i: Because we heartless things have to make it up as we go along. Sue me if we mess it up sometimes.
He didn't tug her arm anymore, keeping a safe distance behind her, only speaking to tell her which way to turn, murmured quiet directions or ask if she needed to stop. She almost used this to her advantage, accepting the offers to halt as often as possible, sensing his urgency to keep moving. After a while he stopped offering and she stopped complaining about it after the first time he lost his temper, fire bursting from the stitching of his featureless black jacket and rushing down his arms like there was gasoline in his sleeves.
Kairi faced carefully forward at all times, afraid to look at her captor, lest she forget he was her enemy. He looked too young for capturing hostages and too thin to be running around fighting all the time as it seemed he did. His eyes held too much anxious desperation. She imagined that he would avoid a confrontation if he could, especially now. Her intuition said so. As a hostage she didn't get many rights as far as knowing her companion's plans and such, but she could surmise one thing on her own: he was running from someone, someone he was terrified to meet.
"Left here," he grunted, short, growling. "Inside. We're going to stop here"
He sounded often like a sarcastic lion when he spoke, looked like one too, all spiky red-orange mane and pale eyes that glowed inside a long, narrow face. She might have thought he looked good under any other circumstances. Kairi climbed obediently up the steps of a building she'd never seen before, some nameless temple-like structure among the dark, empty mountains. She didn't fantasize for a moment that she could scream for help. The Nobody would simply get angry and drag her kicking and screaming into another portal…if he bothered.
Nobody. That's what he called himself.
He'd introduced himself at one point, but she'd forgotten it. Something strange, something edgy, some bizarre name for an equally bizarre creature, one that spoke, laughed, lost its temper and grew frustrated but felt no emotions. Felt nothing in its soul, because it had no heart with which to speak between his body and spirit, to act as envoy between the physical and the emotional. It made the Nobody unstable, often given to irrational bursts of inappropriate emotion, then long bouts where everything he did or said held no feelings what so ever.
Kairi hugged her arms, shivering in the frigid mountain air. The inside of the temple building looked as chilly as the outside, ancient, weather worn and choked with ivy and brambles thrusting up through cracks in the stone. She stopped, hesitating in the middle of the floor, staring up into the fragile looking roof of rotted arbors and vine. Her captor settled against the gnarled tree, a tough little thing that had punched its way through the stone foundations.
She eyed his long black jacket enviously, hunkering down nearby. Not close enough to touch, but near enough that he wouldn't be on edge. She'd decided not to run again until she could get him to fall asleep, first, or he tried to move her through another portal. Then she'd try to shove him in and run for it. Her skin puckered, gooseflesh rising along her arms and legs as she shivered miserably in the cold, too frightened to complain.
He held out a hand, fingers cupping a blaze of red-yellow flame. She recoiled on instinct from the fire and he looked annoyed at her skittish behavior, glaring cat-like eyes her direction. He didn't pull back however, keeping his arm extended to her, heat licking invitingly at her face and hands. She edged closer, scooting near enough to hold out her hands around the little campfire. The flames, having nothing to burn but air, made no sound at one usually heard. The comforting snap of dry wood giving way, falling logs, cracking embers, all of it was achingly absent.
"Can I…get some fire wood?" she asked timidly.
"Why?" He looked bothered with her.
She smiled ruefully, trying her best to be disarming. "I like the sound of campfire. The wood burning."
He looked away. "Go on then. Don't try to leave though." He pulled his hand back, the light fading as the fire snuffed itself in his long, gloved fingers. He had big hands, the kind you could work with, thin and clever, but tough enough to be beaten up. Kairi stood up and started gathering snapped branches scattered through out the temple, dragging the bigger one back and piling them in the giant sunken pit of ashes left by previous travelers. She wondered how he'd known to come here.
"You making a bonfire?" he asked tonelessly, too tired to sneer.
She smiled. "Yeah. So it'll last all night. I don't want to get cold."
"Whatever." He waited until she'd arranged the pile of wood and twigs to her liking, then pointed a casual hand at it, igniting the gnarled branches immediately in roaring fire. He dropped his hand between his boots, long arms draped over his knees and looped together. Kairi sat carefully with her skirts about her and enjoyed the blazing heat. Her red-haired companion only dropped his head against his shoulder and watched the fire dance, lights reflected in his eyes, casting orange illumination across his face.
Thrown into sharp relief, he still looked dreadfully forlorn. Like he'd lost something precious and irreplaceable, perhaps he was thinking about this 'person that he missed'. That's why he'd come to her in the first place, that's why he'd kidnapped her from her home and stashed her away, keeping her secret, hidden. He looked so sad in the firelight…and so very, very dangerous.
"Who do you miss?" she asked quietly, breaking the quiet.
He closed his eyes wearily. "Roxas."
"Roxas?" she repeated, startled to hear it said by another – more startled still that he'd answered so readily. "I've heard than name before. In my dreams."
He snorted. "I wouldn't be surprised. You lot all seem to be connected at the brain-stem," he complain, tapping his skull with a hard fingertip. "Frankly, it's kind of creepy."
"Nothing." He waved her off quickly, not looking at her. "Means Sora will look for you and that's all I want. Long as Organization Thirteen can't use him, they can't win."
Kairi swallowed. "Win? How? They're Nobodies, right, this Organization? What could they possibly want? If they aren't human, do they have human wants or what is it?" Her companion just stared at his hands, clenching and unclenching his fingers. She watched him, watched his thoughts behind his eyes, flitting across his irises like ribbons spun by children.
"They want…to be human. To be whole again," he told her, smirking at her. "Heh. It's funny though. I don't believe them for a second that they can get their hearts back. That they can become anything more than the half-creatures they are. They just won't accept that is all. They live constantly waiting to get back what they've lost, but…there's no getting back something like that. It's gone and it's gone for good."
"What do you want?" she whispered, almost afraid to hear the answer.
"I just want to see Roxas," he said tiredly. "But I can't get him back either. Me and Organization Thirteen are exactly alike in that way. Pathetic, looking for something to make us feel human again. It's so sad and hilarious." He laughed quietly into his arms, almost hysterically and kept laughing far after the appropriate time. Not that it was even funny to begin with. Kairi watched the Nobody with quiet empathy, but unable to sympathize with the kidnapper. How do you empathize with the apathetic? She settled against the slope of the fire pit, folding her arms and drifting to sleep in the comfortable warmth of the fire.
Then the world broke.
Darkness burst from the side of a nearby pillar, spewing misty blackness around the swirling maw and her captor lunged to his feet just as a tall, hooded man stepped through the portal into the plane of existence. The shadow beneath his hood panned their way and Kairi felt herself shrinking from this newcomer, overcome by fear, terror. The smaller Nobody threw his arms out, curls of black power snaking around the length of his arms into his hands, fire spinning at his palms, spreading, heating, solidifying until twin, red-silver chakrams burst into reality at his fingertips.
The other Nobody looked bigger, simply more to him. Every limb the right length and girth for suggesting a dominant creature lay beneath the hood. He studied his fellow Organization member, radiating impassive curiosity. Kairi could detect his thoughts. She was thinking them herself. The red-haired Nobody was too tall, to stretched and narrow. He looked fierce but not strong. This man could win if they fought. She suspected the smaller Nobody knew it too…
But he didn't seem to care.
Her captor took a strange and feral fighting stance, swinging his weapons loose at his sides, swaying slightly, impatient, waiting for the attack. He seemed like a difference creature now, more than a Nobody before the other Organization member. But he looked woefully frail compared to the silver-haired one, almost like fire-blown glass before a hammer. Kairi stepped back, her instincts already knowing she would have to fend for herself.
Her captor would abandon her to save himself. He could not possibly contend with this adversary.
"Axel…traitor," the other man pronounced, savoring the syllables on his tongue, "you've run far enough. It's time you finally gave up that which doesn't belong to you, little Flame Flurry. But…I've some words to have with you first. Please try to run again though, I'll enjoy dragging you back to the Organization, broken." He reached back and pulled the hood from his face, tossing it about his shoulders and pulling long, bluish-silver hair loose from the cloth. Burnt orange eyes lingered murderously on his former ally, almost horrible enough to screen the deep crisscross scar sliced between his eyes.
The other Nobody was shaking, his shoulders shivering and she knew he could not stop this man. He smirked though, a bold-faced leer that Kairi almost believed if not for the way the red-head's hands coiled tightly through the rungs of his ring-like weapons. "Saïx," he named his opponent mockingly. "Wow. And here I thought you just wanted to have a friendly chat. I'm really heart-broken, tears infact." He pointed an ironic finger at the tattoos beneath his eyes, an ugly bitterness about his mouth.
Saix did not smile, did not react to the younger man's banter, only extended a hand and dark light burst from the air over his palm, growing into a strange, heavy shape, gaining mass, color, then falling with a thunderous bang to the floor by his feet. Axel tensed, his spine going rigid and Kairi wanted to cry, 'Run! Run away! He'll kill you! He'll kill you!' But she knew that her kidnapper already knew that, how could he not, having served the same cause with this other creature so like and unlike himself? Saix weilded a terrible blade more a mace with the width of a gravestone and heavy enough to send fractures through the stone where it fell.
Still, the man did not smile, nor did he look her way as he spoke. "Kairi. Wait but a moment. I have to teach my former ally a lesson in loyalty. Please…don't watch if you are of kind heart."
Then he rushed Axel, his weapon blazing with blue energy as he swung it back like a ball player might weild a bat, swinging it in a sweeping backhand. Kairi screamed as Axel narrowly ducked the blade, slicing underneath the missed blow at his opponent's midsection. Fire almost the same color as the friendly palmful of warmth he'd extended to her, exploded from his body, saturating the air around him with heat and light. His weapons spat sparks as they collided with the giant claymore, knocking it aside as he darted forward, slashing, forcing his opponent back.
Saix lept nimbly away from the cutting circles, ringed in sudden red fire, blades glowing the cherry red crimson of hot metal. Axel was breathing hard, fire blooming from his upper body in feirce, vengeful bursts, driving the other man backward, forcing him away from the terrible heat. Kairi watched, clutching her head, morbidly facinated as her captor attacked, darting across the temple floor too fast to follow, zig-zagging from side to side like cat avoiding cobra strikes, lunging, hurling his spinning chakrams into the other man's face.
The claymore came up, slamming into the ground to give it foundation and the screaming red circets crashed, grating and spitting flame against the invincible weapon. Axel's arms shuddered as his weapons futiley struggled and he summoned them back, blades jumping back to his hands. Saix pried his weapon loose, but Axel was too quick. He darted to the left and closed the distance between then, momenarily weathed in flame, cutting deadly bladed rings into his rival's defenses, screaming, 'Out of the way!'
Saix dodged the wild attack, grunting as the blades found purchase in his shoulders and thigh, tearing through cloth and flesh that spilled black haze and brackish crimson fluid – blood? Axel lunged away, panting, exhausted and slumped a moment, the attack having spent him. Providing Saix ample time to pull his claymore loose from the stone and stride toward him. Kairi thought for a moment at Axel meant the block him with his chakram, stop the bone-crushign claymore with only his arms, but he lunged away at the last moment, still breathing heavily, his evasion sloppy.
He shoved himself to his feet this time, fire still dancing across his skin, crowning his crimson hair in flame. He attacked in earnest, but the attacks, deadly and swift as they were, couldn't seem to deal full damage to the other Nobody. He dodged and blocked and remained defensive as the smaller Nobody wore himself out, draining his energy into desperate attacks, fruitless charges that only just harmed his opponent.
Finally Axel's attack failed in speed…and Saix leapt upon the opportunity so quickly Kair almost missed the brutal exchange. As Axel darted past him to get a better angle for a hit, Saix suddenly ripped his weapon from the ground and swung again. He back handed the red-head with the hilt, slamming him into the floor with a sickening thud and a crack. Axel's chakrams clattered and skidded across the stone, knocked from his nerveless grasp when his head hit the floor. He lay in a crumpled black and fire-red heap, licks of skittering flame dancing weakly across his lifeless figure.
One blow…the younger Nobody was finished.
Saix, however, was not. He slammed his blade into the ground and crossed the floor slowly, closing the distance between himself and the sprawled fire-user. Unarmed, he stopped beside him, staring down at the other Nobody with expressionless eyes. Axel moaned, dragging his arms beneath him and trying to push himself up on his elbows, body trembling visibly with the effort. The man reached down and seized a fistful of Axel's hair. With a brutal tug he hauled him to his knees and slammed his fist into his midriff. Kairi screamed louder than Axel did, bursting into tears.
"Stop it! Stop it! Can't you see you've won?" she wailed. "Why are you still fighting?"
"I told you," the man said quietly as his fist dove in once more. "Not to watch." He swung again, his speaking barely audible over his captive's strangled noises, half sobs, half gasps, almost words. Saïx didn't seem to notice the dying flames, warm tongues of fire that sputtered desperately from the younger man's skin, fighting to save their charge. Axel struggled, trying with one hand to pry the larger man's hand off, with the other to somehow hit him, shove him away. Saix was unmovable. "Why didn't you run, Axel?"
He slammed his fist into the delicate wing of his collarbone. Kairi heard the snap before Axel's scream drown out every other sound. Saix watched this too without emotion, the boy's ragged cries slipping out of him in an unwilling stream. He seemed bothered by the other Nobody and bent down, using his free hand, he reached for his former comrade's face, an almost gentle motion, but Axel recoiled, slapping it away with a weak forearm. Saix waited, ignoring the feeble protests, then gingerly took a fistful of Axel's jacket and wrapped the other hand around his throat.
"You're too weak for this, Axel. Why didn't you run?" Saix murmured, choking his captive. He leaned in close, as if to touch his forehead to the red-head's paper-white face, his eyes lidded and clouded. "You know your limits, trickster." Those fingers tightened cruelly and Axel's face contorted, lips parting in a breathless cry. "I'm too strong for you sick as you are, little fire-starter. Those flames can't hurt me when the one that feeds them is so weak."
Axel managed a grimace, then, softly croaked. "That why, you actually used that thing on me?" He nodded the the giant weapon. "Because I'm so weak?"
"You're stronger than the others," Saix told him, unabashed. "You might have been strong enough to defeat even me if not for your affliction. I'm sorry only in the fact that you chose to turn on us, as I might have grown to want you as a rival. I wanted to kill you when you'd grown into your strength…not break your neck as a fledgling. But you force my hand, child."
"Not a child, you bastard."
"Child enough to think you could beat me."
He backhanded him viciously to the floor then grabbed the back of Axel's jacket. Saix started dragging the battered Nobody back toward the weapon he'd left in the stone. Axel looked dead already, limp and broken in the man's grip. Dark, glistening smears of ugly blackish red stained the floor, darkened dark stones. The younger Nobody made a soft, utterly human sound, one of listless pain and delirium as his former comrade laid him out on the floor, barely conscious. Saix took his weapon by the hilt and wrenched it from the stone. He turned, staring emotionlessly down at the huddled figre at his feet, defenseless and hurt.
Kairi shook her head, horrified, too stunned to look away as the man raised his weapon pondersouly over the boy. Someone he knew, worked with and shared a common goal with, but he looked at Axel like one looked at a dying housepet, hit by a car in the street. He was obviously deciding where to bludgeon the red-head first, the head or everywhere else. Axel didn't scream, only followed the hovering claymore with dull, luminous blue-green eyes, black tears inked in his cheekbones, black blood running from the corner of his mouth.
"Do it," he croaked, "don't care. Go ahead."
"You do care," Saix told the rogue Orgnazation member. "You care because I might decide to torture you a bit longer. I might make you huddle on your hands and knees and beg me to kill you, Flurry. Would you rather I did that; preserved your life until you couldn't stand it anymore? Let's see if Nobodies really can cry, shall we, Axel?"
"Didn't we already go through this, idiot?" Axel laughed, chest clenching as he did, ribs fractured, his damaged body couldn't take much more.
Saix remained, his blade over the other Nobody's forehead, waiting to crush his skull, hanging there. "You were always the one that bothered me, Flurry. Pretending to have those emotions, mimicking those with hearts like some pale shadow, kept parrot. You laugh when nothing is amusing because you don't know joy. You only prove what a pathetic creature you are. Too sickly and fragile to defend yourself, much less this girl." He kicked Axel in the belly and the other Nobody immediately doubled over, dry heaving, gagging miserably on air. "Nothing. You don't need food or human things, but you pretend at them like it will change something. Miserable, worthless creature."
Axel responded with manic laughter, mirthless and ringing. Saix almost looked angry, backhanding him so hard the Nobody collapsed for a moment and just lay there. Kairi thought it was over. Then Axel jerked up and spun back around, laughing harder than before, insane, hysterical laughter that shook the ceiling and sent frightening waves of gooseflesh down Kairi's back. Saix stood over the laughing Nobody, his claymore in hand. His yellow eyes bore down into those of his former ally. Axel just kept laughing, harsh, cracked sound of the long-time damned finally standing at the mouth of hell.
Saix waited until the laughter subsided, until only Axel's eyes and mouth still laughed, silent, grinning. Then he knelt before the smaller man and tipped his chin up, peering into the battered face. "Foolish, weak, little thing," he mumured, pale eyes searching blue-green. He moved his hand to the top of his head, smoothing the wild, crimson spikes the way a brother might for a hurt sibling. Axel closed his eyes. "I'll releive you of you suffering." He stood up; lifting his weapon, face dead. The fire-starter didn't move, made no protest. "Don't worry. Oblivion is kind, I'm sure."
"NO! STOP!" Kairi screamed, lunging across the floor. She dove for one of Axel's fallen chakram, snatching it up. She charged the man, swinging it wildly with both hands. He dodged it, stepping smoothing out of her path, expression almost curious and she jumped between them. Axel looked up now, expression one of terrible confusion. She stood, sobbing, over her fallen kidnapper, shaking her head. "Don't. Please, don't hurt him anymore. I'll go with you. I won't even fight. Just don't kill him."
"Kairi, don't," Axel murmured.
Saix looked bored. "I would take you anyway. Axel is someone I would like to be rid of. Why should I comply?"
"How can you kill your own teammate!?" she shreiked, voice breaking. "How can you do something like that? You didn't even treat him human! How can you face him like that?"
"He's a traitor. You're human. He's not. You shouldn't treat him the same."
She wiped her tears, laying the chakram down. "Just don't hurt him. Please, don't hurt him. Please."
"Your begging…it breaks my heart."
Axel was almost falling out of consciousness. Nevertheless he tried again, quietly. "Kairi don't. It's not worth it."
"Let me decide what you're worth for myself, Axel. I say you're worth the cost. Worth going away for," Kairi snapped, surprised how her own voice shook. "I say you're worth exactly what a human is worth. Not a bit less. So be quiet and let me do this. Go help Sora. You dying will not help anyone." She paused. "Besides…you said you wanted to see Roxas one last time."
He didn't have anything to say.
Kairi strode toward Saix, swallowing. "I'm ready. If you won't hurt him."
"I won't. He's not worth my attentions in this state." Saix extended a hand to her, a dark opening spinning out of nothing to permit them inside. She took the offered hand and followed him into the shadows. Looking back she could still see Axel, staring after her with an unreadable expression, one almost as broken as the one by the campfire, the face that would mourn having lost something precious if only it knew how. She smiled weakly through the closing gate, reaching out. "Find Sora, please."
Then there was darkness and she knew nothing else.
Author's Note: Found this logged away in the back of my files. Axel is probably my favorite KH2 character ever, so naturally I'd be abusive in my one and only ficlet involving him. I'm sure I knew what I was talking about when I wrote this, probably some character plot I was going to develop, maybe it will eventually…but I lie, frequently so – meh.