"You can't just expect us to go."

Xemnas stares at the two of them, troublemakers, problem causers, and sneers, spitting at their feet. He turns, and leaves.

"He can't just expect us to go!" Axel repeats, shouting now, running a hand through that noticeable hair.

"I'm pretty sure we're not going." Roxas says, voice flat.

"But we're supposed to – "

"I'm pretty sure we're not going."

Axel learns quickly that such a tone brooks no argument.

They fight Heartless. It's what they do, after all, and simply being told to stop doesn't mean they will, as Roxas is so fond of saying. Axel seems smaller here, outside the castle walls, less bright and vibrant, less alive.

"You able to keep going?" he asks, deceptively casual.

"I'm not going anywhere."

"You reckon you can just stop here?"

"There's no problem yet."

The sound of a keyblade through Heartless is like a knife through hot butter, and Axel turns his attention back to the fight.

You never know when you might need a friend.

Marluxia is the first to face them, lazy, idling his way to their little stakeout like a kindly benefactor, bringing sustenance for the poor homeless kids. Axel nearly runs to him, nearly shouts, swears, glows in the sunshine, but Roxas has been watching.

"You bastard!" Axel shouts, when he sees the vines, and remembers that he has been exiled, "You think you can get away with this?"

It takes a good half an hour, but then Roxas is standing over a charred, bleeding corpse, and smiles to himself, a little sick, a little proud, and kicks the body over, so that face isn't staring up, frozen in place.

"No." he says, that manic glint in his eyes, "He can't get away with it."

When Demyx is finished with, Axel is sick, quietly, and spends the next two days staring into space, ignoring all of Roxas' attempts to talk.

"He didn't fight hard enough."

"He didn't want to live."

"He didn't care about you."

"He didn't understand."

Everything Roxas says is followed with an echo:

"Not like I do."

When Roxas says Demyx never loved him, Axel punches him in the face.

The next day, they carry on, as if it never happened.

"You ever try it with a guy, Roxas?"

"With anyone."

"With anyone?"

"Why not?"

It's not complete surprise, but the kid fits all the right places, even if he does insist on getting on top.

Afterwards, Axel can't make eye contact, and jokes, and shortens his name.

'Rox' doesn't explain how pretty and bright those sapphire blue eyes really are.

"Who's left."
"Must be down to Organisation Five by now."

They share a small laugh at that, Axel with his arms tight around Roxas, staring at the stars.

"Do you think anyone misses us, Rox?"

"After – "

There's a small moment where neither of them speaks, when Axel presses a gentle kiss to Roxas' jaw, which makes both of them flutter their eyelids. They have killed every day so far, and tomorrow will be no exception to the rule.

"Rox." Axel breathes, and knows he will survive.

Saïx loses.

"What even was he?"

"Wolf… a creature."

"A pet." Roxas scoffs.


Roxas stiffens beside him, then cards a hand through that oh-so bright red hair, digging his nails in a little, ignoring the blood under them.

"Are you mine?"

The way Axel unhappily laps his old comrade's blood off his lover suggests that, maybe, he didn't have as far to fall as he once thought.

"I'm no prize."

"You're a jewel, Rox, a fucking gem."

"I'm not."

"I want to lock you away from all the people who look at you like you're not."

"You'd have to lock me away from everyone, then."

"Just you and me, against the world, Rox."

"That's how it should be."

Axel stares with blind hopelessness at his lover, fierce and determined at the thought of this fight, eyes glittering as they do for nothing else.

"Yeah," he says, ruffling the blonde's hair, "Yeah."