Title: Stabbed in the Front
Author: Candyland
Fandom: Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days: Play as Roxas during his days in Organization XIII. Go on missions and try to figure out what the Org's real plan is. All this leads up to the only video game ending to EVER make me cry. Seriously. Gut-punch to the extreme. I OWN NOTHING!
Wordcount: 2387
My fandom has a mysterious new female character with a mysterious past and mysterious powers and a mysterious connection to the main character. Insert your own joke here.

"True friends stab you in the front."
- Oscar Wilde

Knowing what he knew (and in more way than one, what he wished he didn't know), Axel had long since realized that there were precious few ways that this could all end well.

The simple fact was that Xion and Roxas could not permanently co-exist. They were two sides of the same coin, two halves of the same picture, two interlocking pieces of the same puzzle. It was far too simple: in order for one to live, the other could not. One or the other would have to cease to exist eventually, taken by the other. All this to keep the Keyblade Bearer from awakening while still keeping the powers of the Keyblade for the Organization.

When the order had been given to him to bring Xion back, Axel had been left at a crossroad. If he obeyed Xemnas and Saïx and returned her to the castle, he was betraying Roxas and Roxas' trust in him…or what was left of it at this point. If he refused or failed, he was betraying the Organization, which would result in his own termination. Somehow, he suspected that the order had been given to him on purpose for that very reason.

He had made the choice. Taken the coward's way out and chosen his own self-preservation. In doing so, he had lost what little of Roxas' trust he had left, and surrendered Xion to whatever fate awaited her at the hands of the Organization's leaders.

And now Roxas was gone. Fled the castle, fled the Organization, left everything behind.

Including Axel himself.

Odd, how much someone without a heart could feel without actually feeling. His mind told him that he was sorry, that he was upset, but the empty place where his heart should have been echoed hollowly inside him. There was no true emotion; only mental processes that tried to masquerade as such.

He took what he supposed could pass for comfort in the quiet solitude and relative darkness of his own room, laying on his back on his bed, staring up at the ceiling and thinking about everything that had transpired in just the last few short days. Going over everything in his mind took quite a while.

"How did this happen?"

If he was honest with himself, he would admit that he was hoping that perhaps some sort of answer would appear written there to make things right again, to put things back how they had been once upon a time. Back when things had been as simple as spending their days collecting hearts and taking out Heartless, and their evenings watching the sun set from atop a clock tower, while eating ice cream and teasing each other.

Unsurprisingly, no answer came.

He sat up, suddenly disgusted with everything. Sighing, he glanced down towards the floor, and saw an envelope sitting there. A plain white envelope, as innocent as you please. He hadn't noticed it earlier, but where had it come from?

Uncurling himself from his bed, Axel stooped to pick it up. There was nothing written on it, nor was there any indication of who or where it came from, though he could feel that there was something inside it. For lack of nothing else to do with it, he opened it and fished out whatever was hidden within.

If he had been in possession of a heart, it would have dropped down into his shoes.

A popsicle stick inscribed with a single word: WINNER.

…hadn't they had a conversation about what exactly a person won?

The envelope was in one hand, the popsicle stick in the other; both fell limply to his sides as his gaze turned outwards and upwards, through his window. Out towards where the giant form hovered in the sky, casting the only light to penetrate his room. Out towards Kingdom Hearts.

The heart-shaped form was glowing in the dark sky like a beacon. Like a treasure.

Like a promise.

Axel closed his eyes. Was this really worth it?

He did not have much time to think after that. It turned out that Roxas had done quite a number on Saïx. But the Organization's number seven was back on his feet a day later (whether he really should have been or not), and barking orders more ferociously than he ever had before. The Organization needed Roxas back, but the situation with number thirteen had gone completely out of control.

Axel was briefed on the situation along with the other remaining Organization members. Xion was gone for good. All attempts to bring her back and reintegrate her into the group had been fruitless. Her true nature was now almost an open secret: a puppet, a replica. She had been destroyed by Roxas' own hand. Axel privately thought it a blessing, but to say so would be immediate treason, and everyone was already enough on edge.

Furthermore, someone had taken their traitor and hidden him away, taking from him his knowledge of the Organization and his memories of both his time with them and his true nature as both Nobody and Keyblade Master. In short, Roxas no longer had any idea who he was.

Not that he'd had much of an idea who he really was when he had been with them, Axel reflected; he was surprised at how bitter the thought was. The Organization had taken care to keep Roxas from knowing anything beyond his missions of collecting hearts for them.

As the meeting progressed, Axel gradually began to entertain the notion that he was forgetting something. It was like something was chewing on the very outer edges of his consciousness, slipping away from his mental fingers as he tried to grab at it. Like seeing something out of the very corner of his eye, only to turn and find that it had slipped away into the shadows, never to be seen again. Eating ice cream with Xion. Xion. A girl with dark hair. A girl. Someone wearing a hood...

He and Roxas eating ice cream on the clock tower...

What had he been thinking about?

He was only marginally surprised when he was given the task of bringing Roxas back to them. It was an order given by Saïx, which Axel suspected was intended to be a punishment for not stopping Roxas in the first place. For getting close to Roxas. For daring to have thoughts, loyalties, and ideals that were different from what his old friend wanted. It was made all the more evident by the final words of the order, given as Axel turned to take his leave.

"Either come back with him, or don't come back at all."

It was moments like these that made Axel think Roxas had the right idea after all. To leave the Organization. To get out of here and away from all this.

"You can't turn on the Organization! Get on their bad side, and they'll destroy you!"

But look how well that had gone for the others who attempted to turn on the Organization. Those at Castle Oblivion, for example.

"No one would miss me."

Roxas had only escaped because someone else had intervened. Axel wondered if it wasn't the imposter who wore their coat. Whoever it was beneath that hood seemed to have had a definite interest in Roxas before Number XIII had fled the Organization. It stood to reason that the imposter had something to do with Roxas' ultimate disappearance. They would deal with the imposter later, though. Roxas was the priority now.

"You can't turn on the Organization! Get on their bad side, and they'll destroy you!"

Seeing Roxas again, running around wielding that stupid-looking bat in the same way he'd used to wield the all-important Keyblade…Axel had to stand for a moment and just watch, making sure he was composed before he stepped out. He played it cool, applauding, dropping sarcastic comments, not giving away anything except his objective: to take Roxas back with him. There wasn't really much time to tell the story.

"You're coming with me, conscious or not."

It was two-fold, really. If he brought Roxas back, it would preserve his own safety and place within the Organization, of course. But it would also mean that he could have a chance to get his best friend back. Roxas' loss had hit him harder than he had thought it would and harder than he had thought was even possible for one who couldn't truly feel. Still, in the back of his mind, he wondered if the Roxas he brought back to the castle would be the same Roxas who had shared ice cream with him on top of the clock tower so many times before everything had gone to pot.

The Keyblade appeared, and Roxas fought like a desperate man, his demand for answers going without response. It wasn't surprising; while Axel knew Roxas as a close friend, Roxas knew Axel as nothing more than a stranger, and one who was threatening him at that. In the end, he didn't succeed in capturing Roxas. He was interrupted, and Roxas shoved them both away. Axel fled, letting Roxas' world momentarily go back to the way it had been.

The man in bandages was watching as well. That would complicate things after all. No matter.

So he waited. Contrary to popular belief, Axel could be very patient when the situation called for it. He was a master of waiting for the right moment and knowing exactly when to pounce. It was what made him as good an assassin as he was, as well as making him easily the least predictable member of the Organization. He rather enjoyed his dark horse status.

In the basement of the mansion, he confronted Roxas again. This time, he was met with a tentative sort of recognition, like a worn photograph from something long ago. Roxas knew that he knew him, and he knew that they were friends. But there was no longer time for pleasantries, conversation, or reminiscing. This was his last chance on more than one level. Why not go all out?

Parts of his last conversation with Roxas (his friend Roxas, the Organization's Roxas, not this shell in front of him) kept flitting through his head.

"No one would miss me."

…had Roxas really thought that Axel didn't care? The thought stung a bit. But after everything, after learning what Axel had kept from him, it couldn't really be faulted, could it? He wondered if Roxas had even truly heard what he had said to his declaration that he would not be missed. Oh well, it didn't matter now.

He had lost. And he didn't just mean the fight.

"No one would miss me."

If he was truly honest with himself, Axel would just admit that Roxas hadn't changed a bit. Same stubborn streak, same determination, and shades of the same bad attitude he'd come into possession of just before their last parting as Organization teammates.

No difference at all.

"That's not true. I would…"

As Roxas stood and watched, Axel let the dark corridor open around him. He should have known he wouldn't really be able to beat Roxas. He had let himself grow to like the kid a bit too much, and bringing him back would condemn him in more ways than one.

He couldn't go back to the castle like this. Saïx had been very clear on that matter. To fail was unacceptable; to return after failure was tantamount to suicide. He would have to run, he reflected. Oh, he doubted it would really last long. Once Roxas went beyond that door, his best friend would be forever lost to him. He knew that both intellectually and instinctively.

It was the end of the road.

In spite of everything, Axel felt himself smile as he let the darkness take him away, even though nowhere would be truly far enough.

"Let's meet again in the next life."

The next life. A Nobody didn't have a next life. But if there could be one, what would it be like? Would it be somewhere where he and Roxas could sit and eat ice cream on top of the clock tower while the sun set in the distance? Would it be somewhere without the Organization perched on their shoulders like giant black crows, waiting for the right moment to swoop in and steal everything away?

Roxas had been right to leave. He had been right to go seek his own answers.

Sorry, Roxas.

If only things could have been different for them somehow.

"Let's meet again in the next life."

Stupid. Nobodies didn't have a next life.

Got it memorized?