Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts or anything associated with it.
A/N: It's finally done! So, now...since most of you will probably be asking this, I would like to write a sequel to this story eventually, though it doesn't actually need one due to the fact that I'd always intended to leave this series with an open ending, since these were just stories of things that could have happened after Kingdom Hearts II. Just several stories of many possibilities. (Which will be completely thrown out of whack and already sort of have been thanks to the secret trailer Blank Points. Well, this third story, not the first two.) But, that being said, I think I'd like to maybe make a fourth story that would come after this one. The whole purpose of this third installment was, in fact, exactly what the summery says and was always meant to focus on Axel. Unfortunately, though, it will be quite a long while before I am able to write one due to the fact that my Digimon story Trinity is a must finish and my number one priority next to FTFOD, seeing as that fic has been posted for a long time and I have yet to finish it, which I want to do, and I also want to write a KH oneshot about Axel, Roxas, Xion, and that shady moogle in the World That Never Was. And you know, Roxas is still my favorite KH character, but Axel is by far my favorite KH character to write so once again a huge shout out to Quinton Flynn. Is it just me or does he just keep getting better and better at playing Axel? He was great in KH II, awesome in Re: Chain of Memories, and epic in 358/2 Days, and Lea? What can I say, amazing voice actor and by far Axel is his best character, which he has played so far to date, in my opinion anyways. Oh? And the secret trailer? I'm so proud of myself! I finished all three reports sections on standard mode in all three games to get it! Instead of just watching it on er...you know where, they won't let me type it, or just playing through on proud mode. And all that hard work was so worth it! Epic!
"Everything I do, I do for my friends." -Terra (Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep)
"I hope you'll see the heart in me..." -Jesse McCartney (Beautiful Soul)
Chapter 11: Sunset Dreams
Sunset Hill, Twilight Town
Axel said the name slowly, as if testing the way it sounded coming from his lips, and Roxas nodded eagerly, gazing expectantly at the red-haired Nobody. "That's right! Do you...remember her?"
Axel remained silent for what seemed like forever, but was really only just over a minute, and frowning slightly, he gave Roxas a searching look. "Sorry, can't say that I do. I don't know anybody by that name, only..."
Axel suddenly looked a bit sheepish, and scratching the back of his head, he said, "Only...for some reason I feel like I should."
Wait, does that mean there's a chance he'll start remembering Xion, too? Just like Riku, Naminé, and Roxas?
Sora gave Riku, who was standing beside him, a questioning look, but instead of responding the silver-haired wielder of the Keyblade merely shook his head, indicating that they should just let events play out naturally, like with Roxas and his three friends from Twilight Town.
"You wanna go look for her?"
"Huh? But Xemnas' orders..."
"Orders, shmorders. Starting tomorrow, let's use our spare time between work and coming here to try and find Xion."
"Here," Roxas said quietly, handing over the drawing he'd taken from the old mansion to Axel.
Axel stared at the drawing in surprise, his electric green eyes studying Xion's profile. "She looks like Naminé and Kairi, but...she's wearing our coat. Is this...Xion?"
"I think so," Roxas replied, watching Axel's face closely. "We're not sure, but we think she used to be a member of the Organization, only for some reason none of us can really remember her. It's only been recently that we've all started remembering her face and her name."
"Well, not everyone really," Riku interrupted, crossing his arms over his chest and nodding his head first at Roxas and then at Naminé. "Just the three of us, actually. I'm going to assume it's because that means we were the only three here who must have met her in person. And judging by Naminé's drawing, you must have also met her somewhere along the line, most likely while you and Roxas were still in the Organization, judging by her attire, and yours in Naminé's drawing."
"Number XIV," Axel murmured softly, almost to himself.
"What?" Roxas gasped, staring wide-eyed at his friend.
"Sorry, dunno know where that came from, but...we were always thirteen. How could there have been another member? It doesn't make any sense."
"I know, but..."
"Why don't you tell me everything you do know about this Xion," Axel insisted, handing the drawing back to Roxas, a curious expression on his face. "It might help jog my memory or something."
Sora listened in silence as Roxas quickly relayed everything they knew about Xion to the red-haired Nobody, and when he was done, Axel slowly turned once again to gaze at the setting sun in the distance, a thoughtful look on his face. "So...this Xion might have been our friend?"
"I think so," Roxas replied, appearing a little unsure of himself. "There were three of us, Axel. Like Naminé's drawing. I'm sure of it. She used to sit on top of the station tower with us where we would all eat sea-salt ice cream together, but then...something must have happened and she had to leave."
"We think she has some kind of connection to Sora," Kairi explained, exchanging a look with Naminé.
"Naturally," Axel snorted, an amused smile playing across his lips. "Doesn't everyone?"
Sora felt his cheeks start to turn red and ducking his head, he quickly looked at his feet to spare himself from having to look at Axel.
It was true. Everything did always seem to come back to him, not that he was complaining. It was going to be a tough road, but he was going to do everything he could to help everyone who was important to him, even those he had yet to meet, not because he felt like he had to, but because he wanted to. It was just in his nature to do so.
"Would you mind if I stayed here, with you?"
You sounded so sad, but I could also feel the hope inside of you. Who are you? What do you mean to me? No...to me and to Roxas? To us...
"She does seem familiar, and I don't mean because she looks like Kairi and Naminé," Axel ventured slowly, as if reluctant to say what he thought exactly.
"I wish I could tell you more, but Naminé and Riku think it's best if we all just let things happen naturally and remember for ourselves," Roxas said regretfully, shaking his head. "Then again, even if I wanted to tell you more, I couldn't. Everything I've just said about Xion is all we really know."
"You two...you were always causing me so much trouble."
"Wait...what?" Roxas asked curiously, gazing at Axel with the strangest look on his face.
"Huh? Oh, sorry. I dunno where that came from either..."
Sora had no idea what he was thinking, but all of a sudden he felt a need to speak, and taking a deep breath he stepped in front of Axel and said, "Please don't hold back, Axel. Promise."
Axel stared at him, really looked at him, into his eyes for the first time since waking up beneath the monument on Sunset Hill, and Sora held his breath, waiting for something to happen.
What, he did not know, but...something.
"Somebody up there must be sad..."
Sora wasn't quite sure why he felt so hesitant being in Axel's presence, but regardless of the reason, the feeling wouldn't go away. Perhaps it was because he felt guilty and responsible for everything that had happened to Roxas, but most of all he was sure it was because he had no idea how Axel really felt about him, or what the red-haired Nobody really thought of him. It was almost as if he expected Axel to blame him, and really, in his mind, the red-haired Nobody had every right to. Axel, Roxas, and her. Xion. He was the reason their lives had been torn apart...
"Sora, what..." Roxas trailed off, looking a little bit uncertain of himself.
"You remember, don't you?" Sora asked quietly, ignoring his Nobody's interruption and keeping his attention focused on Axel. "They were her words.
"For the good of everyone. Right," Axel snorted, and then jumped in surprise at his own words. "For the good of everyone..."
"I'll always be there to bring you back," Axel replied, his words so soft Sora just barely heard them. "She was one of us. Number XIV. Our friend..."
It was strange to see Axel being so serious, and Sora found himself unable to look away from those brilliant green eyes boring into his soul.
"You remember her?" Roxas asked excitedly, causing both of them to jerk around and stare at the blond Nobody in slight confusion.
"Not really. Just flashes, I guess," Axel admitted reluctantly, shaking his head at himself. "You know, this is really starting to bug me. I'm the one who never forgets anything. What a disgrace. That's more your style, Roxas."
"Oh, thanks! When are you going to let that go already?"
"Never," Axel smirked, poking the blond Nobody affectionately in the shoulder. "You're such an easy target. Can't let a good opportunity go to waste."
"You're one to talk. Guess even the best of us forget things once in a while. Got it memorized?" Roxas teased, giving the red-haired Nobody a light push.
"Hey, that's my line!"
"You two are so silly," Olette laughed, throwing up her hands in a kind of hopeless gesture at their antics. "No wonder Hayner fits in so well with you guys."
"Hey, I heard that, you know!"
"Xion...I wonder..." Axel said slowly, once again focusing on the conversation at hand. "If she was one of us, and all evidence seems to point to that conclusion, then she would have lived at the castle with us, but I don't remember Xemnas or any of the others ever mentioning her. Even Saix, and he's the one who looked after our missions and-"
"Saix hated her!" Roxas snapped, his sapphire eyes flashing. "He thought she was nothing but a tool! A piece of garbage!"
"Xion is one of us."
"A puppet, one of us? Don't be absurd. Count the seats. When have we ever been more than thirteen?"
For a moment, everybody just stood there, not quite knowing what to say, and then Roxas clapped his hands over his mouth, shocked by his own outburst. "Sorry, I...I don't know where that came from."
"Don't worry about it," Axel said shortly, dismissing the golden-haired Nobody's words with a wave of his hand.
"But...it's true. I don't know how I know, but Saix...he didn't like Xion. Not like us. He treated her like she was nothing. Not like a person, but like...something even less than a tool."
"Less than a nobody in every sense of the word."
"Axel?" Roxas asked hesitantly, a frown on his face.
"He wasn't always like that."
"Saix. He wasn't always so...forget it. Listen, I know you were never a fan of his, but that's all in the past now. We have to focus on the future, right? According to you guys, Xion has practically disappeared from the face of all the worlds out there, even from our own memories, and maybe she doesn't have anything to do with Twilight Town, but she could be the key to something even bigger."
"What do you mean exactly?" Hayner demanded.
"I don't get it," Roxas added, exchanging a quick look with the blond struggler.
"Look, Xion was important to you, and to me as well it seems. You said it yourself. My words to Xion. Any friend of yours is a friend of mine, Roxas. Whoever she might have been, she's important to us, and that has to count for something, right?"
"Well yeah, but..."
"No doubt she's important to this whole story. To all of us, and trust me I want to find her just as much as you do. Everything that's happened...all because of one man who has many names...She's a part of it, every bit as much as the rest of us, but at the moment your first priority, if I'm not mistaken, is Twilight Town."
"So, Twilight Town first, Xion later?"
"Exactly. If you find out more about Xion along the way, so much the better, but at the moment it's best you find out what's gong on around here if you don't want Twilight Town to be swallowed up by the darkness permanently. Got it memorized?"
"Do I ever," Roxas sighed, making a face. "Sora and the others pretty much said the same thing, but we've been everywhere and...nothing. What are we supposed to do now?"
Immediately, Roxas and the rest of the party starting discussing their options, and standing just outside the circle, Sora studied his golden-haired Nobody for a moment, wanting more than anything to help Roxas, but not really knowing what to do, and it wasn't until he felt a sudden tap on his shoulder that he realized he wasn't the only one not paying attention to the current discussion.
Sora turned to look at the figure standing just behind him and without a word Axel motioned for him to follow along. He did so, though a bit reluctantly, and together they made their way over to the wooden fence behind the monument in silence, leaving Sora uncertain of what to expect.
He liked Axel. There was no question about that. What bothered him, though, was the fact that perhaps Axel did not feel the same way about him, and that made him uneasy because he knew that even if Roxas hadn't been his Nobody, he would have liked Axel regardless. To lose someone who mattered to you. That wasn't something to be taken lightly, even if you deserved it.
He said I make him feel the same way Roxas makes him feel. Did he really mean that or did he just say it because he didn't know what else to say?
"Feels weird being back," Axel said airily, breaking the silence. "Kind of like...I don't know...waking up from a really long nap or something."
"Yeah...I kind of know what that feels like."
Axel looked at him, and the red-haired Nobody's lips twitched into a small smile. "I guess you would."
"What you said to Roxas...about drifting in the darkness and then seeing a light in the distance...It sounds...kind of like a story I heard once before."
"I heard your voice. It cut through the darkness around me. All alone, I followed the sound, into a sea of light...and found myself here, with you."
"Really? Somebody else out there has a story possibly even more cheesy than mine?" Axel snorted, giving him an incredulous look. "Man, and Roxas had the nerve to make fun of me."
"More than once, his memories tell me. 'As long as we remember each other, we'll never be apart,' right?"
"You...really? His memories...and yours?"
"Just like he said."
"So...it was deep, right? You think it was pretty deep?"
Sora laughed and lifted his head to gaze up at the sky. "Sounds like something I would have said...and Riku probably never would have let me hear the end of it."
Axel leaned over to rest his arms on top of the fence and gazing out at something only he could see in the distance, he said, "You know...you remind me of someone I met a long time ago. You and Roxas."
"It's kind of hard to explain, but...it wasn't so much the way he acted...Well that too, but also...There was just something about him, the way he looked and his attitude..."
"I didn't know him well or anything like that. I only met him once and after that I never saw him again, but...huh, can't believe I even remember all of this. Roxas always said I was lucky for being able to remember my past, but I don't know..."
"But...aren't your memories important to you? After what you said to Roxas about wanting to be remembered..."
"Who needs baggage when you can't find a way to make it worthwhile? To make it mean something? That's what you and Roxas did, but...I haven't been able to do that. You're the lucky ones."
"Who was that boy?"
"The boy you mentioned? Who was he?"
Axel hesitated before saying, "No idea. He didn't really tell me anything about himself."
"Nothing? Not even a name?"
"That kid," Axel replied, turning to look at him. "Said his name was Ventus. Got it memorized?"
"You gave me something back when I needed it most. A second chance."
"Looks like your friends can't agree on what to do next," Axel said, nodding his head towards where an argument appeared to have broken out between Hayner and Riku.
"They're your friends, too."
Axel looked at him in surprise, and throwing caution to the winds, Sora took a deep breath and said, "I never got to thank you."
"Huh? For what?"
"For what you did for me, even though..."
Axel quickly held up a hand to silence him, and shaking his head, the red-haired Nobody said in what was a surprisingly affectionate tone, "Silly, you're even worse than Roxas. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't even have a best friend."
"But...I'm sorry, Axel. It's because of me you almost lost your best friend..."
It was only one word, and a simple one at that, but it was enough to make Sora snap his mouth shut to prevent himself from saying something really stupid.
"I don't need an apology," Axel said shortly, refusing to let Sora speak, even if he had wanted to, which he had no intention of doing. "I was the one who needed to apologize to you. I told you, the past is the past. It isn't going to help you if you don't use it to make a new future for yourself. You've done that and so has Roxas. There's nothing more to be gained from dwelling on something neither you or I can change."
"I know that. It's just..."
"If you really want to make it up to me, there is one thing you can do."
Axel looked at him again, and smiling, he said playfully, "Watch over Roxas for me and do what you can to keep him safe. I'll do whatever I can, too, but it'll be easier for me if I have some help. If anything were to ever happen to him again, I might just have to slice you up with my chakrams, and I really wouldn't want to have to do that, seeing as how I kind of like you and all. Got it memorized?"
Sora smiled and beaming at the red-haired Nobody, he said, "Definitely. Thanks, Axel."
"What are friends for, right?"
Gazing at the red-haired Nobody, it was then that Sora realized he'd had nothing to fear all along, and for the first time since Axel's death he truly felt like everything was going to be okay.
"Hey, what are you guys talking about?"
Sora whirled around at the sound of his Nobody's voice, but before he had a chance to answer, Axel smiled mischievously and said, "You."
"Uh...oh..." Roxas blushed, his transparent cheeks somehow managing to turn a rosy shade of pink, and quickly regaining his composure, he said, "Um...is everything okay?"
Sora beamed at his Nobody. "Yeah, everything is great!"
"Couldn't be better," Axel agreed, and Sora smiled when he felt the red-haired Nobody's arm go around his shoulders.
Roxas glanced between the two of them and then his sometimes somber face broke out into a brilliant smile. "You guys..."
"So, what's going on?" Axel asked, nodding his head towards the rest of the party, all of whom were still arguing.
"No idea. Nobody can seem to decide what to do next. I gave up. It's not like they were listening to me anyways."
Sora quickly put a sympathetic arm around Roxas' shoulders, and smiling at the golden-haired Nobody, he said, "Well then, we'll just have to get their attention."
"Allow me to do the honours," Axel smirked, summoning his chakrams.
Without waiting for a response, Axel threw one of his chakrams at the arguing group, and it went spinning right through the centre of bodies, forcing Hayer, Donald, and Riku to leap backwards to avoid having their faces sliced, diced, and burned off all in one go.
"Axel!" Roxas groaned, slapping a hand against his forehead. "Those things are dangerous, you know! You could hurt somebody doing things like that!"
"Hey, it got their attention, didn't it? Besides, I knew they'd get out of the way in time. They're not your friends for nothing, you know."
"What's up, Sora?" Kairi asked, running over with the rest of the party on her heels.
"We need to figure out what we're going to do next."
"What about you, Axel?" Olette asked curiously. "What are you going to do now that the Organization doesn't exist anymore?"
"I'm going wherever Roxas is going, I guess."
"What? Really?" Roxas gasped, his sapphire eyes lighting up with sudden excitement.
"Well, it's not like I have anything better to do, and besides, I'm just as curious as you are to know about Xion and Twilight Town."
"Wherever you're going, I'm going too. Friends have to stick together, right?"
"Axel...I...yeah. I was hoping you would say that."
"Then, let's go! Uh...where exactly are we going?"
"I don't know," Donald said slowly, giving Axel a suspicious look. "He'll stand out a lot."
"Gawrsh, but so do we, and so do Roxas and Naminé, since they look like ghosts."
"You and I are different! And I know about those two, but at least they can still merge with their original selves to be discreet. What if we need to go back to Destiny Islands? Can you imagine going back there with him in tow?"
"He's got a point there," Kairi agreed, smiling in amusement, "especially if Axel decides to stick around after all this is over. Where are we going to hide a creepy guy with flaming red hair who walks around in a black coat all day?"
"I'll have you know, Miss. Princess of Heart, I look quite stylish in this outfit," Axel said with dignity, straightening to his full height and crossing his arms over his chest. "You have to say one thing for the Superior. He sure had style. Plus, your hair stands out every bit as much as mine does."
"Plus, no one in Twilight Town ever cared when they saw us in dark coats," Roxas added.
"Okay, fine," Kairi relented, pointing her finger at Axel, "but on one condition. Just be discreet and don't bother Tidus, Selphie, and Wakka."
Axel's shoulders drooped slightly and he let out a disappointed sigh. "Well, there goes all my fun."
"You...do plan on sticking around, right?" Roxas asked hesitantly, unable to look at his friend.
"I meant what I said, Roxas. Wherever you're going, I'm going too. Just try to stop me this time."
Roxas looked like he wanted to say a million things, but instead he just put an arm around his friend and smiled at everyone, his thoughts written plainly on his face.
It was a smile that could light up a thousand dungeons, and it made Sora feel warm inside. He had never seen Roxas smile quite like that before, and it felt good to know his Nobody was happy, despite what may or may not await them in the future.
"Hey, Sora, any suggestions on where to go?" Riku asked, glancing over at him. "You're the only one we haven't heard from yet."
"What am I? A nobody?" Axel said indignantly, pun clearly intended.
Sora was about to answer when the sudden rumble of wheels moving quickly over the tracks below Sunset Hill caught his attention, and turning to gaze over the wooden fence, his breath caught in his throat. There was a train moving along the tracks, but it wasn't one of the ones that regularly pulled into Sunset Station. This one looked slightly different, and there was something familiar about it that immediately captured Sora's attention.
"The ghost train," Pence whispered in awe.
Everybody looked at him, and he said quickly, "You know, the Seven Wonders of Twilight Town."
Sora continued to gaze at the train and shaking his head, he said slowly, "That's no ghost train."
"We have to get to the station quickly!" Donald quacked, waving his staff towards Sunset Terrace.
"Huh? Why?" Hayner stuttered, scratching the back of his head in confusion.
Sora smiled and said, "We might not know what to do next or where to go, but...I think I might know someone who does."
"A-hyuck, but before we can figure that out we need to catch that train!" Goofy informed the Twilight Town trio.
Without another word, Sora quickly raced back down the hill and ran towards the station, the rest of the party almost stepping on his heels. As one, they all crowded into the station and turning to look at the Twilight Town trio, Sora said, "Listen, guys..."
"You're leaving again, aren't you," Hayner interrupted, not sounding the least bit surprised.
"We're going to find out what's happening to Twilight Town and we're going to fix it," Roxas said fiercely, gazing at each of his three friends in turn. "I promise you."
"Of course you will," Hayner snorted, punching Roxas lightly in the shoulder. "If you didn't you wouldn't be you. Give whoever is causing all this trouble a good whack with your Keyblade from me!"
"Stay safe, all of you," Olette pleaded.
"Only if you guys promise to do the same," Roxas said stubbornly, his handsome face twisting with worry. "It's dangerous here right now in Twilight Town so...watch yourselves."
"We will," Pence assured him, "and we'll make sure Seifer and the others do the same."
"Take care of yourselves," Olette added.
"We'll see you soon," Hayner said confidently, his tone leaving no room for doubt.
As if on cue, the train they'd been waiting for suddenly pulled into the station and Sora turned to the Twilight Town trio for a final goodbye. "Maybe sooner than you think. See you guys."
"Ready, Roxas?" Axel asked, giving his best friend a surprisingly sympathetic smile.
Roxas quickly finished saying goodbye to his three friends and following behind the golden-haired Nobody, Sora made his way onto the train with not only Roxas, but also Axel, Riku, Kairi, Naminé, Donald, and Goofy.
They all waved to Hayner, Pence, and Olette until the Twilight Town trio were no longer in sight, and gazing out of the window at the brilliant sunset, Roxas and Riku on either side of him, Sora took a deep breath to prepare himself for what was to come, whatever that might be.
He wasn't worried. If Axel and Roxas could be reunited after everything they'd been through then anything was possible, including finding Xion, saving all the worlds just like before, and as some small part of him whispered softly inside his head, helping a lost heart find its way home again.
"There's always a way." -Aqua (Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep)