The rain still makes him vomit and Roxas still dreams about Rude in the night, but not all things are meant to change.
Time is not something for forgotten immortals, but suffice it to say that Rude and his livewire Reno have been dead for a lifetime.
Axel has a propensity for eating tiny purple flowers. He balances their lotus blossom shapes on his serpent's tongue, staring cross-eyed until they burst into flames. He gobbles them down then.
"What does it taste like?" Roxas wonders, still unable to put the sound of coyness and teasing into his voice.
"Ash and water and petals," Axel sneers. "Why do you still dream about Rude?"
Roxas draws his knees up on the window seat and supports his chin on them. The day outside is bright and breezy.
Roxas had gone back to visit him once, followed the scent of his skin to a new city Roxas did not know. He'd found Rude at work, in a boring stone building behind a desk in a glass cubicle.
In the artificial lighting, Rude seemed unchanged. This made Roxas smile and rap politely on the glass door. Rude unbent his massive form from behind the desk and then paused at the sight of him.
He removed his sunglasses and Roxas suddenly felt his age. The fact that Rude was here and not in the streets meant something very distinct.
"I'm back," Roxas agreed, coming closer. Rude's age did not frighten him. He should have expected it, he was not so terribly naïve anymore.
"You haven't changed," Rude expressed sadly. One of his great brown hands traced the lines of ivory. "You know, I've never dreamed about anybody, but I dreamed about you. You changed in my dreams, I don't know why."
Roxas held out empty hands, palms up, unsure of just what to say. "On… the inside. But I don't change, or die."
"What are you?" Rude put a hand on Roxas' shoulder and led him from the room, and then the building. Rude took him to a restaurant where he was served with awe-struck respect. Roxas observed this and smiled slowly, his chin balanced childishly on his hand.
Rude had returned his glasses and now waited for Roxas to answer his question, but Roxas was not ready to.
"Have you been here long?"
Rude's mouth curled and he refrained from asking Roxas what he considered to be long.
"No, a year or so. The company finally forced me into a desk job."
Roxas toyed with his silver-gold hair absentmindedly. "I never really knew what you did. It didn't… seem relevant, at the time."
"Part military, part cop, part spy, part terrorist, part thug, part mafia, part bodyguard. It's a complicated job description, you know." Rude took a deep drink of water, watching the blond out of the corner of his one blue eye. "You were… dead a lot of the time, not that I'd have talked about it anyway."
There was a strange expression on the boy's face and Rude balked, "Don't give me that look. I know how to check for a pulse and you were missing it more often than not. So… what are you?"
Rude slammed his fist on the table, but Roxas just stared at him with calm expectancy.
"As if he would himself get old." Rude gave in. "And fuck do I feel old… he's been dead about twenty goddamn years now. Took some bullets right in his fool face."
Roxas turned his eyes dreamily toward the ceiling, still fussing a lock of hair between two fingers. He hummed something softly in his throat, like a dirge.
He came back to reality at Rude's unexpected laugher. "I… forgot how strange you are. No, I didn't forget, but I'm remembering."
Roxas smiled fondly.
"You almost never smiled though," Rude mused, "and when you did it was like your face didn't really work that way."
Their food arrived and Rude watched the boy eat with a subdued but noticeable relish.
"You've changed," Rude said.
Roxas took to twirling his noodles around his fork, brow furrowed and thoughtful.
"I've learned," he confessed. "From you, and this world and from my brother."
"Like you're an alien," Rude joked. "Where is Axel?"
"Mmm, somewhere," Roxas answered vaguely because he was not sure either. "And not quite an extraterrestrial."
Roxas fell quiet again, he stabbed at his food a few times, opening and closing his mouth without finding the words.
"I stopped," he said at last. "I stopped dying because I didn't need to anymore and when I stopped I dreamt of you. You were good to me, in your way. I needed strength and violence then. I needed a safe place to die."
"Fuck that, Roxas," Rude growled. "What are you getting at?"
Rude went very still and with a rolling anger rose from the table and dragged Roxas from the restaurant, he was still very strong for his age.
He took Roxas home to fuck.
"I'm a prince," Roxas murmured. It was part of a litany he had begun when Rude had lowered him onto the bed.
"I am a king, I am a son."
No one had ever replaced Roxas in Rude's life. No one was ever as strange or as perfect or as fragile as Roxas.
"I am a brother, I am the youngest."
Roxas had continued to die for a long time after he'd left with Axel. He had continued the sacrifice until one day Axel had told him it was enough.
"I am a child, I am a virgin."
Rude knew it to be true, for all the times he had taken Roxas, it had been the same chaste shatter for each.
"I am a boy, I am a secret keeper, I am a liar."
Roxas was very beautiful, Rude's own angel.
"I am immortal, I am a god, but I am a child and I am a son and brother, one of many."
Not an angel then, not a god nor a child, but both.
"I am the cold one, as mad as my brother who is consumed by the hungry flames. I am the abdicator. I am the sacrifice and the jailer."
Rude understood enough, in sense and in feeling. He didn't dare kiss Roxas and disrupt him.
"I am one of many, all of us forgotten; rejected. I am broken, I am incomplete. Perfect, as I should be."
Roxas took a deep breath, shifting, closing his eyes and moaning.
"I am not a man, nor a woman. I am not proud, I am not humble. I am neither kind nor cruel. I am not sane, I am not king, I am not father, just as I am not creator."
His breathing became more labored, his movements more erratic and with his words the picture became clearer to Rude. He could see the islands, floating in a vastness that may have been the sky. He saw the jeweled waters, he saw the strange creatures and the strange clan of immortal brothers and their sister. He saw the thrones, one constructed of glass and the other of its shards. Roxas was meant for one, Axel the either, yet neither of them were there to take their seat.
Rude shuddered. "I understand," he said.
Roxas' eyes opened then and he looked up at Rude with such an expression of relief and love in ice blue eyes.
Roxas had left in the morning without saying any further goodbyes. He'd rejoined Axel somewhere by the sea. His brother had become very ill without him.
"Because they are good dreams," Roxas finally replies. "I like to remember his touch, it was steady." He turns defiant blue eyes on his brother, daring him to mock.
Axel chuckles low in his throat. "Of course," he says gently. "Of course."