This could be considered a prequel to another story I've written (A Collection). Well, I say 'could' be considered. It most definitely is. However, you don't need to have read A Collection to enjoy this.

Anyways! Murder, magic and mayhem await, and perhaps a little romance if you squint a bit. Some swearing, some snogging, that's about it. If you don't like trees being beaten, then please walk away, because I'm afraid a tree is injured over the course of the events. If you have come looking for random naughty scenes, this has actual plot so you might be disappointed, although there is a tiny hint of smut somewhere.

Everything Squeenix-like probably originated at Squeenix. The Will and the Word belong to David and Leigh Eddings, though, but I hope they don't mind me borrowing, because if they do, I won't know where to go. Also, 'Speaking' is my own meandering concept.

Oh yes - I should be very interested to read what people think about this, so please, let me know!


Prologue

He was almost out of breath, running as fast as he could. The heavy weapons dragged him down and made his back ache, and his pursuer was still catching up. A stitch caught on his left side and he collapsed to his knees, wanting to thump the ground in his frustration, but without the energy to do so. He heard the footsteps behind him slow up and could almost hear the grin. Roxas was almost ready to give in.

"Well, Roxas, your weakness has failed you. Are you ready to be mine?" Roxas tried to think of a response, but didn't know what to say. He was completely spent. A light by his foot caught his eye, and time seemed to slow as his brain registered what it was seeing. The ground began to glow in a wide curve in front of him, and he smiled.

Ten foot high flames burst from the aether in an enormous circle around him, and Roxas suddenly knew he was safe.


Chapter 1 - in which Roxas meets a nice boy.

"You know, you DO seem to just brighten the day, Rox." The blond blushed slightly at his companion's compliment, and muttered an embarrassed thanks. He looked at the picture in his shaking hands again, trying not to crinkle the edges of the vellum. The figure in the picture was depicted in an exaggeratedly beautiful style, as was typical of the artist's work. He was slim, blond, blue-eyed, illustrated in bold and completely over-saturated; the emphasis of the piece being the subject as a shining light. The markers added a rough texture to the overall image. Roxas finally lifted his eyes from the artwork, to lock eyes with the artist in question. Naminé grinned cheekily back.

"Is... is this how you see me? I thought we talked about..."

"Oh hush, Roxas, that was years ago, I'm over it now, you idiot. Iknow. It's like Pence said, you brighten our day. You're just happy, it makes us happy. And I'm poor so stop getting flustered and say 'Thanks, Nami, it's the goddamned best birthday present I've ever gotten, you're the best, blablabla' and we can all get on with the cake."

Hayner burst into laughter and rubbed a rough hand through Roxas' hair in as patronising a fashion as he could imagine. "Yeah, Rox, we want cake. So thank the girl and let's get on with it!"

Roxas snapped out of his thoughts and smiled at Naminé, and whispered,

"Thanks, Nami. It's great, really great." Addressing the rest of the group, he said, louder, "Cake time now!" There was a quiet cheer from the table's occupants, and Hayner took it upon himself to start dishing up the cake Olette had turned up with at the start of the day. Pence greedily stole a larger portion, Olette halved hers and plonked the remainder on his plate, grinning at him, and Hayner gave Naminé and Roxas a slice each, kissed Naminé's hair and began to shovel cake into his mouth at a ferocious speed. Naminé picked up her fork and began to slough off small chunks of cake, and brought them to her lips, but was cut off by a noise from behind her.

The woman behind her was holding out a piece of paper, which she handed to Roxas with a polite smile. He thanked her, and she turned and left. Despite knowing what was contained in the letter, Roxas dutifully lifted the flap and read the note. Hayner grunted at him.

"Seriously, Rox? On your birthday?"

Roxas shrugged at him. "Heh, doesn't matter, just means I get to skip a class, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, well, but cake!" Hayner protested.

"We're going to Tiana's later anyway, so it's ok! Besides," he said, plunking his fork in his cake and picking the slice up whole, "I don't think that'll be an issue." With that he opened his jaw wide and stuffed the entire slice into his mouth, and managed to close his lips afterwards. Pence and Olette burst out laughing at his comical hamster cheeks, and Hayner grinned.

"Yeah, alright. See you in sixth."

Roxas nodded, gathered his bag, and stood to leave. "Famps, Mamimé!"


'Elegant', Roxas thought to himself. All he could see as he peered through the headmaster's door was a black-gloved hand on a feminine, jutted out hip. The glove was leather, and obviously quite expensive, but Roxas had no idea why it was even there. He himself was clad in shorts and teeshirt, and even with the fans in the ceiling going strong, the heat was stifling. He fanned himself with the notification he'd received earlier, hoping he didn't appear as sweaty as he felt.

As a member of Twilight High's welcoming committee, it was a fairly common occurrence that Roxas would have to meet and greet a new student and then show them around the school. He certainly didn't mind today, as the class he was skipping was history, and he didn't much care for attempting to stay awake post-cake while his teacher droned on. Getting to avoid that was a blessing.

Roxas wondered who the new girl was. The last three people he'd shown around, all of which had been the previous year, had been male, and he had been beginning to wonder if the headmaster, a genial soul named Cid, was trying to set him up.

Twilight High had a fairly open attitude to inclusion - there was a club for everything, and every May the LGBT society (hilariously named 'Flaunt It!', though no-one felt the need to) held a Mardi Gras-like parade that was second only to homecoming in terms of popularity, and definitely first in terms of hookups. As such, the sexual preference of pretty much everyone in the school was loosely known. Oddly, despite Roxas' much-discussed appearance, he had the largest obstacle to asking him out - Hayner. Roxas and Hayner had been best friends since practically before birth - they were first cousins, and Hayner was aggressively protective over his diminutive, delicate-appearing cousin. As such, he tended to throw himself into the organisation of the parade, rather than the enjoying of it. Given that, it was still no surprise that Cid amuse himself by purposely selecting a student whom he thought would be compatible with the new incoming student - he himself had set up Flaunt It! over 40 years ago when he passed through the school as a student. The fact that he was happily married to a portly woman named Shera who had borne four ridiculously overachieving children did not diminish his support for the club.

The indistinguishable chatter from the room suddenly became clear, and Roxas heard Cid's voice approach the door. He stood quickly to meet eyes with the headmaster, whose gaze twinkled as he pulled open the door and stepped aside to reveal a most definitely un-female tall boy behind him. Roxas visibly started, but quickly recovered and affixed a winning smile to himself.

"Axel Valentine, this is Roxas Coopla. He'll show you around. Roxas, this is Axel, he's a senior who just transferred from Radiant Garden, he's looking to apply for TU." Twilight University, on the outskirts of the town, was one of the leading arts and history universities in the whole Kingdom, and it was somewhat common for students to transfer into senior year when they wanted to attend, as Twilight High students were given preferential placement. "Axel, see me Friday to talk about how you got on. Good luck, and have a good week. Any concerns, you know where to go." The new student nodded, and turned his attention to Roxas, and Roxas was able to make a first impression. Axel was very tall, alarmingly skinny and had an enormous mop of spiked, flaming red hair. He wore black, frayed skinny jeans, converse shoes, and a bright green t-shirt with some kanji across the chest. Several colourful leather straps vied for space on his right wrist, and a battered watch took precedence on his left, though a few bands were here too. Most distinctive, however, were his acid-green eyes, which regarded Roxas with a calm arrogance. Roxas swallowed and found his voice.

"H-hi." He coughed. "Uh, come with me, I'll show you where everything is." He had a thought. "Have you gotten your timetable?" Axel nodded, and his top lip curved upwards into an amused grin. "Oh, ok, come on then!" He turned to lead.

"Nice to meet you, Roxas."

Roxas would have laughed, but for the inflection that Axel put on his name - it was powerful and commanding, yet detached and amused at the same time. It was almost... No. With some effort, he gave a brief chuckle and managed to return, "Hehe, yeah, nice to meet you. Follow me, then."


Roxas had given the school tour many times, and he could tell Axel was less eager than most - he seemed either distracted or uninterested, but he nodded politely and appeared to take in what was being told to him. They found his allocated locker along the way, which by luck was just across the hall and a few down from Roxas'. Axel removed a lock from his bag and stuck it on the outside of the locker, removed a piece of paper from his bag, scribbled something hastily on it, then shoved it roughly through the vent. Roxas looked questioningly at him, but he offered no explanation, so Roxas carried on demonstrating where various classrooms were until they reached the end of their little journey - the gym. It was empty, and so Roxas opened the door to show Axel the facilities, but when he turned around to hold the door open for the redhead, he started - Axel was staring, wide-eyed, around the room. His eyes moved slowly around the absolutely enormous gym, taking in the gymnastics equipment at one end, the basketball court at the other, and the steam coming out of a room at the farthest corner from where they were which could only be the locker room. Roxas smiled inwardly, remembering his first reaction to seeing the gym.

Incredulity was justified - the gym was one of the largest indoor rooms Roxas (and, evidently, Axel) had ever seen. The ceiling was over one hundred feet high, and, over the basketball court end, held an array of lights clearly designed for a stage. There were folded flat bleachers against the walls on three sides of the court, and the same at the far end. Fold-away wall panels along the long walls of the room showed that the room itself could be divided into small sections, but open like this, it was breathtaking. Axel's eyes were gleaming, and he muttered to himself something Roxas could not distinguish. He turned suddenly, and looked at Roxas with excited eyes.

"Hey Roxas, is there a martial arts club round here?"

Roxas gave a small nod. "Yeah, on Thursdays after school there's some kind of club. I don't know what they teach though - I think it's a little multidisciplinary. My friend went there for two years and came out doing capeoira and ju jitsu, so I guess they do a bit of everything, maybe. It's not just for schoolkids though, people from the town do it too. The gym gets booked out for a lot of stuff - there's a huge diary just outside that tells you what's on and when, and who runs what. You do martial arts?"

Axel smiled a small knowing smile, and answered, "A little. It was more for my brother, though. He would go NUTS if he saw this place. He's a bit hyperactive, he likes big spaces he can run around."

"How much younger than you is he?"

Axel let out a barking laugh. "HA! Reno! He's twenty, just on a permanent stupid sugar high. I swear it affects his ability to think, he's dumb as a post but faster 'n anything you've ever seen. I can't wait to tell him this is here, he'll freak."

Roxas looked idly at his watch, then sharpened himself to attention. "Uh, nice. Listen, Axel, do you know what your next class is? Only the bell is about to go and we're reeeeeeeally far from some of the classrooms."

Axel nodded and fumbled in his dilapidated messenger bag for a little purple plastic folder with the school's logo on it. He rifled through the sheets within, studied the timetable for a second, then said, "MWY-411 - uh, where's the key, why can't they make this cle- oh, found it. English lit. In the music room, apparently. Makes sense."

Roxas rolled his eyes, and replied, "I'm taking that class too. Before you ask, I've always been one English class ahead of the curve, I'm not some superkid, I just like words. Come on, it's right back where we started so we need to get going." As if to accentuate his point, the bell went, and the sound of doors opening and students pouring out echoed through the open doors to the gym. Roxas led Axel out of the gym, and walked to the music room, where the senior class were starting to arrive, waiting for their teacher to arrive. Roxas took his usual seat in the third row, and Axel, after a moment's hesitation, took the seat next to him. Some of the seniors nodded politely, and then went back to their own little chattering conversations. The teacher arrived and hushed the noise, flung her books on the table and closed the door to the music room. She sat on the edge of the desk, searched the room until she saw Axel, and smiled.

"Ah, there you are. Class, we have a new senior student starting today - Axel-" Her eyes shot open wide and she reached back for a piece of paper atop her bookpile, and squinted at the handwriting that was evidently illegible. '-is that Villentene?"

"Valentine." Axel corrected quietly.

"Valentine. Okily doke. Right, well, welcome Axel. Hope you can read fast because I don't tolerate anyone who hasn't already read the material before class. Ok, everyone, we're starting Macbeth today - hey!" She said the last word indignantly to a chorus of groaning in the room. "Come on, give it a try. I KNOW it's hard going, but there's murder, madness, death, dismemberment, and even a twist ending. Depending on the adaptation, there's a bit of jiggy in there too." At this, the class perked up and she began to remove the tattered copies from her bookpile and pass them out. "So we're gonna read it out like we're actors doing a run-through. Three witches to start off with - who wants to be a witch?" Axel winked at Roxas and stuck his hand up.


When shall we three meet again?

In thunder, lightning, and in rain?

When the hurlyburly's done,

When the battle's lost and won.

That will be ere the set of the sun.


After the English class ended, Roxas showed Axel to his final class, demonstrated where his first class of the next day was, and then bid him farewell. However, he slid a piece of paper with his number on it into Axel's hand, and explained that if he was stuck for anything, he was available. Axel accepted the paper and stuffed it into his pocket with a polite nod, waved a tiny wave, and walked into the classroom. Roxas watched through the windows to see the slim boy take up a seat at the back of the classroom. As soon as he turned, however, Roxas ducked out of the way and waited for his heart rate to return to normal. He examined his hands, and made the decision to head to the bathroom, to wash the sweat from his palms. He sped into the bathroom, ran cold water and splashed it over his face, finally examining himself in the mirror. His cheeks were flushed, and there were several beads of sweat at the side of his brow at his hairline. Roxas grimaced, and said to himself,

'Roxas, you need help. What are you gonna do next, have a frickin' nosebleed?' The image made him giggle, and he thought about what if he did that in front of the older boy. He wondered if the blood would manage to match Axel's burning red hair, and decided that unless it could glow, there wasn't a chance.

Roxas was stunned. He had realised several years ago that he was totally uninterested in girls, but until today, he wondered if it was just a phase, or a sense of equality, or just to be difficult - he had been open to the concept, but, despite his general reputation, he had never had anyone he was particularly interested in from the male side of life, either. Briefly, the thought flashed across his mind that perhaps it took the right person, and Roxas' pituitary gland evidently had been jolted into action by the redhead. He was beautiful; smooth, pale skin, mischievous eyes, just the slightest edge of danger. Roxas had noticed that he had the tip of a tattoo poking out from under his left sleeve, but no more. His right ear had been decorated with a number of piercings and scaffolding, something Roxas had always wanted to do but never thought he would be permitted, but his left ear was totally unadorned. In a word, he was perfect.

Roxas just hoped to god he remembered that he existed.


The final bell rang, and Roxas gathered his bag, wandering past his locker and dumping some books inside. As he left the building, he spotted his own friend group on a bench next to the car park. He waved at them, then slowed his pace. Behind them, leaning cavalierly against the front of an enormous black Mustang, was a figure who was unquestionably related to Axel. He was of a similar frame, and he wore a black suit, despite the heat. A pair of sunglasses hid his eyes, framed by long red hair tied in a ponytail in a shade even brighter than Axel's. He was definitely older by several years.

A bump against his shoulder jolted him forward, and he raised an arm to rub it, while giving a dirty look to the student who'd brushed against him. However, when he saw Axel winking back at him, he froze his face and attempted to adopt a neutral stance.

"Thanks for today, Roxas. See you tomorrow." He took off in the direction of the waiting car. The driver grinned at him and walked around the side, meeting Roxas' glance as he went. Axel got into the passenger seat and the car reversed and drove away. Roxas finally found his voice.

"You're welcome..." At that point, Hayner yelled at him to hurry his butt up, so he shook himself out and hurried over to join the boisterous group.

"What a jerk! He hurt you Roxas?" Hayner's aggression was somewhat undermined by Roxas bursting out laughing.

"Chill, Hayner. He was just saying thanks for showing him around, that's all. No sweat. WHO'S HUNGRY!" A chorus of 'me!'s echoed from the bench, and as such, the group all piled into Pence's VW van, and they trundled off to Tiana's. As they pulled out, Hayner whispered in Roxas' ear.

"He shoved you, Roxas, you almost fell over. If he touches you, I'll kill him."

Roxas gave him the filthiest glare he thought possible, and hissed back, "Back OFF Hayner, I know him three hours. You have GOT to stop being so protective, it's really disrespectful and getting on my nerves." Hayner's eyes widened in shock, but quickly narrowed into a look that clearly said 'we'll have this out later'.


Sweat dripped from fiery crimson tendrils. Another lash sounded out, but no sound other than the muffled grinding of teeth was audible in the dim room. Deep in the bowels of the large house, an ebony-haired man smirked and raised his arm once more.