It wasn't quite right, but it was as good as either of them could hope to get anymore… and enshrouded in darkness, it was almost possible to ignore the little differences that, in these moments, mattered so much. When all you could do was feel, when all you felt was the mockery of a body long ago committed to memory in complete, those difference made or broke the deal, and often became obstacles so difficult to surpass, that on several occasions they very nearly got up, awakened to the hideousness of what they were doing, and faced eachother down right there. But it never went like that. They were both too desperate, too much in need for that piece of themselves they were lacking, and too, too willing to accept the overwhelming mound of similarities which kept them coming back together like this, night after night, hidden in the dark, sequestered enclaves of the Hollow Bastion.

Axel had first come here and first seen him a month ago, while searching… and at first glance, he was so close a likeness that he confronted him right there… but up close and face-to-face, there were those clear differences that put him off the stirring feelings he felt in his gut… that initial glimmer of hope and anxiety which bubbled there into something thick and undesired, yet impossible to ignore.

He was too big, first of all.

As fiery-hot hands moved over the other's open skin, he couldn't help but cringe that there was just too much of it. Too much of this other person… and all of it was firm and muscular, built up and settled from years and years of battle, scars marked the calloused flesh. It was imperfect, grizzled… not pure and young.

The hair, as he ran his fingers through it, was a decent replica… perhaps a little too light, perhaps a little too long… but soft, and it suited him, settled the right way around his face. He stared down into that face, moulded with pleasure, lips parted, brows tilted up… the eyelids opened then, and sent a faint glow into the dark, dimly illuminating the space between them.

The eyes were right. They were that same haunting, spirit blue… the one that said 'I have secrets to hide… and you'll never find them', the kind of secrets he didn't need to know, didn't need to care about to love the person they belonged to. If he could really love.

Because this wasn't love… and this wasn't the person that he would love if he could. This was release… pure and simple, this was need and desperation, and the only thing that kept him coming back, that kept him from just snuffing out this enemy's life each time after he went to sleep was the creeping despair that this was as close as he would ever get anymore… that the real thing would never come back. And the strange trust which had developed between them which told him that he could expect the same – mercy in a time of weakness – from his new… partner.

He could get lost in those eyes.

"Roxas…"

The differences were staggering… with your eyes open… so as soon as he heard the foreign name pass the other's lips, he closed them again and let himself descend into the realm of his imagination. Those eyes he always saw staring back at him were frightening, and brought up memories he'd rather not be reminded of. Catlike and green… and the fire of his touch, hands ghosting across skin reminded him of other fiery nights, the heat of flame against his body and those eyes. He tried to shut it out… hands creeping up the long neck, over the back of the head. His hair was the wrong color, and reminded him more of Reno than anyone else… wherever Reno was. But… the style was right… the swept-back spikes, so smooth and yet bristly… which made for an interesting sensation against skin, on those rare occasions where the other lowered his head to his chest and listened to the beat of his heart.

So when he closed his eyes, it was almost… almost the same.

He was too small. Not enough of a person. Though still a powerful form, Axel was lanky and pale, and the strength in his arms was more greedy than comforting. He was used to someone more broad and muscular, someone who could hold him to his chest and drown him there, suffocate him, snap him in half, but who moved with such incredible gentleness that it could make him cry.

But then again… that was so… so, so, so long ago, and his memory was so riddled with gaps and holes that maybe he was recalling it wrong. Maybe it had been different, all those years ago. Maybe this person who claimed the air on top of him, who moved within him and made him buck and shiver and hiss, maybe he was much more like the one he wanted him to be. Maybe these differences were his mind playing tricks on him again… condemning him to further misery. He'd lived in a tangled web of illusions for so long, it was difficult to tell where reality ended and dreams began… but… he supposed there were benefits too. It made accepting this much easier… made it much, much easier… to pretend.

"Axel…"

He'd let him have his fun. He listened to, and accepted the unusual name… now he wanted his own selfish gratification, and to get it, he leaned up and bit and kissed at the too-thin neck his arms were looped around, sucked at the unpierced ear, and demanded without words what he wanted.

Pain creased Axel's eyebrows together. He'd just been brought, shockingly, back into the reality… into the twisted realization of this, of where he was, of the stranger he was fucking, of the fact that it was not who he wished it to be. Of the fact that tonight, he would leave with the bitter taste on his tongue, while his companion would sleep restfully, dreaming that he was reunited with some former love whose name he only knew from being mistaken for it. Fine. Fine, he would give it to him. He would let him believe…

"Cloud…" he spoke the true name, hummed it aloud into the blonde boy's ear.

He received a ravaged moan in reply… gratefulness and renewed desire, and an arched back that told him the other was now so mired in the drifting remnants of the past that he would not leave them until the next time they came together like this… thinking he might have somehow managed a midnight rendezvous with a dead friend until this belief was shattered. Until he made him say his real name last… next time. But for the moment, all he heard was…

"Zack…"

And the other gave up, spent himself, and sank down to the mattress, eyes closed again, the portals to Axel's illusion shut. He went calmly into sleep, as deep as death, a fate for him which Axel once again considered. He would not know it… it would be painless and quick… and he would be reunited with that loved one from long ago.

But no, he couldn't do it. Couldn't bestow the solemnest mercy of all, as he got up and got dressed, because in a day or two he would need him to be someone else for a while, use him as tonight he had been used. He looked smaller now, and almost possessed that same childlike innocence as he curled up, slumbered, and very nearly smiled, and the differences melted away a little more.

Axel sighed, reached down and pulled the blanket up, tucked it in around the form as he often had with another, then, as an afterthought, brushed aside a lock of blonde hair and kissed him on the forehead before leaving.

No, it wasn't right. It was very, very wrong… in almost every possible way that it could have been… but neither of them particularly seemed to care. Loving, and being loved… fucking and being fucked by a liar, an imposter, a cheap mimic, imitation, a fake… was better than having no one at all.

A portal of darkness opened at dawn, and Axel stepped out as he always did, leaving Cloud alone in his room once more. The air that had recently been filled with heated passion and breathy exhalations, cries of names was cooling and at once warming again with the oncoming of the sun. After the great clash, at parting time again, there was nowhere amongst the rubble of discarded clothing and dirtied sheets the slightest sign of the other two men who'd been in the room. The two ghostly projected images, people, inhabiting a likeness' face for those few confusing moments in the dark had been washed away by the morning light, if they ever were there at all. There was only grim, stark reality left, and the bated anticipation of those echoes from the past, locked inside the walls of memory and that sacred hour and space, waiting to be brought to life, if only briefly, yet again.

Cloud awoke, ashamed, and crawled to his window in waves of agony from multiple sources. He stared out at the surreal landscape of blue and shadow. Strange how daytime always put his bruises and abrasions in an ugly light, when they'd been so beautiful just hours before.

Axel had it easy, he thought, looking up and peering around the wrecked place, disoriented by their fervor. He got to go home, wherever home for him was, or if he had one… in any case, he didn't have to live in this place, where the glimmering remnants of those who once were lingered on in warped form, ethereal, that only his trained senses could detect. If only the other knew the potency of memory, desire, belief. Maybe he could call his lover back to him… his lover who did, in fact, still live on within another being.

But no, he couldn't do it. Couldn't bring himself to tell him… to offer him that hope, to show him that mercy… because his own beloved was long, long gone… buried on the fragments of a ruined world, and this game he played with Axel was the only way he could have him back again. Selfish, he knew. So maybe it made him a little less of a hero… maybe Axel wasn't so much of a villain… strange how the night did that, how the dead had such sway over the hearts of the living, how the involvement of those elements changed a person… and how they made something so inconceivable, so impossible, so horrible, so feasible, so real, so perfect, so wrong… so, so right.

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Author's Ending Note Thingy: Wow, okay, so a couple things to say. First of all, this is so typical 3AM-fic of me. Deep-ish, wordy, bizarre and barely linear, un-proofread, and I'm just posting it. It's actually more of a 5AM-fic, in fact, which probably accounts for some of the reason it's so trippy.

Well then… other things to say. First of all… just wanted to mention that I don't particularly like either of these pairings (Axel/Roxas or Cloud/Zack), but… this idea came to me, and just wouldn't go away, so I used my two less-than-favorites put together to try to make something… kinda interesting. At least to me. I dunno… how'd I do?

Lastly… dear god, I can't believe I wrote a Kingdom Hearts fic. This is all my college roommate's fault. What happened to all the FFVII ones I have and left hanging. Well… as you can see, this one is still pretty FFVII heavy… requires actual knowledge of the original game (or at least Crisis Core), ooooo! Anyway… who knows what will become of them (the other FFVII fics)… but there is one thing I can promise you! I will be writing and posting another Kingdom Hearts fic in the sometime-soon! It will be longer… much longer, probably, chaptered, and about a pairing I do like (but I won't tell you who), so check back. It's co-written between me and that aforementioned roommate. I think it's gonna be cool… so stick around… I'm not done yet!