Axel dreamed, and in his dreams, Roxas was alive.

The golden light of summer surrounded him, and he was in a warm field. There were voices and people and possibly something going on, but all he saw was Roxas.

Roxas smiling at him, laughing and speaking, saying something about going fishing tomorrow. And then, for no reason he could see – not that Axel cared – Roxas was holding him.

There were no bars between them and Roxas felt well and strong and warm, and Axel felt unbearably happy. And then the scent hit him – Roxas' scent, just the same as always – and the redhead clutched his best friend tighter and felt tears falling from his eyes.

He already had a vague, tingling sense that it wasn't real…but Axel never, ever wanted it to end.

~o~

When he woke, he was in bed at home. He tried to sit up when he heard sounds in the room, but fell back at once, a wave of dizziness and nausea hitting him. As if from far away, he heard a voice, felt a presence by the bed.

"Ah, you wake up? Stay still, Axel, you need to rest. I get the doctor."

Doctor? What? His thoughts were hazy. He guessed that had been his mother, but everything was growing dark again, and he didn't fight it. He wanted to go back to Roxas…

He was sleeping fitfully again by the time the doctor returned.

~o~

For two weeks, Axel was bedridden. As he learned from his mother upon waking a second time, he had a bad case of pneumonia. In bits and pieces of consciousness over the next day or so, he heard that he had never returned to the town, and finally a few men had gone back for him, only to find him unconscious in the rain, almost frozen to death. He had been asleep for two days before first waking.

Axel didn't care. He listened and acknowledged his mother, but all he wanted was to sleep again. Let the blackness wash over him like a warm touch and remove him from the miserable sick bed. Sleep, and sleep, grudging every waking moment.

Because, when he slept, he was always, always with Roxas.

Smiling, laughing, talking, sitting together, eating, playing, and often holding each other close – it was all too real and vivid. The warmth lingered on his skin, even when he woke, and the scent of Roxas haunted him constantly, until he was half sure that waking to find himself sick was only a nightmare he was having while living his normal life happily with Roxas. And he wished the nightmare would go away; it was extremely annoying.

After two weeks, Axel was able to get up again. Or so the doctor said, and his worn-out mother saw to it that Axel demonstrated his ability to stand up and walk about. But as soon as she left him alone, he was seeking sleep again, lying down wherever he was or creeping back to bed. Chasing after dreams…because the gnawing, horrible emptiness of his waking hours was eating him from the inside out.

His eyes dried out and replenished their tears again and again. His face remained pale and drawn, his eyes always distant, when they focused at all. His mother had to force food on him, and even then he barely ate enough to stay alive. The doctor began to have concerned talks with his mother outside Axel's door when he visited.

They might as well have dragged him off and tried him for a witch too – Axel didn't care. Maybe he would make a mistake in the Lord's Prayer on purpose…maybe.

If it would give him a way to be with Roxas again…

If Axel looked out the window, he'd see Roxas in the street. When he went to Mass again, once he was well enough, he saw Roxas out of the corner of his eye constantly. And in moments of quiet, he knew he could sometimes hear Roxas calling his name.

But the boy was never there, and the warm touch and the familiar scent were only felt in his dreams.

~o~

April had begun while Axel slept, and April was half gone before he stepped outside to feel the freshening spring air on his face. It was still cold, and often still rainy, but the razor edge of winter had snapped during his illness, and the promise of spring was lacing its way through the air.

It reminded Axel that summer was coming. It added new twists of agony to the hollow pain in his chest.

The first of May and the accompanying May Day celebration were about a week away when Axel's dreams took a new turn.

He was with Roxas, as always. They were in the loft of Roxas' house, playing some game that escaped his attention. Summer sun was beaming through the windows, and the sounds of Roxas' siblings running and playing downstairs mingled with the drifting sounds of village life outside.

He was just drinking in the scent and the sight of his best friend…and then suddenly things changed.

Without warning or reason, they were in his house, in his room, and the golden-bright sunbeams faded rapidly into silvery moonbeams as the light vanished, leaving the room dark. Axel would have barely noticed the change, except that he couldn't see Roxas as well anymore. Was that him…standing halfway across the room?

"Roxas?" Axel squinted in his dream, trying to make sure.

The figure moved forward, and he relaxed. It was Roxas' walk, Roxas' posture, and that…that was the familiar scent reaching him again now.

Then Roxas stepped into the moonlight, and Axel caught his breath.

He was still smiling, but it wasn't the wide, carefree, laughing smile anymore. It was a small, knowing, intentional smile. Sweet and fond, as Roxas looked at Axel, but not a terribly familiar expression. To add to the strangeness, Roxas' blue eyes sparkled with intense excitement, while the rest of him seemed so calm.

But Axel noticed all this in passing, to remember later. As he gazed at Roxas, eyes widening, all he could think was, How could I have never noticed he was this beautiful?

Where his face had been haggard and pale, now it was soft and smooth, healthier and more delicate than Axel ever remembered it being. There was a touch of rosy color to his lovely cheeks, and the effect was overwhelmingly alluring. His lips seemed darker and perhaps a little fuller than before, but still perfectly suited to his face. His eyes were brighter, more entrancing, and his hair looked so soft that Axel yearned to touch it.

And when Roxas smiled, the curve of those lips drew Axel's eyes irresistibly, until the redhead was straining to reach out to Roxas, not thinking or even knowing what he wanted to do, only knowing that he wanted to be…closer.

But he couldn't move. A wretched dream paralysis had come over him, so that no matter how he reached for Roxas, he couldn't close the distance. When he couldn't advance toward Roxas, Axel began to feel a maddening need for Roxas to come toward him.

Come closer, his mind begged desperately, Come here, closer, closer to me…please, please…Roxas…

As if he heard Axel's thoughts, Roxas' smile grew just perceptibly…and he slowly turned and placed one foot forward – a single step closer to the bed and Axel.

It was agony and ecstasy – a taste, a gift, but not nearly enough.

But Roxas didn't stop or withdraw. One gift at a time, he approached the bed where Axel lay, helpless, shivering with happiness and hope as Roxas drew near. Everything felt so real, even more so than his usual dreams. The sights, sounds, scent…touch. He could even feel the slight weight of the blanket he lay under, as if he'd been sleeping. And his whole being longed to feel Roxas' touch now. Another embrace, like before…yet Axel was certain that if Roxas embraced him now it would be a thousand times more perfect than ever.

When Roxas reached the bed – still agonizingly distant even as he stood so, so close – the blond leaned smoothly forward. One hand extended toward him, and Axel marveled for a moment how soft and perfect it looked…and yet it was Roxas' hand, absolutely.

And then Roxas touched him.

That hand, which was as soft as it looked, was laid gently against his cheek, and Roxas stayed there, cradling Axel's face, his fingers moving in the slightest brushes. His eyes – his bright, clear, thrilling blue eyes – locked with Axel's awed gaze and held him, body and soul.

Axel felt like his heart might burst out of his chest. Roxas was touching him, and it was incredible. He had no faint sense of being in a dream – only a powerful conviction that this was real.

"Roxas…" He breathed in wonder. The boy's face softened, the smile widening.

"Axel." It was only a murmur, but the sound of Roxas' voice resonated deep within his body. He felt…possessed by it.

"Axel," Roxas spoke again as Axel's heart leapt, "I miss you."

That gave Axel a jolt. Never in any of his dreams had there been even a hint that Roxas was gone now. Only the long, wordless embraces might have been his mind silently recognizing the truth. This was entirely different. It was like Roxas was…back from the dead. Or an angel, visiting him from Heaven?

It didn't matter why or how, as Axel's body shook with a sob of longing. He couldn't even force words around the pain and tears, even though he was filled with so many things he wanted to say, to tell Roxas. Even just to beg him to come back…or to stay…or to take Axel away with him if he had to go again…

But Roxas was continuing. "I'm lonely without you, Axel. I want to see you again. Will you let me come and see you?"

"Yes!" he gasped. "Yes, yes, yes, yes!" Roxas smiled, nodding, and before Axel could say more – pour out his longing in words, beg Roxas to come to him and stay forever – the blond was gently withdrawing.

The loss of that touch was hell, and Axel wept again.

But as Roxas stepped back into the darkness, he was promising, "I will return, then. I will come and see you soon."

Blackness surrounded him, and Axel couldn't see Roxas anymore. He slept without dreaming for the rest of the night.

~o~

In the tiny village of Bistritz, May Day, like all celebrations, was small and traditional, pleasant and quaint. The villagers enjoyed their holiday and upheld the traditions, and the air was filled with the festive atmosphere that hovers around celebrations whether big or small, wherever populations of humanity are to be found. The chilly climate even cooperated this year by providing a sunny day, slightly warming the still-cold spring air.

Axel came out, but not for long. He walked from one end of the town to the other, slowly, eyes searching and straining among the people endlessly, and then he vanished into his home again.

Roxas hadn't reappeared. Every moment had been torture since that dream, for Axel felt irrationally certain every moment the beautiful blond was about to appear before him, yet every moment came and went, and he didn't. What was worse, even the usual dreams of Roxas had suddenly faded. He still dreamt them, but they felt so pale and distant now, so soundless and scentless and touchless, so brief and unsatisfying. He wanted to see Roxas again, like he had that night a week ago. He needed Roxas to keep his promise and come.

If it had even happened. Axel tortured himself all the more with doubts. Had it been only another dream, an illusion that had already evaporated forever? The longer he waited, the more his mind believed that is had to be…and yet his heart couldn't accept it. His cheek remembered the touch – he could still feel Roxas' hand there, all he had to do was close his eyes! It had been so real, and so exactly what he was dying for, that Axel couldn't convince himself that it had been just another dream.

He couldn't let go.

The day lengthened and the sun set, the air growing colder again as the warm light faded. Clouds began to roll in, promising more spring rain during the night or tomorrow. The village gathered around their bonfire – celebrations like this were the only occasions when people would be out after dark, and even then they gathered closely together and were careful not to lose track of even one small child.

Axel could hear the music in the village square as he paced his room. He felt restless, anxious. His mother had tried to persuade him to come down again, but he'd been unable to stomach the thought of being surrounded by so many people who weren't Roxas. Instead, he remained alone, his family out for the time being. He paced, and he jumped at every small sound, every rattle and creek of the house and wind outside, his heart stopping each time in hope that Roxas had come.

But it was only the floorboards or the shutters being rattled by the wind as the storm approached, and night fell around him until the room was as pitch black as the world outside. Axel gave up pacing after stubbing his toe three times in a row.

Sitting on his bed, his eyes adjusted as the moon rose, barely visible between the clouds that crowded thicker and thicker into the sky. His thoughts were slowly turning to despair as Roxas still didn't come. He was beginning to remember the fact that he'd never fully accepted – Roxas was dead.

Hopelessly, Axel lay back and closed his eyes, trying to shut out the familiar pain.

~o~

Axel, get up.

A voice in the darkness…no sight, no sense, only the voice. He wasn't dreaming of anything. It was like…hearing something in his sleep.

Axel. Rise, and open the window.

His eyes fluttered open, taking in his dark room, barely lit by concealed moonlight. Dazed, almost sleepwalking, Axel rose and stepped over to the window. He hesitated a moment, his hands on the sash. Why was he doing this, again?

But his mind's uncertainly was ignored as his hands moved to obey, unlatching the shutters and opening the window. The night air was cold and the wind was gusting fitfully, the sky almost filled with clouds, now. Dreamily, Axel stood still, waiting.

May I come in? He could almost swear he heard a twist of a smile in the voice that now echoed in his mind, now whisked away on the night breeze.

"Yes," Axel's tense voice rasped, "Come in…"

At once, the fitful wind seemed to turn, for a strong gust struck him directly in the face. The cold surrounded and embraced him, passing him and chilling the room.

And then the voice spoke again, and this time it wasn't echoing or disembodied. It was real, and soft, and coming from behind him.

"It's good to see you again, Axel."

Green eyes wide with shock and chest heaving for breaths of sobering, cold air, Axel slowly turned to face the voice.

Roxas.

He looked like he had in the dream a week ago – unbelievably beautiful, calm, and quietly smiling, his eyes burning with a dazzling energy and light. Axel swallowed, hard.

"Roxas…" He couldn't speak above a whisper. "Are you real? Is this…a dream?"

The angelic face smiled even more warmly at him, and Roxas gently shook his head. "If you think I am a dream, Axel, come here and touch me. See for yourself how real I am."

He didn't even hesitate. Trembling with unbearable hope, as well as fear that Roxas would disappear again, he stepped shakily forward, reaching for his best friend.

His hands connected with solid shoulders, and Roxas continued as if he hadn't paused. "Feel for yourself…" Axel's hands moved over the slender arms and upward. "Feel my warmth…" Axel touched the slender neck, tracing up to cheeks that were truly even softer than they looked. "Feel me here, breathing…" One of his hands moved, the fingers hovering over Roxas' lips as the boy breathed out gently, the warm air caressing his fingertips and igniting his whole body with the thrill it brought. Roxas smiled again. "Touch me to your heart's content. I won't vanish."

Axel broke with a sob. "Roxas!" His arms wrapped around the smaller young man and crushed him against Axel's body. Gulping in Roxas-scented air between gut-wrenching sobs of relief, Axel struggled to speak.

"They…th-they all told me you were dead…but I couldn't believe them, Roxas, I knew you c-couldn't be…couldn't be…a-and now you're here, and you're alive…" He was touching Roxas' face again, examining him rapidly to make sure. "You are, aren't you? This is real, and you're alive?"

It surprised him a bit when Roxas stifled a snort of laughter. Then, seeming to find something too funny to suppress, Roxas began to laugh aloud, covering his mouth as his eyes squeezed nearly shut and amusement shook his small frame.

Confused, Axel asked through an uncertain smile, "Wh-what's funny?"

The blond took several deep breaths, calming his laughter to chuckles. Then, when his voice was steady again and the humor restrained – barely – to his eyes alone, Roxas sighed. Reaching forward, his hands and forearms pressed against Axel's chest, slowly gliding up to wrap around his neck and pull the redhead close.

"Oh Axel," He breathed, grinning, and leaned up, his smiling voice a whisper right by Axel's ear. "Yes…this is real."

And Axel ignored the glimpse he'd gotten of sharper-than-ever white teeth and just sighed, pulling Roxas close again in a contented embrace. He didn't care about such stupid little details anyway; they'd never meant anything.

It was many slow, even heartbeats before the two parted, Axel moving them to sit together on his bed, and beginning to ask with wide, curious eyes, "Tell me what happened then? How have you lived, and where have you been this past month? You will stay here, now, won't you?"

Roxas' smile became slightly gentle – patient. "I cannot stay here Axel. If the villagers knew, they would only come against me again. Perhaps with even more deadly violence than before." Axel's face fell, remembering, as he realized the truth of Roxas' words. "You must make sure never to tell anyone that you have seen me, Axel."

"But…are you all right? Where will you live?" He couldn't bear the thought of Roxas scraping together a meager survival in the mountains, unsheltered, barely able to find food…

As if understanding his thoughts, Roxas patted Axel's cheek gently. The touch sent his heart pounding against his ribcage like a hammer beating over the anvil. He stared into sparkling blue eyes as his friend seemed to ponder, with a slow smile, what he should reveal.

At last, very slowly, he answered. "I've been living at the castle, Axel."

His blood ran cold in the wake of the shiver that crawled down his spine. "Wh-what?" He gasped in fear. "You can't be…"

"Shhh," the tips of Roxas' fingers gently pressed his lips. "It's all right, Axel. Don't panic." Then he sighed, gazing at the wide-eyed redhead fondly. "Poor Axel. There are so many things you don't understand yet. It must be so hard for you."

"Don't understand wha…" Axel began to ask, then trailed off when Roxas lifted one of his hands, cradling his silken cheek against the palm, eyes closed sweetly for a blissful moment.

When they opened again, Axel gulped. A glint of purpose had entered them, and Roxas rose smoothly, sliding one knee and then another onto the bed on either side of Axel's legs – straddling his lap swiftly and fluidly.

Heart jumping in elation and confusion, Axel felt two hands on his face, directing his gaze back to piercing blue. Roxas' voice dropped to a low murmur, and Axel could feel the warm breath against his lips, they were so close.

"I have many things to explain to you, Axel. But it may take a little while. Will you promise to trust me, for now?"

He almost hadn't heard the question. His eyes had slipped down to those perfect lips, and he was practically hypnotized by them. He was struggling with a sudden, overpowering desire to…taste them? A strange thought…

"Y-yes…" He struggled to focus on the conversation – words, not lips. Words, not lips! "I…I've always trusted you, Roxas. I could never doubt you."

A warm caress over his face, fingers threading back into his hair as Roxas smiled approvingly. "I have a few things to teach you, as well…"

"If…if you say so…then I won't resist…" Indeed, Axel was sure there was no way he could. Something about Roxas now was just so magnetic, so impossible to refuse.

Again, that broad smile, and this time Axel wavered upon seeing the teeth. They really were unnaturally long and sharp now. Perhaps it was from the strange illness Roxas had contracted before…before everything. At least he was no longer weak and feverish, so it must be all right…

Roxas was humming, amused. "Mmmm, don't tempt me. We must go carefully so as not to frighten you…" He was almost whispering to himself. "We have a little time, before I need to…"

Brows furrowing, Axel was about to ask what Roxas meant, when the blond focused on him again. At once, the penetrating stare halted him.

"Well," Roxas purred. "For now, let me give you a taste…before I go."

Axel opened his mouth to protest…and froze as warm, full lips sealed over his own.

Deep and slow, but insistently, Roxas kissed him. His mind was paralyzed in shock…but his heart was suddenly ready to burst with happiness. And his body…

He felt his mouth entered smoothly, passion and intensity building between them as Roxas caressed and possessed him. His skin burned over his whole body, his muscles were tense with excitement, and Roxas seemed to know perfectly what he was causing within Axel. His advances were timed exactly to match the highest point of each wave of ecstasy flooding him, so that he was driven higher and further with each thudding heartbeat, each moment in Roxas' arms.

He had never known that he wanted this…but oh, how he wanted it now.

When Roxas released him, he was trembling violently, gasping for breath, dizzy…and he could only stare as his best friend slowly licked soft, wondrously delicious lips, and then sweetly touched them to the tip of his nose.

"Sleep now, Axel." The whisper seemed to come from all around him, and blackness immediately began to close in. "Sleep…I will come again tomorrow night."

Unable to fight the sudden darkness, Axel fell wordlessly into a deep sleep.

~o~

The next day, Axel ate his meals, worked all day at the forge, and came home in the pouring rain. He was more attentive, answered when spoken to, and in all ways seemed to have improved vastly overnight. He was not, of course, back to his usual self – for especially, he had always been a rather relaxed person, and now he was visibly tense, seeming to strain his senses at times for no reason – yet it was more improvement in one night than he'd shown in two weeks. His mother was greatly encouraged. The doctor was greatly relieved. The town, which had, in truth, been turning a wary eye in his direction, relaxed quite a bit at seeing him finally improve.

Axel was desperate for night to come, so much so that every moment of daylight became his loathed enemy.

He no longer questioned or doubted. That had been no dream. He would never, ever have dreamed that. Indeed, he had no idea why Roxas had done that, but he was willing to wait and trust and understand later. His rational side was ready to go mad with trying to understand what had happened, and his conscience was whimpering, fearful that what Roxas had done was a sin. But most of him didn't care. He had Roxas back, and though he was confused by what his best friend had done…he felt he would die if Roxas didn't come back and do it again. Soon.

When night finally came, he bid his family good rest as soon as it was dark, saying that he was rather tried from a full day. Released to his room – after a warm, understanding embrace from his mother – Axel shut himself in, dousing the candle. His window was unlatched, but not quite open to the cold rain. To keep himself from pacing, he sat on his bed, fidgeting. He had no idea what to do with himself, or when Roxas would come.

Impatient to the point of becoming almost frantic, Axel struggled to calm himself. He shut his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to clear away the worries and the nagging doubts that came swarming over him. When Roxas came, it would be all right. He could…he could ask Roxas some questions, clear things up and set his mind at ease a bit.

"Axel…" A breathy whisper right in his ear made him jump. At the same time, he felt weight on the bed behind him as he caught Roxas' scent. He wanted to turn at once and face his friend, but two hands came from behind, under his arms, and laid flat against his chest. Axel felt himself held tightly against the body behind him, and he submitted, relaxing even as his heart pounded wildly.

"Roxas…you really came." His relieved smile could be heard in his voice, he was sure.

"Of course," Roxas murmured in his ear again, "I promised, didn't I? Besides, I want to see you so much…"

Warm breath against his ear and neck made Axel shudder deliciously, but he struggled to concentrate. He…he needed to talk to Roxas…about things.

"Ah, Roxas? You said you're living at the castle…but what about the monster…?" He glanced around the room, realizing something. "And how did you even get in here?"

A soft chuckle answered him, and then his heart stopped for a moment as Roxas placed a sweet kiss against his cheek. He could still feel the boy's lips there as he answered.

"I can do things now that I couldn't before, Axel. And the monster…well, you may not understand, but he really isn't a monster."

"What?" He gasped, a trickle of horror entering his veins. How could Roxas say such a thing?

"Shhh…I know you can't believe it right away, but he's really quite the gentleman, in his own way. He's been…teaching me things." The hands on Axel's chest began to move, stroking slowly. "But even with him, I was so lonely for you…"

Axel swallowed, feeling his thoughts slipping away. "What…what kind of…things?"

"Mmmm," Roxas chuckled again, moving to bury his face in Axel's hair and inhale deeply. "Do you want to know? I will show you, soon. Don't worry…they are good things." Suddenly, Axel felt Roxas move. The hands stopped stroking his chest and left him as the boy shifted behind him. Finally free to turn, Axel caught his breath as he watched Roxas lie down on the bed. He was struck again by his friend's incredible beauty. It mesmerized him all over again.

And Roxas was smiling. "I showed you something last night…do you remember what it was?" His teasing smile widened as he looked up to Axel from the pillow, hands relaxed on either side of his head.

His whole body tingling, Axel could only nod, wide-eyed.

Blue eyes narrowed, lids dropping as Roxas' voice did, returning to a whisper. "Come," he breathed, "show me what you remember."

He didn't think. He couldn't. He could barely breathe as he leaned forward. His hands reached compulsively for Roxas', and their fingers knitting together felt like balm on his ragged soul – a perfect fit.

Only inches away from curling, seductive lips, Axel hesitated, swallowing nervously. His stomach was churning so fearfully…but Roxas' barely-open eyes calmly regarded him, smiling gently, drawing him in like his friend held a web of invisible iron threads wound around his heart. And with a tiny twist at the corner of his mouth…he tugged those threads hard.

Axel couldn't resist. Didn't want to try.

Their lips joining perfectly soothed him even more than when their hands had met. All the coils of fear in Axel unwound and vanished in a moment as warm, soft lips moved against his. There was no room for fear now, anyway – not in the face of the powerful, building heat that was taking over him.

Unthinking, obeying the fire, he pressed closer, pressed deeper. And Roxas relented, never fighting him, but welcoming his advances. It was so different from last night…and he had a momentary, nagging thought that he probably wasn't doing everything right, but that thought evaporated at the sound of a soft, pleasured moan from Roxas.

A gut-clenching fire overwhelmed him at that, and Axel squeezed their hands together tighter as he began to move faster, losing his mind in a fog of bliss as he kissed Roxas. As Roxas kissed him. As their tongues slid together, as their lips tangled, as their mouths sucked in the most enticing way.

He would never have pulled back…but the throbbing heat in his body began to grow suddenly far too intense and focused, until he broke away with a strangled grunt as a spike of pain shot through him from one particularly strong pulse of heat. He was panting heavily, and it surprised him to see that he was now bridged over Roxas – Axel couldn't remember moving there. Yet he couldn't spare much thought for that…not when he looked at Roxas, so achingly beautiful. Not when his body trembled and hurt with a need that almost frightened him.

"Mmmm," Roxas smiled, looking perfectly relaxed. "You learn quickly, Axel. I think you're ready for something new." Then he glanced down the plane of Axel's body above him, and the redhead felt his face heat up, mortified. Roxas, however, just grinned. "Actually, it looks like you're more than ready. Sorry to keep you waiting." He chuckled.

"What do you mea-aaahhh!" Axel had been about to ask when one of Roxas' hands had slipped from his and snaked down confidently between their bodies. And where that hand went…and what it touched…

"You'll like this lesson, too," Roxas whispered, moving his hand in a slow stroke, pressing firmly but not too tight.

"Rox-Roxas…what…is this…?" He was struggling to speak, desperate to understand…but the friction was too perfect, too…too good. Nothing within him wanted to fight it.

A few strokes later Roxas shifted, his hand releasing a moment – to Axel's agony – and then slipping under fabric and touching him directly. His arms trembled and gave out, Axel falling onto his elbows, his face buried in Roxas' shoulder, in Roxas' scent. There was a voice in his ear, murmuring, humming, speaking…but he didn't know what it said, only that the tone was dripping with pleasure and so, so soothing.

Roxas' hand moved faster, squeezed tighter.

Axel's hips jerked uncontrollably into the pressure that held him.

It was hot…he felt himself suffocating, sweating, dying, writhing. He was vaguely aware that he was moaning constantly, his voice muffled against Roxas.

When the climax came, a spike of unbearable tension before the release, he bit down frantically on Roxas' shoulder as spasms wracked his body. Then he lost track of everything.

When he opened his eyes again, Axel was lying on his back. He felt melted, spent…and Roxas was leaning over him…

Warm lips pressed his again, and a whisper surrounded him again.

"Good…good, Axel. Sleep now…you've done well. Tomorrow night…"

"Roxas…" he breathed, trying to reach for the blond, failing as his consciousness slipped away.

~o~

The dreary day passed, colorless and flavorless, and Axel barely noticed the world around him. If people shot him worried looks, he didn't feel them. If those nearest him grew tense with renewed suspicion, he didn't notice. Nothing mattered. He waited for night.

Night came, and so did Roxas. Axel was breathless, all questions forgotten at once. How could he think of talking when such precious beauty touched him, pushed him gently back onto the bed, and leaned down to kiss him with lips of fire? He couldn't think of anything but More, more, more! And there was more, as Roxas kissed him, touched him and pleasured him, made him helpless with desire.

His lips were released with a wet sound, and Axel cracked his eyes open to see Roxas pause a moment, gazing intensely at his…neck? The pupils, usually so narrow – Axel had ceased to be afraid of their slitted shape – were now blown, dilated and round, dark and alive. Then he lost sight of them, his eyes slipping closed again as Roxas lowered his head and ran a hot tongue up the side of his throat. He gasped, his body jerking and tensing, and Roxas began to kiss him.

Forceful, messy kisses covered his neck, sucking pressure seeming to insinuate so much more…though what, Axel had no idea. Between Roxas' mouth on his neck and his slow, stroking hand, Axel could do nothing but submit to the onslaught of pleasure until it broke his restraint and burst out of him.

Roxas drew back, and Axel could see through his daze that the usually so calm blond was panting hard. His eyes were even larger than before, his lips were wet and parted, and his expression was strained. He looked…hungry. He was even shaking as he gasped for air, and Axel thought he heard Roxas murmuring to himself, "Not yet…wait…soon…"

Then Roxas cast sleep over him like a spell again – Axel almost groaned in agony, hating the end, trying to fight it – and faded into the dark. Axel's last, lingering thought was to wonder what it was Roxas wanted so much.

He shivered, hoping the blond would have his desire…soon.

~o~

Bistritz was alive with curiosity on the fourth of May. An Englishman had arrived late in the night and stayed at the inn. Though it was a cold, dark, rainy day, he was now preparing to depart. The whispered rumors were that he was headed, of all places, to the castle!

Axel didn't care for the news of the Englishman – he was too anxious for the daylight to hurry and fade to darkness again – but the rumor of the young man traveling to the castle caught his attention. The castle. Where the monster was. And…Roxas.

He wasn't the only one who found himself idling in the streets that day, trying to look busy with nothing in spite of the weather, hovering nearer and nearer to the coach as it prepared to depart for the nearby town of Bukovina. Axel heard the coachman murmuring a complaint to the innkeeper about having to take the Englishman so near the castle – for it lay off the road between the two towns – and Axel even thought he heard that a carriage was to meet them at the Borgo Pass and take the Englishman to the castle from there. Both men crossed themselves fearfully at such a notion.

Axel lingered long enough to catch sight of the Englishman, whose name, he heard, was Harker. He even heard the mistress of the inn, who was growing rather upset, trying to warn the young fool about the castle. She was trying to explain to him that it was the Eve of St. George's Day, though he didn't seem to care.

Nor did Axel. He remembered that this day was said to be the most evil day on their calendar; he and Roxas had always been deliciously frightened of this day as children, and always spent the night huddled together, telling ghost stories and making themselves even more afraid.

Roxas…

He turned away, heading home. He cared nothing about the man Harker…his mind was only filled with Roxas. The only thought he could spare for the stranger was to wonder if the man going to the castle had anything to do with Roxas…and he fervently hoped not.

Roxas didn't need a foreign guest. He was coming back to Axel tonight, wasn't he? He was coming. He was…he was Axel's. The redhead couldn't tolerate the thought of sharing his best friend with anyone else.

His eyes widened in surprise – the violence of his jealousy suddenly struck him as so strange… Why should he feel so possessive of Roxas?

Why should I let anyone else have him? They tried to kill him…

But why should he so distrust and dislike the foreigner…who was a rather attractive young man, come to think of it?

What does Roxas want him for? Is it something I can't give him?

That, Axel would not tolerate. Whatever Roxas wanted – whatever he'd seemed so desperate for last night – Axel could provide. And he would. He wouldn't let Roxas go to anyone else.

Roxas belonged to him.

~o~

He waited by the window, staring into the night. The minutes felt like hours, until finally, Axel thought that perhaps Roxas would appear if he closed his eyes. The blond always seemed to arrive when he wasn't looking…

He shut them tight and whispered into the night, "Roxas…"

Hands gripped his shoulders from behind and spun him, throwing him back against the wall by the window. Neither of them hesitated.

The kiss was wild, all control abandoned from the very beginning as Roxas pressed into him so that Axel could feel every inch of the blond's body with all of his own. Fingers in his hair pulled down, dragging him deeper into the burning mouth until everything within him was screaming for Roxas, Roxas! More, more Roxas!

Yet Roxas released him with a whimper, and Axel drank in the perfect face again, the expression just like last night, blown, wide eyes and straining need in every shadow on his face. Roxas was softly moaning, "Nnn…hungry…"

Struggling for breath, Axel felt a renewed stab of jealousy at the thought of anyone else seeing Roxas like this. His voice husky and unsteady, he demanded, "Who was that foreigner that went to the castle today? What did you want him for?"

Roxas blinked, surprised. "Me? That foreigner is not mine…" Then his face relaxed, and he laughed shortly, relaxing against Axel. "Axel, Axel. That man is his guest. And he has no time for me, now that his long-awaited Englishman is here."

Not at all comforted, Axel frowned. The boiling jealousy inside him took a new direction. "How would he spend his time with you, when he wasn't busy?"

The lovely little blond just smiled, a slightly wicked twist to his mouth. "I told you…he taught me things. And now his lessons are done, and he's leaving soon, so you are the only one I have left." Axel knew he shouldn't be calmed by such a vague response, but the words Roxas spoke shivered through him so satisfyingly. He was Roxas' only one. And Roxas was his.

And Roxas was leading him by the hand toward the bed. His heart jumped, warmth already spreading through him…

"But now, you see, the time has come." The blond was breathing the words, staring at him, guiding him to lie down with tantalizing little touches. "Now I need more from you. You won't push me away, will you, Axel?" Tender fingers stroked down his cheek as Axel lay back, worshipping Roxas with his eyes.

"No…" he whispered, shaking his head slightly, helplessly, as Roxas leaned slowly forward, eyes locked with his own. "I won't…I'll gladly…give you everything…"

The beautiful boy purred happily, lying down slowly on top of Axel. The redhead could feel his weight resting comfortably on him, and he silently watched Roxas lower his head. He was tense, waiting…needing, though he didn't know what. And Roxas…

Soft lips touched his throat in a sweet kiss. Axel shivered, his heart almost too loud in his ears, pounding with his only thought – Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

Then pain.

Sharp, deep, driving into him, pain pain pain. He choked and cried out and clutched Roxas tightly. The first stab faded to a throbbing ache as Roxas paused, then Axel tensed again as the boy withdrew.

At once, that hot mouth was sealed over the wound, and Axel groaned as he felt sucking pressure. He was confused, frightened, and struggling not to cry…yet Roxas' mouth on him felt so good, so wonderful, so soothing and pleasuring and so exactly what he wanted that he couldn't resist. Axel stopped thinking entirely and just relaxed, drifting in a warm haze of ecstasy in Roxas' arms.

He felt lightheaded when Roxas finally stopped, but he turned to try to look at the boy anyway. Hands stopped him, and a low voice out of his line of vision spoke. "No Axel. You mustn't look, tonight. This will frighten you. Shut your eyes." Confused, Axel obeyed, and his head was turned away for him. Then he felt pressure and moving hands and a binding feeling around his neck. Roxas was mumbling, "I don't care what he says, it's just plain responsible to be careful. And I'm not going to be careless, not with you…"

Then a gentle hand was brushing his clammy brow as Roxas whispered nearby, "Thank you, Axel. Sorry, but you need to sleep now. Try not to be frightened tomorrow. I'll come again."

He sighed, already prepared for the encroaching blackness.

~o~

He understood when he saw his neck in the morning.

The mark. Just like Roxas' had been, only his looked fresher, less…used. Two red spots on his neck, which Roxas had hidden with a bandage, for obvious reasons. He would be burned for a witch if anyone saw this.

And that meant…Roxas was a monster.

He'd never been a witch. The monster's mark didn't make one a witch, they made one a monster as well. And now Roxas was one…and…was Axel one too? He had never believed that Roxas had done anything wrong, but…had Roxas accepted the monster the way Axel had accepted Roxas?

The thought was a knife in his stomach until he remembered the trial. No. No, Roxas' terror and fear had been genuine. The blond had been innocent; he must not have known what had happened. At least, Axel had been positive at the time…and he was still sure that he hadn't been mistaken in understanding his best friend.

Yet even if Roxas had been unaware, wasn't he a monster himself, now? And if he was attacking Axel…the redhead would have to be careful. The villagers would be all too willing to burn him. He felt cold at that thought, shuddering in fear. He was…he was damned now, wasn't he? What would become of him? Would he die? Would he have to flee his home for the terrifying castle?

Nearly panicking, Roxas' voice came into his mind. "Try not to be frightened…" Roxas had been thinking of this…

That's right, he thought. I chose to trust him. Axel took a deep, steadying breath, and put his fear firmly aside. Whatever was happening to him, he had Roxas. And Roxas wouldn't harm him. Roxas…wanted him. Wanted to stay with him. Nothing else mattered.

Axel wore a high-collared shirt over the bandage that day.

~o~

When the blond returned that night, he took Axel in his arms at once. But it was different this time – not passionate, but tender and comforting. Roxas sat beside him and ran calming fingers through his hair.

Without prelude, he began to murmur, "I know you must doubt me, now. You must be afraid. This isn't the way he does it, and I understand his reasons. But he doesn't keep them. He doesn't care what happens to them, in the end. And I don't feel that way about you, Axel. I want to keep you for my own, forever. I don't want to be alone like that…I know you must think horrible thoughts about me now, but I cannot do anything else. Just wait a little while, and it will all make sense…just trust me, please…"

Axel's heart melted. In spite of everything, this was Roxas. His Roxas. His best friend for his whole life. He couldn't fear or hate him. And…the words struck a chord.

He didn't want to be alone either. When he'd thought they were separated…it had nearly driven him insane. Axel…couldn't bear that again. He needed to be with Roxas.

Axel understood now. He…loved Roxas.

"I trust you," he whispered into blond hair. "I trust you, Roxas. I won't be afraid, if you tell me not to be. I…I need to be with you, too."

Infinitely soft blue eyes with narrow pupils gazed at him, fingers caressing his features tenderly. "Don't be afraid, Axel," he whispered. "I'm going to take care of you."

Nodding, Axel smiled. "Yes, Roxas."

The kisses were sweet, this time. Sweet and filled with longing. Roxas' hands were gentle, unwrapping the bandage, and the slow penetration that reopened his wound didn't hurt nearly as much as the first time. And Roxas drank slowly, hands roaming tenderly, soothing Axel through the strange discomfort…and then slowly igniting the pleasure that followed.

It was the most perfect feeling he had ever known. And this time, when Roxas had bound his throat again, oh, so gently, he didn't cast darkness over Axel, making him sleep. Instead, he lay down beside his best friend, curled up together warmly. It was just right – just like they had always spent St. George's Eve as children…and Axel wasn't even afraid to see his own blood dripping from Roxas' lips.

~o~

For six days, Axel hid the mark and tried to act normally, going to his apprenticeship and speaking more freely with people. For six days, he watched his own face carefully, hoping the pallor wasn't too noticeable. By the end of the week, his pupils seemed a little thinner – his teeth, too. He tried not to look people in the eyes. Tried not to open his mouth too far.

For five nights, Roxas came to him in the dark. They held one another, and kissed, and touched, and Roxas…drank from him. In the dark, he felt nothing but bliss and soul-devouring ecstasy.

In the daylight, when he passed the chapel, he felt a prickle of fear. When his mother hugged him and took pains to feed him well, he felt a shiver of guilt. And when his friends greeted him cheerfully, he felt a pang of misery. Soon, he knew, he would have to leave them. He had already betrayed them.

Yet…in the darkness of night, in Roxas' arms, nothing else mattered. He felt no regret.

On the sixth day, one of the men told a joke in the smithy that had everyone laughing uncontrollably, Axel included. He didn't notice the suddenly sober and alarmed stare one of the apprentices gave him.

On the sixth night, Roxas didn't touch him.

Axel reached for the boy, but Roxas stood still, gazing at him without even a trace of a smile. Uncertainty clenched at his heart as Axel frowned. "What's wrong, Roxas?"

"Axel…" The blond seemed so reluctant. "We've run out of time. Someone has accused you. I can hear the townsmen gathering. They are coming to take you. We must go."

"What?" He breathed, eyes wide. "Go? Accused? Some-someone accused me? But…"

"They saw the signs, Axel. It was almost time, anyway. I never meant to leave you here until they accused you. We must go to the castle, now, before they take you. The trial will be in daylight, and the execution will too. I cannot rescue you once the sun rises. By tomorrow night, you'll be dead."

"But to go to the castle…to go now…" Axel was so confused. It was too sudden! "And…dead? But won't I…"

"They will burn you, Axel!" Roxas frowned, agitated. "They always burn them. And yes, being burned to ashes in the daylight will kill you, as it has killed nearly all of his in the past. That I escaped was a complete accident, owed entirely to the weather. You must come, Axel. This is our only chance."

Reeling, he tried to take in all that Roxas had said. A noise outside distracted him. Axel glanced out the window, and his blood froze at the sight of torchlight flickering over a small crowd gathering in front of the chapel, far down the street. They seemed to be discussing things, and a small group of them – probably the council – was forming apart. So it's true… His chest ached. He had known it was coming but…he wasn't prepared yet! The sting of knowing those he had grown up with were turning against him…

Axel swallowed. "If I hurry, I can say goodbye to my family…?"

A shake of the blond head. "They'll detain you, and I need every minute for this." Roxas advanced quickly, taking his hands and pulling him toward the bed. "I can't get you to the castle before dawn as you are, on foot. It's too far."

Frightened, he kept his feet, resisting being pulled to lie down. "The monster…"

A frustrated exhalation as Roxas stopped pulling. "He's gone, Axel. He followed his foreigner to England, as he has long been planning to do. I was only waiting for them to go, and then a little longer, to give you time to lose your fear. But we're out of time, and I can't even have the luxury of making this easy for you. There's no time to be gentle. Come!"

Another glance outside showed him that the crowd had swelled. Why was this happening so suddenly? And what was going to happen now? He had no idea what Roxas had planned, and what did he mean, he couldn't be gentle? Was this going to…hurt?

Confusion and fear flooded him. Suddenly, hands on his face pulled his gaze down and sharp blue eyes pierced his own.

"I'm sorry, Axel, but you have to choose this. Now. I cannot change you against your will, and I don't have time to explain everything. You have to choose to trust me."

Blue eyes changed from firm to yearning. Roxas was softly pleading, "Axel, I beg you…trust me…"

Distant voices could be heard addressing the gathered townspeople.

But Axel didn't heed them. There was only Roxas. Axel surrendered.

Searching Roxas' eyes, he swallowed the fear. "Take me with you."

Roxas didn't hesitate, not even to force Axel to lie down. The bandage was shredded with one yank, and Roxas reached up, all his teeth sinking home at once, burying themselves in Axel's neck.

"Ahhhhhh!" He wavered under the pain, clutching Roxas for support as the blond quickly withdrew and began to suck, harder and faster than ever. Axel could feel himself drained rapidly, strength evaporating from his body and weakness washing over him as he lost blood. After only a few moments, his legs trembled and buckled, unable to support him anymore. He would have hit the floor, but Roxas was ready. Surprisingly strong arms held him up, lowering him carefully onto the nearby bed, Roxas never releasing his neck or pausing as he drank.

Axel felt faint. His heartbeat was slowing. His weak arms still clung to Roxas, crouching over him…but he couldn't feel much through them anymore, and soon, they too dropped away, limp. He felt cold…his vision was darkening…he felt…he felt himself…dying.

He didn't feel Roxas release him, didn't see the boy tear open his own wrist with sharp teeth. The warmth flowing down his throat didn't mean anything to him. His heart stopped.

And then…Axel opened his eyes.

Fire was inside him, fire and strength coursed through him, and Roxas was smiling at him, looking a little breathless, but so relieved and so, so beautiful.

"Roxas…" Axel breathed. Then he was silenced as the boy kissed him, deep and hard and quick, before letting go and pulling back, moving to help him stand.

As he rose to his feet, Axel felt as if the weight of something immense fell off of him. Something like…mortality. Whatever it was, he hadn't known how heavy it felt until it was gone.

Beaming, he gazed down at Roxas. The blue eyes that met his understood. And he could hear the townspeople now on their way, coming toward his house, but Axel didn't care. He understood now. And he was with Roxas. Forever.

Catching the smaller boy up in his arms, Axel kissed him with all the raw, carnal desire he'd never known was hidden deep within his soul. And Roxas kissed him back, and he knew now that all the kisses before, no matter how passionate, had been painfully restrained for Roxas. This…this kiss was held back by nothing.

Voices downstairs interrupted them, and they both growled in irritation, then laughed at each other's reactions. Axel had never felt such free happiness in a laugh before…but he didn't have time to dwell on it. Already, Roxas was pulling him to the window and throwing it open, wide.

"Come on!" He called back, one foot braced on the sill, and then…he jumped.

Axel gaped a moment, then rushed to the window to look for where Roxas had gone. He didn't see the blond boy…just a large bat flitting in the dark. He was confused for a moment…then Roxas' voice floated into his mind.

"You can change shape. Just jump, and think of a bat, and your instinct will do the rest. Then follow me!"

He heard heavy feet on the stairs…

Axel jumped.

The villagers found only an empty room, a few fresh spots of blood staining the floor and bed.

~o~

The castle wasn't bad at all, Axel decided. He found the architecture strangely appealing, if a little…large. But the darkness was comfortable and nice, and there were smaller wings, apparently, and smaller rooms. He needn't go into the oversized halls and such.

And there was Roxas.

Roxas filled the rooms with laughter as they raced around, exploring like little boys. The blond showed him where he'd been staying, and Axel loved the room at once. It was filled with Roxas' scent. Some of the other rooms weren't so nice – there was a strange scent lingering about in a few of them – but Roxas' was perfect.

And, just as Roxas had said, the castle was empty. It was all theirs.

"Of course," Roxas mused absently as Axel pushed his shirt open, moving down to mouth over the pale flesh pinned under him, "I don't really see us staying here forever. I think he had the right idea, going to a new place. Fresh blood and all, and not so much local opposition. What do you think of France?" Blue eyes looked up from the bed, lazily innocent, but not quite able to fully hide the spark of passion as he watched Axel undress him.

The redhead snorted. "If you have time to think of France right now, I'm not doing a very good job." Regardless of his statement, the young man wore a knowing smirk, his hand cupping a bit of hard evidence to the contrary.

Roxas bit back his groan of pleasure and composed his face. "Yes, actually, you're terrible. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you should just give up now."

Nearly laughing aloud, Axel decided how to tease back. "Ah, you're right." He feigned sorrow and sat back, removing his hands. "I understand. I'll stop."

In spite of the joke, Roxas nearly snarled at the loss of contact. Axel felt himself suddenly gripped by the shoulders and pulled back down onto the blond, hard. "You're just young and inexperienced," Roxas argued. "But it's all right." He purred seductively against Axel's lips. "I'll teach you how to make me scream."

Their mouths connected, then parted as Axel chuckled. "You're a very patient teacher."

Roxas arched against him insistently. "I'll do anything to get the best possible lover."

Pausing, Axel met those blue eyes seriously. Lover. Yes. He understood.

"I'm glad you chose me, then." His voice was soft, and his eyes still intent.

Roxas matched his expression. "It could never have been anyone else. Since we were children…Axel…"

Me too. I've always been in love with you.

Axel's face melted into a slow grin. "Well. Then I'll have to work hard…so that I don't disappoint." Roxas' matching grin and growl of desire seemed to approve of the idea as Axel's fingers got busy again.

"By the way," he spoke casually a moment later, pretending to ignore the delicious way Roxas was writhing and panting, "I think France is an excellent idea. We should leave immediately."

"Sorry," Roxas growled again, his own smirk sharp and stunningly alluring, "France will have to wait. You're going to be very busy for the next few months." Axel felt a thrill run over his skin. "We can go in the fall." Roxas finally smiled again, wide and soft and perfect. "You promised to spend the summer with me…and I get to choose what we do."

Axel hadn't known happiness like this existed.

"Yes, Roxas."

The End…

of the Beginning.

~o~

Note to readers! Hey guys! If you read this because you're into Axel and Roxas and that's pretty much it, well...thanks! I hope you liked it! :D But if you also wonder if this Kurosora1984 lady has anything else to entertain you, and if you are even a little interested in other guys getting their sexy romance on, check out my current original story on FP! Links in my profile! Thank you, dears! :D