Disclaimer: As for all previous chapters, I own nothing!

A/N: This is not the end, just the end of the beginning. I'm not sure right now whether the subsequent stuff will take the form of another long story or be episodic shorts. I'd appreciate any suggestions!


In The Beginning: Endgame

Back on the World That Never Was, the days fell into a kind of routine for the remaining residents. Missions were followed by downtime, followed by missions. Axel sent Roxas vids of Namine as promised, but not being able to see her in the flesh was getting him down. Roxas was going a bit off the rails during downtime. He was often very drunk, and usually woke up in somebody else's room, never quite sure how he got there, but pretty sure of what must have happened. The morning he woke up next to Saix, the Castle That Never Was, almost, never was any more. Xemnas blew a gasket and threatened all sorts of destruction on the heads of everyone. Saix eventually got him to come round after showing him all the hidden camera footage, proving Roxas had literally portalled in and immediately fallen fast asleep. Luckily, it didn't show intentions, because that had not been Saix's intention, he just hadn't really fancied another inert body, he already had Xemnas!

Axel and Demyx, had first managed to meet up a week after their lunch, in Axel's room at Castle Tedious. Demyx had portalled in, wearing rather surprising gear. He'd borrowed a garter that Lux had taken from some lap-dancing club and put it on, tucking his cellphone in. A little jiggery-pokery with a sheet that was now converted into a toga, and a wreath of leaves from Marluxia's gardens, completed his outfit.

"Guess who?" he asked a slightly surprised Axel, on arrival. "You don't guess, you don't get!" he teased, dodging as Axel reached for him, and then took up an ironman pose.

"Snow White!" offered Axel, in stitches. Demyx re-posed, pouting just slightly. "Wrong, and this isn't twenty questions!" snapped Dem.

"No, it just depends how badly I want whatever it is!" quipped Axel, now teasing him, causing Dem's colour to rise, and making him wonder if he'd been right to do this.

"OK then! Philoctetes!" suggested Axel. Dem knew Ax was now playing ball and began to enjoy the game. He re-posed again.

"Sod it, Dem! You're Herc, now get into bed! I, for one, have waited long enough for this!" he said as Dem bounded onto the bed, cellphone, wreath and garter flying, and kissed him.

"You're such a big kid, you know," said Axel, when they surfaced for breath.

"And you're not having a great time, old guy?" retorted Demyx, as he moved in for another kiss.

It wasn't till nearly an hour later that the proverbial dudu hit the proverbial fan. Axel had quickly discovered that Demyx didn't understand the meaning of the word quiet, at least, not in bed. His sheer enthusiasm was exhausting.

Unfortunately, Vexen, possibly venturing above ground for his first ever time at the castle, since he slept and worked in the basement here, was passing in the corridor, looking for Marluxia. Hearing squeals and screams of "There!...No!...Stop!...Yes, there!...You've got them!...Aaah! I'm slipping!...That tickles!" and thinking it must be Marluxia and Larxene, the only current couple in the place, he wandered in. He couldn't stand either of them and had no compunction about messing up their fun.

It didn't need a second look to tell him that it was not the couple he had thought. Axel was emerging from under his bed, no mistaking that hair, with Demyx's cellphone and garter in one hand, and was tickling his feet which were hanging over the side of the bed with the wreath he held in the other. He slipped quietly back out, and being one of the old guard, and knowing that Demyx had no place being there, he immediately went for his cellphone. The two lovers were so wrapped up in each other they hadn't even noticed him, coming in or leaving. The first they knew, was when their cellphones started to ring. Vex had been in his robe, and even without him ringing, Xemnas had already got a technicolour view of the scene.

"Dem, sweetie, I think we're in deep shit. The boss just texted me, 'Hightail it to my office now, AND BRING YOUR BOYFRIEND!"

"I've got the same message. You got a spare robe? I really don't want to go like this!"

"No, but I'll portal now. You go to your room first and change. How the hell did he find out? Personally I'd have said your amazingly loud vocals, but then we'd have got the call..." he dodged a pillow from a pouting Dem, "...earlier, much earlier! I'm mad as piss, I'll kill the bastard that did this, I promise!" and from Axel that was no idle threat.

Xemnas hauled Axel and Demyx over the coals, and banned Ax from leaving the castle at all, until the mission was over. Demyx's punishment was being sent on the kind of missions he most disliked, and obviously, being barred from Castle Oblivion. Their only contact now was over the computer, which they made the most of, Demyx even managing to put on mini-performances, between missions.

Xemnas was not happy with the way matters were progressing at Castle Oblivion. It really wasn't Axel's fault, he was doing exactly as he had been asked, now, but with extremely bad grace, and Larxene and Marluxia were doing exactly what he had expected. Unfortunately, things were unravelling slightly, due to unforeseen circumstances, which should never have happened. First, Riku had turned up, apparently pursued by Xem's own Heartless, who should not have been able to self-resurrect, then Vexen had had the nerve to clone Riku, (like one wasn't enough), to get one over on Marluxia.

Zexion, he noted, had to get his head out of his books more, and be made to pay more attention at meetings, the guy didn't appear to have any idea why he had been sent to Oblivion! Getting him out of Vexen's pants was no longer a problem after a few too many lovers' quarrels, and he and Lex seemed to be getting on pretty well, for them; Zex rambled for hours about stuff from his books and Lex tuned out! Maybe he should get Lex to talk to him! Watching all the footage, hour after hour was making him tired, and also meant Saix was virtually running the place, when he wasn't having run-ins with Xigbar. All of which meant they rarely got to spend any time together, or that little tart Roxas would never have got into Saix's bed, he thought angrily.

Axel was also angry. As soon as he had returned, he had reviewed all the bug footage, until he saw the one of Vexen in his corridor, entering his room, and leaving on his cellphone. 'Your days are numbered', Axel thought, and wondered how to achieve his goal - and - sell it to Xemnas, who came down badly on private vendettas. He never imagined that the pink-haired poodle and insectwoman would hand him the excuse on a plate, and yet that's exactly what had happened! Oh fun, oh joy, he was so going to make the most of this!

When Xemnas found out, on the other hand, he was less than delighted. The reasoning Axel gave him made sense, it got the traitors to trust him. However, Xemnas strongly suspected that Axel had found out who had grassed, and was using this as an excuse to get his revenge. He would miss Vexen, the pedantic academic had not been pleasant but he had been loyal and useful and it meant they would now be short of a scientist and a medic!

A few days later, he was seriously debating whether to recall Axel, who was being a major pain since he couldn't see his boyfriend, and seemed to have some personal agenda now, or just send Saix to cool things down, when his computer received one of the little coded messages Axel liked so much, and he immediately switched on all cameras simultaneously. Everything was, according to Axel, going to Hell in a basket; a cold sweat broke out over him as he watched events he never wanted to see unfold in front of him.

For the first time, in his Nobody existence he felt out of control, he didn't even want Saix to see him this way. What was that stupid brat Zexion doing now? What had possessed him to leave a psycho like Axel at that castle, dissatisfied? As he watched the monitors, as if in slow motion, he saw one member after another falling to Sora, or one of the Rikus, and that goddamn interfering mouse. What the hell was Axel playing at? Didn't he understand his mission either? Or was he too upset about the blond he was screwing to care? He switched from screenshot to screenshot – where the hell was Axel, and what was that bloody girl doing with Sora? Where were they going? That man with Riku, he knew that voice like his own, he had known it was bad news when the guy had gone missing. Hours must have passed, but he didn't feel anything but numb. They were screwing up everything!

'Get a grip,' he thought, as he felt Saix portal in with their dinner.

"Xem? Is something wrong?" he asked, seeing the look on his lover's face.

"No! Everything's wrong! We've lost Marls, Larx – OK, no loss there, Vexen, Lexaeus and that stupid brat, Zex. Axel has disappeared, Sora has gone somewhere with Namine, and our old boss is back stirring the whole mix!" Xem finished, hysterically.

"Hey, calm down, that can't all have happened, and we knew that some of them would not be coming back from that place!"

He rewound the footage and looked at the monitors. Realisation dawned and he, too, could only look on in horror.

"OK, Xem, it's bad! But it isn't the end! So, we haven't got Sora..."

"...or Namine, wait...no...there she is with Riku...and there they both go with that arsehole, Ansem the Prize, or whatever he's calling himself these days. Where are they going? Where are the cameras? Where the hell is Axel?" screeched Xemnas, his voice ever higher in both pitch and volume.

"Xem," Saix cajoled, slipping his arms round his lover's waist, "we've still got Roxas! We can manage without that Sora kid, at least until we find him again! Namine was always a bit of an unknown quantity and liability! Don't do this to yourself!" He planted a kiss on Xem's forehead as you would to an upset child.

"Xem, answer your phone," he said, feeling it vibrating in the pocket of his robe. "Fine, I'll do it!" he said as Xemnas remained immobile in his arms, and he fished it out.

"Xem, it's an emergency text from Axel. He did an emergency portal but because he was so weak from the fight it's gone wrong. He's caught in some dimension he doesn't know, and can't portal again. He did his job..."

"...that's what you think!"

"...and we're low enough on numbers. I'm going to fetch him back. I know you're upset by all this but you can't blame him for the appearance of Ansem, Riku and the stupid mouse, and you can't expect him to have taken them all on solo! Let him recuperate, see his boyfriend again, and then you can test his loyalty, if you still need to!" Saix kissed his hero on the top of his head and was gone.

Several days, and meetings later, not ones that Axel had even been asked to attend, given the state he was in, at the no longer properly staffed infirmary. Xig had done what he could but he was a meta-physicist originally not a biologist, and his knowledge of what to reconnect to what, was done from intuition rather than learning. Luckily for Axel, Xig's intuition wasn't bad at all. By the time his first visitor arrived, he could have sat up but chose to pretend he was asleep instead. After all, he really did not want to talk to Xemnas, who he currently really couldn't tolerate.

Saix came the next day, and got a stunted thank-you, Ax knew he owed him his life, but he still couldn't stand the guy. Xemnas tried again, only to find Axel 'sleeping'. It was only after a full week, when Dem and Rox were finally allowed in, at Xig's suggestion, that Axel decided to 'come to' properly. In fact he nearly leapt out of bed!

"Lazy bastards! Why didn't you come before? Please don't tell me Xig wouldn't let you in, 'cos that's BS! The guy is so nice right now he even deals with my pee! Yesterday, I actually thought I might have felt guilty, for a moment anyway, for how I used to goad him!"

"Nah, you idiot," said Dem diving in for a welcome back smooch, "it's our brainless leader and his blue bugger that kept everyone out, until you've been debriefed. Clever Xiggy here told him you might never fully come round if you didn't see us, so...TaDah! We get in. Everyone's dying to see you, 'specially Lux, he wants to explain a lot, and Xal's replaced your iPod and your camcorder. We've taken over Marl's garden and we're growing..."

"...Flowers," chipped in Roxas, digging Dem in the back. Now was not the time to tell Axel they were growing a plant Xaldin had found on one of his trips, that the local medicine men used to help retrace the past. Ax had a thing about drugs, he seemed to remember, and he wouldn't understand how it helped Rox to remember things. Ax remembered who he had been and where he had come from, and everything, like Dem did. Rox didn't have that, he didn't have Sora's past, his was completely different, and somehow, unreal, and now, with Namine and Sora both gone, it was the only thing that helped, and friend or no, he wasn't about to have that blown.

Xig came in. "That's it guys. Numero Uno says if they can talk to you...blah blah blah! Ax, our great leader is on his way, this time you can't be 'asleep', or his paranoid self will smell a rat! Deal, you're good at it!"

Axel hugged his friends, sneaking a quick snog with Dem, and let them go as Xemnas portalled in.

"Glad to see you're feeling better, Ax. Bye you three," he added, waving his hand to indicate they should all disappear.

"Ax, I know you think you were unhappy there, but you weren't, we're not able to feel that way. Maybe you were a little dissatisfied or frustrated, minor emotional memories, but ultimately you came through. Hell, you nearly gave your life. I am not unhappy with your performance, just a little unclear. I understand why you got rid of Vexen, I know it was nothing personal," he gave Axel his most enigmatic look, which then switched to slightly puzzled, "but why did you abandon the others, not Marluxia and Larxene, but Lex and Zexy? What had they done?"

"Xem, it wasn't a choice, I honestly didn't know all of the shit that was going on down below. No-one shared, and they weren't part of the conspiracy, so I didn't dig. I realised, maybe a bit too late, that Sora was too much for me, I had no idea then where Lex and Zexion were, so I portalled, for all I knew they'd come back here. I knew Sora would be too much for anyone else too, so I knew he'd deal with Marluxia. I banked on it. Nothing went down the way it was supposed to, extra things and people kept being thrown into the mix. Personally, I think Marls and Larx screwed it up from the beginning with Namine. The way they treated her provoked her into developing a conscience, and after that, it was really her game – and then to top it all, she got help! It was a mess. I barely escaped with my life, such as it is, and I deserve some serious downtime with my friends." He nearly added "Got it memorized?" but managed to bite it back in time, for once.

"Axel, I don't disagree. Everyone needs a break now. We all need to regroup. Plan our next strategy. We will move cautiously, find out where Sora has gone, and Riku, and my old boss, and that damn mouse, and Namine. We will not allow them to surprise us again. Next time we will be ready. We've lost a battle, but we can wait a little longer to win the war for Kingdom Hearts. I doubt they are in a position to move on us either, anytime soon. We may need to recruit to fill in the gaps. At the moment though time is on our side, and I have ordered a week off for everyone. Then we shall see. I'll let the others back in now. Make a speedy recovery!" Xemnas got up from the end of the bed where he had been sitting, and portalled out. Immediately, two blonds raced in, and dived back onto the bed!

"So, spill!" begged Roxas, "What did bugalugs have to say?"

"Hey, you guys, sick man here, recent near death situation, give me some space!"

They moved back a fraction of an inch!

"Just the usual BS! I've never met anyone so sincere about something sound so insincere as he always does, and I think he knows why I really killed Vexen. D'ya know, it really is a gift to be able to drone on like that!" observed Axel, sarcastically.

"Did he tell you we've all got a week off?" asked Demyx.

"Yeah, I think this whole debacle has shaken him up a bit."

"Well, my point is, I don't want to spend a week in here with you, they don't even have curtains round the beds!" observed Demyx.

Axel laughed and Roxas rolled his eyes. "Dem, do you ever think of anything else?"

"Er, not since Ax came back, no!" admitted Dem, grinning. Roxas rolled his eyes again.

"Ax, do you have any idea what happened to Namine?" Roxas had been desperate to ask that question since Axel's return.

"Well, she started talking!" Roxas punched him. "Truthfully, no kid I don't! She's around somewhere, and I think she's OK. More than that...." Axel trailed off, sorry that his friend looked so downcast.

"Rox, if you're meant to meet her, you will. You couldn't even have known about her if you didn't have some kind of linked fate. I couldn't tell her about you but I think she sensed something. We'll find her again, promise! In the meantime, if you two lumps will get off me, I can get up, and after the best lunch ever at our favourite place, I intend to make Demyx very happy! I hope you've got plans for the afternoon Rox!" he chuckled, as he pushed them both backwards.