Here's the deal: School, wavering interests, and RL in general got in the way. Sorry it took so long. Enjoy~!

Saving Roxas

Chapter 11: A Small Favor

Roxas's POV

"Well, Roxas…you're going to do me a small favor," Setzer explained calmly, showing me a glimpse of his gun, hidden by the newspaper. I looked across from my seat to see two large burly men sitting there, eyes trained on me. I took a deep breath while I surveyed the passengers on the train: an elderly couple with their grandson, a mother and her daughter, two young lovers, and two friends. I looked back to Setzer, watching the emotions swirl in his eyes noticing that triumph stood out the most. I closed my eyes, collecting my thoughts. If I play my cards right, I'll be okay…as with the other passengers.

"What do you mean by 'small favor'?" I questioned quietly. I opened my eyes to see Setzer smiling at me. My calm face instantly morphed into one of hatred. How dare he smile at a time like this! "Wipe that damn grin off your face, bastard," I growled. He patted my shoulder comfortingly, ignoring my threat and continuing on as if I hadn't said anything. What is he playing at?

"Relax, kid," he soothed, sliding down in his chair and crossing his legs. "All will be explained in due time," he promised, looking at me with a condescending expression on his face. "We don't want to cause a scene and get these innocent people hurt now, do we?" he joked. My jaw clenched, and I moved my eyes to the floor. "Just enjoy the train ride while it lasts, okay? I simply want to talk with you, like we did earlier," he explained.

"Earlier you didn't have two armed goons and a gun," I pointed out darkly. He chuckled lowly, the smile still plastered onto his face. Why the hell was he still smiling?

"Oh, I did," he promised. "You just didn't see them, that's all," he assured me. I looked back at him with distain communicating plainly on my face. "If you must know, then fine." He sat up and looked deep into my eyes. "I want you to help me win Axel's trust. Maybe let me in on a weakness or something…something to sway him to my side," he finished in a bored tone.

"And if you learn a way, then what?" I demanded lowly. He let out a single, low chuckle before looking away from me again.

"Questions, questions, questions," he muttered. "Do you ever stop asking them?" he joked.

"Answer me, damn it!" I stressed firmly, watching my voice.

"Now you'll just have to find that out yourself now, won't you?" he answered politely. I turned and glared out the window of the train. Axel's weaknesses…despite how close I was to him, I don't even think I know that.


Xion's POV

"Hey, we're all going to go to the park tonight at six. Wanna come, Xi?" my friend asked quietly. I thought about it for a moment as we walked down the stairs of the school. It's not that I didn't want to go—or that I couldn't go—I just wanted to stay home that night. "Ah, maybe next time, Xion?" she suggested, and I nodded, watching her run off speedily to her parent. I watched her hug her father as he stroked her hair before forcing my eyes away. I pulled my jacket closer around my shoulders and continued walking.

I never had that sort of relationship with my father. I know it's not that he didn't love me or care about me. Sometimes, he just seemed more like a big brother or a really cool, young uncle. He acted like a father at times: when he would yell at me, when he was ordering me around, and when he was disciplining me. It never really seemed like a problem to me, and I know it never bothered me. Our relationship wasn't one of a father and daughter, but of close friends or siblings. Can I honestly say that I don't miss him? Can I honestly say that I hate him? I miss him more than anything and am starting to realize my mistake. He's cared for me for as long as I can remember and this is how I've repaid him? What a horrible daughter I am.

"Xion?" I stopped walking and turned around to see Roxas standing a few feet from me. I checked my watch before looking back at him "Don't have a ride home?" he questioned. I blinked, ignoring his question, wondering why he was even there. Didn't he have some sort of party to get ready for? Marluxia and Larxene were talking about hosting a party of sorts for Naminé and him. "Come on, I'll walk home with you," he said, stepping towards me with even steps.

"You don't have to," I pointed out. "Really, I walk home every day," I explained, turning away from him to keep walking. I stopped when he pulled my arm back. I turned around sharply, ready to start yelling, when he looked around worriedly as if expecting something to happen.

"You shouldn't," he whispered. "All sorts of people are out there, Xion." He stepped beside me. "I'd hate for you to get hurt," he said as we began to walk in the direction of Marluxia and Larxene's home. I couldn't explain why I felt a chill go down my spine when he spoke, or why I reached for his hand and held it tightly. Maybe it was because I was nervous or scared, but I didn't give it much though as we walked down the street. Cars drove past, people walked by; the world was loud while we walked in silence. I looked over at him, trying to read his face for any emotion that might give way to what he was thinking, but he was an unreadable book…

Just like Axel.

"You love him, right?" I spoke suddenly, looking up at Roxas. "Right?" I repeated when his expression remained unchanged. "Right? You love Axel? You love my dad, don't you?" I repeated louder. Roxas stopped moving, and I saw we had arrived at home. I looked back at him with determined blue eyes. He got down on one knee before me and placed his hands on my shoulders. I didn't realize I was shaking until he held me still. I forced my breathing to level out as he gave me a soft smile.

"Go inside, do your homework, go to bed…do something," he commanded lightly. "Just promise me you'll stay inside your house all night long, don't answer the door, and hide if trouble should arise, understand?" I gaped at him. Why is he telling me this? Why is he here to begin with? "Can you promise me that, Xion?" he repeated. I nodded once, and he pushed himself to his feet, beginning to walk away when I called out his name.

"You never answered my question," I said, clutching the strap of my backpack in my hand tightly. He turned his head slightly before huffing and walking away. I clenched my fist at my side, ready to start yelling, when he spoke.

"That's why I won't let you get hurt," he said simply. My stance relaxed as I watched his retreating form. I turned toward the house quietly and let myself in before shutting and locking the door. Does Roxas know something? Is something going to happen tonight? I dropped my bag at the door and ran up the stairs. Well, whatever is going to happen, I'll wait it out in my room like I was told. Besides, I wanted to stay in tonight anyway.


Setzer's POV

A single scream echoed throughout the empty building. I sighed, rather annoyed at the red head's refusal to talk. We had been at this for weeks, and I was running out of unmarred skin to scar. I waved Kuja back; the silver haired man pulled the hot knife out of the man's shoulder. He slumped forward, almost falling out of the chair if not for the wire ties that attached him to it. He panted wildly, trying to regain his composure while I pulled up a chair before him, pulling his face up to look at me. One eye was swollen shut, and his face was covered in bruises and cuts with one or two burns as well. His lips were cut, covered in dry blood, and gasping for breath that his broken nose couldn't breathe in.

"Come now, Reno," I spoke quietly, "if you continue this silence, we'll have to kill you," I said with a grim tone to my voice. "I really don't want to kill you. That'd cause me all sorts of problems," I went on. "Disposal, alibies, and of course the lack of information I want," I finished softly. "Come on. Don't make this hard for me…for you…for your loved ones." I let go of his face and watched his head drop. I sighed. "Honestly, I don't know why I even bother," I mumbled as I rubbed the bridge of my nose.

"Sir, I say we kill him," Kuja spoke out lowly. "He obviously plans to keep quiet no matter what, and it's not like we can let him go, right? I say we end it and stop wasting time." I rubbed the back of my neck before looking back at him. "We already initiated plan B, haven't we?" he questioned. I looked away from him and thought, pulling my switchblade from my pocket. I opened it and closed in repeatedly for a few a few minutes before looking to Kuja.

"The room for error in that plan is substantially higher than in this one," I objected. "I'd rather not involve the others in this; I want the body count to be the minimum." I closed the blade and turned to Reno sitting in the chair. "Hear that, Reno? If you refuse to talk, I may have to kill a few others." He twitched slightly. "I may have to kill your adorable little niece, your dear little sister Kairi, and, of course, Mr. Shinra~"

"Fuck off!" Reno yelled loudly, eyes ablaze with fury. "You touch any one of them, and I'll kill you!" he threatened. I let a chuckle escape my lips, and a smile spread on my face.

"Oh, I was beginning to miss that fire, Reno," I spoke harshly. "Don't take me so lightly. Now, tell me what I want to know." I walked closer to him and crouched to his level. "How do I break him? How do I force him to my side?" I repeated for the umpteenth time. Reno's light blue eyes narrowed as he spit right in my face. I stayed still as Kuja kicked Reno's chair to the ground. I reached up a hand to wipe my cheek.

"No matter what you do Axel will never—ever—do whatever the hell it is you want him to do. He isn't a puppet. He knows the cruelties of this world better than you or me," he ground out lowly, coughing up blood and smiling. "Just give up. He'd never help a bastard like you," he snarled. Kuja kicked him in the stomach, causing the chair to turn over and Reno to gasp at the loss of breath.

"I highly doubt that," I spoke lowly. "Everyone has a weakness, and everyone will bend before it," I promised. "Knowledge of the hell called life has nothing to do with it."


Axel's POV

I pushed down on the bags under my eyes, defeated, while I checked the time occasionally. No matter what I did, I couldn't seem to hide them or the dark circles that signaled my lack of sleep. I placed my head in my hand and sighed loudly. Damn, now everyone's gonna start worrying again, and that's the last thing I want. I dropped my hand and looked at my reflection again. I grabbed the black vest from my bed and pulled it on, fastening the buttons with uncoordinated hands. As I yawned, I threw the black silk bow-tie around my neck and forced it under my collar before I began to tie it together. I didn't understand why Marluxia insisted on the stupid uniforms. They were too constricting and stiff to be able to move freely. I finished up and centered the bow-tie better before I pulled back my long spikes with a hair tie. 'It looks more professional that way' they say. Well, that's a load of bullshit…I still look like the troublesome kid I've always been, nothing can change that.

I threw my jacket over my shoulder, pocketed my cell phone, and walked dejectedly to the door. I grabbed my keys from the side table, turned the lights off, and locked the door behind me before I walked down the dimly lit hall of the apartment building. When I reached the elevator, I pressed the button and waited. I pulled out my cell phone and looked at the time. Don't want to be late…

I felt a vibration as my phone lit up with a call. Who's calling me? I looked at the number, didn't recognize it, but put it to my ear anyway. "Hello?"

"Axel?" a panicked, yet familiar voice nearly screamed.

"Yeah. That you, Larxene?" The elevator chimed, the doors opened, and I walked in. "Where's your phone?" I questioned.

"That's not important! The groom is missing!" she roared into the phone. I blinked a few times in shock as I pulled the phone from my ear to prevent hearing loss. Then it registered.

"What? Roxas is missing?" I asked, hoping I heard wrong.

"Yeah, asshole, aren't you listening to me? The party is in two hours, and you know him best. Where the hell did he go?" she demanded. I listened to the banging of pots and pans in the background as I racked my brain for an answer. Where would he go? When the hell did I become his keeper?

"I have no idea. Doesn't his family know?" I fired challengingly. Honestly, why do things like this always fall back onto me?

"They're already out looking, dumbass! Just see if you can look too, okay? Naminé is having a panic attack, and her family is not pleased! Just look for him. Is that so hard?" she demanded. I sighed, exiting the elevator when the door opened.

"You aren't letting me off the hook, are you?" I questioned quietly when I walked out the front door.

"Do I sound like I'm joking?" she retorted lowly before hanging up. I opened the main door and sighed heavily in the late afternoon air. I continued toward my motorcycle, rubbing the bridge of my nose, annoyed. Why does Roxas have to cause so much trouble? Honestly, I swear it's the only thing he can do! I dialed Demyx's phone number, throwing my jacket onto the seat and leaning against it while I listened to the ringing. I pulled the thin chain from under my shirt and held the small rings in my hand. The only thing Roxas left me with when he pushed me aside yet again.

"You better not have gotten yourself into trouble again, Roxas," I muttered quietly, waiting for Demyx to answer the phone.

"Hello?" Demyx greeted warmly. I sighed at the familiarly bright voice, thanking god that some things could stay the same in the world.

"Hey, Demyx," I greeted, clenching the rings in my hand hard enough for it to leave marks on my skin. "Has anyone called you about Roxas yet?" I asked, shoving the rings back into my shirt as not to distract myself.

"Yeah. Kairi called me earlier, and Zexy and I are out looking right now, actually. We kinda feel responsible for all this, you know?" he explained sadly. I crossed my arm over my chest with a contemplative look.

"What do you mean, 'you feel responsible?' For what?" I retorted. I heard Demyx gasp on the other end.

"Uh, well, y-you see~ Ow! Zex, that hurt!" Demyx cried out. I listened to Zexion berating Demyx on the other end. Obviously the two were trying to hide something…but what that something was, I didn't know.

"Hey! Dem! What happened? Did you see Roxas?" I asked, feeling slightly jealous. I'd give anything to see him right now, even if all he did was glare at me. I want to see him one last time before I leave…just one more time.

"Yeah, but~ Hey!" I heard Zexion yelling at Demyx on the other end and would have chuckled but my curiosity prevented me. "We talked to him earlier at the studio, okay? It's not important, but we feel what we told him might have caused his sudden disappearance~"

"Then how the hell is it not important, Zexion?" I roared into the phone. How could Zexion say it wasn't important if it might have caused him to run off, possibly getting himself into danger? "Aren't you supposed to be the smart one? What happened~"

"Axel Lea!" Zexion yelled into the phone, thoroughly shocking me. Zexion rarely raised his voice, signaling he was pissed. I chose to keep my mouth shut, knowing better than to talk back to him. "If I thought our conversation topic might lead to his whereabouts, I would have said something. All I believe is that he ran off to be alone with his thoughts. That's all." I sucked in a breath, holding it for a few moments before letting it out slowly. "Why don't you try the park? No one has checked there yet," he suggested quietly. "He had his camera, maybe he's on the trail?"

"But I…" I trailed off. I didn't want to be the one to find him. I couldn't face him…not when I was close to finally moving on. I knew how badly I wanted to see him, but when it might have happened, I didn't think I could do it. Not alone anyway.

"You needn't worry, Axel," Zexion promised. "I know how you must feel, but try to think about the others that need Roxas back here. Just keep it all business. That's my advice to you…if you're the one to find him that is," he added. I nodded, turning to mount my bike.

"I'll call you when I'm done searching the park, okay?" I explained.

"Good. I'll talk to you then, Axel. Goodbye." He hung up, and I put my phone back in my pocket. I shoved my jacket in my small holding compartment and forced the helmet on my head. Oh, Roxas…you better not have gotten yourself into trouble.


Roxas's POV

I'm so pathetic. I'm such a fool. I'm an idiotic, son of a bitch that was too stupid to see what he had in front of him. I wondered how things would go if I wasn't at the party. Maybe someone might actually notice if I was missing besides Naminé.


I didn't want to hurt her any more than I already had by leading her on any longer. She really is a terrific person, but I'm just not capable of making her happy, no matter how much she forces herself to believe that. She can do better, find someone better, and even feel better.

I pulled out my phone with a heavy sigh, watching the blinking light signaling I had a message. I placed it to the side of me on the small bridge, not wanting to see the number of missed calls and unrequited text messages growing any more. Fifteen of the former and thirty of the latter were enough. I felt like crying again.

I sighed one more time before I slapped my cheeks lightly. No more feeling sorry for myself and no more crying. I pushed myself to my feet when I heard the crunching of leaves behind me. I whirled around and stared at the trail entrance as a tall, silver-haired man appeared from the shadows. My eyes narrowed considerably while the man before me smiled. How did he find me here?

"Look, if you're one of Setzer's flunkies, tell him I already did as he asked~"

"You obviously haven't completed your task otherwise he wouldn't have told me to trek through mud and dirt to find you," he interrupted, checking his nails. "I really hate nature, and he knows that," he mumbled. "Your objective, Roxas, was to help us identify a way to sway Axel to our side," the man explained.

"I told him I didn't know~" I retorted loudly, but he held up his hand, silencing me instantly.

"Please don't shout. You're giving me a migraine," he sighed as he rubbed at his forehead. "I suppose helping us find out where his daughter lives is enough. We can grab her whenever we like," he explained. I turned away, ready to leave, when he spoke up again, "Except we already knew all that ourselves," he explained, stopping me dead in my tracks. My fists clenched at my sides on their own. I turned around and starting yelling before I could even stop myself.

"If you knew that already, how come you can't figure out 'his weakness' by yourself?" I yelled. The silver-haired man continued to stare at the ground while I forced myself to calm down.

"You're such a pain, just like the redhead. So headstrong~" he stopped, dodging the punch I aimed at his pretty face. He spun in his crouched position, kicking my legs out from under me. I cried out and watched his foot coming toward my face at an alarming rate when it suddenly stopped.

"Signore, ti prego, te frenare," (1) I heard a man speak quietly. I glanced up only to find him glaring down at me.

"Non vedo l'ora di uccidere te, ragazzo," (2) he growled under his breath. "We have other plans for you, so do return to your family and fiancé, will you? I will only ask once before I start shooting," he promised, patting the gun strapped to his thigh along with a police badge.

"How does a man like you get involved with a guy like Setzer?" I demanded lowly. "You're a police officer! You're supposed to look out for the people, yet here you are…betraying them!" I roared. He sighed again, wiping off his pants from his earlier stunt.

"Making me ruin my clean pants…" he muttered, ignoring my question. "To answer your question, it's because we have an understanding," he explained. "He saved my life, I serve him. Simple as that," he finished, turning from me and walking back the way he came with his goonies in tow.

"Kuja!" I called, and he stopped, glancing over his shoulder. "What does Setzer have in mind for me?" I asked. He smirked evilly before continuing on his way. I clenched my fist, forcing myself to my feet and back over to the little bridge. I scooped up my phone and shoved it back into my pocket when I heard more crunching. I looked in front of me and saw the last person I wanted to see emerge from the trees from a different path. I was half tempted to run before he spotted me, but I was frozen in place. Axel could do that to me.

"There you are," he greeted warmly, but the smile on his face was a blatant lie. We both knew that. "We've been looking all over for you, kiddo," he continued as he walked closer. I thought of how close Kuja still was to us…what he might do if I told Axel everything that had happened today. Would he even believe me? "Running off the night of your engagement party…someone might think you're getting cold feet," he joked, laughing slightly.

"Axel, I just~"

"How about we get going then?" he suggested, pretending he didn't hear me start talking. "You have to get ready still, and I have to set up," he said, already walking back the way he came. "Coming?" he prompted.

"You're giving me the cold shoulder?" I questioned, taking the silence as his answer. "That's understandable, but I want to tell you something…something important~"

"Can we just get going?" he interrupted, pseudo-lightheartedness gone. "The sooner I set up and get my hours over with, the sooner I get home to pack," he explained. Pack? What was he packing for? "I leave for Sunset Hill on Monday to start my new life, not like you would care," he explained. I blinked, looking to my feet sadly. This could probably explain Setzer's haste to find his answer, but—

Why do I feel so sad? I'm the one who pushed him away. How can I expect him to live around the memories? Just because I love him doesn't mean everything will be good again. Not at all. I let him lead me out of the clearing, determined to break it off with Naminé before it was too late and find a way to warn Axel of the coming danger.


Axel's POV

I surveyed the crowded restaurant with a pleasant, fake smile. No one knew that my smile was only on the surface, my laughter was forced, or that my kindness was painful. I liked it that way, and I couldn't wait for the night to be over. After bringing Roxas back and being congratulated for finding him, all I wanted to do was just curl up and cry, not cater his engagement dinner. All I wanted to do was move on with my life, forget everything that happened, and create a new life for myself. I wanted to forget everything that was wrong with my life. From my childhood up until now…all of it was gone.

"Hey, waiter. Try not to look so enthused." I blinked, wondering who was talking, and saw Kairi approaching me quickly. "Sure you don't want to sit with us for a little?" she asked, leaning against the wall beside me. I looked toward the table where 'us' was taking residence. That included Sora, Riku, Hayner, Zexion, and—when she returned—Kairi. She had been asking me to sit with them all that night, but I kept refusing. I wasn't in a social mood.

"No, I'm still on duty," I explained. "You should probably get back to the table. I bet your friends are missing you," I said, turning from her and looking toward the kitchen for an excuse to leave her side. It's not that I didn't enjoy her presence—she was like a sister to me—I just didn't want to be cold to her as well. With Reno gone, she was really all I had left.

Maybe that's why I wanted to distance myself from her.

"Right, right, my cousin of stone hates socializing," she smirked, turning to smile at me. "It's fun to watch you act tough," she joked. I huffed in annoyance, scowling at her.

"And who said I'm acting?" I demanded, stooping down to her level while she smirked smugly. We had a silent staring contest for a minute when her expression suddenly changed to a serious one.

"Can we talk outside for a minute?" she asked quietly. "I need a bit of fresh air," she added. I straightened again, gesturing to the front door. "In private," she continued. I blinked once, twice, three times before taking her hand and leading her through the kitchen and out the back door into the dark alleyway. Once I closed the door she sat down on the dirty, cement stairs and placed her chin in her hands.

"You shouldn't sit there, Kai. You'll ruin your dress," I chastised.

"Doesn't matter," she muttered. "Doesn't fit anyway," she went on. I sat down beside her and noticed that her light blue dress seemed bigger than it probably should be; the matching wrap slipping off, showing her bony shoulders. I couldn't help but notice she looked a lot thinner than usual, and that worried me. "I was planning on getting rid of it anyway. I hate the color blue," she muttered, sucking in a deep breath.

"Are you…doing okay, Kairi?" I asked. She let her breath out before turning to look at me. Her blue eyes were clouded and for the first time I realized they were a little red and slightly swollen.

"Not really, no," she answered honestly. "Things have been so much more difficult lately, and it's getting harder and harder to deal with," she explained. "First off, Naminé and Roxas," she began, sitting up and motioning with her hands, "by far the cutest couple I've ever seen become so distant, so fast. I mean, he won't even look at her half the time for crying out loud. It's making my dear friend so insecure," she finished, looking off down the alley. "Then my stupid, lovable, older brother…gets kidnapped by some stupid gang in hopes to screw with the Shin-Ra Corporation. That idiot who promised we would get together for a movie night got himself kidnapped," she clenched her fist tightly. "Rufus has been so obsessed with his search, and the pressure of keeping his company together keeps rising…he collapsed of exhaustion the other day and is in the hospital," she complained, slamming her fist on the pavement. Even I hadn't heard about that part about Rufus. "And then…then…" her shoulders began to shake, and I realized she was crying.

"Kairi, please don't~"

"Someone broke your heart, and I can't even help you!" she cried suddenly, doubling over and sobbing. I felt like someone slapped me across the face when her words sunk in. How could she know that? Since when can she see through my disguises and masks? "I'm sorry I'm such a failure, Axel, I really am," she cried. I didn't know how to respond other than pulling her into my arms and holding her. How could I react? She felt so small in my embrace, much smaller than she used to be. I looked at my arms circling her back and noticed how pale she was compared to me, and I was already really pale to begin with. My cousin was a wreck.

"Oh, Kairi," I sighed, rubbing her back soothingly. When did she try to take the weight of the world on her shoulders? "You shouldn't waste your time worrying about me. Honestly, I can take care of myself," I promised her. I didn't like seeing her cry. It made me feel bad, especially if I was the cause for her tears. "You shouldn't cry, either. It doesn't suit you, and I think Reno would agree with me." She looked at me finally and wiped her eyes.

"Larxene told me about the fight you had with Xion…I'm sorry," she said quietly. I sighed. Of course someone would tell her.

"Don't worry about it. I'm just giving her the space she needs right now. It'll all work itself out in the end," I assured her as I stood up. "Why don't we go back inside and get you cleaned up? Your makeup is ruined," I pointed out in hopes to distract her.

"Answer one question for me," she said, pulling me back down to sit beside her. "Who was it that broke your heart?" she asked.

"It's not important—"

"But it is!" she insisted. I rolled my eyes at her childishness. "Please, be honest with me. I want to know!"

"Want me to be honest?" I looked toward the door to make sure it was shut firmly before I continued. "Roxas. Roxas Strife broke my heart," I stated boldly. "And if you have any complaints about it, then you can just—"

Her hug shocked me.

I wasn't expecting the sudden affection after a declaration like that. I was expecting something more along the lines bodily harm. What came as an even greater shock was the warmth of her renewed tears on my shirt.

"Oh, Axel," she cried quietly. "You don't have to hold it in…it's okay…to cry," she promised.

Damn it all! My eyes began to water as I fisted the back of her dress and let the tears escape only to fall onto her exposed shoulder. "Damn it all," I repeated aloud. I felt her stroking my hair softly, just like she did when I would go to her house as a child and cry over the abuse I suffered. She never knew why I would cry, but she would always be there to comfort me.

I pulled away, wiping my eyes and looking at her. "This is your fault," I huffed, and she cracked a small smile and laughed a little.

"Sorry, I didn't want to be the only one crying," she said. "I won't tell anyone, Axel, I promise." She stood, holding out her hand to me.

"You aren't mad?" I asked, accepting her extended hand.

"Why would I be? Something tells me that they were doomed from the start. Roxas never really seemed all that into Naminé anyway." She looked toward the door. "To be honest, I'm surprised it even lasted this long." I got to my feet, wiping my eyes even more, getting rid of any and all traces of my tears.

"I can't believe you got me to cry," I complained, straightening my black vest.

"I can't believe it either," she laughed. Glaring, I grabbed her wrist and led her toward the door. She opened it and walked back inside and towards the bathroom. "Thanks, Axel. For listening…and talking to me," she said. I looked away from her face, feeling my own heating up in embarrassment. She stood up on her toes and kissed my cheek. "It's nice to know my cousin of stone actually has a heart," she told me before disappearing behind the door of the girl's bathroom.


Xion's POV

"I'm fine, so don't worry so much, Larxene," I said tiredly into the receiver. I heard clanging in the background and assumed she was making this call from the kitchen of the restaurant.

"Did you finish your homework? Brush your teeth?" she drilled out. I rolled my eyes, thankful that she couldn't see me preforming the action. I heard her sigh, the static being the only thing I could hear for a moment. "I'm not really sure when we'll get in tonight, so don't wait up for us," she decided on saying.

"Okay. Just be careful on your way home!" I forced a bright smile into my voice before abruptly hanging up the phone. The minute I let it go, my face fell in defeat. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a bag of chips before charging back up the stairs and into the safety of my room. I'd be lying if I said my conversation with Roxas earlier wasn't still on my mind. He definitely knew something was up, but he wouldn't say anything. I did as he said: I stayed in my room all night with the exception of answering Larxene's phone call. I did all my homework, even the stuff not due for a week, and I even finished the novel I was reading. I opened the bag of chips and looked at the new book I was reading. It was a true testament to my desperation for entertainment in the safety of my room.

I was reading a dictionary…and I was part way through the 'F' section by the end of the first hour of reading it. I'm rather sad.

"Fear," I read aloud, popping a potato ship into my mouth. "A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, or pain, et cetera…" I trailed off, taking another chip, "…whether the threat is real or imagined…" I sighed, flopping back onto my bed in defeat. Reading the dictionary just isn't my thing, I guess.

According to the dictionary, I guess I was fearful of what Roxas said earlier…I also found out that I'm despondent, according to that book.

That stems back to the argument with Axel that I'm growing to regret more and more these past few days. Well, I'd felt bad about it since he sent me to live with Marluxia and Larxene…but I asked for it. I was the one who overreacted. I always knew my relations with Axel were not like that of a father and daughter, not to mention—if I did the math—he'd have to have become a father at fourteen to be my biological father. That alone should have told me he wasn't my actual father. Plus, my parents never really showed much affection beyond hugs. They never kissed like other parents did.

I rolled over and pulled a picture off my nightstand and stared at it sadly. It was my mom's last birthday. Axel had used six months of salary to rent a small sail boat since my mom used to sail with her family when she was little. We even had a picnic and cake. It's the only clear memory I have of my mom when she wasn't sick.

I guess I did miss him. No, there wasn't any guessing involved. I did miss him…a lot. I put the picture down and ate another chip. It's decided then! Once Larxene and Marluxia get home, I'm telling them I want to go back and live with my dad again!


Startled, I dropped the bag of chips onto the floor beside my bed. I stared at the door to my bedroom when I heard yet another crash. I crawled quietly off my bed and tip-toed across the floor quietly and pressed my ear to the door.

"Damn it! Could you have made any more noise?"

"Sorry! Not like it matters…she's probably sleeping already. What kid doesn't get into loads of trouble when the adults aren't home unless she's sleeping?"

"If you're wrong and alerted her to our presence, I'm telling the boss it was your fault."

I stumbled back from my door, bringing my arms to circle my body in fear. What should I do? What do I do? I looked to the bag of chips on the floor and back to the door. Maybe I can hide in the closet? No, that's too obvious. I moved the bag of chips to the centre of the room and crushed a few in my hands and made a path to the door. Grabbing another handful to crush, I opened the door quietly and tossed them into the hall before slamming my door shut. I stood back for a minute and ran to hide under my bed. If I'm lucky, it'll look like I ran from my room and went to hide in the attic. The door to there is always locked, so it'll look like I locked myself in there. Hopefully, that'll keep them busy long enough for me to come up with a better plan. I heard the creaking of the stairs and closed my eyes. I heard the hushed voices of the intruders again and tried my best to hear what they were saying.

"The trail is leading to that door. Try there, I got this one."

The door to my bedroom opened slowly, and I saw a pair of muddy boots enter my room. They took a few tentative steps into the room, and I only assumed he was looking around the room. Another pair of cleaner ones walked into the room and stopped right before me.

"The door the trail leads to is locked. I guess she heard us~"

"Idiot! This is your fault!" the muddy boots yelled. The clean ones stepped back, stepping on the bag of chips.

"Oh, maybe she was breaking rules after all," he snickered. "What do we do now?" he asked the other.

"According to the file, this kid is smart and pretty slippery too. She did live with the young lord for most of her life," he explained. Young lord? Who are they referring to? "I think that this is too obvious." The muddy boots walked closer to the bed, forcing me back a little more against the wall. "Wouldn't you agree?" The clean ones walked over to the bed as well.

No! Was I found out?

"Gotcha!" I screamed when a hand shot under the bed and gripped my hair tightly, forcing me to come out. To my surprise, the one with the clean boots was wearing a police uniform as he forced a gag into my mouth while the other's grip in my hair tightened the more I struggled. "Clever, little girl. Ma non basta per ingannare noi," (3) the one behind me whispered. "Tie the ribbon to her bed post," he ordered. Tears welled in my eyes as I struggled even more in the other's grip, ignoring the pain on my scalp as he undoubtedly pulled my hair out.

They're part of that group in the news! Incubo Cremisi!

"Stop struggling, I can't—" He tried to change his grip on me when his partner appeared again.

"Allow me," he said, placing a cloth to my face. I continued to struggle, but even as I did, I felt my body growing weaker and my eyelids growing heavy. Loosely, I thought about all those movies I used to watch with Axel late at night. He said it was called chloroform. I closed my eyes, too tired to fight anymore.


Roxas's POV

I'm such a coward.

"Thank you so much," Naminé said sweetly as she smiled at her guest. People had been coming to talk to her all night, and I still couldn't work up the courage to talk to her about anything. Anytime I had a chance to talk to her, or if she talked first, I ended up digressing from the topic. I continued to swish the red liquid around in my glass, knowing better than to drink the evening away. I felt a finger tap on my shoulder, and I turned to see my father standing there.

"Rox, you stare any more intently at that glass, it might actually explode," he said in hushed tones. I huffed, cracking a small smile as he pulled up a chair next to me. "You're worrying your mother, and she's forcing me to talk to you. Are you okay?" he asked seriously. I nodded, but paused midway deciding to shake my head instead. He cocked his head to the side in curiosity.

"I need to talk to Naminé about something, but I just…can't work up the courage to say anything," I sighed. He nodded after a minute before sending a side long glance to the table where my mom sat with my Uncle Sephiroth and Zack.

"You getting cold feet?" he asked, and I nodded. "Not ready for marriage or…is there someone else?" he continued. I looked away, not sure how I wanted to answer the question exactly. "Break it to her gently, but don't be surprised if she gets violent," he instructed. I looked to him, and he smirked, clasping my shoulder as if to say 'no matter what happens, I'll still love you.'

"Hey, Mr. Strife!" I looked over my shoulder as Naminé stood behind my chair. "I didn't see you there." She smiled warmly. My dad smiled back as best he could.

"I was just talking to my son, Naminé. Though it seems he needs a private word with you, so…another time then." He stood up and patted my shoulder before walking away. I sent a silent 'thank you' to him for doing what I couldn't. I looked to Naminé, clasping her hand tightly and running toward the front doors of the restaurant, giving no one the time to intervene and steal away her attention. Pushing the doors open, I pulled Naminé to stand against the brick wall of the restaurant. I relaxed when the silence of the street washed over me; a welcomed change from the noisy restaurant.

"Something wrong, Roxas?" she asked me quietly. I looked at her and wondered what it was I should say. I spent almost the entire evening wondering how to get her attention…I didn't really think about what it was I was going to tell her when I did get it. Damn it! "If not, maybe we could talk later? I think we should get back—"

"It's not supposed to be like this!" I yelled suddenly, stopping her from moving back inside. "Is it? Things shouldn't be this awkward," I said in a much quieter voice. She moved closer to me.

"Roxas, I don't understand…" I looked at her. Her hair was pinned up with glittering barrettes, and she wore a sparkling white, knee-length dress with a pair of heels. She was beautiful…but I just couldn't see her the way she wanted me to see her. I couldn't love her the way she wanted me to.

"What I'm saying is…that this isn't going to work," I decided on. He said tell her gently, and that's what I'll do. I'll give her the news and wait for a punishment. "I love you…just not the way you love me. You see, I…" I sighed. How am I supposed to tell her this without being blunt?

"There's someone else, isn't there?" she asked brokenly. I looked at her and saw the tears welling in her eyes. "I thought that you were just scared, that we could get past all this awkwardness and that after the marriage everything would be all right again, but…" she wiped her eyes. "Just be honest with me: who is she? Do I know her?" she asked quietly.

Of course, the question I dreaded answering the most.

"Naminé…you…really don't want to know the answer to that question," I pushed, looking at her seriously. "Trust me when I say that you'll be better off not knowing." I turned away from her again. I wasn't really sure what would come next. I heard her quiet sobs and wanted to comfort her, but that probably wouldn't have been the smartest idea since I was the cause of them.

"Roxas…" she called my name brokenly. I turned back to her just in time to receive a harsh slap. "Answer my question, damn it!" she yelled. My head was facing away from her after the slap, but went to a bow the minute she yelled. Naminé doesn't yell and she certainly doesn't cuss. She was serious.


She was quiet for a moment.

"Are you trying to blame him?" she demanded. "I wanted the name—"

"And I gave it to you!" I yelled, suddenly getting defensive. "Four years ago, I was dating Axel Lea. I thought it was just an experimental thing…but here I am, and I'm still crazy about him! I'm sorry, Naminé. I really, truly am—" I was cut off as she slapped me again. I let it come and took it for all it was worth. I probably deserved far worse.

"Don't…come back to the room tonight," she declared quietly, pulling away and turning back toward the restaurant. "I'll tell my dad," she said, closing the door behind her. I stared after her, watching her make her way toward her parents as they shared a toast with my parents. How convenient. I leaned against the wall of the restaurant, sliding down the wall and sitting on the sidewalk. I pulled my knees to my chest and placed my head on them and let out a long awaited sigh of relief. We aren't going to get married anymore. I don't have to worry anymore…but this feeling. What's causing this tightness in my chest? Is it because I'm afraid that even after all this, Axel and I may not even get together? Would he even trust me if I told him I wanted to be with him?

"I'm so stupid!" I muttered. "So incredibly stupid. What did he ever see in me?" I felt hot tear welling in my eyes at the thought of the inevitable rejection.

"I think it was your eyes," I looked up suddenly to see Setzer standing to my left, away from the windows so only I could see him. "They show one hell of an emotional typhoon, that's for sure." He smiled. I glared hard, all other emotions smothered by hatred.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I demanded, jumping to my feet to approach him. He placed a finger to his lips and smiled.

"Do you really want to alert people to my presence? I may have to kill you if Axel found out I was here~"

"As if you weren't already planning to kill me!" I roared back, not giving him the time of day. "I helped you as best as I could, now leave me the hell alone—"

"But you're the answer," he pointed out, stopping me dead in my tracks. "I kindly invite you to join the party back at my base of operations. I'm sure my two other guests would love to see you, Roxas." My glare faltered as I glanced back at the party. "Of course, you're free to say no. I'm not stopping you if you aren't in the mood for a get-together. You seem to have quite the celebration here already!" I took a step back. "But I can't guarantee anyone's safety in there if you say no…" I whipped around to look at him. He leaned back into a comfortable position, picking at his nails. "You see, Kuja is quite cross with me this evening," he looked down the road where a faint pair of headlights could be seen cruising down the street. "I ordered a drive by to scare everyone, but as I said…" He looked at me with a cruel smile.

"Please! Don't hurt anyone in there!" I begged, hating the way his eyes lit up with excitement. He pulled a phone from his pocket and pressed a button.

"Darling, please don't break the china," he said into the receiver, causing me to glance at him, confused. "I know, I know, you're upset about the stain on your dress…just wash them, all right?" He hung up. "Problem solved." He reached forward, pulling my arms behind me. "Sorry about this." He pulled his arm around my neck, keeping me in a sleeper hold. As my struggles weakened, the headlights got brighter and there were a few more in view. Then I fell unconscious.


Axel's POV

"Axel! Come over here!" Kairi called, waving from the opposite side of the restaurant. I sighed, walking over to her. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Roxas pull Naminé out of the restaurant quite urgently. Before I had a chance to turn and track the two down, Kairi jumped up and pulled me down to her level. "Tell Hayner to say 'yes' to Seifer's proposition!" she demanded.

"That's why you brought him over? Damn, woman, the man's working!" Hayner yelled, slamming his fists on the table.

"Come on, Ax! Please?" She gave me puppy dog eyes, and I sighed again. I couldn't find it in me to turn her down after her confessions earlier, so I simply nodded. "Ha! Call him now, Hayner!" she pointed dramatically at him. Said man simply brushed her off, going back to his dinner.

"Mind me asking what's going on?" I asked. Sora jumped up this time, slapping me on the shoulder.

"I'm glad you asked, Axel!" He laughed heartily, Kairi joining him. Riku simply sighed, muttering his zealous boyfriend's name before face palming. Zexion sat at the table too, I noticed, but he was turned around and talking to Demyx while he was on a break from performing.

"As you may or may not know already," Sora began, "our precious friend Hayner has been seeing Seifer, his longtime rival," he said. I frowned. Last time I checked they hated each other and were just that: rivals. "Seifer has to head overseas to study abroad so he can finish his education and suggested the two finally tie the knot!" he gushed.

"Hayner has like, two days until Seifer leaves for a two-year-long program and refuses to answer!" Kairi roared in the blonde's face—as if that would get the point across—but he simply ignored her. I heard the door open and turned automatically at the sound to see Naminé rushing inside and heading straight for her parents. I looked out the door and watched Roxas slide down the front wall and out of sight. That was odd, what happened—

Not like I care! I'm done caring about that blonde menace!

"We haven't told anyone because we never wanted anyone to know! Why the hell would we get married? Is that even possible?" he yelled back, standing and leaning over the table just like Kairi to glare at the girl up close and personal.

"Yeah! I mean, Riku and I got hitched!" Sora smiled stupidly at Riku. The silver haired man looked up and the corner of his lips twitched up in a slight smile as he patted the other's hand.

"I'll answer him when I damn well please, Kairi! Keep your nose out of my business and I'll give my answer tomorrow!" he yelled defensively. Kairi pulled back, turning and giving the blonde a sidelong glance.

"What is your answer?" she asked smugly.

"Yes, of course!" he screeched, catching the table and a few surrounding ones off guard. Kairi smiled, patting his shoulder. When he calmed down enough to realize what he said, he sighed in defeat. I patted his shoulder and nodded. At this point, it was the smartest choice for him. I looked toward the window and furrowed my brows when I couldn't see Roxas. What was that idiot doing now? I walked closer to the window, my arm slipping from Kairi's grip as I stood before the glass. I saw a few headlights up the road and watched them slow some. From the light of the street lamps, there were three cars that all looked the same. I looked the other way and saw Roxas slumped on the ground at the foot of an unknown figure.

"Roxas," I breathed. Kairi bounded up beside me and followed my gaze. She gasped and turned to run toward the door. I reached for her hand, turning to look out the window when the first car reached the restaurant…

…and began firing a gun.

I pulled Kairi to my chest and forced her to the ground when the chorus of screams filled the air. The ringing of shattering glass erupted as the screams and cried got louder, rivaling the repetitive rounds of many guns firing. I used myself to shield Kairi as I forced her to crawl forward on the ground. When we reached the table, I lifted the cloth and forced her into Hayner's arms as he hid with the others. Riku was holding Sora close, keeping the smaller toward the back wall and away from the windows. Demyx was on top of Zexion and was using his arms to protect Zexion's head. I went to turn away, but Kairi reached out and held my hand in a death grip, her eyes wide with fear. I looked into her eyes, unable to actually voice what I wanted to say…but she understood, and let go of my hand.


I had to get out there and get Roxas. I crawled out from under the table as the last shots rang through the air. I jumped to my feet, running toward the broken window and hopping over it with surprising grace. Unfortunately, when my hand went to rest on the wall to allow me to hop through the broken windows, glass imbedded itself into my palm, but I paid it no mind. I landed just in time to see a car door slam shut and take off.

"No! Roxas!" I yelled, beginning to run after the car. I stopped where Roxas had been moments before and saw a red ribbon on the ground and felt my blood boil.

Incubo Cremisi… Damn them!

I whirled around and ran for my motorcycle, starting it up quickly, discarding the helmet and taking off down the road in the direction of the tail lights. I won't them take anyone else.

I won't let you take anyone else!


Chapter Translations via Google Translate:

Lord, please, restrain yourself!

I cannot wait to kill you, kid.

But not enough to fool us.