Hopelessness beat down upon her, harsh as the light in the room around her. It was over, all of it, Marluxia had won and she had helped him. Any chance she had had to stop it was gone, the time for that was in the past – before Sora's memories were completely rearranged. Even if she tried to put things right now, it would take too much time. It was over, what was the point of pretending anymore?
Glancing down at the sketch book at her feet she felt a sudden, powerful urge to kick it across the room away from her. The one thing in the world she was good for had ruined so much, and she had enjoyed it…
It had felt so right sketching herself into the group with them, natural, and it had filled the emptiness inside her with happiness. It had been almost easy to lie to herself and say that she really belonged there, but as she had read more of Sora's heart she had realized that even these lies wouldn't be real. Even by rearranging memories she would never be more to Sora than an echo of his love for Kairi. She would still be nothing but a shadow to him, trying pitifully to eclipse the bright light of Kairi in his heart.
The deeper she delved into his memories the more she wished she hadn't.
Footsteps intruded into her world of guilt. She looked up through her blond bangs and saw that Axel was pacing. Mildly surprised at herself, she realized that she had almost forgotten that he was here. She didn't usually have a babysitter, normally it was just a pair of Dusks outside the door or, sometimes, she was left alone in the room they brought her to for sleep. But whenever someone was watching her it was usually either Vexen or Larxene. Marluxia would come to talk to her, to encourage her to draw and aide him in his schemes, and sometimes he would hurt her, but he was never there to babysit: he had better things to do with his time than watch her. Vexen left her alone, mostly, but she dreaded the time spent with Larxene…
But even Larxene didn't make her as nervous as Axel did, because Axel was totally unpredictable. With the others there was consistency if nothing else, but Axel seemed to have a nobody's version of mood swings. He had never seriously hurt her but he had come close to it, once.
"What the hell is this, Witch?"
Startled, she jumped as he tore the sketch book out of her hands. There was violence in his voice that she had never heard before, fury in his bright green eyes.
"I – I was only drawing R-"
"I know what you were drawing!" He threw the book across the room as though it were contaminated, "I want to know what you think you're doing!" He grabbed her by her upper arm and pulled her from her chair, shaking her once. At her startled and frightened gasp something seemed to flicker in him briefly and his grip loosened, but the fire didn't leave his eyes. "I know what happens to people you draw, what the hell are you trying to do to Roxas?"
"N-nothing," she gasped out, the look on his face making her catch her breath in terror. He had been so calm, so indifferent, and then… He raised his hand as if to strike her. "Nothing, I swear!" His forehead creased and the fire became like tempered steel in his eyes. His hand caught her chin and he gave her another shake.
"You will never draw him again, Witch. I will not allow it. Not even on Marluxia's orders, do you understand?"
She had understood. He would not take even the slightest chance that she would toy with Roxas the way she toyed with Sora.
Axel hadn't even touched her since then, but they had not really seen each other, either. Now, as she watched him approach out of the corner of her eyes, she was unsure what he meant to do. He was still a mystery to her. The look on his face didn't seem too dangerous but it was a peculiar one. It was mostly calm, but with an almost resigned air. When he spoke, his voice was normal.
"All he cares about is you." He made a gesture almost like a shrug, raising his hands and dropping them. She looked back down at her feet. Of course, just like Larxene, Axel had to have his fun kicking her around through her guilt. What did they get out of it? His next words, and the tone he spoke with, jarred her out of her self-pity sharply. "Yes…you are the only one who can save him."
She gasped, her eyes growing wide and her head shooting up. What did he mean? Did he know something she didn't? It would make sense, he got out more than she did…but no, there was no hope: not now. She knew that much.
Tired of being used, tired of being pushed about, tired of being so weak, tired of being worthless.
"No," she said, her guilt giving her the courage to talk back where she would not have dared to before, "No, nothing can. It's too late…"
"Oh, I wouldn't jump to conclusions just yet." With another of his abrupt changes, Axel's voice became upbeat and sing-song again. Frowning slightly, she looked back up at him and dared to meet his eyes. What was he saying? Was there still a chance to help Sora? Axel smirked down at her, as if he could see the hope flickering in her eyes as her frown disappeared. "Say, notice Marluxia isn't around anymore?"
She frowned again and tilted her head slightly away from him.
"I don't understand…what you mean by that."
"There's no one here to stop you." With a sweeping motion of his hand he stepped to one side and held his arm out, pointing toward the door which, at a silent command from him, swung slowly outward. There was no one in the white corridor outside, no dusks, no Marluxia; just as Axel had said.
"You're," her breath seemed to have deserted her, she could hardly even speak. "You're letting me go?" The playfulness slipped away from his face and a small smile remained, almost kind. Standing up slowly, she began to walk past him, still suspicious. He didn't move, he was like a statue of a lion but his eyes followed her with an intense gaze. When she passed him she was about to break into a run when his voice stopped her.
"Don't let me down."
She looked over her shoulder and stared at him. His gaze was steady, serious, and she realized that he meant it: he was counting on her to undo her mistakes, to make things right and he would not accept anything less.
Someone was trusting her with something, someone was depending on her. She opened her mouth but nothing came at first.
"You have my word."
She ran. He smirked.
Roxas…oh, my Roxas.
Roxas was gone. Gone for good. He had been rejoined with Sora. They were one again, and Sora was complete at last. She had kept her promise, she had fixed what she had broken, but it had cost Roxas his consciousness; cost him his existence as anything other than a faint presence in Sora's heart.
As she looked at the picture in her lap, the one she had drawn so long ago, she hoped it would be worth it.
Riku was with her, clothed in black, tall and silent as ever. Evening birdsong surrounded them on the quiet hilltop, the sounds of Twilight Town distant below them.
Looking into the distance, she saw green fields and mountains, roads stretching off out of sight, and she idly wondered where they led. At the same time she knew that she would never find out.
All her pitiful life, a cage was the only thing she had known. Even now, with DiZ and Riku, she was a prisoner. Oh, a prisoner under slightly more polite circumstances, and one with a whole mansion and garden to herself, but a prisoner all the same. The only freedom she had known was back at Castle Oblivion, and she had chosen to give it up.
He feet flew beneath her as she ran. She had already wasted enough time, there was none to spare now. If she had any chance to save Sora she had to hurry. He would be on floor 12 by now, which was several corridors and two floors above her.
Her breath came in ragged gasps and her muscles felt heavy, but she couldn't stop.
Then a thought came to her, and she nearly tripped over her own feet.
What was to stop her from running down the stairs, out the rear gate and into the grassy plains surrounding the castle? No one knew she had left her room, Axel wouldn't suspect until later, and everyone would be so busy with Sora that she could go unnoticed long enough to escape and hide maybe…forever.
To be free! He body quivered at the thought. To chose for herself, to draw for herself, live for herself. No Marluxia looming over her life like a shadow, no Larxene haunting her with taunts and threats, no Vexen with his experiments and exams. No mysterious entity dictating her life from the shadows, referred to by everyone as "The Superior".
Freedom. So close, so plausible she could almost feel it.
This was her fault.
She owed Sora.
…She owed Axel…
She had promised.
What would have happened if she had seized her chance? That question had often kept her awake at night. Would she be free now? Would she be stronger, braver? Would Roxas still be with her?
Would Sora be a puppet? A slave?
By now she had spent enough time with Riku to recognize the special intake of breath which meant he was about to speak. She looked up just as his mouth opened beneath the dark hood, the voice that came out was deeper, darker than any boy his age ever had.
"You know that – "
Riku was interrupted by the swirling noise of a dark portal being opened. They both turned to see a figure in a dark hooded cloak stepping out of the black shadows. The man was tall, slender but hard. His physique was visible beneath the folds of his cloak, toned and angular. A black hand reached up and pulled his hood down. Red spikes fell out casually before springing back into place neatly, emerald eyes gleamed, and white teeth became visible as he smiled.
"Long time no see, Witch."
Riku twitched, as though trying to flick away a fly. Axel looked at him, smirked, and walked over to the wooden railing. His whole manner screamed "Go ahead: attack me. Just try."
Leaning against the rail with both his hands, Axel spoke to no one in particular; "So, he's gone."
Below in the town a train clattered by on the rails. She felt Riku relax slightly. Something about Axel's manner seemed to have assured Riku that fighting was not eminent. Axel turned to her, looking her up and down.
"So, you don't have anywhere to go now." He titled his head to one side and studied her through half closed eyes. She felt the last of the fear that had come with him drain out of her. Axel had merely come to confirm that Roxas was…gone. "There's no one to look after you." Riku twitched again. She looked down at the picture again.
"That's right." She said, hating the sadness in her own voice. What was there to be sad about? She had kept her promise, she had saved Sora, and there was no way Organization XIII could hurt Roxas now. There was nothing to be sad about.
There was everything to be sad about.
"Hmm," Axel said, looking away from her and out across the view below them. "Such things do not exist for us, after all."
"But," she continued, her voice a little firmer, "I have some places I'd like to visit." He looked at her. Riku seemed to be made of stone. "And there are some people I'd like to see." Axel smirked.
"I'm the same." He turned to Riku, his voice becoming upbeat and cheerful. "So, why don't you let us go?" Riku turned to him, his face unfathomable beneath the hood. "That old guy you work for told you to get rid of her;" Axel jerked his thumb at her, "didn't he?"
"Did he?" She asked, pulling her book up to her chest. Not DiZ, he wouldn't, and Riku wouldn't. "Me?"
Riku didn't answer at first, but his shoulders dropped slightly.
He didn't want to kill her, but he had been ordered to.
"Go with him." Riku said at last, looking away. "I owe you two for Castle Oblivion, anyway."
It hit her then, Riku was just as lonely, as trapped as she was. Trapped by his choices, by retribution for them as well. He was just like her.
Axel raised his arm, a dark portal opening in its wake.
"Well," he said, grinning at Riku, "Thanks, then." He looked at her, his eyes ordering her into the portal. She drew back, hesitant. Axel was still a member of the Organization, and she had no wish to go back to them. But what was there left for her here? Riku would get into trouble if she stayed and DiZ found out she was alive. And Axel had helped her before. He seemed to read her hesitation, his face softened and he nodded to her.
She got to her feet and turned to Riku.
"I'm sorry," she said in a small voice, before clutching her sketch book to her and running into the portal.
The die was cast. Wherever Axel was taking her, she would just have to find out the hard way.
Another story from me. This one, however, already has several chapters written. They're just waiting to be edited and revised. I'm not making any promises, but I should do fairly well in terms of progress.
I got the idea for this fiction when I started wondering about several plotholes in KH, and a new one that showed up in KH2FM: what did Axel and Namine do after Riku told her to leave with him? And how did Namine learn to control her nobody abilities? (Remember when she got Kairi out of the cell, and opened a path out of the World that Never Was?) Being the Axel/Namine fan that I am, my mind came out with this. Enjoy, and let me know your thoughts.