Last chapter is up! Bitter-sweet for me...


Chapter 9: Love is not the End


Sora held him for a while, and that was a lot longer than Roxas was usually able to stand ever, but it was okay since Sora was quiet, and he wasn't saying all sorts of things that Roxas didn't want to hear.

Riku watched them from the corner of the room again, but he didn't look awkward, or mad, or bored. He wasn't sure what Riku was thinking—and really, he never was—but he supposed as long as he wasn't walking around touching things or trying to make him talk, then he could do whatever he wanted.

Sora had stopped crying, which was a relief, which meant he could too. Also that meant he could stop feeling like a pathetic weakling, and more like a pathetic weakling who wasn't also blubbering. There was still an unanswered question that was nagging at his mind though, a question that he wanted to make disappear when he closed his eyes.

He didn't want to know. He did, but he didn't. He didn't want to imagine…and what of Hayner, and no, if anyone ever found out about this, especially…and how…

How did he get in the hospital in the first place?

The question…there. it ringing through his head like a funeral bell through the caverns of his mind and body, ringing and ringing and ringing.

"There's someone outside who needs to see you," Sora said before Roxas had the chance to ask him about something unrelated like dinosaurs or aerobic exercise. "I've been stalling because I know it's going to be hard for you, but mostly because I wanted to yell at you in private." He looked back at Riku and pursed his lips. "Well, whatever."

"Who?"

Sora made a face at him, and then Roxas's heart stopped beating and froze every drop of blood in his body into ice. "No."

"What do you mean, no?"

"I mean no Sora."

"You don't even know who I'm talking about. How can you—"

"Sora, the answer is No." He scrubbed at his eyes with a starchy sleeve and glared. "What, did you run and tattle on me? I'm not doing it. Tell him to leave."

Sora chewed his bottom lip like he was being apologetic or something, then he sighed like maybe he wasn't being apologetic, but pitying instead.

"You kind of owe him at least that much."

Roxas snorted, then regretted it because his nose was dry and it hurt. "Owe him? I don't owe anyone anything. No."

Sora gave him the pitying look again, and Roxas wished he had kicked him out earlier. He wasn't really in a position to where he could protest (and Sora knew it, because he started walking towards the door even as Roxas yelled at him and called him every name he could think of).

"Sora, get back here!"

"Trust me," Sora said quietly, taking Riku's hand and steering him towards the door too. "I'd tell you, but I think this is probably better."

"Sora! Stop playing games with me!"

There was a brief moment when the room was empty, just after Riku's tails of too-long hair disappeared behind the door and he couldn't hear the squeak of their wet boots on the floor. It kind of reminded Roxas of what it must have felt like the moment after somebody jumped off a building, and all the thoughts and worries and feelings they had right before hitting the ground.

Then the moment was over, and the door opened, and Roxas wanted to die.

.


Axel.

Axel didn't look too well, Roxas observed, as his heart was trying to escape his chest, and his breathing was doing its very best to not happen. He felt like his body was going to implode on itself from shame, embarrassment, guilt but even he couldn't be self-focused enough to not notice that his skin was chalky, right beneath a couple of bruises and a busted lip.

Roxas wasn't sure what facial expression he was making, because to be honest, he wasn't even sure if he was alive anymore. Axel didn't say anything.

A hard swallow and a random hiccup.

Green eyes that stayed glued to the floor.

The only thing Roxas could think to do was say something stupid, and since saying and doing stupid things had been second nature lately, it sprung to his lips without much effort.

"What happened to your face?"

Axel's eyes left the floor, and Roxas wished they hadn't because they looked, in his opinion, worse than his face. Something in there was broken.

"I'm glad that you're okay." He said quietly, and that was it, which was the second reason since he had walked in that Roxas had to question just what was going on. That was never it. As much as Roxas hated to admit it, he was in the hospital with unanswered questions and an alarming blank space in his memory. Axel could not be finished.

"That's it?"

"What's it?"

"What are you doing here?"

"Here to see you."

"And that's it?"

"Yeah."

Roxas closed his eyes so that he could figure out how to arrange his face into a scowl, then did so with as much fury as he could muster. "I'm fine. Leave."

"You're mad already," Axel said in a kind-of-laugh and walked closer, completely ignoring what Roxas just said. "What did Sora tell you?"

"I don't like that you're having conversations behind my back like that."

"Couldn't really be helped…considering the state of things."

"Don't. He's making me see you. I owe you something?"

Axel snorted, and Roxas didn't like it. "Owe me?"

"So I'm told."

Axel shrugged. "You don't owe me anything, Roxas."

"Then why are you here?"

"I can't come see my friend while he's in the hospital?"

Roxas snorted just like Axel did—intentionally—and rolled his eyes. He could tell exactly where this was doing, and wasn't going to let it happen. "I don't trust you."

"Why?"

"Don't toy with me. Something happened, and I know you have something to do with it. I don't want to know what it is, I just want you to leave so things can get back to normal."

Axel put both hands on the bed rail, and glared at him like he had just kicked a baby animal.

"Axel, get—"

"Just listen to me, okay?"

"No."

"You're talking about Hayner, aren't you?"

"What, he's not 'what's-his-face-today?' Yes, I'm talking about him, and being normal, and you not being here. Once I'm out, we'll talk and everything will—"

"He's not coming back for you."

"Axel, you're not—"

"He's not coming back for you, Roxas. He's not."

"You have no idea what Hayner's going to do. You're just—"

"He's gone away. Jail, something…whatever. He's there, you're here, and I'm standing in between you."

Roxas scoffed and shook his hand away, now officially fed up with everybody named Axel and Sora. "That sounded cute. What are you, prince charming? Trying to take me away from some nightmare you think I live in? You don't know anything, and I thought I told you not to get involved in my relationships. Get out of my room!"

The last part, he screamed. And he could only tell that he was screaming because there was a soft noise against the door like someone (Sora) was leaning against it trying to decide whether or not he should come in. Sora could come in all right. He could come in, and he would yell at Sora too, because both he and Axel were crossing every line he had ever drawn.

Axel just stared at him more with broken eyes, eyes that didn't suit him, and Roxas much preferred it when he was doing that slow blink he always did when Roxas lied, or something equally annoying.

"I hit him, you know." It was a whisper.

"You what?"

"I hit him," Axel said louder. "I hit him in the face. And then I hit him again, and again, and again. Broke his nose, maybe a tooth. Know why?"

And then Axel leaned in really close, too close, because Roxas could see the shine in his eyes, his skin, and the muscles flexing beneath. It was too close, because Roxas couldn't hide, and knew right then that no matter how much he denied, begged, and pleaded that Axel was going to tell him the truth.

"Because he was hurting you."

In one sharp, sudden instant, Roxas lost all of the breath in his body, and all of the feelings in his limbs. Vertigo. Nausea. Emptiness.

The bruises on Axel's face—his swollen eye and cracked lip—they all started telling a story, and then he understood what it must feel like to have his insides ripped out and splayed out for all the world to see.

"What…what did you say?"

Please, nothing, nothing, nothingnothingnothingnothing . He couldn't have seen. No one, Axel wouldn't understand, it was just their thing…sometimes Hayner just needed to…sometimes…nothing was wrong.

"I saw him hurting you, Roxas. I saw him step on you like you were nothing."

Axel's hand found its way around Roxas's face—both of them—and Roxas's ears were burning and so were his eyes, and just about every other part of his body that could possibly possess a nerve ending. Burning in pain, burning in grief, burning in shame, burning in everything.

"You're not nothing Roxas. No one can ever treat you that way."

A sob broke out of Roxas's voice before he could call it back and retain whatever tiny bit of self worth he thought he had left. Because now Hayner was gone, and it meant that he was alone again, and it also meant that whatever dignity he thought he had left from the secrets and the lies were also steadily washing away with the tears down his face. Sora knew, and Riku knew, and Axel knew how pathetic things had really gotten.

"Great," Roxas said with a sniff, because trying to hide it at this point was not only useless, but also impossible. "This is great. Now you know the extent of my desperation, don't you? Ridiculous, right? Pathetic, too?" Then more tears came and Roxas wanted to die even more, because he couldn't stand himself. "I am...well...was in a relationship that was clearly one sided for forever because I'm not good enough for someone else to want me, and now that it's over, everyone's all 'I told you so, Roxas,' and 'How could you let this happen to yourself?' Well, you and Sora were right, so please just do me a favor and postpone the celebration for when I get out of here, because I really, really, really, can't deal with that right now."

Axel was just watching him cry, and Roxas couldn't blame him, but when he moved his thumbs to wipe away some of his tears and looked down at him with the same not-annoying broken eyes, Roxas found himself a little confused, and mostly well…he wasn't sure what the other things were.

And Axel kissed him.

Before Roxas's brain could even possibly register what was happening, Axel kissed him again. On the lips, on his nose, on his forehead, lips again. Then he kissed his cheeks, right where the tears were streaming from his eyes in a wet, salty mess. He kissed each eyelid, too, softly, slowly, meaningfully. And then he just held his face in his hands a while longer, really staring at him as if to memorize every line, or to tell him something, or both.

"We'll only celebrate you healing."

Stunned, shocked silence.

"Don't cry."

A wet hiccup from a stupid mouth connected to a stupid brain that was too shocked to be of any use."Don't…tell me what to do."

Axel cracked a smile, which looked awful with the condition of his face, but it was also kind of perfect. "You always leave your stuff at my house," he said quietly, moving his hand from Roxas's face to his back pocket where for all Roxas knew held what was left of his mind, and things that made sense.

Instead it was something shiny and golden, something Roxas had forgotten about too long ago to matter.

His apartment key.

"Found it after you left the other day. I came over to return it to you…maybe to start a little trouble, but whatever."

"You…"

"Worth the pending trespassing and assault charges." The smile broke into a full grin, but Roxas probably wouldn't have been able to tell if he had just sprouted another head because he still didn't know what to think. He pressed the key into Roxas's hand.

There was a knock at the door, but it clearly was a formality because the door swung open anyway. Roxas caught a glimpse of Sora's face—he was chewing his lip—before it was obscured by a uniform-clad nurse.

"Hi," she said in a voice that was too kind for her face. "I'm sorry but visiting hours are ending. I'll have to ask your friend to leave for the night."

Axel shrugged, which Roxas was kind of surprised to see because Axel usually did whatever Axel wanted, and that didn't usually fall in line with what other people wanted Axel to do. "It's fine. We can figure out whatever this is later," Axel said making a vague gesture with his hands at the air. The space included Roxas, and he couldn't pretend that he didn't notice.

The nurse looked confused, if not a little impatient. Axel ignored her, and Roxas appreciated it.

"You rest." Axel said backing up. "I'll come see you tomorrow."

Then things happened all too quickly, and Axel was gone, and the nurse was gone, and the room was empty except for Roxas and the machines, and the key.

It was still in his hand, warm from his skin and how hard he had been clutching it. He looked it over, thinking of Hayner, and what everything meant, and just what it was he was supposed to do from here.

"We'll figure whatever this is out later," Roxas muttered out loud, tucking the key behind his pillow and settling into it. It sounded awful, and so much like Axel.

Maybe that wasn't a bad thing.


Thank you again for reading. I know this was short - it was meant to be a brief exploration of a life moment. I actually meant it to be shorter than this but it kind of got away from me, and...yeah. Anyway, thanks for sticking with this so far. As always, if you have a moment, please offer feedback.