Author's note: wow. just. wow.
my eyes hurt. and my head. such is the life of a persistent author, i suppose. hello again! it's has been a while, hasn't it? i'm not very snappy when it comes to spewing out updates, am i? oh, goody, do i win a record or what!? -shot-
apologies, apologies, i know you get them a lot from me. i am deeply sorry for this late update, but i hope that this chapter will make up for it? maybe? ugh, it's much to early in the morning for me to make coherent thought strings! BANANA MONKEY BUTTER MUFFINS.
so! last time on "...dice," axel and roxas were caught up in a rabid debate with each other! will roxas ever believe axel's words!? will they ever succeed in getting off this damn island!? will roxas ever meet sora again!? WHERE IN THE WORLD IS CARMIN SAN DIEGO!? FIND OUT IN TODAY'S EPISODE OF...THIS! xD
Chapter 14: Bastard
Roxas woke up the next morning with visions of sailing ships and the sound of pirate songs dancing in his head. Dammit. On top of that, his ass hurt...a lot. Oh, what a welcoming feeling.
He tried to adjust his position in the sand, suddenly remembering that he was lying down in sand in the first place, and grumbled when he couldn't find a comfortable spot anymore. The problem with waking up was that falling back asleep quickly or at all was impossible, and so Roxas gave up trying, though he did try very persistently, and ended up lying on his right side, feeling not only sore in places he didn't know he had but preoccupied with emptiness in his mind...and a strange, settling rejuvenation in his stomach.
Shaking slightly, Roxas rolled onto his back and noticed that he was under the shadow of a palm tree—leaves so wide and green, gently swaying up and down to the rhythmic song of the wind against the shades of blue. Blue...colors and sounds, warmth and peace...
Roxas thought he'd died.
But why did the sensations feel so real? Even when he remembered the stinging flesh and the dried blood on his unwashed chest, Roxas felt no disturbance and rather his mind flooded with cold, cold water, numbing the pain and sending welcomed trills up and down his body. Was he cold? Was he hot? He didn't know. Whichever way, whichever feeling, whichever touch or color, Roxas liked it all. On that, the blonde narrowed his eyes and unconsciously smiled.
"Well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes."
Roxas's body didn't move when he heard the voice, something that it'd never done before, and he figured that, if only for this bit of time, he should learn to like that, too. Though he did welcome the sound, Roxas found himself pulled out of his nebula, thinking...and thinking twice about some things, some words, some certain touches that he could still feel hovering on his skin.
Cautiously so as not to hurt himself even more, Roxas sat up, summarily noticing that his pants were on, and stared ahead of him toward the shore. He expected some land, maybe even a boat or two, but all he got was some belligerent and blundering captain, one standing by the water's edge, arms folded and one ankle crossed over the other while he gazed out at the infinite droplets of blue—so statuesque against an ever-moving, ever-spinning world.
It took him a moment, but Roxas did stand up on his own. He had to pull his pants up some since the button wasn't done, but after that little scene he hesitantly set foot onto the hot grains of sand and dragged his bare feet away from the mess of fabric lying in the shadows. His paced slowed when he approached two feet from Axel's left, and he didn't speak when he stopped. Nor did Axel.
What to say? That his ass hurt? Maybe.
Another minute...and Roxas asked one simple, and yet oh so complicated question.
"...Did you mean it?"
Axel didn't seem affected by the question and Roxas assumed that he was either working it out in his brain or he didn't hear it. He kept his head turned to look at Axel with no intentions of repeating the words. He'd stand there all week if he had to. But after he heard a quiet scoff, Roxas realized that he wouldn't have to.
"What you said."
"I've said alotta things."
"No, no, what you specifically told me last night. Did you mean that?"
Roxas blinked quickly. "You love me." He hadn't said it with compassion, nor with eloquence or desperation, because Roxas wasn't a crazed lover and he certainly wasn't positive as to whether or not there was a right or wrong way to say it. So it just...came out that way—plain and simple like talk over dinner that no one really engaged heartily in. That sort of sound...
That time, Axel shrugged his bare shoulders, Roxas's idea of a dismissive reaction to the comment, and quirked an eyebrow as if he was utterly baffled. "I don't recall ever saying such a thing." Axel then turned to the left to stare at his companion with as much of a poker face as he could pull.
Was he—was he serious? Really?
"Even if I said it, Roxas," the captain intervened, "I could never've meant it. Those words would've been nothing but empty bullets without 'n ounce of significance."
Just like that, Roxas's world shriveled and began to fall apart at the burned edges. Talk about being blunt.
"O-oh?" Roxas didn't want that to come out as a question, but he knew that it had to. He was actually off-centered with that response, while at the same time he did understand it. Axel had said that he was incapable of feeling, incapable of showing sensitivity toward anyone but himself, and yet the notion sounded like complete bullshit as well. Here was a pirate, led astray, undermined, and made to believe that he truly was lower than nothing, cursed, when he had spent all these weeks bothering to find Roxas and talk to him, bothering to protect Roxas and dress up in stupid getups to do so, bothering to keep him from greed, bothering to damn well pound him into a damn tree, and all he could say was that couldn't do those things?
"Captain," he started offhandedly, "I'm not gonna do it now, maybe not anytime soon, but at one day or another I'll ask you that same question again. And when that day comes, you look me straight in the eye and take the question seriously."
"I really don't think my answer will've changed by then, silly. After all, I'll never lie."
"You are some piece of work, you know that?" Roxas half grumbled and looked away, suddenly sickened to be bickering like this. He still hadn't grown used to the bickering, and he still hadn't grown used to Axel. This life was so convoluted now.
He'll never lie, he'll never lie. What did that even mean?
Letting it pass for a bit, Roxas scratched behind his head and started off toward the opposite end of the island—where the pile of wood and the incomplete getaway raft was. Well, last night was all fine and dandy, but time for work. Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
At first he was walking quickly through the hot sand, shirtless and already dripping with sweat, before his pace slowed and he glanced over his shoulder at his companion when he suddenly called out:
"How are you?"
Roxas's lips parted in shock at the question and he cleared his throat. "Uhm..." Pause. Awkward silence. "I don't...really know." And that was the truth. Roxas's body was just going through too many phases, too many emotions and sensations all in one day, one minute. When was the last time he felt alright? It was then that he realized, as the sand shifted behind him and he felt a light touch on his bare shoulder, that today he would feel alright. Today he would feel somewhat better.
"Your wounds healing properly?" Axel chuckled when the very tips of his fingers traced invisible lines and squiggles on the blonde's skin, and eventually they traveled to the back of his neck where flecks of sparkling sand were stuck in his hair. Every tiny detail on Roxas amused Axel...and every tiny nuance and flaw about him was amazing. With a hand placed flat against Roxas's back, the redhead lowered his eyes and spoke so very sincerely...
"And even though I wouldn't've been able t' make those words meaningful, I might've been able t'...tweak the rules a bit. I could try to give them meaning. Hypothetically speaking."
Roxas scoffed, though truthfully the words sounded quite convincing. "Tweak the rules? Of your own nature?"
Axel didn't reply to that and with a quick tap to Roxas's back he walked ahead of the boy toward the other end of the island. Before he'd stepped more than five feet, the captain's head looked up from the ground and he swung his body around so that he was facing Roxas again, this time he was positively glowing with a smile.
"Well, come on," he called out. "Get your ass in gear and help me!"
The blonde did feel better...but not quite. Not quite yet. His ass was still in pain.
It took another two days before the raft was complete. Two days filled with intense heat, intense work, intense movement, and intense company. At first Roxas really had his doubts about ever leaving the island and about surviving in general, but after the first day of building and walking alongside Axel, he came to realize that he was in the company of a very interesting person...so his doubts vanished.
Aside from all those pirate stories of his, Axel had plenty more reencounters of life that was, and oddly enough Roxas believed every one of them—every description, every rise and fall of his voice, and even the laughter that accompanied some of the tales. He didn't want Axel to see that he was amused most of the time, so he'd occasionally turn his head the other way to chuckle, but what he'd learned...was that to show emotion was a beautiful gift.
So...he learned to bond.
And yet two questions were still lingering in his mind. Did he like Axel? Did he trust him?
How could he bond properly if he couldn't answer those simple questions?
What ever the answer was, it was taking its sweet time to come forth, but at the moment...his only answer was no. A rather quiet no...
"So then I got in trouble for stealin' from the old guy down the street from where I used t' live. 'Course no one ever caught me; I ran too fast for 'em."
"Is there anyone you haven't stolen from?" Roxas asked on the sunset of the second day. He turned to face Axel on his right who was standing with one foot up against the mast of the now completed raft and his arms crossed as he stared out at the purple horizon. The boy was seated at the captain's feet, his legs crossed and his back, too, pressed to the mast. Oddly enough today wasn't a hot day, and the mild tropic air created a languid sunset to admire. The two pushed the raft out onto the shallow tide and let it bob gently with the ebbing and pulling waves. Hm.
Axel looked up at the sky overhead when he replied, "You steal from one, you steal from everyone."
"Enlighten me." Roxas smiled amusedly and gazed up at Axel's face for his answer.
"Simple. Let's use you as an example. I stole you 'way, other people in your town were stolen from as well. Hm...ah! My ol' cap'n stole me years ago, everyone in my town perished. You'd be surprised at how many people can get hurt from one tiny happening."
Roxas frowned and turned his gaze down to the vast water before their tiny raft. "Hm." And that was all he had to say to that...He really didn't want to think about the past. But for whatever the reason, Axel seemed like he wanted to. That was probably why he went on to say such stupid and pointless things.
"...You know," Axel began quietly, running a hand through his hair, "it'd be great to stay here...for longer than this."
The boy's eyes rose at that and he suddenly stopped looking for pictures in the clouds to pay attention to Axel's sudden comment. He noticed that the captain's face had softened and his eyes were positively glistening with the reflection of the water. "What?" Was he really...serious?
Axel lowered his eyes and seemed to take great interest in the ripples on the orange water as he responded. "Freedom's a strange thing, isn't it?"
Slightly taken aback by the sudden question, Roxas narrowed his eyes and swallowed, unsure of what to say or what to do. If Axel was referring to freedom on this island, then he supposed that it was a strange thing. In a sense, the two were very free—free from the ship, free from the hustle and bustle of civilization, but at the same time Axel wasn't entirely that. He still had a terrible curse. Because of that, was this freedom at all satisfactory? And even if it was, would leaving it all behind only end the sensation? Roxas swallowed hard and sadly stared out at the orange glow hanging in the distance.
Roxas twitched when he heard the voice, even though it came out rather soft and suppressed—an odd choice for Axel.
He found that when he looked in the corner of his eye that the captain...had shut his eyes. He really was some piece of work.
"Do we go? Or would you rather we stay?"
The boy sighed and squared his shoulders. "We spent all that time building this raft, you know."
"Let's not forget that one night we slacked off."
"So you do remember!" Roxas flung his arms out over his head and swiveled his body to face Axel properly. "You do remember what we—"
"Do you want to go or not?"
Frustrated, Roxas smeared a hand down his face and nibbled on his lower lip. He could feel the salty air stinging the wound on his neck and caressing the wound on his torso, so he remembered the pain that came from being out there at sea. And because of that, he really did consider jumping off the raft and trudging back up to the jungle...where he'd be safe. But the pain also brought back images of home...and Sora. He...needed him right now. And even if he wouldn't like the dangers up ahead, Roxas figured that for the sake of his brother...
He would need to endure.
And so, head down and eyes near closed, Roxas curled his toes and nodded to his lap. "We can...still go."
There was a moment of silence between the two, turning the warm sunset into statuesque painting on the wall before finally Roxas felt the raft tilt and he heard a loud sloshing sound coming from his right. He abruptly turned his head and, to his surprise, saw that Axel had sat himself down and was starting to push the raft away from shore with his foot. Roxas reacted immediately with something between a yell and a gasp...which came out sounding like a dying baby seal.
"What the hell are you doing?" he spat, trying to not stand up as the waves shook the raft. Axel merely pushed at the sand with his foot even when his entire calf was nearly submerged in water.
"Ah. Didn't I hear you correctly? You said you wanted t' go."
"Yeah, but I didn't mean now!"
"Nope, can't stop now, Roxas. Need to keep movin' else we'll lose light."
"This is why we should leave in the damn morning!"
"But think of the fun we'll have raftin' through the night, ey? Won't that be an adventure? Just you and I, hm?" With those playful words of his, Axel gave the raft once last push before, with a bit of wind and waves, the two of them were off on the tide, the shore of the tiny island growing smaller and smaller as the waves carried them away. Roxas held on tightly to the mast as the raft moved forward, left, right and every other way. He honestly didn't feel like they were going anywhere.
Axel seemed to notice the trouble on the boy's face since he leaned down over his head and started to laugh in amusement. "Still haven't grown those sea legs, have you?"
Roxas furrowed his eyebrows and looked the other direction. "Piss off."
"Gladly. Once we get my ship back, you and I will be back to the way things were."
Hearing that, Roxas pictured 'the way things were'. A cold, moldy old brig surrounded by a bunch of treacherous pirates...
My, how he missed that place.
And as he glanced over his shoulder at the disappearing island—the orange tinted trees and the hot sand covered with his and Axel's footprints—he came to realize that freedom really was a strange thing...and that, sometimes, going back to the way things used to be just wouldn't be right...
He was so free out here, so free to taste the ocean air and escape the twisted roads in a town, but after looking upon Axel's face and touching his wounded skin, Roxas knew that freedom wasn't just about breaking out of the norm and stepping into the light of unknown territory...
It was also about sacrifice.
Sora, where's Riku?
Yeah. Haven't seen him in a week. What happened?
He told me he's been training up on the beach lately. I dunno, maybe he's too busy to hang out right now.
Training for what?
He hasn't said much about it, really. Just that he's been dyin' t' go out and search for some treasure out in the coves. He's been into that sort of stuff lately.
I heard he got in trouble for stealing a sword from a shop in the square.
Did he? Never heard that story before. Wow, he really did?
Psh. What kinda friend are you, Sora?
Hey, it's not my fault he doesn't tell me these things! What exactly happened to him anyway?
I guess he returned the sword, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's still stealing from him.
Hah. I'd call him a pirate after that story.
Nighttime fell later than Roxas expected that day, and the cold air quickly set in over the darkness, bringing chills up and down his naked arms and chest. He was starting to regret ever letting Axel rip his shirt off like that. Shivering, he hugged his arms to himself and cuddled closer to the mast as the raft ventured on into what appeared to be a sea of now black ink—thick and murky with a sliver of the moon appearing on its body. Axel didn't seem to mind the sight, though, and happily paddled through with a large branch that they'd found floating along the water some hours ago.
Roxas tried to keep his chin buried in his knees when he suddenly broke the silence. "Are you sure we're going the right way?"
He heard Axel mumble something back incoherently and took that as an unsure yes. Oh, goody. The two had been oddly silence since they left the island, and Roxas had to accept that there were certain times when Axel just didn't have anything to say. That didn't necessarily mean that he didn't want to speak to Roxas, just that there really wasn't anything of importance to bring up.
Still, he wished that he would've taken the liberty to ask how he was. After all, he never answered him properly when he'd asked it earlier that day.
He sighed into his arms and as he looked up he noticed that a sliver of the moon had ducked behind a blanket of dark clouds, leaving the open water pitch black and lifelessly cold. Roxas briefly shut his eyes and tried to find imagine a different world where he would feel comfortable, but found that increasingly difficult as Axel suddenly began to whisper nonsense to himself. Irritably, the boy shot his head up and turned to the right where he heard the whispering and the sloshing of the water.
"What're you saying?"
No response. Ugh, this was too suspenseful. It was always about riddles and secrets with Axel. Nothing he ever said or did made perfect sense. As he thought about it, Roxas continued to watch the back of Axel's head, counting every paddle and every breath carefully in his head before, to his extreme surprise, the raft lurched violently backward and he fell onto his back from impact. Stunned, Roxas peered around at the endless black above him and held a hand over his chest—underneath his skin his heart was beating rapidly. He was sure he was about to die...
He clicked his tongue as he sat up and stared ahead, still unable to see a damn thing in all this darkness. "Axel," he panted, "where the hell are we?" His voice escaped him rather loudly and afraid.
His only response was a subdued shush; nothing more, nothing less. Oh, he'd had enough of this silence! Roxas slammed a fist down on the raft. Did he know where they were going or not? They might as well have been wandering around in mist.
"If you won't tell me—!"
"I will ask you once more, understand?"
"As if tha' would change my answer!"
Wait...that voice. Those voices...Where? Was he hearing correctly?
Roxas's heartbeat quickened to the point where his muscles began to ache and clumsily he stumbled to his knees and looked around for the source of the voices. The raft felt as if it had frozen in space and the waves carrying it forward had ceased to flow. With his eyes wide and his fingers shaking, Roxas moved toward Axel's side of the raft as cautiously as possible and blindly felt the wood below him to make sure he wouldn't end up falling into the sea.
He reacted instantly and froze in place, his hand still outstretched into thin air. Thinking about it, Axel's voice sounded serious, void of all emotion and slick as the cutting edge of a blade. Something was happening around them—he could feel it in the pit of his stomach—but he couldn't explain why his instinct was telling him to turn around and run, run, run. Perhaps this was the pirate side talking. No, no...
Roxas's thoughts ended when he felt fingers clamp down on his right shoulder and squeeze so tightly.
"Listen. I've found the ship."
"What?" Roxas asked, exasperated.
"We've just hit it."
Blue eyes vacantly scanned the empty, thick night air before ever-slowly moving to the left where the front of raft was. Somewhere in all that darkness was the ship they'd been searching for, and according to Axel it was merely an inch away. His skin tingled and his muscles contracted in his ribs when he imagined its horrifying, dark and wounded body, but he swallowed down his anxiousness to properly speak.
"What...are you saying we do now?" he asked, unsure of his question. That's when he felt breath beside his ear and the tickle of loose locks of hair on his cheek as Axel whispered a plan so lucidly that it might have passed off as a well kept secret...or even a seductive suggestion. And so the enduring became a bit harder to do.
"...We'll need to sneak aboard the ship, understand?"
Roxas nodded and shut his eyes.
"We're at her stern—that's the back end, savvy? Keep up with the nautical terms if you don't want to die."
"Shh! I'll do the talking, ey? Now, I'll go ahead of you on this end here and we'll make it up to the deck as quiet as a mouse. Not loud. Quiet. From there I want you to follow me as quickly and fluidly as possible so we don't get nabbed by whoever is up there invading my ship."
Axel shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes. Someone's come up on deck, can't you hear? Moving on, if you please. I want for you to stay hidden behind the mast. Under no circumstances may you poke your pretty little head from behind out of sheer, uncontrollable curiosity, 'cause if you do then the odds of you not getting your head shot off seem pretty high, mate. But if you must see the show then keep low to the ground and flatten yourself out. Aye?"
"What'll you do?"
"That depends on the bloke threatenin' my ship."
"If it's that man again?" Roxas added hastily to which Axel chuckled.
"It was nice knowing you, I suppose."
The blonde blinked just as the redhead pushed away and immediately went toward the ship to climb up a dangling rope toward the deck. Roxas nearly panicked at that and in a struggle to remember the captain's plan he rose to his feet, swayed, and jumped forward to climb up as well. The air around him suddenly became extremely warm, but his body remained so very cold. He swore his blood wad running like ice water through his veins as he struggled to keep a firm grip on the rope.
Darkness was a cursed thing...
And what in the hell was Axel implying? That they'd...die? As much as Roxas didn't want to think about bloodshed, his wounds, still fresh and aching since the day they appeared, stung terribly when both voices resounded in the shadows from seemingly all directions.
"You're a fool to lie to me."
"Call me what you want."
"Tell me. What did you hope to gain from your actions? What could you possibly gain from them?"
"...Freedom, ya bastard."
Roxas now recognized that gruff voice as Xigbar's and just as he felt the cold surface of the deck under his fingertips, he froze when he pulled himself up and wanted desperately to jump back down onto the raft and wait for the sun to rise. If he had to face Xigbar again...he was sure he'd be killed. No hesitation. One look at Roxas and Xigbar would pull the trigger. He pulled his legs up on deck and watched Axel tiptoe further away into the dark through heavy eyes. Don't lose sight of him.
All his senses were alert now, causing ripples to move across the surface of his wet skin. The coldness of the air whipped mercilessly at Roxas's exposed back, howling meaningless phrases and words that only darkness could supply. He felt as if eyes were watching him from all directions and he wanted more than anything to run...
"Roxas, down here. Stay here."
Immediately he gasped and shot forward to the floor where he crouched low beside the captain's body and pressed his forehead against the wet surface of the wooden mast. He shivered, the world fell into perfect stillness, and all at once Axel slowly prowled away from the protection of the mast, away from Roxas, and the boy...disobeyed.
Quietly he followed at the captain's heel, unbeknownst to Axel, and felt a wave of comfort upon spotting a bit of dying candlelight up ahead. But there wasn't much comfort in seeing what was under the candlelight...
Red. Nothing but dark red appeared under the flickering of the orange light. Roxas squinted...and at once covered his lips to keep from yelling. The smell of blood was thick in the air, so thick that he was sure he'd stepped into the site of a massacre. Even as Axel ventured on down the stairs toward the blood, Roxas stayed put at the top of the flight and held his breath. He could feel the liquid on his skin, on his fingertips, and everywhere he looked he pictured blood hiding in the blanket of darkness. No doubt there were bodies as well...
"So then. You're freedom never came." That voice again...
Where had he heard it before?
Roxas didn't realize that he'd find out soon enough.
As soon as the speaker finished his sentence, the candlelight burned brighter and two faces emerged. One was unmistakably Xigbar's—he appeared close to fainting with his head hanging down at an angle and his face positively dripping in sweat and streaks of dried blood. He was smiling weakly as his body remained pinned against a wall by an unknown person with their back turned. But, as soon as Roxas heard Axel reach the final stair, the stranger's head turned...and Roxas felt death's touch in their stare.
Riku stood as still as a statue, still holding Xigbar against a wall while he indifferently stared in Axel's direction. The light wasn't bright enough to reach Axel, though, so Roxas had a feeling that he hadn't been spotted. Still, in those eyes he could see Riku was positively sure someone was moving. Riku. Sora's...best friend? What business did he have here? All the way out here? With pirates? He wanted to ask so badly, but his voice kept caged in his throat.
"Captain." Riku's monotonous voice sliced through the air to beautifully. Captain? No, no, he knew, he knew. He knew Axel was there! "This ship will be mine."
"You'd better watch what you wish for, mate," Axel hissed.
Riku's silver hair glistened in the light and underneath his bangs his sapphire eyes sparked with rage as his voice, dripping with hatred and murder, whispered, "...I'll kill you."
With those words the candlelight died completely...and darkness prevailed.
believe it or not, i had a hard time coming up with a conclusion for this chapter, because i really, really want to get to the next one right away, so it was hard to come up with a satisfying transition sequence. MY BRAIN IS ON FIRE, I SWEAR.
finally spring is in the air, frogs are croaking outside my window, and my school year is almost over in a couple of months. i've been waiting for that day to come ever since the beginning of the school year, and let me tell you, i'm just so tempted to run into the mountains and hide there in some random cottage until summer starts. that way i don't have to deal with missing out on fanfiction opportunities anymore! OH, DEATH, WHERE IS THY STING!? Dx but enough about that nonsense!
what really inspired me to continue writing and writing was, well, the latest kingdom hearts news floating around. i'm so excited for may 30th when 358 over 2 comes out! MOAR CANON I CAN HAZ PLZ? seriously! isn't anyone else pumped for this? xD can i get a whoop whoop? no? well, anyway...(whoop whoop!)
i do hope that this chapter was enough for at least some of you! it did come out a bit on the short side (that's what she said), but i'm hoping the next chapter will be, ah, what's the word...? fantastical? uhm...yeah. poor roxas! poor axel! RIKU HAS ARRIVED! WHAT WILL OUR BRAVEE PIRATES DO, YOU ASK? tune in next time for the exciting adventures of...THIS!
oh, yes. there will be blood,