~*Phoenix*~

They had one more chance. Just one. To try for something they could never have otherwise.

~***~

"Axel…you're…fading away."

Well yeah. He had faded away. That was one of the last sentences Sora had ever said to him. He didn't have anything against the kid—that was why he was worth saving from a horde of Dusks—but he wasn't Roxas. Roxas, his best friend, was in there too.

And…there…was someone else, but he couldn't remember her name…or, he thought so at least.

So when the Darkness actually claimed his body, he hadn't expected to wake up in front of a roaring blue ocean on a dark beach with black sand, flat on his back, the moon's light in his face.

What the…? Every inch of his body throbbed in agony, and grimacing, the Nobody rolled onto his side and sat up, green eyes narrowing against the radiance from above. He shook his head in an attempt to clear the fuzz from his mind.

Okay. I should be dead, what's going on here? Not that I'm complaining. He eyed the roaring waves disdainfully. Unless they're wrong, and Hell is really this place. Getting to his feet, Axel looked at his hands. The black gloves had torn, maybe from the Dusks' barbed hooks, revealing the pale skin underneath. When was the last time he had even taken the dang things off?

Axel frowned. Something felt wrong. He couldn't quite place it, but something was different, and it made him edgy. Shaking his head and assuring himself it was just his imagination, the Nobody leaned against a black boulder dotted with glowing lichen. He crossed his arms and closed his eyes, waiting for the ache in his body to ease up so he could at least walk. He didn't trust himself to open a Dark Corridor right now. If it collapsed on him mid-flight…

The sound of crunching sand under someone's heel made Axel groan and open his eyes, expecting some sort of monstrous Heartless or a squadron of Berserker Nobodies come to retrieve him. It would be just like Saix to make it his job to hunt down someone that was supposed to be dead.

His green eyes almost leaped out of their sockets, and Axel's breath froze in his throat.

Calmly walking towards him, customary smirk in place, was none other than Larxene.

"You died," Axel remarked stupidly as he locked eyes with the blonde. "I'm dead, aren't I? That explains it. Why do I always get into the icky situations?"

Larxene rolled her eyes. "If we're dead, then I must be in the Underworld if you're here." She looked him up and down. "You look horrible."

"I just saved the Keybearer and killed myself in a Kamikaze move. What did you expect?"

She snorted, stepping closer and peering at his ragged and soot stained cloak, gray near the edges. "Saved the Keybearer? Marluxia really botched up the Castle Oblivion thing didn't he?"

"Well. You could say that."

"You became a total traitor?" Larxene didn't sound surprised. She rolled her light green eyes.

Axel gave a short bark of laughter that felt strangely warmer in his throat than usual. "No less than what you were doing at C.O., got it memorized?"

"True," she conceded. "How long have you been here?"

Axel shrugged. "Dunno, thirty minutes maybe? Leave it to the sparkplug to intrude on my peace."

Larxene's lips twitched, softening her smirk so that it was almost a smile. "Well if you want to be left alone here…" She turned and started sauntering back down the beach. Heaving a sigh and rubbing at his red hair, the Nobody grumbled;

"Will you get back here? I wasn't being serious, Larxene."

She darted forward again, stepping lightly on her feet as he had always remembered her. She flashed him a huge grin, brief as a lightning flare, and leaving an imprint behind Axel's closed lids as he feigned exasperation. "Since you asked, I've been here for quite a while," Larxene commented airily.

"Why haven't you left?" Axel didn't uncross his arms or open his eyes. Regardless, he sensed her moving closer.

"I've barely been able to move! That stupid brat cleaved a hole in my chest! I can't believe you're healing so quickly!" She sounded genuinely annoyed, as if the mere concept was unbelievably wrong.

As if to contradict her words, Axel's body went limp as he finally lost the battle he had been silently raging to stand straight. Larxene caught him, kneeling down slowly and cradling his head in her arms. "Are you okay?" She inquired in a—what he imagined was at least—slightly worried tone.

"Okay? Heh…I'm not feeling well, Larxene." He answered honestly.

"You're an idiot! Why did you even move?"

"I don't like the ocean much…got it mem—"

"Yes, now shut up will you? Tell me what happened after Castle Oblivion." Larxene snapped, lightning crackling briefly around her body in response to her agitation.

"Ouch. Careful." Axel complained as a tendril of electricity waved uncomfortably near his face. "Right. Well after your total, complete, immense—"

Larxene "lightly" dug her fingers into Axel's hair and pulled.

"Hey, quit it! Easy there, sparky. Right, well, Naminé turned on us and released Sora from her hold and told him the truth. Kid handed Marluxia his rear on a silver platter, then he went to sleep so Naminé could fix his memories."

"What about the basement bunch? The loser scientists?" Larxene's gaze turned thoughtful.

"Killed. Every single one. Zexion got beat by Riku and then destroyed by the Replica."

"Ouch," she pursed her lips for a moment before smiling in twisted amusement.

"…Right. And Riku wiped the rest of them out with help from the freakin' King of Disney Castle himself. As far as we know, he proceeded to then vanish off the face of the earth with DiZ and Naminé. Sora woke up after—"His voice cracked slightly, his wounds throbbing with a fierce new intensity. "He woke up after Roxas melded back with him. He got defeated by Riku."

Larxene looked down at him curiously, their faces only a few inches apart. "And where were you?"

"Roxas got mad at me," Axel decided to avoid the main bulk of the problem that was found in the answer. "And whilst he got away from me, he got captured by Mister Blindfold himself."

"Figures. The brat Keybearer can't go a day without walking into trouble he can't handle."

Axel snorted. "Ain't that the truth…well, I tried to find Sora, ended up kidnapping his girl Kairi as bait, and after handing her to Saix…well, they found out I…"

"Went traitor?" Larxene began twirling his red hair around her finger, not looking at him.

"Basically," he grunted. "Locked me in a Dark Corridor with a load of Dusks. Somehow Sora got in, and I put my entire being into an attack. Opened a portal for him to get to Kairi. That's pretty much it."

"Noble of you," she drawled in reply, though he thought she sounded a little impressed.

Axel blinked, feeling her nails digging into his scalp as she slowly drew their tips over his skin. He realized that she wasn't wearing her black gloves, and impossibly perfect—almost manicured—nails were scratching at his skin as she almost petted him.

"It'll be pointless, if we can't get out of here. Who knows how long I've been…out of existence?" He said as nonchalantly as he could. The prospect of standing up was terrifying, since his entire form seemed to ache and burn with every blink.

"Well I'm not opening a Corridor. You do it." Larxene replied impatiently.

Axel thought she was probably too tired to do it herself, but she'd never tell anyone that. "Wait 'till I get my strength back then, Larxene. I'm exhausted as it is."

"Well," she sniffed. "Hurry up."

The ivory moon continued to shine over the dark sea, the twisted black rocks with shining white lichen, the dismal gray beach, and the two Nobodies together in the near silence.

Axel's feeling of unease hadn't gone away. He thought his senses had just been reacting to Larxene, but he felt oddly comfortable around her. She really had no reason to kill him, and judging by how she kept messing with his spikes, she didn't intend to.

It was hard to tell with the Savage Nymph though. This could all be a façade.

Strange, strong forces were battering his mind. It became almost unbearably painful whenever he thought of the lost friendship between him and Roxas, and it lulled to an odd warm cloudy feeling as he contemplated his current position with Larxene.

He wearily searched his memories. The answer was obvious.

He was feeling emotions. As strong as his mind remembered, back when he had been Lea and the world had been a simpler place. Axel's breath lodged itself in his throat and he gasped, sitting up straight and pressing his palm to his chest.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

How had he not noticed? Whipping around, he placed his palm over Larxene's chest, ignoring her indignant hiss. He felt it there too, underneath her robe. He instantly retracted his hand with a sharp growl as she shocked him.

"Um, excuse me?" She snarled, her knives leaping to her hands. "Can I help you? Or do you want to touch me there again?" Was that a hint of a blush on her face?

"Hold up a minute on the killing thing, sparkplug! Feel for your heart." Axel just gave her a pleading look as she glared. Rolling her eyes, Larxene did as she was told. He watched with a smile that became a smirk as her eyes widened.

"What…the…heck?" She sputtered.

"We're not Nobodies!" Axel felt an exultation he hadn't felt in a long, long time. Not a memory of it, but the true-blue thing. He laughed, his heart surging strongly and infusing his entire being with a burning fire. Happiness. He wrapped her in a hug without thinking, and she was so stunned that her knives popped out of existence with an electrical fizz.

"What're you doing, moron?" She murmured in his ear, but he could hear the surprise in her own voice. The fact that they were alive, with hearts no less, was amazing to them both.

Axel leaped to his feet, a new energy giving his muscles the strength to move his body. "We've got to get out of here!"

"Where are we going?" Larxene stood up, casually brushing the sand from her Organization robe. "Looking for the others?" She added dryly.

"Heck no," Axel laughed. "Organization XIII was made so we could obtain hearts. We've got hearts. We're doing whatever we want. And even," he turned to her, emerald eyes bright. "If you don't want to stay with me, let's at least leave together." He offered her his hand, and Larxene stared at him evenly for a moment before placing her own in his upturned palm.

It took their combined power—happy as they were, they were still exhausted—but they managed to pry open a steady Dark Corridor that would take them to Radiant Garden, Axel's hometown and a world that Larxene "tolerated".

Heh, maybe Kingdom Hearts has taken pity on us at last, the former Nobody mused.

Of course, he'd go find Roxas…Sora. But maybe, just maybe, a certain sparkplug would come with him too. There would be a whole new road ahead of them, with their hearts finally back in their chest.

The phoenix had died, to save the lives of the ones he cared about.

The phoenix had been reborn.

~***~

Oh. My. God. This probably sucked so badly. My mind picks a WONDERFUL time to develop writer's block. Happy Birthday LT, or Pip, or whatever crazy Username you have at the moment. =) I hope you have many more!

To everyone else, can you review before the Gods of Bad Gifts shoot me down?