First off, allow me to say I love you guys. Thanks to everyone, Within Small Differences has become my most successful one-shot so far, and the reviews were just plain awesome. So, before beginning this new one-shot, I'd like to thank all of you who supported Within Small Differences and Other Promises. Specially Reifa, who has become my beta-reader and is helping me improve my english, as well as the quality of my stories. Thank youuuuuu, I hope I don't disappoint ya!

This fic, however, is for the lovely Lime-chan, for being a great friend and an extremely sweet person. She should totally be my Roxas!

Notes: This keeps mostly true to canon. In fact, you might recognize a scene from KH2 Final Mix within this. The difference, mostly, is that it is related to Within Small Differences, so while Axel and Roxas' relationship is the same, there is a little extra memory that causes some change.


Crescendo

One-Shot Unique Chapter


He can't say it's the first time they have fought – not under these conditions, of course, but with Axel being himself and Roxas being the same now that he was when he belonged to the Organization, he thinks there's not much of a difference.

He can't say he missed it, either. Roxas had a formidable skill, both with his key-blades and bare fists, and Axel had been on the receiving end of the boy's hits plenty of times. Fine, maybe he missed the fun of an infuriated Roxas, but he'd be damned if he didn't grow irritated himself more than occasionally.

He knows this is the last time.

But he can't say he doesn't enjoy it.

"Burn, baby!"

A friend is a friend. A fight is a fight. This is not contradictory at all, or so he believes.

Roxas may have forgotten everything he knew about fighting, but his body remembers the motions pretty damn well. Axel isn't holding back in the slightest – cheers, for the old times! – and, although maybe this should worry him a little, he is as delighted as he is amazed.

Axel's grin is unmistakable, and Roxas doesn't know whether what he hears is Axel's laugh or newly-ignited flames. The sound is familiar, though, and he can't help but become troubled again.

However, the rhythm doesn't cease and the wheel-like chakrams clash loudly with his key-blades to increase the list of familiarities in this.

Axel finds it funny, really, how Roxas can be so fierce and look so doubtful. Poor him.

"C'mere, I'll make it all stop," he grins, tauntingly honest.

Roxas scowls – idiosyncrasy, my friend – and lunges at him again, devoid of any shadow of hesitation now, and for a moment Axel thinks Roxas – his Roxas – might be enjoying this too. Roxas doesn't say a word, but that's fine; Axel's Roxas wouldn't have, either.

It's not that he can only be one or the other; Axel knows DiZ had a part in this, and although he can create a whole city, he can't create a new Roxas. Roxas just doesn't remember him, everything about him, everything they were and everything they did.

"You'll remember this," he says, driven by the proverbial and literal heat of battle, making his weapons spin until fire forms at the edges and throwing them at Roxas, who dodges quickly, barely touched by the attack.

Good. That was one his Roxas never faced, in caution of possibly burning him.

He guessed that was fine now, too.


It's stopped.

Axel's breath hitches erratically upon the impact of an attack, and the fire slowly begins to burn out – it's over.

The chakrams seem heavy and burdensome, but he continues to hold them anyway, trying to catch his breath as he watches the flames disappear. But he knows, quite frankly, that there will be no surprise attacks after this.

The darkness approaches.

Roxas stands still, victorious, in front of Axel's hunched-over figure. But there's no celebration, no triumph in his features. There is something about the image of a defeated Axel that pulls rather annoyingly at another unnamed something in Roxas' mind. For a second or two, he knows.


"You get on their bad side and they'll destroy you!"

He barely turns his head in the other Nobody's general direction, but he knows that there is more to see than he can imagine.

"No one would miss me," he states, dry and resolute, wearing a frown upon his features as he reassumes his way.

"That's not true!"

Maybe; he does not stop to further consider this.

"…I would."

Roxas does not turn back.


"Axel," he calls, his voice much softer than he meant it to be. The word, the name, it does taste different now.

Axel seems to have stopped panting, and he looks up at Roxas with a tired version of his usual smirk and eyes dulled by the dim surroundings – his words, however, aren't broken in the least, "Let's meet again in the next life."

"Yeah," Roxas replies, and Axel's Roxas smiles complacently. "I'll be waiting."

The darkness arrives.

Axel scoffs, unfazed by it. "Silly," he says, turning to Roxas with an amused smile before the darkness takes him in completely. "Just because you have a next life."

Shadows.

Static.

"Axel!"

An image, a feeling, something he doesn't get to see or hear or feel in time flashes by, and suddenly Roxas, the same Roxas as always, reaches forward and shoves his outstretched hand carelessly into the portal, grabbing blindly for Axel and pulling, dragging him out with a slight sound of surprise.

His head hurts and there's a constant buzzing sound in his ears; he shuts his eyes tight, still holding onto Axel's cloak, and he can feel the darkness shake and pull at the odd interference.

"Well, what do you know," Axel says, above the pounding in Roxas' head and everything else as he wraps an arm around the smaller teen. "Welcome back, Roxas."

Roxas grips the fabric of his cloak tightly, muttering his name with a pained expression and a hand brought to his head in an attempt to lessen the ache in his skull. At this, Axel simply shakes his head.

"I know, I know," he smiles, leaning down, almost to Roxas' eye-level, lifting his face slightly with a gloved hand under his chin. "See ya, then."

Roxas has the same feeling that drove him to destroy DiZ's computer, and he thinks he's about to beat something else to a pulp – until his head is raised slightly and he squints an eye open, only to be met with Axel's persistent gaze before their lips meet. The feelings intensify instantly. He fights, he fights, he grips Axel's clothes and pulls, and there's something more flashing before his eyes – memories, images, so many things at once; before he knows it he's pulling closer and the pain grows stronger.

Somehow Axel has come to grip the front of Roxas' clothes as well, holding him still and prolonging the kiss until Roxas yelps a small cry of pain; by the time Axel pulls away and steps back, Roxas is panting and clutching his head with both his hands.

"Next life it is."

And then he's gone.


Before all remains of pain are gone and he's no longer spent from battle, Roxas falls asleep.

By the time he opens his eyes, he is no longer in the mansion deep within Twilight Town.

The first thing he notices is the change of colours; warm oranges and browns and two spots of black disrupting the scenery, himself and his companion, and it is as much of a dream as it is a memory, or a vision, or reality. Perception and his senses slowly begin to join once again, and soon enough he finds that he's sitting at the edge of Twilight Town's clock tower, knees close to his chest and head resting on them.

Slightly dazed but oddly not out of place, Roxas raises his head slowly, blinking.

"Finally woken up?"

He gasps and looks up; the other spot of black registers in his memory, but somehow the voice in that time and place surprises him. "Axel," he says as he moves to let his legs hang off the edge, both comfortable and confused as he turns his head in the redhead's direction.

Axel is standing by his side, watching the rooftops and the eternal sunset. "No, maybe you're going to sleep," he says, and nothing weighs down his words. "Soon I won't even be able to talk to your consciousness like this."

There is an underlying key, something demure, given-up and yet calm and pleasant in all of this.

"I…" Roxas looks at his hands for a second; feeling returns to him fully, and so does his voice. "I'm going back to how I was."

"I've thought about it a lot. Naminé said the same thing," Axel says as he sits by Roxas' side, and for a moment the younger Nobody doesn't know how to explain what he suddenly wants to explain to him.

"Roxas…"

He glances in time to meet Axel's eyes, and he wonder if this should trouble him any further; there is something about this that decidedly wakes a small sense of danger within him.

"You have a heart, don't you? While Naminé and I…" Axel asks, and Roxas believes this is the first time he doesn't look him straight in the eye when talking, if only for a brief period. "We really don't have hearts, do we?"

"I…" He shakes his head. "I don't know either."

"I guess not…"

They both let their gazes fall back to rest on the bright line of the horizon in which the sun had begun to hide.

"But the heart's not something you can see," Roxas continues. "I've started wondering whether it's something you can't feel either. If so, then…"

Axel raises his eyebrows and scrutinizes the teen's face; Roxas only pauses and gives a quick "Nah, never mind."

"Hm? What're you getting at?" Axel insists, and there is something quite more persuasive about it than should be.

"I'm sure Sora will find the answer," Roxas smiles, features gentle, as a sudden reminder that he is, in fact, a child masked behind a furiously strong will and fighting passion. "Because he's me."

Axel simply smiles and agrees, "Yep, that's true."

The key bearer hasn't yet forgotten falling asleep, but he decides this is familiar and pleasant. He revels in both the warmth of sunset and the company of a comrade. And so, when he turns to find Axel offering him sea-salt ice cream, he can't help but accept contently, smiling down at the treat in his hands for a while with a slight sense of dejá-vù.

"This really takes me back. Remember?" Axel comments, already nibbling on his ice cream. "We first met the day you got your new name, and then we watched the sunset from up here."

"Yeah, this is where I came from," Roxas responds, although the information sounds only partially familiar. He accepts it, but has no recollection of that day anymore. "Everyone… Hayner, Pence, Olette… I hope they're okay."

"You should go and see them again, looking for your answer."

He looks away – the answer weighs on him, the decisive phrase that makes Roxas believe this might be a dream, after all.

"Yeah…" He says quietly. "So… I have to go. Sora's waiting for me."

"Yeah, I guess he is," Axel's voice is slightly hoarse and he turns away in the opposite direction, expression completely unseen as he exclaims with a characteristically concealed nervous laugh, "Whoa, this ice cream really is salty!"

Roxas laughs and leans closer, trying to catch a look at Axel's face as he continues to look away; Axel notices this and quickly wipes his eye with the back of his hand before looking back innocently – or as much of such as he could.

"I'm not good with salty things, you know," he explains.

"Liar, you introduced me to these to start with," Roxas retorts with a little victorious smile, ignoring the faces Axel makes at him.

"Tsk."

He can't ignore it, though, when Axel moves closer and lazily puts his arm around Roxas' shoulders. And still, he does nothing against it – it feels so familiar, so normal, he welcomes the motion.

"Once you get your answer, what will you do?"

"Well… I could look for you."

"Liar," Axel laughs, and Roxas soon does the same – there nothing else to say, after all; friends are friends and goodbyes are goodbyes, and there is a lot that must go unsaid, when it can.

Axel, however, welcomes the effort and smiles upon it.

"Thanks, Rox."

To his own utter amazement, Roxas only closes his eyes and smiles back when Axel leans in for what should've been a kiss on the cheek, but kisses the corners of Roxas' lips instead. He lingers on in the proximity but soon pulls away, leaving Roxas to feel all-too-strongly the absence of Axel's arm around his shoulders, Axel's eyes never leaving him and the odd sensation of another memory trying to resurface.

They remain in complacent, comfortable silence, eyes upon the sun stopped dead on the horizon. Only after a few seconds of watching closely, Roxas notices its position has not moved in the entire time he's been here with Axel, and neither has a single cloud. He glances down at his sea-salt ice cream, realising now that it hasn't started to melt either.

"It's almost time, isn't it?"

There is something distinctively calm and even sort of absent in Axel's voice now, and all of a sudden the clouds begin to move, between short intervals of time at first, gradually more natural. A light clicking sound makes Roxas turn around to see that the great clock of the tower has begun ticking seconds away.

After the first three clicks, the sounds begin to reach his ears more quietly, and all the feelings around him start to nullify; Roxas understands.

He turns to Axel, feeling the lost warmth of the sun be replaced by that of an ethereal light that begins to surround him and cloud his view, and he can't help but give a gentle smile. "See you, Axel."

Axel can only offer a weak smirk in return, emerald eyes clouded slightly by an expression of melancholy, loss, acceptance, good-bye, too many things, too clear for him now. "See ya, partner."

Roxas remembers.

Spars, fist fights, real fights – but there is more, there is a chain of memories linking itself back together, completing the pieces of what was and what, without a doubt, should've been. Everything falls back into place, a crescendo towards this moment, and Roxas can remember falling asleep as well.

Axel does not look away, and Roxas can see clearly the tears that roll down his cheeks. He only offers the same smile in return.

Roxas can remember falling asleep.

Sora wakes up.


(PS: I'm open for FIC EXCHANGES AND REQUESTS. Exchanges are a lot more fun so I'd rather do that. If you're interested in hearing about this, tell me so in your review and I'll PM you. I take almost any pairing, any rating, any prompt, and will abide by whatever terms you're more comfortable with. )