all the glitter falls on her
and the room is her stage.

- x -

Smoke and sin and sunlight cling to her as she slouches against the cab's back seat, the pleather of the headrest catching strands of her hair. Sculptures, bus stops, buildings, and the ever-steady flow of people turn into a massive blur that Kairi stares at with unfocused eyes. Everything is screwed to hell -- she can feel it in her bones -- and nothing about the devilish man named Axel makes any sort of sense. Why her, why this, why now? Who is he, really, and what does he have to do with Roxas and Riku and - oh, God, Riku…

The young girl lets out a pathetic whine, running a hand through her tangled, greasy auburn hair. All she really wants is a nice, hot bath to mull things over. Maybe a reassuring kiss from Yuna, her cat. All she needs is to get home, and fast. Kairi has always been a good girl (sort of), so her parents aren't exactly used to their only daughter forgetting to come home at night.

But just as the cab pulls up to her family's penthouse, an over enthusiastic pop tune begins playing shrilly from the confines of her clutch purse.

"Damn it, who's calling me now?" Kairi grumbles exasperatedly, slamming the garish yellow door of the taxi and reaching to pay the driver through the window.

Flipping the phone open and watching the taxi move on down the street, the young girl is startled by a series of unintelligible wails. She takes the cell phone from her ear to glance at the caller ID.

"Olette?" she tries slowly, "Is that you?"

She barely makes it to the front steps before a sniffling, "Yes…" answers through the speaker.

"What's wrong? Did something happen?"

"Selphie's gone."

Kairi blinks, her hand pausing on the cool glass door. The words had come out in a rush of sound, hindered by the obvious croak in her friend's voice. "…What?"

There's a shaky breath on the other line. "Selphie. She's gone. No one has seen her since this morning, and she's missed two casting calls. Two. Y-you know as well as I do that she… she'd never do that! Mom and dad aren't listening to me - they think she's just gone out again, but she hasn't! Something's wrong!"

Pushing her way into the heated building, Kairi gives a tight-lipped smile to the doorman, and walks over to the elevators. "Olette… are you sure? I mean, Selph isn't exactly known for her punctuality."

"With modeling she is. It's all she lives for, Kairi! You've done runway with her before - you know how she serious she is about the whole thing. Something's wrong," Olette repeats, and Kairi raises the hand holding her clutch to pinch the bridge of her nose.

Stabbing the already glowing button with unneeded ferocity, the small auburn-haired girl can't help but notice the panic in her best friend's voice. "Look, why don't you meet me at my place in half an hour? We can go out and scan Selphie's regular haunts. She's probably at Riku's club, anyway, and- Hold on, I have another call coming in."

Sighing, Kairi presses the green key on her phone before putting it back to her ear. "Hello?"

"Kairi, what the heck is wrong with Riku?"

Kicking off her shoes as she steps onto the carpeted floor of the elevator to her apartment, Kairi stretches once the automatic doors slide shut. "Other than the fact that he's a possessive prick who doesn't know the difference between 'nice' and 'sleazy'? No idea."

Now it's Sora's turn to sigh. "No, seriously. He's acting… strange. He's distant, even to me. I just…" Here, the boy's voice grows small so that Kairi has to strain to hear it. "I think it's happening again."

Red numbers flash in front of the young girl's bright blue eyes, the constant whir of the elevator climbing its way upward the only noise as Kairi pauses before speaking. "This isn't your cell phone number, Sora. Where are you calling from?"

"Replica," Sora replies with an edge of frustration laced in his tone, "I think I lost my cell. Riku just left me here, so I have nothing to do. When I called Wakka, he was obviously baked, and I don't like that sort of thing. Thus, I called you to rant about a certain best friend of ours… well, mine. I guess."

Kairi bites her lip, mind a million miles away as she stares, unseeing, at her pink-polished toes. The carpet feels good against the soles of her feet. "Don't worry. It's just Riku being Riku. And I'll help you find your phone if you come with me and Olette to find Selphie. Would you mind heading on over? I'm just going to take a quick shower."

"Selphie? Is she okay?"

"She fine," Kairi sighs, heaving herself up into a standing position as the elevator doors open. "I'll see you in a bit," she lightly pushes a button on the keypad of her cell phone. "Olette? You still there? Yeah, you can come over now. Don't worry, I'm sure everything's okay-"

Stepping out onto the cool marble floor of the foyer, Kairi pauses. If there is one thing she takes pride in, it's that her apartment is never empty. There's always the constant buzz of the maids and the kitchen hands that Kairi can come home to when her parents are too busy to be seen. Always an affectionate "Kairi!" that greets her as she pushes her way through the swinging kitchen doors.

But now, there's nothing.

Every light is turned off, every sound is silenced. Kairi sees nothing but a gray-tinted coldness blanketing everything around her, void of any sign of life, except…

"M-mom? Daddy…?"

The phone clatters to the ground, words appearing on the screen: Connection lost.

And in a way, she's glad that no one has to hear her scream.

- - -

"So I see you've decided to grace us with your presence this afternoon."

"Don't test me. You know how I feel about this."

"Oh? And how do you feel? Because I think I'd be able to relate, don't you?"

"Eight, silence."

"Everything is falling into place as we speak. We have managed to provide a bit more… incentive for the girl to do as we ask. Speaking of, Eight, how's the boy? Hasn't died yet, I hope."

A strangled growl reverberates throughout the room.


- - -


Sirens roar like animals as the police cars rev up with manic growls, just waiting to pounce. Hayner laughs -- a wild, nervous sound that quickly falls back as he scrambles away (and if he's quiet, he can almost hear it die between rubber tires and asphalt).

"Hayner!" the accusatory glare reaches him before he even turns to see, and Pence's doughy face is contorted in exertion. "What in the name of all things holy did you do this time!?"

Vendors and yuppies and tourists alike all veer out of the way as the two teenage boys jet down the busy street, sweating and out of the little breath they had. Brows wrinkle in pain once they skid to a stop, safely away from the policemen stuck in traffic, their chests heaving with each lungful of ice-cold air.

The vandal in question pushes a lock of sandy blonde hair out of his line of vision, his right hand clutching at the lower half of his ribcage. "Damn," Hayner winces with what's left of a grin, "I think I might've popped a couple stitches."

At this, Pence glances over at his friend in an expression flitting between exasperation and alarm. Exasperation, because Hayner might just be the most impulsive and idiotic boy that Pence has ever met; alarm, because they really can't afford much of anything, let alone a medical bill.

"Hayner, you're a jerk," is all that the other boy can choke out while he slouches against a record-store window, still winded from their run-in with the law.

But Hayner just smirks because he's heard it all before, and knows that the exercise will be good for Pence, anyway.

The trees swish and sway in their black metal cages as the shivering pair walks down the street once more, bare hands shoved into the pockets of coats too ratty to be useful. The middle-class families from Texas and Maine pretend not to see them; if they're blind, maybe they won't feel so guilty about the safe stronghold of suburbia that's just a plane ride away. Maybe they won't feel so bad about the wad of twenty dollar bills stashed in their jeans, held together with monogrammed clips.

Their selfishness stains the skin of their hands.

Hayner keeps his brown eyes on the cracks in the sidewalk and pretends not to feel angry. ("LOOK AT ME! JUST FUCKING LOOK AT ME!")

His mouth stays closed the whole way back.

Pence notices (Pence always notices), but doesn't say a word. He just idly fingers the strap around his neck, hoping that maybe someday -- maybe -- his camera can speak for them.

Until then, the city sits in silence as their abandoned apartment comes into view, and when they quickly jump into their concrete vault, death is all they hear.

The sound of Roxas dying is one thing that they've never gotten used to.

The taller boy curls his toes inside his worn-out sneakers, nudging open a door with his shoulder and lying down gingerly on top of a mat. "Hey, Demyx?"

"Hmm?" The oldest of the group replies from his perch at the single window, turning his head so that the cold evening light casts his face into shadow. He glances automatically around the tiny room in a head-count before focusing his blue eyes upon Hayner. Old habits tend to die hard.

Hayner turns his attention to a bullet hole in the wall. "How is he?"

Demyx doesn't need him to specify who he's referring to. His fingers tighten around the neck of his guitar, and he pauses before answering. "No worse than yesterday. I was able to get him to eat a little something, but he needs clean water, which is something we don't have on demand. But he laughed!" Here, Demyx moves to face the room, a hopeful smile adorning his mouth. "He laughed -- I mean, I haven't been able to get him to do that since… Well, not in a long time."

Yuffie grins encouragingly and tugs on the end of Demyx's scarf, gesturing for him to sit down with her. He obliges, smile broadening, and pulls her onto his lap, resting his chin in the crook of her neck. "Hayner… what happened while you were out?"

"Nothing," the younger teen replies a bit too quickly, the tips of his ears flushing.

Pence rolls his eyes in response, but doesn't correct him. Even Demyx leaves it alone, shrugging and starting to play with the ends of Yuffie's hair.

There's a comfortable sort of quiet that rests lightly upon the tiny room, interrupted only by the constant wail of the frigid autumn wind. Demyx hums a Beatles medley while Yuffie begins to fall asleep on his lap, and Hayner stares at the ceiling, absently wondering why Pence feels the need to take pictures of him at this particular moment in time.

But Roxas has stopped coughing, so everyone is calm.


The door slams open with a jarring bang, causing everyone in the room to jump, and even those in the hallway outside turn to look in the doorway curiously.

Acidic eyes burn through the smoke-and-sinner's haze.

"I need to talk to Roxas," Axel snaps, breathing heavily, his usually smug face now pale with panic. "Now."

- - -

Lights surge and dim in the concrete cage, casting flickering shadows on the walls. The lower half of a broken crayon lies dejectedly in a corner, and muffled sobs are heard.

"I'm so very sorry," the white witch whispers, a pale hand trembling as it hovers over the scar - too jagged and scabbed and ugly to belong on a girl as beautiful as the one he's chosen. That pretty party dress of hers has become tattered and stained with an invasive sort of sin that reminds her of unwelcome thorns. "It hurts, doesn't it?" the makeshift artist sighs, and the prisoner shivers with her arms and legs bound.

He finds the ones he likes, the witch wants to say, and pulls them out by the roots. Ties them in knots and pulls off each petal until finally, you're nothing. A stem. Trash. Beware. She shuts her eyes, mimicking the darkness the other girl sees. Beware.

But her lips stay pressed together, not one word falling out, because she knows that there are ears hidden within the walls. His golden eyes glint from the doorway.

(I'm so, so sorry.)

- - -

The heels of his boots click ominously against the cold concrete floor, the red of his hair the only color visible as he paces back and forth. His hands clench into fists at his sides.

"You wanted to talk?" Roxas asks smoothly, eyes cold and impassive, but the pale hue of his skin betrays him. "I don't understand why nobody calls anymore."

Axel turns sharply to face him, and the manic lilt to his voice causes the younger man's face to soften in fear.

"Drop the act for just one fucking second, all right?" He lets out a humorless laugh. "I mean, look at you. You're falling apart. We're not invincible, Roxas." Sighing, Axel runs a hand through his shock of hair and grits his teeth before continuing. "Shit, that's what they're trying to fucking get across to you, and you're just sitting there letting them kill you!"

Roxas flinches. It's suddenly much too cramped in that small, damp room, and he just wants to get out. He makes a move toward the door, but Axel is too quick and grabs him by the shoulder.

"There's only one cure, Rox." And he knows, oh he knows. The poison is raw in his veins. "There's only one way. This isn't some fucking test for you to overcome and play the tortured hero! You are going to die!"

The blonde-haired boy scoffs and crosses his arms, his teeth digging into the inside of his cheek. "I won't be one of their puppets anymore."

And that's when it shatters.

Axel roars - a loud, exasperated yell that resonates from deep within his chest. Roxas can almost feel it envelop him in heat and rage and fire. Hands clench and unclench themselves at leather-clad sides. The room tilts to the left, and Roxas blinks hard to try and clear his head.

"What part of this don't you understand?!" Desperate eyes plead with the younger boy's, begging to be heard. The sharp points of Axel's fingers bite into Roxas' shoulders. "HE IS GOING TO KILL YOU! A-and fuck it, I-! I can't let that happen!" Shiver, shake, shudder, shock. Fear rolls off of the man in waves now; in shadows so dark and coarse that Roxas has to strain to see. Cracked fluorescent light glints off of Axel's face, and Roxas realizes that his friend is crying.

Crying. For him.

He… he can't handle this. This nausea that rises through him in thick, rolling waves of fear and remorse and desperation. It sweeps through the room, coating everything in a layer of soot and ash, and he just wants to go home, but where is home, anyway?

So Roxas does the only thing he knows how to.

He runs.

A/N: I am so sorry this took over a year! haha. uh... yeah. My bad. I've actually had this written for a hell of a long time, I just haven't gotten around to posting it. Oops. Sorry guys. I hope it's okay! I actually plan on continuing with this story, since I have a plot and all. don't hate me too much!