[KH] Desperate Reflections 11

Chapter Eight – Shared Melancholy

He awoke for a second time that night, scarcely two hours later. His head jerked up from the bed, the pillow having given up the fight for room on the mattress and fallen to the floor, leaving him lying alone on his stomach. The covers were twisted about his legs as if he had been having disturbing dreams, though truthfully, he couldn’t remember a thing. Axel blearily peered around, trying to determine what had jerked him from his sleep.

The sound came again. A strange scratching noise on the far wall accompanied by the echo of frightened whimpers and pained moaning. He easily recognized the voice as belonging to Vincent and the symptoms as well. The winged man was suffering from a nightmare, and from the sounds of it, the nightmare was particularly bad.

He had often heard Vincent in the middle of the night, as he was certain the older male had heard him so that was nothing new. But this… this sounded particularly awful, causing a tendril of fear to curl in his belly. Despite his anger of earlier with him, whatever affected Vincent to make him sound like that was not something that should be experienced. And as the man had been gracious enough to wake him from such nightmares before, it was the least Axel could do to return the favor. Combine that with his strange behavior of earlier and the noise that sounded like Vincent was scraping his claws along the wall, and Axel was up and out of his bed in a flash, heart pounding strangely in his chest.

It was chilly, the air having cooled during the middle of the night. Accustomed to sleeping shirtless, Axel was clad only in a pair of loose pajama bottoms that draped dangerously low on his hips. But he gave only a cursory glance to his attire before he slipped out of his room, silent as a ninja and crept down the hall towards Vincent’s bedroom.

Surprisingly, the door was not firmly shut as he had expected, but slightly cracked and the lamp next to the bed was on. Vincent must have left his room sometime after coldly informing Axel earlier in the evening to leave him alone. He crept up the opening, deciding to take a peek before just barging in. His eyes widened at the sight, Vincent tossing and turning on the bed, claw marks on the wall and the older male covered in a sheen of sweat. In his flailing, he had already succeeded in slicing open one of his cheeks and if he wasn’t stopped, he would probably hurt himself further.

Cursing himself for allowing the dark-haired man to brood on his own earlier, Axel swiftly pushed the door open and strode into the room. “Vincent?” he called out. A muffled groan was his only response. He would have to be louder.

His face set with grim determination, Axel gritted his teeth and bent over the bed, grabbing Vincent by his bare shoulders and squeezing. He was so pale, the older male, and without the dark garb, it was really evident.

“Vincent,” he demanded a bit louder. “Wake up!”

Eyelids shuttered, revealing crimson eyes absorbed with pain but the other male didn’t wake, his wings likely crushed painfully beneath him. Vincent usually slept either on his belly or his side, this much Axel knew, but he had tossed himself onto his back. His face had twisted into a snarl, lip curled back ferally, revealing his fanged teeth. If it weren’t for Axel’s determination, he might have been slightly alarmed by the sheer mix of terror and rage on Vincent’s expression. As it were, he was more concerned for him.

Axel shifted his position slightly, half kneeling on the bed as he hovered over him. “Vincent!” he tried once more, this time his voice sharper. When that didn’t work, he made one last attempt, a little more drastic than the others. A hand reared back and he executed a sound slap to the winged man’s face.

The response was unexpected.

Scarlet eyes flared open as Vincent growled, one flailing arm immediately locking on a target and slicing out angrily at Axel. Four slashes raked down his chest as he was forced backwards by the man’s greater strength, pin wheeling off the bed as his face twisted with pain and sliding into the dresser. Objects crashed to the floor, many shattering where they fell as Axel’s back slammed painfully against the hard wood, nearly knocking the breath from his body. It took all his will to remain standing, neck having snapped painfully from the collision.

Axel was stunned, barely able to blink back his surprise as his breath hitched in his throat. His back throbbed and ached but he was more concerned with the bleeding marks on his chest. One pale hand rose up of its own accord, touching the slashes gingerly. He winced. They burned and stung, already seeping blood and dripping down onto the carpet.

“Oh god,” murmured Vincent, gathering Axel’s attention. Emerald eyes looked up to see the winged man staring at him, horrified at what he had done. Vincent scrambled off the bed, ignoring the pain in his wings as he tore off the entangled covers and immediately dove into the drawer by his bedside. Clawed hands rummaged about, finally wrapping around whatever it was he sought.

Axel watched with a sort of stunned fascination, still reeling from what exactly had occurred. Vincent had never struck him before and he could only hope that it was an aftereffect of the nightmare. Nevertheless, his knees buckled beneath him and he slumped to the floor, wincing as his back throbbed and the movement pulled the already tender skin of the slash marks.

“Ow,” he mumbled, cringing as the pain began to stab through him.

He heard feet padding across the carpet and looked up to find Vincent approaching him, a first aid kit in his hands. It looked well used, a fact that Axel filed away for questioning later. As it was, he was in too much pain. Kneeling beside him, Vincent set the box on the floor and opened it.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured quietly. “I didn’t mean…” The older male trailed off, for a moment staring helplessly into the first aid kit as if he wasn’t even sure what he was supposed to be looking for.

Axel interrupted him; however. “It’s okay,” he assured the distraught dark-haired man. “Just… fix it. I’m bleeding all over the damn place.” Vincent nodded and sighed as he reached for a roll of white cotton bandages, gingerly handling the fabric so as not to unravel it with his claws.

The red-haired man sighed and leaned back against the chair, grimacing as Vincent wrapped the wound but otherwise handling the pain. It was degenerating into a dull throb anyways. “What happened?” he asked, hoping that his guilt would invoke Vincent to answer his question rather than brush him off.

The hands on his abdomen stilled and Axel could practically hear the cogs in Vincent’s head turning as he considered his options. There was a hitched breath as crimson orbs fell to the side, shoulders finally slumping in acquiescence. Behind him his wings shifted and twitched, obviously unharmed by his earlier tossing and turning on the bed.

“It is often that a Gatherer arrives too late to save someone,” responded Vincent softly, hands moving to tend to the wound once more. “But it is rare for it to be someone you actually recognize.”

His ears instantly perked at what appeared to be answers to questions he had been harboring for a long time. The pain faded as Vincent slathered some type of ointment or salve over the slash marks. “You recognized someone tonight?” he questioned softly, keeping his tone even and gentle. He didn’t want to scare Vincent away and hoped that the older man would keep talking.

“No,” responded Vincent quietly. “But I did lose someone tonight. He could have been a boyfriend or a brother or father…” he trailed off, crimson eyes solemn as he concentrated wholly on wrapping bandages. “I should have saved him.”

Axel frowned slightly. “You can’t be there to save everyone,” he commented, some of Vincent’s melancholy seeping into his own heart. “That’s just impossible.”

“If I can’t save my own brother, then what is the purpose in even doing this?” Vincent countered sharply, his tone a bit more sharp then he had meant it to be. He took a deep breath, calming the irrational anger that cropped up in him. “I may not have known the man tonight but I failed when it counted.”

“Y–your brother?”

The winged male nodded. “Zack would have been strong enough to remember. He would have made it through the cleansing, I am sure of it.” His hands began to tremble as he swallowed thickly. “He wasn’t the type to be beaten easily. But by the time that I arrived… the beasts were already…” He trailed off, unable to complete the thought but Axel understood well enough.

“You were dreaming of him,” he asked, tentatively, concerned that he was going too far judging by the literal plethora of emotions that were shadows across Vincent’s expression. He scarcely noticed the pain of his wounds anymore as his heart thudded in his chest. Vincent looked so… torn.

“Yes and no. Not that exact event but what brought me here,” he replied.

When Axel raised a brow, a silent request for him to explain, Vincent took a deep breath and finished wrapping the last bit of bandages over Axel’s wounds. He sat back on his heels, wings twitching restlessly behind him. “The last time I saw Zack, we argued about my decision to help Ansem in his experiments. Both he and… well, they were both opposed to it.”

“They?”

Vincent nodded. “Zack and… my lover.” Unconsciously, one clawed hand rose to his neck, where the set of tags hung on his pale chest. One finger traced over the engraved initials.

The firestarter shook his head as he waved a hand of dismissal. “I dunno why you keep hiding it. Your lover’s name is Cid, isn’t it?” For some reason, Vincent thought it was his best kept secret but Axel had put two and two together long ago. Either Cid was his lover or some family member but the way Vincent reacted, Axel was willing to bet his life that Cid was more to him than just family. There was love there, passion, and devotion.

Vincent lowered his gaze as he shifted in his seat, hands twisting in his lap as if he were anxious about something. “Thank you.”

Axel furrowed his brow, confusion settling inside of him. “For what?”

Vincent smiled then, but only briefly as he raised his gaze. “For not saying was. I still want to believe that he remembers me and is waiting, despite how long it’s been.”

He decided to take a risk. He ignored the aching in his back from leaning against the drawer, or the knob that was pushing into his spine. He sensed that he wasn’t going to get a chance like this again and in many ways Vincent needed to tell someone. As it was, he was the best one for the job. “Tell me about him,” he suggested softly.

“I can’t. Because if I do…” Vincent shook his head and continued, his voice hitched. “I can’t bear it. And sometimes I don’t know if I can bear this any longer. It gets hard,” he paused, scraping a clawed hand through his hair, disheveling already bed-tossed strands. “So hard and every day, every goddamned day, all I have to cling to are these memories and all they do is haunt me. Whispers of things I used to have and ghostly touches of what was. I just…” He sucked in a deep, haggard breath, leaning forward and burying his face in one palm as his entire body shuddered.

It seemed as if any moment Vincent was going to break down, leaving Axel at a loss what to do. He was holding on by a thin thread to his control and he wasn’t used to seeing Vincent look like that. He always seemed unbreakable, untouchable. Vincent was strong and stoic, seemingly unflappable, even when Axel was having little freak-outs of his own.

“Vincent,” he murmured, searching for the right thing to say or do. He reached out to lay a hand on Vincent’s bare shoulder, thinking to offer some consolation as his fingers brushed across dark strands. A strange sensation passed through his hand but he didn’t pay it any attention, too intent on comforting the man he always believed to be indestructible.

Perhaps Reno had been right when he said that at some point, Vincent was going to break and as it were, there was no one to catch him. For all that he had done, he deserved for someone to be there. Axel might not have any experience with reassurance or comfort, but he was damned determined to try.

At his touch, Vincent’s hand slid down from his face and he looked up, something indescribable glinting in crimson eyes. Axel didn’t know how to define it, only knowing that he swallowed thickly, his fingers curling against a pale shoulder.

Their eyes met and a strange feeling passed between them, one that Axel wasn’t quite sure how to identify. Crimson eyes seemed to bore into his skull until Vincent leaned forward, almost hesitantly, their faces mere inches apart. Before Axel could even question him, Vincent closed the distance between them, their lips meeting in a gentle kiss.

He stiffened in surprise at first, but relaxed at the pleasurable sensation. Soft and sensual lips worked against Axel’s, lightly pressing as the unique smell of the winged man filled his senses. The touch was almost comforting, soothing something inside Axel that had been longing for such intimacy.

It ended quickly. Vincent pulled back with evident reluctance as his gaze fell, lowering his head at the same time. “My apologies,” he said, softly. “I didn’t mean… I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry.”

Axel frowned slightly. “Why?”

Vincent was quiet for a moment, the only sound filling the room was that of the ticking clock and their harsh breathing, until he seemed to regain a semblance of composure. “Most people are frightened of their nightmares. They would rather end them as soon as possible.” His head turned to the side, gaze locked on the far wall. “But here, where every memory is a precious commodity and fleeting in its entirety, even the nightmares are something to be cherished, even the terror and horrible deeds I’ve committed… I struggle to hang onto them as long as I can because they are all I have any more.”

It was then that the winged man redirected his attention back towards Axel, the hurt and sorrow reflected in his gaze enough to make Axel breathe sharply in surprise. “I’ve been here so long that I wonder if I even know how to truly be human anymore… if indeed I even knew to begin with,” he added a bit more bitterly.

Axel swallowed thickly as he caught the liquid shimmer to crimson eyes. The misery and sorrow in the room was palatable, so heavy that it sunk into his heart as well. “You are human,” he assured softly, reaching out a hand and laying it lightly on Vincent’s shoulder. “If a nothing can exist, then there is no doubt in my mind that you are human.” Without knowing why and reacting on pure instinct alone, responding to some inner voice, he gave a gentle tug, pulling Vincent towards him and pressing their lips together once more.

It was only the second time that he kissed someone in his short existence as Axel, but apparently every person was born with the capability to know how to react in such a situation. He was startlingly aware of all the little things. The softness of Vincent’s lips, the exotic scent of the winged male, and the sharp acrid hint of his own spilt blood. His hand burning hot on a pale, chilled shoulder. The shuttering of his eyes closed and the heavy silence, except for the thundering of both their hearts. It was both strange and right.

He gently took the kiss deeper, sliding his tongue along the seam of Vincent’s lips as he input every emotion he could think of, proving with actions what he could never quite articulate with words. It eased the loneliness inside of him and in many ways made the ache easier to bear. Perhaps it was what Reno had meant all along.

Then, tentatively, a hand cupped the back of his head, tangling in red spikes as Vincent finally began to respond to the kiss, massaging his scalp gently with clawed fingers. Lips parted and soon their tongues were sliding together, tender and hesitant, as if neither was quite sure what the other was attempting to do.

It occurred to him, as lips moved over his and a hand slowly snaked around his waist, that they might be making a mistake or that he was doing what he said he was never going to do. It was a brief thought that flitted away when he realized that somewhere along the way, he had grown to care for Vincent. And while it wouldn’t match his desire to return to Roxas, it was enough to make him continue his soft ministrations, leaning forward into an embrace as arms wrapped around him.

Until all of the sudden it ended, Vincent pulling back from the kiss and staring down at the floor as if it held all the answers. “You shouldn’t do that,” he said softly, beginning to unwind his arms from Axel’s waist.

The firestarter quickly grabbed his arms, stilling his movements. “Why?”

Vincent shook his head. “You don’t owe me anything and I’ve no need for pity.” He sighed. “I did not save you or even befriend you for this purpose. Not like Reno would lead you to believe.”

Axel couldn’t help but chuckle at that even though the situation was far from amusing. “You think I kissed you because of Reno?” he questioned with a raised brow. “Well then, you’re sorely mistaken.” He gripped the other man’s chin gently with his hand, forcing Vincent to look up at him. “Everybody needs somebody sometime.”

Crimson eyes narrowed. “You don’t know what you’re offering.”

The firestarter shrugged. “So show me.”

Vincent sighed, shaking his head at his roommate and dislodging the gentle touch to his chin. “Axel.”

Axel’s lips thinned in the beginning of annoyance. Really, Vincent was ruining the moment. No wonder no one lived with him. He probably scared them all away with his rationality and common sense. “Look, I’m an adult. I think I can make my own decisions.”

Vincent shot him a disbelieving look. “You’ve never done anything before.”

“So?”

The winged male sighed and sat back on his heels, brushing dark strands of hair out of his face as he looked around them for the bandages. “Go back to your room, Axel. You have to be up early tomorrow.”

The firestarter groaned, recognizing both that tone of voice and the use of his name. Vincent meant to tell him what to do. “No,” he responded stubbornly, setting his jaw as he narrowed his eyes. He grabbed thin shoulders, squeezing his fingers to gain the other’s attention. “You can’t keep doing everything on your own.” He shrugged then, a lascivious smirk taking over his features. “Besides, I don’t want Roxas to have a lame boyfriend. Just consider it… a lesson in dating.”

Vincent opened his mouth, probably to protest again, but Axel didn’t wait this time, pressing forward to press his mouth to Vincent’s once more. All protest was cut off, becoming little more than a dull rumble in the winged male’s chest. Axel didn’t understand his own reasoning for a lot of things, but this he felt was justified. Roxas would understand, he was sure. And he couldn’t deny that a part of him was selfish as well.

He wasn’t completely blind to Vincent’s attractiveness, nor was he able to deny that he had been lonely. While he treasured Vincent and Reno’s friendship, there was a part of him that craved the physical affection that came with emotions. While he could remember them as a Nobody, hugs and fond embraces were few and far between in the Organization. Like Vincent, he desperately wanted to be reminded that he was human again, and not just a vague reflection of one.

The kiss deepened as Vincent finally began to take some initiative, realizing that Axel was just as stubborn as he. Axel was grateful that Vincent was mindful of his canines as the other man began to trail a light spattering of kisses along his jaw and down into the sensitive flesh of his neck. They were gentle nips that made his skin shiver and his body thrum with a flush of arousal.

As one clawed hand wrapped around his waist, the other slid down his bared chest, brief, ghostly touches that made his hair stand on end. He shivered despite himself, wondering where he should put his own hands and finally settling on placing them loosely around Vincent. He tried to concentrate wholly on the sensations and stop worrying. He focused on the feeling of belonging.

He forgot about the fact that they were on the floor, or that his chest was bandaged and still stinging slightly. He allowed himself refuge from the pain that threatened to consume him, the longing and the loneliness. He sighed softly as a hand made its way to his pants, the first touch accompanied by a subtle leap in his stomach matching the leap of his aroused cock. He sucked in a sharp breath without meaning to, instantly alerting Vincent to his inner reaction.

Vincent’s lips disappeared from his skin in a flash as the crimson-eyed man pulled back with evident reluctance, fingers still lingering on the band to Axel’s sleep pants. “I don’t think–”

“Stop thinking,” Axel interrupted quickly. His fingers shot out and wrapped around Vincent’s wrist, refusing to allow the other man to relinquish his hold on Axel’s pants. “Stop worrying. I know what I’m doing.”

Vincent shook his head, a small smirk tugging at the corner of his lips though Axel could only catch a part of it from the position of Vincent’s head. “Stubborn bastard,” the winged man muttered before dipping his head, running a warm tongue across Axel’s chest, enough to make the younger male shiver as his head fell back.

After a moment, the hand at his waistline began moving again, nimble fingers dipping below the band and pulling it down to expose his needy and aching cock to the slightly chilly air. A flush of embarrassment spread across Axel’s face but it was quickly washed away when those talented fingers wrapped around his length, stroking him firmly. His body reacted of its own accord, undulating into the touch as soft whimpers of desire reverberated in his chest.

Vincent chuckled lowly before his tongue sought out Axel’s nipple, curling his tongue until it pebbled beneath his touch, causing the firestarter to whimper helplessly, completely succumbing to the pleasure that wracked his body. His hand fell away from Vincent’s wrist as he bucked his hips into the fingers currently providing him pleasure.

“Uhng,” Axel groaned, unable to find a coherent thought as the warm mouth descended on his body until hot breath was ghosting over his straining flesh. His every muscle tensed in anticipation. Tingles raced through his body as a tongue curled around his head, lapping up a drop of precum before the entire mouth wrapped around his cock, enveloping him in slick heat.

He moaned helplessly, his blood roaring through his veins as his toes curled. It was better than he had imagined and certainly better than his own hand could provide. A slick tongue stroked along the underside of his cock and he shuddered, feeling his entire body overtaken in a flush of warmth. He groaned feebly, hips moving in a restless yet steady rhythm in and out of Vincent’s mouth, all self-consciousness washed away by the pleasure.

Clawed hands gently gripped his hip, holding him firmly in place while Vincent’s talented tongue continued to work over his cock. Teasing touches that lapped over the sensitive skin of his shaft. Delicate scrapes of teeth. Suction at all the right places with just the right amount of pressure. Axel moaned, biting on his bottom lip as the pleasure built inside of him, becoming an exploding crescendo that roared in his ears and his veins until he knew nothing but the scrape of a tongue and the slight prick of claws on his hips.

His hands, desperately seeking some place to gain ground, entangled themselves in dark black strands, clinging tightly. Vincent began to apply gentle suction, firmly rubbing his tongue along Axel’s length. Almost embarrassingly, a mewl of pleasure escaped from the redhead’s throat as the pressure inside of him built up incredibly rapidly as his hips began to thrash of their own will.

It was so good, so damn good that he couldn’t even form a coherent thought. As if sensing his nearness, Vincent drove down deeper taking in Axel’s entire length. A gasp escaped from Axel’s mouth before he could help it as heat shot through his body, igniting coils that tightened in his belly and swelled his cock, almost unbearably until it broke and his fingers clenched as his entire form jolted. He spilled inside of Vincent’s mouth with a breathy shout, his body arching as great waves of blinding pleasure washed over him.

Vincent continued to pleasure him through the spasms as Axel shuddered, breathing heavily as he allowed his head to fall back against the wall. He carefully extracted his hands from dark hair, allowing them to fall limply to the ground when one last tremor wracked his body as Vincent let Axel slip from his lips.

Then a mouth was closed over his, hot and hungry, tongue slipping between his lips seekingly. Vincent’s chest pressed close to his and the evidence of the winged man’s arousal poked Axel in the thigh. Blood rushed through his veins at the thought despite his recent orgasm and he greedily accepted Vincent’s lips on his, vaguely tasting the salty flavor of his own cum. The taste probably should have disgusted him, but oddly enough it didn’t. He wrapped his arms around Vincent’s waist, mindful of the wings as he pulled the older man closer, devouring his mouth. His blood roared loudly in his ears, heart beating madly in his chest.

Fangs nipped at his lips as Vincent’s hips moved restlessly against him, the awkward positioning not allowing him much room for the desired friction. Axel let one of his hands slip from Vincent’s waist, trailing down the soft yet scarred skin as he tentatively reached for the older man’s pants. With deft movements, he undid the button and zipper before reaching in for the straining arousal, already dripping with precum. His fingers wrapped around the thick flesh, his first tentative stroke pulling a purr from Vincent’s throat.

One of Vincent’s hands braced itself on the wall behind Axel as he leaned into the inexperienced touch. Slick fluid coated Axel’s hands as he sped up his stroking, enjoying every soft sound and murmur of pleasure that echoed in Vincent’s chest. Arousal built up inside of him again, setting his skin ablaze when clawed fingers of Vincent’s other hand tangled in his hair, pulling his head gently back so that lips could trace along his jaw, heading towards his sensitive neck.

Suddenly, the floorboards beneath him made their presence all too known, digging into his ass and thighs, and the wall behind him was making it incredibly difficult to maneuver. The distraction became more than he could handle and before he knew it, he was gently pushing against Vincent, his back thanking him quite profusely.

“Unless the mattress is made of wood,” he suggested, breath hitching when teeth grazed over a particularly erogenous zone on his neck. “The bed is more comfortable.”

Warm lips brushed over his skin before heated breath followed. “Yes, it is,” agreed with winged male, slipping one hand down to stroke Axel’s erection once more.

That was the final straw. An answering moan of pleasure echoing in his chest, Axel surged upwards, catching the older man off balance. They stumbled to their feet before stumbling backwards towards the bed, Axel tripping on his pants as they slid down his hips, hampering his movements, and Vincent suffering the same. Their lips met in a flurry of desire as they struggled to wriggle out of their pants, finally managing to stumble onto the bed, pantless, with Axel strangely ending up with Vincent on top of him.

Kissing continued, a frantic exchange of hungry lips and tongues. Any loneliness they had suffered from vanished in the comfort of each other’s touch. For the moment, they pushed aside that they were trapped on a world, far from those they truly loved. It was enough to have that comfort. Anything was better than to suffer alone. And perhaps it was something they never even needed to speak of again. Like the despairing nightmares and the feelings of depression that soaked in until they could not even function. Maybe… what happened on Gaia’s Grotto… stayed on Gaia’s Grotto.

Nevertheless, Axel’s mouth hungrily sought out Vincent’s as webbed wings stretched above them. Axel’s hands restlessly wandered over the skin of Vincent’s chest, rubbing over a peaked nipple as Vincent rubbed their groins together, each brush of the older male’s erect flesh over his sending sparks of pleasure throughout his body. He groaned deep in his throat, the sharp flavor of his own blood entering his mouth when he cut his lip on Vincent’s fang. He ignored the slight pain. It was nothing compared to the pleasure.

His hips lifted, body undulating beneath Vincent’s in a frenzy of movement, seeking that pinnacle once more. A thin sheen of sweat coated their bodies, their breathing an echo of pants that seemed louder in the room and the blood rushed loudly in Axel’s ears. His fingers curled in the skin of Vincent’s back as their cocks rubbed together, feelings magnified by the slickness of their precum. Axel’s back arched as he bucked his hips upwards, desperately seeking another release. Above him, Vincent groaned, one clawed hand clenched around the pillow beneath Axel, ripping into the thin fabric.

The sound of flesh against flesh filled the air as both men moved together in a steady rhythm. Axel surged upwards, wrapping his legs around Vincent’s hips and drawing their pelvises together. He purred in his throat as their erections brushed together, eliciting more cries of pleasure from Vincent’s mouth. Above him, it was clear that the winged male was getting close, his movements becoming gradually more erratic, breathing harsh and quick against Axel’s lips.

It built up inside of him in increasing waves once more, pleasure mounting until he could no longer restrain himself and the dam burst. He bit his lip and arched his back, moaning wordlessly as he spilled himself between their bodies. Vincent gasped, gripping onto Axel’s hip with one hand and grinding down, holding the younger male close to him as he thrust one last time, coming with a guttural cry of pleasure that echoed in the silent room. Hot wetness washed over both of their groins as Vincent continued to rock above him, their quickened breathing mirroring the rapid beating of their hearts.

Axel sucked in a deep breath, gradually unclenching his fingers from Vincent’s back as he slowly lowered his legs, trying to ground himself once more. He opened his eyes, unconsciously rubbing his hand along Vincent’s back as the winged male panted above him. Their eyes met and suddenly, it was the moment of truth.

Attempting to ease what was potentially an awkward moment and recognizing the caution in Vincent’s gaze, Axel attempted to diffuse the situation before it even developed into something uncomfortable. “Lesson learned,” he joked, managing a weary grin.

Vincent shot him a baleful look as he shook his head. “Do you take anything seriously?” he questioned.

“Not if I can help it,” Axel shot back cheekily. Before Vincent could say anything else, he reached up and grabbed the winged male by the back of his head, dragging him down for another kiss. This time, it was slow and sensual, not so much desperate need as it was a gentle culmination for the evening.

Vincent was the first to break away, though it was with reluctance. “Thank you.”

Axel frowned, displeased with the winged male’s reaction. “What are you thanking me for?” he demanded, yanking on Vincent once more so that the older male crashed down on top of him and directly into his embrace. “This wasn’t a favor or pity or anything like that so don’t start overanalyzing like some obsessive moron. You wanted it. I wanted it. Simple as that. Got it memorized?”

“Etched in stone,” responded the older male with another shake of his head. He shifted his position as his wings flexed behind him, trying to get settled. “You intend to remain here, I presume?” His tone was quiet, slow, as if he was already falling into slumber. It made Axel feel as if he were seeing Vincent naked for the first time, not physically, but mentally. As if it made the winged male vulnerable.

Wordlessly, Axel reached out with his left hand and fumbled for the cord to the lamp, managing to yank on it with the third try and bathing them in darkness. “Maybe we’ll get lucky,” he idly commented, disregarding Vincent’s question entirely as he attempted to ignore the sticky mess covering his groin area. He would need a shower in the morning but couldn’t be bothered to do so now. He was simply too tired, both physically and mentally.

“We might not have any nightmares,” he finished, settling comfortably in the strange nest of blankets that comprised Vincent’s bed, sprawled about from his earlier thrashing. A head settled on his bare chest, one arm tossed casually over his abdomen, clawed hand gently resting on his stomach. It was comforting, reminding him with startling clarity that he wasn’t alone in this. He didn’t even feel the presence of the shadow beasts, which usually clung to the darkest edges of his room, just waiting for a moment of weakness.

There wasn’t a response from Vincent, just a quiet breath as his wings settled tiredly on his back. Vincent himself was already asleep, warm breath a somnambulant wind against Axel’s chest. It didn’t take long for Axel to slip into slumber either, comforted by companionship.

– – – – –

The next morning, Axel awoke alone, not that he had really expected anything different. He had been covered by a blanket however, which was awfully thoughtful of his roommate. His gaze drifted to the clock on the opposite side of the room, groaning when he realized he had to be at work in an hour. Work. He snorted to himself. Again, some paradise this place turned out to be. Nothing more than a vague mockery of Eden.

He shifted in the bed, dreading having to rise and noticing that he desperately needed to bathe. He grimaced as his thoughts turned to the night before, not that he had any regrets. It was far past the time for that. He didn’t think he could ever really explain to anyone or even himself the reasons why, just that he knew it was the right thing to do. He did only want Roxas but he was losing his mind on Gaia’s Grotto and it was so damn hard on his own. He couldn’t even imagine what it was for Vincent.

And in the time that he had come to know the man, even if it was only a few months, he had developed a kinship with him. That same connection that comes from suffering the same ills. And truly, if anyone deserved some comfort, it was Vincent. Watching a man like him break was not easy and it gave Axel no reassurance as to his own fate. It only gave him more reason to want to leave Gaia’s Grotto.

He was glad; however, that they hadn’t gone any farther than oral sex. As pitifully romantic as it sounded, he preferred to save that for Roxas, if indeed that was where their relationship was going to head. If Roxas only wanted friendship from him, he could live with that, he supposed. He hadn’t really had the time to put much thought into it, more concerned with escape and freeing Roxas from Sora. The more difficult and important thoughts could come later.

Performing an idle stretch, Axel’s eyes shifted to the clock, cursing mildly when he realized he really needed to get up if he was going to shower. Throwing the covers back, Axel headed into the bathroom, his mind aswirl with thoughts. Not essentially negative ones as usual, just contemplative. Were things going to be… weird, for lack of a better word, between he and Vincent now? Not that things weren’t always a bit… odd.

He swore to himself that if Vincent dove back into his icy, sharp shell than he was going to yank the man out by his ever-present scowl.

Turning on the nozzle and stepping into the shower, he shivered as the first sprays of chilly water struck him before it gradually heated up. His mind drifted to the things Vincent had revealed about himself. The loss of his own brother. The lover that he left behind. No wonder the man was so solemn. He had had nearly everything important to him ripped from his life.

Though it still hadn’t explained the reasoning for the wings or the scars that dotted the pale man’s flesh. That was a topic that Vincent skittered away from as if it were taboo. And perhaps to Vincent it was. Nevertheless, it ate at Axel’s curiosity to know all these things he wasn’t being told. Vincent was like a riddle box and though he usually hated all puzzles, he was damn determined to solve this one.

Vincent always talked about experiments, mentioning how Zack and Cid were opposed to them. He had been a Heartless before coming to Gaia’s Grotto, claiming that there was something that caused him to twist his perceptions and emotions, mutating his body. Axel couldn’t help but wonder what a man had to suffer that caused him to hate himself that much. There was much to ponder in Vincent Valentine.

Axel quickly flicked off the shower and stepped out of it, toweling himself off absentmindedly as his stomach growled, reminding me that he hadn’t eaten since lunchtime the day before. Reno had been teasing because he had yet another homemade bagged meal, courtesy of his winged roommate despite the fact that Vincent had claimed it was a one-time thing. The man really was a sweetheart beneath all the icy glares.

A few minutes later found Axel irritably pulling his messy spikes into a ponytail at the back of his head as he wandered into the kitchen, breaking out into a wide grin at the plate of muffins left on the table. Two of them, large and chock full of berries just for him. He swiped up one, tossed the other in a paper sack and sauntered out the door, well on his way to work.

The secretary in the lobby didn’t even look up as he passed, which he was used to that. He stopped trying to gain her attention after being ignored steadily for a week. The people here really executed their jobs almost as if they were robots; it was unsettling. It was easier for his sanity if he just pretended he couldn’t see them.

The walk to the gate was rather uneventful, the streets just as crowded with nameless faces as before, though he swore he passed by a familiar face just once. Grey-blue hair draped over one eye and a defining grace that very few men executed. But he dismissed the thought just as quickly as it came, wondering if his sudden happiness was a result of his getting laid. Well, he wouldn’t exactly say he was happy, but he wasn’t exactly drowning in his melancholy either.

His thoughts wandered to Roxas, a sudden memory cropping up in his mind. One of the few times he ever heard Roxas laugh. It wasn’t that Roxas was a generally glum person but when they were non-beings devoid of emotion, glee and amusement were seldom expressed. And Roxas was more prone to broodiness than episodes of joking banter as Axel himself. Yet, despite his more serious demeanor there were times that he joined Axel in his pranks, many of which the firestarter knew that the others in the Organization would never forget.

This time their victim was Demyx, as it usually was, simply because his responses were the most amusing. He was a drama queen, plainly put. Over-reacting to the smallest of things. Imagine. An evil-doer frightened of spiders, it really was quite amusing. Axel loved to take very opportunity to taunt the poor blond.

However, this particular prank involved pickles, a set of stairs, and an elegantly constructed trap of cobwebs. Needless to say, Demyx’s reaction had never been funnier. After screaming like a teenage female for the better part of a minute, his eyes had rolled into the back of his head and he promptly passed out on the floor, feet popping into the air quite comically. He and Roxas had laughed so hard that Vexen, passing by, had given them viciously annoyed stares.

That might have been the first time he thought that what he felt for his best friend was something more than friendship. Despite the fact that they claimed he didn’t have any feelings. He knew better than to believe that now. Perhaps Xemnas was just lying to them to make them more pliable. He couldn’t deny the feelings of emptiness or incompleteness, but that he blamed on having lost a part of himself when he split from his other half.

He remembered what it felt like to have emotion. It was not as if one could just fake emotion. He could fake being angry to others, he could fake hurt or laughter, but when he felt it, that couldn’t be forged. Roxas became a part of him, filling a gap that rankled inside. And as the laughter from his memories echoed in his mind, he couldn’t help the small smile that broke out on his face. His eyes had sparkled then, ocean blue orbs that swam with emotion they weren’t supposed to have. That could not be faked. Xemnas had been wrong.

Axel’s thoughts instantly screeched and took another turn as he caught sight of the gateway just in front of him, and his gabrother leaning uselessly against one of the open gates and looking, for the most part, completely asleep. His chin even bobbed on his chest. A sneaky thought occurred to him just then as he crept silently towards Reno, tiptoeing towards him from the side.

A grin tugged at the corner of Axel’s mouth before he pounced, literally tackling his friend to the ground as Reno yelped in surprise, hands flailing about. He oomph’ed as they crashed, aquamarine eyes flashing with irritation. “Abarai!” he shouted as he gasped for breath.

Axel laughed, though he kept the loudness to a minimum, ever mindful of the eyes that occasionally wandered their direction. He would hate to draw the attention of the Council.

“What the hell’s the matter with you, yo?” Reno questioned, flailing about as he struggled to extricate himself from Axel’s grasp. His brow furrowed as he caught sight of the other’s smirking expression. He raised one eyebrow as he managed to sock Axel in the arm. “You sly dog, you, Abarai.”

Axel scoffed as he pulled himself up from the ground, idly peeking into his paper bag to make sure his muffin didn’t get squashed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied blithely, pleased to find that his pastry was whole and ready for consumption.

The older male rose to his feet, grinning from ear to ear as he swiped the paper bag from Axel’s hand, peering inside as his eyes brightened. “Blueberries!” he exclaimed, grabbing the muffin before Axel could grab his lunch back. “Why Abarai, I think I may be in love. You know how much I crave blueberries, yo!”

The firestarter shook his head as he scowled playfully when Reno started munching on the muffin, crumpling up the paper bag with an audible crinkle. “That was my lunch.”

Reno waved a hand of dismissal. “Ceran make them?” he questioned around a mouthful of muffin, flecking some crumbs out in Axel’s general direction.

“Of course. I can’t cook worth a damn,” Axel replied with a snort.

Reno smirked as he eyed his younger companion. “You took my advice, didn’t you?” When Axel opened his mouth to respond, Reno wagged a finger at him, cutting him off before a word emerged. “Don’t deny it. I can see it in your eyes.” He slung an arm around Axel’s neck, idly munching on the blueberry muffin. “Don’t worry though. I won’t ask anymore questions since I can plainly see that you are embarrassed.”

The younger male scoffed, poking Reno in the belly. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he countered, shifting his gaze towards the plains just beyond the open gates. “I’ve already told…” His words trailed off as his body stiffened, every intuition within him suddenly going on high alert as his fight instinct flared as he caught sight of the many pale shapes loping towards them with eyes blazing. Far more than he could count.

Reno furrowed his brow as he followed Axel’s gaze with his own. His jaw dropped as an upsetting and, admittedly, frightened feeling settled within his belly. The muffin fell from lifeless fingers. “It can’t be…” he breathed. “There’s–”

“–so many of them,” Axel finished for him as Reno’s arm moved from his shoulders. Instinctively, the chakram appeared in his hands, flaming rings of fury. Dread filled him and he gulped unconsciously, truly frightened for perhaps the first time since he arrived in Gaia’s Grotto.

“The memory eaters,” Reno added in, shaking his head. “We might as well be fucking doomed.”

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