Between Misery and Death, There Stands

Written by: The Simply Mad

He walked the streets openly, they were quiet this time of day, and he really didn't care if anyone found him at that moment. He might actually welcome it. There was this feeling cutting into his chest, a dull throb of what he remembered to be loneliness. Being here, on those streets he had viewed from above more often than he had walked them only intensified the cold emptiness he felt. Somewhere in there he felt what should have been a little bit of bitterness and betrayal. They'd been so close, until one little spat and then it all shattered like glass. Maybe Saïx had been right. Maybe it all had been make-believe. The redhead hadn't even noticed where his feet had been carrying him.

"Hey!" He looked up at the greeting, he knew this place, very well. It was a little out of the way shop in the tram market that he'd always got his and Roxas' ice-cream from. He even recognized the voice who greeted him, and even more surprising the girl it belonged to. "It's been a long time since I've seen you!" She smiled. It was such a simple action, but it somehow tore through him like an electric charge. She knew him, could see him, and smiled.

"You… know me?" He questioned softly, watching her.

"Uhuh!" she faltered. "Well sorta, I mean, I don't know your name…" She admitted. "But you use to come in here every day and get two sea salt ice creams, around this time of day too." She leaned against the counter resting her head in her hands. "So, your usual?" she asked smiling.

He faltered, his usual huh? Everything that he even had the tiniest right to call usual about himself had been upset beyond words. "Hey?" He looked up at her again. "You okay?" She asked.

"Heh, generally speaking." She cocked her head at him brows furrowing in confusion. He shook his head. "Never mind, sorry, I shouldn't even be here…" He said turning to the door.

"Hey wait!" She leapt over the counter to catch the cuff of his coat. He stopped dead looking back at her. "It's just, you, kinda have me worried." She said kinda lurching into each word.

He turned away from her. "I'm not someone you need to be worried about."

"Okay, now that really worries me!" she protested tugging him back round to face her, her expression softened. "You seem to have something on your mind…"

His toxic eyes narrowed. "What's got you so interested? You don't even know my name…"

She let go of his sleeve finally. "Well…" she touched the pads of her fingers to her lips. "I guess it's just human compassion."

The redhead snorted again. "Then you really shouldn't waste your time." He muttered leaving the shop. He'd have to avoid that place like the plague.

It didn't work so well. It took little time for the sting of absence to set in, and he grudgingly found himself drifting back towards that shop, in hopes to find the girl who worked there. She looked up from her book at the sound of the bell. Instantly she smiled. "Somehow, I knew you'd be back." She said leaning her elbows against the pages as she leaned over the counter handing him a blue ice cream bar. He cocked his head curiously at her. "A 'sorry for prying token'" she explained waving it at him a little.

The redhead shook his head. "You're very, different, you know that?" he asked taking it from her.

She hummed a little. "So they tell me." She shrugged.

This was the last time he could be here, he reminded himself as he pressed the door open. She was perched on her stool arms propping her head up against her knee over which laid an open book, as usual. She looked up. "Hey Red!" She greeted warmly, as always.

"When do you get off?" The words came out of his mouth before he could stop them. She looked at him questioningly.

"In like half an hour. Why?"

He took a deep breath. "I… can we talk?" he asked softly.

"Of course." She agreed, then giggled. "You don't have to look so embarrassed about it!" She chided swiveling around setting her book on the counter.

He shook his head. "Not here."

She nodded brows furrowed. "Okay, I know a good place." She chewed her lip. "You're kinda scaring me." He smiled in a vaguely comforting way. He lingered around outside the store till she came out.

"What?" He asked in reply to the strange way she looked at him.

"Nothing!" She held up her hands in defense. "Just, half expected you to be gone…" she admitted. "Must be pretty important." She added softly. They stood staring at each other for a while before she shook her head. "Come on! This way!" She said taking his hand and leading him through the streets.

"Tunnel ways?" He questioned.

"Yeah, I find them faster than the train, and since I live on Sunset Terrace I've learned to navigate them really well." She said as she pushed the metal grating up.

"Apparently you can also pick locks…" He commented following her, ignoring the twisting in his gut. Last time he'd been in the tunnels was on mission with Roxas.

"I looked it up online when they started shutting this place up." She said as she fiddled with the next lock. "I'm still trying to get the hang of it."

"Um, if they locked this place, then why go to that trouble? There is a train…"

"Train's are evil."

"Trains are… evil?"

"Yes, trains, evil. They're of the devil."

The redhead shook his head of spikes. "You are a very different sort of girl Creamery." She grinned at him over her shoulder as she rolled up the grating with a muffled tada! He felt it weird to have something to call her, but at the same time refreshing. It wasn't her name. He didn't want to know her name. It kept a certain amount of distance between them, he'd told her that too. But he couldn't not call her something. So, he called her Creamery, and she called him Red, and they had a weird sort of acquaintance. He refused to refer to as a relationship.

She had been right she did know her way around the tunnels very well, and before long she was perched on one of the benches on sunset hill while the redhead leaned against the railing. She handed him an ice-cream, answering his unspoken question with a shrug. They ate in silence for a time before she spoke again. "What did you want to talk about?" She asked not looking up from her toes.

"Not…talk…" She looked up at him, but he kept his eyes on the horizon. "Maybe more like, confess…"

"Con…fess?" she asked quietly. The redhead took a breath, and began to talk. He told her everything, he had worked for an organization, he and his best friend and they'd always met for ice-cream after work, which is why she always saw him. But then they had a fight and he disappeared, and when he found him again he'd forgotten all about him. How Roxas had betrayed the organization so he'd been ordered to destroy him, and didn't. That Roxas was gone now because of another boy, and finally how now he himself was running from the Organization.

She sat through the whole tirade, silently listening. She'd been so quiet he'd turned so he could watch her face. They sat in silence staring at each other for a long time before she stood dropping her popsicle stick in the trash. "I just have one question." She said slowly. He nodded for her to continue, when she turned back to him. "Why me?"

The question caught him off guard. Why did he choose her? Why had he chosen anyone? He shrugged a shoulder. "Because you smiled at me."

They spent a lot of time just watching each other he'd noticed, like now. He understood his own sick fascination with her. She had a heart; she had feelings, but no grand destiny of light weighing on her mind. She was an ordinary person and that made the way she moved and breathed so very different from anything he was use to. But what was the way she watched him? He could tell she had a fascination of her own with him, but he couldn't understand it. He hadn't said a word to her about being a Nobody. Not ever.

She broke the trance first shaking her head a little as she walked past. "See you tomorrow, Red." She said with a little wave.

"Yeah, I think you will." He agreed looking up at the sky as the first few stars peeked though.

She did. She saw him every day at the end of her shift for ice cream and idle conversation for a week, which had begun to span into two when she shifted the conversation suddenly.

"Do you even have any other clothes?" She asked looking him up and down critically.

He lifted a brow at her. "Where did that come from?"

She shrugged. "You just wear the same black coat every day. And it's kinda conspicuous." He looked at her pointedly. "Okay, okay!" she held up her hands. "There's a fair-type-thing tomorrow and I was wondering if you'd want to go…" she chewed her lip nervously.

He stared at her. "With you?"

She blushed. "Well not like with me with me, but yeah." She said fiddling with her popsicle stick. The redhead continued to watch her, she was trying to seem indifferent about it, but he could tell what she really wanted him to say.

"I'll think about it." He answered walking off.

He heard her sigh from behind. "Okay, at least come say hi to me tomorrow!" He waved over his shoulder.

It was worth it in the end. She'd closed up the shop early and was headed for the Sandlot when he caught up to her. The way her eyes lit up when she saw him made it worth it, and startled him that he even thought that. "Hey! Look at you! No conspicuous black coat!" She cheered. "Color me impressed!"

He shrugged. "It wasn't the easiest thing to track down." He admitted rubbing the back of his head. It hadn't been, he hadn't exactly had anything other than the coat in so long, and he was pretty hesitant to go look for something. When he wasn't with her, he was following Sora, trying to find some way to Roxas. But strangely he felt compelled to do this little thing for her.

"Well you look great." She said, a quick flash of color touched her cheek before she turned back towards the Sandlot. "Come on Red!" He followed.

It was kinda a blur, but a pleasant sort of blur. He was rather disoriented and nervous at first, just following her through it, but as she pulled him further and further into buzz of excitement he began to relax and actually, in some way, have fun. There was games, all of which she failed at; while he was pretty good at (she blamed it on having lousy hand eye coordination on her part). There was food, most of it sugar, cotton candy, snow cones, funnel cake, and of course ice-cream. A concert that he had somehow managed to hear her singing along through all the noise of the screaming fans and blaring speakers, she danced a little too, more so when he actually joined in with her. And somewhere along the lines, he had taken to holding her hand whenever he could, at first just so as not to get separated in the crowds, but even at the end, walking the quiet tunnels back to the Terrace he kept it in his.

"Thank you." She said standing on the step of her flat.

"For what?" He should be thanking her. In all that time, he'd never felt as human as he did that night. He tripped over that thought, Roxas had always made him feel like he had a heart. But she… she had made it all fade away and in those hours he had been human.

"For coming." She shrugged her shoulder a little. "It meant a lot."

She had no idea, and somehow he felt she needed to. He opened his mouth, suddenly realizing he really wanted to use her name. A name he didn't know at all. She blinked at him expectantly. Calling her Creamery at this moment didn't work. He stepped up to her pulling her gently to him.

The sensation of the kiss was strange.

They stared at each other, like they had done so many times, but it had changed. There was a charge between them, a still and silent charge that somehow seemed to spark and writhe in life. He'd never been kissed before, not even when he HAD been somebody, so he had no idea how to feel. But he did feel something, and he found himself craving that strange feeling again. He kissed her again, and again. Each time he got stronger, pulling her closer tangling his hand in her hair, the touches becoming more, passionate he guessed would be the word, pressing her between his body and the door. A few minutes later they had changed sides of the door, the silent dark interior of her flat covering the advances he made in his desperation to feel her.

He shouldn't have been doing this. It was unfair, it meant nothing to him, though the tiny sounds she made at his touches along her body sent pin pricks along his spine. It meant nothing to him. He was nothing. But she was something, someONE, and it did mean something to her. But he couldn't stop himself, there was feeling in these touches, subtle, and phantom but they were still feeling SOMETHING, and he was desperate for that.

"Wait…" She gasped. "wait, this… this is…"

"Shhh…" He hushed softly against the skin of her collar bone as he slid her shirt off her shoulders, leaving it to fall to the floor as he slipped his hand under the straps of her bra. "I'm not real, so you're not committing any sin." He told her slipping his hands back down her sides to her hips.

It wasn't like she was totally unwilling, he reasoned as he guided her blindly to the bed, after all, she had helped in the loss of his own shirt. Now that she was in a more favorable position he began nudging her jeans down, trailing soft kisses down her breast bone as he went. "Tell me one thing." She said suddenly, her voice very soft and thin from the overwhelming sensations her body was enduring.

He paused lifting his head from her skin just enough to answer. "What's that?"

"Who are you?"

He froze. Such a question. But she did deserve to know, he was taking so much from her, had been taking from her even before this, it was only fair he give something back even if it was such a little thing in comparison. He lifted his head pressing a kiss, tongue and whatever feeling he could muster to her mouth before whispering against her ear. "My name, is Axel."

She wasn't beautiful. Not in any spectacular way at least, simple muddy brown hair that seemed to try, lazily, to curl and came out more like a wilted wave in random bands. Her eyes weren't any extraordinary color either, hazel. She wasn't stunning, but she was pretty in a calm, natural sort of way, and that was what had kept him there for so long that morning. He should have left the moment he was awake enough to function, disappeared before the sun ever returned to its place in the sky. But, he'd looked over at her sleeping next to him and just watched her till the light coming through her window told him he'd stayed to long.

He couldn't say he regretted what he had done. He didn't, not on his part at least. But he did regret that she would be hurt from it. He had been right, he didn't exist, and it had been him to press the issue, so she had done nothing wrong. But the heart was fragile and such entanglements made ties between two hearts. Or would have, if both parties had had hearts. That was where she would be hurt. He didn't exist so she had to bare those feeling that night had created alone. He owed her the truth.

She looked up at him from the sunset, a small bemused smile on her lips as he stepped from the dark portal. "So that's how you can just appear and disappear without a trace." She said folding her arms over her chest and leaning back against the fence. Silence, it had evolved again. This one was thick and fidgety, uncomfortable. She sighed.

"I'm sorry." He said before she could speak. "I haven't been totally honest with you…"

"I know." He looked at her shocked. "At first I could figure it out, what was so strange about you, and then, what you said that night, about not existing?" She shook her head. "I've never heard of a person who could live without a heart…"

"It's not exactly living." He scoffed taking a cautious step towards her. "We're called Nobodies."

"Nobodies…" She murmured. He nodded and, with a certain amount of regret that the pretend had to come to an end [again] he explained everything that meant. "I see." She said softly. "That explains a lot."

Axel nodded again. "Listen, I'm not going to be able to see you for a while." She looked up at him questioningly. "I have to try and get Roxas back, and that's going to take time."

"But…?" she prompted taking a step of her own towards him.

"But, I'd like to come see you, again…" His turn to bite his lip. "If that's okay."

She watched him levelly in a calm contemplating way. "It's probably not a good idea. But I want you too." He nodded opening a portal again. "Axel…" she came up to him tugging him down a little.

"I can't." He said softly pulling his head away a little.

"I can, for both of us." She answered stubbornly before kissing him softly.

Things had not gone as planned. Kairi had been a pain in the butt, having escaped twice now, and then getting caught by Saïx, and now Sora was headed for The World That Never Was. He wasn't going to make it. There was no way the Organization was just going to let him traipse on through to destroy them, he was going to need help. And he was the only one who could, but the last time he had showed himself to Sora Saïx had been there in minutes. They were watching the kid, if he went in there... the redhead shook his head, he had to hurry.

"Axel!"

He didn't miss a beat walking up her swiftly. "I don't have a lot of time."

Her face fell. "What's wrong? Did they track you down?"

"Something like that." He answered. There it was, that moment of silence where they just watched each other.

"I… I'm not going to see you again, am I?" she asked slowly. "You came to say good bye."

He sighed. "I got to do this. I wish I didn't. But I do." He put his fingers to her lips. "Please, there's just, one thing I need to know before I go."

"What?" She breathed.

"Your name."

She looked at him confused. "I thought you didn't want to know."

"I didn't. Now I do. You're what made me decide to not give up, to try. Can't say I did the best thing…" He shook his head. "Please, it's going to drive me crazy."

She stared and shook her head a little. "I'm Hope." She said looking up. "My name's Hope."

He took a step back in shock, staring at her. "You… you're kidding." She shook her head. He let out a little burst of a chuckle. "That's…"

"Ironic?" She asked lifting a brow.

"No, just… You sure you're not kidding?" She stared at him as her answer. He sighed rubbing the back of his head. "I can't say goodbye to you now, but…" He shook his head. "I have to go, and I don't think I'll be coming back. But I won't tell you goodbye."

"It's just my name." she said softly.

"And I chose to believe it holds some significance." He said opening a portal.

NOTES:

SPOILERS DON'T READ UNTIL AFTER YOU READ THE PIECE!

This is what happens to little idea's with me. This started out as a random thought of mine that "Hey, Axel and Roxas had icecream EVERYDAY for 365 [at least] days SOMEONE was bound to notice them. So I took that idea and this is what came out of it.

There's a lot of thought that went into this so there's a bit to explain….

Creamery/Hope: My goal with her was to write someone ordinary. She has an ordinary job and an ordinary life. The most extraordinary thing about her is her fear of trains, and possibly the fact that she actually takes the time to be concerned for someone she doesn't know. Depending on your views. I guess it could be argued her easy acceptance of Axel being a Nobody is kind of abnormal to, but I don't think so seeing that she actually knows him better by that point and was aware there was something different about him to begin with. Also, for those who don't get the 'Creamery' nickname it's because she works at an Icecream shop which are called Creamery's.

Creamery/Hope opening the tunnel ways: Yay! I explain why the tunnel ways are randomly open the second time you go to Twilight Town in KHII XD;;

Feeling like having a heart vs. Feeling Human: Before you all scream at me for the comment about Roxas only making Axel feel like he had a heart while Creamery/Hope makes him feel human let me explain my logic to this. Yes, Roxas made him feel like he had a heart, and THAT IS IMPORTANT/A BIG DEAL, however he was still involved with the Org, there were still all these pain in the ass's he had to deal with {cough Saïx cough} and to an extent he's a Nobody who had a heart. As opposed to the feeling with Creamery/Hope, where just for a few hours he was ordinary just like her.

Them sleeping together: Yeeeeeah that was not in the original line of thought for this, but it makes sense. I have a fascination with the Nobodies because of the desperate attempt to keep hold of even the slightest taste of emotion, and what that means for them. I kinda explored the idea of what happens when a Nobody suddenly become's reintroduced to having a heart in my other Fic Tied to Fire [Shameless self promotion XD] This is more the other side of it, returning to that desperation for feeling. Axel's kind of a pit up until that point, he's lost touch with person who made him feel for a long time, so it's not terribly out line to me that when realizing he can get the illusion of feeling with Creamery/Hope he holds onto that. Desperation to feel seems like reason enough for a Nobody to sleep with someone to me. *shrug*

So yeah, that's that [damn that's long] XD;; Hope you enjoyed.