The first night Axel comes, his jagged silhouette cuts a dark shadow against the fluorescent lights of Twilight Town and Sora never thinks for a moment he knows him.
Then Axel turns his face slightly and the soft whites and yellows spill onto his face, brightening his already intense emerald eyes. And if Sora had really tried, he would have felt the elusive twinge of recognition somewhere in the back of his mind like a puzzle falling into place, or a bottle being shattered.
A flurry of sparks illuminates the room and a split second later, the Keyblade appears in Sora's tired hands, weighing him down with responsibility and a hundred other things he could never name. The emerald eyes shift and stare at the weapon.
Axel's voice is rough. "You-"
One, two, three, four-
Sora counts the seconds in his mind without meaning to as the silence drags on, filling every inch of the lonely room. The Keyblade feels too heavy in his hands, as though reluctant to battle, and for some reason he can't bring himself to drive the Organisation XIII member out of his room.
Axel shifts and the long silver chains catch the light, gleaming like hope. Chime, chime, chime, and they're clinking together like a symphony in the silence, a prelude to something that could have been and should have been-
The name curls on his tongue, as though worn from use, but his green eyes are bright and his chains are gleaming like hope as they clink together, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Sora's response grinds hope to dust that lingers resentfully in the air. "Roxas?"
One, two, three, four-
"You really…don't remember anything, huh?"
Sora almost misses the disappointment in the tall man's alabaster features, but then finds it engraved into his gaze and wonders how he hadn't noticed immediately. And even though they were supposedly on different sides, the urge to say something to comfort him overwhelms Sora, because he is and always will be the nice guy.
(unlike Roxas- who was someone in between)
"My name's not Roxas," Sora tells him, because for once in his life he doesn't know what to say to make him feel better, doesn't know how to inspire him like he could effortlessly anyone else.
A dry laugh, bitter with everything that was wrong with life, escapes from Axel's lips and the noise grates against his ears. It makes Sora shiver involuntarily and Axel turns his back on him coldly, his black cloak cracking with the resentful force.
"I know," Axel says simply.
Then he leaves through the window and Sora rushes to the windowsill, pressing his suddenly clammy hands against the cold metal frame. But Axel is already gone and for a fleeting second, Sora almost wishes he had lied instead.
Sleep is elusive and evades Sora tonight. Hollow Bastion is warm and bright and so much happier than he remembers, but he can't forget Leon's words.
- everyone suddenly remembered you guys -
(and Sora's breath catches because it's so terrible to be forgotten-)
He leans over the edge of the stone balcony, the material cold and oppressive against his flushed skin. They should really install lights in the Bailey, but at the moment, Sora has never been more grateful for the darkness.
Chime. Chime. Chime.
Sora thinks – knows – that Axel is behind him. Even though it's been weeks since their last meeting, he will never forget the sound of those chains clinking against one another, never forget the defeated expression on Axel's face.
"It was you attacked us today, wasn't it?" Sora asks, his voice reverberating off the rock walls.
A soft laugh follows, and that's all the incentive he needs to pull out his Keyblade. He whips around, feeling something like betrayal flood through him (but why, if Sora hadn't trusted him in the first place?) Axel stands there and simply watches Sora like he has all the time in the world, his long hands tucked into his pockets.
"So what if it was me?" he asks, goading Sora.
His hands tighten around the handle of the Keyblade and he raises it threateningly, his expression darkening. And for a moment, he looks so much like Roxas that it makes Axel want to-
Axel tells him with a smirk, "Put the toy down, kid. You're gonna hurt yourself."
"I'm not just going to let you attack me," Sora snaps angrily.
"Well, I'm not going to attack you. Not now, anyways," he explains mildly.
A stray wind blows and the chains on Axel's coat sway against one another. Chime. Chime. Chime.
The Keyblade fades from Sora's hand like a Nobody from existence and Axel watches it disappear, his eyes unreadable as he makes the comparison. Sora folds his arms over his chest, suddenly aware of how cold it is, and Axel takes a few steps towards him leisurely.
He comments, "You're trustworthy to a fault, you know that?"
Sora doesn't grace that with an answer because he knows it's true. Axel leans against the balcony beside him and they both stare in silence at the twinkling lights of the castle in the distance, so bright against the midnight sky. His mind begins to drift and he thinks of fairytales and castles, of castles and princesses, of princesses and Kairi-
(you forgot me too, didn't you-?)
Then Sora turns his head, as though the weight of his thoughts is just too much all of a sudden, and Axel averts his eyes quickly. An unwilling memory of their battle creeps into his mind.
- he used to give me that same exact look and Sora could hear the happiness through the taunt, even as Axel brandished his weapons and the Keyblade glinted-
"The battle we had. You said I looked at you like someone," Sora says. "Did you mean Roxas?"
"You still remember his name, hm?" Axel asks, quietly pleased.
Feeling a little uncomfortable, Sora replies, "Well, yeah."
"Good. Make sure you keep it memorized."
"I don't know yours," Sora realizes aloud.
Axel smirks and shrugs. "I'll tell you eventually."
Sora almost asks a question about Roxas, about Axel. But their relationship is fragile and hangs on fraying threads, Sora's not sure if he wants to destroy it. So he keeps his mouth shut and silence takes the question's place instead, stretching for seconds to the point that it grows weary.
"So, you nocturnal or something? It's two in the morning, which I'm guessing is way past your bedtime," Axel ventured.
Sora answers, "I couldn't sleep."
"Mm…worried about something?" he presses.
And Sora has always been naïve and too emotional. Even though they were enemies just hours earlier, when they're here, talking in undertones alone, he feels like he can tell him almost everything. Inhaling deeply, Sora rests his chin on his hands and the faraway lights swim before his eyes.
"Are you…" he begins.
Axel turns his head slightly, meeting his gaze out of the corner of his green eyes. He's listening, waiting for Sora to continue.
Then he finishes, "Are you scared of being forgotten?"
Axel's lips twitch with the irony, curving into a smile that wasn't a smile. Truthfully, honestly, he tells Sora, "All the time."
The Beast's Castle is calm and quiet now that they've opened another gate. Sora's Keyblade thrums with energy from the after effect, he can feel it tingling inside of him and he feels too high strung to focus on anything. Donald and Goofy are eating with Belle and the others in the Parlour; Sora hadn't been hungry and had decided to take a walk instead.
His footsteps are soft and insignificant against the gravel, failing to fill the deserted grounds. The silence seems to swallow all noise and he begins to calm down, listening to his own heartbeat in his ears.
The voice startles Sora and he turns around in surprise. Something blue flashes through the air and he instinctively grabs it. His eyes rove over the childish packaging and the gaudy yellow words flash out at him, daring him to remember something, anything.
"Sea salt ice cream? What're you giving me this for?" Sora asks, holding it up in complete confusion.
Axel simply smirks at him and says, "You'd better eat that before it melts."
Sora hesitates for a moment, but Axel's emerald eyes are hopeful again and before he can stop himself- he's already ripping it open. Even though his footsteps weren't enough to shatter the silence earlier, the soft rip of plastic is and he begins to feel self conscious. He stares at the blue ice lolly for a few moments.
It feels like he's sitting an examination and Axel is his proud parent expecting him to get an A plus, and for some irrational reason, Sora wants to make him happy. He remembers the heartbreaking laugh from their first meeting and the dead look in his eyes, and nobody should ever - ever - have to look like that.
He tastes the ice cream tentatively. Axel's eyes are watching him, every body part tense and he's hoping, hoping, hoping-
"That's awful!" Sora blurts, his entire face contorting in disgust.
Axel's eyes widen in shock, that clearly wasn't the reaction he was expecting. He says nothing for a few moments and Sora is cross-eyed, rubbing at his tongue with his fingers and trying to get rid of the taste. It's a little disgusting to watch but endearing all the same.
Before Axel can help it, the laugh bubbles from his lips like life and Sora stops, staring at him. It's the hardest Axel's laughed since Roxas left, and something twinges in the back of Sora's mind.
(meet again in the next life-)
"I guess even your tastes are different, huh?" Axel asks lightly.
He doesn't seem to mind all that much that his plan has backfired, that Sora hasn't remembered anything. The smile is still on his face and shows no sign of slipping, but Sora can't quite believe it. His eyes had been so dark and jaded only moments ago, but now they're bright and shining. Is a funny face all it takes to make him happy?
"Guess I'll see you around then. Not much reason for me to stay here any longer," Axel says, stretching.
As he turns, Sora calls out, "When will I see you again?"
For the second time, Axel is overwhelmed by surprise. Emotions he wasn't sure he'd had take over and force him to a halt, he breathes in deeply at the foreign sensation. Sora watches him, waiting expectantly, and finally Axel meets his gaze.
"When I feel like it, I guess. Don't hold your breath," Axel replies.
It doesn't take much for Sora to notice his emerald eyes are a little softer, his smile a little more genuine.
The dusky sunset Twilight Town is so famous for begins, setting the entire town ablaze with a soft golden glow. The clock tower is dangerously high, but the view is breathtaking and Sora decides the risk is more than worth it. His feet hang precariously over the edge and he doesn't look down, simply ahead across the horizon.
"You shouldn't be in a dangerous place like this, kid."
Sora starts in surprise, and the sudden movement is all it takes to tip him over the edge. His cerulean eyes whir with fear and his arm lashes out above him, but he misses the cement ledge of the tower and begins to fall, fall-
And then he hangs suspended in mid-air.
He stares in disbelief at his arm and the long fingers wrapped tightly around his wrist, his lifeline. Then slowly, his gaze travels upwards to that of his saviour and the amber sunlight paints Axel'ss face something beautiful. Lights twinkle in his eyes, sunlight reflected on his green irises, and he almost glows like an-
"Urgh, you're pretty heavy for your size," he grunts, shattering the breathtaking illusion.
Sora frowns at him and with one powerful yank, Axel pulls him back onto the clock tower. When he lets go, Sora can feel his skin prickling from the contact and he finds himself missing the heat. He stares at his wrist for a few moments in complete silence and his thoughts overwhelm him, whirlpooling in his mind.
Then Sora says suddenly, decisively, "Axel."
Axel blinks in recognition at the name, and before he can help himself, he's already responded to the call and turned his head. Disappointment floods through Sora and he grits his teeth, balling his fists on his knees.
"So it's really you, huh?" Sora says, unable to keep the sadness out of his voice.
Axel demands, "Who told you my name?"
"Another Organisation XIII member with a cross on his forehead mentioned it, but I didn't actually know if it was you," he explains.
"Saïx," Axel mutters darkly under his breath.
- Axel will stop at nothing to turn you into a Heartless and Sora's hand had tightened around the Keyblade and forced away the foreboding, it couldn't be him-
"Why didn't you just let me fall?" Sora asks quietly.
Axel rolls his eyes and replies, "Why, did you want to die?"
"No," Sora blurts, "but you want to turn me into a Heartless, don't you?"
Running a hand through his unruly crimson hair, Axel answers, "I'm tired right now, so I can't be bothered to kill you."
Growing emotional, Sora demands, "Then why haven't you killed me before now? You can't have been tired all those times as well!"
"What the heck's your problem?" Axel says in complete disbelief, not understanding Sora's outburst.
"I don't understand this, Axel. I really don't and you're going to have to tell me because I can't figure it out," Sora begins, his voice growing in volume.
"Why can't you just take it as it is and not ask questions? It'll be less complicated for both of us," Axel snaps irritably.
Sora says in a rush, "I should kill you now, before you fight us again. You might end up killing someone precious to me next time, but I don't- don't want to kill you, even if you want to kill me."
Axel snarls, "And why's that?"
"Because you're precious to me too."
The sky is growing darker and Sora can feel the cold wind rushing up the sides of the clock tower, freezing his hands and cheeks. Through it all, Axel remains unmoved and his green eyes flicker like flames, intense with emotions Sora would never be able to name.
He asks again, "Why don't you kill me, Axel?"
"…I don't know."
Anger floods through Sora, fresh as blood from an open cut, but then he blinks. And Axel is gone, nothing but a memory passing him by.
The Land of Dragons is unlike anything Sora has ever seen before, all bright lights and fireworks, all red and gold and he thinks he wouldn't mind staying here for a little longer. His room in the Imperial Palace is beautiful but lonely, Donald and Goofy are staying in separate ones down the hall, and he lies on his bed in a state of complete relaxation.
"You're not slacking on the job, are you kid?"
And Sora hasn't heard that voice in days, in weeks, not since their argument in Twilight Town. Joy fills him, suddenly and instantaneously, and he shoots upwards. His eyes meet the emerald ones he's been unconsciously craving, but then he begins to remember what Axel's done.
- you're the one who kidnapped Kairi and he smirked, his green gaze infuriating, as though to tell him bingo! -
Sora's expression contorts in anger and he snarls, "You-"
His fist flies towards Axel's face and the Nobody steps backwards in the nick of time, watching it detachedly as it swipes the air before him. Sora lunges forwards, arms outstretched to strangle him, and Axel grabs his wrists easily. Their faces are so close now, Sora can feel Axel's breath curling over his cheeks and thinks he stops breathing for a few moments.
Then he recollects himself and hisses, "Where's Kairi?"
A smirk pulls at the corner of Axel's lips. "I'm not telling you."
Sora lets out a sound of frustration, yanking at his wrists, but Axel is stronger and holds him in place easily. His blue eyes are filled with anger and frustration and Axel knows those eyes better than anyone. Without thinking, he leans forwards.
Sora stills suddenly as Axel presses his lips against his own. His eyes are wide and locked with Axel's, cerulean and emerald, and Axel's skin is burning hot. Sora feels overwhelmed by the kiss, the proximity, by Axel and he doesn't know what to do, doesn't know what-
"Roxas," Axel murmurs against his lips.
And Sora's world stops.
Then hurt, as potent as poison, floods through him, attacking every last nerve ending and filling his mind with Roxas, Roxas, Roxas. It pains him to breathe and he can't stand being this close to Axel anymore, he doesn't want to see him anymore. Gritting his teeth, he shoves Axel away from him and the Nobody is taken off guard.
He smashes into the dresser behind him and Sora can't look at him.
"Get out," Sora says, his voice dangerously quiet.
Then he screams, "Get out!"
Axel disappears in a flurry of embers and only when Sora is absolutely sure he's gone, he sinks to the floor in a crumpled heap, staring at his hands through blurry eyes. He grits his teeth, digs his nails into his palms and he can still feel Axel's lips against his. He wants to forget the way he tastes, to forget the warmth of his body and forget him.
Twilight Town is dark and quiet and Sora sits on the edge of the clock tower, staring resentfully at the luminous moon. It's cold but he can't bring himself to care anymore. His feet dangle over the edge and sway back and forth in an imaginary wind, swaying, swaying, swaying-
Then he's yanked to his feet, his mouth claimed by fire and the heat is pressing in on him from all sides, filling him and dizzying him. His hands curl instinctively in a black cloak and he thinks – knows – he might have fallen for Axel, but it's harder to keep a hold of his thoughts when he's being consumed like this.
Axel pulls away for a split second, his emerald eyes blazing and he looks at Sora- really looks at him.
A computer smashed to pieces sits before them, derelict and lonely, and Sora feels a twinge of recognition. It robs his breath from him as he stares at it and pieces fall into place because he remembers anger, and betrayal and my heart belongs to me-
"This is the other Twilight Town," he realises aloud. "Roxas's Twilight Town."
Mickey looks at him in surprise, but then recollects himself quickly, eyes scanning the room. He comments, "There's gotta be an entrance to the dark realm somewhere."
Their footsteps are heavy and offensive in the silent mansion, but Sora's mind is whirring with memories and Roxas. A portal swirls before them, black and green (Axel-) and Sora feels something pull at his heart, warning him not to go.
"There…" he murmurs quietly.
Mickey nods in confirmation. "This is it."
(don't go, don't go, don't go, don't go-)
The portal consumes Sora and he shuts his eyes, feeling his body flaring with heat and remembers Axel, remembers a dark clock tower in Twilight Town, remembers a quiet murmur of a name that was finally his-
He jolts out of his thoughts when he lands shakily in a world of light that swirls like steam, unsettling and silent. He takes the first step but his feet make no sound, he glances back at his friends doubtfully.
"What is this place?" he asks.
Letting out a sigh of frustration, Donald brandishes his wand like a sword and demands, "Well, which way should we go?"
Taking another step forwards, Sora calls out tentatively, "Riku! Kairi!"
As though Sora's voice had called them forth, Nobodies appear on all sides, surrounding them. Sora hasn't ever seen this many Nobodies and his hands tighten around the Keyblade, but he knows there's no way they'll be able to defeat them all, not like this.
But he grits his teeth and thinks of Riku and Kairi and flashes forwards, his Keyblade sparkling in his hands like sunlight. He'll fight for them, he'll do anything for them and tears through the ranks of Nobodies, fingers tight around a golden handle. With every Nobody he takes down, hundreds take its place and frustration builds in him, don't stop here, don't stop now-
Donald is growing tired, his feet stumble and he can't dodge the raking white arms of a Nobody as they tear into his flesh. He hisses and Sora sees the fatigue building up in him, Goofy is weakening as well as Mickey desperately forces his way through the horde towards him. They can't go on much longer and they need to come up with another tactic, they can't keep fighting the Nobodies.
Sora's body is tired and his is chest heaving as he calls out, "It's no use!"
Chime. Chime. Chime.
And Sora knows that sound like the back of his hand, but how can Axel be here, why is Axel here now? His head snaps up and his gaze meets Axel's intense emerald one, something shudders inside him and the urge to touch him almost overwhelms him-
"Don't stop moving, or the darkness will overtake you!" Axel shouts at him, because Sora can't die here, Sora won't die here-
Sora doesn't move, his body rooted to the spot, and can't say anything. Axel's eyes flicker and he smashes Nobodies out of the way easily, forcing his way to Sora, and they're together side by side.
He snarls at Sora, "Get going!"
(and this time Axel's forcing RoxasSora to go, it's not raining and there are no towering skyscrapers, but it's more dangerous in this empty world and the words hurt more-)
Sora won't - can't – leave Axel behind, but words are difficult to find all of a sudden in the face of his greatest enigma. "Why?"
Axel has a hundred answers but not enough time to tell them all, and there's still too much he hasn't been able to say. Saving Sora is the first priority and he bites back everything else except, "Don't ask. Just do it!"
Nobodies tear Axel to the ground, away from Sora, and the impulsive need to protect Axel floods through Sora. He rushes forwards, Keyblade slashing faster than ever before, his chest heaving and then Axel is safe, Axel is fine.
"You okay?" Sora asks breathlessly.
Axel's eyes flicker. Even though he's known it all along, he swears the truth has never been clearer to him. Sora is not Roxas, Sora is brunette and Roxas is blonde, Sora is a hero and Roxas was something in between, Sora has the weight of the world resting on his shoulders and Roxas wouldn't have cared, Sora-
(has other people who care for him and now it's Axel's turn to step aside-)
"I kidnapped Kairi, but she got away from me," Axel says, the words tumbling from his mouth. "After that Saïx caught her. He's a member of Organisation XIII."
Sora doesn't seem to understand and Axel rises to his feet, wanting to grab his shoulders and shake him, but knows touching him will destroy his resolve. The need to keep Sora with him is almost painful, but he forces it down.
Axel's voice is urgent, and he tells him, "Saïx. Got it memorised? Now go save her!"
A Nobody lunges at them and Sora slashes at it viciously, his heart pounding because Axel can't be saying what he thinks he's saying. Sora doesn't want to miss a single thing, a single murmur and he screams furiously at the horde as though it will make a difference, "Leave us alone!"
A warm laugh bubbles up from Axel's chest at Sora's pathetic rage. Sora pulls him to his feet, the touch enough to ignite sparks between them. Their eyes meet for a split second and Sora begins to think maybe they stand a chance against the army of Nobodies. They fight together and it's so natural, as though they've been doing it for years and years and not just seconds.
Despite their skill, the flood of Nobodies never slows.
"I think I liked it better when they were on my side," Axel comments.
A breezy chuckle escapes Sora's lips and he teases, "Feeling a little regret?"
Axel turns his head slightly and takes a look at Sora's face.
Sora's smile is wide and happy, his sapphire eyes shine like diamonds and something shifts in Axel. He had made someone smile like that? Feeling inclined to smile himself, he manages to maintain his smirk and thinks, you can't make someone smile without a heart, right?
Truthfully, he tells Sora, "Nah."
(you're precious to me too and Axel is replaceable and destined to be forgotten, but Sora is a saviour and will be remembered forever)
Something shifts in Sora's eyes and he picks up on the infinite depth of that single word because Axel is smiling, a soft smile that's so genuine and heartbreaking. He opens his mouth to say something as dread fills his stomach, but Axel turns away from him.
His voice is loud and mischievous, "I can take care of these punks. Watch this!"
And before Sora can stop him, the warmth against his back is gone and he almost lunges out to keep him there. Axel is too far away now and he can do nothing but watch as he rises into the air, glowing golden and his eyes are filled with so much joy, so much acceptance, and his black sleeves billow like wings. A roar rips from his mouth, striking chords within Sora, and then fire consumes the battlefield.
Throwing his arms upwards to shield his eyes, Sora thinks he can hear someone screaming in his mind, a scream he knows belongs to Roxas. It's a scream filled with anguish, a scream that tears Sora apart from the inside and the light subsides finally.
But Axel isn't there.
His eyes search the suddenly empty space wildly and come to a halt on a small dark figure on the ground far away. If it hadn't been for the wild crimson hair, Sora would've never recognised him. Axel had never looked so vulnerable or weak. His feet move instinctively and he stumbles forwards in his haste, he needs to get to Axel.
Black spirals of smoke drift upwards from Axel's body and his head shifts to look at Sora, the effort draining him. The chains around his neck clink but they don't chime and Sora somehow knows this is the end for Axel, for them.
"You're…fading away…" he says in complete horror.
Axel smirks and Sora wants to punch him, because he's dying and he's got no right to be happy, he should be angry, or upset, or frustrated, or-
Axel's voice is light, "Well, that's what happens when you put your whole being into an attack. You know what I mean? Not that Nobodies have beings…right?"
He laughs then, as though he's telling the funniest joke in the world and it's breaking Sora to pieces to listen to him. Sora wants to say something, to shout at him for being so stupid and unreasonable, but the words won't come.
"Anyway, I digress. Go, find Kairi," Axel tells him, as though it's not crushing him to force away the only person who ever cared for him.
Sora jerks then, suddenly remembering why they came to Betwixt and Between. Axel sees the recognition and the determination to save Kairi flicker in his eyes, and he knows Sora will be alright without him.
"Oh, almost forgot," Axel remembers aloud. "Sorry for what I did to her."
Gloved hands tighten and Sora doesn't like the way he's talking, as though he won't get the chance to see her again and he blurts desperately, "When we find her, you can tell her yourself."
(so stay, Axel-)
"Think I'll pass. My heart just wouldn't be in it, you know? Haven't got one," Axel says.
His laugh this time is harsher, weaker, and Sora knows it's forced.
Sora begins, "Axel-"
His voice breaks.
Axel is watching him, his face growing paler, paler, and Sora can feel the warmth leaving him. He wants Axel to live, but knows it's impossible and a lump forms in his throat. Tears of frustration begin to build in his eyes and it's almost too hard to keep looking at him.
"What were you trying to do?" Sora asks, his voice raw and desperate.
"I wanted to see Roxas."
Sora shuts his eyes, shoulders shuddering as he holds in his breath to keep from gasping.
Axel's voice is quieter now and his words come slowly, painfully. "He…was the only one I liked. He made me feel…like I had a heart."
Tears slip down Sora's face and he opens his eyes, unable to hold them back. Axel watches him and smiles, as though he's apologising for everything, and his arm twitches. He wants to reach up and touch Sora, but he's so tired and his body is so heavy.
Axel finishes in a ragged whisper, "It's kind of funny-
-you make me feel the same."
The last thing Axel sees are Sora's blue, blue eyes and everything is alright now.
Axel is replaceable and destined to be forgotten. Sora is a saviour and will be remembered forever.
(but it's not too bad to be remembered by someone like Sora.)
FIRST KINGDOM HEARTS STORY, BABY! YEAAAH!
Whoosh. Now that's out of my system. This oneshot's been begging to be written for half a year at the least, I started it before my writing style drastically changed and have been tweaking it for a while. I worked with the gamescript for the parts that are actually in the game and not just figments of my imagination, but I haven't played the game for a long time so sorry if things are a little messy. :S And now that I've finished writing it, I've hit a road block with Naruto fanfiction. Maybe it's a sign I should move fandoms.
...or maybe not.
Axel doesn't have a heart, so he needs yours. :(