Title: Not With A Whimper

Author: Random One-Shot

Location: Snowpeak Ruins, The World That Never Was

Characters: Axel, Zexion, Vexen, Marluxia, Larxene, Lexeaus, Organization XIII

Rating/Warnings: PG-13, for violence and swearing.

Summary: The end has finally come. There is only one thing left to ask - to go with a whimper or a bang?

Author's Note – Darn word limit. Discounting the title stuff, we've got 2,493 words and I had to cut out so much. Por que?! The Snowpeak Ruins come from a videogame – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. If you've played it, then you know the music on the path to the mansion is just so damn sad, which is part of the reason I chose this setting. It just screams 'end of the road'.


They stumbled through the portal, half of their number holding up the other half. It was frighteningly cold and windy, and beneath their shared coat Marluxia and Vexen unthinkingly pressed closer together.

"Over there," someone called. It could have been Axel, could have been Larxene. No one knew or had the energy to care.

The caller had seen the shape rising up in front of them. It was a massive house half buried in snow and they all began mindlessly walking toward it. After breaking down the front doors, they found themselves in a dilapidated, ice encrusted mansion whose sole occupants were a pair of large, furry creatures that were quickly frightened off. The parlor had a massive fireplace that was soon filled with broken furniture and set ablaze.

And then they huddled.

"Any ideas?"

Larxene.

"…We can't keep doing this. We can't… run any further."

Lexeaus.

Zexion, sprawled on the floor, gave the big man's knee a squeeze.

"So, what?" Axel asked bitterly.

Vexen and Marluxia were sitting utterly still in front of the fire, knee to knee. Marluxia's left hand was tangled in pale blond hair and he was staring into the fire without actually seeing it.

So much running and so much hiding. For what? To be brought to bay like a pack of wild dogs and slaughtered when they had no strength left? To be meekly dragged back to Never Was and set up as examples to any other unfortunates who may have itching feet?

No. No.

There was something inescapably infuriating about that thought. Marluxia tried to picture himself kneeling at the foot a white throne, begging for forgiveness, and found his lips curling into a sneer when the image came to him easily.

Had Oblivion's Lord fallen so low?

Would he beg?!

"We're going to die," Marluxia said.

It was still a surprise to hear the words.

"We are going to die," Marluxia said again, feeling a bit stronger about it the second time.

"But it… doesn't have to be on their terms. We don't have to be executed like animals. We can…."

He licked his lips, unable to describe what he thought he was almost-sort-of-not-quite feeling.

And it was, surprisingly, Vexen who found the words.

The Chilly Academic tossed another piece of chair leg onto the blaze in the hearth and said, "We can go out with a bang."

The fire snapped and popped.


Their medical supplies were practically nonexistent, but on some world Zexion had stuffed a bundle of Stamina Tonics among his Lexicon's hoard. He claimed he had forgotten them entirely and no one was up to arguing with him, which was a measure of how tired and utterly focused they all were.

And then there was nothing to do, but wait.


One day passed.

Two days passed.

Three days passed.

A week flew by and Axel was just beginning to hope that maybe Saïx had tripped down a flight of stairs and broken his neck when the front doors creaked open and the blizzard outside turned into seven dark shapes that invited themselves in.

"Well, great," Axel muttered and then quietly snuck away to the kitchen.


Xemnas opened the door to the parlor and found Marluxia standing in front of a roaring fireplace. The shadows and light made him seem taller.

"So, here you are," Xemnas said. Behind him, he could feel the others spreading out.

"Your long journey has come to an end at last. Please, do not worry yourself over the future. Very shortly, your wandering feet will rest forev – "

"Xehanort."

All sound ceased.

Two burning orange eyes emerged from the shadow of a hood and carried a message to the man across the room.

How dare you.

And Marluxia grinned.

"You were a horrible boss and I never liked you."

Six bodies moved in tandem and the world went insane.


High on Stamina Tonic, Lexeaus did not open the door to the parlor. A more appropriate word would be 'disintegrated'. The door was there and then it was not, and over two-hundred pounds of Silent Hero hurled itself at the nearest victim, axe first. This unfortunate being happened to be Xaldin and Lexeaus not only pushed him across the room, but also through the wall and into the courtyard as well.

If Xaldin had been a human, that would have been the end of it. He was not, and so a hurricane plucked Lexeaus off of the Number III and slammed the large man into the courtyard wall. Lexeaus barely felt it. He was up again, pain and exhaustion beyond him, and throwing himself at the Lancer.

He may have seen the spear that darted into his path.

He certainly didn't stop in time.

It occurred to him, very distantly, that he could hear Zexion screaming.


Zexion moved with Lexeaus, ignoring Vexen at his side, and Larxene and Axel charging out of the kitchen opposite to them. His magic was wrapping around the room, knitting itself around the inhabitants and separating friend from foe.

To the Organization, a wall of blinding darkness had descended.

To the renegades, it was a free-for-all.

Xaldin went first, courtesy of Lexeaus' bulk and Zexion couldn't help the feeling of grim pleasure that came with seeing the man who had driven them from that horrible, talking-furniture ridden world go crashing through a stone wall.

Xemnas was next, Marluxia's scythe taking form in his hands after so long. The Superior had well-trained instincts and his glowing blades managed to block the strike that he knew was coming, even if he couldn't see it. He did not manage to guard against a well placed boot to the chest that sent him flying back through the very doors he had strode so confidently from only seconds earlier.

Xigbar had his guns in his hands and Saïx was howling, three kunai sticking from his chest. Luxord had a handful of cards and he flung them blindly just as Xigbar began firing and Demyx strumming his sitar and Roxas calling his Keyblade, all of them so blind and panicked that Zexion really felt like laughing –

- and then he ducked, still having the presence of mind to know that standing up in a room full of flying arrow-bullets and magic was a Very Stupid Thing.

He turned as he fell and saw the lance tip sticking out of Lexeaus' back.

His invigoration fell apart as quickly as his illusion.

"Lexeaus!"


Larxene cursed Zexion in her mind and tore out of the parlor, sending a farewell gift of five kunai to Demyx as she did. That stupid little weasel was screwing it all up! The illusion wasn't supposed to fall yet!

The nearest exit was the new hole in the wall and she hurled herself though it, dimly aware that Vexen was only a step behind. Xaldin was in front of her and Lexeaus was –

- fading? dying?

- in the snow not far away.

There was a strange bundle of not-feelings her left breast.

The one lay she'd always wanted and would never remember. The untitled anchor that had kept them from murdering each other for so long.

Lightning flashed and Xaldin howled.

Larxene raced for the tower.


Vexen raced up the stairs and crashed into the chapel, the place he'd marked as his own battleground a week earlier.

Lexeaus was dead, Marluxia was getting what he wanted, he couldn't – wouldn't – run anymore and….

And let them come!

"Blondie, you are askin' for it!"

Xigbar's voice came from everywhere and nowhere. Vexen had seen him use this trick a hundred times before, but it was still very strange to be on the receiving end.

Vexen snarled. "I have dealt with your idiocy for"

And there was the attack. Xigbar flashed into existence above him, guns aimed and then one-two-three-four glowing shots streaking Vexen's way.

His shield raised itself seemingly on its own.

"– TWENTY!"

Block.

"- SEVEN!"

Block.

"- YEARS!"

Block.

"- YOU BASTARD!"

And block.

"YOU ARE ASKING FOR IT!"

Magic roared like an avalanche through Vexen's body and the six dozen, four foot long icicles he had so painstakingly cultivated on the ceiling just for this purpose came crashing down with a swipe of his hand.

Well aware that he had an only slightly smaller chance of being impaled than Xigbar did, Vexen nonetheless could not stop grinning.


Axel took a running dash at the nearest black coat and threw his whole weight into the punch.

It was either Demyx or… or someone else, because the body was somewhere around his size.

Then a Keyblade was grinding against his stomach and he knew it wasn't Demyx.


Zexion was knee-deep in snow and he didn't care. There was a dark stain in the white powder, Darkness made physical, and it was all that marked the world to show that someone named Lexeaus had ever existed.

It was, Zexion thought, rather hard to breathe.

Something shifted ahead of him and he saw Xaldin lying in the snow, barely moving.

He didn't know how his Lexicon got into his hands; all he knew was that it seemed very right.

Except Demyx was suddenly interfering and he could not reach Xaldin!

Shrieking unintelligibly, Zexion threw illusion after illusion at the interloper, but Demyx kept coming. Water clones burst from the snow, half slush and half liquid. There were more and more and why wasn't the boy stopping?!

Then, quite suddenly, it was over.

There was a wet cold wrapping itself around his head and Zexion couldn't tear it off. His lungs burned and he fell, the Lexicon dropping through the snow.

Demyx was next to him and Zexion clawed at the black coat that IX wore.

"It was the snow."

Demyx was babbling, weakly.

"It isn't water, but I can get enough to know where you're stepping, even when your magic shows me different things and makes me hear different things, so I knew… I knew where to…."

And there was something both terrible and comforting in the way he took Zexion's hand as the Schemer's vision faded.

"I'm really sorry."


Larxene was in her place, the tower bedroom, where every scrap of metal they had dug from the mansion was scattered about. Lightning arced between items and sent them flying through the air, but Luxord was always just one step ahead of her.

Always just – one – step.

Infuriating bastard.

Time slowed and sped up, but she was never in the pockets of reality that shifted. She'd learned her lesson in Tortuga and he was not catching her again.

Except, he did.

Almost as though Luxord had flipped a switch, Larxene's plans changed. Her magic filled her and the room was filled with the sound of humming, as metal - sharp and dull, shining and rusted - began to rattle.

His goatee was tickling her ear.

"Don't bluff with me, dearest. I know your tricks."

Larxene smiled.

"I've been learning new ones," she whispered.

A bit too late, it dawned on the Gambler that he was standing next to a woman who was holding enough voltage to light up a small town, who had nothing left to lose and who was a vindictive, spiteful bitch by nature.

Luxord blinked. "Oh – "


Having successful avoided implement (Xigbar, not so much), Vexen was readying his next attack with the kind of hysterical glee that only comes over the suicidal, when the tower next door popped. As he was standing near the doorway when it happened, Vexen was partially blinded and deafened by the massive blast of lightning that simply exploded from the tower.

He was therefore at a loss as to how he could still hear Larxene and see her fall.

She passed not ten feet from him, hurtling to the snowy courtyard below headfirst; her blazing green eyes –

- eye, he realized. One orb was just gone

- meeting his and a high-pitched sound coming from her mouth. Whether she was laughing or screaming, Vexen did not know. With Larxene, it could have been both.

Then she disappeared beneath the parapet and Vexen knew she had broken her neck upon landing. There had been no will to live in that eye. Just the fierce, intense look of Larxene in the moments of her most savage glory fading away.

Click.

"Gotcha now!"

I am, Vexen realized, a complete idiot.

Vexen whirled around, feeling far too slow, and saw the gun at the bottom of his vision, with Xigbar's face filling up the rest of it. His free hand flashed up and wrapped around the barrel of the gun, pushing it away.

Bang!

There was a heavy jolt, almost like being punched in the gut.

One of them fell.

A few seconds later and the survivor left an empty room behind him.


He was talking even before he realized it.

"Roxas, they grabbed me and took me with them, I couldn't leave, I swear, I tried to get back, to leave notes and clues, but nobody tried to help me, so I had to –"

The Keyblade caught him full in the face.

It was the blunt end, thankfully. It still sent him to the floor with one hand clutching his face, which was nothing but white-hot pain.

The sharp prick of a blade was enough to make him roll his head up, one tearing green eye peering between his fingers.

The Key of Destiny, not Roxas, stared down at him.

"Explain. Now."

And Axel started telling the best story of his not-life.


It was far from the glorious rout they'd imagined.

Xaldin could not stand on his own and was leaning on Luxord, who had nearly been vaporized and only managed to escape by the skin of his teeth and a well placed time-freeze. Demyx was riddled with kunai holes and Xigbar had several cuts all over his body, some of them quite deep. Saïx had only the use of one arm remaining to him. Xemnas was sporting a severe limp and a ringing headache.

The only one who had been unharmed was Roxas, and whether he was guarding Axel from them or them from Axel was debatable.

"If what you say is true, then we may be lenient," Xemnas said, choosing his words with care. It was more from the pain of speaking than anything else.

"If you are lying, then your fate will be no better than his."

"Yeah," Axel said, looking at the crumpled figure at the foot of the main hall's stairs.

"I know."


Marluxia hurt.

What had happened? He'd been driving Xemnas back, Saïx had fallen and then there had been something like fire hitting him from behind, but that couldn't be….

"Number XI."

If he had still had a heart, it would have stopped.

Marluxia opened his eyes and saw nothing but white, save where Xemnas' coat broke the monotony.

"There are some things I would like to discuss," Xemnas said.

His orange eyes seared away all thought.