Title: Blue Eyes
Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Pairings: Axel/Cloud, implied past Axel/Roxas, implied past Reno/Cloud
Warnings: Slight angst, AU, romance?
Word count: 4842
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts and its character, and neither do I own the various Final Fantasies and their characters.
Note: This is more of a FF7/KH crossover than a pure KH fic, actually. Instead of being native to Hollow Bastion, also known as Radiant Garden, Cloud was from the FF7-verse. Time wise, the fic starts before the events of Chain of Memories, and it's an AU because Roxas has already left the Organization by then and has gone missing.
Summary: They both saw someone else in each other. And while they may have loved each other, they loved the person they saw in the other more. Axel/Cloud
"You have such clear blue eyes, Cloud. I can just see myself reflected in them."
"You mean my eyes are red now, like they're sore and swollen."
"Oh, you wound me." A laugh filled with mock hurt, and a hand over his heart. "But I mean what I said. Your eyes are so clear. Like they can see through anything. Always stay that way, blue-eyes."
Sometimes, when Cloud closed his eyes, he could still see them. He could still see the way Zack always pouted when he ducked the other's hand that reached out towards him to ruffle his hair, still see his squad mates in Shinra making faces at the grub served in the cafeteria, and see his mother's sweet but teary smile as she waved him good luck and goodbye when he left his hometown to join Shinra.
But most of all, when he closed his eyes, he'd see the persistent redhead looking back into his eyes and comment on how clear they were.
And he'd always say so with a grin so wide, eyes so shiny with their teasing gleam, that Cloud never knew what to say in return except sarcasm.
Reno always did know how to push his buttons.
One of the few, too.
On a selfish note, maybe it was better for Cloud that Reno had perished along with their home world, when the Heartless launched their full-scale invasion. At the very least, there was one less person who flustered him.
Other times, when Cloud found himself smiling as those memories replayed themselves in his mind like they were a series of moving, yellowed photographs and he the only audience, he'd miss every single one of them so much it hurt to know they were all gone. More than once, he'd woken up with that accursed name on his lips and the silhouette of the redhead in his mind's eyes, and his arms would reach out of their own accord to grab him.
But there was only air in his grasp, and the name was a taboo in the day and never spoken.
Axel's entry into his life was a quirk of fate.
After the destruction of his home world, Cloud had hopped from world to world, never sure of where he was going and where he would end up at. It didn't really bother him anyway, so he didn't care much for the places he saw, the people he met. Occasionally – just occasionally! – he'd spy a mob of messy red crown and hold his breath, only to feel himself deflate when he took a closer look.
He chastised himself severely for those times, and bullied his hopeful heart into acknowledging that no one from his home world had survived.
It was some time later that he ended up at the Coliseum, selling his soul for something he'd deceived himself into thinking was still important. Hades was cunning like that. Then Sora had come running with his giant keyblade and in a measure of power and what Cloud hoped was luck, freed him from his contract.
Free again, Cloud drifted once more. This time, he had a more definite destination, the world where Sora said he'd met Aeris, Yuffie and Cid.
He allowed a bit of hope to infiltrate his heart and started looking out for the mob of messy red hair again.
Arriving at the newly recaptured Hollow Bastion, he met up with his old friends, and while he was elated to find them alive and well, he couldn't help but let his eyes roam the horizon for that little speck of red. However, after a few months of defending and rebuilding a world that wasn't his own and few newcomers arrived, he knew it just wasn't meant to be. He refused to feel disappointment when no one with such wild hair turned up.
Just two days after he'd finally given up, someone with wild, flaming red hair suddenly popped up in the Crystal Fissure.
Popped probably wasn't the most apt word, but it was the only one that came to Cloud's mind when someone stepped out of a dark portal without any warning.
Normally, Cloud's first instincts would be to draw his sword and charge. Anything that stepped out of dark portals was never anything welcomed in Hollow Bastion.
But the crown of red hair stilled his actions long enough for the other to notice him, and while the man's hands reached out to seemingly ready his weapons, they never appeared. Instead, the other man's actions stilled too, the moment their eyes met. He looked at him long and hard, eyebrows knit together and eyes full of caution, but he never attacked.
That was the first time Cloud met Axel.
"You know, you look a lot like someone I'm looking for."
"…Your eyes are so blue. So clear. And your hair. He's a blond too."
"If it makes any difference, you look like someone I used to know."
"You have his hair. So red. And the tattoos under your eyes. He had something like that too."
"So where's the guy?"
"…Where's the person you're looking for?"
Sometimes it felt like a betrayal to the rest of the restoration committee and Hollow Bastion, to not report the Nobody who lurked around in his now not-so-private sanctuary and who slunk in and out of their world like it was his favourite playground. That, Cloud supposed, effectively made the Crystal Fissure Axel's sandbox.
Other times, when Cloud arrived at the place and sat down with not so much as a grunt, and when Axel would wander over to ruffle his hair and say, "Rough day?", it felt like just the right thing to do, to keep quiet about the Nobody's continued presence in their town.
He and Axel didn't fight. They never fought, even at their first meeting. And somehow, that felt like the most obvious thing to do in the world.
Neither questioned the status quo between them outright, though Cloud had asked himself why several times. While he couldn't answer why he shouldn't point his weapon at Axel's throat, he couldn't answer why he should, either. Axel hadn't done anything threatening towards Hollow Bastion. He just seemed to… come and go, almost like he was just going somewhere else and Hollow Bastion was just a quick stopover.
But quick stopovers soon became long visits, and Cloud started to feel uneasy when he didn't see Axel for extended periods of time.
He'd wondered if it was the same for Axel until he learned to read the redhead well enough to notice the subtle sincerity in the man's lopsided smirks.
Then the long visits turned into extended stays, sometimes lasting two or even three days. How he remained undiscovered by anyone else apart from Cloud remained a mystery, though Cloud supposed that could be chalked to the restoration committee designating the Crystal Fissure as being under his protection and patrol only.
It was during one of those stays that things, for lack of a better word, changed.
Axel was a talker. Cloud was not. Therefore, it was quite inevitable that when they met up, Axel would use up the word quota for them both and more. He talked about lots of things, mostly mundane and unimportant things like the last world he had visited before hopping by for a visit and even stuff like that disgusting sea-salt ice cream, which Cloud could never understand why the redhead still ate frequently despite commenting once that it tasted quite vile.
But that day, Cloud was in no mood to listen to such things. The town had just welcomed its latest inhabitant, a young redhead wandering around after losing his world to the Heartless, a day earlier, and at first glance, Cloud could almost convince himself that man was the infuriating redhead he'd known in his youth, except he knew he wasn't.
When Axel visited with stories of his latest visits to a world named Port Royal, the blond sat down behind him and before he knew it, his fingers were running through the spiky red crown, combing them, caressing them. Axel seemed to like the attention enough to not fidget much as his mouth continued to run off with his tales and escapades, and if he noticed Cloud doing up his hair into a long ponytail, he did not say a thing about it. He only stopped talking when Cloud turned him around, and after a short moment of hesitation, pressed their lips together.
In return, Axel pushed Cloud down onto the dirt, not breaking their kiss for even one second. The kiss was hungry and rushed, like they had both been starved and deprived of this affection and they wanted, needed the compensation the other offered. Hands roamed and clothes disappeared, and soon, there was just a ragged syncopation of gasps and moans that held more meaning than language could ever have given them.
At the end of it all, Axel had whispered a single name with a desperation so painful to hear, but it wasn't Cloud's.
And Axel's hair stayed in that ponytail through it all.
While Cloud didn't know much about Axel, he did know the redhead once had a best friend in Organization XIII. The boy, Sora's Nobody, was a traitor now though. Axel was apparently tasked to find the boy, that much Cloud had heard, and Hollow Bastion had been one of the places Axel had searched, but he didn't know how the redhead's continued visits here was going to help with that. If anything, it just signaled to Cloud that Axel was reluctant to actually find him.
Like not seeing someone would herd the pain and drive it into the deepest recesses of the heart.
Cloud had experienced too much to know that never worked.
Of course, that was provided Nobodies could really feel, though Cloud had also experienced too much to be given the benefit of doubt.
For a Nobody, Axel seemed to crave human touch too much to be healthy, and he often pulled Cloud to sit down with him in the Crystal Fissure, leaning their bodies so closely together it was difficult to remember where one ended and the started. On those days, they didn't do much. Just sitting there, feeling each other's warmth, their fingers intertwined in a loose grasp as they both gazed listlessly into nothing and their minds wandering the labyrinths of memories. Perhaps on those days, Axel relived some of them.
Cloud knew he did.
On other days, when Axel was feeling frisky, they would kiss and nip and caress and their hands would careen across the other's body, sometimes in light whispers and sometimes in rough strokes. But no matter which way they went about it, the end result was always the same. As their lungs remembered to breathe and feel the sting of the cuttingly cold wind, as the perspiration on their bodies glowed under the eternal moon, they would look at each other for the longest time. The intoxicating heady late night breathed magic into their ears, and without warning, driven by something so base and primal that nothing could have stopped it, their lips would be drawn together to devour the other. Once, twice. And once more.
They didn't think of the future. They never did. It was quite a pointless thing to do. They both knew there was none for them.
Axel visited maybe twice a week, sometimes even more than that. Whenever he did, Cloud would already be at their secret place, silently waiting. Somehow, they just seemed to know each other's schedule. It would have been creepy if they hadn't cared so much.
On those days, Cloud would avoid the other members of the restoration committee. Most of the time, they didn't say much. They were already used to Cloud coming and leaving as he liked, and as long as Cloud did not leave the town, they were happy. Aeris, in particular, didn't want to pressure him too much and force him to leave prematurely. Not when the other worlds were still so unstable and unsafe, she'd said, but everyone could see the gleam of worry in her eyes, that she worried the blond swordsman would leave and never come back because he didn't want to.
But the other townspeople weren't so sensitive, nor did they have an eye as keen as Aeris' to know that Cloud disliked being asked for his whereabouts and daily habits.
Sometimes Scrooge would wag a curious eyebrow at him and comment offhandedly that he'd not seen Cloud patrolling the town area for a few days. Other days, the triplets that ran the items store would be the ones asking him the question. In fact, everyone seemed to take turns asking him that irritating question.
"I've been busy," he'd say when he was feeling less vindictive than usual, though those days were rare. Usually he'd just shrug, or on his worse days, smirk inwardly as the person wilted under the weight of his wordless stare.
He tried not to bring his foul mood to the Crystal Fissure. Axel had enough problems of his own to deal with his.
Like what to tell his superior why he kept returning empty handed. Like how to get his water sprite of a teammate to stop dousing him with water whenever he returned alone. And like how he kept disappearing at all hours of the day.
Cloud never asked him for details. But he'd learnt early into their torrid affair that the corners of Axel's piercing emerald eyes always drooped whenever he smirked to cover up the pressure. He saw more action on those days, like Axel was trying to forget something but at the same time, remembering something he'd lost with greater clarity than before.
Cloud always had to cast a heal spell -as well as he could manage one- on himself before setting foot into town again after that. He'd brushed off his bleeding lips once, and that set the others off in a Heartless hunting frenzy after he lied that he'd gotten into some fights in the outskirts. Axel couldn't come for weeks.
Maybe it was because of his roughness on those occasions that Axel never seemed to mind the days when Cloud got rough too. Oh, the redhead would merely give him a lazy grin when they were finished and invite him for seconds, or even thirds, if they were up for it.
"What do you tell the others when you come here?"
"Nothing much. They don't really care where I go or what I do. Caring is not what the Organization does."
"Heh, what? Are you concerned for me?"
"You might be the first person to care for me."
"…I never found out if he cared for me, before he left. He probably didn't, if he wouldn't stay even when I asked him to." Mirthless laugh. "And you? Did he care for you?"
"He might have, but I didn't manage to find out before our world collapsed. But he used to make fun of me a lot."
Whatever he had with Axel, it didn't stop him from fighting the Heartless and Nobodies that popped up in Hollow Bastion.
And Cloud knew that Axel didn't stop working for the Organization either, and sometimes, in the rare occasions when Axel would forget himself, he'd hear a little bit about Sora who was still trying to find his way home. But like how Cloud never told Axel about Hollow Bastion's security systems, Axel also never told him much about what he was doing when they weren't together.
Perhaps they were trying to make amends to their respective co-workers, by pretending, when they were together, that the other aspects of their dirty lives did not exist.
Perhaps keeping secrets was their way of maintaining their relationship, and dear gods, but they wanted to keep their relationship for as long as they could.
What they had wasn't a stress relief, wasn't an outlet to vent their frustrations on.
It wasn't a habit. They both had to make conscious efforts to keep their relationship going, so it couldn't be a habit they'd fallen into.
It wasn't love either.
So what did they have, anyway?
Cloud had no idea.
But whatever it was, it was something they both wanted. It was something that made them feel so intimate and close and in love, and simultaneously made them feel so distanced and detached and in lust.
It was a… nice feeling, and they both ached for it.
Time came and went, Cloud's memories of Sora faded until the boy's existence was all but erased from his mind, Axel joked about the Organization's loss of 5 members overnight almost gleefully, and things remained the same between them. No one had discovered their relationship still, they both went about killing (or in Axel's case, attempting to) each other's comrades, and under the watchful eyes of their secret place, their hands and lips continued to roam.
It was one day that Axel suddenly arrived in usually high spirits that made Cloud wary of whatever news the redhead had.
"I think I know where he is."
What else could Cloud do but give the redhead a pat on the shoulders, a trembling smile, and send him along his way?
Over the next few days, the other members of the restoration committee and even the townspeople learnt to leave him to his own devices as his mind wandered off at the most inopportune times and in the rare occasions when he didn't, Cloud would not talk to anyone and glared even more aggressively than usual at those who refused to leave him alone.
Then Axel returned, just as suddenly as he had appeared that day, shell-shocked and forlorn. Even his flaming red hair had lost its luster and that little droop of his eyes when he was upset was replaced by a slump in his shoulders.
Wandering into Cloud's arms in the Crystal Fissure, he'd leaned into him entirely like a sack of deadweight wordlessly, tucking his head under Cloud's and dragging him down with him onto the dusty ground in a crumble. By the time the redhead had managed to recompose himself, the moon and stars were already peeking down at them and lighting up their eyes with diamond sparkles. Under the veil of darkness, Cloud had felt something wet his shoulder.
Cloud only tightened his arms around Axel.
After that, Axel's visits became more frequent, though he stayed for shorter periods of time for fear of being caught by the Organization that was now after him. Cloud never asked him what he did in those pockets of time when he wasn't around, but he had an idea and he needed no confirmation. It was the same thing that he did whenever he left Hollow Bastion, spurred by the need to verify the identity of the redhead he'd heard new arrivals to the town talk about.
As much as he wanted to stop, the incessant egging of his heart to seek out the redhead in those rumors kept him flying to the gummi ship every time it happened. A man with hair as red as hell's fire done up in a low ponytail, he'd heard once, and his feet brought him to the gummi hangar faster than he'd ever run. But each time, every single time, he only built himself up for more disappointment and he'd return to Aeris' worried, teary smiles, Leon's concerned frown and Yuffie's wobbling lips.
Cid had asked him once, what he was trying to find.
Cloud merely shook his head, and the mechanic knew better than to prod further.
After every useless trip, he'd wander to the Crystal Fissure and somehow, Axel would already be there. And when Cloud got closer, the redhead would offer a hand and Cloud always took it. They never talked much on those days, preferring to dwell in a comfortable silence as they leaned against each other.
Days like that that made Cloud reconsider what he was trying to do, to find. Wasn't it easier to just stay here? Axel knew what he needed, and he knew how to handle Axel.
But when the next rumour reached his ears, he'd sprint off immediately as if on instinct.
He couldn't forget, and he knew, neither could Axel, because the amount of time he spent looking into his blue eyes became longer and longer.
But he didn't want Axel to leave either. Ever. He wanted Axel to stay, with him, for as long as it was possible. The thought of the redhead never returning to him scared him more than he dared to say, frightened him more than he thought was possible.
And though Cloud still fought the Heartless and Nobodies, everyone around him commented that he seemed to have lost that reckless abandon he'd once fought with. He was being more careful and took fewer chances, they said. Aeris had been especially elated when Cloud came to her one day and asked her to heal the deep gash on his arm. He'd claimed that he didn't want the wound to get infected, and she healed him with a green swirl of magic and smiled.
"You're learning to love yourself," she'd said. "Have you found something to live for?"
Cloud could find no words to refute her, so he grunted with much less venom that he would have liked and left for the Crystal Fissure immediately.
Axel was already waiting for him by the time he got there, his hair meticulously smoothed down and gathered in a ponytail. He grinned at the look of surprise that had no doubt taken over Cloud's face, and he held out a hand.
"I knew you were coming here today…" he said, then as if on second thoughts, he added almost hesitantly, "…yo."
It started as a light chuckle, one that escalated gradually into a loud, choked laugh that hurt his throat, and then, the blond started laughing like he'd never laughed. When Axel came closer to pat his back and make sure Cloud wasn't going to choke on his laughter and fall over, Cloud straightened up and pulled him into a kiss so deep it was like they'd never kissed before.
Maybe… just maybe… this would be enough. Axel would be enough. Cloud would be enough.
"It's going to end soon."
"You mean Sora's fight against the Organization?"
"Where will you go? After that."
"…Will you take me in?"
"It'll be difficult, but we might be able to convince the restoration committee to accept you."
"I'll come here then, if I survive till the end."
"Are you planning on fighting Sora?"
"Is there a point in fighting him, now that you're no longer in the Organization?"
"You're worried about me." A laugh. "Don't. I'll come back, when everything's over."
When Axel appeared one day not in the Crystal Fissure but the long, winding road that led up to it, Cloud had, understandably panicked and immediately shoved them both into their usual spot. Once in there, Cloud was about to chastise the redhead when he noticed the uncharacteristic solemnity on the other's face and words, fighting with one another to be spoken, died on his tongue.
In that instant, Cloud knew.
Suddenly hesitant to touch the other, he slowly removed his hands that were covering Axel's.
Axel steadied his wavering hand with a tight grasp, and turning it over, he pressed something hard into Cloud's palm before wrapping his fingers together like they were a clasp. He nodded intently when Cloud gazed up at him.
Letting his fingers open hesitantly, he blinked at the item.
"A… blue stone?"
"It reminded me of you."
Cloud crinkled his nose. "What do you want me to do with it?"
"Keep it or throw it. Doesn't really matter. I just picked it up in the world before I came here." Axel shrugged and raised his hand, a dark portal summoned to his side almost immediately.
"Sora's finding a way into The World That Never Was, but he won't make it without someone who actually knows how to get in."
Despite the honest truth in those words and the desire to help Sora, the pang in his heart did not abate. If anything, it just seemed to exacerbate the pain.
"He's no longer there," he said simply, spitefully, cruelly. The grin within him was just one bit away from surfacing on his lips when Axel's body stiffened.
The redhead met his eyes. "He's not been there ever since Sora absorbed him." His voice was even.
Cloud returned his gaze, his grip tightening on the little blue stone until it dug almost painfully into his skin. Looking at Axel preparing to leave, he merely stood there silently.
Then, Axel paused mid-step and he turned around, a sardonic smile playing on his lips. "You know something? Lately I've been thinking. What if Nobodies didn't remember their past lives? What if I were Reno's" –Cloud cringed at the way the name rolled off Axel's tongue- "Nobody? And what if during my weariness and aimlessness, I'd found an anchor in someone with the same blue eyes and blond hair as someone else who'd meant something to me, when I'd still been Reno?"
Cloud did not say a word.
"Wouldn't that have been interesting? And that would explain a lot of things, wouldn't it? Like why you didn't fight me the first time we met, or why I didn't even ready my weapons back then. And it would certainly explain why we keep doing what we do, wouldn't it?
"But," Axel's voice lowered, "it's just a what-if. Nobodies /do/ have memories of their past lives, so I know I'm not his Nobody and that blue-eyed blonds held no special meaning to me. At least, not like what redheads mean to you.
"So… I want to know."
The smile disappeared, and the dead solemnity that had haunted Axel when he'd arrived earlier was back.
"What am I to you?"
Words clamoured up Cloud's throat, desperate to be enunciated and given meaning to, but they choked up and Cloud found none to express himself. Once, when Axel had kissed him so tenderly and gathered him into his arms and told him he wanted to come back to Cloud after everything was over, Cloud had fooled himself into believing that it could have been real. And the day when Axel had done up his hair in a ponytail just to cheer him up, he'd deceived himself into having faith that they were enough for each other.
Then the redhead took one deep gaze of his blue eyes, those eyes tracing his blond hair framing his face, and he castigated himself for the romantic foolishness.
There was only one thing to say to Axel. From the moment Axel had first laid eyes on him and commented on his clear, blue eyes, Cloud had always known what the redhead wanted to hear.
"You are… the red in Reno's hair."
"Hmph." Axel's shrugged like he'd already expected the answer, but there was no denying the way his lips curled almost bitterly. Without another word, he turned around and walked away, throwing a careless wave with his hand before disappearing into the dark portal he'd conjured up just a moment ago. The darkness dissipated quickly, leaving no traces behind, and if Cloud hadn't kept the blue stone tightly fisted in his palm, he'd have thought Axel had never been here.
And somehow, he knew Axel would never come again.
Because despite everything, to Axel, Cloud was just the blue in Roxas' eyes.
"Cloud? You really do love hanging out in the Crystal Fissure, don't you?"
"Is there anything, Sora?"
"I was just wondering… have you ever been in love?"
"I'm about to leave for home already, but something bothers me. I think Riku likes me, and… I think I may return his feelings. But I just wanted to talk to someone who knows how it's really like, just to make sure, you know? Otherwise, it's going to be weird, since Riku and I stay so close to each other and we grew up together. I've asked everyone else already, but I don't think they've ever been in love."
"And you think I have?"
"Maybe? So, have you?"
"…If I have, it was a lifetime ago."
"…Go talk to Leon. He had a girlfriend once."
"… …Are all the Organization members… really gone?"
"…Yeah. Can't say I hate all of them, but… I made sure they're all gone. Don't worry about them. They won't bother anyone anymore. Anyway, bye Cloud! I'll see you next time!"
Sounds of hurried steps pattered away.
A little blue stone.
A faint, wistful smile.
A/N: So how was that for my first Axel/Cloud/Axel fic? I hope it was okay! XD If you liked it, enjoyed it, aww-ed over it, then I hope you'll take some time off to review and comment! Reviews are always much love and motivational!
In any case, if you're confused about the setting and timeline of this fic, it was already stated in my first author's note before the fic started. If you missed it, here it is again.
This is more of a FF7/KH crossover than a pure KH fic, actually. Instead of being native to Hollow Bastion, also known as Radiant Garden, Cloud was from the FF7-verse. Time wise, the fic starts before the events of Chain of Memories, and it's an AU because Roxas has already left the Organization by then and has gone missing.