Author's Note: You know, when I started this drabble/one-shot series exactly one year ago today, I thought I'd be done by now… -_-'

But, anyway! It's AkuRoku Day '10, hooray! And that means "Equipoise" is getting a surprise update! Double hooray!

The inspiration for this story comes from yet another prompt on kh_drabble: "Memento."

WARNING: "358/2 Days" spoilers ahoy!

DISCLAMER: I don't own "Kingdom Hearts," nor do I make any money off writing this fanfiction. "Kingdom Hearts" belongs to Tetsuya Nomura, Square Enix, and Disney, Inc.

OK, I'm done talking now. Story time!

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Equipoise (n): 1) An equal distribution of weight, equal balance, equilibrium. 2) A counterpoise.

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o7. Roxas wins, Axel loses.

Axel didn't have too many worldly possessions. Being a Nobody, he didn't even have the capacity to care about his things. Axel had nothing that wasn't useful to him in some way or another. And other than his chakrams and the clothes on his back, there was nothing he wasn'tcapable of throwing away…or even better, feeding to the ever-hungry flames at his command.

That all changed the night his best friend decided to leave Organization XIII.

Axel hadn't thought Roxas cared about anything he owned, either, other than the Keyblade. But on the night the young Nobody left, the redhead awoke from a nap to a letter on the windowsill in his bedroom, with a popsicle stick taped to it. It was an ordinary popsicle stick, the kind that normally came from a bar of sea salt ice cream, except for one small detail: It had the word "WINNER" emblazoned at one end in black ink.

According to the note Roxas left, he'd gotten the stick from a bar of sea salt ice cream when Axel had been at Castle Oblivion. It was good for a free bar of ice cream from the stand at Twilight Town, and the blond had meant to give it to Axel as a welcome home present when he got back from his mission. But between one thing and another, he'd never gotten the chance to. "I'm going to miss you, Axel, every day," said the end of Roxas's letter. "I forgive you for not being able to tell me what I need to know…but that doesn't change the fact that I still need to know it. So I'm going to look for Sora, and I'm going to find out why the Keyblade chose me. I hope I see you again someday. In the meantime, don't forget me, OK?"

The popsicle stick remained with Axel ever since, safe from harm in the innermost pocket of his leather coat. He didn't take it out very often, but when he did, it never failed to provoke a response in him. That little piece of wood caused Axel to remember such an odd mix of happiness and sorrow that he would never be able to throw it away.

First off, it reminded Axel of the part he played in Roxas's leaving the Organization. Although Axel had been under strict orders not to tell Roxas anything about Sora-or about Sora's life, or Castle Oblivion, or the Keyblade-that didn't mean the ghost of guilt still didn't plague him. He still remembered that last morning he'd spent with Roxas, and the way the two of them had argued, shouting so loudly it could be heard all the way down the hall from the Gray Area. Axel hadn't known a Nobody could be so passionate about being denied knowledge. Roxas didn't have a heart, so didn't that mean he shouldn't care about what he didn't remember? But Axel had never seen Roxas so angry before. If the redhead hadn't known better, he would have thought Roxas had truly felt anger, as opposed to only faking the emotion.

That was the last time Roxas had ever been inside the Castle That Never Was. If Axel had known, he would have left with the boy that very day. Even if Roxas had forgiven him, that still didn't mean Axel forgave himself. He saw this mistake as yet another in a long line of them, starting with joining Organization XIII in the first place.

The popsicle stick held a better memory than that of Roxas leaving, however. When Axel looked at it, he was always reminded of their little ritual. Every day after work, Axel and Roxas met atop the clock tower in Twilight Town, had a bar of sea salt ice cream, watched the sunset, and just talked about whatever-how their days had been, their missions, Castle gossip, and so on. It was a simple little tradition, and one which people with hearts probably would have taken for granted. But Axel and Roxas were Nobodies. They had nothing, and so they could take nothing for granted. This act of pretending to feel meant the world to the both of them. Later on, they pretended to love atop their clock tower as well, with touches and kisses and even sex (sex in public places was one of Axel's kinks.) And for the first time in years, Axel truly believed he and Roxas would get their hearts back. They'd run away together and live like this forever, happy and free and in real, true love. Who could ask for more?

But one of the bitterest things that the "WINNER" stick held for Axel was irony. Even though Roxas had given the stick to Axel, it only reminded Axel that Roxas had been the real winner. The blond had won the only that really mattered in a Nobody's existence: a life, a real life, with a working heart that could give him actual emotions. Roxas didn't have to pretend at anything anymore; his days of make-believe with Axel were over.

As for Axel, well. He couldn't even win a sparring match against the blond Keyblade Wielder. The two times he'd tried, during his failed last mission for Organization XIII, he ended up dragging his bruised, aching, half-conscious ass as far away from DiZ's simulated Twilight Town as he possibly could to recover. How a young kid like Roxas could pack such a punch, Axel would never know.

The last time Axel took the popsicle stick out to look at was after he encountered Sora in what had formerly been his homeworld, Radiant Garden. He spun the bit of wood between his fingers and, for the first time since he'd had a heart, he made a promise. Axel would help Sora (and, by default, Roxas) take down Organization XIII, even if he died doing it. After all, that was what friends (and more-than-friends but not-quite-lovers like Axel and Roxas had been) did. They helped each other, no matter what the cost.

Even if Axel died, it would still be a victory as long as Roxas could keep on living.

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Author's Note: Once again, I wish everybody reading this a Happy AkuRoku Day! I actually quite like this one, although I'm not sure if anyone else will. It has no action in it, after all, just introspection. The original story I wrote was very different, but I didn't like it and it was getting too convoluted at the end. So I scrapped it and wrote this one instead.

I've now hit the half-way mark for this story collection! Only six more to go, whoo!

Let's see if I can't make the next story angst-free, shall we? Until then, I hope the end of your summer goes well!

REVIEW CORNER: Thanks for Reviewing: Dlbn, moon maiden of time

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