AN: Written as my fourth piece for the summer prompt challenge that I'm taking on with my best friend, Le Requiem and my other best friend who I think wishes to remain anonymous because she's shy. We've sort of been sucking at keeping up with our weekly postings because Le Requiem's computer keeps breaking -_-;; But we should be back in business now.

AN2: This takes place the night before the Struggle Tournament.

Prompt 4: At night, while you sleep

.xxx.

It's a curious thing, how quickly life unravels. If it hadn't been for the picture-thief, perhaps his summer would have continued on as it was meant to—lazily and easily, ending with a trip to the beach and some sea-salt ice cream, before the return of school for another slow year. Roxas, however, knows somewhere deep in his heart—and he will later learn, or remember, really, just how ironic that is—that the thief wasn't really the start of anything, just the first, tangible manifestation of a demise that was always on its way.

He's more numb than usual when he goes to bed that night, sinking past his typical, impassive, unexpressive, rock-like self into a state of near comatose proportions. He expects that his dreams will be full of the Boy in Red again (he capitalizes the words in his mind because the boy feels too familiar to not have a name, even if Roxas has no idea what it is) and memories that feel like his but aren't, though he's sort of hoping that maybe he'll dream about something else or won't even dream at all, because the dreams are just more proof, intangible and misty as it may be, that something, something is coming and he can't do a thing to stop the inevitable.

But when he closes his eyes, rather than falling into dream-memories, he lands somewhere different, betwixt and between sleeping and waking and dreaming and living; he finds that warm, hazy place, and there's someone waiting for him. On the fringes of his consciousness, he can sense a presence.

'Who's there?' He thinks lazily, half uncaring and half relieved and is he really feeling anything at all?

'A friend," drawls a voice, like it's the simplest, most obvious thing in the world.

'He always did talk like that… like everything was so easy.' Roxas wonders where that thought drifted in from, and doesn't respond to the stranger.

At his silence, his shadowed companion sighs. 'Man, oh man… you are still such a zombie.'

The words echo, not in the air but in his mind and Roxas feels the static of a far-off memory scraping at his mind with sudden clarity.

'…What?'

The memory fades away and the muffling haze returns.

'Still pretty slow too, apparently.'

The words are mean, but the voice is friendly and Roxas is reminded of the tolling of a clock tower.

'So… Where do I know you from, again?'

The laugh is short, just two syllables, yet Roxas hears it reverberate in the fuzzy darkness.

'Work.' He laughs again and this time Roxas chuckles along too because the situation is just so odd.

'Friends laugh together,' he thinks—remembers, really—and chuckles again because it's the only thing that makes sense. Everything in his waking world is sort of going to hell, and he's left, stuck between sleep and waking, laughing with a shadow. It all feels familiar in a vague, scratchy way that leaves him wanting to reach into his brain and pull out the truth.

He and the stranger-friend laugh again before it fades away, like the dying sun's light.

'I know why the sun sets red,' he thinks idly, before realizing that he's making no sense at all, and hasn't been for a while now.

He hears the stranger-who-is-not-a-stranger sigh and thinks he knows exactly what the accompanying expression should look like. There should be tired, green eyes and a shaking head and a gloved hand raking through shockingly red hair in agitation.

'D'you… remember anything from before?'

The static is back and Roxas wants to say yes, but the only sentence he can produce is, 'Before?'

'Guess that answers that…' There's another sigh, and he envisions more head-shaking.

Roxas tries again, wanting to get it right, wanting to tell somebody what's going on. And who better to talk to than a shadow? 'I mean, I get… bits and pieces…. Flashes." The words are like lead in his mouth, fighting him tooth and nail as he grinds them out and continues, 'But… some of it, isn't me. Some of it is—'

'Sora.'

A piece falls into place and suddenly the Boy in Red has a name. Sora.

And Roxas needs to know more. He needs to know more because the end is coming, his end is coming and he can feel it and he just needs to know.

'You know him?'

There's another laugh from his companion, yet it holds no humor, only sharp edges.

'In a way.'

'Can you tell me anything? I just…' he trails off, unsure of how to finish.

Five beats and there's still no response, and the haze grows thick and Roxas can't feel his heart pounding. Then—

'Three-hundred and fifty-five.'

'Huh?' It's a response that should be random as anything, yet Roxas feels a shifting in his head, phantom sensation, like wiggling a loose tooth.

'You were with us for three-hundred and fifty-five days. It's been three-hundred and sixty-one days since we first met. Sheesh, I thought you had it memorized.' The last part is added in a poor attempt at levity, yet it twists the corner of Roxas's mouth in a smile even as he presses onward.

'What happened?'

'You left.'

There's a ringing in the back of Roxas's mind and five words echo through the fuzziness.

'No one would miss me.' A dark street, eternal night, the number thirteen and a heart-shaped moon haunting the sky.

'I left….'

'You wanted answers.'

'And somehow… I still don't have any.'

And again, Roxas finds himself wishing that things had simply ended with the picture-thief. Or even before the pictures were ever stolen. There would be no memories-that-aren't-memories-but-sort-of-are, no cheerful Boy in Red, no mysterious girl in white, no black-cloaked man following him, no monsters trying to kill him, and no friendly shadow conversing with him while he tries to fall asleep.

As he thinks the last bit, he feels as though he's losing a friend.

Numbers flash through his head and he has to ask—

'What about the number thirteen?'

'It was all of us. It was you.'

'I'm not gonna get any straight answers from you, am I?'

That short laugh breaks free again. 'You tell me. This is your world, not mine.' The voice sobers. 'Roxas, I don't have a lot of time but… there's one thing you've gotta remember.'

'What is it?'

'We were best friends. We are best friends. Got it memorized?'

Maybe he's too numb to argue, or maybe he's just not numb enough, but Roxas finds that the sentiment isn't as strange as it should be.

'Best friends.' He tries the words out himself and finds that they seem to fit.

'You better believe it. And you better not forget it again! Remember that, and things'll go a lot smoother. If you forget it…'

As the voice trails off, Roxas hears a hint of hesitance that sounds a lot like tension and a little like fear with a shade of regret, and he thinks that if he didn't know this stranger so well—and he realizesremembers that he does—then he would've missed it.

'We're best friends. I got it.'

He says it with certainty and the tension dissipates.

The in-between place is loosing its hold on Roxas and he finds himself sinking closer and closer towards sleep. Just before he goes under, just before his shadow-friend slips away, he feels the weight of the truth creeping up on him—black coats and keyblades and hearts and heartless and the Organization and most importantly, a name. It all rushes to him even as he's slipping under, and he knows that if there's one thing he can't forget, it's the name and—

"Goodnight…Axel."

There's a short laugh, a hand ruffling his hair, and then his mind goes blank.

.xxx.

When Roxas wakes the next morning, it is with the distinct and unsettling feeling that something important, something essential, has been lost. He remembers nothing from the night before, save for falling into the deepest sleep he's had in recent memory and the fading shadows of a familiar conversation.

Shrugging off the feeling of loss, he goes to find Hayner, Pence and Olette.

.Fin.

Fun Fact: I am absolutely terrified to post this. It's my first KH fic and… I'm not sure I know what I'm doing here. Any feedback would be GREATLY appreciated, because my two best friends (while lovely, and immensely talented individuals) are not familiar with Kingdom Hearts, and so… they can't really help me with characterizations, etc., etc. Also, I disclaim anything you recognize! SquareEnix owns it all.

*scampers back to FFVII fandom*