Soon enough, Roxas's struggles ceased.

Vexen let him fall to the ground, then looked down at the motionless body triumphantly. The light had completely drained from his eyes, making him look like the very picture of death.

The old man bent down and grabbed Roxas roughly by his hair, pulling him up face to face and smirking viciously. He could see faint tear stains still drying on the boy's cheeks, but he wasn't worried. Those would fade soon enough.

"You can hear me, can't you, Roxas?" The blank eyes betrayed no emotion, but he knew that, by nature of the spell, Roxas could still see through them clearly. the spell would keep the boy alive so long as his body lasted. He could still see through those hollow eyes, but would never again move or speak.

Vexen smirked.

"Stop me if you can, boy." And with that, he pulled Roxas in for a harsh, forceful kiss. He felt no twitch of life, no resistance at all, not even when he quickly shoved his tongue in between those cold lips. They parted easily for him, and he chuckled darkly, running his hand over the boy's cheek and raking his nails along the skin harshly.

Minutes later, Vexen pulled away at last and dropped him back to the ground unceremoniously. He was finished with his fun, for now, but that would only be a taste of the boy's torture. Perhaps he would violate him further, before sealing him away to a slow, painful death below the earth.

"Roxas, Roxas, Roxas...You're such a child. You could have easily avoided this whole nasty ordeal altogether, but no. You had to make this painful for yourself. You could have had a much more peaceful death, with Demyx there to comfort and mourn you. But don't fret." He placed his boot under the prince's cheek and turned it up so that the boy was looking at him. The old man felt suddenly overcome with a surge of power at that, seeing the boy in his rightful place. Under his boot, like everyone else.

"I'll let your precious Axel have that honor."

Just at that moment, Vexen heard the redhead calling again, this time much closer in the forest.

"Ah...almost right on schedule." He scoffed down at the blond, giving his face one good, harsh kick. "You best wake up, Roxas. It's dreadfully rude to ignore a guest, you know."

In a few short minutes, Axel stumbled out of the trees clumsily. Upon seeing someone there, he raised his lantern hopefully, but sighed when it was only an old man.

As he lowered the light again, he cleared his throat and asked, "Excuse me, sir. Have you seen a kid wandering these woods tonight. He's about this tall," He indicated with his hand, "has blond hair and blue eyes. Seen him?"

The old man chuckled, causing Axel to quirk an eyebrow curiously.

"Have you gone and lost your lover so soon?" He then shook his head with mock concern. "How sad! What promise the two of you had!"

The redhead blinked for a moment, completely taken off guard.

Vexen gave him a knowing smirk, and Axel's confusion quickly changed to realization and anger. He quickly set down the light and prepared as if for some attack, drawing a small knife from his pocket and holding it forward threateningly. He glared at the old man. "I wouldn't have expected you to come here yourself, you old coward. Vexen, I presume?"

Vexen smiled with mock sweetness and made a short bow. "I am but a humble servant of this country. If there are stubborn vermin that threaten the stability of peace in our fair kingdom, then I must come and deal with the infestation myself."

"Cut the crap, Vexen! Where is he? What have you done with him?"

The old man smiled wider, more wickedly. "He's very close...But I don't think you want to see him. Or rather, he might not want you to see him..now..."

Axel growled. "Where. Is. He?"

Vexen shrugged carelessly and shoved his foot beneath something on the ground behind the bushes. "Wake up, boy. At least look at the man when he's talking to you."

He then kicked harshly, throwing the thing more into the open, and Axel's heart stopped when he saw that it was a body. Panic began to rise in his chest and, completely ignoring Vexen's cruel smirk, he rushed to the side of the body on the ground, only to find his dark suspicions were correct. Roxas lay motionless on the forest floor, his eyes dark but wide, still betraying his earthly pain. They were wide and horrified, making Axel repress the need to gag harshly. His mouth hung open a little, uselessly, and no breath flowed from it. His body was bruised and did not move at all, even as Axel lifted the boy into his arms.

Axel looked to be at a loss for words at first. He touched the face carefully, but urgently, brushing away the dirt and grime as he called out to him.

"Roxas...Roxas, please wake up! Roxas!"

Vexen scoffed. "He can't hear you anymore, boy. I wouldn't waste my breath."

Axel's attention snapped up, his eyes alight with fiery rage.

"What the hell did you do to him?"

"He was tired. I merely helped him fall asleep."

The redhead clutched Roxas to him even tighter, unwilling to believe that he was really dead. No...no it couldn't be true. There wasn't a mark on him. But there was no pulse and no breathing, even as he grabbed a thin wrist and waited for a beat. Nothing. Even when he shook the boy slightly, Axel couldn't see any change. No movement at all.

"Roxas...no..." Axel buried his face in Roxas's neck. He felt the hot tears in his eyes spilling over, and he shut them tight, gritting his teeth at the pain. "No..."

Vexen smirked at the boy's obvious misery. Every cry of Axel's only filled him with more contempt for them and their foolish love. It was so easily broken, and the prince wasn't even truly dead. Little did he know that a very simple thing would cure the prince of his curse. And Vexen was confident he would never find it. Not before Roxas was buried alive, at least.

"Pathetic..."

Then, just as quickly, Vexen watched with surprise as Axel laid the body back down, gently setting him on the grass. He stood slowly, but with purpose, though his face was turned away and Vexen couldn't see his expression. The redhead turned just as slowly, and his eyes were burning with hate; such violent, searing hate. It was a fire that Vexen recognized in himself; it was how he had felt when his land was razed to ashes, and there was nothing left for him in the world.

"You have strength and fire, boy. I sense a great deal of power in you." And it was true. He was foolish, but it wasn't simply a matter of Vexen's spells not affecting him. With the right direction, perhaps the boy could be put to good use...but now it seemed he would not accept. He was too far gone in his silly heartbreak, and the old man could not forgive his interference.

"If you had stayed away from that imbecilic prince, you might have had a chance to join me. But I-"

"SHUT UP!"

Axel lunged for him before he had even finished his thought. Vexen barely managed to dodge unscathed, and he drew back a ways in surprise. The very air seemed to be burning with rage, and the knife was back in the boy's hand, slashing and stabbing and aiming for his heart. Axel moved with inhuman speed and forced the old man to back away defensively, blindly slipping past trees and brush while his attention was focused on avoiding the pointed blade.

"BASTARD! I'LL KILL YOU!"

Vexen drew a thin dagger of his own and parried the attack, finally slipping into a group of trees narrow enough to keep him safe. He caught his breath for a moment as Axel stalked forward, preparing to strike again. With a harsh laugh, Vexen drew a satchel from his cloak and hurled it at the ground; a cloud of dark blue smoke rose up and around him, concealing him.

Axel coughed and backed away slightly, but soon the smoke cleared and the old blond had vanished. A cruel laugh echoed off the trees around him, and the redhead jerked to look every way at once.

"You'll never catch me, fool! Do you really think you can fight me?"

Axel's eyes narrowed and, for a moment, he cleared his head and let his rage subside. He wanted so desperately to murder this man in cold blood, but right now, his emotions were impairing his ability to fight. Pushing the heartbreaking sight of Roxas crumpled lifeless on the ground away, he firmly shook his head and shut his eyes, willing his heartbeat to calm down, even disappear...

The very air seemed to mock him, and little currents of icy wind cut at his flesh, slicing a cheek here, his shirt sleeve there. "What, giving up already?"

Axel growled, but kept his eyes firmly shut, barely even flinching at the pain. This was pathetic magic. Vexen was a coward, attacking him from the dark as he blended with the shadows. He was trying to cow him, have him begging to be spared, and Axel wouldn't do it. He listened to the mocking laugh, the slices of metal on air, and sought for where to strike. A blind move now might only scare Vexen away, and the last thing the redhead wanted was for him to escape scott-free...

A slice by his left bicep. There!

Axel's eyes snapped open and he turned hard to his left, aiming the knife low and straight. He was rewarded with a piercing scream and the sound of stumbling, clumsy footsteps. Within moments, Vexen was revealed, scowling, groaning, and bleeding from his right shoulder. He clutched it in a sad attempt to staunch the bleeding, glaring at Axel was utter contempt and loathing.

"You wretch!" he howled, stepping slowly away from the scene. Axel saw him planning to run and lunged forward again.

"Oh no you don't!"

He made a stab for the man's left thigh this time. But at the last second, Vexen moved, and instead, the blow fell more upon his stomach, immediately spurting crimson blood all over. Vexen screamed and grabbed for that wound, falling onto his back on the ground and writhing in agony. Axel stood over him for a moment, emerald eyes cold and unsympathetic.

"You won't kill me!" The old man weakly began to crawl away, and for a moment, Axel was going to stop him. He hated this man so much and wanted to see him die. He probably would die now, with injuries like those, even if he knew healing magic. But Axel didn't want to stain his honor that way; didn't want to turn himself into a cold-blooded killer. Roxas would never have wanted that of him.

He took a step toward Vexen, who recoiled in terror. "Don't come near me!"

Axel scoffed in return. "Now who's pathetic." When he received no other response than a scowl, he hardened his glare.

"Get out. You're not even worth the effort."

He then turned and walked away, leaving the stuttering, angry sorcerer alone.

Axel found Roxas just as he had left him. He knelt beside the limp boy slowly, feeling his heart plummet in his chest at the sight. Tears wouldn't come to his eyes anymore though; he just didn't have any more to give.

"Oh, Roxas..." He scooped the blond into his arms, cradling him protectively against his chest. The pained, glazed eyes staring up at him unnerved him, and the redhead gently lowered their lids. Now it only looked like he was asleep. Just asleep...

Axel shook the wishful thought away and held Roxas's head tenderly, leaning down to plant a soft kiss on the boy's forehead. As his mind became tumultuous as the sea, filling with regrets of could have's and should have's, his love was crying out into a dark world. He could no longer see.

And that was how Roxas and Axel waited out the night. It was dark and hopeless for the two of them.