Disclaimer: I may be stupid enough to start a new story, but said stupidity does not extend so far as to claim anything but the plot as my own. Believe me, if I could charge for it, I TOTALLY WOULD 8D
A/N: Okay, gang – I know this is kinda... out of the blue, but I'm going to ask for a lot of indulgence from you with this story. This is actually an experimental story – it's an original I came up with after a nightmare I had recently, and I have the beginning and the end but have very little clue what to do with the middle, and being an impatient creature do not want to actually wait however many years until I've written my billion other originals to get around to thinking about it properly and create it – so I decided to turn it into a fanfiction ^^; As a result, we may experience some OOC; we will also be experiencing some differences in a particular setting, which you'll discover when we reach the theme at hand. In terms of the characters, I'll still be using the personalities of the KH kids, but at the same time I'm wary of steering the plot through them, which is what I usually do – I think to myself, "What would this character do in response to that event?" and then go from there, but since the original characters won't be the same as the Square ones, I don't want to create a plot that's too foreign to *their* personalities, if you follow me. I need to find a place where both sets of characters would respond the same – so that's where any potential OOC'ness will come in. I beg your patience in the matter ^^; Hopefully you'll all enjoy it despite any character inconsistencies that may appear, I've tweaked it all to be otherwise properly KH and I'll be doing my absolute best by us all to create a good story as well as something I might be able to do something positive with later on :) (Oh, and I apologise for starting yet another story when there are still so many sitting unfinished on my profile – whoops. Can't argue with inspiration, though? ^^; I personally blame all the lack of sleep followed by the enormous excess of resultant coffee).
Ansem was calling it his big chance. He sat at the back of the truck with his feet flat on the floor, hands balled up on his thighs, looking coiled enough with barely tamped tension to spontaneously combust at the slightest spark. He just about had been, too, snapping at anyone and everyone who managed to slow the expedition down, from their coarse, chain-smoking driver who had tossed his cigarette butt down near their tarpaulins during the loading-up process, all the way down to Sora, who hadn't managed to read the behavioural signals in time and got yelled at for not shutting up when he couldn't remember what made the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. From then on, the young man had kept his mouth shut, as had most everyone – once someone started getting pissed at Sora, the bright and indefatigable, not to mention Ansem's favourite adoptive son, you knew that blasting point had been reached.
The rest of them, all six, were spread along the inward-facing benches flanking the interior, pressed close, all elbows and shoulders and kissing thighs, bags of tools and materials tucked behind their ankles, clanking and shifting as the four-wheel-drive slowly traversed the deepening tunnels of the underground network. They were moving ever downward, the driver, Cid, taking the unsteady path cautiously, the sound of the engine echoing all around them until their entire bodies hummed with it, heads aching not just with the constant growl and vibration but the persistent smell of diesel exhaust that sputtered from the truck's tailpipe and thickened the air they inhaled. Roxas was grim and silent, arms resting on knees with his head hanging low and Axel's hand sympathetically against his back as he wrestled with near-constant nausea, hair half-covering his rapidly paling face. It was less than fun for all involved, perhaps the only ones unaffected being Cid, whistling through his teeth up in the driver's cab as he chewed toothpicks between cigarettes, and Ansem, who was too involved in his own internal workings to even notice, his eyes containing a dull glaze that suggested his mind was far from the current proceedings – perhaps still back in Rufus ShinRa's private apartments, being told to go ahead with the expedition and bring back results or face dissolution. The pressure was immense, had spread from Ansem and settled over them all like a second, oily skin, weighing them down and tying their tongues. Only ShinRa's elected accompanying bodyguards remained immune to the sensation – it made little difference to their jobs whether or not Ansem succeeded, the long-haired woman called Tifa and spike-haired man, Cloud, sitting across from each other, one to each bench, looking stiff and uncomfortable in the dim, cramped space. Natural light had been left behind some two hours previously, the harsh illumination of the vehicle's headlights splashing back from the rocky walls and ceiling to eerily brighten the tray through the gap in the leather flaps forming the door between the roof and the tailgate. Somewhere, those two hours behind and above them, a little, idyllic island twinkled like a gem in the Mediterranean, its innocent, tiny face belying its low-hanging gut, its warren of interlinking tunnels, bridges and chasms.
The reason for their coming to such a godforsaken place dated back to three weeks previously, when a group of ambitious spelunkers had taken this very route down into the bowels of the earth and found, on the edge of a vast underground lake, what looked to be a relic of extraterrestrial origin. Of course, Rufus ShinRa, being who he was and a aficionado for oddities and unique curios on top of that, managed to come by it before the military could lay their hands on the discovery, and sent it straight to his personal laboratory for testing. They had all seen it, Ansem and his expeditionary assistants, two of them his adopted sons and the other two, Riku and Axel, natives of the ShinRa company who had been appointed under Ansem's command when the man had joined their ranks three years ago. It had been a tablet of some kind, long and heavy, carved into earthly stone an unearthly language that none of the ShinRa linguists had been able to place – at least not on such short notice. With the threat of the military nipping at his heels, Rufus had summoned Ansem the instant it had been identified as not of this world, his science division's exact words being "alien, but somehow familiar." It was the 'somehow familiar' that had prompted the greatest urgency – if ShinRa explorers couldn't get a hold of further proof before the air force got involved, Rufus would lose his chance to sell information of a possibly recurring extraterrestrial life form on the planet to them. It was all about leverage: if the government got to it, they would claim it and make it disappear as though it had never existed, and nobody benefited; if Rufus found it first, he could hand it straight over to them on the provision of certain... legal guarantees... and Rufus benefited – and as all ShinRa employees learned reasonably rapidly, that which benefited Rufus benefited everyone. Ansem, for example, would gain continuing sponsorship for his archaeological research, the burning passion of his life. He felt that casting about for metal remains of those not even native to the solar system a trashy waste of his time, but ShinRa money spoke volumes in every corner of the world, and he danced to Rufus' tune just as anxiously as anyone. Of course, on the opposite side of the coin hovered failure, which had been dogging his efforts for far too long as far as Rufus ShinRa was concerned. A man globally praised for his interpretive skills and ability to unearth priceless artefacts was nonetheless useless if that which he turned up was not what was desired. Thus, the ultimatum haunting this latest trip, and the clinging sense of severity in Ansem's bearing. Although there was always a sense of seriousness surrounding expeditions, even a slight thrill of adrenaline that came from defying the recognised authorities and occasionally encountering them out on the hunt, this time there was nothing – nothing – but desperation. It oozed from Ansem's side of the truck, infecting, agitating, stripping away everything but the searing need to achieve. This was Ansem's big chance – his last chance – to prove himself worthy of ShinRa's support.
They continued in the truck until it was no longer a feasible way to travel, the main traversable artery blocked by an old partial cave-in another five hours inward. By this point, Roxas had quietly thrown up out the back of the truck three times, knuckles white around the edges of the tailgate, blond hair dulled with unhealthy sweat, while the others listened to his weak, hoarse coughs with pained grimaces. Nobody was feeling healthy by the time they climbed out, the sudden freedom a blessing, and although the air couldn't move down here, it almost felt like a cool breeze just to be away from so many pressing bodies and the hanging odour of Roxas' breath. "No time for stretching legs," Ansem announced tersely, voice echoing faintly in the enclosed space as he leapt achingly to the ground, long, fair hair swinging, a strained look stamped indelibly on his features even as he attempted to seem businesslike. "We've got a walk ahead of us yet, you'll soon enough wish you could have had longer sitting down before we're through." Making an allowance only for Roxas to go and regain the strength in his legs, he set the others to work unloading the gear from the truck's rear, Cid coming around and joining in, the seven of them working together emptying the vehicle in under ten minutes. From there, the sorting began, Ansem ruthlessly apportioning weight to each of them, himself included, until no one person was carrying less than sixty pounds, their shoulders heavy with supplies both dried and perishable, tinned, gallons of water apiece, first aid kits, metal detectors, tarpaulins, digging tools, sets of brushes, fire starters, flashlights, gas cookers, military-issue closed-circuit rebreathers, and Christ only knew what else all bagged up, strapped on, and ready to go. Anything and everything that accompanied them in would be anything and everything that they had to survive on for the next three days, after arrival, with no help on the way and nothing but a seven hour journey back the hell out. They were in, they were in deep, and the only way that anyone was leaving was with everyone else in tow; anything at all that they could possibly solve while stuck hundreds of feet underground, they would.
"Why anyone would do this for recreation," Axel growled, speaking all their minds with succinct exasperation as they gathered in the brightness of the truck's darkness-slicing headlights, "is beyond me. No two ways about it." A disgruntled chorus of "Amen" met his words as they all felt their heels sink into the earth, upper bodies arching forward to take the pressure, only Ansem and the ShinRa guy Cloud refraining from sharing the sentiment.
"You'll get used to it," Cloud quietly said, managing to look at home under the ton of baggage, Sora letting out a strangled snort of derision at the very thought of it, looking more diminutive than usual with the pack looming behind him.
"Yeah, right. Says you, huh? I'm carrying nearly my entire body weight on my shoulders, here."
"So's your twin," Cloud pointed out, "and he's not complaining."
"Yeah, but Roxas is too sick to complain," Riku pointed out, shifting uncomfortably under his own load, obviously trying to bear it against the small of his back.
"Right," Axel brightly agreed, clicking on his flashlight and spinning it between his hands, "he's bitching on the inside, it's what Roxas does best. I mean, aside from bitching on the outside."
"Enough." Ansem's deep timbre cut easily through the banter, the man already up near the towering rock mound that had killed the four-wheel-drive's progress, fully prepared and inspecting it for the swiftest route up and over. "We haven't the time for standing about, all of you get a move on, over by me. Roxas will be fine, you all will be." He twisted carefully, keeping his burden steady against his straight spine, calling back, "Cid, extinguish the headlights. We'll continue with the flashlights from here."
"You got it, champ." Their driver reached into the open vehicle and pulled the keys without a second thought, plunging the tunnel into near-complete blackness within a second. There was a yelp of surprise from Sora, then a single point of light flaring to life over by the truck as Cid lit himself a cigarette. Axel swung his torch beam over towards the man. "...How come you get to look so fucking cool, Cid?"
"Because I'm the one with the fire, kid," Cid responded around the cigarette, slamming the truck's door shut, tucking away his lighter, hitching his pack higher on his compact frame and letting out a breath of smoke as he came around to meet them. One by one, their flashlights came on, the group inspecting the tunnel with new eyes, taking in the crags and cracks and spikes, the rough ground, the sturdy walls, all of it roughly cylindrical and entirely naturally formed. "It's like one of those things," Sora commented, voice sounding suddenly smaller and lonely in the gloom, "where you look at nature and go 'wow'."
"Yeah, because 'wow' was what I was thinking," Axel said, "and not 'get me the heck outta here, I need my daily McDonald's hit'."
"If you mention food again, I'll kill you." Roxas' face looked sickly even in the softer light, the sweat yet to leave his brow, mouth curved perpetually downward.
"I said, that's enough." Ansem's words had sharpened, the command in them drawing his four assistants around to find that the ShinRa-appointed duo, trio counting Cid, had already moved away with a crunching of small stones and joined the man over by the obstruction. Without any further chatter they quickly complied, recognising his rebuilding temper and catching up as Tifa took the lead, beginning the ascent up the tricky pile. It filled half the tunnel, all thought of conversation bleeding from their minds as in a world of shadows the group attempted to find a cautious, steady way up. So many sections were still loose, showers of cascading stones more often than not spilling down in their wake, sometimes onto one another, curses hissing out from time to time. It took a full sixty minutes just to reach the heap's peak with their packs trying their damndest to drag them over backwards every step of the way, after which they faced the same if not longer in the descent, nobody eager to twist an ankle through unnecessary haste. Breaths panted and grunted alongside the scrape of soles and crunching of gravelly stone, muscles pulsing hotly through every fighting body as each person struggled to control the excess weight that only felt heavier after such a precarious climb.
At long last, they reached the base of the cave-in, feeling like a mountain had been overcome. Any hopes of taking a moment to congratulate themselves and recover, however, vanished as Tifa breathlessly asked, "Dr. Wise, do you need to take a minute?"
Ansem's eyes were already focused intently ahead, as though they could see into darkness and out the other side. "No. We have much to do, and little time to waste on an old man slowing down advancement. We shall carry on." He sent around a look that dared anyone to object. Cid obliged nicely.
"Well, shit. I sure as hell need a breather after that, I ain't gettin' paid enough to half-kill myself for the likes of you." He let his pack pull him back against the mound and pulled out a silver flask that didn't smell like it was holding water when he uncapped it. In response to the pleading looks Axel was throwing his way, he gave a toothy grin and added, "But don't let an old man slow down advancement; you and the kids continue on, I can catch up on level ground. I just wasn't made for this up and down shit." Without another word, he began tossing back mouthfuls from the flask and seemed settled for a stay. Ansem let out an unimpressed noise at the blatant weakness of will, turning and continuing on without trying to convince him otherwise. Tifa released a lungful of air, as though she'd love nothing more than to join Cid's camp of action or lack thereof, but instead said, "Well, come on, then, the rest of you." Axel's expression turned dirty, the redhead twisting as they walked away to throw Cid a savage middle finger, the man merrily waving his flashlight in farewell, its beam swinging across the curved ceiling.
"Eyes forward, Axel," Ansem reprimanded shortly without looking back.
"Yessir." His light rejoined the others', the seven combined creating sufficient guidance as they moved along at a steady pace, Tifa and Cloud taking the front to ensure a safe and solid path for Ansem and company as their instructions dictated, keeping their eyes peeled for signs of trouble, though the spelunkers who had come through and started this whole thing off had reported no issues with any local wildlife. The way itself was another matter; it wasn't enough that they had to retrace the steps of their predecessors exactly, taking every inspired twist and turn and awkward climb that had led to the initial relic discovery, no – they also had to walk through caverns filled with the spray of underground waterfalls, freezing cold and blinding, had to follow the hand-drawn maps along ledges not so narrow that they couldn't walk one foot in front of another, but just narrow enough to feel death yawning at one's flanks. They followed steep inclines and equally sharp descents that left their legs burning, sweat forming an all-over film of stinking moisture, and all with perhaps the most depressing realisation of all: that they'd have to do it all again on the way back. Whenever it was that Cid had caught back up to the group was a mystery – Sora, Riku, Roxas and Axel were completely absorbed in the physical toll wracking their bodies, the journey more taxing than perhaps even Ansem had anticipated. The breaks they took were brief but lifesaving, each and every one of them completely silent but for the panting breaths and the shaking rattle of water bottles knocking against teeth.
A total of six hours passed between leaving the truck and finally reaching their destination. There was a medley of soft groans as they faced the final hurdle of the hike, a crumbling collection of misshapen, apparently naturally-occurring stone steps. They gathered in a ragged line along the precipice of the first, flashlights slowly combing the trial to come, sheer eight to nine foot drops, five in total leading down to the lakeshore, which sat out of range of their lights so that it appeared as though they would be dropping down towards nothing but a pitch abyss. In peering down, Sora swayed slightly, one of Riku's hands beside him jumping up to grab hold of the young man's pack, voice murmuring into the hush, "Steady..."
"It's down there," Ansem muttered, gaze sweeping the emptiness, a general nod of agreement coming from the others, too weary for anything much else. Tifa and Cloud carefully unclipped and shed their packs to test the way first, the blond man glancing calculatingly down at the distance before giving Tifa a brief nod and jumping backwards from the ledge, vanishing in an instant to a flurry of surprised gasps. The thud of his landing came seconds later, the group pinning him with their flashlight beams, Cloud grimacing and shielding his face with one arm, calling up, sounding flat in the enormous cavern, "It's firm ground. Tifa, try my pack."
The woman hauled his pack from the ground with some effort, balancing it briefly on one knee before warning, "On its way, Cloud!" She heaved it up and then over with a grunt, the silence pure as it flew through the air, followed by a loud clang and clatter as on the next step Cloud actually managed to catch it. Axel and Riku let out low, impressed whistles, the blond's arm muscles standing out like rocks, legs bent into a resultant crouch from nullifying the mammoth pack's downward momentum. His voice choked upward, "It's doable," and Tifa, pulling her sweaty hair behind her head and tying it there, ordered the others, "Everyone take off your packs; Cloud and I can manage them from here. Dr. Wise, you go on ahead, the area is safe. We'll catch up soon down the bottom." Then, "Not you, Cid, you're with us," as the older man abandoned his load in record time and attempted to slither past.
Cid cursed, stamping his feet a bit as he backtracked, grumbling, "Fine – but I'm having a smoke first."
Ansem and the four younger males unclipped the belts holding their packs against their bodies, Riku holding onto Sora's to let the brunet lower onto his knees before letting it go to prevent it from simply crashing to the ground, he and Roxas as the smaller two of the group easily the most worn out by the challenge. Roxas, however, stubbornly refused to allow anyone to do the same for him, darting Axel a warning look as the redhead began to draw near. Lifting his hands defensively, the man murmured, "It never even crossed my mind, I swear," and instead unloaded his own back-aching weight, lowering it carefully to the dirt. The freedom of suddenly being sixty pounds lighter was like being half-filled with helium, their shoulders seeming to float up around their ears while each step was like walking on the moon, as though they could simply bound down the steep steps in one clear leap and land as gently as a feather.
Seeing Riku obviously thinking the same thing, Axel smirked, nudged him, asked out of the corner of his mouth, "Want me to dare you to try it?"
Riku seemed unconvinced. "Wanna clean up the mess if I did?"
"Shit. Forget it."
"Gentlemen." Ansem once again caught their minds before the distraction of the novelty of being liberated could lead them to forget their purpose here. They left their packs by Tifa and moved down the edge a little way to put enough space between themselves and the hurtling bags, not wanting to put Cloud off his game. Sora was first to go, approaching it cautiously, inspecting the bottom with a sharp eye for obstructions, then crouching to minimise the distance and simply pushed forward, taking a slight clatter of stones with him and slamming down a moment later at the same time that Cloud caught one of their bags. Roxas called down, "How was it?"
"Like the tree house on the play island back when we were kids," came the thoughtful answer, Roxas lifting his brows and nodding before taking the plunge himself, landing with more or less the same alacrity as his brother. Axel and Riku exchanged glances. "...Did that comparison mean anything to you?"
"Nada," Riku confessed, eyeing off the drop.
Axel blew out a sigh. "If a couple of kids in a tree house can do it..." He gathered his balance and leapt, Riku shrugging and following suit, the pair of them hitting the second step within heartbeats of one another. Ansem, seeing their success, wasn't far behind, and as if to prove himself just as fit as anyone was the first to take the next one, commanding, "Come along, all of you" before disappearing with a flash of his torch and thudding to the ground out of sight. Leaving Cloud, Tifa and Cid to continue handling the bags, the four males trailed after their boss, each jump a little bit different and completely the same, the five of them managing to make their way to the steps' base with a minimum of scratches and bangs.
It was colder down here nearer to the water, the voices and lights of the ShinRa trio distant behind as they made their much slower, harder progression downward. All of them breathing hard after that final burst of effort, Ansem, with little else to do until their bags caught up to be unpacked, found a rock to sit on and said, "You four, explore a little and see the area. Look for firewood. Be careful, though, and don't lose your flashlights." He seemed exhausted, glad to be left alone, and although the others felt a similar weariness tugging at their moods, they complied and went off to briefly check the site out. They would be setting up camp halfway between the lake's edge, where the spelunkers' artefact had been found, and the steps, giving them ease of accessibility to the major features of the cavern and a good vantage point if anyone from the government happened to follow them in at any point over the next few days. Somewhere way up above the entrance to the tunnels waited like a sleeping dog, no indication of anything flickering behind its eyes, and hopefully it would stay that way.
In a loose group, the four of them tiredly scanned the area with their flashlights, finding only small, stubborn plants clinging to life in amongst the rocks but too feeble after lives lacking sunlight to provide anything close to firewood. Kicking stones with the toes of their boots, they hunted for only a short while longer after realising before returning to Ansem, the man taking note of their lack of fuel with understanding, allowing them to find their own rocks to sit on for the few minutes before Cloud, Tifa and Cid made it to the bottom to join them. With the arrival of the bags, and a puffing, panting, swearing Cid galvanising them to action with a snarl that they were all sitting on his rock, they, Ansem, Tifa and Cloud began pulling apart the efficiently stuffed packs and setting up the campsite. The first thing to do was set up the floodlights, three of them turned inward and hooked up to the small generator Cid had hauled along from the truck. By their light, tents were erected, the gas stoves set up and a fire pit built for the long-life artificial logs to be lit once the generator was switched off. Their tools were set out for the next day, laid across one bright blue tarpaulin with a second one draped over the top and weighed down with stones to protect them from falling dust or whatever scampering creatures might exist all the way down here. Cloud took a metal pail and went to inspect the water's edge while Tifa helped with the tools, coming back with a bucket full of ice-cold water for washing in, the men gladly stripping their chests bare and scooping handfuls to throw over their faces and under their arms, dripping and huffing while Cid hunched over the prefabricated fire logs and muttered around a toothpick while waving his lighter against the artificial flammables. With a laugh, scrubbing his face dry with his t-shirt, Axel went to help, grabbing a box of fire starters and a new shirt while the others began lighting their cookers and mixing dried preserved meals with water over their small flames. Within two hours, the entire campsite had been set out and the eight explorers sat hunched around a steadily burning fire, hot mugs of tea by their feet, eating out of aluminium bowls, spoons clinking against the sides, too exhausted by the long journey to bother with conversation.
Tifa and Cloud were the first to disappear into their respective tents to murmured goodnights, Cid having one last cigarette before joining Cloud in his two-person tent and zipping it up tight for the next eight or so hours. After him went Ansem, swilling down the last of his tea and retreating into his own personal tent, the soft glow of an LED camping light illuminating the interior a minute later as he obviously had no plans yet of falling asleep, no doubt wanting to read through the documentation one last time. Of his four assistants, Sora caved first, he and Riku trailing off to their sleeping bags with weak waves and heavy eyes, leaving only two by the fire: Roxas and Axel.
Short flames danced quietly along the artificial logs, licking up out of the centre of them, Axel's eyes fixed upon their play while Roxas stared down into his nearly empty bowl with the lifelessness of one near to slumber's edge. It seemed to take each of them a while to realise that they had been left alone, information slow to seep into minds belonging to such fatigued bodies. Axel blinked slowly around after about ten minutes and found himself surprised by the desertion, the utter silence. He turned his gaze onto Roxas, not moving, not twitching, hardly breathing unless you looked at him from the right angle. "...So, how're you feeling now?"
For a long moment, the blond didn't react to the question; then, slowly, his expression changed as he shrugged, some of the frozen quality melting from his features to show the haggardness beneath. "I've been better."
Smiling a little, Axel called on all the remaining strength in his poor, overwrought muscles and staggered to his feet, leaving his bowl on the ground, carrying the remainder of his tea and dragging his fold-out chair across the dirt to settle it next to Roxas, the blond watching with one blue eye, the other hidden by dirty hair. He sat back down with a heavy breath, spilling a small splash of tea onto one shoe, propping an elbow on the hard plastic arm of his chair, resting his chin on it, and gazing directly over at the other male, the smile back in place but larger and warmer now. "So, here we are, then." Roxas continued to stare, the one eye narrowing a little like the redhead was acting vaguely moronic.
Undeterred, Axel continued cajolingly, "You and me, all alone in the dark under a rocky sky..."
Roxas rubbed his face wearily, muttering, "I think I'm coming down with something."
"Mmhm." Axel smirked, leaned closer, lowered his voice. "If it's a hot feeling making you think that way, don't worry, that's just because of me."He reached up to stroke a lazy hand down the side of Roxas' face, the blond jolting at the unexpected touch, twitching away with a scowl, glaring before tossing his head meaningfully towards Ansem's illuminated tent.
"I've told you before – not on expedition. Not where he might see."
"Roxas, come on." Axel reluctantly straightened, following the blond's gaze with an unimpressed expression. "The guy really isn't going to care, he already knows that there's something funny going on with Riku and your brother."
"Sora's different, though," Roxas replied, putting some distance between their bodies, absently wiping at the place where Axel had touched him in a way that displeased the man. "What Sora does doesn't matter, and they're not trying to rub it in his face. I know you, Axel, I know that if I give you an inch you'll take a goddamn mile, and that's the last thing I need in front of him. One or both of us will get our asses fired over it, just you watch."
Smiling thinly, Axel said, "Yeah? I don't think that that threat scares me, though, so how about that?"
"How about the fact that it scares me? I don't want to get fired, you know – and he'd do it, don't think some supposed sentimental attachment would stop him."Roxas shook his head, ending the conversation by tipping the last of his tea onto the ground and standing, gathering his bowl and spoon and giving Axel one final look past his shoulder. Evidently softening enough to take some pity on the frowning face underneath the red hair, Roxas sighed, reached out and tugged at one of the long crimson spikes, Axel's head swaying with the motion. "Don't take too much longer, okay? We've got aliens to find in the morning, remember."
He started walking away towards their shared tent, hiking boots scuffing along the earth with his tired, dragging steps. Axel watched him go with an unchanged expression, unable to figure out which one of Roxas or Ansem he resented more in that moment. He really hadn't been planning on initiating any romantic liaisons with the boss's adopta-kid when he'd taken the job at the very start, and indulging in it was turning out to be as much trouble as it was anything pleasant the rest of the time. Ansem, Roxas, Sora, their weird little family dynamic and the fact that neither of the twins called the guy 'dad' – had it really, really been worthwhile getting mixed up in, when in the end he found himself left alone in front of a fake-log fire with nobody to intimately cuddle through the long night?
The rasp of a zipper brought Axel's gaze across to Roxas' crouched form outside their two-man tent, the blond's jeans riding low, his shirt slipping up his back a little as he leaned forward to mess around with the sleeping bags before crawling in, a flash of his hair visible for a moment, the last sight before he disappeared all the way in being his ass in the air...
"...Shit." Axel scowled for a moment, before chucking his drink on the fire.
Aliens in the morning. Right.