." Axel twitched at her words, his fingers tightening around her wrist until she hissed in pain. Ignoring her, Axel increased the length of his stride, dragging her behind him.

"Oh, it's always about Sora, isn't it?" he snarled, jerking at her wrist when she stumbled over her own feet. "Roxas disappears, and it's as if he never existed. No, all the Superior cares about is Sora." He threw a furious glare over his shoulder as he pulled viciously on her arm. "I couldn't care less about your precious Keybrat," he spat, twisting her arm until she cried out.

"What do you want, then?" Kairi yelled, gritting her teeth as she struggled to keep from crying, knowing he wanted to see that he was hurting her.

Axel came to a stop so abruptly Kairi almost smacked into him. Gasping, she took a step back before he swept forward and wrapped his hands around her arms, digging gloved fingers into her skin. "I want Roxas," he said, and there was such hopeless longing in his voice and eyes that Kairi had to turn her face from him as her heart trembled within her.

"I don't know –" Her voice died away abruptly as she remembered the strange, almost hallucinatory episode she'd experienced that day on the beach, when an unfamiliar voice had echoed in her head as the memories of a cherished childhood friend had begun to stir in the depths of her mind. Axel grinned, the expression giving him a predatory air.

"You do know," he smirked. "Roxas is part of Sora." He drew himself up and turned away from her, beginning to drag her forward again.

"What are you going to do to Sora?" Kairi whispered, stomach roiling as a small lump of dread lodged itself in her chest. Axel didn't turn to face her.

"Roxas is part of Sora," he repeated, tightening his grip around her wrist again. "But only one of them can exist. If I destroy Sora, Roxas will come back."

"You can't!" Kairi cried, straining against his grip. Axel paused and looked back over his shoulder at her, eyebrow raised.

"Why not?" he asked coolly. "You can't care that damn much – it took you a year to even consider going after him." Kairi flushed angrily.

"That wasn't my fault!" she snapped. "I –" She froze, averting her eyes from his gaze guiltily.

"You forgot?" Axel chuckled, his tone mocking. "Spare me your excuses," he sneered, jerking her wrist as he began moving again. Kairi planted her feet and strained against him.

"Stop!" she screamed, feeling a bitter satisfaction as he turned and glared at her. "Tell me why," she demanded. "Why do you have to destroy Sora?"

"What do you care?" Axel snapped, releasing her wrist and crossing his arms over his chest. "You have other friends. You aren't destined to fade. You can live without Sora. I've only ever had Roxas. Why shouldn't I have what I want while I'm still here?" Kairi's heart clutched at the emptiness she saw behind the angry glitter in Axel's eyes.

"You're dying?" she whispered, wondering why the thought made her shudder. Axel scowled and looked away from her.

"Nobodies don't die," he muttered. "A being that's not alive can't die. We fade – we become nothing instead of Nobody." He looked back at her, lips skinned back from his teeth in a vicious snarl. "Why should you be happy when I have so much more at stake?" he demanded. "What gave Sora the right to take the only thing that ever meant something to me?"

"But – Sora didn't know!" Kairi insisted, feeling tears gathering at the corner of her eyes. "He didn't know, how could he know – all he wanted to do was come home. All we want is to be able to go home!" Her voice rose until she was screaming at Axel, wiping furiously at her eyes as a few tears spilled over and down her cheeks. Axel stared at her silently, waiting until her hiccupping sobs died away to speak.

"We don't have a home to go back to," he said coldly. Kairi glanced up, wiping away the last of her tears. Axel's face contorted as he gestured at himself. "You think we chose this half-existence?" he hissed savagely. "We were damned from the moment we were thrust back into being. Why shouldn't we take what happiness we can?"

Kairi trembled as the beliefs she had always held to with such conviction began to crumble in the face of Axel's bitter words. Axel leaned down, his face pausing mere inches from her own, eyes glittering with a rage that held no depth. "Why, if I have to choose between my happiness and yours, should I even have to think twice?"

Kairi screamed savagely as she struck out at him, hating him and pitying him and wishing desperately that he could be happy, sobbing as she realized he never would. Stiffened fingers caught him in the throat and he choked, reaching out for her even as he struggled to draw breath; Kairi ducked underneath his arm and jerked her knee into his crotch, shoving against him as he stumbled under her unexpected onslaught.

She turned and ran, guilt burning through her as she listened to him retch behind her. "I'm sorry," she whispered desperately, chanting the mantra over and over as she hurtled headlong into the darkness, blinded by her tears. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"