He was able to piece together what happened afterwards from the story in the New York Times; the clarity of the images, of what he was able to put between the lines, was the most painful thing he'd ever experienced, but that didn't come until after the initial panic attack, the one where he ended up hyperventilating on the floor of an internet café in Shaanxi Province, surrounded by concerned locals who wanted to know in various degrees of comprehensible English if he needed a doctor.

He didn't. Any competent doctor would've just told him that he needed rest, that he needed to go to sleep and never wake up.

Eight thirty in the morning the day he'd left. One member of the terrorist group known as the Organization had been spotted at the Montréal airport. He'd been recognized from a photo that had been delivered anonymously to American authorities the day before.

Roxas could see Saïx dropping an envelope off with the FBI, grinning that feral grin of his the entire time. He could see Axel hanging around the terminal until Roxas's plane was supposed to take off, to make sure nothing went wrong.

They'd recognized him right away, one of the American agents involved had said. They had no jurisdiction, but there had been swift negotiations in what was considered by the government an emergency situation, and FBI agents had been placed with Canadian authorities after an initial tip from a border guard after that photo of Axel was sent out to them.

It had been too late to stop them from crossing, Roxas realized, but not too late to try to stop them from leaving the country.

The distinctive tattoos, the same agent said in the same quote, had made identification that much easier. It was a mystery why he hadn't thought to cover them.

Roxas realized that Axel had been spotted on purpose; he must have recognized the Feds when he was there the way all of the members of the Organization could spot them a mile away. He could see Axel panicking, realizing that Roxas might be in trouble. He could see Axel quickly wiping the makeup off his cheeks with his sleeve, sure that that was the only way he'd be recognized. And he could see Axel walking right by them, entirely on purpose, glancing over at them from the corner of emerald eyes to make sure that they were looking.

And he'd run, the article said.

Running wasn't as stupid as it sounded, Roxas knew. The Organization did not run the way normal people ran, just like they didn't lift the same amount as normal people or react as slowly as normal people. Running was probably a halfway decent idea.

But he was shot outside the terminal. When they approached he was balled up on the ground, breathing raggedly and glaring daggers at them. "Stop," he'd said when they were getting close, and they had, because they wanted him alive if possible, but if he was alive he was still dangerous.

Roxas could understand why Axel had done what he did, because in his head he could hear his lover's voice explaining it to him. I wasn't going to get away. I was going to either die, or survive and be locked up for the rest of my life. He could hear himself screaming at Axel that he was selfish, that he should've lived for Roxas's sake, because this was going to kill him too. And he could hear Axel replying, I never would have seen you again. You'd want me to live like that?

And then Axel had blown himself up. Outside the Montréal airport he'd fucking blown himself up. He'd left several agents badly burned but in stable condition, and that was that. That was Axel's legacy. Purposely irritating to the very end, his last words had been, "Watch this."

Roxas couldn't even bring himself to hate Axel for leaving him like this. He hated everything else, hated it as best he could. But mostly he was just numb. He stayed where he'd arranged to meet his lover, and he refused to let go. The people who ran the guesthouse on top of the North Peak couldn't figure out why he'd been there for more than a week, going out each day to stare at the same breathtaking views and coming back each night, barely breathing a word. In fact, they frequently tried to subtly hint that maybe it was time for him to leave, to go home – presumably back to America, where maybe he should look into mental help.

They didn't say that, of course. They didn't kick him out, either, because he made them let him stay by paying them a lot of money to have the smallest room in the hostel to himself. They had other guests, and Roxas made everyone uncomfortable with the air of despondency he seemed to permanently dwell in, but the owners weren't crazy enough to turn down cash. He paid them so much they didn't even make him change his currency; they just took the American dollars and said that it was no problem, no problem at all, they'd have it exchanged themselves.

Roxas ate terribly. The most he could manage was plain white rice, which was fortunately easily accessible but which unfortunately still couldn't stand up to the nausea that periodically overtook him. He was already beginning to lose weight, and he hardly had any extra weight to lose in the first place.

Roxas functioned terribly. He couldn't stand being around anyone for more than a few minutes. He was unable to get himself to do a thing besides either lie in bed staring at the ceiling or go out onto the mountain to stare at the landscape, always unseeing. He couldn't seem to hold a thought for more than ten seconds at the time – except if it was about Axel, and all thoughts about Axel led back to that same incomprehensible fact that he would never see him again.

Roxas slept terribly. He would lie down in bed and be unable to fall asleep. It would always come eventually, though sometimes only every other night, because his body became so exhausted it really had absolutely no choice. When he would finally succeed, it was terrible sleep, frequently interrupted. 

He made it to REM a few times and woke up with nightmares worse than any he'd ever imagined before. He was pale and gaunt, with dark rings around his eyes constantly. He overheard one Australian couple asking a staff member if the tiny American boy was sick or even dying. He didn't even have it in him to laugh.

He did think about dying. There were all sorts of places to jump here, all of them easily accessible. He couldn't do it, though; he couldn't let his brother read about yet another death in the paper. He'd probably do it when the pain really hit, when it became too much. He'd die when he simply couldn't live anymore; he owed that much to himself, maybe. At least he owed it to Sora. He'd hang on as long as he could.

He thought about writing to Sora and Riku and telling them he'd made it and that he was okay. Except that he wasn't okay, so he didn't write.


Sora had worried about Roxas, and Riku had worried about Sora. It had been bad the first couple days. When Riku had been gone and Sora had been home, he hadn't eaten; the best Riku had been able do was make him dinner in the evening and get him to stomach as much as he could. And he couldn't sleep, so Riku had gotten up in the middle of the night and sat on him and forced him to lie on his stomach and put up with a massage until he'd had no choice but to relax enough to drift off.

The Keyblade had been called out once; someone had robbed a bank. It had taken him a half hour to clear that situation up. The rest of the time that Riku had seen him he spent staring at a wall, or out the window, or into a half-drunk glass of water.

Trying to figure out how to deal with a morose fiancé had been hard for Riku; usually he was the sulky, or at least overly-serious one, and Sora was the ray of sunshine that came home from doing someone else's job for them simply because he did it more efficiently and was still able to have that grin on his face and that bounce in his step. Of course Riku was too smart and far too close to Sora to think that inside, the brunette was some sort of happy machine powered by the hopes and dreams of all the little children; he'd seen that exterior crack. It had been absent more and more frequently for weeks – weeks, Riku realized, in which Roxas had been seeing Axel and regaining his memories. Sora hadn't really known what was going on, but he had good instincts like that, and even Riku in his minimal interactions with Roxas had known that something was up.

It had been difficult for Riku not to worry about Roxas and even Axel as well, for their own sake as well as Sora's. He was a human being with human compassion, no matter what Roxas or many of his coworkers thought. Sora, on the other hand, had been driving himself mad, but he seemed to at least partially believe Riku when he said that it was going to be fine.

Riku was one of the first to know that it wasn't going to be fine. His job was on unsteady ground at the moment, but there hadn't been time to start an inquiry just yet, so right now he was on something of probation. But he still found out about Axel just as soon as anyone else at the bureau, because he was the one officially charged with the task of going home and telling Sora. The past couple days he was wondering more and more if somehow he'd unknowingly, accidentally been such an awful person that he'd earned his way into his own personal hell.

Sora was staring out the window when Riku arrived home. He'd turned the armchair in the living room toward the plate glass balcony doors to do so, and he had a mug of tea clutched tightly in his hands. It was full, and it wasn't steaming; he'd been sitting there with it, not drinking, for quite a while. The tea had been made with the intention of helping Sora to relax a bit, but he hadn't even been able to relax enough to drink it.

After a few moments of just watching his lover with pursed lips and the concerned look he'd been wearing almost constantly for the past three days, Riku went over and knelt down in front of him, gently taking the mug from Sora's hands and setting it aside on the oak floor, far enough away and close enough to the balcony door that for the moment it wouldn't be knocked over. Sora looked down at him, waiting for him to say whatever it was he obviously had to.

"I don't know how to say this," Riku mumbled. It was the same thing he'd said right before one of the very best moments of Sora's life thus far, when he'd asked to marry him. But it was also the same thing he'd said right before one of the very worst moments of Sora's life thus far, when he'd found out that Roxas had run out on the Deus Project, permanently disabling someone and becoming a wanted criminal in the process. His stomach twisted in on itself; he was pretty sure he wasn't about to be proposed to again.

Riku reached up to massage his temples with both hands, squeezing his eyes shut and taking a deep breath. Then he seemed to rethink that and reached out to grab one of Sora's hands, squeezing it tightly in preemptive comfort. All of this only served to make Sora even more tense, and he was getting ready to tell Riku just to blurt it out when Riku did just that.

"Axel is dead."

Sora had been breathing out, and now that exhalation just kept going until his lungs were almost painfully empty, and then he drew in a sharp, hard breath that hurt just as much as the lack of air had. Riku heard that, felt the way Sora's hand went slack and then tightened in his own, and knew that his lover was probably struggling over what to say first, not what to say at all. He ducked his head slightly, trying to hide behind his bangs the way he had when he was younger and was about to get yelled at and probably grounded for some transgression. This was a thousand times worse, even though he hadn't done anything wrong and wasn't in any sort of trouble.

It was true that a hundred questions were crowding his mind, trying to get out first, but finally Sora breathed, "Fuck. Fuck. Tell me Roxas… Riku, is Rox… oh god…"

Shaking his head frantically, Riku said immediately, "No, Sora, he's fine, as far as I know he's fine; we haven't seen him, they've still got no clue where he is. They weren't together."

"Why not?!"

Riku sighed slightly; he should've expected that Sora wouldn't be thinking quite straight. "I told them to travel separately, remember?"

Sora nodded, brain still playing catch-up with itself after having ground completely to a stop as he tried to convince himself that everything that Riku had just said was both true and okay. And that was when it hit him that Axel was dead. The man who'd looked like his world was ending when he lost Roxas, who'd risked his freedom and life to track Roxas down, whom Roxas had given up everything for, he was gone.

Both the fact that that man had died and the fact that Roxas was going to have to deal with the loss of everything he had left really hit him at once, like a punch in the gut that left him feeling dizzyingly nauseous. And it only got worse as his mind worked backwards in the next few moments, to the fact that he'd let them leave like that without doing more to help, to the fact that he'd had Roxas kidnapped, to the fact that he'd gotten Roxas into Deus in the first place. He was supposed to help people; he'd spent the past decade of his life doing exactly that. How had he fucked up his own brother's life so badly?

"Fuck," he said, the word a simple statement. He pushed himself out of his chair all at once and stumbled into the bathroom. Riku hesitated a moment until he realized where Sora was going and then ran after him, sitting behind him and brushing his hair back from his forehead as he found that Sora hadn't even eaten enough in the past day or so to throw anything back up.

After a minute, Sora just slumped back onto the floor, the worst of the nausea abating. He sat back against the opposite wall of the small bathroom and buried his face in his hands, trying to get something of a grip back on himself, physically or mentally, preferably both. He could feel tears burning the backs of his eyes, threatening to spill over, but he drew in a deep, shuddering breath and concentrated on not losing it even worse. When Riku reached over to touch his hair again, he shook his head quickly and moved away. Riku frowned, but he understood.

"What the hell happened?" Sora asked after a moment. He fixed his eyes on the floor in front of him, concentrating on the almost imperceptible little imperfections in the way the tile had been laid.

Riku was quiet for a moment before he took a deep breath and moved from a crouching to a sitting position. "They caught him in Montréal, at the airport, alone. As far as they could tell he didn't even have any luggage with him."

Sora looked up at that. "If they were traveling separately, if he was there with no luggage, maybe that means—"

"I don't know, Sora," Riku said immediately. It wasn't that he thought Sora was wrong; it was just that he hated to talk in possibilities. He found it counterproductive, and Sora knew that. Riku continued, "He was shot, outside the airport. It wasn't fatal, or at least not instantaneously, but… he blew himself up, Sora. Instead of being arrested. No one was killed, just burned badly, but the Canadians are irate; they're refusing to cooperate anymore, and I don't—"

"He what? Riku, did you say he fucking killed himself?"

A wince; Riku had known this was coming. He'd hoped that by continuing to talk maybe he'd avoid Sora flipping out, but apparently not. "Sora…"

"That idiot! That stupid fucking moron, what was he thinking?! Didn't he know what that would do to Roxas? Roxas is out there somewhere, alone, Riku, and either he knows about this and he's having a nervous breakdown or he doesn't know about it and he has no idea where Axel is or what happened to him and—"

"Sora, this is going to press."

Stopping short, Sora just stared at Riku for a long moment, his expression one of utter disbelief. "But the other one, Loki, they—"

"This was in Canada, and in public, not here on government property. It's probably breaking news right now. They had me haul ass home to tell you before you heard about it on TV. You're supposed to be the first to know about this stuff and they thought it'd make us look really bad if you got the information from someone else."

The tears were still barely being held back, but now as much from anger as pain, and Sora's face was still getting redder and he was beginning to tremble. "That stupid… stupid fucking… nn, god, what the hell was he thinking? I'd kill him if he hadn't done it himself!"

Riku's jaw dropped. In three years of knowing Sora, that was the only time he'd heard him say anything of that sort. "Sora, I know this is bad, this is really bad, but you've gotta be able to understand even a little what Axel—"

"No! I don't want to understand! There's no excuse; did he think there were any circumstances where Roxas would rather have him dead than alive?!" Sora exclaimed, shaking his head violently and looking at Riku like the very idea of having any sort of sympathy for Axel was now unthinkable. Riku knew very well that as soon as the initial shock wore off and he had a little time to think about it, Sora would be 

grieving for Axel for the man's own sake as well as Roxas's. Sora's heart was too big for his own good, always had been. The fact that he was reacting this way surprised Riku, but he understood where it was coming from now that it was happening.

Sora blamed himself for repeatedly letting Roxas down, that much was obvious. The fact that Axel had done the same even after knowing Sora's mistakes was infuriating. Axel was supposed to be the one who didn't fuck Roxas over, who tried to stop other people from doing so, at least in Sora's mind. His nails were digging into his palms painfully, his hands were clenched so tight, and he had to squeeze his eyes shut and concentrate on breathing for the time being.

"Sora, you have to calm down," Riku murmured. "Be grateful that Roxas wasn't involved in this."

The expression that Sora looked up to give him made Riku visibly wince. "Not directly involved," he corrected quietly.

"We've got to get a hold of him, Riku. He's alone, he needs somebody. I have to—fuck, I have to find him!"

"You know that's not possible," Riku said bluntly, though his voice was gentle. " Who knows where Roxas is or what he's doing? Sora, he's strong, and he can take care of himself, no matter what. He'll get in contact with us when he's ready."

"And when do you suppose that'll be?" Sora asked, a hint of bitterness entering his voice. He knew as well as Riku that it wasn't going to be right away.

"A while," Riku said, looking down and letting his bangs fall into his face again. "Assume that he's gonna have to take a little time to heal. If I lost you, I wouldn't want to talk to anyone about it. I wouldn't discuss it with anybody, and I definitely wouldn't write anyone a letter about anything. I wouldn't put up with any more human contact than absolutely necessary."

"What would you do if you lost me, Riku?"

Riku didn't vocalize an answer to that, because he already knew what Sora was thinking. I'd die.

It was obvious that Sora was collecting himself to yell again, not at Riku, never at Riku, just at the world in general, but then there was a knock, muffled by having to travel through most of the apartment but still more than loud enough to be heard. Sora didn't say anything, just looking back down at the floor with an intensity that clearly said that he was not going to answer it and that he didn't care whether or not Riku did either.

Even though he was reluctant to leave Sora just sitting in the bathroom like that, Riku got up and went to answer the door. He hadn't had the faintest idea who to expect there, except maybe people from his 

work, but he still wasn't surprised to find Naminé standing outside. Roxas hadn't spoken to her before leaving, not so much as a call or an email.

Riku had asked him several times if he wanted to go see his oldest friend one more time before the tracking chip came out, but he'd flat-out refused. He'd write her a letter when he got where he was going, he'd said. If she wanted to see him anymore she could come see him the same way Sora and Riku would have to – a long way away and once in a long while. Sora had to live with his guilt and Riku had to live with the same, he'd said. This hadn't been Naminé's fault, but she'd complied, she'd lied to him and invented memories, given him a life he hadn't lived. She wasn't going to get a goodbye, and that was the price she paid.

It had been difficult not to notice, Riku mused, that unlike everything else in the universe, the more pressure Roxas was under the colder he became.

"Where is he?" Naminé asked, her voice nearly as hard and chilly as Roxas's had been when he refused to go see her. "He wasn't in school, and I just heard something about some other boy from the Organization blowing himself up. Where is he, Riku?"

Riku had been right; he was in hell.


Roxas didn't cry for the first nine days, and he didn't know why. He vaguely figured that he'd been through too much, that he was just incapable of processing everything anymore. He wondered if he'd ever deal with it enough for it to feel real. It would have to eventually, wouldn't it?

It felt real the next day. Roxas woke up sobbing midway through the morning, and when his brain worked its way back to conscious cognition, he grabbed his pillow and held it tight over his face to muffle the scream that he let out. He screamed into that pillow until his throat felt like it had been slashed to pieces, and then he sobbed again until his chest ached and there were no more tears. He was exhausted still, and crying exhausted him even more, and he fell back into that restless sleep until he awoke hours later and cried himself out once again. He couldn't sleep after that. He walked around the summit of the mountain, and then he sat and stared numbly at the sunset when it came, and halfway through it that pain was suddenly back sharper than ever, and he practically ran back to the guesthouse and threw himself down on the bed and screamed some more, painfully, until his voice gave out altogether.

When he didn't need it to stifle himself anymore, he let the pillow drop into his lap and just stared at it until his eyes flitted up to where it usually lay. There was a white envelope sitting on the mattress there, the one that held the contents of the spot under his pillow prior to this trip. He'd pulled it out of his bag on the second day in China when trying to find some clean clothes, and at that point he'd nearly thrown it away.

His first instinct had been to open it, of course, but that idea was quickly cast aside and instead he thought about tearing it apart, just ripping it to pieces and dropping the pieces into the wastebasket in the corner. He still considered doing so almost daily, but always with the conclusion that it wouldn't be enough. No matter how small the pieces were when he finished with it, they'd never be tiny enough that when he dropped them into the trash he wouldn't run the risk of catching a glimpse of the red of Axel's hair or the green of his eyes, or even the sharp curves of his handwriting.

He wanted more than anything right now to forget all of that. He wanted his amnesia again, he wanted to go back to America and turn himself in and then beg for the government-employed doctors that had cut off his memories in the first place to do it again, to give back those lies that Sora and Riku and Naminé had told him and let him forget that Axel had ever existed, to lock him up for the rest of his life but just please have a little mercy in exchange for going willingly.

When Axel had been alive, the thought of never knowing that the other man even existed had seemed the worst fate possible to Roxas. Now that he was dead, Roxas fantasized about forgetting Axel, losing all memory of red hair and green eyes and burn scars and those hips and that stupid dance they did and the obnoxious laughter at inappropriate times. It would be best if he simply went back to thinking that love was some stupid crush on the high school basketball team captain and not one phrase, three words, eight letters traced across his back in the middle of the night.

That was never going to happen; Axel had already defined the rest of Roxas's life. But keeping those pictures of him wasn't going to help. He couldn't tear them up and throw them away, but he could burn them; if Axel was still around, sitting over his shoulder watching him, he'd laugh long and hard at that. The thought was too painful. He could throw them off the mountain, but then maybe someone would find them, and Roxas didn't want anyone else butting in on his memories, looking at those photos and wondering about the boys in them and never having to know or acknowledge their reality. So he left them under the pillow, the envelope still never having been opened. He couldn't get rid of Axel even if he tried.

And that was the tenth day. He fell asleep when it was dark, at a reasonable time for once, and the nightmares were only kept away by the fact that he couldn't stay fully unconscious long enough to dream. But he didn't come back to full awareness, bad sleep didn't become no sleep, until after midnight.

When Roxas woke up, his eyes flew open but he couldn't move and couldn't speak, much less scream. At first he thought it was another nightmare, or maybe sleep paralysis, but then his eyes focused and even in the dark he could clearly see and feel that for the second time in his life Axel was sitting on him unexpectedly in the dead of night with a hand pressed over his mouth. There was a chilly draft through the room. The window was open.

"Don't scream," Axel said, and it was Axel, it was his voice. "It's just me. Told you I'd meet you here. Sorry it took so long."

Roxas's eyes were wide and his breathing was rapidly getting faster and harder, but Axel seemed to trust that he wouldn't flip out entirely and pulled his hand away. Roxas took a deep breath in preparation to start a series of words and questions and profanities that probably wouldn't make any sense whatsoever, even to himself, but before he could use it Axel's hands were tightly gripping the sides of his head and he was being kissed in a way he couldn't ever remember being kissed, because they'd just been through something that had never colored any of their kisses before like the past week and a half now did. And Axel tasted exactly the same as always.

As soon as their lips parted, Roxas recovered enough of his senses to grab hold of Axel like he was never going to let go, one hand balling in the back of his thick jacket and the other slipping into his hair to hold him close. He became aware of the fact that he was crying only by the feel of hot tears running down his cheeks and cooling in the night air, and he felt almost like he was listening to someone else say, "Axel, oh my god, Ax, how did… how can you… oh fuck, Axel, if this turns out to be another dream…"

Axel shook his head fervently, lifting one hand to begin wiping away the tears from Roxas's cheeks. "Would I be blond in your dreams, Rox?" he asked, and it wasn't entirely meant to be a joke.

Roxas froze, and then quickly reached over and flipped on the little lamp next to his bed. The light wasn't very bright and was subdued by the shade over it, but now he could see Axel himself instead of just his familiar shadowy presence cast into little relief by the moonlight. He was blond, a sandy blond that didn't suit him like the black had, much less his red. Roxas never would have dreamt that up; his subconscious wouldn't have thought about the fact that if Axel had somehow survived and actually gotten to China, he would've had to change his appearance again to get out of Canada.

He just blinked up at Axel's face smiling down at him, and he started sobbing like he had earlier, his throat still hoarse from the rest of the day spent crying. Axel's face fell entirely and his eyes darted back and forth across Roxas's features as though searching for a way to make this better, but seconds later the sobs turned to laughter. This didn't seem to reassure Axel much, because the laughs were manic, the sort of thing you'd get if you told a joke to someone in a straitjacket, and they were as hoarse as the sobs had been.

And then just as suddenly the laughter stopped; from the look on his face, Axel was probably wondering whether Roxas had lost it totally, if he'd finally succeeded in driving someone completely over the edge and it had ironically been the one person he never wanted to make crazy. Even as he held Axel close to him with the hand on the back of his neck, Roxas's other hand pushed under his coat to almost frantically feel at his chest and stomach through his t-shirt. He couldn't find anything unusual.

"Ax, you weren't…"

"I faked it. I faked all of it. I'm sorry you had to believe it; they didn't report that there was no body. I think they figured I just destroyed myself completely, but they weren't gonna admit that…"

And suddenly the second half of what had been going through Roxas's head over and over for the past ten days entirely changed itself. He could see Axel realizing that he wasn't going to make it out of there, and that even if he did he was going to be actively hunted. He could see the man who usually came off as such a massive idiot putting his real intelligence to work and continually modifying a basic plan to fit a changing situation until he heard that gunshot behind him and pitched forward onto the ground of his own accord. He could see him curled up apparently in pain but really to cover the fact that there was no bullet wound in his chest, and he could easily see him creating so much chaos that he was able to just disappear. He could see exactly what had been going through Axel's head at the time.

"I was worried sick about you," Axel murmured. "I thought maybe once you heard you'd… you would…" He hesitated for a moment and then said, "You'd forget about coming here, and… and then I would've had to find you through your brother and it could've taken forever, and…" He trailed off and sighed, slumping down against Roxas and nuzzling into his neck. "I'm so fucking glad you waited for me."

Everything up to that point had been something of a haze, but that penetrated it right away. "Axel, you shithead!" Roxas exclaimed, pushing him up enough to give him an angry look. "I wasn't waiting for you; I was mourning you! I stayed here because I couldn't even pick up the pieces of my heart enough to leave! I stayed here because there was no point in going somewhere else just to stare at nothing and resent my own existence all day! And you think I stayed here to wait for you?!"

Axel swallowed heavily, casting his eyes away and pursing his lips. "I… that wasn't quite what I meant," he muttered. He was blushing now and he buried his face against Roxas's shoulder, muffling his own voice as he said, "You want the truth, I was afraid you'd think you'd fucked your life up beyond repair and kill yourself."

Roxas's chest tightened at the thought; he'd come close a few times, close to just climbing out somewhere and jumping. That he was going to die soon had become an accepted fact in his life in the past week and a half, that the numbness was going to end, the pain was going to start, and he was going to sink lower and lower until he couldn't go on. It wasn't that he hadn't thought he'd fucked his life up beyond repair; it was that he considered himself strong enough to hold out for a little while. At least long enough to get up the will to write a letter to Sora.

Aloud he simply snorted and said, "Hn, arrogant as always."

When Axel lifted his head, Roxas found out just how poorly he could hide his emotions when under duress; his expression was more or less devastated, and he began to pull away. Roxas grabbed him tightly, yanking him back down, and said, managing to smile even though the residual tears, "I was planning on it. It didn't feel right giving up right away, so I decided to wait. But it was on my agenda for the near future."

Axel stared at him for a very long moment and then said, voice quiet, "Seriously? Roxas, you would've killed yourself over me?"

Silence as Roxas just blinked at Axel; it was hard to even stay emotionally wrecked over the past ten days followed suddenly by finding a dead man in his bed when Axel was here being so fucking Axel. "That's what I just said."

"You stupid little shit!" Axel exclaimed. "As far as you knew I fucking killed myself to make sure you weren't caught and you would've gone and done that?!"

Honestly, Roxas couldn't think of an answer to that. He tried to work up even enough fake irritation to continue this ridiculous circular argument. "Axel, I… shit, I can't even pretend to be mad at you. So just shut the hell up and console me, will you?"

They were noisy. First thing in the morning, the management kicked them out, and they didn't care.

Full stop.

All right, so. Obviously if you made it this far you at least didn't hate this. I feel now that I should point a few things out that a lot of people have mentioned with this. Firstly, the possessive form of Roxas - Roxas' is acceptable in modern grammar, but Roxas's is the traditional and preferred way and is, in my opinion, more clear and elegant. For a more thorough discussion of possessive forms, I usually point to the Apostrophe Protection Society www (dot) apostrophe (dot) fsnet (dot) co (dot) uk.

Thankfully no one has ever pointed out my spliced commas and run-on sentences. I know the rules (I'm like Rick Astley that way), and that's a stylistic choice. I think an acceptable one. In writing fiction I like to play to the pauses I want, not the pauses I should have.

Secondly, I discussed this at the beginning of the story at my LiveJournal and gauged reactions - which were generally quite positive, thankfully - and decided not to discuss it at the beginning here, just for the hell of it. But yes, this was intended to be an American comic book style AU, with all those American comic book cliches, heavily influenced by the Marvel Universe; Sora ended up a lot like Witchblade, but that was purely coincidental due to the canon nature of the Keyblade. But I do acknowledge the parallel.

I didn't start writing this thinking that a comic book AU was a good idea; I started writing thinking it was a terrible idea. But that was what I liked about it; I'd never seen anyone do it and I wanted to find out if I could pull it off. I think I did pretty all right.