Title: The Five Steps

Genre: General

Summary: Denial - Anger - Bargaining - Depression - Acceptance.

Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. I just do it for your love.

The Five Steps


i. till the fat lady sings

Xemnas thinks it's like one of those patterns in nature, chemistry but with resource management. He observes his subordinates carefully before employing them, hand-picked from the same hungry pack into which all of their emptiness is sprung (such diversities, and yet, not so different). But there is always that wild card, the component part you don't expect. Catalysis is dangerous, speeds up processes which ought not be accelerated – though in theory the catalysts themselves remain unconsumed, right?

"He really will stop at nothing," he tells Saix, voice even. "You know what must be done."

His lieutenant bows silently, and is gone.


ii. dinner was never cold at my house

It will be years before Hayner learns how to move with a punch to the face – to take it the best he can, turn his head sideways so his jaw doesn't break – but in this moment he is fifteen, unsavvy. One minute he's stomping the pavement pretending every square inch of it is Seifer's retarded face; the next, his back is getting intimate with a solid brick wall.

"He never lost a fight when I was his best friend," the shadow hisses, inches from his face, smoke and sulfur. "What did Roxas see in you?"

"What?" Hayner manages to choke out through the blood in his mouth. "Who the hell is Roxas?"

The shadow seems to recoil from that. It shivers and shrinks, dissipates, leaving him crumpled in the dark alley, wearing its purple brand around his eyes, ghosts and demons rising in his mind.


iii. well, you've got your diamonds

The man who calls himself Axel jerks Kairi through the dark corridors, and dumps her on the ground in an unceremonious heap when they reach the other side. He leaves her there, bound and gagged. Slowly, she works a piece of shrapnel through her fingers. There's no telling when he'll be back.

Like, say, when she stops looking for one second.

"Relax," he says upon seeing her deer-in-headlight expression. "I brought you breakfast."

He pulls down her gag, and shoves a sandwich in her face expectantly. She takes a perfunctory bite. It tastes like sawdust.

To buy time, she asks, "Why are you doing this?"

"We don't choose our lots in life, you know," he says, rolling his shoulder. "Once upon a time – somebody loved me."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"It means what you want it to mean," he tells her, smiling crookedly. "Now shut your trap, I need to catch some sleep."

The metal edge bites dully into her palm. Soon.


iv. anti-depressant is a polite fiction

She finds him at the edge of the water, bruised and defeated and knocked down ten ways from Sunday, but still breathing. Given half a chance, he'll be up on his feet again, hurt but struggling through it, laughing loudly as he fights all the long-lost fights, lakes of blistering venom pooled behind his eyes. Naminé doesn't know what to think of that, so she curves her fingers around the angular bones of his shoulder instead, says his name softly.


"It's over, witch."

"What are you saying?"

"What's the point anymore? What good will fighting do?"

The air around him crackles like winter static. She shivers, finds no answer to give.

In the background, the sea murmurs quietly, white noise on a textureless day, neither weight nor flavor.


v. witness to a non-existent event

Sora stares at the same spot on the ground long after there's nothing left to focus on, until even he's feeling slightly stupid. His thigh muscles ache from prolonged squatting. He knows he should get going – who knows how long that portal will hold out, and he' s got to find Kairi, rescue her from her dungeon keep. Nevertheless, he stares a bit longer.

Death is a funny thing. It leaves no indentation, no silhouette where what used to be no longer is, and before he knows it, Donald's voice is in his ears, squawking, "Sora, are you okay? What's wrong with your eyes?"

He blinks, registers the stinging sharpness. It catches him by surprise, rising from some place within that's distinctly unvisceral, not of his flesh and soul. Echoingly vast and empty.

"Yeah. I'm just – not feeling quite like myself," he tells his companions, and pulling himself to his feet, walks on through.



Yet another story brought to you by It's All About Axel And Roxas, All The Time. What can I say, that's just how I roll.