Chapter 3

Despite all of Axel's best efforts, Roxas didn't seem to be particularly interested in gracing him again with another smile. He spent the ten minutes after the first putting all of his considerable energies towards trying to cajole one out of the blond, but even his best efforts were - disappointingly - met by incredible resistance. Roxas appeared to be almost as stubborn as he himself was.

"Alright, fine," the redhead said once most of his options had been exhausted, voice not betraying a hint of resignation. "It looks like it's time to pull out the big guns."

And with that, he fell straight over the edge, grabbing the hand of an astonished Roxas as he hurtled downwards, pulling the blonde over with him, too. The ground whistled towards them amazingly rapidly, and Roxas took the time to voice his displeasure over the sound of Axel's exhilarated laughter.

"What?! What in fuck do you think you're doing, you crazy bastard?!"

Axel didn't respond, laughter dying down to just chuckles as he used that extra energy to create a small portal, into which they both disappeared for an instant before reappearing quite safely on the ledge of the clock tower.

Roxas turned to the redhead then with a look of astonishment that Axel was sure had been unmatched throughout all of history.

"What," he began slowly, evidently trying to gather his wits about him, "in fuck were you thinking."

Axel grinned at the other, breathless, because it was kind of like every nerve was singed by the excess of adrenaline in his system, and he loved that feeling. There was little enough they could do as Nobodies that would excite them - they had to go to extreme measures.

"Admit it," he drawled when he had his breath back, "you had a fucking blast. That clock tower's better than any joyride."

Roxas's expression didn't change, frozen in that look of horrified disbelief.

"So…" the redhead continued with a devilish grin, "want to go again?"

There was a long silence, during which Axel's thoughts were interrupted momentarily by the idea that he might have really scared the poor guy. Fuck.

His fears were put to rest when, after a moment, the silence was broken by the sound of what must have been Roxas's cracking resolve, as put into evidence by how his scowl fairly melted, revealing the blonde's brilliant grin underneath.

"Alright, you crazy son of a bitch."

Axel realized right then and there that he was fucked, and he couldn't stop grinning.

XXX

There was an inexplicable air of despair around the oven as Demyx removed his first creation from its hallowed depths - it wasn't so much inexplicable because the event wasn't worthy of despair, as that, in theory, cakes were incapable of feeling such a thing. It defied logic as it drooped unhappily in its little silver pan, and the blonde couldn't help but poke at it forlornly. A despondent sigh made itself heard from beside him, and he turned with a sheepish expression to his companion, whose expression was stuck halfway between his usual stone-cold incredulity and amusement.

"Demyx," Zexion began with a small noise that might have been the beginning of a chuckle in another person, "what could you possibly have done to make your cake deflate so badly?" He had to admit, it looked kind of like a popped balloon.

"I, uh…" He wasn't sure, really. "I think it may just be depressed." That wasn't so unlikely, was it? It looked like it was, anyway.

"I think you may just be a hopeless case," came Zexion's dry response. "You may wish to go to another for instruction - your atrocity is beyond my skill to remedy."

Their cooking lessons had started not so very long before, when a bored Demyx had happened upon his superior going through an impressive collection of dog-eared cookbooks in the basement library. In return for the blonde's silence on the matter, Zexion had agreed to teach him to cook, or at least to try to teach him. Despite the fact that the blonde had never had any intention of sharing said information with the public - not that the other man knew that - it was definitely an acceptable arrangement to both parties. It gave Zexion an opportunity to look down his nose at a younger member - or so he told himself, at least - and it gave Demyx a chance not only to learn something useful, but to have an excuse to spend some time watching the Cloaked Schemer.

He was quite the fascinating person - finicky and perfectionist to a fault, cold and lethal at his worst, but with a hidden tendency towards domesticity that kept the other Nobody constantly amused.

"Zexy, come on," the musician pleaded, puppy-eyed, clearly ignoring the other's wince at the nickname. "Give me one more chance."

"…I fail to see how your skills could be improved by my assistance."

"That's because you're being a pessimist," Demyx informed the other

Zexion raised an eyebrow at that - a patent-worthy look of derision was just one of his many talents.

"…When compared to your incorrigible optimism, almost anyone would appear to be so."

"I learned pasta sauce well enough," he pointed out, crossing his arms and shifting his weight to one side. The other man was definitely avoiding looking at him now.

"Tomato sauce requires little to no actual skill," the scientist muttered in a way that Demyx knew meant he was giving in.

"Maybe not," the blonde agreed happily. "So I'll see you tomorrow then?"

"…If you must." Really, he was cute when he got flustered.

XXX

With as crazy as they were, Roxas knew that the Organization had to have some kind of initiation rites. So, at least he was kind of expecting it when Xigbar found him shortly after his return to the castle. He was not, however, particularly ready for the manner in which he was acquired.

Previously, he had found ceilings to be relatively harmless, and nothing that needed examination before entry into a room - but then, he had never before been introduced to Xigbar's peculiar talent.

It was a good thing that the man's intentions were friendly - that time, at least - because that particular mistake was only going to be made once. He never could walk into a room again without examining the ceilings for hidden foes. He got good at hiding it, though.

But that first time, it took about two seconds for Xigbar to snatch the blonde straight up from the floor - being upside down was quite the uncomfortable sensation, he noted, and wondered how the older man could stand it as often as he did - and to pull him though a portal, to be deposited unceremoniously in front of the largest, most powerful fucking Heartless Roxas had ever had the misfortune to lay eyes upon. Its eyes glowed with the force of its fury - maybe that was nothing special, but it was still mildly off-putting to the still recovering blonde - and it had teeth that were about doubly as long as the kid was tall, not to mention the aura of hatred that said it was going to rip out the eyes of all comers.

"Good luck with this one, kid," Xigbar drawled in his gruff manner, giving Roxas a pat on the back that might have injured anyone smaller. "We'll come back for you in an hour. If you're still alive, you're a member." Roxas would almost have sworn he could see the blood of small babies in the teeth of the Freeshooter's grin.

"So all I gotta do is kill that thing?" he asked, pretending that his sudden abduction and subsequent abandonment didn't bother him any at all.

"No, all you gotta do is survive." Roxas swallowed nervously at that - if that was difficult enough for his initiation rite, it must really have said something about how fucking hard that thing must have been to kill.

Xigbar left with those cheery words of advice, stepping into the tendrils of dark and watching the scene as he went.

His dangerous grin was the last thing to disappear - it looked like it hung in the air for seconds after the rest of him was gone, but that might just have been Roxas's slightly hysterical imagination.

That thought was actually kind of fucking creepy in and of itself.

He snapped his focus back to the Heartless in front of him when said creature made a noise that sounded halfway in between a roar of anger and the shriek of a rusty door, bringing his hand in front of him and finding a keyblade flash into it, not unexpectedly. With this reminder of his Nobody powers, it occurred to him that he could just create a portal and go back to the castle - then, he remembered that nobody had as of yet bothered to teach him how.

This was probably why, the bastards.

It was definitely a mark of something - Roxas wasn't quite sure what - that the thought held so little venom. He filed that thought in the back of his head to be examined later - or repressed into his unconscious, more likely - before shifting his weight downwards into a guarding stance.

He'd just have to fight this one out. He was alright with that, though. It kind of felt like he needed to do some serious ass-kicking.

XXX

The expression on Larxene's face was nothing short of murderously delighted when Marluxia finally decided to inform her of his little find - the tiny pale girl with lonely eyes, whose powers and nature made her perfect but whose name he couldn't properly recall, nor did he particularly care to.

"When was this?" she asked, malevolence glinting from her bottle-green eyes in perfect shards.

"When I found the girl? About a day ago. She should be ready in a month," came Marluxia's reply, his placid tone not betraying the fate of the girl in question. Ready, of course, meant broken and therefore malleable.

"So what's your plan exactly," she drawled as she dropped down onto the long white couch in Marluxia's quarters, slinging her arm casually over the back and legs left mannishly in whichever position they landed.

Though he was not a particularly open person, Larxene - and only her - was always told about his plans, ever since she joined them and introduced them to her boiling spitfire attitude, and introduced him to her penchant for sadism. Their interests and opinions lay so parallel it was mildly off-putting, at first, but it didn't take them too long before both realized that they fulfilled a crucial deficiency in the other. Larxene, for a start, had no talent for planning or strategy - though she had a much appreciated ability to fuck with a person's mind - and Marluxia had no desire or inclination to get his own hands dirty, much preferring to leave the actual fighting to lackeys.

"The castle is the perfect trap for the Keyblade Bearer, as I'm sure you understand," he began, not following suit, instead choosing to remain standing, "and with a few well-placed suggestions, we can lure a small group of the Organization there to convert at our leisure. And if they choose not to convert…"

"It's understood that I get the pleasure of killing them, isn't it?" she drawled, smirking, her voice fairly dripping with intensity and excitement at the prospect as she interrupted him. "I get to watch them die, little by little - watch the life drip out of them - until we have what we want."

"Naturally," the assassin responded, his perfect baritone warm as he watched her. "But I - and I alone - have the leadership of our… operation."

"Only if you can keep a hold of it," she shot back, and the lines of her neck tensed though Marluxia knew she didn't mean a word of it - because she would be willing to fight for it, whether she wanted it or no, just for the thrill of the power play.

"I welcome you to try," he responded roughly as he closed the distance between them, lips meeting and teeth clashing in a struggle of passion and dominance, neither caring about the prize over which they fought, but neither willing to submit.

It was, after all, the principle of the thing.

XXX

Far too many sets of eyes were on Roxas as Xigbar brought him back through the portal straight into one of their common areas, where roughly half of the Organization's members had apparently been waiting for his return - or not, as the case may have been. The opinions upon seeing his return were mixed, at best - Larxene seemed downright disappointed, Luxord amused, and Demyx radiated a tense kind of excitement that almost negated the opinions of the other two, whether he wanted to admit that fact or not. But the face that really stood out was Axel's - the expression of flushed pride that flashed across his face for an instant just in time for the blonde to see it before it was replaced by the man's usual grinning indifference meant the world to him.

"So you made it," said Larxene, as usual unable to keep her mouth shut when she could sound derisive and malevolent. "Well, at least now I can finish you off myself."

"Shut up, bitch," shot back Xigbar with a drawled amusement that might have seemed out of place with his callous words if he'd been anyone else. "Nobody takes your threats seriously anymore. You should learn to just shove it up your ass," he continued with a gravelly laugh, because he could get away with it. He could probably fuck her over sixteen ways in a minute in a fight, and they both knew it.

Not many other people were willing to challenge Larxene, it seemed - and if Axel's former discussion was right, that wasn't because she was necessarily stronger than anyone there. It was more because the amount of effort it would take to fight the woman - verbally or physically - was more energy than any of them were willing to spend.

The way she flinched at the senior member's words indicated that the redheads thoughts on the matter were probably true - she wasn't used to being stood up against.

"I'm alive," he muttered then, eyes roving, as if they couldn't see that for themselves, then realized how stupid he sounded and continued without remembering to take a breath. "So that means I'm officially a member now, or what?"

Zexion, looking mildly put-upon in his corner where Demyx had likely deposited him after dragging him there, had the grace to interrupt before someone could make up another initiation rite for the sole purpose of torture.

"Yes," he practically grunted, and Roxas sighed with relief. "You're a member. You were before, also, however." Oh, so that meant the whole initiation thing had pretty much been unnecessary - great. Seriously, no fucking way.

"But some of these big idiots wouldn't have taken you seriously if you hadn't shown what you were made of," Demyx informed him with his usual cheer, not in particular caring who heard him. "So it was all worth it just for a little bit of respect, wasn't it?"

"Not," Axel interrupted, locking eyes with the other for the first time that evening, "that the guys are going to stop giving you a hard time. You're still the new kid until we pick up somebody else."

Roxas shrugged, taking it all in stride for possibly the first time since he'd arrived. It hadn't been too bad so far, after all.

XXX

Even Nobodies could be disturbingly difficult to understand at times, Zexion mused detachedly as he drifted in and out of listening to Demyx's monologue. The rhythm of the words was kind of nice, admittedly, and the topic was interesting enough - one particular science fiction novel that the blonde had just finished - though his tendency to go on about a topic that the other could not respond to, not having read the book, was mildly annoying.

The fact that the cheery blonde continued to attempt conversation with the other man on a regular - even daily - basis, said something about both his determination and his intelligence. Something possibly unflattering.

But Zexion's attempt at a rationalization was only, he suspected, a cover for the fact that no matter how much time he spent with the other man, he still didn't understand the blonde's motivations. There was no logical reason for him to seek out company of any kind - especially not Zexion's own less than enthusiastic companionship - and yet, day after day, Demyx would find him and dispense his cheer upon the other.

"And there was this really neat concept, where every person in the world had a machine that locked directly in on their location, and it would kill them if they poked a nose out of line," he informed the other with a vague emphasizing gesture from his position on the couch opposite the smaller Nobody, sprawled across it in a way that may have been comfortable for the blonde but certainly didn't appear that way.

"Demyx," Zexion began, interrupting the other's momentum suddenly, in a bout of inspiration - or courage. "Why do you continue to seek me out when it is clear that I have no valuable input to give you on these matters?"

Said blonde sobered down, almost instantly, meeting the other's gaze with a smile in his blue eyes and no hesitation whatsoever.

"You don't have to have valuable input to be able to listen," he pointed out, shifting his weight slightly so that it was easier to face his companion. "Sometimes I don't need input. I'm just, I dunno, talking."

"To fill the silence," Zexion suggested, crossing his own arms against his chest and watching the other from underneath his perfect bangs.

"No," Demyx corrected, "To converse with a friend about things that interest me - or preferably, the both of us. You, however," he continued with a good-natured laugh, "are a notoriously difficult conversation partner. So sometimes I just talk at you. You need contact with people too, you know, whether you think so or not." There was a pause. "And you've stopped telling me to leave you alone, so that's a plus."

That statement struck Zexion like a strobe light to the face, leaving him rather dazed and adjusting to the sudden assault on his neural processors - because he hadn't, in fact, noticed the change himself until it slapped him in the face.

He liked to think that he was keeping himself fairly composed and unreadable as his mind convulsed, in the throes of a paradigm shift, though the growing look of amusement on Demyx's face told him that he was failing. But that was growing, it seemed, increasingly alright by him.

XXX

A few days after his unofficial initiation, Roxas was saddled with his first assignment - and, unsurprisingly, he wasn't teamed with Axel, because the Superior highly disapproved of fraternization between members. The blonde thought that was a bit hypocritical, himself, considering that even after just a little bit in the Organization it was pretty evident that Saïx was a little bit more than just Xemnas's second in command. When he went to his lord's observation deck to receive orders or give reports, he always tended to stay a little bit long for them to just be discussing the state of affairs.

There were, of course, other things which they have been discussing the states of - but Roxas tried not to think about it too hard. He suspected it might break something important in whatever fragments were left of his soul if he did.

Hypocritical or not, though, it didn't particularly matter, because Axel was paired with Demyx for their assignment, and Roxas with Marluxia. This was probably to keep the latter away from Larxene, Roxas suspected, who had the privilege of staying back at the castle and fuming while most of the other members went out fighting for the betterment of their Organization. The small blonde was acceptably ambivalent about his match-up, because Marluxia seemed like a fairly alright guy, even if he might have had a little bit of an authority problem disguised under the silkiness of his manner.

When they finally dismounted from their ivory thrones after the announcement was made, they both teleported instantly to their designated meeting-space as they had been instructed, the younger grateful that Axel had finally bothered to teach him how.

"So, have you been informed where, exactly, we're heading?" Roxas asked as mildly as he was capable once they arrived, the hissing noises of their portals twisting through their speech. Marluxia didn't step out of his portal as Roxas had, instead giving the other an unreadable look - apparently he had some kind idea all of a sudden, because he closed his portal without ever stepping out, leaving the blonde alone and pissed off, because he was abandoned in the castle and had no idea where in fuck his partner was going.

He opened a portal with a huff, fuming over his partner's apparent abandonment, and set off into the blackness, hoping that he might miraculously pick the right world and that he might miraculously find Marluxia on it, to give him a taste of the business end of his keyblades. Not many people could honestly say that they had tasted destiny, but Marluxia was soon going to be one of those people. He was going to get a fucking mouthful of destiny, and suck it.

Of course, being so bent on giving the man a piece of his mind, it never occurred to him to return to the council room and just ask where they were supposed to go.

With a muttered curse and a hope that he suddenly developed the ability to kill people from a distance, Roxas opened up another portal and walked straight out into the first world he came to.

He would regret that immensely before the day was out.

XXX

"So," Demyx began, finally broaching the topic that had been on his mind for days to a sullen Axel as they walked through the gloom of the Underworld, "I notice you've been spending a lot of time with Roxas," he continued nonchalantly.

"What's it to you?" Axel shot back, dismissive as always - but the blonde had long since decided that it was at least mostly a defensive mechanism. There had been a time when the redhead's surly, disparaging side had bothered him immensely - but that had been back in the day when the redhead had been the only person in the Organization who was ever willing to hold conversation with their ninth and newest member. Now it was just another part of Axel, to be navigated and avoided as the case required.

"Nothing, I guess. You were always just so adamant that nobodies didn't have feelings of any kind, it makes me kind of happy-" and a little bit vindicated, though he didn't say that "-to see you growing fond of someone. It's not all bad, is it?"

"I'm not fond," the redhead informed the other, mind trying to get around the word that he'd probably never even thought before, much less said. "He's just interesting. That's all."

Demyx didn't believe that for a minute. There was nobody else in the whole world who could make Axel - cold, lethal Axel, the Organization's hidden trump card - look like a puppy trailing eagerly behind its oblivious master. He opted - wisely - not to phrase his thoughts in quite that way.

"Axel, life will be a lot more pleasant for you when you stop lying to yourself. You like this guy. That's not supposed to be possible, is it?" he posed smugly, watching Axel deal with a small Heartless as it appeared in front of them. Demyx himself was pretty useless for stuff like that - his partner could have his weapon out and the creature's gut slit in the time it would take the blonde to summon his first construct.

"It's not," he responded with much less confidence than he normally might have, his weapons disappearing into nothing as he straightened back up from his fighting stance. After a moment, he turned to face Demyx, straight on. There was a deliberating silence.

"Look, get off my fuckin' back," he finally muttered, jade eyes glancing downwards for an instant before looking back up. "I don't need you to stick your fucking nose in my business."

Demyx flinched at that - whether he was used to it or not, he was still a pretty sensitive guy, and the look Axel was giving him was actually kind of scary.

"Alright, alright," he defended, putting his hands up in a gesture of defeat. "You win. You're not fond of him or after his ass -"

"I never said that," Axel interjected, feline grin returning in an instant.

"- so I'll stop bothering you… Wait, what?" he interrupted himself, surprised. "But I thought…" He stopped in the middle of his sentence, trying to work that out for himself. He suspected that he might have had an easier time processing if Axel wasn't grinning at him with that look of what almost qualified as sadistic delight at his partner's shock.

"I can want to fuck a guy without being 'fond' of him or whatever," he drawled, apparently amused, as Demyx spluttered. "You and I've done it more than once," he reminded the other as he continued walking down the cavern. The blonde started automatically into a trot to keep up, mind still trying to right itself.

"I can't believe you would actually admit that," he finally got out. "I mean, I can, because it's you, but still." He knew he wasn't being particularly coherent, and didn't care too much either.

Axel shrugged.

"Haven't got a heart, you know, or have you forgotten?" he added with just enough edge to take it over the line into cruelty, his pitiless eyes never wavering in their intensity.

Maybe he had, he thought, watching Axel's back as he swaggered up the pathway to where the doorway that was their destination. He had forgotten, and he hoped that he would go on forgetting over and over again, no matter how many times he was proven wrong, until everyone else forgot, too.

XXX

The town that Roxas found himself in gave off the distinct impression of peeling at the edges - it was a port village painted in yellow lamplight and the reek of human refuse, but bustling with the kind of vibrancy that the blonde had never experienced in his short life. It was alive in all the ways that the Castle wasn't, with people enjoying their humanity in every way.

In ways he'd never seen before, actually. In ways he hadn't even known were possible.

Really, he hoped to whatever god was in charge of fate and the torture of creatures that were only half alive - because there had to be one - that it would take pity on him and let Marluxia be there, somewhere, and easy to retrieve.

In the general hustle and bustle of the square - the energetic chatter interrupted occasionally by the bark of laughter from a larger building to the left - there were a few women who stood out not because of any defining physical characteristic, but because they weren't doing anything in particular. They stood off to the side looking prettily bored - which Roxas could only assume was the intention - in dresses that must have squished their midsections to about a third of their actual size.

The blonde definitely though that he probably wouldn't understand women at all - then again, at this point, his only frame of reference was Larxene. He doubted anybody of either gender got her, except for maybe Marluxia, and he probably pretended he did so he could get in bed with her.

Pushing thoughts of the Organization's resident sadist aside, he walked over to the women, seeing as they were probably the only ones in the square who weren't either drunk out of what few wits they may have had, passed out, or engaging in public sex acts that the blonde was sure he wasn't really keen on interrupting.

"Excuse me," he said to get their attention, not really knowing where the sudden politeness had come from.

"Well hello there, dearie," one of them responded before he had a chance to finish his sentence, too-red lips curving up into what was probably supposed to be a flirtatious smile but ended up seeming more predatory. "Can I… help you?" she asked, looking up through her lashes, and Roxas couldn't help but take a step back. He wasn't sure just what she wanted to do with him, but he was pretty certain he wouldn't like it either way.

"Yeah. Uh, can you tell me where I am?" he asked, glad that his hood was still up so that she couldn't see the look on his face, whatever it might have been.

"This 'ere's Tortuga," she informed him incredulously, voice reaching pitches that normal voices shouldn't have been able to touch as she shared a look with her friend, who was thinner than a glass rod and looked almost as fragile. Roxas found himself suddenly glad that there weren't more women in the Organization, if this was what they were like. "'ow'd you get 'ere if you don't know where you be?"

"I'm not entirely sure," he responded, halfway truthfully. "Anyway, I'm looking for someone," he continued hastily, not wanting the conversation to go on for any longer than it absolutely had to. " He had pink hair and wore a lot of black. Have you seen anyone like that?"

The two shared another look, and suddenly the woman's painted smile dropped into an expression of coached indifference.

"Oh, you're lookin' fer 'im, are you," came her slightly superior question as she pointed towards a less dilapidated building on the far edge of the square. "'E's over thataway," she informed the blonde, turning her back then and putting her arm around her friend before Roxas even had a chance to give a word of thanks, not that he was particularly complaining. He noticed as they left that he felt a bit gratified - vindicated, even - by the fact that he was not the only one who was on a fast track to hating Marluxia. The guy was just an asshole to everyone, apparently.

Writing off their sudden departure as a side effect of that fact, the blonde set off at a trot in the direction she'd showed him, confronting the warm orange light of the door within just a minute or so, after deftly avoiding a few drunk people who were asleep quite happily on the stained cobblestones. Determinedly not thinking about what, precisely, they were stained with, Roxas took a step over the threshold, only to be greeted by one of the stranger sights he had ever been privy to. The room was filled with men - lots of men, and only men - who all seemed intent on giving the newcomer in his pretty black robe a thorough look-over.

"Can we help you?" asked a man who slunk over from the corner, and the young blonde sighed in relief because this man, at least, seemed to have a fair grasp of the English language.

"Yeah, actually. I'm looking for a man with pink hair. He'd be wearing a suit similar to this one. I really need to speak with him," he said all in one breath, because he was immensely reassured by the imminent prospect of reencountering his missing partner. Giving another wary glance to the other men in the room, it occurred to him that he might even spare Marluxia the beating that he deserved if he could just leave this fucking place. He heard a gunshot and some screaming from the square just then, and winced more than he cared to admit.

"Eh, I see," the man responded, giving an understanding nod. "He's here. Upstairs, actually. Would you like to go see him?"

"So much," Roxas breathed, grateful. "Thanks a ton. You don't even understand how much I appreciate this." Apparently not everyone in this place was batshit insane.

The man grinned kindly, just wide enough to show off a rotting tooth on the top, then gave the blonde a pat on the shoulder.

"'Tis no problem, lad," he reassured the smaller. "Anything I can do to help."

Brushing off the next words of thanks, the man summoned someone who seemed to be a lackey in that place - a lackey wearing lots of black eyeliner in twirling patterns, but Roxas didn't ask - to bring the blonde up the stairs and to a pockmarked wooden door behind which Marluxia apparently was hiding. He slammed the door open to make a point to the man inside, ignoring the small woodchips that fell off of the top in a spray of dust.

"Marluxia, you son of a bitch," he spat, before his eyes adjusted to the lights in the room and he realized that the pink-haired man inside was not, in fact, his missing partner. He was a pretty - even beautiful - strawberry blonde, with much better teeth than his friend downstairs and a look of invitation that even Roxas couldn't miss.

"Oh," he began then, flushed with what definitely wasn't embarrassment at his only halfway accidental intrusion. "I'm so sorry, I… Oh," he drifted off again, eyes widening, as he realized that the man on the bed - no, walking on the floor now - was quite naked and didn't seem to have any problems with that. Within another instant, his hand had been grabbed and he was being led, still shell-shocked, towards the plush bed.

"Calm down, lad," the man said with an attempt at sweetness that, in combination with his nakedness, made Roxas's stomach turn a little. "It'll be alrigh' if you're jus' relaxed."

That statement made the gravity of the situation obvious enough that Roxas finally summoned up the presence of mind to tear his hand out of the other's grip.

"I think there's been some mistake," he spluttered frantically, looking for a quick exit.

"No mistake. You asked fer me."

"Actually," he said as he scooted sideways, finding the door - predictably - to have a broken handle on the inside, "I didn't ask for you. I was looking for someone else." He was suddenly distracted in his search by the sensation of the man's lips meeting with his own, and the action put him so much in shock that he couldn't move at all, much less attempt an escape.

Thankfully, they were interrupted by the creak of the hinges as the door opened and a familiar - yes, sweet god, familiar - voice rumbled out in Marluxia's smooth baritone.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt anything," came Marluxia's amused drawl after a moment's pause, and Roxas pulled away from the other man's face in horror. "I'll leave you to that then," he continued with an undertone of mockery that Roxas was astonished he'd ever missed, pulling the door back closed.

"I'm coming with you asshole," he snarled as he stuck his hand out to catch the wood before it pulled shut.

"Oh? But you were having so much fun." He didn't seem too bothered as Roxas yanked the door open and stepped through purposefully.

"You left me to these people," the blonde hissed, jerking a hand out to the side in a vague directional gesture that might or might not have been pointing the right way.

Marluxia raised a perfect eyebrow at that, and gave a laugh.

"I heard from the whores in the square that you might have been in need of some assistance, so I came to help you. This is how you thank me?"

Roxas was left quite slack-jawed at that - the measure of the man's delusions was quite frankly astounding.

"But you left me to them in the first place!"

"That's not what Luxord saw, and he's prepared to defend that point in front of the Superior," Marluxia responded with an expression that might have looked serious except for the evil smirk in his eyes.

When Xemnas called him up on it later, Roxas held to his story that he was completely not responsible for his actions, because Marluxia totally had it coming to him. Nobody believed him but Axel - but the fact remained that he had gotten to paste Marluxia's smug face - repeatedly - and the memory made his punishment entirely worth it.

XXX

XXX

Sorry for the delay - extra long chapter to make up for it.

Comment if you liked?